The Marriage Stone

Josephine Darcy

CHAPTER ONE Harry did his best to ignore the stares of the other students as he searched for an empty compartment on the Hogwarts Train. He was used to people staring and whispering behind his back, but this year it seemed worse than normal. Even his fellow Gryffindors grew silent when they saw him; they smiled at him as he passed, and then began whispering about him the moment they assumed he was out of hearing range. Finding an empty compartment, he hid inside it, thinking it ironic that he could go from one extreme to the next just by getting on a train. The Dursleys pretended he didn't exist; the Wizarding World couldn't get enough of him. He could only hope that this year would be uneventful. Then maybe he'd be left in peace as people forgot about the events of last year. It wasn't as if he'd wanted to become the target of Voldemort and his Death Eaters -– he didn't ask for it after all. It just seemed to work out that way. And last year - his fifth - had proven more eventful than the previous four years combined. Oh, he'd managed the usual fifteen-year-old antics - played Quidditch brilliantly, learned new subjects, passed and failed tests, got detention, won and lost points for Gryffindor, fought and bonded with his closest friends. But in between the chaos of his typical school days he also managed to face down Death Eaters and their Dark Lord not once but three times in the course of the year. The last confrontation, just before the school term ended for the summer, proved the proverbial bullet the entire Wizarding World dodged. Voldemort, grown great and terrible in power, had managed to get his hands on a legendary artifact –- the Eye of Odin, a crystal that could destroy or subjugate any Wizard who dared stand against its wielder. Naturally he attacked Hogwarts with it, intent on destroying

both Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore. He killed the first wave of Aurors that moved against him and his followers. They fell with barely a fight, no match for the restored Dark Lord and his new weapon. Truthfully no one was a match, not even Dumbledore; no one was strong enough to stand against Voldemort. The strongest in the Wizarding World gathered in defense of the ancient castle and the children trapped inside. They stood without hope, even the most optimistic of them realizing finally that putting all their faith in the abilities of one young boy was ridiculous. Naturally, Harry Potter rose to the occasion and proved them all wrong. Granted he lacked the strength or the power to stand against Voldemort; but that didn't stop him from putting on his invisibility cloak, climbing on his Firebolt, and facing down the Dark Lord as if competing in a Quidditch match. No magic, no spells, no wands drawn to duel - Harry Potter just raced into the midst of the army of Death Eaters on his broom and stole the Eye of Odin right out of Voldemort's hand. The backlash of energy released from the theft killed the Death Eaters closest to Voldemort, drained the Dark Lord of all his reserved power, and landed Harry Potter in the hospital wing for three weeks. Voldemort fled, weakened but not dead. The Death Eaters scattered, went back into hiding, and Harry Potter was clapped on the back by a grateful world, and sent home to Privet Drive for the summer. He spent the summer months suffering nightmares locked up in a tiny room in his uncle's house while his face was splashed across the front page of the Daily Prophet incessantly. Now he rode the train back to Hogwarts, enduring the whispers and stares as best he could. Eventually Ron and Hermione found him and kept him company. His two friends talked about their summers, entertained him with stories about the fun they'd had (they knew he

had not been so lucky staying with the Dursleys), and generally did their best to keep his mind off the circus that was his life. It was only as the train was nearing Hogwarts that Hermione hinted at a bizarre political situation that had risen over the summer -– that Harry, the Hero of the Wizarding World, had become one of the hottest political commodities in a fierce re-election campaign for the office of Minister of Magic. Cornelius Fudge was up for re-election and had no less than fifteen opponents running against him. Gaining the favor of Harry Potter would insure the election of whatever Wizard or Witch could win it. But as Harry didn't know any of the other candidates, and had no interest in supporting Cornelius Fudge, he dismissed Hermione's warnings as unimportant. Little did Harry know that the desire for re-election was about to turn his world upside down once again. Harry sat between Ron and Neville at the Gryffindor table while Dumbledore gave his opening-year speech, reminding the students to stay out of the Dark Forest and reminding them that residual magic from the Battle (it hadn't been given a name yet Seamus pointed out -– though he was pushing for the Battle of Hogwarts) was still lingering around the Quidditch pitch, and until it had been completely cleaned up all students were to watch their wand usage in the area. Clean up duty would fall to the seventh years as part of their practicals on the Misuse of Wild Magic. "Don't envy them that," Dean told his fellow sixth years. "I imagine they'll still be finding bits and pieces of Death Eaters out there." Harry felt himself pale at Dean's words, unable to join in the laugher his words engendered in the other boys. He'd only wanted to save those inside the castle - when he'd stolen the Eye of Odin from Voldemort he hadn't intended to be responsible for so many deaths. "Dean!" Hermione's voice cut through the laughter, and she glared at the others. "I thought we all agreed not to mention certain subjects."

Judging by the guilty looks the others were suddenly throwing at Harry, he could imagine just exactly what those subjects were. He wondered when Hermione had found time to discuss this with the others, though he was grateful for the effort. The three times he had faced down Voldemort last year his friends and classmates had all been safely locked away in Gryffindor tower. To them the stories were distant and fascinating - to Harry they were living nightmares that he had to reliving night after night. Summer had been more hellish than usual. Unable to control his dreams he'd woken his family up most nights with his screams of terror. And while Uncle Vernon had never really beaten him beyond slaps and the occasional backhand across the back of the head, Harry had been punished going without meals, earning extra chores, spending all the rest of his time locked up like a prisoner to be kept away from 'normal' people. "Sorry, Harry," Dean apologized. "That's all right," Harry assured them all, wanting to appear as normal as possible. "Though it does make me wonder what it means for the start of the Quidditch season this year." "Blast!" Seamus cursed in agreement. "That's right! Do you suppose this means we can't use brooms around the pitch either?" "Dumbledore didn't say anything about brooms," Ron pointed out. "Just said to watch the use of wands." "Maybe that means the Slytherins won't be able to cheat this year?" Neville suggested. They all threw dark glares across the room at the Slytherin table. Malfoy like usual was holding court with his cohorts around him. Once again Lucius Malfoy had gone unpunished for his Death Eater activities. The fact that he had not been present at the final battle had apparently proven his innocence to enough of the higher-ups that

they had for once ignored Harry's testimony that Malfoy was one of Voldemort's most trusted servants. Both Mr. Goyle, and Mr. Crabbe had been found dead on the field. Their wives however had pleaded innocent. Consequently both their sons were still firmly ensconced in their usual places beside Draco Malfoy, going unnoticed by the Ministry who had more than enough to contend with. If their fathers' allegiance to the Dark Lord had harmed their standing in Slytherin house any, it was not apparent to Harry or the rest of Gryffindor. How Harry was going to deal with classmates who believed him responsible for the deaths of their fathers he didn't know. "I suppose they'll be more insufferable than ever," Dean grumbled. "Even with half of their parents suspected of being dark wizards, they still act like they own the world." "Just goes to show what money and a family name will buy you," Seamus agreed. "Doesn't explain Snape," Ron grumbled, and Harry threw him a warning frown. They all knew Snape had been spying for Dumbledore, and last year he, Ron and Hermione had agreed to speak about him as little as possible for fear of saying something they weren't supposed to. "Don't let his disposition fool you," Seamus told them all in a quiet whisper. "Snape's family is one of the oldest and more powerful in the Wizarding World - and I hear they're loaded." "Snape has a family?" Ron stared at him in shock. "Well, I don't know much about that," Seamus admitted. "Heard he's got a sister and a couple of brothers, though I don't know much about them. But my uncle works for the Ministry's revenue board, and mentioned the funds generated by some of the older family estates - he mentioned a Snape Manor."

"That doesn't mean it is Snape's," Hermione pointed out. "If he's got siblings, it's just as likely any family inheritance went to them." "Still, wouldn't that just figure," Dean grumbled. "Bastard doesn't need to work, but still he's here making our lives a living hell just because he enjoys tormenting students." "Least he doesn't hate you the way he does me," Neville sighed. "I'm just grateful I don't have to take any more potions classes from him." Neville as expected had done very poorly on his potions OWLs, and consequently was not enrolled in advanced potions. "I can't believe Harry and I both made it into advanced potions," Ron muttered. "I can't believe we actually want to continue taking classes from Snape." "You know you can't be an Auror without his class," Hermione reminded him. "I'm sure if he had been the one grading our OWLs we wouldn't have gotten any," Harry sighed. "He's going to do his best to make us regret passing this year." "Don't worry, Harry," Hermione assured him. "We'll all work together and we'll be fine. We'll all get through potions even if it kills us!" "That's what we're afraid of," Ron, Dean, Seamus and Harry said in unison. They all burst into laughter, only to be distracted a moment later as the feast arrived on their table. Starving, Harry dug in, having one of the first decent meals he'd had all summer long. They were just getting ready to head back to the tower when Professor McGonagall asked Harry, Ron and Hermione to accompany her. Bewildered, they bid good night to their year mates and followed their head of house out of the great hall, wondering what they could have possible have done in the few short hours

they'd been on school grounds to have drawn the attention of the staff so soon. They were led to a private room near the main staff lounge where to their surprise they found Arthur and Molly Weasley waiting for them. While Ron went to greet his parents, Harry noticed Dumbledore, Snape and Hooch joining them. To his surprise Percy Weasley was there as well. The former Head Boy of Hogwarts threw Harry a weak smile, said something to his father, and then hurried back out of the room again. Harry and Hermione exchanged bewildered looks, both shrugging at each other. "Ah, Harry," Dumbledore greeted him. "Come in, my boy. Come in. We seem to have a bit of a problem I'm afraid." Harry felt his heart fluttering his chest. When Dumbledore said there was a problem, it usually meant something bad. "Is it. . ." his voice broke and he was ashamed to see that Snape was glaring at him. "Is it Voldemort?" His use of the Dark Lord's name had the typical response. Everyone except Dumbledore and Snape flinched at the sound. Dumbledore frowned, something Harry didn't find reassuring. "Well, not directly," he informed Harry. "Though he does have some bearing on the situation. We've had word that he's been seen again gathering his forces. Seems he's recovered from his little disaster last spring." Harry felt his knees growing weak and he was thankful to discover a chair directly behind him as he sat down without thinking. "You said not directly, sir?" he asked shakily. Voldemort was gathering his forces, but that wasn't the problem Dumbledore was currently frowning over. This was not going to be good. He could tell just by the worried looks on Mr. and Mrs. Weasley's faces.

"I'm afraid our current problem has to do with Minister Fudge," Dumbledore explained. Harry glanced briefly at the others in the room. For the most part he saw looks of disgust on the faces of the adults in the room. "Something's happened to Minister Fudge?" "I wish," Molly Weasley muttered under her breath. Arthur nodded in agreement. "No, Harry," Dumbledore sighed, pausing to stroke his long silver beard. "I suppose you haven't been reading the papers this summer?" "No, sir," Harry admitted. "My uncle gets the Times but he'd take a belt to me if I touched it." Surprisingly that comment got as many winces as the mention of Voldemort's name did, followed by a baffling exchange of looks amongst the adults. "I actually meant Wizarding papers, my boy," Dumbledore said gently. "But never mind that. The thing is Harry, Cornelius Fudge is up for re-election, and he has more competition than he's ever had before. All of the candidates are clamoring for favor among the Wizarding World. And it seems you're the favored ticked to the office." "I don't understand, sir," Harry frowned, wishing now he had paid more attention to Herminie's explanation on the train. How could he have anything to do with an election? "It's a popularity contest, Harry," Hermione explained. "Which ever candidate can get you to endorse them is bound to win as public opinion pretty much favors anything to do with you." Surprised, Harry blinked in confusion. "But I don't even know any of the other candidates. I haven't favored any of them. I haven't even spoken to any of them. How could I be involved in this election?"

"Doesn't matter, Harry," Dumbledore explained. "It's more a matter of what news gets printed, and you know the Daily Prophet's fondness for making up stories. It's rather amazing how many of these candidates have admitted to having private conversations with you about battle tactics and defensive spells. But that's the least of our worries. Minister Fudge has decided to take this whole situation one step farther and get you on his side once and for all." "What do you mean?" Dumbledore frowned and glanced over at Arthur Weasley. Arthur sighed and sat down beside Harry. "Percy intercepted a memo at the Ministry. He's the one who warned me about what was going on. It seems Minister Fudge has decided to declare your uncle an unfit guardian and adopt you himself." Harry leaped to his feet in shock. "Adopt me!" He'd spent his childhood unwanted, and now suddenly the bloody Minister of Magic wanted to adopt him. "Yes, Harry," Arthur nodded. "And unfortunately, considering who he is, there are very few legal impediments in his way. He's apparently already had all the paperwork finished. We only just discovered this ourselves. Percy said that assuming he can prove his claims against your uncle, the adoption should be legal tonight or tomorrow morning." "But this is ridiculous!" Harry protested, his words echoed closely by Ron and Hermione both. "Harry," Dumbledore interrupted. "It's only ridiculous if the claims against your uncle are unfounded." "What do you mean?" Harry asked warily. "What he's trying to ask Harry is whether or not Minister Fudge has any legal right to claim your uncle unfit," Molly explained gently. "We all know that the Dursleys are not nice to you, but have they

ever done anything that could be construed as abuse by a court of law?" Harry paled. "Like what?" "Well, you just said something about your uncle taking a belt to you," Molly pointed out. "Would he really take a belt to you?" Harry frowned, suddenly unwilling to say anything more. He had no loyalty to his uncle, but he didn't want to say anything that might get him adopted by Minister Fudge. "Oh, for the love of Merlin, Potter," Snape growled. "Just answer the question so they know what to prepare for. You'll be forced to take Veritaserum by the Ministry if this goes to court." Harry stared at Snape in shock. "Severus!" Molly Weasley glared at the Potion Master. "Don't upset the boy! Now, then Harry, dear, you need to tell us what you can. Has there been any abuse?" Harry squirmed, hating the attention he was being given, particularly by Ron and Hermione. "I'm not certain what you might mean?" he admitted. "Potter!" Snape growled again. "Don't be obtuse. Has your uncle abused you? Has he beaten you, starved you, locked you up, hurt your feelings or stolen your bloody teddy bear?" All the adults in the room were glaring at Snape now, and Harry grew pale under his dark gaze. But when no other words were forth coming, from anyone, Harry realized that despite the delivery, everyone expected him to answer Snape's questions. "Yes," he admitted quietly. His words seemed to surprise Snape, who blinked in shock and actually took a step back as if not expecting that answer.

Dumbledore, looking suddenly every one of his years, sat down on one of the remaining armchairs. "Would you care to elaborate, Harry?" the Headmaster asked softly. Harry blinked at the man in surprise, bewildered by his obvious distress. "I'm sorry, sir," he admitted. "You know all this already." Dumbledore's normally twinkling eyes were sad. "What do you mean, Harry?" "Well, my letter to Hogwarts for one thing, sir," he explained. "You sent it to me with my address on it: Harry Potter Cupboard Under the Stairs." Harry had seen Dumbledore face down Death Eaters without flinching, but this actually made the old man pale. "Do you mean to tell me you were kept in a cupboard?" Harry nodded. "For ten years," he admitted. "They moved me out after the letter came, because they realized you must have known." "Harry, the Hogwarts letters are magically addressed," Professor McGonagall informed him. "None of us would have ever seen the address written on it." "And the rest of it, Harry?" Molly Weasley asked softly; Harry was dismayed to see that her eyes were suspiciously bright. "Well, I never actually had a teddy bear," he admitted, throwing a glare at Snape who was looking surprisingly subdued. "My uncle hit me sometimes," he admitted. "But not that often. Usually when he wanted to punish me he just locked me up and wouldn't feed me. I figured you knew though - that's why you send me all that food for my birthday." Molly's eyes just grew brighter and Harry was growing seriously concerned that she might cry. "When Ron said you were starving, I just assumed you were starving the same way all teenage boys are always starving - no more than six or seven square meals a day."

Six or seven square meals a day? Harry's eyes widened. That would certainly explain why Ron and his brothers were so tall. "How long would he starve you, Harry?" Professor McGonagall asked. Harry shrugged. "Well, usually only two or three days, sometimes if he was really angry four or five days at a time. Not enough to make me really sick or anything." To his dismay he realized his words didn't quite have the reassuring affect he was going for. "It's not like he was trying to kill me or anything!" he assured them all quickly. Not like Voldemort, he though silently to himself. Next to the things Voldemort had put him through, his uncle was nothing. "Harry, I'm sorry," Dumbledore said quietly. "We didn't know. If we'd known, if I'd known, I never would have left you there." Harry frowned. "But you sent me there to protect me, sir," he reminded the Headmaster. "From Voldemort. Because he couldn't get me there." The last thing he wanted was for Dumbledore to feel bad for his uncle's failings. He understood the necessity, and was surprised that everyone else seemed to have forgotten it. "Yes, Harry," Dumbledore nodded in agreement. "But there are always alternatives. I would have found another solution." Uncertain how to respond to that, Harry simply fell silent, uncomfortable with the attention. "Well, that's it, then," Arthur sighed. "Fudge's claim is legal." "So it would seem," Dumbledore agreed. "But we can't let Fudge adopt Harry," Ron protested. "No, we can't," Dumbledore nodded. "I'm sorry," Hermione broke in, her brow wrinkled in concentration. "I don't really see what the problem is. I mean granted it would be awful for Harry to be adopted by Fudge. But would it really make

that much of a difference? Fudge is just going to say what ever he wants to the papers anyway - Harry's willingness won't make any difference as far as any endorsement goes with or without the adoption. And it's not like Harry is going to have to live with Minister Fudge. Harry is in school for most of the year, and the Minister is much to busy during the summer months to have any time for Harry." "I'm afraid that's not true, Hermione," Dumbledore explained. "That's the problem you see. Fudge has decided to remove Harry from school." Hermione's eyes widened in horror. "But he can't! How would he ever explain that to the papers? Removing the Boy Who Lived from school before he even took his NEWTs." "Private tutors," Arthur explained. "He intends to have Harry tutored by his private staff. That way he can get Harry out from under the influence of Headmaster Dumbledore, something he'd love to do." Dumbledore's earlier statements suddenly made more sense to Harry. He paled, his shakes coming back unexpectedly. "And if he takes me out of Hogwarts that means there will be nothing to protect me from Voldemort." Dumbledore simply nodded in silent agreement. "But surely even Fudge wouldn't be that stupid!" Ron protested, then blushed under the stares the others in the room threw him. "Okay," he conceded. "I guess he would be." Part of the reason they'd lost so many Aurors the previous year was because Fudge had failed to acknowledge Voldemort's return before it was nearly to late. When he finally had no choice, he'd already been made to look the fool by Dumbledore in the eyes of the public. "He'd risk my life to further his political career?" Harry asked. "I'm afraid so," Arthur agreed.

"And there's nothing I can do to stop it?" "That's what we need to figure out," Arthur explained. "But what about Sirius?" Harry protested. "My parents appointed him my legal guardian. Surely his claim must take precedence over Fudge's?" Arthur shook his head. "Fudge has nullified his claim. At the moment Sirius Black is still a convicted killer and as such is unfit as your godfather." "Dad!" Ron exclaimed with a wild grin. "Why don't we adopt Harry!" Arthur and Molly both smiled at that. "We already thought of that, Ron," Molly admitted. She smiled sadly at Harry. "Believe me Harry we would take you gladly. But there is no way we can out-maneuver the Minister. He's already had all the paperwork done. It would take us at least three months to process such a claim. If we'd known about this earlier, we could have done something. But as it is, Fudge's claim will be legal in a few hours if it's not already." "Then there's nothing we can do?" Harry asked. "We can't stop the adoption." He looked at Dumbledore, who looked lost in thought as if trying to formulate some plan. "I'll be a sitting duck if Fudge gets his hands on me. If Voldemort himself doesn't get me, Fudge's close personal friend Lucius Malfoy will. I have no choice. I'll have to run." "You'll be a sitting duck if you run," Snape informed him. "You leave a magical signature behind that a child could follow. Voldemort will find you in a matter of days." Harry glared at the Potions Master. "Then what am I supposed to do? I can't run, I can't fight! What am I supposed to do?" "This is ridiculous!" Hermione exclaimed in frustration. "I mean Harry hardly needs another legal guardian! Doesn't seem fair. He's

old enough to get married, but he's not old enough to live on his own!" Several heads shot up at that, sharp gazes staring at Hermione in amazement. "What?" she said in surprise taking a step back at the scrutiny. "Hermione Granger, you are brilliant!" Dumbledore exclaimed. She frowned. "What did I say?" "Marriage!" Dumbledore exclaimed. "You are absolutely right, Harry is old enough to get married." "And if he's married, he's automatically considered a legal adult and no longer needs a guardian. Fudge's adoption will be void," Arthur nodded in agreement. "It's a brilliant solution." "What is?" Harry protested. Surely they weren't suggested what he though they were suggesting. "Marriage, my boy!" Dumbledore explained, the happy twinkle back in his blue eyes. "We've simply got to get you married before Fudge arrives with the adoption papers. There won't be a thing he can do about it." Harry's eyes widened in shock. "Marriage! But I'm only sixteen!" "Legal age for marriage in the Wizarding World is fifteen, Harry," Arthur explained. "Used to be thirteen but they changed the age requirements back in 1504." 1504? Stunned Harry shook his head in denial. Why didn't people teach him these things in school! "But. . . but. . . .marriage? Whom am I supposed to marry?" Ron and Hermione were staring at him in alarm. Harry almost missed the look of panic Ron threw toward Hermione, the way his face flushed and then paled as if realizing the most obvious match for his friend. It was enough to momentarily distract Harry - the

realization that his friend had actually admitted, at least to himself, his feelings for the brilliant Miss Granger. He also noticed that Ron bit his lip to keep from saying anything, and he understood in a strange leap of logic that Ron would never say anything if he thought it would be what was best for Harry. "Well, we had best find someone quickly," Dumbledore decided, momentarily glancing himself at Hermione. Harry glared at him, silently willing him to look somewhere else. He'd marry Mrs. Norris before he did that to his two best friends in the world. "Do you have a girlfriend, dear?" Molly asked, failing to notice the panic her own son was experience. She smiled hopefully over at Hermione. "No!" Harry insisted. "I don't." "Well, what about. . ." Molly began, still looking at Hermione. "No!" Harry cut her off before she could speak the words out loud. "No offence Hermione," he said quickly. "But that would be like marrying my sister!" "No offence taken," Hermione assured him, looking quite relieved. Ron still said nothing, but Harry saw the look of relief in his eyes. It was followed swiftly by a look of shame, and Harry frowned. This sucked! He wondered if he could just curse Fudge with one of the Unforgivables instead? "The Marriage Stone!" Dumbledore exclaimed suddenly. They all turned to look at him. "Do you still have that old thing?" Madam Hooch asked in wonder. "It's in my office," Dumbledore told her. "Would you get it for me?" She nodded and excused herself from the room. "Are you sure you should use that, Albus?" McGonagall asked worriedly. "It's caused no end of difficulties in the past."

"Only when the people in question have already been married. But Harry isn't married yet." "The Marriage Stone," Hermione mused. "I've heard of that. I read about it." Of course she had, Harry thought. "What is it?" "It's a very old artifact, Harry," Dumbledore told him. "It shows you your perfect match for a bond mate." "Perfect match?" Harry said warily. "That doesn't sound bad? What's the catch?" He'd learned the hard way that there was always a catch. "Depends on who's looking into it, Harry," Hermione told him. "The most famous match the Marriage Stone apparently ever revealed was for Queen Guinevere. She looked into it to see her perfect match unfortunately she was married to King Arthur at the time and the stone showed her that her perfect match was in fact Sir Lancelot. And we all know how well that story ends." "How's this going to help Harry?" Ron frowned. "I mean if he's got to get married between now and tomorrow morning. What if it shows Harry someone he doesn't know? I mean his perfect match could be living on the other side of the world. Or maybe his perfect match is someone who doesn't like him. Or someone who's too young for him right now. Or someone who is already married. There's a reason no one uses that stone any more." "Well then we'll have to think of something else," Dumbledore explained. "We'll have to find someone else to fill in if that's the case. But we should at least try to make Harry a good match. He deserves every chance at happiness we can give him." "Happiness?" Harry protested, his stomach turning at the very thought. "Come on. We're doing this to keep me alive. Nothing more. The most we can hope for is that we can find someone in this

castle who'd be willing to go through with this farce to keep me alive." He couldn't help thinking that somehow Cho Chang's name was going to come up in a matter of moments. He'd had a crush on her fourth year and both Ron and Hermione knew it. Trouble was Cedric Diggory's death had put a stake in the heart of that little romance. Guilt had overwhelmed him every time he looked at her after that. Much as he still liked Cho he imagined it would be easier for him to marry Pansy Parkinson than it would to marry Cho. Madam Hooch returned a moment later carrying a large blue crystal ball in one hand. They all looked at her expectantly. "Well?" Dumbledore asked her. "Oh, you mean you want me. . ." She shrugged and looked into the crystal. "Harry Potter!" she said clearly and distinctly to the stone. They all stared at it expectantly, but nothing happened as far as Harry could see. The blue crystal continued to just look like an ordinary blue crystal. Madam Hooch however paled suddenly, covering the crystal with her other hand with a gasp of shock. They all stared at her. "I don't think it's working," she exclaimed. "I think it's broken." "Oh, good grief!" McGonagall exclaimed. "Give it here!" She held her hand out for it. Hooch handed it over to her without question. "Harry Potter!" Professor McGonagall said to the stone. Again Harry saw absolutely nothing happen. Everyone else was watching with undisguised curiosity. Like Hooch, McGonagall paled and then flushed. She turned toward Dumbledore holding the crystal out to him. "Perhaps it would be best if you tried, Albus." "Who did you see?" Ron and Harry asked in unison. McGonagall just shook her head. "Let the Headmaster have a go at it."

Frowning in curiosity, Dumbledore took the crystal, held it out in one wrinkled hand and said, "Harry Potter!" clearly to it. Unlike Hooch and McGonagall, Dumbledore smiled, his eyes taking on a most wicked twinkle. Harry felt himself growing nervous. Sometimes Dumbledore's twinkles were worse than his frowns. "Oh, excellent match indeed!" the Headmaster exclaimed in delight. He turned toward Snape. "Severus. . ." "Bloody hell!" Snape hissed. "You three are perfectly competent to look into a bloody crystal and tell us who you see. You don't need me looking as well!" Dumbledore, still smiling, blinked at him. "Of course not, Severus. I didn't mean for you to look. You ARE the match it showed us."

CHAPTER TWO Harry felt the blood drain from his face even as he saw Snape's eyes widening in utter shock. "What?" the Potion Master asked, looking from Dumbledore to McGonagall to Hooch. To Harry's horror McGonagall and Hooch both gave him a sickly nodded of confirmation. "Snape!" Ron exclaimed in dismay. "But that's impossible!" Harry protested, looking at them as if they'd lost their minds. Molly and Arthur didn't look particularly happy, but they didn't look nearly as upset as Harry though they should have. Dumbledore frowned at Harry. "Why would it be impossible? I realize you and Professor Snape don't get along very well, but that's often the case in these situations. You'll get past that eventually. It's an excellent match. You are both relatively equal in power and ability - or will be once you've finished your schooling Harry. And until you do, Severus is certainly capable of protecting you from any threat. And you have more in common than you realize, and-" "But he's a man!" Harry interrupted, wondering if the Headmaster had completely lost his mind. Dumbledore looked a bit baffled by his comment. Hermione leaned toward Harry. "That's a Muggle prejudice, Harry," she whispered to him. "It doesn't really translate in the Wizarding World - Wizarding bond marriages are legal between two consenting adults of any gender or species." "Really?' Harry turned to stare at her in surprise. He'd never really thought about it on a personal level, had no deep prejudice himself against homosexuality though he couldn't recall any situation where he could have formed an opinion one way or another. But that the Wizarding World had no prejudice against. . ."Species!" he

exclaimed suddenly realizing what else she had implied in that statement. "Didn't you ever wonder where centaurs came from?" she asked with a shrug. "Under those circumstances, very few matches shock the Wizarding World." "I am not marrying Potter!" Snape announced before Harry could reply further. "Now, Severus," Dumbledore argued. "It's a good match. And it solves all sorts of problems, the first being that the odds of finding someone else suitable between now and tomorrow morning is highly unlikely." "Good match!" Snape growled. "Apart from the fact that we can't stand each other, have you forgotten my OTHER job description?" Harry almost jumped up and echoed Snape's words right there. That was absolutely right! Snape couldn't marry Harry and be a spy at the same time. It would be an absolute proclamation of his loyalties if he did so. He managed, however, to restrain himself, certain that Snape would not welcome his help in any way. "Granted you can't possibly maintain your fiction as a loyal Death Eater," Dumbledore agreed amiably. "But I've been meaning to talk to you about that any way Severus. It's grown far too dangerous. If Voldemort hadn't sent you and Lucius away on that little wild goose chase I dreamed up last spring, you'd would have been killed along with the others in the battle." Harry's eyes widened at that. He hadn't even thought of wondering how it was that Snape had managed to both remain a believable spy and keep himself out of the battle. He shivered suddenly at the realization that along with the loyal Death Eaters he might very well have been responsible for the death of Professor Snape last spring. And while he didn't like Snape, he had to admit he admired the

we can't allow this. taking hold of Snape's arm and leading him off to the side of the room to speak with him quietly. Either one of us. "It's time to pull you in from the field. Dumbledore rose suddenly. "Either one of us will marry you before we let you marry. And this way we'll be certain of having a loyal member of the Order at Harry's side to protect him." his voice broke momentarily and he cleared it quickly." Hermione agreed. "No. What in hell was he going to do? It seemed a matter of who got to kill him first . with us. Rather liked the idea actually. "Right you are. Ron and Hermione took the opportunity to speak with Harry in quite whispers. We need you here. he would fall in love like his parents had. raise a family. If he did marry him. "They can't be seriously considering marrying you to that greasy git!" Somewhat panic stricken. Harry. Not to mention what the other Gryffindors and Slytherin would do. "We're your best friends. Severus." Ron protested." . looking pale and sick. Ron." "Albus!" Snape protested in horrified shock. But to spend the rest of his life trapped in the company of Severus Snape.if he didn't marry Snape Voldemort would kill's courage and bravery. ." Dumbledore said firmly. "Harry. but he always assumed that if he survived to adulthood. not to mention his unswerving loyalty to Dumbledore despite the hellish life he must live as a spy. most hated teacher in Hogwarts. Snape. He'd never really thought seriously about marriage. . Snape would probably kill him himself. Harry looked up at them in desperation. nodded in agreement. "This is insane. It would be like one endless potions class for the rest of his life. get married. looking somewhat resignedly over at Ron." he said firmly.

At least he could ensure that his friends still had a chance at a normal life." . saving them last spring had only reinforced that belief. "You are my best friends. It sunk in finally that both his friends were willing to marry him. what else he might hope or dream. were willing to sacrifice their own possibility for future happiness to protect him. I can't marry either of you. No matter what happens.It took a moment for Harry to understand what his friend was saying. I can't." "She's right. mostly because he still hadn't quite gotten over the shock of learning that the Wizarding World didn't apparently have any prejudice at all against two men marrying each other. And marrying one of you would change that. his life had been completely out of his control. And while he desperately wanted an out . From the moment Voldemort had killed his family and turned him into the Boy Who Lived." Seemed he needed something more persuasive." he told Ron and Hermione quietly." Ron agreed. "I can't lose that. And no matter what else he did in life. He'd always been denied choices . "And if I'm to face what ever is to come with Voldemort. no matter how he looked at it.first with the Dursleys and then with the Wizarding World and the belief that he was going to save them. Truth was. I need my best friends beside me . he knew in his heart that he could never do that to his friends. "You two are the only things in my life that are normal and sane. his life and his happiness had never been his own." "Harry.someway to avoid a marriage to Snape. mate." Hermione protested. "We'll always be your best friends." he told them fiercely. Actually doing just that. He caught both of their hands. Like as not Voldemort wasn't going to let him live period. Voldemort was never going to let him live a normal existence. It would ruin everything between my best friends. "We would never allow it to ruin anything.

there would never exist any misunderstandings like that between him and Snape." Molly frowned thoughtfully.Ginny? I'm sure she'd. He'd know he'd lose that battle. "We can't allow Harry to marry Snape. but we just don't have the money or standing to face down Fudge. "Mom." Hermione reminded him. Harry dear?" Molly asked in concern. But he absolutely will not attempt to cross Severus. There are very few families with standing enough to get away with something like this. "It will be too late by then. this is just awful!" Ron protested.They both seemed to understand and he saw the looks of mingled relief and guilt in their eyes." Harry admitted. "But the Headmaster is right when he says this solves a lot of problems. Severus Snape comes from a very respected. Molly and Arthur. "I know you don't like Professor Snape. "But Snape." Molly agreed. At least one thing was certain . "Everything okay. . . "Marrying Ginny would be like marrying my LITTLE SISTER." . rejoined them. "What about." "She won't be fifteen for another month yet." "Besides. odds are Minister Fudge would find a way to declare the marriage null and proceed with the adoption anyway." He was well aware of the fact that Ginny had a crush on him. He glanced across the room at Snape who was still locked in a heated argument with the Headmaster. Truth is if we did find some nice sweet young girl for Harry to marry. having moved aside to allow the three of them to speak quietly together. . . I couldn't do that either. I thought maybe Bill or Charlie perhaps. very old and wealthy Wizarding family. Adding the whole crush thing into an arranged marriage would be a recipe for disaster as far as he was concern. Snape looked angrier than he'd ever seen him and he sighed in despair." Ron protested one last time.

"Money alone. Both Molly and Arthur looked surprised by that comment." Ron protested.there isn't a more lucrative job in all the Wizarding World than that." "Then it's true. "Think about how long wizards live."You make it sound like you actually think that Snape will agree to this?" Ron exclaimed. And yes. "He's never tried to kill me. But he also comes from old money. Harry was beginning to suspect that once again there was something else about Wizarding society he hadn't learned." Harry admitted quietly to his friend." Molly informed all of them." "I'm certain Severus will agree to it. "Simply being a Potion Master would make him rich enough . If he marries Harry he'd be honor-bound to protect him." "But he's too old for Harry." Molly laughed. he does have money?" Hermione asked." Arthur corrected." she whispered quietly to him. but the man had risked his own life several times to save Harry." Arthur pointed out as if that seemed the most common thing in the world. "He's only twenty years older than Harry. he'd go out of his way to protect Harry. You don't know him like we do. "Double if not triple the life expectancy of a Muggle. And God knew he risked his life time and time again for the Order of the Phoenix to get information to all of them about Voldemort's activities. Once again Muggle-born Hermione came to his rescue. "Albus Dumbledore is nothing if not persuasive. "Oh heavens. "Or that if he did. dear. Severus will protect Harry." . That suspicion was only confirmed when Ron sighed and nodded in agreement." Ron argued further. An age difference would have to be closer to sixty or eighty years before anyone would notice it. He couldn't believe he was actually defending Snape." "If he doesn't kill him first. "He's actually quite a catch.

He nodded in sudden comprehension." Dumbledore insisted. though his eyes were still wide with disbelief. you had best do it soon. The Potion Master just glared and looked away. Percy's eyes widened in shock and he looked to his parents for confirmation. run for my life." His stomach twisted and protested the very thought however. or change my name to Fudge. "We had best get this over with then. "I guess none of this matters anyway. We have no choice in this matter. "Of course. catching all their attention. "Doesn't really matter if I marry Snape. Harry took that to mean that Arthur was right and that Snape had indeed been persuaded. "Harry and Snape are getting married." "Well. I guess the other isn't that bad." Dumbledore continued. "The final document was just filed at the Ministry." Ron informed his brother. and we don't have time to find a different solution. come here. then let's get to it. And since two of those choices end with me being dead at the hands of Voldemort." He looked rather pointedly at Snape at this." Dumbledore proclaimed. "No more arguments. I either have to get married. Filch or McGonagall. "Percy we'll need your help with the documentation." he nodded. "Can you get the paper filed tonight?" Arthur asked his son." "Documentation?" Percy asked in confusion. Percy sputtered for a moment. Before anyone could offer further argument or consolation the door opened and Percy re-entered. He felt momentarily faint." . "I can sneak it in with the rest of my paperwork before records close tonight." he informed all of them." Harry sighed. Fudge will be here within a half hour to take Harry away. "Harry. "What ever you're going to do. He felt sick." "Well that's it then. and then seem to catch himself.

he supposed there was no choice in the matter. "Clasp right hands together. I. joining body. not really believing any of this was happening." Dumbledore assure them all. Harry held out one shaking hand. Harry. He felt humiliated by the whole situation. Snape did it for him. take you Severus Alexander Snape as my bond-mate. But considering if he didn't do this. house and power to thine." They weren't the words Harry was familiar with in Muggle marriages. His hand felt warm and Harry found his face heating in embarrassment. how this would affect his standing at the school. but he repeated them carefully." Dumbledore told them both. Severus Alexander Snape. "We'll keep this simple then. and his grip was just a trifle too tight for Harry's peace of mind. Snape's hand was not shaking. joining body. house and power to thine. repeat after me. Harry James Potter. He found himself standing in front of the Headmaster beside a glaring Severus Snape. "I. He couldn't bring himself to look into Snape's face. name. not certain he could endure the look of disgust he was certain he would see there." The . surprised to find that his legs actually still supported him as he walked somewhat dazed toward the Headmaster and Professor Snape. name.Harry rose to his feet. He couldn't begin to imagine what this was going to spell for the rest of the year. in a half hour he'd be dragged out of this castle for good by Cornelius Fudge. a mixture of pity and disbelief as if she too could not believe that the hero of her house was going to have to marry the head of Slytherin. Nor could he believe the words he next heard. unable to make himself take the initiative and actually take Snape's hand himself. "Just a quick exchange of vows and that will be the extent of it. He caught the look McGonagall threw him. take you Harry James Potter as my bond-mate.

his own hands still shaking noticeable." Albus nodded." Both Harry and Snape glared at him for all they were worth." he muttered weakly the knot in his stomach growing tighter. turning then to hand the quill to Harry. wand in his right. twisting Harry's right hand over and sliding one of the gold rings onto his third finger. I thee wed. "Excellent. "Ah. producing a large scroll out of the air." He waved his wand again." Albus declared. of course." he growled.melodious voice of the Potions Master was filled with the same snide mocking tones he'd come to expect in the last six years. unrolling the scroll on a side table and producing a quill and bottle of ink." Snape stepped forward and angrily scratched his name across the document. "And Molly and Arthur if you would both witness the document. yes. then held out his left hand. "Then I pronounce you bonded. . I thee wed. turning his attention back to the document and signed away his life on the line next to Snape's signature. nearly flinching under the anger he saw there. He still didn't dare look up. then the documentation. He handed one to each of them. Harry momentarily caught the gaze of the Potion Master. One quick tap of his wand and two golden rings appeared in the palm of his hand. "If you would both sign it. Snape took the initiative in this. "With this ring. "You may. ." Dumbledore cleared his throat. He took the other ring and slid it into Snape's finger." Albus asked the two of them. no doubt a testament to Dumbledore's magic." he informed them. It suddenly occurred to Harry what typically followed the exchange of rings in most marriage ceremony. "With this ring. "Standard bonding contract. . He took the quill. silencing any suggestion that they kiss. The ring fit perfectly. But it felt strangely cold and heavy on his hand. "Right.

took one of the chocolates from the tray and sat down on the far side of the room. Harry." Dumbledore told the elf. then handed one of them over to Percy. They had been assigned as Fudge's body guards when it became obvious that Voldemort had returned finally. "While we wait for Minister Fudge to put in an appearance." Though it was quite obvious that no one was in any mood to celebrate." he informed the young man. Percy stood beside them. "That's it then. no one protested as the Headmaster conjured up a bottle of champagne and a tray of sweets. The little elf nodded and disappeared. Dobby entered a few moments later announcing that Minister Fudge had arrived and wanted to speak with the Headmaster and Harry Potter immediately. I suggest a celebration is in order. while the other five adults each drained a glass of champagne as if they needed the alcohol to get through the rest of the evening. "Well.Harry recognized them both." Dumbledore told the group. The looks of sympathy on both their faces nearly made Harry cry. Dobby. "Show him in here. his own face set in a look of pure disbelief and amazement. trying to get his nerves under control. Percy nodded and headed back out the door. Their presence made . leaving the champagne to the adults. A few moments later the door opened and Minister Fudge strode into the room followed by two Aurors . Fudge rarely went anywhere without them now.The two Weasleys nodded and came forward to add their own signatures to the document. Ron and Hermione sat down beside him in silence. They didn't have long to wait. looking on. "Good luck. He was peripherally aware of Snape sitting down himself as far from the three of them as possible." Dumbledore announced. He rolled up the scroll. magically made a copy of it. my boy. Harry risked a glance at his two friends.

I'm not interested in champagne." Dumbledore agreed again. Would you care for a glass of champagne?" Somewhat taken aback by the friendly greeting." Fudge informed him. Fudge's look of determination faltered briefly. . We're having a bit of celebration. "Yes. Cornelius. holding out a glass of champagne. "You've adopted Harry.Harry sick with the realization that Fudge really did mean to drag him out of Hogwarts this very night. Cornelius!" Albus greeted with a bright smile. "Harry is married. Then he shook his head. and Fudge looked momentarily triumphant." "I assure it is completely legal. and if he was surprised by Dumbledore's apparent lack of amazement at the revelation he didn't let on. "I'm here on official business. yes." he announced. "No. "Married? What in Merlin's name are you talking about?" Dumbledore smiled. it's hardly an issue any longer. Albus!" Fudge exclaimed. "If Harry were of proper legal status to require a guardian. who sighed and took it from him." Dumbledore nodded in agreement. "It's a marriage celebration." He waved a document in the air for all of them to see. "So good to see you." "But come." "Confound it all." He shoved the document at Dumbledore. . so I see. "We're celebrating the nuptials even now." He raised the champagne glass . "Which would be all well and fine I suppose if it were legal. "I'm here to take." Fudge's look of triumphant vanished and he glanced at the champagne Albus was still holding out toward him. looking briefly at the content on the page. But as he's now married. "Well. "Ah." Dumbledore continued." Dumbledore interrupted him.

He held up his right hand. "Ms. you can't actually be suggesting that you think I wouldn't take advantage of every opportunity afforded to me?" If he hadn't mentioned the bit about a private life. . apart from that fact that our private life is none of your business. "Minister Fudge. I might have known. Fudge!" the Potion Master growled at the man. his gaze instantly falling on Hermione Granger who was sitting beside Harry and holding his hand in her own. the two Aurors with him exchanging looks of wary surprise. Ever!" Fudge actually took several steps back in shock. You will both. Granger. This matter will be taken care of immediately. Fudge took the certificate Dumbledore offered him. Snape was suddenly on his feet and across the room standing between him and Fudge before the Minister could take another step toward them. turning toward Harry. Fudge looked toward Dumbledore for confirmation. the golden ring flashing on his finger. . ." he paused as if searching for an appropriate word. He advanced on two of them." To Harry's utter surprise. "You can't expect me to believe that this marriage is . . "And he's not going anywhere with you.again. "He's married to me. blanching as he read the signatures on it. Harry suspected he might not have understood what Snape meant. As it was not only did he figure it out but so did Hermione and Ron and all three of them ." "Married! To whom!" Fudge demanded. "Would you like to see the marriage certificate?" he asked brightly. "That this marriage is valid?" The sneer that Snape threw him reminded Harry of the look the professor got just before he took away a huge numbers of points from Gryffindor. He glared at Snape. it's no longer necessary. The headmaster happily waved his own document at the Minister. "So as good as your intentions are to rescue Harry from the dubious protections of his uncle.

"Well. "I can't believe you would allow this. don't you think?" There were times when Harry believed that the Headmaster was quite unhinged. sir?" Harry asked Dumbledore. How he could say the things he did with such a believable smile on his face was beyond Harry. It's a wonderful match. He'd almost swear the man actually believed everything he said. his two body guards following meekly along behind him. that went well. Harry looked over at Dumbledore and McGonagall. Molly and Arthur both looked embarrassed but not worried. I'm so very happy for Harry and Severus. Severus!" For a brief moment Snape almost looked pleased by Dumbledore's comment. wouldn't it?" He turned to glare at Dumbledore. didn't it?" Dumbledore said brightly. Fudge just snatched up his adoption papers and strode out of the room in anger. Surely Snape wasn't suggesting. "What happens next. I suppose that would be expecting too much of you. Cornelius I can't image what you are talking about. . Fudge glared at Snape in disgust. Dumbledore! To put Harry Potter into the hands of this man!" Dumbledore just smiled happily at him. and Madam Hooch was actually doing her best to cover up a snicker of laughter. "No. "Why. "Brilliantly played.turned bright red at the implication. that was exactly what Snape was implying. "Do you think he'll try something else like that?" . but neither of them looked particularly worried by the idea.actually judging by the look of equal parts embarrassment and fury on Fudge's face. Far from agreeing with Dumbledore. then he caught sight of Harry staring at him in disbelief. and the sneer of disgust returned with a vengeance. .

"I think we're safe enough from Fudge. or in private rooms within the castle. Ron bid good-bye to his parents. then clapped both Harry and Hermione on the shoulder. They reside either at a private house in Hogsmeade." she said quietly. Before they could leave the room. .that. "What! You can't expect Harry to live with the Slytherins! He belongs up in Gryffindor tower with the rest of us." She glanced expectantly over at Snape who was waiting surprisingly patiently by the door. . . "You'll be moving immediately into the dungeons with Severus. however. became quite vocal. could only stare at her. He won't cross Severus. . I'm not planning on moving. . Mr. "Let's get up to the tower before anything else happens!" he told the two of them. They're married now. Harry just fell silent. struck speechless." Not certain at all that he liked the idea of having his safety suddenly handed over to Severus Snape. So unless Severus is planning on moving to Hogsmeade. "I'm sorry. I'll have the elves send your belongings down. Weasley. They do not share dormitories with the single students. Professor McGonagall stopped them. . Just because he had to marry that . pointing out that there was still school in the morning. And I'm more than certain Severus can deal with any other problems that might arise with the Ministry. Harry.Professor Snape doesn't automatically make him a Slytherin!" "You misunderstand me. that would be improper." Harry. and while we don't often have married students on campus. . He'll be moving into Severus' quarters. Ron. He was more than grateful at Molly's suggestion that they call it a night. The glare in his eyes was indication enough of what he thought of this whole situation. "I'm not saying Harry will be moving into the Slytherin dormitories." McGonagall said curtly.Dumbledore just shook his head." he growled. "No. the rules are quite explicit.

not entirely certain what to expect from him." Ron and Hermione just stared at Harry in horror as he shrugged and made his way reluctantly toward Snape." McGonagall confirmed. He stared at the Potion Master. Snape just snorted in disgust. and classes start early for all of us. "Now run along all of you. Despite the situation you will all be expected to behave like students come morning. Harry followed silently behind him. heart pounding in his chest."Then Harry will be living in the dungeons. turned in a flaring swirl of robes and stormed toward the stairs that led to the dungeons. .

After all it couldn't be any worse than the years he'd endured with the Dursleys. "The password is Eldorado. Bad enough he had to spend potions class in this man's company. Despite being in the dungeons and lacking the high windows he was used to having in Gryffindor Tower.though the primary color scheme was green and not red. and there were several doors off this main one which Harry guessed led to other chambers. But the school terms had always been his one reprieve from that nightmare . Well furnished . The walls were draped with tapestries much like the ones he'd seen throughout the rest of the castle.CHAPTER THREE He couldn't believe this was happening. dark dungeons! Snape led him down through the bowels of the castle. He paused finally before a portrait of Salazar Slytherin and a very large snake. but to be now expected to live with him! Oh. the main room actually reminded him somewhat of the Gryffindor common room. Not quiet what he expected. Harry paused in the doorway. The idea that he'd never have that again made him sick to his stomach. thick rugs on the floor. Or cold. Snape he ." Snape said for both the painting's and Harry's benefit. their steps echoing ominously in the stone hallways. he had no doubt he'd find a way to survive it. poorly lit in the Gryffindor Tower had been like some wonderful dream he looked forward to all summer. and despite being in the dungeons. There was even a Wizarding chess set waiting in a well-lit corner of the room. To give up Gryffindor Tower in favor of the dank. The portrait slid open and Harry followed Snape into the chambers that would be his new home from now on. it didn't feel at all damp. down several dark. Candles and oil lamps illuminated the place more brightly than he'd expected. comfortablelooking chairs on either side. a plush couch by the magically burning fireplace.

and Dobby is certain to visit him often!" The little elf smiled happily up at Harry as if delighted by the turn of events ." And with that the little elf vanished again.a well furnished office off to one side." Dobby grinned from ear to ear. At least the man wasn't looking at him any longer. a private library. thanks.but Harry had never really figured out just what sorts of things the house elves did and did not understand." Harry assured him. Dobby appeared. a potions workroom off of that. While he was looking inside. . tossing it over the back of the couch. and a rather enormous bedroom with a private bath. Dobby. then looked over at Professor Snape who was staring at him now as if he were some sort of insect he'd trapped under a microscope. which he had not yet managed to unpack.noticed had taken off his outer robe." Dobby announced. along with his trunk. Harry shifted uncomfortably. He wasn't certain he would know precisely how to deal with a drunk Snape. "Will Harry Potter be wanting Dobby to help him with anything?" "No. "Harry Potter is having to stay in the dungeons now. "Here is Harry Potter's belongings. "Harry Potter is considered himself most gratefully thanked for his kindness. Harry stared down at his trunk. he sighed and dragged his trunk off to one side. Snape poured himself another drink and Harry worried suddenly that the man was planning on getting himself good and drunk. but when no words were forthcoming from either of them. The man walked toward a sideboard where he poured himself a tumbler full of an amber-colored liquid and downed it in one gulp. "Thanks for bringing my things. shoving it up against a wall in the main room and out of the way. Harry took his distraction as an opportunity to glance into some of the other rooms .

I'm no happier about this situation than you are." his words were even more unbelievable considering Harry had never heard him express remorse for anything. But we are both stuck. and Harry paled at his words. and . memories of ten years of small cramped quarters suddenly returning with a vengeance in a most unexpected way. I wasn't thinking.I didn't mean to say that. . Potter!" Snape snarled as he turned and pinned Harry with a black glare. Harry just nodded tightly. The man seemed to gather himself again. He'd run away from Hogwarts before he'd go through that again! His reaction seemed to have startled Snape and to Harry's surprise the man's glare faded instantly. and Harry couldn't for the life of him figure out if it was actual remorse for his words. He said nothing more. Harry flinched and took a step back. or over the idea of apologizing for anything. taking a hesitant step toward Harry. and glanced briefly at the couch and then just sighed in resignation. Mr. Please accept my apology. waiting for Snape to remember his initial question. "The bed is big enough for the both of us. . then he quickly set it aside. "And it would look odd if anyone found you sleeping on the couch. "Where am I supposed to sleep?" As far as he could see there was only the one bedroom. but didn't turn. "You can sleep in the closet for all I care. sir?" he asked quietly. wrapping his arms around himself against an imagined chill. ." he informed him. his face paling." The man actually looked vaguely sick. his heart fluttering at the words. Snape stiffened. "I'm sorry." "You expect me to. Potter. "Trust me." Harry sputtered in shock."Excuse me. I wouldn't put it past Fudge to send spies to investigate." Snape's anger returned full blown. his insides freezing. "Mr. Potter. Harry saw his grip tighten momentarily on the drink he was holding. "That was. .

Snape was right . green curtains of course. To his relief there was no sign of Snape." Snape cut him off. "I trust you can offer me the same assurances?" "You don't actually think I would-" Harry sputtered. The temptation to draw his wand and hex Snape into oblivion was almost overwhelming. He couldn't imagine how Dumbledore expected the two of them to live together without killing one another. one being that we will be unable to avoid spending a certain amount of time in each other's company. But despite what I said to Minister Fudge earlier. He hated that man! Hated him! And it was all he could do from keeping from kicking the walls in fury. I don't. noting with some surprise that Snape actually had a shower rigged in the plumbing . I assure you your virtue is quite safe from me!" Harry felt his face burning red in embarrassment at his words. He sat down on the edge of an enormous tub and attempted to get his emotions back under control. but a necessity he supposed for a Potions Master. disappearing into the bathroom and slamming the door behind him. changed into his pajamas. He took a quick shower. One never knew when a cauldron might explode all over you. Instead he stripped out of his clothes and climbed into the enormous tiled tub.a rarity in the castle. This wasn't going to work. " some point must bow to certain inevitabilities. "I'm going to bed!" He grabbed his pajamas out of his trunk and all but ran for the relative safety of the bedroom. "Please extend the same courtesy to me!" "Fine!" Harry glared at him.the bed was big enough . and then headed cautiously out into the bedroom. growing hotter as the man added in the most mocking tone he'd ever heard. He stared at the enormous canopied bed on the far side of the room. Mr. Potter.

for two. Really. But the very idea of ever climbing willingly into Severus Snape's bed! He shivered. and set his glasses and wand down on one of the nightstands. too strung out to really piece together coherent thoughts. But he wasn't in the Muggle world and he was beginning to suspect there was a whole set of rules in the Wizarding World he had yet to learn about. this was ridiculous. And he couldn't imagine what his godfather would say when he found out. how much stranger was it living in a cupboard under his uncle's stairs. He was in his most hated teacher's bed. Big enough for four or five if they were really fond of one another. He thought he detected the faint scent of cinnamon on the sheets. Harry listened in brooding silence while the shower ran and he pointedly didn't try to picture the Potion Master in there bathing. he slid under the blankets. But then when he really thought about it. Perhaps twenty minutes later he heard the bedroom door open and Snape entered. Bloody hell! In the flickering candlelight the golden ring on his right hand winked up at him. For some reason that thought actually made Harry feel better and he reluctantly walked over to the bed. Unable to sleep he lay on his back in silence. Married! To Snape. for God sake! There had to be rules against this! Rules in the Muggle world perhaps. He never imagined the day would come when he'd actually find himself missing the sane familiarity of the Muggle world. He wondered if that made him Harry Snape now? Or worse yet Severus Potter? His parents were probably turning over in the graves. heading toward the bathroom. Sirius would probably return in a rage and rip Snape's throat out. wondering if he'd be allowed to eat . Then climbing onto the bed. moving to the edge of the bed as far away from the other side as he could get without falling off the side. he told himself.

a red rose entwined with a green serpent.and despite everything Harry found his gaze drawn to the man's torso. moving toward the large wardrobe that stood off to one side. robes hid a great deal -– certainly pale skin.but he hadn't expected the flash of color on his right shoulder blade of a tattoo . resigned to the fact that Muggle or Wizard. and. turning his back to Snape and informing himself quite firmly that he hadn't found him in the least bit attractive. And then just as suddenly it was all gone from view as Snape pulled on a thin nightshirt. a body athletic and defined suggesting that Snape lived a far more active life than Harry had ever imagined. He'd long ago accepted the fact that he was . He wasn't certain what precisely he'd been expecting. and was rummaging through the wardrobe for a shirt to pull on. Voldemort was not going to be pleased by this turn of events. even though he'd already seen the dark mark once before.a young man in the prime of his life. Something occurred to him . he rolled over onto his side. and Harry realized he'd actually been ogling the man. Eventually Snape emerged from the bath. Despite himself. That wasn't at all the reality.the sight of the dark mark perhaps bringing it to the foreground. Snape was dressed only in a pair of pajama bottoms.wounds that looked like they'd come from some sort of knife or blade. perhaps a too thin frame. And he'd been prepared he supposed for the dark mark on the forearm that he could see from even across the room . Horrified. Harry's eyes were drawn to the man. his life would never make sense. It occurred to Harry that it probably meant Snape typically didn't wear any top to bed . He also wasn't expecting the scars he could see here and there upon the pale skin . an unmarked body. Pale skin yes. A tattoo like that went against everything he knew about the dour Potions Master. but the frame was muscled and strong .sometime that week? He sighed.

He supposed that the moment word of this got out.right along side Albus Dumbledore." "Mr. before he had really made a conscious decision to speak. Potter. . He was completely unprepared for the sight of Severus Snape lying beside him in bed. "Why did it choose you as my. . Face burning red in embarrassment Harry turned over to glare at the man. he'd be sorely missing now for the rest of his life." he clarified without turning over. "That's not what I meant!" he shouted." he said out loud. shape or form remind you of Mr. do you?" he asked. . Snape let out a sound that sounded suspiciously like a laugh.first on a list of people Voldemort intended to kill . keeping well away from Harry." Snape's voice was sharp and cutting." . noble offer to sacrifice his own dubious future with Ms. "We talk at night. Severus Snape's name would also be added to that list. amusement and disdain shining in his eyes with equal parts. and you just as nobly had no choice but to refuse. "Or is this perhaps your way of expressing your remorse that you did not take your friend up on his oh." he explained simply. "I mean the Marriage Stone. Weasley?" Snape demanded. A moment later he felt the bed move." he answered without thinking. Harry sighed and lay back down." Something. "I am. so. and far closer than Harry was prepared for despite the fact that he knew the man was lying right next to him in this enormous bed that suddenly seemed ridiculously small. . "Do I in any way. Granger and marry him instead of me? Something being noble Gryffindors they both no doubt offered. he guessed. and the unreality of the situation struck Harry so hard he almost laughed.why it would think that you and I. "I wonder why it chose you. I am not accustomed to chatting in bed. "Ron's bed is next to mine. "Have vast amounts of worldly experience. the mattress dipping slightly as Snape climbed into the other side of the bed. voice filled with mockery.

he thought. How ever am I going to top myself this time?" Harry strangled back a shriek of rage and turned his back on the man. Or a nice family reunion . "Shut up and leave me alone!" "Gladly!" Snape growled. Mr. not the way Potter believed he did. he wouldn't have bothered getting out of bed in the first place.granted he also never really hated the boy. "Were you born this hateful or did you take lessons somewhere?" "Years of practice. "I hate you!" "Good! My life is complete! I've taught yet another Gryffindor how to hate.he'd certainly found a way of shutting Harry up. If he'd known that morning that he'd end the night as bond-mate to Harry Potter. and judging by the movement of the bed he too had turned his back on Harry. Harry could only glare at him fury.first chance he got he was going to invite Sirius and Remus to come for an extremely long visit. He closed his eyes. And if there really was a Snape Manor. he told himself bitterly. He'd never really liked Potter . he was going to have it painted Gryffindor red! Three hours later Severus Snape found himself lying awake in his bed unable to sleep despite the lateness of the hour. A rather attractive young man. focusing his thoughts on finding ways of driving Severus Snape absolutely insane for his treatment of him. Harry guessed Snape had also just won whatever argument they had just had .Shocked. Of course it wasn't every night he was forced to share his bed with a young man nearly half his age. He'd find himself a very loud stereo and start blasting the music every time Snape had papers to grade. Most of his behavior was an act necessary to maintain his fiction as a loyal . rolling away from him. Potter!" Snape shouted back at him. And he would go to his grave blaming Dumbledore for it. The whole situation was phenomenally unfair. Muggle rock music maybe.

There was something poetically Gryffindor about that whole battle.though he was much better at hiding his dislike of that particular student.certainly he would never have dreamed of simply stealing the Eye of Odin from the Dark Lord as if it were nothing more than a Snitch. Couldn't be helped really. And much as he hated to admit it even to himself.Death Eater. he did admire the boy's courage. He'd imagined the boy brought up in the lap of luxury. Certainly sounded like the lap of luxury to him. Locked in a cupboard. More attractive than his father had been certainly . The look on Dumbledore's face alone was one he'd never seen before.mostly he supposed because he had imagined the boy basking in the adoration of his fans like some mindless celebrity . he had noticed abstractly earlier that night when he'd first seen Potter in the great hall that the boy had matured into a very attractive young man.took after his mother more and more each day. Amazing how long resentment lasted. Potter might not have realized it. beaten and starved. . He didn't know anyone else in the world who would have attacked Voldemort with a broom of all things . But even before he'd had to take up the mantel of spy. pampered and spoiled his entire life for being nothing more than James Potter's son. but he had succeeded in kicking all of them in the teeth with that little revelation. Of course Potter had to go and crush all those delusions as well. One of the reasons he disliked Draco Malfoy as well . And despite all that.something he had no patience for at all. he had felt a certain enmity toward Harry Potter because of his father and godfather. Not often the greatest wizard of the century miscalculated so grossly as that. But the resentment had lingered . Even during his first year the idea of a boy-celebrity had turned his stomach.

God knows it was going to send Black through the roof. Lily and James Potter were probably spinning in their graves. that it would be safer for him to give up his role as spy and join the forces of light once and for all. the one argument he'd been unable to find a decent counter to was the one argument he didn't believe for a moment. And he'd weakened and given in without further protest despite the evidence staring him the face that Potter had no need at all of him and hated the very idea of spending any more time with him than necessary for classes. that very few people could stand up to Fudge successfully. not to mention Malfoy and Voldemort. And he was more than certain his own deceased parents were laughing in unrestrained glee.not by half. the fact that there was no one else available. And now the boy was his bond-mate. If it wasn't so pathetically ridiculous he might actually enjoy the fact . no big deal. Case in point. "The boy needs you." Albus had tried that line of persuasion as a last tactic .might actually NEED him. Not like he was trying to kill him or anything. He would have hexed his antagonizers to oblivion long ago. the treatment he'd received from James Potter and Sirius Black when he was Harry's age had made him nearly as vicious as Lucius Malfoy was. Severus knew himself well enough to know that he would not have shown such restraint . and how he had restrained himself from screaming in mindless rage every time his Potions Master had mocked him for his celebrity status and spoiled lifestyle. He wondered what else the boy had been forced to endure over these last fifteen years. The logic of Dumbledore's arguments had not moved him in the slightest. . no great hardship.something that still surprised Severus. That somehow Harry Potter .or anyone for that matter .And the worse part was the way Potter had explained the situation that his uncle had only starved him for five or six days at most. No.

. A sound caught his attention and he rolled over to look at Harry.the boy who'd faced down Voldemort and an army of Death Eaters was terrified of the idea of spending any time in his company. twisting away from his hand. Merlin knew they couldn't spend the rest of their life fighting like they had tonight . the fact remained that like it or not they were bonded now. Harry cried out again. He was not about to make advances toward a sixteen-year-old boy . Not to mention that he knew he would be rejected out of hand. wanting to wake the boy up without startling him too terribly. "Potter!" he called.even if they were married. Terrified . A cry of terror replaced the whimper. A moment later a whimper escaped from his lips and he began thrashing in the bed as if fighting with someone. Harry was his responsibility. But regardless of Harry Potter's feelings. Uncertainly he reached out and touched Harry's shoulder. Such little joys to brighten up his dismal life. Swell. shaking him. the better off they would both be. and the sharp sound of his voice brought Harry out of his sleep. He supposed Fudge imagined he was spending this night ravaging the hero of the Wizarding World. And the sooner they both accepted it. Wonderful. though he continued to shudder and shrink away from him in the darkness. "Potter!" he called louder. He sighed in exasperation. and his body quivering with anger. bringing Severus fully awake as he sat up in shock. He wasn't looking forward to the next few months.He could still feel Harry's hand shaking in his own as he'd gripped it during their so brief ceremony. No doubt Black would accuse him of the same thing. and he'd never been fond of the idea of force despite the words he'd spoken so convincingly to Minister Fudge that night. Still asleep. the boy was shaking his head fitfully.though he had to admit Harry looked rather lovely with his eyes blazing with rage.

several explanations springing to mind." Severus explained. but Severus had never really done tact." Harry muttered. Severus. none of them even remotely pleasant. "No!" he insisted again." Then thinking that the boy might not recognize his given name. an icy chill gripping him. Snape. "Sorry. "Harry." he said more gently. "He'd never touch a freak like me!" To Severus' surprise the boy's voice was filled with utter contempt. and he was uncertain if it was . there was one sort I neglected to list. "I'm sorry. Wake up." Harry stilled at once. Did your uncle." he sighed." he admitted." he assured him. Harry blinked at him in confusion."I'm sorry Uncle Vernon!" he cried out. "Snape. "It's me. Severus froze. "That's alright. . covering his head with his arms as if to ward off an expected blow. "Professor?" he asked uncertainly. You're having a nightmare. not certain how to bring up this subject. . It's me. Severus winced at that. not certain he was overly comfortable with someone calling him professor while lying beside him in bed. "What?" "You called me Uncle Vernon when I woke you up." He looked amazingly vulnerable lying there trying not to shake or cry. "Didn't mean to wake you. "When I mentioned the various methods of abuse earlier this evening. he added. "I. and Snape had the sudden urge to comfort him." "No!" Harry's voice broke in shock. "Yes. though his breath came in heavy deep gasps as he blinked up at him in the darkness of the curtained bed. I'm sorry!" He flinched away from Severus' hand. "Is there a reason you would expect to find your uncle beside you instead of me?" Not perhaps the most tactful way of asking the question. He felt his heart clench in his chest. . .

The boy seemed genuinely baffled that he would want to help him. To wake me. If I wanted to eat during the day I didn't dare fall asleep during the night and risk waking them up. It won't happen again. Severus stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. I woke them up screaming. . his expression unreadable." Harry admitted.surely his friends would have been happy to comfort him? Harry just nodded miserably. every night. I usually just use a silence charm on myself at night. "Uncle Vernon would do what?" "He'd throw things at me. Uncle Vernon would. "Why would you want to?" Severus stared at him. looking away. "Yes. "I have nightmares. Shoes mostly. and the boy blinked up at him in confusion. "Then why did you think I was him?" he asked gently." Snape swallowed around a lump in his throat." he said simply." he pointed out. "From the doorway." Harry shrugged. His words caught Harry off guard. . "You mean you use silence charms when you were in Gryffindor Tower so you wouldn't wake your friends?" He wondered if anyone knew what sorts of nightmares this boy had . I'm sorry. I won't be able to wake you. "If I can't hear you. He guessed 'freak' was a term the uncle used to describe wizards. "All the time. I guess I just forgot tonight. but I'm not allowed to do magic over the summer. ." He reached out toward the wand he'd left on the bedside table with his glasses. tasting bile at the thought of this boy's uncle throwing shoes at him when he woke screaming in the night instead of comforting him like any sane man would.directed at the hated uncle or at the boy himself." he broke off.even his best friends? Didn't sound very Gryffindor to him . "Because that's what you do when someone has nightmares.

The times he was present and accounted for he more that pushed Severus beyond his tolerance quota. I'll keep you awake all night. Harry stared at it. Funny that he hadn't thought of it before now. "You know there is one good thing about being bonded to a Potions Master. He found what he was looking for and pulled a small glass vial of blue liquid from the drawer. didn't trust anyone. pulling open one of the drawers there and rooting around in the contents inside. "Harry Potter. "You studied this last year in my class. his expression unchanged. instantly regretting it when the boy flinched away from him. The boy didn't move." he informed the boy. I am not going to hit you with a shoe!" he snarled in outrage. keeping his voice as casual as he could. after or during my numerous stays in the hospital wing?" Harry asked irritably. "What is it?" He made no move to take it from Severus' hand. Severus' frown deepened. "I'm not your uncle. Severus frowned. unable to hide his resentment that the boy took such little interest in his subject. Severus turned toward the nightstand on his side of the bed." he added more gently. "An endless supply of potions!" He held the vial out to the boy. go-lucky." he told the boy mildly.The boy's confusion didn't fade in the slightest. "Better have lots of shoes handy then." He restrained himself admirably from strangling the boy. He supposed it was a testimony . "Was this before. though he took the potion from Severus' hand and began working the stopper loose. Now that he thought about it Harry had missed a great deal of class due to the constant attacks he'd been under from Voldemort and the Death Eaters. but then a little Potter went a long ways. and it occurred to Severus then that this happy. trusting Gryffindor was neither happy nor lucky. and if he was reading the situation right.

can make more. "I mean. . . "That small bit should get you through the rest of the night without any dreams. He was a Potions Master for God's sake! Though he said nothing. though there was a note of question in his voice. Again he resisted the urge to snap at the boy. Apparently not if he wasn't even able to ask for something as simple as a much needed potion. I just. . Mr. Considering the boy owned a nearly priceless invisibility cloak and one of the most expensive brooms on the market." he stated. . "Do you have more of this?" he asked hesitantly. He watched in silence as Harry sniffed carefully at the least Severus had assumed it was embarrassment." he added and downed the vial quickly before handing the empty glass back to him." The look of hope in the boy's eyes did something surprisingly strange to Severus' heart ." the boy muttered. brow furled in concentration. risking an apologetic glance at him. . Granger's tutoring ability that the boy had actually received tolerable marks on his OWLS. .pity they were always hidden behind those horrible glasses. "Dreamless Sleep Draught." Severus nodded. his expression must have been enough to make Potter realize the idiocy of his statement. .it almost hurt. "Thank you for this. Potter. It struck him suddenly that the boy had remarkably beautiful eyes .to Ms. Severus had always assumed that he had been given pretty much anything he wanted.I know you have more. "Very good. "Never mind. When the boy spoke he realized it was in fact shame." He broke off and Severus realized in shock that Harry had been asking if he had more of the potion that he would be willing to 'share' with him. The boy flushed and looked down in embarrassment .

He was up at dawn. Much as he hated the idea of having to share his quarters with anyone. he'd also have to make certain he didn't make any other type of contact with him . the potion already taking affect as he struggled to keep his eyes open. They weren't appropriate. and struck far to close to the mark. pausing before his wardrobe to think about the trunk that Harry had left in the main room. Certainly no more of this idle chattering in bed. turning his back on the boy. considering that by morning the majority of the Wizarding World would probably believe that he'd spent the night forcing his attentions on their innocent young hero. "I'll pay you back." the boy said again. glad to have an excuse to get out of the bed and away from Harry Potter. They'd both be far better off if they spoke as little as possible. And while he was certainly not going to hit the boy with any shoes." He was sound asleep before Severus could inform him that there was no need to pay him back. "As I said. He showered and dressed quickly. I promise.Severus froze as he realized that he was currently in the process of tracing the boy's features lightly with his fingers. "Bloody hell!" he hissed under his breath and rolled away. he stared down at the sleeping boy in silence." he informed him in a tight voice." "Thank you. Seemed he didn't know Harry Potter even half so well as he thought. not if it was going to put all sorts of ideas into his mind. an endless supply of potions. Flabbergasted. Sometimes he really hated his life. he supposed there was nothing he could do . He snatched his hand away as if burned. He brushed away a lock of hair from the boy's forehead. And he wasn't comfortable at all with the fact that every other thing this obnoxious individual did seemed to provoke a strong emotional reaction in him. nor was he comfortable with the stray thoughts about the boy's relative attractiveness and charms."I have as much as you need.

But if Potter didn't shape up. Besides. And Severus couldn't imagine a more shameful outcome than Severus Snape's bond-mate failing his Potions Newt. Satisfied. He had first years. But he did so love taking points away from the Gryffindors! Of course. he'd fail his NEWTS. third years and unfortunately advanced potions with sixth and seventh years that day.about it now. he headed into his office to gather his material together for the first day of class. He worked for about a half hour on his notes for his first or no. he couldn't allow himself to really treat Harry much differently either . He supposed there was no need to maintain his Death Eater fiction now . Which meant of course he no longer had to maintain the farce of favoring Malfoy above all other students. and he wasn't at all certain how he was going to deal with teaching a class with his bond-mate in it. Marriage to Harry Potter would proclaim his loyalties more loudly than anything else he could think of. and he would have to maintain a professional relationship with him inside the class in the interest of fairness. It was his responsibility to provide for his bond-mate. he transformed a candleholder into a second wardrobe. Then he levitated the trunk into the bedroom and left it in front of the large piece of furniture for Harry to unpack. positioning it near his own. and he supposed that also meant a suitable place to live. He was still his student. the boy was abysmal at potions despite the fact that he'd done well in his OWLS .more likely than not the news of his marriage would be all over the papers this morning. before heading back toward his bedroom to retrieve the new grading roster he'd left there a few nights earlier. Didn't mean he had to share his own wardrobe with him however. As he passed through the . Grabbing his wand.he personally felt the judges had been far too lenient last year.

But the bathroom was signs that Harry had been there either. pausing in the doorway to watch Harry. The roster was in his nightstand and as he pulled it out of the bottom drawer he noticed that the bed had been made. Severus also noticed that the robe he'd removed last night and draped over the back of the couch was gone. no signs that he'd been there at all . The night clothes he'd been wearing last night . he yanked open the door to look inside. like most of the other students. setting up the tray service Severus left near the hearth. There should have been some towels on the floor or draped over the rim of the bath. Crossing toward it. . preferred tea in the mornings.he. And he knew he'd left his straight razor on the edge of the sink after he'd shaved that morning. A niggling suspicion began to grow in his mind and he headed swiftly toward the bathroom. frowning. The boy wasn't fiddling with anything. He paused. he headed toward the bedroom door. the chest was gone. He also noticed that the doors to his wardrobe were firmly closed . Harry didn't look up. And unless Severus was sorely unobservant Harry Potter didn't drink coffee . no doubt hung up in the wardrobe or put in the laundry basket with the other things.he'd actually left one of them slightly opened. he was making a pot of coffee. The house elves never came this early. He glanced over at the new wardrobe.the ones he was fairly certain he'd left draped over the back of the chair near the bathroom door.common room he noticed Potter fiddling around with something by the fireplace. Not the elves then . Turning.they would have taken the basket with them. Besides which there was only one cup on the tray service and he'd made no effort to add another. no doubt unpacked and put away. were folded neatly inside and placed in the laundry basket. and Severus didn't greet him.

cream and sugar down on the table in front of the couch. He wasn't mad at the boy.Several things clicked in his mind. You are not my ward. he walked forward and very pointedly set the tray with coffee. "Thank you. The rage Severus felt startled him. just stood staring at him." He looked at the tray in the boy's hands. The defiance however never faded from his eyes and to Severus surprise. Then he stood back and stared at him in silence. eyes gleaming with challenge. defiant line. It was directly in equal parts toward the Dursleys. Harry jumped. beat and imprisoned the boy. Harry glared at him. Potter!" Startled. himself and surprisingly Albus Dumbledore for putting him in this situation in the first place. . No doubt he was simply behaving in the manner he assumed was expected of him." he said firmly. If the Dursleys starved. Potter. but it is not required. "Nor do I expect you to wait on me or serve me in any manner. "Mr. "Mr. what would stop them from working him like a house elf as well? Now more than ever he regretted the utterly stupid comment he'd made last night about having Harry sleep in the closet. It is a kindness and I would thank you for it. and Severus had to bite back the words that immediately sprang to mind. mouth set in a firm. tray seeming forgotten in his hands. He took a hesitant step forward and picked up the cup of coffee. "You are my bond-mate and as such this is now your home. It took Severus a moment to realize just what exactly it was the boy was waiting for. nor my servant. and it wouldn't do to take his anger out on him.Harry didn't really expect this new living arrangement to be much different than his previous one. Do you understand?" Harry said nothing." he said more calmly. His apology had been sincere but it seemed the damage had been done . forcing himself to control his emotions. and he found he was actually relieved to see the defiance in the boy's gaze. took a few steps toward him. and I neither expect nor require you to clean up after me.

The sheer civility of the moment unnerved both of them. life with Harry Potter certainly was not going to be dull. "You're welcome. surprise perhaps that he'd actually meant what he'd said. One thing was certain." Harry announced." he answered just as firmly. . He shook his head and took a sip of his coffee. Severus just nodded and watched as the boy left their quarters. "I'm going to breakfast.Something flickering in Harry's eyes.

He was grateful for their consideration. the stares he was getting from Seamus. As he he'd guessed. and the small gold ring on his right hand suddenly felt like an enormous chain. He wasn't actually looking forward to facing his friends. He had no doubt that most of the students were up and about . Ron and Hermione were waiting for him. The boy looked like he was about to explode." Harry assured him. not at all certain what sort of reaction he could expect. But to add to that the fact that the man in question was everyone's most hated Potions Professor. and both of them jumped up to greet him as he approached.CHAPTER FOUR Harry fled the dungeons praying he didn't meet up with any of the Slytherins on his way to the Great Hall. Add to that the fact that he was married to a man and it left his head reeling .despite Hermione's assurances that the Wizarding World didn't share the typical Muggle prejudices concerning such things. "You okay there. Ron took hold of his arm and pulled him toward a seat. Most people were generally too excited to sleep. Severus Snape . Hermione moving over to make room between the two of them. He felt his face growing hot. "Fine. Harry?" Ron asked quickly. the Great Hall was already crowded with students.first day of school and all. He still hadn't gotten over the fact that he was married.he rather expected to find himself burned in effigy. Dean and Neville almost too much to bear. Especially Neville's. Seamus and Dean were staring at the ring on his finger. He was also aware of the fact the seventh years on one . and as Harry made his way the Gryffindor table. most everyone turned to stare at him and whispered words followed him. shooting a glare at the others. There were just too many variables.

"I mean. Harry stared down at the front page of the paper. disturbed to see that Ron looked quite relieved by his answer." Ron pointed out to him. . By marrying Harry Potter.figuring it would insinuate all sorts of nasty things about his private life and his sudden liaison with a current professor." "Don't trust the greasy git. Harry shifted uncomfortably on his seat. it seemed Severus Snape had done what no one expected. Hermione and Ron exchanged an odd look. clearing his family name and reinstating one of the Wizarding World's oldest family back into their previously lost . slapped the newspaper down in front of Harry. . Ginny Weasley looked as if she were about to burst in to tears. The article was focused on the fact that Severus Snape seemed to have pulled off some sort of spectacular social triumph. "Fine. He shot Ron a look of disbelief. "Social Coup of the Century! Severus Snape Marries The Boy Who Lived!" Harry's eyes widened. are you." Seamus. . "Is it true?" he demanded. . do I." he repeated. Several copies of the Daily Prophet were being passed around the table.side of him and the fifths on the others were staring as well. "You didn't actually think that. each time someone got a copy they'd immediately look up at Harry in disbelief. "Wouldn't put anything past him. "You okay?" Hermione whispered to him. ." Harry stared at her in horror.Snape didn't. It wasn't precisely the article he'd been expecting . But once again Wizarding society surprised him. having caught a passing copy of the Daily Prophet. . It mentioned the fact that his family's name had been tarnished by rumors of past association with dark wizards on the part of both Severus Snape and his father Octavius Snape. "No!" he squeaked. Splashed in bright red letters were the words.

"It's true then?" Seamus repeated. "But Snape." Dean shuddered. "Harry!" He shook his head. "God. Neville gasped in shock. "I can understand arranging a marriage of good quality. was it? Please tell me that wasn't it?" "Of course not!" Harry nearly choked on the thought. Harry nodded and as he handed back the paper. as obviously neither Harry Potter nor his Headmaster Dumbledore (suspected of having arranged the marriage) would have agreed to such a liaison if any of the rumors of Death Eater sympathies had been true. "Professor Snape! How can you stand it?" Harry didn't really know how to answer that. "Told you. Harry glanced over at Hermione in bewildered disbelief." she shrugged. and how some of them had best find ways of proving their own loyalties lest the Ministry start looking into the rumors surrounding them. There wasn't a single mention of either their genders or their age differences. the ring on his hand glinted in the morning sunlight.standing of respect. The article then went on to suggest various reactions amongst the other Wizarding families of high standing. "Why didn't you tell us?" "Tell you what?" "That you were arranging a marriage with Snape!" Seamus exclaimed. but you're the last person who needed to do something like this. And to pick someone like Snape!" . Harry!" Neville cried. Harry. "It wasn't because of what I said about all his money yesterday. It ended with quotes from several Ministry candidates whom Harry had never met explaining their own involvement in arranging the happy nuptials.

" she explained. that is Harry's bond-mate you're insulting now. Or that Snape had some how trapped him just to get a name for himself. "Oh." she added as an afterthought." he told them all. "It's usually done to increase one's wealth or social standing. Or vague apathy. People don't get more famous than you. "It was for my safety. Harry was left with the idea that there was something about Wizarding society he just wasn't understanding. horrible monster!" "Neville!" Harry hissed. She nodded her head. "Or even affection." Neville gasped at the very idea. You obviously didn't marry him for love." Harry sighed. . God! Poor Harry! Married to that horrible. "Not unusual for the older families to arrange marriages for their children. He supposed it wouldn't help anyone to go into too much detail about Fudge's twisted plan.Once again. but he didn't want the rest of Gryffindor believing he had married Snape for his money. As you can see this was a brilliant move on the part of Snape. He turned toward Hermione for an explanation. "Didn't you tell them anything?" Ron just shrugged sheepishly. "Yeah. Or lust. . "Knock it off!" Seamus slapped Neville lightly on the back. "Because of Voldemort. Neville.oh hell!" He looked over at Ron. "I didn't mean that!" Harry said quickly." The ." "So everyone is going to assume I married him for his money?" Harry asked in disbelief. She looked rather thoughtful. but you didn't need to increase your social standing." Neville's face twisted up in misery and he stared across the table at Harry in horror. "I'm afraid so. "I just meant. "Wasn't exactly sure what I was supposed to say.

but he's saved my life repeatedly over the last five years. "But Harry he hates you!" Harry didn't really have an answer to that. . "Well." Harry insisted.he might not like the man.spoken name got winces and shudders of horror. Harry. . not Snape. "That doesn't exactly automatically make them evil. lots of people hate me. "Because of You Know Who." Harry insisted. "Harry. Snape had risked his life more times than anyone spying on Voldemort just to keep all of them safe." Seamus pointed out." "Snape!" Neville and Dean asked in unison. Living with that. "Because Snape can help protect me. it does.git!" "So much for breaking curfew any more. He's good buddies with Lucius Malfoy you know and despite what the Ministry says that man is just twisted!" Harry frowned. "God." Seamus insisted. are you sure you can trust him? I mean there must have been someone better than Snape." he pointed out. That really was too much . and this was the thanks he got." he corrected. Chances are he is a Death Eater himself. "Dumbledore trust him. I'm sure." "It will be like one permanent detention." They seemed to take that at face value but the looks of sympathy didn't fade any. Snape did hate him. They were right. "Yes. "He'll catch you for certain now. . "None of you may know this. "I can't imagine how you can stand it.that." Dean shuddered. He could almost understand why the man took such great delight in tormenting him about his celebrity status. but he did trust him.. And admire his courage." "Yes." Neville exclaimed." Seamus leaned closer toward them. . "Well. .

It had its usual affect. And despite sharing similar sentiments. "This is still Harry's life you're talking about. though the glares they were throwing across the room were chilling. he wasn't anywhere near as bad as the . "That's the point!" Harry just sighed. and then turned his most withering gaze on the entire student body. all day long Harry kept having to answer the same things over and over again. Judging by the look of fury blazing in his dark eyes. noticing that the man was in the process of reading the article on the front page of the Daily Prophet. Harry glanced toward Snape. he was getting tired of the expressions of sympathy from his fellow students. The questions didn't end after that. and even a few Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs joined them to find out what was going on. something they'd missed that might have made the Boy Who Lived willing to marry him."That's enough!" Hermione told them all. He sat down at the head table. everyone looking swiftly away and going right back to their speculating whispers. Truth of the matter was. Dead silence followed him. But while Harry was suffocating under the endless questions and whispers. Nervously. as much as he disliked Snape. Only the Slytherins kept their distance. Harry couldn't figure out what reason he had to be so angry . This was going to be a long year. every eye in the place turned toward him as if looking for something different about him. it was nothing to the reception Snape received when he entered the hall. He was not looking forward to the rest of the day. he was not in the least bit pleased by the speculations. nodded to the other teachers. the other Gryffindors wanted answers of their own. The questions never stopped.everyone seemed to think he'd come out smelling like a rose. Harry on the other hand had been painted as a mercenary out for money alone. How would you feel?" "Horrible!" they said in unison.

Dursleys. And he actually had thanked Harry for that cup of coffee that morning. I'd like to keep both the death and dismemberment toll down to a minimum. he would never have passed his potions Owls last year. unstable if not explosive. Not well. He tried. Harry was already exhausted and ready to blow up at the first person who said one more word to him. This means most of the potions will be volatile this year. If it hadn't been for Hermione's tutoring. Still he was worried about potions class. most of the Gryffindors had apparently figured this out . however. By the time potions class began. . Harry had to endure the snickering and sly looks coming from the Slytherin side of the room. that means they're dangerous. And Snape made sure his displeasure at that fact was known to all. He wondered how Snape had managed to get through the day without killing anyone. "As such I expect unwavering concentration. It didn't seem to make much of difference however. Add to this that they had double potions with Slytherin. he guessed judging by the look of the man as he stormed into the room. His face was set in a glare of granite. This time. last class of the day. "For those of you whose vocabularies are lacking. He had always done poorly at the subject. "We will be studying advanced potions in this class in preparations for your NEWTS. nor making him wait on him or serve him.ANY student!" he shot a glare toward the Slytherin side of . Harry dreaded the class." This last was directed toward the Gryffindor side of the room. If he was to be believed. so if I find any student. much to Harry's surprise. . As luck would have it. Slytherin included. hard. he had no intention of hitting or starving Harry. and everyone in the room instantly fell silent.coupled with the fact that they too hated potions." Snape announced into the dead quiet. and minute attention to detail. though he didn't really know why. black robe swirling around him.

"Is there a reason you have firedrake leaf lying on your desktop despite the fact that I told all of you not to remove it from its protective container?" Firedrake leaf. Harry winced . as the item landed with a plop on their desk.some sort of cure-all he guessed. "Mr. While Snape was distracted with Dean Thomas.if that had hit either him or Ron it would have blistered their skin. He'd nearly made it through the entire class without mishap when the Slytherins finally decided to make a move. Everyone in the room shifted uncomfortable. a number of the items in the box were actually poisonous to simply touch. Pansy Parkinson picked up an item with a pair of iron tongs and flung it across the room toward Harry. both Ron and Harry ducked out of the way. "Doing anything I might construe as horseplay.the room. Guessing that what ever it was was dangerous. you will become the automatic volunteer test subject for my first years' potions!" The threat was sufficiently terrifying. Harry's chair fell over with a loud clatter. and the two of them began sorting through the items in the box. Harry did notice that Snape spent the majority of the class period walking around with an unlabeled bottle in his hand . Hermione identified the most dangerous of the items before either of them could actually injure themselves. He debated momentarily telling Snape that Pansy had thrown it. hyjinnx or simply slacking off. Snape hadn't been kidding when he'd said the contents were toxic. but figured he probably wouldn't be . as they all remembered the disasters they'd created during their own first year. Take out a scroll and identify all of them!" Harry paired up with Ron. They all shrank back in surprise. "You will find a box on your table filled with highly toxic items. Harry froze as Snape advanced on him. Potter!" Snape shouted.

cracking him hard across the jaw and knocking the other boy down on his ass. But the last thing he wanted to do was lose more points for Gryffindor. sir. Potter." Malfoy mocked." he snapped. finishing just as class ended and Snape dismissed them all for the day. "You just can't win. "No. Potter? You must be really bad if you're still loosing points after putting out for the teacher." he said quietly. Ron threw the retreating Snape a look of utter disbelief and contempt as he helped Harry clean the firedrake up from the table.believed. Draco looked stunned. Wouldn't that just bite! Getting detention from your bondmate. ending in a standoff of the two groups. Snape never sided with Gryffindor over his Slytherins. But Harry found the Slytherins waiting for him out in the hallway. "Ten points from Gryffindor. . It was the first day of classes and he'd already lost them points. "And clean that mess up!" The looks of triumph on the faces of the Slytherin was almost enough to make Harry want to fling the firedrake leaf back at them even with Snape looking on." They cleaned up the mess. "Not really. He simply punched Draco for all he was worth. Snape's eyes flashed with anger. the looks of malicious glee on their faces turning his stomach." the redhead admitted. The shouts of outrage and glee from the Slytherins and Gryffindors were followed by the drawing of wands on either side. "Ten points from Gryffindor. As if you don't already have to spend enough time with him as it is. "So much for family loyalty." Ron muttered under his breath. "Did you expect anything else?" Harry asked just as quietly. can you. Harry didn't even bother drawing his wand. "At least he didn't give you detention." The sexual innuendo was the last straw.

"Why?" Harry flushed. Maybe you can work the detention off in trade! Likes you on your knees I imagine. "Don't worry about it." With that he turned and disappeared back into the classroom. Malfoy! If I ever hear you insulting my bond-mate like that again. sir. The Slytherin climbed to his feet. looking as if he could not believe Harry had actually punched him. Potter. his eyes blazing with fury. his lip bleeding. would have if Snape hadn't suddenly reemerged from the classroom. Malfoy?" Considering Harry still had his fist clenched. "Potter!" Snape growled. the dark shape of Severus Snape loomed over all of them. Despite the blood on his lips. his eyes just daring Harry to say something.staring up at Harry from the ground. "Now get out of here all of you." Harry gritted his teeth as he spoke the words. "Mr. "Point loss and detention!" Malfoy teased. "No reason. He flinched at the anger he saw in Snape's eyes. "Report for detention tonight. The Slytherins started snickering immediately. Malfoy included. causing everyone to freeze." he admitted nervously. he smiled smugly. Dead silence followed his words and everyone looked at Snape. There was no way in hell he was going to repeat what Draco had said. and everyone there knew it. "Yes. Potter. the Gryffindors glaring at them. grabbed Malfoy by the throat and slammed the young man up against one of the stone walls of the corridor. "Did you just punch Mr. But before a single hex could be thrown. I will drag you off this campus and beat the crap out of you myself! Do you understand?" . sir. he supposed it was pretty obvious what had happened." Harry nearly hit him again. The man's expression was unreadable. Mr." His voice was deadly cold.

pulled along after the other Gryffindors by Ron and Hermione. Harry supposed that by dinner it would be all over the castle.Slytherins in one direction. The Gryffindors stared in equal shock. what else would you expect?" she demanded of all of them. "He's never defended anyone before!" Ron seemed just as speechless as Harry. "Well. my god! Did you see the look on Malfoy's face?" "I can't believe Snape defended you!" Neville exclaimed. not remembering until after the fact that he didn't live there any more. Snape shoved him aside. Harry found himself sitting in the Gryffindor common room before he knew it. amazement on their faces. He nodded fervently. was struck speechless with shock. staring at Harry with something that looked strangely like awe. pale faces staring at Snape as if they didn't recognize him.Malfoy's face was utterly white. He couldn't believe what had just happened! Snape had attacked Malfoy to defend not his life but his honor! The man's words rang through his head. And any insult given to Harry is an insult to . "I can't believe that just happened!" Seamus exclaimed. NOW!" They all fled . Snape gifted them all with his worst glare yet. his eyes wide in terror. trying to speak around the fist that was clamped around his throat. "Clear out. Harry. The rest of the Gryffindors were busy telling the other students what had just happened. Satisfied with whatever answer he squeaked out. "Weird as it may seem. "Oh. My bond-mate. Hermione on the other hand seemed neither shocked nor surprised. they are in fact married. knocking him on the ground again. The other Slytherins stood frozen in shock. Gryffindors in the other. Maybe Arthur Weasley had been right when he'd said that Snape would be honor-bound to protect him.

That's blurring the lines between public and private lives a bit much." "I know that. And just the idea of the Head of Slytherin defending a Gryffindor!" He shook his head. he has to defend Harry's honor. "I swear! I just meant it was weird to get detention from your own bond-mate. Or that he'd care. "I thought Malfoy was going to wet himself!" "Sure is weird." Ron agreed." "Merlin. Harry's eyes widened in shock and he threw a furious glare at his year mate. If he wants to maintain his good name. "It's beyond belief." Seamus agreed. The two are tied together now. gives you detention and then threatens to beat the crap out of Malfoy for saying the same garbage he's been spouting for five years!" "My life's a three ring circus. He's never cared about anyone before. how weird is that?" Seamus exclaimed. to hear it now after what Malfoy had just said was too much. Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs had managed to avoid during the course of the day was the sexual innuendo Harry had been dreading. The one thing the Gryffindors.Snape's family." Harry agreed. "How would I know something like that? The man just gave me detention! Why would I expect him to defend my honor?" "Yeah. "I just didn't guess that Snape did." . "I didn't mean it like that!" he squeaked. who knew the bastard had it in him!" Dean said gleefully. "Takes points from you. Dean's eyes widened in surprise and he raised his hands in defense. "What do you suppose he's going to make you do for detention?" Dean asked. "Did you know he was going to do something like that Harry?" Harry stared at his friend in disbelief.

You're going to have figure this out between the two of you." she began." "Of course." The door to the common room opened suddenly and McGonagall stuck her head inside." Harry agreed." she informed him. throwing a curious look at his friends. down the corridor to her private office at the base of Gryffindor tower. Potter." Hermione told him. .Appeased. could I speak with you for a moment." "It's not common. it's not like anyone is ever going to accuse Snape of favoritism. Harry. Not a student and a teacher. He laughed suddenly. "Harry. Fails Potions!" Hermione snorted in disgust. But there have been cases with arranged marriages that are similar to this situation. "I won't let you. Harry leaned back in his chair. Professor. He followed McGonagall out into the hallway. she motioned Harry to be seated in front of her desk. "Mr." "Well. "I doubt you'll fail Potions. "In reviewing the board I noticed that you have not only lost points for Gryffindor but received a detention as well. Bond-Mate of Hogwart's Potions Master. "Won't that make an interesting headline on the front page of Daily Prophet? Boy Who Lives. suggesting that this has happened before. Once inside." Harry said quickly. "I don't suppose there's a rule book about this anywhere? McGonagall seemed to indicate that there were certain customs concerning married students. "I image not giving me detention would be blurring the lines just as much. And somehow I doubt Snape will either. "I'll be lucky if I pass potions at the rate I'm going." Ron told them." He glanced over at Hermione. "But it has happened mostly though the marriages are between two students. If nothing more than to simply avoid just such a headline. But I doubt there's any sort of rulebook anywhere.

"It's just that there are some situations that are out of my control. but the onus of maintaining a professional relationship with you during school hours lies entirely on his shoulders. I realize this situation is new to you." he apologized. I. Everything you do reflects on him. or give you detention must weigh heavily on him.All on the first day of class. it is still legally binding. since he is the figure in authority here. Harry saw his name written in bold letters in two locations. "I'm sorry. No one took more points away from Gryffindor that Professor Snape." Not much . It was probably weirder for him to be married to a sixteen-year-old student than it was for him to be married to a thirtysix-year-old teacher. "It's not the points or the detention I'm overly worried about." Harry nodded. Regardless of the fact that you were both forced into this marriage. Surely she didn't think that was unusual. . And for him to have to be the one to take points from you." he sighed." She motioned toward the magical placard that graced one wall where the house points for Gryffindor were automatically tallied and totaled. McGonagall sighed. hasn't it occurred to you what a difficult position Severus is in at the moment? You're his bond-mate. ma'am. Professor. No doubt you and many others will do the same throughout the school year." she interrupted." "Harry. But that does not mean that you do not have an equal responsibility of helping him maintain both propriety and decorum. "Yes. something I have no doubt he will manage with his usual finesse. He hadn't actually thought of how odd it must be for Snape to have to maintain his relationship as his teacher. "Harry. What concerns me is that both demerits came from Professor Snape. He can not risk being accused of bias or nepotism. "I'm sorry. but it is exceedingly unfair of you to push him in the opposite extreme as well. ." Harry felt himself flush at her words.

"Was that your idea?" he asked curiously. not certain at all what to make of the situation. "I realize that certain other students make some situations awkward. For both your sakes. Seems he was concerned about some nasty rumor he'd overheard. They had years of practice setting him up. and Harry suspected she'd heard about what Draco had said. It was his idea. I spoke with Severus just a few minutes ago. any detention you receive from Professor Snape will be served with me." Harry just blushed. "And in the interest of making certain there is no hint of impropriety. "I'm just suggesting you do your utmost to give Severus no reason at all to question your behavior. "No.he could do if the Slytherins were bound and determined to get him in trouble." Harry nodded in agreement. But McGonagall shook her head." There was a faint twinge of pink in the older woman's cheeks." McGonagall agreed tersely. He wondered how the story had gotten around so quickly." "Yes. . and Snape knew it. Ma'am.

After dinner. He supposed he'd find out that night." Salazar replied back in Parseltongue. . bidding him a kindly goodnight. also speaking in Parseltongue. he didn't know. "There's nothing wrong with being a Gryffindor. he reported to McGonagall's office to serve out his detention. "Severus' new bondmate. He'd survived sixteen years without anyone ever feeling sorry for him . Harry blushed at that. nodding in a surprisingly polite manner. To his surprise. Following the path he'd learned the night before. and Harry couldn't help wondering if he was angry with him over the events of the day. or something deeper and related to the information she'd learned about the Dursleys. But whether it was because of the detention he'd gotten due to Malfoy's callousness. When half way through detention McGonagall offered Harry a tray of sweet pastries he began to grow suspicious that the woman might in fact feel sorry for him. He wasn't certain he liked it.he didn't need it now. and smiled in pleasure.but she did usually assign students some unpleasant task to perform. Granted McGonagall's detentions were never as horrible as Snape's or Filch's ." the snake said to Salazar in Parseltongue. "Pity he's a Gryffindor. Both figures smiled at him." Harry informed them both. he soon found himself standing in front of the portrait of Salazar Slytherin and the large green snake.CHAPTER FIVE Snape was not at dinner. Harry made his way down the long staircases toward the dungeons. Both snake and man were startled by this. She dismissed him after the hour. the woman simple suggested he spend the time doing any homework he had been assigned. since there was no way he could avoid seeing him any more. And rather than make his way into the Gryffindor common room like he desperately wanted to.

"Professor?" he asked quietly. "I'm sorry about what happened today. Despite the fact that neither the point loss nor the detention had been his fault. Harry supposed he was expected to apologize."Most interesting!" Salazar remarked." he offered quietly. and the portrait swung open. or that you would only agree to such a terrible fate to get your hands on my money? Or perhaps you are apologizing for the endless stream of questions and speculations we were both subjected to throughout the entire day? Or the looks of loathing and contempt coming from the Gryffindors. Stepping inside. exactly?" Snape asked in a low." he admitted sheepishly. "Actually. are you apologizing for. something that made Harry decidedly nervous. Not at all certain what sort of reception to expect. and his expression never changed. May you have a long life together!" Harry just blushed again. "The fact that the entire Wizarding World seems to think I have some how manipulated their hero into marrying me for the sake of my own good name. "And what. . He didn't look up from the fire. not reading or drinking. quiet voice. but staring moodily into the flames. pray tell. Harry took a couple of hesitant steps toward him. Snape did not answer him. "Eldorado. or the foul sexual innuendoes coming from the Slytherins? Or perhaps you wish to apologize for the Howler I received in the staff room from Sirius Black who threatened to do things to me I shan't repeat if I so much as looked at you inappropriately?" Okay." he informed them both. Snape had definitely had a worse day than he had. I was just going to apologize for the point loss and the detention. "A better match than I had guessed. he saw Snape sitting by the fire. letting Harry into the Potions Master's chambers.

With his eyes closed. Harry could see the struggle the man endured to control the pain he must be experiencing. He hadn't bothered to wonder what might happen to Snape now that he no longer intended to answer the summons.Some emotion flickered across Snape's features and the man shot him an unreadable look. "Actually. he noticed that Snape looked exhausted. Just how long could Voldemort torture him with it –." he agreed dryly." For a moment. Mr. "Nothing. isn't it?" Harry stated. Potter. he almost thought Snape was going to laugh. His hand had tightened knuckle-white around his forearm as if trying to squeeze away the mark hidden beneath his robes. making a decision and kneeling down in front of the man. "How long has this been going on?" Harry asked. "What's wrong?" he demanded. then shrugged.and how bad would the pain get? "Not your concern. stepping forward. "As awkward as that situation was. But now that Harry had seen the wince." Snape reminded him. He knew the Dark Mark grew progressively more painful the longer a summons was ignored. lips still pinched in pain." Snape bit out between gritted teeth. "Oh. clutching at his left forearm and muttering some curse under his breath. his skin paler than normal. Snape . Harry smiled." Unable to help himself. it is my concern. He winced suddenly." he said simply. "Which would probably explain my need to apologize for them." Snape informed him. "I'm sure. Harry frowned. "It's Voldemort. eyes closed. "He's summoned you!" "Hardly matters now. taking points away from Gryffindor and seeing Malfoy with a split lip were the only moments of pleasure I had all day." Harry informed him. Potter.

" Harry told him. eyes glaring. "Instead I'd probably be playing the good little Death Eater and suffering the Cruciatus because Voldemort was bored and couldn't find any Muggles to torture. "I've seen what he does. Unable to control himself. The mark was black as night. Despite his rage." he told the little elf. anger boiling inside him. Harry Potter. "What are you doing?" Snape demanded. "I hate you!" "Good!" Snape shouted back. "What in hell did you do that for?" Snape asked bitterly. Potter!" "If it wasn't for me this wouldn't be happening!" Harry shouted back at him. . Snape snatched his arm away from him.didn't see what he was doing until Harry touched his arm. and then bit back a strangled moan of pain as he clamped his hand over the dark mark once again. remember? Now just answer the damn question! How long has this been going on?" "Don't take that tone with me!" Snape roared at him." "If you're trying to shock me. pushing the sleeve of his robe up to reveal the dark mark. the sight of Snape in pain twisted something inside Harry. and the skin around it was fiery red and swollen. "Tell him he needs to come here immediately." "Yes. I is going immediately!" Dobby assured him. he summoned Dobby to the room. "It's not your fault. "Dobby. "You're right!" Snape snarled. save your breath!" Harry told him. get the Headmaster. and he couldn't bear to watch. Harry reared back and kicked the leg of Snape's chair. Drawing his wand in desperation. please. "This is my fault. vanishing an instant later.

. Instead he simply stood back and waited. "Severus." Snape went without protesting." Recognizing a dismissal when he heard one. watching as Snape squeezed his eyes shut in pain. he went to pick it up. reaching out to help the man stand. Dumbledore took one look at the situation and understood immediately. You should probably try to get some sleep. Harry felt raw inside. looking at things. A moment later he saw the flames of the fire change color as floo powder was mixed with them. how long has this been going on?" the old man asked. his fingernails digging into the flesh of his arm as he tried to stop the agony flaring from the mark." Dumbledore ordered. his mind elsewhere. Harry just pointed soundlessly toward Snape. "I have an idea that might help. his voice firm and demanding. A moment later he was alone in Snape's chambers. Harry wandered around the rooms." Snape admitted without hesitation. They felt strangely empty without the other man's presence. Harry stood back and watched them leave the room.Harry didn't answer. the whole situation seeming unreal. He wondered if it had come the same time Snape's howler had. "Come with me. "Stay here. "Harry. "We'll be back before too long. Not certain what to do with himself. Wandering into the bedroom. Harry. recognizing Sirius' handwriting on the envelope. "A few hours. what's wrong?" the old man asked worriedly. Dumbledore stepped out of the fireplace. Curious as to why it hadn't been delivered to him in the Great Hall. and Harry followed them to the door. he noticed a letter waiting for him on his nightstand." he ordered. Dumbledore just smiled gently at him.

Opening it eagerly. Of that I have no doubt. Love. Dear Harry. You have no obligations or loyalties to him no matter what anyone tells you! I'll be coming to visit as soon as I can. and Fudge would get you killed in a matter of days. take care of yourself. and if you need anything send for me or Mooney. Had I not believed you were at least safe with the Dursleys. I am so sorry this has happened. Until then. .rather than the fiction the papers printed this morning. he read the note his godfather had sent him. Padfoot The letter. I can't begin to express my remorse that I can not be there for you. I understand the necessity of the marriage . Dumbledore has informed me of the events of last night . I would have taken you with me that first summer regardless of the legal risks. you cannot risk leaving Hogwarts. actually succeeded in making him feel somewhat better.Dumbledore was right. If I had. Then he set it aside to deliver in the morning. At the very least I would have sent you to live with Remus. but I had no idea it had been so bad. or that I could not prevent the things the Dursleys did to you. I knew they treated you poorly. despite everything. Figuring he'd better send an answer back to Sirius as soon as possible he sat down at the desk in the library and composed a short note to Sirius. assuring him that he was fine and that he shouldn't worry too much about him. or one of Ron's brothers for that matter? Or what about that girl you liked? Cho something? Rest assured that if Snape does anything to upset or hurt you I will see that he's punished! Do not let that bastard push you around or upset you in any manner. But I cannot believe that the most suitable candidate they could find for you was SNAPE? Why not Hermione or Ron. I would never have left you there.

Harry's eyes were drawn to his forearm. As he moved around the room extinguishing some of the candles. turning his back to Snape.After showering." Harry replied. Harry climbed into bed. going straight into the bathroom to change. ." he informed him as he climbed in beside Harry. pinned to the bed. though this time he had his nightshirt already on over them. "Are you all right?" Harry asked quietly as Snape approached the bed. "Albus found a way of blocking the pain. Harry nodded in acknowledgement and rolled away." "And you think it is your responsibility to kill him?" Snape asked. A strong hand suddenly closed around his shoulder and pulled him around. To his surprise the man spoke again. setting his glasses and wand down on the nightstand he supposed had somehow become 'his'. It was nearly an hour later before Snape returned. For a moment Harry was tempted to tell the man he was not accustomed to chatting while in bed. pushing him flat onto his back. "Why did you say it was your fault?" he sounded more curious than angry. He imagined it had been great. Instead he simply opted for the truth. "If I had killed Voldemort. Snape nodded tightly. covering the Dark Mark. he couldn't hurt anyone else. He emerged a while later. dressed as he had been last night in a pair of pajama bottoms. In the darkness he could see little more than a shadow looming over him. Several coils of what looked to be silver wire were wound around his forearm. staring at the shadows lingering around the bed curtains. He couldn't help wondering what precisely Sirius' howler to Snape must have said. "One of us has to die. and he found himself lying awake in bed dreaming up the words Sirius must have used.

and in the mean time everyone else suffers for it!" Not to mention the suffering that would follow if Voldemort was the one who got lucky first. evil monster who has been doing terrible things long before you were ever born. Murder is taking a knife in your own hand and plunging it into someone's living heart. I'm a mass murderer! And if I had it to do all over again I'd kill Wormtail and spare myself the sheer numbers!" "Those were causalities of war." Snape told him.but he could feel the heat of Snape's angry glare. I'm not a killer. His pulse inexplicably raced." "You're not a killer. And before him it was the Wizard Grindelwald. Take responsibility for your own actions." . And even if you had killed Pettigrew. "Thanks to that one stupid action Sirius is still on the run. And forty-seven Death Eaters died when I took the Eye of Odin from Voldemort. "And you were in no way responsible for any of them. Cedric Diggory was murdered. a basic fact of life he'd come to accept." Harry said bitterly. but don't take the blame for Voldemort's!" "My own actions consisted of letting Peter Pettigrew live when I should have killed him. "Either way one of us dies. "What in hell is that supposed to mean?" "It means either I kill him or he'll kill me!" Harry told him. I have no doubt Voldemort would have found someone else to bring him back. and Voldemort was raised from the dead. "And no one expects you to be!" Harry stared at him in disbelief. "Sixty-three Aurors died defending me last year." Snape's voice was harsh with emotion. "People suffer because Voldemort is a sick. You're right. There is a difference! A huge difference! And one I hope you will never know. thought which ones Harry couldn't guess. Snape's hand felt hot against his shoulder. and Dumbledore was no more responsible for his crimes than you are for Voldemort's.

And after the events of the evening and the conversation they had both fallen asleep to. Snape reached for his end table. calling his name softly. Once again the boy flinched away from him. Harry stared at him in alarm. scrambling to find another vial of Dreamless Sleep Draught. Harry downed the contents without question. Snape woke several hours later. He never had before. but thankfully awake. Finding the bottle. Turning. he should have known there would be nightmares forthcoming. and held the glass to the boy's lips. He shook off Snape's hand. Snape reached for Harry. pried the stopper of the vial off with his teeth. startled awake by the strangled cry of fear beside him." Harry said bitterly. Sweating and dishelved. so violently this time that he threw himself out of bed and slid off the side. breath coming in desperate gasps. ."Then maybe there are just somethings that are enviable. He couldn't believe he'd forgotten it." Snape didn't reply and Harry squeezed his eyes shut. Cursing under his breath. shaking him awake. "If that's the case I guess we all better hope that it's inevitable that I learn how to kill sooner rather than later. "Drink!" he commanded. his sleeping face twisted in agony as he fought with an invisible attacker. he saw Harry thrashing again on the bed. and rolled away from him again. fighting back the tears he felt stinging them. He wouldn't cry. not after promising the boy last night that he would have as much as he needed. landing on the cold floor with a muffled oomph. which still rested on his shoulder. Not thinking. Once the vial was empty the boy flushed and looked down in either embarrassment or shame. and he wasn't going to start now. Snape just caught hold of his shoulders. making no move to escape his embrace. Severus scrambled quickly out of bed himself and made his way around to the boy's side.

but Harry's went far deeper. "Actually it is my concern. "The dead." And then he was out like a light. Noticing that the boy had begun shivering." he answered. he realized. It really hadn't occurred to ." Snape explained. Taken aback. Harry?" he asked softly. his eyes narrowing. the potion taking affect." he said mildly. The boy looked up at him in surprise. "What did you dream about. knowing he was half asleep already. shaking his head. wondering if Harry had said those exact words on purpose. determined to turn the ruse around. "Can't sleep with you thrashing about like that. pointedly steering the conversation away from any thought of blame or responsibility. Snape was momentarily at a loss for words. he thought to himself. he concluded that he probably had. His own might be older and more numerous. repeating back the very words Snape had said to him that evening when the mark on his arm had been burning. Guessing he was feeling vulnerable and thus defensive. The light from the lone candle Snape had left burning flickered off the silver bands of the wire wrapped around his arm as Severus reached out to touch the scar on Harry's forehead. almost saying it out loud and awarding house points. before the potion knocks you out. "I had meant to give that to you before you fell asleep. Harry snorted in disgusted amusement."I'm sorry. "Is this where I tell you again that I hate you?" "If it makes you feel better." Snape agreed." Harry didn't protest as Severus helped him back into the bed. he noticed the boy's eyes drifting shut. Clever Gryffindor." "Not your concern." he told the boy. he pulled him to his feet. As Severus climbed in beside him. safe in a dreamless slumber. "It's always the dead." Harry informed him tightly. "Back in bed. They both bore their share of scars.

him how much they might actually have in common. Sighing he settled down beside his bond-mate and watched him sleep.he almost wanted to hold Harry in his arms and keep them both safe from the evils of the world. . But the conversation he'd had with Harry before falling asleep had been alarmingly similar to conversations he'd had himself with Albus Dumbledore. Pity they disliked each other so much . Maybe the old man had had a point when he'd pushed them together. eventually drifting off himself without ever noticing that he still had one hand on the boy's warm shoulder.

" the boy said simply as he took a sip of his own coffee. They couldn't all be howlers from Black! He moved toward one of the owls." Severus pointed out to him. Harry had picked up a handful of the other letters and was looking at the envelopes. somewhat baffled by his behavior. "What's this all about?" "Wedding gifts. baffled himself by the sudden influx of letters. all laden down with heavy envelopes and packages. Instead he headed toward his office. if I'm not mistaken. "Potter-Snape?" Harry demanded. "I do have tea if you'd prefer. He was stopped by the sudden flurry of wings through one of the owl entry holes. tearing open one of the envelopes and reading the card inside." Severus had to bite back the impulse to deduct house points for the comment. Severus shook his head. taking another sip. Harry stood in surprise as several more owls followed the first few. To his surprise it was addressed to Severus and Harry Potter-Snape. and then shrugged. "Expecting a delivery?" he asked. picking up the letter the bird dropped at his feet. and Severus looked up quickly." Severus informed him. Severus thanked him. He sounded both disgusted and outraged. "This stuff taste like crap. frowned. intent on getting some work done before the day started. He watched as the boy made a face at the taste." Harry agreed. Looking up he spied several owls flying into the room. He didn't recognize the seal on the back. "Tomorrow. "You're welcome.CHAPTER SIX To Severus surprise Harry fixed him a cup of coffee in the morning as he had yesterday. this time making himself a cup of his own as he sat down to look over a letter he was preparing to mail off. more following them. "Apparently a .

Sometimes Gryffindors made no sense at all. . don't you?" he demanded. bloody hell! Don't touch any of them!" Conjuring a box he began levitating the letters into it. and the signature that followed it. Freezing he turned it over. "Oh. no doubt some of them were from the families of Death Eaters. "Suppose any of them are hexed?" he asked. He was tossing several more letters into the box when he noticed the handwriting on one was strangely familiar." "Snape Manor?" Harry asked curiously. forcing equal amounts of bitterness.Mr." Harry looked at the growing pile of letters and packages. staring at the seal on the back . he nearly dropped it. "So there really is a Snape Manor? What color is it?" Severus glared at him. His eyes lingered on the invitation noted at the bottom of the letter. "No doubt every Wizarding family in the world will send the Boy Who Lived a wedding gift and we're going to have to reply to all of them. summoning a couple of house elves in the process and telling them to reroute all their mail to the Ministry where it could be properly sorted and scanned. Hardcastle wish us long life and happiness and have sent a fourteenth century silver tea service to Snape Manor to commemorate the joyous occasion. and Mrs.a red rose with a serpent twined around it. Momentarily stunned. Severus' eyes widened in alarm. "What's that?" Harry's voice broke through his composure. He was pleased to note that his hands were steady as he broke the seal and opened the envelope. "You realize of course we're going to have to send thank you cards to all these idiots. He read the short note inside with a firm grip on his emotions. anger and pain from rearing their ugly heads.

" "Why not?" . his green eyes wary but no longer quite as angry. No doubt his Muggle family took every little slight and family squabble out on him." he broke off uncertain how to answer that question. sitting across from in one of the armchairs. Surprised by his statement. he moved toward the couch and sat down. . "What do your brothers have to do with me?" Harry asked. "Wait. He looked up to see Harry's face go white with anger." Severus explained." he sighed. "I haven't spoke to either of my brothers in nearly eighteen years. ."Not your concern!" he snarled. He still said nothing however. seeing years of hurt there. but did not turn. "That was untrue. "They want to meet you. Harry stopped. He realized a moment later that not only was he repeating back the very words Harry had mocked him with last night. "It's a letter from my brothers. and then because he knew this was not going to be an easy conversation. Harry joined him a moment later. So much for controlling his emotions." Much as he hated to admit it. Harry turned." he assured him. But rather than saying anything Harry just pushed past him and strode toward the door. This does concern you. "I'm not angry at you. Severus smiled bitterly. Severus looked into his eyes. No way of avoiding it forever." "And something about that makes you angry with me?" Harry demanded. and then instantly regretted the response. Want to meet the young man who has single handily returned our family name to good standing. there were certain personal facts that he was going to have to share with Harry Potter. "I'm angry at. but that this time they were also utterly untrue.

" "But they must have believed you after the trial!" Harry protested." Severus shook his head. and Severus threw Harry a twisted smile." Severus informed him. "Like my brothers. Seems they both fancied the same mistress and dueled over her. too clever by half."Because my brothers have never forgiven either me or my father for tarnishing the family name in the first place. Potter. Since I was unable to reclaim our family honor myself. I couldn't forgive my father either." he told him. I went to Albus Dumbledore and offered to spy for him instead. and every crime he committed was ours to answer for. though there was nothing at all simple about it." "You killed your own father?" "No. pinning Harry with a sharp glare." Severus explained simply." "But your brothers never believed you?" Harry guessed. What in God's name could the boy know about that trial? He'd never said . He was our blood. Mr. Severus nodded. "We never really had a particularly long conversation on the subject. "Your father was a Death Eater?" he asked. Nothing at all in that statement to explain years of pain and betrayal and angry unforgivable words between brothers that could never be taken back. "No. Harry looked startled by the admission." Green eyes widened in shock. "I joined the Death Eaters so that I could get close enough to my father to kill him. "There wasn't much opportunity for me to convince them of my guilt or innocence one way or another. "Thankfully I was spared that little indignity by Lucius Malfoy. My father lost. "And you joined the Death Eaters to be with him?" He had no doubt that the boy had wondered about his history and how he had come to be a spy in the first place. our responsibility. Severus looked up sharply.

"The damage was already done." Harry frowned at that. "May I see the letter?" he asked. and he doubled very much Albus had discussed it with the boy. "Didn't matter. changing the subject. Harry flushed and looked down. feeling strangely vulnerable at the thought that Harry might have witnessed his youthful torture in the hands of the Dementors and the shameful trial that followed. Harry read it." Severus explained. But then why should he expect anything more from James Potter's son? He stiffened. composing his features. would you mind if I wrote the reply?" he asked. "Didn't your brothers believe you then?" Harry asked. not me. determined not to betray even the slightest bit of emotion. ." "That man leaves the damnedest things lying about!" Severus cursed. and if he heard the bitterness in Severus tone. Surely the boy wasn't interested in befriending his family? He fought back the flare of hurt that thought sent through him. And judging by the terseness of the letter. wondering why he even cared. That's how I knew you were spying for him in the first place.anything. his expression did not betray the fact. "Since the invitation is really meant for me instead of you. The hand of friendship they are extending is to you. Severus' heart lurched. "Do as you like. I saw some of the trial." he informed him coldly. But they're not willing to pass up this opportunity. I doubt they believe me even now. "I looked into Dumbledore's pensieve a few years ago. Severus handed it over to the young man. Shrugging. his face thoughtful.

Stories of Severus' threat to Draco Malfoy had apparently made the rounds and the rest of the students were careful to keep their comments to themselves after that. Surprisingly the two of them managed to get through the next two weeks without killing each other. letter still in his hand. Harry spent his free time with his friends. And while they didn't precisely get along. minus the duties he'd once had as a Death Eater spy. As he made his way toward the door.but then they both supposed it would look odd if things changed too much. I'm sure I'll find some appropriately flowery way of phrasing it. though Harry did make an effort not to give Severus reason to reprimand him in class. Severus had to . the door closed behind Harry long before any other students had the opportunity to witness their dour Potions Master roaring in laughter. "What precisely are you going to say to them?" Harry paused at the door." As luck would have it. smiling as he rose to his feet. "If I may ask. Classes went on as usual. but the gist of it will be that they should all go screw themselves.though he did enjoy the latter far more than the former. the sting of betrayal was just too sharp not to be twisted a bit. At night Harry took the potions of Dreamless Sleep Draught that Severus brewed for him in his lab. Severus found he couldn't simply let it go at that. As it was Severus was just as likely these days to take points from Slytherin as he was from Gryffindor . "Oh." he said tersely. Harry tended to avoid Severus' company as much as possible.Harry nodded in satisfaction. and Severus kept the silver warding bands around his own Dark Mark. Didn't always work however . and Severus went on with life in much his usual manner. but some nights he sat in the living room with him and did his homework while Severus read or prepped for his own classes the next day.

something that seemed to shock all four of the students. . addressed to both Severus and Harry. Ron Weasley was about two moves away from checkmating Harry. Hermione and Neville Longbottom in the Great Hall. This time his sister had also added a postscript to the letter. It was a Hogsmeade weekend. Must have been interesting.if you are available. . and included him in the invitation openly this time. Severus frowned. It felt odd to think that Harry Potter might have actually defended him to his family . It was late Saturday morning before he'd made up his mind and he went in search of Harry. purposely using the boy's first name. "I have a personal errand to run in Hogsmeade this morning. I was hoping you would be willing to accompany me .also felt oddly nice. and he had no doubt that the Gryffindors were planning their usual jaunt to Honeydukes that afternoon. "Harry. To his surprise he received a second letter from his brothers the following Friday. They made a point of saying something that might vaguely be construed as an apology toward Severus. as she desperately wanted to see him again." He tried to phrase his words in such a way that the boy understood it . This one. all of them gathered around a Wizarding chess set. But he pushed it all aside as he considered the issue. He hoped he could catch Harry before he left. a fact that worried Severus. of course.admit it wasn't entirely unpleasant to have company. He found him sitting with Ron. All four of them looked up in surprise when Severus approached. and he regretted now that he hadn't asked to see it. At least he'd gotten past his desire to strangle the boy every few minutes. Neville turning a pale sickly color." he greeted. wondering what Harry had said to them in his reply. begging Severus to accept the invitation. was far more politely written.

He saw Ron's look of outrage. "I received another invitation to dinner from my family. He knew his company was not that enjoyable. and Harry followed Severus out of the Hall. "I'll meet you guys at Honeydukes this afternoon. Severus got a carriage in the castle courtyard and they took it down the winding road toward Hogsmeade. stared curiously at him. "So what is this errand all about?" Severus frowned. Harry.was a request and not an order. sitting opposite Severus in the cab. his expression unreadable." "Alright. "It won't take more than an hour or two.despite the fact that her husband insisted she break off all ties with me. poor Harry! It's like having detention all the time!" He snarled to himself at the thought. I would like to see my sister again. As they walked away. making a note to find someway of giving that little fool detention. and hastened to add. And while I couldn't care less about my brothers. "Oh." . This was the first time he'd attempted to infringe upon Harry's free time. He could only imagine what Harry and his friends must say about him behind his back. but he'd been as pleasant as possible to Potter in the evenings they were forced to spend together. You will have ample time for any other outing afterwards. She has at least made an attempt over the years to speak with me . not at all certain how to go about explaining any of this. Now of course he's changed his mind." They just nodded in agreement." Harry agreed. He nodded to his friends. but it certainly wasn't like having detention! He went out of his way to make detention as miserable as possible. You are of course under no obligation to accompany me. Glancing at Harry he thought he detected the slightest smirk and almost abandoned this idea entirely. and she has requested that I at least attempt to reconcile with my brothers. Severus heard Neville moaning to Ron and Hermione. but I was hoping you would agree to it.

two pairs of torn jeans. He'd glanced inside Harry's wardrobe earlier that week and noticed that aside for the school uniforms." "And what about during the summer?" Severus asked. Severus acknowledged the jest with a mocking smile. He had not taken that into consideration. "It's not as if I can't buy my own clothes!" he protested. Most of the students chose to dress out of uniform during the weekend.was somewhat tolerable the jeans were not. Severus frowned at that. But that still doesn't explain what sort of errand we are running this morning." Ah. Aside from being torn in several places." Severus pointed out. "You certainly do not wear the Hogwarts uniform during your summers in Muggle Surrey?" "Considering I spend the summer locked up in a small room." Harry told him pointedly. Nor did he like these reminders of the boy's home life. Harry flushed at the criticism. Sickened him . the rest of his possessions seemed to include a couple of ancient t-shirts. I wear a uniform most of the time. now to really insult the boy. and while the jumper Harry was wearing made he believed by Mrs. Harry frowned. and a plaid shirt he believed the boy had been wearing since first year." the boy actually had the cheek to inform him." He glanced pointedly at the jeans the boy was currently wearing. You need some appropriate clothing. "I'll go. Those rags the Dursleys supplied you with are unsuitable. "Would it help if I assured you that we are nothing alike?" "Yes. "It never seemed important. "And yet you have not. actually. they were also several sizes too large for Harry. it's never really mattered what I was wearing. "We're going to Torsond."A whole houseful of Snapes?" Harry asked. Weasley .

and he made a point to speak to Albus about having something done about the Dursleys. Somewhat surprised at the boy's tone of voice. "I will of course be paying for the purchases. Is it because I'm younger? Just because I'm younger I automatically have to be the housewife?" . "Isn't that place kind of expensive?" "With good reason. "Torsond." "Why are you responsible?" Harry demanded. might explain his marks in potions. He'd have a suitable wardrobe made for Harry by the end of the week. "I will still be think of it. giving him the name of one of the finest clothiers in all the Wizarding World. "Why are you the one responsible for me? Why aren't I responsible for your financial support?" Snape stared at him. glancing out the carriage window. They might be expensive. "What's ridiculous about it? It's a legitimate question. Severus glared at him. changing the subject. I am responsible for your financial support." Severus repeated. "Good for you. but they were worth every penny. "So where are we going again?" Harry asked. "Don't be ridiculous!" Harry's eyes flashed." "I have money!" Harry protested. Their behavior was unconscionable and should not go unpunished. his voice darkening with anger. "What?" Harry's brow furrowed in exasperation. Only the finest materials were used. Certainly the boy had gone daft." Severus informed him. Harry seemed to think about that for a moment." Severus frowned.

That makes our financial support my responsibility. And until he can financially match that dowry with money of his own. He'd have to find a way of personalizing the argument a bit more. she does have a nice dowry. not ready for marriage? Right. "Being a Weasley. And even if you had. "Because he's the man and she's the woman! Which makes him the one in charge. A great deal more money than you." Snape snorted in disgust." But Harry had folded his arms and was glaring at him in stubborn outrage. he certainly seemed to have gotten himself quite worked up over the subject. "This is some sort of Muggle thing. he probably wants to have lots of children! And if he's not the one financially responsible for their . I have more money than you. isn't it?" "Just answer the question!" "It has nothing to do with your age!" Snape glared back at him.Housewife! Not daft. I would still be responsible for your support. "Just figured he wasn't ready yet." Far from appeasing the boy it just seemed to bring his anger back full force. You haven't even taken your NEWTS yet. he won't marry her. "It's because I'm financially set and you are not. But what ever it was. Apparently he was associating their financial inequalities with some sort of gender identification. even if you were fifty years my senior." Ah. you ridiculous boy!" he corrected. Severus thought he saw the problem now. "Because he wants to have children. "Haven't you ever wondered why Percy Weasley has not yet married the lovely Penelope Clearwater?" The non-sequitor seemed to catch Harry off guard. the boy was crazy. It occurred to Severus that perhaps this was some sort of weird Muggle pride thing. "A Weasley. if our financial situation were still the same as it is now. He hasn't married her because while she is not rich.

." Perplexed Harry tugged at a lock of his hair. "I do apply myself. therefore I'm responsible for our finances. but mostly they are set aside as her children's inheritance. "Neville said that last week they learned how to use a toaster!" Not at all certain what that had to do with the topic of conversation. If a male and female bond-couple want to have children. is a toaster?" . In our case. then the male must make certain he is the one considered the most financially stable. unknowingly covering up his scar more completely. And Muggle Studies is useless!" Harry shot back hotly. Do you understand now or should I explain it using smaller words?" Harry glared at him. I have more money than "Regardless of what ever gender roles are played in Muggle society. I get it." "What do children have to do with it?" Severus sighed. since children are not an issue. Someone could have explained this earlier. "I still don't see why that means you. . the partner in a bondmarriage who is the most financially stable is responsible for the financial support of the family. it is a simply a matter of mathematics. "Regardless of gender. what pray tell. They are kept for her private use. No self-respecting wizard would ever touch his children's inheritance. they can't have children and expect to maintain any sort of social standing in Wizarding society." Severus suggested mockingly. Severus gave Harry a withering glare. "Fine. "And. in Wizarding society a mother's finances are never used to supplement the family's income. you know?" "Perhaps if you applied yourself more or took a Muggle Studies class." Severus cut him off.

"How do you know? Do you have any idea how much money a Professional Quidditch player makes? I'm thinking of going pro." The carriage jolted to a stop as they reached their destination and the boy leaped out." Severus nearly groaned out loud at the thought. you stick it in a slot and you push a lever. "Just think." Severus stared at he was teasing him in such a manner that indicated he was actually hoping to rile him up." That challenging gleam returned to those green eyes. "Well. "You take a piece of bread. "If I make more money than you. "I might have known you'd go into something as frivolous as that!" Harry grinned cheekily at him. does that make me in charge then?" Severus snorted at the thought. Two weeks ago he would have laid good money that Harry Potter was terrified of him . I wouldn't know. Didn't sound like Muggle studies was particularly useful. aren't you?" Harry thought about that a moment and then just grinned. I did learn from the best." he explained. "I doubt very much you'll ever make more money than I do. "What happens when I pass my NEWTS and get a job?" Harry asked suddenly. "You could try studying potions. Any five-year-old Muggle knows how to use a toaster. you'll be the only Potions Master married to a professional Quidditch player." "Having never been a five-year-old Muggle. but then he supposed that was the point Harry was trying to make in his round about way." Severus informed him coolly. "You're determined to torment me.Harry's lips twisted in a mocking smile. the bread comes out cooked. "Had to get something out of all those potions classes. The boy was actually teasing him. Apparently the boy didn't understand just how wealthy a family he'd married into." Severus muttered . make him angry.

robes. measuring tape in hand as a magical scroll automatically marked down the measurements he called out. letting Harry make the majority of the decision.the boy might like the Gryffindor colors. "I'm kidding!" he told them both. "I guess. Marius began showing Harry bolt after bolt of material . "Preferably something that's in my actual size.velvets. riding . though he did inform Marius that he wanted an entire wardrobe . come for some new clothes have you young man?" Harry glanced down at his jeans. and brocades . The proprietor of Torsand came out to meet them as they entered the shop. Marius grinned warmly at Harry. Severus found himself smiling in amusement . I'm actually partial to the colors orange and purple. Severus resisted the impulse to roll his eyes. a Gryffindor. but the Slytherin green suited him better." he sighed." "Ah.draping some of the cloth across Harry shoulders to see how they matched his own coloring. Severus sat down to one side and watched in silence. But of course that was probably asking too much. tunics. silks. cloaks. Considering how many times he found himself doused in exploding potions." Severus greeted the man with a polite nod. his retreating form. he saw no point in ruining anything of quality. "Marius." Marius said relieved. Once the measurements were taken. He said very little himself. "Red and gold actually. He bought most of his own clothes here . Everyone in the Wizarding World knew Harry Potter. "And this must be Harry!" he exclaimed in delight.all save the robes and tunics he wore during school hours. Brought out his eyes. "Ah. greeting Severus by name. "Of course!" In a matter of moments Marius had Harry on a stand. boots." Both Severus and Marius stared at him in horror.

He waved to them. his purse was a great deal lighter." Severus agreed. "Just out of curiosity. . He'd taken points away from . The boy would look lovely. and then raced off to join his friends. The more he listed. Picturing what Harry might look like in riding breeches was going a bit too far into that realm of lustful thoughts he'd promise himself he'd avoid at all cost.Harry's class which had gone abysmally poorly. "I'm going to look ridiculous. "Why are you obsessed with its color?" But Harry just grinned impishly. . Severus rode back to the castle alone. The following Monday afternoon Severus found himself wandering restlessly around his classroom after his final class ." he shrugged.who's the heir?" "I am. "So Snape Manor is. the more he thought of .breeches. but he'd be damned if he ever informed him of that." he asked. "No reason.stopping himself when he realized he was actually starting to enjoy himself a bit too much. "All this money your family has. ?" "Mine." Severus lied with a smirk. "Probably. When they left.something that had continued to gall his brothers for years." Severus informed him . "But at least it will all fit properly." Harry spotted his friends waiting for him down the street in front of Honeydukes. Far too lovely for someone like him to be keeping company with. Harry's eyes widened as he rattled off the list of items. The smile that lit the boy's face was not one of happiness but of mischief. . "What color was it again?" Severus' eyes narrowed." Harry complained. and Harry was a great deal more baffled by his behavior than before. . then paused before heading off to join them.

He'd joined his fellow Slytherins in their private fencing salles.he suspected the feeling was mutual. and had only learned what he needed to learn to appease his father. He'd never care for it much as a child. being a skinny. Later he ate in the Great Hall. but just barely.and she happily spent an hour dueling with him. then retired to his own chambers where he sat in front of the fire trying to read a book. and had given his own share right back . "Fine. the exercise had only increased it. . But several years of torment from James Potter. he retired instead to one of the castle salles where he found Madam Hooch working with rapiers. eventually learning to enjoy the violence of the sport. an odd expression on his face.but while his peers like Lucius Malfoy reveled in the blood. gangly boy. His answer wasn't entirely accurate of course . "How was your day?" He couldn't believe he'd asked the question. Far from having cured his restlessness.Severus knew he was angry about the more than thirty house points he'd lost. All the children of wealthy. She was actually one of the best swordsmen he'd met in a long time . Nor apparently could Harry for he looked up in surprise. Ron and Dean after the three of them had nearly succeeded in blowing up the classroom with their fire oil potion. Days like these just reminded him of why he disliked the boy so much . for him it was now more a discipline and a means to work out frustrations. something he hadn't indulged in a while. "How was yours?" That last was civilly spoken." he replied. He had his share of scars from bloody duels. Too restless to stay still. Sirius Black and the other Gryffindors had eventually awakened Severus' more vicious nature.Harry. and he found himself watching Harry doing his homework at the small table in the corner. pureblood Wizarding families were taught various forms of fencing as children.

"I do pay attention. and wondering why he cared if he did. And then you tell me I did everything wrong!" "I told you to add a cup of DICED Ansil Weed. debating mentioning that he had enjoyed the opportunity afforded to him to potentially rob Gryffindor of the house cup this year. He can't seem to explain anything in a way that makes sense. I add a salamander tongue. not all my classes." Harry said again." Harry insisted." "Exactly what he tells you!" Severus leaped to his feet." he bit out." he added. Just making polite conversation. the things he told you would make more sense. But he hadn't expected such an open insult. and a SLIVERED salamander tongue!" Severus roared back at him. "Maybe if you paid more attention. "Oh?" Curious in spite himself. He'd of course initiated it. incensed by the blatant lie." Severus answered." Harry continued. "Well. "I don't get along with the teacher."Fine. "I hate my potions class." Severus' eyes narrowed as he found himself caught somewhat off guard by the tact Harry was taking. "How are your classes going?" He told himself that he really wasn't interested. "You tell me to add a cup of Ansil Weed. . I do exactly what he tells me to do and my potions still blow up in my face. asking about the classes after all. or grind any of your ingredients properly and you fling them together as if you're making a stew instead of a magical potion!" Harry leaped to his feet as well. You don't mash. I add a cup. ground. and then a strange light entered his eyes. "Fine. "Yes. "You chop instead of slice. You tell me to add a salamander tongue." he explained blithely. dice or sliver. "It just doesn't seem to do any good! He doesn't give good directions. Severus leaned forward wondering if Harry was going to share something about his other classes.

slicing others. When he turned back around Harry was standing beside his worktable." he ordered again. . He began cutting through the roots with quick deft strokes of the knife. "Come here. pushing open the door. Looking somewhat put out. "They all turned to mush in the cauldron anyway. What in hell does it matter if they're diced. He stood in silence. removing a jar containing Wizarding sugar root. "It's sugar root. Harry took the root from his hand and bit off a small portion. his face still fixed in a stubborn but expectant frown. . Then he handed one of the untouched roots to Harry. Shocked Severus stepped back in amazement." he ordered. damn! Making a quick decision he turned and walked swiftly toward the door to his private lab." he told ordered. . Instead he began rummaging through his stores on the shelves around the room. "Tastes sweet. "Taste. dicing some." Severus handed one of the sliced pieces of root. Any five-yearold wizard knows that!" "I was never a five-year-old wizard!" Harry shouted back.Harry's eyes widened in disbelieving outrage. sliced or mashed!" "You stupid boy! It matters!" Severus yelled at him in fury." he shrugged. "The preparation changes the properties of the ingredients. He didn't bother to see if the young man was following him. Well. once again turning Severus words from several days ago right back on him. The boy was too clever by half. and picked up a sharp knife. chopping a third pile and final dropping some into a mortar and pestle and grinding a fourth bit. and now that he stopped and thought about it he had a point to boot. blinking at the angry young man in disbelief. Severus set down several of the sugar roots. "Taste. waiting patiently.

Severus held out the bowl with ground root inside it. "It's salty!" he exclaimed.not as sweet. He frowned at the taste. "It's." "Fussy!" Severus glared at him. "No. All the magical ingredients you use in potions are affected by the way in which they are prepared." Harry looked completely flummoxed. . "You never mentioned any of this." Severus informed him. "It's too sweet now!" "Sugar root is one of the more extreme examples of magical ingredients. He was beginning to think his assessment has been accurate. "And I don't take Muggle Studies . Harry tasted it without being asked this time.Sighing. Not even during my first year. If a potion asks for diced Ansil Weed and you chop them you might as well have just added a completely unrelated ingredient for all the good it will do." "Don't they teach you these things in Muggle Studies?" Severus had never actually taken Muggle Studies himself. "I thought you were just being fussy. something every Wizarding child learns in their mother's kitchen growing up." Harry told him. "Tart!" Harry sounded completely baffled. his eyes widening slightly." Satisfied. Severus handed him a piece of diced root. Next he handed over the chopped root. "How was I supposed to know?" Harry insisted. watching as Harry dipped a finger in and brought it to his mouth. ." he stammered. He found himself a bit preoccupied with the pink tongue that licked the digit clean and almost didn't hear Harry exclaimed. "No one ever told me. "The differences in preparation are extraordinarily noticeable. According to Neville they are currently discussing the .it's pointless. having believed it to be a waste of time. Harry took a bite of that.

I should have figured out what the problem was. "You don't suppose that's what Longbottom's problem was?" "No." ." A thought occurred to him. No matter how angry I've made you. Severus raised an eyebrow in curiosity. He's just terrified of you. It seemed however it focused on the ridiculous minutia of the Muggle World alone. "And you're not?" Harry looked up at him." Severus almost laughed at the explanation. Muggle Studies was supposed to teach Wizarding children about the Muggle world. his gaze open and thoughtful." Harry agreed." Severus mused." Harry smiled. "If I was really trying. looking down at the collection of sugar root." "Then apparently we need two different versions of Muggle studies. you'd know. "Have you been trying to make me angry?" "No. Sirius has been mailing me lists of suggestions that he's certain will send you into a rage." he admitted grudgingly." he admitted. Severus sighed. "It was my mistake not yours. "For what?" "For screwing up in potions. "I'm sorry. "I'm the teacher. "Apparently." Suddenly suspicions Severus glowered at him. "He's wizard-born.relative merits of analog verses digital watches. Something no Muggle-born cares about. and Muggle-born children about the Wizarding World. "I've been living here three weeks now and you haven't even come close to killing me." Harry shook his head. "No." he explained." Surprised by the apology.

Remus Lupin too. He hated to admit it. He actually wouldn't put it past Sirius Black to do just such a thing. but he as actually starting to like the boy. After a moment Severus just gave up and laughed softly."Potter!" Severus sputtered in shock. "I'm going to bed." he announced and left him there still struggling to find words. Harry just grinned somewhat cheekily at him. . not at all certain how to take that comment.

"It says right there in plain English. "Did you know that there is an actual difference between dicing and chopping ingredients in the outcome of the potions. it was couched in vague references that a Muggle-born probably would not recognize." Harry informed her. "Harry's reading a potions book!" Harry flushed under the looks his friends were giving him. And while I've been assured that this is something most wizard-born children learn by the age of five. God. "It isn't that bad.something set aside for first years since it was no more than basics. Sure enough there was a whole section in there that spoke of the necessity of chopping verses dicing ." "It says right there in very vague English." Hermione nodded. what about it?" "I didn't know." He turned the book around and shoved it across the table toward Hermione. Harry looked up in surprise as his fellow Gryffindors joined him. "Professor Snape told me." Harry told her pointedly." he explained.CHAPTER SEVEN Harry sat at the Gryffindor table the following morning with a beginning potions book propped open before him. it isn't something a Muggle-born would know. "There is nothing plain about it." she pointed to the book. especially Ron. "Oh. it's finally happened!" Seamus groaned in horror." he told them. "Don't recall it ever being mentioned in class.and while it did mention the change these things had in the properties of the ingredients in question. He'd found it in the library early that morning . "Yes. I'm just trying to make certain I don't flunk potions. . "Oh. How is it you know?" "I read about it of course." "Then how did you figure it out?" Hermione asked. knock it off.

" Though he had to admit that sounded weird too. "It's not like I can avoid talking to the man.he isn't. . "That must be bloody awful!" Seamus exclaimed." "Do you ever call him by his name?" Dean asked curiously. "No. I actually get away with calling him names right to his face." "Snape doing something to be fair?" Ron snorted in disbelief. I guess he doesn't think it would be fair. "Not outside of school hours. "He's forcing you to study potions in your free time now?" Harry frowned at Neville." And if he was truthful with himself. . "To Snape? Just chatting? About what? Quidditch?" "Potions. he was beginning to admit he almost enjoyed the conversations. We were just talking." Neville told him. I can tell he thinks about it. "What do you mean?" "Well. "It's not that bad." Harry informed them all. Hermione looked utterly amazed. "He's not. . but he never actually does it. "You were talking?" Ron demanded. Harry frowned perplexed. . Potter. Believe it or not. it's kind of weird you calling your bond-mate Professor Snape." That shocked them all. "Are you telling me that he doesn't take away house points when you call him names?" Harry shook his head." Harry sighed." He just sighed and shrugged. And judging by the looks on his friends' faces they all thought so as well. "It's not that bad. Harry!" Neville moaned. "What else am I supposed to call him? He still calls me Mr. Remember?" . not really. "He called you Harry when he made you go to Hogsmeade with him."Oh God." he pointed out." "Not all the time. "That will be the day.

More than . To his surprise. though he wasn't about to share that piece of information with his friends. "Would feel weird calling him anything other than Snape. He had noticed that despite the fact that Snape had an entire office to himself. Quidditch practice started and took up much of Harry's time in the afternoons after class. he couldn't imagine. They all nodded in agreement.Harry did remember and he frowned. And yet he didn't retreat to the private office when he so easily could have. He'd vaguely remembered him calling him Harry before that too . He often didn't find time to do his homework until after dinner. And after a while Harry grew accustomed to his presence. Then he'd sit quietly at the desk Snape had set up for him while Snape graded papers by the bed if he remembered correctly." Dean added." he told them with a dismissive shrug. Harry found himself speaking occasionally too mostly asking questions about his homework that he would have typically asked Hermione if he'd been doing his homework in the Gryffindor common room like normal. "Still. he often spent his evenings in front of the fire and Harry wondered if this was a new development for his benefit. And certainly Snape couldn't stand him. which were still as difficult as ever though Harry had to admit he had been getting steadily improving marks due to more careful preparation of ingredients. From time to time the man would even speak to him. Oddly enough he suspected Snape did it to keep him company .though why. Snape usually answered his questions. commenting on something he was reading or something that had happened in the course of the day. It wasn't as if he really liked the man. reserving the majority of his overly snarky comments for potions class. "It's kind of weird." Harry personally thought the entire thing was kind of weird.

"It's. . . "I've just never owned so much before. . And so many things that actually fit . and rejoined Snape in the common room.he'd tried on several of the items. "But still. "I don't know. Didn't seem right that Snape of all people should be giving him so much. not looking up from the scroll he was reading.strange. wondering what precisely he was supposed to do now. . The arrival of the clothing Snape had ordered for him from Torsand surprised Harry even though he'd known they were coming. . . It felt weird. . Eventually he put everything away in the wardrobe." He sat down nervously in his chair." Harry admitted." he admitted. I know what you said and all.nice." Harry shifted uncomfortably beneath that penetrating stare. "Well?" Snape asked. "It feels." Snape leaned back in his chair.once he'd actually caught Snape looking approvingly at the contents of his cauldron.." "I thought we went over all that. expression unreadable. though the man had yet to actually compliment him. "I just don't think." Harry repeated. Harry flushed. dropping the scroll into his lap in irritation. .he'd never owned so many things in his life. but I should have bought everything myself. "What's strange about it?" Snape demanded.but he had to admit the doublets looked nice. the material alone was worth a ton of coins. "Nice?" He sounded somewhat disbelieving.I mean. "I know what you said. The man must have spent a small fortune on the clothes. Okay. staring at himself in the mirror in amazement. he wasn't so certain about the riding breeches . . but he felt suddenly very awkward and very strange. He supposed thanks were in order. it's not right! I don't care what everyone else thinks or says. I didn't marry you for . He hadn't actually expected so much . Snape looked up.

this has nothing to do with me taking care of you. He fled to Snape's private library. consider my responsibility. and the rest of the Wizarding World. With the rage gone all he was left with was the hurt. and the fact that I have no intention of showing up in public with my bond-mate improperly dressed!" Anger and hurt flared so swiftly through Harry that he almost hit Snape's sneering face. Harry felt the rage drain out of him and he dropped down onto his butt in the middle of the floor. So Severus Snape was ashamed of him! He should have known. his face set in a dark frown. Their solution was to lock him up in a small room and pretend he didn't exist.your money. He glared angrily at Snape. This has to do with what I. Snape's solution was apparently to dress him up in fancy clothing and pretend he was something other than what he was. You shouldn't have to pay for me!" "Pay for you?" Harry flushed again. came so close in fact that his fists had clenched. As it was he only managed to restrain himself by jumping up and running from the room. or what ever it is you think is right or wrong. his body trembling in rage. "Mr. And you didn't exactly have a choice either. too numb to even bother looking for a proper seat. causing several books to fly off their shelves and fall to the floor with loud thumps. He'd always thought Snape hated the fact that he was famous . realizing how that sounded. "I didn't mean that! I meant you shouldn't have to take care of me! I don't need anyone to take care of me!" Snape leaned forward suddenly.never thought the day would come when Snape would force him into the ridiculous celebrity status he'd spent the last several years mocking him for. But apparently it worked for him . Startled by the sounds. Just like the Dursleys. Potter. Fury rolled off him in waves. slamming the door behind him and locking it tightly. or paying for you.

The very thought hurt. He wouldn't cry. thanks to Snape's words. Harry found himself fighting back tears once again. An inconvenience for both of them. Snape certainly wasn't going to succeed. Snape wasn't really his family now. Not even Voldemort had ever succeeded in making him cry. But at least now he had his emotions under control. He should have just ended their argument with his typical declaration of undying hate and left it at that. He never cried. He didn't like Snape after all. And he didn't. Granted he'd couched it in a bunch of nonsense about marital roles in the Wizarding society.after all he'd just told Snape that he didn't need anyone to take care of him.Quidditch practice that afternoon had taken a lot of out of him. Last thing he needed was to pretend that this farce of a marriage was anything more than what it See if he ever tried to start a conversation with the man again! Sighing. And the last ten minutes had left him feeling drained and cold. Not like Harry cared either . Certainly the Dursleys had never taken care of him. Harry climbed wearily to his feet.they both did. He was tired . After all he knew why he was here . No. did he? Surely he hadn't actually entertained the thought that Snape might have bought him all those clothes because he wanted to do something nice for him? That would be utterly ridiculous . didn't it? Gave him back his family's good name. And while Sirius might have been willing to take care of him. it wouldn't do for him to feel hurt about anything Snape did or didn't do. At least he didn't think he did. Never had.especially since he had explained quite clearly before hand why he was doing it. his resolve firmly back in place. . he had never been given the opportunity. Didn't care what the man thought of him. But he didn't really know why he hurt so much. but he'd never once indicated that he actually cared about Harry's well being.

turning him around. "What?" "Harry. Why? Why bother?" Harry clarified. You've always called me Potter.He unlocked the door and returned to the common room." "It's not the same. Harry began gathering his homework together." "We're bond-mates. We're going to have to get used to certain familiarities sooner or later!" Snape insisted. Snape was staring at him in bewilderment. "Nothing. Harry just shook his head. Harry stared up at Snape in surprised. Snape was still sitting by the fire. Snape looked somewhat taken aback. What? What did I do?" Realizing that he'd broken his own resolve not to indulge in these conversations again. "You've never been particularly reticent either about calling me whatever you damned well like. stopping him. "Doesn't matter. though he looked up when Harry re-entered the room. turning away. "Because society expects it?" Harry demanded. or Boy. "What was that all about?" Snape demanded. intent on going to bed. "You're obviously angry about something. His face was quite unreadable. Alarmed. "Why do you call me that?" Harry demanded. or Idiot or Brat. "What in Hell is all this about?" Snape asked in exasperation. "You've never done it before. . Why change now? Am I supposed to call you Severus?" Snape's eyes narrowed." He was nearly all the way to the bedroom door before a hand grabbed his arm." "Harry?" The sound of his name surprised Harry and he looked up sharply." he muttered. never mind. You call me that sometimes. They've always suited you before. Harry didn't look up but he could feel Snape's gaze on him. Moving toward the desk. "Nothing. It doesn't matter.

"I've obviously upset you. and my brothers hate me. . eyes no longer worried but angry. "But I'd like to point out that doesn't disprove my point. Harry actually thought Snape looked." Harry couldn't believe what he was hearing. But far from the angry expression he expected to see glaring down at him. Families founded on hatred. his heart tightened in his chest at the thought. "Because I didn't intend it this time!" "So it's different when you do intend it?" Harry scoffed. "Why?" Harry demanded again. Problem was he was starting to suspect it wasn't entirely true. Hate is a common theme in families.. "So you keep saying!" Snape said." Snape growled. and I hated my father. "Because now we're bond-mates? Because now we're supposed to be a family?" The very idea was ludicrous. "You've spent every year I've been here going out of your way to upset me! Why should you care now?" Snape's hand tightened on his harm. it . worried? "Have I hurt you in some way?" "No!" Harry denied vehemently. flashing with their usual fire. Sometimes it's the glue that holds them together!" "If that's true then we'll never be parted!" Harry shot back.So far the man had refrained largely from touching him save when absolutely necessary. quite pleased to have found an appropriate opportunity to tell him that once again. "Yes. . You hate the Dursleys too. "Yes!" "I hate you!" Harry informed him. "Then what in hell is wrong?" Snape asked.

. closing the door behind him firmly. Despite the fight. The beautiful new clothing seemed almost to mock him. ." he ordered. . All he could think of was the Weasleys and the time he'd spent with them the few summers he'd been able to leave Privet Drive early. Seemed he would never have that. "What?" he asked in disbelief and then noticed that his hand was still clamped tightly around Harry's arm. remembering the day they'd gone to Torsand. Apparently Snape had no answer to that. stepping quickly away. How could he imagine that would not upset him? But then Snape never said anything he didn't mean. He released him as if he'd been burned. he didn't expect that to change tonight. moving on automatic as he went through his nightly ablutions. He'd actually almost enjoyed himself that day. He entered the bathroom. Snape looked confused for a moment. Then he returned to the bedroom where he stopped next to his wardrobe to peer inside once again. And picking out all those things had been fun. . He honestly hadn't intended to upset him? Harry frowned.sounded like the most horrible thing he could imagine. So far Snape had given him complete privacy when he was preparing for bed. and he ran his hand over the soft materials. changing finally into his pajamas. Harry turned immediately and entered the bedroom. But Snape had only done it because he was ashamed of Harry.a direct attack toward him! But if he really hadn't intended to upset him. . If that were true. and Harry just glared up at him. "Stop touching me.. I have no intention of showing up with my bondmate improperly dressed . who else could that have been aimed at? If not him? The only others mentioned in that statement were Snape himself and the public in general. Certainly he'd enjoyed teasing Snape about being the only Potions Master married to a professional Quidditch player.

No one has ever bought me so much. but gifts nonetheless.and it's. moving toward the bathroom without a word. . Given out of a sense of duty granted. He genuinely believed that nonsense about him being responsible for Harry's support . stopping his progress across the room. . "It's just. Harry paled suddenly. . He felt sick to his stomach. Realization struck Harry hard." Harry explained. Snape was staring at him as if he'd completely lost his mind. .thank you. suffering God only knew what at the hands of Voldemort for the sake of a duty he believed he had failed in performing. It wasn't Harry he was ashamed of." He stopped that line of thought." . but being a Slytherin his motives and methods were almost never decipherable. and not out of affection or kindness. I like them." Harry said softly to him. "For the clothing. Okay. The man had a streak of honor inside him a mile long. but at least now he could understand it a bit more. When he heard no answer he turned toward him. like he obviously believed the Dursleys had. . That's what had gotten him into this situation in the first place. it was still weird. "Thank you. other conversations coming to the foreground. . "Thank you for the clothes. Snape had become a Death Eater to reclaim his family's honor by killing his own father. The door opened a moment later and Snape entered. That he was neglecting him.and if Harry appeared in public inappropriately attired it would be a sure sign that Severus Snape was not performing his duties. Which meant that these clothes had been gifts. And in failing that duty he'd become a spy for Dumbledore. And Harry had nearly hit him for it.Snape or the public.

Once again Snape looked completely lost for words. Harry just smiled at him and then headed toward the bed to sleep. leaving a completely bewildered Severus Snape standing in the middle of their room. "You're welcome. Finally he just shook his head in bafflement. ." he said simply.

Hermione telling him he looked quite nice. Harry talked about his last letter from Sirius and the promise the man had made him to come visit as soon as possible." Hermione protested. And it's not like he's done anything to hurt me since then. of course not!" Ron assured them both. and they both laughed at the look of dismay on his face. and needs to report in occasionally. "Not if he stays out of sight. "You don't actually want Snape to do something wrong do you?" Hermione asked the redhead. And the Ministry still doesn't know anything about Snuffles. Ron just made gagging noises at the thought of Snape buying Harry anything. Harry endured it all with little comment. . "You keep forgetting the fact that none of this was Snape's fault." "Think he'll hurt Snape when he gets here?" Ron asked hopefully. "Isn't it dangerous for him to come back here. Sirius might not be happy about things. "I'm hoping he'll be here this weekend." Harry told them. but Snape hasn't done anything wrong either. Sometimes I think he prefers that form. "No." He was amused by how disappointed Ron looked at the thought." Harry replied. Nevertheless both Ron and Hermione commented on the outfit. dressed in some of the more casual clothing Snape had bought him. "He's already doing work for Dumbledore as it is.CHAPTER EIGHT Harry went with Ron and Hermione to Honeydukes the following weekend. Harry just shook his head. He only married me to protect me. He and Snape had an unspoken agreement not to bring the subject up again. As they walked the path toward Hogsmeade.

Alphedor Carlton. It reminded him faintly of Godric Gryffindor's sword that he'd used to kill the Basilisk during his second year of school. Ron. Said a lot for Ron to abandon a display of weapons to go look at books." "You think so?" Ron's eyes lit up at the thought. Afterwards they wandered up and down the streets of the village looking into various shop. That seemed almost a lifetime ago now."Don't worry. A Death Eater. Just as he started to back away. . listening to Ron complaining the entire way. They spent a few hours at Honeydukes. peering through the window. with a group of other men. Harry turned and ran. He also noted that Ron didn't refuse to go with Hermione however. and you can watch the two of them fight. A shout when up. It took Harry a moment to realize he knew one of them. Movement inside the shop caught his attention. all of them joking around with some of their classmates and enjoying a game of Exploding Snaps. one of the men in the shop glanced up toward the window and spotted him there. "I'm sure sooner or later Snape will say something that will set Sirius off. He didn't think he could make it into the bookstore in time. Laughing to himself. eyes scanning for cover. Harry decided to give the two of them a few moments alone and he turned his attention back to the sword in the shop window. and he looked up. Harry smiled. "Boys!" She shook her head in disgust. And here he was now. He'd met the man during one of Voldemort's attacks last year. buying weapons of some sort. Several men were inside." Harry assured him. talking to the store proprietor. "When did you get so blood thirsty?" Hermione sighed. Harry stopped to admire a gleaming sword he saw in a shop window while Hermione dragged Ron across the street to look into a bookstore. and then later at the local pub.

From behind him. He threw a shielding spell. he heard a couple of more curses aimed toward the Death Eaters as Ron and Hermione crouched behind the door of the bookstore and attempted to come to his aid.The door burst open and he heard the first curse shouted. Then he was rolling to his knees. His leg didn't . More curses were coming now. One of them lobbed off another arrow in Harry's direction. and he couldn't for a moment understand why he couldn't lift it all the way. and he heard screams on the street as other people dove out of the way. getting caught in the hail of curses.another shouted curse from one of the Death Eaters and it wasn't any cover at all . vaguely aware of a sharp pain. turning. Harry shouted back his own curses at the advancing men. The protruding fletch of feathers from the crossbow arrow sticking out of his right shoulder probably had something to do with it he guessed. dove for the cover of the large stone planters lining the walkway in front of the weapon's store. This one caught him low on the left leg tearing all the way through the muscle and protruding out the other side. Even as he dove he felt something slamming into him. Oddly enough his right hand wasn't moving properly. six of them Harry could see now. The Death Eaters. shooting past his head as he ducked and dove toward a large rain barrel in front of the bookstore walkway. and he spared a brief moment to wonder why he couldn't feel more pain. blocking several more curses as he attempted to dive toward the door of the bookstore. The permanent fixtures along the street had spells worked into their foundations to protect them from attacks. wand raised in his right hand. But the barrel . Harry tried to draw himself more completely behind the barrel.exploded in a shower of splinters that left Harry open to attack. Transferring his wand to his left hand. It really wasn't much cover.

One had the blank look of a man hit by the killing curse. Then Hermione was shouting again. Harry turned. "Someone running out of the store. sending him flying back several feet to lie unmoving on the ground. returning fire. He could see several people lying unmoving on the street. hiding behind carts and flower pots. wand clutched tightly in his left hand. Three Hogwarts students were cowering down behind a display of cauldrons not far from the weapons store. sending out several curses while Ron reached out from the door and caught hold of Harry's shoulders dragging him inside behind the door. a spell struck Ron directly in the chest. Two others looked as if they'd been hit by curses that had skinned them alive. Harry had no doubt they would be killed. One had a crossbow bolt through his chest. If one of the Death Eaters moved just slightly further forward. "Can you do an illusion for me?" he asked. "When?" "Now would be good. wand raised again. "Hermione?" Pain flared through his entire body as he turned to catch the girl's attention. Dead he suspected. Hermione threw the spell. He braced himself against the doorframe. The six Death Eaters were safely barricaded behind the stone planter wall in front of the weapons store. An idea struck him. and Harry couldn't get a clear shot to any of them. the students would be open to attack. His entire right arm was going numb." he told her. Her eyes were wide in terror. and Harry saw the figure of a dark-haired boy with glasses running out of the shop and down toward the tea . He could see a dozen other people cowering on the street. down the street toward that tea shop over there?" Hermione nodded. Before Harry could thank his friend.want to work properly and he could feel his shielding spell weakening as several more curses struck it.

feeling power rush out of him as the spell struck the man in question. not as strong or as potent as the Imperious. Then he heard another curse hit the door only a few feet from his head. An old spell called King's Voice. Two of them went down immediately. aimed his wand and whispered the words of his spell. Harry slumped weakly down on the floor. weaving the words together and sending them toward the Death Eater he'd struck. Harry picked the one in the back. and shot curses toward the unprotected backs of his comrades in front of him. Go!" . "He's helpless. It wasn't the Imperious . But it was a precursor to it . The crackling of flames caught his attention. The man immediately turned. Horror flooded him as he realized that the Death Eaters had lit the bookstore on fire. before one of the others blasted the man who'd been caught by Harry's he and Hermione had discovered last year during their History of Magic class. and it required a continuous line of sight to maintain. But Harry hoped it would be enough. opening themselves up for a clear shot. "Hermione!" he yelled. It had too many flaws in it to be of interest to the Death Eaters who would opt to use the Imperious instead. I'll hold them off. breaking the bonds and sending all that energy flashing back into Harry's bleeding body. "He'll die!" Harry insisted.he doubted he had the strength to throw something that powerful. eyes blank. "Get Ron out the back door!" "I'm not leaving you here!" she protested. not illegal either since most people had long ago forgotten it even existed. "Stop them." he whispered into the midst of his spell. Instantly three of the Death Eaters surged forward to curse him. not certain he could muster enough energy to move again. For one thing it was temporary.

The books in the front display window were catching fire swiftly. though he supposed it must have happened when the barrel had exploded. and Harry knew it was just a matter of minutes before the entire building was an inferno. Couldn't remember. and Ron was helpless. he saw his two rescuers advancing on the bookstore. A glance through the fire showed him Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape catching the remaining three Death Eaters by surprise. wrapping them up in binding spells even as Aurors swarmed toward them. It occurred to him briefly that it was highly likely he was going to die. scrambling toward the door while he put up covering fire for them to escape. he heard familiar voices shouting. levitated Ron with a spell and began moving him out the back door. realizing that Harry was indeed right. but found to his horror that his left hand this time would no longer move.New strength came with his determination to save his friends. And as Harry slumped down onto the floor. and he turned to throw a few more weak curses while Hermione. heard the distinctive crack of several people apparating to the scene. going to burn to death in the bookstore. Blessed coolness washed over him. And then across the street. Harry was vaguely aware of several other people going with her. He tried to throw another curse back out through the doorway. He couldn't help wondering bitterly how many full-grown adult wizards had been hiding behind him while three sixth-year students from Hogwarts had fought off the Death Eaters. Baffled he stared blankly down at his arm. only to realize that his leg refused to move any longer. or failing that be hit with a killing curse as he could no longer run. wands pointed toward the flames which any minute now would be licking at his skin. and . It was growing hot by the door and Harry tried to back away from the rising flames. A sharp splitter of wood was sticking out of his left bicep and he wondered when he'd gotten that. As she left. blood seeping from the many wounds on his body.

But apparently anger coupled with hurt was unmanageable.he'd actually been brooding about it for several days. Certainly Severus had wanted him to enjoy them. But what he'd done still remained a mystery to him. He frowned. If he ever figured out the convoluted mind of Harry Potter it would be a miracle. and then the world began to grow gray and fuzzy. he had actually rather hoped he'd appreciate the clothing. Anger Harry could apparently handle just fine . and the last thing he had wanted to do was hurt Harry. touching the silver wire through the sleeve of his robes. Albus' spell prevented any pain from . Harry had been hurt by the people who were supposed to take care of him quite enough. Once Harry had gotten over the pride issue about paying for his own things. Severus had been at lunch in the Great Hall brooding about Harry's strange behavior for the better part of an hour . though he was careful not to point this fact out to himself. That he'd said something that had obviously hurt and angered Harry was apparent.he felt his wand drop from his numb fingers.he'd seen the boy's fist clench as if to hit him. though for the life of him he couldn't figure out what it had been. He had a moment to think musingly that his bond-mate looked quite impressive when he was angry. which he suspected was why Harry had locked himself in the library. But apparently he'd completely missed something. He still wasn't certain what that conversation about the clothing had been all about. Far as he could tell. as if nothing of the previous conversation had happened at all. And then not ten minutes later in the bedroom Harry had completely confused him again when he'd given him the response he'd been hoping to get in the first place. Still lost in thought he was distracted when the Dark Mark on his arm began to tingle faintly. He didn't need any more pain. In the mean while he supposed he'd have to settle for rampant insanity.

Ron. "We've got to find Harry. Severus didn't wait to hear more. slumped on the floor. "He's gone to Hogsmeade. he looked up. along with a number of other students to Hogsmeade. flames drawing ever . Alarmed. diving toward the source of the fire. bodies lying scattered about on the cobblestones.touching him. It took a moment for him to figure out who was where . Dumbledore looked up in alarm. Hermione and Harry were gone. Severus noticed smoke rising from the center of the village. Severus and Albus had them trusted up inside binding spells in a matter of seconds. scanning the Great Hall for a familiar face. Albus right behind him. Cursing he flew lower. "Albus!" he said sharply. The Gryffindor table had many empty seats. Outside he could hear the arrival of Aurors.that was Harry trapped inside the burning bookstore! He crashed through a side window of the weapons shop where the Death Eaters were barricaded. heading swiftly toward the door. heading swiftly toward Hogsmeade. coming up behind the men. It wasn't precisely a summons he realized. the two of them flew off Hogwarts grounds. Through the partially opened doorway he could see Harry. and then he was running toward the burning bookstore. Felt more like a small gathering of other Death Eaters. the others turned toward the sound of breaking glass. Behind him he heard Madame Hooch offering to summon the Aurors while Albus followed swiftly behind Severus." He saw Dumbledore and several other teachers turn toward the Gryffindor table. Three down already. Summoning brooms. but he could still sense the activation of the mark. As he neared he could see the battle waging in the street. covered in blood. As they approached the small village. Nearby from the feel of it." Minerva explained to all of them.

Snape glanced swiftly around. He pointed his wand at the flames and shouted an extinguishing spell. pulling the boy into his arms. Some of the strain eased from Harry's face and he looked weakly up at him. His shirt was nearly soaked in blood. numerous cuts bleeding profusely. "Harry?" he called." he assured Harry. Pain flickered across Harry's face and Snape quickly performed a pain numbing charm. his heart moving to his throat as he stared at the damage done. trying hard not to jostle the wounds too severely. Arrows in the right shoulder and left leg. "Ron. "Snape?" he whispered. eyes unfocused. "Sorry. Harry moaned softly. He felt Albus' power joining his. pulling it back in and extinguishing it entirely." he whispered softly. Hermione?" Understanding what he was asking. . stuffing them in his robes along with Harry's wand. cursing himself for not thinking of that immediately. containing the fire. Severus shoved opened the scorched door and dropped to his knees beside Harry. "They're alright. his eyes fluttering open.closer to him. and with trembling hands Severus cast a spell to stop the bleeding before he bled himself dry. The headmaster was busy reviving Weasley from some sort of spell. a large chunk of wood embedded in his left bicep. His glasses were broken and Snape removed them. He tapped lightly at Harry's face. Both looked unhurt. "For what?" Severus asked disbelieving. blood on his lips. Just outside the door he could see Albus with Hermione. trying to see if he was suffering from a curse or just passed out from pain or blood loss. Surely the boy didn't think the attack was his fault.

The crowd of onlookers who'd come out once the Aurors had shown up moved swiftly side. "Rest. ordering them to head straight back to the castle. This was the last thing he needed." he urged gently. Ron and Hermione quickly followed. her eyes widening when she saw the body he carried. Severus carried Harry swiftly down the street." Nodding. flanked by Albus. Harry. He looked at Albus. Ron's eyes were wide in terror." Harry explained." Harry slumped against him. . Albus immediately calmed them. "More dead. "We can floo directly to the hospital wing. "But we need to get him to Poppy immediately. door thrown open for all of them. Severus shot them all his most withering glare. "Harry!" Ron and Hermione exclaimed when they saw them. Hermione and Ron." Albus told him. three of them had already been dead. and yet the only one he'd seen casting spells had been Harry. and to gather up any of their classmates along the way." It occurred to Snape suddenly that of the six Death Eaters he'd seen. He felt his chest tightening in sympathy for the boy. she drew a curtain around his bed and then .?" "He's alive. "I'll get you back to the castle. Then the Headmaster activated the floo and allowed Severus to floo straight into the hospital wing."Killed them. saying nothing as Severus lifted him up into his arms and carried him out of the scorched bookstore. Poppy came running when Severus yelled for her. There were a dozen fully qualified wizards and witches in the crowd of sightseers. The proprietor of Broomsticks was waiting for them." "There's a floo in the Three Broomsticks. "Is he . As Severus set Harry down on one of the hospital beds." Severus assured them both. Inside was a crowd of other Hogwarts students who surged forward with concern at the sight of the bloodied Harry Potter in the arms of their Potions Master. .

When she finished. her face regaining a professional calmness. The sound was like a knife through Severus heart. Severus nodded. With the potions out of the way Poppy set about closing the wounds themselves. and Severus found himself gently stroking his throat trying to get him to swallow it all. Despite the pain-blocking spells. a spell removed the majority of the splintered wood embedded in his skin. The bolt in his leg was easier to manage. Severus. Snape heard Hermione crying softly against Ron Weasley's shoulder. passed out again from the pain. "The arrow is embedded in his shoulder blade. Between the two of them they got the boy stripped of most of his bloody clothes." he whispered softly.began to work on him. "Hold him. Poppy got several potions down Harry's throat. Harry screamed as the bolt ripped free. But a quick exam of the two crossbow arrows revealed a minor charm on both of them. "Just a few more drinks. Poppy grabbed hold of the arrow shaft with a pair of Muggle pliers and pulled while Severus held Harry immobile. "Do it. Only one way to take them out. The boy went limp. including the horrid looking chunk that had pierced his bicep. whispering encouragement to him. moving to hold the boy down. using her considerable skill to begin mending his flesh . but it seemed to help and so he kept it up." Severus felt himself blanch at the thought. With Severus' help. both their hands were covered in blood." Poppy ordered. It had gone all the way through and Poppy was able to first snip off the barbed end of the arrow before pulling the shaft out of his flesh. It's going to have to come out the hard way." Severus ordered grimly. I can't drive it all the way through. Behind them. Harry. The boy choked and sputtered on the taste of several of them. "Come on." He wasn't certain if the boy even heard him.

" the constable argued. Now that the danger had passed. "How is he. "What happened?" he demanded of Granger. now. "He'll live. "Now. Both Ron and Hermione nearly wilted in relief. and the two of them set about cleaning him up and getting him dressed in a pair of hospital pajamas before tucking him back in to sleep. "Civilians aren't trained for that sort of thing. When Severus finally found himself with nothing to do but sit at Harry's bedside. Albus. Severus. Headmaster. he glanced around to realize that aside from Granger and Weasley. But she bandaged them up neatly." Madam Pomfrey informed them all. When she was through Harry was nearly whole again. Why wasn't anyone else helping Harry?" He also vaguely recalled seeing several seventh years hiding behind a cluster of cauldrons as well . Minerva and Constable Terrence Lowry from the Ministry Auror division had joined them. There were dozens of fully trained wizards and witches all over Hogsmeade. Weasley and the Auror standing beside them. He didn't like to think that all these people had been watching Harry suffer.back together." "Besides. despite the fact that he knew most of them loved the boy. Poppy?" Albus asked in concern when Poppy drew aside the curtain she'd placed around the boy's bed.if they had looked up for a second they could have seen a clear shot at any of the Death Eaters. Severus felt anger returning. Most people panic in an attack. Most people are too afraid of standing up to the Death Eaters. "You can't blame them. He didn't regain consciousness again. Harry hated to show weakness to anyone." Minerva chided. something Severus was grateful for. The three larger wounds would take several more sessions to heal. "I only saw six Death Eaters." "Harry didn't!" .

People just ran in every direction." the man explained as if that was all that was necessary. Shivering with the memory. "All three of them were hit with it. Both had risked their lives for him. And he's Harry Potter after all. but he hadn't been aware that the boy had ever actually used it." Still." Snape felt the blood drain from his face. One minute everything was fine and the next thing we knew curses were flying through the streets." "What happened then?" Albus asked gently. Not to mention it required a great deal of power to throw . Three sixth-years against Death Eaters when there were a dozen others more capable. Especially not three times. Hermione recounted what she could of the events that followed. how did they die?" Severus asked them. Snape's estimation of both the young Gryffindors went up considerably when he realized that these two at least had not abandoned Harry. sir. He knew Harry knew the curse."Not a civilian now. remembering what Harry had said about killing them. they all knew this would result in an inquiry. is he?" the man answered with a shrug. "He's sixteen!" "He's Harry Potter. "Not that we would hold that against the boy. . "It all happened too fast. Hermione interrupted before Severus could say something more scathing. "The killing curse. had joined him in the battle. Ron supplying comments of his own.didn't seem likely that Harry would have had the strength to throw it considering how badly he'd been wounded." the constable explained. Along with arrows." she explained. "No one knew what was going on. "It was self-defense of course. "The three Death Eaters." the constable assured them all quickly.

thinking along the same lines. Vocis Regalis. "Harry didn't use the killing's not nearly as powerful as the Imperious which replaced it. sir. "We were reading The Evolution of Charms and Curses in history class." Severus frowned. "With the election coming up I'd hate to be the one to tell Fudge he has to put Harry Potter through an Official Inquiry. . "Well." And then the man strode out of the room. since that's taken care of. I had best go make my report. less powerful ones. "No. "My best to your bond-mate. But it worked. He wouldn't use them. "Good." He nodded to Severus as well. But it hasn't been used in centuries. The King's Voice was the precursor to the Imperious.Any use of the Unforgivables resulted in an inquiry. It's not on the books anywhere." On each other? The Imperious then? "He used the Imperious?" Albus asked. it's also not illegal. He'd never heard of the King's Voice." The man just smiled and shook his head. It mentioned that most modern charms and curses came from older. I hope he's better soon." Hermione told them insistently. "They used it on each other. and Severus hated to think what hell that would drag Harry through. glancing at the Headmaster. and it requires line of sight to maintain." he said with satisfaction. "We found it last year. But Hermione shook her head." She glanced at the constable who was frowning thoughtfully. "And because it's so old and out of date. He used the King's Voice." He nodded politely to Albus. Harry doesn't like the Unforgivables. It's only temporary." she explained. We got curious and did some extra research.

"And they have the gall to wonder how people like Voldemort rise to power. "They left the battle to three underage wizards. What kind of world do we live in?" "We live in the kind of world where three underage wizards are willing to die to save the lives of those around them. "Now you two should go get cleaned up and assure your housemates that Harry is fine. my boy. "We'll just have to make certain that doesn't happen." he sighed. "If Harry doesn't get himself killed. No doubt all sorts of rumors have already made their way around the castle a dozen times." Severus informed them." Despite everything Severus felt his lip twitch in amusement. Severus?" Albus asked quietly after Poppy had returned to her own office. He's exhausted. "That's such a Gryffindor thing to say. "I'll stay with him. . "But I want the boy to sleep. "That's rather a wonderful world if you ask me. Albus just smiled sadly." Albus said gently." Severus complained to Albus." He turned toward Ron and Hermione. "You can come see him briefly after dinner. Albus. "Will you be alright. idiots like that are going to. filled with truly amazing people. He needs rest." Subdued the two of them nodded and left the hospital wing with Minerva following.Severus pulled a chair over to Harry's bed side and slumped down into." "Can we come back and sit with Harry?" Ron asked. He doesn't have to do anything but show up and they cower in terror. and he lost a lot of blood." Madam Pomfrey told Ron and Hermione. looking hopefully over at Madam Pomfrey." he stated flatly.

Severus leaned over the bed. leaving Severus alone with Harry. This was something else. tracing the boy's features slowly with his fingers. something deep and painful and inexplicable. He didn't have the false expectations of the boy that everyone else did . something harder and darker. The scar on his forehead looked red and angry and he gently traced it with his fingers." he said softly. It wasn't the panic he supposed the mindless masses might feel if they thought their hero was gone." It was a vow. It wasn't right that he should suffer so much. And he couldn't for the life of him understand join body.though he would admit openly that the boy continued to surprise him. "I'm not going to let you sacrifice yourself for this cause. This need to protect him left him lost and flailing about for words to make sense of his feelings. and it made him sick to his stomach to imagine what Harry must have suffered that day." Albus agreed. He ached inside. Severus. What was one more? . "Harry Potter. But he also didn't like seeing him lying here so helpless and vulnerable."How Slytherin of you to notice. And it wasn't the realization that he might have lost the one person who could keep his family name in good standing. He'd made other vows to the young man after all . But all he found was turmoil. name. reaching out to brush some tangled locks of hair of away from Harry's face. One he intended to keep. house and power to his. then patting him gently on the shoulder he left the room.

" Black insisted. "She has other patients.?" Black began. "That should also be self-explanatory. while he caught hold of his wrist with his other hand to check his pulse. I have every right to be here." Severus told him. Finally a vaguely intelligent question from the man. checking his skin temperature. The man's eyes narrowed. The potions they'd given him early should take care of any infection. ." Severus ordered. "Fine. "I should think it is self-explanatory. but we gave him something to counter that earlier. and I volunteered to sit with him. "Keep your voice down. "Answer my question. He leaned forward to lightly touch Harry's forehead again. . his face still too pale for Severus' liking.CHAPTER NINE Severus was startled out of a light doze some hours later by a harsh voice. "What are you doing?" Black demanded. Harry looked as if he hadn't moved at all. but he suspected he'd need a few more before this was over." Severus growled in irritation." "Why are you sitting with him instead of Poppy?" Black asked. but his pulse was fine. Severus glared up at him in irritation. "Is he . Harry felt slightly warm to the touch." But his answer obviously didn't satisfy Black. "He's my bond-mate. "What are you doing here?" Severus opened his eyes to find Sirius Black staring at him from the other side of Harry's bed. glancing at Harry to assure himself that he was still safely asleep. but trailed off uncertainly. "A minor infection I suspect. Sometimes Black's stupidity astounded him." Black growled." "This marriage is a joke and you know it. "Why you?" he pressed again." Severus told him. .

He wanted Harry to look at him like that. Harry's eyes flickered lightly and he turned toward his godfather. gently stroking Harry's head. "That you would lift a finger to help James Potter's son?" "Believe whatever the hell you like." Severus sneered. brushing his hair from his face." Severus pointed out. Snape. Instead he's been stuck with those monstrous Muggles." "Love or not." Severus reminded him. . but a soft sound from Harry caught both their attention." he whispered. "And I'm supposed to believe that you can?" Black asked incredulous. Without his glasses he had to squint to see who was looking at him. you can't protect him. Harry seemed to lean into the comfort of his touch. Harry should be with someone who loves him." Black's eyes went flat with fury. The jealousy flared again. his eyes opening slowly. He sat there somewhat stunned by the revelation while Sirius Black leaned over the bed and gently hugged the young man lying there. "Sirius. "Really?" the man growled. and now you. How could he possibly want something so badly that a few weeks ago would have seemed completely ludicrous? "Harry." Black's eyes flashed with hatred. his eyes shining with pleasure. but when he realized whom it was a warm smile brightened his features."And yet still quite legal. no one regrets that more than I do. "Which is more than I can say for your guardianship since you're still a wanted criminal. "Believe me. and Severus fought to squash it back down. how are you?" Sirius asked. Severus felt something remarkably like jealousy flash through him. "There's nothing you can do about it now. Black. Complete pleasure at the sight of him. and it took him a moment to realize why.

No doubt his muscles ached too from the strain of battle. The wounds he'd received were not yet all the way closed." Sirius told Harry gently. "I missed you. and the marriage that bred such familiarly." Severus's eyes widened at Harry's words. "Are you feeling any better?" "I'm fine. "Severus?" he asked in disbelief." Sirius promised. "Don't want you to fight." "I missed you too. "For as long as I can. "Dumbledore and Severus saved me. and Severus felt the pang again tugging at his heart." "Good. He was protecting him! The little brat was actually trying to protect him while lying here half dead himself. or the use of his first name. Can you stay?" "I'll stay. Sirius was obviously just as shocked by his words." Harry smiled again. though Severus was fairly certain the boy was still in a great deal of pain." Harry told him. for the absent werewolf this time. ."Glad to see you. not certain what he was more shocked by . and the forced healing they'd been through." "Got your letters. "Albus told me what happened. okay?" he whispered. As long as I stay out of sight it should be all right. Remus is coming too." Harry admitted. "Don't fight. or perhaps simply protecting his godfather from finally committing the crime for which he was being hunted. He was protecting him from his godfather's temper." Sirius told him." Severus understood then." Harry assured him. Sirius. both the words and the use of his name. Harry's eyes fluttered again and it was obvious he was fighting to stay awake. Either way he was putting himself between them . "They helped. "I'm so sorry I haven't been here for you.the acknowledgement of what he'd done.forcing Sirius to acknowledge both the life debt between them.

crossed the room and threw his arms around him in a fierce hug." Lupin greeted with a brief nodded as he took the seat Black had just abandoned. By the time Black drew back. I'll rip your throat out. out like a light again. "Figured as much. Black led him over to the bed.Black had said as much to Harry. Seeing Severus' look of surprise. Sighing in frustration Sirius leaned forward and kissed Harry lightly on the forehead. But the young man was down for the count." Severus agreed mildly. Lupin actually flushed under his gaze. Severus sighed. It was going to be a long wait." Black said stiffly. one arm draped almost possessively over Lupin's shoulder. "Good. . all sign of discomfort was gone from Lupin's face. What he hadn't expected to see was the way Black immediately jumped up at the sight of him. Several hours later sometime after the evening meal Severus Snape was witness to an odd sight. Then pulling up a chair he sat down next to the bed opposite Severus." Severus greeted back. face lit up with a brilliant smile." Sirius folded his arms and glared across the bed at him. "You do realize that if you ever hurt him. Nor could Severus quite explain the somewhat pained look on Lupin's face as he returned the hug awkwardly. "Severus."Harry?" Sirius asked in confusion. Black didn't seem to notice. He was a bit baffled by the behavior he had just witnessed. "How is he?" he asked Black quietly. Severus suspected he'd sat down simply to get out from under the arm Black had put around his shoulder. And truth be told Lupin looked much as he had last time Severus had seen him. "Remus. He'd of course been expecting the arrival of Remus Lupin . keeping his tone as cordial as he could. replaced instead by concern for Harry.

had understood also somewhere in the far reaches of his soul that no one would ever look at him like that. Remus Lupin had looked up and fallen instantly in love. He'd first seen Remus Lupin in the Great Hall during their sorting ceremony in first year. Even at the tender age of eleven Severus had understood what had happened. moon and stars for the first time in his life. his own sorting sending him to Slytherin where he'd been greeted by his peers. a long pause as the hat debated where to put him. cocky youth had stepped up to the platform to receive the sorting hat. He only noticed the small.often found himself looking for that glimpse of . The sorting hat was shortly afterward placed on Remus Lupin's head. not daring to even join in the excited whispers of those around him. and he found himself staring with something akin to awe at the incandescent joy on the boy's face when the hat had sorted him into Gryffindor as well. honey-haired boy because of his so obvious attempt to remain unnoticed. It was as if upon seeing Sirius Black he'd seen the sun. He was too busy being sorted into Gryffindor to the thunderous cheers of his new housemates. Sirius Black had not noticed of course. Nor did he notice the look of longing in the eyes of the boy who followed his progress to his seat. But despite his colored history with the Marauders he'd never really forgotten that first moment . Sirius Black's name was called. and as the swaggering. The boy stood apart from the rest of the first years. He'd lost track of him after that. somehow knowing what he was going to see. And then the sorting had begun and Severus had seen something he remembered to this very day. Severus had watched for it. kept his head shyly down. darted nervous looks at those around him.quickly coming to the conclusion that something important had changed in the dynamics of the two Marauders.

as if his world had completely fallen apart. To his knowledge in the seven years they'd been at Hogwarts Remus' devotion to Black had never wavered. he told himself. It was nothing more than idle curiosity about something he'd watched for so many years. He shouldn't care really. and the love of his life was convicted of their murder. . There was something almost desperate in the way Black leaned in toward Remus. and Severus couldn't quite put his finger on what it might be. . Very interesting. To see Remus Lupin shying away from Black's touch instead of basking in the attention? Or perhaps the man simply couldn't endure the teasing any longer. That he survived the ensuing years was miraculous. Not because you really cared of course. To his knowledge Black had also never once figured it out. And Black.the gaze the werewolf wouldn't or couldn't meet for long. Severus thought. never once returned the devotion or affection so obviously waiting for him.heaven he'd seen in Remus' eyes when he stared at Sirius Black. like starting a book and wanting to read the end simply because you'd already devoted so much time reading it that you felt you deserved to know what happened on the last page. in the searching. . And Severus still remembered the look of utter devastation on Remus Lupin's face when Sirius Black had been lead away to Azkaban . choosing instead to spread his favors amongst vast and numerous fans. But now something had changed. Emotions like that were all but unknown in his world. His friends were dead. and seeing them in Remus' eyes was like catching a glimpse into a different life. and he found himself wondering what had happened to change things so drastically. and Severus supposed that for the werewolf it truly had. probing gaze he kept subjecting the werewolf to .Severus' eyes narrowed as he watched the two men talking quietly to one another.

at least until the next potions class. That at least should be worthy of some courtesy from him. moved into the room to take up his seat at Harry's side once again. They had stood by Harry when no one else had.Ron and Hermione entered the room a moment later. then got him all worked up despite everything. Rising. practically moaning to Poppy." . Disgusting really. He returned after a quick shower and a change of clothing. he headed toward the door. Severus sneered at them all. Now be off with you! You can see him in the morning. A gathering of Gryffindors. then headed back toward the hospital wing.reminding himself at the last minute that like it or not he owed Ron and Hermione. "Severus can stay because I know he won't do any of those things. "Why does he get to stay then?" he protested.Harry would want fresh clothing to wear when he was released. ignoring them all. catching a bite to eat himself before gathering up Harry's belongings. thinking briefly about a possible more permanent solution to bad eyesight. This set Black off again. And he might appreciate a book to read if he was stuck here overly long. the two students greeting the Marauders enthusiastically. "You can't stay because the whole lot of you woke the boy up when he needs to sleep." Poppy informed them. "Keep your voices down. He got the expected glares and for a moment debated deducting points from Gryffindor just because he could. As he entered the room Poppy was in the process of kicking the four Gryffindors out for the night. He needed to retrieve some of Harry's belongings from their rooms as it was . But he didn't though . Severus. He supposed now would be as good a time as any to give them some time to themselves. He repaired Harry's glasses." he growled to the lot of them as he left. much to the protest of Black.

Severus suspected that Harry would much prefer to forget it all. come get me immediately. He'd half been expecting it. Severus looked up at her as she sighed tiredly. the tightening of his lips. watching the boy's face." She nodded and bid him good night. "Worked up?" he demanded. Harry saw failure where the others saw heroics." Severus informed her. "I gave Harry another infection blocker. But if there's any change.She all but shoved them out the door and slammed it in their faces. He should sleep through the night. Poppy just shook her head. Poppy. He leaned forward. Didn't occur to any of them that Harry might not want to talk about it just yet. He certainly took no pleasure in glorifying in it the way a typical Gryffindor might." She pointed to the bed just beside Harry's. pretend it simply hadn't happened. but his face looked a bit flushed. the frown that marred his brow. they hadn't given him a single . and worked a bit more on his wounds before he fell back to sleep. realizing only belatedly that with all the potions they'd poured down his throat. not certain he liked the sound of that. Severus. you'd think they figured it out by now. Poppy was right about Harry's reticence in speaking about anything violent." Poppy informed him them. Harry was asleep again. "Thank you. Harry saw death and damnation where the others saw victory and glory. It was one of the reasons they had never known he was being abused by his family. The boy has never been overly willing to speak about such things. "I'll be in the next room if you need anything. "I'll be fine. Severus settled back to wait. seeing the signs of strain that flickered over his features. "What is it about Gryffindors?" she asked." Severus frowned. You can sleep there on that bed if you're feeling tired. "Wanted to hear all the gory details of the battle. It was three hours before he noticed the first signs that Harry's sleep was no longer quite so peacefully.

Or maybe the boy simply craved kindness so desperately that any gentle touch would sooth him. Harry turned in toward his touch and some of the tension eased from his face. he thought.especially now that he understood what precisely it was he saw in them. something he'd been taking consistently night after night since that first nightmare Severus had disrupted. Again the boy stilled and calmed. the tension returning to his features and Severus debated waking him after all. Uncertain what precisely to do . To his surprise. Instead he just touched him again. Somehow that thought did little to assure Severus. It was only a matter of moments before Harry was moving restlessly again.Severus reached out and gently touched the boy's face. he'd said. The dead. removing his hand from Harry's skin. You're safe. and he drew back. Hadn't he promised himself he wouldn't do that .Dreamless Sleep Draught. No doubt the boy would be horrified if he were to wake and find his hated Potions Master touching him in any way." he whispered softly. hand resting lightly against the boy's face. He found his stomach twisting at the thought. He shouldn't be touching him anyway. And no doubt Black would go . stroked his hair back from his forehead.he didn't really want to wake Harry when he so desperately needed sleep . "Harry. Maybe he thought he was his godfather? Maybe he imagined it was his godfather sitting here beside him and instinctively accepted comfort from his hand.wouldn't allow himself to become attached in anyway? Maybe he should have let Black remain in his place? But then Black and the rest of the Gryffindors had managed to upset Harry in spite of all the warnings. Somewhat baffled. He didn't want to leave him lost to the nightmares either . Severus stared down into the sleeping face. it's alright. Strange. And now he had more dead to haunt him. took hold of one his hands in his own.

The boy seemed to be sleeping fairly peacefully now. He needs emotional strength and stability. not wanting the old man to think anything more of it. that's not what I meant." Albus smiled at that. you picked the wrong person for the job. "But no. "You're nicer than you let on. Albus smiled when he realized Severus had awakened. but he needs more than just that. Embarrassed Severus immediately withdrew his touch. his eyes gazing momentarily on the hand Severus still had resting on top of Harry's own. "Do you care for him. Albus Dumbledore stood at the foot of Harry's bed staring thoughtfully at the two of them. A Weasley would have been a better choice for coddling. unexpectedly. to discover that he and Harry were no longer alone.through the roof if he were to enter and see Severus Snape holding the hand of his godson. almost indulgently. Severus woke a few hours later. Severus stared at him." Severus stared at the man in disbelief. "Do you care for him? I know you'll protect him. wondering if he was really asking what he thought he was asking. Severus. He doesn't need coddling. Surprised." he explained in a quiet whisper. I am not a nice man. ridiculous moment Severus Snape wished that a certain green-eyed hero would look at him the way Remus Lupin had once looked at Sirius Black. Severus?" Albus asked. He also had no doubt that all of Gryffindor would laugh themselves sick if they realized that for just one brief. if that's what you're looking for. "He was having nightmares. his gaze turning thoughtful again as he looked down at Harry. "What?" The old man just smiled again." ." He sighed and shook his head. his breathing slow and even. "Albus. Albus just nodded.

" he explained. Locked in the dark. He has a lot on his shoulders." Albus waved his concern away with a negligent shrug. but he. Something twinkled briefly in Albus eyes. I'd venture guess that for the rest of their lives there won't be a house or building in the world big enough for them to truly feel comfortable in. "Nothing's wrong. The mind does conjure all sorts of odd nightmares hiding in the darkness. "About his family?" Severus' eyes narrowed. He had several ideas in mind. We all do I suppose. "Which brings up a point I've been meaning to talk to you about. what's wrong?" Severus had known the man long enough to know he was worried about something." Severus thought about that. I'm just concerned about Harry. "Some. . "You've spoken with him?" he asked Severus. "Afraid of the dark too."Albus. The headmaster stroked his beard thoughtfully. ." . something down right vindictive and oddly enough Severus found himself strangely comforted by the idea that Albus Dumbledore could be moved by something as petty as revenge. Scream in holy terror when the lights go out." he assured him. "Already taken care of. "Can't stand it really." He shook his head again. "Well for starters they all three have come down with the most extraordinary case of claustrophobia. thought about what it must have been like for a small boy to spend so many years locked up in a small cupboard. Incurable really." "How suitably?" Severus demanded. "They were suitably cursed." Albus added as an afterthought. and was somewhat disappointed he had not been allowed to carry them out. They need to be punished for what they did to him. my boy." he acknowledged. "Not precisely.

And from what I understand the three of them were quite fond of food . He would have gone for something more sever he supposed ." . Harry would probably always be small because of the malnourishment he'd suffered as a child. they can still smell it. "For what they did to a boy I left in their care. but it is a craving that will never again be satisfied." Severus told the Headmaster. He nodded in satisfaction." Severus smiled at that . "I wouldn't mind seeing them locked in Azkaban for the rest of their lives. There was a sad. and crave it desperately. stunned he would admit such a thing. But then Albus was probably right that the punishment should better fit the crime. "And as much as you or I or Sirius Black might want to hurt them. "Seems they've lost all sense of taste. "Ah.A lifetime of feeling trapped and terrified of things that go bump in the night. "I know his uncle was partial to throwing objects at him.blindness or the less subtle curses like eternal boils or lice. I believe it was one of the few pleasures they had in life. Severus looked up at the headmaster. gentle gleam in the old man's eyes." Albus nodded. "But I also know Harry better than that." That at least deserved an actual physical thrashing -he'd take great delight in letting Vernon Dursley know precisely what it felt like to be beaten by someone stronger than himself. will never again be able to enjoy any type of food. That should carry a life sentence as well.probably fitting it be something like that. They can't taste a thing. Oh." the old man explained." Shocked. "And the starvation?" he demanded. He wouldn't let that one go." Albus said quietly. Severus. Harry would never forgive us or himself if something truly awful happened to them. but I suspect they beat him more than he claimed.the two males particularly. "Harry hasn't said much. I think I could probably kill them myself.

" Severus let that sink in for a moment." Shocked beyond belief Severus just stared at the man. Slytherin? Harry Potter in Slytherin? Impossible! The boy didn't have an ounce of guile. but Severus didn't have to like it." "Never heard of it." Albus smiled.And of course Albus was right."Talked it out of it? How in Merlin's name do you talk the sorting hat out of something? It's a magical artifact. "Bloody Gryffindors." Albus correctly." . . "Noble Gryffindors. Harry talked it out of it. "And Harry for all his other qualities has nobility to spare." he cursed softly." Albus said suddenly. Damn! Harry Potter in Slytherin. . "Curious isn't it? And yet it still happened. Wait a minute. .turning Severus own words back on him. There was something decidedly odd about the whole thing. Wouldn't that have been something? No wonder Voldemort feared the boy. suspecting that the headmaster was hinting at something there." "Other qualities?" Severus frowned at that. "I was curious about that spell he used. but the sorting hat wanted to put him in Slytherin. "He's probably never mentioned it to anyone. Albus's eyes flashed almost cheekily. And over these last weeks he'd proven time and time again that he was too clever by far . never even a hint that he wasn't exactly what he appeared to be." Severus admitted. The King's Voice. staring down at the boy again. It's not supposed to be ambiguous or indecisive. . He kept his nightmares a secret too from all his beloved Gryffindor followers. "I've been doing some reading. "But the Granger girl is nothing if not resourceful.but then he had managed to fool the Head of Slytherin about his life and his upbringing all these years. changing the subject.

isn't it?" He smiled tightly to him nodding his head. Figured. "Keep an eye on him." he told him." "Then how did Granger learn the spell?" Severus asked." "Yes." And with that he turned and left. "I still need to do some more research however. "Those Death Eaters were controlled by something. leaving Severus alone with his sleeping bond mate. First chance Severus got. Like that would ever stop Harry Potter. he was going to do a little bit of research of his own. "I wonder what else the two of them have researched?" "What did you find out about the spell?" "Apart from the fact that he shouldn't have been able to use it?" Albus asked in some amusement." "Useless?" Severus frowned. that thoughtful look returning to his face again." he simply explained. The book they read the spell from has the spell written out quite plainly in Latin. No reason for it not to be. . Potter. now more than ever. Albus?" Albus just shook his head. "We need Mr. But then he suspected that was precisely why Albus had mentioned this subject in the first place. "What is it." Albus said in delighted amusement. The incantation is in numerous books. Severus just rolled his eyes. Severus. The spell is utterly useless. not wanting right then to deal with Albus' assessment of Hermione's intelligence."Yes. "Curious. I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest. Some of the old texts are even hard for me to read." Albus nodded. Albus sighed and shook his head. "But that's not what I meant. "They were wrong about why it fell out of use. and Severus realized that something really was worrying the old man. "You're not suggesting her translating skills are superior to yours?" "Actually." Albus agreed.

and his body hurt abominably . "How are you feeling?" "Fine." Snape greeted him. flaring pain in his forehead woke Harry from a sleep haunted by images of death and fire. Potter. He had a headache. and yet somehow lacking the derision Harry was used to. sir. caught in the act of staring thoughtfully out the window. "Professor?" he asked. Mr. he noticed a dark shape sitting beside his bedside. for it distracted him from the pain in the rest of his body. but there was no mistaking that profile framed against the bright light shining in from the window behind him. He didn't really feel fine. he couldn't see the features clearly. Harry wished he could see his features better. turned immediately toward him at the sound. He almost welcomed the pain in his forehead now. The dreams too were familiar. and Harry spared a passing moment to wonder if it had been broken a time or two.particularly his shoulder. "Ah. Without his glasses. Had he been screaming? Snape. Had Snape sat with him all night? He thought he remembered someone stroking his hair. but surely that had been Sirius not Snape. Severus Snape had a rather distinctive nose.CHAPTER TEN An old familiar. When he'd fallen asleep. surprised at how hoarse his voice sounded. his tone resonating with his typical arrogance. Harry wondered how long he had been there. But he'd live. Madame Pomfrey had been attempting to kick out his godfather and the others. and the lives he had taken. . wondering if the man was angry with him. Opening his eyes. awake I see. the faces of the dead reminding him constantly of the mistakes he had made." Harry responded automatically. he supposed that was good enough.

"I found your glasses. he placed them on Harry's face himself. revealing a heavy white bandage on his right shoulder. Despite that. He couldn't recall a single time in all the years he'd know Snape that the man had ever touched him with such gentleness. Snape moved away for a moment. Then Snape reached for something inside his robes. it was Snape's behavior that threw him into a riot of confusion." he informed Harry. and then was back again. wondering if that was a twitch of smile he had seen. And the memory of an arrow protruding from his shoulder was tenuous and strange. He discovered instantly why Snape had done it for him . Potter. But the reality of the wound caught him off guard. rather than simply hand them to him. The room came immediately into focus. Mr. momentarily baffled by the events. "Let me have a look at your wound. and Harry caught a glimpse of skin blackened with bruising and a barely closed wound just below his collarbone. Surely not. He knew he was wounded of course . Then to Harry's surprise. Deft fingers removed the bandage swiftly and painlessly." he said tightly." Harry stammered. immediately raising one hand to push the glasses more firmly onto his nose. Snape caught his wrist and pushed it back down onto the bed. Harry sucked in his breath. and he squinted up at him again.He thought he heard a snort of amusement from Snape. and then to Harry's consternation unbuttoned his pajama top and pulled it opened. . those long fingers moving slowly and carefully over every inch of his wound.moving his arm hurt! He hissed at the discovery.could remember the events of yesterday quite clearly. "Thank you. an oily substance on the fingers of his other. slipping them carefully into position. He gently began smearing the oil over the bruised skin. a small blue bottle in one hand. holding the object up.

And then Snape was replacing the old bandage with a new one. But that was just it." Snape explained. And his leg . "Not as bad. So why was Snape doing it instead? But the pain was fading in a most welcomed fashion. It was strangely intimate. and the whole thing was over. though he doubted he'd have the same thought if it had been Madame Pomfrey doing it. cleaning his hands off on a small cloth. But he remembered seeing other people lying in the street. and those fingers did feel oddly soothing. pulling his pajamas closed and buttoning them back up before Harry could muster up the nerve to say anything in protest. Harry flexed his other arm carefully. wondering if this was where he'd get the lecture on how he was to blame for what had happened. "Your bicep was easily mended.he flexed his calf. wasn't it. The man seemed almost pensive. A moment later Snape was sitting down beside him once again. But nothing more was forthcoming and he glanced up uncertainly at Snape. This was Madame Pomfrey's job. "Poppy was able to heal those two more completely." he told Snape.and never once to stroke his skin as he was now doing." Harry frowned. More than a twinge there. but nothing severe. "Were many other people injured?" Ron and Hermione had both looked fine yesterday when they had visited him. . "How do the other wounds feel?" he asked clinically. and the arrow in your leg missed the bone and went through cleanly. but nothing like the pain that had stabbed through his shoulder.Actually he could only recall a handful of times the man had touched him period . You're very lucky you weren't hurt worse. remembering having been pierced by a piece of wood. There was a twinge of pain. He didn't want to think about the three Death Eaters just yet.

but he thought Snape had just perhaps complimented him." Harry blinked at him in surprise." Harry felt a flare of anger at his words. The blame lies entirely with them." Snape's voice was firm and somewhat angry." he explained. And there were about a dozen wounded . They must have gone down in the initial volley while he was diving for cover. About as foolish as it would be for a sixteen-year-old boy to take the blame for the actions of a group of evil psychopaths he has no hope of controlling. Harry paled. The sound startled him and he looked up in surprise." Snape cut him off. He wasn't certain how to take that . "I saw them in the weapons shop. "It's not your fault. Let them take the blame for their own cowardice." "No. and a moment later Sirius and Remus entered the room. they attacked." Four people killed.Snape eyes darkened thoughtfully. and not one of them returned fire. smiling brightly when they saw . He wasn't certain. He should have yelled something when he'd seen the Death Eaters coming toward him should have warned the people in the street to dive for cover instead of just saving himself. "I should have-" "No.but no one else as severely as you.there were dozens of fully trained wizards and witches out there." Snape cut him off again. "It's not your fault. As for the people in the street . A sound at the door spared him from responding. You can't expect them to.not used to receiving compliments from Snape. implied that he had acted like a hero while trying to ease his guilt at the same time. They saw you. "There were four people killed Hogsmeade residents. "I suppose it would be utterly foolish of me to expect shopkeepers and merchants to act like heroes. "They're shopkeepers and merchants.

worried about what might happen. his fever. and not for the first time. Again Harry was surprised that Snape chose to remain in the company of the two Marauders. and he didn't want him getting in trouble. his aches. Remus merely smiled at Harry and watched Sirius with a look of amused indulgence in his warm eyes. pronounced his wounds as healing nicely. Snape just watched in stony silence. Harry was a bit overwhelmed by the man's attention. "Apparently those Death Eaters were attempting to purchase a rather large quantity of weapons from a store owner.he'd never experienced that as a child. though it was nice to have someone worry over him . noting the glare his godfather threw Snape. He grinned at them both. shoeing them away from his bedside. He could still remember the relief that had washed over him when he'd seen Snape and Dumbledore arriving in the midst of the fire." . and then went off to find him some breakfast while the three men returned to his side. He could vaguely recall her being disappointed every time he recovered. There have been other such purchases in other cities all over England. followed by a dozen more questions about his wounds. "How are you feeling. his treatment. and Harry found himself actually surprised that the Potions Master hadn't left at the first opportunity.that Harry was awake. "I spoke with the Auror in charge of the investigation in Hogsmeade. He vaguely remembered asking his godfather not to fight with Snape. Not to mention the fact that Snape didn't deserve Sirius's anger . Sirius was somewhat hotheaded. She checked him over swiftly.the man had saved his life yesterday. his aunt had simply locked him in the cupboard and peeked in once every day or so to see if he were dead yet. Madame Pomfrey entered. settling back down in chairs around his bed. The few times he'd been sick as a child." Remus informed Harry after they had settled back down. Harry?" Sirius asked. his pains. his sleep.

And while not impossible to do. "The first is common magic. Potter.and arming them for battle apparently.but he supposed without the gunpowder the guns wouldn't be able to fire. . "I'm not certain what an M16 is." "Stable structure?" Harry frowned.there are a dozen different spells that can render gunpowder useless.Harry frowned at that. it's quite easy to shield against the bullets. "They're really not that useful against wizards. "But then why not just put spells on the guns to protect them from those spells?" "It wouldn't make much of a difference. "Even if the guns did fire. Wasn't every day he got a lesson in weapons design. It's easy enough for a wizard to do the same thing. easily done. The second however is not common . Voldemort was amassing his army . But the Muggle side of Harry was baffled by the details." Remus replied. particularly not from this unlikely trio. it is difficult. Even the Muggles can build body armor that deflects bullets." He hadn't thought of that ." "Then put spells on the bullets to penetrate the shields. and it requires a stable are in essence creating a magical artifact. "Wouldn't machine guns be a lot more practical? Seems to me a M16 could do a hell of lot more damage than a crossbow." "Muggle weapons?" Remus shook his head. Mr. but I'm assuming it's a gun of some sort." Harry insisted. understanding the implications. "Why crossbows and swords?" he asked in confusion. And they all require some form of gunpowder to work . glancing back and forth curiously between the three men." Sirius nodded in agreement. Harry. "Putting a protective spell on an object and putting a spell on an object to make it do something specific are two very different things." Snape told him.

" Remus remarked mildly. so did your father. "If I remember correctly." Snape explained. In culture and fashion the Wizarding World reminded him of something out of the middle ages. so it can't hold a spell. It is superheated by the initial explosion of gunpowder. He was actually quite a decent archer. "I learned what I had to. that was not the case at all. Harry. though he never cared for the sword. "Neither does an arrow. So far the Death Eaters had relied entirely on magic and their wands to fight their battles." "Then Voldemort will use swords and arrows?" Harry asked. The same goes for Muggle explosive devices. wondering if Remus was joking.that if it came right down to a fight. and he glanced between Snape and Sirius in confusion." his godfather explained. but Sirius had an odd twisted smile on his lips. Muggle technology would overwhelm the Wizarding World. and it becomes flattened or misshapen on impact. but he had yet to see any sort of sword fighting. But it was the Slytherins who took the training seriously. Snape's features were unreadable as usual." Harry's eyes widened in surprise."A sword does not change its shape or structure when it is used." . But if what he was understanding was right. It doesn't retain any sort of stable structure. "It's common practice amongst all the older pureblood families to teach their children swordplay and archery. Perhaps it was the Muggle World they protected by staying hidden? "But who even knows how to use a sword nowadays?" Harry asked. He had always assumed that the Wizarding World kept themselves hidden from the Muggle World out of fear . A bullet on the other hand changes drastically. "And Sirius wasn't so bad a long time ago. The two arrows he'd been shot with had been his first exposure to such an attack. Severus is an excellent swordsman.

and had a profound affect on both Remus and Snape. Snape's eyes narrowed at Harry's words. He recalled his surprise at how toned and fit Snape was. And he remembered thinking that the scars looked as if they had come from knife wounds. Harry. And he was certain the last thing he wanted to do was explain to Sirius that he'd seen scars upon Snape's body while he was sleeping in the man's bed. Not knives. having missed Harry's words.the idea that he 'should' have known something was alarming. "If it's so common why don't we learn it in school?" He hadn't known the first thing about using a sword when he'd killed the Basilisk in second year with Godric Gryffindor's sword . but the Ministry never actually banned them . throwing a dark glare at Snape." His words were hard and filled with anger." he whispered softly. They're officially frowned upon. "Can you honestly imagine someone like Arthur Weasley condoning something so violent?" "Violent?" "Blood sports." Remus explained."I don't understand. Harry suddenly remembered his first night in Snape's chambers seeing the faint scars upon pale skin. His godfather would go through the roof." Sirius continued. but swords." There was no doubt by the tone of his voice which families he was implying. . "The scars. "Sword duels with live weapons. He looked up at Snape in shock." Sirius explained. his words barely audible. "That's because polite society frowns on the practice.something 'certain' families took full advantage of. "Snape here was quite fond of sword play. wondering what it was he did to keep himself in such good shape. and Harry flushed remembering that he really shouldn't have been staring so intently at the man that night. Harry. Snape. "Had a sword laced with silver if I remember correctly." Harry protested. weren't you.

Harry's own body between them. and Harry could see that the two were about to leap at each other's throats.Sirius this time. A second after he moved he regretted it . Snape rose swiftly to his feet. He felt the soothing fingers returning. his hands shooting out to either side. stroking his burning flesh . His hands closed convulsively in pain.of course then it was too late . before he could pitch face forward on the bed. But watching Snape and Sirius tear each other apart over something that happened over twenty years ago wasn't going to help anyone.Snape taking away the pain once more as he tried to fight his way back to full consciousness." someone ordered . and then he felt trembling hands at his buttons . and he understood what the significance a silver-laced sword would hold for a werewolf. palms connecting with the chest of both men before they could move toward one another. and then finally yelling in .Snape he thought. "Merlin! He's bleeding again!" definitely Sirius that time. fingers tangling in the shirts of both men as a moment later that was all that was keeping him upright. body going limp as the two of them lowered him back down onto the mattress. voice filled with panic . Harry reacted without thinking. Not easy to do when his head was spinning. and he felt the wound in his shoulder ripping open. He hissed in agony. "Harry!" Sirius and Snape caught him at the same time. murmuring softly. And then distantly he heard Madame Pomfrey's voice.pain flared through him. Sirius immediately mirroring his action on the opposite side of Harry's bed. Harry knew there was a lot of bad blood between the lot of them. his features growing shuttered and distant.someone else called for Madame Pomfrey. His head swam with blackness mixed with flashes of painful light.Remus stiffened. soothing him. scrambling up onto his knees on the bed. "Get his shirt open. murmuring again.

" Harry replied. Harry let himself drift for a while. "Of course it's not just Snape." Harry's eyes widened in surprise." Remus agreed. "They kill each other?" Harry asked weakly. ripping open your own wound right in front of them was an effective deterrent. "No. "Sirius isn't handling this whole marriage thing that well. I don't think Sirius is all that crazy about marriage in general. "Forgot I was wounded." "Guess Snape's the last person he would have picked." Harry laughed weakly.anger. Remus just shook his head. "I meant to ask. How are you feeling?" "Immensely stupid. quiet werewolf can stay but you two idiots can get out of my hospital right now!" More protesting . And then finally blessed silence." . He was never big on monogamy." Remus smiled. Remus moved on. how did Severus get chosen? I heard about Fudge's adoption scheme and why you had to get married." "Those two have a talent for driving people to distraction. Opening his eyes. But before Harry could ask questions. "Pretty much. Dating hadn't been something either of them had ever been comfortable talking about. he found Remus seated alone beside him.Sirius and Snape both this time. "Out! Out! Both of you! The polite.certain subjects had sort of been off limits. But wouldn't Hermione have been a better choice for you? Or one of the Weasleys? I would have guessed Ginny would have been happy to marry you. Wasn't often he got to hear pieces of information like that about his godfather . slipping in and out of sleep before he finally roused himself with the thought that he should make certain Sirius and Snape hadn't killed one another yet. a worried look on his face.

"Dumbledore said it was safe enough as long as you weren't already married when you looked into it. is a very powerful concept. part of the problem was everyone said Fudge would probably contest the marriage." Harry said sheepishly. And then there was this whole thing with something called the Marriage Stone. a soul mate so to speak."Ginny was too young.Helen looked into it and instead of seeing her husband King Menalaus. "She's like a sister to me. . . "She was not yet fifteen. Mr." "Not to mention the Trojan War . No matter how honorable your intentions. "But what if the person it showed you had been married already?" Remus asked." "I heard about the Guinnevere-Lancelot thing." Harry broke off and shook his head. "The Marriage Stone? Dumbledore used the Marriage Stone? That thing has been responsible for some of the most disastrous marriages in Wizarding history. and Mrs." Remus told him. she saw the Trojan Prince Paris and promptly ran off with him. And Hermione." Remus' eyes widened in shock." Harry explained. "What if you'd looked into it and it had shown you that your perfect match was this beautiful amazing woman who was already married to someone else. Weasley didn't think their family had enough influence." Harry admitted. "What about Bill or Charlie then? Or surely there must be a dozen young women in this school who would have been happy to step in?" "Well. somewhere in the back of your mind . "Which meant they needed to find someone who had both the money and the power to stand up to the Ministry. The idea of a perfect match. which didn't leave a whole lot of options." Remus nodded in understanding. No one uses it anymore. and besides Ron likes her.

"I didn't say he wasn't a good person. There was a time when I would have told you quite adamantly that I hated him. "Well . But I was wrong. I'm inclined to agree with her. thinking once again that Dumbledore was perhaps slightly more off his rocker than he thought. We've all changed. "Madam Hooch was convinced that it was broken. .you'd always wonder about what might have been ." he sighed. "He sat with you all night you know. and then paused realizing that wasn't entirely true." Harry shook his head vehemently." Harry said hesitantly. That he was a Death Eater." "You two aren't getting along?" Remus guessed." "Well. Remus just shook his head ruefully. not certain what exactly he was saying. Don't let Sirius's anger make you think I share his feelings. "Maybe a little bit. Better than I thought anyway." he agreed." "Why can't Sirius get past it?" . and a murderer. You must have been thrilled." he broke off. I've moved passed all that." It was said with such a deadpan tone of voice. did he really have a silver-laced sword?" Remus sighed. Harry had no choice but to laugh. "Harry." Remus stared thoughtfully down at him for a long minute. "No. Which answered the question Harry had asked himself earlier. a look of profound sadness flooding his eyes. .that's often all it takes to ensure that someone's never truly happy. I don't." he said softly. "You can't begin to imagine. that was a long time ago. But mostly we just hate each other. . that didn't happen. . it didn't. "Remus. Instead it showed you Severus Snape. and we all made so many mistakes back then. "No. Seemed a ridiculous risk to take.

he's got me. To him it's like he fell asleep believing one thing. and he's still trying to catch up. some of those memories seem like they happened yesterday. wondering what that was supposed to mean." he agreed softly." Remus told him. "And when all else fails. "Yeah. An odd look crossed over Remus' features and he gave Harry a somewhat twisted smile. He never saw any of the trials." he assured him. He lost twelve years of his life." Harry reminded him. they happened over night. Remus just shook his head and smiled at him. And unfortunately for him." "I didn't want them fighting. I thought the poor man was going to have a heart attack when you collapsed. He hasn't even really had a chance to deal with your parents' death. "Nothing. "Guilt works pretty well. Sirius had both of them. You mix yourself into the equation and it just becomes all the more volatile. He's having a hard time accepting a lot of things. He was never given a chance to grieve." Harry admitted sheepishly. "Sirius is just a bit impulsive some times. don't get between them again. You're all he's got left. and woke up to discover everyone around him suddenly believes something completely different. never heard about anything Severus did for Dumbledore. and gets some crazy ideas into his head. For Sirius. a rolled up newspaper across the nose usually does the trick." "He's got you." "What?" Harry stared at him in confusion. For me the changes in all our situations happened gradually."Sirius is still trying to piece his memory back together from Azkaban. let alone accept the fact that Severus was one of the good guys instead of one of their killers. Don't go letting him stir things up between you and Severus. And what ever you do. "He's just not certain what to do with me." .

Remus. watching his back. and the very idea made Harry laugh. "Wouldn't be anywhere else. grateful that his godfather had such a friend at his side. Remus just smiled gently at him.That almost sounded like something Snape would have said. It hurt to think of Sirius out there alone on the run from the Ministry and Dementors." he said quietly. "I'm glad you're here." . Harry. reaching out to pat his hand.

. The rabid mongrel never could hold his tongue! And if Black knew Harry even half as well as Severus did. That foolish boy was his own worst enemy sometimes! And now thanks to Black he couldn't watch over him. "Professor?" Snape turned in surprise. I'm sure he'll make a full recovery. . Poppy would calm down eventually." Hermione explained. he told himself. students leaping out of his way as he passed them." Snape informed them. Hermione and Ron stood behind him. Lupin was decent enough. noting the flush that crossed both their features.despite the scowl on his face warning them all off. and sadly that included Black. His only consolation was that Sirius Black was stuck back in his dog form and banished from the hospital wing like he was. Severus shook the memory away. And Lupin was still there. "Is he doing any better?" "If you can manage to keep that rabid dog away from him. Ripping open his own wound like that. shocked that one of the little brats in the hallway actually had the gall to speak to him . . "Yes?" he bit out instead. he would have known the crazy Gryffindor would throw himself on a sword to protect his godfather.loyal to the bone. "We were just on our way to see Harry. He signed inwardly . not wanting to think on it any more.they were all Gryffindors of course . and he stifled the angry words that sprang to his lips. Lycanthropy aside. .CHAPTER ELEVEN Severus Snape stormed angrily through the halls of Hogwarts. he should have known he'd try to keep them from fighting.

Granger. Hermione frowned pensively. She had never had quite the same fear of him as the other students. but nodded her head. "Ms. Ms. Severus led Hermione back to his office. but said nothing. though he'd certainly been cruel enough toward her. motioning her inside before closing the door and sitting down behind his desk. He wondered if it was worth bothering to remind the idiot that Black had broken Ron's leg in third year. Hard to maintain the fiction of loyal Death Eater who favored his Slytherin allies when faced with such a brilliant Gryffindor." They both looked as if they were going to argue. She started to protest.he'd met very few people who could match the girl's intellect. shutting him up before he could finish his statement which Snape would no doubt have to take him to task over. Hermione just motioning Ron to go along without her. staring at him curiously. "You and Potter researched spells last year?" he asked. turning his attention entirely on Hermione as something the Headmaster had said last night came back to him. Mr. She sat in the chair opposite him. "And he can take care of him better than-" Hermione elbowed Ron hard in the side. Weasley."He loves Harry!" Ron protested." Snape dismissed Ron from his notice. "Potter will still be there when we're through. Ron threw a resentful look back at Snape as he headed off toward the hospital wing. I want to talk to you about something. leaping at once to Black's defense. Granger can join you later. Giving Draco Malfoy marks equal to Granger's had galled him to no end . you can run along and visit him if Madame Pomfrey allows it. but he held a hand up to stop her. reminding her of the conversation they had with the Auror yesterday. .

he hadn't had much of a choice. Granger. We just thought that Harry should have some extra help with some things. and exposing him as a werewolf had been the only thing he could think of. we just figured that if Harry was going to survive Voldemort's attacks. And truth of matter was.and very few things startled Albus Dumbledore after over a century and a half. Professor Lupin's been the only decent teacher we've ever had."For extra credit?" he asked. Finally she shook her head." "Go on. "What can you tell me about this King's Voice spell?" What ever it was Albus had discovered about the spell had startled him . . And all Professor Mackrel taught us last year was how to recognize poisoned food. "Professor Quirrell and Lockhart were useless. noting the look of surprise in her face when she realized he had complimented her. sir. "In any event." Snape said grudgingly. Lupin had screwed up . "So we began studying on our own. and Snape had to admire her for her initiative.his failure to take his potion had nearly cost them several lives. At the time. already suspecting the answer she would give. Professor Moody turned out to be a Death Eater in disguise and he spent all his time teaching us the Unforgivables. "No." Hermione continued. sir. Lucius Malfoy had insisted he find a way of getting rid of him." "That was good thinking. which Harry doesn't want to use. "Defense Against the Dark Arts classes haven't exactly been overly helpful. as if trying to come to some sort of a decision. She stared at him thoughtfully. then it was up to us to prepare him. Ms. Hermione sighed." she pointed out." he prompted. sounded somewhat irritated. it wasn't school work exactly." She didn't bother hiding her resentment of the fact that he was responsible for Lupin's dismissal.

"That's just it. why would you think he would mess around with something like that?" "Ms. Granger."Well." . you are laboring under a number of misconceptions." she admitted." "Did you find other spells that had fallen out of favor?" "There were a number of them. It is not your intelligence I question." Hermione explained. but the Gryffindor nature to rush in blindly. But it doesn't seem to be as powerful as the Imperious. sir." "But it worked for Mr. Neither did Ron when he tried it. "Though most of them weren't any use to us. You sort of have to summon a demon first. "Contrary to your preconceived notions. sir!" Hermione exclaimed in shock." Severus paled at that. Granger. "We figured it required someone really powerful to use it. It's not like you can practice demon banishing spells on your friends. we aren't stupid! And if Harry won't use the Unforgivables even in his own defense. but it's just as effective if it works. it's like I said yesterday.I never got it to work. I hope to God you haven't been messing around with demon summoning?" That particular area of knowledge was considered perhaps the darkest of all the Dark Arts. sir. "Ms." she agreed. which is probably another reason it fell out of favor. The thought that Harry Potter of all people might have dabbled in such darkness alarmed him in ways he didn't want to think about. and the look of outrage on her face relieved him far more than he cared to admit. sir." "If it works?" She nodded thoughtfully. and there was no way to play at it without tainting your own soul irrevocably. It doesn't seem to work very well . "Of course not. "It was a precursor to the Imperious. Potter?" "Yes.

Granger." Severus reminded her. "I said they lacked the temperament. Potter and Mr." he informed her. And pointing out their lack of defensive ability to the majority of the public generally causes panic. "Professor. sir. Ms. why doesn't the Headmaster do something about our Defense Against the Dark Arts classes? Professor Dubloise this year is just as bad as Professor Mackrel was. do you have any idea how many students still suffer from nightmares about boggarts and kappas from those . Granger. "Thank you.He saw by the flicker of amusement in her eyes that she recognized his backhanded compliment.such as yourself and Mr. "Because it wouldn't make any difference. That will be all. Granger." Hermione protested. but the majority of all wizards and witches have absolutely no talent whatsoever for the Dark Arts or the Defense Against them. Surely he could find a better teacher?" Severus frowned at her. "You know. "I didn't say they couldn't learn the spells. "You mean why aren't I teaching the class?" She nodded." She stood to leave. Weasley . Slytherins do not have the market cornered on guile. "It is a little known fact. It requires a very specific temperament. Ms. Ms. Very few people are suited to it." Severus agreed mildly. glancing back at him.will learn what they need to in spite of anything else. Those with the proper temperament . Despite Professor Lupin's brilliant teaching. Smart little witch. It's one of the reasons the requirements are so strict for becoming an Auror. but paused at the door." "But everyone learned the basics when Professor Lupin taught the class." "So the Headmaster likes to inform me. he could almost grow to like her.

seemed about to say something. "Then I guess we're all just lucky that Harry has been up to the task. And certainly any proprietor of a bookstore should have known a spell to at least freeze the fire that threatened to burn down his business.this compliment less subtle.classes? Being the one who brews Dreamless Sleep Draught for Madame Pomfrey. Severus had to admire her for it. "Indeed. "But we defeated the boggarts. And yet not one of them raised a wand to help you. It will always be a select few who are called upon to defend the masses. she was still a Gryffindor and her loyalty to Potter wouldn't waver. and we learned how to escape from kappas! Why would they still be afraid of them?" "Why indeed?" Severus agreed." Hermione admitted. Why else would the entire Wizarding World put their hopes in the hands of a boy who has not even finished school yet?" "I always thought that was a little ridiculous myself." He could see his words shocked her. "Yesterday you were surrounded by adult wizards and witches who are perfectly capable of throwing shielding spells and hexes." She looked startled again . She smiled suddenly. She smiled at him. Potter is simply lucky in the friends he has chosen. not to mention a number of seventh-years who studied under Lupin. I do. "Perhaps Mr. and about as close as he was going to come to thanking her for what she had done yesterday." Severus agreed. despite the fact that it was nevertheless true. I can assure you that the best teachers in the world in Defense Against the Dark Arts would not change that pathetic little fact." Intellect or no. then . finding the idea as ridiculous as she did.

He returned to his own chambers. Ms. Professor. He found it highly unlikely that Harry Potter could do a spell that Hermione Granger was unable to manage . or at the very least drive him away. he and Lupin were well matched. Severus fought the impulse to go for his wand. Standing in front of the portrait to his room was a Grim. meeting the dark gaze with one equally dark. He was the size of an Irish Wolfhound and possessed a menacing air." Left alone. unconditionally. All things considered. The King's Voice. then Harry would hate him forever. It looked like he had some research to do. And the facts were simple . harmed him.changed her mind. standing instead stock still in the hallway. pulling open the door. completely. "Good day.if Severus drove Black away. Sirius Black in his animal form was intimidating. . Severus turned his attention to the puzzle Albus had left for him. eyes gleaming with the cold killing gaze of a wolf. he realized immediately that his research would have to be delayed a while yet. Granger. But as he approached his chamber door. hurt him. Sirius had made his move in coming here in the first place. "Good day." she said instead. Albus had said that Harry shouldn't have been able to use the spell either. deciding to try his own private library first for references to the spell. Harry loved Sirius Black. Severus stopped and stared at the large black dog that was gazing balefully back at him in the darkened corridor. though Severus would never admit that out loud. utterly. But he couldn't help think of the smile that had lit up Harry's face when he'd seen his godfather beside him. He wanted to hex him. He had a decision to make he realized. or attempted to keep him from Harry's life. and like it or not the next move was his.which meant there was something more going on here.

despite his numerous declarations of hatred. . sometime in the last few weeks. despite everything that stood between them and against them. Thus the decision. Harry's opinion had come to matter to him. Severus Snape walked forward. His rival. Somehow. and for the first time in his life let Sirius Black into his home. spoke his password. Sirius Black. His enemy. His tormentor. the boy did not dislike him so completely as he once had.that while there was no affection or fondness. And though Severus was loathed to admit it.He thought sometimes that Harry's feelings for him had softened just a little . Harry had succeeded in capturing Severus's admiration as completely as he had the rest of the Wizarding World. despite every reason he had to despise that boy and all the annoyances he brought to his life. He was not willing to dwell on the fact that perhaps admiration wasn't all he had captured. The man his bondmate loved.

He was mistaken. but did not stop his incessant sniffing. save to borrow some parchment or quills. Harry had avoided his lab. But he had made his decision. Harry's desk was given a close inspection.if only to get it over with. His office received only a cursory sniff as well. Harry rarely went there either. Everything else in the room was inspected. and he had to accept what was to come . The dog growled low in his throat. and watched in silence. and there was no point in denying these actions. He moved on then to the other rooms. They were inevitable. Severus wanted to protest. Harry often read in there. charms.he'd had the gall to ask one night why . defense against the dark arts . Severus had given him permission. and he watched in annoyance as the dog began moving quickly through his chambers. wanted to catch the loathsome creature in a body bind and stop this rude invasion. sniffing the door around the potions lab before his hackles raised and he moved on. nose sniffing everything he moved passed. and the dog had the audacity to wag his tail as he sniffed the cloak the boy had left draped over the back of his chair.CHAPTER TWELVE He thought that Black would transform the moment his door was shut. Save for their one impromptu lesson. as if knowing that at least one room in this place was Severus' domain completely. "You piss on anything Black and I'll skin you for a hearth rug. He'd asked at first. and had out of curiosity kept track of what the boy found interesting. The library however was given a thorough going over. Still. and Severus had to admit that Black's nose must be extraordinary as he managed to pick out everything that the boy had touched. some insult would be appropriate. if he could read the books." he sneered. Spell books. Severus sat down in front of his fireplace. borrow one from time to time.

Black. never a book out of place. only because he knew this had been coming. Severus thought. cold.Severus didn't own any books on Quidditch." The words from Black's mouth were hard. Anger and menace were radiating off the man as he stood in the doorway glaring at him. Black moved from the library to the bedroom. his face as dark as a thundercloud. Severus held his temper. "You force him to sleep in your bed. But Black didn't come out immediately. choosing instead to search the room entirely before returning to the main room. never mentioning it to Harry again. not my prisoner. "You're suggesting he wants . wandless magic sending them flying. though it was quickly masked. Surprisingly." Something flickered through Black's eyes. ready to pull it out if it became necessary. Surprise. And if you thought about it even for a moment. He listened in silence. and filled with accusation and hatred. The growls coming from the bedroom suggested that violence might indeed be the outcome." he stated. When he stepped back through the bedroom door he was once again in his human form. Severus had heard the books flying off the shelves when the angry young man had locked himself in there unrestrained. you'd realize that not even Voldemort has had success with forcing that boy to do anything he didn't want to do. and Severus quietly moved his fingers toward his wand. his voice just as hard. "He is my bond-mate. the boy had always left the library in the same condition he found it. guessing at least part of the conversation that was going to take place in a few moments .assuming Black didn't simply go for his throat instead. all save that one time when he'd fought with Severus about his clothes. "I don't force him to do anything. just as cold. pushing open the door with his snout without even a backward glance for permission. He'd put them to rights himself. And then to Severus' utter annoyance.

"Is that why you were chosen? Because no one would imagine that the marriage was not valid?" He spoke the word valid with contempt. "Two weeks ago I discovered a Wandering Eye Charm on Potter's broom." Something flared in Black's eyes. "But neither of us had much choice in the matter. no doubt put there by one of my Slytherin students at the request of their parents. But then Severus had to concede it had been a poor lie he had wanted to detest it. His jaw never relaxed. "I can assure you that he quite detested the idea. had in fact cultivated the reputation. "That was one of the reasons. obviously disbelieving the later statement. "No." Severus continued sleep in your bed?" It was obvious from his tone that Black was implying the exact opposite." Severus snarled. A second bed would certainly have been excuse enough." . All Fudge needs is a single excuse that this marriage is invalid. As did I." Black's eyes narrowed at that. the Eye had already made a complete search of these quarters. Severus glared back. "Because no one would imagine that you would not take full advantage of Harry the moment you had him alone?" Severus fought down his own rage. but Potter was too blasted attractive for it to be true. "Minister Fudge forced both of us into this situation by his actions. and Severus could see the man biting back some retort. wondering if twelve years in Azkaban had really addled the man's brain so completely. Black." "You're telling me that the great Severus Snape can't remember how to transfigure up a second bed?" Black mocked. By the time I found it. jaw clenched. He was used to such accusations.

And I'll grant you that no one would deny the validity of such a marriage. It's something no social climber would ever refuse. "Would have had him believing that the sun rose and set with her." Severus continued. Students were off limits to her." Severus went on. something that would be true in fact as well as appearance most likely that very night. "You know. "I'll grant you. "The fact that we had approximately fifteen minutes to find someone suitable didn't help matters either. Sinistra's appetites are very well known. The moment the semester let out for the summer session. Until now. For about a week." "Do you have any idea how starved for affection that boy is?" Severus silenced Black's tirade quite effectively with those words. I have never believed you had anything but Potter's best interest at heart. Sinistra! He couldn't believe the man was suggesting such a thing. "that Sonara Sinistra would most likely have jumped at the chance to marry the Boy Who Lived." "Really?" Black's eyes flashed with anger." Sonara Sinistra went through young men the way other women went through clothes. but everyone on the Hogwarts' staff knew what she meant by the 'Seventh Year Hunt'. The man's face paled as if Severus had struck him. "No doubt Sinistra would have rocked Mr." Black's eyes widened and he took several steps toward him before catching himself.he admitted. "His best interest! You must think very highly of yourself if you think . "You're telling me there was no one else in this castle who was suitable? I suppose Sonara Sinistra was out of town at the time?" Severus stiffened as he stared at Black in utter shock. despite all the things I have thought of you over the years. Sinistra went after the best and brightest of the graduated class. Then she would have lost all interest in . Potter's world. Black.

Sinistra hadn't even occurred to any of them that night . his tone indicating that he had obviously accepted the fact that Sinistra had not been a possibility.Potter was no longer precisely off limits to her. "There was no one else?" Black asked then." Black stood there in silence. And someone strong enough to protect Potter from Voldemort. "We had fifteen minutes. Who would you have suggested?" . Someone who had enough standing to face down the Ministry. perhaps? No one would have bought that. Sinistra would have chewed him up and spit him out.indeed many older wizards and witches preferred to have affairs with younger married men and women who would understand that the union was casual and that nothing would ever come of it. and moved on to someone else. all the other female staff members were married. face still pale. Truth was. Who would you have suggested? McGonagall. Sinistra had obviously been his capital argument and he seemed uncertain where to go now that Severus had so clearly pointed out the ridiculousness of the situation.him. he is still a sixteen-year-old boy who desperately wants to be loved. And he knew for a fact that marriage would be no deterrent to her . would not have accepted Sinistra as a possible substitute. Even Black wouldn't suggest that Trelawney had the strength to go up against Fudge. She would have left your godson heartbroken and betrayed." With the exception of Trelawney and Sinistra. Even he. who had been ready to fight tooth and nail against marrying Potter himself.would have been dismissed by all of them if she had been. Black. For all his courage and maturity. Sinistra would have destroyed Potter more effectively than anything Voldemort had come up with. "We needed someone who was believable. As a married man. he did not have the same protections as the rest of the students. He made a note to himself to keep an eye on Sinistra .

"No. to his surprise.Black didn't answer. watching him." Black said flatly." he stated coldly. I suppose we don't have to worry that Harry might accidentally fall in love with you. And if we are to educate Mr." Severus growled. He really expected more argument from the man. Potter in proper Wizarding customs. Severus waited. I doubt you'll ever have to worry about that. and Severus waited for Black to deliver what ever parting shot he'd prepared before leaving. his gaze hardening again. and Severus stifled back his taunt of glee that he'd actually won the argument.might actually look at the situation logically. and he dropped down into the chair across from him. They sat in silence again. "If I ever find out that you tried to force yourself-" "Don't finish that statement!" Severus cut him off swiftly. Far as he was . Again. "Just so we're clear on the subject. The comment stung no doubt a great deal more than Black had intended. Black looked up at him. obviously still thinking about what Severus had said about Sinistra. fighting to keep the anger out of his voice. not really knowing how to read the play of emotion on the man's face. His gaze however did not waver. It had never occurred to him that Black might actually consider his words . Finally Black's pacing took him near Severus. Rather he turned away from Severus and began pacing restlessly around the room in silence." He could no more let that insult go than he could have let Draco Malfoy's insults to Harry pass unremarked." Severus bit out. There was a look of defeat in the man's face. Black conceded. "Well. he too would have no choice but to take offense. "I would have no choice but to take offence. making no attempt to finish what he'd been about say. He didn't think the Gryffindor had even known how to reason. "Perfectly.

rage burning through him. Black. That insult. what insult he'd just given to the Snape family honor. housing. was just as great as the one he'd just stopped Black from uttering seconds before. But before Severus could formulate a proper response. fury on his face. But Black knew full well what he'd just said. hands clenched into fists. however. The insult that Severus had been about to deliver slipped from his mind. Black too had leaped to his feet. He couldn't believe what he'd just heard. "I am his godfather!" he shouted. Black. couldn't conceive of it. "It was my right to ask that question before this marriage ever took place! You will not deny me now!" Black's words shut him up more effectively than a blow would have. why not?" Severus frowned. while of a completely different nature. I only just bought them for him. . surprised him yet again." "You intend to fulfill your duties to him then?" Severus leaped to his feet in shock. He could forgive Harry his misunderstandings concerning money.concerned. He had not been expecting such an out of the blue comment. "Half the clothes in Harry's wardrobe don't have his scent on them. "I suppose because he has not yet worn all of them. He found himself dropping numbly back down into his chair as the unreality of the situation suddenly struck him. The only difference here was that this insult was delivered to Severus alone. a family that Severus knew had been in Slytherin for hundreds of years until Sirius Black had come along. they were done discussing what they inevitably had to clash over. still belonged to one of the oldest pureblood families in the Wizarding World. replaced by disbelief. clothing and care because the boy had grown up a Muggle. it was beyond laughable. mongrel dog or not.

Severus intended to offer nothing else. That you were never a Death Eater. for missing a lifetime with his godson. trying to find words they could both live with. For the first time he could also almost see what it was that Potter and Lupin saw in the man.negotiation. "There is no point to this. And love he did . body stiff with anger. all their past hatred.fiercely. Black glared at him. Despite the torment he'd endured." he said slowly. "Dumbledore says you were a spy for him all along. If he was honest with himself. watched in numb shock as Black sat back down. he'd just become involved in betrothal negotiations with Sirius Black for the hand of Harry Potter. He stared in silence. So caught in this startling realization. making clear by his words that he understood exactly what Black had intended by that statement. That you had tried to save . He was dead serious about this. Severus couldn't blame him for wanting what was best for Harry. And Severus had no choice but to accept the fact that somehow. He did have the right to the answer . He will want for nothing. He didn't know what to say." And that alone would have to satisfy Black. and Severus could see a glimpse of the torment so many years in Azkaban had wrought. he had to admit he admired Black's determination. "I made an oath that I will not break.should have been given the chance to ask before the marriage had taken place and thus made an acceptable question a grave insult. . This was beyond anything he'd ever imagined. .But there was no denying the look in Black's eyes. impossibly. gaze never wavering. Severus almost didn't catch Black's first words. He swallowed past a suddenly dry throat. for the first time he could almost pity Black for it. then Black was right. . Despite everything. he'd come out of Azkaban still possessing the capacity to love.

Barely. didn't want to acknowledge any kinship with the man. God. something flickering darkly in his eyes. .Lily and Ja. suspecting that this was going somewhere. "were evil. Severus fought the urge to squirm in his seat. Disbelief swelled inside of him.James. and Severus knew that the proverbial 'their' he was referring to were the other Death Eaters and the Dark Wizards that were so prevalent amongst the Slytherin families. Severus bristled at the implication that Albus had been talking about his family to Black. Severus knew all about Black's family Dark Wizards the lot of them." Black began again. why no one had even raised an outcry when he'd gone to Azkaban without a trial." It struck him then. his stomach twisting suddenly with nausea. "My family. and angry that I turned my back on their preaching. That you didn't believe their ideology. . but he managed to hold his tongue." Black repeated." Black wasn't looking at him now. That your mother was not much better. that you turned your back on their preaching. "Dumbledore said your father was an evil man. It was one of the reasons no one had questioned Sirius Black's guilt. Generations of them. "Dumbledore says you first joined to stop your father. staring instead at a point beyond his shoulder. Suspecting also that this conversation was probably long over due. That was not how their . where this might be going. No one except one lone werewolf whose voice had been lost amid the screams of outrage. He couldn't help wondering where this was going. surely Black wasn't doing this? Wasn't going to point out the similarities between them he didn't want to look at those similarities." His voice broke as he said his friend's name. only to break off. Respected by the Wizarding community." Black continued. cruel. Severus stayed silent. a cruel man. respected and feared. . "My family.

" Black told him. even though you should have recognized all the signs. his voice somehow hollow." Black said in a strange tone. I remember seeing bruises on his arms and I asked him what had happened. This was about Harry. almost lost. "And you didn't see it. "The Dursleys hurt Harry." The nausea twisted into pain as Severus let the man's words sink in.hard to do that I imagine when you're being starved. Didn't want to hear his angst-ridden story. He just shrugged and said they . . Except he hadn't gone through much of a growth spurt . This wasn't about him or Black. . wasn't his confidant.why would he. Seconds away from grabbing him by the scruff of the neck and throwing him from his rooms. I didn't see it even though I should have recognized all the signs." Black's words cut off Severus thoughts abruptly. I doubt they are unfamiliar to either of us. and you don't even know why. and you didn't see it." What in God's name was the man trying to do to them? Severus was seconds away from screaming at him. "I saw him briefly just before term started last year. It was too little. So why in Merlin's name was he putting them both through the torment of voicing things that should never be uttered? "Things come back to you at odd times.relationship worked. sometimes you say and do things because of them. They weren't going to bond. "Memories come back to you and send your mind in directions it shouldn't go. Weren't going to be friends. You saw him nearly every day for five years. understanding flooding through him at last. They're all thin when they go through growth spurts after all. "I remember thinking he was too thin." Black repeated. But he had a great appetite and I shrugged it off as typical teenage growing pains. He wasn't Black's confessor. This was all about Harry. "The Dursleys hurt Harry. Sometimes those memories set you off. . . too late.

" Black demanded. All he had been thinking about was being locked up in a small space. I realize now that the whole kissing aspect of the game had been lost on him." he said quietly." Black stood abruptly and began pacing again." Black explained. knowing Black wouldn't leave until he said what he needed to. "Harry had been horrified by the description of the game. seeming startled by his words." Black went on. knowing he had to hear the rest. we should have." Black stated. and sharp as steel. refusing to watch. "Yes. no one got through seventh year without learning about Deuces .were from a Quidditch accident. Even Remus and I teased him about it. Black turned swiftly toward him. snog-session was the ultimate goal of the game. Severus met his gaze. "I remembered the teasing he endured that night at dinner. We both should have seen it.a fact I conveniently forgot. "We should have known. He could still remember the look on his face when he'd suggested he sleep in the closet. "We should have seen it. Severus stared at the ground." And that brought back the memory of Severus' careless words to Harry his first night here.a ridiculous card game which generally ended with the two losers being locked in a closet together for five minutes. and his voice was unforgiving. "Then you admit it. Except Harry wasn't allowed to play Quidditch at the Dursleys ." ." And Severus couldn't agree more. It seemed to take forever for him to finally catch on to what we were all talking about and blush appropriately. A quick groping. the knot in his stomach evidence enough. "You admit that we failed him. And all the years of bitterness and resentment seemed to stand between them like unbreachable walls. Severus gave a twisted smile at that. "I over heard the Weasley twins telling him and Ron about playing the game Deuces.

they were united. waiting. No warmth entered his eyes."Yes. shifting from one to another too quickly to follow. and with a sigh Severus got up and let him out. The black Grim sat silently beside the door. but he nodded in acknowledgement and returned to his canine form." In this . Black.this shame . I admit it. . And it seemed that was all Black wanted.

"It's alright. Half of Gryffindor had been panicked with the belief that Harry was dead. "Merlin! I'm sorry. "They wanted to know how much blood there was. if you screamed. . you get used to it. The descriptions of the arrows that had been protruding from Harry's body had been detailed and lurid. and vaguely sick." Harry said quietly. giving the two friends some time alone. looking for an appropriate lie. The story of the attack had spread through the school like wild fire. "Harry.CHAPTER THIRTEEN Remus left Harry's bedside shortly after Ron arrived." Harry assured him. Ron knew him too well." "Don't worry about. Harry listened in silence while Ron told him all about the restless night he and Hermione had spent in Gryffindor Tower. and Ron and Hermione had spent the better part of an hour assuring them it was untrue. A dozen students had seen Severus Snape carrying Harry's bloodied body into The Three Broomsticks. Ron looked up at him in worry. Lots of people are scared that this means You-Know-Who is going to attack again. did I ever do that? Did I ever bug you like that?" Harry floundered for a moment too long." The redhead looked flushed. "I had no idea how exhausting it was. "In any event." . we talked late into the night. if. "They wanted to hear the whole story over and over again. "Believe it or not. And you should hear what they are saying about Snape. and sighed." Ron confessed to Harry." Ron just shook his head. ." He broke off and shook his head. Harry! I had no idea." he replied. "Maybe. Ron.

and probably find someway of taking points from Gryffindor for it too. and we told them so. looking at Harry uncertainly. He's insufferable enough as it is. He and Dumbledore were like the bloody cavalry. He'd hold this over our heads for the rest of our lives ." Harry admitted. "Nothing bad. He knew the questions were inevitable. given their age group.Harry looked up at that in surprise. Snape did love taking points from Gryffindor. Harry just nodded to him. "What about Snape?" His voice sounded defensive even to himself." he assured him. but the redhead just gave him an amused look and rolled his eyes in exasperation." "Figures. Harry?" Ron asked softly." Harry agreed. . anyway. "Don't tell him." Harry said gratefully. and Harry knew what he was really asking. Ron apparently thought so too. But Hermione and I figured it wasn't anyone's business. weren't they?" "They saved our lives. "You okay. Ron." he broke off hesitantly. But it was nice to know that Ron and Hermione at least understood. He'd be the first to admit that." Harry agreed." "Snape laughs?" Ron asked incredulously. "Anyway lots of people wanted to know if. "Sometimes. He'll laugh himself sick. . "I'll have to tell Snape." "Probably. encouraging him to say what ever it was. ." "Thanks." Ron finished. "Usually when I've done something stupid. "If you had killed anyone." Ron rolled his eyes again. "And what curses you had used. "It's just that for the first time ever Snape is being hailed as a hero by Gryffindors.

"Wanted to know about our extra study sessions. It surprised him that for some reason he wanted it to count. old mistrust flaring in him. perhaps remembering the arrow that had been there yesterday. And Snape. It was close enough. Hermione set the tray on Harry's lap. Molly Weasley and Sirius had ever dared do. "He wanted to know about the spell King's Voice. Hermione interrupted the two of them a moment later." Harry stiffened at her words. "Snape stopped us in the hallway on the way here. Snape had picked him up and carried him in his arms yesterday. That counted he guessed. God knew they weren't going to learn anything useful from Professor . It's nice to know I can count on you two. entering the room carrying a tray of food for Harry."No. "Said he wanted to talk to 'Mione. She frowned." she explained as she approached the bed." Harry admitted. "Madam Pomfrey sent this for you Harry. Ron helped Harry sit up. Harry was not demonstrative with anyone. Harry shot him a questioning look as he took a bite of the eggs on the plate. He reached out to pat Harry on the shoulder and then thought better of it. "But I'll manage." Ron nodded fiercely." They both looked questioningly at Hermione. "What did Snape want?" Ron asked Hermione as she sat down in the chair opposite him. propping pillows behind his back to settle him." Ron explained. Harry frowned. He could count on one hand the number of times he'd been hugged . the gesture as unfamiliar as it was welcomed." she explained. fighting back some emotion. He squeezed Harry's hand instead.something only Hermione. "Is he going to stop us?" He had counted on those study sessions continuing.

Hermione just shrugged. "I'm serious. "Well.Dubloise this year." Harry had become gradually used to the lessening of hostilities between himself and the Potions Master and was only mildly shocked by her words." Hermione said quickly before Ron could launch into a tirade condemning Snape before hearing the outcome of their conversation. no. By all three of us. And for some reason Snape understood that it mattered.complimented us. But Ron. . Ron and Hermione. and why didn't I get a memo?" That set the three of them off. "Give points to Gryffindor?" "Well. the three of us. "No. "No. The thought flooded Harry with a strange sense of warmth. and lost themselves in just being teenagers. he sort of . and for a moment they forgot about Death Eaters and wars and dying. In fact he implied that he approved. . Actually." Ron laughed. he just stared at her like a gaping fish." Hermione admitted. "But then this wasn't really about being Gryffindors. Hermione nodded." she admitted. . "Did he. disbelief coloring his words. It mattered a lot. "It was kind of odd really. was it? It was about being friends." "What?" Ron and Harry stared at her in shock. damn." Friends." she insisted. "Snape?" Ron asked for clarification. he's not. If it hadn't been for Hermione and her study sessions Harry doubted he'd be alive now. ." Ron shook his head. mouth opening and closing as he floundered for words. . Harry. "He actually seemed impressed. "When did Hell freeze over.

not in all the weeks they had slept beside each other. "Hours I imagine.Eventually. motioning to the sleeping dog. Particularly this one. understanding belatedly the direction this conversation had taken. Remus laughed softly at that. Prying open his eyes. Harry looked up at the man in surprise. I take it?" "A complete prat. Padfoot grew unnaturally still beneath his fingers. He woke that evening to a feeling of warmth pressed up against his side. would have been nice to have someone who could bite Dudley. Sitting again in the chair at his bedside. hadn't thought about it really. But of course Dumbledore had told Sirius about what they . "You want to talk about it?" Remus asked gently. He slept through the rest of the day. He hadn't intended it. The dog twitched but didn't wake. the shaggy dog stretched comfortably on top of the bed's duvet. they're usually more trouble than they're worth. and for one disoriented moment he thought it was Snape." Harry grinned. Ron and Hermione left. But Snape had never touched him. was Remus Lupin. isn't he?" Remus asked. "Still. "I always wanted a dog. "He missed lunch. "Dudley is your cousin. his body exhausted from the ordeal he'd been through." Remus mused. snoring softly beside him." Harry admitted." Remus' eyes softened. "Not very nice. giving Harry a chance to sleep once again. "How long has he been there?" Harry asked softly." he admitted almost wistfully. and though Harry didn't notice." Harry smiled and reached out to scratch Padfoot's shaggy head. "Well. an amused smile on his face as he stared at the two of them. he realized it was Padfoot. at Madam Pomfrey's insistence.

The last . Remus smiled indulgently but shoved Sirius' hand away from him." Sirius suggested.had learned about the Dursleys. Harry?" Sirius asked him. His godfather sat up quickly. The thought that Sirius might be less alone than he seemed warmed Harry clear through his bones. and worry. one of concern. Harry wasn't entirely certain how to refuse that look. Sirius turned his attention back toward him. He had never been good at talking about things. And then just to be annoying. He felt the fur shifting under his hand and yelped in surprise when he realized that Padfoot had become Sirius again. "I'm alright. Realizing now that Sirius had heard his comment about Dudley. He found himself stifling back a giggle. Oddly enough. Remus. "You sure you don't want to talk about it. but for the first time Harry noticed something deeper in his godfather's eyes. There was nothing accusing in his tone. especially not feelings. Harry sighed. Snape had gotten more out of him than anyone else. something warmer and brighter burning there when he looked at Remus. He rarely opened up to anyone. and the look in his eyes was replaced by a different gleam. a blush spreading over his face as he realized what that look was. He flashed the werewolf a quick grin. and his eyes held simple understanding and the faintest look of hope that Harry might relent." he admitted. Sirius grinned. Ron looked at Hermione that way when he thought no one else was watching. "Maybe you could tell me why you never said anything. returning his unintentional caress. as Sirius moved to the chair beside Remus. he reached out and ruffled Remus' hair as well." he assured the man. flashing him a bright grin even as he reached out to ruffle Harry's hair. repeating Remus' question. And of course Remus would know as well. "Don't know what I'm suppose to say. and affection.

it just continued to seem stupid. "I guess." he said softly. but he didn't want the man feeling guilty either for something he had no control over. The only thing he could remember from that time was their deaths." he admitted. I had nothing to compare it to. urging Harry to continue. "It wasn't until I went to the Burrow and saw what Ron's family was like that I figured out something was wrong. he recognized the protest that sprang to both their lips only to be just as quickly stifled as they fought whatever first impulse they both had felt. and always had been. "And after you came to Hogwarts. . knowing exactly who he meant and why his words made sense from his point of view.thing he wanted to do was hurt Sirius. I thought about it briefly. Then I didn't know what to do. And I just figured . . Harry could imagine what it was. Harry?" Sirius prompted. "Things were too new the first year. he supposed from their perspective things had been different. Dumbledore said I had to stay with the Dursleys because it was the only place I was safe. It's just the way things were. I figured Dumbledore and McGonagall had to know. searching for some explanation." Harry sighed." He saw the flicker of shock in both their eyes at that. Next thing I know I'm being accused of being the Heir of Slytherin and it seemed kind of a stupid thing to be worrying about. With all the people trying to kill me. courtesy of the Dementors. "I guess before I came to Hogwarts I didn't know there was anything wrong with the way they treated me. He supposed that admission probably hurt the two of them more than it did him. "I don't remember them. but it seemed that anyone who could do anything about it knew already. or who to tell. They could both remember the year he'd lived with his parents before he'd entered the Dursleys' lives. and both men just nodded in understanding. regretfully.

"We can't change what happened." He'd looked away at some point during his little speech. or if you just. "And it isn't stupid. Apprehension washed through him." Sirius added. he glanced hesitantly back toward the two men. We can't go back and make it right. "Harry. "If anyone tries to hurt you again. you tell me. squeezing his hand again before releasing him. too many years of having his feelings count for nothing making him dread what they might say to him. and not really able to find any more words than that. no point in making a fuss over it. Wasn't going to last forever. And we want you to make a fuss over it. ready to dismiss it all. guessing what Sirius meant this time. it does matter. But if you need to talk about it." Harry twisted his mouth into a rueful smile. "Thank you. Both were looking at him thoughtfully. suddenly shy under the attention. . . and the look in Sirius' eyes brought a lump to Harry's throat that made him feel good even while it hurt. Ready to protect himself against whatever hurt might be sent toward him. we're here for you. We would if we could." he started to say. I promise I'll bite whoever it is." Sirius told beat being dead. "It doesn't matter. as if trying to take in his words. . holding it in a tight three way grasp. Both men seemed to understand and they smiled at him. ." His words were soft and soothing." Remus added. "And Harry." he whispered softly to them. though the man was obviously attempting at least to . Both men startled him by reaching out simultaneously and grabbing his hand." "Harry.need us. or trying to reconcile them with what they knew about him. and at the silence that greeted it.

" Remus turned conspiratorially toward Harry. Sirius on the other hand looked genuinely startled. "You know. Settling down sounds rather nice. but I don't have anything against it." It was Remus' turn to look startled. "Or else. . Feeling suddenly mischievous and wanting to lighten the mood." he grinned. "I suppose I never thought about it much when I was younger. Moony tells me you're not all that crazy about marriage. "And trust me. "Well. "Don't go telling Harry things like that! He's too young for. not believing he'd just heard Remus Lupin make a sexual double entendre in front of him. I've heard just about every snitch catching and broom polishing joke there is. but Snape's been pretty decent to polite. "Your idea of settling down was dating the same person for longer than a week. "Moony!" Sirius exclaimed in disbelief." Remus rolled his eyes upward in what Harry assumed was amused embarrassment. . Sirius. Harry grinned impishly at his godfather. "Your father used to say that Sirius thought dating was like Quidditch." He let the threat hang. Padfoot. "Did he?" he glanced at Remus in surprise." Harry interrupted him with a snicker of hilarity. "I'm not too young. Once you caught the snitch the game was over and it was time to start a new match. "I know you don't like him. however." Remus accepted his statement at face value. Padfoot. he better stay that way." Harry let out a shocked laugh. just bit his lip in a stubborn pout." ." he groused. having the benefit of their earlier conversation to go on. He stared at his friend in disbelief. "You? Settle down?" It was obvious from the tone of his voice that he found the idea ridiculous.

" . wondering why that would surprise Sirius." He glanced somewhat curiously over at Remus. Sirius watched him go with an odd look on his face. "I'm not like that now. and Harry sensed a sudden tension between the two men. but rather headed out the door in search of the promised meal. "Moony. "You missed lunch. Harry took a shot at answering. "Besides." Sirius thought about that a moment. "Of course not." he said with a dismissive laugh. "I guess he is a bit shy. I don't remember him ever dating when we were in school. But the werewolf just snorted in disbelief. I was young." He didn't wait for a response. looking genuinely perplexed." he laughed. You're bound to be hungry." Sirius said defensively." Sirius added. just because I dated a lot back then doesn't mean anything now." "There's nothing wrong with being a werewolf. I wasn't that bad. but Harry had the impression that the man wasn't nearly as disinterested as he appeared to be. "It's probably just because the concept of dating a lot of people is most likely foreign to him. Harry. "Why don't I go get you some dinner. Come to think of it. nodding in grudging agreement. People change. it's not true anyway."Broom polishing!" Sirius sputtered. watching Remus' expression." Harry's eyes widened. his face growing red." Remus suggested. "What do you suppose that was all about?" his godfather finally asked him. And. "Lots of people would have been happy to date Remus. "Remus is a werewolf. "I'll believe that when I see it." Sirius began only to be interrupted as Remus stood abruptly.

" he admitted sheepishly. The man honestly didn't know? He couldn't believe it. . How do you know so much about werewolves?" "Snape made us write an essay on them in third year. At love." He studied Sirius's face. struck speechless by Harry's revelation." Sirius frowned in confusion. "You probably ought to read it if you're planning on falling in love with a werewolf. noting the thoughtfully gleam in the man's eye. Hermione's was very detailed. or mated. "How did you know?" he asked."Of course there's nothing wrong with being a werewolf!" Harry agreed. and he blinked at Harry in shock. I never thought about it. He slumped back in his chair with a look of profound amazement on his face. "We never talked about it. "How could you have spent all that time with a werewolf and not known?" Harry asked him curiously. "Fall in love. and magical resonances." "What are you talking about?" Harry stared at his godfather incredulously. I never understood the theory behind it. and animal instincts. "Werewolves mate for life. and then that's it for them. Sirius just shook his head. Hermione can probably explain it better to you. wondering if Sirius was missing the bigger picture here. But they get one shot at it." Sirius looked completely stunned. "But that's not the point now is it? Werewolves only get the one shot at it. but the protest died on his lips as Harry just laughed at him. Had something to do with scent markers." That brought Sirius' attention right back to him." he sputtered. They're bonded. "One shot at what?" "At dating. or whatever it is you want to call it. "It just never occurred to me. . .

"I'm always SERIOUS. "No matter what happens. Good luck." Sirius admitted somewhat dejectedly." "Not that I know anything about love. hinted at it." He'd been watching Ron and Hermione dancing around one another long enough to know that nothing about love was as easy as it seemed. "I kind of like the idea that the two of you have each other." Harry rolled his eyes at the man. believing that with all his heart. looking suddenly hopeful. He didn't . "I can do that." Harry agreed." Harry told him. I don't suppose he would be interested. his eyes lighting up with the thought." "Does that bother you?" Harry just shook his head. I don't exactly have Remus. He doesn't seem to be interested.Harry shrugged. "But that might not be as easy as it sounds. I don't think he'd leave you. Sirius could resist the joke. "It's sort of written all over your face every time you look at him." Harry told him. but he just sort of shoots me down before I can get started. remembering something Remus had said earlier about Padfoot having him but not knowing what to do with him. it would be you." he assured him. "No. a wicked grin twisting his mouth. "Do you think that's it?" Sirius asked then. "Do you think I might have a chance with him?" "He's not going to leave you." Harry thought about that." And despite the topic." "So all I've got to do is convince him that I'm worth taking a risk on. And if anyone in the whole world had a chance." "Well." Sirius decided. "No. "I've tried to bring the subject up. "Not if he didn't think you were serious about him.

"A challenge!" Sirius laughed. But he supposed the man would figure that out himself. but he had a feeling that treating this like a game was precisely the reason he didn't have Remus in the first place. "I'm good at challenges!" Harry smiled up at his godfather.not much chance of him ever falling in love after all. . Assuming he lived long enough to care about such things.figure it was a problem he'd ever have to worry about . He wasn't going to say anything. Eventually.

Remus endured it all with good humor. "Good.CHAPTER FOURTEEN Remus returned with their evening meal and the two men ate dinner with Harry. apparently more at ease now that he knew Harry didn't mind." Harry told him. and Harry gave him a hesitant smile. Eventually Madam Pomfrey kicked them out. Kicking Black out is one thing. . seeming at once both annoyed and amused but generally unoffended. Then she too bid him good night. Harry watched in amusement as his godfather flirted more openly with Remus. He did not however flirt back. . "Went to bed." . unsure of how he should respond. "Last thing I need is another scolding from her. sir. but he let the comment pass. assuring him that they were healing up quite nicely. insisting that Harry get more rest. I think. and that he could go back to his own room in the morning. black robes billowing about him. Harry glanced toward the door Madam Pomfrey had just disappeared through. a mocking gleam in his eyes. but calling me an idiot. chatting quietly about school and Quidditch." he agreed neutrally. "Madam Pomfrey said I can leave tomorrow morning. The Mediwitch checked his wounds one last time. "Is she gone?" he asked. his resonate voice making Harry shiver for some reason. "I trust you're feeling better?" "Yes. sir." Snape sat down in the chair beside Harry. moving silently across the ward. A moment later Snape slipped into the room." he informed the Potions Master. Snape raised one dark eyebrow.the nerve of her!" It almost sounded like Snape was making a joke. "I'm sure.

nor the worried gaze of Sirius. consuming him. but it was all slipping away because it was dark in here.I didn't exactly get my potions homework finished. And the other thought. He was already calculating how many points he could take away. the terrible thought. unwilling to let Snape see his pain. rolling onto his side. but feeling something in his mind slipping instead. A direct question from Ron had not done this to him. "Perhaps you should have finished your homework before you went to Hogsmeade. unwilling to see Snape's amusement. Couldn't imagine that the man would be happy to have him back. But one mocking insult from Snape broke down a wall he hadn't even been aware he'd erected. . He tried with all his might to hold onto those missing points. and Harry recognized that gleam in his eyes." He supposed that was going to cost Gryffindor a few dozen points. Snape had never been forgiving of late homework. and the candlelight was casting shadows on the old stone walls. "Wouldn't want you missing classes." Harry agreed. one he was desperately trying not to think about. tried to picture the tally in McGonagall office. sir. . He squeezed his eyes shut." Snape said dryly. trying to focus all his attention on those soon to be lost points. "Yes." Snape suggested. "Though. Because Snape's words had sparked another thought in his mind. then turned away from him. an unintended thought."Excellent. though Harry guessed he probably would have preferred to have his place to himself for a few more days. triple if Ron and Hermione had failed to finish as well." Harry glared at him. then remembered something. was roaring to life inside him. His breath caught in his throat. now would we?" "No. and some how Snape's words always struck deeper and truer than anyone else's. I was going to work on it after I got back from Hogsmeade. sir. no matter what the excuse. hands fisted in his bed sheets. a single sob escaping him before he strangled it back. .

And the thought was a cold. damn him. pressing the vial more insistently. and he felt the familiar lethargy catching hold of him. And his body was cold and shaking. as Snape placed a potion vial at his mouth. glass he realized. they wouldn't have seen him. words Harry couldn't really understand from so far down in his blackness. The Death Eaters would have been gone from the weapons shop by the time Harry had gotten there. And then Snape's fingers were tangled in his hair as the man gently tilted his head back. pulling it all back inside him. and he sank back into it.Because of course Snape was right. hurting and aching and bitter. Then those villagers wouldn't have died.trusted that the contents would not harm him. wouldn't have attacked. And he wouldn't cry. He felt something cool at his lips. Just a short delay was all it would have taken. He didn't care. and he felt on the verge of hyperventilating. He even . hard emptiness inside him. Had oddly grown use to this over the last few weeks .then it wouldn't have happened. and he was pulled back and up until he was braced with his back against Snape's chest. strong fingers wrapping around him. Wouldn't cry! Instead he sucked in great gulps of air to hold back those tears. not caring that it was really Snape's arms he was sinking into. Then amazingly there were warm hands on his shoulders. And he listened to Snape's soothing voice.Dreamless Sleep Draught. The potion seeped deep into his veins. forcing him to swallow the contents. didn't mind. pushing it all back down into the empty place. He recognized the taste even . soothing tone. and Harry wouldn't have killed those three men whose faces he could now see joining the ranks of the other dead in his mind. and the man was talking to him in a low. He should have done something as simple as finish his homework . that he was lying there in Snape's embrace. still unable to recognize the words or process what they might mean.

and that was so much better than the screams that were pressing at him. seen the shuttered look of pain that had crossed his face. But he hadn't fought him when he'd pulled him into his arms. He'd come down to bring him the Dreamless Sleep Draught. fighting the tears with all his might. But he hadn't been able to do anything else. It was funny how quickly Sirius Black's words came back to haunt him. He couldn't help remembering the Triwizard Tournament. that people had died. this was why he found himself with his arms around Harry Potter holding him while he hyperventilated.' Severus could only guess that this was the case now. No tears.turned so that he could hear a calming heart beating beneath his ear. or baring that his friends. So much better than the darkness. Never any tears. The boy hadn't reacted yet . wasn't prone to giving comfort. had swallowed back his tears . He wasn't a kind man. meant in jest. 'Sometimes those memories set you off and you don't even know why. worried he might have nightmares again. He should have broken down in the arms of his godfather. He hadn't meant to upset the boy. waiting for his potion to take affect. But then this was the boy who put up silencing charms rather than wake his dorm mates with his nightmares. Oh he'd tried to hide it immediately. had turned away. His own actions had actually startled him. that he'd been forced once more to defend his own life. But one careless comment about homework. hadn't resisted drinking the potion he set to his lips. Not even in the arms of Molly Weasley. He hadn't truly broken down then the fact that he'd nearly been killed again. What surprised Severus was that the boy had broken down in front of him. had set the boy off. He'd seen it the moment it happened.Severus wondered if he'd ever let them fall. unable to bear watching Harry's pain without at least . One part of him had been expecting it.

But he hadn't been. but quickly settled back down in sleep. The man must have retrieved them for him sometime yesterday. He felt the boy calming at his arms. He recognized the clothing as some of the new ones Snape had bought for him. pronouncing him satisfactorily healed. Well. Now what was he supposed to do? He vaguely recalled someone moving and shifting him in the night. breathing slowing. feeling well-rested. He doubted Snape would ever mention it. and that Harry was safe.trying. He'd really expected to be rebuffed. But Harry surprised him by turning slightly in his arms. The man had probably been mortified by Harry's behavior. hell. Harry's subsequent break down. Madam Pomfrey woke him about an hour before breakfast. rejected. he was still the much hated Potions Master. that it was all right to let go. head resting on his chest. Harry Potter had fallen asleep in his arms. he could probably promise him the moon and never have to worry about being held to it. he decided. And then the taste of Dreamless Sleep Draught. And his words . Potion or no. expecting him to pull away in discomfort. He wouldn't think about the rest of it. She checked his shoulder one last time. . Snape's late night visit. But he suspected the boy was too far gone to really care or understand anyway. His face flushed as he remembered last night's events. and he sat up sleepily. he thought. Complete claptrap of course. He murmured in protest.utter nonsense about how it was going to be okay. and then handed him a pile of clothes and pointed him toward the showers. A moment later he realized that the young man had fallen asleep . dismissing it.

and fielded them with his usually vagueness. By the time they had been allowed out.But he had been decent to him. Didn't seem much different from what Ron and Hermione did. There was a full moon in a couple of nights. so he knew Remus would be more on edge than he usually was. It was the first time he'd ever seen two men interacting like that. Though he suspected he'd pay for it eventually . It reminded him of the day after his marriage to Snape. It occurred to him suddenly that this was the first time that some of them had seen a battle up close.probably during potions class that day in fact. Harry wouldn't forget that. . but it had been interesting to watch the flirting last night. Every eye in the Great Hall was turned toward him when he entered and made his way toward his seat at the Gryffindor table. and Hermione echoed his sentiments. Harry was warmed by that thought. telling him that Sirius and Remus had asked them to tell Harry that they would be back this evening and were planning on sticking around for a while yet. Harry. He was also ready for the barrage of questions from the rest of the Gryffindors. Even during the great battle last year they had all been locked away in their common rooms. Breakfast was more of an ordeal than he'd expected. "You should have seen Dumbledore earlier. He really hadn't been given much of an opportunity to spend long periods of time with his godfather. Besides he wanted to know what was happening between him and Remus." Ron said then. And Neville. Eventually Hermione and Ron managed to exchange a few private words with him. Ron and Hermione were waiting for him. Only this time they were discussing blood and death and battles. holding his seat. the Ministry had already removed the bodies from the field. Dean and Seamus were quick to welcome him back with heartfelt questions about his health.

"And at least three of the Ministry candidates were with them. as he skimmed the article quickly. "It was brilliant. "Threw them all out. all the paintings start screaming no matter what form she's in. Threw more insults than Snape on a bad day. liberating the copy of the Daily Prophet he had been reading. shook her head. demanding to see you. "A group of reporters tried to get into Hogwarts this morning." Ron told him with a gleeful grin. The words were written in bright red lettering just above a picture of the damaged street of Hogsmeade. "Rita Skeeter?" Hermione. I don't think I've ever seen Rita Skeeter run so fast."What happened?" Harry paused in eating. Harry risked a glance at Snape. And we've already warned Padfoot that she's lurking about." Hermione explained. Hermione showed Harry the front page. "Don't worry. he winked brightly at Harry before turning his attention back to his blueberry muffin." Harry's head shot up in alarm. 'Attack in Hogsmeade! Boy Who Lived Battles Death Eaters'. involved conversations with him. noting again that there were quotes from several people he'd never heard of who had apparently had long. He did note somewhat pleased that . Dumbledore has put an alarm on Hogwarts." She reached over toward Dean's plate. Harry inexplicably found himself blushing. but he didn't like the idea of that woman any where nearby when his godfather was visiting. quickly surmising the problem. "What did Dumbledore do?" Harry asked. glancing worriedly at the high table. but the Potions Master was glowering into his coffee cup and did not look up. He turned his attention back to the article. Harry. But Dumbledore seemed his usually happy self." Harry relaxed marginally. The moment Rita enters the premises.

" Harry questioned. "Count on it." "But your dad's not opposed to fighting." "What about you?" Harry glanced at Neville. but its only Dark Wizards who are into blood sports. that's something different all together. considering that only a few months ago he was always listed as a 'suspected Death Eater' every time his name was so much as mentioned. Dark Magic. noting his fellow classmates. and apparently Severus Snape. He rather suspected that explained the glare Snape was still giving his coffee cup. But she still thought I ought to at least learn the basics. "Hey Ron. "That's a Slytherin thing Harry. Nothing ever came of it. Bill wanted to take lessons when he was in school. He wasn't certain what to think about that. But sword dueling." Dark Wizards. Something occurred to Harry then and he glanced up." Ron told him. Now he was lauded as a hero. . "My grandma made me take lessons. He glanced over his shoulder at the Slytherin table. Neville.though my mom laid into him over that fight. "Oh." Neville admitted." Ron just shrugged that. "I'm not any good at it.Severus Snape had received some rather high praise from the paper. and they're often linked with Blood Magic. "He got into a fist fight with Lucius Malfoy in the middle of Flourish and Blotts. how much do you guys know about sword fighting?" "Sword fighting?" Ron snorted at that. Lots of kids take lessons. My dad doesn't hold with any of that. That's blood sports. "Do you suppose any of that lot knows how?" he asked. Even worse at archery. he'd say there's nothing wrong with the occasional scuffle . and he and dad got into a bit of row over it.

And I guess that means he's not a Death Eater. "I know he's your bondmate now and all. He sat down with Hermione during lunch and finished it then. ." the boy confessed. Snape simply went from desk to desk collecting the scrolls while he lectured them on their new assignment. "The three of us would be dead if it hadn't been for him and Dumbledore. . never once breaking his narrative." And that was enough. which was only partially completed. "Good thing he's on our side then." Neville nodded apologetically. Hermione and Ron did however and they both looked at Harry in surprise. Harry. But the stories I heard said he used to duel a lot when he was younger. almost protective toward Snape. especially since he saw the old mistrust flaring in Ron's eyes. glanced briefly at Harry with an unreadable expression on his face. The three of them snuck up to one of the unused towers near the Headmaster's office to visit Sirius and Remus that evening after dinner. Snape did not take away points for his missing homework. and nodded in agreement. grateful for the reprieve. "One of the reasons I've always been so afraid of him."Draco and Blaise definitely. and they moved on to a different subject." Harry felt suddenly defensive." he broke off suddenly." Neville agreed. One of the best. To Harry's surprise. and asked about . "Lucius Malfoy is a well known swordsman. his face reddening. and then moved on to the next table. Harry took a guess at what he was about to say. He picked up Hermione's and Ron's. isn't it?" he said quickly. Harry just shrugged at them. guessing he owed it to Snape to turn it in as soon as possible. As the other students handed in their homework. Harry was still worried about Rita Skeeter. "So is Severus Snape. So is. It was done so smoothly that the Slytherin students didn't even notice. Ron just sighed.

" "Even still. "Even if she can't get in." Harry cautioned. "Don't worry about me. It was nearly a half hour after curfew before Harry made it back down to the dungeons." But he allowed his godfather to lure him from his pensive mood with stories that soon had them all laughing. and Remus had finally remembered that Harry didn't have the luxury of sneaking into Gryffindor Tower." he smiled. Sirius. "You still have to stay out of sight. Padfoot the crup seemed quite pleased by his forked tail. Remus had offered to walk Harry back down in effort to stave off punishment.the wards Dumbledore had set up to insure that she couldn't get into Hogwarts. furry crup. It was still early in the year. A quick wave of the werewolf's wand and the huge dog looked like a small. "Remus has a spell. "But it's a hard one to see through. but sooner or later he was going to be out . Harry." He transformed into Padfoot for them so that Remus could demonstrate. And we've got a backup form as well . "Just bugs me that a killer like Lucius Malfoy walks around free and you have half the Ministry after you. I doubt Pettigrew has kept that secret. " Harry just sighed. earning a round of laughter from the rest of them." Remus told them all." Sirius transformed back into himself. but Harry had decided against it." Harry said after they had convinced them it was safe enough. "A dog in the company of Remus Lupin is going to be suspect. I'm sure Malfoy probably knows. "It's just an illusion of course. The chances are good that a number of Slytherin students know you're an Animagus." Sirius said with a grin. "I'm good at escaping. which he wagged prodigiously. They had lost track of time.Remus can make me look just like Crookshanks." "Got that all worked out.

setting it down on the coffee table.after curfew . Probably. He shook his head and headed toward the bedroom.and he supposed now was as good a time as any to find out what Snape was going to do about it. Was the man going to make him guess? He waited several more minutes. Snape was sitting in the main parlor when he entered. his expression unreadable. Finally he crossed the room to his desk and retrieved the finished homework scroll he had done at lunchtime. He stared at the scroll a moment. Harry paused in the doorway. Harry stared at him for a long moment. "You're lucky Filch didn't catch you. before finally reaching over and taking it from Harry." Harry waited. He didn't glance up as Harry walked into the room." he said quietly. Snape glanced up at that. He approached Snape somewhat cautiously. "He's been patrolling these halls a lot lately." he said tentatively.something always came up ." Snape remarked. wondering if he was drawing this out on purpose. Uncertain if he should acknowledge the lateness. before finally giving up. Harry hesitated a moment by the door. He went back to reading his book. "Are you still willing to go to my family's dinner with me?" Snape asked before he could leave. "Thank you. "I'm sorry I'm late. "I finished my homework. reading by the fire. But nothing more was forth coming. not looking up from his book. trying to catch a couple of Slytherin students. He sighed. Was that why he didn't take the points away? He wanted a favor? "I promised I would." he said simply. sitting down across from him on the couch." Harry reminded . Harry frowned.

He was just sleeping in it. but that's all. but he supposed for the dinner he'd have to dress up a bit more. vaguely aware of the hand that reached out and lightly brushed his . "Good night. "It's this Saturday. The thought nagged at him for a long time. He showered and changed into his nightclothes. grabbing the promised potion from the nightstand as he climbed into bed." "We'll be taking a port key. "I'll pick out something suitable for you." Harry felt suddenly self-conscious. safe. a faint mocking smile touching his lips. It wasn't his own bed. He wasn't going to break his promise." "Thank you." he added softly before hurrying into the room. the mention of the potion reminding him of last night's events. "I trust that's convenient. he was curious about the man's family. and more comfortable in his own bed than he had been in the hospital wing." He glanced at the bedroom door. feeling suddenly nervous as he thought about the fancier clothes Snape had bought him. But even still he was vaguely aware of the man climbing into bed beside him. Besides. It was Snape's bed. "I left some more Dreamless Sleep Draught for you on your nightstand." Snape told him." "I have Quidditch practice in the morning." "Will you tell me what to wear?" Harry asked. feeling at once relaxed. Setting his wand and his glasses on the table. Then he climbed under the covers and settled down for the night. "I've already made all the arrangements for one. But it still felt more comfortable than the hospital bed. He was already drifting away on the calming waves of the Dreamless Sleep Draught when Snape joined him.him." Snape explained. He'd been sticking with the more casual wear so far. he pried off the lid and drank the Draught. His own bed. Snape nodded. even if Snape acted like a jerk. nodding toward the room.

. Then he was lost in a peaceful contentment that carried him all the way to back from his forehead.

"So do you know what you're going to wear?" Hermione asked him as they all sat around the table enjoying their meal." . Harry!" Neville's eyes widened in shock. "Wear when?" Dean asked. Snape had brewed the Wolvesbane potion for Remus. staring at Harry curiously. Neville and Dean looked up at that. telling Harry that they probably wouldn't be back until Sunday. There was a full moon on Friday night. "Can you imagine a whole house full of Snapes?" "Oh. but even still he was usually pretty exhausted after his transformation and intended to sleep most of Saturday. Sirius intended to stay with him. "A formal Wizarding dinner. though he'd confessed to Harry that he hadn't gotten very far in his attempt to court his friend. "Snape says the rest of the family is nothing like him. with the Snapes of all people!" Harry rolled his eyes." Ron informed them with a look of disgust on his face. and both Remus and Sirius stayed away from the castle that day. "Poor Harry has to go have dinner with Snape's family tomorrow night." he insisted. Remus still treated his flirtation like a joke. Dinner in the Great Hall Friday night was particularly lively as several seventh year Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs had managed to purchase some of the Weasley Twins latest pranks and were in the process of tormenting the Slytherins and the Ravenclaws. A number of students were sporting pink hair and rabbit ears much to the amusement of their peers. "It shouldn't be that bad. Harry was grateful for an uneventful week.CHAPTER FIFTEEN After the excitement of the weekend. Harry knew enough to steer clear of the pranksters.

and more than one fork. That had been his one and only exposure to any sort of formal dinner. He glanced down at his plate. wondering if maybe there was something about this that Snape hadn't told him. remembering suddenly a time when he'd made the mistake of disturbing his Aunt's table prior to one of her formal dinners. Formal Wizarding dinner. He vaguely remembered that there had been more than one crystal glass at each of the settings. When he'd snuck out of his cupboard to look. Even now he could clearly remember her pulling him over to the sink and dousing his hand with scalding water from the teakettle.something Petunia had kept locked away in a hutch. He'd spent the night holding his red hand against his chest. one peep that night during their dinner. and quite curious about the fact that his Aunt had made such a fuss over her table setting. biting his lip to keep himself silent. "I never did like formal dinners." "Too nervous?" Harry frowned. Hadn't thought about it being formal. he'd noticed the 'good' china . grabbing him by the wrist and dragging him away from the table. He'd been sobbing in pain by the time she'd dragged him back to his cupboard and thrown him inside. but I always felt too nervous to eat. My grandma likes to throw them. ." Neville shuddered. He remembered her calling him all sorts of names as she'd pulled him into the kitchen. as he'd listened to the tinkling of fine china and the laughter of the Dursleys' guests. intent on punishing him for daring to touch her things. Petunia had spotted him then and had shrieked in outrage. it would be a week before he saw another scrap of food."Still. The silverware had looked unusually beautiful and he'd reached for one of the spoons just to see what the pattern was on the shining handle. He'd been perhaps six or seven years old. informing him that if he made one sound. He hadn't really thought about that.

"Formal dinners. "I've eaten at the Leaky Cauldron. Harry thought about that. Weasley told him so often enough." Ron snickered." "The different forks are for different courses of the meal. "Maybe it's so you can eat twice as much food. mate. He knew he had decent manners. What do you need two forks for?" "Good question." "Oh. courtesy demands that they make a concession to that and have proper ." she said vaguely."What are they like?" Harry asked. looking over at Neville who gave her an uncertain shrug. That means a dagger. "Depends on how considerate the Snapes are. apprehension filling him suddenly as he realized that he didn't have the first idea how to behave at a formal dinner. which might mean you'll be using something called a 'scramasax' in the old language." Harry explained. The Dursleys had never even taken him for fast food. "But this is a Wizarding dinner. "That's not really what I meant. But he somehow doubted that any of the dinners he'd had at the Burrow were what someone would call formal. Harry. And we had ice cream in Diagon Alley. Truthfully until he'd come to Hogwarts he rarely even got to sit at a table to eat. The twins regularly lobbed food items across the room at such gatherings." "Haven't you ever had a meal at a nice restaurant." Neville told him. let alone a nice restaurant. Mrs. "I mean I saw my Aunt set her table once for a formal dinner. "What are what like?" Hermione asked." Dean told him with a nod. and there was more than one fork I remember. Harry?" Hermione asked curiously. "Since everyone knows you were raised by Muggles." "Daggers?" Harry asked in disbelief.

" "But I don't even know the Muggle customs. drawing his attention toward the Slytherin table. They have all sorts of customs Muggles don't have." Harry protested. "What about daggers?" "At a formal Wizarding dinner." "No forks?" Harry asked in bewilderment. Most of the other Slytherins did the same .and as Harry glanced around the hall he noticed they weren't the only ones. Flitwick and Sinistra. there are typically only daggers and spoons at a setting. Forks are considered too Muggle." Neville explained. Harry. "I'm completely hopeless at formal occasions. "But I've read about them.Muggle implements like forks. But some of the old Pureblood families wouldn't be caught dead using a fork at a formal dinner. He holds his knife in his dominant hand and spears his meat. McGonagall. To his surprise so too was Dumbledore." ." she informed him. Ron nudged him. There were a number of Ravenclaws and even a few Gryffindors with similar manners. He held a rather pointy dinner knife in his dominant hand and a spoon in the other. Hagrid was like usual tearing at his food with his fingers. Harry looked at Hermione for confirmation. "I've never actually seen a formal Wizarding dinner myself. "Ever notice how Malfoy eats. My grandma made certain of that. but at least I know what the customs are. A quick glance at the head table showed Snape doing the same thing." Harry glanced at Malfoy. "How am I supposed to figure out the Wizarding ones?" "We can give you a crash course. He was deep in conversation with Blaise Zabini. and even unlucky to have at a table. but Ron was right. She just shrugged. Harry looked back at his friends in bewilderment. only using the spoon when absolutely necessary." Neville offered.

thoroughly annoyed with himself. He found to his consternation that his mind was increasingly focused on Harry. "That's more important than Snape's dinner. Severus thought. And on that point Ron had to agree. Harry was nowhere in evidence." "Not if Snape strangles him. he shook his head in disgust. ." Ron reminded him." Neville pointed out. "Well."You can teach me everything I need to know by tomorrow?" Harry asked hopefully." Neville looked skeptical. Severus had chosen some appropriate clothing for the boy and had left it on the bed along with a note informing him of the time they had to be leaving. Just as well. marking papers and preparing for next week's classes. Now as he entered the bedroom he noticed that the clothing was gone. since his family was expecting them around four o'clock. He returned to his own rooms to dress early in the afternoon. Severus spent most of the day in the Potions Classroom. "We can try.. Wrapping a towel around his waist as he left the shower. and his note was lying on the bedspread. Few things in his opinion were more important than Quidditch. though only grudgingly. he dried his freshly washed hair with a quick spell before turning toward the . He collected his own clothing from his wardrobe then retreated to the bathroom to shower. While Harry had been at Quidditch practice." "Don't forget Quidditch practice. . but promised to be on time. A quick glance at it showed that Harry had scribbled a response to him at the bottom saying that he had something to do and would get dressed in Gryffindor Tower. and after realizing that he'd just spent the last ten minutes trying to picture what he would look like in the formal attire he'd chosen for him. It would save them from getting in each other's way.

He glared at his nose . He paused to look critically at himself. not giving it a chance to scar. So far Harry had been careful not to offer him the same opportunity. Regardless.made even more noticeable by the strands of silver wrapped around it in warding. And even his body was marred by the ever-present Dark Mark upon his arm . but didn't guess he had much else to commend him in the looks department. in the last few years he'd helped Madam Pomfrey patch him back together a number of times.he healed any new wounds he received quickly now. he was familiar enough with at least parts of Harry's body. At least that was one old habit he'd abandoned . It meant that at some point since they'd been married. Most likely that he'd performed some sort of Dark Magic to coerce the boy into marrying him. Then there were the scars. The scars were a mark of honor in the Sword Circles. that was for certain. He hadn't been able to tell from his single betraying statement when Lupin and Black had been telling him about Blood Sports. He was never going to win any beauty contests. but that wasn't the Slytherin way. and breaking it when he was younger had not improved it had never been an attractive nose. He'd been in enough sword duels to have his fair share of them . He was strong and fit enough he supposed. wondering what his siblings were going to think when they saw him standing beside Harry Potter. the boy had actually looked at him while at least partially undressed. That had surprised him. And from a young age he'd been taught to do things the proper Slytherin way. and he'd given the boy as much privacy as possible. Golden Gryffindor . Harry had noticed the scars. He couldn't help wonder what the boy had thought of him though.mirror.could have healed the injuries before they had scarred of course. He supposed there was no point in laboring under the illusion that the boy might find him even remotely attractive.

Unlike the Golden Gryffindors who more closely resembled their shaggy Gryffindor lion. Like Lupin and Black. But then maybe that was just the way that Gryffindors liked it? With a frown. and then on a whim he added another spell to whiten them. All the fashionably dressed Death Eaters wore their hair slicked back in neat unmoving waves. whose hair was perpetually messy. he set down his wand and reached instead for his hair gel. and as Draco Malfoy set the fashions for his age group. and a great deal like Sirius Black's actually. Like Harry. This was another habit taught to him by his Slytherin peers. he put the bottle of gel back in the cabinet unopened.boys didn't find slimy Slytherins attractive. Severus lowered the bottle of gel without opening it. Ironically it made the Death Eater masks easier to wear. It was a simple. It was a common practice among his generation of Slytherin. slick and greasy like snakes. then picked up his wand to perform a quick shaving spell. Of course. because after all who could ever really get past the nose to care about the other features. it was common enough amongst the students as well. silently mocking himself for hoping that it would make any difference at all to Harry . and then dismissed it as hopeless. wellknown fact. It had never been important to him. He frowned at himself in the mirror. A simple spell cleaned his teeth as well. He paused before opening the bottle. staring down at it thoughtfully. With a sigh. Slimy Slytherins. Normally he preferred to use a straight razor. glancing at himself again the mirror. but the spell gave a cleaner look. practically begging someone to comb their fingers through it to tame the locks. Marginally better he thought. with little thought to neatness or style. he'd never really done anything to try and improve his looks either. They typically wore their hair free and wild. Without the gel his hair looked silky and wild.

A quick glance at the clock reminded him that it was nearly time to leave. And having been tailor-made to Harry's measurements. decorative studs on the breeches. He noticed Severus finally and stood quickly. he way or another. finely stitched.he absolutely could not abide the messiness .no excuse for it really. He was grateful a moment later that he had controlled his baser instincts for it afforded him a clear view of the expression on Harry's . seeker build. Those breeches were really the height of decadence. Dressing himself quickly in the breeches. Another glare into the mirror. the doublet highlighting Harry's slender. Severus had to force himself to keep his eyes on the young man's face instead of moving down the line of his body as he wanted to do. He wondered if Harry had any idea how appealing he looked. He didn't notice Severus immediately. along with the dark. he returned to the bedroom. for there was nothing particularly boyish about him at the moment -appearance. giving him a moment to take in the boy's young man's he corrected himself. but he looked as much like a young prince as any Slytherin pureblood Severus had ever seen. his glasses somewhat awkward looking. Enough vanity for one life time. they fitted Harry perfectly.he combed his hair as neatly as he could and tied it back with a black ribbon. doublet and boots he'd chosen for himself. spotting Harry sitting somewhat pensively on the couch and staring into the fire. He wondered if Harry was ready. He returned to the main room. the breeches sinfully form-fitting. dragon hide pants and boots. The whole outfit was accented with silver . and he sighed in annoyance . Harry was wearing the green doublet Severus had chosen for him. and then turned his attention to his clothes. His hair was still perpetually messy.glittering silver thread stitched into the doublet. But he could at least compromise .

guessing this was where Harry backed out of going. Nice. not at all what Severus had been expecting him to say. "Look about this dinner. though he resolved right then and there to toss out any remaining bottles of hair gel. no doubt in reaction to the seizures Severus assumed he was suffering for daring to compliment him. An actual complement. "Nice. "I think I should warn you. but done so twice." Harry finished. . The boy's eyes widened behind those glasses. . Mr." the boy added. though he might consider himself damned with such faint praise. I'm probably going to embarrass you. Severus stiffened. Severus decided to take mercy on him. Harry flushed suddenly as if only just now realizing that he'd not only just complimented him. . He couldn't really blame him after all." He allowed just enough amusement and mockery to flavor his words that the boy rolled his eyes in exasperation. "You look. He frowned suddenly. Potter. his face growing strangely blank all of a sudden. Severus couldn't stop his own eyes from widening at that. "Are we through with the niceties?" Severus asked dryly. his mouth dropping open in surprise. bristling as he waited for the insult. "You look very nice too. .face as he took in his appearance." Severus stilled." the boy began." Severus frowned. The boy crossed his arms over his chest in a gesture that could only be called defensive. And then would wonders never cease? "I like your hair. That was certainly more than he had expected." Harry agreed just as dryly. the night would probably be miserable. "Excuse me?" . "Please.

an odd. " He broke off. But there was something else here. "Embarrass you. processing all he'd just heard. "In front of your family. physically this time as the body was remembering even if the mind did not want to acknowledge it." . "That's not important. . as if it hurt. his question drew the boy's attention directly to his hands. He also looked unaccountably wary about something." Severus stared at him for a moment in silence. I just thought you should know. . Harry had not yet stopped rubbing his left hand. something that was making him far more nervous than it should. his face shuttering the emotion that had flashed briefly across it.the Aunt had hurt him." he said quickly. But it told Severus everything he needed to know . I mean the closest I ever came was a brief glimpse at my Aunt's table setting. That the boy had made such an effort to learn Wizarding dinner etiquette in an effort not to embarrass him was extraordinary he couldn't help wondering what he had done to earn that consideration. and he dropped his arms to his sides. unconscious gesture he had never seen before." Harry explained. but most of it just went over my head.He noticed that Harry was rubbing nervously at one of his hands. Immediately he stopped. As he suspected. but I've never been to anything formal before. Neville and Hermione tried to teach me some of the customs. "How did your Aunt punish you?" he asked quietly. I just thought you ought to know. "In any event Nev and 'Mione spent all afternoon telling me about daggers and salt and table linens.. and I got punished for that. catching himself in the act of rubbing his left palm. "The point is I am probably going to screw up royally by passing the salt with the wrong hand or buttering my bread on the wrong side. a dark look in his eyes which he quickly shook away.

Gryffindors were really too bloody honorable for their own good any Slytherin would see this as a perfect opportunity for revenge against him. this will probably be a whole lot worse. "You seem to think that I care what my family thinks of me. I just thought you should prepare yourself. with me not knowing whether to slice or dice. You think potions class is bad." Severus informed him. well. yeah. "You seem to forget that without you their social standing in society is questionable at best. I don't. "Or you for that matter. and they would all smile and politely pretend that nothing was wrong. He went over to the mantel to retrieve the port key he'd set there earlier ." "Good. one that remembered a lifetime of abuse. "Well. I've had lots of practice. okay then. You could start a food fight at the table. "Are you concerned that this might anger me?" He suspected he understood the nervousness now as well while Harry might understand on a rational level that no one would punish him for a social transgression.Severus' eyes narrowed..a small silver coin that he could easily place in his pocket." Harry admitted. Which he didn't. "I'm good at making you angry. In fact I think I would find it quite entertaining to watch my brothers and their wives squirming under social conventions while they try to make nice with the Boy Who Lived. the nervousness was coming from a completely unconscious part of his mind." Severus agreed. If he cared about his family's opinion. looking somewhat surprised that he'd been asked such a question." "Really?" Harry grinned." "Huh?" Harry looked confused. . . ." Severus felt his lips twitch in amusement. I won't worry about it. Severus allowed a faint smile this time. "Well. and he fought the smirk.

her husband is the exact opposite." He saw Harry frown at that. Claudius and Marcellus. and he pushed his own sense of regret away. and would have to pick one of his nieces or nephews as his heir eventually. It wasn't a very strong regret ." Severus told him. Harry nodded and moved toward him. though they had a tendency towards crassness I never cared for. "And the other brother?" Harry asked curiously. He was still quite young when I had my falling out with the lot. he'd likely have no children of his own. and yet the two had always seemed fond of each other. but sociable enough. . Claudius has one. He'd always thought Diana had made a poor choice in husbands. age six. "He's the youngest in the family. "My sister has two children. I've never met them. reaching out to touch the coin ." "What about children?" Severus shrugged. Considering the marriage he'd made for himself. a truly gentle soul . and sweet.a fact that quickly becomes apparent the moment they open their mouths. holding up the port key." Severus shook his head at the thought. Diana. But he supposed one of these days he ought to make an effort to get to know them. The two older brothers. Their wives sadly were chosen for their looks and not their brains . Rather gruff. But from what I remember I always thought that of all of us he was the most like our father. "I have three brothers and my sister." Severus mannerisms anyway."So what can you tell me about your family?" Harry asked. He's not a whole lot older than you actually. "Are you ready to go?" Severus asked him. are both very similar. . Diana is quiet. "Julius. age three and four. "How many people are going to be there?" "Don't know about the number of people. I don't really know him very well.all things considered he didn't really enjoy children.

Severus tapped the coin with his wand. .with him. and a moment later they were both being pulled across the land.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN Harry hadn't really known what to expect when he'd returned to the dungeons after his etiquette lessons with Neville and Hermione. but had eventually given in when he'd discovered a life-sized picture of himself in Colin's dorm room next to the boy's bed. and as Harry entered he was greeted by a wave of good-natured whistles and catcalls. The common room was unusually crowded for a Saturday afternoon. "You look great Harry." Seamus agreed. Hermione had eventually stepped in to shut them all up. He'd come to the conclusion. To his annoyance. "Supposed to be that way. which had him bright red with embarrassment in a matter of moments. Harry had of course not wanted to believe it. "Don't you think these pants are a bit tight!" Harry had protested when he'd shown the results to Ron and the others. Looked more like something Gilderoy Lockhart would wear. He'd stared horrified at himself in the bathroom mirror. somewhere between discovering there was a right and wrong way to unfold your napkin and that salt could only be passed from the left to the right that he was probably going to make a complete fool of himself at dinner. "And if you don't believe us. The lot of them had come to the conclusion sometime in fifth year that poor Colin Creevy was hopelessly in love with Harry. He'd later changed into the clothes Snape had chosen for him. and Harry had groaned in exasperation. but one glance at the look of hopeless adoration on ." That set Ron and Dean into a fit of giggles." Ron assured him. amid hilarious comments from his former dorm mates. the four of them followed swiftly behind. "I have to go. mate. let's go ask Colin." he told his friends in disgust and tromped down the stairs to the common room. He felt horribly exposed in them.

Truth be told. He wasn't too keen on using portkeys. He vaguely wondered if he could work out a way to earn points for Gryffindor by misbehaving. . well . attractive. mortified by the fact that Snape had found them amusing. But at least the man hadn't really teased him over it. He looked up in shock as Snape had entered the room. really nice. And there was something different about his hair. and those clothes certainly emphasized the fact that the Potions Master had a good body. maybe even handsome. He'd waited nervously for Snape by the fire. . it almost sounded as if Snape was hoping Harry did something shocking. . almost not recognizing the man at first. Harry had been on the receiving end of his sarcasm more times than he cared to remember. No black robes for one . Not in the Gilderoy Lockhart way of course .he was dressed much the same as Harry was. There was no way he was going to get through a formal dinner without messing up royally. But he looked very distinguished certainly. But he took hold of the coin firmly and let himself be transported to wherever it was they were having dinner. . . . it looked. and he guessed before the night was though he was going to be utterly humiliated. He vaguely remembered blurting out a couple of compliments. only in dark blue instead of green. And he'd been utterly amazed when Snape had put his fears to rest concerning the etiquette issue. The man could flay a person alive with his voice alone. worried about all the things Neville and Hermione had tried to teach him.Colin's face had set Ron and Dean into fits again and Harry had eventually had to flee to escape them all. not since the Triwizard Tournament. and he wasn't looking forward to enduring the wrath of Severus Snape. And damn! The man looked.Snape didn't really have the features for it.

"Sorry." he exclaimed. Briarwood Hall seemed to be one part of a much larger estate." Harry's eyes widened. courtyards and at least three separate wings. might have fallen if Snape hadn't grabbed hold of his elbow to steady him." he muttered." Snape informed him." Snape replied. Mr." Unplottable counties? Harry had heard of course of unplottable houses. "You are standing in one of six unplottable counties in Britain. "Is this far from Hogwarts?" "Far is sort of a relative term. but he'd seen enough maps of Britain to at least know the basics. that's Briarwood Hall. Geography had never been his strong suit. unable to find a better word to describe the enormity of it. the western most to be exact." Snape said dryly. Beyond the gates Harry could see an enormous house with elaborate gardens surrounding it.He staggered a bit as they landed. don't like portkeys much. for beyond the gardens on a hill he could see a sprawling castle complete with tall towers. Looking up he noticed they were standing on a gravel roadway directly in front of large iron gates that were decorated with a rose pattern that reminded Harry of the tattoo he'd briefly seen on Snape's back. "That's Snape Manor. "We're in the County of High Hill." Harry frowned. Potter. Snape said nothing. "Where exactly are we?" Harry wanted to know." "There's no High Hill County in Muggle Britain. "No." Snape corrected. "Wow. but an entire county? He'd had no idea such a thing was even . The man turned him slightly toward a hill beyond the house. "Is that Snape Manor?" Harry asked. That would take a lot of paint! "You really must do something to improve your vocabulary. "There's no High Hill County in Britain.

"It's as much your home now as it is mine. and I don't think it's safe." He pointed off down the road away from Briarwood Hall. And the Malfoy's live a bit farther north from here. "We're not eating at Snape Manor?" Harry asked curious. but at the same time he'd always felt it was somehow isolated or protected from the rest of the Muggle world. Snape tapped his wand against the gate. as Snape was making toward Briarwood Hall instead." Snape informed him. and they waited while it swung open. He knew the Burrow was accessible by car." the man reminded him." "Why would they ask me?" Harry asked bewilderedly. "Regardless. it hasn't been open since my father died." He frowned suddenly. Under no circumstances give it. "The Burrow is east side. Snape shrugged. A lot of the old families have estates in High Hill. And to think there were six of them in Britain. "Though I haven't had it open in years. Harry followed him through. glancing at Harry with an odd gleam in his eyes. "Minister Fudge lives a few miles down that way. Snape shrugged. "Snape Manor is my home." "Structurally unsound or because your father was a Death Eater?" Harry asked bluntly. He wondered how many there were worldwide. Harry took a guess that the unplottable counties had some sort of economic status assigned to each of them. Briarwood Hall belongs to my brother Claudius. "A few I suppose. . "Do a lot of wizards live here?" he asked. Snape gave him a faint twisted smile." "What about the Burrow?" Harry asked curiously.possible. "I should probably mention that at some point this evening a number of people will attempt to ask you permission to reopen the Manor." he told him and left it at that.

but they eyed Harry up and down assessingly as if measuring him against something. and a black glare he recognized far too well. welcoming him to the family politely enough. Two enormous wooden doors carved to look as if they were covered in rose vines were thrown open as Harry and Snape approached Briarwood Hall. "Fun. a thunderous scowl upon his face. noting that the man did not look alarmed." he muttered. But beyond that the resemblance was slight." Snape introduced. Snape suspected there was Dark Magic lying in wait in the Manor house. his voice just barely above a menacing growl. Both men had the Snape nose and coloring. "There are spells to ensure a building remains structurally sound. and Harry found himself shaking hands with total strangers.Snape gave him a mocking sneer. Eventually Harry felt a strong hand close around his shoulder and Snape pulled Harry out of the center of the crowd and propelled him toward a smaller group. his glare effectively deterring anyone from protesting." Which of course answered the question. so many that Harry found himself instinctively stepping toward Snape in alarm. these are my brothers Claudius and Marcellus and their wives Julliana and Delphina. From out of the house streamed a gaggle of people. He glanced quickly at Snape. Greetings were shouted out. . Claudius and Marcellus were definitely related to Snape. Neither man was as tall as their elder brother. wondering if perhaps they might have both just walked into a trap of some sort. trying to catch the names that were offered him. though neatly trimmed. welcomes were called. but he did look angry. and both were a great deal bulkier. "Harry. Snape did not reply. They each shook Harry's hand. Marcellus sported a full beard.

" Snape said then. heavily muscled and sported the hair and beard of a Viking." Snape growled. Her eyes practically glowed when she looked up at her oldest brother. the dark hair. But while Diana. and her husband Alrik Brand.Julliana and Delphina were both extraordinarily beautiful women. "And this is my youngest brother Julius. He'd rather expected the fourth brother to look like the others. "And those. who'd ." The man glared at Julliana and Delphina. Apparently the two women had invited their entire families to this little gathering. And they both giggled in excitement when Harry shook their hands. He was enormously tall. Harry barely managed to stifle his gasp when he noticed Julius for the first time. one golden-haired. motioning to the last member of the group. Granted he had the same coloring. Delphina going so far as to actually drop a curtsey to him. "Are apparently in-laws. dark eyes. Diana Snape Brand was quite attractive. but Julius Snape was as different from Claudius. But more than that she had a quiet grace to her that reminded Harry surprisingly of a young McGonagall. motioning to the next two people waiting to meet him. Her dark hair and dark eyes complimented her pale complexion. who both just smiled pleasantly back at him." Snape continued with the introductions. the other a redhead. and the pale skin. Indeed the man towered over all of them. and her features were delicate and well formed. She gifted Harry with a warm smile as she shook his hand. Marcellus and Severus as night was to day. seeming genuinely pleased to meet him. and scowled down at Harry as if looking at the runt of a litter. Alrik Brand on the other hand was her exact opposite. "This is my sister Diana. pointing to the large mob of people who had surrounded Harry initially. He squeezed a bit harder than necessary when he shook Harry's hand.

"I heard you knew how to Apparate by the time you were seven years old!" another man exclaimed while Harry was still contemplating how someone could play secretly for a Quidditch team. But there the resemblance ended. He managed. His features were flawless. his scowl replaced now by a look of dark contemplation. Even the pale skin all the Snapes possessed seemed more like the finest alabaster on him. slender and strong looking. but his eyes glittered with something more akin to hunger. He gave Harry a slow sensual smile as he shook his hand. He was nearly as tall as Severus. chiseled jaw. and he shot a nervous glance toward Snape wondering if he had noticed. Harry barely had time to admire the beautiful architecture of Briarwood Hall before he was surrounded by the mob of in-laws again. just barely to follow Snape into the main parlor with the rest of the family before he was cut off by a gaggle of women and men who seemed amazed to find the Boy Who Lived in their presence. Snape was watching him intently. It made Harry shiver in a most uncomfortable manner. high cheekbones. was pleasantly pretty. and the uncomfortable moment was gone. sinfully full red lips.been spared the Snape family nose. And he was dressed to catch the eye. his hands adorned with several glittering rings. a black velvet doublet lined with deep burgundy silk. "Are you really an advisor to Minister Fudge?" one woman asked breathlessly. "How did you manage that?" . Julius was heart-stoppingly beautiful. "Are you really a secret player for England's Quidditch team?" a young man asked before Harry could answer the first woman's question. And then Diana was urging them all back inside the house. perfectly formed. and like his brothers he looked Harry over quite thoroughly.

Several of the women looked as if they were attempting to kiss the scar. stared at all of them in growing alarm." a matronly looking woman announced. Harry backed away in shock. He unashamedly hid behind Snape's body. That reaction would have been fine. his eyes widening in delight as he stared at the lightning bolt scar upon Harry's forehead. Surely people didn't believe this stuff . who'd made it a point not to read the tabloids. if all the adults surrounding him didn't take it as a cue to surge forward and touch him. blackest scowl fixed on his face."According to Witch Weekly you used to date a foreign Veela Princess. relieved when his hand was caught and he was pulled out of the middle of the crowd. "That's enough!" Harry was never so happy to see his Potions Master striding angrily toward him. He sighed and crouched down in front of the child. "Back off!" Snape snarled at the crowd when they .okay Quirrell had burst into flames upon touching him. tuning out the rest of the adults as he pushed his bangs out of the way. trying to reach the infamous scar with their fingers. "Can I see your scar?" Harry would have treated this question with the same disbelief as the rest of them if it hadn't come from a small boy of perhaps six years. Instinctively he reached out to him. but that was different. nearly stumbling over his own feet in an effort to get away from them. "How ever did you end up with Severus?" "Can you really tame dragons just by singing to them?" "Is your broom really made out of Merlin's staff?" "Do evil creatures really burst into flame when they touch you?" Harry. The little boy smiled happily at him.

"Oh!" she exclaimed. who had been looking quite affronted at her family being called rabble." Harry cringed at the description. I didn't bring him here to be mobbed by this ridiculous rabble. of course. Severus. It's not every day they get to meet such a celebrity. The crowd began dispersing with much protest. The Potions Master turned his black glare on his sister-in-law. "That's okay. "Now. We'll." Claudius remarked. They hadn't discussed it themselves. I never would have brought you here. Either they go. Harry. took a moment to realize that it was approval. the name odd on his tongue." She began shooing the lot of them out the door. "I see you're still as charming as ever." Delphina pleaded. looking appropriately terrified by the raging wizard. Julliana moving quickly to help her. paled upon hearing Snape's threat to leave. He saw something flickering in Snape's eyes. "Had I known you'd been set upon by a pack of wild dogs. I assume you thought we'd find this amusing?" ." Harry had also caught Snape's usage of his first name. "Wild dogs? Bit harsh don't you think?" Severus turned to glare at his brother. knowing exactly what Snape thought of celebrities. "They just wanted to see him. they weren't going to be staying for dinner anyway." he replied.attempted to follow." Snape said. Severus. they've seen him. They all stopped. Now make them go away. much to Harry's surprise. or we go!" Delphina. "Right. but Hermione had made it a point to tell him that he should probably use Snape's first name in public. It would look odd if he didn't. "Hardly. "Well. He'd actually been expecting to feel the wrath of Snape's tongue next himself. "My apologies. Severus. before the man nodded in acceptance.

you imbecile!" Snape roared. and Harry sent Diana a grateful look. Let's try changing the subject. as if the idea had not occurred to them . Let's not start out with a senseless fight. The three of them looked at him in surprise." Marcellus agreed." "Yes. calm down. Sev. "Excuse me!" he cut in quickly. He suspected he'd probably just lost his house a few dozen points for daring to interrupt him while he was working himself up into a full fledged fit. please!" Diana chimed in immediately. You can hardly blame them? I'm sure Harry ." Severus' expression softened fractionally." "He's in school. Severus looked . "No one came here to fight. not . "He's not going around giving speeches at Luncheons! And since when did you start believing the tabloids!" "Now see here. stepping between Severus and his brothers. "I mean the crowd must have been five times this size last week when Harry addressed the Witches Herbology Society's Luncheon. Severus!" Marcellus blustered. They breezed into the midst of the group.or maybe they just weren't used to someone running interference.gets this all the time. shall we?" Claudius and Marcellus looked baffled. We're all here to get to know each other again. this was going to erupt into a new family feud. "Yes.Claudius shrugged.can I call you Harry . "They wanted to meet him. stepping forward and smiling graciously at Harry. and Harry could see that far from being a reconciliation between brothers. "Now who wants something to drink!" Delphina exclaimed with a bright smile as she and Julliana returned to the room. "Harry is right. Harry recognized the signs from living with Vernon Dursley for so long.actually Harry wasn't entirely certain how to interpret the look on the man's face. having gotten rid of the in-laws.

Alrik slapped him hard on the back. . Harry?" Julius suggested. As Alrik took a whiskey glass from Julliana. leaving his eyes watering. "Most fun we would have had all night." Harry said nothing as he took a glass of pumpkin juice from Delphina. "Should have let them fight." Harry shot a nervous look at Severus. hoping that brandylaced pumpkin juice wasn't the only thing he was going to be offered all night. holding up a familiar looking bottle. grinning at him. Oddly. not certain what sort of reaction to expect from this. he made a point of touching Harry's hands unnecessarily as he handed them over. and Harry glanced up into his face in surprise." Harry volunteered. Severus just glared at his brother. Nervously he took a quick sip." Harry nodded gratefully. then moved away as Diana began telling Severus about her children and what they had all been doing these last few years. Don't waste it. Severus. The man just smiled at him. "Shame on you." the man told him.noticing the tensions at all and began handing out various drinks to those present. I was rather looking forward to it. I take it?" Claudius asked." he murmured just loud enough that only Harry could hear him. You're supposed to share everything. "Would you prefer a butterbeer. "That brandy is from my private stock." he said simply. Julius be-spelled off the cap and handed the bottle and a glass to Harry. "He never asked. he gave a nod to Harry. "Sev hasn't let you get into his private stores yet. "Thank you. "I'm not much of a drinker. His reaction set Claudius and Marcellus laughing and they grinned good-naturedly at him. then nearly choked as it burned his throat all the way down.

Julius. The two women offered graciously to have it redecorated for him. a toast was made. Eventually Delphina and Julliana ushered them all into the dining room for dinner.CHAPTER SEVENTEEN They sat for a while in the parlor. Before the first course was served. To his relief there were also forks at each of the settings. seemed not to care about the family squabble. asking him about his plans for Snape Manor. It made him very uncomfortable. almost hungrily. Delphina and Julliana each found a moment to speak privately with Harry. he spent the majority of his time staring at Harry. and not really intended for use. Harry just smiled at them all and told them to talk to Severus about the subject since he was far to busy with his schoolwork to think about such matters. Diana making an attempt to keep the conversations amongst the brothers civil. but they were set off at an odd angle indication Neville had explained that they were there simply as a courtesy to a Muggle-born guest. and participated very little in the discussion. if he hadn't also managed to lace it generously with hints about their . directly across the table from Severus. But Harry could see that the animosity amongst the three oldest at least was not going to be overcome in one night. for his part.something that would have been fine in and of itself. Marcellus. to Harry's consternation. True to Severus' word. Claudius. They each looked disappointed but not deterred. Whenever Harry looked over at him it was to see those dark eyes gazing speculatively at him. Instead. while the two men pointed out the importance of having a suitable home for someone of his status to entertain important dignitaries in. One glance at the table showed the expected daggers Neville had talked about. Harry was seated beside Julius. Claudius giving a somewhat longwinded speech welcoming Harry to the family .

but I really was never much of a flyer. "I tried out for a team. and actually managed to enjoy himself. It wasn't a whole lot different than that first letter they had sent to Severus. bypassing the dagger entirely. most likely for Diana's sake. But no one said anything about it. but he knew exactly what it felt like to be treated like scum by one's family. then he wasn't going to worry about offending them. If they were going to be rude.Julliana actually made a warding sign against evil when he passed the salt the wrong direction. And considering that Severus was in fact the hero of this little family drama and not the villain. and reached immediately for the fork. When the first course was served. and wondered what other mistakes he could make. "Did you play in school?" Julius shrugged. When he glanced over at Severus. While talking he forgot about the man's intense looks that made him so uncomfortable. asking him about his position on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. he thought he detected the faintest of smirks on the man's face. Harry just grinned at him. it was doubly unfair. he thought in irritation. as his brothers would have everyone believe. he unfolded his silk napkin in a decidedly Muggle fashion. Harry had never gotten along with Severus. but they made Harry angry. Harry was quietly amused to see that they were not unnoticed . a subject he loved to talk about. Fine. Severus. Julius distracted him for a good portion of the dinner. I didn't mind though . endured the comments in silence. "What about you?" he eventually asked Julius. there was certainly a definite gleam of amusement in his was just as much fun to watch the game I thought.not unnoticed. Sure enough his manners went completely uncommented .family name being formerly tarnished so egregiously. surprisingly." .

Harry didn't think he was going to put up with such behavior much longer." "The right house?" Harry frowned. except for Severus." Marcellus scoffed. "Everyone knows Slytherin produces nothing but Death Eaters. "Hardly. "Severus was the only one at Hogwarts. Marcellus. The Houses. leaned forward. "You know. yes of course. "He means Slytherin of course. but didn't say so. "Oh. I'm afraid Father didn't really trust the rest of us." ." Harry felt his anger resurfacing. "Merlin forbid that the son of a Death Eater be sorted into any house other than Slytherin." he said. Didn't think the rest of us would get sorted into the right House. but not knowing what to do about it." "Really?" Harry knew his surprise showed on his face. "What house were you in?" "House?" Julius asked looking briefly confused. Severus?" Marcellus remarked. Harry. wasn't it." Harry informed them. "That was your house. not because he felt any fondness for Slytherin. I'm afraid Father was overly concerned with appearances. who'd overheard their conversation. and Diana or no Diana.Harry disagreed with him there. loudly enough for the rest of the family to hear. I think you have a skewed notion of the different houses and the Death Eaters." Severus informed him. We all did. "Yes. I didn't go Hogwarts. He could see a cold gleam in Severus's eyes. but because these attacks against Severus were all horribly unfair. recognizing the insult for what it was. voice silky smooth and laced with animosity. I went to Beauxbatons. though it was obvious he knew the answer already.

"Actually. the lot of them flinched at the sound of Voldemort's name. It was Alrik who got over the shock the quickest and spoke. Peter Pettigrew was murdered years ago by Sirius Black. one evil. and Severus' hand tightened on the handle of his dagger. Peter Pettigrew framed him for those murders. All the houses are like that. And he's risked his life for years to protect the Wizarding World from the Death Eaters. of course. "To get our facts straight finally. Severus is a prime example. Harry glared down the table at Marcellus. He's saved my life more times than I care to count. "You seem to have your facts confused. Harry risked a glance at Severus. The man was staring at him. a look of surprise on his face that bordered on shock. Two Gryffindors . "Yes. I'd say all of you have your facts confused if you think otherwise. isn't it?" Diana said quickly. In fact Peter Pettigrew. The Death Eaters have a mixture of all the houses amongst them." Claudius agreed. he thought." And to Harry's consternation he recognized that even that was a stab at Severus . the man who raised Voldemort from the dead two years ago. "I suppose the Boy Who Lived should know if anyone does. "Sirius Black was innocent." Harry shook his head. you're wrong.That was a direct attack this time. Harry couldn't help wonder if anyone had ever stood up for the man before? It was the least he could do. and put the past behind us?" Marcellus and Claudius looked at one another and then nodded grudgingly. not to mention a fair few numbers from Beauxbatons and good. sir. "Well. his challenge implicit in his tone. He still owed him for defending him against Draco that first day they were married. Severus's word ." His words were greeted by silence. was a Gryffindor.they would take Harry's word for it. that's the whole point of this dinner. ending the silence and looking around the table with a hopeful smile on her face." With the exception of Severus.

"I think my hand would start hurting if I had to sign so many autographs. That was definitely approval he saw glittering in those dark eyes this time. Delphina nodded in agreement. Harry. Severus actually had one hand over his mouth." His words were greeted by looks of utter shock." "Well.wasn't good enough. "I suppose that would be difficult. Harry sighed." she repeated. "The Boy Who Lived. what do you say. and one barely stifled bark of laughter which Harry realized to his amazement had come from Severus. "I guess. wondering how the man could stand it." "Oh. "It would seem to me that the hardest part would be all the autograph signing." Julliana added. "Utterly exhausting. no. apparently having not understood what Harry had said. what's it like being the Boy Who Lived?" She spoke his so-called title with something close to reverence. "Excuse me?" Harry stared at her." she continued. Harry?" Delphina asked. telling him to let it ago." Julliana mused somewhat dreamily. breaking the tension. "it would be all the people trying to kill me. "What would you say is the worst part about being the Boy Who Lived?" Harry just stared at them in disbelief." he said hesitantly." Delphina said vaguely." Julliana disagreed." "Still. and was visibly struggling to keep from laughing again. smiling at him. "Has such a wonderful sound to it. "Oh. He'd actually have to write more than just his name there. uncertain what she meant. But he saw Severus shake his head almost imperceptibly. dear. "I imagine it must be utterly exhausting." . "I'd say answering all his fan mail would be far worse. Tell me.

Diana smiled at him. "Not many people know it. The Wizarding version is quite a bit different." Harry looked over at him in surprise. true love's kiss. enchanted sleep." Diana cut in quickly." "She wanted to make a poison apple?" Harry asked. singular obsession. wondering if that was how the woman had poisoned herself. the poisoned apple is remarkably easy to make. "But no doubt you heard the Muggle version of the story. Our mother however was interested in the potion brewing aspects of the story. Harry glanced back at Diana. it's one of those obnoxious little family secrets that I'm sure you'll find fascinating. poison apple. A thousand wizards have come up with some variant on that old spell." Diana told him." Severus informed him. "Why don't you tell us about your work? I understand your potion skills have far exceeded anything even Mother ever mastered. "It's a peculiar story. wondering if anyone would fill him in. . that wasn't difficult to do." she told him. "Your mother poisoned herself?" Severus smirked. "Yes. having gotten control of his laugher. That story?" "Well." Confused. "Actually. considering the woman poisoned herself. "Seven dwarves. Our mother had a rather odd." Severus. shrugged dismissively. "Well. it was actually seven house elves." Harry glanced at the others. Harry. Mother had no interest in that part of the story. He couldn't remember any other potion that was brewed in the story. Have you ever heard the story of Snow White?" Harry frowned. Harry. "Even the enchanted sleep and true love's kiss part is easy enough to brew."Severus. changing the subject.

but we didn't know what." "You said she poisoned herself. only to be struck a moment later by realization. . . He wondered if all Wizarding families had similar strangeness in their past. and never gets to lay eyes on her perfect child." Diana explained. The man smiled at him in amusement. finding himself fascinated by the story. "She tried with all of us.he turned toward the impossibly beautiful Julius. "Yes. Until Julius. With every experimental potion she took. for the description fit him perfectly. . "Truth was we knew she was working on something." Marcellus told Harry." "Did you ever ask her why it was so important to her?" Harry asked. "And continuously fell short. inclining his head in acknowledgement of the thought Harry had not spoken but was obviously written plainly on his face. Severus was the one who went through her notebooks after she died and figured out what she was doing. Harry's eyes widening in shock.Harry frowned. lips as red as blood. The queen dies in childbirth. forcing his gaze away from Julius Snape. a chill running down his spine as he spared a shocked glance around the room at all the Snapes sitting before him." Diana continued. "Mother didn't talk about her work. she risked her own life and the health of her children for something as silly as vanity." White as snow. of course. and skin as white as snow." Harry said. Mother failed to remember one little detail of that pathetic story. "The part about the queen who wanted the perfect child. with hair as black as night. All with the blackest hair and the whitest skin . ." "Is that what got you interested in potions?" Harry asked. Severus smirked bitterly. The fairest child in the land."It was the beginning of the story that held our Mother's interest.

When they all retired again to the parlor. isn't it?" He'd thought a tour of the house would be more appropriate." They spoke some more about their mother. curious about Severus Snape's past. without mention of their father. "Bit dark though to be looking at the gardens. Harry excused himself to go to the bathroom. Julius only participated in the conversation occasionally. You have to see them before you leave." Remembering Severus' warnings about the Manor. Harry listening attentively. "I had an interest prior to that. Diana making it a point to keep all of them on safe topics. It occurred to him that Severus might like some time alone with his siblings. Julius intercepted him in the hallway before he could reenter the parlor." . he didn't have to bother. Nothing like a family secret to spark your interest. It's always been a rather sore point amongst them. his dark eyes glittering. dawdling somewhat longer in the halls than necessary." he admitted.Severus shrugged. As it turned out. Harry counted it a success." he agreed. "Sure. Julius flashed him a brilliant smile. Harry. They're well lit with Wizard Lights. That dinner ended without any major bloodshed." he offered. Briarwood Hall is famous for its rose hedges. you needn't worry about that. "But it certainly didn't hurt. or at least with Diana and he wasn't certain how to arrange it. "It will give Severus a chance to speak with the others alone. "I thought perhaps you might like to look at the gardens. falling into step beside the youngest Snape. Harry just nodded in agreement. It seemed that so long as they kept their conversation focused on their early childhood years. the three older brothers kept fairly civil tongues. "Oh. and I doubt you want to get pulled into the center of that fight. I suspect they wish to discuss the future of Snape Manor.

their perfume rather heady. the maze was lit with glowing balls of light burning at the base of various hedges. and all of them were in full bloom. True to Julius' word. And beyond that. "Do you like it?" Julius asked as they walked. for it was made of enormous. along with the Goyles and the Parkinsons.He opened a side door that led out onto an exterior courtyard and a garden path. It had grown dark. Harry noticed that the thorns on the rose vines were deadly looking.enormous hedgerows groomed into a maze pattern . Harry asking a few simple questions about the estate they were on and about the estates that were nearby. Julius leading the way. and he glanced curiously at Julius as he walked beside him. They towered well over his head. Beneath the light of the moon Harry could see the distant shape of Snape Manor on the far hilltop. He'd seen pictures of garden mazes . tangled cluster of rose vines. giving the entire garden an eerie bluish glow beneath the cold moonlight. long and horribly sharp. Harry had the uncomfortable feeling that the majority of the people living in High Hill were either trying to kill him. or had been killed fighting him. And this garden maze was extraordinary. I mean?" . the scent of the roses struck Harry. it seemed the LeStranges had a home. He didn't envy the gardener who had to tend to them. but his eyes were drawn toward the garden Julius intended to show him. he would have sworn he felt a hand lightly caress his back. They walked for a while.but he'd never seen one up close. making a broad sweeping gesture with one hand to indicate the garden beyond the courtyard. the waning moon still nearly full overhead. enormous blood red roses filling the heavy night air with their scent. As they stepped into the maze. The man just smiled again. "The garden. He found it odd to think that Malfoy Manor was only a few miles away. As Harry stepped through. twisting and locking in on each other to form the hedges.

How would he know that his mother had loved this garden? "Would you rather go back and visit with the others?" Harry asked him." he told Harry. Besides." . It occurred to him that Madam Sprout would love this place. I find you far more intriguing. the man raised a hand as he spoke. and he knew Ron far better than this man. "I was a child when Severus left." Harry admitted. and he was getting anxious to move away from their perfume. moving down twisted paths and corridors. But Julius just laughed. the scent of the roses was growing overpowering." Julius said as he led Harry around another corner and into a small courtyard with a gazebo in the center of it. a remarkably intimate gesture that made Harry extremely uncomfortable. Even Ron wouldn't have done something like that. From what he gathered from the story he'd heard earlier. He felt suddenly dizzy. I'd much rather get to know you. and suspected the rose scent was starting to get to him. "My mother loved this garden. Julius' mother had died when he was born. He'd done enough gardening at the Dursleys to appreciate the work that must have gone into the maze. and actually brushed a lock of Harry's hair back behind his ear." Julius told him. as he led him further into the maze. "To find yourself married to Severus." Harry frowned at that. though he supposed wizards probably had all sorts of gardening spells to make things easier. "It's been in my family for centuries. thinking it was probably unfair of him to keep Julius from his brother's company. "I imagine it must have been a great disappointment to you. But again Julius just smiled and continued on as if nothing had happened. "I barely know the man. Besides. Harry was perfectly capable of looking the gardens over alone. He probably didn't know Severus all that well and would want to speak with him privately as well."It's beautiful." To Harry's surprise.

"Yes. and Harry found himself blushing in spite of himself. "Which puts me in a remarkable position to ease your suffering. but this was the man's own flesh and blood for God's sake! And besides. Severus had been more than decent to him. Not to mention the fact that Julius obviously didn't have a clue about who his brother was or why they had gotten married in the first place. but Harry slapped his hand away and stepped back. "You're quite beautiful. Do you cringe every time he touches you. "That's your brother you're talking about!" he exclaimed in disbelief. the perfume oddly intoxicating. Now he could see that Julius' opinion of the man was no better. this was somehow far more personal. And Severus is certainly nothing to look at. you know. "I mean he can hardly be the sort of lover a young man like you dreamed of having. the Gryffindors had certainly called him worse things than that over the years. This was different. At least when his Slytherin classmates had made their rude innuendoes they had all been in the form of crude insults. to find yourself at the mercy of someone so hard and cold. Beast? Alright. and he did not like the way this conversation was going at all. He'd assumed it was just Claudius and Marcellus who believed Severus was still a Death Eater. or have you gotten used to being forced to submit to him?" "What?" Harry stared at the man in shock. And he'd swear the scent of roses was getting stronger. How you must have hated having that beast touch you. a knowing look in his eyes. not having any clue how to respond to his words." He reached out to touch Harry's hair again. No one would ever . he is my brother. "You must have been horrified." Julius agreed. "I imagine Severus didn't wait long to get his hands on you." He laughed at the thought. "What do you mean?" Julius turned and smiled at him again. still smiling.Harry stopped in his tracks." Julius told him.

But it seemed he'd inherited more than his magical beauty from his mother . starting to realize where this conversation was going." he told the man. Who wouldn't chose me over Severus?" Harry found himself growing red with embarrassment ." . Goodbye!" He turned to leave. the only one who can lead you back out again. maybe he had thought the man was beautiful. do you?" Harry exclaimed in amazement. Harry backed up just as quickly. through which they had entered the courtyard. This is a maze after all.okay. He turned. It was ludicrous. The corridor. I know you want me. "I've seen the way you look at me. looking swiftly around him. I'm not interested.think twice about why you were spending so much time in the company of your brother-in-law. "Of course you're interested. willingly admitting that for once he was way out of his depth here. Julius laughed softly. "But only if you know where to look. He couldn't believe he was in this situation . "There is an exit. thinking that perhaps he'd gotten turned around. was gone. Such family ties are encouraged. He had no idea how to react to the amorous advances of a man who seemed to think he was irresistible.Julius also apparently possessed her vanity. but anyone would think the same thing. "You don't know me. And I'm the only one who knows the secret of the maze. "And you don't know your brother. "You don't actually think I'd be interested in you.being propositioned by Severus Snape's brother. But the thorns on the vines are strong enough to rip the flesh from your bones if you make the slightest mistake." Julius assured him with a soft laugh. Harry stared in alarm at the impenetrable wall of rose vines in front of him." he replied." As he spoke he took several steps closer to Harry. But there didn't seem to be any opening in the hedge wall.

Apparently it acted like some sort of compulsion or charm. his hands moving over Harry's body as he struggled. perhaps an aphrodisiac or love spell. "You seem to think I care?" Julius laughed.Harry felt his heart beginning to pound. The attack was so sudden. and so unexpected Harry barely had time to react. lips descending. Led astray by a pretty face. and then suddenly between one heart beat and the next. he was on Harry. pushing him roughly back against one of the pillars of the gazebo. head lowering. ." Harry paled. hoping that he might be able to see the exit from there. But he'd thrown off the Imperious time and time again . his stomach knotting as he realized that he'd been lured out here. his smile growing colder suddenly. He was completely mental! Julius' eyes darkened. stepping up into the gazebo. He moved away from Julius again. She used these very flowers in her potions. "Do you like the scent of the roses?" he asked curiously. Julius followed him to the gazebo. Their scent has been known to drive men and woman mad with desire for me. I'm not interested!" Harry growled. He hadn't been that far off the mark when he'd thought the scent intoxicating. Julius didn't seem deterred however. Julius.provided it wasn't protected against such spells. understanding what he was saying. and he'd foolishly gone willingly.he wasn't going to be swayed by this! "I told you. They're in my blood. "They're yet another legacy of my Mother's. He couldn't believe that the man really expected him to just fall into his arms. attacking instead the tender skin of his neck. pinning him with his own body. As it was he only managed to turn his head aside to avoid the brutal kiss aimed at his mouth. He supposed if worse came to worse he could burn the hedge down .

he was so angry.nothing Julius had done so far had suggested he would try to over power Harry. smashing it against Julius' head hard enough to knock the man briefly back. It was all the opening Harry needed. height. He shoved Julius roughly away from him. the tip of his wand already glowing. kill him perhaps. His body shook with fury. And he was stronger than Harry . Without thinking he slammed his head forward. drawing his wand as he stepped back out of the gazebo. age.a great deal stronger. Harry knew he had to get his wand drawn . . His alarm transmuted into blinding rage when he felt one of Julius' hands groping between his legs.if this was allowed to continued on a physical level he'd be in serious trouble. a curse barely held in check as Harry fought to gain control of his anger. He could hurt the man. he realized.Harry hadn't been expecting a physical attack . and muscle all working in his favor. touching him through the leather of his pants.

The magic of the Marriage Stone was such that it chose the best possible match for a person . as did the way he practically hid behind him when he'd rescued him from their midst. the night had been one surprise after another . The mistrust he could see in Alrik. but that humor was quickly dampened by the mob of people that fell upon the Boy Who Lived as if he were Merlin reincarnated. But the look of horror on the boy's face quickly set that belief to rest. Julliana and Delphina had sadly grown no more intelligent since he'd last seen them. He had. Not exactly his brothers' doing. Just because the Marriage Stone had chosen Severus for Harry didn't mean that Harry had any interest in men.there was no guarantee that it would in any way shape or form resemble a love match. he supposed. Julius had been a child when Severus had last seen him. But it had answered a question he'd been wondering about. Harry's reaction to him hadn't gone unnoticed. and Severus admitted that the pang of emotion he'd felt at that had most definitely been jealousy. Far from it. In Harry Potter's case. though he had forgotten how beautiful he was.CHAPTER EIGHTEEN For Severus. unfairly he supposed. always assumed that Harry reveled in his celebrity status. it was just as likely that the best possible match was someone who could protect . Diana was much like he remembered her. he knew. Julius he couldn't read. but for all intents they were total strangers to each other. and he was pleased at how happy she seemed to be to see him. but they could have at least tried to rein in their wives.not all of them pleasant. Harry's reaction to the Manor had amused him. Claudius and Marcellus had not faded in the slightest. but Diana at least did not believe their lies. The young man had greeted him politely enough. He should have expected something like that.

completely ignoring the dagger in favor of the fork despite the fact that he'd apparently practiced with it with . But the flush that had stained Harry's face when he'd looked at Julius had been very telling. the evening with his family actually went by quickly. it even started to sound natural. It didn't promise love. Pity it had to take someone no one else could possibly compete with to catch his eye. while destined for greatness. He supposed that left him far out of the running. far from being nervous and awkward like he'd expected. But up until that moment with Julius.and after the fourth or fifth time. and even that had seemed only half hearted at best. fight beside him. He was definitely capable of seeing beauty in the male form. He decided he liked hearing his given name on Harry's lips . Or maybe it had simply realized that Severus Snape would not hinder any such ambition for love. He suspected the boy was too distracted with all the people trying to kill him to really care one way or the other about the things most students his age were obsessing over. It was possible that Harry Potter. And he watched with amusement as Harry tossed aside Wizarding protocol almost blithely. had continuously surprised and amused Severus. and ensure that he had a chance to grow up and live his life.him. because ultimately Severus knew he had no real claim over the boy and would look the other way when Harry did finally decide to love someone. All things considered. The most famous matches the Stone was responsible for had all been love matches. Severus had never seen Harry look at a man with any sexual interest at all. but they were by no means the only matches. he certainly wasn't going to stand in the way of his happiness. Harry. Provided the boy was discreet. teach him. Truth was the only person he'd ever seen Harry look at had been Cho Chang. was not destined for love.

" "It's not fair to relegate us to a lesser house while that one sits empty!" Claudius exclaimed in anger. If he didn't know better. when they returned to the parlor.Longbottom and Granger. "You keep us from it to punish us. Claudius fell silent. and an uncomfortable suspicion pricked his mind. and for the first time Severus had understood why this young man inspired such loyalty. It had silenced them all. "I have no intention of reopening the manor until I get a chance to see what sort of surprises Father might have left behind. that his brothers eventually broached the topic he'd been expecting all evening . "I told you Claudius. It was later. having heard this speech before. he would have sworn that the Gryffindor brat was attempting to make him laugh.the fate of Snape Manor. A little while later Harry had succeeded in stunning him most profoundly when he'd all but tossed the proverbial gauntlet down before his brothers." he informed his brother after his impassioned speech about the importance of the Manor. "Where's Julius?" he demanded. Julliana and Delphina looked . . interrupting Claudius' speech. and he glanced at the door in concern." Severus tuned the man out. and reminded himself to ask the boy when they returned to Hogwarts. snorting in disgust as he looked away. He noticed then that Julius was also gone. calling them on their less than subtle insults. He'd even read a written version of it in letters over the years while they were not speaking to each other. and defended his name and his honor with an eloquence he hadn't known the boy possessed. He wondered what was taking Harry so long to return to the parlor. My schedule has not yet permitted me the opportunity. Severus glanced instead toward the others. You keep us. . He wondered if they had already spoken with Harry about it.

their amusement confirming some of the suspicion in Snape's heart. her eyes somewhat confused by their amusement. racing toward the entrance to the rose maze. anger replacing it. startling him with the intensity of it. her confusion clearing immediately. As a child he'd learned the secrets of the maze. "Don't blame Harry. "The rose maze. but he found himself racing toward the center of the maze anyway. She was looking at her husband and her other brothers suspiciously. As it was. And I doubt Harry will mind. In no time at all he found himself outside. rising swiftly to his feet. "Let Julius have his fun.not strong by his standards. "Where is he?" Severus demanded. Mingled amongst the compulsion charms were various love spells and aphrodisiacs . he even knew a shortcut to the center of the maze." Marcellus laughed softly. Severus would have been driven solely by anger to storm from the room. But as he passed through the main entrance he realized that something had changed subtly. It's what he does." If she hadn't added that last warning." Jealousy and rage flared through Severus. A quick identification spell revealed the presence of compulsion charms woven directly into the scent of the flowers. He felt the wards the moment he passed over them and pulled his wand immediately. Don't blame Harry? For what? Her words implied that perhaps Harry would not be responsible for what ever was going on. but certainly enough to befuddle the average wizard or witch who might enter the maze. . Marcellus and Alrik looked amused as well. Neither he nor Harry were average by any stretch of the imagination.titillated by the question. "Now. knew how to navigate its ever-changing paths and doorways. Severus. her eyes a bit wild. But it was Diana's reaction that worried him the most. Diana's too jumped to her feet. a spark of fear erupted inside of him. Severus!" she shouted at him.

He turned the last corridor." Severus found himself gritting his teeth in fury as Julius . could take them all swiftly down by pressing a stone on the central gazebo. Rage flared through Severus again. Harry would be more amenable to their influence. Perhaps they believed that if they allowed Julius his seduction. and he found his brother's words only fueled his anger. one of the maze's many illusionary doubt he was feeling the effects of the spells. Through it he could see the center courtyard. He raised his wand and began the counter spell to siphon off their power. Neither Harry nor Julius noticed him. "I imagine Severus didn't wait long to get his hands on you. and found himself up against an invisible barrier. Harry already trapped inside with Julius. But Severus had no choice but to take them down the hard way. Julius. He glanced around the courtyard . If he found out they had done this for the sake of that stupid Manor. But he suspected there was more than just brotherly collusion on the part of Claudius and Marcellus.all the entrances were sealed as far as he could see. he'd burn the place to the ground and leave them all living on the street. He could hear Julius speaking to Harry.certainly his brothers and Diana expected him to find Harry in a compromising position with Julius. but he knew from their side of the illusionary wall all they would see would be the impenetrable wall of roses. He could also see Harry shaking his head slightly.bypassing the majority of the corridors in favor of the short cut. a frown marring his forehead . It hadn't escaped him that Julius found Harry attractive . His mind supplied him with a number of scenarios . "How you must have hated having that beast touch you. having entered the courtyard ahead of Severus.the man had barely taken his eyes off Harry all evening." Julius was saying to Harry.

Goodbye!" And with that Harry turned toward Severus. he is my brother. but his head was turned away from him. Who wouldn't chose me over Severus?" Severus didn't miss the color that washed over Harry's face. I know you want me." "You don't actually think I'd be interested in you. "That's your brother you're talking about!" Harry's voice was filled with disbelief and indignation. Harry's eyes revealed far too many emotions. He smiled a moment later as Harry slapped his hand away.but not this! Not his brother! That would be too cruel! He wished he could see Harry's eyes. He'd look the other way. and Severus felt his insides twisting again. He wondered if Julius could feel the spells on the maze flicker and waver as Harry shook off whatever influence they might have begun to gain on him. "Yes." Harry said suddenly. when Harry fell in love with someone else . see Severus standing in the doorway attempting to pull down the magical barrier. "Of course you're interested. stepping back. a look that went far to ease . and he redoubled his efforts to pull down the barrier. and Severus desperately wanted to know what the young man really felt for his beautiful brother. obviously. No one would think twice about why you were spending so much time in the company of your brother-in-law. "Which puts me in a remarkable position to ease your suffering. taking a step toward the exit only to stop in shock when he realized it was gone. "And you don't know your brother. I'm not interested. He could not. backing away again as Julius advanced on him. It seemed the noble Gryffindor was going to stand up for his honor once again. "I've seen the way you look at me." Julius smiled. he promised himself. but Severus could see him clearly enough . "You don't know me.reached out to caress Harry. Such family ties are encouraged. do you?" Harry demanded." Julius told him.could see the look of disgust in Harry's eyes.

This is a maze after all. "There is an exit. They're in my blood. "But only if you know where to look. Severus thought. "I told you. the only one who can lead you back out. But the thorns on the vines are strong enough to rip the flesh from your bones if you make the slightest mistake. Julius.Severus' mind." Julius told him. Harry had moved into the gazebo and Severus wondered if perhaps the boy might find the stone that released the wards on his own. That look was quickly replaced by alarm when Harry realized all his exits were gone. "Do you like the scent of the roses?" Julius asked then." Julius laughed. obviously intending to take with force what Harry had denied him. I'm not interested!" Harry growled." Idiot. But the flicker of irritation that flashed across Harry's face assured Severus that Julius was wrong." His words confirmed Severus suspicions that Julius had done this before. He watched in shock as his brother suddenly lunged at Harry. pinning him against one of the gazebo's pillars. his words alarming Severus. "You seem to think I care. And I'm the only one who knows the secret of the maze. Did he really think that no one else had solved this maze? Severus had figured out its secrets long before Julius had ever been born. It also occurred to him that his brother believed Harry was more strongly affected by the spell than he appeared to be. "They're yet another legacy of my mother's. He couldn't help wondering how many other young men and woman his brother might have led here. other wizards and witches who lacked the power to fight off the spells. She used these very flowers in her potions. . Their scent has been known to drive men and woman mad with desire for me. seeming to be highly amused by the situation.

keeping his voice low and controlled. apparently didn't realize his danger. aimed it. touching him. It was Julius who was in danger now. knowing caution was required. kissing him ." Severus said quietly. his smile fading as he seemed to realize for the first time just who exactly he had been attempting to hurt. Harry didn't move. and Harry's sanity instead of his virtue at stake. but they didn't change the fact that this wizard regularly faced down armies of Death Eaters and won. could see Julius groping Harry. . desperate to get the barrier down and go to Harry's aid. Harry might very well let loose the curse if he startled him. "Harry. his concentration never wavered. Do you really think you should be doing anything other than begging for your life right now?" His words had the intended effect.and then saw him stumble back in shock as Harry butted him hard in the head and pushed him away. a superior smile on his face. Any curse he might utter could very well kill Julius. his skin losing what little color it had. and actually stepped toward Harry. Julius.The barrier was nearly down. Julius froze. Severus was relieved to see his brother take his warning seriously and back away. The barrier fell at last and Severus stepped forward. he could see that Harry was shaking. That he did not hex Julius immediately surprised Severus . Julius. nearly blinded by anger. you don't really think you can—" "You know. and Severus threw all his strength into the counter spell. a tone he generally reserved for controlling his Slytherins.but one look at Harry and he understood. "You're staring down the end of a wand that has defeated Voldemort several times. Even from this distance. a look of blackest rage on his face as he drew his wand. There might be a thousand ridiculous rumors about the Boy Who Lived in the tabloids. idiot that he was. He could feel it crumbling.

"Harry." he whispered directly into Julius' ear. One quick flick of the wand and . slipping his other arm carefully around Harry's shoulders. He closed his eyes. Tentatively he reached toward him. however. "Harry. lowering it slowly." He pressed softly against his arm. gently closing his hand around Harry's wrist. He felt Harry shudder. You don't want to do this. until Harry's wand was pointed at the ground. "You ever come near him again. Julius had not moved and was watching the two of them intently.What alarmed Severus most." Severus told him. He caught a fist full of his brother's doublet. "You all right?" Severus asked quietly. and then to the ground. Severus thought of a dozen good hexes. but he looked far from all right. He drew his fist sharply back and punched his brother in the face as hard as he could." he said again." He saw Julius' eyes widen in terror as Severus drew his wand. The blow sent Julius staggering back. "It's okay. almost as if he were unable to pull himself from his rage. it's over. opening his eyes at last and taking a step away. Let it go. Harry nodded. his eyes haunted. still had not lowered his wand or looked away from Julius' frightened face. moving to his side. lashes dark against pale skin. "and I'll kill you myself. His features were composed again. and I'll show you the way out. then turned swiftly toward his brother. He could feel the power vibrating through his body." he said softly. pulling him partially upright. then more firmly. as he leaned briefly against Severus' body. letting his trapped breath out in a soft moan even as Severus felt the power draining away as well. Severus approached him cautiously. but in the end opted for a far more satisfying revenge. was the fact that Harry still had not moved. "Give me a second. Severus was fairly certain he'd broken his jaw. making his muscles shake and tremble.

Pity he was too angry to enjoy it. "Julius seemed to forget who it was he was attacking. forcing his temper back for his sister's sake. looking at once from Harry to the maze. . I will burn it and Briarwood Hall to the ground!" The look of shock and horror on their faces was remarkably satisfying. "I'll be back tomorrow. He said nothing as Severus turned him toward the exit and led him by the most direct route out of the maze." He turned to glare at Alrik. He turned his attention to Diana once again. the threat of that implicit in his tone." The three men looked startled by this. He sent his most withering gaze toward his brothers. "Fine. The two of them were swiftly pulled back across the land toward the safety of Hogwarts. Claudius and Marcellus. The others were waiting on the patio for them. Diana raced toward them in concern when she saw them emerging from the maze. Severus pulled the portkey coin from his pocket.Severus hissed. "Is he alright?" she asked. "Thank you. She at least had no part of this. She just nodded her head and gave him a sad smile. With that Severus palmed the coin and grasped Harry's left hand. Harry had watched the whole exchange somewhat dispassionately. seeing the almost blank look on Harry's face. sandwiching the coin between them. "It was a mistake that could have very well cost him his life." he whispered softly." he told them. "Castitas Obligatus Ultio. and looked horrified by the whole thing. "And if all the spells are not removed from that maze by then." Then he dropped him unceremoniously onto the ground before returning to Harry's side." Severus growled.

Harry raised his hands without thinking and drank down the contents in the glass Severus had give him. felt his mind coming back from the almost numb place he had sent it." "I've been attacked before. but this had an almost soothing quality to it. "You're okay." he reminded the man. but the feeling of helpless rage had been the same. He couldn't quite figure out why he was reacting this way. That was it of course. He knew shock he'd been in shock just last weekend when his body had been turned into a pin-cushion by Death Eaters.he had . What was perhaps even more horrible was the power of his own anger . closing his eyes. holding his attention completely. That was the difference. Harry's eyes flew open as he sought out Severus' face." Severus told him gently. "You're just in shock. he watched as the flames in the fireplace leaped into life. He was only vaguely aware of being moved to the couch and pushed down onto the cushions. Julius' attack had not been like any of the others." Severus said simply. He felt his body calming immediately. It reminded him faintly of the brandy he'd tasted earlier. He shuddered. "Not sexually. "Drink that. The difference this time was that he wasn't hurt. Bemused. Feeling Julius' hands on his body had certainly not hurt the way the Cruciatus did." Severus ordered. A few moments later he felt something cold being pushed into his hands. and yet his callous disregard for Harry's feelings or freewill had been no different than the Death Eaters'.CHAPTER NINETEEN Harry felt the familiar sensation of pulling and falling as the port key transported him back to Severus' rooms in the dungeon. feeling himself finally let go of what ever demon had gripped him earlier.

one hand resting lightly on Harry's knee as if to comfort him. "For stopping me. and the Potions Master's fingers felt cool and soothing on his skin as they gently brushed against the bruise he'd given himself when he'd slammed his head into Julius'. "He's my brother." "I should never have brought you there. and then were gone." the man told him regretfully. Surprisingly. "You should never have been put in a situation like that. He was crouched in front of Harry where he sat on the couch. "Of course not!" "Then how can you be blamed for Julius' behavior?" Harry asked him. "You don't even really know him.wanted to kill him. He closed his eyes again. Harry felt no desire to flinch from his touch." Severus just nodded in understanding. Severus drew his wand. Could so easily have killed him if Severus hadn't stopped him." Severus replied. savoring the unexpected comfort. Harry felt the pain diminish as the bruise faded. "Thank you. let me see if I can fix that. watching as Severus moved to a nearby chair. quietly uttering a simple healing charm. The cool fingers lingered briefly. "Here. He'd felt unable at the time to stop himself." Harry assured him. his gaze on Harry's forehead. Harry opened his eyes." he said softly. He frowned suddenly. He was aware of the fact that his head was pounding fiercely. "Am I to blame for the Dursleys' behavior?" Severus looked quickly up. lifting his hand to gently push Harry's bangs back from his face." Severus said with an angry shake of his head. "I'm sorry about tonight." ." he whispered. and looked genuinely distressed. some unreadable emotion flickering through his dark eyes. "It wasn't your fault.

." Severus snorted in amusement at that and Harry found himself smiling. And I know the risks you've taken spying on Voldemort. Harry blushed uncomfortably. I know you've saved my life repeatedly. I am aware of everything you've done for me. feeling strangely vulnerable under Severus' intense stare. and Harry knew he was referring to his defense of him at dinner." Harry flushed again. "Or at all. . it was strangely humbling. "Mostly because." Severus smiled bitterly. "And despite everything. "I don't blame you. Severus Snape seemed to be the one he opened up to the most. . "Thank you for what you said tonight. sounding more curious than anything else. you've been real decent to me. . I know you and I have never gotten along very well." He looked up. She's worth knowing." he continued. I guess a part of me doesn't really expect anyone to be decent to me. "But." Harry began. "And I know you could have said no when this whole marriage thing happened. and endured Severus smirk of acknowledgement at the half-hearted slight. And I've always respected you for that. "But also because. ." Harry reminded him. mostly negative ones like anger and irritation. Harry had seen a lot of different emotions on Severus' face over the years. and I didn't expect that. and he found it odd that out of all the people in his life. . regardless."You wanted to see your sister." "Because of who I am?" Severus asked. you've never been very nice .well.even if I never said it." the man said quietly. emotions gripping him that he couldn't quite define." he corrected himself." He knew he was admitting far more than he intended to with that statement. He never thought he would one day see gratitude. . "Look." Harry admitted. catching Harry's gaze with his own. "Yes. I liked her. "It's a pity about the rest of them.

soft and wild looking. I suddenly understand why the witch gave Snow White that poisoned apple. "Yes." Severus laughed openly at that."I know the feeling. "I'm fine. and Harry knew what he was referring to. He could feel Severus' potion inside him. calming his nerves. Harry staring into the dancing fire. don't tell me were having a bonding moment here. which he suspected would be completely fried otherwise. He would never be a match for Julius' beauty. "Though I must admit." Severus said. God. And when the man laughed. "Call the newspaper. for both of them he suspected. he seemed almost like a different person. He studied Severus' face. He seems to think his looks excuse his behavior." he assured him. moving toward the fire. that Severus would so willingly admit such a thing to him." He smiled wryly at the man. "Gods. And that was the last thing he'd expect. "I can't help wondering who else Julius has done that to. isn't that the most ridiculous story you've ever heard?" "Pretty ridiculous. "Would you really burn down the maze?" he asked. "Are you sure you're all right?" Severus asked after a while. but there was nothing wrong with his features. They fell silent for a long moment." "Merlin forbid!" Severus agreed with a nervous laugh." he stated emphatically. Harry Potter and Severus Snape have something in common. The tension was nearly too much for him. almost so softly Harry barely heard him. And my other brothers are just as . willingly show him a vulnerability. It had long ago come free of the ribbon he'd tied it back with and hung freely about his face. "Yes. He stood quickly. leaning back in his chair. Severus' eyes hardened." Harry joked weakly. And Harry really did like what ever it was he'd done to his hair. "Oh." Harry agreed with a nod.

I think I'll go to bed. I promise. He glanced back at Severus. "Me calling you that. ." Harry couldn't help thinking about the things Julius had accused Severus of doing. Harry. realizing what he'd just said. Turning quickly in bed he confirmed that Harry's side was empty. a faint smile on his lips." Harry smiled and shut the bedroom door behind him." he assured him. Good night. He fought back a yawn. Albus Dumbledore maybe . I won't let that go unpunished either. "Do you mind?" he asked softly. how naturally the name had come to him when earlier it had sounded so foreign on his tongue. They knew what Julius was doing. "You won't. Even Sirius had expressed concern that Severus might try to force Harry into something he didn't want. He wondered if anyone truly knew the man at all. feeling the events catching up to him. Minister Fudge had believed the same thing of the Potion Master.culpable. "Good night. and was thankful he didn't have anywhere important to be the following morning. I mean?" "I don't mind.he had trusted Severus implicitly right from the start. Severus looked up quickly." He caught himself as he headed toward the bedroom. Severus. A quick glance at the Wizarding clock on his night stand showed that the hand pointed to 'middle of the night' still several hours from 'time to get up'. The absence of soft breathing beside him woke Severus from a sound slumber that night. noticing he was watching him intently." Harry nodded in acceptance. "Well." Harry said with a shudder. as long as I don't have to see him again. "On that note.

Harry. a look of horror in his eyes. still dressed in his pajamas. what's wrong? What happened?" He suspected that in all the excitement of the evening." he all but pleaded.something. Most alarming.Alarmed. answer me. The boy's skin was ice cold. Severus touched his face." Not a nightmare then. had his arms wrapped tightly around himself. Albus' wards protected him from the Dark Lord's anger. Severus looked first in the common room. reaching out to touch one of his hands. "Harry?" he asked. Albus had told him that from time to time Harry had visions rather than simple dreams. . enabling him to see glimpses into that evil mind. he had forgotten to take his dreamless sleep potion. A twinge or a flash of pain . approaching him cautiously." Harry whispered his voice strangely hoarse. "Harry. Something about his scar connected him to the Dark Lord. "Harry. The room was also empty. "What's wrong?" "Something's changed. standing out against his pale skin. But that did not explain the swollen scar. Next he pushed open the door to the library and found Harry kneeling on the floor in the middle of the room. Severus climbed out of bed. He was rocking back and forth. "Harry?" he called softly. He himself could feel nothing coming from the mark on his arm. When Harry did not respond immediately. the lightning shaped scar on his forehead was inflamed and red. looking through the open bathroom door. "Harry?" Severus asked softly. then moved on to the office. tears streaming down his face. Moving swiftly through the bedroom door. trying not to sound too harsh but growing more alarmed by the moment. Severus guessed. swiftly glancing around the room for the missing boy. "Something's different. turning him toward him so that he could see the boy's eyes. "What's different?" he asked. but he still should have felt something.

Severus could see him trembling. Lord Voldemort had suffered a terrible set back when this boy had stolen the Eye of Odin from him months earlier . There was no doubt in his mind which 'he' Harry was referring to . or dreamed.since then they'd heard little from him. Harry had his eyes squeezed shut again and was rocking once more.though that in itself seemed very unlikely. He wondered if anyone had ever taken him into their arms after one of his nightmares . especially not in light of his brother's behavior earlier that night. anyone. locked in a dark cupboard while crying for someone. couldn't just sit here and watch as the boy fell apart in front of his eyes. to comfort him. He had a sudden vision of the boy as a small child. And certainly he would not be pleased by the fact that just over a week ago he'd lost several of his Death Eaters when they'd tried once again to kill Harry Potter. How could he possible be happy about anything? But what ever it was the boy imagined he'd seen. He found himself desperately wanting to pull the boy into his arms. as if trying to comfort himself. Severus.but Albus had insisted that it was only the Dark Lord's anger and rage that effected Harry. "He's happy. his whole body shaking as he held himself together through sheer will alone." Severus frowned. But he couldn't just sit here and do nothing either. ." Harry whispered.certainly he'd never received the comfort a child needed from the Dursley. But if he could not offer the comfort the boy needed. He's pleased. his fear was real. and there was something terrible in his voice. as if he had discovered some dreadful secret he was afraid to utter. comfort him with his nearness."Severus. Why would he be so upset by the fact that the Dark Lord was pleased . he knew someone who could. But somehow he doubted his touch would have the effect he was hoping for.

Sirius rushed immediately toward the library. "Remus Lupin's room." he ordered. he stated. . "Black!" Severus hissed. Throwing floo powder into his fire. followed immediately by Remus Lupin. instantly transformed into the familiar form of Sirius Black. Remus Lupin emerged almost immediately through one of the doors. Instantly he found himself looking into a well-appointed Hogwarts guest room from the point of view of the fireplace. but he wished it could be him. Severus?" Remus asked in alarm. Hostilities aside. face buried against his neck as Black gently rubbed his back and stroked his hair. Severus pointed toward the library door. A moment later the flames flashed bright green and Sirius Black stepped through them. "Come through to my room. whispering softly to him. followed more sedately by Severus and Remus." He pulled back immediately and stood out of the way of the fire. The dog. A strange mixture of both relief and jealousy flared through Severus's heart. There was a couch only a few feet from him and lying on the couch sound asleep was a large black dog. "In there. no doubt he'd thrown himself into Sirius' arms. "Wake up!" The sound woke the dog instantly. When Severus reached the library door he saw Black already sitting on the floor beside Harry. "The boy needs you. "What is it? What's wrong. holding the shaking boy in his arms. as well as causing a gasp of alarm from one of the side rooms. suggesting to Severus that he had not been asleep despite the pajamas he was clad in. That would never happen to him. Harry was clinging to him. seeing Severus' head in the fire." and then stuck his head through the flames.He rose swiftly and moved back toward his common room. He knew of course that Black could offer Harry the comfort he needed. " Severus ordered. No doubt the boy had turned to him the moment Black had said his name.

exhaustion in his face. He's had . A quick glace at Lupin showed dark shadows beneath his eyes. Severus sank down on his couch. "Severus?" Lupin's voice was gentle.though he had noticed the mutt was still sleeping on the couch. No doubt Sirius had done his best to comfort Lupin after his transformation ." he explained. Black ran his hands through his hair. Harry stumbling along beside him nearly asleep on his feet. looking somewhat ragged and on edge. "I don't know . seeming to be holding him up as he walked across the room toward the bedroom. While Black helped the boy back to bed. realizing then that there had been a full moon the night before. "Is he alright?" Remus asked Sirius anxiously. "Dream. A few moments later Harry was fast asleep and the three men moved back out into the living room so that they would not disturb him further. suspecting that this was going to be a long night. With a sigh. Severus allowed himself to be pulled away. Severus and Lupin both jumped to their feet and followed Sirius as he led Harry back to bed.I've never seen him like that. the look in his eyes strangely sympathetic and Severus found himself flushing uncomfortably. unaware of the look of longing in his eyes as he glanced back over his shoulder at the two men in his library." Remus said. "He'll calm him down . "Or a vision. It was nearly a quarter of an hour later before Black emerged from the library."What happened?" Remus asked quietly. Severus moved toward his nightstand and found the bottle of dreamless sleep draught he'd made for Harry. drawing Severus aside with a gentle touch to his arm. Black still had his arms around the boy." Severus frowned. I found him like that a few moments ago. Something about the Dark Lord." "Let Sirius talk to him for a bit. Black said nothing as Severus urged Harry to drink a small dose.he's good at that.

He didn't make a sound . Or something he expects us to find out about . "Albus should be informed in any event.but this wasn't like that." . his voice dropping into a low growl at the thought.something good for him and bad for us. For him to be happy something terrible must have happened ." "I'll take Harry up to see him in the morning. and if the other two men found his use of Harry's first name odd they said nothing. "After he's gotten some sleep . "It wouldn't be the first time he's taunted us.something had changed.or worry about. "I didn't think Harry's visions worked that way. "I though he only had visions when the Dark Lord was so enraged he let something slip. Why would positive emotions leak across the bond between them?" "Maybe he wants Harry to know this time. but this was different.but why would that frighten him so much?" "Why wouldn't it?" Remus replied and both Severus and Sirius stared at him in surprise." he said. much to Severus dismay." Remus replied." Severus agreed." Sirius asked. Snape just shook his head." "Then you're suggesting he's taunting Harry. "He said something like that to me too .he's had a long night. That the Dark Lord was happy or pleased about something.nightmares before." It made sense.I woke up and he was gone." Remus guessed. What the hell happened?" He glared at Snape as if it were all his fault. "I'm aware of his nightmares . "Maybe what ever happened is something he wants us to find out about." Sirius nodded his head. I found him in the library just like you saw him. He said something had happened . "What would possible make the Dark Lord happy? He becomes enraged and angry when things don't go his way or when his plans are thwarted." Remus urged. "Think about it.

" Severus confessed. "Harry's fine . "God damn it. glaring daggers at the man. He had intended to let Harry tell Black about the incident with his brother. but it shook him up.and Julius has been dealt with. "It won't happen again. "How could you let this happen? You swore to protect him!" "I did protect him. Julius." Severus insisted." "You're damn right it won't." He could see rage burning in both Lupin's and Black's eyes. "My youngest brother. attempted to assault Harry earlier. Black!" Severus informed him." Black insisted." Black word filled Severus with rage and he found himself standing face to face with his nemesis." Severus confirmed. "Harry pulled his wand before it could go very far.Black frowned at that. "Assault?" "Sexually. Harry was remarkably good at keeping such things to himself even though he ought to talk about them with someone he trusts. "Are you suggesting I can't protect my own bond-mate!" "He's not yours!" Sirius hissed. eyes widening in anger. "I'll kill the bastard!" "I took care of it. I intended to return tomorrow and see that he's not given another opportunity. "What?" Black hissed. but it occurred to him then that Harry probably wouldn't say anything. ." Sirius glared. his fists clenching." "There shouldn't have been a first opportunity. "He's not leaving this castle again unless someone besides you is with him. Snape!" Sirius growled. Julius will spend the rest of his life on a very tight leash. "Did something happen at your dinner?" Severus shifted uncomfortably. though he found it hard to defend himself when he already felt guilty for what happened.

A second later both men were pushed away from one another by an angry werewolf." Sirius all but whined. moving slowly so as not to . "He said Harry was fine and I believe him." Remus snapped. Severus returned to his bedroom."He is mine!" Severus snarled back just as furiously. I for one am grateful that he had the compassion to call you to be here for Harry tonight despite your lack of manners. "He's. Worn out. "You'll wake Harry if you don't shut up. . "That's enough. The hard shove that came from Remus Lupin's hands sent both Sirius and Severus sprawling to the floor as they were reminded first hand just how strong a werewolf even in human form could be. Perhaps next time he will not be so quick to summon you. Padfoot. his amber eyes burning almost ferally in the firelight. Insults are not going to help anyone right now. ." Both men calmed almost immediately at that threat." Remus said to Severus. "Moony. Remus just glared." His words had the desired affect as Sirius immediately stopped what ever it was he was going to say." "Stop it right now. "We'll return in the morning to speak with Harry if that's all right with you?" Severus nodded his head. When Sirius looked like he was about to protest. Remus Lupin always seemed so mild mannered. silencing him again. then caught Sirius's arm and moved him toward the fireplace and the floo powder. Remus nodded in satisfaction. Severus giving the werewolf a wary glance. he'd forgotten that even in human form the man possessed a monster's strength. "Thank you for calling us. He climbed carefully into bed beside the sleeping young man. a wave of possessive jealousy flaring through him. A few moments later they were both gone and the fire died down once more." Remus glared at them. choosing to remain silent in face of this oddly intimidating werewolf. Both men cautiously got to their feet.

He found the warm rich scent rising off the boy's skin both soothing and intoxicating all at once. But it wouldn't be right. including his own brother.accept his touch. had accused him of being and claim what was his by right of marriage. Legilimency alone would give him just enough of a glimpse in the young man's mind that he could figure out exactly which buttons to push without too much difficulty. Not even his own desires. running his fingers lightly over the still inflamed scar. but did not wake. He suspected that under the right circumstances. he'd come to the conclusion that though the boy did not like him all that much. God." he whispered softly. he thought to himself.disturb him. Then against his better judgment he bent down and pressed a kiss onto his pale forehead. God knows he knew how to manipulate people. would be little match for him. how easy it would be to forget himself around this beautiful young man. Assured that Harry was sound asleep. regretfully. he might even be able to make the boy accept it . And for some reason.even from himself if it came to that. He's sworn to protect him . Harry. . The boy sighed softly. "I'm sorry. he reached out and gently stroked his hair back from his face. And nothing in the world would make Severus violate that trust. and the boy. he did appear at least to trust him. How easy it would be to be the monster everyone. hungry as he was for affection.

as if he were completely isolated or cut off from everyone . What ever it was. Judging by their questions. But when he'd tried to convey the dream to the Headmaster and Professor Snape. Though he hadn't recognized the spell . After he had awakened.something which had filled him with such horrible delight that the sheer power of the emotion had woken Harry from sleep. To him it felt as if Voldemort had been handed the world and knew suddenly.CHAPTER TWENTY Harry found himself sitting with Sirius and Remus late the following morning.explaining that he intended to return to Briarwood Hall to make certain the spells had been removed from the Rose Maze. Remus and Sirius had both questioned him intently about his evening with the Snapes. utterly. Truthfully he wasn't sure what exactly his dream had been about . He told them what happened as calmly as possible and then described in great detail the single punch from Severus that had broken Julius' jaw and sent him sprawling to the ground. Later.a spell. The Dark Lord had discovered something .as if he were suddenly the last man left on earth and had no one to turn to. Severus had walked him down to Remus Lupin's room and bid him good-bye . that nothing was going to be able to stop him. After he relayed his dream a second time to his worried godfather. Severus had taken him up to see the Headmaster where he'd relayed as much of his dream to both men as he could remember. it had sounded oddly hollow and somewhat silly in the light of morning.knew it was something utterly unexpected. a weapon or a ritual . Harry had never felt so alone in his life .only that he knew that something had changed. he knew it was something terrible . he suspected that they both knew about his run-in with Julius. completely.

he does look different. All of the Gryffindors seemed delighted with the story about Harry's poor table manners. There he was forced once again to recount his evening with the Snapes to his fellow Gryffindors. He ended up spending the day with the two men. Feeling the need to defend Snape further.that story was still a favorite in Gryffindor Tower. "Now that you mention it. seemed to put both of the men somewhat at ease. and Harry suspected that he was right to guess that Sirius wanted to know that Snape had in fact defended his honor. "The spell not only prevents any sort of physical arousal in the victim but also causes intense pain and cramps if he so much as thinks about anything of a carnal nature. he recounted the conflict between Snape and Draco Malfoy that happened the day after they were married . Bewildered. Time and time again they found themselves throwing somewhat disbelieving looks toward the head table and the glaring Potions Master sitting there. The werewolf just smirked at him.Severus had cast on his brother. For some reason this sent Sirius into gales of laughter. he remembered the words and repeated them back to the two men. He spent most of the discussion describing Snape's sister. The others all turned to look again as well. "Is his nose smaller or something?" . or does Snape look different?" Dean Thomas finally asked after about the seventh time he'd turned to look over his shoulder at the professor. "It's the equivalent of a magical chastity belt. returning finally to join his friends in the Great Hall for dinner. unable to get over the fact that Snape had in fact encouraged such behavior." The spell. glossing over the other brothers and saying nothing about what had happened with Julius." Seamus agreed. Harry. "Is it just me." he explained. surprisingly. Harry turned to Remus for an answer. Ron was frowning thoughtfully.

no matter how late Harry returned. Most evenings they hung out in a corner of the library since both Remus and Sirius had been sent out on missions for Dumbledore. When they needed to practice the new spells they were learning. wondering what they would do if he described Julius Snape to them in detail. "I do too. Ron glared at him. Ron. Ron particularly. they snuck into the Room of Requirement. working on his lesson plans or grading papers in the common room." Despite everything. Three nights a week he was busy with his team. earning equal looks of surprise. Typically when Harry returned to his room." Harry just laughed. Harry found himself grinning at her words. He'd been somewhat hesitant ." Quidditch began the following Monday after Harry's dinner with the Snapes." Hermione admitted suddenly. A quick glance at the professor assured him that he had not noticed the exchange he also noticed that just like last night Severus's hair was soft and flowing. he talked Ron and Hermione into beginning their private study sessions again in Defense Against the Dark Arts. though he was not able to fully shake off the lingering effects of the dream. He looks good.His words brought snickers of laughter from everyone but Harry who found himself wanting to defend the man again. "What are you smiling about Harry?" "Nothing. Severus was still awake. He felt something warm glowing inside him at the thought that Snape might have altered his hairstyle simply because Harry had said he liked it." Ginny agreed. Worried about what might be coming. "There's something different about him. no longer weighted down with the hair tonic he normally slicked it back with. When he did ask questions it was usually just to confirm if he had been with Hermione and Ron. "I think he looks rather nice. "Nothing at all. though it was obviously he was biting his tongue not to take points for the lateness. He never said anything. The boys at the table turned to look at her in shock.

a bit surprised when her eyes lit up. She smiled at him. Harry hesitated to answer." "I guess. asking him how his classes were going. Harry noticed that Professor Sonara Sinistra had taken a sudden interest in him. Oddly enough she began stopping him in the halls to greet him. It wasn't often he'd been subjected to such an intense gaze from a woman so answer at first." she assured him. Despite the fact that she was a Slytherin. then hurried off down the hall. telling him that she was looking forward to seeing his first Quidditch match. he would make up for it by punishing Ron and Hermione. No further action was taken. He told Ron and Hermione about the odd encounter later that evening during their latest study session. and Harry was stuck by the sheer beauty of the woman. . thinking that while Severus was not going to take points from his bond-mate. Uncertain if he was being given a detention.particularly when she stopped him one day in October and asked him if he'd be willing to help her unpack some new supplies over the weekend. surprised to see a look of relief on the man's face that he couldn't quite explain. All in all Harry found the behavior somewhat bewildering . "Great! I'll see you then. ma'am. leaving Harry watching her somewhat bemusedly. Severus wasn't the only teacher acting somewhat out of character. Hermione had her for Astronomy. or simply being asked for a favor." she replied. despite the fact that he did not take any classes from her. but Harry really only knew her by name. But he took a chance and told him the truth anyway." he agreed awkwardly. she claimed to be a fan of his flying. "It will only take about an hour. "Perhaps you can come by Saturday evening after your Quidditch practice. Oddly enough.

"How could you know what she's up to when I don't?" . "What is wrong with you?" Hermione demanded. "Why not ask one of her own students. all be not hard. "You don't have any classes with her either." If anything his words just made Ron laugh all the louder. earning more glares from his two friends. Ron just began laughing harder until finally both Harry and Hermione couldn't take it any more and they both hit him." "It's just too funny!" Ron grinned." Harry grumbled." "No big deal there as far as I'm concerned. then just tell us. "If you know what is going on with Professor Sinistra. "She's been talking to me a lot lately . Harry shook his head.Hermione was instantly suspicious since she knew Harry did not have any classes with the woman. much to the bewilderment of his two friends. "Me knowing something that the two of you can't figure out for once." Hermione was saying. "She's been teaching here for several years and no one has ever even hinted that she or her family supports Voldemort." Despite the use of the Dark Lord's name. Ron on the other hand began snickering quietly in amusement. Quite laughing like a fool." Harry agreed. or someone from Slytherin house for help if she needs it?" She glared at Ron who was still snickering. "I'm just saying it's a bit weird that she would ask you for help. I've never had a class with her.stopping me in the halls to say hello. "You don't suppose this has anything to do with You-Know-Who?" Hermione asked. "That's what I thought." Hermione reminded him.

. If you know what I mean." Ron smirked."Because Professor Sinistra is one of Hogwart's best kept secrets ." Ron grinned. Hermione glared while Harry just blushed harder. "She likes younger men. "That's just ridiculous. "She choose someone from Ravenclaw last year . Surely you're not saying she's suggesting something . Harry's a student. wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. "You heard this from one of the twins?" Harry asked. a lot. "I like that word. . . It's a well know fact that she waits until graduation and then hooks up with one of the young men from the graduating class according to the twins. that's exactly what I'm suggesting. "Not that they know first hand mind you." He leaned over to Harry and nudged him with his elbow. "According to what I hear if she shows an interest in you. Ron smirked again. Harry. Yeah. illicit?" "Illicit." he explained. Ron just grinned. she does it every year.or not so secret if you're a guy with five older brothers." "Likes?" Harry asked. it's like a sure thing. The younger the better. "Likes ." Both Harry and Hermione figured out immediately what Ron meant by 'it'. "Yeah. . Hermione on the other hand looked outraged. "I'm just telling you what I heard." Ron defended himself when he realized that Hermione was more than just shocked . Ron. mate." Harry felt his face turning bright red as he caught on quickly to Ron's meaning.she looked down right mad. . ." "What are you talking about?" Harry asked in confusion wondering if this had something to do with Ron's family. "Ron!" Hermione exclaimed.

"I can't believe you used that word!" Both Harry and Hermione glanced at each other in confusion. "You're joking about a woman seducing younger men into her bed the moment they graduate from school. I'm only a sixth year .apparently. it doesn't explain her sudden interest in me." Hermione grumbled." "You are making her sound like some sort of slut. "I'd forgotten about that. Ron flushed. but don't use such a crude term. though he nudged Harry again with his elbow. "Obviously something else is going on besides your puerile fantasy about Professor Sinistra." "Ron!" Harry and Hermione exclaimed in horror. "Huh?" ""Slut?" Hermione asked.staring at Hermione in surprise.I still think she's interested in Harry. "Hermione!" he sputtered in shock. Oddly enough Ron pinked up at that . blinking her eyes in confusion. Again. "Besides. yeah." "Exactly. wondering which word Ron was objecting to." . "But even still . Harry. "Though you're going to be the talk of Gryffindor tower when I tell the guys." Ron shrugged." "Maybe. and you're offended by the word I used to describe her? That makes no sense.I'm not graduating yet. Not to mention the little fact that you've forgotten . I find it hard to believe that a woman as intelligent as Professor Sinistra would engage in such unseemly behavior. Even if she is the way you say. It has to be something else." "Well I didn't say I condoned the behavior!" Ron exclaimed.I'm married." Hermione frowned." Hermione huffed. "Hermione! Call her a 'scarlet woman'. But we've all suspected that Bill knows more than he's letting on." "Oh." Ron frowned.

Harry's looked up in shock. "Did she now?" he asked. Snape grew suddenly tense. "Yes. ." Severus repeated. If it's harmless then telling Snape won't affect anything. but agreed at last that Hermione was probably right. "You do understand what it is she's asking." Harry replied. . "Maybe it is something completely harmless. hearing more in that statement than he expecting to hear. "Tell him anyway. talking to me a lot lately and this afternoon she asked me to help her unpack something for her. find his face flushing despite everything. he watched Severus somewhat awkwardly for a few moments before he finally broached the subject. regardless. . though he looked up when Harry called his name. "You mean Ron was right about her?" he exclaimed. don't you?" Severus finally stated. "She's been . And if it's something related to You-Know-Who. I think you should tell Professor Snape." he muttered." Hermione insisted." Hermione decided."Well. He stared intently at Harry for a long moment as if trying to read his mind. sir." he nodded. but it sounds odd either way." "Unpack. suddenly wishing he had never brought the subject up in the first place. Harry looked away. his voice mild enough but somehow strained. his voice oddly flat. then Snape needs to know to protect you. then you have a duty to tell Snape. Later that evening when he returned to his room. shifting uncomfortably in his seat. an odd expression crossing his face that Harry couldn't quite interpret. Knowing that the man was a skilled Legilimancer." "It's probably nothing. "Um. If it's what Ron thinks it is. Harry frowned. his voice breaking with an embarrassing squeak. Severus was grading papers once again in front of the fire. Professor Sinistra asked me to help her with something on Saturday.

I take it from some of the things you said when we were first married that a marriage such as ours would not have been acceptable in the Muggle world?" Harry shook his head." he protested. not with Snape staring at him like that. tight look to Severus' face that had not been there in a long time. as if his words made it an irrefutable fact. "You're what?" Severus demanded. and finally some of the coldness was gone from his tone." He didn't bother explaining that same sex marriages were also not allowed since the Wizarding World had trouble enough with so many different species. he supposed gender was an odd thing to quibble over." he began. "But I'm a student. . "She's asking you down to her room on Saturday to have sex with her." He felt himself unable to finish the statement. "No. breaking the intense stare he'd subjected Harry to. "It is precisely because you are married that she has approached you. Finally he shifted in his seat and sighed. Harry flushed again." he agreed quickly. "You didn't know?" he confirmed. he also felt sick to his stomach. sir. . "Ron said something about her." There was something oddly final about the way he said that. . "And I'm . Severus said nothing for a long moment. ." Harry finished weakly. but I didn't think. "Married. "Harry. staring at him intently. those dark eyes of his glittering dangerously. . Behind the wave of embarrassment that washed over Harry. And a teacher would be arrested if it were discovered he or she was involved with a student.Severus frowned. "Its very unusual for Muggles to get married before the age of eighteen to begin with and usually much later than that." There was a cold.

"Consequently you are considered a full adult in our world. In Sinistra's case. you are an ideal match for her since she knows you won't allow yourself to become too emotionally attached knowing that nothing can ever come of your union."I see. . . There was nothing scandalous about our union. ." Severus explained.I'm still a student. "We were betrothed by the Marriage Stone and married by a highly respected elder. Severus' eyes narrowed. Harry. "You're married . "A teacher is not allow to get involved with a student in our world either. . " he found himself sputtering in disbelief. that's. "Yes. "But that's . his entire body vibrating with an unnamed energy. . It is not unusual for two people in an arranged marriage to keep lovers on the side provided they are discreet about it in public. They never ceased to surprise an arranged bond marriage. . . ." Snape sighed. One." Severus agreed. Harry?" "Disgusting!" Harry shrieked leaping to his feet. you know . Harry. "But nobody said anything when we . ." Snape clarified. "That's what." "But I'm married!" Harry protested." "You're a married student." "That's because we were not 'involved'." If Harry lived to be as old as Dumbledore he doubted he'd understand the different customs that ruled the Wizarding World. she's guessed you have no emotional commitment to. ." Harry's eyes widened in shock. wondering why Severus was failing to see what he was trying to point out .if anything that made him even more off limits. . "Then why is Professor Sinistra suggesting that I . You no longer have the same restrictions on you that other students do. " "What?" Harry demanded.that's. . .

"Disgusting. He knew in part he was angry at Sinistra . she had assumed a familiarity and an intimacy with him that was unwarranted and unwelcome. Wisely. It took a lot longer for him to calm down this time and when he did he found himself sitting in the middle of the library floor once again feeling drained as he tried to figure out what that sudden burst of violent emotion was all about. his rage knocked book after book off the shelves. wanting to throttle the man. As had happened before. Actually in some ways it was worse since it implied a .Something hard glittered in Snape's eyes. "No!" Harry yelled at him feeling a great deal of the rage directing itself at this man he'd been forced to marry. Harry!" Severus ordered. though if someone had asked him at that moment precisely what he was angry about he would not have been able to tell them. They thumped to the ground with a loud and somewhat satisfying bang." he repeated. Severus did not try to follow him. While she had made no move to force him into anything. .much the same way he he'd been angry at Julius Snape. "It's wrong! It's . and second because he was young. That was just as bad as chasing him because he was the stupid Boy Who Lived. "It's not right!" he clarified. "Calm down. Harry was suddenly furious. growing angrier by the second. As it was he was only vaguely aware of the fact that his anger was beginning to cause the furniture in the room to shake with an unseen force. . In her case she'd apparently gone after him first because he was married. this whole thing is just wrong!" "Am I to take it by this display that you're not interested in Professor Sinistra's proposal?" "Of course I'm not interested!" Harry cried. slamming the door behind him in a desperate attempt to be alone. "I won't calm down! I won't!" And with that he ran across the room and toward the library.

and Mrs. of Ron and Hermione and how he knew. And he could even get his mind around the fact that for some reason the Wizarding World had no problem with a sixteen-year-old boy marrying a thirty-six-year-old man. Weasley who were just about the warmest. But when Harry thought of marriage. The fact that their marriage was allowed to happen in the first place was a bit of a shocker . oddly enough. kindest couple he'd ever met in his life. He also found himself surprisingly angry with something out of a Regency novel that dealt with manners and betrothals and inheritance contracts. He though of Mr. he could get his mind around the fact that the Wizarding World allowed unions he'd never imagined one way or another.but okay. He had never wanted to marry the man in the first place . If he removed certain factors from the equation it was bizarrely old-fashioned .certain degree of perversion that the Muggle side of him didn't care to think about. he thought of his parents. that one day they would be married. And now that he'd seen the bond between them. who had loved him enough to die for him. and Harry would stand up beside his best friend while they watched Hermione walk down the aisle. he still had certain core beliefs that had warred violently with the conversation they had just had. so devoted to each other and their family. and that his heart belonged forever in one man's keeping. . Marriage was not about being discrete in public as you kept a lover on the side.he'd been forced into this situation. When he thought of marriage he thought. And though his Aunt and Uncle had never attempted to instill any sort of religious beliefs in him. that his devotion was true. James and Lily Potter. just KNEW. marriage was about Sirius Black convincing Remus Lupin that his eye was not going to stray.

Or maybe it had something to do with the bizarre link he had to Voldemort. All of them did accidental magic as small children. He could see them now. And truthfully. cracked leather.something that had made him that dream Voldemort had been looking through some old books. A quick search of the other rooms revealed that Snape was gone. That apparently someone had written in a loop hole for him that allowed him to still fall in love with someone . he ought to be grateful .just so long as he came home to his bond-mate at the end of the day. covered in strange twisting writing. Books! In his dream that night he'd forgotten to take his potion . Voldemort had discovered something in an old book . Harry supposed he was just a slow learner. He paused in the middle of picking up one of the books. Harry knew where those books had come from. The thought twisted his gut as he tried to shove all that anger back down deep inside where he wouldn't have to look too closely at it. dark. He supposed he ought to be thankful that he'd run into the library instead of Snape's potions lab. Maybe he was prone to such outbursts because of the scar on his forehead. He dropped the book in his hand and raced toward the door. "Severus!" he cried.But apparently it was for him and Snape. His bouts of accidental magic were a bit destructive. a memory suddenly returning with startling clarity.grateful that despite being forced into a marriage at sixteen years of age no one expected him to remain completely alone his entire life. And then just as clearly. . Sighing bitterly. he got to his feet and began picking up the books he'd knocked over. Not to mention a bit odd very few of the other students had such outbursts no matter how angry they became. but the common room beyond was empty. but they apparently all out grew it by the time they got their first wands.

No one else could even get into the room they had been kept. .No matter. He grabbed his firebolt and his invisibility cloak.knew where to look. there was no one else in the castle better suited to see if there had been anything else left behind. Harry thought to himself. And if truth be told. He knew where those books came from . and headed for the Chamber of Secrets.

Still it was nice to know that the Dark Lord had not been here since he'd been resurrected . was still inside the protective wards of the castle. And despite Salazar Slytherin's infamous pet. And now that the basilisk was dead. He remembered all to clearly the sight of the giant snake emerging from the opened mouth. The chamber was utterly silent.CHAPTER TWENTY ONE Harry had not returned to the Chamber of Secrets since the night he'd rescued Ginny Weasley from the memory of Tom Riddle. basilisks were not native to England. As far as he knew even basilisks needed another of its kind to fact had probably not been here since he himself was a student at Hogwarts nearly fifty years ago. Not another basilisk .a thought that comforted him immensely. these Chambers lay completely empty.he was ninety percent certain that there were no others in the chamber. He knew of course that the Chamber. It took some doing maneuvering through the crumbling old passageways. No one had entered these room since he had last been there .would have if it hadn't been for Fawkes. not knowing what it was he would find on the other side. And he could see by the dust on the ground that nothing had been disturbed. . save for the sound of water dripping far in the distance. though deep under the foundations of Hogwarts. It took a great deal of courage to mount his broom and fly straight into that mouth himself. And when at last he found himself in the center chamber all he could do was stare at the decaying carcass of the basilisk that had nearly claimed his life four years ago . Still it was with some nervousness that he made his way toward the giant statue of Salazar Slytherin that loomed above the skeleton of the beast that once lived inside it.

Then he simply said "open". Inside the rounded chamber beyond the tunnel through the mouth. he found a single doorway.he could see clearly that many were missing. Heart pounding. And Harry could feel the protection and preservation spells that kept the books intact over the ages. It wasn't a large room . But Tom Riddle promised his Death Eaters powers that they could not find anywhere else. He knew he was the second person in a thousand years who had entered the private library of Salazar Slytherin . A thousand years ago books were far more precious than they were today. There had to .and at the moment there were only two people on the face of the earth who possessed the ability to enter. Fifty years ago Tom Riddle had found all the dark secrets he would need to become the greatest Dark Lord in the world. Harry stepped through the doorway into the room beyond. Fifty years ago a young Tom Riddle had made his way into this room and had drunk his fill of the knowledge he found here. empty places where they must have once resided. twisting and turning as they shifted the locking mechanism. He had often wondered where that knowledge had come from . Harry stared at the snakes.It was dark inside and Harry pulled out his wand and muttered the lumos spell to light his way. A moment later the snakes on the door came to life.but it was impressive enough. concentrating on speaking to them.certainly he'd sneaked his own share of peaks at books in Hogwarts restricted section.the true Chamber of Secrets. intricately carved with snakes. The word came out in the soft hiss of Parseltongue. There was only one-way through the door . Here and there were volumes gone. The four walls in the room beyond were covered floor to ceiling with bookshelves. He knew if he pushed on the door he would find it locked with unbreakable charms. The door swung silently open. The books that remained .

a place that had first started him down that dark path.numerous volumes of a specific type. Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff.books from the dream that had so disturbed him. slim volumes. That knowledge had allowed him to remake himself into the creature they now knew as Lord Voldemort. . Harry found himself drawn to the far side of the room where he saw a shelf at about chest high with a large empty section. This wall had been well picked over. There were numerous other books missing from the shelves above and below this empty spot. And he was learning still. Tom Riddle had turned his attention once again to the books he had hidden way during his last reign of terror and had begun learning again. he had been the closest of friends with Gryffindor. Fifty years ago Tom Riddle had taken the darkest. Ten volumes . written in his own hand. He touched the shelf. There were still hundreds of books here Riddle had only taken a small fraction of them. The books had rested here. Black books with strange writing . Salazar Slytherin's private notes. Diaries he believed . Which meant the books left behind were either common or worthless. There were ten of them. And having lost the Eye of Odin he had so craved. And here in this Chamber Harry knew he had found his answer. but filled with such terrible powers. He couldn't have left only darkness behind as his legacy. most horrible secrets that Salazar Slytherin had possessed. once. running his fingers through the thick dust he found there. Slytherin may have turned dark .but. Harry could see the books now in his mind .Salazar Slytherin's Dark Arts notes.have been a source . He had taken those books and he had hidden them away somewhere he would have access to them after he had graduated from Hogwarts himself. But Harry couldn't bring himself to believe that darkness was all this chamber had to offer.the Books of Dark.

Severus had at first assumed the boy was either telling him that he was planning on taking up with her . He had what he came for .which meant that Riddle had not valued the information it contained. Like the dark book from his dream this too was covered in strange twisting shapes.though Harry had apparently begun picking up the books he knocked over in his anger. When he had begun telling him about Sonara Sinistra earlier. A quick look through the rooms showed that the library was still in a state of disarray . He looked inside . though the cover was brown instead of black. The writing made his head spin but began resolving itself into familiar patterns. drawing it off the shelf with reverence. Then with one finally look around.directly across from the empty shelf he could see ten slim volumes covered in a thousand years of dust. he left the chamber and locked it again with a hissed command.or even stranger asking him for permission to do so.the book was written in Parseltongue. A dissertation on the Light Arts.He turned to stare at the wall opposite it. he couldn't figure out the boy's motivation for half the things he did. There were ten in all . he made his way across the room and touched the first volume. It took him only a moment to pull out all ten of the books and wrap them up in his invisibility cloak.Volume 1 of the notes of Salazar Slytherin.he could only pray that it would be enough to save those he loved from the darkness he knew was coming. But where had he gone then? He knew the boy was angry . And there . Parseltongue . His reaction of disgust and outrage had . The ten Books of Light that might hold the counters to the darkness Riddle had chosen.ten volumes that Riddle had dismissed as unimportant. When Severus Snape returned to his chambers he was alarmed to realize that Harry was no longer there.though he wasn't certain why. Truthfully. It alone of all the shelves had the fewest missing books from it . Heart pounding.

He'd nodded in satisfaction and made his way to the door." "Listen to me. I'm only going to warn you once. "Severus?" she'd asked nervously. "I hardly think my interactions with. Sinistra.been both surprising and welcomed. since he tended to avoid her company despite their shared history in Slytherin. Her eyes had narrowed at that. he knew exactly what to do about Sinistra. her voice tight. Once he figured out what it was you wanted. he grew very upset. since he wasn't entirely certain he was going to be able to stand by and do nothing while his bondmate cheated on him. cutting straight to the heart of the matter. . staring at him in undisguised fear. I guarantee there will be no cure or glamour that will undo the damage this potion will do to your looks. "Your attentions toward him are unwanted. All the rest will run screaming in horror at the mere thought of touching you after you consume the potion that will accidentally find its way into your food. pulling her dressing gown modestly around her slender body . "Stay away from Harry. And while he didn't know what to do to calm down his bond-mate." she'd assured him. he was hardly young enough to tempt someone like her. He'd stormed to her room. "Perfectly.he'd wondered why she even bothered with such a pretense. . He wasn't certain why Harry had been so angry." he'd ordered. She'd looked surprise to see him. pounding on her door until she'd let him into her chambers." Severus had growled. . It was no small threat coming from a Potions Master and she knew it. but one thing was obvious . But then. Do I make myself clear?" She was pale now. if you go near him again he will be the last young man you ever approach.Sinistra's affections were unwanted.

leaving the library in such a state? He began picking up the books if he'd been out climbing rocks." he'd growled in warning. Severus had known there was a question in there . and he knew Harry had already bid goodnight to Ron and Hermione. why would the idea of infidelity have been so abhorrent to the boy? Not that he was going to complain. It was also just as likely that he had gone up to Gryffindor tower. hoping to find a clue to why he was missing. but maybe he had left simply to get away from him for a night. He couldn't help wondering what it was he had said that had so set the boy off. "Sinistra.Severus did not like the idea of sharing Harry with anyone. Perhaps Lupin and Black had returned from their latest errand of the Headmasters? He supposed it was possible they had contacted him through the floo. "Do not think about him at all. He had no idea why Harry had been so angry with him. Aside from the shame and the scandal such a thing could cause if dealt with carelessly in public .and Merlin knew Gryffindors were always careless . but considering the circumstances of their marriage. "I did not think he meant so much to you. It was nearly two hours later before he heard the door to their rooms opening and Harry entered the common room with his broom in hand. But where was Harry now? It was well past curfew.and with that question was of course a threat that perhaps she had found some vulnerability that had been previously unknown." she'd stated. Granted there was a lot of mud near the Quidditch pitch. but surely he hadn't been out in it this time of night? ." He'd slammed the door as he left.But of course she was still a Slytherin and couldn't help attempting to salvage something of the situation despite the threat. He realized that Muggles had many different beliefs than Wizards. For some strange reason the boy was dirty . Why had he gone out again.

not insolently. willing him to tell Severus where he had gone. "You never did." he replied. "Professor Sinistra won't bother you again. "Thank you. After a moment. It was on the tip of his tongue to take points from Gryffindor. Harry just stared back in silence. gritting his teeth." Severus just nodded." And he watched in frustrated silence as Harry disappeared through the bedroom door. Severus frowned. "Good. "You're welcome. but he still jumped when Severus yelled. but with a certain degree of reserve that Severus didn't like. That stopped Harry and he turned around." he said instead. "I see. He glared at the boy." he stated. . but he knew that would get him nowhere. "I don't have to go see her on Saturday?" He sounded disgustingly young and Severus hated himself for the feelings of possessiveness that gripped him." he answered. "I'm going to bed. a look of uncertainty crossing his features."Where have you been?" he demanded when Harry came in. "That is what you wanted right?" Harry nodded. The boy looked a lot calmer than he had last time Severus had seen him. Severus wanted to grab him and shake an answer from him." he replied." he grumbled and headed toward the bedroom door. "Out. but he'd promised himself he would not do that here in their chambers. the boy shifted uncomfortably and glanced away.

He'd lived a remarkably solitary life. however. and though he tried not to let on too much. For the most part things were quiet on the war front . and with the sudden company thrust upon him.though Severus had to sit through numerous Quidditch matches along side Slytherin parents who had reason to hate the Gryffindor Seeker. More and more. he began to realize just how lonely he had been throughout most of it. As for Potter .they butted heads on occasion. Albus. Even the addition of Harry's owl Hedwig. but he also came to enjoy his company in the quite hours when both of them were working on their daily tasks of sit beside their spouses at a school game when his loyalties were now publicly known while they watched the boy who had brought so much defeat to their lives trounce their home team proved to be a nail-biting experience. always made certain to come to the games himself. . the boy became comfortable enough to begin talking a bit more with him.CHAPTER TWENTY TWO To Severus Snape's surprise. and with him came all the other teachers of Hogwarts and numerous Order members so nothing ever happened beyond the life threatening reality of rogue bludgers. and Severus found himself reacting with difficulty to the increasing attraction he felt for the young man who shared his bed. so he rarely had to deal with his childhood nemesis. As luck would have it Harry's annoying dog-father and the Wolf were away on missions for Dumbledore more often than not. Severus found his conversations welcomed. was a welcomed change. who had taken to watching him in the mornings from a perch by the fire. The day Harry had taken the Eye of Odin from Voldemort's hand several parents of his Slytherin students had lost their lives . life with Harry Potter was actually quite pleasant.

Granger was extraordinarily intelligent. He'd been sitting by the fire reading a new potion's manual when Harry had entered their quarters alone and sat down across from him in the chair that had become 'his' over the weeks.However life with Harry Potter. And though he found Ron Weasley annoying. Since Severus knew they were working on Defense Against the Dark Arts (this year's teacher was as bad as last year's).knew that these study sessions from last year were what had saved Harry's life time and time again. Severus had watched him playing wizards chess against Harry a couple of times and had been impressed by how quickly he had defeated the Gryffindor golden boy. "Something wrong?" Severus asked when he realized that Harry was staring at him. he had to admit that the boy had an amusing sense of humor and a startling grasp of strategy. he had been impressed by her grasp of magical theory. he found he didn't mind the company of the other two Gryffindors either. Again. His quarters were now Harry's quarters though he might resent it. Severus had been worried that perhaps something had happened to disturb the status quo they had managed to maintain the last few months. He could hardly complain when they asked to use his private library . He had commended Hermione Granger on the outside research she had done to help Harry . also meant life with Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. It wasn't until late October that Harry first invited his friends into their quarters for a late night study session. and the few times she'd braved his presence to ask him a question about something she didn't understand. . When Harry approached him early one evening at the beginning of December with a somewhat pensive look on his face. surprisingly.something that technically Harry had full right to explore. he really didn't have cause to stop them.

"No. No doubt Harry had some ridiculous Gryffindor ideas about trees and presents and various different Yuletide games. . but were actually more angry at his failure to reopen Snape Manor. "I wanted to ask you about Christmas.he could just imagine what happened with the Dursleys when he made a request of them. Claudius and Marcellus were also under a powerful monitoring spell. He stared at Snape expectantly." Harry explained. Julius. He looked now as if he were expecting Severus to refuse him and was marshalling whatever arguments he might have to sway his mind. It hadn't been an overly happy time when he was a child." Christmas .a holiday that Severus had little use for. but it could wait for a time when he was not so busy. now under the influence of Severus' curse.though he supposed now he might try to at least pay his sister a visit." he admitted uncertainly. He knew that the Weasleys wanted him to spend the holiday at the Burrow this year . His family had of course celebrated the various solstice rites. but since that holiday was a time for family Severus had fallen out of the practice. then shifted uncomfortably. "Are you asking for my permission to go?" Harry gave him a hesitant smile. looking uncomfortable. "I guess. though he did remember some pleasant evenings with his sister. Severus frowned . was not speaking to him." Harry said quickly. "What about it?" Severus asked. Severus suspected that asking for things wasn't a common occurrence for Harry .this was the problem with being forced into a marriage with someone so young.Albus had already talked to him about it and he supposed Harry had just heard. He supposed eventually he would have do so. Since his falling out with his family he had never done much for the holiday . "The Weasleys invited me to the Burrow this holiday.

he's added extra wards to the Burrow. "I. He paused at the door however and looked back at Severus." Severus shrugged. "It hardly matters if I mind or not. However. you should be safe enough. Provided you do not do anything crazy like wander off by yourself. ." he blinked uncertainly at Severus." Severus sighed. it would be wise to investigate certain security measures for such an arrangement. wondering suddenly how he was going to endure the silence during the two weeks of vacation while Harry was gone."Harry." the boy assured him. no doubt to inform the Weasley boy that he could join them for the holiday after all. There were only a handful . considering who you are. as if he had already been given what ever ridiculous Christmas presents he was likely to be offered come Yule. You do not need my permission to spend the holidays as you see fit. "Thank you!" "It had nothing to do with me. along with your godfather and Lupin. It surprised him that he was not looking forward to it. "Oh. looking almost giddy with excitement . does this mean you don't mind?" "Mind?" Severus frowned. Even after these last several months it still startled him when Harry used his name." The boy looked startled by his response." He turned his attention back to the manual he was reading. I am not your father or your guardian. "Severus?" he asked hesitantly. . There was a sparkle in his eyes that Severus had rarely seen. I trust you won't do anything to endanger yourself?" "I won't. Severus looked up. Albus has already spoken with me . The boy had jumped up from his seat and raced to the door. "I told you long doubt he had expected this conversation to go much differently. I am your bond-mate. "Thank the Weasleys and the Headmaster. and all the elder Weasley children will be present for the holiday. a strange shiver going through his body at the sound of his name.

" the boy continued. "Both of us?" Harry nodded. . The boy flushed in embarrassment. Merlin." "Why on earth. taking in his flushed features and bright eyes. the boy did want him to say yes! "Please say you'll come. his voice taking on a cajoling tone." he amended.or perhaps they could all play Quidditch in the snow in the backyard. " dinner with us on Christmas Day. "It's Christmas. Severus blinked. Those bright green eyes were gazing at him oddly from behind his glasses. "I just meant for Christmas. Weasley specifically extended the invitation to you. and this time Severus heard something almost pleading in his tone. "The Weasleys invited both of us. "We're family now. . There was hope burning in . you know. momentarily taken aback by the very idea. Surely the boy wasn't suggesting he join him? Did he imagine Severus sitting around playing Exploding Snaps with Ron and the twins for two weeks ." Severus began. You could come for Christmas Eve and stay the night ." the boy said.was he afraid perhaps that Severus was going to say yes and possibly ruin the holiday for him? "Please.but there was something doubly intimate about Harry doing so. as if it were something almost illicit between them." "Surely you're joking?" Severus just stared at the boy.of people in the world who used his given name . surprising the hell out of Severus." "What would I possibly do at the Burrow for two weeks?" Severus asked incredulously. Please? The boy wanted him to say yes? He stared at him in disbelief. I meant for Christmas. "I know you're probably very busy with school work over the holidays. Harry was biting his lower lip in a way that indicated he was anxious about something ." Harry informed him." Harry cut him off.

. . "Well. or the Weasleys. . He looked up and Severus saw that same pleading look in his eyes. . looking rather defeated all of a sudden. "I imagine I can put up with the annoyances for a day or two. or Christmas or. "Look." he offered. "Then you'll come?" he exclaimed hopefully. " He sighed again. . Harry's eyes lit up like the sun. you don't like . and then turned and rushed from the room. ." he shrugged helplessly as if realizing what a ridiculous request he had made. he really didn't hate the idea. It might be nice to share Christmas with Harry ." He frowned at that. For whatever reason. .his eyes . He found himself unable to refuse the boy's request . "I am beginning to find you somewhat tolerable. Harry took a step toward him. "I guess. "I know you don't like . his gaze turning inward as he thought about how to continue. . The smile on Harry's face seemed to brighten the entire room." he conceded. or Sirius. which was odd to see in so brave and brash a young man. amending Harry's long list of the things he didn't like. looking both shy and anxious. how much worse might they have been on the holidays when families were supposed to pull together? Was the boy so desperate to be part of a family that he was willing to put up with someone he so blatantly didn't like? Severus wasn't certain how to respond. Severus tried to imagine what holidays might have been like for the boy before coming to Hogwarts. taking Severus' breath away. leaving a very bemused Potion Master staring after him.of course if he was honest with himself. or Remus.even if it meant he had to put up with all the rest of it. me. Severus was quite beyond any hope of refusal now. Harry genuinely wanted him to join them for Christmas.hope and a touch of wariness as if he feared being struck down for making such a request or making such a claim. ." Harry sighed. If the Dursleys were abusive to him the rest of the year. "Thanks!" he grinned.

instead of being married to Professor Snape. Harry on the other hand was quite glad the man had agreed to join them. your mother invited him. . get used to it. "He's not so bad once you get to know him." Harry explained. Harry's things were already waiting down in the common room where Professor McGonagall had promised to meet them with a port key that would take them straight to the Weasley's living room. Or are you forgetting things could be a lot worse. Ron was horrified of the idea of having Professor Snape in their house for Christmas. "And you didn't have to tell him. "How could they possibly be worse?" "Well. I could be married to Hermione or you. "Fine. Harry!" Ron was exclaiming as he haphazardly tossed his things into his trunk. His sister was the only one he kept in regular touch with. "I told you. for one thing." Harry sighed. He was looking forward to Christmas for the first time in years. He'd grown rather fond of the man over the last few months. though he wasn't ready to tell Ron that yet. Ron. then I can't believe my mother invited him!" Ron grumbled. He couldn't seem to get his mind around it. but Harry had sensed that there was some tension there as well mostly due to Diana's husband. Normally he never got a chance to go anywhere for the holidays and Harry was excited about the two weeks ahead of him. Harry had begun to enjoy his sense of humor and quick wit.Harry sat on Neville's bed and watched as Ron packed up his trunk for their trip back home to the Burrow. you know. now that they'd gotten past the endlessly grumpiness and sniping. He doubted the man would be joining them for the holidays. relations were still strained with Severus and the rest of the Snapes. "I can't believe you invited him. He knew that despite the family reunion back in September." "Oh. He also hadn't liked the thought of the man spending the holidays all alone." "Worse?" Ron demanded." Harry reminded him mildly.

" Harry said with mock insult. "Have you informed your parents. . The rest of the tower was already empty . It will be brilliant!" "That's true. Hermione had made arrangements to go to the Burrow for the holidays almost a month ago ." the four students informed her.Ron blanched at that." "All ready. But he's not sleeping in my room!" Harry just laughed and helped his friend carry his trunk down to the common room where Ginny and Hermione were already waiting for them.Harry had no doubt that she'd informed her parents immediately. . It will be just like old times. And Remus and Sirius are coming. Professor. Hermione?" McGonagall asked unnecessary. . Ron. "Good point. shuddering with the thought. Besides we'll have the rest of the holiday all to ourselves. you know. Ron just rolled his eyes. "All right." Harry laughed." he groused." Ron closed up his trunk. "The port key leaves in five minutes so I hope you have all remembered to pack everything." "Thanks. I'll behave. They would be traveling by port key instead of the Hogwarts Express since even the Ministry agreed that it was no longer a safe means of transport for Harry Potter. . "It's just for two days. No one should spend Christmas alone. "I didn't mean anything by it Harry.all the other students had headed home for the holiday that morning on the train. well. It should deposit you directly in the living room of the Burrow. They were the last of them to leave due to the need for extra security surrounding Harry. "I just. " "I know. She had an old mitten in her hand. "Is everyone ready?" Professor McGonagall asked as she entered the common room through the portrait door. She glanced around the room at the four students and the four trunks. .

" the woman nodded just as the portrait door opened a second time and Professor Snape came striding into the room."Yes. thinking that perhaps he was going to be informed after all that he could not go with the others. He reached out hesitantly and took the cloak from Severus' hands. . The others all turned as well. holding out a heavy fur-lined cloak to something an overly worried mother might do for a small child. wondering why Severus was here." Hermione replied courteously. Confronted with five Gryffindors and a room decorated predominately in red and gold. Harry stood up quickly. "They're going to join us later." he smiled bemusedly." Ron mused. a very familiar sneer crossed Snape's features." "Excellent. It was such an oddly caring thing to do . his words belying the expression. "Must be the holiday spirit.even McGonagall was staring at him with an expression of surprise. surprised looks on all their faces. "It's cold out. He shrugged at them somewhat bewilderedly. "Have fun." he said curtly then turned and strode just as swiftly from the room as he'd entered. "Huh. "Never mind now. all of you take hold of your trunks and touch the port key. "You forgot your cloak. ." "Or Old Ogden's." Snape sneered. None of them had ever seen Professor Snape in the Gryffindor common room before. "Is something wrong?" Harry asked warily." For a moment Harry was stunned speechless. "You're welcome. Professor." She handed the mitten over to Harry while they all . Harry glanced at the others . then nodded stiffly to Harry." Professor McGonagall muttered under her breath. But rather than fire off with his usual insults he just thrust out his hand toward Harry. He glanced around at the other stunned faces in the room. "Thank you." he informed him.

grasped their trunks. The others all reached out and touched a finger to the mitten and a moment later they were whisked off across Scotland and deposited safely in the heart of the Burrow. .

"I can't believe you married Professor Snape.just as enthusiastic to see Harry and Hermione as she was her own children. "How's it been. Harry. Harry stifled a laugh at that. though Sirius was eternally hopefully. "I'm sure it will be fine." Fred continued. something he'd done often enough in the past. As it was he had a surprise for the two men that he was hoping would make both their lives easier eventually. "And I'll have Charlie bunk in with Bill so that Remus and Sirius can have his room ." he informed her. Harry. The twins joined them a moment don't think they'll mind bunking together do you?" She looked worried at the thought. "He poison you nightly with foul smelling potions?" "Don't worry. Molly was already frantically trying to figure out where to put everyone else once the rest of the company arrived. And no sooner had they appeared than they were all enveloped in a warm hug as she rushed around the room greeting each of them . "Now. mate?" George asked with mock horror." ." Fred exclaimed as he and George set their trunks down in Ron's bedroom. "We've got all sorts of nifty new products to try out on him when he arrives. If Remus did. He couldn't wait to see them. He was certain that Sirius at least would not complain about the sleeping arrangements. Both men had written to him regularly and as far as he could tell there had been no further advancement in their relationship. then Sirius could always sleep on the couch in dog form. Harry would be staying with Ron while Hermione would be bunking with Ginny.CHAPTER TWENTY THREE Molly Weasley was waiting for them as they landed. and between the lot of them managed to drag all the trunks upstairs to the appropriate bedrooms." Molly informed Harry. I'm going to move Percy into the twin's room so that Professor Snape can have his room.

"That's not what I meant. He's . guys. I'd rather get along with him than go back to the way things were before all this happened." Harry said in exasperation. "Harry!" two more tall red-heads pushed their way into Ron's small room. . . he'll never join us again. . They greeted Ron as well but both seemed far more interested in the golden wedding band Harry was wearing on his hand. . "Yeah."Don't you dare!" Harry protested.he's been nice." Ron agreed. ." . and a moment later Harry found himself being hugged enthusiastically by both Bill and Charlie. Harry. . "From what I hear you were nearly married off to one of us. . surprising both boys. Harry found himself blushing at the though. . "Ah. "Wouldn't that be . He wondered how much different married life might have been if he had married either Bill or Charlie. "If you say so Harry. . . "No." Ron asked. . but shrugged their shoulders.if you annoy him. "Just trust me for once." Harry know. like. a good thing?" Harry rolled his eyes in annoyance." "Nice?" the three of them asked in unison." they agreed. "It was hard enough getting him to agree to join us for Christmas as it was . "Yes. shoving his glasses more firmly onto his nose. "Imagine the revenge he'll take on Harry if you do anything too evil. . just trust me on this ." Charlie teased. will you?" The three brothers looked at each other in confusion. look." The twins shuddered in horror. "Well ." All three of the Weasley boys stopped what they were doing and stared at Harry in confusion.

"He'd get two for the price of one." the other twin added." "Maybe Harry could throw over Snape and pick one of us instead. "We were desperate to find someone." Charlie agreed. You would have forgotten all about your new bond-mate the moment you saw your next dragon. "Welcome to my world. not certain how to respond. " Ron grumbled." "Well. feeling both flustered and awkward. and Harry understood that this was what it was like to have brothers." Ron informed them. "I would have been a much better choice than Snape!" "What are you talking about. the other could fill in for him and Harry here would never notice. . Harry just stared at them open-mouthed. . "We're of age. if one of us wasn't around. "As long as Snape hasn't poisoned you yet." "But Snape?" Charlie exclaimed. ruffling his hair. All four men turned toward him earnestly. ." "Not to mention." he stammered. . At least I would give him the attention he deserved. .I ." Charlie agreed." Bill cut in. throwing Ron a glare for not warning him. and much closer to Harry. Harry. "I would have been the best choice of all. They hugged him again. he was nearly married off to me. "What do you say. only to find himself blushing furiously as a moment later all four of them burst into laugher. I reckon things are all right." the twins assured him. "Um." "Yeah. Harry?" they asked in unison. what about one of us?" one of the twins protested. Harry just laughed."Hell. "We're just teasing with you.

. When night began falling . an odd look crossing his face. Harry glanced at him curiously. As he fastened the silver clasps that held it together. "I forgot to ask for some to bring with me. "Dreamless Sleep. I guess Severus remembered for me. particularly a powder that when sprinkled on a firmly packed snow ball reshaped it into the form of a flying dragon.something that happened very early in the afternoon in December . Harry pulled on the heavy winter cloak Severus had brought to him before he'd left that afternoon. Getting clobbered by a flying snow dragon was a lot more fun than simply getting hit by a snowball. He knew both Ron and Hermione had heard him refer to Severus by his first name before. despite the cold. Inside he found numerous single-dose vials filled with a dark blue liquid. Reaching in." Ron said nothing for a moment. he pulled out a small leather case.the boys trekked back into the house to warm up. noticing Harry staring at the case of potions. At the sight of them he knew immediately what they were. "What's that?" Ron asked curiously. they returned to their rooms to don warmer winter gear so that they could decorate the outside of the house with fairy lights. so he doubted that had startled him. "Are you still having nightmares. As the temperature was dropping fast. the realization sending a warm pleasure through his body.They spent the day goofing around in the backyard." Harry said with a silly grin on his face. Harry?" he asked softly.the twins spicing things up by adding in a few of their products. At Arthur's bidding. he noticed something heavy inside one of the inner pockets. They bundled up in warm jackets and gloves and fought a war with snowballs for most of the day . No doubt he was surprised by the act of kindness from their normally gruff Potions Master. But Ron surprised him.

But I'll always listen Harry if you need to talk or anything. "We all used to joke around about why Seamus or Dean might use silencing charms on their beds at night." His words washed over Harry like a pleasant balm to the sharp tug he felt on his heart. "Does it help the potion?" "Yeah.or perhaps he had simply not expected his friends in Gryffindor to be so observant. you used to throw a silencing charm on your bed at night. "He makes a special batch for me now they only allow peaceful dreams to come through." Ron reminded him." he smiled." "I guess that's the good thing about having a Potions Master in the family. "Thanks. "I know I'm not the most sensitive bloke around. Harry carefully put the leather case away in his trunk where he could find it when he needed it." Harry admitted. "I never liked talking about them." Harry admitted. Ron. Harry. you know." Ron grinned. We all knew it. We just didn't know what to do to help you. "That's what he said. They heard a shout from the twins downstairs. and I know I don't understand things the way Hermione does. "There not bad." he admitted carefully." Ron told him. He was guilty sometimes of underestimating all of them. urging them to hurry up. Ron just grinned in embarrassment as he realized he'd been caught in a mushy moment." Harry stared at his friend in surprise. Then the two of them hurried .Harry sighed." "Harry. Ron. I take it nearly every night. "You can. He motioned to the leather case. He hadn't known he'd been so obvious . But I always knew that you did it to stifle your screams at night.

. all of them forgetting about the cares of the world for a few short days. he found he loved every minute of it. But then he suspected that had more to do with how busy they had been than in any true reticence on the part of the reluctant werewolf. Harry could tell from the way they reacted to each other that Sirius had made little headway in his mission to woo and win Remus Lupin. but the ensuing days were just as crazy as he imagined with that many people in the family. Snape would be able to deal with it. flinging his arms around the two men as they came in from the cold. though a few good meals from Molly Weasley soon had both men set to rights. But they were both happy to see Harry and pleased to be able to spend some time just relaxing with everyone. But oddly enough he found himself actually missing Snape's presence in the bed along side him. Though Harry was a bit overwhelmed by so many Weasleys.downstairs to help Mr. and felt somewhat uncomfortable alone again. He couldn't help wondering though if Snape was grateful to have his bed all to himself again. Both men looked tired and somewhat ragged from whatever mission Dumbledore had sent them on. Remus and Sirius arrived a few days later and Harry greeted them both joyfully. If nothing else having someone strong and powerful beside him had given him a sense of comfort that he'd never had before. He knew that if anything happened during the night. If anything Remus seemed flattered by Sirius's attentions. if somewhat cautious. Harry had never stayed long at the Burrow before. Weasley put charmed Fairy Lights on the outside of their house. He'd grown used to sharing that enormous bed down in the dungeons. He and Ron spent that first night whispering to each other late into the night as they used to do in Gryffindor tower .something Harry had missed down the dungeons.

"You okay. Harry followed Remus outside. Arthur and Remus alone seemed to have some sort of immunity to her.but she didn't have quite the affect on him that she did on the others. Sirius never even noticed when Remus left the house to take in the fresh air outside. after giving Ron some absolutely furious glares. staring thoughtfully out at the gray sky. Still he found it amusing to watch the others gaze at her with such sappy expressions on their faces. Remus turned to glance at him and for a moment he thought that the man's gentle amber eyes flashed yellow in the cold light.Sadly however he suffered a sever set back when Fleur Delacore. Shaking his head ruefully. stopped by to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Even during fourth year he had noticed his reaction had not been like those of his classmates. who was currently dating Bill. So enamored of the attention he was getting. Harry's . Harry found himself watching the Weasley boys fawn over the beautiful Veela girl with some amusement. so she didn't inspire the madness a true Veela did. But it was obvious that the men in the room found her very interesting. had resumed his Animagus form. She wasn't a full Veela. Remus?" Harry asked carefully. he like most of the other men in the room was still affected by the beautiful Veela girl. after greeting Fleur politely. abandoned the men to join Molly in the kitchen. There was another snowstorm blowing in. Remus. The man was standing on the far end of the porch. He watched as Ginny and Molly just rolled their eyes at the men in disgust. He definitely found Fleur beautiful . Though Sirius. out of a need for secrecy. stood off to the side for a moment and watched in annoyance as a certain scruffy looking dog wagged his tail enthusiastically and gazed adoringly up at the Veela girl while she cooed over the 'sweet puppy' and scratched his ears. Hermione.

"How did you ." Remus amended. He's just acting like that because it amuses him. " He almost said 'too much in love with his wife to notice' when he realized that would probably be a rather condemning thing to say with regards to Sirius' behavior. "Yes. just in case the werewolf didn't know. "I just meant." "She's a half Veela.own eyes widened behind his thick glasses. ." Harry just shrugged. And as far as not being able to help it. "I'm fine." "But it still makes you jealous. "Werewolves have a very keen sense of smell. He was fairly certain that Remus had never met Fleur before. they can all help it if they so chose. "They can't help themselves. then surprisingly flushed with embarrassment." the werewolf told him. and in his Animagus form it has no affect anyway. Remus looked up startled. She's not affecting you or Arthur. ." he said tightly. . "He's too strong a wizard for it to bother him." Harry said quietly." . . The werewolf turned away quickly. He likes being the center of attention. "I don't know why." he explained. Arthur is." Harry broke off and Remus sighed. . "Sirius is not affected by the Veela charm either. though he was bound to have heard about her from the Triwizard Tournament. "She's a Veela. And I guess Arthur is just . and he's getting a kick out of the fact that he's getting petted by a beautiful woman while the other men in the room are being ignored." Remus agreed despite the fact that Harry had not finished his statement. Harry. . She's never really affected me.

explaining the flash of yellow he had seen in the man's eyes earlier. And so does Sirius." Remus threw a glare back toward the house. "Of course not. he trusts you implicitly.knows you won't let the wolf out." Harry told him. even that first night I met him when you turned into a wolf in front of all of us. innocent young girl who's very much enamored with Bill Weasley and all I can think about is going in there and ripping her hands off for touching Sirius." Harry nodded. The suggestive statements. He knows you won't hurt someone . "It's more complicated than that. Hell. he first tried talking you down in human form. "I think it's great." Harry assured him. Remus was one of the calmest. "You like him. "If he really understood he wouldn't be in there making a fool of himself. "Did it ever occur to you that that's why Sirius is acting this way?" Harry mused. "I don't know about that." "You don't mind?" Remus asked hesitantly. "I know. You two belong together. He has no idea how hard it is controlling the territorial instincts of the wolf. "Because you're a werewolf. but it didn't change the fact that he had a beast hidden deep inside him. She's a sweet. "What do you mean?" "Remus." His words confirmed what Harry suspected. "And I've seen the way he's been flirting with you. It's kind of hard to miss the way he touches you all the time." Remus told him with a sad look in his eyes." Remus shrugged ruefully at that." he muttered."I see the way you two look at each other. Remus looked at him in shock. Despite the fact that he knew you . don't you?" Harry pressed. most gentle men he'd ever met.

" Remus laughed." They heard the front door to the house open and a moment later a large black dog came trotting out. His tail thumped eagerly against the wooden porch. He was good at giving advice. gazing hopefully up at the two of them. his voice almost low enough to be called a growl.hadn't taken your potion. He acts impulsively. "Did you enjoy meeting Fleur?" Remus asked with a deceptively mild tone. There's no in between. "You know it's funny . "Speak of the devil." Remus looked startled at the thought." "I never said it was a smart plan. Give him a chance. We have calm and we have enraged." Harry conceded. he'll grow up eventually. it just isn't safe to make a werewolf jealous. "But this is Sirius we are talking about. pleased. looking hopefully around." Remus smiled fondly at him. Padfoot sat down on his haunches. he was really bad at taking advice however.did it ever occur to you that what he's trying to do is make you jealous so that you'll give him the sort of attention Fleur is giving him. . We don't do jealous. though Harry thought there was something somewhat apologetic in the tilt to his ears as he hurried over to the two of them." Remus grumbled." "Pretty much." Harry sounded an awful lot like James just then in one of his more adult moments. But you're right. he said he trusted the heart of the man inside you. He started wagging his tail happily when he spotted Remus and Harry. Sirius does like being the center of attention . "Let me guess. "Harry. "Which is probably why it took nearly seven years for him to get your mother to even talk to him.

To Harry's surprise." Padfoot didn't need any more prompting. Go after him. With a smile.well go prove it. ." And with that he headed down the front steps of the porch and headed out across the field. With an eager bark he was racing off across the field to catch up with the retreating form of Remus. and then Harry saw him shake his head and smile at the dog's antics. He brushed up against the man's legs as he caught him and then danced around him in the snow. Harry found himself laughing. Remus bent down and picked up a stick from the snow and tossed it ahead of him. barking with glee. "Good grief. Padfoot stared after him mournfully." Remus sighed. Padfoot's ears perked up immediately and he looked at Harry. But then he supposed the relationship worked for them. I'll be back in a bit. you're hopeless. Remus glared at him for a moment. "Go after him. "Yes. barking joyfully as if playing a wonderful game. He patted Harry on the shoulder. I'm sure.very weird. Padfoot took off after it. "I'm going for a walk.The dog's tail slowed its wagging though his ears perked up curiously. Weird . Harry rolled his eyes." Harry hissed at the dog. he headed back into the warm house and let the wolf and dog work things out for themselves. You're supposed to be man's best friend .

And she spoke of Harry quite frequently and her constant worry and concern for the poor boy. Each of them had a small overnight bag slung over their shoulder. "That's what Hermione said in her letter. let's give it a try.she knew her daughter's heart and had long suspected that the red-headed boy had stolen it. With trepidation. detailed with her academic standings and whatever pieces of Wizarding news she felt were important that they know. Now it was December 23rd and they were schedule to make the trip at precisely one minute after 12 noon. They were both eager to see their daughter. It was a 'port key' Hermione had explained in her letter. But her descriptions of Harry had always been of a sisterly sort . Her letters were always informative. Anna felt a wrenching sensation in her stomach and before she could shout in surprise she found herself being pulled away from . they both reached out and touched the shoe. And a mother could read between the lines . It was just noon now. and both were staring with some trepidation at the old shoe on the center of their table." Anna nodded.Ron on the other hand was always referred to in clever asides. "So we just touch it?" Michael asked warily. "Well. A second later. They had been invited to some place called the Burrow for Christmas. The shoe had been delivered just that morning by a large brown owl who had been happy to accept a slice of their morning bacon as payment for the delivery. and glad that finally they would be given time enough to truly get to know the family they suspected their daughter would one day belong to if her rather long-winded descriptions of Ronald Weasley were anything to go by. I suppose." Michael sighed.CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR Anna Granger stood nervously beside her husband Michael.

appeared to have a very fine view of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.their home in London. The room they were staying in. along with Ron and Harry. The world seemed to blur around them and a moment later refocused.logic dictated that it should not be standing. The kitchen was far from familiar to Anna . but it was different being a guest in a person's home. The architecture did not look at all sound . The next ten minutes were a blur to Anna as she was introduced to a very large number of redheads.she only recognized a few of the items in it. Her own kitchen back home was equipped with every modern convenience known to man . Anna watched in silent amazement as the woman conducted the various food items and kitchen utensils with a wave of her wand. Once they'd settled in the room and unpacked for the two nights they were staying. seemed to be larger on the inside that it was on the outside. Anna was led by her daughter and young Ginny Weasley down into the kitchen where Molly fixed her a nice cup of tea while she finished getting lunch made for the mob of people in her house. covered surprisingly in posters with moving pictures in them. And the window. As for the house itself .even a few she had .particularly the stairs that didn't seem to follow any rhyme or reason beyond the simple fact that they went 'up'. They were no longer where they had been. which faced the front of the house and should have looked out upon the road. Anna had only a moment of disorientation to notice that they now stood in a somewhat old-fashioned looking living room with the most enormous fireplace she had ever seen before she heard a shout of "Mom!" and found her daughter flinging her arms around her in greeting. She had of course met Arthur and Molly several times before when she'd gone shopping with Hermione in Diagon Alley.

Anna supposed the results were better than the processed cubes she bought in the store.rather Molly simply opened up a random cupboard and pulled various food items from them. There also didn't seem to be anything that resembled a refrigerator in the room . A werewolf. Professor Lupin. she recalled the something out of dream. Sirius Black. Of course when the butter churn pumped itself with little prompting from Molly. Anna was pleased that her daughter seemed so happy in this world she had chosen for herself. She found herself watching her daughter as she helped Molly with various chores in the kitchen. She knew of course that the man was innocent . with the infamous scar on his forehead that stood as stark reminder to all of them that a threat .that was definitely a butter churn she saw sitting in the corner of the room. But despite all the joy in the strange little house. One minute a cupboard was filled with chilled milk.Hermione had told her the whole story. And not far from them was young Harry. made apparent when they all sat down to lunch a short while later and she realized that her husband was seated next to a man she'd seen on the evening telly time and time again as an escaped serial killer. if the stories were to be believed. Indeed her daughter appeared to be thriving in it as she had ever since that fateful day when her Hogwarts letter had arrived via owl. that Hermione had spoken so highly of. and she had no reason to think her daughter might lie. the next Molly was pulling a steaming hot pie out of it.yet to find a true use for. All in all it was very disturbing . But Molly Weasley's kitchen appeared to be at least two hundred years out of date . Far from being alarmed by all the oddities that she knew her daughter had not grown up with. Anna knew there was a dark side to all of this. Hermione looked very much at home in this environment. Knew also that the other man sitting beside him must be the beloved teacher.

And her daughter." Arthur explained. She supposed she'd only heard a fraction of the true adventures her daughter had been involved in. Seems like every year they are trying to impose some . self-updating Hermione had said. had become something of a legend in her own right. Ron and Harry had been involved in. "But they are very much aware of the fact that there isn't a lot they can do to affect things here. Anna saw several people flinch at the mention of the Dark Lord's name and Michael quickly apologized. They sat around the enormous fire (looked like several people could stand up right in the fireplace) and discussed some of the events that were taking place in the world that neither she nor Michael truly understood. her daughter had become famous. It was strange to think that in a world she knew next to nothing about. a History" . "Several key figures in the Muggle Ministry are briefed regularly on the events in the Wizarding World." Neither of them could really get their minds around the superstition that made people so leery of saying the name. "So how much does the Muggle Ministry know about this fellow Voldemort?" Michael was asking."Hogwarts. She was also vaguely beginning to understand through her daughter's letters that precisely because of that boy this group of people were somehow at the heart of the Wizarding World . and she knew that Hermione's close friendship with that boy had endangered her life time and time again.they were important in the grand scheme of things.loomed over both of their worlds. "Sorry .I meant You Know Who.had convinced her that things were going on she might never truly understand. Simply seeing her daughter's name in that enormously thick book Hermione had shown her last summer . The book. accounted some of the adventures her daughter. Later that evening she joined the others in the living room. by mere association.

I mean it would be pretty silly to expect Wizards to pay attention to traffic laws when they don't drive cars." "But who is in charge?" Michael asked in confusion. "That depends on what law you are talking about." "Well what happens when the laws do come into conflict?" Anna asked. It wouldn't be possible in most cases. Michael. "It's actually a small percentage of the Wizarding population who ever interact with Muggles at all. And Muggle prisons certainly couldn't hold a wizard or witch for long. She rather hoped she had misunderstood the story. I know you have a Minister of Magic." "How can they not notice?" Michael asked. but doesn't he answer ultimately to the Prime Minister and Parliament?" ." Arthur told her. She could see the wedding band on young Harry's finger and couldn't really understand how they could have married off such a young boy. but when it comes right down to it. "I mean doesn't the average Wizard and Witch have to follow the laws just the same as every Muggle?" "Wizard laws." Remus explained. something her daughter had inherited. The discovery that Harry had been abused by his family had been heart-breaking .sort of new regulations on the Wizarding World.and just as shocking had been the response of the Wizarding World. much of the Wizarding World doesn't even notice. And if Hermione was to be believed he was married to a man of all things . She'd been very curious about the letter Hermione had sent to her at the beginning of the semester about Harry. "If it concerns a wizard. then Wizarding law takes precedence. You can't expect Muggle authorities to apprehend a Wizarding criminal. Her husband had always preferred things to be straightforward and wellorganized. She didn't think she liked that idea in the of their professors. "I mean. And you could hardly expect Muggles to pay attention to apparating laws when they don't even know such things are possible.

" . but the very idea of ghosts gave her the shivers. I'm afraid I don't truly know a lot about the Muggle government. appearing to move into a lecture mode. Remus leaned forward. She couldn't imagine her daughter being taught by a man long dead. "It's not. Professor Binn was the ghost professor Hermione had told her about . "Do you mean to say that Wizarding Great Britain is not part of our nation?" Michael pressed. the government that rules over it is really quite young." Remus explained.magic was one thing. I see where you might be confused." Harry protested. Anna noticed Sirius' eyes lighting up with sudden interest." Anna found herself shuddering at that. "While I work for the Ministry. don't you ever pay attention in Professor Binn's class?" "Nobody pays attention in Professor Binn's class. "I mean to say that it wasn't that long ago that you were ruled by your monarchy. though there was room enough to spread out." Remus informed him. "It's not?" he asked in confusion. Harry." "You are laboring under the misunderstanding that Wizarding Great Britain is the same nation as Muggle Great Britain."Ah. Michael frowned in confusion." Arthur nodded. They were sitting awfully close together on the couch. though he glanced over to Remus as if deferring to the former professor." Anna noted that Harry looked surprised at that statement as well. and she couldn't help wonder at the relationship between the two men. Hermione just shook her head. "The only time something interesting happens there is when he forgets where he is and starts drifting through the floor. "Honestly. "Despite the fact that Great Britain as you understand it has been around a very long time.

Seemed a goodly time to her. they are still just words on paper." Michael nodded in understanding. These laws have been ruling our society since long before the Great Pyramids in Egypt were ever constructed. "I don't understand. Which laws are you talking about here? Certainly not apparation laws or age limits for magic use. as if conceding the point." "No. They are subject to interpretation and can be changed or broken depending on who is in power. and they cannot be ignored. It's not a form of government. We consider our 'modern' form of government to have been ratified by Merlin over 1500 years ago. the Universe has a dual nature that cannot be ignored. But prior to that our society had thrived virtually unchanged here on the British Isles for several thousand years. For every good there is an evil." Remus laughed." "For every action there is a reaction. they cannot be interpreted. The Wizarding World however is governed by a set of laws that are backed by magic. Remus nodded." "The same government?" Michael asked in shock as if the very idea was inconceivable." . For example. While those laws have some basic universal truths backing them. of course not. You have to understand that you as Muggles are ultimately ruled by a set of laws you have written down on paper. "But our society with its current form of government here in Great Britain has been around for a long time. They cannot be changed. for every life there is a death. "It goes back farther than that." Michael frowned at that. though Anna wasn't certain what Remus might have meant by 'not that long ago'.Michael nodded. "But that's just basic physics. "These laws are deeper and more esoteric.

Not to mention the archetypal natures of your individual psyches and how they mesh together. If these two souls somehow miraculous manage to find each other in life."It is to us. "Harry. relax. Sirius reached over quickly and patted Harry on the shoulder." "Snape!" Harry exclaimed in stunned amazement looking shocked beyond words . As Remus nodded. Siblings can be soul mates without there ever being any form of romance between them." Remus explained. It has to do with magical resonances and how your magic reacts to one another. "You have these ancient laws that govern your society . we know that for every soul that exist in the world there is a soul mate for it. It sounds like all the Wizarding World would be subjected to them regardless of what country they belonged to. Harry blanched in shock and looked sharply at the werewolf." "Is that why you were able to marry Harry to another man?" Anna asked in surprise. To do so causes chaos. Soul mates have nothing to do with all that romantic twaddle you might read about in Muggle Romance novels. "That is its purpose. It can bring about great pain and mischief which ultimately diminishes our society. For example." Harry seemed to calm down at that but still looked somewhat disturbed by the notion.Anna remembered that Snape was the name of the man he had married.who interprets them ultimately. we know that we cannot pull them apart. "The Marriage Stone! Does it find soul mates?" Again Remus nodded." . "That duality affects our lives in a very fundamental way that can not be denied. "Alright." Michael proceeded. Consequently our marriage laws are much different than those of the Muggle world.

"Right," Remus agreed. "But the laws are not interpreted, merely enforced, and that is done by a group that has been called many things over the years - the High Council, the Circle of Elders, the Illuminati, the Magi. The various ministries currently call them the International Confederation of Sorcerers." "That's on Professor Dumbledore's letter head!" Ron exclaimed, looking happy to be able to point something out. Again Remus nodded. "Yes, Albus is a member," he agreed. "The confederation is made up of the most powerful and eldest families in the Wizarding World. They are ultimately the final authority in our society." "If that's the case then why does the Headmaster have to do what the Minister of Magic and the board of Governors tells him to do?" Ron protested. "Because Albus would never dream of interfering with the day-today governing of a single nation," Remus explained. "The Confederation has very little to do with the daily running of the world. In fact decades might pass with out a single meeting of the members. Instead, each nation is governed on a daily bases by their version of the Ministry of Magic, and those Wizarding forms of government are sovereign unto themselves and have nothing to do with the Muggle world." "Do they at least recognize the same national boundaries of the Muggle World," Michael wanted to know, looking quite shocked by the idea. Anna had noticed that while Harry looked completely flummoxed by the idea, Hermione appeared to understand all this already. "Oh, Merlin, no," Remus laughed. "I mean for one thing did you know that in the Wizarding World England has six whole counties that Muggles have never even seen before?"

"What!" both Anna and Michael exclaimed. "Wizarding France is still ruled by a monarchy - they missed the whole Revolution. By the time they got around to noticing that Muggles were running around lopping off each other's heads, they had already washed their hands of the Muggle world and retreated into unplottable provinces. Wizarding Russia and China not only missed the advent of communism, they never even defied their national borders along the same lines. That entire section of the world is broken up into hundreds of small kingdoms that are ruled over by various warlords and conquerors. The descendants of Attila the Hun still control large sections of the land." "Wizarding Egypt still has a pharaoh," Bill added helpfully. "And Wizarding India is ruled by a family of Rakshashas- a creature that is part human part tiger," Charlie added. "And various leaders in parts of Asia claim to have dragon blood in them." "And then there's the Americas," Remus continued. "Our history here in Britain is filled with stories going back thousands of years about magical people sailing away into the west in search of a mythical haven. By the time the Muggle Columbus had reached the American shores, wizards had been living in America for thousands of years. The current Muggle government there is aware of the Wizarding World, but they have very little interaction with them. One of their founders, Benjamin Franklin arranged a treaty with them, but it largely consisted of 'don't bother us and we won't bother you'." "Man, I've really got to start paying more attention in History class," Harry muttered. "Finally!" Hermione exclaimed, and her exasperation caused everyone to laugh.

They talked a great deal longer about the intricacies of the Wizarding World. Eventually Anna asked the question that had been weighing most heavily on her mind. "And how does the Dark Lord and his followers ultimately fit into the various Wizarding governments? What is his ultimate goal?" All of them looked uncomfortable at that, seeming uncertain how to answer. Surprisingly it was Harry who spoke up. "Voldemort wants to rule the world - all the world regardless of whether or not it is Wizarding or Muggle." Both his use of the forbidden name and the description of what he wanted to do made the Weasleys all shudder. "And the Muggle world can do nothing at all to stop him?" Michael asked, wanting to confirm what they both feared. They had been reading about various unexplained deaths in newspapers for over a year now - they had long suspected they were the work of Death Eaters despite the papers saying they were unknown terrorists. "Voldemort doesn't believe that even the Wizarding World can do anything to stop him," Harry added. "Can the Wizarding World stop them?" Michael asked fearfully. At that Harry smiled sadly and turned away. Sirius reached out again and took the boy's hand. "We'll all certainly try our best," Sirius informed them, sounding very resolved in his response. At that Remus and several others all reached over and patted Harry on the shoulder as if offering him silent support. Hermione, Anna noticed, was one of the first to do so and she felt her heart break at the gesture. She understood what they all meant - for whatever reason the Wizarding World expected this boy to stop Voldemort, and his friends and family all knew it. Anna could not imagine such pressure; she could only pray that the boy

was up to the task. That somehow he might manage to save at least one of their worlds.

CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE Harry spent most of Christmas Eve with Ron and Hermione playing various games both Muggle and Wizarding. The promised snowstorm had blown in with a bang and it was far too cold to go outside. Nevertheless the day seemed to be flying by. He'd enjoyed getting to know the Granger at last. Having been raised as a Muggle he understood the cultural shock they were going through, and both he and Hermione had a wonderful time introducing them to some of amenities of the Wizarding World. Even something as simple as lighting their bedroom when they had gone up to bed had proven daunting to them since they had no idea what to do without the presence of a light switch. Hermione had given them several small floating Wizarding lights so that they wouldn't have to worry about the candles. She then used a charm to rig them to turn on and off automatically whenever one of the Granger's clapped their hands. That idea sent both the Grangers and Harry into fits of giggles while the rest of the household looked on in confusion. "It's a Muggle thing," Harry had simply told them, not certain he wanted to go into an explanation of how the Muggle "Clapper" worked. Arthur would be far too keen on acquiring one for himself. He'd also enjoyed the History lesson the night before, though it had been somewhat disturbing to discover that Snape was in fact his 'soul mate'. They hardly got along the way soul mates did in all those silly romance novels his aunt used to rave about. He was fairly certain that he did not truly understand the concept. Still he had learned more from Remus the previous evening than he had in the all the years in Professor Binn's class. He wondered if Remus would ever be allowed to return to teaching at Hogwarts. He was a natural at it, and seemed to love doing it.

By late afternoon he found himself staring somewhat anxiously out the front window at the road beyond. "Something wrong, Harry?" Ron asked from the couch where he was currently trouncing Sirius in a game of Wizarding Chess. "Severus promised he'd come today," Harry explained. "I thought he'd be here by now." It was already growing dark and he was concerned that the man might have forgotten his promise. He was surprisingly eager to see the man - found that despite all the fun he'd had, he missed his sarcastic humor. "Snape's coming?" Sirius exclaimed, looking horrified at the though. Harry turned around and glared at his godfather. "I told you he was," he reminded him. "I thought you were joking," Sirius grumbled. "Just what we all need - Ebenezer Scrooge to brighten up our lives." "Padfoot, you promised you'd behave," Remus, who was just entered the room from the kitchen, reminded him. "Did I?' Sirius asked doubtfully. "That doesn't sound like something I'd do. Are you sure?" "Yes," Remus stated emphatically. "If I remember correctly you said something along the lines of 'I promise I'll be nice to Snape if you let me sleep on the bed'." His words were rather unexpected, and both Ron and Harry nearly choked on the startled laughter. Sirius on the other hand looked quite put out by the statement, much to Harry's surprise. "Yeah, but I didn't mean for you to sleep on the couch instead," he grumbled, which just made Harry snicker all the louder. Remus just shrugged as he sat down in one of the armchairs near the fireplace. "You didn't clarify. And a promise is a promise."

"Fine," Sirius huffed as he moved his queen across the chessboard, only to have Ron's bishop smash her to pieces on the next move. "Oh, see now I've lost the game because of Snape!" he exclaimed. "You were losing the game before Snape was ever mentioned," Ron pointed out. "You're a terrible player." "I'm a very good player," Sirius argued. "I just don't play well like this." "Like what?" Ron asked bewilderedly. "Thinking about all the moves," Sirius explained. "I prefer the one second rule." "One second rule?" Ron frowned over at Harry who just shrugged. Remus chuckled and shook his head. "One second between moves," Sirius told him. "If you don't move your piece inside that one second you forfeit your move and your opponent gets to go again." "But that's . . . that's. . . ." Ron stared down at the chessboard in something akin to horror. "How can you plan anything like that?" "You can't," Sirius grinned. "You just have to go with your gut instinct. It makes the games a lot more interesting." "I've never heard of anything so silly," Ron huffed. Remus chuckled. "Albus attempted to get the different houses to play chess together in the evenings when we were in school. Unfortunately forcing a Gryffindor and Slytherin to sit in silence for a long period of time while playing a game proved to be damn near impossible. About five minutes into the games Sirius or James or Severus or Lucius Malfoy would inevitably blow a fuse and the evening would end in bloodshed. That's when Sirius came up with the one second rule - the games were over before that five minute

window passed and we all stopped the endless streams of detentions Professor McGonagall was giving us." "Who usually won?" Harry asked curiously. Somehow he was having a hard time picturing Sirius playing chess against Lucius Malfoy. "Actually they were all pretty well matched," Remus said thoughtfully. "But inevitably Peter ended up winning more matches than anyone else. He was remarkably quick when it came to thinking on his feet." "That little rat," Sirius growled, his features darkening with the reminder of their one time friend. "I should have realized there was something wrong with him back then." To that, Remus had no response. The crackle of magic sounded sharply outside as someone Apparated just outside the wards to the Burrow. Harry immediately turned to look out the window and saw a tall dark figure just outside the gate that led up the road to the house. He knew immediately by the stance and the long striding walk the figure took up the walkway that it was Snape. Grinning, Harry leaped up from his seat and ran to the front door, throwing it open. As the warm light from the house spilled out into the icy winter darkness, Severus looked up in surprise, as if startled to be greeted so openly by anyone. Harry just smiled at him, taking in his appearance with more appreciation than he had expected. For once the man was not wearing his traditional black robes. He was dressed more like he had been the night they had gone to Briarwood Hall for dinner - leather pants and boots, a white shirt with a dark, wine-colored doublet, and a matching cloak that was lined with silver fur. Harry took a point of noticing that his hair was clean and wild-looking - one compliment

and he had never gone back to his former style much to Harry's delight. The last time someone had sullenly referred to him as the 'greasy git' Harry had taken pains to point out that he was far from greasy looking these days. Indeed, while he was not what one would traditionally call handsome, Harry thought he was at least dashing looking. Though the idea that he was even remotely interested in his bond-mate's appearance disturbed him on levels he didn't want to explore. "Happy Christmas!" he greeted as Severus made his way onto the porch. He saw Snape's gaze rake over him, moving swiftly from head to toe. "Happy Christmas," he greeted mildly, though there was warmth in his eyes that hadn't been there last time Harry had spoken to him. "I see you are still in one piece." "Yep," Harry agreed impishly. "I've limited myself to five death defying acts a day just to make you happy." "Only five?" Severus mused. "I'm touched. I can't even begin to imagine the boredom you must be suffering." Harry nodded in agreement. "It's been difficult. But Mrs. Weasley assures me that it builds character." He could see the humor gleaming in Severus' eyes. "Character? Is that what it's called these days? When I was your age I believed it was referred to as idiocy." Harry just shrugged happily. "Oh, you know young people these days. No respect for the English language." At that moment Molly Weasley appeared beside Harry, smiling warmly at the man on her doorstep. "Severus! Welcome. Come in out of the cold." "Thank you, Molly," Severus nodded as he entered the Burrow for the first time. Harry noticed a small trunk floating calmly behind

him. Molly immediately flicked her wand and sent it dancing up the stairs to Percy's room. There was a yelp of surprise as someone barely managed to dodge out of its way. The others came in then to greet Snape. Arthur and Remus were openly genuine in their welcome, and both Bill and Charlie came forward to shake his hand politely. Percy positively gushed as he welcomed him to the Burrow, remarking that Severus had always been one of his most favorite teachers. Ron, the twins and Ginny just looked at their elder brother with baffled looks of horror on their faces. Sirius and Severus nodded to each other in acknowledgement, but didn't exchange a greeting beyond that. Still it was better that open bloodshed, Harry mused. The Grangers were both polite but somewhat awkward in their greeting, and Harry knew they were still trying to deal with the fact that one of their daughter's friends had been forcibly married off to this man only a few months earlier. It was obvious that they didn't know what to expect from him certainly Hermione's descriptions of him from prior years did little to put their minds at ease over what sort of person he might be. Throughout it all Severus was surprisingly polite - for him anyway. He refrained from openly insulting anyone, and was remarkably gracious to both Molly and Arthur. Indeed he had brought a host gift for the two of them - a bottle of wine which Arthur particularly had exclaimed over. From Arthur's reaction and Sirius raised eyebrow (a sign that he was impressed but not going to admit it) Harry gathered that the wine was some rare vintage that the Weasley family were not likely to see often. Christmas Eve dinner was a lively affair with sixteen people crowded around the dinner table. It was exactly what Harry had always imagined a large family Christmas would be like, and he knew he spent most of the evening grinning somewhat foolishly at

all the people around him. The twins, having discovered that Sirius and Remus were in fact the infamous Marauders spent most of the evening exchanging pranks with them, though thankfully they were under strict orders from Molly to confine their jokes to the four of them. The rest of the guest were spared, and were able to enjoy the results all the more. Seeing both Sirius and Remus with pink hair while the twins sported feathers on their heads and long, odd looking donkey ears made Harry laugh until his sides hurt. Luckily all four of them were rather good-natured about the whole thing, though the Grangers didn't appear to know what to think. Conversations after dinner were just as interesting as well. From what Harry had figured out from Wizarding society, Severus did not move in the same social circles as the Weasleys. Neither did Sirius for that matter, but his status as a wanted criminal currently altered his situation. As such Arthur seemed quite eager to talk to Severus about various political topics currently considered hot by the Ministry. It seemed that the Snape family had a say in who became the next Minister of Magic. Harry interrupted at that, confused by the inference, as were the Grangers. "I thought the Minister of Magic was voted into office," he stated. "Isn't that what all this nonsense about trying to adopt me was all about? Fudge was trying to curry votes." "He is voted into office," Remus agreed. "Or rather someone will be when the next election rolls around." He'd already been told that the next election was nearly a year away - Halloween of the following year. Harry thought it was awfully early in the season for any of the candidates to be campaigning so hard. He'd been under the impression that the election was imminent. But as was so often the case, things were done differently in the Wizarding World. "It's one of the reasons people are campaigning so early, Harry," Remus continued. "If it were simply a matter of one person, one

vote, things would be a bit simpler. But we aren't a democracy as the Muggles understand it." "You mean not all your citizens get to vote?" Michael looked shocked at the idea. "Not all of our citizens should vote," Severus informed him. "Take Giants for example - most of them are not even capable of writing their own names. Should they be required to understand the intricacies of an election? Or what about the entire Veela nation - by law our elections must occur on the night of Samhain, but all fullblooded Veela go into heat on that night. They would not be capable of casting a vote." Harry found himself blushing at the idea of anyone going into heat and glanced over at Bill. Seeing his gaze Bill just shook his head. "She's only half Veela," he assured him. "Consequently the Delecour family gets to cast a vote for a very large group of people." "Votes are cast by heads of family," Remus told them. "A single family gets a certain number of votes depending on their land holdings, their magical powers, and the number of their vassals under them. So one of the things the various candidates for Minister are doing is attempting to influence the alliances between the lesser families. If they can move the vassals from one family holding to another they can influence the number of votes being cast in their favor. As near as I know the Snapes have a total of forty-three votes they get to cast in this election." "Forty-seven," Severus corrected. "We acquired the Mirwanden vote when my brother's son was born - he's the only male heir to his mother's family line." He glanced at Harry. "Julliana," he explained, reminding Harry of Claudius Snape's ditsy wife. "What about the rest of you?" Michael asked curiously. "Do you all have votes?"

Arthur laughed at that. "While my family is an old name, we don't have much land to our name. For the last fifty years we've been allied with the Dumbledore family - our vote goes as Albus sees fit to cast it. " "I'm the last of my line and my family were neither pure blooded nor landed," Remus explained. "I have no vote at all. Nor any value as a vassal." Harry frowned uncomfortably at that, not certain he liked hearing Remus refer to himself in such a manner. "What about you?" Michael asked Sirius - his curiosity about the rather infamous criminal had been apparent the last few days. Sirius frowned. "The Black family has forty-one votes, but unfortunately while I've been locked up in Azkaban my cousin Narcissa Malfoy has been casting my votes along with a few others that should not by rights be hers. It's given the Malfoys an unfair advantage over all the other families. Lucius has forty-nine votes to his name. Add all the others that Narcissa has been claiming, and they have become one of the most powerful families around. That is why the Ministry is so quick to look the other way when Lucius does something wrong." "But isn't he a Death Eater?" Anna exclaimed in horror. "Are you saying that the Death Eaters get a say in who is elected Minister?" Severus nodded. "The Zabinis, the Averys, the Notts, the Crabbes, the Goyles and the Lestranges are all supporters of the Dark Lord, and each of them have numerous votes to cast." "Even still?" Harry asked curiously. Mr. Crabbe and Goyle were both dead, and Mr. Zabini was locked up in Azkaban. "Crabbe's and Goyle's wives will cast their votes, and Blaise Zabini will cast his father's vote," Severus nodded. "What about Muggleborn?" Hermione broke in. "If Muggleborns are new to the Wizarding World, how do they get a vote?"

"They don't," Severus said simply, raising one dark eyebrow. "Perhaps you can see why there is such conflict over the issue between Muggleborns and purebloods. It's very easy for purebloods to pass legislation against them - those that disagree with such prejudices generally have a war on their hands to prevent such laws. It's one of the reasons why we are at war now." "So there's absolutely no way for a Muggleborn to gain a vote?" Hermione huffed. "Of course there's a way," Severus informed her. "It just doesn't happen very often. I told you, votes come from land holdings, magical powers, or vassals. If a Muggleborn can acquire either land holdings or vassals they automatically get a vote. Baring that, if a Muggleborn reaches a certain level of magical power they are automatically granted by a vote by Magical Acknowledgement of the Wisengamut. But that does not happen very often. When you come of age you can petition for a vote - and I would guess you'll probably get it. But one vote alone has very little sway in the political arena you would be better suited to choose a family to align yourself with and add your vote to theirs." Despite his words, Harry could see something rather calculating in Hermione's eyes and he couldn't help wondering if they were going to see the emergence of a new organization like S.P.E.W. in the near future. Something suddenly occurred to him. "Wait a minute," Harry cut in. "What about me? Does my family have any sort of a vote?" "The Potters had thirty-three votes," Sirius informed him. "Unfortunately while you were underage, those votes should have been mine as your god father - but once again went to Narcissa Malfoy."

"The Malfoys have been casting my votes?" Harry was incensed at the idea. "They help Voldemort murder my parents and then get to claim my father's votes after he's dead?" Sirius nodded, a pained look on his face. "Do they still get them?" Harry demanded turning toward Snape. "No," he quickly assured him. "You're considered an adult now. The votes are yours." "Mine or yours?" he asked for clarification wondering if Snape was considered the head of his household. "If you are asking if I get to cast your votes for you, the answer is no," he replied. "The Potter line is a sovereign one and is considered equal to the Snapes. We have what is viewed as an alliance and everyone will expect us to vote the same way. But you could technically vote against me if you wished. However, if we are to have a single heir between us, then he or she would gain both sets of votes when we die." "A single heir?" Harry blanched for a moment and looked at Hermione with a sudden horrifying thought. Hermione, well used to his questions, just looked at him disbelief. "Don't be an idiot, Harry," she exclaimed and reached over and whapped him upside the head. A wave of relief washed over him, and the twins began roaring with laughter, the only two people besides Hermione who had figured out what direction his thoughts had gone. All the other stared in confusion. Finally Fred took pity on them. "Harry was afraid you were about to inform him that wizards can get pregnant." That set the others off immediately, Ron and Sirius in particular falling out of their seats they were laughing so hard. Severus just rolled his eyes and sent a disbelieving stare at Harry. "Designating

an heir is not something you should be worrying about right now," he informed Harry quietly below the laughter. Harry just nodded in relief. "What about Sirius' vote then," Harry asked once the laughter had died down. "Since he's my godfather can I claim his vote until he's been cleared by the Ministry? I don't like the idea of the Malfoys having anything to do with us." "That's not a bad idea," Sirius agreed thoughtfully. He glanced at Snape. "It's a legitimate claim, especially since he's a legal adult now. He's already my designated heir. All you'd have to do is get my will from Gringotts to prove it. He'd need to file the appropriate documents with the Ministry, but I'm sure you can help him with that. It would substantially weaken the Malfoys." Severus nodded. "I'll speak with Albus about it when I return to Hogwarts." They spoke a while longer about the political climate in Wizarding Britain, but eventually Molly ushered them all off to bed for the night. Harry felt a moment of uncertainty as he followed Ron into his bedroom - he couldn't help wonder if he was expected by anyone to sleep in Percy's room with Severus now that he was in the house. But no one said anything to him as he bid them all good night. He had to put up with a bit of ribbing from Ron over the idea that wizards could get pregnant as they settled down for the night. Ron fell silent for a while but Harry could tell he was not asleep. "Harry?" he asked hesitantly. Harry rolled over in the dark so that he could stare across the room at Ron. Without his glasses on Ron was little more than a dark blob to him. "You do know about that sort of thing, right?" Ron asked. "What sort of thing?" Harry frowned.

"You know . . ." Ron shifted in his bed as if he were uncomfortable. "Sex," he finally whispered. That he had said the word at all was surprising - Harry had come to the conclusion that the Wizarding World was a great deal more prudish than the Muggle world when in came to such discussions. "Oh," Harry replied uncomfortably. Truthfully, he didn't know much about it. He'd figured out the basics from the few glimpses he'd been allowed to see of Muggle Television. And there was a lot one could pick up from inferences just by listening to the other boys talk. But if Ron was asking if he'd ever actually been sat down and told about such things - then the answer was no. The closest he'd ever come to such a conversation was the day his Aunt Petunia had found Dudley touching himself in the bathroom. For whatever reason, instead of punishing Dudley, she'd beaten Harry with a wooden cooking spoon until his back was black and blue with marks. Though he had only been ten at the time, he'd been given to understand that such behavior in Dudley had been caused because Harry was a freak. He'd since figured out the truth, but not because anyone had ever explained it to him. "Mom and Dad did the whole 'talk' thing with me," Ron explained. "Which was bloody awful let me tell you. But afterwards Bill and Charlie cleared every thing up. Brothers are good for some things." He'd heard about the 'talk'. Apparently it was something that all children experienced with their parents at some point in time. He had never been subjected to it of course. "Did anyone ever give you the talk?" Ron asked hesitantly. "No," Harry admitted. "But I figured it out for myself - the basics anyway." Even in the dark he could tell Ron was frowning. "Then how come you thought it might be possible for wizards to get pregnant?"

Harry felt himself flushing at that. It occurred to him suddenly that if Ron, who wasn't always the quickest person around, had wondered that, no doubt every single person in the room tonight were wondering the same thing by now. "Okay, so maybe I don't know everything," Harry mumbled. "I'm going to be tormented the next few days aren't I? Everyone is going to want to have this talk with me." Ron was silent for a few moments as if trying to decide how to answer. "Probably," he agreed. "Great," Harry sighed. "Who'd you prefer?" Ron asked. "I can ask Bill or Charlie if you'd like. Or if you want I can tell you - though to be honest with you I don't know about . . . well, you know. . ." But Harry didn't know. "What?" "You know," Ron said, obviously embarrassed. "Two guys." Two guys? It took Harry a moment to figure out that he was in fact talking about him and Snape. "Oh," he said with some surprise. "Do you think that I'm . . ." he had no idea what the Wizarding word for gay was, but obvious Ron caught the inference. "Well, whether you are not, Harry, the fact is you're married to a man." "Yeah, but we're not. . .I mean we don't. . ." Harry broke off, not certain how to finish that sentence. "Yeah, but sooner or later, don't you think that. . ." Ron broke off, and Harry wasn't certain how he had intended to finish that conversation. Did he mean to say that sooner or later he expected Harry would want something intimate from Snape, or that sooner or later Snape would expect Harry to act more like a spouse was supposed to? He got the impression from the nasty comments from

the Slytherin students, not to mention Minister Fudge's and Julius' accusation that Snape actually had the right to demand such things from him. Harry had just assumed that he never would. Then there was also the issue of Sonara Sinistra. Harry had finally come to the conclusion that he didn't like the idea of infidelity in a marriage - even one as bizarre as his. But if that was the case didn't that mean that sooner or later, deep down, he expected things to change between him and Snape? Surely he didn't expect to live his entire life in celibacy - and he could hardly expect Snape to. "Huh," Harry stated, feeling somewhat stumped at the thought. "I never thought about that." "That's kind of what I figured," Ron sighed. "Do you want to talk about it?" "Not right now," Harry told him. "Let me think about it for a while, okay." "No problem," Ron assured him, and he sounded vaguely relieved. "But just so you know, Charlie is a good one to talk to. He won't tease you or anything - Bill on the other hand is liable to show you visual aids in the form of shadow puppets - and that's just not right." It took Harry a long time to stop snickering before he fell to sleep.

CHAPTER TWENTY SIX Christmas morning in the Weasley home was a study in chaos. Though the Weasleys were not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, there were plenty of presents to go around - including a Weasley jumper for everyone there. Seeing Severus and Sirius in matching blue jumpers, each with a red 'S' on their chest was just about the funniest thing Harry had ever imagined. Ron and Remus also matched with their bright Maroon 'R's. Sirius had also taken great pains to find gifts for all of the Weasley children - and though Harry suspected Bill and Charlie, who weren't that much younger than Sirius, were embarrassed to be lumped into the 'child' description, they were delighted with the long slender swords they had been given. Remembering the conversation about pureblood families and swords, Harry glanced at Arthur Weasley. The man looked somewhat sad to see the swords in his sons' hands, but he nodded his thanks to Sirius. They were at war and though Arthur didn't want to admit it, as members of the Order of the Phoenix, his sons would be on the front lines. Sirius clapped Arthur on the shoulder in sympathy, but nothing more was said. To Harry's surprise Severus had brought gifts for everyone as well. They came mostly in the forms of expensive books that he knew the Weasley family could not possibly afford, though for Fred and George he had purchased potion ingredients that they had gone apes over. While they had been lousy potions students due to their pranks, they were actually excellent potion makers. Their prank products required a degree of skill that Severus obvious recognized. He had also purchased a book on the History of the Wizarding World for the Grangers - something they were obviously delighted over after the nature of the conversations they had been having the last couple of nights. To Harry's amazement, Severus also had a gift for

both Remus and Sirius. It was an old book bound up in leather. Harry was rather stunned that he was giving his godfather anything, but as Severus handed it across to Sirius, he saw his godfather handing a similar book over to Severus. Seeing the look of disbelief on Harry's face, Sirius just smiled at him and ruffled his hair. "They're family lineage books," he explained. "They are something we should have exchanged before the two of you were ever bonded. It's a very old tradition. I'll show it to you later if you'd like." Harry just nodded, guessing that this was yet another custom he knew nothing about. Harry was delighted with the new broom he'd gotten from Sirius and Remus, both with the broom itself as well as the fact that both men's names were on the card, as if they were already together. His firebolt had been damaged the day he'd taken the Eye of Odin from Voldemort's hand, and though it was still useable, it wasn't as maneuverable as it once was. He was sitting on the floor along with Ron, Hermione and Ginny admiring the broom when Severus tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention. He was a bit surprised when Severus handed him a very small, neatly wrapped box a few moments later. He had expected a book like Ron and Hermione had gotten from the Potions Master. He opened the box curiously. Inside was a potion vial. Taking it out, he read the label out loud. "Oculus Reparium Infinitas." There were several startled gasps at the name, and Harry frowned as he glanced around. Even Sirius looked both surprised and impressed. "Isn't that the spell you use to repair my glasses, Hermione?" Harry asked.

But Hermione shook her head. "No, that's Oculus Reparo. What you've got in your hand is like a thousand times better than Lazic Surgery or the Eye Sight Repairing charm." That caught the attention of the two Grangers, but the others didn't catch the reference. "What's Lazic Surgery?" Ron wanted to know. "It's a Muggle procedure that corrects bad eye sight," Hermione explained. "They use lasers to reshape your eye, but it doesn't always work and it has about a two week recovery period. Furthermore, your eyes sight will proceeded to deteriorate again over the years." She glanced at her parents. "And the charm only fixes your eyes for the day - kind of like the equivalent of contact lenses." "What does this do?" Harry wanted to know. "That fixes your eyes, permanently, dear, for the rest of your life," Molly informed him. She glanced at Severus. "I'd venture to guess there aren't more than ten Masters in the whole world who can make that potion." Harry glanced up at Severus in amazement. He just smirked at him, and motioned to the bottle in his hand. "Well, go on, drink it." Harry didn't have to be told twice. He carefully worked the stopper free and then raised the bottle to his lips, drinking the contents down quickly. It tasted remarkably like very strong vinegar and he made a grimace of disgust as it slid down his throat, his eyes stinging from the strong fumes. Blinking quickly to clear his eyes from the tears the fumes caused he was immediately aware of the fact that the entire room had gone blurry. Very blurry. He frowned in confusion, thinking perhaps something had gone wrong. "But everything's blurry!" he protested. "Gryffindors," Severus just sighed and leaned forward, gently plucking the glasses off Harry's face. Instantly the room sprang into focus with a clarity Harry had never experienced before. He'd had

There were other gifts passed around . "Where did you find this?" he asked. And Sirius had several pale freckles on his nose. and strands of soft red in Hermione's brown hair. "Thank you. And Severus . When he finally was capable again of reacting he reached out and pulled Harry into his arms. and they had never corrected his eyesight the way they should have. For a moment Sirius looked as if he were about to cry. Harry?" Sirius asked in concern.the same glasses since he was ten years old. one hand moving to cover his mouth as if holding back a sob. moved beyond words by the gift he'd been given. While the girls were trying on their clothes. Until this moment he hadn't realized just how bad his eyesight had truly been. "You okay. He handed one of them to Sirius and watched in silence at the man opened it." he said softly.his eyes really were the most extraordinary shade of black. and the tears were very obvious in his voice. and Remus a faint scar just below his bottom lip. Harry got up and retrieved two packages that he'd hidden under the large tree when he'd first arrived. "Is this how all of you see all the time?" he asked in disbelief." he told the man. To see everything now with perfect visions was like gaining an entirely new sense. His amazement must have been visible to everyone in the room. the snow globe clutched tightly in one hand. "You're welcome. . Severus just nodded to him. He could see flecks of silver in Ron's blue eyes.including several dresses from the Grangers to Hermione and Ginny. which Ginny had squealed over. The look of shock on Sirius's face when he pulled out the snow globe said more than all the words in the world. his eyes gleaming brightly.

rather oddly made for a Wizarding item. Harry glanced . It wasn't a particularly fancy snow globe . What more could I want?" Both men hugged him again."In my vault. who took it carefully in his hands. "Are you sure you want to give this to me? You don't own many things belonging to your father. When they released him at last. I thought you might like to have it back. "Siri and Jamie. "You made this?" Sirius nodded. though the others were trying politely not to eaves-drop on the obviously emotional experience for the man. Despite the magic spell on it." he read. As Remus turned the globe over and saw what was written on the bottom. I had no idea he'd kept it all these years. Harry?" he asked hesitantly." Harry told him. he caught his breath in surprise." "Are you sure you want to give this to me. "What is it?" Remus asked curiously. age 7. this one was not filled with water . "I have his two best friends. And standing in front of the house were the shapes of two boys though they were little more than stick figures. He looked at Sirius questioningly." He turned to Harry." But Harry just smiled at him and shook his head. They had caught the attention of most of the people in the room. "James and I met for the first time at a summer camp when we were seven years old. obviously moved. the entire thing looked as if it had been made by amateur hands. But unlike Muggle snow globes. The entire thing was encased in a crystal ball of glass that was mounted on a uneven wooden stand. Sirius handed the snow globe to Remus. It showed a house which looked like it was made out of candy.rather there was a charm on it which set the shredded bits of paper snow swirling continuously around the scene whether you were shaking the ball or not. "When I saw what was written on the bottom. That was our art project.

Severus gasped suddenly." he stated. "This is your handwriting. what is this?" he whispered in the silence that had fallen over the room. There was no writing on the outside of it. so he opened it up to the first page. He just shrugged. His hands were shaking as he looked up and pinned Harry with his stare. As predicted." He glanced over at Severus who had been watching their exchange in silence. Severus unwrapped a small thin book. While Severus might not have liked James Potter. he knew any reminder of that fact would not have been welcome or appropriate at the moment." All three men looked perplexed by that statement. his entire body stiffening as he read the first few lines written there. "I have a gift for you too Remus. Every eye in the room turned to Harry for an explanation. . his eyes narrowing as he recognized the handwriting inside." There were several shocked gasps of disbelief followed by some quiet murmurs to the two Grangers who didn't understand the significance of the name. Frowning in confusion. . everyone else in the room now watching the proceedings in curious silence. none of them understanding what Harry could possibly imagine a gift to be that Severus and Remus might share. and book shaped. "It's sort of part of Severus' gift. but." he explained. "You'll see. . "You wrote a book?" "No. "Harry. "It's the first volume of the Book of Light by Salazar Slytherin. Severus took the gift from him and carefully unwrapped it." Harry said quietly and waited. "I found them in the Chamber of Secrets a few months ago. It was small." he said as he handed the wrapped package across to Severus. Harry settled back onto the floor of the Weasley's living room.down at the last package in his hand.

than anyone else's. holding her tightly against him. But when I found them. He believed that Light meant weak. "Slytherin's experiments and notes. But as soon as I figured out what was in this volume I knew it would do more good in your hands. that Slytherin had written. Severus. I went back down to the Chamber to see if they were still there. "That's why I said this was sort of a gift for you as well Remus. actually I do. He'd forgotten that Ginny had also been in the chamber. Tom Riddle removed them from the Chamber long ago. intending to give them to the Headmaster if they were. Voldemort and I were the only ones who could read them. "About a series of books. So I started translating them." Harry explained." "What's in it?" Severus asked. Harry frowned. What possible use could a book of potions written by Slytherin have to do with him? . But just because he had no use for them didn't mean that we didn't." Severus said. though he knew she didn't remember much of it. his voice filled with more emotion than he'd ever heard before. his hands clenched tightly around the priceless volume. Her face was pale and her father gently put his arms around her. wondering how the man was going to take the rest of his news." Harry agreed. "Do you have any idea how valuable this is?" "Yeah. but he left the Books of Light behind. mostly on potions. He had no use for them."You went back down into the Chamber?" Ginny asked. I realized they were written in Parseltongue. the Books of Dark. "I had a dream." the werewolf said uncertainly. and he glanced over at Remus." "Harry." "I don't understand. her voice trembling. This is the only one I've managed to finish.

He never transformed back. According to Slytherin's notes there was a wizard a long time ago who made an attempt to transform himself into a magical creature . . But when a human tries to transform into a magical-creature the connection breaks. wolf-like beast. But something went wrong . like a cat or dog or deer. Such a transformation would disconnect your mind from your magical core and you would no longer be able to control the magic . His saliva was infected with the potion he had taken." "You can't transform into a magical creature. when an Animagus transforms into a non-magical animal the connection between his mind and his magical core remains intact." Harry explained.he got the potion wrong and it only partially worked. "Salazar Slytherin believed that lycanthropy was not a disease. He retained his magic so that the transformation worked." Harry nodded." Hermione protested. "An Animagus has the power to transform into an animal . Wizards and magical creatures have a different type of connection between their minds and their magical cores.which would automatically stop the transformation.Harry took a deep breath.a Hell Hound to be exact. "According to Slytherin lycanthropy was the result of a failed Animagus transformation.a non-magical animal. "It won't work. and before he was killed he managed to bite several different people. the tension clear on their faces. but he lost the connection to his mind and mutated into a mindless. The man who attempted the magical transformation reasoned that all he would need to do would be to come up with a potion that would bridge the gap between his mind and the Hell Hound's magical core so that not only could he control his magic but he would also retain his human mind." "What?" both Sirius and Remus asked in unison. "According to Slytherin.

According to his notes. Only the werewolves who were strong enough to cast the Patronus Charm were cured. "No more transformations? No more full moons?" Harry shook his head. it cured them." he agreed. the wizard himself did not possess a strong enough magical core to complete the transformation properly. full moon or not. You taught the charm to me. Slytherin fixed the potion and gave it to a number of different werewolves. "No more full moons."Now obviously his transformation was triggered by the Animagus metamorphosis spell. night or day. and I know you'll be strong enough to be cured. a look of disbelief on his face." Remus was openly trembling now. And you . But the potion was unstable and it automatically triggered a weakened version of the metamorphosis spell the first night the moon was full. The cure gives you the ability to transform into the wolf whenever you wish. "Cured. You won't be a werewolf. Sirius had wrapped his arms around the man's shoulders and was holding him tightly." Remus whispered. There were two things wrong with it . I know Severus can make the potion.his own experiments with the potion. and second. If they were strong enough. Remus. his eyes shining. "But you don't understand. The test to determine their magical strength was the Patronus Charm. "I know you're strong enough Remus. you'll be a magical Animagus." With that Harry turned to Remus. Slytherin didn't think that there was anything wrong with the wizard's logic he just reasoned that the man had screwed up the potion.first he'd used several lunar-based plants which caused the potion to react to the full moon in a way that it shouldn't have. By this point. That is what he wrote in that notebook . The victims of the wizard's bite transformed into mindless beasts until the sun rose the following day. But the thing is. The first werewolves were born.

Rising swiftly to his feet he rushed from the room. It has to. "Leave them alone for few moments. I can't imagine what he must be feeling right now to know there may be an end in sight at last. It looks like English to me. But unfortunately Parseltongue is not easy to translate. I can't tell you how many times while I was working on that volume when I found myself simply writing it back down in Parseltongue when I thought I was writing English. And Severus will have to learn how to make the potion. "For most of his life Remus has been controlled by a very painful and terrifying curse." At his words. "How many. Alarmed Harry turned to the others for an explanation." He laughed somewhat self-deprecatingly. "I'm going to have to do some experiments to make certain it is safe. but I know Sirius can teach them to you." Severus said. Harry. he had no doubt that the man would do everything in his power to make the cure Slytherin wrote about. hope burning in both their eyes as Severus began skimming through the book. sometimes just ideas and philosophy." Both men were now looking at Severus almost desperately. and have you read them all?" "Ten in all. medicine. "I've looked through them . While Harry knew there was no love lost between the Marauders and Severus. And the potion itself takes several months to brew. "The same basic principles. But I'll do everything I can. and there's a charm component." Bill urged." Harry explained. I know it will work. Sirius close on his tail. "It's . but I can't imagine anyone more capable. Spells." He glanced up at the two men. Remus let out a barely stifled sob. you said there were other volumes." he stated.are never in danger of loosing your human mind. You'll have to learn the Animagus spells. charms. potions." Harry nodded in understanding.they're filled with all sorts of things. hoping the man was all right. "Harry. "I can see similarities to the wolvesbane potion.

Harry turned back." Severus added. "I think you understand more than you realize." "Well. Harry. ." Molly decided. rising to her feet. Harry. "You're welcome. "Harry. his face flushed with pleasure. this calls for a celebration. and Sirius was gently stroking his back." he called." While the rest of them scrambled to help Molly." Hermione told him quickly. freely giving a compliment to the surprise of his other students. Harry turned to go back into the house. He found them outside on the front porch wrapped in each other's arms. Minerva and Hagrid will be here in a couple of hours. "Thank you. Harry went in search of Remus and Sirius. Reluctant to disturb so intimate a moment. "It's a priceless gift. Remus had his face buried against Sirius' neck. I only understand a fraction of the things in the book. and the tone of his voice said everything that ever needed to be said on the subject.a pity really that such an ability was wasted on me instead of on you or Hermione. but Remus must have heard him." "And I know from personal experience that translating an ancient manuscript is no easy task. You obviously understood what Slytherin was saying about the lycanthropy potion. Neither man was saying anything." Harry just grinned at him. We have a lot of work ahead of us to get Christmas dinner on the table tonight. Both men were looking at him now with so much emotion in their eyes he wanted to cry." "Don't be so hard on yourself." Remus said simply. and Albus. Thank you. "What say we get breakfast on the table so we can all eat. Harry. Instead he moved toward them and they both infolded him in their arms. staring at the two of them hesitantly.

and when they returned to Hogwarts they would return to the worry that haunted him constantly." "Was it what you were hoping for?" Severus asked curiously. Harry knew immediately what he was talking about." Harry grinned at him. part of this odd family. he found it very odd to think that he had access to a place in Hogwarts that the Headmaster did not.CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN Christmas Dinner was a joyous affair. his new and improved eyesight letting him see more clearly the subtle play of emotion in Severus' eyes. They all talked late into the night. But for this one day he was happy. the memory of the invitation he'd issued to Severus springing clearly to mind. Minerva and Hagrid joined them and Harry realized that he had everyone in the world that he loved sitting there at the table. "I'm glad you came. Severus drew Harry outside to talk to him in private." he told him. motioning back toward the house. "I wanted to thank you for inviting me. Albus." . Before he left. Albus." he nodded. and he promised to take the Headmaster back down to the Chamber to see if any of the remaining books were of any value. If you knew what to look for. Albus of course wanted to hear all about Slytherin's books. while the Grangers prepared to use a port key Albus had brought them to go home. "Just like I'd imagined a family would be. Minerva and Severus bid them goodbye to head back to Hogwarts. "Yes. but eventually Hagrid. the man was actually quite expressive. Truthfully. He couldn't think of a better gift to himself than to simply be here. but I did. despite the fact that he so rarely smiled. Harry. "I didn't expect to enjoy myself. He knew the war still hung over his head. and he determined to forget about everything else for a while.

"But then from where I come from. Severus was certain it would work." Severus frowned thoughtfully." It was an extraordinary statement considering Severus' opinion of Gryffindors. "I know.the knowledge contained in the manuscript was some of the most sought after secrets in the entire world. though he paused a moment. his quarters seemed empty without him. before nodding to him and apparating home. that often it was the glue that held them together. Not too long ago he had told Harry that hate was a common theme in families. Albus arranged for Harry." Harry agreed. all of you are a rare breed. He'd spent much of the rest of the holiday pouring over the book Harry had given him. Severus' own family was nothing like this. "You know. Ron and Ginny to return to the castle two days before the other students returned on the Hogwart's Express. the Weasleys are rare breed. still grinning.for all their lack of political power and prestige or social standing. the nights felt colder without him beside him. He doubted the Gryffindor truly understood what the personal notebook of Salazar Slytherin meant to someone like him . And while the Lycanthropy cure was horribly complicated. He was acknowledging openly that this was not true for the Weasleys. It would require a great effort on both his . Instead he gave Harry a very rare half smile.Severus nodded and turn to leave. He'd missed the boy more than he expected. Albus had been chomping at the bit to read the book himself. . went inside to join Sirius and Remus in the living room. And though he had never touched the boy in the bed they shared. something Severus had promised he could do after he had copied it down in his own hand. Hermione. . but Harry knew exactly what he was saying. Severus found himself anxiously awaiting Harry's return. Harry. but said nothing. a thoughtful look on his face.

Without those clunky glasses. He took only a few moments to unpack all his things before he raced off again . It would seem that until Harry graduated. It was also entirely possible that Harry's prediction about him becoming a professional Quidditch player just might indeed come true. The potion he had given the Gryffindor had done more than just improve his eyesight.they had been given to him by a neighbor who was throwing them out. and the three of them along with Ron. He had no doubt that the girls of Hogwarts would be swooning over him upon their return. Apparently the glasses he had been wearing all these years weren't even made to his prescription . looking happy to be back and surprisingly cheerful to be in his company once again. Remus and Sirius spent the . They were several degrees weaker than they should have been and it was a wonder Harry had done as well in school as he had. Hermione. Anxious to see it himself. As for Harry. Surprisingly both Black and Lupin had thanked Severus individually for the potion he had given Harry. Severus invited himself along. He anticipated publishing the results with great glee. and knew Lupin would be as well.and Lupin's part. It had also fixed the faint myopic caste to his green eyes. the boy had gone from being attractive to down right take Albus down to Chamber of Secrets he explained. he had no hope of winning his standing bet with Minerva. Harry returned to their quarters later that morning. but he was willing to put in the work. his own house team did not stand a chance now. It occurred to Severus that if Harry had been unbeatable at Quidditch with such poor eyesight. It seemed they had determined between them that Harry had never actually received any proper eye care growing up. and no few number of the boys as well. he found himself looking forward to the young man's company once more.

something dark and terrifying. having seen enough of the Chamber the first time. There wasn't a Slytherin alive who did not envy such a gift. Prior to that the only person Severus had ever heard speak Parseltongue was Lord Voldemort himself. however. That a twelve-yearold had slain such a creature was unimaginable. while Albus simply stood before it with an odd gleam in his blue eyes. Save for that one time during the duel in Harry's second year. none of them had heard him use it again. . The Gryffindors all gathered around the dead beast. To Severus' embarrassment he found himself becoming aroused by the sound and was grateful for the long robes he currently wore.but then he saw the carcass of the enormous basilisk on the floor before the statue of Slytherin. poking and prodding it like some side show exploring Slytherin's domain. Remus. It struck Severus almost as sacrilegious . That he had also somehow survived the bite of the creature. Listening to Harry Potter speak Parseltongue was a strange experience for Severus. To hear it from Harry's lips was alarming. and understood that once again he had severely underestimated the young man he had married. He received only an odd glance from Remus. startling all of them. and so suspected that the others did not notice his reaction. Sirius and Albus had never heard him before and they all stared at the boy in silence as they listened to him hiss a command to open the various doors of the Chamber. even with the aid of the Phoenix tears defied all logic. Coming from Voldemort the language was the epitome of evil . To Severus the sound was magical. coming from Harry's mouth it was strangely sensual. Ginny Weasley choose not to join them. It was odd to explore the Chamber of Secrets with so many Gryffindors. Severus saw the old man turn to stare at Harry who was ignoring his godfather's and best friends' comments in favor of looking at the giant statue of Slytherin.

doesn't he?" Severus frowned at that.Severus could see both sorrow and admiration in the old man's eyes and moved to his side in concern. he did not know." Severus agreed.something which seemed to startled the young man. he had learned nothing of significance. but had failed to get it to work. and the caveat that it was not useful because it did not seem to work any longer. How Harry had been able to force a Death Eater to turn on his companions with it. "Well you know I don't have any use for it. "Why are you asking me?" he wondered out loud. "And it's worth a fortune if you must know. "Albus?" he said quietly. He had of course researched the King's Voice command that Harry had used that day in Hogsmeade. Severus asked Harry for permission to harvest the body of the basilisk for potion ingredients ." When he was certain that the Gryffindors were done oohing and ahing over the beast he summoned two of his personal house elves and had them begin the arduous task of harvesting the remains. He." Albus murmured softly. But then Albus Dumbledore had always had his secrets." Albus agreed. "It does not. but he waved it aside. it belongs to you. had tried the spell himself." Severus explained simply. more than he was letting on." Harry looked surprised at that. or guessed. But then Harry regularly does the impossible. Have at it. But beyond the translation of the spell. like Granger and Weasley. Severus. "I hadn't realized it was such a creature. He suspected Albus knew. "It doesn't seem possible that he could have survived this. "By all law. . "No. wondering what else Albus might be referring to.

They'd all brought their brooms with them and followed Harry inside. Albus and Severus eventually came down to dinner just as Remus and Sirius were returning from their trip to the forest. He was just about to go look for them. "I couldn't stop him!" . Night had already fallen. Remus at least knew what he was doing and stored everything adequately. Severus and Albus spent the following day locked in Albus' office going through the books they had removed from Slytherin's chamber while Remus and Sirius headed into the Dark Forest to find a long list of ingredients Severus had determined he would need to begin his experiments on the Lycanthrope potion. Severus went through the list of ingredients. "Where are the children?" Minerva asked as she entered the great hall to join them for dinner." Harry explained. They left the four younger Gryffindors to pass the day away out on the Quidditch pitch. checking to see that they had found everything necessary. While Sirius had never been much of a potions student. when the Hall doors burst open and to Severus' shock his sister Diana came running in. Before sitting down to eat. pointing to the mouth of the statue of Slytherin. "Severus!" she cried.Remus. There they spent much of the day pouring over the books that had been left behind . followed closely by Hagrid."The library chamber is through there. Sirius. Severus glanced up at that. having a snowball war . Hermione and Severus all in heaven over the discovery. Albus. noticing for the first time that none of the younger Gryffindors had come in from the cold.boys against the girls. Ron and Harry however passed much of the day playing Exploding Snaps in a corner. and it was unusual that they had not returned. her dark eyes wild and desperate looking.

. Severus could see immediately that Harry was not among them. reminding him terribly of the time he'd returned to Hogwarts to find the very same pitch covered with the dead bodies of Death Eaters and Aurors. unmoving face was cold to the touch. and when he reached the first body he fell to his knees to turn it over.A cold chill of dread washed over Severus' body. frantically looking around for some sign of Harry. he could feel the slow but steady beat of her heart. Amid the churned snow of the pitch he could see bodies lying unmoving on the ground. It was pitch black outside by now." she insisted. Severus immediately rose to his feet and grabbed hold of Diana again." he told the others in relief as Remus and Sirius checked the two Weasley children. But there were no scorch marks this time. "I tried to stop him. Just three unmoving forms lying in the snow. Albus sent several Wizarding lights aloft to follow them and light their way as they raced across the snowy grounds toward the pitch. no blood. "Diana?" He caught hold of his sister's arms. He transformed immediately into a dog and began sniffing the ground. "What are you talking about? Stop who?" If this had something to do with Julius. moving in swift circles in his search. but as he pressed his fingers to her throat. the moon little more than a crescent in the sky. "But I couldn't! They took Harry!" Severus didn't wait to hear any more. "Who did this?" he demanded. Severus' breath caught in his throat. running out of the great hall followed closely by Sirius Black and Remus Lupin. Hermione Granger's pale." Sirius announced. her face pale and terrified looking. Minerva and Albus were just behind them as all of them raced for the Quidditch pitch where the young Gryffindors had been playing. . "She's alive. shaking her fiercely. "Who took him? Was it Julius?" The monitoring spell he had put on Julius had not been . He was off like a shot. "So are they. As they neared.

triggered. They took him so that Britannia's Ministry would be forced to acknowledge the blood debt they own the Winter Lands. That Harry had been pulled into this madness was unacceptable. It was Severus' dubious past that had created the rift between him and his sister's husband. "That's at the heart of the Winter Lands. Why in Merlin's name would Alrik have taken Harry? There was no love lost between the two of them. They took him as hostage." . but he supposed his brother might have found a way around it. Diana looked briefly confused. But Severus had not been on speaking terms with any of his family back then and had never learned the whole story." Diana stated. "No." Diana told him. Severus heart lurched. and he knew Dumbledore would tend to whatever this blood debt was all about. "Where did they take him." he exclaimed. but then shook her head swiftly. "You three go after him. a dangerous prospect in the heart of winter. He turned desperately toward Albus. Severus. but Severus would have sworn on his life that Alrik had no loyalty to the Dark Lord and never would. The only way there was by taking a boat into the cold North Sea. Diana?" "Bifrost Hall. "Why?" he hissed. bring him home." For a moment her words didn't make any sense." Albus promised him." The Winter Land blood debt? Severus only vaguely remembered something about it . "I'll find out what I can from the Ministry. They could neither fly nor apparate into the Winter Lands. Alrik took him. it was Alrik. "It has little to do with Harry.vague references Alrik had made back when he first had married Diana. "Why would he do this? What has Harry done to him?" "Nothing.

. For the first time in his life he was grateful to have the two men on his side. Black and Lupin. The look of dark rage in the two Marauder's eyes was strangely comforting to Severus. He knew for this mission he could not be in better company.A quick glance behind him confirmed that the 'three' Albus was referring to were him.

only to find something weighing down his wrists. For a moment Harry felt a wash of panic roaring through him as he thought perhaps he was on the boat that took men to Azkaban. Both men had a fierce set to their bearded faces as if hardened by a life Harry did not want to imagine. From his position in the bottom of the boat he could see the prow rising up before him. wet spray striking his face. And besides. and he slid sideways against a heavy wooden object. A glance behind him down the length of the long boat showed that there were a dozen more men of a similar caste seated throughout the boat. He was in a large boat. why . the oars moving by themselves. he became aware of the extreme cold seeping into him and a violent rocking motion to the ground he was sitting on. Only a few steps away from him. he tried to raise his hand to touch his temple. But though his heart was pounding fiercely in his chest. a short length of chain stretched between them. Harry forced himself not to cry out. The prow was rising and falling as pounding waves of water rocked the boat. the end of it curving in the shadowed shape of a dragon. cold.CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT The pounding of his head woke Harry. Sirius had told him that Azkaban was on an island. The world around him lurched. Large wooden oars were propelling them through choppy waters. Groggily. Looking up in shock he tried to make sense of what he was seeing. and prisoners were taken there chained in a boat. Blinking in confusion. As his eyesight cleared behind the pounding headache he found himself staring at the heavy iron manacles that were weighing down his wrists. seated near the stern but slumped against a large wooden barrel. seated on wooden benches were two extremely large men draped in heavy cloaks of fur. There was no reason for anyone to take him to Azkaban.

He vaguely remembered seeing something small and silver flying toward him. He was now more grateful than ever for the eyesight correcting potion Severus had made for him. he wondered. A stun grenade.would the boat to Azkaban look like some sort of Viking long boat? It didn't make sense. nearly blinding him with its icy chill and he found himself shivering violently. It looked like it was made out of the skin of a bear . but then the thing had struck the ground and Harry could remember nothing more until he'd woken up here. since he doubted his glasses would have survived the kidnapping. He'd heard of such things in the Muggle world. A quick . Perhaps there was a magical equivalent? But if he and the others had been stunned. Were they Death Eaters. Nevertheless. A cold gust of wind blew against him. Someone further back in the boat tossed a heavy fur cloak forward and the man immediately draped it over Harry. the flash of it glinting in the fading sunlight catching his attention. Hermione and Ginny. he did not appear to be wounded. Were they taking him now to Voldemort? But why kidnap him? Why not just kill him out right? "Are you cold. he wondered. Besides the headache. He had thought for a moment that someone had released a snitch in the middle of their snow ball fight. he grabbed the cloak and pulled it over him. and the headache was already fading. where were the two Weasleys and Hermione? He could see no one else chained on the boat. As he settled it around his shoulders.though Harry couldn't remember hearing much about bears wandering around England these days. he took quick stock of his condition. lad?" One of the grim-faced men had noticed his movement and had turned piercing blue eyes on him. He'd been playing in the snow with Ron. He tried to figure out how he could have gotten there. grateful for its warmth.

but he could make little sense of what it was the man had said. They had no need to give him the cloak. but he had to find out where he was and what they intended to do with him. Diana Snape's husband. A coat of chain mail and heavy fur had replaced the fine doublet and velvet cloak. "Where am I?" he asked the man who had tossed him the cloak. but the hair and beard were the same. Huge men with long. But as far as he knew. He saw now that all of them were armed with enormous swords and axes. Harry vaguely recognized some of the words he spoke . He stared in shock at Alrik Brand.or at least felt like he should. A tall blond man moved forward from the back of the boat. He was leery of drawing attention to himself. there were no more Vikings in the world . His earlier opinion of the boat was only more firmly enforced when he got a better look at the men . There was movement in the back of the boat and Harry turned to get a better view of the others.for all appearances they were least not like this. Though he was dressed much differently than he had been the first time he met him. Though considering what he knew Death Eaters did to their prisoners. taking a seat not far from where Harry was of the inside of the jacket he was wearing confirmed that his wand was gone. maybe being alive wasn't that great a thing after all. But once more the Wizarding World appeared to be throwing him for a loop. Harry recognized him immediately. . Obviously they didn't mean for him to freeze to death. He was completely defenseless. The man frowned behind his beard and shouted something to someone else further down the boat. It almost sounded like Old English. so he took comfort in the fact that they wanted him alive. He really should have paid more attention in Professor Binn's class. braided blond and red hair and heavy beards.

I promise.didn't sound possible. He would not have been surprised to learn that Julius Snape was a supporter of the Dark Lord. "Do not speak that name! Do you want to put all of us into the sea?" He released Harry and leaned back. Something insane in his life that actually had nothing to do with Voldemort . "You're taking me to Voldemort!" His words had an alarming reaction. then give me my wand. Harry had liked the man and his gentle wife. Alrik nodded." "No danger!" Harry snarled. "You're in no danger. and we will release you as soon as our own matter is dealt with. anger flashing through him. "This has nothing to do with He Who Must Not Be Named. "Why?" he demanded. You'll be returned safely to Severus when all is said and done. you will not be harmed. lad. "You're holding me hostage?" he asked in disbelief. causing all the men on the boat to gasp and grumble." Harry stared at him incredulously. Though the man had been gruff and rather brash. We need something from the Ministry of Magic and taking you was the only way we could get it. Alrik leaned forward and clapped a hand on Harry's shoulder. shaking him harshly. Truth be told. I swear an oath as your brother-in-law that we are not aligned with your enemy. ." he commanded. "Rest ease. It had been a hand gesture that Professor Trelawney had shown them so Harry didn't have much faith in its power. Alrik frowned. all making a very superstitious sign to ward off evil. it has nothing to do with you." "If you mean me no harm. but he would never have imagined it of Alrik. feeling the bitter taste of betrayal washing through him." Harry insisted. "We're taking you to my home in the Winter Lands."Alrik!" he exclaimed in shock.

Surprisingly. I'll return your wand. "I can't take the chance that you'll try to escape.from leather to chain mail. Harry had the sinking feeling that this was more than just a simple trip to some land holding ahead of them. Speed is our best defense. Alrik clapped him on the shoulder again. If you try to run or get away from us. but he knew there was nothing he could do. "When we land we will move quickly into the woods. He could see now that all of them were dressed in various forms of armor . looking out across the water." one of the men called. The men around him had begun drawing their weapons." Frustration and rage flooded through Harry." "Lord Alrik. you will die. The boy must reach Bifrost Hall no matter what the price. my wife had nothing to do with this. Alrik glanced at his men.But Alrik just shook his head. "Is Diana a part of this?" he asked. He stood atop the highest point at the back of the boat." Alrik nodded grimly and turned to the men. though not quite as desperately as the last time. These men looked braced for a war. pulling swords from their sheaths and grabbing iron shields from the floor of the boat. Several men settled pounded-metal helmets upon their heads. then back at Harry. "But no. "It is bad luck to speak a woman's name over water. this question also brought murmurs of disapproval from some of the men and several again made a sign against evil." Harry found his rage fading beneath the growing alarm he felt in his heart. needing to know if Snape's sister had betrayed him as well. gaining his attention." . "I see the signal light." he informed Harry. Do not speak or make any unnecessary noise. "We need to move quickly. when I return you. She and my daughters are back in High Hill.

all heavily armed and bearing torches that sputtered and flared in the damp air." Alrik informed him grimly. "What's out there?" he asked. no matter what." He pointed to three of the closest men near him. Olaf and one else seemed similarly armed. Ours is not a tame world like the one you come from. and a moment later he was being pulled from his seat and bodily hauled over the side of the boat. There were more men waiting for them on the shore. . Somewhere along the way the heavy fur cloak had fallen from Harry's shoulders but he barely noticed so frightened was he now." he whispered quietly. a heavy mist obscuring the air around them. You'll stay with them no matter what. wondering what all these men were so afraid of. Someone large and burly caught him and he had only a moment to gasp in shock as cold water lapped around his feet before he was being propelled by an iron grip onto firm ground. "And we won't. The man Alrik had called Gudrik reached over and caught Harry's arm. Harry heard the bottom of the boat scrap against rocks and sand on a dark beach." Harry protested. suddenly terrified of what they might be taking him into. He motioned to the men. "Death."You said you wouldn't hurt me. Do you understand?" Harry nodded. Along with swords. "Stay with me boy. They braced themselves as if preparing to leap from the boat. his care-lined face grim and frightening. but he could feel the boat start to rock more violently as they approached some unknown shore. The night was pitch black. They are our most powerful wizards. "We're here to protect you. his heart in his throat. He was shoved into the center of these men and then all but dragged away from the water and into a black forest beyond. he could see that these three had also drawn wands . "These are Gudrik." Alrik assured him.

In that amount of time these people could have taken him anywhere in the world. No one spoke as they marched. barely able to see where he was going despite his perfect eyesight now. The torches flickered and hissed in the mist. despite Alrik's terrifying words of warning. but then again he had never heard of the County of High Hill either. but at least they all seemed to know where they were going. for certainly a spell would be better than the endlessly moving light of the torches. Why someone did not cast a lumos spell he did not know. and to Harry. A sound nearby in the woods caused all the men to stop in their tracks. Seeing that the earliest light of morning was coming.He could hear the clank of chain mail and the crunch of gravel beneath the feet of all the men. The three wizards moved immediately to surround Harry. He might have been out for hours before he'd awakened. Harry began trying to figure out where he could be. casting horrific shadows all around them. never slowing. He supposed it was possible that he was once again in some unplottable county. Harry despaired to realize he must indeed have been unconscious for hours. He estimated they'd been walking at least two hours before he began to notice even the faintest lighting of the sky. Harry. It was still dark. but he could not tell the time without something more to go by. Our world is not tame. the other's forming a circle . never seeming to tire either. He'd never heard of the Winter Lands or Bifrost Hall. Alrik had said though what that might mean Harry could only imagine. It could have been minutes or hours. their hands tightening on their weapons. They walked on. When no attack appeared to be imminent. with his hands still bound by the heavy iron chains struggled to keep up in the dark. He wondered how long he had been unconscious in that boat before he'd woken up. In late December the sun did not rise until late in the morning.

He wished to god he had his wand. Beneath the sputtering of the torches and the rushing of wind in the trees Harry could hear the sound of something moving through the woods. Regardless. The crowd of men around him surged and moved and he was pushed from all sides as they tried to keep him in their center. His heart was pounding. But the cry came again closer now. He frantically searched the woods trying to catch some glimpse of what might be out there." "Are they alone?" one of the other men whispered and they all looked to the three wizards who guarded Harry. Seeing fear on their faces. "It's the Grendlings.a high-pitched cry that sent shivers of terror down Harry's spine. Instantly the silence was shattered with deafening battle cries and he could hear men screaming and swords striking flesh and bone as the cold steel blades flashed in the torchlight. The sound came again .around them. his hands clenching and unclenching around the cold length of chain binding his wrists. and they braced themselves." Alrik hissed. But there had to be twenty men around him. twenty armed wizards who looked like they knew how to use those swords they were carrying. But he couldn't for the life of him figure out why only three of them had drawn their wands. "They've got our scent." he told them. Olaf frowned but shook his head. though what he meant Harry had no idea. "I don't feel anything else. hating the feeling of helplessness. dark shadowy shapes leaping from the trees and attacking with tooth and claw. He could see . And then he saw the flash of red eyes deep in the blackness of the forest and from one moment to the next they were surrounded. Harry knew better than to speak but he glanced to Alrik for some sign of what was going on. and despite the cold he could feel sweat snaking down his back as he breathed in the icy air. his words seemed to put the men somewhat at ease.

men and Grendlings who had fallen in the very first minutes of battle. lashing out with deadly claws which screeched against chain mail. sensing their approach pushed the attack. They leaped and screamed. a momentarily lull in the battle as the Grendlings pulled back and then circled in for another attack and the men tightening their circle around Harry. There was a breath. a cold iciness filling all of them beyond the heat of the battle. all his hopes and dreams. Several lit like flies on one of the wounded men who lay broken outside the circle of warriors. "The Dementors are coming!" Olaf cried out. and the battle began again. Blood sprayed through the air. washed over them all. And then a chill.the creatures now . trapped in the center of the battling men. Harry saw them swoop in for the Kiss.that horrible. Harry. He could feel them now . Bears he though or enormous wild cats . familiar dread as their darkness swarmed over him. The Grendlings. as if Winter had only just now arrived.the Grendlings were covered in heavy fur and their eyes burned red in the darkness. His head was ripped from his shoulders before his companions could strike down with swords and drive the beasts back. swallowing all his thoughts. a pause. realizing in mindless horror that he was walking upon bodies .vaguely humanoid shapes that seemed as comfortable on four legs as two with enormous mouths filled with razor teeth and claws three inches long. Harry stumbled and tripped. warning the others and Harry's heart nearly stopped in his chest. powerful bodies breaking like stone against hastily raised shields. . and despite the faint light of morning. stared in horror as one man was swarmed by four of the Grendlings and pulled to the ground. But now Harry could see the cloaked figures of Dementors swarming out of the forest. screams echoing in the night. the shadows grew.

It drove back the Dementors in front of it. "Expecto Patronum!" His voice echoed off the trees and from the end of the wand a blinding light exploded. Harry could see more creatures moving in for the Kiss. A thin silvery stream of light leaked from the end of his wand. burning like an inferno. felled not by the Grendlings who were now content to tear apart the men who had already died. The Dementors and the Grendlings moved in for the kill. just bent down and grabbed the wand. striking one of the Dementors and driving it momentarily back from the dying man. Two more men dropped. Even as he shouted and looked desperately around for something he could defend himself with. "Give me my wand!" He had no idea were Alrik was any more. feeling the power surging to life inside him. If these three wizards who stood before him were the best they had then they were all doomed. he saw Olaf's spell wink out as one of the Grendlings got past his swinging sword and pulled him to the ground. But he knew in a flash of insight that these men had no defense against the creatures that were swarming them. his magic singing inside him. He didn't think. The silvery light that leaked from their wands was barely noticed by the Dementors. brandishing his wand along with Bjorn and Gudrik. Five more moved to take its place. and in the flashing light of the dropped torches Harry spied Olaf's wand lying at his feet. but by the despair that washed over them. and they kept coming forward. Harry stared in horror . couldn't even tell if the man was still alive. striking their shadowed . the ghostly shape of Prongs roaring to life."Expecto Patronum!" Olaf shouted. "My wand!" he shouted in terror.the other two men had little better luck. He grabbed hold of his most powerful memory and raised the wand.

and covered in blood that was not his own. the ground black with their blood. The Grendlings were dead or gone and the Dementors had all vanished into the night. surrounding them all in a circle of fire as Harry used the wand to trace a warding ring around them. hooves crushing darkness beneath them. The corpses of the monstrous Grendlings surrounded them. but their souls as well. Prongs circled back around again.wizards who had used swords instead of magic to fight off an enemy he had never imagined before. No harm." He did not see from which direction it came but an instant later his own familiar wand struck his free hand. antlers flashing. He immediately dropped Olaf's . Then Prongs turned and circled back. all of them wounded. eyes upon the glowing creature as it turned then and bowed low to Harry before leaping at him and vanishing once again into the wand. Of the twenty men who had guarded him only twelve yet lived. Shaking in terror. devoured by the Dementors that these people seemed incapable of driving back. and within moments all that was left were the sounds of moans from wounded men. "Accio Harry Potter's wand. No harm would come to him. Harry raised the wand again. charging the others. The men had fallen silent. Five steps from his feet was a body so badly torn apart he doubted they'd be able to identify the remains. He knew that at least half of those men who lay dead at his feet had lost more than just their lives. Harry slowly lowered the wand to his side. Freed of the horror of the Dementors the warriors leaped at the Grendlings slicing and hacking at them.bodies with its enormous antlers and sending them fleeing into the night. Men who had willingly walked into a forest haunted by Dementors. Prongs left a trail of silvery fire wherever he went and the Grendlings backed away in terror. Three men with wands . Alrik had said. For a long moment no one moved and Harry's eyes took in the nightmare around him.

"Alohomora.fear. and the chains dropped obediently to the sounded harsh and broken from screaming. Coming here had been madness of the worst sort. Alrik had led his men here to this death trap. "Do not leave us to die. "Why did you bring me here?" Harry barely recognized his own voice . they obviously had no defense against the Dementors. The weight of the chains had been all that kept his hands from shaking. . "I beg you." he pleaded and the sound of his voice brought some semblance of life back to Harry's blank mind. Alrik dropped to his knees in front of Harry." he commanded. could no longer tell what he was feeling . Harry could feel a trickle of warm blood running down his face where he'd been splattered. One of the men moved then. his heart was thudding so loudly he could hear the pounding in his veins. "Why are we in this place?" They brought him here. rage. his arms held out to his sides as if in surrender." In shock Harry watched as the other men all dropped to their knees as well." Alrik repeated. All he knew was in that moment he held a wand on another human being and believed he could kill with nothing more than a thought. or nothing at all. detaching himself from the shadows and coming toward him. "I beg you. the scent of death rising up from the steaming ground. He did not recognize himself in that instant.wand into the dirt and turned his own on the chains around his wrists. Harry's hand came up immediately and he pointed his wand dead center at the man's chest. Though covered head to foot in blood. hatred. And while they might have been well matched against the Grendlings with their swords and axes." His words struck him like cold water and Harry staggered back a step. Harry recognized him now as Alrik. "Do not leave us. The look on his face was not one he recognized.

the question shining in his eyes. Olaf. "The Dementors do not care who they take. Had Harry anything in his stomach he would have emptied it at that moment. blood from a small head wound dripping down into his beard as his spoke." Alrik nodded. Of the twelve still living. "Gather the wounded and dead!" he barked out the order to the other men. too numb to know what to think. I beg you to come to Bifrost Hall and speak with my father. Gudrik and Bjorn were doing what little they could with spells to mend wounds that might prove life threatening. Harry stood off to one side." Alrik told him. They have no mercy in them. That . But we have been over run with these Dementors. Harry could see. Harry found himself lowering his wand without thought. three of them were barely able to walk and needed the aid of one of their companions to travel." Harry stared at him in disbelieving horror. Still Alrik did not rise. and we have no way to fight them." They were all kneeling before him in surrender and supplication several of the men who looked too weak to do so. and instantly they all leaped into action. He watched as the men swiftly separated human from Grendling on the battlefield. "This is where we live. so that all the eyes of Britannia would turn toward us and see our plight. and if you leave us. We have begged the Ministry to help us but they have turned their backs on us. It became quickly apparent that the men had no way of transporting the bodies. His unmoving eyes were frozen in a look of horror. Slowly Harry inclined his head. "You have children here?" he whispered. was missing one of his legs and half of his stomach. we will all die. Alrik rose stiffly to his feet."This is our home. We brought you here so that they would have to listen. "Yes. tremors running through his body and shaking his frame. These Dementors devour our brothers. and we have no defense against them. Please. our wives and our children. Do not turn your back on us the way the Ministry has.

the looks on their face again something Harry did not recognize or understand." he commanded. "Mobilicorpus. But he could not bear the thought of Dementors devouring the souls of children. Seven more times Harry cast the spell and the remaining bodies fell into line." he growled to one of the men who was just staring at the floating corpses with disbelieving eyes. What was wrong with these people? Grown men were not supposed to act this way. "We leave them then. "We can not delay. At this point. "And we can't wait for the Grendlings to come back. The body. His stomach churned uneasily. He raised his wand and pointed it at the first body. Harry could not tell if the emotion churning inside him was anger or grief. In the six years he'd been at Hogwarts he thought he had come to understand the basics of how the Wizarding World worked . rose horizontally up off the ground and moved toward the edge of the clearing." one of the men hissed in despair." Alrik said grimly." Alrik told him.left six men to carry the bodies of eight. And so he fell into step behind an animated line of dripping corpses and followed the Viking warriors into the woods. . though one of the bodies was little more than a torso." "We can't leave them for the wolves. The men stared at him in surprise. Harry didn't understand what was happening. "Lead the way. All he knew was that he desperately wanted to go home. held together now by magic. he wasn't certain if he cared.but this was beyond his comprehension.

though of a much different design than Hogwarts. They crested a hill and Harry saw at last the tall stone battlements of an enormous Keep rising out of the rocks ahead of them. Like Hogwarts this place was warded with magic. A thousand people could live inside such a structure. the trail of corpses moving ahead of him. he felt the tingle of wards washing over him.CHAPTER TWENTY NINE It took another half hour to reach their destination. Women . and by then the sky had brightened considerably. That at least was familiar . But why he had seen so little other evidence of its use among the men who had taken him. As he followed his guides inside. A heating charm cast upon his clothes helped but he wished he had not dropped that fur cloak earlier. they found themselves trudging through snow. It was made up of great walls and large blocky halls. This one was starker in ornament.that at least was something he understood. all armed with heavy crossbows. The castle was enormous. and Harry shivered violently in the chill wind. In the dim light of morning. he still did not understand. a fortress of war rather than the ornate palace Hogwarts was. and Harry could see warriors walking the battlements. and from the looks of the men upon the wall this was a working Keep rather than the school Hogwarts had been turned into. As they moved higher up. and Harry saw the great iron portcullis that guarded the entrance to the fortress being drawn upward. A horn blared into the pale morning light as they approached. and as Harry moved further up the hill he could see that the walls extended a great distance off to either side. Cries of horror and grief greeted him as he directed the bodies into the center courtyard and set them down on the ground. The adrenalin from the battle had at last worn off and Harry was left with nothing but the empty horror of what he had seen. torches still burned from the walls.

Moments later he found himself in an enormous Hall that reminded him vaguely of the Great Hall. There were no floating candles. Alrik approached him then. He could see several old women he thought might be healers tending to the wounded men they had brought in. Though he was young looking yet. Harry.choking on the taste when he realized it was some sort of sweet ale. Food and drink were brought to the table. his thoughts beginning to clear. his stomach at last beginning to settle. But there were long wooden tables and the walls were draped with heavy tapestries. Someone else thrust a goblet into his hand and he drank the contents down without checking it first . and no animated sky. The stranger was dressed in dragonskin leathers. A moment later someone else replaced the ale with a goblet of clean water and he drank that gratefully. One wall had three huge fireplaces. using potions and unguents to seal up their wounds. and watched in silent horror as a girl only a few years younger than he was stroked the hair of one man's head only to realize that the head was no longer attached to the body. wailing their grief over the loss of their loved ones and Harry stood there in numbed silence uncertain what to do. asked him if he were hurt and then cast several cleaning charms over him when he assured them he was not. Alrik led him over to one of them. A cloak of dark blue velvet draped his shoulders. and Harry allowed the man to lead him away from the grizzly scene and into the heart of the castle. Two women stopped before him. men and women milling about.swarmed over the bodies of the dead. He could see small children clutching the bloodied hands of their fathers. ." Alrik urged. "Come away. each lit with a roaring fire. and he sat down on one of the table benches only distantly aware of the activities around him. He wore his hair in two braids and had beads woven into his long beard. a tall golden-haired man beside him.

"Harry. He took the hand Asgeir offered him." Harry growled. Harry Potter. "But you chose to come here and hear us out when you recovered your wand. "And so you came here to offer us your aid. Harry. "It's a long story.Harry guessed by the family resemblance that this man was Alrik's father.they were busy eating large slabs of venison that some of the women had . Harry just nodded his head." Harry found himself looking over at Bjorn and Gudrik ." At that Harry shot a glare at Alrik but Asgeir dropped a heavy hand on his shoulder. but I will tell you everything. "He also tells me that you have come here freely." "He said the Dementors were threatening children. Harry rose to his feet understanding enough to know that 'lord' was not in this case a self-appointed title." he greeted." Asgeir greeted. "Welcome to Bifrost Hall. shaking it firmly. "I know you were taken against your will. feeling very much out of his element. I suspect you have more questions than that however. Why? What does the Ministry have to do with this?" Asgeir nodded in understanding. the Lord of Bifrost Hall. "Alrik tells me that we are in your debt. "Lord Brand. this is Lord Asgeir Brand. You must have known then that Alrik could not have stopped you from leaving." "I came here to find out what is happening? I came here for an explanation. "He kidnapped me to hold me hostage for the Ministry." Harry told him angrily." Alrik introduced. That you drove off the Dementors with your Patronus." he amended quickly." Not knowing how else to respond.

Harry. A large wooden table shoved off to one side was covered with old books and maps. and a single window looked out into the large courtyard below. "They were the only ones who could caste the Patronus charm." He fell into step beside the two men. "Come with me.brought in. I'll take you some place were we can talk more freely. And several women were floating in kegs of ale before the glowing tips of their wands. "You're not squibs. On the far side of the room he could see a man lighting several candles with a quick flick of his wand. This was no a Muggle community. "Only three men drew their wands out there. Harry's stomach churned at the thought of eating anything just then. and the comings and goings he saw now in this hall. following them out of the hall and into a small room off to one side. Judging by the number of men he had seen on the walls." Alrik informed him. There was a fire lit in the hearth and several heavy cushioned chairs set before it. ." he said simply. Alrik and Asgeir exchanged a silent look. are you not?" he asked tightly. women and children. "Yes." Harry glanced around the hall. trying to get his mind around the concept." Harry said. A city within the Keep walls with hundreds if not thousands of men. he guessed that this was an entire community. "You are all wizards. trying to understand what it was he was seeing here. Near the door he could see several small children playing some version of Exploding Snaps. still not able to understand what had happened. "They were our three bests. I can see that. then Asgeir clapped him on the shoulder." Asgeir confirmed.

"I know it's guarded by Dementors. At midnight. A giant sundial. "Tell me about the Dementors. "Before the Dementors it was guarded by trolls. but nodded in agreement and in the light of the fire Harry could see a couple of thin streaks of silver in the man's hair. They used their magic to remove the capstone and waited for this creature to emerge. and not far from them were a dozen men armed with bows and arrows shooting at targets set along the far wall." he said. Harry?" Asgeir asked. "What do you know of Azkaban prison?" Harry shuddered. reaching again for the goblet of water. Harry moved to the window and stared out the cold glass to the people down below." he asked. two . There were stories back then about a place called the Well of Despair and a terrible creature that lived at the bottom. guessing that this was the information pertinent to the conversation. "It was not always guarded by Dementors. he realized and watched as a group of children played amongst the shadow that the enormous monolith was casting upon the ground." Asgeir told him. But trolls are remarkable stupid creatures and the prison was never very secure. Someone had set more food and drink on the low table between the chairs. About a hundred and fifty years ago someone came up with the idea of finding a darker creature to guard the prison. Men from the Ministry of Magic came here to the Winter Lands looking for this Well of Despair. On the far side of the courtyard he could see a large stone monolith surrounded by a circle of small white stones. Harry sat down.As Asgeir called for one of the serving women to bring food and drink to the room. They found it deep in the heart of our woods. It was sealed with an enormous capstone. "Will you join us. He could see a group of men unloading a large wagon filled with barrels and crates near the gates to the courtyard. Harry turned. Asgeir frowned. on New Years Eve. Asgeir and Alrik motioned to a chair in front of the fire.

The Ministry wizards took those Dementors and set them to guard Azkaban. We petition the Ministry to return and seal the Well and take the Dementors away. and the wizard who had unsealed the capstone in the first place had died. "At that time the Wizard Grindelwald was threatening the world and the Ministry was at war trying to stop him. "One year later on New Years Eve. they failed to replace the capstone over the Well of Despair. and no one ever went there any more. But by then there were dozens of Dementors roaming free in our land. Eventually my people took notice and realized what had happened. the creatures that were still hunting for his godfather. Our request went unnoticed. It seemed that the Wizard who had orchestrated the deal with the Dementors. two more Dementors emerged from the well and the Ministry took them as well. Eventually He Who Must Not Be Named rose to power and the Winter Lands were all but forgotten. "What does that have to do with the Dementors that are here?" "When the Ministry left the Winter Lands. Our requests took a back seat to that battle." Harry pulled his jacket more firmly around his shoulders.Dementors emerged from the Well. Years went by and every year two more Dementors appeared. For fifty years they came here once a year and took the Dementors that came up from the Well of Despair. By the end of those fifty years they had one hundred ruthless guards for Azkaban Prison and they did not return again. Grindelwald was defeated. The years went by. thinking of the Dementors that still guarded Azkaban to this day. but still our pleas went unheard. A . On New Years Eve two more Dementors emerged from the Well. We did not know that the Well was still open. But they did not answer our summons. By then that area of our woods had been deemed cursed by our people and claimed by the Grendlings. but this time there was no one there to take them away.

"I still don't understand." There was anger in his voice. . five percent of the world's population is magical. Harry frowned. trying to absorb what he had heard. "Harry. "No. One hundred years . "That would mean that there were nearly . Harry sat in silence for a moment." Harry's eyes widened at that and he tried to do the math in his head." Both men smiled grimly." Harry informed him. We know how to fight the Grendlings and the Giants and the Black Wyrms that dwell in the mountains.three hundred million of us!" He had no idea the number was so great. startling Harry with the non sequitur." "You have to be able to cast a Patronus. He knew the population of the world was currently approaching six billion." Alrik told him. ." The two men exchanged a silent look. Harry. "Harry. No way to stop them when they swallow up our villages and devour the souls of our children. Dementors can be driven away with a Patronus. "All it takes is a powerful memory. My people have lived in these lands for three thousand years. I learned to cast one when I was thirteen. "I can teach you. and Harry suspected he had gotten the number wrong.hundred years have gone by and the Ministry still ignores us.that meant that there were at least two hundred Dementors roaming free in this land. But we have no defense against the Dementors. wondering what on earth that could have to do with the Patronus charm. do you have any idea how many wizard and witches there are in the world?" Alrik asked. "Tens of thousands I would assume." he admitted. A veritable army of darkness." Harry insisted. . "You must have a thousand wizards in this fortress alone. And still the Ministry ignores us. and a terrible rage in his eyes.

and make due.000 children. "I'm fairly good at transfiguration." "Four hundred out of approximately 600. My son here is one of five wizards out of our all our people who was educated in one of the Wizarding Schools. "But I can't cast a Patronus. the best of the best." Alrik explained. Now of those three million approximate 20 percent of them are between the ages of 11 and 18. He knew there were other schools . The elite of our society barely even notices that the rest of us exist. Did you not wonder why the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters are so feared? They can kill a dozen men . I never could. "This is one of twelve strong holds on the Winter Lands." He drew his wand and waved it over one of the goblets. Only the elite go to Hogwarts. How many students currently go to Hogwarts?" Harry frowned. each with a population of thousands." Asgeir motioned with his hand to the fortress around him.Alrik nodded. "Not for magic. but those schools were in France and Germany who would have their own large population to deal with. That means that in Great Britain alone there are nearly three million wizards and witches. "Where do you imagine those other children are schooled?" Harry just stared at him in disbelief. transforming it into a spoon. "Aren't there other schools?" But Alrik shook his head. The four hundred students that are currently at your school are not even one percent of those 600. All the others are schooled at home by their parents. "Nearly four hundred. Most wizards can't." Alrik told him. "The current population of Great Britain is nearly 60 million people." "I went to Beauxbatons. Do you understand how much stronger you are than the rest of us? Even the worst student at your school has more power at his command than the average wizard or witch.000 children.Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. They learn whatever spells they are capable of casting.

But there will be no letters from Hogwarts when they turn eleven. Four hundred students out of a potential 600. You are educated in the practice of magic because you have to be. The rest of us can't even conceive of it. The answer was simply that most wizards and witches could not do these things. He could see now that perhaps he should have. "Have you never wondered why wizards have brooms when they are capable of apparating?" Alrik asked. It didn't seem possible." Harry told him. "All of them are capable of some sort of couldn't be true. You are . Only a tiny fraction of wizards are ever able to cast the Unforgivables." Harry rose to his feet and began pacing the small room. Asgeir rose and stood beside him and for a long moment they watched the children as they played with a tiny ball that darted around the air like a snitch. He found himself staring out the window again at the small group of children playing around the giant sundial. "because of the potential damage you are capable of doing with your wands. Harry had never thought of those things. The very idea that someone as poorly skilled as Neville Longbottom far out shone nearly all the wizard and witches in the world .with a single curse.000. "They're not squibs. They use the Unforgivables the way the rest of us use cleaning charms. "Or why we have clothiers when we could just transfigure a leaf or a twig into any item of clothing we want? Why are not all wizards rich if they could conjure gold out of thin air?" Truthfully. trying to get his mind around what he was being told." Asgeir told him. "If none of you go to school. Half of them will never even bother to purchase a wand. I thought you had to pass your Newts before you were allowed to use a wand as an adult. how do you pass the Newts or the OWLs?" "That rule is for the elite alone." "I thought the Ministry regulated wands." Asgeir explained.

. "And no defense against Voldemort and his Death Eaters." "Then your people really do have no defense against the Dementors. Voldemort's powers far exceeded any Dark Lord before him. and while Harry knew he was not by far the best student. To know now that he was instead dealing with a population of millions. If he understood the power discrepancy here. he and his classmates were the elite of their world. and most horrifyingly himself. And there were only a few men in this world. "Do you see now why we thought that by taking you we could turned the eyes of the world to our plight?" Harry feared finally that he did understand." Both men flinched at his words. If he was to believe what he was hearing. It was one thing to imagine the few thousands of wizards and witches he had assumed populated Great Britain forming some sort of coalition to rise up against the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters and defeat them. Even your accidental magic can wreak havoc on both our world and the Muggle world. he knew his powers out stripped his other year mates. each making the ward against evil.too powerful to be left unschooled. And for the first time in his life Harry understood why they were so afraid of even the Dark Lord's name. Voldemort was a god amongst men and yet somehow Harry had stood against him time and time again. He was quite literally a god among men. then Voldemort could quite literally take over the world and enslave all of mankind. like Dumbledore." Harry whispered. who could even dream of trying to stop him. and that for the most part those millions were utterly helpless. "Do you see now why the world is so in awe of you?" Asgeir asked. But the same is not true for the rest of the Wizarding World. a sense of despair washing over him at the thoughts that were filling his head.

"The Ministry is at war over me. He ate with him every . Why not ask Severus for help?" "Ask a Death Eater to aid us?" Alrik asked. ." he told Asgeir. He regularly wandered up to the Headmaster's office and chatted with him. Harry bristled at the comment. "We told you that the Ministry has ignored our petitions for a hundred years. He is the most sought after wizard in world. "But I only came to believe that recently." Asgeir admitted. "We know that's a possibility. then he had a duty to at least try to help them. Sirius and Remus could do if pushed. ." Both men paled at that. "You married Diana Snape. He knew the damage Severus. "How?" Alrik asked." Alrik cut in. "Some of the most powerful wizards and witches of our world are fighting for the position of Minister of Magic. Did it not occur to you that by kidnapping me all you may have succeeded in doing is bringing an army of powerful wizards down upon you? They may simply choose to take me back by force. If he truly was one of the elite of their world." Harry sat down hard in his chair.He might have been brought here against his will. trying to understand why they didn't try some other option." Harry could imagine that already there were at least three very powerful and very angry wizards who would be hunting them." "I know. I am a prize chess piece in their political game. instead of giving you the aid you asked for. He looked at Alrik. "But we had to do something. "He's not." "Then why not go to Dumbledore?" Harry asked. How are we supposed to get access to someone like the great Albus Dumbledore? Kings and Pharaohs the world over have trouble getting an audience with him. but he could see now that these people were just trying to survive against a darkness they were no match for.

night in the Great Hall. How big is this stone?" Asgeir pointed to the giant monolith outside. "Surely the stone can be moved with some sort of Muggle machinery? The have cranes that can lift thousands of pounds. "You need the Well of Despair sealed up." A stone needed to be moved. It was not something he could ever remember being taught. "What is it that needs to be done?" he asked. He'd played Exploding Snaps with him just two days ago at Christmas time. It joins the magic of the Death Eaters to the Dark Lord. "Combining the magic of two wizards is one of the hardest spells there is. rubbing his temple as he tried to clear his head. Harry shook his head. At least ten thousand . "That is why the Dark Mark is so feared. He hadn't even known a place like the Winter Lands even existed. "It needs to be moved back over the hole and sealed down. "It is at least twice the size of that." Alrik told him." Asgeir explained. Could they all truly be that isolated from the rest of their people? Were they all so blind that they could not see what was going on around them? But he knew the answer to that even as he thought it. Harry shook his head. "You said there were thousands of you here in the Winter Lands. What if you all joined your magic and moved the stone together?" "Have you ever done magic in tandem with another person?" Asgeir asked him curiously. None of us here has the skill or strength to combine such magic together. "What do you mean?" Asgeir asked. like the stones of Stonehenge. correct?" Harry pressed." "Then what about a Muggle solution?" Harry asked. "What does the Ministry have to do to seal it up?" "The capstone must be replaced.

He stared at the monolith outside. moving across the courtyard toward the sundial. he thought. "And none of you can move something that size?" he asked. It's a magical artifact it has to be moved by magic and only magic can seal it in place. But it was just a stone. but no one tried to stop him. Several of the warriors who had accompanied Alrik earlier also followed curiously behind. Twice this size. The archers practicing on the range stopped their shooting to watch him and their liege lord as they passed. and stood for a long moment just staring at it as the morning mist swirled about him. Why do you think we were so startled when you transported those eight bodies here? We've never seen anything like that before. "They probably weighed about eighty pounds total. Harry stopped when he reached the sundial." Alrik told him." Ten thousand pounds. but he had no idea how much a Christmas tree weighed. Why not cast a feather light charm on it first and then lift it? He'd lifted his trunk regularly with Wingardium Leviosa and couldn't ever remember feeling any sort of strain. And the crane would do us no good.pounds. and with a determined look on his face headed toward the door." And Alrik was the one who had been to Beauxbatons. "Harry?" Asgeir asked in concern. Professor Flitwick regularly levitated the Great Hall's Christmas trees through the front door. The stone in front of him probably weight between two and three tons. "I once lifted two cases of was just something you did. But those warriors today had to . He'd never even thought about how heavy it might be . Both men rushed after him. but made no effort to stop him as he strode swiftly to through the Hall beyond. He tried to remember the heaviest thing he'd ever seen a wizard levitate. It was magic. He got to his feet. Men and women looked up as he passed. he reasoned. The door to the courtyard stood open in the morning sunlight and he strode out into the yard.

and then as they all watched. letting the ground reabsorbed its weight before he let the spell go. or to hold aloft their bows. hilt pointing upward to the sky. letting his magic reach out and surround the great stone. "It lies at the heart of Grendling territory and the Dementors will try to keep you from it. shouting out their support to stand in battle along side him. Silence fell over the courtyard as everyone turned to watch. Harry stared at it. "Wingardium Leviosa!" Harry shouted. "I pledge my sword and my life to keep the Grendlings from you. "If you can take me to it. He could feel the weight of it now that he concentrated. the stone uprooted itself from the earth and rose silently in the air. his wand holding it aloft. "I will move the capstone for you. moving out of its shadow." At his words. Slowly he drew his wand from his jacket pocket and pointed it at the stone. Men on the walls raised their own weapons to cheer.have weight nearly two hundred pounds each. For a single moment nothing happened. The children playing near it hurried away. Carefully he set it back down in its bed of earth." Asgeir nodded his head in wonder. and though Harry knew all these men had just pledged themselves to die he suspected the . never mind the fact that they were missing limbs and blood. He'd lifted eight of them. But it wasn't unbearable. Slowly he lowered his wand arm and turned to face Lord Asgeir. Not at all. The men and women of Bifrost Hall were staring at him in silent wonder. disbelief in all their eyes. Alrik drew his sword and held it before him." His words prompted all the other men in the courtyard to draw their own swords. could feel the power that was rushing through his veins and out through his wand." he told Asgeir.

We have a battle to plan." "Tomorrow will take care of itself!" they shouted back in turn. "Tonight we celebrate! And tomorrow. Asgeir nodded." .glow of hope shining in their eyes was enough to drive all two hundred of the Dementors back. "Come back inside. "Tomorrow will take care of itself. Asgeir clapped Harry on the shoulder. ." He turned to the men and women around him and raised his voice. . my friend.

Sirius thought. "Sometimes ruthlessness is called for. neither of them needing to speak to know they were of one mind. He was the kindest. most gentle man he'd ever known. startling Sirius. Instead Severus Snape now held the prominent place in Harry's life and Sirius couldn't help but think that he had failed his childhood friend in so many ways. Having only recently returned from a reconnaissance mission for Dumbledore. Without speaking the two of them began gathering their traveling gear. It disturbed him to hear Remus say things like that. He had missed the years when Snape's loyalties became known and it was hard for him to see beyond what he remembered of the Slytherin. seeing the knowing look in his amber eyes. It should be James traveling with them. James should be leading them. "Severus will stop at nothing until he is safe." Sirius shivered." Remus told him. He glanced at his friend. both changing into heavier dragon-skin leathers and heat-spelled cloaks and gloves.CHAPTER THIRTY Sirius raced back to Remus' quarters in the castle. almost as if he could read his mind." Remus said suddenly." "And you think James wouldn't have done the same?" Sirius demanded. They then headed down to the dungeons of the castle. "And James was always too kind. They would collect Severus Snape and then head after the men who had taken Harry from Hogwarts. "We could not ask for a better companion in this than Severus. It always . Remus and Sirius following on either side. all their equipment was on ready hand and it took them only moments to prepare. It was eerie when Remus did that. It was still hard for him to understand why Remus was so accepting of Snape. the werewolf only steps behind him.

"Alrik does not live with you?" The woman shrugged. "And truthfully. "No." That seemed to startle Snape.startled him when Remus said something that reminded him that he understood the darkness all too well. but then Sirius had heard that the man was on poor terms with his family. but just shrugged. her dark eyes was a style many Slytherin had favored when he was in school. "I take what I can get. To his surprise. "One week out of each month only. A quick glance at the man assured Sirius that Snape was ready to travel. Alrik has always told me it was too dangerous. But she shook her head. They found Diana Snape waiting in a hallway next to a portrait of Salazar Slytherin and a large snake. Sirius pounded on the portrait. "Do you know the Winter Lands?" he demanded of her. "What kind of a marriage is that?" She glanced briefly at Sirius and Remus." She sighed and brushed her black hair back from her pale face. Considering the potential good that could come of the notebook Harry had translated for Christmas. It seemed an odd thing for Snape not to know about his sister. "I love him. A moment later it opened and Severus Snape ushered them all inside his chamber. Severus. I've never been there. I like my life in High Hill." "And how long have you known about this plot against Harry?" Severus demanded. He too wore black leathers that were hardened with dragon scales. I am free to study my books. Over that he wore a coat made of black wyvern skins which Sirius knew would turn aside most blades ." she said simply." she admitted. . Ignoring the woman. I've lived in England all this time. Snape glared at his sister. Sirius could not bring himself to look quite so critically on the Lord of Slytherin any more.

Severus sneered at his sister then turned his glare on the two of them. "Come with me. Judging by the way Severus hefted it with both hands. axes." To Sirius' surprise. He knew his friend had never studied the sword. "I only just learned of it. Immediately the bookcase slid aside revealing a wall covered in weapons . They told me that so that someone would know to check on the other children and they would not be left alone in the cold. "I never learned to use a blade.swords. Lupin. He held it out to Remus. Sirius imaged it was extraordinarily heavy . his family too poor to afford such things. Severus cursed under his breath and moved back to the wall.a great handle with a large spiked iron ball at the end of it. crossbows. bows." he informed them. It was the sword both he and his brother Regulus had been most frequently trained with. ." Remus told him with a shake of his head. It was the weapon he was most comfortable wielding. "Take one. quickly removing an English long sword from the wall and spinning it in his hand to test its weight and his grip. "Take what you want. grimacing slightly as he lifted. right before they left. grabbing a large iron mace from its case. It was an impressive collection from all periods of history. seeing Remus still standing by the library door. Sirius did not hesitate. As he tested the edge he motioned to Sirius and Remus.She just gave him a sad smile. And his temperament had never made him suited to duels. He moved into the library and waved his wand at one of the large bookcases on the far wall. Severus immediately removed a long thin blade that was etched with druidic runes." Severus insisted and Sirius turned. The Black family had a similar collection in his ancestral home." he snapped. Severus.

But Minerva shook her head. The Dark Forest is tame in comparison. seeming not to notice the weight at all. calling out to the men as she stood in the main chamber. they went to join her. he went out of his way to hide it. Minerva entered a moment later. but he suspected it failed. "The children have awakened. The Winter Lands are populated with all sorts of monsters. "This would split open the head of any man I hit with it. before handing a traveling satchel to Severus. Weapons in hand." "Is Albus back?" Severus asked. None of them were damaged but they all have headaches." Sirius could see the flash of distress in Remus' eyes." "We can't wait. glancing across the room at Sirius. "And you will use it on any man who tries to stop us."This does not require much skill. Sirius could not bear to think of what danger Harry might be in right now. They did not see the men who took Harry." Severus decided. She looked them over critically. Sirius tried to give him an encouraging smile. Just swing it and bash anything that moves." Severus informed him. "You know how the Ministry is. Truth was. but he lifted it lightly out of Severus hands." Remus just nodded." Remus told him. Hermione said they were hit with some sort of concussion grenade. It was so easy at times for Sirius to forget the strength the werewolf possessed. as the man did not look heartened. "There's food in there and the most recent map to the Winter Lands I could find. "Are you going to stay here?" . though he glanced at his sister. and Sirius could see now what Remus meant by ruthlessness." she explained. "But it is not humans I'm worried about.

this place will be overrun with Aurors and reporters. holding a Wizarding-lantern against the darkness creeping into the corners. "I'll see you there. and grabbed his own cloak from the couch. Granted if any harm had come to Harry. Hagrid was waiting for them at the doors to Hogwarts." Remus told him. "Would it do any good?" Diana asked. her voice filled with bitterness. I'll watch your classes for you if you are not back before then. Both of them nodded. "Are you going to plead for me to spare his life?" Sirius turned away at that." His eyes narrowed.. "He kidnapped your bond-mate." With that. Remus and Sirius followed him out of the dungeons. naming a small seacoast point in the northern most unplottable county of Britain. but you have never been a merciful one. They walked swiftly out past the apparition wards on the castle. "Be careful you three. "Lock the gates when we leave. "It's the least I can do. "Do you know the apparition point for Hallow Hill in Icefell?" Severus asked them. Severus shrank the pack Minerva had given him." Hagrid nodded. Minerva did not berate Severus for his cruel words. . but still. but he nodded in agreement. There will be a warden on duty at the dock so I suggest you transform first and have Lupin take you. He would never understand the Slytherins." To Sirius' surprise.. That was the sort of question his own father might have asked." she said simply as if not concerned that this man had just threatened to kill his sister's husband. Severus disapparated. "If word gets out that Harry is missing. Sirius would do it himself ." he urged and watched as the three of them disappeared into the night. I have always believed you to be a good man. "Bring him home.She nodded.

and then he was being pulled away. He pulled in his magic and let himself transform. none of them powered by engines. feeling his body shifting and molding into the familiar form of Padfoot. "I saw them. pulling him into his body. but he was not willing to leave the weapon behind. Came in on a port key. "Must have been nearly two hours ago. For a moment he reveled in the warmth of his companion." "How long ago did they leave?" Severus asked. There were small fishing boats moored along the docks. When it was done. The old man scratched his head beneath the thick wool cap he wore. "Large group of Brand's man from the Winter Lands.he was unused to transmuting iron with the spell. It was too dark to see beyond the hills of the inlet to the vast open ocean beyond. ranging in size from small two man crafts to much larger vessels. great hulking beast with thirty oars. Remus crouched down beside him and draped an arm around his shoulders. Crazy though to come across the sea this time of year. by Remus' magic. The transformation was a bit slower than usual due to the sword he was now carrying . They had their own long boat with them. Severus was already speaking with the dock master and Remus and Padfoot made their way over to them. large group of them.Sirius glanced at Remus who just gave him a grim smile." the old man was saying to Severus as they approached. None of them were of Muggle design. But the man shrugged. across the land. Immediately Sirius was buffeted by the ice-cold wind blowing in across the small bay. They reappeared on a wooden dock in the small town of Hallow Hill." "Was there a boy with them?" Remus demanded." . "I didn't notice.

Sixty galleons and not a knut less. Padfoot transformed back into Sirius. Severus was already removing the map from the pack Minerva had given him. grateful for the company. The old man just shook his head. five on either side. glancing up and down at the lot moored to the dock. It sat low in the water. Severus seated himself and pulled his wand from his sleeve." He pointed to a long boat with ten oars in total. but have at it. "It's your funeral. When they were well clear of the docks and out of sight of any curious eyes. using the light from the docks to guide them as they steered away from the shore. but the boat would be far safer than brooms. scratching his claws on the wooden planks as he tried to find his footing. He leaned heavily against his friend's leg. "You remember the navigation spell?" Remus asked. but made a motion to the boat. using a small lumos spell to brighten their work area as he spread the map out on one of the wooden benches. The wind currents above the ocean this time of year would make flying impossible. Sirius knew it would be a rocky journey. sitting down on one of the wooden benches and grabbing hold of Padfoot's fur to steady him. Remus joined him. and the unplottable wards around the Winter Lands made it impossible to apparate to. "That one there. . Sirius awkwardly hopped into the boat."We'll need a boat." Severus informed him." he told them." Severus handed over a pouch of gold without thinking then motioned to Remus and Padfoot to follow him. their boat swallowed up by the darkness of the bay. "I wouldn't want to go out this time of night myself. the oars springing to life. They moved out across the water. But I'll be holding the price of the boat till your return. A quick spell and the boat untied itself. but with high sides and a tall prow and stern for cutting through the high waves of the sea.

a small plaque appeared in the shape of a small boat. Severus seemed to understand what it was the two of them were doing and did not ask for clarification. Sirius couldn't imagine what it must have been like for Harry who was bound to have a headache from the concussion grenade he'd been hit with. Had Severus been familiar with the Marauder's Map he would have recognized the design. but they could all see it was not going to be a pleasant journey. Sirius locked his navigation spell on the spot he indicated. "Bifrost Hall is here.Sirius nodded. . so they would have landed here. Now all they had to do was wait and pray that they reached Harry before anything bad could happen to him. They would have taken the shortest route. Several buffering charms eased the motion some. "I'll guide the boat. He was just grateful that Harry was not prone to motion sickness. but he said nothing as Sirius drew his wand and pointed it at the prow of the boat. they were struck by a bitterly cold wind and the boat began to rock violently in the waves. As they moved out of the relative calmness of the bay. connecting the guidance spell directly to the shape on the map. Sirius finished his own spell. "Where do we want to land. On the map." He pointed to a spot on the shoreline of the Winter Land. you lock the map. Immediately a silvery line appeared on the map connecting the moving placard of the boat to the landing site. He pointed to a spot on the map. The boat automatically turned to that course guiding itself now through the water. Remus pointed his own wand at the map and muttered a long incantation. Once Remus was done with his spell. Severus rolled up the map and the three of them sat in silence. Severus?" Remus asked. motioning to the shape of the Winter Land upon the map." Severus' eyes narrowed. near the drawing of the shoreline. it glowed faintly and began moving slowly across the map page.

While Diana had insisted this kidnapping had nothing to do with Voldemort. using the cover to slide his arm around Remus' waist. Severus seemed as grim-faced and bitter as Sirius had ever seen him. He doubted Harry even knew that such a place existed. his dark eyes scanning the waters around them though Sirius knew he could not see anything. When Remus made no effort to move away. He was ignoring them. And even if she were was more an act of comfort on both their part. settling into his side. Remus smiled faintly at him and to his surprised moved closer to him. Sirius did not want to admit it. but he was frightened. they could not be certain. no gentleness at all. there were other dangers in the world. several feet away from both of them. .He and Remus shared one of the benches in the center of the boat. Sirius thought. But then perhaps he did not see this as a flirtation . The man was sitting near the front of the boat. The glow from the lumos spell that he'd cast on the bench between them was all the light they had to see by. He'd rebuffed most of Sirius' prior flirtations. and Sirius found himself moving closer to his friend for warmth. so this was a welcome change. He found himself staring at Severus as they sailed silently through the waters. He did not deserve someone like Harry and Sirius could not understand why someone like his own gentle Remus could bring himself to trust him. The Winter Lands was no place for an unprotected child. He'd been startled to learn that England possessed unplottable counties. The sky was overcast and they could see neither moon nor stars over head. He probably could not imagine that there were entire countries that the Muggles knew nothing about out there in the world. the ride somewhat smoother there. The wind whipped his black hair around his head and the night cast heavy shadows along the harsh planes of his face. he cast a warming charm over the cloak he had brought with him and slipped it over both their shoulders. There was no beauty in him.

He did not smile. Remus and Dumbledore had both told him. As long as he lived he would not forget the look of desperate hope he had seen in Remus' eyes on Christmas Day when Harry had explained what his gift was. in Harry's mind. Snape?" he asked. warning Dumbledore when he had learned that Pettigrew had betrayed them. he noticed that Snape had a cloak draped across his knees.He's on our side. But even still . Strange. That was odd. "What's the second cloak for. his curiosity getting the better of him. . And the idea that there might soon be a cure for his poor Remus . As he stared. Why would he need two? Though there was something familiar about the one in his hands. one hand clutched almost compulsively in is folds.Harry was his bond-mate. Pride alone would make him do it . did not joke. Snape had been taking his duties as Harry's bond-mate quite seriously. And according to both men he had tried to save James and Lily. and he wondered what that said about his feelings. and Remus was. He had not doubted for one minute that Snape would make the potion for them. Sirius would have to concede from what he'd seen.from what Sirius could see there was no light within him.he tightened his hold around the werewolf.Sirius would grant him that. He was brilliant at potions . And in a way he was duty bound as well . He seemed to take no joy in anything beyond berating and tormenting his students. family. He frowned at the man. did not laugh. Sirius thought. . . time and time again. trying to figure out what made him tick.something no other Potion Master save Salazar Slytherin had ever done. the man was already wearing a cloak. But of course he would not refuse. It hadn't even occurred to him that the man might refuse. Sirius reasoned.

"It's Harry's. He found himself resting his head against Remus' shoulder. But why would Snape seek comfort from a cloak? He wouldn't. but his face remained hard and unreadable. did not was comfort he was seeking and trying to give. My God. Snape might even love Harry. "He forgot to put it on. he thought." Sirius stared hard at the man." he said simply. the realization hitting him like a punch to his gut. But was that why he was holding Remus? He didn't think so . Snape actually cared about Harry. But then Remus always had been quicker with things that he was. His face gave nothing away. seeing his hand clutching tightly to a cloak Harry had forgotten said more than any words Severus might offer. But it did imply something implied that Snape believed Harry was going to need that cloak and that Snape was going to be able to give it to him. Possessiveness. staring at the cloak draped over his knees. he thought. almost the way Sirius himself was holding on to Remus. But still his hand held tightly to that cloak. that Severus Snape cared about his godson. as impossible as it seemed knowing what he did about the Slytherin. What on earth was this world coming to? .Snape's hand tightened on the cloak as if he thought Sirius might take it from him. It struck Sirius suddenly that for whatever reason. He glanced at Remus only to find that the man was also looking at Severus. his heart aching for things he could not explain. his mind reasoned. There was a sad look in the werewolf's eyes and a faint curve to his lips that Sirius knew was a smile of sympathy. It also implied that he was worried that Harry might be cold. but he did not react. In a weird way.

Remus taking up the lead as they followed Harry's trail into the forest. grabbing the prow and pulling himself up to peer inside. "Harry was in this one. noticing immediately several Viking long boats already tied nearby. the waiting getting to all three of them more than anything. He jumped down a moment later." With that the three of them headed off. his eyes gleaming in the predawn light. Still. "The scent is still strong. "Move as silently as you can. Harry had been gone for hours. . Upon reaching the shore. Remus headed straight for one of them. the dark expanse of forest looming before them. Buffering spells kept the boat sailing smoothly." he announced.CHAPTER THIRTY ONE It took hours for them to reach their destination. the night had largely passed. When they finally approached. "I remember reading about a cat-like creature called Grendlings that hunt in packs in these woods. and the eastern sky was already beginning to brighten with dawn. there was no telling what might have happened to him in that time. and shielding spells kept the worst of the wind and the water spray off them. I'd just as soon not lead them right towards us. They grabbed up their gear. They check the map frequently." Snape told the two of them. it wasn't a pleasant journey. Sirius and Severus both strapping their swords to their backs while Remus hefted the iron mace over one shoulder. They could see the treeline ahead. they dragged the boat up onto the rocky bank. watching the tiny image of their boat getting closer and closer to the shoreline.those werewolf senses would take them straight to Harry now that he'd gotten the scent." Sirius grinned .

Knowing the werewolf could hear and smell things they could not. Sirius stared in sickened horror when he realized that the item he was holding was a human hand. black-furred creatures with muscled bodies and long claws. waiting for him to give them some sign of what had caught his attention. Remus however stopped his search suddenly. moving more cautiously through the trees." he informed them. and crouched down to pick something up from the ground. "I can smell blood up ahead. holding up his hand for silence. grabbing Sirius by the arm and pulling him toward Severus. Then he moved quickly back toward them and spoke softly in muffled tones. "And there's something moving in the woods off to the south. They were huge. There was indeed something cat like about them.By Sirius' estimate they had gone perhaps five miles when Remus stopped suddenly. each dreading the discovery that one of the dark bloody lumps upon the ground might be a human body. He sniffed the air. It's still far away but stay quiet so that we don't attract its attention. The ground around them was black with blood and they could see that these animals bore the marks of sword wounds. scanning the ground and avoiding the pools of blood. They had walked for several more minutes in absolute silence when they came across the source of the blood Remus had mentioned. and moved swiftly toward them. All three of them moved carefully forward. Remus hissed suddenly in shock. motioning to Severus to move away from the . It made them all search the bodies more closely. both Sirius and Severus froze. Ahead of them in a small clearing were the bodies of animals. but their hind quarters were oddly shaped as if perhaps they could walk upright as easily as they walked on all fours." Both men nodded and they followed Remus forward. his face looking pale in the growing morning light.

"Are you sure it is us they are hunting?" Snape asked. He leaves a very distinctive vibration behind. he would be far more useful in a fight as a human. Neither men questioned him. There's a faded warding ring around the clearing. listening intently for some sound. They moved swiftly and silently through the slowly brightening woods. "We have to keep moving. Remus leading the way." he told them. But ultimately it meant that there had been Dementors here. And after years of being hunted by the Dementors. Remus moved toward them again. his face grave. he knew what it meant to be prey. But after about a mile further. but they both looked to him for an explanation. "They know we're here. Remus motioned for them to stop and he stood with his head cocked to one side." he whispered as they walked. It meant of course that Harry had been alive and in possession of his wand when this had happened. trusting his judgment. There was no other reason for Harry to have cast a Patronus. "We're being cut off. ." His words caused Sirius heart to begin pounding again." Sirius felt his heart begin thumping hard in his chest. and moving to block our path forward. he'd come to understand the nature of the was made by Harry's Patronus. a cold panic washing over him. They've been traveling parallel to us south of here but they're ahead of us now. Remus' face was deathly pale. But he knew that while Padfoot was certainly able to run faster than he could as a man. it also meant that Harry had been in the center of the conflict that quite obviously had taken human lives.blood. I recognized the feeling . All those years that they roamed the Dark Forest with Moony. Sirius had to restrain himself from transforming into Padfoot so that the dog's more sensitive nose and ears could pick up whatever sounds and smells were disturbing the werewolf. "I crossed over one of the stronger residues.

the ability to completely overwhelm an opponent so that something else could slip past your guard. Beside him he saw Severus and Remus do the same. There is the scent of blood with them so it's probably the remains of the pack that attacked Harry's group. "And I would guess that they're these Grendlings you mentioned. Behind him he could hear Remus and . He flung it with bone breaking force against a tree. The three men all knew to use the most deadly of spells in a fight like this . large furry bodies flung themselves at them. But Remus shook his head." The three of them moved so that they stood with their backs to each other. "They're coming. Their power was in the distraction they provided .Remus nodded grimly." He turned then. the werewolf hefting the huge iron mace as if it weighed nothing. blocking the strike aimed as his stomach before hitting it with another blast of his wand. "I know when we're being hunted. tooth and claws flashing deadly in the morning light. They smell vaguely cat-like. "And can you tell what they are?" "Ten at least. They did not have long to wait.and Sirius let loose with a stunning blast of fire that caught the first creature in the chest. stiffening. In a duel the wand was his greatest weapon so he had been trained to use the sword in his left. Amid the sound of crashing branches. And then the beasts were on them. "Harry's Patronus would have driven them far away. knowing just how deadly they could be in a fight. red eyes burning in the shadows." Remus replied. It will be a day at least before they try to return to the area." "How many?" Sirius asked. lifting it off the ground. I think it's just the Grendlings we have to contend with. Sirius held his wand in his dominant hand and his sword in the other." "And the Dementors?" Sirius asked. He swung his sword at the next.

Harry had already seen such horror in his young life. to be dragged into this was heartbreaking. Something had managed to strike his left leg. Sirius had to admire the man's fortitude. who was making some attempt to shake off the grizzly remains embedded in the spikes of his mace. "Is that all of them?" Severus demanded. None of them were used to this sort of fighting. He too was splattered with blood but none of it appeared to be his. Sirius did not want to think about what it might have been like for them to have had Dementors attack in the middle of such an battle. Sirius was vaguely aware of the spray of blood striking his face his sword struck the throat of one of the creatures. the youngest no ." Remus assured them "Are either of you hurt?" Sirius took a moment to evaluate himself. The screams of the Grendling and the sickening bone-crunching blows of Remus' mace were deafening." Severus confirmed as they took in the dead creatures around them. "Yes. There were nine in total." Snape urged." "I'm fine. "Bit bruised but in one piece. nodded in agreement and took up the lead once more. Remus. He basted one more moving body and then grew still as he realized that nothing else was moving.Snape shouting their own spells and the woods were lit red with blasts of fire and lightning. Turning swiftly he raked his gaze over Remus to assure himself that the man was unhurt. his own sword dripping with blood. Alrik and Asgeir gathered a large group of warriors in the main hall of the Keep. His ability to endure everything life threw at him was one of the reasons Sirius loved him so much. "Let's keep moving. Nothing kept Remus down for long. and Sirius could not help thinking that had there been a few more. they wouldn't have escaped unscathed. but it hadn't cut through the tough dragonskin he was wearing. The eldest was gray-haired and scarred.

The younger warriors were peering over shoulders to catch a glimpse of his infamous scar. Despite what he'd been told about Muggle weaponry. But he held his opinion to himself for once. . there was no sign of Muggle technology in this society. all of the men deferred to him. Certainly they would do more damage than a sword. but also transport it thirty feet to the Well itself. The youngest warriors were forced to stand in the back. and he found himself wondering if perhaps there wasn't some sort of spell on their swords to make them more accurate. and they would take a large number of both swordsmen and archers to deal with them. More than once he heard someone whispering the moniker 'the boy who lived'. They pointed out the location of the Well and the stone to Harry on the large map explaining in detail the lay of the land and what they might encounter. The Grendlings would attack in mass. As far as he could see.more than three or four years older than Harry. Instead they spoke of something called Wizarding Steel. feeling far too out of his depth to speak up. It took Harry a few minutes to realize that the Wyrms they were talking about were in fact some breed of dragon. He was given a spot between Asgeir and Alrik and all of the men were watching him. There was a ranking order among the men that Harry could see based on who stepped forward to study the great map that Asgeir laid on the table. They showed him the most defensible position around the Well as he would apparently be required to not only lift the capstone. deferring to the older more experienced men. he was told. Harry felt awkward and uncomfortable as he realized that despite being the youngest. he couldn't help but think that a few machine guns and grenade launchers might come in handy. There was also the potential that the Black Wyrms might come down out of the mountains and attack.

"I can tell it to attack the Dementors. there was nothing he could do to prevent it. The Patronus is a free-formed but directed spell and the Levitation spell is continuous. Harry glanced at Bjorn and Gudrik." Alrik informed him. determined look on his face. "Or at least drive them back." "Sealing that hole is not going to get rid of the 200 that are already here. "All of us have lost someone to those creatures. There had been at least fifty of them that night during third year when he and Sirius had been attacked. "I'm certain I can hold them all off." Alrik told him. To his surprise neither man looked insulted. And all for so little reward. a grim. If you can seal that infernal hole. "We know the risks. you will no longer be able to direct your Patronus beyond a single final command?" Asgeir guessed. Is there anyone here who can cast the charm?" "Beyond what you saw earlier. Though it seemed inconceivable to Harry he suspected that the Patronus was so far out of their reach that he might as well be asking them to fly to the moon. but he saw another problem. but I have no guarantee that it will go after all of them or simply single one out and chase it down."The moment we approach the Well. "How many can your Patronus hold off?" Harry frowned. " "That means that once you begin moving the stone. and he would have to watch them die. the Dementors are sure to come. no. his stomach knotting with the thought of what these men were going to be facing. but that is not the problem. And for all his magic." he told Alrik." one of the men told Harry. He was going to lead these men into battle. watch them lose their souls to the Dementors. . He suspected his Patronus could hold off as many as necessary. we're willing to take the chance." Harry told them. Harry nodded.

Strategy had always been Ron's strong suit. Harry remaining silent through much of it. When all was said and done. He found himself silently cursing the Ministry for allowing such a thing to happen. he saw no signs of stagnation. And yet at the same time. and had probably done so for centuries. but Harry could not help but think of all the good men and woman who lay dead on the field afterwards. Alrik had no such distraction and offered instead to show Harry around Bifrost Hall. the men headed off to prepare armor and weapons and no doubt to spend a last night with their families. These people lived life much the way their ancestors must have. and he figured these men who had been warriors all their lives knew far better than he did what to do. The weight of their hope was heavy on his shoulders. But still they looked to him for approval. It reminded him too much of the Eye of Odin. They would head out at first light tomorrow. magic infused every aspect of their . With his own family safely in High Hill. and Harry knew many would not be coming back. determined to educate himself more completely on how the rest of the Wizarding World lived. deferring to him as if he were some leader like Asgeir." He understood the practicality of his words. and he could not remember a time he had ever felt so alone. "Worry about the problem we can actually do something about. Harry went with him. but it went against his nature to have to face such a failure and call it a victory. They spent a while longer going over the battle strategies." Asgeir informed him. The Wizarding World counted that a victory. Grateful for the distraction. not his. Despite their lack of magical prowess."We'll deal with that problem afterward. He saw no sign of the Muggle influence in the Bifrost community to the point that even the pair of blue jeans he was wearing was out of place.

And there was no lack of magical items either . relying on those around them for other things. The walls kept the Grendlings from entering. He supposed with the constant threat of Dementors." Alrik called as he rushed into the hall.lives and improved them much the way technology improved the lives of Muggles.a horn blaring from the walls of the Keep. He was listening to a group of warriors discussing the best way to fight off a pack of Grendlings when the alarm sounded . Harry immediately jumped to his feet thinking that perhaps the Dementors were . Eventually Harry made his way back inside the Hall where he soon found himself surrounded by locals who were anxious to speak with him. "Harry. Harry found himself feeling more isolated as it brought home for him just how little he knew about his world. During the brief tour of Bifrost Hall. People had one magical strength. They felt confident that they could deal with the threat of Grendlings. Despite being a part of their rich history. and they had hundreds of question for him that he answered with as much patience as he could. though he did notice that broom travel seemed somewhat restricted. and they stuck to it.all the families and local farmers lived with the fortress walls. and the wards kept the Dementors out. But men stood in risk everyday when they stepped outside the castle walls to attend their farms.everything from magical farming tools to brooms. but they had no defense against the Dementors who were growing more bold as their numbers increased. it just wasn't safe to travel beyond the walls of the fortress. Harry got some idea of how large the castle was . It seemed that magic amongst this community was far more specialize than it was at Hogwarts. well protected from the Dementors and Grendlings. All of them had grown up listening to stories about the Boy Who Lived.

attacking. ." Alrik urged. "Come quickly. "They'll destroy us if you don't stop them. " Harry followed him out the door.

Severus could tell by the tone of his voice. armed men patrolling the walls of the Keep. and though still daylight out." "They started this. I'd rather not risk harming innocents if we can avoid it. merely more curious than anything else. an enormous castle-keep upon a rocky hill which looked out over the farming plains of the Winter Land beyond the forest. "There are women and children inside those walls. and they'll have some of the best weapons around. "Surely we can try negotiation first. indicating that the lord of the castle was in residence. It will be a physical attack if we're forced to fight. "The trick will be to get the wards down as quickly as possible. Once inside the walls." "Do we mean to attack openly then?" Sirius asked. Remus on the other hand hissed in displeasure. felt Sirius and Remus move up on either side of him. "But beyond that there will be very little offensive magic. The three men took note of the armed contingent guarding the walls. Severus. Even dragonskin won't turn back their blades. and he'll be easily dealt with." . we should be able to subdue the warriors with spells readily enough. the gates were barred. "There will be powerful wards on the gate. that he was not necessarily against such a thing. "You just keep those arrows off of us. Alrik will be the only really magical threat." Severus reminded the werewolf." he reasoned. crouched near a fallen tree." Sirius told him." "Remus and I can get the wards down. The Brand flag flew from the top most tower." Severus informed the two men as Remus pointed out several archers that Severus had not noticed hiding in the shadows of the guard towers.CHAPTER THIRTY TWO Bifrost Hall appeared through the trees. He has little skill as a duelist.

No wasted time." Severus insisted. He had no reason to doubt that he remained alive still. wand in the other.Though Severus didn't particularly like the two men. "We don't give them the chance. As they ran. Sword in one hand. he was certain they could pull all the wards from those ancient walls. "We move quickly. . did they hear the horns on the walls of the castle sounding the alarm.he was alive when he cast that Patronus." If he had to. "We only need the wards on one of the gates down." Severus reminded them. he was aware of the fact that they were both capable of casting magic in tandem.what ever it took to retrieve Harry alive. Severus nodded to the two men. voicing a fear they all had. It took them a while to traverse the distance between the edge of the forest and the castle walls. He would use their own weaknesses against them .such a thing would cost them time he did not want to waste. a rare skill. More armed men moved toward the walls. Severus felt the two men beside him calling up their powers even as they raised their wands to begin attacking the wards they could feel pulsing through the earth. archers raising their bows. Given enough time. "Let's move. No sooner had they emerged from the shadows of the forest and began making their way across the snow dusted ground. Years of familiarity not to mention the bond between them that they were only just beginning to acknowledge made them a very formidable team. "What if they hurt Harry?" Remus asked. moving at a swift run across the open ground beyond the forest edge toward the gate of the castle. knowing that as Gryffindors they would likely overlook this fact and go for total overkill . he knew he would take those very women and children Remus had mentioned hostage against Harry's safe return." As one they left their hiding place. stop anyone who gets in our way. He did not want to think about the possibility that Harry may have already been injured .

strangers!" he called down to them. Surprisingly. men on the wall moved immediately to do as commanded. neither man lowered their wands. and he heard the heavy chains of the great wheels and gears that held the door shut beginning to turn. knew also that the two Gryffindors beside him would not attack first when so obviously unprovoked. they heard another voice calling from beyond the wall. Severus glanced at his two companions. and this time Severus was positive that had been Harry shouting. "Open the gates!" Startled. The shielding spells he had cast pulsed around them. But before the two men could throw their first blasting attack at the wall. he knew he could not. his own wand raised in warning. that while he felt both men reining in the blasting power they had been summoning. a man hailed them from the castle. "Return Harry Potter to us or we will pull down your walls!" Severus shouted up to the man on the battlements. He was pleased however to note. And though every instinct in Severus was crying out to simply blast first and ask questions later. a distinction all three of them could understand.protecting the ancient gate. glinting in the pale sunlight. "Harry?" Remus murmured in surprise. But before the man could respond. He had no choice but to answer the hail from the wall. his heightened senses no doubt making that voice even clearer to him than it had been to Severus. "Hail. "May we render some assistance?" It was neither a threat nor a warning. "Let them through!" the voice shouted . He was reminded constantly that Gryffindor did not necessarily mean stupid. Severus threw a shield up as they ran to ward off any arrows that might fly in their direction. Severus found himself somewhat at a loss .

crying out his name as a seemingly unharmed Harry Potter hugged him back. and for one brief blissful moment Severus found himself with an armful of Harry Potter. All he knew was that Harry was alive and whole and for whatever insane reason was momentarily in his arms. stepping swiftly forward to meet the form. Sirius caught him in a bone-crushing hug. no sooner had he finished hugging Remus. And then to Severus' surprise. he knew he would never forget that moment as long as he lived. hugging Remus Lupin as he had his godfather. A moment later. not to mention the crowd of people gathered around the gate watching in curiosity. Harry threw his arms around Severus. bracing himself as the young man launched himself at him. and though the men watching from the walls did not relax their stances.could Harry be issuing orders when it was he who had been kidnapped? What was going on? But only moments later they saw the great gates to the castle swinging open. the heat of his body burning past all his defenses and touching something utterly unknown inside him. his lithe young body pressed intimately against Severus' own. he saw a slender. a dark-haired young man with flashing green eyes who was grinning from ear to ear as if he'd been given the greatest gift imaginable. Sirius broke first. clinging to the young man with a desperation he didn't want to name. Severus found himself flushed and befuddled. the boy had moved on and thrown his arms just as enthusiastically around a grinning werewolf. It wasn't until Harry had drawn back and turned toward the grinning Sirius and Remus that Severus became aware of the group of men moving more sedately through the gate toward them. the bows and arrows were lowered. . A moment later. to Severus shock and utter relief. Though the hug lasted only a moment. familiar figure running through the gate toward them.

Finding his bondmate at the other end of his wand startled Severus greatly. still laughing with his two fellow Gryffindors. Harry frowned and inclined his head toward one of the men who proceeded forward. "Severus. "Lord Brand. glaring at the warriors mistrustfully. and though not one of them raised a weapon against them. Please!" Severus stared at the boy in confusion . "Harry!" he hissed. notice the change in his demeanor and swiftly stepped between Severus and his prey.had the boy no sense at all. stepping in front of him like that! The action though had stopped the advance of the men approaching.Severus immediately recognized Alrik in the crowd and his anger and protective instincts returned full force. "Things are not as they seem. Harry. "This is my bond-mate. Harry did not appear to be a hand upraised toward them as if to warn them against firing off any shot. lord of these lands. stop!" Harry insisted. But that did not change the fact that this man. Severus Snape." .indeed Remus and Sirius were watching the proceedings uncertainly now. No sooner did he identify Alrik than he raised his wand again. Alrik only steps behind him standing off to one side." Harry greeted and for a moment Severus was taken aback by the confidence in the boy's voice. had betrayed his trust and kidnapped his bond-mate. There was enough family resemblance that Severus guessed the older man to be Lord Asgeir Brand. That something unexpected was going on here. his brother-in-law. his face hardening with his displeasure. he had no doubt. he could see the wariness in all their eyes. drawing his wand back in alarm . Indeed Harry raised his face toward the wall where the watching archers were still poised .

Harry's shout cut them all off.Lord Brand inclined his head deferentially to Severus. Remus and Severus merely stared in startled shock. "Sirius Black!" he exclaimed in surprise and a murmur of alarm arose amongst the warriors and the crowd of people beyond the gate. "Lord Snape. dead silence falling over them all. "My godfather! And an innocent man!" he shouted to the crowd. Sirius. Lord Brand had just offered Sirius Black sanctuary in his land. inclining his head graciously to Harry. solely on the word of one boy whom he'd met only hours earlier. Be welcome in my home Lord Black. Though isolated from England. the Winter Lands still would have heard all the stories of the infamous murderer Sirius Black. It was Asgeir who broke the sudden silence." His words startled Severus even more than Harry's had . That something extraordinary had happened here was certain. custom demanding it. his eyes flashing with a fierceness Severus had never seen before. indicating his godfather. and as the Ministry has abandoned us. or that murmuring of shock could rise in fear. "There are none here who would speak against you. . But before any alarm could be raised. Please accept our hospitality. but Harry had already moved ahead. who though still angry had no choice but to return the gesture. and the three of them had in their haste made no effort to disguise the fugitive." Severus wanted to lash out at him about the courtesy afforded a man who kidnapped another.though they would have no bearing on Black's guilt or innocence with the Ministry of Magic. your word shall be as law here. Harry Potter. "And I will challenge anyone who says differently!" His words had a remarkable affect on the crowd. "And this is-" Harry began only to be cut off by Asgeir's startled voice. welcome to Bifrost Hall.

"Harry. "It was he who taught me how to cast the Patronus charm. inclined his head to the man as Harry moved on to Remus. . ." Though Lupin's surname would have been unknown. "And indeed we are in your debt for teaching Harry . Harry took hold of his arm and Sirius's. what on earth. obviously uncertain about what was going on. pulling him toward the castle gates. rendered speechless by the proceedings. Remus and Severus moving in closer to hear what explanation they could over the rising voices of the people around them. Remus falling into step beside them. The Dementors are no match for them!" Though Severus had no idea what on earth Harry was talking about. the crowd of people around them obviously did for there were suddenly cheers of approval and questioning murmurs as Harry's words were repeated through the crowd. "Come inside. merely repeated Sirius' gesture and remained silent." he greeted. Asgeir bowed to him too as if greeting an equal. sir." Sirius began. But Harry was grinning now and he stepped back toward the three of them turning to smile at Asgeir. They were all led into Bifrost Hall and ushered into a meeting hall where Alrik and Asgeir explained to the three of them what troubles they had been dealing with and the failure of their Ministry to aid them. "We'll explain everything. "And this is Remus Lupin." he informed Asgeir." he welcomed. and led them all inside Bifrost Hall as if they had not been moments before ready to tear the castle to the ground. But Asgeir motioned them all back toward the gate. having more reason to fear the Dementors than ." He called out to the men at the gate to usher all the crowd back inside and before Severus knew it he felt Harry tugging on his arm. Sirius Black. "You are also welcome in my home.Sirius. "And now that they're here we can do a hell of a lot more that merely seal up a hole in the ground.that Patronus saved lives this day." Remus.

their dark powers unchecked by any spells. "It was a risk I was willing to take." His words were like a slap in the face." Alrik said simply. He glanced at Harry who was sitting silently beside Sirius Black.certainly he had been prepared to come here and destroy anyone who stood in his way.Remus' hand on his shoulder was restraint enough for he was no match against the werewolf's strength.who did? He was a Death Eater .but when I saw the way people reacted to him that evening in Briarwood I knew no one would ignore us then. Never mind what he had done to aid the Light . "And what of the other risk. shuddered at the description of those creatures roaming the land freely. Nothing was likely to change that. Alrik? Was that one you were willing to take?" . you might simply have drawn the wrath of the Ministry and the Wizarding World down upon you?" Severus bit out .he was still tainted as far as everyone was least in the eyes of the Wizarding World. both men listening to the proceedings. Of course he did not trust him . "Did it not occur to you to come to me?" "I've seen what you are capable of doing." "Ignore you!" Severus had to be physically restrained from rising to throttle the man . "We were desperate. shame in his eyes but no sign of regret.anyone. Severus." Alrik told him. "I did not trust you." "Really?" Severus smiled coldly at the man. "Harry has said the same words to me. "We had tried everything else . for no other reason that being a Slytherin." Alrik admitted much to Severus' surprise. Severus. "Did it not occur to you that instead of aiding you. not so willing to forget the blind terror he had felt on learning that Harry had been taken. "So you thought kidnapping Harry was a solution?" Severus demanded of his brother-in-law.

What would you have done if the Dark Lord had learned that Harry was here in the Winter Lands and unprotected? What would you have done if Voldemort had come for him instead of me?" All those nearby flinched in horror at the Dark Lord's name. Both Alrik and Asgeir had paled considerably. "Severus is right. He didn't mean to leave after all this? "Harry?" Sirius questioned looking just as confused. "We'll leave you to it." They followed him out of the hall without speaking and it did not escape Severus notice how so many eyes in the room followed the . "I'm not talking about me. making an old warding sign against evil." he said quickly and Severus looked at the boy in confusion. his eyes glittering angrily. But Harry only threw the three of them an unreadable glance before turning back toward Asgeir. "No. He motioned to his men to back away." "Do you mean to take him from us then?" Asgeir asked in alarm. but you forget whose enemy he is." he agreed nodding politely to the three of them. The risk you took in bringing him here was far greater than you know." Severus and the other two turned toward Harry for an explanation. and you will have it. "I promised you my help." Sirius told them. If you need anything please ask. "Of course. He frowned at them and glanced toward the door at the end of the great hall." Alrik began but Severus cut him off. But I think I had best explain things to my family on my own. but Harry answered before anyone else could."I knew you would be angry." he suggested. "Let's take a walk in the court yard." Asgeir stood immediately. and seemed utterly at a loss for words. "All you see are the happy little legends the newspapers print about him. "I could use some fresh air.

"Is it true that five percent of the world's population are wizards?" The three men glanced at each other in confusion. I suppose Ron and Neville probably knew . it's probably in a book somewhere. But I didn't know. and stood staring at the great stone." Remus nodded. "Yes. and what about that promise made these people so eager to treat the boy with such deference? They had little enough respect for him when they'd struck him with a concussion grenade and tossed him into a boat.they saw their monarchy now as little more than something to read about in the newspapers. Hagrid said my name was down for Hogwarts since before I was born. There are over half a million Wizarding children in Britain old enough to go to Hogwarts . "I didn't know that there were so many of us. I never really knew what that meant until now. "Remus. Harry frowned. But it didn't change the fact that even Muggle children understood . Harry." Harry just nodded. A glance at the marks on the ground showed it was just past noon. Harry paused before an enormous monolithic sundial. What on earth had happened here he wondered? What had Harry meant by 'promise his help'? What had he promised these people who had kidnapped him." Severus frowned. they walked through the courtyard undisturbed by the inhabitants. And Hermione probably knew. "And is it also true that Hogwarts is the only magic school in Britain?" "Yes. Could Harry truly not have understood the privileged position he held in their society? He knew Muggles did not hold to the old ways much any more . "Give or take a few million here or there." Harry asked suddenly.they grew up in this world after all.but only four hundred attend. startling all three of them. In the pale winter daylight.young man." Remus agreed again. thoughtfully.

" Harry said quietly and this time Severus could definitely see something sad in his face. And though Muggles liked to believe themselves part of some great equality. Severus had to fight the impulse to reach out to him. Harry. He wasn't seeing his position in . they still understood classes and rank. But that's not really true. can they?" "No." Remus agreed softly. will it . "Most wizards can't." Harry sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "But it changes everything for these people." Harry agreed. "You said you had no value as a vassal. "You said you had no vote at Christmas. bringing out some emotional response that Severus suspected was quite different from whatever Ron or Hermione or Neville might feel." He motioned to the men and women working in the castle around them. But it won't. I told them I would help them. He had been Harry's teacher a lot longer than Remus had." And with those words Severus thought at last he understood what was going through Harry's head. They can't cast a Patronus. I thought it could cure all werewolves. is it?" Remus frowned at that. my nature limits my choices. Whatever Harry was dealing with." "Maybe not for the Ministry. it both upset and moved him. "These people are helpless against the Dementors. "You know when I translated Slytherin's book. Magical ability won't change my status in the world.because most werewolves are just like these people here. and yet it was always the werewolf he turned to for information. "I thought I found a cure for Lycanthropy." Harry continued and Severus found himself somewhat bothered by the fact that it was Remus alone Harry was seeking answers from. looking strangely lost and vulnerable. Remus. "Harry. a bright gleam in his eyes that Severus didn't really understand.status and social structure.

I have to help them because I can. but they're not capable of doing what has to do be done.a duty to protect and serve those weaker than him. "Last night they took my wand. not yours." Harry told him.helpless." He looked up at the three of them and there was something hard and painful glittering in his eyes. "Severus is right. powerless. touching his godson's shoulder as Severus had wanted to do himself. and I felt helpless.why. You're a sixteen-year-old boy who has not even finished your schooling yet. unable to do anything. Sirius. Sirius frowned but let Harry continued. "This is the Gryffindor in you talking. No one expects. You're still a child. I stood there and watched. This isn't your responsibility." His words made Severus blanch. while a man's head was ripped from his body. "Harry. I have to help them because they . remembering what had occurred the night before.society as a privilege but as a duty . his heart clenching at the thought of what Harry had gone through ." Harry interrupted." They could all see the gleam of horror in the boy's green eyes as he spoke. " "They took my wand." "Yes. This isn't your job. "Harry. "I have to help these people because they're brave and strong and good." Severus told him firmly. This is the Ministry's job. you're not a warrior. was this boy so tormented? "I stood there and watched as men were torn apart and then got their souls sucked out by Dementors and I imagine that for those few moments I felt exactly like these people feel all the time ." Sirius said gently.. it is. "And then I got my hands on a wand and drove the Dementors back with a spell I learned when I was thirteen. You're not an Auror. you don't owe them anything. . when so many people wanted to protect him.

and perhaps had not been one for a long time. Alrik's warriors can fight off the Grendlings. With three Patronus' you might even be able to herd the Dementors back down into the Well and we can trap them back inside .or at least some of them. but they would fail. but they also understood that they would not sway Harry from his course. They might all three considering themselves Harry's guardians. By all rights he should take Harry back to Hogwarts immediately . but I need you three to keep the Dementors away from them. At this point Severus doubted even Albus could do that. He knew neither Sirius nor Remus would abandon him even if Harry asked them to walk through the Gates of Hell. They could try to force him. And for the first time Harry seemed to understand that himself . Sirius and Remus both looked at him." Severus stared at the young man before him. but he would not go. "Tomorrow we're going into the heart of Grendling country and I'm going to seal up the Well of Despair that the Dementors are coming from.they could order him back to Hogwarts. finding himself completely at a loss for words. and he could tell by the light in their eyes that they too had seen the same thing in Harry. "What is it you want us to do?" Severus asked softly. but he wasn't a child any more.asked. But I can't move the capstone and control the Patronus at the same time. and I'm asking you to help me. and he could see it shining in those haunted green eyes.something subtle but undeniable. He had seen something." . But something had change . discovered something about both himself and the world that they could not change.he should take him back there and forbid him to even think about these people or their trouble. They had twice now referred to him a child. I won't leave until I've done what I've promised. speaking for the other two men as well.

When the words had at last repeated themselves two or three times in his brain he found himself flooded with questions he wasn't certain it would be wise to ask. Even if it's three times the size I should be okay moving it." All three men turned to stare at the monolith and for a moment Severus found his mind going blank as he tried to process the words Harry had just spoken. Severus thought. though only sixteen. but nodded his head. none of them could deny his claim. asked.Through the Gates of Hell indeed. Harry nodded. "I can't say as I'm thrilled with the idea of going up against so many Dementors. "Harry. Harry. "Yes. "They said it was about twice the size of that stone and I moved that one this morning without much difficulty. . "I saw the Grendlings fight last night. of course. But are you really aware of what it is they're asking you to do? Did they explain to you what a capstone is? How big it is?" Harry frowned at this in was as simple as that.the Gryffindor in him used to agreeing blindly to whatever insanity was asked of him." And sadly. "But I'll manage if that's what you need. The boy was speaking of going to war . He pointed toward the large monolith in the center of the sundial. It hadn't occurred to Severus that the former resident of Azkaban might not be able to handle so many Dementors. I've been in enough battles to know what it will be like. The three men exchanged silent looks and it seemed as if Remus and Sirius were wondering the exact same thing as he was. "Harry. do you have any idea how dangerous that will be?" Remus asked him incredulously." Sirius sighed. "Will you help?" It was Sirius who snapped out of his shock first . apparently unaware of their turmoil." He visible shuddered as he spoke and Severus saw the look of concern that immediately flooded Harry's features." he told them.

" he informed the young man. he did not indicate. Harry. and if you're committed to this crazy plan. "Frankly." If Harry noticed how pale Black was when he said these words. . Instead he just smiled gratefully at the three of them and then urged them back inside where the castle inhabitants had hot food waiting. I'm not letting you out of my sight again. then so am I."Of course we'll help you.

warriors who had flooed in from the other fortresses in the Winter Land at a summons from Asgeir . He of course knew the boy was strong . He had no doubt in his mind that Albus could do such a thing. his gaze never leaving Sirius' face though he was careful to school his expression into something less obvious than hero worship. Indeed the werewolf was watching the proceedings with gleaming eyes.CHAPTER THIRTY THREE Several hours later Severus found himself sitting next to Remus Lupin at a long wooden table in the main hall.surrounded by lackeys who hung on his every word. his mind still focused on that stone. The hall was crowded with people .it seemed as if even all those years in Azkaban could not entirely diminish that light that had so enamored Remus Lupin. Frankly Severus found the whole thing annoying . He turned his thoughts to the conversation they'd had with Harry earlier instead. or Flitwick. he was seated next to his godfather. . By his estimate it had to weigh between four and five thousand pounds . listening in fascination to a story Sirius was telling a group of warriors about some exploit of his and James Potter's when they had both been Aurors so many years ago.and they were all feasting heartily before the great battle that was to commence the following day. Severus could still see the bright young man he had been back in Hogwarts . But both those men were masters of Charms. Harry was no master.perhaps even more than that.they all knew that. Though Harry looked exhausted. But this was more than he had expected.even Harry looked captivated by the Marauder and it made something that felt remarkably like jealousy burn inside Severus. And Harry assured them he'd lifted it with little difficulty. Sirius was very much in his element .

then I know he did. "But if he said he did it." Remus continued. glancing over at him with an amused look in his eyes. though not an automobile." Such faith. his amber gaze immediately seeking out the women in question. But he thought of something a bit more cutting to say instead. their eyes gleaming with a ." Severus found himself nodding in understanding . of course." Remus whirled his head back toward his companion as if he'd been slapped. judging by the way those women are eyeing him. "How's your Patronus?" "Adequate. He'd been top of their class at Hogwarts in the subject. rather well-endowed women watching the notorious outlaw." he interrupted the werewolf's romantic musings." Remus shrugged. I once levitated a small Muggle automobile but it couldn't have been even half the weight of that stone and it took everything I had. "Not like Harry's. "Could you lift that stone?" Lupin was better than him at charms . "Well." Severus agreed.he'd lifted a number of heavy objects in his life. "I've never seen him throw one before. Indeed there were a group of young." Remus admitted. "I've been thinking the same thing all evening. I've no doubt Black will have all the happy memories he needs from tonight. but it will get the job done."Lupin. "But I trust him. "Not even on a good day." "I thought the same. then I know he can. Remus laughed softly under his breath." "And what about Black?" Severus questioned. It was such a pathetically Gryffindor thing to say that Severus wanted to mock the man for it.always had been. and I was afraid anything I might say would make him doubt himself tomorrow. and suspected Sirius had stayed silent for the same reason." he admitted." "Neither have I. "I thought about saying something to Harry. If he says he can handle it.

Having a child with the Boy Who Lived or one of his companions would be considered a great blessing among such a group. And while the girls of Hogwarts were rather reserved in their interactions with the boys their own age. So the two of them were not so different. Unlike his companions. but they had no idea what to think . They all knew Harry Potter. And he certainly was not going to discuss his jealousy with a Gryffindor. Remus found himself spending most of the evening enduring the goodnatured teasing of the warriors around him." he remarked somewhat cattily as he nodded his head toward a group of younger girls closer to Harry's age. While Sirius regaled the crowd of warriors with stories. had no such restraint. Severus was very much aware of the fact that these girls. But contrary to Severus' words.the group of girls ranged from perhaps fourteen years of age to at least twenty and all of them were eyeing the young man rather hungrily. Remus.buried. was not as ignorant as the Slytherin remembered. while giving Severus the predictable reaction he had been expecting. and everyone had heard of Sirius Black and Severus Snape. "I'd say Sirius isn't the only one who's caught the eye of the local wildlife. Severus eyes narrowed . didn't mean they had to bond over the subject.certain lustful hunger. who just glared right back. This society tended to live fast and hard and if Harry offered any sort of encouragement they would jump at the chance to share his bed this night. even the younger ones. His emotions were going to stay firmly where they had always been . He also had no doubt that many of their mothers had given the girls fertility potions and urged them to lure one of the visiting men into their beds. Remus was an unknown quantity in this crowd. Severus threw a dark frown at the werewolf. and treated them with the respect due their stations. They acknowledged those three men as superiors. however. Black had not yet appeared to have noticed them.

"We'll get you another weapon." the warrior grinned at Remus. lifted the heavy mace with both hands. Far from being angry or embarrassed the young warrior just grinned and sat down across from him.of Remus Lupin. "The mace suits me just fine. "No thanks. The gist of their joking seemed to be his choice of weapon. propping his arm up on the table.something Remus doubted they would have dared do with Severus or Sirius. The man. a blond. despite the fact that Remus was at least a decade older than him. tossing it briefly in the air as if it weighted no more than a dagger. One brave soul had finally decided to test its weight himself . It opened Remus to a great deal more teasing than the others had to endure." he replied as he laid the mace once again beside him. In the end they seemed to decide that he was little different from the rest of them. He lifted the heavy weapon out of the warrior's grip with only one hand." His words were met with laughter from the others. though worthy of respect by the company he kept. We must arm wrestle!" While Remus just stared at the man in disbelief a dozen other men gathered around them. "You're stronger than you look. Remus just smiled at the man and reached across to take the mace from him. all seeming to think this was a grand idea. grinning at his companions when he confirmed it weighed as much as they had guessed it did . "My sister has a blade that would be about the right size for you. and indeed several other warriors had leaned forward for a better look at him as if not believing he had done such a thing. More than one man had comment on the size of the mace leaning up against the table by his chair.far too much for someone like Remus to wield successfully." The man's eyes had widened in amazement. lad. Of . muscle-bound giant though perhaps no more than twenty-five years of age.

Bemused. were given to metaphorical embellishment. he noticed. The warriors who had not heard the story were hanging on Alrik's every word. seeing that Sirius. But the warrior just grinned harder.he had seen Prongs himself and knew how impressive he could be. Indeed several men came back more than once to try again." And so while Sirius entertained one half of the crowd with wild stories. none of them were deterred. Severus. all wanting to test their strength against him. These men. despite losing one after another with seemingly no effort on Remus' if he too had recognized something in the description. one man after another clapping him on the back as if they were now old friends." he warned the man. Eventually they gave up and brought him food and drink for his effort. he turned his attention to his companions instead. But 'Royal White Stag' was a phrase Remus was certain he had read in a book somewhere. "Prove it. Remus found the whole thing perplexing. It was not the first time Remus had smelled jealousy or lust coming from Severus when he was focused on Harry. The memory however proved difficult to grasp.course he suspected in a society like this. Harry and Severus were now listening to Alrik retell the story of Harry's fight against the Dementors the night before. Surprisingly. It was aptly described . more than one man turning to stare at the now blushing Boy Who Lived when Alrik described Harry's Patronus as the 'Royal White Stag'. arm wrestling likely passed for a form of entertainment. "You'd lose. was listening to the story with a strange gleam in his eyes as well . It might have worried . But perhaps he was just disturbed by the numerous young ladies who were determined to bring more food or drink for Harry the moment he so much touched something on his plate. but he found that description ringing oddly in his ears. Remus had noticed. Remus found himself arm wrestling warrior after warrior.

and Remus could not bear to risk their friendship simply because the wolf wanted his mate. but it was obvious Harry brought out the lighter ones in him as well. Despite the fact that he had exchanged no promises with Sirius. he knew himself well enough to know that there was no one in this world for him but Sirius. and had not encouraged his flirtations.him if he had not seen the way Severus had hugged Harry that afternoon in front of the castle. the man in him did not seem to care either. Trouble was. the wolf in him so possessive of the man despite the fact that he had not taken him as a mate. Severus could be fairly certain that he could chase off all of Harry's young suitors this night. and Remus had returned the barb just as sharply. The wolf did not seem to care. he had quite effectively stolen Remus' soul. Certainly Ron Weasley spared more than a passing thought to the girls he knew . For all Harry's maturity. but Severus words earlier that night had stung. Truthfully. The blue-eyed man had stolen his heart years ago when he he'd first seen him on their sorting day in the Great Hall of Hogwarts.but Harry had seemed too haunted or perhaps too hunted to dwell overly long on such things.and five years later when he and the others revealed they had become Animagus so that they could keep the werewolf company. But the Sirius of his youth had been flighty and fickle when it came to love. Sirius had stolen his heart that day . Severus might be more prone to the darker emotions in life. He had spent his entire life denying the wolf. Against his bidding he found his gaze drifting back to Sirius. . as if he'd been given his very life back in that moment. Oh. he would continue to do so. he did not think long or hard on romance the way other young men might. Time and time again he found himself unable to look away from the Marauder.

"Do you want some company tonight?" All Sirius had to do was smile and the bargain would be set. and though she whispered her words to Sirius. It was all Remus could do not to go over there and shove her away. "I'm sorry. And perhaps it was shameful of him to even begrudge Sirius this thing . She was currently sitting beside the dark-haired man. he felt his proverbial hackles rise and found himself gripping his goblet hard enough to dent the metal. playing up to the crowd that gathered around him." he heard Sirius' gentle voice. but equally unable to shut his ears as he waited for Sirius' answer.But Remus had no such assurances. Remus of all people knew what torment it would be for Sirius to face those Dementors tomorrow. Harry's proclamation of Sirius' innocence had relegated Sirius Black to the status of Robin Hood. A young blond who reminded Remus uncomfortably of one of Sirius' old girlfriends appeared to be the forerunner in the fight. Remus could do nothing at all to stop it. Remus could hear her clearly. The girl made no secret of her intentions." . gazing adoringly at his face.though Severus' words had been meant to sting. Even now Remus' overly sensitive hearing could hear several women bickering over who would bed Sirius this night. When he saw the girl slide her hand onto Sirius' thigh. there had been some truth in them. my lady. How could he begrudge Sirius the memories he might need to get through the battle? He found himself unable to look up. "My heart belongs to an other. Even now he could hear him telling the women sitting beside him about one of his daring escapes from the Dementors out to hunt down the notorious outlaw. Indeed Sirius reveled in the attention he had attracted.

putting it aside before it could reach its intended destination." If anything.Remus looked up in shock. it seemed. and there were certainly plenty to choose from. "With my heart went my ability to separate such things." the girl told him. though several of them sighed at the romantic nature of Sirius' declaration. He had never dated.more than one was eyeing the man hungrily enough. Nor had the women. his gaze taking in the sight before him. The blond however was not deterred and Remus' eyes narrowed as he saw her slender hand sliding higher up Sirius' thigh as if seeking out proof he was not uninterested.the women were beautiful. "It is not your heart I'm after. Sirius grabbed the girl's wandering hand. Remus found his own heart pounding in his chest. more enamored than before. He flashed the girl and those around her a winning smile. but I must decline. or were his word genuine? And perhaps it was the height of arrogance to assume Sirius might be referring to him. Did Sirius know he was watching. Perhaps he merely did not care for any of those on offer and was looking for an easy way to let them down. his words made the girls sigh again. never played the games other men played with casual lovers and flirtations. . noticed his scrutiny. and the one person he would normally go to talk to about such turmoil was the very person causing all of it. Sirius had not. He did not know how to deal with the emotions he was feeling. But a quick glance at the girls left him doubting that last idea . Thank you. For that matter if Sirius preferred other company this night there were men enough to chose from as well . Indeed. and now so was his head. Or perhaps that it was just that Sirius did not feel comfortable leaving Harry unguarded this night though surely he knew Severus would not let Harry out of his sight? Unless it was Severus he did not trust? Remus' heart was still pounding.

didn't it. The wolf had no conflict and sometimes Remus envied its simplicity. growling in anger and telling him he was being foolish." "Gave them an excuse to touch you.And then there was the wolf inside him." Sirius told him. Though Sirius' mouth was still smiling. Severus. "They wouldn't leave me alone. "Remus?" he looked up from his musing to see that Sirius." he insisted. and Remus threw him a glare." For one confusing moment Remus tried to picture the blond woman who had been touching Sirius' leg trying to carry him off. Sirius just shrugged carelessly. though the tension in his body spoke of something less casual. And then it . Several of them came back more than once. obviously ready to retire for the night. "Arm wrestling?" Sirius murmured under his breath. pausing only briefly to glare back at some of the younger women who had been watching his bond-mate. Telling him simply that Sirius was his and he should take him and be done with it. "What?" he asked in confusion. and Remus heard something odd in his voice which caused him to look more closely at his companion. An older woman was waiting to lead them to chambers for the night and as they left the Hall more than one disappointed gaze stared after them. there was a gleam in his eyes that wasn't precisely amusement. "Surely you noticed the attention you were attracting? I thought that blond was going to carry you off. Harry and Severus were all waiting for him. put a proprietary hand on Harry's shoulder and steered him from the room. Quickly he bid his own companions goodnight. grabbed up his mace and went to join them. Remus noticed. Remus found himself falling into step beside Sirius. "Wasn't my idea. noting the smirk of amusement on the man's face.

hit him that Sirius was in fact referring to the young blond warrior who had been playing with his mace. And the odd look in Sirius' eyes suddenly made sense. Sirius Black was jealous! Amazement flooded through Remus' body. It was inconceivable. But judging by the look in Sirius' gaze - a wary and somewhat worried look that Remus had a hard time comprehending - the man was expecting some sort of response from him. Or perhaps hoping for some sort of response that Remus was uncertain how to deliver. "I. . ." he wanted to say something romantic and beautiful like the thing Sirius had said to that girl, something that might make Sirius' heart pound for an entirely different reason. But for once words utterly failed him and he was left with only the simple truth. "I hadn't noticed," he admitted, disappointed in himself that he could not find something more assuring to say. And miraculous, the truth seemed to be exactly what Sirius wanted, for he flashed Remus a blinding smile. "Yeah," he grinned. "I kind of figured." And when he slipped his arm around Remus' waist and pulled him into his side, Remus did nothing to stop him.

CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR The woman led them upstairs to a long hallway only sparsely lit with torches. "We're crowded tonight, my lords," she informed them as she paused at a heavy wooden door and pushed it opened. They all took that to mean they'd be sharing a room that night - not that Remus minded. None of them wanted Harry out of their sight. Remus thanked the woman and then followed the others into the room. Severus immediately closed and locked the door, sealing it up tight with several warding spells. There was little chance of anyone getting past the Slytherin's wards. One glance around the room confirmed that they had been given one of the old family quarters common several centuries back. With so many creatures threatening life and soul in this land, space behind the secured walls of the Keep was at a premium. It would not be uncommon for entire families to share a small living space like this though these quarters were generous enough. Someone had taken care to lay a heavy rug on the stone slabs of the floor - something Remus suspected had been done just for them. And though there were only two beds in the room, the bed-curtains and linens looked fresh and clean. A fire had been lit in the large fireplace off to one side and Sirius was currently inspected the flames, no doubt confirming that it was secure from floo. While Severus moved to check the beds themselves and the walls behind them, Remus investigated the small bathroom off to one side, making certain there were no hidden surprises. The three of them, Sirius, Severus and Remus, worked surprisingly well together - each of them just paranoid enough to trust the other to secure the room. Harry merely stood in the center of the room watching them in bemusement, before he finally just sighed and moved toward the fire. When Remus emerged from the bathroom he

saw the young man sink down onto the carpet in front of the flames and stare into it lost in thought. They took turns in the bathroom, preparing for the night, Sirius finally urging Harry to change into the pajamas he'd transfigured for him and take his turn washing up. Once he had disappeared into the bathroom the three men found themselves staring at each other uncertainly. "He's been very quite this evening," Remus remarked when it became clear to him that the other two men were not going to speak what was on their minds. No doubt they were both worried about Harry's state of mind - they were also likely brooding over the fact that there were only two beds. "He's been through a lot," Sirius conceded. They'd heard the full story now of the fight the night before. "Eight more deaths," Severus murmured. Neither Remus nor Sirius commented on that, both knowing that Harry already blamed himself for too much as it was. "I don't like this plan," Sirius sighed then. "Taking Harry out into . . that. . ." He waved his hand vaguely and they both understood he meant the coming battle. "He's not going to be dissuaded," Remus replied, remembering the look in Harry's eyes that afternoon when he'd asked for their help. The nod from both Sirius and Severus confirmed that they too had recognized the same thing. Something had fundamental changed in Harry's perception of the world, though Remus was not yet certain what that might mean for all their futures. They heard the bathroom door open and looked up to see Harry reenter the room, dressed now in the pajamas Sirius had made for him. Barefoot and slender, he looked remarkably young, though his eyes,

no longer hidden behind glasses thanks to Severus' potion, were not a child's eyes. Sirius wasted no time in grinning brightly at him. "You okay there, Harry?" he asked. The young man nodded, his face thoughtful. He took a cautious step forward as if deliberating something. The three of them waited in silence, seeing that he obviously had something on his mind. "I wanted to thank you," he said then, sounding terribly young as if all his newfound confidence had left him. "For what, Harry?" Sirius asked bemused, moving swiftly to Harry's side and taking hold of one of his hands. Harry smiled gratefully at him and Remus could see his hand tightening in Sirius' grip. He was reminded suddenly of how little affection this young man had received growing up - such gestures probably meant more to him than they truly understood and Remus was grateful that Sirius was capable of such things. Both he and Severus were far too reserved, but Sirius more than made up for it. "For coming after me," Harry explained. "For saving me." Sirius grinned at that. "You didn't seem to need a whole lot of saving, Harry." "Not today," Harry said simply. "Tomorrow." The smile faded from Sirius' face and he slipped an arm around Harry's shoulders, the confusion all three of them felt clear in his eyes. "I can't control a Patronus and levitate that stone at the same time," Harry explained. "And because of that those men out there were going to call a massacre a victory. I'm not sure I could go through that again."

Remus found himself swallowing painfully around the lump in his throat, understanding now that Harry was talking about not just the battle tomorrow, but of the night he'd taken the Eye of Odin from Voldemort's hands. He had saved Hogwarts that day - had likely saved the Wizarding World that day. But that single act had killed not only Death Eaters but Aurors alike. The Wizarding World had counted it a great victory - but all Harry had been able to think about were the men and women who had died. Before the three of them had arrived today Harry had already made the decision to seal up the Well of Despair. He had done it knowing that it meant men were going to fall in battle to the Dementors - they had no defense against them and Harry would be too occupied with the stone to save them. Sirius hugged Harry tightly to him. "You're not alone, Harry," he assured him. "Put those thoughts behind you. We're going to win tomorrow. It's going to be alright." Those weren't really promises anyone could make in good faith - but Remus, and apparently Severus too for he said nothing against them, understood that Harry needed to hear them nonetheless. Harry looked into his Godfather's eyes, searching his face for something more. "Will you be alright against the Dementors, Sirius?" he asked, voicing the question Remus had been pondering himself all night. No one liked Dementors, but for a former prisoner of Azkaban they held an added terror. Sirius just smiled gently at the young man. "You don't honestly think I'd let you down, do you?" he teased, and Remus' heart lurched as he realized that Sirius' answer was really more of an evasion. Severus, who'd sat down on the bed on the far side of the room, shifted somewhat nervously as if he too realized that Sirius' answer wasn't what it should have been.

Remus was uncertain if Harry realized it as well, for he smiled at the response. But his next words suggest he understood more than he let on. "Do you know what memory I use for my Patronus?" he asked with an almost shy grin. Sirius shook his head, his handsome face clearly showing his curiosity. Remus had wondered himself about that - he'd only ever told Harry to make certain it was a strong emotion, a powerful one. He had never asked Harry to explain it in detail. "That first night I met you," Harry said simply. "When you told me you were my godfather and asked me to come live with you." Across the room Remus saw Severus turned his face away at that, his jaw tightening with some emotion, and Remus found himself looking down at his feet unable to stare at the emotion in both Harry's and Sirius' faces. He felt so conflicted - happy that Harry had such a memory, that he could share such a thing with Sirius who he knew would cling to that admission with joy, and guilty that this boy had possessed so little love in his life that he could produce a Patronus unlike any he'd ever seen before simply because a man he'd known less than an hour had offered him a place to stay. But it seemed to be exactly what Sirius needed to hear for Remus could hear the pleasure in his voice when he said, "That is what produces Prongs –- the Royal White Stag?" Again that turn of phrase and Remus frowned thinking that perhaps it had resonated with Sirius as well. He glanced up to see the two of them smiling at each other, laughter in their eyes. "You going to tell me what your Patronus is?" Harry asked him. But Sirius just smirked at him. "Think about it long enough, and I think you'll figure it out." And that - finally - was confirmation that Sirius could throw the spell. He might not have said it out right, but if he was capable of teasing Harry about what form it might take, it meant he himself knew he possessed a Patronus and that it took

corporal form. Remus felt something easing inside himself at the admission. If Harry did figure it out, he gave no indication, he just grinned and hugged Sirius impulsively. "Good night, Sirius," he smiled, then glanced toward Remus. "Good night, Remus." Then he moved swiftly across the room and climbed into the bed Severus was sitting upon, seemingly deciding right then and there for the four of them what their sleeping arrangements would consist of for the night. That he had no trouble at all climbing into the bed Severus had apparently claimed for his own was not really surprising since he shared a bed with the man back in Hogwarts. Sirius, surprisingly just sighed and shrugged at Severus before turning toward the other bed. Remus took that his own cue to climb in to sleep. They left the fire and the candles lit - none of them wanting the total darkness in a strange environment. And the room was cold enough as it was. Remus drew the curtains around the bed once Sirius had joined him and threw both a warming charm and a sound muffling charm on them while Sirius began yanking off his boots. He didn't want to use a full silencing charm since it would block out sounds from the room as well and he wanted to be able to hear if someone entered. He began removing his own boots, doing his best to ignore the man beside him. Neither they nor Severus had changed into sleeping clothes like Harry had, knowing that it was possible they could be awakened at a moment's notice to fight or defend themselves from an attack. But they had stripped out of their outer leathers. Boots off, Remus stripped down to the linen undershirt he wore, too self-conscious of the scars on his body to remove anything more. He and Sirius had shared a bed before on missions, but he could not help but feel that things were subtly changing between them. And

despite his best efforts not to look he found his eyes drawn to the bare expanse of skin as Sirius stripped off his own shirt unselfconsciously, tossing it to the foot of the bed. Sirius was all lean muscle and sinew and Remus had dreamed many times of mapping each plane with his hands. He eyed briefly the heir tattoo on Sirius' shoulder blade, the mark of the firstborn of a pureblood house. Toujours Pur, it said beneath the family crest, mocking the werewolf. Despite his best effort, Sirius caught him staring and frowned in concern. "Do you want me to transform?" he asked softly, keeping his voice low so that the others wouldn't hear. It took Remus a moment to understand what he was offering - he had transformed into Padfoot in the past so that Remus might feel more comfortable sharing a bed with him. But for some reason tonight he did not want that at all. He shook his head swiftly before nervously yanking down the bed sheets and climbing between them. Sirius just grinned and slipped in beside him. "You really didn't know that blond was hitting on you?" he asked then. Remus rolled on to his back and stared up at him; Sirius was propped up on one elbow gazing curiously at him. "It's not a common occurrence," Remus informed him. "I hit on you all the time, Moony," Sirius reminded him, and Remus had to concede that was true. Even back in school Sirius had flirted with him - though it had largely been a joke to make them all laugh. "You don't mean it," Remus pointed out. For a long moment Sirius said nothing, and then to Remus' shock he felt Sirius' hand on his face, his fingers gently turning him toward him. The look in his eyes was for once neither teasing nor frivolous, his eyes gleaming with something that quite took Remus' breath away. When Sirius Black focused all his attention on you it was

rather like standing in the center of the sun. "Yes, Moony, I do mean it. And you have to understand that I'm not going to give up." "Sirius," Remus whispered desperately because he so dearly wished to believe his words, and he knew just as certainly that his belief didn't really matter. If Sirius truly wished to push the issue, there was nothing in the world Remus could deny him even if it were to tear him apart afterwards. And then Sirius' mouth was on his own, tasting him, drinking in the soft moan that escaped his lips. And it was so good, so sweet, all the joy and pleasure he'd spent his entire life denying himself, coalesced down to a single perfect sensation. He knew then that it didn't matter what he believed, what he hoped, what he might dream or fear, he utterly and completely belonged to Sirius Black and always had. Sirius ended the kiss before it could go much farther, and Remus found himself staring helplessly up at the man in the dim light of their curtained bed. His heart was pounding and he felt utterly out of control. Sirius it seemed was searching for something in his face, his intent gaze relentless as he probed his eyes. What ever he saw made him smile gently, though for the life of him Remus could not interpret the look. "You'll see, Moony," he whispered softly as he settled down beside him. "You'll see." Remus was shaking now, trembling with raw emotion he didn't know how to handle. It wasn't the wolf this time, but the man who was completely out of his depth. It shamed him, feeling like this, so desperate and frightened and needy, like a teenage girl receiving her first kiss. But it was his first kiss - still it seemed like a grown man should be able to handle such things with more finesse, more control. And then Sirius pulled him into his arms, spooning up against him so that he felt the long, reassuring line of his body pressed firmly against his own - and gods was it supposed to feel that good, that

arousing? He was going to fly apart if his heart did not stop pounding. Sirius splayed a hand against his chest, holding him still, holding him safe, and the warm tickle of his breath touched Remus' ear as he whispered softly to him, making him shiver. "It's alright, Moony," he soothed. "I promise. Everything is all right. Just sleep, stop thinking and sleep." Remus didn't truly understand what it was he was saying, but it didn't ultimately matter. Stop thinking - he could do that if Sirius wanted him to. For once, he could let go and just trust that Sirius would catch him. He was in Sirius Black's arms, lying against his bare chest, and had there ever been a time in his life when he had not dreamed of such a thing? He did as Sirius asked and stopped thinking, settling down to listen to the man's heart beating against his own, strong and reassuring. And as sleep overcame him he realized that for once even the wolf was utterly content. Severus climbed into bed beside Harry, pausing briefly to strip off his boots and his outerwear. Not wanting to make Harry uncomfortable he left on his pants and the thick undershirt before sliding under the covers. As he settled his sword against the headboard in easy reach of his hand, and his wand beneath his pillow he was startled to notice that the boy was watching him closely. This bed was a lot smaller than the one they shared at Hogwarts, and there wasn't any of the comfortable distance between them. Already he could feel Harry's body heat seeping into him. "Are you angry?" Harry asked softly then, surprising him. "Of course I'm angry," Severus replied immediately, though he paused first to cast a sound muffling charm on the curtains. "I'm so furious I could kill him!" His words seemed to startle the young man and he shifted uncomfortably. "I meant with me, not Alrik," Harry corrected.

"You?" Severus stared down at him in surprise, noticing that there was genuine concern in those bright green eyes. "You think I would be angry with you for getting kidnapped? How could that possibly be your fault?" But again he had misread the question for Harry shook his head. "I meant because I said I'd help them tomorrow. With the stone and the Dementors." Severus sighed. He was angry, though not specifically at Harry. He was also terrified. And proud. "You're a Gryffindor, Harry. I can hardly fault you for acting true to your nature." At the confused look the young man gave him, he just shook his head. "No, Harry, I'm not mad at you. I've quite resigned myself to the fact that I'm married to a Gryffindor." Harry smiled wryly at that. "Sorry," he said, soundly only vaguely apologetic. "I'm glad you're here," he added. Severus smiled faintly at that. "Where else would I be? You know the Winter Lands is the birthplace of Godric Gryffindor. You and your two Dog-fathers are surrounded by fellow Gryffindors - you need at least one Slytherin to keep you from doing anything crazy." For once Harry didn't protest the intended insult to Black or Lupin, or the disparagement against all Gryffindors. Rather he just smiled and settled down into his pillow, looking as if Severus' insult had set all things right with his world. "I'm glad you're here," he said again, and perhaps he truly was. He certainly didn't protest or scoot away when Severus settled down beside him, body nearly touching his beneath the heavy blankets. Rather he just settled into the warmth and closed his eyes, his breath evening out into sleep. Severus lay awake a long while, listening to Harry breathe beside him, grateful that he was all right, worried about what tomorrow might bring. He didn't think too long or too hard on the thoughts of

jealousy that had plagued him earlier or on the fact that the heat from the young man's body was sorely tempting him to rollover and touch. Instead he focused on the idea that no matter what, come what may tomorrow, he would make certain that Harry survived the conflict. As soon as humanly possible Harry would be back safe behind the walls of Hogwarts, and he would not let him out of his sight again. He slept eventually, only to be awakened a few hours later by the sounds of distress coming from Harry. As he shook off the fog of sleep, he realized instantly that Harry had not taken any potion against his nightmares, and for the first time in a few months had new images to lend them power. Understand how those images might affect the boy, Severus didn't even hesitate to rollover and pull Harry into his arms. Sometime during the night the boy had rolled over on his side, his back to Severus; Severus spooned up behind him, shaking him lightly to wake him from the dreams. "It's alright, Harry," he whispered directly into the boy's ear. He slid his palm against Harry's chest, feeling his pounding heart beating against his breastbone. "You're safe, it's all right." The boy was shaking, trembling in reaction. Severus shook him again, trying to jostle him awake. Suddenly a hand closed over his wrist and Harry's entire body went utterly stiff in his arms, letting Severus know that he was indeed awake. Severus held his breath, not certain now what to do - would the boy wrench himself away, ripping his hands from his body, yell at him for daring to touch him? "Severus?" he heard a soft whisper, and he frowned hearing so much fear and trepidation in that voice. Harry's hand tightened around his wrist. "It's just a nightmare, Harry," Severus said softly, his own heart pounding as he waited for the inevitable reaction.

And then to his amazement, Harry sighed, his entire body going limp as if in relief, his grip relaxing around Severus wrist. Far from releasing him though, Harry merely scooted back, settling more completely into Severus' embrace, and then seem to fall back to sleep. The transition was so quick that Severus was no longer even certain if the boy had woken completely or not. Regardless, Severus now had a bit of a dilemma. The boy was clutching his hand now, practically curled up around it, making it quite impossible for Severus to move away. He had in his haste to wake the boy pressed himself against the length of his backside and the firm heat was doing things to his body that became harder and harder to ignore. He had never been a particularly promiscuous man, but he'd been sharing a bed with a tempting young man for months now without once touching him or anyone else and the effort to keep his distance, to keep his hands to himself, was quickly becoming bothersome. Resigning himself to a rather uncomfortable night, Severus just sighed and consoled himself with the fact that Sirius Black was probably suffering equally.

CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE Severus made a point of being up and dressed before the others rose, not wanting to answer any awkward questions such as why he was wrapped bodily around Harry. Once dressed he settled a kettle of water to boil over the fire, the sound waking the others as they all got up to prepare for the day. It was still early, no light shining through the thin slit of a window as the winter sky would not lighten for several hours yet. But Severus had no doubt that the other occupants of the castle were already up and about, preparing for battle. He fixed tea for all of them as the others dressed, and when Harry came to claim his cup, he noticed the distant look in the boy's eyes. "You alright, Harry?" he asked, wondering what the boy was thinking. His question caught both Lupin's and Black's attention though they didn't say anything. Harry frowned but nodded. "I'm fine," he assured them all. "I just had a strange dream." Remembering the nightmare, Severus couldn't help the fear that settled in his heart. Harry was known for his 'dreams' about Voldemort. If the dark lord had caught wind of what was going on here today, then there was no way Severus was going to allow Harry to go out into that battle. It would be far too dangerous. "About the battle today?" he demanded of the young man. "About Voldemort?" "No," Harry shook his head quickly, sounding certain about that. "It wasn't a vision, just a dream. And it had nothing to do with today there were no Dementors or Grendlings. It was just strange. You know how images sometimes get into your head and you can't shake them?" He shrugged as if dismissing it, but Severus wasn't so keen to let the subject drop.

"What was it about?" Harry's eyes took on that distant look again as he once more got pulled into his images. "I was in a necropolis," he explained. Alarmed, Severus remembered clearly the story of Voldemort's resurrection during the final trial of the Tri Wizard Tournament. "A graveyard?" But again Harry shook his head. "No, a necropolis - a city filled with the dead, and there was this giant glowing spider web on the ground. But that wasn't really the strange part - it was the birds." "Birds?" Severus glanced over at Lupin who looked equally perplexed by Harry's bizarre recollection. It wasn't like the past visions he had recounted to them. Those at least had recognizable forms and features to them, and made some sort of coherent sense. This sounded more like random images. Harry nodded. "Two of them," he explained. "Ravens, I think. One perched on either of my shoulders. They were whispering to me, though I can't remember what they said." Severus felt the blood draining from his face at the boy's words, and he didn't trust himself to speak. He could tell by the look Lupin threw him that he too understood the strange imagery. "Are you certain they were ravens, Harry?" Lupin asked, and if Harry noticed the strain in the werewolf's voice, he didn't comment. "Pretty certain," Harry nodded. "Could have been crows I suppose rather hard to tell the difference." He laughed suddenly and looked over at Sirius who had been watching the proceedings silently. Black obviously did not catch the raven reference, but understood that something was going on between Remus and Severus. "Imagine me dreaming about Ravenclaw's symbols," Harry grinned at his godfather. "I mean lions and snakes I could understand."

"Next you'll be dreaming about badgers," Sirius agreed with a smile. "And then I'm afraid we'll have to revoke your Gryffindor badge for that. " The two of them laughed, then Sirius glanced rather pointedly at all of them. "We should go. They'll be waiting for us downstairs." Nodding, they gathered their gear and headed down, Sirius and Harry going ahead which gave Remus and Severus a moment to talk. "Two ravens," Remus hissed to Severus, looking quite as upset as Severus himself felt. "Those are Odin's familiars, two ravens, Thought and Memory. Albus said the Eye of Odin had been destroyed." "It was," Severus insisted, knowing full well what the two ravens represented. The god Odin was said to have two ravens named Thought and Memory who sat on either of his shoulders and whispered the secrets of the world into his ears. "The battle field was searched; there was no sign of it. And Harry was in the hospital for three weeks afterwards - someone would have noticed if he still had it." "Still he touched it," Remus told him. "And we have no idea what powers it had, or what it might have done to him." "The boy has spent the last two days surrounded by Viking images," Severus shook his head. "It's far more likely his subconscious is just dredging up images from old stories he's heard." "This is Harry we're talking about," Remus reminded him. "The likely answer is never the right one." Harry sat on one the long benches in the Hall next to Sirius while around him chaos reigned. Warriors from all over the Winter Lands were gearing up for battle, arming themselves with swords and axes, strapping on armor and shields. All of them were also carrying brooms - strange brooms unlike the ones he was familiar with. These were large, heavy poles with long bundles of reeds and straw at the

end. He imagined they would be somewhat slow and unmaneuverable. Severus had disappeared a few moments ago, heading off to talk to Alrik after giving Sirius and Remus orders to stay next to Harry. Both men had just glared at the Potions Master for ordering them to do what they already intended. Remus, who stood next to the bench, noticed Harry eyeing the brooms curiously. "They're troop brooms, not Quidditch brooms," the werewolf explained. "They're not meant for speed. They're meant for transportation, nothing more." He pointed across the hall to a group of young men all wearing bows slung across their backs. Unlike the other men in the group these were smaller in size, less muscled - in fact Harry saw several women in their ranks. Each of them was also carrying a broom with a far more sleek design like the Quidditch brooms he was used to. "Those are the ones who will be used for aerial attacks. Their brooms are a lot more maneuverable," Remus continued. "Why didn't Alrik use brooms when he brought me here?" Harry asked, wondering what was the point in risking lives on the ground when everyone obviously had brooms. "You can't fly across the North Sea," Remus informed him. "The winds are too strong. And Alrik informed me that this is the first time in decades that anyone felt comfortable using a broom outside the shadow of their Keeps. The Dementors can fly. They're counting on us to keep the Dementors away from them." Harry shuddered at the memory his words engendered - if it hadn't been for Dumbledore's magic he would have died in third year when he fell from his broom during the Dementor attack at the Quidditch match. He supposed under those circumstances he could understand why they might fear using brooms.

The sound of barking dogs caught all their attention and they turned toward the open doors of the great hall. Several armed warriors entered surrounded by large dogs - they could hear more outside in the courtyard, barking in excitement. The dogs, enormous beasts bred to fight the Grendlings, were heavily muscled and covered with thick dark coats of fur that reminded Harry a bit of Padfoot. "The dogs of war," Sirius exclaimed, sounding impressed. "I'd heard about them, but this is the first time I've seen them." "Dogs of war?" Harry really wished he knew more about his world. "They're bred to fight," Sirius explained. "In fact Padfoot is a similar breed. Some say they are the source of the legend of the Grim. Supposedly a pack of them can take down certain dragons." He pointed toward one of the warriors who was fitting thick harnesses around the dogs' heavy bodies. "They're trained to the harness so that they can be air-lifted by broom and dropped into the middle of a battle." One or two dogs wandered too close to their table, teeth bared at anyone they neared. But Remus merely glared at them and they backed away as if sensing the wolf within the man. Sirius, Harry could see, was trying hard not to laugh. Harry found his mind wandering, first to the strange dream he'd had, then to the things that had happened yesterday, then to fears about what was to come. His thoughts jumped chaotically about in his head, until surprisingly he found himself focusing on something that made him flush with confusing warmth. He'd awakened last night several times - once to find himself wrapped tightly in Severus' arms. Beyond a few hugs, he'd never been that physically close to another human being in his life - certainly not in contact that lasted more than a second or two. But Severus had been holding him quite tightly, and Harry had felt the heat of the man's body plastered along his entire backside. And the man's face had been buried against his

neck, his warm breath sending shivers over his skin. And when the man had shifted in his sleep Harry had felt his lips touching the skin just below his ear. He'd been aware too of an unmistakable hardness pressing against him, the sensation making him at once nervous and oddly excited all at the same time. In his sleep, Severus' hand had slipped down over his stomach and then lightly caressed Harry's hip, the touch hot and firm, and Harry had waited in breathless silence for the panic to set in. But it hadn't been anything like the time Julius had tried to touch him - for one thing Severus' hand had settled on his hip rather than straying to other places. And for another. . . . Harry found himself flushing with the memory. It had felt. . . .good. Not that he'd ever admit that out loud of course! But beyond feeling safe in Severus' arms, Harry had also felt the stirrings of something inside him that reminded him of his brief crush on Cho Chang, and he wasn't certain what to do with such emotions. Severus returned a moment later, carrying with him a small bundle, which he set down on the table. "Gifts from Winter Land Lords," he informed them as he opened the leather bundle and pulled out a shining metal bracer. He took hold of Harry's right arm and began strapping the bracer around his forearm. Sirius took up the other bracer and started strapping it to Harry's left forearm. Startled, one arm held by either man, Harry could only watch as they bound the armor to him. "Some of the best armor in the world comes from the Winter Lands," Severus informed him. "This metal is feather light, and will turn most blades or arrows. It will also deflect many minor hexes." He shot a glance at Sirius, and then motioned Harry to stand up. Harry had swapped the jacket he'd been wearing with the heavy cloak Severus had brought for him, but now Severus urged him to remove the cloak entirely. Beneath he had only a long-sleeved cotton

shirt and he shivered in the chill morning air. While Severus helped him pull on a padded undertunic, Sirius dropped to one knee in front of Harry and began strapping metal shin guards to his legs, tightening the straps around his boots. Motioning Harry to lift his arms, Severus dropped a coat of scale mail over his head, letting it fall over his shoulders with a musical sound as the tiny links of metal whispered against each other. Though braced for the heavy weight, Harry was surprised when he felt almost nothing, the armor indeed feather-light. This too was strapped to his body and belted around his waist with a leather belt designed to carry a sword sheath though there were none in evidence. Bemused, Harry couldn't help but think that these two men, Severus and Sirius, worked rather well together - cladding him in a full suit of armor in record time. Lastly Severus placed his cloak around his shoulders once more, fastening it in place before stepping back to look critically at him. Harry found himself flushing under the stares of all three men. "You look like a young princeling," Sirius grinned at him, clapping him tightly on the shoulder. Harry felt his face heating up even more, and against his bidding he sought out Severus' gaze for confirmation of such a bold statement. One dark eyebrow lifted in amusement. "Indeed, most attractive," Severus dead-panned, voice dripping with sarcasm. But nonetheless Harry saw approval in his eyes, and he couldn't help but remember the heat that had pressed against him last night. "The point of the armor is to keep your skin intact, not indulge your vanity" Severus informed him. "When we get out there, you are to stay beside the three of us at all times. We will have to land in order for you to move the stone - you cannot lift something that heavy without being firmly planted on the ground. When we land we'll be

vulnerable to the Grendlings. Our job is to deal with the Dementors first and the Grendlings second. There will be a group of warriors surrounding us who will keep the Grendlings off of us. Your job Harry is to move that stone as quickly as possible back over the Well. If we can, we'll force the Dementors back down the Well, but the most important thing is to get that Well closed. Let us handle everything else. Understand?" Harry nodded, hearing what Severus was not saying - that under no circumstances was he to stray from their side and risk his life. They spoke briefly then about various battle tactics and ways to use their Patronuses together to herd the Dementors. But all too soon a horn was sounded and the gathering warriors began moving out of the hall. Alrik approached the four of them, carrying with him brooms for each of them, which he distributed quickly. He nodded approvingly at the armor Harry was wearing and then explained where they would be in the troop formation. It was a cold, windy morning, the sky just beginning to brighten as they moved outside, women and children crowding into the courtyard beside the warriors to wish them luck. Before too long Harry found himself mounted on the cumbersome broom, rising into the air alongside the others. Sirius moved to his left side, Severus to his right. Remus took up position before them. Alrik, Asgeir and a large troop of warriors spread out behind them. In the air they were all safe from Grendling attack - the Dementors the only threat. When they landed beside the Well, those warriors would move to surround the four of them, taking on the Grendlings while they directed their Patronuses. Harry knew that despite everything men would die - he could only pray he'd be able to do the task assigned to him. The mounted troop moved out, fly across the Winter Lands and moving deeper over the snow-filled woods where Alrik claimed the Grendlings lived. There were mountains looming over them, caped

with blinding white snow, though a mist was begin to gather at the peaks, threatening to blow down into the valley. But at the moment the air was crisp and clear, the weak winter sun shining brightly overhead. They had about an hour's flight ahead of them, and Harry cast several warming charms on himself to keep his hands from freezing as they gripped his broom handle. This broom was hardly as comfortable as a Quidditch broom which had top-notch cushioning charms on them, but Harry supposed a sore back end was the least of his problems at the moment. For the most part they flew unchallenged, though far below in the trees of the forest they could see dark shapes loping after their moving shadows. The Grendlings were aware of their flight and were tracking them through the woods, no doubt noticing that the men were heading in the direction of their mating grounds. All too soon the cold icy touch of despair washed over them, chilling them all despite the warming charms as dark shadows began following them through the air. The Dementors were moving to surround them, many looming above for an aerial attack. Remus and Sirius both fanned out to the sides, moving toward the edge of the formation while Severus and Harry took up positions near the front. They would not cast the Patronus charm until they absolutely had to - the hope was they could gather as many of the Dementors as possible in one place and then force them back down into the Well. They could not risk driving them off too quickly. Still it was a horrifying experience to fly with them so near, knowing that at any moment one of them might swoop in and overwhelm the troop with their dark sensations. As it was they kept their distance, as if uncertain what to make of so large a gathering of men. Dementors had only an average intelligence and were unlikely to reason out too soon what they were planning.

the ground giving way to rocky outcrops and sparse trees.Harry's cue to veer away from Severus who still flew at his side. indicating that the Well had been sighted. And amid the crevasse and caves formed by the rocks came the dark furry shapes of Grendlings. grown over with moss and lichens. keeping out of its circumference naturally for there was a coldness emanating from it that had nothing to do with Winter. And deep in the center of this great valley.As they approached the foothills of the mountains. their horrible darkness threatening to swallow him. was an enormous patch of ground that looked utterly dead and black. "Expecto Patronum!" . Remus and Sirius who held flanking positions now shot away from the group in either directions while both Harry and Severus veered upward into the path of the Dementors who were approaching from above. all the living plants that thrived at the lakeside dead and gone in this area. beyond the shore of the lake. The men overhead circled the great hole. Harry waited until he could see the black shapes of the Dementors bearing down on him. Harry could feel it deep down in his soul where the screams of the dead and dying awaited him. before raising his wand in his right hand and shouting. Even the Grendlings steered clear of the black and dead ground and the horrible hole that lead down into the center of the earth. "The Dementors are coming!" someone shouted . Enormous rocks had slid down from the mountains and dotted the shore of the lake. A great waterfall fell from high in the mountains down into a large lake that was surrounded by tall pines. hundreds of them swarming out to meet their pack members returning from the woods and to face the humans approaching from the air. a shout went up from the troop leaders. At the heart of it was an enormous hole perhaps fifteen feet in diameter that lead down into pitch-blackness.

was doing the same .an enormous round stone twenty feet in diameter. As Harry directed Prongs in his dance. and to Harry's delight an enormous Silvery Werewolf that came from the wand of Sirius Black. fiery phoenix. Those two Patronus met the Dementors that Severus and Harry had driven downward and cut them off driving them toward the center of the circling mass of men. gathering up the shadowy Dementors and driving them downward toward the opening of the Well.a great dog like a Silvery Grim that sprang from Remus Lupin's wand.he hadn't expected to have to fight his way through the Grendlings to get to the stone. Not far away Severus' Patronus. red eyes flashing in the pale morning light. through the cloud of Dementors. herding the Dementors down toward the Well. On his fifth pass he finally saw it . And on the edge of the company of men two more Patronus shapes appeared . But the Grendlings were now climbing on top of the capstone as if knowing it was somehow luring the humans closer. Harry found himself seeking out Severus as he hovered high over the capstone . .moving away from the swirling darkness as the four Patronus raced around in a great circle. shooting straight ahead along Harry's flight path and cutting directly through the wall of darkness bearing down on him. he found himself scanning the ground for the capstone.driving the Dementors to either side and downward. who were gazing hungrily overhead at the circling humans. The men fanned out . carved with great swirling knots and runes. Snarling Grendlings. moving out on top of them as they veered to the sides and downward to get away from the white light of the Patronus Stag. blinding and brilliant.Prongs sprang forth from the tip of his wand. a brilliant. Harry shot up. surrounded the stone.

"Alrik!" Severus shouted. all the while keeping his Phoenix Patronus circling overhead to drive the Dementors downward. seeing Harry's dilemma. raced to his side on the heavy broom. "Take your men and attack now!" .Severus.

Harry hesitated only a moment before driving his broom downward. shields and swords raised to keep any Grendling from attacking him as Harry at last set foot on the frozen ground. Alrik's warriors. "Wingardium Leviosa!" he shouted. Feet firmly planted Harry aimed his wand at the enormous stone. A dozen more men followed him from the sky. and released the harnesses. but this time Harry felt its enormous weight and he staggered under the sensation. But Harry focused his mind. letting the Patronus loose with the last order to circle the battle before turning his attention to the great Capstone. joined them. swords and axes raised to strike. Barking gleefully the dogs leaped into battle. the archers were already shooting arrow after arrow down into the Grendling pack.and the Earth did not want to release her hold. Fifty men landed on the Capstone. "Get ready!" Severus shouted to Harry.CHAPTER THIRTY SIX It was all the cue the Winter Land warriors needed. A moment later. The stone rose obediently into the air. commanding it to . The dog masters now drove their brooms toward the ground. seeing the opening that cleared near the stone. and the great stone seem to come to life . letting the dogs drop the short distance to the ground. fanning out and driving the Grendlings away from it. meeting the Grendlings head on with a great battle cry. his heart pounding. He took only a moment to release Prongs from his command. only vaguely aware of the men fighting all around him. Freed of the worry of the Dementors. this one seemed different .connected somehow to the Earth . and channeled everything he had into the weight of that stone. Unlike the other stone he had lifted.the carved knots and runes on the stone suddenly burning with an inner fire.

pulling him down. It seemed as if the air itself was filled with the screams of the damned and every step closer brought the cold icy touch of despair to Harry's soul. "You're almost there!" And Harry pushed onward. the flames of the Phoenix driving the last of the Dementors back down into the Earth. "The Wyrms are coming!" And distantly Harry could hear some far off sound of hissing that sounded vaguely familiar. forcing the stone ahead of him. forcing his legs to keep moving despite the great weight that seemed to be crushing him now.move. "The Wyrms!" someone shouted. his feet leaving deep imprints as he took each painful step toward the Well. Harry could not spare even a glance away from the . With every step Harry took across the now blood-stained ground. His legs shook. his magic never hesitating even when he was splattered with blood from the warriors and Grendlings fighting around him. And impossibly the stone obeyed. Only vaguely was he aware that something had changed in the battle. Twice dark shapes leaped at him. begging the Earth to let it go. floating silently through the air toward the great Well of Despair that now had a cloud of Dementors being forced down into it. only to be driven back by large metal shields that were raised to protect him just in time. Harry!" another voice shouted to him. "Keep going. Beyond he could see the silvery Wolf and Dog racing in a fiery circle around the lip of the Well. his feet sank into the frozen earth as if he himself was suddenly heavy beyond imagining. His whole body strained beneath the weight of the stone. Sirius he thought. but his hand never wavered. something different in the sound as men were shouting and screaming as some new horror bore down upon them.

were utter silent at last. Sirius and Remus were surrounding him. weapons wielded in their .stone to look. "Terra Fas Sigillum Protego!" he shouted and a brilliant light shot from his wand and struck the burning sigils blinding him with their brilliance. The hissing screams had not been silenced with the Dementors he realized and he raised his head to look around. Harry raised his wand once more. And it seem to him as if the Earth herself reached out and grasped the Capstone wrapping around it almost lovingly and pulling it hard into the dirt. no longer able to feel any sense of darkness pressing back up through the bowels of the Earth. did Harry become aware of the sounds of battle still going on around him. Harry could feel the great pressure of darkness beneath the stone pushing upwards at it. and then growing still and silent. he staggered. A single drumbeat sounded. after a dozen gasping breaths of air. Only then. staggering to his feet. Severus. driving the stone forward until at last it hovered over the Well. slamming down over the Well and shaking the Earth all around. the screaming Dementors. his mind focused on one of the ancient sealing charms he remembered from one of the many long study sessions with Hermione. and the roar of hissing voices was growing louder by the second. One flick of his wand and the stone dropped. Five more steps. waiting for some word or command from him. He knew he had to seal down the stone before the darkness broke free once more and he could feel the Earth herself waiting for something. But connected now to the stone and the Earth. Deafened by the sound. On his knees now. the Well. the last of the Dementors now disappearing beneath the earth. Harry collapsed against the great stone. his legs no longer able to hold him. shaking the land. its fiery sigils pulsing now with each beat of his heart. The stone.

no longer even know where his broom might be.rather the men. but their gaze did not seem to paralyze as the men tried to drive them back with their sharp blades. Only blasts of fire and lightning from the wands of Severus. Archers. and they struck with lightning speed. and even the Grendlings had abandoned the battle in terror. But there were few Grendlings left in the battle . snapping at anything that moved. who could not leave the ground until Harry was back on his broom. The snakes were enormous towering over all of them like wingless dragons. "Stop! Do not attack!" .left hands. "Kill! Destroy! Crush the Shadow Bringers!" they were hissing. "Sonorus!" he cried out and then turned his attention to the great Black Wyrms. were fighting off dozens of enormous black serpents that had come down from the mountains during the battle. "Stop!" he shouted. still circling overhead. amplified horribly by his spell. his words coming out in a thunderous hiss of Parseltongue. Scrambling to his feet. They were circling the army of men much like the Patronus had circled the Dementors. wands in their right as they fought off a few straggling Grendlings who were still trying to get past the rest of the warrior. each curse driving the others forward. Remus and Sirius appeared to be doing any damage at all . Harry thought at first they were basilisks. Eyes widening in horror. be it man or Grendling.driving the snakes briefly back before they shook off the pain and came forward again. were having little luck taking them down for the arrows were little more than an annoyance to the great creatures. knocking down anything they touched. Their lashing tails shook the ground. He climbed up onto the Capstone. Harry aimed his wand at his throat. driving them inward tighter and tighter together so that they might feed at will. gripped it seemed by some madness that would not be sated.

"Why do you attack us? We have not entered your mountain territory. Indeed he had no idea that a serpent even knew what a soul might be. tasting the air as cold black eyes turned to gaze at Harry. All around him. heads turning to eye the young man who stood alone on top of the great Capstone. holding their attacks. "We remember the Shadow Bringers raising the stones which destroyed our nests. Certainly the Grendlings had not been affect by the Dementors. their great black bodies slithering away and arching upward. men froze. and the Serpents drew back in shock. "What trick is this. And we did not come to raise more stones but to close the one that was opened. "We are from a different nest." "You are the ones who bring the Shadows to devour our souls!" the great serpent hissed at him and the others hissed in defiance. The men could not understand him. let alone fear to lose it. Your souls are safe!" . We will not let you bring more Shadows to our world!" Harry shuddered in horror . We have placed the stone back where it belongs. but shuddered under the sound of Parseltongue.the Dementors devoured the souls of humans but he had not known they could devour the souls of other creatures. Dozens of enormous forked tongues flicked out. though he could hear their desperate gasping breaths of exhaustion. the word 'Dementor' translating in Parseltongue directly into 'Shadow'. We have driven the Shadows back into the Earth. "It is no trick!" Harry hissed back. "It was not us who brought the Shadows!" Harry told them.His words had a galvanizing effect on both men and Wyrms. praying he would not collapse before he was through. Shadow Bringer!" one of the great Wyrms hissed at Harry. tail lashing violently and sending enormous boulders rolling away from him.

Knowing that there was no translation for "ministry" and guessing the men who had opened the Well long dead anyway. tongues flicking out to taste the air again and again. and if snakes could sound hopeful. glancing back at the men. screams of joy and disbelief.The serpents hissed in agitation. voices shouting at him. heading toward the mountainside. dipping their diamond-shaped heads low toward Harry. there was hope in its voice. disappearing into the stones of the mountain and vanishing from sight. They paused briefly. He tried to look up. Harry. concern in his dark eyes. "The Shadows are gone. bowed in unison. drained beyond imagining. And then Harry just sighed and slumped to the side. thought for a moment he could see Severus' face hovering over his. We are not your enemy. overcome at last by exhaustion." At his words the Serpents did indeed look around as if searching the ground for another gaping Well. Harry just nodded." And that it seemed was all the Black Wyrms needed. "That nest is gone as well. and then to the amazement of all. As one they turned and slithered away. . thought he saw his mouth forming words though he could not hear them. "Look around!" Harry ordered them." Harry confirmed. "The Shadows are gone?" one of them asked hesitantly. collapsed again to his knees only vaguely aware of hands grasping him. drawing back and circling the group of warriors. And then in a flash they were gone. they will not be back. "Do you see the hole the Shadows came from any longer? Do you feel the Shadows in your souls? They are gone. In one breath to the next a great cheer of victory arose from the men. "And the nest that awakened them?" another asked. I will not allow it.

He could feel Harry shivering in his arms and he tightened his hold on him.urging them to begin gathering the dead and rising into the air before more Grendlings returned now that the Wyrms were gone. Below them they lay the carnage of the battlefield.Severus had not believed his eyes when he'd seen that stone rising from the ground. Severus mounted his broom fluidly holding his arms out as Black lifted Harry to him. The rest of the men mounted their brooms as well. Then he rose swiftly into the air. Black and Lupin rising along side of him. Severus did not look back." Severus told the other two men over the roaring cheer of victory. He pulled his cloak around them both. It was Alrik who finally managed to get the men to listen . shouting at the cheering men to mount up. Severus too was wounded bruises and scrapes . Sirius he could see was holding a bunched up portion of his cloak against his side .though the werewolf seemed to be holding up better than anyone else.Severus caught Harry as he collapsed. one arm holding Harry tightly against his chest while he gripped his broomhandle with the other hand. "We have to get him out of here.Severus assumed he was trying to stop some wound from bleeding. Remus immediately used his wand to summon their brooms. Remus and Sirius moving up along either side of deep claw mark across his left forearm that would need to be tended to soon. . And was it no wonder he was magically exhausted . taking the blows meant for him as he carried that enormous stone across the ground. rising up from the bloody ground. He was magically exhausted. As far as he could tell Harry had come through the battle unmarked all three of them along with Alrik's warriors had thrown themselves time and time again between Harry and the attacking Grendlings. Remus and Sirius also had not escaped unscathed . But much of his shock was due to the fact that the boy had used "Wingardium Leviosa".

The boy had issued the command and the Earth had obeyed . And then moments later to see him standing there atop that stone. Locking and sealing charms were covered extensively during third year . But the true shock had come when Harry had sealed the stone in place. How he had stood there so fearlessly. using a spell he had never heard before. Black and Lupin would add their own spells to Harry's when all was said and done . For fear of damaging the boy's confidence they had not questioned him the night before. impossibly. Lupin too had turned in horror when he'd heard the spell . armor glittering in the Winter light as he faced down the great Black Wyrms that towered above him .a seventh year spell that Severus should have known the boy would not yet know.He'd almost shouted in denial when he'd heard Harry incant that spell. he had assumed that he. The boy had quite literally simply commanded the Earth herself to hold the Capstone in place. As it one would lift that Capstone again. Severus just shook his head.preventing most wizards from even hoping to raise the stone had not occurred to Severus to even question which one Harry might use. speaking in that alien tongue until the serpents had not only stopped their attack but bowed to him in respect. the stone had risen from the earth despite the fact that Wingardium Leviosa had a weight limit on it. But once again Harry had surprised him. Harry should have used Leviosa Maximus . cursing himself for not going over the proper spell with the boy earlier. And as he went over the spell in his head. pale and slender. translating out the words and thinking of the wave of magic that had washed over all of them when the Capstone had locked in place. .and Severus knew they were both to blame. And yet unbelievably.Severus had thought for a moment that his heart might stop.

"Are you injured?" Harry asked. "I don't know. Though ice-cold those fingers left a trail of fire along Severus' skin. And then a moment later. "Stay still. Let everything else go. looking back at him." he replied. "You did good. Severus' breath caught in his throat as Harry raised one hand to touch his cheek." Harry turned then.were a breed apart. seeking something inside of him.this man ." Severus assured him. he tangled one hand in Harry's dark hair. And then Harry just sighed and settled back into his arms. and those green eyes pulled at Severus. "So are they. "This will be accounted a great victory and rightly so. He felt Harry stir in his arms and immediately tightened his hold on him. . "Minor wounds only." And then because he could not help himself." he added. content to let him hold him and finish the flight in silence. Gryffindors . tugging at his heart as he'd never before known. We lost far fewer than we would have had you not stopped the Wyrms. "You're on a broom. holding his head still as he whispered directly into his ear. Harry. some answer to a question unasked. his voice hoarse from shouting in Parseltongue.Severus would never least this one here in his arms .would not take such responsibilities upon his shoulders. seeing him turn his head to look around for Remus and Sirius." The boy stilled immediately and Severus could feel the Quidditchtrained muscles in his thighs tightening around the broom as he adjusted to his position. wishing just once that this boy . If you move too much you might fall." "How many men did we lose?" he asked then and Severus sighed. "I'm fine. leaning forward to speak directly into his ear. his trembling fingers lightly grazing his skin." he told him.

both men reaching out to touch the boy who hugged them before they were all ushered back inside the walls of the Keep. greeting each by name. Severus commandeered a quiet corner in all that chaos and set to checking the injuries of the other two men. Alrik and Asgeir. found them eventually.shouts of victories. While there were potions enough being handed out by healers in the Hall there were others wounded far worse. which he distributed to all four of them. Remus and Sirius were there at once. just smiled at them. the boy began bandaging the injury. strangely quite. Amid the chaos of the landing army . Alrik bearing Pepper-up Potions. They drank them gratefully. wails of despair at the deaths of those lost . And to Harry they saluted. The wound on Black's side was deep but not life threatening. and Severus saw some faint color finally returning to Harry's cheeks. Severus to his surprise found himself forced into a chair while Harry knelt before him wand focused on his wounded arm. Lupin took little time at all to strip Sirius to the waist and begin cleaning the wound before turning his wand on it to bandage it as best he could. calling out greetings. Several cleaning charms and a wound-disinfecting spell later. clapping them on the back. right arm crossed over their bodies. helping Harry from it. cries of greeting. . It was not deep but would require a potion or two when he returned home. both suffering only minor wounds. fist pounding against their chests as they thanked him for the victory.Severus landed his broom.The waiting families of those who had gone to fight swarmed out onto the battlements and field before Bifrost Hall as they returned. green eyes looking like they belonged on someone far older. Harry. Warrior after warrior passed by them.

"My people!" he shouted and the noise died down. It felt strange to Severus to be on the receiving end of such praise and he found himself glancing at Lupin and Black. women pounding on the long wooden tables that filled the Hall. when Harry took Asgeir's hand." They rose wearily to their feet as Asgeir turned toward the crowd of men and women in the Great Hall. To Severus' surprise. but Black was grinning and waving to the crowd. Harry on the other hand just stood in silence watching the men with a strange calmness that belied his years. leaving Harry and the three of them standing alone there before them."We can't thank you enough!" Asgeir grinned. "Alrik will take you home. All the men and women in the Hall did the same. "Today we have won a great victory!" His words were met with cheers. "By now word of Harry's disappearance will have spread through the Ministry." "I thought as much. the man clasped it tightly between both his palms and dropped to one knee before them." Asgeir nodded. Lupin looked just as uncomfortable as he did." Severus informed him. If you go now you can make it to the ship before night falls. "We owe a debt to these four men who fought along side of us!" And the roar of the crowd was deafening. "There will be a great celebration tonight and this story will go down in history as one of our greatest battles. all eyes turning toward them. We must return quickly before word gets to the Dark Lord that Harry is here. Asgeir." "We can't stay. Asgeir turned toward Harry and held out his hand to the boy. men beating their fists and swords against their shields. When at last the noise died down. . at ease beneath the attention.

" Asgeir rose then. seeing in their eyes the same worry he felt in his own heart. . And nothing any of them did seemed to stop it. It seemed. Harry Potter. and everyone heard him. The Winter Lands will fight under your banner."When the war comes. men and women coming forward to shake their hands once more. and the magic of their Wizards Oath was felt by all of them. So may it be!" "So may it be!" the men and women of the Hall repeated. "Thank you. wondering if the boy understood that the Winter Lands had just sworn an oath of fealty to him." Asgeir stated clearly for all to hear. that the world was conspiring to thrust Harry into the center of the storm. no matter what he did. Amid the crowd. Severus exchanged looks with Remus and Sirius. and the crowd again cheered. But it seemed as if Harry understood some of it. washing through the crowd like a great wind. "Summon us. Stunned Severus could only stare at Harry. for he bowed his head in acknowledgement to Asgeir. "I'm honored by your trust. " he said quietly in the silence of the Hall.

there was definitely something going on . he was being closely watched. The Boy Who Lived was presumed missing .aides .it seemed Lord Brand of the Winter Land had . but with Aurors and the entire Press Corp of every Wizarding paper in Britain. Chaos had followed Fudge and a dozen other candidates whose spies . Lucius had followed along. Dumbledore was speaking with various members of the Wizengamut and the Auror Department. Oh. Yet. not just with the students who had returned from the Holidays yesterday. Truthfully he had thought about going straight to Lord Voldemort with the information that Potter was potentially missing. Or at the very least. If nothing else. Lucius had been in a private meeting with Minister Fudge when one of the man's spies .had informed them that something was going on with was likely the story of the century. his son Draco was watching him intently to take a cue from him on how to behave in this rather bizarre situation. The Great Hall of Hogwarts was crowded.CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN Lucius Malfoy had never been in a patient doubt something more amazing would happen in a day or two that would make this seem pathetic in comparison. Problem was. he steeled his features into impassivity. knowing that while he was not the center of attention here. the story of the week . Lucius stood off to one side of the raised platform where the Hogwart's staff normally ate their dinner. and watched as Minister Fudge and several other Ministry candidates were rather expertly manipulated by Dumbledore and his followers.aides had also informed them of the situation. he couldn't exactly confirm that. and in the last two days his patience had been tested to the limit.possibly kidnapped if the rumors were to be believed . hoping to glean some useful information out of the situation.

even the Aurors. The only three witnesses. Potter was in Germany. Voldemort had grown fond of his new form - . but Lucius had no idea where that 'somewhere' might be. and he would have suffered permanent nerve damage. But somehow in the time it took Lucius to find the restoration potion.the reptilian features were really repulsive.Lucius didn't dare go to Voldemort with the information. As it was.which meant of course that it was likely he was there.according to McGonagall. He was still suffering a faint tremor in his left arm from the last time he had taken the initiative and tried to curry favor with the Dark Lord. Lucius had set out to find a potion to restore his human form to its former glory.and there the story had become even more convoluted.'taken' Potter somewhere. When Voldemort had returned he had seemed disgusted with the body he'd been trapped inside . had finally succeeded. As for the teachers . unquestionable. A few seconds longer under the Cruciatus Curse. seemed to have been struck with a stupidity charm as they could not answer a question clearly to save their lives. But without proof exact. The whole chaotic mess had quickly moved to Hogwarts . he still didn't understand what he had done wrong. Flitwick claimed he was in France. The only place no one had suggested was the Winter Lands themselves . possibly madness. to find out where it was Potter might have been taken. Sprout claimed he was in Russia. and Hagrid actually had the gall to claim that Potter had been taken to Hawaii. accurate proof . and after much expense on his part. Lucius shuddered with the thought of going before Lord Voldemort any time soon. he was also making it extremely difficult for question witnesses Fudge had explained . And while Dumbledore seemed dead set on getting Potter back. the Weasley children and the Mudblood Granger.

There was no way around the fact . All of them had noticed . the more withdrawn he became from all of them. the Muggle Prime Minister had proposed the Wizarding Registration Act.someone to follow. someone strong and great and fearless to lead them. but something like them. Not Dementors. And he was growing more so each day. pathetic Muggles. They all knew he was planning something . Something he was fairly certain he wanted no part in. something horrible. something worse than a few killings. But what was he to do about it? This wasn't really what he'd signed up for . Someone who would put the Wizarding world back on track. a true king among men.something big but none of them knew what it was.indeed it seemed to Lucius as if he was transforming still. When Lucius had presented the potion to the man and explained what it did. something darker.would anyone really miss a few Muggles? But there was something else going on here. Even now the Muggles were trying to tighten the screws once again. return them to their rightful places in society instead of forcing them to cower and submit before pitiful. And he had other servants now not Death Eaters.the Dark Lord was utterly unhinged. but something else. and those like him. had craved that . Lucius. Twice now Lucius had seen him walking in the gardens of the Fortress in Spain accompanied by figures cloaked and hooded all in black. Their very presence filled Lucius with a sense of horror. destroying the potion and nearly killing Lucius in the process. And the more insane the Dark Lord grew.even Bellatrix who was barely sane herself. which would require every Wizard and Witch in Britain to register with the Ministry as if .Voldemort had been a charismatic leader. becoming more reptilian each time he saw him. Voldemort had reacted with rage. and that was saying something after all the years he'd spent practicing the Dark Arts. even the occasional murder . Lucius was no stranger to blood and death.

Voldemort was the means to obtaining that power . as if this somehow fit in perfectly with his plans .this was the very thing they were supposed to be fighting against. Why would Severus abandon that for Dumbledore . But the very idea made him want to murder Muggles. And for whatever ridiculous reasons. Why in Merlin's name they needed to placate the Muggle government. But why! That above all else.they were little more than animals who needed licenses to exist. like all of them.and no candidate yet thrust to the front of the pack .he had laughed when he'd heard the news laughed! As if he found the whole thing amusing. always willing to play the Devil's Advocate. He had always assumed that Severus. None of them did . didn't seem to care. And Lord Voldemort .or as if it no longer mattered in the grand scheme of things. the Ministry of Magic was considering agreeing to the thing just to placate the Muggle government. But Lord Voldemort. For the hundredth time. always willing to argue any stance Lucius might be considering.he was uncertain whom he should be backing. But in light of his betrayal. Lucius could see now that it wasn't the Devil's Advocate he'd been playing . Lucius didn't understand. And with the election looming . he could not figure out.Severus had actually been attempting to manipulate Lucius into changing his viewpoint.or at least he had been before this new madness had gripped him.a man who would never step up and . Severus had always been his sounding board. all he could do was try to keep a leash on the Ministry through bribery and blackmail. And he felt trapped with nowhere to run. had been drawn to power. Every hope and dream Lucius had had about restoring the Wizarding World to its former glory was crumbling around him. caught up in his own world now. he wished Severus hadn't betrayed them. Lucius would never understand.

the man was stalling for time. Any time two or more of the Ministry candidates came even close to agreeing on a course of action. . which would send them off in a completely different direction.the Minister was working himself up quite spectacularly. and Dulcinda Marshawnd was trying to convince everyone that this was a prelude to a new Viking Invasion. And yet Severus had turned his back on everything to follow Dumbledore into obscurity and marry that silly broom-riding Gryffindor. Madam Bones.or pretty ass as the case may be? Lucius glanced around the Great Hall .apparently he believed Hagrid's story.Lucius found himself laughing silently at the thought. Surely Severus had not been swayed by a pretty face . manipulating the world from the sidelines. was attempting to instill some sense of order on the proceedings.take the leadership role in their world? Dumbledore was happy here in his school. And Davenport felt that imposing import sanctions on both Germany and Russia were necessary. Apparently no one believed France had anything to do with the 'kidnapping'. two other Ministry candidates were doing everything in their power to get their own words heard. perhaps his most well known Ministry rival. of course . Lucius could only conclude that Dumbledore guessed that regardless of what was really going on. was suggesting a letter writing campaign to Lord Brand. Lady Marla Davenport and Alexander Mulburg. a rather obscure offshoot of the Black family. What could Dumbledore have promised him? Besides Potter. Dumbledore or one of his people quietly murmured something. the press writing down everything he said. the Ministry involvement would only screw things up. Vicund Blackborn. He had no desire to step into the heart of the storm and actually change anything. Mulburg was actually suggesting that the only possible course of action was to invade Hawaii .

Just beyond the Gryffindor table. Across the hall at Gryffindor table. the leader of a crack team of Aurors. Molly Weasley might be no match for Narcissa in both looks and class. beyond the fact that they were Weasleys of course.he just wanted to make certain the whole thing was staged perfectly for the press. it was what he did. Lucius guessed that Fudge was planning on sending them directly into the Winter Lands to retrieve Potter . all the Weasleys had come to Hogwarts to be with the younger children. When had THAT happened? . the dragon tamer if Lucius remembered correctly. but Narcissa had refused. Lucius suspected. He'd always wanted more than one child. As it was Narcissa was just about the coldest woman Lucius had ever met in his life .as Draco's gaze moved over the second oldest Weasley boy. Lucius had to admit to a pang of intense jealousy when he saw Arthur sitting there with his 7 healthy children. And then Lucius caught a look something unexpected . Well.he counted himself lucky he had Draco. and quickly Lucius sneered at the man because . hell. knew more than he was letting on. Lucius thought. Lucius could see Arthur and Molly Weasley sitting with their children. Lucius suspected Draco didn't have a clue as to why he was sneering. joining the children in the Great Hall.well. Already Aurors were gathering.Fudge. but at least she didn't turn away from her marital duties. he saw Draco catch the exchange and immediately turn to sneer at all the Weasleys as well. Rita Skeeter never once left the Minister's side. His pale son flushed a most unbecoming shade of red and quickly averted his eyes as the Weasley boy looked up and winked at him. The man had sent for Connor Stark. When word of Potter's kidnapping had reached them. Arthur caught Lucius looking at them.

He held an enormous war mace lightly in one hand. And the other man. Granted he had not really spoken to the boy since the disaster with Riddle's diary. dressed in Wyvern leathers. He looked rather wild and windblown . the display of strength reminding Lucius all too clearly of his werewolf heritage . Four men stepped through the doorway into the Hall and Lucius found himself frowning at the sight. Clad in a gleaming coat of scale-mail.letting a werewolf run freely among them. golden-haired and wearing the leather and fur armor of a Winter Land Viking. Sometimes he thought Dumbledore's people were mad .rather like a Gryffindor with his hair tangled in those messy locks. though there was no mistaking that Patrician profile of his. and had only briefly seen him the night Lord Voldemort had returned to them. but the boy had changed a great deal since then. the hair longer.It was then that the door to the Great Hall if the gleaming amber eyes that flashed momentarily yellow in the torchlight were not reminder enough.perhaps the missing husband of Lady Diana Snape-Brand who even now sat in Severus' seat at the head table. was Remus Lupin. Who knew what infection he was spreading? The other man was enormously tall. metal bracers around his arms and legs. Harry Potter looked nothing like the boy Lucius remembered. the body a bit taller . The glasses were gone. and the room fell utterly silent. He of course recognized his traitorous friend Severus Snape. He had to be one of Brand's men Lucius guessed . also clad in dark battle-scarred leathers. his sword sheathed and hanging over his shoulder.but really it was the look the in the boy's green eyes that caught Lucius . But it was the fourth figure that drew all of Lucius' attention.

even insolent. been given it by outside forces. one buried and hidden. stepping forward as well. or had it always been there? Surely he must have possessed something of it to have defeated Voldemort as a baby. Had he simply grown into it. Potter!" Fudge exclaimed. stumbled across it. The boy glanced over at the waiting Press Corp. .a quiet power. and this boy had power Lucius had not guessed at. There was power in those eyes . Even Dumbledore's mouth twitched upward at the words. "Thank Merlin you've returned. Lucius had to stifle his own impulse to smile. "I'm alright sir. Potter really was Dumbledore's favorite golden child. his eyes lingering briefly on Rita Skeeter before returning to the Minister. a tactical error Lucius thought." The relief on the old man's face was obvious to all. A murmur of surprise sounded through the room and Fudge stopped and sputtered indignantly. but why had Lucius never noticed it before? Perhaps it was nothing more than a trick of the light? He had to admit it was rather attractive deliciously so.he sounded angry by Potter's return.knew how to recognize it in its most obscure forms. "We were under the impression you were being held prisoner!" Fudge didn't handle change well . "And your response was to wait three days and then hold a press conference?" he asked plainly. He'd always been drawn to power . my boy!" Dumbledore's voice startled them all out of their silence. Maybe Severus really had been swayed by the boy alone? "Harry." Potter assured him quietly. "Mr. The old man moved swiftly forward to take hold of both of Harry's hands. but Lucius could see it clearly. Lucius sneered.most off guard. Lucius imagined he was rather put out to have had his speech interrupted he'd been telling the Press Corp about his plans to rescue the boy hero. The boy was certainly outspoken.

Ron." he gestured to Severus and Lupin." he stated simply. "Really?" he demanded."Rescue operations take planning and time. He snapped his fingers at his Aurors. After what Potter had done. Mr. Potter!" Minister Fudge protested. placing himself between the stranger and the Aurors. "We were told that Brand of the Winter Lands had kidnapped you. also a misunderstanding?" All eyes turned toward the children in question. but he'd heard plenty of stories in the aftermath. Severus said nothing. Perhaps he'd already been infected by the wolf's darkness. Potter stepped forward. "And was the attack against the Weasley children and Ms. "You will not." Potter interrupted. But Potter's gesture had drawn Fudge's attention to the fourth man with them. there were very few Aurors who would raise a hand against the Boy Who Lived. Are you-" "You are mistaken. and the Minister's eyes widened as he too realized that this must be one of Brand's men. Lucius had not been present at the battle last summer that had taken so many lives. regardless of the Minister's orders. Potter!" Fudge protested. "Stark. "It was merely a misunderstanding. Potter merely nodded. and the Aurors all stopped dead in their tracks. motioning Connor Stark forward. "I'm glad my family was not so impeded. Minister. It was a display of a type of power Lucius had not expected and he narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. just nodded . arrest that man!" But before the Aurors could take even one step toward him. The boy was a hero in their eyes. "Mr. Lucius saw all three children staring intently at Potter before the boy. Granger." Fudge frowned. and Lucius had to wonder what Severus though about being claimed in a 'family' that included a werewolf. That man is Brand's son. But surprisingly.

"Mr. Lupin and the . He knew that the presence of the press was no longer in his favor." The two girls nodded quickly in agreement. Fudge didn't want to leave without arresting someone. Lucius had to shake his head at the loyalty inspired by the boy . even while nodding to his Aurors to clear out the Press Corp. If that is not a crime. Fudge turned a furious gaze on Dumbledore. Seeing their story disappearing right before their eyes.and grinned. but he could tell by the look that flashed through Fudge's eyes. Severus." Lucius had no idea what precisely Potter was referring to. drawing all eyes toward him. It would make him look ineffectual if he did not. I can not allow this to be simply swept under the table. The press were furiously snapping pictures and taking notes. "If Harry says it's a misunderstanding. If a crime has been committed. the group of reporters surged forward. cameras flashing. Minister. "Albus. "For one hundred years the Winter Lands have been asking for help from the Ministry of Magic. it is my duty to-" "A crime has been committed. I don't know what is. "I don't know what on earth is going on here.they obviously had no clue what was going on but were willing to take Potter's word on faith alone. Albus. then it's a misunderstanding. if you have someplace private where we may question these people." Potter interrupted again." Fudge motioned specifically to Potter and Brand's son. and the Ministry has been ignoring them. Potter!" they all shouted as one and then began shouting question after question at the boy. but he was a consummate politician. but I insist we deal with this tonight and clear up whatever misunderstanding has occurred. that he has some inkling. Quick Quills writing furiously. Fudge might be an ineffectual leader.

"Where do you think you are going?" "Come now. Potter's story. Lucius had no doubt they would be driven from Hogwarts in a matter of moments as well . No one had a chance of coming even remotely close to the boy. "As you heard. who merely gave him a look that could wither stone. found the whole scene rather amusing . Lucius. the other Ministry candidates were also driven from the room. remaining as unobtrusive as possible. surrounded Potter and pulled him into the midst of a group of Gryffindors. Dumbledore had his people well trained. "Mr. surged forward to drive the reporters back. I have every right to hear Mr. Lucius stayed in the background. Therefore there is no need for the Board of Governors to become involved. Malfoy." she sniffed. he was stopped at the door by McGonagall herself. who was a member of the Wizengamut." he smiled coldly at her. the Weasleys swarmed forward.Viking immediately stepped in front of the boy. While the staff and Potter's three guardians drove the press out of the hall with the Aurors lending their aid. keeping an eye on Potter as he was ushered after them. But for now I must ask you to leave the premises.though they would likely hold their own press conferences down in Hogsmeade shortly. a well choreographed dance. Minerva." But McGonagall was unmoved. With the exception of Madame Bones. and the staff of teachers at the table. standing well out of range of both the press and their prey. "As a member of the Board of Governors it is my right to make certain that the students of Hogwarts are well protected. Lucius followed along silently." . there was no kidnapping. and when Fudge and the others began moving from the Great Hall to whatever private room Dumbledore set aside for them. I'm sure you'll hear all about it later.

wondering if it were some gift the woman had to make him feel like a recalcitrant child. "Slytherin's dormitory is that way." Lucius glared back. . and pointed in the opposite direction. Perhaps he'd head down to Severus' quarters and wait for his 'old friend'? Or perhaps he'd head down to the Slytherin common room and see if Draco could find out something more for him . if you remember. Or shall I summon a student to show you the way? " "That won't be necessary. or back to Lord Voldemort without something more than a bunch of events that would merely lead to more questions.a very bad thing. "As you wish. Either way. He turned on his heel and headed down the torch lit corridor.he certainly was not going to allow ANYTHING to come of that.or at the very least find out what Draco's fascination with the Weasley spawn was all about ." she replied."Surely you won't deny me the right to speak with my son?" Lucius asked." She merely raised one eyebrow coldly. Getting asked questions by Lord Voldemort when you did not know the answers was a bad thing . "I'm sure he was most shaken up by these events. he wasn't going to head back home.

A quick grasp of hands. Even the Auror Stark smirked in amusement as Harry patted the half-giant on the back and tried to assure him he was fine while preventing his lungs from being crushed by the man's embrace. Minerva waited until everyone was in the room before entering and pulling the door firmly closed behind her.he wasn't about to allow the man anywhere near Harry. but Severus could see the emotion behind the greeting all the same. an exchange of glances were all they allowed themselves. Harry was subjected to an enormous hug from Hagrid. Surprisingly.CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT Severus motioned to Minerva as he ushered Harry into the private room where Dumbledore had taken Fudge. it was Harry who started the conversation. which amused everyone. Severus watched as his sister was reunited with her husband. The rest of the Weasleys crowded into the room along with Hermione Granger and several members of the Hogwart's staff. Diana had truly feared that she would not see Alrik again. It had not escaped Severus' notice how Lucius had stared at Harry .no doubt to keep information from getting out to the members of the press that might have remained behind unobtrusively. The woman caught on immediately. taking up guard position at the door to prevent Lucius Malfoy from following them. her relief was plain on her face. opened the Well of Despair and began collecting Dementors for . While Fudge and Madam Bones took the seats Dumbledore offered to them. the Ministry came to the Winter Lands. Molly Weasley lit the fire in the enormous fireplace. "One hundred and fifty years ago. Severus sensed several privacy wards going up . turning unexpectedly on the Minister after Hagrid had released him.

" Alrik leaped to his feet at that. Dumbledore himself looked surprised and glanced over at Percy Weasley who was frowning deeply and searching through a rather large pile of papers he'd been carrying with him. innit?" Alrik glared at Fudge. As far as he knew . Fudge on the other hand just scoffed at Harry's words. Why was the Well left opened? Why was the Winter Land's request for aid ignored?" A quick judge of the expressions in the room clued Severus into the fact that very few people here had any idea what Harry was talking about." They all stared incredulously at Fudge at such a statement. "No threat! We were overrun by Dementors!" Fudge just sneered at the man and shook his head. despite the restraining hand Diana placed on his arm. stay locked inside our Keeps night and day?" But still Fudge waved off the protest as if it were meaningless. "'Course that's makin' the 'sumption they stay on their bit o' land. "They didn't need to go after humans. They had an adequate food source away from the human population. The Winter Lands were determined to be able to support a population of 500 Dementors before there would be any threat to the human inhabitants. One Dementors for every 200 square miles of land is no threat to a Wizarding population. had no idea what he might have meant by an adequate food source. It was Hagrid who corrected him." Severus. "Did it occur to anyone in the Ministry that they'd hunt together in a pack and go to where their natural food source is? They feed on souls . "Because we knew there was no immediate threat. along with the others in the room.Azkaban. "Don't be ridiculous! There was an Environmental Impact Study done. What were we supposed to do.they went to where the humans were.

seeming for a moment to forget there was anyone else there. but when I explained that we had imprisoned the Dementors and sealed the Well. reaching for his wand as he feared Fudge might attack Harry in his rage. his eyes widening. "Do you have any idea what you have done?" . nothing more. "You mean the Wyrms?" The boy looked sickened by the realization and Severus wished now he had taken the time to ask Harry what he had said to the Wyrms to make them back away from the fight.Dementors only fed on human souls . "They are not Dragons!" the Minister stamped his foot. "Devouring their souls. But the Minister cut in before Charlie could answer. "They're intelligent creatures capable of speech. Men.of forgiveness. What's more. To call them a food source for Dementors you must have been aware of the fact that they had souls. They attacked us when we fought the Dementors. and fear losing them just like humans do." But Harry shook his head. "How can you blithely sacrifice Dragons like that? I thought Dragons were a protected species?" He glanced at Charlie Weasley as if for confirmation. women and children! What else did you think we would do?" "You stupid boy!" Fudge shouted." Fudge froze at that. Furthermore they are capable of compassion . they abandoned their attack and returned home. he hadn't cared beyond the fact that the battle was over. Severus stiffened." Harry informed him. He couldn't help remembering now how the Wyrms had turned as one and bowed to the boy in respect.but he could see by a look of shock in Harry's eyes that he understood what the man had said. "They're animals. they know they have souls. At the time. "What do you mean you imprisoned the Dementors and sealed the Well?" "They were killing people. Under the Magical Creature Classification Act they are listed as animals.

But Severus was not about to allow Harry to be attacked for this not for something that needed to be done. It was Alrik who laughed incredulously. You know this. "You-Know-Who is gathering an army. They will not side with the Ministry. "I've warned you before." . Albus." Fudge informed him. Everything was managed quite legally. I assure you my administration does not ignore requests. If Voldemort calls them. they will go where he commands. and Fudge drew back in horror. "They've been working for the Ministry for one hundred and fifty years. his blue eyes hard behind his glasses. something that should have been done by the Ministry. his face pale. Dementors are Dark Creatures. "And the fact that they've been killing people in the Winter Lands doesn't bother you?" "We have no evidence of that. "They were all received and voted on by the Wizengamut." But Harry was neither swayed nor frightened. "What in Merlin's name are you talking about." The majority of the people in the room flinched as the Dark Lord was named." Dumbledore just shook his head." the Minister insisted. glancing at each other in bewilderment. "No evidence! What about all the formal requests for aid we've filed with the Ministry. Cornelius. You have no proof of this Albus. and his eyes were burning with anger. "What are you talking about?" "We need those Dementors!" Fudge turned his rather wild gaze on Dumbledore as if seeking some help there. year after year! Were they just ignored?" Fudge gave the man a condescending sneer. Minister Fudge?" Madam Bones demanded. "I remember no such request. We need those Dementors to fight. "We have no reason to believe they will turn on us." Both Dumbledore and Madam Bones looked alarmed at that.

"I've served on the Wizengamut for seventy five years. "And humans and Wyrms are their natural food source?" "Who could do this?" Alrik demanded." "Translated?" Alrik asked in bewilderment as he crossed the room swiftly to Percy's side and took hold of the paperwork. quickly scanning through the documents." Surprisingly it was Percy Weasley who spoke up then. "How could this happen?" . so it is first translated which causes a bit of a delay. I have the paperwork right here of the most recent petition from the Winter Lands.the Dementors are a protected species?" Severus demanded of the Minister. "So what . "What was voted on was the continuing status of a Protected Wildlife Preserve. He began leafing through the pages." Dumbledore announced. sir. "None of our requests are written in Old English! I wrote many of them myself . horrified himself." But Alrik looked outraged. holding up several large packs of paper and scrolls. "Actually.few members of the Wizengamut understand it." "Wildlife Preserve?" Alrik looked horrified and Severus had to sympathize with the man. "This isn't a request for aid. his eyes widening in shock. it was voted on by the Wizengamut. "This is written in Old English!" Percy nodded in agreement. I saw no such request for aid either. After it went through the Translation Department. "All the requests are written in Old English .in modern English! This isn't even my handwriting!" Dumbledore came forward and took the papers from the fuming Viking. Madam Bones peered over his shoulder at the writing.Dumbledore nodded in agreement.

placing one strong hand on the boy's armored shoulder. Fudge backed away from Harry in alarm." Fudge just shrugged. we did not write anything in Old English!" "So you say. "Stark!" he shouted out as if to command the Auror to protect him. Harry's voice caught them all off guard. "Harry. his blue eyes intent on the boy's face. "I'm certain nothing sinister is at play."Come now. It was Dumbledore who moved forward and confronted Harry. for it was low and angry and filled with a quiet rage that permeated the room. "Cornelius. occupied or not. catching the man's full attention by the anger in his own voice - . his power raced through the room and all the furniture in the place began shaking violently.lightly!" "And I do not take the murder of innocent men." he stated. looking calm once again. And we at the Ministry do not take kidnapping . "I told you." "There was nothing to translate!" Alrik shouted at him. But Connor Stark was no more foolish than anyone else in the room. fear flashing across his face.false or otherwise ." Fudge cut in. Dumbledore turned a stern gaze on Fudge. But mistakes happen when documents are poorly translated. "You knew this was not right. women and children lightly!" Harry snarled and like so often happened with Harry grew angry. You knew exactly what was going on and you did nothing to stop it!" Fudge turned on the boy. he backed away from Harry and raised both his hands as if to show he had no wand drawn. "What I know is that you are attempting to interfere in matters you know nothing about." he said softly and just like that the furniture stilled as if something had reached out and pulled Harry's power back into check.

But once again his brother-in-law surprised him. "You can't do that!" the Minister protested. would not lend their votes to Fudge either. Potter is not a nation! He can not hold a Protectorate!" ." Alrik informed him. "Mr. Potter. going one step further. Severus. isn't it?" Harry demanded. "Did you know about this? Did you know what was going on?" Fudge shook his head wildly. "Albus. All you care about is getting re-elected. Potter. and understanding that whatever the boy declared now would hold all of them to a binding path. "Your job." "And that's all you care about. "No support. and his words pretty much confirmed that Dumbledore. "Mr. I will not have-" "You will not have anything from me. which Bill Weasley shoved toward him unobtrusively while Fudge sputtered in shock. The Gryffindor did not realize how much power he wielded. Flitwick and McGonagall. of course not! I'm just doing my job! Doing what is expected of me. Severus guessed that the Winter Lands as well. You care nothing about the lives that have been lost. "You will having nothing from the Winter Lands as well. Minister!" Harry interrupted him and Severus found himself tensing nervously.Madam Bones of course had always been the man's rival and things just improved drastically for her. Sirius Black. "As of this moment we transfer our Protectorate status to Mr." Severus found himself sinking down into a chair." Fudge glared at Harry. You care nothing about the people you are supposed to lead and protect. hearing the finality in Harry's voice. no vote!" Harry continued.Dumbledore was so rarely angered. who among the various Lords had numerous votes. all of whom held numerous votes would not be backing Fudge either .

which Severus guessed was about how everyone else in the room was feeling. that they have no intention of protecting us." Alrik replied coldly." "But that is the same as declaring war against Britain!" Fudge exclaimed. they will sacrifice us to protect themselves. and more than capable of holding a Protectorate. "You can't do this!" the Minister protested again. the ore we mine for Wizarding Steel." Fudge looked shocked. As of this moment. the armor we make for your Auror Corp. but Severus understood the nuances of Viking law well enough to guess at what Alrik was about to say. himself included. "Oh. Cornelius. Potter. By Winter Land law that gives him the status of king. You can not afford to battle against us and the Dark Lord.our crops. "I'm afraid he can. it will not be done by the Ministry. "I do not know if the Dark Lord can be defeated. all treaties between the Winter Lands and Britain are null and void. quite the contrary. seeming to be enjoying his discomfort. He turned toward Dumbledore. quite effectively. what will you do without the Ministry's protection?" Fudge demanded. "Not three hours ago every lord in the Winter Lands swore an oath of fealty to Mr. As you said you have another war to worry about will have to renegotiate. staring at Alrik in disbelief.Severus could tell by the look on Harry's face that he had no idea what had just happened. But I do know that if he can. I hardly think we have anything to worry about when it comes to war with Britain. If you want anything from the Winter Lands . "Albus?" Dumbledore just shook his head. the countless Potion ingredients we supply to your Hospitals ." "And if You-Know-Who chooses to attack the Winter Lands. Alrik just shrugged and smirked at the man." . but by Harry Potter and those who stand with him. "The Ministry has already proven.

on that note." Stark cut in quickly. that would be an illegal arrest order. "Albus. The press will have a field day with this!" Fudge just stared in shock as Madam Bones turned to Dumbledore and smiled rather smugly. "Which if I understand the law correctly is what Lord Brand just became a few moments ago. "Without a formal declaration of war against the Winter Lands." "Well. "So you see." Dumbledore assured her. "You can not formally declare war without full ratification by the Wizengamut." "I understand completely. "You must excuse me." . She seemed torn by both shock and amusement by the events unfolding in front of her. "I think I'll gather my Aurors together and get back to my real job. he raced after her. Albus. Fudge turned toward Stark. Minister Fudge. disappearing through the door. I do believe you are the first Minister in centuries to have lost a Protectorate of Britain. "Stark. Cornelius." "No. "But." He looked to Dumbledore for confirmation and received an amused nod. a surprising spring in her step. "Well. but! Wait!" Fudge cried in panic. you will not. his blue eyes twinkling brightly. Madam Bones headed straight toward the door. I believe the Press Corp is down in Hogsmeade as we speak. but. and when she did not stop. I feel it is my civic duty to inform the public about what has taken place tonight. pointing a finger imperiously at Alrik." Madam Bones agreed.Furious. then I formally-" Fudge began only to be cut off by Dumbledore." Stark announced." he shrugged. you will not get. " He nodded respectfully to Dumbledore. "My goodness. which I assure you. you will arr-" "I hope you're not about to order me to arrest a foreign dignitary.

Charlie shoved a chair forward and the boy sank down into it." "And what if Voldemort attacks you?" Harry asked in shock. in a baffled voice. "You just got promoted." "Then the title is completely honorary. If Harry summons us. The other chimed in immediately." When Harry started to look a bit pale. Harry. as always it's been a pleasure." Dumbledore placed a hand on Harry's shoulder. Auror Stark. "We've been a self-governing nation for centuries. we will come and fight for him. "What just happened here?" Laughter followed his words as the tension broke. Potter. We are a warrior nation. Harry!" Harry however looked horrified as he turned his gaze toward Alrik. "Swords and armor are all well and fine against Grendlings. attempting to confirm what they were all thinking. "What's that supposed to mean?" Alrik just laughed. Dead silence followed his departure until finally. and I have no resources to call upon!" . "Not exactly. "You weren't serious about the whole king thing!" "Relax. But there is no demand of rulership or government." And then he too exited the room. Harry." Remus asked. "Mr. but they are no match for an army of Death Eaters. The man paused before leaving. closing the door behind him. This changes nothing. "It's not as bad as it sounds. Harry asked." Good show there. Alrik sighed. giving Harry a quick smile. mate!" one of the Weasley twins informed him. We will continue on as we always have." Albus smiled. I can not protect you alone."Good evening to you. Severus however knew there was more to it than that.

sir. Alrik clapped him lightly on the shoulder and stood to face Dumbledore. "But we discussed the possibility if our worse fears were confirmed and the Ministry had abandoned us." Harry looked up then." His words seem to calm Harry somewhat. and if he comes for our ore. as it was brought home to him once again that what anyone else might see as a privilege to be exploited. Dumbledore nodded and pulled a small pouch from one of the inner pockets of his dark blue robes. but I do not think it is a great one.perhaps even a sacred duty that he was terrified of failing. they have betrayed us Harry. And perhaps it was.Dementors and raw ore for Wizarding Steel. we will destroy our mines and retreated into the mountains. "You planned this then?" "No. clad like a young prince in glittering armor. in the worst possible way. We knew the risks in this action. Harry instead saw as a duty . though the haunted look did not truly leave the boy's eyes. The Dementors are now gone thanks to you.For a moment there was silence in the room as everyone stared at the boy sitting before them. It would be far more trouble than its worth. "I should return to my father and inform him what has taken place." . his green eyes wide with worry. It would be far easier for his Death Eaters to purchase finished weapons from other sources. head bowed as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders." he said respectfully. Severus thought. my father and I discussed this with the other Winter Land lords last night. "This might make the trip a bit easier. There are only two things in our land that could be of any interest to the Dark Lord . "Harry. moving to kneel on one knee at Harry side. Alrik sighed and smiled gently. We all knew the risks." Alrik shook his head. But they have done more than abandoned us.

Ginny and Hermione in bed ." "You're right of course. We thought Severus and the others might need a bit of help. He looked at Dumbledore in confusion. Ginny and Hermione up to . "Portkeys." Albus nodded and gave Alrik a piercing stare." Alarmed. Alrik looked at the large number of bottle caps. I was about to gather the Order. "We weren't certain what had happened to Harry." Alrik agreed." he explained." Albus shrugged innocently. Truthfully." Remus cut in. "Albus. calculating how many people could be transported with that many portkeys. "I'll collect him when I leave.if only for a few weeks at least. "Well. "What about Sirius? The Press will be crawling all over this place when they learn what happened tonight. Severus if you would escort Harry down to your rooms.they have classes tomorrow. "You weren't kidding about the army of angry wizards?" Severus just shook his head at his brother-in-law. "They'll take you directly to gates of Bifrost Hall. And after the events of tonight." "As for the rest of you." Dumbledore announced." "Of course. he is essentially a free man within our borders. and perhaps the twins can take Ron.Alrik opened the pouch and poured out a large quantity of what looked to be Butterbeer bottle caps into his hand. we'll welcome someone of his strength to help us get things back to normal. He may stay as long as necessary. "Perhaps you would be kind enough to take Sirius with you when you return to the Winter Lands . The old wizard just stroked his long white beard and shrugged. "My father granted him asylum already. "We should get Harry." He glanced at Remus and nodded assuringly at him." Alrik turned to stare at Severus in shock. Ron.

The metal scales of his armor clinked together as he sat. I would appreciate if the rest of you help me clear out any remaining visitors from the castle. and there was a gray cast to his face that Severus did not like. They reached their portrait and Severus quietly murmured the password. He guessed that at last the boy had reached the end of his strength ." he ordered. Harry made no protest as Severus knelt in front of him and began undoing his belt. moving into Slytherin territory. it still pressed against the body in strange ways. Harry stepped into the room with a strange sigh of relief as if he too might like to remain there and not come out. raising his arms. first the shin guards." As Severus stood to escort Harry back to their rooms. The young man was silent. "Stand. and the padding beneath showed . Though the armor was nearly weightless." Severus offered. "Let me help you with your least for a year or so. Truthfully he felt like locking Harry in their quarters and forbidding him to leave .or at least the limit of his ability to deal with the chaos of his life. he caught the nod from Albus and understood that all of them would be meeting afterward to speak further on this matter. and the young man obediently rose to his feet. No doubt Albus was dying to know what had transpired in the Winter Lands to make its lords swear an oath of fealty to a boy they had just kidnapped. Severus ushered Harry out of the room and down toward the dungeons of Hogwarts. The boy crossed to the fireplace. carefully lifting it off his body. He wasn't certain how much more he could take. Severus could only hope that this would be the end of surprises for a while.Gryffindor Tower. sinking down onto one of the couches. Severus caught the hem of the mail shirt and pulled it smoothly upward and over his head. He sat passively by while Severus removed the armor he and Black had clad him in earlier that day. then the arm bracers.

"A few bruises. Harry is in taking a bath. If you need something. Dobby will be protecting Harry Potter with his very life!" . his ears perking forward. and I do not want any of them getting in here and disturbing the boy." he ordered the elf. "And remain in this room. worried suddenly. and Severus found himself watching him in concern. He was closed off and quiet .he did not know if Harry had been struck during the battle that day." Harry just nodded and proceeded toward the bedroom door. "Dobby understands. And Severus was not the sort of person who knew how to deal with emotional upheaval. I think I'd just like to sleep. But Harry shook his head. I'll return later. He waited until the door to the bedroom had closed before he summoned the house elf himself. though Severus was loathed to admit such a thing. who seemed to be clad in a brand new Weasley sweater bearing a large blue 'D' on the front. appeared instantly in front of him. Perhaps Remus would have been a better person to tend to him just now. There were a lot of strangers in the castle tonight. I'm fine. "Clean that and the rest of it. The strange little creature. Professor Snape. Severus couldn't help wondering if the body beneath would be bruised as well . Do you understand?" The elf's eyes grew wide. I expect you to guard him and bring him anything he asks for. summon that blasted house elf that is so fond of you." "Take a hot bath before you do. "Are you injured at all?" he asked.a state that was unnatural to a Gryffindor. "I'm going to go help Albus clear out the castle.signs of wear. Severus tossed the shirt of armor to the creature. Do not let anyone into the room." Severus advised.

the sooner he could return."See that you do!" Snape ordered. The sooner he finished with Dumbledore and the rest of the Order. . and then strode toward the door.

"Yes. Potter is not so extraordinary as we have all been led to believe. eyes narrowing. "Your son has said more than enough on the subject already.but I do wonder precisely who it is you have sided with." Lucius just shrugged and sighed rather dramatically. his silver-headed cane gripped tightly in one gloved hand. "Yes. I see it has not. "Is that any way to greet an old friend?" "I'm in no mood for pointless pleasantries tonight. Perhaps Mr. I suppose . "Lucius. He gets it from Narcissa's side of the family." Severus sighed. I have business to discuss with you. Draco can be a bit crude on occasion. But I hardly came here to exchange quips about your marriage. a cold smile on his pale face." "I'm not interest in any business you might wish to discuss. "Really." Lucius mused. Severus." "Spare me the innuendos!" Severus growled. I would have thought that marriage to the lovely Mr. I'm afraid. "I think my loyalties have been adequately declared. but as he passed the dark corridor that led to the Slytherin dormitory." Severus replied. "What are you still doing here?" "My goodness. Severus." "Your loyalties." Severus snapped. Lucius. Potter would have improved your mood. Lucius Malfoy was waiting for him. Dumbledore or Potter?" "You think there is a difference?" . Severus. Severus realized that his evening was yet again going to take a turn for the worse. Severus. Lucius just laughed softly." Lucius purred.CHAPTER THIRTY NINE Severus left his quarters and strode swiftly down the torch lit hall.

. believe me. "That I can almost understand. "Join Dumbledore and his pathetic band of Muggle Lovers? He would have us crawling on our knees and kissing the feet of Muggles before this all over!" . glaring coldly at the man." Lucius agreed. "Are you asking for our protection. Lucius? You wish to join Dumbledore-" "No!" Lucius snarled.unspeakable.something Severus did not like at all. a shadow of unease Severus had never seen in the man. . ." "He was always mad. tapping his cane against his thigh thoughtfully. "The Dark Lord has gone mad. . "Has the bloom gone off the rose?" Something strange passed over Lucius' features then. "Yes. something . "I find it very hard to believe you would share such an interest?" Lucius laughed at that." "Not like this. Potter has an aura of power about him that I have not seen since. The blond man looked amused and intrigued ." He smiled suddenly. I can hardly blame you for jumping at such an opportunity. My tastes have always run toward women . . "This is something different.but Mr. I am not blind. Lucius?" Severus mocked." Lucius shook his head. "Since then. Severus." Severus felt a cold anger seep into his veins at Lucius' words." "Since the Dark Lord?" Severus finished for him." "What's wrong. If he thought to compare Harry to Voldemort he was blind indeed." Severus stared incredulously at the man. glaring furiously at him. I had not realized how attractive the boy had become. "Dumbledore comes with an ideology and an agenda.Lucius just shrugged. Severus. Potter on the other hand. . "Oh.

He counted the lie he'd told the Order about Regulus Black's death his one kindness toward Sirius Black who likely would not have been able to handle the truth about his brother. I will take whatever steps I must to protect myself. like Bellatrix." he shuddered in horror." He smirked suddenly. He's already getting strange ideas in his head. What could Draco have done to prompt this behavior in Lucius? "What sorts of strange ideas?" Lucius looked vaguely ill with the thought. Severus! This is not about me or the Dark Lord. "A Muggle of all things. but their sexual tastes have always been a bit off. "Did you ever tell your beloved Order exactly how Regulus died? Or rather what he died beneath?" Severus found his stomach churning with the memory and he forced his face to remain emotionless. What was he up to now? "I do not need anyone's protection." he sneered. had a sexual appetite that grew obscene and out of control. "Perversions."How is that any different from-" Severus began only to be cut off by Lucius. Bellatrix will spread her legs for anyone." Severus found himself bewildered by the turn this conversation had taken. while Narcissa seems to have sewn herself shut. They have an impeccable pedigree. His life had ended at one such revel when he'd been goaded by Bellatrix to . And Andromeda. This is about Draco." "Draco?" Severus stared at the man in surprise. But I do not want my son involved in this madness either. to where even their rather public performances at Dark Revels could not fully sate his desire for the perverse. "Do not start with me. Regulus. She would have been better off going the way of Regulus than polluting her blood in such a manner. "I think it must be the Black family blood.

Lucius frowned at him.there could be only one reason Lucius was bringing this subject up with him . there was little left that was recognizable of his face. Lying to the Order about Regulus' change of heart and desire to escape the Death Eaters only to heroically meet his end at the wand of the Dark Lord had been far easier than having to repeat such a story to anyone." Lucius explained. Your side is made up of filthy mongrels. your blood being one of the few exceptions.quench the sexual appetite of a mountain troll. He rather hoped Draco had not expressed similar tastes. "Oh. By the time the other Death Eaters had pulled the troll off of him. "Draco will not admit it of course. he must go to someone on your side." Severus had a sudden horrific thought . but he is beginning to desire things he should not have. I cannot marry him off to any of my current associates and hope to keep him from the Dark Lord's madness. surely you do not mean Julius?" ." "Why are you telling me this?" Severus asked in surprise. The creature had crushed Regulus' head to a pulp as it held the man down on the ground and pounded violently into him.if he intended to arrange a marriage to someone in Severus' own family. Even to this day the very memory made Severus sick to his stomach. "Things that are beneath him. "What does this have to do with Draco?" Severus asked. No. But the problem of course is all a matter of pedigree. I have decided to marry him off. refusing to rise to Lucius' bait. Merlin. "Surely that is obvious. He needs to be taken in hand by someone strong enough to satisfy his desires should they awaken.

" Severus protested." Severus just stared at Lucius in shock. my proposal takes precedence over any understanding that might exist between them.Lucius looked outraged at the thought. he is a member of your extended family. "If he tries he'll be put down like the creature he is. thanks to your marriage.he knew his stunned disbelief was obvious on his expression." "Tell that to the angry wolf that will tear your son apart!" Lucius' fist closed tightly around the head of his silver cane." Relieved Severus just shook his head. this is madness. I will have an Euthanasia Order slapped on him so fast he will not see his next moon rise. "Are you mad!" he shouted. So much for keeping his emotions from his face . are you mad? No. "Sirius Black?" Lucius just shrugged." Lucius replied. "Black will never agree to it. "They are not yet bonded. "The youngest son in a family of five. "Intends to bond. not believing what he had just heard. I formally request that you present my proposal for the marriage between Draco Malfoy and Sirius Black. and now." "Black intends to bond with Remus Lupin. In fact if he makes one move toward my son. And since by law Remus Lupin is little better than an animal. my son will go to a blood heir and a head of house." "Lucius. or no one at all." Severus informed him. "There is no one else on your side that is suitable. "Then why are you speaking of this to me?" Lucius smirked." . "Because there is only one person on your side of suitable blood and position.

Gryffindors had a tendency to fall apart in the face of such adversity. Oh. Sirius would be dead within a week." "He will not. Pathetic."Black has no choice but to agree. not sad. But beyond that have you forgotten whom the family name would go to? The moment she possessed the title." But Lucius just glared at him. For a long moment Severus just stood alone in the hallway staring after the man. I think under those circumstances even your pet werewolf would have to urge him to accept . Sad ." "He will choose to forfeit his name. . And Harry . Sirius is Draco's cousin. What would Harry think? He loved his godfather . he didn't care so much about the sappy romance between Lupin and Black . It will come to no good. I will hear no other arguments against it. And while a stoic Slytherin might accept the situation and move on. Oh. "Lucius. Surely the noble Gryffindor will not abandon his young cousin to the madness of the Dark Lord if it were in his power to save him?" Severus doubled Black would care about his cousin. do not do this. sorry business all around." And with that he turned and strode swiftly away. dread filling his heart. I think.not really anyway . he decided. "My proposal is an honorable one and without any legal impediment Black has to accept or forfeit his family name.loved the blasted werewolf as well. ." Lucius laughed.though what a sad thing it was that Lupin would lose out in the end after so many years of devotion. "My mind is made up. Bellatrix would use blood magic against him. "Gryffindor or not." Lucius insisted. You will present my offer. And speaking of Gryffindor. Severus shook his head.not at all.Gryffindors are like was a sad. This would not be good . He felt ill. hell! Severus sighed. his name means something to him. but the threat of blood magic was a very real one and a sickening dread filled his heart. . heading toward the castle proper and the main doors of Hogwarts.

and Severus paused momentarily at the door to glance around at those present. For the most part they listened in silence. No one would. Filius Flitwick asked twice what spell Harry had used to move the stone. "Everything alright with Harry?" Albus asked when he noticed Severus standing in the doorway. and then just sat there with a somewhat stunned look on his face.He would not take this well. Along with Albus and numerous members of the staff who were no doubt anxious to hear the events of the last few days. allowing Minerva and Flitwick to secure the room with a privacy charm. Molly and Arthur had remained. which was probably what Lucius had intended. Bill. But he wasn't counting on it." Albus said with a bright twinkle in his eyes. "Well. "I'm guessing you and Remus have quite a story to tell us." He glanced at Remus who just gave him an encouraging smile. dreading and perhaps even fearing the task he had ahead of him. Guessing by now that Dumbledore and the others had cleared the castle. Severus nodded and moved into the room. then. He could only hope that the werewolf would take the news well. Severus headed back to the room they had been meeting in. Charlie and Percy had returned with them. Severus began recounting the events of the last few days to those listening. . only occasionally asking for clarification. The others had only just arrived. He questioned him again on the spell the boy had used to seal the Well. But it was really Remus Lupin Severus was looking at. Especially if the behavior of your brother-in-law toward Harry is anything to go on. "You have no idea. leaving the twins behind in Gryffindor Tower." Severus sighed.

"That's a fine bit of spell work to be will not be safe here for him for some time I think. which no one is going to like. "Do you think he has any idea what the symbolism in the dream may have meant?" It was Remus who answered." Albus laughed softly at that." Minerva replied. Potter has a habit of doing the unexpected." he began." Albus sighed. It seems as if he has . All eyes turned toward him again. I am glad Sirius was able to return to the Winter Lands . stroking his long beard thoughtfully. "Mr. making certain to include the odd dream that Harry had had the night before the battle. regardless." Severs sighed. Albus. "By morning it will be on the front page of every Wizarding paper in the world. "I have not heard such an extraordinary story in a long time! It would seem we may not be pushing Mr.Severus finished up his tale. but this is unexpected. and we must watch that Fudge does nothing to disrupt things. I knew the boy was strong. Surprisingly it was the dream that got the most reaction from Albus. "Lucius Malfoy stopped to speak with me on the way here. The old wizard sat back in his chair. "No. He will not take these events lying down. this will certainly cause Harry more stress in the days to come. Potter hard enough in our classes if this is any example of what he is capable of. guessing he could not put the rest of this story off any longer." He looked thoughtfully at both Remus and Severus. I'm afraid he'll see his chances of re-election slipping away and grow desperate. "My goodness!" Flitwick exclaimed when Severus was done with his story." "Agreed." "Well. he thought it had something to do with the Ravenclaw mascot. "I do have one other bit of news.

nearly knocking over the large armchair he had been sitting in. "He wants us to give Draco asylum?" "In a manner or speaking. and has decided to remove Draco from the Dark Lord's grasp." Severus informed him. he'll lose his name and his position as Head of House. If he does. They'll be dead in a week." "No!" Remus shouted and that strange raw energy exploded around them. "That's ridiculous!" "Perhaps so.not accidental magic like Harry so often displayed. something raw and wild as if all the occupants were gripped momentarily by the same burning emotion. "He can't refuse. He has no acceptable reason to refuse a marriage of this status.grown concerned with the Dark Lord's behavior of late." Severus agreed. and his control snapped.and likely against Andromeda too. his mouth twisting into a vicious snarl. He has no choice but to marry Draco." "What!" Remus leaped to his feet. but something else. "But he wants Draco in the hands of the Light. The title will go to Bellatrix Lestrange and I guarantee she'll use the Sang Mort spell against him ." "Sirius will refuse!" Remus insisted in outrage. A strange wave of magic moved through the room at his words ." Severus agreed. his eyes turning completely yellow. and as far as he's concerned the only person of sufficient pedigree on our side is Black. Severus could see more than one person taking a step back from the angry werewolf. They all saw the exact moment when the rage became too much for the werewolf." Albus looked surprised by this. "The two of you are not mated. touching them all. The impossibly strong man lifted the large chair he had been . his voice rising in volume. "He has formally asked me to propose a marriage between his son Draco Malfoy and Sirius Black.

" "A more opportune time?" Severus growled. though he would never admit it.ruining even their friendship?" "But surely Sirius won't really have to marry that spoiled boy!" Molly protested. "Though you could have picked a more opportune time to tell him such news. Molly. Before Remus could take another step. Even the werewolf's natural immunity to magic was not enough to overcome the power of Dumbledore's magic. carefully turning him over and stroking his hair back from his face. "Oh. "Perhaps some other solution may yet present itself. It was Molly who finally rushed to the man's side.seated in and threw it across the room. "I don't know. causing Hagrid and Bill to duck out of the way. "I have no choice but to present Malfoy's proposal." Albus admitted. feeling out of sorts and frightened. Severus." she gasped. "He did not just turn feral! Not Remus! He'll be alright." . In the mean time I think I had best get Remus down to the infirmary." "I don't know. It was Albus' spell that struck him. I do not think he will let this get the best of him. A deafening silence settled over the room. Albus. They've been through enough. The man collapsed unconscious. and give the wolf the opportunity to take by force what was being denied him . every wand in the room was trained on him. "When would you have suggested. It shattered against the wall. won't he?" Albus however looked deeply troubled. "Neither he nor Remus deserves that. Albus? When I was alone with him so that he could tear me apart without witnesses? Or perhaps I should have allowed Black to tell him." He frowned at Severus." "And what about Black?" Severus demanded. Remus is one of the strongest men I know.

Albus just patted her gently on the shoulder. And certain security precautions would have to be taken considering he is wanted by the Ministry. when we know more about the state of his mind. I think it is safe to wait a while before informing him. . ."It is conceivable that it could take a few days to find out where Sirius is staying." ." He broke off and shook his head. Tomorrow will no doubt be. After all." "What will happen to Remus if he has gone feral?" Molly asked. her eyes frightened. "And it is its conceivable that after learning of his location it may take a few days before you have the opportunity to speak to him in person. "Unusual to say the least." Albus replied thoughtfully. Perhaps another solution will present itself by then. "Let us worry about that later. In the mean time we had all best try to get some sleep. such an important matter cannot be conveyed by letter.

Despite his seemed to have settled deep in Severus bones and would not leave him. Dobby would do anything for Harry Potter!" "Thank you. Severus was gratefully to return to the dungeons. but Merlin willing he could get a good nights sleep before then. pausing on his way to the bathroom to glance at the bed. "Dobby put Harry Potter to bed and guarded the door. He should have let Lucius inform the werewolf himself . leaving the rest of them to make their ways to their prospective homes. "Dobby did exactly as Professor Snape asked. he felt restless and uneasy. He leaped off the couch when he saw Severus entered the room.CHAPTER FOURTY Albus took Remus to the infirmary. Satisfied. bouncing up and down on the couch and singing softly to himself. To come between a werewolf and his desired mate was madness. an empty vial of his special version of Dreamless Sleep on the nightstand beside him.should have let him risk his own neck by enraging a Dark Creature." he informed the man happily. . and he couldn't help the feeling of rage that burned through him when he thought about what Lucius had just done. He headed toward the bedroom. anxious to end the day and put it behind him. Even now he could still feel that strange emotion that had seeped through the room when Lupin had lost control of himself . As it was he didn't look forward to telling Harry about Remus the following morning. Dobby was waiting in his main sitting room. Severus stripped out of his leathers and headed to the bathroom for a quick shower." Severus nodded and then dismissed the creature. Sure enough he could see Harry asleep. Dobby.

pebbling beneath his fingertips. And if the boy woke .if he were carefully he would not wake. and Severus could see the hints of the smooth planes of his chest. magically. The boy shifted in his sleep and his shirt slipping open more. Severus' body was suddenly aching with was his right. legally. after all? The boy was his.touch him. he might uncover more of his skin and see what delights had been hidden from him. used a whispered spell. that uneasy heat in his chest moving lower and awakening a sudden painful desire inside of him. uncovering one rosy nipple. Perhaps he could even uncover all of his skin . Severus could make him want it.Despite the hot shower Severus was still worked up and edgy by the time he left the bathroom. hungry for affection. he told himself silently.Severus could make him want it. letting his fingers lightly graze over the soft skin at the base of Harry's throat before moving downward and brushing gently over the raised nipple. To deny it was . He felt the skin harden in reaction to his touch.several buttons of his top were undone. easy to seduce. morally. Why shouldn't he take what belonged to him . perhaps even taste the soft curve of his lips and the boy would be none the wiser. Severus' breath caught in his throat. make him want him . He could taste his skin. Without conscious thought he reached out to touch what lay before him. He could taste.and why shouldn't he. He'd be sleepy and confused. taste him. But he knew he had to get some sleep if he was ever going to face the events of tomorrow. Severus drew his gaze down the pale column of the boy's throat . With a tired sigh he climbed into bed beside Harry. taking a moment to gaze down at the young man sleeping peacefully beside him. Or perhaps if he was very careful. his cock hard and heavy. The candlelight danced lightly over the fine features of his face. The boy had taken his potion .

and gods. Even Lucius. And just below the surface he could feel the underlying sense of Harry's magic. no one would take him . something bright and warm. some primordial spark of life that radiated power. Just one taste. he was sweet! Even asleep and insensate to the world. utterly intoxicating. the boy responded to him.he wouldn't allow such a thing to happen. His body throbbed with need. with power. Severus slid one hand down the . and his life had been so cold and bleak alone in those dungeons. breathing in his scent . A fiery flare of rage burned through him at that thought. had seen the attraction that drew so many to Harry's side. tasting. Softly.and gods was there anything more wonderful than the scent of Harry's heated skin. stealing the kiss that had been denied to him. There was something inside the boy. who had little interest in men. And the boy was his for the taking . he promised himself.the boy was so beautiful.if he waited too long someone else might step forward and take Harry away from him. He moved upward. Severus could feel it calling to him the way it called to everyone he met. welcoming him into his mouth with a soft moan as Severus stroked his tongue with his own. moving closer to his heat. like sunshine and springtime. touching . a tender kiss along his jaw line . his to claim. just once he wanted something perfect in his sweet. and let his tongue flick softly against the smooth warm skin. desperate for some relief. had wanted Harry.madness . The slightest pressure parted Harry's lips and he pushed his tongue into that warm mouth. He sighed deeply. thrumming with life. and he shifted closer to the boy's warmth. letting his lips trace gently against the pale skin of Harry's neck. Harry was his . carefully. No. he brushed his lips ever so lightly against the boy's bare shoulder.his to take. he captured Harry's lips with his own.

he was as hard as a rock. He took swift stock of himself . desperate now for release. Severus' mind cleared in an instant as he realized in horror what he was about to do. crossing the sitting room and entering the library. finally to see Harry look at him the way he wanted. capturing his hip and pulling him against his hardness.perhaps his self-imposed celibacy had not been a great idea after all? Granted . all but flinging himself out of bed. He lifted his head. And then he froze in shock when he realized that the boy was still asleep. Locking the door behind himself. What had he been thinking! To let himself lose control like that . like he mattered. "Harry." he whispered. moaning in pleasure when the boy moved against his leg. utterly unaware of what was happening to him. He slipped one leg between Harry's. sensual strokes of his tongue. like he was loved. The boy was hard. like he was needed. "Merlin!" he whispered to himself.surely he wasn't that tired? So exhausted that he didn't even realize what he'd been doing until it was almost too late? Perhaps he'd been alone too long . exploring his mouth with slow. he retreated swiftly from the bedroom. mouth parted helplessly as he moaned in some potion-induced dream. He drew swiftly back from the sleeping boy. grinding his cock into the muscle of his thigh. to see them filled with passion. Shaken to the core. and Severus' heart leaped in his chest. needed to be looked at. he lit the fire before sinking down into one of the reading chairs before the large fireplace. and moments ago he'd been ready to take what he wanted regardless of what Harry might have had to say on the matter. He deepened the kiss. bracing himself so that he could move over Harry's body and press him down into the mattress of the bed. his eyes closed.boy's body. desperate now to see those beautiful green eyes. painfully aroused.

going back to bed was a bad idea. and his solitude suited him just fine. Would it be so wrong to claim him? Claim him before someone else did. perhaps it had been too long. Okay.with both men and women. With Harry. He'd sleep here in the library . of course. but the boy was only sixteen years old.wouldn't be the first time he'd fallen asleep in front of the fireplace. If after only four months of marriage Severus was already so desperate that he would risk breaking Harry's trust. He pictured Harry lying there and felt a shiver of awareness move through him.Harry had some rather strong ideas about marriage and fidelity.and truthfully Severus had no real reason beyond the boy's puritanical indignation to believe this . He glanced over his shoulder at the door. But that didn't mean he had not indulged from time to time . . thinking briefly about going back to bed. less so as he'd gotten older. Shaking himself in anger. he shifted in his seat. . All he needed was a good night's sleep and he'd be back to himself by morning. Even if he did one day intend to give himself to Severus . more comfortable. perhaps remaining celibate was not the best idea? It had been a long time since Severus had felt the need for a regular bed partner . Likely it would be several years yet before the topic even came up. He'd never been particularly promiscuous. He shook his head violently. .that didn't mean he was ready to do so now. And the adrenaline of the last few days was merely affecting him awkwardly. It would be warmer. It was absolute madness! And complete nonsense! He was tired . For the most part it was awkward to even consider such things during the school year. But if he was in danger of losing control like he had just nearly done.but maybe four months of having a tempting young man in his bed was too much for even his control.that was all.

But had he been just as vocal with this sort of dream as well? Had Severus heard him? Or. Harry woke with a start and glanced at the clock. what if he had grabbed Severus in his sleep. despite the fact that Severus must have gone to sleep much later than he had? He felt his entire body flush in embarrassment with the thought. Harry thought in a panic. Good lord. Staggering swiftly out of bed. he'd be back to normal by morning. he shoved back the blankets only to realize that the front of his pajamas were damp and sticky.Yes. and despite the fact that he was alone in the room he felt his face turning red with embarrassment. stripping himself out of his pajamas and shoving them into the laundry hamper for the elves to clean. he made his way to the bathroom to shower.he'd woken enough people up with his dreams. The potion .which Severus claimed over a long period of time was unhealthy. He couldn't remember the details of his dream too well. but he remembered enough to know it had been hot and steamy and that the arms he had dreamed were wrapped around him were most definitely male. oh God. True Dreamless Sleep prevented any dreams at all . He quickly jumped into the shower to wash away the evidence of his dream. In that instant his dream came back to him with a vengeance. strong well-built male. he told himself.a tall. He knew it wasn't unusual for him to shout or scream during one of his nightmares . noting that the hand was pointing firmly to "Time to Get Up". Seeing that Severus was already gone from the room. So was the body he had dreamed he had pressed up against . he thought in embarrassment as he wondered if he might have said something in his sleep. pressed up against him? Was that why Severus had not been in bed still when he had awakened. That was one draw back of the potion Severus made for him.

Severus brewed for him only prevented nightmares. The Severus Snape he knew stalked swiftly from one place to the next. Severus looked agitated.everyone dreamed right? He couldn't be responsible for his dreams . But at least he was home.surely even Severus Snape had embarrassing dreams from time to time? "Is something wrong. Once dressed.back and forth. Harry felt his face heating up once again .what if this was about his dream? Harry thought he would die of embarrassment if Severus mentioned anything about it.that was a surprise as well. Severus was rarely startled by anything. Severus?" he asked. Harry couldn't recall ever seeing Severus pace like that . and he could go back to things that were normal and familiar. he climbed out of the shower to prepare himself for the day. guessing he'd spend the day answering the questions of the other Gryffindors about what had happened to him in the Winter Lands. . It hadn't occurred to Harry that there was another type of dream he might wish to avoid while he was sleeping beside someone else. but he never did something so mindless and pointless as pace. But he couldn't just stand there and stare. and Harry paused in the bedroom doorway to watch the man with some surprise. He wasn't really looking forward to the day ahead of him. He was back at Hogwarts. Severus was waiting for him in the other room. As if he didn't have enough to worry about as it was. Actually. strong cup of tea to get his morning started. and classes would resume. he told himself. a dark scowl on his face. With a heavy sigh. looking forward to a good. pacing back and forth in front of the fire as if angry or upset by something. like a caged animal. Sooner or later he'd have to face the music . startling the man . he headed out to the sitting room.

or was he imagining all this? Maybe it was just a simple courtesy." Harry stared at him shock ." His words were so curt they didn't really ease Harry's mind. I was just lost in thought. "Last night Lucius Malfoy formally asked me to present a marriage proposal between Draco and Sirius Black. staring uncertainly up at Severus. "Everyone is fine .no one is hurt. And neither was he. "You're kidding?" Harry asked. before the scowl vanished from his face and he took a deep breath and seemed to calm down.Immediately Severus stopped his pacing. . "Sorry. "That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!" Severus frowned. nothing more? "Fine. trying desperately to sound non-chalant. "Is everyone alright? Did something happen to someone?" Severus motioned impatiently toward the chair in front of him. "Did you sleep well?" Harry flushed. Perhaps you best sit down. obviously intent on getting Harry seated. . Was that supposed to be a reference to the dream. He sees Black as the means to get him away from the life awaiting him. but he settled down into the chair anyway.the very idea that Lucius Malfoy might actually do something to benefit anyone. and he guessed suddenly that this had nothing to do with an embarrassing dream." Severus began. was . While I have no idea where his loyalties lie. Severus looked too perturbed for that. even his son. and for a moment he just stood there and stared at Harry.did something happen?" Severus frowned and then nodded tightly. and then laughed at the very idea." he informed him. "Yes. actually. Lucius has decided that he does not want his son involved with the Death Eaters. "Is everything. Severus started pacing again. panicky feeling settled over Harry's heart at his words." Harry nodded." An uneasy. "I assure you I am not joking. his cheeks burning.

" Severus snapped. I doubt Draco will agree to it either. The whole idea is silly!" "You don't seem to understand. He has no legitimate reason to refuse a marriage of such good standing ." Severus replied. Remus is a werewolf . "He doesn't actually think Sirius will accept. If his father tells him to marry Sirius Black." Severus replied coldly. "I know that! What does that have to do with anything?" Severus tugged somewhat angrily at a lock of his hair as if unnaturally agitated by something." Harry paled at his words and then found himself flushing in embarrassment as he realized what Severus had implied about making Sirius wait." Harry leaped to his feet. But that he would pick such an unlikely way was beyond belief. "He loves Remus!" "Remus is a werewolf. He rather felt like he had been sucker-punched. "I don't care if it's dishonorable or not!" "Then he will die.he has no legal claim to Black." he protested. and made Black wait. It's not his choice." "There would be no honor in accepting!" Harry insisted. then that's what he'll do. If the damned wolf hadn't been so bloody puritanical. "Life is not fair. he doesn't have a choice either. they wouldn't have this problem.ludicrous. "And somehow I don't think even the wolf will want that. does he? Hell." . As for your godfather. "Sirius will never marry Malfoy!" Harry insisted. Draco has no say in the matter. "That's not fair. They are not mated. But in the real world an honorable marriage offer from the Malfoy family trumps true do so would be dishonorable. "You don't seem to understand what I'm saying. "First.

I mean how can this be an honorable proposal . not understanding what was happening here. "I'm sorry. would they?" "You're in a very foul mood today!" Harry shouted at him."Die!" Harry exclaimed." Somewhat mollified Harry turned his attention back to the matter at hand. the Sang Mort is a very dark form of magic and taints the soul irrevocably. Lucius Malfoy will go straight to the Ministry and lodge a complaint with the Department of Blood Line Inheritance. staring at Harry in surprise. I am. "What are you talking about?" Severus dragged his fingers through his hair. she will use an ancient form of blood magic called the Sang Mort to kill Sirius from a distance. "Of course not. Once she has been named the Head of House. There are only a handful of people in the world capable of that kind of magic. "You're right." he agreed. Your godfather will lose his family name and his position as Head of House .if nothing else has everyone forgotten that Sirius is still a wanted criminal? How can Malfoy marry a wanted criminal and have anyone think it is an honorable marriage?" . "I don't understand how this can happen though. which was looking decidedly wild this morning as he had not tied it back as he usually did. "A Gryffindor would never do such a thing." Severus smirked coldly at him. and Bellatrix is unfortunately one of them. "If he refuses the marriage. Why was Severus being so nasty to him? He hadn't behaved like this in months. Severus grew still for a moment. Finally he just sighed and shook his head." "I wasn't going to suggest such a thing!" Harry protested in horror.a title that will pass immediately to Bellatrix Lestrange. And before you suggest that Sirius do the same thing to her before this takes place. I not myself today. While she's at it she will also likely kill any member of the House of Black that she thinks has not lived up to the name.

Severus laughed humorously at that.the Ministry can do nothing against them.casting the Unforgivables does not violate the honor of the House of Black. they can not remove his claim to his title. The laws of bloodline magic are some of the oldest that exist ." "Sirius isn't dark!" "That doesn't matter. any more than it prevents the Lestranges or the Averys or the MacNairs from voting in the election despite the fact that they are all known Death Eaters. not legal status or morality. they are still the Heads of very powerful Houses . imprison him. land or property. Haven't you wondered how Sirius still has access to all his family vaults despite the fact that he is on the run from the Ministry?" Truthfully. Harry had wondered that . "The House of Black is a Dark House . "So you're saying he has to marry Draco." Severus insisted and Harry shivered uncomfortably. hating the reminder of the house his godfather came from. Until they are dead and their titles have passed on to their heirs." "And being on the lamb from the law does not violate the honor of the House of Black?" Harry asked doubtfully.but until he does something that violates the honor of the House of Black. because Remus has no legal claim over him?" Harry had Sirius managed to buy him such expensive brooms over the years if he could not show his face in public? How was he able to get gold from his vaults in Gringotts? "The Ministry has the right to arrest him. and even execute him ."Black's status as a criminal does nothing to change his position as the Head of the House of Black. "Correct.their rights and privileges are guaranteed by magic." .

" He stopped suddenly. "If it can claim that you and I." "No. can be . "No. 'We know that for every soul that exist in the world there is a soul mate for it." Severus insisted." Harry repeated. "What on earth makes you think that the Marriage Stone would prove that Lupin and Black belong together? It's just as likely to prove that Lupin's perfect match is Alice Longbottom!" "Don't be ridiculous!" Harry scoffed. "We can use the Marriage Stone! The Marriage Stone would certainly trump a Malfoy proposal!" Severus stared at him in disbelief. If these two souls somehow miraculous manage to find each other in life. . "If they do it after the fact that would be the same as refusing . It can bring about great pain and mischief which ultimately diminishes our society. even Malfoy won't be able to argue against it. "This can't happen."But what if they were bonded now . There has to be something. It's a magical artifact . that they're already bonded .even Malfoy will have to accept its final word on the subject!" Severus stared at him incredulously. who have nothing between us.before that stupid proposal. right?" Harry suggested. "If we use the Marriage Stone to prove that Sirius and Remus belong together. It will prove that they belong together. . "What are you blathering on about?" "The Marriage Stone. we know that we cannot pull them apart.' "The Marriage Stone!" he exclaimed." Harry shook his head.Black would lose his name.or mated .or whatever you call it? That would be an acceptable claim. To do so causes chaos. ignoring the angry look that flashed across Severus' face in light of his certainty on the subject. looking more agitated again. something Remus had told him echoing through his mind.

But more frightening than that was the fact that it wasn't just rage lighting Severus' eyes . which had been flushed with rage. given you anything you wanted. And then something odd passed over his face as Harry's words reached him. He released Harry with a violent shove that sent him staggering back. yanking him violently against Severus' body. Had Severus been bitten by a werewolf? His heart was pounding in panic. Remus and Sirius are perfect for-" Harry yelped in shock as a strong hand suddenly closed around one arm. and then rushed toward the door.soul mates. "Your eyes are yellow. "Nothing between us!" Severus snarled. "Nothing! I have protected you with my life. Severus." Harry choked out. His limbs felt shaky and he found himself raising his hands to touch the bruises he was certain were on both his arms. His face. until Harry was certain they were leaving bruises in his flesh. glaring down at him. like Remus Lupin's eyes did when the wolf grew too close to the surface. It took Harry several minutes to calm down enough to even move. his grip on Harry's arms grew tighter and tighter. a look of horror crossing his features as he stared back at him.they really were flashing yellow. . risked myself year after year for your sake. He found himself stunned as he stared at the rage on Severus' face. fought for you! And you dare say there is NOTHING between us!" As he yelled. For four months I have provided for you. A shiver ran through him. did not react at first. "Oh god!" Severus whispered. paled suddenly. it will certainly show that Sirius and Remus are. given you a home. Ripping open the portrait-door. I went to war for you. the man's eyes burning as if lit with some inner fire. he vanished into the torch lit hallway beyond. afraid even to move.

moving swiftly toward the Headmaster's Tower. His emotions tumbled chaotically around his head. "Mischief Managed. pulling it open and rifling through the few items inside it. along with the strange sense of heat he had felt running through him when Severus had yanked him hard against his body." The familiar lines and placards of the Marauder's Map appeared on the parchment and Harry swept his eyes over it. It was still early enough in the morning that very few people were out and about most students still inside their various dormitories. he was surprised to see it down in the infirmary . Yanking his wand from his sleeve he tapped the parchment once. Searching for Remus Lupin's name. and the sooner the better.Shaken and numb he found himself moving into the bedroom and pulling his wardrobe doors open." He wiped the map clean and shoved it back into his trunk. There was Severus. .was Remus sick? Had something happened to Sirius . and it didn't look like Severus was in any mood to talk to anyone.but there was no sign of Sirius on the map. For a moment he thought about racing after Severus. And then just as suddenly his dream came back to him. He needed to talk to Remus. Dropping down onto his knees he reached for his trunk. He needed someone to talk to. and then he headed out of the room. finding out what was wrong. leaving him feeling lost and uncertain where to turn. "I solemn swear I am up to no good. It took him only a moment to find the folded parchment he'd been looking for. At the moment it felt to him as if the whole world had gone mad.

these were the cold.understood that they were brief moments when the wolf inside him grew strong and angry. The door was locked. the man himself spoke. And the bed itself had been modified .the frame far heavier and thicker than the typical infirmary beds. He'd seen Remus' eyes flash this color once or twice . Even the extraordinary strength of the werewolf would not free him from the bed or those manacles. he realized that something was wrong . more like a growl. stopping Harry in his tracks. heading into the main ward toward the private room at the far end of the dorm where the Map had shown Remus to be. from the outside. That was not happening now. his voice low and rough. The full moon was still a week and a half away . They were not the warm.why would they tie him up? What was going on? But before he could reach Remus' was Remus certainly. "Do not touch me. Harry moved swiftly toward the bed. but oddly enough. but the man's arms and legs were bound down tightly to the frame of the bed with very thick iron manacles. But as he approached the lone bed in the room. But it had never been more than a quick flash of awareness before the man returned and the eyes regained their natural color." he warned. deadly eyes of the wolf. He stared in shock as Remus slowly opened his eyes. holding him completely immobile. Harry. gentle amber eyes Harry was used to seeing . he noticed. Alarmed.CHAPTER FOURTY ONE Harry entered the infirmary and moved silently passed Madam Pomfrey's office door. Why on earth would Madam Pomfrey lock Remus in? Flicking the latch he snuck inside. intent of freeing the man. .

" Remus whispered. I cannot stay here. "You're not a killer! Control yourself!" Again Remus fought against the bonds before collapsing once more." "Remus. soothe some of the pain and rage he saw in his face. ." "You know about." Remus said softly. Harry. but I don't know if I can. But the fit only lasted a moment and Harry suspected he was exhausted." he growled softly. Sirius will never marry Draco." Remus whispered. "You shouldn't be here." Harry insisted. only to break off when Remus suddenly tensed and began fighting against the bonds around him. And then his face twisted into a vicious snarl. "Our mood can infect those around us." he said with conviction. ." Harry began. I'm trying to contain it. "Your eyes are yellow. "It's not safe. I've lost control of the wolf."Remus?" he whispered." he told him weakly. "Yes." Harry reminded him hopefully." "Slytherin's potion will cure you. There is no in between. I can't be trusted. "It's dangerous to be around a feral werewolf. "I told you once Harry that werewolves don't handle jealousy well." Remus told him looking momentarily heart broken. "We have calm and we have enraged. "I've gone feral." "I don't understand?" Harry wanted to reach out and touch the man. And I can't seem to get back to the calm. "And I will kill the Malfoy family if I get loose!" "Remus!" Harry cried. I'm no longer safe. Harry. "I know about the marriage proposal. I can't remain around people." The very same color that Severus' had been. What was wrong? Had they been attacked last night? "I know. ." "You won't hurt me. "You know that!" "He will die if he does not.

"I just wanted to see Remus. Harry. The Medi-witch stood just outside the opened door to Remus' private room. There was a low growl emanating from his throat. "The potion.Remus who prided himself on his intellect and knowledge. the potion might cure me. It has to. Potter!" Madam Pomfrey's voice caught Harry by surprise and he whirled around. Remus flicked his gaze toward Harry." Remus said then. remaining just outside the doorway." Harry explained. It isn't safe. "And he won't be married! We'll find some way around this! You'll see Remus! It will work out. seeming to be struggling with emotion.For a moment Remus looked confused as if he had forgotten about the potion ." "Mr. "Come away from there at once! You shouldn't be here! Step away from him!" Harry frowned." ." "It will be alright. She had her wand out. Remus!" Harry said in a panic." he growled. a hopelessness filling his eyes. "Remus?" Harry asked uncertainly. looking both frantic and angry. Harry?" he begged. "Come out of there at once! How did you sneak passed me?" Oddly enough she made no attempt to approach them. yes. "Will you tell him I'm sorry I waited so long?" "You'll speak to him yourself. might push the madness back. and looked back at Remus." Harry agreed. Remus. The man was glaring across the room at Madam Pomfrey. "She's right. his yellow eyes gleaming dangerously in the morning sunlight that seeped in through the tall narrow window along the outer stone wall. "You shouldn't be here. She motioned him toward her. "Sirius will be married by then. "Will you tell him I'm sorry.

stood to greet him. or worse. Amid the rage that had overcome him had been a very strong dose of lust as well. had not dissipated apparently. Then he planted himself stubbornly in the seat. Not if he was still feeling this out of control. But he couldn't stand still. the Ministry had gone mad. It isn't right!" Madam Pomfrey huffed in irritation and stormed angrily back toward her office. even for such a breath-taking view.something dangerous and he really was a true threat to those around him? Right now he felt so out of control he wasn't certain what he was capable of doing. seated behind his desk.but what if it had not been? What if it had been something magical . "I'm not going anywhere. He wasn't going to just walk away and abandon Remus.nearly hurt him. The Headmaster. He had attacked Harry .But Harry shook his head. leaping onto the spinning staircase and riding it to the top of the tower. Severus was acting oddly." he stated. frowning when he saw the expression on Severus' face. "Albus! Something is wrong with me!" Severus shouted and then strode toward the tall window that looked out over the icy Loch far below. nothing made sense any more.that his eyes had turned yellow? A trick of the light surely . He grabbed a chair that was leaning against the wall. "I'm not leaving you here all chained up like this. It was blind panic that drove Severus through the castle and up toward the Headmaster's tower. Whatever madness had gripped him last night. and slammed it down loudly against the stone floor next to Remus' bed. The door at the top opened immediately and he strode inside without bothering to wait for an invitation. Sirius was gone. And what about Harry's words . . folding his arms. He reached the gargoyle and snarled out the password.

he noticed. Albus!" Severus cried. Severus took the bottle from him. "No. How dare you suggest that I would -" "You just said-" Dumbledore began. "What's wrong with me?" ." "I don't want any damned tea!" Severus shouted. shocking him with the force of power behind the words. "Sit down and drink this!" He held out a small glass bottle not tea but a potion. "How can I be thinking such things about a sixteen-year-old? He's my student for Salazar's sake!" And then a thought occurred to him and he turned and snarled at Dumbledore. of course not! I wouldn't hurt Harry. "I want you to come sit down and drink this. "Something is wrong! I attacked Harry!" "Is he hurt?" Dumbledore asked immediately. "He's sixteen. whirling about to begin pacing again." Albus Dumbledore said mildly.He turned immediately and began pacing back and forth across the carpet covering the stone floor. "Severus. opening it and giving it a careful sniff. Momentarily under control and shocked at his own behavior. feeling it settle the itching rage racing through his blood." Severus asked in shock. relief washing through him. He sank gratefully down into one of the cushioned chairs in front of the Headmaster's desk. "You made me marry him! This is your fault! I never would have dreamed of touching him if it hadn't been for your STUPID IDEA!" "Severus Snape!" Dumbledore's voice snapped him out of his rage for a brief moment. Calming Draught. He quickly downed the potion. "What?" Severus turned and glared at him. "Albus. pointing an accusing finger at him.

Norris last night. "I actually had to break up a cat fight between Minerva and Mrs." Albus repeated and then sank down into his seat. "Albus. "Is Harry injured or harmed in anyway?" Horrified Severus looked up at him. Potter will survive a kiss! Especially one he slept through. You made it sound like-" "He's sixteen years old. I . "And I am sorry I didn't warn you. "And Arthur Weasley called me this morning in a panic when he found his wife outside in the back yard blowing up snowdrifts with her wand ." Albus said with a tired sigh." Severus blanched at his words. And last night. He doesn't even know. surprised Albus wasn't more upset. "Hufflepuffs?" "It's always the quiet ones." Severus protested. which had a rather nasty series of scratches running down the back of it." he explained." ." Albus reminded him.I kissed him. yelled at him. but his voice brooked no argument. rolling his eyes in exasperation. Albus!" Severus protested in outrage."Severus. I should have realized that this might happen. "No. . Severus. ." Albus asked very carefully. Touched him. of course not!" "You said you attacked him. Severus felt himself flush red with humiliation. but he was asleep. you don't understand. You're not the only one affected. "I grabbed his arms." Albus just shook his head. "I do understand.together! All three of them! I think Mr." He held up his left hand. "Oh." "You kissed him. Severus.apparently she was convinced the Garden Gnomes were plotting against her. "And a month ago I found three fourth-year Hufflepuffs going at it hot and heavy in the Room of Requirement . good grief.

"Of course I knew. he was not feral back then. have a great many misconceptions about werewolves. "Remus Lupin is one of the kindest. Their moods can affect everyone around them. I've been reading through the Black Family Cognatus Conscriptus to see if there is a loophole somewhere . he's not doing it on purpose!" Albus quickly cut that train of thought off. It is just the nature of werewolves." Albus replied. Severus recognized them as the ones he made special for the Headmaster . "He can't help himself. And we must find a way to protect him while we try to straighten all this out. He rubbed at his eyes from beneath his glasses. looking for once his age. isn't it? He's doing it? Somehow he's affecting all of us." "But you just said-" "You. He caught himself then. And no. and unexpected. and sighed.laced liberally with Calming Draught. like a lot of people. "It's Lupin. I'm afraid so.though I rather suspect Lucius Malfoy has already done so as well. Severus. "Why do you think I was always so lenient with the Marauders?" "Are you saying Lupin was feral even back then?" "Of course not!" Albus snapped in exasperation." "You knew?" Severus asked in disbelief. "Remus is a good man. The old man popped one into his mouth before continuing with what he'd been about to say. Severus." Albus interrupted again." . and what has happened is most unfortunate. most controlled men I have ever met. opening up his desk drawer and pulling out a tin of lemon drops. "Yes." Albus nodded." "But why! Does he blame me for -" "Oh. slamming one fist down on the surface of his desk in a display of temper.Severus' eyes widened in realization.

"Albus. why would a wizard really fear a werewolf when they know that as long . "Perhaps I should start at the beginning . "Severus." Severus said quietly. but it made no sense to him." "What do you mean he has always affected me?" Severus asked in alarm. Take Harry and Hermione . wanting to know why he was being affected like this. "It's the exact opposite. "The reality is Severus that the fear of werewolves is a fear passed on to us by Muggles. It is always the Muggleborns who are so quick to accept them. "What is happening? Why is he able to affect us like this?" "He has always been able to affect you. Albus would not have said it if it were not true. "Muggles?" Severus shook his head. Severus. logically speaking. then would you be surprised to learn that he was not the first werewolf who went to this school. "Well." Albus smiled. He had always believed that the risk of having a werewolf around the students was extreme. The purebloods are the ones most outspoken about werewolves.they didn't even think twice when they learned Lupin was a feel out of control. disbelief holding his tongue. You only notice now because the feral transference is so violent .do you think it odd that I allowed a werewolf to go to this school in the first place? Or that I knowingly hired a werewolf to teach our students?" "We've had this conversation before. I don't understand. "You just never noticed. Albus." But Albus just shook his head." Severus replied flatly." Albus explained. that in fact there was a time in Hogwart's history when werewolves were specifically sought out and brought to this school as both students and teachers?" Severus fell silent at that. Albus sighed and leaned back in his chair.

"Severus we graduate between 40 to 50 students every year from Hogwarts." Albus stated. The only time the werewolves were considered truly dangerous was when they turned feral . sometimes more.they understood it was curse they could not control and everyone took steps to protect themselves against the threat." "What does this have to do with having werewolves at Hogwarts?" Severus cut in. Along with that so did fifty percent of all the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws from those same years. "Around five or six of them. They didn't understand the nature of the curse.male and female. He knew James Potter.nearly half of them became Aurors. As for the rest of the students both younger and older. wondering where Albus was going with this. No. sometimes less. It was they who began hunting them indiscriminately. Were it not for the fact that Voldemort recruited heavily from those same classes of Slytherins I am certain their numbers would have been similar. and could not protect themselves against them when the moon was full. What does this have to do with anything?" "Are you aware of the fact that when you were a student every single one of the Gryffindors in Remus Lupin's class. as well as all the Gryffindors in the class above and below him all became Aurors? Every last one of them . and over the years their fears were spread to our they are not feral they are only dangerous for one night out of the month? There was a time in our history when wizards didn't fear werewolves . of those present at Hogwarts while Remus Lupin was in school ." Severus found himself thinking back to all the students he knew from the other classes while he had been in school.and then they were typically destroyed for the good of society. "How many of those students do you suppose go into the Auror Academy every year?" Severus just shrugged. it was the Muggles who really feared werewolves. Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew had all gone into the Auror .

or the rage that overwhelmed him this morning had been entirely of his own making. he merely amplified them. And an angry drunk at that. "Of those 124 students." "You're saying that Lupin has affected all of them?" Severus asked in disbelief. dominance and possessiveness and making you do things you would normally stop yourself from doing. We lost a lot of Aurors last year in the battle. It doesn't change their personalities or make them do anything they don't want to do . lust. Remus didn't give you the emotions inside of you.program. "Three classes of students have graduated from Hogwarts since Remus Lupin taught here three years just gives them the courage or the strength to go after the things they want with more energy and conviction." "By making them do things they don't want to do?" But Albus shook his head at that." Not certain he wanted to deal with the idea that the lust that had gripped him last night. "By breaking down the inhibitions that control rage. Albus nodded. considering the difficulties ahead of us. "Then you're saying you purposely put Lupin here in this school to affect the students?" . 59 of them have gone into the Auror program. though granted it hadn't stopped Pettigrew from betraying the Ministry and his friends. It is only when a werewolf turns feral that they become a danger to those around them. And Alice and Frank Longbottom had been in the year above them. Lily had been in the Auror Program as well up until she had learned she was pregnant with Harry. And the one thing we need now more than anything. It's rather like being drunk. Under normal circumstances we could have only expected about 15 to 20 instead of 59." Albus many as we can get. "Just being around a werewolf tends to make people more aggressive. are competent Aurors . Severus focused on the Hogwart's issue.

Madam Hooch has been flying it off all morning.she's been repotting Greenhouse Five all morning. To produce the men and women who would govern our world and protect it from all threats. Hagrid is a perfect example of this ." Severus shook his head and stood up. "One of the main purposes of Hogwarts was to produce Aurors. I think we're safe enough. they ." Albus agreed . Most of the other teachers will be fine . "This is all well and fine.he motioned to the hundreds of portraits on the walls of the room. as have many other creatures in our world that could benefit our society as a whole. Minerva would have been fine if she hadn't transformed into her Animagus form last night and tapped into her animal nature. Madam Sprout seems to have channeled her aggression into her plants ." Albus assured him."I purposely did it. but what do we do right now? How many people has Lupin's feral mood affected? Is the whole school at risk?" "No. as did countless other Headmasters before me. Albus. only those who were in the room with him last night or who have come into contact with him since then. Most everyone in that group has a fairly good grip on their darker emotions. "And of the group last night. Ironically the purebloods of our society have unknowingly embraced a Muggle fear and werewolves have become outcastes.magical creatures instinctively trust him. all the figures in them watching this conversation intently. and yet he's looked down upon by wizards because he has giant blood in his veins.they wanted it to be the making of society. And while the Weasleys are certainly volatile enough.Flitwick and Hagrid have non-human blood in them and will hardly be affected. Several raised their hands and waved to Severus as if owning up to the task themselves. The four founders didn't just set this school up to educate the elite of society . not ready to process all the information right now. apparently waging a vicious war on the weeds.

but I have a terrible temper myself. I'm just grateful the twins were not in the room at the time. Severus. . "What are we going to do about Lupin?" Albus tugged thoughtfully on his beard. There are days I'd just like to lock myself in a room and disappear. the alliance between the Black family and the Malfoy family seems set in stone according to the Conscriptus and obviously it hasn't been change since Narcissa married Lucius. "You're being affected?" "Of course. I expect you will handle it as you always have." Albus replied. As it is. "I'm hoping that Slytherin's potion will solve the feral problem.all have various healthy outlets to help control their emotions." Severus smiled wanly at that. and in the meantime I'll continue searching for a way out of this ridiculous marriage. "It is not widely known. I was hoping there was a Degree of Blood clause since Sirius and Draco are first cousins once removed. "How am I supposed to control myself?" "The same way you always have. Why do you think I asked you to make these special lemon drops for me? You try dealing with not only every issue that comes up in a school full of powerful children but also the insanity that is the Ministry of Magic every day." Severus glanced at the lemon drops still sitting open on the Headmaster's desk." Albus explained mildly." Severus agreed. And you have always managed to overcome the impulses. but apparently that is considered an acceptable degree of separation by both families." "And what about me?" Severus demanded. Now that you know what is going on." "First cousin marriages are common enough among Purebloods. "You have always been prone to violent rages.

Severus. I suspect he's had more practice than any of us controlling his emotions. "We shall see. I have no doubt Remus would kill Mr. "Albus. But we best get down there before he finds it in himself to free Remus from his bonds. Mr. "You had best come down here as soon as possible." . "Now what?" he demanded." Severus turned to glare at the headmaster. Malfoy if he got loose now. Potter is here and I can't get him to leave Lupin's room. interrupting their conversation. Considering the way Harry was raised by those horrible Muggles. "Won't Harry be affected as well!" Albus just sighed sadly at that." she called.The Headmaster's floo flared suddenly and Madam Pomfrey's head appeared in the fire.

Harry felt as if he'd just been in a fight. dragged across the room and away from Remus' bed. but only so he could draw his wand from his sleeve and point it at the bound werewolf. Behind him. Silence settled over the room save for the harsh breathing of both Severus and Harry. instantly stilling the werewolf who had actually managed to make the enormous bed rock on its frame. "You stupid boy!" he shouted and grabbed Harry again. Severus cried out wordlessly in protest. Harry.CHAPTER FOURTY TWO Harry didn't have long to wait before both Dumbledore and Severus came rushing into the room where Remus was being kept. Harry struggled in desperation when he saw Dumbledore raise his own wand and hit Remus with a stunning charm. His back was pressed against Severus' chest. his eyes burning with rage as he glared at Severus. While Dumbledore looked relatively calm. Immediately Severus released Harry's arm. looking both furious and horrified. He strode forward. and . leaped in front of Severus' wand. "Let him go!" he snarled. arms held out to stop him from attacking Remus. his dark eyes glaring daggers at both Remus and Harry. Remus howled in rage. and grabbed Harry's arm as if intent on pulling him bodily from the room. "Come away from there at once!" he shouted. off center and then pulled violently back against Severus. yanking Harry out of his chair. Harry found himself suddenly spun around. His words and actions set Remus off again and the man began struggling violently against the bonds holding him down on the bed. sending chills down Harry's spine. black robes billowing about him. Severus did not. though stunned by the situation. the man's arms wrapped possessively around his body. Once again seeing Harry at the end of his wand.

His heart was racing. "I merely stunned him. only to find that any movement made Severus hold him tighter." Harry found himself holding his breath as he stared into Dumbledore's stern blue eyes. release Harry immediately. "I didn't notice any wards on the door. Dumbledore turned a very stern gaze on both of them. muscles flexing into unbreakable bonds. Sir. Severus' arms did not loosen. . taking a hesitant step toward Remus." Harry heard Severus breath catch in his throat at that. and slowly the arms around him loosened and then dropped away.Severus was making no effort to release him. Harry. he pointed his wand at the door and muttered a quiet spell." Dumbledore insisted. "Calm yourself and let him go. "Severus. "Remus is fine." Dumbledore assured him. The man's arms tightened around him. Our presence here is only aggravating his situation. You are frightening him. he could feel the man's breath hot against the back of his neck. trying to read some explanation for the events that had just taken place. With a curious gleam in his eyes. "Severus. We need to leave this room. the heat of his body making Harry tremble with some unnamed emotion. what is wrong with him? What's going on?" Dumbledore frowned and glanced back at the opened door. he is in no danger. Dumbledore's firm hand upon his shoulder stopped him. and he tried to squirm away. The doorframe flared brightly revealing dark red warding sigils on the frame that should have prevented Harry from opening the door in the first place. Madam Pomfrey was standing just outside the heavy wooden frame. How did you get through the wards on the door?" Harry looked up startled. Harry immediately moved away.

slowed down. "Severus explained about the marriage proposal. "Why is he chained up? The moon won't be full for days yet. which had been racing." Dumbledore nodded. He said he was trying to regain control but that it wasn't safe for me to be there. "Sadly." Harry nodded. "They are laced with Calming Draught . "Sir. But Severus stepped in his way. The candy." he said with amusement. "You are full of surprises. he said he lost control of the wolf." Baffled. that's what he said. What on earth was wrong with everyone? In moments they were all seated in Madam Pomfrey's office in brightly patterned chairs that the Headmaster transfigured for them. what happened to Remus?" he asked then. which he passed out to everyone." he stated.what does that mean . and he found the eyes of the Potion Master glaring down at him. blocking his line of sight. Harry watched in some surprise as both Severus and Madam Pomfrey popped one of the candies into their mouths. He tried to decline when the tin was offered to him. a rare smirk on his face.The old man glanced curiously down at Harry. though Harry shivered just the same. "But let us retire to Madam Pomfrey's office so that we can discuss this away from Remus. my boy. Dumbledore held out a tin of lemon drops. though tart. If Severus was willing to eat the sweet. His heart. Harry allowed Dumbledore to lead him out of the room. when Remus heard about it last night. "Yes. and Harry nodded. I'm afraid he turned feral. he did not take it well. he supposed it was safe enough. But what exactly happened . Harry. Harry sighed and took the candy. "I must insist. He will throw off that stunning charm soon. only pausing to glance over his shoulder at Remus.which we all need at the moment. At least they were their normal color once again. did have an instant soothing effect on his body." Not certain what was going on." Dumbledore smiled.

. won't he? He wouldn't hurt us. They are usually killed by the Ministry before they can cause too much damage. The old man leaned back in his chair and sighed thoughtfully." Harry realized in retrospect that the smart thing to do probably would have been to do as the man had ordered. "He told me to leave the room. Harry wasn't certain what to make of the look the three of them know how physically strong they are.they are in a constant state of conflict as their human nature and animal nature war with one another. "Harry. sometimes werewolves lose control of the wolf inside them .they go feral very soon after being infected." "Sir?" Harry cut in. The man looked distinctly unhappy. "No. still fighting to come out. That it wasn't safe. "And did he ask you to free him?" Dumbledore pressed." Harry shook his head. He's aware enough to understand what is going on. risking a glance at Severus." "Remus isn't weak willed!" Harry insisted. When the moon is full. but at the time he hadn't truly felt capable of it. "He spoke with you? Said he was trying to regain control?" Harry nodded. When that happens they become a threat to everyone around them . glancing at both Severus and Madam Pomfrey. But during the rest of the month. He wouldn't hurt anyone. the human is instantly repressed and the wolf takes over. Remus Lupin was always an extraordinary young man. the wolf is still there. I know Remus.for him? He'll be all right. Sometimes weaker willed werewolves simply give up and allow the wolf to take over completely ." Dumbledore's eyes widened at Harry's words. Dumbledore smiled and reached out to pat Harry on the arm. "Well. that's something at least. desperate to comfort and protect the man who was like a father to him. glaring now at the floor rather than Harry.

horror gripping him. "Is his mood affecting everyone else?" he asked the Headmaster uncertainly. But there are some instincts that are nearly impossible for any werewolf to overcome.he'll no doubt be requesting a formal investigation to make certain Remus is kept under control. "No.such as you . and last night his control was shattered. The man. "Are we to just leave Remus locked up in that room then?" He couldn't image just abandoning the man .is affected by his mood." Dumbledore agreed." "Keep our distance?" Harry protested." Dumbledore nodded. And he has survived this curse practically untainted for his entire life. "Everyone who was in the room last night when Remus went feral. of course not. It will fade soon enough as long as we keep our distance from Remus.but Madam Pomfrey had refused to even step into the room to get him. "Euthanize him!" . Most werewolves never recover from a feral rage. but in the mean time we must all take care to control our emotions. seated in one of the chairs near Madam Pomfrey's desk. was glaring at him again. When the Ministry finds out he's gone feral they will euthanize him." Harry leaped to his feet. "Remus is one of the strongest men I know. we can't do that. Lucius is bound to guess that something like this would happen . my boy. arms folded across his chest."No." A thought suddenly occurred to Harry and he threw a wary glance at Severus." he agreed. That he has managed to control himself enough to speak with you and warn you away is extraordinary. It is called Feral Transference. "Very good. "I'm afraid we have another problem. But Dumbledore shook his head and pulled thoughtfully on his beard. as well as anyone who has come into contact with him since then . face stern and imposing.

You can't mean to lock him in a cage." "No. He'll go mad. and I still have to run tests to make certain it is safe. "He must be kept away from everyone. calm yourself. For a moment Harry did not understand." Dumbledore ordered. "Not intentionally perhaps." Dumbledore told him. "We must keep our heads if we are to protect him." Harry turned toward Severus. And we can't keep him chained to a bed for months while we're waiting for the potion. "Oh. we'll be fine. Isolated. and then suddenly it occurred to him just what he was implying. . what exactly it was that Remus might want from Sirius. then what do we do with him? Where do we hide him? We can't risk the Ministry getting a hold of him. I'm afraid we can't do that." . he'll go after Sirius." "Remus would never hurt Sirius!" Harry yelled. I can't just whip up a batch in a couple of minutes. "I didn't ." Dumbledore told him with a rather pointed stare." he said softly." Severus' eyes flashed. "Then what do we do? Can we send him to the Winter Lands with Sirius? He'll be safe from the Ministry there."Harry. If Slytherin's potion can cure him. glaring at all of them for even suggesting such a thing. his hands grasping the arms of his chair tightly as he fought down some emotion. His face burned red with embarrassment." Deflated. Harry sank back down into his chair. And we cannot take the risk of him getting loose. . "Then you must finish the potion! You must brew it immediately. "I can't! It takes months to brew. If he doesn't go after the Malfoys to kill them.

they'll search will only take Lucius a day or two to get the inquiry approved. "You mean to put him to sleep?" "Wait a minute!" Harry protested. "If Lucius gets a formal inquiry. He will not even be aware of the passage of time. they may euthanize him anyway." "We'll still need a place to hide him.Dumbledore shook his head. It will put him into a state of stasis where he will not need air or food or water." "An excellent idea!" Dumbledore agreed. "I believe you have a vial of the Draught of the Living Death in your potion's stores?" Startled Severus nodded." "What about the Chamber of Secrets?" Harry asked. his eyes twinkling once again. "No. Harry." Severus pointed out. it would be cruel to lock him up." . But we dare not delay more than that . thinking about what the term 'put to sleep' meant when it came to animals in the Muggle world. And since Slytherin's potion is yet unproven." He glanced over at Severus. "The Draught of the Living Death is used on trauma patients who are close to dying. Or for that matter Fudge may simply take him as hostage to use him as leverage against Harry. We can wake him when Slytherin's potion is ready for him. he should be safe there. and we can't risk taking Remus through them until they are all safely back in their dorms once more. It is nearly indistinguishable from death." "It's a common treatment for severely injured patients. But Dumbledore patted his arm again reassuringly. "The Draught of the Living Death will put him into a magical sleep. It buys Healers the time necessary to heal their bodies before they slip into a true death. The hallways are no doubt filled with students right now. "The Ministry doesn't know where it is. "We'll have to do it tonight." Madam Pomfrey informed Harry. and only a Parselmouth can open the doors. So unless they get Voldemort to help them.

do I? Because there's nothing between us!" He threw Harry's . Severus sneered at him. keep a close watch on your emotions. "Always the wolf!" Severus snarled. "There must be someway out of it."Sir. "Keep those in your pocket. my boy. but then he had been rather anxious to get to Remus. "You're always running to him." Dumbledore assured him." Harry flushed uncomfortably at the reminder . When he paused to look back at the room Remus was locked in. Once out in the main hall of the castle." he suggested." The old man stood up then. remember. "Now. my boy." Harry protested. He left Madam Pomfrey's office. Severus grabbed his arm and pulled him bodily out of the infirmary. moving reluctantly toward the exit. He supposed it was possible that his accidental magic had struck again. You still must go to school after all. you need to get yourself down to the Great Hall for breakfast. thinking about the thing that had caused this in the first place.he hadn't even noticed the wards on the door. "Will you stop grabbing my arm!" he snapped at the man. "You must have faith. what about the marriage?" Harry asked worriedly. Harry jerked his arm out of Severus' grip." He poured a small handful of lemon drops into Harry's hand. the stern lines of his face as harsh as he'd ever seen them. I best go check the wards on the door. "Then stop doing things you're not supposed to!" "I just wanted to see Remus. Things tend to work out in the end. never mind the fact that you've known me far longer! But I don't count. "Now. But all of you. right?" "I am looking into that as well. and perhaps put an alarm on the main door to the infirmary since even locking wards do not seem strong enough to keep certain students out.

words from earlier back in his face. Instead he turned and ran away. And he refused to cry. "I meant there was nothing between us before!" He could see his words shocked Severus out of the rage he was in. the tell-tale prick of tears threatening in his eyes. sometimes just talking .why would he mean there was nothing now? After everything they'd been through . refused to ever give in to tears.hadn't any of that mattered? Or was it all just in Harry's mind. didn't he understand? They'd even begun spending evenings together in front of the fireplace. But Harry wasn't capable at that moment of having this conversation with him. spoiled-" Harry shoved him hard in the chest. his eyes flashing with rage. "I meant before!" he shouted at him. however unorthodox it might seem? He could blame Severus' rage on the feral transference. hurt that Severus would automatically think the worst of him. delusions from someone who desperately wanted to belong to a real family. so supportive. knocking him away from him. Harry calmed himself as he approached the tall ornate doors to the Hall. Harry doing homework. He should have known Harry meant that there was nothing between them before they'd been married . his eyes widening in stunned surprise. Did he mean so little to the . racing down the hallway and escaping into the main corridors of Hogwarts where the students were beginning to make their way into the Great Hall for breakfast.after spending Christmas together. "You're nothing but a self-centered. but not the blithe misunderstanding of his words. pausing to breathe deeply and fight back the emotion welling inside him. think the worst of him? He thought things were different between them now the man had been so understanding in the Winter Lands. Why did Severus have to yell at him like that. so careful with him. feeling the hurt of the man's accusation overwhelming him. Severus grading papers.

He found himself paling as he walked. and instantly the whispers began. Even the ghosts of Hogwarts were not immune to the curiosity. feeling the scrutiny that was directed at him. He spied Ron and Hermione and hurried toward them. nothing had ever been good enough for the Dursleys. breathing a sigh of relief when the two of them moved apart and made room for . every eye trained on him.he'd forgotten about the press. Every head in the room turned when Harry entered the Hall. Why should anything be any different now? Determine to think of it later when his head was clearer.and maybe Hermione could help him figure out the insanity that was going on with Remus and Sirius too. no matter how much he had wanted to believe.far worse. or some gross failing on his part that he truly did not understand how to belong to a family? The reality was that no matter how hard he had tried.had it only been last night that he'd returned from the Winter Lands? He could see copies of the morning paper being passed around the room . He'd almost forgotten everything else that had happened . Students were standing up just to get a better look at him as he walked across the Hall. All four of the House ghosts were in Was it all just some act. Harry shoved open one of the doors of the Great Hall. It was worse than the morning after his marriage . He needed the normalcy of his friends . and several Harry had never seen before. Even the few teachers at the head table were staring at him. all drifting silently about the room with their silvery eyes following his every step. and through several side doors near the front of the room he could actually see House Elves peaking around the doorways to stare as he walked. murmurs spreading through the room and rising and falling as Harry made his way toward Gryffindor table. anxious now to talk to Ron and Hermione.

Madam Bones had apparently given an interview. It was the dozens of other articles that filled that paper that worried Harry . "It could have been worse. Sitting quickly down into his seat.that the Winter Lands merely wanted to lodge a protest of the Act and didn't truly mean to withdrawal from their Protectorate status. Severus and Alrik beside him. At least he'd have someone friendly on both sides of him. with surprising accuracy. "The Boy Who Would Be King". Neville was seated directly across from him and he handed Harry the paper that someone passed down to him.every conceivable interpretation possible was speculated about in minute detail." Hermione nodded. "At least the main facts were all fairly represented. God. "Even the suggestions that you are attempting to overthrow the government don't begin until page five. mate. Ron patting him on the back. There on the page was a moving photo of his entrance into the Great Hall last night. . There was even an interview from Minister Fudge insisting that this was nothing more than a protest to the new Wizarding Registration Act that the Muggle government was currently proposing ." "Ron's right. Harry. and those articles will be largely dismissed in favor of the others. Remus. the main article was more news than fiction. he was grateful when Hermione wrapped an arm round his waist and hugged him. Harry looked down at the front page of the Daily Prophet." Harry's eyes widened. The article outlined." Ron told him. And even the private meeting with Minister Fudge was fairly well represented . what had happened the night before. Despite the lurid headline." he murmured as he scanned the article below. . Steeling himself for the worst. "Oh. Slashed in red across the top of the page were the words. "Someone suggested that.him on the bench between them. " .

fought in a war. It occurred to him that neither Ron nor Hermione knew about the situation with Sirius and Remus. Harry frowned. "That was bound to be expected Fudge needs to discredit you if he hopes to get any favor back.I'd say it's safe to state that Fudge's days are number. "Aren't winter breaks supposed to be relaxing?" he asked. Students from various houses were still staring at him .or had he been kept in the dark about the details? "Harry?" Hermione's voice caught his attention as he realized he'd momentarily zoned out on his thoughts. poking at the pastry with his dagger." Harry glanced around the room at the other students. was staring somewhat despondently down into his morning plate of waffles. Other people are beginning to wonder what else has managed to slip through the cracks. But the rest of the candidates are going the opposite route .even Slytherin house was drawn into the speculation. The peaceful moments at the Burrow seemed years ago. Since he'd left the Burrow only days ago." Hermione just shrugged. passing papers up and down the table and craning their necks to get a better look at him. "Are you okay?" Harry sighed despondently. The really interesting articles are the ones that speculate on the conspiracy that caused the Winter Lands' petitions to be ignored. he'd been abducted. All the Gryffindors were leaning toward them. declared king of a country he hadn't known existed. not certain what to make of Draco's behavior.Draco Malfoy. trying to catch what he was saying to his friends. In fact only one student in the entire room seemed utterly oblivious to what was going on . seated at Slytherin table. How much did Draco understand about what had happened? Had he been present when Lucius had made the proposal to Severus . and then had his family all but torn apart by Lucius ."Well. He pulled one of Dumbledore's lemon drops out of his pocket and popped it into his mouth. attacked by monsters.

There were days when the idea of returning to the Dursleys and locking himself in the cupboard under the stairs actually seemed rather tempting.Bloody Malfoy. .

"Shouldn't he just be able to say no?" "Not without a good reason. No one seemed certain what to say to him now. "What I don't understand is why Sirius has to marry Draco?" Harry complained after the three of them had hashed out the details of the story in greater depth. Rather than return to the Great Hall for lunch. All day long he'd be subjected to whispers and stares . She took copious notes.though thankfully the bizarre innuendos he'd endured after his marriage were missing this time. Alone and warded behind a privacy charm. Harry sat on Ron's bed and told his two friends about all the things that had occurred in the last few days. Harry. Ron and Hermione retreated into Gryffindor Tower. finishing with the story about the Malfoy proposal and the trouble with Remus. Ron and the other Gryffindors had gotten the former student to promise to join them later in the week during Quidditch practice for some extra coaching. The only pleasant moment he'd had all morning was when he'd learned that Charlie had remained behind at Hogwarts to help Hagrid out with a special project down in one of the main stables.CHAPTER FOURTY THREE It was lunchtime before Harry had a chance to talk to Ron and Hermione in private. Both Ron and Hermione had asked hundreds of questions. locking themselves in the sixth-year boys dormitory with some food courtesy of Dobby. intent on some new research project that Harry just couldn't bring himself to get excited over. And Hermione had been in positive raptures over the description of the Capstone." Ron told him. and so resorted simply to gossiping behind his back rather than confronting him directly. mate. the Well of Despair and the spells Harry had used to move and seal it. wanting to know every detail he could remember about the Winter Lands and the battle he'd fought. .

"What is a Conscriptus?" Ron's eyes widened and he laughed. Hermione's glare hardened and she punched Ron in the arm. The girl looked a bit vexed and was staring at Ron with an irritated frown. Bill would become the Head of House and he'd immediately rescind the position and give it back to my dad. it certainly wouldn't have an open alliance with any family that would force a marriage that any of us didn't want. and even if we did. "No. If that happened. of course not. A History'?" "It's not mentioned in 'Hogwarts. and he stared morosely up at the canopy above them. "Ron!" she protested. "That seems a perfectly good enough reason!" "Doesn't work like that." Ron shook his head. But that wouldn't happen any the merging of two companies. Wasn't often Hermione was lacking a piece of information. There has to be strong legal reasons for the marriage to be denied. . things like emotion have nothing to do with a marriage. My family doesn't have a Conscriptus. A History'. But Ron shook his head in denial. It's a business arrangement . "You don't know?" Even Harry had to sit up at this." "A Conscriptus?" Harry flopped back onto the bed that the three of them were sitting on." Hermione frowned and Harry glanced curiously over at her. He was laughing too hard to notice."How about he just doesn't like the git?" Harry exclaimed. First my Dad wouldn't care if he lost his position as Head of House. "Why do I get the feeling that this is another one of those Wizarding things I should have read about in 'Hogwarts." "So what you're saying is that Lucius Malfoy could have insisted that Ginny marry Draco and there would be absolutely nothing she could do about it because your dad would be removed from his position as Head of House?" Harry demanded. "When you're talking about old pureblood families like the Malfoys and the Blacks.

That's actually why we have a standing feud with the Malfoys. But if you think Lucius is bad. mate. It declares the line of succession as well as lists out alliances with other families and rights and duties the families have to one another. but he had always assumed it was because Lucius was a Death Eater. He broke it entirely. fell in love with her and proposed." Ron grinned. removing our family from the old alliances. "You don't have any tattoos that I've ever seen on you. "A Cognatus Conscritpus. "Do the Potters?" "I doubt it. My great grandfather refused the marriage. It's a magical document. My great grandfather was removed as Head of House." "But what exactly is this Conscriptus. "According to the stories I heard. The Malfoys never forgave us. which was considered a terrible insult. Ron nodded. as if enjoying the chance to relay some secret family history. Abraxas Malfoy."Fine. Abraxas was about ten times worse than him." . and do all the old families have them?" Harry asked uncertainly. "Our family used to have one a long time ago." "Like some sort of legal contract?" Hermione clarified.which is exactly what my grandfather did." Ron told them conspiratorially. A new Head of House has a short period of time to break or change the family Conscriptus . The Malfoy family had a great deal more money and power than our family. "My grandfather had a sister named Elenaor who was extremely beautiful." "Really?" Harry asked intrigued. and there were no grounds based on the Conscriptus to refuse such a valuable alliance." Ron assured him. He knew that Arthur and Lucius hated each other. It's typically only found in the older pureblood families. and my grandfather became the Head. Lucius Malfoy's father. It's one of the reasons why they call us 'Blood Traitors'.

It has nothing to do with the election."Tattoos?" Harry frowned. the family crest. Harry guessed that in a matter of hours she'd probably have researched the subject to death and would know more about it than all the purebloods in the school put together." Ron nodded. "The Muggle nobility of Europe used to keep detailed books to determine good marriages .some of the oldest pureblood families want to make certain that nothing creeps into their bloodline to taint the family tree." Hermione looked up at keeping track of who was related to whom. He wondered if Sirius had something similar on his back. "I thought the Potters were an old family. "It's even more important in the Wizarding World since there's often non-human blood mixed into the issue ." Harry suddenly remembered the rose and serpent tattoo he'd seen on Severus' back that very first night they were married." ." Ron replied. "Yeah. The Conscriptus is strictly a mechanism for designating heirs and forming alliances between families. "We have all those votes in the election." Ron replied. it helped prevent marriages between people with too many close blood ties." "That doesn't mean you have to have a Conscriptus." Harry stated. "It's usually found on the right shoulder blade of the Head of House. "Many of the more progressive families did away with them generations ago. There's another version of it that marks the designated Heir if there is one. They state who a family member can and cannot marry. a curious gleam in her eyes. glancing with mirth at Hermione who was busy writing what he was saying down on her parchment. It sounds like the Conscriptus is a version of that.

thinking he'd found a loophole. I thought the words Dumbledore used were interesting. how do they expect Sirius to marry anyone while he's on the run?" he exclaimed. Unless Sirius changed the Black family Conscriptus when he became heir. He's stuck with whatever nonsense his parents agreed to.Hermione snorted in disgust. "Because he inherited while he was locked up in Azkaban. and that the families no doubt have some sort of alliance between them spelled out in the Conscriptus. Since Lucius married Narcissa Black we can assume that the Conscriptus in both families states that there is nothing to prevent such a marriage. "Well. and because of it Sirius has to marry Draco?" Harry clarified. Draco and Sirius can actually marry by proxy. They don't even have to be in the same country. "You have to go to the Department of Bloodline Inheritance to change a Conscriptus . how do we know he didn't change the Conscriptus?" Harry demanded. "Merlin forbid you marry into a family that might have produced a squib or something." Ron told him. "The Conscriptus would state what sort of marriages would be considered acceptable in both families. then the alliance still stands and he has no legal grounds for refusing the marriage." Something occurred to Harry. and shrugged when both boys looked at her." "Well. "Wouldn't it be illegal for the Malfoys to meet with Sirius for the wedding -they'd be harboring a criminal?" "No." Hermione sighed. Or worse yet a family with a Mudblood somewhere in the background. "I researched marriage ceremonies right after you got married Harry." .something Sirius can't do while he's on the run from the Ministry." "So you're saying that the Malfoys and the Blacks have one of these Conscriptus.

not knowing precisely how to respond to such a thing. There had been so many jokes about his own marriage and wedding night. "Sex?" Hermione know for the proxy thing?" Harry asked. "Actually. "You can't be forced to testify against your spouse. "Hermione!" in protest of the word. Marriage customs have always been rather weird. but consummation by proxy is still technically legal. it still made him red with embarrassment just to think of it." Both Ron and Harry exchanged looks of shock. "You know. who would they get. . what about the. was that his marriage was considered valid only because everyone believed that Severus had insisted upon consummating it. "There was a time here in Muggle Scotland when the English nobility had the right to bed every new bride on her wedding night before her husband did. "You're kidding?" they said in unison. "Well. what about that?" Harry pressed. Or there's even a more bizarre solution." he made a vague motion with his hand. But the one thing he had figured out. Hermione rolled her eyes. "Honestly! Consummation . uncomfortable about mentioning the subject he was thinking of. . . . once Draco and Sirius were married. Draco and Sirius could meet in secret and no one could do anything. "Well." Harry and Ron both stared at her in horror. and had been brought home repeatedly to that a better word?" "Much!" Ron said in irritation. though I don't think anyone practices it any more."Well. only to have Ron exclaim." Harry broke off. Draco could no longer be forced to testify against him. Harry." Hermione told him. . It seemed bizarre in the extreme. But Hermione just shook her head.

We can finish this conversation don't. "You asked!" Hermione exclaimed. Ron smirked and shrugged and they left the tower behind. they all looked away and burst into giggles once again. Harry. "You two are impossible!" She gathered up her notes and books. "It's time for Hagrid's class." "Ewww!" Harry shrieked and leaped off the bed. Of course not a moment later Hagrid told the entire class that the topsecret project was in fact a baby unicorn that had become separated from its herd." The three of them bundled into their heaviest cloaks and headed downstairs to the common room. Despite the cold and the heavy blanket of snow on the ground. As they passed through the warm common room a group of young girls who were sitting off in a corner all started giggling uncontrollably. I also said it isn't commonly practiced any more. "Oh. Care of Magical Creatures was fun that day. The subject is never likely to come up. I'm just saying you would be likely candidates." "Then why did you mention it?" Ron shuddered. Harry just sighed and rolled his eyes in irritation. helping Hagrid with his latest offering .a rather large litters of two-tailed crup puppies.Hermione just shrugged. moving away from both of them. They were watching Harry intently and when he glanced at them. Charlie was there. and in the mean time it was being well guarded by not only Charlie but ." Hermione sighed. "Tell me you're joking!" "Honestly. "I'm not saying either of you would have to agree . Let's go. Actually I hate to say this but either you or Snape would be the most likely candidate. it could be anyone with a close family tie. He went on to explain that the centaurs were trying to locate the herd so that they could return the unicorn to its home. Hagrid explained that they were all forbidden to go into Stable number 4 due to a top-secret project Charlie was helping Hagrid with. While the class was playing with the puppies.

Harry guessed that McGonagall was one of the people who had been affected by Remus' mood. Ron and Hermione ensconced themselves in a quiet corner of the library at one of the reading tables. Rather than the expected tantrum Harry would assume the blond would throw. Harry. which Charlie was well versed in. Throughout the class. He pretty much ignored everyone present. Hagrid was quite horrified when he realized he'd just spilled all his secrets and promptly swore the class to absolute silence. There a surprisingly waspish McGonagall kept them for all of five minutes. but he was grateful for the free period. Harry found himself watching Draco Malfoy. unusually silent despite the fact that he rarely missed the opportunity to mock Hagrid. They were to research how to transfigure a handful of peanuts into a full set of living room furniture. they all trekked back up the wooded hillside to the castle where they headed to the Transfiguration classroom. only responding when Charlie carried one of the crup puppies over to him and handed it to him. few people wanted to tangle with Thestrals and agreed with the request. Hermione also grabbed several books on the subjects of Cognatus Conscriptus as well as the 'Complete History of . Despite the lure of the unicorn. He still seemed despondent. Apparently Thestrals and Dragons shared similar qualities and required similar healing techniques. actually speaking briefly to Charlie though Harry couldn't hear what he said.also three Thestrals that had been wounded recently in a storm. While the majority of the students grabbed the required research material from the library and then returned to their common rooms. After Hagrid's class. before dismissing all of them to the library to work on a research project. Draco took the puppy and played with it. Along with the required transfiguration texts.

He couldn't help but wonder if some of Severus' bad mood had to do with the dream Harry had experienced the night before . "What about children?" Harry asked would suck not having a choice in the.his father might just have told him he was arranging a marriage for him. the Limitations'.the whole thing just lent a weight of embarrassment to the situation that he didn't really know how to deal with. It felt almost like he was right back where they were in September. "You think he knows everything that happened?" Harry asked. and he didn't like it. He'd almost stopped noticing it over the last few months. ." Harry just waved off his apology as he glanced down at the wedding ring on his right hand.wouldn't the Malfoy family be interested in continuing the bloodline? Why would they marry Draco to a man if . and 'Understanding Werewolves'. But Ron just shrugged at that. ." "And Malfoy just has to go along with that?" Harry frowned. "Malfoy sure seemed to be in a bad mood. Imagine letting your parents pick out your future spouse . "I'm sure glad we don't have the same problem in my family. she threw up a privacy charm so that they could continue their conversation. I didn't mean." Ron remarked. Once seated. and 'Wingardium Leviosa." He paled suddenly as if realizing exactly what he was saying. "Oh. "He has no say in this at all?" Ron shook his head." "It's alright. a new thought occurring to him. He may not even know who it is to. Both Ron and Hermione looked at him in surprise. Harry. but today it felt unusually cold and heavy. "You know an heir . sorry. "Maybe . not with the mood Severus was in. He really wasn't looking forward to returning to his quarters.British Capstones'. . .

alright. "It was awful." "Percy!" Ron gasped in shock. . . "Percy decided to talk to me . Harry just glared at them. that sort of stuff?" Harry blanched at the question. . Your dad kept saying things like 'when a boy and girl like each other'." Ron and Hermione looked horrified at the thought. "Yes. And then Charlie drew me aside and I got more details than I ever wanted to hear. everyone. "Of course he ended up running screaming from the room before he could get too involved in the discussion. . . "Together?" Harry nodded and squirmed in his seat. feeling his face turn red. Bill cornered me the next day. their eyes widening.continuing the bloodline were so important to them? Wouldn't that pretty much end any hope of a legitimate heir that way?" Ron and Hermione exchanged looks and glanced oddly at Harry. .though I'm pretty certain they were just pulling my leg. and yes there were shadow puppets involved. "Oh.the bit about House Elves was just gross. "I'm not asking about. But then your parents decided to sit me down to talk to me. Everyone talked to me. and I hope anatomically impossible. Harry just nodded and grimaced." He shuddered at the memory. "Yes. it gets worse. "Harry. "And then the twins decided to talk to me . and I don't want to talk about it again!" Both of them looked surprised. you know . .you know. At least I hope they were ." he protested. and I think I'm scarred for life. though each was trying not to laugh. Harry rolled his eyes miserably." Ron began carefully. "Didn't anyone talk to you about . and then . "Everyone?" they pressed." he assured them." "Oh my god!" Ron paled in horror.I'm just asking about an heir.

" Ron exclaimed in sympathy. It took me several minutes to figure out what she was trying to talk to me about ." Harry explained. "Worse?'' "Right after that Sirius tried to talk to me. "But somehow he kept getting sidetrack and would start ranting about Snape.I don't know who was more horrified. and then finally just stammered and stuttered for several minutes. She started using these gigantic words that I didn't understand. It went on and on like that for about ten minutes before they both just smiled at me and said they hoped I understood everything now. and your dad would get all flustered and confused and then start talking about girls again. she called me into her office for a private chat. And then he told me that he was pretty certain both my parents wanted me to enter a monastery so there was no point in me even thinking about such things. "Who?" "McGonagall.your mum would hit him across the back of the head and say 'two boys." "Oh. 'I understand you need some talking to about the birds and the bees'. no girl'. In the end she just handed me a cookie and sent me on my way. Harry. and then he proceeded to explain the subject to me in minute detail. and slapped me on the back and said. If you ever . But the really awful part was that somehow word of the subject made its way back here to Hogwarts. only to have your mum hit again." Harry shuddered with the memory. "Remember that day we went down into the Chamber? Well after we got back." Harry sighed. "And then Hagrid bumped into me on the stairs." Ron and Hermione looked absolutely flabbergasted at this point. "I'm so sorry! That must have been terrible!" "It gets worse." Harry whispered in horror and both of his friends gasped. Ron and Hermione looked stunned.

ovum. I'm your man. Harry just sat there and endured their laughter in silence. egg. what else do you call it? Sperm. "Harry. "Alright." "Wait a minute." Ron snorted in laughter. "Are you done mocking me now?" he demanded when their laughter finally died down.need to know about the mating habits of birds or bees. "I guess Charlie's talk was okay. "Bill's shadow puppets should have cleared that subject up for you. "Well. . "What's DNA?" Hermione and Harry frowned at each other. "Just information." he admitted." Hermione explained. and tugged on one of her brown curls thoughtfully. Hermione just shook her head. only to receive a blank look from Ron. seed-" "Hermione!" Ron shrieked and glanced around the library in horror. While there were several other students sitting at the other tables. They were just trying to explain. And I mean ACTUAL birds and bees. There's a magic spell that allows two wizards or two witches to combine their DNA and implant it in a squib surrogate mother." Ron interrupted. feeling rather put upon by the world. "You know genetic material. the mechanics of it all." Harry grimaced with the memory. no mechanics. the privacy charm was still in effect and no one looked up at the sound. gamete." she promised. . didn't any of them tell you anything useful?" Hermione asked. . "But none of them said anything about children or heirs. It was disgusting." Both Ron and Hermione were laughing now in disbelief torn between mirth and horror. Harry shrugged his shoulders. scratching at his know.

honestly!" Hermione huffed in disbelief. but Harry had assumed he meant one of his nieces or nephews. He wasn't really certain what to think of the subject now. "No child born to a squib surrogate mother has ever been a squib themselves. In fact some of the old families insist on squib surrogacy every couple of generation whether they need it or not just to make certain the magical line stays strong. not a child of his own. "Why a squib? I thought the old pureblood families wouldn't have anything to do with squibs?" "See. He'd assumed. But now Hermione was saying that not only was it possible." Ignoring the fact that Ron was currently banging his head against the table in mortification. "They combine their DNA and use a squib surrogate mother to carry the child to term. but actually common practice in the Wizarding World for two men to have a child together. that when he'd married Severus. Severus had mentioned something about designating an heir eventually. They're all born magical. what a ridiculous term!" She rolled her eyes and turned back to Harry. "Essence. He wasn't opposed to adopting. that's the interesting part of all this. There's been a lot of research done on the subject." Hermione grinned. He hadn't given the subject a lot of thought. and apparently the very process of conception insures the magic in the child. While the men and women of . "It must be hard to find squib women who would be willing to do something like that?" Harry remarked. Harry asked.His face turned nearly as red as his hair as he leaned forward and whispered to the two of them. his chances for that had died . He doubted the man would even consider the least having children of his own. "Essence!" "Oh. A child with Severus Snape? It didn't seem likely. Squibs as far as he understood were not well thought of. but he had always imagined that at some point in his life he would want to have children." Harry thought about that for a moment.

knowing that there were some things that the two of them. "The process of carrying a magical child for nine months gives the squib woman a boost of magic. would always have in common. "I think it's more the fact that you're a girl and he's been told not to ." Hermione corrected him." He looked so eager that both Harry and Hermione caved and agreed. you'd think Ron would be more open about discussing these subjects." Harry grinned at her. Most squib women jump at the chance to be a surrogate mother . she's no longer a squib. "It's tea time! Lets go back to the common room and talk about Quidditch. Alrik had made a point of telling him that they were not in fact squibs. "Honestly." Hermione explained. "After she gives birth. finding the very idea of switching gender rather creepy to imagine. so much so that some parents when they discover their male child is a squib. feed them a permanent gender changing potion and pretend they were female all along. but they have enough magic to perform common spells. being Muggle born. Ron snatched up his books and raced off ahead of them. They don't necessarily become powerful." Hermione said in exasperation as she and Harry gathered up their belongings at a more leisurely's a win-win situation all around." "Why?" Harry asked in shock. He sat up and glanced at the clock near the main library door." "Can we please stop talking about this now?" Ron begged from where he had his face planted on the table. For the most part things in the Wizarding World are pretty equal between the sexes. "Actually this is one place where women have a huge advantage over men. but in this one thing men are really at a disadvantage. In fact the only squibs Harry had ever met were Filch and Mrs. Figg. "Considering all the children the Weasley family has.the Winter Lands did not have a lot of magic. "Not as hard has you would think.

and nudged her with his shoulder as they walked.discuss certain subjects in mixed company that's the problem. just keep talking about sexy things like DNA and genetic material and he'll be putty in your hands before you know it. He's plenty crude around the other guys. are we?" Harry laughed." She smirked and nudged him back and the two of them followed the tall redhead back to the Gryffindor Common Room. "Oh." Hermione just shook her head. "We're never getting out of the handholding phase. .

" she replied rather nonchalantly. whispering amongst themselves. not understanding why the picture could prompt the giggling. She put it down on the table and pointed to the picture on the front page . It was starting to drive him batty. Severus and Alrik walking into the Great Hall. especially when they noticed that Hermione actually blushed before responding. he couldn't take it any more. Seamus and Neville leaned in to hear Hermione's answer. But there was one phenomenon that he just did not understand . people were actually hesitant to approach him and directly ask him any questions. And the truth was. He leaned across the table toward Hermione to get her attention. not understanding at all. don't worry about it. equally baffled. "What about it?" he demanded." "A change of perspective?" Harry was the same picture that Harry had seen that morning: Harry. When a group of Hufflepuffs directly behind him started giggling. "It's just a. unlike previous times. "What in Merlin's name is the giggling all about?" he whispered. "Oh. "What's gotten into all of them?" Ron. this wasn't the first time he'd been subjected to the same. Dean. It certainly wasn't the most risque picture . Harry. and then giggling. The giggling! Throughout the Great Hall there were clusters of girls who were watching him.CHAPTER FOURTY FOUR By dinner that evening Harry had almost resigned himself to the stares he was receiving from all his classmates. but they all just shrugged their shoulders. Hermione sighed and reached into her bag to pull out her copy of the Daily Prophet. . He looked at the other guys. . After that was actually a new experience for him.change of perspective. Remus.

they all think they've figured it out . and now here he is in leather.Witch Weekly had printed several pictures of him without his shirt on last year.ever taken of him . Now. "Well." Hermione shook her head. Apparently someone managed to snap a few photos while he was changing before a Quidditch game. I mean the Viking is like . ." "Snape?" Ron and Neville exclaimed in one voice. . Harry. Harry looked down at the picture know. And a sword." Hermione squirmed a bit in her seat. come on. a rather predatory smile crossing her face. hot. most people are used to you looking rather. And boots. Seamus began choking on the pumpkin juice he'd just swallowed and Dean pounded helpfully on his back. "I mean I'm not saying he's like handsome or anything.heroic. And may I comment that the lack of glasses has gone over really well amongst your adoring public. you know. Hermione's cheeks flushed. still not understanding.I'm just saying he's like.they've had a change of perspective." "They're giggling because I don't wear glasses any more?" Harry asked in disbelief. But Snape always wears those black billowing teaching robes. shall we say. . ." Her cheeks flushed a deeper red. "Look Harry. "Oh. . . . "Why don't I have any girl-friends?" Hermione moaned to herself. "No." All five of the guys looked at her as if she'd gone mad." Still getting nothing but blank looks she pointed again to the picture. "It's the leather. "Look. Harry. when you first married Professor Snape everyone was looking at the two of you and thinking what on earth did you see in him. "Actually this is less about you and more about Professor Snape." . wow! And everyone had a crush on Professor Lupin. .

"Married life does seem to agree with him. Harry sat there stunned. And the way those leather pants clung to his thighs. "If they've been giggling at me all day." she agreed rather smugly." Ron mumbled under his breath. but Hermione rather pointedly ignored him. "I can wear leather too. He grabbed the paper to take a closer look at it. Harry glanced at the picture again." She fanned herself as if overheated. Severus did look quite a bit different than he normally did .particularly after the disastrous morning and the influence of the feral werewolf. A horrible thought suddenly occurred to him. and Harry noticed that Hermione was making no attempt to conceal her appreciation of the picture the other boys were still looking at. But unlike the .Harry found himself growing warm with the thought. Harry. "Yep. what do you suppose they were doing in Snape's classes?" He could only imagine the mood the man would be in . Neville just looked disturbed. if that was to be believed. and no little bit of jealousy. And the leather really did show off his body to its advantage. and now they all think I married him for his body?" Hermione thought about that for a moment. The leather just sort of put him over the top. Seamus and Dean looking over his shoulder. He was just grateful he didn't have Potions that day. I think it's his hair. "Are you saying that everyone is giggling because they all used to think I married him for his money. He'd known since the first night they were married that those teaching robes hid a lean. firm muscular body. He's been looking quite nice lately. his mouth open in shock. Ron looked very disturbed."You think Snape is hot?" Ron's blue eyes were filled with disbelief. ." he groaned. But the leather. "Oh. god. . trying to look at it with an objective eye. and quite worried. He studied Hermione intently. and then finally nodded.more dangerous.

" After dinner he returned to his rooms.' Severus had said to of the student body population. He'd tried to be good. he sat down in front of the fireplace to do his homework. risked myself year after year for your sake. he had to face Severus that night . He supposed that ultimately he had given Severus nothing in return. Did he truly think Harry was so blind he didn't know all the things he'd done for him? The man had married him. his mind began wandering. and about Sirius who was hopefully safe in the Winter Lands but oblivious to the events that were about to disrupt his life once again. tried to stay out the man's way as much as possible. And he thought about Severus and the fight they had that morning. given you anything you wanted. A quick glance around the room revealed only a few of his belongings that had snuck their way into Severus' neat living room. He thought about Remus.' Severus voice seemed to mock him.had to sleep beside him. He'd thought about putting a couple of pictures on the mantle piece. 'I have protected you with my life. But he knew the moment he entered that Severus was absent. "I hate my life. He couldn't even pay for his own belongings without violating some old-fashioned sense of honor that Severus possessed. just to keep him safe from the Minister. 'For four months I have provided for you. but without Ron or Hermione to keep him company. The Wizarding World had such defined rules on money and propriety and behavior. for god's sake. entering them somewhat reluctantly. the role Harry seemed destined to play in this marriage denied him the ability to give anything back. but had decided that a photo of the Marauders and his mother would probably not be something Severus Snape would appreciate in his . Relieved that he could once again put off facing the man. still strapped to a bed in the infirmary. He banged his head down on the table. For whatever reason. given you a home. He wasn't likely to forget that.

He shouldn't care. Beyond that. He shouldn't care if Severus was angry with him. Maybe the man was only tolerating him because of the duty he believed he owed his bondmate? Maybe Harry really was the self-centered. The man had never cared about him .had actively hated him for all the previous years. He'd spent his evenings in Gryffindor Tower. He'd told him so repeatedly. kept his friends out of their least at first.home. and Harry had returned the favor. though she preferred the owlery when she was at Hogwarts. He wouldn't have cared one bit a few months ago before all this had happened. Sure he kept his broom in the corner of the room by the door most days now. But Harry didn't think he'd imposed too much on the man's life. But somehow the very idea of telling Severus now that he hated him was abhorrent to Harry. And Hedwig had her own perch near the fire. there was little evidence of his invasion of the dungeon. Harry had begun spending more and more time with him in the evenings.afraid he would be upset that he'd gotten himself into trouble once again? And Severus had been so kind to him that night . instead tucked neatly away in his trunk. And he'd stayed out of his way as much as possible . But after a while it had seemed as if Severus enjoyed his company . and he felt suddenly very alone. But Sirius was gone. spoiled brat that Severus had always accused him of being? He pulled his feet up onto the couch and wrapped his arms around his legs. he told himself. Was it only two nights ago he had climbed into bed beside him in the Winter Lands and asked him if he was angry with him . and Remus was going to be locked away. But maybe he was wrong. or didn't really care about him. unconsciously curling up in a ball as he felt a wave of misery wash over him.or at least did not hate it so much as he once had.even his teasing had .

and you were sitting beside him when we entered the room. none of them making an effort to enter." Harry promised. "Could you bring your invisibility cloak down to the infirmary? We must take care of certain matters at once. The rest of the students would all be safely in their common rooms for the night. It was nearly curfew already. He seemed calm enough then with just you beside him. my boy." "Me?" Harry asked in surprise." Dumbledore informed Harry. Madam Pomfrey and Severus were waiting by the closed door." "I'll be right there. "He becomes too agitated if anyone else gets near him. "I explained the situation to Remus earlier. The two of them entered the main ward and headed toward the private room." Dumbledore explained.been kindly meant. Dumbledore. He glanced at the clock as he made his way out of the room. I suspect the wolf inside him . and Harry sat up expectantly. Professor McGonagall was waiting by the infirmary door for him. easy his mind instead of upsetting him. Dumbledore's head appeared in the flame. He'd been sitting on the couch for longer than he'd suspected. "He agreed to take the potion. "There you are. The fire flared suddenly startling him out of his thoughts. but I'm afraid you are going to have to administer it to him. "You said he spoke to you this morning. and then rushed to the bedroom to get his invisibility cloak from his trunk. climbing up out of the dungeons and moving away from Slytherin territory. He didn't want things to go back to the way they had been before." he said kindly. The halls were silent as he headed toward the infirmary. She smiled grimly as he approached and gave him a light pat on one shoulder as if urging him to keep a stiff upper lip.

"Make certain he drinks all of it." Madam Pomfrey assured him. The man smiled encouragingly at him and then opened the door to the room." "We'll be standing right by the door with our wands at the ready. Pour it directly into his mouth . But a human bite is a very nasty thing regardless. His eyes were still yellow and cold. But he knew this was the safest thing for the man.I'd hate to have to spend my evening reattaching your thumb.but be careful in case he tries to bite you. Remus looked exhausted . he had to do it.sees you as family which is why he does not react as violently when you're around. "You'll be in no danger. He could see the redness around the man's wrists where he'd struggled to be free. looking to Severus who was holding a small glass vial filled with a dark purple liquid. He honestly didn't think Remus would hurt him . "It's simple enough. despite the padding around the iron manacles to protect him. but filled now with a frustrated rage and despair that tore at Harry's heart." "What do I do?" Harry asked nervously.that was the first thing Harry noticed as he approached the bed." he informed Harry." But Harry wasn't worried about himself. Harry stepped inside. He handed his invisibility cloak to McGonagall and then nodded to Dumbledore. The man did not look happy about the situation but handed the potion over with a somewhat resigned manner. Keep your fingers well clear of his teeth . and like it not. "He's only contagious when he's in wolf form." Dumbledore explained." "Bite me?" "There's no risk of lycanthropic infection.he hated the idea that they were about to put the man into a magical slumber and lock him away in the Chamber of Secrets for who knows how long. Harry hated the thought that he'd spent the entire day in here .

fighting to get back to Sirius. his eyes barely human. He grew still. Harry promised him and pulled out the stopper on the Draught of the Living Death. Eventually he collapsed with exhaustion. It took Harry a moment to realize that the man was no longer breathing." And whether Remus understood or not." he told him. struggling violently against the bonds that held him down. and Harry held his breath as he waited for him to stop. Harry imagined he had screamed himself raw. "Tell him I'm sorry. and a violent shudder moved through his body. "Please." "It will be okay. and his eyes slowly closed." he begged. "Tell him I'm sorry.fighting to be free . Remus. "Remus!" he cried . and Harry carefully held the potion out to him. Harry. There was so much gray streaked through the hair despite his young age. He swallowed convulsively." Harry promised him. Harry reached out to touch the man's hair. And Sirius will be here with you. stroking the honey-colored locks back from his tired face. Unable to stop himself." he whispered again.this would kill Sirius. He stared tiredly up at Harry. barely audible. For a moment Remus fought again. his body growing calm. for nothing registered in his eyes. He let out a long slow breath. the man parted his lips and allowed Harry to pour the potion into his mouth. "Tell him I'm sorry. and then stopped moving. "You have to drink. And he hated the thought of telling his godfather about this . and a wave of terror crashed over him. And when you wake up we'll have the potion that will cure you. "Harry. You're just going to go to sleep for a little while. Remus sighed. just drink. Remus." But whatever hope the man might have still had that morning seemed to be gone. or was just desperately thirsty. and his voice was hoarse. "It will be okay." Remus whispered.

With a wave of his wand Dumbledore had freed Remus from the bonds that held him. He's only asleep.he'd been directing a line of bloody corpses back to Bifrost Hall. not dead. The comparison did nothing to comfort him." she announced. And then Dumbledore cast a mobilicorpus spell and floated Remus into the air. "The Draught freezes everything. and felt warm hands on his shoulders bracing him even as Madam Pomfrey and Dumbledore moved into the room. and Madam Pomfrey took a moment to tend to the raw abrasions on his skin where he'd fought against the manacles. "He's not breathing!" He turned in a panic. looking for help. "He's fine. my boy?" Dumbledore asked horror. hiding him from anyone who still might be wandering the halls of the castle. remember. The potion was supposed to put him to sleep. remembering the last time he'd cast that spell . he remind himself. Once out in the main infirmary ward. moving him toward the door. While he knew this was the safest thing for Remus. wasn't moving at all. Harry shuddered. speaking softly into his ear and calming him. feeling Severus' hands on his shoulders squeezing him comfortingly. Professor McGonagall draped Harry's invisibility cloak over Remus' prone figure. not kill him! But he wasn't breathing. Harry. "It's alright. and Harry sagged in relief. though he was feeling far less confident about this than he had earlier. he no longer liked the idea of the man being left alone down . Harry nodded. Remus was not dead. holding him steady." a quiet voice reassured him." Madam Pomfrey waved her wand over Remus' still body and then nodded to everyone in the room. Severus was there. It stops his heart and his breath. "You ready to take us back down into the Chamber.

They decided to take Remus into the small private library where they'd found all the books. He couldn't help but remember what had been written on the walls in blood back in his second year . It was only a few days ago that they'd been here with Remus. Madam Pomfrey checked him over once again. the portraits on the walls all suspiciously empty of their occupants. . Severus and Dumbledore had cleaned the place out.there in the Chamber. Harry led them to the second floor girls' lavatory and once inside hissed the command to the sink to open the Chamber entrance. and they gently placed Remus on top of it.Remus.but it seemed a lifetime ago. Ron and Hermione . Sirius. and the preservation charms were still in effect. they headed through the cave and toward the snake cover doors that led into the main chamber."her skeleton shall lie in the chamber forever". Rather than risk sliding down the tunnel. Harry thought he saw Pomfrey making a warding sign against evil at the sound of the Parseltongue command. They all moved silently through the darkened halls of Hogwarts. The giant snake was stored away for potions in one of Severus' private labs. pronouncing him fine. keeping the dust and decay away. But the room was still secure. Once there. Then under the light of several lumos spells. removing the invisibility cloak. Neither McGonagall nor Pomfrey had been with them the last time they had gone down to the chamber and both woman gasped in shock as the sink opened up to reveal the entrance in the ground. Harry was only grateful that the enormous corpse of the Basilisk was now gone -courtesy of Severus. The shelves were now empty . Dumbledore and McGonagall levitated them all down into the main cavern. McGonagall transfigured one of Dumbledore's lemon drops into a large bed. And this time the trip had a far more somber feeling to it.

" Dumbledore assured him. Once in their rooms. A small table with a lantern on it appeared beside the bed . There was no movement beneath his skin." "Can we leave a light for him?" Harry asked Dumbledore. "He'll be fine." he whispered softly. "We'll be back. "He'll be fine. Remus. Severus built up the fire with a wave of his wand and then retreated momentarily to his lab to grab a . and Harry and Severus made their way silently back down into the dungeons." Harry nodded and moved forward. But Remus gave no response. When Harry finally sealed the door to the chamber he couldn't help but wonder how long it would be before they would be able to return to rescue the werewolf. taking hold of one of Remus' hands. staving off the winter chill Harry could feel seeping into his bones. Harry. hating the thought of sealing him up here in the darkness. Dumbledore also cast a warming charm over the room. and waved his wand. "Nothing disturbs the Living Death until the antidote is administered. and the stillness felt unnatural. all of them lost in thought.the golden orb inside the lantern emitted a soft warm light. The return to the castle was done in silence. Harry. They all parted ways once back in the second floor corridor." "We can check on him after the full moon to make certain everything is fine. oblivious to the world around him. "Will he still transform like this?" "No. squeezing his hand gently." Severus informed him."What happens when the moon is full?" Harry asked. "Of course. He isn't the first werewolf to be given the Draught of the Living Death." Madam Pomfrey told Harry. Hopefully when that day came they would have the cure for Lycanthropy and Sirius would be by his side.

Nonetheless. "Just. "I'm fine. He felt raw inside." he assured the man. but his gaze never left Harry's face. "Not angry exactly.or not me specifically. Severus said nothing for a long while. "Are you alright?" Despite the warmth of the fire. . Now that Lupin is asleep and away from us.out of sorts." he replied. It gave him some hope that maybe things would go back to normal." He sank down in the chair across from Harry. Perhaps he should have taken a Calming Draught after all. and watched as he downed the potion instead. "What did you mean this morning?" the man finally asked. feeling lost and out of sorts. calming him when he'd panicked over Remus.potion. curling up once more for warmth and comfort. and then pulled his feet back up onto the seat of the chair. "When you said there was nothing between us before?" Harry ran his hands through his messy hair. gazing into the dancing flames of the fire. But he forced himself to nod in answer. He held up a small vial . You have these ideas about what . hopefully things will go back to normal. could feel the man studying his face. not looking at the man. Despite this. "Do you need another one of these?" Severus asked as he returned to the room. his emotions chaotic. I suppose. Severus frowned at the question. . "You're still angry?" he guessed." he replied. no matter who that might be. "It was stupid. his voice low and smooth. Harry sank down into his chair in front of the fire. It's probably written down somewhere in an etiquette book. "I know you've got this idea in your head about how you are supposed to treat me . but your bondmate. Harry. He shook his head. Harry shivered. Severus had been nice to him earlier.Harry recognized the pale blue of a Calming Draught in the glass bottle. he felt compelled to answer Severus.

and his expression was still unreadable. resting his arms across his thighs as he peered intently at Harry as if trying to figure out what precisely he was saying. and Harry forged on quickly before he could say something disparaging about his godfather." He looked up then. At . but it seemed as if he was searching for something in Harry's eyes." Harry felt it was important that Severus understand and he found himself grasping for words to express what he meant. something selfish. things never worked out. remembering that very first night he had met Sirius back in third year. and then leaned forward in his seat. Severus stirred at the reminder. and what mattered to me was something else. "Because you didn't know . Probably can and cannot say to me. and that means a lot to me. But I want you to know that I do know what you've done for me . before all this happened. but he was never allowed to. "He wanted to give me a home. I said what I said . He said nothing for a long while. "I was wrong.that there was nothing between us because I thought you would know that I meant before. Ironic as it may seem. I am selfcentered." Harry said. "I guess I thought it mattered that it was me." Harry smiled faintly with the memory. you are the only person who as ever given me a real home. I do know." Severus took a long. and didn't know what to make of the expression on the man's face. He gave nothing away. before we were married. You were right. "Sirius asked me to come live with him. because this wasn't about Sirius at all. deep breath. you apologized to me the first night we were married." he told him. keeping all his emotions so carefully in check so that Harry didn't know if anything he was saying was making any sense at all. staring into Severus' dark eyes.all the times you've risked your life. all the sacrifices you made.because what mattered to you was one thing. And I'm sorry if I made you angry. but he forged onward anyway. all the things you given me. Hell.

maybe he wasn't alone after all. but it was something something more than Harry had before." Something passed over Severus' features. "What was it?" Severus asked quietly.even if only temporary. bright and hopeful. feeling strangely empty inside. or because I was the Boy-Who-Lived.but it was no longer directed at the young man he seemed fated to share his life with. He felt as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders . "Harry. He was glad he had thought to take the Calming Draught before talking to the boy. When Severus returned his smile. but because I was me.this point Harry felt so emotionally exhausted. now it was directed once more firmly at the Dursleys who . filled the emptiness inside Harry. "The selfish thing you said mattered to you?" Harry sighed heavily. he didn't know what to think any more. some hard emotion that flickered to life in the man's eyes. and he gave the man a tentative smile. and leaned back in his chair. He could still feel a good sense of rage . Okay. or your bondmate. uncertain how to respond. That you did all this because it was me . "That it mattered that it was me. the emotions churning around inside him were chaotic. just Harry. A spark of warmth." he said softly. and his voice was like warm velvet. CHAPTER FOURTY FIVE Severus sat by the fire long after Harry had gone to bed. just me. his gaze shifting back to the fire. Maybe he never had been." It wasn't exactly a declaration of friendship.not your duty. Something to hold onto. "Duty was the last thing on my mind when I went into the Winter Lands after you. for even with it. Harry grinned. No.

and how grossly he had misunderstood. Merlin the boy was confusing! He baffled Severus at every turn. wanting it to matter that any kindness directed toward him was because of who he was rather than the role he was forced to play in life. he promised himself. and wanted to matter to him. Severus regretted deeply now the words he had said that morning. Rage at the Dursleys wasn't the only emotion plaguing him . Severus had felt his heart turn over. it was obvious that the young man had feelings for him. He wanted to go to bed had been all he could do to let him go . Harry had gone to bed shortly after their conversation without too much prompting. but surely the wound must still be there and Severus did not know how to mend it. wanted to put this entire day behind him. and Severus guessed he was now sound asleep under the influence of the Dreamless Sleep to see that Harry trusted him. It was just as obvious that he didn't have a clue what those feelings might entail. he wanted to meet the Dursleys face to face.seemed to have hurt the boy so deeply he felt that wishing for some real bond with his family was selfish. Neither did Severus for that matter . He wanted to see them regret every selfish and cruel thing they had ever done to their nephew. was grateful to him. But Severus felt some hope in his heart. One day. he told himself. he would extract some sort of petty revenge that went beyond the spells Albus had cursed them with. A selfish thing. He'd grabbed Harry that morning when he'd seen him standing so close to the feral werewolf . and he wanted to s