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Crepusculus Memoria

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Muffled sounds reach my ear; people talking in hushed voices and it sounds like someone is crying. It smells weird, sharp like disinfectant and bitter like lavender and cardamom. I want to open my eyes, but I am so tired, bone-deep exhaustion covers my body like a heavy blanket. Even lifting an eyelid seems impossible right now. The sheets underneath me are soft, my fingertips rest comfortably on something warm. It takes me a couple of minutes to figure out that my fingers are resting in the palm of another hand, the hand is warm and dry, busy fingers press against my wrist, I imagine to check my pulse.

”I think he is waking up,” a smooth, dark voice says right before I finally crack open my eyes. The world around me is blurry, patches of color bleeding together, red and brown, a deep black, standing out from all the other moving colors in the room. The black color is close but isn’t moving like the rest of the room. I turn my head to get some idea of where I am or who these voices belong to. When I turn my head a scent strikes me, the lavender comes from the person to my right, wearing all black, talking in a deep and rich voice. This man remains next to me as other voices join him, excited, tear- filled and happy. His fingers get busy again, wandering over my arm, tapping on my chest and resting on my cheek.

Suddenly the world comes into focus and I can feel the familiar weight of glasses on my nose. I exhale in relief and look around me cautiously. Four people are staring at me intently; their expressions ranging from neutral, to fearful and excited. The two women in the room are crying visibly, the younger one clutching a handkerchief in her hands, eyes red and poofy. The older woman is dressed in a white uniform, I recognize the style and pattern. This must be a mediwitch. But she is also crying, rubbing her eyes repeatedly. A male with red hair and a hideous jumper pets the younger woman on her back awkwardly while he grins at me, showing all of his white teeth. My eyes wander to my right, to the man with the soft fingers and extraordinary scent. His expression doesn’t convey any feelings, he looks at me calmly, his features collected. Somehow I appreciate the calmness he radiates, I don’t know why these strangers are upset or why they are in my room but I am too exhausted to really care.

”Harry, mate, I am so glad you are awake.” I look at the red-head, wondering if he is talking to the other male, however the one clad in black doesn’t react to the statement.

They all look at me expectantly, like I am supposed to say something to that, give an answer only I possess. I try to remember my manners but in the end my mind is way to jumbled so I forego any polite smalltalk and ask bluntly.

”Who is Harry?”

The red-head explodes into laughter that turns into something similar to sobs when he hears the mediwitch gasp and sees the younger woman cover her mouth with her hands still clutching that by now wet handkerchief. They really look miserable and I briefly wonder what has happened to them. They seem so sad, and forlorn but I am too exhausted to ask.

The mediwitch approaches me and asks me for my permission to perform a series of tests. I yawn and nod, my whole body feels sore, a pulsating ache deep in the core spreading through every fiber of my being. I would appreciate some healing potion. The mediwitch waves her wand over my body and hums to herself as she touches my arms, my stomach and my knees. She clearly exchanges a worried look with the older male next to me, before she sighs and puts her wand back into the pouch on her belt.

”Poppy, what is it?” The young witch asks, her eyes wide and scared. I feel sorry for her but can’t really grasp why a stranger should be worried about me.

”Nothing,” Poppy mumbles and starts pacing the room, ”only the injuries we already know about, no trauma to the head or problems with his magic.” The mediwitch stops the pacing and approaches the bed again. She puts a hand gingerly on my arm and I turn to look at her face. She is old, with laugh lines around her eyes and warm hands. She seems motherly and caring, I don’t know who she is but I am sure I am in good hands in her care.

”Harry dear, I know this must be difficult because you are tired but please could you try to tell us what the last thing is that you remember?” She makes eye contact and nods reassuringly, I realise her eyes are still young and lively, despite her apparent age.

I am exhausted but comply and close my eyes. My thoughts are chaotic, a jumbled mess. I see a green light, wands crossed in duel, I remember blinding pain followed by a white light and the feeling of peace.

”I don’t know,” I choke out, my throat feels like sandpaper and my lips are dry and hurt as I speak. Before I can elaborate on that my head is cradled and gently lifted, slender but strong hands tilt my head to the side so that I can reach the straw poking out from a glass of water. I purse my lips and sigh in relief when the water wets my throat. Way too soon it is removed and I whine in protest. I am still so thirsty.

”I know,” the smooth voice whispers, ”but you need to take i slow,”

His voice sounds understanding and reassuring, even though I crave more water I nod and rest back against the pillow as soon as the pressure of a warm hand disappears from the back of my head.

”Harry, do you know where you are? Or who you are?” The mediwitch asks hesitantly, as if she really doesn’t want to know the answer to that question.

Slowly, I catch on and realise that the people in the room call me Harry. "Harry," I whisper uncertain. I feel nothing as the name rolls over my tongue, no familiarity or recognition. I frown and try to think of my name but everything stays blank, a numbing blackness. I guess Harry is as good as any other name.

I slowly shake my head, look at them as devastation crosses the features of the younger male and the witch. I feel bad, like not knowing the answer to a quiz in class that I should have studied for. Suddenly the witch steps forward, throwing her arms around my neck.

I flinch, try to back away but I am not getting far confined to this bed by my own exhaustion. Her bushy hair tickles my nose and I have a hard time breathing. She cries soundly on my shoulder and I look frantically around the room. I don’t like being touched by strangers and my heart beats painfully.

”Mione!” The red head exclaims and puts a hand on the witches shaking shoulders. The mediwitch rubs her eyes again. I turn my head and look pleadingly at the older man trying to convey that this makes me uncomfortable.

”Enough,” he barks sharply and everyone in the room seems to cower a bit at the unforgiving tone. His voice sounds like he is used to giving orders and have people follow them without hesitation. The young witch lets go of me and backs away shamefully, cheeks red from tears and possibly embarrassment.

”Mr. Potter needs to rest, I have a healing potion as well as salve that needs appliance before he can go back to sleep. Give us some privacy,” he demands sternly, ”please,” he adds almost as an afterthought.

The redhead puts his arm around the witch who hides her face in is knitted jumper. He gently leads her out of the room, he waves at me and I nod in response, it doesn’t cost anything to be nice after all even though I have not the faintest idea who these people are. Their reactions tell me I probably should and I feel bad for disappointing them.

”Mr. Potter,” a warm hand rests again on the bare skin of my arm, ”the injuries on your chest and thighs needs to get taken care of. Would you be comfortable with the mediwitch doing it or do you prefer that I change the dressings and apply the healing salve?” His tone is calm, the sharpness is gone and he doesn’t shy away from the eye contact as our eyes connect.

The mediwitch looks still distraught so I shake my head slowly. I feel exhausted and don’t know if I can handle her sniffing and crying while she takes care of my injuries. I feel hollow and guilty for apparently not knowing who I am and upsetting these people.

“Please,” I cough and try to regain my breath before continuing, “can you stay?” My cheeks heat up in embarrassment because I sound so helpless and afraid. I have no idea where I am and why I can’t remember my own name or what happened to me that made me end up in a hospital bed. The only thing I know is that my chest hurts, the pain rises and falls like ocean waves. I am too exhausted to keep my eyes open and my head feels like it's wrapped in wool. My thoughts pass through my mind slowly, tangling and untangling in unfamiliar patterns. I have no energy to sort through them so I let them pass like birds on their way to the south. I am about to drift off when soft fingertips once again pull me back from the dark embrace of sleep.

“Harry, my name is Severus Snape and I am the Potions Master here at Hogwarts, school for wizards and witches. You are in the medical wing and I will try to ease your pain. In order to do that I need to remove some of your clothes, would that be alright with you?” My eyes sting with unshed tears. This is the first person who has introduced himself to me and I am grateful for that. I feel less alone and frightened in this unfamiliar world. I nod in response and my clothes vanish, leaving me shivering under the thin blanket.

It doesn’t take long until the blanket is removed as well, revealing a huge gash tearing the skin on my chest apart. I can tell that this wound is not fresh, it is partially closed but still infected, the skin around the edges an angry red. I hiss involuntarily as the Potions Master spreads a cool salve over the infected areas. It smells like mint and rosemary, I inhale deeply. The coolness lessens the pain somewhat, even though it is still present. The touch of his fingers is uncomfortable, painful even, but I can tell that he tries to be cautious. I wonder briefly what my relationship to this collected man is that clearly cares enough to approach my wounds with gentleness. I press my eyes shut as he puts his slender fingers on my thigh. Its is a strange feeling and goosebumps erupt all over my body. Somehow I get the feeling I am not used to being touched and I try to take only shallow breaths, my head tilted away from him towards the ceiling. It doesn’t take long until my clothes reappear on my body and feeling of being exposed and vulnerable disappears for a moment.

The Potions Master performs a cleaning spell on his hands and puts his wand back into his robes. I look at him closely, his robes are unusual even for a traditional wizard. They are black as the night sky, tailored fitting on his chest and hips to broaden towards his feet. Whenever he moves they rustle slightly, and the black sleeves resting on his hands draw my attention to pale skin and long fingers. Strands of black hair frame his face as he moves through the room, putting vials containing a purple fluid on my nightstand and straightens the sheets he wrinkled by sitting next to me while he applied the salve. His movements are efficient and yet graceful, he is a tall man. I occupy my brain with guessing his age, the hair and pale skin doesn’t make this an easy task. He is definitely older than the witch and wizard with the ugly clothes but how much older is up for anyone's guess.

He frowns as he reads something on the chart that the mediwitch jotted down after the test she performed. Watching his movements reminds me that I am really tired and I close my eyes once again. I can tell that he is still wandering through the room, robes rustling and the scent of lavender och peppermint that comes closer and fades away whenever he moves. I convince myself that things won’t be so scary as soon as I get some rest, I might just wake up and remember who I am.

When I wake up again the burning pain has been replaced by a dull ache, a throbbing in beat with my own heart. I can tell that it is nighttime, the medical wing is deserted, the only lightsource is coming from the hallway. Flickering lanterns cast eerie shadows on the walls and the castle around me groans and whimpers. Hogwarts, I say to myself, concentrating on the feeling of the room I am lying in. Have I been here before? My musings get answered by a picture popping up in my mind, a huge castle and a dark lake, illuminated by candles. Welcoming, Secure, Home.

I smile involuntarily, despite the confusion inside of me.

I have no rational explanation and no real memory but I just know that this is a good place, it feels like home, comfortable and familiar even though I can’t seem to remember anything about the people I have already met or the events prior to my injury. For a moment I concentrate and focus all my energy on the blankness in my mind, willing it to reveal something about myself. I let out a slow breath as I realise that my efforts are in vain and my mind non responding to my probing questions.

I turn around and face the door, looking at the light that spills into the room. I am thankful for that source of light and look down the corridor. My glasses rest again on the nightstand to my left, leaving me with a blurry vision. I can identify shapes in the room, several beds and what seems to be a cabinet of sorts. The nightstand with my glasses, a vase with flowers and a journal or book. I am just about to close my eyes again to go back to sleep as I hear silent steps approaching the room. The steps are soon joined by a second pair and they pause right before the doorway. I press my eyes shut, trying to avoid meeting anyone I should know but don’t. I still feel exhausted from this afternoon and all the emotions thrown at me.

The two persons talk in hushed voices, I strain my ears but can’t identify any words until the people start walking again and their voices drift closer.

”.....no medical or magical explanation for his memory loss,” a female voice says and I recognize her as the mediwitch with the kind eyes.

”I know, I checked the tests you performed and performed some additional tests by myself. Just to be sure. No offence,” a dark voice replies. Even that voice I have heard before, it's the Potions Master who tended to my wounds.

”None taken,” the mediwitch reassures before continuing, ”It defies explanation. He should be fine aside from his physical injuries. Thankfully it is not a regressional amnesia, he seems to remember that he is a wizard. Just seems like everything else is gone.” The mediwitch sighs, she sounds tired and frustrated.

”Mhmm, this is mysterious indeed. I shall research this further and will try to come up with a cure for Mr. Potter. Until then I read some Muggle literature and found some advice on how to deal with amnesia generally.” The Potions Master pauses.

I snicker, the older male said ”muggle literature” like one would say ”brussel sprouts”; a mixture of disgust and morbid curiosity.

”Thanks Severus, I appreciate your assistance and I am sure Mr. Potter will be thankful for this when he remembers who he is and what you did for him.” Robes rustle and the Potions Master scoffs.

”I don’t need his gratefulness, but I need him to get well and be able to live his life. I need him to be safe and happy.”

I wonder why the Potions Master is so worried about my well-being. As the voices fade away again, I feel oddly comforted by the fact that there is one person who clearly wants to help med. Overhearing their conversation leaves me puzzled and slightly curious. I don’t remember anything about him but I feel somehow safe around him. Protected, taken care off, longing.

I can’t place the feelings that well up inside of me but decide to ignore them. It's not like they are real memories and in any way helpful. I still have no idea who I am and it starts to bother me that everyone around me knows more about me than I do.

Chapter Text

There is something oddly comforting about someone taking care of your wounds. It chases the feeling of loneliness away.

The new day has unfortunately not brought any memories to the surface, only more perplexity as I met another person during the morning. This huge guy Hagrid came charging in with such force I did almost hide underneath my blankets. Luckily, I regained some composure and avoided the embarrassment of looking like a fool. He is nice guy, boisterous but kind. Apparently, we have been friends since I was a baby, or so he said. As we talked I remembered nothing.No recognition or memory.

The only thing I felt was a slight annoyance at the fact that I would not be able to distinguish truth from lie. It makes me feel vulnerable and unprotected. I have a huge infected gash tearing my chest apart, which is currently rinsed by the Potions Master and no idea who to trust.

I guess I could ask him what happened to me. But I don’t, because he looks so concentrated; nose wrinkled, brows knitted together in a frown and dark eyes focused on my chest. His fingers are nimble, they move fast while once again applying the same salve like yesterday. I draw in a sharp breath when his fingers press against the infected parts of my wound. He stills his movements immediately and turns his head to look at me. I try to breathe through the pain and our eyes connect. I look at him to steady myself and he waits until I nod lightly before he continues his administrations. I worry my bottom lip and try not to jerk away as he redresses my wounds with clean, white bandages. When he is finished he places his hand tentatively on my chest, above my wound. The touch feels reassuring and I slowly release the breath I am holding.

“Thank you, Mr. Snape. For doing this I mean, you are no mediwizard and I am sure you have more important things to do,” my cheeks heat under the scrutinizing look he casts over his shoulder while he wanders away and waves his wand to put the supplies he used back into the cabinet.

”Professor Snape,” he corrects me. His features are collected but his gaze is intense, I am almost sure that there is a mischievous gleam to those black eyes.

I blush an even deeper shade of red and lower my eyes, focusing on my hands.

The cabinet doors slide open and close again, after everything has placed itself neatly on a shelf. He doesn’t move his lips and performs his magic with natural ease.

After a while I continue observing him with interest. A thought pops up in my mind while my eyes follow his movements through the room; where is my wand? I hadn’t realized that it wasn’t near me and I can’t picture what it looks like but I just know that it should be here.

“Mr.Potter you look like you are brooding over something. What is it?” He cleans his hands again and walks over to stand by my bedside. He crosses his arms, slender fingers resting on black sleeves, while he looks at me questioningly, one eyebrow raised. Somehow I get the feeling he wears this look often and I can’t help but smile at him, despite the pain in my chest and my confusion about the absence of my wand.

“Where is my wand?” I blurt, which causes his eyebrow to travel an inch higher.

The Professor hums and puts his fingertips together in a thoughtful gesture.

“Do your remember anything about your wand? What kind of wand is it, what does it look like?” He fires questions at me and looks curious while doing so.

I lower my gaze and fold the hem of my blanket, trying to suppress the nervous itch that is about to take over my body. Truth is that I don’t know. Not what it looks like or what kind of wand it is. But I remember the feeling of holding it, smooth wood on the palms of my hand. The magic pulsating from it, kind and protective.

“I….I don’t know,” I shake my head and turn away. Yet another thing that I can’t remember. I close my eyes, tired from the pain and all the questions I don’t have an answer to.

It is quiet for a long while and I listen to the older males soft breathing. He isn’t moving and I wonder if he is looking at me. After a while he comes closer, this time he carries the scent of peppermint with him. His presence calms me even though he isn’t saying anything. Curiosity gets the better of me, I turn my head and open my eyes again. His hand rests on my pillow, so close he could touch my cheek with his fingertips.

“Don’t be discouraged. We will find a way to help you locate your memories. It will probably take some time, but all hope is not lost,” his tone is serious but calm.

“Locate them?Yeah right, sure. Lets perform a locating spell. Brilliant, just brilliant” I scoff and roll my eyes. It's not like I misplaced my glasses somewhere. My mind is surely far more complicated than that.

While I am busy rolling my eyes I see his face loose the soft expression and change into something hard and distant. His face looks all of a sudden like a stone wall, unforgiving and cold. I swallow and feel stupid for my childish reaction to his attempt to give me some hope. I don’t like the way his eyes have turned into black marbles, not conveying any emotion.

“Mr. Potter, I do not appreciate when people make fun of me. I wouldn’t have used the word locate, unless I meant it. I have developed a theory regarding your loss of memory but I am not keen on sharing it with you yet. I have no time for childishness Mr. Potter, being ill is not a free pass for immaturity.” He turns around abruptly and leaves the room in big strides.

The first time since I woke up surrounded by unfamiliar people I feel like crying. I feel like an complete idiot, why did I be so rude to the man who has shown nothing but kindness towards me? He even demanded that Hagrid’s visit was to be kept short and he escorted the man out of the medical wing when he didn’t show any signs of wanting to leave any time soon. I am sure I do not need that much rest but I guess he knows that meeting all these strangers is overwhelming and terrifying for me.

By his reaction I can tell he is a proud man, one that sets high standards for himself and others, a perfectionist who doesn’t forgive easy but loyal until death. Of course, I can’t remember this man but the feeling in the pit of my stomach convinces me that I am right with my assessment. The urge to ask for forgiveness takes over me and I decide that I need to find him. I feel nauseous and at the brink of tears. I tell myself that I am overreacting, but before I can stop myself I have already put my feet into the pair of slippers, neatly placed next to the nightstand. It is kind of chilly, now that I have left the bed and I grab a bathrobe in gold and red that is folded on a chair next to the nightstand.

My legs wobble as I take first, tentative steps and I am afraid they won’t hold my weight. Luckily, the feeling fades away with every small step towards the hallway. I leave the medical wing through the door and pause before stepping out into the hallway. Its quiet, eerily so. My breath is the loudest sound right now. My hands shake and I start walking, with no clear idea of where to look for a man I know nothing about, in a castle that I can’t orient myself in.

I turn left on random and find myself in a long hallway. I frown at the sight greeting me, the stone wall covered in ornaments is torn down on many places, the bricks laying abandoned on the floor. Dust covers the once colorful tiles on the floor. It's a mosaic of some kind, but the light in the hallways is too irregular to make out a pattern, only every fourth lantern is lit. There is a chilly draft coming from somewhere on my right. I swallow and take another step, even though this hallway doesn’t seem welcoming at all. At the end of it I stop with my back to a stone pillar. There is a staircase, but the wood is torn in so many places that I don’t dare to step onto it. I look around, let my eyes glide over several more stone pillars, one of which only partially stands. There is a black trail covering the floor ahead of me, almost if there had been a fire, leaving a burning mark on the floor. It almost looks like a skull but I shake my head at that ridiculous notion.

Before my minds eye I see flashes of green light and I press my eyes shut to chase the picture away. Suddenly I feel afraid, I can tell that this castle is build to be occupied by many people; the emptiness bleeds like a wound. I shiver and put my arms around me, but it only gets colder as I walk towards a staircase on the other end of the landing; this one seems to be made of stone. I don’t want to take any chances with the wooden staircase, slightly swaying in the breeze. For a moment I wonder where the breeze is coming from because I can’t see a window in close proximity.

I ascend the stone steps, they are made of grey stone but the stone gets darker level by level. The lanterns are replaced by torches, it smells like fire and ashes around here. When I reach the bottom I identify another smell, its spicy but I can’t pinpoint it. The shivering that has taken over my body has gotten worse and my teeth shatter as I shuffle along the dark hallway. The torches don’t light much of the way ahead and I have no idea where I am or why I keep going. At the end of the hallway there is a door and I pause, hoping I find someone, anyone, alive besides me around here.

I want to knock but a sudden dizzy spell blackens my vision. I lean forward to rest my hands and forehead against the door, taking deep breaths. My knees feel weak and wobbly and I try to knock to make myself known. The door looks like black stone but as I press my hands against it I realize that it is not. It is warmer than anticipated, it feels sleek against my heated cheeks. A buzzing energy seems to emit from it and I close my eyes for just a minute. The energy coming from the door hugs my frame, travels down my spine. It is not uncomfortable, feels like curious fingertips wandering over bare skin. The magic seems foreign but yet at its core there is something familiar. It feels like staring into the night sky, first all you see is blackness but slowly you are able to see shades to the blackness and stars glinting in the velvety sky. It reminds me of someone. Safe, protected, warm.

The door is wrenched open before I can follow that train of thought and I stumble forwards, colliding with the warm body blocking the entrance. I am still shaking, my teeth shatter and I am scared until my nose lands on warm cotton, smelling of peppermint. It seems like I have found the person I was looking for.

”What the hell are you doing here, Potter?” The Potions Master asks icily, his arms crossed behind his back, ignoring the fact that I am almost hugging him while I try to regain my footing.

”Sorry, I….I just….I wanted to….I tried to…..,” I stutter, trying to get my brain to cooperate with my mouth. Neither is willing right now so I sound like a complete fool. Great. I take a deep breath and meet his eyes, unreadable blackness.

”I wanted to apologize,” I try to not shatter my teeth, this hallway is chilly, dark and unwelcoming. I try to shake the feeling that I shouldn’t be here and wring my hands in an effort to reign in my desire to turn around and flee back to my bed.

He doesn’t answer and I swallow, this is harder than I thought. I don’t know the first thing about this man and yet I can’t stand the thought that my childish words caused him harm.

”I am sorry,” I continue, lowering my voice.

”I’ll try to not to be immature again. I don’t promise I will succeed because...well maybe I am childish? Seems like right now you do know a whole lot more about me than I do.” I smile at him cautiously and his features change.

Its subtle, almost undetectable but his face loses the stone-like resemblance, his mouth softens around the edges and there is an emotion deep in his eyes.

”It is freezing out here, come inside before you get a cold,” he says and steps aside.

I nod and sigh in relief when he closes the door behind me. Warmth envelops me at once and I look around curiously. I seem to be standing in a living room, dominated by a giant, plush looking sofa. The fabric is dark green and matches a flag of some sort that is hanging above the fireplace. I briefly wonder what it symbolizes but don’t dare to ask in case it is a stupid question.

The Potions Master beckons me closer and points towards a pair of armchairs next to several, overstuffed bookcases.

”How did you remember the way down here?” The professor asks before sitting down on one of the chairs. Somehow I expected him to sit stiffly on the edge of the chair but he doesn’t, instead he slumps all the way back, resting his head against the backrest. It looks comfortable and relaxed.

”I didn’t; I just wandered through the castle, in hopes of finding you or someone else who can point me in the right direction,” I answer honestly, there is no point in pretending I do remember anything.

”You could have wandered a long time without meeting anyone. Besides me and Poppy there is no one here. Your friends are staying at the Burrow for the time being.”
He turns his head and looks at me intently.

”Oh,” I say, not really sure who he is referring to or what the Burrow is. I know what a burrow is of course, but I am guessing the image that pops into my head is not what he is talking about. Or it is and I have really strange friends.

Silence settles between us until I realize that now would be a good time to ask some questions.

I swallow nervously, not really knowing where to begin. I decide to just go with the questions popping up in my mind in no particular order. It's not like I am going to run out of questions to ask.

”Why is the castle destroyed? I saw damage all over the place,” I ask and lean back in my chair.

He sighs and closes his eyes for a moment. At first it seems like he is reluctant to answer but then he opens his eyes again and pushes a wayward strand of his hair back that keeps falling into his face.

”There was a war. Big parts of Hogwarts were destroyed, many were killed and injured,” sadness seeps into his voice and all of a sudden he looks tired.

I have so many follow up questions but the pain in his eyes lets me swallow most of them.

”Was I injured in the battle here?” I am curious how I ended up with that huge wound.

”Yes and no. You were injured in this war but not on Hogwarts grounds. It's complicated,” his voice is merely above a whisper and he pinches his nose.

He looks like a man who has lost far too many people in one lifetime.

”How long have I been in a coma?” This question has burned on my mind since I saw my wound, clearly not fresh.

”Five weeks, give or take. I probably should start reparations of the castle. Part of the roof is collapsed, it's really not safe to randomly wander around,” he looks sternly at me but I can tell that he is not angry anymore.

”That's why it is so cold,” I mumble to myself.

”Yes, this place is really not hospitable right now. But the medical wing has not been destroyed in battle so we decided to keep you there until you woke up and your wounds have healed. Your friends are already eager to get you out of here so that they can take care of you properly.” He looks like he just ate a lemon while saying this.

My heart speeds up and adrenaline spikes, crashing through my system in violent waves. I try to breathe steadily but I can’t seem to get enough oxygen into my lungs. My hands are sweaty and I press them into the plush fabric of my robe. Does he mean I have to go with these strangers? I don’t want to leave here and stay with people I don’t know. People who didn’t even introduce themselves. I get that they are my friends but I don’t know them. Swear gathers at the small of my back and I try to swallow around the lump in my throat.

The Professor has turned towards me and frowns.

”Mr. Potter, what is it?” He asks and leans forward to look at my face.

I shake my head and try to say something but fail. What if I am not allowed to stay here? He is the only who feels familiar, the only one I trust right now.

”Harry,” he whispers and covers my hand with his, ”just breathe, in and out.”

Yeah right, sounds easy.

He looks genuinely concerned, which calms my nerves somewhat. Maybe I can ask him to stay?

I grab his hand and hold it tightly, desperately. His eyes widen but he doesn’t retract his hand. Instead he squeezes mine.

It takes a couple of minutes until I can talk again. My throat feels like sandpaper.

”Please, don’t send me away. I don’t know these people, I don't want to stay with strangers. Please.”

”I am so sorry, Harry, I didn’t think before speaking. I didn’t mean to scare you but they are your friends and love you. They only have your best interest at heart.”

He tries to retract his hand but I am not ready and keep holding on. His hands are dry, soft and warm.

”I don’t know them and I don’t trust strangers.” I try to sound firm.

”Harry, I know this is difficult because right now you don’t remember anyone. I imagine it must feel scary without anyone to trust.” His features are soft and his eyes compassionate.

Tears sting behind my eyes but I won’t let them fall.

”I trust you,” I whisper. I can’t decipher the emotions crossing his features. The only thing I know is that his eyes change color slightly, become brighter for a moment, like a light has been turned on behind them. He doesn’t say anything but he still holds my hand.

”You can stay as long as you want,” he says finally after a long moment of silence, his voice sounds hoarse, thick with emotion.

Chapter Text

”Thank you,” I whisper, grateful that he has stopped trying to retract his hand. I don’t know why but I feel the urge to hold on like my life depends on him. It is a strange feeling but the odd thing is that it feels familiar. It’s not the first time I am feeling like this, I am sure of it.

There is some sort of energy where our skin meets, almost like the energy I felt when I touched the door. I realize that this must be his magic. He must be a powerful wizard if he radiates it that much. It is unusual to feel someone else's magic signature without the person having performed a complicated spell.

I am curious and let my fingertips hover above the energy field he is emitting. When I touch it he draws a breath and stands abruptly, breaking the connection. Before our hands separate something sparks inside of me, before my mind's eye I see thick darkness that slowly reveals a scene. A person is lying on the ground motionless at an odd angle, it looks almost like a ragdoll thrown away without a care. It's too dark to see the persons face. I feel blinding rage, deafening sadness, and screaming desperation. The emotions feel foreign and the memory distant. It is definitely not my own.

The Professor breaths raggedly and his lips are pressed into a thin line; he looks at me with a serious expression.

”Why did you do that?” He asks bewildered, but there is no anger in his voice. Only surprise.

”I just touched your magic. I was curious, I am sorry, I shouldn’t have done that.”

”You. Touched. My. Magic.” He repeats, sounding like I just said there is a purple elephant in the room. Every word sounds like a sentence on its own.

I hunch and bite my lips. It is the first time since I met him that he looks at me like there is something seriously wrong with me. I do not like that look on his face. Great, maybe I have not only lost my memory but my mind as well.

”Have you been able to see someone else's magic?” He asks and crouches down before me, soft eyes residing on my face.

He is pitying me, I can clearly feel it. Loony Potter, who lost it completely. It hurts somewhere deep within, like a knife being twisted in my guts. That must be some kind of sad record. I managed to convince the only person I trust in this world that I am a nutcase. I have no idea if I have been like this in the past but I sure wish I would just have kept minding my own business and my curious fingers away from him.

”No, just yours. I felt the same thing at the door, some kind of buzzing energy. It reminded me of you so I thought that it must be your magic but maybe I am wrong. Just forget this, I am sure I am just imagining things.” I stand from my chair, it's time to go back. For a moment I regret coming here because he is still looking at me with an expression I cannot read. I am not sure I want to know what he is thinking right now anyway.

I walk towards the door slowly. I am tired and just want to bury myself underneath my blankets.

”Harry, wait. I’ll escort you back.” He is on his feet and by my side surprisingly fast.

”Thanks, but I’ll manage by myself, it's not like I have completely lost it,” I mumble and put my hand on the door handle. I once again feel the magic wrap around my hand but ignore it. Who knows if its even there. Judging by the look on his face only seconds ago there is a big chance I am imagining things.

A hand on my elbow stops me in my tracks. It is a firm grip but not bruising.

”I just want to make sure the collapsing roof doesn’t kill you on your way back,” he says and I turn around to look at him.

He doesn’t look like someone who is prepared to cave in, his eyes glance at me firmly, his posture rigid and back straight. There is no way I am going to convince him to let me walk back alone. So I don’t say anything but open the door and step into the hallway.

The torches hanging on the dark stone walls flicker as we pass by. This is the first time since I woke up that the silence between us feels uncomfortable. I wonder if he is thinking that I am completely nuts. I shouldn’t be so bothered by this, he is, after all, a stranger just like the others. But he is also the only person I feel safe with, despite the lack of memory. I hug myself in a futile attempt to fight off the cold. As we climb the stairs the desolation of this place begins to weigh heavily on me. The thought of being surrounded by this empty castle makes me shudder.

We are back in the hallway leading to the medical wing when a weird sound reaches us. At first, it is faint, a low cracking and groaning. With every step the sound intensifies, the castle seems almost to vibrate. I look around and spot the origin of the noise: a crack slowly spreading from the doorway of the medical wing throughout the ceiling all the way towards the back of the room. It is unsettling, to say the least, seeing the ceiling crack open. The noise stops for a moment before the first brick lands on the floor with a deafening crash.

Strong, protective arms pull me close to a warm body. His breath ghosts over my neck and his hands cover my chest protectively. While we watch the ceiling collapse I notice the lean body he hides under billowing robes and the strength of his arms. The castle groans, almost as if it can feel the pain of the destruction. There is chaos all around us; the ceiling crashing into the tiles on the floor, dust filling the air making it harder to breathe. Despite the commotion, a sense of calmness has settled over me.

I feel his heart beating, fast and irregular but his body is absolutely still. I imagine it must be horrifying to see your home crumbling to dust. We stand a secure distance away, mere spectators to the destruction going on around us. I hesitate, before taking the courage to cover his hand with mine. I have no real memory of this place and the destruction is still devastating to watch. His pain must be so much more intense. His grip around me tightens, creating a lump in my throat.

It feels like we have been standing here forever, I have lost all sense of time. The cold numbs my fingers and I can hardly feel my feet anymore. My cheeks burn with the cold wind now sweeping through additional holes in the castle wall.

“I guess I will not be staying in the medical wing,” I say jokingly, to ease the tension that is building in the silence. He doesn’t reply and his body starts shaking.

Is he crying? My heart breaks at the thought but I am reluctant to turn around in case it would embarrass him. Just as I gather the courage to comfort him, a burst of deep and smooth laughter erupts from him. Startled, I turn around and watch the Professor shaking with laughter. It transforms his whole being, his eyes are bright and small wrinkles spread from them. He casts his hair back, black wild strands framing his face. His cheeks flush with pink spots on his high cheekbones, his white teeth on display. The thing that gets me the most is his voice, it sounds so different from the neutral and calm tone he has been using when he addresses me. There is so much emotion in it. I can hear the layers of desperation, sadness and but also something else. I don’t know why but this touches me somewhere deep in my heart. I almost forget that it is cold and the castle we are staying in is falling apart, I just want him to keep laughing.

As soon as he stops I realize that the damaged medical wing might sentence me to be sent to live with the witch and wizard I met yesterday at a place called The Burrow. My heart sinks and I swallow hard. No matter what, this castle is not safe any longer. I could have been in that room asleep if my guilty conscience wouldn’t have driven me to seek out the Professor.

The Professor shakes his head and a small smile tugs at his lips before his features take on a more serious expression as his gaze follows mine and lands on the bed where only an hour ago I have been resting. The thought is sobering.

“This castle is not safe anymore. We can’t stay here. You could have been on that bed,” He sounds strangled and points at the broken bed covered in stones.

I nod because he is right, this place is dangerous. Whatever Hogwarts might have been in the past it is gone. The castle feels like it has lost its soul, there is something fundamentally wrong with it in addition to the obvious damage to the building. Maybe there will be a chance to rebuild it but right now we need to leave.

“Luckily, all your belongings are stored in your trunk in my chambers. I need to pack the most essential things, after that we need to leave this place.” He frowns and hunches his shoulders somewhat. He doesn’t wait for an answer but walks briskly back to his chambers, I try to follow his long strides without actually having to run.

As soon as we are back in his chambers fervent energy seems to take over, he takes out his wand and has stuff flying around the room in no apparent order. Clothes from the wardrobe empty themselves into a waiting trunk, journals and books pile themselves on top of the clothes, followed by small keepsakes and toiletry articles. I stand by the door, a bit stunned by the activity around me, awaiting the moment when he sends me to those emotional strangers. I am sure they are nice but I feel no familiarity when I am with them and their open display of emotions makes me feel uncomfortable. I guess I just feel guilty for making these people sad even though I can’t help it. I WANT to remember who I am and what happened to me. It would make life easier for sure.

 

It doesn’t take long until he seems satisfied with the belongings he has packed and levitates two trunks across the room. They land with a thud before our feet. He mumbles a spell and shrinks them into tiny versions of themselves, handing over mine on his outstretched hand. Dread spreads through me because this might be goodbye. I can’t imagine why he should feel responsible for checking up on me when he has delivered me to my friends. He has several times told me that the young witch and wizard are my friends but he never indicated what the nature of our relationship has been. His neutral reaction to my memory loss might be evidence that he simply had been my teacher when this still was a school.

I want to ask him if he is going to visit me but I bite my lips. I know how needy it would sound and remember that he probably thinks that I have lost my marbles. Seems like I am a burden to those around me. I sigh and contemplate if there is any way of living on my own. Do I have any money to do that? Maybe I can find a job but then again who employs someone who doesn’t even know his own name? I don’t have a wand either which makes it virtually impossible to perform any magic. I could try wandless magic but something tells me that I have not been able to perform wandless magic before.

„Harry,“ he looks at me with a serious expression and I look down to avoid his eyes. I know what's coming next.

„I am sorry, I know how reluctant you have been to stay with your friends but I think it would be the most appropriate solution right now. I can assure you they are good people and love you very much.“

I close my eyes for a moment but nod slowly. I don’t want to make him feel like he has to look after me. I take a deep breath and decide to ask some more questions since I will be staying with these people from now on.

„What's their names?“ I ask hesitantly, not knowing where to begin.

An emotion flickers deep in his eyes before it disappears. Its gone so fast that I can’t decipher it.

„Hermione and Ron,“ he answers.

Hermione and Ron. I wait for recognition or familiarity but there is none.

„We were friends?“ I continue, needing the reassurance.

„You are best friends. The most annoying trio I have ever had the chance to encounter in my teaching career.“ He smiles a little, taking the harshness out of the words.

This is my chance to ask something about him and I intend to take full advantage. Who knows when and if I‘ll be seeing him again.

„You have been our teacher?“ I ask bluntly but he only nods as an answer. Great.

„Have we been good friends as well?“ I hope the answer is yes. I remember his gentleness when tending to my wounds and his strong arms protecting me in a way that seemed natural like he has done this many times.

To my surprise, I don’t get an answer at first. He just stands there, his eyes glaze over, clearly looking into the past. There is a harshness to his face almost as if he doesn’t like what he is seeing.

„No, we haven’t.“

The blunt answer shocks me and my eyes widen. This makes no sense to me at all.

„But…“ he interrupts me before I can question his statement.

„Time to go. It's too dangerous to make idle small talk.“

He walks towards the fireplace and grabs the jar with floo powder.

Idle small talk? I am getting a bit pissed off at his attitude. I don’t remember who I am, is it too much to ask to get some background information. I bit my lips to stop a growl from emerging. This is my life and he just ships me off to those strangers with no information about my past just expecting me to be complacent and follow everyone's orders.

He beckons me closer with a gesture. I cast a dark look upon him but he doesn’t even react.

He casts floo powder over my head, which makes me sneeze. Then he steps into the fireplace as well and shouts our destination. We land in the fireplace of a large living room. The room is empty and I look around curiously as we step out of the fireplace. I briefly glance over my shoulder back at him and can’t help to envy how flawless he looks while I am covered in ashes and look like something the cat dragged in.

„Harry, you have something on your cheek,“ he points out, making me blush. I try to rub the spot he is pointing at but judging by his look I only make it worse.

He steps closer and I expect him to draw his wand to perform a cleaning spell. Instead, he cradles my head and slowly rubs his fingertips over my cheek. We are so close that I can see the different shades of brown and black in his eyes.

As soon as we hear footsteps approach he steps away and faces the door.

I look around and register the haphazard mix of furniture in the big room, nothing seems to match. There is an abundance of different chairs. On the sofas are knitted blankets neatly placed over the armrests. They look a lot like the jumper Ron had been wearing when we met.

I get interrupted by a woman opening the door with energetic force.

„Harry! Severus!“ She shouts and approaches us with open arms. Her words cause some commotion somewhere inside the house. Footsteps, a lot of footsteps approaching. I hear whispers, hushed conversations.

Before I can react I find myself trapped in an embrace, her arms squeezing me to the point where it is hard to breathe. The panic starts deep in my stomach, turning my intestines to writhing snakes. I remind myself that the Professor thinks that this is the best place to stay and I trust him. When she lets me go and babbles something about my weight l try to reign in my raging emotions.

But then the door gets wrenched open again and a lot of people enter the room. They are all more or less my age, almost everyone has red hair. The only ones I recognize are Hermione and Ron who have a big smile on their faces. There are so many people and all of them look like they are about to hug me. Everyone is babbling, but I can’t make out any words. There is ringing to my ears. The moment a younger girl is about to throw her arms around me I take a couple of steps back until I collide with the Professor who had at some point moved behind me.

I spin around and hide my face on his broad shoulders. My heart beats so fast I feel dizzy. Even though I can’t see them anymore I can hear them. Someone with a bright voice is crying, someone is whispering agitated. I just want to get out of here. My body trembles, I can’t control the tears slowly dripping from my eyes.

„Please don’t leave me here, please don’t leave me here,“ I chant uncontrollably. I know that I am making a fool out of myself but I can’t help it. The thought of being left here frightens me. I don’t know these people.

It feels like forever until his arms circle around me. His grip is tight again, almost bruising.

„I am sorry, Molly. This was a mistake. We need to leave“, with that he apparates us out of the room.

Chapter Text

As the dizziness from the apparition slowly subsides my senses focus on the surroundings. I still have my eyes shut tightly but I can hear the soft whisper of wind caressing dry leaves. Birds sing in the distance and there is another sound accompanying their song. It takes me a few seconds until I figure out that I hear water nearby, it sounds like a river.

I open my eyes and look up at the Professor who simultaneously looks down on me. Our eyes meet for a brief moment and I forget my curiosity regarding my surroundings momentarily, his dark gaze holds me captive. My own eyes itch from the tears cried at the Burrow. I can’t believe I actually begged him to not leave me there. I don’t want him to feel responsible for me but I am immensely grateful that he apparated us out of there.

I know they all mean well but the forced intimacy of their hugs was too much to bear. I can’t remember any of them and yet they don’t seem to have realized that. They looked at me like their names only slipped my mind and I would remember them any second. If they only hugged me tight enough my memory would come back. I can partly understand their reasoning but it doesn’t make it less uncomfortable.

The Professor breaks the connection between our eyes, straightens his back and clears his throat. He takes a few steps back and only then I realize that he had still his arms around me, holding me against his chest.

“Mr. Potter, I am sorry in behalf of the Weasley family. They can be a bit overbearing at times. I know I have said this already, but they are good people who care for you. With that said, I do understand your reluctance to stay with people who so clearly disregard the seriousness and special circumstances of your condition,” he sighs and picks invisible lint from his sleeves.

I look down on my shoes, realizing that I am still wearing my pj’s, a bathrobe and slippers. I must have looked like a mental patient, arriving at the Burrow clad like that, totally losing it and begging the Professor to get me out of there. My cheeks heat up and I cannot help but fidget with the hem of my bathrobe.

“I am sorry,” I whisper, knowing that I have put the Professor in a difficult situation.

He nods and turns around, walking in brisk strides towards the small cottage I failed to notice. The Professor has a way of holding my attention hostage.

I look around and realize that we are standing in a small clearing, surrounded by trees with thick trunks and leaves in all shades of green. A light breeze moves them and makes the flowers in the small garden around the cottage sway.

The house itself looks old but well kept. The Professor waves his wand in a complicated pattern before the door swings open, sounding like it is protesting against the sudden movement. He beckons me to come in and I step closer, letting my fingertips glide over the polished, dark wood the house is made of. I walk past a window with white curtains and a small vase filled with flowers. It looks welcoming and homely. The last light slowly fading reflects in the window, the sky is getting darker by the minute.

When I pass the threshold the Professor closes the door behind me. The twilight inside the cottage makes it hard to see anything before he illuminates the room with a whispered “Lumos”. I walk into the center of the room, realizing that the cottage is quite small. I am standing next to a big sofa, again the same dark green color as in the Professor's private chambers. I wonder if it means anything to him or if it just is his favorite color. I put my hand on the velvety fabric and let my eyes follow his movements through the room.

He lights a fire in the fireplace next to two armchairs before he continues walking towards the big four poster bed at the opposite side of the room. He sets a lot of magic activity in motion, a dust wipe appears and starts dusting the furniture. The linen on the bed is changing itself and a teakettle floats towards the sink to be filled with water before it places itself on the stove.

He turns around, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth before he takes out the miniature trunk. Another wave of his wand and it grows back to full size. I am mesmerized by the effortlessness and elegance of his magic. He barely moves his lips and sometimes not even his wand.

I bury my hands in my pocket, wondering where I will stay tonight. This place is clearly way too small to house us both, it's not like there is a guest room. There is not even a separate bedroom. Maybe it's time to ask if he knows anything about my financial situation. Hopefully, I will have enough money to rent a room somewhere.

”Erm….,” I clear my throat that suddenly constricts around the words, ”do you know if I have enough money to rent a room for a couple of days? I don’t want to be a burden, you have already done so much for me.” I look down at my slippers, cheeks heated again.

Silence follows my question and I wonder if the answer is no and he is just too nice to tell me. I don’t look up until a warm hand is placed on my shoulder.

”Harry, money aside, do you really think that it is a good idea to live alone in a rented room given your condition?” He tilts his head and I try not to stare into his eyes. His hand feels warm and reassuring, I can’t help but lean into the touch a little bit. Of course, I don’t want to be alone but I don’t want him to feel obligated to take care of me.

”I don’t know, but before we left Hogwarts you said that we weren’t friends and…,” I take a deep breath and pause for a moment, reliving the sadness upon hearing those words, ”I don’t want you to feel obligated to take care of me just because I freaked out at my friends house. I will be alright,” I force a smile on my face, trying to hide the fear and loneliness that lays underneath. He is the only ally I have right now, even if he does not consider us friends. But I don’t remember the past, the only thing I remember is gentle fingers taking care of my wounds, soft words spoken to reassure me and his calming presence.

”Mr. Potter, I have to apologize for my harsh words before we left. It is true that we haven’t seen eye to eye regarding some things in the past. Our relationship….,” he pauses, thoughtfully biting his lower lip, ”has been complicated. Laced with many emotions, not all of them necessarily bad. The circumstances we lived under shaped much of our interactions; circumstances that have changed now.”

I look at him curiously, wanting to ask a hundred questions about mysterious circumstances but I bite my tongue. Instead, I focus on the glimmer of hope hidden beneath his words. I step closer, finally meeting his eyes. I almost expect them to be unreadable but they aren’t, instead he looks at me with warmth. It is his eyes that give me the courage to cautiously reach out and take his hand. I can see I surprised him with this, his eyes widen for a fraction of a second before his features resume a neutral expression. He seems to be really good at hiding his emotions underneath a calm surface, but if you look closely you can identify them, at least to some extent.

”Do you think we might be able to become friends?” I ask him, holding on to his slender hand. His eyes darken for a second, but he nods slowly.

”Maybe. But that is not the point. Despite our past, I don’t want you to live alone somewhere. The wound on your chest needs to heal properly and we need to figure out a way to access your memories. I know this cottage is small but you are welcome to share it with me until you get better or you decide you want to live at the Burrow.”

”I would love to,” I reply with sadness clearly evident in my voice. Of course, I hoped for a more positive answer but he welcomed me into his home, which is something, I guess. I try not to let desperation invade me at the realization that the person I trust the most probably doesn’t even like me. I wonder what I have done in the past to earn his dislike. I swallow and try to hold back the tears that are welling up in my eyes. It is indeed very lonely when you don’t remember anything. I sniffle as silently as I can, not wanting to draw attention to my emotions.

”Harry….,” he whispers, sounding uncertain. I don’t reply because I am ashamed of my reaction to his words. I am surprised by his arms suddenly embracing me in a very short but tight hug. Somehow, his body language sends different signals than his words about our relationship. This is confusing, but I rest my head against his shoulders anyway. Even if he doesn’t like it he has become my anchor in this unfamiliar world. Maybe I can make up for the things I have done wrong in the past by being a better person in the present.

He lets go of me after mere seconds and points towards the round table situated next to the kitchen island with stove and sink.

”How about some dinner? The house elves make sure that my kitchen is well stocked at any time in case I decide to spend the weekends here.” He walks towards the fridge, opens the door and peers inside. He hums thoughtfully before closing it again and opens a cupboard above the bench.

”What about tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches?” He asks, looking almost eager at the thought of dinner. Or maybe cooking, it is hard to tell.

I nod and smile, standing awkwardly between the sofa and the kitchen area. I know he invited me to stay but I still feel like an intruder. I shuffle from one foot to the other, unsure if I should offer my help.

”Why don’t you get sorted, put your belongings away? Maybe you want to get changed, the bathroom is the door on your left.”

I feel like someone just threw ice water over my head. I really want to change and hate the fact that he looks flawless in his white button-down shirt and black dressing pants. But without a wand, I have no idea how to enlarge my trunk. I hate feeling this helpless.

”Could you help me please,?” I stutter, embarrassed that I can’t do the easiest tasks by myself.

”You need help getting changed?” He raises an eyebrow and I want to sink through the floor towards the core of the earth.

”I ...no...I mean...the trunk….,” I can’t seem to get my brain to form a coherent sentence, the thoughts swirl through my head in a stormy tornado until he starts to chuckle. I gape at him as his chuckle turns into full-blown laughter, while he waves his wand and has the miniature trunk floating from my bathrobe pocket towards the floor. In a matter of seconds, the trunk is again full-sized and I focus my attention on opening it manually. I feel a bit weird for staring at him like that and am happy that this gives me something to do.

I wonder if he thinks along the same lines because he doesn’t offer me magical help in unpacking my things. I take out stacks of shirts and put them into the wardrobe he points out next to the bed. Everything seems worn down and at least two sizes too big. I put a pair of sweatpants and a black shirt that seems closer to my actual size on the bed to change into as soon as I have unpacked.

The things that look new are school supplies and school robes. I put my books into one of the book-shelves that aren’t cramped and overstuffed with parchments and books. I curiously read the titles of his collection- Ancient Potions and Healing Spells; 1001 herbs and their use; Dark Relics and forbidden magic.
I raise an eyebrow, that last one seems a bit unusual, with an old, worn-down binding covered in foreign symbols.

At last, I kneel next to the trunk to look at the small items and keepsakes that are left at the bottom. There is a single, red sock. I pick it up and frown, why do I keep a single sock that obviously lacks its companion? I look up and observe the Professor cutting tomatoes. His movements are fast and graceful, he smiles to himself as he reaches for the herbs on the counter next to him. I get the impression that he enjoys cooking, he looks content. He has put his hair up in a messy bun that softens his features.

I refocus my attention on the sock in my hand and put it back, not really knowing why it is important to me. I pick up a frame, containing a picture of me together with Ron and Hermione. They stand next to me, hugging me while I present a golden snitch in my hand. I am dressed in a quidditch uniform in red and golden colors, matching their scarves. I look absolutely happy, grinning from one ear to the other. The snitch dances above my hand and Ron pats me on the back, looking proud. I touch their faces gently, all of a sudden feeling bad for not remembering them and being so put off by their friendliness. I put the frame back because the happiness it displays makes me sad, a deep longing to remember comes over me, something, anything.

”What have I been like?” I blurt, causing the Potions Master to look over his shoulder in surprise, knife stopped in mid-air above a loaf of bread.

”Excuse me,” he replies and seems a bit confused.

”What have I been like? In the past I mean. I don’t remember anything, not my friends or what happened to me, not even what kind of person I am. I just want to know, something, anything about myself.” I know that I sound pleading now and his frown disappears and is replaced by a tender look.

”Oh Harry….,” he pauses, ”you are brave and selfless. You put the safety of others above your own. But you are also reckless and have an annoying ability to get yourself in trouble.” He stops and looks like he regrets having said as much.

”Thank you,” I whisper, and the haunted look disappears from his face. He nods and turns his attention back to the bread he was slicing. I close the trunk with a thud and stand up. I pick up my clothes and take them with me into the bathroom.

Inside the bathroom, I wash my hands and look at the mirror for a long time. My hair looks positively wild, and I card through it with wet fingers just to make it worse. I have a scar on my forehead, I trace its outlines curiously. It looks like a lightning bolt and I wonder how I got that. So many questions and no answers. I wash my face and change into the clothes that I picked out. The shirt only hangs loosely on my upper body and reaches down all the way beyond my butt. The grey sweatpants fit at least and I sigh. I seem to have an awful taste in clothes. Or I just lack money. The thought makes my heart sink. Maybe that's why the Professor is so kind and lets me stay here because he knows I can’t afford my own accommodation? I really need to ask more questions. Now that it has become apparent that my memory won’t just pop back.

When I enter the room the Professor stands next to the dining table and puts two bowls of soup on dark green table sets. I really have to ask about the colors. A pile of grilled cheese sandwiches is on a plate in the middle of the table. The aroma of tomatoes, herbs, and cheese is mouthwatering. He nods towards me and takes a seat at the table. I smile shyly, thankful for having somewhere to stay and a nice warm meal to look forward to. I really hope we can talk some more so that I can learn the most essential things about my life.

”Please, take a seat, Mr. Potter. I hope you are hungry,” he says and smiles as if he knows I am ravenous. Maybe he can tell be look in my eyes, zeroed in on the delicious food he has put forth.

My desire to ask a thousand questions fades in the background as I taste a soup so delicious in its simplicity I cannot help but moan around the spoon in my mouth. He quirks an eyebrow at that but doesn’t comment on the fact that I devour two sandwiches in record time. He doesn’t match my pace but nibbles on a sandwich elegantly while eating his soup slowly. When my first hunger is stilled I remember that I want to ask him some questions.

”I don't seem like my memory is going to return all of a sudden,” I begin, trying to keep the frustration out of my voice. He inclines his head, showing me I have his attention but he doesn’t interrupt me.

”Would you be so kind as to answer some of my questions? Just so that I can get by and navigate my life.” I look at him as he puts his spoon down and folds his hands, long fingers intertwined.

”Of course, ask whatever you want. I will try to answer to the best of my ability. This is your life and you have a right to know.” The Professor sounds calm and collected but I can see another emotion in his eyes. Apprehension?

”Where is my family? You always talk about my friends and the Weasleys but you never once mentioned my parents. They surely must be worried about me?” I ask bluntly one of the questions that have been bothering me.

He closes his eyes for a brief moment and his expression changes, he looks like he is in pain or sad, maybe both.

”They died when you were a baby. They did love you very much and their love will never leave you. Your friends are your family, have been since you entered Hogwarts at age 11,” he looks down on his plate.

At least ten follow up questions burn on my tongue but I don’t ask them because of his expression. I don’t want to cause him any pain. I feel a deep sadness at the fact that I don’t have a family but the feeling is familiar, I know how to handle it. I guess because I have lived with that knowledge all my life even though I can’t remember it right now.

I decide to break the tension by asking something easier.

”Is green your favorite color?” I tilt my head, suddenly immensely curious.

”Excuse me, what?” He looks bewildered, a little bit like he thinks I have lost my mind. Again. Great.

”I noticed that green was the dominant color in your chambers in Hogwarts, even here it is everywhere,” I clarify and suddenly remember the banner above his fireplace in Hogwarts. ”You had a banner as well, in green and black, with a snake? What does it mean?”

”That’s because I am a Slytherin, had of House actually.” He looks like I should understand what he just said but to me, it sounds like he speaks Chinese.

”Slytherin?” I repeat questioningly. What the heck is a Slytherin?

”Oh….you don’t remember?” He asks and now it is my turn to look at him in bewilderment. Of course, I don’t, I lost my memory. I just shake my head, this conversation gets stranger by the second.

Apparently, he reads the questions marks in my eyes and starts explaining.

”I just expected you remember about the Houses at Hogwarts because you seem to remember other stuff you have learned there. About magic I mean.” He leans forward and studies me intensely.

”You remember spells, am I right?” He asks when I do not answer right away. I nod, sure I remember magic, spells, and potions. It's just useless without my wand.

”Yeah I do, but I can’t perform magic without my wand,” I state, taking another spoonful of soupy heaven.

He folds his hands and puts the fingertips together in a thoughtful gesture. I tell him that I do not remember anything about Houses or Slytherins. Which earns me a lecture about the history of Hogwarts. By the end of it, I have finished my meal and my eyes begin to droop. I yawn and rub my eyes just as he ends his explanation.

”So I am Gryffindor and you are Slytherin. Rival Houses. Seems kinda ridiculous,” I flex my shoulders and jawn again but don’t miss that he looks at me strangely again.

”Ridiculous?” He asks, his voice turning a pitch higher at the end.

”Yeah I mean, why would you judge people's character traits and then put them into Houses, making them compete against each other instead of working together and learning from one another? Seems counterproductive if you ask me. Plus what I gather from your explanation every House sounds like they possess good traits and worse ones. We are all individuals, after all, right?” I dry my mouth with a napkin.

He looks at me in silence for a long while, a dark gaze resting on my face. I wonder what he is thinking.

”Well, enough small talk for today. Let's get some rest, it is late already,” he says and stand abruptly, clearly trying to flee the conversation. Seems like I put my foot in. Oh well, but it’s not my fault the school rules sound like something from a cheesy young adult novel.

He walks towards the bed, the dishes fly silently towards the sink where a sponge and checkered towel are ready to take care of them. But he halters in his steps, looking at the bed a long while.

”Sleeping arrangements,” he mumbles and I almost feel the discomfort radiating from him. There is after all only one bed.

”I am happy to take the sofa,” I chime in before he can say anything.

Chapter Text

I ended up sleeping on a very uncomfortable sofa. It was narrow, leaving me barely any space to move around. The cushions felt lumpy and something was poking me in my hip almost the entire time. I sigh and rub my eyes, thankful the Professor took the time to put a cushion charm on it. I don’t want to imagine how I would feel right now if he hadn’t. It felt like the cushion charm wore off during the night, I guess it was somehow connected to his sleep. It’s possible that he could not sustain the magic during his deep sleep phase. The thought makes me smile because it means that he for sure has gotten a good night's sleep.

I stretch my shoulders and move my head from side to side in an effort to lose the stiff feeling. I feel like I have been trampled by a Centaur but I move to stand up. The bedroom door is still closed, the light filtering through the partially closed curtains tells me that is early morning. Maybe it is a bit too early to be out and about but I don’t want to lay back on the hard sofa. Aside from the old sofa I am really not keen on having the Professor finding me asleep and drooling on his cushions. The thought of having the Professor watch me sleep makes me shudder initially but there is also another feeling, its foreign and yet familiar. But I can’t really put my finger on what is means so I shrug it off. Being confronted with strange feelings seems to be a everyday occurrence for me.

I plan on making breakfast later on but I figure it is a bit too early for that so I walk over to the armchairs next to the bookshelves. I don’t know why but I would have guessed that the Professor is a man who likes to keep his things meticulous and in order. However, this book shelf tells a different story, its overstuffed. The books are just cramped in every available space with no regard for their potential value. Parchments with neat handwriting stick out from some of the books, maybe he likes to keep his notes inside of the books or it is just a way to mark his progress. Some of the books look ancient with thick bindings while others look like cheap muggle books. I try to figure out if there is a system to the chaos but give up after a couple of minutes.

My eyes trail over the titles, some of them in foreign languages until my eyes fall on Hogwarts: a history. I remember the Professor's explanation about houses and curiosity gets the better of me. I still think the whole thing seems rather strange but at the same time I want to learn more about the school that I have attended and called my home since I have been eleven years old.

An hour later I am completely immersed in the thoughts of the four founding members, their reasoning and rivalry. I look at the page in front of me but I don’t process the words anymore, instead I think about Gryffindor traits and Slytherin traits. The rivalry between the two houses leaves me feeling uneasy, a lump has lodged itself in my throat. Is this rivalry part of why the Potions Master and me have had a strained relationship? I know that all of this has been my everyday life since I have been eleven but it feels foreign. By reading about the houses I wonder if the rivalry was still this intense after hundreds of years or was it something people joked about? I get the feeling that this has been a big part of people's lives at Hogwarts. Given the design of Snape's chambers at Hogwarts and his cottage being a Slytherin is a fundamental part of his identity. Is that why he would not even consider the thought that we could become friends?

I close my eyes and pretend that the sting behind them is due to being exhausted. My thoughts rest on the fact that I feel safe in the Professors presence and that the trust I feel for him feels familiar. Of course, that could only be wishful thinking. After all he indicated that our relationship had been less than good before, so why would I have trusted him like that? So many questions but my mind stays blank, a numbness settles over me whenever I try to see beyond the black veil hiding my memories. I really hope the blackness is just hiding the memories, that they are still there, just like Snape said.

I am so lost in my depressing thoughts that I don’t hear him enter the room and approach me. Only the weight of a strong hand on my shoulder pulls me back from losing myself inside my head.

”Harry,” he says and sounds both questioning and worried. I open my eyes and glance over my shoulder, our eyes meet and I realize too late that he probably is going to notice the moisture that has gathered in mine. His eyes are deep black, they are intensely focused on mine. I swallow and lower my gaze, self-conscious about my emotional state but too weak to find any composure.

”I don’t like the houses. I don’t want to be rivals, I don’t understand why…” I answer his unspoken question but get interrupted by his fingers prying the book from my hands. I haven’t even realized that I have been holding it in a tight grip that has turned my knuckles white.

”The houses have been the very foundation of Hogwarts. They served an important purpose when the founders came up with it. But,” he pauses and walks over to put the book back on the shelf, ”they are gone now. So many fought and died in the war. In the end it didn’t matter which house you belonged to, it only mattered that Hogwarts was our home and we tried to defend it with everything we had. We failed and Hogwarts is gone.” He concluded and tilted his head to look at me.

He looks at me with such pain and sorrow it breaks my heart a little. I know it pains him to talk about this but I have so many questions. I remember he said that I wasn’t on Hogwarts ground at the time of the battle.

”Why didn’t I fight for Hogwarts?” I ask and he flinches before his face resumes a neutral expression once again. There is something about his reaction that is odd and I contemplate my next question when a dizzy spell hits me.

The world starts to sway and I close my eyes briefly just to be confronted with a snippet of a memory. I am running, indescribable pain radiates from my chest. Someone is behind me, I need to get away. My forehead hurts, it feels like someone is carving the skin with a knife. Branches of trees risp my cheeks as I stagger by, I lose speed with every step. It takes too much energy to fight the pain radiating from my chest. I feel something wetting my shirt and realize that it is my own blood. I know I need to get somewhere, a specific place. It is of the utmost importance that I keep going no matter how much I am hurting. My heart beats a mile a minute and my breath is ragged. Flashes of green and blue light illuminate the trunks of the trees around me. I know I am in danger but that's not why I am so afraid. Deep within me there is this knowledge that I need to get a place that lies farther ahead amongst the trees. Someone is waiting for me and I need to make it.

I whimper as the memory fades away, leaving me with a hurting chest and irrational fear. This time I know without a shadow of a doubt what I have experienced was a real memory. I can feel the sensations in every fiber of my being, almost as if my whole body remembers. I realize the Professor is talking but I can’t make out the words over my beating heart. I struggle for every breath, it feels like my lungs have shrunken and I can’t get enough air.

Am I a coward, running away from the battle when everyone else was fighting to protect the school? Maybe that’s why the Professors reaction to my question has been somewhat strange. I shake my head while tears are streaming down my cheeks. It just can’t be true that I would leave everyone behind just to get myself to safety? And who was the person I needed to get to? Did I reach that person, is that person dead? Did I lose someone important and don’t even remember?

As soon as I feel the warmth of the Professors arms around me I slump forward, burying my head on his shoulder. I don’t care that this might be weird, I just feel so alone and afraid. I can’t stop trembling because the thought of being a coward haunts me. How many lives have been lost because I ran away? But it is not just the fact that the memory seems to indicate that I have been running instead of fighting. There was a person, someone who would have made all the difference for the ongoing fight. What if that person is dead as well? The thought breaks my heart even though I don’t know who this person is.

It takes me a long while until my erratic breathing slows down and the panicked thoughts tumbling through my mind like a tornado stop. I realize that I am holding onto the Professor like my life depends on it, his starchy linen shirt feels scratchy against my tear wet cheek. I have grabbed a fistful of his shirt in desperation and blush as I realize how close the two of us really are. My upper body is pressed against his broad chest that slowly rises and falls with his soft breath. His arm is curled around me, his palm applying gentle pressure on my back. The warmth of his hand seeps through the thin t-shirt I am wearing. I know that I need to let go and I do so reluctantly. I keep my eyes downcast, heat rising from my neck and coloring my cheeks in an angry red.

“Harry,” Snape says softly, “what happened?”

I gather my courage and meet his eyes. He looks curious and confused, his forehead wrinkled as if he had to assess a difficult problem. I shake my head, momentarily lost for words, I have no idea how to describe what happened to me.

“I remembered something….” I pause, trying to collect my thoughts and explain so that he understands my intense reaction.

“It felt like I was there, my chest was injured and I ran from someone, fleeing through the woods.” My voice breaks as the emotions overwhelm me. The wound on my chest pulsates as though I only have been recently injured, even though that makes no sense at all.

I feel like I am about to throw up any moment, cold sweat gathering on my forehead and on the small of my back. The Professor nods knowingly, as if he had somehow anticipated the turn of events.

“Remember I told you that I think your memories aren’t gone but you are just not able to access them at the moment?” Now it is my turn to nod as our eyes meet for a brief moment.

“Magically and physically there is no reason for your memory loss, you have not injured your head during battle. I suspect that you are somehow suppressing your memories. It's not unknown that immense stress can cause these kinds of reactions, however I am a bit surprised that you seem to have forgotten every personal memory not just memories related to the traumatic event.” The Professor studies me thoughtfully for a couple of seconds.

I shrug, unsure how to respond to his theory. All I know is that that this memory took shape with a clarity and intensity that was scary.

I fold my arms, trying to gain control of my trembling body. The professor looks at me intently, his eyes narrowed and forehead wrinkled in a frown. After a couple of seconds he slowly stands and stretches his back.

“How about some breakfast?” he suggests and I take the offered change of subject gladly.

“Yes please, I am starving,” I reply and push myself from the armchair I have been sitting in. I wince as the sudden movement causes the gash on my chest to throb in pain.

Being able to remember something should make me feel excited and hopeful. Instead, I feel hollow, like only the shell of a person. Getting a glimpse of a memory highlights somehow what is missing inside of me, turning the blankness into a maelstrom of pain.

Chapter Text

The rest of the morning has been uneventful and somewhat boring. After breakfast the Professor takes a book written in Latin from the cramped bookshelf and settles into one of the armchairs. A couple of pages of parchment are stuffed into the middle, tumbling out onto his lap as he opens the thick book. The binding is a deep red and the pages seem thin, with small letters covering them. He regards his notes for a couple of moments before he shakes his head and puts them aside on the small coffee table. Sitting across from him I can’t make out what is written on the parchments but I look at his handwriting curiously. His letters are bold and curvy, but they keep neat lines. They take up space in excess, unapologetic and entitled.

I decide that I like his handwriting and when I look up it hits me that he uses the space around him almost like his words use the blank page. He is curled up on the armchair, legs folded underneath him and arms stretched across the backrest while he reads. His hair falls forward when he bows his head in concentration, staring at the book in his lap. He takes up space, unapologetic and entitled. He does so gracefully despite the fact that he is taller than average. I know I shouldn’t stare but right now it is far easier to contemplate what kind of man he is than reliving the memory that popped into my mind before breakfast. Or trying to figure out why all my other memories are gone.

The backrest of the chair is soft and I rest my head against it, eyes growing heavier with every minute that is ticking by. I am about to drift off when suddenly the fireplaces flares alive, startling me awake and freeing me from the haze that has been settling over me. The Professor looks at me for a moment and I try to control my breathing, I don’t want to worry him or seem like a nutcase who gears into panic mode without proper reason even though my heart beats fast and hard.

The head that pops out of the flames is Hermiones. She looks worried and cranes her neck as if to see more of the room she is looking at. I realize from her position she only sees my socked feet and part of my legs. Snape leans down to be able to look at Hermione.

“Miss Granger, is there a reason why you floo call uninvited like this?” Snape says in greeting. He sounds terce and uncomfortable, his body seems tense. His brows are knotted together in a frown and I am glad that I am not at the receiving end of the cold stare he bestows upon the girl.

“I am sorry, Professor. Mrs. Weasly mentioned that the fireplace at your cabin was still connected to the floo network and I was so worried about Harry I just had to call and see if you two are there by any chance. Harry, are you there, how are you doing?” Her head turns, undoubtedly to get a better look at me. I sigh and remind myself that this is my friend but can’t help to feel a bit annoyed at her persistence.

I accept my fate and move to sit in front of the armchair, facing the fireplace sideways so that I can both look at Hermione's head and the Professor at the same time.

“I am fine, thank you for asking,” I answer politely and try to smile at her. Out of the corner of my eyes I see Snape's expression change momentarily, the sternness is replaced with something much more gentle. But before I can look at him properly the expression is gone and he once again looks at Hermione.

“Miss Granger, please do tell Molly that I do not like being disturbed while I am here. This fireplace is connected to the floo for emergencies only, not for your convenience. Please do refrain from using it again and send an owl in case you need to contact Mr. Potter,” the Professor interrupts icily before Hermione can say anything else.

I can see her swallow visibly. I understand her reaction because the Professor is intimidating like this. I look at him and am surprised at the subtle changes that transform this man so completely. His black eyes look hard and distant, his stare is unrelenting and his words clipped. They are sharp and cutting, his expression is displeased. His whole body is rigid, he has moved and is now sitting ramrod straight at the edge of his armchair, his hands neatly folded in his lap. His chin is tilted upwards in a pose that looks defiant and challenging at the same time, as if he dares Hermione to answer him cheekily. I doubt she will, given the expression of unease on her face.

“I just thought… because of the way you left the Burrow… I just need to talk to….” Hermione stammers, clearly trying to find some composure. I do feel sorry for her but at the same time I have no desire to speak to her. She is still only a stranger to me even though I try hard to wrap my mind around the fact that we are friends. I think back to the photo I found in my trunk, taken one day at a Quidditch match I can’t remember. We have been close, so much is obvious and I understand that she worries. She has lost a friend and I am sorry for that but I have lost everything.

“Have I not made myself clear, Miss Granger?” he asks calmly and smiles. It is a smile but it is far from a friendly gesture, it seems like the exact opposite.

Looking at him makes me feel uneasy, his reaction is so odd. Why is he acting like this? When he talked about my friends he never seemed like he didn’t like them, instead he tried to convince me several times that they loved me and I would be in good care living with them. Even though it may be true that he doesn’t like when people use his fireplace for floo calls it seems strange to act so unfriendly.

Before Hermione can reply I lift my hand to stop the Professor who has taken out his wand, undoubtedly to end the floo call.

“I want to talk to Hermione for a minute, please,” I say, lying through my teeth because I for sure don’t want to talk to her. But I feel a sense of obligation towards her, it feels wrong to let him end the call so abruptly. After all she hasn’t done anything wrong, she is just worried about me. I don’t want anyone to suffer on my account, even if it is just a tongue lashing from the Professor.

His eyebrows travel upwards, clearly surprised by my request.

“Well, if you must. But make it short, I can’t concentrate when I have to listen to a couple of teenagers blabbing about unimportant matters,” he replies icily, leaves his armchair and wanders backwards towards the kitchen.

I stare at him for a couple of moments before I return my attention towards Hermione. A wave of sorrow hits me, realizing that I am truly alone in this world. I can’t get the pictures in my head to align: one of the Professor leisurely sitting on the armchair, concentrating on his reading, features soft and gentle eyes that now and then connect to mine, a small smile tugging at the sides of his mouth versus this other side of him, harsh and cold.

“Hermione,” I address her, “please don’t worry about me, I am fine.”

She sighs and shakes her head in reply to me words.

“You don’t seem fine, Harry. You freaked out at the Burrow and you look so sad and haunted. I can’t imagine what it is like going through such a trauma as yours but Harry I want you to know that me and Ron are here to help in whatever way we can. We are your friends, even though you don’t remember us,”she concludes, the last words barely above a whisper.

This time I don’t feel annoyed while confronted with her feelings, just sad that I can’t be the friend she used to know.

“Well, it is difficult,” I admit, deciding that a bit of honesty couldn’t hurt. “I still don’t remember what happened to me and I don’t understand why my memories are gone. I just wish I would wake up and everything would be back to normal,” I bite my lips and look down at my hands. Life would be so much easier if everything could just go back to what it had once been even though I have no idea what that life has been like back then.

“Harry,” she says softly and waits until I look up, “even if you could remember everything that happened it wouldn’t bring our old lives back. The war has changed everything, Hogwarts is destroyed and we all need to build new lives amongst the bits and pieces of our society. Your challenge is more difficult because of your memory loss but it is not so different from me and Ron or even Snape.”

I nod slowly, realizing that I have been focusing on my own trauma and the pain it causes me but haven’t really given a thought to the fact that everyone has been through a war. I suspect all of them carry trauma with them, things they have seen and experienced that would haunt them for the rest of their lives.

“I guess memory loss has its advantages,” I joke and laugh, but it's not genuine and Hermione notices it but refrains from commenting on it.

“How are things at the cottage? Are you ok living there?” She lowers her voice and turns her head briefly as if to make sure that the Professor is not within the vicinity. I hear him rummaging through the kitchen.

I contemplate the answer to that question for a while. Right now I feel hurt for how the Professor has treated me, his harsh words and cold eyes leave me aching, yearning for the man with the strong arms and scent of peppermint who makes me feel safe. But not one thought tumbling through my mind is worth sharing, not with her at least.

“Yeah sure, it's a bit cramped and the sofa is uncomfortable but I make do. I am grateful to the Professor for letting me stay despite the inconvenience,” I say and hope that he is eavesdropping and hears my words.

After that we say our goodbyes, I don’t want to test the Professors' patience too much. When I rise from the floor I feel cold and lonely. Everything is just so overwhelming and I don’t understand Snape's reactions. Even if he was annoyed, why would he talk to me like that?

When I stand up I see the Professor leaning against the kitchen counter, waiting for the kettle to heat up to make tea. I notice that there are two mugs on the tray next to him as well as honey and milk, both of which I like in my tea but he doesn’t. Suddenly it is all too much and too confusing. I press my hands against my closed eyes and just try to breath through the feelings that try to overwhelm me. When I open my eyes again he has taken two steps towards me.

Before he can say something I turn on my heel and flee towards the door. Once I am there I yank the door open and grab a black jacket from the valet next to it. When my fingers close around the soft material I realize it is not mine but the urge to run is too strong to search for my own. Instead I take fast and long strides, out of the door and down the stony garden path towards the meadow next to the cottage.

“Harry,” Snape calls from the doorway but I don’t look back or acknowledge him, instead I keep walking. The meadow next to the cottage is still green in places, even though the color has mostly faded. I put the jacket on to shield me from the september winds that already carry the promise of colder days. Despite my confusion about the Professors behavior I can’t help but smile as warmth envelops me. The jacket smells like rosemary, a hint of peppermint and something else I can’t pinpoint. The scent makes me feel safe, just like the very first time I met Snape at Hogwarts. I have no idea why his scent has this effect on me but my racing heart calms down immediately. I walk slowly through the dried grass and hug myself against the cool air. The other side of the meadow is lined with trees, some leaves have already turned yellow and red here and there while others remain green.

I love autumn: the chill in the air, the abundance of color, the early morning mists and even the early dusk with its blue light and the ever present rainy drizzle wetting the landscape. Autumn wakes a deep longing inside of me, for long and lazy afternoons spent next to a roaring fire, drinking cups of tea, only getting up to find more reading material.

This picture in my head is homely, safe and peaceful but I have no idea if it is based on actual experiences or if it is only a dreamscape, a safe place in my head with no real counterpart.

I realize something as I walk towards an oak tree that looks like an artist splashed all his red and orange colors on it. The scene in my head that I pictured as soon as I started thinking about autumn could easily have taken place in the cottage I just left. I lean against the thick trunk and inhale the earthy scent, the bark feels rough against my palm and the leaves rustle in the slight breeze. I feel comfortable here, as if this place carries good memories. Have I been here before?

I replay the conversation with Hermione in my head, my eyes widen because the feeling that I have good memories from this place might not only be wishful thinking, born from the desire to belong somewhere. Hermione pointed out that Mrs. Weasely had said that Snape's fireplace was STILL connected to the floo network. As if she had used it before. That could possibly explain the Professors strange behavior. What if he didn’t want me to know that I have been here before and he was worried that Hermione would say something that would make me suspicious? But even if I have been here before, why is that such a big deal, why am I not allowed to know?

I struggle against the moisture building in my eyes but lose the fight after a couple of minutes. Everything feels hopeless, the black veil hiding my memories makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs just to feel anything other than this numb blankness. I don’t know what I did to deserve this but in moments like this it's excruciating not knowing the most important details of my own life. Always at someone else's mercy, depending on what agenda those around me have and what they are willing to tell me.

I realize in the last couple of days the Professor has truly become my anchor, the one person I have been trusting completely and who made me feel safe and cared for. Now I am not so sure about him anymore. I sink my nails into the palm of my hand to stop the sobs from escaping my mouth. They leave half-moon formed marks but I don’t uncurl my fists instead I glide down and come to sit on the ground littered with the first dry leaves that have tumbled from the tree. The dirt around the tree is moist, it probably rained yesterday. I hug my knees and hide my face from the world. There is a part of me that wishes that gash on my chest would have been fatal. If I had died in the war that I don’t remember I wouldn’t bother anyone or be a nuisance to the only person I feel safe with.

Snape and I would not have become friends that way but maybe it would be for the better. Who knows what pain and suffering we have caused each other, how many bad memories lay buried under the trauma that has taken my memory. Tears stream down my face but I don’t even try to brush them off. It doesn’t really matter, nothing does. I am living the life of someone else, a boy I don’t recognize and don’t relate to and yet here I am bound by his choices, actions and relationships. What if I never get my memory back and am forced to live like this for years to come?

I sniffle and try to breathe through my mouth, my nose is runny and my eyes sting from the saltiness of my tears. I shiver despite the jacket until I feel warm fingers close around my hands. Gentle but steady my fists are uncurled and soft fingertips brush over my palm. I still don’t look up, cheeks heated in embarrassment. I don’t want him to see me like this, no one likes messy people with their emotions all over the place.

I hear his clothes rustling as he sits down across from me, his knees touching mine. He is still holding my hands, moving his fingertips ever so slightly over my knuckles. It takes me a long while until I find the courage to look up and meet his eyes. They are black like the night sky, some emotion is swirling deep within them. His thin lips are pressed together and he sighs when our eyes connect.

“I am sorry,” he whispers, his voice sounds strangled.

Chapter Text

Upon hearing his words I narrow my eyes and glance at him suspiciously. Not even ten minutes ago he treated me like a nuisance and now he looks at me with those dark and gentle eyes. His fingertips still rest on my knuckles, the touch is soft and reassuring. I feel confused, there are so many questions tumbling through my mind, bits and pieces of words I want to say but I cannot catch a single one long enough for me to form a coherent sentence. I untangle my hand from his and rub over my cheeks to get rid of the salty remnants of my sorrow. Long seconds pass in silence, only interrupted by the sounds of nature around us and our breathing.

“I can’t live like this,” I finally whisper, my voice is thick and hoarse. “I don’t know anything substantial about my life: not what happened to me, or any facts about the war I apparently have been a part of. I know nothing about us,” I conclude, my voice still low and gaze fixed on my knees.

“Us,”he says, the word hangs in the air, landing somewhere between a statement and a question. He folds his arms around his legs and tilts his head, as if he wants me to elaborate so I do.

“I know that there are things you don’t tell me. You said that we had a teacher-student relationship, barely even friends. If that is true then why have I trusted you from the very beginning but can’t barely stand to be around my close friends? And Hermione sounded like she had floo called the cottage before. Has she? Have I been here before?” I ask with emphasis on the last question.

Snape sighs and shakes his head, suddenly he looks sad. I don’t want to accuse him of hiding things deliberately but I need to know what's going on.

“I am so very sorry,” he says, ignoring all of my questions. I raise an eyebrow, does he really think I am letting him off the hook that easily? This is my life we are talking about and memory loss or not I still have a right to know.

“What are you even sorry for,” I mumble and turn my head away from him and let my eyes travel towards the cottage. It looks so quaint and welcoming. This place is well cared for which tells me it must mean a lot to him. I guess he stayed mostly at Hogwarts due to his teaching duties but this cottage looks like a home. The small garden out front is well-kept and despite the season there are still flowers blooming, like the violet asters growing alongside the garden path.

He follows my eyes before he replies in a soft voice. “I have upset you by what I said, haven’t I? I could tell by the way you looked at me before I left you alone with Hermione, you looked hurt,” he says and seems uncomfortable. I nod in confirmation, not sure what to say or where this conversation is going.

A part of me is annoyed that he doesn’t answer my questions, instead he changes the subject. It feels unfair, it is my life but somehow I have no say in it anymore. I depend solely on others to even get the tiniest glimpse of what my life has been like. Without memories I am lost in this world, both spiritually and practically. I can’t stay here at this place forever, I know that. This is the Professor’s home and I can’t expect that his hospitality will stretch further than my recovery. When the wound on my chest is completely healed I am sure I need to find another arrangement but I have no idea what to do or who to turn to. Apparently I have no family to speak of and my only support system are a couple of friends I met at school.

I suspect he senses my emotional turmoil and starts speaking again before I have the chance to demand any more answers.

“Hermione and you talked about the war,” he leans forward and looks at me with so much sorrow in his eyes it hurts somewhere deep within. Despite everything I want to lean forward and hug him to make that expression in his eyes go away. It is irrational, like every other feeling I have had towards this man who is still a stranger to me.

“Everyone fighting this war has been through horrible trauma. The students of Hogwarts have seen things no young adults should ever witness with their own eyes. Death, blood and torture.Those who fought in the war have matured far too early. You and your friends,” he stops and shakes his head again and reaches out for my hands. This time I don’t retract them but let him intertwine our fingers. I am not sure he offers me support or needs it himself. Maybe both.

“You and your friends, especially you,” he resumes, “have done so much to win this war, to fight for what is right and good, for a future, for the light. Hermione was right, we all have to try to rebuild and learn to live with what we have seen and what we have done. But you don’t. This is your chance at a clean slate, a fresh start, unburdened by the past.” He hangs his head but squeezes my hands to emphasize his statement. So apparently he has been eavesdropping.

“What you say sounds nice, if it were true,” I reply and worry my bottom lip with my teeth. “But it isn’t, I am not granted a fresh start because everyone around me treats me just the same, like the person they knew and expect me to act the part. I thought you would try to help me get my memory back,” I mumble, honestly surprised about his apparent change of heart.

He doesn’t answer for a long time and I stare him down. I want him to explain his reasoning because his words leave me feeling betrayed and even more alone. How dare he tell me my memory loss is a good thing? When no answer is coming I decide I have heard enough, retract my hand and push myself up from the ground.

For a moment he looks up at me, surprised and unguarded. Right then I see the truth in his eyes. He is scared and tries desperately to cover it up with warped logic. He doesn’t really believe his own words but he doesn’t want to answer my questions so he tries to distract me.

I shake my head but extend my hand to help him up. .He grabs it and comes to stand beside me.

“So you don’t want to tell me,” I state the obvious and he looks down but has at least the decency to nod in confirmation.

“Is it that bad?” I whisper, suddenly afraid that a terrible truth is hiding behind his reluctance to tell me more about my life.

“Most of it,yes” he answers bluntly but his voice holds compassion. Moisture gathers in the corner of my eyes and I bite my trembling lower lip. I want to know but the seriousness of his statement and look in his eyes frighten me. What if I can’t handle the truth?

The statement hangs heavy between us and I start to shiver again, the wind has picked up some speed. He steps closer and takes the only partially closed zipper on the jacket I am wearing and closes it all the way.

“Harry, you have a choice, this time you have a choice,” he says urgently and leans forward until his nose almost touches mine. My heart picks up in speed, reacting to his close proximity. I have no memory but my body apparently does because I lean into him without a conscious thought. His arms circle around me in a soft hug and I close my eyes for a moment.

I still don’t understand any of it: his behaviour, logic and change of heart. To me it doesn’t make sense and just adds to the confusion I am feeling. A couple of hours ago he seemed willing to answer my questions, he even said that he will answer as many questions as possible to help me. I have no idea why he changed his mind but I am guessing Hermione’s call reminded him of all of the things he really doesn’t want to tell me.

Whatever his reasons are, I don’t have it in me to argue any longer or question him further. I am exhausted and having warm arms wrapped around me only highlights how isolated I really feel. I do want to become his friend and get to know him better but we are not on even footing, so out of sync we could easily be living in two different worlds. He knows so much about me but refuses to tell me and I am desperate to get to know him but the only clues I get is what happens here and now.

He steps back and bestows a wan smile upon me. “Let's go for a walk,” he says and I nod. At least walking is better than just staying inside the cottage mulling over what happened and what I can do to change my situation. The truth is though that I can’t do anything. I have no idea how to get my memories back or how to make Snape tell me anything. He doesn’t seem like a man who easily backs down when he has made up his mind. I start to walk towards a small path that is leading through the trees and vegetation. It's narrow and seems to have been trampled by feet walking the same path over and over again. The Professor adjusts his steps to mine and we walk side by side with our shoulders touching.

After a while the path bends abruptly to the left and leads down a trench towards a small creek with merrily gurgling water. It is the sound I heard when we first arrived. Snape has walked in silence until now but when we reach the water he resumes our conversation.

“Harry, I do think this memory loss provides you with an unexpected chance for a fresh start without the horrors of the past, however this is your life and I have no right to make decisions for you. So if you want me to aid you in trying to access your lost memory I will do so, just as I promised.” He stops when we reach the creek and looks into the water for a long while.

“I need your help, not only with trying to get my memory back but even more so in case I never get it back, no matter how much we try,” I grab his arm, he meets my eyes and I try to convey how important this is to me.

“I know you don’t want to tell me about my life but I don’t know what to do, how to navigate this strange life without some information. I am just so….,” I search for a word that describes my feelings, “....so lost,” I sigh, trying to hide the depth of my desperation. I guess he senses it and bows his head, he looks defeated all of a sudden. The need to comfort him surfaces again and grit my teeth.

“I don’t know what is best, maybe you are right and I am better off not knowing. What should I do? Please, will you help me, please I can’t…” suddenly it’s hard to breath and my heart beats a mile a minute. I am stuck with two choices and I don’t like either one. I gulp for breath, try to get as much of the fresh air into my lungs but they won’t cooperate. Once again I find myself overpowered by my emotions and my body. Everything is just too much, every sound around me is overbearing on my senses and it feels like the air itself has turned into gooey molasses, pressing against my skin. Sweat breaks out, trickling down my back even though I know it is not warm outside, only minutes ago I was freezing. But logic doesn’t chase the sensations away, it's almost as if I can hear my blood rushing through my veins. I have no idea what is happening with me and this just adds to the feeling of being trapped. I have no control over anything in my life, not even my body. I want to turn around and run away, away from this strange life inhabited by people I don’t remember, run away from the boy I have apparently been who led a life so horrible the Professor doesn’t dare tell me about it. I stay rooted to the spot though, gasping for air and pleadingly looking at the one person that doesn’t feel like a stranger even though he is as much as anyone else.

Warm and dry hands touch my cheeks and cradle my head.

“Harry, look at me,” he instructs but I am too busy trying to breathe properly. When I don’t follow his instruction he starts caressing my cheek. “Come on, Harry, look at me.” When our eyes finally meet I can see the worry edged into his features. “That’s it, breathe with me,” he holds my gaze and I try to match his breathing pattern. Slowly the pressure on my chest subsides and I can feel oxygen entering my lungs. I feel mortified to once again find myself in this situation, depending on him to get me through a panic attack of some sort.

After what feels like an eternity my breathing resumes a normal rytm. He doesn’t withdraw his hands but scans my face thoroughly.

“Of course I will help you and I do understand that this is overwhelming. But you don’t have to make any choices right now. We can just finish our walk and head back to the cottage. It’s way past lunchtime anyways. Just give it a few days to think things through, whatever you decide I will support it,” he speaks softly as if I am a scared animal. His offer sounds so tempting right now, I just want to bury my head in the sand a few more days and pretend I am not in an impossible situation.

“If you want me to consider not getting my memory back I need to know that I’ll have at least one person who doesn’t treat me like the boy from the past, someone who doesn't expect me to act certain ways, a true friend, no matter what has happened in the past,” I lean into the palm of his hand, enjoying his touch. “Will you be my friend?” I ask and look at him.

For every second he doesn’t answer more dread fills my soul. Have I really just asked him that? My cheeks burn and I hope that a hole will open up somewhere and swallow me. I turn my head to escape his eyes, afraid of what I might see in them.

“Fair enough,” he says finally, releasing my face from his grip. Does he really mean it? I scan his face, try to gauge what he is thinking and feeling. He is hard to read but the honesty in his eyes cannot be mistaken. I nod in confirmation, a deal spanning over a few days, giving me the chance to get to know him better without having past-Harry lurking in the shadows, or that's what I hope at least. Maybe after those days I know how to proceed regarding my memory.

We walk back slowly, once again side by side. The Professor stops now and then, crouching down to collect some plant or herb. I can’t name a single one of them, they smell spicy and earthy. His harvest isn’t big though, I suspect it's too late in the year for that. So he carries the small plants in the palm of his hand, making sure they won’t get squashed in his pockets. It's interesting to observe him, he treats the plants gently, brushes the dirt away from the roots before he picks them up. He concentrates completely on his task, dark gaze fixated on those small plants. I remember that look from when he treated my wound, intense concentration and compassion for another living being. Somehow seeing him like that eases the pain in my soul a little.

I do believe that he acts the way he does because he thinks not knowing about my life is for the best right now, even though I don’t fully understand. But without having the full picture I guess I couldn’t understand anyway. Even if he’d answer all of my questions it still wouldn’t be the same as remembering.

When we arrive back at the cottage someone is waiting for us. A small brownish owl with a beige belly and black dots covering the wings. It looks like it has a unibrow, which gives the small creature the look of a very displeased grumpy old man. It is insanely cute and I bow down to pet it behind it’s small ears. The owl turns its head towards by hands and makes me smile with its tame demeanor.

“Owl’s are familiars and a means of communication not pets,” Snapes says strictly while he observes me but I see him stroking the owls belly softly before he removes the letter attached to its foot. When he is done the owl hoots twice, noozles my hand once more and flies off.

Snape opens the door and beckons me inside. He stops next to the valet and waits with his outstretched hands to hang the jacket I am wearing. I realize I probably should apologize for taking his jacket without asking.

“Sorry for just taking your jacket like this,” I say but he only shrugs his shoulders and hangs them back. It's clear his attention is somewhere else because he turns the envelope containing the letter that just came in his hands. I am curious who it is from but I restrain myself, it is really none of my business because the letter is clearly not for me. He walks towards the dining table and sits down, opening the envelope with quick fingers. He sighs as he reads the words, after he is finished he stares at the table’s polished surface for a long while. The letter lays disregarded next to his hand.

“Erm…,” I clear my throat, “is everything alright?”

He looks up startled, as if he had momentarily forgotten I was even there. Snape looks tired, like he needs a couple of nights of undisturbed sleep.

“Oh yes, it's fine. The letter is from Poppy, just mourning the horrible news that Hogwarts is indeed completely destroyed,” he explains and I look at him with questioning eyes. The name seems familiar but I can’t really grasp where I have heard it before.

“Poppy, the mediwitch who treated you when you were injured,” he explains after my lack of response. My eyes widen and it feels like I am indeed completely losing my mind. I have completely forgotten about the mediwitch. I didn’t spare her one though after he apparated us out of Hogwarts after the entire hospital wing collapsed. I should have asked about her whereabouts but I forgot she even existed in the first place. I want to chalk it up to being overwhelmed by waking up without memory but I still feel like a horrible, self-absorbed asshole.

“Gosh, was she there when…,” I can’t even finish the sentence because of the shame I am feeling.

Snape looks at me puzzled before he answers. “Of course not, she left in the morning that day to attend one of her nieces weddings. She didn’t want to go given your condition but I encouraged her. It is good that the people begin to move on after the war,” he tells me.

I feel a bit stupid, of course we would not have left the way we did when there had been another person present at Hogwarts that day. Still, the whole thing is quite embarrassing, how could I forget about another person like that?

While the Professor folds the letter neatly and places it back on the table I worry if there is more to the trauma I am experiencing than memory loss. There are a couple of other things that seem odd, my reactions to my own feelings for example. It seems that as soon as I am overwhelmed with intense emotion I have a hard time breathing. Aside from that there is still the question why I have been able to sense the Professors magic back in his chambers at Hogwarts. Thankfully, it seems he has forgotten all about that in the tumultuous events that followed that conversation.

Snape takes his wand out and the letter vanishes after a couple of slow but deliberate motions.

“What about we skip lunch and get right into afternoon tea? I think a hot cup of tea and warm scones is exactly what we need right now,” he says and stands to walk back to the small kitchen area. He opens a cabinet and starts putting ingredients on the counter; flour, milk and butter.
“Sounds great, let me help, please,” I ask and join him in the kitchen. I’ll do anything to keep my hands and mind occupied right now. He smiles slightly and nods in confirmation.

It doesn’t take long until we find a comfortable rhythm. He measures the ingredients for our buttermilk scones, slices cucumbers and cuts bread while I prepare the batter for the scones. We do not talk more than necessary but it’s a peaceful silence residing between us. After a while however I realise that the batter is not coming along as it should. With my hands buried in wet batter, flour itching in my nose and on my cheek, I have to ask him for assistance.

He walks over and comes to stand behind me, peering over my shoulder into the bowl. His hair tickles my cheek when he leans closer to inspect the results of my attempts on making scones.

“I don’t know how you managed to end up with batter that is both wet and lumpy at the same time,” he says sternly but starts chuckling before I can reply.

“You put the ingredients in too fast. Baking is a combination of science and intuition. You need the right amount of ingredients and put them in the bowl at exactly the right time. However, once you are working the batter with your hands you need to develop a feeling for it. How to work the batter with your hands just the right way,” he tucks his sleeves upwards and puts his arms around me to reach the bowl in front of me.

Suddenly I find myself in a full body embrace, warm breath ghosting over my neck and my cheek while my hands are still in the batter. He reaches inside the bowl with both of his hands and puts them atop of mine.

“You need to apply the right amount of pressure, the cool butter needs to melt into the flour slowly and you achieve that by the warmth of your hands,” he says and starts to guide my hands. Our hands are buried in squishy, sticky batter but all I can concentrate on is how he now and again presses his body against mine when he scopes up more flower and butter lumps. His hands are warm and they hold mine in a firm grip. I swallow repeatedly trying to concentrate on what he is showing me and listening to his words about baking and ingredients. Surprisingly, without adding any more ingredients the batter is starting to show promise only through the way our hands are working it.

“See?” he asks and turns towards me, his nose brushing my cheek.

“Mhm,” I reply lowly, thinking that this must have been the most intense baking lesson I have ever received, I am sure of it even without my memory. It is weird but for whatever reason I feel comfortable and safe being physically close to him like this even though I know I usually am not a big fan of being touched by anyone.

The batter is now a big lump, ready to form into scones and he steps back, satisfied with his work.
“Thanks Professor,” I say and he leans against the kitchen counter next to me.

“Call me Severus,” he replies after studying me for a couple of seconds. He puts one of his fingers still covered in batter into his mouth to lick it off.

Chapter Text

The scones taste heavenly in their simplicity, they are buttery and flaky and melt in my mouth in combination with the strawberry marmalade and whipped cream. I ignore the sandwiches that Severus has prepared and focus only on the tasy result of our combined baking efforts.

Severus. I have lowered my eyes onto my plate but watch him through my eyelashes. He prepares peppermint tea, finally revealing where the scent around him comes from. He pours the brownish liquid in the cups that have been waiting since Hermione's call and adds milk and honey to mine. For a moment I wonder when exactly I have told him how I like my tea but come up empty, already the first time he prepared tea for me he had fixed it exactly to my liking. Which could be a coincidence or just another clue pointing towards the fact that there is much more to our relationship in the past than he has told me. Why would he remember how one of his students likes to drink his tea? Doesn’t seem likely even if he would have been my head of house, which he apparently has not been.

I push the thought away though, because I am too exhausted to search for clues to this complicated puzzle that is my past. Instead, I want to relish the warm feeling inside my chest when I think about the fact that he offered to call him Severus. Whatever has been or has not been between us it shows that he is making an effort to honor our deal and that's why I am going to do the same and let the questions rest for a couple of days.

“We make pretty decent scones,” I remark around a mouth full of my third scone and earn a raised eyebrow in response.

“Manners,” he replies and points towards my mouth. I chew frantically and try to swallow the large bite. Once again his own manners are impeccable, he butters his scone slowly with delicate moves. When he is done he lifts it up to his mouth and takes a small bite. I stare at him chewing a couple of times before he licks his lips. They are thin and their color looks surprisingly intense in his otherwise pale face. It's the same effect that his eyes have, against the color of his skin they seem like an ocean of blackness. He notices me staring and quirks his head, causing blood to rush to my cheeks.

I clear my throat and pretend to be very interested in the cup of tea I am holding in my hands right now. The warmth is comforting and grounding and it gives my hands something to hold onto. With the questions about my past off the table I am momentarily at a loss what to talk about, second guessing every thought that pops into my head.

“How is your wound? Any discomfort?” Severus asks and looks at my chest as if he can see right through the thin cotton fabric of my shirt. I squirm a little on my chair, the sudden scrutiny makes me feel uncomfortable, like the room suddenly is way too warm.

“Ok I guess, sometimes there is a bit of pain though. Especially this morning when that snippet of memory popped up in my head,” I explain and sigh. It doesn’t really make sense but it is what it is and I want to be honest with him.

“Hmm I think you experienced that memory so intensely you had difficulties separating what you felt back then and what you are feeling now. The sensations maybe got tangled in your mind.” He explains and takes a sip from his own tea.

“Whatever caused the pain I need to redress the wound, check on the inflammation. It needs some more healing salve as well. One can never be cautious enough with such injuries. They can turn nasty even if they seem almost healed.”

His words hang in the air for a while, while questions about my past tumble through my mind once again.I bow my head and press the palms of my hands into my eyes. I promised I would let it go but I can’t even get through afternoon tea without coming up with hundreds of new burning questions, clues and irregularities.

I groan involuntarily because I can’t stop my mind from bombarding me with thoughts when all I want to do is focus on the present.

”Harry…” he asks, sounding surprised and concerned. I can’t blame him for wondering what has gotten into me. I don’t answer him though because I have nothing to say that explains my behavior. Well,despite slowly losing my mind of course. Which is maybe not far from the actual truth.

”I can of course show you how to take care of your wound by yourself if the thought makes you that uncomfortable,” he continues, his voice sounds neutral and distanced but there is something else underneath, it sounds like he is hurt.

I take my hands from my face and look at him in surprise. How did he come to that conclusion? Oh yeah right he can’t read my mind and I am behaving like an idiot.

”That's not what…. I mean yes… erm no, it doesn’t make me uncomfortable,” I stammer but only receive a blank stare. Shit.

”I didn’t react to your statement. I tried to suppress all the questions on my mind about the past,” I explain but he only looks at me questioningly.
“I try to honor our deal but there are a thousand questions in my mind it is kind of hard to push them away,” I continue, hoping he will understand my predicament.

“The thought of you touching me doesn’t make me uncomfortable,” I whisper meekly. I have no idea if he believes my lame attempt at an explanation.

“Touching you, hmm,” he replies neutrally and once again I wish the chair I am sitting on would just swallow me whole. My head feels like a ripe tomato and it takes all my willpower to put the cup down without trembling noticeably. I have no idea why I said that, why I used that phrase instead of saying him redressing my wounds doesn’t make me uncomfortable.The way he repeats my words they sound like something else entirely. I wish I would stop blurting things out without thinking them through. This seems like an awfully inconvenient habit and one that gets me into trouble more often than not. I duck my head and just hope he will let it go and change the subject before I die out of sheer embarrassment.

A low chuckle from the other side of the table makes me look up cautiously. I still can’t meet his eyes and focus my gaze somewhere on the tip of his nose. I see that he is smiling a broad smile and the tension in my chest eases up somewhat.

“I know what you meant,” he finally offers and winks, leaving me feeling slightly dizzy. Fine lines appear next to his eyes when he smiles and he closes them partially, his long thick lashes almost covering the blackness underneath. He definitely got girlish lashes, I decide in an attempt to make me feel better. Instead it makes my stomach feel weird, like I have cramps. Great. I knew it was a bad idea to eat three scones in the matter of minutes.

“Harry, I do understand that the questions you have will not just disappear but I really hope you can try to focus on the present for a couple of days. Whatever you want to do about your memory later on I think it will be good for you to not torment yourself every waking minute,” he says and gets back to eating his scone.

“I am not tormenting myself,” I reply lamely, knowing that he is at least partially right. My emotions are all over the place and this brooding over the past does actually more harm than good. Quitting thinking about it is easier said than done though.

He takes his cup and takes a sip from his tea. Severus smiles sadly when he puts the cup back down.

“You are not well, Harry. You have had more than a couple panic attacks recently, which does concern me. I know that you are in a difficult situation and I am afraid it is eating away at you. I just want you to rest a couple of days, gather your strength so that you can decide on how you want to proceed. You know that you have my support whatever happens,” he says, he sounds firm but also compassionate and I understand where he is coming from given that he has been the one to talk me through each one of those panic attacks.

I nod in confirmation and lean back in my chair. Suddenly I feel quite stuffed and am itching to get away from the table. I fold my hands in my lap and just try to focus on my breathing and the serene atmosphere in the room. The daylight is slowly fading and blueish light spreads throughout the room, creating shadows in the corners. We are sitting in a circle of dim yellow light created by the iron lamp hanging above the table. Either the lamp turned itself on or Severus did, even though I haven’t even seen him looking at the lamp. Maybe he used a wandless spell? I ponder that question for a moment before I realize I have felt something strange right before the lamp lit up. It felt like an electric current on my skin, not uncomfortable but more like fingers touching the skin on my arm with a feathery touch. It is the same feeling I experienced before I entered Snapes chambers at Hogwarts.

I shake my head to get rid of the thought, between my panic attacks and memory loss and these strange feelings I am afraid that there is something fundamentally wrong with my mind and that I’ll soon discover that not having any memory is the least of my problems.

Severus finishes his meal and sips the last of his tea. I stack the plates and cups when he is done, which earns me a strange look. I know he could easily use magic to tidy everything away but I am thankful for every chance I get to do something with my hands so that I can stop focusing on the endless list of questions in my mind. I ignore his questioning look and carry the plates and cups to the small kitchen and put them in the sink.

He doesn’t say anything but crosses the room. Adjacent to the four poster bed is an alcove furnished with a small desk and an ancient looking chair. I have not paid attention to that alcove before but realize that this must be where he works on grading papers and other duties that come with being a teacher. Or at least that’s what he probably used to do before the war.

He pulls the chair back, sits down and reaches for a piece of the parchments stacked neatly on the edge of the desk. He whispers a quiet lumos to light the small green desk lamp. A quill and ink is readily available next to the thick pages, he grabs it slowly before hovering a long while above the parchment before putting the quill down to write the first word. My eyes rest on the way the light reflects on his black hair and I suddenly wonder what it would look like if he’d put his hair in a bun. I think it would suit him. I abandon that train of thought and turn around, trying to pay attention to what my hands are doing. With the image of him sitting at the desk still fresh on my mind's eye I don’t feel so lonely anymore. Because no matter what is wrong with me the Professor proved to be a real friend, despite his own words to the contrary before we made our deal.

After I finish doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen I enter the bathroom, feeling gross and ready for a hot shower. There is nothing like hot water, soap and the feeling of putting a clean set of pyjamas on before bed to erase the worries of the day, at least for a short while. When the steam fades I look at myself in the mirror once again and can’t help but trace the scar on my forehead. The skin is slightly rougher than the rest of my forehead and I rest my fingertips against it. There is a feeling in the pit of my stomach, the ghostly shadows of rage, fear and hatred. But somehow I know that these feelings about my scar and whatever it represents have faded. I stop my musings and towel by hair until it looks positively wild. I decide to ignore it for now and think about black, silken hair, contemplating that it is probably a lot easier to handle hair like his than the wild strands of my own. With a chuckle I leave the bathroom and enter the main room in time to see Severus standing next to the bed, buttoning black pyjamas. I stare transfixed at the stretch of bare skin on his chest that slowly disappears from view as he closes one button after the other. His eyes are fixated on his fingers and I avert mine when he finally looks up to see me standing outside the bathroom.

“I think we need to change the bandages on your wound before we go to bed, is that alright with you?” He asks and steps closer to me, searching my face for something, maybe discomfort given my earlier reaction. After a couple of seconds I nod in confirmation and he moves his intense gaze away from my face toward a small cupboard next to the bathroom door.

“Why don’t you get ready; remove your shirt and sit down on the bed while I get everything we need?” This time he doesn’t wait for my reaction but moves determined towards the cupboard.

I walk towards the bed and realize as I approach it how big it really is. The four-posters are made from a dark brown wood, probably walnut and there are small ornaments carved on all the wooden parts of the bed. I let my fingertips glide along a small snake which looks like it is moving on the wood. There is a dark green woolen throw covering the bottom half of the bed and that's where I sit down while I drag my shirt off me. The fabric of my grey shirt is soft and the whole shirt is way too big for my frame but it is comfortable to wear to bed. I put the shirt next to me on the bed and wait for Severus to approach.

When he does he carries the familiar healing salve in his hands, as well as clean bandages and a vial filled with blue liquid. He extends the vial towards me and smiles slightly.

“Drink that, it’ll aid your recovery and fight the infection still residing in the wound.” I nod and take the potion from his outstretched hands, Our fingertips touch for a brief moment before he pulls his hand back and takes out his wand instead.

“Medeor tenera,” he whispers and the bandages on my chest start to slowly unwrap themselves, revealing the wounded skin underneath. It doesn't look as bad as it did a couple of days ago, the edges of the wound are almost closed entirely and the skin is now only slightly pink. I realize that with a wound this big I probably will have an ugly scar across my chest for the rest of my life. The thought upsets me more than it probably should given that I have a scar on my forehead but somehow this feels different. I am about to touch the wound when my hand is caught in a strong grip.

“No touching, let me take care of this,” he says sternly and I look down, feeling slightly embarrassed.

He opens the neutral white jar he is holding in his other hand and reveals the healing salve within. Intense scents spread from the jar immediately: rosemary, peppermint and earthier tones underneath, but I can’t really pinpoint what they are.

He scoops a generous amount of salve out of the jar and steps closer. He looks at my wound intently before he softly puts his fingertips on the edges of the gash tearing my chest apart. The touch doesn’t result in discomfort like last time and he proceeds to cover my whole chest with the salve. He moves his hands gently and applies only minimal pressure. I focus on his hands, they are soft and warm, long fingers cautiously tracing my wound, mapping almost my entire chest. When I look up I realize he stands so close if I lean forward only a little our foreheads would touch. The urge to do exactly that comes from somewhere deep within and is so surprisingly strong I have to take a deep breath. All of a sudden everything around me feels familiar, like having a deja-vu. His breath ghosting over my face, endless black eyes keeping my attention captured even though I can’t read them and gentle fingers touching my skin. I open my mouth to say something, anything to ease the tension that seems to have appeared in the air.

But I don’t get the chance because just as I try to say something smart or at least not completely idiotic something inside my mind shifts. I cannot describe the feeling any better, it feels like a piece of furniture that obscured the view suddenly shifts aside and I can see something I wasn’t able to earlier. The picture is so overwhelming in its clarity it almost hurts. I follow the urge to touch my forehead against his and it leads me right into what must be a memory.

I have no idea when or where this is, it is almost completely pitch black. I am shivering, the cold hurts the naked skin on my arms and legs. The only source of warmth comes from a body underneath me; I realize that I am sitting on someone's lap. Viewing that memory feels like watching a movie and acting in one at the same time. The feelings and sensation are intense, I can feel the cold on my skin as if I am still there. My body aches, it feels like I have been hit with a freight train, every muscle strained. I am completely exhausted, even moving an inch to free the body underneath me is not an option. The closeness to that person offers warmth and comfort.

I feel hollow, like someone has carved out a piece of my soul. My skin feels sticky and the feeling makes me shudder. It's familiar and strange at the same time. I lean forward until my forehead connects another one, covered in sweat. The person underneath breathes raggedly, strands of soft hair brush against my cheek. I press closer seeking out comfort and trying to give it at the same time. Desperation and sorrow fills my whole being, I know this is wrong so wrong. This should have never happened, not like this. It feels like being trapped in a nightmare where reality is warped and bent at the edges. Danger is lurking in every corner and I know we need to get up and get away as fast as possible. When I finally move pain shoots up my spine, making me gasp. I have never felt anything like it and I sink my teeth into my lower lip in an effort not to scream. I turn my head and my nose brushes against his prominent one and over his cheek. His grip on my waist tightens. I know this man, even though I can’t see him. The smell of peppermint envelops me.

I get dragged back to reality by strong hands covering my upper arms, shaking me again and again. When I look up I meet black eyes, concerned and afraid.

“Harry, what's going on? What have you seen?” he asks, his voice shrill filled with fear but I can’t answer him paralyzed by the implications of what I have just remembered.

Chapter Text

Everything is just too much. It feels like the current sensations are battling with every feeling I experienced back then. I struggle to sort them through, trying to understand what belongs to NOW and what belongs to THEN but fail miserably. I am shaking uncontrollably, Snapes fingers closed around my upper arms are hurting me. He stands between my legs, so close I can see the fear in his eyes. I scoot backwards, free myself from his bruising grip. I keep going until my back connects with the propped up pillows and I can’t go any further. I have no idea what the memory I just witnessed entails, the only thing I know is that there was pain, a lot of pain.

For a moment it feels like I am still there, my skin feeling cold and my body aching in places it definitely should not. There was so much sorrow, naked desperation and fear. The memory of the sensations and feelings holds me captive, ghosting over my body, making me shudder. I try to breathe slowly in through my nose and release my breath through my mouth just like he has shown me before. I really don’t want to choke right now because I don’t want him to approach me.

He still stands at the foot of the bed, his arms outstretched as if he tried to stop me from fleeing backwards but he has not uttered a single word since he asked me what I have seen. I can’t stand to look at him a second longer, there is a place inside of me that screams in agony whenever our eyes meet. The feeling is so strong, so devastatingly deep I have no idea how to handle it. I curl myself into a ball, hugging my knees to my chest and press my eyes shut so forcefully I see stars.

Inside of me there is a tornado of feelings, each one tumbling through my head, clawing at the fragile construct of who I am that I have been building since I woke up from the coma. Each feeling contains a clue to my past but for the first time I don’t want any answers, I don't want to know what happened at that cold and dark place. I don’t want to know about aching muscles; about pain oh so much pain crashing in waves through my body. I don’t want to know about being cold, hungry and so afraid. I don’t want to know about feeling disgusting, disposable and powerless. I don’t want to know what it feels like to make impossible choices, throw away something that should have been joyous and sacred, instead tainting it, warping it into something sinful, something so wrong it disgusts me to my very core. But in all that darkness and despair I know what transpired between him and me back then saved both our lives. Deep down I know that he tried everything in his power not to hurt me but he still did.

I have no idea how much time passes, feelings and thoughts keep attacking my mind, they are agonizing in their clarity, burning themselves into my consciousness. I try to push them away but achieve nothing, instead they play on repeat, an endless stream of - not being ready- burning shame at my body's reactions, so easily manipulated, so readily available for the taking- harrowing pain, everything happens too fast, it is too much- stretched too wide, my body struggling with the impossible- I cannot do this, this will break me, we have to stop stop stop stop- don’t want to feel this- don’t want to feel good, don’t want to like it- I hate myself, I hate myself- cannot hate him, cannot hate him- warm fingers on cold skin, gentle kisses on my closed eyelids- murmured words of comfort, sweet and meaningless, but so so needed- being cradled against his warm chest, tears being dried by soft fingertips- strong arms holding me even when it feels like I am breaking into a million pieces- suddenly feeling loss, empty, and so so alone.

The feelings are like snapshots, snapshots in overexposure, everything is too bright, too clear but warped at the same time, the shadows just lurking underneath. With every feeling I remember I draw a ragged breath, my hands fisting the linen bed sheets that are cool against my heated skin. It takes me a while to realize he is whispering my name, over and over again, his voice hoarse. I try to respond but cannot form a coherent word, instead I whimper in distress.

The other side of the bed dips, I imagine he is sitting down next to me. I don’t want to flee from him anymore, I just want to make it stop.

“Please make it stop, please make it stop,” I plead in a whisper, still facing away from him. My feelings are a tangled mess: I want him to go away so that I never have to look into those black eyes again and see our shared shame reflected in them.But I also want him to stay, make the pain go away just as he did back then. Soothing pain that he inflicted, but it is not his fault. He did not want to do this, there has been no other choice, not for him, not for me. We carried the weight of the world on our shoulders that night, trying to do the impossible and change an outcome that was already foretold.

The moment he gently puts his hand on my shaking shoulder I know that I do not hate him, how could I? We are victims, one a weapon and one a shield, soldiers that have been caught up unwillingly in a war that they have not started. I feel like I am breaking apart, cracking open to expose my most inner being, vulnerable and unable to handle the onslaught of feelings. The weight and warmth of his hand helps me remember that I am safe now and that he is safe now. The war is over, we are apparently still alive and the thought gives me strength. I have been through so much and survived it. The thought eases the tightness in my chest and breathing becomes easier.

I turn slightly, looking at Severus. Judging by the look on his face he knows what memory I just saw, his eyes are black, like marbles but his face is not expressionless. I see my sorrow reflected in his eyes and the pain he was forced to cause me forever present in the lines in his face. There is guilt, shame and the experience of unspeakable horrors all visible in the way he presses his lips into a thin line. My eyes map his face, tracing his pale skin, a ghostly touch. I know that he could shut me out, putting on a neutral expression, a stone mask. But he doesn't, instead he invites me to share the sorrow and the pain.

“I can explain,” he says, his voice filled with so many emotions. “Please don’t….,” he pauses and takes a deep breath, “you are safe, I would never hurt you…..again.” His fear cuts right through my heart, leaving me bleeding for this man: a stranger, a saviour, a friend.

“I don’t want to know, not yet….not now. Please, hold me,” I plead, the urge is irrational but nonetheless so strong it muddles my thoughts. A sound of surprise escapes him before he complies and scoots closer. He puts his arms around me, taking my shaking hands into his own, our fingers intertwined. In the raging chaos of my feelings and memories his scent grounds me, the safety offered by his arms is familiar and I sink back against his warm body.

The fabric of his pyjamas feels nice against the naked skin of my back, everything is upside down and I feel hot and cold at the same time. He must have noticed me trembling because he molds his body against mine, covering me almost entirely. It takes me a long while of silence and focus on my breathing until my thoughts and raging feelings quiet down somewhat and the tension finally gets released in warm tears, streaming down my cheeks. I am devastated at what I have seen, what I have lived through. Now I do understand his reluctance to reveal too much about my past, how many more painful memories lay in store, ready to pop up and destroy whatever fragile peace I have made with my current situation?

I know I should have a hundred questions, demand an explanation but my mind is blank, filled with a static white noise. A part of me does not want to know what actually happened, what led to that moment in time when we were forced to taint the concept of love, or trust and friendship. But despite everything we are still here, he is still my friend, maybe even more so than back then. At this realization the hurtful tension bleeds from my body, leaving me numb. From half closed eyes I watch our intertwined fingers, his long ones covering my hands, his thumb tracing small circles on the back of my hand. His breath feels warm against my neck, whenever he moves his hair brushes against my cheek.

My eyes slip shut and I welcome the soothing darkness that covers my senses like a weighted blanket. I don’t fight it but welcome the peace of mind that sleep offers.. Severus mumbles something, his face buried in my hair.

“I am so sorry, so sorry,” is the last thing I hear before I finally get to leave this world for a little while.

When I wake up I am laying sprawled across him, my head on his chest which is regularly rising and falling. I feel his heartbeat against my cheek. We are covered by a duvet and the room is almost completely black despite the last of the fire with its glowing ashes. I have no idea how long I have been asleep but it must be the middle of the night. I lift my head and look at Severus, he sleeps silently, his brows furrowed and one of his hands resting on my waist. The protective gesture makes me smile a little and I lay my head back down. The exhaustion I felt after the memory was almost bone crushing but now I am not sleepy at all anymore instead I try to find a comfortable position in Severus' arms. I could move to the other side of the bed but I don’t want to, as strange as it may sound.

It doesn’t take long until he opens his eyes and turns his head to look at me. I guess my restless fidgeting has woken him. He doesn’t speak and neither do I, instead we lay awake, staring into the darkness of the night.

“I wanna know,” I whisper after a long while, my low voice sounds loud in the complete silence around us. I lift my head from his chest and lay down on my own pillow.

He turns towards me, props up his elbow and puts his head on his hand to support it. I turn towards him as well, closing the small distance I have created. We are laying so close his nose almost touches mine and I can feel the warmth of his breath ghosting over my face and lips, mingling with my own.

“Honestly, I don’t really know how to begin. There is so much that has happened, so many interconnected events,” he pauses and bites his lips nervously. His reluctance to speak about this is visible in every line in his body, his posture is rigid.

I nod, I do understand that it will be impossible to get a complete picture without remembering it myself but I need to hear some kind of explanation for what I saw.

“How did you know what memory popped up in my mind?” I ask him curiously.

He shakes his head and sighs. At first I think he won’t answer but then he does. His voice is a low rumble as he explains to me about the fact that he is a natural legilimens and is able to pick up on people's emotions and thoughts if they are strong. I store the information away for later, unable to really deal with how that makes me feel.

“Harry, everything that night happened so fast and I never really got the chance to tell you how awfully sorry I am, how much I wish there could have been another way….,” his voice cracks, overwhelmed by an emotion I can’t decipher.

“Please explain it to me,” I plead, knowing that only a few hours ago I asked him for the exact opposite. But I need to know. These horrible images in my head are torturing me and I need to at least hear why we were forced to do this.

“The day all of this transpired we decided to move location, leave the one safe house and use another that seemingly offered more protection. All we wanted to do was keep you safe as long as possible,” he pauses a long while after that and just looks at me. I can’t read him at all so I focus on what he just told me. Hearing about my life like this it feels like a story, a strange one at that, about a boy needing protection and safe houses. I want to ask a hundred follow up questions but decide against it. I will never get the full picture of my past like this so it is better I just listen and try to piece the information together.

Silence stretches between us, enveloped by darkness we listen to each other's breaths. Our bodies are not really touching but I can still feel the warmth he is emanating. A part of me wants to scoot closer to share his warmth. It is not cold in the room but since I saw that memory I feel like I am freezing no matter the temperature. I don’t get any closer because I have no idea how he would feel about it. Since I have woken up from the coma, touching him has somehow been natural even though I know that I am not a touchy feely person. But now I am second guessing that thinking about what we have been through. Maybe being too close to me makes him feel uncomfortable so I stay where I am.

After a while he resumes his explanation and I am astonished by his tale. So many people, a whole order, trying to protect me and help me to win this unfair fight against a dark lord. I learn about him being a spy and somehow this doesn’t surprise me. I have already seen how well he hides emotions if he wants to. Which makes it even more special when he doesn’t hide them like right now and lets me get a glimpse of what is going on inside of him.

“Does that mean you were tasked with protecting me while moving locations?” I ask him, trying to understand what he is telling me.

He sighs and bows his head, when he looks up again he nods.

“Yes and I failed miserably. When the Death Eaters,” he pauses when he sees my questioning look, “the Dark Lords followers, his army,” he continues, “when they caught us I was way too confident, thinking I could outsmart them and tell them that I had captured you and was on my way to turn you in. Unfortunately the person who tipped them off about the location exchange had also told them about my role in all of this.”

I inhale sharply, realizing just how much danger we must have been in, especially Severus.

“That sounds like a death sentence for you,” I whisper and finally reach out to touch his shoulder. He looks at me for a long while before he smiles and slowly reaches out to touch his soft fingertips against my cheek.

“Silly Gryffindor, always thinking of others before yourself,” he scolds but his tone holds affection.

“This was a death sentence for both of us, the Dark Lord was all too eager to get his hands on you and a traitor from his own rangs at the same time. I have been one of the Dark Lords favorites, I think he related to me on some twisted level. Maybe because we had a similar dysfunctional upbringing or because I deal with things without emotions, do not generally care for others. Either way no matter his reasoning behind his cruel favoritism it also meant finding out that I have been betraying him the whole time would only lead to certain death, if I was so lucky. Death or years and years of the torture so evil you cannot imagine.” Severus pauses again, his eyes glint in the moonlight streaming through the window. His expression is pained and I ponder why until it hits me. Despite the fact that the Dark Lord was an evil and twisted tyrann and maniac somehow he still feels guilty for being a spy, betraying the trust of a monster.

“You hated being a spay, didn’t you?” I ask him, causing him to quirk an eyebrow in surprise. He shrugs after a while.

“Yes and no. I wanted to put an end to his terrible and cruel reign, wanted to save you and all the others that would eventually fall victim to his madness if he was allowed to continue on but I didn’t like the role, no. I value loyalty and trust above anything else. Once upon a time, before his madness spiraled out of control he took me in when I had nothing, when I was about to take my own life because everything seemed meaningless and I was hurting all the time. Just when I thought I couldn’t bear it any longer, this group of people with a charismatic leader took an interest in me, saw my talents and made me use them and respected me for character traits I have only ever been ridiculed for.” He speaks the last words so low I can barely hear them.

His raw honesty takes my breath away and my heart hurts for this man who just wanted someone to care about him and lost everything in the process. His head is bowed as if he wants to hide his face and whatever he is feeling right now. I reach out and brush a strand of silken hair from his eyes before I put my hand on his shoulder once again.

“I understand and I am so very sorry you had to go through all of this, life has dealt you unfair cards and you still did your best to save the world,” I say and smile encouragingly at him.

He draws in a deep breath and seems astonished by my words.

“Harry, you don’t understand; the things I have done, been forced to do, I am as much a monster as he was,” he chokes out.

My heart bleeds for him, his pain must be excruciating, his life has left him with so many wounds and scars he doesn’t even believe he deserves forgiveness. He seems to think that everything is his fault. I am aware that I don’t know the full story but my instincts tell me that he is a good man. Otherwise all these people, including me, he has been forced to hurt would not cause him such an amount of distress.

“No, that's not true. I can’t remember you from back then but these past couple of days you have shown me that you are gentle, caring and loyal. You are not a monster, you are my friend,” I conclude my passionate speech. I do understand where he is coming from but I can’t let him talk about himself like that without telling him he is wrong. He needs to know that he is worthy of forgiveness, friendship and understanding. Despite all of the things he has done in the past. Maybe because of all the things he has done because no matter the pain it had cost him and me in the end the light won over the darkness.

He turns his head and lets his hair fall into his face. I can tell that this is difficult to hear so I leave it alone for now.

“What happened when they captured us?” I ask him, eager to hear more about that fateful night. I lay down on my back and stare at the ceiling, sensing that he feels uncomfortable telling me more while I am looking directly at him. I am surprised about how open he already has been, telling me these very private things about himself.

“There were at least 30 Death Eaters, all of them circling us. I tried to shield us from their hexes but they were just too powerful. They managed to hurt us pretty bad in the process, but they made sure we stayed alive for the Dark Lord. In the end they apparated us to his dwelling, a castle ruin outside Inverness. He believes it belonged to his ancestors but I doubt that very much, he just yearned for a connection to the past like every orphan does I suppose,” Severus continues his explanation in a calmer manner. After a while the emotions seep from his voice and he speaks evenly but quiet, his voice almost a whisper but still rich. I close my eyes, thinking that it must have been a special treat listening to him explaining potions in class.

He continues with a description of that castle ruin, especially the dungeons where we had been violently thrown into a moldy cell and chained to the cold stone walls. His tale fits so well with the picture I have from my memory I start to tremble again. I know logically that I am safe and warm under a thick duvet but it feels like freezing cold air attacks my skin. I bite my lips in an effort not to whimper as images and feelings start to attack my mind again. I cannot focus on his explanations anymore and the coppery taste of blood invades my mouth.

“Shhh you are safe now, Harry, it's ok,” he mumbles right next to my ear. I want to answer him and tell him that I am fine and that he can continue but my mouth doesn’t comply and I cannot form the words. Instead the tears start falling again, one by one rolling down my cheeks. He catches them with his fingers, brushing them off my cheeks and from my lashes.

“I wish I could take the pain away, little one,” he murmurs. My heart skips a beat at the surprising use of a nickname but my thoughts get dragged back to that cell over and over again. So much blood and so much pain. It takes a long while until either of us speaks again.

“Why didn’t they take us to meet the Dark Lord immediately?” I manage to ask despite my raging emotions.

“Good question, one we asked ourselves back then as well. Being held captive for hours without meeting him wasn’t a good sign at all, it showed us that whatever he had in store for us craved some planning and that he was level headed enough to go through with whatever he had planned instead of giving into the wrath the he must have felt at my betrayal,” Severus continued and I can hear the worry and fear from the past reflected in his voice.

“What happened next?” I can’t help but push him to tell me more but at the same time I am apprehensive about what I am going to hear. That's why I put my index finger into my mouth to bite my nails, a habit I have had a while judging by my bitten down nails.

I have just put my finger in my mouth and listen with a beaded breath when he catches my hand in a strong grip.

“Stop it, for Merlin's sake,” he says sternly leaving me flustered and embarrassed, with a pink hue coloring my cheeks in the matter of minutes. I know biting nails is disgusting but I just can’t help it when I am nervous. I look down onto our interlaced fingers and I ponder why being held in a rather strong grip makes me feel safe after everything we have been through. Logically I should crave distance but instead it feels like I have been shattered into a million pieces, sharp shards ripping up my soul but when he touches me the pain becomes bearable.

“Maybe it is easier if I show you,” he says, leaving me completely confused.

Chapter Text

“Show me?” I ask him and furrow my brows. For a short moment I imagine Severus like an old-school spy in one of those muggle movies with a smart suit rigged with a camera in a buttonhole to film everything that happened. Ridiculous, of course but nonetheless sort of amusing.

“Remember when I told you that I am a natural Legilimens and am able to pick up on your emotions and thoughts if they are strong enough?” he pauses and looks at me until I nod before he continues. “There is a spell that you could use to enter my mind in a similar fashion which would allow me to show you what happened that night.” He lays down on his back and looks at the ceiling above us. He tells me how the spell works and I try to understand the concept of it.

“Sounds like you need to be a powerful wizard to perform that spell and I have never done this before, so how would I know what to do?” His suggestion seems not really feasible to me. Just because he has mastered mind magic doesn’t mean that I will be able to do the same. I don’t even have a wand and I am unsure if I am powerful enough to perform a complicated spell without it, let alone one that is so delicate. I worry my lips and sigh because this could have been a good way to learn the truth without asking a thousand questions.

“Harry, you are one of the most powerful wizards at your age I have ever met. Besides, you have already done it once and entered my mind. Back then I had my shields up and you still managed to get to a memory I never wanted you to see. If I lower my mental shields and push the memory forward it should be fairly easy for you to enter my mind to look at it.”

I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I am a powerful wizard? I have no idea why this surprises me but his praise warms a frozen part of my soul.

“Why did I enter your mind without permission?” This seems like an awful thing to do to someone and I can’t imagine why I would want to hurt anyone like that let alone Severus.

“This is a story for another time,” he says strictly but reaches for my hand to squeeze it reassuringly. “Let’s just say I provoked you and got what I deserved for being a git,” he chuckles, a sound that makes me feel safe.

“Even if I would be able to do the spell I still have no wand,” I finally point out, reluctant to show my hesitancy when it comes to wandless magic right after his praise. I don’t want to disappoint him.

“We could still try. I do believe in your abilities and I know that you are strong enough to master the spell even without a wand. But I don’t want to push you, if you don’t want to do it then I will explain what happened to the best of my ability,” his words are reassuring and warm with a hint of apprehension at the prospect of telling me about that night.

I am tempted to try just because I don’t want to have that conversation either.But on the other hand whatever led to our decision back then experiencing that memory caused me a whole lot of pain and I am sure that his feelings about that event must be similar. I am reluctant to make him relive it, maybe it is easier to talk about it then getting slung back into that cold cell where horrible things happened no matter how awkward that conversation will turn out to be?

“Is this dangerous? I don’t want to hurt you if something goes wrong…” I pause and sit up against the pillows. I hug my knees and look down at him. The room is still dark because neither of us bothered to turn on any lights. I can barely see his face like this, only the contours of his slim body.

He sits up as well, taking his wand from the nightstand and mumbles “Incendio foco”. A jet of flames erupts from his wand as he points it at the fireplace. It burns in the matter of seconds with bright flames. The flames create a mild light all around this part of the room, changing the atmosphere into homely.

“Mind magic can be very dangerous if it is used with malicious intent. This however, will be relatively safe. If I lower my shields there is no risk of you getting hurt while trying to enter my mind or you hurting me if you should use too much power. There is a difference between allowing you to view one memory and letting someone stroll through your mind unattended.” He explains his reasoning and his plan starts to make sense to me.

“Will you teach me how to do this?” I whisper and turn towards him. Our eyes connect and I gaze into his dark ones for a long while, searching for the faintest clue that he is uncomfortable with this despite his words. I don’t want him to feel obligated to do this just because of a warped notion of guilt.

He reaches out briefly and puts his hand against my cheek. I enjoy the warmth and softness of his palm until he lets go of me again.

“Of course, Harry. Trust me, okay?” he queries, uncertainty coloring his voice. I imagine he finds it difficult to ask for trust after what transpired between us. But as a matter of fact I feel the opposite, because of what happened I do trust him more than ever. He is not only a friend but he saved my life too. It came at such a high cost, not only for me but for him too. A loyal man like him, it must have ripped him apart to be forced to do what he did knowing that I wasn’t ready. He still did what needed to be done which is something that I respect. If I had been captured with a weaker man none of us would have made it out of there alive.

“Always,” I reply with confidence, causing a small smile to tug at the edges of his mouth. When he smiles his whole face transforms, becomes softer and younger. I really do hope he will have reason to smile more in the future.

“Alright,” he clears his throat, “because you don’t have a wand we need to make sure we create a connection between your mind and mine. Usually this is achieved by saying the words of the spell and then the wand acts like an enhancer, building that bridge between minds. If you have practiced the spell and mastered mind magic there will be no need for either a wand or any other kind of enhancer for the connection,” he says.

I listen to his explanation with interest, thinking that I really want to learn more about mind magic, it seems to be an interesting subject.

“You can borrow a book from my library later,” he answers directly to my thoughts causing me to draw in a sharp breath. What the hell.

“Sorry,” he says and shakes his head. “I have already put my shields down. They do not only protect my mind from an outside force entering, they do also protect my sanity by not letting others thoughts and feelings invade my mind at random. As a natural legilimens it would drive me crazy eventually and aside from that I value privacy so I try not to eavesdrop if I can help it.” He sounds a bit ashamed as he says that and I put my hand on top of his.

“You have a wonderful gift, don’t feel bad for it,” I murmur and try a shaky smile. Nobody likes to share their thoughts without their consent but as I see it he tries his best not to use his gift to spy on others which is an honorable effort. It must be tempting, at least I know I would be tempted to sneak a peek at times.

“Put your hands around my face and look into my eyes,” he instructs camly and waits for me to comply. All of a sudden my palms are sweaty and I try to discreetly wipe them on the sheets.

I shuffle forwards and fold my legs underneath me while facing him. He smiles and mirrors my posture, the soles of our feet almost touching. Slowly I reach out and put my hands on his cheeks. Our eyes connect and my heartbeat accelerates nervously before it settles into an almost painfully intense rhythm. I am glad for the dim light created by the fire, hoping it hides the blush that starts to creep upwards from the nape of my neck. Sitting like this and gazing into his eyes feels intimate and I am tempted to once again lean my forehead against his.

“Do it,” he whispers almost inaudibly and this time I am only a little bit surprised that he once again answered to a thought. I’ll comply and when our foreheads touch it feels familiar and comforting.

“Adjust your breathing to mine,” he continues with whispered instructions, his deep voice and warm breath sending shivers down my spine. I try to mirror his breathing pattern and minutes tick by until I lose track of time. My eyes grow heavy and I am about to close them when he touches the scar on my forehead.

“Keep them open, little one,” he says softly and I nod and refocus my attention on his eyes. After a while I can identify different colors: dark brown, black and golden specs. His eyes seem like a whole ocean, inviting and warm. I could drown in them if he’d just let me. There is a buzzing around us but I pay it no mind.

“Now,” he forms the word with his lips but I am pretty sure no sound escapes his mouth.

“Legilimens,” I murmur and give fully into the feeling of being drawn towards him, into him.

When I enter his mind the feeling is extraordinary. I have never felt anything like it. It feels like I imagine it feels like jumping off a cliff. At first there is solid ground but suddenly there is nothing but for an exhilarating second you are filled with pumping adrenaline, freedom and a joyous rush. Then it feels like being welcomed into a warm embrace, softness and comfort. It is dark at first and I look around cautiously. Slowly the darkness around me takes form, the mood changes and suddenly I am standing in a cell. It is dark but there is moonlight streaming through various holes in the wall. It is freezing and I try not to shatter my teeth. I expect to see everything through Severus eyes but instead I see both of us, chained to the stone wall next to each other.

Severus hair looks dirty and lank, blood has crusted on his wrists where the chains sit. Past- Harry is slumped over and groans now and again.

We are dirty and bloody, clearly we have been in an intense fight and we were not on the winning side. I have no idea how severe our injuries are but Past-Harry’s groans seem like bad news and Severus' leg has a weird angle that makes my stomach twist when I look at it.

The wind howls through the cracks in the fasade and somewhere there is a steady drop drop drop of water.

“Harry,” he croaks and waits a couple of seconds before repeating his call. It seems like minutes until Past-Harry lifts his head a bit in response.

“We need to get you out of here, he can’t….,” Past- Severus slumps over when a coughing fit hits him. His rattling breath and wet cough make me shudder.

“He can’t get his evil hands on you, we need to get you out of here,” he finishes his sentence when the coughing subsides. Past-Severus receives only a blank stare from Past-Harry in response.

My heart beats painfully as I watch the exchange between Severus and Past-me. It looks like Past-Harry has given up. The scar on his forehead is an angry red, protruding from the skin underneath, not at all like the faint scar I saw this morning in the bathroom mirror. His eyes are vacant and empty. It feels weird watching my past-self like this. My movie analogy was not so wrong after all because that’s exactly what it feels like. Logically I know this is me but I can’t feel it, I should be scared and outraged to see that I have been in such bad shape, injured and broken. Instead all my feelings connect to Severus. Seeing him like this makes me want to curl up and scream.

I force myself to move closer, eyeing the stone floor and the surroundings. There is not much that we could have used as an aid to escape and I realize once more how dire our situation had been.

“Harry,” Severus says loudly, startling me and for a short moment it feels like the Severus in the memory can see me and my pulse quickens. But then he moves his head and looks at past-me.

“It’s over, Professor,” Past-me whispers, sounding like his throat is filled with sandpaper, struggling to push the words forward.

The Professor shakes his head violently, sending him right into another coughing fit. When it subsides and he lifts his bowed head I notice blood seep from the corner of his mouth. I know that this is a memory but I can’t stop myself from crouching down next to him. My eyes scan his body and I notice something that his black robes have been hiding until now. He has a stomach wound, blood wetting the dark fabric. There is so much blood, it is all round him, underneath him and that's when I start to panic.

“Severus,” I croak while tears well up in my eyes. Past-Severus looks straight ahead at past-me, seemingly trying to connect their eyes. Gosh why didn’t I do something, anything to help him? He is bleeding to death and past-me just stares vacantly ahead, like it doesn’t concern him? I want to grab my past self and shake some sense into that boy.

I sob in anguish when past-Severus presses his hand onto his stomach, coloring it blood red in the matter of seconds. It feels like I can’t bear it any longer, I can’t watch another second of this nightmare. I want to leave so badly my whole body trembles violently and suddenly it feels like someone pushes me hard and I topple over, closing my eyes in sheer terror.

When I open them again I look directly into dark concerned eyes.I am almost sitting in Severus lap. He has his arms around me and rubs my back in slow circles. The relief is so strong and all encompassing I close my eyes and bury my head on his shoulder. His grip tightens and he puts his other hand on my waist. For the fracture of a second I think he is about to push med away but he doesn’t, instead he pulls me closer still.

I feel his heartbeat, reassuringly steady.

“This was so horrible….I can’t,” I stammer, still pressing my face into the silken fabric of his pyjamas.

“Yes it was dangerous and frightening but Harry it is also only a memory. It can’t hurt you, you are safe now,” he whispers into my hair.

I lift my head and look at him in surprise. I couldn’t care less about past-me right now and shake my head.

“Sev, it felt like being ripped apart seeing you like this. I just couldn’t bear it a second longer and it seemed like I had just given up. I did nothing to help you, you were bleeding to death. My friend was bleeding to death and I did nothing to save you. There are a hundred things I should have done and instead I hung there like a pig waiting for slaughter,” I can’t keep the distaste I feel for myself out of my voice while I rant.

“Harry, listen,” he says, sounding bewildered. He moves his hand to my shoulder, his fingers against the naked stretch of skin on my neck feel satiny.

“First of all, you did nothing wrong back then. You had been tortured with the Cruciatus Curse more times by then than any human being should be able to withstand without losing their mind. There were dementors all around that castle ruin, sucking the life force out of us whenever they patrolled near the dungeons. Secondly, as I said before, we weren’t friends back then. Our relationship had always been complicated but the weeks prior to that night we came to an understanding and accepted each other as trusted allies. The anguish you have felt watching that memory is probably not the same feeling you had back then even though I know that you cared for me as much as you did for any other Order member.” Severus explains and I bite my lip when I hear about our past-relationship.

My lower lip trembles as I realize that he has been telling me the truth all along. We have not been friends in the past even though I hoped all along that he lied about that part. Loneliness washes through me at the complete abandonment I am feeling right now. I am indeed completely alone in this world, why would he suddenly start caring for me when the most part of our relationship had been complicated and shaped by misunderstandings and animosity?

“Don’t cry, please,” he brushes the tears from my cheeks gently. “All of this is in the past, we are here right now, safe and sound. Friends, remember?” He reminds me of the deal we made. I am astonished that he still wants to honor it and can’t help but smile.

”Why did you call me Sev just now?” He asks, causing me to bite down on my lip. I feel a bit embarrassed and look away to avoid meeting his questioning eyes. Instead I decide to answer a question with a question.

”It felt like I was pushed out of your mind, was that you?” The question hangs in the air for a short moment but then he accepts the change of subject and nods in confirmation.

”Yes you were getting so upset and I was worried about you,” he tells me and rubs my back again. This statement makes me smile, causing me to grin goofily with tear stains on my cheeks.

”Do you think you will be able to watch the rest?”

I think it through for a while, but the need to see what happened with my own eyes is greater than the terror it causes. I explain it to him until he is satisfied that I can handle it without another freakout.

This time around it takes almost no time at all to connect our minds. I am already enveloped by his warmth and gentle touches, wanting to melt into him to forget the loneliness and despair is just a logical next step. I do not land in the memory where I left it but what seems to be a bit later. Past-Harry and Severus are in midst of a heated discussion. I notice that Past-Harry looks a little more alive, actually he looks pissed off.

”This is total bullshit and you know it. I will not let you empty the last of your magical reserves to free me just to abandon you. If we can’t come up with a better plan then we both die tonight. Gonna make sure I’ll take as many of the fuckers with me as I can in the process,” past-me says sternly with angry eyes. Whoa.

Past-Severus laughs a bitter, unhappy laugh.

”Do you know that you are one of the most annoying people I have ever met? You Gryffindors and your hero complex, can’t even let a man die in peace. I have lived on borrowed time for years. I should have been killed the night you got your scar. Would you just for once see reason?” Severus whispers agitatedly.

Then Past-Harry actually puts his tongue out in response which causes Severus to groan dejectedly. After that silence settles between them until Past-Severus takes a deep breath.

“There is another way but the chances that we succeed with it are very slim. It involves ancient blood magic. It is a spell that easily could go wrong and kill us both but if it succeeds….” Past-Severus pauses and I can tell that my past self is interested by the way he focuses his attention on Severus.

“What do we need to do?” My past self asks firmly and I am a little awestruck how brave I once was. Nowadays not so much anymore with my panic attacks and all that.

Severus launches into an explanation that makes my head spin. The spell is all about combining two wizards magic, binding it into one single determined force. It seems that the spell offers tremendous power for a short while, it even has regenerative properties it will probably aid in healing the wounds and restoring the magic reserves that were emptied in the fight.

“If this spell can be the source for such power why has Voldemort not used it yet,” Past-Harry asks, causing Severus to flinch.

“Not many know about this spell, I am not sure he does. I learned about it during my apprenticeship. My Master's old russian aunt told me one night about it. In Russia the old spells and teachings are much more common knowledge than in the wizarding societies of Europe. I guess because many of those spells require things that are frowned upon or even cause for criminal charges here.” He takes a deep breath and wipes at the blood still slowly seeping from the corner of his mouth. Severus tries to change positions but groans in pain as soon as he moves and gives up.

“Remnants of the spell I am talking about can still be found nowadays, for example in bonding spells for couples. However their origin is much darker and less….romantic.” His words hang in the air for a moment.

“I don’t care if the spell is a dark one if it means we get out of here and have a chance at fighting that noseless bastard one more day,” Past-Harry says and bites his lips.

“As I said it is blood magic so in order for the spell to work one of us needs to be a virgin since virgin blood has particular properties. So, Potter, do tell, are you?” He asks bluntly, causing Past-Harry to draw a sharp breath while I do the same. In the matter of seconds Past-Harry’s face is red and I can’t help but feel uncomfortable as well. I notice how ridiculous I look when I blush like that and groan involuntarily. Past-Harry remains silent and just stares at Severus with wide eyes.

“Well, who would have thought the fate of the world will one day hang on how successful you have been with your teenage flirts,” Severus says menacingly and I stare at him. Why is he so mean? I get that we haven’t been friends but why does he make this so hard? I realize that I know the answer. He didn’t want to do this so he tried to scare me off that plan.

“I am,” Past-Harry confesses and looks nauseous. I have no idea if I noticed it back then but watching the memory now I see how Severus pales, looking like he expected a different answer.

“How would we perform the spell?” Past-Harry asks and gets a lengthy explanation about blood magic, ancient rituals and the binding of magic. The spell has two parts: first the chanting of a latin verse while having a droplet of each other's blood on our tongues and then the second part when the actual binding of the magic occurs which is achieved by taking the wizards virginity. Holy hell now everything makes sense.

Suddenly I feel a pull and the memory starts to fade away. But I am not ready. I want to know how we freed each other from the chains to do the spell and how we finally escaped. There are too many unanswered questions. So I fight against the pull and grab onto Past-Harry’s shoulder with all my power. The cell spins around me and pictures fly by like I am caught in a fast forward.

“Damn you stop it,” I yell and everything comes to a screeching halt. The memory has progressed and I am staring at Severus and my past-self entangled in an embrace. I stare at my own naked back pondering for a moment if I am really that scrawny. Severus hands wander all over Past-Harry’s body, cupping and squeezing his bottom. Past-Harry breathes raggedly and groans when Severus attaches his mouth to his neck and sucks. I want to look away, it almost feels like I shouldn’t be looking at this. I have no idea what I felt at that exact moment in the past but the thought of being that close to him and to feel his hands on my naked skin makes me breathless and I suddenly feel hot and cold at the same time.

I stare transfixed at the scene in front of me not able to look away. My eyes follow their every move, grinding hips, fingers caressing Past-Harry’s back gliding lower and lower and then disappearing between his buttocks. This time Past-Harry's groan seems pained and I can see Severus stop his movements. My mouth is dry and I want to flee but at the same time I don’t want to wonder anymore and crave to know how exactly this transpired. I never get the chance to satisfy that morbid curiosity because the pull gets stronger until a forceful push slams into me causing everything to spin violently. I have to close my eyes because I feel like the contents of my stomach are on their way upwards. When I open my eyes I am laying outside of the bed on the floor. My shoulder is hurting and there is a burning sensation in the wound on my chest.

Severus looks at me, there are two red spots on his cheekbones and his eyes are blazing. His hair is in disarray as he bows forward to look down on me.

“What the hell do you think you are doing?” He asks icily, reminding me of the man I watched in the memory. I have no idea what I did wrong.

“I didn’t do anything, I just watched the memory as you said,” I try to explain. Have I hurt him unintentionally when I entered his mind?

I can tell how angry he is, his eyes shoot poisonous spears in my direction. When I try to sit up and grunt as the pain hits me he doesn’t even take notice.

“You know what I all but had it with your entitlement, thinking you are allowed to act however you please no matter the consequences because you are the damn saviour of the wizarding world.” Severus almost yells at me and I scoot backwards while I try to hold my aching shoulder. I must have landed on it. My lips are quivering, I have no idea why he says these things. They do not make sense to me at all.

“I am so sorry, I am so sorry,” I chant in panic, I want him to believe that I did not hurt him on purpose but I have no idea what I did wrong. When he doesn’t answer I keep going, desperate to make him understand.

“I never wanted to hurt you. You said I couldn’t, that there was no risk and I just watched the memory as you told me. Please, I would never hurt you on purpose,” I beg and wring my hands. For a moment his face looks like a stone mask before his features soften somewhat and he takes a deep breath.

“Why did you take control of the memory like that?” He asks, his voice sounds accusing but also curious. I have no idea what he is talking about.

“I didn’t. How would I even do that? I just watched and suddenly there was this pull but I wanted to see the whole memory and then it started fast-forwarding. I thought that you tried to show me something or speed up the process further,” I’ll explain in a shaky voice.

His reaction leaves me feeling utterly helpless. I don’t understand why he said those things about me and what has gone so terribly wrong. My heart breaks at the thought that with all the trust that I put into him he doesn’t trust me at all and thinks I would hurt him on purpose. I’ll try to stand up but when I move it feels like a knife slices through my shoulder and I sink down again yelping in pain.

Severus' face pales and he leaves the bed to crouch down before me.

“Harry, are you hurt?” The ice has left his voice and instead he sounds broken somehow. I flinch away when he touches my throbbing shoulder. He doesn’t remove his hand though but instead starts chanting words in a foreign language and my eyes widen as green light emanates from his palms. At first I feel nothing but then the pain gradually lessens and is replaced by a feeling of peace and safety. The feeling settles right against the dark, wounded parts of my soul and takes away some of the despair I am feeling.

“I promised to never hurt you again and here we are once again,” he mumbles, hiding his face behind a black veil.

“Well apparently I did hurt you as well so we are even. But will you please explain what happened and why you are so angry with me?” I plead, right now I can’t live with any more mysteries. I need to know what the hell is going on.

Severus sits back on the heels of his feet and sighs. He bites his lips thoughtfully and pushes his hair back. I have no idea what he is thinking but he straightens his back and his expression looks determined.

“I didn’t fast forward the memory, you did. I was about to pull you out after you learned about the spell and why we decided to go forth with that plan. Normally it is fairly easy to eject someone from your mind, like blowing on a dandelion. The reason is that the mind is able to identify what is self and what is other, so its natural reaction is to fight off the intruder,” he explains seriously.

“Like an immune system,” I interject and earn an approving nod.

“Yes exactly, Harry. Already the first time took quite some effort but I chalked it up to having my feelings in turmoil. But this time it was impossible, I could feel you were there inside of me but I couldn’t find you like you were everywhere and nowhere at all. Then the memory started fast forwarding, I thought by your doing. I didn’t want you to see that, wanted you to spare the gruesome details. But in all honesty I felt ashamed and that's why I gathered so much of my power and pushed,” his voice sounds strangled.

“You thought I betrayed your trust,” I whisper while tears well up in my eyes. I hate that nothing is left inside of me of that brave boy in the memory. Instead I can’t seem to stop crying like a child. I understand that it must have felt horrible to lose control of your own mind. I just feel heartbroken that he immediately leapt to the conclusion that I must have done this on purpose. I stand up from the floor and straighten my back.

His eyes darken with indecipherable emotion but he doesn’t reply. He doesn’t need to for me to know that was exactly what he thought.

“So much for friendship then,” I say bitterly and turn around. There is no point in pretending we will be able to have a proper friendship if this is what he thinks of me. Hatred against Past-Harry wells up inside of me, once again his actions dictate my present even though he seemed more like a stranger than anyone else. I know I have been the one doing all these things: saving the wizarding world, fighting the Dark Lord, doing everything to win even sacrificing my own virginity. But I don’t relate to it all, thinking about it has me trembling to my very core.

Before I can fully turn around he grabs me hand and holds it in a tight grip.

“Please forgive me,” he says softly, “I am not good at friendship. It has been so many years since I last could call someone a friend and even longer since I have trusted someone,” he discloses.

I turn around haltingly, finally meeting his eyes. I am still upset but his apology wraps around the hurt and sorrow inside of me like a comfortable blanket. I understand his reasoning and I see that he is just as shattered and broken inside like I am. When I don’t reply for a while he stands up as well, looking pained. I step forward and hug him, causing him to take a shaky breath. We stand like this for a long while, his arms encircle me and his hands come to rest on the naked skin of my back. Involuntarily my mind wanders to what I have seen in his memory, there are still so many questions unanswered.

“You said you wanted to spare me the gruesome details but not all of it…,” I pause and search for words, “not all of it was horrible right?” I have no idea what I am asking him but somehow I want confirmation that in all of the wrongness and despair there were still specks of light.

He steps away and holds me at arm length distance. He searches my face with troubled eyes for a long while until he finally exhales and his shoulders slump.

“It seems like we are having this conversation after all,” he states.

Chapter Text

After that my stinging eyes and an almost jaw-breaking yawn alert us to the fact that it is still the middle of the night approaching the early hours of morning and we haven’t gotten much sleep. I rub my eyes tiredly and look at him. I do want to have that conversation but I am not sure if I am up to it right now.

As usual Severus is perceptive and suggests that we first get a couple of hours of sleep before we dive into the more traumatic parts of the night we got captured by the Dark Lord. I couldn’t agree more but my desire to go back to the sofa is nonexistent. I am about to turn around to go back and lay down on the makeshift guest bed when he once again closes his fingers around my upper arm. This time the grip is not bruising but gentle, almost cautious.

“You can stay here with me if you want, Harry. I know the sofa is less than ideal and the bed is big enough for both of us,” he says and smiles at me softly. Once again I am astonished at how his expression changes his appearance so completely. As intimidating as he is when he is angry, as gentle and welcoming can he be when he is not. I think he is captivating and interesting and despite the fact that he is not classically handsome it is hard not to notice his elegant features and dark eyes. My eyes dart to his lips, wondering what it must have been like to kiss him.

With my mind in the gutter it takes me a while to answer, causing him to clear his throat and fidget with the hem of his pyjama top. Finally, I decide a simple nod while suffice and sit back down on my side of the bed while he walks to the other side and folds the duvet aside.

“Do you want me to put the fire out?” He asks and points at the flames that by now have died down somewhat.

“No, I like it that way, if you don’t mind,” I say and bite my lip. I don’t want to sound immature but at the same time the thought of sleeping in a dark room causes my heartbeat to quicken. I like that I am able to look around and see the room as well as Severus. He nods in response and climbs into bed and under the covers. He doesn’t say anything else but closes his eyes and folds his hands on his chest. He looks peaceful and relaxed like that, with strands of black hair framing his face and covering his pillow.

I fidget nervously for a bit, unable to find a good position. Falling asleep accidently in the same bed was one thing but this sleeping arrangement has me on edge a bit. I wonder if I will be able to not invade his personal space while sleeping and hope that I will keep the drooling to an absolute minimum. While I toss and turn I find my disregarded shirt, a happy sigh escapes me when my fingers close around the fabric. Putting it on again dims the feelings of vulnerability and makes it easier to finally settle in.

When I find a comfortable position and hug my pillow, I am not able to completely suppress a small and satisfied grunt. A low chuckle from the other side of the bed tells me that he has heard it and I press my eyes shut in embarrassment.

“Good night, little one,” he whispers softly, causing the small hairs on my arm to raise.

“Good night, Sev,” I reply, smiling at our use of affectionate nicknames. We may have a long way to go to trust in our friendship but I think that whatever animosity from the past was still present has now completely vanished.

When I wake up and open my eyes I have to squint because the sunlight streaming through the windows is almost blinding. I feel a bit disoriented until I realize where I am and find my glasses on the nightstand next to me. The bed is empty but I hear Severus rummaging through the kitchen. It smells like coffee, bacon and eggs, causing my mouth to water. I am really hungry and can’t wait to get some breakfast. I leave the bed and walk slowly towards the small kitchen, observing Severus as he roasts slices of toast and puts scrambled eggs onto a plate. The table is already set and I can’t help but notice how much care he puts into these small things, like making sure the table is set with napkins and a vase of flowers.

When he turns around he greets me with a small smile and a nod. He is already dressed and the scent of pine and lemon as he walks by me tells me that he has probably already showered. He pauses right next to me and hands me a cup of coffee. I accept the cup from his outstretched hands and can’t help but smile when our finger’s brush.

“Good morning,” he says before sitting down at the table, casting an expectant look upon me. I stay rooted to the spot debating whether I should hop into the shower as well, it feels weird standing here in my pj’s while he is as always immaculately dressed in grey woolen pants and a black long-sleeved shirt that hugs his slim frame. “Breakfast?” He inquires, and points towards the food on the table. The look he gives me is quizzical until I finally sit down and join him.

We eat in silence, Severus reads a newspaper called the Daily Prophet while he nibbles at some toast and slowly eats a grapefruit. He lifts his cup of black coffee to his mouth to take a sip every once in a while. I notice that despite the fact that he prepared eggs and bacon, fried tomatoes and sausages he doesn’t touch any of it. I wonder if he just can’t stomach a hearty breakfast but remember that even at yesterday's afternoon tea he barely ate one of the scones we had baked. No wonder that he is so slim, his wrists protruding from his long sleeved shirt are bony and the black fabric is hugging his frame tightly, showing off a narrow waist and flat stomach. I ponder if he will become angry in case I’ll ask about it but we are friends and I worry about his lack of appetite.

“The scrambled eggs are delicious,” I say around a mouthful of fluffy and well spiced eggs. He lifts his head and smiles at me in response.

“Thank you for preparing such a nice breakfast,” I continue before he can go back to his reading.

“No need to thank me, Harry, I am glad you like it,” he answers and takes yet another sip of black coffee.

“Don’t you like eggs and bacon?” I push further, hoping my question seems innocent enough. I don’t want him to feel uncomfortable or under scrutiny but I am curious about his behaviour.

“Not particularly, no,” he shrugs it off and lowers his head again towards the newspaper. Some article is holding his attention captive and I let it go for now. The opportunity to ask more personal questions will certainly arise later on but we already have one difficult conversation ahead of us and there is no need to stir up feelings that might be negative out of sheer curiosity.
The day progresses slowly after breakfast. I do finally get to have a lengthy shower which makes me feel refreshed and Severus offers to find the book about mind magic he has told me about. While he once again tends to his correspondence I start to read the thick volume with purple binding. The binding feels soft against my skin and I find myself caressing the book's spine while trying to comprehend the information I am reading. The language is some older version of english with unfamiliar words. Sometimes when I can’t gauge their meaning I have to ask Severus. He interrupts his writing every time without complaining and explains to me what I don’t understand. Severus is patient and calm when he explains these things and even ten follow up questions don’t really seem to bother him. Instead it almost seems as if he enjoys it and I wonder if he misses teaching. I can imagine that it would have been nice having him as a teacher, I always find that I am able to learn more from calm people who explain thoroughly.

Time seems to tick by slowly and I can’t help but observe Severus from underneath lowered eyelashes. When he is done with his correspondence he grabs one of the potion magazines from the small coffee table between the armchairs and settles into what seems to be a comfortable position to read for a while. I can’t keep my attention on my own reading material instead I wonder when he will bring up what transpired between us the night we were caught. Seeing his memory has only scratched the surface and there are so many questions burning in my mind.

“You are staring at me,” Severus says after a while and lifts his head to look into my eyes. I have to swallow at the sudden scrutiny, I wasn’t aware it was that obvious.

“Sorry,” I mumble embarrassedly, trying not to blush because I know now thanks to his memory what it looks like when I do and I can’t say it fills me with confidence.

“It’s ok, I guess it is time to talk. Sorry for stalling,” he replies and surprises me with the fact that he actually admits it. I just reply with a curt nod, not knowing what to say but agreeing with his assessment that it is time to talk about what transpired between us that fateful night. A part of me still thinks it would be easier to view the rest of the memory but I do understand his reluctance to invite me back into his mind given what happened earlier. We still have no idea how I even managed to take control of the memory like that and with me not able to control this I have no way of promising him it won’t happen again. Instead I prepare myself for an uncomfortable conversation.

He stands abruptly and starts walking between the fireplace and the armchairs, his arms folded on his back. His posture is rigid and he frowns, apparently he doesn’t look forward to this either. At the same time I have this urgent need to know what happened in more detail. The whole thing is weird, I watched the memory and I know that I am not a virgin anymore that we have had sex but at the same time the thought is foreign. That's why I need to hear about it even though I do realize it is not the same as remembering the experience.

“What do you want to know?” he asks and comes to stand behind my chair. I can’t see his face right now and I suspect he doesn’t want me to. Suddenly my mouth is dry and my palms are sweaty. I have no idea how to talk to him about this because this is such a delicate subject on many levels. I am sure he carries the weight of his own trauma with him every day even though he hides it well.

Knowing that we have had sex should make it easier but somehow it doesn’t, instead it makes me feel vulnurable and exposed. Something happened to my body that I had no real control over even though it was a consensual decision. But the decision has not been born out of love, attraction and romance but out of fear for our lives. We were both forced into something neither of us wanted to do.

Deep down I know that I wasn’t ready to take that step, with anyone, let alone my Potions Professor, a person who up to that point had been an ally at best but not my friend. Somehow it would make me feel better if there had been some romantic interest between us, a flirtation, anything that would make this feel less forced. I decide I want to ask him even though the chances are slim given the honest and righteous man he seems to be.

“Before we had…,” I pause and take a deep breath before I continue, “before we had sex has there ever been any romantic interest between us?” I bite my lower lip after I rushed the last part of the question. He doesn’t answer right away and I listen to his breathing until he does.

“Harry…,” he pauses and by the way he says my name I can tell the question surprised him. I do understand that it is a strange thing to ask but somehow I try to find a way to make sense of it all, to feel more in control of the events that have transpired that night. He rounds the armchair and crouches down right before me, bringing him down to eye level with me.

His eyes are filled with emotions and his expression tells me that he is worried and apprehensive but I also notice the warmth residing in his eyes. They are so dark right now they look black, the golden specs almost invisible.

“I would have never….I don’t look at my students like that….you have to understand that these were extraordinary circumstances that forced us to do something that should have never happened,” he replies and appears to be flustered and nervous.

Deep down I have known what the answer would be but it still feels like someone slices my heart into pieces. I know that it is irrational but if there would have been a spark between us prior to our capture it would have made everything so much better. Because then I could have created a narrative around our tragic attraction that finally culminated in making love that night to save our lives. It would have been like a movie, tragic and heroic. That way I could have convinced myself that my virginity wasn’t just wasted and thrown away. Now I just feel hollow, used and broken. Right now I can’t even look at him so I cover my face with my hands. I realize that no matter what I do I will never get my virginity back.I feel broken because no matter what comes in the future, that first time will always be tainted by darkness and pain.

I sob in anguish because there is so much that I have lost and sacrificed, not remembering all of it makes it somehow even worse. I expect him to touch me but he doesn’t, which I am grateful for. I try to control my emotions and calm down by focusing on my surroundings: the plush armchair I am sitting on, the soft sounds Severus makes while breathing and the rustling of fabric when he shifts.It is probably uncomfortable crouching before me like that. It takes a while but finally I lift my eyes to look at him. In his eyes I see the same pain reflecting back, reminding me that he has sacrificed a whole lot as well. Still, here we are: friends. I reach out to touch his cheek gently and his features soften minutely.

When I retract my hand he stands once again and walks back to his chair to sit down on the edge, hands folded in his lap.

“Ready to continue,” he asks in a whisper and I take a deep breath and nod. I do hope he doesn’t expect me to ask more questions because I have not the energy for it, all I can do is try to stop the tears still streaming down my cheeks. I have no idea if I have been a crier before but it certainly is annoying how easily they flow from my eyes.

“When I suggested that plan I never thought that we would be able to go through with it. Frankly, it surprised me to hear that we could.I thought you had lost your virginity to one of those fangirls who have been on your tails all the time,” he says and leans back in the chair.

“Fangirls?” I squeak. What the hell does he mean by that? But he only waves his hand like he tries to chase away an annoying fly. I let it go for now because I want him to continue with the important part.

“I knew the second you told me that you were a virgin that you would not let that plan go. You were determined to save both of us or die trying,” he sighs and shakes his head.

I have nothing to say so I just shrug detachedly.

“In the end I tried to justify this by telling myself that you were almost 17, an adult in the eyes of the wizarding community and our plan would not only save us but so many others. But as soon as….” he pauses and swallows visibly. I take a closer look and notice his hands shaking, which he tries to hide.

“As soon as what?” I prompt him to continue, looking at him expectantly. This feels like pulling teeth.

“As soon as we got started, you were….erm….naked on my lap...I realized that you weren’t ready for this. I could tell that your sexual experiences had been very limited up to that point, I am guessing making out with someone was about the extent of it. Your whole body shook in my arms,” his voice grows lower and lower, “it was so cold and I had no means to keep you warm. All I ever wanted was to protect you and I knew that what I was supposed to do would hurt you in a way no one should ever….” he pauses and takes a deep breath. I realize how traumatic this must have been for him, how devastating to do something like that to someone you swore to protect.

I lean over to bridge the distance between our armchairs and place my hand over his shaking ones. His fingers are cold and I rub my thumb over the back of his hand in small circles. He has comforted me so many times but right now I can tell that he is struggling. I feel bad for making him relive this whole nightmare just to help me cope with everything. At first he doesn’t respond at all and stares blankly ahead. But after a while he turns his hand to put his palm upwards, intertwining our fingers. The silence between us is thick, like molasses and the ticking of the grandfather clock next to the book shelf is disturbingly loud. I don’t break the silence because I want to give him the space to tell this story at his own pace, no matter how long it takes or how awkward it makes me feel. After a couple of minutes my position becomes really strenuous so I pull my hand back and settle back into my own chair. The movement seems to disturb his thoughts because he suddenly focuses his gaze once again on me and continues his explanation.

“I knew that there was no way we could pull this off without you getting hurt. Having intercourse with someone needs copious amounts of trust especially if one partner is a virgin. No one in their right mind would hop straight to anal penetration, it’s like disregarding a hundred steps that should come before that,” Severus clears his throat.

His statement makes me smile despite the seriousness of the subject. I imagine he is a very considerate and gentle partner under the right circumstances but I suspect his history of being a spy has not given him many opportunities to show this side of him to someone. My smile seems to confuse him and he turns his head to avoid my eyes.

“I was dead set on making this as easy for you as possible, my goal was to make you feel at least some pleasure so that it might cancel out some of the pain. However, until you were naked in my lap I had no idea if that would even be feasible because in order for that plan to work you’d need at least some preference for the male gender,” he says, his voice sounds hoarse and bright red spots appear on his high cheekbones.

“I do,” I reply curtly, causing him to give me a long look.

“I know,” he whispers breathyly. There is a weird sensation in my stomach and I have no idea why my hands go numb until I realize I have pressed them into fists so hard that my knuckles have whitened. I slowly uncurl my fists and wiggle my fingers discreetly.

“How?” I ask in a murmur, I am not even sure he has even heard me. Just when I decide it was stupid to ask he starts speaking again. This time the volume of his voice matches mine, his words barely audible. He sits an arm length distance away and yet I can almost feel his breath on my skin. The room that has had a comfortable temperature all day feels suddenly too warm and my clothes feel like a heavy blanket on my itching skin.

I listen to his voice, in my mind I follow the low rumble across the small coffee table between us littered with magazines and an abandoned teacup, travel on the soundwaves all the way up to thin crimson lips and search for the tip of a pink tongue inside a warm mouth. I can’t tell where his tale begins and ends, my eyes slip shut as I listen to his description of pleasure and pain, of naked bodies pressed together first cold then growing hotter and hotter, warmth created by friction. As I listen to him it all blurs together, the pictures he creates and the pictures in my head, his memory or mine I can’t tell.

The small hairs on my arm raise when his voice recreates something we shared, a moment of connection, forced or not. He is not explicit but he doesn’t shy away from details either. Once in a while my mind supplies a snapshot matching his story. He tells me about preparing me, trying to get me as ready as possible and my mind provides the memory of slick fingers pressing inside of me, deeper and deeper until they brush against something inside me that makes me see stars. He speaks softly about shared pain but also shared pleasure and my mind supplies a snippet of a memory: our bodies slick with sweat, me writhing against him while he massages our strained erections. The images in my mind and the imaginary he creates have my heart beating painfully inside my chest and sweat gathering at the small of my back. His voice sounds like molten chocolate and I just want to drown in it, want to be embraced by it, forever safe and protected.

It is a tale about a traumatic event but it is also a tale about finding light inside complete darkness, about unspeakable pain and loneliness but also about softness, comfort and a deep connection. Listening to him lifts the weight that has settled on my soul since I saw his memory little by little because I understand that I am not alone in this. Whatever we did back then to save the world created a connection between us, something so profound that not even memory loss could erase it. Right then, with closed eyes I decide I am done feeling bad about this, griefing for things that I lost instead I want to embrace what I gained.

When he reaches the part when we completed the ritual it feels like something inside of me snaps, like I just can’t take the pressure anymore and something gives away under it. I whisper his name and a surge of energy rushes through me, so powerful it feels like the ground underneath my feet is shaking. I jolt from the trancelike state I have been in when this weird energy leaves my body and my heart stops for a moment when I take in the surroundings. Some of the landscape paintings on the wall behind the dining room table are scattered on the floor. The coffee table is on the other side of the room and the remains of the teacup shattered at my feet. Our chairs have moved and are now placed directly next to each other. It looks like a tornado has swept through this cabin. The scary part however is the string of golden light that connects our hands. When did we join hands again and what happened? All I can remember is his beautiful voice telling me about what happened that night and my mind popping memories like microwave popcorn. When I meet his eyes I can tell he is just as surprised and possibly scared as me. He looks disheveled, strands of black hair frame his face and his lips look like he has had a serious make out session. His shirt, priorly tucked away in his trousers is now ridden upwards, revealing a toned stomach with a trail of black hair from his navel towards his crotch.

He touches his lips gingerly and that’s when I realize that my own lips feel sensitive, like I have been eating spicy food.

I can’t take my eyes from the golden string connecting us and his eyes follow mine and widen at the discovery I have already made. I have no idea what this is but it does not feel hostile or dangerous. Quite the opposite, I feel warm and protected. When I slowly dip my fingertips into the eerie light it feels like coming home. It is a feeling, an emotion, a sensation, a scent all combined. It is him and it is me, more specifically it is us.

“Oh Merlin,” he says sternly. Suddenly it is all too much and I erupt in hysterical laughter. I can feel his eyes on me, probably thinking I have lost it completely until he surprises me and joins in. At first it is a low chuckle but it grows in intensity until he is throwing his head back laughing in loud bursts. Our reaction dies down as fast as it started leaving us staring at the golden string in silence until it slowly fades away.

“Seems like we need some help figuring this out,” Severus points out and I completely agree

Chapter Text

It’s late afternoon and Severus suggests that we should try to find out what's going on immediately. I readily agree, not only because this whole thing gets stranger and stranger by the minute but also because I have been cooped up in the cabin for a couple of days and a change of scenery would be really nice.

“Who do you want to ask for help?” I ask Severus through the open bathroom door. I have changed into a nicer grey long sleeved shirt and dark wash jeans and am currently trying to tame the wild mop that is my hair. Severus has changed his shirt as well and is now wearing a crisp white button down shirt with a high collar. I notice how beautifully it fits his slim gray trousers but try to focus on what I am doing instead. A splash of water and a forceful brushing later I look almost presentable.

Severus packs vials filled with different colored liquids into a pouch which he later shrinks with a flip of his wand.

“My old Potions Master, or more specifically his aunt. I have the feeling this is all connected to the ritual we performed that night and I know no one else who has extensive knowledge of ancient spells of the darker and almost forgotten variety. Alexej is a nightowl, so I suspect his workday has only started a couple of hours ago, we should be able to find him in his apothecary in the wizarding part of Edinburgh,” he explains while grabbing his coat and my jacket from the valet.

I expect him to hand me my jacket but instead he gallantly holds it open for me so that I can easily slip my arms into it. The gesture makes me feel weird but in a good way and I am glad I have my back to him while I close the zipper. He briefly puts his hand on my shoulder and squeezes before he opens the front door.

“We are going to apparate to a spot near Alexej’s apothecary that way we won’t lose too much time. Hopefully we will get some answers before dark and will be able to spend the rest of the evening in Edinburgh. Maybe get something to eat or watch a movie?” He suggests and stretches his hand towards me.

“That sounds lovely,” I can’t help but beam at him, happy to focus my thoughts on something positive instead.

I take his hand and expect him to apparate us directly but instead he surprises me once again and pulls me towards him. Severus puts his arms tightly around me before he apparates us and the familiar pull has my stomach lurching. As usual it takes me a while until the dizziness subsides and I can take in my surroundings. I hate apparating from the very bottom of my heart but this time around Severus strong arms and tight embrace ground me and help me recover faster than I normally would.

“Sorry, I know you hate this,” Severus murmurs and checks my face for any signs of discomfort. When he is satisfied that I am ok he lets go of me and I stare longingly at his arms for a moment. It felt really nice being held. I shrug the thought of, we have more important things to figure out.

We are standing in a busy, cobblestone street lined with narrow houses. Despite the late afternoon the street is busy, witches and wizards are walking in small groups. Now and then someone gives us a curious look but mostly people's eyes just look through us. Many of them wear traditional wizarding robes but there are quite a few adonned in muggle clothing as well, just like us. There are several small shops and customers seem to come and go.

“Lets go, Alexej’s shop is at the end of the street,” Severus points out and I follow his big strides while trying to get a glimpse of the shop windows. There is one shop that has everything imaginable and unimaginable made of chocolate. I love chocolate but I can’t even get a closer look before Severus looks over his shoulder, his expression impatient. I guess he has other things on his mind than window shopping but I feel oddly disappointed.

We stop right in front of a small apothecary that somehow looks different than the other shops around it. The shop window is lined with vials filled with different colored potions. In between them there must be a hundred small items that seem foreign and interesting. There is a babushka doll in one corner and a handful of oddly shaped small bones in a wooden bowl next to it. I could have looked at the display for hours but Severus who stands behind me puts his hands on my shoulders and pushes me forward. Just as we climb the last stone stair the wooden door swings open and creaks loudly.

The inside of the shop is so dark I have to squint to identify shapes and objects. When we step inside we are met by a spicy scent and someone from the back of the shop yelling “Severus my boy!”. I turn my head and look at Severus who looks uncomfortable by that greeting but his features widen into a broad smile nonetheless as a tall man approaches us.

“Alexej!” Severus exclaims and the older male takes Severus' hands into his own. The gesture seems affectionate and tells me that there is trust between them. I look down on my shoes, suddenly feeling like I shouldn’t be staring at them.

“What a wonderful surprise, my boy. It has been far too long, indeed far too long,” he says in a singsong voice, his accent bending the words in an interesting fashion.

“And who have you brought with you?” He asks and focuses his attention on me. He takes a couple of steps to bridge the distance between us. Now that my eyes have gotten used to the dim light I see that his eyes are a clear, ice blue like the sky on a frosty winters day. His hair and beard are grey with streaks of white and black, I am guessing his hair has been as black as Severus’ when he was younger. He has striking features and I am guessing that he must have been really handsome way back when, in a way he still is.

“I am….,” I start to introduce myself but get interrupted by his hand pushing the strands of hair aside that cover my forehead.

“Harry Potter,” he mumbles and takes a step back to look at me intensely. The scrutiny makes me feel uneasy and I shift from one foot to the other. He quirks his head to the side and lifts his hand again and I just know he is going to touch my scar and every fiber of my being is repulsed by the thought. Before even the animalistic part of my brain is able to send signals to my feet to create distance between me and that strangely intense man, Severus steps forward and moves in front of me with an elegant stride.

“Indeed,” he says in reply to Alexej’s statement, “Harry and I would really appreciate it if we could speak to your aunt, we really need her help,” he continues with a short explanation why we are there and what kind of help we need.

Alexej listens intently and then walks back a couple of steps to take position behind the counter again.

“Ah what a disappointment, here I was under the illusion you are here to see me,” he chuckles and winks at Severus. “But of course not, how often do two attractive wizards enter my humble shop only to visit me? I tell you not that often,” he continues, his expression a sad frown that is betrayed by his friendly banter.

Is this guy actually flirting? The thought makes me feel a hundred different emotions, none of them necessarily good.

“Please step through, my aunt is in the back, taking care of the books,” he explains and points towards a door in the back.

“Thanks Alexej, we appreciate it,” Severus says and starts walking towards the closed door behind the counter. When I don’t follow him he turns around and surprisingly enough takes my hand. Maybe he picked up on the fact that Alexej’s intensity makes me feel apprehensive.The feelings of tension disappear momentarily and I am thankful for his calming touch.

Severus stops next to the counter and grabs his wand. He pulls the shrunken pouch from his pocket and restores it to its actual size.

“I have brought you some of the potions you were asking about in your last letter. It turns out I had the ingredients needed to brew them readily available in my storage so I took the liberty to brew them for you,” he explains and hands the pouch over. Alexej grabs it and smiles at Severus before taking one of the vials out. The liquid inside is deep purple and I wonder what kind of potion it is. Alexej seems to study it carefully before nodding in satisfaction and putting the vial back.

“I always knew there would come a day when your potions would outrank mine. I am proud of your achievements, Severus,” Alexej says and turns around to put the vials into a cupboard on the back wall. Severus' face changes into a stony expression and I can tell that he is not used to hearing praise. He doesn’t reply and walks up to the door and knocks a couple of times.

“Come in,” a female voice comes from the other side of the door and Severus nods encouragingly towards me before opening it.

When we enter I am surprised at the sight that greets me. I have expected a small office behind the door but instead we walk into a cosy living room stuffed with furniture. There are cushions and small nick nacks on nearly every surface. The color palette is an awful mix of pink, brown and beige. The room itself is so overwhelming I almost missed the tiny old lady that is sitting on the sofa, with her feet in slippers propped up on a stool in front of her. She greets us with a friendly smile, a clap of her hands in excitement at seeing Severus and a greeting that must be russian.

Severus approaches her right away and greets her by leaning down to hug her awkwardly before pulling back and walking back to stand next to me.

“This is Harry,” he says as an introduction and puts his hand on the small of my back. When I don’t say anything or move he pushes me discreetly forward. I remember my manners and take her outstretched hand to shake it politely.

“Severus, my dear. I am so glad to see you alive and well. This horrific war was awful business - Alexej and I have been worried about you. We are so very proud of you and the way you saved all of us with your bravery,” she addresses Severus. This time Severus accepts the compliment by gracefully tilting his head downwards.

“Thank you, tetya,” he replies and smiles at her, “however Harry is the one who is the saviour of the wizarding world.”

I frown and remember that he has called me that right after the memory incident and it makes me feel weird. It sounds so pompous and over the top and not at all like something that I would associate with my personality.

“Ah seems like your companion doesn’t like that title,” she observes and watches me with sharp eyes and curious expression.

“Please take a seat, can I offer you some tea?,” Alexej chimes in, saving me from having to react to the old ladies observations. I follow Severus to the second sofa and sit down next to him. I can’t help but sit as close to him as possible even though the sofa is huge and can easily fit four people. But I am nervous and feel totally out of place. He gives me a puzzled look but thankfully doesn’t comment on my behaviour.

Two house elves pop in to serve tea and an array of pastries and small cakes. This must mean that Alexej and his aunt belong to an older and rich pureblood family. I should have guessed that anyway because of their knowledge of dark and ancient spells and blood magic. That is not the kind of thing a regular wizarding family has much knowledge about. For a moment I try to imagine Ron dabbling in dark magic but my mind just refuses. The knitted sweater he has been wearing when I met him ruins the picture.

Severus has launched into a lengthy explanation of our situation that I barely pay any attention to. It's not like I need a recap on the chaos that is my life. Aside from that there is so much else that holds my attention, like an innocent looking shelf where porcelain cups with intricate design reside next to a glass jar filled with green liquid containing a giant tooth, roots and all. I can’t help but shudder at the sight.
I belatedly realize that everyone is looking at me expectantly and guess someone asked me something but with my attention on other things I have no idea what.

“Erm...what?” I ask and look down on my hands to hide how embarrassed I am at my lack of concentration on the matter at hand.

“Alexej asked if the way you can sense magic has occurred with any other person besides me,” Severus explains and looks at me sternly.

I fidget and pull at a thread that starts to come loose on the hem of my shirt. Talking about this makes me uneasy and I wish we could just go back to the cottage. Which is stupid of course because we need to know what is going on, even I do understand that. I shrug dejectedly but Severus frown deepens so I decide to give a verbal answer as well.

“No, not really. I mean I haven’t met that many people since the coma but with the ones I did meet I didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary,” I reply and worry my bottom lip.

“Severus, dear, you said that you guys were taken hostage and chained up in some dungeon. How have you been able to free yourself to perform the ritual?” The old lady asks and takes a spoonful of cherry marmalade which she drops into her tea. I am intrigued by the way she drinks her tea and wonder what it tastes like.

“Well, the whole thing is quite simple. After I told Harry about the spell we both knew that we had to find a way to get those chains off. Sadly, there wasn’t anything we could use to help us. Harry suggested an ordinary open-lock spell which I laughed at for a good while given that we were talking about Death Eaters not 4th year Hogwarts students. But then it got me thinking if we used a lot of power then there was a chance that we would be able to manage. So we both channeled our wandless magic and used the rest of the power left in us to break the locks and it worked. I should have known not to underestimate you,” Severus says fondly and smiles at me. I return his smile even though I have no recollection of the incident.

“The rest of your power? Please tell me you both did not empty your magical reserves completely before the ritual?” She asks with wide eyes causing Alexej to take a sharp breath. I wonder why they look so concerned, like we did something really really stupid.

Even Severus seems bewildered and raises his eyebrow when Alexej suddenly stands.

“Severus, why don’t you accompany me to my potions lab, I have some new cauldrons I want to show you and we can continue our talk there while auntie talks to Harry in private?” He suggests leaving me puzzled. What the hell is going on? I don’t want her to talk to me in private. I don’t know these people and I don’t want Severus to leave.

Severus seems confused as well but still stands and is about to follow Alexej to the door.
“No!” I exclaim and hate the fragile and panicked sound in my voice.

“I don’t want to stay here. I don’t know them at all and you can’t just dump me here,” I half yell and half whisper agitatedly towards Severus. He looks momentary surprised but his features soften after a couple of seconds and he sits back down and turns toward me.

“You are not in any danger here, little one,” he whispers and takes my hand into his own. I can’t explain my strong reaction but right now it feels like all the sharp and broken pieces inside of me will cut me into shreds if he lets go. So I squeeze his hand tightly to convey this without words because they would show way too much of my inner turmoil to these strangers.

“It is as I suspected,” the old lady says to Alexej in a low voice.

“It is known,” Alexej replies and I wonder what the hell they are talking about.

Even Severus looks frustrated at their cryptic words.

“Might you be so kind as to explain what you are talking about?” he says tercly and puts his arm protectively around me. I relax into his strong grip instinctively and feel less uncomfortable.

Alexej and his aunt exchange a meaningful look and a string of words in russian. After that Alexej bows his head and rubs his temples while his aunt sighs and takes a long sip from her tea. Severus' body next to mine is rigid, I can feel the tension in his muscles and his dark eyes look stormy. He definitely does not like being out of the loop.

“My dear Severus, these ancient spells are complicated. They originate in a time when we had a much better understanding of magic, so much has been lost to time. What we know today are only remnants, bits and pieces of a whole picture,” she says and folds her hands in her lap after putting her tea down. Alexej waves his wand and my cup floats upwards as if to remind me to drink from it. I grab it and hold onto it tightly.

Severus just nods and motions her to go on.

“I don’t know if I have the right words to explain this correctly but the spell you used is supposed to take part of each wizard's magic and bind them together for a short amount of time. Like binding many thin threads into a strong rope. This gives the two wizards a lot of power during the time that they are bound. Normally it restores their magic, aids healing and lets you perform magic others only can dream of.” She pauses and connects her gaze with Alexej once again. She smiles sadly and shakes her head.

“This is dark magic, many things can go wrong, so many factors that need to be just right to get the result you want. This kind of magic is wild, untamed and tainted. If something can go wrong it usually does,” Alexej takes over and gives his aunt the chance to lean forward to take a pastry from the tray on the small coffee table between us.

“What does that mean? Do you think something went wrong?” Severus asks and for the first time since I met him his voice doesn’t sound confident and self-assured, instead he sounds somehow very young.

“Remember the strands of magic I talked about? You had none left because you emptied your magical reserves completely. So the only thing left inside both of you was your magic core, your hidden inner being,” she continues without answering his question directly.

“Your soul if you will,” Alexej fills in when he notices my puzzled look.

It takes a couple of seconds until understanding seems to hit Severus. His eyes widen almost comically and stands abruptly and walks dizzyingly fast towards the door and presses his back against it. He is ghostly pale and wrings his hands. His reaction scares me even though I have no idea what their explanation really means.

“No, no, no. It can’t be. You MUST be wrong. There is no way....No!” He exclaims, startling all of us with the intensity of his words.

Both Alexej and his aunt bestow a pitying look upon Severus and me. My heart slams against my ribcage because I have never seen Severus like this. Not even when I took control of the memory. Alexej stands and puts a hand on Severus' shoulder and pets him lightly and murmurs something I can’t hear. I narrow my eyes as I watch their interaction and just wish someone would have the decency to explain this whole thing to me as well.

“Harry,” she says and drags my attention from the two man, “when you and Severus performed the ritual you accidentally bound your souls.” She looks me deep in the eyes, her own blue ones filled with concern. We bound our souls? I try to think about what I know about the subject of bonds, which is not much. Love bonds are a tradition in wizarding society even though the muggle concept of marriage has grown in popularity. Soul bonds are more lore than reality. I remember they were mentioned in a book I read a couple of years ago but apparently they are all shrouded in myth and folklore.

“I thought soul bonds are some type of bedtime story, I have never come across anyone actually believing that practice has been real.” I answer sceptically.

“They are,” Severus whispers almost inaudible, “they are just not practiced anymore. Binding your soul to another human being… it is…. Irreversible,” I almost can’t hear the last word. He looks positively panicked. Slowly understanding dawns on me and I take a deep breath. Everything starts to fall into place, every piece of the puzzle neatly fitting against each other with no room left for doubt. Now that he has said I can not only understand it logically and look at the evidence but I can also feel it. A throbbing, pulsating ache and a deep all encompassing need.

I am about to open my mouth to reply that we should calmly talk about this, that we will get through this when Severus buries his head on Alexej’s shoulder. My mouth goes dry and I have to swallow over and over again. The lump in my throat feels like a giant boulder as I helplessly observe his old Potions Master comforting him with a tight embrace.Tears gather in my eyes as I recall his reaction to this. Horrified panic and disbelief, shock even.

I look down onto my hands unable to look at the two wizards any longer. It seems Severus hates the idea so much that he cannot bear it at all. Right now I feel like the most disgusting, awful and ugly human being wandering this earth. Of course the thought of being bound to me has him reeling in panic. I try to push the tears back, I do not want to show these strangers how much Severus reaction to these news hurt me. I almost wish I could share his feelings, I wish I would feel apprehension, outrage and disgust. Instead the only thing I felt when I realized that we were bond is relief. For a blissful second it felt like I am not completely alone in this world and that maybe everything could turn out to be ok. Of course that was only wishful thinking because my bonded partner says “it would have been better if we were killed that night,” over and over again while Alexej hushes him.

It is astonishing how a person can shatter into a million tiny pieces and not make a single sound. I realize that the sound of pain is not a scream it is silence. Deafening silence and the inability to even form a single word. I want to beg him to stop saying that but the black crater in my soul doesn’t let me. Instead I listen closely how my trusted friend, the one person I depend on and who makes me feel safe tells his friend that he would rather die than be bonded to me.

Chapter Text

The rest of the visit is just a blur to me. More explanations about soul bonds follow but I only hear fragments, a word here and there, taken out of context and meaningless. Severus calms down after a while and accepts his friends compassion and support, they go back to their conversation. Questions and answers, theories and guesswork. I listen to them halfheartedly, imprisoned and surrounded by walls of pain. When it's time to leave my body feels numb, like I have been sitting in the same position for hours. I can’t really tell, my limbs barely comply as I try to put my jacket on. During all of this I feel Severus next to me like a dark and stormy presence, like a maelstrom that is at the center of my very inner being, completely devouring every thought. When we find ourselves back on the street I realize that it is already dark and the small shops are closed and the lights are out.

I follow Severus' huge strides, not really knowing where we are going. My gaze is fixated on his back and my feet follow along without any conscious decision on my part. It feels like something inside of me broke when Severus uttered those words and my will to live seeps out through the cracks of my soul. I haven’t said a word since they told us about the soul bond even though we must have been at their place for hours afterwards. But nobody spoke directly to me either so I was able to hide behind a wall of silence. They were way too concerned with Severus' reaction, it was nice to see that he has friends who care about him that much. Nobody asked for my thoughts on the situation and I was thankful for it.

What is there to say really? There are no words left inside of me, Severus used them all and extinguished mine. There is nothing left to say when your bonded partner wishes he had died instead of making the mistake to bond himself to you. This morning I thought that past-Harry wasn’t lingering in the shadows anymore, that Severus and I had managed to start building a relationship based on the present. His reaction to the news tells me otherwise, somehow he must still see the person I once have been when he looks at me. The thought breaks my heart because he has so clearly become my anchor, we formed a connection stronger and deeper than even memory loss. I have no idea why the idea of this soul bond is so traumatic for him.

Deep in thoughts I miss that he has stopped in front of a pub. I collide with his back and the sudden closeness claws at my insides. Alexej told us that the bond affects us, it enhances positive feelings and draws the bonded partners towards one another. But it cannot create feelings that aren’t there in the first place which explains our different reactions. Somehow during these past days my trust and friendship for him have enabled me to see what could be if we were to be partners. I am scared as well at the irreversibility of it all and the finality of a decision I don’t even remember making. But his obvious repulsion at the thought of our soul bond causes me almost physical pain.

Severus looks back at me with a frown and I have to swallow at the negative emotions radiating from his eyes. Gone is the warmth and understanding, in their stead there is rage and desperation. I wonder briefly why he seems so mad at me until the realization hits me. He blames me for all of this. Because I was the one insisting on saving us both, insisting on trying that ancient spell and my lack of sexual experience made it possible in the first place. Severus looks at me like he regrets the day he met me and I have to look down on my shoes because I can’t withstand that withering glare any longer.

We enter the pub and for a short moment the swell of voices, scent of ale and fries and clinking of glasses embrace my senses and anchor me to reality. The pub is busy but we have no trouble finding a booth at the back of the room where we can sit and probably talk without being overheard. There is a very loud group of people in the booth next to ours, they down shot after shot before we even have had a look at the menu.

I am not hungry but read the menu anyways, mainly because it gives me something to do and an excuse to avoid his eyes. The plastic menu feels a bit sticky against my skin and there is some spilled ale from a previous customer in a puddle on the wooden table. This is definitely not a fancy pub but it seems nice enough despite the bit of grime.

The waiter comes by and gives us a strange look, certainly because we haven’t said a word to each other since we entered or maybe because Severus looks murderous. Severus orders a meat pie and mashed potatoes and I decide to go with fish and chips. Severus looks surprised when I order beer but the waiter doesn’t lift an eyebrow and comes back with a large pint for me and a small glass of whiskey for Severus.

I have decided that I am going to fully indulge in my self-pity and drink until I black out. Theoretically you can die from alcohol poisoning and that sounds like a goal as good as any for this cursed and horrid evening.

“You haven’t said a word in hours,” Severus finally speaks and folds his hands around his glass. I shrug detachedly because I cannot come up with something reasonable to say.

“I wish I could say that I will do anything in my power to find a way to reverse the soul bond but I won’t make promises I know I won’t be able to keep. I have never heard of anyone breaking a soul bond,” he continues and tries to connect our eyes but I avert mine. I don’t want him to see the sorrow in mine.

Silence settles between us after that, our food arrives and we eat a couple of minutes without talking or looking at each other. I know that I have to make this as easy on him as possible, I can’t force him to take responsibility for this. He never wanted any of this, back then he didn’t even like me. What a torturous nightmare it must be to find himself bonded to me. I drink the large pint in big swallows, barely tasting anything as the beer wets my throat.

“I promise I will not be a nuisance or take advantage of our status as soul bonded partners,” I reply after a long while, “when we get back I will pack my belongings and find somewhere else to stay. I have already overstayed my welcome anyways and I would hate to be the reason for your unhappiness. Maybe you can try to forget I ever existed,” I conclude and push green peas from one corner of my plate to the other.

“What?” He exclaims and sounds surprised and angry. “Where is that coming from?” He asks and something inside of me just snaps.

“Where is this coming from? Oh maybe the fact that you prefer death over being bonded to me. Yeah I get it, this is a nightmare for you. Bonded to the boy you couldn’t stand back then and barely even considered an ally. The bloody saviour of the wizarding world,” I almost throw the words at him, bitterness tinging my voice.

“Harry,” he lifts his hands as if he wants me to calm down and achieves the exact opposite.

“Do you know what it feels like to hear your one friend in the world say those things?” I ask him and my voice almost drowns in unshed tears. And just like that the words leave me again and I start trembling. It begins with my hands but soon my whole body is shaking with suppressed emotion. I know that I am making a scene, that we are in a pub and I should get my shit together but I just cannot do anything about it.

Severus' face looks ashen and has a green tinge around the nose, like he is not feeling well. Maybe he is embarrassed at my emotional display or he just wishes I had died in the war.

With the worst timing in history the waiter comes back and his professional expression changes into a concerned one when he looks back and forth between Severus and me. I have no idea what he is thinking right now.

“Is everything alright over here?” He directs the question at me and I wonder why until I realize that tears are streaming down my face. I just shake my head and the waiter starts looking back towards the bar, probably to make eye contact with his shift supervisor. But before he can ask anything more Severus leans forward and takes my hand.

“I am sorry, my husband and I have received difficult news today. We should have headed home but wanted to get a bite to eat. We’re leaving now,” he says and puts money on the table.

I just gape at him. Husband? He did not just use the soul bond to get himself out of an embarrassing situation. Bile rises in my throat and I can barely walk when he drags me to my feet. How can he do this? Does he not have any feelings, no compassion or empathy? Before we leave I down the rest of the beer in one large gulp.

Outside he drags me into a dark corner and apparates us without warning. When we arrive at the cottage at the front door my legs cave underneath me and they hit hard on the stony garden path. I can barely lean over the rose bushes before food and beer finds its way up and out of my body. My stomach cramps and my vision almost blackens at the onslaught of sudden pain. I shatter my teeth while waves of nausea crash through my body. Temporarily I lose sense of time and space until something warm covers me.

“Harry, can you stand?” Severus asks as he leans over me and blocks the full moon with his body. I just stare at him, unable to process a thought or command my body to comply. I don’t answer him and just whimper and fold myself into a fetal position which causes him to push the sweaty strands of hair from my face gently.

“Just hold on,” he says before he lifts me up.

I wake up surrounded by wam wetness. It smells like roses around me and my head rests on something incredibly plush and soft. I open my eyes and realize that I am laying in the bathtub, my body covered completely in water and suds. Big bubbles float by and I follow them with my eyes. My body feels heavy and my head like someone took my brain out and filled it with cotton instead. I am about to fall asleep again when the door opens and Severus enters, carrying a large towel and a bathrobe. He puts both down a wooden stool next to the tub before he sits on the edge, facing me. He has folded his sleeves up and unbuttoned several buttons on his shirt.

“Maybe gulping down beer like soda is not such a good idea when you usually never drink,” he remarks sternly and causes me to flinch. I accept the potion from his hands without question.

I drink it, sigh and rub over the scar on my forehead before I put the vial down. Surprisingly he catches my hand and takes it into his own.

“Harry, I am so very sorry. My behaviour is really inexcusable. I just have been so utterly devastated that I couldn’t protect you in the end. Despite everything, all the pain I have caused you to save your life and give you the chance at a happy one it turns out I doomed you to a fate worse than death. Bound for eternity to a bitter, cranky old man. To the man who raped you,” he whispers the last words and they turn my insides to ice. Wait a minute, what is he even saying.

I sit upright and scoot closer, causing water to slosh around me. I stop when I have reached him on the edge of the tub.

“Oh Sev, you are not a cranky and bitter old man. Yes, you are older than me but that doesn’t make you any less interesting or captivating.” I bow down and let my lips glide over his knuckles, causing him to draw a breath. I have no idea where my sudden courage is coming from.

“Let’s be clear on one thing, you DID NOT rape me. I saw the memory, I know that so much of this is my fault. I pushed you into doing this because I could not let you die. I am so sorry that I caused you all this pain but even if I could go back in time- how could I ever let you die?” The tears well up in my eyes and make my voice hoarse. The thought of losing him is unimaginable, it torments the very core of my being.

When he doesn’t answer I shake my head to get rid of the emotions clouding my mind. He looks at me bewildered but the harsh look that he had all evening in the pub is gone.

“Sweet, silly Harry,” he mumbles and cups my cheek with his hand. I lean into the touch without conscious thought and cherish the feeling of soft fingertips caressing the skin underneath my eyes and my cheekbones. He lets his fingertip glide along my jawline and puts it briefly on my bottom lip.

“This is not your fault Harry, none of this is. If anyone is a victim here then it's you,” he says and removes his hand leaving my skin burning in its wake.

“We both are,” I reply and connect our eyes. We both have sacrificed so much and I am tired of feeling alone and abandoned in this world. Here on the edge of the tub sits the one person I trust, my ally and closest friend. Being bound to him doesn’t feel like punishment or sacrifice, it feels like relief.

“Harry, you don’t understand. We are not the same. You don’t remember it but during your school years I caused you a whole lot of harm with my animosity. But the things I did for the Dark Lord, unspeakable, horrible and unforgivable things. I am a tainted man, broken and beyond redemption,” the torment in his voice sends chills down my spine. My heart slams against my ribcage and all I want to do is embrace him and tell him that it is alright, that there is forgiveness for him too.

I follow my instincts and lift myself upwards to hug him tightly. I am wet and my naked upper body presses fully against him but I do not care. He yelps in surprise and almost topples over from my force but successfully steadys us both.

“You did what you had to do to survive,” I mumble with my face pressed against his now soaked shirt. I can feel the warmth of his skin underneath. He shakes his head furiously but I pay that no mind instead I repeat the words over and over again until his body starts to tremble, his breathing becomes erratic and his heartbeat that I can feel against my cheeks is irregular and fast. Finally he puts his arms around me and buries his head between my shoulder and my neck. His whole body shakes violently and after a while I feel his tears on my already wet skin. I hold on for dear life, despite the uncomfortable position and the strain on my back and arms.

I hold him and he cries desperate, hot tears of shame and horror. He doesn’t seem like a man who cries often or at all so it is heartbreaking but I also think he needs this. Severus seems to keep so much emotion bottled up inside of himself, it must be a strain to carry that burden every day. I have no idea how much time passes but eventually his tears stop and his breathing takes on a normal rhythm. His warm breath hitting my naked, wet skin causes goosebumps to erupt all over my body. He is holding me tightly and the contrast between my cooling skin and his warm hand on my back is almost overwhelming. At first he keeps it still but as he calms down he starts moving his hand slowly, stroking my back gently. He follows my spine with his fingers, applying minimal pressure that has my muscles relax under his touch. He maps my whole back with his hands, kneading tense muscles with expert fingers until I can’t help but press closer.

Now and again his hands come to rest on my lower back just above the swell of my butt, still covered with water. He turns his head and drags his lips over the skin on my shoulder causing me to inhale sharply. My skin tingles where his lips have been connected to me only a second ago. He repeats the motion slowly, dark eyes looking up at me questioningly.

That’s when I realize that he did that on purpose causing warmth to gather in my belly. I bite my bottom lip and can’t let go of his dark gaze, it feels like I am drowning. He puts small butterfly kisses on my shoulder and my collarbone. They are tender and I can barely feel his lips connect to my skin before he moves on. When he reaches my neck he stills his movement and rests his lips against my pulsepoint. They are warm and soft and I can’t help but tangle my hand into his black hair to pull him closer. He tightens his grip on my back momentarily before he resumes his gentle stroking. I relish the feeling of silky strands of hair in my hand, his hair feels so nice against my skin. I bury my fingers deeper until I find his scalp and caress him cautiously.

His breathing quickens and I have to close my eyes when his tongue darts out and tenderly licks over my pulsepoint. Suddenly there is this burning need inside of me, I need him to kiss me. Barely a second after I form the thought he lifts his head and connects our lips. The kiss is perfekt. He is gentle but determined and captures my lower lips between his own. Just when I think I can’t bear it any longer he licks into my mouth causing me to tremble. For blissful seconds the only thing I am focused on is his curious tongue mapping my mouth and massaging my tongue. It feels like my skin is on fire and I can’t help but whimper when he lets his hand glide from the small of my back towards my butt.

I try to sort through my emotions, feelings and sensations. But it is so difficult to concentrate when his tongue and hands cause my body to burn in need. With the last remnant of logic I push at his chest softly, causing him to interrupt what he is doing and look at me puzzled.

“Sev, you don’t have to do this. I know how sad you were about being bonded to me. I understand if you don’t want to be with me like that, don’t do that just because you feel guilty. I’ll manage, we can be friends and it’ll be enough. It has to be,” I conclude and say the last part softly almost to myself. I want this so badly but I don’t want him to do this because it is a way for him to handle his guilt. Because he feels I am an obligation.

He looks at me for a long while which gives me the chance to calm my breathing. I can’t read his eyes so instead I just wait for what he has to say.

“I don’t deserve to be with you like that and you deserve so much better,” he says with a serious tone. I am about to launch myself into a monologue on his defence but he stops me with putting a finger on my lips.

“I know you don’t agree and amidst all the miracles like defending our society and winning the war this might just be the biggest one,” he smiles at me shyly.

I take his hand and kiss the palm lovingly. He leans forward until he reaches my ear.

“What do you think about me joining you in the tub?” he asks and the goosebumps on my skin tell him all he needs to know.

Chapter Text

He leaves the edge of the tub and turns around. With his back to me he starts unbuttoning his shirt slowly before he shrugs it off. The disregarded fabric lands on the floor. My eyes are fixated on his back, his skin is pale and his waist narrow. Despite his slim figure his muscles seem toned, he doesn’t look unhealthily thin. His back is covered in scars, small ones which are only visible by the lighter color and different texture than the rest of his skin but also big ones, protruding in an angry red. They seem fresher somehow, maybe he got them in the war. I want to touch them and map them with my fingertips. I want to hear every story connected to these scars, I want to get to know this captivating man who has come to mean so much to me in such a short amount of time. Being bonded enhances the feeling of connection but I am sure that I have felt it before, it feels so familiar. I don’t know why I feel courageous enough to even consider being with Severus but right now the only thing I know is that it felt like coming home when he kissed me.

He takes his trousers off, leaving him clad in tight black boxers that outline his butt very clearly. I have to swallow around the lump in my throat, my hands feel suddenly sweaty. There is such an energy between him and me, I feel physically drawn to him. I hope this is more than just the bond but these thoughts disappear when he turns his head and fixates me with almost black eyes.

“Scoot forward, Harry,” he instructs with a firm voice that causes warmth to pool in my belly.

I do as I am told even though it means I won’t be able to see him naked. Water sloshes around me when I move forward in the big tub to create space behind me so that he can join me. I hear more fabric glide to the floor and naked feet walk towards the tub. He seems to pause for a second before he enters but then he joins me in the water in no time. I soon find myself sitting in between muscular thighs and long legs that are stretched out at my sides. I sit straight, my whole body tense because I do not know what he wants me to do.

Long, slender fingers grip my waist and pull me closer inch by inch. My heart races but he stops right before my butt collides with his crotch. I have no idea if I feel relieved or disappointed by that. I don’t even notice that my breathing has become irregular until he leans forward and whispers “breathe Harry” with a smooth voice.

My nerves seem to calm down whenever he uses that firm and determined tone and I comply. I close my eyes when his lips once again find my neck and cherish the feeling of being held. He circles his arms around me and strokes my chest lightly with wet hands. The warm water covers me up to my stomach and the wetness from his fingers cools on my skin almost directly. Whenever his wandering fingers reach my belly button my stomach coils in anticipation but he never dips his hand lower than my exposed skin. Severus' open mouthed kisses are wet, he alternates between kissing softly, swiping his tongue over my skin and sucking it lightly.

Imprisoned between his strong legs I have not much room to maneuver to touch him. I do however reach his legs and thighs, which I take full advantage of. I caress his calves and knees and touch wiry hair tenderly. I move my hands upwards and stroke the rougher skin on his knees and towards the very soft and hairless skin on the inside of his thighs. His breath hitches when I do that and suddenly he takes my chin into his hands and turns my head backwards. The kiss I am receiving is intense and dominating. His tongue is everywhere and I melt into the stronghold of his embrace. I like how he holds my chin and tilts my head when he wants me to move position. Instinctively I want to move backwards to close the distance between us and be able to fully feel him. He moves his hands quickly to my waist and holds me in place. A whimper in protest escapes me but he doesn’t react verbally, instead he licks over the shell of my ear.

My movements are restricted because he presses his legs against me and holds my waist in a strong grip, it's not bruising but it is not gentle either. I am inexperienced in these sorts of things but my whole being wants to crawl into him, wants him to hold me so that I can drown in his strong embrace. I don’t want him to let go, at all.

“Stay,” he murmurs before letting go of my waist with one hand. Instead he moves it to my chest again but this time he lets his fingertips glide softly over my nipples. The unfamiliar touch in combination with the wetness from his fingers and the cool air makes me gasp. I have not really paid them much attention prior to this but suddenly they are the very center of my thoughts and sensations. Severus repeats the movement several times until my nipples feel hard and swollen. Just when I think the gentle and soft touches will drive me crazy he squeezes my right nipple between two fingers, causing my hips to involuntarily jerk upwards. My heart races and I feel sweat gather on my forehead. He pulls me back with the hand still holding my waist and I blush because of my already straining erection and my stupid effort to hump the water. He waits a couple of seconds and lets me catch my breath before he does the same thing with my left nipple. I try to suppress a moan but he hears it anyway and chuckles softly, his breath caressing my neck where his lips still put light kisses on my skin.

“Mhmm, so needy,” he says and my body reacts to that as well. My pulse quickens and everything inside of me wants more. I struggle against his grip on my waist, suddenly determined to get as close as possible right this second.

“Harry,” he says strictly and I pause my struggles, “do you remember our conversation about the night in the dungeon?” he asks, his tone serious. I have no idea why he is bringing that up right now but I stop my movements and turn halfway around to look at him questioningly.

He takes my silence as an answer and continues speaking.

“I told you that there are a myriad of things that should come before a couple has intercourse. We didn’t get to have the chance to experience those because our life was in danger and we did what we had to do to survive. But there is no hurry now, we can take this as slow as we like,” he explains and finishes with a peck on my pouting lips.

“What if I don’t like slow?” I say and can hear that I sound like a petulant teenager. The corners of his mouths curve upwards in a broad smile.

“Well, that means I just will have to make you like it, won’t I?” he replies and dips his tongue into my mouth. I soon notice that slow doesn’t necessarily mean soft and gentle, I discover it also means intensity and determination, firm caresses and a strict voice that is beyond sensual when he whispers into my ear. Every fiber of my being is trained on him, every nerve ending is alight with fire and need. I had no idea you could have hundreds of different sensations and feelings by mostly innocent touches above the waistline. Severus reads my reactions like a guidebook and concentrates his efforts where I am the most sensitive. My arousal is aching but I can’t do anything about it because he is determined to take things slow. I do understand why but I am also unimaginably hard and my whole body craves relief.

Just when it becomes almost too painful he pulls me back another two inches, finally connecting our bodies more intimately. I can tell that he is as aroused as I am by the hardness pressed against the small of my back. Severus leans forward and bites my shoulder lightly before he moves upwards and puts his lips on my ear.

“Touch yourself,” he whispers almost inaudible, my heart stutters at the request. My cheeks heat up in seconds and I bite my bottom lip. I am a normal teenage boy so of course I do masturbate now and again. But doing it in front of someone else feels intimate and puts me in a position of vulnerability. Somehow it would have been easier if he would have decided to touch me himself. But because of that feeling of being exposed and looked at it also is so very erotic. Severus waits patiently and I guess he gauges my reaction.

I take a deep breath and move my hand under water from his thigh to my own erection. I turn around briefly and our eyes connect before I finally wrap my hand around my cock. I moan at the blissful friction that I have craved since he joined me in the bath. As soon as I start moving my hand up and down he surprises me again.

“Slowly,” he commands strictly and it takes a whole lot of strength not to continue in the rhythm that I have chosen. Despite the slowness of my movements my mouth becomes dry almost directly. I feel his eyes on me and find myself wishing that the water would not hide so much of me. I want him to see and acknowledge that I follow his orders.

“I want you to pay special attention to the tip of your cock. Stroke it with your fingertips and squeeze it with your hand when you move upwards,” he says evenly like he asked me to get some tea. The contrast is astonishing and I close my eyes to be able to enjoy his rich voice that blankets me with safety and trust.

Once again I do as I am told and am surprised at the fact how much enjoyment it brings me to comply with his orders. I have not enough brain activity to analyse my behaviour and feelings, instead I try to suppress another moan that wants to leave me throat.

“Don’t hold back, let me hear you,” he orders sternly and my skin erupts in goosebumps. Right now all my senses are trained on his voice and my straining arousal.

The next time my stomach coils in pleasure I moan without hesitation, even though the action leaves me feeling a bit embarrassed.

“That's it, that's it,” he murmurs pleased and his voice holds warmth and tenderness. Hearing that tone in his voice is worth the nervous embarrassment I am feeling at navigating uncharted territory. The way he directs my movements makes me feel safe and cared for, like I am protected by this strong man and I can put all my worries in his tight embrace.

Keeping my movements slow is tortuous and I wonder how he feels because he hasn’t moved at all even though he is aroused. All his attention seems to be focused on me and my pleasure which makes me feel breathless, like I am the king of the world.

My hair is sweat soaked by now and he cards his hands through it tenderly.

“Now show me how you touch yourself when you are alone, how you wish I would touch you,” he directs and lifts me simultaneously out of the water upwards until I come to rest with my butt on his stomach. I am fully exposed now and I feel like I am about to explode. I feel his dark eyes on my most intimate parts and enjoy the feeling of being seen, looked at and acknowledged. Before I can continue though he tells me to stop right before I reach the tipping point. I have no idea how to do that because I already feel like I am only a few strokes away from my orgasm but I nod quickly.

I lick my lips and resume stroking myself, keeping his words in mind. It feels so personal to show him exactly the way I like to touch myself, like he asks me to reveal a part of who I am.
I like to indulge myself with rougher, fast strokes in a tightly squeezed fist. I have no idea why but I like to reach the point where it is almost a bit painful, I love how at first it is uncomfortable but the pain turns soon into pleasure that is somehow deeper with more texture than the pleasure I feel without it. I imagine his hands on my cock and put on a bit of extra show just to please him. I reach the tipping point embarrassingly fast and have to bite down hard on my tongue to keep me from giving into my orgasm.

“I am almost there,” I say between harsh breaths. I feel lightheaded because of the exertion.

“Mhm I can see that,” he replies and sounds like the cat who found the milk. “Not yet, little one, not yet,” he continues and gathers the precume that has gathered on the tip of my erection with his finger. The soft touch drives me almost crazy but I try to follow his commands even now that I barely know my own name.

“Remove your hands,” he instructs and I almost sob at the loss of friction and contact. I am so close and yet so far away from possible relief.

When he wraps his hand around my erection I sink my nails into the soft flesh of his thigh. He hisses in pain but otherwise doesn’t react.

“Cum for me, baby boy,” he says and starts stroking me roughly. After three strokes my vision explodes in white light and pure energy rushes through my body. My orgasm is earth shattering and for a short while I have no idea where I am and what I am doing. I hear him moan faintly as my sticky pleasure covers his fingers.

A while later we lie still, I almost cover his whole body with my own. We are submerged in the water, it reaches up to my neck now. It’s still warm so I suspect Severus has used a warming charm to keep the temperature comfortable. His hands rest possessively on my back and he presses now and again a kiss on the top of my head. I feel completely embraced, satisfied and exhausted. When I look up at him and crane my head he cups my neck and joins our lips once again. The kiss is so different from the ones we shared only minutes ago. It is tender and smooth, it makes me feel safe and taken care of. When we break the kiss he smiles at me and caresses my cheek. The thought hits me that while I have experienced extraordinary pleasure I have given him nothing in return. I frown at my own behaviour.

“You look worried,” he says and strokes over my eyebrows as if he wants to erase the look.

“Erm...You haven’t….I should…,” I reply, trying and failing to put my thoughts into a cohesive sentence.

Severus understands anyway and I marvel once again at how perceptive he is. It is one of his extraordinary gifts.

“No need to worry. It brings me so much joy to witness your pleasure, that's enough for now,” he reassures me even though a part of me still feels bad about not repaying him in any way.

“That’s unfair,” I protest and he chuckles at that.

“Unfair is not the word that comes to mind for getting to watch you come undone,” he replies cheekily. Blood rushes to my cheeks and I look down bashfully. Suddenly there is a nervous tension in my chest at the thought of what has transpired between us. It has been so unexpected and different, even though I enjoyed every second of it I am second guessing my reactions.

“There is that frown again,” he comments and leans forward to kiss my temple. “Want to tell me what's on your mind little one?” He sounds reassuring, inviting and calm. I take a deep breath and explain to him how I am feeling.

“I am wondering...I really enjoyed what we did but I kind of surprised myself how much I liked when you…”I lose my words again but this time he finds them for me.

“You liked it when I told you what to do,” he finishes my sentence for me and I nod. My cheeks are flaming and I have no idea why.

“Sweet Harry, there is nothing wrong with that,” he says when I avert my gaze to avoid his eyes. He puts his finger under my chin and lifts it up cautiously. When our eyes meet I can see nothing but warmth, friendship and loyalty which eases the tension inside of me a bit.

“Do you think I am weird for liking that?” I ask and start to bite my nails but don’t get far because he has taken my hand into an iron grip.

“Firstly,” he says and lets go of my hand again, “I don’t think labels have any place in a sexual relationship. The only thing that is important is that whatever we do is ok as long as we both are clear on what to expect, both consented to it and we don’t do any lasting harm to ourselves or others.” His voice turns into teacher mode and I put my head on his chest again.

He cards his hands through the wet strands of hair at the nape of my neck.

“My experience is the important part and the most difficult part is talking about it with your partner. It doesn’t always come easy, but you cannot proceed without it especially once you leave the area of sex that is considered more vanilla.” I ball my hands into fists because I just want to be a regular, normal boy. But deep within there is this knowledge that the small taste of something else he gave me today will not be enough, that I will crave more.
“Why do you think I liked it? And how did you even know?” I demand to know and lift my head to look at him.

“I had a hunch, small things really that told me you might like it. As to why I can only guess but even though you don’t remember it all the trauma you went through in your life is still present inside of you because it shaped the person you are today. From an early age way too much responsibility was put on your shoulders. Hope can be a heavy weight to carry,” he explains.

“You have always been the one to take charge, to carry the responsibility for yourself and others and you never once complained because you were robbed of a normal childhood because of it. I guess you somehow need an outlet, for once not be the one in charge, leaving the reins to someone else. I believe there is this need inside of you to be being taken care of, coddled and loved. Because you never got to experience any of it before,” he concludes and falls silent after that. Tears sting my eyes and I kiss his chest, thankful for his analysis. I just know that he is right, it felt so good having him direct me, it felt like I was able to breathe freely for the first time since the coma.

“How about you?” I ask after quite some time, I have been mesmerized by listening to his heartbeat.

“The opposite actually. Being a spy does not give you much leeway, you are always in the hands of others and every choice you make is in consideration for the greater good even though it often hurts yourself. Taking a dominant role gives me something back that I have lost a long time ago, it feels like a part of me returns. I am fully myself when I am like that if you will,” he answers honestly and I smile at the fact that even our weird and broken parts fit perfectly together.

His explanations make sense and stop feeling bad for my own wants and needs. After all I have not hurt anyone and we both enjoyed what we did.

“Time for bed,” Severus says after a couple of more minutes and gently pushes me away from his chest. It takes almost all my willpower to let go of him to be able to climb out of the tub and put the bathrobe on that he has put on the stool next to it. I’ll hand him the towel that was surely meant for me and let the bathrobe soak up all the wetness on my body. I jawn and leave the bath, suddenly the bed looks very inviting. It has been such a long day, right now I can’t even process all of the events. I let myself fall onto the bed bathrobe and all. I sink into the mattress and relish the feeling of muscles relaxing. Severus joins me a while later and puts his arms around me. As soon as I am secured in his strong embrace I feel safe and protected.

Chapter Text

The morning feels kind of awkward for me. I have no idea how to act around Severus, because there are still so many things we haven’t talked about despite the fact that we were intimate yesterday. I have really no idea where he stands in all of this. The nervous tension doesn’t leave me all morning and makes me jumpy. Severus does not seem to be fazed at all, instead he goes about his routine as if nothing has happened. This throws me off for a while because I have no idea what all of it means and what he really wants. His explanations aside there is still a part of me that hurts when I think about his reaction to the news of being soul bonded. I believe him when he says that it was about his own guilt but I still wonder if he ever had chosen me would he have been given the choice. Those doubts paralyze my actions and I freeze up totally, rendering me silent and unapproachable. All I want to do is kiss him but somehow I don’t manage to do that. Severus gives me space and time, he doesn’t push or address my behaviour. Around lunchtime he suggests another outing, this time he needs to get some rare books from his vault at Gringotts. Even though the goblins give me the creeps I agree to accompany him, guessing that sitting around the cottage and mulling over everything will drive me crazy eventually.

When we arrive at Gringotts we have to wait for a while. I look up and down the rows and rows of desks, at each there is a goblin stationed and they all look unfriendly. We end up with the grumpiest looking of them all who motions us to follow him after Severus explained his business in a calm voice.

“Do I have a vault as well?” I whisper but my voice still echoes through the big hall like a scream. The goblin looks displeased at that and I draw closer to Severus.

Severus nods but waits with his answer until we are entering the passageway to the vaults. The change is astonishing, as elegant and expensive the big hall looks as grimy and unwelcoming the passageways to the vaults are. They are completely made of stone, torches light the way and black carts are lined up on the tracks. A chilly draft comes from somewhere and it smells moldy.

“Yes of course,” he says and climbs into the cart the goblin points out. “Two actually. The Potter vault, which belongs to your family and the Black vault, which is the one you inherited after your godfather.” My eyes widen at that. A godfather? Sadness invades me at the thought of another person who is not alive anymore. I seem to be surrounded by death. I feel forlorn and press closer to Severus once I have entered the cart as well. The fast ride has my heart beating a mile a minute or maybe that is just the reaction to Severus arms that circle around me. I turn my head briefly and rest my face against his chest and he puts a small kiss on my forehead. The goblin sighs and murmurs something we can’t really understand.

The cart screeches to a halt before one of the vaults. The vault door looks like iron and the name “Prince” is carved into it in beautiful letters. Severus leaves the cart and steps towards the door. The goblin takes an ancient looking key from Severus' hands and opens the door with it. They both disappear inside the vault, leaving me alone in the cart. It's even colder down here and there is the steady drip of water somewhere. I ball my hands into fists and bury my nails into my palm. The surroundings remind me so much of the dungeon I have seen in Severus' memory, it chills me to the bone. I am relieved when Severus returns carrying a stack of books. He puts them on the floor before he shrinks them into tiny versions of themselves that he can conveniently store in the pocket of his black robes. He wears wizarding clothes today and my eyes are drawn to him over and over again. He looks elegant, powerful and dangerous.

“What kind of books are they?” I ask when he joins me again. He looks down on my hands and I force myself to uncurl my fists but he has of course already noticed the half moon shaped marks on my palm. He doesn’t comment on it though, only takes my hand into his own.

“Mostly rare books about soul bonding. The vault contains the library of my family on my mother's side but also books I have stored there over the years to make some room in my chambers at Hogwarts and at the cottage. I picked up a couple for you as well,” he says and I wonder what they are about but decide not to ask. Instead I bring up what has been on my mind since we entered Gringotts.

“I want to withdraw some money and change it into muggle currency to buy some more decent clothes. Do you think that would be possible?” I ask him, still wondering what my financial situation looks like.

“Sure, you can do that upstairs. Do you want to see your vaults as well?” He asks and I shake my head furiously. I want to get out of this place as soon as possible.

Severus motions the goblin to take us back and I sigh in relief. He holds my hand the whole way and I smile at him, not being able to hide how happy that makes me.

It turns out withdrawing money was really easy and now I am stuck in a fitting booth in a muggle store, trying on different clothes while Severus loiters outside and now and again fetches something I point out to him. The stack of clothes I want to buy grows steadily but something is missing. Only wearing my boxer briefs I peek out from behind the curtain.

“Do you want to pick something out for me?” I ask Severus and receive a surprised but pleased look from him.

“Anything in particular?” He asks but I tell him it's his choice, whatever he wants me to wear. He is gone a long while and I sit down on the small bench, listening to the horrendous generic music that is blasting from the speakers. The people who work here must be bleeding from their ears at the end of their shifts.

Severus finally returns and surprises me by entering the booth. We easily fit both in here because the store is a fancier one with trendy clothes, big booths and black walls that give you the impresion to enter a cave when you first walk in.

He lets his gaze glide over my body and suddenly I feel warm all over.

Firstly he hands me a black, slim fitting tank top and I raise my eyebrows at that. I would have never picked that for myself but then again I asked him to choose for me. I take the fabric from his hands and pull it over my head. I turn to face the mirror and have to admit that the shirt accentuates my slim built. I expected to look ridiculous but instead I look more grown up than in my huge shirts with faded prints. Severus comes up behind me and looks at me through the mirror. His eyes are dark and intense, as usual I can’t avert my eyes to break the connection. Instead we stand like this, gazing at each other through the mirror while his hands stroke over my back and chest as if he wants to make sure the shirt fits properly. This item of clothing presents quite much of my naked skin to the world and he leans down to kiss my naked shoulder. I like the way it looks but the thought of wearing that outside makes me feel uneasy.

“This is for my eyes only,” Severus says strictly and I bite my lip in an effort not to groan, his strict and commanding voice affects me that much. I nod helplessly with a dry throat. He smiles at me and sweeps down for another taste of my exposed skin.

“So are these,” he says, presenting underwear to me. They are all white, look tight fitting and I guess they are almost see through when you put them on. The underwear I am wearing right now is spacious and doesn’t expose much of my body whereas his suggestions are mini briefs with no abundance of fabric. I stare at them for a while, losing myself in thoughts of wearing these for him. I already know it will feel special because he has chosen those for me and I know he is the only one who will get to see them on my body.

My breathing becomes more strained and my body reacts to his presence, words and my own thoughts. I am already half hard but he notices my predicament and steps way after he puts a quick peck to my lips.

“I’ll pay for these,” he says and takes the clothes he has chosen with him. I put my own clothes on again and this time I am thankful for this large shirt that hides my body from view.

I leave the fitting booth and pay for my own choices quickly, eager to join Severus who is waiting outside the store. He carries a plastic bag and I can’t help but wish we were already at home. Maybe I could try the underwear on for him? I try to drag my thoughts from the gutter and he winks at me knowingly.

“How about we eat a late lunch at home?” He suggests and I agree, taking his hand to walk back to Diagon Alley so that we can apparate back to the cottage. We stop on the way to buy slices of pizza from a cart on the street that we can reheat once we are back. The man behind the cart looks tired and he hands me the brown paper bag without a smile. The bag is soaked in minutes and the smell of pizza wafts towards me with every step we take.

At the cottage I have barely time to close the door behind me and put the paper bag on the low sideboard before Severus presses my body against the door and forces his knee between my legs. He attacks my mouth with feverish kisses and I melt into him, totally helpless under his hands and mouth.

I get manhandled into position, he drags me towards him rubbing my crotch over his thigh with every move. A strangled groan escapes me when he sucks at my neck, hard enough to leave a mark.

“I want you to go into the bathroom, change into your new underwear and come back to the bedroom. Present yourself to me,” he drops his voice into a commanding whisper causing my heart to double its efforts. He lets go of me and wanders through to the bedroom while it takes a couple of seconds to calm down my breathing and actually walk to the bathroom. I take the black plastic bag with the big white logo with me and close the door behind me after I have entered the bathroom. I take one item of clothing from the bag after the other and look at them with beaded breath. The fabric of the shirt is a soft cotton while the underwear seems to be microfibres because they feel smooth against my skin. I put the shirt on the low stool next to the tub and decide just to put the underwear on, after all that's what he demanded. I check them for tags and remove them cautiously without ripping the fabric before I put them on.

Putting on clothes has never had any sexual meaning for me but right now I feel warmth spreading through my whole body. The thought that he commanded me to change into them and is waiting for me in the bedroom is enough to quicken my heartbeat. Underneath it all there is also a feeling of calmness that settles over me as soon as I follow his directions. For a short while all the questions stop tumbling through my head and I'm able to focus on what is happening right now. I leave the bathroom, completely naked besides the small piece of fabric that Severus chose for me to wear. I feel exposed because the fabric that stretches over my crotch is tight, highlighting what's underneath. My darker skin tone shines through the thin white fabric leaving me feeling naked.

I look down on the floor when I enter the bedroom, suddenly shy and worried. What if he doesn’t like what he sees?” I worry my lips with my teeth and try not to bite too hard on them.

“Look at me Harry,” he says in a smooth, rich voice. I finally lift my head and draw a sharp breath.

Severus is laying on the bed completely naked. He is propped up on some pillows and looks directly into my eyes while he has his hand wrapped around his erect penis, ever so slightly moving it up and down. I feel all blood leave the upper regions of my body to gather way down south. He looks completely stunning. My gaze travels over his nipples which are small pink nubs, his flat stomach and the trail of black hair leading to his crotch. My eyes rest on his penis for a long while, just looking and enjoying the sight. He is bigger than I am, his cock is thick and long. I realize that he is circumcised and I unconsciously lick my lips. The veins on his penis are pronounced and the tip of it is slightly red.

He chuckles and interrupts my lust filled staring. “Like what you see?” He asks and my stomach clenches nervously. I lick over my lips again and nod slowly.

“Fold your hands behind your back and let me look at you,” he says and I am a bit surprised because I expected him to ask me to join him in bed. Instead I stand at the foot of the bed in his line of view. I do as he says and fold my hands, my fingers interlocking and holding on tightly. His eyes travel over my body and I can almost feel them like a touch on my skin. I try to relax but my mouth goes dry when he stares intently at my crotch. I am not being touched, just looked at but my body is reacting strongly to this. I am aroused and with every sweep of his burning gaze over another part of my body my erections fills more and more. Sometimes our eyes lock, sending a surge of need through my body. I start to tremble and watch him stroking himself lazily, like he has all the time in the world and watches an interesting porn movie. I try to stand still and relax but it's not easy. It feels like a thousand ants run over my body.

“Hmm what a good purchase, don’t you think?” He murmurs as if to himself removes one hand from his cock to put a finger in his mouth. He sucks a couple of seconds before he removes it and lets the fingertip glide over the tip of his erection. The praise makes me even needier and I can’t control my hips that surge forward. The white fabric has a wet patch now, clinging to my body and presenting even more of me to him. I can feel my heartbeat all throughout my body and my nerves are on edge. It feels like his gaze burns right through to my most inner being, he sees me and accepts me just the way I am.

I have no idea how long I have been standing here but my legs get heavier and my breathing more elaborate. I want to be close to him, touch him and feel his skin against mine.

“You are beautiful, baby boy,” he remarks and intensifies his stroking. “Come here and pleasure me,” he says and sweat gathers on the small of my back.

I crawl onto the covers hastily and reach him in record time. He lets go of his cock and embraces me, pressing his body against mine, rubbing his erection over my stomach and tangling a hand into the mess of my hair. I want to touch him and look at him questioningly and he nods lightly in response. He leans back against the pillows and I sit up next to him, reaching forward to take his penis into my hands. It feels so good to finally touch him but I am a bit nervous too because I am not experienced at all and wonder briefly if he will be annoyed with my lack of knowledge. He doesn’t show any signs of that however but closes his eyes when I start massaging him, tightening my fist around his shaft. Severus groans once in a while, giving me clues into what pace he likes. I alternate between superficial and light strokes and more intense rubbing up and down. He hooks his thumbs underneath the waistband of my underwear and drags my lower parts towards him. I almost tumble over but he steadies me with a hand on my back. I hiss in surprise when he softly presses a finger onto the wet patch in front of my boxer briefs. Right now my position is uncomfortable but I wriggle around until my butt faces him and I have my face towards his cock. I want to see what I am doing. This new point of view gives me the opportunity to watch closely how precum slowly gathers in droplets on the tip of his cock. It is a steady stream and I catch them with my fingers and rub them into the warm skin around the slit. The droplets are sticky and milky, I watch his body's reactions mesmerized. Severus breathing is more elaborate but that’s not enough for me, I want to hear him moan.

I speed up the movements of my hand and lean forward as the sudden need to taste him hits me. I watch him closely and the next time precum gathers at the tip of his cock I bow down and lick over the slit, trying to capture as much as I can. He tastes salty and slightly bitter but I like it more than I am ready to admit. Even if I hated the taste his load moans would be reason enough to repeat the action. So I alternate between stroking him fast and lapping up the precume from his erection. Now and then I suckle at the head of his cock causing his hips to push forward. He does that a couple of times until I open my mouth so that the next time he pushes forward he buries part of his penis in my open mouth. I close my mouth around him and realize how well endowed he really is, he is not even halfway inside my mouth and my jaw feels already strained.

“Harry, come here,” he says with a strained voice and I let go of his erection with a pop. He motions me lean against the pillows like he has been doing all this time. He leaves his position and straddles me before moving upwards. With his legs positioned right underneath my arms he pushes his cock forward until it collides with my lips.

“You sure about this?” He asks and I reach behind him to draw him closer instead of answering him. I open my mouth and he pushes forward, entering me slowly until he is once again buried half-ways. I have never given a blowjob so I have only a theoretical understanding of what I should do now. Thankfully I don’t need to rely on my own knowledge but he once again directs me.

“Open your mouth wide and hold it like that,” He commands, sending chills down my spine.

When I do as he says he starts pulling his cock out again before he pushes back in, very slow and shallow at first but deeper and deeper with each thrust.

“Use your tongue, baby boy” he whispers and curls his hand around my head, holding onto me to guide my movements. I once again mold my tongue against his cockhead whenever he enters my mouth. My jaw hurts but I want him to continue. He breathes raggedly and his movements become less deliberate and more wild. Once he pushes in all the way until his cock hits the back of my throat causing me to splutter and gag. He pulls back immediately and bows forward to kiss my forehead and mumble that he is sorry. I taste him on my tongue and have a hard time controlling the movements of my own hips that desperately search for friction.

My jaw hurts more and more but I don’t want him to know so I let him fuck my mouth for a good while. After a while he pulls back and takes his cock into his hand, a tight fist right at the root.

“Merlin, I am not going to last longer!” He exclaims and moves backwards until he kneels between my legs. “I am going to stain those pretty underwear of yours,” he says and my penis jerks in response. He starts jerking himself fast and rough until a deep guttural groan comes from his throat before ropes of sticky white goodness erupt from his cock right onto the front of my new briefs. He strokes himself through his orgasms, causing more and more to land on my cock, my thighs and part of my stomach. He looks absolutely hot with his hair framing his face in wild strands, a red blush on his cheekbones and scarlet lips. When he is done he just breathes with closed eyes for a couple of minutes before he lies down next to me on the pillows.

I expect him to fall asleep like I did but instead he reaches down and rubs his cum into my skin and the white fabric of my new underwear. The touches are light but I have been aroused for so long that I could cum from just that.

“I want you to cum into your underwear,” he tells me and suddenly rubs vigorously up and down my erection. I can’t tell what in the end pushed me over the edge, his firm grip, the feeling of the already cum stained briefs against my skin or what he ordered me to do. In the end I just let go and give way for my orgasm.

We end up cleaning ourselves fast because we suddenly are both ravenous. We end up devouring our pizza on the sofa, my legs over his thighs and my fingers interlaced with his as soon as our hands are free. I mold myself against his warm body, the thought of not being close to him suddenly seems scary and foreign. His hands never leave my body, he caresses the back of my neck and plays with my hair. We sit like this for a long while and he just holds me, we don’t talk or do anything else. He still fills my entire being.

In front of us there is the stack of books we picked up today. I remember that he told me he picked out some for me so I ask him about it.

“I have a bit of reading material on dominant and submissive dynamics, bdsm and that sort of thing, I know that you are curious about the way you are feeling. I have been the same when I was a boy and discovered the dominant part of myself. So I chose a book about how these parts of oneself develop, what they can make you feel etc. There is also a book on bdsm relationships, incorporating these dynamics into your sexual and daily life, as well as a how-to guide for beginners,” he explains and holds up one book after the other as he goes along.

I have no idea if I should feel embarrassed or not but in the end my curiosity wins. I take the books and put them on my lap.

“Feel free to ask me whenever you have a question,” he says and picks a small old looking pamphlet on bonding spells for himself.

I take one of the books at random and soon find myself immersed in the information it provides. Reading words that address how I have been feeling is such a relief, suddenly there are ways of expressing the inner turmoil I have felt since I woke up from the coma and I am almost sure that these feelings reach farther back than this. I read about submissive dynamics and feel a sense of belonging when I understand that I am not the only one who yearns to let go of everything and have someone else step in and take care of you.

“It says that the submissive partner is the strong one in a couple and the one in charge,” I tell him and put my finger on the part of text I am referring to. “I don’t understand,” I admit.

He puts his own reading down and looks at me intently.

“To submit to someone needs a level of strength I only could dream about. I know that the mainstream belief you unfortunately encounter sometimes is that the submissive part is weak but that couldn't be further from the truth. To gift someone with your submission, to give up control freely takes a deep inner strength and connectedness to who you are and a self-confidence as well. I admire people who have submissive dynamics because it is beautiful to witness and I envy their strength,” he explains and suddenly butterflies dance in my stomach.

I have been so afraid he thinks I am weak for wanting this and liking this, now that he tells me the opposite is true it feels like a giant boulder is taken from my shoulders. I lean forward and kiss him on the cheek gently, earning a small smile and a more intense kiss on the lips.

“But why does it say the submissive partner is in charge?” I continue with my questions.

“Because ultimately it is the submissive partner in a relationship who sets the boundaries. At least in any healthy relationship including the submissive/dominant dynamic. Inside these boundaries the dominant partner has the power but never outside of them.” He waits until I nod in understanding before he goes back to his own reading. His explanations make me feel safe and cared for. I just know deep in my heart he would never do anything that could hurt me on purpose or force me into situations I can’t handle. I realize how completely I trust him and feel silly because we have only known each other for such a short amount of time, at least the time I can remember.

I continue my reading and silence settles around us. Evening approaches and he opens a window to let some of the spicy night air in. Lamps are lit around the sofa, they cast a cocoon of light around us. It is homely and safe. I change positions and lean my back against him and put the book on my knees.

“Here it says there is a spectrum of the bdsm lifestyle and people can have relationships all over it,” I read aloud a passage of text that I am not sure about. “Can you explain that to me I am not sure I understand what they mean?”

Severus leans forward and puts a kiss on my head.

“Well, this is essentially about how much of a dom/sub dynamic you imbed in your life. Let's say the lightest version is a couple who live kind of regular lifes but now and then they like to spice up their bedroom activities with some spanking or such. For that couple it is an exciting element to their sexual relationship that they turn to whenever they feel like it but otherwise a dom/sub dynamic does not really have a place in their life. I know many won’t even consider this kind of relationship part of the lifestyle but in a way it is and I want to include it anyway because I believe it is, only in the lightest form.” He circles his arm around me and draws me closer to him.

“Then there are couples who imbed the dynamics more. They are somewhere in the middle if you imagine it as a straight line. That couples sexual interactions always fall within the dom/sub dynamic. Sexual pleasure without it is not an option for them and usually they are up to more kinks than couple no. 1. They go outside what is considered “vanilla”. Their dynamics are centered in their sexual relationship even though the dynamics can be present to some extent in everyday life as well. You can find those couples in special bdsm clubs or such.” I blush as I imagine it and take his hand even though my palm has become a bit sweaty.

“Lastly, there is a couple who lives most of their lives, or at least as much as possible in their dynamics. For the sexual side of things it's almost the same as couple no. 2 but they go way beyond anything considered normal in their explorations of their own boundaries. They engage in sexual practices few outside of the lifestyle ever try or even have heard of. Their shared life centers around the dynamics. The submission is in the cases I know of total. I knew a couple where the submissive's body completely belonged to the dominant partner, he decided when the sub got to eat, sleep, visit the toilet, have an orgasm. Everything. I have heard that there are special retreats for people in those relationships where they can engage fully even in the open which is otherwise not that easy. But a couple like this will maintain their dynamics even in public, they only have to find creative ways because of course this is not at all widely accepted anymore.” I have to swallow hard and my pulse quickens. He puts his fingertips on the pulsepoint on my wrists and I feel completely exposed as he feels my irregular heartbeat. He puts a small kiss on my neck but doesn’t comment on it. My stomach clenches nervously.

“Harry, you do understand that this is a very generic picture I painted. In the end this is about relationships and each and everyone is different. I think the biggest difference between a more regular relationship and this is that the partners must be much more vocal about their boundaries, their needs and what they want to try out sexually. Because not talking in such a relationship is dangerous, serious harm can be done,” he warns and I see his point. I can see how not talking could lead to serious pain for the involved. I think that part should be essential for every relationship, dom/sub dynamic or not. I rub my eyes but cannot stop reading and Severus doesn’t seem like he wants to put his book down either.

“What is a kink negotiation?” I ask curiously, stumbling upon a mention. He looks up and it takes a while before he answers.

“Maybe you should read the how-to beginners guide first,” he says and turns his attention back to his reading material. I squeeze his hand to get his attention back.

“Please tell me,” I beg and at first he looks apprehensive but his features soften when I look at him pleadingly.

“Ok, but that's the last answer for tonight. Kink negotiations almost exclusively take place for couples who are very immersed in the lifestyle, like couple no.3. In the beginning usually the dominant partner compiles a list of sexual practices, or kinks, that the couple can talk about. This is done to be very clear and vocal about the submissives boundaries. It's done differently but often the submissive partner has time to think about the different items and rate them with yes, maybe with adequate preparation and time, and no. Then the couple talks about it, it is actually a good way to learn to be open about your sexuality and what you want to try. This is about two equals discussing how to shape their sexual relationship.” He falls silent after that.

“That is not very romantic,” I reply and imagine the scene. Sounds like doing taxes or something. He laughs heartily at that,

“It's not supposed to be, it is too important for that. If you skip that step you can find yourself in situations neither of the partners can handle really well because they have no clear idea where the boundaries are. If your priority as a dominant is to never hurt your submissive then this is a vital part.” He sounds like he has done this before and suddenly I feel jealous imagining the person who got to be such a big part of his life.

Suddenly it all is a bit too much and I rub my eyes and sigh. Severus takes the book from hands and closes it.

“Maybe that's enough for tonight. You don’t have to learn everything there is to know about this in one night. I mainly got the books for you because I saw how you struggled with this side of you. Just because you feel something doesn’t mean you have to act on it, remember that,” Severus says and pushes me forward in an attempt to create some room between our bodies.

I think about what he just said and the nervous tension subsides a little. Even though I am curious all of this information is also a bit overwhelming. I put my legs on the floor and am about to stand to go to bed when I decide against it and instead give him a tight hug first.

Severus puts his arms around me and holds me for a long while without saying anything.
“Relationships are always about people and their feelings whether they incorporate a dominant/submissive dynamic or not. In the end it's about both partners' needs and the will to meet them in this form of a relationship. Even if some parts sound rather dry and unromantic a relationship like this can have as much romance and love like any other. Just try to keep an open mind and take the things you read with a grain of salt, little one,” he instructs before he lets go of me.

Chapter Text

I keep his advice in mind as I do more research into the subject. The next couple of days are filled with reading, long walks alone or with Severus, helping Severus in his garden to prepare it for winter and comfortable talks in between snuggling and kisses. He is gentle, understanding and tender, he does not push me into anything I am not ready for. With all the thoughts about this lifestyle in my head that I just learned about I am not eager to do anything more sexual than the occasional making out and groping session. It is all a bit much and I struggle with finding where I fit into this bigger picture. When I am overwhelmed I remember Severus' words that just because I feel these things and have discovered this submissive side of me doesn’t mean I have to act on it at all.

Severus seems preoccupied as well and reads everything he can get his hands on about bonding spells, ancient rituals and soul bonds even though the subject is not very well covered in literature as it seems. Severus is frustrated and I can’t tell if he is still trying to find a way to reverse the soul bond and doesn’t succeed or if something else is on his mind. I am not brave enough to ask, afraid that despite the latest developments in our relationship he would still reverse the soul bond if he could. There is a big difference between being in a relationship with someone and being bonded for eternity. Our relationship is another topic that we don’t really discuss. I have no idea if he thinks about it as often as I do but for me the question marks inside my head just multiply.

Most of the time Severus acts the same as before we have been intimate. Only when he kisses me or snuggles close on the sofa the difference can be felt. But those occasions are pretty rare, it's not like we are constantly making out. I have difficulty taking the initiative because I second guess my every move. What if he thinks I am too clingy? In the end I long for clarification of our relationship status but would rather bite off my tongue than ask.

Occupied with soul bonds and bdsm lifestyle relationships my memory loss has somehow faded into background, at least in our conversations. I still feel like only the shell of a person at times, especially when I can’t remember the most mundane everyday stuff from our life at Hogwarts, which makes it hard to understand his references sometimes. I know he is cautious about these things but he can’t weigh every word which leads to slip up at times. If I could remember we’d have at least our shared history back but now everything before the coma is a black hole. At night when I can’t sleep I think about those lost memories and their meaning. Being close to Severus helps me though, there is a part of me that calms under his touch and dark gaze.

This morning I startled awake from a nightmare. It saw myself running through the woods, bleeding, so afraid and alone. I wanted nothing more than to just lie down and die on the earthy ground but the responsibility for the future of a whole society kept me going with staggering steps. It was Severus' rich voice and soft hands that dragged me out of the nightmare and back into the present. I lay in his arms for a long while after that, just catching my breath. I have been feeling hollow and haunted since then, like black clouds follow me around all day. I yearn to be close to Severus to fill my soul with something else than the memory of terror and pain, anything but the longing to die. It has clung to me like a sticky spider web and I can’t get rid of it, no matter how often I remind myself that all of this is over. I feel frustrated, crumpy and needy with no outlet for the bad energy residing in my restless body.

I look at Severus who is leaning against the dining table, reading a letter on ivory parchment with a small smile on his face. He looks happy and carefree and I die of curiosity who the letter is from. I have to ask him three times before he looks up, having my insides boil in poisonous frustration.

“The letter? Alexej is writing to inquire about my success with my research on soul bonds and reports that the potions I had with me really were a big hit, the customers ordered more on the spot,” he explains without meeting my eyes. He still looks at the parchment in his hand.

The thought of Alexej wondering if Severus has yet found a way to dissolve our bond has bile rise in my throat. That flirty, old bastard. I have to bite my tongue to not comment on anything Severus said. I feel like I am going to explode. Maybe the reason for Severus reluctance to talk about our relationship is connected to his former Potions Master. Maybe he has another relationship that has priority over our unwanted one. Tears sting in my eyes and I raise from the chair and walk up the window to look out. Dark clouds are gathering and rain is hitting the ground, there is an autumn storm on its way.

Severus walks up behind me and circles his arms around me. My body stiffens in his embrace, my inner turmoil is so great that apprehension and need battling inside of me render me unable to lean into him. He leans forward and kisses my neck softly, it's more comforting than sexual in nature.

“A storm is coming, why don’t we cosy up in bed. Maybe you could wear that tank top of yours?” He says, somewhere between a question and a command.

“Yeah or not,” I spew, feeling his body react to my agitated voice.

“Harry,” he begins but I interrupt him once again.

“Why don’t you ask Alexej to wear that goddamn tank top?” My venomous tone hangs in the air between us for a couple of seconds. He is completely still behind me, I can barely hear his breathing. The silence rattles me, has me on edge. As soon as the words leave my mouth I know that I have gone too far, let my frustration get the better of me.

Severus steps away a few steps and I swallow in apprehension.

“Turn around,” he says icily, and my cheeks burn in shame when I do.

My stomach is in knots when I lay eyes on him. His eyes look stormy, he has an angry expression all over his face. In contrast to his expression his voice sounds calm, unnervingly so.

“Do you think it is appropriate to address me like you just did?” He asks but I understand that he doesn’t really want me to answer that. I still try to explain.

“I am sorry, I…” he interrupts me and barks, “silence!”. I bite down on my lower lip in an effort to keep it from trembling. I have never heard him this angry. But it's not the anger that gets me the most but the disappointment underneath. It transforms my insides to ice and leaves me shaking.

“I am so very disappointed in you, Harry. I know that over the past couple of days you have been frustrated and I waited for you to come to me so that we can talk about it. Instead, you lash out.” His tone goes back to being calm and neutral, even though I can feel the emotions underneath. I feel horrible, realizing that what I interpreted as ignorance and avoidance was his way of giving me time and space to find a way to talk about it at my own pace. Tears well up in my eyes as he stares me down with a displeased expression.

All the frustration, all the burning questions and need for his attention break my insides apart, having me shaking with sobs of anguish. I don’t want to be this way but right now I feel like I am drowning, it is all too much for me.

Severus doesn’t react to my tears other than he looks at me intently, as if he tries to solve a complicated puzzle. I am crumbling under the weight of the need to be taken care off, held and loved. At the same time I want to rebel against this side of me, realizing that I still loathe myself a bit for that submissive part that is so new and frightening. I crave stability and structure but can’t help but hate it when we do seem to fall in some sort of routine that barely meets my needs. I want to dig my nails into my flesh and just scream. When I do bury my nails in my palms he steps forward again.

“Enough,” he commands dangerously low, almost inaudible.

“I will give you two choices,” he explains while he takes my wrist and holds it in a bruising grip.

“The first one is that I let your behaviour slide, we have some dinner and talk about something else. When you have calmed down on your own, we can talk about your frustration later on if that's what you want.” He pauses after that, letting me think this through. I just bow my head, indicating that I have understood him.

“The second one is that you will go into the sleeping area. You’ll stand at the foot of the bed for 10 minutes, thinking about your behaviour and how we can avoid getting ourselves in these situations. After those ten minutes, you will strip and remove all your clothes and wait for me. When I enter, you will place yourself on my knee and ask me for a punishment spanking which I will deliver with as much force as I deem necessary to make you understand. Then all will be forgiven and we can spend the evening cosying up in bed as I suggested before you had a meltdown,” he presents the other option with the same calm voice even though the two options could not be more different.

I realize that this will in part decide what kind of relationship we will have. I have read enough about dominant/submissive dynamics to have a general understanding of what he is doing. If we were to engage in that kind of relationship he can’t let my behaviour slide and I do get that part of this addresses the need inside of me. Because as soon as he stops explaining my whole body jerks with nerves, a burning need so overwhelming I can only breathe erratically. I once again remember his words, even though my whole body and soul screams for this I still want to make an informed choice. Thanks to my own research I know what I am getting into and once again think about if this is something I want, all feelings aside.

He doesn’t pressure me, just stands still and looks at me.

“Little one,” he interrupts the silence after a while, “we will be fine whatever you choose. I won’t leave you,” he says gently and somehow this breaks down all my walls, all my denial and facades. I want him so badly, I want this for me and him, want to give all of me to him completely even though I have no idea what that means yet.

I don’t trust my voice to hold, instead I connect our eyes before I walk towards the bed slowly. I can feel his eyes burning holes in my back. I walk all the way towards the foot of the bed, fold my hands on my back, lower my head and do exactly as he told and think about what I could have done differently and why I didn’t. I look up to the clock and focus my attention there so that my thoughts can wander. I have the feeling he is watching me, which gives me a sense of steadiness and calm.

When the time passes I remove my clothes slowly and fold them neatly before placing them on the foot of the bed. I have to stand and wait another few minutes before I hear his steps approaching the bed and tense when he stops right behind me. I feel his warm breath on my exposed skin and the simple contact makes me shudder in anticipation. My pulse is already through the roof and my throat dry. I feel exposed and vulnerable, so incredibly sad to have disappointed the one person who means the world to me. He is my world, and has been since I woke up in a world full of strangers.

He rounds me and sits down on the bed in front of me. Severus stretches his hand towards me invitingly.

“Come here, little one,” he instructs, and this time his voice holds affection despite my mistakes. This affects me more than the anger and the disappointment, it clogs my throat and my heart beats painfully in my chest. I comply and lie down diagonally over his knees as he has instructed and present my naked backside to him. It feels strange to be naked on his lap while he is fully clothed, nerves settle in my stomach. This reminds me that he is in control and not me. At first the thought is scary but then I can feel my muscles relax one by one.

Severus rubs tenderly over my butt-cheeks while I blush a deep red.

“Before we begin I want you to choose a safe word. This is for your protection only. I have no intention of hurting you but we have not discussed your boundaries yet so I need to be extra cautious. Choose a word that will from this moment on be your safeword, when you use it everything stops, I will stop whatever I am doing immediately and without question. Using your safeword is an option you’ll always have at your disposal and I will never judge you for it.” He explains in a soft voice while he pets my back. I have to bite my lip hard because suddenly I am at the brink of tears again because of the care he bestows upon me.

“Just a random word?” I ask for clarification, the emotions inside me make it difficult for me to focus properly and think things through. I grip his thighs in an effort to ground me.

“Ideally not something that would come up in a conversation easily,” he says.

“Why can’t it be just STOP,” I’ll ask and he falls silent for a while.

“If you wish, absolutely. But there is a reason why it’s usually something else. Because later on yelling STOP might just be a part of a scene or a roleplay, which will make it difficult for us,” he says thoughtfully. I see where he is coming from.

“Dancing bananas,” I say, “that's my safeword.” He laughs softly and bows down and puts a feathery kiss on my shoulder blades. “I applaud your creativity,” his voice holds amusement.

“Ready?” he suddenly asks strictly, and the mood changes again.

“Yes please, may I receive my punishment?” I ask, remembering his earlier instructions. I find myself really meaning it. I feel horrible for how I lashed out at him and I just want to do penance to get rid of this lousy feeling. I need him to forgive me.

He takes a sharp breath and his hands on my lower back twitch.

“This is your first spanking, so it will not be excessive but I will not go easy on you either. Every spank is one you deserve and brings you closer to forgiveness. You will receive 15, I’ll start slow but will increase the force. Remember your safeword and use it if you need,” he concludes, his voice is just a low rumble.

The first couple of spanks I can handle easily, they barely sting and I find myself pushing my butt upwards, craving more, craving something else. Soon though he changes his pace, the time between the spanks increases but so does the force. With every slap the sting in my buttocks gets worse, I imagine they must be bright red by now. The anticipation in combination with the light pain has me writhing on his lap. I am embarrassed because my cock starts to fill and gets harder with every slap. My whole body tingles, sending waves of pain and pleasure through my system. His hand is warm and it feels like he could burn holes in my skin. My breathing is fast and irregular, there is excitement and fear because I have no idea what to expect. Suddenly he increases his force once again and I yelp when his hand lands on my butt with a loud slapping sound. The force drives tears to my eyes as pain spreads from my butt. I have no idea when the next slap comes and the waiting is excruciating. I have lost count, I tremble because I feel disoriented because I don’t know if I am in the middle or near the end.

Another slap with the same force. After that he rubs gently over the abused skin.

“That’s it, you are doing so well, baby. Five more to go,” he whispers and his praise blankets me, it feels like the sweetest honey and warmest most comfortable blanket. My heart stutters and I press into him, rubbing myself on his clothed thigh. His praise has gone straight to my erection.

The next one is harsh and I react with a combination of a moan and a scream. This one hurt for real, there is no doubt that this is punishment. Strangely though, that harshness helps me relax and I can stop my frantic humping. Instead I embrace the waves of pleasure and the waves of pain crashing through my body. I feel oversensitive, the fabric of his trousers against my cock painfully good and his other hand tangled in my hair, tugging at the strands sends chills down my spine. My whole backside is on fire, I have no idea where it begins and stops.

One more hard one has me sobbing in pain and anguish, suddenly I am able to release all of those bottled up emotions, my fears and frustrations. They leave my body in tears dripping from my cheeks. I try to curl into him, I want to melt into him and never be alone anymore. My whole body is shaking and I feel dizzy. Two more slaps in rapid succession have my penis jerk and drop precum. I absentmindedly wonder if I have ruined his trousers now but can’t find it in me to care. Instead I follow the motions of his hand, the pain is an anchor while my mind wanders slowly, looking at thoughts but never fully engaging. The warmth spreading from my buttocks wraps me in a cocoon like a weighted blanket, his steady breathing is music in my ears. With the last one my body convulses, my limbs feel numb and everything is just calm. I feel like I am drifting in a big ocean, an ocean of blackness so warm and comforting. The oceans change and shift and morphe back into his black eyes staring down at me.

I wonder when I have turned around and realize that I am lying on a plush pillow, covered in a woolen blanket. Severus is pressed against me, my head rests on his chest and he caresses my scalp with his fingertips. I try to shift closer but groan as pain hits me. I gasp, my backside feels battered and bruised. I hate that the feeling of warm and loving cocoon is gone and I try to get as close as I can to Severus, feeling like my soul might rip if I don’t. He catches me in his strong arms and pulls me completely on top of him. He folds his legs around me until I am completely embraced by him. I want to stay like this forever, it feels wonderful.

“I am sorry,” I tell him, referring to my behaviour. Now that complete calmness has settled over me my actions seem ridiculous.

“Don’t apologize, you received your punishment and you are forgiven. You have been such a very good boy,” he praises causing warmth to spread through my body like molten lava. His voice is affectionate, loving and intimate.

“Do you want to tell me what this was all about,” he asks lightly, stroking my back with his hands lovingly but with enough pressure to make me feel it through the blanket.

“I am just so confused. It just is too much. My memory loss, our soul bond and the way we suddenly became intimate, then discovering this submissive part of me and struggling to accept that, learning about the bdsm lifestyle and relationships including the dynamic.” I fall silent after that and he hums and kisses my cheek softly.

“Too many questions and too few answers,” he states and summarizes the whole thing pretty well.

After that he grips my chin and dives down for a searing kiss. My whole body reacts as his tongue pushes inside my mouth and leaves me breathless. He is dominating me completely, only using his tongue which forcefully fucks my mouth. When he stops I feel dizzy in a good way.

“Next time you come talk to me when you get overwhelmed, I need to be able to trust that you bring things to my attention that burden you,” he commands and I nod shamefully.

“Maybe it will become one of your rules. I think it is time that we sit down and talk about the relationship we are about to enter,” he says, making me shiver in anticipation and nerves.

“Now?” I ask meekly, really not in the mood for a serious talk.

“Oh now, love,” he chuckles and tightens his embrace. “Now we enjoy each other's company, skip serious issues and just get to know each other better,” he says, bringing a goofy smile to my face. I melt once more into his embrace and take a deep breath. I feel wonderful and the last traces of this morning's desperation and sadness fade away under his loving kisses and gentle touches.

“Do you want me to get some healing salve for your buttocks?” He asks when he notices me flinching every time I shift in his arms.

I think about his offer for a while. Even though my butt hurts I also relish the memory of his hands on my skin. It is a sign that I have messed up but that he still cares for me, that he wants me to be part of his life. If he wouldn’t he would have never cared enough to be disappointed by my harsh words or taken the time to find a way to move our relationship forward and give me exactly what I need. That’s why I shake my head in response to his question.

“What's your favorite book?” I like the idea of getting to know him better, aside from our dynamics or previous relationship in the past.

“Tricky question and really difficult to pick one. I guess it depends on the mood. There are so many I love. I like complicated books with layers of layers. Like Tolstojs “crime and punishment”, Follets “Pillars of the Earth” if I had to choose from muggle literature. There are of course wizarding ones as well, like “Merlins wisdom”, he says.

I have heard of all of them but have read none, as far as I can remember. Which is really not much to go on these days. We continue our conversation about rather mundane things just to get to know each other better. Severus tells me about his favorite subjects when he attended Hogwarts (Potions, surprise surprise) and some of the pranks he has pulled to get back to classmates who used to taunt him using his potion skills. We laugh heartily at some of them and my heart swells at the trust he shows me by revealing more parts of himself.

Chapter Text

The next day I look with tension forward to the conversation about our relationship that Severus indicated we need to have. It’s early afternoon and Severus sits at the desk in his alcove and writes silently. He looks thoughtful and has asked me not to be disturbed.

I busy myself by baking brownies, a recipe that I know by heart and surely have used many times before. The motions are familiar and soothing. Now and again my eyes reside on Severus and follow his movements. I am guessing that he is writing on something he called a “kink list”. The thought makes my stomach flutter with nerves and also excitement. It feels nice that he writes it himself since I saw in one of the books that there are already compiled lists out there that many couples use to start their kink negotiations. This way it feels more personal.

I am just about to put the chocolate batter in the oven when Severus puts his quill down and turns around to look at me. He smiles when he sees that I am preparing brownies and raises from his chair.

“I have compiled a list that we can use to get us started in talking about how we want our sexual relationship to be. I have chosen an array of sexual activities or kinks that you will be able to rate with YES, MAYBE, or NO. I have done the same so that we can discuss what we think about each item. Please note in the margin if you have any questions, you can also use your books as reference if you are unsure about an item,” he says and puts the parchment upside down on the counter.

He steps around the kitchen island and walks up to me. He cups my cheek and caresses my cheekbones with his thumb. I lean into the touch and relish the feeling of being close to him. Severus leans forward and captures my lips in a gentle kiss. It's over far too soon in my opinion and he chuckles when he sees me pouting.

“Please take your time in thinking this through, this is important Harry,” he stresses and indulges me with another tender kiss. “Remember that there is no shame in not liking something or not wanting to try it out. I am sure there is plenty of that in there but the point is to gather as many items to rate as possible so that there will be no doubts regarding your boundaries and mine,” he concludes. I nod in response indicating that I do understand and will follow his suggestion.

“I am going to meet some of the former Hogwarts teachers. We want to look at the damaged castle and decide whether we need to demolish it for safety reasons or if there is a chance at rebuilding it,” he explains and I take his hand to squeeze it tightly. I can imagine that going back there will certainly not be easy.

“Do you want me to accompany you?” I ask him. “This,” I point to the list, “can wait. If you need me to go with you then that takes priority,” I state firmly.

His features soften and a small smile plays on his lips. Severus seems to think about it but shakes his head after a while.

“Thank you, love, but I think this will be easier if it’s just us former teachers. In their eyes you are a student still and I think it will just over complicate the matter,” he explains and I understand where he is coming from even though I don’t like the idea of him dealing with this trauma by himself. I realize that this will be the first time that I will be separated from Severus since I woke from the coma, it feels odd and wrong in so many ways.

On the other hand he might be right because going through the list alone will give me space to think about everything to make informed decisions. I know that Severus counts on me to be mature in our pursuit of this relationship. Thinking about the conversation ahead has my stomach in nervous knots but I know that I can’t brush this aside because it makes me feel uncomfortable. If I want that kind of relationship with Severus I need to leave my teenage anxiety behind and focus on the important parts. It helps that I know deep within my soul that he does this for my benefit.

“Promise me to tell me when you get back and don’t want to talk about our relationship. I guess that it will be difficult to face the destruction of your former home,” I tell him and lean forward to rest my face on his chest. The linen shirt he is wearing feels nice against my cheek and I listen to his heartbeat for a while. He bows his head and puts a kiss on top of my head.

“Let's cross that bridge when it comes to it,” he replies and steps away from me after one final hug. I follow him to the door and hand him his coat before he leaves. He buttons it slowly, straightens the hem and collar. Severus looks impeccable and I have no idea how he manages to look like he just stepped out of a menswear ad all day. No matter how hard I try my shirts are always faded or wrinkled, I seem to collect stains from unknown sources during the course of a day and my jeans are ripped. For a moment it is incomprehensible how he can even consider being with me. Emotions overwhelm me right as he is about to push down the door handle. I don’t want him to go, everything inside of me is opposed to the idea of him leaving even though I logically know that this is ridiculous.

I look down in an effort to hide my feelings, I don’t want him to think that I am strange or childish. I am confused at the intensity of this feeling, like I am on the brink of a precipice and without him I will just fall into a black abyss.

Severus turns around and takes his hand from the door handle.

“Harry, I have told you how important your preparation for our upcoming conversation is,” he reminds me sternly and causes me to look at him puzzled. He has already stressed that enough in my opinion.

“Nevertheless there are some other tasks I want you to do. The cottage needs some tidying, there is stuff everywhere. Please prepare some dinner as well, I guess we will be hungry after we have talked,” he says in a firm voice. This is not him asking for a favor. It is obvious that he expects me to follow his commands. There is a lump in my throat and I nod slowly.

“While your hands are busy I am sure you’ll find a way to occupy your mind, there are one or two items on that list that will give you food for thought,” he says cheekily, the tone in his voice changes into intimate banter, “you’ll be thinking of all the things I will do to you and I will be back in no time,” he concludes and cups my neck.
I bite my lip because his words help me to not lose myself in my emotions about his departure. The hours that lie before me suddenly have structure and boundaries, I don’t feel like I will be floating away with my thoughts, instead I will focus on the tasks at hand. I am thankful for his commands, somehow it makes me feel cared for and safe. I will be thinking about him and I know he will be thinking about me doing the chores he asked me to. Maybe this will help us both stay grounded.

“This is the first time since the coma that we will be separated,” I whisper and blush, feeling childish and insecure.

“I know, little one, but we are a part of each other now. If you feel lonely search for me inside your soul and you’ll find me right there, no matter my physical location,” he whispers right into my ear, his breath causing me to shiver before he straightens his back again. I take a deep breath and lean forward, shyly initiating a kiss. Our lips meet cautiously, but he opens his lips for mine inviting me in. I hesitate a second but push past his lips with my tongue into his warm mouth. Severus is compliant and lets me explore his mouth. It feels exhilarating being the one to initiate intimate contact. We kiss for several minutes until Severus takes over the kiss and abandons the gentle meeting of lips and tongue in favor of a rougher claiming of my mouth that leaves me dizzy and longing.

“Be a good boy now,” he says calmly before he opens the door and leaves.

I close the door behind him and walk back to the counter, curious about the contents of the list he has compiled for us. I turn the parchment slowly and I am surprised at the length of the list, it almost covers the entire page. I smile at his elegant and curvy handwriting, I really love it. I take the list and sit down on the sofa, my legs folded underneath me. My books are still on the low table, ready to use in case I have questions about anything on this list.

When he first told me about this the whole thing of sitting down to talk about our sexual preferences and boundaries felt dry and unromantic but I am not so sure anymore. I feel cared for because he took the time to prepare a personal list for us and has stressed several times how important it is for me to be vocal about my wants, needs and boundaries. Maybe this is not roses and pralines but it shows how much I mean to him, otherwise Severus could just have charged into this relationship without giving a second thought about what I feel.

I caress the edges of the parchment tenderly while I read the items on the list. Sometimes I need to look something up and more often than not the descriptions have my pulse quicken and my face beet red. Some things I know without the shadow of a doubt that I will like. Other things I have to read about and give it some thought. Some of the items feel odd at first when I read about it but when I try to imagine a scene playing out between him and me engaging in those sexual activities my body reacts, sometimes violently so. I surprise myself more than once how easily aroused I am and how painfully erect my penis presses against my jeans while thinking about stuff that I would have deemed gross had anyone asked me. I realize that my view of sexuality has been pretty judgemental all things considered.

There are also items that I directly can rule out, where the thought has me feeling uncomfortable. I don’t have as many hard no’s as I thought I would have and a whole lot of maybes as well.

Now and then I look up from my list and books to check on my brownies. I take them out of the oven when they look just the right way. I really hope they will taste good, I hope to make Severus smile after his difficult task today. After that I start to prepare dinner, thankful for the mundane task that keeps my hands occupied and gives my mind freedom to wander and think through everything I have read and all the items on the list once more.

When Severus arrives back my heart immediately clenches with worry. He looks pale and exhausted, he is covered in dirt and has a black smudge on his cheek. I’ll greet him at the door and hang the coat he hands me swiftly before I embrace him in a tight hug. At first his body is rigid and tense but he seems to relax into the embrace after a couple of seconds and puts his arms around me. We stand like this in silence for a long while, his head rests against the top of mine. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to go back to his former home and view the destruction and battle all the emotions that come with it. I decide against asking him about it, instead I pull away to rub the smudge from his cheek with my fingertips.

“You have good timing, the brownies are ready to eat,” I announce and can see him visibly exhale in relief at the fact that I don’t ask him a hundred questions about his afternoon. I guess he will tell me if and when he is ready.

Severus walks to the armchairs and sits down heavily while I prepare coffee and take out plates from the cabinets. I put the brownies on a serving platter and take all of it with me to put on the coffee table between the armchairs. Severus has closed his eyes and rests his head against the backrest. I put the brownies and plates down. I look at him for a while and can’t help but bow down to put a small kiss on his cheek. He cups my neck before I can pull back and connects our lips, his tongue pushing past mine and into my mouth before I even can take a single breath. The gentleness from earlier today is gone, instead he claims my mouth forcefully, his tongue dances around mine and licks the roof of my mouth repeatedly. When he breaks the kiss I am out of breath and my heart beats fast.

“You taste like chocolate,” he remarks causing me to blush because I have taken a small bite of brownie while making coffee just because they looked so delicious.

“Greedy, hm?” he says, slowly stroking his thumb over my kiss swollen lips. I am sure he is referring to the brownies but my whole body reacts to his words, warmth pooling in my stomach. I look into his eyes filled with affection and slowly lick over the tip of his thumb. His eyes darken and he slips his thumb into my mouth and I close my lips around it. This reminds me of how much I liked having other parts of his body in my mouth. I am still awkwardly bowing over him but now he puts his hands on my waist and pulls me down, indicating that he wants me to straddle him. I follow his directions and sit gingerly down on his lap, my legs folded on his sides. Our bodies touch in all the right places and I lean forward connecting our foreheads.

“Have you been a good boy while I have been out?” he inquires sternly, sending shivers down my spine. I nod in confirmation and tell him about the chores I have done while he was gone.

“And the list?” he asks after I am finished telling him what's for dinner tonight.

“I am ready, that's pretty much all I was able to think about while cooking. I looked up all of the items I didn’t know about and have written down all the questions I have,” I reply proudly, glad that I didn’t let my feelings of embarrassment and my own nerves get the better of me.

I am rewarded with a big smile and my pulse quickens. Being the cause for that smile melts something frozen deep inside my soul. I place a small peck on his lips before I rest my head on my favorite spot right on the juncture of his shoulder and neck. Warm hands stroke my back softly and I feel completely safe and cared for in his arms. Severus doesn’t rush me or indicates that he wants to get started on his baked goods, instead he just patiently lets me have my fill of cuddles and affection.

In the end we end up eating like this, with me in his lap, feet diagonally over the armchairs armrest and my upper body propped up against his own. Severus doesn’t seem to mind, now and again he breaks a piece of his brownie and feeds me with it. There is something calming about these small interactions that satisfies an unknown need deep within me. When we are done we lick our chocolatey fingers and he looks at me with a serious expression.

“Harry, I know the last couple of days have been intense. You have discovered your submissive side and your needs in regards to that, we have found out that we are soul bonded, there is still your memory loss and the trauma that caused it. I want to know if you are sure about pursuing a relationship including our dominant and submissive dynamics,” Severus looks up at me with unguarded eyes filled with worry, longing and warmth.

Before I can open my mouth to give an answer to his question he continues.

“Let me rephrase that, are you sure that you want to pursue an intimate relationship with me? I want you to know that you are under no obligation to do that. We can be soul bonded without that part, don’t enter this relationship because you think that there is no choice,” he says in a whisper.

I place my hands around his face and connect our eyes just like when I entered his mind. This time I want him to see and understand, I can’t stand the thought there is any doubt in regards to my feelings towards him. I caress the soft skin underneath his eyes and lean forward to rub my nose on his prominent one.

“Read my emotions, Sev,” I demand and his eyes widen in response. “Please, I want you to know exactly how I feel,” I continue when he doesn’t seem to comply.

He closes his eyes briefly, I guess he needs to let go of his own shields to access his ability to read my emotions. When he opens them again and looks into mine I open myself wide, inviting him into my soul to show him all the longing, the need for his touch and affection and how much I care about him. I push it all forward because I need for him to know even if I can’t find the right words to describe it. Severus gasps and his grip on my back tightens. I am pulled into a searing kiss, all tongue and teeth, intense and claiming. There is no doubt who is in charge and I let go of myself and my doubts completely, I melt into the security and strength of his embrace. The nervous tension that has accompanied me all day leaves my body and I can finally relax and push away all the anxiety I usually carry around with me. I bury my hands in his hair, enjoying the silken texture and his grunt of approval. He doesn’t stop me when I push my body against his, trying to create friction. Blood gathers in my intimate parts and I am about to lose myself when he breaks the kiss with a tender bite to my lower lip.

“It seems we are ready to talk about this, little one. Calm down for a second while I change my clothing, then we will finally have this conversation,” he says, all uncertainty has left his voice and he is back to using his dark, commanding tone. I do as he says and climb down from his lap to sit on the chair.

He walks towards the closet and pulls out some comfortable clothes before going into the bathroom to change. I smile at his modesty, it is such a stark contrast to the things he has listed that are everything but modest, or regular for that matter.

When he finally comes back I have already gotten my list and sit straight, ready to talk about serious matters. He doesn’t get a list for himself so I am guessing he has it memorized, which doesn’t surprise me since you can only excel at the art of potions making when you have an outstanding memory. Also it seems like an excellent memory keeps you from getting caught as a spy. Severus sits down as well, now wearing a soft looking ivory t-shirt and grey pants.

“Harry, I want you to know that I will never judge you for what you like and don’t like. Please remember that just because I like something doesn’t mean you are under any obligation to try it just in order to make me happy. It is important for me that you know your own limits and needs and that you are vocal about this. I have no intention of pushing you too far and hurting you in the process, so I want you to keep this in mind. Can I trust you with this?” Severus asks and our eyes connect. Suddenly I have a lump in my throat because of how much he seems to care about my well-being. I worry my lips and take a deep breath, I know that I want to please him but I can’t let that influence my decisions on these things.

“What if I am unsure about something?” I wring my hands and fidget in my chair.

“Then you ask me all the questions you have and we talk about how you feel. We can also freeze an item and revisit it later when you have discovered more about your own likes and dislikes. We can always revisit this Harry, you can change your mind at any time in any direction but you must communicate with me and tell me whats going on, ok?” I nod because this makes sense to me. I am also glad that we can revisit stuff if I can’t give an answer today.

“Let’s just take one item at a time,” he says and smiles at me encouragingly.

My hands are sweaty and my fingers leave marks on the parchment. I swallow and look down at the list in front of me, I can already feel warmth creeping up from my neck.

Severus sits relaxed in his chair, his body is turned towards me and his hands folded in his lap.

“First item; fingering,” he recites from memory, his voice suddenly soft as if his normal talking voice doesn’t fit such an intimate topic. My heart picks up speed and I lick my lips before I nod.

“Use your words, Harry,” he reprimands gently. I wipe my hands on my shirt and try again.

“Yes,” I mumble, face downwards because the nervousness is back in full force.

“How about anal penetration?” he asks and a part of me finds it ridiculous that this is even on the list because we already have had sex. I laugh at the thought, but it comes out a bit more on the hysterical side and I stop right away.

“You are doing fine, little one. Just breath, it's just me and you remember. Trust me, ok?” He asks and the affection in his voice calms my nerves so that I can answer with a clear yes.

I try to find a more relaxed posture in my chair in order to get rid of the tension. As soon as he puts his hands on the armrest I reach out for them and earn a surprised look. He leans a bit forward to take my hands into his own, slowly stroking my knuckles and the back of my hand.

Oral sex gets a clear yes but the item after that I am not sure about. There hasn’t been much information about it in my books either, so I decide to ask.

“Cock warming? I don’t really understand the distinction between this and oral sex,” I mumble, still feeling like my mouth is unable to form these words but I try my best not to stutter or seem immature.

“Well, in its core oral sex is about getting someone else to orgasm with your mouth. Cock warming on the other hand does not have orgasm as its final goal instead it is much more about submission, forming an intimate connection between dom and sub. It's not limited to oral either, it can be about keeping my cock in your mouth unmoving while I am occupied with something else like reading, it's about service and letting go of yourself to please your dom. But it can also be keeping my cock in your ass after intercourse to prolong the connection in mind and soul. Do you understand the difference?” he asks and I think about his explanation. This somehow sounds loving and also strikes a cord deep within me, the need to please him and offer myself to him. I imagine the scene he painted and I have to swallow because of the sudden longing that overcomes me.

“I see that you find the idea agreeable,” Severus remarks and looks pointedly at the bulge in my crotch. My head turns into a ripe tomato and I try to cover myself with my arm.

“It’s ok to have a reaction, Harry,” he says and kisses the palm of my hand that he is still holding. I worry my lips nervously but nod to indicate that we can move on.

The items on the list get more unusual, we have a lengthy conversation about toys and which ones I feel comfortable with and what I have rated as maybe to try later on in our relationship. Towards the middle of the list we reach two hard no’s, sexual activities that I directly rule out. I just can’t imagine engaging in blood play, it makes my stomach feel weird and even breath play is out of the question because it reminds me too much about my panic attacks. The way my throat closes up and makes it hard to breath is cause for such anxiety and fear for me.

“You haven’t said much about what you like and dislike,” I comment after that, curious about Severus' wishes and boundaries.

“I haven’t said much because I don’t want to influence your decision but we are surprisingly in sync up to this point. Blood play is something I don’t participate in because it hits too close to my years in the Dark Lord’s service for comfort. I have done some breath play but mostly to address a need in my sub, not for my own benefit or sexual pleasure.” After that he falls silent, I suspect his mind is caught up in thoughts of blood and torture. I decide to be brave and take the lead on the next item just to have him thinking about something else.

“Contact with bodily fluids, comeplay, swallowing semen etc,” I read aloud and hide my face behind the parchment. My heartbeat quickens because I remember licking the precome of his penis and heat coils in my stomach again,” he doesn’t reply so I continue, “I rated this with a yes.” When I look up the look on his face is hungry and predatory and causes me to swallow. I feel like vulnerable prey under his heated gaze, I want to be devoured by him.

“Good,” he says sultry, causing my mind to create all sorts of arousing pictures with this one word. “Hmm greedy, just as I said,” he says almost to himself. I fidget on my seat, suddenly it's very difficult to sit still.

We talk get into the topic of punishment and discuss corporal punishment and different ways of inflicting pain like spanking, paddles, nipple clamps and the like. Severus makes sure I understand what every item does and some I rate as a maybe, unsure of how I would react and he tells me that we can test each item before we implement it into our sexual relationship which I appreciate. I feel that he is extra cautious because of my lack of experience and I am thankful for it.

“Other forms of punishment like prohibiting eye contact, no affectionate touching, degrading and name calling,” he continues with the next part and it feels like a bucket of ice water is thrown on my head even though I knew this was coming. The thought that I might not be allowed to touch him, or look him in the eyes has my eyes sting. I wonder if he wants to call me degrading names and humiliate me. I curl my hands into fistst and my breathing becomes shallow. I know from my research that this is quite regular in these kinds of relationships but everything inside of me just screams no.

“Harry, look at me,” he whispers and I struggle to comply, “tell me what you are feeling, I am right here with you, nothing has happened,” he soothes until our eyes finally connect.

“Don’t you want me to touch you and look at you?” I ask, my voice breaking at the onslaught of confusing emotions.

“Come here, baby boy,” he instructs and motions for me to sit on his lap. I am over on his side in record time and crawl into his lip immediately. I bury my face on his shoulder and try to calm down. He wraps his arms around me in a tight embrace.

“Remember when I told you that there are items on that list that neither you and I will like? This is one of them, I already suspected that you are not into this but I wanted you to have the choice to tell me if that is something that you need. Maybe it's time for us to talk about the difference between wanting something and needing something,” he explains calmly.

I just make an affirmative sound, not really ready to leave the comfort of his embrace.

“Imagine you are really, really hungry, haven’t eaten all day. And someone presents you with the options of a healthy, balanced meal or baked goods and chocolates. You WANT to choose the chocolate and pastries but you NEED a healthy balanced meal. In our relationship you will not always get what you want, Harry but I promise you that I always will address your needs and make sure they are met. On the topic of not getting what you want, have you given orgasm control, orgasm delay and denial a thought?” He asks and leans forward to kiss my neck softly. I enjoy the feeling of his lips against my skin and close my eyes. I am aware that if I agree to this I will give up a huge portion of control over my own body. This doesn’t scare me, instead it feels like exhilarating freedom to put myself into his caring hands.

“Yes, please,” I whimper when he sucks the tender skin, my fingers curled into his cotton shirt.

“Hmmm giving up so much control, are you comfortable with this, little one?”
His question makes me wonder if he doesn’t like this at all.

“It’s ok if you don’t want to do this. Maybe this is too much” I say swiftly, feeling a bit embarrassed at the fact how needy I am. My voice sounds insecure and the fear of rejection hides just underneath.

“My sweet Harry, of course this is not too much. I have told you that my dominant side is very pronounced and given the choice I prefer being able to live the dynamic in our relationship as much as possible. To be completely honest it would have been a challenge for me to let you control your own pleasure like that. You are mine,” he says hoarsely, his voice is dark and almost threatening. I feel exposed when he places his fingertips on my pulsepoint, clearly feeling how much his words affect me.

I place a shy peck on his thin lips before we continue. Now that we are getting close to the end of our list we are wandering into more extreme territory. These activities are the ones I spend the longest reading and thinking about. My reactions to them also surprised me because I had no idea I would be able to imagine these things and find them arousing. But here I am, my heart is beating in my chest and suddenly I can’t wait to talk to him about these.

“Harry, with the next items I know that you have probably never given thought about it prior to today. Which means that even if you rate something as yes I will take it with a grain of salt because even if the fantasy is appealing to you doesn’t mean the reality will be as well. We need to slowly find our way towards these, these things may lie months or years ahead in the future when you are much more experienced and our relationship has progressed. All of these need an immense amount of trust,” he concludes. I bite my lower lip because I do understand what he means but there is also a longing to try some of these, as weird as it may have sounded to myself only days ago.

“Any thoughts and feelings about fisting?” he asks in a serious voice and grips my chin to stop me from hiding on his shoulder. I lick my lips while my own imagination provides me with fantasies about him and me. The thought of being taken by him in such a complete way, being filled and stretched makes me shake with nerves but also raw need. I don’t know why and how but I crave the connection and intimacy that this entails. I want to lose myself completely, want to give up all control and let him take over my body in any way he pleases. Maybe the idea of being filled that already appealed to me when we talked about toys stems from the feeling of emptiness that my missing memory creates inside of me. It feels like if we were to do this that I would finally not feel hollow anymore.

“I want to try it, please,” I consent shyly, blushing to the roots of my hair when he raises his eyebrow at that.

“You are full of surprises,” he states after a while and ruffles my hair after he lets go of my chin.

“I can be naughty too, you know,” I reply in indignation at the suggestion that it is a surprise that I want to try more unusual stuff.

“Is that so,” he narrows his eyes, “and here I was under the impression you will be a well-behaved little boy for your daddy,” he growls, creating goose bumps on my skin. I had daddy kink rated as a maybe leaning towards no but now I am not so sure anymore.

“I don’t know,” I try to explain my feelings, “I rated this as a maybe, leaning towards no but now....” The words hang in the air between us for a while. “What do you think about this?” I ask him curiously.

“In all honesty this is one of my favorites on this list but I don’t say that to sway your opinion. But if you want to give me a chance I’d like to show you why this arouses me so much and how you’ll find pleasure in this too,” his eyes connect to mine.

“I trust you,” I whisper, “I want you to show me but I want us to talk about this again prior to doing anything, I want to know exactly what to expect,” I explain.

Severus gives me a blinding smile.

“I am proud of you, little one,” he says, leaving me breathless and filled with joy. “Maybe after we are done with this conversation and have had dinner you’ll get a reward for being so mature and articulate about your feelings,” he says leaving me wondering what my reward might be.

When I ask he chuckles and kisses me before he replies.

“What do you think about me tying you to the bed and fingering you to orgasm?” My body's reaction that he can feel against his crotch is answer enough for the topic of bondage as well.

“The two last ones are even considered a bit extreme in these circles but I wanted to include them. Scat play and watersports?” He looks like he knows the answer and surprise flits across his face when I say that I want to freeze them and revisit at a later date.

“Merlin, Harry you are going to be the death of me,” Severus exclaims.

Chapter Text

Several days pass without me being able to collect the reward Severus mentioned. Suddenly, Severus' days get busier because he has an influx of orders from Aleksej’s customers who are queuing for Severus’ potions. He has no potions lab at the cottage so Alexej offers Severus to use the lab adjacent to the apothecary and work on the orders together. It seems Alexej is keen on learning something from his former apprentice and I can see how proud it makes Severus to excel at something so completely. I do not like the arrangement very much but try to keep my thoughts to myself, remembering the consequences for causing a scene without proper cause.

The days alone in the cottage leave me feeling empty and hollow. I try to read, take care of all the chores and go for long walks but somehow the isolation is getting to me more than I anticipated. I think for long hours about my lost memory and all that is hiding underneath the black veil of nothingness in my mind.

Today I am not alone however, Severus has told me he would not be needed at apothecary, which has caused my tense shoulders to relax somewhat. It has been days since we had lunch together and Severus suggests that we enjoy the surprisingly warm and sunny autumn day by having a picnic in the garden. I love the idea and busy myself preparing fruit salad and sandwiches while Severus finds a spot in the sun in the backyard and puts a checkered blanket on the grass. He is wearing a jacket and slim trousers that accentuates his build and a scarf to shield himself from the slightly chilly breeze.

I walk outside, carrying a basket with our lunch and a bottle of sparkling water. Severus is already lying on the blanket, feet crossed at the ankles and his head resting on his propped up hand. He looks relaxed and content, suddenly I am aware of how much I have missed him. I sit down before I stretch out on the spacious blanket, lying as close to him as I possibly can without seeming way too needy.

Severus looks down at me with a lazy smile before he bows down and puts a soft kiss on my lips. His lips linger for only a few seconds but I can feel his warmth for minutes to come.

“How are you doing, little one?” He asks seriously, taking my hand in his own. I am prepared to answer by brushing it off and saying that I am just fine but I just can’t form the words. Instead the last couple of days play on repeat, making me feel so alone in this world. Before I can reply anything his body covers mine and black eyes stare down at me intently. He takes my chin in a tight grip and moves my head back when I try to avoid his burning gaze by turning my head away from him. Severus' body is heavy on mine and I feel the hard ground beneath my back. I take a fistful of the blankets fabric, holding on in an effort to not let myself get overwhelmed by his intense presence and my own feelings.

“Tell me what you need,” he commands, his voice is stern but I can hear the affection underneath.

“I don’t know, I don’t …,” I say, embarrassed of my own reaction. I don’t want to be a needy boyfriend who can’t be on his own when his partner is working.

“Tell me what you need,” he repeats, this time his voice is colder, stricter and leaves no doubt that he expects me to give him a better answer this time around. I shake my head, tears are gathering in the corners of my eyes while I fight the part of me that I still can’t fully embrace and accept. The need inside of me is raw and burning but I struggle against it, not ready to admit out loud what my whole body and soul urges me to say. Instead I press against him, trying to find an outlet for these tangled emotions that leave me aching for something I can’t fathom. Severus holds me down by the waist, his grip is surely going to leave some marks on my skin.

I am writhing in his strong embrace, not sure if I want to flee it or melt into it. It feels like my whole skin is on fire, I want to peel it off, climb out of the constraints of my body and just become one with him. I still haven’t answered and he seems to get irritated at my lack of verbal response.

“Harry, I think it is time to establish some rules for this relationship. I am not pleased at your behaviour right now. Stop fighting this,” he whispers the last words right against the shell of my ear. My whole body reacts to his tone and gets heavy, I stop writhing and look at him with big eyes.

“That's it, baby boy. Now you tell me what it is you need, all of it,” he continues, his gaze feels like it could burn holes in my longing soul.

“I need to be with you, I want you to take me and be completely yours, please don’t leave me alone all the time. When I am not with you it feels like I am standing on the edge of a cliff. Please take care of me, please take me…” I stammer and tears stream down my face. I have no idea what I am asking of him but I put all my longing and aching need for him into these words in the hopes that he will understand.

“I understand, little one, calm down. I am right here. It’s time to establish some ground rules and boundaries.,” he replies confidently and brushes the tears away from my lashes with his thumb. Severus bows down and puts a small kiss on my trembling lips before he rubs his nose lovingly against mine. I am thankful that he doesn’t change position, laughs at my neediness or otherwise shows signs that my behaviour is strange to him. Instead he blankets me with his heavy body, his hands holding my face gently while his eyes never break contact with mine.

“Firstly, Harry, I think it is of major importance that you come to me when there is something that bothers you, makes you feel uncomfortable or sad. I have said this before but you don’t seem to have taken this to heart and once again you have waited until your emotions are in such turmoil that you can’t handle them,” he says strictly, his face morphing into a displeased frown while shame colors my cheeks pink.

“I am your soulbond partner, your friend and your dom. All of which should tell you that you can come to me to unburden yourself. I will be there for you, no matter what. I cannot accept that you won’t share with me what's bothering you because that means that I have no opportunity to address your needs, which makes me the kind of dominant partner I don’t want to be. Can I trust that you understand the importance of this rule for our relationship?” He asks and I close my eyes to push down my raging emotions to focus on thinking through what he just said. All makes sense to me and I know that my reluctance to speak to him about these things comes from a painful and destructive place inside of me.

“I promise,” I croak, trying to find some composure. “I am so sorry,” I add into the silence and lift my head to press my lips against his. A small part of me is afraid that he will push me away but he doesn’t, instead he lets me control the kiss for a couple of seconds before he breaks it.

“Sh sh little one, you are doing so good, just trust me and we will be ok,” Severus says affectionately causing goosebumps to rise all over my body. I hide my head on his shoulder and put my arms around him to hug him tightly. Severus returns the hug and kisses me passionately before he slowly rolls over to the side to lie down on his back. I mirror his position and look up at the sunny sky with fluffy white clouds drifting by. It’s such a peaceful scenery and in combination with his affection I slowly calm down.

“There are a couple of more rules, love, are you up to talking about them?” Severus turns to his side to look at me. I confirm with a nod that he can proceed. This time he doesn’t seem to mind my nonverbal response.

“We already touched upon this subject when we had our kink negotiation,” the memory creates nervous tension in my whole body, “but as your dom I’d like to have as much control over your body as you can relinquish into my hands. You will not pleasure yourself without my explicit permission and you will not let yourself reach an orgasm unless I tell you to. Are we clear on that?” his voice is unrelenting, like cold steel. My palms are suddenly sweaty and my eyes widen at the implication of his words.

“Yes, I understand. What kind of control aside from that would you want to have?” I ask, a combination of curiosity and longing drives me to push the matter further. Severus squints in response and looks at me a long while in silence as if he is trying to assess if I am actually interested or not.

“Hmmm everything,” he says and licks his lips, “in that scenario I’d take care of you completely, you tell me when you are hungry, thirsty, tired, need to go to the bathroom and I cater to those needs in the fashion I decide is best. I know that this is intense and I understand if the thought makes you uncomfortable,” he states, and for the first time I can detect a hint of uncertainty in his voice. Maybe he doesn’t want to ask too much of me but I am glad that he is honest with his own needs as well.

“Honestly, this sounds a bit intense as you said but your needs are just as important as mine in this relationship so I want to try it out some time maybe just for a couple of hours,” I explain my reasoning. In reply he crashes his mouth on mine, pushes his tongue forcefully between my lips and into my mouth. His hands are everywhere, on my face and neck then on my stomach until he takes my clothed crotch into a tight grip that has me gasping in pleasure fringed with pain. Severus sucks my lower lip into his mouth and bites down on it, not hard enough to draw blood but painful enough to have me trembling in his arms.

I push his hair back and smile because this is the closest he has come to losing control in an intimate situation with me. Even when he came on my body it still felt like he had ironclad control over the situation and his body. I can tell that the thought of owning me so completely arouses him and addresses a longing inside of him that matches mine. We break our make out session when we both have to gasp for air.

We untangle ourselves and go back to lying next to each other, trying to regain our breath.

“Anything else?” I ask him and he smiles that beautiful smile of his that brightens his eyes. My heart beats painfully and I realize how devoted I am to this intriguing man. I know rationally that our relationship is only beginning and we will need to get to know each other better but somehow he fits into all the jagged and broken parts of my soul.

“We share a life now, I would want for us to talk about all major decisions that impact on our lives, so that we can shape our future together,” this time around he seems a bit flustered so I take his hand and kiss his palm tenderly.

“Harry, is there anything that you want to address that we haven’t talked about yet?” I appreciate that he asks, that this is not only about him setting rules as a dom but also about our relationship in general. There has been something on my mind since I did my research about these kinds of relationships that hasn’t come up yet but that leaves me a bit unsettled.

“I know from my research that having sexual experiences with others than your partner is quite common in relationships including this dynamic but I…,” I need to pause to take a deep breath to steady my nerves, “I don’t want to be touched by anyone but you,” I put my feelings into words and realize how vulnerable that makes me feel.

“Okay,” Severus replies neutrally, I can’t detect any emotion in his voice. His face otherwise full with expression is morphing into a mask that has my stomach churn. I guess he probably has not expected this restriction and this is something he really wants. My heart breaks as I realize that this probably means that he wants to have intimate relations with others. Just because he is the only one I think about doesn’t mean that he is ready to give up whatever lifestyle he has led before to exclusively bind himself to a traumatized and broken boy without memory. I know in my heart that I can’t make him give up on being with others if that's what he really wants. The only thing I can do is put restrictions on my own body. The thought of having someone but him touch me intimately makes me nauseous.

“I understand if you don’t want to be exclusive, I won’t demand that from you I just can’t stand the thought of being with someone else but I do realize that you maybe don’t want to give that up just because we accidentally bound our souls,” I ramble and can’t stop the flow of words. I put them around me like defences, acting like it wouldn’t rip my soul apart knowing he is with another person, another sub that caters needs I can’t fulfill.

He rolls over to once again look at me, his gaze is intense and I try to avoid his questioning eyes.

“Do you want us to be exclusive?” Severus asks and I try to analyse the tone in his voice but he gives nothing away. It would have been easier if I could have gauged what he is thinking about this but now I have no choice but explain my feelings. I curl my hand into fists and bite down on my lower lip. Chances are I am about to confess feelings that are unrequited.

“Severus, you have become my whole world since I woke from the coma. I can’t imagine being with someone else, we are soulbonded, friends and partners. I don’t need anyone else, you are all I want,” I explain, blushing to the roots of my hair while admitting how much I care about him. He doesn’t say anything in response so I swallow hard and continue.

“But I do realize that you might not feel that way about me and that you may have other relationships that you don’t want to let go. I know that we were forced into this even though it doesn’t feel like that to me,” my voice falters and silence settles around us. Silence is not the reaction you want to get upon basically telling someone you are about to fall in love with them and want a future with them. I do understand that all of this is in a way more complicated for Severus because our relationship is like a clean, white paper ark for me whereas he has years and years of baggage between him and me to carry.

“Harry, I don’t want to hurt your feelings but this is not as simple for me. I try to adjust to this new situation, being bonded to you, becoming friends and partners but it is quite a lot to process. I am not a man who easily gets carried away by his feelings so it will take some time for me to be with you and see how our relationship will progress. Do you understand where I am coming from?” His eyes never leave mine and I try to conceal the black pit of pain that opens itself inside my soul when I hear his words. For a moment the crippling pain renders me unable to respond, once again my words abandon me and silence accompanies the screams of my soul on the inside. Of course I knew this, his reaction to our soul bond told me as much, but I still carried a small flame of hope inside of me that he might start to fall for me as well. Hope is a dangerous thing I realize as I look at the man who already stole my heart but refuses to let me inside his own.

When I don’t seem to come up with anything to say I start unpacking our lunch even though my stomach is in painful knots. When I put the chocolates on the blanket Severus takes my hand.

“You do understand that I care about you very much, little one, right?” I look down on our intertwined hands and try to tell myself that this has to be enough and that I always can hope that he will eventually be able to open his heart for me the same way I opened mine. I nod because I don’t trust my voice not to break. He leans forward and brushes his lips over mine almost questioningly and I open mine to let his tongue slip past my lips to tangle with my tongue. The thought strikes me that I might not be the only one he kisses and repulsion makes me shudder. I draw back and break the kiss.

“Just please, if you are having sex with someone else, don’t be intimate with me on the same day,” I hate that I sound like a broken little boy as I say this.

“Baby boy, I think you don’t understand what I want to say. I have no desire to be with anyone else sexually, you overestimate my libido, I am not a teenage boy. What I said was about our relationship and letting it evolve slowly, it has nothing to do with wanting to have another sexual partner,” he explains and squeezes my hand that he is still holding.

“Not even Alexej?” I just have to ask.

Severus bursts into laughter and I feel stupid once again.

“I have never been involved with him, little one, nor do I ever want to get involved with him. He has been a mentor for me when I discovered my dominant side and helped me navigate this lifestyle. We are friends, that's it.” His tone is amused, I can clearly tell that he is telling me the truth and relief washes through me. Even if he doesn’t feel the same way for me hearing that he won’t be having sex with anyone else is important and makes me feel safe.

After that we focus on our lunch and the tension between us subsides a little. I do realize that I am way too impatient, our relationship has only begun so there is still hope that he will in time be able to develop feelings for me just like I have for him. At first we eat in silence but it doesn’t take long until we are able to find a comfortable conversation about teaching and potions making. Severus seems to keep the topics deliberately light and I am thankful for it.

I take a piece of chocolate and examine it. Severus explains that he loves chocolate, especially expensive ones and that the one I am holding is spiced with chilli. He urges me to taste and I can’t help but sigh in delight when the spicy sweetness hits my taste buds. Severus takes a piece as well and closes his eyes after he pops it into his mouth. I can tell that he is enjoying this simple luxury immensely which makes me smile. His features are relaxed and he looks content while he eats his chocolate and lets the sun shine on his face.

Severus yelps in surprise when I pounce on him, topple him over with my weight. I put my body on his and proceed to kiss him fervently, barely giving him time to think before I push my tongue into his mouth. It's the first time the intimate contact I initiate is not shy but I am dying to taste the chocolate in his mouth. The combined flavor of chocolate, chilli and Severus causes me to moan even though I try to stifle it swiftly. Severus lets me control the kiss in the beginning but I can tell that he grows inpatient until he starts to dominate the kiss with his lips, tongue and teeth.
“Time for your reward!” Severus announces and pushes softly against my chest so that he can get up.

It doesn’t take long for us to tidy everything away in the backyard to go back inside. Minutes later I am lying naked on the bed, shivering slightly. Severus is busy lighting a fire and getting something from the cupboard next to the bed. When he returns he holds four silk scarfs colored in blue and gray in his hands. He returns to the bedside and takes one of my hands slowly. He kisses my palm tenderly before putting a blue scarf around my wrist. Severus ties the knot loosely so that the fabric doesn’t hurt my skin and ties my hand with the other end to the bedpost. My breath catches, I feel exposed and vulnerable. Severus proceeds to the next arm, this time he puts tiny butterfly kisses on my wrist before he ties it to the headboard. My arms are now stretched above my head but the position is not uncomfortable despite the fact that it puts a bit of a strain on my shoulders. I try to move my hands and find that I can wriggle them freely to get the blood flow going.

Severus bows down and looks at me mischievously before he takes one of my nipples into his mouth. Teeth grace the tender flesh before he sucks, I feel sensitive there to the point where it is almost painful. He bites down on the hard nubs playfully and stops right before the waves of pleasure morphe into real pain. I breathe shallowly, my cheeks color at the realization how easily aroused I am. Soft fingertips trail down my abdomen and dip into my navel. I yearn for him to touch my penis but he bypasses it and lets his hands wander downwards between my thighs. He pushes them apart and I gasp when he doesn’t stop when he has created a gap he easily fits into but proceeds to push until I am almost spreadeagled.

Severus lets his fingertips glide over the soft skin on the inside of my thighs, creating goosebumps all over my body before he takes my foot. There is a gleam in his eyes when he kisses my ankle. He ties first one then the other foot to the bed as well using the remaining scarfs. I am totally exposed and under his control, my heart hammers in my chest.

Severus returns to the head of the bed and pushes a strand of hair from my moist forehead.

“Harry, are you alright? Remember your safe word and use it if you need me to stop, ok?” He asks and I nod hastily, I want this even though I feel nervous. My whole body feels heavy in a good way. My legs are spread so far apart that I can feel the muscles in my hips protest against the unusual posture. Lying like this is not comfortable in a physical sense but it is not painful either.

I feel completely exposed and I realize that I am about to relinquish much of my control into Severus hands both regarding my life and body. The thought is scary, exhilarating and comforting at the same time. I feel completely safe in his hands, despite his reluctance to open his heart for me more than just a tiny crack. But deep within there is this glowing, nurturing connection, a bond formed from the magic of our souls and it tells me that I can trust in him. I know that he won’t hurt me and I close my eyes in anticipation.