Malfoy: You're wasting time. I'll never tell.
Potter: You'll get life, you realize.
Malfoy: And you'll get death, just as my father.
Transcript of prisoner interview 3402-0017 (MALFOY, D.B.; POTTER, H.J.)
15 November, 1998, AZKABAN
St Mungo's had a peculiar smell. Antiseptic and Skele-gro and urine and the faintest hint of ozone jumbled together to remind Harry of life and death and bedpans. He'd seen too much of the latter two in the last year.
"Do I want to know?" he asked as Hermione held up the newspaper.
"Potter Collapse at Charity Gala," she said.
"Hear that, mate? You fainting is an event now, not a whatchacallit. Action."
"Nouns and verbs, Ronald."
Ron ignored her. "Years from now hundreds of people will claim to have been at the Potter Collapse."
Harry wrinkled his nose. He'd gone to the charity dinner hoping to squelch some of the more outrageous rumours; instead he'd given the public another reason to speculate on his imminent death. "I shouldn't have stayed so long."
"We should have rescued you," Hermione said unhappily. "I saw Scrimgeour corner you earlier but you looked all right."
"He wouldn't have let me away without being seen talking to me. He's a rotten peacetime Minister and they all know it."
Ron made a rude noise just as the curtain swished aside, and Harry's healer came in. She was clutching her clipboard to her chest, and that was never a good sign.
"If you'll excuse us, Mr and Mrs Weasley--"
"They can stay," Harry said. He'd only have to repeat the news and he wouldn't remember the long technical words Hermione wanted. "Have you figured out what's killing me yet?"
"I think so, yes," Inger said, and Harry's stomach flipped. He'd spent the last year expecting to die without knowing the cause let alone the cure. "The deterioration of your magical core is significant enough that I believe I've isolated the variant of the Valeovorus Mr Malfoy cursed you with. It's rare -- the Medici series is far more well-known, but they also have a wider variety of counters, while this variant--"
"So there is a counter?" Hermione asked sharply.
"Yes," Inger said but, in harmony with the clipboard shield, she didn't sound happy about it. "It's a very specific treatment however. I'm afraid it can't be applied to Mr Potter."
"Why not?" Hermione leaned forward, hawklike and fierce, and the clipboard jerked a little higher.
Inger glanced at Harry, grimaced at his shrug, then addressed Hermione. "It involves transmagication from a close blood relative. Parent, sibling, child... a maternal grandparent has been known to succeed, but given Mr Potter's situation..."
"An aunt?" Hermione asked.
Inger's shoulders straightened and she tipped her head up. "There's no recorded successes, but if she's a particularly strong witch--"
"Oh. She's a muggle," Hermione said.
"Ah," Inger said, and that was answer enough. Harry realized Petunia wouldn't have worked anyway, and the queer feeling in his stomach doubled. He hoped he wasn't about to throw up. He'd done enough of that the last time Inger changed his potions.
"What if... what if Harry had a child?" Hermione asked. "I know it's not the most ethical suggestion," she rushed to add, holding up a hand against the objections Harry hadn't had time to form. "If it could save Harry's life, I'd do it."
Ron took her hand, and Harry's throat tightened. Part of him rejected the idea at once, for murky reasons that added up to a feeling of wrongness that he suspected had a lot to do with cupboards, but another part clutched at the idea. That part had a perfectly clear reason: he wanted to live.
Inger was shaking her head. "A transfusion would kill an infant. Even if you were to begin now it would take a good five years before the child was old enough, and I'm afraid the original prognosis hasn't changed." Six months. She touched his shoulder.
He tried not to shrug her off. "There might be a blood relative." Harry looked at his knees, knobbing up from under the thin puke-green hospital blanket. He didn't feel deathly ill, just weak, like he hadn't eaten in too long. Sometimes his lips went numb, and he didn't dare apparate anymore.
They were all staring at him. His lack of a family was public record.
Harry cleared his throat. "I found some papers at the house in Godric's Hollow."
"What kind of papers?" Ron asked.
"The adoption kind." Harry picked at the blanket, not ready to look at his friends. "You were looking for the locket in the attic at Grimmauld Place. I... well, I pitched a bit of a fit when I found them, but the battle at Kings Cross happened later that day and we had everything from giants to muggle reporters down our necks for weeks after. I had to put it aside to concentrate on the war, and by the end it just didn't seem important."
"Harry, why didn't you tell us?" Hermione sounded hurt, and Harry squirmed. She'd just offered to have a child with him to save his life. In front of her husband, no less.
"It didn't matter, Hermione. James and Lily were my parents." They loved me enough to die for me, and that trumps some stranger's miscast contraception charm any day.
"Well then!" Inger said, too loudly. "I can have your adoption records unsealed for medical purposes." Inger sounded relieved, and Harry couldn't help but think it was mostly because she would not be labeled the healer who killed the Boy Who Lived.
Grimmauld Place suited Harry just fine as a residence. Anyone he cared to invite to his home had had the secret straight from the keeper before he died, and the Fidelius charm kept the reporters away.
He dropped his keys on the table by the new umbrella stand (purchased at Debenhams and decidedly not made from any troll parts) and carried the small box Inger had convinced the Ministry to give him into the drawing room. Dobby appeared and fussed at him, chattering about the new potions Inger had sent and the instructions for what Harry could eat with them. Harry asked for the least bland of the selections for dinner, and shut the door after Dobby hurried off to prepare it.
The box contained eight scrolls, some of which were thicker than Harry's wrist, and two phials, each holding a silvery thread of memory. One was labeled 'Final Interview', the other 'Conception Mother', both in no-nonsense script that reminded Harry of McGonagall's.
He looked at them a moment, then tipped both into Dumbledore's old pensieve. He leaned in before he could change his mind.
Harry stumbled into a tiny room. A pair of floral sofas faced down over a low round table, and a potted fern struggled to cheer the room from its corner. A young woman stood by the window, arms crossed low over her chest, staring out at a winter-grey sky, jaw set.
She looked nothing like him. Short. Pale. Loose brown hair tucked behind her ears, not a strand of it rebellious. She wore a shapeless dress that clashed with the sofas.
Harry stepped closer, and saw she had freckles on her nose.
She jumped as the door opened, and Harry turned to see his parents entering, melting snow on their cloaks. They were red-cheeked and terribly young.
"Hello. I'm Lily. This is James."
"Bridget." She tucked a loose bit of hair behind an ear. Hands were shaken, and James hung both cloaks next to a third on the cloak stand. Bridget sat on one sofa, James and Lily on the other.
"Well," James said.
"I remember you. Head boy a few years back, right?"
James relaxed and nodded. "What house were you in?"
"James!" Lily hissed.
"I'm only making conversation."
"Slytherin," Bridget said. "Still am. I mean, I'm still in school." She offered a weak smile. "NEWTs this year. They don't tell you contraception charms don't work if you're taking allergy potions."
James frowned at the mention of Slytherin house, but Lily leaned across the table to squeeze Bridget's hand.
"You've considered stasis?" Lily asked. "I know you're young now, but maybe later..."
"No. No, I have... a lot of things going on, and with the world, the war... I just... Have you been married long?"
Lily smiled. "A bit over a year."
"You're very young," Bridget said, her voice cooling. "Is there something wrong with you?"
Harry barely stopped himself from squeezing Lily's shoulder; both his parents stiffened.
"My grandfather had some peculiar notions about blood and who his descendents ought to procreate with," James said, voice hard. "The curse can't be broken."
Bridget's nostrils flared, and she let loose a short, sharp laugh. "I'm sorry. It's not you, it's just... " She rubbed her arm -- her left arm, Harry realized. Right over that spot. His stomach plummeted. "Well, it's not that funny."
"This has to be stressful for you," Lily said. She did not touch Bridget again, but slipped her hand into James's.
"No more than studying for NEWTs," Bridget said. Her eyes lingered over Lily's clothes and jewellery and Harry suddenly realized Bridget's dress looked like the ones Mrs Weasley made for Ginny: old-fashioned pattern and fabric bought on sale. "You seem like nice folk." Bridget smiled with one side of her mouth. "Too nice, but that's all for the better, I suppose. It's a boy. Healer says he'll be healthy."
"I've been taking the potions, just in case we found a match." Lily put her free hand over her stomach. The hand clutching James's had gone white-knuckled.
"All right," Bridget said, and watched them press their foreheads together. "Yeah, you're the ones."
The scene rippled away, leaving Bridget, now wearing a different shapeless dress, and a stern-looking woman. A pensieve sat on the table, and Harry wondered what would happen if he looked in it.
"You understand the child may never see this?"
"Keep the memory strand under three inches," the woman said, and left the room.
For a long moment, Bridget did nothing. Harry studied her, looking for some hint of himself, half afraid he'd find one.
"You'll be safe," she said abruptly, and Harry jumped. "Safe and happy. And probably grow up one of those arrogant wankers I hate, but that can't be helped.
"I'd've called you Patrick. Drove all the snakes out of Ireland."
She looked at the pensieve, then touched her wand to her temple, and Harry fell onto the floor of the drawing room at twelve Grimmauld Place, dizzy and gasping for breath.
Dobby found him there twenty minutes later and brought him to St Mungo's, where they kept him overnight. By morning news of his adoption was splashed across the front page of every wizarding newspaper in the country. The Quibbler proclaimed him the son of Albus Dumbledore and a mermaid. Witch Weekly hinted at something darker; parselmouths were known to run in families.
Harry snorted at the idea, then he remembered Bridget rubbing her arm and threw away the paper.
The floo trip to Hogwarts exhausted him, and Harry accepted McGonagall's offer of tea while he waited for the trembling in his legs to subside. They chatted about mutual acquaintances and Scrimgeour's poor chances at a second term. Some part of Harry still found it bizarre, these grown-up conversations with adults who'd known him as a knobby-kneed child.
The thinnest scroll in the box had been a simple certificate, and Harry unrolled it for McGonagall.
Registration of Pre-Natal Adoption
8 December, 1979
Conception Mother: Bridget Barrow (Hogsmeade)
Conception Father: not given
Birth Mother: Lily Potter (Godric's Hollow)
Birth Father: James Potter (Godric's Hollow)
Expected sex and prognosis: M, healthy*
Naturalization charm applied: [X] yes [_] no
* Determined at examination, first trimester. Neither the Ministry of Magic nor the conception parents shall be held accountable should the child's status or expected sex change at any time after transfer.
"I do remember Barrow," McGonagall said, pushing her teacup away from the scroll. "She was a quiet girl. A decent student when she tried." She gave him a pointed stare over the rim of her square glasses.
"Hermione found her in the Prophet." The article had been short. Stray hex in Diagon Alley over the summer, eight days in hospital, funeral on Tuesday, no flowers please. She hadn't even seen her NEWT results (average). Her mother and sister had died in a portkey accident in her fourth year, and her father had died five years ago, around the time Harry had been hoping to live with Sirius. "Did she have any, er, boyfriends?"
"Not that I know of, though truthfully I pay little attention to who courts whom until I catch them in a delicate position behind the greenhouses." McGonagall studied his face over the edge of her cup. "If you looked the part... The naturalization charm is very strong, if unbalanced. You're all of James and almost none of Lily. I'm sorry, Potter, but I've no idea who your father is."
Harry grimaced. Everything from his appearance to his blood type to whose name would appear on a paternity charm -- it all pointed at James and Lily Potter. He'd asked Inger about the spell at his last examination, and she'd told him it wasn't as simple as a glamour.
"It doesn't erase your heritage but overpowers it with your adoptive parents'," she'd said. "It can fool very complex spells -- I'd have to break it to get a name, and even if you were healthy I couldn't risk destroying something that has been part of your fundamental being since the womb. If you find your conception father, I can confirm, but I need a name."
Harry sighed and sipped at his tea. Classes would let out soon, and then he could speak to Slughorn.
"Unremarkable girl," was Slughorn's pronouncement. Harry had never seen him so despondent, but was having trouble rousing any sympathy for the man. "Wanted to be a wandmaker -- told me so in her fifth year careers advice -- but she didn't do well enough on her Care of Magical Creatures OWL. Kettleburn said the unicorns didn't like her." Slughorn regarded him with wary eyes. "You're so like Lily. It's such a shame--"
"Do you know who my father is?" Harry asked flatly.
Slughorn took on a sulky expression. "No, not like Lily," he muttered, and then said more loudly, "Barrow didn't get on with the Slytherins in her year, and the propaganda of the day made it difficult for my little snakes to make friends in other houses. She tagged after some of the older students, until they finished school. I do recall giving her detention for being in Hogsmeade without leave, visiting them after they left, so they must have stayed friendly."
Lucius' lapdog, Sirius had called Snape. Harry told himself he'd stayed friendly with Fred and George, so it wasn't the same.
Except it was.
"Which students?" Harry asked, lips numb. At least if he fainted he had a Potions master at hand, and no reporters.
"Snape," Slughorn said, watching Harry carefully, but Harry had seen Bridget clutching her arm and had prepared himself for anything, even Lucius Malfoy. Voldemort, Witch Weekly had insinuated, and anything was better than that.
"Rosier," Slughorn continued when Harry didn't react. "Avery and his cousin, the Wilkes girl. Not a savoury lot, oh no. I'm not surprised Barrow found herself in a delicate situation." Slughorn heaved a sigh, and Harry grit his teeth. "Ah well, you've certainly proven yourself beyond your unfortunate parentage."
"Thank you, Professor," Harry grated, and stood up so fast he upset the jar of crystallized pineapple.
"Not at all, not at all. You must come back and visit me, Harry. I'm having tea with Rufus on Thursday..."
As he made his way back to the floo in McGonagall's office, Harry caught himself hoping his father was Snape.
At least he was marginally less a cockroach.
Ron and Hermione were more upset over Harry's decision to travel to Azkaban alone than they'd been when Inger pronounced a likely match in Snape. In the end Harry agreed to let them come with him, so long as they promised to wait outside and not to press him if he didn't want to talk on the way home.
"Welcome back, Mr Potter," the younger desk officer said; Harry had forgotten his name. "Here to see Malfoy again?"
Hermione gave Harry a sharp look, and he ignored her. "Snape this time. I'd appreciate it if you would bring him down." He felt his face heating, but he kept his chin up. He didn't want to face Snape dizzy and short of breath.
"Of course. I'll have a room prepared, if you'd care to wait." The young man paused. "You understand all conversations are transcribed?"
"Are you sure you want to do this alone?" Hermione whispered.
"We're behind you, mate," Ron added. "If he gives you a lick of trouble..."
Harry shook his head. His friends had been wonderful, but they protected him too fiercely at times and he wanted this meeting free of confrontation. As much as he could manage, anyhow, considering it was Snape.
James and Lily were my parents. I'm only here to propose a transaction, Harry told himself as the officer beckoned him to a small conference room.
Snape was already there, smirking and arrogant as always, though the shadows under his eyes belied his confident posture. He wore a prisoner's uniform and an iron cuff on each wrist. The cuffs, Harry'd learned on his last visit, were charmed so they could be stuck to any surface in the prison. Harry noted Snape held his wrists well away from the table.
"Shout if he gets out of hand," the officer said, and shut the door.
Snape's smirk had grown, and Harry itched to tear it away. "Well, well. James Potter's little foundling has come to visit me." So much for hoping last week's Prophet hadn't made it to Azkaban; the entire wizarding world truly did know about Harry's adoption. "If you're looking for help identifying the unfortunates who spawned you," Snape said, "you can bugger off."
"Oh, I've already identified my mother," Harry said sharply, though he'd planned to break the news more gently. "Bridget Barrow. I believe you went to school with her." Seeing the composure bleed away from Snape's face satisfied an itch Harry had nursed since first year.
For the first time since the war ended, Harry felt something better than all right. Non-confrontational, he reminded himself. You need him.
"What do you want?" Snape asked. He'd recovered a bit too quickly for Harry. "You can't want money, as I haven't any. If it's Malfoy, he never told me what curse he cast on you, nor is he speaking to me at the moment."
Harry snorted. The only highlight of Snape's otherwise disappointing trial had been Malfoy shrieking and cursing from the witness box when he'd discovered Snape had double-crossed the Dark Lord. At least the Wizengamot hadn't gone entirely around the twist and let Snape go.
"It's not Malfoy. I already know the curse. I need you to help me break it."
Snape's eyes narrowed and his hand shot out to grab Harry's wrist.
"Snape," the desk officer's voice crackled in the air. "Hands to yourself. First warning."
Snape released Harry, but not before squeezing so hard his bones creaked. "If you've fabricated this adoption story thinking to inspire pity--"
"I'm not making it up. And I don't expect pity from you."
Snape slumped in the chair and folded his arms over his chest. He looked like a sulky child. "You don't seem upset to learn your precious James wasn't really your father."
Harry shrugged, electing not to dispute which of them qualified as his real father. "I've known since the height of the war, though I only recently had the records opened. Living under a death sentence for the last year kind of leeches the horror out of... well, you."
Snape's eyes narrowed. "So. You need me to break the curse, and you don't expect pity. Which means you have a deal."
Harry smiled. "I can get your sentence reduced," he said. He'd fought long and hard with Scrimgeour for the offer -- not that the Minister had even pretended to refuse him. The battle had instead been over what Harry would give in return.
"By how much?" Snape asked coolly, but Harry didn't miss the sudden tension in his thin frame.
"Time served," Harry said, and Snape's gaze intensified. "You'd be free as soon as you agree to assist with the treatments."
"Standard early release. Just stay out of trouble, don't leave the country, and they'll leave you be."
"I'll want proof of this... atrocious claim."
"You'll have it," Harry said softly. "And I'll even do what I can to soften up the public -- or, if you'd rather stay here, I can make sure they know you could have saved me."
Snape stared at a spot over Harry's head. His clenched fists were shaking.
"Look. You can serve your remaining four years and be reviled as the Death Eater who killed Dumbledore and Harry Potter. Or you can agree to the treatments and be free by the end of the day, and I will gush to every reporter I see about how wonderful my --" The word stuck in his throat. "--Snape is, how he saved my life when I had no hope. I doubt they'll throw you a parade, but they won't spit on you for it. After the treatments, we never have to see each other again."
Snape was looking at him with dismay dawning over his features.
"What is it?" Harry asked. "It's a good bargain."
"My God. You really are my son."
Harry understood. "Stupid hat did want me in Slytherin. Deal?"
Snape arrived at exactly one fifteen, spot on time. Harry had been at the hospital all morning, enduring a bevy of charms and fortifying potions and chatting with Inger and the other specialists to settle the anxious flutter in his stomach. Until the door crashed open to admit a scowling Snape, Harry had half-convinced himself the man had found a way around the Ministry's travel restrictions and done a runner.
"Potter," Snape said, raking his gaze over Harry's hospital-gown clad body. Harry pressed his bare knees together. "You look horrible."
"Same to you," Harry muttered, and it was true. Snape was paler than ever and his hair hung in lank, greasy clumps. He had proper clothing on at least, and a wand handle peeked out from his coat pocket. "Thanks," Harry managed to say, though he nearly choked on the word. "For showing up, I mean."
"I'm fulfilling our contract, Potter, no more."
Harry bit his sharp response, and it slithered back into his brain for later use.
Inger had them sit in a pair of the hospital's least uncomfortable chairs, facing each other. "Scoot a bit closer."
"Any closer and I'll be sitting his lap," Harry said. Snape glared at him.
"The conduits must be short or they'll rupture," Inger said shortly. She hadn't looked at Snape once since he came in. "If you're not in a good position to start, you'll regret it. Snape, if you'd remove your coat and roll up your sleeves."
Snape obeyed, features arranged to an approximation of neutrality. His shirt was faded navy, muggle and a decade out of fashion. Harry wondered uncharitably if he'd bought it at an Oxfam shop. Snape held out his hands palm up on Inger's command, and she laid Harry's hands over them, palm down.
"The pulse points of your wrists must stay within ten centimeters of each other, so first I'll cast a restricting bond." A warm weight settled over Harry's wrists. He tried to move them, felt Snape's resistance. "Then I establish a connection." Inger cast the spell and at once Harry felt sleepy and weak.
He slumped back in the chair until Snape's hissed "Potter!" and a jerk on his wrists sat him upright again. Snape's complexion had lost what meager colour it once owned; the bruising under his eyes was stark purple. He looked ghastly.
"Deep breaths, both of you," Inger said, looking only at Harry. "Once your magic is cycling together I'll begin the transfer."
The weakness faded to tolerable levels, leaving Harry feeling as though someone bigger and stronger were standing too close behind him. The hair on the back of his neck rose.
It could be worse, Harry thought as he let Snape's magic course through him, protecting his own from the curse devouring it, giving it a chance to rebuild enough to fight back. It could have been Malfoy. It could have been someone who would cheerfully rot in prison if it meant my death.
By the time Inger released them, Harry was in agony. His back and arse hurt from the chair, his shoulders ached from holding his arms out from his body, and his wrists stung from Snape jerking them every few minutes. He'd also smacked himself in the face when Snape knocked his arm sideways as Harry tried to scratch his nose.
"How often will this be necessary?" Snape asked. From his pinched expression, he'd had as rough a time as Harry.
"An hour a day, six days a week."
Snape's lips thinned to a furious line, so Harry checked his own anger and smiled at Inger. "I thought you'd be sick of me by now."
She didn't laugh. "Sick of the reporters ambushing me in public toilets, perhaps. I want to observe you for the first week, and after that you should be familiar enough with the procedure to perform it at home. You'll be more comfortable there."
Snape didn't seem any happier at the news, but that, Harry thought, was just a bonus.
Dobby escorted Snape into the drawing room at the end of tea. Both of them had sour faces; Dobby vanished the moment his duty was done, and Snape froze as he caught sight of Ron and Hermione.
"They're leaving," Harry said before Snape could serve the fit he had brewing. Ron muttered something mutinous, but he set down his empty cup and stood up, dragging Hermione with him by the elbow. Harry had had several very stern talks with both of them (mostly Ron) and he thought they understood that having an audience for the treatment would be far more humiliating than anything Snape could do to him.
Naturally Snape had to ruin the effort.
"What's the hurry... Ronald," Snape said, stumbling over the name as though he'd never said it before. "Hermione. That's quite a mouthful. Do you prefer Hermy?"
"What are you doing?" Harry hissed into the shocked silence.
Snape beamed at him, black eyes hard. "Why, I'm being polite to my son's friends."
"I'm not your bloody son!"
"In which case there's no need for me to be here, is there, Harry?"
"Well," Hermione said, looking from Snape to Harry and back. She had a firm grip on Ron's shirttails. "We'll be on our way. Thank you for tea, Harry. We'll see you tomorrow?"
"Of course." Harry waited until the floo whooshed, then rounded on Snape. "What are you playing at, you greasy prick?"
"I think you should call me Dad," Snape said, examining his nails.
"Harry Potter's father," Harry snarled at his wand. "Point me!" The wand spun on his open palm and settled with its tip pointed at the photo of James and Lily on the mantle. "You. Are not. My father. You're a... you're a sperm donor, nothing more."
"I see. Not yet ready to give up your poor little orphan complex." Snape nodded sagely, a mean smile still twisting his lips. "Take all the time you need to wrap your fat head around our new relationship, Son."
Harry snorted. "Sit down. I bought comfortable chairs."
Chaise lounges, in fact. He'd asked Dobby to arrange them side-by-side, facing opposite directions. Snape, preening like a cat with a mouthful of feathers, sat.
"You must have expected something like this," Hermione said. She was watching Harry pace, worry lines creasing her brow. "Not this precise reaction," she amended when he snorted, "but how could he not be difficult?"
"He's Snape," Ron said. He moved Phineas Nigellus's bishop as the portrait directed, and promptly bagged it with a rook. Ron grinned as Phineas grumbled from his frame. "That man was born difficult. I reckon he gave his mum detention for popping him out."
"He's had just as nasty a shock as you have, Harry. Of course he's going to lash out."
"Stop being sensible, Hermione," Harry said. He flopped down beside her on the sofa and glared at the chaise lounges. Why had he bought two? He should have given Snape the most uncomfortable chair in the house. "You know how irritating sensibility is when I'm sulking."
"You're looking better," she said. "The treatments must be working."
Three weeks of transmagication sessions had done little for his temper, but Harry had to admit he felt better. He'd summoned his glasses yesterday and they'd flown into his hand at once. He'd felt like he'd run up and down the stairs a few times, but even that was an improvement over the bone-deep weakness he'd been battling all year.
Harry looked at the clock. In a few minutes Snape would march in and proceed to embarrass him.
"Would you like us to leave?" Hermione asked.
"We're not letting that git chase us away from Harry," Ron said. "Checkmate."
"He's not chasing you away," Harry said. "You're leaving because you respect my privacy."
"Mate, I slept one bed over from you for six years," Ron said, handing Hermione her coat. "It's a bit late to worry about privacy. I know what you sound like when you're--"
The hollow bang of the doorknocker cut off Harry's retort, and he waved his friends towards the floo.
"Remember, he's just as unsettled as you," Hermione called as the flames whisked them away.
"Is that Hermy's dulcet voice I hear?" Snape called from the hallway. His wind-chapped face appeared in the archway, smirking between disarrayed hair and a wooly purple scarf. "Your friends are always rushing off the moment I arrive, Harry. Are you ashamed of your dear old dad?"
"Fuck off." Harry took Snape's coat and threw it over the sofa.
"Language. Perhaps you need a spanking." Snape eyed him speculatively and Harry flipped a rude gesture. Snape only grinned and lowered his gaze to Harry's arse, fingers tapping his belt.
Harry flushed and quickly sat down. "I think I prefer you when you're snarling and angry with everyone." Which is probably why he's putting on this show.
"Oh but you're my son now, Harry." Snape sat on the other lounge and rolled up his sleeves. "Fathers and sons have special bonds. I wouldn't want to make you think I didn't care."
"Vinculum," Harry said, and gave Snape's arms an unnecessarily hard jerk to test the bonds. "Aperito." His head swam as the conduits opened, but after so many sessions their magic synchronized much more quickly, and soon Snape's magic was coursing alongside his. Harry couldn't feel anything but a vague sense of constriction and support, an internal brace.
Snape stiffened; he always did. Harry had never asked what it felt like for him.
Sometimes, near the end of a session, Harry thought he could hear Snape's heartbeat.
"Stop staring," Snape said, eyes closed.
Harry scowled and lay back. He decided to stare at the ceiling for the duration, but after five minutes of silence he began to fidget. "What are you doing now? Not teaching." McGonagall would have told him.
"I've opened my own school."
Harry sat up. "Really?"
"Yes. I teach orphaned puppies to bark 'God Save the Queen' on command."
"If you didn't want to tell me you could have just said so."
"There is nothing to tell." Snape still hadn't opened his eyes. "Few employers are impressed with either my record or the fact that an hour of my afternoons are consumed with my deathly ill famous war hero son."
Harry hadn't even considered the time. He'd never had a job, as the auror program wouldn't take him when he came with an unidentified curse. "We can move the sessions to the evening--"
"The Ministry can support me."
"You're on the dole?"
"Worried about the step down from a father who's independently wealthy?"
Harry was silent. After a long debate with himself, he said, "If you need money--"
"How much?" Snape's eyes popped open. "As your father, perhaps it would be best if I had a key to your vault."
Harry snorted and flopped back against the lounge. He chewed his lip for a moment. "I'll buy you some groceries."
Snape threw him a contemptuous look. "Never mind then."
The rest of the hour crept by. Harry was just starting to imagine the steady thump reverberating along his veins when the timer went off. Snape halted the transmagication at once, waited a moment for their magic to equalize, and broke the connection.
Harry rubbed his wrists as Snape put on his coat. "Were you sorry when she died?"
They'd avoided the subject of Bridget for three weeks.
"Don't ask foolish questions." Snape's fingers paused on the coat buttons. "Barrow balked at an order," he said grudgingly, "and Bellatrix and Rodolphus killed her for it."
"And you let them, of course."
"What was I supposed to do, Potter? Open defiance meant death. Ah, I know. You think I should have quit my little hobby, married her and settled down to raise you in saccharine domesticity."
Harry remembered the little boy cowering in the corner in Snape's pensieve. "Please. You know nothing about raising children."
"Then cease your ingratitude. You were a problem she took care of quietly on her own, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. Be thankful she saw fit to hand you over to people who cared. There's a market for human fetuses in the Dark Arts, and believe me, your mother had not a whit of your squeamishness."
"Then I'm doubly glad she's not my mother."
Snape finished buttoning his coat, a smirk curling his thin lips. "Deny it all you like, but you're the child of two Death Eaters. She didn't want you and neither do I."
"She did," Harry said, the words falling out before he knew they wanted saying, and he cursed himself even as his mouth continued. "She'd have called me Patrick."
For a second Snape looked robbed of his wind. Then he tugged on his gloves. "Be grateful she gave you away to the Potters then. Harry may be pedestrian but it's marginally less atrocious than Patrick."
He slammed the door behind him, leaving Harry standing in the empty hall amidst an invading gust of chill October wind.
"It's your fault." Harry wiped his nose with a soggy tissue and dropped it on the floor. The wastebasket was full. "You and your germs."
"And of course you becoming ill has nothing to do with the fact that you visit a large building full of sick people twice a week," Snape said as he pulled his arm -- and Harry's -- back to his lap, "or that you failed to ever produce a satisfactory cold-curing potion in my class."
"I thought you'd be milking this one," Harry said. "Offering chicken soup and pretending to care."
Snape tilted his nose in the air. "When you're this snot-nosed and whiny, you can be Potter's son. I want no part of you."
"When did you ever?" Harry asked, and then wanted to sink into the floor at the bitterness in his own voice.
Snape only smirked. "I care when your charming friends are here to witness it, Harry."
"All right," Harry muttered. His eyes felt scratchy. "What's a better name?"
"What are you blathering about?"
"You don't like Harry or Patrick. What's better?"
"Nicodemus," Snape said promptly.
"Nico-- Are you mad?" Harry stirred from the chaise lounge, tugging against Snape's wrists to sit up. "That's horrible."
"It's a perfectly good wizard name."
"It's not a kid's name."
"You're only a child for ten, fifteen years. You're an adult for a hundred and twenty. Harry won't suit you past thirty, mark my words." Snape closed his eyes.
"I like Harry," Harry said. "It's better than Severus anyway."
"Marginally," Snape said, and yawned.
Taken aback by the agreement -- or possibly by the fact that Snape could be so human as to dislike his own name -- Harry sat back against the lounge. "Are we... are we having a conversation?"
"You are. I am trying to sleep."
Frowning, Harry closed his eyes and waited for the timer to chime.
"Your magic's beginning to resist the curse." Inger made a pleased sound in the back of her throat. Harry hadn't seen the clipboard all month, and he took that as a sign his healers were no longer anticipating his death.
He couldn't bring himself to embrace hope yet, not fully. "The transmagication," he said. "Is it supposed to make... Are there any side effects? Emotional ones?"
Inger frowned. "Some patients find it brings them closer to their donors. It's not an inherent part of the spell, if that's what you're asking, but an effect of the closeness. Not unlike the bonding experienced by nursing mothers and their babies."
Inger's mouth had drawn up in a moue of distaste as she spoke. Harry didn't blame her; the image of Snape and bonding made him a bit nauseous.
"You can get dressed now," she said. "I'll see you Thursday."
"Inger? Does anyone ever hear the other person's heart?"
"Magic is present in every part of your body, but it's most active in the veins."
Harry took that for a yes.
"Stop snooping," Harry said.
Snape ignored him and craned his head even further. The gold envelope Harry had left on the side table had caught Snape's interest and, from what Harry could tell, he was attempting to read it upside-down.
"I mean it, Snape. Stop reading my mail."
"If you'd wanted it private, you should have put it away. Are you seeing anyone? Dear Ronald's baby sister, perhaps?"
"None of your business," Harry said. He looked at his feet, socked and resting on the clean white fabric. For a week or so after the fight at Godric's Hollow, in between the funerals and the wild celebrations, Harry had thought he and Ginny would pick up their relationship.
And then George hadn't pulled through, and Draco had slipped into the crowd at the funeral, and after that Harry hadn't seen much point in dating. Ginny had taken her NEWTs in June and then moved in with Dean Thomas.
Snape was eyeing him with amusement. "Not such a catch when you're dying, eh? I'd have thought otherwise, considering you have two fortunes to leave a wife willing to lovingly nurse you to your deathbed. No matter. You don't have to go alone."
"Pardon me. I know you were raised by muggles but that's no excuse for poor manners."
"I'm not taking my-- you."
"Oh, I think you are. It says Harry Potter and guest."
"Do you even know what the invitation is for?"
"I don't care. It's a fancy enough envelope that it will be a well-attended event. You promised me public adulation, and that paltry interview in the Prophet hardly counts."
Harry opened his mouth, then closed it again. "Fine. Dress robes, after Saturday's session. Bring a gift."
Harry was not terribly surprised when Snape arrived empty-handed on Saturday, wearing the same faded muggle clothes he wore three times a week. The other three times Harry saw him he wore a black robe with ugly brown embroidery on the collar.
"Sit down," Harry said, rolling up the sleeves of his dress robes.
Snape seemed disappointed at the lack of reaction, and sat without a fuss. "I thought we could give a joint gift."
"Except I've already bought it and you've no money. Vinculum."
Snape hummed an agreement, and Harry snorted in disgust. For the next few minutes, neither man spoke.
"I need to use the facilities."
Harry had been staring at the bookcase and wondering if Snape would consent to letting him use their joined hands to read. "What?"
"Pardon. You truly are dense. I need the toilet."
Harry glanced at the clock. They were only twelve minutes into the session. "Couldn't you have gone before we started?"
"I didn't have to go then," Snape said. His smug tone said otherwise.
"Bastard," Harry ground out.
"No, that would be you. My parents were married." Snape swung his legs over the edge of the lounge. Harry followed reluctantly.
"We could stop the transfer."
"If you'd prefer to spend the afternoon hiding from all light and noise instead of attending your social gathering, please tell me where you've stashed the gift first. I'd hate to arrive empty-handed because you purposely gave yourself a migraine."
Snape smirked at him, but quickly lost the expression when he stood up. Harry hoped he would sit back down, but after a second Snape's mouth firmed and he pulled on their joined wrists.
"Potter, Dad? Don't you love me any more?" Harry asked, but he gave in. He really did not want to know what Snape would do if Harry refused to go.
The floor twirled under his feet as he stood and nausea gripped his stomach. Harry closed his eyes but that only made the spinning worse, and he had to clutch Snape's arm for support.
"Do not vomit on my shoes. They're my only pair," Snape said. He shuffled Harry toward the corridor and the guest toilet near the stairs to the kitchen. Hampered by dizziness and their bound arms, they staggered into the small room.
Panting, Harry leaned against the wall and willed the universe to stillness. He felt a tug on his wrists, and looked down to see Snape undoing his trousers.
"Oh Christ," Harry said, and shut his eyes.
"Don't blaspheme." Snape's zip sounded very loud.
"Do you even believe in God?"
"Hardly." Snape sighed over the sound of urine hitting water. "But I'm supposed to demand that you behave better than I ever did."
Harry cracked his eyes open and quickly shut them again; his hands hung a bare inch from Snape's cock. He could feel the warmth radiating from Snape's skin.
"How much did you drink?"
"Four glasses of water," Snape said. "Right before I left."
"I can't begin to describe how much I hate you."
"No need. I'm intimately familiar with the feeling." Snape shook off the excess -- Harry swore his wrist touched bare skin -- and flushed, but Harry had to make him wash their hands.
"I'll use a cleaning charm before I touch anything important," he said irritably.
"My doorknobs are important."
"Cleaning them will entertain that sycophant house-elf of yours."
They glared at each other, legs trembling.
"Finish up here?" Harry asked, and Snape all but collapsed onto the toilet seat. Harry slid down to the floor, put his head on his knees, and did his best to ignore Snape for the remainder of the session.
"So," Snape said just as his heartbeat had begun to lull Harry into calm. "You snuck a peek. Do you measure up to your dear old dad?"
When the timer sounded, Harry untangled their magic as fast as he dared. He still felt lightheaded, probably the result of too much activity during the transmagication, but he dusted off his robes and collected the gift from the cabinet in the drawing room.
They would be early, but he was not going to sit alone in the house with Snape for another hour, not after he'd practically held the man's cock while he pissed.
"Morgan's Gardens," Harry shouted, and threw a handful of floo powder at the fire. He didn't care if Snape followed or not.
He stepped out of the fireplace and into the inn's tavern. The dark room had been brightened by large bunches of white gardenias, but Snape brought some gloom with him as he stepped through after Harry.
Remus was speaking with the harried innkeeper. Harry strode up to them and handed Remus the brightly-decorated gift. Dobby had helped wrap it. It had a sock for a bow.
"This is from me. Snape's offered to resume brewing your wolfsbane every month." He kissed Remus' cheek, pleased at the spluttering from behind him. "Congratulations."
"Thank you, Harry." Remus's smile turned uncertain as he looked past Harry to Snape. "I suppose congratulations are in order for you as well." It sounded more like a question than a statement to Harry.
"Condolences would be more appropriate," Snape muttered, quietly enough that only Harry heard him. He raised his voice. "Lupin. I see you've finally taken pity on that wretched auror. I don't see how her babbling is an improvement over the moping, but it's your life. Myself, I'm simply overjoyed to find I've fathered a son who saved the world." He flung an arm over Harry's shoulders and kissed him on the forehead.
"Are Ron and Hermione here?" Harry asked, not caring at the desperation in his voice. He elbowed Snape in the ribs to escape him.
"They're setting up chairs in the gardens," Remus said with a bemused frown.
Harry marched for the door, but Snape cast Remus a parting shot Harry didn't catch and followed him.
"We're attending this event together, Potter. And the next time you volunteer my services without permission, I will consider myself free to do the same with yours."
"You wanted to give a joint gift," Harry snarled. "Don't complain that I chose what to give."
Morgan's Gardens were sunny and warm, a stark contrast to the grey November sky on the horizon. White chairs marched over the lawn in rows, all facing an arched trellis swarming with roses. Ron was calling advice as Hermione charmed the roses to cycle through different colours, but they seemed to be flashing more quickly than she wanted.
Ron spotted Harry and raised a hand, but his smile of greeting died a quick death at the sight of Snape. "What's he doing here?"
"Ronald," Snape said brightly. "Hermy. I trust you won't be running off this time."
"Professor Snape," Hermione said. "Are you... Did Remus invite you? Or... Tonks?"
"Oh no, I'm Harry's date."
Harry stepped on his foot. Hard.
"Figuratively speaking, of course. Though I thought we had a moment of true father-son bonding in the toilet today, Harry."
At that moment, Harry would have happily gone back to being an orphan, especially if it meant killing Snape himself.
The ceremony went as smoothly as could be expected with Tonks as the bride. There was a mishap with the train, but Remus's quick reflexes saved the ring from flying off into the flowerbeds and Hermione, looking very... pink in her bridesmaid's dress, never so much as winced, even though it turned out she'd broken the last two fingers of her right hand helping Tonks dress.
Harry, standing with Bill, Kingsley, Hermione and two of Tonks' school friends, managed to avoid Snape for the duration, but the moment the Weasleys' ConFUNding Confetti hit the air, the man was on Harry like a leech.
A loud, embarrassing leech.
At the first opportunity Harry escaped to the bar, where he sulkily ordered a butterbeer and cursed his healers for forbidding him hard liquor. There he ran into Ginny and Dean.
"I can't believe they're finally married," Ginny said. "I thought Remus would do a runner for sure."
"Ah, Virginia," Snape said, sidling up behind Harry. Harry closed his eyes. "Lupin's a coward at heart. Obviously he's more afraid of his new bride than of marriage."
"If you wish."
"I don't wish. It's my name."
Snape made a doubtful noise, and Harry elbowed him in the ribs. His butterbeer fizzed up and spilled over his hand. Snape elbowed him back and nodded at the bar.
Teeth grinding, Harry got him a glass of wine. When he turned back, Snape had a hand over his heart and a small crowd watching him with expressions of mingled horror and sympathy.
"Please forgive my lapse. Donating my magic to save my son's life has left me a bit weak."
Harry downed the glass of wine and ordered another.
A reporter from the Prophet was prowling the wedding for a piece on werewolves and marriage to the uninfected. She was happy to take down Harry's long speech on the subject; he was always good for sales, she told him cheerfully, even though his opinions were so outlandish.
Snape, always only a few steps behind, swept up as Harry was signing an autograph for the reporter's niece in the vain hope of bribing her into printing what he'd actually said. Snape shot him a disgusted glare, then introduced himself as 'the famous Harry Potter's father' and an expert on werewolves.
Harry tensed, but Snape launched into a speech so similar to Harry's that he must have eavesdropped on the interview. Then he beamed a blinding smile and insisted on having his photo taken with Harry.
"You've been possessed by Gilderoy Lockhart," Harry hissed as the reporter left without speaking to Remus or Tonks.
"Jackass though he may be, the man knew something about publicity," Snape muttered back, still wearing that horrible over-bright grin.
"You're a bigger jackass than Lockhart ever was." At least I wasn't related to him, Harry almost added. "Can't you just be good?"
"If by 'good' you mean 'quiet,' then no. I will not be stuffed into a corner because you are ashamed of me, son."
"I wouldn't be half as ashamed of you if you'd be normal."
Snape raised an eyebrow.
"Fine. I would. Can we please get through the rest of the reception?"
Snape pursed his lips and stared out over the mingling guests. "I think I'll ask Hermy to dance."
Sunday's top news story, ostensibly on werewolves and marriage, had very little information on the purported subject, and quite a lot to say about Harry and Snape. It sat below an enormous photo of Snape, with his Lockhart smile, and Harry, who wore an odd little grimace and kept trying to edge out from under Snape's arm.
Harry threw the paper out.
In celebration of his one Snape-free day a week, he invited Ginny and Dean over for dinner, and then Neville when he realized three might be awkward; it never was with Ron and Hermione.
"I'm glad you're well enough to entertain," Ginny said as she handed him a bottle of wine, and Harry heard the rebuke. Ron and Hermione came and went, even during the months before the healers narrowed down the curse to a category of consumption spells, when half the counter-curses they tried made him sicker. Harry hadn't wanted to see anyone else, and by the time he had, they'd stopped trying.
"The treatments are working." He tried out a smile. "Only thing Snape's good for. I apologize for his behaviour at the wedding." Harry had cooked, under Dobby's watchful and occasionally wincing eye, hoping to make up for both Snape and the lack of communication in recent months. He served the wine Ginny and Dean had brought.
"It was odd, for Snape, but he's always a bastard," Dean said. "It's not your fault."
"No, I made it worse. I didn't tell him it was Lupin's wedding we were going to."
Dean and Neville laughed.
"That was a bit mean, Harry," Ginny said. "He didn't even have dress robes."
"I told him to dress nicely."
There was a silence, and then Neville started an amusing story from work. Dean told one about his football team, and Ginny one about Bill's son. Harry didn't contribute; these days all of his amusing stories involved Snape or hospitals.
Monday morning the headlines read:
POTTER FATHER IN POVERTY
Why is Harry Potter at the Black family's posh London residence while Severus Snape, recently revealed father to the Boy Who Lived, is on Ministry assistance?
"I don't blame Harry at all," Mr Snape told our own Rita Skeeter. "He's had a difficult life and he can't help but resent me. It's irrational to expect me to have saved him from the abusive muggles who raised him, but Harry's always been an emotional boy. I'm only grateful I had the opportunity to watch him grow at Hogwarts. I taught him Defence against the Dark Arts, you know. Not at all surprised he defeated Voldemort. I really reached him in that class, I think."
Four howlers berating Harry for his parsimony arrived before Snape did, and Harry saved all their ashes to throw at him.
"Only four?" Snape sounded disappointed. "I received nearly thirty. I was hoping for at least a quarter of the support. Perhaps that was overly optimistic." He sat down on the lounge -- the one Harry normally sat on -- and took off his coat. "You've had a lot of experience manipulating the press and public opinion. What do you think?"
Fuming, Harry sat on Snape's lounge. Harry's lounge. They were both Harry's. "I think you're the biggest prick I've ever met."
"I knew you looked in the toilet," Snape said smugly. "It's unfortunate James turned you into a copy of himself. You might have inherited that."
"He didn't make me into a copy of him," Harry snarled. The knot of fury in his stomach tightened. "The naturalization charms can skew to one--"
"Don't be naïve," Snape said, dropping the friendly pretense. "It's no accident you look more like your sainted father -- oops, forgive my slip -- your sainted nothing. James wanted a replica of himself, a miniature him, the best toy of all."
"Shut up!" Harry stood, and Snape did too. A small part of Harry knew he couldn't risk antagonizing Snape into leaving before the treatments were over, but the rest of him wanted a fight and had since Snape's trial a year ago.
"Don't want to hear the truth?" Snape's gaze burned him. Two spots of colour had risen on the sallow cheeks and he wore a manic grin, more bared teeth than delight. "I wonder what you would have looked like if James had let you develop naturally. I expect you'd've got the nose."
Harry lunged at him, and Snape caught his wrists easily. "I hate you!"
"Continuing a fine Snape tradition, I see."
"Going to hit me now?" Harry snarled. "That's another fine Snape tradition, isn't it?"
Snape jerked back, the blood draining from his face. Harry followed, stepping close.
"Oh, I'm grateful Bridget gave me up all right. I'd rather be locked in a cupboard and starved than have you for a father."
"You wretched-- I am saving your life."
"Because I got you out of prison early. If I'd had nothing to offer in return you wouldn't have."
Snape's nostrils flared. "No one does anything for free, Potter."
"I don't see what dying for me gained James and Lily," Harry said. "And that, not any stupid charm, is why James is my father and you're not."
Snape left after their argument, and did not return until Wednesday. Three days without a transmagication session left Harry nauseous and battling a migraine. He let Snape in himself, and neither man said a word for the entire session.
On Thursday Neville was leaving as Snape arrived, and Snape summoned his old falsely solicitous manner until Neville fled in fear and confusion.
"Please don't do that to him. Ron and Hermione can handle you going 'round the twist, but you make Neville nervous."
"And I suppose James would have loved all your friends," Snape said bitterly, and Harry tried not to smirk.
"Did I hurt your feel--"
"You certainly did not."
"All right. Vinculum."
They sat on the lounges, as far apart as they could without dislocating any shoulders. Harry closed his eyes and tried to avoid antagonizing Snape. Snape had made his point, and Harry had no wish to provoke him into another absence.
He could feel Snape's heartbeat at the edge of his perception, and his skin prickled.
"Stop staring." Harry opened his eyes, but Snape didn't look away.
"I'm attempting to find something of myself in you," Snape said. "Thus far you appear to have been fathered by pod people."
"Yes. They're aliens who leave their young on earth to be raised by muggles. I saw a documentary about them at the theatre."
"You don't actually... believe in pod people, do you?"
Snape gave him a Look, and after that things between them went back to what passed for normal.
"I have to use the toilet," Harry said, and Snape sent him a narrow suspicious glare. "I'm sorry. I tried to hold it."
"Get your elf to bring a chamber pot. I'm not getting up."
"Dobby won't come in here. He doesn't like you."
"You could make him if you wanted to," Snape grumbled, but he stood.
They staggered to the toilet, fighting each other's pace the whole way, and Harry yanked down his zip. The relief made his knees weak, but once his mind was no longer on his bladder he realized Snape was neither looking away, nor making any attempt to keep his hands at the spell's maximum distance.
Harry grit his teeth at Snape's bland expression, and tried to ignore the knuckles brushing his groin. The stream of piss was trickling away, and he still had to go.
"Potter, hurry up."
"I'm trying. If you'd stop touching me--"
Harry's legs were trembling. "I can't go with you touching me."
"I'm not. Stop whinging and--"
They collapsed into a heap on the bathroom floor. Harry lay panting with his arms twisted underneath him and his face and cock pressed to the cold tile.
"Potter, are you queer?"
"You can tell me," Snape said. "I won't love you any less."
"You don't love me at all."
"Then I can hardly love you less, can I?"
"It's not your business."
"So you are."
"I didn't say that."
"You didn't deny it either."
"I like girls," Harry said.
Harry banged his head against the floor. "Except sometimes when I don't. Which isn't very often."
"I see. I think I may have found a resemblance."
"You are not queer."
"Except when I am, which is frequently."
"You slept with Bridget."
"That was when I wasn't. Besides, she offered. Have you seen photos of her? She was quite fine."
Harry had thought her rather plain, but didn't say so. "This is like the orphaned puppies and the pod people. You're lying."
"Really, Harry, you need to work on reigning in your imagination. Keep telling wild stories and the press will think you've gone mad again."
"I really do hate you."
Harry pressed his cheek to the tile and closed his eyes. Snape's heart filled the silence, and it took Harry several minutes to realize he was hearing with his ears, not feeling the beat with the magic; Snape's chest was close. Harry shut his eyes and willed himself to sleep away the last half of the session.
"James only died for you," Snape said, so softly Harry was sure he wasn't meant to hear. "But I'm going to save you, you ungrateful brat."
"You haven't said a word all afternoon, Harry." Hermione pushed the plate of biscuits towards him, and then topped off his tea. It hardly needed topping off. "Is something wrong?"
"Mmm," Harry said. He stared at the row houses across from Ron and Hermione's flat, not really seeing them. "Snape thinks I'm queer."
Harry stirred himself from the window and picked up his cup. Tea spilled into the saucer. "Is that all you have to say?"
"Snape's been saying a lot of things to provoke you," she said, and then paused. "Is there a reason for him to take this angle?"
"We... I got a little... No. There's no reason."
"All right. But if you are, you might want to let me tell Ron. You'll get upset when he puts his foot in his mouth and there'll be a fight and then I'll have to run between you while he figures out how to apologize and you figure out how to admit he didn't mean to be hurtful." Hermione sipped her tea.
"You've put a lot of thought into this."
"I've had time. You had the biggest crush on Cedric Diggory."
"I did not!"
"Drink your tea."
Harry drank. "Cedric was rather fit," he said wistfully after a moment.
"If you like tall, dark and handsome. I prefer ginger, myself." She scratched Crookshanks' head, and then caught him before he could leap onto the table. "Speaking of which, I have to be at the portkey point to meet him. Are you up for the walk?"
Ron had returned with a dozen stories for every hour he'd spent with Charlie, a decorated bag for Hermione, and a polished set of Hungarian Horntail scales for Harry. He handed over the gifts as they walked back, wind snatching at their clothes.
"They should have given you something for beating the Horntail in the tournament," Ron said as he slung his bag over one shoulder and his arm around Hermione's waist.
"Didn't he have the biggest crush on Cedric?" Hermione said, shrugging off Harry's attempt to shush her, and Ron laughed.
"He turned into such a babbling prat around Cho that I'd forgotten about Cedric."
"Did everyone but me know?" Harry asked.
"I don't think Cedric did," Ron said.
"No, he knew." Hermione patted Harry on the arm. They turned up Solingmoor Street; Ron and Hermione's building was on the next corner. "You were too young for him."
"What brought this on?" Ron asked.
"Snape thinks Harry's gay."
"Oh. Well he is a little bit, isn't he? Not that it's obvious, mate. You don't go mincing or lisping everywhere."
Harry gave Hermione a pointed stare. "Can I hit him now, or do you want me to wait until he's unpacked?"
They dragged him down to the pub for supper, and Harry ordered a ploughman's lunch with reluctance; nothing else they were serving met with Inger's dietary instructions.
He returned to Grimmauld Place past eleven and pleasantly tipsy to find Snape waiting on the front stairs.
"Do you know how late it is?"
"Spare me the fake concern," Harry said. He pushed past Snape and unlocked the door. Snape followed him into the hallway.
"Someone who is supposedly suffering a life-threatening curse should not be out wandering the streets at this time of night."
"Yes, well someone is receiving treatments, and if someone weren't showing improvement then spending all this time with his obnoxious father would be a waste, wouldn't it?" Harry snarled.
Snape trailed into the drawing room after Harry. "You called me your father." Snape's arms snaked around Harry, crushed him back against Snape's chest. "My son."
"Get off!" Harry flailed until he found a fistful of greasy hair and yanked. Snape let go and stood back, smirking. "What are you doing here anyway? It's Sunday."
"We missed two sessions this week."
"Whose fault was that?"
"Yours," Snape said. He sat down on the lounge and began shedding layers. He wore a new shirt -- really new, not just one Harry hadn't seen before. Harry lowered himself to the other lounge, ready to bolt if Snape tried to hug him again.
"Vinculum," Snape said. "Aperito. How are Ronald and Hermy? That's who you were out with, correct? I would have expected you to succeed had you been trawling the pubs for bed partners."
"Though perhaps your Potter charm failed you, seeing that it is in fact Snape charm, and we're notoriously short on it."
"I mean it. Stop talking."
"All right. I'll lie here quietly. It's an enjoyable spell once it gets going, isn't it? Makes me feel all warm and fatherly." Snape's tone was far from warm and fatherly, and closer to the tone Harry would use when describing flobberworms.
Harry closed his eyes, determined to ignore Snape. The man shifted closer. Surprised, as Snape usually kept their arms in a more comfortable position for himself, Harry folded his hands over his stomach.
A second later, Snape's warm palm settled on Harry's belly next to his hands.
Harry opened his eyes. Snape had closed his. "What are you doing?"
"Lying here quietly," Snape said. He flexed his fingers. Harry could feel the dampness of Snape's hand through his t-shirt. Snape, facing the other direction in his chaise lounge, laid his head on Harry's thigh.
Harry sat up. "Finite incantatum!"
"You simply can't be my son," Snape said. A cold cloth touched Harry's forehead and he whimpered. "Such an imbecile could not have sprung from my loins."
"Should have stuck to blokes," Harry moaned, and cringed at the sound of his own voice.
"Indeed. But then we'd have had Longbottom as our saviour. Or like as not, our splatter on the wall. Look up."
"Too bright." Harry tried to curl into a ball but Snape wouldn't let him.
"You ended the session too early, you can deal with the consequences, Potter."
"What happened to 'son'?"
"We'll add 'foolishly self-destructive' to the list of times you can be James' son. Look up." Snape pried Harry's eyes open and flashed the lit end of his wand in them. Harry cried out as the light drove daggers into his brain. "Stop whinging," Snape said.
"I'm going to be sick."
"It's your rug. Do proceed." The wand flashed out. "I don't believe you've done yourself permanent injury."
"Why were you touching me like that? Why were you touching me at all?"
"Just showing a little fatherly affection. Daddy didn't touch your no-no place, Harrykins."
"Oh, piss off." Harry tugged the cold cloth down over his eyes. Snape had left him on the floor where he'd fallen, and Harry was considering spending the night there.
"If you insist." A wet kiss landed on his cheek, too near his mouth for comfort. "No need to get up. I'll see myself out."
"You've got to stop letting him get to you," Ron said when Harry arrived at his office in a panic at lunchtime on Monday.
"But I think... I think he made a pass at me. What if he does it again today?"
"He's only doing these things to drive you mental, mate. Think of him like a boggart. He's got to have a weakness, you just have to find the right thing to deflate him."
Easy enough to say, Harry thought as he sat on the chaise lounge with his knees pressed together, waiting for Snape to arrive and humiliate him. It's more like I'm Snape's boggart because he's the one finding my weaknesses.
Except the way to defeat a boggart was to turn a fear into a defense, and Snape wasn't afraid of...
Harry suddenly felt very stupid.
When Snape arrived at three, once again wearing the new white shirt, Harry had tea waiting.
"I have to attend another gathering," Harry said conversationally as he poured. "Scrimgeour really didn't want to let you out early. I wouldn't agree to back his run at a second term, so we compromised, and now I have to appear at more Ministry functions. Milk?"
Snape had stopped in the entrance and was eyeing the tea service as though it were made of vipers. He didn't answer so Harry added the milk anyway.
"It's on Friday, in the afternoon but neither of us is working anyway. I thought you'd like to go with me, Dad."
Snape finally came to life, yanking off his scarf and jerking the coat buttons so hard Harry thought they would fly off. "I have plans."
"You can't have much else to do if you're waiting half the night on my doorstep."
"It wasn't half the night."
"Besides, you wanted to be seen with me. I'm only fulfilling our bargain. Dad."
Snape sat down and drew his wand. "Vinculum. Very well. If you desire my company so much."
"Oh, I do," Harry purred. He laced his fingers through Snape's, then lay back and enjoyed the heady feel of Snape's magic while Snape tried to free his hand.
Snape wore the white shirt again on Tuesday. He had a firm set to his jaw, and he accepted the tea with a murmur. They had a painfully polite conversation over scones, during which they called each other 'Dad' and 'Son' at every opportunity, and then they sat on the chaise lounges and had another painfully polite conversation over the transmagication session.
I'm not breaking, you bastard, Harry thought as hard as he could during a lull, and Snape must have heard for he narrowed his eyes.
"That must be uncomfortable, Son," Snape said. "Why don't you come over here?"
Before Harry could answer Snape had looped an arm around him and pulled him sideways. Harry ended up half on Snape's lounge, with his back to Snape's chest and his arms crossed in front of him.
"Yes, Dad," Harry grated. "This is so much more comfortable." He wriggled and squirmed until he felt he'd bruised enough essential organs.
"Would you like me to sing?"
Snape had a surprisingly pleasant voice, but he sang so close to Harry's ear that all Harry could concentrate on was the breath tickling his neck. He couldn't follow the lyrics, but the song was sad and sweet and old-fashioned, in a minor key.
"What's the song called?" he asked when Snape finished.
Snape drew a sharp breath, probably to fuel a sharp comment, then let it out. "Yes. Son."
"You have a very nice voice."
Steeling himself, Harry kissed Snape's cheek. Snape tensed and his nostrils flared; his eyes were much wider than usual.
Harry grinned. "Thank you, Daddy."
By Thursday Snape had developed an immunity to Harry's polite kisses, but Harry refused to back down.
The problem was, neither would Snape.
"I noticed at the wedding that you don't have dress robes," Harry said. He'd successfully migrated tea to the small settee, where he sat pressed against a stiff-backed Snape.
"One makes very little as a teacher, and the legal fees for my trial were quite high," Snape said rather pointedly.
Harry swallowed a comment on the pay at Hogwarts; he felt certain an esteemed private school would compensate its teachers well, but he didn't really know. "Anyway, I bought you some robes for tomorrow." He nodded at a brown paper parcel on the side table. "Madam Malkin still had your measurements."
Snape made no move to open the package, and Harry sipped his tea to cover his disappointment.
"I've been a patron of Madam Malkin for years," Snape said. "I do believe you were conceived in one of her fitting rooms."
Harry choked. Hot tea ran down his chin to soak his collar.
"Napkin?" Snape said, and Harry snatched it from his hand.
Snape smirked through the entire session. Even sitting with his back to Snape's chest, as Snape insisted, Harry could feel his smugness. By the time the timer sounded Harry was prepared to strip naked and run through Diagon Alley singing one of the Sorting Hat's songs if it meant winning.
Snape would only laugh at him though. It had to be personal.
"Well," Snape said as he picked up the package and tucked it under his arm. "Give Madam Malkin my regards next time you stop by her sho--"
Harry mashed his lips to Snape's, shoving the man into a bookcase. The package fell to the floor and Snape's hands flew to Harry's shoulders, clenched there...
Checkmate! Harry thought.
And then Snape opened his mouth and shoved his tongue into Harry's.
Harry tore away. "Bloody fucking hell!"
"If you wanted a goodnight kiss, you should have asked, Son." Snape, breathing heavily but head high with triumph, retrieved the package and let himself out.
The moment Snape had left, Harry took a deep breath and apparated to Ron's office. He bashed his elbow on a filing cabinet, but he didn't splinch himself.
"Er, hi," Ron said as Harry flung himself into a chair. "Should you be apparating alone yet?"
"No. I took your advice with Snape."
"Did it work?" Ron asked.
Harry thought about Snape's mouth and the way it parted under his own. "Yeah, it's working. Do you and Hermione have any, um, toys I could borrow?"
"Sex toys. I won't use them, I just want to leave them around the drawing room for Snape."
"Mate, you're starting to worry me."
"Oh, never mind. I'll ask Fred." Harry apparated to the joke shop, leaving Ron sitting open-mouthed at his desk.
Friday morning did not go well for Harry. Not only did Snape fail to react to the neon-green and somewhat frightening thing Fred had given Harry, but he also wore the robes Harry bought for him.
The close-fitting ultra-modern robes Harry bought for him. The ones made of thin shimmery red material, shot with fine gold thread.
"I can sink no lower in the public's eyes," Snape told him, catching Harry's expression. "All that remains to me is your... good opinion. I would never reject a gift from you, Son."
Temporarily defeated, Harry plastered on a smile, shook out his plain black dress robes, and offered Snape his arm.
"The look on Scrimgeour's face!" Harry howled, pounding the arm of the settee. "I can't believe you did that to him."
"I only told the truth," Snape said, voice reproving. The corners of his mouth were twitching, so Harry didn't buy the act. "He did sign the papers for my early release."
"But to thank him in front of everyone... There's no way he's getting a second term now." Harry grinned. "I think I'll take you to the rest of the functions I have to attend. Whoever thought being loud and rude could be such a benefit?"
"All of Gryffindor House, apparently."
Harry let the comment slide. He sat up straight and eyed Snape, who was collecting his coat and scarf. "That robe actually looks half-decent on you."
Snape gave him a mocking bow. "Any time you'd care to take me shopping at Madam Malkin's..."
On Saturday Snape arrived early, and Harry asked Dobby to make a large breakfast. Dobby was overjoyed until Harry told him to make Snape's favourites, and then his ears drooped and he cast Harry mournful looks for the rest of the morning.
Snape turned out to appreciate a good English breakfast: eggs, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, a small dish of kippers -- all of it fried, greasy, salty or all three. Harry regarded it wistfully before Dobby brought him a poached egg on brown toast and the fizzy purple muck Harry had to take with meals.
"I haven't poisoned it, you know," Harry said when Snape inspected the food.
"That would be foolish of you," Snape said. "At least until the treatments are done." He broke a yolk with his fork and stole a piece of Harry's toast. Harry stole a piece of bacon in retribution, only to have Dobby appear and take it away.
"Bloody house elf," Harry muttered.
"Obey your healer's instructions then."
"Oh ho, it's father now, is it? Shall I turn you over my knee and call you by all three names?"
I will not blush. I won't. "According to you I should have been Nicodemus. That's enough of a mouthful."
"Indeed. I don't care for middle names anyway. And Nicodemus Snape is a handsome enough name. You should consider changing it."
Harry mashed his poached egg. "No."
"Suit yourself. And don't play with your food."
Seething, Harry waited until Snape had finished breakfast and was rolling up his sleeves for the transmagication, and then Harry sat on his lap.
Harry hoped he was squishing important body parts, but that only made him think of Snape in the toilet with his trousers open. "Vinculum. Aperito."
Harry forced himself to relax against Snape's body. His skin was prickling like it had before he'd adjusted to feeling someone else inside him.
Someone else's magic inside him.
The turn his thoughts had taken surely meant Snape was winning. Harry put a hand on Snape's thigh. Snape twisted his wrist so his own hand lay on Harry's thigh. Harry tipped his head back to lay on Snape's shoulder. Snape rested his chin on Harry's shoulder, and breathed on his neck.
Harry wiggled his arse.
Snape nuzzled him.
He clearly and deliberately nuzzled Harry behind the ear, and then chuckled when Harry shivered.
"Another song, Son?"
"No," Harry said shortly. He'd given Snape the advantage last time, letting him sing. The man had such a sharp tongue Harry had assumed it would cut any music to ribbons.
Snape, the unutterable bastard, started humming Rowena's Lament.
The session ended before Harry could think of a suitable counter offense, and Snape collected his coat.
"Would you like a game of backgammon?" Harry blurted.
"No," Snape said, and kissed him full on the mouth, tongues, teeth, thigh between the legs and all, until Harry thought his knees would give out. He clutched at the bookshelves, knocked something heavy onto the rug. Snape caught him, his entire body tense under his coat where Harry felt his was melting.
When Snape pulled away his eyes were wide and his nostrils flared, but he wore that damned smirk again.
"Tomorrow," Snape said, voice heavy with promise.
"You... I..." Harry licked his lips, saw Snape's eyes follow the motion. "Tomorrow then. I'm looking forward to it. Dad."
After the door slammed behind Snape, Harry slid down the bookcase to sit on the floor.
"Is Harry Potter being well? Should Dobby fetch the healers?"
"No, Dobby," Harry said into his knees. "I'm fine, I just..." He lifted his head to find Dobby crouched beside him, ears quivering in concern. "I need to do something." Something physical, something to burn off the restless energy coiling in his limbs. "Let's clean the attic."
"Okay!" Dobby clapped his hands and went off to get the dust cloths.
Dusty and pleasantly tired, Harry stepped into the shower. Hot water sluiced over his shoulders, sweeping away sweat and dirt, though he hadn't really done much work; cleaning had turned into browsing through the trunks and boxes of things -- cautiously, as no one had ever given the attic more than a cursory check for pests and cursed objects.
Among his finds was a box of photos that contained a grinning gap-toothed Sirius in a ridiculous blue velvet suit, his hair artificially curled and tied back with a white ribbon. Another showed a group of twenty or so children, toddlers through to Hogwarts age, milling outside Fortescue's ice cream parlour. Sirius, no more than seven, wore a gold crown; everyone else wore cracker hats. Harry was sure the boy standing far away from Sirius and looking sulky under his paper cowboy hat was James.
Harry smiled to himself as he leaned into the spray. He'd needed the distraction from Snape, from being ill, from the rootless feeling he'd been nursing since he'd discovered the adoption papers.
At least the treatments were working. Harry felt stronger, he rarely became dizzy, and he never got sick unless he disobeyed Inger's dietary instructions and that, he thought, was caused by the potions, not the curse. He soaped up a flannel and ran it down his chest. The coarse material dragged across his nipples.
Definitely working, he thought as his cock took interest. He hadn't wanked much in the last few months, but he hadn't missed it either. Snape's goading--
No, he wouldn't think of Snape. Harry shivered in the hot spray, and wrapped his hands more firmly around his cock. The flannel fell to the tub's floor.
He'd think of... not Ginny. Cho? Fleur? Unbidden, the image of plain freckled Bridget waiting at the window came to mind, and he pushed it away.
"Have you seen photos of her?" Snape whispered in his head. "She was quite fine."
Tonks? No, he'd never look her in the eye again. Herm-- Ew. Angelina?
That's it. Angelina in the shower after practice. Maybe the girls' side wasn't working, maybe she'd come over in just a towel, her wind-rough skin still muddy and smelling of a good hard workout, her muscular--
"Fuck," Harry muttered. "Fine. Just great. Even Ron thinks I like blokes too, so I might as well."
He scrunched his eyes shut and thought about hard angular bodies in the shower after quidditch, and that led to thinking about Cedric. It only made him sad, and sent his thoughts spinning away from fantasy and into speculation and regret.
Annoyed, he shut off the tap and snatched the towel from the doorknob. He dried off, ignoring his cock when it took interest in the procedure, pulled on some pyjama bottoms, and crawled into the sagging old four-poster bed.
As he drifted off, the haunting melody Snape had sung crept into his sleep-fuddled thoughts.
I'll meet you in Hogg's Meade, Rowena, my love,
If you'd but come down from your tower
I'll be at the May Pole, come down from above
Else I would climb up to your bower.
"Is Professor Snape wanting another cup of tea?"
Harry paused with a biscuit halfway to his mouth. In a temporary setback, he'd retreated to the armchair, leaving Snape in possession of both the settee and the teapot. He peered across the drawing room at Dobby, who stood at Snape's elbow.
"I've yet to finish the first," Snape growled.
"Biscuit?" Dobby asked. "Scone? Dobby could be making Professor Snape those special chocolate pastries he is liking so much--"
"Potter, call off your house elf before it tries to inject Bavarian cream down my throat."
"Dobby," Harry said, but Dobby flung his arms around Snape's leg.
"Oh, Dobby has been a bad elf and a bad friend! Dobby is not wanting Professor Snape in Harry Potter's house but now Harry Potter is happy and not falling down any more and cleaning the attic with Dobby, all since Professor Snape came!"
"Indeed." Snape held his teacup out of danger. "I wonder what Harry Potter could be so happy about?"
Harry dropped his biscuit. "Dobby, I think we're done with tea."
Dobby cast Snape a look of pure adoration, stole the man's still-full cup from his hand, and vanished with the rest of the service.
"Not a word," Harry said as he sat on the chaise.
"About the fact that you're cleaning attics or the fact that you're 'happy' and not falling down anymore?" Snape sat down behind him and wrapped his arms around Harry. "Vinculum."
"All of it," Harry muttered. "Aperito." He lay back and Snape rolled them sideways.
I'm spooning with Snape, Harry thought. I'm spooning with my father. He didn't know which was worse.
"Isn't this cozy?" Snape murmured in his ear. "Tell me, Son, just how... happy were you last night?"
Harry thought of his aborted wank and pressed his face into his arm, but that only gave Snape access to the back of Harry's neck. "Did you just lick me?"
"It was a fatherly lick," Snape said. "That's what you want of me, is it not? To play father?"
"I want you to finish the transmagication sessions and go away."
"I think I will stay for backgammon tonight," Snape said, and kissed Harry just behind his ear. "If your invitation still stands."
"Fine," Harry grated, not about to lose now. He forced his voice to huskiness. "Maybe I do want you. As a... father."
Snape's breath caught.
Goal, Harry thought. He wriggled backwards, pressing into Snape's body. Snape started to press forward to meet him, and then abruptly scooted back.
Harry followed, and Snape retreated, until a wobble told Harry Snape had reached the edge of the chaise.
Gotcha, you bastard. Harry pressed his hips back, and encountered a definite firmness. Snape froze, made a funny high-pitched sound, and then pushed forward to meet Harry's arse.
"Did you not get a good enough look in the toilet?" Snape asked. His voice was rougher, the thread of his heartbeat faster.
Unbidden thoughts of quidditch and showers and Angelina and Cedric popped into Harry's mind, and his cock abruptly reminded him it hadn't been satisfied. His trousers tightened and his skin went tingly.
"I wasn't looking. I didn't." Harry curved back into Snape. He was a Gryffindor. He lived on direct confrontation. "But... you could show me again."
Snape stiffened, and Harry felt a wet heat on the back of his trousers.
"Did you just...?"
Snape didn't reply.
"You did," Harry said. "Oh my God." He didn't know if this meant he'd won or lost, or if--
Snape's hand snaked down, dragging Harry's with it, and settled over his crotch. He squeezed firmly, then again, and bit Harry's neck, and on the third squeeze Harry's toes curled and his eyes rolled back and he came in his trousers.
He'd never, even at the height of adolescence when he was wanking three times a day if he could find the privacy, come in his trousers.
He shut his eyes in embarrassment, uncertain which of the many unsavoury details of the encounter most made him want to sink into the earth.
Snape wiped his hand on the side of Harry's trousers, and that roused him enough to remember his voice.
"Still staying for backgammon tonight... Dad?"
"This is my house, not your class--"
Snape covered Harry's mouth with his hand. The same hand he'd just used to... to bring Harry off. He could smell the musky scent of himself. Harry tugged halfheartedly at it, and then curled his hand under his cheek.
They lay quietly for the rest of the session, Harry wide-eyed and Snape breathing heavily.
For the first time, Harry wondered if Snape heard his heartbeat too, but at the end of the session, Snape had his coat on in a flash, and he left before Harry could think of a way to ask.
"Do you think about your parents?"
Ron blinked at him. After attempting to help with dishes and being told it was rude to leave guests alone ("Harry's not a guest, Hermione, he's Harry."), Ron had brought a couple of beers out to the living room. "Sure, I guess. Not as much as when I was living at home, of course."
"No, I mean..." Harry gulped down a third of his beer. "I mean during sex."
"Oh God. Does this have anything to do with Snape and that thing you borrowed from Fred? Wait, I don't want to know." Ron took a swig. "Okay, yeah. Sometimes one or the other will just pop in there, asking if I've changed my socks or reminding me it's Bill's birthday next week or something."
Harry clutched the cold bottle. "What about in a sexual manner? Like a fantasy."
"Mate, at least tell me you're talking about James."
Harry flushed and mumbled something about Sirius.
"That's all right then. I had a crush on my godmother when I was ten. She had the hugest-- Hi, Hermione. Want a beer?"
Harry hunched over his bottle and tried to make himself very small.
Harry paused with his hand on the doorknob, and took a deep breath before flinging the door open. "Hi, Dad!"
"Good morning, Son." Snape's smile was manic. "Sleep well?"
"Like a baby. You?"
"Are you going to come in?" Harry asked, and Snape started. He swept past Harry with his nose in the air.
"I had Dobby make those chocolate things you like," Harry said. "And you mentioned a fondness for Bavarian cream..."
Snape spun around in the doorway to the drawing room and backed Harry into the wall. "I believe we can dispense with the niceties," Snape murmured, and then swept into the drawing room.
"This is the Quidditch World Cup of all awkward morning afters," Harry muttered. He swallowed hard, tugged down the hem of his shirt, and followed to the doorway. He stopped there, limbs robbed of momentum.
Snape had removed his shirt along with his coat. He crooked his finger at Harry, and then patted the chaise. "It's warm in here. I hope you don't mind."
It was warm. Harry tugged at his collar, then found himself pulling off his t-shirt. He dropped it on the floor, and sat down beside Snape. Harry threw him a defiant glare before miles of bare skin, soft and comforting despite its owner being neither, pressed against his back.
"Vinculum," Snape said, drawing the word out low in Harry's ear; it held an unmistakable thread of warning.
"Aperito," Harry shot back, challenging and defiant, and Snape lay back, pulling Harry between his legs, back to his chest. They folded their hands over Harry's stomach, and Harry sucked in a breath when Snape ran his fingers along the waistband of Harry's trousers.
"Shall I sing to you, Son?"
Harry managed an incoherent sound, and then cleared his throat. "If you like."
Snape sang the same sad melody he had before:
I'll wait through all seasons, sweet Gawain, my love
'Til we'll go a-maying at day's break
I'm down from my bower but you've gone above
And I've no wand can ope Heaven's gate.
"Was that why Ravenclaw's wand was in the Black Lake?" Harry asked when the song ended, and Snape bit his ear.
"I'm not singing for pleasure, foolish boy. Compliment me on my voice again."
Harry squirmed; Snape's fingers had dipped below his waistband. "I don't see you complimenting me on anything."
"You have outstanding taste in sperm donors," Snape said, and Harry's face heated. "Would you like another?"
"I'm good, thanks anyway."
"Excellent." Snape pulled him closer and undid his flies. He paused there, as though giving Harry a chance to concede.
Harry bit his lip, tempted to simply tell Snape that he'd won, that he could have whatever he wanted, from the key to Harry's vault to his abject public groveling, if only they could return to a state of uncomplicated mutual dislike.
The words stuck to his tongue, and after a long moment Harry had to admit their dislike had never been uncomplicated. He'd been foolish to expect their truce to go smoothly.
We're as far from smooth as we can get and still be on the same planet, Harry thought as Snape, apparently taking silence for consent, wrapped his hand around Harry's stiffening cock. Harry laughed aloud, and Snape huffed in his ear.
"Can you imagine," Harry said, "how horrified we'd be if we did this and then found out we're... us?"
"I am horrified," Snape said blandly, turning Harry's head to kiss him. "Horrified and appalled at your perversion."
The hardness pressing into the small of Harry's back said otherwise.
Snape stroked him, stopping now and then to knead his sac, until Harry was twisting and arching into his touch. Snape's magic no longer felt like a looming presence inside him but a companion pacing beside him, and Harry wondered if this was how James and Sirius felt running full moons with Lupin.
Their hearts kept time to the slow strokes, beating disconcertingly in tandem until the timer sounded and Snape fumbled for his wand. Harry found it first and shoved it at him, and Snape broke their kisses long enough to end the spell.
The sleepy haze suddenly ignited, and Harry could hardly sit still.
"Oh God," Harry gasped.
"Shut up." Harry scrabbled at his trousers, tugging at the hips, which had lodged at his spread thighs. Why do they make trousers this complicated?
Snape finally shoved him onto the other chaise and yanked Harry's trousers off, pulling them inside out and leaving one foot inside the cuff. He tugged his own flies open and fell on Harry. He was unexpectedly heavy, but Harry refused to complain. He spread his legs and let Snape slide between his thighs.
"I don't have anything," Harry said.
Snape jerked his wand at the long-cold tea service behind him, and muttered something. He fumbled blindly through the dishes, knocking over several, until he found the Bavarian cream. He tossed it on the chaise, spilling half the contents onto the upholstery. The cream had gone translucent yellow and distinctly jelly-like.
"There. Do not even think I am letting this--" Snape tugged Harry's cock, making him arch off the chaise. "--inexperienced thing anywhere near the tender parts of my anatomy."
"You're my father," Harry gasped. "Teach me."
"I was your professor first," Snape said, climbing back on top of Harry. "A demonstration is in order. Take notes, I'm grading your performance."
"I really, really hate you."
Snape tilted his head, suddenly serious. "No, you don't," he said, leaving Harry speechless. He dipped his fingers in the lubricant and brought them to Harry's entrance. Harry could only clutch at Snape's forearms as two slick fingers pushed inside.
Snape worked him open carefully, stopping at times to kiss Harry and stroke him back to full hardness; the fire built higher each time Snape rekindled it, until Harry could hardly keep still.
"Get on with it," Harry cried after Snape spent a good five minutes tonguing his slit while stroking a spot deep inside his arse that made him want to climb the walls. "Just fuck me already. It can't be that bad."
"You may have five points for enthusiasm," Snape said. He pulled his fingers free and wiped them on the chaise. "We shall see how many your lack of caution costs you."
"You know I'm not going to flinch," Harry said crossly, and Snape pushed Harry's legs high and positioned the tip of his cock at Harry's entrance.
"I should hope not, after I've just gone to the trouble of ensuring you can't without losing face," Snape said, and pushed in.
It didn't hurt, not like Harry expected. A burn where his skin stretched around the base of Snape's cock, an ache deep inside. Harry blew his hair from his eyes and looked up at Snape, who was looking down with an opaque expression. Sweaty strands of hair clung to his face.
The ridiculousness of their position -- Harry with his knees around his ears and Snape crouched over him -- made Harry smile, and that in turn made Snape scowl. Harry laughed. "It's silly, isn't it?" he said before Snape could take offense.
"Silly?" Snape asked, arching an eyebrow, and then he moved, and no, it wasn't silly.
The hot slick hardness Snape drove into him rubbed just the right way, building tension with each stroke, sparking off increasingly stronger bursts of pleasure. Harry fumbled between his legs, squeezed his cock hard. Just a bit more...
"Come on," Snape muttered, and Harry suddenly realized the nature of the competition had shifted.
"Oh no." He let go of his cock. "You first."
Snape swore. "I'm older. You won't outlast me."
Harry stretched up to kiss him. "First time. I probably won't come at all." He lowered his voice. "You're so big inside me, Daddy--" Snape clapped a hand over his mouth, but with a few more thrusts he lost his rhythm. The friction lessened, and the tight stretch faded and Snape shuddered and suddenly got a whole lot heavier.
Harry had a moment to wallow in triumph before Snape pulled out and slid off the chaise, onto his knees on the floor. He lowered his head to Harry's erection, and swallowed his cock.
Harry had received too few blow jobs to have built an tolerance for them, and on the fifth down stroke of the tight circle of Snape's lips, Harry came, arching and swearing, down Snape's throat. He collapsed, panting, onto the chaise, while Snape leaned over, lifted the lid of the teapot, and spat into it.
After a while Snape stood up and tucked himself back into his trousers. Harry observed the wreckage of his drawing room: tea dishes everywhere, come and lubricant all over both chaise lounges, clothes on the floor and hanging from the table lamp. He still had one foot inside his trouser leg, and his arse was beginning to slide into the gap between the chaise lounges. If they'd had a bed--
"Why haven't we been lying down on a bed for the sessions?"
Snape stopped in the midst of buttoning his shirt. "If we'd laid down facing each other..."
"... we'd have had fewer stiff necks. Well, I'm not putting a bed in the drawing room," Harry said, and pressed a kiss to Snape's cheek. "Next time you can come upstairs." He turned his trousers right side out and grinned to himself as Snape snatched up his coat and fled.
After the door slammed shut, Harry hummed 'Rowena's Lament' to himself. The chaise lounges, he decided, were going to the charity shop.
"Your magic is almost back to full strength," Inger said. She kept tugging on her hair, and Harry wondered just what plans she had for her success. She'd mentioned an article in a journal he'd never heard of. "I'd like to call in the cursebreaker next week."
Harry let out a shaky breath. "It's almost over then?"
"Almost. I'll schedule you for Wednesday." Inger made a note on a sheet of parchment, folded it into an airplane, and send it out into the corridor. "Cut back your potions to once a day, at breakfast, and discontinue the transmagication sessions."
"Brilliant," Harry said, and Inger cast him an odd look. "No more stiff necks." No more sniping, no more smirking. No more Snape and the turmoil he carried around like a spare wand.
Harry left St Mungo's and the faint scent of bedpans and antiseptic, not quite willing to believe the hours he spent each week there would soon dwindle to none. On the way home he stopped in Diagon Alley, more for the pleasure of walking among people than because he needed anything. He ran into Lupin and Tonks, back from Spain with winter tans, and had a hot chocolate at the Leaky Cauldron with them. Tom had the Christmas decorations out and everyone seemed cheerful.
When he arrived at twelve Grimmauld Place, Harry found Snape on the front step again. He held a cheap novel open in one hand, and a half-eaten sandwich sat on a napkin on his lap. He had crumbs on his scarf and his fingers were chapped.
"You're late," he said without looking up as Harry unlocked the door.
"I didn't realize you'd be here." Harry left the door closed and leaned on it. "I've been at the hospital."
"Which is why you have chocolate on your chin."
Harry scrubbed at his face. "Inger's going to try and break the curse next week."
Snape took a bite of his sandwich and turned the page with his thumb. "So my particular services will shortly be no longer required."
"Actually, the sessions are done. You can get on with... whatever you had planned."
"I see." Another bite.
Watching Snape's eyes, Harry had to concede he really was reading. Harry fidgeted. "If you don't believe I've fulfilled our bargain, Scrimgeour's hosting a dinner party for contributors to the Bones Memorial..." He caught the smirk lurking under the fall of black hair, and bit off the rest of the invitation. Harry flung the door open and stormed inside, but Snape caught him in the hallway, hands rough on Harry's clothes.
"I'd be delighted to attend with you," Snape said, backing Harry into the wall. "You still owe me, and I'm not inclined to let our... special relationship slip away." Snape stepped closer. "Did you think I would abandon my son?"
"You didn't want me," Harry said. The words I'm not your son did not occur until he'd already answered.
"Oh, but I want you now, don't I? Your misbehaviour holds a certain appeal now that I can claim responsibility for it."
Harry stared at the devilish smile playing on Snape's thin, demanding, entirely too clever mouth.
Snape quirked an eyebrow at him.
"My God. You really are my father."
"Mmm. The Sorting Hat may have made allusions to a certain Gryffindor-esque disregard of the rules whilst sorting me." Snape's dark glittering eyes caught Harry's gaze, drawing him down into the maelstrom of his thoughts, and Harry heard, quite clearly:
Checkmate, you little snot.
Then Snape kissed him, and Harry decided he didn't mind losing.
Malfoy: I trusted you, once.
Snape: Not enough, or you wouldn't be here. If you're wise, you'll not cross me when it comes to my... Harry.
Malfoy: How disappointing. He'll live then?
Snape: He always does.
Transcript of prisoner interview 3402-0035 (MALFOY, D.B.; SNAPE, S.T.)
18 January, 2000, AZKABAN