Title: Vanquished

Author: Yule Never Know

Giftee: Eriador117

Word Count: 20197

Rating: NC-17

Pairing: Severus Snape/Harry Potter, (Gilderoy Lockhart/Harry Potter), hints of Ron/Hermione, previous Harry/Ginny and implied Greyback/OCs

Warnings: (CHAN, NON-CON, TORTURE, hand jobs, blow jobs, spanking - see Author's Notes), biting, sensory deprivation, consensual D/s, penetration, rimming, desk!sex, hurt/comfort, first time, abuse of furniture and misuse of ink, slight Ginny bashing (I've been unreasonably honest to the stereotype of British teenaged girls), EWE?!.

Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.

Summary: As an Auror, it's Harry's job to bring in criminals like Fenrir Greyback. He doesn't let his personal life affect in his work. But when his work becomes uncomfortably involved in his personal life, Harry has to face his own fears before they consume him.

Author's Notes: Important note: this fiction contains R rated, noncon Gilderoy/Harry where Harry is only 12 years old. In regards to Fenrir Greyback, it also strongly implies the torture and murder of children. It is, I hope, delicately covered, but will no doubt squick some readers. Please consider this content before you read.

  

 

Fenrir Greyback was going to suffer hell on earth for his crimes. 

 

There wasn't anything more sickening, Harry believed, than to know the criminal by name and still not be able to bring him in. Greyback had disappeared from Hogwarts six years ago, at some point during the final battle. His last gift had been to leave Lavender with ribbons instead of a face and now, after all these years, he was back. Harry wished that Ron had been right; that Greyback had just crawled off into the forest to die, but it was a ridiculous assumption. Nothing like that ever happened in Harry's life. The bad guy always survived. 

 

Harry cursed Gawain Robards for sending him to this hellhole. The Head of the Auror Department indeed...the man was sadistic. Robards had known what Harry would find here; of course he did! It had been the same at every crime scene, the directions to each one faithfully owled into the Auror Department by the ever conscientious werewolf. Greyback was playing games with the Ministry, and keeping ahead of them with seemingly little effort. 

 

Stepping over the severed foot on the welcome mat and avoiding every speck of blood as though touching it might somehow undo him, Harry descended into the damp basement. The walls reared up to either side of him and the ceiling pressed down from overhead, shutting him in like it had shut in Greyback's victims. His bubblehead charm felt distinctly claustrophobic. Harry jumped over a dark patch that his Lumos showed beneath his feet, his landing foot slipping slightly across a patch of moss and unbalancing him. For a second he reached out towards the walls to stop himself falling, but in that same moment Harry flinched away from the clammy slime covering them  and managed to get his feet back underneath him. His wand clattered down the next few steps, sinking him into semi-darkness. 

 

Only without his wand could Harry see the eerie light emanating from the basement. As he slowly descended the stairs, even more careful than before and ducked to pick his wand up   , Harry's eyes  adjusted to the somber glow  . It was frightening to see it as the children would have seen it. This...dungeon of suffering. 

 

They hadn't all been dungeons. The first time, just over two months ago, Greyback had left his calling card summoning the Aurors to a house just outside Bath. There had been only a single child killed there, a homeless girl left in the house of a holidaying couple. The second time it had been a whole family, interrupted over dinner. The parents had been killed outright, but Greyback, clearly bolder now, had tortured the three children for almost an entire week. While the first might have been an accident, now Greyback was in his stride. For his next trick, he  had kidnapped a pair of twins returning from private school right out from underneath their parents' noses at the train station. He'd tortured them for almost the entire school holiday before  leaving them for the Ministry to find broken like string-less marionettes. 

 

This, however, was a horror beyond all horrors. Harry had suspected Greyback when he'd first seen the article on the news;  A minibus full of nine year olds returning from their school football practice vanishes without a trace.  Muggle Britain is in a ruckus, parents desperately trying to find their lost children. The whole world empathises. The Auror Department had been pressed harder than ever, and on this dreary day in August, their time had run out. 

 

Harry could think of no worse way to spend any night of the week, he decided, following the light deeper into the extensive basement, his breath catching in his throat as he rounded the corner expecting to see the children -- or parts of them. 

 

The room was huge, like an underground chapel. Pools of green light poured out onto patches on the floor, illuminating piles of what seemed like rags at first glance, until Harry noticed the blood. His stomach turned over, despite the strong anti-nausea potion he'd taken. Dead. All of them dead, lit up like disgusting museum exhibits. People's sons, their prides and joys, their  children, reduced to the shattered toys of a monstrous man. 

 

Harry didn't want to go in further, even though he knew he had to. It was his job to make sure that the scene was safe to allow in Ministry cleanup. He was also expected to check the bodies -- to count them and make sure there weren't any survivors. It was his job, but Robards had clearly given it to him time and again now expecting him to fail, for it to be enough pressure to force him to quit. 

 

Forcing himself to take in a ragged breath of the stale air inside his bubble, Harry stepped forward, moving toward the first pile and kneeling down beside it. The boy had clearly been bound right here throughout his ordeal. The chains hung limp now because Greyback had cut off the boy's hands and feet. Harry swallowed and reached down cautiously towards the empty stare in the wrecked face of the dead child, and then blind white eyes swiveled in their sockets, and Harry jumped back. 

 

Breathing. He  was breathing, just slightly, and Harry's stomach rolled again like a hurricane wave. Greyback had left him alive. It took several tried to cast his Patronus, and even then it seemed almost vague as it cantered away through the basement of death and up the stairs. Harry tore away from the first child and went to the next heap, and then the next. They were all alive, just barely, all breathing. 

 

 

* * * * * 

 

 

 "First Auror on the scene Harry Potter has been unavailable for comment. Head of the Auror Department Gawain Robards spoke to us instead at a press conference this morning, "Mr. Potter has been commendable, but of course, he's only doing his job; if there's anybody that deserves your respect and help over the next few weeks especially, its the wizards and witches of St. Mungo's, where the children have been taken." Debate had already begun over whether the thirteen Muggle children have any useful information about Greyback's whereabouts, and whether it would not be kinder to obliviate them before they become conscious. The Wizengamot are expected to vote on the waiver tomorrow morning. Head of the Magical Creatures department Charlie Weasley stresses that Greyback's actions are not representative of werewolves as a whole following renewed anger..." 

  

Harry snapped his wand towards the wireless, not only turning it off, but also knocking it clean off its shelf. From the stove, Kreacher blinked up at Harry with his huge house elf eyes, and then went back to stirring the porridge. 

 

"Is Master Harry sure he must eat porridge again?" Kreacher asked, the concern in his scratchy voice clear. "He doesn't want to eat bacon instead?" 

 

"No, Kreacher," Harry said, stubbornly. "And I order you not to buy anything that isn't on my list." Kreacher looked crestfallen, stirring the porridge again. 

 

"Master Regulus stopped eating, too," Kreacher pointed out, not for the first time. The house elf waved his hand at the fire, which went out, and then levitated the saucepan full of porridge over to the table, putting it down in front of Harry. 

 

Harry frowned, glancing up towards Kreacher as the house elf moved around the table toward him. "You may go," he said, and Kreacher's twisted ears visibly dipped in submission before he disappeared with a crack. 

 

Alone, Harry stared into the thick porridge and tried not to think about work. It had been work that had put him off his food. Suddenly, rice looked like maggots and meat like raw flesh. His diet had grown to exclude strong flavours like cheese and fish, and things which looked even vaguely like rot and blood and insects and body parts. The stress didn't help on an empty stomach, but porridge was still safe to eat, bread was fine, and sometimes he let Kreacher boil potatoes until they tasted of nothing at all. Harry had grown used to food like this back at the Dursleys', so he knew he could survive on it, even if he didn't thrive. He pulled it over and began to eat, using the wooden spoon that Kreacher had been stirring with. 

 

Harry choked on his porridge when the fireplace burped out a pile of letters. To be honest, he'd never get used to not receiving owls, but ever since he'd defeated the Dark Lord, he'd discovered that untying hundred of messages from owls every day was a scandalous waste of his time, and had found an owl-forwarder to receive the letters for him. It cost money, of course, but it made his life less stressful. 

 

Although he didn't particularly want to open his mail, Harry had been put off his food by its arrival, so there was little point in not doing so. He gathered up the letters and spread them out on the table, pushing the half filled saucepan out of the way. 

 

There were owls from a number of people Harry didn't know the names of; Harry skimmed through these and pushed them out of the way first, some were angry, others worried about him in some perverse way. Harry begun through the letters with the familiar handwriting, starting with the one written in bright green ink and flourished writing. 

 

 Dearest Harry, 

 

I've been having great trouble getting in contact with you for some reason. I must have sent twenty owls and I never seem to get a reply to any of them. Poor dears must have gotten lost along the way, obviously, as if you received them I have no doubt that you would have eagerly replied. I hope this one gets to you. 

 

I've booked a room at the Leaky Cauldron just for us, from nine until ten on Friday night. I hope you'll be able to make it. The public deserves to know how their hero is coping under all this stress, and how Greyback's crimes have been affecting his mind. You owe me an interview, Harry; just one interview. It's only fair, isn't it? It's my responsibility as a reporter to discover your side of the story, and up to you how accurate that information is. 

 

Don't be late, I'll have a bottle of champagne on ice for us. 

 

Your charming friend, 

Rita Skeeter 

 

Harry glared at the letter furiously and pushed it to one side. Skeeter didn't want a reply, she wanted him to be there on Friday, or she'd start interfering in his life again. It wouldn't be so bad if she hadn't declared herself as an Animagus, therefore negating Harry's power over her. Scowling, Harry opened the next letter, which was written in more familiar writing. 

 

 Harry, 

 

Hermione's worried about you, but you know her, she's always worried about you. It's just worse now she's pregnant. Rose had been a right pain in the arse this week; she keeps slipping out the hedge behind the orchard and running down to the village. She's really adventurous, I just wish she wouldn't worry her mother like this when she's already stretched thin. Mum says it's like when she was pregnant with the twins. 

 

Anyway, I just wrote to put her at ease. You'll come to Ginny's birthday party next weekend won't you? She's really antsy about seeing you again, so I hope you'll be able to make it, and I promise I won't ask you what went wrong any more, I just wish you'd get over it. 

 

Ron 

 

P.S. Hermione wants to know if Kreacher's all right 

  

Feeling a little less annoyed over this letter than the previous one, Harry moved it out of the way to reply to later, and reached for the last one, turning it over in his hands thoughtfully before he opened it, his breath held in his throat. 

 

 Dear Mr. Potter, 

 

I'm very disappointed to hear that you might be losing faith in the Auror Department. You're needed there, especially right now, when such terrible things are happening. As such, I must decline your application for the position of Defence Against the Dark Arts instructor, despite your qualifications. 

 

I'm sorry, Harry. Albus insists. 

 

Respectfully yours, 

Headmistress Minerva McGonagall 

  

The porridge made a very interesting pattern on the floor when Harry threw it off the table. 

 

 

* * * * * 

 

 

"Don't! Please!" 

 

"All you have to do is move away from the pressure, Harry. It's such a simple exercise. It hurts, so you move away. The sooner you learn this, the better." 

 

Harry couldn't see. The blackness pressed in from all around him, impenetrable. It felt almost as though it were pressing in around his mouth and nose too, not suffocating, but close. A pain in the centre of his back persisted, but moving away from it meant bending over, and for some reason he knew he mustn't do that, because if he did that, something terrible would happen. 

 

"Move away, Harry." The voice seemed far away and distorted somehow. Harry recognised it, but couldn't be sure who it belonged to. What he did know was that he mustn't move away from the pain, even though it was growing, becoming excruciating now, pressed into just a tiny spot on his back, but sending sparks of agony through his entire body. 

 

Harry gasped. There were tears in his eyes, but something - a shroud, he thought - over his face was absorbing them the moment they fell. With one last effort, Harry was forced to surrender, moving away from the pain and bending over. He turned his head instinctively, his face finding the smooth wood of a desk underneath it, and as his body trembled with silent emotion, he heard the person behind him moving. Again, the sound was distorted, so that Harry couldn't be sure where the person was in relation to himself. Laid prone over the table, very aware of his nudity, Harry tried to work out where he was. 

 

"This will hurt," said the voice, threateningly, "but remember, Harry, you deserve this. You've earned every one of these punishments I give you, and one day, you'll understand. Well?" 

 

Harry's throat felt parched. He didn't want to answer, but the man behind him was impatient. "Right then. You count. If you stop counting, we'll begin all over again." Harry tensed, knowing what to expect now. His whole body tightened up in resistance against what was coming, but when the first stroke landed hard across the back of his knees, he yelled in pain anyway, the sound ripped out of his lungs by the paddle. 

 

 

* * * * * 

 

 

Harry thought he knew what it meant to wake up in cold sweat, but he'd never expected this. With an effort, he pushed the blanket off his body, laid his head back in the pillows and caught his breath. His arousal stood sentinel now it was free of the blankets, the cold air cooling his damp skin. Clearly Greyback's crime scenes were affecting him in ways he couldn't have predicted, but if he was having nightmares about that, and being  aroused by it, there had to be something horribly wrong with him. Maybe all those years of being moved around like Dumbledore's pawn were finally getting to him after all. 

 

Even the icy water of the shower couldn't make the ill feeling go away, though his erection quickly surrendered. How could he possibly imagine something so intense -- and it had been intense, more like a memory than a dream. Harry knew the difference; people had been messing with his mind for years, after all. Even so, nothing like that had ever happened to him before. He'd never  been beaten. So how had any of that scene come to be in his head if it wasn't as a direct result of what he'd been forced to see in the course of his Auror duties? 

 

There was one other possibility, he supposed. Greyback might have somehow found a way to get into his mind; to put those thoughts there and undo him from the inside out. If that was the case then Harry was defenseless. He couldn't defend against Legilimency; all those lessons in fifth year had proven that. But the thought of going through what those children had gone through made him feel somewhat ill, especially if he couldn't prove it was actually happening to him. 

 

But this was all just theory...maybe it was a dream after all, and his imagination was just overwhelming him? All the sights and scents of the past year were just coming back to plague his nightmares. That wouldn't be the first time, either. 

 

Too rattled now to go back to sleep, Harry went over to his writing desk to pen his reply to Ron, regretting not answering it earlier. 

 

 Ron, 

 

Sounds like you and Hermione are in for an interesting time. How far into her pregnancy is she now? Four months? Have you asked the Healer whether it might be twins? Your mum must be over the moon. More babies in her house. Bet it's much easier with her around to babysit, anyhow, no matter how much you complain about her sometimes. 

 

Make sure you keep an eye on Rose. The Prophet and the Wireless don't tell you half of what's happened to those children, and obviously I'm not going to tell you either, because I don't want Hermione to worry about me, besides people have read my letters before. I'm going to send Kreacher with this letter actually, so Hermione can check up on him herself. Kreacher probably misses her, though obviously he wouldn't say so out loud, so don't tease him about it. Make sure you keep Rose out of the way, though; Kreacher's still mad at her for pulling his nose. 

 

I'll come to Ginny's party, but don't expect me to stay very long. You can tell me as often as you like how much she misses me, but it won't change anything, Ron. It's not going to work between us for reasons I rather hoped you might have accepted by now. Ask Hermione about it if you're having trouble, she'll know just what to say. 

 

I'm missing the Weasleys; it'll be nice to see you all again and forget work for a bit. 

 

Love to you and all the family, 

Harry 

 

When the letter was done Harry set it aside, glancing towards his bed. Maybe he'd try sleeping again now, and hope nothing else came up. 

 

 

* * * * * 

 

 

"Potter!" 

 

Gawain Robards' booming voice rang all the way through the Auror Department, clearly magically enhanced. In fact, Harry would have thought it carried to the other floors in the Ministry, if not for the soundproofing between them. A few wary looks were sent his way, and Neville, with whom he was discussing the legality of some species of plants, grimaced. 

 

"Better go see the dragon, huh?" Harry asked, shifting his weight and straightening the files he was carrying. "See you later, Neville." 

 

Robards' office was at the end of the hallway, and he stood in the doorway looking imperiously down it as Harry came closer, reminding him of Dumbledore standing at the end of the Great Hall and watching the first years approaching. Harry thought that Dumbledore had looked welcoming. Robards, in comparison, looked cold and condescending; his grey hair like old sun faded carpet, with the biggest sideburns Harry had ever seen. Despite the appearance, keen eyes followed him all the way down the carpeted hall, reminding Harry of a particularly scraggy old owl that had been living in Hogwarts' owlery; one that they'd always been warned not to touch. Harry knew Robards to be one of Rufus Scrimgeour's closest supporters, and now Scrimgeour was gone, Robards was almost impossible to work with. He seemed to think that he ought to have been the next in line for Minister for Magic, rather than Kingsley, who had, he said, usurped him by leapfrogging out of the Auror Department and over his head. Harry wasn't about to tell him that Kingsley was clearly much more suited to the job; it wouldn't have been worth it. 

 

"That's right, Potter. Take your sweet time," Robards growled, his gravely voice sounding  ferocious with seemingly no effort. 

 

"Yes sir, sorry sir," Harry muttered, crossing the threshold quickly and going towards the chair. Robards' desk was raised a step off the ground so that he could look down on anyone who came into him. For Harry, the effect went twice as far. He'd never quite gotten as tall as Ron. 

 

"Your report, please," Robards said, opening his hand towards Harry, who passed it over. For the next twenty minutes, Robards simply read, leaving Harry sitting opposite him to grow more and more uncomfortable. When he was done, Robards steepled his hands over the paper and sat up, piercing Harry with his bird-of-prey stare. 

 

"So," Robards drawled, every word meticulously planned, "What do you suggest we do, Potter?" 

 

Harry swallowed, caught off guard by the question. "Pardon, sir?" 

 

"What do you suggest we do about Greyback, Potter? You know his pattern by now. He'll take more children, probably a whole class full of them this time, and he will torture and rape and murder them. How do you propose we catch him before he does?" 

 

If Harry was optimistic, he might have suggested that a seed of fear had been planted in his chest; but the truth was that a whole rain forest of it had just erupted into place. Robards was struggling to get Greyback, and the public wanted results. Robards needed to be seen to be doing something, and  Harry realised that  he was being made into the scapegoat . It was as clear as day. By not coming up with a way to stop Greyback taking more children, Harry would be sealing his own fate. And it wouldn't be clean, either. He'd not just lose his job, but everyone would hate him, almost as though he had committed these atrocities himself. He wasn't sure what to say. 

 

"What about the children in St. Mungo's?" Robards asked, eyebrows rising impatiently. "Do you need their testimonies to bring him in?" 

 

Harry shook his head, "No," he said, and swallowed again, thickly. "They shouldn't be made to remember what he did to them. If they even survive." Two of the children had died thiat morning from their injuries. 

 

Robards kept his laser beam stare on Harry for a little longer, and then leaned back. "I'm watching your progress, Potter. You'd better start making some. Dismissed." 

 

Somehow, just getting outside Robards' office wasn't quite far enough. 

 

 

* * * * * 

 

 

Harry's dreams were plagued once more by nightmares. 

 

He was falling, on and on and down into deep darkness. He didn't know when it stopped, but what he did know was that there was a pain in his arm when he opened his eyes, like he'd fallen onto it. He couldn't see; was distinctly aware of the something pressing in over his head again, and tried to reach up and dislodge it; undone by a bolt of blinding agony as it swept up his arm. It felt as though there were a thousand needles digging into him all at once. Harry decided he didn't need to move his arm after all, especially when soft laughter came from above him. 

 

"You won't be trying that again any time soon, will you, Harry? No...you shouldn't have made me look bad; it wasn't very good of you, was it?" The voice was coming closer, and then a hand fell on Harry's chest, making him recoil. "I should punish you for that, but someone might notice. We have a moment to ourselves, though...everyone is  so busy." 

 

Harry shuddered as the hand moved down his body, aware of the feeling of fabric this time as it was pushed away. The hand brushed firmly across his groin, but nothing seemed to happen. "No, you're too young. Well, perhaps it simply requires a little persistence." The hand tightened around his limp penis, stroking firmly, until, after several minutes, his body began to respond. In the meantime, Harry tried to fight the strange man off with one hand, batting at him until his arm was pinioned back into the bedsheets. 

 

"Is there a problem, Harry?" 

 

Oh yes, there was a problem. Something horrible was happening to him. His body had gone hot all over, and he felt as though he desperately needed the toilet and  oh, nothing had ever felt this way before. Harry panicked. He didn't know what to do, how to escape what the man was doing to him, or if he even wanted to. He gulped in lungfuls of air, expelling them as pitiful cries as his body responded in a most uncomfortable way to the rough hand as it worked up and down over his burgeoning erection. There was panic in his chest and a tightening in his belly and then something else happened, like his body was falling apart in the man's hands, and something sticky and hot trickled onto his stomach. 

 

"Have you ever done that before, Harry?" asked the man, and his voice sounded husky and wanton in Harry's ear. Harry's head shook, and he whimpered softly, sinking back onto the bed. His heart was beating frantically in his chest, his mind whirring as he tried to work out what had happened to him. The man's hand withdrew, and then with a start, Harry opened his eyes wide, jumping up in his own bed. 

 

What in Merlin's name had just happened? Oh...his bedsheets were filthy; Kreacher would be furious with him. Harry leaned back, pushing the heels of his hands into his eyes. He'd been young...had never masturbated. It didn't make sense, unless it wasn't his memory, because how could he have forgotten if that had happened to him? It didn't make sense as a dream; it followed on from the previous one almost smoothly. The only possible answer was that it wasn't a dream, but that only left Legilimency, which Harry didn't want to admit was possible. Because if it was Legilimency, it didn't leave him with many options. 

 

For the second time in two nights, Harry got out of bed to have a shower and write an owl. When he finally felt clean, he retreated to his desk and settled down, sorting through his quills until he found the one with the finest nib, then beginning to write out his letter, having to throw away the first draft and begin again halfway through. 

 

 Dear Sir, 

 

I realise that this letter is potentially undesirable. After your sacrifices for me, and the revelations you made, I wouldn't be surprised if you never want to see me again, but I'm sure you're aware that I wouldn't be writing this letter if it wasn't an urgent matter. 

 

In my fifth year at school, you attempted to teach me Occlumency. My failure at mastering the technique resulted in the death of my godfather, but in turn, helped me to keep one step ahead of Voldemort during the war. Since then, I've not considered it to be necessary, but I have misled myself. 

 

I would rather discuss my reasons for attempting to learn Occlumency once more in private, if you would but give me a few hours of your time. I'd like to remind you that it was I that dragged you out of the Shrieking Shack, and I that recognised the symptoms of the Draught of Living Death. If it wasn't for my intervention, you'd have suffocated when they buried you. I think after all these years, you owe me at least dinner. 

 

Perhaps Wednesday would be appropriate? I can book a table at the Three Broomsticks for 7pm. 

 

H.J.Potter 

  

 

* * * * * 

 

 

"What the hell was that supposed to be?" Draco asked, looking flustered. A large clump of his hair had turned distinctly purple as a result of Harry's spell, and now he looked too comical to take seriously. When Harry burst out laughing, however, Draco didn't take particularly kindly, casting a curse in Harry's direction, which struck off the bottom of his shoe when he leaped out of the way. 

 

"Missed me," Harry responded, flicking his wand towards Draco and disarming him in his moment of pause. 

 

Draco stepped back, the hint of a smile crossing his lips, and he folded his arms across his chest. At that exact moment, Harry's foot began to ache, a steadily increasing pain pushing in on his toenails, then encapsulated his whole foot. Harry could see it now -- his right shoe was at least a centimetre shorter than his left, and judging by the pain, getting smaller still. 

 

"Finite Incantatem!" Harry said, but it didn't stop, and Draco stepped forwards, opening his hand towards Harry expectantly. "Fine!" Harry gasped, half throwing Draco's wand back at him, and only when his shoe returned to its previous size did he breathe a sigh of relief. 

 

"What the hell's got you so distracted?" Draco asked, moving away from Potter as he helped himself up off the ground. 

 

Harry snorted, taking off his shoe to make sure his toes were quite all right, wobbling comically on one foot as he did so. "I don't come to you for therapy, you know." 

 

"You don't think dueling with me is therapeutic?" Draco responded, clearly trying not to laugh as Harry wobbled on the spot. 

 

"Well..." Harry put his foot back down and reached up to undo one of the buttons at his throat, turning his head back and forth to work out a crick in his neck. "Maybe a little bit," he admitted, with a grin. Harry had to admit that dueling with Draco every month was one of the bright spots of his life. Even though Draco was married now, with his own son to bring up, he still seemed to need to duel Harry, a tradition that they'd started a month after the war had ended, when both emptied their frustrations upon each other in an effort to expel some of the stress and energy that had been building up. When neither boy had crumpled, both exhausted from their battle, Harry had suggested a meeting the following month, and it had gone on like that. They'd even built up a mutual respect for each other, and Harry had even used some of the spells and techniques he'd learnt in dueling Draco to make him a better Auror. Hermione had rolled her eyes at him at first, but even she noticed how much calmer Harry always was after a duel. 

 

Draco just wouldn't let it go; having fetched a glass of water, he spoke again. "So what is it?" 

 

Harry sat down on the ground, blinking up at the other man. "I don't know yet. Have you heard from Snape recently?" 

 

"My godfather?" Draco asked, his eyebrows raising doubtfully. "What do you want him for?" 

 

Not sure whether he wanted to bring it up here, Harry simply shrugged a shoulder. "Just waiting for his owl. Wondered if he was out of the country, or something." 

 

"I see..." Draco said, but Harry wasn't sure he did. 

 

"Are we going to get on with this duel or not?" 

 

 

* * * * * 

 

 

Snape's owl, when it came, was less than satisfactory. It merely said 'No', and nothing more. When Harry picked up the envelope and turned it over, however, a golden galleon rolled out of it and fell onto his lap. Harry picked it up, lifted it into his hand and turned it over. It felt warm, like someone had been holding it very tightly mere moments ago. Instinctively, Harry turned the coin back over, peering intently down at the surface as the numbers and letters switched around to read a time and date. Where 'One Galleon' would be written, the coin now said 'Shrieking Shack' instead. It was brilliant using Hermione's own charm to communicate with him. Very Snape. There was no thought in Harry's mind that it could be a hoax or a trick, and Harry pocketed the coin, grinning. 

 

When Tuesday morning came, Harry tidied his desk, flustered, and then slipped out of the office, scooting down the corridor and into the lift before Robards could spot him. From the Atrium he travelled into Muggle London, slipping down Whitehall and jogging down Birdcage Walk. Halfway down, he diverted around a tree, ran all the way around it and Apparated straight to Hogsmeade 

 

There were more families than ever living in Hogsmeade, Harry thought, as he brushed down his robes and reached up to run his hand through his hair in an effort at tidying it. A woman with a pram passed - one of many - glowered as she was forced to divert around him. Harry knew why they were here, he supposed.  It made him think of the mice in McGonagall's Transfigurations classes, where you were supposed to turn them into matchboxes, but first you had to grab hold of one of them. In numbers, the mice always seemed to evade capture, so the trick had always been to get them on their own first. It was just safer in a community. Still, it reminded him that he needed to get his job done. Bringing down Greyback had to be his priority, no matter that his nightmares had been continuing steadily over the last few days, interrupting his sleep. 

 

That was why he was here though. Harry moved away from the main high street, walking through the residential streets behind it so he'd attract less notice. At the end, he climbed the narrow road up to the Shrieking Shack, pushed his way through the broken fence and ascended the overgrown path to the front door. There was nobody around for miles, but someone was here at the shack. They'd left the door just ajar, allowing Harry to go inside. 

 

Harry's memories of this house were mixed. He had discovered that he had a Godfather here, he had feared for his life here, and he had watched Snape 'die'. Whether he liked it or not, the crippled old building meant something to him. 

 

"I'm here," Harry called to the empty corridor. "I know you're here, Snape." 

 

When Snape's voice echoed into the corridor, Harry looked around for the source of it and frowned, irritably. "What did I confiscate from you in sixth year and why?" 

 

Harry tensed, digging his nails into the soft palms of his hands. Of all the questions Snape could ask, he had to bring up one of the things he'd done that he regretted the most. Fine. "You confiscated my Advanced Potions textbook, because I'd used a spell from it on Draco Malfoy and almost killed him. A spell  you invented, might I add." 

 

"Yes," Snape drawled, coming down the stairs in front of Harry. "But the process of inventing spells takes a lot more thought and precision than merely incanting random words out of a book without knowing what they might do. It was incredibly careless of you." Snape was wearing a cold smile that clearly communicated how amused he was with Harry's discomfort. 

 

"That was a long time ago," Harry said, tersely. "Draco has long since forgiven me for that." 

 

"Has he really?" Snape answered, meeting Harry's eyes. "Those kinds of  scars don't just go away, you know." 

 

"If you're just going to piss me off," Harry snapped, "Then I might as well just leave. I can't concentrate on Occluding when you're being a royal bastard, as you well know." 

 

"Then leave," Snape said, waiting impassively. Harry bowed his head, a muscle twitching visibly in his jaw as he grit his teeth together. "Well then, since you're not going to leave, I suggest you communicate your reason for demanding this...meeting. I understand you want to resume your Occlumency lessons, but you haven't told me why. And yes, Potter, I have checked for  bugs." 

 

"I've been having dreams," Harry said, having taken in a deep breath to psyche himself for the coming effort. "Not dreams though...almost like memories. Like when Voldemort was projecting his thoughts into my head. But they're not the same; they're all different, and really confusing, like I'm living through them but can't alter them. And they've been getting worse...or longer, I don't know. And almost..." He flushed instead of ending that sentence. 

 

Snape glared at him for a long moment, and then moved forward, taking hold of Harry's arm. He walked him into the other room, where a near destroyed sofa provided space for Harry to sit down. "It's much easier if I see them," Snape said, and he lifted his wand, making Harry visibly jump. 

 

"Don't do that," Harry hissed, flustered. "I don't react well to people drawing their wands on me without warning." 

 

Snorting, Snape corrected the position of his wand. "Don't resist, Potter. I merely want to establish whether my intervention is necessary or not. Trust me, I want to be in your mind as little as possible." 

 

"And I want you  in my mind as little as possible, thanks." 

 

Harry was panicking. He wasn't sure he wanted Snape in his head, rampaging through those very intimate dreams, mocking him, but there really was no choice. Snape had to know, otherwise he wouldn't believe that there was something wrong. He tried to prepare himself for the invasion, coiling his fingers around the rusty springs that were sticking out from the cushions of the sofa. 

 

"Just relax," Snape murmured, and then images began to leap to the front of Harry's mind. 

 

He was dueling with Draco, who'd summoned a huge stone snake, which had reared up out of the ground, scattering tiles and earth in its wake. He and Harry had agreed never to use the spell again after the huge snake managed to crush most of his right arm.

 Lifting a tiny baby into his arms, Harry looked  down into its beautiful brown eyes and smiled. Glancing at Hermione, laid out in the hospital bed, he couldn't help but feel fatherly and proud. His goddaughter. But Rose was much more than that; Harry and Hermione and Ron, they would always be inseparable. 

 

Now he was walking through familiar apple trees, and he came across a red head leaned over a gravestone surrounded by flowers. George Weasley looked up at him, the expression of loss obvious on his face. They hadn't spoken then, and they hadn't spoken since. Last year, George had moved to Brazil permanently, still inconsolable after the loss of his twin. 

 

He was walking down a long corridor, towards a door, and just as he reached towards the handle the door vanished again, leaving nothing. The darkness was pressing in on him, thick and unyielding, and that voice, distorted by the cloth, said "That was quite a stunt you pulled back there, Harry. Do you have something to tell me?" 

 

"No, sir," Harry said, as Snape focused on the memory, drawing it out of him. 

 

"So you don't want to inform me of any other dubious talents you have?" asked the man, and an arm slowly slipped around Harry's throat, tightening just slightly. 

 

"No, sir," Harry said, clearly. "I don't have any other talents." 

 

"I don't believe you," said the man, whoever it was. The man pushed Harry so that he crumpled to his knees on the floor. "I think you're going to be good at this." The hard stone under his knees hurt, but not as much as the hand tightening on the back of his neck, which made him whimper in pain. Harry reached up to try and push the hand away, but the voice said "No," and Harry lowered his hands, trying to catch his breath and feed the furious beast that was flapping around his stomach. 

 

"Open you mouth, Harry, as wide as you could. Don't bite down. If you bite, I will punish you most severely, do you understand?" 

 

Harry did as he was told, but he didn't know why. Open his mouth? Was the man looking at his teeth? What was going on? Harry knew he should try and run away, but he couldn't see, and he didn't even know where he was. What if this man was one of Voldemort's? Ready to kill him in an instant? He tried to swallow without closing his mouth, and jumped as something brushed against his lower lip. 

 

"It's just my thumb," the man said, reaching inside Harry's mouth and stroking it across his tongue. "You see? I told you not to bite, I'm checking that you won't. You know how to obey, don't you, Harry?" Harry nodded, ever so slightly, staying still as the man's hand explored the inside of his mouth, pushing right back against the back of his throat so that Harry wanted to gag and bite down, but even so, Harry forced himself not to move his jaw. 

 

"Now, I'm going to put something else into your mouth, Harry. Remember my orders." 

 

What rolled across his tongue now was thick and heavy, and it tasted like salt and copper. Harry had tasted his own come -- the man had made him -- but this taste,  and this intense, blinding smell, was more than he was used to. It made his eyes water, but he didn't close his mouth, even though he wanted to more than ever. 

 

It would have been fine if the man had stayed still, but instead he began to move, rubbing himself up and down through Harry's lips and over his tongue. 

 

Harry didn't know what to do. When he tried to pull away, the hand on the back of his neck tightened, holding him in place. On and on it went, seemingly forever, and Harry's lips hurt from the movement, tears were running down his face, and he swallowed fitfully to try to keep himself from drowning in his own saliva. The man stopped, and Harry thought it was all over, until he drove roughly into his mouth again, ejaculation spurting hot and thick down his tortured throat. 

 

As Harry swallowed again, the man drew back, leaving him to gasp desperately for air, and Snape drew back too, his wand hand shaking slightly as he stared at Harry across the small room in the Shrieking Shack. 

 

"That's not Legilimency, Potter," he said, firmly. "That's memory. When did you do this?" 

 

Harry didn't know how to respond. He'd never  seen that memory before! He couldn't look at Snape either. What had happened before...it had been harmless; just masturbation, sometimes rubbing up against each other. He'd never...he'd  never done that with a man in his life, so why could he still taste the come on his lips? How did he know what it felt like to have an erection pounding into his mouth? 

 

Despite mulling over an answer, Harry didn't know what to tell Snape, or even if he could. He felt filthy. How could it be a memory? He hadn't done any of those things! Oh, he'd often regretted not having someone he felt comfortable enough to share himself with, but he'd suspected that someone would come along one day who was just right, and he just had to wait until then. Years had passed, and the right person never came. But who had it been? If this was a memory...who had done this to him? Harry lifted his hands up to his eyes, digging his nails into the top of his cheeks and staring out over them, sightlessly. He'd been taken advantage of -- the memories blocked or altered, and he didn't know who'd done it, or when, or why he didn't feel particularly bad about such a horrible thing. He didn't know what to feel! 

 

Snape was looking at him piercingly, Harry realised, when he straightened up and dropped his hands. Black eyes bored into him from the other side of the room. He was waiting, Harry suddenly observed, for an answer to his question. 

 

Having licked his lips nervously, Harry tried to respond. 

 

"I've never done those things before," he finally said, and his voice sounded distant even to his own ears. Snape stepped closer, as though he needed to to hear his reply. 

 

"You clearly have," Snape said, delicately. "I saw it." 

 

"It's not my memory!" Harry cried . "How can it be my memory? I've never done those things, alright? Someone...someone put them there. Greyback put them there, to undermine my investigation. I never did those things." 

 

"Potter, a simple Obliviation could remove those memories...someone who was talented in memory spells might have a...a keyword that they used to bring them all back; to build on controlling you, as they were clearly trying to do. We need to know what kind of control they have over you, Potter. It could put other people in serious danger." 

 

"But I didn't...I don't have those memories because it didn't happen to me! Those things didn't happen!" 

 

"We'll need to look at more memories for clues as to who we're dealing with," Snape said. "Perhaps then we'll be able to establish the keyword." 

 

Harry's jaw tightened, furiously, "I'm doing no such thing. I don't want to see any more of those things. I won't be undermined like that!" 

 

Snape's wand was up before Harry could respond to it, and he cried out softly as he was dragged back into his memories, Snape scanning through the previous encounters, as well as pushing for anything else that might be inside Harry's head. Another scene swam into view after a considerable amount of pressure, and Harry found himself on his back in something very soft -- a bed. His vision was clouded again, and someone was moving over him, robes pooling over and around his body as a much larger one sank into place over him. Harry could smell the man; familiar by now, feel his skin brushing against his own, and he whimpered as a velvety erection brushed up the inside of his thigh, impossibly large against him. 

 

"I'm sorry about your friend," said the man, "but now that Quidditch is cancelled, I have you all to myself." 

 

Harry gasped as the man brushed up against him again, reaching down to close Harry's entire erection in just one smooth hand. "It's almost the end of term. We'll have to finish our training, in case the school gets closed. That would be such a shame, wouldn't it, considering how I've been  looking forward to this." 

 

Now the man was moving against him, pulling on Harry's penis in time with his movements. The scene was just building towards its climax when Snape retreated. Harry's hands had slipped on the springs of the sofa during the process, and a deep gash crossed the palm of his left hand. He closed the hand tightly and sank the rest of the way down to his knees on the dusty floor. 

 

For once, Snape seemed to be speechless, looking at Harry in what he took to be horror. Whatever he'd discovered, Harry didn't know, and Snape turned and moved towards the door, forcing Harry to speak up to stop him. 

 

"Please," he said. "I need to know." 

 

"Lockhart, Potter," said Snape, his voice remarkably funereal now. "It was Lockhart." 

 

 

* * * * * 

 

 

After a bitter shouting match with Snape during which the man had  ordered him to leave, Harry finally began to understand that no matter how hard he tried to deny it, those memories were inside his head. He didn't want to remember them; to do so would be to admit that Lockhart had locked them away in the first place. Somehow this case with Greyback had pierced whatever charm had been placed on him, the cracks appearing from the break and spreading out so that memories could seep through unhindered, or so Snape theorised. 

 

Harry wished that he could ask Lockhart, demand that he tell him the truth: admit what he had done to him and then pay for it. Unfortunately, Lockhart's condition had never improved; the chances were that Harry knew more about what had happened between them than Lockhart would ever be able to recall. And Harry certainly couldn't make him pay for it, after all there was no greater punishment, as far as he was concerned. 

 

Still...it made him feel incredibly frustrated, and the worst part of it had to be having Snape patiently explaining these unhappy truths to him over the dusty wreck of sofa that separated them. 

 

"You were supposed to be looking after me," Harry said, both hands gripped around his knees, glowering at a hole in the shredded wallpaper just behind Snape's shoulder. "How did you manage to miss that?" 

 

"How else do you miss something that's right in front of your eyes?" Snape drawled in response. "How many years did you spend believing that magic did not exist, Potter, when you were performing it all the time?" 

 

"That's different," Harry protested, daring to meet Snape's eyes for the briefest second so that he could glare fiercely at him. 

 

"No, Potter, it's asphodel to wormwood. You did not know, so you did not see. All that time you walked around with your head buried in the dirt, unaware that you were the famous Boy Who Lived; hero to cretins..." 

 

Harry wished he felt like responding to that; if he didn't feel so wretchedly sorry for himself, he might have gone so far as to teach Snape some of the interrogation techniques he'd learnt in the Auror Department over the last few years. Instead he sat up a little straighter and clenched his teeth. 

 

"How do I make them disappear?" Harry said, firmly. 

 

Snape's expression was one of surprise, mingled with the slightest bit of disgust. "No matter how terrible those memories are, Potter, if you try to remove them, you will begin a never ending spiral from which you cannot recover." 

 

"And what the hell is that supposed to mean?" Harry's vitriol was back, and he rose up off the sofa and stepped towards Snape, his hands beginning to shake as he curled them into fists. 

 

"Imagine you remove the memories as they appear. Removing memories is like-er...like Muggle surgery. It doesn't just remove the memory, it damages what is around it. That's not the worst bit. Wizard minds are resilient, but wizard hearts are not. You withdraw eight memories. A month later you wake with nightmares about the night you faced the Dark Lord, and over the next few weeks you remove all the memories you had of your dead friends. George Weasley, for instance. Now you don't know where he is, as far as you're concerned he's just disappeared, and it confuses you. You remove every memory you have of Weasley so you don't have to remember him at all. Do you see where I am going with this, Potter?" 

 

"But I wouldn't!" Harry griped. "I..." 

 

Snape's chilly expression made Harry hesitate. It would be so easy to want to forget those things. If not George, then a hundred different moments: Dumbledore lying dead at the bottom of the tower... He had to look away, ashamed. 

 

"Yes," Snape said, his voice almost malicious. "You see?" 

 

"What do you suggest then?" Harry mumbled, miserably. 

 

"I suggest you brick over them," Snape's expression was blank. "Though you can't destroy the ugly monstrosity, you can at least cover it up. Choose one of your ridiculous fangirls and cover it up. Ginny Weasley always seemed to be attached to you by the groin, did she not?" Snape waved his hand and Harry decided not to remonstrate on the topic of his sexuality. "Please," Snape went on, "whatever you decide, keep it to yourself. Now are you quite done? Believe it or not, I actually have work to do." 

 

 

* * * * * 

 

 

A frantic owl had batted itself stupid on his window by the time he got home and decorated his windowsill like an ugly plant, unconscious with its feathers all askew. Harry lifted the animal inside and found it a cage to sit in, and then fished in his freezer  for a few frozen mice. Only when they were defrosting in a sink full of hot water did Harry untie the letter from its leg and open it. It was from Molly Weasley, and couldn't possibly be urgent; the Weasleys had always owned slightly mad owls, after all. 

 

The letter said: 

 

 Rose is gone. Come quickly. 

 

Just as Harry made it to the door and pulled it open, another owl flew in surrounded by plumes of smoke, pecking at him ferociously. It stopped just long enough to let Harry untie its leg, then flew away as the howler burst open in Harry's hand and yelled. 

 

"Harry Potter! Where are you?!" in Molly's booming voice. 

 

Slamming the door behind him and making one quick check to make sure that none of his Muggle neighbours were around, Harry Apparated straight onto the front path in front of the Weasleys’ house, breaking into a run at the sound of raised voices inside, and banging on the door. 

 

"I'm here!" he gasped, as the door was ripped open and swung clean off its hinges. "I'm here." 

 

Another owl hit him on the back of the head, and when he'd landed on his back on the Weasleys’ doormat, it screeched and landed on his chest, presenting a Ministry sealed letter toward him. 

 

Frowning, Harry took the letter. 

 

 Dear Mr. Potter, 

 

It is with the greatest regret that we must remove you from the Auror Department. Your gross dereliction of duty in the capture of the fugitive Fenrir Greyback is only one part of the disappointment that the Ministry has had in your appointment. We can no longer afford to have such an incapable Auror serving, and cannot substantiate your paycheck when you are not producing adequate results. 

 

Wishing you luck in any future employment, 

 

Gawain A. Robards 

  

Harry scrunched the letter up and pushed the owl back into the air, climbing back to his feet. "Fired," he said, out loud. "They  fired me." 

 

But nobody was listening. Hermione, in tears, threw herself into Harry's arms and wept into his shoulder. Harry looked up at Ron for explanation, and found him looking defiant but also terrified, in that way that Harry had known so well back when they were fighting Voldemort. 

 

"Rose is gone," Ron said, in a voice thick with emotion. "She must have gone down to the orchard again." Hermione burst out into fresh sobs while Ron frowned and ploughed on. "It's Greyback, isn't it?" 

 

Harry frowned, shaking his head. "You can't be sure," he said. "She might...she's probably just wandered off." He reached up and stroked Hermione's hair reassuringly. "Come on, I mean...Greyback wouldn't dare come near so many wizards. It'd be suicide." 

 

"It's...the...full moon...Saturday" Hermione warbled, finally having upturned her face to look at Harry. She was red, her eyes swollen and wet, her frizzled fringe stuck fast to her forehead with tears. 

 

Harry bit his lip. He didn't want to believe it. He'd held Rose in her arms when she was a baby, let her pull his fingers as hard as she liked, and made her laugh when he waggled his eyebrows. He'd taught her how to fly. And now she was gone? Worse still, could she have been taken by Greyback? 

 

Images of what Harry had seen and endured flickered through his mind. There was Greyback, a bristling and enormous werewolf, his bright yellow eyes gleaming. Then there was what he had left behind, so many dead children, and now these most recent ones: worse than dead. Harry knew how helpless they must have felt because Lockhart had seen to that all those years ago. Being touched by a strange man, not knowing if what was happening was right or wrong, but not being able to fight it either way. His face paled to a fading ash as he let those fears bubble to the surface.   

 

Harry wasn't sure what to do. He reached up and wrapped his arms tightly around Hermione's shoulders, holding her close against his chest as he tried to contain himself. He wasn't used to feeling afraid; he had faced Voldemort over and over again, but so much of what had come with the memories that had returned involved feeling horribly afraid. His vision obstructed, his hearing obscured...he didn't want that to happen to Rose. 

 

Hermione's reaction to him was to give a huge wail and start to cry again, clinging tightly to him as though for life. 

 

"We'll find her," Harry said, softly, trying to battle the emotion in his own voice. "Even if I have to do the work of ten Aurors." 

 

"No you won't, Mr. Potter," Robards' voice boomed from the open door behind him. "This is Auror business, and you will be no part of it. You are ordered to stand down and leave Greyback to us." 

 

Harry turned on the spot, putting himself between his friends and the grizzled Auror. His last breath had hitched painfully in his chest, and thanks to Hermione he was trying to fight off tears. "I'm not an Auror any more, so you can't give me orders." 

 

"If you'd rather be in Azkaban," Robards growled, "I'd be happy to transport you there myself." 

 

The moment between them roared with unspoken anger born from fear, which Harry reigned in. He didn't need to go to Azkaban right now, he needed to find Rose Weasley; free her from the clutches of the beast. He had a deadline to meet. How could Robards even consider forcing him not to look for her? 

 

"What about Ron and Hermione?" he said. "Are they allowed to look for their  daughter?" 

 

"No," Robards snapped, imperiously. "They'll remain here and wait for news from the Ministry. No, Mr. Weasley. You will  stay here with your wife. Interfere with our operation and I'll have the whole lot of you put under house arrest until your daughter is found." 

 

Harry bristled, tossing his head to one side irritably, like a horse, but Robards didn't leave him long enough to argue, instead sweeping out in a swish of robes and dragging the hanging door shut behind him. It was a blessing that he’d left, Harry thought, because seconds after the door shut, Arthur shot a jet of sparks at the retreating Auror. 

 

"I need to go and see someone," Harry said, turning on the spot to face his friends. "They might be able to help. Ron...Robards is right." When his friend looked ready to protest, Harry pressed on. "No, listen to me -- Hermione needs you right now. The Aurors will sweep this whole area top to bottom, which is all you could have done. You know me, okay? I brought Ginny home safe, didn't I? If anyone can do this, it'll be me." 

 

He kissed Ron and Hermione gently on the forehead, then turned back to the door, pulling it back into its hinges with a flick of his wand, "I'll be back later, okay? Right now is the only time we have." 

 

Outside, Harry closed the door again, shutting in the sound of Hermione's renewed sobbing, and Molly's frantic reassurances. He Apparated straight back home to write an owl. 

 

 

* * * * * 

 

 

His breathing was heavy. He could feel it rushing in and out of his lungs, but he could barely hear it. There were sounds all around, crying, screaming, and sometimes a long, low howl would ring in the air around him. Was it his crying? He wasn't sure. Something touched his leg, something vaguely hard, like calloused fingertips, and then the fingertips turned into sharp claws which gouged down across his skin. 

 

Harry heard himself cry out this time, and then there was a tongue rolling across his thigh, licking away the blood as it seeped through the wound. 

 

His vision swam back into focus. Blue eyes looked down at him from underneath waves of blond hair, horribly blank, and then Lockhart began to twist in front of his eyes, eyes going green like his own and then yellowing. Fenrir laughed; Harry could even smell his breath, the suffocating rank odour of flesh and death, then Fenrir was changing into a huge grey wolf, and the source of the howling was explained. 

 

"Oh Rose," said the wolf, in a human voice, "nobody's coming to save you now, are they?" 

 

The sweat that soaked Harry's body when he woke this time was distinctly cold, and for once Harry was grateful that he hadn't been aroused by the sickening dream. It was almost morning...he must have snatched a scant few hours sleep after Snape's owl had come in last night ordering him in no uncertain terms to do so. Luckily for Harry's sake, it had come with a sleeping potion; very thoughtful considering the night he'd had. Well, there was no harm in waking up now, was there? He could get started. 

 

Halfway through his gulped breakfast, the owl from the Daily Prophet landed his subscription on the table, and Harry spat Wizard Whirls all over the headline. Quickly he pushed them away with one hand and lifted up the sodden paper to stare at the writing underneath a flushing photograph of him dancing at the Victory Ball. 

 

 Rita Skeeter's revealing interview with one ex-lover of The-Boy-Who-Lived! Pages 3-10 .

 

Rita Skeeter's interview with  who? Harry hadn't exactly had a huge number of girlfriends, and he'd never dated a man. How could there possibly be a revealing interview then? After all, nobody would be interested that he'd once made a girl cry at a tea shop when he was fifteen, and there was just no way that Ginny would give an interview to Skeeter! 

 

Except she had. The interview must have been taken months ago, around Christmas time when Harry had come to the Burrow. On Christmas night, Ginny had caught him upstairs and pushed him into the attic, disrupting the ghoul as she crawled over him, touching and stroking. Harry had been certain she wanted to 'turn him straight', which was a ridiculous notion if ever there was one. After Harry had  blatantly denied her and even sent his Patronus cantering through the door to fetch Ron, Ginny had been furious. 

 

It shouldn't surprise him that she had taken this kind of revenge, but it did hurt. As much as Harry knew that Ginny wasn't the right girl for him, she was still his ex-girlfriend, and the simple fact was that even if he couldn't love her romantically, he still adored her. Or had until last Christmas. This stunt though...it was a low blow; the kind of thing he'd have expected someone like Draco to do, and the very fact that he could trust Draco more than Ginny was horrendously disappointing, like being bitten by a dog that you loved. 

 

Skeeter's interview detailed everything about him, from his life in school through to his defeat of Voldemort. It erroneously listed Hermione as one of his ex-girlfriends, but after detailing all the intricacies of his relationship with Ginny; how he had not ever been intimate with her despite their longstanding relationship, how he had not even been aroused by her when she had tried to give him a Christmas present, it revealed the biggest blow of all: Harry Potter was gay. The next two page spread was titled Harry Botter in huge print, and had a number of attractive well known wizards on one quarter of the page winking and glaring out of the paper, under which were vague assessments of how good a lover they'd make for him. In amongst them was a singer from the Weird Sisters, Dumbledore, Malfoy and a few obscure wizards that Harry was less familiar with. Beaming from the corner, however, was Gilderoy Lockhart, under which it said:  Lockhart's the perfect match; both are eccentric liars with a hero complex, and Lockhart might even groom Harry into shape. 

 

It wouldn't have been so bad if it had just been the photo, or even, like one of the other wizards, it had said that he was incompatible. The word 'groom' however, made him feel violently sick. 

 

Having emptied his stomach of Wizard Whirls, Harry returned to the newspaper and turned back to the front, trying to reread it with as much detachment as possible and sipped from a glass of cold milk, trying to make himself feel better. How could Ginny sell him to the Prophet this way? Didn't she have any conscience? He shouldn't be on the front page anyway! They should have written about how poor Rose had been taken from Greyback, how everyone should be looking for her. That had been relegated to page eleven, and even then the article began " Harry Potter is in disgrace today..." 

 

Harry read everything even vaguely pertinent and closed the paper, dropping his head into his hands as he tried to take it all in. Just as he rose to clean his glass, he was disturbed by a discreet knock on the door, and went to let whoever it was in, surprised to see Snape. 

 

"You're early," he said, startled. 

 

"I thought I'd get here before the newspapers do, Potter. What we do not want is the Prophet tracking our movements so that the Aurors don't have to." Snape closed the door behind him and came closer, pulling a Bertie Bott’s packet out of his coat pocket and presenting it to Harry. 

 

"No thanks," Harry said, "I'm  really not hungry." 

 

Snape snarled, pushing the box into his palm. "Just hold onto it, Potter." 

 

There was a sickening swirling sensation, and then he and Snape were being dumped deep in the Forbidden Forest. Harry knew where they were because he could see the castle rising through the trees beyond them. The ground beneath their feet was steep, descending into a gully... How far into the forest had they come? 

 

"That's an illegal portkey," Harry pointed out. 

 

"Is it?" Snape asked, dryly. "I'd have never noticed." 

 

Snape began to lead the way through the trees ahead of him, clearly knowing which way he was going. Harry followed, folding his arms across his chest as they trudged across fallen branches and skirted around large patches of brambles, which might have shredded Snape's black robes. Harry, of course, had dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, eminently more practical as far as walking through the forest went, if not particularly warm; he hadn't exactly expected to be dragged through a Scottish forest so early in the morning, otherwise he might have come prepared. 

 

"Where are we going?" 

 

"Lupin was not the first werewolf to be evicted from the Wizarding World, Potter; he may be dead, but there are others who are quite capable of locating Greyback." 

 

"And you know them because...?" 

 

"Because the Dark Lord sent me looking for werewolves once before, Potter." 

 

"Oh," was Harry's response, as he looked down at his feet, pretending to be paying attention to not tripping over his own toes. 

 

The forest was alive with noise, but the silence between Harry and Snape was persistent. As they trudged on through the trees, Harry became aware that they weren't alone, although how he couldn't be sure. Whoever it was was remarkably silent, only making his steps when Harry or Snape did, so that the sound of their footsteps through the leaf litter and fallen branches went unnoticed. 

 

"We're being followed," Harry whispered, catching up with Snape. 

 

"I realise that, Potter. Why do you think we were making so much noise?" Harry frowned -- in comparison to Snape he'd been noisy, but even he'd been trying to not break too many twigs lest he attract unwanted attention. 

 

Harry decided not to say anything, for as he crept closer to Snape a dog emerged from the bushes just ahead of them. It's thick grey fur was matted and dirty. One of the dog's eyes was white with blindness, the other crystal blue. With hackles raised and lips drawn back into a ferocious snarl, it closed the distance that Snape and Harry had left between them. Harry moved around behind Snape, who although he had gone deathly pale at the sight of the dog, also seemed to be rooted to the spot like a tree.

"Would you rather leave, Potter?" Snape asked him, glancing askance towards Harry as he stiffened his shoulders and swallowed. "I didn't think so."

From the bushes came another rustle, an equally grizzled looking man followed out behind the old dog and flanked by two more, one brown and another, clearly younger and grey coated. Harry was aware that they were hardly alone; the forest was examining them from every angle, bright eyes picked out amongst the burnished leaves. Harry bit his lip, waiting for something to happen, or someone to speak, and finally the stranger conceded.

"I warned you not to come back without good new, Severus," he said. His voice sounded parched; it belonged to a man much older than Harry would have believed him to be.

"And I bring you good news, Mario; the Dark Lord has been defeated."

The man called Mario eyed Snape warily, then waved his hand. "What do I care about your Lords and Dark Lords? What about werewolves? Have things changed for us?"

Snape's face twisted into a frown. "Things should be better with Kingsley as Minister, but there is trouble...that's why I came to see you."

"You need to find Greyback," Mario said, piercingly. "I can't help you this time."

Harry glanced towards Snape, sure that the man would demand that the werewolf help them, shake him -- maybe even torture him -- but Snape only shrugged and turned around. "Very well. Come along, Potter."

Furious, Harry turned towards the werewolf, his hands curling into fists. "We can't just leave! You have to help us!" The old dog between them growled deeply, the sound echoed from the nearby bushes.

"Is that so?" asked Mario, with a certain laziness in his tone. "And who exactly are you?"

"Harry Potter," Harry said, sharply.

He didn't exactly expect to be laughed at: well, howled at, really. The man - and some of his dogs - howled with laughter. The young white dog rolled onto its back, as though unable to contain himself, and then it all came to a stop. Even Snape was regarding Harry with a certain amusement twinkling in his eye, like a bright coin at the bottom of a dark pool.

"Why don't you come with us, Harry Potter?" said Mario, "We'll show you how the other half live. And Severus...you come too. Spend the night."

"We really c..." Harry tried to interject, but a silent spell from Snape caught him off guard, sticking his tongue to the roof of his mouth. Harry gagged, shooting a furious glare towards the other man, well aware of what he had done. When Snape shook his head, Harry dropped his eyes, bitterly angry.

They trudged through fallen leaves for what seemed like miles, climbing up steep paths that Mario and the dogs seemed to find effortless, but which even Snape seemed to have trouble climbing, then scrambling down the other side, using trees as their only prevention against simply falling into the gullies.

As they dropped down into one of the gullies, Harry glanced back, taking in the vision of almost fifty dogs moving down out of the trees into the pebble bottomed river which they were now being led up. Harry went between the driest parts of the river bank, trying to avoid getting his feet wet, because his trainers would just let it straight in. Snape, however, had hitched his robes up slightly, and was now skimming over the water as though he hadn't noticed the change in footing.

When Harry looked back up, they had rounded a bend in the river, and to the left and right of it were green spaces wound into the trees. Small fires burned warningly at the outskirts of what seemed to be a tiny village. The buildings were of wood and hide, which had been built around the bottom of huge fir trees. They were circular in shape, and the doors were at waist height, with a single skin hanging down to conceal the inhabitants.

"You will sleep here," Mario said, moving towards one small hut in the centre of the village. "And you will eat with us tonight. Tomorrow you will leave us be and ask no more questions about Greyback."

Harry glared at Snape, working his lips for a moment before making a frustrated noise deep in his throat. When they had been ushered inside the tent, Harry was relieved to have command of his tongue returned to him.

"Bastard," he hissed.

"I much prefer you silent, Potter; if you continue that way, I'll be happy to return you to your previous state..." Snape's wand raised infinitesimally, and Harry scowled and looked away.

"We can't stay here," he said, after a moment, picking at his shirt. "We have to get Greyback. He's out there with Rose right now, Snape." He shot a lacerating glance towards him, wanting to jump across and shake him or something to get him to understand.

Snape, however, just looked back impassively. "This is the only way, Potter. If we have Mario's help, we can track Fenrir down in an instant. Without him, we will never find your Weaslette. Which would you prefer?"

"Did you know this was going to happen?" Harry said, stubbornly. "Because you could have just damn well told me. I'd have brought my toothbrush. Honestly...you're as bad as Dumbledore."

"Thank you."

Harry looked up, meeting Snape's eyes across the hut and scowling. "What's that supposed to mean?

"It means 'Thank you for the compliment', Potter. Dumbledore manipulated you masterfully. I just wish I had half his ability." Harry caught it this time: an edge of sarcasm to Snape's tone and a slight quirk of his eyebrows to accent particular words. Snarling, he determined to ignore Snape for as long as possible, folding his arms across his chest.

Their hosts did not leave them long to enjoy their mutual silence. Within a few minutes, a low music had begun to play, and a big black dog had come into their hut. For a moment, Harry thought that he'd seen Snape flinch out of the corner of his eye, but then they were being led out of the tent and he let it slip from his mind. Outside the hut there were dogs everywhere, of every colour. There were even puppies bounding and playing in amongst the feet of the older animals. Harry watched for a few moment, then was pushed in the centre of the back by Snape, forcing him to warily make his way through the tangle of fur toward the river.

At the river's edge sat Mario, playing a strange instrument that Harry didn't recognise. He thought it looked a bit like a bassoon. Watching the last night of the proms with Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia singing along in horribly tuneless voices had had few highlights, but sometimes the music had been nice. This music was more than nice; it was magical. There was just something about it. Somehow it used the rustle of the leaves in the wind and the gush of running water as other instruments in a symphony of sound, bringing it all together. Harry listened, enraptured, finding himself drawn down towards Mario, kneeling on the grass beside him and looking down into the water, getting closer and closer...

Snape's hand on his shoulder stopped him toppling off the bank, pulling him back up so that Harry realised where he was.

"But..." he said, "We just..."

"Fascinating, isn't it. Even <i>you</i> can't resist the music."

"And how are you doing it?" Harry asked, dropping his hands onto his hips angrily.

"How am I doing it, Potter? I've used Muffliato on myself. It makes the compulsion easier to resist."

Harry scowled and drew his wand, casting a similar charm on himself. "But why?" he asked. Snape either didn't hear him, or didn't care to. He was looking around again now, and Harry climbed to his feet to get a better look around the camp, trying to count how many dogs there were or perhaps find another person.

As the music went on, a few dogs went in and out of one of the huts a few times, carrying out fruit and dried up flakes of fish in their mouths, and arranging them on a solid piece of stone that stood out like a platform from the bank of the river.

When the last dog was done, the music stopped, and Mario smiled at his companions. "Thank you. Now, it is time to eat."

They ate, Harry listening to Snape and the werewolf's conversation about the ethics of the Wolfsbane potion. Bored to tears, Harry chewed on the dried, tough flakes of fish and tried to imagine what it'd be like to live this way every day for years. This was what their culture of fear had given to werewolves... Dying was probably a happier fate for his friend Remus than to live this way, shunned by everyone.

Harry supposed it was better than it looked. Mario had routine and friends to look after and live with, and a whole forest for his playground. Yes, it could have been worse.

After dinner there was more music, and the longer it played, the sleepier Harry felt. It got cold fast, and Harry curled up, stoically ignoring the chill. When it was too much and his shaking became obvious, it was a shock to feel Snape's heavy robes slip down over his shoulders like a great blanket, not quite drowning him. The ghost of Snape's warmth lingered in the folds of the fabric and Harry pulled then closer around himself, barely aware of anything except for the warble of the background music and the hypnotic dancing of the shadow dogs in the firelight. The smell of Snape was oddly comforting: his robes smelt of liquorice and midnight, and Harry let his eyes drop closed.

The trees towering around them seemed to be closing in, thick around the edges of the clearing. Deep seated fear forced him to acknowledge that there was something there, something dark and terrifying just beyond the thick grey trunks. The full moon cast everything into an eerie light, making the leaf covered floor mottled like camouflage gear. Out of that a shape came to life, yellow eyes burning with an intense fire directed straight toward Harry.

The grey werewolf's shape was blurred around the edges, but as it came closer it became sharp and real. As Harry took a step back, the wolf turned his head to one side, pointed ears pricking up at a new rustling in the trees. Out of them stepped seven year old Rose Weasley, wrapped in a long red cloak with a hood pulled up over her head. She smiled at Harry then began to skip towards him, and only then did Greyback pounce.

Instinctively, Harry moved forward, desperate to protect Rose from the sharp teeth and ravaging claws of the werewolf, but Greyback only turned on him, pushed him to the ground and pinned him in place. Everything went horribly black.

"Wake up, Harry." It was Lockhart's voice, or rather, the voice Harry had come to know as Lockhart's. Harry didn't need to wake up; he was already awake, and Lockhart was leant over him, horribly hot, pushing something hard into the bottom of his thigh.

"No," Harry said, pitifully, but he didn't know how to fight Lockhart, the man was so very strong.

"Oh, but it's time, Harry. It's time I taught you our last lesson. Things are getting out of hand. Your friend Granger...well...I can't stay here much longer if everyone's getting attacked, can I?"

Harry gasped and twisted, trying to get out from underneath the larger man. He didn't know what the last lesson was but he didn't want to learn it. Lockhart was moving his hips, and Harry could feel his erection through the thin fabric of his pyjama bottoms. Something wet and warm soaked through, clinging to his skin, and Harry whimpered.

"No, please," he cried. "Please don't."

There was a huge snore from somewhere near them, and Lockhart stopped, sitting up and looking around nervously. "You are going to have to be quieter than that, Harry. You don't want to wake anyone up, do you?" A moment later, Lockhart was forcing something into his mouth; judging by the taste of it, it was one of his old socks, and it made Harry all the more desperate to escape. He screamed around it, tried to shout out to Ron or Neville, and then by sheer fluke, tried to bring his knees up to his chest to protect himself.

As Lockhart fell off him, trying not to make a sound, Harry was barely aware of anything except that he was free. He reached up and yanked the sock out of his mouth, but as he called out, Lockhart's squeaky voice said "Oblivi--Obli--" and then everything went black.

Strong arms were wrapped around his chest, holding him tight, and Harry struggled fitfully, trying to get out of them. "No!" he yelled, and the arms let him go. Harry turned in the darkness onto his hands and knees, ready to fight back or protect himself, and a bright beacon of light appeared in front of him, blinding Harry for a few seconds. When everything settled again, Snape's face looked at him wearily from the other side of the hut, illuminated by he light from his wand.

"You were dreaming again, Potter. You were going to hurt yourself with all that kicking. Or me."

Harry slowly uncoiled from his battle ready position, his shoulders dropping, and then sinking down onto his knees. "I couldn't wake up. It was Lockhart again..."

"Tell me what happened," Snape said, patiently.

"He was...I think he was trying to...you know...do it. He said it was our last lesson."

"Trying?"

"I kneed him in the balls."

The response was clearly one Snape hadn't expected, because there was a slight flicker of shock that crossed his expression, and then he made a sound that reminded Harry of a vixen cry as he choked down laughter. "Really," Snape said, as he regained control. "That's something none of us would have minded doing to him at the time."

Harry bubbled with laughter too now. He felt it rising inside of him like a shaken bottle of fizzy pop and had to let it out. As he laughed, Snape looked on at him cautiously, his lips pursed together. For an optimistic moment, Harry thought that he might be trying not to laugh too.

"Do you think you can sleep now?" Snape asked, dropping his wand slightly. When Harry nodded, the light went out.

"No!" Harry said, into the darkness. "No," and he fumbled for his wand, only content when his lumos lit the space again, his chest rising and falling.

"What is it, Potter?"

"Can't sleep in the dark," Harry said, meekly.

"Since when?" Snape drawled. "I thought you grew up in the dark, Potter."

"Did I? Well...yeah. I just... look, this is new for me too."

Snape summoned a cauldron flame, lighting the inside of the hut with a green light that cast him into an ominous hue. Harry thought the colour suited Snape, it made him look more frightening than he already was. As Harry watched, Snape began to look through his pockets for something, clearly taking out tiny things and looking through them. Harry watched, fascinated, hoping Snape had something like an oil lamp in there. He didn't expect him to resize what looked like a long strip of black fabric.

"Er..." Harry said, nervously. "What's that?"

"A blindfold, Potter."

Harry swallowed. "Which you just happen to carry with you everywhere because...?"

Snape's eyes met Harry's across the hut, and he smirked, the green flicker of the flame alive in his black eyes. "Why do you think?"

Relieved that the green light didn't illuminate his blush, Harry shifted uncomfortably, pulling Snape's robes slightly closer around himself. "But what's it for?"

"Teaching, Potter. I will not allow a <i>grown Auror</i> to be afraid of the dark. It would be disastrous. It could get us killed."

Now Harry swallowed again, tilting his head back. "But I don't want..."

"Your permission, Potter," Snape demanded. "I need your permission. Lockhart did not ask for it, but I am. You must trust me."

"But that's just the thing," Harry said, quickly. "I'm not sure I do."

"Then perhaps," Snape hissed. "It is time to learn. Your permission, Potter."

Harry let long seconds pass between them as he struggled with himself, and then slowly he nodded his head.

"Very good." Snape said, and moved closer, coiling the fabric around his hands, then reaching up to brush it against Harry's cheek. Instinctively, Harry flinched away, and Snape touched the blindfold to the other side of Harry's face, still not covering his eyes with it. When Snape guided the fabric down across Harry's face, the reaction was instant; Harry jumped clean back, and Snape sank down again, looking impatient.

"You are not cooperating, Potter. Part of trust means that you must control yourself, control your fears despite everything, and believe that I would not let any harm come to you. This is just a piece of cloth, Potter. It is not going to hurt you. The dark will not hurt you, because <i>I</i> am here. Do you understand?"

Harry hesitated, then nodded slowly and came closer, despite the shaking that started in his hands and crawled all the way up his arms. "Better," Snape drawled, and then he lifted the fabric again. This time when it came down over his eyes, Harry only flinched, forcing himself to hold still as Snape pulled the blindfold into place behind his head. Underneath everything was terrifyingly dark, like it was in the dreams, and Harry tried to gather his senses, shaking uncontrollably.

Snape's voice cut through the silence. "How do you feel?"

"Horrible," Harry said, honestly. He looked up toward the sound of Snape's voice. "It's horrible."

"For now, perhaps. There may be a time when you like it, Potter."

Harry dug his nails into his knees so that he didn't try to reach up and undo the blindfold. He could practically feel Snape's eyes boring into him. "You can't call me Potter," Harry said, out loud. "Lockhart always called me Harry."

"And you expect me to comply to your standards, Potter?"

"If you want to help," Harry snapped, his nerves frayed as he blinked into the darkness, "And you're just not being a voyeuristic git, then I suggest you give it a try. Otherwise we'll just give up this little exercise right now."

Snape's reply was delayed, Harry thought, as though he was mulling it over. It made him want to reach up all the more, tear away the blindfold and declare that enough was enough. Then Snape said "I'm happy to stop whenever you like, Potter. But if you really want my help, I suggest you do not spurn me. There are no second chances. If you tell me to stop, then that's it. We will not commence this exercise."

Harry lowered his head and bit his lip, all thoughts of ending the exercise drifting away. Snape was right. He didn't have to do this, but Harry really needed it. He couldn't go on this way.

"Good," Snape hissed. "Now then, if I am going to call you Harry, then you are going to call me Master Severus."

"Master Severus?!" Harry laughed, fitfully. "You're full of yourself, aren't you?"

"No, Potter. I am attempting to force you to relinquish control of yourself; to trust in me entirely. The title is more help to you than to me."

"But you get your rocks off on it anyway, huh?" Harry asked, dubiously. "Oh come on, I can't possibly call you that!" Somehow he was beginning to calm down. Arguing with Snape was just comfortable and familiar.

Snape snorted loud enough for Harry to hear. "As you wish, Potter."

Harry shifted uncomfortably, not knowing what to say. Snape seemed to decide to be quiet too, and so the silence between them heavily rolled on. When something in the darkness brushed against his leg, Harry jumped, batting at it, and knocked his head against the wooden wall of the hut. As he lay stunned, Snape's hand fell on his chest. "Quite the display, Potter. Have you learnt your lesson?"

"Lesson?!" Harry snapped. "That wasn't a lesson! That was scaring me half to death!"

"It was a lesson in trust, Potter," Snape replied, his tone bored. He pulled his hand away. "You and I are the only ones in this cabin. I will not let anyone touch you but myself. You must trust that when something brushes against you, it can only be things I have permitted to touch you. For instance, imagine you are at the Weasley's house. Rose has come to see you in the night because she's afraid of the dark. She reaches up and touches you and you try to run her through with your Firebolt. Is that right, Harry?"

Shaking his head, Harry said "No, I trust the Weasleys. I know nothing could harm me there."

"Then trust me, Potter. I am not Lockhart. I have no desire to rape or hurt you, Potter."

"Oh that makes me feel a million times better. Not."

"Insufferable brat," Snape said, and touched Harry's cheek, making him jump again, and once more bang his head against the wooden wall.

"Don't do that!" Harry hissed.

"Why not? Did it hurt, Potter?"

Angrily, Harry pushed out at where Snape should be, but couldn't find him with his hands. "Of course it hurt!" he yelled.

"Only because you flinched. Control yourself."

Snape's hand again fell on Harry, this time on his thigh, and Harry jumped once more, catching his elbow this time. He howled in pain and wrapped his other hand around it. "This is stupid!"

"Then don't flinch," Snape hissed, his hand moving down across Harry's knee. When the leg pulled away, Snape moved closer, one arm curling around Harry's back, one hand placed squarely on his jaw. Harry shook, inclined to pull away from the hold; to resist, but stilled by sheer determination. The scent of Snape so close was intoxicating in a way far more frightening than the darkness pressing in on him.

"Very good," Snape told him. "Very good indeed."

"Git," Harry hissed, turning his head away from the hand on his cheek. He could feel his skin burning against Snape's cold hands, and as a reaction to his proximity felt his cock twitch hopefully. A sick feeling at the bit of his stomach followed this sensation. How could he possibly be aroused by this? Now? And as if that wasn't enough, it was <i>Snape</i>.

Snape released him, and Harry brought his knees up to his chest, sullenly glowering at the inside of the blindfold.

"Is there a problem, Potter?" Snape asked, after a moment.

"No," Harry said. "I just don't like being touched, that's all. Are we done yet?"

Snape didn't reply. There was a rustle of cloth and then something cold touched his throat and Harry jumped once more. When his head hit the wooden wall, he bit into his lip accidentally, the gush of blood filling his mouth. "Ow," he said, and then sucked at the wound, whimpering.

"Idiot, that wouldn't have happened if you were ready to finish this exercise."

When the cold something touched him again, Harry simply let it, still sucking mournfully at his lip. The chill object slid around his throat like cold hands, and a horrible memory that Harry had repressed appeared before his eyes; Peter Pettigrew choking himself with his own silver hand. He gagged, and then the cold stopped moving around his throat and was just there, solid.

"What is that?" Harry asked, nervously.

"A collar, Potter."

"Which you just happen to carry around with you?!" Harry asked, giving in to a fresh flower of hysteria that was blooming in his thundering heart. "What the hell do you think you're doing putting a collar on me?!"

Snape's seemed unimpressed as he replied. "What the <i>hell</i> do you <i>think</i> I'm doing, Potter? I am teaching you. Does a student tell his Professor how to brew potions? No. Then you will accept what I do to you, Potter. This is a lesson in trust, and you must trust me. I do nothing without meaning. If I have to tell you again, I will be disappointed."

"But..." Harry warbled, then with a swallow which felt strange against the metal collar, he said, "But you'll take it off, right?"

"I will decide on that later, Potter, depending on your progress."

Decide on it later... Harry scoffed, sitting up slightly and glaring in what he thought was Snape's direction. "You're loving this, aren't you?"

"I might be enjoying myself somewhat," Snape drawled.

"What is your problem?" Harry asked, spitefully. "I mean...this...this isn't normal. Is it a Death Eater thing? Can you lot just not enjoy yourself unless you have toys and stuff?"

Snape's dark laughter was eerie. For a moment, Harry wondered whether he were not sharing the tent with someone else, because he'd never heard Snape laugh like that. "Potter, many people enjoy this kind of sexual activity. Even seemingly normal people unlike myself. You should ask your friend Weasley whether he has tried it. With <i>his</i> wife, I have no doubt."

"Ron and Hermione?" Harry asked, stunned. "No. They wouldn't."

"Are you so sure?" Snape asked, and suddenly Harry his doubts. Snape pressed on, "Granger would make quite a dominant character in bed, Potter, and I'm <i>sure</i> she'd enjoy tying up Weasley."

"That's disgusting," Harry snapped. "You don't know them. How can you say that kind of thing?"

There was no answer to that question. The silence between them became more and more distinct, and then suddenly Snape moved up behind him, wrapped an arm around his chest and pulled him back against his own body. Harry didn't have time to flinch, because Snape's other hand went straight down to his crotch, and Harry bucked back against his chest instead.

Snape's voice in his ear was low and sultry. Harry could feel the heat of his breath steaming against his own burning skin. "I can tell a submissive when I see one, Potter. Your friend Weasley for certain. You too. You may not like the idea now, but you would warm to it. Your whole demeanour tells me, Potter; the way you live your life trying to be braver than you are."

"You said..." Harry gasped, but Snape's hand cut him off, squeezing his penis, so that Harry fell limp in the other man's arms.

"I am helping you, Potter. You must find someone suitable to help you with the rest. When you choose a partner, be sure that you trust him; that he will not go too far, or break the rules. Do not let him hurt you. There are some unpleasant characters out there, Potter, and with that newspaper article released this morning, there will be many more setting their sights on you. You will be a conquest to them, but you need a companion; a master. Do you understand me? You are damaged goods, Potter. You must be nursed, not used."

The arm wrapped tightly around him uncoiled, and as Snape let go and put space between them, Harry was left with only his erection pulsing against his thigh. He grimaced, dropping his head again as he tried to catch his breath.

When Snape touched him again, Harry didn't even flinch. The hand retreated. Another touched his shoulder. Nothing. Even when Snape's hand brushed against his arousal a few minutes later, Harry didn't respond. He was exhausted, and Snape finally reached up and peeled away the blindfold.

"Goodnight, Potter," he said, retreating to his side of the hut.

"Hang on," Harry said, cautiously. "The collar?"

"I've decided you should wear it a little longer," Snape drawled, stretching out on the dirt floor. "To remind you of our lesson."

Harry frowned and curled his knees to his chest, watching as Snape put the fire out and they were plunged into darkness again. He breathed in, then out, then slowly lay down, half expecting Snape to touch him again, but also wanting him to, somehow.

* * * * *

"Thank you, Mario, you won't regret this."

Harry had gotten to know Mario quite well over the last few days. He'd told him all about Remus, and about his godson Teddy, who was now growing up with his grandmother Andromeda. Mario, in secret apparently, had sent out dogs to find Greyback's trail, and this morning, one of them had come back successful, ready to track Greyback. A small team of dogs were going with them, but Mario was staying behind because of the full moon.

The two wizards were anxious. If it took them more than a day to find Greyback, it would be too late; they were cutting it far too short, as far as Harry was concerned, but Mario had promised him that it would be fine. The rain they'd had recently meant that the tracks had to be fresh, it only made sense that Greyback had brought Rose all the way home to the forest for the full moon. It was a werewolf's prerogative to change new members of the pack in familiar surroundings, Mario said, knowingly.

Despite setting off in the early morning, the walk seemed to go on forever. On and on they travelled, following the dogs through the undergrowth, and Harry became very aware that they were moving toward the south. Half way through the day, however, they turned sharply toward the school, and Snape picked up the pace, calling to Harry. "He knows we're on the trail," he told him. "Come on, Potter."

As it got later in the afternoon, Harry began to get more and more nervous. The sun was ebbing low, and the moon would be rising soon. With it, all Rose's chances would be gone. They had to get to Greyback now, before it was too late.

The trail, however, went cold at the edge of the swollen Black Lake.

Harry looked bleakly out over the water, hoping for something -- a glimpse of Greyback, perhaps. Or maybe a huge sign that said "This way!" There was nothing. No possible way to follow when he had taken Rose across water. Except perhaps... "Scout the perimeter," he said. "Let's pick up the trail again. He has to have come out of the water."

The dogs set off again, running around the outside of the lake, but it was Harry who found the smell first. Wet dog scent that wafted up from the damp, trodden grass, and footprints that led straight toward the Whomping Willow. By the time they found it, the last traces of sunlight were disappearing over the horizon.

When Snape reached him, his eyes seemed drawn inexorably towards the shadowy tree, and Harry could see by his expression that there was going to be a problem with this.

"I'm not going in there," Snape said, point blank.

"We need to save Rose," Harry pressed, crossing the space to the other man and placing his hand on his shoulder. "She's in there, Snape, and I need your help."

Snape shook his head, and Harry frowned, not sure what to do. "It's dangerous," Snape hissed. "Don't you understand, Potter? That building wants to kill me. Lupin, then Black, then the Dark Lord...I will not go in there again."

"Coward," Harry murmured, and Snape's sharp black eyes swam back to him.

"How can you call me a coward for fearing death, Potter?"

Harry scowled. "I've faced death, Snape. I died. There's nothing <i>to</i> be afraid of. And that house is just a house, and we have to save Rose. You have to help me, Snape. You have to trust me."

"Trust you? Trust <i>you</i>?!" Snape opened his mouth to explain why he would not, but Harry tapped the collar at his throat.

"I trust you, don't I? Don't you think you should do the same?"

"That's entirely..."

Harry interrupted, bitterly. "It's not entirely different, Snape, and I'm done discussing this. Now are you going to make me drag you in there, or are you coming?" He gave him his most unyielding glare, and Snape inclined his head ever so slightly. Together, they moved toward the Whomping Willow, drawing their wands. Together they paralysed the tree, and Harry seized Snape's hand and led the way down into the black tunnel and stopped, Snape bumping into the back of him.

"Yes, Potter. It's dark."

"I just..." Harry said. "Just <i>once</i>. Please call me Harry? If it's the last thing you do before we die..."

"And you'll call me Master Severus, Potter? I don't think so."

"Just Harry, Snape...please."

"Harry." There was a pause, filled by the sound of a heavy breath, and then. "Harry, for Merlin's sake light your wand."

Harry lit his wand, just as a second rattling breath roared down the corridor, followed by a girl's scream. He broke into a run, yelling out as loud as he could, determined to get Greyback's attention so that he would leave Rose alone. At the end of the corridor, something fell through the trapdoor, and then slowly began to heave itself upright. It was Greyback the man -- but barely -- he was changing before Harry's very eyes, and as Harry backed up, he became aware that he was entirely alone.

"So much for trusting you, you bastard!" Harry snapped, panicking. Fenrir dropped heavily onto his hands and knees, his fingers sunk into the dark earth, long claws growing from the ends of them. The wolf's body shivered as it morphed, thick grey fur almost pouring out of him grotesquely. Greyback the wolf turned bright yellow eyes on him and sniffed, coming closer. The werewolf shook his great head, and Harry took a step back down the tunnel away from the animal.

"Regroup, Potter!" Snape yelled, and Harry ran back toward him, relieved to hear his voice, Greyback's roaring breaths getting closer and closer. He could hear the wolf, almost feel his breath hot on the back of his throat, and as he approached Snape he saw him looking up the tunnel behind him, clearly paralysed with fear in the light from his wand. As he ran past Snape, an animal scream tore through the air behind him, and he threw himself down to the ground out of instinct.

When he wasn't ripped apart Harry slowly rolled over and sat up. Snape was leaning against the wall of the corridor, his arms wrapped around his knees which he'd pulled to his chest. A foot in front of him, a great chasm had been ripped in the floor, and Harry approached it nervously, looking down to see Greyback at the bottom of it. He hoped the wolf was dead and not unconscious; it'd be better for him if that was the case.

Despite his strong urge to collapse against the wall as Snape had done, Harry forced himself to go back to Snape's side, kneeling beside him and touching his hand to Snape's forehead. His skin was hot, his hair oily against his fingertips, but Snape uncurled at the gentle touch, his black eyes meeting Harry's.

"It's okay," he said. "I think he's dead. We need to get Rose. Come on, Snape. Come on."

It took a great deal of effort to lift Snape up off the ground, but as he leaned against Harry and they began their way back toward the tunnel entrance, Harry was suddenly aware of something. He'd chosen. He knew who he needed to help him fight his own demons, and perhaps Snape had known all along.

* * * * *

Rose Weasley had been frightened, but was very much alive. She didn't talk for hours after her rescue, but when George Weasley burst through the doors looking flustered and spotted her standing beside Harry, she said "It's okay, silly," and laughed at him. Only then did she explain that she hadn't been awake for most of the time, and when she was, she was being carried across the countryside by an enormous man. She didn't know where they were going, but Harry was relieved that that was all that it had been. A mediwitch had later confirmed that Rose seemed fine, except for not having eaten in days.

Harry stayed away after they were reunited; Hermione was in raptures of tears which Ron typically blamed on the pregnancy, but it was obvious that they were exhuberant to have their daughter back. It didn't seem to be an appropriate moment to ask if they enjoyed sex games, especially after Molly's comment that she liked Harry's new jewellery.

The Auror Department had been grateful for Greyback, even if he was dead. There would be no trial, but there was one less danger out there to face. Robards was fired, and Kingsley reinstated Harry in a heartbeat. The new position, he said, would be far less exciting, but at least Kingsley could trust Harry to do it better.

Conspicuously, Ginny went with George when he returned to South America. Harry didn't say goodbye. In fact he wished George luck; personally, he couldn't imagine living with her.

* * * * *

After a hectic fortnight, Harry found himself sitting at his writing desk, a half penned letter scrunched up in his fist and a fresh sheet of paper sitting in front of him. He was trying to write to Snape, but the inspiration wouldn't come, no matter how long he stared at the blank paper. His other hand trailed thoughtfully back and forth across the silver collar at his throat, as though it could somehow help. His first letter had sounded like a school-girl had written it, rather than a grown man of twenty seven, and he knew he needed this letter to be perfect. But it didn't write itself. Harry pushed his pot of ink away and dropped his head into his hands.

If only he had an address or something, he could go and find Snape and say these things in person. Or rather <i>show</i> them to him. It was impossible to communicate all the things he wanted in mere words, but he knew that Snape would understand them if he could just demonstrate it.

Harry picked up the quill again and pulled the ink closer, and as he put the nib onto the paper, a knock sounded at the door. The ink blotted in a moment of distraction, and Harry stood up, dropping the quill with a clatter and going over to open the door.

"Speak of the devil," he said, looking up at Snape. "What are you doing here?

"I discovered that I had forgotten to do something," Severus answered. "I would like my collar back, if you don't mind."

Frowning, Harry reached up to touch it. "Oh," he said. "Is that all?"

Stepping into the house, Snape toed the door shut behind him, his piercing gaze unyielding, fixed on Harry. "Do you want that to be all, Potter?"

"Harry," Harry pressed.

"Severus," Severus drawled.

"I don't think I can," Harry admitted, looking up at the other man. "It's...not that simple."

"No? Then perhaps I should..."

Harry stepped forward to stop Snape as he turned back toward the door, curling a hand around his sleeve. "Wait...that is...I think I could get used to it. Maybe not now...but I could start."

A flicker of a smile crossed Snape's face, and Harry caught it this time and smiled back despite himself. "Very well," Snape drawled, allowing himself to be steered back into the flat. "Is there something you want to ask me, Potter?"

"Harry," Harry laughed. "Yes, there's something I want to ask you. I want to ask you..." He took a steadying breath, then let go of Snape and put some space between them, sitting on the edge of his desk. If he kept touching Snape, he was going to end up throwing himself at him. "I want to ask you whether you'd help me. Guide me. Um...and do stuff."

"'Stuff', Mister Potter?"

"Don't you Mister Potter me!" Harry said, shocked. "Stuff! You know exactly what kind of stuff I'm talking about, you stubborn, sadistic..."

"Go on," Snape purred, coming closer now, so that Harry could see something dangerous in the gleam of his eye. The rest of his words died on his lips instantly. "I see," Snape said instead, "You have nothing to say to me, then?"

Snape stopped when he reached the desk, one hand coming up to brush across Harry's shoulder as though dusting it, and then Snape was leaning down towards him. They bumped noses before they actually kissed.

Snape tasted of liquorice, Harry thought, and as they pressed urgently together Harry lost himself in his mouth, in the persistent movement of Snape's lips against his own, and then the possessive thrust as their tongues clashed. He could barely breathe, could do little else but clutch at Snape's shoulders to stop himself simply falling into the desk as the rough kiss claimed every inch of his mouth.

When Snape withdrew, Harry sank back onto his elbows, feeling distinctly light headed. Something had happened just then, but his mind was having trouble catching up. Snape had kissed him -- oh, was kissing him again. Harry moaned, because this time the kiss was drifting, kisses turning into the sharp brush of teeth across his jaw. The biting got harder as it went down, pausing only to pass over the collar before biting again, harder still. This time Snape didn't let go, and Harry gasped as the teeth sank in further, as a wet tongue tortured the captured flesh. The very sensation sent crashing waves of desire through him, and before Snape pulled away, Harry felt his cock stiffen, pressing desperately against the unyielding material of his underwear.

Harry reached up to touch the wound as Snape drew away, gasping as the cool air caressed the sensitive bruise. "What was that for?" he asked, flustered.

"Foreplay, Potter."

"This is..." Harry sucked on his tongue, then met Snape's eyes. "Isn't this a bit sudden?"

Snape snorted. "I've been waiting weeks for this, Potter. None of this is sudden to me. Do you want to back out?" Harry shook his head, hesitantly. "You have to trust me," Snape went on. "I know what I'm doing, so you simply obey. I know that's hard for you to do, Potter..."

"No," Harry said, nervously, "I can obey orders." He bit his lip, sitting up again to look at Snape challengingly.

"Very well," Snape answered. A few seconds were all he needed to decide on his course of action. "Remove your clothes, Potter. All of them."

"I...now I <i>know</i> this is sudden."

"I knew you couldn't obey orders," Snape chided. "You're simply not capable of it, Potter. You've never been good at doing what you're..." Snape trailed off. Harry had already ripped off his shirt and thrown it to the floor, trying to be as fast as he could so that he didn't get nervous. His trousers were on the way down too. Only the underwear remained, but as Harry reached toward it, Snape reached out and touched the back of his hand. "Allow me."

Snape's long fingers started at Harry's waistband, but despite Harry's suspicions, they instead climbed up the length of his waist, tickling, looking for any kind of reaction from Harry, who gasped as they brushed across each of his ribs in turn.

"That's s-s-soo-oh..." It was so hard thinking words, let alone pronouncing them. Snape's fingers were winding their way up his chest, and now his lips began to follow the same path they had taken, only they went straight for the most sensitive places that the fingers had discovered. Snape kissed, then nibbled across the flesh, and every graze of his teeth felt like heaven.

"Is there a problem, Harry?" Snape asked, drawing a response of fluttered eyelashes. Harry whimpered, trying to get his mind somehow around a spoken response, but instead shook his head. Snape smirked, brought his hand down under Harry's thigh and pulled him up. Something sharp stabbed him in the thigh, and he yelped, reaching under him frantically to pull the eagle feather quill out and toss it aside.

With a loud humph, Snape resumed, leaning down to take one nipple between his teeth while his hands crept down, making light work of Harry's underwear while he was distracted. He tossed them away carelessly, letting go of the bruised nipple to work his way down over the young man's chest, drawing whimpering gasps from him as he inched down towards his groin.

"Do you want me to stop?" Snape asked, stroking in small circles at the top of Harry's thigh. "Do you trust me, Harry?"

"Trust you to...to do what?" Harry asked, with great effort.

"It doesn't matter what if you trust me, Harry. I want to do things that Lockhart never did with you. I want to erase him. Do you trust me to do that with you -- for you?"

"Only if you keep calling me Harry," Harry murmured, dropping his head back onto the desk again and looking imploringly up at Snape. "I want you," he said. "I don't want to talk about Lockhart right now."

Snape nodded, slowly, and leant down, brushing a kiss to the head of Harry's penis, lovingly. "Very well. Turn over, Harry...just like..." Snape guided Harry into place against the desk, his arousal just below the edge, so that it touched the hard surface of the wood. His arse was presented off the edge of the desk provocatively, and Harry held his breath for what would happen next, shocked when Snape's teeth grazed across the base of his spine, tongue and lips moving down the length of his tailbone. Snape lifted his legs, his hand came up underneath him to grip the table to either side...

"Wh--" Harry was cut off by his own gargled cry as Snape's mouth closed around his anus; Snape's tongue flicked out, pressing hard against a spot just behind his balls that made Harry scream, and then the tongue was pushing into him, wriggling and twisting in a way that made Harry writhe against the tabletop too. It felt horrible and wonderful at the same time; disgusting but perfect, and Harry clawed at the wood, scratched deep gouges into the veneer, and fell limp as Snape pulled away all too soon.

"Stay there, Potter," Snape murmured, but Harry was too dazed to move, let alone think about which name Snape was using. Harry didn't know where Snape went, but when he came back again he was naked, and sipping from a glass in one hand.

"Firewhiskey, Potter. Do you want some?"

Harry shook his head infinitesimally, shifting on the desk to look up at Snape. "Do I have to stay here much longer?" he asked, his tongue feeling heavy in his mouth, making it hard to talk.

"Not too much longer," Snape told him, putting the glass down on the desk once he'd emptied it. When something wet brushed against Harry's arse this time, he was sure it wasn't Snape's tongue. Whatever it was was cold, but not too cold, hard, but not too hard, and like the tongue it pushed into him, making him gasp as it broached the ring of muscle.

"What is..." Oh, it didn't matter what it was. Harry shuddered, his body protesting against this new invader as it moved inside of him. Snape was right; it wasn't like anything Harry had felt before, wasn't like anything Lockhart had done to him. Somehow Harry had expected sex to hurt more...especially the first time. Wasn't that what all the books said?

When Snape added another finger beside the first, he felt like a bit of a fool. They were so <i>thick</i> and <i>hard</i>, already stretching the sensitive skin so that it ached. How could anything bigger fit inside, let alone move? Severus seemed to be able to move his fingers though. They glid, back and forth, sending searing shreds of friction to burn at his every nerve ending.

"D-d..." Harry stopped, not sure he trusted himself to speak without gasping pathetically. Severus' fingers twisted inside of him, going deeper, and Harry caught his whimper as it rose into his throat -- just barely.

"What was that?" Severus asked, and Harry gasped as his other hand moved up between Harry's legs underneath the one that was buried inside of him. The palm brushed firmly across his balls; the fingers wound firmly around his arousal, pushing it up against the smooth surface of the desk above.

"F-fuck."

"Such appalling language," Snape remarked, dryly, and then he leant down, tongue flicking out to the back of Harry's ear. "I shall expect to hear much more of it."

Oh Godric! Snape's voice sent ripples straight to his cock. Harry twisted up, pushed his hips into the desk and into that wonderful hand. The table jumped -- the ink pot wobbled -- and Harry groaned, his head spinning. He was aware of pushing back onto Snape's fingers again, and then another was pushing into him, drawing a cry of shocked pain from his lips that simply fell apart into a moan as Snape palmed at his arousal once more. He felt so violated -- thrown hither and thither between agony and pain, disgust and bliss. It was <i>wonderful</i>.

"I think you're ready," Snape said, and his fingers were uncurling, slipping out, slipping away. Now Harry did whimper out loud, relieved that he'd put those silencing spells up after all... The walls were way too thin for this kind of...oh Merlin. That was Snape's erection. Definitely this time. Harry was sure it had to be; one of Snape's hands had moved down to grip his hip, and Snape's penis was pushing urgently up against his tortured body -- pushing <i>into</i> him.

"Relax, Potter."

How could he possibly relax? Harry felt the pain boiling and overflowing like hot water from a kettle. He choked out a gasp as Snape broached the tight ring of muscle and then...then it just <i>slid</i> into place inside of him, as though it <i>belonged</i> there. The pain was still there, but now the worst was over, it was ebbing away to nothing. Harry tried to catch his breath and Snape let him, both hands moving up and down Harry's back, rubbing at the tension in his shoulders, tickling gently at his ribs, sifting through his hair.

.

They lay there for what seemed like hours, Severus just <i>resting</i> inside of him as though it were the most natural thing in the universe to do, and then as Harry groaned in frustration, Snape began to move, and the hours crashed down into mere seconds.

His whole body felt as though it were alive again; more alive than it had ever been. Snape's fingers pressed tattoos into his chest, his erection sliding up deep inside of him until Harry was sure it should break something, and then drawing almost all the way back out again, stopping just short of slipping free.

Harry bucked, a desperate moan falling from his lips as he pushed Snape back into him. He moved forward again, thrusting hard against the table so that it slid a few inches forward.

This time, the ink well stood no chance. It fell over, ink pouring across the desk and over Harry's hand. It ran down across the wood toward them, and Harry felt it slithering underneath his chest before it spiralled down each of his legs to the floor. The sensation almost drove him wild alone, but then Snape thrust into him harder than he had before, threw caution away as he pounded into him almost recklessly. It was too much for Harry -- like some anti-Crucio had filled him up, set every nerve ending into a freefall of blinding pleasure as he came. The tabletop was all that resisted him.

Harry bucked and twitched, but Severus did not still even when Harry sank bonelessly down against the polished wood, heart roaring ahead of Snape's frenzied thrusts and the thump-creak of the tablelegs across the floor.

As Harry lay dazed, Severus orgasmed too, hips jutting eratically as he thundered through his climax. Together, soaked in ink, they looked out the window at the blur of lights in the flats opposite. The table wasn't normally this close, but then, it wasn't normally sex-propelled either. A green bug took flight from the windowsill, and Harry let Snape roll him over onto his back, ignoring it in favour of the attention.

"Is this what you meant by 'stuff', Harry?"

"You could say that."