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[SS/HP] Secret Corners (end) by:Eriador117

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发表于 2009-7-21 13:08:15 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
Author: Eriador117
Website:http://eriador117.insanejournal.com
Email:[email protected]
Permission:
Yes, you can have permission to repost the stories on your board if you want. :)

take care,
Annette
(Eriador117)






Summary: When Harry becomes seriously ill is the price of a cure one that he is willing to pay? Written a s a gift fic for LittleRoo as a thank you for my paid LJ time. warnings: this fic deals with child abuse, including being a victim of a child pornography ring. Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns the Potterverse, I just play in it from time to time
Characters: Harry/Severus
Genres: Angst/Tragedy, Romance, Mystery/Suspense, Alternate Universe
Rating: M+
Warnings: Violence, Adult Language, Sexual Situations, Chan, Non-con (rape), Character Death, OOC-ness






Chapter 1: Secret Corners
Part One

Who is this child, who is this man?
Only two people
Who are doing all they can
Frost on the ground, the cruel winds of fate
Blow us forever
And I know there's just no escape


From Secret Corners by The Church.

"You think those freaks scare me?" hissed Vernon as he gripped Harry's arm hard enough to bruise and pulled the struggling boy out of the station. Hedwig hooted mournfully in her cage as Dudley jostled Harry's luggage. Harry tried to get out of his uncle's grasp to take hold of the trolley, but Vernon's grip got even tighter as he marched Harry towards the exit. Neither Petunia nor Dudley hadn't spoken one word to Harry at all.

Perhaps having Professor Moody and other members of the Order threatening Vernon hadn't been such a good idea after all. They weren't here. They wouldn't be able to keep watch over Harry all the time, not with the war escalating. It was Harry who was going to be left dealing with Vernon's anger and Harry angered the man just by breathing. How much worse was it going to be now? Suddenly Harry wanted desperately to be back at Hogwarts, even if he did have to face Dumbledore and the man's betrayals.

Why had no-one told him any of it before? His thoughts swirled a million miles a minute as he fought to keep bile from rising in his throat. The prophecy, Snape's pensieve, his father's arrogance, Sirius, Cedric and all the others who would die because of him, he just couldn't stop thinking. He wanted to stop thinking, he wanted to yank the thoughts physically from his head.

Sunlight pierced his pupils and Harry squinted as they emerged from the station. "I've got plans for you, boy," Vernon snarled as he led Harry to the car door. "And no-one from that freaky school is going to stop me. It's time you paid your way."

Harry gasped in shock when he felt the sharp pain in his thigh and all too soon the world around him dimmed and blurred.

***

Dumbledore's eyes had lost their usual twinkle ever since the end of term, when he'd had that talk with Potter and instead of sitting behind his desk and calmly offering tea and lemon drops, he was pacing the length of his office. Snape was dizzy just watching him.

"Headmaster, you sent for me?"

Dumbledore stopped mid-pace and stared at him, as if he really had forgotten that he'd summoned his Potions master.

"Ah, yes. Yes I did, Severus. I must say I'm very disappointed in you, Severus, very disappointed indeed."

Snape didn't rise to the bait. Dumbledore found everything he did disappointing. It was best just to let the man ramble on and hope that eventually a nugget of pertinent information would be revealed among the dross.

"I'd like to know why you stopped Harry's Occlumency lessons, Severus, after you knew how important it was for Harry to be able to close his mind from Voldemort."

Snape bristled at the creature's name and toyed with the idea of just refusing to answer. That wouldn't work for long though, if Snape didn't answer, he knew the headmaster would have no qualms of just ferreting about in his mind to find out. And there were plenty of things in there that he would rather no-one knew.

"He violated my privacy," Snape stated.

"That's it? That's the reason you stopped? Is that all?"

All? All? Sometimes Snape really hated the headmaster. Of course, Potter would never be punished, just like his father and their friends when Snape had been attacked by the werewolf. Golden Gryffindors could do no wrong, could they? Oh, but he forgot. One of them did and even now Dumbledore was still trying to excuse Pettigrew's actions. But as for Severus, a Slytherin, he made one mistake. One, when he was young and foolish and Dumbledore was still making him pay for it.

"Potter had no right to do what he did. It was none of his business, but he's just like his father. Cocky, arrogant and full of his own self-importance. He's a selfish, spoiled brat who has no regards for anyone other than himself."

"I don't think you believe that any more than I do," said Dumbledore. "The fact still remains that you should never have stopped tutoring Harry and you should have told me that you had done so. Sirius Black might still be alive if those lessons had continued."

"Sirius Black was a reckless fool, he would have died sooner or later anyway."

"That sounds very cold of you, Severus."

"Cold? Forgive me if I'm not displeased at the demise of the man who tried to have me murdered when he was sixteen," snapped Snape.

"It was nothing more than a schoolboy prank, Severus. You're taking things too hard."

Snape had the impression that the headmaster's summons had nothing to do with Sirius Black, but with that other bane of his existence.

"Harry Potter was not at Privet Drive over the summer," said Dumbledore, his words confirming Snape's suspicions.

"What?" It was only two weeks until the start of term. "He's been missing since the end of June? Why didn't you tell me before?"

"Quite simply, I was not informed until today. Our contacts at the station saw Harry leave with the Dursleys, saw his uncle bundle him into the car. Harry was unconscious. Arabella Figg has confirmed just now that the Dursleys arrived back in Surrey, with Harry's luggage and owl, but Harry was not in the car."

What had happened? Had the Dursleys dumped Harry somewhere like an unwanted dog? He didn't like the boy, but from what little Snape had gleamed of Harry's memories during their lessons, he liked the Dursleys even less.

"Why didn't she report that he was missing to the Order straightaway?"

"She did, unfortunately the only person she could get hold of was Mundungus Fletcher who promptly forgot. He was drunk at the time."

Snape snorted. Why that pathetic excuse of a wizard was even in the Order was beyond him, but as usual, Dumbledore never revealed his reasons, especially not to him.

"I suppose you want me to have a little chat with the Muggles, find out what they've done with Harry?"

"You mean you don't know where he is?" The headmaster gaped at him.

"Why would I know where he is? You think Death Eaters took him?"

"It is a possibility, isn't it?"

"But Harry was with his relatives in the car, wouldn't the wards have protected him?"

"Severus, ah. The wards haven't been working properly since Harry's sojourn that night in the graveyard, ever since Voldemort shared Harry's blood."

"What?" shrieked Severus. "You sent him back there knowing the wards weren't working properly?"

"A mistake I intend to remedy once we find him."

Oh, Snape liked the we in there. As if Dumbledore would get his own hands dirty.

"I haven't been called since the Ministry, headmaster. If he had been taken by Death Eaters then I would have been summoned, the Dark Lord would not lose the opportunity to gloat. I don't think he's with them, Harry is somewhere else entirely."

***

Snape Apparated straight into the Dursleys' kitchen. The bony woman dropped the casserole dish she was holding, gravy, vegetables and beef staining her pristine floor. Dudley Dursley, doing a very good impression of a beached whale almost toppled from his chair in shock. He could do with missing a few meals anyway.

"VERNON!" screeched Petunia in a voice so high pitched Snape wouldn't have been surprised to find the front lawn home to a congregation of all the neighbourhood dogs. "VERNON!"

"I'm coming!" puffed a voice from somewhere else in the house. After what sounded like a stampede of elephants stomping down the stairs, Vernon Dursley entered the kitchen. His face was purple and he was sweating profusely even from that little exertion.

"You! You're one of them freaks, aren't you? Out! Get out of my house! I want have anymore of this nonsense, do you hear?"

Snape ignored the man's rant. "Where is Harry Potter?"

"None of you damn business," snapped Vernon. For a man who was in mortal danger, he seemed remarkably calm. "We're responsible for him when he's not at that freaky school and he won't be going back there. I won't have it!"

"Responsible?" snarled Snape and pushed past the man and into the hall, quite a feat considering the man's bulk. He stopped in front of the cupboard under the stairs, padlocks hanging loose on the outside. He's seen glimpses of this in Harry's memory, but nothing could prepare him for the onslaught of emotions that the room had held. Wizards, especially powerful wizards like Harry left behind an impression of their emotions, like a recording in stone, metal or wood and Snape was inundated with the emotions that the young Harry had left behind.

Fear of the dark. Fear of his uncle's fists. That other fear that Harry had no name for, just knew it was something done to hurt him. Pain. Hunger, no more than hunger, starvation. Loathing. Despair. Hopelessness.

Snape fingered the lock idly and glared at the Muggle. "Responsible? If you call starving a child, beating him and locking him in a cupboard responsible!"

"We did nothing to that boy that he didn't deserve! He was a freak! Unnatural!"

"Unnatural?" drawled Snape. "Oh, you'd know all about that, wouldn't you, Dursley?"

The man paled then turned purple again. "I don't know what you mean."

"I think you do. I know, Dursley. I know what you did. Now I ask you again, where is Harry Potter?"

Snape removed his wand and pointed it at the man's chest.

"I don't know where he is, but I know how you can get to him," said the cousin, waddling into the hall.

"Dudley shut up!" roared his father.

"No, I won't! I won't let you get away with this any more. Professor Snape, isn't it?"

Snape nodded and Dudley started ascending the stairs. "My computer's upstairs, I have to show you."

"Dudley, no!" panted Vernon as he tried to grab hold of his son's shirt. Snape cast a binding spell on him and he toppled to the floor with a loud thud. Petunia would also be kept busy trying to figure out what was wrong with him. Snape followed Dudley into the teenager's bedroom.

"Dad sold Harry," said Dudley as he sat down in front of his computer.

"Sold him? As in he got money for him?"

"Haven't you heard of the slave trade?" Dudley asked and at the same time typed something on the keyboard. "I found this by mistake this morning, I sent Harry's owl with a note, but I didn't know whether it would get anywhere or not. I was trying to get to the Toys'R'Us website, but I typed Boys'R'Us instead. This is what I found." Dudley swivelled his chair round and showed Snape the website on screen.

On the front page were twenty small thumbnail photos, all of boys from between the ages of about ten to sixteen and all dressed in nothing but their underwear. All of them were chained spread eagled to a bed. Photo twenty, the final one was of Harry Potter. There was a number underneath each boy and even as he watched, some of the numbers changed.

"What is going on here?" asked Snape.

"The numbers are prices," explained Dudley. "All the boys are being auctioned off as sex slaves. You see that little asterisk beside each number? That means that the reserve price hasn't been met yet so Harry is still available. If you try and buy him, maybe you can rescue him."

Snape could not believe what he was hearing. "And this is legal in the Muggle world, is it? Selling children as sex slaves?"

"Of course not! It's all illegal."

"And yet your father still did it, did you know what he was going to do with Harry?"

"He took him to a shopping centre and when he came back out, he was alone. Harry wasn't with him. He'd said he was going to buy Harry some new clothes, but I should have guessed that he would never do that. They never bought Harry anything new. When I asked where Harry was, he just said that some of the freaks had taken Harry off our hands for the summer."

"Why are you doing this?" asked Snape. "I thought you hated Harry?"

"No-one deserves that," said Dudley, pointing his thumb at the boys on the website. "It's sick."

Snape couldn't agree more. "Right, you'll have to show me how to bid."

Dudley nodded and turned back to the computer.

TBC




Chapter 2: Secret Corners
Part Two

In the empty place the soul stripped bare
Of skins and heart and I come apart
In your icy hands

From the song For a Moment We're Strangers by The Church


Harry was being held in a warehouse at the riverside in London. The Order had already been informed and Snape was even now on his way there. He'd Apparated to Diagon Alley and walked the rest of the way. In his hand was a battered leather briefcase containing the money with which to buy Harry. Actually, it was an illusion, there was no money, just bits of parchment that had been charmed to look like Muggle money. Twenty thousand pounds of it to be exact. It was more than Snape earned in a year and these men were selling children to get it.

Snape's legs felt leaden as he made his way to the warehouse along the dockside. A lot of the old warehouses had been torn down or revamped into luxury apartments, but not this one. It was shabby and seemed to consist more of rust than metal. The closer Snape got to the warehouse, the more panicked and scared he was beginning to feel and he realised that he was picking up on the boy's emotions yet again. He'd never been able to do that so strongly before and never with someone so young.

Snape rapped three times on the door. A very short, rotund man appeared, completely bald on his head but his excessive facial hair seemed to be compensating for it. Icy blue eyes darted about and he kept hopping from foot to foot as though nervous they were being watched. They were, but no Muggle would be able to realise it.

"You got the money?" he demanded and Snape was treated to a view of horribly stained teeth.

"Do you have the boy?" asked Snape, hefting the briefcase into sight.

The man turned back into the warehouse and hollered. "Steve! Bring twenty out!"

Snape briefly wondered twenty what before he realised that twenty was Potter's number on the website. Potter wasn't a person to these people. He was a number, an object and he shuddered in revulsion.

"And you're sure he's a virgin?" asked Snape as they waited for Steve and Potter to arrive. Their website had made it clear that they specialised in unspoiled goods. He just hoped it was true and that the boy hadn't been raped.

"Of course. We don't mess with the merchandise, we leave that to sickos like you."

Snape's hand itched to go for his wand, but not before Potter was out and safe. The door was pushed wide open, creaking on rusty hinges and Steve and Potter stood there. Potter was squinting in the sunlight, his glasses cracked on the left lens. The left side of his face had a deep purple bruise and his lips were split. The large t-shirt he was wearing was long in the sleeves for him that his wrists were almost covered but he could see rough red patches encircling Potter's wrists where he'd been bound. Potter gasped when he saw Snape. Giving an almost imperceptible shake of his head, Snape warned him silently not to say anything. Steve was holding Potter's shoulders and Potter was swaying a little as if he wouldn't be able to stand without the support. What had they done to him?

"He's bruised," said Snape. "You never told me he was damaged. I think a reduction might be in order, don't you?"

"No way!" screamed Steve, gripping Potter's shoulders so tight that the boy grimaced in pain. "It's twenty thousand. We've got plenty of other interested parties in this one."

"Hand over the boy first," said Snape.

"No, money first," insisted Steve. Snape held out the briefcase, Steve pushed Potter towards him. The boy stumbled, almost fell but this time Snape was here to catch him. There was a loud crack as fifteen Order members and Aurors Apparated into the building, ready to round up the criminals and free the other children.

Potter was trembling in his arms. "Professor?"

"You're all right now, Potter. I'm taking you home."

***

Harry had never been Apparated anywhere before. He clung like a limpet to his professor's arm as the world seemed to dissolve into millions of colours, lights and sounds. It was much more dizzying than Floo and a lot weirder than Portkey. They landed in a clearing in the Forbidden Forest. As soon as Harry let go of Snape's arm, his knees buckled, he put his hands out in front of him to break his fall and landed on all fours. Harry retched, the nausea taking him by surprise. He hadn't been fed for a while though and there was nothing left to come up except for sour spittle and bile.

In all the time he'd been there, however long it had been, he'd made up rescue scenarios in his head. Never once in his imaginings had Snape been cast in the role of his rescuer. Sometimes it was Sirius somehow back from the dead. Sometimes it was Hagrid blasting through the walls with his pink umbrella and squashing the men who held him. Sometimes it was Ron and the twins in the flying Ford Anglia, but it was never Snape. He realised he shouldn't have been surprised that it was Snape who had come to the rescue. The man had been looking out for him ever since Harry had arrived at Hogwarts. And how had Harry repaid him? Acting like a brat, betraying the man's privacy, something he heartily wished he'd never done.

Harry gasped, startled, when the professor touched his shoulder. "Don't," he pleaded hoarsely as he struggled to his feet. There was a foul taste in his mouth and he wanted to brush his teeth and drink the sweetest, largest glass of pumpkin juice ever.

"Harry, what did they do to you?" The use of his first name wasn't lost on Harry but no matter how friendlier Snape seemed, Harry couldn't talk to him. He couldn't talk to anyone about what had happened to him. Harry became engrossed in the growth of mushrooms around the trunk of a tree and was unable to answer him.

"Harry? Did they - did they touch you? Hurt you?"

"No, nothing happened like that. But they threatened me, told me in great detail as to what my buyer might want to do to me. When they said someone had bought me I thought - I thought - " Harry doubled over again, dry heaving as the fear as to what he might have ended up took over again. It was only luck that he hadn't ended up belonging to some pervert out there. Snape had saved him from that. Snape had saved him again.

God, he wished he could stop shaking. It felt as though he was coming down with the flu or something, he was so cold but sweating too.

"Professor, I don't feel so good," Harry muttered as he felt the world swirl and tilt about him once more.

***

Harry blinked, opening his eyes to bright sunlight streaming through the high windows of the infirmary. Hogwarts. He was back at Hogwarts. Not there. Not there with the men who were going to sell him but he wouldn't think of that. Not anymore. He was home. He was safe.

Madam Pomfrey was soon at his side, but Professor Snape was nowhere in evidence. The man must have brought him to the infirmary when Harry had fainted.

"Awake at last, Potter," Madam Pomfrey gave him a beaming smile.

"What's wrong with me?" asked Harry. Did Apparating disagree with him that much?

"Nothing that a few days rest and a good feed won't cure, Harry. You're malnourished and dehydrated, that's why you fainted. There are also some Muggle drugs in your system, some sort of strong sedatives. When was the last time you ate?"

"I don't know. I can't remember."

"Well, I'll get you some lunch and then the headmaster would like a word with you."

Harry did not want to see the headmaster. He still hadn't forgiven the man for all that he'd hidden from Harry over the years and he was afraid in the state he was in that he wouldn't be able to hold his tongue. Harry wondered how much Snape had told anyone.

"Does the headmaster know - know where I was?" It was so humiliating.

"Harry, dear, all the staff know. Professor Dumbledore sent for the Aurors when Professor Snape refused to tell the headmaster where you'd been. Kingsley Shacklebolt told him."

"He refused?" gasped Harry.

"Yes, he said that it wasn't anyone else's business besides yours and you would tell people when you were ready."

But instead, Dumbledore had determined to find it out for himself, not taking into account Harry's feelings at all. Snape cared more about how he was feeling that Dumbledore ever had or ever would. Just another way for the headmaster to treat Harry like a child. Harry was drained and he just wanted everyone to go away and let him curl up somewhere and be left alone. He knew it was a futile wish. He was the Boy Who Lived. Time alone was something he was not privileged to have.

The medi-witch left him for a few moments, returning with a tray of sandwiches and a large glass of iced pumpkin juice. Harry drank half the glass before he started on the sandwiches. He wasn't really feeling that hungry, but he was terribly thirsty. He couldn't remember the last time the men had given him any water. His memories of his time there were blurry, merging into one and he blinked his eyes against the memories swirling about his head.

Even before he'd finished the last bite of his sandwich, Dumbledore was there beside his bed, looking gravely at Harry. The man was still refusing to meet Harry's eyes.

"How are you feeling, my boy?" asked Dumbledore.

"Fine," said Harry, not elaborating.

"Good, good. I know this must be very difficult for you, Harry, but I need to know everything. What else did those people do to you? It's very important that we know."

"Important for who?" demanded Harry. "It's none of your business!" Not that anything had actually happened anyway, but still, he did not feel like telling the headmaster anything. Let him figure it out by himself. He was good at doing things himself, wasn't he?

"As the headmaster of this school, Harry, anything that affects any one of my students is my business. Now, you can either tell me what happened or I can get Professor Snape to give you some Veriteraserum, which would you prefer?"

There was a loud commotion at the door to the infirmary, Snape was pushing Madam Pomfrey out of the way and his glare could have rivalled the basilisk's for turning people to stone. "Headmaster!" he paused at the foot of Harry's bed. "I already told you this was not a good idea. You cannot force the boy to talk if he does not wish to."

"Professor Dumbledore?" queried the matron. "What is this? You are trying to force information from Harry? That is most unwise. If my patient does not wish to talk to you, then he doesn't have to."

Harry blinked back tears of relief. He wouldn't have to talk to the headmaster after all. Dumbledore was the last person he wanted to confide in. Ever.

"Poppy, as headmaster it is my duty -"

Madam Pomfrey cut him off midflow. "As the matron of this school it is my duty to look after the best interests of my patients and you upsetting Harry is not doing him any good. I suggest you leave now."

Dumbledore stared at her, as if not quite believing he was being chucked out. Harry felt the urge to giggle but held it in check, but the headmaster did finally leave.

"You too, Severus. I don't want Harry upset any more today."

"No, please, can he stay?" asked Harry, unwilling to be left alone all day. "If you don't mind keeping me company for a while, Professor?"

"I think I can fit you in around my busy schedule," smirked Snape but Harry could sense the real humour behind it today.

"Very well, then," sighed Madam Pomfrey. "But you say anything to upset him and you're out on your ear."

The matron bustled away, leaving Snape to sit down in the chair by Harry's bed.

"I never thanked you," said Harry.

"For what?"

"For saving me. Thank you."

"Let's see if you'll still be thanking me after we resume our Occlumency lessons."

"What?" Harry's heart faltered to a stop in his chest. Just when he thought they might finally be able to get along with each other. Occlumency would soon put paid to that idea.

"The headmaster's idea, Harry. He doesn't think you would welcome him trying to teach you."

"No, I wouldn't," said Harry thickly, but he didn't want Snape to teach it to him either. The man had been cruel and vicious and Harry didn't want to go back to seeing his rescuer as that. He realised that ever since Snape had taken him away, not once had he berated Harry, called him names or compared him unfavourably to his father. It was a little disconcerting at first, but he found he liked this new calmer Snape.

"Don't worry, Harry. It will be different this time."


TBC



Chapter 3: Secret Corners
Part Three

Please don't go crazy if I tell you the truth
No you don't know what happened and you never will
If you don't listen to me while I talk to the wall


From the song How to be Dead by Snow Patrol

Harry spent another few days in the infirmary as Madam Pomfrey was determined to feed him up before he left her care. She didn't fuss over him, didn't hover to make sure he ate, seemed happy enough to trust him to know how much he could eat and she didn't complain if he never ate every single thing she put on his plate. Harry wondered if the woman knew how little food Harry got when he wasn't at Hogwarts. He just wasn't used to eating a lot and it annoyed him when people kept urging to finish everything that was on his plate like he was still five years old. Not that the Dursleys had ever said that to him anyway, he was left hungry more often than he was fed.

The headmaster didn't come to visit him again, but Snape did, even bringing Harry a Quidditch magazine once. They even managed to talk civilly to each other. It wasn't until Harry's fourth day in the infirmary that he plucked up the courage enough to apologise about what he'd come to refer to in his mind as the incident.

His face burned with shame and humiliation. "Professor, I wanted to say how sorry I am about looking into your pensieve." Harry plucked the threads on the bedspread and hung his head. "I didn't mean to do it."

Snape stiffened on the chair beside him and Harry thought he'd just gone and ruined this little truce they had now by even bringing it up. But it was important that Snape knew he was sorry and the man deserved an apology for what Harry had done.

"Why did you look in there at all, Potter? When you knew those were my private thoughts?"

"The visions Voldemort was sending me, there was this strange shimmering glow. I saw a similar one coming from the pensieve, I thought you might have known something about what was being held at the Department of Mysteries and I wanted to find out. I thought - I thought you were still working for Voldemort and that's why you were trying to hide whatever was in there. I thought I'd be able to catch you out."

"So it was all some noble endeavour on your part?"

"I wouldn't say that, not exactly. I don't know what I was doing half the time last year, I think I went a little crazy." Harry rubbed absently at the scar on his hand. I must no tell lies.

"A little?" Snape raised an eyebrow at him. "You have a gift for understatement, Mr. Potter. However since your apology does seem to be genuine, I shall accept it in the spirit in which it was given. Need I remind you not to go poking your nose in where it doesn't belong in future?"

"No, sir. I won't. Thank you."

"Rest, Potter. You look exhausted."

"Oh, yes, lying in bed all day tires me out," he said sarcastically and much to his surprise Snape laughed. Harry had never heard the man make such a sound before and he found himself wanting to hear much more of it.

Who knew that the dour Potions master actually knew how to laugh?

***

Their first Occlumency lesson took place the day after Harry was released from the infirmary. It was a week until term started and until then, he would have two hours of Occlumency every day. He wasn't looking forward to it all and it took a conscious effort on his part to drag his feet down to the dungeons. The headache that he'd been suffering from on and off all morning returned with a vengeance and he just hoped that Snape might have some headache potion in his office, for Harry didn't think he'd be fit to repel anything feeling like this.

Harry knocked on Snape's office door, it swung open by itself and Harry took a few tentative steps forward into the man's lair. Snape himself was nowhere in sight, Harry's eyes darted to the specimens he wasn't sure he wanted to know the names of, the contents of the jars suspended in green fluids. Harry was sure one of them blinked at him. He moved towards it just as he heard the whispered Legilimens behind him.

He was unprepared and he could not fight the man's invading mind as he rifled through memory after memory.

"Did I say you could eat, boy?"

Five year old Harry put the toast back on the plate, already it looked disfigured where he'd taken a small nibble. "No, uncle Vernon."

His stomach hurt, he hadn't eaten in days and he thought no-one would mind him having a small bite of toast. But he was wrong, they always minded. The tears threatened but he refused to let them fall. He would never cry in front of this man, he would never cry in front of anyone. Tears only made his punishments worse.

Vernon began to unbuckle his belt and Harry tried to run, tried to run anywhere away from the belt, away from what he knew was coming.

"Please, uncle Vernon! I'll be good! I promise!"

"You'll never be good, you're nothing but a freak and maybe this will teach you to obey the rules of this house!"

Vernon yanked Harry by the arm. "You don't eat until I say you can!" Thwack! The belt snarled across the backs of his legs and Harry bit his tongue to stop himself from crying out. Again and again the belt came down and he tasted blood on his tongue. Harry was shoved into the cupboard and the door locked against him. Alone in the dark with only spiders for company, that's the only time when he could allow himself the luxury of tears.


"NO!" Harry forced the man out of his mind with a concerted effort, his headache was getting worse and he swayed on his feet as the professor's touch was removed. God, he wasn't ready for this. To face these memories again as if they were just fresh yesterday.

"That wasn't fair!" protested Harry. "I wasn't ready!"

"Do you really think the Dark Lord will wait until you're ready before attacking you, Potter? You should know that he does not to anything fairly. He does not play fair, he plays to win."

Snape had a point but it still rankled that he hadn't even waited until Harry was at least facing him. Sneaking up on him like that was just so unfair. "I thought you had to make eye contact for that spell?" asked Harry.

"That's what we tell the students, otherwise they'd be hexing each other from behind left, right and centre. Best to let them think that the only way to do it is to be looking at their target. You however need to know the truth, the Dark Lord may not be facing you when he tries to break through your mind."

Harry winced, pressing the heel of his palm to his forehead. It felt like a giant was using it for an anvil. He hadn't really been feeling well for a while and wondered if those Muggle drugs the men had given him were still affecting him.

"Headache? Follow me," said Snape and turned in a billow of robes to a door at the far end of his office. He pressed his palm against the wood and whispered a password. There was a soft blue glow that shimmered briefly in the air before him and the door swung open. "Come in, then," said Snape. "I don't bite. Or is the rumour that I'm a vampire still circulating?"

Harry followed the man into his private domain. "Well, you are very pale, sir and you live in the dungeon. You also seem to be able to sneak up on people without them knowing and..." Harry wasn't about to mention the greasy hair.

"I'm well aware of the comments about my personal hygiene, Mr. Potter. Your hair would be greasy too if you spent nearly every waking hour brewing potions. Sit down. I will return presently." Snape swept out into another room and Harry was left to look round the living room.

The only seats in the room were a very battered cloth sofa, which may once have been green but the colours had faded somewhat, and a stiff backed wooden chair by a desk. Harry assumed it was where the man marked essays and did other work as there were stacks of parchment and an assortment of quills and inks sitting on it. The red brick fireplace was large enough to Floo from and there were three intricately designed clear crystal phials on top of it. One whole wall was devoted to bookshelves which had so many books that it was groaning under their weight.

Harry sat down on the sofa, it was more comfortable than it looked and he felt himself sinking into it. Snape returned with a potion bottle and a glass of water. "For your headache," he said. "Two drops should be adequate."

"Thank you, sir," said Harry, taking the dose and swallowing a few sips of water to get rid of the taste.

"You should have told me you were unwell, it can affect how you block."

"I didn't get much chance, did I? You sneaked up on me." Harry shuddered as the remembered memories tried to claw their way to the surface once more. Snape knew everything. Snape had seen everything in his mind and just not today. The Potions master was the only one who knew the full story and how Harry wished he was better at blocking.

"Do you want to talk about it?" asked Snape.

"Talk about what?"

"The Muggles, what they did to you."

Harry gaped at him. "It's bad enough you see it in my head. No, I don't want to talk about it."

"Very well, then, shall we continue with the lesson?"

"What? You don't want to tell me that it's for my own good that I talk about it? That I'll feel better? That it's best to have these things out in the open?"

"That sounds remarkably like the headmaster talking. I am not going to force you to discuss something you do not wish to, what would be the point? Only you know how you feel, whether you want to talk or not. If you do change your mind and wish to discuss it at some time in the future, just remember that my offer still stands and you can talk to me."

Harry was amazed again at the man. He was treating Harry like an adult, one who knew his own mind. Harry didn't think he would ever want to talk about what the Dursleys had done to him, particularly Vernon, but it was enough that Snape had cared enough to offer to listen. Dumbledore had been like a dog trying to uncover a very tenacious bone and just kept asking and asking what had happened. He wouldn't let it go and it just made Harry all the more determined not to let the man know anything. It was Dumbledore's fault that he was left at the Dursleys' in the first place. Who had sent him back there year after year?

"Thank you, sir. It means a lot that you asked, even if I can't discuss it."

"You're welcome, Potter. Legilimens!"

This time it was a lot easier to block him.


TBC



Chapter 4: Secret Corners
Part Four


Darkness darkness be my pillow
Take my hand let me sleep
In the coolness of your shadow
In the silence of your deep


From Darkness Darkness by Mott the Hoople


It was such a relief when term began and Harry's Occlumency lessons dwindled to twice a week rather than every day. They were so emotionally fraught, bringing up long buried memories and feelings that he thought hidden. Ron and Hermione had become a couple over the summer and Harry was forever finding them curled up somewhere snogging.

The sight always made his heart ache just a little, for he didn't know if he would ever find someone to share his life with. Cho Chang had started going out with one of the seventh year Ravenclaws, Harry didn't know his name. He thought he should have been more upset, after all, hadn't he had a crush on her for ages? Their one shared kiss and date hardly constituted the romance of the century though and he was glad that she seemed happy enough with her new beau.

With Ron and Hermione otherwise engaged for most of the time, Harry found he had a lot more time for studying and less for adventures. Much to his surprise, he found he actually liked to study. Hermione was pleased but Ron thought that too much studying would rot the brain. Maybe they felt a little worried that Harry was being left out for they made sure to spend some time with him on the weekends.

Harry didn't begrudge them their time together, goodness knows it was difficult enough for them to find privacy in a school not to mention the overflowing Burrow. Harry just knew that Ron would have been teased mercilessly by the twins if they knew about his and Hermione's relationship.

Harry yawned and closed his Transfiguration textbook. It wasn't even eight o'clock yet and already he was dead on his feet, he'd been feeling tired a lot lately. "That exciting is it?" asked Ron as he flopped on the sofa next to Harry.

"I'm just tired," said Harry. "No Hermione tonight?"

"No, she's got a study group." Ron pouted and Harry smiled. "It's Friday night and she's studying! The NEWTs aren't even until next year!"

"Do you fancy a quick go round the Quidditch pitch?"

"Aren't you still banned?"

"From Quidditch, not from flying."

"Oh, okay then," said Ron. "I'll go and get our brooms." Ron hurried up the stairs to the boys' dormitory. Although Harry's ban hadn't been lifted, the Ministry couldn't stop him from flying on his own broom, especially since Umbridge was no longer at Hogwarts to keep it from him.

They spent half an hour just flying around the pitch before the light faded to do much more. As the flew back down, Harry was feeling so light headed that he almost fell and tumbled to the ground. Everything was spinning or was it him who was spinning? He put his arms out in front of him as though to steady him or break his fall.

"Harry, mate, are you all right?" asked Ron.

"Fine, Ron. Just a bit dizzy. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried that last Wronski Feint."

Ron patted him lightly on the back. "Come on, I've got some butterbeers back in the dorm. The twins sent it to me."

"Ordinary butterbeer?" queried Harry. "It's not one of their new experimental lines, is it?"

"No, it's the real stuff. I don't want to try their experimental stuff any more than you do."

"Okay then," grinned Harry and followed his friend back to Gryffindor Tower.

Fred and George's joke shop was doing really well, as Ron's letters from them revealed. Harry was glad for them, but that didn't mean that he wanted to be one of their guinea pigs for their new additions to the Skiving Snackboxes. Currently they were in the process of developing Lemon Lice Slices and Apple Abscesses to name but two. Of course, their mother knew nothing about the Skiving Snackboxes and Harry nor Ron weren't fool enough to tell her.

He and Ron had managed two butterbeers each before the other boys made it back to the dormitory and it turned into something of a party after that, with Ron handing the bottles round as if there was soon going to be a drought.

"How many bottles did they send you?" asked Seamus.

"A whole crate," replied Ron.

"What if Professor McGonagall finds them?" asked Neville.

"She won't. I've put a 'see-me-not' spell on the crate."

Harry had lost count how many bottles they'd each had, but there were quite a few empty ones now in a pile in the middle of the floor. Each of the Gryffindors were lounging against the feet of their beds and grinning at each other. Harry was just glad that it was a Saturday tomorrow.

"I know, why don't we play Spin the Bottle?" suggested Dean. The others sniggered, except for Harry.

"But we don't have any girls," said Ron. "We need girls, don't we?"

"What's Spin the Bottle?" asked Harry, appalled at his own ignorance. He'd never had a chance to play many games growing up and he'd never even heard of this one.

"You really don't know?" Ron arched an eyebrow at him. "I thought Muggles played it too."

"They do," said Dean.

"So what is it, then?" persisted Harry, the rest of them burst out giggling again. When the noise had died down, Ron explained the rules.

"Everyone sits round in a circle facing each other and the person whose turn it is spins the bottle round. When it stops, whoever the bottle's pointing at, you have to kiss that person."

"What?" squawked Harry. "But we don't have any girls here," he protested, echoing Ron's earlier sentiments. His skin flushed at just the thought of having to kiss any one of his friends, but he found he wasn't finding the idea at all unappealing.

"It's just a bit of fun, Harry," said Seamus. "Haven't you ever kissed a boy before, you know, to practice?"

"To practice?"

"Yeah, so you'll not seem like a complete dork when you kiss a girl," said Ron as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

"So you've all kissed boys before?" Harry blurted out, his face flaming.

The four of them nodded. "You haven't then?" asked Ron.

Harry shook his head, but found himself suddenly wanting to. "But, you've got to start somewhere, right?" he grinned.

"That's the spirit, Harry," smiled Seamus as they all settled themselves in a circle and Neville picked up one of the empty bottles. He spun it quickly and it stopped pointing at Seamus. Neville grinned and crawled across the circle to the Irish boy, to amused catcalls from Ron and Dean. Harry watched it enfold, his eyes wide as Neville pressed his lips softly against Seamus'. Harry didn't find it disgusting or even weird, it was actually kind of sweet. He smiled at the two friends as they pulled away from each other.

Seamus spun next, his bottle landing facing Ron. Seamus glanced round at the others and gave a lewd wink. There was something predatory in the way he prowled across the circle to Ron and Harry’s throat was suddenly too dry. There was nothing sweet about the kiss Seamus bestowed upon Ron. It was as if he was devouring Ron whole, red hair and black hair so tangled together it seemed they were one entity rather than two. Seamus had his hands gripping firmly to Ron's head as the two of them kissed and kissed and kissed.

When Seamus pulled away, both of the boys were flushed pink and panting for breath, but there were both still smiling, it was a game to them. It had gone beyond that for Harry, he was suddenly, painfully aroused and he wasn't sure he wanted to continue playing. Was this what was wrong when he'd been with Cho? That it wasn't Cho, but Harry? That he preferred boys to girls?

Ron took his turn almost before Seamus had sat back down again and this time the bottle landed facing Harry. Harry could see every freckle dusting Ron's face as he crept closer and closer to him. He opened his mouth to say something like "no" or "stop" but all that emerged was a choked gurgle. Ron cupped Harry's face in his hands and looked into his eyes. "I'm the first boy to ever kiss you," Ron said softly as he leant over and kissed Harry on the lips.

The kiss was soft, much softer than he expected from a boy, as well as slow and teasing. This is what had been missing in that kiss with Cho, he realised. The strong masculine hands, the sharp edge of stubble scraping his cheeks, the male scent surrounding him. Before he knew it Harry was relaxing into the kiss and had forgotten they had an audience, he moaned and wrapped his arms around Ron's neck, unwilling for the kiss to end just yet.

Ron pulled Harry's hands away and stopped kissing him, chuckling softly. "I don't think Hermione would approve of much more of that, Harry!"

Harry flushed, mortified. He yanked his pyjamas and toiletries off his bed and almost ran to the bathroom, expecting them all to be laughing at him behind his back. God, what a way to find out. Now they all knew. At least his embarrassment had diminished his arousal. He stripped to his underwear and splashed cold water on his heated cheeks. He felt so foolish, that he hadn't even realised it himself before. He liked boys. How could he not have known?

"Harry?" Ron asked tentatively from the doorway. "I'm sorry, I didn't know you were gay. I wouldn't have pushed you into playing that silly game if I'd known. Are you okay?"

"I don't know, Ron. Today was the first time I realised I think I might be gay."

"What? You mean you didn't know already?"

"No, I was too busy worrying about Voldemort to wonder about my love life or lack thereof."

"Um, so I take it you don't have much experience then, of either variety?"

"You guessed it," said Harry. He felt a bit awkward standing round talking to Ron in his underwear now. Now that his secret was out as it were. He reached for his pyjamas and began to tug on the trousers. "Ron, does it bother you? I mean, are we still friends?"

"What do you take me for, Harry? Of course we are! There was something I've been meaning to ask you, though."

"Oh, about being gay?"

"No, about those bruises. You've had a lot of them lately. I noticed in the showers. How'd you get them?"

Harry stared at himself in the mirror. His chest was spattered with bruises ranging in hue from deep purple to yellow. His arms and legs were covered in them too, probably his back as well, but he couldn't see those.

"I don't know," Harry answered truthfully. He had no idea where the bruises came from, but shrugged them off like he had so many times before. He was used to bruises after all.

"Are you coming back to the dorm?" asked Ron.

"In a minute. I'll just brush my teeth." Harry also wanted to leave some time to calm himself down after his inadvertent revelations to his friends. Would they all be as accepting as Ron? When Ron left, he squeezed some toothpaste onto his toothbrush and began scrubbing his teeth. Maybe he was doing it too hard again.

That was the fourth time this week he'd made his gums bleed.

TBC




Chapter 5: Secret Corners
Part Five

beneath a canopy of stars
I’d shed blood for you


From Shining Light by Ash



Snape woke up with a groan, it would have been difficult to tell whether it was from pain or pleasure, but the sticky sheet above him was hint enough that he'd had an enjoyable dream. Unfortunately these dreams were becoming far too frequent of late, ever since he'd inadvertently discovered Potter's orientation during a rather emotional Occlumency lesson almost a month ago. He'd been in the boy's head, seen his fantasies of other boys, nothing too graphic, just some kissing and touching but his mind had seized on the knowledge and would not let it go. For some reason he had a very shrill voice in his head screaming with glee, "Potter likes boys! Potter likes boys!" It sounded suspiciously like Peeves.

Ever since he'd been having the dreams things between he and the boy were even more tense than they had been before and he tried his best to put some distance between them again. Potter seemed to sense something was amiss but he never questioned, Snape was just dreading the day when he would start teaching him Legilimency and Potter would be able to see inside his head. See the man's dreams and fantasies of Potter, although he tried his best to quash any fantasies before they got too far. Controlling his dreams were another matter.

Other than Snape’s unwanted previews into the boy's fantasy life (at least he tried to tell himself they were unwanted), Potter was coming along apace with his Occlumency and nine times out of ten he was able to block Snape's attacks. It was that other one out of ten they needed to work on. Potter had to be able to shield his mind completely. The boy did not seem to be suffering any more from night time visitations from the Dark Lord, but he was still showing signs of sleeplessness, yawning through most of his classes (as Snape found out from the rest of the staff) and the purple shadows under his eyes were so dark they were almost black.

Had he still been having nightmares and not telling anyone about them? Not telling him about them? Snape wouldn't have been at all surprised if that were true. He didn't seem to want to confide in anyone about anything. Snape had already noticed him growing apart from his two shadows, who seemed to have been fawning all over each other and not paying too much attention to Potter.

Snape was paying attention to the boy, ostensibly on Dumbledore's orders. For some reason the man was determined to find out whether or not Harry was a virgin, Dumbledore suspected something had happened either at the warehouse or at the Dursleys and had enlisted Snape's aid in finding out. Not that Snape would tell him. The state of Potter's virginity or lack thereof wasn't anyone else's business and he had no intention of doing the headmaster's dirty work any longer. His hands were soiled enough already. Although going from how tame the boy's fantasy life seemed to be he would nearly hazard a guess that Potter's virginity was still intact.

But notice Potter he did, watching him at meals and in classes. Even though the boy seemed to be eating (not a lot, it was true, Snape knew the reasons for that), he seemed to be losing weight at an alarming rate as the months passed. Soon his school robes and uniform were as loose on him as those awful Muggle hand-me-downs.

It was the day before the Christmas break and Potter was working alongside Miss Granger on the Morpheus Draught potion. Normally, he did not allow the advanced class to work together, but it was a complicated potion and needed to be stirred constantly as the ingredients were added, so it was easier for two people to brew it. Snape tried not to dwell on what might have happened if he hadn't been keeping such a close eye on Potter.

He saw the boy's eyes roll back in his head and was there to catch him as he fell before he hit the stone floor. There were startled gasps all round as Snape lay the unconscious boy on the floor and slapped his face to try and rouse him. Even a conjured jug of water poured over him did not do the trick.

"Miss Granger, you are in charge while I take Mr. Potter to the hospital wing."

"Yes, sir," replied the bushy haired girl. "That's the third time he's fainted this week."

"Indeed? Well, I shall let Madam Pomfrey know."

Snape cast a levitation spell on the boy and guided him out. He stamped down on the urge to actually carry the boy in his arms. That would hardly do his reputation as a heartless git any good, now would it?

"Severus!" exclaimed Poppy as he reached the infirmary with Potter hovering beside him. "Get him onto a bed," ordered the medi-witch. Severus obeyed and released the spell once Potter was lying on the mattress. He was breathing, but his face was so pale he almost blended with the pillowcases.

"What happened?" asked Poppy.

"He fainted in class and would not rouse. Apparently it is not the first time this week, according to Miss Granger."

"His clothes are hanging on him!" Poppy glared at him, as though Potter's weight loss was entirely his fault. She ran her wand over him, snapping orders to Snape as she did so. "Undo his collar, Severus. Let him get some air." "Remove his shoes."

Snape undid the first two buttons of Potter's shirt and also removed his tie, before working his shoes loose. The boy showed no sign of waking up. "Well?" he asked once Poppy's scan had finished and she replaced her wand in her apron pocket. "What's wrong with him?"

"I don't know, Severus. The scanning spells aren't working, Harry's too ill. When the body gets too sick it sees any magic cast on the wizard as hostile, in order to protect itself. Can you roll up his sleeve for me, Severus? I'll need to do some blood tests."

"What? You don't honestly subscribe to that Muggle practice?"

"Blood tests are sometimes the only option, Severus, especially when the scanning spells don't work, as in this case."

"But his blood!" protested Snape. "He's not even conscious!"

"Severus, I know how strongly you feel about his, but it needs to be done. I am not doing it lightly, I assure you. I will take every care, I promise."

Snape nodded, knowing nothing he could do or say would change the woman's mind. It didn't mean he had to like it though. He knew she needed to find out what was wrong with Potter but at the same time every fibre in his being was crying out for him to stop it. A wizard's magic was held in the blood, the very essence of their power, of what made them a wizard.

Very few spells required blood nowadays and those that did use blood magic were almost always considered to be on the Dark side of the balance. Dark Arts practitioners had no qualms about using the magic, whether the blood was taken willingly or not. It was considered a violation, a rape to take a wizard's blood without their consent and Snape wished Potter was at least awake and could agree to the procedure. Almost subconsciously his hand pressed against the Dark Mark on his arm. That was blood magic of the Darkest sort, although he'd been willing enough at the time.

As Poppy left for her office, Snape sighed and unbuttoned the sleeves of Harry's shirt cuff and pushed the material up his arm, breath hitching at what he saw. The boy's left forearm was covered in bruises, some of them so close together it almost made his whole skin seem blue.

Poppy returned with a trolley, needles and glass vials sitting on top of it. She gasped when she saw the bruises. "How long has he had those?"

"I've no idea, why does everyone seem to think that I know everything about Harry Potter's health? Where would I have seen the boy's bruises, Poppy? I don't spend my time haunting the showers or dorms."

"Sorry, Severus. You were the nearest one here to ask. His friends might know, perhaps?"

"Maybe," he agreed and had to look away as she got the needle ready. Merlin, awful Muggle things and he couldn't bear to look as she drew the blood.

"Can you hold his arm out flat, Severus? I can hardly find a vein."

He turned, no choice but to watch her as she tapped at the skin of his elbow and he held onto Potter's arm. At last she uttered a satisfied sigh and pushed the needle in. He had to close his eyes, feeling sick to his stomach as she began to extract the blood. "There, all done. You can open your eyes now, Severus."

He did, just in time to watch her place a small plaster over the wound, even a healing spell wouldn't work on Harry at the moment. "Right, can you stay with him a moment while I get these tested? It shouldn't take more than fifteen minutes or so." Although Harry's body would not accept magic or spells, now that the blood was removed from his body, she would be able to cast as many scanning spells as necessary on it.

"Fine," he snapped. He knew Miss Granger was perfectly capable of holding the class together even if he wasn't there to supervise every moment of it. When had he turned into Potter's babysitter? Poppy bustled off to her office with Potter's blood held suspended in the glass vials and he couldn't bring himself to look at it. For an ex-Death Eater, he was rather queasy at the sight of blood.

"Professor? What happened?" asked Potter from the bed. His head whipped round. Trust him to be conscious now, after the drama was over.

"You fainted in my class, Mr. Potter. Something that has been becoming a regular habit according to Miss Granger. Why have you not been to the infirmary before now if you knew you were ill?"

"It was just fainting, nothing serious," the boy pouted. Merlin save him from stubborn Gryffindors.

"People do not faint for no reason, Mr. Potter. The same applies to losing weight even though one is eating and unexplained bruises need to be investigated. Had it even occurred to you that you might be under some sort of curse to make you sick? Some ploy from the Dark Lord perhaps?"

"No, sir," he seemed chastened. "I hadn't thought of that."

"That's your problem, Potter. You never do think, do you?"

"Severus, that's enough!" barked Poppy as she returned, giving him a glower that would rival one of his own. "Severus, can I see you in my office for a moment, please? Harry, try and get some rest dear."

Harry looked from Poppy to him, his mouth open as if he wanted to say something, but he closed it again without speaking. Snape nodded and followed the medi-witch to her office. What did she need to see him for? Once he entered behind her, she cast a powerful silencing charm and locking spell on the door.

"Severus, I don't how to tell him. I suspected when I saw the bruises, but I had to do the blood tests to make sure."

"Make sure of what, Poppy?"

Snape had a very strong sense that he was not going to like what she was about to say.

"It's leukemia, Severus. Harry has leukaemia."

Snape felt the world tilt at a crazy angle. "Are you sure? Maybe there was some mistake?"

"There isn't a mistake, Severus. That's what's wrong with him. How on earth do I tell him?"

"You can't keep something like that from him!" protested Snape.

"I have no intention of keeping it from him, I'm just worried about how he'll react when I tell him. Do you know who his new guardians are? Perhaps it would be better to wait until they're here with Harry before he's told."

"The Weasleys are his new guardians, Dumbledore has it all arranged," replied Snape. "I think you should tell him on his own, Poppy, before they get here. He won't want an audience for this."

Snape could hardly believe this was happening, he'd guessed the boy wasn't well, but this, he hadn't expected it to be so serious. He wasn't sure it hadn't been better not to know.

"Severus, how are you feeling? It must be quite a shock for you, too."

"What do you mean?"

"Severus, this is me you're talking to. I know how you feel."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

Poppy snorted. "Severus, I know how you feel about Harry, even if you can't admit it to yourself."

"Are you suggesting that something improper is going on between myself and one of my students?"

"Of course not, Severus! I know you love him but I also know that you wouldn't do anything about it. Not until he had left school. But Severus, you need to be strong. Be strong for him, he'll need all the support he can get. Do you want to be with him when I tell him? He might need someone to talk to."

Snape doubted that Harry would want to talk to him about anything but he agreed to the matron's request.

It was the least he could do for a sick boy.


TBC




Chapter 6: Secret Corners
Part Six


So many things I still don't understand
The dream I was having took on an ugly face


From Disappear? by The Church


Leukemia. Harry heard the words as Madam Pomfrey spoke them, but they didn't sink in. Not then, not in that first flush of shock as Harry lay there and listened to her tell him with tear filled eyes, trying to look at anything but him. Snape was there too, his face so pale that he resembled a corpse rather than anything living. There must be some mistake, this couldn't be true. It couldn't.

He was just tired, run down, that's all it was. Madam Pomfrey would give him a pepper-up potion and send him on his way. That's all it was, exhaustion or something. He didn't have cancer. He couldn't have cancer. He was the Boy Who Bloody Lived, how could he suddenly have cancer? It was a nightmare and he was going to wake up soon. He was.

Only it seemed real and he knew despite his inner protestations that it wasn't sudden, not really. This had been sneaking up on him for months now and he'd been doing his best to ignore it, to pretend that nothing was wrong. Ignoring that little voice in his head that said something serious was going on, not wanting to really know for sure. Feeling dizzy, he let his eyes flutter close and took a few deep breaths.

He felt someone grip his left hand. Harry opened one eye to find Snape caressing the back of his hand and almost groaned. He had to be dying for Snape to touch him of his own accord.

"Can it be treated?" Harry asked instead, not quite up to hearing that there was no chance just yet.

Madam Pomfrey shook her head. "Not by magic, Harry. There is no magical cure for diseases like this and the only magic your body will allow at the moment will be potions to alleviate your symptoms. You're too sick, a wizard's body shuts down against external magic as a protection mechanism so we can't even cast any spells to make you more comfortable. I'm sorry, but there isn't a lot that medi-wizardry can do for you. The only option would be for you to have Muggle treatments, but I'm afraid I don't know that much about them."

Neither did Harry for that matter, he'd never been to a doctor in his life. The Dursleys hadn't considered his health a priority and he'd only ever received medical treatment here at Hogwarts.

"There are a few healers at St. Mungo's who are doing Muggle treatments alongside medi-wizardry," said Snape. "Would you like me to find out if they are treating cancers?"

"Thank you, sir. I would appreciate that." And before he was even aware of it, Harry's eyes were leaking tears and he just couldn't seem to stop. There was a sick, hollow feeling in his chest and he wasn't sure whether it was terror or nausea. Madam Pomfrey wrapped her arms around him and he bawled like a toddler, weeping his distress onto the shoulder of her robes. "I'm - I'm sorry," he sobbed, hiccupping a little as they eased.

"Hush, Harry. It's all right. You've every right to cry over this," Madam Pomfrey handed him a clean white handkerchief from the pocket of her apron and Harry found himself wondering if it was magical, for it also seemed to hold whatever was needed.

"Severus, do you have any blood thickening potions? I'm completely out."

"I just finished another batch yesterday, I'll go and bring them up, Poppy." Snape squeezed Harry's hand before he left and the matron turned to Harry.

"The leukaemia has made you anaemic, Harry, that's why you've been fainting and feeling tired lately. The blood thickening potion will help replenish your iron. You'll need to keep taking it until a treatment can begin and I can't stress this enough, you need rest and you need to take it easy. I would recommend a few days in the hospital wing but I know that you have plans to spend Christmas at the Burrow with the Weasleys. If you go, please promise me that you won't over exert yourself with rough games, can you promise me that, Harry?"

"Yes, Madam Pomfrey," he could suddenly breathe again, after worrying that his first real Christmas would be taken away from him. He tried not to dwell on the fact that it might be his first and last one. "I'll take it easy, I promise."

"Good, good, although Lord knows what those twins will have planned this year!" She smiled and patted his hand. "I'd like you to stay in the infirmary today, Harry and tomorrow you'll be more able to have your Christmas break, won't you? No arguments," she added on seeing that Harry was about to protest. He nodded, knowing he could never win an argument with the medi-witch anyway. If the leukaemia had been one of her patients, it would never stand a chance.

***

Ron, Harry and Ginny arrived by Portkey outside the Burrow just as it was starting to get dark. The house looked like a gingerbread confection out of a fairy tale, dusted with a layer of snow and twinkling coloured lights draped around the roof ridge and along each window ledge and the arch of the doorway.

"It's beautiful," breathed Harry.

"Thought you'd like it," smiled Ginny. "That's why I asked Professor Dumbledore to arrange the Portkey so we'd land outside." The three of them made their way to the front door, dragging their trunks along the snow covered path. Still underage, none of them could do any magic during any holidays.

Molly Weasley swung the door open long before they reached it and levitated their trunks inside before running to give Ginny, Ron and Harry enormous hugs. "Welcome home, Harry," she whispered to him before she let go and Harry felt tears in his eyes again. The Burrow was his home now, the Weasleys were his new guardians and would be his family for the rest of his life. However short that life might turn out to be now.

Professor Snape had given him two bottles of the blood potion as well as some pepper-up and painkilling potion before Harry had left Hogwarts and had promised him that he would find out about any Muggle treatments that might be available at St. Mungo's. Harry didn't know what would happen if there weren't, not having had any experience of Muggle hospitals at all.

It was nice of the professor to do it and more often than not these days, Harry was coming to the conclusion that he had misjudged the man again and again. He even agreed when Harry asked that no-one else know about his illness and Snape had promised he wouldn't betray Harry's confidence. Snape had said that it should be up to Harry when and who he wanted to tell, not him. Getting Madam Pomfrey to agree to the same had been another matter but in the end she just said that Harry was old enough to know his own mind and told him she wouldn't say anything.

Fred and George were already sitting on the comfortable looking sofa in the living room, their heads bent close together and a roaring fire in the grate opposite them. A giant Christmas tree stood in one corner, bundles of gaily wrapped gifts overflowing from underneath it and onto the floor. There wasn't a spare patch of wall or ceiling that wasn't covered in greenery or baubles. To some people it might have seemed a bit gaudy, but Harry had never seen anything so brilliant in his life, he'd barely had a glimpse of his Aunt Petunia's tree, (with all the ornaments matching of course) before he was shoved back in his cupboard every Christmas he'd spent with them.

His Christmases at Hogwarts were different again but this is what he'd been missing, a real Christmas with a real family. Fred and George glanced up at him and winked. "Wotcha, Harry?" asked Fred with a grin.

"Yeah, how's our silent partner doing?" asked George.

"Silent partner? What's this?" asked Molly. "Have you two been getting Harry into trouble?"

"Er, um, no, Mrs. Weasley," Harry gabbled. "They've been fine."

Molly made a noise in the back of her throat and shook her head as if she couldn't quite believe her twin sons hadn't been up to some mischief or other. Harry knew the woman had good cause to suspect them, but she wandered off levitating their luggage upstairs. Fred and George hugged Harry so hard the breath left him.

"You can tell your Mum if you want," said Harry. "I don't mind."

"But she will," said George.

"She'll make us give you back the money, said we tricked it out of you or something."

"But you didn't, I wanted you to have that money for your joke shop."

"Well, when we start making a profit, Harry, you'll be the first person to get a share."

"I thought the shop was doing really well, Fred?" added Ginny.

"It is, but we haven't made any profit yet. We had to pay for premises, get supplies and everything, they all take money and we were paying out more than we've taken in so far. We are getting money and selling stuff, yes, but it will be a while yet before that money is actually profit," explained George.

"Wow, didn't know that," said Ron. "Didn't know you had such a keen business head, George."

"Just wait, you'll be rivalling Zonko's soon," smiled Harry, immensely pleased for them.

"You're not talking about that silly joke shop again, are you? Harry doesn't want to hear about that," said Molly as she arrived back downstairs. "Bill and Charlie won't be arriving until tomorrow, some delays on the Floo network with everyone wanting to come home for Christmas. Percy and Dad won't be back until later either, so I've just made some cold cuts for tea this evening, is that all right Harry dear?"

"That's fine, thank you, Mrs. Weasley."

"Harry, we're your guardians now, you can't go around calling us Mr. and Mrs. Weasley!" she protested.

Harry gaped at her, he couldn't imagine the informality of calling either of the elder Weasleys by their first name. Maybe she knew that. She smiled and pinched his cheek. "How about calling us Aunt Molly and Uncle Arthur, dear? Would you like that?"

"I'd love it," said Harry with a grin and just knew that this Christmas was going to be his best ever. Surrounded by the warmth of the Weasleys it was very difficult to believe that he was dying.


TBC




Chapter 7: Secret Corners
Part Seven

I was lost till you were found
But I never know how far down
I was falling
Before I reached the bottom


From Crying Out Loud by Meat Loaf


On Christmas morning, Harry woke feeling a little disorientated when at first he didn't recognise his surroundings. A shaft of pale winter sunlight through the gap in the curtains highlighted the Chudley Canons poster on the opposite wall and he relaxed. He was at the Burrow, not the warehouse, that had been a nightmare and he took a few deep breaths trying to calm himself down. Had he screamed or called out in his dreams? He hoped not and resolved to put a silencing charm on his bunk from now on.

Now that Harry was an 'official' member of the Weasley family as it were, he no longer slept on a camp bed in Ron's room. Instead, Ron's old bed had been Transfigured into a set of bunk beds, as the room was so small that even twin beds side by side would never fit in it. Ron had nabbed the top bunk as he'd seen their new beds, Harry hadn't argued. He quite liked being on the bottom bunk, it was enclosed, safe and reminded him of his canopied bed at Hogwarts, even if it was smaller.

"Harry? Are you awake?" Ron called down to him.

"Yes, what time is it?"

"Just after nine," said Ron and Harry almost fell out of bed as he scrambled for his trunk. He should have taken his potions at eight, they had to be taken regularly for them to be as effective. Eight, twelve, four and eight in the evening were when his doses were due. He didn't know how he was going to keep it a secret from the Weasleys for long if he had to keep taking them. So far, Ron hadn't mentioned anything about Harry taking so many potions and Harry wondered if Ron had even noticed at all.

"Harry? Can I talk to you about something?" asked Ron, peering over the edge of his bunk. Harry lay back down and stared back at him, his hands behind his head.

"Sure. What is it?"

"Hermione," said Ron and he sounded a little upset. "I think I've gone and mucked things up."

"How?" Harry knew that sometimes Hermione was exasperated with Ron, but he knew that deep down she really liked the red-head. Hermione never stayed mad at either of them for two long.

Ron propped his head on his left elbow. "Well, er, um, I sort of mentioned that we'd been going out for a while now and that maybe we should start doing things, you know..."

Oh. "I take it she wasn't interested, then?"

"Interested? She threw her bloody Arithmancy book at me!"

Ouch. Harry knew how heavy that book was. "Barely missed my head," continued Ron. "Then she said that I was just like all the rest and if I thought she was that sort of girl, I could just go and find someone else to be my girlfriend. I tried to reason with her, tried to tell her that everyone our age was doing it, that I didn't want to be left out."

The tale was just getting worse the more Ron spoke. "Ron, you idiot! You don't tell a girl you want to have sex with her because you think everyone else is having it off at every opportunity!"

"Well they are, aren't they?" protested Ron, biting his bottom lip.

"Like who? Me? Neville?"

"Um, no, but Malfoy's always bragging-"

"Exactly, Ron. He was bragging, I bet he just made it up. Do you really want to ruin things with Hermione just because Malfoy was teasing you about not doing it?"

"How did you know Malfoy did that? I never told you that."

"It's Malfoy, Ron, of course he'd say stuff like that. He'd probably never done it either, I mean who'd have him? That's no reason to go rushing into having sex, Ron."

Ron chuckled. "You sound like Madam Pomfrey, remember those health lectures we had?"

"Well, it's true. You shouldn't rush into it. And you shouldn't push anyone into it who doesn't want it. If Hermione said no, she meant no, got it?" Harry was surprised how angry he sounded and he knew that he was feeling angry over what had happened to him, not what Ron and Hermione might get up to.

"Of course I won't force her or anything, Harry! What do you take me for? I'm not a Death Eater. Do you know what the Rite of Shenkar is, Harry?" Ron lowered his voice as though afraid they might be overheard.

"No, what is it?"

"It's what the Death Eaters used to do, last time when You-Know-Who was in power. They sacrificed virgins, raped them and killed them to get their magical power. I overheard Dad and Charlie talking about it over the summer. Some kid had gone missing and they thought Death Eaters might have had him, might be trying to do the Rite again. Dad was saying he hoped the Death Eaters hadn't realised he was still a virgin."

Harry felt as though he'd just taken a bludger to the gut. Arthur and Charlie had been talking about him, he was almost sure of it. The Order and the staff at Hogwarts knew where he'd been, but thankfully so far none of the students did. He hadn't been taken by Death Eaters, the men might have been sick creeps, but they were Muggles. What was this Rite of Shenkar? Was that what Dumbledore's questions had been about? To find out whether or not Harry was still a virgin? Still innocent, still pure? How could he be either after all that he'd seen, all that had been done? And which would Dumbledore prefer? That he was a virgin or he wasn't?

"Harry? Are you okay?"

"Fine, Ron. I just don't want to think about Death Eaters and Voldemort anymore than I have to. Come on, let's get some breakfast."

***

After a hearty breakfast which would have done the feasts at Hogwarts proud, it was time to open the presents. Harry had never seen so many presents in one place before and he didn't know which to open first. All the Weasleys were grinning at him, seeming as excited as he was watching him open his gifts. He got a subscription to Quidditch Monthly from Ron. At least he could still read about the game even if he could no longer play. Percy had given him a set of eagle feather quills and a blank notebook that he could use as a journal. Ginny had knitted him gloves, scarf and hat in the Gryffindor colours with an lion on the hat who really roared whenever it was touched.

Charlie gave him a dragon's fang necklace, to much tutting from Molly, but Harry loved it and Bill gave him a curse detector bracelet. "It glows blue if anything you're about to touch has a curse on it. People, objects, doors. They come in very handy, I can tell you."

From Molly and Arthur he got his usual mince pies and Weasley jumper, but this year instead of his initials, it had the words Weasleys Rule on the front. Harry grinned and put it on straightaway. Fred and George grinned at him as they handed him their present and Harry got a little worried. He tore of the wrapper and felt his face flush as he saw what it was. It was a calendar, a Muggle calendar with the word Hunks scrawled across the top of it. Inside were pictures of men with rippling muscles and bulging biceps, all in states of semi-undress. Harry quickly closed it and gathered up the rest of his presents. "I'll just take these to my room," he said after thanking everyone again and hurried upstairs.

Harry sat on the bottom bunk, shaking and feeling ill.

A few moments later, Fred and George knocked on the door. "Harry, mate. Sorry we didn't mean to upset you. It was just a joke," said Fred.

Harry opened the door and let them in. The truth was, it had upset him. It reminded him of the photographs those men had taken at the warehouse, where he was only in his underwear and he was finding it uncomfortable that he was finding the pictures of the men on the calendar arousing. At least they were grown men and from the smiles to the camera, he guessed they had consented to the photographs being taken. Harry had not been given that choice.

"It's me, I'm just being silly," said Harry. "This is all so new." He waved at the calendar. "This gay thing. I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing, what I'm supposed to be feeling. I'm so confused." Harry hung his head in his hands.

Fred and George exchanged identical grins. "It's like that at first, Harry," they said together.

"You mean - you and George?" Harry gaped at them, raising his head.

"Well, yes," said George. "I've been seeing Oliver Wood since I left school last year. Fred has yet to find the love of his life, but it will be someone of the male variety, won't it, Fred?"

"Yes, so Harry, if you ever want to talk about anything like this, or even some advice about -"

"I think he might be a bit young for some of that advice, Fred," warned George. "But, Harry, you're our brother now and we won't let anyone hurt you, okay? Anyone gives you any trouble about being gay, you tell us, right?"

"Right," grinned Harry.

***

When they went downstairs to help Molly prepare the Christmas lunch, they discovered it was all in hand and the only thing left to do was to set the table. Harry had to dash back upstairs to take his potions at twelve, he'd almost forgotten them again. When he came back down, he discovered Snape had just emerged from the Floo and Molly rushed over to greet him. "Severus, so glad you could come!"

"Thank you for the invitation, Molly." Snape glanced around the kitchen and his eyes lit on Harry, darkening slightly when he saw him. Harry felt the breath leave his body in a rush as the man continued staring at him, as if they were the only two people in the room and he wondered why he was suddenly feeling how he felt when he'd seen those pictures of the hunks on his calendar. He didn't, he didn't fancy Snape, did he?

"Ah, Mr. Potter," said Snape. "I wonder if I might have a word with you in private?"

"Use the parlour, Severus," said Molly as she straightened out the table cloth. "You know where it is."

Snape headed towards the door at the far end of the kitchen. Harry followed him, wondering what the man was going to tell him and wondering if he was going to like it.

TBC



Chapter 8: Secret Corners
Part Eight


One breath, one word
may end or may start
a hope in a place of the lover's heart


From Hope Has a Place by Enya


The Weasleys' parlour was smaller than their living room and had the air of a room that hadn't been used much. Everything in it was spotless, from the brown leather sofas to the ornaments on the mantelpiece. Snape stood by the fireplace, his back to Harry for a few moments and Harry took the opportunity to get his lower body under control. He just hoped Snape hadn't noticed his reaction. It had been a bit of a shock to find his body reacting like that to Snape of all people.

Snape turned back round and waved his hands at one of the sofas, indicating that Harry should sit down. Harry took a seat on the sofa nearest to him, it was a good job he had as his knees had turned to water. It must be bad news for Snape to have him sit down before he heard it.

"I've spoken to the healers at St. Mungo's, Potter. I'm afraid none of them have any knowledge in treatments for cancer at all. None of them are qualified to treat it, I'm sorry."

"Oh," said Harry, almost inaudibly. He didn't know whether or not he'd been expecting them to help or not, but it was still disappointing to hear that there was not even a chance. "So there's nothing to be done, then?"

"Not at St. Mungo's, no. Which is why I took the liberty of arranging an appointment for you at a Muggle hospital, St. John's in London. You are expected there on the third of January for testing to see what treatments might be best for you. It's a Saturday."

Harry realised the man must have arranged it deliberately for a weekend so that he would not have to miss class, that he wouldn't have to explain why he needed to miss class.

"Thank you, Professor," Harry choked out, feeling a lot more nervous now that he knew he had to go to a Muggle hospital. What would they do to him? Would the treatments affect his magic?

"Have you told them yet?" asked Snape, arching his eyebrows at Harry's new Weasley jumper.

"No. I - I can't tell them, I don't want them to be worrying about me all over Christmas. Let them enjoy it. It - it might be my last one."

"Getting a bit melodramatic, aren't we, Potter?"

"What would you know? It's not you who's dying!" hissed Harry, feeling unaccountably angry with Snape, as if it was the professor's fault that he had this disease.

"No, it isn't," agreed Snape calmly. "But I'm the one who has to watch while you do."

"What's that supposed to mean?" demanded Harry.

"Nothing, forget I said anything." Snape sat down on the other sofa with a deep sigh. "So if you haven't told them, who's going to go to the hospital with you?"

"I'll go on my own," said Harry stubbornly, even though he was terrified of what might happen there.

"Nonsense, Potter! You can't go on your own. I won't allow it."

"Oh? Is that an offer, Professor? Can you find some time in your busy schedule to come and hold Harry Potter's hand?" Harry snarled at him.

"Yes, it is," replied Snape, reaching out and caressing the back of Harry's hand. Harry stared at it, his breath hitching. Snape was touching him. Snape was touching his hand and instead of recoiling in horror as Harry suspected he ought to be doing, he let it linger there. Accepted the comfort the man was trying to give him. His anger disappeared as if it had never been. "I've cleared my schedule for that day, just in case you asked me."

Harry looked up, feeling himself falling into the man's dark eyes, even though he was sitting down. "Why did you think I would even ask you? I thought you hated me?"

"I haven't hated you for a while now, Harry. I thought you'd realised that."

Suddenly the air in the room was thick with tension. Harry pulled his hands away, he didn't want to think about that sentence too deeply, or wonder why it gave him a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach and lower still. He flushed and stood up. "We should get back to the others," Harry said, rising from the sofa so quickly that he got dizzy. Snape's arms were suddenly wrapped around his waist, holding him upright, but they seemed to stay longer than they needed to before Harry wriggled and pulled away. He pulled open the door to the kitchen without looking back to see if Snape was following him.

***

Molly had arranged the chairs so that Snape was sitting next to Harry. Platters of food were passed around the table, Harry took a little bit of everything, despite not feeling hungry. Turkey, potatoes, sprouts, cauliflower, carrots all ended up on his plate. He cut everything into tiny and tinier pieces before he attempted to eat anything. Molly was looking at him worriedly and Harry forced himself to eat more than he would have done otherwise.

A couple of times, Snape's black clad leg pressed against his underneath the table, Harry almost feeling the man's heat between two layers of clothes. He was getting more and more aroused as the meal progressed and wished he would be able to find some time alone with his hand, this was getting unbearable. Unfortunately, the Burrow was not the sort of place one could find privacy whenever one would wish it and he tried to think cold thoughts.

He was sure his predicament must be showing on his face and he kept his head down, eating as a way to hide his blushing cheeks, not because he wanted the food. Harry reached for the gravy boat at the same time that Snape did, their hands connected and it was as if he'd just had an electric shock. He yanked his hand away quickly and in his haste, he knocked over the jug of pumpkin juice, staining the tablecloth orange. Tears threatening at the corners of his eyes, Harry bolted from the table and ran to the bathroom, locking himself in and sinking down, leaning his back against the door and hugging his knees to his chest as he just wept and wept.

Why now? Why did he have to start feeling like this now? Feelings for Snape when he couldn't do anything about them? Snape was his teacher and Harry was dying. It was lousy timing and he railed against the unfairness of it.

He didn't know how long he sat there before there was a soft knock on the door. "Harry, dear? Are you all right?" asked Molly.

"Fine, Aunt Molly. I think I ate too much, just a bit of indigestion. I'll be out in a minute." He stood up on shaky legs and splashed cold water on his face to disguise his crying. His eyes still looked a bit red rimmed and bloodshot in the mirror though. Taking out his wand, he whispered a simple glamour spell so that he looked a bit more presentable, even if he didn't feel it and opened the door.

Molly stared at him. "Harry, dear, you know you can talk to me if anything's bothering you, don't you?"

Oh, maybe his glamour spell wasn't working as well as he'd hoped. "Thanks, but I'm okay."

He hated lying to her, but he hated to have her worried even more. "I think I might have room for dessert now," he grinned, trying to lighten the mood.

"That's my boy," smiled Molly pinching his cheeks. Harry followed her downstairs and took his seat again. Snape was giving him worried glances and when the others weren't looking, he leaned in closed and whispered to Harry, "Are you all right?"

Harry nodded, unwilling just at the moment to go over in detail the many reasons why he wasn't all right. Snape seemed to accept it, turning back to the Weasleys.

"Now, I have Christmas pudding or a trifle and ice-cream if the pudding's too heavy. Harry, what you would like?" asked Molly.

"Trifle, please," there was no way on earth he would be able to manage something as rich as a Christmas pudding today. Nearly everyone else decided on the trifle, except for Percy and Arthur, who then couldn't manage to eat all of their portions.

"Thank you, Molly. That was an excellent meal," said Snape graciously and everyone else added their thanks as well. "You and Arthur sit down, the boys and I will do the dishes."

"Severus, you're a guest! I can't allow that," she protested.

"You can and you will. Arthur, don't let your wife stir from that sofa for the rest of the day. We'll look after the tidying up."

"Well, actually, I have a report for the Ministry to finish," said Percy, excusing himself, closely followed by Bill and Charlie who suddenly had urgent letters to write. Fred and George grinned at each other. "I don't think we'd be much help, Professor. Probably break more plates than we washed, wouldn't we, Fred?"

"Very well, Ron and Harry it will have to be then."

Ron looked absolutely terrified at the prospect of doing anything with his professor.

"Go on, Ron. I can do it," suggested Harry and Ron rushed gratefully upstairs. Harry'd had plenty of practice after all.

"Wash or dry?" asked Snape as he held out a tea towel.

"Dry," said Harry. The sink was at the other end of the kitchen from the sofa, but Harry still felt he ought to whisper so as not to disturb Molly and Arthur. "Um, sir," said Harry as he stepped closer to the sink. "Wouldn't magic be quicker?"

"It would, Mr. Potter, but not as polite. It is customary if one has been invited for a meal to offer to do the cleaning-up, without magic as that was the way the food was cooked. Magic and food do not mix very well. It would be rude to use magic for cleaning up when our hostess has spent much of her time cooking for our benefit. Those people never taught you this? I thought it was a Muggle custom as well?"

It may have been, but as Harry had never been invited anywhere with the Dursleys, he wouldn't know.

"I'm sorry, sir, I didn't know. There's a lot of magic customs and things I still don't know."

"Ignorance is not a crime, Mr. Potter. And considering what you had to cope with growing up, you've turned out remarkably well."

Harry wasn't sure whether that was an insult or a compliment. He just shrugged his shoulders and continued drying the dishes. They worked silently for a while, getting into a rhythm. Harry was fascinated by how deftly the man soaped the plates, his movements as precise as if he was stirring potions and Harry soon found something else stirring as he watched. He coughed and turned away. Was the pepper-up-potion affecting his libido as well as helping to combat fatigue?

Finally the last dish was dried and put away and Snape wandered over to the sofa to say his goodbyes to Molly and Arthur. Harry didn't hear what was being said, but Snape removed a number of envelopes from his robe pocket and handed them to Molly, who stood up to give him a hug.

Snape turned to Harry and said a short goodbye before heading into the Floo. Harry was vaguely disappointed that the man hadn't stayed longer. "Thanks so much, Harry," said Molly coming over and giving him a small peck on the cheek. "Here's your gift from Severus, dear." She handed him one of the pale cream envelopes.

Harry's stomach lurched as if he'd just fallen down one of the trick steps at Hogwarts. "But I didn't get him anything!"

He hadn't known the man was going to get him a present, he never had before. "Not to worry, Harry. I give Severus a gift every year, from all of us." She smiled at him. "Now, don't spend it all at once!"

Harry opened the envelope and inside there was a gift voucher for Glad Rags, the wizarding clothing store. A very generous amount. "I can't accept this," he protested and realised now why the man had left before anyone had opened his gifts. It was far too much.

"You can accept it and you will, Harry," said Arthur. "It's very taboo to refuse a gift."

Oh. Another wizarding custom he hadn't known. "Right, I'll just go and write him a thank you note."

When he got to the bedroom, Ron wasn't there, but from the amount of noise from the floor below he guessed Ron was in the twins' room and it sounded like they were having a fun game of exploding snap. Harry stroked Hedwig and hunted out some parchment and a quill. A short note fell out of the envelope the voucher was in.

Maybe now you can get rid of those awful hand-me-downs, Harry. Burn the lot of them. And the memories.

The note wasn't signed, but Harry knew Snape's writing from the amount of comments he got on his Potions essays.

This was certainly turning out to be a Christmas to remember.

TBC






Chapter 9: Secret Corners
Part Nine

And now I just can't help myself,
I really really wish I could be,
Somewhere else,
Than here.


From Somewhere Else by Razorlight



Harry arrived promptly at ten o'clock on the Saturday morning, knocking softly on the door to his quarters. They were due to see the specialist at twelve and Snape wanted to make sure that they would arrive in plenty of time. He would Apparate them both to Diagon Alley and then get a Muggle taxi from the Leaky Cauldron to the hospital, as Snape didn't think Harry would be up to negotiating public transport after Apparating that far.

Although Apparation itself would take a bit out of both of them, it was the quickest way to get from A to B and would enable Harry to have a bit of recovery time before he faced the hospital and all those tests.

"What did you tell the Dynamic Duo?" he asked Harry as they made their way out of the school and across the grounds, both of them hidden beneath Harry's invisibility cloak. They had to stand rather close together and Snape just hoped that Harry wouldn't stop suddenly and cause Snape to bump into him. For after a rather vivid wet dream about the boy now in front of him the night before, Harry's proximity was making it very hard to concentrate on anything other than how good he smelled. A hint of Hogwarts peach soap and it smelled a lot better on Harry than it did on him.

"Told them I had detention with you all day."

"Hmm," Snape whispered. He wasn't sure if it was a good idea for Harry to keep lying to everyone about his illness, but if the boy wanted to keep his secrets, who was Snape to gainsay it? After all, he had quite a few secrets of his own.

The grounds held very few students today, just a few of the younger years, as it was a Hogsmeade weekend and the older pupils were probably in the village causing havoc. Snape was just glad that he had managed to avoid getting roped into chaperoning today. He knew that no-one else knew about Harry's illness besides Madam Pomfrey, but she needed to stay at the school in case anyone else would need her skills. No, Snape was the only person that could accompany Harry to the hospital. He was not going to let Harry go through this by himself, despite his own terror at Muggle medicine. If it could help Harry, he would be glad to do it.

Once they'd reached the end of the wards, Snape pressed his hand to Harry's shoulder, they both needed to be touching for the assisted Apparation to work. He took a deep breath before he cast the spell which hurled them almost immediately into Diagon Alley, both of them still under the invisibility cloak.

Harry stumbled as they finished their Apparation, but managed to steady himself and avoided standing on the hem of the cloak. Snape thought it was a bit awkward with the invisibility cloak, but Harry had insisted. He didn't want his story splashed over the pages of the Daily Prophet and if anyone had seen them together, that's where it would have ended up.

If the wizarding world at large discovered Harry's illness, then their hope would be gone. As long as they thought that Harry was alive and well, they still had hope. Snape knew it wasn't as simple as that, how could it be? The children had all been protected from the full horror of this war, including Harry. For once Fudge and Dumbledore had been in agreement and had effectively placed gag orders on all publications and the Wizarding Wireless Networks. The children were not to find out what was really going on outside Hogwarts. The battles. The Death Eater raids. The killings. The tortures.

No, it was decided to let the children have their innocence just that little bit longer, but from the increased frequency of the Death Eater attacks, Snape wondered how short that time would soon be.

"Okay?" Snape whispered as Harry righted himself again. He nodded but didn't speak as they both made their cautious way to the Leaky Cauldron. Dodging chairs, tables and patrons, they made their way across the bar to the door leading to the Muggle street outside. Once there, Snape steered them to a nearby alleyway where they removed the invisibility cloak and straightened their Muggle clothes.

Snape relaxed a little for the first time that morning. It was very unlikely that any wizards or Death Eaters would be wandering around the Muggle streets. He felt very exposed without his robes, but Harry seemed not too affected by the lack of robes today. He was wearing a pair of dark grey wool trousers, along with a deep jade shirt and over it he was wearing a heavy black overcoat, all of which fitted him perfectly. Snape wondered if the new ensemble had been courtesy of his Christmas gift, but he did not bother to ask. Except for Harry's thank you note, neither of them mentioned it. Like they hadn't mentioned a lot of other things.

As Snape led Harry out onto one of the more busier Muggle roads, it started to snow, small flakes dusting their hair and clothes and Snape was glad he had the presence of mind to transfigure his winter cloak into a Muggle coat. The water and cold repelling charms were sill intact. Harry wasn't shivering either and Snape guessed the boy must have used similar charms himself, or maybe they were already on the clothes he'd purchased from Glad Rags.

It was a good ten minutes or so before they were successful in hailing a cab and they climbed in out of the snow. Harry was quiet on the journey, but the cabbie certainly made up for it, rambling on about topics that Snape knew nothing about. He nodded at appropriate intervals, the driver didn't seem that bothered that his two passengers weren't joining in with his conversation.

The cab came to a halt outside a very modern building of glass and chrome, Snape was surprised. He'd expected Muggle hospitals to look like something out of Victorian illustrations of asylums, all dark brick and very small windows. It didn't look much like a hospital, but Snape had done his research, St. John's had the highest rate of successes treating adolescent leukaemia in the country.

Harry stood shaking on the pavement as Snape paid the driver in Muggle money. It felt strange handing over small bits of paper, but the driver seemed immensely pleased as he drove away and Snape wondered if the tip had been too much. No point in worrying about it now.

"Are you ready, Harry?"

"I suppose so," said Harry and just for a moment, a very brief moment, he looked like he was about to reach for Snape's hand, but seemed to think better of it and stuffed his hands in his pockets.

Just as they entered the sliding glass doors, there was a small gift shop and news stand in the corner. Some of the newspaper headlines were visible and Snape's breath hitched when he saw them. He tried to get Harry away before he saw, but it was too late. Harry rushed over to the news stand, but it was as if Snape was watching events unfold in slow motion.

Harry's hand as it reached for the top most paper, the unfurling of the newspaper, Harry's hand shaking as he read the article beneath the banner headline. The slow turn of Harry's head, his eyes flashing jade fire.

"Did you know about this?" he demanded. "Did everyone know and not tell me?"

"No, Harry. We didn't know. It's the first I've heard of it." His eyes flicked to the headline again.

Murder Suicide Shock in Surrey

And beneath that, three photos. One each of Vernon, Petunia and Dudley Dursley.

How come the Order hadn't known of this? Shouldn't they have known? For the Dursleys were still being watched, despite Harry not being in their care anymore. The Death Eaters wouldn't have known that and would maybe try and use the Dursleys to get to Harry. Snape handed over a few coins to the news vendor and took the paper in on hand and steered Harry to a chair with the other.

Harry was looking very pale and was sweating now too, his hands trembling. He stuffed them between his knees to try and still them as Snape scanned the article. The bodies had only been discovered late the night before, maybe that's why the Order hadn't known yet.

The police concluded that Dudley Dursley had killed his parents while they were asleep in their beds, stabbing them multiple times in their chests, before turning the knife on himself and slitting his wrists. According to the article, the police had discovered a hidden photographic studio in the loft of the house and numerous photographs of young boys all either in a state of semi-undress or completely naked, along with contact lists of people who the photographs had been sent to. The police were investigating the fact that Vernon Dursley seemed to have been the ringleader in a kiddie porn ring and were going to be bringing the named people in for questioning.

Dudley Dursley was conspicuous only by his absence in the photos, but there were plenty of ordinary family snaps of him in the house. All of them had been smashed to bits, as had his computer. Next to the printer there was note.

I'm sorry, Harry.

The police were still investigating who this Harry might be, but they suspected it was on of the boys in those terrible photographs. Snape felt as if he was falling from his broom at a rapid rate, but still the ground was still a long way off.

He was brought back to earth with a bump with Harry's mumbling voice next to him.

"Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. Oh God," Harry was muttering over and over again and rocking backwards and forwards in his chair, tears slipping unheeded beneath his glasses.

"Harry?" Snape asked tentatively, but Harry didn't seem to hear him. He was probably in shock and Snape wondered just how much more Harry was expected to cope with.

"Harry?" he asked again, placing his hand gently on Harry's shoulder.

"Get your fucking hands of me!" screamed Harry, yanking himself away from Snape's touch. The nurse at the desk and the news vendor were staring at them, but then hurriedly looked away when Snape caught their eyes. Harry was looking right through him, not at him at all. "I'll tell them! I will! I will!" continued Harry and then continued in different voice, strangely high pitched, not Harry's own deep tone at all.

"And who'll believe you? You freak! You're nothing but a freak and you're in my house and you will do what I say!"

Harry slumped on the chair, his head lolling on his chest. A few moments later, his head snapped up and he stared at Snape as if he wasn't sure who he was.

"P - Professor?" he gasped out, his eyes clear now. "What happened?"

"I think you had a flashback, Harry. About - about what happened to you at the Dursleys." And there was a lot more that Snape hadn't discovered during their Occlumency lessons. Harry was shaking and clasped his hand over his mouth.

"Oh, God, I think I'm gonna be sick," he scrambled to get out of the chair, but his coat had got tangled on one of the legs.

Snape loosened it and led Harry to the nearest men's room. Harry didn't complain at the touch, just quickened his pace and made a beeline for one of the sinks as soon as they arrived. Snape held Harry's hair out of his face as the boy brought up his meagre breakfast, sobbing and retching at the same time.

Harry finished throwing up and rinsed his mouth out with water from the tap, as Snape vanished the vomit with a Scourgify spell. Harry stood up, but his knees seemed to give way under him. Snape held him around the waist so that he wouldn't fall.

"Oh, God. I'm sorry, Professor." He leaned back against Snape's chest.

"Ssh, Harry. It's all right." Snape removed one hand from Harry's waist and stroked his hair to soothe him. "It was a shock. To find out like that."

"I - I wanted them dead," said Harry. "I thought about it all the time. I made it happen, didn't I? By wishing it?"

"Harry, you may be a wizard, but I can assure you that you had nothing to do with this. You can't kill someone just by thinking of what it would be like if they were dead. This was not your fault. Dudley killed his parents and then himself. It had nothing to do with you."

"But maybe if I'd been nicer to Dudley sooner..."

"No, Harry. No. This was not your fault. You are not responsible for everyone else. The only person I want you to worry about from now on is you."

Harry nodded and his eyes sought out Snape's in the mirror.

"I'm scared, Professor," he choked out.

"So am I, Harry. So am I."


TBC




Chapter 10: Secret Corners
Part Ten


Reach inside
Come on just gotta reach inside
Heard your cry
Six months time
Six months time
Prepare the end


From Bitter End by Placebo


Harry sat on a plastic chair outside the doctor's consulting room, his coat draped across his lap, while Snape was explaining to the doctor about what had happened with the Dursleys. Snape asked if Harry had wanted to be there, but Harry hadn't. He didn't want to listen to it all again. He didn't want to think about it anymore, it was giving him a headache and he just wished he could go home now. Back to Hogwarts and forget about everything.

Forget that he was sick. Forget that all of the Dursleys were dead. Forget what they'd done to him. Forget that he was dying. But even as he tried to forget, he came over dizzy again and he knew that it wasn't as simple as him forgetting it. Pretending he was well wouldn't change the facts.

After about half an hour, Snape popped his head out the door and motioned for Harry to come in.

Dr. Jacobs seemed nice enough, an older grey haired man but whose face was unlined, glasses dangling on a chain around his neck. Although he was reading some reports on his desk, that Snape had handed over, he wasn't wearing his glasses to read them. Harry shifted nervously in his seat. He guessed the reports were from Madam Pomfrey about his cancer, charmed to seem like Muggle reports. Harry wondered what they said.

Snape kept giving Harry anxious glances as though worried Harry might freak out again. Harry couldn't guarantee that he wouldn't, he just hoped he was alone in his bed with a silencing charm up next time. He was horrified that Snape had seen. It had been a long time since he'd had a flashback like that, he guessed it was the shock of seeing that newspaper report today.

It was still so hard to believe that they were dead. That Dudley had killed them. The words on the note Dudley had written were echoing round and round Harry's skull. What was Dudley sorry about? That's he'd killed his parents? That he'd killed himself? Or was it about the other, what Dudley knew about what had happened to Harry?

Finishing his reading, the doctor looked up and gave Harry a blue eyed stare and a small smile. "Hello, Harry. I know you've never had any medical treatment before. Professor Snape has already explained to me that your guardians were into more natural remedies and that's why you've not been registered with a GP."

Harry tried not to snort. The Dursleys would not have been into anything that smacked of complementary medicine, it would be too freakish for them "Now, while it is unusual to have treatment without a GP's referral, it's not that uncommon nowadays and we'll be quite happy to treat you here. The tests will probably seem a bit strange to you and I won't lie, some may hurt. Now as your under eighteen, we usually need a parent's or guardian's consent before we can begin treating you. However," the man paused and gave a little grimace. "Considering the shock of your guardians' deaths today and the nature of the disease, I am quite willing to accept your professor's signature in loco parentis, if that is agreeable to you, Harry? It's best to get treatment started as soon as possible."

Harry looked blankly from one man to the other.

"What the doctor means, Harry, is that I may sign the consent forms if you wish me to do so."

"Oh. Oh, right. Thank you, Professor. I would like that."

"Now, the first thing we're going to do is some blood tests. Have you had blood taken before?"

"Once," said Snape before Harry had a chance to reply. "He was unconscious at the time, though."

"How are you with needles?" asked the doctor.

"Okay, I think," replied Harry and then glanced at Snape who had gone an alarming shade of grey. "Professor? Are you all right?"

"I have - an aversion to needles. And blood," he added softly.

Harry gaped at him. An ex-Death Eater afraid of blood?

"A lot of people do," nodded the doctor. "Would you prefer to wait outside while I draw the blood, Professor? I shouldn't be too long."

"Harry?" Snape asked him.

"I'll be okay, sir," said Harry, although he was far from fine, but he didn't want to make the man watch something he found so uncomfortable. "But you - you will stay with me for the other tests, won't you?"

"Of course I will, Harry," said Snape, giving Harry's hand a tight squeeze before he excused himself.

"Can you roll up your sleeve for me, Harry?" asked Dr. Jacobs as he got the needles and vials ready. Harry swallowed audibly and rolled up his left shirt sleeve. The man tied a length of rubber around his upper arm and tapped the crook of his elbow a couple of times before dabbing at it with some purple liquid, it reminded Harry of one of Snape's potions and he smiled a little. He looked away when the man brought the first needle down.

"There. All done," said the doctor a few moments later. It had been quick, and when Harry looked down at the desk, he saw Dr. Jacobs labelling six vials of his blood. Harry hadn’t realised so much could be taken in such a short space of time. The doctor took the vials to the door and Harry heard him calling out to a nurse to send them to the lab straightaway and he told Snape he could come back in.

"Right, Harry," said Dr. Jacobs once he'd returned with Snape. "I'll first take your blood pressure, test your reflexes and give you a full physical exam. So if you'd pop behind the curtain and undress for me, we can get started. There's a gown waiting for you by the trolley."

"And Professor Snape can stay with me?" he asked nervously.

"Of course, as long as it's something you want, Harry."

Harry nodded. "It is." He stood up and went behind the curtain, trying to convince himself it was just like being in the infirmary and that it was only Madam Pomfrey who was going to examine him. As he undressed he caught sight of the bruises decorating his body and he felt very self-conscious about them, even knowing that they were caused by his illness and the doctor probably already knew that.

Harry donned the gown and sat down on the edge of the trolley, dangling his legs over the edge and gripping the edge of the leather with his fingers. A few moments later, Dr. Jacobs pulled the curtain open and Snape walked to stand on the other side of Harry. Harry had never been so glad to see the man in his life and he gave Snape a small grin. Things didn't seem half so scary with Snape there.

Harry's blood pressure was taken (it hurt a little when the cuff was first inflated), his reflexes were tested with a small metal hammer. "Perfect," smiled Dr. Jacobs and then the doctor had Harry lie down as he began his physical exam.

Harry was poked and prodded, his legs and arms were bent at awkward angles, he was told to wriggle his fingers and toes, his eyes and ears were probed with small lights and he was just glad when it was over.

"Your bruising is quite extensive," mused Dr. Jacobs. "When did you first notice your symptoms, Harry?"

"Only a few months ago," said Harry and the doctor scribbled something on his chart.

"I want you to have some X-rays and a bone scan," said Dr. Jacobs, "and after that your blood results should be back and we can discuss your treatment options.

***

Dr. Jacobs neglected to mention that the other tests would take the best part of four hours, but Snape stayed with him. He couldn't go into the scanning or X-ray rooms himself, but he was watching Harry by the windows, trying to give Harry some much needed moral support. The boy looked absolutely terrified when he was placed in all the various metal machines and Snape could hardly blame him for that. These Muggle devices were very alien to both he and Harry, but Snape hoped that they would at least give Harry some hope for there was nothing to be done magically.

At last the tests were complete and he and Harry were back in Dr. Jacobs' consulting room, waiting for the verdict. Harry had dressed again, Snape knew how uncomfortable, how vulnerable Harry must have been feeling while wearing nothing but a flimsy gown while strangers poked and prodded at you. He wished Harry could find the strength in his heart to talk about what had happened to him at the Dursleys', but he wasn't going to push the boy. Not now. Not when he so much already to cope with.

Dr. Jacobs was reading reports again and Snape was curious as to what they might say. For the first time today, he did not have a ready smile for Harry whenever he saw him and Snape's chest tightened painfully.

"Harry, I have all your test results here. I must say, it is very surprising reading. Very surprising reading indeed. Your cancer is very far advanced, more than I expected considering you only noticed the symptoms a short while ago. The disease has spread as if you had been suffering for years, not months. Normally the only thing to be done would be a bone marrow transplant as soon as possible, along with a course of chemotherapy first to remove the cancerous cells."

"But?" queried Harry, at the exact moment Snape thought it.

"It's unlikely we will be able to find you a donor in time, Harry. You have a very rare tissue type, I've been through the database of willing donors and no-one is a match to you, I'm sorry."

There was a small alarm clock on one side of the doctor's desk and it seemed to be ticking in time with Snape's heartbeat; the tick-tock almost sounding like no-hope, no-hope, no-hope in his ears. Rare tissue type? It was probably because Harry was a wizard and that meant that only a wizard would be a suitable donor. Try getting a wizard to donate bone marrow and blood.

"Do you have any siblings, Harry? We find that brothers and sisters are usually the best genetic match."

"No, there was only me."

"Any other relatives who we can contact?"

"Not anymore," whispered Harry, his eyes flicking to the newspaper on the doctor's desk.

"Oh. I'm sorry," said the doctor, flushing pink. "We will of course keep searching the database for an unrelated donor for you, Harry, but the chances are very slim, I'm afraid."

"Can anyone become a donor?" asked Snape.

"Yes, as long as they are healthy themselves."

"I - I'd like to be tested for compatibility with Harry," said Snape. If he was a match, if, then he would have to tell Harry what he was. But if it stopped the boy from dying, would Harry think the price was worth paying?

"Professor, you can't! You hate needles!" gasped Harry.

"Harry, my phobia pales in comparison to this. I would like to be tested, Dr. Jacobs?"

"Harry? What do you say?" asked the doctor.

"If I don't have the transplant - how - how long do I have?"

The doctor could hardly look at either of them. "I'm sorry, Harry. Five months. Six at the most."


TBC




Chapter 11: Secret Corners
Part Eleven


Save some face, you know you've only got one
Change your ways while you're young
Boy, one day you'll be a man


From Smile Like You Mean It by The Killers



Harry gave up arguing with Snape in the end, the doctor led him away so they could perform the test, but it would be a few days before the results were in. The doctor would send the results out by post when they got it. Harry wondered if Muggle post would even to get to Hogwarts, but Snape nodded, so he guessed it must be possible.

They were both very quiet on the cab journey back to the Leaky Cauldron and Harry was feeling exhausted. He wasn't looking forward to Apparating back. Harry hadn't taken any of his potions today, as they were unsure how they would react with any Muggle drugs or treatments he might be given. So far he hadn't been given anything, but Dr. Jacobs had given Harry lots of pamphlets on chemotherapy, radiotherapy and bone marrow transplants, some of the side effects listed seemed worse than the disease and he shuddered.

They went back to the same alley, where Harry removed the invisibility cloak from his pocket and soon they were back at Hogwarts, if a lot later than they expected to be.

"Professor?" asked Harry, before they started their trek across the grounds. It was already growing dark and little rectangles of golden light broke up the lawn, candles and lanterns shining from some of the windows.

"Yes, Harry?"

"Can I - can I come to talk to you tomorrow, sir? I need to talk to someone." Or he would be feeling even crazier than he was already.

"Of course you can, Harry. I told you before, you can talk to me about anything you want. How about after lunch? I have a few detentions to supervise in the morning."

"Thank you, sir. That will be great."

They both made their way to Snape's office, where Harry was supposed to have been all day doing his detention, before removing the cloak. "You'd better start taking your potions again tomorrow, Harry," advised Snape as Harry stifled a yawn.

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. For everything," said Harry as he took his leave. Draco Malfoy was in the corridor outside, looking smug.

"Detention again, Potter? Or is remedial potions this time?" He sneered and Harry wondered if he learned that gesture from Snape. Harry wasn't in the mood to trade insults with Malfoy, it was barely eight o'clock and he could hardly keep his eyes open. He just wanted to go to bed and sleep for a week.

"What? Cat got your tongue, Potter? Or is your throat hoarse from all the screaming?"

"Shove off, Malfoy," said Harry, trying to push past him. He had no idea what the blonde Slytherin was talking about and at the moment didn't particularly care. Malfoy however, was not about to let his prey go. He grabbed hold of Harry's wrists and pinned him to the wall.

"They all know, Potter. All your little friends, everyone," Malfoy hissed in his ear. "Tell me, what's it feel like to be so exposed?" Malfoy cackled with laughter and let Harry's wrists drop. Harry almost ran from the dungeons, still not quite understanding what Malfoy was on about, but he was soon to find out.

The common room was almost full to bursting with Gryffindors, loud snatches of conversation suddenly stopped when Harry climbed in through the portrait hole. He ignored everyone and headed for the stairs to the boys' dormitory, lying down on his bed and closing his eyes in relief. It was short-lived. He heard the heavy tread of Ron and his and Hermione's conversation before they reached the door.

"We have to do something, Ron! Harry's our friend! This can't go on!"

"But he hasn't told us."

"No, but you saw all those potions he was taking, didn't you, Ron?"

Shit! Harry sat up so fast his head was spinning. So Ron wasn't as clueless as Harry had thought. When Ron and Hermione finally came in, Hermione cast a very strong warding charm on the door so that they wouldn't be disturbed. She meant business and Harry knew he would have to tell them. What was the point of lying anymore when he would be gone in six months anyway?

"Harry, we know what's been going on," said Hermione.

"You do?" asked Harry, wondering if his friend had been doing some research in the medical section of the library.

"Yes," said Hermione gravely. "Your tiredness, your mood swings, your bruises. You've - oh, Harry, I can hardly bear to say it. Harry, you've become addicted to potions and it's got to stop!" She let out a deep breath and sank onto Harry's bed. "Ron and I can help you."

"I'm not addicted to potions, Hermione. I need them."

"Well, of course you would say that, wouldn't you Harry? An addiction is like a need, isn't it?"

"Ron, I think you'd better sit down, too," Harry patted the bed beside him and gestured for Hermione to sit on his other side as well. "I'm not addicted to potions, they were prescribed by Madam Pomfrey."

"Oh, Harry, you're ill?" gasped Hermione. "I hope it isn't anything too serious."

Harry was silent for too long. He could almost hear the cogs in Hermione's brain begin to work, taking in all of the evidence, adding two and two and coming up with four. She wrapped her arms around Harry in a hug and began crying silently on his shoulder. "No, Harry. No."

"I'm sorry, Hermione. It's true."

Ron looked confused. "Harry, mate, what is it? What's wrong?"

How did you say it? How did you tell your best friend you were dying? That magic could do many things, but it couldn't halt death?

"Ron - I - I've got leukaemia," said Harry softly.

"Cancer?" Ron's eyes widened like two blue saucers. "But the potions Madam Pomfrey gave you, they're curing it, right?"

Harry shook his head. "I'm sorry, Ron. The potions are only to help alleviate my symptoms, but they can't cure cancer. They don't hold out much hope for me."

"What about a bone marrow transplant?" asked Hermione, wiping her face. "Can't they do that?"

"They can, if they can find a donor who matches. So far no luck."

"Oh, God, Harry. I'm so sorry," she hugged him again and Ron hugged him from the other side.

They stayed in that three way hug for a long time, none of them speaking, the only sounds were the occasional sniffle but Harry couldn't tell whether it came from Hermione or Ron or even from himself. It was getting uncomfortable, Harry's back was beginning to ache and he pulled away from them.

"What made you think I had a problem with potions?" Harry asked Hermione. It seemed such a strange conclusion to come to.

"Well, it was hardly surprising, really. After all that you'd been through, I thought you might be using the potions as an escape route."

"What do you mean? You didn't even know I was sick until today."

"Not that, no. It was about what happened to you over the summer. After - after your uncle sold you."

Harry felt as if all his insides had disappeared and he stared at her, horrified. "How do you know about that?"

Hermione cast a worried glance at Ron over the top of Harry's head and it seemed that she might not answer.

"Please, Hermione, what is it?"

"It was in the paper, mate," said Ron. "Rita Skeeter's been at it again. Everything was in there."

"Everything?" Harry repeated dully.

Hermione nodded. "They even had some Muggle photos, I'm sorry, Harry."

Harry waved them both away from him, he knew he wouldn't stand a chance to make it to the bathroom this time, as he crawled to the side of the bed and threw up over the edge. He just couldn't seem to stop and he was barely aware of Hermione stroking his back as he retched and retched. His heart was pounding like surf in his ears and his whole body was bathed in a cold sweat. After he'd finally managed to finish, Hermione Vanished the vomit and conjured him a glass of water.

Harry took it gratefully, sipping it slowly so that he wouldn't upset his stomach any more. His hands were shaking so much that quite a bit of sloshed out of the glass and landed on his bed. Oh, God. They all knew. They'd all seen. Malfoy's words suddenly made a lot more sense. How does it feel to be so exposed?

It felt bloody awful. How was he ever going to face anyone again? As if he didn't have enough to cope with, the whole school, the whole bloody wizarding world had seen his shame.

"Was there - was there anything else in the Prophet about the Dursleys? That they're dead?"

"They're dead?" squeaked Hermione. "No, there was no mention of that. Harry, if there's anything we can do for you, anything at all, just let us know, all right?"

"Merlin Harry," said Ron. "Snape didn't give you a hard time with your detention, did he? What with you being sick and all."

"Erm, I didn't have detention with Snape today," admitted Harry. "He took me to the hospital."

"What? You told Snape you were sick before you told us?" demanded Ron.

"He was there when Madam Pomfrey told me, that day I fainted in potions, remember?"

Ron still seemed a bit miffed that Snape had known before them, but he nodded anyway. "God, Harry, how are you going to tell my mum?"

"Don't tell her yet, Ron, please," begged Harry. "And don't tell anyone else either. This is just between us, okay?"

"I promise," said Hermione and Ron nodded too.

"I'm really tired," said Harry. "I just want to try and get some sleep now."

"Of course you do, Harry. Sorry. Come on, Ron. I'll help you with that Transfiguration homework."

They all said their goodbyes and Harry watched them leave. He felt better now that they knew his secret as it were, but despite his tiredness he lay flat on his back and stared numbly at the canopy above his head. Sleep was a long time coming.

***

"You did what?" screeched Poppy later that evening when Snape went to discuss Harry's hospital visit with her.

"You heard me, Poppy. I had the test to see if I was a match for Harry."

"But Severus, even if you are, you won't be able to donate. Not with you being..." she trailed off.

"I had to do something!" he protested. "I can't just stand by and watch him die if I can do something about it! If I'm a match, then I'll just have to tell Harry what I am and at least he'll have a chance, even if it wasn't something he'd considered before. I'm not going to allow him to do it without knowing what he'd be letting himself in for, Poppy. I thought you knew me better than that. It will be his choice, I promise you that."

For the boy had little enough choice in his life so far. They were clutching at straws here, he knew that, for there was no guarantee that he would even be a match.

"So, then," said Poppy. "How did the rest of the visit to a Muggle hospital go?"

***

At breakfast the next morning, the first thing Harry noticed was that conversations suddenly stopped as soon as he got near to them and that everyone was staring at him and trying to hide it. The only ones who weren't blatantly talking about him or staring at him were the teachers, which led to the second thing he noticed. Neither Dumbledore nor Snape were in their usual positions at the Head Table.

As he sat down, he noticed that Hermione shoved that day's issue of the Daily Prophet under the table, but not before he saw the headline. Heartbreak of the Boy Who Lived.

"What's she writing about this time?"

"About the Dursleys dying," said Hermione. "There were more photos - you know."

Oh, he knew all right. He just wished they weren't splashed across the pages of the newspaper. He didn't want to see them, so in a way he was glad that Hermione had hidden the paper from him. Harry was so glad he'd arranged to have a talk to Snape later that day. He had the impression that Snape would listen to him rant and ramble without pitying him. Pity was the last thing he wanted, his friends meant well, he knew that, but sometimes they could be a bit overbearing.

Harry wasn't really hungry, but he reached for a slice of toast anyway just as a large Eagle owl swooped down and perched on the table in front of him. The owl hooted at him and held out its leg. There was a scroll with the Ministry of Magic seal attached to the outstretched leg. All heads were suddenly turned to the Gryffindor table. What on earth would the Minister of Magic want with him?

"Go on, open it," urged Hermione, Ron adding the same.

Harry had never been so reluctant to open mail in his life. What did Fudge want with him? To discuss what had happened over the Summer? To find out what he knew about the Dursleys' deaths? There was only one way to find out. Harry lifted up his butter knife and slid it under the seal to open it.

He realised his mistake at once, but it was too late to stop it now.

The Portkey whisked him away from the Great Hall with a tug behind his navel.

TBC



Chapter 12: Secret Corners
Part Twelve

And did you exchange a walk on part in the war
For a leading role in a cage


From Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd


Harry landed face down on a smooth black floor, the impact jarring his nose and he felt a small trickle of blood flow from his right nostril. He pushed himself to his knees, shivering. It was so cold in here, but the stone was warm on his knees. The walls were covered in the same black stone as the floor, it was disconcerting, not knowing where the floor ended and the walls began. He was getting colder and colder, his breath was a mist of silver in front of his face, the whole room seemed illuminated by an eerie blue glow and then he saw them.

Shadows detaching themselves from the walls, gliding towards him, their rotten hands outstretched as they searched for their prey. Harry fumbled for his wand, but it wasn't in his robe pocket. He knew exactly where it was, sitting in his bedside table where he'd left it the night before.

They were getting closer and he was getting weaker, the memories crowding in on him. His mother's screams, his own. With what little voice he had left he screamed at them, "EXPECTO PATRONUM!!!" but the Dementors still kept coming. Just as one of them reached him, it shrieked as if in pain and glided away, the others following it back to the wall.

"Oh, we don't want you Kissed just yet, Mr. Potter, do we Minister?"

"No. Quite right, my dear. We have plans for you, Mr. Potter. Very big plans."

A lantern flared orange on the wall and Harry was left gaping at the Minister of Magic and Dolores Umbridge.

"Did you really think I would let you get away with all your lies, Potter?" simpered the witch. "You are nothing but an attention seeking little boy who is about to get his comeuppance. Tell me, do you know what the Rite of Shenkar is?" she asked him.

Harry didn't reply.

"Never mind, you'll soon find out." With loud cracks the two of them Disapparated, the lantern went out and Harry was left alone with the Dementors once again. They never moved from their place on the walls. If he squinted, Harry could just about make out where they were. Even though they weren't that close, their presence was draining and Harry was finding it very hard to concentrate on coming up with a plan of escape. His nose was still bleeding, he wiped it on the sleeve of his robes and tried to get as far away from the creatures as possible.

The centre of the room held a large black table, hewn from the same stone so that he almost tripped over it. It was waist height and it was only when his eyes had become more accustomed to the low level blue lighting that he realised it wasn't a table at all, but an altar. He backed away, shuddering, suddenly having a suspicion of what it might be used for. He had to get out of here!

Harry lifted up the scroll that had landed him here in the first place, but it must have only activated once, he remained exactly where he was. Stuck in a room with the rattling breath of however many Dementors for company. If only he didn't feel so weak, so drained. It was a combination of the Dementors and his illness, but he wouldn't go down without a fight. They would not find him meek, ready to go gently into that goodnight and he fisted his hands at his side, as if he was just about to box the two of them.

He almost jumped out of his skin when Fudge and Umbridge Apparated beside him. Harry rushed Umbridge, trying to get her wand, but it was futile. She sent him flying backwards with the back of her hand and Harry lay sprawled on the floor. He struggled to get up, but she pushed him from behind so that he ended up smashing his face on the stone again. Stars bloomed behind his eyelids and he fought the effort to scream. He wouldn't give the cow the satisfaction. A heel was pressed against the small of his back, spiked and painful and he bit his lip to stop himself crying out.

"It's time, Minister," said Umbridge in that girlish voice. She cast a spell and Harry suddenly found himself lying on the altar, his wrists and ankles tied to the stone, which had sprouted four pillars on each corner. He struggled to get out of the shackles, but only managed in hurting himself.

"Now, now, Mr. Potter, there's no need to struggle. It'll all be over soon, don't worry." Umbridge walked the length of the altar, staring at him, watching him with those toad like eyes, as if he was a slave she was contemplating buying. "According to Albus Dumbledore, you're the most powerful wizard alive, Potter. Do you know what that means, boy?"

Harry lifted his head and spat at her, his spittle landed right on her left cheek and she shrieked, before taking out her wand and whispering, "Crucio!"

This time, Harry couldn't stop his screams no matter how much he may have wanted to. It felt like every part of his body was being sliced open with shards of glass, there was glass in his blood, in his lungs. It hurt to breathe, it hurt to exist and he just wanted to stop existing.

"Now, of course, as with a lot if rituals, the timing has to be -"

"Perfect!" snarled Snape as he Apparated into the room along with about twenty Aurors.

"Dementors!" Harry screamed in warning, Snape's unexpected arrival having caused Umbridge's spell on Harry to falter. The room resounded with the echo of the Patronus spell and it was suddenly brightened by the silvery form of twenty one Patronuses who charged the Dementors. Snape had disarmed and bound the Minister and Umbridge in the ensuing confusion then hurried over to Harry, his face a mask of worry.

Snape used his wand to unlock the shackles, but then he was back, rubbing at Harry's skin with his hands, soothing his abraded wrists and ankles and Harry was shaking in relief.

"Sir, oh, God, sir," he sobbed on the man's shoulder before the world dissolved around him as he fainted.

***

Snape Apparated the unconscious boy back to Hogwarts, leaving the Aurors to deal with the aftermath. Harry was safe now, that was all that mattered. He carried Harry straight to the infirmary, not caring how it might look that he was cradling the boy in his arms.

When he reached the hospital wing, it was to find Poppy trying to chase half the school away. "Out, out!" she commanded. "He needs rest!"

Snape's glower did what the matron's words had not and they immediately dispersed, leaving only Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger stubbornly staring him down.

"We know what's wrong with Harry," said Granger. "He told us yesterday."

Ah, Snape was glad of that. He glanced at Poppy and she nodded. "Very well, you both may stay for a short while, but one word to upset him and you are out."

"Thank you, Madam Pomfrey," said Granger and she and he sidekick followed Snape in. He placed Harry on the bed furthest away from the entrance and Poppy chased him away while she examined him, pulling the curtain closed around his bed.

"Where was he, Professor?" asked Granger. "This morning, when the Portkey took him? Was it Death Eaters?"

"No, Miss Granger. It seems our Minister of Magic is not entirely happy with being incompetent, he wished to steal Harry's power as well. He and Professor Umbridge were going to perform the Rite of Shenkar."

"But - but that's a Dark Ritual!" she gasped out.

"Indeed, which is why that even now our ex-Minister and his under secretary are on their way to Azkaban. They may not have been supporters of the Dark Lord, they're still not entirely convinced that he's back, you know, but they are still following a Dark path."

Granger trembled a little, Weasley put his arms around her and Snape glanced away, unwilling to intrude on such a private moment, even if normally he would have taken points from both for such public displays.

He stood up and paced the length of the infirmary.

"Sir," said Miss Granger, with the air of one who was about to ask a very difficult question.

"Yes?" he snapped, stopping mid-pace.

"When wizards are very ill, magic sort of bounces off them, doesn't it? That's why spells can't help him, right? So how come they could do things to him?"

How indeed? Harry had been hit with the Cruciatus curse, and he'd been bound by a spell, Snape's own spell had freed him. Did that mean that Harry was getting better? Or worse?

Poppy emerged from Harry's bedside. "I've given him a dose of Dreamless Sleep, he should be out for a few hours. You may come back and visit him after dinner," she told the two Gryffindors, who nodded and left.

"How is he, Poppy?" he asked finally.

"Not too good, Severus. He's very weak. The leukaemia weakens his immune system, don't even get me started on what the Cruciatus has done to him. I don't think he should be attending classes any more, there are too many germs with so many people about, even a cold or flu could be disastrous for him at this point. I've placed a bubble charm around his bed, which should help to keep infections at bay, but I'm very worried for him. I could scan him this time, Severus."

"What does that mean? Miss Granger was asking about the magic too."

"It means his body is giving up, it is no longer trying to protect itself from any outside magic. It knows it's dying."

Snape felt hollow, as if all the fluid in his body had dissolved and he was left with rubbery arms and legs. He swayed a little on his feet.

"Do you want to stay with him for a while, Severus?" she asked him softly, placing an hand on his arm.

"I'd like that, Poppy, thank you."

She cast a anti-contaminate spell over his clothes, then handed him a mask for his face. Snape had seen people wearing them in the Muggle hospital, he knew that things were getting really serious for Harry now that they were needed. He placed it over his mouth and nose without comment.

"Just don't disturb him, he needs all the rest he can get. You may sit by his bed, but try not to wake him."

"I won't. Thank you, Poppy."

"No, Severus. Thank you."

"For what?"

"For bringing him back to us."


TBC



Chapter 13: Secret Corners
Part Thirteen

It's a very strange world that leaves me
Holding on to nothing when there's nothing left to lose


From Strange World by Sarah McLachlan


It was Wednesday before Snape came into the infirmary clutching a brown Muggle envelope in his hands. Harry sat up in bed, Madam Pomfrey only allowed him up to use the bathroom. The truth was that Harry was feeling so drained and tired that even that was an effort, so he didn't complain. He waited patiently while Madam Pomfrey cast the anti-contaminate spells over herself and Professor Snape. Neither of them put on face masks today and Harry wondered if they'd forgotten in the excitement, for he just knew the letter had to be from the hospital.

"Is that it?" asked Harry, waving his hand at the envelope in his teacher's fist. "What did they say?"

"I haven't opened it yet, I wanted you to know what it said as soon as possible," said Snape

"Go on, Severus," urged Madam Pomfrey. "The stress isn't good for Harry. Or me!" she added breathlessly.

Snape slit the envelope open with a fingernail and slid the letter out. A few pamphlets fell out of it, Harry caught the bright title of one. Bone Marrow Transplants: What to Expect. His heart was in his throat as Snape read the letter in silence.

"I'm a match, Harry. There's an eighty per cent chance it would be successful. Is that good?" he asked Madam Pomfrey.

"Eighty per cent! That's excellent, Severus! Sixty five to seventy is considered very good, but eighty, eighty." She bent down and hugged Harry to her bosom. "This is wonderful news, Harry. Wonderful. Severus, I believe you and Harry have to have a little chat, don't you?" she asked pointedly. Harry wondered how she knew that he wanted to discuss some things with Snape, but she left them alone, pulling the curtain tight around the bed to afford them some privacy.

They both stared at each other for a while, as though unwilling to be the first one to bring the subject up, no matter what that subject might be.

"Sir - "

"Harry - " they both said at the same time.

"You go first," urged Snape.

"Sir, remember I said I wanted to talk to you? Before - before Fudge captured me?"

"Harry, I think it's about time you started calling me Severus, at least when we aren't in class. All right?"

"Okay, Pro- Severus. Thank you. I'm - I'm a little confused, to be honest. I wanted to talk to you about the Dursleys, what they did to me. I'm scared of sex," Harry admitted. "But - but, I think I'm falling in love with you. Please don't be angry with me."

Harry closed his eyes, unwilling to see the censure in the man's eyes, for he could hardly expect that the man would share those same feelings. How could he? Harry was his student, not to mention the fact that he was dying, how could Severus want to get involved with him?

"Harry, look at me," commanded Snape and Harry was so used to orders barked in the man's classroom in that same voice that he obeyed automatically, his eyes opening almost of their own accord. "I'm not angry, Harry, far from it. Did you think your feelings were one sided?"

"What?" gasped Harry. "You mean you're in love with me? Why didn't you tell me before?"

"Many reasons, not least of which is that fact that you are a student under my care and I never thought the day would come when I would even contemplate such a thing, pursuing a relationship with a student."

"You mean you would consider it?"

"Harry, if you go ahead with the transplant with me as your donor, there will be no choice, we will have to pursue a relationship. My great-grandfather was an Incubus. Like wizards, their power is exchanged in blood and marrow, we would become bound to each other for life. You will feel compelled to be close to me and I to you. We will share our thoughts, our emotions, there would be no secrets between us, Harry. I would know everything about you, the same as you would know everything about me."

"So we'd be like married or something?"

"That would be the nearest equivalent, yes," agreed Snape. "You as the non-Incubus partner, Harry, will feel the compulsion to be close to me - physically."

Harry swallowed. "Do you mean sex?" Everything else sounded fine, it was the sex he was worried about. He didn't feel comfortable with that yet, but would the bond force he and Severus to be together like that?

"Yes, Harry. I know that worries you, but it will take a while before the compulsion will be over bearing, quite a few months at least. We'll have plenty of time to get used to the bond before we need to take that step. I'm not going to force you into something you're not ready for. I know how much what happened affected you, we will have plenty of time."

"What if we bond and I never feel ready for sex? Will I die?"

"No, but you will suffer to some degree. Headaches, stomach aches, that sort of thing. It isn't life threatening, but would be painful for you."

"Not for you?"

"No, but I can't control the compulsion you will feel if we go ahead with this."

Harry lifted up one of the leaflets and gave it a quick scan. "Will the procedure hurt you? If you become a donor?"

"I know what I'm getting into, Harry."

"That doesn't answer my question. I don't want anyone to be in pain because of me. You hate needles, don't they use needles to extract the marrow?"

"They do, I've already discussed all of this with Dr. Jacobs. He has agreed to put me under while they perform the procedure, I won't have to see the needles at all."

"Do you really want to do this?" asked Harry. "To become bonded to me, I mean?" He couldn't believe it was something the man really wished, maybe he was just telling Harry what he wanted to hear because he was going to die soon anyway.

"Do you doubt it, Harry?" asked Snape, interlacing his fingers with Harry's. He pressed his lips to Harry's hands, kissing each finger in turn. It was that simple gesture more than any other that convinced Harry the man was telling the truth that he was in love with him, that he really wanted to do this.

"Will - will I become an Incubus too?" asked Harry, worried that he might start suddenly wanting sex with everyone he saw.

Snape laughed. "I see you've heard some rumours about Incubi, Harry. Let me assure you they are just that, rumours. I suppose you could describe Incubi as a type of vampire, but they feed on sexual energy, not blood. However, they do not go around in the middle of the night preying on the sleeping population. They exist as normal wizards for the most part, they do not actually need the energy to survive, but when they find a willing partner, it heightens their existence to some degree. It is a natural process that happens during lovemaking and since we will be bonded, you will feel its effects too, but probably not to the same degree as me. The sexual energy released will enhance your senses and your brain function, but you will not feel compelled to seek out other mates. Incubi, contrary to popular belief, are monogamous."

"So we'll only be with each other?" asked Harry, almost sighing in relief. He was worried that even though he might feel compelled to be with Snape, the man would be free to take his pleasures elsewhere, especially if Harry wasn't going to be feeling like sex any time soon. The jealousy that thought engendered was a like a hot coal burning beneath his breastbone.

"Yes, Harry. We will be faithful, if either of us were to be intimate with someone else, it would be painful for both of us. It just isn't possible due to the nature of the bond."

"But we won't have to have sex straightaway?" Harry asked anxiously, twisting the bedclothes in his fist.

"No, Harry. Not until you're ready, I promise you."

"What if the transplant doesn't work?"

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, Harry. It's worth a try thought, isn't it?"

Harry nodded. An eighty per cent chance. That was good odds, wasn't it? If it worked, he would get better and he would be bonded to the man he loved. Eighty per cent was sounding better and better.

"Severus? Can you do something for me?"

"Anything, Harry. Just name it."

"Can you get the Weasleys to come and visit me? I think it's time I told them, don't you?" It would be difficult to tell them, but now that there was a bit of hope, he felt better about letting them know. They'd be so upset, he knew that, he just hoped they'd understand why he had to wait until now.

"That's an excellent idea, Harry. I'll firecall Molly right away."

"No, not yet," said Harry quickly. "Tonight. I'm feeling tired now, I can't face them yet."

"Okay, Harry. I'll let you get some rest. Call Madam Pomfrey if you need anything." Severus bent over and placed a chaste kiss on his forehead.

"Severus, if you want, you can tell the headmaster. I don't think I can do it."

"Okay, Harry, I will."

Harry was asleep before the man had left the infirmary.

***

"I wish you'd come to me sooner, Severus," said Dumbledore over the rim of his tea cup. "Maybe something could have been done magically if we'd known sooner."

"Harry only knew a few months ago, Albus, but it had advanced so far by that stage that a Muggle transplant is the only option left. He was worried about letting people know, I only knew because Poppy told me before she told Harry."

"And yet she did not see fit to inform me, or Harry's Head of House."

"Harry's wishes, Dumbledore," sighed Snape. "We promised him we wouldn't tell."

"Indeed and now you are prepared to let Muggles experiment on you both. Is this really the best course of action, Severus? Have you contacted St. Mungo's?"

"Yes, Albus. They can do nothing. This is the only course of action left to us. Harry will tell the Weasleys tonight and then he should be transferred to St. John's as soon as possible. He needs chemotherapy before they can perform the transplant, otherwise the new cells will just keep being attacked by the cancerous ones. Dr. Jacobs wants Harry to start as soon as possible."

Dumbledore stood up and for the first time in almost twenty years, he wrapped Snape in a hug. "Then I wish you and Harry every success with the treatments, Severus. Give him my regards, won't you?"

"I will, headmaster. Thank you."


TBC

















Chapter 14: Secret Corners
Part Fourteen


Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard
Oh take me back to the start


From The Scientist by Coldplay



Severus felt strangely restless for the remainder of the day. He couldn't concentrate on brewing, making his classes write essays or take tests rather than make potions. Quite a few of them mumbled under their breath, but since he couldn't hear what was said, he decided to forgo giving them detentions. He'd promised Harry when he'd popped in to see him at lunch that he would be there when Harry told the Weasleys he was sick.

Once his classes were finished for the day, he avoided going back to his rooms. They seemed suddenly too empty and he couldn't bear it for much longer. He wandered the corridors, but since it was well before curfew he couldn't even deduct points from any of the stragglers making their way to the Great Hall for dinner.

Severus wasn't hungry, he was too worried about Harry and his impending treatment. Not to mention his own fears, he'd deliberately downplayed them, not wanting Harry to be even more anxious than he was. He'd already got himself into such a state at lunch time worried about the Weasleys' visit that Poppy had chased Severus out while she dosed Harry with calming potion.

He sighed and made his way to the infirmary and popped his head round the door. The curtain was pulled round Harry's bed and Poppy was tidying up some shelving by the doorway. "He's still asleep, Severus. Come back later."

So Severus left and made his way back to the entrance hall. The double doors were open wide, framing the lake like a painting, the sun sinking lower and lower beneath the horizon. It was red tonight, the reflection in the lake shimmering like ripples of blood.

Just as the last tinges of sunset were fading, Severus sank to his knees, gasping for breath, clasping his burning forearm in his fist.

***

Harry woke up abruptly, his scar a burning brand on his forehead. Snape had been called. Voldemort was happy, he could sense the creature's elation and with a mental effort he severed their connection like Snape had shown him how to do. What had happened to make the Dark Lord so jubilant?

Had Voldemort discovered Snape's spying? Or was it Harry? Had he come up with some new plan that he wanted Snape to carry out? Harry still wasn't sure what the Rite of Shenkar had entailed, he'd meant to ask Snape but in all their talk about the transplant and the bond, he just hadn't found the time to ask. Was Voldemort going to try it like Fudge and Umbridge were going to do?

Harry's brain was stuffed full of thoughts, it was like he was tuned into hundreds of different radio stations and he didn't know where to find the off switch. "Stop it!" he yelled to himself, pressing his hands to the sides of his head. "Stop it! Just stop it!"

It was a while before Madam Pomfrey's voice penetrated through everything else that was echoing round his head.

"Harry, Molly and Arthur Weasley are here to see you."

"They're early!" Harry almost screeched at her. Severus was supposed to be here. He'd promised, he promised! Harry couldn't do this on his own. He couldn't. He couldn't. He couldn't breathe, his throat and nose wouldn't work and he clawed at his neck, trying to get air in. His arms and legs were tingling with pins and needles and his tongue seemed swollen to twice its normal size. There was a sharp pain in his chest, as if a giant hand was squeezing his ribs. Spots were dancing in front of his eyes. The cancer wouldn't get a chance to kill him, he was going to die from a heart attack right here in the hospital wing.

"Harry, listen to me. You're having a panic attack, you're hyperventilating. Breathe into this for me," she conjured a paper bag; then shoved over his nose and mouth and Harry took enormous gulps of air as slowly the feeling came back into his extremities and the giant hand released its iron grip on his chest. "Keep breathing, Harry. That's it. That's it."

Madam Pomfrey's voice washed over him, he wondered if she was casting a calming charm on him, until he felt secure enough to remove the bag from his face. The world was out of focus, but only because he hadn’t put on his glasses yet. Madam Pomfrey handed them to him with a small smile.

"Feel better?" she asked him.

"Severus promised he'd be here," said Harry, appalled to find tears gathering at the corners of his eyes.

"I know, Harry. He'd be here if he could, you know that."

Harry did indeed know that but it didn't make it any easier. As long as Voldemort was alive he could still steal Severus from him. Every time Severus was called, he was taking his life into his hands. If there was one thing Harry was sure of it was that no-one messed with the people he loved. Voldemort would pay for what he'd done to Severus, what he'd done to Harry's parents, what he'd done to Sirius and to all the other families who'd lost someone. Harry couldn't let it go on.

"I know, I just wish he was here," said Harry. He wondered if Severus would be tortured, from his visions he knew that Voldemort tortured his followers as much as he did prisoners and Muggles, he didn't seem to distinguish between them. Right at that moment, Harry would have sacrificed the cure for his cancer if he could stop Severus from suffering one more minute of pain.

"Shall I ask the Weasleys to come in, Harry?"

Harry nodded, he supposed he'd better get it over with. One thing he was sure of, in another minute or two, he was going to be wrapped up in one of Molly Weasley's famous hugs.

***

Snape stumbled as the emergency Portkey landed him straight into Dumbledore's office. His arm was in agony, his robes bloodstained, he was almost dead on his feet but he had to warn them. Fawkes squawked and the headmaster was out of his chair in an instant, steadying Severus by the elbow. They'd been too bloody complacent, Snape had thought that the reason he hadn't been called in so long was that there were no plans afoot. They were fools, all of them.

"Your cover is blown, Severus?"

"Yes, Albus, but that's not all. He knows Harry is sick. I overheard their plans before I managed to escape, they had no intention of letting me get here. They intend to attack the school tonight! While they know Harry can't fight them!"

"Are you sure?"

"Of course I'm bloody sure! The children need to be evacuated immediately."

"Fawkes," said Dumbledore. "You know what to do."

The phoenix disappeared in a burst of golden flame, ready to alert the other teachers and staff. As well as Grimmauld Place, the Order had another property, a large castle on the west coast of Ireland. There were so many spells and enchantments on it, that the only living creature who knew how to get there was Fawkes and the bird would never betray its whereabouts.

"Come," said Dumbledore. "We must get Harry."

"What? Are you insane? The only place Harry is going is the hospital, he's too sick to fight, Albus."

"You know the prophecy as well as I do, Severus. Harry has to fight him, he's the only one who stands a chance of defeating him."

"And how is he supposed to do that when he can hardly stand on his own?" demanded Snape. "He's dying for Merlin's sake!"

"So will we all unless Harry can stop him," retorted Dumbledore and hurried down the spiral staircase, Severus had no choice but to follow him to the infirmary.

The Weasleys and Madam Pomfrey were not alone with Harry in the hospital wing, Severus noticed quite a few of the other students including Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, the two Creevy brothers, Luna Lovegood and a good dozen or so more. Professor McGonagall was there too, trying to get the students to see sense.

"We're not leaving," said Granger. "We've been training since last year! We're going to fight him!"

"Miss Granger, please be reasonable!" protested Minerva McGonagall. "A battle is no place for children!"

Severus knew immediately that that the woman had made a mistake by calling any of them children. "They're going to fight with me if they want to," said Harry, even as he struggled to hoist himself upright in the bed, fumbling for his clothes.

"Harry, no! You're too sick!" sobbed Molly Weasley.

A dying boy, a handful of the Order, fifteen and sixteen year olds and one ex-Death Eater. They were doomed before the battle had even started.

"Madam Pomfrey, please give Harry a strong dose of pepper-up potion," said Severus, to shocked intakes of breath as he finished speaking.

"You're letting me fight?" Harry asked in surprise, looking up as he put his left leg into his trousers.

"If we didn't, you'd find some way of getting into the fray somehow. This way, at least we'll know you can stand and face him. The pepper up potion will be effective for a few hours at least. I hope it will end sooner than that."

Poppy looked from Severus to Harry, to Dumbledore to the Weasleys before she hurried off to fetch the potion.

"Harry no," sobbed Granger. "He'll kill you!"

"I have to do this, Hermione. I have to."

Severus grimaced in pain just as Poppy finished giving Harry the potion and she was on him in an instant, taking one look at the ripped arm of his robes and yanking it away. Harry jumped from the bed and marched over to him.

"What did he do to you?" demanded Harry, but it was obvious what had been done. After Snape's spying had been revealed to the Inner Circle that night, Voldemort had removed Snape's Dark Mark, slicing across the skin of his arm with a rusty knife. His skin was just hanging there like the flap of an envelope and he knew that there was a risk of infection from the dirty knife. He swallowed Poppy's potions without complaint as she quickly cast a stitching spell on his skin. He could probably do with a few days in the infirmary himself, but they did not have the luxury of time and needed all the hands they could get.

Severus felt something bristle in the air beside him and glanced down at Harry. The boy's eyes were glowing with an inner jade fire as he growled out, "I'm going to kill that fucking bastard!"

The wards shrieked as they were breached and the last remaining defenders of Hogwarts prepared to do battle.


TBC



Chapter 15: Secret Corners
Part Fifteen

We're just waiting for our man
To come through with a plan


From Making Enemies by Snow Patrol


The battle had been raging for hours, Severus was dodging curses and casting hexes at all the Death Eaters who seemed to be intent on making him pay for his betrayal. So far Voldemort was nowhere in sight, it was as if he hoped his Death Eaters would kill Harry and do his dirty work for him.

The two Creevy brothers were helping Neville near to the entrance to the castle, Harry was a shadow by the edge of the Forbidden Forest, close to Hagrid's hut. Some of Hagrid's creatures were joining in the fray, Fang biting the legs of numerous Death Eaters who hadn't realised the dog was even there in the dark. The only light came from a small sliver of moon, all the lights in the castle had been extinguished, it was too big of a target to be lit up like a Christmas tree.

Lights from wands flared as curses and hexes were cast and avoided. Severus ducked to avoid a Cruciatus thrown at him from Lucius Malfoy and suddenly all around him people were screaming in agony, he couldn't see anyone besides Malfoy, but since Malfoy fell to the ground, writhing in pain and clutching the Dark Mark on his arm, Snape guessed all the screamers were Death Eaters.

He ran headlong towards the forest, he saw three shadows, two standing, one lying prone on the ground. Snape cast a binding spell on the two shadows, thinking they were Death Eaters, but they ducked out of its path and Hermione Granger screamed shrilly. "It's us, Professor!"

Snape didn't lower his wand as he edged closer, the other shadow was Luna Lovegood, she and Granger were tending to the prone form of Harry.

"Harry?" Snape sank to his haunches and caressed Harry's face. His eyes flickered open and Harry hissed something in Parseltongue before his eyes glazed over. All the hairs on Snape's body stood to attention like quill feathers and the air around them flared emerald, as bright as noon. Snape could see all of the Death Eaters lying on the lawns around Hogwarts. All of them had been both magically and physically bound, their wands confiscated by the Hogwarts staff.

There were numerous loud cracks as Aurors appeared in the midst of the lawns, the wards hadn't been replaced yet.

"Harry? Can you hear me? Do you know where you are?"

Harry's eyes were opened wide, but he seemed to have no inkling that anyone was talking to him, it was as if he was in a trance. "POPPY!" screamed Severus as he saw the medi-witch bending over to tend Neville Longbottom, who had a large gash on his arm. Longbottom could wait.

"I'll be okay," said Longbottom to the nurse as she left him in the dubious care of Mad-Eye Moody.

"Severus? What is it?"

"Harry. He's not responding," said Severus, feeling his heart clog his throat. He couldn't lose him now. Not after this.

Poppy knelt down on the grass and examined Harry. She snapped her fingers at him, waved her hand in front of his face, pressed some smelling salts beneath his nose, but Harry eyes remained fixed and immobile, he wasn't even blinking.

"Madam Pomfrey, can I try?" asked Hermione Granger. "I think I know what it is. Sometimes when things get too much for Harry, he goes away to his safe place. He hasn't done it for a while though."

"His safe place?" Severus was curious despite himself.

"Yes, sir. His cupboard."

Severus didn't ask anything more. He'd seen Harry in a cupboard in some of the boy's memories during their Occlumency lessons, but he'd thought it was some sort of Muggle discipline. Harry felt safe there? In a cupboard? Time enough to ask Harry about these things when he was well again.

Poppy nodded that Hermione should try. The girl knelt down next to Poppy and softly, very softly she traced Harry's cheeks with her fingertips, mumbling his name all the while. It reminded Snape somewhat of the way Hagrid would soothe a skittish animal.

He felt a frisson of jealousy in the pit of his stomach as she leant closer to him and whispered in his ear. He knew it was the Incubus in him reacting to the thought that his mate was being stolen, even though his common sense told him that she and Harry were nothing more than friends.

In the distance he could hear the buzz of conversation as the Aurors rounded up the Death Eaters. A small crowd of students had gathered round Harry, before McGonagall and Trelawney intervened and ushered them back into the castle, but left Hermione alone.

"Harry, you're at Hogwarts," the girl whispered. "You're safe now. They can't hurt you here."

As if in slow motion, Harry blinked and stared up at Hermione, Madam Pomfrey and then himself. He smiled when their eyes locked. "He's gone, Severus. He's gone."

Severus nodded, he knew the Dark Lord was gone as soon as he'd seen the Death Eaters writhing on the ground. Unless Voldemort removed their Dark Marks physically, like he'd done with his, they were all connected to Voldemort and would feel the pain of his death as a burning on the site of their Marks.

"But how, Harry? Voldemort wasn't even here," said Hermione.

"You don't need to know," said Harry. "You only need to know he's gone."

"No more questions, Miss Granger," snapped Poppy. "Harry, we need to get you back to the hospital wing and you are staying in that bed until you get transferred to St. John's, do you hear me?"

"Yes, ma'am," said a chastened Harry and struggled to his feet, swaying. Not caring who saw or what they might say, Severus scooped Harry up in his arms and carried the hero back to the infirmary. A few of the other beds were filled with students who'd been injured in the battle, very few students in fact. Whoever had trained them had taught them well and he had a feeling that Harry knew a lot more about this training than he was letting on.

Poppy dosed Harry with a pain killing and blood replenishing solution, before leaving a bottle of Dreamless Sleep on the bedside cabinet. "Don't stay too long, Severus," she advised, pulling the curtain round the bed as she left to tend the others. Harry was lying down, his face almost paler than the pillows, but his eyes had lost that glazed look. Harry's scar was gone, but the skin where it had been was slightly whiter than the skin around it.

Severus cast a strong warding and privacy charm around them and sank into the chair next to Harry's bed.

"Harry, do you want to tell me what you did? How you killed him?"

"God, Severus, I - I think I used Dark magic to do it."

"What makes you think that?"

"Voldemort wasn't at the battle, I think he wanted the Death Eaters to either weaken me or finish me off before he got here. I knew I was physically too weak to hold them off for long, Hermione and Luna guarded me from the curses while I used my mind to connect to Voldemort. I'd never done that before, used my scar to find him deliberately, it was always the other way round, him finding me. He was at the Riddle House, with Nagini. Voldemort had cast a See-All spell on Lucius Malfoy, so that he could see what was going on at the battle." Harry paused, glancing at him as if he was unsure if he should continue. So far, Severus had heard nothing that would indicate the use of Dark magic.

"Voldemort was distracted, watching the battle. I possessed Nagini and I killed him. I bit him, I ripped him to shreds so that there was hardly anything left. It was Dark, wasn't it? What I did? I was so out of control, Severus. It scared me."

"Harry, what were you thinking when you killed him? Were you thinking anything?"

"How much he'd hurt you, my parents, Sirius, the Weasleys and all those other innocent people he'd destroyed and would have destroyed if he'd stayed. I couldn't let that happen, I just couldn't, Severus!"

"I know, Harry, I know. What you did, you did out of love, not hate. It wasn't Dark, Harry. That's why it worked, only love could kill him, not hate."

"But I did hate him," protested Harry.

"Yes, but your love for the people you were saving was stronger, that's why he's dead. It was in the prophecy, don't you remember? He will have power the Dark Lord knows not. It was love, Harry. He never knew love. Lust and passion, yes, but not love."

Harry was trembling as he seemed to absorb what he'd done. "I'm a murderer," he whispered hoarsely.

"No, Harry. There's no murder in battle. It was a war, one that you helped win."

"Is it over?"

Severus grasped his hand. "Oh, there'll always be the odd Death Eater who might have escaped justice, but without Voldemort they're just playing at being powerful, but the war is over, Harry."

"Can - can you stay while I fall asleep?" asked Harry as he reached for the Dreamless Sleep. "I don't want to be alone."

"I'll be right here, Harry," said Severus leaning over to give him a kiss on the forehead, but Harry moved his head so that his lips hovered inches from Harry's own. "No, Harry, we can't kiss yet. You are my Chosen, our first kiss will be a sacred act and it cannot happen until we are bonded."

Harry seemed disappointed. "It's not that I don't want to, Harry. I can assure you," he whispered to Harry's mouth and then moved his head so that he could press a chaste peck on Harry's cheek. "Now, sleep," said Severus as he squeezed Harry's hand.

He was still holding it the next morning when Poppy came in to wake him.

TBC




Chapter 16: Secret Corners
Part Sixteen

Just like a child again
Heaven can wait
And all I got is time until the end of time
I won't look back, I won't look back


From Heaven Can Wait by Meat Loaf/Jim Steinman



Harry retched into the shallow silver basin the nurse held out for him, Severus was beside him, keeping his hair away from his face. Since he'd barely eaten a thing that day, it was mostly dry heaves, but he felt awful. The side effects to his chemotherapy were far from pleasant, but today was the last course. In a day or two, Dr. Jacobs was going to perform the transplant, harvesting Severus' marrow to give to Harry.

The only good thing was that Severus had been with him every day for the past few weeks, Professor Flitwick had taken over his classes for the time being and neither of them knew how soon they'd be back at Hogwarts. Severus was the one who helped him to the bathroom when the nurses won't quick enough, the chemo was causing Harry to void from both ends and he just hoped it would all stop soon. He felt as if he'd been twisted inside out and hadn't quite been put back together again properly.

The nurses, the doctors, even Severus when he came were always dressed in gowns over their clothes and in face masks, the first few times Harry freaked out a bit when he couldn't see anyone's face, it reminded him too much of the Death Eaters and it was only when Severus could hold him that he calmed down enough to let the hospital staff do their work.

The nurse checked his drip, before writing something on the chart hanging over the bottom of his bed. "Goodnight, Harry, Severus," said the nurse. "Just ring if you need anything."

"Okay, Jane," said Harry, leaning back against his pillows. Once she was gone, Severus poured him a glass of water from the jug on the table. Harry took a small sip, wary of his upset stomach, he just hoped he would be able to keep this down. "Thanks, Severus."

"You're welcome, Harry," Severus' eyes crinkled, Harry couldn't see his mouth through the mask, but he guessed he was smiling underneath it. Severus accio'd a cold, damp flannel from the bathroom. He pressed it to Harry's forehead and Harry relished in the attention, in the comfort. When he was growing up, he'd never been offered comfort if he was sick or in pain, and most of the times they were the ones who caused the pain in the first place. "How are you feeling now?"

"Much better, thanks. Thank God this is the last day of chemo. I don't think I could stand much more of this." Harry sank back against his pillows and returned the glass to the bedside cabinet. "Has there been any news?" he asked, as he'd asked every day. It wouldn't do for them to have the wizarding newspapers in the middle of a Muggle hospital, but Severus always firecalled Molly every day to let them know how Harry was getting on. Harry wasn't allowed any other visitors besides Severus as he was prone to infections, but Dr. Jacobs had relented and made an exception for Severus.

So far, they'd heard about all of the Death Eaters being sent to Azkaban, Harry hadn't been needed as a witness in the trial, as the remaining staff at Hogwarts and the members of the DA had told the Aurors what had happened in that final battle. No Aurors had yet sought Harry out to ask him about how he destroyed Voldemort, Harry wasn't sure how he could explain it. Severus had already told them what Harry had done and had threatened them with hexes if they were ever to discuss it with Harry again. As far as Severus was concerned, it was over, it was done and Harry didn't need to have it dragged up time and time again.

"Fudge and Umbridge attempted to escape from Azkaban," replied Severus.

"Attempted? You mean they failed?"

"I suppose you could say that. They're dead."

"Dead? How? Did the Dementors Kiss them?"

"No, Umbridge could control the Dementors, that's how they escaped the fortress and mad their way to the beach on the island. Once there, they discovered a lone Hippogriff and thought they'd found their means of escape. Of course, neither of them knew the first things about Hippogriffs. Fudge demanded imperiously that they be brought back to the mainland at once. Umbridge was ranting about half-breeds and such."

"You never insult a Hippogriff!" gasped Harry, remembering his lessons with Hagrid only too well.

"Quite, but they thought they were saved. The Hippogriff allowed them to climb onto its back, but once up in the air, it threw both of them off and they were crushed against the rocks. Or at least that's what all the other prisoners are saying, the ones who haven't gone mad yet."

"Was it Buckbeak?" asked Harry.

"That's a distinct possibility, but no-one really knows for sure."

"Severus, do you know what the Rite of Shenkar is? That's what they said they wanted me for."

"You're tired, Harry. You should get some rest," replied Severus, avoiding the subject, but Harry wouldn't be dissuaded so easily.

"Please tell me, Severus, please."

"It is not pleasant, Harry. It will give you nightmares." Severus sighed but he made no move to leave, so despite his protestations, Harry knew that the man was in fact going to tell him. "Shenkar was a Dark Wizard from ancient Babylon. He mistakenly believed, as did his followers that by raping and murdering virgins they would increase their magical power. Sex magic is very powerful, but only if it is between consenting parties. He used Dark blood magic and rape, but it never did to a thing to increase his powers. He just thought he needed more victims, so he massacred whole towns of their children, boy and girls both." Severus shuddered and Harry wondered if he really wanted to hear any more.

"Two people were required to perform the Ritual, a man and a woman. The man committed the rape and at the moment of his orgasm, the victim's throat was slit by the woman."

"God, that's terrible!" Harry's hands pressed on his neck, as if he just needed to make sure that his head was actually still attached to his body. "But why keep doing it if it didn't increase their powers?"

"It increased people's fear of him and his followers and by that stage they were so addicted to the Dark magic that they couldn't stop, but eventually the Ritual fell out of use. Voldemort revived it during his previous reign of terror, promising his followers untold powers if they raped and murdered the Muggle virgins."

"So what did the Ritual achieve, if it didn't increase their powers?"

"Nothing, Harry. That's what was so awful. It was just done for the violence of it. Voldemort was just interested in watching the Muggles suffer."

"And - and they wanted to do that to me?" Harry's breath began to hitch and he took a few deep breaths to try and calm himself down, feeling very relieved that Fudge and Umbridge were dead. He thought that perhaps he should have felt sorry for them, to have died like that, but he didn't.

"Harry, Fudge and Umbridge are dead. You don't have to worry about them anymore. Right now, you need to get some rest." Severus stood up, getting ready to leave. He had his own room down the hall, the hospital was very good about allowing relatives and friends to stay over, but that suddenly seemed much too far away for Harry. His stomach ached again at just the thought of Severus leaving him.

"Severus, has the bond started yet?" he asked.

"What do you mean, Harry?"

"I hurt when you go away. My tummy aches, I thought at first it was a side effect from the drugs, but it only happens when you leave me and it gets better when you're here."

"Oh, Harry. I'm sorry, I hadn't realised it would start this soon. It's because I called you my Chosen, that's why the bond has started already, even before the physical aspects have occurred. It will get stronger once you have the transplant. You feel better when I'm here?" Severus asked. Harry nodded. "Then perhaps I should stay with you?"

"Is that allowed?"

"I can't see why not. I will just have to tell Dr. Jacobs that you required comfort from me. He already knows we are - involved."

"Does he?" Harry wondered at Severus' choice of words. Could they be involved when they hadn't actually done anything yet? Not that he was keen to rush into the more physical side of things yet anyway, but it just seemed an odd choice of word when they hadn't even so much as shared an intimate kiss yet.

Severus nodded as he undressed down to his undershirt, removing the gown and mask, but he kept his trousers on as he climbed onto the bed beside Harry, on top of the covers. The bed was small and it took a bit of jiggling before they found a spot that wouldn't pull Harry's drip out of his arm, nor would have Severus falling onto the floor. They settled with Harry lying on his right side, Severus curled up behind him, resting his head on Harry's shoulder.

It felt so strange to have someone in bed with him, to feel little puffs of air against his neck and shoulder as Severus breathed in and out. Strange but safe.

"I'll always keep you safe, Harry. I promise," said Severus, kissing his ear.

"Was that the bond? Could you read my mind then?"

"A bit, more of a sense of what you were feeling, rather than what you were thinking."

"Can you feel I'm scared, Severus? It sounds like it's going to hurt. They put the marrow in through a tube in my chest."

"You'll probably be given a local anaesthetic, Harry, so you shouldn't really be in any pain during the procedure itself."

"What about you? Are you scared, Severus?"

Severus was quiet for a while before he finally spoke. "A little," he admitted. "Harry, it's late and you need your sleep. Sleep, Harry." Severus kissed the back of his neck.

Hearing the man's soft breath in the room and the steady heartbeat against his back, Harry found himself drifting off and for the first time in months he slept without nightmares or the aid of potions.


TBC





Chapter 17: Secret Corners
Part Seventeen

Here tonight
I lie awake and watch you dream
Under the light of the moon
I wonder just how far we've been
And where we'll be
When the sun comes up
Will this be our date with destiny


From Waiting For Our Time by Styx


As soon as Severus stepped out of the Floo at the Burrow, Molly Weasley dropped a pie dish and clasped her hand over her mouth. "Harry!" she shrieked before Severus even opened his mouth.

"No, Molly, no. Harry is fine. He's resting at the minute." Harry was indeed fine, in fact he'd taken to the transplant so well that Dr. Jacobs felt he could go home in a few days, but recommended that he not go back to school until September as his immunity still wouldn't be back to normal for a few more months. "I wanted to have a word with you and Arthur."

"Why don't you stay for dinner, Severus? Arthur shouldn't be too long now," said Molly, glancing at the clock where it showed Arthur's hand at 'travelling'.

"Thank you for the offer, Molly, but I can't. I have to get back to Harry. He gets upset if I'm not there when he wakes up." That was the understatement of the century. Harry was in almost constant pain due to the bond if Severus wasn't with him. The only reason he was able to visit the Burrow now was because Dr. Jacobs had just given Harry a very strong sleeping pill and he would be out for a few hours at least.

In the month since his transplant, Harry had been getting better from the cancer, in his last round of tests, Dr. Jacob said his body seemed as healthy as if he'd never had the disease in the first place. Dr. Jacobs was surprised how quickly he'd recovered from his leukaemia.

The bond was another matter. Harry was such a powerful wizard that his system was working even faster than expected, the reason his cancer had spread so quickly was the same reason he was recovering quickly as well. Because of this, the bond too was progressing faster than Severus had expected and unless Harry was in close proximity to Severus, he was in pain. Dr. Jacobs was attributing it to side effects from the chemotherapy or perhaps the transplant itself. Severus wasn't quite sure how he was going to explain a wizard's bond to the Muggle.

"He is all right, isn't he, Severus?" asked Molly. "I wish we could see him!"

"You'll be seeing him soon, Molly. Dr. Jacobs thinks he'll be ready to go home at the weekend."

"Oh, Severus! That's wonderful!"

There was a loud 'pop' as Arthur Apparated into the kitchen. He kissed Molly on the cheek before greeting Severus and asking about Harry.

"He's doing very well, Arthur. The doctor is really pleased with his progress and thinks he can come home soon. It was about Harry that I wanted to see you both."

"Sit down," said Arthur, taking a seat by the table himself. Severus followed suit, but Molly hovered by the fireplace.

"It's a few more months until Harry is of age, so I wanted to ask your permission as Harry's guardians to marry him."

"Marry him?" gasped Molly, sinking into a chair. "He's a bit young, isn't he?"

"You've already bonded, haven't you?" asked Arthur.

Severus nodded.

"Bonded? You don't mean you've slept with him already?" demanded Molly.

"Good grief, no. It's because of the transplant, the blood and marrow we now share. The bond is working faster with Harry, he needs to be with me or he's in pain. Not for sex, Molly, I hasten to add. Just being in the same room, or having a hug eases him. This is not about sex."

He didn't elaborate that soon it would be, the bond wouldn't settle until that happened, as Molly and Arthur both knew.

"Have you spoken to Harry about this?" asked Arthur.

"No, not yet. I wanted to have both your permission first. Let me assure you that just because we get married does not mean I am going to be pushing Harry into anything he is not ready for yet. We've already discussed this when I told Harry about the bond being formed when he had his transplant. Sex can wait, but the fact still remains that we have to be in close contact with one another and a legal bonding is one way we can achieve that without complaints from anyone."

"Well, if Harry had no objections, it's fine by me. Arthur?"

"I agree. Have you thought about when you'd want the ceremony?"

"I was hoping this weekend when Harry gets out of hospital and I was hoping you'd be able to perform the ceremony, Arthur."

"I'd be honoured, Severus." Arthur had recently become the Minister of Records, after Amelia Bones the new Minister of Magic had promoted him.

"It's very short notice," sighed Molly. "But I'm sure I could rustle up a cake and things. Have you thought of guests at all?"

"Very low key," said Severus. "Harry won't want anything too big. I thought your family of course, perhaps some of the staff and students from Hogwarts, any friends Harry would like to invite."

"What about your family, Severus?"

"Harry is my family."

***

Severus hadn't been there when Harry woke up, he knew it even before he opened his eyes as he could feel the migraine building right behind his left eye. There was no point in buzzing the nurses for a painkiller as it wouldn't work. There was only one cure for this type of headache, but unfortunately Severus was nowhere in evidence at the moment.

Harry sat up, put on his glasses and tried to read one of his books, but his head was too sore to concentrate on the words. They were just a fuzzy black blur. He lay back down against his pillows and closed his eyes against the pain.

He heard the door to his room opening softly, as if someone didn't want to disturb him.

"I'm awake," said Harry, squinting his eyes open and rubbing the side of his head.

"Headache?" guessed Severus, Harry nodded and soon he was wrapped up in a warm embrace. His headache gradually eased the longer Severus held him and Harry was wary of letting him go in case it came back. "I've got a surprise for you," said Severus, fumbling one handed in his pocket, but not letting Harry go.

He brought out a small green velvet box and handed it to Harry. "Harry, would you do me the honour of becoming my bond-mate?"

Harry gaped at him. "But I thought we were bonded?"

"Physically and magically, yes, but this would make it official so that no-one could separate us."

"They can still separate us? Even though we are bonded already?"

"If we don't have an official ceremony, yes. We'll be married, Harry. Do you want that?"

It took a while before Harry could answer. Married people were usually expected to do certain things, sex things and if truth be told he was still worried about that aspect of their life together. He loved Severus, he knew that, but he was scared of intimacy too.

"We - I - we don't have to have sex yet, do we?"

"I promised, Harry. Nothing until you're ready. I'm not going to be pushing you into anything you don't want. This bonding is so that we will be able to spend time together without anyone being able to interfere. I do think however that we will need to discuss some things, about what happened to you, Harry. I don't want to pry, but I think it will help if you can talk about it."

"I think you're right, Severus. But not for a while, okay?"

"Okay, whenever you're ready to talk, Harry, I'll be ready to listen."

"Thank you, Severus," smiled Harry. "I would love to become your bond-mate. When do you want to get married?"

"Is this weekend too soon?" Severus pushed a lock of hair away from Harry's forehead. "I feel like I want to be with you all the time."

"It sounds fine. Do we have to go to the Ministry for the ceremony?"

"No, Arthur's agreed to do it at the Burrow, I thought you'd want it there, near your family."

"Oh, Severus, thank you! You know I would."

Severus hugged him. "Now open your ring."

Harry opened the lid and removed the plain gold band, which had an engraved inscription Amor vincit omnia

"What does it mean?" Harry asked, struggling with the Latin.

"Love conquers all."


TBC


Chapter 18: Secret Corners
Part Eighteen

How long before I get in?
Before it starts, before I begin?
How long before you decide?
Before I know what it feels like?


From The Speed of Sound by Coldplay


Harry hardly recognised the Burrow when he and Severus arrived there on the Friday evening. A marquee covered most of the lawn and every tree in the orchard had been hung with garlands of wildflowers and shimmering lanterns. Molly had certainly done her best to have it decorated for their wedding and bonding ceremony and Harry clutched at Severus' hand even more.

He and Severus were ushered inside for a welcome home dinner, it had been such a long time since Harry had eaten a home cooked meal that he could barely stop crying enough to eat it. Molly just smiled and patted his hand. Roast chicken, baked potatoes and a rich chocolate gateaux for dessert. All the Weasleys except for Ginny were there, Ginny had detention and couldn't come along until the morning. Hermione was already here, the rest of the guests would arrive for the wedding tomorrow.

"It's so great to see you, Harry," grinned Hermione. "We were so worried, weren't we, Ron?"

Ron mumbled something round a mouthful of dessert, Harry didn't really need to know the words. He just knew that from now on everything was going to be fine. "Harry, why don't you go and catch up with your friends?" suggested Severus when Molly brought in the coffees.

"But I'll see you later, right?"

"Of course."

"Make sure it's before midnight," scolded Molly. "You can't see Harry on the day of the wedding before the ceremony, it's bad luck."

"I think we've had all our bad luck already," said Harry. "But I'll chase him away before then, can't have him see me turn into a pumpkin, now can I?"

Everyone at the table except Hermione looked baffled at Harry's reference to a Muggle fairy tale and he just grinned at Severus, before giving him a peck on the cheek, to amused glances all round. Severus Snape blushing was a sight to behold. Harry got up, followed by Ron, Hermione and the twins who all made their way up to Ron's room.

Fred conjured some bean bags which filled the small space, Ron and the twins sank into them, while Harry and Hermione sat on the bottom bunk. "Married to Snape!" giggled George. "Rather you than me, mate."

"Harry, you don't think, well you don't think that you might be rushing things a bit, do you?" asked Hermione. "You haven't even left school yet."

"I love him, he loves me, so why wait?" Harry hadn't told anyone about the bond, in his mind it was no-one else's business, but he and Severus both knew that they needed to be together, whether in love or not. It helped that they were.

"There's bound to be talk."

"So what, Hermione? There's always talk about me. I don't care anymore what people say or what rubbish they print in the Daily Prophet. I know what's really going on, that's what's important, not what other people think."

"Yeah," said Fred. "Dad found Rita Skeeter skulking in the garden earlier, he sent the Aurors after her for trespassing on private property. She'll be in the holding cells at the Ministry until the wedding's over."

"Serves her right," added Ron. "Sneaking about like that."

"Are you going back to school after the wedding, Harry?" asked Hermione.

"I'll be going back to Hogwarts, but I won't be back at class until September. In the summer, Severus is going to take me to Snape Manor. The teachers are going to tutor me in the evenings so I can catch up and start my seventh year at the same level as everyone else."

"That's great, if you need any help with notes or anything, just ask."

"Thanks, Hermione.

"Will you be moving back to the dorms?" asked Ron.

"No, I'll be sharing quarters with Severus."

Hermione didn't say anything but she looked as if she was dying to.

"He won't be teaching me any more, Hermione, if that's what you're worried about. Madam Pomfrey will be taking me for Potions and the exams are marked by people at the Ministry anyway, so there isn't really anything unethical about it."

"But you'll have your own Potions tutor," said Hermione with a pout, as if she too wanted to have her own Potions tutor.

"Hey," said Fred. "It's the night before Harry gets hitched, we shouldn't be talking about school, we should be having fun, your last night of freedom and all that. I can conjure up some butterbeer or something."

"Sorry, Fred. I can't, I still have pills to take."

Someone knocked on the door and Severus popped his head round. Snape did not seem at all comfortable in amongst so may Weasleys and he hovered by the door as if unsure of his welcome.

"I just wanted to say goodnight," said Severus.

"Come in, Professor," said George. "We were just leaving."

"There's no need to leave on my account."

"No, we were going anyway. Goodnight, Harry," said Fred. "We'll see you tomorrow."

George and Hermione followed Fred out after bidding him goodnight, Ron would be coming back later, but he left Harry and Severus alone for now.

Severus eyed the beanbags with some distaste and picked his way over to the bunk beds and stood beside Harry. Harry patted the bed beside him, Severus sat down, but as he was a lot taller than Hermione or Harry, he banged his head on the upper bunk and groaned. Harry couldn't stop the giggle. "S- sorry," he gasped between laughs. "Did that hurt?"

"Just my pride. How are you feeling, Harry?"

"I'm fine, I think the bond isn't playing up as we spent so much time together today."

"Are you nervous about the bonding ceremony? Do you have any questions about it?"

"No, I don't think so. We studied bonding ceremonies in History of Magic, I think I know what we have to do."

"You paid attention in History of Magic?" Severus arched an eyebrow at him.

"Why is it no-one ever thinks I study?" pouted Harry and now it was Severus' turn to giggle.

"You're so adorable when you pout, Harry. But it's after eleven and Molly will have my hide if I mess with traditions."

Harry glanced up at him as Severus glanced down. Their faces were almost touching. Harry's heart beat a frantic rhythm against his chest. He wanted to be kissed and he sighed, knowing that they weren't supposed to yet. He turned his face away, but was surprised when Severus cupped Harry's face in his hands and held him steady, his dark eyes smouldering.

"May I?" asked Severus and Harry could only nod, words were beyond him at this point. Severus closed the distance between them and pressed his lips softly against Harry's. At least, it was soft at worse but as time went on, gradually the kiss was firmer and Harry sank into the man's mouth like falling into quicksand. He didn't want it to stop. Their first kiss was everything he'd ever imagined and when Severus' tongue licked across his lips, Harry opened his mouth and pressed his tongue against his soon to be husband's.

Severus wrapped his arms around Harry's waist and pulled him closer to his body, as close as the two of them could get without sharing the same skin. Harry's arms sought out Severus' neck and he trailed his fingers in Severus' hair. They were both kissing frantically now, as if their mouths were air and they were breathing hard, sounding so loud in the room. Someone moaned, Harry wasn't sure who it was, but the sound sent a shiver of arousal down his spine and he edged even closer to Severus, feeling his prick harden against Severus' leg.

Harry pulled away from their kiss, he didn't want to go any further tonight. Severus seemed to understand. He caressed Harry's cheek and pressed a soft kiss on his forehead. "Goodnight, Harry," said Severus.

"Goodnight," said Harry and as soon as Severus left he lay back down on the bed with a sigh. He was getting married to Severus tomorrow and there wasn't anything in the world he'd rather do.

***

The ceremony itself would take place in the orchard, right beneath a pear tree. (Severus had discovered that although Harry loved pumpkin juice, his favourite fruit was actually pears so Severus thought it would be a suitable site.)

Most of the guests had already assembled and were standing around while they waited for Harry to arrive. Severus was wearing traditional garb, consisting of wide legged silk trousers, a tunic of the same material and an over robe; everything in a shade of pale blue. Harry's outfit would be similar but in a different colour.

Arthur kept winking at him so much that Severus finally had to give in and ask the man if he was all right. He stopped winking every five minutes after that. Severus was so nervous, he'd never been married before and he just hoped they were doing the right thing. The Daily Prophet had already printed stories about how he was taking advantage of Harry, that he was nothing more than a child molester, but everyone had hidden the papers away from Harry so that he wouldn't see what terrible things were being said.

Most of Gryffindor House was at the wedding, including Minerva McGonagall, who was already crying into a tartan handkerchief and the wedding hadn't even started yet. Dumbledore was there too, he was Severus' best man as Ron would be Harry's and he squeezed Severus' shoulder as if in reassurance.

There was a loud mumbling from the crowd and Severus knew that it meant Harry had arrived. It was with an effort of will that he managed to avoid looking round until Harry was beside him. Harry was indeed wearing an almost identical wedding outfit to Severus, but whereas Severus' ensemble was blue, Harry's was white. All of it was white. He looked like an angel and Severus could not believe that this fey creature was about to marry him.

"Severus, do you take Harry unto you to be your lawful wedded companion in this world and all worlds? Do you take him and only him, forsaking all others? Do you accept his past, his present and his future? Do you accept his magic, his spirit and his life?" asked Arthur.

"I do," he replied, his eyes never leaving Harry.

"And you, Harry. Do you take Severus unto you to be your lawful wedded companion in this world and all worlds? Do you take him and only him, forsaking all others? Do you accept his past, his present and his future? Do you accept his magic, his spirit and his life?"

"I do," said Harry, a few tears sliding from beneath his glasses.

"By the powers granted to me from the Ministry of Magic, I pronounce you both bonded. You are bound by magic and spirit and cannot now be unbound. Congratulations," smiled Arthur just as a great cheer went up from the crowd. "You may kiss your husband."

Severus glanced at Arthur, then at the assembled crowd and then at Harry's eager face. He was so glad that they'd had their first kiss the night before when they were alone. Severus shrugged, they were married now, no-one could stop them from kissing. Harry stepped closer to him, Severus clasped the young man in his arms and tilted Harry backwards, before kissing him breathless. There was an even louder cheer and even a few catcalls. When he finished kissing Harry, his new husband looked rather dazed an Severus had to support him all the way to the marquee and the wedding feast.

They stopped at the entrance to the marquee, Harry was swaying a little on his feet.

"Ready to face the world as a married man, Harry?" Severus asked him.

"I am, Severus, I am."



TBC



Chapter 19: Secret Corners
Part Nineteen

It's a one time thing
It just happens
A lot
Walk with me
And we will see
What we have got


From Cracking by Suzanne Vega



It was after midnight before the wedding broke up and Severus Apparated them both back to the edge of Hogwarts. Harry was almost asleep on his feet and Severus had to hold him up as they made their way down to the dungeons, to their shared quarters. He was married. He was married to Severus. Harry grinned to himself as Severus led them through the Potions office and to the door at the other end. "Press your hands against the door, Harry, so that you're keyed to the wards."

Harry obeyed and the door swung open at his touch. He followed Severus in, yawning just as Severus turned round.

"Time for bed," said Severus. "The bedroom is through there," he pointed to an open door in the middle of three. "The bathroom is to the left and the kitchen is to the right."

Harry started walking towards the bedroom and it was a few moments before he realised that Severus wasn't following him. "Severus? Aren't you coming to bed?"

"There's only one bed, Harry. I was going to sleep on the sofa, I did not want to presume..."

Harry could hardly believe how much of a gentleman Severus was being about things, but the fact remained that they needed to be physically close for the bond and he could not imagine a nicer way to spend his wedding night than wrapped up in the arms of the man he loved, whether or not they actually had sex.

"I would like us to share, Severus, even if we only sleep. If that's okay with you?"

Severus smiled at him, a real smile as he took two strides and scooped Harry up in his arms, twirling him around the room. Harry giggled and held on tight to Severus' neck as his husband carried him over the threshold to the bedroom, their bedroom. Severus lay him down on the bed and kissed him briefly, before standing up to undress. Harry looked away, blushing slightly.

"Harry, you can look if you want, I don't mind." Severus paused on the top button of his robe.

Harry scooted up on the bed so that he was leaning back against the pillows and the headboard, unsure whether he wanted to watch Severus disrobe or not. He had to admit if even only to himself that he was curious as to what the man looked like beneath his clothes.

"Your robes were white, Harry. Was that intentional? Do you know what it symbolises in a wizarding wedding?"

"Innocence. Purity. Virginity. Technically, I'm still a virgin," said Harry.

"Technically?" queried Severus, shedding his outer robe and beginning to undo the buttons on his tunic.

"I - I was never raped," said Harry. "The Dursleys did other things to me." He hung his head, ashamed of what they'd done, what they'd made him do and he wrapped his arms around himself, comforting himself in the only way he'd been able to do for so long. But this time, another set of arms wrapped themselves around him and he was settled back against a firm chest.

"Do you want to tell me, Harry?" Severus asked softly, pressing his lips to Harry's hair.

"It's so awful, Severus. I don't know if I can. You'll hate me for what I let them do to me."

"I love you, Harry, no matter what you tell me I will never hate you. Second, you were abused by people who were supposed to care for you, you did not let them do anything to you. Nothing they did to you was your fault. When did they start abusing you?" Severus asked then and Harry was glad that the man had started with a question, it might be easier to talk about that way.

"The first time I remember being hit, I was about four. Dudley was playing in the garden, it had been raining and there was mud everywhere. We were both covered in mud and when Dudley went into the house, Aunt Petunia smiled at him and said he needed a bath. I thought I was going to get a bath too and I started following them up the stairs. Vernon grabbed my ankles and pulled me back down. Where do you think you're going, boy? Getting mud all over my Petunia's clean carpets! He thrashed me with his belt then and shoved me in the cupboard. I didn't understand, Dudley had made a mess too, but no-one ever hit him."

"Harry, how often did they put you in that cupboard for punishments?"

Harry turned his head round so that he was looking at Severus and then realised that perhaps the man didn't know. "Didn't Professor Dumbledore tell you?"

"Tell me what, Harry?"

"The cupboard wasn't a punishment, that's where I lived. It was my bedroom for want of a better word, but there was only room for a small cot, not even a proper bed." Harry turned back round so that he was facing away from his husband. Harry's breath hitched. Talking about this was more difficult than he expected.

"But you were locked in, I saw in some of your memories when we had Occlumency."

"Yes, I was always locked in if I wasn't doing chores or they weren't... They moved me into Dudley's second bedroom when I got my Hogwarts letter, but I was locked in there too."

"What did they do to you, Harry? Were you one of the boys in the photographs that the police found in the studio?"

Harry felt himself shake as the memories crowded round his head. "Yes," his voice was barely more than a whisper. Severus wrapped his arms even tighter around him and whispered in his hair. "It's all right, you don't have to tell me if you don't want."

"I do want to, Severus. It's just so hard." Harry took a deep breath and began his tale. "It started when I was six, Aunt Petunia would bring me up to the studio and she and Vernon would take pictures of me in my underwear, normally it was after I'd been in bed for while and I was half-asleep, I didn't really understand what was going on and just stood there while they took picture after picture. I'm sure in some of them I was even asleep, but I never saw the pictures. I - I was eight when they started to photograph me in the nude, I didn't want to do it, I was begging and crying for them to stop, but they just ignored me and when I tried to run out of the room, Vernon would beat me with his belt until I was too sore to do anything about it." Harry shuddered, feeling the tears drip down beneath his glasses, feeling like that vulnerable child all over again.

"They conditioned you not to run," said Severus. "Punishment if you ran and treats if you stayed?"

"Yes, they would give me food if I didn't run away from them, it was the only time I ever ate, they never fed me otherwise."

"And how often did they take these photos?" Harry heard the unspoken question there, how often did you eat?

"O-once or twice a week," Harry admitted.

"What? They starved you for the rest of the time?" Severus body tensed behind him. "God, Harry, I'm so glad they're already dead for what they did to you. That wasn't all they did, though was it, Harry?" he asked gently.

"No, a few months after they started taking the nude pictures, Vernon would strip and he would make me hold him, hold him there while Petunia took the photographs of me holding his prick. I was sick afterwards, and they didn't give me any food that time. I wanted to run away from them, but I was so weak from hunger and doing all my chores that I could barely manage to put one foot in front of the other never mind try and go somewhere else. I didn't want them to do it, Severus, I didn't." Harry was sobbing now, he turned over and pressed his face against Severus' tunic, staining the silk with his tears, but Severus didn't seem to mind.

He stroked Harry's hair and rocked him, whispering soothing words in his ear. Harry wasn't sure what they were, but they calmed him anyway and he looked up in Severus' dark eyes. There was no censure in them, no blame, just empathy and concern at what Harry had gone through. "Harry, there's more, isn't there?" Severus asked softly when Harry's sobs had eased. Harry nodded against his chest, he knew Severus had seen the aftermath of what had happened, if not the actual event itself, in Harry's memories.

"It was Petunia who did it, not Vernon," said Harry, his voice steadier than he expected. "Vernon took the pictures that day. I think I was about ten, it was before I got my Hogwarts letter anyway. When she took me up to the studio, my old cot from the cupboard was there and she made me lie down on it face down. Then she - then she tied me to it to make sure I couldn't run away. I still don't know what it was, I couldn't see behind me. I - I just felt a great tearing pain, she was shoving something in me, inside me, back there and I screamed and cried trying to get away. The two of them just kept laughing at my pain and the whole time the camera was whirring away as Vernon took the photos." Harry shuddered as he remembered that day, the pain, the humiliation, his uncle's words.

Shove it in further, Petunia, he can take it. Can't you, boy? You like have something shoved up your arse, don't you?

No, Harry hadn't. All he felt was pain and it wasn't stopping, he felt as if it would never stop. His whole backside was throbbing as Petunia had shoved whatever it was in and out of him as violently as she could. The memory Severus had seen, that was a few hours later, when Harry had been in the bathroom throwing up and trying to stop the blood with toilet paper.

"I always thought it was Vernon who'd done that to you," said Severus. "I thought he'd raped you, that I saw you in your memories afterwards."

"No, it was Petunia who did that to me. I think if she was a man she would have wanted to physically rape me if she could, this was her way of achieving it I suppose."

Harry felt better than he thought he would. Severus knew everything now, there were no more secrets and he felt as if he'd just removed a rather large weight from his body, one he wasn't even aware was there until it was gone.

"God, Harry. What they did to you and then selling you, appalled isn't a strong enough word. How did you cope without going mad?"

"I read lots of Dudley's books, he had lots of fairytales and they always had children who were being mistreated by their guardians but then someone would come and save them or they would somehow save themselves and I knew that some day I would no longer be trapped in that house, either I would find a way to escape or someone would rescue me. My prince finally came for me."

"Your prince?" growled Severus. "Who is he and do I know him?"

Harry smiled to himself at the man's possessive streak.

"Oh, Severus. Haven't you guessed? You're my prince."



TBC





Chapter 20: Secret Corners
Part Twenty

my body aches to breathe your breath
your words keep me alive
And I would be the one
to hold you down
kiss you so hard
I'll take your breath away


From Possession by Sarah McLachlan


Snape Manor was not a mansion, it was a palace, a place so large that Harry couldn't even see all of it on one go. He knew he was probably staring open-mouthed like some country bumpkin, but he couldn't help it. He had never seen anywhere so big before. Hogwarts seemed like a small cottage in comparison.

A gravel driveway was lined with oak trees and in front of the house, steps led down to a lawn dotted with shrubs and flowers. At the bottom of the sloped lawn was a woodland so dense that Harry could not see further than a few trees at the edge.

"Is this all yours?" asked Harry.

"We're married now, Harry. It's ours," Severus insisted. "Since I'm the last of the Snapes, everything came to me."

"You don't talk much about your family."

"What is there to say? I hated them, they hated me but they never left a will so I got everything. Poetic justice maybe."

Harry didn't push any further. He knew how horrible it was for people to keep pestering you to tell things you weren't ready to talk about. In the past few weeks since he returned to Hogwarts, the Daily Prophet had been very vocal in their condemnation of his and Severus' marriage. To add insult to injury, they'd even managed to dredge up the photos of Harry in the warehouse, intimating quite strongly that Severus was just as bad as the men who'd held him prisoner. Of course everyone wanted to talk about it with Harry but the only one he wanted to confide in was Severus. And confide he did.

Both of them talked a lot over those few weeks. Every night after Harry's tutoring was finished and Severus had finished his marking, they would retire to the sofa, where Severus would hold Harry on his lap. It was rapidly becoming one of Harry's favourite positions. Sitting down there wasn't such disparity in their height and Harry could either rest his head against Severus' shoulder or chest as his husband stroked his back and listened to Harry's tales of the Dursleys and how awful he still sometimes felt about it.

"Harry?" his husband's voice brought him out of his reverie.

"Sorry, I was miles away. I keep thinking of those bloody articles, they shouldn't be allowed to get away with it!"

"They won't," said Severus, smirking a little.

"What have you done?" asked Harry, wondering if Severus had sent Rita Skeeter a poisonous potion or something.

"Oh, not me, Harry. It was Arthur. As your legal guardian and the Minister of Records he is in the perfect position to know that our wedding and bonding was perfectly legal and has sued the paper for libel, as the paper's accusations are unfounded."

"Blatant lies more like," said Harry.

"Which is why as of this week Rita Skeeter is no longer in their employ and the paper has to get everything checked by the Ministry before they print a word. They're making a fuss about censorship, but they'll do it otherwise they'll have to close down altogether."

"Good," said Harry. "I hate that they printed all those things about you."

"Even if it was true?" Severus asked softly.

"For God's sake, Severus! You aren't a child molester!"

"I'm married to a sixteen year old, some people would consider that highly inappropriate."

"Then those people don't know you. The Dursleys were child abusers, Severus and people who bought children from that warehouse, you are nothing like that. And I know that if it hadn't been for my leukaemia and the bond, you would have waited before marrying me. The fact still remains that we would have bonded eventually, Severus. You know it as well as I do. Call it destiny, the stars or whatever, but we were meant to be together and I do not want to hear another word about you molesting me or taking advantage of me. You haven't and you never will. I'm not a scared child locked in a cupboard anymore Severus, if you ever do something I don't like or want I will tell you and I know you'll stop. I know you and I know that one day we are going to have to consummate the bond and I also know that one day I am going to be ready, Severus."

"Harry," said Severus hoarsely. "What did I do to deserve you?" He bent down and scooped Harry in his arms and carried him up the steps and over the threshold of their new home.

***

Even though there were over a hundred bedrooms in the Manor, Harry and Severus shared the master bedroom suite from their first night there. The ensuite bathroom had a large tub almost as large as the Prefects' bath and each night, they took a bath together, just getting used to being naked with each other without doing anything else. They washed each other slowly and as Severus wasn't brewing potions all day, Harry got to see his husband's hair in its natural state. It had a slight curl to it and every night Harry washed the man's hair by kneeling up in the tub and lathering up the beautiful curls. Severus would return the favour and then they would cuddle up in front of the fireplace in the smallest drawing room wrapped up in fluffy bathrobes and each other's arms.

They spent a lot of time kissing that first week at the Manor, kisses that Harry didn't want to end. He never thought he would enjoy kissing after the wet slap of Cho's lips against his, but kissing Severus was miles better. There was always a little bit of stubble on Severus' face, Harry hadn't needed to start shaving yet, but he loved the feel of the bristles scratching against his cheek and even sometimes when they weren't kissing, he would press his cheek to his husband's just to feel it and Severus would smile indulgently at him and let him do it.

Severus showed him around the Manor, or at least the bits he remembered being there. It was a magical house and sometimes the rooms moved about a bit. One afternoon, Severus was reading in the library and Harry went to one of the bookshelves and took a book at random from one of the shelves. He wasn't really interested in reading it, he just liked watching Severus when he was reading and it was a good way of spending time together so that the bond was happy. They'd hardly been out of each other's sight since they arrived, besides bathroom breaks. Neither of them seemed to mind.

Harry settled down in an armchair and opened the book, not really intending to read it, but he was drawn in all the same. It was an art book. An Erotic art book. With lots of pictures. Moving pictures. There was no sound, but that didn't matter, it was the look of joy on the model's faces as they made love to each other than had Harry hooked.

He wanted to feel that joy with Severus and as he turned page after page, he felt himself becoming uncomfortably aroused, his cock pressing against the zip of his shorts. He glanced up, but Severus was totally engrossed in his own book and wasn't aware of Harry's flushed face or rapid breathing. Harry lifted the book off his lap and stalked over to Severus' chair, standing there for a while until Severus noticed and looked up at him.

"Harry? Wha--" he didn't get to finish the sentence, Harry straddled his husband's lap and proceeded to kiss him breathless, grinding his hips against Severus' stomach. A few moments later, Severus groaned and pressed his arms around Harry's back and Harry could feel an echoing hardness against his groin.

Kissing Severus was wonderful, kissing Severus while seated in his lap and having something solid to press against was even better. They were both breathing hard, Severus moved one hand around to the front of Harry's shorts and began to unzip him. He pulled away from their kiss enough to ask, "Is this okay?"

"Yes, God, Severus, yes! Please!" begged Harry, thrusting his hips, he couldn't seem to be able to sit still. He shifted just enough to allow Severus to undo his shorts, then Severus unbuttoned his own trousers and grasped both their erections in his fist and pumped them both to a frantic rhythm. It was fast, it was clumsy, but it was the sexiest thing Harry had ever felt. He wrapped his legs around the back of the chair, crossing his ankles and just allowing the feelings to overwhelm him.

Harry kissed Severus again, pushing his tongue into his husband's mouth. Severus moaned and Harry felt the vibrations in the very back of his throat as he pumped his hips faster and faster into Severus' hand. His kisses were getting clumsier the closer to climax they both came, but he wanted to be kissing Severus while he came. Harry pulled Severus hair, pressing the man's mouth firmly against his own as he felt the tingle start at the base of his cock and in his sac. A few more brutal kisses and he was there, his release spurting over Severus' hand, copious amounts of it and his whole body was trembling. Severus followed so closely behind him it was almost as the same time and Severus kept holding and squeezing their pricks until he had milked every last drop from them, kissing Harry all the while.

They kissed for a long time afterwards, not as frantically, but just enjoying the closeness of being held in each other's arms. It was only when the evidence of their passion was becoming uncomfortable rather than erotic that they pulled apart and Severus cast a cleaning charm over both of them. Harry didn't move from the chair, he snuggled up against Severus' chest.

"Harry? What brought that on?" asked Severus, stroking his hair. "Are you all right?"

Harry knew it probably did seem strange to his husband, after all they hadn't done anything other than kiss before and suddenly Harry had pounced on him like a man possessed.

"I'm okay, Severus. Did - did I do it wrong?"

"No, it was wonderful, but I was just a bit surprised."

"I - I was reading one of your art books," admitted Harry, glancing up and flushing at the confession. Was it bad etiquette to tell your husband that something else got you aroused?

"Oh," smiled Severus. "One of those books. I must admit to having a certain fondness for them myself."

"Did you mind?" asked Harry. "I mean, I could have gone and you know... I didn't have to bother you."

"Harry, it was no bother, I can assure you of that. I love you, I love that you can still find things that arouse you. It's natural and I think we can do more things like that if you like, making love doesn't have to be about penetration. I know that still scares you."

"It does," said Harry, so glad the man knew him so well and wouldn't push him into things he wasn't ready for yet.

"Did it scare you, Harry? What we did?"

"No. I - I knew you wouldn't go too far. It wasn't like with them."

"I should hope not," said Severus as the light gradually faded outside the windows. "Time for our bath, Harry?"

Harry's prick perked up at that thought and Severus chuckled as he felt Harry's erection pressing against him again.

"I think he wants to play again," said Harry, grinning.

"Well, we'll have to see what we can do," said Severus, standing up with Harry still wrapped in his arms and making his way to their bathroom.


TBC




Chapter 21: Secret Corners
Part Twenty One

There is a green hill far away
I’m going back there one fine day


From Glastonbury Song by The Waterboys

Harry woke up on the morning of his seventeenth birthday with an aching head and an empty bed. The two were connected, Severus' absence was causing the headache and he wondered why the man wasn't there. It was the first time Harry had woken up alone since their arrival at the Manor.

His wand was sitting on the bedside table, beside his glasses and an envelope. Harry put on his glasses and saw his name written in Severus' neat script. He slid his thumb underneath the flap and took out the paper within.

Happy Birthday was written on the top left corner and on the top right was Your First Clue, which seemed to suggest that there were more than one. Was it some sort of treasure hunt? Was that his birthday present? He would much rather have woken up curled next to Severus and maybe they could have spent the day finding out all the things Severus could teach him now that he was seventeen, for Severus had insisted that they wait until he was of legal age in the wizarding world before going any further than kissing and touching, despite Harry feeling quite ready for more for a wee while now. He knew it was probably be the bond making him feel like this, but he didn't care. He wanted it and since he was seventeen now, Severus might be more amenable too.

He read the clue again, wishing Hermione was with him. It was a riddle and he was never that bright at riddles. It took an hour before he finally figured it out.

My first is in apple but not in pear
My second you will find in my lair
For my third you can have a broom but not a stick
My fourth is sometimes found in rare
The fifth is in step and also in stare
My sixth letter is hidden in here
And my seventh can be found in your seventeenth year



Harry thought it indicated the library. He dressed quickly, just pulling on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. The house was very quiet, he couldn't sense Severus anywhere near and he was a little panicked, headache from the bond notwithstanding. Despite Severus' assurances that the property was well warded, Harry worried that the remaining Death Eaters would somehow find Severus. For some reason he thought no harm could come to the man while they were together.

He pushed open the library door, but there was no sign of his husband. Breakfast for one had been set out on the table and next to it was a chair, or rather the chair, the place where their physical relationship had really started. A small note was propped up on the milk jug.

After you finish breakfast, you will receive your next clue.

Since Harry was already hungry, it didn't take him long to finish the food. The letters on the parchment dissolved and other letters reappeared. Thankfully, this time it wasn't a riddle, but a list of books and page numbers.

Write down the first letter of each page from each book in order. Harry obeyed the instructions, it took almost as long as figuring out the riddle had but at the end of it he had his next clue, by reading out the words the letters formed.

Proceed to the south wing of the Manor. Open the fourth door on the right and your next clue will be on the bed.

Harry's headache throbbed a little, but he was curious too and made his way up the stairs to the south wing and opened the door he was supposed to. Sitting on the bed was a jigsaw puzzle. He'd never done a jigsaw puzzle in his life, but he was intrigued. There was no box, no picture to guess how it was supposed to look, so he sat down in the middle of the bed and began trying to fit the pieces together. He was a natural, either that or Severus had spelled it so it wouldn't be too difficult for him as he completed it in ten minutes.

It wasn't a picture, but a blank white space with black letters shimmering in the middle.

Find the room with no walls.

The room with no walls? What the hell was that supposed to mean? The garden? But there were walls in the garden. No, not the garden, what then. Think, Harry, think. Not the garden, but a place where there were plants, the conservatory. It was totally enclosed with glass, was that it? He hurried downstairs, so eager at puzzling everything out that his headache seemed to have vanished.

His next task was indeed in the conservatory, although these were a lot more fun than the Tri-Wizard Tournament. In order to get his next clue he had to gather three roses, two carnations and a pear leaf and set them on the ground. Once he'd done that, his next clue fluttered down from the ceiling.

Walk outside and wait by the front steps.

Intrigued, Harry did as he was bid and waited patiently for Severus to arrive. Only he didn't and it was an hour before Harry realised the next clue was sitting by the balustrade, that Severus wasn't going to be making it that easy. He wondered if the clue had been there all the time, or if he had to wait the hour before it appeared. He knew Severus loved to test his patience.

Follow the rose petals.

That was all the note said. "What rose petals?" Harry said out loud. There was a pop and a cluster of pale pink rose petals appeared in the air in front of him, twirling as if they were dancing in a breeze all of their own. They shifted, moving forwards all the time. Harry descended the steps and followed them to the edge of the woods.

Harry didn't know how long he followed the petals, but they led him deeper and deeper into the woods, to a part he'd never been in before. In a small glade, a water tumbled over rocks into a pool and above his head the trees made a green canopy, letting only brief glimpses on the sun filter through. Lying beside the pool was Severus, dressed only in a pair of black shorts, his chest and legs bare but for the sparse hair on his skin.

Harry edged closer and saw that Severus was sleeping, dappled sunlight giving his skin a strange green hue. "Severus?" he called to his husband, but Severus didn't wake. Another note fell from the sky, Harry caught it quickly and read the next instructions.

Miss Granger has been educating me on Muggle fairy tales, you know what to do.

Harry smiled as he clutched the note to his chest, he wondered if the man had actually spelled himself so he wouldn't wake until Harry did what all princes did in the fairy tales. He had to wake the sleeping beauty with true love's kiss. Not that a lot of other people would consider his husband beautiful, but he was beautiful to Harry. Kneeling down, Harry pressed a soft kiss to Severus' lips. It was a few moments before he felt the kiss being returned and his husband opened his eyes. Harry could feel the smile against his own mouth. Severus tugged Harry down so that he was lying flush against his husband. "Happy birthday, Harry," he said as he pulled away from their kiss. "Did you like your treasure hunt?"

"I loved it," grinned Harry. "That was the best present ever."

"Oh, that wasn't your present," said Severus, sitting up so that Harry ended up straddled across his lap, not that Harry was complaining about that. Severus accio'd quite a large parcel and it landed with a thud in the grass beside them.

"Severus, why is my birthday present wrapped in Christmas paper?" giggled Harry when he saw the holly and poinsettia decorating it.

"It was the only paper I could find with red and green together. Slytherin and Gryffindor."

"You romantic, you," said Harry, kissing his husband's nose. "What is it?"

"Open it and find out."

It took a while to actually break into the paper, Severus had Spellotaped it so well that it was difficult to get it undone but Harry managed it and was greeted with a slipcase filled with leather bound books. Seventeen of them in all and each one a fairy tale. "Fairy tales?" gasped Harry, hugging his husband.

"Illustrated first editions," Severus corrected him. "One for each year. It's not - it's not too childish, is it?"

"No, Severus. They're wonderful!" Harry peppered his husband's face with tiny kisses, his nose, his cheeks, his eyelids. He couldn't believe Severus had gone to all this trouble for his birthday "I love them, thank you!"

"Good," said Severus, kissing him hard. "Would you like to go for a swim before lunch?"

"I can't swim, at least not very well."

"I'll hold you up, I won't let you drown."

"I didn't think you would!" laughed Harry. "But I haven't brought any swimwear."

"You won't need it," said Severus with just the hint of a leer and Harry suddenly wanted to go swimming with his husband very much if the blood pooling in his groin was any indication.

"Okay then," Harry tugged off his t-shirt and threw it on the grass beside him. He stood up to removed his shorts and underwear, a little self-conscious about his body's responses to Severus but he was getting more used to it now and he smiled as he continued to disrobe, enjoying Severus' heated looks as he watched him. It wasn't long before Severus too stood and undressed, it didn't take him long as his shorts were the only things he was wearing.

Both of them stood for a minute or two, just staring at each other. Before Harry knew what had happened, Severus had scooped him up in his arms and jumped into the water, both of them making a very large splash. Severus lay Harry flat on his back, supporting him with his hands underneath him and Harry let himself relax in the water. Well most of him relaxed anyway. His prick stood out vertical to the rest of him and he knew he was flushing, despite the coolness of the water.

He could feel Severus' erection against his hip and knew that both of them were affected. It was bliss to be in the water like this, the water cooling heated skin, the feel of Severus' hands on him, the rush of the waterfall in his ears. "Let's go under the waterfall," suggested Harry as he tried to right himself, thinking of walking over, but instead Severus tugged him along and helped him to stand upright when they got closer.

They both ducked underneath the waterfall at the same time, it was like a very powerful shower and Harry felt all the breath left his body in a whoosh at the strength of the water pounding on him. Severus pulled him flush against him, then pulled on Harry's legs as the water streamed over both of them. Harry didn't realise at first what Severus wanted, but then he figured out that Severus wanted Harry to wrap his legs around Severus' waist. Harry wrapped his legs around his husband's waist, Severus turned and pushed Harry back against the wall and thrusted his hips against Harry. "Oh, God, Severus! Severus!" He screamed, his voice carried away by the rushing water as he was pounded by both the water and his enthusiastic husband. He'd never felt anything like it, the water pelting on them made everything seem that much more intense and Harry lifted his head so that he could be kissed.

Severus was pressing against him, crushing their cocks together and Harry tried his best to thrust back and they kissed, sloppily, frantically as if they couldn't kiss each other fast enough. "Ahh! Oh, God! Oh God!" yelled Harry as he tore his mouth away and felt the orgasm rip through him like the Hogwarts Express, spilling himself in ecstatic pulses over Severus’ abdomen. A few more thrusts and Severus did the same, screaming wordlessly and gripping Harry's waist hard enough to mark.

Severus was panting for breath, as was Harry. They leaned their foreheads against one another's, just trying to calm down. Severus' legs wobbled a bit and Harry unlocked his legs and stood up in the water, still keeping his arms wrapped around his husband, hoping that would be enough to stop the other man from falling.

"That was... intense," gasped Severus.

"It was," agreed Harry. "God, I feel a bit faint." Harry clutched at his husband as he waited for the dizziness to pass.

Severus kissed his forehead. "Okay, Harry? Let's get out and dry off. We don't want you catching a chill."

"No, Madam Pomfrey," said Harry with a giggle and was swatted on the arse for his trouble.

"I love you too," grinned Harry and ran out of the pool with Severus' laughter still ringing in his ears.


TBC




Chapter 22: Secret Corners
Part Twenty Two

You know, I wish this day could keep on going' and last forever
Please don't fool around with my happiness


From Forever by Fleetwood Mac



"Good birthday, Harry?" asked Severus later that night, when they were cuddled up in bed. They were both naked, another first for both of them. Normally they wore nightshirts or pyjamas, or if it was too hot, underwear only, but this was the first time they'd been completely naked. Harry loved it, the slight caress of Severus' body hair tickling his own smooth skin. He had a few hairs under his arms and on his groin, but the rest of Harry's body was very smooth. He wondered if it was a side effect from the chemo, but the hair on his head hadn't fallen out like Dr. Jacobs had warned it might, so maybe he was just naturally not going to very hairy.

Severus was stroking his back and the slow brush of his fingers was making him hard, it was slower than the arousal he felt at the pool, different but good too. Harry reached his hand down and grasped Severus' erection, stroking him as slowly as Severus was stroking his back. He moaned and swung one leg over Severus' thighs. "Severus," he panted, desire darting in every nerve in his body. Severus' hand moved lower, skating over his buttocks and Harry arched into the touch.

"Severus, I want you," whispered Harry. "I want you to be inside me."

Severus' hand stilled, gripping Harry's arse firmly. "Are you sure?" he asked, but as Harry looked up at him, he saw the flush on his husband's cheek and his eyes clouded with lust. Severus wanted this as much as Harry did.

"I'm sure," replied Harry, leaning up so he could give Severus a heated kiss. The kiss was more than that, it was a promise that he was indeed ready for this. His hips were thrusting almost of their own accord, he couldn't seem to keep still, enjoying the friction of rubbing against Severus and the back of his own hand. Severus tugged him even closer and Harry cried out. "Stop, or I'll come too soon," he begged and Severus stopped, kissing his nose.

"It's okay, Harry, come like this first. You'll be more relaxed then so it shouldn't hurt so much."

"Oh," Harry had expected there to be pain, what he hadn't expected was that something could be done about it.

"Harry we don't have to do this yet, not if you're not ready."

"I am, I promise. Please, Severus, I want this. I want you."

"If you're sure?"

"I am," nodded Harry. Severus turned over and fumbled in the drawer by the bedside table where he kept the oil. Severus unscrewed the jar and poured the oil onto his fingers, making them shimmer in the candlelight. He wrapped his hand around Harry's erection and before he knew it, Harry was gasping and coming across Severus' hands in copious spurts. Severus kissed him as Harry rode the aftershocks, his whole body was trembling as Severus reached round behind him and eased a slick finger inside. It didn't hurt, not exactly, but Harry tensed a little as his muscles clenched around the invader and much to his horror, he felt tears sliding down his face. He couldn't stop remembering.

You like having something shoved up your arse, don't you, boy?

"Stop, Severus! Oh, God, stop!" sobbed Harry as he tried to wrench himself away. Severus eased his finger out immediately and wrapped Harry up in his arms. "I- I'm sorry," gasped Harry through his tears. "I can't. I just can't."

"Ssh, Harry, it's all right. It's okay."

"It - it just reminded me, what she did. I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Harry bawled against his husband's chest. His throat ached and his eyes stung and still he couldn't stop. He thought he was ready, he thought he could do this and he hated that he'd got Severus' hopes up only to call a halt at the last minute like that. "I'm sorry, Severus," he gasped out once he got himself under control again. "I didn't mean to lead you on."

"Harry, you promised to tell me if I ever do something you didn't want, you didn't lead me on. You wanted to go no further, and quite rightly you told me so. I don't want to force you into doing things you aren't ready for. I told you before, making love isn't just about intercourse, although that is sometimes nice too. I only want you to do things that you feel comfortable with, Harry. Please always tell me if I'm moving too fast for you."

"I will, Severus. I promise. I - I think I would like to try it sometime, just not tonight, okay?"

"That's fine, Harry," replied Severus kissing his hair. "Now why don't you get some sleep?"

"In a minute," said Harry, pushing Severus so that he was lying flat on his back like some splayed sacrifice. Harry licked his lips and proceeded then to tease and torture his poor husband, licking and biting his nipples, biting a path down his chest, then soothing the bites with his tongue. Severus moaned and his hips arched off the bed the closer Harry got to his cock.

Here was something Harry could do, he had no bad memories about this act and he swallowed the first few inches of Severus' red and leaking cock. He hadn't done this to Severus very often, but he knew what the man liked, and in no time Harry's licking and sucking had the man thrashing on the bed, moaning and screaming his release as Harry drained him of every salty, delicious drop.

"Merlin, Harry, what you can do with that mouth," Severus panted, holding his arms out so they could cuddle and kiss once more. "I love you, Harry. I don't tell you that often enough, do I?"

"I know you love me, Severus. You don't have to say it if you don't want."

"It's not that. I am not used to showing my emotions so much." Harry yawned and Severus pulled Harry closer to him, tucking, casting a cleaning charm first to remove any sticky spots. "Now, sleep," Severus ordered, but even to a sleepy Harry it sounded sweeter than Severus had probably intended it.


***

Harry started seventh year with his friends and except for a few derogatory remarks from Draco Malfoy about their marriage, most people left he and Harry alone. The next time his classmates had Potions with Severus (Harry had his own class with Madam Pomfrey), Malfoy earned himself a week's detention with Filch and Harry could hardly stop smiling when Hermione told him.

The weeks passed and it was Halloween before Harry felt ready enough to try intercourse again. Severus was even slower than last time, preparing him, stretching him and he allowed himself to relax, welcoming the feel of Severus' fingers inside him. Then Severus brushed against something inside Harry, he cried out in surprised pleasure and bucked his hips almost completely off the bed.

With one hand, Severus was preparing him and with the other, he was stroking Harry's cock in a rhythm that had become familiar to both of them in the months since their marriage. Severus knew exactly how Harry liked it, a soft flutter along the base, but a firmer squeeze near the head of his cock and when Severus twirled his fingers around the tip, Harry wailed in pure unadulterated need. "Now, Severus! God! Please!" Harry begged.

He watched in rapt fascination as Severus poured the oil over his cock and smoothed it all over. Soon, the fingers which stretched him were removed and there was something much thicker than fingers pushing at his entrance. Severus grabbed one of the pillows and tucked it under Harry's hips and he clasped his legs around Severus' waist.

"Ready, Harry?" asked Severus and Harry could only nod. He was beyond words at this point. In the next instant, he felt himself give and Severus pressed forward, fully seating himself inside Harry, home. Harry could feel the man's balls right next to his cleft and he thrust his hips, urging the man to move. He was not going to last long. Already his cock was aching and leaking, Severus used one hand to start stroking it, but both of them were thrusting at each other in such a ragged rhythm, that he gave up and gripped Harry's hips as Severus drove in and out of Harry's body.

"OHHHH! Severus! Severus!" Harry screamed as he felt the man above him tense, Severus thrusted, once, twice, three times and then Harry felt himself filled with his husband's warm seed and that was enough to push him over the edge too. "Ahh! Oh God!" Harry wailed as he felt his cock spurt in ecstatic waves over their abdomens. Starlight bloomed behind his eyelids and he just rode wave after wave of pleasure, squeezing around Severus' cock inside him.

Severus kissed him hungrily, pressing their bodies close together and Harry wanted to stay like this, with Severus inside him always. There had been no fear this time, none at all and he was glad now that they'd been patient and had waited for this. His first time had been everything he thought it should be. Loving, tender and sexy as hell.

"We have to do that again sometime," smiled Harry as he pulled away from their kiss.

"If you want," agreed Severus, leaning down to kiss him again. It was the day after Halloween before they stopped kissing.

***

Harry spat into the sink and felt his knees tremble when he saw the pink water swirling down the drain. It was Valentine's Day and they were supposed to be going out to dinner to celebrate. Hermione had already had a go at him for not telling Severus already, but Harry didn't know how. How was he supposed to put Severus through all that worry again? The second time he'd fainted in Charms that week, Hermione threatened to tell Severus if he didn't and tonight was the night he was supposed to get everything out in the open.

"Harry? Are you all right?" asked Severus as he knocked on the bathroom door. Harry had forgotten how long he'd been in there and he pulled the door opened with a wandless charm. Severus saw him sitting on the edge of the bath and he took one look at Harry and at the pink water in the sink. "No. No. No," he said, as if by saying it he could make it true.

"I'm sorry, Severus. I'm so sorry."

"No. No. This is not happening. I'm taking you straight to Madam Pomfrey."

Harry let himself be led to the infirmary, but he didn't think there would be anything she could do, just like last time.

"Harry? Severus? What is it?" she asked as they entered.

"I - I think my cancer's come back," admitted Harry, deliberately not looking at Severus. He'd been keeping this from his husband for weeks and he wondered why he hadn't told him yet. "I've been feeling faint and sick and my gums bleed when I brush them again."

Madam Pomfrey lit her wand and had Harry open his mouth as she cast a scanning spell on him. "You don't have cancer, Harry. Your gums are bleeding due to gingivitis, it's a gum disease, not life threatening. I'll recommend you a good dentist in Hogsmeade. It's quite common."

"It is?"

"Oh, yes. Especially in the first stages."

"Of what?" he and Severus asked together.

"Pregnancy of course. You mean you didn't know you could get pregnant, Harry? All wizards can."

That night, Poppy had to deal with two fainting patients.

THE END
论坛功能提示:luvharry.net(或app)搜索9632可直达本帖。
发表于 2011-12-11 13:58:18 | 显示全部楼层
很有创意的文啊, 特别是用BONDING来治疗白血病这一方面. 结局出乎意料, 还好只是虚惊一场.
发表于 2012-7-31 21:56:04 | 显示全部楼层
经过多年电视剧,电影的轮番轰炸,我已经把白血病当成了狗血的梗,所以看到是非但没悲,反而乐了,脑海里传来阵阵“思密达”的咆哮
发表于 2017-8-7 22:45:19 | 显示全部楼层
回复 1# 月下珠
I love the hurt/comfort theme that's in this book! I've never read an actual sick!Harry fic so this is something new. The treasure hunt is very creative and I love the "True Love's Kiss" at the end!
能说结局其实我猜到了吗……看过太多文了,套路还是能看出来的。
匿名  发表于 2017-8-7 23:20:51
虽然只能靠着翻译器来看,但是,真是吓了一大跳,幸好只是虚惊一场。
不过我说,当看到白血病这个词时,我能说我猜到结局是HE吗?!
发表于 2017-8-7 23:25:20 | 显示全部楼层
上面的游客是我,好气啊!
不过这篇很新颖的说!
发表于 2018-4-1 01:01:43 | 显示全部楼层
用有道翻译一点点看,终于看完了,超喜欢的
发表于 2018-6-9 11:24:36 | 显示全部楼层
oh my god sshp is just the king!! Sorry too much exclamation marks. 额,第一次发帖,但是本人一直觉得snarry是王道。
发表于 2018-7-14 11:51:58 | 显示全部楼层
啊啊啊
英文,全英文。
我以为我能提高我的英文水平,自己一点点慢慢翻译的看完
结果,我点开了有道翻译软件
我这都是什么志向啊!!!
发表于 2018-7-20 17:22:51 | 显示全部楼层
看別人翻譯的譯文的時候都看得很開心,還會小小吐槽一下翻不好的地方。現在輪到自己來看原文,開始深深懷疑自己的英文能力了(默默懺悔中!
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