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Complete header information may be found in Part One.

Return to Part Four

Acts of Will, Part Five

Harry woke up, sore, confused, and hard. He was in his bed, naked, and someone had cleaned and bandaged him.

It took him a moment to recall how he'd been wounded.

When he did, he rolled over to hang off the side of his bed and became violently ill.

~*~

Severus, profoundly disturbed by what his actions had been during his manifestation, had, after dealing with Mrs. Black, fled temporarily into the void in search of Albus.

The bastard wasn't there, Severus thought bitterly, retrieving some of the honeycomb he'd found glowing in the darkness and laying it in a dish. Typical.

He was finding his self-reification, at least, remarkably helpful.

I don't think Potter saw me during the fight. He saw what I projected into his mind and extrapolated from there.

Severus' evidence for this particular theory had come in the form of Unspeakable Granger-Weasley, for whom he'd opened the door the preceding evening. She had walked through him as if he'd been nothing, but he hadn't taken it personally.

The bond Potter and I share is influencing his . . . experience of me.

When his former student had seen the disorder of the drawing room, she'd wrapped her arms around herself and cried, briefly, before quietly laying Potter's journal aside and leaving.

Obviously, it wasn't the first time she'd found the house in such a state, Severus thought, carrying the tray he'd prepared to Potter's room.

He was nervous about waking him, but the brat had to eat. Severus was feeling as tired as a crone's tit; caring for Potter, in addition to his quasi-Inferius self, was taking its toll: he wasn't certain how much longer he could afford the metaphysical expense of his current degree of manifestation, and that terrified him.

~*~

Harry woke up to find no trace of vomit on himself or the carpet. He felt embarrassed, more so when he saw the tray by his bedside.

Hermione was here. Please be gone, he begged, rising weakly to go to the toilet.

The chill air that enfolded him caused another wave of mortification to pass through him—but it also set him on an alert edge.

Hermione wouldn't have stripped me off.

With Dobby gone and Ron no longer willing to deal with the aftermath of one of Harry's bouts of self-destructiveness, Harry knew that neither of them had looked after him.

"So who the hell was it?" he asked himself, dressing in the black trousers and shirt that he found folded neatly on the rim of his bathtub.

It was when he looked at himself in his bedroom mirror that he remembered seeing—and feeling—Snape's presence.

"It's happened at last: I've gone completely 'round the twist."

He was, however, too tired and sore to want to dwell on his obvious descent into madness.

"Hungry," he muttered, making a beeline for the tray.

He sat on the edge of his bed and ate in silence, stubbornly refusing to allow himself to think about anything at all.

~*~

Severus, who had lost his nerve about confronting Potter, watched the other wizard eat and kept well out of his mind, however irritated he felt.

You might take a moment to remember your "guest" in the sub-cellar, you arse.

~*~

"One of the dishes on my tray was empty," Harry said to Hermione, by way of greeting. "It's not like you to forget anything."

Hermione's expression through the fire wasn't particularly clear, but her tone was plain enough.

"What are you on about?" she snapped.

"You did . . . you did bring up a tray for me the other day, didn't you?" Harry asked, not wanting to be more specific in case Ron was there.

"I'm sorry you're lonely, but I don't have time to baby you just now. I'll be in touch when I know something."

With that, Hermione ended the fire-call; Harry felt his eyes burn in response.

I never should have given her my journal. I never should have told her.

He was glad that he'd not said anything about feeling Snape's . . . presence during the altercation with Walburga.

Hermione'd think I was certifiable.

Still, he remained confused about the dish.

"I must have done it all myself."

~*~

There's ingratitude for you, Severus thought, when he discovered that his "patient" hadn't touched the honeycomb he'd left for him. He might have at least taken down the tray.

Potter had slept after eating most of the tray's contents, and Severus had left him to it in favor of examining the journal Unspeakable Granger-Weasley had left.

Its contents were difficult to take, given the astonishing, if unsurprising, whinging tone of Potter's entries, but it was clear that the younger wizard had been assiduous in his care of Severus' body.

Until recently, that is. Why is he even doing this at all? He hates me, Severus thought, ignoring the deeper voice inside his mind that told him he could understand Potter's motivations if he tried.

Severus didn't want to try. He wanted to be back in his body, and it galled him to know that he'd have to rely on Potter, at least in part, to achieve his desire. Albus had said as much.

But he'll need to be whole, himself, if he's to help me, Severus decided, picking up the abandoned tray and carrying it to the kitchen, which means that I need a plan.

~*~

There was a presence in Grimmauld, and it wasn't Walburga. Harry hadn't dared summon her since the business with the dictionary—although he had burned the damned thing and avoided his books entirely to prevent her from interfering with him again.

He wasn't a complete imbecile.

The presence felt familiar. He would have named it Snape but for his suspicion that living in close quarters with the man's body, touching it, wishing for its eyes to reflect something—anything—other than emptiness had caused him to imagine Snape's presence.

He thought he might have conjured something—provoked by by his wishful thinking—akin to Snape's presence, but he rejected that idea because he'd never fancied the wizard, never thought about what his body might feel like against his own.

"That's a lie, isn't it?" Harry admitted, looking up from his journal and laying aside his quill. You've been having it off with men who look like him.

It had once been redheads Harry had sought, but that had been during the Horcrux hunt when he'd creep away to leave Ron and Hermione to it, jealous of what they—of what she—had.

"Never helped much, did it?" Harry whispered, charming his journal invisible.

Ron would be there soon, and he wasn't about to risk more discovery.

I can't let him know how weak I really am. He'd never forgive me for it.

~*~

Auror Weasley—that had come as no surprise—and Potter had gone out. There had been talk between them of "chasing the Snitch around," so Severus knew that it would be some time before the brat returned. He picked up Potter's journal—the charm employed on it didn't seem to affect Severus, a circumstance which he would have found worthy of further study if he hadn't had so many other mysteries to consider—and settled down to read.

These pages, they're like bandages over wounds.

As much of a weakness as Severus found the indulgence in such raw, open writing, he couldn't bring himself to mock Potter for it.

He still thinks he's going mad. That's no surprise.

Having suspected that, Severus had tried not to add to Potter's confusion, electing instead to complete small, useful tasks about the house and otherwise remain out of his way. He wanted Potter to know he was there, but he didn't want to alarm him as he had previously.

He also had no desire to alarm himself; it was difficult to accept the sexual response Potter provoked from him.

"That . . . Harry provokes from me," Severus whispered, trying out the name as he continued his reading.

His moment of self-reflective clarity was short-lived.

"Potter has feelings for Ronald Weasley?" Severus barked, feeling something that was certainly not jealousy twist in his gut.

It shouldn't have been a surprise—there had been talk at Hogwarts—but it was, and Severus hated surprises.

Throwing aside the journal in disgust, he stormed up to the attics.

"Are you here?"

"Where else would I be, Severus?" Walburga groused. "You said this was the only place I'd be safe."

"So it is, but I've come to tell you I'm making progress."

"And it's about time, too. Have you found a way to contact Draco?"

"No, but—"

"He's getting out more," Walburga accused.

Disturbed, Severus asked, "And you know that, how?"

"This is my home, and I can always feel the absence of the usurper's unwelcome presence."

Noting the window that faced the street, Severus realized that Walburga had no special power of discernment beyond what her eyes could see. That's a relief, at least. "Just be patient and remain here, or I won't be able to help you."

Walburga glared at him but said nothing, and Severus left her, not entirely certain that the ghost would obey him. He knew that she was desperate to speak to Draco, and something told him it would not be wise for him to permit that to occur.

Sighing, he could only hope that Walburga's fear would keep her in check because he'd made a distressing discovery: he couldn't banish her. He couldn't, he'd found, use magic, even though he thought he should be able to in much the same manner as he directed his will to manifest a body for himself.

It was the honeycomb that had proved telling. Severus had seen it when looking for Albus and had brought it back with him because he'd thought it was real. Potter, however, had not.

It was an act of will. I wanted Albus. I had seen his bee-keeper's helmet and assumed there would be honeycomb because Albus loved it—but how is it that I can manifest my will in a way Potter notices, so long as it's connected with the physical? "Metaphysics is a bitch."

It annoyed Severus that he didn't have a better grasp of the subject because, given the promiscuous brat's feelings for Weasley, he wasn't certain if he'd be able to convince Potter that he was not imagining his presence.

If I can't make him focus on me, I won't be able to secure his assistance.

It was time, Severus decided, to alter his plan.

~*~

Harry returned to Grimmauld sweaty, exhausted, and aroused. He wasted no time in stripping off and sinking into a hot bath, luxuriating in the feeling of the water's embrace.

"Ron," he murmured hoarsely, imagining that embrace as a column of long, thick fingers wrapped around his erection.

It had never been a problem, the idea of his best mate stroking him off.

Ron would kill me if he knew I did this, Harry thought, squeezing his fingers so that he could push through his guilt.

He knew how much the rumors had always bothered Ron, but the memory of that arse raised over its broomstick was just too good; Harry needed to wank to it. He was just speeding his strokes when he felt a hand clamp down on the base of his prick.

It wasn't Ron's hand; Harry could tell.

Snape!

Harry could feel him. He could feel the fingers working him lengthen and become more slender, and he shuddered into the renewed, slower strokes, moaning lustfully at the unexpected alteration of his fantasy.

"C—can't be . . . Snape. Going mad—oh, fuck! Don't care—don't stop!"

~*~

Severus laughed into the sucking vise he'd made of his mouth and kept firmly in mind that, because he was no longer bound by flesh, he didn't need to breathe.

~*~

Ron strode into the drawing room, struggling out of his jumper and asking, "Heard about Malfoy?"

"Fuck!" Harry exclaimed, allowing his journal to fall forward over his half-exposed groin. "You might've knocked."

As if he hadn't heard, Ron continued, "I can't believe it—two years—you'd think they would've given him more time."

"Yeah," Harry mumbled, hastily fastening his trousers while noting the second jumper Ron was wearing. "Speaking of two . . . ."

"Oh, that—Hermione's nesting."

"'Nesting'?"

"Got hit by a freezing hex or three the other day. Sniffles. Woman's off her nut with worry I'll catch a cold," Ron replied, in between taking bites of one of the sandwiches he'd found on a tray by the sofa. "These are good. Made or conjured?"

"You think Dobby's decided not to liaise for the Department of Elvish Welfare anymore and come back?"

"Has he?"

"No." Severus made the sandwiches. "I made them—went out for groceries earlier."

"Alone?"

"Under glamour," Harry said, reaching for the last sandwich before Ron could. "Had to, what with Skeeter's photographers lurking everywhere."

"Well, however you managed it, eating suits you. You've got some color back in your cheeks."

Harry bit back an embarrassed laugh. "Why're you here?"

"That's a fine way to greet your best mate."

"Who just bursts in on unsuspecting, uh, sandwich-eaters," Harry retorted, his blush deepening.

Ron, who had been leaning against the mantle—a sight Harry would have appreciated more if someone's fingers hadn't been distracting him—rolled his eyes and groaned.

Harry found he appreciated the sound, no matter what the distraction.

"You live like you're still in the dormitory. What would Hermione say?"

"That you should've knocked," Harry retorted, pressing down on the spine of his journal to still the insistent fingers.

"You sure you didn't hear about Malfoy's release and decide to celebrate?"

"No—I mean, yes—wait. What the hell are you on about?" Harry demanded, as the fingers abruptly withdrew.

Throwing himself down in a nearby chair, Ron replied, "You did fancy him."

"I did not."

"You talk in your sleep, Harry."

That revelation was too mortifying to contemplate, so Harry didn't. "What's got you so interested in the prat?"

Ron's face fell. "The Department of Mysteries has offered him a trial position—no doubt to study his Mark—and he'll be reporting to Hermione."

"She must be chuffed about that," Harry said, sarcastically.

Ron's expression darkened. "It was actually her idea—can you believe that?"

"Well, it's not like she'll be inviting him home for a cuppa."

"You've known my wife for how long?"

Harry frowned. That won't do, will it? he thought, wondering how to placate Ron.

He didn't think Hermione needed the stress of an irate husband in her second trimester.

Not after everything I've done to worry her. "Even without the Dementors, Azkaban couldn't have been easy on Malfoy. I'm sure he won't be as horrible as we remember him being."

"That must have been one hell of a wank, what with you talking like a politician."

Harry screwed his eyes shut, and forced himself to ask, "Scrimgeour's involved in this?"

"Yeah. He's got Hermione convinced that the rehabilitation of 'former' Death Eaters will be 'good'—"

"—'for society'," Harry said in time with Ron, as he opened his eyes.

"We're having a baby. How could she have agreed to this?" Ron asked, shoving his fingers into his fringe and smoothing it back—repeatedly.

"The war's over, Ron, and"—I can't believe I'm saying this—"and Malfoy never actually did anything other than get a bullshit tattoo and be bullied by Voldemort into helping the Death Eaters get inside Hogwarts—not that those things were right—but they're in the past. He's not going to hurt—"

"That's not the point! He was a Death Eater! He chose Voldemort! He's partly responsible for Dumbledore's—"

Before Ron could complete his thought, Harry rose and went to him, sitting on the arm of his chair and laying a hand on Ron's shoulder.

"—death," Ron finished, taking a deep breath. "How can people just forget all that? It's madness."

"I—"

"And I can't believe you're spewing such crap when you never forgot it—you killed Snape, for fuck's sake!"

Oh, bollocks. "I . . . I know that," Harry lied, at a loss to respond any other way.

"It's an insult, the Ministry letting Malfoy go. After everything you did to keep us safe, aren't you insulted?" Ron asked, looking up at Harry with tear-filled eyes.

He's scared. He's scared for his family. "Ron," Harry said, gently, "your son's going to be fine."

"We're not talking about my—"

"And you're going to be a good—no, a great—father. Nothing can keep that from happening."

"Something could," Ron whispered. "One of them, one of those despicable bastards we didn't catch, one of them might."

"He'll be proud of you, too, just like I am," Harry continued, moving in front of the chair and crouching over Ron so that he could place his other hand on Ron's other shoulder. "You'll see."

"It's madness," Ron repeated, leaning forward until his forehead almost touched Harry's, "absolute insanity to show any of them mercy."

Harry didn't realize that he was crying, too, until he felt a large warm hand come to rest in between his shoulder blades. Severus, he thought, I don't know what to say to him.

The hand moved in soothing circles as if in reply.

"Merlin," Ron breathed out more than said, straightening up in his chair. "Sorry 'bout that."

Harry straightened up, as well, saying, "Yeah, it's not like you to be such a girl."

Both wizards looked away from each other as they wiped their eyes.

"You wouldn't think it, but she needs me to be strong, Harry, so—"

"Don't worry. I won't tell Hermione that you'd rather eat dirty socks than Malfo—I mean, than be civil to Malfoy."

"Pervert," Ron retorted, half-grinning. "You'd best be careful."

"Of what?"

"Of my wife deciding that her new colleague is a nice son of."

"Don't be ridiculous!" Harry exclaimed, concerned that Ron still looked like he wanted to cry. Oh, what the hell. "I'd never," he continued, prepared to embarrass himself to distract Ron, "let Malfoy close enough to me to tie me down."

"Agh! No. I did not just hear that. You are a perv!"

"And you're going to be a great dad."

"And you a 'funny' uncle," Ron replied, grinning.

*

Later that night, Harry woke up to find himself bound to the bedposts, a hot tongue lapping at his balls, and an insistent, welcome finger working his arse.

"Oh, yes, yes, Severus—please!"

Whatever you need, Harry. Take whatever you need.

Continue to Part Six