The Last Battlefield
Chapter 26 - Conjunction
"Oh, my goodness!" Molly grabbed Severus' elbow and jerked him inside. "What happened? Where's Harry? Is he all right?"
"I'm fine, thanks." Harry poked his head through the door. The rest of him followed a moment later.
"What are you two doing here? Harry told us you weren't supposed to leave the house!"
"The house, it seems, is no longer safe." Severus worked his arm free of Molly's grip and folded himself into a rickety old chair. "We had an... unexpected visitor this afternoon."
"What happened?" Molly grabbed his arm and peered at his wrist. "Is that a Bonebreaker Hex?"
"Boneshatterer," Harry said.
Molly looked up. "What were you doing playing about with one of those?"
"I wasn't." Harry fell into the chair next to Severus. "Was Zabini."
"Yep. Tried to kill Sev." A cold shadow formed around Harry's hooded eyes. "He's lucky I didn't throw the same hex straight at his head."
"That's impossible. Blaise wouldn't hurt a fly." Molly bustled to a shelf and pulled down a tin of Grandpa Claudius' Pointless Excuse For A Potion. Her fingers danced along the sides as she hurried back over.
"I do hope you're not planning to use that shite on my person," Severus growled.
"What else do you suggest then? No, couldn't have been Blaise. It must have been someone under Polyjuice. Or a Metamorphmagus, there are a couple of them in Britain."
"We shall have to see." Severus grabbed his wand, hissing through his teeth as he tried to pull it from his sleeve with his ruined hand. He glanced at Harry, who was watching him with a little frown.
"Need any help?" Harry asked.
Severus started to shake his head. Instead, he gave Harry an appraising look. "How are you at following orders at this moment?"
"Now, Severus, don't bother Har--"
"I'll bother whomever I bloody well like! Harry?"
Still scowling, Harry pulled himself out of his chair. "I'm okay, I s'pose. What do I need to do?"
Hermione walked in five minutes later, while Harry was still puzzling over the index metacarpal. ("Why have all of them got to have different names? Why can't they just be 'hand bone'?") She gave a little yelp. "What happened?"
"Mistre--Hermione, what on Earth are you doing here?"
"We're here for Christmas! Why else would we be here? What happened to you?"
"Zabini," Harry muttered.
"There was a little accident," Molly murmured. "Go on back and play with Ruby."
Severus perked up. (Harry yelled "Oi!" when his hand jerked under the wand as well.) "Why have I not seen her?"
"We didn't even know you were coming." Hermione waved her thumb towards the sitting room. "Fred and George just got here. They've got her now."
"For the love... Hurry up, you insufferable cretin!" Severus shoved his hand under Harry's nose. "I haven't got that many bones!"
"Then maybe you oughtn't have broken them all!" Harry poked at Severus' index finger, which still drooped like dough. "You're going to need some Skele-Gro for this, you know."
"Your point being? My goddaughter is in the care of those lunatics! Get on with it!"
A few more minutes (and several snarl-inciting comments from Hermione regarding the raising of Severus' goddaughter) passed before Harry finally asked, "Okay, now I make the fragments go away?"
"No. You haven't even attempted to repair my finger."
"Sev, there aren't any bones left."
"You haven't even tried."
"That's 'cause there's no point!"
With a sigh, Harry flipped his wand at Severus' hand. He shot him a glower. "Bastard."
"Brat. Tertiary index phalange."
A minute later, when all bones save the very tip had been restored and the various fragments dissolved, Severus smirked at Harry and got to his feet. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a goddaughter to rescue."
"She's my goddaughter, too, y'know. And you didn't even thank me. Was a lot of work I did! Greasy bastard."
"Very well. Your work was almost satisfactory. Perhaps the next time I find myself blown to splinters, you shall be of some noticeable use."
Harry pursed his mouth and folded his arms. Severus lifted his chin to give him a soft kiss.
"Thank you," he murmured.
"Brat. Now, I believe I have a goddaughter to see."
He found her on the floor of the tinsel-and-holly-smothered sitting room, lolling on her back with her feet in her mouth. The twins, the only other people in the room, were rolling her between them in front of a Christmas tree and a sea of presents that took up half the room. Ruby made little "gnarn, gnarn" noises whenever she came to a stop and went, "Brrrrr!" whenever she was moving. Severus arched an eyebrow as she went rolling once more. He cleared his throat.
Ruby screamed when she heard him. She pushed herself over onto her belly with a grunt. For a moment, she stared at his robes with a confused look; it melted to a wet grin when she looked up far enough to see his hair. Fred (or George) looked up at him with a wide-eyed stare that screamed every sort of guilt imaginable. "Professor! What are you doing here?"
"Misters Weasley. I trust you are playing nicely with my goddaughter?"
"Nice?" George (or Fred) yelped. His face twisted in an admonishing grimace. "You spend nearly seven years making our lives Hell, and now you get on at us about--"
"Fred!" the other one hissed, clearing up the question (for the moment) of which was which.
"What? It's not as if he's our professor anymore."
"No, but I'm still more than capable of making your lives a walking nightmare. Miss Weasley." Severus nodded to Ruby and swept past the small cluster of Weasleys. He just kept his control long enough to keep from crumpling into the hideous flowered chair rather than sitting. Leaning on the arm, he rubbed his burning eyes, holding his tender index finger away from his face and trying to ignore the electric jolts of pain shooting through the rest of his bruised hand.
"Oi! She's moving!" one of the twins yelled.
Severus glanced up. Sure enough, Ruby was dragging herself towards him, grunting and squeaking with every phenomenal pull. Her feet thrashed at the air. Severus stared, a smile flickering on his face. When she finally reached his legs, she wrapped both chubby fists in his robe and pulled herself to her unsteady knees, leaning against him with all her weight.
Severus' eyes went wide. It took him a moment to find words of his own. "What did you say, Miss Weasley?"
Ruby's mouth worked, but no sound came out. She gave him a pleading look, lifting her arms out for him.
Still holding his finger out of the way, he leaned forward and scooped her up. As she snuggled into his lap with her fingers tangled in his robe, she made a contented sort of squeak and once again said, "Theb."
"Oh, shit," George whispered. "I thought that was what she said." Cupping his hands around his mouth, he shouted, "Mum! Ron! Hermione! Ruby's talking, and you're not going to like what she's saying!"
"Mister Weasley! Keep your voice down!"
"But she's talking! To you!"
"I am aware of this. It does not give you the right to shatter my goddaughter's delicate eardrums!" Severus cuddled Ruby closer. Ruby, unfazed by the shouting all around her (something Severus would have to have a talk with her parents about), stuck her fingers in her mouth and slurped.
"What's all the fuss?" Molly bustled in, two more sets of footsteps behind her. "You said Ruby's talking? She's only five months old!"
"She said Professor Snape's name! Honest! Go on, Rubutt, say it again."
"Fred!" Hermione snapped. "Don't call her that!"
"Theb," Ruby burbled around her sodden fingers. A wry smile broke out over Severus' face. He laid his hand over hers, still tangled in his robe.
There was a long moment of silence, only broken by George's sullen, "Told you."
"Oh, my lord," Molly breathed. "Ron! Ron, get in here! Your daughter's said her first word!"
"He's outside, Mum," Fred said. "Remember, Dad wanted help getting those mystery presents of his wrapped?"
"Then go and get him!"
Grumbling to himself, Fred got to his feet. He shuffled towards the door. "This is what we've got Percy for."
Severus glanced back towards the door just in time to see a mess of ginger hair disappear around the corner, nearly knocking Harry out into the hall. Hermione nearly knocked him over again as she charged into the room. She knelt on the floor at Severus' feet, grinning until the skin on her cheeks puckered.
"Say it again, Ruby, sweetie? Can you say 'Mummy'?"
Ruby only slurped on her fingers. She tugged at Severus' robe until she was able to get a bit of it in her mouth as well.
"Give her time," Severus murmured. He laid his injured hand atop her soft, bushy curls, letting his fingers lace through the silken strands. "Perhaps our firstborn's first word shall be your name?"
Hermione scowled up at him. "Your firstborn? Where'd this come from?"
"Um," Harry said, "we're, um, thinking about it. Would be sort of like a little cousin for Ruby."
Severus gave an ironic snort. "Quite, Mister Potter."
"You?" George shouted. "With kids?"
"That's enough, George! Oh!" Molly gave a short, surprised laugh. "This is... Severus, we had no idea you wanted children of your own! It's wonderful!" There was a small, choked sound from the doorway.
"Thanks, Mrs. Weasley," Harry wheezed. Severus glanced back to see him caught in a crushing hug. "Could you let go of me? I can't breathe."
"Of course, dear, of course." Molly squeezed him once more before dropping him. Harry staggered back a step, a bit pale and dazed-looking but more steady than shaking. Molly advanced on Severus. He flinched before she could grab him; she settled for squeezing his shoulders in her pudgy hands.
"You'll make a wonderful father! Fathers. Parents. Oh, whatever you are, you'll be brilliant."
"Mum, this is Professor Snape you're talking about!" George said. "You can't have forgotten what he was like!"
"Yes, and perhaps he wouldn't have been so bad had you and your brother behaved yourselves!"
"I beg to differ," Severus muttered.
"Be quiet, dear. Oh, I hope you have a boy! We've got so many old baby things, and they're all for boys! Poor Ginny got called our son more times than I can remember."
"Actually," Harry said in a soft voice, "I'd sort of like a daughter."
"Well, you'll just have to see what happens then." Molly squeezed Severus' shoulders again. "First Ruby, then Penny ready to pop any day, now the two of you. I'm going to have more grandchildren than I know what to do with!"
"Excuse me?" Severus turned to arch an alarmed eyebrow up at her. "Your grandchildren?" His heart sped up just a touch at the thought of her reaction when she found out just how true those words were.
"Of course! Harry's as good as a Weasley and so are you, dear. Between Ruby and Ginny, I don't think we'd be allowed to toss you out. Why, just the other day Ginny said that if she married anyone she'd want him to be just like you."
Hermione snorted. "That's a little too far, if you ask me."
Severus growled at her; Ruby pulled her fingers out of her mouth long enough to blow her lips at her mother.
"Yeah, um, Mum?" George gave his mother a very queer look. "I don't think just like him is really what she meant. That whole bit about liking blokes puts a bit of a damper on things."
"George, be quiet. Go and see what your brothers have gotten up to. They ought to have--"
A door slammed and footsteps pounded towards the sitting room. "Oh," Molly said. "There they are now."
Half a second later, Ron skidded into the room. He tripped, hit the floor with his trainers still fighting at the rug, and finished the last few feet on his hands and knees. "Jewel?" he panted, squashing in next to Hermione. "What is it? Uncie Fred says you're saying naughty things. Tell me you're not."
"'Lo, Ron," Harry said in an amused tone.
"Hi, Harry. Ruby, jewel, tell Daddy--Harry, what're you doing here?" Ron bolted upright, sitting on his knees, his ears turning pink and his eyes as large as saucers. "You haven't got Sever--bloody Hell!"
"Ron!" Hermione slapped him on the knee. "Not in front of Ruby!"
Ron's jaw dropped. Hermione went red. George stared for a moment, then collapsed in a giggling lump with his face in his hands.
"Brilliant!" he yelled. "You tell 'em, Rubutt!"
"THEB HEWW!" Ruby screamed, slapping her hands against Severus' thighs. She tipped her head back to give him an open-mouthed grin. The bare white edges of two teeth poked through her upper gums. Severus' brow furrowed; he felt very cold as it struck him just how much of her short life he'd been forced to miss.
"Ruby, settle down." Hermione shot Ron a dark look. "I told you not to swear in front of her so much."
"Well, why don't you just let Sev teach her? It's only school you're worried about, isn't it?" Harry paused for a moment. "I mean, it's not as if he's not going to be teaching ours. She'll have someone to play with."
"They've got a few years to decide, Harry!" Molly rubbed Severus' shoulder. "After today, I don't think this one's up to discussing something like that."
"What about today?" Ron looked around, bit of his hair flying. "Did something--Merlin's balls, mate, what happened to your hand?"
"Hmm." Severus frowned. His skin, still banded in delicate tones of purple black, green black, brown black, a morbid rainbow, made an odd shadow against Ruby's bright ginger hair. "There was a bit of an accident."
"What happened, get hit by a Bludger? My god, have you got a bone missing?" Ron leaned forward to gape at the tip of Severus' finger, which still dangled like a bit of jelly and had gone somewhat flat as well.
"I'll explain in a little while," Hermione murmured.
"Hmm." Severus dropped his head. The stunned look on Harry's face when the hex went off flitted through his mind. He shook it away. It still sent a pang of cold through his heart. Not yet. Don't you think about that until you've got all the facts. He cuddled Ruby closer to his belly. An unexpected yawn rose up in his throat and strained his jaw to the point of popping.
"You tired?" Harry's soft voice was followed by short, gentle fingers running through his hair. Severus tilted his head back. Harry gazed down at him, his brow puckered in tenderness. His fingers stroked the skin beneath Severus' eyes. "You look knackered."
"I'm fine," Severus grumped. He yawned again, though, and snorted as he rubbed his face against Harry's fingertips. Harry smiled.
"You ought to have a nap."
"Would you like to keep Ruby with you?" Hermione asked. "It's almost time for me to put her down anyway."
"I don't need a sodding nap!"
"Well, you're having one, so enjoy it." Harry picked up the green and blue afghan from beside the chair and shook it out. Molly moved aside as Harry draped the thing around Severus' shoulders. He leaned forward and placed a soft kiss just in front of Severus' ear. "Sleep," he murmured.
"Why should I?"
"Because I say so." Harry picked up another afghan from the floor, this one checkered black and white with thin purple bands between the squares, and unfurled it over Severus' lap. It landed on Hermione's and Ron's heads. Harry sniggered. "Oops, sorry."
"Geez, Harry, just because you like to get under the blankets with him doesn't mean I want to!" Ron fought the afghan until it fell free. (Hermione was giggling into her hands too hard to help.) He tucked the thing in around Ruby and then around Severus' legs. Severus growled.
"Oi, only making sure you don't freeze to death! You owe me some chess, mate. Haven't had a decent opponent since you dropped off the face of the Earth!"
"I've played you," Hermione muttered in a very hurt tone.
"Well... um..." Ron's ears turned red as he stammered. "Herm, sweetheart, you're getting better all the time. You know that, right?"
She rolled her eyes at him. "If you'd wanted to marry a master, you should have given that ring to Severus."
"Come on, you lot. Let these two get some sleep. Come on, shoo! Shoo!" Molly waved her hands over Severus' shoulder. "You too, George. Where's your brother?"
"Outside, helping Dad," Ron said, getting to his feet. He dragged Hermione up as well.
"You didn't see what I'm getting, did you?" George asked.
"Nope. He's got tons of things for Ruby, though."
"No shock there."
"Nope." Ron stabbed a finger at Severus. "You get some rest, all right? I owe you an arse-kicking later."
"Ron!" both Molly and Hermione snapped.
"Awth," Ruby said.
"Oh, for..." Hermione rubbed her eyes and sighed. "I'm going to have to put all of this in the baby book as well." Between her fingers, she shot Ron and Severus looks of disgust.
Severus gave her a weary scowl. "Hermione, for my fourth birthday, my grandmother taught me to say 'fuck' in two languages. I turned out well enough, didn't I?"
The colour drained from her skin. Ron went a bit pale as well. For a long moment, Hermione only stared at him. With a little whimper, she scurried for the door.
"You too, George."
"Aw, Mum. You're not making Harry go anywhere."
"Well, when you've settled down with someone, I won't make you leave when they've got to have a nap, either."
"What about Fred? If he's got to have a nap, are you going to kick me out?"
There was a brief pause and a hurried, "Of course I would. No telling what sort of trouble you two would come up with. Go on, scoot!"
"I'm scooting! Have a nice nap, Rubutt, don't let the git keep you awake."
"Weasley..." Severus growled.
"Hush," Harry murmured, rubbing his shoulder.
"Have a nice nap, dear," Molly said. "We'll wake you up in time for supper."
"Thank you." Severus craned his neck to give her a short nod. He waited until she'd left the room to turn his face up to Harry.
"Would you care to join us? There's certainly room to spare." He motioned to the wide berth on either side of his hips.
A soft smile crossed Harry's mouth. "Would love to." His fingers trailed through Severus' hair. "Think I probably ought to help with the house a bit, though. Molly's still got loads to tidy, and everyone's arriving by tonight. There're Weasleys you haven't even met yet."
"Oh, bloody Hell."
Harry laughed. A rush of warmth filled Severus' belly as though it were phoenix song. "Nan and Grandad. You'll like Nan."
"Is she the woman who tries to blow up those twin nightmares?"
"Hmph." Severus settled deeper into the chair, Ruby still on his lap. "A sensible woman. I look forward to meeting her."
The grin that cracked on Harry's face made Severus arch an eyebrow but also made the warmth in his belly spread out to every distant corner of his body. "Just... wait until she gets here." Harry patted him on the arm. His smile softened once more. "Need anything?"
"Not that I can think of. Miss Weasley?" He turned to Ruby. "Are you in need of anything?"
"Heww." She stuck her hands in her mouth and slurped while her eyelids drooped.
"I should consider that a no, unless you'd like to try your hand at nappy changes once again."
"Uh, no. That's still your department."
Severus gave Harry a wry smirk. "And when we've got our own, am I still to handle that particular aspect of things?"
"We'll talk about it." Harry pressed a small kiss to his mouth. "No promises."
"Of course not."
Harry sniggered, clamping a hand over his mouth and pinching his nose. He leaned forward and smooched the top of Ruby's head. "You take care of this git, okay, Ruby?"
"Yep, that's the one." He giggled low in his throat. "Going to be chatty, isn't she?"
"It does seem so." Severus yawned again, stifling it against his shoulder. He smacked his mouth a couple of times. The skin on his eyelids seemed to have grown quite heavy.
"You get some rest. Wake you up before six?"
"I expect somebody shall."
"All right." Harry hovered there for a moment. An odd, hungry look flashed behind his glasses. It faded almost as soon as it appeared but was enough to make Severus' heart flutter anyway. Harry pressed another soft kiss to his mouth. This one lingered for seconds upon seconds. Severus lifted his left hand and let his fingertips come to rest on the sandpapery skin of Harry's jaw.
"You've grown up," he murmured in awe. The roughness ran beneath his fingers, all the way up into his wrist (or so it seemed) as he stroked the pliable flesh in the hollow of Harry's shadowed cheek.
"Had to sometime," Harry murmured back.
"It suits you."
A flush ran over Harry's face as he dropped his head, smiling a shy smile Severus hadn't seen in a very long time; the sight of it sent a gorgeous shiver through his chest.
"If you had to do it all over again, would you?" Harry asked.
"Had to do what?"
"Me, that whole mess. Y'know, the randy seventeen-year-old on your office floor."
"That, Mister Potter, is one of the few things in my life I wouldn't change."
"Are you saying I'm worth the trouble?"
"A thousand times over and more."
"Good." Harry rested his head in the crook of Severus' neck. "I'm holding you to that next time you say I'm more trouble than I'm worth, you know."
"Quiet, you." Another yawn took Severus, this one nearly unhinging mandible from maxilla. "Might I have a bit of rest before the rest of the invasion force arrives?"
Harry snorted into his neck. "Lazy git." He pressed his lips to the spot. "Sleep well."
"I intend to."
Harry leaned his head in, mussed Ruby's curls, and just like that his footsteps shuffled away and he was gone. A small pit formed in the middle of Severus' chest. He bit his tongue before he could call for Harry to come back.
Without really thinking, he picked up Ruby and cuddled her to his chest. She mewled but leaned her head against his neck where Harry's had been. Her fingers tangled in the collar of his robe. Severus pressed a kiss to her head.
"Te amo, mi puellula," he whispered. You'll never betray me, will you?
Only the soft, even sound of her breathing broke the silence. Severus rested his cheek against her hair. The last thing he saw before his eyelids fell was the Christmas tree. In its branches he thought he could make out the laughing boy he wished he'd been.
"Sev, wake up. You've got an owl."
"Hn." Somebody was rubbing the side of his neck. There was a soft squeak in his ear, and warm, damp curls shifted beneath his cheek. Ruby keened.
"Shh," Severus cooed, stroking her back. He frowned at the pain in his right hand. A few moments passed before the curse and the flight to the Burrow flitted through his sleep-addled brain.
"Come on, wake up," Harry murmured.
"Time?" Severus muttered.
"A quarter past five. Molly says everyone should be arriving soon. Percy and Penelope are here. You should see Penelope, she's the size of a house."
Severus snorted. He dropped his head again. "Six."
"No, you need to read this. Zabini's sent you an owl. Um, I think you'll want to read it."
Severus' eyes cracked open. He grunted, shoving a hand beneath the afghan to grope for his glasses. A loosened scroll of parchment fell in his lap and rolled into the gap between his leg and the chair. Harry's hands reached down to untangle Ruby from his grasp.
"Careful with her," Severus snapped.
"I've got her." Harry lifted Ruby away. She mewled as he did; a weak, sleepy cry filled the air. "It's all right, Ruby. Let's sit on the couch. You can see him from there."
Severus' fingers finally closed over his glasses. He pulled them out, pushing them up his nose at a cockeyed tilt and unrolling the scroll with a flick of his wrist.
It's Blaise. THAT WAS NOT ME. I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. Whoever is involved in this was trying to trick you. It was another Auror who'd taken Polyjuice. I... knew him. He was a good mate of mine. I thought, anyway. We've gotten some names from him, though. Seems the Secret-Keeper's broken the charm. Probably re-cast it so he's protected, but... Oh, god, Professor, it's ridiculous. I can't say who they are, but the names he's given us! They go all the way up - all the way - and some of them aren't even in the Ministry! It's mind-boggling. Absolutely mind-boggling. It scares me to think what sorts of people are allowed to run free.
Please, please don't hold this against me. I'll do everything I can to help you. But... you're free. It's been admitted. The Immolatus Compound, the Boneshatterer Hexes, everything. We've got people in custody. We still haven't got a confession on whoever killed Mum, but it's starting to come together. We've even got names of targets. You and Potter were right at the top of the list. I don't want to think about that, life without you in it. It would be like losing Mum again. I love you. I genuinely love you like a father. Potter is a lucky bloke, though I suspect he doesn't see quite the same things in you I do.
I'm sorry, I'm a bit upset right now. I only hope this gets to you. Sending it to Arthur and Molly's because if anyone will know where to find you, it's them. If that's where you are, then with a bit of luck I'll be able to see you tomorrow. I dearly want to. I mean, it's Christmas, after all.
PS, Montague's having a fit that you two got through the Anti-Apparation wards, but we (that's the Special Task Forces, mind) were only supposed to move you to a safe location anyway. I reckon Arthur and Molly's is the safest place in the world - that's a hint, if you're not already there. As many people as they'll have in the house, nobody would have a chance of getting through the door to hurt either of you.
PPS, I don't think I mentioned, I've got temporary field certification! I'm the Arithmancer for Special Task Forces! (Montague's such a git. I don't know how he got where he did. Reckon there's something to be said for just following order.) Here's hoping it's made permanent, what?
PPPS, Don't mention any of this, please? It's being kept under wraps as much as it can be. I know Molly and Arthur will probably see this, or Harry at least, but beyond that could you keep quiet? Thanks, sir.
The parchment slid out of Severus' hand as the lump of granite in his heart shattered and the splinters melted away. He slumped forward, clutching his head. His glasses fell to the floor.
"Sev?" Harry's hand rested on his shoulder blade. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Severus rasped. "Everything's fine."
"Are you sure?"
Severus closed his eyes. "I've got my son back."
"Sev, he's not your son. You barely know him."
"I know him well enough."
Harry said nothing, only rubbed a small circle over the jut of Severus' scapula. Ruby made a fussy sound.
"Are you hungry, sweetheart?" Harry murmured.
"Theb," Ruby whined.
Pushing the hair out of his face, Severus sat back and held out his arms. "Give her here."
Harry passed her across with just a bit of a scowl. "I still don't like him, Sev. There's something about him that, I don't know, bothers me, I suppose."
"Yes, you are. Have been since his mother died. Has it never occurred to you that you are more than welcome to sit on my lap whenever you wish?"
A shiver went through Harry's shoulders. "Fine. Maybe I am jealous. After everything the Aurors have done to you, though, I don't see how you can want anything to do with him." Harry shrugged. "Not as if I ever wanted to see him curled up in your lap," he muttered.
Severus snorted. "Typical Gryffindor, thinking with your gonads rather than your brain."
Harry gave him a cool look. "That's not very fair." He squirmed against the sofa cushions. "I don't want anything to do with him. You can, but I'm staying out of it."
"Very well. You're more than welcome to keep to yourself."
"Fine. I will." Harry looked as though he wanted to say something else, but he only screwed his lips into a tight knot.
They fell silent. Ruby fussed against Severus' chest. He stroked her back. "Are you hungry, mi puellula?"
"Shall we go and find you a bit to eat then?" A small lurch, and he found himself on his feet. Glancing down, he frowned at his glasses.
Harry swiped them up and slid them into Severus' pocket. Severus grunted his thanks. "Would you care to join us?" he asked.
"'Course I would, you greasy bastard." Harry slid his fingers into the crook of Severus' elbow. "They're in the kitchen. Molly's had to expand the table."
"How many people are we expecting?"
"Tonight?" Harry gnawed his lip, walking half a step ahead of Severus. "There's the three of us, Ron, Hermione, the twins, Mister and Mrs. Weasley, Percy, Penelope, Charlie, Ginny, Nan, Grandad, Bill and, um, you know, and I think Remus is still coming. And... you know."
"Nineteen people are going to fit into this house."
"Oh, and Zabini'll be here tomorrow, apparently."
"Yep. Was bad enough last year, only had fifteen then."
"Bloody Hell," Severus muttered. "We at least get our own room, don't we?"
"I hope so." Harry glanced back at him for a bare instant. "Don't worry, we won't have to share with Bill or anything like that."
"I should certainly hope not!"
"Yeah, tell me about it," Harry muttered. He slipped his arm around Severus' waist, snuggling into his side. Wherever he touched, a band of warmth melted into Severus' flesh.
Indeed, the table had been expanded; Severus had to hug the wall, clutching Ruby close to his chest, just to get around it. Hermione and Ron were sitting at one end alongside a high chair. Percy and a girl Severus seemed to recall was Penelope Clearwater were chatting with them. Miss Clearwater - or Mrs. Weasley, more likely; he remembered something about her from Saint Mungo's when Ruby was born - was, indeed, the size of a small house. Her distended belly brushed the edge of the table despite her chair being pushed a foot back. She was smiling but a bit peaky and flushed. Percy kept patting the back of her hand. He made a strangled noise when he saw Severus.
"Professor! I thought you were asleep!"
"Am I not allowed to wake up, Mister Weasley?" Severus shifted Ruby against his chest, letting her lean back enough to blink up at him with crusty eyes. "I fear I shall have to rescind you to your parents, Miss Weasley."
Ruby mewled. She grabbed the collar of his robe with one fist, rubbing her eye with the other.
"That's enough of that, young lady. Or should we simply tell them to fuck off?"
"Oh, Hell." Hermione thumped her forehead against the table. "I hate you, Severus. Sometimes I really, truly hate you."
Not even bothering to stifle his grin, Severus kissed Ruby on the forehead. "Good girl."
"We're having a little talk later," Harry growled into his ear.
"She's going to learn them eventually. Might as well be now."
"Yeah, tell that to the nice old lady she scares half to death next time you take her out! Wait, wait, you'd like that, wouldn't you?"
Severus did his best to look innocent. Harry's glower held firm. With a sigh, Severus turned back to Ruby. "I fear I've been outvoted. You shall be forced into a sterile environment for the rest of your dull little life, mi puellula."
"I don't believe she agrees with this notion."
"Oh, shut up. Hand her to me." Hermione held her arms out, scowling. Ruby screeched when Severus handed her off but more or less settled down when Ron took her and snuggled her into his chest.
"I don't mind, jewel," he murmured. "Just learn to say 'Daddy' soon, all right?"
"Not that daddy." Ron shot Severus a look. "We'll settle this over a game of chess."
"Very well. Will tonight be suitable, or would you simply like to admit defeat right now?"
Ron muttered something. Hermione slapped him on the arm. "Hush."
"You're looking better, Professor," Miss Clearwater said with a tired smile. "You've put on some weight since July. Sit down, there's plenty of room." She waved to the chairs across from her and Percy. "Might as well take advantage of it while you can."
He gave her a brief nod and eased himself into one of the mismatched wooden chairs. Harry collapsed into the one next to him; Severus felt a small hand rub along his thigh and come to rest not far from his hip. He arched an eyebrow at Harry, who only looked at Miss Clearwater and asked, "How're you doing? Mrs. Weasley says you're due any day now."
"Oh, I'm fine, not that some people will believe me." She gave Percy a look. Percy puffed up like a chicken.
"Now, Penny, dear, you know what the midwife--"
"Be quiet, Percy. I've got a week left to go." She rolled her eyes. "I've already told you, if I start having regular contractions, I'll tell you the moment I can."
"Are you sure you don't want to go into hospital right--?"
Percy pulled back, his mouth stretched like a toad's. Miss Clearwater, smiling a triumphant little smile, turned back to Harry and Severus, her hands folded over her engorged belly. "We didn't think the two of you were coming. I'm glad you got to."
"Hmm." Harry shrugged. "Was sort of a spur-of-the-moment thing."
"Then I'm glad the moment sp--ooh!" She jumped in her seat, pressing a hand to the middle of her belly. Percy was on his feet.
"Now, just stay calm, sweetheart, we'll have you to Saint Mungo's in no time. Can you stand?" He took her by the arms and started tugging her out of her chair. "We'll get your cloak and--"
"I'm fine! He took a swing at me, that's all." She grinned. "We'll have a fair Beater in a few years."
Ron chuckled. "Maybe we ought to start a Quidditch team. The Weasley Weasels sound good to you?"
"I refuse to allow my goddaughter to play that daft game, especially under a ridiculous banner like that!" Severus folded his arms and sniffed. "Have enough trouble keeping an eye on one Quidditch twit, much less an entire team of them."
"Oh, shut up, you git. I was only jok--"
"Oi!" Harry shouted. "Charlie's just Apparated!"
Indeed, through the window Severus could make out a burly figure wrapped in a dragonhide cloak and lugging a duffel bag.
"Brilliant!" Miss Clearwater pushed her chair back and tried to wheedle her way out of it. She slipped down a few inches. "Dammit. I wanted to say hello."
The door cracked open. "Hello?" called yet another of the Weasley clan. "Anyone here?"
"You can see us!" Ron called. "Get in here, you twit!"
Over the next half hour or so, the air filled with the ambrosial smell of baking sausage rolls and the sweetness of what were probably biscuits. More people trickled in: the twins were finally released from their gift-wrapping indenture and collapsed after crushing Charlie in a two-way hug; Ginny arrived, saying very little and slipping into the seat next to Severus; Arthur escorted in a bald man with the Weasley nose and too many freckles, and Molly did the same a few minutes later with an apricot-haired woman on whom the twins swarmed. With the two of them still in tow, the woman made a circuit of the table, planting a kiss on everyone, including Miss Clearwater's belly and the top of Severus' head.
"You must be the fellow with the strong right hook!" She clapped him on the shoulder. "Care to have a round later on?"
"No, thank you." Severus turned to give her the most concentrated loathing glare he could. "What on Earth are you?"
"Don't talk to our Nan that way!" Fred (or George - they'd moved and hence were no longer distinguishable) shouted.
"You be nice to her!" George (or Fred) added.
"Settle down, boys. I can take care of myself. Hmm." Nan cupped her chin, studying Severus with squinted eye. "Yep." With that, she swooped down on Harry, leaving a fat, pink-tinged kiss on his cheek.
"I beg your pardon?" Severus gaped at her as she gave the bald man a peck on the cheek and fell into a chair with one twin on each side.
She grinned at him; the twins matched it. "Sorry?"
"You utter a single word and go on your way. I'd like to know what you mean."
Nan shook her head. "Nothing, really. Only--" She shrugged. "Yep."
A tremble started somewhere in the vicinity of Severus' fingertips as a chuckle went up around the table. "'Yep,' what?" he whispered.
Several of the chuckles faltered. The twins fell silent, as did Miss Clearwater. Percy, who hadn't laughed but looked even more pompous than usual, inched his chair behind Miss Clearwater's. Molly shot Severus a warning look; he ignored it.
Nan shrugged again. "Yep, there's a fellow who needs to have his chain yanked a bit. Didn't mean any offence by it, only you look like you've been sucking on a lemon."
Severus drew back in his chair. Harry's hand tightened where it still lay just below his hip. "Behave," Harry whispered.
"How dare you tell me--?"
"She's being friendly." Harry glowered up at Severus, then turned to Nan. "Sorry about that. He's had a bit of a rough day. Might want to leave him alone."
"Can't be so rough he can't crack a smile."
Pursing his mouth, Severus pulled his right hand out of his lap and slammed it down on top of the table. Pinpricks of light burst behind his eyes as his tendons slid across each other. A round of gasps went up.
"Good lord!" the bald man cried. He adjusted his glasses and leaned closer. "How'd you run into a Bonebreaker Hex?"
"Boneshatterer," Harry muttered.
The man - Grandad, presumably, not that Severus would ever call anyone by such a ridiculous moniker - stared for a moment longer before leaning back in his chair. He peered at Severus. "What're you doing, training Aurors?"
Arthur leaned in and whispered something to him. Grandad's eyes went wide. He sputtered before he managed to thrust a finger at Severus and shout, "You're the one the Ministry's been after!"
"Dad!" Molly yelled.
"Now, hold on a moment." Grandad put his hands up. "I'm not making anything of it yet, only, I need to do one thing about this." He turned to Harry and, with a piercing, solemn look, asked him, "Now, I know what happened last year. Molly and Arthur say that wasn't his fault, and I believe them, but I want to make sure we're on the same level here. Did this fellow ever trick you into anything you didn't want?"
Harry shook his head. "No."
"You sure about that? He never... coerced you into doing anything you weren't sure about?"
"I shagged him first, if that's what you're asking. Practically ripped his robe off and threw him on the floor."
Grandad arched a surprised red eyebrow. Nan burst out laughing. Ruby screeched and slapped her hands on the table.
"Uther, leave the boy alone!" Nan wiped her eyes. "I think it's obvious who wears the trousers in their house."
Severus jerked rigid. "I beg your pardon?"
She grinned. "Nothing, only, Harry's not afraid to take charge of things, is he? Proper Gryffindor, that boy."
"Once you're all finished laughing," Severus forced through his teeth, "perhaps you'd like the rest of the details of our private life? I'm certain you're all as eager to hear them as we are to tell them."
"Sev, shh." Harry found his good hand beneath the table and wrapped his fingers around it. He reached up to take hold of the back of Severus' neck. Severus pulled his head away.
"I want an apology."
"Sev, she didn't mean anything by it."
"I don't care."
Nan spread her hands. "I'm sorry? I was only trying to make you laugh. You're a tough nut to crack."
"Madam, I am not a nut. I am a wizard. I do not wish to be cracked, and I do not wish, at this time, to laugh, especially when the joke in question is at my own expense. Do you understand, or need I make myself more lucid?"
A hush fell over the table. Only Ruby's nonsensical babbling held back absolute silence. Nan's mouth grew thin.
"Be nice to him, Nan," Ginny said in a soft voice. "I didn't think it was funny, either."
Nan frowned. "Ginny, that's not like--"
The door flew open. In a tangle of blue robes and black cloak, Black tore into the room. He paused only long enough to give a wild glance around the table before he descended upon Harry and Severus like a lethifold. Grabbing them both in a crushing hug, he squashed his face between their skulls.
"Thank god, thank god, thank god," he whispered. "I just got Arthur's owl five minutes ago. Minerva told us she'd got your phoenix, and your elves had been interrogated by Aurors, and there was an explosion, and she didn't know where you were. I've been to the house but the whole place is crawling with Aurors, they wouldn't let me in, wouldn't say a word about where you'd gone. You're here, you're safe, thank god, thank god, thank god." He kissed each of them on top of the head, never easing his grip.
"Let go of me," Severus growled.
"Not until I'm sure you're alive and safe."
Severus pinched him. "I said let go of me, you insane mongrel!"
"Paddy, let them go." Lupin was just closing the door. A pair of valises sat at his feet. He looked even more tired than usual. The new tuft of white at his hairline stood out against the grey of the rest of his hair and his skin. He gave everyone a worn smile; a low round of greetings rose up and faded.
Black squeezed them one last time and insinuated himself in the chair next to Harry. There was still a manic glint flickering in his eyes. "Are you all right?"
"Does this look all right to you?" Severus lifted his hand, letting his fingertip droop. Percy gasped and covered his mouth. He looked a bit green. The twins stared.
"Coooooooool," they drawled.
"My god, what happened?" Black reached over and caught Severus' wrist in a gentle hand. He traced the bands of colour with a fingertip. The blood drained from his skin. "Fuck," he whispered.
"Koff," Ruby chirruped.
"Ruby!" Hermione hissed.
Severus twisted his wrist until Black let go. "It seems I am still at risk."
"Over my dead body."
"Very nearly, yes."
"Hold on a second." Charlie reached down to fish in his duffel bag. "No, no, not that... not that... Merlin's teeth, how'd that get in here?" There was a brief sound of a struggle, a whoosh of air, and a bang. He popped up for a moment, gave the table a sheepish grin, and vanished again.
Harry, halfway to his feet and staring in utter confusion, asked, "Uh, Charlie?"
"Just a second, had something get loose. Wait, got it!" With a triumphant grin, Charlie rose up, clutching a polished white bottle. Skele-Gro, it proclaimed. He rolled it across the table. "A must-have when you're handling dragons. Tastes like rotting death, though."
The bottle rolled to a halt in front of Severus. He stared. His lip curled away from his teeth. "Merlin's balls," he muttered. "Isn't once in a lifetime enough?"
"Reckon not," Harry said, staring at the heavy ceramic bottle as though he expected it to bite him. He wrinkled his nose as Severus picked it up.
"You know why it's packaged like this, don't you?" Severus unscrewed the cap and took a hesitant sniff. A membrane-burning whiff of something between Scotch bonnets and hydrochloric acid tickled his nose; he recoiled as the puff dispersed and the air around the bottle filled with nothing more than a stale smell like washing left too long in a drawer.
"Why?" Charlie asked, leaning on his elbows.
"It corrodes metal. Gran lost three cauldrons before she realised that. Very odd, given the ingredients. Only two are corrosive on their own. Has to be made in a ceramic cauldron."
"Oh, my," Molly breathed. "Your Gran invented it?"
"Why haven't I heard of her?" Ginny asked, peeking up at him.
"You have, dear. His Gran was Philia Westin." Molly clapped a hand over her mouth. Her eyes went wide. "Sorry! Sorry, it slipped out."
Severus gritted his teeth. "Molly..."
"Oh, wow." Ginny stared up at Severus. A smile twitched on the corner of her mouth. "That's... That explains so much."
"Why you know so much. Wow." She swallowed. Her freckled hand came to rest on the back of Severus' right wrist. "Runs in the family, doesn't it?"
He cocked an eyebrow at her. In a soft voice, he said, "Perhaps it does."
She grinned, her nose wrinkling. "Might want to take your medicine. You're not going to get your finger back otherwise."
"Indeed. Perhaps I ought to reformulate it, make it taste a bit better." Frowning, Severus looked around. "Has anybody got a glass? Preferably a small one?"
"Just a second." Molly hurried to her feet. She started poking through cupboards and after only a few seconds pulled down a tiny shot glass. She passed it down the table. When it reached him, Severus arched an eyebrow at the row of assorted hands through which it had passed. He wiped it on his robe.
"What was the dosage again?" he muttered under his breath.
"Poppy gave me loads when Lockhart disappeared my arm bones," Harry said, eyeing the bottle with distaste.
"Well, of course she did! You ought to see what happens when a person loses something expansive. One of the original recipients was a friend of Gran's who'd managed to make all the bones in both his legs vanish. Poor bloke was a blubbering wreck by the time she finished feeding him the cack. What was it again?" He sighed, rubbing his eyes.
"It's five cc's for every cubic inch of bone, isn't it?" Charlie asked in a meek voice.
"Hmm. Something like that. Knew one of you would come in handy for something." Severus tipped a generous splash of the noxious stuff into the glass. He looked at it with a sigh. "'Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.'"
"I've heard that," Harry said. "Did you learn it in Muggle Studies?"
"Of course I did. Where else would I have picked up...? Bollocks. Was that Dante or Milton?"
"Dante," Lupin murmured.
"Quite. Into the inferno go I." Screwing his mouth shut, Severus picked up the glass. Trying not to think about the array of substances he was about to put down his throat in full view of the whole of the Weasley clan, he tipped back the Skele-Gro. A wash of something like mouldy capsicums and month-old socks coated his tongue. He swallowed with as much dignity as he could and fell forward on the table, grimacing until his face ached as the smell invaded his sinuses and his tongue turned inside out.
"Fucking Hell, it's gotten worse!"
Charlie clapped a hand over his mouth. It didn't quite block the hideous bray issuing from his throat. A few moments later, Harry snorted. In a matter of seconds every single person around Severus was chortling, laughing, chuckling, shrieking (that being Ruby), giggling, or cracking a small, shy smile (in this particular case, Ginny).
"Worse from what?" one of the twins called. "Worst stuff in the world, that! Can't imagine it being any better."
Severus glowered at him. "It was never meant to be a delicacy."
"How d'you know?"
"Mister Weasley, who d'you think dissolved his entire wrist as a boy, thus ensuring its need to be put back?"
"Wouldn't surprise me a bit." Harry gave Severus a gentle smile. "He's never exactly been one for doing things the easy way."
"Your Gran sounds like a frightening woman." Hermione gave Ruby a finger, which went straight into Ruby's small, insolent mouth. "I'm glad I never got on her bad side."
"Hmm." Severus leaned back in his chair. He stared at the tabletop. Under the table he flexed his hand against the prickling sensation starting in his finger. "She was formidable. Very few people ever dared cross her. Albus did, but he was Albus."
"Sounds like someone I wouldn't mind looking up to." Hermione shot Ron a cool look. Ron pulled back.
"What've I done now?"
"I'm still angry with you over what you've been teaching Ruby!"
"Me? Blame that git over there!"
"Yes, he is, isn't he?" Hermione cooed, tickling Ruby's chin with a spit-soaked finger. "They both are."
"I see no fault with this assessment." Severus settled deeper into his chair, smirking and feeling very, very smug.
Black's brow furrowed. He leaned towards Severus. "What have you been teaching her?"
"Fuck off, Black."
"Severus!" Molly snapped.
"Given that she already knows the phrase, Molly," Severus asked with a smirk, "what is so wrong with using it in front of her?"
"You'll only encourage her to say it!"
"And what is she supposed to say when she wants somebody to fuck off?"
"Yeah!" One of the twins slammed a hand down on the table. "What's she supposed to say?"
Molly pointed a finger at him. "You stay out of this, George. You too, Fred."
"I don't know," Grandad mused. "Good, solid phrase, that. Needs a little more use, if you ask me. Certainly gets the point across."
Severus gave him a nodding bow. "Thank you."
"It's not polite." Molly folded her arms, glaring at Severus. "Really, using that sort of language in public. Why not save it for a time when you really need it?"
Arthur's head whipped 'round. "Molly!"
"Well, why not? Nobody cares if they hear it all the time."
"All the more reason to use it." Severus rubbed his finger as the odd prickling sensation ran down his regenerating ligaments. "Perhaps it would acclimate otherwise conservative fools to the idea of releasing pressure in a volatile situation."
Molly reached for her pocket. "I'll show you a volatile situation."
"Oi, Mum!" came a voice from the door. "No hexing anyone until after presents this year, all right?"
Molly jumped up. "Bill!" She caught him in a rib-crunching hug. "What took you so long?"
"'Lo, Mum. William couldn't find his shoes." Bill glanced up from over his mother's shoulder. He beamed at the table from which a chorus greeted him. His grin faded when he saw Severus.
Severus glowered back. The moment a curly green head - green - poked through the door, though, he turned it on that. William slipped in, lugging a suitcase. He smiled.
"Hi," he said in a soft, deceptive voice.
"I think I liked the pink better," Nan mused. She beckoned him over and all but engulfed him in a hug. "Taking care of my grandson?"
"Trying to. He keeps wandering into tombs."
"Yeah, usually after you." Bill stuck his tongue out.
"Only half of the time." William pulled himself free and started to sit down next to George. He caught Severus' glare; the chair in his hand squealed on the floor as he jumped.
"You all right?" Bill was on him, his hands fluttering over William's sleeves. William elbowed him away.
"I'm fine. Bit of static."
"You sure?" Bill squinted at him. He followed William's line of sight to Severus; the squint turned to a cold, steely narrowing. "Leave him alone, Snape."
"Haven't done a thing."
"Then why are you staring at him?"
"What's up with you lot?" Fred looked back and forth between them. "You nearly killed each other back when Ruby was born. I mean, really, something crawled up your bottoms and died."
"Leave them alone, Fred," Hermione said, stuffing Ruby (who was screeching and flailing, as she had no intentions of moving) into her high chair. "People are allowed to not like each other sometimes."
"But... Hermione, come on! You don't get the Snape Death Glare just for existing."
"Actually, I always thought that was the only real qualification."
Harry snorted, as did Ron, Ginny, and Charlie. Molly covered her mouth, and Penelope smiled a tired sort of smile. Looking rather pleased with herself, Hermione finally squashed a very miffed infant into her seat. Ruby screamed, rocking back and forth. (The high chair didn't budge; if only for old times' sake, Severus gave Gryffindor a few silent points for thinking to affix it to the floor.)
"Settle down, Miss Weasley," he said in a low, silken voice.
Ruby, still screaming, held her arms out to him. Tiny tears glistened on her lashes. "Koff!"
"Has she got a cold?" William asked, cocking his head.
"Nah, she's only telling Hermione to fuck off."
"What, Mum? She is!"
"She can say 'arse' and 'Hell', too!" George piped up. Molly swatted him.
"You two can march straight upstairs and not have any dinner if you don't watch your mouths!"
"Are you going to send Ruby upstairs without any dinner?"
"Of course not. Some people ought to know better, though." As she spoke, her eyes fixed on Severus and narrowed to slits.
"Molly, I certainly hope you're not planning to send me to bed without my supper."
"I could, Severus Snape."
"Well, then. Perhaps I'll simply have to take the opportunity to give your sons a brief tutorial on the less-common aspects of incendiary potionmaking."
A hush fell over the table (apart from Ruby's whimpering). Most of its occupants stared at him with looks ranging from disbelief to utter horror. George whispered, "Wicked!"
Molly cleared her throat. "Well. Ah. Yes. Dinner should be close to ready." She pushed herself to her unsteady feet. "All of you, go and wash your hands. Severus? Ginny? Hermione? Would you help me get everything in the oven sorted?"
A low ripple of laughter ran through the air as over a dozen assorted people got to their feet and inched around the mammoth table. Harry leaned in close to Severus' ear as he wobbled up. "You got lucky."
"I beg to differ. I merely offered a logical alternative, like any good Slytherin. Miss Weasley, stand up carefully!"
Ginny froze halfway out of her chair. She'd thrust the thing into the wall and had tried to bounce up like a jack-in-the-box. Her eyes went huge. "Sorry."
"What, she gets up like that all the time?" Charlie stretched and dragged himself up. "Got it from the rest of us, I expect."
"It's not ladylike." The vein in Severus' temple started to twitch. From the corner of his eye he caught Ginny inching back in her seat. "I refuse to allow any young lady under my effective care to act like a barbarian."
"But you'll teach Ruby to draw on the floor," Hermione said with a prim air.
"Ruby is no more a young lady than I am."
Harry sniggered. "Won't be once you're finished with her, anyway."
"Hush." Severus pushed himself to his feet. Offering Ginny his hand, he murmured, "Miss Weasley?"
"Thanks, Professor." She took his hand and allowed him to direct her from her seat.
"Flirt," Harry muttered.
Severus arched an eyebrow back at him. "Jealous, are we?"
"No, just wondering when you started liking girls."
It was a very good thing, for Harry's sake, that all those years of Quidditch had left him somewhat faster than his maritus.
If only to spite, Severus swiped the last sausage roll out from under the nose of that redheaded lunatic. Ron glowered up at him.
"Yeah, you'd better take it where you can get it. That's five to three. Ruby's mine."
Ron shot George a look. "You're not helping, y'git."
"Oi, it's not my fault the kid's got good taste." George covered his head with his arms as Ron whacked him with an unclaimed wand left sitting on the table. "Ow! Stop that!"
"When did you start liking him, anyway?"
"When he started being cool!" George let a great, "Ha!" of laughter when the wand turned into a bunch of paper flowers. "Got you!"
"You and your wands." Ron threw the flowers at his brother and fell into his chair, grumbling. He stifled an enormous yawn with the back of his hand.
"Time for someone to be in bed, I think," Molly said. She bustled up to the table and swiped the empty sausage roll plate. Her dressing gown was knotted at her waist, and her hair was tucked into a knitted purple sleeping cap. "All of you, really. Or do you want Father Christmas to skip us?"
"Mum!" Fred rolled his eyes. "That's kid's stuff, that is."
"Well, kid's stuff or not, if the lot of you aren't upstairs and in bed by the time I count five, I'll toss all your presents in the pond. One--"
They scattered. Chairs squealed, kisses were dropped on Molly's cheeks, and hasty "G'night, Mum!"s filled the air. A few seconds later, only Molly, Harry, and Severus were left.
"Hmm." A smile crossed Molly's face. "Children are wonderful, if you've got the stomach for them." She gathered up the empty mugs and glasses littering the table.
Harry grabbed at one. "I can do that."
"No, no, it's all right, dear. You're as jumpy as a cat in a pixie nest tonight. Are you feeling all right?"
"Oh. Yeah." Harry settled into his chair once more. He shifted from side to side. "Been a long day, I reckon. And tomorrow's Christmas."
"Mm. This'll be your first together, won't it?" She glanced up at them for a moment, a little furrow forming between her brows.
Harry nodded. "Yeah, pretty much. Suppose last year doesn't really count."
Under the table, he found Severus' bruised hand, through which the odd splintery tingle still ran despite the fact his finger had filled out to its proper shape by nine o'clock. Severus squeezed the fingers that slipped between his.
The tension in Molly's face melted away. She gave them a wide, warm smile. "Well, then we'll have to make it memorable, won't we?"
"Mm." Harry's eyes flickered towards Severus. Severus arched an eyebrow; before he could speak, Harry yawned.
"Eager for Father Christmas to arrive, Potter?"
"Shut up. Some of us didn't spend the whole afternoon napping."
With a little, "Hmph," sound, Molly scooped up the glasses and hoisted them to the draining board. "Up to bed, both of you. Been a busy day, and tomorrow's not going to be a day for lounging, either. You'll both be expected to help in the kitchen."
"Dear god, Molly, he'll poison us all!"
"Oi!" Harry smacked Severus on the arm. "This from the man who tested Unicorn Blood potion over the sink?"
"I know how to handle it, something you'd do well to remember."
"Oh, hush," Harry said through another yawn. "Just because it won't hurt you."
"That's enough. Both of you, up to bed." Molly shooed them around the table, her sleeves flapping. "You're next door to Bill and William, and I've got some pyjamas for you both."
"Thank you." Severus gave her a nod. Something turned over in the pit of his stomach at the thought of his Harry sleeping so close to a certain green-haired harlot.
Molly ushered them up the stairs, pausing once to let Severus catch his breath. "Are you trying to succeed where nobody has yet, woman?" he panted.
"Be nice, or Father Christmas won't bring you any presents."
"Yes, and I suppose the Easter Bunny and the Green Man will be waiting for me with Beater's bats."
"I could certainly have the twins dress up if you need the encouragement." She studied him a moment. "I suspect they'd have a few words for me if I tried to sic them on you, though. How is it that you've gone from the devil himself to the height of cool in the eyes of four of my children?"
"Perhaps the fact I don't go threatening to toss their presents in the pond is an indication."
"Sev!" Harry smacked his arm.
Molly chuckled. "Maybe I'll have to get my revenge with your brood then."
Severus snorted. He followed Harry and Molly up the stairs once more. Molly paused at a narrow linen closet. She extracted a small pile of black fabric and another of blue striped. Severus gave the black pile a hopeful scowl.
"Sorry, they're for Harry. Same pair he had last year, come to think." Molly flashed Harry a smile before turning back to Severus. "You'll have to make do with one of Arthur's old pairs, I'm afraid. They'll probably be a bit short."
Severus sniffed. "Midgets, the lot of you."
"Oi!" Harry snapped.
"You happen to be a midget in spectacles."
"You've got some, too."
"Yes, but at least mine are sensible."
"Fall off your face at a gust of air, more like."
"Settle down, you two. Bickering like an old married couple." Molly laughed. "I suppose it's not that--oh, hello, Bill, dear. I didn't know you were still up."
"Hi, Mum. Just going to bed." Bill closed a door - presumably the bathroom - behind him. He seemed to be wearing nothing more than a maroon dressing gown, and his wet hair left dark trails running down the back. He pursed his mouth at Severus. "Everyone settling in for the night?"
"Yes, finally. Your father's been asleep for an hour. Ron and Severus had to have one more match, though. Sirius seemed to enjoy the first three."
Severus muttered something under his breath about mangy, know-it-all curs.
"Oh." Bill gathered up his hair and shook it out. A few stray drops landed on Severus' arm.
"It's only water, Snape."
"I don't care what it is, I don't want it anywhere near me!"
"Yeah, reckon you wouldn't. Y'know, they've invented hair washing in the last year or so. Might do you some good to try it."
"Bill!" Molly elbowed him in the side. "Be nice, he's a guest."
For a moment, Bill's mouth trembled as though he wanted to say something. He turned to Harry. "William and I are just next door in case you need anything."
"I know, thanks."
"I mean anything." Bill matched the narrow-eyed glare Severus was shooting him. "And we've got room on the floor."
"I'll be fine, thanks." Harry shuffled behind Severus, just a bit. "G'night."
A small twitch caught Bill's eye and was gone. "G'night then. G'night, Mum."
"Good night, dear. You two sleep well." Molly got a kiss on the cheek. A second later, Bill disappeared through one of the many doors scattered about the landing, giving Severus one final warning look.
"Honestly, I don't know what gets into that boy sometimes." With a "tsk," Molly led them to the next door over from Bill's. "You two certainly gave us a bit of a shock. We've got six in the twins' room right now. I'm afraid to go in there."
"Oh, wow. I'm sorry." Harry shifted from foot to foot. "D'you want us to kip on the sofa or something?"
"Nonsense. You're guests. The boys and Remus are on the floor, and we've got Dad and Sirius in the beds. Silly Remus wouldn't let Dad spend a night on the floor, he's too dear for his own good sometimes." A faint flush stirred in her cheeks. "I wouldn't want to go prowling about in there right now, no telling who'd get stepped on."
"I don't want to hear another word. After the day you two have had, you're having your own room, and that's final."
"As it should be," Severus grumped while Harry muttered, "Thanks, Mrs. Weasley."
She gave them a wry smile, which split to a rending yawn that she covered with her arm. "Goodness, been a busy day." She dumped the pyjamas into Harry's arms. "You two sleep well."
"G'night, Mrs. Weasley. Thanks again."
"Not at all, Harry, dear." She patted Severus on the chest. "Smashing colour on you, this. You ought to wear it more often."
He growled at her retreating back.
Harry motioned towards the door with his head. "Come on, to bed with you." He shifted from foot to foot, squirming against the weight of the pyjamas in his arms. "Don't want to still be up when Father Christmas comes, do you?"
"Of course I do. If I find proof that such a figment exists, I'll melt down my cauldrons and take over Sibyll's lessons." Severus swept inside. It was a small room with warm yellow-and-white striped wallpaper and blue chambray curtains on the single small window. The floor was wood, old but well kept, and bare save a yellow rug in the middle of the room. A brass bed just large enough for two sat against the wall. A cheerful blue duvet - the same fabric as the curtains - was spread out over it. Two fat white pillows waited at the head. Severus did his best not to gag.
He waited for the door to close, and Harry to mutter several layers of Locking Charms before he started tugging at the buttons along the back of his neck. "Bloody useless robe," he growled. "Never wearing this fucking thing again."
"I like it." Harry held out the pyjamas. "Want these?"
"Rather sleep in Hagrid's hippocampus pond. Useless things, get my tackle in a twist soon as I put them on."
Harry giggled. A soft smile flickered on his mouth. Dropping the pile on a chair, he reached up and pushed Severus' hands away. His cool fingers touched the side of Severus' neck. The first button came free. "Mind if I just sleep in my pants as well?"
"Be my guest."
"Don't want to wear pyjamas. Um, my ones were, um, his. Only ones in the house that fit."
Severus arched an eyebrow.
"Was before anything happened, honest."
"Tell me, Mister Potter, by what means did you come by that mysterious robe of yours?"
"Um." A pained flush rose in Harry's skin. "William."
"What did you want me to do, go naked? All I had was a dressing gown!"
"I wanted you to return to Hogwarts!"
"You kicked me out!"
"Only because I had no choice!" Severus turned, popping the last button from Harry's fingers. "Do you honestly believe I would ever wish to hurt you like that? Do you believe I would deliberately keep you in a situation in which it might have happened again?"
Harry's mouth pursed into a tense little heart. He shrugged; when he'd undone Severus' last button, he turned away and started on his own. "Still hurt."
"Indeed. More than the Unicorn Blood."
Harry glanced back. "What d'you mean?"
"I mean I'd have rather let that cack kill me than have to turn you away. At least I've already dealt with the past. I've had my fill of being turned away, Mister Potter, but having to send... send you away..."
The warm room had turned very, very cold. Severus wrapped his arms around himself, huddling into their inadequate protection.
Harry's wrapped around them from behind. The temple bar of his ridiculous glasses dug into the flesh just below the nape of Severus' neck. "I know. You started wasting away after that."
"I was already wasting away."
"Not like you started doing." Harry's head turned. A small, moist kiss touched the back of Severus' neck. "I was really afraid you were going to die."
"You're the only reason I didn't."
"Am not. You made the potion."
"But you found it." Severus took a deep, shuddering breath. "I don't think I've ever properly thanked you for that."
"Shh. You don't need to thank me for anything. I don't think I'd have wanted to live without you. Um, when you were in hospital this last time, I... If you'd died, I'd have gone with you. No question."
"Mister Potter, I have no desire to see you commit suttee for my dubious sake."
"I don't think I'd have had to do anything. It just would have happened."
"Harry, I don't want to think about your death. Not right now."
"Sorry." Harry squeezed him, rubbing his cheek against the bared patch of skin along Severus' neck before letting go. He sat down hard on the bed; it bounced, nearly tossing him up in the air as he pulled his shoes off. "Ready to go to bed?"
"If I must." Without looking at Harry, Severus toed out of his slippers and hauled his robe up over his head. He shook it out and, with a little frown, draped the offensive thing over the back of a chair.
"I still think it looks bloody amazing. Sex on a stick amazing."
Severus glanced back, arching an eyebrow at his maritus. "You're mad."
Harry shrugged. "Probably."
A cool draught danced about the floor, raising the hairs on Severus' bare legs. He stepped out of his socks (a complicated bit of trickery involving standing on the toe of each one in turn) and left them lying on the floor like shed snakeskin. "Budge up. It's freezing in here!"
"Not that bad." Harry got to his feet anyway. He stood there, watching, as Severus pulled back the thick layer of covers and slid in. The blankets came up to his ear with only a small tug. His toes dangled off the end, but with a bit of knee-bending the problem was more or less rectified.
Harry stretched. He bent his arms without dropping his rib cage and fiddled with the few remaining buttons along his neck. He tugged his robe up over his head. Something in the pocket made a crumpling sound. What bits of Harry's skin Severus could see flushed pink.
"Are you all right, Mister Potter?"
"Yeah. A bit warm, s'all."
"No. Reckon I'm just excited about tomorrow." He finished tugging the robe off. Folding it once, he laid it over the footboard. "Any idea what time it is?"
"You're standing next to a clock. Just now midnight, if it's to be believed."
"Oh." Harry ran a hand through his rumpled hair. It did nothing to tidy the thick, black mess. He glanced back over his shoulder and gave Severus a shy smile. "Happy Christmas."
A few moments later, de-spectacled, barefooted, still clad in a Cannons T-shirt and a pair of underpants starting to fray at the hems, Harry flicked off the lights and slid into bed. The bluish moonlight pouring through a crack in the curtains cast shadows across the blankets and his face; the shadows shifted as he twitched and twisted. Severus frowned at him.
"A bit restless, are we?"
"It's Christmas. I always get excited."
"Hmm." Severus snuggled deeper into the blankets. A comfortable pocket of warmth was growing around him. His eyelids were just starting to fall shut when something brushed his knee.
"Yes?" he growled.
"Hn." His eyes slid closed. The warm pocket held him close, cradling him, lulling him towards sleep.
Something brushed his knee again.
"Do you mind?"
"Sorry. Didn't mean to."
"That's no excuse." Severus tugged the covers higher over his ear.
Yet again, something - toes, they were definitely toes - brushed his knee. Severus jerked his head off the pillow. "I beg your pardon?"
Harry's only response was a raspy, moist sort of breath. Severus had just started to open his mouth to snarl when Harry's pressed against it. A hand fell to his cheek, the palm and fingers ever so slightly damp with sweat. Far too soon, Harry pulled away.
"Orbis terrarum mihi es," he whispered.
"Egeo battuere tibi."
The moisture vanished from Severus' mouth in a silent inhalation that left his lungs aching and his shoulders taut. The fingers on his face kept stroking, stroking, tracing a line through the soft part of his cheek. They slid into his hair as Harry's mouth closed over his once more. Severus let out a soft, stunned whimper. He reached up and tangled his hand with the one wrapped in his hair.
Harry's moist lips moved to touch his chin, the corner of his mouth, the sharp edge of a jawbone still not entirely lost to flesh. "I'm sorry," Harry whispered between kisses. "I never wanted to hurt you. I've wanted to touch you for longer than I can tell you. It's been a year since I've felt alive."
"What about your free fall?" Severus asked in a shaky rasp.
"I didn't realise it had felt wrong until I had you holding me all the way down."
Severus winced inside. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be. It was my fault."
Harry's lips silenced him. They parted, only for a nimble, wet tongue to dart forth and press itself tip to tip against Severus'. A shiver ran down the middle of his body, bowing it outwards. The chilly cocoon within his chest burst; it beat against his breastbone with desperate wings. He gave a soft cry. Harry's belly just brushed his, hot and fluttering with its own breathy butterflies, moisture rising from his skin even through the T-shirt tangling with Severus'.
"Take off your shirt," Severus said in a soft, high voice better suited to a child than a grown man fed on the bitterness of the world.
"Take off yours."
The hand still knotted with Severus' hair jerked. The joints locked in a sudden rictus. Severus froze. He pulled his arms close to his chest, his knees bending and sliding up to join them.
"Oh, Sev." Harry's forehead pressed against his for a long moment. "Anything."
"The only time you've ever really asked me for help was in your Pensieve."
"No, no, don't be, please don't be. Only..." Harry trailed off. His fingers loosened from Severus' scalp, skittered down the side of his neck to the middle of his throat, running down the centre of his chest with its uneven lay of bone underneath and the thin, shivering line in the middle of his belly. The very tips slid beneath his shirt to caress a small pattern on the hollow of his stomach. "You don't ask for help unless your life's in danger. Usually not even then."
"I don't have to."
"I want you to." The flat of Harry's hand slid around to Severus' side and under his shirt. The other mirrored it. They left tingling swaths all the way up his body until his folded arms stopped them. Severus lifted his arms over his head as well as he could, biting his lip at the pressure of small, familiar hands and the roughness of calluses. The knitted fabric went over his head and landed somewhere on the floor near the bed. He whimpered low in his throat when Harry's hands traced back along their path: down his arms, lingering on the patches of hair beneath them, along his ribs and the dry skin just flaking on his flanks. They came to gentle rest above his hipbones.
"You're beautiful," Harry breathed.
"I say you are."
"Give me your hand."
The flutter in his chest growing to a terrified thud, Severus let his right arm drop. Harry took his wrist, brought it to his mouth to press a kiss to the knuckles, laid the palm flat over Severus' pounding heart. He spread his own hand over the back of it; the tips of his fingers fell between Severus', thumb dragging off to the side. With slow, tender motions, he guided Severus over his own body.
"The last time I did this," Harry murmured, "your ribs cut into my hand. Now it's more like an ocean." The serrated surface beneath slid smooth and rippling under Severus' hand. A warm, tickling sensation hung behind it, dissipating throughout his body. His breath ran thin and quick in his throat. When he traced over the pucker and pinprick of a taut nipple - pasted over thin muscle and thinner skin - a jolt of lightning ricocheted through him. He cried out, arching into Harry.
"Yes, just like that. I want to hear you." Harry ran their hands over the spot again; Severus whimpered low in his throat. "That's how I feel when I look at you." Harry touched his lips to Severus' chin. "I wish you could feel your back. You've got wings."
Still panting, Severus squinted to make out Harry's face in the sparse moonlight. "What are you talking about?"
"Your shoulder blades look like wings trying to break through. Like..." Harry took a laughing breath. "Don't laugh at me, please?"
"It's like..." Harry shrugged, his hand twitching atop Severus'. "You're an angel, only your wings didn't grow out properly so when you tried to fly you fell, and that's why you've spent so much of your life being miserable. You didn't fall because you were wicked. It's more like you were forced to fly too young." The hand atop Severus' burned with sudden heat. "Sorry. It's stupid."
"Is that what you really think?"
Harry paused. He nodded. The heat in his skin rose high enough to sear Severus', even inches apart. "I... Not literally, I mean. It sort of struck me after... after Albus died. When we... When you let me in you again. God, Sev, I don't know how you've survived everything you have, but I don't think I could ever tell you how proud of you I am." He cradled Severus' cheek against the pillow. His thumb stroked the point of a cheekbone and the flat plane just below the corner of his eye. "Sometimes I think you've got to be an angel or something like that. Only, you can't be because then you wouldn't just be my Sev."
Severus swallowed. His pulse beat against the surface of his skin in his neck, his wrists, his stomach and groin. He stared at his maritus in the dimness. The moonlight lit Harry's cheek and brow and brought little flickering sparks to life in his eyes. Severus tried to speak, but he only found three words. "I love you."
"Could you say it in English? Please?"
Harry cocked his head. His warm breath gusted over Severus' face, tickling his eyelashes where it skittered up his cheeks. "I love you, too."
The words sent a heated tremble through his body. "Again."
"I love you, too."
"I love you, too, Severus Snape."
"Oh, god." Heat razed his skin from inside his own body, pooling between his wings and in the middle of his chest and in twin points on the sides of his neck; it ran down his belly and spine in a serpentine sway, stole the air from his lungs and the blood from his heart, and banished the world outside the two of them to someplace it could never harm them. "Mine."
Severus caught Harry around the waist, dragging him close until their bodies were pressed tight. Fabric tangled between them; something rigid caught him just below the navel. He crushed their mouths together. Harry squeaked. His tongue licked once, twice, caught Severus' bottom lip. He pulled away, his body quivering and his breath coming in short, sharp pants. Sitting halfway up, he pulled his shirt off over his head.
"Give me just a second."
"You'll see." Harry clambered down to the foot of the bed. He took most of the covers with him. The cool air nipped at Severus' naked chest. He pushed a clump of damp hair off his sweaty face. Harry murmured, "Lumos!" The world filled with a gentle glow like candlelight. Severus squinted against it.
From the depths of his robe, Harry fished a plain brown bag. He glanced up with an apologetic shrug. "They're only Muggle things, but they were the best I could do."
"What are you talking about?"
"Um, well, I don't, um, know h-how to brew that stuff you make..."
Every muscle in Severus' body tensed. "That's what you bought at the cornershop, isn't it?"
Harry nodded. He dragged the sack to the head of the bed and sat there, his legs crossed and his glowing wand tossed in the middle of the bed. He was clad in nothing but his straining Y-fronts. He thrust his hands, along with the sack, into his lap. A flush like a sunburn cut through his skin, trailing down to the white fabric at his waist. A shudder ran through him. "God," he whispered, looking off to the side. "I'm not even sure I can do this."
Severus pushed himself up. He took Harry's face between his palms. Their lips touched, lingered, barely pressing. Harry's worked to find purchase; Severus gave it to him in a long, tender kiss that made the middle of his chest swell with adoration. It broke. Harry leaned their foreheads together.
Severus stroked Harry's upper arm with fingers still banded by the hex. "I've got faith in you."
"You haven't got faith in anything, Sev."
"Pretend this once."
Harry shook his head. "I still don't know if I can." He laid his hands against the middle of Severus' chest and pushed him back against the pillows.
Severus gazed up at him. He wrapped his hand around one of Harry's. Gazing up into green eyes glittering and flickering in the warm yellow light, he lifted it to his lips, kissed the tip of one of his maritus' fingers, let the first two joints slide into his mouth. It weighed on his tongue, the hard nail angled against his palate. Harry crumpled forward, his eyes widening in brittle desperation, his lower lip falling slack to bare even white incisors. Severus gave Harry's finger a gentle suck. Harry tossed his head back with a cry.
"Oh, god," he breathed. His eyes closed to slivers of green and white. With air running fast between his teeth, he slid his finger in and out, in and out, a slow glide of moist flesh over moist flesh.
Severus kneaded his tongue against the callused pad. He shifted his hips against his shorts; they dug into his erection, fabric swaddling it and the single button pressing against the great vein underneath. A slim bolt of sensation shot backwards into his scrotum. Harry's finger twitched when he moaned around it.
"Take off your pants." Harry's eyes drifted down along Severus' body. He pulled his lip into his mouth. It came back wet and glistening, swollen, pink as a raspberry. Severus closed his eyes, lest he lean forward and taste it.
Kicking off the blankets, he lifted his hips, sliding his hands into the waist of his shorts. The elastic caught his erection. It dragged it down as he pushed off the fabric. The air was cool around it when it flew back, and for a moment when it slapped against his pelvis the world was full of stars. He gulped at the air. The thick, musky scent of sex filled his nose and lingered on his tongue.
The flush rose once more in Harry's bare skin. He reached out and dragged the splayed tips of his fingers down the middle of Severus' chest and belly. Severus arched into them, his spine rolling in a long, smooth wave to follow the touch. Harry pulled away just short of letting his hand glide down the length of Severus' cock. He looked away with a small frown on his face and thrust his hand into the paper bag still in his lap.
"Just a minute. I've got a couple of things in here." The paper rustled as his hand scrabbled about inside. Finally, Harry just grabbed the bottom and dumped the thing out. A small bottle of clear liquid, a palm-sized rectangular pot, and a small box bounced on the bed.
Severus picked up the box, frowning. He brought it close to his eyes. A small jolt ran through his heart. "Sheaths?"
Harry hunched down. "Thought...thought it might make things a little easier. Y'know, so I'm not actually touching you."
"Ah." With a lump forming in his belly, Severus dropped the box and picked up the bottle. He squinted. The tiny type swam in front of his eyes. "What is this?"
"Um, baby oil?"
"Your sheaths are rubber. They'll break if you use this."
"Oh." A flush rose in Harry's face. "I've got something else, then. Can use that."
"What is it?"
Severus arched an eyebrow at him. "In English, please?"
Harry shrugged. "Dunno where it comes from. S'called petroleum jelly."
"Hell." Severus let the little bottle fall to the bed. He rubbed his eyes. "And the road to, Mister Potter."
"Your good intentions never cease to amaze me."
For a moment Harry only looked at him. "Oh," Harry said with a note of shock. He hunched down into himself, his arms wrapped around his chest and his hands clutching at his shoulders. "Sorry."
Sighing, Severus touched his knee. Harry flinched, but didn't pull away. "Mister Potter, were there a risk of your infecting or impregnating me, it would be a more serious issue. As the case stands, I should hope neither is terribly likely."
Harry shrugged. "You'd probably like it if I got you up the duff."
A smile twitched at the corner of Severus' mouth. He sat up just long enough to lay a kiss atop Harry's head. "Apart from nine months of screaming Hell, the results would be most satisfactory."
Harry glanced up at him. A smile waged war against his kicked puppy look. "God, I don't even want to think about you being pregnant. You're bad enough now."
"I resent that!"
"Sev, Ron's told me all about what Hermione was like. The day throwing up every morning, a constant backache, and mood swings the size of Scotland improve your temper, I'll pull all my clothes off and run through Knockturn Alley, screaming that I'm The Boy Who Streaked."
"I've got to be pregnant to see this? Hell. Your demands don't come cheap, do they?"
Harry's face split in a grin. "Greasy git." He pushed Severus back down on the pillows. For a fraction of a second his smile faltered, but it returned with only a whisper of tension. "Behave yourself."
"I thought in this situation I was meant to misbehave."
Harry cocked an eyebrow down at him. He leaned in for a kiss. It lingered for a long, long minute. Severus found his hands tangled in Harry's hair. It slid out from between his fingers when Harry pulled back. A few loose strands stayed woven through. He clutched them.
"Here goes nothing." Grabbing the pot of petrolatum, Harry settled on his knees next to Severus' hip. "Um," he muttered, pulling off the cap, "could you, y'know, lift up your bottom a little?" He dropped his head, suddenly most interested in the pot of goop in his hands.
With a growl, Severus pulled his legs up, shifting until the small of his back lay flat against the bed. "A bit shy, are we?"
"You try not doing this for a year and hardly even touching anyone for months and see how shy you are." Harry scooped up a fingertip's worth of translucent jelly. He scraped it back into the container, scooped up another, scraped it back in, scooped up yet more. He sat there for a moment, staring at it. "Are you... sure?"
"If you are." Yes, yes, for fuck's sake, just put it in me!
"Um, all right." Harry took a deep breath. His hand trembled as he dropped it down between Severus' legs, watching it with his lip caught between his teeth. A dry fingertip brushed against Severus' hole. Severus arched into it, hissing as his eyes fell shut.
The dry finger stroked for a moment. Severus gripped the sheets until pain shot through his injured hand. His teeth sat on edge. Air whistled between them. A hungry ripple ran along the puckered edges Harry was tracing with hesitant strokes. Harry gasped. "God, Sev! Eager?"
The finger pulled back. Perhaps two seconds later the cool slickness of the petrolatum sent a shiver through his legs. Severus threw his head back, straining for air, straining for contact.
"Please," he rasped. He licked his dry lips.
Harry hesitated. With all the speed of a skittish cat slinking from under a bed, the tip of his finger pushed through and into the grasping, desperate confines of Severus' body. Flesh stretched; the warmth, the strain on nerves and muscles rolled up through Severus in a wave of need. It burst from his mouth in a loud cry.
Through the wall came low muttering, then a slightly deeper voice snapping back. Severus dug his fingers into the bed. He's mine. Not yours, d'you understand me? Neither of you shall lay a finger on him.
Severus' eyes flew open. He looked down at Harry, who was watching him with a worried scowl. "What?"
"Am I hurting you?"
"No, not in the slightest." He untangled his bruised fingers from the bedclothes and laid them on Harry's knee.
Harry jumped. "S-sorry. A bit nervous, I suppose." He drew his finger out, slid it back in to the second joint.
Severus moaned. "It's been too fucking long," he breathed.
Harry smiled at him. There was an unhealthy purple tinge to the curve of his cheek. Severus blinked, and it seemed to fade for the most part. Harry's smile widened until it was brittle around the corners.
"I want to do this." He swallowed. "I want to do this."
"I want you to do it."
A sheen of sweat broke out across Harry's chest. He fell forward, crushing his mouth against Severus'. His breath rushed far too fast over Severus' cheek. Severus had barely gotten his lips situated against Harry's when Harry wrenched away. His finger slipped free. Severus yelped.
"You do it," Harry muttered. He pressed the pot of petrolatum into Severus' hand. Sliding between Severus' legs, he pushed his Y-fronts down. His half-filled cock bobbed as he squirmed and shifted and fell to his knees. Picking up the bottle of mineral oil, he poured a little into his palm. A sweet scent like baby powder clashed against the heavy sexual musk already weighing at the air. Fixing his gaze on Severus' backside, he took himself in oily hand.
Severus squinted at him. "If you don't--"
"I want to." Harry squeezed the blood back into his cock. "I want to watch you first."
"Very well." Frowning to himself, Severus stuck his fingers into the pot of jelly. It oozed under his nails and coated his skin in a thick, viscous layer that warmed as he lifted it from the bulk of the goop. He wriggled down the bed to lift his hips. His hand drifted down between his thighs as he lifted his chin and fixed his gaze on Harry.
"God, yes." Harry shivered and gave a little cry, thrusting into his fist. His shoulders jerked. The bared tip of his cock gleamed an angry purple against the straining knuckles around it. Severus let go a long breath in a running hiss. He plunged two fingers deep inside himself.
Harry let go a long, hard breath. "You're brilliant."
Severus only growled. He felt around inside until his fingers brushed over a small, waxy nub. His shout was still echoing in his ears by the time his vision faded back from white. Somebody pounded on the wall.
"If you lay a hand on him, Snape--"
"Bilius, shut up! Sorry!" The words "can't take you anywhere" came through the wall, muffled and thick.
Severus only lay panting. His skin was sticky with cooling sweat. He looked down at Harry through a lingering haze.
Harry's hand jerked on his cock. "Now?"
"Um, all--all right." Harry took a deep, hoarse breath and reached for the small box at his right. When he ripped it open along the front, its contents spilled out over the bed and unrolled. Harry paled. "Oh, Hell. Um, what do I do now?"
"Rip them apart, of course."
"Okay." Harry picked up the string of three and ripped one loose from the end. He stuck the packet in his teeth.
"You'll tear it."
"Stop telling me what to do!" Hands shaking, Harry ripped the foil packet along the edge. He squashed it on the tip of his cock and tried to mash it down.
"--Down." Severus drew back on the pillows. He pulled his fingers out and propped himself up on his elbows. "If you want to--"
"I don't want to stop." Harry looked up at him and swallowed. His eyes sat in purple rings, and his entire torso shook with every desperate breath. His fingers fumbled with the sheath; it fell to the bed. "Bollocks."
"No!" Harry picked it up, gave it a glance, and stuck it on again. He started to unroll the thing. "No, I can do it."
"You're supposed to pinch the tip. And pull your foreskin back."
"Then why don't you wear the fucking thing??"
Severus jerked rigid. Harry clapped his face in one oily hand. "Sorry," he whispered. "Sorry, sorry, I didn't mean to snap."
"Harry, stop this right now. You're in no state."
"Yes, I am. Only, give me a minute." Harry cupped his face in his hands and took two long, deep breaths. He sniffed, dragged his arm across his nose. "I'm fine. See? I want to do this."
"Then act like it."
Harry nodded. The next thing Severus knew, Harry had clambered up to the head of the bed. Severus caught his hips as he strained forward to press their mouths together. One of the mad brat's furry thighs pressed between Severus' legs. Severus gasped and arched up as it rode up and down his cock.
"See?" Harry panted. "God, I want you."
"You've no idea."
Harry pressed another hard kiss to Severus' mouth before leaning down so hot breath gusted over the shell of Severus' ear. "I want to make you come so hard you wake up the whole house."
A whimper broke in Severus' throat. He pressed up against Harry, chest to chest and belly more or less to belly. His fingers started creeping down; one brushed against Harry's arse.
Harry flinched. He dropped a hasty kiss on Severus' cheek and pushed himself up to his knees. Groping around, he picked up the loose condom. He pinched the tip of it. The thing tore.
"What the--?" Harry yelped.
"Oh, Hell." Harry picked up the leaking bottle with a horrified look and threw it on the floor. There was a crack of the lid flipping open. The sweet scent clinging to the air rose forth tenfold.
"Shit, shit, shit," Harry chanted. He fumbled for his wand.
"Get it later."
With a distracted nod, Harry grabbed the other two sheaths. He'd got one out of the package and halfway onto his cock before he'd taken two breaths. He swore and tugged back on his skin before he finished unrolling the thing.
"All right," he panted. "Anything else?"
"Are you sure?"
"This feel like I'm sure?" Harry crawled forward and nudged the rubber-coated tip of his cock against Severus' backside.
Severus keened. His fingers scrabbled at the bedclothes. "Don't just sit there, you obnoxious brat! Put it in!"
"Lift your hips a little." Harry looked down. His skin went red, and for a brief moment his eyes softened as he stared. "Been too long."
"I know!" Severus jerked his hips up and squashed Harry's pillow beneath his backside. "I can't do any better than that, so you had best take what you can get!"
"I want to." Harry got himself lined up once more. The dull, heavy pressure against the muscular ring made Severus twitch. Still, Harry only sat there, staring. Severus was about to open his mouth to roar when Harry pressed inside.
The roar broke in a groan. Severus thrust his hips, taking another half an inch and forcing a gasp from Harry's throat. Harry fell forward, his legs tangled beneath him, propping himself on one arm and leaning over Severus' abdomen. A drop of sweat fell from his hair and splashed. The skin around his unfocused eyes crinkled as he sank deeper.
"Here," he rasped, batting the petrolatum towards Severus. "I want to see you touch yourself."
"It's not nec--"
"I want to see it. Please." Harry jerked out and thrust back in. One of his hands - the one he wasn't putting his weight against - hovered just next to Severus' bent thigh, cupped as though it were holding him from an inch away. He dropped his head with a little gulping sound and got higher on his knees to thrust forward several times. Severus whimpered. His hand hovered just short of Harry's head. A few soft strands brushed against it. His fingers were about to close when he forced his hand to drop and scoop up a lump of the horrible jelly.
"Shit," Harry hissed. He pulled out, falling back on his knees.
"What did you do that for?" The muscles in Severus' backside stretched and clenched, reaching for what they had lost.
"So? It's not as if you're carrying some dread disease!"
"Just shut up for a minute and let me get a new one. Goddammit." Harry peeled off the rubber skin - indeed, the tip had more or less been shorn away from the body - and wiped his cock on a handful of sheets. "Should have bought more."
"Shouldn't need any at all!"
"Shut up! I'm trying as hard as I can, all right? D'you think this is easy?"
"If it's not easy, then why are you doing it?"
"Because I'm in love with you, you greasy bastard! I want to be able to make love to you!"
Severus went still. His jaw worked against the silence in his throat. He swallowed. Harry sat there, naked and scowling and pinching the last sheath between his shaking hands. His chest rose and fell, shining with perspiration. He looked away. The foil packet ripped.
"I'm in love with you, all right?" Harry said in a low, thick voice. "Not that you shouldn't already know that. But I am, and I have been for ages. And I am sick to death of looking at you and not being able to touch you. You try having to spend every single day with someone you love more than life itself and never being able to touch him."
"I've done it twice." Severus closed his fist around the lump of goo on his fingers. "It never gets easier."
Harry gave him an odd look. "Twice?"
"Oh." Harry's eyes flickered. With a silent shrug he hunched over himself to roll the thin rubber skin into place.
Getting to his knees again, he leaned over Severus once more. Only his glance gave Severus the chance to object. Severus spread his legs an inch wider, pressed his backside an inch closer. "Go on, you obnoxious brat."
He lay back again as Harry nudged himself inside once more. Severus' eyes closed for an instant at the familiar, almost-forgotten tension. A hand came to rest in the linens on either side of his waist. The world went dim in a haze of lashes as Harry slid out and back in half a dozen times.
"Touch yourself?" Harry whispered.
Severus wrapped his fist around his bobbing erection. Harry released a long, slow hiss. "Thank you." He shivered, pausing for an instant. "I want to see you come while I'm in you."
"Nothing. I just want to see you, that's all." He thrust his hips, angling about until the electric jolt blinded Severus again and another cry echoed off the walls. He did it again, again, the waves coming one on top of the other. Severus' throat ground out a high, building keen, the sound breaking only long enough for him to take a breath. His fingers squeezed around his cock as it was forced again and again into his fist.
"Don't stop," he mouthed. "Don't stop, don't stop, mi Harry--" He jerked with a cry as his hips seized. His vision swam, and a thick musk of sweat and rumpled linens overwhelmed even the sickly oil's stench. Harry's breath ran wheezing and hoarse as he pounded with shallower thrusts.
Another brush against the electric spot sent a swell rolling up Severus' stomach and his cock. He choked, crying out as the world went black behind his eyes. He stiffened; the first spurts were already raining down over his hand when the final wave crushed him in a soft, suffocating rush of joy.
His body went slack. He lay panting, swallowing, licking his dry lips with a drier tongue. He clenched around Harry, trying to milk his pleasure as well. A wordless whimper filled Severus' ears; Harry jerked out.
Severus frowned in confusion. "Wh...?"
Shivering, trembling so hard it made the bed shake, Harry lay down next to him, both arms drawn to his chest and his knees bent to his belly. Severus caught a glimpse of his cock still in its dry, torn sheath. "H... arry?"
Harry shook his head. "It's okay." He took a hard breath and let it out in a shudder. His face was lost in the cross of his wrists. "Just leave me be."
"I'll take care of it." Harry glanced up. He gave Severus a pained smile that didn't come near his wild eyes or pinched, pleated brow. Something in Severus' belly turned over.
"You need..." He trailed off, lifting one numb, weak hand to push a bit of hair out of Harry's eyes. Harry scrambled back. He faltered on the edge of the bed and only managed to catch himself on the brass headboard.
"Just give me a minute!" He dragged himself up, pale and grey. "I'll be fine. Only wanted--only wanted to make you happy."
"It's fine. I'm fine." Harry turned on his side, facing away from Severus. "Um, could I have my pillow back? Sorry."
Reaching down, Severus tugged it loose. He held it out. "Here."
Harry glanced back. He managed a bitter smile and took the thing with a shaking hand. He wrapped his arm around it. "You were brilliant, even better than I remembered."
"But you didn't--"
"Doesn't mean I didn't think you were brilliant." Harry bit his lip. "Um. G'night, I suppose."
"Yeah. Yeah. I, um, I just need some time to...to think. And maybe get some rest."
Severus pursed his mouth. He dropped his eyes to the rumpled white sheets. "Very well. Shall I extinguish your wand for you?"
Severus sat up just enough to find it. He murmured, "Nox," and the room was drenched once more in shadows and ghostly blue moonlight. He wiped his hand on his leg. "Good night, then."
"G'night." Harry pulled the covers up to his throat. "Te amo."
"I love you, too." Severus curled into himself, staring at the blankets covering his maritus' back. He decided it hadn't been worth it.
The screams woke him a bare instant before the pain would have.
Return to Archive | next | previous