Severus hoped that Harry would understand his reasons for leaving her; he had not spent much time on his note, which he had ordered Dobby to give her, because he was in a fever of excitement to put his plan into effect.
If Fleur Weasley wants a baby, then I'll give her one, Severus thought, rapping his knuckles against the Burrow's front door.
It was the only way, Severus had decided, to keep the witch from trying to take Harry's child.
The problem with conception must lie in her Veela ancestry. Full-blooded Veelas often have difficulty carrying children to term, so perhaps . . . .
Molly seemed startled by his presence when she opened the door. "Severus! What brings you? Is Harry all right?"
"Harry's fine. Is Mrs. Weasley at home?"
"She's out with Charlize," Molly said, her face wrinkling with a guilt-induced frown. "Come in," she continued, leading Severus into the kitchen. "Tea?"
"By 'out', do you mean she's gone to see her solicitors?" Severus asked, taking a seat at the table.
"I can't dissuade her from it. Oh, but how is Harry? I can't stand this ridiculous separation—Harry must be so frightened!"
"You've attempted to dissuade her?"
"We all have—even her solicitors. It took her countless visits before she even found a firm which would accept her case. It's not . . . promising, but she's insisting—"
"Molly," Severus asked quietly, as the witch fumbled with the tea things, "I'd like to help Mrs. Weasley, but I—"
Enraged, Molly turned on Severus, accidentally knocking the teapot to the floor. Its shattering stilled her tongue.
Severus bent down to pull Molly away from the shards, but she smacked away his hands.
"How could you?" she hissed. "Harry trusts you!"
"Oh, fine. Fix a teapot while talking about betraying your . . . your . . . Harry!" Molly exclaimed, before dissolving into tears and sinking down to the floor to lean against a cabinet. "Harry trusts you and not . . . and not me."
"Upsetting witches is getting to be a habit with you," Percy said then, walking in through the back door and going at once to Molly. "Mum. Mum, please," he said, "come sit down."
"I am sitting down. What else can I do? They're dead and Harry's alone and Severus doesn't think Harry should—"
"Molly!" Severus snapped. "I'm not trying to take Justine away from Harry. I'm trying to help her keep the baby."
Severus knelt to one side of the witch, mirroring Percy's position on the other. "I want to help Fleur conceive so that she won't—"
"Well," Molly said, her voice suddenly crisp as she began wiping her eyes and picking herself up off the floor, "that's different then, isn't it? Excuse me," she said, hurriedly leaving the room.
Severus and Percy shared a look of understanding.
"She's been bearing up well, but . . . ."
"I know," Severus said, hoping to put the unpleasant scene behind him. "Percy, what do you know about your sister-in-law's inability to conceive?"
"Nothing. That is, she can conceive. She just can't manage her pregnancies. Her last one ended quite badly, which is why she's here. Mum didn't want Fleur to be alone while Bill was traveling, or so I hear from Ginny."
Severus felt something akin to pity for Percy, who had never quite managed to heal the breach between himself and his family. "You have told them everything, surely."
"Not everything—I haven't even told you everything—but enough," Percy replied, closing his eyes briefly as if he were forcing down an old pain. "Of course, that hasn't made things right. I doubt anything could. Most of them were Order members, after all."
"Dumbledore wouldn't allow you to speak of your mission."
"If you want to help Fleur, you might apply to Bill. He's in Snape, oddly enough, trying to break the curse on the wine cellar of the castle there—everything turns to vinegar, it seems."
Severus sighed angrily, but he did not press Percy further on the matter of his family before leaving for Snape. When he found Bill, however, he had to cast a sobering charm on the successful curse-breaker.
Bill did not mind the interference after hearing what Severus had to tell him.
"You'd do that for us?"
"I wouldn't have offered if not."
"Of course. Professor, this is . . . thank you, I—"
"Don't thank me yet, Mr. Weasley."
"Harry's lucky to have you. I'm glad of that, even if it does make me feel sorry for Percy."
"I don't know what you mean."
"Don't you? Aren't the two of you . . . fighting over her?"
"You might try talking to your brother instead of listening to gossip about him."
Bill gave a resentful start. "Percy's not one for talking, is he."
"Percy is one of the most worthy wizards it has ever been my privilege to know," Severus said firmly, glaring at Bill. "How unfortunate that his own family remains stubbornly unaware of that fact."
"Hey! I've tried—"
"Try harder, Mr. Weasley. Now then, how are you going to persuade Mrs. Weasley to call off her solicitors and allow me to assist her?"
After making plans with Bill to see Fleur, Severus returned to the Spellcraftres' Guild to consider another problem, that of how to tell Harry that she was never going to be a wizard again.
I doubt she'll accept it, and the stress of the discovery could very well cause her to lose Justine, he thought, absent-mindedly reordering supplies which had no need of it.
He had not brewed as many potions in recent years as in past ones; his duties at the guild were focused on creating spells. Spellen had been fascinated by Sectumsempra, for example, and Severus' first project had been to craft a specific counter-spell to it. Once Severus had been successful in that endeavor, Spellen had set him to work on myriad healing charms and counter-hexes, spells that were necessary answers to the sheer number of Dark-spell-related injuries with which St. Mungo's, from whom the guild received much of its funding, had been plagued.
War was a great teacher, it seemed, and Voldemort's supporters had been very creative.
Unbidden, a memory rose in Severus' mind, the memory of Harry's face after he had destroyed the Dark Lord.
It had not been elation on Harry's face, but confusion and anger and, when he had turned to regard Severus, hatred.
He saved it up and waited until it was safe to unleash it upon me, Severus thought, remembering.
"Why? Why did you kill them? Why did you betray my parents to Voldemort?"
"Because I was a Death Eater, Potter. It was my job to betray people."
Severus had never lied to the boy before; he had seen no reason to lie to the boy then.
Harry had thrown down his wand and attempted to throttle Severus, and he had very nearly succeeded, despite his heroic exhaustion, when Lucius Malfoy had regained consciousness.
Fuck, Severus had thought then, watching in horror as Lucius had risen up behind Harry to point his wand at the boy's head, I thought I killed you! "Mine," he had choked out, and Lucius had lowered his wand.
That had been enough time for Severus to strain forward and kiss Harry, which had shocked him into stillness and provided Severus with an opportunity to aim his own wand at Lucius.
The memory of his own thundering, hate-filled voice jerked Severus out of his reverie, and he found that his hand was resting on a book concerning blood magic.
Blood magic, he thought, shaking his head in an attempt to clear it—but it did not work.
Severus could still see Harry's face.
He was overwhelmed. He didn't know how he could feel gratitude for someone he despised. He didn't understand how he could hate and want me at the same time.
It was on that day that he and Harry had first fallen into bed together.
No, not immediately. We fell to the ground and tore at each other—it was more fighting than fucking.
But they had kept fucking, despite all reason, and they had not been long apart since that awful, blessed day. Of course, they had never again, at least, not soberly, discussed Severus' past, or his past treatment of Harry. They ignored those things, as they repressed whatever it was they felt for each other.
Not all couples talk, Severus thought.
Considering what his parents' marriage had been like, he decided that, sometimes, talking was overrated—and no manner of apology, in certain circumstances, would ever put the damage two people might have caused each other to rights.
Whatever this 'something' is that lies between us, it's nothing to what Harry felt for Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger, and if she were to lose their child, she would never recover from it.
From Severus' perspective, the only way to prevent Harry from falling into an unalterable despair was to see to it that she accepted herself as the witch she was forced to remain.
So that she'll be strong enough to become a mother.
For this, for him to be able to protect Harry as he had always done, Severus knew that he needed a spell, a spell of acceptance, but he had not become a spellcraftre for nothing.
I will make Harry a witch, he promised himself, whether she wants to be one, or not.
"Harry Potter? Dobby is leaving breakfast outside the door," Harry heard Dobby say—again.
She had been ignoring the house elf for most of the morning as she attempted to write a suitably scathing letter to Severus, finally warding Dobby out of her bedchamber when she grew tired of his irritating, importuning manner.
I'll eat when I'm ready, she thought, crumpling up yet another sheet of parchment.
"Dobby wishes that Harry Potter would open the door and—"
"I'LL EAT WHEN I'M READY!"
The inkpot exploded, spattering its contents all over Harry, her desk, and the carpet and startling Harry, who had not lost control of her magic in such a stupid way for some time.
"Damn it! Damn poxy inkpot! Damn Severus sodding Snape!"
For once, there was no response from Dobby.
The bed was cold. He left me and the bed got cold! Harry inwardly raged, storming into the loo to sponge away the ink from her skin because she did not trust herself to employ a cleaning charm. I should have known he'd leave. I knew he'd never— "Why didn't he tell me? Why'd he have to sneak away? Am I so horrible?" she asked, staring at herself in the mirror above the sink.
Harry did not think she looked that bad. Her breasts were not as large as Hermione's had been, but they were firm, with large, plum-colored nipples, and enough to play with.
And he seemed to like them, Harry thought, running her hands disconsolately over her breasts and down her belly to her messy, ink-sodden lower curls. He seemed to like all of me. "Why'd he leave?" she whispered, as tears rolled down her cheeks. "I wish someone would tell me why—"
"Harry Potter should not be naked," Dobby admonished her, winking into existence above the sink and draping a warm robe over Harry's shoulders.
"I warded you out!"
"Harry Potter is saying 'I wish someone would tell me why', and Dobby is someone."
Sliding her arms into the robe, a sniffling Harry replied, "It was rhetorical. I didn't mean—"
"Dobby is sorry," the house elf said, offering Harry a small square of parchment. "Dobby is—"
"Is this from Severus?" Harry asked, hating herself for feeling so hopeful. "Did he order you to give this to me?"
Dobby nodded, his ears quivering in distress. "But Dobby is not—"
"Severus Snape's house elf," Harry said, unfolding the note and reading it quickly, while Dobby looked worriedly on.
Harry's body went rigid.
"Is Harry Potter well?"
Feeling as though she would never be warm again, Harry whispered, "I'm alone."
"But Dobby is here, Harry Pot—"
"Belt up, Dobby," Harry ordered, walking out of the loo and to her wardrobe and dressing herself with stiff, efficient movements.
Dobby levitated himself after her.
"Listen, I'm going to re-key the wards so that Severus can't get in any—no! I'm going to re-work the Unplotting. No one needs to know where to find me except you, understand?"
"No, Dobby does not. Why should—"
"Are you my house elf or aren't you?" Harry hissed, while trying to focus her magic.
"Dobby serves Harry Potter, but . . . but Dobby is his own house elf—and Dobby is thinking it is dangerous for no one to know where Harry Potter is because Harry Potter is bearing!"
Harry glared at Dobby for a moment, but then decided that he was right. "Fine. I'll . . . I'll leave the wards open for Mrs. Weasley."
"But then Harry Potter must not be re-working the Unplotting, yes?"
Damn it! That's true. "Just remember what I said about Mrs. Wea—about Mrs. Molly Weasley—only she can come in, all right? Now leave me alone."
Dobby left before Harry could begin to re-key the wards. When she had finished, she turned her attention to Severus' note again and read:
I must help Fleur Weasley to become a mother. It's the only way that you and I will ever be free to make a family together. Forgive my presumption, but I believe you want that as much as I do.
Harry's tears fell on the parchment and blurred the writing as she thought, If you believe that then you're a bigger bastard than I ever thought you were. Why does my being a witch make you think you have the right to make my decisions for me?
Even Percy had exercised that "right."
After he had thrown Severus out of her room at St. Mungo's, Harry had felt angry, and that anger had made her decide that living with Percy would be impossible. She had trusted Percy with her fears, and he had assumed that her trust somehow implied that she was too weak to manage her own affairs.
Or make my own decisions or . . . or protect myself!
It was maddening.
They'd never treat me this way if I were a wizard—and I'm going to be a wizard again. They know that, so maybe it's just me they think is weak. "How is that possible? I destroyed Voldemort!"
But having a baby was not the same thing as saving the world.
"It's scarier, isn't it? But Ron would never have treated Hermione like this," Harry whispered,
crushing Severus' ruined note in her fist. "Ron respected Hermione. He . . . he loved her." And
that's the problem, isn't it? Severus doesn't love me. He
just . . . . "He just thinks I'm a responsibility—a duty—he doesn't really want me."
Their years of shagging notwithstanding, Harry knew she was right. She had foolishly wanted what laid between Severus and herself to be love, but all it had ever been was a series of drunken one-offs. She had tried dating other people, but they had always treated her as the Boy Who Lived; they had not been interested in the Boy Who Was—and Harry had known that Severus' other relationships had been equally as unsuccessful.
So Severus and I fucked because no one else would have us, and now he thinks that gives him the right to take Justine from me. . . . Let him try.
"I'll kill him if he tries."
Harry's anger rose up within her then. The hairs on her arms and neck rose. She felt the terrible power that was hers to command waiting for the direction of her will, and the "book" into which she had written Voldemort's secrets opened its pages within her mind.
I could kill him now, she thought in horrified fascination, as she called into her consciousness myriad Dark spells which would make short work of the threat she perceived Severus to be to her. Hell, I could make Severus a witch! she thought, revisiting the spell she had employed to alter her sex. "It would serve him right! How would he feel if . . . if . . . ."
Harry's eyes widened as if she were reading a real book in a darkened room and could not clearly discern the text, and, suddenly, the memory of Severus' words as he had tried to stop her from becoming Ron and Hermione's surrogate burst into her mind: "You idiot! The spell is 'excambiō sexus'—have you any idea what it is that you've done?"
"No. No, that can't be right! I didn't, I did not cast a permanent spell!" Harry yelled, as her knees buckled and she fell to the floor.
Sobbing in rage and confusion and fear, Harry realized the depth of her mistake—and Severus' betrayal.
"He knew! Severus . . . knew, and . . . and he never . . . told me. Oh, God! What have I—I can't stay this—oh, God, I'm a . . . I'm a witch!"