Chapter Fourteen - William
Charlie snored. It sounded like one of his bloody dragons. Harry growled quietly and squished the pillow around his head. Talking he could handle. Screaming he could handle. Waking up with fingers clenched around his throat he could handle. Snoring… well, if Sev snored, he wouldn’t have that beak of a nose anymore. The twins, crammed into a single-person bed with their backs together, were eerie silent mirrors in the moonlight. Harry had watched them for several minutes, fascinated. Fred might move his hand up on the pillow, and soon George would do the same. If George flexed his knee, sure enough a moment later their soles were pressed together. They’d both sighed when that happened. It made him wonder if some of the rumours about their, erm, “brotherly love” were true.
Brotherly love. What a joke.
Harry’s thoughts bothered him. He kept thinking about Sev, and the 10K (which even now stood by his bed), which was fine. However, at supper he’d been wedged between Ron and William.
… His laugh was infectious, throaty and deeper than his speaking voice. There had been a lot of laughter over leftover turkey with sausage stuffing and pasties Grandad had made special. Nan fell for one of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes – or so Fred and George thought until all three took a drink at the same time and theirs turned out to be the spit-sucking Drinking Glasses. Nan looked pleased. That deep, resonant sound flooded Harry. It was very much like Sev’s rare laugh. With so many people crammed around the table it was impossible not to feel the tremors in William’s slender body. He watched with a little jealousy as William howled into Bill’s shoulder. Part of him wanted that blue head to turn and use his shoulder instead. He forced those thought into the recesses of his skull. Get a grip on yourself! You’ve been away from Sev maybe twenty hours and you’re on the prowl! He reached for the salt.
William’s strong, slender fingers closed around his.
Harry forced himself to act nonchalant. He forced his lungs to keep working. William’s red, not-quite-thin lips spread wide in an easy smile. “Sorry,” Harry muttered, yanking his hand away a little too quickly.
“Oh, no, be my guest.” He pushed the shaker towards Harry, who snatched it and doused his potatoes liberally.
“Anytime.” Harry silently thanked the salt shaker that the discussion was over. “So how’d you two meet?” Harry froze, his tongue screaming in protest over the barrage of over-salted mash he’d just given it. He swallowed quickly.
“Sev?” he asked in a strangled voice. William nodded. His long, black lashes crinkled around his eyes. “Oh, y’know, boy meets teacher, boy hates teacher, boy gets to know teacher. It’s pretty dull.” Harry fumbled for his glass and took a long, distracting drink of milk.
William’s eyes widened. “Impressive. I take it he’s not teaching anymore?”
Harry looked at him. “Yeah, he is.” William shook his head, grinning.
“Lucky bloke.” He leaned in. Harry felt warm breath on his ear, and moisture, and promises he prayed were reserved for Bill because he might not be able to deny them. “I got my poor Arithmancy teacher fired that way.” Harry’s head snapped to face him. Their lips came too close to brushing when he did. Gaah! Enough, Potter! This isn’t Sev! Oh, but it looked so much like him, and he knew in the deepest chambers of his soul that had Sev not gone through what he did he’d have that same encompassing laugh and subtle subversion.
“Really?” William nodded slowly, a Mona Lisa smile on his face. “At Hogwarts?”
“No, I went to school in Turkey, Büyü Academy. S’where my mum went. They’d have kicked me out, too, but nobody knew until I’d left.” Oh, that smirk! That malicious, gleeful, naughty smirk that mirrored Sev at his most enticingly devilish! Harry was suddenly quite interested in the subject of Yorkshire pudding. “How’d you get away with it?”
Wanting this to end, he muttered, “The school governors went easy because of, y’know, the whole Voldemort thing.” A round of gasps, clinked silverware, glottal utterances of shock filled the air for a moment. Harry wanted to slink under the table and disappear. William looked puzzled. Suddenly, comprehension lit his face.
“Oh, yeah! Sorry, I know all about that, really! We’re not completely isolated in Abydos. I just,” he shrugged, “never put much into that whole ‘boy who lived’ thing. I mean, you’re normal enough. You just ended up in some weird situations. I hope you’re not offended.”
Harry quite, quite desperately wanted to run for the Floo and back to Sev. His legs wouldn’t work. “No, not at all,” he said pleasantly. “It’s… kinda nice not to be treated like… y’know.” His face felt hot. William was close, very close. A stray blue curl had fallen over his forehead. Harry stuck his hands in his lap to keep from pushing it back.
“Oi, Harry, get your own man.” Bill grinned. Harry smiled nervously at him. His stomach tried to turn inside out.
“What in heck are you talking about?”
Bill wiggled his eyebrows evilly. “Don’t play coy with me. I saw you two flirting.” Harry must have looked as scared as he felt because Bill reached behind William and put a hand on his stiff shoulder. “Relax. I’m just taking the piss!”
“Bilius Arthur Weasley, you watch your mouth!”
“Sorry, Mum.” He flashed another brown-eyed smile at Harry and turned back to his own dinner, stealing a kiss from William on the way. Harry’s gut clenched possessively…
He felt dirty. Stained. Wanton. His maritus was waiting for him at Hogwarts and all he could think about was Bill’s fiancé. A small, seductive voice in his head (very much like Voldemort’s voice, he realised with a shudder) told him he’d been cheated. Sev should be like that, not cold and vicious until he got a hard-on; Harry shouldn’t have to deal with someone else’s refuse. He bit his arm until the metallic brown taste of blood seeped between his teeth and filled his nostrils. Tears welled. He didn’t feel that way at all! He loved his Sev, worshipped him, adored him utterly and all the more for having the courage to survive what he’d gone through.
He reached into the pocket of William’s pajamas – he couldn’t very well refuse, could he, especially when William hinted they’d go to waste if he did – and traced the Snape crest. This was what he wanted. This was what made him happy: sarcastic comments and corrupt sleep and the wings of a fallen angel. So why, why, why did the image of William and Bill sleeping close, naked, sated, make his stomach clench and his eyes greener? He didn’t want much. Just one hurried, fumbling encounter, just enough to see what it felt like to have someone besides his Sev—
He slapped himself. Hard. His bruise screamed, and Harry knew that it would be dark again come morning. It did nothing to dissuade the gradual pressure building low in his pelvis. Stop it, Harry. He’s just a focus because they’re a bit alike. Were they really? William was warm, generous, literally gave him the robe off his back. Sev would never do something like, say, seduce his teacher. Or dye his hair blue. No matter what potion Harry made him for his birthday. Fred stirred, followed closely by George, and he held his breath.
“Y’okay, Harry?” Fred whispered.
“Thought I heard something.”
“My fingers popped. Go back to sleep.” They must have, because soon he heard the sound of soft, regular breathing interspersed with Charlie’s horrific snores. How Fred could hear anything over Charlie probably qualified him as the patron saint of ears. Harry’s hand was still in his pocket, and the tears that had welled up flowed freely as his hand moved past the watch to clutch something else through the lightweight cotton. He tried to imagine Sev, he tried, but that badger hair kept shifting blue, those emaciated features becoming whole. He couldn’t stop, though. He could not find the strength to stop.
Strong hands, work-hardened under the Egyptian sun, traced the outline of his cheek, his neck, his chest, ran along the slight rims of his abdominal muscles. It was so strange to gaze directly into black eyes when he’d always looked up. They were feverish, and totally unfamiliar, but if he tried hard enough he could pretend. Harry closed his and leaned forward until he felt the press of lips. They were almost as thin as Sev’s, but as soft as Cho’s had been. Eagerly, shamefully, he opened his mouth to allow that frantic tongue access. His fingers clenched fine, silky curls. They felt like a child’s.
William murmured something against his lips. Harry couldn’t understand it but he smiled anyway. Suddenly, those lips were breathing hot lines along the muscles in his throat. Sharp teeth clamped down on his shoulder until the blood swelled and he cried out in masochistic pride. Severus would never do that; he would never let him bleed. He was too careful, too humbled by his past, to play rough. Waves of agony drove heat into Harry’s face; he relished it. There had never been anything as simple as mere sex in his life, and the thought of a rough, quick thank-you-kindly made the unrelenting pressure in his fist surge. No devotion, no emotion, no connection to give it any kind of meaning. He stifled a sob; it may have been of desire.
His hands caressed a firm, smooth back. Fine muscle hid the ribs, dulled the bumps of William’s spine, clipped his shoulders so he could never fly. Teeth yanked away and, still burning from that wash of pain, Harry felt a tongue slide fast and slick down his body. He choked when he felt soft palate. He couldn’t look as his hand matched the pace of that blue head knelt before him. Once again his hands were wrapped in soft curls. There were no tender fingers to take them. He bit his lip to trap a sorrowful moan. Harsh tongue, hard lips, the heart-stopping swipe of teeth, he loved it. He wanted it. Maybe this was why he’d stayed with Sev: their pittances and his simpering, blind devotion were just some sadomasochistic display with no other outlet.
No, there had to be more than that. But the mental image of those white teeth, and the imagined suction far, far too strong for any healthy pleasure, drew him further. He squeezed and dug his nails in. Harry bit his wrist to keep from crying out in agony. Goddammit, that hurt! His fantasy self whimpered more happily as William poked his tongue at the sore spots, licking them better. He could smell the man on his pajamas: spicy aftershave, and desert heat, and a lilting sweetness that may have been jasmine or may have been sex. And, oh, god, that immense, painful pull that he would beg for if he could but never, ever, not in a million years return to anyone but Sev. Or so he told himself. The truth was too caustic.
Harry choked, fingers digging into tender scalp, when the wave hit. He was drowning, couldn’t breathe, as he filled William’s urging throat and stained his black pajamas. A new smell rose from under the covers and, god help him, he liked it. Animal. Heartless. Dizzying. The stench of pure, unwanted, undeniable lust. He yanked his hand from William’s pocket and covered his face. Sticky trails followed where he wiped his tears. He hid in his pillow. Harry wanted his Sev so much, but right then he wanted nearly as much what Sev would never give him.
William and Bill were mercifully busy on Boxing Day. Harry spent most of the morning with Ron. Percy lent Harry his chessmen and watched in amusement as Ron summarily pummeled him. Twice. He got his revenge late that morning when Ron shakily handed him the 10K and remarked, in a slightly high-pitched voice, that perhaps he ought to sit down for a minute. Harry recognized the raw lust in his eyes. That didn’t help. At lunch he managed to sit between Nan and Charlie, which meant a good deal of turning his head if he wanted to look at William. Which he didn’t. Certainly not. At all.
As soon as lunch was cleared he ran for the sitting room with a quill and parchment. His plan was to write a long, apologetic, over-compensatory letter to Severus. He dipped the quill and set it on the paper.
That was as far as he got.
He stared at the paper, wondering what in Hell he could say. He didn’t mean to run, he wanted to come home, he didn’t mean to have robe-ripping fantasies about a blue-haired curse breaker just because he wanted it a little rough for once? Somehow, Harry had a feeling that wouldn’t go over so well. Anyway, it wasn’t like he’d really done anything wrong. It was just a fantasy. That was what people did, right? Happy people? In happy relationships? He looked at the parchment, petrified by its potential.
“Writing a letter to your chap?” Harry looked up. William stood in front of the table, arms crossed and obviously bemused. A rucksack was thrown over his shoulder. Harry quickly dropped the quill back in the inkwell.
“How’s your face?” The bruise, which hadn’t been worsened by his slap the night before, was nearly gone. It barely twinged at a touch.
“It’s fine.” He didn’t have a choice but to meet those irreverent black eyes that only betrayed a wisp of concern. Suddenly, William knelt down.
“Look,” he said, leaning on his elbows, “I know this isn’t any of my business but if you ever need a place to hide, everything we’ve got is yours.” Everything? Dammit, Harry, stop it! He managed a small, shy smile.
“Thanks. I think I’ll be okay, though.” A sharp hiss barely stopped in his throat when those short, slender, dark fingers stroked his cheek. William smiled sadly.
“Well, the couch is comfortable, and the offer’s there if you change your mind.” The fingers fell away without tracing the muscles in his throat or leaving tingling paths along his chest. Harry blinked. It would be so easy to lean over the table and find out if those lips were as soft as he hoped—
“Y’ready, hon?” Bill walked in, struggling with his cloak. “Grr, bloody clasps. It’s too damn cold here.” William jumped up to help him with the row of black fasteners. Bill’s eyes twinkled. William patted his chest and kissed him quickly.
“All done. I’m set, just been talking to Harry.” Bill beamed.
“One more day.” He murmured something in a language Harry didn’t understand, and William murmured back. Harry had to look away as Bill took William’s hands and leaned close. He was surprised his eyes didn’t ignite the parchment. “Are you sure you want to stay with your parents tonight?”
“They’ll kill me if I don’t. Family tradition, last night home and all.” Bill sighed.
“I guess. I’m going to get awfully lonely.” God, he missed Sev.
“Enjoy it. After tomorrow you’re stuck with me.” Pause. Meaningful. “Come on, Mum’s expecting us.”
“Okay. Let me just get the Floo started.” In a moment the fire flared green. “See you tonight, Harry!”
“See you, Bill.” He looked up long enough to smile. It probably looked kinder than the feeling behind it.
“Dawn House!” He disappeared into the hearth. William lingered for a moment.
“Going to be there?” Did he have to?
“Definitely.” He smiled until his face hurt. William giggled.
“God, I can’t believe I’m doing this. I’m the last person on Earth who should want to settle down!” He smirked impishly. “See you tomorrow. Dawn House!” Harry was alone. He looked down at the parchment. Slowly, he crumpled it and threw the sharp ball into the fire.
He skipped Bill’s stag night. Given the circumstances, no one was that upset. He spent most of the night counting the scorch marks on the twins’ walls.
The next morning Ron plopped down next to him at breakfast. He slumped forward, hands on his head. “Gaah! I haven’t had a hangover this bad since that damn vodka.” Molly, a stern look on her plump face, set a heaping plate in front of him. Ron promptly slapped a hand over his mouth and bolted. Harry nicked a bit of bacon from his plate and munched quietly until he came back, looking a little pale. “Is that my bacon?”
Ron sat down with a sigh. “At least one of us’ll enjoy it. You missed a wicked party.”
“I can tell.” Harry considered sneaking back through the Floo while everyone was hung over. No, that wouldn’t work. Mrs. Weasley was stone sober and she got a protective mother wolf set to her jaw every time he hinted at leaving. “What did you do?”
Ron blinked. “I have no idea. Fred and George mixed the punch. I think.” His brow furrowed. “I think that was punch.”
“Yeah.” Ron took a hesitant nibble of scrambled eggs. When it didn’t immediately project back across the room he scraped a huge forkful on a piece of toast and folded it around a sausage. “Good breakfast. Sit. Stay.” He crammed it in his mouth.
“Good morning!” Fred looked awfully cheerful for someone who’d nearly alcohol poisoned his little brother. “Ooh, look at ickle Ronniekins. He’s had his first hangover!” He sniffled dramatically and wiped his eye.
“Ron!” Molly set a cup of coffee in front of him too hard. She sat down, lips pursed.
“Don’t look at me. You raised him.” Ron was treading on thin ice and he knew it. George came in with Nan, fortunately, and distracted Mrs. Weasley. Nan looked at Ron.
“Wait right there.” She disappeared into the kitchen. George, who didn’t look quite as awake as his twin, yawned and sat down. He grabbed a bit of toast from the table and covered the checkered tablecloth in crumbs.
“What time do we have to leave, Mum?”
“Eleven? The bloody thing’s not until two!”
“Eleven,” she repeated more firmly, “and if you don’t like it you can take it up with Bill.” George growled.
“Fine, eleven. What time is it?”
“Nine fifteen, so you’d better hurry up and eat so you can get dressed.”
“Where’s everyone else?” Molly scowled.
“Up since the crack of dawn, except Bill. He needs his sleep today.” Nan came back and set a cup of thick, black sludge in front of Ron.
“Drink that. It’s my special hangover cure.” Fred’s lips twitched ominously; even Molly had to hide a smile. Blindly, Ron groped for the mug. Harry watched in worried silence as he lifted it to his lips.
“FUCKIN’ HELL!” He slammed the nearly full mug down and wiped his tongue frantically with his sleeve. Everyone but Harry and Ron broke down in helpless laughter. “It’s not funny! What is that stuff?”
Nan giggled. “Cold coffee, hot pepper, and blackstrap treacle.”
“Ugh. That’s… ugh! It tastes like something out of Snape’s class!” Grimacing profoundly, he grabbed Harry’s orange juice and chugged. Harry didn’t pay much attention. He would have rather liked to be back in Snape’s class at that moment. “Are you three trying to kill me, or am I just cursed?”
“Your hangover’s gone, isn’t it?”
Ron paused. He grumbled and went back to his food. George giggled. “It’s not funny!”
“Come on, fun time’s over.” Molly grinned guiltily and picked up a few bits from the table. “Eat up. Anyone who needs a shower do it quickly.” A shower. Yeah. That sounded like a good idea. It struck him that his only robe was the denim one he’d worn for two days now.
“Uh, Mrs. Weasley?”
“Yes, Harry, dear?”
“Uh, I don’t think I can go.” He wore his crusty pajamas, well camouflaged by his bathrobe, but indicated the sleeve anyway. “Maybe I should just get back—“
“Absolutely not. It would break Bill’s heart if you weren’t there.” She smiled, but that protective gleam was back. “Anyway, William left you something. He seems to be quite taken with you.” He felt his cheeks go hot.
“Oh.” Fred snickered, and George made kissing sounds. Molly shut them up with a look.
“If you two can’t be civil you can go upstairs right now.”
“Sorry.” They began stuffing their faces with toast, and anything else they could snatch before Molly cleared it away. Harry’s guts had turned to mush and nails. He didn’t want to be there. He didn’t want to go to the wedding. He most certainly didn’t want to see William again, even though the newfound beast in him begged for it. Harry longed for the days when he thought he fancied girls. Nothing this dangerous happened then. He pushed his chair back.
“I’m going to go get cleaned up.”
“Pop your head in Bill and William’s room, dear, get that robe.” She gave him a sad smile. Was he that obvious? She leaned in for a moment. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you.” She patted his hand. “We’ll find a way to cheer you up.” He gave her the best smile he could manage and headed stiffly up the stairs. He seemed to do that a lot lately, smile and nod and say nothing while he choked on a scream. On the second floor he hesitated for a moment before knocking softly on Bill’s door.
“Who is it?”
“Come in.” He pushed the door open to see Bill, long hair plastered to his wet, freckled back, leaning in front of the mirror in a towel. He seemed to be inspecting himself. He flashed Harry a grin. “Just a second, let me get you that robe.”
“Yeah, thanks.” He looked around. The bed was a shambles, and mostly-black clothes were strewn everywhere. Bill was rifling the closet.
“Sorry about the mess. We’ve been a little busy the last couple of days, haven’t had much time to tidy. Grr, that man is infuriating! He told me it was right here—ah, got it.” He pulled a long black dress robe out of the closet and held it up to Harry. Harry didn’t want to be this close to Bill, whether out of shame over William or embarrassment about his general lack of clothing. “Should fit okay. It’s a little loose on him.” Harry took it, and noticed another pair of black boxers on the hanger. He managed to fight his flush.
“He wears a lot of black, doesn’t he?” Bill smirked.
“Can’t say I’ve seen him in anything else. Well, grey when we haven’t done the washing. He’s easy to shop for.” His eyes sparkled and faded. “Okay, what’s wrong?”
“It’s Snape, isn’t it?” Harry nodded. It was only half the problem, but it was the half that mattered. And that he could talk about. Bill rubbed his shoulder comfortingly. It burned. “William was in the same situation when we met. He wouldn’t leave his ex until he’d been in hospital four or five times. Still took him a month sleeping on my couch to decide not to go back to the cow.”
Bill shook his head sadly. “Yeah. Don’t tell him I said this, but before I managed to calm him down he was an equal-opportunity slag. As soon as someone even pretended they needed attention he was there. He’s too sweet for his own good – put him in position to get hurt a lot, and he’d always run back for more.” Bill sat down heavily on the bed. “I don’t want to see that happen to you.” Harry’s temper rose, but he stayed calm. Equal-opportunity slag?
“It won’t. Honestly, it was an accident.” Bill looked at him suspiciously.
“How do you deck someone by accident?”
“It’s a long story.” Bill snorted. “I mean it! He would never hurt me on purpose.”
“Where have I heard that line before?” He ran his fingers through his hair, hunting snarls. “Look, I can’t tell you what to do, but you seriously need to think about this. Doesn’t help that you have to go back to Hogwarts.”
He shrugged. “I can leave any time I want.”
“Harry, none of us wants to see you killed, whether by Snape or by the Death Eaters. As sick as it makes me to say it, Snape’s the lesser of two evils.” He held up his hands. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to preach. Last night I had a lot of time to think and I just don’t want to see you go through the same shite William did. I love him to death, but there’s such a thing as being too good a person.” He pleaded with his eyes. Harry blinked. He wasn’t too good a person. Hell, he’d read Sev’s private journal every night since September. Good little Gryffindorks didn’t do that.
“I’d better get dressed.” Bill nodded.
“Yeah, good idea. Wait, do you need shoes?”
“Uugh, yeah.” He waited uncomfortably while Bill found a pair of William’s boots and some socks with silver hieroglyphics all over them. They were a bit big, but it was the best he could do given the circumstances. Harry shuffled out the door and into the bathroom. The hot water helped get rid of some of the bleakness in his soul, but he kept thinking of Sev, and how much more he’d felt when he found out about Eversor. More disturbing, now that he knew about William, part of Harry wanted to try to make up for his pain. He had a horrible, biting sensation in his stomach that Bill was right.
He sat miserably at the back the whole time. Harry had never been to a wizard’s wedding before and he was surprised at how different it was to what he’d seen on TV. There was a Ministry official to record it, but no real officiate. In the Ahmeds’ glass-enclosed arboretum overlooking a serene field of snow, Mrs. Weasley tied Bill and William’s clasped left hands together with a blue cord, and a pretty, steel-haired woman with William’s aquiline nose tied their rights with a red one. He didn’t pay much attention to what they said, but they said it twice – first in that language he didn’t understand, then in English for the benefit of the witnesses. Mister Weasley untied their right hands, and a chubby, curly-haired man with William’s eyes and height undid the left. They put long gold chains with some sort of pendant around each other’s neck – this was a Bill and William thing – and kissed to a good deal of applause. The twins whooped. “Tongues! Tongues!” Mrs. Weasley swatted Fred, but Bill bent William back and obliged. Harry had to shut his eyes or he was going to see his lunch again. He squeezed the watch in his pocket and wished it were a Portkey.
In the chaos of everyone going to the enormous party he knew was being held afterwards he tried to slip into the depths of Dawn House. It was large, not quite a mansion but definitely getting on for it, and he knew there were plenty of rooms where he could hide. Before he could duck up a large oak staircase, though, Hermione caught him. “Wrong way!”
“Oh. Guess you’re right.” She dragged him towards the brightly lit banquet hall. It was about a third the size of the Great Hall, with a large clear area in the middle and small round tables scattered around the room. At the front was the only thing similar to a Muggle wedding he’d seen: a cake about four feet tall. Instead of a tacky little plastic couple of top, it had been enchanted to spit a fountain of red and blue sparks which poured down the sides like a waterfall. The layers hovered above one another. Harry had to admit it looked very cool.
“My mum wouldn’t touch ours until we swore there wasn’t any gunpowder in it. She’s so silly.” Hermione grinned.
“Yeah.” She frowned.
“You’re having a really hard time with this, aren’t you?”
“What makes you say that?” He was plenty aware of his sarcastic tone. “All I’ve wanted to do for two days is go back home, but instead I’m dragged to a wedding I didn’t want to come to where I get to see everything I don’t have a chance in Hell of ever getting.” He bit his tongue. He didn’t mean to say that. Really, he didn’t. Hermione was very quiet. “Sorry,” he muttered.
“No, it’s okay. I understand. I guess it’s my fault, really.”
He squinted at her. “How is any of this your fault?”
She shrugged. For a moment she looked like an eleven-year-old who wanted to hide in the girls’ bathroom. “I condoned it. You and Snape, I mean. If I hadn’t you might not—“ he turned and stormed off to a far corner. He’d had enough of people bashing Sev. Straddling a chair, he fumed. He wondered where Mister and Mrs. Ahmed kept the Floo powder. Harry glanced up, and found William watching him from across the room. He tried to hide in his robe. William’s robe. When he looked up a few minutes later, William and Bill were chatting animatedly with Nan and an older witch who resembled William.
God, he wanted his Invisibility Cloak.
But it was at Hogwarts, neatly folded at the bottom of his trunk in the room where Sev was waiting. Don’t think about that, Harry.
Whenever people came up to him, he answered politely but tersely and, soon, they left him alone. The faintest outline of a bruise was still visible on his jaw. Maybe it was more prominent in the bright and the general cheer. He watched the cake cutting (sparks ran off the knife and poured onto the floor, much to the delight of William’s little twin nieces), and sat through a very long and very, very wittily dry speech by Mister Ahmed (who shared William’s posh accent). As soon as he sat down, Ron and Hermione nodded to each other and wandered to the front of the room.
Ron whistled sharply. “Oi! We’ve got a little revenge to get on William and my brother, so let me say something!” Hermione took his arm. The room quieted down. Bill looked quite amused. “Erm, just a little announcement we need to make. It’s not huge, and it’s probably not very important, but—“
“Let me do this. I’d like to have it done before it’s obvious.” Ron, a bit shaky, nodded to a low ripple of confused laughter. “As Bill and William were kind enough to break their big news at our wedding, we’d like to return the favour. If they can match it I’ll be very impressed, but come July the Weasley women are going to gain a badly-needed member in the form of Ruby Alba.” A moment of silence was broken by shouts and an eruption of applause. George slapped Ron on the back.
“All right! Ickle Ronnie got some!” Ron blushed, grinning.
“Weasley Seed: Red-haired and super-charged!”
“What?” Fred flung his arms wide, a look of surprise challenging his mother’s angry tiger stare. The already boisterous air of the party doubled. Harry slipped out unnoticed.
He tried to make his way back to the arboretum, but found himself hopelessly lost. He was pretty certain the rooms moved. After a long time he opened a door and found himself in the antechamber of a very large bathroom. It was done up in embossed wallpaper the colour of Sev’s duvet, with a large brown armchair, a few mirrors, and a white marble sink. Beyond a second door was the toilet. He closed the doors and collapsed in the buttery leather chair. A moment later he heard a soft knock. “Harry? Can I come in?”
He groaned. No, the last thing he needed was William. Wait, correct that, the last thing he needed was to be alone with William in a locked room less than an hour after the man had been married. “No.” The door swung open anyway. William closed it behind him and leaned against it. Harry kept his eyes down.
“Thought you might have gotten lost. The house likes to play pranks on visitors.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be with Bill?” William shrugged.
“He’ll manage five minutes without me.” Harry was torn between elation that it was only five minutes, and being utterly crushed. Another wave of guilt spread over him. He had to get home. He felt William’s small hand on his back. “Did you ever get that letter written?” He shook his head. Tingling warmth washed out from the middle of his back. He concentrated on breathing. “Some things you have to say in person, huh?”
“Yeah.” His mouth was dry. The word felt like it got stuck on his thick, clumsy tongue. Too good a person, too good a person…
“Hey,” a warm finger lifted his chin. Gold hieroglyphs were embroidered on the stiff collar of William’s robe, and down the front in a single long line. For a horrible, wonderful moment Harry thought he was going to kiss him. He gazed into those dark eyes behind thin, gunmetal-framed glasses. William’s lips parted slightly to a soft, pink tongue. “Go home.” He pressed a tiny brown envelope into Harry’s hand. Shaking, Harry looked inside.
He must have said something because William smiled. “Three doors to the left. That’s my parents’ room.” It took Harry a moment to realize William was talking about a hearth. William pulled him out of the chair. He staggered as he found his feet and almost ended up pressed against that thin body that so perfectly mimicked his. Harry could no longer control his intake of air. William didn’t move away. He was close, so close. Hating himself, Harry leaned forward. William’s lips were softer than he’d imagined, pliable, flavoured lightly with fruitcake. Baby-fine blue curls tangled around his fingers and sent bursts of trembling heat shooting up his arms. He felt small, warm hands wrap around his…
… And gently pry them loose. William returned a chaste press of lips before pulling back. His dark cheeks were flushed, and he clasped Harry’s hands against his chest. Harry could feel his heart fluttering. One tender finger traced the side of Harry’s face. William smiled apologetically. “Go home to your bloke.”
Shame immolated his soul. Harry nodded quickly and ran to the room three doors down. The taste of cinnamon and candied fruit lingered on his lips and his chest shook with incarcerated sobs. He threw the envelope’s entire contents into the fire. “The Burrow!”
It only took a few minutes to skin back into his denim robe and gather his few things. He left two notes, one apologizing to everyone for his sudden departure, and one apologizing to Ron. He considered briefly leaving one for William, too, but it dawned on him that he and Bill were leaving for Australia that night and probably wouldn’t be back. Anyway, he didn’t need to incriminate William; neither did he want to write something that would upset him so, so much. He was going back to his Sev, whom he wanted more than anyone or anything, and it was best to leave that velvety mouth and the taste of fruitcake at Dawn House. He opened the door for Hedwig. “I’ll see you back at Hogwarts, okay?” She hooted and nibbled his hair before raising her wings. Cool wind blasted his face from their power. It helped a little. Securing the door, he ran for a pinch of Floo powder. He gathered his bundle of broom and bathrobe and stepped too hard into the fire.
There was only one fireplace at Hogwarts connected to the incoming external Floo Network. Fortunately, as a staff member, he was on the “access granted” list. Otherwise he would have ended up back at The Burrow. It was a huge fireplace across from the doors to the Great Hall. He tumbled out, carefully protecting his broom, and crashed into someone. “Harry! What the Hell are you doing back here?”
“What the Hell are you doing here?” His godfather looked singularly furious at the sight of him.
“That’s between Headmistress McGonagall and myself, for now. You should be at The Burrow.” Sirius glared. He pulled Harry into a crushing hug. “Don’t scare me like that.” Harry found himself hugging back with his free arm.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. It dawned on him that if Sirius was here, he might have to visit Sev in the hospital wing. “You didn’t—“
“I was just on my way to find the son of a bitch.” His eyes burned. Harry cringed.
“It was an accident.”
“That’s not what Arthur Weasley said.”
“He sent the owl before he knew what happened.” Harry started towards his room. Sirius followed him. Sev should be in his office at this hour so there shouldn’t be much danger in putting his things up. “Don’t hurt Sev.”
“I will do whatever I fucking well please to Severus Snape. I just wish James were here. The both of us might be able to give him a start of what he deserves.”
“Don’t!” Harry looked at his godfather with pained eyes. “Don’t touch him. He can’t defend himself.”
Sirius snorted. “Funny, Harry. Your sense of humour needs some work.” He stuffed his hands in his pockets. “How many times has he hit you?”
Harry stared in shock for a moment before sneering. He clutched his 10K tightly in both hands and picked up the pace. Sirius didn’t even have to try to keep up. “Leave me alone.”
“How many times has that bastard hit you?” He eyed the broom. “Awfully nice little bribe you’ve got there.”
“It’s not a bribe! He bought it in September!” A harsh hand yanked him to a stop.
“Has he been beating you up for that long?” Sirius’ lip twitched in a silent snarl.
“He hasn’t been beating me up any! Will you just let me go?” He wrenched Sirius’ hand from his shoulder and ran. Pulling out his wand, he muttered the unlocking charm over their doorknob. It clicked. He stormed in, shoving the door back. Sirius caught it and slipped in behind Harry. He locked it. “What are you doing, stalking me?”
“I’m trying to make certain you don’t get anything broken.”
“I should be safe in my own room, thanks. He’s not even here right now. He’s never here during the day.” Harry pushed the sitting room door open and stormed into the familiar bedroom. He’d just put his things down, try to talk reasonably with Sirius, later on go find Sev—he yelped when he saw that badger-stripy head resting on thin fingertips, Sev sitting in his chair and gazing at the fire.
“Harry,” he said softly.
“Sev.” He started to run to the chair, but Sirius was faster. Sev made no move to defend himself as Sirius’ hand went up. It halted.
“What the fuck happened to you?”
Severus looked up at Black. Harry couldn’t see his face. “I assure you, far less than I deserve.”
It took a moment for it to sink into Sirius. His eyes softened, then he screwed up his face. Harry yelped when he heard the crack of the backhand. “Sirius!” His godfather stormed out without a word. Harry could deal with him later. He fell to his knees in front of Sev, who shook his head, dazed. A thin trickle of blood started from the corner of his mouth. Harry wiped it with his sleeve. “Poppy—“
“I’ve already sent up your things.” He gently pushed Harry’s hand away and stood up. Sev smoothed his robe. He staggered slightly, like he hadn’t slept in days. Sev worked his jaw. He touched the trickle of blood, looked at his fingers, rubbed them together. Harry wasn’t sure he’d heard right.
“What are you talking about?” Snape motioned with bloody fingers to where Harry’s trunk used to sit as he took a pinch of Floo powder. He tossed it halfheartedly into the fireplace.
“Minerva? Please come here.” Sev glanced back. “I see it arrived. I’d rather hoped to give you your present in person.”
Harry tried to grab his arm. Severus stepped back. His face was calm, with its red mark and redder smear, and his eyes were blank. “Where’s my trunk? Why is it gone?”
“I don’t want you here anymore.” It hit Harry like a fist to the stomach. He tripped into his chair – his chair, in his home, with his Sev – and gripped the arms.
“I’m sorry,” he rasped. “I was just trying to get Poppy and I said the wrong thing. It was an accident.” Sev regarded him. Those long lashes flickered.
“You did nothing wrong,” he whispered. McGonagall stepped through the fireplace and straightened her robe. She did a double take when she saw Snape.
“I’ll have a word with him.” Sev nodded once, slowly. She held out a hand to Harry. “Come with me. Your room’s ready.”
“I’m in my room.” He settled deeper into the chair. “You can’t make me leave. I’m old enough to make my own decisions.”
“As is Severus. This was his decision.” She pursed her lips.
“Harry, just go.” The blankness fell away from Sev’s eyes for a moment as he looked at Harry. He was terrified, mortified, alone.
“I’m not leaving you.”
“Yes, you are.”
“You’ll hurt yourself without—“
“Would you rather I hurt you?” Sev crossed his arms tight around his chest. His composure was breaking down fast. Harry watched his shoulders sag as he turned away. “Just get out of here. Now!” He leaned his head against the mantle. Those bony wings fluttered as he breathed. McGonagall patted Sev and muttered something. He didn’t respond. Her mouth was a grim line.
“Come with me, Harry.” She started for the door. “Hurry up.”
He stood and slowly walked to Sev. He lay a hand on that thin back; it flinched away. “Why?” he choked.
Black eyes fixed on him, but they had none of Severus’ warmth. They were cold and empty and reminded him of dark tunnels. Snape said nothing. A sallow hand loosened itself from his bony arm and he traced the faint discolouration of Harry’s cheek. “Go.”
Harry felt like a marionette as the harsh word jerked him away from the wall. He found his bundle in his hands. The cold stone floor knifed his bare feet. McGonagall put an arm around his shoulders and guided him out.
Thankee kindly to my hubby (StuStuStu – go check out his original fics) for the “Weasley Seed” line.
Special thanks to Sova, who caught a verrry nasty error in my Latin grammar. Gah, it’s been too freakin’ long since I studied. *grin*
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