Title: Temporal Manoeuvres In The Dark
Author:The Holly and the Ivy
Pairing: Snape/m, Snape/Harry
Summary: In the process of completing a probationary task, Harry discovers he can finally answer questions he never thought would be answered. If he searches for answers, will he lose what he holds dear... or gain everything he's ever coveted?
Author's Notes: I know Ginny was one of your cautions, but you asked for infidelity, so she's in it to the point of moving things along. I hope that's all right. To clarify in case anyone wonders about the spells, they are all capitalized, but when spoken are italicised, as well.
Temporal Manoeuvres In The Dark
The air was so crisp it nearly hurt to breathe, but he kept himself from gasping aloud. He did not know if he was entirely alone.
The room had not changed. The dust remained the same. Even the track of dust was as he remembered. Padfoot had dragged Ron to the corner and then padded away. He had reformed to Sirius Black, wanted man, fugitive, convicted murderer.
"Godfather," Harry whispered into the silence of the shack.
He shivered as the fog of his breath appeared silvery white in the room, reminding him of another man, another time -- a time that had yet to happen.
Harry studied the time turner he held and tucked it under his shirt. It had taken him, as he hoped, but when?
He remained under the Invisibility Cloak and used his wand to cast a muffling charm on his feet, then made his way out of the shack.
He checked the placement of the stars and deduced it was about an hour past . It was one thing of many about Auror training that Harry appreciated, having learnt to triangulate his position and ascertain the time by the stars.
With a quiet Accio he waited with one hand extended from under the cloak for a Daily Prophet. One swiftly came and he nodded gratefully at the date:
With a lighter heart and livelier step, Harry headed down the path to Hogsmeade. If need be, he had already decided he could sleep at the Shack, but it was the perfect time for him to determine the lay of the land.
He paused at the sound of footsteps ahead. He squinted, fighting the impulse to lift non-existent spectacles higher on the bridge of his nose. In spite of a medical breakthrough twelve years before that ended his dependence on them, at times, he still could almost feel the spectacles he used to wear. It was a nuisance to place the vision-clarifying drops into his eyes every morning, but he could not criticise the results. He had 20/15 vision now in his right eye and 20/10 in the left eye.
If that was not enough to confuse his identity, the infamous scar on his forehead had been joined by two others, one far more striking that began a few finger widths from his left ear and slid across his cheek, over the bridge of his nose and bisected his right eyebrow. He'd received that courtesy of a hippogriff rampaging through a Muggle neighbourhood that his team had been called in to subdue. The other scar was smaller, but had left a ridge of skin the shape of the pad of his thumb just above the start of the claw mark. He would not speak about what had caused it.
No one expected the Boy Who Lived to have more than one scar, and few outside of his immediate circle of family and friends recognised him at all anymore. This was something he accepted with gratitude and he hoped would hold him in great stead here and now.
The moon held little light, but he swiftly made out a darker blotch on the path ahead in the star-shrouded night. He swiftly made his way to the side of the road and waited for the traveller to approach. Someone was headed for Hogsmeade at an unusual hour.
Harry swallowed as he noted who strode up, Death Eater robes swallowing his spare form, hood deepening the shadows of his saturnine features.
He found himself staring with held breath at the very man he hoped to get answers from and to learn more about.
Severus Snape was fast approaching Hogsmeade.
It took Harry five frustrating weeks before he could say anything to his family. Five weeks of Ginny pressing him to accept one of the two positions he had been offered -- Senior Auror to work alongside Ron at a desk job and only going out in the field every now and again, or Supervisor of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office, a position Arthur Weasley was leaving to step up to head the Improper Use of Magic Office.
She, Ron, Hermione and his in-laws were so certain in their assumption of his delight in accepting either position that when he'd finally informed them he had submitted his name for consideration to join the Department of Mysteries, it had gone rather worse than he expected.
His in-laws and Hermione had become tireless in their efforts to make him see how much better off Ginny and his children would be if he took one of the already proffered positions. Ron was the only one genuinely pleased for him, but rather sad at the thought of their not working side by side anymore.
Ginny had argued with him for days and finally booted him out of their home in a fury. Fortunately, their children had just left for Hogwarts so they were spared the worst of the kerfuffle, but Harry had felt ashamed when he knelt down to bid farewell to his youngest, his little Lily, and she had told him that she loved him, even if Mommy didn't. He was grateful to watch them all climb aboard the train; there was no need to involve them in their parents' dispute.
To everyone's surprise, Harry had not 'seen reason' nor begged Ginny to allow him to return. He decided he could put his time to better use than grovelling.
When he had first approached the Minister about the possibility of being reassigned, Harry had insisted and Kingsley concurred that he be treated the same as any applicant to the Department, which meant a period of assessment by an Unspeakable, in this case a rather mousy-looking man named Blessed.
He vowed Harry to secrecy with the Minister standing in as witness, then, with utmost gravitas, Blessed handed Harry a cushioned leather case.
When Harry opened it, he found a lovingly wrapped, completely demolished Time Turner inside.
"Your job for your evaluation period, Mister Potter, is to fix this. You may retain it as long as you need. You may study it in any way you like. You may even ask anyone about Time Turners, without referring directly to your job, of course. Your return of it in well-tested and perfect working order will mark the end of your assessment period."
Blessed had then left, and Harry had begun to read whatever he could find about Time Turners in his spare time, which was severely limited.
Thus, when he had been summarily booted from his home, he had asked and received an indefinite leave of absence. Then Harry had quickly made his way to
The library at Grimmauld was also well-stocked and it was here Harry turned to study all he could to complete his task. When the Black family books proved useful in the technical aspect of things, but esoteric otherwise, Harry decided to consult an expert.
"It's always a pleasure, Auror Potter," Minerva McGonagall assured him. Her eyes were still bright blue, if her black hair held some gleaming strands of silver now.
She took positive delight in using his title and called him by it since he had finished his three year training period seventeen years ago. She took, he knew, great personal pride in having helped him achieve his goal despite the obstacles of Umbridge, the Ministry and Voldemort. Briefly, Harry wondered if she would be disappointed in his current attempt or if she would consider becoming an Unspeakable a step up.
"Tea?" She was already pouring it and Harry smiled and nodded. "I'm afraid I cannot allow you to interrupt a class if you wish to see your children. You will be permitted, of course, if you wish to, however, except in emergencies, it must be during a regularly scheduled break in their classes, and I can tell from your demeanour it is not an emergency."
"No," he assured her. "I don't need to see them; I came to speak with you."
"I see." She placed a full cup before him and turned to pour her own with a slender, steady hand.
There was, he reflected, a certain comfort to be found in being able to sit with his former Head of House without anything urgent required or possible punishment in the offing. The thought made him shake his head and she lifted a brow at him.
"I was just thinking... I'm glad I didn't return that last year. I'd have been in trouble all the time."
"You'd have been tortured and bundled off to Voldemort," McGonagall assured him. "If by some miracle you had not been, yes, you would have been blamed by both teacher and rival student alike for every little thing that happened, and many things seemed to 'happen' that last year, as your wife has no doubt told you."
Harry hesitated, "Actually--"
"I am aware, Mr. Potter, of your current marital situation and it was not my intent to remind you of same. My apologies."
He looked up into her kind blue eyes and smiled. "Actually, Professor, I was going to say she doesn't talk much about that last year, so I really wouldn't know."
"Ah. I take it, then, that you have reconciled?"
He shook his head. "It's not simple."
"It rarely is," she sighed. "Still, there are worse things than separation... or dissolution."
Harry considered this and decided to change the subject.
"So tell me, what did happen that last year?"
Minerva sat back a little, as much as was possible in a severe, straight backed chair, her gaze taking on a look of reminiscence.
"My word... things were topsy-turvy and poor Severus, he took the brunt of it. Oh, if I'd only known!" She paused to dab at her eyes with a lacy handkerchief and Harry looked away, feeling his own sense of guilt over the Headmaster and his pointless death. "I doubt there was a meal he was allowed to enjoy, oh dear... and even though he didn't teach Potions that year, his personal potions lab had things stolen. He wasn't the only one, though; some students took it upon themselves to make the Carrows' lives miserable, also."
An hour later, Harry shifted the conversation to what he hoped to speak about in the first place.
"Professor, I was curious. I've read up on the subject of Time Turners, part of a case I was working on a while back," he fibbed easily, another thing he'd been taught to be an effective Auror. "It left me with a few questions and I thought you might be able to answer them."
She sat up straighter, eyeing him with great care, and then lifted a brow.
"I can see we're going to have to switch from tea to something a bit more bracing." She conjured a bottle of Scotch and looked to Harry. "Or do you take it in your tea?" Two hours and much Scotch-infused tea later, Harry had learnt the responsibilities of owning a Time Turner as well as the evaluations one made whilst travelling. How observer became integral to the time stream, something he already had experience in thanks to his third year at Hogwarts, as well as the burdens and obligations one should keep in mind when using a Time Turner.
He finally decided to take leave of the Headmistress, standing to stretch his legs and finding them a bit unsteady; he had never been one for drinking hard liquor. Harry thanked Minerva, accepted a brisk hug and the remonstration to visit more often, and headed back to
On returning to Grimmauld, he found an envelope for him by the fireplace rug, bearing Ginny's distinctive, bold hand.
"--I've decided maybe it's best to just stay apart," he mumbled as he finished reading the letter to his visitor.
Luna reached a hand across to him and squeezed his arm. She had dropped by to enquire if it was true he had gone undercover to expose the secret Muggle Memory Modification committee hiding within the bowels of the Ministry, and if he would be willing to give an exclusive to the Quibbler. He hadn't and he didn't, but Luna was more perspicacious than she looked, and recognized Harry needed a friend.
Harry looked at the letter again, but the lines on it seemed to be meaningless. He knew the words and what they meant, but they seemed insubstantial. Or maybe it was he who was insubstantial.
"How much did you drink?"
He blinked at her and sighed. "Is it that obvious?"
"Your aura is diffuse," she noted calmly. "Plus your nose is redder than a radish."
He snorted and looked down at his lap. "I've made a real mess of things, Luna."
"Finding your heart's truest desire is a worthy goal. Your aura has been bright and strong these last few weeks," she noted, putting her hand over his. "It hasn't been like that since school."
Harry frowned. "Really?"
Luna merely nodded. She was his most precious touchstone, the one friend he could turn to that was not intimately connected with the Weasleys despite living not too far from the Burrow. She was also guaranteed to make him look at things from a different angle, and had been invaluable, he privately admitted, when it came to solving some of his more difficult cases as an Auror.
He frowned now, remembering something Trelawney had once said. "What does it mean if an aura is pulsing?"
Luna smiled gently. "It means the person studying it has probably been drinking or is otherwise impaired."
Harry couldn't help it, he laughed. It was nearly hysterical in its intensity and Luna joined him after a moment, pleased to have gained him some emotional release, but still curious as to the cause.
He snorted and giggled, but wound down his near-hysteria until he was able to concentrate and spoke the words that sobered him up even faster.
"Ginny wants to leave me... and I don't blame her."
Luna nodded sagely. "It's really better when people stay friends, or at least cordial, even if they can't be together anymore."
"It's not that I don't want to be married. But..."
"You just don't want to be married to Ginny."
This, Harry realised, was the true heart of the matter. He had been living in a state of repressed resentment over the situation, because he had known, without even having to ask, that Ginny would not understand his wishes, his desires. She never had, he thought now. She would go along or pretend to, but in the end it came back to what she wanted... and if Ginny could not get what she wanted, she made sure Harry paid a price for it.
"I can't go on like this," he added now with a sigh.
Luna did not say anything. She merely hugged him.
"While you live, Severus, the Elder Wand cannot be truly mine."
Nagini bit deep and true.
Cold fingers clutching him close.
"Take... it. Take... it."
Gleaming black eyes...
A desperate expression...
"Look... at... me..."
Harry gasped awake, finding the clawing fingers were his own, holding the front of his robes.
He let go and rubbed his eyes, shaking off the dream image as best he could.
He still dreamt of that moment over the years, and it remained as sharp and clear as if it had happened yesterday.
He still regretted not having gotten to know Snape properly, regretted not thanking him for all he had done.
Above all, he regretted the needless death. Voldemort had stupidly assumed Snape was the master of the Elder Wand.
"The Deathstick," Harry muttered, remembering one of the wands other designations. "Too right about that name."
He felt sad and tired now, putting the book in his lap on the table beside him and lifting up the case holding the broken Time Turner.
He was no closer to fixing it despite having read and absorbed all he could find about Time Turners. He knew the theories surrounding temporal travel and displacement, he knew about the different types of Time Turners and even the various magical histories made and remade or what little there was about them Temporal Studies researchers had gleaned.
The one he'd been given to repair was known as a Decade-eater, signifying a Time Turner meant for travelling back much further than the delicate Day-educer that Hermione had used in their Third Year. Harry remembered that one; it had been shiny and intricate.
This Decade-eater was tarnished and, when whole, would be a heavy, solid object with levers and two dials. Right now, it was a pile of rubbish.
Harry sighed, and put the case down and rubbed at his eyes again.
He could not give up. He wanted to complete this assignment almost as badly as he had wanted to become an Auror in the first place.
Still, sleep called him and he wanted very badly to trudge to bed and lie down and... probably have more dreams about the Final Battle.
For some reason, he seemed to dream about those events when he was stressed, even though they happened nearly twenty years ago. The most vivid were the dreams of Snape, though. Of Voldemort, holding the Elder Wand, bidding Nagini to slay the Headmaster.
Snape did not have the gift of Parseltongue, Harry suddenly recalled. He would not have known what Voldemort said, although it would have become horribly clear.
He had not been able to escape. Voldemort had swiped the air with the Elder Wand and Snape had been frozen in place, his own wand in hand, as Nagini had been levitated to him and--
"Bloody hell," Harry suddenly sat, head pounding. "The wand..."
He clutched at the case and stared at the broken Time Turner and suddenly began to laugh hysterically.
In the past, Harry followed Snape through Hogsmeade to the outskirts where a few cottages dotted the countryside.
Snape approached one where warm light shone through the windows, and stepped up to the porch without hesitation, knocking briskly.
What could Snape need at this hour, Harry wondered, watching him from under the cloak.
The door opened and a slight, dark blond man with tousled hair opened the door. He looked up into the hooded face and Harry watched Snape hold out a hand. The blond put his own out and two galleons fell into it. He nodded and stepped back, allowing Snape to enter and closed the door behind him.
Harry was grateful. He muttered a Warming Charm over himself and then cast Specto Penitus, allowing him to see through the walls to within the cottage, and a localised Audire so that he could hear whatever was said.
He watched Snape stride past the fireplace and up the stairs. Harry sighed and cast Consurgo, lifting himself up to the level of the first floor window so that he could still watch what was going on.
In a candle-lit bedroom with a large four-poster, he watched Snape remove his robes and drape them on a chair in the corner near the window. Harry did nothing as Snape glanced outside, confident in his cloak and his own skills as an Auror.
Without removing anything else, he went to the foot of the bed and turned his back to it, looking up as the blond man stepped into the room and shut the door. Harry frowned. What was going on?
The blond pressed a lever near the head of the bed and two leather straps slid down from the tests to dangle at a height just above Snape's head. Snape swallowed, then slid his arms through the straps and clutched at them, testing them with his weight, and then nodding as if satisfied.
He adjusted his stance, setting his feet apart and then tilted his head back, swallowing deeply again.
In profile, Harry could now easily see that Snape was aroused. He frowned.
The cottage did not look like a brothel, but the man had taken his money. Was he preparing him for a whore?
The blond smiled and went to the bedside table where a pitcher of water, a bowl and some flannels were arranged next to a small variety of bottles.
He washed his hands, dried them briskly on a flannel which he set in a clothing basket by the table, then chose a bottle and put it in his pocket, turning back to Snape who was waiting, testing the straps from time to time and occasional jutting his hips forward. Harry felt himself growing hard, feeling guilty for watching, but wanting, needing, to know what was happening.
The blond stepped right up to Snape and lifted a hand to cup his face. Snape gazed at him, and then nodded rapidly. The other man smiled and pulled a strip of what appeared to be black silk from his pocket. Without preamble, he used it to blindfold Snape. Harry was aghast. What was going on?
Then the blond touched Snape's lips and Snape shook his head vehemently, jerking his hips. Harry's eyes widened as he saw the huge bulge pushing out those well-cut black trousers that he remembered so well. Snape looked hard enough to burst.
The blond put his hand on Snape's chest and slid it down to his crotch. Harry gulped. Was Snape gay? But how could he be? He had loved Harry's mother. Harry watched the scene with a sinking feeling in his gut.
The blond man opened Snape's flies with one hand and with the other, pulled out his thickly swollen erection. He removed the bottle he'd taken from the table from his pocket, pushed the tethered cork off with his thumb and poured a measure of the oil within into his hand, corked it again and slid it back into his pocket. He then rubbed his palms together and without further preamble reached for Snape's straining cock.
Harry gulped, fighting to ignore his own throbbing prick as he watched the blond man grasp the base of that thick length of flesh and pull, over and over, one hand after the other.
Snape cried out, startling Harry who had forgotten the surveillance spell he'd cast, surprised now at how silent the encounter had been so far. He watched now in fascination as his old Potions Professor bucked and the blond man ceaselessly worked, the oil on his hands making his efforts seemingly frictionless.
Snape could, Harry realised, easily pull his hands free of the straps, but instead he held on, using them as leverage to keep from moving as much as possible, allowing the pleasurable contact the other man provided. Harry's own prick twitched in his pants as he watched the strange encounter.
"Yes... yes... oh, gods..."
Harry swallowed at the sound of that so familiar voice so unrestrained with desire. As a boy, he could not have credited Snape with that much humanity, but now, as a man, he was deeply moved by the sight of his reserved, austere ex-professor, still nearly fully dressed with but face and cock divulging his condition -- both strained toward ecstasy.
Suddenly Snape grasped the straps with his fists and arched and nearly screamed. His hips were at their furthest extension and the blond no longer pulled on that twitching prick, but merely grasped it firmly as jet after jet of thick spunk erupted.
Sooner than expected, it was over, and Snape slipped his wrists free of the straps and slumped down to sit on the bed.
The blond man hurried to the table and washed his hands again, then wet a flannel and went to Snape, getting on his knees.
Harry watched as the man gently washed Snape, even wiping the stray drops of spunk, and carefully slipped him back into his smalls and closed up his trousers.
He set the soiled flannel in the clothing basket and put the bottle in his pocket on the table, then went to the bed where Snape still sat, slumped and catching his breath, moving behind him.
Harry was astonished when the man began to rub the Headmaster's shoulders. Snape shuddered at the contact, but did not stop him.
The shuddering did not seem to cease, however, and a soft sound drifted to him in the crisp Autumn night.
Harry felt his aching erection wither as he realised that Snape, the bane of his existence as a schoolboy at Hogwarts, the man he hated and wished was dead most of what should have been his seventh year at school, the man he now respected and admired and even, in some ineffable way he could not quantify, cared for deeply -- was crying.
Once he had gotten over his near-hysteria of having figured out exactly how to fix the Time Turner, Harry had planned his "mission."
He had returned to Dumbledore's tomb, under cover of darkness and without alerting Headmistress McGonagall of his intention; it was Ministry business, he assured himself, and no one would know.
He had fixed the broken Decade-eater and swiftly returned the wand to its proper place, thanking Dumbledore. Then he had gone back home.
Once looking at it under proper light, he saw that not only had the device been repaired, it looked new. The dark metal the Time Turner was made of gleamed in the lamplight.
He had to test it, Harry knew. He would not claim his job complete until he had thoroughly tested it and found whether or not it worked.
His studies now held him in good stead as he recalled the operation of the device, as well as the various quirks some time travellers had annotated. He was determined to figure it out in great detail.
He would ascertain its function, and whilst doing so, find answers of his own.
This could, Harry knew, be his only chance at use of a Time Turner. So far as he knew, there were no others. They had all been broken his fifth year, so the task he'd been given was a worthy one, and required great care and meticulous attention to detail.
Part of what would be expected, he sensed, would be a full report of how he had tested it and what, if any, quirks the device might have. If it was one in which the quirks had been documented, those would be counted in the "perfect working condition" Blessed had mentioned to him.
Harry considered his options, but kept returning to the one period of time to which he wanted answers more than any other in his life: what happened to Snape that last year, and could he, possibly, be able to help the man? Perhaps even save him?
It would require, Harry knew, extreme caution, but having effected a change to the time line in his third year that benefited all and sundry (except Snape, his memory tickled him now) he knew it could somehow be done. But to do it he had to use the Decade-eater.
Harry Potter was no longer a boy who ran off half-cocked. He was now a seasoned Auror who knew that precautions were often the only thing that salvaged a mission, and he was under no misapprehension that this was, in fact, a mission he was undertaking, one of grave consequences.
Harry got up and headed for his rooms. He needed to pack and prepare. He also needed to think about that year and decide exactly what time and location would be best to return to... and what he might say or do if things went pear-shaped.
Under cover of his father's cloak and in utter silence, Harry watched his ex-Professor with concern.
The blond said nothing as Snape wept, merely remaining behind him, his own head bowed, as he rubbed Snape's back and shoulders and finally laid both hands atop those shaking shoulders and pressed his head to Snape's nape in a gesture of sympathy.
It took a few moments, but the Headmaster finally lifted a hand and patted one of the hands on his shoulder in weary gratitude before standing. He gestured wordlessly and wandlessly and a flannel drifted to him, which he used to wipe his face and blow his nose. Then he placed it on the table, gestured for his robes which flew to him. He slid them over his shoulders and stepped from the room.
Harry was hard-pressed to make it downstairs so he could follow him back to Hogwarts. He was still reeling with what he had witnessed, and had a hard time keeping himself from demanding answers. Only his Auror's training kept him from blowing his cover. Oftentimes, Aurors had to watch, even allow criminals to commit crimes without repercussion, in order to obtain the information they needed.
This was not a criminal case, but Harry needed answers and Snape was the only one who could give them. He would have to obtain his answers by observation.
As he approached the Shrieking Shack, Harry watched the dark shape slowly disappear down the road to Hogwarts. Snape was not walking the way Harry remembered. His tread was measured, but his carriage revealed a weary man.
Uneasy, Harry made his way to the Shrieking Shack and snuck back in. A warming charm and the quick transfiguration of a broken chair into a comfortable mattress gave him ease. A perimeter shield kept insects and vermin away and Harry cast Muffliato in case he snored, then fell into a deep and edgy sleep.
"Good morning, Professor Snape."
Harry studied Professor McGonagall's expression. In all the years he had known her he had only seen that crafty gaze once before -- when she was talking to Dolores Umbridge, one of the most hated teachers in Hogwarts' history.
"You keep forgetting, Minerva. Severus is Headmaster now," piped a female voice Harry winced to hear. Alecto Carrow was seated on Snape's other side, next to her somnolent brother.
Unlike most Death Eaters, she was bare-armed, showing her Dark Mark with pride.
"I forget nothing, Alecto," Minerva assured her.
"Well, I know how difficult my mother found it to remember things when she reached your age," Alecto chirped. "Don't most witches retire at 90?"
Harry watched McGonagall sip at her tea and surreptitiously touch her wand to her napkin in her lap, which promptly turned into a mouse that scurried under the table.
"I'm sorry, dear, I didn't quite hear you," she responded with a thick burr in her tone.
"She's deaf as a post, as well," Alecto muttered to her uncaring brother, before turning, about to issue a louder insult when the mouse ran up her stockinged legs and under her skirts. "Waaaaaauuuuuggghhhh!"
The student body, a subdued group if Harry had ever seen one, all burst into laughter and jeers as Alecto stood up screaming and began to push at her hips and crotch, before actually lifting her skirts, screaming all the while.
Snape's voice thundered through the room, even as Alecto's scream turned into a wail of outrage and he turned an icy glare at her.
"Decorum, if you will, Professor Carrow. This is a school, not a stage play."
"But a mouse--"
"Are you not a witch? Stun the beast and give it to Slughorn for use in a potion," Snape sneered derisively.
As he spoke, Harry noted at least three of the other teachers were surreptitiously doctoring Snape's meal. He frowned, uncertain if he should take action, but he realised he needn't bother. The man had clearly been through this more than once.
He turned and sat back down and studied his meal, making a face.
"Your caterwauling has destroyed my appetite," He muttered to Alecto, who still stood peering under the table. He looked over the room and assembly. "Which is just as well, seeing I have work to do. Everyone, pray carry on."
He stood and strode from the room, unaware of a well-muscled, compact man under an Invisibility Cloak following swiftly and silently behind.
Harry's biggest difficulty was not been remaining quiet and doing nothing. It was Dobby and Kreacher.
The House Elves could see him, he knew, but they mostly said nothing. But both Dobby and Kreacher were overjoyed to see him.
Harry had been hard-pressed to keep them silent at first.
Muffling their sounds, he pulled the confused elves behind a statue.
"Mister Harry Potter! You is old, but you is alive!" Dobby fell to his knees and Harry had to swallow hard and bite his inner lip. He looked instead to Kreacher, who beamed at him.
"Oh, young master-old master. You survived. It makes Kreacher's heart glad."
"Me, too, Kreacher, but you can't tell anyone I'm here."
"No, young master-old master. I shan't."
"Are you okay?"
Kreacher nodded. "When young master-old master was forced into hiding, Kreacher remembered your words and came straight to Hogwarts."
Harry nodded. He looked to Dobby who was starting to stand, still wiping his eyes with a Hogwarts tea towel.
"The same goes for you Dobby. You can't let anyone know I'm here."
"It will be as Harry Potter says," the little elf responded and Harry swallowed another lump in his throat.
"I'll be needing your help later on," he whispered now. "You'll be a huge service to the war."
Dobby straightened, proud. "Whatever Dobby can do, he will do. He is proud to fight against He Who Cannot Be Named."
Harry nodded, and said, "Go on then. I need to speak with Kreacher now. Alone."
Dobby eyed the other House Elf uncertainly, but nodded and said, "Good luck, Harry Potter," before snapping his fingers and disappearing.
"What can Kreacher do for young master-old master?"
"I've got to keep watch, not let anyone know I'm here, but I've only been eating what I can scrounge and I'm starving. Can you bring me food?"
"Kreacher can bring young master-old master whatever he needs. Should I bring it here?"
Harry smiled. "No, do you know where the Shrieking Shack is? Take me breakfast there, before the teachers get theirs. And bring sandwiches and some fruit and a flask of tea along with breakfast that I can carry with me for the rest of the day. I can't seem to get back until at least midnight, so whatever you bring will have to last that long."
To his credit, Kreacher did not argue or offer suggestions. He merely bowed. "It will be as young master-old master wishes. Kreacher lives to serve."
Harry smiled, and then reached a hand to squeeze the elves' shoulder gently. "Thank you, Kreacher. Would it be too much trouble to bring me some sandwiches and a few apples and some tea right now?"
The hoary little elf smiled back. "Kreacher lives to serve."
Harry nodded his thanks, then asked, "Kreacher... do you know where I might be able to, at least now and then, have a bath or shower? Preferably not in the castle?"
He could sleep in the Shrieking Shack and he could use the out of the way lavatories within the school with stealth and care, but sneaking a bath was almost impossible in the castle thanks to his not knowing the passwords or wanting to give himself away.
The elf nodded. "Of course, young master-old master. The Quidditch changing rooms. If young master-old master leaves his clothes tonight, Kreacher will launder them. Overdue they are."
Then he snapped his fingers and disappeared, leaving a chagrined Harry Potter behind.
The next few days were full of similar and worse incidents. The students spoke freely in derisive terms about Snape. It was far worse than Harry remembered from his own school days. He was no longer "the greasy git," but had graduated to "the murdering bastard" and "bloody Death Eater" and "You Know Who's Biggest Buttkisser."
Moreover, the other teachers, those who had served under Dumbledore, all tacitly approved. They said nothing if a student said such things within their hearing, and, in fact, he witnessed both Pomona Sprout and McGonagall actually give some students points for creative use of language.
Worse, Snape knew... and oddly, did very little. He did not even twitch a cheek when he overheard something. He would take token points, and assign a detention only if the insult was particularly egregious, but he did far less than Harry would have credited him for. He seemed to save his ire for the Death Eaters on staff, who did not, Harry realised, know that this was not Snape's normal behaviour.
His scathing reprimands and rebukes seemed to encompass all the teachers, but Harry noted that his eyes were always on the Carrows and that when they weren't present, he was merely his usual snippy self, not suffering oversight or questions, but with far less vitriol than Harry would have expected. He wondered why the teachers did not notice this, but then, they had their hands full, and it was only with time that he had come to see Snape in a new light.
"But we must have the Hallowe'en feast. It's tradition!"
Pomona Sprout was aghast at Snape's notion at the morning staff meeting and it seemed the other teachers felt the same way.
"P-perhaps the Headmaster is right," quavered the very last voice Harry would have expected to hear speaking up for Snape.
All eyes turned to Sybill Trelawney and she quailed at the scrutiny, but finished speaking in a subdued voice that lent more gravity to her words than her usual mystic tones might have.
"All Hallows is the time when the veils between the worlds are thinnest. There is danger. This year, the portents are particularly powerful and speak of great change and turmoil. Perhaps it would be best to forego the usual feast."
Snape eyed the frizzy haired woman and the slightest of scowls seemed to curl his lip. All he said, however, was, "In that case, the festivities might prove... entertaining. Professor McGonagall, please inform the elves to prepare the usual feast for the holiday."
Harry half-expected something to happen that night. It was a momentous night in many ways. It was the night his parents died.
This was something Harry never truly stopped to consider until then, and it sobered him. His parents had been dead to him almost 40 years.
He watched the Headmaster pick at his food, eating little and drinking much more wine than seemed prudent and he wondered if he wasn't the only one thinking of the macabre anniversary.
It was nearly two in the morning when Snape made his way out of the castle and headed for the gates. Harry followed, wondering at his purpose, but soon realised exactly where Snape was going. He headed unerringly and without pause for the blond prostitute's cottage.
The proceedings were nearly identical to last time, except this time Snape stared into the man's eyes and stroked his thumb over his lip before slipping his hands through the waiting straps.
This time the man slid to his knees after blindfolding Snape and showed Harry something he had often imagined over the years, but never seen or been lucky enough to receive. Ginny had always refused him an activity she swore only whores did.
Well, the man was a whore, but the way he worked did not in any way look sluttish or depraved to the watching Auror.
It was beautiful. The act seemed thoughtful, a kindness, and the man seemed to enjoy it as much as Snape seemed to try and stop himself from enjoying it.
Harry began to watch Snape's face instead. He looked tortured and pained... almost ashamed.
What was the shame for? That he felt in need of companionship and all he could get was someone he paid for it? Or was he ashamed, as some people were, Harry had learnt whilst studying about the reasons behind criminal behaviour, of sex, of his own sexual need?
This made him sad. What harm would it do for Snape to enjoy one of the few pleasures he seemed to have in his lonely life?
The blond's eyes grew huge as he saw an Auror stood at his door. He quickly bowed and moved back, clearly allowing Harry to enter the cottage, which he did.
He looked around as if interested, although he already knew what the cottage held, before turning back to the man.
This was a calculated risk, but he was fairly sure the prostitute would answer questions and say nothing, even if it meant buying his silence.
The man shook his head and touched his lips and throat. Harry frowned. The man was a mute?
The man went to the mantel and brought Harry a Wizarding Picture of a man and a woman who resembled him. They held a small toddler. The man pointed to the boy and then himself.
"This is you. And your parents." Harry nodded, and gave him back the image.
The man then pulled a yellowed letter from behind the picture in the frame and handed it to Harry.
It was from St. Mungo's, the Department of Spell Damage. It was addressed to Theadocia and Malneus Scroggins.
Dear Mr & Mrs Scroggins,
I regret to inform you that all possible tests on your son, Thadeus, have come out negative. He does not suffer spell damage of any kind. His profound inability to speak is innate, and further testing indicates his magical levels are quite low. It is with deepest sympathy that we relate our conclusion that your son, Thadeus Scroggins, is a Squib.
Yours in good health,
Healer Helbert Spleen
The man nodded.
"Can you write?"
The man shook his head and eyes the colour of dark raw honey looked worried. Harry waved a hand at him.
"I'm sorry. I was just hoping you could answer some questions I have pertaining to Ministry business and related to Headmaster Snape... the man who just left."
The blond's eyes grew more worried and he held up his hands in an elegant shrug.
Suddenly, Harry smiled and snorted, murmuring, "That wily bastard."
Leave it to Snape to visit a prostitute that could not answer questions about him.
Harry was surprised when Snape announced he had business the next day and bade Minerva to see to the school just before dinner.
He followed him out to the gates and he was chagrined when the man Apparated.
Pulling out his wand, he initiated a tracking spell and followed, hoping Snape was gone from the area and the crack of sound he made was not too loud.
He found himself in Godric's Hollow, near the statue of his parents. What would Snape want here?
Harry caught sight of the long, flapping black robes near the church and he hurried along, hoping the wind would not pick up the edge of his cloak and render him visible.
He caught up with Snape once he'd managed to climb over the fence; he didn't open the kissing gate as Snape would notice instantly.
Snape stood, still and silent as the grave before him.
Harry moved as close as he dared, wondering if the man was just going to stand there.
The wind was ruffling the edges of his cloak and he just hoped his trainer-clad feet couldn't be seen.
With exceeding care, Snape withdrew his wand from his robes and then blew out a sighing breath. Harry watched, entranced, as he traced his very breath and gathered it into an ethereal mist from which formed a large six-petalled white flower with scarlet stripes.
The headmaster held it in his palm for a moment, and then gently placed it atop the stone.
To Harry's surprise, Snape suddenly folded up, sitting on his rump and settled himself with his back to the stone behind him. It was an oddly familiar pose and he remembered the memories of Severus as a boy, speaking to Lily on the bank by the river, seated in this way and just as earnest in his expression.
"I avoided the crowds. I hope they didn't bother you too much. I'm given to understand All Hallow's is bedlam here."
Harry swallowed at this, remembering the messages at the site of the house and imagining how many must come to clap eyes on his parents' graves.
"I need to tell you... this is probably the last time I can visit, Lils. Things are moving quickly." Snape's voice grew hoarse and he cleared it, murmuring, "Dionysius is gone and I can feel the sword above now, always."
Harry frowned, wondering what Snape was referring to. Then Snape snorted, a sharp bark of sound.
"Listen to me, Lils, waxing poetic. You were the only one who could keep me from making a fool of myself... when I listened... you heard me, but I didn't hear you..."
Was Snape losing his grasp of reality? Harry edged closer. Snape made the sound again, but it was harsher and edged with a grief Harry could now see in the austere lines of his face. Harry fought to keep from swallowing loudly as the other man confessed.
"I'm gone mad, but know this... I still... love... you."
Harry felt acutely uncomfortable hearing the soft sounds of anguish that followed this and wished he was somewhere else. He was also confused, thinking now of Thadeus and how gentle the man was and how much Snape seemed to need him.
Then Snape lifted his head to draw in cold night air and rasped out, "I'll help your son any way I can. Any way he will let me. He thinks me a murderer, and he could be right, Lils. The gods alone know, but I will help him. I wanted... I needed you to know that."
Harry watched as Snape stood, stiffly, his time of the cold ground having locked his joints. The headmaster bent and gently stroked the petals of the flower he had conjured. Only his proximity allowed Harry to hear his last words.
"I also need you to know I've kept my promise, Lils. No other woman will ever touch me."
With that, Snape straightened and strode from the graveyard, not looking back or noticing the invisible man who stood stunned.
After the graveyard confession, Snape seemed to fall willingly into a ceaseless pattern of days that persisted to the start of the holidays. His schedule became monotonous as a metronome and, in its way, just as ominous to Harry. Had the man truly just been waiting, expecting to die?
Harry kept pulling out the Decade-eater, debating over setting it so that he could skip forward faster, but always kept tucking it back under his shirt, remembering that year and how his young self was doing something very similar -- camping out, uncomfortable, but watchful and hoping for answers.
He had the answers now he didn't have then, but they had spawned new questions in their wake and this man was the only one who could provide them. So Harry waited.
He watched, and found himself slowly growing feelings for the self-contained, self-possessed, despised, daily demeaned and quite possibly, mad, Headmaster of Hogwarts.
The only thing that snapped the Headmaster out of his self-imposed misery was the sudden visit to the castle by a smirking Bellatrix Lestrange.
She arrived at breakfast, the morning after the students had departed for the holidays. Not a single student had remained behind, so none but the teachers were startled by her arrival.
She sauntered into the Great Hall with a dreamy air of reminiscence, ignoring the sudden silence and glares she was receiving.
"I remember this... nearly twelve and I couldn't wait to use my wand... the Sorting Hat said Slytherin before it could even touch my head."
"To what do we owe this unexpected call," Snape asked primly, wiping his lips with his napkin and setting it down on his lap. The others settled down, and Bella deigned to notice the table full of teachers.
"Oh. Where's Alecto and her no good brother?"
Harry felt his hand itching to go to his wand, even after so long knowing her dead. He waited in tense silence against the wall behind Snape.
"The Carrows are deplorably late risers," Snape responded, dipping back into his porridge and seeming to ignore her.
"What a pity. I'd have liked a chat with Lecky. I've got dish."
"If you plan to wait until someone asks, or for that matter, cares, about your gossip, Bella, you needn't bother."
The rest all looked at Madam Hooch who did not look the least bit intimidated, frightened or impressed in anyway by Lestrange.
"Well, well, Xio. How are you, love? Still enjoy the feel of a long piece of wood between your legs?"
"No need to ask if you do. If you did, you wouldn't have married Dolph, would you, lovie?"
Snape swiftly stood between the two as Bella whipped out her wand and Hooch lifted a brow, not even bothering to stand.
"If you two have quite finished with your battle of wits, I would suggest, Bella, that you meet me in the Headmaster's office, and that you, Xiomara, please remember you cannot win such a battle facing an unarmed opponent."
Harry flinched as Bella shoved her wand to the side of Snape's neck. Several gasps and a dropping glass were heard.
"Or," Snape demurred as if he still held the upper hand, "we can discuss your clearly urgent business here and now, Bellatrix."
Bella scowled. She pulled back her wand and sneered at him.
"You're no fun, Snape. You suck the joy out of everything."
"Then my work here is done," he intoned frostily and a snicker arose from one of the other teachers.
"I don't know why our Lord is so fond of you," she sighed, then dropped a scroll in his plate atop his porridge. "It's from my dear brother-in-law. I'd nothing to do with it, either."
She smiled, wagged her fingers in a wave to Hooch who responded with a two finger salute, and sauntered back out of the Great Hall, leaving Harry fighting to keep from heaving a sigh of relief and Snape lifting the soiled parchment and standing.
"If anyone requires me, I shall be in my office."
He left with his customary grace, carrying the dripping scroll to one side.
While he climbed the stairs to the Headmaster's office, Harry tried to recall how many attempts he had seen made against Snape since his arrival.
There was daily tampering with his food and drink, a happenstance he noted Snape had merely begun taking regular doses of antidote for. Bella's sudden, startling move that morning, was but one of many instances where someone had threatened him with harm, and he had taken it as much in stride as if he was merely side-stepping a puddle.
Dumbledore chose well, Harry knew now, when he manoeuvred to get Snape into his current position. It was a master stroke by a master player.
But Harry could see the frayed edges now that no one else seemed to care about. This disturbed him in more than one way.
"That bloody fool!"
Harry snuck into the room as the door shut, the first time he had been in the office since his arrival. He normally just waited for Snape to emerge and followed him.
To his chagrin, he noted Dumbledore's painting tilting his head and staring in his direction. Could those enchanted spectacles of his still work even though they were merely daubs of paint on a canvas?
Snape raged. "He's got the Lovegood girl."
Harry tore his attention from Dumbledore to Snape who was now looking up at his old Headmaster in utter despair.
"I can do nothing, Albus. I cannot even tell the Aurors."
Albus seemed to be looking far off, although Harry noted he kept him in his view before focusing on Severus.
"Will he harm her?"
"He'll certainly question her, but he'll keep her alive. She is leverage. If Potter comes to retrieve her, he hopes to capture him. If he does not, he can use her for negotiations if hostages are taken, and we all expect that manoeuvre sooner rather than later."
"Then, hope for the best, my boy, and trust she will be cared for well enough."
Snape made a rough noise in the back of his throat and turned away from the painting. Harry forgot Dumbledore to gaze sadly at Snape. He wished right now, more than anything, that he could somehow soothe him, touch him, squeeze his shoulder or even embrace him if he would allow it.
He stood stock still, however, and felt abiding regret.
"My boy... your burden is heavy, but there are ways to lighten it, are there not?"
Snape swallowed hard, still turned away and a look of loathing and guilt crossed his face that Harry could not fathom.
"I must be strong."
"Stone is strong, Severus, but even stone can crack. Sometimes it needs shoring up. It's the start of holidays. Riddle won't come, will he?"
Snape shook his head. "No. He has business on the continent. He will be away until the Vernal Equinox at least, or so he claims. His word cannot truly be trusted anymore -- he sometimes makes precious little sense."
"Then... set aside your burdens for a few days, my boy. And... look to those who care for you."
Snape turned at this, aghast, but missing the pointed look Dumbledore was giving to the equally startled Harry.
"You've gone mad. There is no one who cares for me, not without motive or coin."
Harry winced. Was that how he thought of the rugged Squib who seemed devoted to him?
Suddenly, it occurred to Harry he had only seen one side of their encounters. He decided then and there to head to Thadeus's cottage and observe the man.
Scroggins was busy with a client when Harry arrived, having left as Snape sat to supper that evening.
This client was a bit more demanding, and the Squib was letting himself be buggered by the man, who looked like some sort of craftsman, with large, gnarled hands and a perfunctory manner.
When he was done, he flipped a handful of sickles on the bed and slapped Scroggins' rump fondly, before doing up his trews and leaving. Harry was appalled, but Thadeus, he noted, was not dissatisfied. He picked up the sickles and went to a small potted plant on the dresser.
Harry watched, surprised, while Thadeus upended the plant which suddenly disappeared as a small hole appeared on the bottom of the vase in which Scroggins dropped his coins. When he flipped the vase back upright, the plant reappeared and the hole disappeared and he set it back on the dresser.
A knock from the door downstairs attracted both of their attention and Harry watched him answer. To his surprise, a hag stood at the door, but when she extended a hand with five sickles, Thadeus smiled and let her in.
What did Severus pay more for, Harry wondered? Silence? The man was mute and illiterate, and he could hardly call the use of straps Snape could easily slip out of 'bondage.' Buggery and apparently shagging, cost less than a hand job or blow job? Or... Harry frowned now, disliking another possible conclusion. Was Scroggins charging Snape more because he was a Death Eater? He had thought the man cared, but it was possible this was a mistaken assumption.
Harry stayed in place, seated on the porch under the cloak and waited.
He stood when the hag left, a surprisingly long time later, and watched from outside with his surveillance spells as Scroggins quickly bathed and changed. Harry was shocked when he noticed the man looking at a well-hidden clock that Harry was surprised to note was similar to the one Molly Weasley had. Some of the designations were difficult to read, but Harry definitely made out "client approaching" on it. There were small pictures, as well as words, which was probably what Scroggins paid attention to, he thought. Whatever it was Thadeus noted, the man swiftly went to the window and looked out.
Harry glanced down the road and noted Severus. He wasn't too surprised to see him; the Headmaster had practically ordered him to unwind.
He looked back in time to see a look of utter disgust cross Scroggins face. The Squib took a deep breath, obviously composing himself and squared his shoulders, plastering a kindly expression on his face. Harry was crestfallen.
Snape climbed the steps, a bit wearily, and Harry made a sudden decision. He hurried down and moved silently to a few paces behind Severus.
Thadeus opened the door and Harry noted now the too quick smile, as well as the eager hand. Snape dropped two galleons into it and Scroggins stepped back, allowing him in. Harry followed closely and carefully.
His heart was pounding, and he was fairly certain he should not do this, but something inside him made it equally clear that it was imperative that he act. He trusted that feeling; it had never led him astray.
He climbed the stairs behind the two men and waited, his stomach seemingly tied in knots.
He watched as Severus indicated his desire, in this case, a hand job, and then closed his eyes, waiting for the blindfold which Thadeus swiftly tied around his head.
Harry waited until the man went toward the dresser to move and he slipped off his invisibility cloak, keeping his steps muffled as he moved up to Scroggins and cast a silencing spell on him before putting a hand on his arm.
The mute gasped, but it was silent and he was fearful until he noticed Harry in his Auror's robes. His eyes went wide, but Harry shook his head, indicating the waiting Snape with a jerk of his head, then extended a handful of galleons to the man, hating the eager expression and filthy smile Scroggins got as he nodded in complicity and took the galleons.
Harry indicated the door and Thadeus swiftly and silently exited and he cast a locking charm most wizards, much less a Squib would not be able to drop.
Then he turned to Snape and his heart began to beat quickly again, but this time, he recognised the sensation. It was not fear. It was desire.
He wanted to help, but somehow along the way, he had grown to care for him, wanted to offer his succour and support. But would Snape be accepting?
Harry took a deep breath and moved to Snape.
He could hear the man's rapid breathing, and soon, he could smell him; the scent of lanolin, clean linen, bitter tea and a faint whisper of cinnamon.
Harry touched Snape's face and closed his own eyes. This face... when had it become beloved to him? It did not matter.
"Thadeus?" Snape's breath ghosted over Harry's hair; he was still rather shorter than the man and always would be.
Harry reached a hand up and cast a slight sticking charm to the straps as he gently removed the blindfold.
Snape drew in a shocked breath.
"P-p... who... Potter?"
Harry smiled sadly at him, and nodded. "Yes. It's Harry."
He stroked his other hand to Snape's face who twisted away, then tried to remove his arms from the straps without luck.
"What the devil? What are you doing here? Why are you--"
"--so old? I had to come now. Let me show you."
"You're not Harry Potter," Snape muttered fiercely, pulling on the straps and Harry stepped up and put his hands to those thin cheeks.
"Look at me," he said gently, and whispered, "Legilimens."
Then using the skills he'd learnt from this man, and had honed in Auror training, Harry revealed to Severus what he needed him to know.
The first image he sent was Snape hurling the jar of cockroaches at him, a startling and vivid recollection, as well as placing them both in a time strata Snape would easily place.
Then he swiftly unveiled image after image:
Snape coming to fetch him from Tonks at the start of 6th year...
Slughorn's party and the SectumSempra incident...
The Potions book and the events atop the tower...
Their wand fight and the headlines of the paper naming Snape as Headmaster...
Harry pulled back a little and then showed him a very brief image of him duelling Voldemort and Voldemort falling, then a blur of random images, including the school's rebuilding, his becoming an Auror, receiving his fifteen year pin, and then he shifted forward to show him asking to become an Unspeakable, and receiving the broken Time Turner. He showed him the studies, a brief snippet of his discussion with Minerva, and then him holding the whole device, followed by his preparation and arrival and reading the date on the Daily Prophet he'd summoned. Then he closed his eyes, cutting the connection, before opening them in time to see Snape's stunned expression and pale face.
Harry waited, knowing another storm probably brewed but hoping to steer Snape to calmer waters without recourse to spells or charms.
"You came back."
Harry nodded warily, waiting for the penny to drop.
"You're... you slew him." The last word was quavery and Harry nodded cautiously.
"R-riddle... he's dead."
It was the first time Harry had ever heard Snape use any term but the Dark Lord. What he said though, was, "He will be. When my younger self sees to it later in the year."
"Younger... yes... you're an Auror... you're.. you've been watching." Snape's face suffused with colour, even as his expression grew haunted, almost grief-stricken and Harry ached to somehow help him. "You look more like your mother now."
Harry was awed as he saw those familiar black eyes grow bright with tears.
"Dear gods... you survived."
Harry released the sticking charm and Snape slumped onto the bed, stunned. He knelt before Snape. Slowly and carefully, he placed his hands on the knobby knees before him.
"I survived. I thrived. Thanks to you and to Dumbledore and to a lot of people I probably don't thank enough, but I have the leisure of rehashing that with them. I didn't with you. I... I came back because I wanted to help you. I wanted to thank you. I--"
"I'm dead." Snape's tone was conclusive.
Harry looked stricken, and then felt ashamed. He had been so careful with what he showed Snape, but had not bothered to censor his own tongue. Stupid, stupid, stupid!
He suddenly felt a cool hand touch his face and looked up to Snape who graced him with a quirk of the corner of his lip, the closest thing to a smile Harry had seen from him in all the time he'd been watching.
"I expected it, Harry. I'm not shocked."
He gave up on protocol and suddenly, startling them both, Harry lunged and put his arms around Snape, holding him tightly and relishing his solidity, the feel of him against his own smaller, if heavier frame.
There was a hushed moment of expectation, where Harry thought he would be hurled across the room and possibly hexed, but then a timid hand touched his shoulder, and another gingerly snaked around his back and Harry stifled a sob as he felt those thin, but strong arms enfold him.
"Thank the gods. Thank Merlin. Thank Albus." Snape choked on this last. "You lived. You slew the abomination and--"
He pulled back to put his own hands to Harry's face and stare into his eyes.
"Riddle is dead."
Harry gulped. "Yes."
"All of him?"
Harry smiled then, realising what Snape was concerned about. "Each part of him is dead. Including the one in me."
Snape studied his eyes and Harry let him, feeling the Legilmentic brush to his mind, but allowing Snape far enough in to gauge his truthfulness. Snape let him go.
"Thank heavens." He sighed and looked around, his cheeks pinking slightly, before gathering his dignity back around him like a cloak. "Then it has all been worth it."
Harry nodded, smiling. Snape lifted a brow at him.
"You did not answer, I noted, what you are doing here now?"
Harry nodded, and then made a decision.
"I told you. I came back to help you." Snape's brows furrowed, then Harry slid a hand to his cheek again and whispered, "Let me help you."
Severus froze, and Harry stroked his cheek, causing him to swallow heavily.
"It's Harry. Now and forever," Harry murmured before closing in to brush his lips against Snape's, feeling as much as hearing his slight intake of breath, before sealing his own somewhat chapped lips to those warm, thin ones.
A tremor ran through Snape and Harry thrilled in it; this, this feeling of completeness, of appositeness, it was everything that had been missing for longer than he could credit and more compelling than what he had ever discovered with Ginny. Knowing intimately that Snape had not (ever?) been touched by anyone who truly cared for him, wanted him, was a knowledge that Harry wanted to wipe from Severus with kisses and caresses and any other touch he was allowed.
Ginny had come to him from a good home, with loving parents and no sharp edges that needed careful handling or wearing down. She had been his prize after the war, something given to him by her family and the Wizarding World in a way. He had simply accepted it, but had never truly felt worthy of it, he knew now.
Severus was not a prize he had earned, but more like a mystery he had uncovered. Snape had come from humble beginnings through a life of hard knocks that had left him unwilling to bend. He was stern, awkward, and incomparable to Harry, something priceless that not only required, but merited careful handling due to its value in and of itself. Severus was not a prize he had been given, but a treasure he had sought on his own, and Severus would never simply allow himself to be taken, he knew.
Harry had applied himself to the study of the mystery that was Severus Snape with great diligence and care. The Time Turner, he now realised, was the means, but this was the way. This... this was the test of his hard earned knowledge and he answered it with confidence, grateful to finally use what he had learnt.
Deepening the kiss when Snape did not withdraw, Harry slipped his hands up to cup that beloved face and kiss him deeper, harder now, and when Severus opened his mouth, possibly to speak, Harry slipped his tongue carefully within, overjoyed when he felt those thin hands not push him away, but grapple to hold onto him, hold him closer, and he moved to straddle the man, feeling the hard, heated lump against his own thick erection and moaned.
They let each other go briefly, long enough to gaze into eyes and read sincerity and intentions and Snape groaned and pulled him back to him, holding his hips, then his buttocks tighter to him, pressing them together as they snogged as if the Wizarding World depended on it.
Snape suddenly let him go for one brief, heart-stopping moment to gasp, "H...how old are you?"
Harry gulped, having to actually recall this bit of knowledge. "Almost forty. I'm... 39."
Snape made a funny sound in the back of his throat and Harry realised as Snape did that he was, in fact, older than the man below him. Before he could think too much about the issue, Severus pulled him back, closer, and Harry let him, kissing him everywhere he could reach. Judging by the way he responded, Severus had never experienced such a thing. The thought made Harry slow down a bit, gentling his actions.
He ran his hands up to that clean, judging by the scent, if still shiny and rather neglected hair. Snape stiffened and Harry could practically hear the echo of taunting words, clear back from his own childhood, and further as he recalled what his father and Sirius had once said, to now. He pulled back, just enough to see the wide black eyes and he freed one hand to touch his cheek, and then run his fingers through those long strands, wincing as he caught tangles.
"Sorry," he muttered, but doing it again and again until Snape closed his eyes and shuddered.
Harry kissed him then, and again, and soon they were caught back up in a snog, but a slow and sensual one, still heated, but not as frantic, at least, not at first.
He could hear the thump of his own heart and feel the rapid pulse against his fingers that stroked Snape's throat. His fingers slipped down then until his palm rested against that starched fabric covering that insistent heart. Ruthless, malicious, unyielding some would call this man.
Severus choked back a moan and Harry kissed it from him, sliding his hand lower. When he nearly touched that yearning rigid bar of flesh, Snape hissed and pulled his hand back. His eyes expressed panic.
"You can't. I... I can't."
"Like this," Snape insisted, pulling them back together and Harry pursed his lips but did not complain. He drew in a breath and began to frot against him even as Snape thrust his own hips up and into Harry.
Snape clutched at him painfully hard and then clenched his teeth, grunting slightly as the spasms took him and Harry watched his new found lover reach his climax, fully dressed, but well satiated if the way he collapsed after the wracking shudders released him was any indication.
"Sweet merciful heavens," Severus wheezed when he was able to catch breath.
Harry swallowed, still hard, but so pleased at Snape's release that he barely felt his own need. It did not matter.
"We're... good together," he managed to say, putting a hand down and on the damp bulge in those black wool trews.
"Tergeo," he murmured, smiling as he felt the magic swirl over Snape's privates, making the man flinch, then sitting up, still catching his own breath and feeling his erection slowly diminishing.
"Thank you," Snape managed as he sat, as well, shaking his head as if to clear it. "I must ask what, if anything, you have done to Thadeus."
"He's fine. I gave him some coin and asked him to leave is all."
Snape nodded, avoiding Harry's eyes, and then essayed, "I expect I'd better not get used to... this."
"I want to help you," he finally said. "If you'll let me."
Snape studied him now, and Harry met his gaze. Finally the Headmaster nodded, but he looked a touch less weary as he did so.
"Perhaps it's time you told me the whole of it, or as much as you can. Where are you staying?"
The easiest thing Harry had ever done was accept Severus's offer to stay in the Headmaster's study. No one bothered him there and he rarely frequented it, but it would not be seen as strange for him to go there, either, or for a House Elf, such as Kreacher to attend to the room. Furthermore, it was the holidays and Snape was not expected to make an appearance except for breakfast and dinner. The rest of the time was his own.
Harry merely informed Kreacher of his new location and had him set up soundproofing charms, since House Elf spells were far stronger than ones he could manage. It was a relief to not have to wear the cloak all the time, although he kept it around his shoulders to throw on if he had to.
Despite his proximity, however, thus far, their other encounters had remained fully clothed. It was as if Snape thought he could keep their relationship at arm's length by keeping them from going farther than they had, although what they did remained of a fiery nature. Harry had never dreamt such depths of desire existed in the taciturn, ascetic man he remembered as a boy.
The man always stepped nearer with hesitation, as if uncertain of his reception, something that made Harry feel an almost unbearable tenderness toward him. Their preliminary kisses were sweeter and gentler than anything Harry could remember from anyone else he had ever kissed, and soon grew demanding and breathless.
When Snape held him close, smothering the sounds that seemed to want to escape him against Harry's neck or lips or collarbone, Harry thrilled at the feeling of those warm, efficient hands stroking his back, holding him closer as Severus pressed his erection to Harry's hard stomach, even as his own knee was between Harry's legs, providing exquisite friction.
Against the couch, against a bookcase, behind the door, and always fully dressed, both striving to achieve a brilliant, yet oddly unsatisfying climax.
Then Snape would ease back, catching his breath and stare at Harry as if he didn't quite believe he was there. Quick waves of their wands took care of their soiled garments and returned the atmosphere to something less charged before Severus would clear his throat and whisper, "Until later then."
The first time he said that, Harry had barely slept at all, stretched out on the couch by the brazier that provided comforting warmth, wondering if Severus was going to visit him in the night. He did not and did not act any different the next morning as Harry joined him before following him out.
He had not asked many questions of Harry, either, fully aware of the restrictions anyone using a Time Turner was under, although, they both knew any such restrictions had pretty much been tossed out the window with their new found relationship. Still, Harry was grateful to not have to answer, since he was not entirely sure what he could say. What he had done so far would be damning enough if it came to light, although Harry's endless ruminations of what changes this might make could reveal nothing. He finally gave up worrying and figured it was probably better if they did not go any further, although he would not hesitate if Severus chose to allow further activities.
So a few days later, the hardest thing Harry had done yet since his arrival was not follow along when the Malfoys called for Severus on Christmas Eve. Their manor, Snape informed Harry, was well-warded against Aurors and all manner of stealth spells and objects, such as Harry's cloak. He was expected and could not refuse. Harry would have to remain.
Still, he was not expecting Severus to return, pale, bruised and shaken... and livid with anger and a sense of betrayal.
"You were seen, you fool!"
Harry frowned in concern as Severus paced angrily in the study. He had returned a trembling wreck, dishevelled and quite obviously, to Harry's Auror-trained eyes, a victim of a long bout of Cruciatus. What had happened?
"Who saw me?"
"The bloody Dark Lord!" Snape stopped pacing to throw himself onto the chair by the fire, too distraught to continue pacing.
Harry's blood felt as if it had turned to ice. "What-- when?"
"At Godric's Hollow," Severus turned to him now, black eyes blazing with anger. "What were you doing there?"
The constriction around Harry's heart eased up and he breathed a sigh of relief.
"Visiting my parent's, but... it wasn't me, Severus. Well, it was, but it was the younger me." Snape glared at him, and Harry insisted, "It was. Hermione and I used Polyjuice Potion to look like a middle-aged couple. Me, from now, wasn't there. I haven't been any further than Hogsmeade the whole time I've been here."
Snape continued to stare and Harry sighed.
"Look into my mind if you don't believe me. I'll show you. But... let me help you first."
Severus considered this then sat back, not responding to Harry's request.
Harry went down on bended knee before him, and put a hand on his knee.
"I swear -- I did not go to Godric's Hollow tonight. My younger self did, and he was bloody lucky to escape, and then only because of Hermione."
Snape looked up at this.
He studied Harry for a long moment, before finally asking, "Why did you not marry the Granger girl?"
Harry was taken aback at this seeming non sequitur, but Snape seemed sincere in his interest so he finally shrugged.
"I've never thought of her that way. She's my best friend... like a sister. Sometimes she thinks she's my mother." Harry smiled. "She is a sister now, or as near as one can get. I do love her, but... I'm not in love with her."
Snape nodded. "Of course. She was sensible and knowledgeable and kind. So you chose the most Gryffindor of Gryffindor witches instead."
It was the first time Snape had mentioned Ginny, even obliquely and Harry sighed, unable to deny it.
"Aye." Harry considered his next words, and then finally admitted, "We're not together anymore. I mean, legally, yes, but not really. If that matters."
Snape shook his head and his cheeks grew pink-tinged.
"Hardly. Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb."
Severus had allowed him to draw a hot bath, but drew the line at Harry helping him into it.
"I could join you, you know," Harry noted, looking at the size of the sumptuous bath.
"That would scarcely be therapeutic, which is what I thought you intended," Snape riposted, eyeing him sternly.
"I intended to help you. I still do. I think you need the help right now."
Harry could not deny he badly wanted to get closer to the man, but he meant what he said. Snape was trembling with pain and fatigue and Harry wondered if anyone had ever helped him.
"Severus... is this the only time Riddle has done this to you?"
The man frowned. "Of course not. He is quite mad. He even targets Bellatrix in his rages now, although less often than the rest of us."
Harry swallowed, half-suspecting as much.
"So you've always dealt with it afterwards on your own?"
Snape seemed surprised. "How else?"
How else, indeed?
Harry stepped up to him slowly and watched a bit sadly as Snape's eyes grew wider with uncertainty and not a little fear.
"I'm not going to hurt you."
He urged Snape to perch on the marble that lined the edge of the tub. Then he extended a hand and gently placed it on Snape's chest, and the other on the top button on the row of buttons of his customary suit.
Harry looked up into those tired black eyes and slid his hand down, wordlessly incanting Libero to release the ebony disks and let his jacket fall open.
His hand traced back upwards to do the same to the buttons of his waistcoat. As his hand reached Snape's neck, the man swallowed and he watched his larynx rise and fall beneath that supple, slightly bewhiskered skin.
He swallowed too as his hand swept down again, this time releasing the buttons of horn that liberally dotted his shirt. When he got to the waistband, he noted Snape's rearing erection beneath his trousers.
Then he looked back to those weary eyes.
"Let me. Please."
He did not know if he was asking to finish undressing him, or to help him bathe, or to make love to him. Harry was ready to do any of the things this man would allow.
Snape swallowed again, audibly, then shrugged his arms and let his clothing slip from him, leaving him standing in his woolen trousers.
His chest had a thin patch of hair. His ribs were visible, and the muscles of his belly were lax, but still relatively flat. Harry found himself staring at the black smudge of the Dark Mark on Snape's thin, wiry arm.
"Don't touch it."
Snape's expression was closed, but Harry merely nodded. Without further words he slipped out of his jumper and pullover shirt, and then toed off his trainers. He looked up to see Snape's eyes grow hooded.
When he was sure he had his attention, Harry unbuttoned his trousers and slid them off, stepping out of them. He carefully peeled off his socks as well, and tossed them with the rest of his clothes. He knew his erection was obvious, nearly pushing through the opening of his pants.
He moved closer then and did not look up at the sound of Snape's breath catching. His eyes only beheld the placket of Snape's trousers, and foregoing Libero, he slid his fingers under it and began undoing the buttons therein.
The rigid, heated flesh beneath twitched as his fingers worked the fabric, and Harry moved faster. Soon the last button was undone and he felt a warm hand clasp his shoulder as Snape stood whilst Harry gently slid the trousers down those firm, surprisingly well-shaped legs, kneeling to help him step out of his boots and then his trousers. Snape wore no socks, so Harry looked up, but his gaze was caught by the sight of the huge bulge underneath those thin linen pants. A damp spot marked the tip and a pleasantly tangy scent of musk tantalized him.
The blurt of sound was loud in the room and he looked up to see the frightened, pleading, hungry expression in those eyes and reached up to slowly peel the whisper-soft linen down. Allowing his shoulder to be used for support again, Harry swiftly pushed his own pants down and off, and stood to allow Snape to see him.
He was not, he knew, the most well-endowed of men, but his body was tanned, trim and slightly muscular as well as perfectly proportioned. He had a surprising amount of hair on chest and belly, arms and legs, and even, he reflected ruefully, his arse, but he was also healthy and his cock was thick and sturdy if not long.
Snape was, by contrast, sallow, long and flat-muscled where he had muscle at all. The only hair was that on his head, under his arms, the scant sprinkling of coarse black on his chest, a thin stripe beneath his navel that led to the thick tangle of wiry black his genitals normally rested in. They were not resting now, his cock at full attention, heavy cording lifting his weighty bollocks as well.
Harry had never seen a more impressive looking cock -- not so much in size, although that was ample, but in colour and shape. It was long and thick, with a pale shaft ropey with veins and a nearly purple head peeking out from beneath a fleshy foreskin.
The man was trembling, however, and Harry knew it wasn't entirely desire, but the effects from his ordeal earlier that night, so he stepped up and slid an arm around his waist and got him to stand, then walked them both to the tub edge and urged him in, then stepped in behind him.
Snape sat with eyes closed and Harry merely leaned back and let Severus slowly relax from the heat of the water and the soothing herbal scent of the soap.
Then he slowly reached for the sponge and dipped it, running it over Severus's back, soothing the tight muscles. He ran it over his arms and Snape grabbed for the sponge.
"I can do that, the rest," he stammered.
"I know, but let me."
Harry set the sponge down and began to massage that lean back and those slightly stooped shoulders. He dipped the sponge and ran it back over his arms and then massaged them, too. Then he urged Snape to lean back against him.
The lean form trembled and he swallowed as Harry gently sponged over that long neck and along his collarbones. The thin chest heaved as he gasped as Harry ran the sponge over his chest and nipples, and then let the sponge go to rub them gently.
Harry was stiff as a brick, firmly pressed against the curve of Snape's arse, the head of his hefty cock snugly ensconced in the small of his back. He could see the arching curve of Severus's own heavy erection, twitching where it lay flat against his belly as if straining to meet his slowly descending hand.
"Trust me," he whispered in the ear closest to his mouth, nuzzling the side of that angular face as he slid his hand to his target.
Snape tensed as he ran his hand along the length of his cock to gently grasp and roll his bollocks, buoyant in the warm water. Harry was panting even as Severus gasped with each new sensation.
The rigid flesh felt good in his hand and he stroked it easily, pleased when Snape began to arch slightly. He could see him bite his lip, though, when a low moan escaped him and Harry whispered his name.
"Look at me."
Severus turned his head and Harry gently kissed him, not stopping his stroking hand. Snape made a desperate sort of sound and turned slightly to kiss him harder, even as he tightened up and the heavy cock in Harry's hand seemed to contract and pulse as thick strings of pearly semen shot along his arm, and into the water.
He groaned into Harry's mouth and Harry gently rinsed them both off, then cupped a hand to Snape's face as Severus withdrew and dropped his head against his shoulder, still catching his breath. They were lying almost side by side now in the tub.
Snape shifted slightly and without looking up, he reached down to gently touch Harry's cock.
"I..." he shook his head and fell silent, stroking Harry with a firm, if unpractised hand.
Harry looked down at the damp, gleaming strands of ebony against his chest, that pale, sallow skin, the bluish-black shadow of bewhiskered cheek. Its twin brushed his nipple as Snape masturbated him, the stubble sending incredible sensations through him, and Harry gritted his teeth against an outcry as he also erupted, semen spraying from him in all directions.
Snape stopped stroking when he put a hand on his arm, and then tilted his head up to kiss him.
Harry managed to get them both rinsed off and out of the tub without incident before too much lethargy hit.
They were towelling off when Snape cleared his throat. He spoke looking off into the distance, not meeting Harry's eyes.
"I... I don't know if I can... or should... go any further than this, but... if that's all right... you'd be welcome to share my bed. Tonight."
Harry finished drying, and hung his towel on the rack before stepping up to Severus, who looked at him uncertainly, before sliding his arms around him and kissing him.
He kissed him until Snape relaxed, before pulling back.
"I'd like that," Harry murmured huskily.
"While you live, Severus, the Elder Wand cannot be truly mine."
Nagini bit deep and true.
Cold fingers clutching him close.
"Take... it. Take... it."
Gleaming black eyes...
A desperate expression...
"Look... at... me..."
Harry gasped awake in the cold hours before dawn, finding the fingers holding the front of his shirt were warm, not cold, although the same face stared at him, eyes wide, but with concern, not panic.
He nodded, indicating he was awake and Severus eased the hold on his borrowed nightshirt.
"Do you need anything? Or would you like a calming potion?"
Harry smiled slightly; most people would catch their breath and roll over, or perhaps get up and have warm milk or a glass of water, trust Severus to think of having a potion.
"No. Thanks. I'm fine."
There was a moment of silence before Snape said, "You were calling my name."
Harry stilled, and sighed. "Just a dream."
Snape hesitated, then turned on his side and said softly, "Would you like..."
He could not seem to finish his enquiry, but slid his hand beneath the covers to gently cup Harry's genitals through his nightshirt.
Harry groaned, but his cock twitched and Snape's gaze grew hooded as his hand slid back and forth, gently squeezing.
He gave in to the wicked sensations, turning on his side to face Severus, and reached a hand to slowly lift his nightshirt. Snape paused, then did the same, lifting Harry's nightshirt until Harry pulled back and took a moment to pull the shirt off and then turn to help Snape out of his.
They met again and began to kiss, pressed against one another, hard cocks rubbing together. Harry was delighted at the smooth feeling of Snape's body against his, whilst Severus thrilled at the sensation of the hairy torso pressed to his, wiry curls crisply rubbing against his sensitive nipples.
Harry began to kiss along his neck, his collarbones, nipping and licking to ease the sting, listening with joy to Severus's panting breath. He dipped his head to lick and nip at one of those intriguing nipples, would have moved lower when Snape stopped him with shaking hands.
"I said I wasn't sure if it should go any further than what we've done."
His voice was admirably even, if breathless, and Harry considered. Was Snape right? He had agreed.
"You're right. I'm sorry." He drew in a breath and moved back up to stare into those midnight dark eyes. "You're intoxicating, Severus Snape."
Severus stared at him like he'd gone mad, but leaned in slowly to kiss him again. They continued to kiss and rub against one another in a slow, rhythmic fashion.
Harry smiled slightly as he felt Snape begin to tremble, and slid his hands down to grasp that lean arse and hold Severus tighter against him. His smile grew when Snape momentarily lost his rhythm, before moaning and kissing Harry harder.
They were both sweating slightly now, gasping and growing frantic with need and Harry realised he had never felt quite this way before. Married sex had been pleasant, a pastime or a palliative, and always within rules rigidly defined by his wife. Harry had never thought to question this; he thought it was the way married couples were and had no real example to draw contrasts from.
Snape had set rules, too, but even within them Harry felt a bubbling of passion unlike anything he had ever felt before. He wanted to do whatever this man wanted, whatever he asked, whatever he wished.
Severus suddenly clutched him painfully tight and Harry whispered his name against that sweaty temple as Snape came against his hip. His voice choked as his own orgasm struck him unawares, and he pulsed a scant amount of semen against Severus, having been nearly emptied from the climax during their bath. Severus, he noted, did not seem to have the same problem; if, as he suspected, the man had no prior lover or regular sex, then he was barely catching up with his body's needs.
Harry slowly caught his breath, idly stroking Snape's hair. He bent his head to kiss the patch of temple he could see, then lay his head back and whispered, "Happy Christmas."
"It is, isn't it?"
Snape was silent for a while, and then he softly sighed.
"I know you'll go back, but I cannot thank you enough for bringing me hope."
The quiet words gave Harry pause, and he struggled to think of what to say. "Severus, I--"
"Don't spoil it," Snape insisted. "You can't tell me everything, and I still half believe I am hallucinating, but if so... it is a pleasant delusion and I should like to see it through."
Harry considered this, then ventured, "If it could end well, how would you have it end?"
Severus spoke without hesitation. "Riddle dead. Me letting go of these burdens and constraints... finding out if most of me truly died sixteen years ago and was too stubborn and thickheaded to realise it, going it alone in dumb anguish all thi--"
He stopped himself, clearly feeling he had confessed too much. After a moment he lifted his head to gaze on Harry, studying his face, staring into his eyes.
"Perhaps I am truly dead already, but it's nothing like I imagined."
Harry swallowed. "You're not. And I promise you Riddle will die and..." (...you won't be alone)
But he could not say this, so he pursed his lips and said resolutely, "I promise."
The dream had reminded him, though, of what still lay ahead and that he could not change it without irrevocably changing far too many things, or causing other problems. His studies had taught him that changing the time line was perilous, but he knew from his adventures in third year that it could, in fact, be done. However, he was aware of his future already, he had lived it, and he could not change what he knew or else suffer what McGonagall called a temporal shunt. There was a theory in the mysterious and esoteric temporal sciences that if one changed what one already knew in the past, a new time line was created, separate and distinct from the one remembered. The problem was the traveller could not return to his or her original remembered future, only the new one created by the temporal shunt. Harry was hoping to avoid this.
As things stood, he hated it, but the more he thought about it, the clearer it became that he would have to leave Snape, let the man believe he had been abandoned. It was the only way he could then experience the events in the Shack as they had happened late that Spring.
He did not wish to simply leave, but he would have to. But when?
As the holidays wound to a close, with the two of them sharing the unprecedented freedom it granted them, Harry decided he would have to leave once the students returned. He had to decide what, if anything to say.
In the end, he found he couldn't say anything.
Severus had a staff meeting scheduled for the day before the students were due back. Harry gathered his belongings and struggled for interminable minutes over a parchment, nibbling on the quill and gazing from time to time about the study where he had learnt unequivocally about the depths of Severus Snape's well-hidden passionate nature.
In the end he settled for:
You are right. I can't tell you everything. But I can tell you this.
No one has ever made me feel what you do.
Harry found himself in the shack, staring at a beam of light where dusty motes danced in the crisp afternoon sun. Relieved, he tucked the Decade-eater away and removed the cloak.
He slowly made his way out of the place, through the old tunnel, which was blocked, but he spent some time clearing the roots and debris that had clogged the way, which helped settle him a bit. He spent a last few moments shoring up the earthen walls, and then worked his way out of the opening under the Whomping Willow, pressing a hand to the bark just as a branch whipped down to strike. The tree froze in place and he began to wind his way toward the smoke that denoted Hagrid's Hut.
As he circled around the garden, Hagrid came rushing out with a huge broom in hand, which he dropped when he caught sight of his friend.
"Hello there, Harry! I thought you was a pack of knarls what's been botherin' the rhubarb."
Harry smiled up at the huge man and stepped into a ready embrace, warmed by his affection. This was the first friend he had ever made in the Wizarding World and he treasured his friendship.
Suddenly it struck him that Severus did not have this, could not expect a warm, ready welcome from anyone. He wondered now if he ever had. The only friend Harry knew Snape had for sure was his mother and in the memories he knew of, he had never seen her even just hold his hand or hug him.
"Somethin' wrong, Harry?"
He swallowed down the tightness in his throat and shook his head.
"Well," he demurred as he pulled back, knowing his face was probably displaying far too much of what he felt, and falling back on using some truth to cover his real concerns. "I was thinking about Snape."
Hagrid considered this, and then shook his head.
"Oh, aye, that would make yer sober all righ'. Good man, he was. Bit sharpish... like those knarls. He were all righ' though, once yer got to know him an' all." The huge man settled himself on a stump near his cabin and looked across the lawns toward the white tomb and the black tomb where Dumbledore and Snape both lay. "He always treated me the same as ever'one else. No different. Used to give me potions fer me rheumatiz when the wind got chill in Autumn and ask me abou' ingredients I might have seen in the forest. He always talked to me like I was no differen' from any o' the teachers."
"Well, you weren't," Harry noted.
"Ach." Hagrid made a face, uncomfortable with plaudits. "So what yer doin' here, Harry? Not just come ta see me, have ya?
Harry smiled now. "Maybe I have. I should. But... I just felt like visiting the school, you know?"
The giant nodded thoughtfully. "Yeh, the change in weather does that t'folk. Makes 'em feel homesick."
"You're lucky, Hagrid," Harry said lightly. "You live here."
"Ach, well, yer could, too, yer know Harry. I'm sure the Headmistress'd love to have you fer a teacher."
"Maybe someday, but not now. I've got a job."
"So how is the world famous Auror?"
"Oh, go on. I'm just Harry and I'm a decent Auror I like to think, but..."
"Gettin' a bit tired o' it?"
"Maybe a bit," Harry hedged. He didn't want to bring up the subject of becoming an Unspeakable -- the decision that had caused his marriage to break up -- when he was no longer so sure if it was what he truly wanted after all.
Hagrid did not notice his hesitation. "Well, yer would be, wouldn' yeh? Yer had seven years o' being chased by criminals and murderers, then yer go into work what gives yer the same, day in, day out. T'ain't healthy."
Harry was surprised. "If you thought that, why didn't you say something before now?"
"Ain't my place, is it? Yer got to make yer own way, Harry. It were your choice. Yer got to make yer own choices, not let anyone push yer into this or that."
"Dare I ask where you've been, Auror Potter?"
Harry sipped at the tea he had been provided before answering.
"Best not. Work-related and all," he muttered without clarifying.
Her blue eyes remained sharp and she studied him carefully. After a while, she gave up her scrutiny and picked up her own tea, taking a bracing sip before essaying, "I see you decided not to contest a Dissolution."
This was news to Harry and he wondered if he had somehow affected the time line already, but her next words allayed his concerns.
"Our forebears had more wisdom than we give them credit for. Many of the old laws, such as the ones governing Marriage and Dissolution of same are well designed. If one wishes to dissolve a union to a partner who, perhaps, can no longer offer familiar love and companionship or affection, as in the case of poor Douglas Burbage after Charity went missing, the passage of time without comment on the matter is as eloquent as an impassioned outcry. She did not appear, he was granted dissolution, and has since gone on to find a lovely young widow to marry."
Harry nodded, wondering how much the Headmistress was guessing of his situation.
"Or if one wishes to simply not think of an unpleasant matter as is often the case, the passage of time settles it without undue fuss and bother. Simpler and far more convenient than the convolutions I understand Muggles require.
"Your children were worried about your absence, but the Minister himself informed them you were on an assignment and could not be reached or disturbed."
He was glad to be learning this, not having bothered to consider what would happen if he did not return closer to the time he had left. He fought the impulse to chew his lip now and said simply, "Kingsley was right."
"I dare say." She sipped her Darjeeling and studied him again, then set her cup down decisively. "Tell me, Harry... have you ever considered teaching?"
He lifted a brow, surprised. "Hagrid mentioned that to me just a bit ago. Is there an opening?"
"Would you be interested?"
He was surprised when he did not turn her down instantly, and more surprised at how the possibility now seemed one to consider. It would bring him closer to his children whom he was concerned about drifting apart from thanks to the Dissolution.
Then remembered he was not done with his current task. Not yet. Not until he had thoroughly tested the Decade-eater and gotten the rest of his answers.
"Next year, I presume," he finally enquired.
She nodded. "I'm afraid I've got one wishing to retire and one who received a better job offer in Morocco."
The thought of being able to remain here, in comfortable surroundings in the one place he still thought of as a home, a safe haven, was incredibly appealing.
"What are the positions?"
"I dare say you cannot take on both," she smiled. "I need a Potions Professor and a Defencive Magic Professor, and hopefully one of the two would be skilled enough at flying to handle the first years in Flight Instruction."
"Is Madam Hooch leaving?" Harry was shocked.
"After sixty years, she plans a well-deserved retirement."
Harry was dumbfounded. The woman hadn't seemed to change in all the time he'd known her.
He shook himself from his reverie to respond to her enquiry.
"I couldn't give you an answer right away, Headmistress. My job is going to have me dealing with irregular hours and such for some time."
"There's no hurry. I will go ahead and draft up a job offer for the summer. You would have until two weeks before the term to decide."
Harry wondered what would transpire between now and then.
His ruminations were interrupted by McGonagall's heartfelt sigh.
"Oh, but I wish, more than anything, that Severus was still with us."
Harry forced himself not to react.
She smiled at Harry now.
"Yes. We had our tiffs, but he was the finest Potions Professor the school has seen. The finest of his age. In fact, I was not merely shocked but in an absolute guddle of confusion when I heard how he died. If anyone could survive a poisonous snake bite, it should have been Severus Snape, but then, it just goes to show you -- luck never gives, it only lends."
She sighed and shook her head.
"Still, his students consistently scored high and often went on to prestigious jobs. He was also an exceedingly good Head of House for the most difficult house to handle." Her eyes filled with tears as she added, "Of course, after that last year he might have thrown in the towel, but I daresay I might have been able to talk him back... after a good grovel. He was partial to that, you see."
Harry smiled at her reminiscence and thought of the man he had been with, had fallen in love with, and wondered how on Earth he was going to reconcile his old life and his new awareness.
"I'm afraid I'd have to do more groveling than would be dignified to admit to," she finally decided, sipping again at her tea to swallow down the tears she had blinked back. "That last year was far, far beyond the pale."
Having seen it, Harry could not help but agree, however, he remained silent, allowing her to reminisce.
"He was called from the castle more than once by other Death Eaters, possibly even You Know Who and he always returned rather the worse for wear, although, I am ashamed to admit now that at the time I figured it was his just due. The worst was just before Christmas. He was summoned and we didn't see hide or hair of him until the day before the students were due back, although he was in the castle, no doubt nursing his wounds in his quarters.
"Speaking of which, his quarters were ransacked at least once, but fortunately it was a stupid individual since they didn't stop to consider that Severus had taken the Headmaster's quarters as was his right."
"You mean they ransacked his quarters in the dungeons?"
"Yes. His old quarters, as well as his private lab. Several effects were stolen, including some potions, which made Horace cross when Poppy required him to brew them up again as there was a bit of thaw that caused several students to spend more time out than they should in the damp, so she had a spate of colds to deal with that Spring."
Harry nodded, filing away the information, and asked, "Was he ever attacked that year?"
Minerva shook her head. "Verbally, yes, but never accosted. The students and even the teachers respected his temper and ability to duel. The only time anyone dared was... well, that night you came back to the school, Harry, with Miss Lovegood. On the eve of the Final Battle when Filius, Pomona and I chased him from the castle."
Harry remembered that night and swallowed now. Minerva dabbed at the corners of her eyes.
"If only he had seen fit to confide in me, or in any of us. We would have listened."
Harry nodded, but was lost in thought.
The notes were stacked high on the desk at Grimmauld, in a neat pile that told him Hermione had probably done it. There was another dusty set on the floor by the fireplace, telling him she had not been there for several days. He imagined she and Ron had come to check the place periodically, to see if he was home.
He should have returned not long after he left. Harry sighed, chalking up his thoughtless blunder as part of the learning process about the Time Turner. He still had yet to master all the idiosyncrasies involved in time travel, but
By the stack of notes, which he ignored, was an official looking envelope. He tore the wax seal and opened it.
Dear Mr. Potter,
The time to respond to the Request for Dissolution filed by Miss Ginny Weasley (formerly Potter) has passed, and your lack of response has been entered as concurrence with her wishes. As such, it is my duty to inform you that the Marriage between you and Miss Weasley has been effectively Dissolved and you are now considered single entities, able to seek out other partners to marry or bond with, if you so choose.
Your children with Miss Weasley shall, of course, retain your last name, and you, as their father, shall retain all legal rights pertaining to their upbringing, schooling, and any decisions required as to their well-being until they reach the age of majority. A mandatory contribution of 15% of your salary, in whatever position you hold now or in future, will be docked from your pay packet for the care and nurture of your children until the last of them reaches the age of majority. These monies will be distributed to a neutral party who will confer with both yourself and your ex-spouse to determine how they are to be divided and or best spent.
Miss Weasley has placed the name of Mrs. Hermione Weasley (formerly Granger) as her preferred neutral party. If you concur, simply initial by this line. If you do not, simply write in who you prefer and a dispute arbiter will be sent to determine your case.
[Harry stopped reading and scribbled his initials by the line.]
When you are finished reading this document, simply tap it once with your wand. A copy will be sent to our office and the Ministry archives. You will, of course, retain this original for your own records.
Yours most sincerely,
Nathaniel Hopkirk Chief Clerk to the Council of Magical Law
Harry sighed, and tapped his wand to the document, then shoved it back into its envelope and stormed into the kitchen.
Nagini wove round and round, winding herself about a gigantic, cracked ring.
The ring became a wreath of roses, but in the middle a giant six-petalled white flower with scarlet stripes grew.
Silvery light shimmered against the delicate petals and coalesced into a graceful doe, made of the purest light, exquisite in her clarity.
She nibbled on the flower, and then looked up at him with coal black eyes and he shivered, abruptly realising he was naked.
"Tell me, Harry," Snape leaned in close behind him as he whispered in Harry's ear. "What would I get by adding asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"
He began to turn, to embrace Severus, but he lost his footing and fell through the ice. He watched the surface recede as he slipped into the dark, cold deeps.
He could hear Hermione as if from far away. "The Forest of Dean."
The Forest of Dean.
The Forest of Dean...
Harry gasped awake, drenched in sweat that turned icy in the chill of the room.
He waved his wand to light the fire which had died out and lay back again with a sigh.
"I have to go back."
There was no argument, since there was no one but him in the room, but he felt the need to say it anyway.
The decision seemed to fortify him. He would draw up plans in the morning, make whatever preparations were needed, and return. Even if he could not be with Severus, he told himself, at least he could see him.
This time, Harry took a satchel. He had found it in Sirius's room, in the back of the closet, and it reminded him a little of the ones some students used at Hogwarts.
This one was of beautifully supple dark brown leather, oiled to be waterproof, and capacious. There was one buckled pocket in front and the buckle bore an ornate sigil he did not recognise.
He tucked some books in and an extra shirt and thick socks, his heavy wool robes, a scarf and the drawing he had made at breakfast of the flower he had seen Severus leave at his mother's grave. He had a stop to make first, and he intended to find out more about the flower if he could.
Ron clapped him on the back in the usual fashion, if he did look a bit sober, but Hermione's greeting was rather cool.
Harry didn't get annoyed, however, as he noted that her eyes grew quite red and he knew he had deeply upset her.
"So, mate -- was it exciting? I know you can't say, Kingsley said it was secret, but wow -- clandestine assignments already, eh?"
Harry smiled. "Yes, it was exciting, and yes, I can't speak about it."
"I take it you're satisfied with the particulars of your Dissolution then?"
He looked to Hermione whose voice had taken on a higher pitch, a characteristic warning note to both he and Ron who knew her best.
"Yes and no. What's done is done, though."
"Oh, but if you didn't want the Dissolut--"
He waved a hand to stop her in mid-stream. "No. I didn't mean that. I'm not unhappy about that. I'm just unhappy I couldn't be what she wanted me to be without making my own self miserable, and I hope family gatherings and such aren't going to be too awkward for the sake of the kids. That's all."
"Was it as bad as all that, Harry?"
He looked at Ron and finally sighed. "I guess I've always been a bit thick when it comes to relationships. Remember how it was with Cho in school? I thought maybe there was something, but I couldn't be what she needed."
Ron nodded, frowning. "Are you saying that's what happened with my sister?"
Harry eyed him. "Maybe. I hope that doesn't upset you?"
Ron shook his shaggy head. "No, mate. You're my best friend. You always will be. She's my little sister. She always will be. Nothing has changed."
"Ron is right," Hermione said now, wiping at her eyes with a tea towel in the kitchen and trying to sound cheerful. "I just wish we'd seen it sooner and maybe been able to do something."
Harry considered the self discoveries he had made, from the realisation that he and Ginny were not as sexually compatible as he'd assumed, all the way to the fact he had fallen in love... with a man... a dead man.
"There was nothing you could have done. Some things are private, Hermione," he finally said and smiled gently at her to take any sting out of his words.
She blushed a little, and then brought out the tea she had made and some tinned biscuits.
"Well, is there anything you can tell us>?"
He considered this, then dug through his satchel and pulled out the sketch. "Maybe there's something you can tell me. Does either of you know what flower this is?"
Ron frowned at it, but Hermione instantly pulled it to her. "It's a bit large, but I've heard they can grow to that size. It's asphodel, Harry."
"What?" His blood felt like ice all of a sudden.
"Yes. Asphodel is a lily. Quite lovely really. Where did you see it?"
He swallowed. "I can't say. But thank you."
He took his sketch back and stuffed it back in the satchel and focused his attention on choosing a biscuit and avoiding any awkward enquiries.
This time he did not travel from the shack.
He Apparated to the Forest of Dean after carefully visualising the area he had gone with Hermione nearly twenty years ago. He very nearly got into trouble as the area was no longer as he remembered, but built up with a caravan park nearby and a paved area with picnic benches. He just avoided being seen to appear by a family of itinerant Muggles who were attempting to get a fire pit going.
Instead of being able to return at the time he hoped, the Decade-eater being able to be adjusted to date, but not hour, he had to wait until after dark, sitting on one of the benches and reading one of his books until enough people had drifted back to their caravans for the evening. Then he surreptitiously used his wand to muffle his feet, pulled his cloak around his shoulders and activated the Time Turner.
When he arrived, he very nearly was caught again, but this time, by his own younger self, who was sleeping just outside the tent, wand in lap. He slid the hood of the cloak on and slipped into the shadows, grateful when his younger self continued sleeping.
He looked up at the stars and took a moment to enjoy the grandeur of the sky. The future spot, he decided, had lost some of its allure with the encroachment of civilisation. It was not the same as having trees and the glade and seeing the myriad paths through the woods, each leading to a new place.
Harry sighed, and then blinked in surprise as a bright light through the trees suddenly caught his attention. He looked about in alarm, wondering if it was one of the ubiquitous gang of Snatchers from that horrific year.
The tent and his younger self and Hermione were safe enough, but if they had some kind of homing device tuned to Harry Potter...
Soon he was able to relax, and then laugh silently at himself, but also with a fair bit of chagrin as the Silver Doe gracefully stepped through the slender path between bramble and bush and came to stand before him.
Harry slid off the hood of his cloak and gazed on the personification of his mother, and a symbol of the beauty hidden within the soul of Severus Snape, the incontrovertible sign of his incorruptibility.
He had to see him, he realised. There was no evading it, not with this current situation. If he Apparated away, the doe might well attempt to reach him, causing Severus worry and losing his younger self the chance to retrieve the Sword of Gryffindor later that night, as he remembered having occurred.
The doe gazed at him, shying forward, and then stepping lightly away, leading him to his lover, and without hesitation, he followed.
Snape was alarmed when his Patronus returned and there was no evidence of the boy. Had she been unable to summon him? Was he cannier than he had given him credit for?
He spun around, wand extended, even as his Patronus leaped closer to distract or confuse at his bidding. Harry smiled in approval, but also in appreciation.
"Gods, but I've missed you," he said simply.
Snape staggered slightly, but kept his wand held up as he stepped closer.
He moved up and slid the cloak off so that his lover could see.
"It is you," he murmured, a world of pain, incredulity and burgeoning joy in his voice.
Harry stepped closer and held his arms out, nominally to show he carried nothing but his satchel, which he dropped down, cloak atop it as he stepped forward some more, but also in open invitation he was not entirely sure Snape would allow himself to accept.
Perhaps it was the months of doubt and grief coupled with the heavy burdens place on him, or perhaps, it was knowing irrefutably that he would die, but Snape did not even hesitate. Harry was rocked by the impact of Snape's embrace. He smiled then, so widely it hurt as he held him tightly, closely.
It was all Severus said before starting to kiss the parts of Harry he could reach -- his ear, his jaw, his forehead.
Harry slid his face up and the kiss he received for his troubles was breathtaking.
Snape was mumbling and when he pulled back enough to make out his words, Harry was awestruck at the realisation that it was his name, said with such need, such reverence and fervour that it brought a lump to his throat.
He could feel the stiff cock pressing against him and before he could think about it or give Severus time to articulate agreement or denial, Harry used a non-verbal Libero to undo his trousers and went down on one knee before him. His hands slid unerringly for that long, hard, heavy cock, releasing it to the cold night air.
Even as the stunned Snape shook free of his shock enough to speak, Harry slipped that cock into his mouth, tasting for the first time the slightly bitter bite and tangy salty musk of a man. It excited him, incited him to suckle further until he nearly gagged, and then work on the end, sipping at the drops of lubrication that escaped and toying with the textures of foreskin, glans and frenulum, as his hand squeezed and rubbed the rest of that hard shaft and his other hand caressed that warm, heavy scrotum.
The heated pressure and delicious sensations drove Severus quickly over the edge and before he could warn Harry, he squeezed his shoulder and began to spurt his seed in forceful pulses into that sucking mouth. The pleasure was so intense that it was nearly agony.
He scarcely felt when the tingling wave of Tergeo washed over his spent genitals or when Harry slid him carefully back in place and did his trousers up.
It was not until Harry carefully stood before him, knees damp and dirty, and a suspiciously large wet spot near the waistband of his trousers that he found his voice.
He waved his wand to clean and dry Harry's trousers, and then put it away, looking a bit sheepish.
"I'm afraid I was rather overcome by your actions," he admitted now. "I'm sorry I did not warn you when I... um..."
"It was fine," Harry assured him, and then a sultry smile lit his lips. "It was my pleasure."
Snape considered this, a bit surprised, before saying with a touch of chagrin despite his nearly-customary dry tone, "Technically, it was mine."
Harry's smile widened and he chuckled. "I never thought I'd hear you make a joke."
Severus sobered. "It has been a very long time since there was anyone with whom I could engage in such banter."
Harry's smile dimmed at that, and he finally said. "Then I'm glad I'm here."
Snape did not respond to this, although he seemed to mull it over briefly, before admitting, "I was trying to reach you, your younger self that is."
Harry nodded. "You should send her again, this time specifically to young me."
Severus withdrew his wand, and Harry added, "Your Patronus is beautiful, Severus."
Those dark eyes gleamed at him for a moment with fond approbation, and then he raised his wand and intoned, "Expecto Patronum!"
It was near dawn of that sleepless night where both men lay on the Headmaster's bed, holding each other close, still sated from their passionate greeting.
"How long this time? Can you st... say?"
Harry heard both questions and felt his heart cramp slightly. He could not stay, not with Severus knowing it, not if the time line would remain the same.
In this year, in a very few weeks, Severus Snape had to die on the cold floor of the Shrieking Shack, gushing out his life's blood instead of making time to swallow a bezoar or cast an ex-sanguination spell, in order to give his younger self the knowledge he needed to end the bloody war for once and for all.
"You needn't say, of course," Severus whispered now. "I know you might not be able to divulge such information."
Harry merely nodded, and brought that dark head closer, resting it against his chest and kissing the top of his lover's head tenderly, wishing more than anything that things could be different.
Nagini wove round and round, winding herself about a gigantic, cracked ring.
The ring became a wreath of roses, but in the middle a giant six-petalled white flower with scarlet stripes grew.
Silvery light shimmered against the delicate petals and coalesced into a graceful doe, made of the purest light, exquisite in her clarity.
She nibbled on the flower, then stumbled, uncharacteristically graceless, and Harry could do nothing as she dropped. His fingers slid through her insubstantial form and he cried out in terror.
"Easy, my boy. Remember you always have me."
He turned to find the ghostly image of Headmaster Dumbledore beside him.
"Headmaster? Can you help me?"
"In any way that is within my means, my boy. Let us see."
Dumbledore considered the trembling deer and knelt near her head. To Harry's shock and horror, he revealed his horribly burnt and curse-damaged hand, then, seemingly without pain or concern, plucked his own pinkie from the frightful appendage and extended it to the deer.
Harry could only watch in dumbstruck dismay as the deer lifted its head and began to nibble on the finger.
To his confusion, it suddenly shook its head and stood, graceful once more before rubbing its head against Dumbledore and trotting away.
But she barely paused to stare back at him, before running now, so fast Harry could scarcely keep up, and soon she left him behind, a blur of motion ahead of him...
"It's a dream, Harry. It's all right."
He blinked awake, feeling the comforting pat from the sleepy Severus who waited long enough to assure himself Harry was awake and mindful of his surroundings, before turning back to his pillow and instantly falling asleep.
Harry groaned quietly, sitting up and heading to the lavatory where he relieved himself and splashed a bit of water on his face.
A look in the mirror revealed a pale, frightened man and he shook his head apprehensively.
The dream meant something, he knew, just like the last one. He just wasn't sure what and he could not ask Hermione in this time for her sage advice.
He considered the sleeping man in the other room and finally came to a decision.
It worked for Hermione, it might work for him.
Harry dressed and threw on the cloak and headed for Hogwarts Library.
His Auror training served him well for once, or at least an old trick Gawain Robards had shown him and Ron that had gained Hermione's disdain for a few weeks.
He snuck into the locked and darkened sanctum and made his way through the stacks to a dark alcove where no one would go, particularly no early morning student in case he was still there when the library opened.
He summoned a quill and some parchment, and then cast a Searching Spell that lit the books which might be of use in his quest. To his surprise, there were very few. He summoned them to him and sat in his alcove, summoned a lamp, set up a Notice-Me-Not charm and set the lamp to the level he desired and put it next to him and began to read.
Two hours later, all Harry had written on his parchment was:
Asphodel, added to an infusion of wormwood
creates the Draught of Living Death.
Asphodel is a lily. Could mean my mother?
Doe - a female deer in a dream can be a reminder
to the dreamer to establish a strong connection to
a loved one, especially before revealing the
relationship to others, and in magic, to strange
- can also mean a desire to return to a time of
innocence or to the freedom of the wilds
- can't help but think it means SEVERUS
Eating in dreams is usually an indication of
sexual desire, although if one can recognise
what is being consumed is to be taken as the
true crux of the dream tableau.
- the doe eats the asphodel and AD's finger.
He stared at it dejectedly and considered the entire issue from the start of the dream. Nagini coiling around the ring seemed clear enough, and even Dumbledore's injured hand related.
The roses and the asphodel were the offerings his young self and Severus left for Lily.
The doe or Severus ate the asphodel, and then fell sick.
Dumbledore appeared and said he would help, feeding the doe his finger.
Harry frowned and looked up finger in the dream symbology book he had summoned.
Ring finger and pinky fingers can both indicate
a sexual fetish, secret desires, sexual congress,
dark magic and to some Divination experts, the
little finger signifies the life force.
He sat back and leaned his head against the book case. What was the answer? What was he missing?
Maybe, he thought, he was being too esoteric. Dreams, Hermione told him, were often quite literal.
So... the doe ate Dumbledore's finger. That was pretty literal. His pinky finger. He had found the possible meaning of that.
"So what am I ruddy well missing?" He thumped his head against the bookcase, staring sightlessly at the tomes across from him.
After a moment, one caught his eye and he read the spine: Acaci - Albus
Harry frowned, sitting straighter and tilting his head to read the title: Herbs for Rituals, Potions or Divination
It was one in a series.
He summoned the book and opened it to the back, searching for the entry for Albus.
albus, asphodelus - see Asphodel
albus, dictamnus - see Dictamnus albus
Harry looked to the books and summoned Alliu - Azadi and Datur - Dryop
Asphodelus albus and Asphodelus fistulosus
are both Old World herbs of the lily family.
Popular among Muggles and Wizards alike,
Muggles cultivate the plant for its beauty,
and one Muggle even wrote a poem about
it. In the Wizarding world, Asphodel has a
well-respected history of use in various
forms of magical disciplines, including
rituals, potions and divination.
Harry jotted a few notes down on his parchment and turned to the volume covering Datur - Dryop.
Dictamnus albus, known commonly as
White Dittany or False Dittany, not to
be confused with Origanum dictamnus,
more commonly known as Dittany of Crete.
Dictamnus albus can yield essential oils
useful for purification rituals, particularly
for those involving ill individuals, but has
little use in potions or divinatory practices.
Harry summoned Ocimu - Origa
Origanum dictamnus, known commonly
as Dittany of Crete.
Origanum dictamnus has many essential
magical properties, and an infusion of it,
depending on the strength, can be used
for healing wounds, soothing rheumatic
pain, detoxifying snake bites, and
assisting in childbirth.
Harry clenched his hands into fists, remembering anew the regret both he and Hermione had experienced whilst discussing the events leading up to the Final Battle over the years. They had done nothing on finding Snape. They had dittany, not much, but they had some and had not used it. They hadn't tried any spells. They hadn't even tried direct pressure to stop the bleeding.
Hermione still got tearful during reminiscences, stating she had felt horrid not even bothering to check Snape's pulse before they left.
"He might have just passed out from blood loss," she would say. "Then died cold and alone after we left him in that beastly place."
The thought and this new knowledge he had acquired gave Harry chills now.
There was something he could do, he realised with a sense of incipient hope, but it would mean careful preparation... and not seeing Severus again in this timeline -- not even to say good-bye.
McGonagall, Slughorn, Amycus Carrow and the Headmaster all stood in the ruins of what was once Snape's private lab in the dungeons.
Vile fluids made the footing treacherous, broken glass scraped beneath shoes and boots, the smell of chemicals and chemical reaction was noxious.
Carrow looked dismissive. "Just miscreants. Who was the last class near here?"
Slughorn looked perturbed. "My sixth year Potions students. Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff."
"Then ask them who did it. If no one steps up, assign detention to the entire lot."
"And provide you more fodder for your disciplinary sessions?" McGonagall looked mad enough to spit. "Your appetite for inflicting pain has not gone unnoticed."
The squat, lumpy-looking Death Eater sneered at her.
"It's hard to believe you're a pure blood with your attitude. You'd best be careful -- Muggle sympathisers won't go far in the Dark Lord's service."
"Difficult as it may be to believe, Mr. Carrow, not everyone is in the Dark Lord's service," she replied archly.
"Yes," Snape interjected suddenly, drawing all attention to him where he stood peering into a cabinet. "Professor McGonagall is correct, Amycus. Not everyone has had the good fortune of being called to serve our Lord. As such, they lack the understanding of the need for proper discipline."
"Proper discipline!" McGonagall was red-faced now and Harry winced from under the cloak where he watched in the corner. "You send students into the Forbidden Forest and send other students to hunt them down like wild animals, using Incarcerous and Stupefy."
"At least the students have learned two useful spells," Snape replied stonily. "This is more than they knew before under the mealy-mouthed proscription against teaching certain spells by the Ministry."
"And is that how you justify the use of Crucio on Muggle-born and half-blood students?"
Harry winced as he saw the look on Snape's face. Only he could see him from this angle, and the pain and regret in his expression was profound. His voice, however, did not reflect his inner turmoil, nor did his expression as he turned to face McGonagall.
"Sometimes the application of pain better serves than molly-coddling a student. If he burns himself by touching a hot cauldron, he learns not to do so again. And if he keeps touching it anyway--"
"Then he's a Gryffindor!"
McGonagall and Slughorn were taken aback by the wild cackle from Carrow, who laughed heartily at his own joke.
"Enough," he finally said as he caught his breath. "Nothing here speaks of foul magic, just foul chemicals. I'm going back to my office."
Only Harry heard McGonagall's muttered, "Good riddance."
"Was anything taken or just destroyed," Snape asked after Carrow stormed out. He sounded, to Harry, as if he already suspected the answer.
"Yes. I do believe various potions for the Infirmary are missing. I cannot say, however," Slughorn admitted with a sweeping hand gesture over the debris strewn floor. "Whether the potions are down there or were purloined."
Snape appeared dissatisfied with this response, but his only comment was, "Perhaps, you had best take an inventory, Horace, and then keep it up to date."
He thought Snape might question Kreacher of his whereabouts, and perhaps be obliged to answer, so he had excused Kreacher from service to his current self for the duration, and contacted Winky in his stead. He was not entirely certain if Snape was even aware she was working at Hogwarts.
She brought him food in the morning, with preservation charms on the sandwiches for his later meals, as well as one of the well-read Daily Prophets from the staff lounge. It was yesterday's news, but he wasn't reading it for clues now, merely for entertainment and to pass time.
He worked on the puzzles, if they weren't already filled in, and waited, concealed within the Shrieking Shack, in the dilapidated room next to the one he knew Voldemort and Snape would eventually meet. He exercised by running up and down the stairs each day, and practised his wand work by flicking at spiders and redesigning cobwebs and transfiguring splintered surfaces to merely rough patches. He had transfigured the mattress and a pillow in the room to something less mouldy and moth-eaten, and transfigured a torn curtain into a woolen blanket that, along with a warming charm, served to keep him toasty at night. He spent a bit of each day using washing and freshening charms on both himself and his clothing. He did not dare ask Winky to launder them. He would not risk discovery so close to his goal.
He missed Severus dreadfully, and felt the pinch of guilt in his gut each time he thought of how the man must feel with his sudden absence. He consoled himself with the thought of what he was going to do. He hoped Snape would not die privately cursing him or worse, feeling betrayed.
The days passed slowly and Harry was never gladder for the foresight in packing his satchel with books. As the time grew shorter and the weather warmer with the approach of summer, Harry reacquainted himself with some old favourites he had not had time to read in years. He decided then and there that when his current situation was over, he would read more, at least a book a week.
It was the shouting that roused him. He had fallen asleep reading and he made his way to a cracked, dirty window and looked toward Hogsmeade. He could just see figures running in alarm. A Dementor seemed to swoop after them and he thought he saw a shimmering streak chase it down -- someone cast a Patronus, no doubt. Then he saw a student in Ravenclaw robes follow after, looking satisfied.
So it had begun. Harry felt his heart race, but he steadied himself and began to prepare.
His lover would be coming soon to face his destiny.
Nagini wove round and round, winding herself about a gigantic, cracked ring.
The ring became a wreath of roses, but in the middle a giant six-petalled white flower with scarlet stripes grew.
Silvery light shimmered against the delicate petals and coalesced into a graceful doe, made of the purest light, exquisite in her clarity.
She nibbled on the flower, then stumbled, uncharacteristically graceless, and Harry stepped up. He sprinkled the doe from a bottle he held and she became substantial, real, with some silvery wisps of her Patronus guise coalescing into a shining silver chain that suspended from Harry's neck. Harry slid the chain around the doe's neck, as well, then encircled it in his arms and held it, stroking it lovingly.
The soft spotted brown pelt grew darker, longer, with silvery streaks and the slender body elongated to become Snape's nude, lean, elegant form. He reached a hand up to touch Harry's face.
"Tu absentis," he croaked sadly.
"Dimitto" Harry whispered sadly, stroking Severus's face.
"Libero meus," Snape whispered questioningly.
Harry shook his head.
"Te reparo," he replied and bent to kiss his cherished. "Te absolvo."
Harry was startled awake by the clanging sound of a tray being set down on the table by Snape's bedside. Madam Pomfrey eyed him assessingly.
"You've been here two weeks, Mr. Potter."
"So have you," he muttered, rubbing his hand across the back of his neck and picking up the old copy of the Prophet that had been shielding his eyes and which he had dropped when awakened.
"There's little point in this vigil. He'll wake when he wakes. He kept himself barely alive with the use of that filthy Draught and some sort of unforeseen stasis charm, probably of dark magic origin," she opined. "It's a miracle he didn't moulder in that tomb. You did him no favours with your tomfoolery. It's going to take weeks for him to recover, and heaven knows what state his mind will be in."
"I'm an Auror and this is my subject I'm assigned to watch," he replied calmly, looking to the bed once again and reassuring himself Snape still lay there, gaunt and grey-tinged and rather less withered-looking than he had, with the horrid damage to his throat covered by a poultice, still as the grave. He did not bother to clarify that he had given himself the assignment.
Pomfrey snorted, set about her task of pouring her myriad of potions into her patient, using gravity and a Peristalsis spell to get them down, then gently wiping his face, her care and concern belying her earlier harsh words. Harry tried not to watch, looking instead at the crumpled edition of the Prophet that he had already memorised.
The image on the cover was of Harry in his Auror's robes emerging from a black tomb, levitating a stretcher with a mostly covered figure, although the face of the figure on the stretcher was unmistakable despite the dust and leathery appearance -- Severus Snape in repose. The headline screamed: HARRY POTTER'S SHOCKING DISCOVERY - SECRET MISSION UNCOVERS MYSTERY BURIED 20 YEARS!
The article was the usual conjecture and outright fabrication. The image of him showed a determined-looking man with a sense of urgency about him as he manoeuvred his charge to get him medical care. What the image and article did not convey was what had transpired twenty years ago... or what Harry had endured having to watch, again, as Severus was struck down by Voldemort.
Under the cloak, he had watched and listened as the events transpired as he well-remembered, but now he saw what his younger self had not.
Watching Severus stammer and ask, even beg, over and over to find him was the hardest thing of all. Harry knew it wasn't just his younger self Snape was hoping he would find. He was still expecting help from his lover; after all, Harry had said he was there to help him. But he had done nothing.
When Nagini struck, he had to look away, but when Voldemort and the snake had both left, he had crept silently into the room, settling into a corner he knew would remain undisturbed. He would never forget the look in Severus's eyes, lost and shocked at this seeming betrayal. His younger self, he knew, would believe that look to stem from Voldemort, but he knew better and his heart felt as if it clenched in his chest to have to remain silent and simply wait and watch events unfold.
Soon his younger self had arrived with Hermione and he had smiled at the sight of the so very young witch and his own teenage self.
He watched as Severus had given his precious memories, leaving them to Harry the younger's safe-keeping. He slid silently closer as Harry tapped the memories into the flask Hermione handed to him. It would be soon, he knew.
He looked down into the dying Snape's eyes as he grasped at young Harry and made his one last request.
"Look. At. Me."
Tears slid down his cheeks as he saw and heard Snape's desperation, and knew Severus wanted to see the eyes of his lover one last time before succumbing to the snake's vicious bite.
Not this time.
Harry cast a silent stunning charm and watched as Severus's gaze grew blank and fixed, his hand releasing his younger self and falling to the floor. Then as Hermione and his younger self stepped back and conferred, he cast a silent and invisible stasis spell to keep Severus from losing any more precious blood than he already had.
He had to wait then anxiously as they listened to Voldemort's message to the combatants, before turning from Snape's body and leaving the room and the Shack. Once they had, he went swiftly to work...
"There. That's all I can do for now," Poppy's tired voice broke through Harry's reverie and he blinked up at her.
She eyed Harry for a long moment, and then smiled with weary approval which belied her earlier words. "You'll do."
Then she left Harry alone with Severus.
He looked less grey after the potions to Harry, more normal. His breathing was gratifyingly even, his eyes twitching occasionally, as if he saw something behind his eyelids.
He looked over to see Lily peer around the sight screen and then look to her famous father with the eyes so like his own. Harry smiled.
"Come in, honey. Is Al with you?"
She shook her head. "He's sneaking after James and Teddy. They're planning some prank on Scorpius and he's hoping to mess it up."
Harry shook his head. He expected civil war in his house one day -- with James and Lily in Gryffindor and Albus Severus in Slytherin. He was grateful Lily, at least, felt familial devotion to Al.
"So what are you up to," he enquired now, stroking a hand over her sleek auburn hair.
"Just visiting you and the old Headmaster," she responded, stepping up to stare at Snape with shrewd green eyes. "He's better. He doesn't smell like bitter herbs anymore."
Harry lifted a brow at this summation. "Did he? I expect it's all the potions he's had to take."
His eleven year old daughter looked wise beyond her years as she riposted, "You would have a lot of potions to take, too, Daddy, if you had been mostly dead twenty years."
He smiled and then gave in to the impulse to hug his daughter. "You bet, sweet pea. Now... unless you have something else to talk with me about...?"
She returned his hug before letting him go to look at him with those clear green eyes. "Daddy... I know you said you and Mommy just aren't happy together anymore, but... are you still happy with us?"
He held her tightly for a moment. "Yes, honey. We both love you very much and we will be there when you need us. We just can't be together as Mommy and Daddy together anymore. We'll have to be Mommy and Daddy apart."
"Mommy comes to visit a lot," she suddenly admitted, adding, "She always says it's us she visits, but she has tea with Professor Longbottom."
Harry considered this. "Does she?"
Lily nodded. "They've been going to Hogsmeade, too. Sometimes on the weekends. James says they walk together and go to Mrs. Puddifoot's."
"Does that place still exist," he laughed, feeling a wave of relief sweep over him.
"Well, it's good she's got a special friend, too," he finally said with a sigh.
Lily looked to the unconscious Snape again and back to her father. "You knew him a long time ago."
Harry nodded. "Yes, but we weren't good friends until later."
She considered this, and then smiled at Harry. "I'm glad you have a special friend, Daddy."
He smiled at her and then tweaked her nose. "Me, too. Now you'd best get to your next class."
She nodded and scooted out of the enclosed space and rushed off, leaving a tired, bemused and hopeful Harry Potter behind.
It was after he'd finished eating the sandwich the house elves had brought him for dinner, that he heard footsteps on the other side of the sight screen.
"Is he decent?"
Harry beamed. "Most of the time, but sometimes he was a right git."
Harry turned to smile at the Headmistress and Professor Sprout who both peeked around the sight screen set up around Snape's bed, affording him privacy from any nosey parkers. Harry had further set repelling charms with an age line, not allowing anyone under 20 except his blood kin into the immediate area. His lover, he knew, would not appreciate being gawked at by all manner of curious students.
"His colour is better," Harry reported. "Slughorn finally came by this morning to tell me his testing of Severus's blood was completed. The concentration of asphodel in the Draught of Living Death he took was unprecedented. It was what kept him alive such a long time, as it infused his entire body. It was also not the normal sort used for the Draught."
"Oh?" McGonagall arched a brow.
"He used something called Asphodelus Lutea."
Pomona suddenly choked, then began to chortle merrily. Harry and McGonagall stared at her until she held up a work-roughened hand to allay their concern.
"Sorry, but... Asphodelus Lutea was used by the ancient Greeks, you see. It was rumoured to grow in the fields of Elysia, where the departed could enjoy their new life after death."
Harry was distracted from his astonishment by the sound of his lover's voice, thin, raspy, but audible.
"I see I am not to be allowed to enjoy resting even in this life."
It was almost two hours before Harry and Severus were finally left alone, and by then Severus was fast fading from exhaustion. Harry stroked a hand over his brow and then gave in to his impulse and kissed him gently.
"I'll leave you to sleep."
"You've been here... the whole time."
"I... back then... I thought..."
"I had to. I couldn't say." Harry guiltily hung his head. "It had to happen that way, but... it didn't have to end that way. That's all I changed."
"You didn't bring me forward, did you?"
Harry shook his head. "I couldn't, not without changing everything. Severus Snape was buried and his effects were seen to. I was one of the ones who helped Kingsley and Minerva take care of everything. That couldn't be changed. I had to do something else."
Snape considered this. "You used my Draft of Living Death."
"Yes." Harry nodded. "I broke into your old quarters, but I couldn't find any potions. So I went to your lab and ransacked your supplies. I didn't mean to make such a mess, but I was startled in the middle of what I was doing and just barely got under cover in time. I took the blue bottle you'd marked, along with blood restorative and a general healing potion."
"That blue bottle... it was a variant of the standard. I had been experimenting with different strengths and dosages of herbs."
"Slughorn told me. He said it was the amount of Asphodel in it that kept you alive."
Snape smiled faintly. "How apropos."
For once, Harry understood a vague reference.
"Yes. My mother, her memory, kept you alive the first half of your life. And a lily kept you alive for the last twenty years."
Snape grasped for his hand and squeezed it tightly.
"A lily and a boy who refused to die... or allow me to."
The Minister came by a few days later, as part of an investigation of the bizarre occurrence, or so he told the Prophet.
He came to the sickbed just as Harry was gently laying Snape back, having given him a healing potion, and noted the tender care his Auror was using. He also noted how remarkable it was to see the man whose funeral he had resided over, alive, if not totally well, and looking the same as he had on the day he died.
"Hello," he intoned.
"Minister," Snape rasped out gravely.
"Kingsley." Harry smiled at him cordially and received a stern look in return.
"I take it," Shacklebolt essayed. "That the discovery that Professor Snape ingested a preservative draught and had been entombed alive was engineered by the use of an artifact from the Department of Mysteries? An artifact which was in your lawful possession."
He eyed Harry who met his gaze without hesitation or evasion.
"I take it then, that you will be requesting a meeting with Agent Blessed before too long." It was not a question.
"Actually, no," Harry confessed as his still-recovering lover watched this scene with a discerning eye.
Kingsley arched a hairless brow. "Oh?"
Harry sighed and reached under his shirt, dragging out the fully-functioning Decade-eater and handed it to the Minister without compunction.
"You can give this back to him," he said firmly. "I'm handing in my resignation."
"I see." Shacklebolt studied the now repaired device and then slid it into his pocket. "May I ask why?"
Harry looked to Severus, and swallowed at the look of uncertainty and hope he was given.
"I've accepted a different job offer, Minister. What with my Dissolution, I would prefer to be closer to my children... and my intended."
It took another couple of frustrating weeks before Severus was released from the Infirmary and they could be alone, but only if he had someone to help care for him. Harry was surprised when Winky asked if she could work for him and the Headmaster, as she called Snape.
The other elves, she confided, had not treated the Headmaster properly. Headmaster Snape, she said, reminded her of her previous family -- where she had been loyal to the father who worked against Voldemort as well as the son who had been a Death Eater. Headmaster Snape, she told Harry, needed someone who understood him, and he concurred. He readily and gratefully accepted her service.
Once Madam Pomfrey released him, Harry brought him to Grimmauld Place without complaint, where he had already sent Winky, who had prepared a ground floor room for the still-recovering Snape and took over Kreacher's assigned task and set about making nourishing meals for "my two masters."
Harry was glad to leave Snape's care in her capable hands... or most of it, anyway.
They had been enjoying the occasional snog, but not much more due to Snape's still rather fragile condition.
It was during one of his baths, when Harry had been helping him soap up that Severus got his first erection since his long ordeal. Both of them smiled, Snape a bit shyly, but Harry manfully did not take advantage, merely finishing washing him up and saying how glad he was in his recovery.
That night, as they kissed good night, Severus took Harry's hand and placed it on his rearing erection.
Harry gladly began to snog his lover as his hand sought to give him a slow and exquisite pleasure, stroking and rubbing and gently helping him reach a rather rapid and plentiful climax, no less intense for its brevity. He was so pleased that Severus was doing so much better that Harry also came, pressed up against Severus as he masturbated him.
It was how they fell asleep, after he sleepily used a wandless cleaning charm on them, in one another's arms.
As Severus grew stronger, their sessions of wanking and frottage increased, with the occasional blow job Harry loved to give him, enjoying the intimate scent of his lover surrounding him, as well the desperate, helpless sounds he made. It that was all his lover ever felt able to permit him, Harry knew he would be content.
Two weeks later, one afternoon they both sat in the library, reading, Severus with his feet in Harry's lap. Snape suddenly set his book down and cleared his throat. Harry lifted his head and an inquisitive brow at him.
"I should like to discuss something."
Harry set his book down on the table by him, nodding.
"It's..." Snape suddenly bit his lower lip slightly, before admitting, "It's about sex."
"Go on," Harry urged, hoping he sounded curious and not too eager.
"I... I know you must feel frustrated by my... limitations."
Harry shook his head.
"Not really." He drew in a breath and admitted quietly, "I knew or know your experience is different from mine. I never wanted or want you to feel forced into anything, Severus. We will do whatever you want, and only that. I am well satisfied by how you touch me and our closeness. If there's more, fantastic, but if not... that's fine. A relationship is more than just sex -- this much I've learnt."
Severus nodded. "I'm glad to hear that, however... if it's not... too much troub-- if it's not too much to ask for..."
Harry took his hand.
"What, Severus?" He kissed that hand, causing his lover to gulp. "Unless it involves inflicting pain or some strange animal, I'll be happy to comply."
Harry shrugged. "Whatever. I was just pulling at straws for what might make you so reluctant to ask."
"Oh. No. Nothing so bizarre. It's just... I'm... I've never..." Severus turned bright red and gritted his teeth to force himself to speak. "I've never had penetrative sex. In either way. I... I should like to. If you're amenable."
Harry considered this. "What would you like? To penetrate me? Or to be penetrated?"
Severus looked down at his lap. "I've never considered that either, but... I think I should like you inside me."
"I won't ever hurt you," Harry assured him. "This is one thing I do know something about."
"I shan't enquire," Snape responded archly, obviously hiding his nerves.
"It was Ginny," Harry sighed. "The midwife said she couldn't have regular sex when she was pregnant. Ginny would have been more than happy to do without, but surprisingly, her mother and father and the midwife all strongly suggested she keep her husband happy."
Harry flushed scarlet. "Let me tell you, if it wasn't for not liking the spell, I'd seriously consider having you Obliviate the entire thing from my mind."
"W-was the sex that bad?" Severus looked concerned.
Harry's blush grew oddly mottled and he scowled. "Oh, I'm sure there are men out there who don't mind being instructed on how to have anal sex with their wife... by her father."
Harry nodded, shaking his head. "Anyway, it holds me in good stead, because men and women are almost the same back there, with the exception of the prostate gland. The mechanics, though, are identical."
Severus nodded nervously, and Harry stroked a hand along his wiry chest; his recovery included a series of calisthenics that had the benefit of toning his muscles.
"Just relax, love... I'll never hurt you."
With this, Harry began to kiss his naked lover atop their large, shared bed. He was already half-hard in anticipation, but Severus was nervous and felt insecure despite his assurances and their safe and familiar surroundings.
After several moments of their more familiar touching, kissing and stroking, Severus sighed and settled back. Harry began to kiss his jaw, then neck, slowly kissing and gently nipping his way past the scarring he would always bear thanks to Nagini and which he kissed and laved with great care, down to those light tan nipples that grew tightly furled under his ministrations.
Snape grasped at his shoulders, moaning, and making Harry smile.
He stayed there a bit, sucking and then nipping at those tight nubs, thrilling at the sounds his lover made. Then he slid down, licking his way to his navel and running his fingers through the folds and over the ridges as Severus gripped at his shoulders. He glanced down and noted the hugely swollen erection he planned to make feel very good indeed.
He gently encircled it with one hand and moved the foreskin back from the glans, then he slipped it into his mouth, licking the head in a circle, over and over, pleased as those strong fingers gripped him tightly enough to leave marks the next day. He reached back and summoned the jar of slippery lubricant they occasionally used for their longer-lasting wanking sessions.
Opening it with a wandless, wordless spell, he dipped his forefinger in and then released that thick cock to lick his lover's hefty bollocks. Severus gasped at the sensation, then again as Harry gently slipped his finger along the cleft of his opening, spreading that gel generously, before dipping up a bit more. He began to mouth Snape's cock as he slid that finger all along the opening, pleased when he noted his lover spreading his legs and lifting his hips, clearly wanting more of that sensation.
He gathered a dab more lubricant and slowly slid his finger in, then back out, over and over, sucking at Severus and letting him grow used to the sensation. He noted Severus was grasping at his shoulders and got his middle finger well lubed and gently worked them both in.
Snape stilled and Harry licked gently along the ridge of his cock head, waiting to judge his reaction. Those lean hips suddenly thrust up, seeking more contact and he obliged, gently stroking those fingers in and out and around.
Abruptly, Severus cried out and a surge of pre-ejaculatory fluid flooded Harry's mouth as his fingers curled in and up and he tested the area by gently stroking it. Severus cried out again and thrust his hips some more as Harry smiled with satisfaction.
He gathered a bit more lubricant, this time for his ring finger and slowly slid all three in. Severus made no complaint, still grabbing at his shoulders and shuddering now. Harry's smile grew.
He withdrew after a moment and gazed on his lover, gleaming strands of black hair tinged with silver strewn across the pillow, pale skin glistening with sweat and black eyes pleading with him.
"My love," he whispered. Snape swallowed, and he reached for yet more lubricant, this time coating his own straining cock before positioning himself.
He gently lifted Severus's legs onto his own and angled for penetration. He looked one more time at his lover who stared at him as if striving to memorise his face, then nodded at him.
Harry eased himself deep into Severus, thrilling at the tight, moist heat. He settled himself gently, arms holding him up, hips pressed firmly. He could feel Severus's cock pressing occasionally against his belly as he set up a slow rhythm that intensified the pleasurable sensations filling him.
"Yes," he smiled up at him, moving in and out of his welcoming body.
He carefully eased onto an elbow and reached down with his free hand to stroke that rigid cock. He could have knelt back and kept thrusting in, but he felt the need to be close. Severus clutched at him and moved beneath him, moaning loudly now.
"Yes, love," Harry assured him. "Yes."
Snape's back arched and the cock in Harry's hand twitched and began to drizzle out thick strings of semen between them and over his hand. Harry stilled and rode out the clenching of those muscles. When Severus's cock stopped pulsing, he began to stroke in and out again, close to his own orgasm.
"Yes, Severus. Yes."
He watched his beloved as that sweat-limned face turned to him, eyes opening, filled with an astonished delight, a look he had never seen on Severus before. He nodded at him.
"Yes. Yes, Harry."
With that one word, Harry closed his eyes and threw his head back as his own climax struck, causing him to clench up tight and shoot deep into his lover. He could do nothing but live in the experience, feeling the brilliant white pleasure as it raced along his spine and back to his pulsating cock so snugly held.
Then he was collapsing, held close to his lover's warm, firm chest as he gasped for breath and listened to the pounding beat of his heart.
Soon he could hear his lover's heart beat slow and his breathing deepen into the cadence of sleep. Harry smiled tiredly and allowed himself to drift off after.
He woke to the gentle stroking of his back and murmured contentment, rubbing his cheek against that slightly hairy chest, and listening to the lub-dub of the heart that beat within it.
"Severus," he murmured.
"My love," came the whispered response in the dark.
Harry stilled for a moment. Severus had not used that word before. Somehow, he knew he had never used that word ever before.
He lifted his head to gaze at him and was astounded at the abiding look of contentment, of gratification on that so-familiar, angular face. Severus's deep voice was a whisper of resonant sound.
"I'm glad I waited."
It was all he said, but there was a wealth of meaning in those words and Harry couldn't help but smile with joy, then stretch up to kiss his love, sealing their union with a tenderness and care he knew had been absent in his own marriage, and which he also knew Snape had never truly experienced with anyone.
Five years later...
"Aren't you packed yet?"
"I was interrupted by a certain troublemaker," Snape groused, striding back and forth between his trunk and chest of drawers.
Harry watched him for a moment with fond exasperation.
"Don't you ever use your wand for anything?"
Snape paused, nettled. "Just because someone else I know whips his wand out at the slightest provocation--"
Harry lifted a hand up, laughing silently. "Okay, okay."
"Honestly, Harry. We were almost caught... like a pair of hormonal teenagers!"
"Yes, well. When I was a teenager I never got the opportunity. You?" He tilted his head and lifted a brow.
Snape coloured slightly. "You know damn well I did not."
"Well, we're still catching up then."
Snape rolled his eyes and continued to pack until Harry rolled his own eyes and flicked his wand. All Snape's clothes in the drawers lifted up and flew to land neatly in the trunk. Another flick of the wand brought his shoes which tucked themselves atop the clothing, soles up, and the whole affair shut closed, latches clicking into place, as a knock was heard from their shared sitting room.
Snape had his own quarters near the Slytherin dungeons where, as head of house, he was required to reside. His classroom and laboratory were also there, where he taught the upper forms Potions. Potter taught the lower forms, having far more patience with young children.
Harry had his own quarters just up the stairs from the classroom where he taught the lower forms Defencive Magic as Defence Against the Dark Arts was now called, and where he was required to reside, although Neville was Head of House due to seniority. Severus taught his upper forms and the arrangement suited them well, as did all their other arrangements.
Their rooms were magically connected via their shared sitting room which, again magically, would open from either the Slytherin dungeon corridor or the tower corridor. Few used it aside from the teachers and--
"Daddy! Uncle Severus!"
Harry rolled his eyes.
"She's every inch a Gryffindor," Severus muttered, half in resignation, half in fond remembrance.
Harry opened the door to his daughter, who promptly hugged him, dirtying his robe with plant sap as she was carrying a potted miniature mallowsweet shrub in the crook of one elbow, and holding a bag of cherry drops in the hand of that same arm. She then turned to eye Snape questioningly.
"Are you packed yet, Uncle Severus?"
"I thought we had agreed I was to be called Professor when we were at school?"
"School's over," she said dismissively, then put her free hand on her hips. Harry was hard-pressed not to smile at how very much she looked like Hermione at the same age. Severus was hard-pressed not to smile at how very much she resembled her namesake. "Are you ready or not? Al is already on the train with Scorps and Lou. I want to get home and start my last summer vacation."
"Your every wish, my dear maiden, is my command," Snape responded formally, finally pulling out his wand and levitating the trunks out the door. She smiled and gave him a kiss on the cheek by way of forgiveness, then skipped out the door after the trunks.
Harry eyed him with amusement and said in a tone of mock-indignance as they followed, "I thought my every wish was your command?"
Severus flushed a little, but murmured fondly, "I blame your mother. You and your over-indulged children are my punishment."
Harry put a hand over his heart in dramatic fashion as they began to walk up the stairs where they could see Lily already a third of the way up the staircase.
"I thought I was your reward."
Snape paused and Harry stopped to look back at his lover. He was one step up, making them level with each other. The serious expression on his face made Harry frown, wondering if he'd made a verbal misstep somewhere.
Those dark eyes grew shiny as they filled, and the beautiful, resonant voice was rough with feeling.
"You, my impertinent, irreverent and impossible Gryffindor, are my very existence."
Harry's eyes filled, too, and he threw his arms around Severus, uncaring of whether anyone could see them, only wanting to be joined with the man he loved more than anything.
Their kiss quickly grew heated and when Lily's groan of exasperation filled the stairwell, followed by a rain of cherry drops, neither man noticed, merely tightening their hold on one another, lost in the moment and each other.
~O~ END ~O~
post a/n: Snape laid an asphodel lily on Lily's grave, the meaning of which is "My regrets follow you to the grave."
This is an example of an asphodel lily.
If you were among the readers going "huh?" during the graveyard scene,
then I did my job right Snape is referring to the legend of Damocles as
a means of describing how he felt that last year as Headmaster.
Snape's comment to Harry on Christmas Eve night hearkens as far back as the 17th century.
A guddle, as Minerva confesses herself as having suffered to Harry, is a Scottish term indicating a "state of frantic uncoordination."
The herbal lore Harry looks up can be found at Herb Med and the information on Dittany, specifically at Dittany Of Crete and the information on Asphodel from TheFreeDictionary, which I reworded and embellished for the purposes of this story.
The Muggle who wrote the poem about Asphodel is, of course, William Carlos Williams.
When the reveals are up, I would be glad to share what soundtrack I listened to whilst writing, if such knowledge is of interest to anyone. For now - a happy Yule to all!