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Of Flames and Flight

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So come on Love, draw your swords
Shoot me to the ground
You are mine, I am yours
Lets not fuck around
Cause you are, the only one
The only one

-Angus and Julia Stone, Draw Your Swords



She came awake slowly, her head muddled, and her body too warm under layers of blankets. The room was dark and stuffy, a thin sliver of golden light spilling under the door and dipping into the scuffs of the hardwood floors. 

Hermione sat up, wincing at the sharp pain that shot through her chest. Her hand came up and tentatively prodded at the tender spot on her ribs. She frowned as her fingers traced the edges of the throbbing burn. It felt like she’d been hit with a stunner, but she couldn’t remember what had happened. She was in her room at Grimmauld, but she didn’t remember how she got there.

A thrill of dread twisted around her spine, making her skin shiver. Hermione turned to pick up the notebook that had spent months within easy reach, only for her hand to halt when she remembered it was gone. 

She froze, staring blankly into the darkness of the room, the last few hours sinking back into her memory. If felt like the accident when she was seven. Sitting in the back seat of her dad’s old Vauxhall when the car behind them slammed into them. The sudden sharp jolt. The cut of the seat belt digging into her waist and pushing all the air out of her chest. The shocking pain . The fear. 

He was gone. He had been so still. His face had barely looked real, void of animation and colour, it had more in common with a wax figure than the man she knew. 

Hermione felt her stomach roll and swallowed, the burn of bile fighting to make it up her throat. She shut her eyes tight and tried to breathe. 

Slowly, in and out. The smell of stale air and ever-present dust filled her nose.  

It was so warm in her room. Her shirt stuck to her back, and her hair was a heavy mass weighing down on her neck, strands sticking to her face. She found herself wishing fiercely for the sharp chill of winter, the burn of icy air, and the silence. To be back there with him, watching the stars spin toward the horizon as he drew their shapes with graceful hands. To be anywhere with him. 

Her throat burned as she gasped, trying to breathe around the pain. Trying to push back the tears that were tracing slow streams down her face. The taste of bitter pain and salt seeped over a crack at the corner of her mouth and burned, sharp and bright. 

Hermione made her feet swing to the floor, made herself stand. She had promised that she would get him back. She needed to know that they had brought him home. She could do this. She could make sure he wasn’t still lying there in that cold room, surrounded by his murderers. 

Someone had taken her shoes off. She didn’t bother trying to find them in the dark, letting the rough, thin carpet poke sharp holes into her socks and prickle her feet. Her jeans had twisted around her waist in her sleep and sat uncomfortably on her hips. Hermione let her mind focus on the discomfort, the bite of the metal button on her denims as it dug into her stomach, the pinch of the buckle on her cuff. Anything but that room. Anything but his silence. 

She stumbled to the door, the brass knob slipping the first time she tried to twist it. She wiped her sweaty palm on the leg of her jeans before she tried again, swinging the heavy door open and stumbling into the hall. The light stabbed sharply into the dull ache in the back of her skull, making her squint and let out a small breath of pain. 

A low murmur of voices came from down the hall. Harry kept several rooms made up for unexpected guests, and the door to the one that the twins typically used was propped open, spilling warm light across the floor. 

She could hear the low murmur of Harry and Severus, so she made her way toward them, not able to think of a better destination. Everything felt strange and disconnected like her brain had a slight delay. The paintings watched her slow progress with cold eyes, the muted colours of aged canvas blending with the faded walls. Maybe one day, they would just disappear, become one with the bones of the house. The idea seemed a sight better than being forced to watch the world pass you by, locked forever in a flat existence. 

Hermione blinked in slow surprise when she found herself in the doorway, looking at the back of Lupin’s scruffy shirt. There was a smear of what looked like dust low on his back, and his shoulders were tense. The grey streaks in his brown hair glittered in the low light of the room, reflecting slow flickers of flame from the few candles. 

Hermione shifted a bit to the side, catching sight of Harry, his hair fluffy with static from tangling his fingers in it. He was turned mostly away from her, his gaze focused on the bed. His jaw was tight, and his left hand traced absently over his silver bracelet, chewed nails catching on the blackened symbols. 

He was worried, her brain supplied. She couldn’t see Severus, but if Harry was there and upset, then Severus was nearby. She should go to him, see if she could help. Besides, she needed him. She needed to know if someone had brought Dra…

Hermione’s thoughts stuttered over the name, her breath leaving her in a gust like she’d been punched in the stomach. 

The noise must have been enough to alert Remus because suddenly, wiry arms were around her, and her nose was filled with the scent of loam and cold fur. 

“Hermione, you shouldn’t be up.” His soft voice was so gentle, so careful like it always was. Like he had to make up for the piece of himself that was brutality and rage. 

“What happened?” Hermione could barely recognize her own voice, the scratchy whisper breaking painfully from her throat as she craned her head to see Harry. 

Dark green eyes met hers. “I stunned you,” Harry answered baldly. His mouth was turned down with unhappiness, but his shoulders were straight, no hint of guilt dragging them down. 

Before she could ask, he answered, seeing the question in her face. “You wouldn’t let go of him, and you had a shield up. We had to get you out of there.” Harry hesitated as she froze, those last awful moments coming back to her.

The icy floor, so cold it burned, even through her jeans. The mist of her breath falling in sharp stutters as her shaking fingers caught on the tangles of blood in silky soft hair. The way his skin was almost exactly as cold as the floor. The muffled voices all around her, garbled words that meant nothing. 

A sharp shake brought her back to the warmth of the room, Harry’s fingers digging into the muscles of her upper arms. 

“Mione, pay attention.” He looked nearly frantic, and she wondered briefly how long she’d been standing there and when he’d replaced Lupin. She nodded to let him know she was back with him.

“Mione, sweetheart, you have to listen. He’s not dead. He took a potion, and Severus is brewing the antidote.” Harry stared at her, trying to see if his words were making it through.

There was a strange feeling, almost like a rubber band snapping back into place. The room swayed around her before coming back into focus, sharp and painfully bright. Noise rushed back to her, making her realise she hadn’t been listening to anything around her. 

Hermione blinked. Blinked again as her hands shot up and gripped painfully into Harry’s forearms. 

“You’re saying that Draco is alive. That’s what you’re trying to tell me?” Her voice was flat, the emotion pushed out of it, because if she had misunderstood if she was wrong…

Harry nodded. “Draught of Living Death,” he answered before she could ask.

“Right. Right,” she mumbled as she stepped around him and saw the still figure on the bed. Someone had cleaned his hair and face and tucked him carefully under the blankets. Severus was standing over him casting spells she recognized from many rounds with Madam Pomfrey. 

She very slowly crawled into the chair beside his bed and pulled the blanket Harry tucked around her closer. Eventually, the room emptied, leaving the light of a single small candle on the bedside table casting flickering shadows over Draco’s face. Hermione curled a little tighter around the tiny spark of warmth in her chest, guarding the smallest burning flame of hope.

The chill of the basement seeped through his thin shirt, his robes discarded on his bedroom floor after he had clawed them off. The dull stains of watered down blood on the sleeves from washing Draco’s hair and face were more than he could bear.

His thin fingers clutched the edge of his lab table, so new that it had no scratches or burns to trace, nothing to distract him. The surface was immaculate, the slow roll of wards and shields laced into the wood giving it a soft glow from the corner of his eye. The thick stones of the walls and ceiling blocked any sounds in the house. Not that there would be. They’d left Granger curled up with Draco, and everyone else had retreated to their rooms. Harry had taken one look at him before he pushed him gently toward the basement, understanding that he wouldn’t get any sleep until he started the potion. 

The small cauldron of flat white potion steamed in the cold air, the last ingredient already painstakingly added. Severus had nothing to do but wait. It needed to sit, untouched, for two full nights before it would gain the swirling pearlescent sheen that indicated it could be used. 

He let his breath hiss out from between teeth clenched so tightly his jaw ached, tamping down on his impatience. 

The slight scuff of a shoe on stone alerted him to someone behind him an instant before warm arms slid around his waist. The dark brown cuff and silvery scars on the arms told him who it was just as the scent of cinnamon and sharp spice that was Harry made the muscles in his stomach relax. 

“You alright, love?” Harry asked quietly, the heat of his breath spreading over Severus’ shoulder where he had pressed his mouth. 

Severus let his hands tangle with Harry’s and slowly shook his head. A soft kiss was pressed into the back of his neck before Harry pulled him toward the stairs. 

“Come on. There’s nothing else we can do right now, and we both need sleep.” 

Severus silently followed the younger man through the dark house, the fires long banked for the night, and the portraits sleeping quietly. Harry slipped into their room, a single candle still burning.

Severus stepped out of his boots, his mind somewhere between the basement and the room at the end of the hall.

Harry stared at him searchingly when Severus stopped halfway across the room, feeling lost. He felt beaten down, desperate in a way he couldn’t remember being. If Draco hadn’t taken the potion in time, there would be no one there to wake up. Hell, it might not have worked either way. Severus didn’t know of anyone who had tried to cheat a dementor by toeing the line of death. 

A low sigh brought his attention around in time to watch Harry slowly pull his t-shirt over his head and drop it to the floor. It took Severus a moment to understand that Harry wasn’t retreating to the bathroom to change into his pyjamas. He felt his brain skip when Harry flicked the button of his jeans and tugged down his flies. 

A slump of cloth and Harry was stepping out of his trousers, tight blue briefs leaving very little to the imagination. Severus swallowed around his suddenly thick tongue, his pulse noisy and almost painful under his jaw as Harry walked to him. 

Then callused fingers were on his chest, slipping the buttons of his shirt slowly apart, shaking just enough for Severus to notice. Severus didn’t say anything, standing still and staring stupidly at the man in front of him as Harry undressed him. 

Harry pushed Severus’ shirt off his shoulders, warm palms smoothing over his upper arms as the fabric fell to the floor. A small tug and Severus lifted his arms, letting Harry pull his undershirt over his head. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from Harry’s. The younger man looked as nervous as Severus felt, but there was determination underneath the tremor in his hands and the stutter in his breathing. 

The sound of his belt coming loose made Severus jerk and grab Harry’s wrist. 

“What are we doing?” Severus asked very softly. He needed to know because the last thing he wanted was for anything he had with Harry to be used as a distraction. 

“Just sleep,” Harry answered, just as quietly. “I just wanted to be closer.” The low light hid most of the flush in Harry’s cheeks but not the way he looked away and stepped back, suddenly less sure of himself. 

Severus felt his shoulders relax, and before he lost his nerve, he slipped his trousers over his hips and tossed them in the chair. He pushed Harry toward the bed before either of them could realise they were standing in their room in nothing but their pants. 

The sheets were cold and a biting contrast to the heat of Harry’s skin when he slid against him. A flick of his wrist and the room was plunged into darkness, the sound of breathing a touch too rapid filling the air. 

Severus spent tense minutes with his side pressed lightly against Harry’s, trying not to think about the fact that only a small piece of cloth stood between him and being nude in bed with Harry. The whole situation suddenly seemed utterly surreal and nearly hilarious. Severus Snape, in bed in nothing but his pants with the Savior of the Wizarding World. A tiny huff of laughter escaped before he could stifle it. 

Harry shifted toward him. “And what’s so funny then?” he asked, the lightness in his voice not wholly hiding the insecurity. 

Severus felt a spike of panic tighten his chest. He didn't want Harry to think he was making light of the first serious overtures of physical affection he had shown. The longer he scrambled for an appropriate answer, the tenser he could feel Harry becoming.

“I’m in bed in nothing but my pants with Harry Bloody Potter,” he burst out, not finding a better explanation than the truth. Severus felt almost dizzy with how much blood rushed to his face. He waited for Harry to get out of bed, or perhaps let him know that if he found it funny, then it wouldn’t happen again, or any other number of fairly unpleasant outcomes. 

A tiny snort was his only warning before Harry burst out into cackles of laughter. The younger man shoved his face into his pillow, muffling what Severus could only call giggles. Severus reached out and poked Harry in the side, concern warring with amusement. 

The laughter slowly tapered off, leaving Harry breathless and relaxed beside him. “If it makes you feel any better, the night I figured out that I was in love with you, I had about the same reaction to cuddling with you on the couch.”

Severus snorted, smiling at the shadowy lump of his partner. 

“It’s completely bloody bizarre, isn’t it?” Harry asked, calmer now. 

“Very,” Severus answered, contentment replacing the panic of moments before. A small shuffle and Harry was considerably closer, tucking his head under Severus’ chin. Warm breath fluttered over his chest, and he could feel the slow rise and fall of Harry’s breathing. It was wonderfully comforting. 

He couldn’t remember the last time he had so much bare skin pressed to anyone. It was a fair possibility that he’d never had this much exposed skin on anyone. Severus settled a little closer and brushed a small kiss over Harry’s head, finally letting himself fall toward sleep. 

Harry woke up warm and content, his fingers brushing over tight lines of scars that covered Severus’ chest. Harry had a moment to realise that Severus was still asleep before he woke up enough to understand that he had really not thought through his actions the night before. 

Harry was pressed flush to Severus’ back, nothing but two flimsy pieces of cloth between him and the other man. What had seemed like an adequate barrier the night before was now nothing more than a pitiful decoration. Somehow, in his moment of brilliance, Harry had forgotten that he was eighteen, and morning was not a time to be wearing very little clothing while in bed with a man he increasingly found himself wanting. 

Harry let out a breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding and dropped his head back to his pillow, trying to shift his hips back enough that he couldn’t be accused of assault when Severus woke. 

Harry stared at the dark tangled waves of Severus’ hair, trying to pinpoint when his perception had changed so drastically. He remembered the conversation with Hermione, realising that he had fallen in love with Snape of all people and the panic that closed his throat. He’d never looked at another bloke that way before. It’s not that he had an issue with it, and honestly, he had welcomed another stark difference between the wizarding world and how his aunt and uncle spoke about ‘those people’, but he’d never thought about it pertaining to him.

Anytime Harry had considered his somewhat nebulous future, it always held some faceless woman and a warm house and children. A family like he saw on the telly when he was little. It was all he ever wanted, and a tiny part of him had mourned that childish idea when he finally let it go, knowing he likely wouldn't live that long, and even if he did nothing would ever be so idyllic.

Sometime in the last few months, whether he fancied blokes or not had stopped mattering because he fancied Severus. It had been slow, the way he would find his eyes drawn to the grace that Severus moved with, the way his dark eyes sparked with mirth. How in moments of inattention Harry had imagined running his fingers over the tilt at the corner of Severus’ mouth, tracing the sharp cut of his jaw. Somewhere along the way, Severus had moved from the man he loved to the man he loved, who he also would very much like to take the pants off of. 

Which brought him rather abruptly back to his moment of blinding stupidity and his now deeply uncomfortable predicament. It wasn’t even possible for him to slip out of bed because he was tied to the bloody man.

It wasn’t like they hadn’t run into this exact problem before. Neither of them was old, and it wasn’t as if they had an outlet that didn’t involve a single participant and a lonely shower. However, most mornings involved several more layers that preserved at least the illusion of decency.

Harry’s musings were cut abruptly off as Severus woke and sleepily shifted back into him. Harry couldn’t stop the small pained noise from escaping, no matter how much he wanted to. Both of them froze, barely breathing. Severus’ shoulders were tense in the soft bluish light of morning, the line of his body almost uncomfortably hot against Harry. 

Harry exhaled hard, breath shifting the loose strands of Severus’ hair across his shoulders as he pulled away. Their morning would have proceeded as usual, if with slightly less eye contact if Severus hadn’t made a tiny noise of protest low in his throat.

Before he could think it through and flee, Harry found himself pushing forward with a slightly stilted roll of his hips. Friction sucked the air from his lungs and dragged another small noise from Severus, who pushed back into him just enough to make the movement obvious. 

They moved slowly, silent but for small gasps. Harry could see the flush of embarrassment staining Severus’ neck and didn’t stop himself from pressing slow kisses over it, the pale skin sleep warm. Severus’ breath stuttered out as he pushed back harder, making Harry choke. 

“Shield,” Harry managed to get out, lifting his right hand. Severus understood and freed him, letting Harry’s hand fall to his slim hips. The tight grip on Severus let him steady himself, let him push more firmly against the man in front of him. His fingertips curled around the bone of Severus’ hip, pressing small indents into his skin. The friction between their clothing was nearly uncomfortable, but Harry was too far gone to think of a solution. 

Through a haze of arousal and near hyperventilation, it occurred to Harry that he was seconds away from thoroughly embarrassing himself, and all in all, Severus could not be getting as much out of this situation as Harry was. 

Before he let himself consider what he was doing, he slipped his hand down Severus’ stomach and just under the edge of his black pants. Some remains of higher brain function made him pause when Severus froze and ask with a shaky breath, “Yes?”

Severus made a sound like someone had kicked the air from his lungs and nodded sharply. Harry thought he might pass out, his heart was hammering so hard. He let his hand slip the rest of the way and wrap gently around the other man. They both paused, sucking air into heaving lungs before Harry started slowly moving again, his grip awkward but determined.

The next few minutes were nothing but shallow breaths and curses, muttered too low to hear properly. Harry was too focused on what he was doing, listening to the sharp shaking breaths of the older man, and so was entirely taken by surprise when he felt his own hips stutter and his breath catch. The world narrowed down to the tight line of Severus against him, the pressure on his cock, the slickness of sweat between them. Harry clenched his teeth against the feeling of near painful pleasure before going slack against Severus, sucking sharp breaths in.

He paused for only a second, panting against Severus’ neck, before turning his attention to the other man, who was making what sounded suspiciously like threats of bodily injury as he shifted desperately. Severus cut off with a small choked noise when Harry started moving his hand again. It took only a few more minutes before they were both slumped over and panting. 

Severus managed to muster up enough willpower to find his wand and send a cleaning spell over them and the bed, making Harry shudder in appreciation and wrap himself around Severus. 

Harry buried his face in the back of Severus’ neck, his cheeks burning as what he’d done crashed into him. Merlin, what was he thinking? 

Harry squeezed his eyes closed and tried to force the rising panic down. It was fine. It’s not like he hadn’t thought about this part of their relationship. If he was honest, he’d thought about it a lot. Particularly after sneakily flipping through the book the twins had given him for his birthday, which had a surprising amount of instructional drawings. He’d almost banished the thing when Severus had walked in and nearly caught him with it. He was still convinced that Severus had at least guessed at what he had been doing, and his vocal concern about how flushed Harry looked was just him being an arse. 

When neither of them said anything, Harry forced himself to relax. The knot of tension in his chest began to let go, and he breathed a little slower. It was fine. He wasn’t panicking, and Severus hadn’t fled the room, so it was fine. 

Harry was just starting to drift off again, despite the low burning of worry in the pit of his stomach, when Severus turned over and slipped his arms around him. 

“That was… unexpected,” he muttered, his voice deeper than usual. Harry made a small noise of agreement as he came fully awake and tried to keep his limbs loose. It took Harry longer than it should have to realise that Severus was a line of tension, lying stiffly against him. 

“What’s wrong?” Harry asked, eyes still closed, trying to pretend that he wasn’t abruptly terrified. Severus wasn’t angry about it, surely? Harry knew how serious he had been about keeping everything as appropriate as possible while they were still at Hogwarts, but that had been months ago. 

Silence greeted him, so he cracked an eye open to find Severus with a blank look on his face and terror in his eyes. 

Harry felt his stomach flip for an instant before he reminded himself that this was Severus, and he should have expected as much. The man couldn’t walk through a room without finding something to feel guilty about. Some of the uncertainty dropped away from Harry. He’d been with Severus every day for almost a year, and he was starting to get the hang of handling the other man’s weirdly complex reactions to everything. 

“Stop it,” Harry said, making Severus lose some of the tightness in his frame. 

“Stop what, precisely?” 

“Stop making this a thing you need to be weird about. We’re dating. We’ve been dating for months. It’s ok for us to do whatever we both want.” Harry tried to keep his voice casual and the flush from his face, knowing that he needed Severus to be alright with this. 

Severus huffed but slowly relaxed, letting himself gather Harry a little closer. “Fine.” He sounded almost put out that he was being cut off from what was sure to have been a truly spectacular round of insecurity and self-doubt. 

“I love you, go back to sleep,” Harry muttered, pleased with himself.

A small grumble was all he got in return, but he felt the slow smile Severus pressed into his shoulder. 

The corridor outside the defense classroom was dark, torches flickering at the far end of the hall, and casting weak light over the statue of the mermaid Ron was stepping silently behind. A soft click, and he slid through the low door, being careful not to catch the edge of the invisibility cloak as he ducked into the narrow, dusty passage. 

He lit his wand with a soft ‘ Lumos ’ as the door shut and hurried toward the dungeons. The marauders map crinkled as it brushed the edges of the cloak, but he refused to put it away. It was his night to patrol, and a small dot labeled Mindy Holton, a Hufflepuff second year, was sitting terribly still near the Slytherin common room. Ron had been on the sixth floor, looking for Peeves, when Nearly Headless Nick had surged out of the floor and told him that a second year had been cornered by the Carrows. 

He’d asked Nick to find Peeves and send him toward the dungeons before sprinting off. Enlisting the poltergeist had been Luna’s idea, and when she’d brought it up during one of the first DA meetings, everyone had laughed it off, Ron included. She’d shown up to her next patrol with Peeves in tow and a small smile. Since then, he had been shockingly helpful, warning students and distracting the Death Eaters now swarming the halls. Despite his history, Peeves was loyal to the castle and so became a strange, though welcome staple among the self assigned DA patrols. 

The canvas back of a tall portrait loomed in the dark ahead of him, making him put out his wand. He plunged into darkness before slowly slipping out from behind the painting.

“They’re down the hall. She was screaming.” The lilting voice of a young boy came from behind him. Ron turned to find a boy that looked to be seven or eight staring a bit to the right of where Ron was standing under the cloak, fear twisting his painted features.

Ron turned and hurried off without a word. The Carrows had been finding new and more horrible ways to punish students in the few weeks since term had started. The Professors were doing everything they could, but even McGonagall wasn’t able to defy the Headmaster, not if she wanted to stay. 

A small whimper cut into Ron’s thoughts, and he slowed his steps down. He wasn’t nearly as silent as Harry could be, but he’d learned to walk quietly enough, years of sneaking around with Harry and ‘Mione having taught him a few things. 

Just before he rounded the corner, a voice he vaguely recognized echoed down the hall. 

“Hey! Yeah, you, the Kray twins! Leave her alone.”

Ron barreled around the corner to find both of the Carrows’ standing in front of a young girl with dirty blonde hair. She was pressed against the cold stone wall, and the arms of her robes were in tatters. Blood dripped on the floor around her in speckles and spots, leaking from the thin, deep cuts on her forearms. Tears were falling down her face, and she was huddled in on herself. 

The siblings had turned away from her to face the student yelling at them. Standing just outside of a pool of dim light was the shape of an older student. He was at least as tall as Ron, with an athletic build. Ron couldn’t make out who it was, but he could see the wand clutched in his hand and the defensive stance he’d taken. 

Alecto raised her wand, her face twisting in rage, and threw something that pulsed a sickly blue at the student standing in the shadows. Without thinking, Ron threw a shield between them, the jerk of his arm letting the cloak slide partway off before he could catch it.

“There’s another one!” Amycus yelled, pointing to where Ron’s arm and head had been briefly exposed. 

The Gryffindor was already ducking down the hall, trying to loop around and reach the little girl still bleeding on the floor. Alecto narrowed her eyes and muttered something as she flicked her wand, twisting to sweep the spell through the width of the hall.

Small golden sparks flew from her wand and filled the air, glittering almost like fairy lights. They drifted through the air on a light gust, spilling through the hall and hanging suspended. 

It took Ron a second too long to realise what she had done. The golden sparks reached him and caught on the cloak and stuck for an instant before vanishing. They stuck to the other student too, gathering on his robes and making him glow faintly. The cloak shed them, but as Amycus focused on Ron, he realised that it didn’t matter since a person shaped hole was as good as a person. 

He dove out of the way as a spell shot toward him. It caught the edge of his trainer and snapped his legs around, throwing him into the far wall with a painful crack. He was vaguely aware that the girl was screaming, and the voice of the other student was closer. A fuzzy glimpse toward the Professors showed a shield around him, and the polished leather shoes of the other student planted near his head. 

Ron pushed himself up the wall, letting the hood of the cloak fall as he added his own shield to the one already up. He felt panic building as he realised he was going to be lucky to get out of this at all, and he couldn’t see how he’d be able to get the other two out either. He swallowed heavily and ground his teeth together. It didn’t matter if he got out. This was why he’d come back after all. To help keep the other students safe, instead of staying at Grimmauld with everyone else.

Just as Ron was starting to feel the strain on his shields, and the Carrows were moving toward increasingly more dangerous spells, a flash of silver blue light crashed around the corner. An unholy shrieking filled the corridor as Peeves shot past, a metal bucket clutched to his transparent chest. He paused just long enough for Ron to see the gleeful smile on his face before he dumped the contents of the bucket over the two Professors. 

The hall filled with the foul smell of bubotuber puss as the Carrows screamed. Peeves swept around them and grabbed the second year around her waist and heaved her toward Ron. 

Ron scrambled up and grabbed her, noting that Peeves must have mixed some kind of sticking potion in with the puss because both Professors looked like they were attached to the floor and each other where they had grabbed arms for balance. 

Ron nodded to the poltergeist in thanks as he tucked the girl under one arm and grabbed the still unnamed student and hauled them both toward the portrait. He didn’t stop until they got to the hospital wing, panting from their headlong sprint. He paused outside the large arched doors and finally turned toward the man whose arm he had been clutching, only to find himself looking at Blaise Zabini. 

Ron stood there for a second, just blinking. His first thought was to back away and maybe send a curse or two at the Slytherin, but he stopped his hand as it twitched toward his wand. Hermione had told him it took forever for something to sink in, but eventually, even he had to admit that there was a fair amount of Slytherin’s that were a lot less evil than he’d been led to believe. If the Ferret and Snape could end up on their side, then Zabini, whose biggest crime had to be general apathy, shouldn’t be a stretch. 

“You hurt?” he said instead of asking what the hell the snake had been doing.

Zabini shook his head, looking a bit sick. “No. You showed up right after I did.” He didn’t comment on the fact that Ron appeared to be a head floating in the air, or ask why a Gryffindor had been in the dungeons in the first place. 

Ron scuffed his feet before muttering, “Thanks for the help. I gotta get her to Madam Pomfrey.” He motioned to the girl that was now clinging to his side, looking rather creepily like she was floating in the air. 

Zabini nodded and turned to go, still looking a little shocked. 

“Hey, Zabini,” Ron said to the other students back. The Slytherin turned around and raised a thin brow in question.

“Monday, Wednesday and Saturday nights, midnight at the room of requirement if you want to come,” Ron blurted out, not sure if he actually wanted to invite the Slytherin, but not liking the idea of just letting him wander off when he’d tried to do the right thing. Hell Harry and Hermione had their own Slytherins, he might as well get one too. 

Ron’s face flushed at that thought. Oh, Merlin, not like that. 

Zabini didn’t seem to notice Ron’s face turning to match his hair and simply nodded before disappearing down the hall. Ron cleared his throat and ducked into the hospital wing. Hopefully, he wouldn’t regret it. 

The night before the potion was to be ready, Severus couldn’t sleep. He lay in bed, the sound of Harry’s soft breathing mingling with the creak of the house settling and a slow persistent drip from the bathroom faucet across the hall.

The silencing spells that helped to hide the house kept him from hearing the sound of tires on the road outside, but the flash of headlights tracing through the slit in the curtains and flashing across the ceiling let him know that no matter how late it was London was never genuinely asleep. 

Harry had finally drifted off after trying to sit up and keep Severus company and had slumped over onto Severus’ chest. All Severus could see of his partner was a head of tousled black hair and a lump under the covers. There was something that felt suspiciously damp on his chest, and he shuddered a bit. He didn’t think he would ever get used to Harry’s habit of drooling on him in his sleep, no matter how long they were together. 

Severus drifted and watched the light in the room change, bleeding to a soft hazy blue. The room looked the same as it had the other morning, and Severus found himself blushing at the thought. Not that it had been very far from his mind, despite everything. He swallowed heavily and tangled his fingers in Harry’s hair, pressing a soft kiss to the top of his head. 

While Harry had been very open with his affections since they left Hogwarts, Severus had very resolutely not allowed himself to think of anything further. He’d not been sure what kind of relationship Harry had wanted, but he had been perfectly happy to let the younger man choose how much intimacy he was comfortable with. 

Severus had had very few encounters in his life of that nature, and none of them had been particularly pleasant. All of them had been instances in which the Dark Lord had sent him someone as a reward, which left him feeling dirty and not very inclined to repeat the experience. Severus had finally managed to convince the Dark Lord that he was one of those who found no interest in sexual acts, which had spared him and those the Dark Lord had sent to him. Unfortunately, it also prevented him from seeking anyone on his own, since it would have been exceedingly painful had the Dark Lord believed Severus had lied to him. 

Severus had been relatively content with it as his experiences hardly made him disposed to try again. All of that had come crashing down with Harry. He’d spent months very resolutely not acknowledging how attractive the younger man was and casting unpleasantly cold charms on himself in the mornings to avoid what he was sure would have been looks of disgust. All of that had changed when they left Hogwarts, but he’d not been comfortable pushing that aspect of their relationship, no matter how much he might have thought about it. 

A shiver traced down his spine at the nearly visceral memory of Harry’s hands on him. It had taken the space of fifteen minutes with someone he loved to change his entire outlook on physical intimacy. Even if it had come later for him than some, he was grateful that he’d finally had a chance to experience what everyone seemed so preoccupied with. 

A soft knock on the door brought his attention back, and he realised with a start that it was fully light out. 

“Harry?” Hermione’s voice floated through the door, lacking the confidence that usually carried it.

Severus looked down and reassured himself that both he and Harry were dressed, and Harry hadn’t thrown his shirt or sleep pants off in the middle of the night before he waved a hand and unlocked their door. 

A head of wild tangles poked around the jam and spotted them in the bed. Normally Severus wouldn’t have let anyone but Harry see him before he’d readied himself for the day and certainly not in bed. Still, Hermione was an exception to most of his rules, simply because she was the exception to all of Harry’s. 

She shuffled over, dark rings under her eyes, and perched on the bed next to Harry. She reached out and shook him gently. 

Harry snorted and twitched, clutching tight to Severus as he came awake before he looked around in confusion. He spotted Hermione and rolled toward her, absently disconnecting their bracelets. She gave him a trembling smile as her fingers worried silky sleep pants covered in tiny silver dragons.

Harry gave a few confused blinks to his best friend before he reached out and wordlessly pulled her under the covers with them. He wrapped his arms around her and cocooned her in heavy blankets despite her weak protests. Severus smiled a bit at the double lump before he noticed the wet spot in the middle of his t-shirt. He grimaced and sent a cleaning charm over his clothes before leaning over and pressing a kiss to the side of Harry’s head. 

He left the two of them to murmur to each other under the quilts and took his clothes to the shower across the hall to get ready. By the time he made it to the kitchen, only Tonks was there, her hair it’s typical brilliant pink. Severus nodded to her as he started his coffee. 

“The potions ready today, right?” the Auror asked, head tilted and slim fingers wrapped around Lupin’s werewolf mug.

Severus nodded wordlessly as he started breakfast for Harry. The sound of eggs frying nearly covered the soft tap of bitten nails on the handle of a mug. Severus turned to find Tonks staring at his back, her gaze far away. She blinked and focused when Severus cleared his throat, a faint tinge of pink staining her cheeks.

“Sorry, Severus, just lost in thought.”

Severus made a low noise of agreement before he turned back to the stove and tossed a piece of toast along with a few slices of bacon onto the plate at his elbow and placed a warming charm over all of it. 

Tonks kept up the absentminded drumming as Severus joined her at the table and made his way through his first cup of coffee, trying to stretch it out. The potion wouldn’t be ready for a few more hours, and the clock seemed to be slowing down. 

“Severus?” Severus jerked at the sound of his name, nearly sloshing coffee over himself. He gave the Auror a rather flat look, earning himself a sheepish smile. 

Severus raised a brow at her when she only sat in silence, her gaze turning to the table.

“Was there something I could help you with, Nymphadora?” Severus asked, smirking when she winced at her full name. 

“Yes,” she answered, only to fall silent again.

Severus finished his coffee and stood to refill it, his attention mostly on the increasingly uncomfortable woman at the table. 

“Were you planning on telling me, or is this a guessing game?” he asked, a thread of irritation creeping into his voice. 

Tonks heaved a sigh before spouting out a sentence all in one breath. “I’m pregnant, and I know I probably need potions for it, but I can’t go to St. Mungos because I don’t want anyone on You-Know-Who’s side finding out and I’m pretty sure they won’t treat me if they know my husband is a werewolf and I don’t know what to do.” She gazed at him imploringly as his sleep-addled brain tried to slow her speech down enough to piece together what was going on.

“I assume you’re bringing this to me in hopes I can supply what medicines might be needed in your particular situation?” he finally asked, keeping his face impassive. 

“Yes,” she answered with a whisper.

“Very well. I’ll bring you a schedule with my recommendations and the first week of potions by tomorrow.” He frowned, thinking of what he might need to order soon if he was going to be making potions for a high-risk pregnancy. As normal as werewolves appeared outside of the full moon, there were enough differences for there to be complications if not handled carefully. 

Lost in thought, Severus didn’t realise how close Tonks was until she was hugging him, muffled thanks coming from where she had buried her face in his shoulder. He tried to lean away, but she just followed him, clinging as if she were glued. 

The scuff of a boot, followed by a low chuckle, announced Harry’s arrival.

“Should I be worried?” The younger wizard grinned at him as he fetched the plate Severus had left him and filled both their mugs with coffee before joining them at the table. 

“Yep, we’re running away together,” Tonks answered cheerfully, tightening her hold on Severus. Harry glanced up from his plate and burst out laughing at the look of horror on Severus’ face. 

“Well, good luck, he steals the whole bed, and he cheats at cards,” Harry said around a bite of eggs. Severus narrowed his eyes dangerously at the other man. 

“I don’t cheat, you’re just terrible,” Severus grumped, prying himself free of Tonks. 

Severus finished his coffee and stood to head down into the basement. He knew he needed to do something productive with the remaining time until they could try to wake Draco, and Tonks had handed him a convenient job. He leaned over to press a kiss against the side of Harry’s head and take the small blue packet of powdered donuts that he waived at Severus. He refused to admit it, but Severus loved the awful things, and he was suspicious that Harry had bought out a muggle store of them when he noticed how quickly Severus grabbed them.

Severus made his way to his lab and lost himself to planning.

Harry smiled at Hermione when she shuffled into the library, cup of tea clutched tightly between her hands and the glazed stare of the sleep deprived fixed on her face. She had made a small effort and put on jeans and one of Ron’s old jumpers, the sleeves rolled up to reveal her hands. Her hair had been pulled up and tied in a messy bun that was listing a bit to the side, and she hadn’t got around to putting on shoes, but she looked more put together than she had when she’d woken him that morning. 

“Hey,” she said softly, settling next to him on the worn sofa and tucking her feet under his thigh. Harry lifted his leg obligingly, sandwiching her feet to the couch to keep her toes warm. They sat in comfortable silence, the ruffle of pages from Harry’s slow reading and the gentle tap of Hermione’s fingers on her cup filling the large room. 

“I don’t know what I’m going to do if he doesn’t wake up,” Hermione said abruptly, her lips pressed into a thin line. 

Harry carefully closed his book and set it on the low table next to him. The cold fire grate sat in front of them, ringed by their sofa and two uncomfortably hard chairs, seated atop a once lavish rug. The library still smelled of dust and cracked leather bindings, but had lost the disused scent of mildew that had pervaded it for so long. Harry frowned as he wrapped his hand around her ankle, wanting some small touch to anchor her with. 

“You’ll keep fighting,” he said finally, quietly. A slow, pained breath escaped Hermione as the tension in her small frame fell away. They didn’t say anything else. There was nothing else that had to be said, and neither of them was naive enough to want false assurances. 

They sat in a soft silence of suspended time, the stillness of the room, and the overcast day giving everything a surreal quality. The low thud of boots echoing down the hall brought their attention around in time to find Severus pushing open one of the sturdy double doors, worry pulling the skin around his dark eyes tight. 

“It’s ready,” he said, his usually smooth voice catching. 

Harry carefully pried the cold teacup out of Hermione’s hands and set it on the table before offering her his hand. She took it with a tiny grateful smile and followed him out of the library and up the stairs toward the room they had put Draco. 

Unlike the last few days, the room was brightly lit. The harsh light revealed the greyish pallor of Draco’s skin and the way his closed eyes appeared to have sunken into his face. The dark quilt that someone had tucked around him made a shocking contrast against his already icy colour. 

Hermione didn’t hesitate. She let go of Harry’s hand and crawled onto the bed to kneel by his shoulder, brushing Draco’s hair back and wrapping her hand around his limp fingers. 

Severus stepped to the side of the bed, a small vial of pearlescent potion clutched in his hand. He took one slow, shaky breath before he pulled the stopper out and covered the open top with the end of his finger. He upended the vial, catching a small drop of potion on the tip of his finger. He leaned over his godson and carefully coated his eyelid with it. Severus repeated the process with Draco’s other eye before he pulled the younger man’s chin down and dripped six drops over his tongue. 

Severus stepped back and recapped the potion, setting it on the bedside table alongside a small arsenal of others, all ready to treat anything that might be wrong with Draco.

Harry shifted and cleared his throat, ready to ask how long before they knew whether it had worked, when Draco gasped and coughed. His hands spasmed, clutching at Hermione and the heavy quilt over him as he struggled to pull in air. Wide, panicked grey eyes flitted around the room, trying to make sense of where he was. 

Harry darted around a stunned Severus and grabbed the yellow calming draught, and yanked the stopper from it. He pushed past Severus and pulled Draco into a sitting position so he didn’t just drown him. 

Severus seemed to come out of his shock and realise what Harry was trying to do. He took the potion from Harry and left it to him to keep Draco upright and restrained while he dosed him. Neither of them was willing to risk trying to transport it directly into his stomach, not with him panicking and the possibility of his magic fighting them. 

It took two tries, and all four of them ended up wearing some of it, but eventually, Severus got most of the potion into Draco. His breathing stuttered and slowed as the wild look in his eyes faded to something more reasonable. 

He glanced around the room, clearly trying to make sense of falling asleep to probable death and waking up surrounded by friends. His hand was still clutched around Hermione’s, and his struggle had sent his normally neat hair into a feathery halo. Colour was seeping back into his face, though he still had dark rings under his eyes, and his skin looked too thin. 

“Hermione?” he asked, his voice a rough whisper.

She let out a tiny sob and nodded. The corner of Draco’s mouth crooked up, and he clumsily pushed a few stray hairs back from her face with his free hand. She leaned into his touch, letting her eyes slide shut as tears ran freely down her face. 

Harry slipped an arm around Severus, only the faint tremor in the older man’s hands giving away his relief at his godson, not only waking but still in possession of his soul. 

“Draco,” Severus said, drawing the attention of the two on the bed. “I need to look you over for a moment. please.”

Draco nodded, reluctantly letting go of Hermione and turning fully to face Severus. Hermione kept a hand resting on his upper back as if she couldn’t bring herself to pull away entirely. Harry couldn’t imagine that he would be able to let Severus out of his reach if their positions had been reversed. 

Severus ran a quick diagnostic charm and nodded to himself. “You look to be in reasonable health, though you are dehydrated, and there are a few odd readings. How are your memories?”

Draco paused to consider but eventually nodded. “Alright, I think,” he said roughly, prompting Harry to bring him a glass of water. He got a flash of a grateful smile for his trouble. 

“I remember everything that happened up to taking the draught of living death. Good to know it worked.” He said the last in a flippant tone, but the naked relief in his eyes gave him away. 

“Good. How do you feel?” Severus asked, already sifting through his potions for the ones he wanted.

“Tired and sore. I feel like I’ve been sick,” he said with a ruffled air. 

Hermione shifted around as they talked, moving her weight off her knees and settled more heavily on the bed. She brushed up against Draco’s leg when she did, making him jerk around to look at her with the beginnings of alarm.

“What? What’s wrong?” she asked, fear flashing over her face as she reached out for him again.

“My leg. I couldn’t feel when you bumped my leg, just that it moved.” Fresh panic was fighting with the calming draught in his system as he struggled to pull himself out of bed. Severus held his hands up, either to help or halt Harry wasn’t sure. 

Draco swayed as he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and flexed his feet on the floor. Some of the fear was draining from him as he realised he could move his limbs freely, and he hadn’t lost the use of his leg. 

“I can’t feel it at all. It’s like it’s asleep,” he frowned down at his right foot that looked perfectly healthy. 

“And the other?” Severus asked.

“Normal. I can feel it just fine.” 

Severus made a small noise of consideration. “I’ve never heard of the draught of living death having any side effects, but I’ve also never heard of it being used to hide from dementors.” Severus paced, clearly thinking. “I will look into it, but it may fade on its own.”

Draco nodded, calm again. Whether it was from the potion or the reassurances, Harry didn’t know, but he allowed Hermione to pull him back into bed and settle him against his pillows. 

Severus had Draco down several potions before he called for Kreacher and asked for a small bit of broth and crackers to be brought up. By the time Harry was guiding Severus from the room, Draco’s eyes were drifting closed, his head resting against Hermione’s shoulder. Harry gave her a small smile and was rewarded with a look of utter relief as he closed the door.

Severus was still tense, his back a rigid line, and Harry gave him a gentle push toward their room. They had both slept poorly, and Severus had been a ball of anxiety and anger for days, so Harry wasn’t surprised when Severus stripped down to his trousers and undershirt before crawling into bed, despite it being late afternoon. 

Harry pulled the curtains closed before he joined him, letting out a tiny huff of surprise when Severus pulled him closer and pressed his face to Harry’s chest. Harry slid his fingers through Severus’ hair, gently tugging the tangles out of it as the other man slowly relaxed for the first time in days.

“I didn’t think he was going to wake up.” Severus’ voice was muffled in Harry’s shirt but not enough to cover the despair in it. 

“I know,” Harry responded softly. “But he did.”

Severus just nodded, his stubble prickling Harry through his shirt, and the last of the tension fell out of him. It took only a few minutes until a small snuffling noise that was almost a snore but somewhat more dignified came from the region of Harry’s chest, making him smile. Harry brushed a kiss over Severus’ head and let himself savour their small moment of luck. It was a good day.