Word Count: 7422
Summary: Steps must be taken to insure that Harry is no longer a fit vessel for the Dark Lord.
Disclaimer: This work of fan fiction is based on characters and situations created by J. K. Rowling and owned by J. K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made from (and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by) the posting of this fan work.
Severus Snape hated meetings, especially ones which were purportedly called "to get things done." In his experience—if the meetings weren't being held by Death Eaters—such gatherings served only to muddle the point or points at issue until whatever progress had been made toward the hoped-for goal was deemed of no use. Sitting in Albus Dumbledore's office with several members of the Order and Sirius Black, Severus quickly apprehended that this was to be one such meeting.
"We're getting nowhere, Albus," he growled.
Black glared at the Potions master from his position between Minerva McGonagall and Remus Lupin, but surprised the man by saying, "Snape's right. None of us wants to say what needs saying."
"Sirius," Minerva chided, "it's just—"
"No, Professor," Kingsley Shacklebolt interrupted her, "they're right. We need to stop dancing around the issue. We know why Voldemort altered the boy."
Ah, so we do, yet even you do not wish to speak of it, Severus thought.
He did not blame the man.
Arthur Weasley, who had wisely not brought Molly to the meeting, reddened. Clearing his throat, he moved forward in his chair, opened his mouth, and then closed it again, shaking his head.
Very quietly, Remus said, "He wants to use Harry's body as an . . . incubator for himself. If he succeeds in impregnating . . . Harry, Voldemort will be able to leach Harry's powers from . . . Harry, and—"
"Be reborn with such metaphysical haste that the girl would not survive the process. And then nothing we know of magic would be able to stop the Dark Lord's rise," Severus finished for Lupin, weary of the man's attempts to avoid the appropriate pronoun.
Potter was now a witch, and there was no way to correct the situation without killing her.
"Thank you, Severus," Albus replied, speaking for the first time in several minutes.
"Yes," Black spat. "Thank you."
Snape stood abruptly and strode to stand before Sirius. "You are well aware that the potion I concocted would kill the girl—"
"Stop saying that!" Sirius demanded,
rising to his feet.
Shacklebolt's wand was out as he said, calmly, "Gentlemen, I think it would be best if you returned to your seats. Please."
After a few tense moments, both wizards complied.
Severus found it odd that the Headmaster had remained silent during the exchange, but Black's next comment distracted his musings.
"He won't even try."
Snape snorted as his least-favorite person slumped in his chair.
"Sirius," said Minerva, "you know why he won't. It's not Severus' fault."
The man closed his eyes without saying anything. But I want it to be his fault.
How charming, Black, Snape thought at the animagus.
"Stay out of my head, damn you!" Sirius yelled, standing once again.
This time it was Remus who drew his wand, though he did not point it. "Sirius," he said gently, laying a firm, restraining hand on his lover's arm, "sit down."
The air of command in the former Defense Against the Dark Arts professor's tone was unexpected, as was its effect.
Interesting, Snape thought, as Black immediately obeyed the command. Wolf tops dog.
He would have smirked had Albus' not been directing a burning gaze at his head, for the lion had long dominated the serpent, in his way.
Arthur found his voice. "Well then, if our Harry is to remain . . . as she is, then we must take steps to protect her. That is the purpose of this meeting. I suggest that we set aside our differences and think of Harry's welfare."
Which is what we do during most of our meetings, Severus thought bitterly.
"If the Ministry were aware of the implications of Harry's condition, Fudge and his people would insist on placing the child in protective custody," Kingsley said. "Probably in Azkaban."
Minerva, Remus, Arthur, and Sirius spoke as one, "No!"
"I quite agree," the Headmaster replied. "Therefore, we will do nothing to enlighten them about the true nature of Harry's . . . change in circumstance."
"I've made my suggestion," Severus offered. "If Potter were no longer a fit vessel—"
"You bloodless bastard! 'Vessel'? How dare—"
"Enough!" Albus and Remus thundered.
But this time, Sirius did not yield. "My godchild is only sixteen! Suggesting that . . . she become pregnant is ridiculous!"
"I did not suggest that her lover get her with child, Black, only that he deflower her. The Dark Lord requires Potter to be intact to work his spell."
"Harry doesn't have a lover!"
"Then I suggest she take one. Surely the Girl Who Lives will have no pro—"
"Argh!" Sirius cried, throwing himself at the Potions master.
He would have fallen on his face had not Remus caught him.
"I apologize for that," Minerva said, sheathing her wand, "but it was necessary." The Transfigurations professor turned an unforgiving gaze on Severus. "You were out of line, as well. Would you stop taking such obvious pleasure in Sirius' discomfort!"
Albus sighed. "Professor Snape and I need to have a word in the antechamber. Please excuse us," he said, leaving the room without seeing if he was being followed.
"Would you like me to wear a leash?" Severus asked, stepping into the room and closing the door.
He did not recognize the spell that Dumbledore cast, or even how the wizard did cast it, but suddenly, he could not breathe for the agony that shot through his frame. He thought, perhaps, that he was on fire. His eyes felt as if they were boiling in his skull, and he could not see through the pain.
But he could hear.
"Dear boy, you know that I love you as if you were my own son, but I will not permit the hatred inside you to dominate you any longer. What you are feeling is not my displeasure at your unseemly provocation of Sirius. It is rather your own anger, anger that you must master, now, before it gets you killed—before it gets us all killed."
Please! Please! Please! the Potions master shrieked in his mind. "Please. Make. It. Stop," he ground out from between clenched teeth.
But the Headmaster did not relent.
"The last time you felt such pain you were on your knees before Riddle, were you not? And not long after that, you came begging to my door, prostrated yourself before the hem of my robe, didn't you, boy?"
The memory of his marking ceremony rose in Severus' mind, but was overwhelmed by the tide of feeling that he somehow knew was the ichor of wounds which had been steeping inside of himself for years. He did not respond to Albus—or to the pull of his other master.
"Ah, yes. Tom will be concerned about what he senses from you, as well he should be."
"I am not a nice man, all appearances to the contrary, my boy, but I did hope that by showing you kindness and treating you with the respect you crave, you would heal. I see now that I have been foolish."
That said, the wizard began chanting an incantation that caused Severus' memories to rise up in his mind's eye and wash over him in new waves of pain, pain that stemmed from his inability to look away from them. He could do nothing but feel them, nothing but face them.
He wanted to flee.
Flight was not an option.
And the Dark Lord was pulling on the tether that led from that wizard to his Dark Mark, but the man to whom Severus was truly allied was pulling, too.
The pain began to direct itself into the mystical sigil that had been magicked into his flesh, and Severus did scream as he felt the ink of his tattoo simmer up out of his skin to run down his arm and become absorbed in the cloth of his sleeve. A rough pair of hands seized him and drew him to his feet before ripping the sleeve away.
"Look!" Albus commanded, thrusting Severus' arm toward the man's face.
His arm was bare.
And he was no longer caught between Lord Voldemort and Albus Dumbledore.
"How?" he managed to ask before slumping, unconscious, in the Headmaster's arms.
Severus awoke hours later in his own bed. The pain was gone, but Albus was sitting beside him in an over-stuffed chair that was new to the room. It looked comfortable.
"Stay out of my head, old man."
Dumbledore chuckled. "It's good to see you in better spirits."
"Are you insane?"
"Think me so if it will help."
"Why did you unmark me—and why did you never do it before?" Severus asked, struggling to sit up against his pillows.
"If I had done it sooner, you would have been of little use to the Order."
The Potions master could not argue with that logic, but it galled him nevertheless.
"And I did it now because Riddle has been using your malice to control you, Severus."
"What are you talking about?"
"His plan was to compel you to rape Harry and transfer his essence into her through his bond with you."
"How could you possibly know that?"
The image of the meeting, from the Headmaster's perspective, rose in his mind. And Severus saw what Albus had read from his thoughts as he fought with Black.
"The Dark—Riddle—he was, he was—"
"Seeing through your eyes, yes."
"How did you know?"
"Harry told me. She . . . caught a glimpse of Riddle in your mind during your last Occlumency lesson. That is why, despite my urging you so strenuously to resume those lessons, I abruptly took them over. . . . Did you never wonder why?"
Severus grimaced. "I thought that you were at last respecting my position on the matter."
"You were mistaken."
"About many things, it would seem. . . . How long?"
"I do not know, but not very, or things would long have been going the worse for us. I believe that Riddle chose his moments to use you carefully, lest he be discovered. Perhaps he did not know until recently that he could see through you."
"As he saw through Potter, or tried to."
"Ah," said Albus, rising. "You make an excellent point. Riddle may very well have learned that trick from Harry. Now, I believe you should rest. I'll return later."
"Albus, I don't . . . I don't know what to say. I've failed you, failed . . . ."
"No, you have not, dear boy. Rest now, and I will return."
But when the Headmaster had gone, Severus found himself utterly incapable of rest. His shame was too great. And he felt, not angry, not fearful, but naked.
The brat knew. Potter knew before anyone of my failure.
It was too much to be borne.
And Severus wept.
The Girl Who Lived, meanwhile, was crying out in much different a manner. A sheen of sweat cooled on her inflamed skin as she moved atop the coverlet of the bed in her new, private room, and her fingers moved with furious vigor inside the hot depths of her transfigured body.
"Oh, Gods! So good, so good—gah!" she exclaimed as another orgasm rolled through her.
It had not taken the young woman as long as she had expected to become used to her new equipment, and there were, she had found, definite advantages to being a girl.
"I say, dear, don't tire yourself!" Cora, the portrait above her bed called from behind the curtain that Harry had pulled across the frame before undressing and getting on with her explorations.
Silencing charms, the witch thought, exhaustedly. I need to learn to create localized silencing charms.
She drifted off to sleep while trying to work out how that might be done.
Poppy awoke to the sounds of her portraits arguing and sat straight up, knocking the masculine arm that had been draped across her to the bed. But her partner did not awaken.
"What? What is it?"
"Forgive the intrusion, madam. Young Harry has taken a turn—you must come quickly! Quickly, I say!"
The nurse wasted no time. Headmaster Dumbledore had warned her that He Who Must Not Be Named would most likely attempt to harm the child, and Poppy was prepared. Throwing on her wrapper and picking up her bag of supplies, she rushed out of her chamber.
Harry was shrieking, and blood was pouring down her forehead from the places where she had ripped the flesh on which her scar stood out in a glowing green outline.
But the nurse could not keep the girl still enough to pour her phial of Dreamless Sleep draught down her throat.
"Harry, dear—you must let me help you!"
The heavy fall of quick footsteps sounded behind the witch and then stopped. "He's trying to kill her," Snape said, entering the room and dragging Potter's hands away from her face before pinning the naked young woman to the bed. "Well, get on with it, woman!"
Poppy prized open Harry's mouth and poured the potion down her throat. "There now, that's it, drink it all, my dear."
When her patient had stilled, Madam Pomfrey hastily covered the girl and fought back tears. "It's not right, Severus."
"Of course it isn't."
Harry moaned and tossed a bit on the bed.
The Potions master looked alarmed. "It's not possible that she's developed a tolerance to the Dreamless Sleep draught, is it?"
"She's been taking quite a bit of it, I'm afraid. I don't believe she'll wake for awhile, but—"
"She'll need something stronger before long. I shall return shortly."
From behind the curtain, Cora's muffled voice asked, "What is stronger than Dreamless Sleep draught?"
But Poppy had no answer.
When Severus returned, Madam Pomfrey was close to dozing in a chair she had pulled next to the bed, and Harry's wounds had been healed.
At least the woman is good for something, he thought, before saying to Poppy, "If you are fatigued, I am prepared to watch over the girl."
"Thank you, Professor Snape, but—"
"I shall fire-call you should her condition change."
Something in the wizard's tone of voice made the witch decide not to argue. "I suppose that would be all right. But do call me should—"
"Good night, Madam Pomfrey."
When the witch had gone, Severus spoke in the direction of the curtained portrait. "Coraline Pennyworth."
"How is it that you were able to breach the boundaries of my chambers to alert me of Potter's condition? My portraits have orders not to accept visitors."
"Ah, that would be telling, wouldn't it?"
"You needn't take that tone with me, young man. Those chambers were once mine, and I don't give up what's mine as easily as history might have led you to believe. Several of your portraits owe their paint to me."
"I see. You were an artist as well as a Potions mistress."
"I was many things in my day, boy, as you are in yours."
"Perhaps we might discuss your various talents another time," the man replied, drawing his wand. "Linnea Silencio!" he cast, pointing it at the covered portrait and then at himself.
Severus had long ago discovered the usefulness of localized silencing charms, and he felt that it would be prudent to prevent the former head of Slytherin, whom history had tarred as a traitor for her conduct during the war against Grindelwald, from hearing anything Potter might say in the near future. He damned the fool who had chosen this room to give to the brat, and then himself for caring anything for her welfare.
Everyone worries about you, Potter. Even me. Even now. Why is that?
Just lucky, I guess.
"Potter, are you awake?"
"Enough," she mumbled, struggling to wake completely.
"Don't fight the potion, you idiot. He'll attack you again."
Want it to be over.
Ignoring the girl's presence in his mind, which he assumed she could not quite help, he said, "I suppose we have that in common."
We have nothing, nothing, in common!
The Potions master snorted as he took Poppy's chair, noting as he did so that the sheet the nurse had covered Potter with only served to emphasize the fact that the girl was naked. The realization caused an unwelcome bodily response, and he threw up the barriers to his mind.
"What?" Harry demanded, feeling the block.
"You don't want to know," he said before he could stop himself.
"Ten points from Gryffindor for . . . displaying disrespect for a professor."
"Would Professor Dumbledore agree with that?"
Severus smirked. "Eleven points to Gryffindor for efficacious use of a threat."
"I hate you," Harry replied, opening her eyes and blinking angrily at him.
"One point from Gryffindor."
The girl giggled—and then groaned. "Oh, no."
"I giggle now. Like a girl!"
"Potter, you are a girl."
She shut her eyes and sighed. "Why are you here, Professor?"
"Because of you," he said, uncertain if Potter realized with whom she was sharing her room.
"Sarcasm won't win you any points from me."
The girl wrapped one pale arm across her torso and pushed herself up with her other one. "What happened to Cora? She's never been silent this long before."
"Localized silencing charm."
Suddenly, Potter's eyes sharpened. "Why are you here?" she asked, suspicion evident in her tone.
Severus felt the magical tendrils of the girl's power probe his mental defenses, but just barely.
"I see you've been improving under the headmaster's tutelage," he said, pushing back at the girl.
"But not as significantly as he might have hoped."
"It's always painful after . . . ."
Damn. "Potter, I apologize. It was not my intention to hurt you," Snape lied.
"What was your intention?"
"Stay out of my thoughts, and it won't matter."
"It does matter. Have you come to ra—"
"How dare—no!—of course not!"
"Then tell me what you are doing here, or get out."
"I am still your professor, and you will—"
"'Still'? What aren't you, anymore?"
This time the brat's probing was not subtle, and Severus found himself engaged in a fierce contest of wills with his former Legilimancy student. Neither of them won, but when they quit fighting, the Potions master had learnt exactly how the girl had spent her early evening, and Harry had discovered what Albus had done to her professor.
The image of Harry's writhing, heated body, of her fingers dancing over and inside of her sex, left the man trembling. Potter quivered, too, but with rage.
"How could you have let him do that to you?"
"Perhaps," he rasped through dry lips, "you didn't see enough to know that I had little choice in the matter!"
"He could have killed you!"
It took Severus a moment to realize that the girl was angry on his behalf, and this only added to his confusion.
"Why should you care?" he spat, still angry at Potter for attacking him.
"Gods, you're a brat!"
"Professor! I don't hate you enough to want you dead!"
The force with which the girl made this declaration caused Severus' rising fury to abate. He stared at Potter, who had drawn herself up into a ball and was pressing herself into the carved wooden headboard behind her. She looked . . . he did not know how to describe how she looked.
"Well," he said after several charged moments, "I suppose we also have that in common."
"Bully for us. . . . Did it hurt?"
"What? Oh. Yes, Potter. It hurt."
"May I . . . may I see?"
"You've seen most of me, so it seems a fair trade."
"I am not displaying myself for your amusement. And I hardly saw—"
His words died on his lips as Potter stood up on the bed, resolutely letting go of the sheet as she did so. "There. Naked girl."
It was clearly a challenge, and Severus had no intention of backing away from it.
Rolling up his sleeve, he held out his arm to the girl. "There. Naked arm," he retorted, making a point of meeting the Gryffindor's eyes and feeling glad of his robes.
For no woman of any age had ever had occasion to present herself naked to him before.
"May I touch it?"
"Potter—Harry—don't," Severus said as the girl leapt a bit unsteadily off of the bed and steadied herself on his outstretched arm.
His breath caught.
No woman had ever drawn her warm fingertips over his flesh before, either.
"What in Merlin's name has gotten in to you?"
"Nothing. That's the problem," she answered boldly, staring up at him with a matter-of-fact expression on her face.
He shook his head. These things did not happen to him.
"You lose your balls and see how it affects you."
"I like my balls where they are, thank you very much." What has gotten into you, man? Steady!
Severus jerked his arm away from her.
"Cover yourself," he ordered, turning his back on the girl. Right. I am resigning my post in the morning, he thought as he walked to the door.
"You . . . you called me Harry before."
"Potter," he said, turning to face the girl again, "what do you want from me?"
She was still naked.
"Damnation! I told you to cover yourself!" he exclaimed, taking two long strides toward the girl and grabbing her by the shoulders.
Instead of flinching, Harry squared her shoulders and lifted her chin in a gesture of defiance and . . . expectation.
Severus thrust her away. "No! I will not be Dumbledore's stud now that I am no longer fit to be his spy!"
"Sod Albus Dumbledore!"
"A fine suggestion!"
"Stop being such a prat! Who else am I going to shag? I can't just roll over for Ron. Voldemort would kill him!"
"Your concern for your friend is touching, Potter, almost as much as is your regard for my welfare."
"That is not what I meant, and you know it!"
"I don't know anything, and, given my change in circumstance, I'm not likely to ever know anything of use ever again," the wizard said coldly, raking the as yet undressed girl with hot eyes. It would be so easy . . . .
"Fine. Feel sorry for yourself then, you stupid git. You're free of Voldemort, but I'll never be free of him," she whispered, rubbing her scar and speaking to the floor. "I'm not even a boy anymore, and now I've got to find someone weak but willing, someone who will die because I have to fuck him in order to be able to fulfill some crazy woman's prophesy. Do you really want to stand there and tell me that you have it worse than I do? Do you really expect me to feel sympathy for you when you're just going to run away, and I can't? I didn't ask for this," Harry said, looking at the man's face again. "I don't want it—but at least I'm not going to run."
"You are a credit to your house, Potter."
"Am I truly too ugly to touch?"
No. Gods, no, he thought, but Harry's words had shamed him, and the Potions master had had quite enough of that feeling. "Perhaps no one has told you, but when a woman fishes for compliments, it is not attractive."
Potter laughed, a short bark of sound, before turning and throwing herself on her bed and bursting into tears. Through the pillow in which she'd buried her face, Snape heard, "Get out. Just get out."
Far be it for me to argue with a lady, he thought, but he made no move to leave—he was captivated by the pearlescent glow of Potter's skin.
Had he not dreamed of just such a situation? Not with Potter, of course, and not under these conditions, but had he not often wished, as he slept alone and afraid, for another body, another warm, welcoming body, over whose skin he might run his needful hands?
She's a student. She's a child. I won't do it. I can't!
"Then get out!" Harry screamed at him, craning her neck to glare through her tears at him. "Get. Out."
It was as if strong hands were pushing him back, and, suddenly, Severus found himself on the other side of Potter's door—her closed, locked door.
It scared him far more than anything that had ever happened to him, for the witch's will, her magic, was far more powerful than he had imagined it to be. And he had experienced only a frisson of it.
Unhinged though Trelawney might be, in this moment, Severus no longer doubted what the woman had prophesized about Harry Potter. Somehow, the girl would kill Voldemort, and he would have no place in the battle that was to come. Everything he had worked his entire adult life to achieve meant nothing in the face of the girl's inherent ability.
"I am worse than useless," the Potions master whispered, turning and walking slowly away from Harry's door, for what he had just experienced made walking a difficult matter.
A voice rose in his mind then. No, you're not. I need you, Pro—Severus. Please. I can't keep fighting him. I can't do this by myself. And I don't want to be alone anymore, either.
Only a stone could have remained insensate in the face of such a plea, and Severus was not made of stone.
The girl's door flung open as he reached it, and slammed shut before he joined Harry on the bed.
This time their struggle was to remove the Potions master's clothing.
Their mouths pressed inexpertly together in their haste, and Harry's teeth caught one of Severus' lips hard enough to bruise it.
He did not care.
The girl's skin burned his, and he welcomed it—the fevered press of it against his nearly hairless, demanding body, the way her hands moved without direction, everywhere, grasping him and making him cry out.
"Stop! Stop, Harry, or I won't last."
"Shh, listen," he said, pitching his voice low and gentle, as he pulled Potter down to the mattress to hold her. "I want to touch you, too, but if you wish to have me, then we need to—"
The girl was not listening to him. She slithered quickly down his body and unceremoniously sucked his hard, leaking cock into her mouth, thrusting her head down upon it so that he was completely sheathed in her throat.
And then she swallowed.
Harry began to move Severus' shaft in and out of her mouth, pressing her tongue against a throbbing vein she that she apparently had discovered needed attention. Once, twice—by the third bob of the girl's head, the wizard spilled his seed in ecstatic pulses all over her face.
And the imp glanced up at him, past his heaving chest, and playfully licked his cum into her mouth with an impossibly pink tongue.
Somehow, Severus found the strength to reach for the little wanton and drag her up on top of himself—by her hair—but Harry made no protest as he began to feed on her, licking at her checks, her lips, and at last, her mouth.
The Potions master's every concern fled his mind. He wanted more. He slid a hand down Potter's body and began stroking her sex, and Harry parted her legs and thrust into his fingers.
"Please," she begged.
"'Please', what?" he teased.
"Oh, please, Severus, please—put them inside of me."
"Like this?" he asked, happy to oblige her as he inserted one slim finger inside her body and began to twist it.
The witch's gasp was most gratifying.
Severus added another finger.
"You feel so smooth, so hot and silky," he whispered.
"You, you, oh, you did, too!"
His explorations soon revealed a rougher patch of flesh. When he stroked it, Harry bucked into him so hard he thought she might break his wrist. He laughed. "Be still," but he added a third finger to his probing of the girl's sex to insure that she could not be.
"Guhhh! Oh, oh, I, I'm, I'm going to—"
"Come for me, Harry," the wizard said, almost pressing his entire fist inside of her and being rewarded by the sensation of the girl's internal muscles spasm without control.
Fisting. I've read about this, he mused. And I'm good at it, he thought with a kind of masculine pride that he had never felt before.
He was further rewarded by the keening cries his lover made as he drove her over the edge.
Harry collapsed atop him, breathing hard. "Oh, gods, gods, gods—that was per-perfect, Sir."
"Severus," the wizard demanded harshly, suddenly abashed by what he had done, now that the tide of his own pleasure had begun to wane.
She giggled. "Severus. Right. Sorry, Sir—I mean—Severus."
"Better," he whispered, almost jerking his hand out of the girl's grasping body before rolling her over and kissing her quiet. Much better.
Oh, I think we can do better than that, don't you?
"Insatiable brat," he retorted, but fondly. "You'll kill me if you don't allow me to rest."
"It seems," Harry answered, moving her hand to cup his balls and stroke his hardening cock, "you're of two minds about that."
Severus groaned, but did not argue. It was better to nudge the girl's thighs wide and position himself over her, but something stopped him from sliding into her.
"Harry, if we, when I—"
"I know. He'll feel it, too. I know he'll try to hurt me again. I don't care. I want you, Severus. I want to do this."
That was all that the wizard needed to hear. Without any further preparation, he slammed himself deeply inside of Harry.
She cried out.
It did not sound like pain, so the man withdrew and thrust inside of her again, and again, and Harry welcomed him, thrust up to meet him, and he thought he might drown in the sensation.
And then her cries turned into whimpers of pain.
The scar on her forehead was glowing greenly again.
Ignore it! she screamed in his mind. Ignore it!
It was just as well that the Potions master had never known a woman before. Because if he had possessed more self-control, he would not have been able to heed Harry's plea. But, caught up in the delirium of driving himself inside of a willing woman, Severus could not have stopped for any reason. He would have her, he was having her. It was glorious. His balls tightened, his body went rigid, and then his hips moved without rhythm as he screamed her name.
But his lover did not answer him.
"Ha—Harry?" he whispered, breathing hard.
She did not move. Smoke curled above her scar.
Her Mark, Severus thought, pulling out of Harry's body in alarm. "Harry?" he asked, shaking her. "Harry, please—answer me!"
But the girl merely lay in a limp pile of limbs on the bed.
Severus gathered her up in his arms and began to cry. Harry's skin was cool, her breathing shallow. She's dying. Oh, gods, no. Please, don't do this to her. Not to Harry. Please. "Please don't die, Harry. Don't die," he murmured, his lips against her hair.
"What?" he asked, lifting his head to look about the room.
He was alone. He and Harry had to be alone.
"She's not dead, you idiot."
The voice was coming from behind the curtain that was pulled across the frame of Coraline Pennyworth's portrait.
"You—I silenced you!"
"No," Cora said, her curtain swinging aside. "You set a localized silencing charm upon my frame," she continued, pushing her way out of the picture and floating to the floor. "If I were constrained to remain in my paint, it would have worked."
Cora laughed. "Don't bother, dear. I am dead, after a fashion. Your spells won't affect me."
"What are you?"
"Well pleased, actually. Your performance was masterful—for a virgin. But you have a lot to learn about women, I'm afraid."
Severus clutched Harry tighter, for once in his life not knowing at all what to do.
"You needn't fret, my dear. I won't harm either of you. Albus asked me to watch over the girl."
"Albus?" Severus asked, drawing the bedclothes up around Harry and himself.
"Yes, Severus. Albus. Do you truly believe that the headmaster would allow his best weapon against that upstart Riddle to remain unguarded?"
"I don't understand. What are you?"
"A memory," the wizard repeated, confused.
"When I was alive, Albus Dumbledore was a great favorite of mine. I worked with him to destroy Grindelwald."
"No, you were a traitor."
Cora laughed. "Yes, much as you are."
"You were a . . . double-agent?"
"Indeed, boy, now you're catching on. But I was not so adept as you, my dear, and Grindelwald caught me. I was dying when Albus found me. It was he who captured something of my essence and gave it a place to dwell lest my knowledge of our plans die with me."
"No, you don't. But that war is over. Your concern is this war, this woman."
"What's wrong with her?"
"She's exhausted, boy. Spent. The French call it the "la petite mort," the little death. I always knew that it was a mistake to discontinue the sexual education of wizards and witches, but, in my day, the administration of Hogwarts was infected by a group of prudish, moralizing fools who would not heed me. Harry is unconscious, that's all. She'll come around in time."
Thank the gods, Severus thought, finally allowing himself to look away from Cora to Harry. Her cheeks were beginning to flush, and her breathing had steadied.
"It can't be easy to engage in coitus and a metaphysical battle at the same time."
"No, I expect not."
"Now then, boy, make yourself presentable. I'll need to fetch Albus, and I know that Harry's godfather is about."
Black. Damn. "I would appreciate it if you would be . . . discreet."
"Of course, dear. But I'm certain the man will understand your . . . relationship with the girl when he learns that the two of you are to marry."
"Why, you don't expect the child to bring yours up by herself, do you?" Cora asked before disappearing.
And Severus laughed then, for there was nothing else to do. Harry Potter had asked him into her bed in order to service the cause, not herself, and there was no way the girl—the woman—would ever accept one such as himself into her life.
"She most likely won't even keep the baby," he whispered, his mood turned to sadness as he laid Harry onto the bed and rose from it to dress.
He had no idea of how to prepare for the meeting that was to come.
Waking up alone had been unexpected. Harry stretched and sat up, feeling sore and confused.
"He's not here, dear."
"I suppose it would have been asking too much that he stay," the young woman said, chewing on her bottom lip disconsolately.
Cora made an impatient sound from the frame of her "portrait."
"Now don't start feeling sorry for yourself. Albus needed a word with your man, and they did not wish to disturb you."
"Severus isn't mine."
Cora laughed. "That's not how I heard it."
"That was just . . . sex. It doesn't mean that we're, well . . . ."
"I'm fascinated by your lack of confidence, dear. But we'll discuss that in a moment. I have news. It seems as if Voldemort's," Cora never spoke the Dark Lord's name in hushed fear, but with a marked derision, "forces are all in disarray. Aurors captured several of his people last night after raiding a meeting. They were—the Death Eaters—were incapacitated by some spell they—the aurors—don't understand. They were un-Marked, Harry."
"What?" the girl asked, forgetting her doubts in the face of such a bizarre report.
"My dear, just what did you do last night?"
"I, I don't know, Cora. I mean, besides mak—shagging—Severus."
"Ah, so that's how it is, is it? I thought so."
"What did you think?" Harry asked, becoming angry. "What aren't you telling me?"
"My dear, I think you must have harmed Riddle—disrupted his connection to his followers—and perhaps, perhaps even killed the creature!"
Harry thought about it. When Voldemort had slithered into her consciousness, he had definitely felt different, weaker somehow, and it had not been as hard as it usually was to force him away. The wizard had seemed to shrink from what she was feeling, what she was doing, with Severus. She shook her hair out of her face, and Cora gasped.
"It's gone! Your scar is gone, child!"
Harry ignored the sudden knocking on her door and ran into the bathroom to look in the mirror. It was true.
"But what does this mean?"
"It means," Severus' voice said from behind her, "that you're free. We're all free, Harry."
The witch turned and looked up at the wizard, who was smiling at her.
"You would prefer it if I scowled at you?" he asked, failing in his attempt of it.
Harry rushed into his arms, and was relieved when he did not push her away.
"I am sorry I left you, but matters were pressing."
"But how did—I mean, it can't, couldn't have been that easy—could it have been? To kill Voldemort? And he's really dead?"
"He is," Severus told her, releasing Harry to reach for the dressing gown that hung on the hook by the door. "Here, you must be cold."
It was surreal, but Harry allowed the man to wrap her in her robe and lead her to the bed. She could not quite believe it was over.
"Oh, it's not. The Dark Lord's followers are no longer bound to the wizard, but some of them survived his death, and will have to be captured. . . . But you and I will not have to concern ourselves with that task."
"You and I?"
"If . . . if you like, Harry," Severus said.
"Oh, well, I . . . I mean, I wouldn't want you to feel—" beholden to me in any way. I wouldn't force myself on you, she thought, unable to say it.
"I don't feel forced," the Potions master said evenly, standing and beginning to pace the room.
He raised a hand to prevent Harry from speaking, and whatever she had been intending to say, she did not.
"Your godfather will tell you that I have long harbored . . . inappropriate desires for you, that I have taken advantage of you, of the situation—"
"No, Harry, please. Allow me to say this to you. . . . There was never an opportunity—no, that's not—I've never had occasion to . . . take a lover before. As you were worried about Ronald Weasley, so too was I concerned about putting another in harm's way. And then last night . . . Harry, last night was a revelation to me. I had not permitted myself to dwell on it, but Sirius is right, in a way. I have . . . thought of you."
"Yes. I have worked for years to protect you, but perhaps not, in the last several months," and here the man stopped, as if suddenly afraid to admit what he was feeling before pressing on, "merely out of a sense of duty."
Harry smiled softly. This is good. This isn't rejection. But it isn't love, is it?
"I honestly don't know, but I'd like to find out, if you agree."
"Severus, are you saying that you want me? That you like me?"
The witch stood up and took the wizard's hands. They were sweating. "You're really scared, aren't you?"
Severus glared at her.
Harry laughed. "I guess that means we should date."
"Does nothing frighten you, Potter?"
"Not when I'm with you, Sir," she teased.
"Harry . . . ."
"Severus, really, think of what we just did—how could I be scared of you?"
The Potions master flushed. "Why did you choose me?"
"Because I've been harboring 'inappropriate desires' for you since I was fourteen, you git."
"That's not possible, I'm—"
"An idiot!" Cora exclaimed.
"Shut up, woman!" both Harry and Severus demanded as one, and then, surprised, they both laughed before drawing each other into a deep embrace.
It took many meetings. The Order met to discuss the events—somewhat altered to protect Harry's privacy—surrounding Voldemort's destruction. The members knew only that the Girl Who Lived, with the help of Hogwarts' Potions master, had entered into a ritual that unmarked the Death Eater's and weakened the Dark Lord, which was directly responsible for that wizard's demise. The Headmaster met with the Ministry to decide how best to deal with the surviving Death Eaters, to reward Severus and Harry—neither wished it, but the Wizarding World demanded a ceremony—and to inform the public that its heroine and new hero were soon to marry. The private meeting in which Sirius was informed of his godchild's condition did not, as expected, go well, but a discussion with one Coraline Pennyworth soon brought the man around.
"Gods, Remus, I never needed to hear—"
"Don't tell me, I beg you. Harry's young, but she knows her own mind. And you have to admit, Padfoot, she's happy with Severus. Even you can see that."
"Yeah," he replied, looking across the Great Hall where his godchild was participating in a meeting about her wedding preparations, "she is. But with Sniv—"
"Severus, Padfoot, Severus."
A wicked gleam shone in Sirius' eyes as he made a magnanimous show of offering his old enemy his hand. "Welcome to the family."
Oh, dear gods! Severus thought, taking Black's hand without exactly meaning to do it.
Be nice, Harry's voice echoed in his mind, and because he grew more used to the pleasant, loving, accepting tone of that voice in his head with every secret thought they shared, the Potions master forced a slight smile to his face.
"Thank you, Sirius. I am certain that my bride—and our child—will appreciate your sentiments in the years to come."
Across the hall, Harry broke into a fit of laughter.
Severus, feeling rather smug, left an aghast Sirius to join his lover.
Several months later, Mr. and Mrs. Severus Snape were fast asleep in their marriage bed under the watchful eye of an unusual portrait. Harry had elected not to finish her schooling at Hogwarts, given that she was soon to be a mother. And Severus was enjoying his newly bonded state of impending fatherhood a great deal. He had indeed retired, deciding that there would be time enough to devote to experimental potion-making once his wife had begun her training with the Spell Crafters' Guild, which was located close to their new home in Hogsmeade. The masters of the guild had readily agreed to design a course of study for Mrs. Snape that would allow her to spend a significant period of each day with her husband and child, and had offered Severus the use of a laboratory. Eventually, the newlyweds hoped to be free of their constant auror-guard, but for now, it was an easy inconvenience to accept.
"Severus?" Harry murmured sleepily, brushing her lips against her husband's cheek.
"Molly wants to meet with us soon about the baby's naming ceremony."
"Is that so?"
The Weasleys had been amazingly supportive of their honorary daughter's decision to marry Severus, and had been, at times, irritatingly attentive to the couple.
"And I suppose Molly has suggestions to put forward?"
"Oh, you know she does, but Coraline has already made some."
The wizard grimaced. "What now?"
"Don't be like that. You know you would have never come to see me if she hadn't hounded you out of the dungeons and made you talk to me."
That was true. After leaving Harry the morning after their first time, the Potions master had gone directly to his rooms to drink himself senseless, only to find that the "memory" of Coraline Pennyworth had somehow managed to arrange for the emptying of his liquor cabinet before ordering the headmaster to apologize to him for his behavior. Dumbledore had not seemed to mind doing this, and Severus wondered exactly how fond of each other that man and his old comrade had been. To hear Poppy Filch tell it, the recently exonerated spy had paid special attention to the manipulative head of the Order during their tenure together as professors at Hogwarts before working together to defeat Grindelwald.
"And what, pray, would Coraline like us to name our child?"
Harry giggled. "Brian, if we have a boy, and—"
"Coraline, if we have a girl."
"And a fine name it is, too!"
"Shut up, Cora!"
"Give me something to listen to, and I will!"
Severus snorted. "Far be it for me to argue with a lady."