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A Brave New World

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Chapter 1 - Never Simple

Why was it that he always seemed to end up in the Hospital Wing? He was fairly certain that he knew the place better than any other student, past or present. He stretched and flexed his arms above his head, easing his head from side to side, wincing as a sharp pain shot down his spine. He'd been instructed not to leave his bed for at least another day, but he was already starting to get a touch of cabin fever. Term had yet to begin and so few were around, save a couple of teachers. He was desperate for some company, if only to keep his mind off recent events.

The Dursleys were dead. Or so he had been told. He couldn't really remember those last few minutes in which they'd reportedly been killed. The attack had been so sudden, devastating in its precision and unexpected even by those highest up in the Order. Harry had fought to the best of his abilities, trying to defend himself and his so-called family, but in the end it just hadn't been enough. He'd been knocked unconscious just after seeing various members of the Order storm through the door, the last of which had been Snape, whom he had a vague memory of stepping between himself and an advancing Death Eater. He'd woken up a day later in the Hospital Wing to see Remus sitting at his bedside, concern evident in his worn and tired features. He'd answered his questions, the ones he had been allowed to anyway, and Harry found himself no less satisfied by the man's explanations.

It seemed that Snape had lost his cover as a spy; the attack had been so sudden, so completely unexpected, that he had had to act on the spot, inescapably making clear that his allegiance was to Harry and the Order. The attack on Privet Drive had, it seemed, been known only to Voldemort himself, and Snape had been able to alert the Order only when they were in Little Whingeing itself. Apparently the man was expecting retribution of some kind and the Order were on the alert to expect dire reprisals for the loss Voldemort was suffering in the form of Snape's betrayal. He hadn't seen the man since the incident, but then, that wasn't exactly something he was complaining about.

He still felt numb, the news of his relatives' deaths having still to affect him. He wasn't exactly waiting for the floodgates to open, but he was expecting to feel something, anything. He hadn't really processed the information, hadn't taken any of it in properly, though if he was honest, he didn't particularly want to examine his feelings too closely.

"Morning Harry, feeling any better?" he heard Remus' voice from the doorway and he turned to see the tired-looking man making his way over to the bed.

"Still a few aches and pains, but I'll live," Harry replied, his voice hoarse from disuse. "You look awful," he said bluntly.

"Ever the charmer," Remus returned dryly, taking a seat beside the bed. "I've had a rough couple of days that's all – Order assignments and things, there's a lot of clean-up to do from the fall-out of this latest attack," he said with a dismissive wave of his hand.

"None of which you'll tell me about I'm sure," Harry muttered, then seeing that Remus was about to remonstrate said, "Sorry, don't mind me, I'm just a bit frustrated that's all, been shut up in here too long."

Remus gave him a gentle smile and reached for his hand, giving it a comforting squeeze. "I understand Harry, we're all just trying to do what's best."

Harry simply nodded in response, his love and affection for the man in front of him stopping him from saying that what others thought to be best usually turned out to have disastrous consequences for him. "Remus?" Harry said quietly, finally seeing his opportunity to ask the question that had been bothering him ever since he had learnt of the Dursleys' deaths. "What's going to happen now that the Dursleys are dead? I mean, technically I have no legal guardians right?"

"That's something we've all been giving a lot of thought to. You know I'd take you in tomorrow if I could, but the law prevents it, so we're going to have to think of something else."

"Shame," Harry said quietly, "it would have been nice to come and live with you. Still, I suppose anything would be better than living with the Dursleys."

Remus looked uncomfortable for a moment, unsure of what to say. Harry decided to be generous and spare him the discomfort, giving him a nudge and saying, "I'm sure it'll all work out. Do you think I could get up and go for a walk? I'm getting a little stir crazy in here."

"As long as you're feeling up to it, and as long as I can't be held accountable for it by Poppy. Be back in an hour."

Harry wandered aimlessly around the castle, occasionally glancing out of the window or stopping to take a brief rest. He was tiring easily and he knew he probably shouldn't be out of bed, but at least he was out of that damn Hospital Wing, if only for an hour or so.

He stopped just outside the Great Hall and slumped down on the bottom step of the staircase. He quite liked Hogwarts without the students; true it was strange and it echoed unusually, but there was more room to breathe, more time to just sit back and appreciate things, and best of all, no wide-eyed first years looking alternately scared and awed.

He ran a hand through his hair and stretched his legs out in front of him, feeling his abused muscles complain at the movement. Poor Remus, feeling like this every month and having to just get on with it. He had to admit to being disappointed to learn that Remus wouldn't be permitted to become his guardian. He'd grown close to the man over the last couple of years and he viewed him almost as a father. If it were up to him, he'd be there in a heartbeat.

"You're making the place look untidy Potter," came a voice from behind him and he turned to see Snape make his way down the staircase, coming to stop on the stair Harry was sitting on.

"I didn't know you were so fastidious about housekeeping Professor," Harry shot back, forgetting to check himself in time. Snape merely raised an eyebrow, his expression saying all he needed.

"You've given me a wasted journey Potter, I've just been up to the Hospital Wing to deliver this to you," he said, handing Harry a vial containing a lavender-coloured liquid. On seeing his questioning look, he elaborated, "Muscle relaxant, to ease those aches and pains," he said with a mocking sneer. Harry rolled his eyes but thanked him nevertheless, grateful to have something to help with the pain.

"I suggest you get back to the Hospital Wing, people need to know where you are."

"Perish the thought of being able to have the slightest control over my own life for an hour," he said bitterly.

"Do please spare me the self-pity Potter. You may not like it and indeed personally I couldn't care if you took a tumble from a very high cliff, but people have invested a great deal of time and effort in keeping you safe. I would think you would wish to do them the courtesy of rewarding their efforts."

Harry went to retaliate but then thought better of it; Snape had a point, whether he liked it or not. "Yes Professor," he muttered in response, getting a kind of twisted enjoyment from seeing the look on Snape's face when he realised Harry wasn't going to argue with him.

"Just get back to the Hospital Wing and save everyone from running around after you," said Snape, sweeping off in the opposite direction.


For the third time that afternoon Harry threw his book down on his bed in frustration. He'd been confined to the Hospital Wing all day and everyone had apparently disappeared, leaving him to entertain himself…all bloody day. He sighed and folded his arms behind his head, staring up at the ceiling. He just wished people would tell him what was going on in his own life, instead of buzzing about all around him, making arrangements and taking decisions without even thinking to consult him or inform him about what was going on.

He heard the doors open and he raised his head, hoping he'd finally have some company, but promptly let it fall back on the bed when he saw Snape striding towards him. The man chucked a vial down onto the bed and said, "Blood strengthening potion, take it now and before you go to bed. If you spill it I'm not making any more so try not to be your usual oafish self and take care of it."

"Aw thanks Professor, it's always so nice to know you care."

"Watch your mouth Potter and take the damn potion."

Harry swore under his breath, fairly certain that Snape could hear him, and uncorked the vial, his nose wrinkling at the assault from the odour. He held his breath and downed half of it, gratefully re-corking it as he shuddered in disgust. "Do you make it taste worse when you know I'll be the one drinking it?"

"Don't flatter yourself that I give you any such thought. Be grateful I took the time to make you any at all," Snape replied acidly.

"Thank you Professor," Harry returned with sickly sweetness, almost regretting it when the look Snape shot him almost froze him to the core.

"I'd be very careful if I were you Potter; my hand might just slip the next time, and who knows what might find its way into a potion destined for you," Snape said, his voice lowered and his eyes narrowed dangerously.

Harry was thankful to hear the Hospital doors open and Dumbledore's voice saying, "Ah Severus, I was wondering where you'd gone, I wanted to speak with you, but it can wait for a moment as I need to speak with Mr Potter also."

"Potter first of course," Snape said with a sneer, moving off to stand next to the window. Harry ignored that last remark, preoccupied with watching Remus make his way across to his bed. The man looked troubled, and that usually meant bad news for Harry. He didn't fail to notice that Remus was carefully avoiding making eye contact with him, and that gave him more than a little cause for concern.

"Harry," came Dumbledore's voice, breaking his concentration. He looked up at the old man's face, his heart sinking when he saw Remus' concern mirrored in those blue eyes. "Harry, as you know, the Dursleys' deaths mean that you are now left without any legal guardians. I hadn't thought this would pose too much of a problem, but…"

"But?" Harry prompted, beginning to worry.

"Harry," Remus cut in, picking up where Dumbledore left off, "there's a…a tradition among old wizarding families. If an underage witch or wizard is left without a legal guardian, a witch or wizard of age can put in a request to gain…ownership of sorts."

"Ownership? How can you have ownership of a person?" Harry asked, disgust evident in his voice.

"It's a very old law Harry, it originates in times where slavery and ownership were commonplace. The law fell into disuse, but because it left people's consciousness, nothing was done to repeal it, therefore it can still be used by those who know of its existence."

"But I've just turned 17," Harry argued, "surely this doesn't apply to me?"

Remus shifted uncomfortably and said, "The law originates from a time when 21 was considered to be the legal age. It overrides any other law that would recognise you as an adult."

Harry heaved a sigh and said wearily, "I suppose the next thing you're going to tell me is that someone's put in such a request for me?"

Dumbledore moved to stand in front of Harry, his eyes holding apology and regret. "Unfortunately that is the case my dear boy. A man named Aldrington has put in his submission."

"Aldrington?" Harry queried, the name unfamiliar to him.

"An old family, steeped in Dark Magic," came Snape's voice, the first he had spoken since skulking into the shadows. He moved forward and fixed Harry with an expression that told of the twisted amusement the man was deriving from the situation. "I'd say you were in trouble Potter."

Harry glared back contemptuously at the Professor, hating the man for finding amusement in his predicament. "And what would you suggest sir?" he asked, putting a sarcastic emphasis on the man's title.

"Harry," came Remus' placating voice, accompanied by a gentle hand on his shoulder, "that won't help."

"Then what will?" Harry asked, turning to face him.

There was a long pause, the longest of Harry's life, then finally Remus said, "Marriage Harry. The petition can only be declared null and void if you were to be married."

Chapter Text

"Married?" Harry echoed quietly, sure he heard Snape give a snort of amusement. "To whom exactly?" he asked, aware that his voice seemed to have taken on a distinct edge of panic.

"I'm afraid our choices are limited Harry," Dumbledore replied.

"Our choices? You're getting married too are you sir?" Harry asked bitterly, beyond caring that he was being rude to the man.

"A poor choice of words," Dumbledore conceded, overlooking Harry's transgression. "Your choices are limited Harry. Because the petition has been issued by a Pureblood, it must also be countermined by a Pureblood."

"You already have someone in mind," Harry said, his tone accusatory. "Well?" he prompted, his pulse racing, noting that yet again Remus was avoiding looking him in the eye.

"We thought…we thought that Professor Snape would be a suitable candidate."

"What?!" Harry and Snape yelled in unison, their expressions perfectly mirroring the others'.

"Albus have you lost your mind?" Snape hissed, bracing his arms on the bar at the foot of Harry's bed. "You can't honestly be serious?"

"Actually I am Severus," Dumbledore replied quietly. "You know, as I do, that Aldrington's petition can only be overturned by a name as old and as financially matched as his. If Harry were to marry anyone else, Aldrington could throw it out in a second and you know it. You're the only one who can protect Harry."

"Albus, I've given my life to this fight. I've done things I would rather forget and I've made sacrifices that will follow me all my life, but this…how can you ask me to – "

"You both seem to have forgotten that I'm the second part to this 'marriage' and there's no way in hell that I'll go through with it," Harry said heatedly, wishing that he could just wake up from the nightmare he was in.

"For once Potter we are in complete agreement," Snape growled, moving to stand by Harry's bedside.

"If you both refuse, Harry's life will be in danger. You know as well as I that Aldrington is loyal to the Dark Lord. This petition can't be overruled, Aldrington will have Harry and he'll be dead within the week. We can't let that happen, you can't let it happen," Dumbledore said gravely.

"I'm doomed," Harry murmured, wishing he'd never regained consciousness.


Severus sat in the Great Hall, a glass of Firewhisky in his hand. He'd lost track of what number it was. His quarters had seemed too small, too claustrophobic, and he'd found himself desperate to escape them. He had wandered the castle for hours before finally deciding the Great Hall was as suitable a place as any to brood. The second he'd sat down, a bottle of Firewhisky and a tumbler holding ice had appeared; those house elves really knew their business.

He groaned, then downed the remnants of his glass, unable to believe the turn his life had taken. In two days he was going to marry Harry Potter. How in the name of all that was holy had that happened? He had given so much of his life to the Order, to fighting that monster, how could Albus ask this of him?

He understood the situation, of course he did; he knew Potter's life was in danger, but surely another solution could have been found? Surely anything was better than the matrimonial fate they'd both been doomed to. He had to admit that a small part of himself felt sorry for the boy; a choice between being married to a man he hated or being owned by Aldrington, handed to the Dark Lord on a plate was hardly an ideal one. Potter's position was even less enviable than his own.

"To marriage," Severus toasted the silence, then realised his glass was once again empty. He promptly refilled it, only to down the contents swiftly. "What a joke." He heard a noise in the doorway and looked up to see Harry hovering in the doorway uncertainly.

"I…was just out for a walk. I didn't realise you were in here, sorry."

"So I gathered. Well either come in or go out Potter, don't stand there like a frightened rabbit." To his surprise, Harry walked over to the table and took a seat opposite him. Without warning another glass materialised and the boy almost jumped out of his skin. Severus raised an eyebrow then poured Harry a finger of Firewhisky, shoving the glass in his direction.

"Thanks," Harry muttered, slightly thrown by the man's generosity. He took a sip, letting the taste settle on his tongue, unsure whether or not he really liked it, but certain that were he to down the whole lot he would undoubtedly have a coughing fit. He set the glass down and looked up at his professor, saying, "I think I'll just sip it."

Severus snorted then proceeded to fill his own glass, aware that his senses were becoming a little fuzzy, but beyond caring at that point. "So, Mr Potter, are you ready for our upcoming nuptials?" he asked with a sneer.

Harry grimaced, cradling his Firewhisky closer and said, "If it's all the same to you I'd rather not talk about it. I think I'm still in a state of shock." He paused then shot a glance across at Severus, saying, "Sorry, I don't mean to be rude, I know this isn't exactly an ideal situation for you either. People really should steer clear of me, I have a talent for ruining lives," he said bitterly.

"Self-pity isn't going to help Potter," Severus replied, expecting Harry to protest, but instead the boy merely said,

"No, no I don't suppose it will." Suddenly he let out a little snort of laughter and Severus raised an eyebrow and said, "What could possibly be funny Potter?"

Harry took a deep breath and shook his head, saying, "I just…I just had this mental image of a wedding reception and us cutting the cake!" At Severus' blank expression Harry said, "Oh come on it's kind of funny…in a twisted king of way."

"Only you could laugh in this situation," Severus said, and Harry was surprised to hear there wasn't the usual amount of harshness in the man's voice.

"Well it's better than crying.” He took a deep breath and shook his head tiredly. “I can’t believe this is happening,” he said quietly. “It…doesn’t feel real.”

“I’d cling on to that feeling if I were you,” Severus said wryly, moving his glass in small circles around the table.

Harry removed his glasses and rubbed at his eyes. “If there was any other way…”

“It would have been found,” Severus said firmly. “I hardly think Albus would willingly shackle us to one another; not even he is capable of such cruel machinations.”

“Cruel?” Harry echoed. “You really think it will be that bad?”

Severus raised a dark eyebrow at him and Harry shrank a little under the man’s gaze. “We are to be married, Potter. Can you find any glimmer of hope in that scenario?”

Harry chewed on his bottom lip and considered the man’s question. No, now he came to think of it, he really couldn’t.

“I should try and get some sleep,” he said eventually, unable to find a way to answer Severus. “There are a long couple of days ahead of us." He took a sip of his Firewhisky, leaving most of it still in the glass, then said, "I'll…see you...around. Thanks for the drink."

Severus merely nodded and watched the boy walk out of the Great Hall, a feeling of intense discomfort suddenly settling on him as he realised he'd just had what passed for a civilised conversation with the boy.


Harry stood with his hands braced on the bathroom sink, staring at his reflection in the mirror. He’d splashed his face with freezing cold water, trying to shock himself into reality, but he still felt as though he were in a dream.

This day couldn't be happening, he couldn't be about to marry Severus Snape. He wished he could just have a few more days, a bit more time to get his head around the situation, but Dumbledore had insisted that they must be married as soon as possible so that the petition could be thrown out immediately and Aldrington would have no chance at getting his hands on Harry.

"Pull yourself together," he told his reflection sternly. "It's either this or death so stop feeling sorry for yourself and be grateful you're going to live to see another day." He sighed and grabbed a towel, drying his face off as he moved into his bedroom, taking one last look at the dorm he would no longer be living in.

Although it was merely a marriage in name only, it had to appear to the outside world as solid and real, so it had been decided that Harry would move to Severus' quarters. He noticed that his things had already been moved. Well that put a wonderful little touch of finality on things didn't it? The only ray of consolation he could find was that the marriage bond was only to last for a year and a day.

It was some special clause that Dumbledore had found to protect Harry but not doom him for all eternity. It was hoped that in a year the petition would have been forgotten about…or that by that time the threat of Voldemort might have been eliminated once and for all.

Of course, no one else would know of this revised contract. As far as the rest of the world was concerned, that was him off the market for good, happily married, not that he could believe that anyone would be convinced for one second that he had willingly married the old git.

It didn’t matter; that was what he had to make everyone believe, he had to put on the best show of his life and make everyone think that he was willingly and happily living in domestic bliss with the Potions Master. As he walked down the steps of Gryffindor tower, he was sure that somewhere in the distance he could hear a bell tolling.

Harry walked apprehensively into Dumbledore's office. Snape was standing by the window, and, if it was possible, the man looked even paler than usual. He stared at Harry for a moment then turned to look out of the window, his hands clasped tightly behind his back.

Hagrid and Remus were standing in the corner, ready to act as witnesses. Harry wished he could have asked Ron and Hermione, but they couldn't risk news of the marriage spreading beyond Hogwarts for fear of Aldrington taking action to stop it. Still, he could have done with the support of his nearest and dearest.

"Ah Harry, now you're here we can get started," said Dumbledore, steering Harry further into his office.

"Get started?" Harry thought; he wasn't there to take an exam for God's sake. He let himself be led, a feeling of numbness settling over him as Snape moved also, coming to face him as they both stood in front of Dumbledore's desk.

"We are here today to witness the bonding of Severus Snape and Harry Potter," Dumbledore began, and Harry felt his stomach lurch to his shoes. This was really happening and there was no turning back now. "Severus, Harry, please raise your left hand," Dumbledore instructed, and they both did so, each carefully avoiding eye contact with the other. Dumbledore stepped forward and placed Severus' hand on top of Harry's, Harry trying desperately not to yank his hand away from his professor's, and then tied a gold ribbon around both their wrists, binding their hands together.

"These two souls have agreed to be bound in life, to share all possessions, all worldly goods; to honour and care for the other; to remain faithful and to forsake all others. Severus, do you take Harry to be your husband, to protect and care for him and share your life with him?"

Severus' jaw twitched and he took a breath, looking as though he would very dearly love to say no. "I do," he said through clenched teeth.

Dumbledore then turned to Harry and said, "Harry, do you take Severus to be your husband, to honour and care for him and share your life with him?"

Harry swallowed hard and felt as though he would like to be sick, but, knowing he had no other alternative, said quietly, "I do."

"I now declare these two men to be bonded, may their union be blessed." As Dumbledore finished speaking, the gold ribbon around their wrists began to shift and separate onto each of their hands, forming a solid gold band around their ring fingers.

Harry looked down at his finger; the ring seemed to him to be a symbol of his new imprisonment, a different kind of ownership to the one Aldrington had threatened him with. He looked across at Snape who looked equally displeased at the gold band on his finger. He was vaguely aware of polite clapping coming from Remus and Hagrid, and of Dumbledore giving his shoulder a gentle squeeze.

He didn't take much in after that. He was ushered over to the desk and he and Snape were told to sign a marriage license and a few other official documents. The most important document was the one that refused Aldrington's petition on the grounds that Harry now had a spouse and was in no need of a legal guardian, making the petition null and void. It was signed and witnessed, then sent off immediately.

Remus said a few words to him, though Harry barely heard anything, merely nodded and smiled at appropriate intervals, grateful when the man handed him a glass of wine, ignoring the fact that it was meant to be a celebratory drink. It comforted him to have something to hold, to occupy himself with, rather than having to watch his new 'husband' standing sombrely in the corner, occasionally speaking to Dumbledore, but mostly keeping to himself.

The man looked numb. Harry was used to seeing him look sour or angry, his features permanently showing displeasure, but now he just looked serious, thoughtful, almost shaken, and Harry couldn't help but feel sorry for the man; he was in the same position after all, and he didn't like it any more than Snape did. The man looked up and Harry wasn't quick enough to look away so he settled for simply nodding and raising his glass, an action that Snape returned, though his expression still remained grave.

"Well Harry my boy," Dumbledore said, but got no further as the doors to his office burst open, revealing a man, tall with dark hair peppered with grey. He was an intimidating presence and Harry instantly felt on his guard. He felt a movement behind him and he turned to see Snape standing there, his body humming with tension.

"Aldrington," Snape growled, "what the hell do you want?"

The man stepped further into the room, arrogance and disdain written all over his features. "Why, I'm here to protect my interests Snape," he drawled, his lip curling as he looked at the Professor.

"You don't have any interests here," Snape said with venom in his voice, stepping even closer to Harry in a gesture that Harry could almost have interpreted as protective.

"Ah but that's not true now is it? One of my interests is right in front of you," he said smoothly as he dropped his gaze to Harry, sending a shiver through him. He had never felt more like a piece of meat in his life.

"Harry is none of your concern," Snape returned, and if Harry was surprised at the use of his first name, he didn't show it.

"Well that's not true either is it? I put in a petition under the Alio Proprietas law for Mr Potter and I intend to see it honoured."

"It's Potter-Snape," Harry spat, "and I believe your petition is invalid."

Aldrington stepped closer to him, a cruel smile playing about the corner of his lips. "We'll see," he whispered.

Snape placed his hands on Harry's shoulders and pulled him gently backwards away from Aldrington. "No," Snape said forcefully, "we won't. Harry and I were married today; your petition is no longer valid." Snape stepped forward, placing himself between Harry and Aldrington. "So I suggest you leave my husband and me in peace."

Aldrington sneered and said contemptuously, "This isn't a marriage, it's a farce and I intend to prove it. You can't honestly think that anyone will believe this. I'll have it thrown out in a second and my petition will be accepted."

Harry steeled himself and moved in front of Snape, deciding that the man couldn't do all the fighting for him. "Mr Aldrington," he said firmly, "Severus and I were married today and we couldn't be happier. You'll find all the legal documents are in order; the marriage is entirely legitimate I assure you. Severus and I have been conducting a relationship for a while now and we've finally decided to make it official. And as I said," Harry said, moving back towards Snape and boldly placing an arm around the man's waist, hoping he wouldn't be shoved away, "it's Potter-Snape."

Severus placed an arm around the boy's shoulders and looked defiantly at Aldrington, surprised that the boy could lie so well and with such confidence. He couldn't help but feel a touch of pride in his new husband.

"Mr Aldrington," Dumbledore said, moving forward past Severus and Harry, "I believe you have your answer. Severus and Harry are very happily married and there is nothing you can do to break their union. I can assure you that you will never get your hands on Harry."

Aldrington gave a snort of amusement and moved towards the door, stopping to sneer at Harry and Severus, saying, "Beware of making challenges; you never know when people might take you up on them." And with that he swept out of the office, the doors slamming shut behind him.

As soon as he had gone, Harry realised he was still wrapped around his professor and he quickly disentangled himself, embarrassment tingeing his cheeks. "You think he'll give us more trouble?" he asked, noting that Snape looked as uncomfortable as he did.

"Undoubtedly," he replied gravely. "He won't take kindly to having his plans ruined; he'll try and find some way to get to you Potter."

"It's Potter-Snape actually," Harry replied sardonically, earning a raised eyebrow and an almost amused look from Snape. "Well we're just going to have to do all we can to make sure that doesn't happen."

"Let's just hope it's enough," Snape said, glancing back at the doors that Aldrington had just stormed out of.


After everything wound down in Dumbledore's office, Harry found himself being steered towards the stairs, and towards the dungeons. With all the action of the day, Harry had completely forgotten that after the wedding he would have a marriage to contend with. Life with Snape, how was he going to cope with that?

Snape led him through the dungeons and eventually stopped at a door, not a million miles away from the Slytherin common room by Harry's recollection. Snape issued the password, telling Harry that it was for his use as well, though no one else was to know it. He braced himself, trying not to imagine what his new 'home' was going to be like, praying to anyone that might be listening that it would at least be tolerable.

He was actually pleasantly surprised. The door led in to a warm, rich living room; a large dark brown leather sofa and two matching chairs were positioned in front of an ornate fireplace; a mahogany table and chair stood in an alcove underneath a large diamond-shaped window and tall, imposing bookcases lined the walls. Seeing Harry's face, Snape snorted and said, "What were you expecting? Dracula's lair?"

"Well…" Harry murmured.

"The kitchen is through the door on the left, not that I use it much, but it's there nonetheless; the door to your right is my study and laboratory, under no circumstances are you to enter without knocking and really I'd prefer it if you didn't enter at all. The other door leads to the bedroom, off from which is the bathroom."

"Excuse me, did you just say the bedroom, as in the only bedroom?" Harry asked, trying not to sound as panicked as he felt.

"Potter," Snape sighed, "as you have witnessed today, Aldrington will go to any length to ensure this marriage is invalidated, we don't want to give him any opportunity to do that. Our lives will be under constant scrutiny – including our living quarters. If Aldrington were to arrive unexpectedly and see you sleeping separately, or if any little spies he has here report the same back, he'd have the marriage thrown out in a second. He needs to be under the impression that we've consummated this marriage and…that we are continuing to do so," Snape finished, his voice taking on an edge of disgust.

Harry paled and asked shakily, "We don't actually have to…consummate it do we?"

"Oh for Merlin's sake Potter of course not! It's a marriage in name and appearance only, of course we don't have to…sometimes I really worry about your powers of intelligence," he said shaking his head and shrugging out of his outer robe.

"Well I was just checking, that's not the sort of thing you want confusion over," Harry replied, standing awkwardly against the arm of the sofa.

"Potter," Snape sighed, taking a seat and looking up at the agitated boy, "this…charade is for your own protection. The second anyone begins to suspect that this sham isn't real, your life will be in danger. Both of us will have to do all we can to ensure that this façade is believed. The fact that we have to co-exist in the same quarters is the least of our problems."

"You know you're not really very good at these inspirational speeches," Harry grumbled, earning himself a cold, hard look from the Professor. Sensing that it would do no good to try and further converse with the man, and suddenly feeling the need for his own company for a while, he mumbled, "I think I'm going to get an early night, long day and all." He headed for the door, stopping as a thought suddenly occurred to him. "Um…which side of the bed do you…" he trailed off at the look on Snape's face. "Never mind," he muttered, pushing the open and entering the bedroom.

At first he didn't notice the room itself, he was simply relieved to be free of Snape's presence and the oppressive air of the living room. "A year and a day," he thought to himself, "give me strength." He ruffled a hand through his hair and finally took in his surroundings, again surprised at what he saw.

The room was actually in quite good taste. In the centre was a strangely ornate four-poster bed, something he just couldn't imagine Snape choosing for himself. The rest of the room was very much in the same style, ornate mahogany furniture and simple colours. It could have been worse, much worse actually. He supposed that if he had to be imprisoned somewhere, this place was as good as any. All the same, it still smarted slightly when he saw all his belongings had been moved down there.

He sighed and pulled off his dress robes, leaving him in his underwear, and padded into the bathroom, grateful to see a large, roll-top bathtub in the middle of the room. He ran the water, holding his fingers underneath it as if needing some tactile reassurance that all this was indeed real, it was happening. When the tub was full he sank in gratefully, letting the water wash over him, trying to escape his own thoughts for a few moments. If only he could stay in there forever; it would be one way to avoid sharing a bed with Snape. That was what he had to look forward to – sleeping for the next year on the edge of the bed, fearing that Snape would hex his balls off if he so much as breathed out of turn.

It was so tempting to just sit and wallow, to feel sorry for himself and lament his bad luck and the unfair situation he found himself in, but really, what good would it do? Snape was at as much of a disadvantage as he was, more so really for the man was having to give up his home, his reputation, his entire life. Harry shook his head, hardly able to believe that he was actually empathising with Snape, and heaved himself out of the tub, performing a quick dry spell and throwing on his pyjamas. "Can't put it off forever," he murmured, moving out into the bedroom once more, relieved to see that it was still empty. Hopefully he would be long asleep before Snape decided to join him.

The man in question was still sitting in the living room, staring blankly into the fire in front of him, a glass of untouched brandy in his hand. He had heard the bath run and later listened to the water drain away; he imagined the boy would now be settling down in bed, hopefully tired enough by the day's events that he would soon be drifting off. Severus had no intention of joining the boy while he was still awake; he'd stay in the living room all night if he had to.

He had no idea how he was going to survive the next year. Sharing living quarters, sharing a life with someone he found trying at best was going to be the greatest test of strength and character he had ever undergone. And on top of everything, he was actually worried about the boy. Aldrington wasn't a man to be messed with and he was determined to stake his claim to Potter, no matter what. There was no way he was going to simply let the matter lie, marriage or no. They would both have to be on their guard, which was easier said than done where Potter was concerned. The boy was a walking magnet for trouble, and now he was Snape's responsibility. Joy.

He took a small sip of the brandy, appreciating the warmth of the trail it burnt, and glanced towards the bedroom door, wondering if the boy was still awake. He sighed, deciding that he was being childish; he couldn't stay out there forever after all. He downed his brandy, ignoring the chastising voice in his head that told him how expensive the damn stuff was and rose from the sofa, setting his glass down on the table. Taking a deep breath he slipped quietly into the bedroom, greatly relieved to see the boy was already in bed and asleep, or at least pretending to be.

He saw with a touch of annoyance that the boy's belongings were already ensconced in the room, the beginning of the new lifestyle he was being forced to embrace. He grabbed some clothes from the back of the chair and headed for the bathroom.

He stayed under the hot spray of the shower for what seemed like an eternity, closing his eyes and letting the water fall over him, wishing it could wash away the events of the day. Realising he was only prolonging the inevitable, he turned the water off and towelled himself quickly dry. "You're being pathetic," he told himself sternly, "he's just a boy, you've faced worse," he said, failing entirely to convince himself.

He stepped back into the bedroom, glancing back over to the bed where the boy was still seemingly asleep. He treaded softly over to his side of the bed, grateful that the boy at least had got that right, and carefully climbed in next to Harry, praying he wouldn't wake him. He rested his head against the pillow and stared up at the canopy of the bed, preparing himself for the longest night of his life.


Chapter Text

Harry woke the next morning slightly confused and disorientated. It took him a few moments to realise where he was, slowly waking up and thinking, with some amusement, that Snape had damn good taste in beds. He looked across and saw that the man himself wasn't there, a fact for which Harry was thankful. He'd woken up a couple of times in the night and it had been the strangest thing in the world to see Snape lying across from him. He honestly didn't know how he was going to survive the whole experience.

"Oh well, one day down, just a year to go," he muttered, throwing the duvet back, wincing at the cold; summer or no they were still in a dungeon. He pulled on a sweater and glanced at the clock – ten o' clock, not too bad, although Snape had probably been up since six and would no doubt have something snide to say about his lazy habits. A cup of tea was definitely in order.

Snape was sitting in one of the armchairs, a cup of coffee in one hand, the paper in the other. He didn't look up when Harry entered the room, merely carried on reading and said, "I was wondering when you'd be gracing me with your presence."

Harry rolled his eyes and replied, "I was tired. Can I make some tea?"

"Do what you like, just don't make a mess of the place."

"So bloody charming," Harry mumbled, just out of earshot, moving into the kitchen and igniting a flame underneath the kettle with his wand. After looking around he managed to find some teabags and some milk, slightly irked that Snape couldn't just tell him where everything was like normal human being. He padded back into the sitting room and took a seat in the other armchair, tucking his feet beneath him and cradling his mug to him for some much needed warmth. "Do you have to keep this place like a tomb?" he complained.

Snape looked up and raised an eyebrow. "Delicate are we Potter?" he asked with a smirk.

"No, just used to temperatures of a bit more human climate," Harry returned.

Snape shook his head and waved his hand in the direction of the fireplace, a fire igniting and starting to blaze. "Don't think I'll always be so accommodating," he warned.

"Oh I wouldn't dream of it," Harry murmured, just grateful to finally have some warmth. He sipped on his tea, unused to the kind that Snape used and wishing he could have the usual tea they had in the Gryffindor tower. As he continued with his drink a bundle of letters materialised on the coffee table.

"No owls?" Harry asked.

"Given that we're in the dungeon, just how do you suppose an owl would fare trying to deliver letters?"

"Well I only asked."

Snape rolled his eyes and sorted through the post, discarding the items of less interest until he came across one that seemed to grab his attention. Harry watched as he opened the letter, studying its contents, his face becoming grave as he did so. "I need to go and speak with the headmaster, I trust I can leave you alone for an hour or so?" he said as he headed towards the door, stopping to look back at Harry.

"I think I'll manage somehow. It's not about me is it? The letter I mean," he asked, determined to know if Snape and Dumbledore were going to be discussing him.

"No Potter, not everything in this world is about you you know, shocking as that may be. Just keep yourself out of trouble while I'm gone," he said, sweeping out, leaving Harry alone. Curious, he moved over to the table, wanting to find out what it was that had bothered Snape so much. The letter was still lying on the table, but as he bent down to pick it up, it disappeared in a puff of smoke. He felt slightly foolish; this was Snape after all, of course he took steps to ensure no one but himself could read his letters. But still, Harry would have liked to have known the letter's contents. He sighed and settled down on the sofa, prepared to keep himself out of trouble for the next hour or so.

When Severus returned from his rather stressful conversation with the headmaster, he found Harry curled up on the sofa with what he assumed was another cup of tea, reading a book with a look of careful concentration on his face. Severus wasn't aware that the boy was capable of such placid and civil behaviour; the less generous side of his nature had suspicions that the boy had jumped into position seconds before he'd walked through the door. "Busy?" he asked, standing by the boy's shoulder, smirking as the boy jumped upon hearing his voice.

"I didn't hear you come in," Harry said, a hand placed over his rapidly beating heart. "I was just keeping myself out of trouble," he said, waving the book at Severus.

"That I highly doubt," Severus replied, moving to take a seat in one of the armchairs.

Determined not to rise to the bait, Harry set the book aside and asked, "Are you going to tell me what that letter was all about?"

"What makes you think I have any intention of sharing any information whatsoever with you?"

Harry couldn't stop the smirk from crossing his face as he replied, "Because you know my inherent and unquenchable curiosity won't allow me to rest until I know what the letter was about, and that could lead to all sorts of trouble for me, and as you swore to protect me, you really can't allow that to happen." He knew he was grinning impishly and that Snape was looking a great deal less than pleased, but he couldn't help himself.

"Potter, I knew I'd regret this 'marriage' the second I said 'I do', but I hadn't anticipated that I'd regret it so soon," Snape said through gritted teeth. He sighed and said, "The letter was about Draco; it seems he's currently taken up residence at Grimmauld Place."

"What? Why?" Harry asked, the grin disappearing from his face. He couldn't imagine what circumstances would necessitate a Malfoy lodging at the Order's headquarters.

"It would seem that a problem has arisen concerning the Malfoy's allegiances. They've been revealed as traitors to the Dark."

The incredulity on Harry's face was almost laughable and he had to increase his grip on his mug to keep from dropping it. "You've got to be joking," he practically choked out. "The Malfoys? Traitors to the Dark? I've clearly stumbled into a parallel universe."

Severus smirked and replied, "I hardly think so. The Malfoys decided to change their loyalties at the end of Draco's fifth year. They're not exactly paragons of the Light," to which Harry snorted, "but they're no longer loyal to Voldemort. It seems he gained knowledge of this information and they've had to go into hiding, hence why Draco is currently ensconced at Headquarters."

Harry shook his head, as if trying to rid himself of the information he had just received. "I just don't believe it. I mean they're Malfoys!"

Severus looked closely at him, his eyes narrowed. "And that means what? They're incapable of change, of redemption? Is that the same for everyone who was once aligned with the Dark?" he asked quietly.

Harry was rather taken aback by the amount of emotion the man was displaying. He hadn't meant to offend him, really he'd just spoken without thinking, his shock at the news he'd just received overwhelming rational thought. "I...I didn't mean that, I wasn't...I'm sorry, I'm surprised that's all."

Severus looked at him a moment longer, then rose from his seat, saying, "I have work to do, I'll most probably be in my study all day, you'll have to find some way to keep yourself amused." He swept off through the study door, not giving Harry the opportunity to make any further reparations.

"Nice going," he muttered to himself. "Can't even manage one day of marriage."

Harry didn't see Snape for the rest of the day; he didn't know if the man genuinely had work to do or if he was just avoiding him. He kept himself occupied, mostly doing schoolwork for the upcoming year and taking a couple of walks around the grounds. He wrote a letter to Ron and Hermione, although it frustrated him that he could say nothing substantial for fear of interception. He could just imagine how they were coping with living with Malfoy; no doubt they were just about ready to kill him, or worse. He was actually glad he was at Hogwarts, away from it all. He'd rather be dealing with the Slytherin he had than with Malfoy.

However, said Slytherin was currently holed up in his study and hadn't been seen all day. Harry had considered knocking a couple of times, but had thought better of it each time, too afraid of the reaction he might receive. Eventually he decided the best thing would be to just go to bed, Snape could do whatever he wanted; if he was going to be a child about the situation then Harry really hadn't the energy to indulge him. That being so, he decided to sleep straight away, or at least pretend to, to avoid all chance of conversation with the man.

He'd been pretending for about twenty minutes before he heard the door open and Snape entered the room. He heard him moving around for a while, presumably changing, and then he felt a dip in the bed as the man climbed in next to him. He tried to even out his breathing to make it seem like he was asleep, and he thought it was working until he heard Snape say, "You're a dreadful actor Potter, maybe you'd care to add some fake snoring?"

"I'm not pretending, I'm just trying to get to sleep," he replied, keeping his eyes closed.

"Sulking more like," came Snape's reply, causing Harry to open his eyes and look up at the man indignantly.

"You're one to talk about sulking! Locked away all day by yourself just because of an offhanded comment I made without thinking," he said, pushing himself up to rest on his elbows and glare at the man next to him.

"I had work to do Potter, as I've told you before, the world does not revolve around you."

"Oh believe me, I'm more than aware of that! But you can't deny you've been keeping out of my way all day, all over something I didn't even mean."

"Oh you meant it. You don't believe that anyone who once served the Dark could ever change. How many of us, I wonder, are so unworthy of salvation. I wonder if you're in any way aware of the person you married."

Harry looked at him for a moment, then said softly, "I'm perfectly aware. I never put you in the same category as the Malfoys, or anyone else like them. It just...came as a shock to me that's all, but that's not to say that I think people are incapable of change, you know that's not true."

Severus merely shook his head and sighed, "Go to sleep Potter, it's too late to be having this conversation."

"Fine," Harry muttered, shuffling back down in the bed again. "But don't forget I was the one who wanted to talk about this, to try to be the adult; one of us has to." And to avoid any further conversation he pulled the duvet up firmly over his head, hoping sleep would take him quickly.

"What does this mean? I've been reading it over and over for half an hour and it still doesn't make sense," Harry said, plonking his Potions book down in front of Severus, frustrated and fed up.

"Potter I'm busy," Severus growled, moving his meticulous notes out from underneath the heavy book that was squashing them.

"I just want you to give me a little help so I can get on with this summer work. You've been staring at those notes for hours and clearly getting nowhere; you need a break and I need some help. Come on, I'm married to a Potions Master, I should get some perks!" Almost as soon as he'd said it he regretted it; the accidental innuendo was obvious even to him and he could feel himself blushing, all the way to the roots of his hair. "I mean...I just want some help, it's like reading a foreign language."

Severus sighed and took a look at the textbook Harry had dumped on him. It was the work he had set over the summer and, to be fair, it was a rather difficult theory that the boy had come to. "It just means that the properties of the potion's base have to be equal to, or at least in proportion to, properties of the transitional reactants you're using," he explained.

"Oh, well that's...just as confusing as ever. How can you understand this stuff?"

"Well it is part of the job description; they don't make you a Master if you don't have at least a basic understanding of all this 'stuff'."

"Fair enough, point taken. So being this 'Master' you should be able to help with a little summer work."

"Would that not constitute as cheating?" Severus asked with a raised eyebrow.

"If a star quidditch player gives their spouse a couple of flying tips is that cheating? No, it's just helping someone along with the talents you have at your disposal. So what do you say? Fancy spending a fun-filled afternoon trying to make me less dense when it comes to this 'stuff'?"

"As if I have a choice."

"I give up; you'll never understand this and I'm steadily losing the will to live. It's time to call it a day" Severus said wearily, rubbing the bridge of his nose and passing Harry's textbook back to him.

"Quitter," Harry muttered, taking the book and chucking it on the floor, relieved that they were finally calling an end to the torture that he'd suffered all afternoon. "So I'll never be an ace at Potions, I don't think that comes as a shock to either of us. Just have a little sympathy when you mark whatever I hand in." Harry seemed to re-think that statement and then added, "On second thoughts..."

"Quite," Snape replied. "Anyway, I shall not be the one marking it. From henceforth I will not be teaching you Potions."

"I'm not being kicked out of the class, surely? My grades aren't that bad!" Harry protested.

"Don't be an imbecile Potter. Surely you can see that to have my...husband," Snape said, his lip curling in disgust at the word, "in my class would raise some serious issues. Favouritism for example, or nepotism. I wouldn't be able to mark your work or have you in my class for fear of people thinking I was giving you special treatment."

Harry snorted and replied, "Fat chance of that." Snape shot him an unimpressed glance and Harry cleared his throat, saying, "So who's going to be teaching me then?"

"I shall set you the same work that I set your classmates, but Professor McGonagall and Professor Dumbledore will assess it."

"I get out of Potions class? This marriage is looking better and better."

Snape shot him a withering look and returned to his book, deciding to ignore Harry for as long as humanly possible, and potentially inhumanly possible too. It had been a week and already Severus was ready to throw the towel in, end the marriage and just kill Aldrington, solve everyone's problems. He'd never planned on sharing his life with anyone, least of all the one person who had the almost supernatural ability to send him out of his mind. The bed situation was becoming something of an issue too. The boy seemed unable to keep still, and even though he always started the night perched on the edge of the bed, as far away from Severus as possible, he always managed to squirm his way back to the middle, fidgeting all night. It took all Severus' restraint not to kick the boy and send him flying.

He supposed he'd get used to it, he'd have to after all, it wasn't like he had much choice. But still, the boy's presence was grating on him. Even in their more laidback moments when the bickering was kept to a minimum, there was still a great deal of tension between them and they were both happier when they were out of each other's company. Severus tried to spend as much time in his study as he could and Harry usually stayed in the living room, doing school work or making his way through Severus' extensive book collection. Of course they couldn't spend all day avoiding each other, so for a few hours in the evening they spent some time in the same room, occasionally talking but mostly trying to get by in silence.

"Ooh post," he heard the boy say, as he picked up the letter that had materialised on the coffee table. He watched him read it, his face lighting up then falling slightly as he reached the end. "It's from Ron; he and Hermione are arriving here next week, unfortunately they're bringing Malfoy with them. By the sounds of it they're reaching the end of their tether with him."

"Oh and I'm sure Draco's having the time of his life too," Severus said with a sneer. "Do they know...have you told them about..." he gestured between them, still uncomfortable with vocalising the whole idea of their marriage.

"No, I couldn't risk telling them in a letter. I'm going to have a grand old time breaking that news when they get here. I can just picture the look on their faces," he said, giving a small chuckle as he added, "You know you and Ron are kind of like brothers-in-law now, I mean he is the closest thing to family I've got. Bet you never thought you'd be related to a Weasley," he said with a grin.

"Indeed not," Severus said, not quite as amused as Harry seemed to be at the idea. "Just be sure you make it clear to them that you were in agreement to this marriage; the last thing I need is a hoard of Weasleys headed by their terrifying matriarch accusing me of forcing you into an unwanted marriage."

Harry smiled slightly and said, "You find Mrs Weasley terrifying?"

"Have you ever seen that woman angry? I'm sure if we just sent her along to Voldemort in one of her tantrums we could see a quick end to this war," Severus replied with a slight shudder. "Well at least their presence here will get you out from under my feet for a few hours a day."

"Charming," Harry replied, wishing that the man's offhand remark hadn't stung him so much. He was used to people not wanting him around, but this was supposed to be his home now, and if he wasn't wanted, he at least wanted to be welcome. "I'm going to bed, I'll...see you in the morning," he said, preparing himself for another night of pretending to sleep.

"So where's Malfoy then?" Harry asked as he, Ron and Hermione sat in the Great Hall eating lunch. They'd arrived a little while ago, apparating just outside of Hogwarts, where Harry had been waiting for them.

"Speaking with Dumbledore and Snape I think," said Ron around a mouthful of quiche. "He's been pretty quiet all morning, I think he was quite nervous about it, whatever 'it' was all about."

"I'm trying to have sympathy and yet..." Harry said, getting a grin in response from Ron.

"At least you haven't had to live with him for the last couple of weeks mate."

Harry almost laughed out loud at that comment – oh what he'd had to live with instead. "Well at least you're free of him now," he said, but upon seeing the look on his friend's face, he asked, "Aren't you?"

Hermione sighed and said, "Apparently he's moving into Gryffindor tower, we're not free of him yet."

Harry actually did laugh at that latest piece of information and said, "Looks like we've swapped lodgings."

"What are you talking about?" Ron asked, looking up at him with a frown.

Harry took a deep breath, knowing he'd have to tell them, but wishing he didn't have to do it at that very moment, or even face to face. As much as he loved them, he dreaded their reactions. "I...I've got something that I need to tell you guys, and you're not going to like it, I don't like it but...well it's not like I have a choice." He was grateful for their silence; he didn't think he could continue if either of them spoke at that point.

"You know that the Dursleys...passed away this summer," he began. "Their deaths obviously mean that I no longer have any legal guardians, and that being so I'm kind of...up for grabs. A man called Aldrington put in something called an Alio Proprietos petition for me, a petition that, if successful would have granted him ownership of me. The only way to counter the petition was for me to marry – someone of equal status and wealth, someone who could overthrow the petition and keep me safe."

"Harry what are you saying?" Hermione asked, looking at him closely.

He held up his left hand, giving his friends a good look at the gold band on his finger. Hermione gasped and Ron simply looked shell-shocked, both staring at the wedding ring on their friend's hand. "But who Harry?" Hermione asked quietly.

Harry paused for a moment, wishing they never had to know. "Snape," he said, unable to meet their eyes. "I'm married to Snape."

The silence fell and seemed to stretch out for an eternity before Ron finally managed to say, "You''re joking right? I mean, it's just not possible, you can't be!"

"And yet..." Harry said, rolling his eyes. "Believe me I wouldn't joke about something like this, I don't think I could. We've been married for two and a half weeks now and we're both surprisingly still alive."

"How is this possible? How did Snape ever agree to it?" Ron asked, the disbelief still plainly evident on his face.

"He didn't really have a choice, neither of us did. I'd be dead by now if he hadn't married me. I owe him my life, such as it is."

"So what you said about you and Malfoy swapping lodgings, does that mean that you and Professor Snape together?" Hermione asked.

Harry nodded and replied, "In not-so wedded bliss. On the plus side we only have forty-nine and a half weeks left to go."

"And here we thought we were having a rough summer being shacked up with Malfoy," Ron said, still looking rather sickened by the thought of his best friend forced into a marriage with a man they all despised. "Are everyone going to know?"

Harry considered the question for a moment then replied, "I suppose they're going to have to. The marriage is supposed to appear real or Aldrington will find a way to overturn it. Everyone's going to have to think we're an actual married couple, or it could be dangerous for both of us. Add to that the fact that I've changed my name, well..."

"You've changed your name?" Hermione asked.

Harry smirked and said, "You're now looking at Harry Potter-Snape, Hogwarts 7th year happily married to the school's Potions Master, as far as everyone else is concerned anyway. Look I know this is a shock, believe me, I'm finding this a struggle, but I really need your support."

"You know you've got it mate," Ron said, stepping round the table and clapping his friend on the shoulder. "We'll get over it eventually, along with everyone else. Just takes time."

"It's going to take more than time to make sure Snape and I don't kill each other."

"No Malfoy?" Harry asked as he got back to Snape's quarters, finding Snape sitting in one of the armchairs, a mountain of paperwork surrounding him.

"He's moved in to Gryffindor tower, I would imagine he's currently making himself at home. And your friends?" Severus asked, looking over the top of the parchment he was examining.

"Doing the same," Harry replied, taking a seat on the sofa across from Severus. "They told me that Malfoy was moving in, I can imagine that causing a few problems."

"Mm, Slytherins and Gryffindors living together, imagine that," Severus said sardonically, to which Harry found himself half smirking. "And how was your afternoon with the other two thirds of the Golden Team?"

"As good as it could be considering the bombshell I dropped on them; I think they're still recovering."

"Yes Draco was somewhat less than pleased with the news."

"You were expecting a wedding present?" Harry asked amusedly, idly looking through the post on the coffee table in case any was for him. Severus merely rolled his eyes and turned his attention back to the work that he was almost buried in. Harry sighed and sank down into the sofa, contemplating resuming his work but deciding upon further reflection that he'd had quite enough of it and it could wait a few more days until he continued with it. He did need something to do though and after a few minutes he asked, "Is there anything I can help with? You look snowed under."

Severus looked at him for a moment, contemplating his offer before saying, "You can help with inventory." He handed him several lists and one long roll of parchment. "Check through those potions and see if the ingredients are on the inventory list; any that aren't, put on there."

"That doesn't sound too difficult," Harry replied, pushing his glasses further up his nose ignoring the look he knew Severus was sending him. "If you can do it I mean," he said, smirking as he kept his head down. One of the perks of the marriage was being able to needle the man without fear of too-serious reprisals.

Some time later, Severus looked up from his work to see Harry was sitting cross-legged on the floor, sorting through stacks of files and paperwork. "Now what are you doing?" he asked.

"I'm trying to put all this lot into some kind of order. I don't know how you find anything the way you've put things together. Half the files are now alphabetised, indexed and cross-referenced, and I'm working on the other half. These things will finally make some sense," he replied, not looking up from his new project.

"They made sense before."

"Only to you, and I'm willing to bet even you had some difficulty with it now and then. Well those days are a thing of the past, this is going to make your life a lot easier."

"You're an oddity Potter," Severus said, to which Harry merely smiled. "Where did you learn all of this?"

"My uncle used to bring home all his paperwork and make me do it; you pick things up quickly when the threat of never eating again hangs over your head, not that I have to worry about that anymore," Harry replied with a shrug.

"What are you talking about?" Severus asked with a frown, certain he must have misunderstood the boy.

"Nothing," Harry said, shaking his head. "Anyway I learnt how to file properly and now I'm determined to sort all your paperwork out, even if it takes me all night, which, given the state of it, it probably will."

Severus shook his head, deciding to just let the boy get on with it if he was so determined to do it. He was more concerned with the comment the boy had made about being threatened with starvation. Knowing Potter, it was probably an exaggeration, but he couldn't help but wonder, especially when he'd said it in such an off-hand manner, not trying to gain attention, simply stating a fact. It was something that plagued him for the rest of the night.

Chapter Text

Harry sat at the table and chairs in the little alcove in the sitting room staring out of the window at the seemingly endless rain. It hadn't stopped for two days straight and Harry was beginning to get a little stir crazy. He was also becoming more and more anxious about the start of school, which was now only two days away. Everyone was going to know he and Snape were married, and worse still, everyone was going to think he'd chosen to be so, that he actually wanted to be married to the man. He had no idea how he was going to cope.

He dreaded people's remarks and their reactions; it was bad enough being 'famous Harry Potter', but add to that the fact that he was now Severus Snape's husband…his life wasn't going to be worth living. He was grateful that Ron and Hermione were already in the castle; spending time with them took his mind off the forthcoming hell he was going to have to face. He hadn't seen much of Malfoy though; according to Ron the Slytherin was mostly keeping to himself, spending a lot of time on his own. Ron and Hermione had barely seen him, a fact for which they were both grateful.

Currently Hermione was in study mode and had squirreled herself away in the library, and Ron had popped into Hogsmeade to get a birthday present for Charlie, or possibly Bill, Harry hadn't been paying that much attention, preoccupied as he was with thoughts of the beginning of school.

"Are you just going to sit there all day?" Severus asked, entering the room from his study, his sleeves rolled up and a faint flush about his cheeks.

"There's nothing better to do," Harry replied. "Have you seen the weather?"

"I suppose work is out of the question?" Severus said as he surveyed the bookshelves for the particular tome he needed.

"All finished. For once I'm on top of things, I've actually surprised myself." He paused for a few moments, watching Severus as he continued searching for what he was looking for, then asked, "Are you worried? About school starting again I mean."

"Why should that worry me?" Severus asked, finally finding the book he needed and coming to stand in front of Harry. "I do deal with it every year."

"No, I mean with our...situation, people knowing that we're married," Harry said awkwardly, avoiding the man's eyes.

Severus looked at him steadily for a few moments, regarding the boy; his worried expression, the nervous twist of his hands and the way he was constantly chewing his bottom lip. "It isn't going to be easy," he said levelly, "but it's unavoidable I'm afraid. No doubt we'll be the topic of gossip and victims of constant scrutiny for a few weeks, but they'll tire eventually, you yourself must know that, experienced as you are with 'fame'," Severus said, and Harry was surprised to hear that his tone held no mocking.

"But this is 'fame' of a different kind, I've never been through this kind of thing before...obviously," Harry said with a slight laugh, shaking his head at the absurdity of the situation. "I'm just...not prepared for this. Telling Ron and Hermione was bad enough but the whole school?""

"It's a daunting prospect I grant you, but I have no doubt we'll survive the experience...hopefully," he finished with a raised eyebrow, to which Harry had to smile. "Anyway I have work to do," he said, moving off to the door of his study.

"Professor?" Harry said, causing Severus to turn and look expectantly at the boy. He rose from the chair and walked a little way over to Severus, nervous embarrassment evident on his features. "I are we supposed to behave? In front of other people I mean," he chewed his lip and continued, "We're supposed to have entered this marriage willingly, a choice we made ourselves...just like any normal couple. How are we supposed to act?" he finished, decidedly uncomfortable.

Severus seemed to mirror his discomfort, but he carefully replied, "We should act with the dignity and discretion as befits my position in this school. Obviously we can't continue in the same way we used to; people must be made aware of a shift in our...relationship," he said, the word clearly difficult for him to say. "Other than that, we will just continue as normal, let others reach their own conclusions through whatever speculations and observations they choose to make."

Ron was officially bored. Worse still however, there seemed to be no cure for said boredom. Hermione was fixedly determined on spending the entire day working and would not be budged, no matter any amount of cajoling or pleading Ron chose to apply, and Harry was too busy worrying about the next day and the start of school to be any useful company. So it was that Ron was left to his own devices, which at that present moment involved wandering aimlessly round the castle looking for any source of entertainment that might present itself. Unfortunately, none had.

He had one more lazy wander round and then decided to head back to Gryffindor tower. Upon arrival, he found Malfoy curled up in one of the window seats, reading through a couple of letters. He looked up as Ron entered the room but quickly looked away again, turning his attention back to his letters. If it was possible, the boy seemed to make himself even smaller, pulling his limbs in tightly to himself in what looked like an effort to make himself disappear entirely.

For some reason, Ron suddenly felt himself compelled to say, "Sorry to disturb you, I'd just had enough of walking round the castle." Malfoy looked shocked at being spoken to, let alone with such civility. He simply shook his head, dismissing the apology. "It's just that there's nothing to do," Ron continued, moving further into the room, not really sure why he was pursuing conversation with Malfoy, but knowing that he at least wasn't bored anymore. "I'll actually be glad when school starts tomorrow."

"Is there a reason you're talking to me?" Malfoy finally said, placing his letters down beside them, resigned to the fact that he wouldn't be allowed to read them whilst the red-head was in the room.

"As I said, I'm bored, and you're the only other person here. Put the two together and you get conversation...of sorts," Ron replied, settling himself down in one of the armchairs.

Malfoy shook his head, frowning. He examined Ron closely, not trusting the boy's words, certain that he wouldn't just want to sit and chat, that there must be some ulterior motive behind the his actions.

"Or at least you do if the other party is actually willing to talk," Ron said, rolling his eyes at the other boy's reticence to speak. "Don't you have anything to say?" he asked.

"Is this how you conduct all your conversations? Simply bully the other party until they have no choice but to respond?"

"If they're being as unresponsive as you then yes!" Ron said with a mild laugh, refusing to be baited by the blond; he wanted entertainment, not an argument.

"Fine!" Malfoy said, swinging his legs out from underneath him and facing Ron head on. "What is it you wish to talk about then?"

Ron shrugged, uncertain now he'd got his way. He glanced around the common room, searching for some form of inspiration when his eyes settled on the chess table in the corner. "Fancy a game?" he said, motioning to it.

Malfoy shook his head in confusion but rose to his feet and walked slowly over to the table, examining the set. "It's rather old, not to mention in terrible condition, but I suppose it's the best entertainment I can hope for. At least it'll keep conversation to a minimum," he said pointedly as Ron moved over to join him, simply rolling his eyes at the blond's comment. "Don't be too upset when I thrash you."

When Harry emerged from the shower later that night, hair still dripping wet, his face flushed from the heat, he found Snape at the end of a firecall to Dumbledore. He adjusted his glasses and took a seat on the sofa, waiting politely until the men were finished, Dumbledore adding a cursory "Good evening Harry" in his direction before his face faded from the flames.

Severus turned his attention away from the fire and Harry expected the man to ignore him and get on with whatever he had to do, but instead the man addressed him, saying, "Professor Dumbledore has had an idea." From the man's tone, Harry guessed it wasn't going to be one either of them would like.

"What, he wants us to have a child next?" Harry retorted, the words leaving his lips before he could stop them. He looked up at the man, expecting to see anger or admonishment, but he found neither. Instead he was sure he could see the faint twitch of Severus' upper lip in what he could have sworn was an effort not to smile, or Merlin forbid, laugh.

"No Potter," he replied, keeping his voice level, but the amusement was evident nonetheless, "that was not the headmaster's latest notion. He seems to think that you would benefit of sorts."

Harry frowned, looking at the man closely and asked, "Why don't I like the sound of that?"

"Possibly for the same reason that I don't – he wants me to be the one to train you." Severus replied, the idea appearing to be most distasteful to him.

Harry sighed, resigned to the fact that objection would be futile and that he would never, for as long as he lived, have control over his own life. "And what, pray tell, am I to be trained in?" he asked, looking up at the Potions Master, trepidation evident in both his features and his voice.

Severus echoed his sigh and took a seat across from him on the sofa, holding eye contact with him as he replied, "The magic of the Elements – Fire, Earth, Air and Water; he wants you to master them, an added tool in the fight against Voldemort."

Harry snorted in anger and derision, so he was to be involved in yet more of Dumbledore's machinations. He might drop dead from the shock. He decided to keep his feelings from Snape; no doubt the man would only mock him or accuse him of loathsome self-pity, and he was in no mood to deal with the man's jibes. "I trust the headmaster has no objections to waiting until after school starts to begin this latest fad? Only I'd really rather concentrate on one thing at a time," he said, unable to keep the bitterness from his voice, though not through lack of trying.

"Potter I like the arrangement no more than you; Merlin knows I thought we'd had enough placed upon us with this farce of a marriage to contend with, let alone this latest hare-brained scheme."

Harry shook his head and replied, "I shouldn't make such a fuss. It's not like this whole thing is new to me, I'm used to other people making decisions for me, I should expect it by now."

"Nobody pretends this is easy, but we all must play our parts as they are given to us; unfortunately none of us has a say in the matter. We can deal with this latest request after term has started and we've had time to adjust."

Harry gave a half-hearted nod, thinking it would take an awfully long time to 'adjust', but simply settled for saying, "I think I'll go to bed; it's a big day tomorrow and I don't think I can face it without sleep. Goodnight sir," he said, rising from the sofa and heading for the bedroom.

Never in his life had Harry been so distressed at seeing the sun go down. This most natural of occurrences was, for Harry, the signal of impending doom, for sunset brought forth the evening, from which came the start of the school term and the arrival of the students. Students who in less than hour would probably all know the latest development in The Boy Who Lived's farce of a life. The idea was making him sick to his stomach, the nerves almost too much to be borne.

He was standing in the bedroom, nervously adjusting and re-adjusting his tie, chewing on his bottom lip, far too preoccupied with what might be about to occur when suddenly he felt two firm hands settle on each shoulder, then slowly move forward to still his own hands at his dishevelled tie. After a moment or two the hands returned to his shoulders and a voice said quietly, "Working yourself into a state isn't going to help matters, it must be done."

Harry continued to chew his lip but felt oddly comforted by the weight on his shoulders, a strangely reassuring force that seemed to inform him that he wasn't alone. "I just wish I could hide for a few weeks until it all blows over," he replied in a voice barely above a whisper.

"You would only have to face them later," Severus replied, removing his hands and stepping back slightly, Harry instantly missing the comforting weight on his shoulders. He turned to face the older man, feeling a little foolish at his nervous state when the man before him seemed so calm. "Are you ready to go to the welcome feast?"

"I don't suppose I have the option of saying 'no'," Harry replied glumly. "I take it I will still be sitting at the Gryffindor table?" he asked, the thought only just occurring to him.

Severus nodded and replied, "Spouses do have the option of joining their partner at the head table, but I think in this instance it would be better for you to remain where you are, no point in setting more tongues wagging than already shall be." At which comment Harry paled a little further still and closed his eyes briefly, trying futilely to keep the forthcoming events at bay. He only re-opened them again when he felt Severus's hands on his shoulders once more and he found himself looking into a pair of dark eyes. "It's only a few hours, then we can come back here and shut them all out until tomorrow; their opinions are of no consequence to us," he said firmly but quietly.

Harry gave a strange sort of half nod, averting his eyes from the intense gaze he seemed to be under. "I know what you say is true and that I'm probably being more dramatic than I need to be, but I just...can't stand continuously playing my life out before the eyes of others."

He gently shrugged the man's hands away and went to retrieve his robes from a nearby chair, pulling them on over his head and waiting a few minutes before turning back to the other man, whom he was aware had been regarding him closely. He had a thoughtful, unreadable expression on his face, one that Harry was coming to be familiar with; he always wore it when Harry had said something regarding his life, be it past or present. It seemed Snape had him under constant scrutiny, and though it didn't make Harry feel as uncomfortable as he thought it probably should, it still puzzled him somewhat.

"Shall we go then?"

Harry had completely missed the Sorting Ceremony, preoccupied as he was with everything going on in his head. He was vaguely aware of several small people taking up their seats at the Gryffindor table, some staring in his direction at 'the famous Harry Potter', all of which he managed to ignore as he thought about what was about to come, occasionally sneaking glances at the staff table, noting that Snape looked almost as agitated as he did.

He was also aware that Malfoy had been getting some very strange looks from all the other Gryffindors, but the blond just sat with his head down the entire time, sitting next to Ron, and barely moving, as if trying to draw as little attention to himself as possible. He was finally shaken out of his meditative state by a sharp elbow in his ribs and Ron whispering, "This is it mate, Dumbledore's going to make his speech."

Harry felt sick, but he knew he had to get his game face on; he had to present a newly-wedded young man, happy in his new marriage and ready to take on the world. What a stretch. He didn't really listen to the first part of the speech, all the nonsense about welcoming the first years, and certain places being out of bounds, all the things Harry had heard before...and mostly ignored. However, when Dumbledore said that he had a few announcements to make, his ears pricked up and he found himself paying rapt attention.

"Over the summer, a great deal of new developments have taken place, some of which I would like to acquaint you with now. Professor Snape and Mr Potter have asked me to inform you all that just under a month ago...they were married." The hall went still, not a sound was to be heard and every pair of eyes either went to Harry or to Severus. "I'm sure you will all join with me in congratulating them and wishing them all happiness in their marriage."

Harry forced himself to look up, inwardly wincing at the looks being sent his way from the other Gryffindors; he didn't even want to look at the rest of the school. Seamus and Dean were looking at him as if he'd grown several extra heads and Neville was staring at him with something akin to horror on his face. He tried his best to give them a smile, but it came out as more of a grimace.

He looked towards his 'husband', who was looking calm as ever, soaking in the atmosphere with dignity, but Harry suspected there was a certain amount of uneasiness and discomfort beneath the man's veneer of composure. He heard the faint sound of clapping and he looked around to find McGonagall with a clearly forced smile 'congratulating' the couple. After a while Hagrid joined in, then Dumbledore, followed by the rest of the staff and a couple of the students. Most were still too stunned to do anything apart from stare.

Not wishing to linger too long on the subject, knowing how uncomfortable both Severus and Harry were, Dumbledore swiftly continued, saying, "As some of you may have already noticed, there is a something of a change to the Houses. Gryffindor is, I'm sure, pleased to welcome Draco Malfoy as their newest member. I'm sure we all hope that Mr Malfoy has a smooth transition to the House and is very happy there."

Draco looked as though he might be sick, continuing to keep his head down and not make eye contact with anyone. The announcement seemed to come as almost as much of a shock to the student body as Harry's marriage, so much so that if he hadn't hated the situation so much, Harry would have been in fits of laughter at the continuing looks of shock and surprise on everyone's faces.

"And now those announcements are out of the way," Dumbledore continued, "I invite you all to enjoy the Feast!" he said with a clap of his hands, food appearing on all the tables. A few people set to eating, distracted enough by the food to forget their present astonishment. The Gryffindor table, however, was still staring at both Harry and Draco, clearly unable to reconcile in their minds the information they had just received. "Harry," Seamus began, "what in the name of all that is holy is going on?"

"Exactly what Professor Dumbledore said – Professor Snape and I are married, have been for almost a month now."

"But...but it's just not possible," Dean said, disbelief all over his face, as if he was waiting for someone to tell him the whole thing was all just one big joke.

"I assure you it is," Harry replied, his voice starting to take on an edge, already sick of the attention he was receiving.

"But Snape? You've got to be kidding! How in the world can you be married to him?" Dean asked, the rest of Gryffindors looking on, all hoping for an answer to that question.

"Look I really don't want to do this right now, can't you just congratulate me and get on with the feast?"

"I don't – " Dean began, but was automatically cut off by Ron, saying,

"Harry's just told you he doesn't want to talk about it right now, I think you should all respect that and just mind your own business, for one night at least."

Harry shot him a grateful look, but was then somewhat dismayed when the obviously scandal-hungry Gryffindors then turned their attention to Draco, Seamus saying, "And what the hell's up with this latest insanity?" a question that was accompanied by a disgusted look and a wave of the hand in Draco's direction. Draco remained quiet, staring down at his untouched food, seemingly determined not to say anything. "Well come on," Seamus continued, "don't you have anything to say?"

Not exactly wishing to defend Draco, but feeling decidedly uncomfortable with the way the boy was being treated, Harry felt compelled to say something, besides, he knew Severus wouldn't want him to endure the torment he was currently suffering. However, he was beaten to it by Ron, who said calmly but in such a tone that clearly warned there was no room for argument, "He isn't obligated to answer any of your questions. He's a Gryffindor now, one of us, and you need to start treating him that way. So, like I said, mind your own business and keep your noses out of other people's."

Everyone seemed shocked, unable to believe that Ron had actually just come to Draco Malfoy's defence. Even the blond himself seemed to be in some disbelief, looking up for the first time that night to look questioningly at the red-head, who had already turned his attention back to his food and was seemingly oblivious to the stares he was receiving. Harry could have kissed him – for the first time that night all eyes weren't on him for a change.

Chapter Text

The feast seemed interminably long to Harry, and he was flooded with relief when it finally began to draw to an end. The stares and whispers hadn't stopped all night and several glances towards the head table had told Harry that Severus was getting just as agitated with the whole situation as he was. As soon as dinner was over, though most of Harry's was left untouched, he excused himself and headed out of the Hall, sparing a glance back at Severus before he left.

Out in the hallway there were already several students milling about, and Harry did his best to avoid them, keeping his head down as he made his way through the corridors. However, he wasn't foolish enough to hope that he would actually make it to the dungeons without incident and, sure enough, after a couple of minutes he heard voices behind him and someone shouting, "Oi Potter, how's married life treating you?" The owners of the voices eventually caught up with him and he found himself surrounded by a selection of Ravenclaws and a couple of Slytherins, all of whom were clearly out for some entertainment.

He sighed and replied, "Fine thanks, couldn't be happier."

"Come on Potter, what do you think you're playing at?" asked one of them, a particularly vicious looking 6th year whom Harry had never been particularly fond of; the boy had one of those faces you longed to smack, especially at that moment.

"I'm not 'playing' at anything. I got married, I don't see why everyone has to make it their business. It's up to me what I do and who I do it with." He could feel his face flush at that last comment, but he was determined to stand his ground, he had to make sure these people thought he'd entered this marriage of his own free will, that he was perfectly happy with Severus.

"Well I suppose it was really the only way to get your Potions grades to improve," sneered the boy. "A little extra time on your knees and bam – star student. Funny, I never thought of you as the masochistic type Potter."

Harry felt his lip curl and he looked up at the boy with disgust and hatred in his eyes. "It's Potter-Snape," he all but spat, "and if you think for one second that your opinion matters in any way then you're seriously deluded."

He stood face to face with the other boy for a few moments, feeling the hatred rolling off himself in waves and for one horrible moment he was afraid that he might do something to the boy – he knew he had the power, and he had more than enough reason. He felt a presence behind him, one that thankfully seemed to calm him. He didn't need to look; he knew that Snape was standing there.

"Is there a problem here?" came the man's voice, breaking through Harry's senses and shaking him back to life. Harry took a step backwards away from the contemptible boy and, trying to get himself under control, he replied,

"No, no there's nothing worth our concern here. Shall we go?" he said, hoping he sounded at least a fraction more composed than he felt. He turned to face the man behind him, noting the concern in his eyes and the searching gaze that was pinned on him.

Severus nodded and replied, "Very well," and then fixed his attention on the boy. "Mr Arden, if I ever find you harassing my husband again I promise you you'll still be in detention when your grandchildren are here. Now get out of my sight," to which none of the boys decided they wanted to argue with and promptly scattered, shooting Harry various contemptuous looks on their way. Severus turned to Harry and asked, "Are you ok?"

Harry shook his head, more in thought than to reply in the negative. "I don't know. For a moment I thought...I thought I could really do him some damage, I could feel the anger growing inside me and I could feel my control slowly slipping away. If you hadn't have come along...Merlin knows what I might have done. It frightens me having that kind of power and knowing that it could potentially escape me."

"He had no right to say that to you, you're perfectly justified to feel the way you do," Severus replied.

Harry coloured slightly and said, "So you heard what he said to me then? What they'll all be saying, there's no escaping it."

"Well for now there is – I can guarantee there'll be no such talk back in our quarters."

Harry gave a wan sort of smile and replied, "After you."

"I have to say, as much I miss Gryffindor Tower, I think I could sacrifice it for that bath," said Harry, coming out of the bathroom, running his hands through his hair to try and smooth it down a little. Severus, who was already in bed and reading through yet more paperwork, looked up and threw the boy a smirk.

"I'm so glad it meets with your approval," he replied, watching as Harry moved around the room tidying up the mess of the day. Sometimes he could have sworn the boy was part house-elf; he seemed unable to leave any mess or untidiness alone, as if he thought it his duty to clean up after everyone. It puzzled Severus, but also made him think to certain allusions the boy had made about his life with the Dursleys.

"Oh much more than that," said Harry with a grin, folding a few things away in the wardrobe, including, Severus noted, some of his things as well.

"Indeed," Severus replied, returning his attention to his work as Harry finally climbed in beside him, shuffling down and lying with his hands folded behind his head. They both sat in silence for a few moments, Harry clearly contemplating something as he looked up at the canopy of the bed, chewing his lip, a frown forming between his eyebrows. "Well?" Severus finally asked.

"Hm? Well what?" Harry asked, inclining his head slightly to look up at the man.

"What are you thinking about so deeply it causes you to be quiet for more than two minutes together?"

Harry considered his answer for a few moments, then finally replied, "I was just thinking about that little confrontation with Arden earlier. I suppose I've got more of that to come.'s not so much that that bothers me, it's more the fact that...I'm not sure how I'm going to react to it."

Severus frowned at him and asked, "What do you mean?", setting his paperwork aside for the moment to give the boy his full attention.

"I could feel the hatred and anger welling up inside me when Arden confronted me. At that moment I just wanted to hurt, however I could. I could feel the power building up inside me, needing to release itself. If you hadn't come along it would have done. I don't know, you seemed to...ground me in a way, pull me back. Thing is, you won't always be there to do that, so what about the next time? What if I actually hurt someone just because I can't keep control of myself?"

"It's not as simple as that, it isn't just about control or the lack of it. You're a very powerful young man, and you're also largely governed by your emotions. Put the two together and you have a potentially volatile situation. The important thing here is to realise that that isn't your fault, and that it can be remedied. In fact it's part of the reason why Dumbledore wants you begin this new training – to harness your power, to understand it and therefore be able to control it. It'll come, just allow yourself time."

"And until I do get control of it? There's still the possibility that I might hurt someone if they aggravate me badly enough, and Merlin knows, there's going to be plenty of opportunity for that over the next couple of weeks."

"Well then," Severus replied, regarding the boy closely and seeing the worried sincerity in his eyes that he may cause another human being harm of any sort, "I'll just have to make sure I'm always close by to 'ground' you as you put it. You are such a responsibility Potter," he sighed, Harry just catching the teasing glint in the man's eye, one that he probably wouldn't have noticed a couple of weeks ago.

Harry grinned and replied, "Your responsibility now."


Ron was stretched comfortably on the sofa in front of the fire, watching as the flames began to slowly die, too lazy to bother chucking any more wood on it. He'd just wait until it died out then finally go to bed. For some reason he'd decided to stay behind when everyone else had made their way upstairs, wanting a few moments to himself to simply sit and enjoy the quiet, especially before the madness of term properly began.

Merlin knew he'd had enough drama for one day with everyone's reactions to both Harry's marriage and Draco's transfer to Gryffindor; he was glad to finally be left alone. Ever since he'd come to Draco's defence, Seamus and Dean, not to mention the rest of Gryffindor, had been treating him oddly, not entirely sure what he was doing. The blond in question hadn't stayed very long at the Welcome Feast, leaving early on and not being seen for the rest of the night. Ron could hardly blame him; he was sick of the attention that was only indirectly aimed at him.

Well at least the Feast was over, and after a while he was sure all the gossiping and staring would die down, he certainly hoped so, for Harry's sake if nothing else; he knew how much his friend detested the attention. He had to admit, Gryffindor was strange without his best friend, empty somehow and he missed the boy's company in the evenings. Hopefully Harry could spend a bit of time there once everything died down.

As he was musing, he heard the portrait hole open and he inclined his head to see Draco stepping in to the common room. The boy had his cloak wrapped tightly around himself and he was shivering slightly, looking even paler than usual. He looked surprised to see Ron, but said nothing, merely headed over to the fireplace in an attempt to warm himself.

"You've been out late," Ron commented.

Draco merely shrugged and replied quietly, "Didn't want to stay in here longer than I had to, Merlin knows I had enough of people's eyes on me all through the Welcome Feast without putting up with it all night as well."

"Fair enough, it was a bit much I suppose," Ron conceded.

"Not that you helped," Draco said, looking up at Ron, his expression hard.

Ron frowned and pushed himself off the sofa, and asked, "What do you mean?"

Draco moved away from the fire to stand opposite him and said, "I don't need a protector Weasley, I don't need you to make speeches on my behalf. I don't have to justify myself to you or anyone else here and I'll thank you kindly not to take it upon yourself to do it for me!"

Ron was stunned. He'd truly thought he'd been helping Draco; the blond hadn't seemed to be able to hold his own at the dinner table and he hadn't wanted to see him attacked when he seemed unable to defend himself. "I just...didn't like the way they started on you, it didn't seem fair."

"It's not your job to decide what is and isn't fair. I have a voice, I can use it if I choose to and I didn't appreciate being humiliated in front of those Gryffindor morons. You think I want to be known as Ron Weasley's bitch?" he all but spat.

"Now you're being a prat," Ron said, feeling his temper rise. "I didn't see much evidence of a voice of your own tonight so I chose to use mine instead. If your pride can't take that then that's your problem. Next time, speak up for yourself and I won't have to do it for you."

Draco held his gaze for a moment then shook his head, his jaw set firm. "Just keep your nose out of my business in future," he said, stalking off towards the stairs.

"Stand up for yourself and I'll be able to," Ron called after him, but the blond just carried on walking.

"Get up."


"Get up."


"I won't ask you again Potter I'll just send you flying from underneath that pillow and into the coldest shower you've ever experienced in your life," Severus said, readying his wand to do just that. It was the fifth time that morning they'd played this little scene and Severus was beginning to tire of it. Harry had his head hidden under the pillows, refusing to get up, despite the fact that Severus had wrenched the duvet from him and he was obviously cold from the biting morning air.

"It's Potter-Snape, or had you forgotten?" Harry asked in the sickliest of tones, pulling the pillow even more firmly round his head.

"Right that's it," Severus mumbled, moving to the boy's side of the bed and wrenching the pillow off him. Ignoring his startled cry of "Oi!", he grabbed the scruff of his pyjamas and pulled him up off the bed with a great deal more strength than Harry would have ever guessed the man possessed.

"Let go of me you big bully," he grumbled, trying to shake himself free from Severus' grasp. "I've already told you - I'm not going to lessons today."

"And I've already told you that you are," Severus replied calmly, pushing the boy bodily into the bathroom. "You can't hide away in here all day; you have to face the world at some point. I like it no more than you, but it's a reality we must both face."

Harry let out a sound of frustration and growled, "Why do you always have to be so bloody practical?"

"One of us has to be," Severus returned, throwing the boy's school robes at him. "What do you think people are going to say if you're not in classes today?" he asked, leaning against the door frame, watching as Harry moved as slowly as possible round the bathroom, making a show of sorting through the towels and ignoring Severus.

"I don't give a damn what they say."

"So that's why you're trying to hide away in here all day?" he asked, Harry sending him a withering look over his shoulder. Severus sighed and moved into the bathroom, grabbing Harry's wrist, finally stilling his pointless cleaning, and saying "Potter, over the last few weeks I feel that you and I have...become somewhat better acquainted, we know a little more about each other than we once did."

"So?" Harry asked petulantly, determined that if the man had a point, he wasn't going to see it.

"So," Severus continued, clearly trying to remain calm, "I was beginning to see that you weren't perhaps the obnoxious brat I had always supposed you to be, that you maybe had more sense and maturity than I had credited you with. I thought perhaps you were no longer a boy but a young man, one who could accept responsibilities and deal with the situations that came his way."

At these words Harry's features softened slightly and he felt somewhat sheepish under the man's scrutinising gaze, a feeling that was banished entirely as Snape's next words registered in his mind. "But then again, this morning's play of events have resolved my obvious misjudgement and I see now that I was right in the first place. Not even a four-year-old would need such dealing with."

"Have you been practising that little speech for a while?" Harry asked antagonistically, to which Severus rolled his eyes, releasing the boy's wrist, which he had only just realised he was still holding.

"Do I take it this means you're going to lessons?" he asked.

Harry, not wanting to let Snape win in this little mind game, thought better of his apparent childish musings and came to terms with what he knew the day would bring. "As if I ever had a choice," he replied.

By the end of the morning Harry was furious with himself for allowing himself to be so easily manipulated by Severus. All that bollocks about his maturity and sense and how he was changing – he would have loved to ram those words back down his dear husband's throat. People had been unbearable, truly, impossibly unbearable. All the catcalls, jeering, name-calling, questions, innuendos, looks – Harry was fairly certain that if one more person made a comment about detentions in the dungeon then he would quite happily join Voldemort and take out the whole lot of them.

Of course the fact that all the professors were addressing him as "Mr Potter-Snape" didn't help matters. Really, he supposed there was nothing they could do about it, but the constant snickering every time his name was mentioned was really starting to grate.

He had actually spared a thought as to what Severus might be going through. At least he could sit in the back of his classes and try to be inconspicuous, try to fade into the background and ignore everything; Severus on the other hand had to take control of the entire lesson, keep order and endure whatever taunts were hurled his way while trying to retain respect and dignity. Harry didn't envy the man. Of course that wasn't to say that he felt any less sorry for himself. He just couldn't wait for the day to be over.

"Harry you can't go back to the dungeons for lunch, you're going to have to face people," said Hermione as they walked through the corridors after their last lesson.

"You sound just like him," Harry grumbled, mildly amused at the half-affronted, half-pleased look on Hermione's face. "He actually pulled me out of bed this morning, can you believe that?" he asked, then stopped to turn around as he realised Ron and Hermione had stopped walking beside him and were looking somewhat uncomfortable. "What?" Harry asked in confusion.

"You share the same bed?" Hermione asked, trying to keep her voice low so the passing students wouldn't hear her.

Harry rolled his eyes and pulled them both into a nearby classroom. "Don't you two start getting funny on me now, I think I'd have to jump into the lake. Yes we share the same bed, we share everything for Merlin's sake! It's just for appearances, just in case Aldrington turns up unexpectedly or in case he's got any little goblins keeping an eye on things here. We can't afford to take any chances, our whole life is a lie but it's got to appear true to everyone else. Believe me, of all the things I have to deal with at the moment, sharing a bed isn't the worst," he finished, actually surprised to find himself admitting to that.

"Yeah but Harry, sharing a bed with Snape? That's slightly above and beyond don't you think?" asked Ron, looking rather sickened at the thought of his best friend sleeping alongside the Potions Master.

Harry sighed and said, "It is what it is Ron, it's just what we have to do. Anyway it's a big bed, there's enough room for both of us. Let's go and get lunch and I can deal with whatever other inane questions are thrown my way."

And there were plenty of inane questions to be had. From almost the second Harry sat down at the Gryffindor table he was bombarded with enquiries and interrogations, all of which were sending him slowly insane. "Just ignore it mate," Ron said quietly, leaning over to him as he saw his agitation grow.

"Easier said than done," he growled back.

"What are his quarters like Harry? Are they really dark and miserable?" came yet another question from Lavender.

"No," he ground out, "they're lovely. He has really good taste. The bathroom's amazing too, you'd kill for it," he assured her, enjoying the brief flash of envy in her eyes.

"But what's he like to live with?" Parvarti pressed, just as eager to get all the gossip.

Harry released yet another frustrated sigh and put his fork down, resigned to the fact that he wasn't going to eat that lunchtime. "He's great," he replied, wishing he was a million miles away. "I married him for Merlin's sake, don't you think there's the slightest possibility that I might actually enjoy his company? That I might like spending time with him?" Clearly this thought hadn't occurred to any of them, as they all sat staring at him as though he'd grown an extra head. "Well I do, and I like being married so just stop with all the questions and find something else to talk about."

And it would have been left there. Harry could have quite happily continued with his lunch, or perhaps just turned and talked to Ron or Hermione, trying to ignore everyone else and let them get on with their speculations and gossiping. It would have been fine were it not for Neville making one rather innocent comment, but one that unfortunately sent Harry's mind into directions he really wished it wouldn't. "It's funny though Harry," the boy said in his usual quiet, gentle voice, "I didn't even know you were gay."

Chapter Text

Severus had had a truly awful day. He didn't particularly enjoy teaching at the best of times, but trying to teach a class full of adolescent troublemakers, all of whom were intent on gossiping and snickering about him throughout the whole bloody lesson was just abhorrent. He was a private man and he preferred to keep all aspects of his life to himself, away from prying eyes. What right did anyone else have to analyse and discuss his personal life? Trying to keep order in lessons had been hell, and he'd assigned more detentions that day than he'd ever done in his whole career. The sooner the novelty of the situation wore off, the better.

And now he had an almost unbearable headache, not that he was helping himself by pouring glass after glass of scotch down his throat, but he figured that as long as things weren't going to get any better, he didn't really care if they got worse. By the looks of things Harry's day had been no better. The boy had remained mostly silent ever since he had returned to their quarters and he seemed to be lost in a world of his own, focused on something that Severus was sure went far beyond mere taunting and gossip. He'd barely eaten anything and he was sitting curled up in his armchair, staring into the fire, distant and pensive.

Severus was never very sure how to handle a quiet Harry. An obnoxious, loud, brash, opinionated Harry was fine, familiar territory and even something that Severus might have said he felt comfortable with; but a quiet, thoughtful Harry was something else, something Severus didn't know how to deal with let alone knew existed. Finally, fed up with the ongoing silence, he asked, "Potter what's the matter? You've barely said two words together all night."

Somewhat startled, Harry looked up at the man, pulled from his reverie and slightly confused, not expecting to be spoken to at that point. "Oh," he replied, shaking his head, "it's nothing. I'm just thinking about something."

"Yes I had managed to deduce that for myself," Severus replied dryly. "But what in particular is it that you're thinking about?"

Harry sighed and said, "I'm not sure I really want to talk about it. I'm...having a little difficulty getting my head around it to be honest, I'm not entirely sure I want to share it with someone else."

"Well I'm not going to force you to tell me if you don't want to," Severus said, curious now as to what was troubling the boy so much. "It must be serious for you to give it such consideration. Usually topics aren't given much time in that head of yours, I didn't know you possessed the attentive powers to reflect upon a matter for such a length of time," he commented, taking a sip of his scotch and regarding the young man over the rim of his glass.

Harry gave him a half-hearted look of disdain, too preoccupied to rise to the man's insults, and proceeded to curl his arms tighter around himself, pushing himself further down in his chair. "It's just...oh I don't know, you'll only laugh anyway," he mumbled, burying his head in his arms, clearly thinking he could just make himself disappear if he made himself small enough.

"Don't be stupid of course I'm not going to laugh," Severus replied, slightly affronted that Harry would think so little of him, though he supposed he hadn't really given the boy any reason to think differently. "Has someone said something to you?"

"No, well yes, but only indirectly," Harry replied, sighing and getting up from the armchair to stand in the alcove, looking out of the window. "It was Neville. It was just a throwaway comment, he probably didn't even think about it before he said it, but I don't know, it to me."

"And this comment would be?" Severus prompted.

"He said...he said that he didn't even know that I was gay," Harry said, turning around to face Severus again, his expression daring the man to mock him.

"And that bothers you?" Severus asked carefully, unsure where the boy was going with this little tirade.

"Of course it bothers me!" Harry replied in exasperation, confused as to why the man couldn't see why he was so affected by the whole thing. "Ever since he said it I've been sitting there thinking about what that comment meant, not just why he said it, but the repercussions of it being said. Now the whole school is going to think I'm gay, and the worst part..." he trailed off, looking defeated and lost, "is that I don't even know if it's true or not. I've come out without realising it or even knowing if there's a need for it! When I knew we were going to have to tell everyone that we were married I didn't even consider this side of it and it's all I can think about," he finished quietly, taking a seat on the sofa a little way along from Severus.

"I see," Severus replied, a little uncomfortable with the turn the conversation had taken. When he had married Harry he hadn't given a second thought to whether or not the boy might swing that way, he had simply known that the marriage must take place in order to protect him. After all, it wasn't necessary for Harry to have any leanings that way for a marriage in name only, but now with their marriage being public knowledge of course people were going to have questions about the boy's sexuality, and the fact that Harry didn't know how to answer those questions was more telling than he probably realised. "You've never...given this any consideration before?" he asked, observing the troubled look that crossed the boy's face.

Harry shrugged and looked away, saying, "I don't know really. I've never really had the time to. It's always been one thing after another, mostly with me fighting for my life – it doesn't exactly leave you much time to consider which gender you want to chase after! I don't know," he said, shaking his head, as if trying to rid himself of the incessant thoughts that continued to plague him. "I suppose it's something I'm going to have to think about. Not that it matters a great deal anyway as the entire wizarding world thinks I'm gay now, not a whole lot I can do about that." He paused for a moment, then seemed to suddenly realise to whom he was talking.

"Merlin I'm sorry, you don't want to be talking to me about this, it's not the kind of thing...I just...oh forget I said anything," he said, rising from the sofa and making his way across to the bedroom.

His hand was on the door handle when Severus said, "Potter," causing him to turn and look at the man standing a little way across from him. "I wouldn't let it bother you what other people think. All you have to concentrate on now is keeping up this ridiculous charade, everything else is...inconsequential. You're stronger than to let other people's opinions stand in your way."

Harry considered the man's words for a moment. They didn't exactly help him with his dilemma, but they were, in a way, oddly comforting. He was stronger than that, and whatever demons he might be wrestling with could be done away from the prying eyes of others. He gave a small nod then met the man's eyes and said, "You're right, it's just something I'm going to have to deal with. I um...I'm sorry for going off at you about it."

"This is your home," Severus said seriously, "this is where you can 'go off' as you so eloquently put it."

"Perhaps," Harry replied quietly. "But with all due respect sir, this isn't the Tower and you're not Ron or Dean or Seamus. Up until very recently you were my Potions Master who cursed the very ground I walked upon, hardly a first choice for a shoulder to cry on. I know things are different now, but they're not that different."

Severus inclined his head in agreement, conceding the boy's point but not necessarily sure he was willing to agree wholeheartedly. "Perhaps not," he replied, taking a few steps closer, "but things have changed. You must know that I don't hate you, that I even find you somewhat tolerable," to which Harry couldn't help but smile. "This is your home, you should think of it as such, for appearance sake if nothing else."

Harry nodded, trying to fully take in what the man had just said, bizarre as it seemed to him. Severus was actually trying to build bridges, to reach out to him in his own way, and it came as something of a shock to Harry to find that the man possessed a modicum of humanity, that he was, in his own words, 'tolerable'. "I appreciate it sir, it'll just...take some time. I um...I'm going to get some sleep, I need all the rest I can get if I'm going to face more interrogations tomorrow. Goodnight Professor."

"Goodnight Potter."

"How many times do I have to tell you?" Harry asked with a mischievous grin. "It's Potter-Snape."

"You're quiet today," Ron observed as they sat out by the lake. They had a free lesson and had decided to escape the chatter of Gryffindor tower and the stares of all the other students in the Great Hall or the library and go outside to enjoy the fresh air. "Something bothering you – besides the obvious of course?"

"Hm?" said Harry, tearing his attention away from the blades of grass he had been absent-mindedly constructing into a haphazard tower and looking across at his friend. "Oh no I'm fine, just...thinking about things I suppose," he replied, scattering the grass away from him with a flick of his hand. "I'm getting fed up of answering a million questions a day, I just wish people would leave me alone and find something else to talk about."

"It's a bloody pain in the arse," Ron agreed. "They won't stop talking about it in the common room in the evening; all I get are stupid questions about you and Snape, as if I know! I wish they'd all bugger off and find something else to talk about," he complained, stretching out his long limbs and folding his hands behind his head, looking lazily up at the afternoon sky.

Harry nodded glumly in agreement. His fellow students were beginning to become unbearable and Harry found himself thankful that he was living in the dungeon with Severus; it was becoming an escape, a retreat for him and he retired to it gratefully at the end of each day. He had spoken no more, to anyone, of how troubled Neville's comment had made him, and how its topic had played on his mind ever since.

Nevertheless, it had done, in fact it was the thing he gave most thought to when he was given any time to himself and it was weighing somewhat heavily on his mind. He hadn't spoken to either Ron or Hermione about it, feeling too embarrassed, not to mention confused, about the whole subject. Instead he'd just kept it to himself, becoming more and more agitated, getting no nearer to a conclusion.

He supposed that for the moment it didn't really matter; it was a moot point really considering that he was 'happily married' and could therefore do nothing regarding either sex. Relationships of any kind were out of the question, so he had plenty of time to figure it out without really needing to act upon anything, which, he supposed, was more than some people got to do.

For the time being he would just keep his confusion and worries to himself until he really knew what to do with them. He knew that Ron had noticed that something was wrong, but he wasn't sure if he was ready to share his worries with his friend just yet; he had no idea how understanding Ron would be and besides, he would rather be sure himself before he broached the topic with anyone else.

"So are you and Snape still managing to get along without killing each other?" Ron asked, continuing to stare up at the sky.

"Just about," Harry replied. "He's actually not that bad once you learn how to handle him, and he has been trying."

"Oh I'm sure he's very trying," Ron chuckled, to which Harry merely rolled his eyes, shifting so he was resting with his back against the trunk of the tree.

"How's your Slytherin?"

"My Slytherin?" Ron replied, looking up at Harry in confusion.

"Malfoy," Harry elaborated. "How's he settling in to life as a Gryffindor?"

Ron shrugged and considered the question for a moment. "He's ok I suppose. He doesn't really talk much and he's never in the common room when everyone else is there. It's like he wants to make himself invisible. He barely says two words together all day. He had a go at me for speaking up for him at the Feast and we haven't really spoken that much since. Occasionally I manage to get the odd word out of him in the evenings if hardly anyone's around, but apart from that, nothing."

"Malfoy as a Gryffindor, who'd have thought it?"

"And you as a Slytherin. Talk about irony."

"You know, you'd think that after a couple of weeks they'd get over the fact that we're married and move on to the next piece of gossip to feed on," said Harry, chucking his books down on the sofa and yanking his tie off in frustration. "If one more person calls 'Potter-Snape' down the corridor at me I'll ram my fist down their throat," he ranted, throwing himself down on one of the armchairs, looking over at Severus, who had just looked over from the bookcase at the irate youth.

"Do I take it you've had a difficult day?" he asked, returning his attention back to his books.

"Oh no more than usual I suppose, it's just getting a bit much after two and a half weeks," he replied with a sigh. "What are you doing anyway?" he asked as Severus continued to peruse the shelves, a list in one hand to which he kept referring, checking things off now and again.

"The headmaster feels that we need to begin your training; I'm looking for useful reading material on the subject."

"Not today? Please tell me we're not starting today?"

"The sooner the better Potter. I was lenient in letting you have these two weeks, we can't delay it anymore."

Harry sighed and loosened his tie, removing his glasses and placing them on the table. "I'm tired," he said quietly, "I've had a bitch of a day and I'm really in no mood for this latest hare-brained scheme," he finished bitterly.

"Stop feeling sorry for yourself," Snape spat. "People are doing their best to keep you alive, to protect you and all you can do is whine about the fact that you've had a bad day. Well I have news for you Potter, I've hardly had the best of days myself," he said, his dark eyes flashing with anger. "All day I've had to cope with cretins making veiled comments about my 'marriage', all the while trying to stop them blowing themselves up through their own stupidity!" he snarled. "This is the last thing I want to do, believe me, but it is yet another thing that I must, without complaint!" he added bitingly.

He plucked another few books off the shelf and thrust them at Harry, saying, "Read them and try to let at least some of it penetrate that thick skull of yours!" And with that he stalked off into his study, leaving Harry to sit alone feeling miserable, antagonistic and just a little sheepish.

Draco sat in the library, staring down at his unfinished work, as if willing it to do itself. He seemed to spend most of his time in the library, to him it felt like neutral territory; everywhere else he went the hostility was palpable, he could feel the looks of hatred sinking into him everywhere, marking him for a later fate. He was welcome nowhere; the Gryffindors distrusted him and watched him with constant suspicion; the Slytherins despised him and were biding their time until they could exact their revenge and teach him just what happened to traitors. He kept to the shadows as much as he could, kept his head down and tried to simply get from one day to the next with as little incident as possible. He had to admit that it was wearing on him; a life of silence and constant worry was not appealing.

He eased his neck from side to side and threw his quill down in surrender, knowing that no more work would be done, his mind was well and truly saturated and was rebelling against any further attempt to load it. "Fuck it," he murmured tiredly, leaning back in his chair.

"My thoughts exactly," came a voice from behind him, almost making him jump out of his skin. He craned his neck round and saw Ron standing behind him, a slight smirk playing on his lips as he leant against a bookcase. "I thought I might find you hiding in here," he said, moving round to sit at the table opposite the blond.

"I wasn't hiding," Draco muttered. "What do you want?"

"That's not very polite," Ron returned. "And here I am keeping you company."

"I don't want company," Draco growled.

"Well tough, you've got it. You can't stay in here forever you know. At some point this place closes and you'll have to join the rest of us in the real world."

"Oh Weasley mind your own damn business. I don't tell you how to live your life do I?" Draco asked in exasperation.

"No, but then I'm not skulking around in the shadows trying to make myself invisible. You're not guilty of anything but you're behaving like you are and that's giving everyone else ammunition against you. You've got to be more careful," Ron insisted. Draco looked at him for a moment then stood up, moving to a bookcase and examining the spines of the books. Ron's words had made him uncomfortable and he always found the red-head's confrontational and unwavering approach highly disconcerting.

"I really couldn't care less what everyone else thinks," he replied quietly, continuing to occupy himself with the book titles.

"Then why hide yourself away?" Ron asked gently. Seeing an answer was not forthcoming, he leant back in his chair and said, "As much as I hate to say it, I'm almost wishing we could have the old Malfoy back, and you know how much of a prick I thought that guy was."

Draco finally turned around to look at him and was half tempted to wipe the self-satisfied smirk off the boy's face. "You're not funny Weasley," he said, taking a seat once again. "And what, in your infinite wisdom, would you suggest?" he asked, mirroring Ron and leaning back in his chair.

Ron shrugged and replied, "Show them that you've got nothing to be guilty about, that you're not sorry for the things they think you should be sorry for. Basically send everyone a big fuck off," said Ron, looking rather pleased with his wise advice.

Draco shook his head and suppressed a slight smile, unwilling to ever find anything Weasley said amusing. "Why do you even care? Why aren't you just letting me get on with it?"

Ron appeared to consider this for a moment then eventually said, "We're all older now, hopefully a bit more grown up and...things change don't they? We're in the middle of a war and we need all the allies we can get...but...we need allies who can fight, who aren't walking shells of human beings. You haven't done anything wrong, and you shouldn't be behaving like you have. So…snap out of it," Ron finished, apparently all out of emotional tact and sympathy for that day.

"Merlin Weasley, what on earth did I do without you in my life?" Draco asked, his lip curling in sarcasm.

"I shudder to think," Ron replied with a dramatic flourish. "Come on, dinner time, I'm not missing a meal for you or for anyone," he said, leading the blond out of the library, but as he did so, he was aware of a figure emerging from behind the stacks. He recognised the boy immediately – Arden, a particularly vicious little viper and one whom Harry had already had dealings with that term.

"Well this is cosy," he sneered. "Been catching up on some reading?"

"Get out of our way," Ron said dismissively.

"I'm really not interested in talking to you Weasley," the boy said obnoxiously, "I'm more interested in our little traitor friend over here," he said, his eyes going to Draco.

Draco seemed to shrink a little and he unconsciously shifted a little closer to Ron, saying quietly, "I have nothing to say to you."

"No, too ashamed I'll bet. Enjoying life in Gryffindor are we? I must say, their colours don't set off your eyes as well as green and silver used to. You're a disgrace," he spat, "and I'll tell you something you little coward, you can't stay protected behind Gryffindor's walls forever."

"Back off," Ron growled, stepping closer to the odious boy. "Make any more threats like that and I'll report you."

"Ooh tough words, what's the matter, can't he speak for himself?"

"Of course I can," Draco said, trying to maintain a sneer in his voice, but fearing he was falling desperately short, "I just don't see the point in wasting breath on pond-life like you."

The boy smirked and emitted humourless laugh. "Just watch your back Malfoy, they can't protect you forever," he said, his face contorted in a sneer, then turned and walked slowly out of the library.

Ron shook his head and turned to look at the blond. He was worried he'd over-stepped the mark again in coming to Draco's defence, but he hadn't been able to control himself. Draco looked pale and worried, and it was only then that Ron noticed the dark circles under the boy's eyes. Not wanting to dwell too much on what had just happened, Ron cleared his throat and said, "Come on, let's go and get something to eat. Confrontation always makes me hungry," he offered in way of a touch of humour.

He turned to exit the library but stopped when he heard Draco say, "Weasley?" He turned to look at the blond, fearing yet another argument, surprised then when Draco said simply, "Thanks."

He offered a small smile and nodded his acknowledgement, glad that Draco didn't linger too long on the matter, simply moved past him saying, "Let's go and eat. Given the frequency of confrontations you seem to indulge in, I would imagine you're permanently starving."

Chapter Text

Harry sat curled up in the armchair in the living room, making his way through one of the books Severus had thrust at him. The man hadn't left his study since he'd stormed off and Harry certainly wasn't going to attempt to reconcile with him, not for another day at least. Instead he'd decided to sit and read the material Severus had given him so that when the man finally did reappear, he would have one less thing to reproach him with.

It was heavy going though. Most of the book made little or no sense and Harry had found it necessary to read many passages several times in order to understand them at all. It was slow and difficult but he was determined to do it, if only to prove a point to the stubborn, volatile man in the next room. He didn't mean to keep messing up, it just seemed to happen somehow. Life would be so much easier if they could just get on.

They had their moments; occasionally they could be civil to each other and sometimes they even had conversations, but for the most part they just ignored each other. Either that or they verbally tore chunks out of one another. It was still rather odd to Harry to have to share a bed with someone who barely had the time of day for him...not that he had much experience of sharing a bed either way.

Sighing, he took a sip of his tea, still trying to get used to the odd brand Severus used and the strange aftertaste it left. "Might as well be written in Latin," he grumbled, turning a page, frowning at the odd-looking diagrams and illustrations he was then confronted with. "What the...? Merlin's beard, who wrote this crap?"

"That would be Professor Vincetti," came Severus' voice from behind him, making him start, "one of the leading authorities on Elemental Magic."

"Oh," Harry replied quietly as Severus moved round to sit in the armchair. He looked marginally calmer than he had earlier, though one could never really tell. He never quite knew how to deal with the man after one of their arguments, he was too difficult to read. "Well this Vincetti might have tried writing in plain English instead of this pretentious, pseudo-intellectual nonsense, which is so clearly above us mere mortals," Harry said with an eye roll.

"It's really quite simple Potter, if you have the intellectual capacity to understand it of course," he replied with a sneer. Harry bit his tongue, determined not to be needled and rise to the bait. Snape might want to act like a child, but he wasn't going to. "Where are you up to?"

"Chapter three," Harry replied levelly, keeping his temper firmly in check. "And none of it makes any bloody sense," he added as an afterthought. "But I am trying," he insisted.

Severus merely raised an eyebrow, then held out his hand for Harry to pass him the book. He perused the chapters Harry had read and looked back across to Harry. "This material is fairly advanced," Severus admitted, "perhaps you should start with something a little lighter."

"You might have told me that earlier," Harry replied. "Before you stormed off like a two-year old," he mentally added. "What should I be reading then?"

"Whatever you feel adequately penetrates that thick skull of yours," was the curt reply.

Harry glowered at the man, frustrated that he was being so difficult when he was actually trying to learn the things he'd been given. "Fine," he said, trying to maintain a level of civility, "I'm going to read it in bed," he said, picking up the book he had previously been reading, just to make a point, and heading for the bedroom. "Maybe tomorrow you'll be slightly more bearable." Luckily he was already out of sight before he could see the withering glare Severus sent him.

"He's just impossible," Harry railed to Hermione the next morning as they sat in the Gryffindor common room during a free lesson. "I'm trying to be civil, I really am, but he's just not meeting me halfway! This just isn't working," he said dejectedly.

"Oh Harry I sympathise with you, I do, but I think you need to take a step back and try seeing it from Professor Snape's perspective."

He frowned at her and asked, "What do you mean?"

"Well this can't be easy for him either," she began gently. "I mean think about it, think about what he has to deal with. He has to maintain order and respect as a teacher whilst all anyone wants to do is talk and joke about your marriage, not to mention the fact that he has to deal with a whole houseful of Slytherins who are baying for his blood because he's been revealed as a traitor. Look at how they've been treating Malfoy; imagine what they must be feeling towards Snape, a high-up member of the Death Eaters, who was supposedly loyal who's not only betrayed them but has set up home with the poster boy for the Light! The situation's hardly ideal."

Harry dropped his head into his hands and mumbled, "Merlin Hermione, why do you always have to point out what an idiot I am?"

"Someone has to," she said affectionately. "Look you're both struggling with this, wouldn't it be easier if you worked together?"

"Of course it would be easier, it's just doing it that's the problem. We just seem to clash over everything. Just when I think we're getting on alright, something happens and we're arguing again!" He ran a hand through his hair and moved over to the window, looking out onto the grounds and the late September mist that was rolling off the lake, shrouding everything in its path. "I know I'm not making things any easier for him, but he's not making things easy for me either. I just want to get through this year with as little hassle as possible. Not that that seems at all likely."

Hermione smiled and moved to stand next to him at the window, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Just give it time, you've barely been married a month, you'll find a way to make it work."

"Put him down Hermione, he's a married man," came Ron's voice as he stepped through the portrait hole, closely followed by Draco.

"Hilarious Ron," said Hermione, rolling her eyes as she and Harry moved away from the window to join them, Harry and Draco curtly acknowledging one another. "Where have you two been anyway?" she asked as they settled on the sofa.

"Studying believe it or not," Ron replied with a grin.

"I don't," Hermione replied wryly, to which Ron stuck his tongue out and stretched his long legs out further, folding his arms behind his head, almost elbowing Draco in the process and earning an annoyed glare from the blond.

"What are you doing up here anyway?" Ron asked Harry. "I thought this place was out of bounds to you now."

"It is," Harry replied, "but I didn't feel like going 'home' just yet."

"Another argument?" Harry nodded. "Well Slytherins aren't the easiest people to live with," Ron said with a smirk in Draco's direction.

"Whilst Gryffindors are a pure joy," Draco returned with a raised eyebrow, kicking Ron's leg out of the way so he could stretch out himself.

"Malfoy you know Snape," Harry said and Draco's shock in being directly addressed by someone other than Ron was soon covered by the old familiar haughty arrogance. "What's the best way to deal with him? I can't go on living like this."

"Love's young dream not all it's cracked up to be?" Draco asked mockingly and Ron couldn't help but smile at the fact that Draco was seemingly taking his advice and ceasing his attempts to make himself invisible.

"Don't be a git, just answer the question," he said, nudging the blond beside him, receiving a frown in return. Draco sighed and said,

"Just give him space, let him get on with things on his own and just let him disappear for a few hours here and there without saying anything. Agree with him once in a while, even when you don't because when he's got a point to make he'll make it regardless of how you feel about the subject. It also doesn't hurt to play to his vanity once in a while, trust me, even someone like Severus enjoys it and it'll earn you points. Other than're just going to have to figure it out as you go along," he finished with a wicked grin.

"And doesn't that just sound like fun?" Harry mumbled, grabbing his bag and books and making his exit before any other Gryffindors made an appearance.

"You know, that was almost helpful," Ron told Draco, to which the blond merely gave a sickly 'sweet' smile and stretched out further on the sofa.

Severus wasn't surprised that Harry made himself scarce the next day; the boy had been avoiding him since their little difference of opinion and was apparently planning to go on doing so. He hadn't meant to snap at the idiot boy the way he had, but he'd just had enough that day and Potter's self-pitying attitude had pushed him that step too far. He had been trying to keep his temper in control and to tolerate the boy with equanimity, but Potter had the talent of getting to him honed to a perfect art.

It didn't help that he had his own difficulties to deal with when facing snide comments and sly remarks about his and Harry's 'marriage'. Countless students had tried to make little digs over the last couple of weeks and his Slytherins had been unbearable. He was aware that they were baying for blood as it was after the revelation that he was no loyal servant to Voldemort, but marrying Harry seemed to be the cherry on the cake.

He was just about to commence that night's marking when the door opened and Harry walked in, his tie loosened and his shirt sleeves rolled up.

"Evening," Severus said, as the boy chucked his bag down in the corner and slumped down in one of the armchairs. "Where have you been?"

"In the library," Harry said almost defensively, as if daring Severus to doubt the statement's veracity. "I had work to do and I thought you'd prefer it if I was out from under your feet for a few hours."

Severus sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose, telling himself to count to ten and not hit the boy over the head with the nearest blunt object. "Potter, I apologise," he bit out the word, "for being short with you yesterday. I had had a difficult day and was operating on a very short fuse. This is your home and I want you to think of it as such, if only to maintain our charade to the public. You don't need to disappear every time we...differ slightly."

Harry raised an eyebrow at his choice of words but decided not to say anything for fear of ruining the tentative peace that was forming. Instead he settled for simply nodding and fishing out the book on Elemental Magic whilst Severus returned to marking the essays the incompetent 2nd year Hufflepuffs had reluctantly handed in.

After a few minutes, a movement caught his eye and he looked up to see Harry flicking his hand around in a most odd manner and mumbling something under his breath. After regarding him for a moment longer, Severus asked, "Potter, if it's not too ridiculous a question, what on earth are you doing?"

"Hm?" said Harry, glancing up at the man. "Oh, I'm just trying to get this hand movement right, it's the one for conjuring and controlling a flame, it's more complicated than I realised. I didn't know Elemental Magic didn't require wands."

"Mm," said Severus with a nod. "Ordinary magic uses the wand as a receptacle for magical energy, a tool through which to channel it. Elemental Magic needs a more direct connection to your own magic in order to form a union between the two. It's all about being connected to the world around you and harnessing its power."

"So much more complicated than ordinary magic," Harry mumbled, continuing to rifle through the book's impossible pages.

"Actually it isn't, you just don't notice it with ordinary magic because of the wand, it's the 'middle man' so to speak."

"The more I learn the stupider I feel."

"Yes, well, I think it's safer if I reserve comment on that," replied Severus, to which Harry simply sent an 'I am not amused' glare. "When we begin your training it'll hopefully become much clearer."

"I wouldn't hold your breath."

"Don't worry I won't," came the sardonic reply. "Might never breathe again."

"Count to ten, count to ten," Harry muttered, loud enough for Severus to hear. "A little credit once in a while wouldn't kill you you know," he told the man.

"Credit? For what?"

"For knuckling down and getting on with this stuff," Harry replied, aware that he was verging on a whine, but not really caring.

"You hardly have a choice," Severus reminded him.

"No but it wouldn't kill you to give a little encouragement once in a while."

Snape slowly clapped his hands together and gave a deadpanned, "Bravo."

"You're a very difficult man," Harry groused, returning his attention to the book, missing the mild look of amusement Severus sent his way. "So when do you want to begin our actual training?"

"Tomorrow. You and I are both free after lunch so we will meet in the Room of Requirement and begin then."

"Oh joy of joys. Well in light of that wonderful news, I'm going to have a long, long soak in the bath," he said, packing his things up and moving to the bedroom door.

"You might want to consider taking up permanent residence in that bathroom, or perhaps proposing marriage to the bathtub," Severus said, smirking at his own witticism.

"Well there has to be some compensation for being married to you."

Harry picked at his lunch the next day, his appetite greatly diminished by the fact that his training session was looming over his head. Thankfully people had more or less stopped pestering him with stupid questions about his marriage, but he could still feel the looks that people sent his way, as if at any moment they expected Snape to stride over to him and shag him on the lunch table. Now there was a mental image Harry could have done without before his training.

He shook the thought from his head and pushed his plate aside, his stomach resisting any attempt to fill it. He wasn't entirely sure why he was nervous, but he couldn't push away the sense of foreboding that had settled on him. Any previous training he'd undertaken with Snape had never really ended well and the memory of his previous Occlumency lessons wasn't exactly helping to ease his anxiety and nervous anticipation.

After glancing at his watch for the 100th time and seeing that the dreaded hour had arrived, he steeled himself and bid goodbye to his friends, then made his reluctant way up to the Room of Requirement. He wasn't surprised to see that Snape was already there waiting for him, looking more menacing and intimidating than ever. He had to remind himself that this was in fact his husband and that he wasn't allowed to do any damage to him, which was only of slight comfort.

"Oh good you're here; not as late as I thought you'd be," said Severus as he shrugged off his outer robes, leaving him in tailored black trousers and a crisp, white shirt, the sleeves of which he then proceeded to roll up. Harry was tempted to point out that Severus had in fact not given him a time to be there and so he could be neither late nor early, but decided that for his own well-being he would refrain from commenting and instead removed his own robe and school jumper and prepared himself for whatever Severus had in store for him.

"Right, come and stand in front of me and we'll begin," Severus ordered and Harry complied, deciding then and there to just do whatever he was told, hoping that it worked in his favour. "Now, hold your wand hand out, palm up and focus, concentrate. Create the image of a flame in your mind; visualise its ignition, its kindling, its burning. Feel the heat from it, watch its slow burn..." Harry let Severus' voice wash over him and he closed his eyes, letting Severus' words sink in and following the instructions they gave him. He saw the flame in his mind's eye and tried to focus on every single detail of it, still vaguely aware that Severus was continuing to instruct him.

He continued until the flame was a bright, vivid picture in his mind, then he heard Severus say gently, "Now, perform the hand gesture and say the incantation." He did as he was told and opened his eyes to see a small, slightly weak flame dancing an inch above his palm. He could feel its heat but it was causing him no pain, in fact it actually felt rather comforting. He smiled slightly and glanced up at Severus, eager to see the man's reaction. He was regarding Harry with a somewhat guarded expression, but Harry could've sworn there was an approving look there somewhere.

"It's a little weak," Harry said, slightly disappointed that the flame wasn't more magnificent.

"For a first attempt it's brilliant," Severus replied quietly and Harry's jaw almost dropped to the floor in shock. There was no way in this world, or indeed any other, that Severus Snape could have just given him a compliment. Severus seemed to return to his senses and he extinguished the flame in Harry's hand and said, "Do it again, this time don't take as long visualising it, cut to the incantation sooner."

Harry nodded, then did as instructed, imagining a bolder, brighter flame, this time with his eyes open. He spoke the incantation more loudly and with more confidence, and with a flourish of his hand, he watched as once again a flame materialised in his hand. "It's brighter this time," Harry noticed, pleased, and Severus merely nodded, his eyes fixed on the guttering flame. Harry watched as it danced and skipped above his skin and he had the strange feeling that somehow the flame belonged to him, that it was merely an extension of himself and that he had complete control over it.

"Very good," Severus murmured, surprising Harry yet again. "Do you think you could increase it at all?" he asked softly, his sharp eyes meeting Harry's. Harry bit his lip and replied,

"I'll try."

He focused once again on the flame in his hand and concentrated hard on its centre. He imagined fuel being added to it, feeding it; he imagined the heart of it increasing, spreading from the middle out to the edges. As he continued to concentrate, the flame in his hand grew slightly bigger. It wasn't an enormous difference, but it was noticeable nevertheless. "Interesting," Severus said, then gently extinguished it once again. They continued in the same vein for another hour and Harry would have carried on longer, had Severus not insisted on stopping.

He was pulling his jumper back on when suddenly he felt weak and faint, as if the life had been drained from him. His knees buckled and he sank to the floor, dizziness enveloping him.

"Potter!" he heard Severus shout and then the man was kneeling at his side, slipping a hand gently beneath his head, tilting it until their eyes met. "Potter can you hear me?" Harry nodded and replied fuzzily,

"M'k, just had a sudden dizzy spell s'all, felt a bit faint."

"Can you sit up?" Harry nodded again and tentatively pushed himself up, aided by gentle hands on his back, one of which then moved round to rest on his forehead, then his cheek. He leant into the touch, feeling as though it was grounding him somehow, connecting him to a world that was swimming in and out of his vision.

"Come on, let's get you back to the dungeons," Severus said, then he was being gently helped to his feet, strong hands guiding and steadying him as he rocked slightly. "Should've known it wouldn't all have been plain sailing."

"Feeling any better?" Severus asked as he handed Harry another cup of strong tea laced with a replenishing potion.

"A little," Harry replied, snuggling deeper into the blankets Severus had wrapped round him, whilst the man took a seat next to him on the sofa. "My head doesn't feel so fuzzy and I feel like I'm getting some of my strength back. I'm sorry I've made you miss your afternoon lessons."

"Oh yes I'm devastated," Severus replied, wrapping his long fingers round his own tea.

"What happened?" Harry asked as he took a sip of his drink, feeling its warmth travel through him, starting its restoration process.

"You experienced a drain of your magical energy. Because Elemental Magic is channelled directly through you, it drains your resources more quickly than ordinary magic. You just did too much too soon, we must be careful not to let it happen again. No practising when I am not present, understand?" Harry nodded, surprised that for once the man wasn't pushing him to do more work. "We'll have to take this slowly but so far it's looking...promising."

Harry couldn't suppress a small smile at that and said, "Does that mean you're pleased with me?"

Severus shot him a patented Snape look and replied, "The day I'm pleased with you, we will know Armageddon is upon us." Harry stuck his tongue out at the man, thinking that he might have just caught a glint of amusement in those black eyes. "I was, however, rather pleased with your progress. I didn't expect you to achieve so much in your first session. That doesn't mean that you should push yourself though," he warned sternly.

"Yes, yes, you've given the lecture. I promise I won't do anything without you there," said Harry, rolling his eyes.

"That's quite a promise," Severus replied with a smirk. Harry gave an amused little snort and curled up more in the blankets, feeling his strength returning as the potion took effect. "Why not go to bed?" Severus asked as Harry's eyes began to close slightly as he snuggled into the arm of the sofa.

"No I'll never sleep later if I go now, I'll just do a bit of reading for the work I'm missing this afternoon."

"Suit yourself," Severus replied, turning his attention to his own work. He'd decided to look more closely into Elemental Magic. He had a fairly solid understanding of it, but he needed to know more, for Harry's sake if nothing else. He wanted the boy to master it, but not at the expense of his health. He'd been berating himself ever since he had brought Harry back to the dungeons; he shouldn't have let the training session last for as long as it had, but he'd wanted to see how much the boy was capable of.

He was aware that Harry's breathing had become deeper and more even and he glanced over to see the boy had indeed fallen asleep, despite his refusal to go to bed. "Useless boy," Severus muttered, not meaning it in the slightest. He had been beyond impressed with what the boy had managed to achieve in such a short space of time and he was rather looking forward to their next session to see just what the boy was capable of. Somehow, Harry never stopped surprising him.

Chapter Text

"You know, what I like about Harry is that he's such good company," said Ron, glancing down at his friend who was splayed out on the grass, fast asleep. They'd tramped outside after lessons, wanting to make the most of the light evenings while they lasted before the winter set in. However, almost as soon as they'd settled themselves, Harry had placed his hands behind his head and fallen asleep, snoring gently.

He'd been nodding off all day, still somewhat drained from the previous day's exertion. Ron and Hermione had been trying to keep him awake all day with various digs to the ribs, but now there was no waking him, and they were letting him doze peacefully on the grass.

"I don't know how you can tell the difference," said Draco, looking disdainfully at the brunet. Somehow Draco had become a fixture within the group, largely due to the fact that Ron was the only person he ever seemed to talk to. Hermione couldn't begin to understand it. She'd watched them both over the last few weeks and couldn't believe that Ron was willing to speak to the former Slytherin and that said former Slytherin was willing to listen and respond. They weren't overly friendly with one another, but there was a strange civility between them, something that almost bordered on familiarity.

"I've heard people say the same of you," Ron replied to the blond's comment, to which Draco merely pulled a face and stretched out his limbs, resting upon his elbows. "Snape must have done some number on him yesterday, he hasn't been able to keep his eyes open all day."

"He said it went well and that Snape was pleased with him. It just took a lot out of him that's all," replied Hermione.

"Well of course it did," said Draco matter-of-factly. "Elemental Magic is potent and difficult. To cast the most basic thing drains your magical energy. It's no surprise someone like Potter can't handle it," he said, and Ron gave him a gentle kick with his foot, accompanied by a look that said 'watch it'. "Potter will be fine in a few days, his energy levels just need to be restored. Don't worry, Severus knows what he's doing."

"I hope you're right," Ron muttered. "Snape's track record of training Harry isn't exactly glowing."

"Well I'm sure Potter wasn't the easiest of students," Draco replied. "Severus knows what he's doing, your precious Potter won't come to any harm."

"I'll remind you of that when we're keeping Harry in a matchbox," Ron replied grimly.

"Someone say my name?" Harry muttered, stretching languidly as he slowly came back to consciousness.

"Oh look who's finally decided to join us," said Ron, reaching down and ruffling Harry's hair, the brunet dozily trying to bat him away.

"Have I been asleep since we came out here?" he asked groggily, hoisting himself up to lean against the trunk of the tree.

"Pretty much," Ron replied. "We've greatly enjoyed your company."

"I'm sorry, I'm totally knackered, I didn't realise the training session would take so much out of me. It's a good job Snape made me stop or I'd probably be in a coma by now." Draco snorted but made no further comment, not that Harry seemed to notice in his sleep-addled state. "It was intense," Harry continued, "I can't wait for our next session."

"Did Snape brainwash you?" Ron asked, regarding his friend as though he'd sprouted an extra head.

Harry emitted a soft laugh and replied, "Honestly, it was a good session. Snape was even kind of encouraging, and he really took care of me after I fainted."

"Well it's part of the whole job description, he's supposed to take care of you," Ron pointed out, to which Harry inclined his head in acknowledgement.

"Still, I almost...had fun learning the magic, and Snape's better at teaching that than he is at teaching Potions."

"Well he couldn't be much worse," Ron groused. "Just don't overdo it in your next session, having a zombie for a friend isn't that appealing."

Harry laughed and said, "Well, that being the case, I think I'll head off back to the dungeons, have an early night," and he hauled himself up, resting against the tree for a moment until the dizziness subsided and he could move again.

"Sounds like a sensible idea," said Hermione. "Are you going to be ok on your own?"

"Should be, just as long as I don't fall asleep en route. I'll see you guys tomorrow," he said, trudging off, followed by the others' shouts of goodbye.

It was a long, slow walk back to his quarters, each step an effort, making the whole process a bit of a struggle. He sincerely hoped that Voldemort didn't see fit to attack at that moment; in his state he would have had trouble fighting off a kitten. "Finally," he sighed upon reaching door and pushing it open, slumping against it once he was inside. "It would be my luck that you can't apparate within Hogwarts grounds," he mumbled, Severus looking up from his work at the complaint.

"You look like death," he told the boy, watching as Harry moved slowly, dragging his feet, until he threw himself down in the armchair with a satisfied sigh. "And I've heard that you've fallen asleep in every lesson."

"Been keeping tabs on me?"

"It's only what I've heard," Severus said, almost defensively. "But you do look like death."

"Must admit I feel like it," Harry mumbled. "It's been a long, long day," he sighed. "I can't wait to go to bed, I've been dreaming of it all day."

"Then go. Although I would advise against using your beloved bath, you might drown."

Harry snorted and leant further back in the chair, closing his eyes as his head came to rest on the back. "I don't think I have the energy for a bath."

"I don't think you have the energy for anything," Severus replied, regarding the boy with a raised eyebrow. "Get to bed, I'm not carrying you in when you fall asleep there."

"Oh you're so charming," Harry told the man as he pushed himself out of the chair, more joking than serious. "Fine I'm off, bed is beckoning. If you wake me up later, I shan't be held responsible for my actions."

"I can hardly contain my terror," Severus deadpanned, watching as the boy tottered off into the bedroom, barely staying on his feet.

It was hours later when Severus himself decided to turn in, and upon entering the bedroom found that Harry hadn't quite made it all the way to bed. He was collapsed, fully clothed, on the top of the bed, fast asleep and snoring gently.

"Useless boy," Severus murmured, moving round to Harry's side of the bed. He removed the boy's glasses and placed them on the bedside table, and then, deciding that any more would be inappropriate, he carefully removed Harry's school robes and placed them over the back of a nearby chair. He gently manoeuvred the bedclothes out from underneath Harry and then covered him, shaking his head and saying, "Now I have to put the wretch to bed."

Harry awoke feeling wonderfully rested, if a little groggy and slightly disorientated. It took a moment for him to realise that he was still fully clothed, apart from his school robe, and he realised that he must have fallen asleep before he had a chance to properly undress. But then how were his glasses on the bedside table and his robe neatly folded on the chair opposite? And then it dawned on him; Snape. Snape had put him to bed? If the idea didn't disturb him so, he would have laughed. Groggily, he pushed the covers back and hauled himself out of bed, pushing on his glasses so he could see where he was going. He stumbled into the living room and found Snape in one of the armchairs, reading the newspaper.

"What time is it?" he asked through a yawn.

"11 o' clock."

"11 o' clock?! Oh Merlin I'm so late, they'll kill me, I've already missed two lessons! Why didn't you wake me?" he asked, suddenly propelled into action.

"Perhaps because it's Saturday," Severus replied, mildly amused at seeing Harry with his head caught in the sleeve of his jumper as he was trying to pull it off over his head.

"Oh," said Harry, pausing in his actions. "Well that's alright then. Stupid bloody thing," he growled, freeing himself from the cursed jumper. "Can't keep track of the days anymore, too much like hard work," he said, pouring himself a coffee and leaning against the worktop, still unable to be fully responsible for his own balance.

"Are you feeling better this morning?" Severus asked, laying the newspaper aside.

"Still feeling a bit unsteady, but I'm not as tired as I was. Last night's sleep did me the world of good, hopefully I'll be able to stay awake today."

"We live in hope," Severus replied with a smirk. "And what do you intend to do today?"

Harry shrugged and sipped at his coffee. "I don't know, I've got some school work to do, and I want to do more reading on Elemental Magic. I want to be more prepared for our next session," he said and could've sworn he saw a flash of guilt across Snape's features.

"I shouldn't have let the session last as long as it did. I too should have been better prepared," he admitted.

"It's not your fault," Harry replied. "It was the magic, you said yourself how potent it was and you're the one who insisted on stopping. We'll know better for next time."

"Indeed," Severus replied, slightly surprised at how reasonable Harry was being. He had expected the boy to place the blame entirely on him, maybe even refuse to continue with the training, but instead Harry was enthusiastic to learn more and seemed to bear Severus no hostility. "Sit down before you fall down Potter," he instructed, seeing Harry sway against the worktop.

"Potter-Snape," Harry pointed out pedantically, obeying the instruction and smirking when he caught Severus' eye roll. "And what, pray tell, are you doing today?" Harry asked.

"Brewing. I have been all morning, I was just taking a break. I'm surprised I didn't wake you up; there were a couple of explosions."

"You blew something up?" Harry asked in amusement, imagining how pleased Neville would be if he knew.

"Only intentionally," Severus insisted. "It's a standard reaction in certain potions."

"Mmhmm, whatever you say," Harry teased, propping his feet up on the coffee table.

"Brat," Severus murmured, finishing the remains of his coffee and rising from his chair. "Don't overdo it today and if you feel tired then sleep."

"What would I do without you here to point out the obvious?"

"Just do it," Severus ordered, sweeping off into this lab.

"Yes dear," Harry yawned.

Harry spent the afternoon curled up on the sofa with his books on Elemental Magic, pausing occasionally to make notes or to jot down questions to ask Severus later. A lot of it was confusing and difficult and it made for heavy work, but Harry was determined to do it; he wanted to be as informed as possible. Some of it was rather fascinating and he was eager to try a lot of the things he'd read about, if Severus would let him.

Severus had been in and out all afternoon, preoccupied with whatever it was he was brewing. He popped out to get a book now and then or grab a cup of coffee, but mostly Harry hadn't seen him all afternoon. He was quite content, snuggled up on the sofa, studying. It was pouring with rain and he was enjoying the cosiness of being tucked up inside, with endless cups of tea and an afternoon to while away.

"Hm, I never knew that," Harry murmured as he came to a particularly interesting passage.

"I'm sure one could fill a book with what you never knew," came Severus' voice from the laboratory doorway, making Harry jump.

He turned around and glared at the man and said, "You take a perverse pleasure in doing that to me." Severus merely smirked in response and Harry asked, "Was there something you wanted or did you just want to make me jump out of my skin?"

"As appealing as the latter option is, I actually require your assistance."

"Oh?" Harry replied, setting his books aside. "With what?"

Severus rolled his eyes and replied, "With making fairy cakes Potter, what do you think?"

"Well as you've asked so nicely, I'd be delighted to help," Harry said, his voice ringing with sarcasm as he pulled himself off the sofa and shuffled over to Severus. "Well where's my pinny then? Don't want to get covered in flour if we're baking," he grinned.

"Stupid boy, get in here," Severus muttered, giving Harry a gentle shove into the lab. Harry had never been in there before and it was interesting to see where Severus spent a large portion of his time. It was a bit dark and dingy, but then so many potions were light-sensitive, it would have to be. The walls were lined with shelves, all balancing various jars and vials, the contents of which Harry couldn't identify. In the centre was a large wooden table, upon which a cauldron was bubbling away whilst various ingredients lay waiting to be included in it.

"Not bad I suppose," Harry muttered.

"So glad you approve," came Severus' reply as he took his place behind the table. "Now, come and stir this cauldron for precisely five minutes; two and a half minutes clockwise, two and a half minutes counter-clockwise. Don't stop or it'll be ruined and keep going as I add the ingredients."

Harry did as he was told and built up a steady rhythm, watching as Severus set about preparing the remaining ingredients. The smell was pungent and it was uncomfortable leaning over the heat, and Harry had to concentrate hard to keep awake. "So what is this?" he asked as Severus carefully added some chopped up root of Merlin-knew-what.

"Wolfsbane – but a revised version."

"Wolfsbane?" Harry echoed, suddenly interested. "What do you mean revised?"

"I'm trying to make certain alterations to the original order to make life easier for your dear Lupin." It was clear that Severus was torn between pride in his work and resentment at helping Remus.

"What will these alterations mean for him?" Harry asked, switching his stirring to counter-clockwise, ignoring the dull ache in his wrist.

"It will make the transformations a lot less painful; there's also a chance that it could cause them to happen less frequently – once every two months instead perhaps."

"That's amazing! You can really do that?" Harry asked, more than a little impressed.

"Well that's what these trials will find out. Right stop stirring and turn the heat down to a simmer. Now come and peel these then finely slice them." Harry moved to stand next to Severus and took the knife he was offered, almost making a comment about not being a house elf, but deciding that he didn't actually mind helping out; at least it was company.

"When's our next training session then?" he asked as he set about preparing the odd things Severus had given him.

"When you've adequately recovered," Severus replied.

"I'm fine now," Harry insisted, "I've got all my energy back, I haven't fallen asleep once today, even when I was cuddled up on the sofa! I'm perfectly alright to carry on training."

"No you aren't," Severus replied firmly. "You still tire easily and you're unfocused, more so than usual. Until I'm convinced that you've made a full recovery, we will not be continuing."

"But I'm fine! I'm perfectly capable, I'm alert, I'm - ow! Shit!" he cursed as he accidently sliced through his finger rather than the root he'd been struggling with. "Bugger," he murmured, holding his finger up and examining the deep cut he'd caused.

"What was that about being alert?" Severus asked dryly as Harry dabbed at his finger with a tissue. "Let me look," he ordered and Harry tentatively held his finger out to the man as Severus took a gentle hold of it. "I should have known not to trust you with a sharp instrument," he muttered as he selected a salve and then carefully rubbed it in and around the wound. "There, that should sort it out, it'll take the pain away and form a barrier against infection. Take a little more care in future please."

"Thank you," Harry said, a little sheepish at his carelessness, but also rather surprised that Severus had treated him himself and hadn't insulted him and his capabilities.

"As I said, we will return to your training when I am convinced that you are no longer a danger to yourself.

Harry snorted and replied, "We'll be waiting forever then."

"Right, I think I'll turn in. I'd hoped to have all this stuff finished by tonight but I give up," said Hermione, packing her notes up, finally willing to throw the towel in. "Are you going to stay here?" she asked, looking over at Ron who was stretched out on the sofa, ostensibly doing Transfiguration revision.

"Yeah I might stay for another half an hour or so, just not tired yet," he replied, shifting down and making himself more comfortable.

"Fair enough. Is Malfoy back yet?"

"I don't know. He's been in a foul mood all day, I've barely had two civil words out of him. I think he might have received a letter from his father earlier, but he hasn't said anything about it. I don't know where he's been all evening."

"Maybe he just needs some time alone, to figure things out. It can't be easy for him," said Hermione as she headed towards the stairs.

"No, it isn't. I thought things were going to get better after he decided to stop skulking around, but he just seems to be have these black days and nothing can pull him back."

"Well I'm sure you're up to the job. Whatever you're doing so far seems to be working."

"What do you mean by – " he began to ask, but she was already halfway up the stairs.

He shook his head and returned his attention to his Transfiguration book, telling himself that he'd go to bed in a bit. It was a Saturday after all, good opportunity for a lie in the following morning, and he needed to get some work done...not that he'd been incredibly successful so far. He'd go when the fire died out...maybe.

"Oh screw it," he muttered, throwing his book aside. He folded his arms behind his head and stared up at the ceiling, mulling over the way Draco had been behaving that morning. He'd been unresponsive and evasive and just generally unpleasant. After a while Ron had given up with him and just let him get on with it. His eyes were closing and he was almost about to drift off when he heard the portrait hole open, and he opened his eyes to see Draco make his way across the common room. He was hiding his face slightly and he seemed to be walking strangely.

"Where have you been?" Ron asked, sitting up.

"Out," came the gruff reply as he made his way to the staircase.

"Hang on, wait a minute," Ron said, jumping up from the sofa and moving over to the blond. "What's happened? Why are you limping?"

"I'm not, leave me alone," Draco replied, going to move up the stairs.

"Malfoy stop," Ron said, grabbing Draco's arm and turning him round. "Fuck!" he breathed, seeing exactly what Draco was hiding. His lip was split and a trail of blood trickled down his chin; his left eye was bruised and swollen; there were various cuts and scrapes all over his face and there was a deep cut on his forehead, slicing through his eyebrow. "What the hell happened to you?"

"What does it look like Weasley?" Draco replied, shrugging Ron's hand off.

"Who did this?"

Draco sighed and replied, "I don't know, the bastards jumped me from behind in the dark. Hardly takes a genius to figure out possible candidates though."

"Are you hurt anywhere else?" Ron asked, hardly able to believe what had happened.

"They got in a few pretty good kicks to the ribs and I fucked up my ankle when they wrestled me to the floor. Apart from that, just my pride."

"Shit. Come on, let's go upstairs and get you sorted out. I have a few medical supplies that we can patch you up with. Can you make it up the stairs alright?"

"I'll manage," Draco replied, grabbing hold of the banister and gingerly moving himself up the stairs, Ron following closely behind in case Draco took a sudden tumble. He looked awful, and although he was obviously trying to pretend he wasn't in much pain, it was clear he'd taken quite a beating. He collapsed down on his bed and Ron fished around in his trunk for medical supplies. His mother insisted every year on sending them all away with as many 'provisions' as could be fitted in and he was grateful that year was no exception.

He drew the curtains and casting a quick silencing charm. "Right, come here," he said, perching on the bed next to Draco and wetting a cotton ball with some witch hazel. Draco turned to face him and winced as the cotton made contact with the cut on his brow. "Sorry, it'll only sting for a minute and it'll take out any infection."

Draco smirked as best as he could with a split lip and said, "I never had you down for a nurse Weasley."

Ron snorted and replied, "My mother insists on all of us being basically capable to deal with injuries. Besides, this kind of stuff comes in really useful when your best friend is Harry Potter."

"I'll bet. Ow," he hissed as the witch hazel continued to do its job on the various cuts on his face. Ron changed the cotton ball and began to dab gently at Draco's lip.

"This'll take down some of the swelling, but it'll still be noticeable tomorrow I'm afraid. Shouldn't be too painful though."

"Everyone's going to know anyway. No doubt it'll be all round Slytherin by now, they'll be bragging about their wonderful victory over the foul traitor," Draco said bitterly, gingerly putting a finger to his lip and seeing how bad it was.

"We'll go and see Dumbledore about it tomorrow, they can't be allowed to get away with this," Ron said, rifling through his things and selecting a tub of salve. "Arnica," he told Draco, "it'll help with the bruises, should take some of the swelling down too," he said, rubbing a small quantity of it on the bruise that was forming on Draco's cheek. "I can't believe they did this to you, what a bunch of cowards! Where's the fairness in this?"

"You're such a Gryffindor," Draco said with a shake of his head.

"Yeah well, seeing what's happened to you tonight I'd say that was no bad thing. And anyway, now you're one too," he said, to which Draco merely rolled his eyes. "I'm not sure what to do about the ribs. If they're broken there's not really much you can do, but maybe rub some arnica on them just to help with the pain. And breathe normally, if you let your breathing get shallow then you could get a chest infection."

"Yes doctor," Draco muttered, although he was feeling better from Ron's ministrations.

"Right, well that's pretty much all I can do, maybe you should go and see Madame Pomfrey tomorrow."

"No I'll be alright, a couple of days and it'll just be some fading bruises and a few scratches. Thanks though, for helping me out," Draco said a little awkwardly.

"No worries," Ron replied, placing all the supplies back in his trunk. "Just, no wandering about by yourself after dark anymore?"

"I'll try."

"Good, because if I'm going to be your nursemaid, I want to get paid."

Chapter Text

"Professor are you here?" Harry said as he entered their quarters. He'd just had breakfast with Ron, who had informed him of Draco's encounter the previous night. The blond had been absent from breakfast and Ron had said that he was keeping to their dorm that day; he didn't want to deal with all the attention his appearance would inevitably bring.

"Is something wrong?" asked Severus, emerging from the Potions lab.

"Malfoy was jumped last night and they beat him pretty badly. Ron managed to sort out the worst of it but I thought you should know."

"I was afraid this would happen," Severus said, wiping his hands on a cloth then chucking it aside. "He's alright though?"

"Ron said he was. He's covered in bruises and he's pretty sore but nothing life-threatening. He's keeping to the dorm all day. Ron's worried it might happen again, people have got their claws out for him...and for you," Harry added. "I know it's unlikely a couple of thugs are going to jump you in the corridor, but they could be planning something."

"I'm touched at your concern," Severus said dryly, "but don't worry, I'm perfectly aware that they'll be plotting something. Right now I'm more worried about Draco. Perhaps I should contact his father, Lucius needs to be made aware of what his son's facing. Thank you for letting me know."

"No problem," Harry said with a shrug. "I may not like him but I wouldn't wish this on him."

"It's an unfortunate situation," Severus agreed. "What are you doing today anyway?"

Harry shrugged and replied, "I don't know really. I think Ron said he was going to spend the day with Malfoy, make sure nothing else happens, and Hermione, as usual, is up to her elbows in school work. I'm at a bit of a loose end."

Severus raised an eyebrow and said, "'re free to assist me again?"

Harry smirked and replied, "Well, I'm honoured, being asked to assist two days in a row! I must be pretty good eh?"

"A simple yes or no would suffice," Severus said flatly.

Harry chuckled and replied, "Ok, I'll help. If we reach a third session, you'll have to start paying me a wage."

"I put a roof over your head, isn't that enough?" Severus said as they moved into the lab.

"What am I, your wife in the 50s?" Harry said with a snort as he took his place behind the workbench.

"It would be a lot easier if you were," Severus replied, handing him a bunch of flowers and roots and indicating that they should be chopped.

"You old fashioned chauvinist," Harry teased as he set about his task. "What do you think will happen with Malfoy?"

Severus shook his head and replied, "I don't know, it's a bad business. Slytherins won't let treachery lie and the Malfoy name is blackened now. No doubt there are a few parents pouring poison into their little darlings' ears, making sure the Malfoys get what's coming to them."

"And what about you? They're going to want to make you pay too. I don't think we can be too careful," he said, handing the chopped ingredients over to Severus and setting about crushing the remaining petals.

Severus nodded his head slightly, surprised that this was the second time Harry had expressed concern over his safety. He honestly didn't think the boy would be bothered if something happened to him, and yet here he was insisting that Severus watched his back. Maybe he was just worried that he'd be a target for Aldrington if something were to happen to him, but then he knew Harry wasn't that self-involved. "We must all be vigilant in these times, myself included," he replied, gently stirring the potion in front of him.

"Well I hope you are," Harry said quietly. "What happened to Draco shouldn't happen to anyone...and I wouldn't want it to happen to you."

Severus was almost ready to answer with a sarcastic or caustic comment, but something about Harry's remark was so genuine that he simply inclined his head slightly and returned his attention to his work.

They worked well together for the rest of the morning. Severus would give Harry instructions and Harry would follow them out capably, occasionally asking questions or commenting on what was being made. Severus actually explained things very well and Harry couldn't understand why the man wasn't as agreeable in the classroom; he was sure he'd learnt more in that one afternoon than all the lessons he'd ever had with Severus.

He was surprised to find that they could conduct a conversation rather pleasantly, and the afternoon's work passed quickly without incident or argument. It ended with Severus packaging the brewed potions as Harry wrote out labels for them all.

"There, that's the last," said Harry, handing the final label to Severus to be attached.

"Thank you, and thank you for your help."

"No problem, it was better than sitting around doing nothing."

"Indeed. How are you feeling?"

Harry frowned, puzzled and replied, "I'm fine, why?"

"Well," Severus said, wiping the remnants of the potions from his hands, "I thought that if you were feeling alright...we might spend the rest of the afternoon doing some training." Severus almost laughed at the look on Harry's face; his eyes lit up and a grin spread across his lips.

"You mean it?" he asked, clearly restraining himself from bounding around like an energetic puppy.

"If you think you're up to it then yes, I don't see why not," he replied.

"Absolutely! Let's go, I'm ready," Harry said, his enthusiasm almost overwhelming him.

Severus held back a smile and said, "Let us at least have something to eat first, if you think you can wait that long."

Harry reluctantly forced down his lunch, only doing so because Severus insisted that he wouldn't do the training otherwise. He ate as quickly as he could and sat in annoyance as Severus sipped at his tea, convinced that the man was taking his time deliberately, just to wind him up. Finally he announced that they were ready to begin and that, rather than traipsing up to the Room of Requirement, they would use the living room, and so, after the furniture had been pushed aside and everything was cleared, they stood in the middle of the room, ready to start.

"We're going to focus on Air Magic today," Severus told Harry, who nodded eagerly. "You've already had some experience with it actually."

"I have?" Harry asked, puzzled.

Severus nodded and replied, "Every time you've summoned something wandlessly. Air Magic is potent and powerful and it's also rooted in the spiritual and mental realm, so when we've mastered some basic physical aspects to the Magic, we'll focus on that. Now, we'll start with summoning. Let's see, something light at first – the cloth over there. Hold your hand out, focus on the object but more importantly, focus on the air around it, really visualise it as a present force then use it to do what you wish. And you're not to use an incantation," Severus instructed. Harry looked slightly disconcerted at that last order but nodded nevertheless and turned to face the cloth. He held out his wand hand and did as Severus said, focusing on the cloth and the air around it.

He imagined each individual particle, imagined the magical energy that crackled in them and how he could manipulate it with his own energy. He felt the two forces combine and he willed the cloth into his hand. After a few moments it flew across the room and into his palm. His fingers closed around it and he smiled, looking over at Severus, who was regarding him with his arms folded and his usual thoughtful, evaluating expression.

"Very good," he said simply. "Now try something heavier – one of the books off the table." Again Harry did as he was told and though it took more focus and energy, he summoned the book as he did the cloth. Severus gave him an encouraging nod then said, "Now, let's see if you can move objects from one place to another. It's basic levitation of course, but without a wand or incantation it will be harder. It'll also take more energy because you're moving the object from one place to another rather than drawing it to yourself, so if you feel yourself draining, you must stop," Severus warned, unwilling to let Harry get to the state he reached last time.

"I can do it," Harry insisted. "I feel fine." He turned his attention to another book on the table and focused on it. He tried to centre himself and make sure he felt grounded before he turned his full concentration on the book. He stared at it, again trying to focus on the energy surrounding it and how it could be manipulated. Slowly the book rose off the desk and hovered in mid-air for a moment as Harry made sure he had control of it. He took a breath to steady himself then focused on the air energy supporting the book and concentrated on manipulating it to transport the book across the room. It moved slowly and about halfway across, it started to shake slightly and Harry could feel his control slipping.

"Just focus, let it go if your energy's draining," he heard Severus' voice close to his ear and he focused on its deep, rich tones, using the man's close presence to steady himself. He felt his energy pick up again and the book stopped shaking then continued to make its way round the room until it came to rest on the table once again. "Good, very good," Severus said quietly, still close to him, as if needing to make sure that Harry was ok after his efforts.

"That was difficult," Harry said, a little shakily. "I could feel the mesh of magical energy and it was hard to control but at the same time I felt...powerful somehow, like the air's energy was giving me energy...if that makes sense," he said, turning to face Severus.

"It makes perfect sense," he man replied. "Both energies are feeding off each other, combining and focusing in a vessel, in this instance, you. Which brings me to the next thing I want you to try, if you feel up to it," he said, regarding Harry closely, checking for a sign that Harry might be flagging.

"I feel great, please let's continue. What's next?"

Severus seemed a little reluctant, but seeing Harry's eagerness, he gave in and said, "Very well. This involves actually taking energy from the air around you in order to replenish lost energy. It also connects you to the magic around you. Do you wish to try?" Harry nodded and Severus continued, "Ok then, close your eyes and try to clear your mind. Steady your breathing and try to feel the energy around you."

Harry closed his eyes and did as he was told, indulging in the feel of Severus' voice as it slipped over his senses. He could feel the man's presence nearby and he tried to become aware of what else he could feel. He created the room in his mind, placed every object within it and then imagined the air all around it.

He focused on its energy, on his own, on the two intermingling; he focused on drawing it within him, on letting it become a part of him, the two energies infusing. All of a sudden it hit him. The force was powerful and all-encompassing. "Fuck," he breathed, and felt himself sway forward, only to be braced by a pair of strong arms and then held against a firm chest.

He felt light-headed and strong all at once. It was as though he'd somehow entered a higher plane, like he was separate from his body and yet still connected to it. His whole being felt infused, alive and slowly he opened his eyes. He was leaning against Severus and his heart was beating like a scared rabbit's. He let his head loll forward onto Severus' chest and murmured, "That was amazing. I can't wait to do it again."

He felt Severus chuckle and then reply softly, "Be that as it may, I think we must call it a day for now, before you start seeing pink hippogriffs."

Harry merely nodded, still coming down from his heady experience. He felt Severus steady him and he moved him back to balance on his own feet, saying, "Come and sit on the sofa until you're steadier." He led him over to it and Harry sank down gratefully. "Potter you're a junkie," Severus told him with a smirk.

"For that stuff, you'd better believe it. And it's Potter-Snape."

Harry slowly awoke the next morning, feeling better than he had down in a long while. He stretched and rolled over and mumbled "Good morning" to Severus, who was sitting up, apparently getting a head start on the day's work. Harry grinned and stretched again, enjoying the feeling of strength in his limbs.

"Good morning. I see you're still enjoying the effects of the energy transference," Severus replied with a smirk as Harry continued to behave like a cat as he stretched and wriggled under the covers.

"Mm it's fantastic," Harry drawled. "You should try it, it's like...being born again or something. I feel great."

"So I see," said Severus in amusement. "But I don't think I'll be trying it anytime soon; one junkie in the family's enough."

Harry chuckled and finally pulled himself up into a sitting position, leaning his head back on the headboard. "I don't know how I'm going to be able to concentrate in lessons today."

"Well that'll hardly make a change," Severus told him dryly. He gave him a gentle nudge and said, "If you don't get up now, you'll be late."

"Yes, yes, let me just enjoy this for a little longer, it's not every day I feel like this you know." Severus gave him a look and he sighed, saying, "Fine, fine, I'm getting up, although I don't see you in any hurry." He tossed the covers aside and pottered over to the wardrobe, pulling out his school clothes.

"I have the morning off, as you are well aware," he replied, putting his work aside and watching in amusement as Harry wandered round, looking for his tie.

"Oh well it's alright for some," Harry muttered, on his hands and knees, peering under the bed for the missing article. "Bugger where is that thing?"

"If you'd just open your eyes you'd see it's hanging off the back of the chair," Severus said, pointing in said chair's direction.

"Oh. Well how did the bloody thing get there?" he said, retrieving it and heading off into the bathroom.

Severus shook his head. As much as the transference had invigorated the boy, it hadn't sharpened his senses or made him any more aware. He'd been high as a kite the previous night, as if a new world had been opened up to him and everything remotely tactile had sent him almost over the edge. Everything he touched or that had touched him seemed to send all kinds of sensations through him and Severus had been rather fascinated to observe it all.

"Right I'm ready," said Harry, emerging from the bathroom. "I'll see you later, part-timer."


"Malfoy come on, it's been two days – the swelling's gone down and if we do a glamour no one will even notice," said Ron as he sat on his bed, watching Draco examine his face in the mirror.

"The people who did it will know...and so will I," he said quietly, turning to examine his bruised cheek.

Ron sighed and slipped off his bed, walking over to the blond and standing behind him, looking at his reflection in the mirror. "You can't hide away in here forever, you'll let them win, they'll think they've beaten you." He placed his hands on Draco's shoulders and turned the blond around to face him. "You can't let that happen. They're the ones in the wrong, not you. You have to face them," he told him gently.

"I can't," Draco said quietly. "I'm ashamed," he admitted, moving away from Ron to sit on his bed.

"You have nothing to be ashamed about," Ron insisted, leaning against the bed post. "They're the cowards, they're the ones who should be ashamed. What they did to you was awful and the only people who would think otherwise are beneath contempt; you have to show them that."

"That's easier said than done," Draco replied. "I can't go out there and face them all on my own, I'll be murdered."

Ron rolled his eyes and took a seat on the bed next to Draco. "In case you hadn't noticed, you moron, you're not on your own." Draco looked across at him and Ron elaborated, "I'm here aren't I? And Hermione, and Harry; they both think it's awful what's happened to you and they'll be willing to stand by you. We're not going to let you go this alone."

Draco looked at him for a moment then said, "You're a strange person Ron Weasley."

Ron chuckled and replied, "Yeah well, lucky for you I am. Come on, let's see what we can do with a glamour."

Harry had had a very mixed day. He had still been feeling the effects of the energy transference and so had spent the day feeling rather wonderful, but rather conflicted as there was nothing to actually feel wonderful about. Ron and Draco had come down to breakfast somewhat subdued, Draco clearly trying to remain as unnoticed as possible, keeping close to Ron as they sat down together. He heard his friend whisper to the blond, "It's fine, honestly you can barely see a thing, no one's going to notice."

Harry snuck a look at the boy and Ron was right; unless you knew that Draco had been pretty badly beaten, you wouldn't have noticed anything different other than the dark circles under his eyes. He ate very little and barely said anything other than a few words to Ron, who seemed determined not to let the boy retreat into himself.

Harry himself was buzzing, feeling as though he'd been given a new lease of life. He felt connected to everything, a part of it all and yet separate somehow. None of it made any sense to him but he knew he was enjoying it. Hermione had commented on how well he was looking and the good mood he seemed to be in, to which Harry had merely smiled in response.

The morning had passed without incident. They went about their business and to their separate classes; Harry even passed Severus a couple of times in the halls, nodding and smiling slightly as they passed each other. Lunch was also fairly uneventful. Draco had come out of his shell a bit more and they managed to have a fairly decent conversation. Ron was also more at his ease now that Draco had clearly loosened up and they had a good laugh before trudging off to afternoon lessons.

It was at the end of the day when it happened, just after the last lesson when they were all filing out of the classroom. It was Divination so the boys were all together, laughing and joking about Dean's predictions about the Quidditch World Cup, when they suddenly heard voices behind them.

"Snivelling little traitor, I heard he went down on the first punch."

"Easier to beat than a carpet I heard. Daddy's little wonder boy is nothing more than a wimpy little fairy," the second voice sneered and Harry looked across at Ron worriedly. The red-head mirrored his concern, which grew as one of them shouted,

"Oi Malfoy, are you going to pretend we don't exist forever or are you going to stop being a coward and face us?"

Draco froze and stopped walking, as did the others. Ron cast a look at Draco then turned around and said with venom in his voice, "The only cowards are the ones who jumped a single person in the black of night, outnumbering him and attacking him from behind. You're pathetic."

"You're one to talk Weasel," one of them sneered, moving closer to the group, his cronies following behind. "How is the family? Still sharing the one room?"

Ron gave a snort of contempt and replied, "That's pathetic. I've heard Crabbe and Goyle come up with wittier comments than that. Now piss off." Harry looked across at Draco; the boy looked almost sick and he was pale with worry, but his jaw was clenched determinedly, and Harry knew he would stand his ground.

"Not likely," Arden replied. "We've got unfinished business with Mr Malfoy here and we're very eager to finish it."

"Not going to happen," Ron growled.

"Well what's this? The ferret's found a weasel for a protector? How touching."

"Get lost Arden," said Harry, stepping forward. "Go and find someone else to play with."

"But I'm having so much fun here Mr Potter-Snape. Tell me, how is the professor these days? He looks much happier now that he has someone to screw," Arden replied with a smirk.

He stepped closer to Ron and said in a silky voice, "I must admit, I'm touched at this little scene here, although I don't really get it. Are you getting something in return perhaps Weasley? You stand up for him and he spends some time on his knees?" Ron's eyes flashed with anger but Arden didn't register the warning, continuing, "Is he good Weasley? Maybe we should give him a go the next time we find him in a dark corridor."

Ron saw red. He snapped, and before anyone knew what was happening, his fist had connected with Arden's jaw and the boy fell to the floor with a sickening thud. His cronies then descended on Harry and Draco, who fought them off as best they could, although Draco struggled as he was still recovering from his previous injuries, and he was soon gaining a few new ones, as was Harry. The Slytherins were quicker in extracting their wands than Harry and Draco and they soon found themselves dodging various hexes as well as the punches that were being thrown their way.

Harry was hit with some kind of burning spell that luckily only singed his robes and he was quick to put it out, grabbing the boy's wrist, wrenching the wand from his hand and throwing it aside. He brought his fist back and let it resound smartly with the boy's cheek. He turned to see that the other attacker had caught Draco by the throat and he was about to intervene when Draco gave the boy a sickening head butt, sending him crumpling to the floor. If the situation hadn't been so serious, Harry would have laughed at the sight of such a well-bred pureblood using such a hooligan tactic. Draco kicked the boy's wand aside and pointed his own shakily at him, a trail of blood making its way from his lip down to his chin. "I wouldn't move if I were you," he hissed as the boy held his nose in pain, blood pouring through his fingers.

They turned to see that Ron was still tangling with Arden, who apparently wasn't learning his lesson and kept flinging insults about Draco, which only served to incense Ron further and he flung the boy against the wall and brought his knee swiftly up to his groin, hissing, "You won't be able to use it now you fucking bastard." The boy crumpled to the floor and Ron stood glaring down at him. He was about to do further damage when heard McGonagall yell in her shrill tones, "Stop this at once! What in Merlin's name do you think you're doing?"

They all turned exhausted, to look at the woman. "What on earth is going on here?" she asked sternly.

"It was them Professor," Ron said breathlessly. "They followed us after Divination and began taunting and jibing. They were...after Draco."

"I see," she replied gravely. "I will escort you all to the Hospital Wing and then, Mr Arden, you and your friends will join me for a little chat."

Harry made a painful way back to the dungeons that evening. He ached all over and his lip was throbbing uncomfortably where it had been split. All he wanted was to sink into his beloved bath then slip into bed. He was somewhat less then pleased when he entered his quarters to find Lucius Malfoy sitting on the sofa, sipping a whisky and talking to Severus.

"My God what happened to you?" Severus said, jumping from the sofa and moving over to Harry, taking his face in his hands and examining his wounds.

Harry was slightly taken aback by the gesture, and his first reaction was to pull away, but instead he only moved away slightly and replied, "It's nothing, I'm fine. I've already been to the Hospital Wing and Madame Pomfrey's taken care of everything. I'm just a little sore that's all."

"Are you sure? What happened?" Severus asked, dropping his hands to Harry's shoulders, still regarding the boy closely, making sure that he was indeed ok.

"Actually," said Harry, glancing over to Lucius, "it's to do with Draco."

"Draco?" echoed Lucius, rising from the sofa and moving over to them. "What's happened, is he ok? Where is he?" he asked, and Harry was surprised to see that the man was genuinely concerned about his son.

"He's fine, he's back in the Tower now," Harry assured him, "but we did have some trouble...with Arden and his mates. Has Professor Snape told you what happened to Draco?" Lucius nodded, and Harry continued, "Well they were stirring trouble over that and then Arden said something...tasteless to Ron about Draco and Ron just saw red and punched him. Before I knew it, we were all in, hence my colourful array of bruises."

"Merlin's teeth," Lucius cursed. "I'm going to have to go and speak to Dumbledore, this can't go on, they'll end up killing Draco!"

"I hate to say it sir," Harry said quietly, "but I think you're right. They're out for blood and they won't stop until they get it. Draco's safe in Gryffindor, but everywhere else he's fair game."

Lucius nodded and replied, "I'm going to go and speak with Dumbledore, something has to be done. Good evening Severus, thank you for alerting me," he said, shaking the man's hand, then turning to Harry and saying, "And thank you Potter." Harry gave a small nod and Lucius swept out, leaving Harry and Severus alone.

"Are you sure you're alright?" Severus asked him.

Harry nodded and replied, "I'm fine, just knackered."

"Come and sit down," said Severus, leading him over to the sofa, Harry taking a seat gratefully. "Have you eaten?"

Harry shook his head and replied, "No, I'm not hungry, couldn't really face anything now. I can't believe what a mess this is," he sighed, then chuckled, saying, "I also can't believe that I got into a fight for Draco Malfoy instead of with him."

Severus smirked and replied, "Yes well, a lot has changed in the past couple of months. Are you sure you won't eat? It might make you feel better."

Harry chuckled and replied, "As touched as I am at your concern, I'm fine really. Just a bit battered and bruised but I'll live." He rested his head on the back of the sofa and smiled at Severus, saying, "If you're feeling particularly caring, you could make me a cup of tea."

Severus smirked and rose from the sofa, saying, "Very well, but only because you've been used as a punching bag. Don't expect this treatment all the time."

Harry rolled his eyes and replied, "Yes Dear."

Chapter Text

"Are you ok?" Draco asked Ron as he leant against the boy's bedpost and watched as he held an ice pack to his eye – one of the very lucky punches Arden had managed to throw. Ron turned to him and smiled, saying,

"I'm fine, won't be able to see out of my left eye for a couple of days, but I'll live. Hey, at least now we match."

Draco gave a half-hearted smile and sat next to Ron on the bed. He looked down at his hands for a few moments, feeling awkward and uncomfortable, before finally saying quietly, "You didn't have to do that you know."

Ron frowned at him and said, "What do you mean?"

Draco looked away and began to fiddle with the edge of the duvet. "It's my fight," he murmured, "you shouldn't have to get involved in all this mess. Look what's happened to you today, all because of me. You'd be better off just leaving me alone."

"That's not going to happen," Ron replied firmly, setting the ice pack aside.

"You don't have to get involved in all this, you shouldn't be getting hurt because of me."

Ron sighed and said, "Draco look at me." The blond made no movement so Ron placed his hand on his shoulder and tried to turn him around. Draco resisted at first and tried to shrug him off but Ron was persistent and he eventually pulled Draco round to face him. "No one is making me do this, no one's making me get involved and I'm not going to bail out the first time it gets a little difficult."

"A little difficult? Ron you can't see out your left eye! Your face is black and blue and you can't lift your arm because you wrenched your shoulder! And all because some prick wanted a go at me. You shouldn't be suffering because of me," Draco said agitatedly, getting up and ostensibly beginning to tidy his things.

"I'm hardly suffering! So we got into a fight, big deal! It's hardly my first and I'm sure it won't be my last. I've had worse fights with you for Merlin's sake!" Ron said, his eyes following Draco around the room.

"But this is different," Draco insisted. "I just responsible."

"Well you're not, I am. I'm responsible for my decisions and my actions and it just so happens that those actions include standing by you and sometimes even fighting for you, and if you don't like it then tough shit!" He stood up and moved over to the blond, stilling his actions and saying, "Draco stop. This isn't your fault, none of this is. I'm involved now, whether you like it or not, and a few bumps and bruises aren't going to change that."

"I don't understand," said Draco, shaking his head. "I don't understand why you'd want this," he said, looking Ron firmly in the eyes. Ron held his gaze and smiled slightly, saying,

"Because we're friends, and that's what friends do."

"But why?" Draco asked, clearly bewildered. "Why do you want to have anything to do with me?"

"You really don't get the concept of friendship do you?" At Draco's look of discomfort Ron sighed and said, "Stop feeling so guilty about everything. No one blames you, least of all me. We're friends, and this is what friends do for one another. If it takes me all bloody year I'm going to make you understand that."

"Would you stop trying to do everything yourself and just ask me if you need something?" Severus berated Harry as he saw the boy reach up to one of the kitchen cupboards and wince in pain as the previous night's injuries made themselves known.

"I can manage, I'm just a little sore," Harry insisted, but nevertheless stepped aside to let Severus retrieve the tea from the top shelf. "That prick managed to get in one hell of a punch to my ribs," Harry complained, holding his side and leaning against the counter. Severus raised an eyebrow at Harry's language, but said nothing, setting about making the tea.

"If you're still in pain later I'll give you a salve that should sort you out. I trust you shan't be doing anything today to worsen your condition."

Harry grinned at him and replied, "I'll try, no promises though."

Severus rolled his eyes and handed the boy his tea, which he accepted with thanks. They moved to sit in the living room, enjoying the moment of peace and quiet before the day's activities began. "It's not a bad day today anyway, I've got a couple of frees so I can just take it easy," Harry said, stretching out his legs and sipping at his tea, the taste of which, he had to admit, he was beginning to grow accustomed to.

"Well see that you do, you're in no fit state to be over-exerting yourself."

"Oh a couple of days and I'll be fine, we gave as good as we got anyway, so hopefully they'll be having a few aches and pains of their own. I'm just waiting for the next lot to have a pop."

"Let us hope that is a long way off, and a lot less physical. I'm having a word with Arden and his friends this morning; they'll feel the full force of my displeasure over their treatment of my husband," Severus said with a wicked gleam in his eyes.

Harry grinned back at him and replied, "Ah the perks of being married to a man with power. Can you put them in detention for the rest of their lives?"

"Oh I think we can come up with something more inventive than that," Severus replied smoothly, to which Harry smirked and said,

"I knew there was a reason I married you."

The day passed without incident, which Harry was exceptionally thankful for. His two free periods he spent in the library with Ron and Draco, the latter noticeably quiet but surprisingly pleasant. He seemed to be sticking closer than ever to Ron, but Ron didn't seem to mind. All three boys were rather stiff and sore and they laughed over their pathetic attempts at movement, though Draco seemed more subdued in his amusement. They saw nothing of Arden and his thugs, and Harry imagined, with great mirth, the punishment Severus might be subjecting them to.

Although the day had been largely uneventful, Harry was nevertheless tired by the end of it and so he decided to skip dinner with his friends and gratefully returned to his quarters. He was sitting curled up in one of the armchairs getting his homework done when Severus returned, looking almost as tired as Harry felt.

"You weren't at dinner," Severus commented as he hung his outer robes up, leaving him in trousers and a shirt. "Are you unwell?" he asked, taking a seat on the sofa.

"No I'm fine," Harry replied, looking up from his work, "I was just tired and I wanted to come home; it's been a long day and the sofa was beckoning," he said with a smile. "Are you alright? You look tired."

"I am," Severus admitted, tiredly placing his head in his hands, trying to let the day's tension ease away. "I had to avert several disasters today and all in all it's just been rather tiring," he said with a sigh.

"I'll make you a tea, or would you prefer coffee?" Harry asked, moving from the sofa to the kitchen and putting the kettle on the hob.

"Coffee would be most welcome," Severus replied gratefully. "Though of course I should be making it for you, you're the invalid after all."

"Don't be daft," Harry replied. "You can just sit there and let someone take care of you for a change," he ordered, setting out the mugs.

"You're going to take care of me?" Severus asked with an amused snort.

Harry grinned at the man and replied, "Well you've caught me on one of my more generous days. I'd take advantage if I were you."

"Oh I will," said Severus with a smirk, "although something tells me I should be worried. Perhaps I should check to make sure my coffee isn't laced with anything?"

"Oh be quiet, can't someone want to be helpful without any underlying motives?" Harry replied cheekily, handing Severus the cup he was cradling.

"At least you make an adequate coffee now Potter, my efforts of teaching you have not been a complete waste of time. I'm surprised," Severus commented as he took the first sip.

"I'll take that as a compliment," Harry replied returning to the armchair. The two sat in a strange kind of companionable silence for a while.

Harry had noticed of late that they were capable of fairly decent conversations and he enjoyed the easy banter they always seemed to fall into. He was loathe to admit it, but he was actually beginning to like the man. He was funny and clever and he could even show moments of kindness. It confused him, but throughout the most recent weeks, he had felt that his situation was not all bad and that it was even becoming quite bearable. He had no idea how Severus felt about the whole thing, but the man was certainly far less hostile these days, and could even be nice at times.

"I'm glad I've caught you on one of your 'more generous days' as you put it," Severus said, breaking the easy silence.

"Oh? And why's that?" Harry asked, tucking his feet beneath him and making himself comfortable.

"I have a favour to ask you." Harry raised his eyebrows in interest and Severus continued, "I have been invited to the annual Winter Festival Ball at Drayton Manor; an intensely boring and tedious affair, but one I must nevertheless attend. It's a Pureblood event, held every year at this time to signify the start of the Winter period and it signals the beginning of all the social functions that are held at this time. The invitation is extended to spouses and I would be most grateful if you would assent to coming with me. It's only for appearance's sake of course, to maintain our façade of marriage and to maintain my standing in society – it's seen as something of a snub if spouses don't attend," Severus finished, slightly uncomfortable at having to ask Harry for such a favour, and hoping that the boy would comply.

"Um...of course I'll come, if you need me to," Harry replied, slightly taken aback at the request.

"It isn't for another couple of weeks yet. Believe me, it's the last thing I want to do, but it is a necessary evil. We'll be going the weekend after next, and we'll be staying the night so I'll leave it to you to make preparations."

Harry nodded, not entirely thrilled at the prospect, but prepared to endure it nevertheless. A thought occurred to him and he asked, "Will Aldrington be there?"

Severus nodded and replied, "It's a pureblood function so it is more than likely he will be there, he has been every other year. But don't worry, he wouldn't dare try anything at such an occasion."

"No," said Harry slowly, a calculating smirk forming on his lips, "but wouldn't it be a wonderful opportunity to show him just how solid our marriage is?"

"My my, aren't we becoming a good little Slytherin?" Severus replied with a raised eyebrow.

"Well I do have a rather good exposure to its master. Besides, I need to start living up to my surname, don't want to disgrace the family name," Harry said with a wicked gleam in his eyes.


"Argh this buggering shoulder," Ron groaned as he pulled his sweater off over his head and a sharp pain shot through his shoulder and down his arm. Draco, who was sitting cross-legged on his bed reading, looked up at Ron's hiss of pain and said,

"Is it still giving you trouble? It's been days."

"Tell that to my shoulder," Ron muttered, "the bloody thing refuses to get better, every movement's agony," he complained, rotating it around in the socket and wincing as the pain shot through him again.

"Stop moving it," Draco ordered, "you'll only make it worse." He slipped off his bed and joined Ron on his. "Where's that salve you used on my ribs?" he asked.

"On the nightstand," Ron replied and Draco fetched it, saying,

"Right, take off your shirt." Ron raised his eyebrow and Draco said, "Oh just do it." Ron chuckled and proceeded to do as he was told, again wincing at the pain the movement caused him. Draco dipped his fingers in the salve and gently applied it to Ron's shoulder. He moved in small, circular motions, applying a careful amount of pressure to the injured area. Ron's skin was smooth and pale and dusted with freckles and Draco's fingers slid over it, soothing away the pain. He became mesmerised by the movements of his own hands and the way in which his own paleness contrasted with Ron's. He heard Ron draw in a sharp breath and he looked at the boy in concern, asking, "Did I hurt you?"

Ron shook his head and replied," No, no I'm just a bit ticklish that's all."

"You shouldn't put information like that in the hands of a Slytherin," Draco warned teasingly as he rubbed in the last of the salve.

"But you're not a Slytherin anymore," Ron countered.

"No," Draco conceded, "but I still possess many of the qualities that put me there in the first place."

"Such as?" Ron asked slowly, sure that he would regret doing so.

"Such as using an opponent's weakness against them," Draco replied, his voice suddenly becoming low and smooth as honey. Ron chanced a look up at him and caught the playful glint in his eye.

"Draco...Draco what – " but he was cut off. Draco descended on him and began to tickle him mercilessly, attacking any exposed flesh he could lay hands on. "Dray...Draco," Ron managed through fits of giggles, "this is...isn't fair!"

"No it's not," Draco agreed cheerfully, continuing his assault. Ron was not to remain under attack for long though, he soon found the energy to haul himself up and reverse their positions so he had Draco pinned to the mattress.

"Not so smug now are we?" he asked the blond, grinning down at him.

"I've got you right where I want you," Draco insisted.

"Is that so?" Ron replied with a smirk before suddenly becoming aware of just how close he was to the boy. Their noses were almost touching and they were very nearly pressed chest to chest. He met Draco's eyes and his smirk faded. There was a softness in the boy's face that he'd never seen before and it completely undid him. He was aware that he was leaning down towards him and would have continued to do so had a noise from the staircase not stopped him. The other boys' voices became audible and Ron quickly moved away and stood aside. "Um...thanks for helping with my shoulder," he muttered as Draco also stood up, looking as befuddled as he was.

" problem, any time...I mean, any time you need it," Draco mumbled in response.

Dean, Seamus and Neville came crashing into the dorm and whatever it was that had happened was instantly broken. Draco shook himself and returned to his book, whilst Ron continued to change, feeling a strange sense of loss and a good deal of resentment towards the other boys.

Harry lay sprawled on the sofa, his schoolwork abandoned and forgotten on the table beside him. He was far too comfortable to even consider continuing it, and he was content to simply lie tracing the pattern of the ceiling with his eyes and fading into the realm of daydreams. Finishing early on a Friday was such a wonderful facet to his timetable and he was cheerfully indulging in his freedom. He released a gentle sigh and was almost drifting off when he heard the bizarre question, "Can you dance?" He turned his head round and saw Severus standing there, waiting for an answer. "Well? Can you dance?" he repeated.

Harry snorted and replied, "Don't you remember my performance at the Yule Ball in 4th year?"

"Potter, hard as it may be for you to believe, your performance at the Yule Ball was not at the top of my priority list; I had more important things to occupy my mind that night."

"Well if you had have been paying attention, you would remember that I was dire, and I am in no way exaggerating."

"Well you're going to have to dance at this function so you're going to have to learn."

"Well can you dance?" Harry asked, hauling himself up and looking in amusement at the man.

"Of course, breeding don't you know," Severus replied with a smirk.

"Fine," said Harry, rising to his feet, "you'll have to teach me then."


"Well I don't see any other candidates, and we want to look good in front of all those Pureblood snobs, no offence, not to mention Aldrington. Come on, it can't be that difficult, teach me," Harry insisted, holding out his arms.

"You will tell no one about this," Severus instructed as he took Harry by the waist and grabbed his hand.

"Right like I'm in a hurry to shout about this from the rooftops," Harry said, rolling his eyes as he placed a hand on Severus' shoulder. "Hang on a minute, am I being the girl?"

"Do you know how to lead? Right then, shut up and do as you're told," Harry pulled a face but bit back a response. "Right now, left foot back, then step to the side, now step towards me and off to the other side – without stepping on my foot please," Severus bit out as Harry fumbled through the dance steps.

"Sorry, this isn't exactly my forte," Harry muttered as Severus steadied him.

"Just concentrate," Severus ordered. "Now, back, side, forward, side and turn with me," which Harry did, only the opposite way to Severus. They continued to try and move around the room, Severus' hand a steadying force on Harry's waist, trying to keep him upright as he tried to master the dance steps. Harry's hand was clammy in Severus' hold, and he tried very hard to focus on the instructions Severus was giving him. He bumped into the coffee table several times and after a couple more ridiculous attempts, he finally extricated himself from Severus.

"Maybe we could just skip the dancing?" Harry asked hopefully, rubbing his wrist, which he'd twisted in his pathetic attempt at turning.

"We're doing this if it kills us," Severus ground out.

"Which it probably will," Harry countered. "I'm awful at this kind of thing, is there no way around it? I mean, do we have to dance?"

"It's customary, it's also seen as an insult if you don't dance at a host's function, it's like you're saying the event isn't worth your enjoyment."

Harry rolled his eyes and replied, "God you Purebloods are uptight. Well is there not another dance we can do? Something with one step perhaps?" he asked hopefully.

"Well I suppose we could just settle for a slow dance."

"Slow dance? Isn't that kind of...intimate?" Harry asked, his cheeks flushing.

"Well we are married," Severus reminded him. "Besides, it doesn't seem as though we have much of an option. Right, come here," said Severus with a sigh, holding out his arms. Harry resignedly moved forward and wrapped an arm around the man's shoulder, took his hand and rested his head on the man's chest. It was awkward and uncomfortable and Harry had no idea how they were going to manage to look like a real married couple. "Right, now just move slowly round and follow where my feet go...without stepping on them," he added as an afterthought as they began to move around.

As they continued to move slowly around the room, Harry relaxed slightly into the man's hold, figuring that he'd better get used to it if he was going to be required to do it in the next couple of weeks. He was going to put on the best damn show of his life and if it meant dancing with Severus, then so be it. He was very aware of Severus' arm wrapped around his waist and he hoped he wasn't holding the man's neck too tightly, but the situation did make him rather nervous; it wasn't every day he found himself being held by the most terrifying professor Hogwarts possessed.

"Ok, ok this I can do," Harry said as he simply allowed himself to be led by the man. He let himself lean a little more on Severus chest, feeling surprising strength beneath him. He breathed in the faint aroma of the potions Severus had been making that day, all spices and unusual ingredients, mixed together with the clean smell of soap. It wasn't entirely unpleasant. "Can we get away with just this?" he asked quietly.

"Hopefully," Severus replied, shifting his feet as he held Harry close to his chest. "As long as we convince Aldrington, that's all that matters. Right, that's enough now," he said, disentangling himself from the boy. "I think we'll be fine."

"Let's hope so. Do you think Aldrington will give us any trouble?"

"Probably, in one way or another. We'll have to be on our guard. No wandering off on your own," he said gravely.

"Where would I go? Off mingling with the upper crust?" Harry replied with a snort.

"One can never be too careful where you're concerned."

"Well dear husband of mine," said Harry, throwing himself back down on the sofa, "you'll just have to keep me by your side and make sure I don't get my pretty little head into any trouble."

Chapter Text

"It's not like I want to go," said Harry as he and the others sat in the Room of Requirement. They had had the intention of getting some work done, but so far their books had remained untouched. Ron and Draco were stretched out on a sofa, Hermione was perched on a chaise-longue and Harry was sitting cross-legged on the floor. "I have no desire to spend my Saturday night mingling with high society, half of whom probably want me dead, but I have to go, apparently it's some kind of snub if I don't."

"Well of course it is," said Draco, leaning his head back on the arm of the sofa and stretching out. "All spouses must be in attendance or the host can take offence at the refusal. Of course, I highly doubt the Malfoy family will have much opportunity of refusal this season, but then, no great loss I suppose," he said quietly, and Ron gave him a supportive nudge with his knee.

"How is the Professor still invited when your family isn't? I mean, they've both been revealed to be traitors, why does Snape still warrant an invite?" Harry asked.

"Politics Potter," Draco answered seriously. "Severus' standing in Pureblood society is far greater than the Malfoys; his name is older and more powerful. Not to mention of course that he is one of the greatest Potions Masters in the world and people often need to make use of his...expertise. It's better to keep him on side than not."

"So do you know about these kinds of functions then?" Harry asked, and at Draco's nod, said, "Well what can I expect?"

"Mostly boredom," Draco said dryly. "These events are tedious and dull, and their only purpose is social climbing and backstabbing. They're awful things, you have my deepest sympathies having to attend one."

"Gee thanks," said Harry with an eye roll. "Who's going to be there then?"

"The Forsythes, the Middletons, the Ford-Garrets, the Rookwoods, the Averys, Aldrington of course, pretty much everyone who's anyone in pureblood society. It's a good job you're Harry Potter, because no half-blood would be allowed normally. You'll have to watch your back," Draco warned, frowning at Ron, who was trying to get comfortable and was kicking Draco in the process.

"When don't I have to?" Harry said with a sigh. "Especially with Aldrington being there. Professor Snape and I are going to have to pull out all the stops to make it look like we're a happy couple."

"Well (ow Ron watch what you're doing with those big feet of yours!), you two are getting along better aren't you?" the blond asked.

Harry shrugged and replied, "I suppose so, we don't fight as often as we used to, I even enjoy his company sometimes, but that's hardly being a couple is it? We'll have to work hard to convince everyone that we're happily married."

Draco smirked and replied, "Well if all else fails you can always just start shagging on the dancefloor, put an end to all doubts!"

"Well thank you very much for your input," Harry groaned, letting himself fall back so he was lying on the floor, and throwing his arms over his face.

"Don't mention it," Draco grinned. "Ron I swear to Merlin if you don't stop kicking me..."

"What are you going to do about it blondie?" Ron taunted.

Draco shook his head, smoothed down his hair, flicked a bit of dust from his robes then calmly proceeded to lift the cushion from behind him and whack Ron soundly over the head with it.

"Hey! You're in for it now ferret-face!" Ron said, grabbing his own cushion and thumping Draco with it. A full-on fight then ensued and Harry and Hermione watched bemused, as the two continued their assault.

"Are they always like this?" Harry asked as Draco got in a particularly good thump to the side.

"Lately more and more so," Hermione replied in amusement as Ron burst out laughing as Draco's cushion split and sent feathers flying everywhere.

"Do you surrender?" Ron giggled, holding Draco at cushion-point.

"Never!" Draco cried melodramatically. "You'll have to kill me."

"So be it," Ron said gravely. "I have revenge to exact anyway," and with that he launched a tickle attack on his nemesis.

"You know," Harry murmured to Hermione. "I don't think anyone would doubt those two as a lovey-dovey couple."

"Right, Kitty Middleton is engaged to Frederick Ford-Garret and their wedding is set to be the social occasion of next year. Mr Avery's wife is Antigone, who is the second daughter of Mr and Mrs Forsythe, their first daughter being Alana, who is high up in the Ministry," Harry muttered, ticking them all off on his fingers. Draco had advised him to brush up on the families to avoid any embarrassment. He'd been helping all week and had even gone so far as to draw up a chart for Harry to study, which Harry had been extremely grateful for, if a little surprised at the blond's generosity.

He glanced at the clock and saw time was getting on and Severus still wasn't ready. "Professor?" he called. "The portkey will be activated in five minutes, are you ready?"

"Yes," came the reply, "and remember we're on first name terms tonight, we are married after all!"

"Ok, though if I call you 'Professor' maybe people will think it's a kinky little game we play," Harry replied with a chuckle.

"Oh very droll," Severus drawled as he emerged from their bedroom. Harry turned and was taken aback slightly by the man's appearance. He was wearing black and crimson dress robes, beautifully cut and tailored to perfection, under which he was wearing well-cut black trousers and a white, Renaissance-style shirt. His hair was clean and tied at the nape of the neck with a leather thong. Harry had to admit, the man looked good...very good.

" um, I mean, nice dress robes," Harry muttered, his eyes still scanning the man up and down.

"Does that mean you shan't be embarrassed to be seen on my arm?" Severus asked with a smirk. Harry coloured slightly and replied,

"I think I'll manage." He looked away and pushed his glasses further up his nose. "Are you ready?" Severus nodded and they both placed their hands on the old can on the coffee table. Harry closed his eyes as he felt the familiar tug behind his navel and he gritted his teeth against the feeling of sickness and slight panic that settled over him. He would never be comfortable travelling by portkey, there were too many bad memories attached to it.

He opened his eyes and found that he and Severus were standing in the porch of what Harry could only assume was Drayton Manor. His nerves suddenly surfaced and he wished he was back in their quarters, curled up on the sofa in safety. "Are you ready?" Severus asked.

"If I say no will it make a difference?" Harry whispered back. Severus smirked slightly and they were shown into the Manor by a house elf, relieved of their cloaks and instructed to enter the room to their left. It was packed. The top end of wizarding society were all crammed together in one ornate and richly decorated room, laughing politely and conversing with well-trained etiquette. A woman with long black hair and startling blue eyes was snaking her way through the mass towards them and Harry assumed it must be Elira Drayton, their hostess.

"Severus," she crooned, "how delightful to see you, so glad you could make it."

"Elira," Severus bowed in response, taking her hand," I wouldn't have missed it for the world. May I introduce my husband, Harry?"

"Harry, charmed," she simpered, offering him her hand, which he took, saying,

"A pleasure to meet you Mrs Drayton, my thanks for your gracious invite," he replied, as he had been instructed by both Severus and Draco. It seemed to go down well and she looked pleased, replying,

"What a charming husband you've found yourself Severus, I'm quite jealous! Well, enjoy yourselves gentlemen, dinner will be served in an hour," and with that she flashed a perfect smile and sashayed off to greet more arrivals.

"One down, about a hundred more to go," Harry murmured. "Can you see Aldrington anywhere?" he asked, surveying the crowd.

"No," Severus replied quietly, "but he'll be here so we must be on our guard."

"By doing something like this perhaps?" he said as he slipped an arm round the man's waist and pulled himself into his side. He felt Severus stiffen slightly but he quickly relaxed and retained his composure, slipping an arm easily round Harry's shoulders. "Remember," Harry said, "don't leave me tonight, I don't want to be alone with these people!"

"Believe me, I have no intention of leaving you," Severus reassured him.

"Well if it isn't old Sev!" came a voice, and they turned around to see a portly, red-faced man standing in front of them. "I read in the paper about this little marriage of yours. Taking up with a student, you dirty old bugger," he leered, "I always wondered how long you'd last without sampling some of the goods."

Harry felt Severus tense and he gave the man's waist a gentle squeeze, a cautionary movement that seemed to placate him slightly. "Severus and I were rather naughty," he said in a light, teasing voice, "we did go against school rules, enjoying ourselves after hours and indulging in one too many detentions. He decided to make an honest of man of me and I just couldn't say no. We still enjoy our detentions though," Harry said with a wink and the man guffawed loudly, increasing his leer at the two men, and Harry could only imagine the thoughts the man must be indulging in. "Please excuse us sir," Harry said politely, "I've just spotted someone we must talk to, good evening," he said and led Severus away through the crowd.

"Disgusting little pig of a man," Severus spat and Harry was sure he felt him tighten his hold around his shoulders.

"I think we'd do well to avoid him for the rest of the night," said Harry, hoping that the rest of the guests wouldn't be quite so obvious in their perverted enjoyment of their apparently illicit relationship.

Throughout the next hour, Harry was introduced to a sea of people, names and faces becoming a blur after a while. He and Severus played their parts well; Harry spending most of the time tucked into Severus' side, smiling and generally being charming. Everyone wanted to hear of how they began their relationship, what it was like to conduct a clandestine affair, and of course, what the wedding had been like. Harry was capable of spinning a good yarn and for the most part Severus was content to simply let Harry construct the story of their relationship. He had a few surprises, especially when Harry would slip in sly allusions to their sex life; he had no idea the boy could be so...coquettish, for want of a better word. It was certainly an interesting facet to the boy's nature.

Harry had just finished telling his story to another crowd of eager listeners, when he suddenly caught sight of Aldrington across the room. He carried on smiling, nodding as the others carried on their conversation, but after a moment or two he leant up to Severus, and, trying to make it look like he was saying something private to his husband, whispered, "Aldrington's over there and he's looking this way." His breath ghosted over Severus' ear and the man resisted a shiver, unaccustomed to the close proximity of the boy. He surreptitiously chanced a look and saw the Aldrington was indeed close by. Severus ran a hand through Harry's hair and pulled him closer, whispering, "Just keep up the show."

"Oh I intend to."

Dinner was a stuffy affair, full of odd looking foods, precise table manners and carefully orchestrated conversation. Harry had almost fainted when he saw the place settings; why on earth would one person need so much cutlery? Severus had placed a hand around his neck and whispered, "Just work from the outside in and you'll be fine," to which Harry had merely rolled his eyes, thinking, "Easy enough for you to say."

They sat down on a table with the Ford-Garrets and another influential family, the names of which completely eluded Harry. He was painfully aware that Aldrington had been seated on the table across from them and he nudged Severus to inform him of the fact. The man nodded and they exchanged glances, as if to confirm the show they both knew they had to perform.

They were both polite to their fellow diners, Harry again relating the well-versed story of their relationship, much to the delight of the younger Ford-Garrets, who found the whole thing terribly romantic, but they kept a careful watch on Aldrington. At one particularly threatening look from the man, Harry decided to up his game. He leant in to Severus, resting one hand on the man's shoulder while he whispered, "He's watching us," pretending to be whispering something playful to his husband.

"I know," Severus replied, speaking closely to Harry's ear, mimicking his playful, secretive body language.

"Well I don't know about you, but I intend to give him something to watch," Harry returned, bringing his other hand up to play with the ponytail at the nape of the man's neck, a smile forming on his lips as he feigned intimacy. "As far as he's going to be concerned, I can't keep my hands off you, and I'm only holding back because propriety prevents me from having you on this table right now."

Severus was surprised at Harry's words, and the low, playful tones in which he said them, but he schooled his features and replied, "By all means, go ahead," actually rather interested to see what the boy had up his sleeve, and not at all complaining at being taken along for the ride.

"Just pretend that we're laughing at him, pitying him for wanting what he can't have," Harry purred and Severus glanced across at the man, a smirk on his lips as he met his eyes, taunting the man and pretending that Harry was saying something highly insulting about him, whilst indulging in the movements Harry's hand was making up and down his arm. "If he wants a real couple, that's exactly what he's going to get," Harry murmured, then leant forward and pressed a kiss to the man's neck, just below his ear.

Severus caught his breath and had to steady himself slightly; it wasn't every day that a young, attractive man pressed himself up against him and behaved in such a way. He couldn't help but feel rather smug at the thought that he was married to this young man who was behaving so provocatively, making men and women alike jealous throughout the entire room.

"You're a little too good at this," Severus whispered back, glancing down at Harry.

"You'd be surprised the things I can be good at when it comes to saving my skin," Harry replied, returning to toying with the man's hair again. "I like your hair like this," he said, the first sincere thing he'd said all night. "It suits you, you look good."

Severus raised an eyebrow and said, "You've clearly had too much to drink."

Harry chuckled and replied, "No I'm serious, it looks good, people are going to want to steal you away from me!"

Harry smiled and lay his head on the man's shoulder, still very aware that Aldrington was watching them, not to mention half the people in the room, who were all immensely interested in seeing how Severus Snape functioned with his new young husband.

"Well Severus," said Aloysius Ford-Garret, the patriarch of that family, "what does your father think of your new husband?"

Harry raised his head from Severus' shoulder and saw the man's expression had darkened and that a muscle in his jaw was twitching. "I really wouldn't know Aloysius," he answered coldly, clearly trying to keep himself under control.

"I saw him in Gringotts the other day," Aloysius continued, clearly enjoying himself, "we had a very interesting chat."

"Then you would know more about his current thoughts and feelings than I would. As I'm sure you are aware, it's been some years since we've spoken," Severus replied, his tone polite but clearly warning the man not to push too far.

"Ah indeed," came the smooth reply and Harry found his dislike for the man increasing, purely on Severus' behalf. "It's never easy when one has disgraced the family name," he sneered and Severus' expression turned to one of pure hatred. Harry saw his fists clench and he could feel the tension humming off his body. An altercation was imminent and Harry knew something had to be done before Severus hexed the man's head off his shoulders. He closed a hand gently over Severus' clenched fist and said,

"You promised me a dance Severus, and the music's perfect for a slow dance." He turned to the table's company and said, "Poor Severus, I can only do a slow dance so we have to grab the opportunity when we can! Come on," he said gently, standing and giving the man's arm a gentle tug. Severus sat for a moment, holding Aloysius' gaze and Harry was afraid that he wasn't going to move, but he eventually saw the man soften somewhat and he looked up at Harry.

"Of course," he said levelly, standing up next to Harry and placing his hand on the boy's back. "The conversation is becoming rather stale," he all but spat, then guided Harry off to the dancefloor, where several other couples were enjoying a slow dance.

"Are you ok?" Harry asked as he was pulled into Severus' strong hold and they began to move to the music.

"Fine," Severus answered quietly, clearly shaken by the encounter.

"What a creep," Harry said with a shudder. "I didn't like him from the moment I set eyes on him, his mouth's crooked and his eyes are too close together. Nasty piece of work," Harry said, surprised at the protective surge he'd felt towards the man and the sheer loathing he'd felt for Ford-Garret on Severus' behalf. "Sorry, I'm not helping," Harry muttered as the man continued to stare ahead, moving his feet mechanically.

"No, no it's not you. It was just a conversation I didn't want to have," Severus replied quietly.

"I know that feeling. Well it's just another prick we have to avoid tonight. I can go and hit him for you if you like," Harry offered, hoping to cheer the man up slightly.

Severus snorted and shook his head, saying, "You're a fool."

"True, but wouldn't life be dull without me?"

"That's one way of putting it," Severus replied, but there was no malice behind his words. He had expected Harry to question him about the altercation, and he was surprised and grateful for the boy's discretion; explaining his relationship with his father was a conversation Severus wasn't willing to have. "Aldrington is still watching us," he noted, thankful to change the subject.

"I know, he's been at it all night. It's like he thinks he's going to catch us out or something. You'd think he'd have something better to do, miserable git."

"He wants to stake his claim to you, he's not going to relinquish that in a hurry."

"Well he's damn well going to have to," Harry growled, slipping his hands up around the man's neck as they continued to dance. "I have no plans to go anywhere."

Severus was quiet for a moment, his hands placed gently on Harry's waist, and then said quietly, "I won't let him get to you you know."

Harry looked up and met the man's eyes, their black depths serious and sincere. Harry frowned and nodded, saying, "I know that...I trust you." Something changed in Severus' features, something unreadable and guarded, but there nevertheless.

Aldrington did nothing for the remainder of the evening, although he continued to watch Harry and Severus like a hawk. Harry was on top form all night however, and he unfailingly delivered a flawless performance as the devoted spouse, barely detaching himself from Severus the entire night. He had charmed everyone and Severus had been rather proud of him, taken completely by surprise that the boy possessed such glittering social skills. Eventually though, Harry had become exhausted with the night's proceedings and had whispered to Severus, "Please can we go to bed now? If I have to stay here much longer I'll never be able to force this smile off my face."

Severus smiled and agreed and they both sought their hostess and bid her goodnight, thanking her for her hospitality and congratulating her on the success of the evening. Finally they found themselves out in the corridor, after saying a hundred goodnights on their way out, and they were at last able to breathe easily. Harry smiled wanly and said, "I've never been happier to go to bed in my life."

Severus inclined his head and replied, "Indeed", as they began to make their way through the corridor. They had only gone a few steps when Severus became aware of a movement in the shadows behind them. It was undoubtedly Aldrington; the man apparently relentless. He carefully reached for Harry's hand, and Harry looked up at him questioningly.

Severus discreetly indicated behind them, Harry instantly understanding what he was being told. Something wordless passed between them, an acknowledged agreement of sorts. A feral grin settled on Harry's lips and he stopped in his tracks, grabbing the lapels of Severus' shirt and dragging him backwards until he pressed himself up against the wall, Severus pressed closely against him.

"I have been waiting to do this all night," Harry all but purred, and without giving it too much thought, slipped his hands up around the man's neck and pulled him down into a kiss. The second their lips touched, Harry could have died of shock as the realisation dawned on him that he was actually kissing Severus Snape...and that the man was good, very good. He'd moved his hands up to cradle Harry's head and was slowly and thoroughly kissing him, the distance between them getting smaller and smaller as Severus leant further in to him. "Mm," Harry sighed, his fingers tangling in the hair at the nape of Severus' neck as Severus continued to kiss him, and Harry actually found himself arching upwards to increase the contact between them.

He caught his breath as Severus tore his lips away and began to focus on Harry's neck, Harry lifting upwards to allow him more access. He knew he was making ridiculous noises but he couldn't have cared less; whatever Severus was doing was entirely too enjoyable to pay attention to much else.

"And people don't know why I married you," Harry said shakily, remembering that he did indeed have a voice, unstable thought it was.

Severus raised his head and looked Harry in the eyes, the intensity in the man's gaze surprising him. "Do you have any idea how hard it's been to keep my hands off you tonight?" he asked, his voice lower than usual and sending delicious shivers through Harry.

"I think I can guess," Harry replied, holding the man's gaze, though his breathing faltered slightly as one of Severus' hands came to rest on his chest, one long finger tracing a gentle trail down to Harry's waistband. "Merlin," he breathed, every inch of him humming.

"Now, the question is," Severus whispered, "do I continue to keep my hands off you...or do I go lower?" Harry realised that the man was asking permission and at that point, Harry really had no problem granting it. If Aldrington wanted a show, he was going to get one. Besides, Harry really wanted that hand to go lower. He grabbed said hand and actively pushed it to its destination, emitting a heartfelt "Fuck!" as Severus began moving in slow, sure strokes. "Oh shit," he breathed, hardly believing the situation he was in, but knowing, somewhat worriedly, that he was really enjoying it.

Severus continued his movements and Harry's breathing became more and more erratic until he was forced to practically cry out, "Merlin Severus, you'd either better get me up to our room or just fuck me right here because I really can't last much longer!"

Severus chuckled, skilfully masking his surprise at Harry's strong words, and ceased his movements. "Very well then, you impatient brat, to bed it is," he said, pressing a light kiss to Harry's lips then pulling them both away from the wall, both straightening out their robes. Harry looped his arm through Severus', unsure that he was fully capable of standing on his own and said,

"Don't get me wrong, the idea of you doing me up against a wall in one of the most expensive manors in the country has its appeal, but now that we're married I think we need to be a little more respectable."

"What a wonderful show you two are putting on," came Aldrington's voice from the shadows as he stepped forward, finally showing himself. "You have everyone convinced." They turned to face him, Harry not entirely sure that he was ready for this confrontation.

"Oh Aldrington, have you nothing better to do?" Severus asked with a sneer. "I'm very sorry that your pathetic life is so empty and meaningless, but that really doesn't mean that you can keep intruding on ours."

"This ridiculous farce won't last," Aldrington hissed, stepping closer to them, "I'll make sure of that." Severus went to reply but Harry lightly touched his arm and moved forward, saying,

"You can make all the pathetic threats you want Aldrington, but the fact is, Severus and I are happily married, we're bound to each other by law and by magic, and nothing you can do is going to change that. The truth of the matter is that you're jealous; you know that never in a million years would I touch you the way I touch Severus, I'd never want you the way I want him," Harry said smoothly, his eyes narrowed in hatred. "You'll never have what we have, and you will never, ever have me," he said, steadily holding the man's gaze.

Aldrington's lip curled and he leant closer in to Harry and hissed, "I will never renounce my claim on you boy, and as for having what the two of you have, believe me, when you're mine, I'll make sure I have it whenever I like."

"You piece of filth!" Severus spat, making a grab for the man, but Harry stopped him before he could reach him, saying,

"Don't, he's not worth it, he's not worth our contempt." He gave the man a look of sheer disgust and loathing, then turned back to Severus, placing his hands on the man's chest and saying gently, "Come on, let's go to bed; I've been wanting to have you to myself all night and I'm not going to let this prick spoil it."

Severus was still steadfastly looking ahead at Aldrington, hate and anger seething in his dark eyes. Harry placed his hands either side of the man's face and forced him to look down at him, saying, "He's not important." He leant upwards and captured Severus in a slow, sweet kiss, then broke off and said, "Let's go."

Severus ran a hand through Harry's hair and said, "You're right, he's not important." He looked back to Aldrington. "He just wishes he was. Let's go," he said, and placed an arm around Harry's shoulders, gently guiding him off down the corridor, leaving Aldrington with nothing to do but watch them go.

Chapter Text

Harry closed the door behind them as they finally made it into their room. He truly didn't know where to look; a few minutes prior he had been pressed up against a wall being felt up, for want of a better way to put it, by the man, and he hadn't exactly been complaining about it. Severus, however, seemed to be more preoccupied with Aldrington and his threats. He flung his outer robe into the corner of the room and fumed, "Who does he think he is? How dare he say such disgusting things to you? I swear, I'll kill him if he so much as looks at you again."

Harry was surprised at the man's passion, especially as it was on his behalf. "You said it yourself," he said with a shrug, "he's just a sad man with no life of his own so he has to interfere with ours. Besides, I think the show we put on tonight should convince him that we're stronger than he thought." A slight colour appeared on Severus' pale cheeks and he looked away from Harry, embarrassed as the memories came flooding back.

"I must apologise for that," he said quietly, fiddling with the cuffs of his sleeves in an effort to distract himself.

"For what?" Harry asked in genuine disbelief. "You didn't do anything, I kissed you first, you've nothing to apologise for!"

"I...took liberties," Severus said uncomfortably, clearly wishing the conversation was not taking place.

" didn't," Harry replied, just as awkwardly. "You did nothing that I didn't allow. Please don't feel wasn't exactly like I was complaining," Harry mumbled, looking anywhere but at Severus, never feeling more embarrassed in his life.

"I still should never have – "

"Honestly it's fine," Harry quickly cut him off; he would have been mortified if Severus had actually vocalised what had happened between them. "I'm going to grab a quick shower before bed," he said, grabbing his things, grateful to find a reason to escape, then retreated into the bathroom. Truth be told, he had a problem that required rather urgent attention; ever since his little encounter with Severus, he had been somewhat...aroused, and he desperately needed release.

He yanked the shower on, quickly stripped then jumped in under the hot spray, thanking his lucky stars that he hadn't come in the corridor, though it had been a damn close thing. He indulged in the feeling of the strong, hot spray and let his hand travel slowly downwards, carefully ignoring the fact that the memory of the corridor seemed to be in the forefront of his mind throughout.

Meanwhile Severus was sitting on the edge of the bed staring off into space and silently berating himself for his actions. True Harry had been the one to initiate the kiss, but he had been the one to take things further, and he was actually not entirely sorry he had. And that was the worst part of it. He should have been feeling guilty, and he was, he truly was, but not in the whole-hearted way he expected to. Kissing Harry, feeling him beneath was difficult to feel entirely bad about the experience. But then that just made the whole thing worse. He lowered his head to his hands, wishing he could banish the images from his mind, but failing completely.

Harry had been so...responsive and for a moment Severus had even forgotten that Aldrington was there and that they were putting on a show for his benefit. Of course the man had made himself known and the things that he'd said to Harry had sent Severus' blood boiling. If Harry hadn't been there to stop him, he would have killed the man. Just the look in his eyes when he looked at Harry was enough to send Severus over the edge; it was hungry and predatory and it unsettled Severus.

The whole night had been incredibly trying and now Harry had locked himself away in the bathroom, unable to even look at Severus. And who could blame him? He was probably disgusted about the whole thing. Just because he'd been responsive didn't mean anything; Severus had seen all night that they boy could pretend, so of course he could pretend in front of Aldrington. The boy was probably traumatised.

"Oh fuck it," Severus growled, yanking the leather thong out of his hair, deciding that the best thing would be to just go to bed and try and forget all about it.

As Harry woke the next morning he noticed a slight chill; he didn't know whether it was due to the cold morning air or the fact that he was in Drayton Manor, but as he looked over to the other side of the bed, he noticed that the usual presence that he had come to be familiar with wasn't there, but the running water from the bathroom told him that Severus wasn't far off.

He ran his hands through his hair and reached for his glasses, blinking slightly to wake himself up. He hadn't slept particularly well, perhaps unsurprisingly, and his dreams had been full of fragmented memories of his actions with Severus in the corridor, Now the morning had arrived, those memories still weren't far from his thoughts.

"Just stop thinking about it," he sternly muttered to himself, throwing aside the duvet and stumbling out of bed. He couldn't wait to get as far away from Drayton Manor and Aldrington as possible; all he wanted was to go home, back to some normality, or as close to normality as he could ever get to.

He finished dressing then perched on the edge of the bed, ready and waiting for Severus, wanting only to go home. They had spoken no more about their little encounter, something which Harry was immensely grateful for; he was certainly going to have a difficult time looking the man in the eyes for the next couple of days.

Severus probably thought he was utterly pathetic getting so flustered, not to mention ever-so-slightly turned on, when all they were doing was pretending for Aldrington's sake. Severus would never forget himself like that, especially as there was no way he would ever think of Harry as anything other than a responsibility, just a young, foolish boy that he had to take care of.

Trying to rid himself of his troublesome thoughts, he got up and pottered around the room, distracting himself by fiddling with things on the ancient-looking mahogany bureau and peering inside the tall wardrobe, doing anything to take his mind off things. He heard the bathroom door open and turned to find Severus standing there, dressed only in his trousers. Harry coloured instantly, his eyes unstoppably going to the man's body.

"I left my shirt out here," Severus explained, and Harry merely nodded, watching the man as he moved about the room. He was slim, very slim and under the pale skin, Harry could see the outline of toned, wiry muscle. He had a strong, firm chest, which was smooth and pale, the only hair beginning below his navel and disappearing after the waistband of his trousers.

As Severus walked past him, he stared after the man, unable to take his eyes of him. Harry noticed there were faint but noticeable scars across the man's back, and Harry could only imagine how he had acquired them. It wasn't at all how Harry had pictured how the man would look underneath those layers of thick dark robes, and the man's...appealing physique was a little surprising. He had to stop staring before the man noticed and asked him what the hell he thought he was doing, but he found that he wanted to keep looking. Severus solved the problem for him by finally locating his shirt and putting it on, covering the view Harry had been taking in.

"Are you ready to leave?" Severus asked as Harry quickly averted his eyes.

"Definitely," Harry mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck and hoping he wasn't as red as he felt.

"Right, well let's bid farewell to our host and get out of here."

"You kissed him?" Ron asked in disbelief as he, Harry and Draco sat in the boys' dorm, Harry regaling the boys with what had occurred at Drayton Manor, including his encounter with Severus in the corridor. "What on earth possessed you to do that?"

Harry slumped miserably and replied, "It was all for Aldrington's benefit. He'd been watching us all night and we just needed to make a point."

"Well it sounds like you made one," Draco sniggered as he reclined on Ron's bed, Ron sat next to him and Harry sat cross-legged opposite the two as he told them all about the previous night. "What was it like?" the blond asked with a kind of morbid curiosity, lowering his voice conspiratorially.

Harry was quiet for a moment, not entirely sure how best to answer. How could he tell them that the man actually really knew what he was doing and that he honestly wouldn't mind being placed in that situation again? "Well..." he began, "it wasn't exactly what you'd expect," he said carefully. "I mean it wasn't a real kiss...well it was, but it wasn't – it was all just for Aldrington's benefit, so it was just pretence," he said with a shrug, looking down at the duvet rather than facing Ron and Draco's inquisitive expressions.

"Doesn't really answer the question mate," Ron said with a smirk.

Harry groaned and replied, "Oh don't make me go through it all. Honestly, you don't want all the details."

"Oh but we do," Draco said, wiggling his eyebrows and exchanging glances with Ron. "Come on, we want to hear all about it. This is big news! Three months after you marry the man, you finally kiss him!" Draco chuckled.

"You're loving this far too much," Harry told him, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Oh I don't know, it was just different, completely unexpected. I mean I didn't exactly plan on kissing Severus's all a bit surreal. wasn't bad," he finished quietly, avoiding the boys' eyes.

Ron's eyebrows shot into his hair whilst Draco looked greatly amused. "Wasn't bad?" Ron echoed in disbelief. "Kissing Snape wasn't bad? How much did you have to drink?" Draco snorted and Harry rolled his eyes at the pair of them, jumping off the bed and saying,

"I'm going back to the dungeons, thank you both so much for your help!" he said, heading for the door.

"Oh come on, stay, we'll behave, promise!" Ron said, holding back a laugh.

"Yeah, you can tell us all about how you spent the night enjoying champagne and feeding each other strawberries," Draco sniggered, the response to which was Harry's departure, accompanied by a very loud door slam.

"You're awful," Ron told Draco, turning to face the blond.

"He makes it too easy," Draco replied, re-arranging the pillows to make himself more comfortable, nearly pushing Ron off the bed in the process. "Although I would like to hear more about this kiss."

"Somehow I don't think that's going to happen. Hand me the book off the nightstand please, I've got three chapters to read before tomorrow morning." Draco sighed and did as he was asked, saying,

"I'm going to be bored if you read."

"There's not a lot I can do about that," Ron replied, flicking through the pages until he found the one he needed. "You'll just have to find some way to amuse yourself."

Draco tutted and folded his arms at Ron's insensitivity to his need for amusement and after a few minutes playing with his own fingers, decided that his problem was most definitely going to be Ron's. He reached up and flipped the book closed, earning only an annoyed "Draco!" as Ron re-opened it and found his place again. Draco smirked and repeated the action, earning another "Draco!" Once again Ron re-opened the book, muttering, "Just behave for half an hour."

Draco chuckled silently to himself and watched as Ron found his place and resumed his concentration. He watched the boy for a moment or two then slowly reached up and flicked him on the nose. "Merlin Draco!" Ron huffed, "Don't you have anything better to do?" he asked, trying to remain annoyed, but Draco could see the slight twitch in the corner of his mouth. He waited for another few minutes then reached up and flicked Ron's ear. "Oh for pity's sake, you're such a child!" Ron cried, throwing down the book in frustration and looking across to the blond.

"Well at least now I've got your attention," Draco replied with a grin.

"You want my attention? Fine, you can have it," Ron said and then proceeded to poke the boy all over his face, saying, "There, happy now? Here's some attention, and a bit more, have all the attention you want!" he said, relentlessly prodding Draco all over.

"Ron stop it!" Draco said in between laughs. "I'm going to fall off the bed!"

"Good, maybe then I can read my book," Ron answered, continuing his assault on the blond nuisance.

"You're not fighting fair!" Draco complained, trying to defend himself, whilst desperately trying to stay on the bed. "I surrender, I surrender!"

"Too late," Ron replied mercilessly.

"Ron I'm going to fall, I'm going to – " and of course fall he did, right off the edge of the bed and right onto his backside.

"Oh shit, are you ok?" Ron asked with a laugh, peering over the edge of the bed.

"You are a horrible person," Draco ground out as he sat looking up at the grinning red-head.

"Well if you hadn't have pestered me to within an inch of my sanity it wouldn't have happened. Do you want a hand?" he asked with a chuckle.

"I'll manage," Draco replied, both knowing that his annoyance was a completely pretence. He got up and brushed himself off, smoothing down his hair, trying to regain his dignity. "Right Mr Weasley, prepare for a re-match!"

It had been raining for days, which in itself was not particularly problematic, but it did mean that Harry had been confined to the castle for several days, and subsequently in very close quarters with Severus. A week ago Harry wouldn't have minded; he was getting along well with the man and he was really starting to think of the dungeons as home. Of course that had all been before the achingly embarrassing 'incident' in the corridor, something that had been constantly replaying in Harry's mind ever since.

He'd been trying to keep himself busy and he'd spent a good amount of time in the library trying to keep himself occupied and trying to keep out of Severus' way and avoid too prolonged a conversation with the man. However, interaction was of course inevitable, not to mention uncomfortable.

Ron and Draco weren't helping matters either; Draco took every opportunity to make snide remarks about the fact that Harry had kissed Severus, and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying making Harry squirm. Ron had initially tried to be supportive and had done his best to chastise Draco and keep him under control, but as the days went on, his resolve began to weaken and he too began to tease Harry about his encounter.

So Harry was fairly miserable and was quickly running out of ideas for avoiding his husband. If only it would stop raining, at least then he could get out for a walk or a game of quidditch. As it was, he was confined to the castle trying his best not to look his co-habitant in the eyes. It was a ridiculous situation to be in. So, he'd finally given in, resigned himself to his fate and, after doing yet another round of the castle, had decided to stop being so buggering childish and actually spend some time in his own home. So, Friday evening found him curled up in his favourite armchair, trying to make some headway in his research on Elemental Magic, and trying to pretend that he didn't feel so incredibly awkward around the man sitting opposite him.

He had no idea how Severus felt about the situation, and he was damned if he was going to ask. The man had been very careful with him, overly polite in fact, which only served to make things more awkward; it was much more comfortable when he was insulting and terse, at least then Harry knew where he stood. It was much easier when people just hated you.

"I think we need to resume your training soon," Severus said, finally breaking the silence. Harry looked up, surprised at being shaken from his reverie, blinked for a couple of seconds as he registered what Severus had actually said, and then replied,

"Oh, um right, I mean you're right, I'd been wondering when we were going to carry on. When were you thinking?"

"Tomorrow, if that's convenient for you?" And again with the politeness; usually Severus would have just told him and been done with it, but instead he was being ridiculously courteous. It was slightly unnerving.

"That's fine," Harry replied with a nod, then asked with a grin, "Can we do that air transference thing again?"

Severus raised an eyebrow and replied, "We shall see how the session goes. I have no desire to turn you into a magically dependent junkie."

Harry chuckled and said, "Oh I don't think I'd mind being addicted to that stuff," then at Severus' reproachful look, said, "Oh relax, it's not going to happen, not with you keeping a watchful eye on me anyway. Just one little go tomorrow, please? You'll be there to supervise me anyway."

"Well I'm hardly likely to let you play around with that kind of magical energy on your own."

"It's a full-time job being married to me isn't it?"

"You're not wrong," Severus replied wryly.

Severus stood in the Room of Requirement, rolling up his sleeves as he waited for Harry to arrive for their training session. The last few days had been hellish and he was glad to finally have a distraction from the awkwardness. If he didn't occupy his mind, it was dangerously prone to wandering to thoughts of himself and Harry in the corridor of Drayton Manor, and that was something he just didn't need.

He knew the boy had been avoiding him, not that he blamed him; he was finding the situation rather difficult to deal with and just looking Harry in the eyes was proving to be something of a problem. He'd never seen the boy blush so much as he had over the last few days and he had to wonder what was going on his young husband's head. No doubt he just wanted to forget the whole thing, pretend it had never happened and keep as much distance from Severus as possible. He was probably disgusted about the whole thing and deeply embarrassed by it all. It was rather an uncomfortable situation to be in.

"Sorry I'm late," said Harry, finally arriving, slightly out of breath. "I bumped into Draco on the way and he wouldn't stop going on about..." Harry caught himself before revealing to Severus that he'd been discussing the situation with his friends, "...he just wouldn't stop talking, you know that he's like," he muttered, avoiding the man's eyes, something that was becoming more and more of a common practice. "So, what's on today's agenda?"

"I thought we might have a go at Water Magic, and if that goes well I might consider letting you try the Air Transference again."

Harry grinned and nodded, saying, "Where do we start then?"

Severus motioned for him to move over to where he was standing and indicated a basin of water on a stand. "Freeze it," he instructed.

"Freeze it? What just like that – no instructions, no guidance?"

"Use your instinct, draw on the power that you've used in our previous sessions."

Harry was about to argue that their previous sessions had consisted of Fire and Air Magic and he had absolutely no clue what the hell he was doing when it came to Water Magic, but he realised that there would be little point in arguing with the man and so merely nodded, took a deep breath and moved closer to the basin.

He stared at the still surface of the water for a moment or two, enjoying the sense of calm that seemed to emanate from its stillness. He tried to remember what he had done in his previous training, how he had channelled the energy and how he had manipulated it to behave in the way he'd wanted. He held his hand out over the basin and instantly felt the hum of magic from it. He smiled slightly and flexed his fingers, feeling the energy slip in between them, mingling with his own. It was unusual not to have Severus' voice in the background, gently instructing him, and he missed its presence, although he was enjoying the feeling of capability that he seemed to be experiencing.

He held his hand out firmly once again and harnessed the magical energy that he could feel, then imagined the individual particles hardening and freezing, the body of water changing from liquid to solid. He felt the energy shift and then realised that he was now looking at a solid block of ice within the basin.

"And now back again," came Severus' voice from behind him, quiet and soft, as if trying to break Harry's concentration.

"Could've said well done," Harry muttered. "Mean old sod." Evidently he wasn't terribly quiet as a moment later he felt Severus cuff him gently round the head. He chuckled and said, "Alright, alright, I'm getting on with it. It's not fair that you've got such good hearing."

"No Potter, you're just about as quiet as a brass band. Now come on, unfreeze it."

"Slave-driver," Harry said with a grin, one which increased when Severus jostled him slightly. "Right ok, I'm doing it, I'm concentrating." And he reverted his attention back to the ice and tried to focus on it and reversing the magic.

His concentration was not entirely devoted to the task at hand, however; he was still smiling from his interaction with Severus and was still aware that the man was standing closely behind him. That of course sent his mind off into the realms of remembering the previous weekend and he really shouldn't have been letting his mind wander when converging magical energies, because before he knew what had happened, the basin had cracked and both he and Severus were drenched from head to foot in water.

He turned slowly round to face Severus and had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing at the man's appearance. He was thoroughly soaked and there were drops of water dripping from his nose. He looked highly unimpressed and he simply looked Harry firmly in the eye, unblinking. "You were not concentrating," he bit out.

"No," Harry agreed cheerfully, "I wasn't, and it's all your fault!"

"My fault?" Severus asked in disbelief. "How do you imagine that to be?"

"Never mind," Harry chuckled, wringing out his jumper. "Does this mean you're not going to let me do the transference?"

"Transference? You're lucky I haven't killed you."

"I think I'll die in a fire."

"No you can't, you used that one last week, even Trelawney's not that daft."

"Bollocks. Oh alright then, maybe I'll drown instead," Ron replied, scribbling out his earlier prediction.

He and Draco were at opposite ends of the bed, trying to get all their work done, finally finishing with their Divination reports. Ron was propped up against the pillows whilst Draco lay on his front opposite, perusing the star charts and drawing a graph of his future mood in alignment with the celestial bodies. They had spent the day catching up with all the work they were behind on, and though they were constantly distracting one another, they'd worked well enough.

"Your predictions are always so morbid," Draco muttered as he chucked a useless chart off the bed and spread the remaining ones out, trying to find some evidence to back up what he'd written.

"Why do you think I get such good marks?" Ron asked with a chuckle.

"Actually I just thought you were sleeping with her," Draco returned.

"You are foul," Ron replied with a grimace. "Right, hurry up and finish with those charts, I fancy a game of quidditch before the light goes."

Draco nodded distractedly and continued with his work, twiddling his quill between his fingers. Ron watched him as he concentrated on the charts, consulting one after another, his mouth twisting as he considered what he was writing. "Ron, staring at me won't make me go any faster," Draco muttered, rifling through his papers.

Ron sighed and replied, "How about if I just kick you off the bed? Will that help?"

"Try it and see what happens."

Ron was about to do just that when a noise from the window distracted him. He turned to see an elegant looking owl hovering outside, a letter in its beak as it kept insistently tapping on the window. Draco was apparently deciding to ignore the very obvious noise so Ron sighed and hauled himself up off the bed and over to the window, accepting the letter and dismissing the owl with a piece of leftover food. "Oi face-ache, it's for you," he said, chucking the letter over to Draco.

"For Merlin's sake, the universe is conspiring to make sure I never finish this buggering work! This had better be important." He snatched up the letter and tore it open, his expression suddenly serious as he took in its words. Ron watched as the blond scanned the letter, worried at the look on the boy's face. He looked utterly shell-shocked as he apparently re-read the letter, trying to take in what it was trying to tell him.

"Drake? Drake what is it?" Ron asked quietly, moving closer to the bed. Draco looked up at the red-head, worry and concern written in his features.

"It's Father," he said, his voice barely above a whisper. "He was on an assignment for the Order when he was set upon and attacked. He's in St Mungo's...he's in a coma." He stood slowly and walked shakily over to the window, the letter still clutched tightly in his hand. "Mother wants me to go as soon as I can," he said quietly, his eyes staring blankly ahead.

Ron moved slowly behind him and placed a hand gently on the blond's shoulder and to his surprise Draco turned around and wrapped his arms around Ron's neck, burying his head in his shoulder. Draco was not an overly tactile person, except for when they were play-fighting, and he was certainly not one for hugs. It was a testament to just how shaken up the boy must have been. He slowly brought his arms round to encircle the blond, holding him tightly. "What am I going to do Ron?" he asked, his voice muffled by the red-head's shoulder.

Ron stroked his back gently and said, "You're going to pack a few things together while I go and tell Professor Snape, and then you're going to go to the hospital where you're going to take each day at a time until your father's well again." Draco's hold tightened and he said with a sigh,

"Thank you. What would I do without you?"

"Merlin knows," Ron said with a smile as Draco extracted himself, his eyes red and threatening to fill with tears. "Get ready, I'll go and tell Snape," he said, brushing aside Draco's hair. "Everything will be alright, promise.

Chapter Text

After the disaster with the attempt to turn ice back into water, Harry's training session had actually gone rather well. It was clear that he didn't possess the skill for it as he did for Fire or Air Magic, but he did have an impressive amount of power, if not precision. Severus assured him that this was often the case where Water Magic was concerned, due to its tempestuous and changeable nature, and that with practice it would no doubt improve.

Despite drenching him, Severus had in fact let Harry perform the Air Transference at the end of the session. It had been different to the previous time, though no less enjoyable. Harry had still felt completely elated afterward, but he felt more in control, stronger rather than spaced out. He felt the energy hum through his body, felt it mingling with his own, giving him power. It was a wonderful and slightly odd feeling, and one that Harry revelled in. They returned to the dungeons later in the evening, Harry still on top of the world, Severus merely letting him get on with it as he regarded the boy with mild amusement.

Harry was sprawled out on the sofa, his head practically lolling over the edge, a funny kind of smile on his lips. Severus was sitting in one of the armchairs, sorting through several potions articles that had arrived for him that morning. "You'll fall off the sofa if you're not careful," he warned as Harry stretched like a cat.

"Mm, I doubt I'd notice," Harry replied, still revelling in the effects of the transference. "Honestly, you want to try this, it's bloody fantastic."

"As I've said before, one junkie in the family's enough," Severus returned. "Don't you have any work to do?"

"None that's going to get done tonight," Harry replied airily. "Why don't you stop working for once?"

"And do what instead pray tell?"

Harry shrugged and glanced over at the man, saying, "I don't know, whatever takes your fancy. Whatever that might be."

"You do witter on."

Harry grinned and replied, "It's part of my charm; don't deny it's an endearing quality."

Severus merely raised a sceptical eyebrow, but Harry noted that he hadn't argued or replied with some scathing remark, in fact it was rare these days that Severus said anything overly negative to him.

Harry returned to his relaxed position and sunk deeper down into the comfortable sofa, grateful, not for the first time, that Severus had such good taste in furniture. He was happily dozing off when a loud knock on the door roused him. He kept his eyes closed as he heard Severus move to answer it, and only opened them when he heard Severus say, "Mr Weasley, what are you doing here?"

"Ron?" Harry said, sitting up and peering over the back of the sofa at his friend.

"Hi Harry. Sorry to bother you Professor," said Ron as moved into the room as Severus stepped aside, "but there's been some bad news I'm afraid."

"What is it? What's wrong?" asked Harry, moving off the sofa and around to where Severus and Ron stood.

"It's Mr Malfoy. He's in St Mungo's, in a coma. He was attacked while on an assignment for the Order. Draco's getting ready to go the hospital, I said I'd come and tell you."

"Merlin, is Draco ok?"

"He's shaken, understandably. I think he's still in a state of shock to be honest. Will you tell Professor Dumbledore, sir?" Ron asked Severus, who nodded in response. "Thank you. I'm going to take Draco to the apparation point, his mother wants him there as soon as possible. I think he'd appreciate it if you were there too sir, I think he needs all the support he can get."

"Very well," Severus replied, "I'll go and speak to Dumbledore now; tell Draco I'll be at the hospital as soon as I'm able."

Ron returned to the dorm to find Draco sitting on the edge of his bed, a few belongings packed next to him. He looked worried and preoccupied and he was worrying his bottom lip with his teeth distractedly. Ron quietly walked over to him, placed a hand on his shoulder and said, "Time to go, Professor Snape's going to speak to Dumbledore and make his way to the hospital later."

Draco nodded and said, "Thank you for sorting it all."

"No problem. Are you ready?" Again Draco nodded and replied,

"As I'll ever be." He rose from the bed, only making a couple of steps before stopping him and saying, "Ron will you come with me?" Ron turned to face him and replied,

"I am coming with you."

"No, I mean to the hospital. Please, I can't face going on my own," Draco said, and Ron hated the waver he heard in boy's voice. He stepped closer to Draco and, placing a hand on his shoulder, replied,

"Of course I'll come if you need me."

"I do."

"Then I'll be there."

Ron took Draco to the apparation point just outside the castle and together they apparated to St Mungo's. They checked in at reception and were shown by a polite young medi-witch to Lucius Malfoy's private room. Draco's mother was sitting in an uncomfortable-looking chair by the man's bedside, and she rose when she saw the two boys enter the room, embracing her son and looking with some confusion at Ron, who uttered a polite, "Mrs Malfoy." She acknowledged him with an incline of her head, clearly not understanding the reason for his presence, but much too preoccupied to question it.

The boys took a seat round the other side of the bed on an equally uncomfortable double-seater, and Draco asked quietly, "How is he?"

"There's been no change," Narcissa replied, her voice wavering slightly. "The nurses have been very helpful and I've spoken with the Healer; he's been very circumspect about your father's condition, he won't say one way of another, only that we must wait. Has Severus been told?"

Draco nodded and replied, "Ron took care of everything."

Narcissa looked somewhat surprised, both by Draco's tone of apparent familiarity and affection, and by the fact that Ron had been involved, but she merely responded by saying, "Then I am grateful to you Mr Weasley."

"It was no trouble," Ron replied, "and please, call me Ron."

Narcissa gave a strained kind of smile and resumed watching over her husband, whose pale face was littered with bruises, to the point where he was almost unrecognisable. He was so still, unnaturally so, apart from the faint rise and fall of his chest, and it unsettled Ron to see the normally powerful man so impotent. He could only imagine how it must be affecting Draco. He looked across at the boy, who was staring at his father as if he couldn't believe what was in front of his eyes. He looked lost, afraid, and Ron was fighting the urge to wrap an arm around him and protect him somehow.

"He looks so helpless," Draco whispered after a long moment of silence and Narcissa simply nodded, saying,

"I know."

Draco looked as though his world had fallen apart and Ron wished he knew what to do to help him. Draco had never spoken of his relationship with his father, never really given any indication of how things were between them, but it seemed that he adored the man, and he was clearly terrified of losing him. Ron felt so useless and wished he knew what to say or do to help the blond, but he didn't have the first clue. He hoped that simply his presence was of some comfort.

They had been sitting quietly for some time when Severus and Harry arrived. Severus placed a gentle kiss on Narcissa's cheek and clasped Draco's hand, whilst Harry settled for polite but sympathetic nods to them both. "Tell me what happened," Severus instructed, as he and Harry took seats helpfully brought in by the polite young medi-witch.

Narcissa clasped her hands together and continued to look down at her husband. "He was on a reconnaissance mission, for the Order, and he was attacked. I don't know how many of them there were. He was left unconscious until his mission partner found him and brought him here. The Healer said that the next few days will be crucial."

"I'm so sorry Narcissa, but we must trust that he will make a full recovery." Narcissa nodded but it was clear that she could only focus on her husband. "I spoke with Professor Dumbledore; Draco is granted leave from school for as long as is needed. Mr Weasley, the headmaster has granted you permission to remain for the weekend, but you must be back in school by Monday. However, you will be allowed to return when you do not have classes."

Ron was rather surprised that he had been made provision for, but was grateful, for Draco's sake. "Thank you sir," he replied and Draco offered him a watery smile.

The next couple of hours were spent in relative silence, broken only by the occasional check in from the medi-witch, or a few questions from Severus or Draco. The blond had been remarkably withdrawn, and had sat, for the most part, with his arms wrapped tightly around himself, or constantly raking his hands through his hair. At one point Ron had actually reached out and stilled Draco's movements, smiling gently but showing the boy that he was concerned. Draco had simply patted Ron's hand and resumed gazing down at his father.

At midnight, Severus and Harry had left, once again offering their sympathies and assuring them that if they needed anything, they would be only too happy to help. Harry was thankful to leave; he was finally experiencing the comedown from his training session and all he wanted was his own bed, and possibly a cup of Severus' weird tea. After they'd apparated back, Draco turned to Ron and said, "You don't have to stay, you must be tired."

"I'm fine," Ron said firmly. "I'll stay for as long as you need me."

Draco smiled and said quietly, "Thank you."

It was late when Harry and Severus returned, and Harry was tired. He'd gone to bed with the intention of falling into a deep sleep, but when it came to it, he simply found it impossible to do so. When Severus retired an hour later, he found Harry sitting up in bed, still awake and staring blankly ahead.

"I thought you were tired," said Severus as he chucked his outer robe over the armchair.

"I was," Harry murmured, "couldn't sleep."

Severus turned around to face him, eyeing him closely, and asked, "Is something wrong?"

Harry sighed and ran a hand through his hair, shifting his eyes from Severus' scrutinising gaze. "I was...just thinking about Mr Malfoy," he replied quietly.

"Oh?" said Severus, leaning against the wardrobe as he undid his shirtsleeves. "And what exactly were you thinking?"

"I was just thinking how Death Eaters treat traitors; they gave Draco a pretty nasty beating, and now...Mr Malfoy's fighting for his life. I just can't help thinking..." he trailed off, again not meeting Severus' eyes.

"Yes?" Severus pressed gently.

Harry threw the bedcovers aside vigorously and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He sat for a moment with his back to Severus, his arms braced on the bed. Eventually he pushed himself up and walked slowly around the bed until he was resting against one of the bedposts, leaning his head against the cool wood. He looked across at Severus, took a deep breath and said, "I was just thinking about what they might do to you."

"To me?" Severus asked, surprised that the boy should have been pondering him at all, let alone that he should be concerning himself about his safety. "You have no need to worry about that," he assured him.

"Don't I?" said Harry seriously. "You've seen what they've done to people they consider traitors, and you easily fall into that category. You were high up in the Death Eater ranks," Harry said earnestly, moving a little closer, "you held a privileged position, you were trusted and you betrayed that trust, they will seek revenge for it," he insisted, his large, green eyes worried and sincere behind the oversized glasses. "I just don't want anything to happen to you."

Severus shifted and pushed himself off the wardrobe, closing the distance between himself and Harry. "Nothing will," he said firmly. "I know how to take care of myself, I've had plenty of experience saving my own skin, believe me." An idea dawned on him and although it hurt him slightly to entertain it, he considered likely the boy might share it. "You needn't worry, if anything happens to me provision will be made for you where Aldrington's concerned."

Harry's expression changed; his face darkened and he frowned deeply. He took a step back and said quietly, "Is that what you think of me? That I'd only be concerned for someone out of worry for myself? Did it ever occur to you that I might actually care what happens to you?" He moved away and grabbed his pillows from his side of the bed then moved swiftly across to the door.

"Where are you going?" asked Severus, taken aback by Harry's strong reaction.

"I'm sleeping on the sofa. I don't much fancy the idea of sharing a bed with someone who has such a low opinion of me." And with that he stormed out of the bedroom, slamming the door behind him.

Ron returned from the bathroom to find that Narcissa had fallen asleep in the rather uncomfortable-looking chair she had been perched in. He wasn't surprised, the poor woman had been fighting off sleep all night, and obviously the emotions of the day must have finally overwhelmed her. Draco, however, was still wide awake, sitting on the two-seater he and Ron had shared all night, his legs pulled up to his chest, his chin resting on his knees. Ron moved to stand in front of the blond and said gently, "Drake? Draco can I get you something? A tea or coffee perhaps?"

The blond looked up at him, dark circles under his eyes that were bloodshot and tired. He shook his head and replied, "No, no I can't face anything at the moment. Just...sit with me?" he asked, and he held his hand out to the red-head. Ron paused for a moment then took the proffered hand and took his seat next to Draco, closer than before. "I just feel so helpless Ron," he said after a few minutes. "There's nothing I can do for him, I'm useless."

"You're here," Ron told him firmly, "that's what matters. You're here for him and you'll be here when he wakes up."

"If he wakes up," Draco corrected bitterly.

"When," Ron insisted.

"I've never seen him so powerless. I can't stand it," Draco practically whispered, unconsciously leaning into Ron's side, their hands still tightly clasped together. "I've never been so scared in my entire life and I hate it. I just wish I knew what I'm supposed to do," he said with a sigh, leaning his head against Ron's chest.

Without thinking, Ron transferred Draco's hand to his right and carefully slung his left arm round the blond's shoulders, tucking him tightly into his side. The two boys sat in companionable silence, Ron happy that he could offer some comfort, that he was helping Draco in some way. "It's the waiting that's so awful," said Draco, his free hand coming up to play with the buttons on Ron's shirt. "I wish they'd give us some answers."

"I'm sure they will when there are answers to be given," Ron replied softly, winding one of Draco's blond locks round his finger.

"Oh Ron, what if – "

"No Drake, you can't think like that, you'll drive yourself mad. You have to believe that he'll come through it, that he'll be ok. Don't start thinking about what ifs."

"You're right," Draco sighed and nestled closer to Ron. "I'm glad you're here," he said quietly.

"So am I."

And although Draco tried to keep his eyes open, although he was determined to for his father's sake, the warmth emanating from Ron's strong body, the soothing motion of Ron's hand moving up and down his arm, and the gentle rise and fall of Ron's chest beneath him all conspired against him. At around 4 o' clock in the morning, he finally fell asleep, Ron still holding him tightly to his side.

Severus had had rather a sleepless night. It was the first time in weeks that he'd had his bed to himself and all he'd been able to do was stare at the empty space next to him. It was frustrating to know that the wretched boy was only next door and yet he seemed miles away. He wished he knew what had upset the boy so, or what he could do to reconcile the situation. Harry's final words had been resonating in his head all night – "I don't much fancy the idea of sharing a bed with someone who has such a low opinion of me".

Severus didn't have a 'low opinion' of the boy, he hadn't done for some time, and he thought Harry was aware of that. As for sharing a bed with someone who thought ill of him, well Harry had been doing that since the start of their 'marriage', a time when Severus' opinion of him had been a good deal more than low, and it hadn't bothered him so much then. So then why now? The boy was such a jumble of emotions, it was hard to tell what mood he would be in from one day to the next.

Severus rested his head on the headboard, puzzling through the mystery that was Harry Potter. He had naturally assumed that Harry was worried about him for his own safety – if anything were to happen to him then Harry would of course fall prey to Aldrington. Why wouldn't he think that Harry's concern for him had been rooted in concern for himself? What reason had he been given to think otherwise? If only Harry would just come out and say what was bothering him, have it all in the open, but oh no, he had to behave like a petulant child and go storming off, leaving them both miserable.

Deciding that he couldn't very well berate Harry for behaving like a child and then behave like one himself, he got out of bed and prepared himself to go and face the boy, whatever mood he might be in. When he entered the living room, Harry was folding up the blankets and piling the pillows on the edge of the sofa. He'd obviously been awake for a while; on the table was a mug with the remnants of coffee left in it and it looked as though he'd done some tidying, his usual habit to revert to when he was upset.

"Are you going somewhere?" asked Severus as Harry collected his outer cloak from the rack.

"To the hospital," he replied tersely, not meeting Severus' eyes as he took his used coffee cup into the kitchen and washed it out. "Draco needs his friends around him at the moment," he said, drying the cup and shoving it back in the cupboard.

"I didn't realise you counted Draco as a friend," Severus replied.

Harry turned to face him, clearly still upset and said, with barely contained anger, "Why? Am I incapable of changing my opinions about people? I'm bigoted as well as selfish am I?" he asked, his face stony.

"I didn't mean that," Severus replied with a sigh, "I just didn't realise the two of you had become friends, that's all. I think he'll really appreciate you being there."

"Well at least someone will appreciate my presence," Harry groused, moving out of the kitchen and throwing his robe around his shoulders. "I had nothing better to do at five this morning, so I set your potions lab up and prepared all the ingredients for the things you make on a Sunday," he said, taking one last check in the mirror and smoothing down his hair, though to no end, it was just as messy as ever.

"Oh...thank you," Severus said, surprised at the boy's thoughtfulness.

"I just needed something to do," Harry replied, determined that the man wouldn't mistake his actions for kindness. "I'm off. I'll see you later," he said, and left without looking back.

Ron was pleased, and rather touched, to see that Harry had returned the next morning, and Draco was also gratified to see that Harry cared enough to be with him at such a difficult time. Harry was polite and courteous to Narcissa and she responded likewise, although it was clear she was exhausted and preoccupied.

After an hour or so, Ron murmured something to Draco who smiled and nodded, and Ron turned to Harry, saying, "Fancy going to hunt down some coffee mate?"

"Definitely," Harry replied, and the two moved off to the doorway, Ron stopping and saying,

"Can I get you anything Mrs Malfoy?"

"Oh no dear thank you. Perhaps later," she replied with a wan smile.

Ron nodded and he and Harry left on their quest for caffeine. Ron felt that perhaps Draco and his mother needed some time on their own without his presence. Besides, he'd been awake for most of the night, and had only managed sparse moments of sleep; he was in desperate need of something to give him a boost. He and Harry chatted companionably on their journey, although he couldn't help but feel that Harry was somewhat subdued.

They finally found the so-called restaurant and sat down with two mugs of strong coffee, grateful for its reinvigorating warmth. They sat in silence for a little while, comfortable in each other's company, but Ron had something on his mind, and it wasn't long before he was looking across at his friend, saying, "Harry can I talk to you about something?"

"Of course," Harry replied, curious to know what it was that had rendered his friend so serious.

"Well it''s a little bit awkward," said Ron, now finding it difficult to articulate what was troubling him, though he had the opportunity. "It's Draco," he said quietly.

"Draco? What about him?"

"Me and Draco," Ron elaborated, lowering his eyes from Harry's.

"I'm sorry, I don't follow," Harry replied, confused.

Ron sighed and fiddled with the handle on his coffee cup for want of something to distract himself. "Things are...I don't know, changing between me and Draco. I don't really understand it, but I know it's happening. At first...I just felt bad for him because he was so alone and he'd been through so much, so I don't know, I just sort of took it upon myself to be his friend. I started to like him and we spent a lot of time together…and now..."

"And now what?" asked Harry, although he had a faint idea where Ron was going with his rambling explanation.

"And now," Ron said slowly, "now I think I'm starting to have feelings for him...beyond friendship I mean," he said quietly, the tip of his ears starting to flush pink.

"Oh...oh," Harry replied, a little unsure as to what he was supposed to say. He wasn't entirely surprised; he'd been watching the relationship between the two evolve for the last couple of months and it was clear that something was happening, that was obvious even to Harry's limited sensitivity.

"Oh Merlin Harry, you're not completely freaked out are you?" Ron asked, paling slightly.

"Freaked out? Why on earth would I be?" asked Harry, puzzled.

"Well...because...because we're both boys," Ron muttered.

Harry couldn't help himself, he burst out laughing and replied between giggles, "In case it had escaped your notice, I'm married to a man!"

"Yeah but not through choice! It's not like anything actually...happens between the two of you. doesn't bother you then that I have feelings for him?" Ron asked nervously.

"Oh Ron I wouldn't give a tinker's curse if you had feelings for a horn-rimmed toad, not if you were happy. And I hate to dampen your little revelation, but it's been obvious for a while that something's happening between the two of you." At Ron's look of surprise, Harry emitted a small chuckle and said, "Come on, even I'm not that dense! But, the question is what are you going to do about it?"

Ron sighed and slumped forward onto the table and mumbled miserably, "I don't know. I don't even know if he feels the same way. He could very well just see me as a friend and nothing more. I don't want to ruin what we already have, it would be like losing you!"

"Well don't worry, I'm not in love with you!" Harry giggled, narrowly avoiding the kick Ron sent his way.

"Very helpful," Ron grumbled. "Seriously though, what am I going to do? I spend every waking moment with him, it's getting more and more difficult to keep it to myself. I'm stuck."

Harry sipped at his coffee and leant back in his chair, looking closely at his friend. "Right now, all you can do is be there for him. This is an awful time for him and he needs you, but when it's over, maybe you could...test the waters. You're going to make yourself miserable if you do nothing, and if it's any comfort to you, I think he feels the same way."

"Really?" Ron asked hopefully.

"Oh Ron," Harry said affectionately, "are you blind? When all this started you were the only one he would talk to or be near to, and you're still the only one he wants to spend any time with. I'd be willing to put money on the fact that he feels exactly the same way you do."

Ron smiled and said, "I hope so. Merlin I can't believe I just had this conversation with you. I've been agonising over this for days! Anyway, enough of my problems, what's wrong with you?"

Harry frowned and replied, "What do you mean?"

"You've been in a strange mood ever since you got here, plus you arrived alone and not with Snape, so I'm guessing whatever's wrong has something to do with him."

Harry sighed and shook his head, raking a hand through his hair and saying, "Let's go for a walk and I'll tell you all about it."

They made their way outside to the beautiful hospital grounds where several of the patients were convalescing and enjoying the fresh air. They sat down on a bench dedicated to some upstanding member of the medical community and Harry told Ron all about what had happened with Severus the previous night. He told him how he had genuinely tried to voice his concerns about Severus' safety, only for the man to turn around and insult him by accusing him of immense self-interest. Harry brought his legs up underneath him and explained how angry he'd felt about the whole thing, how hurt that Severus would think so little of him.

Ron listened in silence, nodding at the appropriate intervals, then eventually said, "Well I think he was bang out of order. I mean, to insinuate that all you'd care about is saving your own skin is completely unfair. No wonder you were so put out."

Harry nodded, glad that he had someone to tell him he was justified in his anger and that he hadn't overreacted to Severus' rather uncharitable opinion of him. "I don't know, it just really got to me. I slept on the sofa last night, I couldn't stand to be in the same room as him."

Harry pushed himself up from the bench in frustration and took a few steps forward, toeing the grass irritably. "I was actually worried about the bastard, worried about what might happen to him. I don't want to see him end up here, I don't want him to get hurt. But apparently I can only feel that way if I'm looking out for my own interests!"

"Well as much as I appreciate you being here, it's not going to get sorted if you don't speak to each other."

Chapter Text

Harry stayed at the hospital until mid-afternoon, partly out of support for Draco, partly to avoid Severus. The matter played on his mind all day and for the most part while he was there, all he did was re-play the incident in his mind and evaluate every little detail of it. It was driving him crazy and as much as he tried to push it away, it just kept coming back.

Eventually he decided that the matter wouldn't solve itself and that as long as he stayed away, nothing would be resolved. He made his excuses to Draco and promised to return the next day after lessons, and said goodbye to Ron, who said quietly, "I hope you sort it mate, just try not to kill each other."

"I'm not making any promises," he murmured in response as he grabbed his cloak and headed off.

He arrived back at the apparation point just outside the castle grounds and trudged his way back to the castle, wrapping his cloak around him as the November winds began to take force. The castle was quiet, as it usually was on a Sunday and he made his way through the corridors without seeing a soul, slightly unnerved by the echoing silence.

When he arrived at his door, he paused for a moment, not really wanted to go in. He was in no mood for another confrontation with Severus, even though he was in the right; he just couldn't stand conflict. He mentally shook himself and prepared to go inside, for whatever might be waiting for him.

The living room was empty, and their quarters were quiet, but Harry could hear faint noises coming from the potions lab. Severus usually spent most of Sunday locked away in there and lately Harry been helping him; it felt odd not to have spent his Sunday afternoon assisting. He removed his cloak and hung it up on the rack then perched on the edge of the sofa, his eyes scanning his surroundings.

It had been four months since he'd first come to live in the dungeons and although it had been difficult in the beginning, he'd actually grown rather fond of the place and he was steadily coming to regard it as home. When something like this happened, however, it just made him feel uncomfortable, almost unwelcome.

He was caught up in his own thoughts when the lab door opened and Severus emerged. "Oh," he said, "I thought I heard a noise out here. I didn't expect you back until later."

"I had things to do, "Harry replied, turning his head to look away from Severus, "I'm going back tomorrow though, after lessons. I think Draco appreciates the support," he said pointedly.

Severus cleared his throat and replied, "I shall be there tomorrow, I had much to do today...also I thought you would appreciate some space."

Harry had no fitting reply to that and so decided to just keep quiet as he sat stiffly on the edge of the sofa. He knew it was slightly childish to give Severus the silent treatment so to speak, but he really didn't know what to say. He fiddled with the sleeve of his oversized jumper, wishing Severus would stop staring at him; he could feel the man's gaze practically boring through the back of his skull.

"Harry, I apologise if I offended you," he said quietly, and Harry was surprised to hear the use of his first name, it was a rare occasion when such a thing happened. "I didn't mean to."

Harry sat in silence for a while then slowly replied, "Well you did. I thought you knew me better than that, I thought you thought better of me than that. Clearly I was wrong," he spat bitterly. He moved off and around the sofa saying, "If that's what you think of me then – "

Severus grabbed his arm as he flared past him and swung the boy around to face him. "I don't," Severus insisted. "I'm sorry for what I said, it was thoughtless and wrong. I know you're not like that, you're the least selfish person I know, but...I didn't think there would be any other reason for you caring what happens to me," he finished quietly, looking Harry directly in the eye.

Harry frowned, meeting the man's gaze, and replied, "You think I'd want to see you hurt? That I'd want something to happen to you? I've been worried about what they might do to you since the night Draco took that beating, and not out of concern for myself but out of concern for you," he said vehemently.

"There was a time when you wouldn't have cared what happened to me."

Harry emitted a sigh of annoyance and shook himself free of Severus' hold, moving away from the man and saying, "Well in case you hadn't noticed, quite a lot's changed since then! I've lived with you for the last four months, I've shared your bed! Dear Merlin last week you had me pressed up against a wall begging you to fuck me! How on earth would you imagine that nothing had changed?" Harry asked agitatedly, taking himself aback slightly. "I don't want anything to happen to you...and I don't want you thinking badly of me," he said, the fire dying somewhat, but the feeling remaining strong.

Severus shook his head and sighed then moved closer to Harry. "I don't think badly of you, far from it," he said, his voice low and serious. "What I said to you yesterday was rash and foolish and I sincerely regret it. You're kind and selfless and have unexplainable concern for unsociable old bats."

Harry couldn't help himself, a small smile crept onto his lips and he had to bite the inside of his cheeks to keep from grinning. Severus' eyes flashed and Harry knew his anger would no longer be able to sustain itself.

"Does that smile mean I'm forgiven?" Severus asked with a smirk.

Harry tried to school his features back into a scowl and replied, "It means I'll consider it."

Harry was awake early the next morning, having had little sleep the night before. Even though things between himself and Severus had been tentatively resolved the previous night, the whole matter had still been going around and around in his mind. Every time he remembered reminding Severus about the incident at Drayton Manor, he blushed to the roots of his hair and felt deeply embarrassed, both at his strong words and the memory itself. The last couple of days had made him forget what had transpired between himself and Severus, but after last night the memories had all come flooding back and thrown him into confusion yet again.

His argument with Severus had been rather heated and he'd surprised himself at how strongly he'd wanted Severus to know that he wasn't a mercenary, selfish child; it was important to him that Severus didn't think ill of him. He'd truly wanted Severus to realise that he was worried about him, worried for genuinely selfless reasons, not for himself.

He truly was worried that something would happen to Severus, he really did care about the man, and that threw up a whole load of questions. He'd said himself that things had changed between then, how could they not have done? Things were different, they had been for a while, even though the change had been a gradual one.

He had hated Severus when they were first married, could barely stand to be in the same room as him. Somehow though, over time and through prolonged exposure to one another, that hatred had slowly begun to ebb away. He'd never expected to alter his opinions about the man, but somehow he had; he respected him and sometimes he even liked him. It confused him, he wasn't supposed to like Severus Snape! All these mixed and troubled emotions had led to a completely restless night and Harry wasn't looking forward to facing a day of lessons. He was completely shattered and by the time Severus awoke, he had nearly finished his second cup of coffee.

"You're up early," the man observed as he emerged from the bedroom, fastening the cuffs on his sleeves. His hair was tied back in a leather thong, the same way it had been when they went to Drayton Manor, a fashion that Harry noticed Severus had been wearing more and more recently. It suited him, and it was certainly nice to see it looking cleaner and not hanging untidily round his face.

"I had a bit of a restless night," Harry replied, finishing the dregs of his coffee. "I've been awake for a while, just waiting for the day to start."

"Eager for lessons?" Severus asked with a smirk.

"Well I wouldn't go that far, but at least I'll have something to do."

"Is something on your mind?"

Harry considered telling Severus what it was that had given him such a restless night, but thought better of it; the last thing he needed was another full-on, serious conversation with the man, at least not so soon after the last one. He settled for shaking his head and replying, "No, just restless I think, hopefully I'll sleep better tonight."

Severus nodded and set about making ready for the day, gathering his notes and lesson plans and double checking that his stocks were well supplied for the day's brewing. He had a quick drink of coffee and scanned the morning papers, then gathered his things, heading for the door. He stopped in front of Harry and said with a smirk, "Don't fall asleep in lessons or I'll hear about it, and then you'll be sorry," and then the man actually winked, Severus Snape winked. If Harry had been in a more awake state of mind, the shock might have registered enough to laugh, but all he could do was blink owlishly and watch the man as he left.

"You look awful," Harry told Ron as he joined him and Hermione in the corridors on the way to their first lesson. He'd only just arrived back from the hospital, and, for the second night in a row, had had very little sleep and it was beginning to tell on him.

"Thanks mate," he muttered, stumbling slightly in his exhausted state, trying his best to keep his eyes open.

"How's Draco, and Mr Malfoy?" Hermione asked as Ron stifled a yawn and stumbled again.

"There's been no change with Mr Malfoy, not even a movement, but the Healers have said that he could wake up at any moment. As for Draco, he's exhausted, scared, upset. I tried to persuade him to come back with me this morning, just to get a couple of hours sleep, but he wouldn't, he won't leave his father's side. He's going to make himself ill if he carries on like this," said Ron, slumping against the wall gratefully as they arrived outside the classroom. "He needs sleep and some decent food; I might see if the house elves can organise something for me to take back."

"You can get some rest Ronald Weasley, I'll sort out some food. You've done quite enough for the last couple of days," said Hermione, observing the dark circles under her friend's eyes and the unusually pale, washed-out colour of his cheeks. He smiled gratefully and said,

"You're an angel 'Mione, thank you."

"We've all got to band together in these times, do what we can for each other. If we can't do that...then we're lost."

"That's the difference between us and them," said Harry quietly, "our humanity, our feeling, our desire for what's right. And that's what makes us stronger. We have to keep believing that."

"My this is serious for a Monday morning," said Ron, breaking the mood. "Merlin I'm dead on my feet, thank goodness it's History of Magic, I can finally get some sleep!"

After History of Magic, Ron went back to the dorm to collapse into bed. He asked Harry to cover for him in the lessons he'd be missing, unable to keep his eyes open any longer. True to her word, while Ron slept, Hermione went down to the kitchens and organised a basket of food to be made up for Draco and his mother. She did her best to ensure that it was filled with hearty, warming food to build up their strength and she arranged for a couple of flasks of tea and coffee to be included in the basket.

Harry helped her carry the basket back to Gryffindor and by the time they'd organised a change of clothes for Draco, Ron was awake once again and ready to go back to the hospital. Both Harry and Hermione had advised against returning so quickly, but Ron was determined; he already felt guilty for leaving Draco for only a few hours.

It was early afternoon when he arrived back at the hospital, and though he felt better for his brief rest, Draco and Narcissa looked awful. They were dishevelled and tired and looked every bit of it, but they were beyond grateful when they saw the basket Ron had brought back with him.

"Oh Ron, you shouldn't have gone to so much trouble," said Narcissa as she rummaged through the basket, delighted at the thought of proper food, "but I can't say I'm not grateful."

Ron smiled as he gave Draco's shoulder a squeeze and replied, "I can't take all the credit; it was only my idea, Hermione organised it all."

"Oh...well, please convey my thanks to her when you next see her."

"I will. You both need to eat some proper food, keep your strength up. I don't suppose either of you have slept since I left?" he asked, though he could see the answer plainly for himself.

Draco shook his head and pulled Ron down to sit next to him. "We both want to be here," he said, "we've had a bit of sleep here and there," he said, trying to shrug the matter off.

"Not enough," Ron insisted. "Drake please come back with me this evening, and you Mrs Malfoy. You're both exhausted and you need to sleep. You'll make yourselves ill at this rate," he said gently. He was worried about Draco and hated to see him in such a vulnerable state. All he wanted was to take care of him, to make sure he was ok and just make things better for him. He couldn't do that though if Draco wouldn't listen to him.

"It's very good of you to be concerned dear, but we'll be fine. Although Draco, it wouldn't be a bad idea for you to return with Ron."

"I'm not leaving," Draco said firmly and Ron could see the stubborn glint was back in his eye and that nothing or no one would change his mind. He really was a most difficult human being. Ron decided that if Draco wouldn't look after himself the he would have to do it for him, a responsibility that he didn't mind in the slightest, but he wished Draco would be a bit more sensible about the whole thing, or his own health would start to deteriorate.

"Here," said Ron, reaching into his bag and pulling out a batch of notes. "Hermione made two copies of all the notes from today's classes. Obviously you don't have to read them now, but they'll fill in the gaps come exam time."

A strange look came over Draco's face as he took the notes from Ron. He rifled through them, frowning, wearing a look that Ron couldn't read. Eventually he said quietly, "Thank you, and please thank Hermione too. I...I appreciate this." He placed the notes aside and sat staring at his father for a few moments before saying, "I'm going to get some air, I'll be back in a bit," and leaving the room looking troubled. Ron watched him go, puzzled by his reaction. He offered Narcissa a smile, then said,

"I think I'll just go and see if he's ok." Narcissa nodded and Ron followed Draco out of the room, keeping behind him until they were outside, when Draco finally said,

"Ron I know you're following." He turned around to face the red-head, who smiled sheepishly and said,

"Guess I'm not so good at the whole stealth thing. I just wanted to see if you were alright, you looked upset when you left."

Draco shrugged and flopped down underneath an oak tree, tightening his cloak around him as the cold November wind made itself known. Ron crouched down beside him and asked, "What is it? Something's got to you."

Draco considered his reply for a moment, looking past Ron, his eyes distant and thoughtful. "It's just...when I saw those notes, the trouble Hermione had gone to for me, it made me realise how wrong I'd been."

Ron frowned and sat next to Draco and said, "I don't understand. What do you mean?"

Draco sighed, trying to organise his thought so that he could convey them to Ron. "Until my father switched sides, I was arrogant, obnoxious, conceited; I thought I had all the answers and that all of you were so far beneath me. It didn't take me long to realise my mistake. When I came to live with all of you, you were all so different, so completely opposite to what I thought I'd known about you. When you gave me those notes, it made me realise just how wrong I'd been. Hermione's only been a 'friend' for a couple of months and look at the trouble she's gone to for me."

"But that's what we do for each other."

"But don't you see? I've never had that, I don't understand it. In Slytherin you don't have friends, you have allies, acquaintances, people who can further your endeavours or people who can stab you in the back. You don't do anything for anyone unless there's something in it for you; everything comes at a price. It's hard for me to understand an act of kindness like Hermione's, or to understand you."

"Me?" asked Ron, surprised.

Draco sighed and said, "Ever since I came to live in Gryffindor, you''ve been there for me. You've helped me and stood up for me, with no good reason other than you're a good person. It baffles me...and it saddens me. I've wasted so many years being this awful person when I could have been a part of something so much better, part of a real friendship. I got it all so wrong," he said quietly, yanking up blades of grass and tearing them apart.

Ron shook his head, saddened that Draco could feel such a way, that he could have such little faith in himself and in others. "Draco, all that's changed now," he insisted gently.

"Has it?" asked Draco miserably.

"Of course it has. You're one of us now. It doesn't matter how things were before, what matters is how they are now. You're a part of us and we'll take care of you, not because we have to or we feel it's our duty but because we want to, I want to. Drake you and I are friends...aren't we?"

Draco turned to face Ron, troubled and struggling for answers. "I don't know much about friendship, but if anyone's my friend, you are. I owe you so much Ron."

"Don't be ridiculous, you don't owe me anything. Along with Harry and Hermione, you're the closest person to me, I couldn't imagine my life without you. I need you, as much as you think you need me." He reached out and took Draco's hand, holding it tightly. He wanted to tell Draco how he really felt, how he'd been feeling for some time, but he was scared of overwhelming the boy and potentially pushing him away. Instead he simply settled for saying, "You're not alone anymore and you never will be again."

"It's's going to take me some time to adjust to this whole friendship thing."

Ron smiled and replied, "We've got time."

Chapter Text

"You're late, I was wondering where you'd got to," said Harry as Severus returned to their quarters. He was in the kitchen, preparing dinner. He'd been taken by the urge to cook, perhaps to occupy his mind with something different, and was putting the finishing touches to their meal.

"I went to the hospital after my last lesson," Severus replied, standing in the doorway of the kitchen, watching Harry as he pottered round the room, adding various things to the bubbling pot on the stove, wearing a look of comfortable contentment as he prepared dinner. "Is there a reason for all this?"

Harry shrugged and said, "Just fancied it really. How's Mr Malfoy?" he asked as he stirred the ingredients of the pot.

"No change," said Severus wearily. "Mr Weasley was there again."

"No surprise there. I'm fairly certain he plans to break curfew tonight and stay at the hospital. He's determined not to leave Draco. Ow," Harry hissed as he sampled the food and burnt his tongue in the process. "Mm perfect. Right get some bowls and I'll dish up, I'm starving."

Severus complied and Harry spooned the food into the bowls. The two of them moved into the living room and Severus asked, "Is this going to be edible?" as he eyed the contents of the bowl.

"Try your luck and see," Harry told him, as he tucked into his share. Severus raised the spoon to his lips and took a small mouthful of the stew, and found to his surprise that not only was it edible, it was fantastic. He looked in surprise at Harry and said,

"You're full of secrets. Where did you learn to cook?"

Harry smiled and replied, "I did all the cooking when I lived with my Aunt and Uncle. In fact, when it comes to household chores, I'm probably more qualified than a house elf."

Severus frowned, unnerved by the backhanded comment about Harry's family, and concerned about what the boy really meant. He'd made several veiled comments about life with his Aunt and Uncle before, but Severus had never really been able to gain much information about the situation, Harry was always very careful about what he said.

Severus had tried on numerous occasions to question Harry, but his answers had always been vague and he volunteered very little information. Severus was reluctant to press the matter but he would have liked to have known more about Harry's life with his relatives.

"You like it then?" Harry asked, shaking Severus from his reverie.

"Yes it's delicious," Severus replied, "I'll have to make you do this more often."

Harry chuckled and said, "High praise indeed." They continued to eat their food in companionable silence until a thought occurred to Harry and he asked, "When's our next training session by the way?"

"Actually I wanted to speak to you about that. I was talking to Albus the other day and we both agreed that my experience will soon be insufficient. We're going to bring in an expert, someone whose field is Elemental Magic, who can train you properly."

Harry frowned and said, "But you can train me properly. I don't want some stranger brought in, someone I don't know or trust. Please, can't we just continue with just you and me?"

Severus was surprised at how strongly Harry seemed to feel about the matter and how much he wanted him to continue with his training. "Harry my knowledge in Elemental Magic is limited, I can't train you adequately any further. You've already progressed much further than I expected, and at a much faster rate. You need an expert," he insisted.

"I don't want an expert, I want you! You're the only one I feel comfortable with to...I don't want anyone else to train me," Harry said firmly but quietly.

"We'll get the best I promise, and I'll oversee your first couple of sessions to make sure everything's in order."

Harry could see that Severus's mind was set in this decision and, wishing to avoid an argument, he decided to keep his mouth shut for the time being, even though he was far from happy at the prospect of some stranger teaching him. He trusted Severus and enjoyed their training sessions; it was the one common ground they had, something they could share and something that brought them together. He didn't want to relinquish that to some stranger. "I don't suppose I have a choice," he muttered, "but will you still help me?"

"Of course I will. Nothing's going to change, don't worry."

"Every time someone tells me that, something catastrophic usually happens," Harry grumbled.

"Drama queen," Severus replied.

Harry poked out his tongue, still somewhat disgruntled about the decision but resigned to the fact that he could do nothing about it. "Well as long as you don't get this new person tomorrow; Remus is coming to stay for a few days and I promised I'd spend the day with him."

Remus arrived the following day after lessons had finished and Harry went straight to see him in the guest quarters. They greeted each other warmly, both glad to see one another, although Harry was troubled slightly by the man's tired and weary appearance. Remus made a pot of tea and invited Harry to take a seat on the chintz sofa, which, despite being insanely ugly, was fantastically comfortable. Harry asked after Remus' health, annoyed when the man brushed off his concerns and unconvincingly assured him that he was fine, merely a little tired. Remus had always been a poor liar.

He asked how Harry was and how he was coping with 7th year work, in fact, he asked about everything other than Severus and how Harry was coping being married to the man. After a while it became almost comical and Harry was finally forced to say, "Remus, you can ask about Severus you know, you don't have to avoid the issue." Remus coloured slightly and replied,

"My apologies, I thought you might wish to avoid the subject."

"Not at all," Harry said with a smile, hardly surprised that Remus felt the need to skirt around the issue of his marriage. When Harry had last seen the man, things hadn't exactly been rosy.

" are things?" Remus asked carefully.

Harry chuckled and replied, "Not exactly how you'd expect," then proceeded to bring Remus up to date with the whole situation. He told him all about the first few weeks of their marriage, how difficult it had been initially and how awkward they had been around each other. He told him of the fights they'd had, of the constant back and forth bickering and the days they'd gone without speaking to one another.

He told him about the training in Elemental Magic and how encouraging and supportive Severus had been, although he didn't tell Remus that he was going to have a new teacher and that he didn't like it one bit. He also related the episode at Drayton Manor, though again he did some editing and left out the incident in the corridor, a faint blush spreading across his cheeks nonetheless. Eventually he told Remus that things were fine, that he was gradually getting used to the situation.

Remus shook his head and said, "I confess I'm surprised. I expected to return to find you'd both killed each other. Instead I find you' peacefully."

Harry laughed and said, "That's one way of putting it. It's strange I suppose, I..."

"Yes?" Remus prompted, unable to decipher the look in Harry's eyes.

"I suppose my feelings have changed, Remus. Severus and I...we have a strange kind of...friendship now. It's unusual and I don't pretend to understand it, but I suppose you can't have such a prolonged exposure to someone and not change your opinion of them."

"My you're even starting to speak like him," Remus half-teased, taken aback that Harry was speaking about Severus in such terms, that he actually considered him a friend. Harry never stopped surprising him.

"Anyway, you can rest easy in the knowledge that we're not killing each other," Harry said, finishing the last of his tea and noting that it wasn't as good as Severus'. "Have you heard about Mr Malfoy?"

"You don't know?"

"Know what?" Harry asked with a frown.

"I was part of the team he was working in. I was the one that found him."

"Merlin! No one tells me anything," said Harry in disbelief. "Is that why you're here then?"

Remus nodded and replied, "Yes, I have a lot to talk about with Professor Dumbledore. I wish I were here on happier business, but, as it is..."

"There doesn't seem to be much happy business these days. Poor Draco's been at the hospital for days; Ron says he's exhausted, though Ron's not exactly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed himself, he's been there almost as long as Draco. To tell the truth, I'm worried about them both. If Mr Malfoy doesn't get better soon, they'll both turn into ghouls."

"It is an unfortunate situation, but we must hope that Lucius recovers soon, for all our sakes."

Despite Ron's best efforts to convince Draco to return to Hogwarts, his pleas fell on deaf ears and the blond would not be budged. Ron decided to meet the boy half way and whilst Draco and Narcissa took a walk in the grounds to get some fresh air and clear their heads, he talked to the medi-witches and arranged to transfigure the chairs into two small beds so they could get at least a half-decent night's sleep. When they returned, Draco looked at the beds then shot Ron a smirk and said, "I think you've made your point Ron. We'll sleep."

"The only way to make a point with you is to hit you over the head with it," Ron said, giving him an affectionate nudge. "I have to go back tonight, I'm already in trouble for breaking curfew yesterday, one more and I think they'll chain me up in the Tower."

"You should go back," Draco told him, "you need sleep and you're missing classes. I'm fine, really."

Ron glanced at his watch and replied, "I've still got half an hour before I need to be back, I can stay for a bit longer."

Draco smiled and said, "Good, I didn't really want you to go just yet."

"Aren't you sick of me by now?"

Draco shook his head and said with a smirk, "Not by a long shot." The two boys smiled at each other, the moment only broken when Narcissa cleared her throat. "But you should go back, you'll get into trouble," Draco continued. "Besides, I need someone to get all the notes from the classes I'm missing. At this rate I'll be repeating 7th year," he said with an eye-roll.

"I don't think so somehow, you're too much of a geek." Draco gave him a nudge with his shoulder and poked his tongue out. "But I'll keep you up to date anyway," Ron said with a smile. "Speaking of which, did you know Harry's in a mood with Snape?"

"Harry's always in a mood with Severus, but why this time?"

"Oh something to do with him messing around with Harry's training, bringing in someone else to continue. I can't really see the problem, but Harry wasn't at all happy about it."

Draco rolled his eyes and replied, "When that boy figures out what he is happy with, there'll be a parade."

Harry lay sprawled on his front on the rug in front of the fire, several books open and spread out in front of him as he rested on his elbows, studying the pages he was flicking through. Severus was sitting opposite on the sofa, arranging his lesson plans for the next few weeks. Occasionally Harry would look up to ask Severus a question about the material he was reading but for the most part they sat in comfortable silence as each continued with their work.

After struggling trying to understand a particularly complex Potions theory, Harry emitted a loud sigh and rolled over onto his back, saying, "That's it, I'm never going to understand that in a million years. I don't know how you managed to obtain a Mastery in that bloody subject, but you have my deepest respect."

Severus smirked and replied, "High praise indeed. What, pray tell, are you finding so impossibly difficult?"

"That stupid theory about the properties of transitional ingredients. It might as well be written in Latin for all the sense it makes to me," he mumbled as he flung his arms over his eyes and stretched out in front of the fire.

"Well perhaps you just need to try and understand it differently," Severus said, setting his work aside and regarding the boy, who looked comically dramatic splayed out on the rug, with his arm draped tragically over his brow.

"I'd rather just throw the book onto the fire and be done with it," Harry grumbled, folding his arms behind his head and looking up at Severus. "Seriously, I give up for today, I'll start the essay tomorrow."

"I seem to recall you've been saying that for the last two days. It had better get done."

Harry smirked up at him and said, "You're no longer my teacher so there's nothing you can do about it."

"Brat," Severus muttered, though Harry was sure he could detect the hint of a smile. "Oh by the way, I meant to tell you – I'm interviewing a potential candidate tomorrow to be your new Elemental Magic trainer."

The grin left Harry's face and a frown took its place. "Oh," he said flatly. "You're still going ahead with that then?"

"Harry we've discussed this. You need someone who can train you adequately and given the rate at which you're progressing, my knowledge simply won't be sufficient enough," Severus said, placing his work aside and leaning forward onto his knees.

"Seemed sufficient enough to me," Harry muttered. "Well I just hope you vet this person properly because the last thing we need is another Quirrell."

"Harry..." Severus began, but Harry waved him off, saying,

"I know, I know, I'm being stupid. I just...I kind of liked how things were," he said quietly, averting his eyes from Severus'.

"Harry," Severus said gently, "things aren't going to change that much. I'll still help you in any way I can and you can still practise with me. It's just that I can take you no further where your training's concerned."

Harry nodded and said, "I know. I'm sorry, I'm just being petulant, ignore me."

Severus smirked and said, "I try but you won't go away."

"Oh bloody charming!" Harry said with a laugh, pushing himself up to a standing position. "I'm going to spend the next hour locked in the bathroom in my beloved bath."

"I'm beginning to worry about you and that bloody bathtub; your attachment to it is definitely unnatural," Severus said as he watched Harry move over to the bedroom.

Harry grinned and replied, "You'd be surprised what I can get attached to given time."

Lars Kingston was a tall, thin man, who looked as though he had only just hit puberty. He had light brown hair, scruffier even than Harry's, and dark, intelligent eyes. He had a surprisingly deep voice for someone so slight and youthful, and he said very little, apart from when necessary. He was a gentle, unassuming man, but he had an air of contained strength about him. All these things combined made for a rather handsome, intriguing man, and most of the female population, and some of the male, of Hogwarts were greatly interested in this new addition to the castle.

Harry tried very hard to dislike the man; he wanted to have no regard for his new trainer, but he simply found it impossible. The man was so affable, so easily likeable, that despite all his hard work, Harry just had to like him. In their first session he sat Harry down and discussed his training so far and how Harry had dealt with the Magic and how he wished to proceed. It was nice to be listened to for a change and consulted as an equal.

He provided Harry with a list of useful theoretical material and reminded him that theory was just as important as practical. Harry had to admit that Severus had made a good choice, though he was damned if he was actually going to admit that to his husband. Severus, however, was well aware that Harry was pleased with his choice; there was no way that he wouldn't let Severus know about it if he wasn't.

Severus himself was impressed with the quiet young man. He had been recommended to Severus by a former classmate whose research field was ancient and obscure magic, and who had very useful contacts in the masters of such areas. Lars Kingston was one such master whose résumé alone had been particularly impressive, let alone his performance in person.

Severus had been careful whom he chose for Harry, knowing the boy's reservations about someone new coming in, but also knowing how careful he had to be about anyone he let close to Harry. Kingston's background seemed sound enough and he'd kept his nose clean over the years, but Severus knew better than to simply trust the man based on good credentials. He would be keeping a close eye on him for as long as the man had prolonged contact with Harry. He didn't fully trust anyone where Harry was concerned.

He was waiting for the boy to return from another session with the young master, one that was taking longer than the others had. It was late and Severus couldn't help but worry, something that seemed more and more familiar to him these days. It was early December and the evenings were dark, which somehow only added to Severus' concern; it was always easier for bad things to happen in the dark. He was halfway through defacing a pile of 2nd year Hufflepuff essays when Harry walked in, tired-looking and scruffy but with a definite gleam in his eye.

"I was wondering where you'd got to," Severus said, pushing down the feeling of relief he felt upon seeing the boy.

"Sorry, the session ran on longer than I expected," Harry replied, collapsing on the sofa next to Severus. He looked utterly exhausted but alive at the same time, vibrant and invigorated even though he was practically half asleep. "Lars was really pleased with my progress so he wanted me to try a couple of more advanced things. It was hard but...worth it," he said with a grin.

"Just as long as 'Lars' remembers that these are school nights and that he shouldn't tire you out."

Harry smiled and said, "Do I detect a note of concern in your voice?"

"Just looking out for your welfare," Severus replied, aiming for nonchalant, but falling decidedly short.

Harry said nothing but continued to smile at the man. As the time had gone on, Harry had begun to become more and more touched when Severus showed concern for him, knowing how rare it was for the man to show much. He stretched himself out on the sofa, letting his muscles recover from the strain he'd put them under, happy to finally be back in his own home where he could relax. "So whose essays are you tearing apart tonight?"

Severus raised an eyebrow and replied, "I am correcting 2nd year essays that are, at best, dire."

"Poor little Hufflepuffs," Harry said, sifting through the essays and grimacing at Severus' harsh comments, scribbled all over the parchments. "Couldn't you write one nice thing?" he asked, and Severus responded simply by looking at Harry as if he had suggested the most foolish thing on the planet. "Ok maybe not," Harry chuckled. "Merlin I'm tired. Any chance you'll let me bunk school tomorrow?"

"I'm your husband, not your father. You can do whatever you please, although I should remind you that this is your N.E.W.T year and every day counts. That said, you can make up your own mind."

"How do you manage to tell me what to do without actually telling me what to do?"

"Talent," Severus replied with as smirk. "But now I am telling you to go to bed before you keel over, and I won't take no for an answer. So go on, off with you."

"Do I get a bedtime story? Or at least get tucked in?" Harry asked with a smirk that bordered on cheeky.

"You'll get a kick up the backside if you're not careful," Severus replied, stopping himself from smiling at the boy.

"Ooh tough words," Harry teased. "Watcha gunna do huh?" he taunted, standing and leaning closer to Severus.

Severus had to stop his lip from twitching as he continued to keep his attention on his work. Without blinking or giving a warning of any kind, he kicked Harry's feet out from underneath him, landing him back on the sofa and looming above him with a smirk. "Go to bed," he said, barely containing a laugh at Harry's look of shock.

"Geez, I say put me to bed and you land me on my back," Harry said, and suddenly he was back in the corridor of Drayton Manor, pressed up against a wall and not knowing where to look. He felt himself colour and he had to look anywhere but in Severus' eyes. "I mean..." he began, but didn't actually know what he did mean and so trailed off, embarrassed and awkward.

Severus was still standing above him, barely a hair's breadth between them and looking at Harry strangely, his expression unreadable. Harry tried to interpret what he saw in the man's eyes, but it was virtually impossible. "I um...I guess I should go to bed, you made your point," Harry said, forcing a laugh.

Severus nodded mutely and straightened up, offering his hand to Harry. Harry took it wordlessly and held onto it for perhaps longer than was necessary before letting go. "Well um...goodnight then. I'll see you in the morning," he said, moving past Severus to the bedroom.

"You will," Severus said quietly. "Goodnight Harry."

Chapter Text

Lucius Malfoy awoke from his coma the day after Lars Kingston arrived at Hogwarts. Draco and Narcissa were with him at the time and could barely believe it when they saw the man open his eyes. After that, it had been a slow recovery, with both physical and mental rehabilitation, but his wife and son had been by his side throughout. So too had Ron Weasley, although this was merely a by-product of the fact that he was constantly at Draco's side. Lucius had been more than a little surprised to see the red-headed boy at the hospital the first time, and even more surprised with the boy continued to show up, but it seemed that he was a permanent fixture where his son was concerned and he was frankly too weak to argue the point.

Draco was beyond thrilled at his father's recovery and Ron was beyond thrilled that Draco could finally return to Hogwarts and get some much-needed sleep and that he could stop worrying about the wretched boy. He had to admit that it was nice to have Draco back with him; Hogwarts had seemed decidedly empty without his fair-haired companion, and the dorm room was horrible without Draco to share it with. He was glad to have him back and since his return, the two had been closer than ever, practically inseparable.

They lay side by side on Ron's bed, Draco levitating a book above his head so he could read it lying down, and Ron simply lying back, tracing lazy patterns on the canopy. "Oh sod it," said Draco, giving up as the book almost fell on him for the third time and he hurled it across the room.

"Careful," Ron chuckled, "you're starting to sound like me."

"Perish the thought," Draco replied with a smirk. "History of Magic will just have to wait for now, I can't concentrate."

"Of course you can't, lots of people find it hard to concentrate around me, my charm and good looks just dazzle them."

"I think someone's dazzled in the head," Draco replied, to which Ron responded by giving him a gentle kick. Draco chuckled and said, "Actually while I've got you all to myself, there's something I want to ask you."

"Ooh sounds interesting. An indecent proposal perhaps?" Ron said, waggling his eyebrows at the blond. Draco laughed and replied,

"I'm saving the indecent proposals for another time, this one is perfectly decent. I was wondering if...maybe you' to come and stay at Malfoy Manor over the holidays, perhaps Boxing Day until New Year?" he asked and Ron was almost certain that he could detect a hint of nerves beneath Draco's words, something that Ron couldn't help but find completely adorable. He had to check himself to make sure he wasn't grinning inanely at the blond.

"That sounds great, if you're sure it's ok with your parents?" he replied, and he could see Draco relax now that he had accepted the offer.

"Of course it's alright. So, you'll come?"

"Definitely. I was already wondering what I was going to do over the holidays without you to be my constant companion. Problem solved," Ron said, and the smile Draco gave him was so brilliant that Ron couldn't help but return it.

"Oh for the love of...stupid useless thing," Harry grunted as he threw the knife down after he cut himself for the third time as he tried to prepare dinner. As was his usual habit when something was on his mind, he had reverted to cooking to try and block out his thoughts, but he was having such difficulty concentrating that his fingers were practically cut to ribbons and dinner was steadily going downhill.

He rolled another tissue around his finger and tried to stir the contents of the frying pan with his left hand, only to send half of it flying onto the floor. "Oh for...fine, I give up! I'll send down to the kitchens. I can take a hint," he grumbled, grabbing his wand and making the whole lot disappear. "It was going to be so good as well," he said with a sigh, moving into the living room, thankful that Severus was overseeing a detention that evening and wouldn't be back for some time.

It was all Severus' fault that he was in such a state anyway. He'd been able to think of nothing but their little encounter all day and had been making careless mistakes and having little accidents as a result. Ron had had to smack him upside the head several times and tell him to get a grip and join the land of the living, but even when he'd given himself a good shake and come out of his daydream, he still couldn't stop thinking about what had happened. Part of him knew that it hadn't actually been a big thing, nothing major had happened, not like the Drayton Manor episode anyway. Still, it had stuck in his mind the entire day and had kept him awake for much of the previous night.

He couldn't quite explain it, he didn't know why was preoccupying him so much, but he knew that it was all he could think of. Being that close to Severus was experience, but this time it was different; the look in his eyes was so intense and completely unreadable, so much so that Harry had been utterly taken aback by it. He'd been unable to move for a moment or two, pinned to the spot, and not just physically. A part of him had just wanted to stay like that, but the more rational part had been screaming at him to get up, move away, remove himself from the awkward situation. But had it really been that awkward? Was there not a strange kind of familiarity to it that made it feel almost comfortable? Whatever the situation, it was driving Harry crazy.

He shook his head fiercely to try and stop himself from thinking about it before he sent himself mad and got up to stoke the fire to keep away the chill December winds that were creeping round the castle. He went to reach for the poker but instead decided to use his magic, to put into practice all that he had been learning. He waved his hand over the dying embers and flames sprang to life from them. He smiled, pleased with himself, and took a step back to admire his dancing handiwork.

"Very well done," came Severus' voice from behind him, and he spun around in shock to face the smirking man.

"I didn't hear you come in," he said, placing a hand over his thudding heart. "I didn't think you'd be back so soon, what happened to the detention?"

Severus shrugged and replied, "I had no desire to stay there for the rest of the evening, I let them go early."

"Oh. Well, now you're back, could you tell me where you keep the salve for cuts?"

"Middle shelf in the cabinet in the potions laboratory. Have you hurt yourself?" Severus asked, scanning to see if he could spot any noticeable wound.

"Several times with the kitchen knife," he said, waggling his cut fingers up at Severus, "hence why we have no dinner. I decided that I couldn't in good conscience sacrifice my fingers for the sake of food, no matter how fantastic it was going to be."

"Well get that salve on them before any infection sets in. Any particular reason for this clumsiness? Something on your mind?" he asked, fixing those dark black eyes on Harry. He couldn't tell if Severus was trying to hint at last night's incident of if he was just simply asking an innocent question. Either way it made him fidget awkwardly and avert his eyes from Severus'.

"Just in my own little world I suppose, I wasn't concentrating. It's my own fault. Thank heavens it's the weekend, I don't think my fingers can take much else," he said with a pathetic attempt at a laugh. "I'm glad it's nearly the holidays, I could do with a break, unwind a bit," he said, moving off into the potions lab to retrieve the salve.

Severus nodded in agreement even though Harry couldn't see him. He too would welcome a break and was looking forward to having the castle mostly free of students. He always thought that school was much nicer without the pupils. The thought of the holidays sent Severus' hand to his pocket to close around the letter he had received that morning. "Harry, may I speak with you a moment?" he called into the empty space.

Harry's head emerged around the doorway and for a moment Severus thought the boy looked a little nervous or apprehensive, though he didn't know why, but he simply said, "Of course, what about?"

"I wished to know what your plans are for the holidays."

Relief flooded across Harry's features, quickly followed by a look of confusion as he replied, "Well whatever you're doing surely? I mean, being a married couple and all that, aren't we supposed to spend it together?"

A slight smile ghosted across Severus' face as he said, "I didn't want to presume anything. I thought you might have your own plans."

Harry snorted and replied, "When my 'family' were alive I stayed here every holiday, I'm hardly going to have amazing plans now that they're dead," he said bluntly, shocking Severus a little, though he didn't show it.

"Well, that being the case, I'd like to invite you to my cousin Leada's house for the Yuletide period. I received a letter from her this morning asking us to come and stay. She is anxious to meet you and doesn't wholly object to seeing me again, so, what do you think?"

Harry nodded slowly and replied, "Of course, sounds good." He wasn't entirely sure how he felt about the fact that his holiday had now been planned out, and that it was a Snape family member he would be spending it with. He knew nothing of Severus' family; the man never mentioned them and so he had little idea what to expect. "What um...what's she like, your cousin?" he asked tentatively.

Severus paused for a moment, considering his response. "She's...similar to myself in some ways; she can be a little introverted, quiet, but she has a sweet temper, much sweeter than mine," he said with a smirk. "She's very intelligent, and deeply involved in the world of academia, sometimes so much so that she forgets about the world around her. She's married to a Healer, a half-blood, and didn't that just sit well with the family? They have a little boy, I think he's about a year old."

"A little boy?" Harry asked.

"Is that a problem? Would you rather not go?"

"No, no, not at all. I love kids," he said with a smile. "I always...well...I just really like spending time with them. Do you think she'd mind letting me take care of him now and again?"

Severus was taken aback. He never knew that Harry felt that way about children, that he would be so happy at the prospect of spending his holiday with a one-year-old. "I um...I'm sure she'd welcome the idea of free baby-sitting. So, I should write and tell her we accept her offer?"

Harry nodded more positively this time and replied, "Definitely. I'm looking forward to it," as he made a note in his mind to gain a little more information on Leada from Draco.

Leada Hartson's house was modest but beautiful. Each room was exquisitely and tastefully decorated, and the whole house smelt wonderfully fragrant. Harry felt at home right away, and even if he hadn't have done, the warm and inviting welcome she gave him would soon have changed that. She was a striking woman; not perhaps conventionally beautiful in any traditional sense, but her long black hair and ice-blue eyes made for a remarkable combination. She had a gentle smile and her manner was so gracious that Harry liked her straight away.

She showed them into the parlour and served them tea and coffee, asking them what they would prefer for dinner that night. Her voice was rich and deep, the female equivalent to Severus', and Harry imagined that he could listen to it all night. She was attentive and asked Harry lots of questions about his school work and his training in Elemental Magic, which she appeared to be fascinated by. After some time, Harry said,

"Mrs Hartson, Severus told me that you had a little boy, could we meet him?"

"First of all Harry, we're cousins, you must call me Leada," she said with a smile. "As for Daniel, he's with his father this afternoon, but he'll be back this evening. Do you like children Harry?"

Harry returned her smile and replied, "I love them. They're so interesting and fun and so much cleverer than people give them credit for. I can't wait to meet him, and your husband of course."

"Well hopefully you won't have to wait long. Until then would you both like to see your room? Perhaps freshen up a bit?"

"That sounds wonderful."

"It's a beautiful spot," Harry remarked as he peered out of the window at the frost covered ground. "So peaceful. I mean Hogwarts is spectacular but there's always someone around, it's never really quiet. But this, you could really lose yourself here, get away from it all. Have you stayed here much?" he asked, turning back to face Severus, who was busy unpacking.

"This is the first time I've been here," Severus replied. "Leada and I have only just resumed contact. There was...something of rift between us for some years. She...disapproved of several of my life choices," he said, turning away and effectively ending the conversation.

Harry wanted to press the matter further but knew better than to push Severus into discussing something he didn't wish to. Still, he was curious to know more about Severus' family and what the situation was regarding them. All the information he'd had so far was the strange comment made at Drayton Manor regarding Severus' father, but it had told him very little and he was beginning to get more and more frustrated about how little he knew.

"Well she's absolutely lovely, I don't know how the two of you are related," he said with a cheeky smile, hoping that it would break some of the tension. Severus simply rolled his eyes and continued to unpack, though Harry was sure that he saw the hint of a smile around Severus' lips. "While we're on our own there's something I need to ask you," he said, moving round the bed to stand next to Severus. He dropped his voice a little and said, "Does Leada know about us, or does she think we're a normal couple?"

Severus stopped what he was doing and looked Harry in the eye. "As far as she's concerned, we're happily married and there's nothing suspect about our marriage."

"Good, as long as I know how to act. I'll make sure I'm in loved-up couple mode for the holidays. I just don't want to put my foot in it and give anyone the chance to doubt us."

Severus smiled slightly and replied, "If anyone can put on a show it's you. Don't think I've forgotten your performance at Drayton Manor."

Harry coloured to the roots of his hair and replied quietly, "I seem to remember the performance was a joint effort." He cursed himself the minute he said it; obviously Severus had meant his performance in front of the party guests, why the hell did he have to go and open his big mouth and remind them both of what had happened in that wretched corridor? Why did he always have to say the wrong thing?

He was terrified to look up and see the expression on the man's face. There was silence, and silence between the two of them was never a good thing. He looked up and saw that Severus was looking at him with that familiar unreadable expression in his eyes, one that he seemed to wear more and more these days.

"We both played our parts well that night," he said, looking Harry fixedly in the eye. "I'm sure we can do the same while we're here."

"Of course," Harry said quietly. "Don't worry, I'm not going to disgrace you."

"I never thought for one minute that you would."

"Harry this is my husband Adam," said Leada later that afternoon as Adam and their son Daniel returned home. Adam, who was as fair as Leada was dark, stepped forward and shook Harry's hand warmly and then was introduced to Severus in turn. "And this," she said, stepping forward with the baby in her arms, "is our little boy, Daniel."

"Oh he's gorgeous," said Harry with a grin as he held out his arms and took the little boy off her. "Aren't you? You're absolutely lovely," he told him with a smile. "I'm Uncle Harry and this is Uncle Severus, but he's an old grump so I wouldn't expect much in the way of cuddles from him," he said and the little boy giggled. "I think I've got a fan," he said with a smile, moving off to the sofa to sit with Daniel on his lap.

"It's nice to see you making friends with someone of your mental capacity," Severus said with a smirk as he watched Harry with the little boy. Harry stuck his tongue out, but nothing could wipe the smile off his face.

Severus had never seen Harry with children before and he couldn't help but watch as he sat holding Daniel, playing with him and speaking nonsense, trying to get him to say 'Harry' and singing him daft songs. He was a natural, there was no doubt about it and he seemed to exude a calm happiness as he sat cuddling the toddler.

They sat in the drawing room until early evening, talking and catching up on each other's lives. Adam was a very successful Healer at St Mungo's and was in line for a consultancy, whilst Leada mostly worked from home on her research and writing various articles for academic journals. It was perfect for her as she was able to spend all her time with Daniel and still pursue her goals in all her fields.

They were both very keen to hear about Harry and Severus' relationship and how they decided to get married. Harry was as usual on top form where story-spinning was concerned, although Severus noted that there was something different in the way he told it, compared to his tales at Drayton Manor. It was softer than before, almost...romantic, although Severus dismissed such a notion as foolish.

As the evening drew on, it became clear that Harry was more than content to sit with Daniel all night and that Daniel was equally happy to stay with his new-found friend. After a while, Harry emitted a soft chuckle and said quietly, "Um Leada, I think someone's ready for bed." All three of the other adults looked across and saw that Daniel had fallen asleep resting against Harry, his little thumb wedged in his mouth, peaceful as an angel.

"Well I never," said Leada with a smile. "Do you know, he hasn't fallen asleep like that since he hit six months? It's decided then Harry, you're never allowed to leave, not when you get Daniel to sleep like that. Come on, let's get him to bed. Harry, would you mind carrying him?"

"Of course not," Harry said, rising carefully to his feet, trying not to wake Daniel, and following Leada out of the room and up to Daniel's.

He lay him gently down in the cot and Leada covered him over with a blanket, smoothing down his hair. "He's so lovely Leada," Harry said quietly. "You're very lucky."

"I couldn't imagine my life without him," she replied with a smile. "You're wonderful with children Harry, a real natural. Do you and Severus have any plans to have children?"

Harry almost laughed in her face, but managed to control himself, simply shaking his head and replying, "We haven't really talked about it. I can't really see it featuring massively in Severus' plans though. He's not exactly big on children."

"Oh he might change his mind. People often do for the ones they love." Harry simply smiled at her, wishing he didn't have to spend his whole life lying to people. "You two seem to work well together, you make a good couple."

"You think?"

"Of course. It's clear that you have a great affection for one another and I think it's rather sweet that after how ever many months of marriage Severus still can't keep his eyes off you."

"What are you talking about?" Harry asked with a frown.

"Oh Harry," she said with a laugh, "you're the only thing that Severus looks at; he never takes his eyes off you. You're all he sees Harry, all he's interested in seeing."

Chapter Text

"He doesn't say 'mother' or father' yet, he isn't going to say 'Harry'," said Severus with a smirk as he watched Harry sitting on the floor with Daniel, doing his best to get him to say his name.

"All it takes is a little perseverance. He'll never say it if I don't keep trying," he replied, propping the little boy up on his lap. Leada and Adam had popped into the nearby village to get groceries for that night's meal and had asked Harry to watch Daniel for them, which Harry had been only too happy to do. Playing with Daniel was a wonderful distraction; it helped to take his mind off the conversation he'd had with Leada the previous night.

He had been pondering what she'd said all night; how he and Severus made a good couple, how they had an obvious affection for one another, but most of all how Severus couldn't take his eyes off him. What was Severus thinking when he looked at him? What went through the man's mind as he watched him day after day? He was conscious of Severus' eyes on him at that moment as he sat with Daniel; ever since Leada had mentioned it he'd been conscious of nothing else. He didn't dare look up though, he was afraid of what he might find.

"Where did you learn to be so good with children?" Severus asked, breaking the silence.

Harry smiled and finally looked up at the man. "I just love them," he replied. "Always have." He picked Daniel up and moved to join Severus on the sofa. "You know it's funny, all my life people have made assumptions and predictions on who or what I'm going to be. All the crap about being the Chosen One, all the expectations people have of me, and the only thing I ever wanted to do, the only thing I ever wanted to be...was a dad," he finished quietly, looking at Daniel as the little boy grinned up at him. "But let's face it, it's not exactly something that's on the cards for me."

"Why do you say that?" Severus asked with a frown.

Harry snorted and replied, "I'm Harry Potter, my only purpose in life is to defeat Voldemort. There's a war coming Severus, one that, whatever happens, I'll be in the thick of. Hardly a great platform to have children. Besides I might even be killed off before I finish school, no chance at fatherhood then."

"That's not funny Harry," Severus said sternly and Harry looked up to meet his eyes. The man looked troubled and concerned, almost pained by Harry's comment. "Don't say things like that, not even in jest. You're going to make it through this war, don't for one minute think that you won't. I'm not going to let anything happen to you," he finished quietly, and Harry was so struck by the sincerity in the man's voice that he had to look up and meet his eyes. There was so much honesty in his features that Harry was quite taken aback and he knew that Severus meant what he said, although he was surprised to hear him say it.

"Some things are beyond your control Severus," he said quietly. "Although I appreciate the sentiment." He paused for a moment, looking at Daniel, before saying, "Sometimes I can't help but wish for something different, to be someone else, someone with a different life, a different future." He looked across at Severus and met his eyes, then said, "But then I'm reminded that there are some things in my life that I wouldn't change and that I'm very grateful for." They held each other's gazes for a long while, Harry hoping that Severus took his meaning. He wanted the man to say something, to respond in some way and he could see that he was about to, but Leada's voice announcing their return stopped him from doing so. They broke eye contact and as Harry smiled and welcomed them back, he couldn't help but wish that they'd been just five minutes longer.

"You'll be fine Ron, it's just dinner," Draco said as he and Ron walked down the stairs of Malfoy Manor on their way to the dining room.

"That's easy for you to say. It might be just 'dinner' for you, but for me it's one of the most terrifying moments of my life," Ron returned in a whisper.

"My parents are not that frightening," Draco said, mildly amused by Ron's attitude. "And you've already spent time with them when you came with me to the hospital, it's not like this if the first time you've met them."

"But it's never been in such a...formal setting before."

Draco laughed and said, "This isn't a formal setting, this is my home! You don't have to be on your best behaviour and you don't have to be so worried. Just calm down and be yourself, you'll be fine."

Ron simply nodded his head, though it was clear that he wasn't at all convinced. He was incredibly nervous and had been ever since he'd arrived earlier that day. He'd been happy to agree to stay at Draco's over the Christmas period; he hadn't much fancied the idea of being away from him too long and at least this way he got to see him every day. But when he arrived at his friend's imposing home, he had been hit with nerves and the constant worry that he would somehow embarrass himself or Draco in front of Draco's parents. He had no idea how he was meant to behave in front of people so...well-refined as the Malfoys, and he really wanted to make a good impression. True, he'd spent some time with them at the hospital, but that had been neutral territory, this was entirely on their terms and he only had one chance to get it right.

"There are no special rules Ron, just eat dinner and make conversation."

"Make conversation about what?" Ron asked exasperatedly. "I hardly think your father and I will have much in common."

"Well you'll never know if you don't talk to him," Draco countered sensibly. "Look, I'll be with you the entire time, there really is nothing to worry about."

They stopped in front of the dining room and Draco placed a hand on Ron's shoulder. "Come on, you'll be fine," he said, then gently guided Ron into the room.

Lucius and Narcissa were already seated and Draco and Ron took their places at the table, Ron silently telling himself to grow up and stop being such a pathetic coward, it was only dinner. "Good evening boys," Narcissa said pleasantly, offering them both a bright smile.

"Good evening Mrs Malfoy, Mr Malfoy," Ron said, hoping his voice didn't sound as shaky as it felt.

"Ron I've told you before, there's no need for such formality," she replied gently, and Ron was struck by just how beautiful the woman was. It seemed impossible that she could have a son Draco's age. He smiled at her and nodded and she said, "I hope you like what's for dinner. Draco assures me that you're a good eater," Draco snorted and Ron glared at him, "so I hope you'll enjoy it."

"Oh I'm sure I will Mrs...Narcissa."

She smiled and signalled for the waiting house elf to serve the food and when it arrived on his plate, Ron was relieved to find that it was nothing more than a simple roast, though it looked utterly delicious. Well that was the first hurdle over; he had half expected to find some exotic fare placed in front of him that he wouldn't be able to eat, thus offending his hosts, but a roast he was more than capable of eating. He looked over to Draco who rolled his eyes at him and offered him a smirk. Feeling slightly foolish, he began to tuck in, his love for food soon overcoming his nerves.

After a few moments silence, Lucius turned his attention to Ron and said, "Draco tells me you're something of a keen chess player Mr Weasley."

Ron swallowed his mouthful and replied, "I am sir, I've been playing for years now. It's something that interests me greatly."

"Are you familiar with Ivan Kopolsky's writings?" Lucius asked, and to Draco's utter surprise, Ron replied,

"I am, I think he's a fantastic strategist, but my favourite writer in that area is Leonard Broomfield. He works for the top Aurors in the country as a field strategist, putting all his previous skills in chess playing to good use. He started playing when he was my age and built up a fantastic reputation as having one of the most brilliant minds for strategy and before too long he was snapped up for military use. He's amazing."

"Yes I'm familiar with his work. He's a most unique individual and his strategic theories make for fascinating reading. Are you interested in military strategy then Mr Weasley?"

"Oh absolutely. I find that side of war fascinating, it's an area I think I'd quite like to pursue myself...if my dream of being the greatest professional quidditch player in the world doesn't pan out."

It was the day Harry had been waiting for, although it was the strangest one of its kind he had ever had. It was Christmas morning and Harry had regressed to being a five-year-old. He was standing by the window, watching the birds as they hopped across the ground, just waiting for the household to wake up so they could begin the celebrations. He would never have thought that he would be spending his Christmas with Severus Snape and his family, but when he'd woken up that morning, he'd been struck by the sense of contentment he'd felt, and how comfortable and happy he was, excited for the day that lay ahead. The more time he spent with Severus, the more time he wanted to spend with Severus. Maybe it was just the Christmas spirit that was upon him.

"Too excited to sleep?" he heard Severus say and he turned around to see Severus sitting propped up on his elbows, watching him in amusement.

Harry grinned and said, "Something like that. But now you're awake and Christmas can begin!"

"You've been waiting for me?" Severus asked in surprise.

"Of course," Harry replied, moving over to sit on the bed. "You can't have Christmas without everyone, and I can't have Christmas without you. So hurry up and get ready, it's present time!" he said, giving Severus' legs a nudge to emphasise his point. Severus gave him a gentle kick in return, but nevertheless threw the covers aside and set about getting ready.

Harry lay back on the bed and watched as Severus pottered around the room. He couldn't help but wonder how the man had spent his previous Christmases, and who he'd spent them with. He wondered if Severus' past experiences had been as miserable as his own when it came to family occasions.

"How long have you been up for?" Severus asked as he slung his dressing gown round his shoulders.

"An hour or so. I never sleep on Christmas morning. I know I'm a child," Harry said with a smile. "I almost woke you up several times but you just looked so peaceful," he said teasingly, "just like an angel, that I couldn't bring myself to do it."

Severus stalked over to the bed, his face set in stone but a laughing glint in his eye and a little smirk at the corner of his mouth. He bent down over Harry, looked him in the eye and said menacingly, "I do not look like an angel." Harry collapsed in fits of laughter, never believing he'd ever hear Severus say something so ridiculous.

When Severus and Harry arrived downstairs, Leada and Adam were cooking breakfast, and two cups of coffee along with two glasses of bucks fizz awaited them. They toasted the morning and Harry gave Daniel a Christmas hug and slipped him a little piece of chocolate whilst they waited for their food. The owls had brought several packages for both Severus and Harry and they'd joined the pile under the tree, waiting to be opened.

After they'd eaten and were full to bursting, they gathered around the Christmas tree to exchange and open presents, Daniel providing much entertainment when he seemed to be more interested in the wrapping paper and cardboard boxes than the actual presents. Finally it was time for Harry and Severus' presents to each other. Harry had been feeling nervous about his choice of present all morning, not entirely sure Severus was going to like it, but he'd put a good deal of time and thought into it and had gone to great lengths to obtain it. He retrieved the present from under the tree, fairly pleased with his wrapping attempt, and moved back to the sofa, where he handed it over to Severus, saying, "I hope you like it, I can always send it back if it's not...Perhaps I should just let you open it," he said with a sheepish grin, handing it over to the man.

Severus took it and shook his head amusedly at Harry's nervous babbling. He carefully removed the wrapping paper and Harry watched intently as he produced an ornate looking wooden box, gleaming and sporting the most beautiful carvings. "Open it," Harry prompted and watched as Severus did as instructed, trying to gauge the man's reaction as he discovered the box's contents. Severus sat in silence for a few moments staring down at the set of vials lined up neatly up in front of him.

"Harry...this can't be what I think it is," he said quietly, not taking his eyes off the box in his lap.

Harry smiled nervously and said, "It is – runespoor tears."

" on earth did you obtain them? It's practically impossible, I've been trying to track some down for years, I'd given up hope of ever finding any. I can't believe did you get these?" he asked, finally taking his eyes off the box and looking up at Harry.

"I tracked down several obscure potion ingredient suppliers, played the 'famous Harry Potter' card a couple of times, finally managed to get the snakes imported, with a little help from Hagrid, and then I...talked to them," Harry finished with a shrug.

"You...talked to them?" Severus asked with a look of amused disbelief.

Harry nodded and said, "I asked them if they'd be willing to donate some tears to a worthy cause and they were very obliging. They're the most charming breed of snake that I've ever come across actually."

"I can't believe you did this. Do you have any idea what I could do with such an ingredient? The research possibilities alone are...Thank you Harry, it's the most remarkable present I've ever received, you shouldn't have..." Harry waved him off and said,

"I wanted you to have something you could use, something you really wanted. Besides, you've been going on about them for months, now you can finally stop bending my ear and talk about something else."

Severus smirked and closed the lid on the box, running his fingers over the delicate carvings. "It truly is a wonderful present." He set it aside on the sofa next to him then looked across at Harry and said, "I don't have your present here," and for one brief moment Harry was hurt by the thought that Severus hadn't actually got him one and was simply buying time until he continued, saying, "We have to go to Hogwarts. So, if you don't mind, we could go now and then I could give it to you."

Harry was puzzled and intrigued and suddenly desperate to find out what it was. "Ok, let me just get my cloak and we can go. Do I get any clues before though?"

"Not a single one."

They apparated just outside of Hogwarts, and Harry continued to hold onto Severus' arm as they walked through the castle, continually badgering Severus to tell him what his present was while Severus remained tight-lipped. They carried on walking, passing a couple of students on their way, and finally stopped in the dungeons.

"But...these are our quarters," said Harry with a frown.

"Very well done," said Severus with a smirk. "Your powers of observation are getting stronger."

Harry pulled a face but allowed himself to be led in and placed in the middle of the living room. Severus stood behind him with his hands on Harry's shoulders. "Am I being blind?" asked Harry. "There's nothing here."

Severus said softly in his ear, "Take a look around, does anything look different to you?" Harry frowned and scanned the room, trying to see if there was anything he could spot that was remotely like a present. Suddenly he realised what it was about the room that looked different – in between the potions lab and the kitchen there was a door, one that he was fairly certain had never been there before. "Does this have something to do with that door?" he asked, turning his head to look at Severus.

"Why don't you open it and see?" Severus replied with a smirk. Harry gave Severus a questioning look then walked over to the door. He paused with his hand on the handle for a moment, trying to figure out what was going on before pushing the door open and finding himself standing in a room. Against one wall was a beautiful mahogany table and chair, complete with an ink well and several new quills. Against the opposite wall was a tall bookcase, lined with Harry's books, both educational and recreational, along with the treasured photograph of Harry and his parents. On the back wall was a large fireplace, in front of which were two of the comfiest looking chairs Harry had ever seen. "What is this place?" Harry asked with a frown as Severus moved to stand in the doorway.

"It's yours," he replied, leaning on the doorframe.

"What are you talking about?"

"It's yours," Severus repeated. "This is my present to you. It occurred to me that I have my potions laboratory and my classroom office, but you don't really have a space of your own; somewhere to do your work or simply relax, have some time for yourself. So I spoke to Flitwick and he helped me to magically extend the quarters. What do you think?"

"What do I think?" asked Harry, turning to face the man. "I think it's fantastic! I can't believe you'd go to so much trouble. It's, it's beautiful," he said quietly, examining the mahogany table, opening its drawers and looking at the quills.

He took another look round then walked over to Severus, a moment of solemnity suddenly striking him. "When I lived with my aunt and uncle, it was 12 years until I was given a room, and it was made perfectly clear that it wasn't really mine, that it was given under duress and that I was not welcome. It wasn't mine, it was just on loan. And then I came here and even though it was a thousand times better than living at the Dursleys, I was still sharing with four other people, it wasn't my space, not completely. This, this is the first thing that's ever been mine...and I can't tell you what it means. Thank much."

"You're welcome Harry. Merry Christmas," he said softly.

Harry smiled and stepped forward, then slowly wrapped his arms around the man's neck, resting his cheek on the man's chest. "Merry Christmas Severus," he said quietly as he felt Severus' arms slide around him. He stayed like that for a while, relishing in Severus' warmth and the steady thump of his heartbeat.

Apart from their little stint in Drayton Manor, he had never had much prolonged physical contact with Severus, and he had to admit, he was rather enjoying it. Severus was a strong man and he had the body to prove it; he was thin but muscled, possessing a kind of quiet strength that Harry found rather appealing. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to be held closer, tightening his arms around the man's neck. He sighed and said, "I suppose we should be getting back to Leada's."

"Yes I suppose we should," Severus said, close to his ear, sending a shiver down Harry's spine. He was reluctant to let Severus go, but he eventually loosened his arms and let them slip back down to his side, stepping away slightly from Severus. He smiled at him and said,

"Although it is nice to be back home."

A strange look passed over Severus' face and he placed a hand on Harry's shoulder, saying, "It is indeed. Come on, let's go, Christmas dinner is awaiting us," and he and Harry moved off out of their quarters, Severus keeping his hand on Harry's shoulder the whole time.

"Is that the last of the invitations?" Ron asked as he watched Draco secure the last few bundles to the waiting owls.

"Mmhmm, that's it. All the invitations to the Malfoy New Year's Eve Ball are now sent, we just have to wait for the replies. I hope it's a success. Father expects numbers to be significantly smaller, considering our...fall from grace," Draco said, rolling his eyes. "Still our New Year's Ball is anticipated every year so we must hold it. At least now I'm old enough to appreciate it."

"And you're forgetting one important thing about this year's Ball," Ron said, joining Draco on the window seat.

"Oh, and what's that?"

"I'm going to be there of course!" Ron replied with a grin.

"But of course," Draco said, rolling his eyes. "Although you are right, with you here I can have a dogsbody to help me set it all up."

"Cheeky!" Ron said with mock outrage, giving Draco a gentle shove. He'd been at Malfoy Manor for nearly a week and he'd thoroughly enjoyed his time so far. Although he would admit it to no one, the days when he'd been apart from Draco had been completely miserable for him; he'd missed the blond far more than he was sure was healthy and he had counted down the days until he would see him again.

"Well at least Harry will be there, putting on a convincing show with Snape I'm sure."

"If you ask me, things between those two are getting more and more 'convincing' as the weeks go on."

"You think so?"

"Oh Ron you'd have to be blind not to," said Draco with an affectionate laugh. "You mark my words, something is going on there, and I'm really going to enjoy watching them at New Year," he said gleefully.

"You need help Drake," Ron said with a yawn as he looked out across the grounds of Malfoy Manor. It was a beautiful spot; peaceful and secluded, with the most stunning gardens Ron had ever seen. There was a thin sheen of frost on the ground, coating everything in white, giving everything a kind of other-worldly look as the frost sparkled under the cold winter sun. "We should go for a walk after dinner. I love the grounds here."

"Oh Merlin, don't wax poetical on me again. Yesterday you went on for half an hour about the forest, it was practically an epic! Let's just agree that the grounds are pretty."

"Oh shut up," said Ron, poking his tongue out.

"You shut up."

"You shut up."

"Make me," challenged Draco.

"You make me," Ron replied, giving him a gentle kick.

"You'll pay for that," said Draco, giving him a shove, which Ron returned until it escalated into a full-on play-fight. They play-wrestled on the window-seat, almost falling off several times, and narrowly escaping falling out of the window. "Stop cheating!" Draco said, trying to catch his breath and stop laughing.

"Just because you're losing," Ron replied, finally pinning Draco down. "Gotcha," he said with a grin, leaning in close.

"I'm not arguing with that," Draco said quietly. He reached up and brushed a strand of hair from Ron's forehead, then moved to cup Ron's cheek. "I'm not arguing with that at all." He gently brought Ron's head closer and paused for a moment before leaning up and pressing his lips gently against Ron's. He pulled back slightly, meeting Ron's blue eyes, gauging for a reaction and was flooded with relief when he saw the boy smiling back at him. "Is this ok?" he asked tentatively.

Ron laughed and replied softly, "Drake, it's more than ok." He leant down and captured Draco's lips once again, hardly daring to believe that the thing he'd been dreaming of for so long was now a reality. He deepened the kiss, pulling Draco closer, relishing in the contact. Buttons were starting to be unbuttoned and shirts were un-tucked, pieces of clothing slowly being peeled away, both happy to continue further until Narcissa's voice stopped them in their tracks.

"Are you boys ready for dinner?" she shouted from the hallway.

They separated quickly, sorting their clothes out, and Draco called back, "We'll be right there. Just give us a couple of minutes." He looked sheepishly across at Ron and they burst out laughing, buttoning up their shirts and trying to make themselves look presentable. Ron ran his hands through his hair and said, "Will I do or do I look like I've been in a 'compromising position'?"

"You'll do," Draco said with a smirk, grabbing Ron and pulling him closer. "You'll do just fine," he said, gently pulling Ron's head down until their lips met in a slow, languid kiss.

Chapter Text

"Are you sure we can't persuade you to come with us?" Harry asked Leada and Adam as he stood in the hallway with Severus ready to go to the Malfoys' New Year's party.

"No thank you Harry, but please convey our thanks to the Malfoys for the invite. We'd just prefer to stay at home with Daniel," said Leada. "But you two have a good time. I must say, you both look very handsome."

Harry chuckled and replied, "We do scrub up rather well don't we?"

"Very well indeed. You'll be the most handsome couple there tonight."

Severus rolled his eyes and placed his arm around Harry's shoulders, suppressing a slight smile when Harry's arm came to rest around his waist. "You're a shameless flatterer Leada. We must be on our way, we're getting a little past fashionably late. We'll see you both in the New Year. Are you ready?" he asked Harry, to which the boy nodded. "Very well then, hold on tight," and Harry tightened his hold round the man's waist as they apparated to Malfoy Manor.

The place was alive with people; even in the chill of December, people were milling around outside and many doors and windows were open, emitting sounds of music and laughter. Harry and Severus strolled through the large front doors and were greeted by several people as they made their way to the central hall. Lucius and Narcissa were there in the middle of a throng of people, but they extricated themselves from them as they saw Harry and Severus enter and greeted them warmly. "Don't worry, Aldrington isn't here," said Lucius as he saw Harry scanning the room. "I have more sense than to invite scum like that."

"Sorry, I'm always on my guard these days."

"And you'd be a fool not to be. There are still a few people here tonight who, though they have no outward allegiance to the Dark Lord, would quite like to see you in trouble. You and Severus will have to put on a good show."

"I'm sure we're capable of that," said Severus dryly.

"Oh I'm sure you are," Lucius replied with a smirk. "Well do enjoy yourselves tonight. Draco and Mr Weasley are around here somewhere, though Merlin knows where. They seem to have been missing for most of the night." Harry suppressed a smirk and simply nodded; he had a fair idea what the two might be up to.

"Well we have to keep meeting and greeting, but please enjoy the evening and hopefully we'll get to have a proper conversation later," said Narcissa as she and Lucius moved off to welcome more people.

Harry sighed and faced Severus, saying, "Here we go again. You ready?"

"But of course," Severus replied, then smirked slightly and said, "Your fan-club has spotted you."

"What?" Harry asked, then followed Severus' line of sight to see the younger Ford-Garretts and Middletons making their way over to him, doubtlessly wanting to hear the story of his and Severus' relationship again. "Oh no," he groaned. "Come on, let's get out of here," he said, grabbing Severus' hand and pushing through the crowd of people.

"Harry you're being ridiculous," Severus told him as the boy pulled him along.

"I have no desire to spend the next hour regaling them with the story of our relationship. I need a substantial amount of alcohol before I can put up with that lot so until I find a substantial amount of alcohol, I'm hiding. Quick, in here!" he said, opening a door to his left and pulling himself and Severus inside. He looked around and said, "Where are we?"

Severus raised an eyebrow and replied, "Well given the number of musical instruments, I would hazard a guess that we are in the Malfoys' music room."

Harry grinned and said, "Ok I asked for that. My brain's still addled from trying to escape that rabble out there. Oh well, at least it's empty, although sadly devoid of alcohol. I don't suppose you want to go on an errand to hunt some down do you?" he asked, and at Severus' replying look said, "Well no harm in asking."

He took a look around the room; it was beautiful and ornate, the instruments were all clearly very expensive and he wondered just how many of them were ever played and how many were simply for show. In the middle of the room there was a large grand piano and he made his way over to it, running his fingers lightly over the keys. He looked over to Severus and said, "I suppose you're about to tell me that you can play."

Severus smirked and moved over to the piano, saying, "I can play a little."

"Show me," Harry said, sitting himself down on the piano stool, leaving enough room for Severus.

"You want me to teach you how to play the piano?" Severus asked, mildly amused.

"Do you have a better suggestion for what we can do with our time while we're in here?" Harry asked with a smirk.

Severus sighed and shook his head, but nevertheless took a seat next to Harry, placing his hands over the keys, calling on his memory to help him. He slowly began to play, his long fingers moving elegantly over the black and white keys, creating a beautiful minor melody, the tune haunting and melancholy.

Harry listened, enthralled, taking in the enchanting music and the flawless way Severus was playing it. The man had talent. He was sorry when he finally stopped and he smiled at Severus, saying, "How come you never told me you could play so beautifully?"

Severus shrugged and said, "You never asked. And I can't play 'beautifully', I can play adequately."

"No," Harry argued, "that was beautiful, really impressive. You're an enigma Professor," he said teasingly. "Still, I don't think you're good enough to be able to get me to play like that."

"Well let's start small, put your fingers on these keys," he instructed and placed the fingers of Harry's right hand on the piano keys, placing his own fingers on the same keys an octave higher. "Now just copy what I do," he instructed, moving his fingers slowly over the keys. Harry did so, making a couple of mistakes along the way, trying his best to copy Severus' movements.

"Cheater, you went faster towards the end there," he complained with a mock pout.

"It was hardly complicated, you just weren't paying proper attention. Here," Severus said, placing his own hand over Harry's, guiding the smaller fingers over the keys. Harry smiled and let Severus help him play, enjoying himself and this rare moment of peace they were sharing. "There, see, you're picking it up."

"Well you're better at teaching this than you are at teaching Potions," Harry told him cheekily, grinning as the man gave him a gentle cuff round the head with his free hand. "Why Professor, we're making beautiful music together," he said, then at the look on Severus' face, burst into fits of giggles.

"Where have you been? We've been looking for you all night," said Ron as he finally found Harry standing in one of the many corridors, trying to look inconspicuous as he sipped at his punch.

"I could ask you the same thing, I haven't seen you since we arrived," Harry replied, relieved to finally see the red-head after enduring hours with only the cream of wizarding society for company, especially now that Severus had left him alone while he talked to some dreary Potions colleague.

"Yeah, sorry about that, I meant to come and find you, but I was sort of...waylaid," Ron replied, the tips of his ears turning slightly pink.

Harry raised an eyebrow and smirked at his friend. "Oh yes? Do I take it that things with Draco are progressing?" he asked, holding back a laugh as Ron shifted awkwardly, though he noticed the red-head was looking pleased with himself nevertheless. "So? Tell me then!"

Ron grinned and pulled Harry aside out of the way of the other guests, saying, "We're…seeing how things go…but so far, progress is good. I've been here since Boxing Day and we've barely spent a minute apart. I know it's stupid, but when we weren't together I was completely miserable, does that sound pathetic?"

Harry smiled and nodded. "Absolutely," he said, "but I'll forgive you because you're so adorable," he said mockingly, pinching Ron's cheeks. "So where is your blond counterpart?"

"Oh I don't know, mingling with the guests somewhere I think. He has to play the good little host, so lucky you, you get to have my company until he reappears."

"Oh lucky me," said Harry with a laugh. "Well maybe I don't want your company, maybe I'll go and find my husband and leave you all alone for a few hours."

"Unlikely mate," said Ron as he whisked a glass of champagne off a floating tray as it passed by. "He's up to his neck in Potions experts at the moment, you won't see him for at least another hour. So you'll just have to put up with me."

"Great. When he gets started on Potions he doesn't stop for hours. He'll be going on until well into the New Year. Better get comfy I suppose," he said, taking a seat at one of the many tables set about the place, Ron joining him.

"So how's it going pretending to be a lovey-dovey couple?"

"Well it's hardly new ground for us."

"True, but a big gathering of people – the pressure's got to be on right?"

Harry gave a conceding nod and said, "You're not wrong, but we've done it before, we're getting pretty good at it." Ron said nothing but merely sipped his champagne, regarding Harry over the rim of his glass. "Ah the blond wanderer returns," Harry said as Draco pushed his way through the crowd and finally joined them at the table.

"Ugh I'm done mingling. The cream of Pureblood society will just have to entertain themselves for the rest of the night," Draco moaned as he slumped back in his chair. "How many glasses have you had?" he asked Ron, noticing the red-head knocking back the champagne.

Ron rolled his eyes and replied, "Don't worry, I'll still be conscious to give you a midnight kiss."

"Oh joy," said Draco, exchanging a smirk with Harry. "So Mr Potter, how are you and your husband enjoying our little soirée?"

"Well I can't speak for my husband as I've barely seen the man; he's been off entertaining all night, I've been completely neglected," Harry replied with a mock pout.

"Aw there's trouble in paradise. This is the problem when you marry so young," Draco said teasingly, propping his feet up on a vacant chair. Harry threw him a half-hearted glare and continued to sip his champagne, scanning the crowd for a sign of Severus, but the man was nowhere to be found. "So you haven't run into any problems with anyone in attendance tonight?" Draco asked.

"Not so far, but give it time. There's always someone waiting to stab us in the back. Of course, it would be easier to present a united front if the other half of said front were there to do that."

"Congratulations, that was almost a sentence," came Severus' voice and Harry jumped in fright, turning around to find him standing there, leaning against his chair and smirking down at him.

"Well as I've been left to my own devices tonight I've been forced to turn to drink, so it's little wonder I'm not making much sense," Harry replied, twisting his neck so he could look up at the man, trying to look as reproachful as possible.

"Well I do apologise, I wasn't under the impression that you needed round-the-clock supervision. Is it enough that I'm here now?"

"I don't know. You don't come bearing alcohol so my opinion is divided."

"Well in the name of non-neglect, not to mention keeping up appearances, would you care to come and mingle with me?"

"Steady on Uncle Sev, shouldn't go making offers like that in public," Draco said, waggling his eyebrows and earning a somewhat less than amused look from Severus.

Harry chuckled and stood from his seat. "Now now, stop teasing my husband with your naughty double entendres. I would love to come and mingle with you Severus, lead on!"

"Exactly how much have you had to drink?" Severus asked, eyeing Harry as he stood beside him, leaning on the chair and grinning stupidly.

"There's still room for more," Harry said with a smirk. "Well come on then, we've got some mingling to do."

Ron and Draco watched as Harry and Severus rejoined the crowd. Severus introduced Harry to various guests and Harry politely shook hands with them all, clearly making small talk and doing his best to play the devoted spouse. As they watched, Ron and Draco saw Harry step closer to Severus and after a moment or two, Severus' hand came to rest on Harry's waist. "Are you seeing what I'm seeing?" Draco asked as he and Ron continued to watch.

"Mmhmm," Ron replied. "Looking rather cosy aren't they?"

"They are indeed. It's quite an act they've got going there."

"Mm, honed to a fine art," Ron replied as they watched as Harry's hand came to rest on Severus' own, which was still resting quite happily on Harry's waist. They continued to talk to the crowd of people around them, Harry leaning in closer and closer to Severus as the minutes passed, Ron and Draco observing with rapt attention.

"It can't all be show...can it?" Ron asked as he noticed Harry gently run his hand over Severus' as they yet again recounted the story of their wedding.

"I doubt it," Draco replied with a smirk. "I wonder if they know that."

"No one can be that dense," Ron said, hardly believing that his best friend was cuddling up to his dreaded Potions Master.

Meanwhile, Harry was rather enjoying himself. He'd become rather adept at charming society people with the story of how he and Severus had begun their relationship and how they had conducted it within the confines of their student/teacher situation. For some reason it was a story that people seemed to enjoy.

He was in a rather sedate condition, having had just enough to drink to not really care about much but to still be aware of himself and others. He was particularly aware of his close proximity to Severus and how the man seemed to be pulling him closer as the conversation continued. He was content to listen as Severus picked up the story of how they had conducted their clandestine affair. So far Severus had never taken part in the story weaving, but he was doing so at that moment, and to great effect. He was adding bits and pieces that Harry would never have thought of, and he was telling it in such a way that Harry himself was starting to believe what he was hearing. He smiled as Severus began to recount how the teachers had become suspicious of the multitude of detentions Harry kept receiving from Severus, and he leant his head on the man's chest, pulling himself in closer and saying,

"Of course there were those somewhat sheltered professors whose suspicions consisted of nothing more than thinking I was somehow cheating in Potions. I really enjoyed seeing their faces when it was announced we were married."

"That is because you have a twisted sense of humour," Severus told him. "As I recall, the day our marriage was announced was hardly an enjoyable experience."

Harry couldn't help but smirk at that slight patch of honesty in amongst all the charade. "No, no it wasn't exactly our best day," he said, meeting Severus' eyes, seeing his own smirk reflected. "We've had better ones since though." There was a moment's silence as Harry merely looked up at Severus, a strange sort of smile on his lips. The moment was broken though when Lucius' voice rose above the crowd, saying,

"Ladies and Gentlemen, midnight is approaching. I ask for your help to welcome the New Year in." Above the crowd, a holographic clock appeared, and as the time decreased, the guests joined in counting down, until only a few seconds were left. Harry suddenly realised as he stood in Severus' strong hold that they were in a room full of people who were expecting them to act as a normal couple would on the stroke of midnight. He was going to have to kiss Severus. He glanced up at the man just as he heard,

" New Year!" It took him a split second to make the decision. He reached up and slid a hand behind Severus' head and before the man had a chance to react, he pulled him down into a kiss, slipping his arms around Severus' neck and leaning upwards to get as close as possible.

He felt the man freeze for a second and for a moment he had the awful thought that he'd done completely the wrong thing and that he would quite like to die of embarrassment there and then, but then Severus began to respond and all thoughts of stopping flew right out of the window. Severus pulled him closer and Harry tightened his hold around him, relishing in the contact. His lips moved slowly against Severus' and he became suddenly aware of Severus' hands moving across his back as he pressed himself against the man's chest, raising himself up on tiptoes to gain better access. One of Severus' hands slowly started to make its way up Harry's back until it finally came to rest in Harry's hair, gripping it firmly as the kiss intensified. Slowly Harry began to care less and less that half the room was staring at them and he began to wish that he was back in the corridor of Drayton Manor, alone and with nothing to stop them.

The thought took him somewhat by surprise, but instead of paying credence to it, he decided to simply continue with what he was doing, it was working so well after all. The kiss deepened, and he felt his breath hitch as the contact between them increased, knowing he was dangerously close to being in a potentially very embarrassing condition. Before this could happen though, Severus pulled away, though his hold remained tight around Harry.

Harry caught his breath and steadied himself before grinning up at the man and saying, "Happy New Year Severus." Severus raised an eyebrow and the ghost of a smirk fluttered across his face.

"Happy New Year Harry. Congratulations on making us the topic of conversation for the next few weeks."

"I do my best," said Harry with a laugh, noticing the amount of people who were staring at them out of the corner of his eye. He couldn't help but feel a strange kind of satisfaction that he'd caused such a stir.

Across the room, a blond and a red-head were staring at the two with wide-eyed disbelief. "What the fuck was that?" asked Ron as he watched them disentangle themselves from each other, though they remained close together.

"I don't know, but I can't help wishing I were blind," Draco replied. "Do you think they planned that?"

"Merlin I hope not. Can you imagine them discussing it? The whole thing is very disturbing."

"Disturbing...and yet very convincing," said Draco as he watched Harry loop an arm around Severus' waist, the two smiling slightly as they walked off to speak to Lucius. After a couple of minutes, they made their way over to Ron and Draco, Harry smiling sheepishly as he said, "We're off. We've got an early start tomorrow with Leada and Daniel so we'll see you back at Hogwarts."

"You can't just put on a performance like that and then bugger off!" said Draco, still regarding the two as though they'd both grown extra heads. "I mean bloody hell, tongues will be wagging about this for months!"

Harry blushed and avoided making eye contact with Severus. "It wasn't that big of a deal," he said quietly, "we were just keeping up appearances."

"Consider them well and truly kept up," said Ron with a snort. "You really know how to put on a show mate."

"Just shut up about it," Harry muttered, his blush deepening. "I was just trying to prove a point."

"Oh you did that alright," said Draco with a smirk.

"Do stop tormenting my husband Draco, it's in rather poor taste," said Severus, unable to mask his amusement. "Now if you'll excuse us, we'll bid you goodnight."

"Well of course, we wouldn't want to stop you from seeing the New Year in," said Draco, grinning as the two moved away, Severus shaking his head in amusement, Harry blushing to the roots of his hair. "You couldn't pay for that kind of entertainment."

It was four in the morning and Harry was still wide awake, despite the fact the he had been exhausted when he and Severus had returned from the Malfoys' party. They'd managed to slip away fairly quietly and with any luck most people would just assume that they wanted to welcome in the New Year alone, away from the hustle and bustle of the party. They'd returned to Leada's just before one o' clock and had made their way silently up to their room, the tension between them palpable. They'd prepared for bed in silence, Harry avoiding eye contact and Severus clearly having nothing to say. It had only been when they got into bed that Harry had been unable to bear it any longer and had offered a strained smile, saying, "Happy New Year, let's hope it's better than the last."

"Indeed," Severus had responded quietly. "Best get some sleep, it's been a long night for both of us." Harry had nodded in agreement, and had been more than ready for sleep, yet three hours later he was still wide awake, whilst Severus slept peacefully beside him. He was entirely too wound up to drift off to sleep and was becoming more and more frustrated as the time dragged on. He wished he was back in their quarters at Hogwarts; at least there he could have gone and sat in the living room with a book or some school work, or simply just sat staring into the fire, hoping to fall asleep. Instead he had to stay in the bedroom; he didn't feel comfortable wandering about someone else's home in the middle of the night.

He sighed and re-adjusted his glasses on the bridge of his nose, then gently threw the bedcovers aside, slipping out of bed and taking care not to wake Severus. There was a chill in the air and the fire had died down to a flickering ember, but Harry didn't mind; at least the cold gave him something to focus on, something other than the topic that seemed to have taken up permanent residence in his mind.

He leant his head against the cold window pane and closed his eyes, trying to shut out the onslaught of thoughts that were currently attacking his mind. How could Severus possibly sleep? All he could think about was what had taken place only a few hours ago; it had been going around and around in his head ever since their return.

He'd kissed Severus before, but somehow it had been different. He'd been completely preoccupied with it that time also but the actual act had felt somehow different. It had equally been for appearance's sake, a show put on to convince others, but at all times Harry had been aware of that, it had been primarily in the forefront of his mind. This time however, he'd ceased to care. For a brief moment, as Severus' hand had found its way to twist in his hair, and his other hand had pressed against the small of his back, he'd been focused solely on the kiss. It was the second time he'd kissed Severus and the event served as confirmation in Harry's mind that the man knew what he was doing, really knew what he was doing.

He hadn't cared that he was in front of a room full of people and that his conduct was being watched and judged by everyone, all he could concentrate on was the sensation of being pressed up against Severus and being kissed most thoroughly. Dear Merlin how was he ever going to get it out of his mind? It was one thing to be preoccupied with the matter when he was uncomfortable and confused by it, but it was another thing entirely to be preoccupied by it because he'd enjoyed it. He was so wound up by the whole thing he couldn't see how he would ever sleep again.

He continued to stare out of the window at the blank darkness that lay outside, replaying the event over and over as he looked unblinkingly ahead at the empty night, when he felt a blanket settle around his shoulders, and a voice close to his ear said softly, "You'll catch your death standing out here with only your pyjamas. Have you no sense?"

Harry shook his head, his heart beating slightly at the surprise Severus had given him, and replied, "Clearly not. I thought you were asleep."

"Clearly not," Severus echoed, his hands still resting on Harry's shoulders. "Why aren't you asleep?"

Harry bit his lip and continued to look out of the window, Severus' close proximity hardly helping him to answer coherently. "I don't know," he said quietly. "Maybe I was just over-tired by the time we got back. I just couldn't settle. To be honest I'll be glad to get back to our own bed, I never sleep as well anywhere else as I do there."

Severus emitted a soft laugh and said, "A recent development, you used to be unable to sleep there."

"Things change," Harry replied quietly, leaning back slightly into Severus' hold. "Severus..."

"Yes?" Severus prompted when Harry failed to continue his sentence. It was an unusual occurrence for Harry to address him by his first name, apart from when they were in public, and it was always strange for Severus to hear his name on the boy's lips.

"I...never mind, it's not important," Harry said, shaking his head, deciding that there was no way in hell that he could possibly try and discuss the situation with Severus.

"Harry if there's something on your mind – "

"No, no it's nothing, really. I um...I suppose we'd better try and get some sleep. Thanks for the blanket," he said, finally turning around, Severus removing his hands from his shoulders. He met the man's eyes for a moment and offered a half-hearted smile. "Goodnight Severus."

Severus watched the boy as he moved over to the bed and made a show of settling down for the night. He shook his head, wishing the boy would talk to him and give him a clue as to what was going on in the mind of his. "Goodnight Harry."

Chapter Text

"I need to take a break Lars, I'm about ready to keel over," said Harry breathlessly, bending over and clutching his knees in an attempt to steady himself. They'd been training for well over an hour and Harry was utterly exhausted, though he was very pleased with his progress and eager to continue, as long as he was allowed a moment's respite.

"Very well, sit down for ten minutes and catch your breath," said Lars, pushing his messy hair out of his eyes and taking a seat next to Harry, who was stretching his legs out as he sat reclining in his chair. "You're doing very well Harry, I can hardly believe the progress you've made in such a short space of time."

"Yeah well, don't count your chickens," Harry said with a sigh. "My track record isn't exactly glowing when it comes to learning new skills. You could well be cursing my name by next week." He ran his hands through his hair and swayed himself forward, leaning his elbows on his knees, supporting his chin in his hands. "Merlin I ache from head to foot. Everything hurts," he groaned.

"Skill is pain," Lars replied in amusement.

"I thought that was beauty."

"Sorry, wouldn't know anything about that," said Lars with a snort.

"Ha! Not according to most of the female population here," said Harry, raising his head to glance sideways at his tutor. "It must be nice to be so popular."

"Don't be so ridiculous. Anyway, if anyone knows about popularity it's you," said Lars, moving over to the drinks stand and pouring himself and Harry some water.

"Only because of my name, not because of my dazzling good looks and mysterious personality," said Harry, accepting the drink with thanks.

"'Dazzling good looks and mysterious personality'? Where on earth do you get this nonsense from?" he asked with a contemptuous snort.

"It's not nonsense, it's the talk of the school. You have no idea how many girls ask me, on a daily basis mind, all about you. 'What's he like?', 'What do you talk about?', 'Does he have a good sense of humour?'. It's almost as bad as the barrage I received when everyone found out I'd married Severus!"

Lars emitted a soft laugh and replied, "I can't be as interesting as Severus surely? Anyway it's only because I'm new, the novelty will soon wear off."

Harry rose to his feet and stretched his arms upwards, easing his neck from side to side. "I don't think it will," he said. "You're young, handsome and interesting, that isn't going to wear off anytime soon," he said, trying to dig out a knot that had settled itself in between his shoulder blades. "It's a difficult life eh?" he said with a grin.

"You do talk rubbish."

"So you don't have your eye on anyone then?"

"I think we should get back to training," said Lars, getting up and moving back into the middle of the room.

"Aha, so there is someone!" Harry said gleefully, following him across the room. "Come on, spill!"

"There's nothing to 'spill'. Come on, we need to get on."

"Oh no, you're not going to wriggle out of it that easily! Tell me, who is it?" Harry asked, taking far too much pleasure in badgering Lars. Over the weeks, they had become rather good friends and their training sessions often resulted in a long chat or exchange of banter, and Harry was forever teasing Lars about his popularity with the girls of Hogwarts. For Lars to show an interest in someone was too good to be true for Harry, and he wasn't about to let the matter lie. "Come on, I'm not going to tell anyone. Who is it?"

Lars sighed and turned to face Harry. "How do you fancy going to get something to drink?"

"As long as you're buying."

"Ginny? As in my Ginny? As in my best friend's sister?" asked Harry in disbelief as he and Lars sat in the Three Broomsticks, several empty bottles of beer scattered around the table, whilst a few more waited to be consumed.

Lars nodded and said, "Why is that so strange?"

"Well it's not. It's just...well it's Ginny. I suppose I've just never thought of her like that, she's practically my sister. So, how long have you...been interested in her?"

Lars fiddled with the label on his bottle and replied, "I'm not sure. I've spoken to her a few times and seen her around obviously. She's just...different to most of the other girls here. Plus she's beautiful," he finished quietly.

Harry suppressed a smile, amused at how wretched Lars seemed to be feeling about the situation. "Well what are you going to do about it?"

"Do about it? There's not much I can do is there?" he said miserably.

"Why not?" asked Harry confusedly.

" wouldn't be right would it? I'm a teacher, and I'm older."

"You're not her teacher, you're mine. There's not an ethical question, you're not overstepping any bounds. As for being older, well no one cares about that kind of thing. Look at me and Severus – he's twenty years my senior and he actually was my teacher! People don't frown on it, actually they find it rather fascinating. I think you should just go for it. Nothing ventured and all that."

Lars frowned and continued to tear at the label on his bottle, milling over Harry's advice. After a couple of sips and a little more silence, he finally said, "How did you and Severus manage it? I mean, how did you two even start?"

Harry bit his lip and considered the question for a moment. He didn't want to lie to Lars, a man he held as a friend, and he was sick of making up stories about his 'relationship', but he knew he had to. It didn't mean he had to like it though. "Well," he began carefully, "we didn't see it coming, either of us. Our history was rather...colourful, we never really saw eye to eye, we hated each other actually."

"What changed?"

"Honestly I'm not sure. We were sort of forced into spending more and more time together, we saw each other practically every evening and realised that we couldn't expect to work together when there was so much animosity between us. I suppose we just had to grow up," he said with a laugh. "The more time I spent with him, the more I began to see that there was so much about him that I didn't know and I began to want to know more. We to know each other. It's inevitable really, two people spending that much time together – something has to happen."

He paused for a moment, thinking about the man he was talking about. "Severus is...he's different from how everyone else perceives him. He's...not like anyone else I know. When everyone found out about us, I didn't care what they thought, I wasn't bothered by their comments or sly looks, I had Severus, and that was all that mattered, still is," he finished with a smile, surprised at how much of his 'lie' had actually been the truth, pleased that he didn't have to deceive his friend too much.

"Wasn't it difficult though?"

"Most worthwhile things are. People don't agree with our marriage, they think I'm crazy for being with him, they don't understand it. But I don't care, why should I? The only person's opinion that matters to me is Severus'."

"You know, when I first met you two I couldn't for the life of me understand why you were together, it just didn't make any sense to me. But the more I got to know you and see how you worked together, the more I understood it. Now I know you both, I can't imagine either of you with anyone else."

Harry smiled in response, though his smile was merely covering a frown. Lars' comment had unnerved him and given him yet more to think about.

"Right Potter-Snape, drink up."

It was well past midnight when Harry finally stumbled back to his quarters. He and Lars had taken up a frankly stupid marathon session and Harry, not being at all used to drink, was well and truly wankered. It had taken him seemingly forever to open the door and he finally tripped into the living room, knocking into the coffee table and dramatically telling it to "Sshhhh!". He emitted a stupid giggle and proceeded to trip over the sofa and the armchair, landing in an ungainly heap on the floor. "Oh bugger it," he whispered, blinking to try and stop the world from spinning.

"You've decided to come home then?" came Severus' voice, sounding decidedly unimpressed. Harry glanced upwards, still collapsed on the floor, and found himself looking at an upside-down version of his husband, who was standing with his arms folded, looking obviously unhappy.

"Um...I...well yes," Harry mumbled, scrambling to his feet and looking at Severus the right way up. "Lars and I went for a drink and we...sort of...lost track of time," he said, trying very hard to make sure he wasn't slurring his words. He was vaguely aware that he was swaying, but with any luck Severus hadn't noticed. "I'm sorry if you were worried," he said, wishing his eyes would focus themselves.

"Worried? Why on earth would I be worried? You go out for a training session at six in the evening and don't return until one in the morning. Nothing at all to worry about. You're just lucky that Minerva spotted you on her way back to the castle. I hope, for your sake, that you were discreet," said Severus, turning on his heel and going back into the bedroom.

Harry frowned and followed him, walking into the door frame on his way, and said, "What do you mean by that?"

Severus removed his outer robe and flung it over the chair, turning back to face Harry, saying, "I just hope that whatever you were doing, you didn't draw attention to yourself. Adultery is frowned upon by most in the wizarding world, not to mention that it would compromise your safety," he said curtly.

"Adultery?!" Harry repeated in disbelief, the idea so absurd that he almost laughed in Severus' face. He steadied himself and tried to focus his vision a little better, though to little effect. "You must be joking!" he slurred. "I mean, you're not serious?!"

"What you do in your own time is your own affair, I simply ask that you do not bring embarrassment on me, or jeopardise yourself."

"I haven't jeopardised myself! What exactly are you insinuating?" asked Harry, rather impressed with himself that he could remember and say such words under the considerable influence of a ridiculous quantity of alcohol.

"I am merely pointing out that someone in your position would be immensely unwise to compromise themselves. What you do is none of my business."

Harry shook his head, regretting the action immediately as it sent his world spinning even more. "I don't believe this. You're talking complete crap," he said, aware that he wasn't perhaps putting forward the most articulate case, but determined to make his point nevertheless. "Once again you think the worst of me, even after..." he trailed off, managing to stop himself just in time, even though the more intoxicated part of his brain was telling him to just go for it and say what he was thinking. "You know what? Fine, think what you want, you will anyway," he said, going to move out of the room and walking into the doorframe once again. "Buggering thing!" he cursed.

"Sit down before you fall down you idiot!" said Severus in annoyance, placing his hands on Harry's shoulders and pulling him back into the room. Harry swayed slightly but refused to be led to a chair, determined that he would stay at the same eye level as Severus. "I suppose it would be useless to point out that you are underage to drink and that therefore your present condition is illegal."

"Good, I'll add it to my crime of adultery then," Harry replied sulkily. "Now if you don't mind, I'm going to sleep," he said, shrugging out of Severus' hold, moving over to the bed, and of course, walking into it. "Have you moved the furniture?" he asked exasperatedly, throwing an accusing glance at Severus.

"No, you're just incompetent," Severus replied, watching as Harry struggled to untie his shoelaces. "You'd better sober up before you fall asleep, or you'll wake up with a stinking hangover in the morning. You're lucky it's the weekend."

Harry rolled his eyes and replied, "Well I wouldn't have gone if I knew I had to be up in the morning. I'm not as completely thick as you seem to think I am," he said, pulling his laces in the wrong direction, creating a completely unbreakable knot. "And if I have a hangover tomorrow then that's my business, just like it's my business if I pop out for a drink with a friend, or if I decide to stand on my head all sodding day. Oh these buggering shoes!" he fumed, finally giving up on the laces and yanking his shoes off, chucking them across the room. "You know," he said, turning his attention back to Severus, "you never give me any credit, you always think badly of me."

"And I suppose I should be praising you for your present condition?"

"No," said Harry, rising to his feet and swaying slightly. He waited until he was a little steadier, then he walked slowly over to Severus. "I know I'm an idiot, and a drunk idiot at that, but I've never done anything to put myself or you at risk, and I never would. I would've thought you'd have realised that by now, especially after New Year," he finished quietly, the rational part of his brain vehemently telling him to shut up and just drop it. He shook his head and went to turn away, but Severus caught his arm and carefully turned him back round.

"What do you mean?" he asked gently.

"I, never mind. Just...whenever you start to think badly of me, could you perhaps remember New Year?" At Severus' somewhat bemused look, Harry decided that he should push the matter no further, especially as he was in no fit state to effectively argue any point. "I'm going to get some sleep. If you still want to tell me off you can do it in the morning," he said, moving back over to the bed and climbing in, not caring to remove his clothes beforehand. It wasn't long before he had fallen into a somewhat woozy, hazy sleep, but Severus was awake for much longer.

When Harry woke up the next morning, he seriously wished he hadn't. His mouth felt like a dead cat had crawled inside it, his head was pounding and every movement made him feel violently ill. He was never drinking again. Ever. Why on earth he had let Lars talk him into those last few bottles, he would never know, but he was sincerely regretting it. He sat doubled over in bed for a few moments, trying to settle the queasiness in his stomach, but hardly succeeding. He could hear Severus pottering around in the living room and he wished man would do whatever he was doing more quietly; every noise was shattering through his head.

He could vaguely remember having some sort of argument or discussion with the man upon his return from the pub, but his mind was so hazy that he really wasn't sure what it had been about, though he did know the man hadn't been happy with him, but then, when was he ever? He groaned and fell back on his pillows, instantly regretting the action when it sent his world spinning again. He really thought he might die. In fact at that point, death would actually be rather welcome, at least he'd stop feeling so wretched.

"Get up, get up, get up," he muttered to himself, deciding that he simply couldn't stay in bed all day, no matter how awful he was feeling. He slowly pushed the bedcovers aside and slid out of bed, fighting the urge to rush into the bathroom and vomit. If he didn't throw up then he wasn't hungover. He shuffled into the living room and stood blinking for a moment as his eyes adjusted to the change of light.

"You're awake then?" Severus said, glancing up from his newspaper, raising an eyebrow when he saw that the boy looked as though he'd been hit by a train.

"No, I'm still asleep," he groused, collapsing into his armchair and curling his feet underneath him. "Please tell me there's something you can give me to make me feel better?" he asked hopefully.

Severus smirked and replied, "Of course – a piece of advice: learn to know when you've had enough."

"Oh very amusing," Harry grumbled, pulling the blanket off the back of the chair and wrapping himself up in it. "So you won't help me then?"

"You put yourself in this situation, it's up to you to deal with it."

"Such care and sympathy," Harry replied, placing his head in his hands to block out the light and to try and ease the pounding in his head. "Do I not even get a cup of tea?"

"You have a pair of hands, you're more than capable of making one yourself," Severus replied, smirking at Harry's wretched condition.

"I'll remember this when you're ill," said Harry, struggling to his feet and shuffling into the kitchen.

"Your 'illness' is purely self-inflicted. When you are truly at death's door, then I shall have some sympathy."

Harry stuck his tongue out at the back of the man's head and set about trying to make tea, as quietly as he possibly could, the slightest noise went straight through him. His movements were slow, anything too quick sent him feeling as though he were out on the open ocean. It seemed to take an eternity for the kettle to boil, and when it finally did, his hand shook as he poured it. He was prodding at the teabag with his spoon when a vial was placed on the worktop next to him. He looked across and saw Severus standing there, one eyebrow raised and a suppressed amused glint in his eye.

"Take it and stop moaning," he told Harry. "I can't bear to have you shuffling around this place all day feeling sorry for yourself."

"And there I was thinking you cared," Harry muttered.

"Just take the draught and stop complaining," Severus replied, shoving the vial in Harry's direction. He uncorked it and downed it in one then stood waiting for it to take effect. It took a couple of minutes, but suddenly he realised the haze around his head seemed to have lifted and his stomach had settled itself. He felt infinitely better and could barely remember feeling like death only minutes before. Suddenly Severus was God to him.

"You should market this stuff, you'd make a fortune," Harry told him.

"And encourage underage drinking? I think not."

"Am I going to be lectured all day? Don't tell me your 17-year-old self never broke the rules once in a while?"

Severus merely raised an eyebrow and moved back to the living room, returning his attention to his books. Harry shook his head and turned his attention to fixing some food for himself, relieved that his head was finally clearing. Snatches of the previous night were coming back to him; he could remember Severus being angry with him and accusing him of Merlin knew what with Lars.

He hadn't understood Severus' attitude and why he had automatically jumped to the conclusion that because he and Lars were spending time together, they would of course jump into bed. The man's behaviour was completely unreasonable. He glanced at his watch and suddenly remembered that he had a training session in 10 minutes. He cursed quietly and put away the food he had just got out. He hoped the man was feeling as bad as he had done a few minutes ago, it was all his fault after all.

"I'm just popping out for a bit," he told Severus as he moved back into the living room. "I have another session with Lars," he said, and he thought he saw a glint of something in the man's eye, but it was gone before he could be sure.

"I trust this session will be devoid of alcohol?" Severus replied, returning his eyes to his book. Harry rolled his eyes and said,

"No, I plan to be wasted by midday. Don't worry, I won't be gone that long so when I get back you can carry on berating me," he said, heading for the door, only stopping to say over his shoulder, "or accusing me of adultery."

Chapter Text

Severus had planned to spend the day catching up on his Potions journals and organising his own research, but as he sat in the living room with his papers, trying to organise his work, his mind continued to wander to Harry and the conversation they had had the previous night. He had been certainly less than impressed at the state in which Harry had returned, and his blasé attitude to Severus' concern. He had spent hours wondering where they boy had been and when he found out where he was, he then spent hours wondering what he was doing. He had tried not to, he really, really had, after all, what Harry did in his own time was his own affair. He knew Harry and Lars were friendly; after all the boy's protestations about not wanting another tutor, he had taken to Lars very well.

And of course, Lars was somewhat handsome, by some people's standards...or by the entire population of Hogwarts' standards. And the two seemed to be spending a lot of time together; their training sessions invariably ran over and they were always socialising out of hours. But why should he care? Harry could spend time with whoever the hell he wanted to, even if that was Lars. Harry had sworn that nothing was going on, he'd actually seemed rather offended at the accusation, but then Harry seemed capable of taking offence to almost anything. It still didn't mean that there was nothing going on.

And then Harry's admonishment came back to him – when you think badly of me, remember New Year. What had that meant? Harry was so hard to fathom sometimes, his comments always had some meaning that Severus couldn't grasp. New Year obviously held some kind of significance for him, or else why would he have mentioned it? Why did the boy always have to give him so much to think about?

He gathered together his papers, intending to put his energies to more practical use in his Potions lab rather than attempting to solve the mystery that was his husband's mind, when he heard the door open and Harry returned, walking in and slumping down in the armchair. "You're back early," Severus said, stopping in his tracks on his way to the lab.

"Lars was feeling a bit worse for wear so we called it a day. I'm just going to focus on some theory," he said, his manner decidedly cool as he started sorting out his reading materials. "Anyway, isn't it a good thing that I'm back early? Don't want you getting the wrong idea after all," he said, flicking through the pages of his book.

Severus sighed and braced himself for yet another fraught, unfathomable conversation with Harry. Yes perhaps he had been foolish and rash when he had accused Harry of inappropriate behaviour with Lars, but he hadn't expected the boy to care so much or to react in the way he had. But then that was Harry all over; completely unpredictable and almost impossible to understand. "I know there's nothing going on between you and Lars," he said slowly.

Harry peered over the top of his book and raised an eyebrow. "You've changed your tune since last night," he said coldly. "Why am I suddenly trustworthy again?"

"You were never untrustworthy, I just...jumped to conclusions."

"Yes you did," Harry replied, clearly unwilling to yield. He was more than a little offended by Severus' accusation and he wasn't going to be appeased by the man's pathetic attempt at an apology. "If I'm not supposed to go for drinks with my friends then perhaps you should have told me. Am I supposed to stop spending time with Ron and Draco too?"

"Don't be so ridiculous."

"Sorry I can't help it, I'm just picking up on the examples I'm being set."

"You're just being childish."

"I refer you to my previous comment," Harry replied, returning his attention to his book.

"Well this is productive," Severus muttered, glaring at the book Harry was practically hiding behind. "You come back in the small hours of the morning, much the worse for wear, and having spent the entire night with another man, and I'm supposed to say nothing?"

"No," said Harry, chucking down his book, "you're supposed to trust me, you're supposed to know me well enough to know what I would and wouldn't do, you're supposed to think better of me," he finished quietly. "But you never will, you'll always think the worst of me, nothing I ever do will be good enough. To you I'll always be Harry Potter, spoilt, fame-hungry, pampered poster boy who thinks only of himself and screws everything up."

"Now you're talking nonsense," said Severus, rising from his seat, heading for his lab, determined to remove himself from the conversation.

"Well that's all I ever talk isn't it?" rebuffed Harry, determined not to let the matter lie, getting up and following Severus across the room. "You'll never change your opinion of me will you?"

"You can't really think that can you?" Severus asked, turning back round to face him. "Do you honestly think that after all this time I would still feel the same way about you?"

"I don't know how you feel about me! I haven't got a clue what goes on in your head!"

"For Merlin's sake Harry, even someone as emotionally stunted as you must know that things between us are hardly the same as they once were," Severus said in frustration, unable to believe that Harry could really think nothing had changed between them.

"Well you clearly don't think very much of me if you believe that I'd sleep with Lars when I'm married to you! Do you really think that little of me?"

"Why would I think that you wouldn't take the opportunity? What is there to stop you?"

Harry stared at the man incredulously, hardly believing what he was hearing. "My integrity perhaps? My loyalty to you? Or did that not even enter your head? Probably not because someone like me wouldn't have the capacity for loyalty or integrity right?"

"When have I ever said that?"

"Oh come off it Severus, you've never had a good opinion of me and you never will."

"Based on this conversation I think you may be right," Severus bit back. "I can't believe how childish you're being!"

"I'm being childish?! This from the man who automatically assumes that because I spend more than an hour in someone's company I must be screwing them!"

"I can't talk to you when you're like this," said Severus, his attention briefly straying when he noticed a letter materialise on the coffee table. He picked it up, absent-mindedly opening it and scanning its contents, continuing to say, "It's impossible to get anything through that thick skull of yours when you're in one of these moods and I..." he came to an abrupt halt as he came upon the news the letter was delivering.

"And you what?" Harry pushed, but instantly stopped himself when he saw the look on Severus' face. What little colour the man possessed had drained away from him and he looked as though he might be sick. "Severus?" Harry ventured tentatively. "What's wrong?" The man said nothing, but merely stood staring down at the letter, as if willing the words on the page to change or disappear. After a few minutes of painful, resonating silence, Severus crushed the letter in his hand and let if fall to the floor. Without looking at Harry, he said quietly, "I have work to do," and he moved silently off to his lab, letting the door fall shut behind him.

"Severus?" Harry called after him, but to no avail. He frowned and looked down at the crumpled letter on the floor, debating with his conscience whether or not he should read it. It was only to find out what was wrong he reasoned, he only wanted to know what had affected Severus so badly. "Oh sod it," he muttered, picking up the letter and smoothing it out, scanning it to find his answers.


It must come as something of a surprise to receive a piece of correspondence from me, and if it were up to me I would not have picked up a quill to you ever again, but it seems I am the only person to relay this information to you. Last week your brother was involved in a Ministry Raid and lost his life. He died for a worthy cause Severus, one for which this family has strived for years, and one which you saw fit to turn your back on. You are a disgrace and a failure, and I wish with all my heart that yours and your brother's positions were reversed. You deserve to be the one to be put into the ground and if I have my way, you soon will be. Traitors must be dealt with Severus, and the scum with which they choose to affiliate themselves. My only son died last week. From this moment on I have no surviving heirs. May the devil take you,

Ignatius Snape

Harry was taken aback by the vitriol and aggression in the letter. He knew little of Severus' relationship with his father, only that the two didn't speak. Now he knew why. And now Severus had been disinherited.

Harry had had no idea that Severus had a brother; the man had never mentioned him and Harry didn't know how Severus felt about him. He had reacted badly to the letter, but Harry didn't know if his reaction had been to the news of his brother's death of to his father's hostility. He felt terrible for Severus, he could only imagine what he was going through and he felt a very strong urge to make sure the man was ok. Their earlier argument was suddenly forgotten, Harry found it didn't matter to him anymore, he just wanted to know how Severus was.

He was reluctant to follow the man into his lab. He knew how Severus felt about his privacy at the best of times, and he was hardly going to welcome intrusion now, but Harry didn't want to leave the man on his own. He poured a glass of whisky, hoping it would serve as something of a peace offering, and moved to the door of the lab. He knew that if he knocked, Severus would only tell him to go away, so he gingerly opened the door and hovered in the doorway for a moment.

Severus was sitting at his workbench, his head in his hands, motionless. Harry wordlessly placed the glass in front of him and Severus accepted it, looking up at Harry and saying, "You read the letter." It wasn't a question but Harry nodded anyway. He took a seat on the stool next to Severus; he had an overwhelming urge to reach out to the man in some way, to touch his hand or lean on his shoulder, to make some show of solidarity or comfort, but he knew Severus wouldn't stand for it and he had no desire to humiliate himself.

Severus sipped at the whisky and continued to stare blankly ahead. Harry sat beside him, trying to think of what to say, or even if he should speak. Severus was so quiet, his face a complete blank as he sat next to Harry, his shoulders hunched, an aura of defeat about him.

"He was five years older than me," he said quietly after what seemed like an eternity of silence. "Marcus, first born and always the favourite, even with me." This shocked Harry; he was expecting a flood of vitriol and bad feeling about the brother who had had first place in his father's affections, but it didn't seem to be forthcoming. "He always took care of me, protected me from father or the bullies at school. He always seemed to have time for me when no one else did. I idolised him," he said quietly, staring into his glass, his fingers gripping it tightly. "And then he joined the Death Eaters. I was too young at that time of course, but I knew about them, I knew what they stood for. I didn't really feel strongly about it one way or another, but I was a Slytherin, I was surrounded by it constantly, and Marcus was always full of it."

"You joined the Death Eaters because of him?" Harry asked gently. Severus nodded and downed the remainder of his drink.

"I thought I could somehow measure up to him. If he thought it was the right thing to do then surely it must have been. I think it was the only time my father had a glimmer of pride in me, and of course I got to spend time with Marcus, to do all the things I thought I was supposed to. Even then he was still looking after me, making sure I didn't get in over my head. And now? Now he's lying cold in a box somewhere."

"When did you last speak to him?"

"Eighteen years ago when I switched sides. By that time…relations between myself and my father had deteriorated past the point of no return and I had begun to think that perhaps Marcus' allegiances were wavering. My father was horrified by the thought that I could turn him, that I could prize him away from the Death Eaters' grasp.

"I couldn't though, Marcus wanted to please Father so badly, whatever the cost. Ostensibly I stayed loyal to Voldemort as I worked for Dumbledore, but things weren't the same and they knew it, we just…ceased contact. I always hoped that Marcus and I would somehow find a way back to the way we had once been, and now..." he placed he glass on the table and moved over to the cabinet, ostensibly scanning the items on the shelves, but the same troubled look in his eyes. "I'm going to go the funeral," he said determinedly.

Harry looked across at him and frowned. "Are you sure that's a good idea? Your father's letter sounded rather...hostile."

"I don't care," Severus said, his voice taking on a sharp edge. "That old bastard has no control over me any longer, he has no say in where I go or what I do and I'm going to my brother's funeral."

Harry sighed and stood from the workbench and moved to stand behind Severus, eyeing the man uncertainly. "Then I'm coming with you," he said quietly, his decision made from the start.

"No, you can't Harry."

"I'm not asking for your permission Severus. I'm not going to let you go on your own."

"I don't need a babysitter."

"What about a friend? I'm not going to let you go through this alone," Harry said firmly.

"I can manage," Severus brushed him off, going to move past him, but Harry blocked him, placing a hand on his shoulder, looking him straight in the eye and saying,

"You want to be stubborn? Fine, go right ahead because I promise I can match you. If you go to that funeral then I'm coming with you and I'm not arguing about it. You're not alright so don't even try and pretend that you are...I just want to help," he finished quietly, his hand still resting lightly on the man's shoulder.

Severus frowned and for a minute Harry was worried he'd have another argument on his hands, but then the fight just seemed to leave him. He looked at Harry for a moment and then slowly brought his hand up to Harry's cheek, moving his thumb gently across Harry's cheekbone. The action took Harry by surprise and for a moment he was caught, just looking up at Severus, trying to fathom what was in the man's expression. It was so unlike Severus to make such a gesture, although Harry couldn't exactly say he was uncomfortable with it.

"You are helping," Severus said quietly, removing his hand. "I'm going to go and speak with Albus, I'll be back later," he said, pausing for a minute to look at Harry, then sweeping out, leaving Harry wishing that more had been said.

The day of the funeral was grey and miserable. A mist had settled the previous night and was still covering the land, making everything feel somehow quiet and other-worldly. Severus dressed in silence, looking more sombre than ever in his black robes. Harry had borrowed a pair of neatly cut black dress robes from Draco, which fitted him fairly well and certainly looked better than any of the tat he possessed. He had Albus' permission to miss classes for the day, and the man had also had a private word with him about keeping an eye on Severus; obviously Albus knew one or two things about the Snape family as well.

They made ready in silence and then walked together to the apparation point where Severus wrapped his arms around Harry and apparated them to Snape Manor. Harry untangled himself from Severus and took a moment to take in his surroundings. The house itself was around the same size as Malfoy Manor, but completely different in style. It was imposing in all its Gothic construct, the dark stone and cut angles intimidating and hostile, the gates tall and uninviting. The grounds seemed to go on forever, and they seemed to be the only redeeming feature of the entire place; they would have looked spectacular on a beautiful day. He looked up at Severus; the man was looking at the property with his jaw set firmly and a frown on his face.

"We don't have to do this, we can just go home if you want," Harry said quietly.

Severus shook his head. "No, I have to do this. I'll never forgive myself if I don't. You don't have to stay though."

"If you stay, I stay," Harry said simply. Severus looked down at him and gave a half smile, then placed his hand on the small of Harry's back and said,

"Let's go then," and he gently guided him up the hill to the Manor. "Just stay with me at all times and keep your head down. I apologise in advance for any offence that might be caused".

"Don't worry about me," Harry said with a smirk, "I can look after myself against a pack of snobby, tight-arsed Purebloods." It was a poor attempt at humour, but it put a smirk on Severus' face nevertheless.

They didn't bother knocking, Severus just pushed open the door and ushered himself and Harry into the hallway. It was empty, but there were distant sounds of clinking glasses and conversation coming from somewhere in the house, a place Harry was fairly certain neither he nor Severus wanted to venture. The hallway was dark and gloomy, although impressive in its ornate nature, but Harry couldn't help but feel like he was trapped in some sort of Dickensian nightmare. He wished he could turn around and go back home, but his loyalty to Severus kept him rooted to the man's side.

Severus placed an arm round Harry's shoulders and led him down the hallway, stopping in front of a door, seemingly where the sounds were emanating from. He felt Severus inhale deeply and Harry could feel the tension coming off him in waves. He wished he could think of something clever or supportive to say, but all he could do was to lean a little closer into him and hope that simply his presence would be comfort enough.

"Fuck it," Severus muttered, and pushed the door open. The room was full, though thankfully not many people seemed to notice their entrance, and those that did didn't seem to pay much attention. The room was a sea of black, groups of people having hushed conversations or simply standing around, observing others. Severus and Harry slipped in quietly, Harry never feeling like more of a target in his life; if people didn't stir themselves up over Severus' presence, they surely would about The Boy Who Lived being in attendance.

"Do you know anyone here?" he whispered, still pressed into Severus' side.

"I recognise a few people unfortunately. I can't see my father, though that can only be counted as a good thing. I'm surprised we haven't caused more of a stir."

"Just give it time," Harry murmured in response. "I still don't think it's a good idea for us to be here Severus, not after everything your father said. It'll only cause trouble."

"Neither of us are hardly strangers to trouble are we? And I can deal with my father."

"I hope so."

"Severus?" came a voice behind them. They turned and found a man standing in front of them, smartly robed and roughly in his late sixties. "I thought it was when you walked in, but I didn't think...Does your father know you're here?" he asked tentatively.

"Not yet, but I'm sure it won't be long."

"I see. It's good to see you again my boy," the man said, extending his hand to Severus, which Severus accepted saying,

"And you Charles. May I introduce my husband, Harry?"

Charles turned his attention to Harry, and there was a split second of surprised recognition in his eyes before he offered a warm smile and shook Harry's hand.

"Harry this is Charles Fortesque, our family lawyer and friend. I know, he looks too honest to be a lawyer, but don't let that fool you, he's as crooked as they come," Severus said dryly but Harry picked up the note of affection in the man's voice.

"Don't let him blacken my name Harry, I've helped him out of a scrape or two in his time. I wasn't aware you'd joined the ranks of the married though Severus."

Severus glanced down at Harry and smirked slightly, saying, "It was quite a private affair. And you Charles? What are you doing with yourself these days?"

"The usual. I'm afraid my life is exceedingly dull. I am sorry about Marcus, Severus, I know things between you were...difficult in the last few years, but there was a time when you were close." Severus nodded and Harry imagined that he tightened his hold around his shoulders. "I suppose you know about the amendments your father's made to his will?"

"Yes," Severus replied, "I can't exactly say I'm surprised."

"It's a bad business indeed my boy, but I have some news for you. Come and find me later," he said, clasping Severus on the shoulder and giving a polite nod to Harry, before moving off to speak to another group of people.

"I wonder what that's all about," said Harry, watching him leave.

"I don't have the energy to care at this point," Severus replied. "I just want to be able to get through this day."

"He seemed nice, how long have you known him? Severus?" Harry looked up at the man saw that his attention was focused on a point somewhere across the room. He followed the man's gaze and saw it was settled on a man who had just entered. Without a doubt it was Severus' father. The man was almost a carbon copy of his son, though older looking and with pure white hair. There were, however, notable differences, namely the air of arrogance about the man, and the cruel slant to his mouth. Harry took an instant dislike to him. There was a coldness about him, and he seemed to wear a permanent look of displeasure, his very presence made Harry uncomfortable.

He looked back to Severus and was surprised to see how troubled he looked. He was always so collected and unruffled, it was something of a shock to see him lose some of that composure. "Severus?" he ventured quietly. The man continued to stare ahead, apparently not hearing him. Harry sighed and stepped to stand in front of the man. He reached up and placed a hand behind Severus' head and gently brought him down until they made eye contact. "I think we should go and get some air," he said quietly, looking up at the man, his fingers resting on the nape of his neck.

"I'm fine," Severus said stubbornly, moving his gaze back to his father.

"No, you're not," Harry insisted, cupping Severus' chin and moving his focus back to him. "Let's just go and get some air and we can come back in a few minutes. This isn't good for you. Please?"

Severus frowned and looked down at Harry for a moment of two, the same troubled look in his eye, before finally giving in and nodding, allowing himself to be led out of the room by Harry.

They walked in silence out to the grounds and Severus led them to a little summerhouse surrounded by hedges and wild flowers. He took a seat on one of the stone benches outside the summerhouse whilst Harry stood admiring the views, thankful to be out of the house and away from the oppressive atmosphere.

"He's changed in eighteen years," Severus said quietly, gazing out onto the landscape.

Harry turned to face him, wrapping his arms around himself to try and fend off the biting winds. "You mean he didn't always look like an older, meaner version of Dracula?" he asked, relieved when he saw a slight smile grace Severus' lips.

"No, he did," he replied, "but I don't think he always looked so...cruel, so cold. It's just something of a shock seeing him after all these years, especially under these circumstances. It's just...not what I was expecting."

"And what were you expecting?" Harry asked gently.

Severus sighed and said, "I don't know. Maybe this was a mistake. I shouldn't have come here after all these years."

"You've as much right to be here as anyone else. You can't let that old fossil chase you away," he said, taking a seat next to Severus on the bench. "You said yourself that you'd never forgive yourself if you hadn't have come. We just have to get through this day...with as little contact as possible with your father."

"It's just...harder than I thought it would be."

"Well it was never going to be easy. Do you think he knows we're here?"

"Probably by now, someone will have informed him."

"Does he know we're married?" Harry asked, looking across at Severus.

"I didn't tell him, but he has his sources, he must know."

"I bet that sent him into conniptions. He must have been thrilled at the thought of his well-bred Pureblood son marrying some raggedy Half Blood, not to mention the poster boy for everything he hates. Merlin he must despise me."

"I wouldn't let that bother you. And I'd rather be married to your raggedy Half Blood self than still be considered his son," Severus said sincerely, turning to face Harry.

Harry emitted a soft laugh and replied, "I'm not sure that's saying much; you'd rather by strung up by your ankles for all eternity than be part of this family."

"You're comparing being married to you to torture?" Severus asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Are you?"

Severus paused for a moment, a smirk clearly noticeable on his lips. He gave a half shrug and said, "It's not so bad." Harry snorted and knocked the man with his shoulder, enjoying the easiness between them, comfortable in the feeling of familiarity.

"You're not so bad yourself," he said with a smile, "...on your better days." They sat in a companionable silence for a little while, side by side, each lost in their own thoughts, admiring the landscape. After a few moments, people became visible making their way out of the house. "The funeral procession's started," Severus noted. "I suppose we'd better go," he said, rising to his feet, Harry standing behind him.

"Let's go and face the pack then," he said, walking off in front of Severus. "And don't worry, if they give us any trouble, I'll clock 'em one."

Severus caught his arm and halted his steps, pulling him round so they were once more face to face. He looked down at him for a moment before saying, "I'm glad you're with me today."

Harry smiled, pleased that he could be of some help to Severus at such a difficult time. "So am I," he replied, "though if I get murdered by all these snobby, hostile Purebloods, I'll come back as your personal poltergeist."

Marcus was buried in the family plot nestled within the grounds of the Manor. It was an area shrouded by trees, which helped Harry and Severus to keep as inconspicuous as possible as they joined the other mourners by the graveside. An elderly man who reminded Harry a little of Dumbledore presided over the burial and said a few simple but elegant words and was, in Harry's opinion, quite sensitive to the occasion, maintaining the dignity of the situation.

After the rites were read, the mourners began to quietly disperse, and Severus and Harry found themselves standing at the graveside opposite Ignatius. The man clearly had no idea that his second son had been in attendance, and his features hardened in loathing and disgust. Severus returned his stare, though his usual superiority was entirely absent. He looked unsure and shaken, though he maintained his stance.

"How can you have to audacity to show your face here? How can you come to this place as if you were welcome?" he snarled.

"I have every right to be here," Severus replied calmly, though Harry noted a slight shake in his voice.

"This is a family affair, strangers are not welcome."

"I could hardly stay away from my own brother's funeral."

"Marcus was nothing to do with you. You made that perfectly clear when you chose your path. The ground's not even settled on his grave and you come with your poison."

"If anyone's poisonous it's you," Severus spat. "Marcus would still be alive if it weren't for you. You were always pushing him to do what you wanted, he only joined the Death Eaters because it was what you wanted! If you hadn't have fed him all your poison over all these years he would still be here now," Severus said through gritted teeth, trying to maintain his composure.

"It should be you in the ground, not him. And if I have my way – "

"What? What exactly will you do? You seem to be under the impression that I'm still frightened of you."

"Oh you should be Severus," he hissed.

Severus went to retaliate but he felt Harry's hand on his arm and he stopped himself. He looked down at him and Harry offered him a gentle smile. He moved his hand to the man's shoulder and said quietly. "This is beneath you Severus, it'll only hurt you. Let me take you home?"

He looked down at him for a moment, his emotions conflicting. He placed a hand on Harry's cheek then gently pressed a kiss to his forehead. If Harry was surprised by the gesture, he didn't show it, merely gave a small smile and a discreet nod.

They looked back to Ignatius, who was regarding them with nothing short of contempt in his eyes. "A touching little scene," he sneered. "I see you've dragged the family name even lower by attaching it to this piece of filth."

Harry felt the whole of Severus' body tense and he feared a furtherance of the confrontation, but then he felt Severus slowly exhale and wrap an arm around his shoulders. "Harry's worth more to me than any name ever could be, but I wouldn't expect someone like you to understand that. Come on Harry," he said, gently pulling Harry away from the graveside.

"I wouldn't be so quick to turn your back Severus, you don't know who's waiting to stab you in it!" Ignatius called after them, but Severus merely continued walking, his hold tightening around Harry.

They continued until they were on the edge of the estate, Severus only releasing his hold on Harry to push open the heavy iron gates. They had stepped but a foot off the Snape estate when they heard a voice calling Severus' name and they turned to see Charles Fortesque rushing towards them.

"Oh Severus, I'm glad I caught you," he said breathlessly as he neared them. "I was afraid you'd left already."

"We've stayed far too long, we're going home," Severus replied.

"Not before I give you this," said Charles, handing over a letter to Severus. "Maybe...maybe after you read this, you'll see that your brother didn't share all your father's feelings. Take care of yourself Severus," he said, holding out his hand, which Severus grasped, frowning. "I think that letter will prove interesting reading."

Chapter Text

They returned to Hogwarts in silence, Harry beyond grateful to be back in his own home, away from the tension and anger. Severus was quiet, although his earlier anger seemed gone, replaced now with an apparent resigned sadness. He was still clutching the letter, and Harry wondered what it could possibly contain. As he removed his cloak, Severus poured himself a drink and took a seat on the sofa.

"I um...I'll leave you to read your letter," Harry said, heading off to his study.

"No Harry stay, I want you to know what's in it," said Severus, and Harry moved to sit beside Severus on the sofa. Severus slowly broke the seal and unfolded the paper, reading aloud the words upon it.

"My Dear Severus,

The times are getting more and more dangerous and I fear that before too long my time upon this earth shall be put to an end. I feel a sudden need to put all my affairs in order, which of course includes settling things once and for all with you.

I shall always regret the way things were left between us and I have thought of you often over the years and wished that things between us might be as they once were. However, if you are reading this then clearly that will never be. I am sorry we could not be reconciled before the end.

My present circumstances are so very changed from when we last spoke. I now find myself...wishing I had had your courage all those years ago; I wish I could have been as brave as you in standing against Father. Perhaps then..." Severus trailed off.

"What? What does it say?" asked Harry gently. Severus took a deep breath and continued,

"Perhaps then I wouldn't have continued down a path I knew in my heart was not my own. I was not brave enough to break away from those I despise and now I fear I shall die for a cause not my own. I feel I must tell you this Severus, I do not wish to go to my grave with such a burden on my conscience. Perhaps in telling you, I can find some absolution, some redemption for my soul. Blood is thicker than water Severus, and the tie between us can never be broken. You will always be my brother and I should have been a better one to you.

I hope the small token I am about to give will repair some of the damage of the past. I want you to have Uncle's estate. He bequeathed it to me when he died and now I pass it to you. The deeds reside with Mr Fortesque and you will find it entirely legal and above board. Please take it Severus, as reparation for the past and as acceptance of my apology. I wish things could have been different my dear brother, but we are not always masters of our own fate, however much we might wish to be. Try to think well of me from time to time,

Marcus Snape

Severus slowly lowered the letter, though he continued to stare at the scrawled writing. Marcus' handwriting had always been appalling, and it hadn't altered in nearly twenty years. He was stunned, and he wasn't entirely sure he had really taken the letter in. Marcus had wanted to make amends, to repair his relationship with him...and he'd never had the opportunity to do so. He knew he was going to die, or else why would he have written such a letter? He felt a hand come to rest on his shoulder and he turned his head to see Harry regarding him with a look of gentle concern.

"I didn't expect this," he told the boy quietly. "I never knew that he wanted...Why didn't he do something sooner?"

"Maybe he was afraid of what your response might be," Harry said quietly. "Maybe it was just easier for him to do it this way. The important thing is that he did it, it doesn't really matter how."

Severus nodded slowly and said, "I suppose that's true. I just...I wish things could have been different. If I'd known this was how he felt, maybe I could have done something."

"It's no good torturing yourself about it. What's done is done now, you can't change that. At least you can put him to rest knowing that he felt the way he did. That must be of some comfort to you."

"It is," Severus said quietly. He carefully re-folded the letter and placed it on the coffee table, his expression still serious and troubled.

"What are you going to do?" Harry asked gently, removing his hand from the man's shoulder.

"What do you mean?"

"About the property he's left you. Do you have any idea what you're going to do with it?"

Severus almost smiled at Harry's practicality. Trust Harry to think in such a way after hearing Marcus' words. It was oddly comforting in a way, and it helped him to focus on something other than the confusion Marcus' letter had brought him. "I don't know," he said with a sigh. "I need to see if the bequeath is valid first of all before I can do anything about it. It might be that it wasn't Marcus' to give."

"Well, there's nothing you can do about it tonight I suppose. Why don't you go and get a bath and I'll make us some dinner? It's been a long day, you need to just put it out of your mind for tonight and think on it tomorrow with a fresh look."

Severus nodded and replied, "Yes, yes you're right, no good dwelling on it now." He rose from the sofa and walked do the bedroom door, then paused with his hand on the handle and turned to look at Harry, who was divesting himself of his thick outer robe. "Thank you by the way," he said softly, and at Harry's enquiring look he elaborated, "for coming with me today. I...I appreciate it."

Harry gave him a soft smile and said, "There's no need to thank me, I would never have let you go on your own."

"No," Severus replied, a barely discernable smile settling on his lips, "no I don't think you would."

Later that evening, Harry sat in his little study, originally having the intention to get on with some Transfiguration revision, but as that seemed highly unsuccessful, he eventually turned his attention to some theoretical work on Elemental Magic, and settled down in his armchair with several books recommended by Lars.

He loved curling up in his study when Severus was otherwise occupied. It gave him a little space and freedom and really made him feel as though he was truly at home. It was his little place and he always felt calm and content when he was curled up in one of the armchairs. He always kept the door open; he had no desire to shut Severus out and the man always respected his privacy, only ever entering the room to offer Harry a coffee or ask him a question. Harry adored his little sanctuary and was beyond grateful to Severus for giving it to him.

He'd managed to work his way through a fairly heavy chapter of one of the many tomes Lars had given him, and was just about to 'rest his eyes' for a few minutes when Severus appeared in the doorway and asked, "May I come in?"

Harry nodded and replied, "Of course you can." Severus did so and took a seat opposite Harry in the other armchair. The man looked tired and Harry knew he hadn't had much sleep the night before. He'd been preoccupied all day and Harry guessed that he was still focused on his brother and the previous day's events. "I was just doing some work on Elemental Magic," he said, setting his books aside. "Where have you been all day? I haven't seen you since this morning."

"I've been teaching mostly, but I've also had a meeting with Charles Fortesque, regarding my brother's will."

"Oh," said Harry, surprised, he hadn't expected Severus to act so quickly on the matter. "What did he say about it?"

"It's entirely valid and legal. It's now up to me what I decide to do about it, which is what I wanted to talk to you about."

"Me?" asked Harry in surprise. "What have I got to do with it?"

Severus smirked and shook his head, then replied, "I would like your opinion. I want to know what you think I should do."

Harry suppressed a little smile, touched that Severus wanted his input in the matter. Severus rarely asked anyone for their opinions on his life and Harry was shocked and secretly rather glad that that honour had been bestowed on him. "I think you should go and see it, see what it is exactly you've inherited before you decide what you want to do with it. Maybe it would just be better to get rid of it if it's going to be too much of a burden. Then again, perhaps it'll be worth keeping. Either way, I think you need to see it first, then you can make your decision."

Severus nodded and replied, "I think that would be for the best. It's been years since I last saw the place, Merlin knows what kind of condition it's in now. Shall we go and see it this weekend?"

"We? You mean you want me to come too?"

"I told you I wanted your opinion, I'll need you with me to get it. So, we'll go this weekend?"

Again Harry found himself suppressing a smile, and he couldn't explain it, but he felt beyond pleased at Severus' invitation. "Ok then, this weekend it is. But I warn you, any manual labour involved I expect to be paid for." Severus merely smirked and shook his head, then proceeded to pop his feet up on the table, where they remained for the rest of the evening as he sat with Harry whilst they talked about nothing in particular until well into the night.

"Lemon drop, Severus?"

"You already know the answer to that Albus," Severus replied eyeing the man over the top of his hideously patterned tea cup.

Albus chuckled and said, "I live in hope you might change your mind."

Severus shook his head and sipped at his entirely too sweet tea. During the many years he had been coming to Albus' office, the man had never learnt that not only did he dislike Albus' particular brand of tea, he couldn't bear it with milk and sugar. Then again it was entirely possible that the old coot was fully aware of this fact and simply chose to ignore it to exasperate Severus. Either way it meant Severus had to endure an hour of sipping on the revolting beverage whilst they had one of their regular 'chats', something which, usually, Severus could well do without.

"What are you plans for the weekend Severus?"

Severus thankfully placed his cup aside and replied, "Harry and I are going to see my Uncle's estate. Marcus left it to me in his will and we're going to see what sort of condition it's in."

"You're going together?" Albus asked in surprise, peering at Severus over the top of his spectacles.

"Yes. Why not?"

"Oh no reason, I'm just surprised. The two of you seem to be spending rather a lot of time together," he said, adding another spoonful of sugar to his tea.

"Well we are married Albus, it would be rather odd if we didn't spend time together," Severus replied, not entirely liking the direction the conversation was taking.

"Well for appearance's sake yes, but the two of you seem to be spending time together privately as well."

"We live together, it would be hard not to."

"You know what I mean Severus."

"I'm not entirely sure I do Albus. What exactly are you trying to say?" Severus asked. Albus always had some kind of motive behind these little chats and usually it meant bad news for Severus. It was something he could well do without.

"I simply find it...interesting that the two of you are getting along so well, especially considering your somewhat colourful history."

"Things change Albus, you could hardly expect them not to, given the situation we're in."

"Your feelings have changed towards Harry?" Albus asked.

Severus frowned, suddenly feeling as though he had been cornered into having a conversation he had no desire for and wished to have no part in. "I don't think of him in the same way I used to, certainly," Severus said carefully.

"And how do you think of him now?" Albus pressed, the look in his eyes entirely too probing for Severus' liking.

"Albus what purpose is this conversation serving? What is it exactly that you want me to say?" Severus asked, beginning to get a little frustrated with the turn of things.

"I merely wish to determine your feelings towards Harry, that's all. It's a simple question Severus."

"It's anything but, Albus. My relationship with Harry is complicated enough without having to try and put it into words."

"What makes it complicated?" Albus asked placidly.

"I...I don't...Oh for Merlin's sake!" Severus said in exasperation, rising from his seat and heading for the door. He paused, his hand resting on the handle as he turned and said, "My relationship with Harry is my own affair. I don't need to explain it to you or anyone else," before opening the door and striding out, missing the calculating look in the old man's eye as the headmaster watched him leave.

The next day Severus took Harry to see his Uncle's estate. They apparated and arrived in the outskirts of a tiny little village, quiet and unspoilt. Severus informed Harry that the estate itself was just above the village and so they walked in companionable silence until they reached the top of the hill and a pair of wrought iron gates.

"Whoa, take a look at that," Harry murmured, peering through the bars at the house that lay beyond. It was even larger than Snape Manor and twice as imposing, although the aura of menace that surrounded Snape Manor seemed to be lacking. The building seemed to be in rather a sorry state and its grandeur was greatly diminished by the condition of disrepair it looked to be in. Severus pushed open the gate and held it open for Harry and together they walked up the long gravel driveway until they reached the house itself.

"Do you think it's safe to go in?" Harry asked.

Severus nodded and replied, "It looks sound enough, if little worse for wear. It should be safe enough inside, but it wouldn't hurt to run a quick diagnostic. The Snapes always did have a reputation for protecting their property," he said with a raised eyebrow in Harry's direction.

Harry smirked slightly and stood back a little as Severus raised his wand and lifted it to the door, murmuring an incantation. Harry waited a few moments as he watched a thin beam of light that emanated from Severus' wand turn first green, then purple, then blue and finally to white. "There are a couple of minor problems, probably things that we'll find lurking in a cupboard at some point, but nothing life threatening," Severus said, turning back to face Harry. "We should be safe enough to go inside."

"I'll blame you then if a beam falls on my head," Harry said, making his way up the stone steps to the front door.

"I shouldn't think it would make much difference," Severus replied dryly, following after Harry. Harry poked his tongue out in response, then proceeded to push open the heavy wooden door rather gingerly, Severus close behind. They found themselves standing in an enormous hallway, dark and dank and covered in inches of dust.

"Merlin, when was the last time anyone was in here? It's filthy, not to mention the smell," said Harry, covering his nose and moving off into one of the rooms that branched off from the hallway. Part of the ceiling was missing and the walls were discoloured and peeling. The whole place smelt damp and Harry was desperate to get some fresh air into the place. Severus joined him and examined the room with the same air of resigned disappointment that Harry felt. "Talk about your fixer-upper," said Harry. "We'd have one hell of a job on our hands if you decide to keep it."

Severus said nothing but noted the fact that Harry had said 'we'. He didn't know why, but that one little word pre-occupied him far more than it probably should have done.

"How much magic can we use for a renovation like this?" Harry asked, looking upwards to the dilapidated ceiling.

"Not much," Severus replied. "It's alright to use for the superficial problems, but anything structural would have to be good old fashioned manual labour. Quite a job."

"Mm," said Harry, moving over to the window, trying to jimmy it open to let in a bit of fresh air. "Are you up for it? I mean, it seems a shame to let such a fantastic property go to waste. We could get Ron and Draco involved, spend a few weekends down here; we could really make something of this place. Ow!" he hissed as he finally got the window open, grazing his knuckles in the process.

"I don't know Harry, it would take well over a year to get this place in any kind of order."

"So? It would be worth it wouldn't it? It'd be a great little project and think of the end result, you'd have a property to die for!"

Severus kept quiet; Harry clearly hadn't taken his point that in a year's time their 'marriage' would be well over and it wouldn't be 'we' any longer. Still, Harry had a point. The house could be brilliant and it wasn't as though he had a property to call his own; Hogwarts had been his home for twenty years, beyond that there was nothing. It might be nice to have a place that was solely his.

He watched Harry wander around the room, kicking away various odds and ends, examining all the problems that would need to be dealt with. There was a beam, which had obviously fallen from the ceiling, lying across the centre of the room. He watched as Harry stood over it, focusing on it before the beam rose and gently flew to the other end of the room. Harry turned to face him, grinning and said, "Getting better don't you think?"

"Very impressive. You've been practising."

"Only every chance I get. I'd show you how well my Fire skills are coming along, but I think this place is in a sorry enough state as it is."

"Indeed. Do you really think I should take this place on?"

"I think we should take it on. I think it could be fantastic. It is a lot of work, but I think it's worth it, don't you?"

Severus paused for a moment, looking round the sorry room. Harry seemed determined they could do it and it was nice to see the boy so enthusiastic about something. Besides, a little part of him was rather pleased at the prospect of spending time with Harry, doing something together outside their charade as a married couple. "Yes," he finally replied, "yes I do think it's worth it."

They spent the entire day on the estate, examining the house from top to bottom and seeing exactly what needed to be done to it. The job was an extensive one and Severus was right, it would take well over a year to get the property back to anywhere near its former glory, but after seeing its potential, both were convinced that it would be well worth it in the end. The problems upstairs weren't as severe as the ones downstairs, and the bedrooms still held some of their former grandeur.

The grounds were in almost as sorry a state as the house, but it was still possible to see how beautiful they would be once they were restored. By the end of the day, Harry was very excited about the whole prospect and was buzzing with ideas about what could be done to the place.

"And the Great Hall, I mean the ceiling will have to be entirely re-plastered and we might have to put some new wood down on the floor, but I really think it could be magnificent. I think we should stick to the original design of the building, keep the style of furniture and all the period features, really stay true to the feel of the place," Harry said as Severus took a seat on the sofa, watching his young husband in amusement as he babbled on about what they could do to the house. It seemed his enthusiasm knew no bounds.

"And the main reception room would need an awful lot of work of course, there's so much structural damage, but when we've sorted all that out, I was thinking a black, wrought iron chandelier, make the fireplace the central feature of the room, really clean up that beautiful stone-work, get some gorgeous winged-backed armchairs – "

"Harry," said Severus in amusement, "take a breath before you pass out. Sit down and pause for a few moments, we've got plenty of time to work out all the details. First of all we need to sort out everything structural."

"Oh I know, I'm just excited about what we can do with the place," Harry replied, finally taking a seat next to Severus. "I'm going to rope Ron and Draco in, get them to help with all the heavy work."

"Are you sure you've got time to do all this in between studying for your N.E.W.Ts and learning Elemental Magic?" Severus asked as Harry tucked his feet underneath him and leant back into the sofa.

Harry nodded and replied, "Definitely. I like being busy and this is just the kind of thing I need. Something non-magical, something completely unrelated to being Harry Potter. It'll be great. Come on, you can't tell me you're not the slightest bit excited about all of this?" he asked with a grin, reaching out with his foot and giving Severus a teasing little nudge in the thigh.

Severus bit back a chuckle and replied, "I am intrigued by the possibilities the building possesses. I'm glad we decided to keep it."

"You you mean. It's your place, not mine."

"Given all the work you're planning to put into it, not to mention the legal claim you have through our marriage, I'd say it was most definitely ours."

Harry said nothing but simply held Severus' gaze for a moment, then turned away to hide the smile that was threatening to break onto his face. He couldn't explain it, but for some reason, Severus describing the place as 'ours' made him stupidly happy.

"So, Mr Potter-Snape, as you couldn't show me your apparent Fire skills at the estate, how about a demonstration now?"

"Alright, you're on," said Harry, rising to his feet. "But I'm not taking any responsibility if I set fire to the place, this was all your idea."

"Duly noted, now get on with it."

Harry smirked and stood in front of Severus, taking a couple of deep breaths and centring himself before beginning. He held his hand out in front of him and concentrated on the centre of his palm until a flame appeared. He focused on it until it grew larger and larger and was about the size of a small fire, dancing inches about his hand. He smirked at Severus then blew the flame away from himself until it exploded above his head and broke into small tears of fire, bobbing around the room, acting apart but still existing as part of the same original flame. They danced around Severus and made a round of the whole room until Harry brought them back to form one whole flame in front of him again. He glanced up at Severus and gave him a wink before plunging his hands into the fire. All Severus could do was watch as the flame engulfed Harry's entire body, whilst Harry stood in the centre of the fire, grinning like an idiot at him.

Eventually the flame vanished and Harry emerged completely unscathed, his eyes shining as he grinned like a loon. He collapsed onto the sofa next to Severus, breathless but clearly enlivened by his little performance. "Well?" he asked in between breaths. "What do you think?"

"Very impressive Harry," Severus said quietly. "I would never have expected you to have become so advanced in such a short space of time."

"Well it interests me, I find it easy because I want to do everything that I read about. There are three spheres of Elemental Magic; I'm in Sphere 2 at the moment, but I really want to be in Sphere 3 by next month at least. I think I'll do it, I hope I will. I think Fire's my favourite, there's so much you can do with it, especially against an opponent."

"Such as?"

"Well, for instance, I could use the power of fire to increase your temperature, disorientate you, make you all hot and bothered," Harry said, and Severus could have sworn he saw a cheeky glint in the boy's eye.

"Is that a fact?" Severus asked.

"Mmhmm. I could completely alter your emotions. Make you think you were violently in love with me so you couldn't bear to do me any harm...I mean...that is of course assuming you were an enemy. I wouldn't be making you violently in love with me if you I make some coffee?" he said, rising from the sofa, moving off to the kitchen.

Severus watched in amusement as Harry tried to hide the blush on his cheeks and pretended not to be flustered as he put the kettle on. It was funny sometimes how easily embarrassed Harry could get, especially considering the much more compromising situations they had been in together. He actually found it rather charming; it was one of Harry's more endearing qualities.

That thought brought him to the conversation he had had with Albus the previous day. He had been uncomfortable with it, but he had yet to consider why that had been. He didn't like Albus poking into his life at the best of times, but it was especially unwelcome when it concerned Harry. He had yet to examine his own thoughts and feelings about the boy in the privacy of his own mind, never mind discussing them with the headmaster. He had no desire to rush into confronting how he felt, and he resented Albus for making him do so.

He knew he felt differently about Harry than he once had, how could he possibly not? They had spent practically every day together since August and during that time Severus had seen Harry in a completely different light and had actually got to know his young companion, rather than making unsubstantiated assumptions about him. As the weeks had progressed into months, Severus realised he had never really known Harry Potter, and the boy he found himself living with was entirely different to the one he had assumed he knew. He liked Harry, he liked spending time with him. He found him funny and gentle and unfailingly kind. Yes, he was definitely fond of the boy.

"Severus will you take this bloody coffee before it burns my hand off?" he heard Harry say and he was surprised to find the boy standing in front of him, holding out his coffee.

"Sorry," he muttered, taking the cup from Harry's hand. "I was miles away."

"Clearly," Harry replied, setting his own drink down and then moving over to the cabinet, whilst Severus watched as he fished out a folder from one of the drawers. He brought it back over to the sofa and handed it to Severus, saying, "Here, this is for you."

"For me? What is it?" he asked in surprise as he accepted it from Harry.

"Well if you open it, you might find out," Harry told him, so Severus proceeded to do so, pulling out a huge stack of notes, all apparently labelled and in some kind of order. As he looked closer, he realised that it was all his research on the runespoor tears Harry had given him from Christmas. In between his own notes were pages in Harry's writing, clarifying things he had previously written and adding bits of information that Severus had neglected to include.

"You did all this?"

Harry smiled at Severus and replied, "Severus, you're one of the most intelligent people I know but you're so bloody unorganised when it comes to your potions, I don't know how you find anything in that lab of yours. This is all your research on the runespoor tears put into some semblance of order, and I will continue to keep it like this because I just can't bear to see the lab scattered with notes that I know are going to get lost!" he finished with a chuckle.

Severus smiled and shook his head, once again surprised and touched by the boy's generosity and kindness. "Thank you Harry," he said, replacing the notes. "I truly appreciate it."

Harry simply smiled in response and sipped at his coffee, nestling down into the sofa. Yes, 'fond' was definitely one way he could describe his feelings towards the boy.

Chapter Text

"Remind me what we're doing here again?" Draco asked his red-haired boyfriend as yet another pile of dust fell onto his head. True to his word, Harry had roped them both in to the renovating and the next weekend they had all travelled to the estate and were finally beginning the mammoth project.

Ron brushed several pieces of debris off his shoulders and replied, "Because we're both mugs who listened to a certain four-eyed little twerp and were persuaded into this insane nonsense against our better judgement."

"Oh yes, now I remember," said Draco as he flung yet more junk out of the window into the transfigured skip that was waiting outside. "We must be bloody stupid," he muttered, shifting through piles of junk and rubbish, trying to decide what to keep and what to chuck. "And where exactly is that speccy-eyed git? And Severus come to think of it? Why are they escaping this?"

"Oh I don't know, I think they're sorting out one of the rooms in the east wing...or something. I wasn't really paying attention. know what it means?"

"No, what?" Draco asked, kicking aside the rubbish and hissing as he stubbed his toe on a particularly dilapidated table leg. "Stupid thing!"

"It means," said Ron, grabbing his blond counterpart by the wrist and pulling him towards him, "that we are finally alone."

"Ah, an excellent observation Mr Weasley," Draco replied, lacing his arms around Ron's neck. "And how do you plan to take advantage of this rather wonderful situation we find ourselves in?"

"I thought maybe this?" he said, pulling Draco closer until he caught the blond's lips, holding him tightly as Draco responded to the kiss.

"An excellent idea Mr Weasley," he murmured, continuing the kiss and relishing in the contact with Ron. The kiss deepened and Ron gripped Draco even tighter, pulling him across the room to a rather sorry looking sofa, which they boy collapsed onto, taking absolutely no notice of the springs digging into them. "Does that door have key in it?" Draco asked, managing to tear his lips away from Ron's for a second.

"You'd better go and have a look," Ron told him with a grin, giving him a good-natured smack to his backside.

"I don't know why I put up with you."

Ron smirked and let his hands go roving. "Oh yes you do."

Meanwhile, in a separate part of the house, Severus and Harry were in what they assumed had formerly been a study, sifting through the various things that had been left behind in an attempt to de-clutter the place. They had a mountain of things waiting to go in the skip but still they seemed no closer to sorting the room out. Severus' uncle had, apparently, been a terrible hoarder, and he had letters and paperwork dating back years, all of which had to be carefully read through in case there was anything of any importance in amongst the heaps of worthless rubbish. This task fell to Severus, who took a seat at the thankfully still usable desk, rifling through it all, growing more and more fed up by the second. Harry meanwhile was sorting through the cupboards, most of which contained books and yet more letters, some of which he passed to Severus, some he read himself.

After an hour or so, when Harry was on about the 20th cupboard, he pulled out what appeared to be a collection of dusty old photograph albums. He settled himself on the floor and began to flick through them. There were photos of a man not too dissimilar to Severus' father, though without the air of cruelty and malice that Severus' father possessed. Most of the photos seemed to be of family occasions, and it seemed that the family in the photographs were a much happier bunch than Severus' lot. "Severus, come and take a look at these," he called to the man, and Severus looked up from the paperwork, pushing it aside and rising from the table to join Harry on the floor.

"What have you found?" he asked.

"Old photo albums by the looks of things," Harry replied, handing them over to Severus. "I was hoping you could tell me who these people are."

Severus took them and examined the photos for a moment before saying, "That's my Uncle Frederic and his wife Aria, both long gone now, and they are their children, Sebastian and Hugo. Seb was disinherited when he married a Muggle-born and Hugo was killed fighting in Russia many years ago. Some stupid argument over money if I remember correctly."

"Strange, they look so happy in these photos."

"They were, for a time. They were certainly a happier family than we ever were, but then Uncle Frederic was never the tyrant that Father was. I suppose these things break down though." Severus continued to flick through the album, Harry leaning in closer to get a better look. They looked through several photographs until Severus stopped at one particular picture, depicting Frederic standing with a tall, elegant woman. She was slender and slightly frail looking, but she had a sweet face and she looked gentle, soft. He knew immediately who she must be. "Your mother?" he asked Severus gently.

"Yes," he replied softly, looking down at the picture. "Elana Snape." Harry had never known Severus to mention his mother before. So much focus had been placed on his brother and father that his mother had somehow faded into in the background and Harry had simply never thought to ask about her.

"She was pretty," Harry said, taking a better look at the photograph.

Severus nodded. "Yes she was. She was such a gentle person, I always felt so sorry for her being forced to marry my father, he made her life a misery. It was one of the reasons why I hated him so much," Severus said bitterly. "Marcus was a lot like her; kind and caring, always thinking of others. When she died, he took care of me, Merlin knows Father wasn't going to do it."

"I think you look a bit like her, you have the same eyes."

"Like you and your mother?" Severus asked gently.

Harry smiled and said, "Yes, just like that. We've had similar problems you and me, when it comes to family I mean."

That comment piqued Severus' attention. Harry never spoke of his family, except for a backhanded remark here and there, and he was always curious to know more. "And what of your family Harry?"

Harry looked up at him and gave a sad sort of smile. "Nothing much to tell really. Big disappointment all round. The only family I ever had were two people who died before I can barely remember them. As for the people who were left...well, not much of a family as it turned out in the end. I'm glad to be rid of them. Does that sound awful?"

"Not to me," Severus replied. "But wouldn't it have been easier if they'd lived? You wouldn't have needed to marry me for a start."

Harry looked up at him, and the look in his eyes Severus could only describe as pained. The boy held his gaze for a moment, a deep frown set between his brows and it seemed to Severus as though he was debating with himself what to say. "I'm not sorry they're dead Severus, for a number of reasons, many of which I'd rather not think about. I know it'll sound strange to you, and I don't know if I fully understand it myself, but there's nothing about the last few months I would want to change, nothing. I'm not sorry any of it happened," he said quietly, averting his eyes from Severus'.

He was occupying himself looking at his hands when he felt an arm slide around his shoulders and he was pulled to rest against Severus' chest. He closed his eyes and let out a deep breath, not entirely sure exactly what he had just confessed to Severus, but pleased he had said it. He let himself be held tightly, tucking his head into the crook of Severus' neck as the man's chin came to rest on his head. He found himself revelling in being in the man's arms, enjoying the feeling of being held, happy to stay as he was for as long as Severus would let him.

Later that evening, the four of them sat in the study, finally relaxing after a long day's work. They were staying the night in the house as it made more sense than travelling back and forth and meant they could get an early start the next morning. Dobby had prepared them a basket of food to last the weekend and they sat round the fire, enjoying their dinner and relaxing after an extremely taxing day.

They were chatting companionably, sipping at a particularly good claret that Ron had liberated from the cellar, with Severus' permission. Draco was lying with his head in Ron's lap, laughing as Ron recounted his and Harry's experience with the troll in first year, whilst Severus and Harry sat opposite, Harry shaking his head at the tale, Severus merely listening with what appeared to be disapproving consternation. After a while, the conversation turned to Draco and Ron and their blossoming relationship, as each recounted the other's strange habits and idiosyncrasies.

"Well," said Harry, after Ron had finished telling the company how Draco insisted on making the bed a particular way, "I am married to the king of idiosyncrasies."

"Oh yes?" Severus asked, folding his arms and looking across at Harry. "Do enlighten me."

"Well where do I begin? The man's been making coffee for well over 20 years but for some reason he still doesn't know how much milk he wants. He'll pour a little in, take a sip, pour a little more, take another sip and so on," said Harry, smirking at Severus.

"Oh but the way you treat milk when it comes to cereal is completely normal? You pour half a pint in when you know you don't want it all, then slurp it out of the bowl because you don't like soggy cereal! That's ok is it?" Severus asked, more amused than annoyed.

"So what about your attitude towards fish?"

"What about it?"

"'Harry you know I can only eat fish when it's in a proper fillet, I can't bear it hidden in things. How people eat fish pie is beyond me'," Harry mimicked, grinning.

"This from the boy who can't bear to have food on the same plate touching!"

Harry burst into giggles and said, "That's not true and you know it! I only have a problem when it's stuff that runs into one another. I hate soggy food."

"Well my dear husband, I think we've firmly established that your little foibles are more bizarre than mine."

"Oh I don't think so, I haven't even started on all the things you do when you're working! Do you know you drum the same tune every time with your fingers when you read your potions journals?"

"Nonsense," Severus scoffed.

"It's true!" Harry insisted. "And every time you work, you always stop for coffee at 3 o' clock on the dot. It never falters!" Harry said with a laugh.

Draco turned his head to look up at Ron and the two exchanged amused glances. Severus and Harry and their relationship was a topic of great interest to them both and this little interplay between the two was proving to be highly entertaining. Draco waggled his eyebrows at Ron as Severus and Harry continued their back and forth game, revealing more about the state of their relationship than they probably realised. Draco turned back to the two to hear Severus say,

"Not to mention your singing in the shower."

Harry was in fits of giggles as he managed to get out, "I didn't think you could hear me! But you have to admit it, I've got a damn good voice!"

"Oh absolutely," Severus scoffed, "about as tuneful as a strangled chicken."

"Slander!" Harry declared, gently shoving Severus' shoulder, pretending to be affronted. "I have a beautiful voice."

"If you're deaf."

"Ron back me up here, my voice isn't that bad!"

Ron simply laughed and replied, "Don't bring me into your domestic."

"Well I like that. My husband criticises me and my best friend deserts me! Bloody charming," said Harry, affecting a pout.

"Poor little Potter," mocked Draco with a yawn. "And as much as this debate fascinates me, I'm going to have to go to bed. Severus? If you would be so kind as to show me to my room?" he said, scrambling to his feet.

Severus sighed and handed over his wine to Harry, also rising to his feet. "It's not much of a room, you'll be on the floor, but at least you'll have a roof. Mr Weasley are you coming?"

"I'll be along in a bit, I'm just going to finish up my wine. I'll find my own way."

Severus nodded and led Draco out of the study, leaving Ron and Harry to bask in the firelight as they sipped the last of their wine. "Where are you sleeping then mate?" Ron asked.

"Severus and I thought we'd bunk in here tonight. It's dry and sound enough. It's as good a place as any."

Ron hesitated for a moment, regarding his friend closely. "You''re sleeping in the same place together?"

Harry frowned and replied, "Well yeah, why wouldn't we? We share a bed at home."

"Yeah but that's just to be safe. There's no one here but us, no one will know if you sleep in separate wings of the house, let alone separate beds."

"'s just better to be safe," Harry replied, though he knew he didn't sound convincing. Truth was, he hadn't even considered not sharing a room with Severus, and the idea of sleeping apart from him seemed decidedly strange, even a little unwelcome. After months of sharing his sleeping space with the man, he found it difficult to imagine doing anything else.

"I think will turn in after all," said Ron, draining the rest of his glass, "might just be able to catch them if I go now. See you tomorrow," he said, placing his glass on the table and heading off towards the door.

"Yeah, night Ron," Harry replied, wishing his friend had just kept his mouth shut.

Whilst Severus was showing Ron and Draco where they would be sleeping, Harry cleared up after them in the study, packing the utensils in the basket and chucking any rubbish on the fire. When it was tidy enough, he set about sorting out bedding. He wished Ron hadn't mentioned anything about sharing a room with Severus. If he hadn't have done, Harry would have just gone ahead and transfigured the sofa into some sort of double mattress. Now, however, he was completely unsure what he should do. Perhaps Severus was looking forward to having some space away from him and had no intention of sharing a bed. Perhaps he was sick of sharing his space with him and would welcome the opportunity to get away from him for a night. He was so preoccupied with the situation that he barely even noticed when Severus returned to the room.

"Well those two are settled for the night. All I can say is I'm glad they're in a separate part of the house. Right, let's sort out somewhere to sleep," he said, and before Harry barely had time to blink, he had transfigured the old sofa into a double mattress. Harry nearly burst out laughing, but managed to restrain himself, feeling ridiculously pleased at the decision Severus had made.

To hide his stupid grin, Harry busied himself with casting a spell over the fire to make sure it gave off heat during the night but remained safe. He turned around to see that Severus had already settled himself into bed. "Oi, you're on my side!" he protested, walking round to stand by the bed.

"Stop complaining and get in," Severus told him, smirking at his belligerent expression.

"Only if I can get in my side."

"Who's stopping you?"

"Severus! You're being childish."

"No, this is being childish," Severus informed him, grabbing his hand and yanking him down onto the bed. Harry gave a gasp of surprise as he landed in a heap next to Severus, bursting into laughter as he hit the mattress.

"You're a fool!" he exclaimed, but his laughter soon died when he realised how close he was to Severus. He was only inches away from the man, looking up at him, able to feel his breath on his cheek. He was very aware of his own breathing and how ragged it sounded, but he couldn't help it, being in such close proximity to Severus seemed to affect him in all sorts of ways, and all rational thought just flew out of the window. Merlin, the things that were racing through his mind were enough to bring a faint blush to his cheeks and he had to break eye contact with Severus before he was foolish enough to act on any of them. He cleared his throat and said, "Do I get my side of the bed back now?" his voice wavering slightly.

"If you insist," Severus replied, his own voice sounding a little hoarse, as he moved aside to make room for Harry.

Harry slid in under the covers, feeling a little uncomfortable, but not in the same way he once had done when sharing a bed with Severus, quite the opposite in fact. "Um...we managed to get quite a bit done on the house today. I didn't expect we'd make so much progress," he rambled.

Severus emitted a soft chuckle and ran a hand down Harry's arm, saying, "Go to sleep Harry."

Harry grinned into the darkness and replied, "Yes dear."

"Ron and Draco have completely gutted the main reception room. You know, for a spoilt little rich kid, Draco's surprisingly good at manual labour," said Harry, handing Severus a cup of coffee as they stood back, admiring their handiwork. They'd been up since the early hours of the morning and had made good progress on stripping the walls down and ridding the room of a good amount of junk.

"He has his uses," Severus replied, sipping his coffee and examining the wall he'd been working on. "We'll need to sort the ceiling out in that room before we can do anything else to it. That'll be a fun job."

"It'll be ok if we all pitch in," said Harry, sitting on a chair that had lost its legs. "I can really see it starting to take shape now, can't you? This place is going to be amazing."

"Imaging the little soirées we can throw when this place is finished?" Severus asked with a smirk.

Harry snorted and replied, "Oh of course. You know how much I enjoy hob-nobbing with the upper classes, making polite conversation and being on my best behaviour."

"You always seem to find some way to amuse yourself at those kind of gatherings," Severus said pointedly.

Harry raised his eyebrows and replied, "Not without sufficient help." They held each other's gaze for a moment, wearing matching smirks before Harry stood up and said, "Anyway, have you thought about what you want to do with this room?"

"I thought I'd keep it as a study, use it to house all my Potions texts."

"Merlin knows there are enough of them. I think this is going to be my favourite room in the house; there's something different about it to the rest of the other rooms. I think it's because it reminds me of my little study back home, and you know how much I love that place." He turned to see Severus gift him with a rare smile, one which he felt himself returning.

"I've taken a look at the plumbing in the kitchen," said Ron, entering the room and effectively ending the moment. "It all looks ok actually. There are a couple of rust issues but they can be solved with a couple of spells. Otherwise, everything in the kitchen is all just superficial, should be fairly easy."

"Thanks Ron. We're going to finish up in here then see if we can tackle that ceiling in the main reception room."

"Ok, I'll see you both in there then," he said, disappearing again.

"Right Professor," said Harry, draining his coffee, "enough slacking, we've got work to do."

Later that afternoon, Severus and Harry were sorting through the cupboards in one of the downstairs reception rooms. The ceiling in the main living room had proved to be too much of a task for one afternoon, and it had been abandoned for the time being until they were better prepared to deal with it.

They'd come across various surprises as they worked their way through the room; apparently it had been one of the worst neglected rooms in the whole house and it had been infested with both magical and non-magical creatures, not to mention the years of decay and dirt that had seeped into the room.

"I think if I inhale anymore dust I might have to have a lung transplant," Harry said, pulling his head out of a cupboard and brushing all the dirt off himself and his clothes.

"It does leave a lot to be desired," Severus replied, brushing the dust off his own clothes. "Not to mention the fact that I've been bitten to death by whatever keeps flying out of these dark corners," he said, scratching at his hands.

Harry collapsed onto the floor and said with a sigh, "The more this afternoon goes on, the more appealing the idea of just closing this room up and leaving it that way becomes."

Severus inclined his head in agreement and moved along to the next cupboard, taken completely by surprise when he opened it and a blur of colour flew out past him and through the door, managing to place a rather nasty scratch to Severus' cheek as it went. Severus cursed and his hand flew to his cheek as Harry sprang to his feet, saying,

"What the hell was that?"

"I don't know, but it hurt," Severus replied through gritted teeth.

"Here, let me see," Harry said, moving over to him and gently pulling the man's hand away from his cheek. "Ooh that's deep." He ran a finger alongside the wound, careful not to touch it, examining how bad it was. "It needs cleaning, wait there, I'll get some water," he said, disappearing from the room, only to reappear a few moments later with a basin of warm water and a clean piece of cloth, raising it to Severus' cheek.

"I can do it," Severus said, reaching for the cloth, but Harry batted his hand away, saying,

"Don't be daft, I've got it." He gently dabbed at the wound, cleaning away the blood, careful not to hurt Severus as he tended the wound. "That's going to sting a bit," he murmured, rinsing out the cloth and dabbing the scratch again. "I thought I'd be the one coming out with war-wounds, not you," he said with a laugh, looking up at Severus, only just realising how close he was to the man. He met his eyes and offered a half smile as he felt a hot blush suffuse his cheeks, though he was slightly unsure why. " it ok now?" he asked, his voice sounding strange to his ears.

Severus nodded slowly, holding Harry's gaze firmly, the deep red mark standing out starkly against his otherwise pale skin. Harry lightly ran his finger over it and said,

"It should heal up nicely, it shouldn't scar."

"My beauty won't be marred then?" Severus asked with an ironical quirk of his eyebrow.

"Oh I don't know, I think you'd look rather dashing with a scar," Harry said with a slight smirk. "Not that you're not already dashing," and he blushed immediately as he realised what he had said. There was a moment's silence as they regarded one another and again Harry was very aware of his proximity to the man. "Um...does it still hurt?" he asked quietly.

"It stings a little but I'll live," Severus replied. "Thank you."

Harry smiled and said, "No problem, I quite like making myself useful."

"I can't say I mind it much either."

As the weekends went on, Severus and Harry spent more and more time at the estate. More often than not Ron and Draco joined them, though they would tend to remain just for the day, whereas Severus and Harry had taken to camping out in the study, which was the first room in the house to be entirely finished. Harry really looked forward to spending his weekends at the estate, and even enjoyed bunking down on the transfigured mattress, spending the evening drinking wine and talking to Severus. It was a rare occasion when they didn't spend their weekend at the estate.

It was a Friday evening and Severus was packing together a few things in preparation for staying the weekend. However, there was one thing about this weekend that Harry had neglected to mention to his husband. He sloped into the bedroom and took a seat in the armchair, watching Severus pack. He had left this little revelation until just the last minute when Severus wouldn't be able to say no.

"Severus?" he broached quietly.

"Mm?" he replied, continuing with his packing.

"There's um...something that I forgot to mention about this weekend."

"Oh?" said Severus, looking up.

Harry bit his lip and nodded. No turning back now. "Well, I spoke to Leada a little while ago, and she and Adam are going to Adam's aunt's this weekend."

"Yes?" Severus prompted, his eyes narrowing.

"Well, Adam's aunt is quite elderly and has quite a low tolerance for children, in the light of which..."

"Harry, what have you done?"

"I...I said we'd have Daniel this weekend," he said, bracing himself for Severus' reaction.

"You did what?" Severus asked, rising to his feet.

"I said we'd have him. Come on, we'll be doing them a favour and I promise I'll do all the work, you'll barely even know he's there."

"Until he keeps us up all night."

"He won't. Leada says he's really good at sleeping through the night. Come on Severus, I've already said we'd do it, I can't let them down now," Harry said pleadingly.

"Well we won't be able to take him to the estate," Severus countered.

"Yes we will, it's perfectly safe. We'll just have to keep a watchful eye on him, that's all. Please? If there's the slightest hint of trouble you have my permission me alive!"

"Oh don't worry I will, permission or no!"

"Does that mean you'll let him come then?"

"It hardly seems I have a choice."

"Oh thank you!" said Harry, flinging his arms around Severus' neck and muttering, "You won't regret this I promise. It'll be great."

"Famous last words," Severus replied, although he still brought his arms up to encircle the infuriating boy.

Chapter Text

Leada dropped Daniel off early the next morning and Harry assured her that he and Severus, who had made himself scarce, would take good care of the little boy and that she had absolutely nothing to worry about. Harry was in heaven from the moment Daniel arrived, and although Severus was far from pleased with the situation, he could hardly begrudge someone who looked so happy.

As soon as they had sorted themselves out and made sure they had all of Daniel's things, they went straight to the estate and set their things up in the study, including Daniel's cot and his various other odds and ends. They decided to focus that day on the kitchen, bringing Daniel in with them in his playpen so Harry could keep an eye on him. They were stripping and painting the walls, so Severus placed a protective bubble around Daniel to shield him from any fumes or anything harmful.

It was a long and messy job, but thankfully they'd tackled most of the kitchen on previous weekends and the appliances and worktops were all new and fully functional. Even though it was hard work, Harry enjoyed it. It was nice to have something to concentrate on, and whilst he was busy, he could forget about whatever else was going on in the world around him.

He had to stop several times to see to Daniel, but he was hardly complaining. However, for the most part, Daniel behaved impeccably, and was barely any trouble, much to Harry's delight, and for some reason, the little boy seemed fascinated when the two men began painting.

"You know, there's a certain satisfaction doing this by hand and not with magic," said Harry, rolling on the paint as Severus tackled the more meticulous area of the skirting board, something which Harry definitely didn't have the talent for.

"If you say so," Severus replied, shifting before his knees seized up entirely. "Although I will concede that it's looking a lot better."

"Thanks in no small part to my choice of colour. If you had your way the whole place would be black from top to bottom."

Severus simply rolled his eyes and continued his work, trying to block out Harry's tuneless whistling. The boy couldn't hold a tune if his life depended on it.

"Potter," said Severus, "if you don't stop that tuneless racket, I may have to kill you."

Harry stopped his whistling and looked at Severus in feigned affronted dismay. "What a horrible thing to say! And as I've told you a million times, it's Potter-Snape!" he said, gesticulating with his paintbrush and accidentally splashing paint all over Severus. "Oh! Oops I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do that," he said, holding back his laughter.

Severus examined his clothes and wiped some of the paint off them, then rose to his feet, fixing Harry with a hard stare, but Harry caught the glint in the man's eyes.

"Now now Severus, it was an accident, play nice!" Harry said, backing up as he clocked the paintbrush in Severus' hand.

"Slytherins don't play nice," Severus countered as he continued to stalk Harry across the kitchen.

"Ah but you're an exception," Harry replied hopefully, jumping as he realised his back had just hit a wall and he was well and truly cornered by the looming Potions Master.

"Surrender?" Severus asked smoothly.

"Never!" Harry declared melodramatically.

"You leave me no choice then," Severus replied seriously, lashing out and trying to get Harry with his brush. Harry raised his arms in defence and tried to fight Severus off, trying to avoid being smattered with paint in the process.

"Stop fighting dirty you rotten Slytherin!" Harry said, giggling as he did his best to withstand Severus' attack.

Severus had grabbed his wrists and was doing his best to transfer them to one hand so his other would be free to successfully paint Harry. He slid a leg behind Harry's and made him buckle slightly, sliding an arm behind his back to catch him, whilst taking advantage of his momentary surprise to smear his face with paint. "Ah you rotten sod!" Harry laughed, gripping the lapels of Severus' collar to stop himself from going over, even though he could feel Severus' hand supporting him at the small of his back. "You fight dirty Professor Snape," Harry told him as the man smirked triumphantly at him.

"That's why I always win."

An amused little chuckle made them both glance over to Daniel, who was giggling at Harry in delight. "Hey traitor! You're supposed to be on my side!" Harry said with mock indignation, which only made the little boy laugh more.

"Wonderful. Now even children laugh at me!" said Harry, looking up at Severus, loosening his hold on the man's lapels, but still letting himself be held. "We'll never get the kitchen finished if we carry on at this rate."

"I'm in no hurry."

That evening, when they had finally decided to stop for the day, Severus and Harry bunked down for the evening on the study, sitting on the floor by the fire, sipping wine and finishing the last of their food. Harry was sitting with Daniel in his lap, knowing that it was getting on and he should be putting the little boy to bed, but he was admittedly being selfish and keeping him for a little while longer. He smiled as Daniel watched the flames from the fire in fascination; he really did enjoy looking after him, although it brought some painful realisations home.

He and Severus talked companionably as they sat by the fire, enjoying each other's company, as Harry let Daniel settle in his arms, gently rocking him back and forth, feeling more comfortable than he had ever felt in his whole life.

"He's going," Severus noted, nodding in Daniel's direction, and Harry looked down to see the little boy's eyes were slowly closing.

Harry smiled and said, "He'll be off in a couple of minutes, Leada said he was good when it came to sleep."

"So it isn't that you're a calming influence then?"

"I hardly think so."

"You are good with him though, you're a natural with children."

A softness settled on Harry's face, though Severus could discern something more there, a certain sadness of sense of disappointed resignation. "Well I'd have to be wouldn't I? It wouldn't be Harry Potter's life without that little tinge of irony."

Severus frowned and said, "What are you talking about?"

Harry looked down at the now sleeping child in his arms and sighed. In some ways it was almost cruel that he was able to be so close to having a child and yet so removed from it. "Well it stands to reason doesn't it?" he said quietly. "I would be good with children when there's no chance of me actually having any."

"Harry what are you talking about? You're not yet eighteen, you've got plenty of time to have children."

Harry snorted and shook his head, saying, "Severus we've had this conversation before. I'm Harry Potter, poster boy for the light, knee-deep in a war I had no hand in creating. We might be fighting for years to come, not to mention the very real fact that I could be killed at any mo - "

"Harry don't," Severus cut in harshly.

"Well it's true," Harry countered. "I can hardly have a child under these conditions. Off fighting all the time, placed in constant danger, no chance. And if I do die?" he said, gently rising to his feet, careful not to wake Daniel as he did so, and walking over to the cot. "I know what it's like to grow up without a family, I couldn't bear to leave my child without one." He placed Daniel in the cot and covered him over with the blanket, gently stroking his hair and making sure he was properly settled. He heard Severus move behind him and he felt the man's hands on his shoulders, pulling him around so they were face to face. He looked up into those dark eyes and saw his own worries and concerns reflected back at him.

"I promised you once that I wouldn't let anything happen to you, and I swore when we were married to protect you."

"You can't protect me from everything Severus."

"I can bloody well try," the man replied emphatically. "You're going to make it through this wretched war and go on to have any kind of life you want, including one that involves fatherhood." He took Harry's face gently in his hands and said, "You're not going anywhere, so stop thinking you are."

Harry leant into the touch, Severus' proximity somehow making him feel better. He stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Severus' neck, pulling himself closely into the man's body, leaning on his chest. Severus' strong arms came up to encircle him and he emitted a soft sigh. "I don't want to go anywhere," he said softly. "Can't we just stay here forever?"

He sounded so young and vulnerable that it almost broke Severus' heart and he tightened his hold around the young man, one hand gently cradling his head. It wasn't every day he found himself with an armful of Harry Potter, and though he would admit it to no one, he relished it.

"Let's go to bed," Harry murmured.

"What?" asked Severus, caught off guard, surely Harry couldn't mean...

Harry disentangled himself from the Potions Master and smiled contentedly up at him. "Let's go to bed, I'm knackered," he said, walking over to the bed and stripping down to his T-shirt and boxers.

"Oh, right," said Severus, unable to believe the misunderstanding he had nearly had with the boy. "It has been a long day," he agreed, ridding himself of his own outer wear, "and I've no doubt our small friend will make sure we're up early tomorrow."

"Definitely," said Harry, sliding into bed. "But it's been nice this weekend hasn't it?" he asked, already half asleep. "Having Daniel and being here I mean," he continued through a yawn.

Severus sat down on the bed and leant over Harry slightly. He brushed the hair from the young man's forehead and said softly, "It was certainly nowhere near as awful as I had anticipated. I think when you leave Hogwarts you have two very obvious career choices – childminder or decorator."

Harry smiled up at him, surprised but not uncomfortable with the man's long fingers brushing over his forehead, even though he knew the hair was well out of the way. He loved it when Severus was tactile, and lately he seemed to be more and more so, and Harry was in no hurry to complain. He could feel himself slipping into sleep, coaxed by Severus' gentle fingers, and he truly couldn't remember when he had felt more content.

Harry and Severus spent the next day finishing off the kitchen, so all that was left to be done to the room was to buy the required furniture. Leada was picking Daniel up from Hogwarts around mid-afternoon so their usual long weekend at the estate was cut short, although they considered their time well spent, given the now finished kitchen. They returned to Hogwarts at around three and although Harry loved his home in the dungeons, he really did miss being at the estate. It was a wonderful escape from everything and he really did enjoy the time he spent with Severus, just the two of them alone, away from the rest of the world and all its madness.

They dumped their stuff and made sure Daniel was settled before Leada came to collect him. Harry picked up the paper that had been delivered that morning and scanned the headlines. He groaned in disbelief; he was of course used to seeing himself on the front page of the paper, but this was just stupid. "Severus come and take a look at this," he called, and Severus re-emerged from his potions lab where had been checking the progress of a couple of his concoctions.

"What is it?"

Harry read aloud, "'Harry Potter and his husband Severus Snape, resident Potions Master at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, have, it appears, been fashioning something of a holiday retreat for themselves. The property, whose location cannot be disclosed, is apparently commanding a great deal of the couple's time, and will no doubt become the epicentre of many social functions in the future, but as for now 'The Daily Prophet' can confirm that the two wizards have plans to only use the property as a wonderful love nest away from the pressures of daily life.' What a load of rubbish!" he said, chucking the newspaper down. "How on earth do they know what we're doing with the property?"

"So we are using it as a love nest to escape the pressures of daily life?" Severus asked with an amused smirk.

Harry picked up the paper and whacked him with it, trying not to smile as he said, "Shut up, you're not helping. Aren't you annoyed?"

"Not really. I have no interest in what those pathetic rags have to say and you shouldn't care either."

"That's easier said than done when you've been in the papers since birth. Still I suppose it is quite funny, this time around anyway. I wonder what kind of headlines we can make next time."

"I'm not sure I like the look in your eyes."

Harry chuckled and replied, "I'm just thinking that it would be good to make the media work for us for a change."

"Why Mr Potter-Snape, how very Slytherin of you."

Harry smirked and waggled his eyebrows and replied, "Well, I am learning from the best."

A couple of days later Severus was sitting at the staff table, consuming a small breakfast and preparing himself for the day's lessons, when the Daily Prophet was delivered into his lap. He scanned the headlines and was extremely grateful that he hadn't been eating or drinking, or he surely would have choked in shock and laughter. There, in big, bold letters were the words "The Potter-Snapes to expand their family; pitter patter of tiny feet imminent".

He quickly read the article and found that a 'reliable source' had informed the paper that he and Harry were seriously considering the possibility of starting a family and that they would like to welcome their first child within the next two years. The little wretch. He shook his head in disbelief and looked up, searching out Harry. When his eyes met the boy's, he wasn't at all surprised to find that he was grinning up at him. He raised an eyebrow and feigned a look of disapproval, but Harry merely continued to grin, obviously highly pleased with himself.

The whole school was apparently buzzing about the headline; students were passing copies between them and whispering, some of the braver ones throwing glances in his direction. Harry had clearly got the reaction he'd wanted, but more importantly, they both knew that Aldrington would be reading the very same article that morning and would no doubt be livid to read that not only he and Harry were living in wedded bliss, but that they were even planning on solidifying their union with a child. He knew it was Harry's way of sending the bastard a middle finger, and he couldn't deny feeling proud of his young husband.

Harry's day had been rather eventful. Almost everyone had asked him about the article in the Prophet, and he had had great fun spinning yarns about how and he and Severus had talked about children, but were going to wait a few years, and the stupid newspaper had got it wrong again. Everyone had apparently been fascinated by the idea of Severus Snape as a father, though Harry assured them that when the time came, he would be brilliant.

He returned to his quarters that night in a fantastic mood, one that brightened further when he saw a figure hovering in the doorway to his quarters. "Remus!" he exclaimed happily, throwing his arms around the man in delight.

"Harry, good to see you," Remus replied, clasping Harry tightly.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, releasing the man.

"I'm between jobs for the Order at the moment so I decided to come and see how you were doing."

"Fantastic! Come on in," he said enthusiastically, opening the door to his quarters and showing Remus in. "Have a seat," he said, indicating to the sofa. "I think Severus is still teaching at the moment so he won't be back for a little bit. Monday's always a bit hectic for him so I like to rub in the fact that I only have three lessons today. Anyway, how are you? You're looking tired."

"Always the blunt approach eh Harry? I'm fine, really, just extremely busy, I never seem to have a spare moment these days, but it's the times we live in. Apart from that I have nothing of interest to tell. And you? You're looking...very well."

Harry beamed at him and said, "I feel well. Merlin Remus I'm so busy at the moment I barely have time to breathe but it's great! I'm up to my eyeballs in my training for Elemental Magic, I've got more work for my N.E.W.Ts than I can stand and Severus and I are doing up his Uncle's old house."

"Yes I think I read about that in the paper."

Harry rolled his eyes and replied, "Yes you probably did. We spend every weekend there and more often than not Ron and Draco come down with us, so we're making really good progress on it. Oh I wish I could show you Remus. When we got it it was a complete wreck of a place, just a pretty shell really. We gutted it completely, now we're working on sorting out all the structural problems, but it's going to look so amazing when we finish it all, then you really have to come and see it."

"It sounds like quite a project," Remus said carefully, watching Harry as he spoke with such enthusiasm about the renovation. He'd never seen the boy speak so animatedly about anything before and there was a light sparkling in his eyes as he told Remus about it.

"Oh it is. We've both put so much work into it and there's tons more to do but it's such fantastic work! I look forward to the weekends more than anything," Harry said with a smile. "Anyway, here's me rambling on! You'll stay for dinner though Remus? I always cook on a Monday because Severus is so busy and by the time he's finished neither of us can be bothered to go to the Great Hall."

Remus agreed happily as he was staying in the castle that night anyway and would rather not have dined alone. Harry, after fixing Remus with a drink, set about preparing dinner. Remus joined him in the kitchen and the two continued to catch up with each other's news as Harry cooked, enjoying each other's company. Remus was surprised at how much Harry mentioned Severus and how every part of his life seemed to centre about the man. More surprisingly though, was the apparent warmth with which Harry spoke about him.

Everything he said linked back somehow to Severus and he spoke of him as one would about a close friend, or even a member of their family. It was strange and intriguing for Remus to watch and he desperately wanted to ask Harry exactly what the situation was between them. It was bizarre to stand and listen to Harry telling him about how Severus' days were filled and how the man did such and such a thing and what he was up to from one minute to the next. He really did sound as though he was part of a marriage.

Half way through Harry's cooking, they heard the door open and Severus called, "Harry? Are you home?"

"In the kitchen," Harry called back.

"Good, I was hoping you'd be here. I had a bit of a breakthrough today with the runespoor tears," he called as he hung up his outer robe. "It turns out that if they're frozen then thawed after three days, they can completely alter the properties of the quick healing potion and I think – " he stopped abruptly as he entered the kitchen and saw Remus Lupin standing there. "Lupin?"

"Oh sorry Severus, I invited Remus to stay for dinner, he's only here for one night and we wanted to catch up. But that's fantastic news about the healing potion, you've been spending ages on that lately."

"Yes, indeed," Severus replied, certainly less than pleased at seeing the werewolf in his kitchen, but prepared to tolerate if for Harry's sake. "Lupin," he said civilly, extending his hand to the man.

"Severus," Remus replied, shaking his hand. "How are you?"

"Well enough. Well, I shall leave you both to your evening."

"Oh Severus don't be daft. I invited Remus to have dinner with us both. Besides, I'm making your favourite, you know you can't say no to that," Harry said and Remus watched in fascination as Severus smirked at Harry and the boy merely waggled his eyebrows in response. As Harry continued to make dinner, Severus set the table in the little alcove by the window and before too long, Harry had plated the food up and the three men were sitting enjoying Harry's efforts.

Remus said little during the meal, but instead quietly watched the odd little interplay between Severus and Harry. They both included him in their conversation, but Remus was more interested in watching how they spoke with each other. They were strangely at ease in each other's presence and they both seemed to exude a sort of comfortable familiarity as they spoke. From the way they talked, it appeared that they no longer had separate lives that co-existed together, their lives were one and the same, they were a part of each other's and talked as though it had never been any other way.

He wasn't sure if Harry and Severus were aware of it themselves, but he definitely was. There were few moments in his life when he was actually grateful to be a werewolf, but in this instance he was very thankful as it allowed him to see and pick up on things that others would never. The two men were giving away far more than they probably realised, and had they known it, they both would have tried to hide and disguise the glaringly obvious signs they were displaying. Their entire bodies hummed when they were near each other and their eyes were wide and alert. There were the tiniest little touches that passed between them, casual to the unskilled observer, but to Remus they spoke volumes. They were so intimate, reserved only to pass between those who were close to each other. It made for fascinating watching.

After the meal was finished and everything cleaned away, Severus excused himself and retreated to his lab, leaving Harry and Remus alone once more. "You were quiet through dinner," Harry noted as they settled themselves on the sofa.

"Was I? Oh I was just...taking in the atmosphere I suppose," Remus replied placidly, comfortably sedate after Harry's fantastic dinner. "I enjoy listening to other people talk."

"Severus and I usually have plenty to talk about," Harry said with a chuckle.

"Yes, I'd noticed," Remus said thoughtfully. "You seem to be getting on very well," he said carefully.

Harry nodded and replied, "Yes I suppose so. I hadn't really thought about it to be honest," he said dismissively.

"I suppose you don't notice something when you're that close to it."

Harry frowned slightly and said, "What do you mean?"

"Only that your relationship seems to have changed somewhat since the last time I saw you."

"Well...yes I suppose it has. But...things aren't that different. I suppose we just learnt to live with each other that's all."

Remus cleared his throat and tried to choose his words carefully. "It seems as though the two of you are doing more than just coping with one another. I seem almost...fond of one another."

Harry paused for a moment, considering Remus' words, and what his response to them may be. "Well...we live together Remus, we have to get on or it would be chaos. Besides, we spend an awful lot of time together, so I suppose people could interpret out behaviour as somewhat...friendly."

"Harry I didn't mean it as a criticism. It's just something I picked up that's all. Maybe I shouldn't have said anything."

"No, no. I just don't want you getting the wrong...I mean...I do like Severus...but I don't...I mean," Harry said, becoming increasingly flustered as he tried to explain himself.

"Harry, Harry you don't have to explain yourself to me. Look, maybe I should just let you get on with it tonight," he said, rising to his feet. "You know, if you fancy a chat...about anything, you can always write to me. Thanks for dinner," he said, heading to the door.

"Um ok, but..."

"Night Harry!" And before Harry could object, Remus was gone, leaving him to ponder the man's words for the rest of the evening.

Chapter Text

Harry sat in the living room conjuring then extinguishing a flame in the palm of his hand absent-mindedly. He'd been sitting there all morning, just thinking, pondering Remus' words from the night before. For some reason, whenever things were going smoothly in his life, something or someone had to come along and mess it all up. He knew Remus hadn't meant to, but his questions had just sent his mind spinning off in all sorts of unwanted directions. It had felt like Remus had almost been...accusatory, though what he was being accused of, Harry had no clue. He didn't need to explain his relationship with Severus, not even to Remus...not that he felt he could adequately explain it to anyone if the truth be told.

Of course things were different between the two of them, they'd had arguments themselves about that being the case, and anyone who thought they could live together for six months and not change was stupid. He spent practically every waking moment with Severus and the more he did, the more he found he wanted to. But then why should that be anybody's business but his own? What did it matter to anyone else if he and Severus were enjoying domestic bliss or ripping each other's heads off?

"Are you planning on setting fire to the sofa?" came Severus' voice as he emerged from his lab.

Harry extinguished the flame and said, "Not unless the sofa pisses me off too."

"Too? Who's put you in such a charming mood?"

"Oh no one, it's just one of those days, sorry."

"Is this something to do with our visitor last night?" Severus asked, joining Harry on the sofa.

"Remus? No, what makes you think that?"

"You've just been somewhat preoccupied ever since he left, that's all. Did he say something to you?"

Harry really wanted to tell Severus everything that was on his mind, to explain to him how confused he was by the whole situation and maybe even see how Severus felt about it all, but he just couldn't bring himself to raise the issue. "No, no it's nothing to do with Remus," he lied, "I'm just a bit wound up over nothing I suppose. Just one of those days, don't pay me any attention," he said, resuming his earlier action of creating and extinguishing flames.

"Are you sure? You don't seem quite yourself."

Harry frowned. A little while ago it would have only been Ron and Hermione who would have been able to tell when he wasn't quite himself, but now Severus had joined them. "I'm fine, really. I didn't get much sleep last night so I'm probably just a little spaced."

"Well, if you're sure. could tell me...if something was wrong," Severus said carefully, observing the young man next to him.

Harry slowly turned and met Severus' eyes, struck by the sincerity he saw there. He offered a little smile and said quietly, "I know I could. But don't worry, I'm fine. I'm just being stupid, and you know how fond I am of doing that."

Severus smirked and said, "Indeed. Aren't you going to be late for classes?"

"I'm pulling a sickie. And don't look at me like that, I just really can't face it today. I might just take some time to work on my Elemental Magic instead."

"Careful you don't burn yourself out. You're dealing with powerful forces that you're not used to, you don't know what kind of effect they might have on you. You're already practising any moment you get and you're on such advanced things that I...I just worry."

Harry had to hold back a smile, even though Severus' words made him even more confused. Still, they meant everything to him and he had to admit he was touched. "I know, but don't. I'm being careful, I know what I'm doing, and when I don't, I'll come to you."

"See that you do."

A couple of weeks went by and Harry's time was constantly taken up. If he wasn't working on the estate then he was deeply immersed in becoming more and more advanced in Elemental Magic. It seemed he hardly ever had a minute to himself and the only time he was still was when he was asleep. Severus had watched him work himself into the ground and was growing increasingly worried by the boy's pale appearance and his relentless determination to keep going.

One Monday morning, after they had spent another long weekend on the estate, Severus was readying himself for the morning's lessons. Harry had seemed to take a long time getting himself going, and he still hadn't emerged from the bathroom. It wasn't like Harry to be behind schedule and Severus was beginning to worry. "Harry? You're going to be late if you don't get a move on," he called through to the bathroom.

"I won't be late," Harry replied, opening the door, and Severus was taken aback by just how awful the boy looked. "I'm just...I don't know...feeling a bit off this morning."

"You look like hell," Severus said bluntly.

"Why thank you. You always know the right thing to say," Harry said, moving to pack his books up, and Severus noticed how gingerly he was walking, as if each movement caused him pain.

"Harry you're not well."

"I'm fine, I just feel a little under the weather," Harry said dismissively, trying and failing to pack his bag. Severus moved over to him and stilled his motions, then gently placed his hand on the boy's forehead.

"Harry you're burning up."

"No it's fine, I'm just a little feverish. Mm your hand's nice and cool. I'm ok, it'll wear off."

"You should stay in bed."

"I'll make a deal with you, if I'm still feeling rough by lunch time then I'll come home ok?"

"Will you listen if I say no?"

Harry just smiled and continued to get his things ready. "I'll see you later, and don't worry."

Don't worry. Well that was easy enough for Harry to say. It was impossible for Severus not to worry. Harry had left their quarters looking so awful and he'd seemed much weaker than usual. He hadn't been happy about letting him go but what could he do? All morning he'd been worrying past himself about what state the boy might be in and he felt completely helpless. He didn't pay much attention throughout all his morning classes and he was so thankful when the last class filed out, leaving him free to go and check on Harry. Not of course that what he found when he returned home was at all to his liking.

He found Harry lying on the sofa, his face completely drained of any colour, heavy dark circles under his eyes. He moved swiftly to Harry's side and knelt beside him, saying, "Merlin Harry what's wrong?" He placed his hand on the boy's forehead, he was dangerously warm and he was clammy to the touch.

", I came back here after first lesson, I just couldn't face it. I feel...I feel so ill," he muttered feebly.

Severus clasped his hand and gently brushed the hair out of his eyes. "Harry you have to tell me, apart from the fever, do you have any other symptoms?"

Harry leant into Severus' touch and tried to wrap his fingers more tightly around Severus' hand. "I just feel drained." Severus nodded and went to stand up, but Harry pulled him back and said, "Please, please don't leave me."

"I'm just going into the lab to get you something to take, we need to try and bring your temperature down," he said gently, freeing his hand from Harry's and standing up. "I won't leave you, I promise."

He went into the lab and rifled through his stores, cursing the fact that Poppy was away from the school for the day. He pulled a few things off the shelves then grabbed a shallow basin and began to fill it with a few ingredients that he knew to be helpful in bringing down a fever. He tried not to think about the state Harry was in; if he did he wasn't sure he could function properly and then he'd be no use whatsoever to the boy.

He re-entered the living room and knelt once again by Harry's side. He placed a hand behind his head and tilted it slightly to help him drink from the vial he had placed at his lips. Harry drank with difficulty but Severus helped him then rested his head back on the cushion. "It might help to ease the aches and pains, but tell me if you need more," he said, dampening a flannel in the basin he had brought through and placing it on Harry's forehead. "Keep talking to me Harry, try not to fall asleep," he urged gently.

Harry held his hand out and said quietly, "Hold my hand, it felt better when I was holding your hand."

Severus did as he was asked and took the boy's hand, and though he couldn't be at all sure, he thought he saw a tinge of colour appear in his cheeks. He guessed it must have just been wishful thinking on his part; Harry looked like death and it terrified him. "It's ok Harry, you're going to be just fine," he said forcefully, gripping Harry's hand as tightly as he dared.

The afternoon dragged on and despite Severus' best attempts, Harry didn't seem to be getting any better. He seemed to be slipping in and out of consciousness and wasn't really aware of his surroundings or indeed what was happening. He wasn't making much sense and his fever had reached a dangerously high temperature. His breathing was shallow and his eyes were unfocused, searching for something far beyond Severus. The only assurance Severus had that the boy was still linked to this world was that he would occasionally seek out Severus' hand and grip it for dear life, all the while thrashing and turning as he was lost in the fever.

Suddenly his movements stilled and his entire body went lifeless. "Harry? Harry wake up!" Severus said almost frantically, shaking him gently. He pressed his fingers to the boy's neck and was beyond relieved when he felt a faint but clearly discernible pulse. "Fuck!" he breathed and quickly gathered up the boy in his arms and moved over to the fireplace. He chucked in some floo powder and barked, "St Mungo's!"

He arrived in reception, but simply pushed past the smiling witches, carrying Harry through the corridors until he could find help. "Someone help me!" he called, trying to get anyone's attention. A couple of Healers who had heard the commotion came out of the wards and ran to Severus, saying,

"Merlin it's Harry Potter!"

"Never mind who he is, just help him!" Severus snapped.

"Bring him in here," said the other Healer, leading him quickly into one of the treatment rooms, where Severus placed him carefully on the bed. The Healer checked him over then asked Severus, "What happened to him?"

"I don't know. He had a fever...and it wouldn't abate...then a couple of minutes ago he just lost consciousness. Please, you have to help him."

"We will sir, but we're going to have to ask you to step outside."

"I can't leave him," Severus protested.

"Please sir, we need to do our job, we'll let you know if there's any change. Are you his next of kin?"

Severus nodded, never taking his eyes off Harry and saying, "Yes, I'm his husband."

"Don't worry sir, we'll do everything we can, but please, just wait outside." Severus considered arguing with the stupid little man; he was loathe to leave Harry's side but he knew he would be of no use, as much as it pained him to admit it. He nodded and after one last glance at the boy's lifeless body, he left the room, never feeling so helpless in his life.

He had to do something, he couldn't just sit around feeling useless while Harry was so...Merlin he had to do something, he had to help somehow, he needed to help Harry. He walked back to reception and asked the girl if they had an emergency owl service he could use. He needed Dumbledore's help and wisdom, he simply couldn't do this alone.

Dumbledore left for the hospital as soon as he received Severus' letter. He found the man sitting outside Harry's treatment room with his head in his hands. "Severus?" The man raised his head and looked up gratefully as he saw the headmaster.

"Albus, thank Merlin you're here," he said, rising to his feet to greet the headmaster.

"Severus, what on earth is going on?"

Severus shook his head and replied, "I don't know. He had a fever this morning and it just got progressively worse until he lost consciousness and I brought him here. Now he's in there and they won't tell me what's going on. I don't know what's wrong with him and Merlin Albus I just feel so bloody useless."

"Calm down my boy, calm down. I'm sure they're doing all they can to help him."

"Yes and what if that's not enough. What if – "

"You can't think like that Severus, it won't help Harry. He's in the best possible place under the best care."

"You didn't see him Albus," Severus said quickly. "And if I'm honest, I don't think they have a clue what's wrong with him or how they're going to treat him. I just can't bear to think of him in there all alone, suffering. It kills me to know that there's a thin wall separating me from him and that I can't do anything for him."

Albus regarded the man as he spoke with such sincerity and pain, and was taken aback by just how upset and worried Severus was by the situation. He'd never seen Severus speak so strongly and passionately about anyone before and he was genuinely surprised by the depth of feeling Severus, normally so guarded a man, was showing. His concern for Harry transcended his mere role as a guardian or protector; there was genuine feeling there which surpassed all of that.

"He didn't want me to leave him Albus. Before he lost consciousness he just wanted me to stay with him and now those idiots in there have pushed me out here and I shouldn't have bloody let them!"

"They have to do their jobs Severus, getting agitated won't help."

"I just wish someone would tell me what the hell is going on!" he replied, flinging himself back down onto the chair. "I am his husband for Merlin's sake, I've a right to know! What's going on in there?" he finished quietly, looking towards the room where Harry was being treated.

Albus took a seat next to Severus and placed a hand on his shoulder, saying, "We must have faith my boy, we must believe that Harry will be alright."

"Oh he'll be alright Albus, even if I have to sell my soul to make it so."

The afternoon dragged on and Severus and Albus continued to wait outside Harry's hospital room, hoping for news of Harry's condition. They hadn't been told anything and as the minutes passed on, Severus became more and more agitated and worried. Albus did his best to calm him, but nothing he said could stop Severus from thinking about his husband.

"Why aren't they telling us anything? What's going on in that room?" Severus said, rising to his feet and starting to pace again.

"They'll tell us something when there's something to tell."

"Whenever the hell that might be. I just don't know – "

"Severus!" came a voice and both men turned to see Lars making his way down the corridor towards them. "Severus I've only just heard about Harry and I had to come straight away – I think I know what's wrong with him."

"What? What is it?" Severus asked, suddenly seeing a spark of hope in the situation.

"It's the magic, the Elemental magic. It's drained him, it's taken away his magical resources and if they're not restored he'll slip into a comatose state."

"What can we do?"

"His magical energies need to be restored. He needs to take them from someone he has a link with, you Severus. You're joined by law and by magic, you're the only one who can help him."

Severus took a moment to process what Lars had just told him and suddenly Harry's need to be touched all made sense; he was drawing power from Severus, trying to restore himself through their bond. He had to get to him, he had to help him. Then all of a sudden he heard the boy call out, "Severus!"

It was the first that Harry had spoken since he'd lost consciousness and he was calling Severus' name; he needed him.

He rushed into the hospital room, closely followed by Albus and Lars, to find Harry thrashing about on the bed, tears streaming down his face, calling Severus' name. The Healers were trying to restrain him, but it only seemed to make him more agitated and struggle further. "Severus make it stop," he cried, and Severus had to steel himself against the pain that Harry's suffering caused him.

He pushed the Healers aside and took Harry's hand, whispering gently, "I'm here, it's alright."

"Please, please just take me home," he muttered through his tears, clinging tightly to Severus' hand.

"Sshh, you're going to be fine. Let's get you out of here." He slid his arms underneath Harry and gently lifted him off the bed.

"Wait, what are you doing? You can't take him," said the Healer.

"Watch me," Severus replied, pushing past them, Harry in his arms, Albus and Lars following close behind. He carried Harry to the fireplace in reception and flooed back to their quarters, stepping out of the fireplace and taking Harry into their room. He heard Albus and Lars arrive as he settled Harry down on the bed and they soon joined him in the bedroom. He sat next to Harry on the bed and brushed the hair from his forehead, the boy seeming to be slightly calmed by the action, though he was still clearly suffering.

Lars placed a pouch on the table next to the bed and said, "It's hemlock. Give him a draught of it every four hours infused with water and quinine; it should help give him some natural energy."

"Thank you," Severus replied, unbuttoning Harry's shirt to let him breathe more easily.

"Aside from that, he'll need...physical use the link between you to restore his magical energies," Lars said quietly.

Severus nodded and replied, "Yes I know," as he looked down at the boy, gently stroking his cheek and silently willing him to be ok.

"We should let you get on with it," Albus said, "but you'll send for us if you need us?"

Severus nodded, barely noticing when the two men left the room. He continued to stroke Harry's hair, hating the pain he could see in the large green eyes that were looking up at him.

"Severus what's happening to me?" he whispered.

"Nothing Harry, you're going to be fine, I'm going to make you better."

"Don't leave me again," he pleaded.

"I'm not going anywhere Harry, I won't leave you," he promised, slowly unbuttoning the boy's shirt. He knew the boy needed his touch, needed it more than anything, but a small part of him couldn't help but feel that he was somehow taking advantage of him in his weakened state. But what else could he do? He slid the shirt off Harry's shoulders, trying to ignore the feelings that stirred within him as his eyes raked over the smooth planes of Harry's body. He tried not to think too much as he removed his own shirt, tendrils of guilt beginning to seep their way in. "Turn on your side Harry," he instructed gently, and as Harry slowly did so, Severus had to subdue the noise of shock that threatened to escape him. Littered all over Harry's back were deep, angry scars that were definitely not linked to the illness.

He had always thought that Harry had never undressed in front of him because he was shy or embarrassed; he'd never guessed the boy could be hiding such a secret. "Oh Harry," he whispered, gently running his fingers along the ridges of the scars. "What happened to you?"

He didn't have time, however, to focus on the matter. Harry needed his help, he needed him, and he couldn't let himself be side-tracked, not even by something as awful as Harry's scarring. He tried to push it from his mind and he lay down beside Harry on the bed. He tried to stop thinking about the situation, it would do no good after all, and he pulled Harry in close to him so that the boy's back was pressed firmly up against his chest. He wrapped his arms around him and laid his hands on the boy's chest, holding him as close as he possibly could. The tension in Harry's body seemed to melt away and Severus felt him relax in his arms. "Please be alright Harry," he whispered, placing a kiss to Harry's hair.

"Don't stop touching me Severus," Harry murmured back, pressing himself up against the man. Severus' breath hitched and he tried desperately not to focus on the effect Harry's lithe young body pressed against his was having on him. He had to focus on making Harry well again, not on...anything else. But Merlin, ill or not there were no two ways about it, Harry was beautiful, and Severus wanted to keep him in his arms forever.

"I'll make you well again Harry," he whispered next to the boy's ear. "When you get stronger, we'll spend a week up at the estate, just the two of us. It's going to be so beautiful when it's all finished and it's all down to you. You have to get stronger so we can carry on with it. Can't you just picture it when it's all done?"

Harry said nothing but nodded slowly, tucking his head into the crook of Severus' neck. Severus leant in closer, breathing him in, and then, pushing questions of doubt or worry from his mind, leant down to press firm but gentle kisses to his neck. Harry's breath hitched and he arched upwards to meet Severus better, pressing himself against the man. Severus continued to kiss the length of Harry's neck, his hands further exploring Harry's skin. He ran his fingers along the length of Harry's arms and then down across the boy's smooth chest, feeling Harry relax a little as the contact between them increased. He pulled the boy closer so that not even a hair's breadth stood between them and placed a firm hand across Harry's torso, ensuring as much contact as possible.

Harry emitted a half sob, then turned himself round in Severus' arms so he was placed beneath him, wrapping his arms around the man's neck. He arched himself upwards so their bodies were once again touching, chest to chest, hungrily taking as much contact as he could, and Severus felt himself melt into the boy beneath him, unable now to ignore the effect Harry's proximity was having on his body. He ran a hand down the length of Harry's torso, feeling Harry stir under him. Harry moaned and murmured,

"Go lower, touch me," taking hold of Severus' hand, trying to force it downwards.

Severus resisted the movement of his hand and raised his head to look Harry in the eyes. "Merlin Harry if you only knew...I can't...not like this, not when you're...not like this," he whispered hoarsely, amazed by his self-control.

He longed to touch Harry, to make him his own, but he couldn't, not when Harry wasn't completely himself, not when it felt so much like taking advantage, despite the fact that Harry was practically begging him. Harry's eyes were clouded and Severus wasn't entirely sure that he had understood what had been said to him, but he had stopped trying to make Severus' hand go lower, which was both a relief and a disappointment. "Merlin Harry, just get better and then I promise my hand will go wherever you want it."

At around two in the morning, Harry finally fell asleep, wrapped in Severus' arms. His fever had abated, though he was still not fully himself, and Severus was determined to keep hold of him until the boy physically pushed him away, which he inevitably would when he came to his senses. It had been one of the strangest and most difficult days of his life, and he was not sorry to see it end.

He wanted Harry, more than he had realised he did. Since they had been married and he'd been with Harry day after day, he'd become more and more drawn to him. That night in the corridor of Drayton Manor had solidified his physical attraction to the boy, but he couldn't say with complete certainty that it was only Harry's body he wanted.

As he lay in the darkness, he held on tightly to the sleeping form in his arms. He breathed in Harry's scent and placed a kiss to his head, pulling him closer. He didn't understand what was happening, didn't pretend to understand it, but all he knew was that at that moment, he wanted Harry in his arms forever and he would do anything to keep him there.

He wanted to keep him safe, to protect him, the way he hadn't been able to when someone had put those scars all over his back. He wasn't certain, but he had a horrible suspicion that his relatives had been responsible for them, and Severus was sorry they were already dead, for if they hadn't been, he would have killed them himself, and taken pleasure in it. They had failed Harry, all of them, in not protecting him properly, in not making sure he was properly looked after. But that was all going to change. He was going to make sure of it.

Chapter Text

It was late the next day when Harry finally awoke. He was wrapped in Severus' arms, both their shirts removed, and pressed closely to Severus' strong chest. It took him a few moments to remember what had happened the previous day and how he had ended up in his present situation. He'd been so ill, he'd never felt so awful in his entire life and all he had wanted was Severus. He had needed him so desperately and despite his illness, had been in heaven when the man had taken him in his arms. He couldn't remember much of the previous night, but he could remember Severus' touch, and being held in those strong arms.

And now here he was, still wrapped in Severus' hold, feeling the man's steady breathing as he lay against his chest. He emitted a soft sigh and nestled further into Severus' arms. He was pretty sure that his fever was gone, but that didn't mean he had to relinquish Severus, and after all, for all he knew the fever might still be lingering, and he didn't want to take any chances. Besides, he still felt weak, and being held by his strong husband was certainly helping.

He stretched his limbs out then felt Severus stir slightly behind him, and after a moment or two he felt the man's breath ghost over his ear as he said softly, "Harry? Are you awake?"

"Yes," he replied quietly, unconsciously inclining his head towards Severus.

"How do you feel?" Severus asked, unknowingly sending shivers down Harry's spine with his voice and the way his breath was dancing over Harry's skin.

"Better...but not well enough yet for you to let go of me," he added, pausing to gauge Severus' reaction, hoping to Merlin he hadn't gone too far. He let out a breath of relief as he felt Severus emit a soft chuckle and the man whispered,

"I have no intention of letting you go." And to prove it, he wrapped his arms even tighter around Harry, leaning in close to his ear and saying, "No intention whatsoever."

Harry closed his eyes and lay back against Severus, unable to remove the smile from his lips. He was in heaven and was quite happy to stay the way he was forever. "What happened to me Severus?" he asked quietly, absent-mindedly running his fingers along Severus' arm.

Severus steadied himself, sure that the boy was unaware of the effect his simple action was having on him, and said as evenly as he could, "Your magical energy was drained, which sent your body into a state of shock, so you had to borrow my energy."

"Borrow? You mean I have to give it back?" Harry asked with a smirk.

"We'll talk about methods of repayment," Severus murmured.

"I'm open to suggestions," Harry whispered in response, hardly believing he was being so daring and even...flirtatious.

"That's good no know Harry," Severus said with a smile, then, uncaring of the consequences, pressed a feather light kiss to Harry's neck. "Now go back to sleep, you need to build your strength back up."

"You'll still be here when I wake up?"

"What do you think?"

"You need to eat something, you still need to build yourself up again, so just have a few mouthfuls, please," said Severus, once again pushing forward a bowl of soup that Harry kept rejecting.

"I have no appetite," Harry replied, pushing it back.

"I don't care, you need to eat something."

Harry had slept for another few hours, his dreams full of a tall figure with black eyes and strong arms. He had woken up lying upon Severus' chest whilst he felt the man run his fingers through his hair. He had pretended to still be asleep for a few moments while he enjoyed the feel of those long fingers raking through his hair. He didn't know if it was still the effects of being drained, or if it was something else, but his body seemed to crave Severus' touch, he had a desperate need to be as close to him as possible, and if he was truthful, he wasn't too bothered to examine the reasons behind it.

"I'll be sick if I eat that. Really, I just can't eat anything at the moment," Harry said, placing the bowl of soup on the bedside table, away from him.

"And what will you do if you go downhill again?" Severus said, getting up from the bed and tidying up the clothes that had been discarded the previous night.

"Oh I'm sure you'll be around to revive me," Harry said, affecting an air of innocence as Severus stopped what he was doing and looked over at him, his eyes narrowing.

"Perhaps I won't feel so generous next time," he replied, walking back over to the bed.

Harry smirked and said, "Why do I get the feeling that's a complete and utter lie?"

"Perhaps because you're an unconscionable little know-it-all?"

"I note you're not denying I'm right," Harry asked, grinning.

Severus sat on the side of the bed and slowly loomed over Harry, placing an arm either side of him so that he was almost pressed up against the headboard. He leant in close to Harry so his lips were level with Harry's ear and said softly, "I will be willing to do whatever it takes to make you well again, at any given time. All you have to do is ask." He pushed himself away slightly and looked Harry in the eye, pleased to see that the boy's eyes were shining and he was smirking at him. "Now eat your soup."

Harry's recovery was a slow one. Although his mind recovered in less than a day, his body was not so quick to follow. He had been greatly weakened by the loss of his magical energies and the slightest action tired him completely. He was confined to bed for a full week and greatly enjoyed having Severus wait on him hand and foot, though after a while it did get frustrating when he wasn't allowed to do the slightest thing for himself. His use of magic was also very limited and he wasn't allowed to do any Elemental magic of any kind until he was completely recovered, so for the most part, he was living like a bed-ridden muggle.

On the plus side, however, he still needed to retain basic physical contact with Severus, and Severus seemed only too happy to comply. They had not slept physically apart since Severus had brought Harry home from the hospital, and Harry had to admit, he adored going to sleep and waking up in the man's arms, and would continue doing so for as long as the man was happy to let him. He wasn't sure how much of the situation was still a real medical need to enable him to get better, and how much of it was...something else. But he really didn't care as long as it continued.

When he was finally let out of bed, the physical contact didn't cease. Somehow Severus always found a way to touch him, and more often than not, they would end up on the sofa, either with Harry cuddled into Severus' side, or with his head resting in the man's lap, not to mention the thousand little touches that passed between them throughout the day. It was certainly speeding his recovery, not that he was in any rush to tell Severus that. Why stop a good thing?

"When are we next going to the estate?" he asked one evening as he lay with his head in Severus' lap whilst Severus marked yet another batch of dismal essays.

"Not until you're better," Severus replied.

"I am better!" he insisted. Severus looked down pointedly at him and Harry smirked, saying, "Well ok, not completely better, I mean, there are still some things that...but I can go to the estate."

"We'll see, you've only just stopped spending the entire day in bed, you're in no fit state to go re-decorating houses." Harry went to retaliate but Severus pressed a finger to his lips and said, "No arguing."

Harry bit back a smile and made himself more comfortable, closing his eyes as he lay stretched out, Severus making an excellent cushion. After a few minutes he heard Severus lay the essays aside and the next thing he knew, Severus' fingers were working their way through his hair. He emitted a sigh that almost bordered on a moan and leant back into Severus' touch, the man's ministrations relaxing him even further. "Did you ever think about taking work as a masseuse?" Harry asked with a soft laugh.

"And waste my talents on other people?" came the reply.

"So you only want to waste them on me?" Harry asked, opening his eyes, looking up at the man. Severus merely smirked down at him, continuing his movements. Harry's eyes closed once more and Severus traced the planes of his face with his eyes. He was so beautiful, and in these moments, he was his. He felt terrible for thinking it, but the illness was the best thing that had happened to them. How else would he have ever been able to be with Harry in this way?

He felt so incredibly protective towards the boy, not to mention possessive, and all he wanted was to keep him safe from everything that intended him harm, safe from people who would hurt his relatives. He had yet to say anything to Harry about the scars on his back, but it had been in his mind ever since. How could the boy have kept it a secret for so long? Surely someone must have known what had been happening?

"Harry, can I talk to you about something?" he ventured tentatively. Harry opened his eyes again and looked sleepily up at Severus.

"Sure, what's up?"

Severus took a deep breath and continued stroking Harry's hair. "Harry, when you were ill the other day...I um...I noticed something..."

Harry frowned and sat up, looking Severus in the eye, and said, "What are you talking about?"

Severus sighed and decided that the direct approach was best, he would do neither of them any good by dragging it out. "Harry I saw the scars," he said quietly, returning eye contact with Harry.

Harry's expression hardened and it seemed to Severus as though every single protective wall Harry possessed was thrown right up. He got up from the sofa and said, "I don't want to talk about it."

"Harry I don't want to pry – "

"Then don't," Harry returned, turning back round to face him. "It's not important and I don't want to talk about it."

"Not important? Harry's someone's done that to you and I can't just – "

"Please! Please just leave it! I can't do this, I can't talk about this. It's just too...I can't," he said, heading off towards the bedroom, but Severus caught his wrist and stopped him from going any further. "Severus let me go," Harry whispered, tears swimming in his eyes. "I never wanted you to know...I never wanted anyone to know. Just forget about it, please."

"I can't Harry. You need to talk about this, you need to tell me what happened."

"No I don't!" Harry said, shaking himself free of Severus' grasp and walking across the room. "I don't need to talk about it, not with you, not with anyone. It happened ok? And that's bad enough without digging it all back up again. I don't want to think about it, I don't even want to acknowledge that it happened!"

"But it did happen, you can't just pretend that it didn't, you can't bury something like this."

"What do you want from me Severus? You want me to tell you the whole sordid story? Do you want to hear how my uncle beat me to within an inch of my life on more than one occasion? Do you want to hear how he made every second of my life in that house a living hell, or how he took great delight in making me feel less than worthless? Or do you want to hear how it was the happiest day of my life when he died, and the only thing I was sorry about was that I didn't kill him myself? Is that what you wanted?" he finished, biting back the tears, his eyes shining with pain and anger.

"Harry..." Severus said quietly, moving towards him.

"Don't," Harry stuttered, backing off away from him. "I can't do this, I have to go," he said, grabbing his cloak and heading for the door.

"Harry wait!" But he was gone before Severus could stop him.

It had been his first reaction to go to the estate and as he sat in the study in front of a small fire he had conjured, he wasn't sure if it had been such a good idea. He felt safe and protected there, but everything reminded him of Severus, and he just wanted to forget what had happened between them, he wanted to banish it from his mind completely.

He was so ashamed. He'd never wanted anyone to know, and now Severus of all people had found out, the one person he'd most wanted to keep if secret from. How was he ever going to face the man again?

He'd tried so hard to push all those memories to the deepest corner of his mind; he'd never wanted to confront them and now he'd been forced to. It was so painful to remember all that had happened, to go back to that awful place and re-live what he'd hoped to forget. Perhaps he'd been naïve to think that he could bury it forever, but he hadn't been prepared to have to deal with it so soon, not when everything was still so raw, when he was still so desperate to escape it all.

He could feel the tears making hot tracks down his cheeks, but he made no effort to wipe them away, he just wrapped his arms tightly around his knees and stared unblinkingly ahead. How could he escape from his own thoughts? How could he stop everything that was truly torturing him?

He was beginning to experience another problem as well. He had been apart from Severus for a good couple of hours and had therefore been deprived of physical contact with him for the first time since he'd fallen ill, and he was beginning to feel the effects. He didn't know how he was going to make it through the night, but he was damned if he was going to go back to Hogwarts.

The fire had begun to die, so Harry waved his hand in its direction, making it spring to life again, watching the flames as they began attacking the wood.

"You're not supposed to be performing Elemental Magic at the moment," came Severus' voice from behind him.

He quickly wiped the tears from his face and replied, "Don't suppose it matters much anymore. How did you know I was here?" he asked without turning around.

"Where else would you be?" he said, walking over to Harry, leaning against the old table and looking down at Harry, who was still sitting with his arms wrapped round himself, looking ahead. "Come home," Severus said quietly.

Harry shook his head and replied, "I'm fine where I am."

"You're not fine in any sense of the word Harry."

"No, no I'm a nutjob right? Poor Harry, emotionally and physically scarred and deeply troubled. Regular old basket case me."

"Did I say that?" Severus asked gently. "But you shouldn't be here on your own. Not like this. Please, just come home with me."

"I can't," Harry said, rising to his feet and moving away from Severus. "I just want to be on my own. I don't want to talk about...I just can't Severus. You don't understand."

"What? What don't I understand?" Severus asked, moving to stand behind Harry.

Harry took a deep breath, feeling so unsteady and vulnerable, then said shakily, "I'm so ashamed Severus. I didn't want anyone to ever find out...especially should never have known."

Severus grabbed the boy's shoulders and turned him around to face him. "I'm the one person who should have known, I'm the person who you tell something like this to so I can help you, so I can – "

"What? Run off and report to Dumbledore?" he said, shaking Severus off and moving away. "Go and tell him how damaged his wonder boy is?"

"No," Severus said emphatically, going after him and pulling him back again, placing his hands either side of the boy's face, "so I could help you, so I could offer you some...solace."

Harry closed his eyes against the onslaught of tears that threatened to attack him. "I just can't face this Severus," he whispered, meeting the man's eyes.

Severus moved his thumb over Harry's cheekbone and said softly, "Then let me help you."

"You can't undo what's happened...and neither can I. The next best thing is to forget about it."

"That's not going to help."

Harry pulled away from Severus and said, "And how do you know what will and won't help? It's not for you to say what I should do about this, it's not up to you to make those kinds of decisions for me. Why can't you just respect the fact that I just want to forget it?" He walked over to the window and looked out at the blackness, praying that Severus would let the matter lie. He heard the man move behind him and he felt Severus' hands on his shoulders and the man spoke gently into his ear,

"Because I care about you far too much to watch you suffer like this. Let me help you."

Harry closed his eyes and bit his lip to try and steady himself against everything that was threatening to overwhelm him. He was so tired, so ready to just give in and Severus' declaration was potentially the thing that could push him over the edge. He let out a shaky breath and allowed himself to be pulled back into Severus' hold, strong arms wrapping around his waist, solid and secure. There was nothing to stop the tears now, and try as he might, they fell down his cheeks, unbidden and unstoppable. He turned himself around in Severus' arms and buried his face in the man's chest, the tears now uncontrollable. Severus held him close and gently stroked his hair, prepared to hold him forever if he had to.

The fire had long since died and the night had slowly slipped into early morning, dark and cold, but with the promise of light on the horizon. Severus and Harry were sitting on the old transfigured mattress in front of the now dead fire, close but not touching. Harry had lain in Severus' arms for hours, sometimes in tears, sometimes in silence, just being held. Severus hadn't pushed him to speak further and Harry hadn't volunteered any information; he'd only wanted to be comforted, to have, as Severus had put it, solace.

As the night slid on, Harry had finally disentangled himself from Severus and sat up, knowing they needed to talk, but unsure how to start. He took a breath and wrapped his arms around himself, looking ahead at the embers of the fire. "It wasn't until I was fifteen that the actual physical stuff started. Before that it had just been locking me up or withholding food for a couple of days, things that I could deal with. But was like his anger just got too much, he needed some way to let it out, and I was the obvious choice. He had all this hatred towards me, I was everything in the world he despised and I was living under his roof. It was inevitable really. First it was just a cuff around the head or a swift kick, but then it got steadily worse. He began using his fists, and the punches began to have more force behind them."

He continued to stare ahead, linking and unlinking his fingers. "And then he began using the belt. It mostly only happened when he was drunk, but then that happened more and more frequently, and the more drunk he was, the more violent the beatings were. I once ended up with a couple of broken ribs and a few loose teeth...not the prettiest I've ever looked. I didn't regain consciousness until the day after that time."

Severus felt physically sick, not to mention the overwhelming surge of anger that had settled in the pit of his stomach, but he tried to push it all to one side and asked, "What about your aunt? Surely she must have known what was happening?"

"She did, but what could she do? He was too strong...besides, her loyalty was to him...not me. There was nothing anyone could do. I just had to wait until I could get out of there, be free of him. It just happened a little sooner than I thought." He finally turned to look at Severus and said, "But the point is, it's over, it's done. He can't hurt me anymore and I never have to see him or think about him again."

"But it's not over Harry, not until you confront it. It's still affecting you, you know it is," Severus said gently.

"I don't deny it, but I don't think that raking it all up is going to help. I just...I've dealt with this for so long on my own, I've buried it for so long that to suddenly be confronted by it is...difficult."

"I'm not doing this to hurt you."

"I know," Harry said quickly, reaching for Severus' hand and gripping it tightly. "I know you want to help, but it's just so hard...and painful. You of all people know what it's like to grow up in a miserable and unhappy home, you know what it's like to be deprived of a family existence. have your own scars."

Severus' eyes narrowed and he looked at Harry closely, saying, "My scars were made in adulthood, and are a result of my own stupid choices, I have no one to blame but myself. You can't believe you're responsible for yours."

Harry sighed and moved his thumb over the back of Severus' hand. "For a long time I did, especially when I was younger. I didn't understand it, I didn't understand why my cousin was worthy of so much love and attention I wasn't. I was a child who was made to feel like a freak, an outsider; I had no place in the world and I didn't know why. It was only until I found out what I was and I came to Hogwarts that it started to make sense. It didn't stop anything...but it made it easier in some ways. I don't know, I think I'll always struggle with who or what I am...and how much that contributed to my uncle's hatred of me, but it's over, it's finished. He's gone and he can't hurt me anymore."

"If he were still alive I'd kill him," Severus said darkly. "I'd make him pay for everything he's done to you."

"Well it's a good job he's dead then because I don't want you locked up in Azkaban for the rest of your life," Harry replied with the ghost of a smile. "I'm not saying that I don't think about it every day of my life; I do, I do every single time I take my clothes off, but I don't want to let him win, I don't want him to destroy me forever."

Severus continued to hold Harry's hand tightly, scanning the boy's face, torn between overwhelming pride that Harry had such strength, and bitter sadness that he needed it. His need to protect Harry was stronger than ever and it broke his heart to think of the horrors Harry had had to live through. He offered what he knew was an unconvincing smile and said, "Shall we return to Hogwarts?"

Harry shook his head and replied, "If you don't mind, I think I'd like to stay here for a bit...but by myself. I just need some space, some time on my own to sort my head out and take some time to put myself back on track. Please?"

Severus wanted to say no, to drag Harry back to Hogwarts with him and keep him there forever, but he couldn't be that selfish, Harry needed to do whatever he could to make himself feel better. He nodded and said, "But please, come home soon."

Chapter Text

That night had been difficult for Severus. When he returned it was the early hours of the morning, and though he had tried, he had had no sleep at all. It had been strange and disconcerting not to have Harry in the bed alongside him; it had been the only time since he and Harry had argued that he had slept alone and he'd hated it. Eventually he'd given up and had gone to sit in the living room, trying to mark some essays but not having the concentration to do it seriously. He was actually rather relieved when there was a knock on the door and Draco appeared.

"Is Harry here? I need to have a word with him."

"No," said Severus, leading him into the living room, "he's spending some time at the estate, he...he just fancied some time away."

"Is everything ok?" Draco asked with a frown, taking a seat.

"Not really," Severus admitted, sitting next to Draco.

"You've argued?"

"No, well yes, a little, but that's resolved now. Now I'm just worried about him. There are some...things that he needs to work through and I just...I feel so useless. He's there all alone and there's nothing I can do to help him. I just wish I knew what to do."

Draco smiled at his friend, hating to see how torn up he was about the situation, but unsurprised at how much Severus seemed to care. "There's only one thing you can do – be there. Do you remember when Dad was in the hospital?" Severus nodded, and Draco continued, "I was a complete mess, I was so worried and all I could think about was what would happen if Dad didn't pull through. And through it all Ron was by my side, he didn't leave me apart from the times he was forced back here. Half the time he didn't have to say or do anything, it just helped that he was there, that I knew I had someone who cared enough to make sure I came through it all. I wouldn't have managed without him. And that's what you need to do for Harry. Whatever he's going through, he'll need you, just to be there for him. Something tells me that won't be too much of a problem for you though," he finished with the hint of a grin.

Severus rolled his eyes as he considered Draco's advice. He was right; what Harry needed was support and he'd be damned if he got it from anyone else but him.

"You love him don't you?" Draco asked softly. Severus turned to look sharply at the blond and said,

"What are you talking about?"

"Come on Uncle Sev, I may be blond but I'm not stupid! You might think that you hide it well but it's blindingly obvious; you're completely in love with him," Draco told him with a smile.

Severus shook his head and rose from the sofa, saying, "I don't know what you're talking about."

"You're not going to deny this surely?"

"There's nothing to deny Draco. I'm married to him, we have to put on a certain show for the rest of the world to maintain our cover and – "

"And that's all well and good for when you're in public, but I've seen the two of you when you're in private, when it's just the two of you and no one else matters. You can't take your eyes off him and there's so much...affection between the two of you. And the way you look at him..."

"What?" Severus asked, turning around to face his young friend.

Draco smiled and said, "You look at him like he's the only thing worth seeing. It's the same way I look at Ron."

"Draco I..."

"Don't deny it Sev, I know you too well. I've watched you both over the last few months, I've seen how you are together, I've never seen you so comfortable with anyone, not even me or my family. You can just tell...he means everything to you."

Severus let out a breath and ran a hand through his hair, completely thrown and unnerved by Draco's direct and confident assessment of his relationship with Harry.

Draco rose to his feet and moved to stand next to Severus. He smiled at the man and said gently, "Severus, you know how much I care about you, you come second only to my own father, I just want to see you happy...and I know that Harry makes you happy."

Severus placed his hands on Draco's shoulders, touched that the young man cared enough about him to try and sort his stupidly complicated life out. "Drake, I know that things between myself and Harry have changed, an idiot could see that, and I know I care about him, very much in fact, but...honestly I don't know how deep it goes, I...I do have feelings for him. I can't bear it when he's in pain, I'm happy when he's happy and I hate it when he's not with me..."

"And you haven't figured out by now that that's love?" Draco asked with a smirk. "Sev, you're hopeless."

Ron was sitting in the Gryffindor common room, playing wizard chess with himself, although he was meant to be writing an essay for Transfiguration. It had been a fairly manic day and he was grateful to finally be able to put his feet up and release the stress of the day. He hadn't seen his blond counterpart since the morning and he was beginning to wonder where the little sod had disappeared to when the portrait hole opened and Draco strolled in. "I was wondering when you'd put in an appearance," Ron said as Draco moved round to join him on the sofa.

He leant over to place a kiss on Ron's lips and said, "Sorry, I've been shut up in the library all day. I can see you've been using your time productively," he said with a pointed look at the chess board.

"I'm taking a break," Ron replied with a smirk. "Why are you looking at me like there's something you're dying to tell me about?"

"Ah you can read me like a book Mr Weasley," Draco replied with a grin, settling back in the sofa next to Ron. "I had a very interesting conversation with Severus today."


"Mm, about our very own Mr Potter and how he feels about him."

Ron rolled his eyes and said, "Snape's head over heels for Harry, big news."

"Yes, but our esteemed Potions Master was not aware of that."

"What? You mean the man's been walking around in love with Harry Potter and he didn't realise?" Ron asked incredulously.

"That's what I mean. Unbelievable isn't it?"

"Utterly! I was walking around in love with you for months but at least I knew about it!" he said, earning a beaming smile from the blond. Draco leant over to him and placed a soft kiss on his lips, then said,

"That's because, despite appearances to the contrary, you're a hopeless romantic. Severus...he just needs a little help when it comes to matters of the heart."

"And you intend to give him that help?"

"Got it in one," Draco said with a grin. "I just...I want to see him happy, he just needs to realise that."

"Oh Drake, I think you're the hopeless romantic, not me."

Draco smiled and said, "That's very true."

"Well bearing in mind this streak of romanticism, I wonder if there's something you'd do for me?"

"Hm, sounds interesting...or possibly ominous. What is it then?"

"Come stay with me over Easter?" he asked tentatively.

The blond pulled back slightly, looking rather hesitant, not that Ron could blame him; his family were something of a daunting prospect. Before the blond could absolutely refuse, he continued, "It won't be that bad I promise. Hermione will be there and you like Hermione."

"She's a darling," Draco conceded.

"And Ginny, you get on well with her," Ron pressed, encouraged.

"She's a hoot. She's also the only member of your family who doesn't wish me physical harm," he said darkly.

"Drake don't be such a drama queen, none of my family wishes you harm, and this will be the perfect opportunity for you to see that. You've never met Bill and Charlie and the twins really are good fun once you get to know them. Please? I got to know your family."

"Yeah but you like them."

"Now I do, after spending two weeks with them, charming your mother and talking to your father. I like them very much, and I hope they like me, but that's only happened because I spent time with them. Just give it a try, for me? I really want to be part of your life and I want you to be part of mine. Come on, it won't be that bad."

Draco sighed, knowing he owed it to Ron, but admittedly worried about spending time with the Weasley clan. "Ok then, let's do it. But I am warning you, if any of your deranged brothers try anything, I will hex them and you to kingdom come!"

Later that night, Severus sat alone in the living room, a glass of whisky in his hand, though admittedly it was as yet untouched. He was so deep in thought about Harry and what Draco had said to him earlier that he didn't hear the door open, and he was only aware of another person in the room when a quiet voice behind him said,

"You know there was this one time – " his head spun around and he saw Harry standing there, who began walking round the sofa, quietly saying, "I'd been beaten so badly that it hurt to move, hurt to breathe, hurt to even open my eyes," he said, hovering by the arm of the sofa, but not taking a seat. "I was in so much pain, and I'd just...had enough. I'd had enough of it all, enough of being unhappy, enough of feeling that much pain, enough of everything I had to deal with. When I was finally able to move again, I sat on the floor of my room with a razor blade I'd filched from the bathroom. I held it against my wrist for God knows how long...willing myself to do it...telling myself that it could all be over if I just pressed that blade into my skin."

Severus listened, pained and horrified by what Harry was telling him but determined not to interrupt, to let the boy exorcise his demons.

"And then something stopped me," Harry said quietly, a tiny smile playing around his lips, though Severus couldn't imagine what in Harry's dialogue could provoke a smile. "I suddenly heard this voice in my head – 'Potter, such an act as this is only further proof of your ineptitude and cowardice, please, go ahead and prove me right' – it was you. This was a good few months before we were married mind, and it was your voice in my head, your voice that made me stop. I owe you my life Severus," he finished quietly.

"I wasn't there when it counted," Severus replied, standing and moving closer to Harry. "Merlin Harry, I swear, if I'd had the slightest idea what was happening, I would have taken you out of that place in a heartbeat. I wouldn't have left you there go through that, you must believe that," he said, placing his hands on Harry's shoulders.

Harry smiled softly and said, "I know that Severus, but you didn't know what was happening. I have a feeling some people did," he said, letting the insinuation hang, "but there was nothing you could have done. You helped me in ways you don't realise. After that night it was always your voice I heard, pushing me, berating me, making sure I didn't give up." He placed his hand over Severus' own that was resting on his shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze, saying, "One way or another, you're always saving my life."

Severus smirked and replied, "Well someone has to, Merlin knows you can't take care of yourself."

"Are you applying for the job Professor?" Harry asked with a smile.

"I'd have something to say if it went to anyone else," he said, softly brushing Harry's cheek with the back of his hand.

"The job's yours then. Now, I've been away from here for about sixteen hours and I'm seriously starting to feel the effects of the magical drainage. In your new role, I think you need to remedy the situation," he said, stepping forward and wrapping his arms around Severus.

Severus smiled and brought his arms up to encircle the boy, holding him tightly against himself. He placed a kiss to Harry's temple and murmured, "Are you going to be alright?"

Harry sighed, relaxing into the hold and said, "I'm back where I belong, I'll be just fine."

"Are you sure you're feeling better?" Hermione asked as she, Harry, Ron and Draco sat in Harry's study in his and Severus' quarters. The three had come down to visit Harry to see how he was recovering and to pass on all the work he had missed during his illness.

"I'm fine, honestly. I still get tired easily but Severus is always on hand to make sure I get enough rest," Harry replied, missing the exchange of looks between Ron and Draco at the mention of the Potions Master's name.

"Well you look much better than you did a few days ago, I've never seen you so pale," Hermione said with a frown. "And Mr Kingston thinks it was a drain of your magical energies?"

Harry nodded, propping his feet up on the table and saying, "That's what seemed to do it. I'd just tried to do too much too soon, it was my own stupid fault really, but I'll know better for next time."

Hermione frowned again and seemed to be about to say something but thought better of it and simply settled for smiling and saying, "Well at least you're better. It's a good thing that the holidays are coming up as well, it'll give you a good opportunity to rest."

"What are you doing over Easter anyway?" Ron chimed in from his position on the floor, sprawled out over Draco with his head in the blond's lap.

Harry shrugged and replied, "I'm not sure, I don't know what our plans are."

"'Our plans'?" Ron questioned with a raised eyebrow, earning himself a swat on the head from Draco and a warning glance, which he ignored and continued to smirk up at Harry.

Harry shook his head, pretending not to notice the teasing glint in his friend's eye and replied, "I think we'll probably just spend the holidays quietly, we might spend some time at the estate."

"That'll be nice for you," Hermione said, "you could do with some time away to convalesce."

"Oh yeah, that's what he'll be wanting to do at the estate...convalesce," Ron said, grinning, and Draco couldn't help but share in the red-head's mirth as they started giggling like fools.

Harry rolled his eyes at them, pretending not to have the slightest idea what they were talking about, wishing they would both shut up and let the matter drop. "And what are you two idiots doing over the holidays?" he asked, hoping to change the subject.

Ron stifled his giggles long enough to take a couple of deep breaths and say, "Drake's coming to stay with me, and Hermione will be staying for a few days as well, won't you 'Mione?"

Hermione nodded, unable to mask her amusement at the boys' ridiculous antics.

"Oh well that's nice, everyone's invited but me," Harry said in mock indignation, for he knew an invitation would be forthcoming.

"Oh relax you big baby, that's half the reason I'm here – to invite you and the good Professor to stay for a night or two with us over the holidays, if you think you can persuade him to come along," Ron said, stretching his long legs out and making himself more comfortable, which only served to make Draco more uncomfortable.

"I don't know why you put up with him Draco," Hermione told the blond as he wriggled, trying to free himself from Ron's ungainly limbs.

Ron laughed and said, "You don't, but he does, don't you Drake?" He waggled his eyebrows at the blond and Draco merely shook his head in amusement and looked over to Hermione, saying,

"I'm glad someone sympathises with my plight. Here I am, a well-bred, well-refined member of high society, and what do I end up with? This useless oaf who seems to think I'm a cushion! Really Hermione, you wouldn't believe half the things I have to put up with."

Harry smiled and settled back in this armchair, content to listen to his friends' jovial banter. The last couple of days had been fraught and tense and he was glad of a distraction. He smiled as the conversation became more and more ridiculous and Draco began to get more animated in his stories about Ron, and he felt a sudden warmth envelop him, as if things were finally beginning to right themselves. He was lucky really; for all the bad things that had happened in his past, there were things in his present that he was exceedingly grateful for and cherished beyond measure.

It was a Sunday afternoon and Harry had been left up to his own devices whilst Severus was holed up in his lab, brewing some concoction or other. They had decided to forego going to the estate that weekend as they were both rather tired and would benefit from a restful weekend. Harry had tried his best to concentrate on his school work, but it held no interest for him whatsoever, and besides, he had far more interesting things to occupy his mind.

He was currently curled up on the sofa, daydreaming about Severus and the last few days. Since the revelation about Harry's life with his relatives, Severus had been incredibly attentive, as if needing to prove to Harry that he would never suffer such a life again. Harry also suspected that there was a fair amount of guilt mixed into Severus' actions, guilt that he hadn't known what was going on and that he hadn't stopped it, but as far as Harry was concerned, if there was blame, it wasn't to be laid at Severus' door.

Regardless of the reasons, Harry had to admit that he was enjoying it. He enjoyed feeling like he mattered, like he was wanted, and that was how Severus made him feel. He felt himself smile like a lunatic and he gave himself a shake, saying, "Pull yourself together you idiot. Do something useful with your time."

Taking his own advice, he decided it was the perfect time to practise some Elemental magic, even though technically he was supposed to be abstaining from it. He'd come across something in his reading and he was desperate to try it out; he just hoped it was up to the task. He rose from the sofa and positioned himself in the centre of the room, praying that he didn't set fire to anything or Severus would likely kill him. He placed his hands out in front of him, the palms facing each other. He felt the energy crackle between them and he smiled as he felt the power coursing through him, springing to his fingertips.

He concentrated on the empty space between his hands, feeling the energy there vibrate and crackle, and he held his breath as there was a sudden snap and the air appeared to ignite and a small, sparkling flame appeared. He widened his hands and the flame grew, though to Harry it appeared different to all the other flames he had created, and this one most definitely was. Harry let it hover in the air for a moment before dropping his hands, smiling at the fiery creation in front of him as it danced and zipped about, possessing a life of its own. After a moment it dashed across to sit on his shoulder, though the fire did him or his clothing no harm. He smiled at it and whispered, "Go!", and watched it whizz around the room like a hyperactive child before zipping back to crackle in front of him.

"Harry have you seen the – what is that?" asked Severus, stepping out in front of him and catching sight of the flaming ball in front of Harry.

Harry smiled and said, "Come here and I'll introduce you."

Severus frowned and moved next to Harry, observing the strange thing in front of him. "This," said Harry proudly, "is a Fiery Minion, and I conjured it."

"You did this?" Severus asked in amazement, for the time forgetting that Harry wasn't actually supposed to be performing such magic.

"Mmhmm," Harry said with a grin. "It will do whatever I want it to," he said, and to prove it, he inclined his head towards Severus and the minion flitted over to the man and bobbed on his shoulder. "It won't hurt you, not unless I tell it to," Harry assured him.

"I have to say I'm impressed Harry," Severus said softly, watching as Harry controlled the minion around the room.

Harry grinned over his shoulder at the man, then after a couple more demonstrations, snapped his fingers, making the minion disappear. He was slightly breathless, but his eyes were shining, full of enthusiasm and excitement. It had clearly taken it out of him though, and Severus stepped towards him, saying gently, "Come here," pulling him into his arms.

Harry felt instantly better, wrapping his arms around Severus' neck, nuzzling into it slightly, smiling as Severus' hand found its usual place in Harry's hair. "Mm, good stuff," Harry muttered, causing Severus to snort slightly and tell him,

"You're a bloody fool."

"Yup," Harry agreed happily. He pulled Severus over to the sofa, and collapsed them both onto it, wrapping his arms around Severus' torso, resting his head on his chest as Severus' arm held him tightly. "What are we doing for the Easter holidays?" he asked sleepily.

"I don't know, we have no plans," Severus replied, trying to ignore how much he enjoyed having Harry in his arms.

"Hm, well then, how do you fancy spending them up at the estate? Think about it, a couple of weeks away from Hogwarts and all the teachers and students, just some time away for the two of us. We can camp out in the study and just spend the whole time raiding the cellar and lazing around. What do you think?"

Severus smiled and replied, "I think it's potentially one of the best ideas you've ever had." He honestly couldn't think of a better way to spend the next two weeks, especially given that it meant having Harry all to himself.

"Of course, we will have to spend at least one night at the Weasleys."


Harry laughed at the tone in the man's voice and said, "It's tradition, plus we've been invited. Oh come on, I had to go to that awful party at Drayton Manor and the Malfoys' New Year party, you owe me. Besides, Draco will be there, so you'll have an ally, which is more than I had."

"Very well, I'll come. Anyway, as I recall you didn't have such a terrible time at either party."

Harry smirked into Severus' chest and muttered, "They did have a couple of highlights I'll grant you. You never know, play your cards right and there might a highlight or two for you."

Chapter Text

Draco Malfoy did not get nervous. Ever. It was far far beneath a Malfoy to entertain such a low-brow, unworthy emotion, and besides, there was no situation on the face of the planet that could make him nervous. However, if he were ever to get nervous, it might be when he was faced with the prospect of staying with the entire Weasley clan. He told himself to stop being such a child, it was only the Weasleys for goodness sake! He'd faced much worse, although admittedly never the boyfriend's family before. But really, how bad could it be? Very bad, a little voice in the back of his head chimed helpfully, and he had to fight very hard to ignore it as he nervously reached up and knocked on the door of The Burrow.

After what seemed like an eternity, the door opened to reveal his smiling boyfriend who exclaimed, "Drake! You're here," and surged forward to plant a kiss on his lips. "I've missed you," he whispered.

Draco smiled, feeling a little of the tension leave him. "Of course you did, who wouldn't?"

"Prat," said Ron, taking his case and saying, "Come on in, and don't worry, they're all on their best behaviour.

"Like that will make me feel better," Draco muttered, following Ron inside the topsy-turvy house. Draco had to admit, despite his refined upbringing and the surroundings to which he was used to, he found The Burrow charming. Molly was waiting for him with a warm hug and a cheerful greeting, which Draco politely returned, handing her a potted plant and a rather expensive bottle of wine, saying, "Thank you very much for letting me stay Mrs Weasley."

"Oh not at all sweetheart, and please, call me Molly. The twins are around here somewhere, and Bill and Charlie will be arriving at some point this evening, so in the meantime just get yourself settled in and make yourself at home."

Draco thanked her again and was then led upstairs by Ron who said, "You're bunking in with me, but unfortunately so are the twins, so no fun for us I'm afraid," he said with a grin as he watched Draco take a quick scan of the room.

"You couldn't have tidied up a bit?" the blond asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Cheeky git. Come and say hello properly," he ordered, grabbing a handful of Draco's robes and pulling him into a kiss. Draco wound his arms round Ron's neck and melted into the kiss, pressing himself up against Ron's strong body. When they eventually pulled apart, Draco said with a smile,

"Come on then Mr Weasley, show me around this place you call home."

Ron spent the afternoon showing Draco around the house and the grounds, and later took him into the village to have a look around. He had initially been rather nervous about showing Draco his home; he knew how Draco had been brought up. He'd seen the luxury in which Draco lived and he was worried that Draco would think his living conditions highly inferior. All that had been put to rest however when he'd seen the smile on Draco's face, and how the blond pronounced the whole place "Beautiful". They had arrived back to The Burrow just as Bill and Charlie had shown up and the two Weasleys had greeted Draco enthusiastically, if a little roughly, giving him great big claps on the back and instructing him to tell them how life was going at Hogwarts.

Dinner began as soon as Arthur returned, greeting Draco politely and telling him he was welcome in his home. The twins were on fine form throughout the meal, jibing and teasing Draco, though never maliciously, and Draco was able to give them as good as he got, much to Ron's relief. By the end he was even talking to them about their current business plan for the shop, listening interestedly and offering pieces of advice.

"Did you know Harry and Uncle Sev are coming here in a couple of days?" Draco asked Ron as he gave him a hand with the dishes.

"Mm, Mum mentioned. I'm glad actually, I had a couple of ideas to run past Professor Snape about the estate and what we could do with a couple of those bedrooms."

"Did I hear you say you were glad that Snape was coming to stay?" Fred asked in disbelief as he and George carried a few more plates into the kitchen.

"Yes you did," Ron replied. "He's not a bad bloke you know, once you get to know him. I mean he's still pretty terrifying sometimes, but he's quite funny, and rather generous with his wine cellar. Seriously, you should get to know him, he's alright."

"High praise indeed," said George with a grin.

"Well you'll probably get a better character reference from Harry," said Draco with a smirk.

"What are you talking about blondie?" asked Fred.

"Oh you'll see when the happy couple get here. But I tell you what, I'll bet you 5 galleons that you'll be completely surprised when you see them together."

Fred looked over to Ron who gave him a faux innocent look and shrugged. "I'll take that bet."

"Now, I'm no expert," said Harry, as he stretched out on the rug in front of the fire, "but this wine is bloody amazing."

Severus chuckled, sitting beside him on the floor, saying, "I'm glad you approve."

"I was so ready for it after all that work we did on the gardens, I'm still filthy," he said, inspecting the dirt underneath his fingernails. "It was worth it though, I greatly enjoyed seeing you work with your shirt off."

Severus' eyes widened and he said, "You are drunk."

Harry giggled and replied, "That's quite true Professor, but it doesn't alter the fact that you look rather good topless. I think it's a look you should sport more often."

Severus shook his head, unable to disguise his smile entirely. Harry was adorable when he was drunk. "I don't think it's a look I'll be sporting in my Potions classroom."

Harry burst into laughter and said, "Oh Merlin could you imagine? No one would get any work done, they'd all be too busy ogling you. Actually I'm not sure I like that plan, I don't want anyone else ogling you."

"You're talking nonsense," Severus told him affectionately.

Harry sat up and replied, "No seriously, why should anyone else get to," he said, waving his hand up and down Severus' body. "So you know...don't teach without a shirt on yeah?"

Severus snorted, greatly amused by how seriously Harry was taking the whole thing. "I promise I'll try not to."

"Good, that's good," Harry nodded, apparently placated. "'Cuz you know, I'm not too crazy about the thought of sharing you," he said, collapsing back onto the floor.

Severus ran a finger along the boy's forehead, pushing a few stray hairs aside, saying, "I know the feeling."

Fred Weasley was not stupid. In fact he was considered by some as a rather astute, intelligent young man. He was therefore determined that he would not be conned out of 5 galleons by the blond former Slytherin who was currently taking up residence in his house, and he would in no way be surprised by whatever happened when Harry and Snape arrived.

The fact that when they arrived, both his younger brother and said former Slytherin had greeted them warmly and fondly was of no consequence, although it was fairly disturbing to see Ron apparently so comfortable with Hogwarts' resident Master of Snark; there was even a sarcastic little interplay between the two. But he wasn't surprised. Mildly taken aback perhaps, but definitely not surprised.

He watched with interest as Ron settled them both on the sofa, attentively serving them drinks whilst Draco asked how the estate was coming along. He watched as Hermione and Ginny went over to say hello to the 'couple', clearly not as comfortable with the Potions Master as his brother was, but they were unfailingly polite and seemed to be put more at their ease by Harry's relaxed behaviour. But none of this was surprising.

And nothing in between then and dinner was surprising either. Well, granted it was slightly odd to see Harry smiling at Snape, and touching Snape, and sitting quite so close to Snape on the sofa, but hey, it was a small sofa. When dinner was finally ready, Harry automatically seated himself next to Severus, Ron and Draco were opposite and the rest of the Weasleys were placed around the table. They all talked good-naturedly and the conversation flowed quite well, despite the fact that Molly was slightly uncomfortable at the sight of Harry and Severus functioning as a married couple, though it seemed to be a concept that the entire Weasley clan was having trouble reconciling themselves to. Everyone apart from his younger brother of course. Harry was more lively and animated than Fred had seen him in a long time. He was constantly smiling and looking over at Severus, recounting stories, and talking about their work on the estate.

"Oh God, it took us so long to sort out the main reception room, it was such a nightmare and we've still a fair way to go."

"You should have seen Severus' face when the floor fell through in the hallway, I thought he was going to have a fit."

"Of course it was a seriously bad idea to read 'The Telltale Heart' before staying in a dilapidated, spooky mansion for the night. Severus thought it was hilarious; he was in stitches every time I jumped at a noise. Big meanie."

"Well we've got plans to completely renovate what used to be the Great Hall, but it's such a massive project that we'll probably just leave it until the exams are over, spend the summer on it."

Dinner ended and coffee was served, and Fred had to admit, he teetered on the outskirts of surprise at the moment when his mother offered Snape a coffee and Harry stood up and said, "Oh I wouldn't bother, I'll come and do it. He's insanely specific about his coffee, I don't even think he knows how he likes it sometimes," he said, throwing a cheeky wink over his shoulder at Severus as he made his way into the kitchen. Fred watched as Snape merely rolled his eyes and shook his head in a manner that was almost...indulgent. But he wasn't surprised.

After coffee they all relaxed in the living room, the younger members of the group sitting on the floor, chatting amicably, whilst the 'adults' sat of the sofa, discussing Order matters and various other 'adult' topics. The atmosphere was relaxed and jovial, Draco making for fantastic entertainment as he performed and overly-dramatic tango with Hermione, and generally kept the laughs coming with his ridiculous anecdotes and stories and his lively way of telling them. Fred wasn't completely distracted though by Draco's crowd-pleasing tales; all the while he was keeping an eye on Harry and Snape. He didn't fail to notice the little glances and smiles that passed between them, or how Harry's entire face lit up whenever he locked eyes with the man.

He had to admit, he came as close to surprise as he had all day when Snape, presumably on his way to the bathroom, passed behind Harry and carelessly brushed the back of his neck with his hand. Harry had simply smiled to himself, what little tension there was in his body apparently disappearing. That little gesture made Fred hover on the borders of surprise.

At around 7 o' clock, Bill suggested they all go for a walk in the surrounding woodland, an idea which was met with enthusiasm. It was twilight and the air was calm and still, a cool breeze cutting through the warmth of the spring weather. Fred was walking with his twin and Ron and Draco, half listening to the slightly insane conversation they were having about what would happen if one of them were to be transformed into a centaur, but mostly concentrating on the two figures walking up ahead of them.

They weren't touching, but they were walking very closely together, murmuring and occasionally laughing. What struck Fred the most was the feeling of contentment and companionship that seemed to be rolling off them, and just how comfortable they seemed to be with one another. At one point, in response to something Harry had said, Snape gave him a gentle shove and Harry laughed, clasping Snape's arm and then looping his own arm through the man's. It was absolutely fascinating to watch, but it was not surprising, even when he heard Snape mutter, "You're a brat Potter."

The walk had done them all good and they settled back in The Burrow, relaxed and calm, ready to settle down for the night. They were discussing sleeping arrangements, Molly naturally taking charge of the proceedings. "Harry dear, I thought you could share with Bill and Charlie, and Severus, you – "

"Sorry Mrs Weasley," Harry interrupted frowning, "but Severus and I sleep together...I mean we sleep in the same place," he said, blushing slightly. "You know, as we're married..."

"Well yes dear," Molly replied, looking highly uncomfortable, "but it's only a formality. I mean...the marriage isn't real."

Harry looked slightly pained by her blunt appraisal, but was determined not to be beaten. "But we are married, we live together. Besides, it's a safety thing; you never know when Aldrington could show up, and we really can't take any risks. Please Mrs Weasley, it really is necessary."

"Harry I really don't think – "

"Don't worry about it Harry," Arthur interrupted, placing a hand on his wife's shoulder. "We'll sort something out."

Harry smiled and settled back down onto the sofa next to Severus, who had remained silent, but Harry could tell that he was rather pleased. He smirked at the man and gave him an almost indiscernible wink.

Over in the corner of the room, Fred Weasley disbelievingly handed Draco Malfoy 5 galleons.

After another day spent happily at the Weasleys, Severus and Harry returned to the estate and carried on their work with the renovation, happily ensconced in their own little world. They usually stayed up late into the night and spent the mornings sleeping in or lazing about in the study, making plans for the day. It was one such morning and Severus was halfway between sleep and awake.

He could hear Harry moving about somewhere not a million miles away, but he was far too comfortable to even consider moving. He stretched and sank further into the pillows, hardly able to believe that a transfigured old mattress could be so comfortable. He felt it dip slightly and he could feel a weight balanced near his feet; he cracked an eye open and saw Harry sitting next to him, grinning and holding a tray that appeared to be balancing breakfast.

"Good morning," Harry said, grinning down at him, waiting for him to sit up before he handed the tray over.

"Breakfast in bed?" Severus asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Only because today is a special day," Harry replied, then chuckled at the look on Severus' face. "Oh Severus, did you think I didn't know? Happy Birthday!"

"How did you know?!" Severus asked in surprise.

"Ah I have my sources."

"You mean that little blond menace has been running his mouth off," Severus groused, but Harry could see that he wasn't at all annoyed.

"Yes well, said blond menace is coming over here later, with Ron and the Malfoys for the wonderful, spectacular birthday dinner that I'm going to cook."

"Harry you really don't have to go to all that trouble."

"Are you kidding? It's your birthday, I want to. Now you get started on breakfast and I'll go open the champagne."

"Champagne?" Severus asked in surprise.

"But of course, only the best for my husband."

The day passed very pleasantly and with much consumption of champagne, though Harry assured Severus that there was plenty in stock for that night's dinner. They did nothing particularly special or important, but Harry seemed determined to make sure that Severus felt like it was his birthday, and went out of his way to pay full attention to him, and Severus had to admit, he was hard-pressed to remember a better birthday.

At around 7 o' clock, Ron, Draco, Narcissa and Lucius arrived, and Harry led them into the room they were currently using as a dining room, serving them drinks and apologising about the state of the house, promising that it would provide more splendour in the future, should it ever be finished. Harry had had to excuse himself and retreat to the kitchen, where he was being kept a slave by food preparation, grinning as he heard Ron loudly and melodramatically say, "I can't believe I'm being left with a roomful of Slytherins!"

Apparently Harry was serving a three course meal, and as he dashed around, making sure everything was going ok and that their guests always had full glasses, Severus was once again touched and amazed at the effort Harry had gone to just for him. He wasn't allowed to lift a finger and Harry wouldn't let him anywhere near the kitchen; all he could do was entertain his guests and thoroughly enjoy himself.

"I must apologise for the entirely non-matching cutlery and crockery, but we have nothing until we sort this place out, so it's all been begged, borrowed or stolen I'm afraid," said Harry with a laugh as his guests seated themselves and served up the first course of soup.

He waited nervously as they all tried it, beaming in delighted relief when Narcissa said, "Harry this is wonderful, really it's delicious."

Severus smiled at Harry's obvious relief, feeling an overwhelming surge of affection for his young husband and how obviously he wanted the night to be a success. "Harry's a fine cook," he said, earning a bright smile from the Gryffindor. "He comes in very handy at times." Harry poked his tongue out at him then proceeded to ensure that all the guests had plenty of wine, and Severus was sure that by the end of the night, his cellar would be empty.

The conversation flowed well, largely due to Harry's attentive skills as a host, and as he cleared the first course away, he refused help from everyone, insisting that no one would lift a finger but him. The second course surpassed the first, so much so that Lucius even said, "My my Potter, how would you like a job as a house elf? I have a vacancy." Harry merely grinned in response and said,

"You couldn't afford me."

Severus laughed and said, "Besides, no one's taking my house elf away from me." Harry smiled at him across the table and everyone present noticed the affectionate little interchange between the two.

The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly and Severus enjoyed himself greatly. Ron was full of ideas about the renovation and Severus enjoyed discussing them with him; the boy had a keen mind and he could put it to good use when he wanted to. Harry and Draco seemed to find something incredibly funny down the other end of the table and were giggling like children into their food. Ron and Severus merely looked at one another and Severus said, "It would appear Mr Weasley that we have attached ourselves to a pair of idiots," which only served to make Harry and Draco laugh all the more, tears rolling down their faces.

"He always gets like this when he has champagne," Ron told Severus. "He needs to be supervised."

"Sounds like someone else I know," Severus replied, shooting a look down the table towards Harry, who collapsed into fits of giggles with his blond companion. Lucius and Narcissa merely looked on bemusedly, finding it rather bizarre that their son and Harry Potter were on such good terms.

"Harry that was utterly amazing, really, you outdid yourself," said Narcissa, putting her knife and fork together.

"It must have been, she had seconds, and Mum normally eats like a bird," said Draco with a smirk.

"Oh hush," Narcissa scolded affectionately.

"Well I hope you all have room left," Harry said, performing a rather spectacular balancing act with several plates, "because there's still the cake!" he called, disappearing into the kitchen. "Severus, make sure everyone's glasses are full for the toast," his voice floated through, along with much clattering and clanking.

"We don't need to have a toast," Severus called back.

"Oh yes we do! Now do as you're told," Harry said, appearing once again, bearing a rather spectacular looking cake.

"Oh Merlin, tell me you at least bought that, you can't have made everything yourself!" Draco exclaimed as Harry set the cake on the table and lit the candles.

"Sorry to disappoint you blondie, but I made this with my own fair hands. It's a Potter-Snape original. Now Severus," he said, pulling the man to his feet, "you have to blow out the candles and make a wish."

"You are a fool," he told the grinning boy, noting that Harry still had hold of his arm. For no other reason than to indulge Harry, he leant over the cake and blew out the candles, though no one but himself would be privy to the wish he had made.

"Right Ladies and Gentlemen, if you would all please stand and raise your glasses in a toast to the man of the hour – to Severus!" he led the toast, raising his glass to his husband, as did the other guests, repeating, "To Severus!"

Harry felt the man's hand slide around his neck and he inclined his head slightly to face him, thrilled to see a rare smile on the man's lips. "And a toast to our wonderful host," he said, raising his glass to Harry, and as everyone toasted him, Severus leant in and whispered, "Thank you Harry."

Harry smiled and whispered back, "You are more than welcome. Now, cake?"

The cake had been amazing, as indeed had the whole dinner. Harry had surpassed himself and the night had been a fantastic success. As Severus sat with his guests, sipping a particularly good wine, he realised Harry had been absent for some time. He quietly excused himself and went in search of the young host, stopping before he entered the kitchen, watching as Harry pottered about, cleaning pots and pans and putting everything back where it belonged, whistling quietly to himself. Severus leant on the door jamb, watching the young man with a smile on his lips. If anyone had asked him at that moment, he wouldn't have been able to deny the amount of affection he felt for the boy.

"Your absence has been noticed Mr Potter-Snape," he said quietly, making Harry jump nevertheless.

Turning to face the man with a smile, he said, "Oh? By whom?"

"Well, namely me," said Severus with a smirk, stepping into the room. "Are you finished?"

"I think I shall have to before I keel over. You want to come get some fresh air with me?" Harry asked, his cheeks flushed from his endeavours, but his eyes still bright.

Severus nodded and they stepped out into the cool night air together, the gardens lit by the bright half moon. Harry let out a breath of relief and said, "So, marks out of ten?"

Severus smiled and replied, "Twenty, as you are probably well aware. The evening was a fantastic success Harry, I don't know how to thank you," he said as they walked side by side around the lake.

"Dummy, you don't have to thank me, I wanted to do it. So are you ready for your present now?" he asked, stopping and positioning himself opposite Severus.

"Present? Harry all this was more than enough, I don't need – "

"Well too late, you've got one," he said with a grin, producing a little wooden box from his robes and placing it in Severus' hands. Severus looked down at Harry's smiling face then back to the box and carefully opened it. Inside was a small crystal globe that emanated a pale purple glow and upon closer inspection, he saw that inside was filled with blackness, broken up by brilliant spheres of light.

"It's an astronomical model; it's the constellation you were born under. I know it's a little stupid and it's not exactly the most useful of presents, but – "

"Harry shut up," Severus said affectionately. "It''s lovely. Thank you. And not just for the present, for the whole night, it really was wonderful, you shouldn't have gone to so much trouble, not for me."

"Well who else am I going to go to that much trouble for?" Harry asked, smiling up at him. "Anyway, I wanted to do it. You've done so much for me, this was only a way to show a fraction of my gratitude."

Severus smiled and placed a hand on Harry's cheek. "You don't owe me any gratitude," he said softly. "Everything I've done, I've done because I wanted to."

Harry gave a small laugh and said, "Including marrying me?"

Severus looked down at him, they boy's pale face illuminated by the moonlight, his green eyes searching out Severus' answer. Severus moved his hand slightly into Harry's hair and he watched as Harry leant into the touch. "I can't exactly say I'm sorry about it Harry."

"No," Harry said softly, "me neither."

They continued to hold each other's gazes, Severus' hand still resting in Harry's hair, and as Severus looked down at his husband, he thought that the boy had never looked more beautiful. He wanted to stop time, to make it so that he and Harry could stay that way forever, just the two of them in the moonlight. He could practically feel Harry's body humming, could feel the slight hitch in the boy's breathing, and all he wanted at that moment was Harry. He brought his head down until he could feel Harry's breath on his cheek, and he was so close, so close to just –

"Severus? Harry?" came Lucius' voice across the grounds. "Where the hell have you two got to?"

Severus pulled back and looked at Harry, who gave him a sheepish smile and said, "I guess we should go back inside. You coming?" he asked, going to move back into the house.

"I'll be along in a minute, I just want to get a bit more air."

Harry smiled and walked back up to the house. Severus ran a hand through his hair and exhaled deeply, thinking how much he would like to kill Lucius Malfoy.

Chapter Text

Easter was over, meaning unfortunately, so were the holidays. Everyone had returned to Hogwarts and there was an insane pre-exam frenzy that was affecting teachers and students alike. With the warm weather, most had taken to revising outside and Harry and the others had chosen to do so under the shade of a tall oak tree. Most of their free time was spent spread out on the grass, trying to get revision done and sometimes succeeding.

"Um, has anyone seen my notes on the Tindall theory?" Draco asked, sifting through his piles of research.

"You threw them on the fire yesterday love, you said they were useless," Ron told him, looking up from his work.

"I did what?! Why the hell didn't someone stop me?!"

"Because you were having one of your insane revision meltdowns at the time honey and no one wanted to go near you. Sorry, looks like you'll have to re-do them," Ron told him, pressing a kiss to his temple.

"Fan-bloody-tastic," Draco groaned, rolling over onto this back, shielding his eyes against the sunlight. "Potter, you are entirely too calm and sedate about this whole exam thing," he told the boy who was currently leaning against the tree trunk, casually flipping through his textbook, looking, as Draco had declared, sedate. "I haven't seen you have a freak-out once. What gives?"

Harry smiled and replied, "I just can't be bothered getting stressed, takes too much energy. Whatever happens, happens. It's all good."

"Has someone slipped you a sedative?" Draco asked, eyeing Harry closely.

"Nah it's not that," Ron interjected, grinning at his best friend. "Is it Harry?"

"What are you talking about?" Harry asked, smiling.

"Harry couldn't care less about exams right now because his mind is occupied with far more pleasant things," Ron told them with a smirk.

"It would be nice if you started making sense soon," Harry told him, apparently very amused.

"You've been sitting under that tree all bloody afternoon daydreaming about a certain black-eyed, black-haired, tall, sarcastic Potions Master, going all googly-eyed and sitting with that stupid grin on your face," Ron concluded triumphantly. "Tell me I'm wrong."

Harry opened his mouth then closed it again, apparently unable to argue with Ron's little theory. He simply settled for shaking his head and smiling, saying, "Whatever you say Ron."

"Ah so you don't deny it? It's so nice to be right."

"Aw is ickle Hawwy having daydweams about his boyfwiend?" Draco asked teasingly.

"Shut up," Harry said, giving him a friendly shove with his foot, unable to stop smiling. "And he's not my boyfriend, he's my husband," he said, with mock haughtiness.

"My mistake," said Draco with a smirk. "Nice daydreams eh?"

"Mind your own business."

"Ah but your blossoming romance is very much our business," Ron told him with amusement.

"It is not a blossoming romance," Harry insisted, though he was still smiling.

"Uh huh, that's why you've been sitting there all day looking like Lavender Brown under the influence of a love potion is it?" Ron asked, grinning. "Been imagining what he looks like with his top off?"

Harry shook his head and began to pack his things together. "I have had enough studying, not to mention mindless conversation, for one day," he said, rising to his feet. "I'm going to hunt down my husband and finally get some intelligent conversation."

"That's not all you're looking to get hey?" Ron called after him.

Harry smirked over his shoulder and said, "Just so you know, he looks bloody amazing with his top off." He skilfully ignored the whistles and catcalls sent after him as he walked back the castle.

Harry sat in his study at his beautiful mahogany desk, his books scattered everywhere, a complete mix of notes on both Elemental magic and N.E.W.T revision spread across the entire surface. He had no idea what time it was, but the sun had long since set, and he was steadily getting more and more fed up. All the facts and figures and pieces of information were slowly starting to bleed together and he really wasn't sure if he had retained any of it.

He removed his glasses and rubbed tiredly at his eyes, leaning back in the winged armchair. "This is so far removed from fun it's untrue," he muttered, letting his head fall back. He heard a chuckle and he looked towards the door to see Severus standing there, holding two glasses of wine. He moved forward and handed Harry one of them, saying,

"You looked like you could use this."

"You're a mind-reader," Harry said gratefully, standing up. "Let's go sit in the living room, I'm done for tonight. What little space there is in my head is completely filled with meaningless facts," he said as they both moved into the living room. They took a seat on the sofa, Harry tucking his feet underneath him and sipping at his wine. "Mm that's a good one, this makes things better," he told Severus with a smile, resting his head on the back of the sofa.

"I thought it might. Rough day?"

"Not too bad. Spent the afternoon outside with Ron and Draco. I think studying took place."

"It didn't look like it when I saw you," Severus told him with a smirk.

"Spying on me now?" Harry asked with a smile, hoping to Merlin that Severus hadn't heard their conversation.

"Don't flatter yourself, I was merely passing by. So progress is slow?"

Harry nodded and sighed. "The more I do, the less I seem to know. I don't know, it's just frustrating, and I know everyone is in the same boat at the moment, but it's just very tiring and very annoying. It's stupid as well because all I want to do is focus on my Elemental stuff and I can't. Not to mention the fact that I'm constantly distracted by – " he stopped himself just in time, completely forgetting that it was the object of his distraction to whom he was speaking, " – by how nice the weather is," he quickly improvised, though he noticed a slight flicker in the man's eyes.

"Is that so?" asked Severus with a smirk.

Harry grinned and replied, "It is. Sunlight can be very distracting you know."

"Mm so I hear. I find I'm having the same problem lately."

Harry took another sip of wine, hiding his smile behind his glass. "You want to see the latest trick I've learnt?" he asked, relieved to change the topic. Severus nodded and indicated for Harry to begin his demonstration. Harry grinned and popped into the kitchen then emerged with a large jug of water. Severus looked at him questioningly, but Harry merely stood in front of the sofa, gave Severus a knowing little smile, then without warning, threw the water up in the air.

"Harry!" Severus exclaimed, bracing himself to be soaked, but it never happened. He looked up and saw that he and Harry were underneath a canopy of water, water that had separated into each individual molecule and were suspended, perfectly still in the air. "What did you do?" Severus asked, slowly rising to stand next to Harry, marvelling at what was above him.

"I used Water Magic to separate the particles and Air Magic to hold it in the atmosphere. It's all about control, focus, concentration," Harry said quietly, looking up at the water.

"It's beautiful, and very impressive," Severus said in wonder. "You really are excelling Harry," he said, looking over at the boy. Harry met his eyes and smiled, saying,

"Some things I'm very good at."

"So I see."

Harry chuckled and said, "And don't you ever forget it."

"Like I could," Severus replied with a smirk, realising that he and Harry had somehow ended up right next to each other; he didn't even remember moving. The energy he could feel vibrating from Harry was almost overwhelming and he could practically see the magical power emanating from his young husband. His eyes were bright, his pupils dilated, and his breathing was laboured; it took all of Severus' control not to grab him and kiss the life out of him. There was an impish smile on the boy's lips and Severus was very tempted to ask him just what was so amusing, though he wasn't quite brave enough to hear the answer.

"Would you care to name any of my talents Professor?" Harry asked, and Severus could have sworn he was being almost...provocative. He stepped closer to the wretched boy and told him very seriously,

"You have the amazing ability to send older, wiser, Potions Masters who should know better completely out of their minds."

Harry grinned and said, "I didn't know I could do that to more than one."

"You're not going to go using your talents on anyone else are you?

"Now why would I want to use them on anyone else but you?"

"I was hoping you'd say that," Severus said, his voice low. He placed a hand on Harry's cheek and moved even closer, every inch of his body humming, alive, just being close to Harry was amazing. He leant down slightly and got the shock of his life as the suspended water came down on his and Harry's heads. "What the?" he spluttered, then looked across at Harry, who was wiping the water from his face, looking equally surprised.

He looked up at the air then back to Severus, then shrugged apologetically and said, "I lost concentration."

"No, really?" Severus deadpanned, wringing out his robes.

Harry bit his lip and removed his outer robe, trying desperately to stop laughing. "Well, to be fair," he said through his giggles, "it was entirely your fault."

It had been a long, hard day and all Harry wanted was to sink into his beloved bathtub, settle down with a good book and potentially fall asleep curled around Severus. He'd had lessons all day, a couple of heavily intense revision sessions and a pretty competitive game of quidditch with the boys. He was incredibly grateful to return to his quarters that evening and he shut the door behind him with a great sigh of relief. Severus was sitting on the sofa, reading, and he looked up when Harry entered, saying, "I was wondering if you were ever coming home."

"Long, long day," Harry groaned, collapsing on the sofa next to him, easing his neck back and forth and stretching out his back, wincing as his muscles complained.

"Something wrong?" Severus asked, putting his book to one side.

"Ugh, just a day bent over my books followed by a pretty intense quidditch session. I really haven't done my back any favours," he complained, trying to reach his arm around to get to a particularly painful knot.

"Come here and turn around," Severus instructed gently. Without question, Harry did as he was told, letting out an appreciative moan as a couple of seconds later he felt Severus' strong hands kneading his shoulders, searching out the knots and pressure points. He let his head fall back slightly, closing his eyes and revelling in the feel of Severus' hands. "Merlin that feels good," he murmured, the tension slowly beginning to ebb away as Severus' dextrous fingers worked deeper. The man was wonderfully close to him and he could feel his breath on the back of his neck and the warmth rolling off his body.

"Take your shirt off Harry and I can do a better job," he said softly, close to Harry's ear, making the young man shiver.

Harry hesitated, both of them knowing what it was that lay beneath Harry's clothes to give him cause for caution. "Don't think about it Harry," Severus chided gently and Harry obeyed, slowly pulling his shirt off over his head. His breath hitched as Severus' hands moved back to his shoulders, skin on skin, not massaging this time, but touching, tracing, exploring, his touch feather light but clearly there.

"Severus," he heard himself whisper, the man's hands driving him crazy.

"Ssh," Severus said, and the next thing he knew, the man's lips were at his neck, making a hot trail up to his jaw. It was almost more than he could bear, his skin was on fire and every nerve was alive and awake. He inclined his head slightly to give Severus better access, something which Severus took full advantage of, cupping Harry's chin and turning his head so their lips met.

Harry let out a small moan and turned himself around without breaking contact. He wound his arms around Severus' neck and pressed himself up against Severus' chest, melting into the strong hold. His lips moved against Severus,' the pressure deliciously perfect, and he emitted a soft whimper as the man's hands moved over his back, sending his brain into a frenzy. He needed more and he clung onto Severus and straddled his lap, feeling himself stir as he came into contact with Severus. They broke apart at the sudden contact, looking at each other, breathless and stunned. "God Harry," Severus rasped hoarsely, his hand twisting tightly in Harry's hair as the other one rested on his back, holding him closely.

Harry smiled and leant in close to Severus, placing firm kisses to the man's neck, making his way up his throat and to his ear, where he whispered, "Take me to bed before I lose my mind." The hand in his hair tightened and he heard Severus groan,

"Fuck Harry."

"God I wish you would."

Harry woke with a start, his breathing harsh and heavy, his head spinning. What a dream, God what a dream; his blood was still pulsing from it, pulsing in one very specific direction in fact, giving him slight cause for discomfort and embarrassment. It had seemed so real; he'd felt the man's hands and lips and...everything, it had been amazing and Merlin but he couldn't help but feel disappointed to wake up and find it wasn't.

He looked down at the sleeping man beside him, his mind helpfully providing him with images from his dream, bringing a hot blush to his cheeks. He very much wanted to wake him up and pick up where his dream had left off. However, that was not a possibility and he really did have a problem that required his urgent attention.

He carefully pushed the covers aside and quietly slipped out of bed, padding gently to the bathroom. He placed a silencing charm on the shower and stepped in under the hot spray. He closed his eyes, letting the water run over him, seeping into his skin and muscles. He slowly let his hand travel over his body, down the smooth plane of his chest and stomach until it reached its destination. He let out a small moan as he built up a steady rhythm, not even trying to pretend that it wasn't Severus he was thinking of.

"What the hell is wrong with you? You're utterly useless today," Ron told Harry as they sat outside under the large oak tree. "Seriously mate, snap out of it."

"I'm sorry, I'm just – "

"Preoccupied? Yeah I'd figured that much," Ron said, rolling his eyes. "Daydreaming about your hubbie again?"

Harry coloured and dipped his head, mumbling, "No I'm just tired. Had a restless night."

Ron exchanged a glance with Draco, the two clearly not believing a word the brunet was saying. He'd been distant and preoccupied all day and no matter what had been said to him, he hadn't seemed to have been able to shake himself away from whatever was bothering him. Occasionally he would smile slightly, but the smile would quickly be replaced by a frown and apparently more thinking. Whatever it was was certainly occupying his full attention. "Can I ask you guys something?" he asked quietly, pulling agitatedly at blades of grass.

"Sure, what's up?" Ron said, abandoning his work to give Harry his complete attention.

Harry continued to pull at the grass, trying to choose his words carefully. "Before you guys got together..." he muttered quietly, not meeting either pair of eyes, "...did you um...did you have y'know...dreams? Dreams about one another?"

Ron and Draco looked at each other, grinning. "I'll let you take this one shall I Drake?" Ron asked.

Draco smirked and turned to Harry, saying, "Dreams upon dreams upon dreams. Let's see, there was the one in the quidditch locker rooms, the one on the dining table in the Great Hall, the one in the common room, and my particular favourite – the one in the dungeons," Draco said with a waggle of his eyebrows. "Actually I think we've managed to make all of those come true," he said, earning a kick from Ron. He laughed in response and said, "But something tells me my dear Harry that you didn't ask just to hear about our sexual adventures. Been having a few dreams of your own?"

Harry blushed once again, memories of his dream rising, unbidden, to the surface of his mind. "Just the one actually, last night. It was...pretty damn real though and, I don't know, I suppose it just spun me out a little, got me thinking."

"About Severus?" Draco asked.

Harry nodded and said, "It was just really intense and...if I'm completely honest...I didn't exactly hate it."

Ron and Draco grinned at each other, wishing they could tell their stupidly dense friend that he was being a moron, but knowing that he had to come to his own conclusions in his own time. Pushing him in any direction would be of no help. "Well, Severus is a pretty decent bloke," Ron ventured carefully. "And the two of you get on well. I guess it's only natural. I wouldn't think too much about it mate, just accept it for what it is."

"Yeah I guess," Harry muttered in slight frustration, not really having received the answers he was looking for. "I'm going to go back inside, I can't really concentrate out here," he said, packing his things up.

"I don't think it's the location that's the problem," Draco told him with a smirk.

"Oh shut up," he muttered, scrambling to his feet, slinging his bag over his shoulder. "I'll see you guys later, thank you so much for all your help."

"Don't mention it Mr Potter-Snape."

"Excellent Harry, very impressive," said Lars as he watched Harry control a flame within a sphere of water. "I didn't think you'd be able to master the Unquenchable Flame so easily. Good, nice control. Right, that's enough for today," he said, and Harry gratefully waved his hand, making the flame and water disappear. "You haven't overdone it have you?" Lars asked, eyeing him closely.

"No, no I'm fine, that was just a bit harder than anything we've done before. Don't worry, I'll be ok," he assured him, taking a seat. "It was good though?"

"It was fantastic Harry. The Unquenchable Flame is incredibly difficult to master, you should be proud of yourself," Lars told him, taking a seat next to him. Harry smiled and leant back in his chair, tired but pleased to have accomplished the task.

"Anyway that's enough shop talk for one night. How are things going with Ginny? Ron told me you guys saw each other over Easter."

Lars smiled and said, "We did, we spent a couple of days in London together, it was...great. she's quite something."

"You don't have to tell me, Ginny's fantastic. Don't ever get her angry though or you will seriously regret it."

"So I'm told," Lars replied with a smirk. "Seriously though, she's...she's amazing."

"I'm glad it's going well for you two, but I have to do the obligatory surrogate brother bit and tell you that if you hurt her in any way I will have to incinerate your entrails, 'kay?"

Lars gave him an appreciative smile and said, "Understood, though unnecessary."

"I hope so. Right, I'm off, I've had more than enough studying and practising for one day," he said, rising to his feet. "I just want to curl up in peace."

He bid farewell to Lars and made his way to the dungeons, thankful that the day was finally over and he could shut out the world for a few hours. "Evening," he said, as he entered his quarters, seeing Severus sitting on the sofa.

"Evening Harry," he replied softly, keeping his eyes on the letter in his hand. Harry hung up his outer robe and joined Severus on the sofa, taking note of the lines of concern on his husband's face.

"What's the matter?" he asked gently, hoping that the letter was not another piece of bile from Severus' awful father.

Severus shook his head and folded the letter back up, placing it on the arm of the sofa. "It's news from the Order, those that have been watching Aldrington," he said gravely.

"Aldrington?" Harry repeated, a feeling of dread settling in the pit of his stomach.

"He's been making noises about the plans he has for you, bragging about how he'll get you in the end and what will happen when he does. The man is such a vile cretin," he snarled, standing and grabbing the letter, crushing it in his fist and hurling it onto the fire. It was engulfed by the flames and Harry watched as the fire curled around the edges of the paper, sparking to life and destroying it. His eyes went to Severus, who was leaning with one arm on the mantelpiece, staring down at the burning letter, his eyes reflecting the fire they gazed upon. "He won't ever lay a finger on you, the bastard," he said, his voice barely above a whisper.

"It'll just be idle threats Severus, you know the man likes to run his mouth off. He's probably just speaking out of frustration because he knows he can't get to me."

"We can't afford to take that risk Harry," Severus said, turning around to face him. "We must be on our guard."

"And we will be, as we always are," Harry replied calmly, rising to his feet and moving to stand next to Severus. "We're hardly ones to take great risks at the best of times, we will be careful. Besides," he said softly, placing a hand on Severus' forearm, "I've got you to look after me."

Severus seemed to soften slightly and he gave Harry a slight smile. "I just hope I'm enough."

"You are." There was a silence for a moment as the two regarded each other and Severus suddenly realised how tired and worn Harry looked.

"Are you alright?" he asked, moving his hand through Harry's hair. The boy leant into his touch, closing his eyes and saying quietly,

"I've just come from training, I'm a little tired. It was quite an intense night."

"Come here," Severus said, pulling the boy into his arms, feeling guilty that he hadn't noticed before how shattered he had been. He felt Harry's arms wrap around him, the boy's head resting in the crook of his neck as he pulled himself tightly against Severus' chest. "You're working yourself too hard Harry," he murmured into the boy's hair, his hand cradling his head. "You'll make yourself ill again."

Harry cuddled in closer to him and said, "I'm fine, just a little tired. This makes things better though," he said, and to emphasise the point, he tightened his hold on the man. Suddenly, images, unbidden, flooded Severus' mind; he and Harry on the living room sofa, kissing, touching, Harry in his lap, clutching on for dear life. Somehow he knew the images were not his own, that they belonged to Harry.

He wasn't sure what shocked him more – the images themselves or the fact that Harry was apparently unknowingly projecting them into his mind. He couldn't deny they made for pleasant viewing; the idea of Harry insinuating himself into his lap and kissing him senseless was one that he was rather happy to entertain, but still, the fact that Harry could send him those images was...intriguing to say the least.

"Mm," Harry said contentedly, pulling himself closer to Severus. "This definitely makes things better," he said, nuzzling into Severus' neck slightly. Severus gripped the boy's hair more tightly, wondering if the boy had the slightest clue what his proximity was doing to him.

"Come and sit down before you pull us both to the floor," he said affectionately, disentangling himself slightly and leading Harry back to the sofa. They sat down and Severus pulled Harry closely to him, his hand finding its way back to Harry's hair. Harry sighed and said,

"You're really worried about Aldrington aren't you?"

"I worry about everything when it comes to you," Severus told him softly.

Harry emitted a soft chuckle and said, "Am I that much of a bother?"

Severus smiled and laced his fingers through Harry's hair, saying, "No, you're not a bother, not at all."

Harry laughed and replied, "You wouldn't have said that eight months ago," snuggling into Severus' chest.

'You wouldn't have been in my arms eight months ago,' he thought, revelling in the warmth emanating from the boy cuddled into his side. He smiled and said softly, "Things change Harry."

Chapter Text

"Draco, Ron, what brings you here so early?" Severus asked as he opened his door to find the two standing there. He stepped aside and let them in, Draco saying,

"Have you seen the papers this morning?"

"No, we've only just woken up," he said, glancing over to Harry, who was emerging from the bedroom to see what was going on. "What's wrong?" he asked Draco.

"This," Draco said, handing over a newspaper. Severus took it and scanned the headlines, letting out a deep breath as he read 'Hundreds Killed in Death Eater Rampage'. Harry came to stand beside him and Severus placed his arm around the boy's shoulders, lowering the paper for him to look at.

"When did it happen?" he asked, looking up at the boys.

"In the early hours of the morning apparently," Ron replied, grimly. "They stormed through the town, killing men, women and children, muggle and magic-folk alike. They've taken a few prisoners according to the report, and they've left the town completely devastated. It's a total mess."

"Merlin's teeth," Severus cursed. "Who else have you spoken to about this?"

"No one, we came straight here as soon as we saw the paper," Draco replied.

"Ron if you could please go to Professor Dumbledore and ask him if I can be seen as soon as possible and Draco, please get word to your father and ask him to come here as quickly as may be arranged, though be as discreet as you can of course." The two boys nodded and set off on their separate tasks.

"This is bad," Harry said, chucking down the paper and looking up at Severus, whose arm was still around his shoulders. "It means they're working up to something doesn't it?"

Severus nodded, his expression grave. "It means they're getting more confident, that they think they can get away with something like this. It worries me too that they seem to be taking prisoners once again. They haven't done that since Voldemort's first rise to power, before..."

"Before I got this thing," Harry said, indicating to his scar, Severus nodding in response. "That's not good then. But why take prisoners?"

Severus was silent for a moment before replying, "Fun", his lip curling at the word, his eyes unfocused, and Harry suspected that the man could well remember that particular brand of fun and his painful involvement in it. Harry slipped and arm around his waist and gave it a gentle squeeze. Severus looked down at him and he offered the man a gentle smile, Severus returning a watery version of his own. "Go and get dressed," he told Harry, "and we can go and see what Dumbledore has to say about all of this."

"It's a bad business, no question of that," Dumbledore pronounced grimly. Severus, Harry, Ron, Draco and Lucius were all gathered in his office and the atmosphere was tense and nervous, each concerned and worried. Lucius had arrived just before midday after receiving the missive from his son, and he had managed to grab a quick word with Severus before they had all been summoned to the headmaster's office. Harry didn't know what had been said, but both men had looked grave and sombre as they all made their way to see Dumbledore.

"It concerns me as well that we had no intelligence to forewarn us about this latest attack, and I cannot believe that it is because our sources are not doing their jobs well enough."

"You think it was random, unplanned?" Severus asked.

"I do, and what is more, I think it was a celebration."

"A celebration?" Harry echoed, sickened by the thought.

"The vigour with which it was carried out, the sheer force behind it...not to mention the fact that they took prisoners...yes I'm afraid it feels very much like a celebration."

Harry unconsciously shifted a little closer to Severus, whom he was sitting next to on the sofa, and asked quietly, "What would they have been celebrating?"

Dumbledore removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. He shook his head and said, "I dread to think my boy, but a Death Eater celebration bodes very badly for us." He replaced his glasses and stood from behind the desk, moving to look out of the window. "We must try not to let this latest tragedy affect us too greatly, we must bolster ourselves against it and carry on much the same."

"Tell that to those people who lost their families, their homes, their livelihoods," Severus said bitterly. Harry looked across at him; the man looked pained and troubled and at that moment, all Harry wanted to do was take all that away from him, to fix it so that the man would not be bowed down by such troubled feelings.

He reached out and took his hand, linking his fingers with Severus' own. Severus looked down at their intertwined hands, then at Harry, who offered him a small smile. He gave Harry's hand a grateful squeeze and seemed to calm himself, saying more levelly, "I trust that efforts are being made to recover the prisoners?"

"Remus and his team are doing all they can to do so," Albus replied, not missing the fact that Severus had hold of Harry's hand and was slowly moving his thumb back and forth across Harry's skin. "But without the slightest inclination of where they are it will be hard. In the meantime, we must be on our guard more than ever. It is likely that whatever gave them cause for celebration will directly affect us so we must be vigilant. Until then my friends, we shall just have to cope as best we can."

Everyone took this as cue for dismissal and quietly rose from their seats, the atmosphere tense and serious. As they filed out, Dumbledore said, "Severus, we must talk soon, there are a few things we need to discuss." Harry didn't like the sound of that, nor the tone of Dumbledore's voice, but Severus merely gave a slight nod and said,

"Of course headmaster."

Harry and Severus returned to their quarters, and it was clear to Harry that Severus was agitated and upset, his mind preoccupied with the recent events. He was lost in his own thoughts and Harry knew that the terse manner he adopted was nothing to do with him, though he wished the man would just talk to him.

After a while, Severus retreated to his Potions lab, telling Harry that he would most likely be in there for the rest of the morning. He was wound up and tense and he had no wish to inflict his bad mood on Harry. His mind and emotions were all jumbled; this latest attack had him worried, he knew what it meant when Death Eaters took prisoners and he knew exactly what would be happening to them. It made him sick to his stomach. Trouble was on the horizon, he could feel it building and brewing and it worried him more than it had ever done before, for now he worried for Harry too.

Oh he'd always worried about Harry, that much was true, but it had been in a professional capacity; the boy had been his annoying responsibility, and he had to keep him safe or Dumbledore would have had his head. Now he worried because the thought of anything happening to Harry actually hurt him physically, and it was one he couldn't bear to entertain. He would rather die than see Harry hurt.

He was sitting with his head bent over the workbench, his hope of working long gone, when he felt a pair of arms slide round his waist and a head lean against his back. He allowed himself a small smile; although Harry was always happy to receive physical contact, he was never really one to initiate it. He placed a hand on top of Harry's and Harry said softly, "Are you going to tell me what's wrong?"

Severus sighed and ran his hand over Harry's saying, "I'm just a little preoccupied, I have a few things on my mind."

"Anything you want to tell me about?"

"It's nothing Harry, you shouldn't concern yourself."

Harry removed his arms from around the man's waist and moved to stand in front of him, saying gently, "It concerns me to see you so troubled. Are you thinking about the attack?"

Severus nodded, not wishing to burden Harry with his thoughts, but knowing that Harry was unlikely to let the matter lie. "It just...brings back things I would rather forget," he said quietly. "My past is not one that I'm proud of and to be confronted with it is not something I relish."

"You shouldn't be ashamed of the past Severus," he said gently, laying a hand on the man's shoulder. "You've done a lot of good, whatever happened before doesn't cancel that out," he insisted.

Severus shook his head and said, "You don't know what I did back then, what I was capable of. You don't know what kind of man I was."

Harry moved his hand from Severus' shoulder to the man's cheek, causing him to look up and meet Harry's eyes. "I know what kind of man you are," Harry said softly. "I know your goodness, your kindness, your strength; I know the sacrifices you've made and the risks you've taken for people. I don't care what you did in the past, all know is that you're a good man, and you have nothing but my deepest respect and admiration," he said strongly, holding Severus' gaze.

Severus swallowed hard, Harry's heartfelt words having affected him greatly. He placed a hand over Harry's own and gripped it tightly, his jaw set firm and his pulse quick. Harry's opinion mattered more to him than anyone else's on the face of the earth, and to know it was thus filled him with such pride and warmth he could barely contain it. He offered the boy a small smile and said quietly, "I sometimes wonder how I'd manage without you."

Harry gave him a bright smile and moved forward to wrap his arms around the man's neck, saying, "You'll never have to find out."

Severus closed his eyes and pulled Harry closer to him, breathing him in, never tiring of the feeling of having the boy in his arms. He sighed and brought a hand up to cradle Harry's head and Harry murmured softly, "Don't dwell on it, what's done is done, and whatever's waiting for us, we'll face it."

They were pulled from their moment by a knock at the door and Harry disentangled himself from Severus, rolling his eyes and saying, "I thought the inappropriately timed knock only happened in films."

"What are 'films'?" Severus asked as they walked out of the lab towards the door.

Harry grinned and said, "I'll show you sometime." He opened the door to reveal Ron and Draco and he stepped aside, saying, "What are you two doing back here?"

"What a charming welcome," Draco replied as he and Ron stepped into the living room. "We just missed the two of you so much we had to come back and see you," he said with a smirk, collapsing onto the sofa. "We wanted to see what you both thought about the meeting with Dumbledore, what you made of it."

Severus took a seat in the armchair opposite and Harry perched on the arm, leaning slightly against Severus' shoulder. "Something tells me, Uncle Sev, that you weren't exactly satisfied with what Dumbledore said," Draco said, eyeing the man closely.

Severus inclined his head in acknowledgement and replied, "When is one ever satisfied with the answers Dumbledore gives?"

"Father seemed to think he was holding something back. He told me before he left that he wasn't happy with the way Dumbledore conducted the meeting. He thinks he's not to be trusted."

"I'm sure the headmaster has his reasons," Severus replied diplomatically, trying very hard to ignore the fact that Harry was absent-mindedly running a hand up and down his upper arm.

Draco snorted and said, "Bollocks Sev, you don't believe that any more than I do. You know the old man always has his own agenda, there'll always be something behind his actions and I don't trust him anymore on this latest attack than I do about anything else."

"Drake wind your neck in a bit," Ron said gently. "Dumbledore may go about things in strange ways but we have to believe that ultimately his motives are good."

Draco made a derisive sound and said, "You believe that if you like but I don't trust the old coot, he's up to something, you mark my words. I'll bet he knows exactly what the Death Eaters were celebrating."

"Be that as it may," Severus said levelly, "it's of no use to us now. We must simply try to do as best we can in the wake of this recent disaster, and we must be on our guard. It feels something's building and that can only mean bad news for us."

There was a moment's silence as all present contemplated Severus' words, each entertaining somewhat less than pleasant thoughts. "Right," Harry soon said firmly, "that's enough moping for one day, there'll be plenty of opportunity for that in time to come. So, who's for some lunch?"



"Can you read this through for me and tell me if it means what I think it means?" Harry said, reaching up behind him to hand Severus the book he had been reading. They were lying in bed; Severus sitting propped up against the headboard, Harry lying at an angle, resting his head against the lower part of the man's chest. Severus was immersed in his lesson plans and Harry was perusing a theoretical text on the finer points of Air Magic that Lars had hunted down for him. For the most part it was fascinating, but when it came to the more technical parts of the text, Harry had to admit he struggled, and he was glad to able to consult Severus.

"It's about the connection Air Magic has to the mind and how a link can be developed between two people if Air Magic is used properly," Severus said, handing the book back to Harry.

Harry frowned and said, "Is that not Legilemency though?"

"No, Legilemency is an invasion of someone's mind, either forced or allowed, it's a one-way act and it relies on one person's magic. This use of Air Magic needs there to be a link between two people so it can exploit it and make the link stronger, enabling a connection between the two minds."

"Mm," said Harry thoughtfully as Severus went back to his work. He flipped a little further through the pages, propping the book up on his knees. He was fascinated by Elemental Magic and all the possibilities it held, and he was also encouraged by the fact that everything he had tried or been taught so far, he had seemed to excel at. Everything he'd ever learnt, apart from quidditch or the odd defence spell, he'd been, at best, mediocre at. But this, this was different, this felt like it had been made for him, and he wanted to learn more, to do more.

"You've been very quiet today," he told Severus, as he continued to flick through the pages. "Is everything alright?"

"Fine, I'm just tired," Severus replied with a sigh, not convincing Harry at all with his answer.

"It wouldn't have anything to do with the meeting you have scheduled with Dumbledore in a couple of days would it?" he asked carefully. There was a slight pause then Harry felt the man's hand come to twine in his hair and he replied softly,

"You're a dreadful little know-it-all"

Harry smiled and said, "It's your fault if I am, and stop trying to avoid the question. Are you worried about the meeting? You've been distant and quiet all day, there's something wrong."

Severus sighed and continued to rake his fingers through Harry's hair, the action always seeming to calm and soothe him. "I just have a lot to think about at the moment, there's a lot going on. I suppose I've just been dwelling on it all too much."

"Do I take it you're not planning on giving me a straight answer at all?" Harry asked.

Severus smiled and said, "You're learning."

"And you're a pain," Harry groused, but was nevertheless content to let the matter lie; there was never any point in pressing Severus to speak about things he had no wish to, it was an exercise in futility. "Are you going to at least tell me what you and Dumbledore talk about?"

"That depends on what it is we discuss."

Harry emitted a sigh of frustration and asked, "What if it concerns me?"

"I'll do my best to keep you informed."

"Well that'll make a change," Harry replied, shutting his book and chucking it to one side, lifting himself off Severus' chest.

"Hey," said Severus, grabbing Harry's shoulder gently, "I'm on your side."

Harry sighed and said, "I know, I know I'm sorry. It's just...I can't help but feel that Draco has a point, that we're not getting the full story from Dumbledore and it makes me nervous. I just don't want to be kept in the dark about my own life."

Severus wrapped an arm around him and pulled him to his side, Harry resting his head on the man's chest. "I understand that Harry and I can understand your frustration, but I'm sure the headmaster has your best interests at heart."

"You're a bad liar Severus," Harry said grimly. "He's up to something and you know it."

"Perhaps, but until we know for sure I see no reason to speculate."

"My we are becoming sedate in our old age," Harry said, earning himself a swat on the head. He sighed and said, "I suppose you're right, no point worrying until we know there's something to worry about."

"As if that'll stop you."

Harry emitted a soft laugh and settled himself further into Severus' hold, saying, "I'm learning from you."

"On no, your dramatic tendencies are all your own," he told Harry, slowly running his fingers along the boy's arm, enjoying the comforting weight on his chest. "Now go to sleep and stop being such a pest."

Harry was standing in front of the mirror, trying to flatten down his hair, but to no avail, the mop of blackness would respond to no treatment and sat, almost mockingly, atop his scalp, an utter mess. He finally gave up and settled for simply running his hands through it a couple of times, hoping it would be enough.

"Where in the name of Merlin is that stupid thing?" he heard Severus say and he turned to see the man emerge from the bathroom, dressed only in trousers. He allowed his eyes to rake over the man's body as he moved about the room, apparently looking for something. His skin was pale, very pale, but it looked perfect to Harry, despite the ugly scars that marred it. His shoulders were not broad but they were strong, the muscles strongly defined. His chest was smooth and his stomach flat and toned. It was a sight Harry very much enjoyed taking in and he continued to watch as Severus moved about the room, searching for whatever it was he needed.

"There it is," he growled and Harry followed the man's line of sight to see a white dress shirt stuffed down the side of the armchair. He smirked and waited until Severus' hand was almost upon it, then inclined his head, making the shirt fly up into the air and out of Severus' reach. "Harry!" Severus admonished, turning to look at the boy. He made a grab for the elusive shirt but Harry flew it out his grasp once again. "Potter," he growled.

"Ah ah ah, Potter-Snape," Harry corrected with a smirk, laughing as once again Severus made an unsuccessful attempt at retrieving his shirt. Severus fixed him with a hard glare, though his eyes were glittering and Harry fought to keep the grin from his face.

"If you don't give me my shirt back I'll be making sure it says 'Potter-Snape' on your gravestone," Severus said, his voice low and dangerous. Harry waggled his eyebrows at the man, inviting him to do his worst. He sent the shirt flying into the air then behind his back into his hands and at the same moment Severus lunged for it and Harry ended up in Severus' arms, his hands pinned behind his back, and his body pressed against Severus' chest. "I believe I win," Severus said, looking down into Harry's eyes.

Harry smirked, taking stock of the situation and replied, "I believe that depends on your point of view." Severus tightened his hold on Harry's hands and pulled him even closer, his eyes dark and dilated and said,

"You're an insufferable brat Mr Potter-Snape."

Harry grinned, arching up slightly to meet Severus' body better, the contact absolutely delicious, and said, "You wouldn't have me any other way."

Severus leant in close to him and said just above a whisper, "Oh, there are a several ways I would have you," and the insinuation lay for about half a second before Harry closed the space between them and pressed his lips against Severus'. The man groaned at the contact and released Harry's hands so he could wrap his arms around the lithe young body, and Harry in turn brought his hands up to grip Severus' shoulders tightly, never letting his lips leave Severus'. His dream from the other night was turning into a wonderful reality and he moved his lips against Severus', relishing in the feel of being pressed against Severus' strong body. He moved his hands across Severus' bare shoulders, the skin firm and smooth beneath his fingers and he felt the man shiver slightly, his grip on Harry tightening, pulling him closer.

As Severus' lips continued their delicious attack, Harry felt himself melt into the man, hardly able to believe what was happening. There was no one they had to impress, no pretence they had to uphold and no one's life was at stake, there was only themselves. "You insufferable brat," Severus murmured, moving his lips to Harry's neck, pressing firm kisses to the column of flesh, a hand holding Harry's head. He smirked slightly as he felt Harry emit a shaky breath and he felt the boy's fingers dig into his shoulders. He was in heaven, utter heaven, and Merlin only knows what would have happened had there not have been a very loud knock on the door. "You have got to be joking," he groaned, letting his head fall onto Harry's shoulder.

Harry emitted a soft laugh and pulled back slightly, saying, "It'll be Ron and Draco, we're spending the day in Hogsmeade." He gave the man an apologetic smile and said, "I'm going to have to go...but I'll try not to stay too long."

Severus' eyes glittered as he looked down at Harry, his cheeks flushed and his breathing ragged. "Go, before I take steps to keep you here forever," he said with a smirk.

Harry smiled and pressed a quick kiss to the man's lips, then disentangled himself, grinning stupidly as he went to answer the door.

Severus picked up the shirt that had originally caused all the trouble, deciding that it was his new favourite piece of clothing, shrugging it on as he heard Draco say, "My my Potter, you're looking flushed this morning. Did we call at a bad time?"

"Shut up you prat and get out," Harry replied, the smile evident in his voice.

"Are you going to wipe that insipid grin off your face any time soon?" Draco asked, as he, Harry and Ron walked about Hogsmeade, enjoying a well-earned break from revision. "You've been walking around all morning looking like a cherub on acid so either tell us what's making you so insanely happy or get rid of the manic smile."

Harry laughed and swung an arm around Draco's shoulders, then did the same to Ron on his other side, saying, "Ah my friends, my dear, dear friends, I just think it's a perfect day. The sun is shining, the air is warm, the birds are singing. It's a good day to be alive."

Ron glanced over Harry's head at Draco and whispered conspiratorially, "Has he been drinking?"

"Hey! Can't I just be happy?" Harry said with a laugh.

"Not when that happiness borders on insanity," Draco replied. "So are you going to tell us why you're this delirious? It wouldn't have anything to do with a mutual acquaintance by the name of Severus Snape would it?"

Harry grinned and said, "Now that would be telling, a boy's got to have some secrets! All I will say is – " but Harry never managed to finish his sentence. He, Ron and Draco were thrown to the ground as one of the buildings on the street exploded, glass shattering and clouds of dust and brick flying off at all angles. Harry shielded his face as the debris came crashing down around him, narrowly escaping a large piece of wood that came flying his way. All around, people had been flung to the floor and were trying to protect themselves from the fallout of the explosion, and through the deafening noise, he could hear the screams and shouts of those who'd been injured.

His vision was blurred and his ears were ringing, his throat burned from the brick dust he was inhaling and he could feel a warm trickle of blood making its way down his forehead from a stinging cut in his scalp. "Ron? Draco?" he called, coughing and choking on the smoke. He rose shakily to his feet and looked around at the chaos. He was vaguely aware of a fire somewhere off to his right and he could hear muffled sounds coming from all over. He felt like he was walking through a dream, or possibly a nightmare, and he just wanted the ringing in his ears to stop.

"Harry!" he heard, and he spun round to see Ron pointing to something. "Death Eaters!"

He understood the warning but he couldn't really process it. He frowned and tried to clear his mind to assess the situation better and he suddenly became aware of a presence behind him. He turned to find himself face to face with Aldrington, a cruel smile on the man's face. Everything in his body was telling him to move, to run, but he couldn't get his legs to work. "Where's your minder Potter? Oh dear, it looks like he's not here to save you this time," he snarled, and the last thing Harry saw was the man's fist hurling towards his face.

Chapter Text

"Severus? Severus are you listening?"

Severus pulled himself from his reverie and looked up at the headmaster. "Of course I am," he replied, lying through his teeth.

"This is Harry's future we're discussing Severus, it is important." And that was of course the problem. The second Harry's name had been mentioned, Severus' mind had very helpfully provided him with memories of himself and Harry only an hour earlier, and all he could do was indulge in them. The end of the meeting couldn't come soon enough for him; all he wanted was to return to his quarters and have Harry all to himself.

He sighed and said, "Albus you have my full attention, please continue."

"I think it's very important we discuss Harry's future beyond Hogwarts; he'll be graduating in three months and he needs to have some idea where he's going and what he's going to do."

"It's not for us to decide," Severus said frowning, fearing that Harry was once again going to fall prey to the man's machinations.

"It is for us to help to decide."

"Then Harry should be present. I don't want to have this discussion behind his back."

"Severus, come August your marriage will have ended and Harry will have left Hogwarts. He needs to have a clear idea of where he's going."

Severus had no desire to be a part of the conversation; he didn't want to think about a time when Harry would no longer be his husband. He shook his head and said, "This conversation can wait, I don't think that – "

Suddenly the door burst open and Ron and Draco rushed in, breathless, filthy and bloody.

"Merlin! What on earth happened to you two?" Severus asked, jumping to his feet.

"There was an attack...Death Harry," Ron managed to gasp out between breaths, holding his side gingerly.

At hearing this Severus jumped to his feet. "Where?!" he demanded.

"Hogsmeade, but there's..."

But Severus didn't hear the rest as he banged the door behind him on his way out.

Minutes later as he sped through the corridors of Hogwarts, Severus heard footsteps and Ron and Draco shouting from behind him, urging him to slow down and stop, but he couldn't care less, all he wanted was to find Harry. He couldn't have been taken, they didn't check properly, or Harry must have escaped somehow and they didn't know. All Severus knew was that this couldn't be happening right now, not to him.

As he exited the front doors of the castle Ron and Draco finally caught up with the fraught Potions Master, their attempts at getting him to stop had so far failed, and they were desperate to do so, despite the various injuries they had incurred.

"Severus! There's no point in you going down there, it's finished, and there is nothing you can do!"

"No! I need to find him, he's down there! I know what he's like, he'll have found a way to get away from them, don't tell me he's gone!" he shouted back, not even slowing down in the process.

"For Merlin's sake! We saw him being captured and taken with our own eyes! He's gone Severus, and there is nothing we can do down there," Ron called back.

At this Severus stopped, keeping his back to the two boys that were running to catch up to him.

After what felt like an eternity Severus whispered quietly, "I..I need to see for myself. I need to see to make myself believe, I just need to do something. Please understand that."

"Ok Sev, we'll come with you," Draco said quietly, and at that the trio sombrely walked down to Hogsmeade.

As Severus approached, he was shocked by the amount of damage done to the little village street. Windows were smashed, doors were blown off their hinges, dust and rubble had settled on the ground where they walked. It was a site of destruction. A little further on he could see people roaming about, some injured, some helping those who were. A few were picking at the remnants of what had been their homes or businesses, trying to salvage what they could or to see if any survived amongst the rubble. All seemed to be in a state of silent shock, the air thick and heavy with the sense of loss and fear, faces blank and pale.

It was all too much, too much destruction, too much pain but Severus tried to push it all from his mind as he joined the ranks of those searching the remains of the village, praying to find his husband. He pushed bricks and rocks aside, barely taking note of the cuts he was gaining in the process, stopping stock still when he found the torn remnants of the cloak Harry had been wearing that day. He held the torn piece of cloth in his hand, a feeling of nausea washing over him as he noticed the specks of blood on the remnants of the lapel.

"No," he whispered, clenching his teeth together so tightly he thought his jaw might break. He felt the weight of a hand on his shoulder and he felt tears prick behind his eyes, but he refused to let them fall, he would not mourn Harry, he would not give up hope. He was bringing his boy home, whatever it took.

He was cold and sore and he was vaguely aware of cold, hard stone beneath him. He tried to move, instantly regretting the action as his entire body cried out in pain. He coughed, the action greatly hurting his ribs, and took a few painful deep breaths before he slowly opened his eyes. He was face down on a hard stone floor, his hands tied behind his back. He appeared to be in some kind of dungeon, a dank, dark room devoid of windows, the air foul and the only light emanating from a solitary candle.

He had to move, he couldn't carry on lying with his face pushed into cold, hard stone, but every movement caused him pain. He braced himself then slowly rolled onto his back, biting his lip against the pain it had caused him, then drew on everything he had left to pull himself up into a sitting position. His head was pounding and the rope around his wrists was too tight, pulling his shoulders back uncomfortably. He felt faintly queasy and he was shivering from the cold draught that was permeating through the room. Where the hell was he? And how on earth was he going to escape?

Every part of him hurt and the only small mercy was that somehow he still had his glasses, and so at least he could see. He shuffled as well as he could backwards until he could lean against the wall. It sure as hell wasn't comfortable, but it was better than lying face down on the floor.

The room was completely empty, there wasn't a stick of furniture and the whole place smelt damp and foul. "Merlin Harry, what the hell have you got yourself into now?" he asked under his breath. His head hurt so much and the wound somewhere in his scalp was throbbing painfully, a mess of dried blood congealing across his forehead. He closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the wall, trying very hard not to let himself give way to despair.

His eyes snapped open when he heard the heavy wooden door being unlocked and his heart sank even lower when he saw Aldrington enter the room.

"My how the mighty have fallen," the man sneered as the door was locked behind him. He prowled around the edges of the room, eyeing Harry predatorily. "I can't tell you how it warms my heart to see you like this."

"You must have a very sad life then," Harry spat in return.

Aldrington emitted a cold laugh and said, "Oh, is this you trying to prove that your spirit can't be broken? That you'll stay strong in the face of adversity?" His face suddenly became cruel and he pulled his wand from his robes, saying, "Shall we put it to the test?"

Severus watched in silence as Draco and Ron had their wounds tended. Ron had sustained a couple of fractured ribs and Draco was littered with cuts where the shattered glass from the windows had torn him to shreds. Hermione and Ginny had joined them both and looked worried and apprehensive. Severus hadn't spoken a word since he'd taken the boys to the Hospital Wing; he simply couldn't find it in himself to speak when in inside he was in turmoil.

He simply listened as Hermione told them that the news of the attack on Hogsmeade had spread and everyone had been utterly shaken at the thought of such an atrocity happening on their doorstep. Efforts were already being made to sort through the disaster and help those who'd been affected by the catastrophe. The news was given and received mutedly; all were far too concerned and preoccupied about Harry to give much attention to anything else.

Severus watched as Madame Pomfrey finished strapping up Ron's ribs and instructed him to go carefully for the next few days, Ron nodding and gingerly putting his shirt back on. Madame Pomfrey moved back to her office and they all stood in silence, no one wishing to vocalise what they were all thinking and feeling. They had had no news from the Order and they knew nothing of what was going on, or even what attempts were being made to find and recover Harry. Suddenly Severus felt the very great need to be alone in his own quarters, and he said quietly, "If you're all ok, I shall leave you now," moving off to exit the Hospital Wing.

"Sev wait a minute," Draco said, catching up to him. He placed a hand on the man's shoulder and said quietly, "I know you're worried, we all are, but you and I both know how strong Harry is, he always seems to find a way to get himself out of these situations and I'm sure this will be no exception. He's going to be ok Sev and he'll be back with us before you know it."

Severus gave a half-hearted nod, grateful to Draco for trying to make him feel better, but not entirely believing what he'd said. "I'll be in my quarters if you need me," he said, giving Draco's shoulder a squeeze before leaving.

It had been three days since Harry had been taken and there had been no news. Severus had been told that the Order was working around the clock to discover where Harry had been taken and to recover him, but they had been, as yet, unsuccessful. Basically they knew bugger all. Severus hadn't slept since it had happened. That first night he had stood alone in the bedroom, staring down at the bed and the empty space on Harry's side. He couldn't sleep there, not without Harry lying beside him or curled up in his arms.

Everything in his quarters reminded him of the boy; his clothes were thrown over the back of the chair, his books were spread out in the living room, even his toothbrush in the bathroom was a painful reminder of the boy's absence. He had even taken to sitting holding one of Harry's school jumpers, simply because it smelt like the boy, and he needed something tangible to connect him to Harry.

He was sitting on the sofa, still clutching Harry's jumper, when there was a knock at the door. He knew before he answered it who it was; Ron and Draco spent most of their time with him in his quarters, waiting, hoping for news. He was actually rather grateful for their company; he knew that if he spent too much time alone thinking about Harry he would go mad.

"You look like shit," Draco informed him as he let them both in.

"You're not exactly looking fresh as a daisy either," he returned as the two both took a seat on the sofa. He regarded them both; they were both pale, large dark circles were under their eyes and they looked as though they'd had about as much sleep as he had.

"Any news?" Ron asked, leaning his elbows on his knees, his back arched forward, tired and defeated.

"Nothing," Severus replied. "Albus assures me that the Order are doing everything they can to find him, but so far they've had no success. I've been in touch with a few of my old contacts from when I was...from a few years ago, and I've called in a few favours, there has to be someone who can give me some answers!"

"Hermione's frantic; she's looking into every possible kind of location spell, but nothing's worked. She's so upset, there's just no consoling her. I know how she feels," Ron muttered, letting his head fall into his hands.

"I wish there was something we could do," Draco said, reaching for Ron's hand and giving it a gentle squeeze.

"It's ridiculous," Severus said with a sigh. "Why haven't they found him? What the hell are they doing?"

"Wasting time as usual," Draco said contemptuously. "They're absolutely useless. If they were any good at all they would have found him by now and he'd be back here with us, where he belongs."

"I just don't know what's to be done," Severus said quietly, absent-mindedly twisting the wedding band on his finger. "I just...don't know how much longer I can stand this," he said, finally taking a seat.

"I feel so guilty," Ron said quietly. "I should have done something, I shouldn't have let them take him."

"There was nothing you could have done Ron," Severus told him, "it's not your fault. I just wish there was something we could do now, I can't stand sitting around and waiting. If there's no news soon...we'll have to take matters into our own hands."

"Potter, Potter, Potter, I must admit, I'm impressed at your endurance," Aldrington drawled as he looked down at the shivering figure at his feet.

Harry had endured five days of brutal, unending torture, both magical and of a more traditional variety. He'd been exposed to the Cruciatus so many times he'd lost count, had had various 'instruments' used on him and had been beaten so badly he'd lost consciousness several times. And still it hadn't abated. Several of the other Death Eaters had had their turn, but for the most part it had been Aldrington, and he had taken extreme pleasure in his activities. He bent down and grabbed the collar on what remained of Harry's shirt, yanking him into a sitting position, forcing him to cry out in pain. "I thought you would have broken by now, but it seems you're a stubborn little thing," he said softly, leaning in close to Harry.

Harry tried to take a few deep breaths, the action painful as several of his ribs were broken, and he said with a hiss, "You haven't even come close to breaking me."

"Oh I am glad; I have so much more in mind for you and I really do want to do it all," he said, pushing Harry backwards so he fell against the wall. "He hasn't come yet has he? Your knight in shining armour. I would have thought he'd have come storming in here to rescue you by now but..." the man said, crouching down to look Harry in the eye. "I guess he just doesn't care enough about you."

Harry gave a contemptuous snort and replied hoarsely, "Is that the best you can come up with? You'll never be able to get at me through him," he said, his breathing shallow.

"But he's not here my dear Harry, It's simply you and me."

Harry sneered as best he could through a face-full of bruises and cuts and said, "And how did you get me Aldrington? You had to ambush me and knock me unconscious; all Severus has to do is touch me to make me his. But you couldn't understand that could you? I'll bet you've never had someone come willingly to you. I feel sorry for you," he wheezed, the mere action of speaking hurting and tiring him.

"Given our very different positions at the moment I find that rather comical," Aldrington sneered.

Harry looked up at the man in hatred and contempt and said slowly, "I'll get out of here sooner or later Aldrington, and I'll go back to my husband, a man who cares for me and respects me, and you'll be left all alone with nothing but your hatred for company."

Aldrington have a cold bark of laughter and said, "Believe me, you won't be getting out of here. You're mine now."

Harry gave the man a slow, cold smile and said quietly, "I'll never be yours. You can only own someone if they let you and I'll never let you. I belong to Severus, and I always will."

A glint came into Aldrington's eye and his entire face hardened. It contorted into an ugly snarl and he grabbed Harry by the throat, pushing him back against the wall, making him cry out in pain. He pushed his face right into Harry's and hissed, "I will make you mine." He shoved Harry forward and pushed him forcefully down onto the hard stone, pinning his shoulders, his face crushed against the floor. He cried out in pain, every single one of his injuries making themselves known in Aldrington's violence.

For the first time since he'd been kidnapped, he was genuinely terrified. He tried to struggle against the man, but Aldrington was much bigger and stronger than him and his injuries were so severe that he could do very little but struggle. His hands had been freed of their bonds hours ago, but Aldrington had pinned them so as to render them useless. The man was on top of him, tearing at his clothes and holding him forcefully down, his breath heavy and hot at Harry's ear.

"Stop! Stop!" Harry sobbed, trying desperately to push the man away, but he simply didn't have the strength within him. Panic gripped him as Aldrington's fingers dug into his shoulders, whist his other hand tore at Harry's trousers. "Please!" Harry cried, his efforts not deterring Aldrington in the slightest. He heard Aldrington undo the belt on his own trousers and he froze in terror. It couldn't happen, not like this, not Aldrington. He couldn't let himself be taken, he wasn't Aldrington's to take.

Aldrington mistook his sudden stillness and leant down to Harry's ear and whispered, "That's right, you submit to me." Harry shuddered in revulsion and his eyes suddenly went to the wedding band on his finger. He could not let this happen. "I'll make you mine, I'll make it so no one will touch you ever again."

"No!" Harry screamed, and suddenly he felt a force build up inside him with such an intensity that it had to be released and before he could even breathe, Aldrington had been flung back against the wall so hard that he fell to the ground unconscious.

Severus regarded the vile, weasel-like creature before him, his expression cold and implacable. "I will ask you one more time Mr Borgin, then I shall leave my associate to deal with you," he said, glancing over to Lucius, who fixed the horrid little man with a hard look of his own. "Aldrington, what information do you have on where he may be?"

"As I've said Mr...I...I mean Professor Snape, I don't know. Mr Aldrington is not one of my patrons, I really wouldn't know the first thing about him," the little ferret said in his annoyingly nasal tones.

"I know you Borgin, you keep your ear to the ground, not to mention the keyhole. If anyone has information it's you," Severus said coldly, stepping closing to the man, glad to have the advantage of a couple of extra inches of height over him.

"Really Professor, I know nothing. Now, can I interest you in the new range of lizard entrails? I just got them in this morning," he said, turning to move away, but Severus grabbed his shoulder and flung him back against the wall, pinning him in place as Lucius came to stand firmly by his side.

"Let me make myself perfectly clear," Severus said, his voice low and dangerous. "My husband had been taken by Aldrington and I will do whatever it takes to get him back...whatever it takes. Do you understand me?" The man gave a small nod and Severus continued, "Now, you will tell me everything you know or my friend and I might just start falling back on old habits to extract information."

Harry stared down at the lifeless body in front of him, shaking from the cold and the shock. He didn't know what had happened; one minute Aldrington had been on top of him, trying to...then the next he'd been flung against the wall so hard it had rendered him unconscious. The man was still alive; Harry could see the slow rise and fall of his chest, but there was an ugly, seeping wound above the man's temple that would see him unconscious for at least another few hours.

Harry was trying very hard to calm himself down, but he was badly shaken, still horrified at what Aldrington had tried to do. He turned away and fell to his knees, emptying the contents of his stomach. He remained bent over, the heaving having greatly hurt the wounds to his stomach, both internal and external. He was a wreck, both physically and emotionally, but he knew that he had to get out, he couldn't stay and wait for the next lot to try their luck, he had to take the opportunity while he had it. He shifted closer to Aldrington and tried not to look at the man's face as he rifled through his robes, trying to find the key to the door. He slowly extracted it from the man's pocket, not an easy task as several of his fingers were broken, and rose to his feet, moving to the door.

He listened, trying to figure out if it was safe for him to open to the door, and only when he was convinced it was, he slipped the key in the lock and gently turned it, then slid out of the room, locking the door behind him. He had no idea where he was or how the hell he was going to get out. He had no wand and he could barely stand; if he came upon the other Death Eaters he was done for. He leant against the wall and limped carefully down the corridor, hoping he was being as quiet as he thought he was.

The place seemed deserted; he couldn't hear anything and he fervently prayed that he wouldn't run into the others. There had to be a way out from the dungeons, a kind of passageway or something, somewhere where he could sneak out unnoticed. He was in so much pain and all he wanted was to curl up somewhere and slip out of consciousness, but he forced himself to keep moving. He looked down at the wedding band on his finger and it gave him strength; he would get out for Severus, he'd go home to him.

He reached the end of the corridor and carefully inclined his head around the corner. At the end of another long corridor he saw a man standing and guarding what he could make out to be a door. His heart leapt at the thought of escape, but how was he supposed to get past the guard? He looked down the other end of the corridor; it stretched out then veered around a corner, but there was no way he could get down there without the man seeing him. No, the door was his only option, the only problem was getting to it. He was in no state for a fight, one punch and he'd be down and then he'd have no chance. He had to get the man away from the door somehow.

And then it came to him. It was going to cost him dearly in terms of strength, but what choice did he have? He took a deep breath and hoped he'd be alright, then slowly and carefully created a fiery minion. It bobbed in front of him and he smiled tiredly at it. "Go, cause havoc," he ordered it and it shot off down the corridor, growing as it went. "Fire! Fire!" he yelled, then pressed himself up against the wall, trying to make himself unseen. He felt relief flood through him as the guard ran past him, shouting,

"Oi! Fire, fire! What are you lot doing?" Harry watched until the man disappeared from sight, then slipped out in the opposite direction towards the door. He could feel his energy slipping; creating the minion had been the last straw and he had nothing left, he could barely hold himself up. He slumped against the door, his hand searching out the handle and he almost cried in relief when it turned and the door opened. He fell out into the cold, fresh daylight and took a few moments to inhale deeply, grateful to be out of the foul, rotten smell of the dungeon. He shoved the door closed and wished he had some way of making it remain that way, but he hadn't the strength to do anything at that point.

But he knew he had to move. He had to get as far away from that place as possible, though where the hell he was he had no clue. He pushed himself up off the door, shielding his eyes against the light that they weren't used to. Every inch of him hurt and he could feel several of his wounds re-opening as he started to move. His energy was gone, his magic spent and all he could do was put one foot in front of the other and try to put as much distance between himself and that place as he could.

He had no shoes and he could feel the stones and sticks digging into his feet, but he had reached the stage where such a thing seemed inconsequential. He couldn't tell where he was going, whether it was uphill or down, or even if he was at all away from his prison. His head spun, his stomach turned and pain threatened to overwhelm him. He walked until he could walk no further and when he was finally at the point of breaking, he fell to his knees and collapsed forward onto his front, his head hitting the ground painfully. He fought as hard as he could to keep his eyes from closing, but he could feel the fingers of unconsciousness slowly drawing him down into blackness. Before he finally surrendered to the abyss, he whispered a pained, "Severus", then let it take him.

Chapter Text

Severus and Lucius were making their way out of Knockturn Alley having just left Borgin & Burkes. They had managed to extract some information from Borgin...eventually, and at least Severus had been kept busy, he could focus on something other than worrying himself sick about Harry. Every minute that his mind was not occupied, was a minute that he spent agonising over Harry. He was senselessly torturing himself with contemplating what could be happening to the boy and sadly enough, he knew what people like Aldrington were capable of, he knew exactly what they could be doing to Harry. It was stupid, but he couldn't stop himself, and the more he thought about it, the more fraught he became.

He felt so impotent. All he could do was gather information, by whatever means necessary, and try to work with what he had. The Order had, so far, been next to useless. They might as well have been on an Easter-egg hunt for all the use they were. He wanted to shake them all and ask what the hell they were playing at. But what good would it do? All he could do now was grit his teeth and pray that one way or another they would find Harry. He wasn't willing to entertain ideas to the contrary.

"Well at least we have something to work with," Lucius said as they walked through the alley, avoiding the various questionable people they passed on their way.

"Such as it is," Severus replied. "I just wish that..." he trailed off as he suddenly felt a wave of dizziness hit him.

"Severus?" Lucius said, looking at his friend in concern. "What is it?"

"I...I don't know," Severus said shakily, leaning against the wall. "I can feel...can you hear that?"

"Hear what Sev?"

"I thought I heard someone say my name. I feel so strange, it's like..."

And then there was nothing.

When he came to his senses, he was surrounded by nothing but whiteness. There was nothing, absolutely nothing around him apart from a small black dot in the distance. He frowned, immediately on his guard, and watched as the speck grew bigger and came closer and he became vaguely aware that it was taking on the shape of a person...the shape of a person he knew very well. But it couldn't be, could it? "Harry?" he called tentatively. "Is that you?" The figure came right up close to him until no doubt was left. There he was, smiling up at him, a strange kind of glow emanating from him. "Harry!" he cried in delight, and he flung his arms around the boy, only to find that they went right through him and he was hugging air.

Harry smiled and said, "Sorry Severus, this is a strictly non-corporeal deal."

"Harry, what the hell's going on?" Severus asked, suddenly struck by the terrifying thought that they might actually both be dead.

"I'm not entirely sure, but I think it's a mind connection through Air Magic. My mind must have sought you out."

"Are you ok? Where are you?" he asked anxiously.

Harry shook his head and replied, "I don't know. I was kept in the dungeon of some house but I managed to escape. I walked for...I don't know how long, through countryside I think and body just gave out. It's not good Severus, I think I'm very badly hurt and I don't know how far away I am from the house; they could find me and take me back. Do you know where I am Severus?"

"I'm not sure," Severus said in frustration. "I have a few ideas but...I don't know Harry it's all so...Did you see anything around the place that could give me any ideas as to where you are? Please Harry, anything would be helpful."

"Not really. I was just in the dungeon the entire time and when I got out I was...I was half dead Severus. I couldn't take much in. But now my body's out there somewhere, beaten and broken, and it's cold. I know it's cold. I don't think we have much time left. I need you to find me."

"I am trying Harry, everyone's trying. I...I'm going out of my mind here, I just...I just want to bring you home. I won't stop until I find you I promise," he said earnestly, wishing he could reach out and touch him, hold him, to tell him that everything would be ok. It was cruel to be this close to Harry and to be unable to touch him.

"I think time's running out; my body's broken. If only I could – wait! I do remember something. When I was walking I passed a...a monument of some kind, like a tall stone obelisk or something, with writing on it. My body can't be too far away from that."

"Good Harry, that's good. I'll do everything I can to find you I promise. Just please, hang on until I do," he begged.

"I'll try Severus, but hurry, please hurry."

When he had finally returned to his senses, he was on the floor in Knockturn Alley and Lucius was kneeling by his side, trying to revive him. He had brushed off Lucius' concern, assuring his friend that he was fine, but that they needed to return to Hogwarts immediately, that he had an idea where Harry was and there was no time to lose.

Lucius hadn't understood his friend's strange behaviour, but he had complied nevertheless, apparating back to Hogwarts with him and watching as the man strode around his quarters, extracting various books from the shelves, preoccupied and frustrated, barely even taking in his friend's presence as he focused single-mindedly on his task.

"Severus, are you going to tell me what the hell's going on?" he asked as the man produced a selection of maps and began avidly perusing them.

"I think I know where Harry is," he replied, circling a place on the map, his face drawn and worried.

"What? But how? Where?"

"When I had that turn in the alley, something happened between my mind and Harry's, he spoke to me, he told me where he was, or rather, he gave me enough clues to figure it out when put together with Borgin's information. He's hurt badly Lucius, I don't think he has much time left."

"But Sev how do you know it isn't a trap? A trick to lure you there?" Lucius asked in concern.

"No, no it wasn't," Severus said certainly. "I know an invasion of the mind when I feel one, I know something that isn't genuine. Besides, I would recognise Harry's energy blindfolded; it was him alright. Now I just need to get to him."

"You know where he is?"

"Not for certain but I have a good idea. I'm leaving as soon as that potion brewing in there is finished. It should help me to find him."

"Ok well I'll leave word with Draco and then we can – "

"No, no I'm going alone and I don't want Dumbledore knowing, he'll only try and stop me and I need to go and go unheeded. I need you to stay and take care of things here. If I'm not back in a couple of days...send the Order after me."

"But where are you going?"


It was dark by the time Severus apparated to Northumberland, but he was glad of it; at least under the cover of darkness he had a better chance of escaping detection. 'Vision Harry' hadn't believed he had moved too far from the house, so there was a good likelihood that they would be combing the area for him. All Severus could do was pray that he found him before they did.

He made his way to a place that he thought would be a good starting point, then took out his wand and the potion he had brewed before he left. It was part of a location spell; it contained several strands of Harry's hair that he had taken from his hairbrush and various other ingredients. He poured it over the tip of his wand and said quietly, "Invenio". The end slowly began to glow a pale green and it emitted a light that shone out in front of him and seemed to pull him along. "Please work," he murmured, following the stream of light.

It was encouraging that the light had materialised; if he wasn't close to Harry then it wouldn't have. From the information he had received from Borgin and then from 'Harry', he'd managed to piece together the fact that Harry could well be in Northumberland. Once he'd realised that, it would have taken the devil himself to stop him from going. He'd been feeling so wretched, so useless, over the past few days; all he'd wanted was to be able to help Harry and he hadn't been able to. All he wanted was to have him back, to be able to touch him and hold him, to know he was safe. He was so afraid he was already too late.

He was trying simply to focus on the task at hand. He wasn't allowing his mind to wander to thoughts of how he might find Harry, or what kind of state the boy might be in. He had to concentrate on getting to his husband, anything else at that point would only get in the way. But it wasn't easy. His feelings for Harry threatened to spill over at any given moment, and it was taking every ounce of self-control he possessed to steel himself against the opening of the flood-gates.

He allowed his wand to draw him on, comforted by the fact that the pull was strong; he must be getting closer, Harry had to be nearby. He wished the light were better, but he couldn't afford to take the risk of allowing himself more light, the glow already emanating from his wand a potential risk. It was cold, 'Harry' had been right about that and if he didn't find him soon, the boy would suffer hypothermia along with any other injuries he might have incurred.

He had been walking for what felt like miles when he came across the stone obelisk 'Harry' had spoken of. That had been the major clue as to the boy's location. It was a memorial to those who had fallen in one of the last battles of Grindelwald's reign, and was visible only to Wizard-kind. Coupled with the information Borgin had reluctantly given him, he had found himself fairly certain of where he would find his husband. The pull on his wand was stronger now; he had to be close.

He continued with caution, and with each step, the pull was more forceful until eventually he was fighting just to keep his hand on his wand, and suddenly the light focused itself on one very particular point – Harry. "Oh Merlin," Severus breathed in horror as he took in the sight of Harry's battered body on the ground, his heart practically breaking as he looked upon the broken figure of his husband.

He quickly ended the spell and rushed to Harry's side. The boy was lying face down on the ground and he was absolutely freezing to the touch. He showed no signs of movement and he was covered in blood. His face was bruised and bloodied and his clothes were torn; he could only imagine what horrors he had endured and what damages had been done. He placed his fingers to Harry's throat and nearly cried with relief when he detected a faint but clearly discernible pulse. He removed his cloak and placed it gently over him, hardly registering the cold anymore.

"I'm going to get you home Harry. Just stay with me, don't slip away," he murmured pleadingly, stroking the boy's blood-matted hair. It was almost more than he could bear, and he just wanted Harry to open his eyes, to look up at him and to tell him that everything would be ok, but at that moment, he had to be strong, he had to bring Harry through.

He gingerly placed his hands beneath Harry, extremely mindful of his injuries, and slowly and carefully lifted the boy into his arms, grateful to at least be able to touch Harry once again, hoping that he was causing him no further damage. "Hold on, we're going home," he whispered, then apparated them both away from the place.

"Poppy! Are you here?" he called frantically as he kicked open the doors to the Hospital Wing, carrying Harry in and laying him on one of the beds.

"Severus, what is it? What are you – oh gracious! Is that Harry?" she asked, moving swiftly to the bedside.

"He's badly hurt Poppy, please help him," he implored, moving out of the way to let Poppy attend to him. The medi-witch carefully removed Severus' cloak from Harry's body, her professional calmness doing nothing to assuage Severus' fear, then began to assess the extent of Harry's wounds.

"Oh dear Merlin," she said quietly, peeling away what remained of Harry's shirt, revealing deep, angry wounds, some that were still weeping. "The damage is extensive, and I'll need to do a full medical scan to know the entirety of it before I can even begin treatment. I must tell you though Severus, it's very bad, it will be touch and go as to whether or not he'll recover," she said gently.

Severus clenched his jaw and looked down at Harry. He was so small, so broken and it killed him to see the boy so fragile, so helpless, knowing there was nothing he could do to help him. His mind wouldn't seem to work, he couldn't seem to think outside of the small figure lying in front of him.

His attention was suddenly drawn to the hospital doors as Dumbledore, Lucius, Hermione, Ron and Draco came rushing through them, raining down questions and exclamations, crowding around the bed until Poppy finally said, "Enough! I have a patient to treat and I cannot do it with all this fuss. Now please, all of you wait in my office while I do my job," she commanded firmly, then closed the curtains around the bed, leaving them all standing in silence.

Severus turned on his heel and strode into Poppy's office, the others swiftly following suit. He was too agitated to sit so he simply stood by the window, his jaw set firmly, his expression grave.

"He was in Northumberland then?" Lucius asked quietly.

Severus nodded, continuing to look straight ahead, clasping his hands firmly behind him.

"You should not have gone alone Severus, in fact, you should not have gone at all. You should have given your information to the Order and – "

"Albus," Severus hissed, "Harry is lying 20 feet away fighting for his life, right now I don't much care what you think. All I care about is Harry," he said firmly, trying to steel himself against the dreadful sickness he felt. He stood silently for a few minutes, trying to quiet his troubled thoughts, before saying brusquely, "I can't stay here waiting like this, I need some air." And before anyone could say or do anything to stop him, he swept out of the office and away from the Hospital Wing.

He stepped into the cold night air, his head throbbing and his pulse quick. He couldn't have stayed in that stifling office, feeling utterly useless, just waiting for an answer. He was worried beyond belief and all he wanted to do was hold Harry in his arms and make sure nothing ever harmed him again.

Draco had been right; he loved Harry, of course he did, more than anyone or anything, and the idea of losing him was more than he could bear. Seeing him in the broken state he had found him in was the most awful experience of his life and he kept replaying it in his mind, torturing himself thinking what Harry must have gone through to acquire his terrible wounds. How could anyone survive that? But Harry had to, there was simply no other alternative. To contemplate a life without his was unthinkable.

He pulled his cloak tightly around him; the weather was unusually cold for April, but his troubled thoughts chilled him more. He wished he could escape his own mind, stop it from over-working, and churning everything over, but his attempts were futile. All he could focus on was Harry and so that was where he needed to be – with Harry. But he wasn't going to wait in the bloody office and be chastised by Dumbledore. He was going to get as close to Harry as physically possible.

It was one in the morning and Severus was still sitting on the bed next to the one Harry was being treated in. The curtains were still firmly drawn; Poppy had been in and out several times, but she had given no more than a cursory nod in Severus' direction, and then continued her work. Severus was worried past himself; he didn't know if the fact that Poppy was taking so long was a good or a bad sign, but he had felt sick to his stomach the entire time.

He was sitting with his head in his hands, teetering on the edge of despair, when he heard the curtains being drawn slightly. He looked up to see Poppy standing there with a small smile. "You can come over now Severus," she said gently and Severus rose from the bed to join her in Harry's cubicle. He looked down at his husband; with all the blood finally removed, he certainly looked better, though he was awfully pale and so very still. His head was bandaged, as were his hands, and Severus was willing to bet that there were various other bandages all over the boy's body.

"Well?" he asked shakily.

"I've done everything I can, all we can do now is wait. The damage was extensive Severus; he's lost a lot of blood and suffered extreme physical trauma. I can't say exactly how his wounds were acquired's a wonder he was still alive when you found him."

"He's strong," Severus replied quietly. "He's a fighter."

"Yes, yes he is," Poppy said, placing her hand on Severus' shoulder. "I shall tell the others the news, but tell them that they aren't allowed to see him yet. You stay with him Severus."

"Thank you Poppy," he said gratefully. She offered him a small smile then left to inform the others, leaving Severus alone with Harry. He drew the curtains shut once more and then took the seat beside Harry's bed. He wanted to reach out and take his hand, but he was frightened of hurting him further. His fingers, the bastards had broken his fingers. What the hell had they done to his boy? He settled for laying his hand on top of Harry's arm, the contact a small comfort to him. He was vaguely aware of the sounds of the others making their, somewhat reluctant, exit from the Hospital Wing, but all he could focus on was Harry; all he wanted to focus on was Harry.

He didn't leave the boy's bedside once throughout the rest of the night; he stayed in the chair beside the bed, stroking Harry's hair or whispering soft words to him, urging him to wake up. Poppy came in and out a couple of times to check on Harry's progress, but Severus wasn't too aware of her presence, he was much too preoccupied with Harry. He wished the boy could perform a mind connection again, just so he could talk to him, hear his voice and make sure he was ok. But there was absolutely nothing he could do, nothing but wait.

He sighed and gently ran his long fingers over Harry's forehead. "Come back to me Harry," he whispered. "Please, please be alright." He couldn't bear to see Harry in such a state, and if he wasn't so determined to be at Harry's side, he would have been hunting Aldrington down and making him pay for what he had done. "You're too strong to give in, you have to fight this, you have to wake up."

His last memory of the boy was holding him close and kissing him soundly, revelling in the contact. He was clinging to the memory desperately, just praying that he would one day be able to repeat the experience. He just wanted Harry in his arms again.

The fingers of dawn slid slowly across the horizon and night slid into morning, but still Severus didn't move. At around 8 o' clock he heard the hospital doors open and Ron and Draco appeared at the bedside, looking almost as tired as he felt.

"How is he?" Ron asked quietly.

"There's been no change, but Poppy says he's stable, which is something I suppose," Severus replied. "And the two of you?"

"Tired and worried," Ron replied as he and Draco took seats opposite Severus. "Much like yourself."

"Have you had any sleep at all?" Draco asked.

Severus shook his head and returned his gaze to Harry, wishing some colour would return to the boy's cheeks. "Where's Lucius?" he asked.

"He's had to return to Order headquarters, update them on the situation with Harry. I don't know about Dumbledore though. Father said he was still rather annoyed about the fact that you went off on your own to find him...not that you care much about that I suppose," Draco said as Severus continued to look down at Harry.

"The whole school knows that he's back, though I can't think how. Get ready to receive an awful lot of flowers and stupid presents," Ron said contemptuously.

"Liquorice, he hates liquorice!" Severus said in annoyance as yet another get-well present arrived for Harry. "And boiled sweets? They give him a headache, especially the blackcurrant ones; he can't stand the smell," he said, chucking the offering in the bin angrily.

"It's a gesture Severus," said Dumbledore, watching as Severus rifled through the presents and threw more away.

"From people who don't know enough about him to know what he does and doesn't like," Severus said disgustedly.

"And I suppose you know?" Dumbledore asked, his expression unreadable.

Severus frowned and said, "Actually I do. I know a damn sight more than any of those fools out there."

"And is that how you managed to find him when no one else could?"

"What exactly are you asking me Albus?"

"I would merely like to know how you found him Severus. It strikes me as rather odd that you were able to find him when no one else could."

"I have some rather useful sources Albus, I simply put them to good use," he said carefully. He was damned if he was going to tell Albus what had happened between him and Harry.

The headmaster looked as though he was going to press the matter further, but luckily Ron, Draco and Hermione entered the Hospital Wing, saving Severus from further interrogation.

"You look like shit," was Draco's blunt appraisal of Severus as he entered the Hospital Wing to find the man still stationed at Harry's bedside. It had been three days and Severus hadn't left the hospital, he had been constantly at Harry's side. "Harry won't want to come around to a husband who looks and smells like death," Draco told him firmly as he took a seat next to the man.

"I'm not leaving him," Severus replied. "He could wake up at any moment, and when he does I'll be here."

"You need some sleep, not to mention a shave; you look bloody awful. Harry won't thank you for not taking care of yourself."

"Draco I won't leave him alone," Severus said firmly.

"He's never alone Sev! What with you, me, Ron and Hermione, the boy has 24-hour supervision! You can go and get a few hours' sleep without worrying."


"Oh I know, I know, you won't leave him. Well it was worth a try. He looks a bit better today, he's got some colour in his cheeks."

"I thought so too," Severus replied, pleased that it hadn't just been his imagination. "He'll wake up, any moment now," he said quietly, taking Harry's hand, which was now fully healed thanks to a little magic. "His body just needs to recover from the shock, then his mind will follow."

Draco nodded in agreement, perusing the various gifts that had been left. "More offerings from the fawning admirers?"

Severus nodded contemptuously. "They just keep on coming."

"Liquorice? Even I know he doesn't like liquorice! Stupid people," Draco said, chucking it in the bin.

"I've stopped throwing it away, there's always another that arrives to replace it. You know I seriously think – " he stopped mid-sentence as he suddenly felt Harry's fingers tighten around his own. "Harry? Harry can you hear me?" he asked earnestly. The fingers tightened again and he looked over to Draco, who looked equally earnest. "Poppy! Poppy come here now!" he called and the medi-witch quickly appeared, saying,

"Severus, what's going on?"

"He gripped my fingers Poppy, twice. Is he...?"

"Let me see," she ordered and Severus stepped aside to let her examine Harry.

"Mr Potter? Mr Potter can you hear me?"

Severus waited nervously behind her, trying to peer over her shoulder and see what was going on, offering up a silent prayer to anyone who might be listening.

"Mr Potter? Mr Potter?"

Severus held his breath, hardly daring to hope, and nearly fell to his knees when he heard a hoarse, raspy voice say, "It's Potter-Snape actually."

Chapter Text

"Severus? Where's Severus?" Harry asked hoarsely, his eyes unfocused without his glasses and his body in pain.

"I'm here Harry," Severus said, moving to his side and taking up his hand. "Do you know where you are?" he asked gently.

Harry gave him a wan smile and said, "I should think so, I've been here more times than any other student past or present." He held Severus' hand tightly and said quietly, "You found me."

It wasn't a question; Harry knew it just as certainly as he knew the sky was blue, but Severus nodded nevertheless and said, "Just in time. I nearly lost you."

Harry shook his head and said with a small smile, "No you didn't."

Severus held his gaze and brought his free hand up to gently cup Harry's face. "I'm never letting you out of my sight again."

Harry gave small laugh and said, "Works for me." He coughed slightly, wincing at the pain that shot through him, prompting Madame Pomfrey to step forward and say,

"I really must insist on examining you before any further conversation."

"Ugh, could you put this liquorice somewhere else? It's making me a little queasy just to look at it."

Severus watched in amusement as Harry rifled his way through the gifts, most of which were things he absolutely hated, but he was too polite to simply throw it in the bin as he had done. He hadn't taken his eyes off the boy all day, hardly daring to believe that fate had deigned to return him and not wanting to miss a moment of him. It was as though he was trying to imprint every last detail of Harry on his mind, just in case the boy was snatched away from again. "You should be in bed, you're not recovered enough to be up and about."

"Madame Pomfrey is an excellent Healer, I'm pretty much mended apart from a few cuts and bruises. I don't know why she won't let me go home; I can easily recuperate in my own bed as here."

"Because," said Severus, gently gripping his shoulders, stopping him from moving over to the window and turning him back around to face him, "she wants to keep an eye on you as you are not 'pretty much mended', so you should stop behaving like you are."

Harry rolled his eyes good-naturedly and replied, "The worst has healed thanks to medicine and magic. Apart from feeling a little sore, I feel fine."

"Harry," Severus said firmly, moving a hand up to rest in Harry's hair, "if you won't look after yourself for your own sake, then do it for mine."

Harry gave him a bright smile and said softly, "Alright, but only because you asked so nicely...and I am a little tired," he finished sheepishly.

"Then bed," Severus said, giving him a gentle nudge over to the bed. Harry complied and returned to the hospital bed, re-adjusting the covers and making himself comfortable. He glanced over at Severus, who had settled himself back down in the uncomfortable-looking chair

"What are you doing all the way over there?" he asked softly. "There's room for both of us," he said, holding the covers aside, smiling across at the man.

Severus returned the smile and rose from his seat, walking softly to the bed. Harry shifted over slightly and Severus joined him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders as Harry rested his head on his chest. Oh how he'd missed this, and now the boy was back in his arms, he was never going to let him go.

It had been an interminably long day; everyone had wanted to question Harry, and though he had been polite, he had firmly told everyone that he didn't have much to tell, that he couldn't remember most of his captivity and that he would let them know when he recovered his memory. He wouldn't say a word about how his injuries were acquired or what Aldrington had subjected him to, he merely told Dumbledore that for the most part he had forgotten, and the rest he was trying to.

"I want to get a decent night's sleep in my own bed," Harry murmured against Severus' chest. "Just you and me, away from the bloody Hospital Wing. I hate this place, I always seem to wind up here."

"You are somewhat accident prone," Severus told him affectionately. "But hopefully you'll be able to leave tomorrow." He moved his hand up to stroke Harry's hair, feeling the boy relax even further into his hold. "Harry?" he ventured quietly.


"I know you didn't want to tell Dumbledore about what happened...with Aldrington, and I don't blame you if you don't want to talk about it, I can understand more than most, but you can talk to me," he said gently.

Harry emitted a long, heavy sigh and cuddled further into Severus' hold. "There are things I need to tell you, and I will...but in my own time. I just need some time to reconcile things in my own mind first," he replied quietly.

"I understand, and I'll be waiting, when you're ready." He placed a kiss on top of Harry's head and whispered softly, "Now get some sleep."

"I think you're just being a hypochondriac Potter, you look perfectly alright to me," Draco said as he, Ron and Hermione sat around Harry's bedside. "Wouldn't you say Ron?"

"Oh absolutely," Ron agreed. "There's nothing wrong with him, he's swinging the lead."

Harry grinned at his friends then looked over to Hermione, saying, "I hope you're on my side at least."

"Ooh I don't know," she said teasingly, "I think I agree with the boys. I think you're just trying to get a bit of sympathy."

"Well I like this! Ah, finally someone who'll be on my side," Harry said as Severus appeared at his bedside.

"Are you three bothering my husband?" he asked with mock severity, entirely missing the look on Harry's face at Severus' choice of words.

"Most definitely," Draco replied cheerfully.

"Well you won't be able to any longer because I'm taking him home."

"Really?" Harry asked excitedly. "Madame Pomfrey's letting me go?"

"On the condition that I keep a close eye on you, which I fully intend to do," Severus replied, offering his hand, which Harry took, levering himself off the bed. Severus placed an arm around his shoulders and said, "Say goodbye to your visitors, or should I say tormentors?"

"Definitely tormentors," Harry said, pretending to be put out. "Take me home, away from such cruelty."

"It's so good to be back," Harry said with a smile as he moved slowly around his and Severus' quarters. He was taking it all in, as if trying to convince himself that it was real, that he was indeed back. "There were moments...back in that dungeon when I thought I might never see this place again." Strong arms encircled his waist and he relaxed into Severus' firm hold. "Or you," he said softly. "I thought I might never see you again." Severus tightened his hold, and said quietly next to Harry's ear,

"Nor I you. I've never been so worried in my entire life."

Harry leant in closer, wrapping his arms around Severus'. "But you found me. Aldrington said you wouldn't come, but I knew you would, sooner or later. I don't think he could understand that, I don't think he understands that people for one another," he said quietly. "There's a lot he doesn't understand."

He released himself slightly from Severus' hold and turned around to face him. He looked up into the man's eyes and said softly, "Aldrington wanted to own me Severus...when I was in that dungeon..." he averted his eyes slight, "he tried make me his," he said, his voice barely above a whisper. He felt Severus freeze and he moved away from him to the fireplace, unable to meet his eyes.

"Harry...Harry did he...what did he..." Severus trailed off, unable to form the words, sheer horror gripping his heart at the thought of what might have happened.

"He didn't manage it, though Merlin knows he tried. When he...attacked me, I fought him off as best I could, but it wasn't enough...I don't know how it happened, one minute he was...then the next he'd been flung across the room, hit against the wall and knocked unconscious."

Severus came to stand next to him and said quietly, "You did that?"

"I suppose I must have done, and like I said, I don't know how but I do know why." He turned to face Severus and looked him firmly in the eye, then said, "It's because Aldrington was trying to take what didn't belong to him. Something somewhere inside me knew that and it had to stop him, not just to protect me, but to protect what was yours." He reached up and placed a hand on Severus' cheek, moving his thumb back and forth slightly over the man's cheekbone and saying quietly, "What Aldrington tried to take wasn't his to take, it's yours." He held Severus' gaze, nervous and unsure, not knowing how Severus would react to what he had told him.

"Harry..." Severus said softly, but Harry placed a finger on the man's lips then lifted himself up on tiptoes until he met Severus' lips with his own. The kiss was gentle, hesitant and unsure until Severus brought his arms up to encircle Harry, pulling him closer, holding him tightly. Harry's own arms twined around Severus' neck, increasing the contact between them as the kiss deepened. It was different to the other kisses they had shared; the others had been all heat and sensation, drama and passion, but this was different, gentle and earnest. One of Severus' hands was wound in Harry's hair and the other lay at the small of Harry's back, holding him close, as he kissed him gently, almost reverently. Harry emitted a soft laugh and moved his lips to Severus' ear and whispered, "I'm not going to break you know."

"You've only just come out of hospital you impertinent brat," Severus murmured as Harry began to press feather light kisses to his neck.

"Exactly, I'm out of hospital, which means I'm better," Harry insisted, continuing his attack on Severus' throat.

"It means you are recovering," Severus countered, though his resolve was fast weakening as Harry lay a trail of kisses along his jawbone, pulling himself flush against his body. Harry captured his lips once more, his hands winding in Severus' hair, holding him firmly in place, his kisses now more confident and demanding, and Severus was only too happy to respond. The last few days had been hell for him; he had thought he might never have Harry in his arms again and now here he was, kissing the life out of him.

Harry broke away slightly, breathless and smiling and said a little sheepishly, "Ok, so maybe I'm not back up to full strength yet."

Severus shook his head and ran a hand through Harry's hair, saying, "See, you've tired yourself out."

Harry grinned and said, "Actually, you've tired me out," and he wound his arms around Severus' neck, still wanting to retain the contact. "Have I said thank you yet for finding me?"

Severus smirked, running his hands up and down Harry's back and said, "Actually you haven't you ungrateful brat."

Harry smiled and whispered, "Thank you," then pressed a slow, sweet kiss to Severus' lips.

Later that night they lay in bed, Harry cuddled into Severus' chest and Severus holding him firmly, relishing in Harry's comforting weight pressing down on him. The boy was finally back where he belonged. He languidly traced patterns over Severus' chest and asked quietly,

"Are you ok with what I told you earlier?"

Severus paused for a moment then replied, "It...pained me to think of what that monster tried to do to you Harry."

"He didn't succeed though Severus."

"It doesn't alter the fact that he tried, that he might have succeeded."

Harry smiled and replied, "He never would have. He wanted what he could never have, what wasn't his to take." He felt Severus tighten his told on him and he closed his eyes, relishing the man's proximity. "I was frightened," he confided quietly. "I was terrified when he...when he attacked me. I knew what he was capable of and I was so weak, I could barely even stand, let alone fight off someone as strong as Aldrington. But then...I felt this force, this power build up inside me and he was thrown clear across the room. I was so shocked I couldn't even move at first, I couldn't believe what had happened. How could someone do what he tried to do? Why did he think that he had the right to take what wasn't willingly offered to him?" Harry asked quietly.

"That's the way people like Aldrington work, they take what they want. I swear, if I ever see him again I'll kill him."

Harry levered himself up and leant on his elbow, looking down at Severus and said, "He's not important to us anymore Severus. He's played his part in our lives, I don't want to think about him anymore." He reached out his free hand and tucked a strand of hair behind Severus' ear. He smiled at the man and said, "I'll never belong to Aldrington, how can I when I belong to you?"

Severus caught Harry's hand and slowly brought it to his lips, and Harry was suddenly hit by the force of emotion he felt coming off Severus in waves. He smiled and said, "Do I belong to you?" then found himself gently pinned down as Severus reversed their positions, holding Harry beneath him, their eyes meeting.

"Yes Harry," he said softly, "you belong to me." He ran one long finger across Harry's forehead then down his nose and over his lips. He traced the skin of Harry's throat and trailed his finger down to Harry's chest and the skin that was exposed under his shirt. He heard Harry's breath hitch and he smiled as he lowered his head to kiss the soft, vulnerable flesh. He heard Harry whisper his name under his breath and he pressed his kisses all the way up Harry's throat and murmured, "You're mine."

"Yes," Harry agreed shakily as Severus' breath drew over the most sensitive part of his neck, then moved until their lips once again met. As Severus kissed him, Harry thought that he had never in his life been in a more wonderful position than he was at that moment, pinned underneath his husband as the man kissed him. He arched himself upwards to meet Severus better, his own body responding to Severus' and the man's ministrations.

"You're a little wretch," Severus informed him, "you know full well that I'm not doing anything until you're better."

Harry groaned and said, "I'm fine! Fine enough to – "

"Harry, not until you're better," Severus said firmly, though the glint in his eye suggested that he might not be able to wait that long. "You've been through a traumatic ordeal and you're going to take time to heal, so, I shall wait on you hand and foot, watch your progress, make sure you get enough sleep, but I won't..."

"Claim me?" Harry asked with a wicked grin.

"You insufferable brat," Severus growled, "No, I won't 'claim' you, not until you're better."

"Even when you're faced with such an obvious problem?" Harry asked impishly, rocking his hips, meeting Severus' 'problem' with his own.

Severus closed his eyes and tried to retain his composure, which wasn't easy when Harry continued to rock rhythmically beneath him. "Unlike some people, I have self-control," he ground out, pinning Harry down and stilling his movements. "And patience," he added pointedly.

Harry laughed and said, "Well I don't." He pushed Severus aside slightly and slid out from underneath him.

"Where the devil are you going?"

"To have a long, hot shower and sort out the problem that you won't," he said, poking his tongue out at Severus and disappearing into the bathroom.

Severus collapsed back onto the pillows and muttered, "Merlin give me strength."

"You know, for someone who's recovering from broken ribs, that was one hell of a performance," Draco said breathlessly as he collapsed against Ron's chest, sated and exhausted.

Ron chuckled and said, "Thank you for that appraisal, you got the job done yourself. I hope the silencing spell held on those curtains," he added as an afterthought.

"Eh they might learn a thing or two," Draco replied, settling himself into Ron's hold. "Fuck I'm exhausted, how the hell am I going to get up in the morning?"

"What have you got to get up for? It's Saturday tomorrow."

"I'm going down to Hogsmeade. There's still a fair bit to be done down there and they need all the help they can get."

"I'll come with you then, lend a hand. We'll have to get each other up in the morning."

Draco grinned and replied, "I'll get you up Mr Weasley," then he let his hand wander over Ron's body, lower and lower until Ron grabbed it and said with a laugh,

"Keep your hands to yourself unless you want to finish me off for good. I'm fit for nothing but sleep after that little session."

They lay in contented silence for a few minutes, basking in the afterglow. Ron ran his fingers up and down Draco's arm, gazing up at the canopy above his bed, indulging in the comforting weight resting upon him. He always enjoyed these moments, when he and Draco would lie in peaceful silence, the blond tucked into his side, the only sound their rhythmic breathing.

"It's a relief about Harry isn't it?" Draco asked quietly.

"Absolutely. It's been a bad few days, hopefully things will start to get better now that Harry's back and well again. I must admit...there were times when I thought I might never see him again. I don't think I've ever been so worried."

"Thank goodness he's back now and hopefully things can get back normal...for him and Severus too."

Ron laughed and said, "Are you scheming again?"

"I don't think I'll have to. The way Severus has been behaving the last few can only be a matter of time. It's fun to watch though isn't it?"

"Only for someone as strange as you," Ron replied.

"You love my strangeness," Draco told him certainly and inclined his head slightly to kiss Ron's neck.

"I'm afraid that's true," Ron said with a smile, tilting his head to allow Draco better access. "You'll be the death of me, I can't keep up with you."

"Mm, you've managed so far," Draco murmured against Ron's throat. "All these freckles," he whispered with smile. "I believe I know each and every one of them by now."

"You've studied them enough," Ron said, his breath catching as Draco found and attacked the ridiculously sensitive patch on his collarbone. "Thank Merlin I'm still young," he muttered, realising that he wasn't going to get any sleep any time soon.

Chapter Text

"I'm bored, can I help you?" Harry asked as he hovered in the doorway to Severus' laboratory.

"You're supposed to be resting," Severus told him, looking up from the cauldron he was stirring.

"I have rested and now I want to do something else, I'm bored, let me help you," he said, walking slowly into the lab. "If you don't, I'll only go and find something else to do and surely it's better to have me where you can keep an eye on me," he said with a smirk.

Severus rolled his eyes and replied, "Oh very well you little brat, come here then." Harry joined him at the workbench, grinning and said,

"Right, what can I do?"

"You can do what you usually do, chop and stir and keep yourself out of trouble," Severus said, handing him a bunch of roots.

Harry smiled and did as instructed, glad to finally have something to do. He enjoyed assisting Severus and really, as long as he was in relatively close proximity to the man, he was happy. As they worked in companionable silence and Harry continued to prepare the ingredients, he would occasionally look over at Severus and watch the man as he worked. He was dressed in plain, black trousers and a scruffy black shirt, with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He wore a constant look of concentration on his face all the while. Harry smiled has he watched the man's sure, deft hands continue their work, always impressed by the talent Severus possessed when it came to Potions.

He returned his attention to his own work, a feeling of contentment settling on him as he worked beside Severus. The man's mere presence was enough to settle him and make him happy, and he wished life could always be so simple. He added the prepared ingredients to the bubbling cauldron in front of him and began to stir, a devious little idea forming in his mind as he began to stir the mixture incorrectly.

Sure enough, after a couple of minutes, Severus looked up and said, "That's too quick, slow it down."

"I always do it like this."

"Well you're doing it wrong. Here, like this," and Harry had to bite back his grin as Severus came to stand behind him and placed his hand over his own, showing him how to do it properly. Harry leant back slightly so he was pressed against the man's chest, the man's breath ghosting along his neck. He arched himself along Severus' strong body and grinned as he felt Severus' breathing become slightly ragged and he said through gritted teeth,

"You little sneak. What a wicked thing to do."

Harry chuckled and said, "Don't pretend you're not enjoying it." He pressed himself more firmly against Severus' chest. The hand that Severus rested upon on the workbench came to circle Harry's waist, pulling him even closer. He breathed in the young man's clean, fresh scent and rested his chin upon Harry's shoulder, still slightly unable to believe that not only was Harry back with him once again, but that he wanted this, that he returned his own feelings. "You're a bad influence," he whispered seductively into the boy's ear, causing Harry to emit a little shiver and lean back further into him. Harry inclined his head slightly and replied, "I try."

He emitted a soft moan as Severus' lips met with his neck and the man's arms tightened around his waist. He arched up to meet him and closed his eyes as Severus continued his delicate attack on his vulnerable skin. His neck was so sensitive and Severus knew just how to treat it to extract the most ridiculous noises from him.

He felt himself harden almost immediately and he said in a ragged breath, "Do you remember when I wasn't sure if I was gay?"

Severus chuckled and murmured, "I do."

"Well," said Harry, taking hold of Severus' hand, "I'm pretty fucking sure I am now," and he pushed Severus' hand down until it met with his erection. He moaned as Severus rubbed him through his trousers and he rocked his hips forward to increase the contact.

"You little imp," Severus said through gritted teeth, though he didn't remove his hand from Harry's groin and Harry could feel the man's own hardness pressing into him. He rocked into the man's hand as Severus continued to kiss his neck and he finally turned his head to meet Severus' lips with his own, several little moans escaping as Severus increased the pressure with his hand.

He reached an arm up to hold onto Severus' neck as Severus' tongue insinuated itself into his mouth and the kiss deepened. He gripped on to Severus as the man's strokes became stronger and harder and he could feel himself drawing towards the edge, in desperate need of release. He bucked himself forward, pushing himself further into Severus' hand as the man kissed him furiously, sending his senses reeling. Severus' hand made a few more rhythmic strokes and Harry came, shuddering his release and collapsing back against Severus.

"Oh my God," he murmured, tucking his head into the crook of Severus' neck, feeling utterly spent. "What happened to waiting until I've recovered?"

Severus chuckled and replied, "That's to tide you over until you are, and let that be enough you little wretch." He pressed a kiss to Harry's temple and said, "You'd better go and clean yourself up while I try and salvage these bloody potions."

"Are you alright? You look tired," Severus said as he watched Harry peruse the bookcases for something to read. Harry looked over to him and smiled, saying,

"I am a little. I seem to tire so easily at the moment, and the healed wounds still hurt a bit. I suppose it's just going to take some time."

"Maybe you were discharged from hospital too soon."

Harry shook his head and said, "No, I'd rather recuperate in my own home than in that awful place. Madame Pomfrey's keeping a close eye on me anyway, as are you," he added pointedly, moving back over to the sofa and taking a seat next to Severus.

"Well someone has to, Merlin knows you can't take care of yourself."

"Good job you're around then isn't it?" Harry asked and leant forward to place a soft kiss on the man's lips. "I'll be ok in a few days, all I need is a little time to get rid of all the injuries Aldrington and his cronies gave me," he said softly and placed a hand on Severus' cheek. "It'll all be gone soon and I'll be mended, fit for anything," he said pointedly with a wicked gleam in his eye.

"Is that so?" Severus said in amusement as the boy shifted closer to him. Harry nodded, smiling, and moved his hand down Severus' throat to rest on his chest, and was about to start undoing the buttons to the man's shirt when a knock at the door interrupted them. Severus rolled his eyes and said, "Stay there, I'll get it."

Harry let his head fall back onto the sofa and released a sigh of annoyance when he heard Severus open the door and say, "Headmaster, what brings you here?"

"I wished to speak with Harry. Is he here?"

Harry cursed under his breath as Severus said, "Yes he's here, come in." He lifted his head off the sofa and greeted Dumbledore as he took a seat in the armchair opposite to him.

"Hello Sir."

"Good evening Harry. How are you feeling now?"

"Tired and sore, but I'll live," he replied as Severus took a seat next to him. "What did you want to talk to me about?"

"Well my boy, I was wondering if you could remember anything more from your...your captivity. The Order are trying very hard to hunt down Aldrington and his men, but we have very little information to work with. Tell me Harry, how did you manage to escape?"

Harry frowned and looked across to Severus who was regarding the headmaster with a guarded expression. Something inside him warned against telling Dumbledore the truth, though he didn't know why. He shrugged and answered, "I can't really remember sir. I was half dead; I hadn't eaten in days, I'd been tortured and beaten...I could barely remember my own name. All I can really remember is being in some kind of corridor, trying to find my way out."

Dumbledore steepled his fingers together and regarded Harry over the top of his glasses. "I see," he said quietly. "And do you remember anything about the place in which you were kept?"

"Only that it was a dungeon and I'm told it was in Northumberland."

"Yes," said Dumbledore, turning his attention to Severus, "that was something of a lucky guess wasn't it Severus? Instinct perhaps?" he asked.

Severus' eyes narrowed and he said, "I told you Albus, I used a few of my old contacts to extract some information, from which I arrived at the conclusion that Harry must be in Northumberland."

Harry tried to keep his face neutral; so Severus hadn't told him about the mind connection then. Clearly Severus was just as willing to share information with the headmaster as he was.

Dumbledore regarded Severus for a moment then returned his attention to Harry and said, "I don't wish to press the matter Harry, I know you've been through a great ordeal, but was there anyone there besides Aldrington?"

Harry nodded and replied, "There were several people but Aldrington seemed to be the one in charge. I didn't recognise any of them but a couple of them were French I think. I heard them talking and that's what it sounded like. I don't know if that helps."

"Everything helps Harry, everything that you can tell us," Dumbledore replied. "Well," he said, rising to his feet, Severus and Harry following suit, "I shall leave you in peace. Please, don't hesitate to come to me if you remember anything else."

Harry nodded and Severus walked the man to the door, bidding the Headmaster goodnight.

Harry waited until Severus closed the door behind the man, then said, "Is there a reason why we're both lying to the headmaster?"

Severus leant against the door and replied, "To be honest I'm not sure. I just think...perhaps we should be wary for the moment about how much information we share about what happened."

"And therein lies my next question – what actually did happen? I mean...all that stuff with the mind connection and me throwing Aldrington across the room. We are talking Air Magic here aren't we?"

Severus nodded slowly, his expression serious and thoughtful. "Yes I think we are," he said quietly, "but it's Air Magic that I wouldn't have believed you capable of at this stage. When you...when you repelled Aldrington, you told me that you felt a force build up inside you and Aldrington was suddenly flung across the room." Harry nodded and Severus continued, "To use Air Magic in that's potent Harry, and powerful."

"And the mind connection? What do you make of that?"

Severus paused for a moment, regarding Harry as he leant against the door. "It seemed to be a kind of last resort," he said thoughtfully. "Your body was so broken, you were...almost near the point of death, your mind was the only thing that was still properly functioning and it sensed the danger your body was in and the need for help. It...sought me out somehow."

Harry nodded and said softly, "Makes sense. It was you I was thinking of the entire time in that dungeon, and I'm pretty sure you were the last thing that went through my head before I lost consciousness." He walked over to Severus and stood in front of him, then said with a gentle smile, "My mind knew to seek out yours because it knew you were the only one who would find me."

Severus ran a hand through Harry's hair and said quietly, "Even without the mind connection I would have done all I could to find you."

Harry moved forward and wrapped his arms around Severus, resting his head on the man's chest and saying softly, "I know." Severus brought his arms up to encircle him and held him tightly, one hand cradling Harry's head, and after a few moments of silence, he said, "As pleased as I am than it enabled me to find you, I feel we will need to look into this mind connection business further. I think there's probably more than meets the eye."

Harry groaned and murmured, "Fan-bloody-tastic. Nothing's ever simple is it?" Then after a couple of minutes he looked up at Severus and said, "So until we know more, we're not telling Dumbledore?"

"I think it might be better to err on the side of caution until we know more, just to be safe." Harry nodded, smiling when Severus pressed a kiss to his head and said, "Come on, bed. You need your sleep."

"Mm bed, my favourite time of day," he said, disentangling himself from Severus, looking up at him with a smile.

"Yes bed, where we are going to sleep," Severus said with a smirk.

"Spoil sport," Harry said with a pout. "Come on then, put me to bed," he said, then leant up and pressed a quick peck to Severus' lips, and was about to pull away when Severus reached his hand up and held his head in place, then deepened the kiss, pulling him flush up against his body. Harry emitted a soft moan and laced his arms around Severus' neck as the man continued to kiss him thoroughly and Harry responded eagerly. "Mm, I like your way of saying goodnight," Harry murmured as Severus broke off the kiss.

"Impossible brat," Severus returned, tucking a strand of hair behind Harry's ear. "Now bed."

"Well look who's finally back in the land of the living," Draco said the next day as Harry joined them out by the lake.

Harry smiled and took a seat on the grass next to them, saying, "I'm only allowed out for half an hour."

"Doctor's orders?" Draco asked with a smirk.

Harry snorted and said, "No, husband's orders, a lot more potent and more vigorously enforced, believe me. If I'm not back in half an hour, I'm told that I will be hunted down and dragged back by my ear. I'm just thankful to be trusted on my own for a few minutes," he said, stretching out and making himself comfortable on the grass.

"Severus has been keeping a close eye on you then?" Ron asked.

Harry nodded and replied, "And then some. Not that I'm complaining," he added with a smirk.

"Oh?" Draco asked, propping himself up on his elbows and looking up at Harry expectantly.

Harry grinned and had a quick look around to make sure no one was within ear shot, then said, "Things have...progressed between me and Severus."

Ron's eyebrows moved dangerously close to his hairline and he said, "And what exactly does that mean?"

Harry smiled and fought the blush that threatened to creep onto his cheeks. "Well we' know...we're..."

"Screwing?" Draco asked with a wicked grin.

Harry gave him a shove with his foot and said, "Don't be so crude, and no, we haven't...done that yet. He says he won't until I'm fully recovered. Actually...I kind of want to talk to you guys about it."

"About what exactly?" Ron asked in amusement.

Harry blushed further and averted his eyes, embarrassedly picking at blades of grass and said, "Well I don't...I mean I've never...I don't have a clue what to do," he muttered.

Ron and Draco exchanged looks and Ron's held a warning for Draco not to tease Harry. "Well," said Ron carefully, "maybe you should just let him take the lead. I'm sure he knows what he's doing."

"Oh guys, fuck the mechanics! You're both completely missing the point here!" Draco said, pushing himself up to a sitting position. Ron and Harry looked at him confusedly and he gave an exasperated sigh and said, "Oh come on! This is big news! The two of you have finally stopped being so thick and things are starting to happen."

"What on earth are you talking about?" Harry asked.

"Oh come on!" Draco vented. "The two of you have been walking around with your eyes shut for months and now you've finally decided to stop being such complete morons, I think we need some recognition of that fact! I've been waiting for this moment for ages!"

"I think you need help Drake."

Harry lay in bed with a book on Air Magic propped up on his knees. He was determined to find out what had happened in that dungeon and why, but he had, as yet, found no specific answers. He sighed, tired and frustrated and experiencing some residual pain from his treatment at Aldrington's hands. He had returned to lessons on a part time basis and was already fed up with the looks and whispers from everyone else. He had no idea how much people knew, but he was sure there were plenty of stories and rumours flying around and he was already sick of the speculative looks that were constantly being thrown his way.

He shuffled down a bit more in bed and made himself more comfortable, looking up as Severus entered the room. "I thought you'd be asleep by now," he said, throwing his robe over the armchair and undoing his shirtsleeves.

"I thought I'd do some reading, find out a bit more about this Air Magic business," Harry replied. "You've been working late."

"I had a lot of paperwork to catch up on. Just be careful you don't tire yourself out," Severus warned, unbuttoning his shirt.

"I'll be fine. Anyway, if anything's going to tire me out it's answering people's inane questions. I just..." he trailed off, looking up and realising that Severus was now shirtless. He smiled and let his head fall backwards, taking in the view.

"What are you smirking at?" Severus asked, turning to see Harry scanning him.

"Oh just admiring the view," Harry told him. "I hope you're not planning on covering it up or we're going to have an argument."

Severus returned the smirk and moved over to the bed, saying, "Anything to keep you happy." He slid in beside Harry and plucked the book from his hands, placing it on the bedside table and saying, "I think that's enough for tonight."

"I agree," Harry smiled, winding his arms around Severus' neck and pulling him down into a kiss. "You're always so right," he said as Severus lay back, pulling Harry down to rest upon his chest.

"You know," Harry said, as he traced the contours of Severus' chest, "when I used to sit in your Potions lessons listening to you terrorise everyone, I never in my wildest dreams imagined that you were hiding this body underneath all those robes."

Severus laughed and said, "I think your brain's still addled."

Harry chuckled and continued to draw lines with his finger across Severus' skin. "I mean it. All those students sitting in your class, completely oblivious to what's right underneath their noses. They have absolutely no idea what they're sitting in front of...but I do," Harry said, his voice barely above a whisper and he leant down and began placing small, light kisses to Severus' bare skin. "I know exactly what you hide underneath that shirt day after day," he murmured in between kisses, "and I have to say, I get a real kick out of being the only one who knows."

His tongue snaked out and he tasted and teased Severus' skin, his tongue following the lines of Severus' strong, firm chest. He felt Severus' breath hitch and he smiled, making a trail of gentle, almost reverent kisses along the top of Severus' chest and up his throat. He paused at Severus' ear and whispered, "I love knowing that what's underneath your shirt is mine...all mine."

Severus turned his head to meet Harry's lips and held him in a slow, sweet kiss, saying when they broke apart, "I can't wait for you to get better."

Harry gave a small laugh and said, "I'm fine now, but your unwavering code of conduct won't allow you to...give in."

"It's not exactly easy for me," Severus said, brushing the hair from Harry's forehead and letting his hand rest on Harry's cheek. "Trying to keep my hands off you is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, and I am wishing with all my might for your speedy recovery," he said with a smile.

"You and me both," Harry murmured. "Why do you have to have such unwavering scruples?"

A soft expression settled on Severus' features and he said, "Because I care too much about you to rush anything simply to satisfy myself." He leant forward and caught Harry in a gentle kiss and Harry sighed happily, once again hit by the force of emotion he could feel rolling off Severus, wondering if the man could register his answering emotion. "Now, go to sleep so you can get better and I won't have to compromise my 'unwavering scruples'."

"Mm, yes dear."

Harry had decided early on in the day that Friday's lessons could go to hell as far as he was concerned. He had asked Ron and Hermione for copies of their notes from the lessons he was missing and he had spent the majority of the day curled up in his study, researching Elemental Magic. He had hoped that Severus would pop back to their quarters at least once, but he hadn't seen him since they'd woken up wound around each other. He'd had to make do with simply indulging in various daydreams about his husband, sitting with a stupid grin on his face as he imagined all the things they could get up to.

He continued scanning through the pages of a rather large tome he'd acquired from Lars, hoping to find some answers for the millions of questions he had, but having been, as yet, unsuccessful. "Oh bugger it," he muttered, shutting the book with a resounding thud, deciding that he'd been cooped up for far too long and needed a break before his eyes became useless.

He wandered the corridors for a bit, carefully avoiding the classroom he was supposed to be in at that moment, stopping now and again at one of the open windows to take in the gentle spring air or watch a couple of the students revising by the lake. Ron, Draco and Hermione were all in lessons so he had no one to help him alleviate his boredom, and all he could do was wander aimlessly, searching for something to do.

He rounded another corner then stopped when he heard his husband's voice drift down the corridor. He inched a little closer to the sound and after a while he heard Lars' voice saying,

"Well I'll look into it of course Severus. I have couple of...ideas, but I'm reluctant to say too much at this point."

Harry frowned and moved a little closer to the classroom, able to hear Severus say, "I just want to be able to give him some answers. When he told me what had happened, I just...I knew there was more to it, and I'm just worried what that could mean for him. Merlin knows he doesn't need anything more placed on his shoulders."

"I understand and I promise I'll research the matter fully. But have you considered the possibility that he could be..."

"It's a possibility that's been playing on my mind for some time now," Severus replied and Harry frowned, not understanding the cryptic conversation in the slightest, but fairly certain that whatever it was about would no doubt mean bad news for him. He had half a mind to go in there and ask them both what on earth they were talking about, but he wasn't sure he was entirely prepared for the answer. The conversation sounded like it was coming to an end and although he wanted to know what was going on, he really wasn't ready to hear it and he walked swiftly away from the corridor, hoping Severus hadn't seen him.

Chapter Text

Severus put aside his work for the third time that night, unable to concentrate on the task at hand. Since he'd returned to his quarters, he'd noticed that something hadn't been quite right with Harry. He'd been pleasant enough and had responded as usual, but he'd seemed distant, both physically and emotionally. He'd holed himself up in his little study all evening and had only emerged to make a coffee now and again. He hadn't initiated anything physical as he usually did, though he had been willing enough to accept the chaste kiss Severus had offered upon his return to their quarters. He didn't know what the problem was or therefore what the solution might be.

He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose tiredly. He hated it when Harry was like this; he never knew what to do or how he was supposed to respond, and he just wished the boy would talk to him instead of letting things fester. He hated to see Harry torment himself so. He didn't know if it was something he'd done or if it was something else that was playing on the boy's mind, but he wished Harry would just talk to him and have done with it. Deciding that it needed to be sorted one way or another, he got up and moved over to Harry's study, leaning on the doorframe and saying,

"Is everything alright?"

Harry looked up from his work and gave a preoccupied smile, replying, "Fine. Why do you ask?"

" haven't seemed quite yourself tonight," Severus said, stepping further into the room, looking at Harry closely.

Harry shook his head and said, "I'm ok, I just have a lot on my plate at the moment with the exams and everything else that's going on. I'm just a little tired," he said, avoiding Severus' scrutinising gaze. He still wasn't sure that he was ready to discuss things with Severus. It had been playing on his mind all afternoon and he'd done nothing but sit in his study mulling it over, trying to decide what to do about it.

"Harry I know when you're lying," Severus said gently, taking a seat opposite him. "Tell me what's wrong? Is it something I've done?"

Harry frowned and shook his head slightly, saying, "No, no not really. I mean...not directly."

"It's something I've done indirectly?"

Harry sighed and agitatedly ran a hand through his hair. He leant back in his chair and regarded Severus carefully, then said quietly, "I was walking through the corridors this afternoon and I heard...I heard you and Lars talking...about me."

Severus closed his eyes and murmured, "Harry I'm sorry, I didn't – "

"I'm not bothered that you were talking about me," Harry interrupted, "I'm bothered about what you were talking about. What's going on Severus? You've never lied to me before, even when we hated each other you always told me the truth. Please don't start keeping things from me now, not you," he implored.

Severus leant over and placed his hand over Harry's and said, "I wasn't trying to keep things from you, I just wanted to get you some answers, so I could try and sort all this out for you. You've been through so much, I just wanted to take some of it off your shoulders."

"Then what's going on? The way you and Lars were talking...what's wrong with me?"

"Oh Harry there's nothing wrong with you," Severus said earnestly.

"Then what the hell is going on?"

Severus sighed and said, "I honestly don't know Harry, but we will find some answers I promise."

Harry nodded, still agitated and confused, but not wanting to argue with Severus. "I'm just so tired Severus. I'm not sure how much more I can take."

"Harry," Severus said quietly, hating to see the boy so defeated. He gently pulled him over to the armchair and down onto his lap, holding him closely. "We'll find out what's going on I promise. Until then, please try not to torture yourself so," he said softly, stroking his hand back and forth over Harry's hair.

"I'm lucky really," Harry murmured. "I've got you to see me through whatever it is I have to face. I'm sorry for making such a fuss, I'm just so – "

"Ssh," Severus said soothingly. "You've been through hell Harry, there's still so much for you to deal with and I will be with you every step of the way. I don't know what's going on, or what answers we'll find, but I'll do everything I can to help."

"I know," Harry said softly, cuddling into Severus and watching the flames crackle in the fireplace. "Like I said, you've never lied to me."

Harry was lost inside his dreams. He was surrounded by blackness and he was cold, very cold. He knew that if he could just wake up that he would be safe, but he didn't know how to, he didn't know how to extricate himself from the darkness. He was scared and confused and all he wanted was to escape. As he tried to see through the darkness, he saw a figure forming and he realised with horror that Aldrington was walking towards him.

"No," he whispered, trying to back away, but finding he was unable to move.

"My dear Harry, we have unfinished business," he said, coming face to face with him and Harry could see that he still had the wound on his head and it was seeping blood. "Did you really think I'd be happy to just let you get away?"

"Leave me alone," Harry said, but his voice was weak, barely above a whisper.

"Never," Aldrington hissed. "I will stake my claim to you, mark my words. You belong to me, I've left my mark on you forever," he snarled.

Harry shook his head, feeling sick to his stomach and utterly terrified. He had escaped from the dungeon, he was nowhere near Aldrington, the man couldn't hurt him anymore; he had to hold on to that fact. But he was rooted to the spot, gripped by terror. Aldrington circled him, just as he had when they had been in the dungeon and Harry just wanted to disappear, to find his way out of this nightmare.

"I'll never belong to you," Harry whispered.

"Wrong," Aldrington snarled. "I'll get to you any way I can, that I promise."

"No!" Harry screamed and found himself sitting bolt upright in bed, his breathing ragged and heavy and his body shaking. He felt an arm slide around his shoulders and suddenly Severus was at his side, holding him close and saying softly,

"Ssh, ssh, I've got you, it's alright. You're home, you're safe."

Harry emitted a soft cry and let himself be pulled into Severus' side, warmth instantly flooding him, but the terror still gripping him. His breathing was still harsh and ragged and he was trembling, but Severus' strong body was helping to ground him in reality and slowly push away the nightmare. "Oh God," he whispered, gripping the front of Severus' shirt. "Oh God."

"It's alright Harry, it was just a dream, it wasn't real."

"But it was, it was real when he did it to me," Harry said shakily.

"You were dreaming about Aldrington?"

Harry nodded, trying to calm himself and said, "About what he did to me...and what he tried to do." He emitted a long breath and pulled himself out of Severus' hold then slowly got out of bed and walked over to the window. He leant his head against the cool glass and closed his eyes, trying to even out his breathing. "He won't stop Severus, he won't," he murmured.

"He wants to own me and he won't stop until he does. What he did to me in that dungeon...I can't stop thinking about it. I've tried to push it out of my mind but I can't. He nearly killed me, he nearly..." He turned around to face Severus who was sitting on the edge of the bed, looking at him worriedly. "What if he had succeeded? What if he had actually managed to...mark me as his? Would you still want me?" he asked quietly.

Severus moved swiftly from the bed to stand in front of Harry and gripped his shoulder with one hand and with the other gently held the side of Harry's face. "That isn't even a question Harry. Whatever that monster did to you, whatever he might have done, it doesn't change how I feel about you."

"Even if I were damaged goods?" Harry asked with a touch of bitterness.

"But you're not," Severus said firmly. "And even if he had managed wouldn't matter to me, I'd still feel the same way about you, you must believe that."

Harry closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around Severus, nestling into the man's strong chest and murmuring, "I just don't know what to do. I don't know how I'm supposed to cope."

Severus held him tightly and said softly, "This is why I wanted to wait before anything happened between us. You need to heal emotionally as well as physically. I don't want you to associate what happened with him with what happens between us."

Harry stepped back so he could meet Severus' eyes, though he still remained close. "But it is associated Severus, of course it is," he said seriously. "You're everything that he isn't, and what will happen between us is a world apart from what Aldrington tried to make happen. I need you to show me that it isn't always like that, that that's not what it's about."

"And I will Harry," Severus said softly. "I want that more than anything, I just want you to have recovered fully. I think tonight proves that you're still affected by what's happened. You need to heal."

Harry nodded and turned back to look out of the window, knowing that Severus was right but hating to admit that he was still struggling with what had happened to him. Severus wrapped his arms around him and rested his chin on his shoulder and Harry leant into his comforting presence.

"I just want to get away from this place. I feel like I can't get well here, I don't feel safe," he said, looking out at the blackness.

"Then we'll go away from here. Why don't we spend a week at the estate? I'll tell Dumbledore that we need a week off and we can just take a break away from the castle."

Harry smiled slightly and replied, "Yes, yes I'd like that, just you and me away from everyone."

"Just you and me," Severus echoed, then placed a kiss to Harry's temple. "Just you and me."

"I don't think now is the best time for a holiday Severus. The exams are just around the corner, it isn't the most convenient time."

"It isn't a holiday Albus, it's for Harry. He needs to get away from this place, he needs to take some time to sort his head out, to come to terms with what's happened."

"And you think the best thing is to take him away from Hogwarts?" Albus asked, regarding Severus over the top of his spectacles.

"I do. He needs to take some time away from here, he hasn't recovered from what Aldrington did to him, he needs a break, he's been through hell."

Albus shook his head and replied, "I don't think it's a good idea to remove him from Hogwarts at the moment. I would prefer him to be...close by."

Severus' eyes narrowed and he regarded the headmaster closely. "Why?" he asked, his suspicion aroused, immediately on his guard.

"In the light of...recent events I think it would be wise to keep him close by. I think you and I both know that there are bigger things happening here and I would prefer to keep Harry close at this time," Albus replied, stirring another spoonful of sugar into his tea and averting his eyes from Severus'.

Severus walked slowly across the room and braced his arms on the headmaster's desk, his voice low as he asked, "What do you know Albus? What exactly are you trying so hard not to say?"

The headmaster sighed and removed his glasses, then spent an infuriatingly long time cleaning them before he replaced them on the bridge of his nose and said, "Severus, you know as well as I that Harry is not like any other student; he possesses unique talents and he..."

"What do you know, Albus?" Severus asked more slowly, his voice lower, as he leant further forward.

"If this conversation is about me do you mind very much if I'm present for it?" came a voice from the doorway, and they both turned to see Harry standing there, regarding them both carefully, his expression guarded. He moved further into the room and stood opposite the two men, then said, "Well? Are either of you going to tell me what's going on?"

"Harry my boy, we were just discussing the possibility of your holiday," Albus said, but was quickly cut off by Severus interrupting harshly,

"Stop lying to him Albus, and to me. We want the truth, what's going on?"

The headmaster regarded them both closely, clearly considering which course of action he should take and how much information to impart. He re-seated himself behind his desk and laced his fingers together, the cup of now-cold tea sitting forgotten at his elbow. "Take a seat my boys, take a seat," he said, indicating to the chairs in front of his desk.

"I'd rather stand," Harry said, and Severus was surprised at the coldness in the boy's tone. "Just tell me what's going on."

"Harry," Dumbledore began, "you are a boy of...uncommon talents and your adeptness at Elemental Magic is proof of your abilities. The ease with which you took to the magic was...surprising and somewhat indicative of..."

"Of?" Harry prompted, his expression implacable and stern.

"Of your natural aptitude for the magic."

"But what does that mean Albus?" Severus asked, his frustration growing.

"It means," Albus said quietly, finally meeting Harry's eyes, "that you're a Mage Harry, an Elemental Mage."

Severus' heart skipped a beat and he looked across at Harry, who was regarding the headmaster with a deep frown. Severus said nothing, but instead waited for Harry to recover himself and ask, "A Mage? What does that mean?"

"It means my boy that you have an extraordinary gift where Elemental Magic is concerned, that you are not merely a practitioner of it, but a commander. It's a rare thing Harry, rare and powerful."

They stood in silence for a few moments, Severus and Harry trying to take in what they had been told, each battling with their thoughts, when Severus' eyes narrowed and he looked accusingly to Albus and said quietly, "You knew." Albus looked up at him and he said, "You knew, even before you asked me to begin training Harry."

"I...had my suspicions," Dumbledore reluctantly admitted.

"And you didn't say anything?" Severus asked harshly. "Not to me or to Harry? You didn't think to tell us what was happening?"

"I wasn't sure."

"So you decided to simply say nothing, to keep your secrets and arrange things to your own order? Typical," Severus said through gritted teeth.

"Enough," Harry said firmly, stepping forward. "I don't care about all that. What I want to know is what this means for me now. What's the point of all this?"

Albus paused for a moment, then rose and moved out from behind the desk, finally saying, "We want to harness your power Harry, to channel it, but you need to fully understand it, to have complete control of it and be able to do that you need to learn about it. There is a place...where people such as yourself can go to be taught about their power and how to use it..."

Harry's eyes narrowed and he crossed his arms, trying to keep his voice level as he asked, "And where exactly is this place?"

"Switzerland," Albus replied quietly, not meeting either pair of eyes that were fixed on him.

Severus bit his lip and tried to restrain himself, wanting to let Harry respond in his own way without his interference, though he was desperate to say something. He looked across to Harry who was looking at the headmaster with a mixture of confusion and disbelief.

"Switzerland?" Harry repeated. "Please tell me you aren't seriously suggesting that I pack up my life here and move to Switzerland to go to this...this...whatever this stupid place is?!"

"It's merely a possibility Harry," Dumbledore replied, clearly trying to keep the situation calm.

"No it bloody isn't!" Harry said, his anger beginning to rise. "How can it be? You want me to leave my home, my husband? I don't want to be sent away like I'm being banished. Not to mention what would happen if Aldrington found out; what would it look like? There's just no way this is happening."

"Harry I think you should take some time to consider this," Dumbledore replied, trying to placate Harry, but to no avail, the boy was too upset and agitated.

"I don't want to consider it! My life is here, my husband is here," he said, looking over to Severus.

"Harry your marriage is a marriage in name only, it'll be dissolved in a couple of months."

Harry's face hardened and Severus could see the pain that Dumbledore's comment had caused him, and in that moment, he truly hated the old man. He rested a hand on Harry's shoulder and said quietly, "Come on Harry, I don't think this is going to be resolved now. I think we all need some time away."

"Too right," Harry practically spat, still looking directly at Dumbledore. "I'm taking a week off and I'm spending it at the estate with my husband, with or without your permission. I'm sick of every single decision being made for me, now it's my turn," he said angrily, storming off and slamming the door behind him.

Harry threw his bag onto the bed and began stuffing his clothes inside it haphazardly, still upset, his anger threatening to boil over. It had all been too much for him to take in and he was still reeling both from the revelation of his supposed status as a Mage, and Dumbledore's none too subtle suggestion that he pack up his life and move to Switzerland. He was sick of being told what to do, sick of his entire life being planned out for him whilst he was powerless to stop it.

He tried to calm himself down, to try and think clearly, but he was so wound up and frustrated that it was practically impossible. He flung himself down on the edge of the bed and inhaled deeply, wondering what had happened in Dumbledore's office after he'd left, and how Severus had dealt with the man. His eyes went automatically to the wedding band on his finger and Dumbledore's harsh dismissal of his marriage came flooding back. It was yet another thing in his farce of a life that wasn't his, a decision that had been thrust upon him but for once something that had actually worked out. But it was all just a sham.

"Have you calmed down yet?" came Severus' voice and Harry looked over to the doorway to see him standing there, concern all over his features.

"Not really," Harry replied quietly, returning is gaze to his wedding ring. "Did the headmaster have anything more hurtful or ridiculous to say after I left?"

"I wouldn't know, I left just after you did," Severus said, stepping further into the room. "I thought I'd give you some time to cool off."

"Well you're about a month too early," Harry said, not wanting to take his anger out on Severus but still upset by the whole affair. "How can he drop this bombshell on me and expect me to just deal with it?" he asked, standing up and looking Severus in the eye. "He can't keep doing this to me again and again and expect me to just keep my mouth shut and get on with it. He knew Severus, he knew that I could be a...a Mage before all this started and he kept it to himself, and now he thinks I should just roll over and accept it. It isn't fair."

"I know," Severus said softly. "I'm just as angry as you are, believe me."

"I just...I can't cope with feeling like some kind of impotent chess piece on his board. He can't keep running my life behind the scenes; nothing's my own. Even us..." he trailed off, averting his eyes from Severus'.

"What about us?" Severus asked, watching the boy carefully as he sat back down on the bed, resting his chin on his hand. "Harry what are you thinking?"

"I just...You married me because you were forced to, we were both pushed into it, we didn't choose it, we hated each other! It was a situation we both just found ourselves in, the whole's just a lie. Nothing in my life is real...or my own."

Severus sighed deeply and sat beside Harry on the bed, close but not touching. "You're right. It was a lie...once. We both had to play our parts and we both did our fair share of pretending. I don't know about you Harry, but I haven't had to pretend for quite some time," he said softly, and Harry looked up at him, his expression so open and vulnerable that it struck right at Severus' heart. He tucked a finger under the boy's chin and said, "This marriage might have started out as a sham, but it feels pretty bloody real now. Does it matter how it began?"

Harry slowly shook his head, biting back the tears. "No," he said quietly, "I don't suppose it does." He gave a small smile, the emotion plain and open on his face as he held Severus' gaze. "Am I being childish?" he asked quietly, feeling a little sheepish.

"No, you have every right to feel the way you do. I'm just as angry with the headmaster as you are, we just have to decide how best to deal with it."

Harry sighed and said, "I suppose going to the estate is out of the question now."

"On the contrary," Severus said firmly and Harry looked at him in surprise. "To use your own words – I am going to the estate with my husband, whether Dumbledore likes it or not. Finish packing and then we can go."

Harry rose to his feet and stood in front of Severus, then leant forward and pressed a soft kiss to the man's lips and whispered, "Thank you."

"Ok so I have a plan – I'll quit school, you pack in your job and we can just come and live here and drink wine and read books all day every day. Good plan?" Harry asked, stretching out on the rug and looking up at Severus.

"Brilliant plan, although I think it would be a little difficult to implement," Severus replied with a laugh, pleased to see that Harry was finally looking more at ease and was more relaxed as he lay in front of the hearth, his hands behind his head, lazily tracing patterns on the ceiling with his eyes.

"Ah we'll worry about the details later," Harry said with a smile, closing his eyes and sinking into the softness of the rug beneath him. He heard Severus move and then felt the man's presence beside him on the rug and he opened his eyes to see Severus sitting beside him, a soft smile on his lips. "What are you smiling at?" he asked.

Severus shrugged and replied, "I'm just pleased to see you like this. I was beginning to worry about you."

Harry sighed and reached for Severus' hand and said, "We still have a long way to go, there's still so much that we need to sort out, but for now I'm happy, being with you in my favourite place in the world. " He gave a small chuckle then said, "You've got to love the irony there – if someone had told me this time last year that one day I would want nothing more than to be alone with my dreaded Potions Master in some broken-down estate, I would have had them sent to the loony bin!"

Severus gave a soft laugh and replied, "It's not such a broken-down estate anymore, although why we still insist on camping out in the study when we've finished the living room and a couple of bedrooms, I don't know."

Harry laughed and said, "Because this was where it all started, this was 'home', and it still is. I suppose we'll have to move into a bedroom one day, but for now, I like camping out in here. Don't you?" he asked.

Severus smiled and replied, "I've no complaints."

Chapter Text

Harry woke to a feeling of contented warmth and he cuddled in closer to the strong body behind him. The sun was slowly beginning to stream in through the window, illuminating the room with little patches of light. He sighed happily and ran his hand along the arms that encircled his waist.

"Morning," came the sleepy-heavy voice behind him.

He smiled and replied, "Mm morning. How do you feel about spending the entire day in bed?"

"I'd love to," Severus murmured, lowering his head to press kisses to Harry's neck, "but unfortunately I have plans for us today."

Harry groaned, partly in response to Severus' declaration and partly in response to the man's ministrations, and replied, "I hate it when you get all productive, it always means trouble for me."

"Harry you and trouble go hand-in-hand without any help from me," Severus told him affectionately. "But hopefully trouble won't find you today, so get up and we can begin."

Severus slid out of bed and Harry sighed, pulling the covers up over his head and muttering in response, "This is supposed to be a week off."

"That doesn't mean you can slack off," he heard the man reply. "So," he felt a sharp prod to the head, "get up, get dressed, get prepared."

Harry sat at the breakfast bar in the kitchen, cradling a mug of coffee, trying his best to ignore his husband as the man told him what they would be doing that day. He had insisted on a cup of coffee before doing anything and Severus had grudgingly acquiesced, though he wasn't giving Harry much time to enjoy it.

"You're not listening are you?" he asked as Harry continued to stare blankly ahead.

"I'm trying my best not to," Harry replied with a yawn, running a hand through his messier-than-usual hair. "If I listen, that means I actually have to do all this stuff you're talking about, whereas, if don't listen, I can just claim ignorance."

"This is important," Severus insisted, taking the mug out of Harry's hand and placing it on the side, earning himself a dirty look from his husband. "We need to understand your ability with Air Magic, we need to know what happened with the mind connection."

Harry sighed and nodded in grudging acknowledgement. "Do you always have to be so practical?"

"Well Merlin knows you're incapable," Severus retorted.

Harry smirked and rose to his feet, moving closer to Severus and looping his arms around the man's neck. "Well then it's a good job I've got you to keep me on the straight and narrow, isn't it?"

"Though you do all you can to try and deter me," Severus responded with mock severity, settling his hands on Harry's waist.

"Oh if only I succeeded," Harry chuckled, leaning forward to meet the man with a kiss. Severus pulled him close and kissed him firmly, wrapping his arms around Harry as the boy pulled himself flush against his body, desperate for as much contact as possible. Harry's lips moved against his own, demanding and sure, and Severus found it hard to believe that there was once a time when this had not been the most natural thing in the world to them.

"Have I successfully deterred you?" Harry murmured against Severus' lips.

"It was a valiant attempt," Severus replied, then pressed one last kiss to Harry's lips and said, "but not good enough, we have work to do."

Harry smiled and disentangled himself slightly, but stood with his hands resting upon Severus' shoulders. "You're right, I promise I'll behave...within reason."

They moved into the Great Hall, which still needed a vast amount doing to it, but was by far the biggest space they had at their disposal. They stood opposite each other and Severus instructed Harry to relax and to try and clear his mind of everything other than the task at hand. Harry nodded and rotated his shoulders in their sockets and steadied his stance, preparing himself.

"Do you know," Harry said, the idea suddenly occurring to him, and he couldn't believe he hadn't thought of it before, "I've just realised – I don't have my wand. Aldrington must have taken it. How could I not have realised that?"

"Well you have been rather preoccupied the last couple of days."

"With more things than one," Harry replied with a smirk. "But still, it's rather remiss of me not to notice that the most important magical tool is missing."

Severus paused for a moment or two and then said softly, "Has it occurred to you Harry, that perhaps you don't need it anymore?"

Harry frowned and asked, "What do you mean?"

"You haven't used it for quite some time, and if what everyone suspects about you is correct, I doubt very much whether you'll be needing it again."

Harry considered Severus' assertion for a moment before he emitted a quiet, "Oh."

Severus placed his hands on the boy's shoulders and rubbed them gently, saying, "One step at a time Harry, that's the only way you'll be able to do this. Don't put too much pressure on yourself and don't try to think about what everyone else is expecting of you. This isn't about anyone else, it's about you, just remember that." Harry nodded and offered a small smile, a little soothed by Severus' words, but still concerned about what the future was going to hold for him. "Now I want you to think carefully," Severus said, his voice clear and even, effectively ending Harry's internal debate, "when your mind sought out mine, did anything in particular happen, did you do something specific?"

Harry considered the question and then replied, "Not that I can remember. It was more of an...unconscious action. I was so exhausted, so broken, I just collapsed and the next thing I knew...I was talking to you. I don't think I consciously did anything to make it happen."

Severus nodded and said, "I suspected as much, but it still shows an innate ability. Do you think you could do it again?"

Harry let out a breath and replied, "I honestly don't know, I'm not even sure how I'd go about it."

"Are you prepared to try?"

Harry bit his lip in hesitation and shifted uncomfortably. "I'm not sure, our past history when it comes to this kind of area isn't exactly encouraging."

"This is different," Severus insisted gently, laying hand on Harry's shoulder. "Neither of us is trying to force or block the other's mind, we're trying to use a connection that already exists. This won't be like the other times."

"I hope you're right," Harry murmured, only mildly convinced. "I just...I just don't want to end this day not speaking to you."

Severus smiled and ran a hand through Harry's hair, saying, "I promise, we'll be fine. And even if we're not speaking, I'm sure we'll find something else to do." Harry smirked at the glint in Severus' eye and, feeling slightly more at ease, replied,

"Ok, let's try it then."

Severus nodded, pleased, and said, "Ok, close your eyes and take my hands," which Harry did, feeling slightly foolish, but prepared to try nevertheless. "Just focus on trying to reach out to me, to make our minds meet. Concentrate on the feel of my hands, hold onto the physical connection to try and achieve the mental one," Severus instructed gently, his voice washing over Harry, enveloping him in warmth.

He tried to do as Severus instructed; he was just as eager to understand what was going on as Severus was. He focused on the feel of Severus' hands entwined with his own and imagined their mental energies converging in the same way. He reached out with his mind, hoping for some tendril of awareness that Severus' mind was there, at least on the edge of his consciousness, but he was aware of nothing. He frowned and concentrated harder, gripping Severus' hands more tightly, but it was pointless, nothing happened.

He sighed and dropped Severus' hands in frustration, opening his eyes and saying, "This isn't working. This...this isn't how it happened last time, I wasn't thinking about it like this, I wasn't trying to make it happen."

"I don't know how else to do it," Severus replied, sharing Harry's frustration.

Harry considered the matter for a moment, then said, "I think I do. Stay here, don't do anything special, read a book, have a drink, just...wait."

Severus sat in the kitchen, his hands wrapped around a mug of steaming coffee, wondering what on earth Harry could be doing and why it was taking so long. He'd been waiting for ages, hoping to feel something, anything, even if it was the slightest brush against his senses, but so far, there had been nothing. He knew Mind Magic, knew it better than most, but he didn't know what he was dealing with when it was tied in with Elemental Magic. For Harry to forge such a connection when he was that close to was a testament to the kind of power he possessed.

It amazed Severus, and it worried him. People were going to want to use Harry and exploit him and his power. Hell, Dumbledore even practically had the boy packed and off to Switzerland. New worlds would be opened up to him, new people, and then where would that leave him?

"As my husband you fool. And I'm not going to buggering Switzerland!"

"Harry?" Severus ventured, then realised he hadn't spoken, and neither had Harry, nor was the boy anywhere in sight. "How did you do this?" he asked in amazement.

"It's not about focusing on making the mind connection work, it's about focusing on the person you want to make the connection with. I just needed to go away and...think about you. Quite an easy task actually," he said, and Severus could hear the smile in his voice.

"Where are you?" Severus asked, looking round, as if expecting to see the boy.

"Just walking in the grounds. I had to stop trying to make the connection before I could do it. It's more of a natural thing than something you make happen."

" can hear my thoughts?"

"No, not really," Harry answered thoughtfully. "I'm aware of them, sort of like peripheral vision, but they're not clear, I don't think they're meant to be. It's more a case of connecting with you, sharing thoughts back and forth. It's not like I can just invade your mind or spy on your thoughts...not that I would. I think this kind of connection is intended mostly for communication."

"A useful tool then," Severus replied.

"Yes it is," came Harry's voice and Severus turned to find him standing in the doorway, a satisfied smile on his lips.

"I suppose you're pleased with yourself?" Severus asked as Harry moved towards him.

Harry nodded and replied, "I am actually. It just goes to show that I'm perfectly capable of learning all this on my own, that I can hone my abilities without running off to Switzerland, or anywhere else Dumbledore thinks I should be."

Severus said nothing, merely offered Harry a small smile and nodded slightly, then turned away and quietly asked if Harry was ready for lunch.

Harry wandered lazily through the corridors of the mansion. It was late evening and the sun was starting to set on the horizon, casting a warm orange glow through the windows of the estate. As he walked, he occasionally looked at the rooms; some were now finished, some were half done and some had yet to be started at all, but it was all coming along nicely and he was very proud of his and Severus' achievements.

He sighed contentedly and walked through the kitchen, smiling when he saw Severus leaning against the doorframe in the open doorway, a glass of wine in his hand as he stood looking out across the grounds. Harry walked quietly up behind him and stood on tiptoes to whisper, "Penny for 'em."

Severus turned around to face him, pulled from his reverie and said, "Hm?"

Harry laughed softly and said, "I said penny for your thoughts, although by the looks of things it'd take more than a penny."

"Oh I was just...daydreaming," Severus replied, offering a smile that Harry didn't quite believe.

"And the truth?" Harry asked gently.

"It's nothing," Severus answered, his attempt at being convincing falling decidedly short.

"You can't lie to me, you've not been yourself since lunch time, what's going on in that head of yours?"

"Honestly Harry it's nothing, I've just been thinking about things that's all," Severus replied, running his hand through Harry's hair and resting it on his cheek.

"You want to tell me what kind of 'things' you're thinking about?" Harry asked, not wanting to push, but anxious to know what was troubling Severus so.

"It's nothing particular, really," Severus replied, dropping his hand and returning his attention once again to the grounds. Harry sighed, not surprised but slightly annoyed at Severus' elusive responses, and was about to press the matter further when Severus asked, "Shall we go for a walk around the grounds before we lose the light?"

Harry regarded him for a moment, knowing that the man was simply trying to avoid answering further questions, but nevertheless he nodded and followed Severus out into the grounds.

The air was warm and fresh, and the promise of summer lay in the evening's stillness. Despite Severus' reluctance to offer information, Harry couldn't help but feel content as they strolled through the less wild portion of their grounds. There was still so much to do to the land, but their main priority had really been the house itself, and there were parts of the grounds that maintained themselves and had retained their beauty. The main portion was made up of one kind of garden or another, but there was also a large portion of forest to the back of the property which was a wilderness of trees and foliage, but that would, one day, be very beautiful.

Harry glanced across at Severus, and although the man seemed content enough, Harry could discern that his thoughts were still troubling him. He reached across and gently took hold of the man's hand as they continued to walk. Severus looked over to him and offered him a small smile, pulling him a little closer.

Harry knew what was bothering him, even if the man wouldn't say it, and it was something that had been on his own mind too. "I'm not going you know," he said quietly.

Severus stopped walking and turned to face him, saying, "Not going where?"

"To Switzerland. I'm not going to that academy or whatever it is, I have absolutely no intention, whatever Dumbledore might say."

Severus was quiet for a moment or two, looking down at Harry, his expression uncertain and he was clearly debating with himself how best to answer.

"It would be unwise to rule anything out at this point Harry. It might be that it's the best course of action for you. You need to understand your power and how to use it; this academy could be the best way to do that," Severus said quietly, avoiding Harry's eyes.

"And it might not be," Harry countered. "I can figure this stuff out on my own; all I need is a little help from you and Lars. I don't need to go away from my home to learn about my power. Do you want me to go?" Harry asked, confused by Severus' reaction.

Again the man avoided his gaze and replied, "I want you to do what's best for you, whatever that may be."

"What's best for me is to stay with you," Harry said firmly, "not to go half way across Europe with a bunch of Elemental hopefuls. I don't want to leave you," he finished quietly.

Severus sighed and let go of Harry's hand, his stance firm but his expression troubled. "You can't make decisions about your future based around me," he said, his voice low.

"Why the hell not? You're my husband!" Harry exclaimed.

"Only for the next two and a half months!" Severus countered, his expression pained, completely taking Harry aback.

"What are you talking about?"

Severus emitted a noise of frustration and moved a little way away from Harry, his back to him as he said, "In case you've forgotten, our marriage was only meant to last a year and a day. In two and a half months it'll be over and...then you'll regret any decisions you made with me in mind."

Harry couldn't believe what he was hearing and he was so startled that he actually couldn't form an answer. Severus apparently took his silence for an agreement and shook his head, moving to return to the house. Harry snapped back to his senses and quickly followed him inside, grabbing the man's arm and pulling him back round, saying,

"Have you completely lost your mind?! Just because the contract ends doesn't mean our marriage has to. I thought...I thought that was how you felt about it too. I have no plans to go anywhere when the contract ends."

Severus looked as though he was torn between relief and confusion. "And that's...that's what you want?"

"Of course it is," Harry said earnestly. "I don't want our marriage to end when the contract does." He stepped closer to Severus and placed a hand on the man's cheek. "You're my husband," he said softly, "and that's the way I want it to stay. When I think about my future, it isn't even a question that you'll be in it." He let his hand drop and he asked quietly, "Don't you feel the same way?"

Severus sighed and said, "Of course I do, but are you sure this is what you want?"

Harry smiled and moved forward to wrap his arms around the man and answered him with a firm, confident kiss, pulling himself up flush against the man's body. He only broke away slightly to whisper, "Of course this is what I want, I'm in love with you, you idiot." He found himself pushed back against the wall as Severus' lips met his once again, apparently rather pleased by Harry's declaration. The intensity grew by the second as the contact between them increased and Harry pulled Severus as close to him as was physically possible as the man continued to kiss him senseless.

"Bed," he murmured against Severus' lips, not ceasing his endeavours for one moment as Severus pulled him away from the wall and they made their tangled way through the corridor to the study where their trusty old mattress resided, shedding various pieces of clothing along the way. By the time they stumbled in through the door, they were both shirtless and breathless, though they hadn't broken the contact once.

Harry ran has hands along the smooth skin of Severus' shoulders and dug his fingers in slightly as the kiss intensified and Severus demanded more. Harry's eyes shone as he broke away slightly and looked up at Severus and said with an impish grin, "So do you think I'm well enough yet Professor?"

Severus answered his question with a slight growl as he pulled Harry down onto the old mattress and continued to kiss him, pinning him gently but firmly beneath him, emitting a soft moan as his hardness met with Harry's.

"Fuck," Harry muttered, his head arching backward as his hips involuntarily bucked upwards to meet Severus better.

"An excellent assessment of the situation Mr Potter," Severus said, smirking down at him, though Harry could discern an absence of the usual control that was always so evident in the man.

"For the last time," Harry said, "it is Potter-Snape. Care to make it official?"

"Oh, with pleasure," Severus said, his voice almost a purr, sending delicious shivers reverberating throughout Harry's entire body. Severus dipped his head and pressed firm, slow kisses to Harry's throat, knowing exactly the right places to attack to elicit the sounds that followed. He created a trail up to Harry's ear and gently nipped at Harry's lobe, smiling slightly as he felt the boy's breath hitch. He slowly made his way back down Harry's neck and then across the smooth planes of his chest as Harry's hand came to tangle in his hair. He was already painfully hard himself and he knew Harry was in a similar situation, but he was damned if he was going to rush this, as much as he wanted to. This wasn't merely about satisfaction, this was about Harry and the final, longed-for moment of the consummation of their marriage.

He continued his trail of kisses and Harry murmured appreciatively beneath him, the hand in his hair tightening as he neared the waistband of Harry's trousers. He looked up briefly at Harry, marvelling at just how beautiful the boy really was, and Harry gave an almost imperceptible nod that was accompanied by a whispered, "Please." Severus smiled and slowly undid the buttons on Harry's trousers drawing them and the boy's underwear down over his knees and out of the way. Harry lay naked before him, his expression uncertain and slightly shy, a tinge of embarrassment suffusing his cheeks, but he didn't look away, he met Severus' gaze full on, and Severus could see the question in the boy's eyes. As he allowed his eyes to take in the vision before him, the body that somehow now belonged to him, he couldn't imagine how Harry could imagine the answer to be anything else. He met the boy's eyes once more and said gently, "You're beautiful."

Harry's face softened into a relieved smile and Severus could hardly believe he was capable of housing all the emotions that were within him at that moment. He leant forward and captured Harry's lips once more as he allowed his hand to travel down Harry's body, slowly, agonisingly, until it finally wrapped around Harry's erection. Harry moaned against his lips and his nails dug into Severus' neck as he gripped on tightly as Severus began moving his hand in sure, firm strokes. Severus' lips never left Harry's as he continued his ministrations and Harry was lost in a world of sensation, he didn't know which to pay attention to first. This was new territory for him; before it had always been his own hand in the privacy of his bed or the bathroom, but this, this was something else entirely, and the fact that it was with Severus, was almost too much for him to process. He could feel himself drawing dangerously to the edge and he bucked into Severus' hand, desperate for release. But before that could happen, Severus removed his hand and smirked in amusement at Harry's noise of indignation.

He leant down so his lips were level with Harry's ear and he whispered, "Not until I'm inside you Harry," and that comment was almost enough to finish Harry off there and then. He grasped Severus tightly and groaned into his neck, relishing in the feel of the man's weight pinning him down, and then he was being kissed again, thoroughly and insistently, with Severus' words resounding in his head, going straight to his already painfully hard erection. He heard the belt on Severus' trousers jangle and he was vaguely aware that the man had removed the rest of his own clothing; his heart skipped slightly as he realised that what he had been waiting for for so long was actually about to happen. He was suddenly nervous, afraid that he wouldn't live up to Severus' expectations, that he wouldn't know what to do. Severus had clearly sensed the sudden tension in his husband's body and he pulled back slightly, meeting Harry's eyes and said breathily, "If you don't want – "

"Of course I want this," Harry said quickly, and truthfully, "I'm just...I'm just a little...nervous that's all. I've''re my..."

"I know Harry," Severus said gently, brushing the hair away from Harry's face. "We'll go slowly ok?"

Harry nodded, smiling, and Severus couldn't imagine loving anyone more than he loved Harry at that moment. He rested a hand on Harry's cheek then reached out and grabbed his wand from the nearby table. "This will feel a little strange," he said softly, then muttered a spell unfamiliar to Harry's ears, though Harry didn't waste time pondering it as he was suddenly hit with the oddest feeling, the feeling of being somehow stretched and lubricated. He looked up at Severus and said, "You weren't kidding. That's a nifty little trick Professor, you'll have to teach me some time."

"Oh, you have no idea the things I plan on teaching you," Severus replied, his voice low and playful and Harry grinned up at him and said,

"Well, if it's not too much trouble, would you mind awfully divesting me of my virginity?"

Severus laughed and replied with the same exaggerated formality, "I would consider it an honour." He kissed Harry softly again and positioned himself so he was leaning more directly over Harry. "Are you ready?" he asked gently, and the joking of the previous moment was gone entirely, replaced only with sincerity and warmth. Harry nodded and he felt Severus' erection prod lightly at his entrance. "We can stop anytime you want," Severus assured him but Harry simply pulled his head down until their lips met and murmured,

"Now Severus."

Severus pushed forward gently and Harry braced himself, a sharp feeling of pain hitting him straight away.

"Breathe Harry," Severus instructed gently, pushing further inside Harry slowly. Harry did as instructed, the pain still there but it was pushed aside slightly by the sense of overwhelmed wonder he suddenly felt. As Severus continued to move, Harry was hit by the situation, the realisation of what was actually happening, and it wasn't until Severus was fully sheathed that he snapped back to his senses. It still hurt, but the pain wasn't as intense as it had been initially and Severus was being so careful with him, letting him take time to adjust before he started moving, though it was clearly taking all the man's restraint to hold himself back.

Harry looked up at him and smiled, seeing his own emotion reflected in the man's eyes. He gave a small nod and the man finally began to move. The thrusts were slow and careful at first, the pain Harry had initially felt had now subsided to slight discomfort and as Severus moved, Harry began to move with him, gripping the man's shoulders tightly as they began to find a steady rhythm.

After a few more steady strokes, Severus began to angle his aims differently and after a couple of attempts, Harry felt him hit something inside him and pleasure swept through his body. "Merlin," he let out in an unsteady breath and Severus chuckled lightly as his thrusts become surer and firmer now he was certain he wasn't going to hurt Harry. He dipped his head and reached for Harry's hands, pinning them gently above the boy's head as he continued his strokes, each time hitting that spot inside Harry, making the boy arch upwards to better meet him. The pace increased and Severus' grip on Harry's hands became tighter and Harry found himself winding his legs around Severus' waist, trying to draw the man in deeper and hit that spot harder.

His breathing was ragged now and he was beginning to become lost in a sea of sensation and feeling. The capacity for thought had long since left him and all he could do was emit noises of encouragement or pleasure as Severus' thrusts became faster and more insistent. He looked up at Severus and saw that the man was in a similar situation and it captivated him completely to see the normally stoic man so undone and unbridled. Their eyes met and Harry felt the man's gaze go deeper than it ever had before, somewhere that could only be shared between lovers.

He was desperate for release and he was moving as one with Severus, his mind beginning to fuzz and the edges of his vision beginning to blur. He was vaguely aware that he was making some sort of noise, probably a plea of some sort, and before he knew what was happening, his orgasm hit him so hard he felt as though it had been torn from his body. He felt himself clamp down around Severus' erection, and a few moments later Severus followed him and came hard, biting down on Harry's shoulder as he found his release.

They lay in a pile of sweaty and sated limbs, Severus weight pressing down on Harry, though Harry was only too happy to lie like that forever. His hand came to rest on the nape of Severus' neck and he gently stroked the hair back and forth, the action serving as a tactile reassurance that he was indeed still tied to the world and that it hadn't all been some wonderful dream. He was breathless and exhausted, but he'd never felt better in his entire life. He pulled Severus even closer to him and whispered next to the man's ear, "Consider my virginity well and truly taken."

Severus laughed, a low rumble into Harry' neck and then slowly levered himself on one shaky arm, looking down at Harry with such affection and warmth that Harry was quite taken aback by it. "Let them try and say our marriage isn't real now."

"Mm," Harry murmured, "although, just to be sure, we should probably have sex several times for the rest of the night...better safe than sorry."

"Oh indeed."

Chapter Text

Severus had never felt more content in his entire life. He was lying on his and Harry's battered old mattress, gazing up at the ceiling, one arm tucked behind his head, the other wrapped around the shoulders of his sleeping husband, who was fast asleep on his chest. The covers were pooled around Harry's waist, exposing the bare skin of his back to the flecks of sunlight that were trying to force their way through the curtains. Severus ran his fingers lightly along the ridge of Harry's spine, smirking as Harry smiled in his sleep and nestled in closer to Severus' hold.

He could still hardly believe that the previous night's events had taken place. Surely he would wake up at any moment and discover that he and Harry were mortal enemies once again and that the boy wanted to be as far away from him as possible. How could it be that here he was lying with the boy in his arms, basking in the afterglow of an amazing night? It made absolutely no sense to him, but he didn't care; he wasn't interested in the logic of it, all he knew was that Harry was in his arms, and that was exactly where he wanted him to stay.

"Mm, Severus you're thinking too loudly," came Harry's muffled voice and Severus looked down to see Harry looking up at him with a sleepy smile.

Severus returned the smile and replied, "Sorry, force of habit. I was wondering when you were going to wake up," he said, running his fingers through Harry's hair.

Harry chuckled and said, "Well I was rather tired, can't think why." He stretched and ran a hand up Severus' chest, emitting a contented little sigh and saying, "I'm surprised I woke up at all after last night."

"Well I'm glad you did," Severus replied with a smirk, watching Harry's hand as it drew lazy patterns across his chest, sending shivers throughout his body.

"Do you think if we just stayed here and didn't go back to Hogwarts anyone would notice?" Harry asked sleepily.

"I think there'd be a few raised eyebrows somehow," Severus replied, "though I can't deny the idea's appealing. I must admit, the thought of returning to the castle tomorrow doesn't exactly fill me with joy."

"Ugh, tell me about it," Harry groaned, cuddling in closer to Severus. "Here we can just do as we please and forget about everyone else. At Hogwarts…we have so many responsibilities, so many people that we're beholden to...I just want it to be us."

"I know Harry," Severus said with a sigh, pulling him closer. "I think we have much to deal with before that can happen though. I think also that for the moment it might perhaps be best if we don't inform the headmaster about the...shift in our relationship."

"More secrets from the headmaster?" Harry asked with a slight frown. "We spent the first few months of our marriage pretending that we were a couple, now we have to pretend that we aren't?"

"I just think it would be best to be cautious. It isn't that I don't trust the headmaster...I just feel that we would be better served by keeping it to ourselves for the time being."

Harry propped himself up on one elbow and regarded Severus closely, asking, "Do you think he'd try to stop us if he knew?"

Severus considered the question for a moment, not entirely sure of the answer. Would the headmaster try and stand in the way of his relationship with Harry? And if he did, what reason would he have to do so? "I honestly don't know. Who can know what goes on in that man's mind? But I do believe it would be best to be cautious."

"Whatever you say," Harry agreed, cuddling back into Severus' hold again, though he was slightly worried about Severus' concern about Dumbledore. Severus' fingers once again twined in his hair and he allowed his eyes to close, pushing aside all thoughts that extended beyond Severus and the estate. For the time being, he simply wanted to bask in his own contentment, still finding it slightly hard to believe that what had happened actually had transpired. He was roused from his reverie by a loud knock coming from the front door. He looked up at Severus, frowning and said, "Who the hell can that be?"

Severus mirrored his surprise and said, "I don't know. Stay here, I'll go and see." He shuffled out of bed and threw on his dressing gown, exiting the room. Harry also heaved himself up from the mattress, throwing on the first clothes he could lay hands on, straining to hear what was going on beyond the door. He was buttoning up his shirt when, to his surprise, he heard Ron and Draco's voices filter down the corridor, accompanied by Severus'. He quickly finished dressing and went out into the corridor, finding that his friends were indeed there, and they looked troubled.

"What are you two doing here?" he asked.

They both turned to face him, and Ron replied, "We've come to bring you back to the castle, before the headmaster does."

"What are you talking about?" Harry asked, his eyes going to Severus, who clearly knew as little he did.

"Things are bad Harry," Ron said seriously. "There have been loads of Death Eater attacks and they're getting a lot worse. Dumbledore's really worried and the castle's in a frenzy. Nobody seems to know what to do."

"Father's concerned there's going to be an attack on the castle," Draco added, "and it seems to be a concern other parents share; they're pulling their children out of the school as we speak. If things aren't handled properly we're going to have a mass panic on our hands."

"Well to avoid one now, let's all calm down and talk about this rationally," said Severus. "I believe coffee is in order."

When Severus was dressed and Harry had put some coffee on, the four men sat around the breakfast bar in the kitchen and discussed the happenings of the previous week. It transpired that Death Eaters had attacked at least fifteen towns and villages within the last week and had again taken prisoners. Those they left behind had wished they hadn't been, for they had all been in some way damaged. Some had lost everything they held dear, their homes, their livelihoods and, in the worst cases, their families. Times were not good, and the mood in the kitchen was a sombre one.

"And the Order? What are they doing?" Severus asked.

Draco sighed and replied, "Dad says they're on the alert for further attacks and several members are doing their best to recover the prisoners, but I don't know, it feels like bugger all to me. Dad thinks Dumbledore's got something up his sleeve for you though," he told Severus.

"What do you mean?" Severus asked with a frown.

Draco gave a shrug and said, "Dad thinks Dumbledore has some kind of assignment or something for you, something he wants you to do."

Severus exchanged a worried glance with Harry and he saw his own concern reflected in the boy's eyes. He offered what he hoped was a reassuring smile, though he could see Harry wasn't entirely convinced. He returned his attention to Draco and asked, "You have no idea what it might be?"

Draco shook his head. "Sorry. Dad did hint that he thought it might be away from Hogwarts though."

"Oh brilliant," Harry said, hopping down from the tall stool and moving to stand in front of the window. "So the second we get back to Hogwarts we'll be separated? Fan-bloody-tastic," he growled.

"You don't know that Harry," Severus said gently.

"Oh yes I do. It's us, of course it'll happen! You'll be sent to the outer reaches of...Mongolia and Dumbledore will most probably pack me off to Switzerland!" he ranted.

"Why Switzerland?" Ron asked, puzzled.

Harry made a noise of frustration and turned back around to face his friend, saying, "Because that's where Dumbledore wants to send me to go to some stupid academy for people to learn Elemental Magic."

"But you're already learning Elemental Magic," Ron protested.

"Try telling Dumbledore that," Harry groused. "Anyway it doesn't matter because I'm not going. He can say what he wants, it's not happening."

"Stop winding yourself up," Severus instructed, grabbing Harry's hand and pulling him closer, wrapping an arm around his waist while Harry's hand came to rest on his shoulder, an action that didn't go unnoticed by Ron and Draco. "Let's just deal with one thing at a time shall we?" Severus said calmly. "Our main worry right now is this business with the attacks, that's what we need to focus on."

"I'll remind you of that when I'm starting fires in Switzerland and you're shivering in Mongolia."

After Severus and Harry had packed their things together, they apparated back to Hogwarts with Ron and Draco. They dropped their things off in their quarters and, much to Harry's displeasure, Severus insisted they go straight to the headmaster and find out exactly what was going on.

Dumbledore was unsurprised to see them and he invited them into his study, offering the usual cups of tea, which were declined by both Severus and Harry. They seated themselves in front of the headmaster's desk and waited for him to begin.

"Well my boys," he began, "you know, I presume, what has happened over the past week?" Severus and Harry nodded soberly and the headmaster continued. "The times that I feared for so long are now upon us, and gathering such force that I...I confess I'm worried for what may lie ahead."

As Harry listened to the headmaster talk, he noticed for the first time just how old and worn the man looked and he realised the burden the man carried on his shoulders. He suddenly felt a wash of guilt for the angry resentment he had felt and shown towards the man; his position was an unenviable one and the decisions and actions he had to take were not easy ones. That didn't mean, however, that Harry was willing to be used as a pawn in the man's endeavours.

"The Order are of course on full alert and the key members are due here this evening to further discuss the situation. I would like you both to be present."

Harry was surprised; normally he was excluded from such things, but nevertheless he nodded his assent, a feeling of nervous apprehension settling on him. He felt a reassuring nudge along the edge of his senses and he looked over to Severus in surprise, who was purposefully not meeting his eyes. He recovered himself and hoped that Dumbledore had noticed nothing amiss. He continued to listen as the headmaster further updated them with what had been happening, feeling more and more despondent as the man's report went on. Times were indeed bad.

Harry was thankful when Dumbledore finally finished and bid them a polite farewell, quietly asking when they were at the door, "I trust you both enjoyed your week away?"

Severus and Harry exchanged glances and despite the fact that he knew they were being admonished, Harry couldn't help but smile. Severus gave a curt nod and replied, "It was what we both needed. Good-day headmaster, we'll see you this evening."

Harry and Severus returned gratefully to their quarters, still feeling a little shell-shocked by the events of the past few hours, but thankful to finally be able to relax in their own home.

"I wonder what will happen at the meeting tonight," Harry mused as he divested himself of his outer robe.

"Merlin knows," Severus replied, "though at least you'll be able to attend this one rather than listening through the keyhole as you spent your youth doing," he added with a smirk.

Harry grinned and replied, "Ah so you knew about that?"

Severus grabbed his hand and pulled him close, wrapping his arms around him and whispering close to his ear, "I knew everything you got up to in your misspent youth." Harry shivered in delight as Severus began to kiss the tender skin by his ear and murmured, "I knew all the times you broke curfew and went sneaking around the castle, all the times you listened in on conversations that were none of your business, all the plans you formulated with your partners in crime and thought you'd got away with." His lips moved to the column of Harry's throat, then gently teased along his jawbone. He broke off and met Harry's eyes, his own full of mirth as he said, "You were hardly a model student."

Harry returned the smirk and said, "And now I'm sleeping with a teacher, it seems I was destined for a life of depravity."

Severus laughed and Harry found it hard to believe that there was once a time when he didn't want to jump the man at every given opportunity. Harry looped his arms around the man's neck and said, "Not that I mind, I quite like this life of depravity."

"I always knew you were destined for badness."

"Mm definitely," Harry murmured, leaning forward and pressing his lips to Severus'. He pulled himself closer to the man, the kiss slow and sensuous, Harry almost teasing Severus as he refused to quicken the pace. He arched upwards several times, pleased when he elicited a slight groan from Severus, who gripped him tightly and pulled him closer. He broke off and kissed along Severus' jaw line, whispering with a smile, "Fancy a shower Professor?"

Harry checked his appearance one last time in the mirror and tried to flatten down his hair, though why he bothered he had no clue. He straightened his robes and decided it would do, he knew most of the Order members anyway, it wasn't like he had to make a special effort. He straightened his robes out, then moved into the living room.

Severus was sitting on the sofa, browsing a few newspaper articles. Harry walked up behind him and slid his arms over his shoulders and down onto this chest, leaning against the back of the sofa as he murmured, "What are you looking at?"

Severus placed his hand on top of Harry's, giving it a gentle squeeze as he replied, "I was just looking at the newspaper reports from the last week, just to keep it in mind before the meeting."

"Mm the meeting, who knows what to expect there?"

"I wouldn't worry too much, I'll be with you the entire time."

"In more ways than one," Harry replied softly and Severus inclined his head to look at him questioningly. "I'm not imagining things? You did make the mind connection earlier in Dumbledore's office?"

Comprehension spread across Severus' features and he said softly, "I wasn't sure. I thought perhaps I might have done. I was uncertain until that point that we would be able to make it work both ways, but apparently..."

"Apparently we can," Harry said with a smile. He leant forward and pressed a kiss to the man's lips. "It's nice to know I'll have you with me."

"You would anyway you fool," Severus said, nevertheless pleased to discover that the connection could work in such a way. "Right, we'd better go or we'll be late," he said, rising from the sofa.

Harry groaned and said, "Can't we just stay here and 'entertain' ourselves?" He grinned wickedly, moving to stand behind Severus, running his hands along the man's shoulders and standing on tiptoes to kiss the nape of his neck.

"You're a little brat," Severus told him, turning around and wrapping his arms around Harry tightly as the little imp grinned up at him, clearly pleased with himself. "Just get through this meeting," he said, his voice low as his hand travelled down Harry's body until it stopped at the front of Harry's trousers, "and we can 'entertain' ourselves to our hearts' content." Harry's eyes closed and he pushed himself into Severus' hand.

"If you keep doing that we won't be going anywhere," he said shakily.

Severus chuckled and said, "In that case, we'd better go. And you can just behave yourself," he added with a playful whack to Harry's backside.

The headmaster's office was absolutely packed when Severus and Harry entered. An array of chairs had been brought in, some of which were being used, whilst the occupants of the others stood around talking. There were several faces that Harry recognised and some that he knew very well. He waved happily at Mr and Mrs Weasley and grinned at the twins, who actually looked incredibly grown up sitting in smart dress robes and talking quietly. He hugged Remus, pleased to see the man, but was, as usual, concerned about the man's tired and worn appearance. He waved to Tonks, shook hands with Kingsley and exchanged a polite nod with Moody. Lucius was in the corner, talking to a person Harry didn't recognise, but he inclined his head in acknowledgement towards Severus and Harry.

The room was buzzing with conversation and Harry and Severus helped themselves to a cup of tea, though Severus muttered that he would have preferred something stronger, and then took their seats. After a while, Dumbledore politely brought the meeting to order and everyone seated themselves, as the headmaster seated himself behind his own desk.

"Good evening to you all," he said as the noise ceased. "I want to thank you all for coming; I know many of you have other obligations and I'm grateful you could be here tonight. As we are all aware, the situation regarding Voldemort and his Death Eaters has worsened severely. We need to take hold of the situation before it is beyond our control completely. Remus, if I could prevail upon you to bring us up to date with the work your team have been doing."

Remus stepped forward and as Harry listened to him talk, he was surprised to see how much of the gentle professor he had known four years ago had disappeared. In his stead was a serious, strong leader, who talked with the experience of a man who had seen and done more than his fair share. It was still the man that Harry loved and held in great affection, but he was undoubtedly changed.

"My colleagues and I have spent the last few weeks gathering information with regards to Voldemort and his latest plans. He's been in Salisbury with several of his closest followers. It seems he's been investigating a ritual. We're not sure at this stage exactly what this ritual entails, but we can be sure that it won't be good news for us. We've also heard whisperings that he's gathered information regarding his...his connection with Harry," Remus said quietly.

All eyes went to Harry and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He looked over to Severus who mirrored his concern but said nothing. "What about it?" Harry asked, looking back at Remus.

"We're not sure yet Harry, and I don't want to cause any undue alarm, but it is something that I think we all need to be aware of. It might turn out to be might not, but it's best to be cautious. I will of course tell you more when we have all the information, but...vigilance is advisable. Apart from that, we know that the Death Eater...revels are increasing in frequency and energy. They're getting more and more confident and they think they're going unchecked; to this end the Order has recruited the help of Mr Ruben Penvennen."

Remus indicated towards a man in the corner of the room, the same man he had seen Lucius speaking with earlier. He was tall and well-muscled with dirty-blond hair and a serious expression. He had strong, defined features and was not quite what some would have considered handsome, but he had an aura of strength and certainty about him that some would have found appealing.

He stepped to stand beside Remus and nodded to those assembled. "Mr Penvennen is the head of an elite band of fighters and he and his people have agreed to aid our cause. His men and women have been posted up and down the country and we hope that this will go some way to subduing Death Eater activity. Mr Penvennen himself will be taking up residence in the castle and will be offering weapons and combat training to 6th and 7th years."

"What do you think?" Harry asked Severus as Ruben stepped forward and began outlining his training intentions.

"I suppose it's necessary," Severus replied. "It's a sign of the times. Will you be taking up this training?"

Harry mentally shrugged and replied, "Merlin knows. I suppose I'll have to see what plans Dumbledore has for me. I don't think I can cope with learning any new skills. It might be good for the others though. We all need to be as prepared as we possibly can."

"Indeed." There was a brief pause and then Severus said, "Don't think too long on what Lupin said, about your connection to Voldemort. It may turn out to be nothing."

"Knowing my luck it'll most definitely be something. But I'm learning not to worry about things that I have no control over. Still, I'd rather know what it is he's learnt, whatever it might be, and what this ritual is he's discovered."

Eventually the meeting drew to an end, and Harry was definitely more wound up after all the information he'd received. Things truly were awful and Harry was worried about what lay ahead.

"You look preoccupied Harry," said Remus as he moved over to Harry as the meeting wound down. Severus was speaking with Lucius and Ruben, and Harry was waiting for him to finish.

"I'm just thinking," he replied, "it was a long meeting, lots to take in," he said as he glanced over to where Severus was. Surely Ruben Whateverhisnamewas didn't have that much to say to his husband?

"You're looking well though Harry, I'm glad to see it."

"I wish I could say the same for you Remus," he said, returning his attention to his friend. "You're not taking care of yourself," he admonished.

"I'm fine Harry, just very tired. There's much to do and not enough people to do it. We do what we must." He smiled slightly and said, "Is there a particular reason why that corner of the room holds so much interest for you?"

Without thinking, Harry replied, "I'm thinking that if that man touches Severus' shoulder again I'll rip his arm off."

"What?" Remus asked in surprise. Harry turned back to face him and realising there was no way he could back-track, offered a somewhat sheepish smile and said,

"I suppose I might as well tell you." He lowered his voice a little and said, "Severus and I...are together, for real I mean." He scanned his friend's face for a reaction, surprised when the man broke into a smile.

"I can't say I'm surprised Harry. The way you two...well, it's been on the cards for some time. And, you're happy?"

Harry couldn't help but smile as he nodded and replied, "I am Remus. It's the strangest thing in the world – less than a year ago we hated each other, I couldn't bear him, and now – "

"Now you'll kill anyone who comes within a mile of him," Remus finished with a chuckle.

Harry laughed and said, "Stupid I know isn't rational."

"Love?" Remus asked gently.

Harry gave a soft smile and said quietly, "Yes, no doubt about it."

Chapter Text

Harry was sitting at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall, consuming his breakfast and happily thinking about the rather magnificent blow-job Severus had given him that morning. He was stupidly grinning into his cornflakes when Ron, Draco and Hermione joined him, Ron not wasting any time, coming straight to the point and saying,

"So, heck of a meeting last night wasn't it?"

Harry looked up, puzzled and said, "How do you know about it?"

"Fred and George taught me well. We heard the whole thing."

"Quite a lot of information for one night wasn't it?" Harry asked with a quirk of his eyebrow. Ron nodded and asked,

"Any clue as to what this information is Voldemort has?"

Harry shook his head and replied, "Nothing concrete, not yet anyway. Remus and his team are doing everything they can to find out more but...well, Voldemort guards his secrets well."

"And we're to have combat training with this Mr Penvennen?" Hermione asked.

Harry nodded and said, "It's voluntary of course, but I would imagine quite a few people will be up for it."

"Are you going to do it?" Hermione asked.

"I haven't really decided yet," Harry replied with a shrug. "I'm already up to my neck in a hundred other things, I'm not sure I can cope with learning any more. Severus is pretty adept when it comes to weapons training, I might try and cadge a few lessons off him."

"Oh I'm sure he'd be only too happy to oblige," Draco said with a smirk. "A little hot and sweaty...weapons training would do you both the world of good," he said, waggling his eyebrows. Harry merely shook his head in amusement and snuck a glance at his husband, who was quietly perusing the morning papers and sipping at his coffee. He let the others' conversation wash over him as he continued to look up at Severus.

He watched the man's long, elegant fingers as they slowly turned the pages, his mind supplying him with memories of just what those fingers were capable of. He looked on as Severus' black eyes scanned the pages, his head tilted in such a way that a small portion of his neck was exposed from his restrictive collar and Harry couldn't help but think where that trail of skin lead, and the body that Severus was concealing underneath his sensible teaching robes. He watched as Severus fished out a quill from his pockets, presumably to start his morning ritual of completing the paper's crossword, which was all well and good until he started sucking on the end of it in thought. He watched for as long as he could stand until finally he growled to Severus,

"If you don't stop doing that I'm going to come up to that table and shag you senseless."

Severus looked over to him in surprise, surprise that quickly melted into a smirk as he replied, "Having trouble keeping those teenage hormones in check?"

"Yes, and you're not helping! I've been sitting here watching you suck that bloody quill and it's driving me insane. All I can think about is you sucking my cock!"

Severus chuckled through the link and replied, "Not a shred of self-control, you ought to be ashamed. What would you like me to do? Come down there and alleviate your problem?"

"Don't be such a fucking tease," Harry growled. "And don't pretend you have any more self-control than I do, not after your performance after we got back from the meeting last night. You're driving me insane."

"Patience is a virtue," Severus told him imperiously.

"Smug bastard," Harry groused. "Thank you so very much for all your help."

"Just wait until I get you alone later, I'll give you all the help you want."

Severus sat at his desk, casting an eye over his 7th year Ravenclaw students as they quietly completed a practice exam he had set them. It was insanely boring, but at least he didn't have to keep a look-out for any accidents or exploding cauldrons, not that his Ravenclaw students were particularly prone to such accidents. He turned his attention to the latest Potions journal that had arrived for him that morning and began to quietly peruse the articles.

"Aw, what a shame you don't have a free lesson like me," Harry's voice interrupted his reading.

"And I suppose you're spending your time productively?" he replied, keeping his eyes on the text.

"I am actually. I'm currently having a long, hot shower. Mm it feels fantastic, and the best thing is, I can finally...relieve myself of a certain problem that's been plaguing me since this morning."

"You little wretch," Severus growled. "Don't you dare."

"Perhaps we should have a little test of your self-control hm? See how well you manage with temptation. Can you picture me Severus? Naked, hot water streaming over my body, my hand travelling over my chest, down my stomach, lower and lower..."

"Harry," Severus said warningly, although he actually quite wanted the boy's little narrative to continue.

"I'm hard Severus, Merlin you have no idea how hard I am. I wish it was your hand on my cock and not my own. Don't you wish you were here with me?"

"You have no idea how much," Severus ground out, trying desperately to maintain his composure, which was virtually an impossible task. "I do have a class you little brat," he told him, knowing that Harry wasn't bothered in the slightest.

"I know," Harry purred. "Just imagine if they knew, if they knew their Potions professor was sitting there, listening in while his husband jacks off. Is it making you hard Severus? Are you wishing you were here touching me, teasing me? How much do you wish you were fucking me right now?"

"Oh God Harry," Severus moaned, surreptitiously shifting himself within his robes to try and ease the mounting discomfort Harry's words were causing him.

"This doesn't even come close to real thing Severus. I want your hands on me, Merlin I want you so badly."

"Now who's the one with no self-control?" Severus replied, his own resolve fast waning, especially as he could sense that Harry was coming close to the edge. "My class ends in ten minutes. When it does, I'm going to come back there and fuck you so hard you'll see stars."

Severus stalked through the dungeons, intent on one purpose and one purpose only – to return to his quarters and shag the life out of his young, impetuous husband. Those unfortunate students who happened to pass him thought he was fuming with anger, and on his way to cause hell for some poor unfortunate. They failed to notice the look of burning desire in his eyes, and luckily they had no idea the thoughts that were racing through his mind as he strode through the halls.

He flung open the door and slammed it shut behind him, wrenching off his outer robe as he strode across to the bedroom. He opened the door and found Harry emerging from the bathroom, towelling off his hair. The little imp grinned at him and he ground out, "Get back in that shower now."

"Where's your self-control Severus?" Harry purred.

Severus clenched his jaw and moved across to Harry more quickly than Harry had anticipated, and the boy found himself pinned against the wall, Severus' full weight pressing down on him as the man kissed him, hard. He wound his arms around Severus' neck and drew himself up against the man's body. "Oh yes," he murmured as Severus continued to attack his mouth.

"Shower, now," Severus growled and Harry wound his legs around Severus' waist as the man supported his weight and carried him into the bathroom. They continued to kiss furiously as Severus wrenched on the shower as Harry wordlessly spelled off their clothes.

"Very impressive," Severus murmured as his bare skin came into contact with Harry's.

"I try," Harry said breathlessly as Severus pushed him into the shower, shoving them both under the hot, pounding spray. He turned Harry around and the boy braced himself against the glass, moaning in delight as Severus pressed himself flush against his back and the man's lip went to his neck.

He let out an appreciative moan as Severus' teeth sank into the skin above his collarbone and the man began to rock his body behind him and before he could properly let his mind focus on the situation, Severus was inside him.

"Oh fuck," he breathed, letting his head fall forward onto the glass, biting his lip as Severus began to move in hard, firm thrusts. The man's breath was hot on the back of his neck and the hot spray of the shower pounded on his skin deliciously as Severus continued to thrust into him. His mind began to fuzz as feeling and sensation began to take over thought. His head lolled backwards and he opened his eyes to see his and Severus' hands twined together, their wedding rings glistening next to one another. He was struck by such a force of emotion that it nearly made him buckle. This wasn't some fumble with a fellow student or some desperate experimentation, this was his husband, the man he belonged to, the man he loved, and that thought nearly undid him.

"Severus," he whispered in a shaky breath, his emotion over-taking him.

"Let go Harry," Severus murmured close to his ear as his thrusts became more insistent and Harry felt his whole body go taut as his orgasm ripped through him. He tried to catch his breath as Severus continued thrusting, only to follow Harry over the edge a few moments later as came hard inside his lover.

He collapsed against Harry, breathing into the boy's neck raggedly as he tried to collect himself.

"That," Harry panted, "was fucking amazing."

"I'm glad you approve," Severus said in a low rumble against Harry's shoulder as the water continued to pound down on them. "That'll teach you to be such a fucking tease."

It was Sunday afternoon and Severus had decided to forgo his usual potions making session in favour of relaxing on the sofa with a book with Harry curled up next to him, resting his head on his lap, quietly engrossed in one of his books on Elemental theory. Severus was revelling in the feeling of peaceful contentment that permeated the room though how could he not be content? He was sitting with his beautiful husband nestled against him, all was right with the world.

He tried very hard to keep his attention on his book, but truth be told, his husband held far more interest for him. He loved watching Harry when the boy was engrossed in something, completely unguarded and open. When a particular idea caught his attention or he was thinking hard about something, he bit down on his bottom lip, the action making him look deliciously wanton. When an idea struck him as odd or lacking credibility, he would crinkle his nose and twist his mouth comically, an action that always made Severus smile.

Harry emitted a soft sigh and shut the book, placing it on the floor and closing his eyes, shifting himself to find a more comfortable position. Severus' own book was long-forgotten and he allowed himself to indulge in drinking in the sight of his lover. His eyes travelled over the planes of Harry's face. How it had changed from the terrified First Year that had sat underneath the Sorting Hat. Gone were the soft, childish curves of boyhood, replaced with the sharp angles of adulthood. His cheekbones were strong and defined, and the boy he had once known was turning into a man, a man that Severus loved. He reached down and ran one long finger along Harry's forehead and along down his cheek until it reached his throat. He smiled as Harry emitted a breathy little sigh; Merlin but the boy was so sensitive, every touch provoked a delicious reaction. It made sex quite a discovery; Severus was constantly finding new places to tease to reduce the boy to a babbling, pleading heap.

He gently trailed his finger over the skin of Harry's throat, then moved his hand beneath Harry's shirt and down over the boy's chest. Harry's lips parted slightly and he arched upwards as Severus' hand teased his all-too sensitive skin. It felt somehow illicit, to be touching his 17-year-old former student, a boy who had not yet even left school, but as Harry opened his eyes and smiled, there was only his husband before him. He returned the smile as Harry reached a hand behind his head and pulled him down into a kiss. It was soft and gentle and Harry chuckled as they broke apart, saying, "I don't think I'm going to do anything ever again other than have sex with you for the rest of my life."

"Works for me."

"Aren't you late?" Severus asked as he emerged from the bedroom, buttoning his collar and glancing over to the table in the alcove, where Harry was sitting, sifting through a pile of notes, frowning in concentration. He shook his head and replied,

"Morning lessons were cancelled, Professor McGonagall's not feeling well."

Severus shrugged into his teaching robes and straightened them as he moved over to Harry, peering over the boy's shoulder at the notes he was reading. "What are you looking at?" he asked quietly.

"Notes on the information Remus' team have gathered over the last six months," Harry replied, keeping his eyes on the pages in front of him.

"Where did you get those from?" Severus asked in surprise.

"I asked Remus," Harry said simply.

"But why?"

"Because I don't feel as though I know enough. I feel like everyone's hiding things from me and I have all these little pieces that I know make up a picture, but I just don't have enough pieces to make a full one. If no one will tell me anything then I'll find it out for myself," he said determinedly, spreading out the papers so he could further analyse them.

"What exactly are you hoping to find?" Severus asked gently.

Harry emitted a heavy sigh and said softly, "I don't really know. But there has to be something. There's so much rattling round in my head Severus, I wish I could sort it all out and make some sense of it but...I don't know, it feels like I'm walking through a haze and I'm just waiting for it to clear. I just – "

"Ssh," Severus said soothingly, placing his hand on the back of Harry's neck, gently rubbing back and forth. Harry leant back into the touch, closing his eyes and letting himself indulge in Severus' touch. "We'll work it all out Harry, I promise, but please try not to drive yourself crazy in the process."

"Easier said than done," Harry murmured, holding up the pages for examination again. "There's something Severus, I know there is, I'm just not seeing it."

"Perhaps you're looking too hard," Severus said quietly, rubbing Harry's neck. He could feel the boy's body relax under his touch, but he could sense the taut strings of the boy's mind, almost as acutely as if it were his own. Without thinking, he carefully reached out with his mind and gently enveloped Harry's own, protecting it, soothing it, joining it with his. Immediately he felt Harry let go, he felt him relax and surrender control, blissfully havened within the warmth of protection. He poured his emotions through the link, providing the balm Harry so needed.

He pulled back to find that neither he or Harry had moved, but that Harry was looking impossibly peaceful, calm and assured. A slow smile played on Harry's lips and he rose slowly from his chair to stand in front of Severus. "I don't know what you did, or how you did it," he said, placing his hands on the man's shoulders, "but thank you." He pulled himself up against Severus, the physical contact somehow rounding off the connection that had been made between their minds. He felt Severus' strong arms encircle him and he indulged in the feeling of being completely surrounded by his husband. Severus' hand cradled his head and he turned slightly to whisper in a breathy sigh, "I love you."

Severus tightened his hold and closed his eyes, as if somehow the action would ensure that Harry stayed exactly where he was, that he wouldn't wake up and discover the boy had been a phantom of his dreams, sent to tempt him with promises of love and happiness, only to be whisked away and leave him cold and alone. But he would never allow that to happen. Harry was his, and to contemplate anything else was unacceptable.

"You're late," Harry informed Lars as his friend entered their training room.

Lars pulled a face and replied, "Well it makes a change from you being late doesn't it?" He placed his armful of books on the old table Harry was sitting on and thumbed through one of them, saying, "I was with Ginny, time just got away from me."

"I'll bet it did," Harry said with a smirk. He jumped down from the table and clapped a hand on Lars' shoulder, saying, "Just remember she has six older brothers, one of whom routinely wrestles with dragons, and one who is an expert on curses."

Harry grinned as Lars rolled his eyes and turned to face him, saying, "I've met both Charlie and Bill and they're utterly charming. They also both assured me that their interference would never be necessary as Ginny is more than capable of taking care of herself, as you and I are both well aware."

"She can hold her own and no mistake," Harry said with a laugh. "But...things are going well?" he asked, anxious to know that his friends were happy.

Lars smiled and said, "Things are going very well. She's...she's quite something. You know she's taken up combat training with that Penvennen chap?"

"Ginny and weapons? Heaven help us all," Harry exclaimed. "Well Lars my friend, you've met your match there."

Lars simply waggled his eyebrows and returned his attention to his books. "Now, what I had planned for today was to – "

"Actually before we start anything, I want to talk to you. I...I need answers Lars." His friend turned to look at him and gave him a gentle smile, obviously expecting this from Harry and ready to help him. His quiet, gentle demeanour always invited confidence and Harry always found it easy to talk to the man. "What's going on?" he asked quietly. "What am I Lars?"

"What are you?" Lars echoed. "You're a 17-year-old boy who is a wiz on a broomstick and who falls asleep during History of Magic. You're a hard worker, a good friend and a devoted husband. You're kind, caring, selfless, impatient, impetuous and you have a wicked sense of humour. Does that answer your question?"

Harry sighed and said, "You know what I mean Lars. All this stuff about me possibly being a Mage...all the things I'm capable of. What does it all mean?"

"Oh my friend, there's no question in my mind that you're a Mage, no question at all. From what I've seen over the past few months, it would be impossible to argue otherwise. Your control, your's staggering Harry. I've trained countless witches and wizards in Elemental Magic and none of them has come close to your level of skill."

"But what does that mean Lars? What does it mean to be a Mage?" Harry asked in frustration.

Lars fixed him with his large, intelligent eyes and said softly, "It means your power is formidable, and when you fully understand it, you'll be a force to be reckoned with."

Harry stood quietly, contemplating Lars' words and what they meant for him. After a few moments of silence, he met Lars' eyes once more and asked quietly, "Do you think I should go to Switzerland?"

Lars paused, considering the question carefully, before answering sincerely, "I think only you can answer that Harry, I will of course support you in any way I can and I'm more than happy to continue training you, but if you think you need more – "

"I don't know what I need," Harry said with a sigh.

Lars placed a hand on Harry's shoulder and said in his deep, steady tones, "One thing I will say Harry – don't let anyone push you to a decision, in either direction. It has to come from you, make sure it does."

"His time-keeping's never been very good but Merlin knows where he's got to this time," Draco said as he propped his feet up on the little coffee table in Harry's study. They were waiting for Ron to join them so they could begin their study session. Hermione was spending her free time with a Ravenclaw study group who, apparently, were a more efficient group of people to study with.

"And he didn't say where he was going?" Harry asked as he tried to organise his notes into some semblance of order.

"Only that he'd join us when he was finished," Draco replied, making himself comfortable. "I don't know, he's been really preoccupied the last couple of days, something's on his mind. When I went to bed the other night he was reading a letter but when he saw me he just put it away and pretended nothing had happened."

Harry frowned and said, "That's not's like Ron, he's not usually one to keep secrets."

"Tell me about it," Draco replied. "I don't want to push him into telling me what's going on but...I'd like to know all the same.

"I'm sure he'll tell you sooner or later."

"Oh never mind about me anyway, how are things with you and Sev?"

Harry blushed slightly and Draco smirked at him, wiggling his eyebrows and saying, "I take it that delightful shade of beetroot you're turning means that things are going well?"

Harry bit his lip hard to keep the grin from spreading across his face and said, "Better than I could imagine. We spent so long hating each other and now we put that same passion and energy into loving each other. The world really makes no sense to me," Harry said with a chuckle.

"You don't have to tell me. I never thought the love of my life would be Ron Weasley, but hey, life's a funny old thing," Draco said with a smile. They heard the front door open and Draco said, "Your bloke or mine?"

Harry frowned and replied, "It sounds like both of them."

They moved out of Harry's study to find Ron and Severus standing in the living room, speaking in hushed tones, both looking rather worried.

"Something wrong?" Harry asked concernedly. Both men looked up and clearly had no idea how to answer the question. A long silence held in the air until finally Severus seemed to snap himself out of it and said,

"Perhaps the two of you should sit down. We have something to tell you."

"Ok now you're worrying me," Harry said, not taking the advice to sit down. "What's going on?"

"Don't tell us," Draco said, "the two of you are having a sordid affair."

"Drake," Ron said, though the admonishment was half-hearted.

Draco became serious and said, "Well come on then, whatever it is you have to say just say it."

Ron and Severus exchanged glances and Ron ran a hand through his hair, looking at Severus with such an expression as to indicate that he had no idea how to say what he needed to. Severus nodded and turned to face Harry and Draco. He took a deep breath and said,

"Ron and I...we have to go away for a while, probably for a couple of weeks, but possibly longer."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Harry asked in confusion, looking from his husband to his best friend, then over to Draco who looked equally as confused as he did.

"We're going away," Severus repeated.

"Yes I got that part, but where?" Harry asked.

"It's a mission for the Order," Ron said, stepping forward slightly.

"You're not in the Order," Draco said with a frown.

"As of an hour ago, I am," Ron said quietly.

Draco and Harry exchanged glances, still having no idea what was going on. "Would one of you please start making some sense soon?" Draco asked in exasperation. "Does this have something to do with that letter that you think I don't know about?"

Ron paused for a moment, then nodded slowly and said, "It was from your father."

If it was possible, Draco's frown deepened and he said in confusion, "My father? What's he got to do with all this?"

Ron sighed and looked over to Severus before saying, "Lucius wrote to me and told me that I had been specifically requested by his and Remus' division for a particular Order assignment. It's being headed by Leonard Broomfield – "

"That field strategist you're always banging on about?"

Ron nodded and said, "He's requested an apprentice and your father, knowing my background, put me forward. It's a great opportunity and I might be able to be of some help."

Draco shook his head and said, "No, no this is my father, he...he said he was ok with us being a couple, but now he's trying to separate us. This is all him, I can't believe it, I – "

"Drake, Drake," Ron said, crossing the room and placing his hands on the boy's shoulders to calm him. "That is not what this is about. After the meeting, your father took me to one side and told me that he could imagine the reservations I must have, but that this wasn't about you and me. He said that he did have his doubts in the beginning, but that now he would quite happily class me as a member of his family," Ron said with a small smile. "He's not trying to separate us Drake, he's just doing his job."

Draco looked decidedly unhappy about the situation and he looked as though he was considering arguing further, but he simply sighed and shrugged Ron's hands off, then moved to sit at the table in the alcove, his jaw clenched tightly.

Harry, who had been watching their interplay, returned his attention to Severus and asked quietly, "And you? Why exactly are you going on this little outing?"

"My expertise in Potions, why else?"

"Why else?" Harry echoed quietly, but Severus caught the glint in his eye that belied his calm exterior. "Perhaps because our beatific headmaster would, for some reason, do anything to keep us apart, even send you to another country on some wild goose chase!"

"Harry," Severus said calmly.

"No. No, don't tell me I'm overreacting. He's doing this on purpose and I don't know why, but I know he is. I don't want you to go out of the country for Merlin knows how long. I mean, for fuck's sake Severus, it was only a month ago that you rescued me form Aldrington and is fucking ridiculous." He strode over to the door and grabbed his cloak as Severus said,

"Harry I have to go."

"Of course you do. We all have to shut up and do as we're told because we're all just pawns in his little game. Why should our lives matter? We're just playing pieces anyway, to hell with what we want," he all but spat, slamming the door behind him as he left.

Chapter Text

The air was cool as Harry stepped outside, his pulse still quick with anger and his head beginning to throb from the sudden rush of emotions he had experienced. It was evening but the light had not yet faded and there was a calm stillness in the air, one that felt utterly incongruous to the tumult of feeling within him. He inhaled deeply and ran a somewhat shaky hand through his hair. There were so many emotions in him that were vying for attention that he didn't know which to attend to first. He felt a little stupid for storming off the way he had done, but he had been so upset, and the worst part was that he wasn't entirely sure why.

He sighed and sat down on the ancient stone steps, resting his elbows on his knees and staring out across the beautiful grounds of the castle. He was frustrated and angry and he was finding it difficult to rein those emotions in.

After a few moments, he felt a presence beside him, and he turned to face the person sitting next to him, offering what he knew to be an unconvincing smile.

"I know how you feel right now," Draco told him quietly.

"How can you? I'm not even sure how I feel," Harry replied.

"You don't want Severus to go away any more than I want Ron to. We'll both be miserable without them and miss them like crazy, but we have to face up to the fact that we're at war, and sacrifices have to be made."

"I'm well aware of the fact that we're at war, I have the scars to prove it, but...I don't know Drake, it just feels like there's some kind of ulterior motive to all this, a reason that I'm just not seeing."

"And maybe you're looking in corners for ghosts that just aren't there," Draco said gently.

Harry shook his head and replied, "If I've learnt anything over the last few years, it's not to take anything at face value."

"They're going to be fine Harry, they'll be back with us in no time and...we'll forget how much we missed them."

"It isn't just that," Harry said quietly, twisting his fingers awkwardly.

"Then what?"

Harry sighed agitatedly and avoided the blond's eyes as he replied, "I...I don't want to be left on my own. Ever since...ever since all that stuff with Aldrington...I'm frightened to be left alone, especially at night," he admitted, a little ashamedly. "I know it's stupid – "

"Don't be ridiculous, of course it's not stupid," Draco quickly assured him. "After what you went through...Merlin if it were me I'd be having nightmares every night and I'd never leave my room again."

Harry smiled slightly and said softly, "I do have nightmares sometimes, but it's ok because I wake up and Severus is there and I know that everything will be alright. But if he's gone...I don't know, it's just not something I'm ready to face."

Draco rested a hand on his shoulder and gave it a comforting squeeze, offering a smile and saying, "I have a proposition. How about I come and stay with you while our other halves are away? We can keep each other company and, I don't know, maybe it'll help you feel a bit safer."

Harry gave the blond a grateful smile and said, "You're a good friend Drake."

Draco returned the smile and said, "I learnt from two insane Gryffindors."

Severus breathed a sigh of relief as he heard the front door open. When Draco had stopped him from going after Harry when he had stormed out, he had been incredibly dubious and wished he hadn't let Draco deter him. When he saw Harry though, his fears were allayed as he saw that the boy looked a lot calmer and that he even offered small smile.

Before he could say anything, Harry had crossed the room and enveloped him in a hug, pulling Severus to him tightly, burying his head in the crook of the man's neck. "I'm sorry for storming off," he murmured.

"Don't be, I understand," Severus replied quietly, holding him tightly. He cradled his head gently, stroking the hair back and forth. "I'll speak to Dumbledore, I'll tell him that I can't go."

"No," Harry said, shaking his head. He extricated himself from Severus slightly and said, "No, you're needed, if only to look after Ron for me. I'm not saying that I trust the headmaster's motives for sending you, but if we kick up a fuss it'll make him suspicious, and that's the last thing we need right now. I don't want you to go but...well there isn't much I can do about it," Harry said quietly, averting his eyes.

Severus tucked a finger under the boy's chin and tilted his head so their eyes once again met. "I don't want to go Harry, Merlin knows I don't. The idea of leaving you for a day, let alone a week, isn't one that appeals to me in the slightest."

"At least we'll manage to be together one way," Harry said softly, raising a hand to Severus' temple.

Severus placed his hand over Harry's and replied, "You can depend upon it."

Harry sighed and asked, "Am I worrying unnecessarily? Do you really believe the headmaster has no other motive for sending you on this assignment?"

Severus shook his head and replied, "I don't know Harry, who knows what goes on in that man's mind? We must believe that in some way it's all for the greater good."

"My concern in that is that the greater good will involve the sacrificing of the individual. I don't want our marriage to suffer for the sake of the 'cause'," Harry said emphatically.

"It won't Harry, it won't," Severus said gently. "I'll be back before you know it, and everything can go back to normal."

"Such as it is," Harry snorted. "Meanwhile Draco and I have to stay here and be miserable while we wait for you both to come back."

"What did Draco say to you by the way?" Severus asked, curious.

Harry smiled and said, "Nothing earth-shattering. He was just...being a good friend."

Severus sat at his desk in his Potions classroom, finishing a stack of last-minute paperwork before his next class began. He was leaving that evening to set off on his assignment with Ron and he wanted to make sure that everything was in order before he left. He was still rather anxious about going; Harry had calmed down significantly but it was clear that the boy was still unhappy about the situation and Severus was reluctant to leave him in such a state. At least he was comforted by the fact that they would be able to communicate through their mind link; the boy would never be too far from him.

He placed his signature on the bottom of a stock order for the next couple of weeks, placing it on the completed pile of paperwork, when he became aware of a presence hovering in the doorway. Thinking it was a snivelling student coming to get in an early excuse for why they wouldn't be handing in their homework, he said tersely without looking up, "What do you want?"

"Well that's no way to greet your husband," came the amused reply.

He lifted his head to see Harry leaning against the doorframe, his arms folded, smirking slightly.

"Why aren't you in class?" Severus asked suspiciously.

Harry shrugged and replied, "I decided my time could be better spent." He slid into the classroom and closed the door behind him. Severus heard rather than saw the lock slide into place. "But," Harry said, his voice low and playful, "if you disagree I can always return to History of Magic. Or perhaps, Professor, you'd like to punish me for my little transgression," he suggested, moving slowly over to Severus' desk.

Severus tried very hard to school his features into an implacable mask, but he could feel his lip twitching in an answering smirk.

"Well Professor?" Harry asked, moving around the desk to Severus' side, leaning against it as he met Severus' eyes. "Do you think punishment is in order?

Severus smirked and replied, "That would depend on the severity of the crime."

"Oh, very severe Sir, entirely unfitting behaviour for a student such as myself. What would an older, wiser, more experienced teacher such as yourself do in such a situation?"

Severus raised an eyebrow and let his eyes trail slowly down Harry's body, which was, at that moment, inconsiderately concealed beneath the boy's school-robes. "In the spirit of helping you to learn from your mistakes," he said, meeting Harry's eyes once again, "I shall let you decide a fitting course of action."

Harry held Severus' eyes for a moment or two, his expression slightly coquettish, then slowly sank to his knees in front of Severus. He placed his hands on Severus' legs and then slowly ran them up and along the man's thighs. He looked up at the man through his lashes and murmured, "Fitting punishment Sir?"

Severus nodded slowly, knowing that he would never be able to think of his Potions classroom in the same way ever again. He watched as Harry slowly ran his fingers up and down the length of his legs, which were annoyingly still covered by his trousers. Harry was teasing him and he knew it, and if he wasn't enjoying it so much, he'd be growling at the wretch to hurry up and get on with it. As it was, he simply leant back a little further in his chair and allowed Harry to go about his business, marvelling once again at how innocent Harry managed to look when he knew for a fact that the boy was anything but. Before he could blink, Harry had inclined his head slightly and wordlessly spelled off both their clothes, and his fingers were no longer running along Severus' trousers but along the bare skin of his legs. "You're far too good at that," he told him quietly, to which Harry merely grinned, then without warning leant forward and took Severus' erection into his mouth, enveloping him in warm wetness.

He emitted a soft moan and let his head fall back against the head of the chair as Harry took him all the way in to the back of his throat and sucked hard. He was released almost immediately, and was about to make a noise of complaint, when Harry's tongue snaked out and performed a slow lick from base to tip then proceeded to swirl teasingly around the head. Severus fisted a hand in Harry's hair and held the dark locks tightly as Harry once again took the length of him into his mouth and sucked, lightly at first, slow, tantalising tastes that soon increased in pressure and speed, Harry's hand accompanying his clever mouth to torture Severus with steady, firm strokes.

"I always knew that mouth of yours could be put to better use," Severus said, his voice sounding strange to his own ears. Harry merely smirked around Severus' erection and hummed in accordance. Harry continued to suck hard, his skill certainly having improved since the first time he performed such an act on Severus, not that Severus had enjoyed it any less the first time, but it had been more enthusiasm than finesse. Now it was both. He closed his eyes as Harry started making obscene movements with his tongue, never having imagined once when the boy had sat in his class, insolent and sullen, that those full, ruddy lips, that so often threw insults at him, would one day be wrapped around his cock.

He began to lose himself slightly in the sensations, his mind able to focus only Harry's delectable talents. He gripped Harry's hair tightly, readying himself for his fall over the edge. But it never came. Harry gripped the base of his cock tightly and removed his hot mouth, looking up at Severus with bruised lips and flushed cheeks. Severus glared at him and Harry merely smirked in response and murmured, "I feel stronger punishment is in order Sir, I don't think I'm properly learning my lesson."

Severus raised an eyebrow and replied, "Oh? And what exactly do you feel would...hammer the point home?"

Harry rose a little higher on his knees and leant closer to Severus. His eyes were hooded and clouded with lust as he whispered, "I think you should fuck me into your rather beautiful antique table."

That was all the encouragement Severus needed. Within seconds he had risen from his chair and had Harry bent over the aforementioned beautiful antique table while he pressed rough, insistent kisses to the boy's neck. Harry heard the man reach for his wand and he muttered, "Don't bother, I prepared myself before I came here."

Severus chuckled into Harry's neck and murmured, "Why am I not surprised? You never did possess the gift of patience."

"Lucky for you or I'd still be an innocent little virgin," Harry said through gritted teeth and Severus trailed his fingers down his spine, an action that never failed to reduce him to a jellified mess.

"You were never innocent," Severus growled as he pushed himself inside Harry. Harry groaned and grabbed the nearest thing to him, which just so happened to be Severus' unfinished paperwork, but neither of them particularly cared much at that moment. Harry was far too preoccupied with enjoying the feel of Severus' weight pressing down on him as the man moved in hard, firm thrusts inside him. Severus hands were pinning his own down and the man was driving him insane with the teasing, sensuous kisses at his neck. He gripped Severus' hand tightly as he began to meet Severus' thrusts with a rhythmic rocking of his hips, pushing himself back to meet Severus better. There was never anything more perfect than when Severus was buried deep inside him, and if he had his way, he and Severus would do nothing but have sex all day every day. "Oh God yes," he whispered as Severus angled himself just right. "Mm harder."

Severus smirked into the boy's neck and murmured, "Remember your manners Mr Potter-Snape."

Harry gritted his teeth and ground out, "Harder please."

"That's better," Severus whispered and did as asked, slamming home and tearing the most delicious noises from Harry's lips. Harry's senses started to melt together and the edges started to blur as Severus' hand found its way to his cock and began to stroke him firmly and rhythmically as he continued to thrust inside him. He was aware that he was babbling, possibly even begging, but he didn't really care, just as long as Severus kept doing what he was doing. Severus leant closer to Harry's ear and whispered, "Whose are you Harry?"

Harry was caught between a smile and a moan as he answered breathily, "Yours."

Severus bit down hard on his neck and reiterated firmly, "Mine," punctuated by several hard thrusts that sent Harry over the edge and into white-lighted oblivion. When he returned to his senses, he realised, with some amusement, that he had come all over Severus' paperwork.


Harry sat on the edge of the bed, watching as Severus finished packing. The man was leaving in half an hour and all Harry could think about was how much he didn't want him to go. They hadn't been apart since they'd been married, apart from of course his little stay under Aldrington's hospitality, and time apart from Severus was not something that he craved. He considered helping the man, but decided that he wanted no part aiding him to leave, so he simply sat in silence, watching until finally Severus zipped the bag up and turned to face him.

"Try not to look quite so despondent," Severus implored gently.

"I can't see how I could possibly be anything but," Harry replied gloomily.

Severus moved to stand in front of him and gently placed his hand on the boy's cheek. "If there was any way I could stay I would."

Harry looked up to meet his eyes and sighed. "I know, I'm sorry. I know I'm not making this easier, for either of us, but I just..." he trailed off, hating himself for feeling so weak and vulnerable, but feeling as though there was nothing he could do to stop it.

"Come here," Severus said softly, pulling him to his feet and embracing him. Harry let himself be surrounded by his husband; he breathed him in and relished the feeling of those strong arms wrapped around him, protecting him and holding him. Harry pulled himself as close as possible to Severus and buried his head in the crook of the man's neck. "I'll be back before you know it."

"Not soon enough," Harry muttered.

"If it's any consolation, I'll be just as miserable," Severus replied, tenderly cradling Harry's head. "I'm glad Draco will be with you though, that is at least of some comfort to me."

"He's a good friend," Harry replied quietly. "But it's no substitute."

Severus snorted and said, "I should hope not."

Harry tightened his hold and said, "Oh I don't want you to go. If I keep hold of you and refuse to let go will that mean you have to stay?"

Severus chuckled and said, "Try it and see what happens."

Harry lifted his head and met Severus' eyes. "Just come back as soon as you can." Severus nodded then dipped his head to meet Harry's lips in a slow and gentle kiss, one that Harry refused to think of as a goodbye. Their comforting haven was shattered when they heard a knock at the door, followed by the entrance of the headmaster, Ron and Draco, and they slowly disentangled themselves from one another, Severus picking up his bag and stopping Harry quickly before they joined the others in the living room.

"I'll be with you the entire time," he said softly. Harry nodded and quickly pressed a chaste kiss to the man's lips before they both moved out to join the others.

"Ah Severus, all packed?" Dumbledore asked, and Harry refused to make eye contact with the man who was sending his husband away.

Severus simply settled for nodding as he slung the bag up onto his shoulder and looked across to Ron, who was sombre and quiet, clearly thinking about what lay ahead.

"Very well then. Here is the portkey," Dumbledore said, handing a crumpled piece of parchment to Severus. "It will activate in one minute."

Ron turned and placed a soft kiss on Draco's lips and held him in a gentle embrace for a moment, whispering, "I'll be back soon. I love you."

"I love you too," Draco murmured as they released one another. Severus merely nodded across to Harry, neither of them wanting to arouse the headmaster's suspicion with any unusual behaviour and it took all of Harry's self-control to bite back the tears that threatened to sting the corners of his eyes. Draco came to stand next to him, and he was grateful for the reassuring weight of the boy's hand on his shoulder as they watched Ron walk over to Severus and reach out his hand for the portkey. In an instant, the two were gone.

The corridors were familiar as he walked through them, but they were definitely different. He had known from the minute he had set foot in them that he was at the estate, but it wasn't the estate he knew. This was complete, finished, done, not to mention the fact that there were clear signs of it being lived in; it was no longer a shell or a building, it was very obviously a home.

He walked slowly through the oddly familiar, yet unfamiliar, halls, taking in the changes that had taken place. It looked wonderful. All the ideas that had existed in his head had somehow beautifully come to life and the house was truly a sight to behold.

As he continued walking, he heard voices coming from the room he knew to be the study, his favourite place in the entire house, and as he drew closer, he recognised his husband's voice. "I just need to finish this article and then I promise we can leave," came the man's deep rich tones.

He heard a returning chuckle and then a reply in a voice that sounded suspiciously like his own. "You said that an hour ago Sev and we're still waiting. The boys are getting impatient."

The boys? Maybe Ron and Draco? Harry rounded the corner and stood in the doorway to the study to find he was looking at...himself. Only, like the house, he was different, older, taller perhaps. He wasn't wearing glasses anymore and his hair was...well it was still the messy mop that it always had been, but it seemed to somehow fit him better. His cheekbones were much better defined and his jaw was strong and firm. At a guess, he would have put himself in his late thirties. His eyes went to Severus, and he saw that he too was different. There were flecks of grey in his hair, hair that was tied at the nape of his neck in a short tail. The lines of care and worry that Severus carried in his own time had, contrary to the obvious lapse in time, somehow disappeared and Harry had to smile to realise that he was just as attracted to this version of his husband as the one he knew already.

"Sev," his older self murmured, leaning down over Severus shoulder and plucking the paper from the man's hands. "Get up, and get out."

"Harry I just need to finish that before I can – " But his protests were silenced as the older Harry leant down and pressed a kiss to his lips.

His older self pulled back a little and tucked a stray strand of hair behind Severus' ear. "Your husband and your sons are waiting for you," he told the man with a smile. Harry's heart skipped a beat. Sons? He and Severus had...sons? He watched as Severus smiled at his older counterpart and ran a finger along his cheek.

"Tell the boys I'll be along in five minutes, and if I'm not, they have my permission to hunt me down and drag me out."

His older self laughed and replied, "They won't need your permission my love, but I shall pass on the message. And mind it's no longer than five minutes." He kissed Severus once more then moved around the desk, past Harry and into the corridor.

Harry was torn between staying and watching Severus, whom he was desperately missing, and following his older self to see what else was waiting for him. In the end, his curiosity won over and, casting one quick glance back at Severus, he quickly scooted off down the hall after himself.

It seemed as though he was heading out to the gardens, and Harry was interested to see how they looked in this apparent future. He wasn't disappointed. They were just as beautiful as the house, possibly even more so and Harry couldn't imagine the amount of work that it must have taken to get them to that standard. But there was something definitely more interesting that captured his attention. Standing on the patio area were two young boys, one who looked roughly his own age and the other who looked a couple of years younger.

His older self walked up to them, smiling and said, "He says five minutes, but you have his permission to drag him out if he's a second longer."

The elder of the two laughed, his deep, black eyes full of mirth as he replied, "Dad's idea of five minutes is every sane person's idea of two hours."

"Well you know your father," his older self said with an indulgent smile.

"Pa can I go and quickly fire-call Teddy while we wait then?" the younger boy asked his older self, and Harry couldn't describe the feeling that practically choked him at seeing himself referred to as 'Pa'.

"Of course sweetheart, you've probably got a good fifteen minutes," his older self said with a smirk that eerily resembled his husband's. The younger boy smiled and Harry could have sworn that he was looking at himself when he was about 15, but the slant of the boy's mouth and the grace of his movements were all Severus'. He moved into the house and Harry watched him go, mesmerised.

"He's trying to get Teddy to help him with ideas for what to buy Megan for her birthday, never mind of course that Teddy and Megan have the same birthday," the older boy said, his voice full of laughter. Harry turned his attention back to the boy and watched as his older self sat down at a nearby table and replied,

"Even Benji can't be subtle when it comes to matters of the heart."

The boy smirked, a family trait apparently, and took a seat next to 'older' Harry, saying, "Benji isn't subtle, people just don't know how to read him, like Dad. The only reason the two of us ever know what's going on with the two of them is that we can read them."

"We are indeed talented," his older self replied, and Harry took advantage of the companionable silence that followed to study the smiling boy. He was handsome, almost beautiful, and as with the younger boy, Harry could see both himself and Severus in the boy's features. His eyes were nearly identical to Severus', but they were nowhere near as guarded; they shone and laughed and held none of the pain that his husband's held. He also had Severus' aristocratic cheekbones and pale complexion, but it was tempered with the same full mouth that Harry possessed. Harry imagined that when the smile disappeared, the boy would resemble one of the stormy, passionate heroes that Ginny was always reading about. Could this boy possibly be his?

"Oh Caleb," his older self said, "would you do me a favour and join Ben's fire-call and ask Uncle Ron what time we're due over tomorrow?"

"Sure thing Pa," Caleb said, rising to his feet. "I'll check in on Dad on my way and point out that he only has a minute left," he said with a grin as he moved off into the house.

Harry's older self smiled at the boy and shook his head, then rose to his feet, stretching out and emitting a long yawn. He looked out across the grounds for a moment or two, then, to Harry's utter surprise, turned around and looked him directly in the eye.

"Hello Harry," his older self said with a smile.

Harry blinked for a moment or two, unsure if he was actually being addressed, then said quietly, " can see me?"

His older self nodded then slowly approached him, and for the first time in a dream, Harry felt completely unthreatened. "So, what do you think of your future?" his older self asked.

"Then this...this is real?"

His older self smiled and replied, "That depends on you."

Harry tried to slow his racing heart and said quietly, "Those...those boys. They're...they're mine? My sons?"

His older self nodded and replied, "Yours and Severus'."

Harry shook his head in disbelief and said, "I really am a father?"

"And a bloody good one, if I say so myself," his older self told him with a smirk.

"They're...they're both so beautiful, so perfect. Mine," Harry said, his voice barely above a whisper, hardly daring to believe it could be true.

His older self's expression suddenly became serious and he looked Harry directly in the eye. "Do you want this Harry? I mean really want it?"

Harry didn't even have to think about his answer. He emitted a heartfelt "Yes" before his older self had even finished speaking.

"Then you're going to have to fight for it. People are going to try and stop you, circumstances will stand in your way. In the weeks and months that are to come, hold on to this, remember it and fight for it, because it will be snatched from you if you let it."

"I won't," Harry said fiercely, "I want all this more than I can...I'll do whatever it takes. Just please, please tell me that there's more than just a chance that this can be mine."

His older self's expression softened and offered a gentle smile. "If you want it enough, it will be."

Chapter Text

Harry woke confused and disorientated. His first reaction was to reach out for Severus, but of course the man wasn't there and Harry found himself clutching at a pile of bed-sheets. He emitted an exasperated sigh and considered reaching out to Severus with his mind, but he didn't want to disturb the man, who was probably catching up on some well-earned sleep. He forced himself to take a couple of deep breaths, to try and get his mind in some kind of order, but the task was almost impossible. He was so wound up and there were so many questions racing through his head, he had to get out of the room.

He pushed the bedcovers aside and swung his legs over the side of the bed, sitting with his head bent low for a few moments, trying to compose himself before pushing himself up and walking out into the living room. He shakily sat down on the sofa and stared ahead. It was cold and he was already a little shaken from his dream. He waved his hand in the direction of the fireplace and flames sprang to life, helping a little to ease away the cold that permeated the room. Was it real? Had he really been given a glimpse of his future? He didn't know what to make of it but he couldn't get it out of his mind. He had seemed so happy and the boys...his boys...Was that really what his future held for him?

He heard the door behind him and he turned to see Draco emerging, bleary-eyed, from Harry's study, where he'd been camping out on a make-shift bed. "Are you ok?" the blond asked, trying to adjust his eyes to the firelight.

"Oh Drake, sorry if I woke you, I was just...I had a dream."

Draco came to sit beside him on the sofa and eyed him concernedly. "A nightmare?" he asked softly.

Harry shook his head slowly. "No, no not a nightmare. I'm not entirely sure what it was. Oh Merlin Draco I have no idea what just happened to me. I don't...I can't..."

"It's alright, just take a few moments to calm yourself down. I'll go and put on some tea, then you can tell me all about it."

After Draco had made some strong tea and insisted that Harry drink it all down, he instructed Harry to tell him what had happened from start to finish, and to remember every detail of it, for the slightest thing could be important. He listened quietly and waited until he was sure Harry had finished before saying,

"Well, to quote my other half – bloody buggering hell! That's certainly one hell of a dream. And do you really think it was some kind of look into your future?"

Harry ran his hands through his hair and said with a sigh, "I don't know, I don't know what it was, but it felt so real. I can't...I can't put into words what I felt when I saw those two boys. To know that they were mine, my sons...Merlin, I could barely breathe. I wanted that life so badly Draco – me and Severus and our...our children," he said, speaking the last word with an almost reverence.

Draco sipped at the last of his tea and pondered the matter. "And then the older version of yourself told you that it would only happen if you fought for it? That people would try and stop you?" he asked.

Harry nodded. "That's what he...what I said. Merlin Draco," he said with a sigh, "I'd fight the devil himself if it meant I could have all that. It's everything I ever wanted and it's so close now, it's a real possibility and I'm not going to let anyone take it from me."

Draco smiled and said, "I can well believe that."

Harry turned to face him and said quietly, "Oh Draco I wish you could have seen them. They're the most perfect things I've ever seen in my life. It's stupid I know that I'm awake I can't help feeling an overwhelming sense of loss. I want them here with me and they're not. Merlin they don't even exist yet and already I feel like I'd kill for them."

"Then I think you already know that you'll fight for it."

"Here, I think this is supposed to be coffee, at least, it's the nearest thing to coffee that I can find," said Ron as he handed Severus a mug of what looked like liquefied dung beetles.

"It will have to do I suppose," Severus said as he accepted the mug. "Did you manage to get any more sleep than I did last night?" he asked.

"If five minutes is more, then absolutely. I think that buggering mattress has crucified my spine," Ron complained, sipping at his coffee and wrinkling his nose in distaste.

"Mine wasn't any better," Severus replied, the dull ache between his shoulders a constant reminder of that fact.

They were in a ramshackle old boarding house at the foot of the Carpathians in Romania, not quite Outer Mongolia, Severus had thought with bitter amusement when they had arrived. A few other members of the Order were there, and Severus had been relieved when Lucius had arrived an hour or two after they had done.

"That is disgusting," Severus pronounced, setting the mug aside. Ron nodded in agreement and moved to stand by the window. Severus watched as the boy looked out at the pouring rain, his hands clasped tightly behind his back and his posture stiff. He was obviously nervous about the day that lay ahead and though he hadn't said anything, Severus knew that he was missing Draco.

Severus was actually rather fond of Ron. The boy had changed greatly over the years and he'd gone from an awkward, clumsily-spoken child, to an astute and intelligent young man. He had a brilliant strategic mind, and, having played chess with him several times, Severus could see why Lucius had put his name forward for this assignment. If he had to be stuck with anyone (besides Harry of course) for at least two weeks, then Ron was a good candidate.

The door opened and Lucius stepped into the room, looking no more rested than either Severus or Ron felt. "They're ready to begin. We're using the old dining room at the back. It isn't the most secure of locations, but it'll do. Are you both ready?" They both nodded and Lucius led them downstairs to the run-down old dining room, where several unfamiliar people were waiting for them. Lucius introduced both Ron and Severus to Leonard Broomfield, and Severus had to smile at the awestruck look on Ron's face and the delight with which he spoke to the man. Broomfield was a tall, thin man, all angles and lines, and his age could have been anywhere between 30 and 50. He and Ron spoke animatedly together and would have continued to do so had a man down the other end of the room not called the meeting to order.

When they were all seated, he introduced himself as Julian Garrett, the head of Anglo-Romanian International Relationships in the wizarding world. He informed the assembled company that there had been an unusual amount of Death Eater activity in several of the towns near the Carpathians, and there were strong suspicions that they were trying to garner support from the locals, many of whom were still skilled in the more ancient ways of magic that had been passed down from their ancestors.

Broomfield then took over the proceedings and outlined his proposals for talks with these people, and indicated that Severus' potions skills could well be a useful bargaining tool, as their knowledge in Potions was several years behind that of Western Europe. Severus was slightly sceptical, but he held his tongue; it would do no good to argue this early on in the proceedings. He and Ron exchanged glances several times and Severus could see that the boy was digesting all the information he was being given, turning it over in his mind and considering the options.

After Broomfield's discourse, an elderly man stood and addressed the company, and began a tedious speech on the customs and practices of the locals, at which point Severus decided that it was safe to let his mind wander, and he let it wander in one very specific direction.

"Are you awake?" he asked, reaching out to Harry.

"I have been for hours," came the reply.

Severus glanced at his watch. "But it's only 9 o'clock here, which means it must be 7 o'clock over there. Why are you up so early?"

He felt Harry's mental shrug through the connection and the boy replied, "I was just restless. I'm not used to sleeping on my own, it's not something I want to get used to."

"Nor I," Severus replied. "But you're alright?" he asked concernedly.

"I'm fine, honestly. I just miss you. But Draco's here to keep me company and I have so many things to get on with, don't worry about me. How are you? More importantly, where are you?"

"Romania, near the Carpathians. We're here to extend diplomacy to the locals, or so we're told. It's a bit of a wild goose chase if you ask me, but...ours is not to reason why."

"Is Ron alright?"

"He's fine. He's in 7th heaven doting on his hero. I think he's a little star-struck."

"Most probably. Just keep an eye on him for me."

"I will," Severus promised. "Are you sure you're alright? You seem a little subdued."

Harry sighed through the connection. "I'm fine. I just have a bit of a headache. I think it's because I didn't sleep well. I wish you were here to make me feel better."

"As do I. We must hope these next couple of weeks pass swiftly."

Harry groaned. "Weeks. So long, it's just not fair."

"Harry – "

"Sorry, sorry. I know. It's just...I miss you so much. It was horrible waking up without you."

"As it was for me."

He held Harry's consciousness for a few minutes; it was the mental equivalent to a hug and it enabled him to feel as close to Harry as was possible without touching him. "You're unhappy," he told the boy.

"No, no really. Don't worry about me, I'm just feeling sorry for myself because I miss you. You just concentrate on what you have to do there and come home to me as soon as you can."

Harry roamed the corridors of Hogwarts, walking aimlessly as he searched for something to occupy his mind. When he had spoken to Severus earlier that morning, he had been so tempted to tell him of his dream, of what he had seen. He had wanted to tell him all about Caleb and Benji and how beautiful they were, but he thought that perhaps, at this point, it would be wise to keep the dream, and its contents, to himself.

But still, he couldn't get it out of his mind, he couldn't stop thinking about the possible future that awaited him. Not to mention the fact that he had questions. Well, when there were questions that required answers, there was only one place to go.

He found Hermione, unsurprisingly, in the library, head bent over her books. He took a seat next to her and waited for a couple of minutes before she looked up and said, "Oh hello! Sorry, I didn't see there, I was...never mind, is there something I can do for you?"

Harry bit his lips and ran a hand through his hair. "I um...I have a...a question."

"Oh? About school work?"

Harry shook his head and replied, "No, no it's something...personal."

Hermione put her quill down and pushed her books aside, focusing her attention solely on Harry. "What is it? Is something wrong?"

"No, no not wrong per se, there's just something I'm curious about," he said quietly. Hermione indicated for him to continue and he took a deep breath then said, "Is it possible for two men, two wizards, to...have children? Biological children I mean."

Hermione looked surprised, but to Harry's relief, didn't question the reason why Harry wanted to know about such a subject. "Well," she began, "it is possible, certainly. I'm not a hundred percent sure of the particulars, but as I understand it, sperm is taken from both men and then it's...I don't know, somehow magically enhanced or altered to create a fertilised embryo. Then a surrogate has to be found to carry the baby to term and give birth."

"But...but the baby is completely the two men's?" Harry asked.

"Oh yes entirely, but obviously a man can't carry a baby. As I understand it, there are lots of women who are more than willing to be a surrogate for gay couples. But yes, the baby is completely the two men's, it contains half of each of their DNA. Don't ask me the science involved, but it's pretty damn clever."

Harry nodded, considering the matter. It was possible then for him and Severus to have children that were entirely theirs. Caleb and Benji. He smiled and said, "Thanks Hermione, thanks for that."

"Glad I could help," she replied with a knowing little smile.

Harry leant back in his chair and regarded his friend for a moment or two. "We haven't really seen much of each other lately have we?"

Hermione inclined her head in acknowledgement and said softly, "Our lives are just going in different directions. I'm up to my neck in my studies and you...well, your life is a million miles away from where it was last year. We're just growing older I suppose."

"I suppose we are," Harry replied. "I suppose everything changes, one way or another. I still love you, you know."

Hermione smiled and replied, "And I love you too. I'm glad you're happy Harry, I truly am."

"You don't look very well," Lars told Harry as he arrived for his training that night. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," Harry replied, not entirely sure that he was. "I'm just feeling a little washed out, I haven't slept well the last couple of nights."

"Missing Severus?" Lars asked with a smile.

Harry nodded and said with a sigh, "Horribly. I'm counting down the days."

"Well, in between counting, you might want to try and get some sleep. You look as pale as a ghost. Are you sure you're alright?"

"Really I'm fine. A slight headache that's all, it'll pass. I just need to get a decent night's sleep and I'll be fine."

"Are you ok to train?"

"Absolutely. What's on the cards for tonight then?"

Lars grinned at him and replied, "We're going to sharpen those senses of yours my friend.

"What are you talking about?" Harry asked with a frown.

"Sense Aura, Harry. It's an advanced part of Air Magic that enables the caster to identify the beings around him. You'll be able to judge strength, weakness, magical abilities. It's very useful in determining not only what your opponents are capable of, but in deducing who's around you when you can't see or can't chance being seen."

"Sounds brilliant. And this is Sphere 3 stuff?"

Lars smiled and replied, "No Harry, this is something only Mages are capable of."

"Oh," said Harry quietly, looking away. It was all suddenly very real and Harry felt a little overwhelmed by the burden of it all. He felt a hand on his shoulder and he turned his head to see Lars smiling gently at him.

"If it gets too much, we'll stop. But...if it helps at all, I believe you are more than capable of this."

Harry nodded, bolstered by Lars' words and prepared himself to begin. Lars stood in front of him and instructed him to relax his body and, instead of merely opening his mind, Lars told him to try and attune it to his surroundings, to achieve a different level of awareness. He closed his eyes and tried to do as instructed; he tried to reach out with his senses and discern the energy around him. Without trying or without making the mind connection, he was aware of Severus, the man's very being hovering on the edge of his senses. He knew his husband was tired and fed up, but he was ok. Harry smiled, happy that even when they apart, he could still be so close to the man. Besides that though, he could discern little else.

He opened his eyes and frowned in frustration. "It's not working," he told Lars.

"Give it time," Lars said gently. "You need to hone your ability, to allow your magical energies to connect with the world around you. Now, try again."

Harry sat on the sofa in the living room, concentrating hard on his surroundings, trying to focus his magical energies and converge them with the energy around him. He had had some success in his training with Lars, but it hadn't been enough to satisfy him, and he left feeling frustrated with his progress. He heard the door open and after a moment or two, Draco came to sit beside him on the sofa.

"Why weren't you at dinner?" the blond demanded.

Harry turned to face him and replied, "I was tired after training, I couldn't be bothered."

"Well you need to be bothered, you look awful. Are you unwell?"

Harry shrugged. "I'm ok, I think. I'm just tired and – "

"Heartsick?" Draco asked with a smirk.

Harry gave a tired laugh and said, "Something like that. Oh I don't know Draco, I just feel...empty. It's strange and unpleasant and I just wish it would stop. Merlin I wish Severus was here. I just want to reach out and touch him but I can't and I hate feeling like this."

"He'll be back soon Harry, just hang on in there for a little bit longer."

"Easier said than done," Harry mumbled, letting his head fall to his hands.

"Well in the meantime you have to keep your strength up. Severus isn't going to want to come back to an emaciated husband. I'll make you something to eat," said Draco, moving off to the kitchen. "Oh," he said, stopping in the doorway, "I almost forgot – we've both been summoned to a meeting tomorrow before breakfast."

"That sounds ominous," Harry mumbled into his hands. He glanced up and asked, "I don't suppose you have any idea what it's about?"

Draco shook his head and replied, "Not a clue. But don't you go worrying yourself about it, you look wretched enough as it is without adding to it."

"Severus have you eaten anything?" Ron asked, taking a seat next to Severus at one of the tables in the inn.

"Hm?" said Severus, looking up from his rather large glass of whisky.

"I said have you eaten anything?"

"Oh, um, no, no I wasn't hungry," Severus replied, returning to absent-mindedly rotating his glass around the table.

Ron frowned and said, "Severus you look like hell. I know the last couple of days have been difficult but you need to take care of yourself. I mean no offence or anything, but you look really rough."

"You say the most charming things," Severus muttered.

"Look I know you're missing Harry – "

"That's an understatement," Severus interrupted, for once uncharacteristically unbothered about guarding his true feelings, too tired and worn to worry about maintaining his facade. "I feel like someone's removed my arm. Merlin I just want this stupid thing to be over so I can get home to him."

"I'm sure he's feeling the same way," Ron said softly.

"I hope not. I couldn't bear to think that he was feeling as wretched as this."

"Well you won't do him any favours by letting yourself waste away. If you go back to him looking like this he'll worry past himself and you know he will," Ron said sensibly.

Severus nodded in reluctant agreement. "You're right. Perhaps I'll just go and get some sleep."

"Not until you eat something," Ron said firmly.

Severus rolled his eyes and said, "Am I to be plagued by precocious young men for the rest of my life?"

Ron grinned and replied, "It rather looks that way doesn't it?"

Harry sat at the little table in the alcove, bent over a mug of coffee, trying to stop his head from spinning. He had had another night of broken sleep and had awoken feeling utterly wretched. His head was throbbing and he felt queasy, but nothing from Severus' stores had seemed to ease his condition. And now he had this wretched meeting to go to; it was something he could well do without. He rubbed tiredly at his eyes, willing his headache to abate, but to no avail, it still pounded away behind his eyeballs.

"Are you ready?" Draco asked as he emerged from Harry's study. "Merlin you look awful," he said as he took in Harry's pale complexion and the dark circles under his eyes.

"Thanks," Harry muttered.

"No I'm serious. You look worse than you did last night. What's wrong?" Draco asked, instantly concerned.

"Not enough sleep and too much to think about," Harry replied quietly.

"Maybe you shouldn't come to the meeting. I can tell Dumbledore that – "

"No, no," Harry waved him off. "I'm ok. I just need to wake up a bit more. Really, I'll be fine in a bit."

"Well if you're sure," Draco said, not sounding at all convinced. "Can you make it to Dumbledore's office?"

"Of course I can," Harry said indignantly.

As it turned out, Harry's indignation was not quite so well-founded, for the journey to the headmaster's office proved to be more difficult than Harry had anticipated. He was exhausted by the time he and Draco reached the top of the stairs, and it was all he could do to collapse into one of the comfier looking chairs. He noted, with some concern, that his hands were shaking, but he diligently ignored it and instead wedged them underneath his armpits in an effort to still them. He knew that Draco was shooting him concerned looks, but he hadn't the energy to respond.

Remus and Kingsley were there, and after the headmaster had finished quietly talking to them, they all settled down and waited for Dumbledore to begin. He seated himself behind his desk and bade them all good morning, his usual smile in place, but Harry didn't like the somewhat subdued, serious look in the man's eyes.

"Well my friends, I'm afraid we have a serious business on our hands, and a solemn one at that. Yesterday I received a missive from the Ministry, instructing me that...that Hogwarts as it exists in its current state, is to be disbanded."

"What?" Harry asked in disbelief. "You can't be serious."

"I'm afraid I am my boy," Dumbledore said sadly. "With the number of pupils that have been removed, coupled with the country's present state of disarray and disorder, I'm afraid we have very little choice. Hogwarts will remain open, however, as a place of refuge for those who desire it, and several members of the Order will be taking up residence here, just to make things a little easier."

Harry couldn't quite take it all in. The idea of Hogwarts no longer existing as a school, coupled with the fact he felt as though his brain would bleed out of his ears, were not helping him to process the information very well at all. "No more Hogwarts," he muttered quietly.

"Not as it exists now, no," Dumbledore replied, the regret evident in his voice.

Harry blinked and shook his head, trying to clear his mind a little, worriedly aware that the shaking in his hands was increasing.

"So," said Draco beside him, " why are you telling me and Harry about this, before everyone else I mean?"

Dumbledore was quiet for a moment or two as he regarded the two young men over the top of his spectacles. "Because my boy, I would like the two of you take charge in a way."

"I beg your pardon?" Draco said with a confused frown. "I don't quite follow."

Dumbledore sighed and laced his long fingers together. "My dear boys, I have watched the two of you closely over the last few years. You are both natural leaders, and you both possess many of the qualities that people look for in those they look to to lead them. We are facing times of great uncertainty and fear; in such times as these, strong leadership is vital, and those who remain here will need it. I believe that..."

The headmaster's voice was swimming in and out of Harry's ears and his vision was beginning to blur around the edges. He was trying desperately to focus and ground himself firmly in the headmaster's office, but he was aware of a dull pain somewhere in the centre of his chest, which seemed to be claiming his attention. He was hot and cold all at once and he felt as though there was a hand about his throat, slowly choking the air out of him. The pain in his chest grew and he gripped at it tightly, vaguely aware that he had fallen off the sofa and that the others were crowding round him, trying to ascertain if he was alright and get him to speak, but the pain was far too intense to allow him to do so. After a white-hot flash of pain, he sank gratefully into unconsciousness.

1, 302 miles away, Severus Snape collapsed to the ground, grasping his chest, before he passed out cold.

Chapter Text

It was to sadly familiar surroundings that Harry awoke. The Hospital Wing. Well where else could he be? The curtains were drawn around his bed and as far as he could tell, he was alone. There was a strange dull ache in his chest and he felt as though all the goodness had been taken out of him. His head was fuzzy and he wasn't sure that he trusted his legs to hold him up, should he try and venture out of bed, but he very much wanted to know what was going on. What had happened to him? He didn't remember much; he knew he had been in Dumbledore's office, and he knew the headmaster had been informing him of...something, but then all he had known had been intense and unbearable pain.

He needed...something, but he didn't know what. All he knew was that the raw, clawing pain within him was something akin to an addict's withdrawal, and he needed it to stop. One way or another, it had to stop.

He slowly hauled himself out of bed, a pain in his ribs making itself known as he did so, but it was nothing compared to the ache in his chest. He had to find something that could ease it. As he walked through the Hospital Wing, he was vaguely aware of Madame Pomfrey telling him to stop, but his feet seemed to have other ideas, and the woman's protests went unheeded.

The ache was escalating into a more insistent throb, impossible to be ignored, and he had to make it stop somehow, before it became utterly unbearable. It hardly seemed as though he had walked any distance, but he found himself standing at the foot of the stairs that led up to the headmaster's office. He ascended in an almost-haze, something beyond the door pulling him, calling to him. The pain was intense now and he was focused solely on making it stop, however that was to be done. He reached the headmaster's door and was convinced that he was in a dream, for behind the solid oak, he could hear his husband's voice and the man didn't sound happy.

" can't keep me from him Albus. What gives you the right to interfere in our lives? I need to see him, he needs me, he – "

"Severus!" Harry cried as he all but fell through the door, in greater pain than he had ever been in his life.

He was in Severus' arms before he could blink and suddenly, miraculously, the pain was gone. He wrapped himself as tightly as possible around his husband and cried gratefully as the man's strong arms encircled him, protecting and comforting. He felt tears roll down his cheeks as the sheer relief flooded him, offering a balm to the raw, tearing pain he had suffered.

"Ssh, ssh," Severus soothed, rubbing a hand up and down Harry's back. "It's alright I'm here, I'm here." He held him tightly and Harry buried his head in the crook of the man's neck, drawing as much comfort as he possibly could.

"It hurt so badly Severus, I couldn't make it stop," he sobbed into the man's shoulder.

"I know Harry, I know. But it's alright now, everything's going to be fine I promise," Severus murmured softly.

"Please don't leave me again," Harry implored.

"I won't Harry, I won't."

"Severus I – " Albus began, but Severus cut him off harshly.

"Don't Albus, don't you dare. I'm taking him back to our quarters and when he's better, I might consider talking to you again."

"Is the pain better?" Severus asked softly as Harry lay cushioned upon his chest, held tightly against him.

"Much," Harry murmured in response. "I can barely feel anything now. Hard to believe that only half an hour ago I was convinced I was going to die."

Severus tightened his hold and murmured softly into the boy's hair, "You'll never suffer like that again I promise."

"Merlin I hope not," Harry said with a sigh. He was beginning to feel much more himself now, and his mind was much clearer, although the downside to that was that he now had a ton of questions, all of which required answers. He didn't know what had happened to him, but he was damned if he was going to let it happen again. He tilted his head upwards slightly to look at Severus and asked, "Why did you come back? You weren't due back for at least another week."

Severus smiled slightly and said, "We owe it to our two young friends."

Harry frowned and said, "Ron and Draco? What did they have to do with it?"

Severus sighed and said, "I'm still not entirely sure about it all, but from what I can make out, I collapsed at the same time you did. When the commotion had died down and you were safely in the Hospital Wing, Draco made an emergency fire-call to Ron and told him what had happened, and he in turn told me...when I had recovered consciousness. He said that Draco had made it quite clear that I needed to get back to you as soon as possible, and I wasted no time in getting here. The rest you know."

"I know nothing," Harry corrected. "I don't have a clue what happened...or what's happening come to think of it. Do you?"

"I – " Severus began, but was interrupted by a knock at the door to their quarters. He met Harry's eyes and the boy's expression was hard.

"Don't answer it. We both know who it will be and neither of us wants to see him."

Severus sighed and said," We need answers Harry, and he may be able to give them to us."

"He tried to keep us apart Severus, he nearly killed me," Harry protested, sitting up.

"I'm sure that wasn't his intention," Severus replied, trying to remain calm.

"I don't care about his intentions," Harry spat, pushing himself off the bed. "I have no desire to be in the same room as a man who caused me so much suffering. "I don't – "

"Calm down," Severus said, grabbing his hand and pulling him around to face him. You won't make yourself feel any better by winding yourself up."

The knock at the door came again, louder and more insistent. Harry looked up at Severus and deflated slightly, his shoulders slumping. "I don't want to see him," he said quietly.

Severus tucked a finger underneath Harry's chin and said softly, "If he says or does anything that upsets you, I promise I'll ask him to leave."

Harry looked as though he would have dearly loved to have argued, but he had neither the heart nor the energy. He simply nodded in reluctant acquiescence and dejectedly followed Severus through to the living room. He stood at the man's shoulder as he opened the door and sure enough, there stood the headmaster, but surprisingly, so did Lars. At first Harry had the hurtful thought that Lars was somehow in league with the headmaster, but the look of barely contained fury on his friend's face told him otherwise.

"May we come in?" Dumbledore asked quietly.

Severus' expression was cold as he replied, "I see no reason to refuse Lars."

"Severus please. There are things we must discuss."

Severus exchanged a glance with Harry, who clearly wished the headmaster a million miles away, but he nevertheless stepped aside. Dumbledore walked in, followed by Lars, who lay a hand on Harry's shoulder and asked gently, "Are you ok?"

Harry nodded and replied, "I am now."

Lars shook his head and moved to stand by the fireplace, whilst Harry, still feeling a little shaky on his feet, took Severus' arm and moved to the sofa to sit next to him. Dumbledore stood in front of them, his hands clasped tightly behind his back.

After a few moments of silence, the old man said quietly, "I owe you both an apology."

Harry's eyes widened in incredulity and before he could utter a response, Severus said harshly,

"You owe us a damn sight more than that."

"I know my boy, I know. And I am here to offer reparation, and perhaps...perhaps an explanation if you will listen."

"Is there any reason why we should?"

"There are things you should know," Lars said quietly, stepping forward slightly. "Things you need to know."

Severus' eyes returned to the headmaster and he gestured for the man to continue, though he was clearly restraining himself from further comment. Dumbledore paused for a moment, his usual air of control and prescience seemed markedly absent, and Harry saw him as he truly was – an old man.

"I...have been acting...misguidedly," the man said quietly, "but you must believe that I thought I was acting for the best." Harry raised an eyebrow but said nothing, biting his lip to restrain himself. "When I became aware of Harry's abilities, I...I began to see some hope for us in this wretched war. I...convinced myself that you would be the answer to our troubles and that your powers would help us to overcome the evil we were facing."

Harry tried to suppress the anger that he could feel rising within him. He wanted to scream at the old man for intending to use him in such a way, for treating him like some kind of weapon, rather than a human being. A calming hand on his knee helped to placate him somewhat, but it was all he could do not to unleash his anger on the headmaster.

"I worried," Dumbledore continued, "I worried that you would be distracted from focusing on learning how to control your powers, that you would not reach your full potential. I could see, as the weeks and months went by, that the two of you were...growing closer, that your relationship was changing – "

"So you though you would interfere?" Severus said coldly.

Dumbledore lowered his head slightly, and Harry thought he had seen a flicker of shame pass across the man's features. "I knew, I knew when the two of you returned from the estate that there had been a significant change. Your magical energies now held each other's. I...I believed, however wrongly, that if Harry were to succeed in his endeavours to gain full control of his powers, he would need to be free from all...distraction."

"So you sent me away," Severus said, his voice low.

The headmaster nodded, his face drawn. "I believed that if you were no longer here, then Harry would be free to continue unheeded."

"Are you mad?" Harry asked, his voice barely above a whisper. "You truly believed a bit of space and time would be all it would take to drive us apart?"

"I had hoped it would help."

Severus rose slowly to his feet and Harry watched him carefully, unsure of what he would do. "How dare you?" Severus asked, his voice shaking slightly with his barely contained anger. "What gives you the right to interfere in our lives, to play God? What makes you think you can control people like this? These are our lives you're playing around with! Our marriage for Merlin's sake! Did it ever occur to you that you have no business to do this?"

"Severus I am sorry – "

"No it's not good enough Albus! I've given my life to this cause, I've done everything you ever asked me. Dear Merlin, I married Harry at your behest! You can't then turn around and tell me that I have to stop feeling what I feel simply because it doesn't fit in with your plans! Does it even matter to you in the slightest that I actually love Harry?"

Harry's breath caught and Severus met his eyes. He knew that Severus loved him, he felt it every time the man held him, or made love to him, but he had never actually vocalised it, and to declare it so openly, and in front of others, touched Harry so deeply that all he could do was stare up at his husband.

"I...I suspected..." said the headmaster, effectively breaking the moment. Severus' eyes snapped back to the headmaster and he said with disdain,

"You suspected, but you didn't care. It didn't matter to you that we were happy, not if it got in the way of your plans."

"Severus," Harry said gently, rising from the sofa and standing at his husband's side. He ran a hand up Severus' arm and let it rest on the man's shoulder. "It's alright," he said gently. "This won't help." He felt the man relax slightly, but he still stared ahead at the headmaster.

"You won't separate us," Harry said quietly but firmly.

"I know," Dumbledore said, meeting his eyes. "And now I know that not only would it be unwise to try and do so, it would be dangerous."

Harry frowned and exchanged a glance with Severus, before looking over to Lars, who had been regarding the whole scene with his usual quiet reserve. "What's going on?" Harry asked, wishing for an end to all the secrets and intrigue.

Lars offered him a small smile and said softly, "It's all to do with you being a Mage Harry."

"I'm going to need a bit more than that."

"I should have known after your illness before Easter, when you suffered the magical drainage. You recovered far quicker than I would ever have imagined...and it was all because of Severus."

"But...we knew that at the time," Harry said, confused.

"We didn't know the extent of it," Lars replied. "We also didn't know you were a Mage."

"What's that got to do with anything?" Harry asked, confused.

"Everything, as it turns out. You see, to be a Mage requires a certain level of magical energy and power, which can easily be drained, or in some cases can over-power or engulf the caster. Magic lore tells us that, historically, a Mage would employ someone from whom they could draw energy, or someone to act as an anchor, so they wouldn't be consumed by the magic. It had to be someone they had an established bond with, so that that bond could grow and develop into something more powerful – a soulmate bond."

Harry felt as though the floor had been pulled from underneath him, and he gripped Severus' shoulder tightly as the full realisation of everything hit him. Severus placed an arm around his waist and held him firmly, just as stunned as Harry, but able to recover his senses better. "We're bonded?" he asked quietly.

Lars nodded and replied, "Irrevocably so. Hence what happened over the last couple of days."

"You mean the pain and the collapsing?" Harry asked, grateful for Severus' physical support.

"Yes, the separation meant that the bond couldn't function adequately, and so that manifested itself in physical pain. You need to be with each other, or the effects will be unbearable for you both. You should never have been separated in the first place," Lars said, shooting the headmaster a reproachful look.

"Then...then you'll let us stay together?" Harry asked the headmaster.

"It's not his place to say either way," Severus said. "And now the decision is entirely out of his hands. I think my husband and I would like you to leave now headmaster. We'll let you know if we wish to see you again."

Dumbledore appeared to consider his options, and looked as though he might argue the matter, but he merely nodded and said, "Very well. But bear in mind that I believed I acted for the best."

Severus didn't trust himself to say anything further, he merely clenched his jaw and watched the headmaster leave, hardly able to believe all that had just transpired.

Harry, who had been watching the headmaster's departure, turned his attention back to Lars. "Lars I'm sorry," he said softly.

"What on earth for?" Lars asked in surprise.

"For not telling you about our marriage. It wasn't that I didn't trust you – "

"Harry please don't apologise," Lars said with a smile. "I understand and I'm not at all offended. That's the last thing you should be worrying about. I'm just relieved that Severus managed to get back in time, who knows what might have happened?"

"Thank you Lars," Severus said, shaking the man's hand.

"There's nothing to thank me for. I'll leave you two to it then, I'll see you tomorrow," he said, heading for the door.

"Goodnight Lars," Harry said softly as the man left them alone. Harry turned to face Severus and let out a slow breath, wondering if he looked as shell-shocked as his husband did. "I'm not sure I can handle any more revelations," he said with a sigh.

"Nor I," Severus agreed. "But at least we have answers now."

"And...and you're alright with everything Lars said? I mean, the fact that we're bonded...and everything."

Severus gave a soft smile and replied, "What do you think?"

Harry smiled in relief and wrapped his arms around Severus' neck.

"Foolish boy," Severus murmured affectionately. "I was going to wait to do this but...under the circumstances..."

Harry pulled back slightly and met Severus' eyes, looking at the man questioningly. Severus settled his hands on Harry's lower back and offered a gentle smile, then said softly, "Harry will you marry me?"

Harry's eyes widened in delight and he couldn't stop the grin from spreading across his face. "Yes!" he said, as he flung his arms around the man's neck. "Oh Merlin yes," he murmured as he held on tightly, Severus' strong arms encircling him.

"That's rather what I was hoping your answer would be," Severus whispered into the boy's hair.

"How could it be anything but?" Harry said with a smile, and as he held on tightly, he could see Caleb and Benji and the life that he and Severus would one day have.

"No don't be daft!" Harry giggled as he and Severus lay in bed, discussing possible ideas for their wedding, which were getting sillier as the night drew on. "I am not entering on a hippogriff!"

Severus smirked and replied, "I don't see why not, it would give it that touch of classic elegance."

"No, and that's an end to it," Harry said with a chuckle, lying back on his pillows in utter heaven now that his husband had been returned to him.

"Where are we going to have the ceremony?"

"Well here probably," Harry said with a shrug.

"I think we can do better than that," Severus said sniffily.

Harry raised his eyebrows and said, "I would have never had you pegged as extravagant!"

Severus gave small smile and replied, "I just want you to have the best. Given the ignominy of our first wedding – "

"It was no less dear to me because of that," Harry interrupted. "I mean, after all, without it we wouldn't be here now. I don't need anything fancy or expensive, I just want to marry you properly and this time do it in front of our friends, and actually enjoy it this time round!" he said with a laugh.

"You mean you didn't enjoy it the first time?" Severus asked, pretending to be affronted.

"I was terrified," Harry said softly with a reminiscent smile. "I remember walking from Gryffindor to Dumbledore's office and feeling an overwhelming sense of dread. I couldn't believe I was about to marry a man who hated me as much as you did."

"You were hardly fond of me," Severus pointed out dryly.

"No," Harry chuckled, "no I wasn't. I walked up those stairs to his office and saw you standing there, Merlin I wanted to run in the other direction."

Severus leant on his elbow and looked down at Harry with a soft smile. He ran a finger along the boy's forehead and down his cheek, then said, "I'm rather glad you didn't."

"You and me both. Although I would never have imagined that things would have worked out like this." Harry rested a hand on Severus' cheek and said softly, "I love you."

Severus leant forward and pressed a gentle kiss to Harry's lips. "And I, you," he murmured. "I'm sorry I haven't said it before now," he said gently.

"You didn't need to, I already knew," Harry said with a smile.

"I should have told you. Saying what I feel...doesn't come easily to me, but I want you to know...I need you to know, that I love you and I need you, and I want you with me always."

Harry smiled brightly and said, "Well you don't have to worry about that, I always will be." Severus returned the smile and ran his fingers along Harry's forehead, teasing the boy's hairline gently. "When did you know?" Harry asked softly.

Severus pondered the question for a moment, then said with a smirk, "Well I knew I wanted you after that little episode at Drayton Manor."

"Hm, it was rather memorable wasn't it?" Harry replied with a chuckle.

"Memorable? The memory of you pushed up against a wall begging me to fuck you is one that will be etched onto my mind forever. As for loving you," Severus said, his expression softening, "it snuck up on me so gradually that I'm not sure I can pin-point it exactly, but the first time I felt something stronger than friendship was Christmas at Leada's. When you spoke about wanting a family but how you might long enough to have hurt me to think of anything happening to you and I realised that I wanted to keep you safe, that I truly cared for you."

"Christmas and New Year were definitely something of a revelation," Harry said with a remembering smile. "Although sadly at the Malfoys' party I wasn't pushed up against a wall and reduced to begging you to fuck me," Harry said wistfully.

"Oh I'm sure there'll be plenty of other opportunities," Severus said with a smirk.

"At our wedding perhaps?" Harry asked with a grin.

"Why wait until then?"

"Mm, here's to marriage!"

Chapter Text

Draco sat underneath the oak tree that he, Ron and Harry had favoured during their revision, re-reading a letter that had arrived from Ron that morning. The red-head was well, and enjoying his time spent under Broomfield's tutelage, though he wrote that he was missing Draco beyond measure and was counting down the days until he would return. Draco smiled as he read – 'Merlin it's miserable shivering in my bed alone at night, I wish you were here to warm me up, but I suppose the memories of our last day together will have to do, hey?' . He wished he could content himself with just memories.

He missed Ron far more than he had prepared himself to and the last week had been miserable for him. All he wanted was to be back with him, but that possibility seemed to be a million miles away. After he had been told what would be happening, Draco had gone directly to his father, not completely convinced by Ron's assurances that Lucius hadn't been trying to separate them. His father, however, had reiterated everything that had been said, and had assured him that he had recommended Ron for the position on merit alone, and that he had no ulterior motive. It didn't mean though that Draco was happy about it, not in the slightest.

"Am I interrupting?" came a voice, and Draco squinted upwards to see Harry leaning against the tree.

"No, I was just looking over a letter from Ron," Draco replied with a smile as Harry took a seat next to him.

"Ooh can I read it?" Harry asked with a grin.

"Most certainly not. It contains material entirely too inappropriate for your innocent eyes," Draco said, tucking the letter inside his robes. Harry rolled his eyes in response and leant against the trunk of the tree. They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, watching the slow ripples drift along the lake, the weather warm and the air calm and still.

"It's so quiet," Harry said after a while. "So many students have gone now the school's been disbanded."

Draco nodded in agreement and said, "Most of the Slytherins have gone, no surprise there. There's still one or two left though, maybe they're not all a hopeless cause."

"Well you weren't," Harry said gently.

Draco laughed and replied, "Bet you never thought you'd say that."

Harry inclined his head in acknowledgement and stretched his legs out in front of him. "Things are really about to change. The school disbanded, the Order taking up residence here, it's all so strange," he said quietly.

"Not to mention the fact that for some reason best known to himself, Dumbledore wanted us to take on leadership roles," Draco said, drawing his knees up to his chest.

"Mm I think I missed most of that, too busy losing consciousness and all," Harry said with an eye-roll.

"You'll do anything to avoid listening to that old coot won't you?" Draco asked with a smirk.

"I try," Harry replied. "Well, all I can hope is that our new duties as 'leaders' don't get in the way of my plans for the wedding," he said, watching Draco for a reaction when Harry's words sank in.

The blond slowly turned to look at him, fixing him with his strong grey eyes. "Did you just say 'wedding'?" he asked. "Whose wedding exactly?"

Harry couldn't stop the grin from spreading across his face. "Guess," he said cheerfully.

Draco blinked for a moment, then said, "Yours? Are you...are you telling me that and Severus..."

"Well I'm not going to be marrying anyone else am I?" Harry said with a laugh.

"Oh Harry that's fantastic! Congratulations!" Draco said, recovering his senses and pulling Harry into a hug. "I'm so pleased for you both, I really am."

"Thank you," Harry said with a laugh as they broke apart. "We did it all a bit backward but hey, we got there in the end," he said with a smile.

"You did indeed, and I couldn't be happier for you. Oh how exciting, a wedding, and a proper one this time!"

Harry smiled and said quietly, "Actually I wanted to ask you something." Draco gestured for him to do so and he said softly, "You've known Severus all your life, you know the kind of man he is. Do you think he'd be prepared to have a family?"

Draco raised his eyebrows, clearly not expecting the question. "I...I don't know to be honest with you, it's never really been something that we've discussed, he's never expressed a feeling about it one way or another, not to me anyway. I mean, he was clearly ok with it in that dream you had, if you're truly taking that as a glimpse of your future."

Harry sighed and said, "I don't know what to think. Merlin knows I'd still marry him if he said that there was absolutely no chance of us having children, but...I just want a family so badly. It would be a real blow if I could never have one."

"Does Severus know how you feel?"

"He knows I want children, but I told him when we weren't properly together, so it's not like I was telling him as his husband. Oh I don't know, I just don't want to ruin what we have, I treasure it so much, but I do really want a family," he said quietly.

"Well when everything's died down a bit you should speak to him about it. He's your husband, he needs to know how you feel. At least your other half is here for you to talk to," Draco said glumly.

Harry smiled and said, "Missing Ron?"

"Like crazy," Draco replied.

"Well...why don't you go and see him?"

"What? Don't be ridiculous, I can't do that."

"Why not? It's not like you have to worry about school anymore, and you could lie and say that your father's asked you to join him out there. I'm sure Severus wouldn't mind giving you the apparation co-ordinates," he said with a grin.

"You're a bad influence," Draco told him with a smile.

"Why are people always telling me that?"

As it turned out, Harry was a very bad influence indeed. After returning to Gryffindor Tower, Draco spent some time mulling over Harry's suggestion, the idea becoming more and more appealing the more he thought about it. Harry was right – with the school disbanded it wasn't as though he needed permission to leave, he was free to go where he liked. His mind was made up. He threw a few things into a bag, smiling as he did so, then quickly popped down to the dungeons to get the apparation co-ordinates from Severus, who gave them to him with an amused smirk, telling him to bid Ron hello from himself and Harry.

6 o' clock in the evening found him standing in front of a beaten-down old inn in Romania, grinning from ear to ear with the thought that he was about to be reunited with his boyfriend. He asked the barman which room Ron was staying in, (not an easy task, given the man's limited English) then practically skipped up the stairs to Ron's room, and knocked loudly on the door.

He nearly burst out laughing at the look on the red-head's face when he opened the door to find Draco standing in front of him. Draco gave him no time to recover his senses as he dropped his bag and wrapped his arms around the red-head's neck, whispering, "Surprise", before pulling him into a kiss. Ron sufficiently recovered from the shock enough to wind his arms around the blond and respond enthusiastically to the warm lips pressed firmly against his. Draco held on tightly and kissed Ron soundly, threading his fingers through the soft red hair.

"Mm, hell of a way you've got there of saying hello," Ron said with a grin when they finally broke apart. "Now don't take this the wrong way or anything, but what the hell are you doing here?"

"Well shall we go inside and I'll explain? Unless of course you have some Romanian rent-boy under the bed."

"No, he left five minutes ago," Ron said as they moved into his room. Draco stuck his tongue out then proceeded to examine the modest accommodation, chucking his bag down in the corner. "As thrilled as I am to see you, what are you doing here?" Ron asked again with a smile.

Draco leant against the window-sill and said with a smirk, "I decided a little holiday was in order and Romania had many delights to offer, one in particular," he said with a wink. "And, with Hogwarts being disbanded, there was nothing to stop me."

"Hogwarts has been disbanded?" Ron asked in surprise.

Draco rolled his eyes and turned to draw the curtains across the windows, saying, "I have just travelled over 1 000 miles to come and see you, do you think we might perhaps discuss Hogwarts later?" He turned back round to face Ron again and quirked an eyebrow, then walked slowly to the bed, shrugging out of his cloak as he did so. He took a seat on the edge of the bed and slowly began unbuttoning his shirt. He looked over to Ron as he slid it off his shoulders and said playfully, "Surely you're not going to leave me to see to myself?"

"No bloody chance," Ron said, moving swiftly to the bed and pushing Draco onto his back, capturing his lips in a kiss as his hand moved to the belt on Draco's trousers, swiftly undoing it as Draco's arms wound around his neck. The blond continued to kiss him enthusiastically, emitting a noise of approval as his trousers were propelled to the other side of the room. Ron wrenched his lips from Draco's and proceeded to attack his pale throat, moving over the soft, white skin and down to the strong but slender chest. He slowed his ministrations down slightly, taking time to enjoy Draco's sensitive and smooth skin, enjoying the soft moans he was extracting from his lover.

He moved his lips across the firm chest and down over Draco's all-too sensitive ribs, causing the blond to catch his breath slightly and arch upwards, muttering Ron's name as he did so. Ron smiled and continued downward to Draco's stomach. "Do you ever wear underwear?" he asked in amusement as he reached his intended destination.

Draco smirked down at him and replied, "You should know the answer to that by now."

"Mm," Ron said with a smile as he slowly, torturously took Draco's cock into his mouth. Draco groaned and let his head fall back onto the pillow, his hand fisting in Ron's fiery locks as the red-head began to suck in earnest, his hand accompanying his mouth to tease Draco's senses. Ron loved sucking Draco's cock, almost as much as he loved fucking the boy. He and Draco would sometimes take turns to top, but more often than not it ended up with Ron being the one in control, and though he loved it both ways, he had to admit, there was nothing quite like being inside Draco. He'd missed him so much and he could hardly believe that his beautiful boyfriend was beneath him once again, and he was going to take full advantage of the fact. He sucked hard on Draco's cock and helped it along with firm, sure strokes with his hand. Draco made a few attempts to thrust upward, but Ron stilled him with his free hand, Draco's strength no match for his. He smirked and removed his mouth from Draco and said, "Getting impatient love?"

"You know I fucking am," Draco growled. "I haven't seen you in ages and I – " his protestations were silenced as Ron crushed his lips to Draco's once again, pinning the blond's hands either side of him and pressing his weight down on the boy.

"You've missed me then?" Ron asked, his lips not leaving Draco's.

"What do you think you prat?" Draco groused. "And we can do all the slow and teasing love-making later on. Now I would thank you kindly to just fuck me senseless!"

Ron chuckled and undid the belt on his own trousers and then kicked the obstructing article off himself, smirking down at Draco and saying, "So much for the refined, cultured Pureblood."

"Ron..." Draco growled warningly, his annoyance with his boyfriend not stopping him from enjoying the view of Ron's strong body, now freed from the unnecessary clothing. Ron was full of natural strength, the boy had never worked out in life, apart from the odd game of quidditch, but somehow he managed to possess a body that told otherwise. He was covered in pale skin, dusted with freckles from head to toe and when his need was sated, Draco had every intention of spending a fair amount of time getting reacquainted with each and every one of those freckles. "Stop being a prat and fuck me already."

Ron smirked and replied, "Your wish is my command." He pushed Draco back onto the bed and reached for his wand, murmuring a spell as he pointed it at Draco's backside, the blond helpfully spreading his legs as Ron positioned himself between them. "You're sure you don't want to wait a little longer?" Ron asked with a grin.

"Ron!" Draco yelled, which quickly melted to a moan as Ron pushed all the way inside him in one hard thrust. "Oh fuck," Draco breathed happily as Ron began moving.

"Happy now?" Ron asked, the control that had been so evident previously, now somewhat absent.

Draco nodded and pulled Ron down into a kiss as the red-head continued his hard, insistent thrusts. Draco's legs wrapped around Ron's waist, drawing him deeper inside and he wished he'd remembered to put a silencing charm around the room as the headboard banged furiously against the wall and he began to moan against Ron's lips.

"Fuck Drake," Ron growled as he continued to rock inside Draco. Draco bit his lip hard and rolled his hips in unison with Ron's vigorous thrusts. He loved having Ron inside him, he loved everything about the boy and he had missed him so much, that to be together again, so very together again, was truly wonderful. He emitted a pleading moan and tightened his legs around Ron's waist as Ron thrust harder and harder into him.

"This was what you wanted?" Ron asked breathlessly against his neck, biting down hard on the vulnerable flesh above Draco's collarbone.

"Fuck yes!" Draco exclaimed as he came hard, barely taking note of Ron's continued thrusting inside him, searching out his own orgasm, which came a moment or two later, fierce and intense. They collapsed against each other, sweaty and sticky, but most definitely satisfied, Draco rubbing a comforting hand up and down Ron's arm as the red-head lay on top of him, breathing heavily into Draco's shoulder.

"I should go away more often," Ron muttered in amusement.

"Not if I have anything to do with it."

"Right, all the potions for St Mungo's are labelled and packaged, and all the ingredients for the Wolfsbane are chopped and prepped and laid out for you later," Harry said, wiping his hands on a cloth as Severus finished brewing his usual batch for Madame Pomfrey.

"Thank you. You're such a useful little house-elf," Severus said with a smirk, giving Harry a playful swat to his backside as he went by.

"Ah but you don't get the same kind of perks from a house-elf as you do from me, unless I'm about to hear a very disturbing story involving you and Dobby."

Severus rolled his eyes and turned off the heat underneath the cauldron, decanting the contents into a waiting vial. "There, that's all finished for the day, and just in time too."

"As if you've ever not timed anything perfectly," Harry said with a fond smile, finishing up the address on the package for St Mungo's. "Now I've got your undivided attention and you can devote some time to me rather than your beloved potions, I have a couple of ideas to run by you about the wedding."

"Oh?" Severus said, wiping his hands on the cloth Harry passed him.

"Well, neither of us really wants to have the wedding here, and we don't want anything too fancy, why not have it up at the estate? We could do it in the grounds, maybe out by the summerhouse, the gardens are in a better state round there."

"Yes that suits me," Severus said softly. He enjoyed watching Harry speak about the wedding. It made him so happy and Severus was glad that he had something other to focus on rather than worrying about the present situation they were all in.

"And I'm going to ask Ron to be my best man," Harry continued, turning to return the potions equipment to the storage cabinet. "Who will you have, Draco?"

"Most probably," Severus replied, watching as Harry neatly put everything back in its place, taking the utmost care as he did so.

"I wonder who we can get to officiate. After everything that's happened I don't much fancy asking the headmaster to do it. Oh well, there must be plenty of people who can do it, people get married all the time. I suppose we'll have to just tell everyone that we're renewing our vows or something, that would actually be more believable if we got married on the same day that we did the first time around. I'm sure The Prophet will love that, but I think – " he stopped as a pair of strong arms encircled his waist and Severus said in a low whisper next to his ear,

"I love it when you ramble."

"I do not ramble!" Harry said in feigned affront, leaning back into the strong body behind him.

"Oh yes you do," Severus argued, pressing a soft kiss to Harry's neck, "and quite delightfully I might add. I quite enjoy listening, it's rather entertaining."

"So glad I provide you with amusement," Harry said, turning around in Severus' hold and lacing his arms around the man's neck. "Do I have any other uses?" he asked teasingly.

"Mm, one or two," Severus murmured, letting his hands travel downwards until they rested on Harry's backside. He gave it a firm squeeze and said with a smirk, "One or two very wonderful uses."

"Good job you're marrying me then isn't it?" Harry said with a smile, pulling himself closer to Severus.

"A very good job," Severus answered, loweri