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Complete header information may be found in Part One.

Return to Part Five

Acts of Will, Part Six

In the following weeks, Harry found himself hard-pressed to find anything lacking in his life: Grimmauld Place was as clean as a laboratory, the meals he never remembered making for himself were delicious—the tea, perfect—he'd kept up his habit of walking out under glamour to pick up the Prophet and groceries each day, and he never missed a bath.

Trading up to Snape from Walburga for company had worked well for him; he enjoyed his new routine, even if maintaining it had meant accommodating Hermione's "request" that he join the Weasleys for a family dinner.

"I'm really proud of you, Harry," she told him, as they sat in Ron's old room at the Burrow. "You've done wonders with yourself."

"You sound like a presenter for one of those make-over programs your mum was talking about," Harry replied.

Ron laughed. "Jane's fascinated by do-it-yourself programs, as well. I expect Dad'll be redoing the shed before long."

"And then the kitchen," Hermione added.

In the ensuing comfortable silence, Harry asked, "So, Ginny couldn't make it?"

Ron and Hermione both looked away.

Shit. Shouldn't've said anything.

Ron frowned. "She and Blaise came this morning, actually. That's why you can barely see the tree for all the damn expensive presents."

"She just wants to—"

"I know what she wants, Hermione. She's trying to bribe her way back into everyone's good graces."

"Ron, I don't think—"

"And she's missing the point entirely! We don't care about the divorce. It's she who can't get past what happened—Harry's family."

Not Blaise's, Harry thought, frowning, himself. "Not anymore."

"Always," Ron insisted, rolling over on his back to stare at the ceiling.

Harry smiled at that. Love you, too. "Well, she'll forgive me eventually—and it's good to see Percy here this year," he continued, over Ron's mutter of "Nothing to forgive."

Hermione patted Ron's leg and said, "I only wish Arthur would say something to him. It's awfully . . . strained downstairs."

Abruptly, Harry laughed. He laughed so hard that he fell over onto Ron and began gasping for breath.

"You're jiggling the bed so hard that I think I need to pee again," Hermione chided. "What's so funny, anyway?"

"So—orry," Harry said, in between gasps of air. "It's just . . . so funny . . . that we . . . we're hiding."

Ron snorted. "We've been through worse—I see your point," he said, before laughing, himself.

Hermione giggled. "Perhaps we are being silly."

"This is nice," Harry replied, composing himself. "I've missed . . . ."

"Me too, mate."

"Enjoy the peace and quiet while you can, boys," Hermione told them, rising and rubbing her belly significantly. "When Cedric arrives . . . ."

"You're naming the baby after Cedric?"

"'Cedric Harry'," Ron affirmed, looking at Harry. "If that's all right with you, of course."

From the door, Hermione said, "Our son's going to be Cedric Harry whether you mind or not, so don't start minding."

"I won't. I'm glad," Harry said, feeling pleased–and a bit flustered by the honor.

When Hermione left them, Ron asked, "How many times you reckon she's been to the loo today?"

I'm really about to be a godfather. Wow. "Uh, you know, I've lost count," Harry answered, wondering how it was all going to work once the baby came.

He was disconcerted. He'd just begun to feel comfortable with people again, but he much preferred spending time with Severus.

And I can't share any of this with him.

~*~

Severus had scoured the Daily Prophets Harry had been bringing home and hadn't found any useful information about Draco beyond that the boy was living at Malfoy Manor and performing well in his apprenticeship under Unspeakable Granger-Weasley.

Harry seemed well, but Severus hadn't managed to convince him that he wasn't shagging a figment of his imagination.

It's been weeks, and I'm still no closer to finding my way back into my body than I was to begin with—or discovering Walburga's plans for Draco, he thought, deeply frustrated.

He supposed there might be worse fates than indulging in the domestic routine he'd established with Harry.

And when I am back in my body . . . .

Severus couldn't complete the thought; achieving his re-embodiment would mean an end to the most . . . affectionate relationship he'd ever known, and there wouldn't be anything—or anyone—waiting for him beyond Grimmauld's threshold.

Suddenly feeling rather grim, he thought, Perhaps he should have killed me.

~*~

"You're welcome to spend the rest of the day with us, Harry."

"Thanks, Hermione, but I think I've had enough social—I mean—"

"That's all right. I understand."

"I don't," Ron said. "Cleaned up or not, this place is still pretty lonely. It would do you good to get out more."

Harry sighed impatiently. "We'll have a go at practicing those new Quidditch maneuvers you were talking about—next week. You should spend some time alone with your wife, don't you think?"

"Men," Hermione retorted. "Just because I'm married now doesn't mean—"

"You're not Hermione," Ron told her, catching her up into a bear hug and off her feet. "Quality time would suit me very well, wife."

"Ronald! Put me down!"

"Yeah, that's quite enough marital bliss," Harry said, starting as he felt Severus' arms enfold his waist. "Nice," he murmured.

"It is that," Ron agreed, setting Hermione down. "Right, we're off, but you're coming out with me Tuesday next. I'm wrapping up a case then and I'll only have a bit of paperwork to see to in the afternoon."

Hermione kissed Harry on the cheek and said, "You two should really start a Quidditch club."

"Not a bad idea," said Ron. "Need the loo—be right back."

When Ron had left them, Hermione, a worried expression on her face, continued, "Are you certain you're all right? You seem . . . calmer, lately, but—"

"I'm fine, really—quite well, actually."

"I'm sorry I haven't been much help with . . . ."

"No need," Harry answered quickly. "I, uh, I think I'm working out what to do. We can talk about it another time."

Hermione eyed Harry skeptically. "Really."

Harry swallowed. "How's Malfoy working out?"

"He's an arrogant pest," Hermione said, her raised eyebrow indicating to Harry that she didn't believe he'd given the issue of Severus' body much thought at all, "but smart. I think he'll be fine."

"Why'd you want him to—"

"Ready?" Ron interrupted, much to Harry's relief.

He didn't actually give a damn about Malfoy and had no idea what had prompted him to ask about the prat beyond a desire to distract Hermione's suspicions about himself.

"Yes," Hermione replied to Ron, not breaking her gaze with Harry. "Let's meet at the Three Broomsticks for lunch next week—Wednesday—all right?"

"Sure," said Harry, relieved to see his friends leave as he leaned into Severus' chest. "That's not good," he told him. "She's thinking too hard about me—about you. I'm not sure what to tell her."

He forgot about Hermione completely, however, as a clever hand began to massage the placket of his trousers.

"You're right. We've other things to—oh! Good. That's so . . . happy Christmas, Severus."

~*~

Severus sighed, but didn't stop manipulating Harry's prick. It would be a happy Christmas if I weren't spending it alone, he thought bitterly, as he finally accepted that Harry truly didn't believe in him.

Harry groaned and shuddered as he came, and Severus caught him before he could fall.

"You're an ungrateful prat, Potter. Spent the entire day amongst friends and it exhausted you," he lectured, as he carried him abovestairs.

"Sorry," Harry murmured, already half-asleep.

Tucking Harry in, Severus inexplicably found himself missing his mam, despite the fact that she had most nights of his childhood sent him to bed on his own. It was something that Severus had once promised himself that he'd never do were he fortunate enough to have a family of his own.

A proper family—two parents and happy children, he thought, staring at Harry, of whom he'd been taking such assiduous care.

That the prat should take him so for granted, that he shouldn't even believe he was real, suddenly made Severus furious, and he grasped Harry's shoulders and shook him.

"Potter! Wake up, you imbecile! Wake up and see me!"

"Wha—at? What is it?" Harry said, waking and looking blindly around.

Severus picked up Harry's glasses, which he'd placed on the side table, and pressed them into his hand. "Put these on and look at me."

Harry put his glasses on and stared right through Severus. "Fuck. Ron's right, isn't he? I'm even starting to fool myself."

"NO!" Severus shouted, pouring himself into Harry's consciousness and willing him to see him. "I won't allow you to think yourself mad another minute, Potter. I. Am. Real."

"Se—everus?" Harry asked uncertainly, as his eyes fixed on Severus' own.

"Yes! I'm real, damn you! I've been sucking you off and tidying your sodding house and sleeping next to you for weeks, you ungrateful sod, and you will acknowledge me!"

"Oh, Oh. My. God. You're not a dream. You're . . . not . . . you're here. Not in my head. Here," Harry babbled, his eyes wide as he looked, really looked, at Severus.

Relief flooding him, Severus moved to embrace Harry—but he was rebuffed.

Pushing Severus away and leaping backward off the bed, Harry demanded, "What the fuck have you been playing at, Snape?"

"What the hell do you mean?" Severus demanded, stung to hear "Snape" roll off Harry's tongue so harshly after everything they'd done together, heretofore "imagined" by the other wizard or not.

"You've been here, all this time? Here while I washed you? Here while I fed you? Here, drooling and shitting all over yourself while I've been begging you to talk to me?" Harry asked, fury sweeping his features as he stood poised to either attack or flee.

"Calm down, you idiot. If I could have communicated with you then, I—"

"Stay away from me, you mocking fuck!" Harry shouted, racing past Severus and into the corridor.

Stunned, Severus listened as the lock was turned in what he assumed was the door to the loo. He's hiding from me? After all—"You're hiding?" he demanded, storming out of the room to the loo and shaking the handle of the door, too surprised and angry and hurt to realize that he could easily enter the room his own way. "How dare you behave this way! Potter! Open this door!"

"SOD. OFF."

"IDIOT!"

"Get out, Snape! I don't know why you're here—just get out!"

"If I could get out, I would, you sniveling, faithless—"

The door opened abruptly, and Harry thrust himself at Snape. "'Faithless'? I'm faithless? You've been lying to me! Why would you pretend to—HEY! Let go!"

Severus ignored Harry and tightened his grip around the smaller wizard's wrist, dragging him down the stairs. "I'll show you I'm not pretending anything, you pathetic excuse for a wizard!"

"No! I don't want to go down there!" Harry protested, attempting to jerk his arm out of Severus' grasp.

But Severus wasn't about to give up, no matter how incensed he was, now that Harry could see him.

"You need to see both of us," he told Harry, turning and punching him before throwing the stunned Harry over his shoulder and carrying him the rest of the way. "Look!" he ordered, as he threw Harry down on the camp bed that held his quasi-Inferius self.

"Gah!" Harry exclaimed, recoiling from the filth that covered him.

"Your fault, that," Severus said. "You might've come to check on it."

"You didn't have to throw me in its—your—shit!" Harry answered, pushing himself to the floor and spelling himself clean before looking from Severus' fleshy body to the one he'd willed into being. "Fuck. How are you—where did—what the hell's going on?"

Somewhat calmer, Severus replied, "Something to do with metaphysics, I presume."

"You mean you don't know?"

"Do you think I'd be here standing next to my body if I did?"

Rubbing his head where Severus had struck it, Harry, looking at nothing, whispered, "Just because you know . . . sort of why something's happening . . . it, it doesn't mean you know how to fix it."

"Bravo, Mr. Potter. I think we're beginning to understand one another."

Harry met Severus' gaze. "Bollocks."

"Nice ones, too," Severus replied, staring pointedly at Harry's nude body.

"Don't you dare say things like that to me. You . . . you haven't the right."

"What did you just say to me?"

"You. Haven't. The. Right," Harry repeated, from behind gritted teeth as he stood.

"That's rich coming from you," Severus retorted, casting an angry gaze in the direction of the manacles attached to his body's wrists. "Enjoy yourself with me, did you, before I started enjoying myself with you?"

Harry flushed and turned his back. "It was for its own good."

"Fucking it?" Severus goaded, too furious again to care about his certainty that Harry wasn't a pervert.

"I never touched you! Not like that—I'd never do something like that!" Harry shouted, rounding on Severus. "I've been trying to save you!"

"You've a funny way of going about a rescue."

"And you've a bizarre way of . . . of finding someone to shag," Harry accused, taking a step toward Severus, his hands balling into fists.

"I was taking care of you, you imbecile—just as you've been caring for me," Severus admitted, his face falling and shoulders slumping as he thought, No, not caring. Hiding from the bloody world with some idea of me.

Harry's fists relaxed, and he flexed his hands at Severus' change in demeanor. "I . . . I don't think that I can . . . do this right now," he said, walking slowly out the door and taking each step with deliberate slowness.

"Oh, of course not. You're the wounded hero here. How stupid of me to forget."

"Go to hell, Snape."

His eyes burning, Severus shouted, "I'm already there, Potter!"

Continue to Part Seven