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Serving Penance

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17 th September 1999

Dear Mr. Snape,

Re: 17B Oldust Hill, Handsworth, Birmingham

This letter is a formal notice that the rent is increasing from £400 to £450 per month. This is effective from the 1 st October.

Yours sincerely,

Jeremy Biggins-Pinch

****

1 st February 2000

Dear Applicant,

We regret to inform you that your application for the post of Contributing Editor has been rejected. Please do not reapply in future—we will keep your records on file indefinitely.

Kind regards,

Marjorie Stump

Editorial Officer
The Practical Potioneer

****

12 th April 2001

Dear Professor Snape,

I hope you’ve been well. I realise this is a bit out of the blue and I’m sorry to bother you, but someone I know is in a tough situation and needs someone to make them a complex potion. As you’re the best I thought of you straight away. It’s an urgent situation so it would be great if you could let me know either way or recommend someone else if you’re too busy.

Thanks for your time,

Harry Potter

****

Three days until the full moon

 

 

 

Harry’s perception sharpened into consciousness, and the world was blaring. His T-shirt was clinging to his chest, the chill of his sweat causing him to shiver. The floorboards dug into his shoulders and tailbone. His throat felt like a cheese grater as the air painfully shifted through. A pale eye was squinting into his face. It squealed.

“You is back, sir!”

Harry tried to relax through the knifing sensation caused by the bullfrog pitch of the elf’s voice.

"Dobby?" he slurred. Nausea spread down from the roof of his mouth, and his stomach rolled.

"It is Kreacher, sir." Harry sealed his eyes against the jab of daylight. “The young master is out of his mind,” he continued in an undertone. “He is unwell indeed.”

"I need Dobby,” he whispered.

He didn’t see the wringing of Kreacher’s wrinkled hands. “You is needing help, sir."

In and out.

In. And out.

“I need to die,” he breathed.

“You is needing help, Master Harry,” Kreacher repeated loudly.

Blackness crept in from the outer limits of his vision.

Help. He needed help.

"I need Professor Snape."

Kreacher nodded, his ears flapping, and Harry passed out.

****

Almost twelve hours later, Harry was in an old Victorian bath with shining silver chimaera feet. The water was blisteringly hot against his pinkened skin and he stared, unseeing, at the ugly tiles.

Kreacher was relishing Harry’s return to number twelve, Grimmauld Place. Earlier that night, he could hear Kreacher whistling as he made him a very oily traditional English breakfast, with extra sausages. Harry was now feeling somewhat alive, if a little dead inside.

He couldn't recall what happened last night, or early this morning. He vowed, again, to find control in his life.

Kreacher Apparated into the bathroom and Harry screamed.

"Begging your pardon, sir." Kreacher bowed low to the ground, his nose nearly brushing the floor. “Kreacher is pleased to serve Master Harry, but he is not giving him anything to do,” he muttered to the floor.

“I’d—er—really prefer it if you knocked,” he said, a bit strangled, wishing he had the cover of bubble bath but making do with his hands.

"Of course, Master. Kreacher has prepared treacle tart, has restocked the pantry, and made up the master bedroom.” Kreacher sidled towards the bathroom door, and muttered, “Kreacher will be helping Master Harry.”

“Right. Thanks.” Harry sank lower into the water.

****

Harry didn’t see Kreacher for days. The full moon came, and went. Somehow, steaming meals and fried breakfasts regularly appeared. Lying in bed, he couldn’t bring himself to care that the laundry basket was overflowing, and he relished the isolation.

On the eighth day, Kreacher knocked on Harry’s bedroom door.

He entered, bowed low to Harry, and puffed out his chest. “Kreacher has found Professor Snape, Master.”

Kreacher didn’t appear to mind that Harry was bundled up in a blanket by the window, staring blankly out at the square in front of the house.

“Hmm?”

“Kreacher has found Professor Snape, sir,” he replied loudly.

"Why? Did I ask you to?" he said, bewildered.

"Yes, sir. Last week, sir."

“Oh. I see. In that case, erm, thank you."

“The Headmaster lives at 17B Oldust Hill, in Muggle Birmingham.”

“Really? Okay…” Harry engaged his brain for the first time in a while. “Listen, could you me a favour?”

“Anything, Master Harry,” he said, nodding.

Harry was more than a little uncomfortable at this. “If you’d like to, I wonder if you could go to Diagon Alley and buy me an owl, food and a cage. Not white, maybe black, and definitely friendly. Ask for one that’s been there a long time. Help yourself to the Galleons in the drawing room. I’d go myself, but…I’m not well enough.”

“Kreacher will buy Master an owl.” He bowed low to the floor. “Perhaps an owl will make Master Harry happy,” he said in an undertone and disappeared with a crack.

Harry sagged back against the window. Perhaps. He doubted it.

****

Returning in what seemed like minutes later, Kreacher appeared with an owl in a cage. Somnus—a handsome black-banded owl, fourteen inches tall—had been waiting for a home for several years as he was old and missing a talon on his right foot. Harry loved him.

Stroking the black and white feathers with the back of a finger, he admired his new familiar. “He’s perfect, Kreacher. Thank you for helping.” Somnus cooed back, and Kreacher bowed and left them.

Harry had become more proficient at wandless magic out of pure laziness—or to be generous, a strength of will not to move. With quill, ink and parchment summoned, he tried to write a letter to Snape.

His head was a swamp of thoughts, and he struggled to string meaningful phrases together.

He began:

 

Dear Professor Snape,

How are you? I hope you’ve been well.

 

An indeterminate time had passed, in which tiny triangular sandwiches had materialised atop the writing desk in the corner.

True to his name, Somnus was even more nocturnal than normal owls, although he seemed moderately eager to post a letter from Harry.

“This letter is for Severus Snape. I respect him very much. Be kind to him. But don’t hang around, people aren’t used to seeing owls.”

Somnus nuzzled Harry’s cheek, and lifted off through the open window into the darkening evening.

Chapter Text

Eleven days until the full moon

 

 

 

Leaping back after stepping into the road, Harry’s heart hurdled out of his chest.

The cars drove on the wrong side of the road back in Spain.

Staring at the scrap of parchment in his hand, Harry frowned. Oldust Hill was a street of red brick buildings. Flat 17B sat above a boarded-up Chinese takeaway. A depressed pigeon perched atop a wheelie bin, eyeing a skinny sleeping cat. Rubbish was strewn across a neighbouring garden. A stereo thudded nearby. A car alarm wailed in the distance.

The midday sun struggled to glimpse through the clouds, and Harry shivered in his coat. For the first time in history, he felt a twinge of worry for Snape. It had been two weeks since his first letter had gone unanswered, and now he found himself loitering outside his private home. He hoped Snape wouldn’t hex him on sight. All the same, he wasn’t convinced Kreacher had given him the correct address. Harry just couldn’t imagine Snape living here.

He rang the doorbell. Paint peeled off the door. There was no peephole.

He was too tired to feel nervous at the thump of approaching footsteps. He was too dead inside to work up any anxiety over facing his former Potions professor for the first time since he had left him dying on the floor of the Shrieking Shack almost three years ago.

Snape answered the door. They observed each other tiredly. Snape looked awful.

“Potter…? What…?” Snape squinted at him through bloodshot eyes.

Snape wore an overlarge dressing gown that drowned his gaunt frame. His cheekbones jutted out, and he had dark circles under his eyes. He seemed paler than Harry remembered. His hair was, if possible, even greasier than it had been before, and hung around his face in long curtains. Harry felt certain he’d never seen him with stubble before. He looked as though he could do with a long holiday in the sun, and months of Hogwarts cooking.

“I need your help. I—er—wrote you a letter. Can I come in?”

Harry, desperation fuelling his boldness, nudged the door open wider and Snape permitted him to enter. Perhaps it was shock at finding another wizard in Handsworth.

Walking up the stairs, they entered a cramped room. More library than living space, it had a bundle of blankets on the sofa that hinted that it doubled as a sleeping area.

Harry perched on the end of the sofa and pretended not to notice the empty bottle of wine by his foot. “Did you get my letter?”

An electric fireplace stood where he would expect a wizarding one, and a wireless sat on the mantelpiece. Many unopened Muggle envelopes lay atop it. The stuffy room would clearly benefit from some fresh air. He wondered if Snape kept an owl.

Snape jerked his head as if dislodging a fly. “I might have done. What do you want?” He looked both flummoxed and dazed—it dawned on Harry that perhaps he’d woken him up.

He went to fill up a kettle in the tiny kitchenette. Harry performed a discreet Warming Charm and spotted him massaging his temples and frowning at the kitchen cupboard. Harry grew more alarmed by the minute.

He cleared his throat. “Someone I know needs your help.” Judging by Snape’s living situation, he inflated the price. “I’ve been quoted eighty Galleons for the Wolfsbane Potion, and I was wondering if you would match it. I trust your brewing and discretion. It’s for a friend. They’re very private about their condition and want the highest quality potion they can get.”

Snape spoke into a jar of instant coffee. “Do I look as though I have a private laboratory at my disposal? Get out.”

This conversation was not going the way Harry had hoped.

“I—what? Wait. Sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I can get you access to a fully stocked and equipped lab, all the things you need.”

“All the things I need,” Snape muttered. He watched the kettle on the hob and said nothing. Harry hoped he wasn’t making coffee for both of them—it would be almost as awkward as sitting with Cho in Madam Puddifoot’s.

To his relief, Snape got out a solitary chipped mug and sugar bowl as the kettle whistled.

“Lycanthropy is rare. They must be a good friend of yours indeed, for you to aid them in such a manner.”

Harry was too tired to be patient. “I can’t talk about who they are. Can you do it?”

“I need to know when they were turned. The intensity of the…transformations increase for the initial seven to twelve lunar cycles. I am not a nosy man,” he sneered, stirring a considerable heap of sugar into his coffee.

“I—yes—they were changed near the end of the war. They’ve been…affected…for a few years.”

Snape scrubbed his face with his palm. “Eighty Galleons is more than fair; I need neither your pity nor philanthropy, Potter.”

“It’s not pity. I just need your help,” he replied. “I think you’re the only one that wouldn’t pry and who I can trust to make it.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere.”

Harry doubted that anyone had tried to flatter him before, perhaps not since he joined the Death Eaters all those years ago as a schoolboy. Harry was extraordinarily wealthy, more so after he inherited the Black estate, and thought if anybody deserved charity right now it was Snape.

“The payment will also include your discretion and reflects that it’s hard to brew. I’ve moved back to London and can set up a laboratory at the house.”

He waved a careless hand. “I could not care less where you live. I merely require the address, ingredients and a suitable space. When is the full moon?”

“The 7th of May,” he answered at once.

“What is today’s date?”

Harry hid the alarm in his voice. “It’s Thursday, the 26th of April, sir.”

Snape pinched the bridge of his nose. “The werewolf drinks one dose each day before sundown for the seven days prior to the full moon. I have not brewed this draught for seven years—send me the ingredients and instructions and address. I don’t remember—I think it took three weeks to brew.” He sipped his coffee and turned around to face Harry, having finally come to his decision. “Providing the laboratory and ingredients are satisfactory, I will begin the first week after the full moon.”

“There’s a new Fidelius Charm in place. My current residence is number twelve, Grimmauld Place, sir. I’ll set the wards to let you in.”

“Leave me.”

“Thank you, sir,” he said softly. He was only too happy to leave Snape to the cradling of his coffee.

“The things I do for love,” he sneered. “Oh, and Potter?” He turned back around, hand on the doorknob. “Don’t show up here again.”

****

He felt a sense of relief at his tentative alliance with Professor Snape. Though the next transformation would once again be awful, he allowed a glint of optimism to light up the hopelessness within him. He hadn’t dared let himself have any faith since he first began this descent into Hell. There were no other brewers he could bear to ask, and Hermione and Ron were under an oath from discussing his problem.

Apparating back to Grimmauld Place, not yet able to consider this horrid house ‘home,’ he gently closed the door and tiptoed past the dark hangings covering the life-size portrait of Mrs. Black.

Digging out the scrap of paper from his pocket, he went over the notes he’d started during his counselling session.

There is much more to me than my condition. My condition is not a reflection of my self-worth. Shame and fear won’t last forever. My condition does not have to be a wall to emotional intimacy. There are many people I can trust.’

Although penned in his own handwriting, the words were not true. He vanished the serpent-shaped candelabra on the rickety table in the hallway with a swish of his wand.

Chapter Text

That week, he broke into Slug and Jiggers under the cover of night and his Invisibility Cloak. Leaving a heap of gold Galleons for ingredients and all kinds of tools and implements, he crept around the shop. With no idea what to get, he chose one of everything. Harry doubted Snape would return an owl asking for advice. He still had his old school pewter cauldron and a set of brass scales, and placed these in the new laboratory, too.

With the replenishment of the laboratory supplies, Harry felt driven to start home improvements. He hadn’t had the energy to make himself care before now, but the prospect of Snape coming to visit reminded him about getting to work.

He tried to practice his switching spells on the doorknobs in the shape of snake heads, before giving up after he set one on fire. This encouraged him to gain considerable satisfaction from burning and vanishing the ashes of virtually all the portraits. He kept a couple of the polite ones, Phineas Nigellus as he was part of a Hogwarts pair and might be friends with Snape, and a landscape scene of Thestrals galloping along a beach at dusk.

“How courteous of you to permit me reprieve,” drawled Phineas, “after all we have been through together.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Harry grumbled. “How’s Hogwarts?”

“Your tone displeases me.” Phineas examined his fingernails. “Hogwarts is ever-changing, yet the same. Professor Dumbledore has been inquiring after you. Good day to you.”

“Wait!”

He vanished completely, leaving behind nothing but a murky backdrop. Harry thought this morning was as good a time as any to move him from the bedroom he once shared with Ron. He decided on the kitchen, in case Snape wanted a chat with him.

****

Twenty-six days until the full moon

 

 

 

The next time he visited Snape, he owled ahead. He decided it would be wise to ask him to draw a diagram of how he’d prefer the lab set up, or give a date to come over and discuss. There was no reply, but he hoped that Snape would not be taken by surprise. At the very least, he assumed that he was now opening his owl post.

As he rang the bell, the door opened at his touch, and he went on upstairs.

Snape wore patched-up smart trousers, and a shirt that was too big for him, but looked cleaner and more well-rested today.

“How may I assist you now, Potter?”

The kettle was singing, and he beckoned Harry in with a jerk of his head. Harry sat at a shaky table and observed as he made tea.

“How have you been?” He noted the empty wine bottles had disappeared.

He realised that Snape was barely opening the cupboards, to prevent him from seeing a glimpse of their contents.

Snape did not seem like himself. The sting had gone out of him. There was less life to him, less anger directed at Harry, and the bullying and wit that he’d come to associate with him were not there.

How had so much changed in three years?

“I am well.”

He plonked a mug of tea in front of Harry, who cradled it in his hands. It was just how he liked it. Snape joined him at the table and sighed. “What’s it to be this time, Mr. Potter?”

“I’d like a diagram of how to set up the lab.”

“Leave everything where it is,” he said, blowing on the tea. “I will do it myself.”

He nodded, and ploughed on. “I’d also like to pay you to brew general healing potions and Dreamless Sleep.”

“You appear not to have understood the concept of an apothecary.”

“The ones at the Infirmary worked best because you brewed them.” Harry knew he needed the money, but it wasn’t a lie. He trusted his potions above everyone else’s. After all, Snape hated Remus and still helped him all year.

He appeared to accept this explanation and inclined his head. “Fine. Twenty Galleons for both.”

“Perfect—thank you.” They sipped their tea in silence, Harry itching to have a good look around but not wanting to appear rude. “Would you mind if I watched you brew? Would it put you off?”

Snape stared hard at him. “Your existence is more bearable when you are silent.”

“So that’s a yes? Won’t say a word!” He did a zipping motion across his lips.

He thought the corner of Snape’s lip quirked up, but dismissed it as a trick of the light. They both swallowed another gulp of tea.

“Why do they not seek the help of St. Mungo’s?”

“They don’t want the truth getting out—you know what the general wizarding public is like,” he said darkly.

Snape nodded noncommittally.

“Can I ask you something?”

“You just have.”

He cleared his throat. “When word got out that Remus was a werewolf, was that because you hated him from when you were at school, and my dad and all that, or was it because of his…affliction?”

“That man was provided with Wolfsbane free of charge for seven days every month. Employed at a school full of hundreds of children entrusted to his care, he did not remember his last dose and you and your little friends were nearly killed or turned into werewolves.” Snape smiled. “I confess I did not feel very sorry for him.”

Harry’d not considered it that way. When put like that, it was actually really dangerous having Remus there as a professor. As much as it pained him to think negatively of him now that he’d passed away, it was unthinkable of Remus to forget he was a werewolf.

After his visit with Snape, he didn’t immediately return home. Finding his way to a shopping centre in Birmingham, Harry stocked up the house with new towels, bedspreads, pillows, a perfectly ordinary Muggle teapot free of curses, and an ornament of a small perturbed hare that reminded him of Luna.

As quiet as it was in the shopping centre on a Monday morning, he couldn’t bear the crowds.

Perhaps the reason he preferred to be alone was because he had seemed disconnected from everybody since he was no longer human. It was as though he’d wandered in on a film set. An invisible barrier separated him from the rest of the world. He was—he had always been—a marked man. It was just that he expected after fulfilling the prophecy it would all be over, and he could be normal.

And yet sitting here on the bench outside the department store, with the terrible weight of who he was pulling at him, with the dread of his impending transformation so raw inside, he could not muster any great sense of fear. It was sunny, and the surrounding shoppers were full of laughing mothers with prams, and even though he felt as distant from them as if he belonged to a different species, it was still very hard to believe as he sat here that he was a danger to them all…

The shops were shutting before he realised he was cold. He got up to find a private spot to Apparate home, wiping his face on his sleeve as he went.

****

On days when he wasn’t busy making the Wolfsbane, Harry hired Snape to brew the scraps of handwritten potions recipes he’d found in his Gringotts family vault.

A week after the full moon, Snape swept into the kitchen to present him with a small flask he had brewed.

“Professor Snape. It is balm to my soul to see a face of kinship once again,” Phineas said reverently in his high reedy voice.

Severus nodded. “Professor Black. We meet again.”

“And so once again you are the guardian of the youth.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “I’m not a youth!”

“Youth is no impediment to stupidity–” began Phineas.

“Youth is no impediment to bravery,” Snape cut in.

A stunned silence followed. “Thank you, sir.”

He held the flask out to Harry and said, “There you are, Mr. Potter. I have finally descended to a new low. I am now a cosmetics potioneer.”

He accepted the flask and inspected the pale lilac solution. “I don’t understand. What does it do?”

Snape looked at him quizzically. “You employed me to brew unknown potions? And you were unaware that your grandparents were cosmetic potioneers?”

“What?” he spluttered. “What do you mean?”

“You truly know nothing about your family.” Snape spun on his heels and swept into the laboratory and Harry followed him. He watched him clean the brass scales, and made a ‘go on’ gesture with his hands.

Snape sighed. “It has fallen to me to educate you once again. Your grandparents, Fleamont and Euphemia Potter, created, patented and sold the Sleekeazy’s Haircare Potions product line. That is why are you are exceedingly prosperous and need not work.”

He ignored the barb. “Did it piss you off that I was so terrible at Potions?”

“You did not apply yourself.” Snape returned the scales to the shelf, and Scourgify’d the cauldron.

Harry supposed he was right. He swallowed down his discomfort with his undeniable wealth, unable to resist trying to learn whatever he could about his family.

“Can you tell me anything else about my family?”

“Do I look like I keep up with the news and views of cosmetic potioneering? Anyone not living under a rock is fully cognizant of their existence. Even your girlfriend probably owns a vial.”

“I don’t have a girlfriend,” he said dismissively. Realisation dawned that Snape had hours of stories about his mum, or even his dad. He was painfully aware that the sole person who knew anything about his parents’ school days who was still alive to tell the tale, didn’t want to talk to him. Harry hoped that one day they might build up enough camaraderie to discuss it. He realised that would be a day long in coming. “Thank you for telling me.”

Snape nodded at Harry, who realised he had been dismissed.

Returning to the kitchen, he sat down next to Kreacher, who was peeling carrots.

“Those who wear masks often reveal more truths than those with open faces,” said Phineas.

Harry rolled his eyes. He couldn’t get a word of sense out of that wizard.

Since the Pensieve memories, Harry’s heart had softened towards Severus. He found it much harder to be angry at a man who was once a little boy dressed in too-large clothes, not unlike himself, who likely hung out with his mum every day of the summer holidays, and who was just as lonely as he had been.

A soft voice in the back of his mind said, ‘Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that.’ Harry imagined how different his life could’ve been had he not met Draco in Madam Malkin’s, had he not met him on the Hogwarts Express, and how Snape would’ve been his Head of House.

Shaking himself out of his reverie, which he was wont to do these days, he resolved to focus on the future. Whilst he was holed up recovering from his bite and before Snape had woken up at St. Mungo’s, he went to the bank and applied for an inventory and account summary of the Potter and Black accounts. The vast wealth astounded him. Of course, he theoretically knew that he was rich, but he hadn’t been able to deny it when faced with the parchment and ink of his statements.

After his afternoon counselling session, he met with two estate agencies. He couldn’t work full time, and couldn’t think of anything better to do. Over the next few days, he booked appointments to view houses in Bristol, Bath, and Reading, and two flats on the outskirts of London. He hoped an agency would manage properties on his behalf if he bought homes to let. With a touch of magic, he could even renovate and clean to a reasonable standard without being bored out of his mind. He would then have a part-time business to keep him occupied from dwelling on his fiasco of a life.

He tried to stamp out the dream of having a family. Although he was no Seer, he knew this was not in his future. Remus had been incredibly lucky to find someone as tolerant as Tonks. But who would tie himself to him, the freak who lived, photographed at every wizarding venue, and now medically untouchable? Dangerous, even. He was a monster. Worse, a famous monster.

So far, Hermione and Ron had sworn an Unbreakable Vow not to tell anyone, and he had Obliviated Malfoy. His first transformation took place at the Manor. He repaired the house, laughed off the missing chunk of time a few days later, and blamed it on a dodgy batch of Ogden’s Old Firewhisky. Hating himself, he went travelling. The past three years were a blur of partying in Barcelona, Krakow, Ibiza, Amsterdam, Marbella. Sleeping with strangers, getting drunk daily, passing out on beaches, counting on the tide to take him away. Feeling disappointed at every new day, before taking the international Portkey home to go to Hogsmeade for his transformations.

He didn’t know why he kept on returning to the Shack. Perhaps it was penance for leaving Snape there to bleed to death, or to feel closer to Remus.

He was aware he looked terrible, as though recuperating from a severe bout of flu. His sleep was broken by nightmares, and the Dreamless Sleep St. Mungo’s had prescribed him was of inferior quality to what he’d drunk before at the Hospital Wing. He made a note to ask Snape to brew him another batch.

He had to be wary about what he might end up accidentally divulging. Snape was too clever by half. He was astounded that only he and the Marauders had discovered Remus’ secret in seven years at school. He must keep his distance from him. Thankfully, he did not pay any attention to Harry’s comings and goings.

Chapter Text

Harry was not comfortable asking him face-to-face for a scar fading solution and so left a note and a pile of Galleons in the laboratory. He pre-emptively copied instructions from one of the library books at Grimmauld Place and picked up the correct ingredients. Harry had taken to replenishing supplies under the cover of night. Looking around the lab, he wanted to tidy and clean after Snape finished for the day, but he invariably left it in pristine condition.

Without Wolfsbane, he bit and scratched himself during his transformations, and basic healing spells and dittany could only achieve so much. A normal wizard simply went to an apothecary and got what he needed, or even used owl-order, but he was just so ashamed.

The sole positive in all this horror was that he could help support Snape. It was so wrong that someone that served Hogwarts and the wizarding world for so long had so little to his name. He wasn’t sure if he was being optimistic, but he thought Snape had filled out more, and looked more well-rested. His hair was freshly cut, and he stood taller. He wore sweeping robes reminiscent of Harry’s school days, and Harry hadn’t seen the patched shirt and trousers since May. Although he must be nearing forty, he didn’t look a day over thirty. Something Harry still found difficult to get used to was the reality that wizards lived past one hundred and fifty years old. Professor McGonagall at nearly a hundred was still far from retirement age.

Harry took better care of his appearance, too. On days when he expected Snape’s company, he showered and shaved. He kept his hair cut short and always put on fresh clothes. Even the mirrors had noticed.

On an afternoon when he wasn’t brewing Wolfsbane, Harry asked Snape to go with him to a house he had bought in Southampton. To his surprise, he said yes. Harry hoped to rent it out in a couple of months’ time.

Snape, though never the chatty type, appeared quieter than normal as they walked around the house. As he was a cash buyer, the sale had gone through quickly.

“It’s a bit of a fixer-upper, isn’t it,” Harry said, screwing up his nose.

“Indeed.” Snape reached out a long finger to snap peeling paint off the kitchen wall. Harry peered out of the grubby window that overlooked the back garden.

“Are there spells to get rid of the cigarette smell?”

“Undoubtedly. A house such as this would occupy your elf for a period of time.”

“This is more to occupy me. Though I’m hoping the magic I learn to upgrade this place will help improve Grimmauld Place, too.”

Snape twisted a squeaky tap in the kitchen sink. No water came out. “Reparo!” he said, tapping it with his wand. Water flowed out in fits and starts.

“Nice!” At Severus’ face, he clarified, “Well. It’s a good start. Gives me hope for the rest of the house.”

“You could just hire Muggle contractors. Do they still have the Yellow Pages?”

Harry blinked. It was incongruous that Snape knew about the Yellow Pages. “I guess so. But where would the fun be in that?” he said, grinning.

There was no particular rush to rent it out as he didn’t need the cash, but he felt idle doing nothing all day with no social life outside of Snape, Kreacher and Somnus. Hardly the paragon of a lively social schedule. Two of them weren’t even human. But then neither was he, he supposed.

****

On the day of the full moon, Harry awoke at five-thirty as abruptly and absolutely as if someone had yelled in his ear. For minutes, he remained stock-still as the prospect of tonight crowded every tiny particle of his brain, then, unable to bear it, he leapt out of bed and put on his glasses. Night was coming, whether or not he was ready for it. There was no point in wallowing with his head under the blankets. He needed to get over it.

He went down to the larder by the kitchen and started munching directly out of the box of cornflakes. The sun had not yet risen, but Kreacher was up and about. The fire burned, and he sat staring into its mesmerising flames. He wondered if Remus suffered the same dread, or if this was something that he had become used to over the years.

At least Remus had friends to run around with on the Hogwarts grounds.

He pushed away the thought that he had completely cut out his friends. He tried not to remember Hogwarts, lest he miss it too much. Too much thinking about school and the days before the bite made him want to fly far, far away and go out drinking and dancing all night in the arms of strangers. It was merely the hope of the Wolfsbane that kept him from fleeing abroad once more.

He considered applying more of the scar fading solution, but at the moment it was utterly pointless as he would hurt himself again tonight. It worked well—the only scars that remained aside from the Horcrux locket, lightning bolt, and I must not tell lies were from the first few transformations, and even they had faded.

****

A depressing day followed a wretched and painful night. He sheltered in his bedroom, speaking to Kreacher only to tell him to leave him alone. The remorse would come later.

Snape had shown up, even though Harry was not expecting him. Apparently he had supplies to drop off in his lab, and then without fully realising how, Harry found himself huddled around the teapot in the basement kitchen. He felt that he was a survivor of a profound disaster and gripped the teacup so it wasn’t obvious that his hands shook.

“Didn’t sleep well. Going to lie down. I’ll, erm, eat some breakfast later. Thanks for the tea.”

Phineas sidled out of his frame, and Snape raised an eyebrow. “My pleasure.”

****

Twenty-nine days until the full moon

 

 

 

By the next day, Harry was surprisingly refreshed. The potions faded the bruises to yellow, muted the pain, and almost fully healed his wounds. Unusually, he was in the frame of mind for speaking to someone other than Kreacher, Phineas or Somnus, even if that meant being outside. He considered going to visit Snape, who wasn’t due at Grimmauld Place for at least a few days.

Scowling at Harry’s finger and foot tapping, Phineas tutted.

“Do you reckon if I just showed up, Snape would want to hang out?” he asked Phineas.

Professor Snape. And no, I do not expect he would.”

Kreacher snapped his fingers, and a feather duster appeared. He started sweeping Phineas’ face, who scrunched up his nose in revulsion.

“Can you feel it, when someone dusts you?”

“I am merely pigment, canvas and magic. What do they instruct the children these days up at that school—how to ask foolish questions?”

The very second the hand on his new kitchen clock shifted from ‘You ought to go’ to ‘You really need to leave’, he resolved to speak to an actual human being.

Seconds later, he was in the dodgy part of Birmingham. The mangy black cat stared gormlessly at Harry, this time from the wheelie bin. He spared a thought for the depressed pigeon.

He rang the bell and, once again, the door opened at his touch. He was not sure why Snape was permitting their uneasy truce, and suspected he must be desperate for the money. Pushing open the door at the top of the stairs, he bit back a gasp.

Snape sat slouched in his chair at the rickety table, bloodshot eyes looking listlessly up at him, lank hair hiding most of his face.

“…May I come in?”

Snape said nothing, so he came fully into the room. “Do you—need me to nip home and get a hangover potion?” He offered him a shaky smile to prove that he wasn’t judging him. He was not used to looking at his former teacher in such a state.

Snape cleared his throat. “That will not be necessary.” Closing his eyes, he curved his head around to crick his neck, and sighed. “What have I achieved to merit the delight of your company today?”

He winced. “Sorry for just dropping by. I should’ve owled first.”

Snape had no answer for this and simply raised his eyebrows.

Right. Definitely should have owled first.

“I wondered if you wanted to go out for dinner tonight…” on second thought, “…or tomorrow night?”

Snape gave him an inscrutable look, so he barrelled on. “I can pick you up tomorrow at seven o’clock? Muggle London. My treat to say thank you for putting up with me,” he said, giving a lopsided grin.

Snape swallowed. “That would be acceptable.”

“Is there anything you don’t like to eat?”

“No.”

“All right, then. I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye!” He waved a little awkwardly before fleeing downstairs to reach the boundary of the Anti-Apparition Jinx.

It was only when he got home that he realised that perhaps Snape didn’t have the luxury of turning down food.

****

The next day, Harry got changed into everything Muggle he owned. Jeans would remind Snape that he wasn’t a school pupil and would not remind him of his dad. On second thought, he couldn’t in a million years imagine Snape in jeans, so perhaps he’d better dress smartly. Eventually, he settled on a pair of black jeans, smart ankle boots an ex made him buy, and a soft round-necked blue jumper.

He scowled at the mirror after it declared that the next being who clapped eyes on him would ‘fall in love with him at first sight.’ His fading scars were not on show, yet he looked tired and his hair refused to lie flat.

Summoning his grandparents' hair potion, he eyed the lilac concoction uncertainly. He knew from the Mirror of Erised that his messy hair was hereditary, and the potions worked a miracle for Hermione at the Yule Ball. If it was a disaster, he could always rinse it off.

“Here goes nothing,” he told his reflection and the mirror. He dribbled a little onto his palms and smoothed it into his hair. He was frankly astonished to see his hair flat for the first time in living memory; the inappropriate leer from his mirror only dampened his mood somewhat. “One more sound, and I’m silencing you.”

He’d spent an hour in an internet café reading the reviews on TripAdvisor and studying the exterior of restaurants on Google Street View. He didn’t want to piss off Snape with a poor restaurant choice.

By two minutes to seven, he was poised outside Snape’s flat, focussed on the dented gold watch with swirling stars encircling its face. He knew Snape would hate lateness.

He was not composed at all when Snape flung open the door and asked him why he was loitering.

Harry had scoped out the place earlier, to confirm it wasn’t too romantic or too dodgy. He thought Italian a safe bet, and all the cheese would be good for Snape. Grasping his forearm and concentrating on the destination, he glanced up at Snape looking down at him. His glittering eyes caught him off-guard. He refocussed on the restaurant, and Side-Along Apparated them to the alley behind Bianchi’s, and they went inside.

“Hi, I booked a table for two under the name Rob Williams.”

“Come right this way, gentlemen.”

The waiter settled them down by the window, and Harry smiled nervously over the candle flickering between them. Snape sat upright in a crisp white shirt tucked into smart trousers. Aside from dragonhide boots and the open collar that displayed Nagini’s scars, he looked ready for a Muggle job interview.

“I apologise for yesterday. I’m sure you’ll appreciate that May is not my best season,” Severus started.

“No, not at all. It was rude to just show up. I don’t really track the anniversaries, as that entire year was horrendous.”

The rest of the meal was subdued, with Harry attempting to make small talk with Snape. He found out that:

Snape had been to Italy. He likes cheese. He enjoys four cheese pizza. He prefers risotto. He speaks rudimentary Italian. He didn’t think there was room in the curriculum at Hogwarts for languages. He had never eaten seafood growing up, and avoided it at Hogwarts. He didn’t like Rome. He hates tourist shops. He does not collect magnets for his fridge. He does, in fact, have a fridge.

They had also learnt that the lady on the table across from them had a husband that was cheating on her, that she was thinking of remarrying her first husband, and she planned to get drunk and eat cheese every day for the rest of her life.

They avoided speaking about the war, and Snape even smiled unconvincingly at one of Harry’s jokes. Harry leaned in. “Look, if you’re having a bad time, it won’t offend me if you want to go,” he lied. “I know I dragged you out and didn’t really give you much of a choice in the matter,” he said, laughing weakly.

“I do not dislike your company, Mr. Potter. This has been a welcome diversion.” Snape was studying him, but Harry looked away because he had the peculiar feeling he was being x-rayed, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about his not-date with Severus at the moment.

Harry began to blush, so grabbed a menu and peered at it. “I’m stuffed. I also kind of want the apple crumble and the gelato. If you order the crumble, and I have the gelato, I’ll trade you a bite of crumble in exchange for some of my ice cream.”

He folded and set down his menu. “Mr. Potter. We have a deal.” He reached over and shook Harry’s hand, who beamed at him.

Harry pretended he couldn’t eat more than a quarter of his gelato and cajoled Snape into finishing it up.

After learning that Snape’s favourite dessert was crumble, the next time he was at the supermarket he bought flour, oats, Cornish vanilla ice cream, custard, and cooking apples. He allowed Kreacher to help chop up the apples and cast preservation charms on the bags of ingredients.

Severus exited the lab as Harry checked on the oven. “Hey!” Harry called. Snape came down into the kitchen.

“I’ve made far too much crumble, and there’s no point really baking just for one man and a house-elf. Care to join?”

Snape eyed the pudding with uncertainty.

It was steaming, and Harry dished up two helpings. “See? Not poisoned,” Harry said, grinning.

“Thank you,” Severus said quietly.

Severus slid into a kitchen chair, Harry was busying himself with vanilla ice cream, and Phineas popped on a monocle.

“A crumble halved is a crumble shared and all that,” Harry said, laughing. It delighted him to see happy crinkles appear around Severus’ eyes.

Chapter Text

Seventeen days until the full moon

 

 

 

Harry found a chess set in his parents’ Gringotts vault, and left Severus some gold to check it for curses. He deemed the set to be all clear and informed him they were created from precious stone. He felt a pang of sorrow at not seeing Ron for ages and wondered if he still played wizard’s chess.

He invited Severus to play a game with him in the sitting room after dinner, and it charmed him that the pieces had a Birmingham accent.

Their advice flummoxed Snape. “No, I don’t think you should lay me there; if I triumph over his pawn, the bishop can get his queen.”

“Don’t fret, if I win you can blame it on me having the upper hand in owning the advisory committee,” said Harry. Snape snorted in reply.

He liked the fact that Severus matched him well at chess, as he always assumed that people like Sev were excellent at everything. When Severus narrowly won, the winning pieces danced a joyous jig in unison. “This is a very very good chess set,” he said, leaning back against the armchair.

Harry narrowed his eyes. “Are you just saying that because you won?”

“Don’t let your pieces hear that. You may not get through so easily next time. Is that not your style, relying on the skills of others?”

It was a sign of how far they’d come that he appreciated Severus’ teasing, rather than accepting them as an attack. It helped that Severus smirked at him, relaxed, with a cup of tea in hand. Looking at the board, he saw his own pieces had joined Severus’ and danced some kind of reel. “I don’t think they mind much.”

“Ah. The eightsome reel.”

“Do you like to dance?”

Severus answered him slowly, weighing each word on his tongue. “When you waltz with the devil, the devil doesn’t change. The devil changes you.” He stared into the fire, lost, their earlier humour forgotten. “I should replace those recollections with merrier ones.”

Harry wasn’t clear how the conversation had taken this direction and pushed them further down the road. “I’m sorry I didn’t give you back your memories and just left them in your office. I was a bit out of it. But it’s really no excuse.”

Snape nodded. “I got them back. The school recognised me as Headmaster.” Snape stood up abruptly and downed his tea.

“You’re leaving?”

His eyes burned into Harry’s. “I don’t live here.”

“Goodnight, then.”

“Goodnight, Mr. Potter.”

****

Harry drifted off to sleep in front of the fire in the drawing room. When he woke up, he found Kreacher must have tucked a blanket around him. It was a bit odd.

Relieved he had woken up alone, he was achingly hard. Perhaps it was too long since his last casual encounter abroad, as he was becoming increasingly aware of his ex-Potions professor. He Apparated up to the bathroom that adjoined his bedroom, and stroked himself to completion, imagining dark silky hair, long legs, and deft fingers in place of his.

****

Harry was reading Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them when Snape swept in the following morning.

“You added my name onto your vault?” He brandished the note Harry had left and stared at him as if something was seriously wrong with him. Which there was.

“Of course. There are some cool artefacts I’d like you to examine, and I trust you with my life,” Harry shrugged. He refused to feel weird about it. He resolutely decided it was time for a pot of tea. Perfect.

Snape said nothing and didn’t leave.

“Look, I’m sorry if it’s a bit weird, but I just don’t have the energy any more to…” he waved a hand, struggling to think of an appropriate phrase, “…anticipate people’s feelings, I just…do what I think is best. You can tell the ministry to take your bills out of that vault. Honestly, I don’t mind. It’s only mine because people have died that I didn’t really know. And if anyone deserves to be rich, it’s you.”

Snape’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed hard. “I have never been wealthy before. But I have known the kindness of friends.”

He took this to mean ‘Thank you.’

“Cuppa?”

****

Eleven days until the full moon

 

 

 

As the kitchen was scarcely less gloomy than the hallway above, Harry strove to improve the cavernous room. The rough stone walls lent it the character of chilliness, and most of the light came from the enormous fire at the end of the room. Harry had been up in the garden, attempting to put in gigantic windows he bought from B&Q that let in swathes of natural light.

Thankfully, he talked Kreacher around into helping him, and between them they’d coaxed the windows not to leak when it rained. By daylight, the shapes of heavy iron pots and pans dangling from the dark ceiling were no longer ominous. Kreacher had burnished them rose-gold, and the sunny room was his current favourite spot to read.

Accessing the garden had been no joke. A Black ancestor had enchanted the rear of the drawing room to resemble an ugly wall. Harry asked Kreacher if he’d help put in a door, as he couldn’t hire a Muggle contractor without breaking the Statute of Secrecy. With nothing more than a snap of his fingers, Kreacher revealed a heavy door. It had no handle. Deciding not to try transfiguration, lest he set it alight the same way the doorknobs went, he found an excuse to borrow Snape. He told himself Snape ought to feel at home here, so it was appropriate to ask him for help.

Severus smiled grimly, and with a twist of his wand, conjured a brass doorknob overlaid with a laurel wreath.

“Show off,” Harry muttered, as Snape swept back across the corridor to the laboratory.

The yard was a veritable mini Forbidden Forest, and he entreated Kreacher to vanish as much as possible before they worked on installing the basement kitchen windows.

With a pang, he recalled how Mrs. Weasley cooked meals for the Order with the cauldron over the large fireplace. He vanished the oven after it tried to slam his hands inside, so ordered a new gas-powered one. The hallway lamps also used gas, and as inviting British Gas around was a no-go, he persuaded Kreacher to use his elf hocus-pocus to get it going.

Calling the light-bathed kitchen a job well done, he ventured out into the frantic bustle of Oxford Street to replace the china and the fifteenth century solid silver goblets. They were embossed with the Black family crest, and Harry couldn’t bear to look at them. He gave Kreacher, who understood with tears in his eyes when Harry explained that they made him upset, one of everything to keep in his den near the pantry.

For some reason, he didn’t mind being out in Muggle London. In immense Saturday crowds, with his hair lying flat over his scar, dressed in well-fitting blue jeans and a hoodie, he looked like any other young man.

How little they knew.

Once home, purchases tidied away, Harry reviewed the notes from his most recent counselling session. They went over ‘black and white thinking’ and ‘catastrophising.’

Some people will be bothered by my condition, not everybody. Some opportunities will be lost to me, not all. My life will be harder but it isn’t over. Some people enjoy my company, I will not be forever alone. I would be kind to people with my condition, so I should be kind to myself.’

****

Four days later, Snape came by in the late afternoon to give him the first dose.

Blue mist rose faintly from the goblet. “This should be drunk directly. Sugar makes it ineffective. They require a gobletful for seven days before the full moon.”

“Thank you. I’ll have my elf bring them straight away.”

“As you wish.”

When Snape left, he drained the potion and contorted his face in disgust. The empty goblet was still smoking. He went into the pantry and called Kreacher. Harry discussed breakfast cereals with him quietly, in case Snape was hanging around.

Walking into the lab to say goodbye to Snape, he was disappointed that he’d already gone. He washed the goblet up, left it on the counter and groaned. This had got to work.

****

The next day, Harry tempted Snape into the kitchen with the promise of jam scones.

“You have improved this room greatly.”

He beamed. “Thanks! Kreacher did most of the work. He’s off making blueberry jam. What’s your favourite flavour?”

Severus took a moment to answer. Clearly no one had asked him this before. “I am partial to blackberry. They grew in abundance near my childhood home. My mother knew a handy spell to remove the bits.”

“You’ll have to show me.”

“I will.”

They looked at each other for three seconds, before Harry felt a sudden impulse to say something to break out of the awkwardness. He took a deep breath. “Would you be willing to house-sit for a couple of nights next week? I’m going away for a bit and would feel better if someone was here. You know, to water the plants, keep an eye on Kreacher, say hi to my owl.” He refused to cringe at his weak excuse.

Snape didn’t look at him as he covered half a scone with a generous layer of cream. “To be clear, you want me to guard the dwelling that was so secure Dumbledore chose it to be the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix.”

Harry grimaced. “I know it doesn’t make much sense, but we don’t know who put those enchantments up on the house, and after Dumbledore died a lot of them would be broken. I realise it’s inconvenient, so I’ll pay twenty Galleons. Or if you’ve got plans, perhaps you can suggest someone.”

Snape’s eyes narrowed. Harry looked away in case he was using Legilimency.

“I’ll do it.”

Phineas admired his gloves. “It would be unseemly of me to mention the rumours I have heard of your exploits across the Continent; too many people these days are such awful gossips…”

“Shut up, Phineas,” Harry said loudly. He turned to Severus. “You can have the second room on the top floor. I’ll tell Kreacher you’re in charge.” He lowered his voice and leaned forwards conspiratorially. “He gets upset if you don’t eat every bite, it’s as though you’re offending some world-famous chef.” Snape snorted. “If you don’t use the laundry basket on the landing, he can and will come through your wards to find your dirty socks.”

“Noted.”

“Come by whenever you’re ready on Tuesday. Help yourself to anything in the cupboards.”

Snape did not respond and regarded him inscrutably.

If this doesn’t work, I’ll sign over everything I have to Snape and leave this country and never come back.

He tried to be more positive.

If this does work, I’ll write to Ron and Hermione and tell them that Snape has given me life.

****

One more day until the full moon

 

 

 

On Tuesday, Harry’s insides were squirming uncomfortably. He tried to eat his tea, but it was like chewing carpet. He was both nervous and eager to test the Wolfsbane tonight. Somnus sensed his anxiety, and was dozing on his shoulder, face flopped on the top of Harry’s head. He packed his precautionary potions anyway, even though he was utterly confident that the potion would be perfect.

He summoned Kreacher. “Thanks for dinner, it was excellent. I’m going to be away for a night or two, and I’ve asked Professor Snape to come and stay. Please listen to everything he says.” Harry dropped his voice, “he likes apple crumble, custard, vanilla ice cream, tea with two sugars, coffee with three sugars, steak and kidney pie, and cheesy pizza.” At Kreacher’s expression, he added, “It’s Italian. I’ll buy a cookbook.”

Kreacher noticed Phineas rolling his eyes, and he glared at him. His owl gave a sleepy hoot. “Oh, please feed Somnus, too.”

“It is a privilege to serve the honourable Headmaster Snape,” he said, bowing. “The man shares many tastes with Master Harry,” he went on in an undertone. “Kreacher will start on the pastry, oh yes. Perhaps he will be partial to Kreacher’s Victoria sponge.”

****

The morning after his transformation in the Shack, his tendons burned in agony.

He had spent dawn ‘til eleven in unease, drifting between dreams of Severus mauled to death by a werewolf, his mother screaming in the blink of green light, his aunt locking him in the cupboard under the stairs, achieving a T in all his N.E.W.T.s—he didn’t even sit his N.E.W.T.s.

His dreams always seemed to be the most bizarre after a transformation, and he was glad that this time they were much more tolerable. Last month he screamed himself awake in the nightmare where he faced Ron after accidentally biting Hermione.

He returned home, looking worse for wear, he knew. Thankfully, Snape didn’t comment when he swept into the basement kitchen and saw Harry huddled over a coffee, Kreacher fretting nearby and cooking enormous quantities of sausages, and Phineas snoring softly in his frame. He simply topped up the cafetière and unrolled The Practical Potioneer.

Chapter Text

Twenty-six days until the full moon

 

 

 

Harry sat on a workbench by the wall, swinging his legs, and watching Snape. He was dipping unicorn-patterned wallpaper into a vast bubbling cauldron with overlong tweezers.

“Who’s the wallpaper for?”

“The baby department of Harrods.” Severus levitated it over a washing line. Grey steam puffed out of the cauldron, and he dunked another sheet into it.

“I didn’t know they had a wizarding department.”

“What you don’t know would fill many books,” he smirked. The unicorns from the first sheet began to wake up.

“Teach me, then. Would you tutor me in the Dark Arts? Only for a fortnight or so.”

Severus levitated a second piece and turned around to raise his eyebrows. “The hero of light wishes to study the magic of darkness? Your father will roll in his grave. He detested any and all spells that could be conceived of as dark.”

“They can’t be evil—you can do them,” he said simply. “Sirius once told me you knew more curses in First Year than adults. Why? Is that true?”

Severus shot warm air out the tip of his wand at the paper. “That is a gross misrepresentation. You must learn curses in order to study counter-curses. I also had very limited access to learning materials as a child. I am confident if you had only Charms and Divination texts, you would become a veritable expert at both. Do a gentle ‘Torreo’ on the wallpaper, please.”

“Oh.” Harry leapt off the bench, mindful of avoiding brushing up against Severus. He drew his wand and cast the Drying Charm.

“Oh indeed.” Severus dropped more wallpaper into the potion and nudged it with his tweezers.

“So you’ll teach me? I need to be able to defend myself.”

“You are correct in your belief that although you conquered the Dark Lord, there are yet many that wish you harm. I do however recall that you were not willing to apply yourself to Defence Against the Dark Arts in your sixth year.”

“I’ll work harder this time. But if I don’t get something, don’t treat me like I’m stupid. I’ll try my best.”

Severus lifted another sheet to the line. “Your best is all I ask, Potter. Don’t even think about trying to pay me.”

He grinned and started to dry the second piece. A tiny golden unicorn yawned. “You should call me Harry, everyone does. Just Harry.”

“As you wish, just Harry.”

Harry felt inexplicably delighted. The pause grew awkward between them, as if they were on a date and should say something. “Were you ever nervous when duelling, in the war?”

Snape looked thoughtful. He took a minute before answering, and Harry felt a buzz now he had his undivided attention. “When duelling the Order, I feared for their safety. I do not feel afraid in a duel. I am competent and enjoy using magic to stretch my limits. By and large, my fears throughout the war regarded facing death before you had the knowledge you needed and your mortal peril. I was also entrusted to safeguard hundreds of children, whilst appearing to terrify and torture them into submission. Not a pleasant task, and I was very convincing. I can’t step out into the wizarding world without terrifying all teenagers that look my way.”

“Weren’t you exonerated by Dumbledore and Ron and Hermione? I’m sorry I didn’t hang around to help. I was in a world of my own.”

Severus inclined his head. “You sent me Kreacher. I owe you both my life.” He washed his tools and hung them up. “As you know, Albus cannot sway the press or public sentiment. More so since he became a doddery old portrait, compounded by the incontrovertible truth that I murdered him.”

“Oh. Right.” He grimaced. “Sorry. I don’t really see you as a killer, so I find it hard to remember sometimes that you used the AK.”

“The AK indeed, on the world’s most beloved headmaster, no less.”

“Did you ever think about leaving for the Muggle world?”

“I did.” He decanted the potion into seven flasks. "I was going to before you materialised. I am a half-blood, so not as clueless as some of our kind.”

Harry interjected, “I saw a bloke in a nightdress at the World Cup!”

Snape snorted in derision. “Idiots.” He cleaned the cauldron and helped Harry dry the last sheet. “It would pain me to abandon this world, because wizard is an integral part of my being. As ripped as my soul is, a wizard is just what I am.”

He frowned. “Your soul is not ripped. Is that how it works? You were carrying out Professor Dumbledore’s wishes. Or did you kill other people?”

Snape stepped backwards and examined their handiwork. “Not directly, not unless it was unavoidable. I ‘poisoned’ many with the Draught of Living Death.”

He stopped drying the final sheet and joined Snape. The unicorns from the first sheet settled down for a nap. “Do you still feel bad about what happened with Professor Dumbledore? Even though you could still talk to him for several months in your office?”

Snape scowled. “I am not accustomed to snuffing out the life of those dearest to me.” He tilted his head at him. “Although I could speak with him, he is but a shadow of my mentor and friend. I do not pretend to fathom the magic behind the Hogwarts portraits, but Albus is dead. I killed him. It is an immutable fact. He is a ghost of his memories and personality traits.”

Harry hummed. “Join me in the drawing room for a drink?”

He nodded and accompanied him to the other room.

“You know, sometimes I wished that there was a portrait of my parents, of Sirius. A way to talk to Cedric. Since Remus died, and Fred, I’ve just accepted this gap where they used to be.” He gestured with gin and whiskey to Snape, who nodded at the latter. “Did Professor Dumbledore tell you about the Resurrection Stone?”

His eyes widened, and he accepted the measure of whiskey. He kicked off his shoes and swivelled to face Harry cross-legged on the sofa. “He did not. Tell me everything.”

He had not had a captive audience about the horrors of the war since the week it took place. They savoured their drinks as he considered where to start. Talking about it wasn’t nearly as painful as he feared, considering what Snape divulged earlier today.

“It’s real. The Hallows are real. Of course you know that, since you were murdered for a wand, but yeah. I had the stone the whole time. Professor Dumbledore used a Snitch to hide it from me until I needed it. He got it to me in his will.” He sipped his whiskey.

Snape nodded in comprehension. “Flesh magic.”

“The one I caught during my first Quidditch match.” Harry grinned at him and, as the alcohol entered his head, it seemed a splendid idea to poke him in the ribs. “The game where you saved my life from that joke of a Defence professor.”

“Indeed.”

“I don’t know why, he had a lot of junk in his office, but he must’ve kept that Snitch all these years just in case. Anyway, the stone was in a ring that belonged to Voldemort’s relatives—” he noted that he flinched at the name, “—and Dumbledore really wanted to see his sister and that’s why his hand got cursed. I was walking to my death—did you know I died?”

Snape looked baffled. “What?”

“So, you know I had to die…” he wondered where to start.

Snape reached across him to get more whiskey and topped up their glasses. “I was not aware of the specifics beyond that, and believe me I was more than astonished to wake up and find myself awake, you alive, and the Dark Lord deceased. Before, I was dreading seeing you, and dreading not seeing you. My one saving grace was that I was not required to stay and watch the soul leave your eyes. It would be watching Romeo drink his poison—inevitable, foregone. The audience cannot interrupt the play.” He swallowed. “Tell me more about the Stone. And your death.”

“I’m sorry you were alone in that. It must have been horrible,” he said quietly. Severus was peering into the depths of his glass. He sipped more of his whiskey before continuing. “So, I was on the way to my death, and I used the Snitch with my lips to say that I was about to die. I got the stone out, and saw my parents, Sirius, and Remus–not quite ghosts but not alive either. They went with me, but no one else could see them.” At the hungry look in his eyes, Harry said, “I chucked it into the sea, along with that stupid wand. Dangerous stuff. You could go crazy. In First Year, I would visit my parents over and over again in the Mirror of Erised. Dumbledore told me it drove many people mad.”

He nodded. “I can very well believe that. I requested that Albus keep it away from me. What happened next?”

“Mum, Dad, Remus and Sirius walked with me to Vol…You-Know-Who and the Death Eaters in the forest. They were like Patronuses, I suppose. I let him use the Killing Curse. I woke up, had a chat with Professor Dumbledore at King’s Cross. There was a bit of You-Know-Who’s soul. It was horrible. Then I had the choice to wake up or get on a train. At that point he was alive, and we had one other Horcrux to get rid of. I wasn’t feeling suicidal quite yet.” He shrugged with a weak smile.

“And so Professor Dumbledore is the angel that greets you when you perish.” Severus shook his head slowly. “You’ve given me a lot to consider.”

“I know, mental, isn’t it? He knew what I’d been up to. Said I’d done a good job. So, I guess we should make this life count.” He leaned forwards and clinked his glass to Snape’s.

“We’d better. Cheers.” He knocked back the rest of his drink and got to his feet.

“See you tomorrow?” Harry said hopefully.

“You will,” he promised.

Chapter Text

Twenty-two days until the full moon

 

 

 

Harry discovered that he truly enjoyed learning when there were no essays, exams, or classmates. Severus helped him with his combat stance, demonstrated when best to dodge and when to counterattack, and he made some headway in non-verbal spells. He practised transfiguration in the afternoons after their lessons, as he remembered that Voldemort and Dumbledore used transfiguration during their duel at the ministry, and it gave the element of surprise. He’d learnt that Severus engraved an illegal rune into his wand to help him wield dark magic. So far, he’d flatly refused to teach him anything too dark, and they tried out the counter-curses on a dummy in one of the spare bedrooms.

Severus let him actually help in the potions laboratory. This progressed from drying magical wallpaper, to sharpening knives and grinding ingredients into dust under his watchful eye. In time, he brewed potions, mainly by himself, that would be useful for the house he’d bought—a solution to repel dirt on windows, and Genuine-Permanent-Weed-Killer.

Severus took it upon himself to brew useful household potions. It started with Doxycide that showed up in the cupboard under the sink next to the bleach and dishcloths. Then, Harry spotted a general supply in the bathroom cabinet that included hangover relief, tooth cavity protectant, Pepper-Up, painkilling potion, shaving foam, cough quencher, sandalwood aftershave, and more Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion, along with a muscle relaxant, nutrition potions, anti-sickness potion, and teething and anti-fever potions that he labelled safe for babies. He must have brewed them for Teddy. He perched on the side of the bathtub and fingered the spidery handwriting on the labels of the last two. The familiar handwriting of his old friend, the Half-Blood Prince. It was at this moment he realised that he had fallen in love with Severus Snape.

It wasn’t a tremendous revelation when he noticed that Severus was the most caring, brave, and intelligent man he’d ever met. He did not treat him as the boy who lived, but just Harry. Severus had come a long way from treating him as a famous child who needed to be taken down a peg and bullied because of the resemblance to his dad. He was a shit schoolteacher and did not sugarcoat the truth. Beyond that, he was utterly dependable. He never lied to Harry, coddled him, and so far was good at whatever Harry needed him to be. Harry considered himself lucky he got to see Severus nearly every day.

He was in trouble. Severus deserved to be loved by someone whole. An equal.

Harry’s self-loathing had never been higher when he realised that no one would ever love him, least of all Severus Snape.

He wiped his face with his sleeve and made a list.

Pros: tall and sexy. Reliable, loyal, dependable. No longer treats me like shit. Good at Potions. Can look after himself. Does not read the Prophet. Has never asked for autograph. Not a gold digger. Can brew Wolfsbane. Fantastic legs.

Cons: Straight? In love with Mum? Would never see him again if he doesn’t like me back. Can be impatient. Probably not very forgiving. Hates Dad, Sirius, Remus. Wanted me expelled from Hogwarts. Very private–could be bad at sharing feelings/problems. Arsehole moods in the morning. Wrong height for shower sex.

He groaned, buried his face in his hands, and tried to not picture Severus wet, lathered and naked.

Harry couldn’t pinpoint precisely when he became off-limits wank material, but it really had to stop. He’d probably been alone too long, but he really craved Severus’ presence. After a few days of Severus brewing into the afternoon, Harry made evening dinner to serve at six o’clock. At first, he told himself someone needed to take care of Snape, who still looked too thin. Then, because this actually got his arse in gear to cook himself tea, rather than rely on Kreacher or have a slice of toast and a Butterbeer.

He wasn’t confident how long he could go on lying to himself. Against the odds, somehow, he eagerly anticipated Snape’s company. He had the mad idea to ask him to move in. Grimmauld Place was humongous, and it just seemed silly for Severus to be paying hundreds of pounds to live in a shithole given the number of spare rooms. He wasn’t sure if it would come across the wrong way, or worse, condescending. After all, it’s a bit weird to move into your ex-student’s spare third of a house because you were ostracised by the wizarding world.

Severus joined him for meals probably because he didn’t have the spare cash and the luxury of refusing a free dinner. Harry hoped, or was perhaps lying to himself again, that Severus might enjoy his company occasionally. He hadn’t shouted at him, and his insults resembled mild teasing rather than anything designed to hurt him. Nor had he compared him to his father, called him arrogant, or been inclined to point out how he was a complete loner who had achieved nothing whatsoever since the age of seventeen, with nothing to show for himself except inherited money and property. He wasn’t even a qualified wizard. Harry felt very grateful that he didn’t have to explain himself. He pondered that there weren’t many people who could restrain themselves from asking about his personal life when given the opportunity.

The Floo was password-protected, and Professor Flitwick had cast a new Fidelius Charm on the house. It wouldn’t take a genius to work out that he lived at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, but if you were thinking about the headquarters, you would see number ten and fourteen. You may even surmise that Harry lived there, but number twelve wouldn’t appear. Only Ron, Hermione, and Flitwick knew where to find him. Thankfully, they respected his wishes. It helped that he had mainly lived abroad for the past few years, and they had tired of turning up and finding no one but Kreacher and Mrs. Black.

****

After dinner, Harry never neglected to ask Severus to stay for chess and a drink. Three times out of five, he accepted. During their quiet evenings, he learnt that he liked Alice in Wonderland, classical literature written by Muggle women, swing bands, and actually really really really liked potions. By contrast, Harry was an uncultured dunderhead, since he didn’t know much about wizarding music, and Hogwarts sheltered him from Muggle entertainment. He knew modern Muggle hits from drunken nights lost in nightclubs, but opted not to bring up his time he spent overseas in the arms and beds of men and women.

On one such evening, without thinking through the connotations, Harry asked, “D’you want to live here?”

Severus looked up from their game of rummy and squinted at him. “What?”

“You practically do already.” He blushed and stared at the discard pile. “It would save you rent, and it would be really handy for me to have someone to house-sit when I’m away and practice my cooking on.” Severus was startled, so he added, “This place is so huge we’d probably never run into each other.” He focussed intently on the cards in his hand. “And we can’t quarrel over housework because Kreacher loves to do it.”

“You posit a compelling argument, Mr. Potter.”

“So you will?” Harry grinned and bounced a little on his armchair.

“If this idea is hideous, I shall promptly leave.”

Harry topped up Severus’ drink to distract him from the flutter in his stomach. “The top floor is yours if you want, it’s got its own bathroom, and it’s not painted red, gold or black. So long as you made the Wolfsbane and the odd Dreamless Sleep, do whatever you like. Feel free to borrow Somnus for an owl-order potions business.”

Severus narrowed his eyes and judged that he was sincere in his offer. “It’s your turn.”

Harry discarded a random card, and picked up another.

“I will bring a cat.”

Harry’s eyebrows flew up. “Sure, okay. I didn’t have you down as a cat person.”

“I am certainly not a ‘dog person.’ Cats are apathetic and don’t give a damn.”

“I know it’s a miserable house, but it’s getting there. Phineas would love to have you, he worships you. You’re welcome to help make any changes.”

Severus inclined his head and set down his cards. Harry blew out a breath through his teeth and laid his down, too. It seemed he’d discarded a vital card. “You win.”

“Yes,” he said softly.

Harry cleared his throat. “Do you need any help moving your stuff? The top floor has some furniture, but if your stuff is better, just vanish whatever you don’t want to keep.”

“Very well. I do not require any help, but I thank you.”

****

Harry had been complacent over improving the house. Before Severus brewed here, he vanished the cobwebs, and replaced the silver door-knocker in the shape of a coiled serpent with a nondescript Muggle one. He asked Kreacher to scrub the age-blackened portraits of Phineas Nigellus and the Thestrals on the beach, thinking he would enjoy being so close to them. He had been reluctant to assign tasks to Kreacher, as he still felt guilty about having what was effectively a slave. Perhaps some of Hermione’s thinking had sunk in.

Now he was more motivated. Harry perched on a chair dragged from the sitting room to the entrance hall, attempting to transfigure the gas lamps that turned on automatically when you opened the front door. He was aiming to get the light to be more white than orange, hoping the long gloomy hallway would appear more welcoming and less spooky.

Severus sneaked in carrying a box, mindful of waking up Sirius’ mum’s portrait. He Scourgify’d the window above the front door clean and doubled the quantity of candles on the chandelier with a wave of his wand.

“Thanks,” Harry whispered. He’d rather the chandelier wasn’t shaped like serpents, but Transfiguration had never been his strong suit. Severus nodded back cordially.

He watched his retreating back as Severus ascended the stairs, and then vanished the umbrella stand made out of the severed leg of a troll. It was hideous and reminded him of Tonks. He wondered why he hadn’t done it before.

Harry went out under his Invisibility Cloak to a quiet bookshop in Hogsmeade. He slipped Do It Yourself: Home Improvement for the Discerning Witch under his cloak, and left the money on the counter.

Grimmauld Place was warmer with Severus. It transpired that he was scatty with paperwork. He left piles of Knuts everywhere, and sometimes scrolls with unbroken wax seals. When he needed a quill, he would just summon it because he didn’t know where he had left it.

Harry frowned at the passage on transfiguring patterned fabrics as Severus came downstairs for lunch.

“Are you any good at this?” he asked, showing him the book jacket.

“I’ve never studied household magic, having lived in a castle furnished just to my needs for the last twenty years. I’m sure it will not be beyond you, however.”

Harry had the suspicious feeling that he’d complimented him and grew an inch.

During his last supermarket shop, he got a cat hairbrush, and Snape’s scraggly black cat, temporarily named Cat, enjoyed prodding Harry in the face whenever he stopped fussing with him. “Are you confident this is a normal cat?”

Severus finished helping himself to beef casserole and joined them at the table. “It has bursts of intelligence, but I’m confident that they are a fluke.”

Phineas Nigellus puffed on his pipe and smirked around it.

The cat was an appropriate neutral topic as it wasn’t the war, how much of a bastard Snape was to him at school, the Order, Voldemort, his school grades, werewolves, how much richer he was than Snape, and how neither of them had any friends.

“A family with kids are moving into that house I bought. I’m picking out a trampoline,” he said, circling several with his quill on the Argos catalogue, whilst simultaneously rubbing Cat’s chin. It had sat on his book. “What are you up to today?”

“I have finished working on the Wolfsbane for the day. I will work towards developing a solution to removing that awful portrait.” He looked at him quizzically. “What’s a trampoline?”

“You put it in your garden and bounce up and down on it.” Harry gave up the catalogue as a bad job and surrendered to tickling Cat thoroughly. “I thought the entire Order had tried. And failed.”

Severus raised his eyebrow. “Not the entire Order.”

“If you can get rid of that thing, I will be eternally in your debt.”

“Noted.” Snape chewed his meal quietly for a while, and Phineas pretended to snore in his frame.

“I insist on you naming your cat. It’s only right.”

“Your wish is my command.”

“Excellent,” he said, grinning.

It turned out that Snape had literally stolen the neighbour’s cat as it was being mistreated. He named the cat ‘Hades.’

Chapter Text

Seventeen days until the full moon

 

 

 

Harry spent the afternoon contentedly reviewing documents sent to his post office box and collected by an invisible Kreacher. His first tenants were moving into the house in two weeks’ time and an electrician needed to modernise the fuse box. Not something that he could accomplish with magic. Snape was grilling peaches, and had honey, mint and yoghurt out on the worktop.

Before this summer, he had never really considered Snape as being domesticated, or even imagined him as a fully human being. With his shirt sleeves folded up above his elbows, Dark Mark unashamedly on display, Harry couldn’t stop himself admiring Snape’s forearms as he chopped the mint. It was an added bonus that his arse looked marvellous in tight smart trousers. Despite the abundance of unoccupied rooms, and their own private areas of the house, they gravitated towards each other at all times of the day.

He seldom slept through the night, and so previously spent most of his days wallowing in bed. Now, he leapt out, hoping to see Severus at breakfast.

At eight in the morning, he was eating honeyed porridge whilst reading Managing Electricity in the Modern Muggle World. He woke up from a disturbing dream of Sirius arm wrestling Severus and losing. Snape swooped in, looking more tired than normal. Since moving in with Harry, he dressed impeccably at all times. Today, he had dark circles under his eyes and was swamped in a towelling dressing gown. Harry had already flipped Hades’ food sign to ‘I HAVE BEEN FED: DO NOT BELIEVE MY LIES.’ Severus gratefully helped himself to the half-full cafetière. It was hard to take him seriously when he had a mug with a Quaffle flying through three hoops.

“Have some porridge, too. It should still be warm.” Harry tried to eat his porridge normally, as though he were a normal person without a raging crush on the man stood not four feet away.

Snape waved his wand to decant it into a bowl and summoned a spoon. “Thank you.”

“…you all right?”

Snape grunted noncommittally so he didn’t pry.

Hades pounced on the trailing tie of his dressing gown, so he picked him up for a cuddle. Harry wondered if he was snuggly in other areas of his existence.

“I’m going out to Diagon Alley, do you want anything?”

He could look happy. He could do this.

Severus just shook his head and left, levitating a tray whilst cradling Hades in the crook of his arm.

Harry’s morning got worse from there. He ventured out to Flourish and Blotts, the minute it opened at thirteen minutes to nine. He was infinitely grateful that the doddery shop assistant hadn’t recognised him as he paid for the book The Highs and Lows of Muggle Tax Returns. His mood turned foul as an insistent reporter cornered him in the street. “Mr. Potter, are the rumours true that you are suffering a mental breakdown?”

“Don’t touch me! Please—stay away.” He flinched away from her, heart racing, and considered which shop to flee into next.

She followed him like a mosquito. “Is there anyone special in your life?”

“Yes. Go away.” His head started to spin.

“Do you plan on attending your birthday celebration in two weeks’ time?”

“I–what?”

“Your loyal fans meet on your birthday to celebrate your victory over darkness–”

“No.” He resolved to send Kreacher to Eeylops Owl Emporium and shook her hand off his arm.

“Are the rumours true that you prefer having sex with men?”

“Only if they have a colossal cock.” He smiled grimly, vanished her camera, and Disapparated home.

With a sigh, Harry thumped down at the writing desk until his hands stopped shaking. He sucked the tip of his quill and began his counselling ‘homework.’ He wrote:

'I went to the shops and it was hard. Although it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, I’ll be OK in the end and will try again. Things will not always be this way and I am not a failure.’

After dinner, Harry spent a contented evening reading by the light of the candelabra that Severus transfigured from snakes to roses.

It all seemed to be going quite cordially, and he was waiting for it to go wrong. This tentative peace continued until the review of the Black library. He cleared a sizeable amount of space for Severus’ books and opted to bin a lot of useless sounding tomes. He was irate that Snape had even recruited Kreacher to his cause. Kreacher stood with his mouth set in a firm line, unwilling to criticise yet obviously upset.

“Look, I just don’t see why you want a book on the use of children in the Dark Arts. We will never use it. It’s evil. That is that.” He grabbed the book off Kreacher and put it in the ‘bin’ pile.

“For historical significance. It is a valuable document, and knowledge is power.” Severus levitated it back over to Kreacher, who clutched it to his chest.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realise I was sharing my home with a Ravenclaw.”

“Are you or are you not a wizard? Shrink them and put them in the attic.”

Harry scowled, grabbed the book off Kreacher, and resolutely put it back on the ‘bin’ pile. “The attic is where I found a Horcrux. We do not need this kind of crap in a house belonging to decent people.” He pretended to review the front cover of another book.

Severus grit his teeth. “Your house. Your rules.”

He rolled his eyes. “This is your home too, I do care what you think.”

“Thank you for bestowing upon me your consideration." He glared and left. Kreacher looked mutinous and wandered off, muttering to himself.

By dinner, all seemed forgotten over pudding, and they spent an entertaining four days removing every single book from the entire dwelling to form one enormous mountain. Severus insisted there be a cataloguing system, otherwise ‘however will you find what you need?’ Apparently, Summoning didn’t count. This was because you needed to know precisely what you were looking for, rather than benefitting from the ‘browsing process.’

Harry reckoned he had never enjoyed the browsing process but wanted to permit that tiny fragment of joy into Snape’s life.

“Ugh, how horrible. We’ve got to chuck this.”

Snape looked over at the spine (A Discerning Warlock’s Guide to Subjugating the Young) and grimaced. “Agreed.” He held up another. “And this?”

He squinted as he tried to make out the title on the faded cover. Surreptitious Potions and Hexes to Rid the Worlde of Bastard Children. “Vile.”

“Quite.”

“I’ll let you burn these, as he was actually your colleague,” Harry said, nodding to the pile of Lockhart’s books.

“He provided comic relief to faculty meetings that were otherwise a complete waste of breath.” Severus fished out Gilderoy Lockhart’s Guide to Household Pests. At Harry's inquiring look, he said, “The magic and instruction within his works are sound. It is the fraud himself I cannot bear. Albus hinted that you knew how he’d ended up as a permanent Mungo’s resident. Dare I ask…?”

“Oh! Yeah. I’m glad Dumbledore didn’t tell everyone, bit awkward really. He tried to Obliviate Ron and me after I got us into the Chamber of Secrets. You probably, er, remember when we had that run in with the Whomping Willow?”

Snape raised an eyebrow. “Ah. The valuable willow that you did considerable damage to.”

He wasn’t sure if Severus was teasing him or not. “Er, yes. That one. Well, Ron’s wand got broken. Lockhart borrowed it to wipe our memories, but it backfired so he Obliviated himself. We then nearly got crushed by the rockfall. It all worked out in the end, though.”

“What the world would have been like should Lockhart have been successful.”

At that moment, Kreacher edged into the library, sneaking hunchbacked towards the ‘bin’ pile. He was muttering under his breath in a hoarse, deep voice like a bullfrog’s.

“…strange fellow that has come to stay with Master Harry, what would my poor mistress say to old Kreacher, oh, the shock of it, the unmarried half-blood. A disturbing disgrace to be unwed at such an age. What is he doing here? Kreacher doesn’t know…”

Harry snorted. “Hello, Kreacher,” he said very loudly. Kreacher looked around at him.

“Kreacher has come to help dispose of the books, young master,” he said, bowing low to the carpet. “…priceless valuable written works, oh my, priceless valuable written works…”

“This is Severus Snape. He lives here, now. I’d like you to treat him kindly and listen to what he wants to say, please. He was an ally of Regulus Black. I would be dead were it not for him.”

Kreacher shuffled around to examine Snape, who was still kneeling on the floor, several books in his arms. “Of course, Master Harry.” He sidled towards the books and continued in an undertone. “…Kreacher lives to serve the Noble House of Black. Now he has to serve the strange Headmaster that Kreacher found. Kreacher wonders what Master Harry is doing, cavorting with this half-blood—”

Harry scowled. “I’m a half-blood. Look, forget everything you thought you knew about blood. Voldemort was a half-blood. It’s all a load of rubbish.”

“…Master Harry is of course correct.” He bowed low again, tucked Seventeen Uses for Children Around the Home and Nature’s Nobility: a Wizarding Genealogy into his towel, and left again.

“He’s not going to like this,” Harry said in a low voice, waving his wand over a book to check for common curses, “but we’ve got to find a way to get rid of that tapestry behind you.”

Harry ogled the slope of his shoulders and the breadth of his back narrowing down to his waist as Snape twisted around to stare at the tapestry that covered the length of the wall. It was immensely old; the green had faded to a pale olive, and it was moth eaten. Golden thread glinted brightly to show Sirius’ family tree dating back to the Middle Ages. “Sirius hated it here, and if we’re planning to stay then I don’t want it to be full of signs that it was a home for dark wizards.”

Severus stood up to inspect it more closely and fingered the burn mark between Bellatrix and Narcissa. “Andromeda Tonks,” Harry said grimly. “Did you know her? I’m going to write to her soon.”

He nodded his head. “A little. She was a few years above me at school—not in my house. She and Ted attended a few larger Order meetings, but we never spoke.”

“Did you know Remus made me godfather for Teddy?”

He turned around to face Harry. “I heard,” he said softly. They regarded each other for a moment before returning to the books.

****

That night, Harry was lounging in his pyjama bottoms and ‘HALF-BLOOD AND HERE’ T-shirt. He read Ingenious Muggle Solutions to Wizarding Conundrums by the light of the fading sun and rose-shaped candelabra, and plotted which appliances to get next.

He sat up straighter as Severus entered the drawing room, nose in a potions journal manuscript, gripping a self-inking red quill.

Harry smiled. “You’ve got flour on you.” He went over to brush Severus’ cheek and received a shake of electricity at the touch of his cool skin. Severus felt it, too. His dark eyes widened imperceptibly and bored into Harry’s.

“Thank you.”

Awkwardness pooled in his gut. He dropped his hand. He took a deep breath. “I’m thinking of buying an electrical coffee machine,” he blurted out.

Severus swallowed. They stood far too close together. “That is not the worst idea I’ve heard, providing you can get it to work.”

He was immeasurably pleased at a compliment from Severus.

Chapter Text

The following afternoon, Snape surprised him.

He had brewed a potion strong enough to overpower the Permanent Sticking Charm behind Walburga Black’s awful portrait in the hallway. Snape made it clear in no uncertain terms that this was a risky process not to be undertaken alone. Essentially, it would dissolve the painting itself.

Harry was keen to get started straight away, and Severus must have been too, as he agreed without question. Severus transfigured a tea towel into two sizeable squares of black fabric and secured one around Harry’s nose and mouth to protect him from the noxious fumes. He held stock-still while Severus touched his hair, aware of the body inches behind him, barely daring to breathe.

Snape gave the other piece to Harry and faced away from him.

Harry had never been so close to him before. He concentrated on breathing calmly and deeply, hoping against hope that it wasn’t obvious to Snape that he was smelling him. He fumbled for a few moments, and couldn’t help but notice that Snape’s hair was very silky.

Severus held two pairs of earmuffs not unlike the ones used to harvest mandrakes back in his second year. “So we may better focus on the task at hand, without tuning in to that odious woman,” he murmured into Harry’s ear, before sliding the earmuffs on for him. Severus carefully lifted the arms of his glasses so that they wouldn’t dig into his head. He grinned and withheld the impulse to shudder at the thrill of Severus’ breath in his ear.

The potion was in what appeared to be a giant glass perfume atomiser. Severus placed it in his hands and lifted one ear of his earmuffs. “You may do the honours, as the homeowner and inheritor of this cursed painting,” he said quietly.

“Should we wake her up, first?” Harry whispered uncertainly.

Severus snapped his own earmuffs on and raised up the cloth covering his mouth so that Harry’s gaze could slide down to his mouth to lipread his reply: “By all means.”

Snape swept back the dark moth-eaten curtains. The old woman in a black cap began to shriek as if she was being tortured. When she recognised them both, she drooled, her eyes rolling back in her head, and the yellow skin of her face pulled taut as she screamed. With the earmuffs on, it was as though they were listening to a quiet film about a tormented banshee.

Yooooou!” she howled, her eyes popping at the sight of them both. “Filth! Scum! Filthy half-bloods! Mutants, freaks, begone from this place! How dare you befoul the venerable and noble—”

It wasn’t really a two-wizard job, but perhaps Snape as a “filthy half-blood” himself wanted to aid in its destruction.

Harry sprayed her in the face and saw rather than heard her wail of agony as her head dissolved. Her eyes, cheeks, chin, and lace collar bubbled and steamed, and the colours ran. With a few more squirts, the painting was unrecognisable. Handing the bottle to Severus, he ensured it completely destroyed the canvas and frame.

It was with considerable satisfaction that they sat down to a pot of tea fifteen minutes later with a burnt hole in place of a giant screaming portrait. “Tranquillity, at last,” Snape said.

“Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. What was that stuff?”

Snape smiled evenly. “One of my own invention. It’s not particularly useful beyond this specific occasion, aside from perhaps the Black family tree. I doubt such a concoction would be commercially viable since no one else is stupid enough to permanently stick foulmouthed paintings in their homes.”

“Too right.” They savoured their tea. “I’d better make it up to Kreacher somehow. He worshipped that witch.”

“Not clothes, surely?”

“Nah, he’d kill himself. He doesn’t see kindness the way we do. I nearly gave him an aneurysm when I offered him a salary.”

“He is much improved from what I recall.”

“But still a bit batty. Anyway, we should probably stay out his way for a while. And this calls for a celebration.”

Severus raised his eyebrows. “Does it now?”

“Muggle London. I know just the place.”

And that was how Harry Potter and Severus Snape came to be eating Mediterranean food at dinner in Wandsworth in 2001. There are some things in life you cannot share without ending up liking each other, like knocking out a mountain troll on Hallowe’en, and not unlike removing vulgar paintings from Hell. Harry felt a little lighter at this new bridge that had been forged between them. He spared a thought for what Sirius would think—he and Snape renovating the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. So much had changed in the five years since he fell beyond the veil.

****

It was a busy morning the thirteenth day before the full moon. He debated with a wild pixie that believed it had every right to occupy his airing cupboard, and relegated the house-elf heads mounted on plaques to the attic, resolving to vanish or bury them once Kreacher had died.

Kreacher was busy renewing the charms on the hot water tank. By mid-morning, Harry had finished threatening all the mirrors, in the hopes they would stop with the unwarranted fashion advice.

Harry heard an owl hooting happily in the drawing room, and he tiptoed on socked feet up to the gap between the door and the wall. Severus was murmuring quietly. “You’ve done very well; did you deliver that all by yourself?” Harry’s heart clenched as he spied Pig bouncing up and down in Severus’ palms. He must’ve let him in. Harry retreated and cleared his throat out in the corridor to announce his presence.

Severus wheeled around and held out a scroll to Harry, as the tiny owl chirped in recognition. It was Ron’s handwriting. Harry stuffed it into the pocket of his robe, reluctant to face reading whatever he had to say. He hoped Snape hadn’t noticed, as on some level he knew he was acting strangely.

Severus regarded him for several moments. He couldn’t bear it, so went to let out Pig. He would have to remind Kreacher again to not let in any owl post. Severus noticed him looking outside, and asked, “are you doing anything with the garden?”

Harry shook his head. “Uh, no. Not yet. Please, do whatever you want with it. I’m happy to help. I was okay in Herbology and I did the gardening all the time at my aunt’s.”

“Very well.”

Within the blink of an eye, or perhaps Harry wasn’t used to looking out the back window, a greenhouse appeared from nowhere. The courtyard used to be a very sorry square of concrete, likely not free of curses, and he didn’t bother going outside. Severus was doubtless growing herbs and potions ingredients. He was glad that Severus considered this house as if it were his own. He felt a rush of optimism about the summer, and could picture them both on a garden bench, drinking cider.

Harry blinked. Where had that thought come from? He remembered the time when he tried to imagine teachers in the summer, wondering where they went. Somehow, he couldn’t picture Severus rubbing in sun lotion stretched out on a sunny beach.

Did that man exist inside Snape? A carefree holiday-goer?

****

That night, Severus was idly waiting until Hades had finished his nap on Snape’s legs, as he was snoozing on top of a potions article he needed to peer review. They heard the distant sound of thunder grumbling, and rain tapping on the glass.

“You really do love him.”

That, Mr. Potter, is slander.” Severus’ fingertips ghosted over the black fluffy fur, and he began to purr sleepily.

He grinned down at the diary he ought to be writing in this week, and said, “Just Harry, sir.”

“Severus.” At Harry’s startled expression, he continued, “It is my name—you may use it.”

“Oh. I will…Severus.” Harry savoured the foreign word in his mouth. He blushed and began to doodle in his notebook. “What happened to the Death Eaters after the war?”

Snape’s lip curled. “You don’t take the Daily Prophet?”

“Do you think I should?” he bit back. “After what they wrote about me?”

Severus leaned back carefully, so as not to disturb the cat. “No, I don’t suppose you would. Even more so, now you are a hermit with only me for human company.” Severus narrowed his eyes.

“Are you trying to change the subject?”

Severus summoned two Butterbeers and waited for them to fly up from the kitchen. He opened the bottles and his heart to Harry. He banished one to him to avoid moving Hades. “A combination of Azkaban, the Dementor’s Kiss, reparations, community vigilantism, and house arrest. I spent three months in Azkaban, avoided the Kiss thanks to Miss Granger’s and Mr. Weasley’s heartfelt plea in the Prophet which failed to turn the tides of public opinion. The ministry sentenced me to pay reparations for my part in the war, and I then spent eighteen months under house arrest.”

At the look of utter dismay on his face, Severus glared at him. “What?”

He gave his ‘feelings diary’ up as a bad job, and slammed it shut. Joining Severus on the sofa, he crossed his legs and faced him. He hugged a pillow to his chest, Butterbeer forgotten, as he considered what to say. “You’re a hero…I’m sorry that happened to you. That’s so wrong. I wasn’t referring to you, I—I didn’t mean to pry, I meant Malfoy and his mum and dad.”

“I do not keep up with wizarding society. In case you hadn’t noticed, I was perfectly content in Muggle Birmingham until you showed up at my door.”

“What was Azkaban like?”

Severus looked at him askance. “A nice break from teaching.”

Harry snorted. “Is Birmingham where you lived? When you met my mum?”

Severus seemed a bit startled by this change in conversation. “No.” He sipped his Butterbeer and looked away out the window at the waving trees that lined the streets of Islington. “We lived in Cokeworth.” His eyes flickered back to Harry’s. “You didn’t know?”

“No. I wasn’t allowed to ask questions.”

His lip curled. “Petunia. Such a bitch.”

Harry nodded as he burst out laughing. They savoured their drinks quietly.

“You know, it’s so weird to be reminiscing about my horrible aunt with—”

“—Your horrible schoolteacher?”

“No. With you,” Harry said softly.

Hades stretched and stalked out, and Severus stood to brush the cat fluff off his robes. Walking over to the sideboard, he got out a bottle of whiskey. “I don’t know about you, but I need something stronger when reminiscing about Petunia Evans.”

“Agreed.”

Severus returned with two tumblers. “She wasn’t my favourite person. I can’t imagine she would have been much fun to live with.”

He nodded and accepted the glass. “Going to Diagon Alley with Hagrid was the best day of my life.” He fingered the lip of the glass. “I would have gone crazy over the summer were it not for Hedwig, and food from my friends…” he swallowed and frowned, as his insides clenched like a fist. “Hedwig, she was…I know she was just an owl—”

“—Harry…” he looked up at Severus, who downed the whiskey and rubbed his forehead and eyes with a hand. “There is something you should know.” He went over to the sideboard and slammed his glass down. He leaned on it with both hands, hair not long enough to hide his face. Harry watched his back with concern as he heaved a deep breath. “That night, I identified you immediately. The fake owls…you must understand, they were unmoving…” Harry felt sick. “I had to…it is I who is responsible for her death.” Severus span around. “I would never…” his face twisted in pain. “I only wished to protect—” He broke off as the room chilled to a frosty temperature. Harry bent to grasp his hair, and Severus nodded slowly at him, as if coming to some decision. “I should leave.”

“No. Don’t.” Harry released his hair and shivered at the chill. “Please—sit down. Don’t go.”

Severus paused on his way to the door, and looked as if he wanted to be anywhere else.

“You fucking killed my owl, so sit back down.” Severus’ legs took him back to the sofa, and he buried his face in his hands.

Harry raised the roaring flames with a wave of his hand, and got to his knees in front of Severus.

“Forgive me. The whiskey—”

“I forgive you.”

Severus took a deep rattling breath and at Harry’s grip on his knees, lowered his hands in astonishment. “…what? You can’t.”

“I can and I will and I have.”

“I don’t understand,” he gasped out.

“For someone clever, you can be stupid sometimes. Let’s straighten things out a minute. You feel bad about what happened with Hedwig…?”

“Of course.”

“You feel guilty about my mum.”

His eyes squeezed shut in agony. “A gross understatement—stop, I beg of you.” His chest was rising and falling rapidly.

“Look at me, please.”

“I have suffered torture in your name, but this, this is too much.”

Harry clasped his forearms. “Look at me.”

“Do not ask this of me—her eyes—”

“Just do it. For me. For Mum. Please.” Tortured unseeing black found his green almond-shaped eyes. “I forgive you.” He shook his forearms gently, and he searched Severus’ face. “You don’t believe me,” he said, frowning.

Severus shook his head uncomprehending. “I…”

“You made a mistake.”

“A mistake,” he repeated, flatly. His arms shook. Harry gripped them harder.

“You did your best to make it right. You saved my life, over and over. We couldn’t have killed Vol…You-Know-Who without you. With Hedwig, there was no choice.” He frowned. “If our situations were reversed…I would have done the same.” It seemed imperative that Severus understood this. "You’re my hero. You’re incredibly brave and you’re a fucking good wizard.”

Severus gave him a strained smile. “You should have your head looked at,” he whispered, and cleared his throat. “Now unhand me.”

Harry reluctantly released him and fed the fire. He splashed out more whiskey for both of them. Severus remained, poised like a horse ready to bolt.

“I try not to think about those I’ve lost. But I’m seeing someone, to help me feel better, who says I should. So…let’s remember her.” He sat down with their drinks and saw Severus’ Adam’s apple bob up and down. “Um. She never failed to deliver a letter.”

That earned him a shaky smile. “Is that the best you can do?”

“She liked orange juice.” Harry sipped his drink, and thought. "One summer, when my friends couldn’t write to me, Hedwig pecked their hands until they wrote.”

Severus gazed into the depths of his drink. “She does sound like a loyal owl.”

“She was.” He held up his glass, to break Severus’ reverie. “To Hedwig, a damn good owl.”

“To Hedwig.” He clinked their drinks and sipped. Severus cleared his throat. “Did you know Albus had a scar in the shape of the London Underground above his left knee?”

Harry’s jaw fell open in shocked delight. “No way!” He shook his head. “He was having you on. Or you’re having me on…?”

“Well, have you seen his knees?”

“Course not! Have you?”

“He told me. So, it must be true.”

“Ooh, I’ve got one.” Harry thought back to his Fourth Year. “He could speak Mermish.”

“And he offered anyone a second chance.” Severus held out his glass. “To the Only One He Ever Feared.”

“The Only One He Ever Feared,” Harry echoed.

By midnight, they had toasted Dobby, Cedric, Mad-Eye (“I wouldn’t say I hated him, more of a profound dislike”), Ted Tonks, Bathilda Bagshot, Newt Scamander (“he’s old. Informative textbook”), the dragon Harry escaped Gringotts on (“I don’t care, it’s probably dead by now”), Salazar Slytherin, Nearly Headless Nick (“Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington”), Gideon Prewett, the Basilisk (“it was such a massive snake”), Professor Binns, Severus’ great-grandmother, Myrtle, Fred, Sirius (Severus said nothing and just drank deeply from his glass), Regulus (“the bloody twit”), Aragog, Phineas Nigellus (“a fount of wit”), Florean Fortescue…

They did not drink to Harry’s parents. Nor did they drink to Severus’ parents.

Chapter Text

And so, they settled into a rough routine. Severus often brewed in the mornings, and sorted lunch for them both. Meanwhile, Harry regularly tried to fix up the house whilst pleading with Kreacher, and went for morning jogs around Highbury Fields. In the afternoon, Severus might brew some more or correct articles in red ink. Occasionally, he attempted this with a cat on his lap. Harry chopped potions ingredients, brought Snape cups of tea, or went off to the Muggle houses he’d bought to do odd jobs. He was in no rush, but Snape working all the time made him feel lazy. In the evenings, Harry usually cooked, and Kreacher made pudding. After tea they relaxed in the drawing room with a coffee or Butterbeer, Hades asleep on or between them. They’d play chess, or watch films rented from Blockbuster’s on the telly Harry fixed.

****

Twelve days until the full moon

 

 

 

Harry sat cross-legged on the floor of the smallest spare bedroom, switching lampshades with his wand. Severus had hung up wallpaper with phoenixes and fwoopers perched in trees. A unicorn snored. This was the room Harry hoped Teddy would stay in.

Hades slunk in, so Harry paused his magic in case he frightened the cat. “Out. Out. Out!” He resolutely ignored Harry and licked his paws.

Severus stopped by the doorway, and gathered Hades up in his arms. “Cats cannot be trained.”

Harry leaned against the wall, and grinned. “Nor can Slytherins.”

“Cheeky brat. All domestic cats are Slytherins.”

“Hm. This particular cat has a very low IQ, so that’s quite possible.”

“Watch what you’re saying, Potter.” Severus deposited Hades onto the banister.

“I forget that I’m challenging the Prince of Slytherin himself. It’s hard to take you seriously when you dote on him so much.” Harry got up to scratch behind Hades’ ears. He put his head in his paws, and pretended to doze precariously. “Why did you call him ‘Hades’?”

“It befits its personality. It was a tossup between Hades or Andrew, who was a kind neighbour I had growing up.” Looking at Harry’s feet, he added, “Those socks are absurd.”

Harry wiggled his mismatched toes. “They’re my prized possession. Knitted by someone who died. What’s your most treasured possession?”

“My records.”

“Can I see them?

“No.”

Harry crossed his arms. “I’ve shown you mine—you show me yours. Fair is fair.”

“Be careful what you wish for.” Severus swept back downstairs.

Harry was very privileged to glimpse this side of Severus. He wondered what Severus and his mother had in common, and what they spoke about. Was it just the excitement of magic and the freedom of Hogwarts? Harry would have given anything to have had even a single friend before Ron and Hagrid.

As he considered Severus lucky to spend the holidays with his mum, he thought back to the young Snape from that disastrous Occlumency lesson. This gangling teenaged version probably found Hogwarts a lonely reality. Despite Harry’s tribulations of having a Dark Lord on his tail and putting up with Malfoy and his cronies, he could at least say school was a lot of fun.

He felt a pang of nostalgia for simpler days with Ron and Hermione, and vowed to be a better friend. He feared what they would think when they learnt he was speaking to Severus every day, but never to them.

God. Such a shit friend.

Sometimes, he loathed himself. His misery at cutting out his friends was a safe enough topic to talk about with his Muggle counsellor. He had been trying for so hard for so long to get better, though the advent of Snape and the Wolfsbane had lit up his days.

He entered the garden, and admired the rose bushes. They bloomed in a narrow row of flower beds that Harry swore seemed empty last week. Perhaps Snape used some kind of growth potion. He could pick out a distant bee bumbling around in the fragrant flowers. His chest grew warm and fuzzy that Snape put in effort to improve their home.

Severus made him happy. That was the bare truth.

****

Eight days until the full moon

 

 

 

Harry was balancing as many quills as he could on Hades whilst he was asleep on the kitchen table. So far, he was up to six.

“Infernal feline,” griped Snape, who stood at the stove.

Harry snorted. “Says the man poaching salmon for his cat’s mid-afternoon snack.”

Severus scowled at the disrespect, and changed the topic. “Why did you return to London?”

Deciding to tell the truth for a change, he said, “I was arrested in Spain for drunk and disorderly behaviour. It was a bit of a wake-up call, to be honest. I kind of forgot who I was.”

Severus spelled off the hob, and woke up the cat, who deposited all the quills onto the table. “And now you are home again to face it. And yet, you devote all your days hiding in this huge house. The absence of two-thirds of the terrible trio is notable. As much as I appreciate their non-attendance, why are they not with you? I’m sure they would welcome you with open arms.”

“I don’t want to see them.” Harry gripped the back of a chair.

“You’re in a very fortunate position to be ready to cast your loyal friends aside.”

Harry did not appreciate getting told off as though he were at school. He bristled in indignation at being told what to do, how to feel. Severus didn’t—would never—understand. The nucleus of truth to his judgement only made him more defensive. “It’s my life, my choice. I haven’t had many of those so far.” He slammed his fist on the table. “You really have no idea—”

“Of fucking up and seeking to make amends?” Snape snarled. “You forget to whom you are speaking.”

“Yeah, you’re an expert at fucking up. You could write a book on it.”

Severus’ voice sank to a whisper. “I’d never have believed this. A man who at thirteen could drive away over a hundred dementors…a coward.”

The plates in the dresser started rattling, and the candles stuttered.

Harry drew his wand, but Snape had drawn his in the blink of an eye. “You wouldn’t dare,” Snape spat through bared teeth. “The world isn’t fair? What an extraordinary revelation.”

Harry’s wand shook with his anger and he hardly registered the edge of Snape’s cloak disappearing around the door.

The dirty dishes in the sink clattered. He breathed hard. His wand dug into his palm. He lit the grate with a twirl just to have something to burn. Broken images raced each other through his mind: Remus in this very kitchen, livid at Harry’s insistence he stand by Tonks and his baby. Severus by Hagrid’s burning hut screaming ‘DON’T CALL ME COWARD’ as Harry used his own spells against him. Revulsion and hatred etched into the harsh lines of Severus’ face as Professor Dumbledore begged him to kill.

He stared unseeingly into the dancing flames.

Severus cradling Hades as he slumbered. Laughing at the shitty German accent in Die Hard. Their awkward yet cordial Italian meal. The countless times Severus had saved his life.

Harry’s stomach burned with a sickening surge of remorse, and he pulled his hair. Counting his breaths, he resolved to calm down before thinking what to do.

He didn’t know why he decided to Apparate first to Severus’ grimy flat in Birmingham. There was a ‘TO LET’ sign in the window.

He popped back home to pick up his Invisibility Cloak, and tried the Hog’s Head. Peering inside, he saw a crowd singing a rowdy song. No sign of Severus.

Come to think of it, he doubted Severus had any friends, or spent time with anyone except Harry. There was no mention of any relatives. He tried to picture the neighbourhood that Snape and his mother lived in when they were kids. He focussed intently on the park with the swings, hoping he remembered it distinctly enough to not splinch himself.

Stumbling, he grabbed onto the railing. At once, he saw Severus seated alone on a park bench. Snape looked around, but Harry was invisible.

He felt no small measure of pride at knowing this enigmatic wizard well enough to discover him. Few in England would have achieved it. How many people had ever bothered to try and get to know Severus? He might be a complete git, but he was also loyal, clever, and stung by everyone that should’ve known better.

He treasured a moment to study the older man, unnoticed. Doubtless, Severus knew Harry might find him and would detect his Apparition.

Severus didn’t seem angry any more. He gazed out at nothing in particular and, if anything, looked a little sick. His fingers traced circles on the wooden bench. There were no children in sight.

Severus spoke first. “Life is a risk. Everything is a risk. Your friends may betray you. You could accidentally snap your wand a long way from home.” Severus frowned at the ground. Harry took off his cloak. “You could expose your soul, and have it rejected. You may mitigate that risk, but one cannot expunge it. You must decide whether the reward is worth the gamble.”

Harry sat down next to him. “When did you get so wise? That sounds just like something the Headmaster of Hogwarts might say.”

“You forget that I was the Headmaster. Furthermore, you need not be one hundred and fifty years old to provide good advice. Nor do you need to practice what you preach before advising others.”

“I’m glad you’re not a hundred and fifty,” he said quietly.

“You would have had the benefit of my sage wisdom, had you not been sorted elsewhere and persisted in being so infernally annoying.”

“It’s good that you don’t hate me any more,” Harry said, tucking his chin on his knees.

“Give it time.”

They sat side-by-side for a while. “You know, I’m proud you were on our side. You’re a fucking good wizard, and we couldn’t have won without you.” Severus crossed his arms and scowled. Apparently, he wasn’t used to hearing praise. Harry continued, “you were really brave, and if it were up to me, it would be you on the front of Witch Weekly.”

Severus snorted derisively. “I don’t expect I’ll be winning the ‘Most Charming Smile Award’ any time soon.”

Harry leaned back to look at the sky. “Sorry, I think that’s still going to Lockhart.” A group of teenagers walked past, and paid no attention to them. They probably looked strange in their robes. “Notice-Me-Not Charm?”

“Indeed. I have no desire to be accosted in this hellhole.”

“Except by me,” Harry said, elbowing him in the ribs. “Bad memories here, eh?”

Severus pursed his lips, and rested back against the bench. They were merely inches apart. “Some good memories, too.”

“I’d like to hear about them, someday.”

Severus nodded. “Perhaps you shall.”

“My only happy memories are from Hogwarts and the Burrow…” he trailed off. “And Diagon Alley, and London Zoo.”

Severus stood up. “It is time we stopped being maudlin. Let us go home.”

Home.

Harry smiled. “Let’s.”

Given that they were well aware of the location of number twelve, Grimmauld Place, for some inexplicable reason they Side-Along Apparated home together.

Chapter Text

When they arrived back home, Harry Accio’d two Butterbeers and cajoled Severus into staying up with him in the drawing room. Harry sat down beside an enchanted gramophone, and dusted it with his sleeve. “Can I see your records? I picked this up in a second-hand shop this afternoon, but I’m not sure if it works.”

“I have only Muggle records,” Severus said stiffly. To his surprise, Severus summoned them. A heavy box floated into the parlour. He lowered it onto the coffee table.

Harry peered in and bounced on the spot. “Wow! You’ve got loads!”

Snape was giving him one of his acerbic looks that Harry preferred to take as endearing rather than mean. “Several are graded Very Good Plus. Are your hands clean? You may touch them, but be very careful. They are delicate.”

“All right, keep your hair on,” said Harry.

Five minutes later a crooning ballad by the Rubettes played. “Wow! This is amazing!” said Harry.

Severus held Harry’s gaze. “It is.”

 

“…Yes, all lovers make

Make the same mistakes

As me and you.”

 

“Dance with me!” Harry held out his hands to Severus, who looked alarmed at the thought. “Come on, please,” he pleaded, and his fingers found Severus’, who was hauled to his feet against his will.

He wasn’t sure how it happened, but suddenly they were almost nose to chin. The warmth of Severus’ chest radiated through him. Severus’ arms looped around his waist, scarcely touching him. Harry’s hands lightly rested on Severus’ shoulders. He smelled of sandalwood.

For some mysterious reason it was hard to breathe—possibly it was Harry’s hopeless love. Perhaps they should have got drunk first? Too late now. He wondered if he’d crossed some kind of line with his ex-professor. Then again, Severus was a big boy who could protect himself from the likes of barely qualified wizards such as himself.

They swayed awkwardly from side to side, rotating on the spot. Harry leaned his cheek on Severus’ chest, to avoid meeting his gaze and inevitably blurting out something embarrassing.

All too soon, however, the song ended. They sprung apart. Severus cleared his throat.

Harry scrambled over to continue rummaging through the box. “Some of these are really old,” Harry said.

I am old, Potter.”

Harry rolled his eyes and continued flipping through. “So, when did you get these?”

Severus knelt down, to better monitor Harry touching his things. “I am looking after some of them for my grandmother. Indeed, she bought me many of these. The one just played was a gift for staying alive for fifteen years.”

“Is that English for ‘birthday present’? Did my mum like these?”

Severus stiffened. “Every Muggle teenager in the Midlands liked this music.” Harry regretted asking as Severus looked downcast, frowning at an album Harry had removed. “Your mother had this record, too. We had a humongous crush on Donnie Osmond.” He spotted another LP, the cover of which sported a handsome dark-haired man. “Oh, and Rick Springfield. I’d forgotten about him,” he added.

Spluttering, Harry tried to swallow what he’d just heard. He pushed to the forefront of his mind that Severus was in love with his mother, and hoped he’d be saved by Legilimency.

Either Severus had read his mind, or read his face. He scowled. A few seconds of awkward silence went by before he slowly clarified. “Whilst I understand why you believe otherwise, be assured that I was no more in love with your mother than you are with Miss Granger.”

Harry made a face. “Ooh, no. She’s like my sister.”

Snape raised an eyebrow. “Quite.”

They put on an album of his grandmother’s and sat back to sip their Butterbeers.

Harry had come to terms with his own bisexuality over the last couple of years. The catalyst for this was when he accidentally wandered into a gay bar in Lisbon, and a very attractive blond danced with him and kissed him on the neck.

He liked the way men smelt. He liked them to be commanding. He liked a deep, sultry voice. As he was contemplating just how sexy Severus’ voice was, and how he should probably become a voice-over actor for TV adverts, Severus said, “Classical music is an escape. It is a fictional world where nothing can rob one’s joy. This is a ballet.”

“Really? Which one?”

“The Nutcracker. I have half a mind to take you. If you don’t enjoy the dancing, just close your eyes and absorb the story through your ears. If you open them, you will see athletic men in tights.” Severus smirked at him. “Or women in tights, if you prefer.”

Harry grinned. “Nice. Either will do. All right—I’ll give anything a try. How did you get into the ballet?”

Severus traced the edges of the album cover with his fingertips. He looked askance at Harry. “It should not shock you to learn that my parents did not take me. They took me nowhere at all. I must have been about nineteen and wandering through Leicester Square when I decided on a whim to try something new. My only hobbies had been spellcrafting, avoiding twits with wands, and smoking stolen cigarettes with your mother. Finding out what you love is an ongoing process, and I recommend that you start. There is no time like the present.”

“My aunt and uncle only took me out once. So I kind of know what you mean. It was the zoo, and it was both incredible and a disaster. Did you know Mrs. Figg?”

Severus nodded. “We met.”

“Well, I’d stay with her whenever my relatives did anything fun, but she was ill. Until Hagrid brought me my Hogwarts letter, it was the best day of my life.” Severus gave him his full attention. “I didn’t realise at the time that I could speak to snakes. I was chatting with this boa constrictor from Brazil, and then I did some accidental magic after my cousin upset me. He fell into this snake cage-container-thing.” Harry knelt back down by the records. “Kind of funny, ‘til I got no meals for a week. I love animals, and the lady in the van got my uncle to buy me my first ice cream. It made me think, when I’ve sorted my life out a bit, I’ll take Teddy out as often as he wants. All kids should go to the zoo at least a few times before they’re eleven.”

“I’ve never visited the zoo.”

Harry let out a whistle. “This is turning out to be a day of revelation,” he said, laughing. “Whatever next, never had a hug from a relative?” His chuckle turned hollow. Suddenly the conversation didn’t seem so funny any more.

“I don’t like talking about my mother. She did her best,” he said tersely.

“That’s okay. I’m sure she did,” Harry said. He drew out Folk Song Today and stared down at it. “Why did you stay here with me? You used to hate me.”

“For some reason I feel compelled to get embroiled in ensuring your personal safety. I confess it is a difficult habit to break.”

Harry’s lips quirked up. Severus’ did, too. “Dangerous habit, that.”

“Quite. Do try not to invite any dragons to stay.”

“You know me. I like the quiet life.”

The answering warmth in his eyes made Harry’s stomach lurch.

****

Two days until the full moon

 

 

 

Harry was overjoyed when Somnus tapped on the window clutching a response from Ron.

 

Tuesday 3 rd July 2001

Hello Harry,

It’s so great to hear from you! It’s good you’ve got a new owl and you’re back in the country. Are you going away again soon?

There’s no need to apologise, I get that things have been really hard.

Me and George are busy with the joke shop, and I’m doing a part time Muggle course (Business Management and Accounting). You’ll never guess—it’s on a Computer! (Hermione is helping me use it). Dad nearly wet himself when I told him. My tutors don’t suspect a thing.

Maybe you could drop by the shop in your cloak?

Mum and Dad would love to see you. I’ve done what you asked, but they do miss you.

Hermione misses you too and says that you can come around any time of the day or night. (Except full moon—ha ha!)

I hope to hear from you again soon mate.

Take Care

From,

Ron

 

Being on speaking terms with Ron was like surfacing from the sea. This had righted something wrong in the world. For the entire day, he carried Ron’s letter in his pocket, like a talisman, getting it out every few hours to remind himself.

I have friends. My friends care.

He couldn’t stop smiling all day. On top of this, his mood at safely transforming was nothing short of a miracle.

After pretending to give the Wolfsbane to his ‘friend,’ Harry went up the basement stairs to see if Severus wanted to hang out.

He hesitated at the sound of music, and tiptoed to the hallway. Pausing between the hinge and the jamb, he peered through the gap into the drawing room.

Severus sat on the floor, robes splayed around him. The gramophone perched on a table surrounded by scattered album sleeves. Ear facing the horn, head burrowed into folded arms, Severus leaned onto the table’s edge as if in prayer. If not for the uncomfortable position, he could almost be sleeping.

Harry wished he could see his face.

The haunting song played, and Harry had no wish to interrupt this private moment.

 

I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger

A-travellin’ through this world of woe.

But there's no sickness, toil or danger

In that bright land, to which I go.

 

I'm going there to see my father,

I'm going there no more to roam.

I'm just a-going over Jordan,

I'm just a-going over home.

 

I know dark clouds will gather ‘round me,

I know my way is rough and steep;

Yet golden fields lie out before me,

Where God's redeemed no more shall weep.

 

I'm going there to see my mother,

She said she'd meet me when I come.

I'm just a-going over Jordan,

I'm just a-going over home.

 

I'll soon be free from earthly trials,

My body asleep in the old churchyard.

I'll drop the cross of self-denial,

And enter in my great reward.

 

I'm going there to see my saviour,

I'm going there no more to roam.

I'm just a-going over Jordan,

I'm just a-going over home.”

 

Harry longed to go in and wrap his arms around Severus.

Instead, he crept upstairs to his bedroom and packed his bag for tomorrow’s moon.

Chapter Text

Twenty-eight days until the full moon

 

 

 

It had been over two months since Harry’s return to Britain, and he finally felt able to complete his ‘homework’ from his counsellor: to find one or two people to reconnect with. He asked Kreacher for the letters he had been intercepting.

Harry felt a pang of guilt at the sizeable bundle Kreacher summoned with a snap of his fingers. Taking a deep breath, he broke their seals, unfurling the scrolls one by one and laying them down in one fat pile.

He scanned through them, recognising the untidy scrawl of Hagrid, the neat writing of Hermione, a few from Ron, and fewer still from Ginny.

It appeared he was somewhat of an agony aunt, despite having never replied. Neville had been concerned about him for the first year, and Ginny the first six months. Luna consistently sent him moving photographs of commonplace plants she believed were unique. Professor McGonagall had written about his education, and he had numerous job offers from the ministry, as well as interview requests from Witch Weekly, Single Parisian Wizards, and The New York Wizarding Times. He even received a scribbled self-portrait signed ‘LOVE, GILDEROY.’ The fan mail tailed off two years after the war.

Flicking through, he read the names of Kingsley, the current minister; Dedalus Diggle, who once bowed to him as a child; Draco, who had little to say; and Mrs. Malfoy, enquiring after his health and requesting the return of Draco’s wand. Harry grimaced a little at that one, and cursed himself for being so self-involved.

His eyes prickled in miserable tears at the overwhelming gratitude and guilt for his friends. People that cared for him, people he no longer spoke to. He had no idea what they were doing in their lives. How was George faring? Was Fang still alive? What did Hermione do for a living? His dearest friends were just schoolboy memories. At least he and Ron were reconciled. The rest of the pile was overwhelming.

He saw nothing from Mrs. Tonks, and set about writing to her straight away. A wave of grief swept through him as he remembered one of his first friends, Hedwig.

Small steps.

He summoned Kreacher. “Would you mind calling down Somnus?”

“It would be an honour, Master Harry.” Kreacher bowed low to the ground.

“You don’t need to bow.” At Kreacher’s crestfallen face, he continued, “unless it would make you happy.”

The next morning Somnus rapped on the basement skylight whilst Harry was frying up a full English for him and Severus. He offered some bacon to the owl as he unfurled the scroll.

 

Sunday 8 th July 2001

Dearest Harry,

I am so glad you have written. I realise we do not know each other very well, but now I have no grown children of my own to fuss over, I worry about you like a mother frets over her own son. Pardon me for not writing, I must confess I thought you were abroad—my fault for believing the rumours. Are you in town? Of course I long to see you and introduce you to young Teddy. You are absolutely welcome to Floo one afternoon this week. I have requested your handsome owl to await your reply. Forgive me but I am eager to meet you again.

Yours faithfully,

Dromeda Tonks

****

Within two weeks, Harry visited Teddy and Dromeda six times. He had never interacted with young children before, and just loved reading to him and pulling silly faces to make him squeal with laughter.

He was just setting him down for a nap, when Dromeda asked if he would take Teddy to the zoo on Friday. “You’re free to say no of course, Harry, but it would do you good to spend time together without an old lady looking over your shoulder.” She smiled and picked up her embroidery. “Not to mention, I could do with a rest from full-time granny duty. As much as I cherish that child, he is a little monkey.”

Harry felt simultaneously elated and terrified. “Really? You wouldn’t mind me taking him to the zoo? What if something went wrong?”

“I’m only two seconds away by Apparition. St. Mungo’s is also two seconds away. You do think very much like a Muggle sometimes, Harry.” She shook her head. “It’s quite endearing.”

“Right. Of course.” He fiddled with his sleeve, feeling a bit out of his depth. “I’ve got a…friend staying with me. He’s never been to the zoo. Could he come as well?”

“Oh?” She beamed at him. “Is he a special someone? I hope you’re not rattling around that horrid old house by yourself.”

“No! Well, yes.” Harry blushed furiously. “I mean, no, not like that.” He stared at the wallpaper above Andromeda’s head. “Severus Snape is living with me. Not…in the way you mean.”

“I see,” she said, grinning. Did she see? “Excellent. Naturally, he should come along, too. I remember that young man well—he was a few years below Ted and me. Now, I shall be positively put out if you don’t bring him 'round for tea within the next few weeks. Ensure you take many pictures at the Muggle zoo.” She summoned a camera from the sideboard and passed it to him. “This belonged to my late husband, and I’m keen to put it to good use.”

“Cool!” Harry turned over the Olympus mju-II in his hands. “Do you have the potion that can make the photos move?”

“No, I shall have to acquire some.” She winked at him knowingly.

And that was how Snape found himself in late July 2001 teaching a three-year-old how to say the word ‘giraffe.’ Severus charmed Teddy to be feather-light, and held him as though he was worth a billion Galleons. A few hours later, he was fast asleep, and they really couldn’t pretend any more that they were there to entertain a boisterous child. Harry introduced Severus to a rather pleasant king cobra in the reptile house, and took a self-portrait with Severus, a snoring toddler, and the snake. He then whispered a re-enactment of his previous visit to Severus who chuckled softly.

“Come back with me to Andromeda’s place?” he asked hopefully.

The mirth drained away. “Absolutely not.” At Harry’s crestfallen face he continued, “I’m a Death Eater.”

“Not a very good one,” said Harry. “Anyway, this is Andromeda we’re talking about—she’s really nice.”

“She was widowed by Snatchers no less than three years ago.”

“Yeah. By Snatchers. Not by you. Anyway,” he was suddenly very interested in undoing and redoing the buttons on his jacket, “she specifically asked that I bring you ‘round when I mentioned we were going to the zoo.”

“Did she.”

Harry missed the penetrating look Severus gave him whilst he bent to re-tie his shoelaces.

He wasn’t sure how he managed it, but somehow he convinced Severus to return Teddy with him. They stood uncomfortably outside her sprawling bungalow as they waited for her to answer the bell.

She flung open the door. “Come on, come in! What a picture you three make.” She pulled Harry down to kiss him on the cheek, and Severus permitted her to do the same.

“Mrs. Tonks,” said Severus, shaking her hand. She beamed at him. He carefully kept his face blank and took in her appearance. She was a lighter, softer version of her sister Bellatrix. Her hair was a soft brown colour, and her eyes were wider and kinder. She leaned down to give Teddy’s hair a gentle kiss as he slept in Harry’s arms.

Harry sat down with Teddy on the sofa instead of his usual seat, as Andromeda levitated in a tray of teacakes and went to put the kettle on. Severus took in the room with calculating eyes. There were piles and piles of purple cushions on the large squashy blue velvet sofa. A towering aspidistra stood on a spindly table by the door. There were wall-hangings depicting—for some reason—the Battle of Hastings, as well as a collection of Muggle photographs. Although it was July, there were strings of tinsel draped over strange abstract art. Candles littered every surface, and there was a playpen in the corner. A delicious smell wafted in from the sunny kitchen visible through a hatch.

Severus wandered over to the French doors to look out at the afternoon sun on the horizon. Harry laid Teddy in his playpen whilst he was still fast asleep, put the camera on the coffee table, and joined Severus at the window. “I hope to make happier memories in this garden. This was where I came on the night of my seventeenth birthday. It was the only time I’d met Mr. Tonks.”

Severus turned away to face Teddy’s sleeping figure. “It does not do to dwell on the past.”

“…and forget to live? I think you’ve spent too much time with Dumbledore,” Harry said, grinning.

Andromeda bustled back in with tiny triangular sandwiches and a pot of tea.

“Wow, thanks, Dromeda. This smells delicious. I thought you wanted a day off?” Harry couldn’t help but laugh at all the baking she had done, as she floated trays to them and sat cross-legged on an armchair.

“Well, I had a lovely bath and a good glass of wine whilst the teacakes were rising. I’ve made far too much, so I’ll be sending half home with you. You young men can do with feeding up.” A Crup wearing a glittery rose collar bounded in and laid its head on Severus’ knee. “Oh, hello Dracula!”

Snape scratched her behind the ear absentmindedly. “I thank you for your hospitality, Mrs. Tonks.”

“Oh, pooh!” She waved a hand. “Call me Dromeda. Any friend of Harry’s,” she said, winking, “is a friend of mine. Thank you for entertaining my grandson.” Two spots of pink appeared on Severus’ cheeks. He had no reply to this. Coming to his rescue, she asked, “Tell me about Draco. He’s shaping up to be moderately decent. I suppose I have you to thank for that?”

Friends. They made life worth living.

****

Four days until the full moon

 

 

 

On Harry’s birthday, he had no cause to believe Snape planned to mark the occasion. Snape was probably aware of the date—'born as the seventh month dies’—and was being extra nice to Harry. He made crumble for tea, and picked flowers from the garden. Harry opened a cabinet in the drawing room to discover freshly brewed primary colour finger paints for Teddy. For some reason, this brought a lump to his throat. He hadn’t heard from anyone, as Kreacher currently intercepted his post from everyone except Dromeda and Ron.

Small steps.

By the evening, he beat Severus at chess to the tune of David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars.’ After a near miss with spilled Butterbeer, he was no longer allowed to touch Severus’ records.

Severus emptied his tumbler, and gave him a sideways look.

“What?” asked Harry.

He did not answer, but rolled his jaw from side to side. He withdrew a scroll from his robes and tapped it on his thigh. “Don’t cause me regret in giving this to you.” He put it on the sofa between them, and went upstairs.

Harry unfurled it. He swallowed. He saw lines and lines of cramped writing.

 

You have little belonging to your mother. What I can give to you, I will. Penning this has been difficult, but the more I practice, the easier it becomes.

She loved the band T. Rex. We lost many Thursday nights watching Top of the Pops and eating fish and chips. She was an awful singer who rarely knew the words. She often made up the lyrics to make me laugh. She was a nuisance.

On her windowsill, she had rows of pine cones she’d gathered and painted bizarre colours.

I taught her Latin. She taught me arithmetic and biology.

She sometimes mumbled to herself whilst studying in the library. Perhaps my quota for patience was drained in my formative years…?

She taught me how to fly without a broomstick. She was remarkable.

I have fond memories of sneaking into pubs and trying to get served beer when we were fifteen. Occasionally we prevailed, though we both hated the stuff.

She had a terrible sense of direction. Once, she got lost—in a pub!—on the way back from the bathroom.

She liked ‘tie-dyeing’ and generously offered to make me purple pillowcases to match hers. I declined.

Awful with saving, she invested all her pocket money on Amazin’ Raisin bars because they were my favourite. They were five pence, rum and raisin—sadly they don’t make them any more.

Lily spoke the truth, and when trying to be kind sometimes hurt the feelings of others. Conversely, she was difficult to offend. It will be clear to you now why she was my best friend.

We had big plans to watch The Spy Who Loved Me at the cinema, but we’d fallen out at the time and she took your father instead. We should rent the video from Blockbuster's—I still would like to see it.

Whilst there can be no doubt that she loved you and your father, she was much more than a martyred mother. She was a loyal Order soldier, a wonderful daughter, and my friend. Most of all, she was a force of nature. I thought it would torment me to be near you, but I find the pain is dwindling. For that, I thank you.

 

The first time he read it, none of it made sense. His eyes skimmed too quickly over the words. After the fourth time, Harry lay down on the sofa and clutched the parchment to his chest.

On his last birthday, he was having sex at a stranger’s house in Berlin. Tonight, he made a wish. A wish that this nightmare would be over.

He didn’t want to kill himself any more. He wanted to live. He didn’t know how he could ever be himself and be cherished at the same time.

He wanted to feel alive.

Chapter Text

Nought days until the full moon

 

 

 

Several days after his birthday, it was time. Harry was very good with dates, now that his whole life revolved around the lunar cycle. As the Wolfsbane was finished, Severus propped open Cooking for Toddlers and busied himself making ice lollies out of mango and orange squash. Harry tried to spend as much time as possible in the kitchen. This was the only place he could watch Severus at work without it being rather creepy.

Harry plonked Hades on the dining table and unfurled a scroll from Ron whilst surreptitiously ogling Severus’ arse.

After he put the lollies into the Muggle freezer Harry had installed, Severus came over to tickle Hades on his cheeks and behind his ears.

“You are nice, you know.” Harry grinned up at him.

“Don’t be absurd.” Severus smiled back at him, and sat down beside Harry. Suddenly, his face grew warm and his toes tingled.

“Cat’s out of the bag now,” said Harry, taking a swig of pumpkin juice. “Don’t worry, I’ll keep your secret.”

“Infernal pest. You are just as bad as Hades.” The cat stepped down off the table to lie on his back on Severus’ lap. He scratched his tummy and bent down to gather him in his arms and kiss him on the head. “You are both so annoying, I don’t know why I stay.”

Harry melted a little whenever he saw Severus being so domestic.

I love you.

He shook his head—his crush was absolutely off the scale. He pretended to be a normal person, with normal feelings for a housemate. “So. Um, I’m going away for a few days, so I’ll make sure my friend gets the Wolfsbane Potion. If you could feed Somnus while I’m away, that would be great.”

Severus stroked Hades on the forehead, and didn’t meet Harry’s eyes. “As you wish.”

****

Harry let out an involuntary whine of pain. His ribs ached as usual. Stretching his limbs, his joints cracked. He was sprawled on his side. The earth was soft.

Flipping his ears back and forth, he tuned in to the sounds of life within a woodland. Boughs creaked. Squirrels chattered. An owl hooted.

The full moon shone through a lattice of branches and lit silver pearls of dew. His eyes sharpened on a leaf that sailed down to kiss his fur.

Nose to the ground, he inhaled the scent of pine needles, damp moss, a nearby dead fox. Getting to his paws, he popped his back.

He hadn’t returned to the Forbidden Forest since the Battle of Hogwarts.

How the hell did I get out of the Shack?

The moon was high in the sky, so he supposed he must have been unconscious for a few hours. The last thing he remembered was Apparating to the Shack.

Ears pricking up, Harry picked up the snuffling and footfall of a large beast. His hackles raised. He was not remotely pleased to be a werewolf, but right now being classified as an XXXXX Creature had its advantages.

A long black face came into view from behind a trunk. It shuffled forwards. The face belonged to a tall, sleek horse. It had a fine soft coat that was rich black and blended into the night. On its forehead, it had a small diamond of white, framed by a long, thick and wavy mane, parted by alert ears. As it walked out from between the trees, Harry saw a long, arched neck that met powerful shoulders and strong, sloping hindquarters. Its powerfully muscled legs ended in four white feet.

He didn’t think wild horses lived in the forest, and this one didn’t seem magical. Bizarrely, it didn’t even appear to be afraid of Harry, and any ordinary horse would surely bolt at the sight of him.

Creeping close enough to see calm onyx eyes, he admired the moonlight glancing off the silky fur. One ear flicked back. Harry reared up on his hind legs to sniff his face.

He was certain this horse was a he.

He knew this in his gut, as certainly as he knew that the Prince’s handwriting belonged to a man.

They gazed at each other for several long moments, and then he turned and walked away, tail swishing.

No, come back.

He continued to step deliberately through the trees, and soon Harry couldn’t make out the horse from the thick black trunks. The human inside of him faltered. Caution murmured it could be a trick, some kind of trap. But instinct, overpowering instinct, told him that this horse wasn’t Dark. He loped behind, a few feet away.

Soil, twigs and dead leaves crunched beneath his paws, and he could easily hear the creature press its hooves into the ground. Deeper and deeper into the forest he led him, and Harry followed at a distance, unwilling to frighten such a magnificent animal. He was confident that when they stopped, he would allow him to approach properly. The pursuit reminded him of a doe in a distant forest, beautiful and trustworthy, so long ago.

At last, the horse came to a halt at the threshold of a clearing, head raised high. On the other side, a herd of centaurs paced towards them. Harry felt no fear, and scanned the bows and arrows. They were nowhere near as intimidating as the time when he and Hermione led Umbridge to them.

One centaur stepped forwards from the herd. From the waist up, he had reddish brown hair and beard. Below, he had a horse’s walnut body and long rusty tail.

“Good evening.” He threw back his head to look up at the night sky.

The horse stomped his front foot, and flattened his ears.

Approaching the horse, the centaur seemed to address him. “The innocent young are the first victims,” he said. “So it has been for ages past, so it has been in recent centuries.” He peered into his face. “So it is now.”

The horse snorted.

A white and grey centaur appraised Harry. He met the astonishingly blue eyes, and neither moved nor blinked for some time. An absurd memory flitted through Harry’s mind—musical statues in primary school, freezing until the music started up again. Harry sat down on his hind legs and tried to appear innocuous.

The first centaur spoke again. “The Forest hides many secrets.” He paused to let this sink in. “Venus does not.” The centaur withdrew and fitted an arrow to his bow. The horse neighed. Harry scrambled to stand in front of him. “It has been foretold that you would return, men. Ride on.” He shot the arrow into the starry sky, and the centaurs wheeled around to gallop off into the night.

The horse trotted off and began to lap the clearing. Sad the magnificent creature was leaving, Harry rushed to catch up. Within a couple of minutes, they raced alongside each other, not in pursuit, but enjoying the sprint. The wind pushed through Harry’s ears, and he tried to take in the wildlife of the forest. Birds he had never seen before were startled out of tree branches, and they disturbed a Thestral who flew off into the sky. He smelt a wolf pack, but felt no urge to approach them.

Eventually, the horse slowed to a gentle trot. Harry thought he saw why. A blink of silver glinted through the trunks.

A unicorn froze still on the forest floor, its feet rooted to the spot. As they both cautiously approached it, it bolted into the darkness of the trees.

The twitching of a large hairy leg caught Harry’s attention. A giant spider couched in the grass, and the horse reversed back, pawing the ground. Harry darted in front and growled until it scuttled away.

This time, Harry took off at a jog. It heartened him to hear the footfall of the horse following him.

Unbelievably, he felt a sense of kinship at the full moon. He ran and ran and ran until exhaustion set in, and he slowed to a stop, panting. The thudding of hooves behind him slowed, too. His mouth was dry, and he was so hungry his legs shook. Glum that the fun was over, he curled up in the hollow of a tree, and his thick fur shielded him from the dampness of the dewy leaves beneath. The horse cocked his head to one side, and knelt down to join him. A Bowtruckle clambered over the horse and he fought an impulse to laugh at him flicking his ear in irritation.

The forest never slept. There was a snake nearby, but as one of the most dangerous creatures here, he simply didn’t care. It astonished him that the horse hadn’t left yet.

A cloud muffled the moon, sheathing the woods in shadow. He could make out the horse’s silhouette, and padded over the remaining few feet towards him to flop down against his belly. He leaned his snout on his paws. The horse harrumphed. Harry relaxed into sleep.

****

Harry woke up on the floor of the Shack. He was comfy, warm, and shrouded by his robes. He did not recall casting a Cushioning Charm.

By now, his muscles would scream at him in agony, and his entire body would burn with every move until he’d taken his potions. It was decidedly odd that he seemed near normal, if not a little tired.

He fumbled around for his glasses, which he found on a bookshelf by the door. Donning his robe, he tried to concentrate through his headache back to last night.

It was utterly surreal. Was it a dream?

He had planned on curling up to weather the full moon in the Shack. How did he remember racing a sleek dark horse? There was a centaur, and perhaps a unicorn. He fell asleep in the Forbidden Forest—that much was certain.

Retrieving his gold-faced watch from the shelf, he frowned at the spinning stars. He didn’t normally sleep in this late.

He felt his forearms in amazement at finding his skin unbroken. Tapping and saying, “Alohomora!” on the cabinet door, he discovered his vial of general healing potion to be depleted. He gasped in relief as the painkiller set to work.

Chapter Text

Harry Apparated back to his doorstep. Suspecting that Severus would be in his lab, he didn’t bother to pretend that he’d been away with friends by holding an overnight bag. The mystery of last night would have to wait.

After spelling open the front door, the smell of the welcome scents of coffee and pastry drifted up. They drew him into the basement, where he found Severus sat with a steaming drink cradled in his hands, head tilted back, and eyes closed. He looked exhausted, yet content. Harry feasted his eyes on him; his sleek black hair tied at the nape of his neck, his long dark eyelashes resting against his cheeks, and his graceful fingers wrapped around a mug emblazoned with the words, ‘I’M A CATCH.’ Snitches zoomed away from his touch.

Harry went to help himself to the cafetière. “Good morning.”

Snape asked, “Where have you been?” It sounded like more of a statement than a question. He could not identify his tone of voice. Severus slowly opened his eyes and searched him with an indecipherable expression.

“Away.”

He appeared to accept this, and said nothing for a few minutes as Harry made toast and stirred a few heaps of sugar into his coffee.

Snape’s voice dropped to a hoarse whisper. “I know your secret.”

Harry blushed crimson. ‘How?’ and ‘When?’ and ‘How?’ and ‘Is he disgusted?’ flitted through his brain. Dropping the teaspoon onto the side with a clatter, he blew out air between his teeth and couldn’t mobilise enough Gryffindor spirit to face Snape. “Look. It’s just a crush. I’m sure it will pass. It absolutely can’t get much worse.” He sped up. “I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable in your own home, or embarrass you, it’ll definitely go away, I just…need more time, that’s all.” A dreadful thought occurred to him, and he spun back around, appalled. “You’re not going to leave, are you?”

He had never seen Severus appear so off-kilter.

Say something.

Please say something.

Anything.

Severus collected himself, and said, “When I want to hear nonsense, I shall dose you with a Babbling Beverage.”

Harry shook his head. “I—what? I’m not joking. Wait a minute—you said you knew?” A fresh, terrible thought arose. This conversation truly could not get any worse. “What do you…know?”

Severus cocked his head to one side. “I am not an imbecile when it comes to Dark Creatures.” The silence stretched between them. Harry fiddled with the handle of his mug. Severus sighed, then rubbed the bridge of his nose. “It does appear to seem, however, that I am on the back foot regarding…personal relationships.”

Harry’s eyes widened. “Fuck. Are you going to leave? Please don’t leave.”

“I’m not in the habit of shying away from difficult situations,” he said tersely.

Harry slumped into a kitchen chair and buried his head in his hands. “How did you work it out?” he asked, into his fingers. “Does anyone else know? Are you going to tell anyone?”

He didn’t see Snape’s glare. “Spare me the pity party, Potter.” His head rang with the sounds of tense footsteps, and flaring robes of Snape’s pacing. “I have been lacing your food with restorative draughts for months. You look like shit at the full moon. You disappear. A twelve-year-old could work it out.” He stopped his pacing to stare down his nose at Harry, whose mouth hung open. “I am frankly astonished that you hoped I wouldn’t guess. To answer your second question, you are a veritable hermit—it is highly unlikely anyone knows. I shall not acknowledge your third question with an answer.” Snape slammed his hands next to Harry, and leaned on them. “Perhaps I am being unclear.” His voice slowed. "Get over it.”

Harry stared at him wildly. “You don’t understand.” He shook his head uncomprehendingly.

“Who bit you? Since the press is unaware, I assume they don’t remember, or they died.”

“I don’t know,” whispered Harry, rubbing his biceps. “If only I could talk to Remus, I’ve been visiting a Muggle counsellor, she guesses I’ve got HIV—” he babbled.

“HIV?”

“Muggle virus. Incurable. Unlovable. Dangerous…” he tailed off at Snape’s unmoved expression. “You get the picture.”

“My heart bleeds.” He went to the toaster. “Jam?” At one look at Harry, Snape decided for him. Slathering on a hearty quantity of blueberry jam, he plonked the plate of toast in front of Harry. “For Merlin’s sake. It’s almost as though you were sent to this planet to test me. Eat. Stop moping,” he snarled. Harry obediently chewed on the edge of his toast. Snape continued his sermon. “You are fortunate enough to have friends who would accept you as you are.” He replaced the jam jar and banged the cupboard door shut. “You dare squander their good will by holing yourself up with your old Potions professor and a mad house-elf?”

Harry slid down in his chair. He let out a breath that he had been holding for years. An anchor that pulled heavily at his ribs fell away, and his inner storm calmed to a light rain. He clenched his teeth so they wouldn’t chatter.

Snape sat beside him at the head of the table, scrubbed his hands over his face, and sighed. He sipped his coffee, and regarded Harry through narrowed eyes. “I’m coming with you next month. Merlin knows someone must keep an eye on you, but I don’t know how this has fallen to me, yet again.”

“At one time, I never thought I’d say this, but…I’m glad it’s you.” Harry smiled into his lap. “Thanks for not running for the hills.”

He caught Harry by the chin. “I will protect you. I will take care of you.”

Harry’s heartbeat stuttered. Black eyes blazed down into his soul. “Thank you.” Severus freed his jaw, leaned back, and stared off into the fire.

Severus weighed each word he said. “I am…improving…from a fear of werewolves.” Harry twisted away. Shame prickled through him. His chest heaved. Alarmed at the devastation on Harry’s face, Snape said, “You misinterpret me. Let me continue.” He grasped his forearm. “Listen to me. Look at me. Look. At. Me.” Harry’s unfocussed gaze found his. “I was but a boy. So close I smelled his breath. I was nearly killed. Forced to see him every day for the rest of my schooling, exhausted and so damn tired of setting up Silencing Charms on my bed hangings.” He clamped his grip tighter. “In wolf form, he almost slaughtered you at the tender age of thirteen. Miraculously, I avoided the Dark Lord’s pack at every moon.” He released Harry’s arm. “I should not have told you. This is nothing to do with you. Let it sink into that thick skull of yours that my nightmares are not your problem.”

Harry’s spirit ached for the teenaged Severus. His dismay must have shown, as Severus looked at him in disgust.

He summoned a quill, ink and parchment, and laid them on the table. His lip curled. “Don’t speak a word until you have composed forty lines: ‘I am an ordinary man all but twelve nights a year, and I will stop feeling sorry for myself’.”

“Are you serious?”

“Engage your intellect. Finish your toast. Take your potions, then sleep.” Severus took his coffee and stood up.

“Severus?” He paused by the stairs, and looked back at Harry. “Thank you for helping me.”

Severus nodded once, and left.

****

In the days following Harry’s announcement, he had taken to hiding in his room or sitting alone in the Natural History Museum. What he’d admitted to Severus—he refused to even form the words in his mind—was abjectly humiliating. Acting as though he’d never said them, however, was impossible. When not muted by the crowds of Muggle London, they hung over him like a swarm of mocking demons.

Just a crush.

Nightmares.

Fear of werewolves.

He stared at the bedroom wall. Things would never be the same again.

“Potter?” Severus rapped at the door.

Harry leapt up from his fugue, grateful he was dressed, as a pit of dread formed in his stomach. Answering the door, he said, “Hey,” and mustered up a smile.

The smile was not returned. “I’m going away. My grandmother is dying.”

What about the Wolfsbane?

He gripped the handle to hide his shaking hands. It had been unwise of him to skip the last two meals. He noted that Severus wore black trousers and a dark blue jumper. “I’m sorry to hear that. Are you going to visit her now?”

“I am. Goodbye.”

“Wait!” Severus turned. “Shall I—Do you want company? I can be ready in ten minutes.” Harry had never visited anyone’s grandmother before. On reflection, perhaps this wasn’t an appropriate thing to ask. As Snape’s eyes narrowed, and he opened his mouth to speak, Harry cut in, "—sorry. You can tell me to bugger off.”

“You may come with me.”

Harry wolfed down some toast, brushed his teeth, and joined Severus in the hall. He tapped his foot impatiently.

“Nan is delirious due to the Muggle remedies to diminish her pain. Additionally, she is unaware of the wizarding world. She had been told that I’d run away.”

Harry nodded, and grasped Severus’ proffered forearm. His fingers tingled. “Right.”

Severus Apparated them both without further explanation. They arrived outside a care home, and a sympathetic plump woman greeted them. She said, “If there’s anything at all we can do, don’t hesitate to ask,” and ushered them in to see Severus’ grandmother.

Swathes of blankets buried Severus’ nan. She was a tiny old lady with a puff of white hair, and dark age spots covered her hands. The room was bare except for a radio that was playing an advert for funeral plans. The dominant features were the signs, ‘TODAY IS FRIDAY 10th AUGUST 2001’ and ‘YOU ARE IN BLACKBERRY COURT NURSING HOME’. A whiteboard read, ‘MY NAME IS VIV AND I PREFER CLASSIC F.M.’

Her eyes were half-closed, but she smiled when she saw Severus. “Toby my love, it’s so good to see you again. The carer’s been poisoning my tea, and now everything hurts.”

He went to her bed, kissed her on the cheek, and squeezed her hand. “Good morning. I’m sorry to hear that; I’ll make you another.” He moved over to the kettle and set it to boil. She stared off into the middle distance, and her breath rattled.

Noticing Harry, she wheezed, “And Jonathan, so kind of you to drop by.”

Severus met Harry’s gaze. “It’s lovely to see you again, ma’am,” Harry said.

“I was just telling Edna about you the other day. You must bring your violin next time,” she scolded.

Harry swallowed. “Absolutely.”

The kettle seemed to be boiling awfully fast—Harry suspected magic was involved.

A carer bustled in. “Mornin’ Viv, Sev.” Severus looked mutinous. She nodded at Harry. “‘Ello.” She plumped up Viv’s pillows, and said loudly, “I’m ‘ere to check on you, and ‘elp with your lip balm, dear.”

Viv flinched away. “Don’t touch me,” she wheezed. “There’s been a mistake. I need to go home. I hate foreign food.” Nonetheless, she was compliant and stared off at her blankets, chin to her chest, as the carer applied Vaseline. Severus poured her tea into a beaker.

“There, now, that’s better, isn’t it?” She pulled Viv’s cardigan around tighter, fussed with the pillows once more, and said loudly, “I’ll pop back later this mornin’, love.”

The carer ushered them both out of the room. Closing the door, she said, “Thank you for coming so quickly. They’ll be uppin’ the morphine now. It’ll ‘elp with her breathin’ and pain, but she may not be awake for much longer. You came at the right time.” She grasped Severus’ shoulder and smiled at him kindly. “Today is probably the time to say your goodbyes to your grandmother. Her rosary is in the drawer. Do drop by the staff room if there’s anything I can do to ‘elp.”

“Thank you,” Severus said stiffly. She walked away down the hall, and he leaned back against the wall and looked over to Harry. Harry’s mouth went dry. He thought he was getting better at reading Severus’ moods, and wished he could hug him. “Death in the real world is very ugly. Magic cannot help her. Sometimes I feel—as though our world—is some sort of dream. And…this—” he waved his hand at the bedroom doors, “—is the reality.”

Harry grasped Severus’ upper arm. “I’m real,” he whispered. Severus hung his head, squeezed his eyes shut, and gripped his hand over Harry’s. “Things will be better. I’m sure of it.” He had to be sure of it – for Severus’ sake, somehow. They stood like that for a while.

“You’re worried about the Wolfsbane,” murmured Severus.

“No,” said Harry. He sounded unconvincing, even to himself. “It’s fine.”

“I can tell just by looking at you.” At Harry’s expression, he added, “Not in that way; your emotions are like an open book.” He narrowed his eyes. “My obligations in keeping you and your little friends alive have long been absolved.”

“It’s nothing like that. It’s more like a…” he cast around for the right word, “…business arrangement.”

Severus snorted. “That’s absurd. It was never a ‘business arrangement’. If you see me as just a way to get what you need—”

“—No! Absolutely not. How could you think that?

Severus bared his teeth. “The evidence suggests—"

“—In that case, I can manage without…or…go elsewhere.”

Sighing, Severus rubbed his temples and said, “You should leave.”

Chapter Text

Eighteen days until the full moon

 

 

 

“You look like shit, Potter. What’s happened?”

It was true. His hair stood up in all directions, dark circles underlined his eyes, and an oversized jumper swamped him. Despite this, he shivered. “I’m fine. And don’t call me that.”

Severus narrowed his gaze, undeterred. Harry had the peculiar impression he was being x-rayed. “Don’t read my mind,” he said, rubbing his eyes. “It’s fucking rude.”

“Sit.”

Harry sank onto a seat at the dining table, and buried his face in his hands. He and Severus didn’t speak until Sev plonked down a plate of food in front of him. “My grandmother used to say that eggy bread solves everything,” he said, summoning the pot of tea and sitting beside Harry. “You will eat, and you will finish every bite.” He poured out a steaming mug, and said, “Double dose of Restorative Draught. Drink the entire thing.”

Harry did not have the spirit to argue.

Severus sighed. “A starving, weak man makes a desperate, crazed werewolf. You will cease your histrionics immediately, and live as a normal man twenty-seven days out of twenty-eight. You are well aware that I have no tolerance for maudlin moodiness—” Harry scowled and opened his mouth to defend himself. “—Nor do I have tolerance for teenage outbursts. You defeated the Dark Lord; you will behave like a man.”

Rolling his eyes, Harry said, “Your pep talks need a bit of work. But I appreciate the effort.” He drank his tea. “Thanks for feeding me. I would’ve liked your grandmother.” He longed to hold Severus’ hand, but settled for just looking at it. Not able to stand it any longer, he put his dishes in the sink, and gazed up through the ceiling window to the sky above. “Sometimes, I think of what you went through and it gives me strength to endure.”

Severus joined him and grasped Harry’s shoulder. He drew his eyebrows together and said, “Do not think of it. You are very strong on your own.” Harry let out a large sigh and stepped forwards, dropping his forehead onto his shoulder. “I’m stronger with you,” he mumbled to Severus’ robe. The potion had already taken effect.

He heard Severus’ breath hitch and a hesitant arm curled around his shoulders. He relaxed further into Severus’ loose embrace. “The Golden Boy comforted by a Death Eater. What is this planet coming to?” he murmured into Harry’s hair.

“Don’t speak about yourself like that.”

“Look who’s talking, hypocrite.”

He was more than content to be held—in fact, it was a dream come true—but within a couple of minutes he felt awkward, so he pulled back. He discovered he was the ideal height for his eyes to be in line with thin lips. Harry wondered if they might feel soft against his. His stomach did a backflip.

Severus froze in place. Then, he gradually dropped his arm, and Harry jerked his head up.

In response to the disappointment on Harry’s face, he said, “Love never leads to ruination, and I am the Muggle Queen of England.” Severus’ voice fell to a whisper. “I should go. I am old enough to be your father.”

“Wh-what do you mean?” His heart surged. “I don’t want you to leave.” He caught Severus by the wrist. “You must know that I desire every inch of you.”

Severus’ eyes widened. “This isn’t—I cannot—”

His face contorted. “Yeah. You deserve better than me. I should…this is so—”

Severus grabbed Harry’s biceps in a pincer-like grip. “Says the beautiful kind Chosen One, with eyes the colour of springtime life—”

Harry couldn’t bear to listen to him any longer, and shut him up by discovering how soft his lips were. They locked into an unmoving embrace, suspended in a flash of disbelief. Then, Harry sighed in reprieve, and turned his head to deepen the kiss. Severus gasped like a man spared from suffocation, and wound his fingers in the mess of Harry’s hair. Severus’ nose pressed into his cheek, and he drew back to fling off his glasses. He wrapped his arms around Severus, who dragged him in even closer. He backed Severus into the kitchen counter.

Severus pushed him away. “Stop.” Severus was breathing hard, hand over his lips. “I cannot give you what you need.”

Harry felt like tearing out his hair. “What do you mean? What do you think I ‘need’?”

Severus glared at the kitchen counter. “I…do not have much in the way of experience when it comes to…mutually fulfilling activities.”

“…Oh.” Severus flinched and made to leave. “Wait.” Harry placed his hand on his shoulder. “It’s all right. Do you…want to talk about it?” He put his glasses back on. “Am I making you uncomfortable?”

He cleared his throat and spoke to the ground. “In my past—which I assume full responsibility for—intercourse was…a reward or punishment. Since…those interminable days, I preferred to remain alone, and have not sought…gratifying encounters.”

Hopping up onto the worktop, Harry rested the side of his head on Severus’ shoulder. His shoulders relaxed slightly, but he still seemed ready to bolt. “Thank you for telling me. It wasn’t your fault. What you did, or had done to you…you didn’t have a choice.” He tugged Severus’ chin, so they faced each other. Severus looked lost. “For what it’s worth, I think you are very brave,” he said. “And I’m the Chosen One, so you have to listen to me.” Severus didn’t return his weak smile, and he felt a jolt of rage that someone had hurt Severus. “I want whatever you have to offer.” Severus shook his head, lost for words, and Harry dropped his grip. “Look, I want you in any capacity. I’m thrilled to just be near you, and kiss you as often as you’ll let me. You’re enough.”

Cautiously, he reached out to brush Harry’s knee with his fingertips. Harry’s breath hitched as Severus inched forwards, gaze on Harry’s lips, and urged their mouths together.

Harry allowed the kiss to develop, meeting Severus' pace. He only reacted with a quick intake of breath when Severus pulled his hips and legs forwards and his crotch brushed Severus’ stomach. Then, their kiss deepened. Severus pulled him closer, so he felt bold enough to say breathlessly, “I really want you. Please can I have you? Let me keep you.”

There were gusts of hot breath on the shell of his ear. “Yes.” He licked Harry’s lobe. “Yes.” He suckled on the skin behind his lobe. “Yes,” he breathed.

Oh.” Harry’s brain short-circuited, and his hands grasped Severus’ shoulders, admiring the width of him, the swell of hidden muscles underneath his robes. “Severus—”

“You are certain I am who you want?” Severus sucked on Harry’s lower lip. His answering groan was enough. “I am taking you to bed. I am locking the door,” he raked through Harry’s hair; Harry leaned into the touch like a cat. “I am keeping you there until I have assured you of your desirability.”

He nodded whilst kissing along Severus’ jaw. “Okay,” he breathed. “That sounds like a good idea.”

Severus wrapped Harry’s legs around his waist, and locked him against his chest. Then, the bands of compression encircled him and they arrived by his bed, and Severus’ embrace sank them down onto it.

Back pushed into the blankets, Harry brushed his lips across Severus’ cheekbone, untied Severus’ hair, and threaded his fingers into his black silky mane. “I long for you. So much. Please—” Harry wasn’t sure what he was begging for. Severus seemed to understand, however, and removed his own shoes and socks. Harry sat up to take off his jumper. It had only been five seconds since their last kiss, but he interrupted what Severus was doing to hungrily taste him repeatedly. Heat pooled in his belly; his cock was constrained by his pyjama bottoms. Severus adjusted their positions so their cocks ground together, and admired Harry’s face as he moaned.

Harry reached up to grasp Severus’ shoulders and rubbed the nape of his neck. “Would you—would you mind—can I put you in charge? So you can do whatever you’re comfortable doing.”

Severus smoothed his hair up to kiss his forehead. “You may. Tell me what you like.” Harry nodded in giddy relief. Severus pulled Harry’s T-shirt over his head and loosely tied his wrists to the bedstead. “Is this all right?” Harry nodded enthusiastically. “It doesn’t hurt?” He shook his head. “You will tell me if it does.” Harry bit his lip. He shivered as Severus ran his hands over his chest. “You will need to instruct me.”

“Well. Actually. Er—”

“—Spit it out.”

“Just so you know. I would like it if you praised me. That is, if you said encouraging things.”

“I see.”

“You don’t have to. Maybe next, you could kiss me. Anywhere you like. Remember…I trust you.”

Severus lowered his head to skim his tongue across his sternum, the round Horcrux scar, and up along his collarbone. Harry gripped the sheets. “Do you like this?” He licked around the nub and then bit down on his nipple.

Harry arched up in pleasure. “Oh—er—yes, I do, very much,” he gasped.

Severus smiled into his chest. “Good.” He moved over to lick Harry’s other nipple. “I intend to take my time. I trust you have no pressing engagements.”

“Um.” He gasped. “To be frank. This is like all my fantasies coming true.”

Severus loosened his wrists. “Turn over.” Severus manoeuvred him onto his front, and removed his glasses. He heard the uncorking of a vial. Warm oiled hands stroked his shoulders, thumbs pressed along his spine, palms pushed down in circles over his shoulder blades, and the last of the pain from his transformation left him.

“This is amazing. You’re amazing,” he slurred.

He worked into Harry’s lower back. “This is a solution of my own invention; I hope you like it as much as I….enjoy…touching you.”

Harry screwed up his face. “You made it…for me?”

“Yes. Transformation pains call for something stronger than the usual muscular aches.” Severus’ hands were now working their way up his calves. Severus tugged off his pyjama bottoms and underwear to massage the backs of his thighs. Harry melted. “I said I would look after you, did I not?”

He pillowed his face in his arms. “Thank you for looking after me, even when I didn’t know.”

Severus snorted. “I’m used to it.” As he rubbed his biceps and triceps, Harry turned his head to the side and wished he could see without his glasses. Severus leaned to kiss him on the cheek. Scooting back, he massaged Harry’s arse. Harry sighed in pleasure, and got a kiss to his buttock in reply. “Your body is beautiful.”

He smiled wryly. “Thanks to your scar fading solution.” He closed his eyes. “This oil is so good. Your potions are like magic.”

“They are magic. I am magic. Trust you to only notice this now,” he said, biting his arse.

Harry was too turned on to argue. Severus flipped him back around. After warming more of the potion in his palms, he stroked his pecs, stomach, inner thighs. Harry spread his legs wide. “Please—”

Severus tied up Harry’s wrists again. Harry yielded, putting his power willingly into Severus’ hands. When he conceded to Severus, he was no longer the boy who lived twice, a Dark Creature, or any kind of hero. He was just Harry.

“You’re doing so well,” Severus purred, tracing patterns on his abdomen.

Harry blushed and bit his lip. “I like it when you say things like that.”

“Good. Thank you for telling me.” Severus sat back on his heels to admire Harry as though he were laid out like a feast for him. “I enjoy taking care of you.” He trailed kisses down Harry’s chest and muttered, “Gorgeous,” as Harry arched up in pleasure. He longed to tangle his hands into Severus’ hair.

Severus kissed Harry’s hipbone. His hair tickled him. He paused to look up. “May I…?”

“Whatever you’re comfortable giving, I’ll treasure it.”

Severus simply looked at Harry’s erection. He traced his nose from Harry’s navel in a path down to one hip and back up again, and Harry’s thighs quivered. He breathed out against Harry’s balls; Harry pulled against his restraints. “You’re evil,” he said.

Raising his head, he smirked. “You like it.”

“Yes,” he choked out. “I do.”

“Can I…? I would like to…”

“Yes. Yes, of course.”

Harry pressed his head into the pillow, as he felt the tip of a tongue tracing him from root to tip. Moaning, he tugged his restrained wrists as Severus engulfed his prick in wet heat.

“Is this—do you like this?” Harry, too incoherent to construct a response, managed a nod. “Good.” Severus licked a hot stripe down the back of his cock. Severus sat up and covered his eyes with one hand. “I’m sorry…I can’t—”

Harry’s heart sank a little. “It’s okay,” he said softly. “Please don’t do anything you don’t want to do.”

“Loath as I am to hide your eyes, may I blindfold you?”

“As much as I love looking at you…” Harry smirked. “Not at all. And you took my glasses.”

Severus pointed his wand at Harry, who refused to flinch. “Obscuro!” A black blindfold enveloped Harry’s eyes. Every hair of his body stood on end. He bit his lip as he got harder. Judging by the uplift of the mattress and rustling noises, Severus was probably undressing. The bed depressed again, and nothing happened. There was only the sound of a ticking clock. Perhaps Severus was looking at him.

Did he like what he saw?

Was he regretting this?

His chest heaved as the heat of fingers hovering closely above him warmed his thighs.

Severus’ breath ghosted across his ear. “Are you all right?” he said, huskily.

“Yes,” Harry bit out.

Severus straddled him, and Harry felt a thrill of pleasure as they were finally skin-to-skin. He found Harry’s lips and kissed him tentatively. Opening his mouth wide, Severus’ lips mirrored his, and heightened their kiss, letting their tongues dance. He tasted of tea and eggs. Severus grabbed his hair and ravaged him as though he intended to devour him, as if he required this, as though this was his calling. It was wet and loud. Helpless, Harry whined and bucked up involuntarily as Severus’ erection met his. He relished Severus’ gasp, the tickle of his hair on his cheek, the brush of his eyelashes as Severus pulled away. “I want to fuck you,” Severus growled into his ear.

“Please. Yes.”

“Can I—will you—are you comfortable being penetrated?”

Although Severus couldn’t see Harry’s eyes widen in excitement, he was certain his eagerness was writ large on his face. “I trust you.”

The movement of the mattress jostled him, and he heard more rustling and the clink of glass. He wasn’t sure how, but Severus kissed his prick as a slick finger encircled his entrance. Gasping, he wriggled his hips, as a tongue circled the head of his cock, and a finger pressed gently in.

Oh.”

“Does it—am I hurting you?”

Harry shook his head.

As another finger was inserted, while Severus tongued his slit, Harry jerked his hips. “All right?” he murmured.

“Yes,” he gasped, spreading his thighs further. “Ah! Sev—” he keened, bucking backwards against his fingers.

Harry felt the air of Severus’ breath on his cheek as he came to lie next to him on the bed. Severus slowly pressed in a third finger. Harry breathed deeply against the intrusion, and said, “Oh God, yes. Come inside, please. I need—”

“Shush, now. I don’t want to hurt you. You’re doing very well.” Severus’ hair tickled his face as he bent across to kiss Harry thoroughly. He felt his erection brush against his hip, and impossibly Harry hardened even more, his abdomen chilled by the damp trail of pre-come on his stomach.

He removed his fingers and sat back. “How would you—how do you prefer…”

Harry came to his rescue. “I like it face to face. That way, you get to watch how much I love it, and kiss me—” Severus' lips cut him off, and he felt him shift back to kneel between Harry’s legs. Hands ran up and down the outsides of his thighs.

“You’re…quite sure?”

“Very.”

Lips and silky hair brushed against his chest, as he felt Severus’ erection nudge against his entrance. Harry impatiently ground back, legs spreading further, as the tip pushed in. He yearned to see Severus’ face, and dreamt of it—relaxed, like an angel’s, eyes full of lust. Harry bore down on the perfect hardness.

Severus stilled. He held his cheek against Harry’s heart for several beats. “Are you in pain? Tell me if it hurts.”

“Doesn’t hurt. Kiss me.”

Severus’ lips touched his, and he asked, “Does it feel—are you all right?”

Harry nodded against his lips and smiled. “Amazing. You feel better than I dreamed you would.”

Severus finally began to push in deeper with tentative thrusts. Harry held his breath, tugged his wrists, and wrapped his legs around Sev’s waist. He could feel sighs against his face—it was maddening that he couldn’t see. Severus pushed in further and circled his hips experimentally. Brushing up against Harry’s bundle of nerves made an electric shock of pleasure zip through him and he yelped. “Again,” said Harry. Severus rocked back into him and hit that spot over and over, as he withdrew all the way to set up a slow and deep rhythm. Severus planted sloppy wet kisses up and down Harry’s throat and jaw, wherever he could reach. Harry panted, and resolved to be loud.

Harry—” He sounded strangled, and fingers threaded through his hair. “Harry, you feel exquisite.”

“Will you untie me? I want to touch you. Please—please let me. If that’s okay.”

Still buried deep within him, Severus nodded, as Harry could tell by the dip of his hair. Harry’s wrists came free, and he rejoiced in running his palms over Sev’s shoulders, down his biceps, across his back. Severus froze at his explorations, so Harry said, “I love the feel of your skin against mine. You’re perfect.” He raked his fingers through his hair, and cradled his cheeks in his hands. “I can’t get enough.” Harry dragged him in deeper with his heels, drawing out a groan from Severus, and they stilled again. Severus’ breaths arrived, shallow and fast against Harry’s little finger, that traced his lips, his jaw, then his eyelashes.

How he longed to see him.

Finally, Severus began to drive longer, deeper, harder. Harry clutched him closer, pressing his lips wherever he could reach—chest, neck, jaw. He couldn’t get enough. Severus had found his prostate again. The pressure building in him was as if the ocean was dragging him out to sea. Helpless to fight, he allowed himself to drown in the rhythmic move of Severus’ hips, in the shaking of biceps, in the rasps of ragged breath against his face.

Severus’ hips became uncoordinated, and he knew Severus must be close. He grabbed his cock and stroked it in time with his thrusts. It was all too much when Severus growled into his ear, “You’re doing so well. I love seeing you like this, so desperate, such a good boy.” Harry cried out, falling over the brink, as waves and waves of pleasure crested and washed over him. He groaned again and again as his orgasm ripped through him.

Severus did not slow down. If anything, he pumped into him harder. Harry clenched around Severus’ cock, who roared in ecstasy, and he continued to drill into him. “Harry.” His hips juddered once or twice more with ragged thrusts, pumping into him.

Severus collapsed on Harry, who dragged his lips up Severus’ cheek to swipe a bead of sweat off his temple with his tongue. Harry wrapped his arms around Severus to pull him in tighter, even though he couldn’t really breathe. “Harry,” he whispered into his ear.

He replied with mumbled nonsense of contentment.

Softening, Severus came out of him. Harry was bereft and didn’t let him go. Sated, he smiled into Severus’ neck, breathing in the scents of sweat and sex and Severus.

Severus loosened Harry’s grip to tuck him in, to spoon in front of him. He curled his chilly feet into Harry’s; he shifted closer contentedly.

“May I be unblindfolded?”

Finite Incantatem,” Severus murmured, waving his hand. Severus kissed the back of his neck. Harry ignored the rumble of his stomach, and resolved to spend as much of today in Severus’ arms as possible. With that, he pulled Severus’ arm around him tighter and interlaced their fingers.

Chapter Text

Harry drifted up from his doze to the notion that kisses were raining from his shoulder to the base of his neck. “Wake up, you lazy lump.”

“Mm, wasn’t asleep.” He shifted around to kiss Severus sleepily. He took Severus’ hand and examined it, tracing the heart line on his palm. “Do you think my animal would be a werewolf if I became an Animagus?”

“Hmm. That’s an intriguing question. We will never know.” Harry’s insides swelled at ‘we.’ “In order to become an Animagus, you need to hold the leaf of a mandrake in your mouth for at least a full lunar cycle. Unfortunately, you are not a man for the whole of this time period. Has your Patronus changed?” He looked thoughtfully at Harry. He probably loved this kind of academic stuff. He felt a pang for Hermione, who would yearn to be asking him all kinds of things as she researched case studies.

“I don’t know. I haven’t been…in the right frame of mind to cast one.”

“Indeed?” Severus freed his own hand to take Harry’s right and brush his nose down Harry’s scar.

“I can try and give it a go.” Harry untangled their hands, summoned his wand and thought about the defeat of Voldemort, and how his scar would never hurt again. “Expecto Patronum!” A bright silvery mist erupted from his wand and blinked away from existence. Harry’s happy memory faded into disappointment.

“What memory did you use before?”

“I’m not sure I’m any good at these spells any more.” He grimaced.

Severus looked at him in disgust. “Oh, do buck up, Harry. You could do it at thirteen, and you can assuredly achieve it now.”

“Thanks for the tea and sympathy.” He tried again, and for a split second a large animal burst out of his wand. It was blurrier than his usual corporeal Patronus, and flickered away.

On his third attempt, he concentrated hard on the memory of his thrill at running with the horse in the forest. “Expecto Patronum!” A great bright horse flew out of Harry’s wand, and the bedroom was aglow with silver light.

Severus got out of bed, fully nude, and was mesmerised. It trotted over to him and bent its forehead to touch Severus’. He reached out towards its face, before it peered around at Harry and winked out of existence.

Harry’s mouth was shaped around the word ‘what’? He cleared his throat. “I—can you explain that?”

Severus looked a mixture of mildly impressed and at a loss for words. He shook his head.

Harry continued, “Do you know that horse?”

Severus sat back down on the bed and pulled the blankets over his lap and Dark Mark. “Yes. As do you.”

“Um…” Harry cleared his throat. “Are you…?”

“An Animagus?” Severus supplied.

Harry cocked his head to one side. “…A gorgeous black horse?”

“I believe they should rescind your Order of Merlin. Dolts, such as yourself, should not be in receipt of them.” His lips twitched.

Harry burst out laughing, and shuffled over to Severus to kiss him on his lips, cheeks, chin, forehead, nose, and lips again. “You came with me?” he said, in between kisses.

“Of course,” he replied gravely.

“How long have you been…?” Harry stopped kissing him to run his fingers through his hair.

“…able to turn into a Friesian horse? About a month.”

“You mean to say you’ve been…?” It was too much to hope or hear.

“Fool enough to perceive the perils of attempting to become an Animagus, and then upon successful achievement, frolicking with a known werewolf at the full moon? Yes,” he said. “Did you know that when horses are alone, people give them stablemates such as a cat to stop them going mad?”

“Did you know that I’m in—”

Severus clapped his palm over Harry’s mouth. “Do not speak of it. I dread the beauty of such a thing.”

Harry kissed the heel of Severus’ hand. After he stroked Severus’ sides, the hand dropped. He leaned in for a kiss, which he hoped would convey the words he was not yet permitted to speak. Instead, he said, “You’ve given me more than I could ever dream of,” up against his lips.

As a child, he could only have what Dudley discarded, and all his family were dead. Now, although he couldn’t possibly understand how he could be so lucky, Severus was his family.

When would he leave? When Severus realised what a headcase he was, or worse, when the public at large found out?

Harry cupped his face. His eyes fluttered closed. Harry held his breath, savouring a rare privileged moment to stare at his lover. He clambered into his lap to kiss an eyelid, the corner of his mouth, the scars on his throat. He leaned his head back to bare more of his pale slender neck, and made a happy little sound.

“You have awoken feelings that I thought were long dead within me,” said Severus. “Use them well.”

****

That afternoon, Severus Apparated them both to a steep hill. Harry turned slowly around in a circle, buffeted by the wind, before spotting the turrets of Hogwarts a few miles away. It looked like a toy in the distance, and the lake, cliffs, and mishmash of towers were unmistakable. “Wow! I didn’t know you could see Hogwarts from here.”

“Alone, you cannot. Typically, it is a forgettable ruin; however, the headmasters and headmistresses can view it from this vantage point. I wished to verify whether the castle still considered me headmaster.”

Harry nodded. “This is so amazing. My first proper home.”

“And mine,” Sev murmured.

Harry sat on the grass, and pulled Severus down with him. He took the liberty of leaning against Severus’ shoulder; Severus put his arm around Harry and pointed out Scottish crossbills, an osprey, a red squirrel. They could hear a distant bee bumbling about in the pink bell heather. Harry flopped his head into Severus’ lap, and described the bottomless mint tea in the Turkish baths of Spain, and the green parakeets of Málaga and Kensington Gardens. Severus cradled him, and just listened.

“Let us go to Hogwarts,” Severus said, pulling Harry up, and holding out an arm. He Side-Along Apparated them to the bowels of the Forbidden Forest.

Harry was unafraid with Severus by his side. He seemed to know the forest well, and within minutes a Thestral began to trot alongside them, barely visible in the darkness of the tree trunks. Severus threw an arm across Harry’s chest to still him, and he extended his palm to the Thestral. Its white eyes glowed eerily through the branches, and it picked its way towards them. Its black skeletal face was a welcome sight for Harry, who had met the majority of the herd.

“Hello, Caoimhe,” Severus said. “Did you miss me?” He watched the Thestral snuffle his hand, and whispered, “Shall we fly? It’s a long walk.”

“Yeah,” Harry breathed. “If it’ll let us.”

“She will. Hop on.”

Severus patted the Thestral on her neck, and gave Harry a leg up. Severus climbed up behind him with quick agility, and called out, “You know what to do.”

For a moment the Thestral did nothing at all, then she unfolded her leathery wings in a swooping movement; she crouched, then rocketed upwards so fast and so steeply that Severus’ arms clamped around him and his own clenched tightly around her neck. He shut his eyes and ducked into the silken mane as they broke through the topmost branches of the oaks and pines and soared out into the blue sky.

Harry hadn’t moved this fast for many years: she streaked over the trees, her vast wings barely beating; the air slapped Harry’s face; eyes scrunched up against the rushing wind; Severus’ legs pressing in behind his; robes flapping out like tails.

In no time at all, she descended and brushed the grass of a clearing as lightly as a shadow, and they slid from her back. Severus pressed his face into her mane and muttered his thanks. Within minutes, they emerged from the woods to have a fantastic vista of the castle bathed in the summer light.

“Is this allowed?” asked Harry.

“I was unaware you had such a penchant for obeying the rules; you never gave that impression before.” Severus raised an eyebrow at him.

Hand-in-hand, they passed Hagrid’s deserted cabin, and skirted around the Whomping Willow. He led Harry to the Quidditch pitch. “What are we doing?”

“You are going flying whilst I talk with the portraits. As you can imagine, they were my only companions during the worst year of my life. I would like to take this opportunity while the school is deserted.”

As they reached the broom shed, Harry was just pulling out his wand to unlock it, when Severus placed his hand on the door and it swung open.

“Being with the headmaster has its benefits, sir.” Severus met Harry’s cheeky grin with a startled look—perhaps he wasn’t ready to be teased just yet. “Why are you making me fly?” He fingered the broom handle of an old Cleansweep Eight.

“Because you love it,” he said simply. “I’ll come and get you in half an hour.”

Harry had a sneaking suspicion that brooms, like horses, knew when you were afraid or excited. He could feel the thrum of magic vibrating beneath his fingers. Joy lit up his face. “Thank you for bringing me here.”

Severus nodded once, and Harry pulled him in for a peck on the lips before he swept away.

Harry mounted the broom and kicked hard against the pitch and up, up he soared, wind rushing through his hair, robes whipping out behind him. He spiralled higher and higher, and hovered to view the distant black dot of Severus reaching the front doors. The fierce joy that eclipsed the sorrow in his heart now turned to nostalgia. Hagrid’s hut, set on fire. The Shack in the distance, where Severus lay bleeding. The Astronomy Tower, lightning struck. But he also recalled laughing around the lake with Ron, Hermione and Ginny. Muddy practices with Oliver, Angelina, Katie, Alicia, Fred and George. Butterbeer, companionship, and spectacularly losing at chess in the Gryffindor Tower.

He flew up to the owlery and dismounted. At least fifty sets of beady eyes gawked at him. Allowing the air to sting his face, he didn’t know if his eyes were running from the wind or from missing his first friend, Hedwig.

Next, he encircled the Astronomy Tower, and he was so high now that the old Cleansweep was beginning to judder and veer off to the right. He no longer felt a sense of awed horror, and if anything, admired Severus even more. At this height, he thought he could make out a dark tentacle near the surface of the expanse of water, and fondly remembered Professor Dumbledore speaking Mermish at the side of the lake.

The pitch grew larger and larger as he returned, thighs aching from lack of practice. He sat at the top of the Quidditch stand where Padfoot had scared the life out of him at the Gryffindor-Hufflepuff match.

What would Sirius think about him and Severus? He probably would have hated the idea. Hopefully he would have accepted the ‘werewolf issue’: Ron, Sirius, and Severus, maybe even Bill and Fleur—all names that would accept him if they knew.

Harry returned the broomstick to the shed before walking up towards the giant oaken front doors to meet Severus on his way back. The trees lining the endless drive waved in the breeze, and he contented himself watching the winged boars sleeping atop the tall stone columns flanking the wrought-iron gates.

It wasn’t long until Severus joined him on the step. Harry shifted to rest his head on Severus’ shoulder, and snaked an arm around him to pull him in tighter. “Thank you for bringing me here.” Sev said nothing but buried his nose in Harry’s hair. “How was your old office?”

“Good. Very good.”

Harry didn’t push him for details, and they sat in companionable silence for a while.

“We need to talk,” Severus said after some time.

Harry’s heart thudded. He pulled away and looked up at him. “What’s wrong? Is it your nan?”

“An old associate of mine has recommended me for a job. It would be a new beginning.”

“Oh.” Harry’s stomach dropped like a rock tumbling into a canyon. “I’m happy for you. What is it?”

“Deputy Headmaster and Professor of Advanced Potions and Charms to the upper years at Durmstrang Institute.”

Harry’s ears buzzed. “When?”

“Term starts in less than four weeks.”

Harry’s nostrils flared, and he got up. “I see.”

“Wait—”

“Have a pleasant life,” he spat. “What was this, some kind of goodbye?” The pebbles on the flagstones rattled.

“Calm down.” Severus grasped Harry’s arm. “Breathe. You are upset and your magic is all over the place.”

A flagstone nearby cracked in two. Harry tore his arm away. “Goodbye, Severus.” He walked away.

“My entire life has revolved around you,” Severus called after him. “And you have formed this…attachment.”

“What?”

“Madness. Utter madness, like Lucifer and an angel. You believe you need me. Do you see wherein the problem lies?”

“Fine. I get it. You think this is about a potion, you think I’m fucked up. This is such a pointless…you’re leaving—” Severus had stood up, alarmed. “Well. That’s how it is.” Harry spun around. “Don’t—I can’t look at you.”

Harry’s feet took him to the Shrieking Shack. He lay down on a tattered bed and stared at the ceiling. His ears buzzed. He was numb.

He did not comprehend how long he lay there in that dim room, his mind a black smog. It was over. All over.

Eventually, he called, “Kreacher?”

The elf appeared with a crack into the now-dark room. “Master Harry, you is not well.” Kreacher laid the back of his hand over his forehead.

Harry’s teeth chattered in grief. “I’m fine,” he said. “Please—can you take me home?”

“Certainly, sir.”

Chapter Text

He walked up and up and up the stairs to Severus’ bedroom. Without needing to confront his fears, he knew in his spirit what he would find.

“Severus?” he said, knocking and pushing open the door.

The room was bare.

There was no evidence anybody had ever lived here.

“Kreacher?” Harry whispered in horror. He appeared with a crack. “Wh-where is Severus?”

Kreacher narrowed his eyes. “Gone.”

Nodding, he said, “Leave me, please.”

Harry curled up on the bed in the unlit room. He trembled. A few minutes later, he heard the pad-padding of four feet. His tears soaked into Hades’ fur. “He left you behind,” he sobbed. “Why? Why would he leave you?”

The sheets smelled of Severus. He couldn’t stand it. He couldn’t bear to leave.

****

He descended the basement staircase the next morning, cradling Hades in his arms. No longer awash with tears, his face was pale and clammy. Kreacher snapped his fingers and hovered a bowl of porridge across to the table, and went into the pantry.

Phineas idly examined the fingers of his silk glove, and said, “I see you have decided to stay, then.”

“What?”

“It appears you have made the decision to remain,” he said slowly and loudly.

“I live here!”

“Forgive me—I surmised you would wish to follow the Headmaster.”

“I would follow him anywhere. He’s just—went. I-I don’t understand…” he trailed off, his throat choking with grief.

“He intended to take you with him to that godforsaken place. The reading comprehension skills of Hogwarts graduates leave much to be desired.”

“Reading skills?”

“Reading skills. A requirement for the comprehension of the written word.”

Harry pointed his wand at Phineas with a shaking hand. “I swear. I’ll do it. Tell me—tell me what you mean.”

Phineas looked unruffled and raised a thin black brow. “Professor Snape left you a message, and plainly intended you and that infernal cat accompany him to that blasted country. As I am being threatened, I shall take my leave.”

His voice cracked as he said, “Please.” Perhaps it was how broken he sounded, but Phineas didn’t go. “Please tell me.” He shook his head in dismay. “I haven’t had my letter.”

Phineas fixed him with beady eyes. “Call for the elf.” He left his frame.

“Kreacher!” he roared. The house-elf appeared. “What’s going on?”

“Master Harry mustn’t be angry with Kreacher. Kreacher did it for the best—” he croaked.

“Have you been stopping my letters?” he said, aghast.

“Of course, sir.” He pulled a thick wad of envelopes from the inside of the towel he was wearing. Horrified, Harry could make out the spidery scrawl of Severus, in addition to Hagrid’s untidy handwriting and Hermione’s neat hand. “Kreacher’s orders—only his Wheezy and Mrs. Tonks are to write.” He puffed out his chest. “Headmaster Snape is making Master upset. Kreacher is loyal to Master Harry, and not Headmaster Snape,” Kreacher said, flapping his ears.

Harry put his hands on his head and tried to remain calm. “I understand. Thank you. Please, it’s very important I read Severus’ letter.” Kreacher handed it to him and his eyes filled with tears. “It’s not your fault. You did your best. Please leave me while I see to it.”

He hungrily read his letter.

 

Harry,

Forgive me for writing, but as you are well aware, I struggle to keep my head when speaking with you.

You should, by now, have a rational idea of my high regard for you. Nevertheless, this cannot work. You must absolve me for allowing this foolishness to commence.

And yet, I cannot compel myself to stay my hand from penning this: to ask you to come with me, or to beg me to remain.

Say the word, and I will.

As you are upset, I will lodge at the Hog’s Head tonight to allow you space to consider. I will be gone by eleven in the morning. Do not feel compelled to meet me—I am accustomed to disappointment.

Does love make one a fool, or do only fools fall in love?

Whatever happens, I will take comfort in the fact we will be under the same moon.

-S.S.

 

Harry’s heart faltered. He checked his wristwatch. Ten minutes.

Severus was leaving, battered suitcase in hand, as Harry skidded up to the entrance to the Hog’s Head. He looked as though he hadn’t slept a wink. It thunked to the ground as he held out his arms. Harry buried his head in his chest. “Thank God,” he sobbed. “I thought you’d be gone.” He began to shake. “I-I-I didn’t get your l-letter.”

“Shh,” whispered Sev, tightening his arms. “It will be all right.”

He didn’t care that people were staring. “Take me home,” he whispered.

Harry was barely aware of Severus Side-Along Apparating him to the front step of Grimmauld Place, and carrying him up the stairs. He deposited him onto Harry’s bed.

Perhaps it was his terrible night’s sleep, but Harry found it difficult to express himself. “You’re here. You’ve not gone.”

“I am here.” He grasped Harry’s face in his hands.

“You left,” Harry said dumbly.

“You must understand I am incapable of loving partway.” Harry did not understand. “I am not an easy man, so do not come with me unless you can bear this.” His thumbs traced Harry’s cheekbones. “There are no half measures when it comes to my devotion. Say that you’ll be by my side if I accept the post.”

“To Durmstrang?” he said blankly.

“I intimated that if I were to accept, a sports instructor post would be open to you, should you wish.”

“A sports instructor,” Harry repeated. He couldn’t comprehend that Snape was here, inches from him. “Me? I don’t know if that’s a good idea…” he trailed off, thinking about how his lycanthropy had ruined his life forever, and how he couldn’t have a normal job, or a relationship, or friends, or family, or safety, or stability…

“Breathe. Concentrate.” Severus gripped his face. “Take deep breaths. Look into my eyes.”

The windows stopped clattering, as though a gale had finished battering them. It seemed he had conjured some snowflakes. He released Severus’ wrist from his painful grasp. “Sorry.” Severus dropped his hands, and began to back away. “Wait. I want to be with you. But I’m scared.”

“There is no reason to stop you pursuing this, should you wish. Nor do you have to decide today.”

Severus went into Harry’s en suite and ran the bath. He silently undressed him and lifted him in like a helpless child. Severus joined him, and Harry leaned his forehead on Severus’ back.

Tracing a scar on his left mid back, Harry asked, “What happened?”

“Hm? Oh, a Cutting Curse. I thought it was a Cutting Hex, and by the time I’d worked it out, I’d lost a lot of blood so mispronounced the counter-curse.”

“And these?” Harry brushed his lips lengthways on long thin raised ridges.

“My father.”

“Your body—it’s remarkable. Is there anyone alive who—hurt—”

“I don’t believe so.”

“Good.”

The mood was subdued, and Harry reached across for the shampoo to gently wash Sev’s hair. He rarely saw him like this—powerful yet wandless, dangerous yet at his mercy. As Harry washed away the suds, he kissed the spot between Severus’ shoulder blades.

“I want what’s best for you,” Harry said at long last.

Severus pushed his sopping hair off his face, and twisted around so that dark eyes met green. “Then I stay.”

Tears pricked Harry’s eyes. He huddled nearer, wrapped his arms around Severus’ waist, and said, “Tell me more about Durmstrang. What’s it like?”

Sev turned to sit cross-legged and their knees bumped awkwardly. He held Harry’s hand as he was considering what to say. Harry interlinked their fingers.

“It is in the north of Norway. The castle is nothing like Hogwarts. It is square, white, and with four towers. There are no school houses; they group the children alphabetically. The punishment for rule breaking is very severe, and I am told the children are largely well-behaved. There are rumours surrounding the promotion of the dark arts: an unfair presumption based on the rise of Grindelwald and on Igor Karkaroff as a recent headmaster.”

“A Death Eater,” Harry said, nodding. “Did Voldemort have a big influence at Durmstrang, then?”

“I do not believe so. Igor was slain, and then a neutral headmistress replaced him. It is true that the youngsters learn more curses, but as you are well aware the Defence curriculum at Hogwarts is woefully lacking. It seems disingenuous to compare the schools in this regard.”

Harry wandlessly performed a Warming Charm on the bathwater. “And they play Quidditch? Viktor Krum went there.”

“He did,” agreed Severus. “The lessons are not simply flying; as the children are not split into houses, they create teams based on age for their sports classes. I believe they hold running races, and fitness is taken seriously as a regular part of the curriculum.”

“How do you know this? I know the schools are secretive about how they are run.”

Severus cupped water in his hands and trickled it over Harry’s knees to keep him warm. “You are being remarkably obtuse. I found out for you.”

“But why?”

Severus grit his teeth. “Need I say it aloud?”

“…Oh.”

“‘Oh’, indeed,” said Severus. “You would create the timetabling as you see fit, and as the Potions master there is no reason why I cannot continue your Wolfsbane. Nobody need ever know. If it doesn’t work out, we resign and return to England in June.”

Harry nodded. “Take me with you.”

Severus brought Harry’s hand up to his lips and kissed it. “Good. That is good.” He twisted Harry’s hand around so he could kiss the inside of his wrist.

****

A vague forgotten dream woke up Harry. The streetlamps outside silhouetted the room, and he was warm. Last night, they drifted off to slumber in each other’s arms after Severus chastely kissed him on the cheek. They had shifted, and Severus was now wrapped around him like a vine. He revelled in the freedom to just listen to the peaceful sound of his lover breathing gently in his ear. The house was soft and still.

He nestled his face into Severus’ neck and tried to drift back towards peaceful oblivion. Legs tangled, skin to skin. Sev snuffled and angled away from him, pushing back into Harry. His arse was now pressed against his length. A need within him appeared like a lit match. It overpowered his will to sleep. Severus felt warm and pliant in his arms, and Harry grew hard. He released kisses onto his shoulder, neck, hair, and breathed in the scent behind his ear. Severus’ breath changed its cadence. Harry froze as Severus reached to stroke Harry’s thigh.

Conscious that he was practically nude and inches of him pressed into Severus’ soft skin, he felt himself swell. Severus let out a small sigh. Closing his eyes against the dark, Harry gently pushed forwards experimentally. Sev turned his face to the side and kissed whatever part of Harry’s face he could reach first. He curved his leg backwards over Harry’s.

Harry stroked Severus’ chest with the backs of his fingers, and felt a gust of Severus’ breath on his cheek. He reached down to find Severus half hard. Harry kissed the crook of his neck, and rubbed him through his underwear. He lived for Severus’ contented little sighs, and slipped his hand under the elastic waistband. Sev was rocking back, lost in the pleasure. His length was slick with pre-come. Then, Severus’ fingers wrapped around Harry’s wrist to guide his hand back, back, behind to that position. There could be no mistake.

Harry bit back a moan and gently, gently, pressed a finger between his buttocks. He would never have requested this of Severus. He encircled Severus’ entrance; Severus sighed happily into the night. His cock twitched as Harry pressed the tip of one finger in.

He was so hot and so tight. Severus pressed back against him, slowly and drowsily accepting him in. He concentrated on tonguing Severus’ neck, whilst gently pressing in and out, in and out. He enjoyed the patient preparations, and drank in every breathy little moan.

“More,” Severus whispered. Harry went to fetch lube, then added in a slicked second finger, which quickly became a third as the kisses on his neck became harder and more urgent. He resolved to take at least as much care of Severus, as he had with Harry. His head was swimming, and his cock was aching. His other arm tightened the gap between them as he pulled him nearer.

Sev reached back to squeeze his thigh, grasp his hip, and then tangle his fingers in Harry’s hair.

Harry replaced his fingers with the blunt head of his cock, and pressed gently forwards. The tight resistance was maddening. The tip slipped in and they both gasped quietly. He let Severus impale himself, and Harry wrapped his arms around him. His moan was answered by a deep groaning from Severus’ chest. He buried himself deep inside his lover, and released his grip on Severus to run his hand down his chest to grasp his thigh. Severus arched his back and twisted his head to look at Harry’s silhouette.

He took time to pause, not wanting the overpowering sensations to tip him over the edge, desiring to draw as much pleasure as he could for Severus. Harry used this moment to kiss up and down the height of Severus’ throat and gently stroke his cock. He clenched his muscles and rocked back. Harry let loose a moan he couldn’t contain. Severus reached up to link fingers with Harry’s other hand and kissed its back and knuckles. He was helpless to stop himself thrusting deeper and faster. He didn’t think making love in this way to Severus could feel better than being claimed two days ago. Severus matched him, and let go of Harry’s hand to grasp the bedsheets. Harry wasn’t going to last, and gasped into Severus’ ear.

Harry had the presence of mind somehow to still his hips and stroke Severus’ cock, harder and faster. Sev cried out, and Harry rolled on top to grab his hip, using it as leverage as he rutted into Snape, animalistic grunts bursting from him with each thrust, as Severus came all over his hand. Maddened by bliss, Harry bit the nape of his neck, licked every part of him he could reach. With a shuddering groan, anchored within his lover, he arrived at his peak. Every muscle seemed to tense up in unison, his toes curled, his back arched, and a low moan was forced from his throat.

A few seconds later, his mind returned to action, and he slipped out. He drew Severus close to him, to make up for their lost communion. Severus gently held his hand drowsily as they drifted into depths of sleep.

Chapter Text

When morning came, they lounged in bed. Somnus was already on his way with the acceptance letter to Durmstrang, Hades was curled at Severus’ feet, and Harry’s head was in his lap. Potions Quarterly rested on top of his hair.

“We should celebrate our new jobs. Dinner in London or at home?” said Harry, peering around the journal. “I like taking you out.”

Severus looked up. “I don’t mind, so long as I’m with you.”

“Out it is. We can head into Camden. Really, being what I am,” he swallowed thickly, and spoke louder, “a werewolf, has woken me up and made me realise what I need and want from a partner.”

Severus returned to his reading. “You need to get over it. I slave over a cauldron for three weeks, we lark around at the full moon, and then return to our humdrum lives.”

Harry snorted. It was hard to be offended by Severus. “You know, you always treated me the same.”

“Like shit, you mean?”

“Well. Yes, but—that’s not what I meant. You were just so…consistent. It didn’t matter when I’d fallen off a broom or been confronted with Voldemort, I still needed to work hard in lessons and do my homework. I hated being treated differently, so…thank you.”

Severus’ thumb rubbed the shell of Harry’s ear. “I resolve to be a considerably more patient teacher, this time around. No doubt having students genuinely engaged in my subjects will help.”

“You deserve a good job. You know what you’re talking about, and you’ve worked so hard.”

His brow furrowed. “I’m not familiar with receiving or keeping good things.”

Harry pulled him down to kiss him on the cheek and stroke his hair. Severus leaned into the touch like a freezing man crowding a fireplace. His eyes closed in contentment, and each time Harry ended a kiss, they would reopen. Harry laughed and rained kisses all over his face. “You do know I’ve fallen in love with you.”

The laughter died away. Harry’s messy hair splayed across his lap, and Sev twirled some around his fingers. Then, the back of his index finger pursued a course down Harry’s nose to his Cupid’s bow. “You make me feel like a teenager.”

Harry kissed his finger. “I love you very much.” He surged up to brush his lips across Severus’. “May I keep you forever?”

“Harry,” he said against his lips, “you may.”

Harry smiled and decided to tickle his armpits. Severus pinned his arms down and said, “You are the most annoying person I’ve ever met.” He nuzzled his neck and nibbled his way to behind Harry’s ear.

“But you love me anyway?”

Severus was now tonguing the edge of his ear. “Evidently. If that word were enough to describe the depth of this situation, I would use it. It is wholly deficient.”

****

The following evening, Harry sat down to write to Ron. There were no words he could express. How do you say goodbye? He was his best friend, who had fought by him for all of his teenage years, and had stuck by him since the war. And Hermione? It was impossible. He had to see them.

He Apparated to the Burrow. It hadn’t changed a bit. The light was failing, and so he dodged a gnome on his way through the garden. He could hear the faraway cluck of chickens. He knocked, and his heart raced at the prospect of seeing Mr. and Mrs. Weasley again.

As the door opened, he heard a squeal, and his face was full of flaming red hair. “Arthur! Harry’s home!”

“What?” called a distant voice.

Mrs. Weasley held Harry at arm’s length to inspect him. “It’s so lovely to see you, my dear. Come in, and have some tea. I don’t know who’s been taking care of you, but you’re looking very tired.”

Mr. Weasley arrived in the hall and shook his hand. “Harry, what a pleasant surprise! Come in, come in. Have you been living with Muggles? You must sit and share all your news.”

In a flash, Harry was at the kitchen table, mug of tea in hand, Celestina Warbeck on the wireless, and looking at the smiling faces of his surrogate parents as if no time at all had passed between them. “I’m sorry I’ve gone a bit off the grid,” he said contritely. “I’ve been having a hard time. Thank you for welcoming me.”

“Oh, pooh!” she flapped her hand. “You’re always welcome here. However, a letter to say you were well would not have gone amiss,” she chided.

“I’m sorry. I was hoping to speak to Ron, too. We’ve been writing, but I’m moving away, you see, and…”

“You wouldn’t know what to say?” Mr. Weasley answered kindly.

It was just like that day on 1st September 1991, when the Weasleys bridged a gap he could not cross on his own.

He nodded. “Do you think he’d want to talk? I’ve been a bit rude. I’ve been abroad, as well.”

“Of course he wants to see you!” She sounded exasperated. “I’ll fetch him directly.” She walked over to the fire, and got out a pinch of powder from the tin on the mantelpiece.

Mr. Weasley winked encouragingly at him. “Everything will be fine.”

Within minutes, Ron had whooshed through the grate, and brushed off ashes and looked around. His mouth fell open as his gaze landed on him. “Harry!” He crossed the kitchen in two strides, pulled him up out of his seat, and gave him a crushing bear hug. “You’re back!”

“Yeah! I’ve been living at headquarters. Look, I’m moving away. I came straight here to tell you. I’m sorry I’ve been a bit of a dick to you and Hermione. Things have been rough, but it’s no excuse, I know—” he looked miserable.

Ron cut in. “It’s fine, say no more about it. Is it okay if I tell Hermione…?”

“Of course! Is she home at the moment? Can she come ‘round?” Mrs. Weasley went to get her whilst Ron dropped into her chair, and poured himself a cup from the teapot. “So, what about you? How is everyone? And Ginny, and George?” He turned to Mr. Weasley. “Everything okay at the ministry?” He had missed out on so much.

Harry then wandered over to better examine the family clock. There were several more hands. Hermione, Angelina, and Blaise were all pointing to ‘home’ and, with a jolt, he saw that Harry and Severus were pointing to ‘safe.’

“Severus is on here!”

“I know.” Mrs. Weasley winked. “You see, we knew you were all right. We would wait until you were ready.”

Harry spluttered, but was saved by the arrival of Hermione.

“Harry!” He was engulfed by frizzy brown hair.

“I must say, I didn’t see this coming, but I hope he makes you happy,” Mr. Weasley interjected.

Hermione still hadn’t let go of him.

“I know it’s a bit weird,” began Harry.

“No. Well, yeah.” Ron looked a little stunned. “How did it happen, mate? His hand just appeared on here a few months ago!”

“Well—er—funny story…” Hermione pulled back, beamed and tugged him down to his seat at the table.

“Go on!” she urged. “We’re dying to know.”

“I sort of ran into him when I needed a potion. Then he moved in, ‘cos that house is huge, and he needed somewhere to stay. And we sort of became friends, and in the last couple of days we started seeing each other,” he said, with a sheepish smile.

“That’s how we knew you were safe and back in England. Is he still a snarky bastard?”

“Ronald!” cried Mrs. Weasley.

Ron winced. “Sorry.”

“Nah, it’s okay. Yeah, kind of. I don’t mind though.” Harry blushed. “I have a lot of worries about the future, but not about him.”

“So, he’s nice to you?” asked Hermione.

“Yeah. He’s still himself, though. It’s just—he’s kind, and he’s generous. He’s…good.”

“He has a very good soul,” Mr. Weasley said kindly.

Ron looked a bit uncomfortable, but smiled anyway. “Er, I suppose. Is he coming ‘round for Christmas, then? That’ll be weird! Good, though, I mean.”

“It’s August!”

“He absolutely should, dear. I’ll start on his jumper straightaway.”

This was escalating a bit fast for Harry. “Um. Possibly. Listen, I’m moving away soon. We’ve got jobs at Durmstrang.” Hermione bounced a little in her seat, but contained herself. “I’d like to see you again before I leave.” He grinned and said, “Come to Grimmauld Place, we’ve renovated it, and bring George and Ginny.”

****

“Professor Snape,” said George mournfully. “The business will really suffer without you.” He shook Severus’ hand vigorously, and Ron grinned at Harry’s astonished look.

“I am confident that you possess the skills, although I appreciate you might not have the time. I shall compile a list of competent potioneers for you. In the meantime, I trust you are well-stocked…?”

“What’s going on?” asked Harry, shouldering through with an armful of Butterbeers.

“Your lover here has been working with us for a couple of months. Don’t tell me you didn’t know?”

“No. Why didn’t you tell me?” he spluttered. “How did this come about?”

“Funny story, mate. Ron nearly had a fit,” said George. Ron scowled. “We were at Mum’s for a much-needed Sunday feast, when your clock hand appeared,” he said, nodding at Severus. “So I wrote straight away. The most potent Babbling Beverage in Britain, I’ll bet.”

He smirked. “As I am no longer your teacher, I have no compunctions against supplying the menaces at school.”

Hermione pulled Harry aside. “We really must keep in touch. I’ve missed you. And I’m dying to hear more about Durmstrang. I’ve looked out a translation charm for you, here…” She dug out a scrap of parchment from her jeans. “It’s a bit tricky, but you’ve got a few days to practice. Of course, I didn’t know which language—”

“—Norwegian!”

Her jaw fell open. “Wow!”

“Once we’ve settled in, I’ll see if you can stay during the holidays. Maybe in the New Year.”

“Oh Harry, could we? That would be so incredible! It would be so amazing to visit another school, they’re so secretive. Oh, and the Northern Lights!”

“I’ll have to check with Grumpy.” Severus turned around, and Harry smiled at him. “But I think he’ll be persuadable.”

“Honestly. It’ll be a dream come true.”

“Yeah,” he said. “It is.”

He was still smiling at Severus, who returned it.

It is.

****

The afternoon before they left for Norway, Harry took Sev to a Puddlemere United home game. He couldn’t resist getting tickets after Harry caught Severus tuning in to the Wizarding Wireless Network commentary. He’d presumed Severus liked Quidditch simply because of house rivalries, and was delighted to have been proven wrong.

It was also a kind of test. Whilst they had been out in public, it was limited to Muggle London. He wanted everyone to know he was ridiculously happy with the bravest man that ever lived.

The Puddlemere United match was well-attended and, as he shouldered through the crowds, he thought he could spot Oliver Wood in the stands opposite. Today, they were playing the Ballycastle Bats, and Puddlemere were predicted to win.

Sev came back to their seats with two Butterbeers. He uncorked them and handed one to Harry. “The Reserve Keeper for Puddlemere is marvellous. I read that a Bludger injured the Keeper at the last match, so this may not be as cut and dry as we’d hoped.”

“We? Who said I was supporting your team?”

“Brat.” He leaned towards Harry’s ear. “Perhaps you can be convinced?” he purred.

Harry raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

There had been a bit of a buzz when they arrived, with a number of people turning around. He heard “Is that Harry Potter?” and whispers of “Professor Snape,” but now that the game was shortly to begin, all eyes were on the pitch.

Out of everyone he knew, he guessed Severus was the one wizard who would not tolerate hanging around with a famous person. He still remembered the first time they met, and he’d said, “Fame clearly isn’t everything.” However, he seemed to be taking today remarkably in his stride. Plainly a break in feeling responsible for hundreds of children’s welfare, coupled with not having to lie through his teeth to Dark Lords, had softened him.

He couldn’t quite believe his luck that he had a tall and sexy Potions master at his side. He put his hand on Severus’ leg and squeezed. Severus kissed him on the ear in reply. Glancing left and right, he saw their row in the stands was largely empty, and there was no one behind them. He gripped the inside of Sev’s thigh.

Harry’s hand edged between Severus’ legs and cupped his swelling cock. All spectators had their eyes glued on the players. Nobody paid them any heed. Harry massaged Severus’ cock, and asked, “How long is it on average before Coggins catches the Snitch?”

Severus answered in a deadpan voice. “Approximately thirty-five minutes.”

“Excellent.” Harry undid some buttons on Sev's robes, and unzipped his trouser fly. Severus looked at him with wild eyes. Harry grinned. “I want to show you how much I enjoy you being here with me,” he murmured.

Harry slipped in to stroke Severus’ length underneath his voluminous robes. Severus’ eyes glazed over and his lips pressed in a tight line. His hand grasped Harry’s biceps, and his knuckles whitened around the bottle. He was rock hard. Harry could hear him drawing long deep breaths through his nose. “This is highly inappropriate. Not what I’ve come to…expect from a Gryffindor.”

“Perhaps you’ll have to punish me when we get home.”

“I must have taken leave of my senses.”

Usually, a slow rhythm and a loose grip wouldn’t bring Severus to completion, but the adrenaline rushing through their veins at the risk of being caught made everything so much hotter.

Harry decidedly set his beer on the floor, and plucked Severus’ away, too. He Apparated them to the back of the stands, on the grassy moor behind the seating area. It was deserted.

Pulling out his wand, he cast a Disillusionment Charm over them both. He wasted no time in pushing Severus’ back to the wall, dropping to his knees, and engulfing him in one fluid movement. He pulled away to cast ‘Silencio’ on Severus, and returned to sucking him down deeply.

Harry looked up and stared at Severus. He could just make the outline of where his eyes were, a bit disappointed by the charm’s effectiveness. He wanted to see the ecstasy on Severus’ face, Severus to know how much Harry enjoyed giving him pleasure. Sev pulled on his hair as he sucked greedily on the bitter pre-come. His hips shuddered. He heard Severus’ head hit the wall as he came, body taut with pleasure, knees buckling, and finally shooting hot salty come down Harry’s throat.

Harry drank every drop, and licked Severus clean. He touched his way up Severus’ body, and kissed him soundly, sliding his tongue into his hot wet mouth. Severus exhaled at his bitter taste in Harry’s mouth. He left lazy wet kisses on Harry’s cheeks, chin and lips.

Harry pulled away, and looked around to see that nobody was in sight. He reversed the Disillusionment and Silencing Charms. He tucked Severus’ hair behind his ear, and did up his buttons. Apparating them to their seats, he noticed that someone glanced back at them at the sound of their arrival, so Harry gave him a little wave as he picked up his beer. Judging by the scoreboards, it seemed they had missed a few goals.

“Sorry to keep you from the game.” He winked.

Severus cleared his throat. “I forgive you.”

Harry wasn’t really in the mood for Quidditch, and so rested his head on Severus’ shoulder and closed his eyes.

Life. It wasn’t so bad.

Chapter Text

The homesickness hadn’t yet kicked in. Everything was new and strange. The children were arriving in just over a week, and the castle was large and empty. They ate at eight a.m., noon, and five p.m., and a small spread would be laid out in each year group’s common room at ten p.m..

At breakfast, a pot of tea stood in front of them. Professor Nilsen, the lower years’ Defence and Potions professor, informed them that it had been ordered in specially to honour the new British teachers. Breakfast consisted of sweetened flatbread, porridge, muesli, fruit, and pumpkin juice. Lunch was open sandwiches, and the main meal was food Harry had never come across before. For their first welcome dinner, all the faculty ate seasoned minced meat and onions, fried into small cakes and simmered in gravy, with mashed potatoes and swede on the side.

The staff were enamoured with them both, and either were not aware, or did not care, about Severus’ past. They spent the days on lesson plans, exploring the Institute, and wandering the nearby village.

Much like at Christmas in Fourth Year, one would choose their menu option, and declare it aloud to their dinner plate. Harry charmed the menu into English whilst he learnt the language, and resolved to try everything. On their second day, he dug into deer steak with caramelised whey cheese. Severus chose salted cod with cabbage, and eyed Professor Petrova’s pungent fermented trout, on which she was spreading copious quantities of butter and sour cream. Professor Andriy Kolisnychenko, the headmaster, informed them he was tucking into air-dried rib of sheep and boiled carrots.

“How are you settling into the life of the Institute?” asked Andriy.

Severus looked at Harry and indicated that he should respond for the both of them. “It is a very beautiful country. I had never left Western Europe before, but already had a good impression of the school from the students I met at the Triwizard Tournament.”

“But of course,” he said, nodding. “International harmony is the key. Perhaps vee should run the tournament again.” He winked at him and chewed on a rib.

“I would oppose that motion for now. Trouble follows Professor Potter wherever he goes.” Sev topped up Harry’s wine glass.

Harry leaned in to add, “I like the quiet life, Andriy.”

When Harry had informed Kreacher that they were moving to Norway, the elf’s ears drooped. Harry offered him the option to move to Hogwarts, be free, or join them, and he jumped at the chance to come with them. He was proud to be the personal elf of two teachers, and wore the blood-red linen with honour. It was a bonus that Harry didn’t have to order him around any more, and could request Severus’ favourite food. It comforted him to know that Kreacher would never be lonely in the school.

In some ways, the castle had similarities to Hogwarts. Somnus swooped in at breakfast, just to say ‘hello’ as Hedwig used to do, and nip pumpkin juice into his beak. There were statues that lined the corridors, and as he found out in the staff meeting, there was even an unintelligible school song.

Harry was worried about disciplining wayward children, yet eagerly anticipated the start of term. There was no house point system, and the only punishment was schooling in isolation. An infraction earned four days of sitting with a ghost for company, listening to the lesson in a separate area of the school. The student ate alone until the ten o’clock supper bell. He had been reliably informed that this was an excellent deterrent for rule breaking. Still, he had never taught before, unless he counted the D.A., and so he worked off his stress by running laps through the tracks in the local spruce and birch woods.

****

The full moon was on Sunday, the 2nd of September. It was a week before the children arrived, and Harry and Severus explored the grounds under the cover of moonlight.

Øverbygd had forests of pine that stretched for miles and miles. In daylight, crowns of snow were visible on the tip of the mountains. Tonight, it was three degrees, silent, and frosty.

The valley enclosed the school a few miles from the Målselva River. To Muggles, it appeared as an impassable ravine. On one side of the river lay a road, and they raced upstream on the opposite side under the cover of the trees. Harry loved to breathe in the smell of the pine, and Severus loved to gallop through them.

Øverbygd

They arrived at a clearing and stopped in the middle. Harry reared on his hind legs. Severus blew out air between his lips, tail swishing. He pointedly looked in the corner, his ears alert and forwards.

This evening, Severus had a surprise for him. A very alarmed witch, swathed in silver furs and a pointed hat, stood waiting at an easel. Harry knew he had been plotting something, and going for walks alone. When she caught sight of Harry and Severus, she shook off her fur muff and waved her wand in a complicated fashion. A wall of bright blue flames burst forth behind her.

Harry sat back on his haunches and pressed his neck against Severus' flank. They both stood stock-still, observing the artist at work. Within a couple of minutes, her hand had stopped shaking.

Harry found it difficult to measure the passing of time in his werewolf form. It could’ve been minutes or hours when the artist approached them, flourishing a camera and a Lumos’d wand. The woman returned to her equipment in the corner, quenched the flames, and Disapparated.

Harry bounded up and down in excitement and followed Severus, who sprinted back the way they came.

When Harry came to, he distantly remembered Sev carrying him under the Invisibility Cloak and tucking him into bed. He ached in the way you would after running a race. Everything hurt. Severus was exhausted and cold. Thankfully, Severus had been sleeping much better in the last couple of weeks. Harry cast a wandless Warming Charm, and placed Severus’ icy hands in his armpits. The most northern part of Norway was no place for a normal horse. “I am no teenager,” Sev muttered. “I’m sorry…you may need to curl up in our quarters from November onwards.”

“It’s not exactly Scotland in May.” His face lit up. “When will we see the painting?”

Sev smirked. “Good things come to those who wait.”

Harry groaned, rolled his eyes and bashed him over the head with a pillow. “You’re so annoying.” He then pulled him close, allowed Severus to feed him some painkilling potion, and they both slept until late morning.

Later, Severus gradually awoke to the sensation of being watched, and the distant sounds of the record player.

“Had you ever considered becoming an Animagus before?” asked Harry.

Severus yawned and stretched. “Decidedly not. The magic itself is tedious. You can go to Azkaban. It may go horribly wrong. Moreover, you overlook that one does not get to decide the form one takes. It was equally likely that I would be a killer whale, or a peculiar bird not found on our shores. Hardly conducive to espionage, or jaunts about town.”

Harry tucked a lock of hair behind Severus’ ear. “Well, I think it suits you really well. You’re magnificent.” His eyes widened, and he asked, “Will you take me horse riding?”

“No.”

“Please, oh, please?”

“No.”

Harry sighed and waggled a threatening finger. “You haven’t heard the last from me on this.” He used Severus’ stomach as a pillow. “Anyway, just my luck I’d be a goldfish or something. I’m really glad you did it. Makes a huge difference, you being there.”

Severus smirked. “No doubt I can tolerate you better when in mammalian form.”

“Well, I find I can tolerate you very well. In fact,” Harry said, whirling a lock of Severus’ hair around his finger, “I can’t keep my eyes off you." Sev didn’t answer; his dark eyes bored into Harry, and his face flushed in pleasure. He took this as his cue to go on. “I want to touch you. Smell you.” He shuffled around to straddle him, and brushed his lips against Severus’ ear. “I want to get drunk on your taste. And I want people to know that you are mine, and I am yours. Your delicious long cock belongs to me—”

Severus kissed him deeply, passionately, savagely. He flipped him around, and forced him into the bed. Harry tried to get nearer by wrapping his legs around his waist. He ground his groin into Severus’ who snarled in desire, eyes half closed. “You will be the death of me,” he growled, biting on his lobe.

Whilst on paper it would appear Harry was the one in control, in reality he was anything but. He rutted against him heedlessly, his eyes squeezed shut, lost to the sensation.

Severus banished Harry’s underwear, and then his own, and Harry gasped at the change in friction. Wanting to see more, feel more of Severus, he unbuttoned his nightshirt and feasted his eyes on Severus’ chest, the light dusting of black hair on his pecs, his flat stomach, and the dark wiry curls that formed a V towards his cock. He ground against him, and pushed the shirt off his shoulders to lick his collarbone, desiring to see Sev undone as much as he was. He was forced to break his attention on Severus’ chest, as his breath came out in grunting pants in time with the rocking of their hips.

Severus sucked on Harry’s neck, and said, “Loath as I am to stop, I need to rub in your potion. I take particular delight in it, and it will make you strong.”

Harry was pliant as Severus smoothed the oil into his skin, and he sighed as his aches and pains turned back into contentment. Sev murmured into his hair, “Where else does it hurt?” ready to heal anything he couldn’t see.

His night around the Hogwarts grounds with a magnificent horse was now a dreamlike memory to treasure, something he shared just with Severus. “I’m fine.” Harry caught his lover’s face. He needed his weight on top of him. He needed to watch his expression as Sev entered him. He needed his sweat to drop on him. "I need you to make love to me.”

Nodding, Severus prepared him, and sank into him with an agonising slowness that set alight every part of his body. Sunlight streamed through the magical windows and highlighted perspiration on Severus’ forehead. The bed squeaked as they rocked together. He squeezed him in further, wanting to be split in half. Severus kissed him, told him he was doing so well, and kissed him some more, and they were electric and desperate and finally free. Harry was undone, and came, fingers raking his back, Severus’ head cradled against his neck. He then watched him shudder in pure relief, upper lip pressed white against his teeth, neck taut. He drank in the bliss on his face, and pulled him in tight to better feel his body warmth, his panting, his reality.

****

“Do you remember the Mirror of Erised?” Harry asked, some time later. Sev nodded. “It showed me my family. I would visit all the time until Professor Dumbledore moved it, and warned me against the madness you could get just staring at a dream.” He stroked Severus’ hair.

He didn’t answer for a moment, and Harry heard him breathe in deeply. “I did not dare to look into that mirror,” he said. “If I looked today, I surely would see you holding me just as you are now.”

“Oh.” He pressed his forehead against Severus’. “That’s good.” He nodded against Severus’ face. “That’s very good,” he whispered. Severus cupped his face reverently and kissed him softly. “All you’ve done is heal me, and teach me how to love and be loved in return. You bring me life.”

“You are being overly sentimental. We’ve missed breakfast.” Severus pulled him into his lap and rubbed his calves.

“You should marry me.” Harry lined up his palm to Severus’, to measure Severus’ fingers in comparison to his.

Severus tucked the blanket over their legs. “I would like that.” He interlinked their fingers, then dragged his nose through Harry’s hair to mess it up even more. “I would like that very much indeed.”

 

 

 

THE END

Chapter Text

Eight days until the full moon!

 

 

 

Weeks passed, and inches of snow descended on Durmstrang. Essays were marked, bags were packed, and they were looking forward to the milder weather of southern England. It was three days until Christmas, and Kreacher, Hades, and Somnus had gone on ahead to London. Their quarters were clean and expanded for Ron, Hermione, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Teddy and Dromeda’s impending visit. Harry trudged down to the local pub—on horseback—to say their final farewells.

They didn’t want to stay out late, and so after the second round of lagers, Harry and Severus raised their glasses to start a rousing chorus. Severus flicked his wand, as if trying to dislodge a fly off the end, and a long silver ribbon flew out of it. It rose towards the ceiling and twisted itself snake-like into words.

Witches and wizards leaped onto chairs and tables—including the bemused innkeeper—to sing the farewell song they’d been taught:

 

Of all the money that e’er I had,

I’ve spent it in good company.

And all the harm that e’er I’ve done,

Alas, it was to none but me.

And all I’ve done for want of wit,

To memory now I can’t recall.

So, fill to me the parting glass;

Goodnight and joy be to you all.

 

Of all the comrades that e’er I’ve had,

They are sorry for my going away.

And all the sweethearts that e’er I’ve had,

They’d wish me one more day to stay.

But since it falls unto my lot

That I should rise, and you should not,

I’ll gently rise, and I’ll softly call,

Goodnight and joy be to you all!”’

 

Tipsy, off-key, and full of heart, it was a send-off to top all send-offs.

Whatever the reason that Severus and Harry had been serving penance, it had long been absolved. They waved, and gloved hand in gloved hand, returned home.

Friendship, love, and humanity—this was a magic beyond understanding.