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[SS/HP] The Weight of Water (end) by:Eriador117

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发表于 2009-7-24 15:24:27 | 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: Warnings: AU, angst, child abuse, hurt/comfort, under 18, D/s, creature!Harry, past non-con Summary: The blood wards on Privet Drive have always been a lie. When the Dursleys are murdered and Harry is arrested, it is up to Severus to find out what has really been going on. A/N: Partly based on a plot bunny by Mimiheart who wanted "Some sort of fic where Harry HAS to do whatever he's told if it's a direct order. (I know it was in the movie Ella Enchanted--I want more angst and less comedy from it.)" Beta'd by Rakina, thanks so much! This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoat Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Characters: Harry/Severus
Genres: Angst/Tragedy, Romance, Drama, Mystery/Suspense, Alternate Universe, Action/Adventure, First Time, Hurt/Comfort, Bonding
Rating: M+
Warnings: Violence, Adult Language, Sexual Situations, Chan, BDSM, Non-con (rape), OOC-ness, Under 18, Contains Slash Sex




Chapter 1: The Weight of Water
The Weight of Water

Part 1

Severus knew that there was only one reason Dumbledore had summoned him to his office on the day after term broke up. The Potter brat had got himself into some sort of trouble. Again. As if his disastrous rescue attempt at the Ministry of Magic hadn't been bad enough! Why hadn't Potter trusted him enough to know that he would contact the Order? Why did he have to go haring off to London and bringing his friends into danger? It was a miracle that there hadn't been more casualties.

"Maltesers," Severus snarled at the gargoyle guarding the stairway. The stone effigy remained immobile. Great! Albus had gone and changed the sodding password without letting him know. Sometimes Severus wondered if the doddery old codger act wasn't in fact an act at all and that Albus was finally succumbing to senility.

Severus backtracked to the staff room, hoping that at least one of the remaining teachers knew the password for today. He was in luck; Rolanda Hooch hadn't yet set off on her holiday and was putting the finishing touches to some lesson plans by the large table in the staff room.

"Severus. We don't often see you in here," she said by way of greeting.

Flitwick peered over the back of one of the sofas. "Cup of tea, Severus?"

"No, thank you, Filius. I just wondered if either of you knew today's password for the moving staircase. I have a meeting with Albus in five minutes and he neglected to tell me what it was."

"It's 'cockroach clusters' today," said Rolanda.

"Thank you. Good afternoon."

Severus turned on his heel and made his way back to the entrance to the moving stairs. This time the gargoyle moved aside to let him on and Severus vowed to himself that whatever stupid predicament that brat got into this time; he was not going to be the one to save him. Severus had been saving the brat's foolish hide ever since he'd stepped off the train in his first year, and he was getting heartily sick of doing it without as much as a thank you.

Severus knocked on the door and tried not to clench his fists.

"Come in," Albus called from the other side of the door. Severus pushed the door open and entered the office. It looked as if a whirlwind had just gone through it. Those irritating, whistling and whirring objects that the Headmaster so loved were scattered in pieces all over the floor. A few of them were making intermittent whines, like kicked dogs. Albus seemed to be in no hurry to repair them and in fact noticed Severus' attention on them with some approval in his eyes.

"What happened? Who did this?" Severus asked.

"Harry did it, Severus."

"Potter? Potter did this? But why?"

"As to that, I am not really sure. Can you ever really know what is going on inside someone's head? Can you ever really know someone? I am afraid we may have been seeing what we wanted to see."

"I'm not following, Albus."

"There has been a development," said Dumbledore.

"What sort of development? The Dark Lord?"

"Not as far as I am aware, no. No, Severus, I am speaking once again of Harry. I am concerned that we may not know him as well as we thought we did."

"What do you mean?" Severus hated it when the Headmaster talked in riddles.

"The Dursleys are dead, Severus. All three of them."

"And now the blood wards have fallen you want me to go and procure the idiot and bring him back here. That's it, isn't it?"

Albus twirled his beard. "Not exactly. Tea?" From thin air Albus conjured a teapot and china cups, which hovered a few inches above his desk.

"No, I don't want any bloody tea! Will you just tell me what is going on?"

"The Dursleys were murdered, Severus."

"Death Eaters? But how did they get past the wards?"

"Not Death Eaters, no. Severus, it appears that the Dursleys died by Harry's own hand and the Muggle authorities seem to agree. He has been arrested for their murder."

"You're joking!"

"I wish I were."

"But Harry Potter? I don't believe it!" Severus could well believe many things of James Potter's son: that he was spoilt and arrogant and held no regard for school rules, but murder? No, Severus didn't believe him capable of that. He was too bloody noble.

"All the evidence points to it, Severus. Harry's fingerprints were on the murder weapon, which he was still holding when the police got there. He was attempting to turn the knife on himself, as if in remorse for what he'd done. Harry has made no attempt at using magic to save himself and is now in custody."

"I can't believe he did it, Albus. It just doesn't make sense!"

"You know how fraught Harry has been this past year with the forays Voldemort has been making into his mind, and then his trouble with Professor Umbridge, not to mention the grief over the death of his godfather. Perhaps his mind just snapped, Severus. He was so angry when he left for the train. You can see for yourself the mess he made of this room."

Severus nodded, glancing again at the scattered instruments. But it was a bit of a stretch to equate a temper tantrum (and dare he think it, one Severus thought was long overdue from the boy) to a triple murder.

Dumbledore steepled his fingers and pressed them under his chin. "Tell me, Severus. What do you know about Muggle law?"

***

Detective Inspector Anthony Rowan stared at the green eyed boy sitting on the other side of the table. His clothes had all been removed to various evidence bags: an overlarge blue t-shirt, a pair of tatty jeans that were frayed and faded, and a pair of trainers that seemed a few sizes too large for the short boy's feet. Now that he had been examined by the scenes of crime people, they'd allowed him a shower to wash off the blood that had covered his hands and face, and he was dressed in the regulation issue white paper jumpsuit until something more suitable was found.

The boy hadn't spoken a word since he'd been arrested, not even to let them know that he had understood his rights. To most of the station it was an open and shut case, but Rowan had been in the job long enough to know that things sometimes weren't what they seemed. Because of his suspected age, they couldn't interview him without an impartial party present and Rowan was waiting for the duty social worker to arrive before he asked him any questions pertaining to the case.

"Would you like a drink of water?" Rowan asked him at last. The boy had been here since yesterday evening and after being processed and sent to one of the cells, supper had been provided, but he hadn't eaten any of it. There was something strange about this boy with the scruffy hair and the glasses mended with Sellotape across the bridge of his nose, but Rowan wasn't so sure that it meant he was a murderer. All the evidence was circumstantial. Yes, his prints were on the knife, but did that mean he had wielded it? Perhaps he'd just lifted it after discovering the bodies. But why had he discovered the bodies? Why was he in the Dursley house at all?

From all their canvassing of the local residents and the county records, the Dursleys had only had the one son and no one remembered ever seeing another youngster there at all. Then there were the raggedy clothes. Was he a runaway and the murder had actually been a robbery gone wrong? But nothing was missing from the house. Money, jewellery and all the electrical equipment was still there. No, it didn't seem as if robbery was a motive for this murder and Rowan was hard pressed to know what was.

From information gathered from the neighbours it seemed the Dursleys were just your average Middle-Englanders, like thousands of others all over the country. The husband had worked in middle management at Grunnings, the drill manufacturers; the wife stayed at home but was a member of the local Women's Institute and both were members of the Residents' Association. The son had been in a few fights locally, but nothing so far that had required a police presence.

The boy shook his head at the offer of a drink but Rowan decided to send the constable out for one anyway. Rowan wasn't one of those policemen who thought the regulations concerning the welfare of prisoners were just guidelines. It was this sort of case that got to Rowan. The boy hardly looked more than thirteen or fourteen; he would need a lot more proof before sending someone so young to prison, even if the crime was murder. There was still plenty to be investigated.

The constable returned with a clear plastic cup filled to the brim with water and set it down in front of the boy. The boy stared at it for a few seconds, his hands shaking, but he refused to drink it.

"It's not poisoned, you know," said Rowan just as there was a knock on the door. Rowan nodded to the constable to open it. It wasn't as if there was anything to interrupt. Maybe it was the social worker finally getting here.

But it wasn't anyone he'd met before. The man who entered was tall with lank black hair tied back from a face which seemed to be all angles and bones. And the nose! Dear Lord, it seemed to take up most of his face, hooked like the beak of some large bird. And those beetle black eyes seemed to see right down to his very soul. The stranger was dressed in black, but a suit that screamed 'designer', the cut tailored to every inch of the man. His shirt too was black and Rowan thought all he needed was a cloak and a scythe, for there was something death-like about his face... as if the man had seen too much of it. Rowan had seen that look on other faces in the force – and in his own mirror every morning.

"Are you the social worker?"

"No, I'm his lawyer. Severus Snape."

The boy's eyes widened at that. "I didn't ask for a lawyer." He folded his arms over his chest, the paper suit rustling as he did so.

"Probably one was appointed for you," explained Rowan, surprised how deep the boy's voice sounded. Maybe the boy wasn't as young as he'd first thought. But at least he was talking.

"I would like to speak to my client alone, Inspector," said the severe man, placing a battered leather briefcase on the table. That was odd, Rowan was sure the man had been empty handed when he entered the room.

"He hasn't said much," replied Rowan. "Perhaps you'll have better luck. Ten minutes."

Rowan ushered the constable out into the hall ahead of him and wished he could be a fly on the wall for their conversation.

***

Part 2

Severus had never been to a Muggle police station before and it still surprised him how normal it seemed. As he'd walked through the various corridors to get to the interview room, there had of course been locked doors, but the policemen and women wandering about had been chatting and joking just like normal colleagues, not like the terrible guards at Azkaban who bore little resemblance to humanity any longer.

The interview room itself had walls painted in a pale cream and the beige carpet on the floor was stained from many years of use. There was only one small window in the room set high to the ceiling; it was made from frosted glass with a wire mesh in front of it. Most of the illumination came from stark fluorescent lights which, to Severus' ears, seemed to buzz like angry bees. In the harsh lighting Potter looked as if he hadn't been sleeping for weeks. There were dark shadows under the boy's eyes and the fire that normally flared in them was noticeably absent today. Severus knew that look: Potter had finally lost hope and Severus was surprised to find how much that thought hurt him. If the Boy Who Lived no longer had hope, what did that mean for the rest of them? But he realised that he wasn't just worried for the wizarding world, he was worried for the boy himself.

"Potter, would you care to explain to me what is going on? What are you doing here?"

"I'm where I deserve to be," Harry said simply.

"So are you telling me you killed the Dursleys?"

Harry cocked his head to one side as if listening to someone or something Severus couldn't hear. "What do you think, Professor? Do you think I killed them?"

"From what I know of you, I would have to say no. You aren't a murderer."

Harry laughed bitterly. "No? Have you talked to Dumbledore lately? It's what he wants me to be. It's what you all want me to be, isn't it?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Oh? Hasn't Dumbledore told you already? You never heard all of the prophecy that night, Professor. I wonder why he didn't tell you? Maybe he didn't tell you because he doesn't really trust you. He doesn't really trust me either; why else would he have left me with them?"

"Who? Your relatives? You know why you were sent to Privet Drive, Potter. The blood wards there would keep you safe. Death Eaters could never gain access to that house."

"Do you know how those wards work, Professor?"

"Vaguely. I gather it has something to do with your mother's sacrifice in saving you. Because she gave her life to protect yours, anywhere those of your mother's bloodline dwell would offer you the best protection."

"If that was true, why was I allowed to go to Grimmauld Place and the Burrow? Why was I allowed to stay at Hogwarts over the Christmas holidays? I'll tell you why. Because the wards on Privet Drive are a lie and they always have been. There was nothing protecting me in that house. Nothing," Harry said vehemently. "Do you know how many times I asked Professor McGonagall to let me stay at Hogwarts over the summers? She wanted to agree, but Dumbledore overruled her all the time. He sent me back to that when he knew. He fucking knew!"

"Knew what, Harry?"

But Severus' question was never answered as the detective and a police constable returned to the room and Harry's mouth closed with an audible snap.

"Inspector, I feel my client should have something to eat and drink before we continue."

"I couldn't agree more, Mr. Snape, but he has refused any food or drink we offer."

"Get him something to eat and drink. I will ensure he partakes of it."

Severus glared at his student and from the way Harry quickly lowered his eyes, he knew that this time Harry would indeed eat whatever was put in front of him. Severus would stand for no nonsense and he was determined to get to the bottom of this if it took him twenty years.

"Dobson, go and fetch him some lunch," said Rowan to the tall constable standing by the door.

"Very good, sir," the young policeman said and left the room.

"May I ask some background questions while we wait?"

Severus glanced towards Harry, who nodded. "Very well."

"Your name and address would be a help for starters," said Rowan.

"Harry James Potter, four Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey."

"Your real address. Not the address where we picked you up."

"That is my real address."

"There is no record of anyone else living at that house and there are no school records for you with the local authorities."

"Harry goes to a private school in Scotland," said Severus. "I can get his records sent to you if that would help."

"Maybe later. Right now I am more interested in knowing why you were living with the Dursleys when none of the neighbours knew of your existence."

Harry blushed and belatedly Severus realised it was from shame. What was he ashamed of? Then his mind wandered back to Harry's requests to his Head of House to remain at Hogwarts. Severus too had requests from some of his Slytherins who did not want to return to a life of violence as trainee Death Eaters by their parents, and then to the even rarer occasions when a student didn't want to go back to a life of abuse. It was all starting to make a sick sort of sense.

And now a lot of other things Severus remembered over the years seemed to point to the same conclusion as well. The raggedy clothes Potter always wore when out of uniform; the way he used to gulp down food at the end of term feasts, as if he wasn't sure where his next meal was coming from; the way his friends sometimes looked at him with sad, knowing glints in their eyes when Harry wasn't watching; the way Poppy requested double, or even triple quantities of her normal orders for nutrition potions and bruise salve every time Harry returned from Surrey.

What had those people been doing to the boy?

Severus knew he would get few answers with the Muggle detective still in the room. His musings were interrupted when the constable returned bearing a large plate of ham sandwiches and another smaller one filled with chocolate digestives. It wasn't the healthiest meal in the world, but if Harry hadn't eaten anything since he left on the train, then anything they provided could only help at this juncture.

"Eat all of that," said Severus, pushing the plate towards him. He was relieved to see Harry's hand dart out from beneath the table and quickly pluck a sandwich from the plate as if afraid it would be taken away again. Did he need to be ordered to eat? Severus had seen this sort of behaviour before: in Voldemort's bedroom slaves. But surely he was mistaken; Harry hadn't been trained like that, had he?

Severus wracked his brains trying to think of anyone who might have caught the Boy Who Lived's eye or vice versa, but he was coming up blank. In fifth year, he remembered a brief interlude with Cho Chang, but nothing more recently, and Severus would have known, he had been keeping a close eye on the boy.

"Put the sandwich down and stand up," said Severus, just to see what Harry would do.

Much to his dismay, Harry did exactly as he'd been ordered to, earning Severus and Harry both an enquiring glance from Inspector Rowan. Before the detective could give voice to any questions though, the door opened once more and another policeman popped his head through the gap. "Sir, you've got to come. The SOCOs have found something."

"Excuse me a moment," said Rowan as he left them both in the dubious care of the constable once more.

"Sit down and finish your meal, Harry," Severus said.

"Yes, sir," Harry replied and did just that. He wolfed the food down, seemingly afraid that it was going to be taken away from him once more.

"Why didn't you tell anyone what was going on?" Severus asked gently.

"Nothing was going on," Harry said firmly as he finished the last of the bread and licked his fingers free from crumbs.

"Harry, I am not stupid, nor naïve. I know enough to make an educated guess."

"You'd never guess this. No one would."

Before Severus could enlighten him, Inspector Rowan returned and motioned to Severus to follow him.

"I'll be back soon, Harry," he reassured him and wondered when the world had suddenly shifted so that he, Severus Snape, was the person offering Harry Potter reassurance.

Rowan led Severus down another maze of corridors and through another few locked doors. When they reached another interview room about as far away from Harry's as they could get without actually leaving the station, Rowan locked the door behind him. There were bags and boxes sitting on the table as well as the obligatory plastic chairs scattered around it that seemed to proliferate in any large institution.

"Can you tell me what is really going on here, Snape? You're not a lawyer, I checked. No one has ever heard of you. What relation are you to that boy in there? He seems to know you at least."

Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. "I'm not his lawyer; I'm one of his teachers."

"A teacher? How did you know he was here? Never mind, scrap that. Do you know why he was staying with the Dursleys in the first place?"

"Petunia Dursley is his aunt, his mother's sister; he was placed under their guardianship when his parents died."

"Jesus! So he is really related to them? Not some runaway they picked up off the streets?"

"No, he's lived there since he was a baby when he wasn't at boarding school. What is this about?"

"After a crime takes place, there is a thorough search of the premises," said the detective. "We found a hidden basement underneath the Dursleys' kitchen. Can you imagine what a dungeon is like, Mr. Snape?"

Snape tried to keep his face calm and impassive. "I can, Inspector."

"That's what they found down there. Every torture device you can think of: racks, chains, manacles and some we can't even figure out what they are, they were all down in their cellar. There was also a nest of blankets with a spike and a chain, as if someone had been tied to it and was kept in those blankets. Then there were the photos and the videos recovered at the scene. All of them show that boy being abused in one way or another by those people!"

"Sexually?" Severus asked, almost dreading the answer.

"Sexually, physically, mentally and not to mention the neglect. They seemed to delight in making him lose control of his bodily functions and then making him lie in the filth. They were not nice people, Mr. Snape, and I for one am glad that they are dead for what they did to that child. Prison would have been too good for them."

"Had this been going on for a while?" Severus asked, it seemed the detective was in a talkative mood and wasn't about to arrest him for impersonating a lawyer.

"Years," agreed the detective. "The uncle, he was the worst. Beat and raped him and all the time made sure the child called him 'Master' and thanked him for violating him! He was sick! But it wasn't just him, the aunt and cousin both abused him too. He was tortured within an inch of his life again and again and I for one do not want to see the boy in jail because of those bastards."

"I don't think Harry did it," said Severus. "I've taught him for almost seven years and I do not believe he is a murderer."

"If we get right down to it, neither do I, but anyone who sees this evidence is bound to come to one conclusion. They'll see how abominably he was treated and think of it as a motive for murder."

"But he didn't do it!" Severus protested, mentally gathering his wits and his magic. He wasn't going to hang around and let Harry go to a Muggle prison over those abusive bastards!

"No, he didn't," said Rowan. "They found evidence of another person at the scene." Rowan delved into one of the bags and threw a blank white mask on the table. "They've tested the DNA and it isn't Harry's, but it's awfully strange. We already had a match on file. The skin on that mask belongs to a man believed to be dead. You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"

"No," Severus lied. "Does that mean Harry is no longer a suspect?"

"My superiors still think we ought to keep him in custody, but I am loath to put him through anything more than he has already endured. I don't believe he did it and now we have another avenue to pursue, this so-called dead man. I think you should take him home, Mr. Snape. And I don't mean Privet Drive. Just don't leave the country, he's still a witness."

"Thank you, Inspector."

Severus wondered why Pettigrew hadn't killed Harry when he had the chance. The Dark Lord would be very angry at that, Severus was sure. Severus was glad he'd already blown his cover at the Ministry that night, but it would have been interesting to see Pettigrew's comeuppance.

As they returned to Harry, Severus realised something. Harry had been right all along. If Peter Pettigrew could gain access to the house, then the wards had been a lie all along.

***

Part 3

As expected, the police were going to keep hold of Harry's bloodied clothes as part of the investigation. Severus thought Harry probably wouldn't want to wear those again anyway; they would have held too many memories. So Harry had another wait in the station while Severus went to the nearest clothes shop to get the boy some new garments. Although new and clean Severus had to guess at the sizes, and the jeans and sweatshirt he'd bought were almost as ill-fitting as some of the other clothes Severus had seen the boy in.

Once outside in the sunshine, Harry squinted against the glare and placed a hand in front of his face to shield his eyes.

"Aren't those wizarding glasses?" Severus asked, noting again that the bridge of the frame was broken. Now out in the brightness of the day, Severus could see clearly that Harry was sporting a black eye, and a few more bruises were visible around his neck too.

"No, sir. Just Muggle ones."

"Right, we'll be shopping for those as well then."

Harry didn't speak for a few moments.

"Talk to me, Potter. What is going on your head, eh?"

"I don't want to go back there," Harry said all in a rush. "Please don't make me. I'll do anything. Detentions for a month. Just don't make me go back there."

"I have no intention of taking you anywhere near Privet Drive," Severus said seriously. "But before we go anywhere, we need to do some proper shopping to get you some new clothes."

"My money is in Gringotts, sir."

"Very well. Will you accept a loan until we get back to Diagon Alley? I thought since we were in Guildford already, we'd do most of the shopping here before we get back to London."

Harry's eyes widened, as if he had never imagined such a scenario.

"Why are you acting so weird?" Harry demanded. "Are you really Severus Snape, or are you Polyjuiced to look like him?"

"Weird?"

"You're being nice."

Severus snorted. "I am not nice, Potter! I have never been nice. I am merely trying to avoid an extra and unnecessary journey to Diagon Alley and back. If we do the shopping now we can get back to Diagon Alley, visit Gringotts and have time for a meal in the Leaky Cauldron before catching the evening train to Hogwarts."

"I don't want to go to Hogwarts either," Harry said softly. "I don't want to see Dumbledore. Not yet."

"So that means Grimmauld Place is out as well. He'll never leave you alone if he knows you're there – and the wards will let him know. The Burrow then?"

"No, I don't want to put the Weasleys in danger. Pettigrew knows how close I am to them."

"True," replied Severus, guessing that by now Pettigrew was spilling his guts to Voldemort about everything he'd discovered, including the fact that the wards on Privet Drive didn't work, and further information on Severus' bolt-hole at Spinner's End. Severus didn't know why Harry was suddenly wary of Dumbledore, but he was intrigued. The best way to find out Harry's reasoning was to help the boy stay away from Dumbledore for the moment. And that meant finding some accommodation that no one else knew of. There was still the problem of leaving the boy on his own, though. He was not yet seventeen and Severus did not want to leave an underage wizard alone, even if there were wards on the property he was thinking of. Severus would just have to stay with him and make up some excuse for the Headmaster.

"I have somewhere in mind, but we will do the shopping first. Do you have any particular shop in mind? I have no idea what passes for Muggle fashion these days."

"I don't know, sir. I've never been shopping for clothes except for my uniform and robes."

"Well then, we'll just have to explore Guildford, won't we? I've never been here before."

"Me neither," said Harry in such a low voice that Severus had to struggle to hear it. Severus wanted to ask him what had happened at the Dursleys', but knew the middle of a Muggle street was not the best place for confidential conversations.

They walked along in silence for the most part; Harry's thoughts no doubt focused on the death of his godfather and the Dursleys. Severus found himself in the unusual situation of wanting to comfort the boy, and even the thought of what Harry had witnessed in the Pensieve was not enough to get rid of such an urge. For despite seeing Severus' humiliation at the hands of James Potter and his friends, Harry hadn't shared the knowledge with his friends. It was as if he knew that such treatment was not a joke. And if what the policeman had told Severus was true, Harry Potter had put up with a hell of a lot more from the Dursleys than just humiliation.

Once they arrived at The Friary, a Muggle shopping centre, and joined the crowds within it, Harry seemed to shrink in on himself, as if he did not want to be noticed. For a brief moment it almost seemed as if he wanted to take hold of Severus' hand like a much younger child. The Muggle adolescents surrounding them seemed to be wearing very little: skirts and shorts that didn't seem to cover much and the same with the tops that barely reached their bellies. Severus didn't know, but he would hazard a guess that Harry would not want to wear such revealing clothing, and he was proved right when Harry veered towards one of the more old-fashioned department stores rather than a teen boutique.

It only took Harry an hour or so to pick out a small selection of clothes, some shirts, t-shirts, a couple of pairs of jeans and a pair of trainers.

"You'll need underwear and socks as well," Severus reminded him. "And get some sandals for the summer."

"Yes, sir," Harry said and went to find those items too. Once he returned, Harry handed everything to Severus who took it to one of the many tills lining the shop. The assistant looked decidedly bored and was chewing gum while she rang up their purchases. Severus noted that everything Harry had chosen had been in a sale or been discounted for some reason; it was as if he didn't think he deserved anything that cost full price.

Harry's eyes almost popped out of his head when he saw Severus use a credit card to pay for everything and Severus couldn't help smiling down at him. "That surprised you, didn't it?"

"Yes, sir. I never thought you'd have a credit card."

"There are a lot of things you don't know about me," said Severus as he pocketed the receipt and handed Harry half of the bags, casting a surreptitious feather-light charm on all of them.

As they made their way out of the department store, a Muggle optician's caught his eye. There in the window was an advert for something called 'transition lenses', which darkened in sunlight. Severus never thought Muggles would ever have dreamed up such an invention, but it would save them having to go to Diagon Alley tonight and it would avoid questions of what Harry Potter was doing shopping with Severus Snape.

"Time for new glasses, Harry," said Severus as he pushed open the door.

"How can I help you?" asked the bubbly blonde at the counter. Severus wouldn't have been at all surprised to discover the woman had taken on overdose of cheering potion.

"Harry needs new glasses," said Severus, pushing Harry forward with a hand on the small of his back. The woman started typing on the computer in front of her.

"And when was your last eye test?"

"Um... er..." Harry began.

"Answer her, Harry."

"I... I've never had an eye test," Harry said quietly. "These were my cousin's old glasses."

"Oh dear, so they weren't even your prescription? Well, we'll give you an eye test today and we have some glasses that we can make here in an hour or so. You probably need them as soon as possible, don't you?"

Harry nodded as she continued to take down details. A tall man emerged from a side room and Severus could just about feel Harry's panic at the thought of having to go off on his own with a stranger. "I will accompany him," said Severus, daring either one of them to contradict him. No one did, so Severus followed Harry and the tall optician into the room for the eye test.

It soon became apparent that Harry's eyesight was worse than Severus would have thought. Was this why he was so terrible at Potions? That he could not read the instructions properly? Why hadn't he spoken out about his terrible eyesight if it was this bad? Harry was half-blind with the wrong glasses, no wonder he couldn't read the board. After the eye test, Harry was instructed to pick out some frames for his new glasses and they would be made up for him in about two hours.

"We want the 'transitions' ones," said Severus. Even if it did mean Harry would have an advantage during Quidditch matches. Severus had long resigned himself to the fact that as long as Harry Potter was on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, Slytherin would not stand a chance. It still didn't stop him hoping and betting with Minerva on the outcomes though.

There wasn't a lot to be done while they waited for Harry's glasses, so Severus took Harry to a small coffee shop where they each had a coffee and a slice of chocolate cake. Harry wouldn't take a drink or a bite until he'd been ordered to do so. Severus wanted to get to the bottom of this, for it seemed to go against everything he'd known of the boy up until now.

"Harry, if your eyesight was this bad, how on Earth did you manage to see the Snitch during Quidditch?"

"I could see bright things very well, they were just very blurred. It wasn't as if I had to read something on it."

"I see. Are you still hungry? Would you like anything else?" Severus asked, but Harry shook his head, trailing his fork around the crumbs on the plate.

"Very well. We'll get your new glasses and then we'll head home."

"Not Hogwarts?" Harry asked on a gasp.

"No, not Hogwarts. Not today," Severus replied.

****

Part 4

Harry didn't quite know what to make of this new, nicer Snape, for despite what the man had said, he was being nice. Taking Harry shopping for clothes, even asking Harry's opinions on things, when no one before had ever seemed to care what Harry's opinion might be. Snape didn't even complain at having to be the one who came to the police station. Harry wondered if Dumbledore had ordered Snape to be nice to him; that was probably it.

When they returned for Harry's new glasses, Harry couldn't help staring. Gone were the fuzzy edges he was used to seeing, everything was so much sharper. On first seeing Snape's shirt, Harry had thought it was just plain black like the man's suit, but with his new glasses he could discern a faint tracery design of ivy leaves on it.

As they left the optician's, Harry's thoughts turned to the ensuing conversation he was sure Snape would want to have with him. For a brief while as they'd been shopping, Harry had almost forgotten his grief and guilt, but it flared anew in his breast as they left the shopping centre. Harry didn't want to talk about any of it, but depending on how Snape worded it, he might not have a choice. Not unless he wanted pain to rival the Cruciatus curse.

Snape led him down a narrow alleyway between some of the shops. Overflowing dustbins sat outside the back doors of the shops and a few stray dogs and cats were picking through the excess that had fallen on the ground, but there were no other people in sight.

"I take it you have never Apparated before?" Snape asked as he came to a stop and turned around.

"No, Professor."

"You will only be able to take the test once you're seventeen, but we can do a Side-along Apparation. You will need to hold my hand for that. Will that be acceptable?"

Harry's heart dropped like a stone. So that's why Snape's demeanour had suddenly changed towards him. Snape knew. The police must have told him what the Dursleys had done. Harry's stomach roiled and for a moment he thought he was going to throw up the chocolate cake he'd just eaten.

"Oh, God!" Harry wailed. "They told you? They told you what I let them do to me?" Shame was choking him. How could Snape just stand there and act normal? Didn't he know what Harry was? How filthy and depraved he was?

"Harry, you didn't let them do anything to you. That's what rape and abuse is – doing something to someone against their will. This isn't the time or the place for this conversation, but we will discuss this later. Right now we need to get out of here and take you somewhere safe."

Snape held out his hand. Harry hesitated for a moment, but he knew he really didn't have much choice. He had no Muggle money on him and he'd tried before to take money out of Gringotts on his own, but the goblins had always refused. Until he was seventeen he needed an adult with him to access his money. The Dursleys were dead, Dumbledore had lied to him and he didn't want to put the Weasleys in danger. Snape was his only option.

Harry reached out and took hold of his professor's hand. It was warmer than he'd expected; he'd always imagined Snape's hands to be cold and clammy like some horrible potions ingredient, but they were dry. Normal. A few moments after they joined hands, Harry's chest felt like it was being squeezed through a too-tight tunnel and it hurt to breathe. Everything blurred in a dizzying whirl of sound and colour, then, as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. They were standing on the small deck of a narrow boat painted in red and green. Harry swayed a little as the water slapped against the hull and he reached out to grab hold of something to help him balance, but ended up grabbing hold of Snape's waist.

"Sorry," Harry mumbled, blushing in mortification.

"That's quite all right," said Snape as he took hold of the rest of Harry's bags and took a step down to the curtained opening leading to the living quarters of the boat. "I'll show you your room and you can put your things away before we have our talk."

"You live on a houseboat?" Harry asked curiously as he followed Snape through the curtained gap. Like Mr. Weasley's tent at the Quidditch World Cup, the boat was bigger on the inside than on the outside and they entered a spacious galley-cum-living space. There was a large, scrubbed, wooden dining table with four chairs, two green sofas, a Muggle cooker and lots of cupboard space. Three doors led off it not counting the one they'd just come through.

"I don't live here. I haven't been here for a while, but it is a place that no one else knows of. It's well warded, you'll be safe here. I promise."

"I don't really like water," Harry admitted. "It won't sink, will it?" Even now, Harry still had nightmares about that day in the lake when he'd had to rescue Ron. It was something that he'd never told his two best friends about. Like a lot of other things he'd never told anyone about. He wondered why he was suddenly confiding in Snape of all people. Maybe it was the compulsion at work again.

"No, it's perfectly safe. We're moored as well, we won't be going anywhere either." Snape stopped at one of the doors. "Here's your bedroom; there should be enough room in the wardrobe for your clothes; you didn't buy much. The bathroom is here," Snape pointed to the door in the middle. "Well, it's more of a shower room really, it doesn't have a bath."

"Thank you," said Harry as he took the bags from Snape and entered the room. The bedroom was smaller than his dorm at Hogwarts, but bigger than Harry would have expected on a narrow boat. A double bed with a blue and white nautical-themed bedspread took up most of the room with a white wardrobe to one side of it. It didn't take long to hang up Harry's new clothes, but he delayed coming back out, knowing that once he did, he would have to tell Snape everything. After half an hour had passed when Snape knocked on the door.

"Are you all right, Potter?"

"Yes, sir. I'm coming out now."

When he emerged from the bedroom, Snape was sitting down at the table, two mugs of hot chocolate cooling in front of him. Harry sat down on the chair opposite him and Snape pushed one of the mugs towards him.

"First things, first. Tell me why you don't want to see Professor Dumbledore."

Harry didn't even bother trying to fight the compulsion this time, he knew it never worked. He always had to do whatever someone ordered him and today was no exception. When he'd tried to fight it in the past, it only made him feel pain which didn't stop until he'd finally given in.

"I think he's put some sort of spell on me or something," Harry said at last, knowing that in response to an order he could only tell the truth. Snape would never need to give Harry Veritaserum.

"What sort of spell?"

"I don't know, some sort of compulsion spell. It's not the Imperius Curse though, I can throw that off."

"Can you elaborate? Why do you think he has you under a compulsion spell?"

"Because otherwise I would never have gone back to Privet Drive once I'd escaped it. I would have run away, but I couldn't. Each year before the end of term, Dumbledore ordered me to go back there and I couldn't do anything but obey. I have to obey orders, that's the compulsion. Anything anyone orders me to do, I have to do it. That isn't normal, is it?" Harry's hand shook as he took a sip of the chocolate. He really didn't want to be talking about this, but he had no choice.

"No, but I have never heard of any spell that works exactly like that, not even the Imperius. Maybe it is something else," Snape mused.

"Like what? You saw me at the police station. Once you ordered me to stand up, I had to do it."

"What happens if you don't obey? Can you fight it?"

"I can try, but the longer I wait until I obey the order, the more pain I'm in and it doesn't stop until I do what I'm ordered."

"So it is actually a compulsion and not just a reaction to how you were brought up?"

"What do you mean?" asked Harry.

"Harry, the detective told me about what happened with Vernon Dursley. About making you call him 'Master'. He was training you as a submissive, wasn't he?"

"I still don't know what you mean." Harry was just getting more and more confused. "What's a submissive?"

"You really don't know?"

"No, sir," Harry admitted. "But I suppose it's something to do with sex, isn't it? That's why Vernon ordered me to do it?"

"In a way. Harry, what you suffered at the Dursleys, that was abuse, but there are people who willingly enter into a consensual dominant and submissive relationship, where one partner is dominant over the other. It can happen just during sexual play, but sometimes one of them will submit in every area of their life. I don't know how much detail I should go into here; you're not even sixteen yet."

"That didn't stop Vernon," Harry said quietly.

"No," Snape agreed. "But it should have done. He should never have done those things to you."

"But it was my fault. I gave in because I didn't want the pain from the curse."

"Harry, it was not your fault. You were the victim. Whether due to some sort of curse or something else, Vernon and the others took advantage of you and hurt you terribly. They were the ones at fault, not you. They were the ones who abused a child; you have nothing to be ashamed of."

"But I did all those awful, disgusting things," Harry said, tears prickling in the corners of his eyes. "I feel so dirty all the time, professor. I can't do this! Please don't make me talk any more!" Harry was sobbing in earnest now as the memories came crashing down on him, all the depraved things he'd done, and he couldn't bear it. "Please don't make me!"

"Ssh, Harry. I won't make you tell me anything more if you don't want to. I shall have to be careful how I word things with you in future," Snape mused, almost to himself. He waited in silence for Harry to compose himself. Once the boy was calmer, he continued."Have you noticed anything else strange lately?"

"Strange? In what way?"

"Anything. Strange dreams, aches or pains, things like that."

"I dream I'm flying, but I've always dreamed about that. I like flying. My scar hurts still, is that what you mean?"

"Nothing else?"

"Not that I can think of; why?"

Snape placed his hands around the mug and stared into it. "I'm not sure, I'll need to look up some things but I think you might have some sort of creature inheritance. There are a lot of creatures who are naturally submissive and will submit to any orders."

"Creature?" Harry asked, appalled. "You mean ... you mean I'm some sort of thing?"

"Not a thing, Harry, but a unique magical being."

Harry barely heard the professor's reply. All he could hear was his uncle's words in his ears, "Freak! Freak! Freak!", as Vernon kicked Harry again and again.

***

Part 5


Severus wasn't sure what to do or say to comfort the boy, he wasn't the sort of person people usually expected comfort from and he'd never had to offer it before. Harry's sobs had eased off now, but he was becoming withdrawn again, his eyes almost blank. Severus had committed atrocities in his life, he had tortured and murdered, but none of his victims had ever been children and any sexual partner he'd ever had had always been willing. To think that Harry Potter had endured all of this while still a child was mind-boggling. The fact that he was sitting here, still relatively sane, was some sort of miracle. Lesser men would have been residents of the closed ward long since.

"Sir, may I use the shower before bed?" Harry asked at last, his hands twirling nervously around his mug.

"You may, you don't need my permission for that, Harry. I will try not to order you about, but sometimes I might forget."

"Thank you," Harry said as he headed off to the shower room.

He returned a few moments later in some distress. The tears had started again and although seeing him in such a state gave Severus the urge to hug or embrace him, he didn't give in to it. Touch was probably the last thing the boy wanted right now.

"What is it, Harry?"

"I don't know what to do," Harry admitted softly.

"About what?"

"The shower. I don't know how to use one."

"You didn't use the showers at Hogwarts?"

"No, sir. I was scared the water would get on my face; I only took baths there and tried not to get my face wet. I panic when my face is wet."

"You really do have a phobia about water, don't you? How on Earth did you manage the Second Task?"

Harry gave a wan smile through his tears. "Sheer dumb luck?" he suggested and Severus burst out laughing, remembering another day when Harry and Ron Weasley were found in one of the bathrooms with a knocked out troll.

"I still think you all got off lightly that day," said Severus. "I would have given all three of you detention for the rest of the year. It might have kept you all out of trouble."

Harry looked as if he might start crying again, babbling an apology. It was so strange; it was as if Harry Potter was two different people. The arrogant boy from Potions class wasn't anywhere in evidence today and Severus wondered if all that bluster and bravado had been a front so that Harry could try and better hide what was happening to him. Shame was another tool abusers used to keep their victims quiet.

"Come along, I'll show you how it works," said Severus, leading the way. The room was so small that Harry had to wait outside and watch through the doorway as Severus fiddled with the knobs for the water pressure and the temperature of the water. The shower hose was detachable from the wall, so Harry would be able to hold it away from his face if he needed to. "There. If that's too hot, just turn this knob to the left to cool it. I'll fetch you some towels."

"Thank you, sir," said Harry. "I – I really appreciate all that you're doing for me. Thank you."

"You're welcome," Severus said as he went to get the towels.

He left Harry to his ablutions and went back to thinking. There was something gnawing at the edges of his mind, especially with Harry's unexplained fear of water. There was a creature that had a phobia about water, but for the life of him, Severus couldn't remember what it was. Harry came out and bade Severus a hasty goodnight before retreating to his bedroom.

Severus sent a Patronus message to Dumbledore, just explaining that they were both safe without going into any more detail. Although from what Harry had mentioned of Dumbledore being aware of what was going on at the Dursleys', Severus wondered if he would even care about Harry's welfare.

On the boat there were only a few books from his collection, and as Severus searched through the cupboard housing them, one of the titles caught his eye. Beings of Light and Dark. He retrieved the battered copy, it had been one of his Defence books from seventh year, so Harry probably hadn't even got that far yet, as he was only coming up to his sixth.

Severus skimmed the chapter headings, wondering what creature Harry might be. He discarded the usual, vampires, Veela and werewolves, as he knew Harry was showing no signs of them. And then he saw it. Sylphs and Subspecies.

Sylphs are elemental creatures who, depending on their subspecies, will have power over the following: air, earth, fire or water. The rarest type of Sylph is the Phoenix Sylph, a being who has power over fire but a terrible aversion to water, just as its opposite, the Mer-Sylph, has power over water but an aversion to fire.

The Phoenix Sylph, like the true phoenix, has healing powers and can carry immensely heavy loads. Once it reaches sexual maturity, sometime between the age of fifteen to eighteen; wings will form and it will be able to fly. It can control fire and is immune to fire-based spells as well as mind-control spells. Its Animagus form will always be a phoenix and while in phoenix form, it cannot be killed. It would just regenerate from the ashes. Some young Phoenix Sylphs have been known to spontaneously change into Phoenix form when they are threatened, and as such have survived the Killing Curse, the only known beings ever to do so.

Phoenix Sylphs are very long-lived, although not immortal, and they have great regenerative properties. Experiments on Phoenix Sylphs have shown that they will regrow limbs such as fingers, toes, arms and legs and will even regrow internal organs if they are removed, even the heart and lungs. Decapitation will kill them instantly, however, for they cannot regrow the head. They are acutely sensitive to physical pain, moreso than human wizards, but have a higher resistance to pain-inducing curses such as the Cruciatus. The best way to torture a Phoenix Sylph would be to use physical methods rather than curses.

The Phoenix Sylph has an inherently submissive nature and will obey any order it is given or suffer terrible pain for trying to refuse. Because of this it is very easy to abuse a Phoenix Sylph, because it will even obey orders to harm itself even though it doesn't want to. In past wars, Phoenix Sylphs were captured and used on the front lines to protect the wizards further back as they were ordered blindly to their deaths. When Killing Curses didn’t work, the enemy wizards began decapitating them and it was believed that the race has long died out.

Phoenix Sylphs will have chosen their mate by the age of eleven, but will not feel a sexual pull towards the mate until they gain their wings. Instead, they and their chosen mate will be antagonistic towards each other, even feeling that they hate each other, when in fact the opposite is true. As the Phoenix Sylph grows the chosen mate will start to notice caring feelings for the Sylph and eventually will feel a sexual pull towards it as well. Only the mate will feel this sexual pull, for unlike Veela, Phoenix Sylphs have no sexual allure except to their chosen mate and they are monogamous.

The mate may be male or female, but the mate must be dominant over the Sylph. Once the Phoenix Sylph has been claimed by its mate, then it will no longer obey orders from anyone else. Before the claiming, the Phoenix Sylph might find itself drawn to its future mate by wanting to kneel in their presence, or by a fluttering of the wings when the potential mate is near. The only sure way to know is for them to kiss, as the Phoenix Sylph will know its true mate through a chemical reaction within their saliva.

The Phoenix Sylph needs a dominant partner in order to balance out and control the natural power it bears. It feeds on sexual energy during love-making, but abuse and rape render the Phoenix Sylph weaker and if it continues unabated, the Sylph will wither away and die. A dominant, loving partner is the best way for a Phoenix Sylph to survive into adulthood and beyond. Once claimed by its mate, the Sylph will crave its mate's touch, whether from loving contact or punishment. It is a very sensual creature and will need some sort of sexual contact frequently from its mate.


Severus put the book down and pressed the bridge of his nose. A Phoenix Sylph! Very rare indeed. Severus didn't need to read any more. It all made sense. Harry was this creature, he was sure of it, but the bit about needing sexual touches worried him. Harry would be nowhere ready for that, not after the abuses he'd suffered at that house. It was something they didn't need to worry about yet. As far as Severus was aware, Harry didn't yet have wings, the sign of a maturing Phoenix Sylph, so perhaps they had a while yet before discovering his mate.

It would take time for Harry to get over his fear of intimacy with anyone and Severus' mind wandered to who he thought might be Harry's potential mate. Cho Chang was obviously out, as Harry had broken up with her Severus guessed her saliva didn't have the magic ingredient, whatever that was. Ginny Weasley? Luna Lovegood? Hermione Granger? Would Harry have to go around and kiss every girl in the school to find out?

Severus' chest tightened as he thought about that. He must have a touch of indigestion, he decided.

He was not – he was not jealous over the thought of all those girls getting to kiss Harry Potter. He wasn't.

Severus shook his head and made his way to the small bathroom for his own shower. He expected to find it awash with splashed water and towels strewn about the floor, but the shower was as spotless as when Harry had first entered it. His used towels were in the laundry basket and the floor and shower enclosure itself were clean and dry. Not the sort of behaviour Severus would have associated with a teenager, remembering his own messy youth.

His thoughts were still on Harry when he drifted off to sleep. He was woken rather abruptly by the feeling of someone in the room. Severus reached for his wand before calling out, "Harry? Did you have a nightmare?"

"No, sir," Harry said as Severus brought up a little more light. Harry was wearing a dressing gown that they'd bought earlier that day and from what Severus could see, he was bare-chested underneath it. Harry's hands wandered to the sash holding it closed and he began to undo it.

"Harry, stop! What are you doing?" Severus demanded. Harry's hands stilled immediately and Severus realised he'd worded it as an order. "What are you doing?" he repeated.

"I – I thought this is what you wanted," Harry said. "To pay you back for everything. For giving me a place to stay and rescuing me from the police station."

"Harry, why do you think I helped you?" Severus asked softly. He didn't think he would ever understand Harry's psyche completely, but he hoped the boy trusted him enough now to answer him without it being an order.

When Harry answered, his voice was so small it was almost inaudible. Severus strained to hear and just caught the quiet words. "You don't like me. You've never liked me, so I thought you just wanted to have sex with me and humiliate me. Like they always did," Harry said, his voice almost trailing away to nothingness. "I don't know why you're being nice to me, but it must be because you want something from me. That's the only reason I can think of."

Dear Merlin, did Harry really believe that of him? Then Severus tried to see it from Harry's point of view. Having no other reference points except what he'd seen of Severus in class and then those disastrous Occlumency lessons, it was a wonder Harry had gone anywhere with him at all.

"Harry, I did not help you in order to try and have sex with you or humiliate you. I helped you because I was concerned for you. There are no conditions of any sort. You do not have to offer me your body in order to stay safe, do you understand?"

"No, not really," Harry said with a bit of wonderment in his voice. "People always want something from me in return."

"Well, from now on that is going to change," said Severus sternly. "It's time you had someone who was concerned for you. Not as the saviour of the wizarding world, but just Harry."

"That's all I've ever wanted to be."

TBC


Chapter 2: The Weight of Water
Part 6

The cupboards in the boat were well stocked with food; as well as the usual staples of bread, eggs and milk, Harry also found slices of salmon and fresh herbs. It took Harry a while to find everything he needed to prepare breakfast and he tried to make as little noise as possible so he wouldn't wake Snape yet. He was still feeling very embarrassed about the night before and didn't know what he was going to say.

Harry chopped up the salmon into thin strips before whisking up eggs, milk and butter for the scrambled eggs. Once that was done, he added the salmon and some fresh sprigs of parsley to the mixture and poured it all into the frying pan. He was quite a good cook, but he'd never eaten anything he'd ever prepared and today was no exception. The eggs done, Harry slid them on a plate before finishing the toast and getting coffee and orange juice for Snape. He placed everything on the table just as Snape emerged from the shower, already fully dressed in his usual black robes.

Harry stood to one side of Snape's chair. "I made you breakfast, sir," Harry said, his eyes looking anywhere but at Snape. He could feel his whole face heat.

"So I see, but where's yours?"

"I didn't make any for me," Harry admitted softly. "I'm not really hungry."

"Harry, I am not going to starve you while you are in my care. You eat this one and I'll make something for myself."

Harry had no option but to do what Snape had said, and although he tried to fight it, the pain almost made him double over before he finally sat down and took a few bites of the scrambled egg and salmon. Despite the order, Harry couldn't eat another bite and he ran to the bathroom where he retched quite spectacularly for a few moments and rested his sweaty head against the bowl afterwards.

"Harry, what's wrong?" Snape asked, as he hovered by the doorway.

"Fish. I can't eat fish," Harry replied. "It makes me ill."

"So why did you eat it?"

"You ordered me to."

"I did, didn't I? This will take a little getting used to. Very well, what would you like for breakfast instead?"

Harry shrugged his shoulders. "Don't know." No one had ever really asked him about food. He ate what he was given at Hogwarts and the Weasleys', barring fish, but Harry had never given much thought to what he actually liked. His stomach was still feeling a bit delicate after attempting to eat the salmon omelette and he knew he wouldn't want anything too heavy. "Toast is fine for me."

Snape squeezed past Harry to the sink and wrung out a facecloth in cold water. He knelt down and began to clean Harry's mouth of vomit.

Harry's heart thundered in his ribs. "Sir? What are you doing?"

Snape was so close to him that they were almost touching nose to nose, the shower room didn't really leave much room for manoeuvre. Snape seemed to snap out of some sort of daze, staring at Harry and then at the cloth, as if he had seen neither of them before.

"I – I'm sorry." Snape stood up and banished the soiled cloth. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

"I'm okay," said Harry, standing up.

"I'll get you that toast," Snape said as he hurried out. Harry closed the door, flushed the toilet and then sat down on the lid.

What the hell was that? Snape was still acting weird around him. Why wasn't he shouting at him or something? He was acting as if... as if he cared about Harry or something, and that couldn't be possible, could it? Snape hated him. Snape loathed him, as he had been wont to point out at every opportunity before now. Years of detention and points taken for no reason, Snape berating and bullying him in class. Was this change in behaviour just pity after Snape had found out about the Dursleys? But surely if Snape hated him, finding out what the Dursleys had done to him would be a reason for Snape to be jubilant, not act as if Harry needed some sort of looking after.

Harry had never told anyone, but after the first time he'd been in the infirmary and seen all the get-well cards and presents, and seen how nice Madam Pomfrey was being to him, sometimes after that he would deliberately make himself ill or get hurt just so that he could go back and get her attention again. It was so different to how he'd been treated at home, where illness meant nothing but more pain. At school, Madam Pomfrey fussed over him and Harry really liked it, despite what he'd told his friends about being stuck in the infirmary yet again. That was Madam Pomfrey's job though, wasn't it? But why was Snape doing it?

Harry sighed and stood up to splash cold water on his face before he went back out. There was a plate of toast on the table opposite Snape along with a glass of orange juice. "Please have a seat, Harry," said Snape and Harry couldn't help smiling at him. He'd said 'please'; it wasn't an order, it was a request. Harry slid into the chair but he didn't start eating until Snape told him to.

There was a battered looking leather book beside Snape's plate. He pushed it across to Harry. "I think you ought to read this, I've highlighted the relevant passages."

The mouthful of toast Harry was chewing suddenly felt like carpet and he found it difficult to swallow. He gulped down some juice to wash it down. "So you do think I'm a creature, then?"

Snape nodded. "Read the section and then we can discuss it."

Harry didn't finish the rest of his toast; he pulled the book open at the marked pages and started reading: Sylphs and Subspecies.

Harry didn't know how long he read for, but when he'd finished, Snape had finished his breakfast and was washing up all the dishes Harry had used. There were fresh slices of toast on his own plate, but Harry wasn't feeling hungry any more.

"So that's what you think I am? A Phoenix Sylph?"

"It does seem to fit," said Snape. "Especially with fish making you ill."

Harry toyed with his toast, breaking off a few bits of it and scattering them on the plate. "I don't – I don't want a mate," Harry said softly. To do those things, any of those horrible, disgusting things willingly? No, he couldn't do that. He didn't want to do that. Ever.

Snape finished drying the frying pan and came back to the table, sitting opposite Harry again.

"Harry, I know this is going to be difficult. Intimacy with someone after what you've been through is not going to be easy, but if you are a Phoenix Sylph, then it is something that you will need to do in order to stay healthy."

"I'd rather die than let anyone else touch me like that ever again!" Harry snapped angrily. He waited for points to be taken, to be shouted at, but Snape just shook his head sadly.

"Then you will die and the Dark Lord will win."

Harry's anger fled as suddenly as it had come and he sank lower down in his chair. He couldn't let his friends die just because he was scared of doing that, could he? "I don't want to be a murderer!" Harry wailed.

"Is this about the prophecy?" Snape asked. "Can you tell me the whole thing? Only if you want to, though."

"I can't remember it word for word, but the gist of it is that Voldemort marked me as his equal and that neither of us can live if the other one survives. Dumbledore said it meant that one of us has to kill the other in the end. And something about 'power the Dark Lord knows not'."

"Oh, Harry," Snape said, standing up and squeezing Harry's shoulder.

Harry flinched at the contact and Snape removed his hand so fast it was as if he'd burned it on Harry's shirt.


***

They spent time on the boat until Harry's birthday. Despite the wards, or maybe even because of them, Hedwig arrived at midnight on the thirty-first of July with cards and presents from Ron and Hermione as well as Hagrid. Harry had never received any presents before, for each year he'd been locked in the cellar. He'd had to be very inventive with his excuses when he talked to his friends when school started again. Harry knew that if it had been up the Dursleys, they would have kept him in the cellar all year and not let him go to school at all.

The first few days after Harry found out about being a creature, things had been a little bit tense between them. The boat was small despite being larger than a Muggle one, and it was going to be a very uncomfortable few months unless they learned to get along, which Harry was very surprised to find that they did.

Snape was very intelligent and knew about lots of stuff, not just Potions, and Harry found himself wanting to listen to him wax lyrical about everything and anything. Harry was becoming very attached to Snape's voice, which he found decidedly strange, but even stranger was the fascination he suddenly developed with Snape's mouth.

"Harry, there is an Order meeting at Grimmauld Place today and I cannot leave you alone here, even with the wards. Would it be acceptable for you to stay there until the end of the holidays?"

Harry set down his spoon beside his bowl of cornflakes. His chest tightened. "You don't want to look after me any more?"

"It isn't that. I am a member of the Order, Harry. Professor Dumbledore might give me duties that may preclude me being in a position to care for you during the remainder of the summer. How are you feeling about Dumbledore now that you know it isn't a spell?"

Harry hadn't really let the fact that he was some sort of creature really sink in. He didn't want to be a freak, but as usual his wants were never considered, were they?

"I don't want to be alone with him," said Harry quietly. "I don't trust him. He told me he knew I was being abused, but he sent me back to that house anyway. He lied to me about the wards at Privet Drive, so what else has he lied about?"

"Harry, has the Headmaster ever done anything to you like the Dursleys did?"

"No, nothing like that," said Harry. "I just don't want to be alone with him."

"Very well. I'll see that you won't be. Your friends will be at Grimmauld Place, you want to see them again, don't you?"

"I suppose," Harry mumbled, unsure whether he really wanted to or not. They'd want to know where he'd been all summer, why he was staying with Snape, and Harry wasn't sure his acting skills were up to the task of lying to them. Hermione seemed to have a sixth sense about ferreting out things Harry didn't want her to know.

"Harry, I don't think you should tell anyone what you are. At least not yet."

Harry shook his head. "I have no intention of telling anyone what a freak I am!" Harry said vehemently.

"Harry, you are not a freak. A Phoenix Sylph is a very rare and very precious being and you should be proud of your heritage."

"But it's just another thing that makes me different. I just want to fit in. And … and I like it here. With you," Harry admitted at last.

"Well, perhaps we can arrange for you to stay here over Christmas or the Easter holidays, would you like that?"

Harry nodded eagerly, hoping that Dumbledore wouldn't order something else instead. Sometimes Harry wondered if Dumbledore actually knew what he was or if he just did all those things out of ignorance of Harry's true nature.

And sometimes he wondered if that would make any difference at all to the Headmaster.

***

Part 7

"Harry!" Hermione shrieked as soon as Harry entered the dining room at Grimmauld Place. Thankfully, she didn't jump up from her seat to hug him, although for a few moments it felt like she might. The Weasley twins were standing by one of the sideboards, heads close together as they discussed something or other with Mundungus Fletcher, but they gave Harry a warm smile when they saw him. Bill and Charlie were there too but as Mrs. Weasley finished setting out sandwiches all along the table there was no sign of Ron or Ginny.

Most of the Order were already there: Moody, Professor Lupin and a few more people Harry couldn't remember the names of. But there was one person who was missing, who would always be missing, and Harry felt the grief grip his chest anew as he thought of his godfather. He hadn't been to this house since Sirius had died and it felt even darker than it used to be without Sirius' smiles to warm it.

Snape was hovering behind Harry and Hermione was looking at both of them, as if wondering why Harry had arrived in the company of Snape of all people. Harry didn't really want to go into explanations with all the Order there.

"Harry and Hermione, you go on and find Ron. The meeting will be starting as soon as Professor Dumbledore arrives, which should be any minute now."

Harry didn't even bother to voice a protest; it was an order from Mrs. Weasley and he turned around to obey, with Hermione following close on his heels.

Hermione seemed very miffed about it. "I'll be seventeen in a few weeks, I don't see why I couldn't stay," she grumbled as both of them made their way upstairs to the first floor drawing room, where Ron and Ginny's voices were raised in some sort of argument.

Hermione conjured a white handkerchief and waved it in front of her as she pushed the door open. "Is it safe to come in yet?" she asked. "Honestly, you two! You'll have half the Order coming up here to see what's going on. Have you sorted things out yet?"

"None of your business!" snapped Ginny with a fierce scowl on her face. It turned into a soft smile when she spotted Harry in the hallway behind Hermione. "Harry! When did you get here?"

"Just now."

"About bloody time, mate!" said Ron, smiling broadly and slapping Harry on the back. "Merlin, Harry, they've been all frantic about you! Dumbledore was so worried when Snape wouldn't tell him where you both were. Moody was convinced Snape was a Death Eater after all and had taken you to You-Know-Who, and Mum has been baking and cooking non-stop – she always does that when she's worried. What were you doing staying with Snape anyway? I'm surprised the Dursleys let you go anywhere with a wizard, you know what they're like."

Harry looked at his friends, his face paling as he realised he was left to explain. "Has – has no one told you what happened?"

Ron shook his head, his eyes agog. "No, they never tell us anything, do they? So what did happen? Did Snape kidnap you from the Dursleys' or something?"

"No. The Dursleys are dead, Ron."

"Dead?" gasped Ginny. "Dead? How? Did they have an accident or something?"

"No. Wormtail murdered them."

"But if the Dursleys are dead, that means there are no wards on that house any longer," said Ron. "So is that why you're staying somewhere with Snape?"

"Sort of," admitted Harry.

"Wait a minute," said Hermione. "If Pettigrew could get into the house, that means the wards weren't working in the first place! Oh, Harry! You could have been killed too! And all this time we thought you were safe when you were there! Thank goodness you're all right!"

Harry hastily sat down before she could hug him – it seemed she was heading in his direction.

"So, how are you really?" Hermione asked, glancing towards Ginny as she said it.

Harry had the impression there were a few unspoken conversations going on in this room, and that they weren't really touching the surface of any of them.

"I'm fine, Hermione. Just a bit tired. I think I'll go and have a lie-down for a while, if that's okay?"

"Oh, Harry, of course it is! We'll come and get you when the meeting's over, won't we, Ginny?"

"What?" Ginny had been staring at Harry and had missed what Hermione had said.

"Ron, you go and keep Harry company for a while. I want to talk to Ginny alone."

"Well, what if I don't want to talk to you?" Ginny folded her arms and glared at Hermione.

Ron hurried out, and Harry was quick to follow, although he couldn't help wondering what the two girls would find to talk about that he and Ron couldn't listen to.

"What was all that about?" Harry asked once they reached their shared bedroom and he'd flopped down on one of the beds.

Harry's trunk was already at the foot of the bed and the wardrobe door was open so that he could see all his new clothes in there. Harry tried not to feel hurt that Snape had basically decided that Harry would be better off spending the rest of the holidays at Grimmauld Place. Surely he could have stayed on the houseboat – Snape wouldn't have to be away all the time for the Order, would he?

"Actually it was about you," Ron said, sitting on the side of his own bed.

Harry pushed himself up on his elbow and stared at his friend. "Me? What have I done?"

"You haven't done anything; it's Ginny and what she might have done to you."

"Ron, just tell me, please. What is going on?"

Ron sighed and kicked his feet against the side of the bed. "I suppose you must have realised by now that Ginny fancies you a bit?"

A bit? Ginny had been haunting him ever since Harry met her. "Ron, I'm sorry, but I don't fancy her."

"I know that, Hermione knows that, probably the whole world knows that, but Ginny isn't one to give up easily, is she? Harry, don't be angry with her, but Hermione caught Ginny trying to brew Amortentia Potion yesterday when she knew you'd be coming here for the rest of the hols."

Harry wanted to be angry, he felt entitled to be angry, but Ron had basically ordered him not to be and he couldn't give voice to it. "She was going to dose me with a love potion?"

"But she didn't, Hermione caught her before it got that far. I'd be careful if Ginny offers you any food or drink though. We don't know if that was the only batch."

"And that's what you were arguing about earlier?"

"Yeah, I threatened to tell Mum and Dad if she didn't stop pestering you. Ginny's the youngest and she's been a bit spoilt, to be honest. She's used to getting her own way, but it isn't up to just her, is it? If you don't fancy her as a girlfriend, then she should leave you alone and find someone else. Sorry she's being such a pain."

"It's not your fault, Ron. I don't really feel much like seeing anyone at the moment."

"I know, mate. It's not that long ago you broke up with Cho, and then with Sirius going and dying on you..."

Harry felt his eyes brimming with tears and he blinked, trying to dispel them before Ron saw. His grief was too personal, too private a thing to share even with Ron. A few stray tears dripped down his face and Ron pretended not to notice.

"I'll just leave you to have a rest, okay, Harry?" Ron stood up and marched to the door.

"Okay. And Ron?"

Ron turned around, his hand on the handle. "Yeah?"

"Thanks."

"You're welcome," said Ron, and he left Harry alone with his thoughts.

Harry lay flat on the bed and contemplated the ceiling. There was a crack running down the middle and he wondered, if he watched it for long enough, if it would widen and make the whole house collapse. His throat ached with the effort of trying to suppress the tears as he thought of his godfather. He was feeling grief over Sirius' death, that was certain, but sometimes Harry wondered if it was the man himself he missed or the idea of him. His parents' friend, someone who he thought might have rescued him from Privet Drive. But when you got right down to it, did Harry actually know Sirius that well? They'd barely seen each other until the past year.

But it wasn't just grief that was making his eyes sting; it was the thought of everything he'd had to endure over the years. The abuse from the Dursleys; Dumbledore's lies; the bullying from the Slytherins at school; people thinking he'd been the Heir of Slytherin; the same people thinking he'd cheated to put his name into the Goblet of Fire; seeing Cedric's dead body in that graveyard... And now, to top it all off, he discovered he wasn't even wholly human but some sort of creature. Some sort of thing.

How much more was he expected to cope with before he finally cracked up? And of course, how could he forget that Dumbledore expected him to go up against one of the Darkest Wizards ever in existence and defeat him! What bothered Harry the most though, was that hardly anyone seemed to think it odd that a sixteen year old would face the Dark Lord in a duel. Everyone was assuming that Harry would do it, that Harry could do it. Harry wasn't an Auror, or a trained warrior, yet they were pinning their hopes on Harry's very narrow shoulders. He wasn't a coward, but the truth was he didn't want to do it; he wanted to be left alone and allowed to get on with his life, not be running in fear of it all the time.

Even if Voldemort was defeated by Harry's hand, it wouldn't stop there, would it? The Death Eaters would be coming after him in revenge for their Lord. He would always be running, looking over his shoulder. Of course, he knew he had no choice. Dumbledore would order him to do it and Harry would have to comply.

The only way out of it was for Harry to be claimed by a dominant mate, and Harry knew that after everything he had gone through at the Dursleys' hands, there was no way he was ever going to be able to submit willingly to anyone. His life was never going to be his own.

Never.

***

Part 8

"Severus, might I have a private word?" Dumbledore asked as the meeting began to break up. The rest of the Order was leaving in little dribs and drabs, some being as slow as possible about it, hoping to catch some titbit of gossip no doubt.

"Of course, Headmaster," said Severus as he slammed the door closed after Mundungus Fletcher had left, adding some silencing and warding charms for good measure. He'd known this conversation was coming after Kingsley's reports had hinted rather strongly that their intelligence was lacking after Severus had blown his cover. There was no one else suitable to take his place and, as such, they had no knowledge of what Voldemort and his cohorts might be up to. They were working blind.

"You know what I am going to ask of you, don't you, my boy?"

"Yes, Albus. You want me to go crawling back to the Dark Lord with my tail between my legs and beg his forgiveness for accidentally hexing a Death Eater instead of one of the Order at the Ministry that night."

"That was the gist of it, yes," Dumbledore replied, his blue eyes twinkling with some inner mischief.

"And my reason for not attending any of his summonses since then?" Even as he said the words, Severus could almost feel his arm aching, although he knew it wasn't.

"Tell him that I have kept you under a close watch and you could not get away without revealing your true loyalties."

"I will go back, on one condition."

"Oh?" Albus raised a white eyebrow. "I was not aware you had anything to bargain with, Severus. Or have you forgotten everything I have ever done for you?"

Severus ignored that. "I'm not talking about me, Headmaster. I am speaking of Harry Potter."

"Where have you been keeping him, by the way?"

"That doesn't matter. He's been kept safe, that's all you needed to know, wasn't it? Don't worry, Albus, your tool is still intact... but only just. Did you know what was happening to him in Surrey?"

"That his relatives were not treating him as they should? Yes, Severus, I knew."

"Yet you still sent him back there year after year? How could you be so cruel to that boy?"

"Harry Potter is hardly a boy, Severus. Someone merely human could not defeat Voldemort or survive the Killing Curse. Can't you feel how powerful he is? Far too powerful for his own good. How could I let such a powerful being just roam loose in the Wizarding world? No, he needed to be contained, and what better way than with Muggles who hated magic and would not accept any facet of it in their home? Harry would never discover what he truly was while he was there. But that has all changed, hasn't it? You suspect what he is, and maybe you've already told him."

"You knew? All these years you knew he was a Phoenix Sylph and never bothered to tell him?" Severus could hardly believe how casually Albus was discussing the years of abuse and neglect Harry had suffered. Severus would no longer stand for anyone abusing his... Oh dear, Merlin! How could he have been so blind?

"Of course I knew, Severus. I got to Godric's Hollow that night just in time to see it razed to the ground as Harry resurrected himself from the ashes. His power levelled that cottage. Do you really think I was going to let him know how much power he had? He'll need it to defeat Voldemort; if he'd known what he was, he would have spent his time looking for his mate."

"I take it you don't want him to find his mate any time soon?"

Albus laughed, and the sound of it grated on Severus' nerves. "No, I don't. I want Harry to be able to obey me for quite some time to come. And after the abuse he's suffered at the Dursleys', I don't think he'll be in a hurry to find his mate either."

Severus felt sick and shaky. He could hardly believe that his mentor, someone he thought of as a friend was pleased at the abuse Harry Potter had suffered, and indeed, had almost engineered it.

"Excuse me," said Severus, rushing from the dining room and dashing into the small cloakroom on the ground floor. He stood by the basin, taking deep breaths, his heart pounding and sweat dripping down his forehead. He felt nauseous, but didn't think he was actually going to throw up. He turned on the tap and splashed cold water on his face, dabbing it dry with a towel. Severus knew what he was letting himself in for if he returned to Voldemort: torture for his mistake if Voldemort accepted his return, or almost certain death if Voldemort didn't believe his excuses. Albus hadn't seemed to care about that, just as he hadn't cared about Harry being abused all these years by the Dursleys.

Severus' heart clenched anew. Who would look after Harry if Voldemort killed Severus? Severus stared at himself in the mirror again and felt like smacking himself on the head. How could he have been so stupid? How could he not have realised sooner? Snippets of the book came back to him. ...will have chosen their mate by the age of eleven... antagonistic towards each other... caring.... Everything had sneaked up on Severus so gradually that he hadn't realised what it meant. He and Harry had been antagonistic towards each other until recently when Severus had started caring for him. It had seemed perfectly natural for Severus to look after Harry like that. But of course it would feel bloody natural if he was Harry's mate, that's what the bond meant!

But why on Earth would an eleven-year-old Harry, who had never even seen Severus before, choose Severus as his mate? Had Harry sensed something in Severus that even he wasn't aware of? With this new knowledge under his belt, Severus knew one thing for sure: he couldn't fail in his mission to infiltrate the Death Eaters once more. Death wasn't an option, not when it would leave Harry at the mercy of Dumbledore and anyone else who ordered him about. Severus was the only one who could save him from that, but Severus also knew that Harry was nowhere ready for any sort of intimate relationship with anyone yet, mate or not. He wasn't at all sure he should even tell Harry yet that he was his mate.

Severus realised something else too; if he was starting to feel caring towards Harry, that meant that Harry's maturity and his wings weren't far off either. Severus just hoped they would have enough time before anyone else discovered what Harry was.

***

There was a soft knock on Harry's bedroom door. "It's open," he called. His tears had long since dried and Harry was just sitting reading; he hadn't really wanted to be among lots of people quite yet. Snape entered the room, a small parcel held in one hand.

"Happy Birthday, Harry," Snape said, handing him the squishy gift.

"You didn't have to get me anything, sir," said Harry. "But thank you."

Snape blushed and waved his hand towards Harry. "Open it then; I hope you like it."

Harry tore the wrapping paper eagerly and was afraid he was going to start crying again. It was a plush snake with silver and green diamond markings and jade green eyes. Harry had never been given anything like it in his life. He had never had teddy bears, or any sort of toy for that matter.

"It's beautiful. Thank you." Harry stood up from his bed and, taking a deep breath, he kissed Snape on the cheek. But he was quick to dart away again, out of reach. Harry wished he felt confident enough to hug Snape, but he didn't, not yet. Snape didn't seem to be pushing for it either and held the bedroom door open for him.

"The others are waiting for you downstairs; Molly has prepared a birthday tea."

"Is everyone still here?" Harry asked, unsure of how he would feel among all the strangers from the Order – strangers who felt that because Harry was the Boy Who Lived, they had rights to invade his personal space.

"No, just the Weasleys and Miss Granger."

"And Dumbledore?"

"Has returned to school."

"Are you staying for tea?"

"If you wish me to," said Snape.

Harry smiled. "Then, yes, I wish it."

"And a birthday boy should always get what he wishes for, shouldn't he? Very well, I'll stay for tonight, but I do have duties to get back to tomorrow."

"What duties?" Harry asked. "Oh, you can't tell me, right? Secrets of the Order and all the rest of it."

"Dumbledore has asked me to return to my previous duty."

"What? Spying on Voldemort? But they know you were on our side all along! They'll kill you!" Harry could hardly believe how calm Snape was being about this. It was as if he was walking blindly to his own execution and that it didn't seem to worry him in the least. Harry felt his chest ache at the thought of the man never coming back. Never coming back to him. Harry sank down on the edge of his bed again. "Don't go; please don't go back to him."

"I'm afraid I must, Harry. You are not the only one who has to obey orders."

"What if it's a trap? What if Dumbledore wants them to kill you?"

"That thought had crossed my mind. He did not seem too pleased at how close I am to you. He doesn't want you to discover your mate. Dumbledore wants you able to obey orders, especially from him."

"So he knew all along? He knew what I was and he used me?" Harry was surprised how much that thought hurt, even though he'd been half-expecting it.

"I'm afraid so, Harry."

"So he was pretending all along. Pretending that he liked me, that he cared for me in some way, but he didn't, did he?"

"No, I'm sorry, he didn't."

"Oh."

Harry's voice sounded small even to his own ears. Before he could say anything else, Ron bounded into the room like an eager puppy and pulled up short when he saw Snape standing by Harry's bed and Harry looking upset.

"What have you been saying to him?" demanded Ron. "You can't take points or give detention during the hols!"

"It's okay, Ron. He was just giving me my birthday present," Harry held the snake out and talked nonsense to it.

Both Snape and Ron were gaping at him. Harry set the toy snake back down. "I said it in Parseltongue?"

"Yep, that gives me the shivers," said Ron.

Snape was looking from Harry to the snake, then back to Harry again and Harry wondered how Snape felt at hearing him speak Parseltongue, for Snape did not comment..

Snape and Harry stared at each other some more before Ron interrupted. "Come on, your party's waiting."

Harry nodded and waved the other two out of the room. "I'll be right there."

***

Part 9

There was something different about Harry. At first Ron thought it might have been grief over his godfather's death; for he'd been very quiet at the party. How must it have felt to be back in this house? Ron had never liked being here, but he wanted to come to offer Harry some moral support. And now with the Dursleys being murdered, it seemed as if Harry had become even more withdrawn than he usually was. Harry had always been a bit shy, a bit quiet around others except for Ron and Hermione – as if it took him a while to gain people's trust. Harry had never said anything to them about what might have happened to him at the Dursleys', but Ron remembered that night at the Quidditch World Cup when Harry had hurriedly undressed. Ron had seen bruises covering Harry's back.

He'd never forgotten it, never forgotten how all the breath had left his body in a whoosh as he realised what those bruises meant. Someone at Privet Drive had been hurting Harry and going from the various hues of the bruises – some purple and fresh, others yellow and fading – they had been hurting him for some time.

Ron never discussed it with Harry, or with Hermione, but it was a secret between all three of them. A secret they never discussed, not amongst each other and not with anyone else. Sometimes Ron wanted to blurt it out to his parents so that they could somehow rescue Harry, but he never did. He was afraid that Harry would see it as a betrayal. But now, seeing Harry so quiet as he came back from the bathroom in his pyjamas, Ron wondered if he should have done.

"Harry? Are you all right?" Ron asked as Harry climbed into his own bed. The light was off and Harry turned around, startled.

"I thought you were already asleep."

"Is that why you took so long in the bathroom? You didn't want to talk to me? Harry, you know you can talk to me about anything, don't you? That's what friends do."

"It's not that I don't want to talk to you, Ron... I just can't. It's not easy for me to talk about things, with anyone. It's not just you."

"But are you okay?" Ron didn't want to think of his friend being so upset and not being able to talk about it with anyone. Ron might have moaned and complained about his older brothers, but he knew if he was in any sort of trouble and couldn't face telling his Mum or Dad, that he would be able to confide in one of his brothers and they would help sort it out and help him face his parents. Harry had never had that, Ron realised. No one to turn to when he was growing up with the Dursleys, no brothers, no sisters, no family to speak of really except relatives who hurt him. Now that Ron was older he knew what had been happening to Harry at that house: abuse.

"No, not really," Harry admitted. Ron was surprised that Harry had revealed that much. "I hate this house. I'll feel better once we're back at Hogwarts."

"Me too," said Ron. "This place is creepy."

"Goodnight, Ron," Harry said, turning over and facing the wall.

"'Night, Harry," Ron replied, but it was a long time before he fell asleep himself.

He was woken from a restless slumber by Harry's screams. Ron lit the lantern sitting on the bedside table and for a brief second wished he hadn't. Harry was out of the bed, doubled over the side of it and Ron could see clearly the back of his pyjama top was covered in blood.

"Harry! I'll get Mum!"

Harry turned, his face red and blotchy. "No! Snape! Get Professor Snape!"

"But Harry...!"

"Get Snape! Please!" Harry begged, as he doubled over and screamed in pain once more. Ron ran out into the corridor, his mind a jumble. He couldn't even remember what floor Snape's bedroom was on. Was it the third or the fourth? Or even the attic? The hallway was in darkness and he'd left his wand behind so he couldn't even cast a Lumos. A small light bobbed up ahead, as it got nearer, he realised it was Kreacher.

"Please! I need to get Professor Snape!" Ron gasped out, panicking at seeing Harry's blood-soaked clothes. Oh, Merlin! What was Voldemort doing to him? This was worse than those nightmares and visions he was having last year.

"Kreacher is not to be taking orders from blood traitors," spat Kreacher.

"Harry needs help!"

The elf's ears perked up. "Master Harry? Well, why didn't you be saying so?"

The elf Disapparated and returned a few moments later with Professor Snape in tow. Snape was dressed in a long grey nightshirt and a black dressing gown thrown hastily over the top of it. He tied the sash and glared in equal measure at Kreacher and at Ron.

"What is the meaning of this?"

"It's, Harry, sir," said Ron, knowing that calling him 'greasy git' at this juncture would get them nowhere. "He's bleeding."

"His scar?"

"No, his back. He insisted I get you."

Snape's face, already sallow, seemed to pale to the colour of curdled cheese as he thrust past Ron into their bedroom. Ron followed him in, but Snape didn't seem to see him. He had eyes only for Harry kneeling on the floor.

"It hurts!" Harry whimpered as he turned to see Snape coming towards him. Snape knelt down and caressed Harry's hair, Ron's eyes just about popped out of his head! What was Snape doing touching Harry like that? What was even more surprising was that Harry was allowing him to! Snape wrapped Harry in his arms and Ron saw Harry burrowing into the man's chest as Snape continued to try and soothe him. Ron knew he shouldn't be watching. It was too ... intimate, but since when had Snape and Harry been intimate? They hated each other, didn't they?

"Ssh, pet, I know; it'll be over soon. It's just your wings coming through."

Wings? Oh, Merlin! That meant Harry was... And Snape was...

"Harry! You're a Sylph!" Ron exclaimed, then realised he'd just given away that he'd been watching and listening to their every word.

"I thought you were still in the hall, Weasley," said Snape, his hand tightening protectively round Harry. Even though Ron may not have liked Snape as a teacher, he could tell just from the gesture that the man did genuinely care for Harry. "You have no business here for this."

Ron knew Snape was right. A Sylph's wings signified their growing sexual maturity and the only one who had any business watching was Harry's life-mate. Snape. Merlin, Ron could hardly believe it. Snape!

"Yes, Professor. I'll just go and make some tea, is that all right?"

"Yes," said Snape. "Make sure Harry's has lots of sugar."

Ron nodded, knowing Sylphs used up a lot of their energy when they first got their wings. He only knew about them because he'd read ahead with some of his brothers' books; he knew they wouldn't learn about Sylphs at school until seventh year. As he made his way down to the kitchen, Ron wondered what sort of Sylph his friend was. This was amazing. Better than amazing. His best friend was a Sylph!

***

Severus watched the doorway for a few moments after Ron Weasley had left. Harry shifted in his embrace and Severus wondered if he'd attempted too much, too soon. But Harry didn't seem to be trying to get away from him. His pained sobs had subsided somewhat. "I need to stand up. I need to stretch," said Harry.

Severus stood up and held out his hand to help Harry up from the floor. Harry's pyjama top lay in tatters around him, leaving a scarred chest visible to Severus' eye. "May I?" Severus asked, his hands reaching out before he had permission.

Harry nodded and looked down at his feet. Severus unbuttoned the rest of the top and removed it from Harry's small frame; even with regular meals on the boat, Harry was still delicate, still on the slender side. It brought out a surge of protective instinct so strong that Severus almost felt dizzy with it. Harry's face scrunched up, as if he was in pain again, or perhaps he was just concentrating, for in the next instant, he spread out his arms and as he did so, his wings emerged and spread out from his shoulders.

Severus stood gaping in awe; Harry's wings were dark green with a silvery sheen to them when the light caught at certain angles. The wings were large enough to wrap around Harry's body, or even Severus' own and he shivered in desire at the thought of being wrapped up in Harry's gorgeous feathers.

"How do you feel now? Still in pain?"

"No, sir. The wings feel strange. A bit awkward. My balance is going to be a bit different, isn't it?"

"Probably," Severus replied. "They are beautiful wings, Harry."

"You – you can touch them if you like," Harry said shyly, his face reddening as he said it. "It's you, isn't it? You're my mate?"

"How did you know?"

Harry didn't speak. Instead, he knelt down in front of Severus, his wings expanded to their full span. Every feather on Harry's wings were rippling as if in a small breeze as Harry bowed his head in front of his mate.

"I'm yours, Master," said Harry.

"No, Harry," said Severus, tilting his chin up so he could look into Harry's eyes. Harry looked terrified, and Severus was amazed anew at the young man's courage to kneel in front of him even through his fear. His mate's courage. "No, Harry. You will not call me 'Master'. Not when you were forced to do so before. If you wish to call me by a title, then you may use 'Dominus', but not 'Master'. And, Harry, as much as you might think this is what I wish, I know you are not ready yet."

"Will you teach me, Dominus?" Harry whispered, his eyes glistening with unshed tears. "Will you teach me how to love?"

"I will, Harry. I will teach you everything."

***

Part 10

"Harry, anything we can do to make it easier on you, just let us know, all right?" Hermione asked as the three of them settled into an empty compartment. Ron put all their trunks in the luggage racks before sitting down himself. Ron had grown quite a bit since the end of the previous term; although tall, he was still quite stocky and had quite a bit of bulk to him. Harry knew that no matter what he ate now, he would never grow much more. Sylphs were always quite delicate, according to the books, but their size tended to make people underestimate their magical power.

It hadn't been easy keeping Harry's creature status secret from Hermione and truth be told, Harry didn't really want to keep any more secrets from his two best friends. Before Professor Snape had gone back to Voldemort, Harry had discussed it with him at some length and Harry's mate was of the same opinion, he could let Hermione know as long as Ron and Hermione knew not to spread it any further.

"We should be careful how we word things," said Ron. "Harry has to obey it if it sounds like an order."

"Oh? I thought only your mate could order you to do things?" Hermione skimmed through the book on her lap to find the relevant page.

Harry blushed, not really comfortable with talking about that aspect of the bond. "Um... not yet. Not until we..."

"Oh! Oh, right. Sorry, Harry. I didn't mean to pry. That's your business. Have you heard from Professor Snape at all?"

"No, I'm a bit worried about him to be honest." The past month had been nothing but worry for Harry. Dumbledore had disappeared back to Hogwarts after his birthday and no one at Grimmauld Place had seen him since, so Harry couldn't ask him for news. Not that he really wanted to ask Dumbledore, but who else was there? The Headmaster was the only one who might know where Snape had gone. Harry had received no letters, not even a scrawled note to let him know that Snape was safe.

"That's understandable," said Hermione. "It can't have been easy, having to go back to that life."

They sat in silence for a few moments. "So, neither of you mind? That it's Snape?" Harry asked at last.

"Harry, a life-mate bond for a Sylph is just that, he's your mate for life. Your creature instincts are not something to be taken lightly and if you've chosen him for your mate, there must have been a reason. Ron and I are behind you one hundred per cent. Friends support each other through everything. At least it wasn't Mundungus Fletcher!" Hermione laughed, with Ron and Harry soon joining in. Harry had been so worried that they would reject him because he was different, because he was a freak, but they'd been nothing but supportive.

Ginny was another matter. She'd sensed something was up when the three of them closeted themselves away in the Grimmauld Place library with wards up to keep everyone else out. Ginny kept trying to wangle it out of Ron and Hermione as to what the three of them were up to in there, but Harry's friends hadn't betrayed his confidence. It was just lucky that Ginny hadn't ordered him outright, or Harry would have had to tell her about their research into Sylphs. The Blacks, it turned out, had quite an extensive collection of books on magical creatures, both Dark and Light.

"Ron, we'd better go and check up on the first years."

"Okay, Hermione; I just want to talk to Harry for a minute. You go on; I'll be there in a minute."

"Boy talk?" Hermione grinned and left them to it, casting a privacy charm over their compartment as she left.

Through the glass, Harry saw a few young students walk up and down the corridor, some of them quite a few times, as if they were making sure where he was. It seemed the 'Boy Who Lived' nonsense was still going strong with the new first years.

"Harry, Hermione's right. I'm not a fan of Snape, you know that, but I saw him with you that night. He really cares about you and I think he'll look after you."

"Do you think I need looking after, Ron?" Harry was surprised to find his eyes welling up with tears and he blinked trying to dispel them.

"You do, Harry, for you never had it before."

And with those parting words, Ron was out the door and Harry was left alone. Alone meant he had time to think and worry, and his worries centred on Snape. On his Dominus. Had Voldemort killed him for his treachery? Or was Snape even now going on raids and murdering Muggles? Harry shuddered, wishing Snape didn't have to do any of it.

The rocking of the train was making him drowsy; Harry laid his head against the back of the seat and closed his eyes, shifting a bit to try and get comfortable. His wings were folded like a fan behind his shoulders, well hidden beneath his shirt and school robes. They weren't too visible when folded, but they still ached sometimes and Harry was finding he was more clumsy these days than he used to be. Snape said they would ache for a while, as Harry's muscles weren't used to wings yet but that he would help to teach Harry how to fly using his new wings. That still seemed something too dreamlike to be real, for how often had Harry dreamed of just that: flying under his own steam without the benefit of any broom?

He finally drifted off to sleep as the train rattled along on its way to Hogwarts.

***

Harry scanned the top table eagerly as soon as they entered the Great Hall, but as well as Hagrid being missing, there was no sign of Professor Snape and there was an empty chair where the Defence teacher usually sat. Harry just hoped they wouldn't get someone as bad as Umbridge this year. The noise level gradually increased as the chattering students caught up with one another after their summer break. Harry climbed over the bench, as far away from Ginny as he could get. For a moment, it looked as if Ginny was going to change places and sit in the spot next to Harry, but the empty place was claimed by Neville Longbottom and Ginny was thwarted. Harry wondered how he was going to avoid her for the rest of the year without it seeming like he was avoiding her.

"Hi, Neville. I didn't see you on the train," said Harry as his friend got comfortable. Neville had lost a bit of weight over the summer and gained a few inches in height and Harry noticed quite a few of the other girls were ogling Neville, but he didn't seem to notice. Neville had eyes only for one girl, Luna Lovegood sitting at the Ravenclaw table.

Neville flushed a little as he waved to Luna. "I was sitting with Luna."

"Oh. You two are getting on, then?"

"We're going out," Neville admitted in a stage whisper.

"About bloody time, Neville!" Seamus Finnegan laughed and clapped Neville on the back, having just arrived in the Hall and heard Neville's discussion. "What about you and Cho, Harry? Wedding bells in the air, yet?"

"Er, no. Things didn't work out."

Harry was relieved when Seamus sat down on the benches opposite them and didn't try and pat Harry's back. How as he supposed to keep his wings secret if people were going to touch him? Up at the teachers' table, Dumbledore tapped the edge of a knife against his goblet just as the great doors swung open and Hagrid entered along with a bedraggled group of first years.

They all looked so tiny as they made their way up to the front of the room and the old stool with the Sorting Hat perched on top of it. Most were smiling and looking around in awe at the large tables and the enchanted ceiling. A few looked nervous and frightened – Muggle-borns perhaps? As the last of the students filed in, Harry's heart jolted with relief. Snape was back, and he was accompanied by two other people. Bill Weasley, and a rather rotund man that Harry had never met before.

Dumbledore smiled as he spotted the three of them and once they were all seated at the teachers' table, with an extra chair being conjured for Bill, Dumbledore tapped his goblet again until the room quieted down.

"A warm welcome back to Hogwarts, everyone, and an especially warm welcome to our new students this year. I'm sure you will all be happy here. There are just a few notices for this term. We do indeed have a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher this term; I am pleased to say that Professor Snape has finally accepted the post."

There were whoops and cheers from the Slytherin table, with more subdued applause from the other Houses. Harry was worried; he and Ron had often joked that the post was jinxed, with no one lasting out more than a year, so did that mean Snape was not going to be at Hogwarts the next year? If it truly was jinxed, then his mate was no longer going to be at Hogwarts. Did Dumbledore know who his mate was? Could it be he was trying to split them up? Harry bristled, feeling his wings ache again.

"The Defence curriculum is quite extensive, especially for the NEWT students, so Mr. Weasley will be helping Professor Snape as a classroom assistant. That just leaves us with our new Potions teacher, Professor Horace Slughorn."

More subdued applause as everyone wondered what these changes would bring. Slughorn was an unknown quantity, as was Snape for teaching Defence. And why would he need an assistant? From what little Harry knew of the man, Harry didn't think Snape needed assistance for anything, he was very self-sufficient.

"Well, that's interesting," Hermione mumbled on the other side of Ron. "I wonder if that's where Snape was, getting Slughorn out of retirement."

"He used to work here before?" asked Ron.

"Yes, haven't you read about him in Hogwarts: A History?" Hermione rolled her eyes. "Of course you haven't. He used to be Head of Slytherin."

"More Slytherins?" grumbled Ron. "But at least we have Bill too. I didn't know he was going to be a teaching assistant. I wonder what happened at the bank? They don't normally allow sabbaticals. I wonder if he was fired or something? Or more likely Fleur made him quit, she hated him doing all that travelling."

Hermione leaned sideways so that she could whisper her thoughts on the matter to both of them. "It's probably to do with Harry. Extra protection from You-Know-Who."

"Oh, right," replied Harry, feeling a bit deflated.

It seemed everything in his life came down to Voldemort in the end.

TBC


Chapter 3: The Weight of Water
Part 11

Harry lay on his side in his Gryffindor bed later that night, sleep a long way off. He needed to be with his Dominus. It was like an invisible string was pulling him towards Severus Snape and the longer he ignored it, the more insistent the tugging became. It wasn't a sexual pull – Harry had never felt anything sexual in his life.

In third year they'd had some health lectures from Madam Pomfrey about their changing bodies and what might soon be happening, but Harry had never felt anything remotely like that. He'd never had a wet dream, had never even had an erection. They'd learned about masturbation and sexual intercourse, conception and babies and all the rest of it, but it had only made Harry had worry that he wasn't normal, yet again. Sometimes the other boys touched themselves in the showers or the dorms, not really seeming to care about privacy that way, for in a boarding school, there wasn't really any privacy anyway. But Harry had never really felt those urges at all.

He didn't know whether it was his Sylph nature or if it was due to the abuse. Maybe he would never feel sexual at all, mate or not. Vernon had certainly not spent time on arousing Harry, and truth be told, Harry was glad that Vernon hadn't done that. Harry felt bad enough at what Vernon and Dudley had done to him, he couldn't imagine how he would have felt if what they'd done had actually made him climax.

There were soft breaths and snores coming from the other boys in the dorm, so Harry knew they were all asleep. He wished sleep would come that easily to him, but he'd never been one to whom sleep came easily. Sometimes he and Ron would be talking and Ron would just drop off in the middle of the conversation! To drift off almost instantly like that was something Harry had never been able to do.

At Privet Drive he'd either been in too much pain to have a decent night's sleep, or else they would come in and wake him to do those horrible things to him. Nightmares were his frequent companions, as were Vernon's fists and boots when Harry's nightmarish screams woke them. When Harry had arrived at Hogwarts for the first time, he'd been far too excited to sleep at all for the first few days. Even now, knowing a bit more about the magical world and his place in it, Harry still got a frisson of excitement down his spine as the carriages swept around the curved drive and he saw the turrets and brightly lit windows.

Harry shifted again, too restless as he tried to get comfortable. He normally slept on his back, but the pressure was too uncomfortable on his wings tonight. Harry sat up, removed one of his pillows and set it down on the floor, then punched the one he was left with and lay down again. It was no use, even with a change of pillows he was still wide awake, and he knew he would be until he saw Severus.

Harry knew he wouldn't get settled until he'd seen his Dominus, but would Severus be angry with him for breaking curfew? Severus had never been lenient with him before, but things had changed now, hadn't they? Severus Snape was now his mate and Harry needed to see him before he cracked up.

Harry slipped out of his bed and slid his feet into his slippers before unlocking his trunk as quietly as he could. The lid creaked a bit as he lifted it but none of the others seemed to wake. Harry removed his Invisibility Cloak and draped it round his shoulders before making his way to the door and down to the common room. The fire had been banked for the night and the coals were glowing blood-red. A few lanterns still remained lit so it was easy to avoid the furniture as he made his way to the portrait hole. The Fat Lady was asleep in her frame and didn't notice his passage.

All the corridors and stairways were empty as Harry made his way to the Defence classroom, glad at least that he wouldn't have to brave the dungeons to see Severus tonight. It was quite eerie being in the classroom in the dark. There were no lanterns alight here, the only illumination coming from the moon and stars through the windows. As the light caught the bones of the ancient dragon, Harry was almost sure it had moved. He hurried down the length of the classroom and ascended the steps leading to the office, but once he reached the door, he couldn't knock on it. Harry didn't want his Dominus to be angry with him and he worried that disturbing him in the middle of the night would do just that. Feeling miserable and upset, Harry sat down on the last step and held his head in his hands.

He shouldn't have come, it was a mistake. He should have stayed in Gryffindor Tower wrapped up in bed like he was supposed to be. Just as Harry stood up to make his way back to the dorms, the office door opened. Harry turned around to come face to face with his Dominus. Harry felt his throat tighten as Severus scanned the steps and the dark classroom below.

"Harry, is that you?" Severus asked. He was wearing a pair of black pyjamas and was barefoot, his hair mussed as if he'd only just got out of bed. Harry had never seen him in such disarray.

"Yes, Dominus," said Harry, removing the cloak and draping it over his arm. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have disturbed you; I'll just go back to bed."

"Harry, please come in," Severus suggested as he stood aside from the door so Harry could enter the office.

Gone were the horrible pink walls and kitten plates that Umbridge had favoured. Instead, the walls were back to bare stone with a few tapestries of hunting scenes and lots of bookcases. Harry was about to kneel on the floor when Severus waved him into one of the chairs by the desk and took the one behind it. Harry felt even more like an errant student about to be given detention.

"I sensed something through the bond," said Severus. "Is something bothering you?"

"I couldn't sleep," said Harry. "I had to see you. Like something was tugging at me to see you."

"I see. I never thought a sexual compulsion would happen this soon."

"No!" Harry blurted out. "Not that. I don't feel that. I think I just needed to know that you really were safe. After you had to go back to him. Did – did he hurt you?"

"I would prefer not to discuss that."

"Oh. Right. I shouldn't have asked."

"I don't mind you asking questions, Harry, as long as you know that I may not always be able to answer them. We do have a lot to discuss though, but I think it can wait until we are both not so tired. Would you like something to help you sleep? I've got a sleeping draught here somewhere."

"Thank you, sir," said Harry. "That might help."

Once Severus disappeared through the doorway to his private chambers, Harry slid from the chair and knelt down on the floor, like he'd been wanting to do ever since he'd arrived. His breathing eased out and he felt a lot more relaxed now that he was going to be kneeling in his Dominus' presence. That compulsion, he was definitely feeling already.

He heard Severus' sharp intake of breath when he returned with a small vial in his hand.

"You look good kneeling for me, pet," said Severus, reaching down to caress Harry's hair.

Harry hardly moved a muscle; he was a little frightened that the caress would turn to more intimate touches, but he trusted Severus too and knew he would only go so far for the moment.

Severus let his hand linger on Harry's hair for a moment, before he tilted Harry's chin up to look into his eyes. "I meant what I said, Harry. We will take things slowly. You will know when you're ready for me."

"But aren't I supposed to obey you? What if you want more before I'm ready? You could just order me to do it."

Severus sat down cross-legged on the floor so that he was on Harry's level. "Harry, I am not like your relatives. A true Dominant does not make their submissive do things they truly do not wish to do. A Dominant will help the submissive to explore their boundaries, but go only as far as they wish to go. To make you do things that you truly do not wish, that would be little more than rape, don't you agree?"

Harry nodded, that's exactly what the Dursleys had done to him.

"I've been doing some more reading on the creature bond, Harry. I would like us to try a little experiment. I will order you to do something, but I want you to try and disobey me, all right?"

"Okay," Harry said warily, dreading the pain he knew was coming.

"Right, Harry. Stand up and touch that tapestry."

Harry was about to move before he realised that Severus also wanted him to disobey the order. So which was the true order? To obey or disobey? As he was pondering this dilemma, he realised something else as well. There was no pain. Not an inkling of any pain. "I don't feel any pain," said Harry in awe.

"No, Harry. You won't, not from me. You will obey me because it is in your nature to want to please me, but you will not feel pain when your mate orders you to do something. Until we consummate the bond, others will still be able to order you about or you will feel pain like before."

"But you gave me some orders before that I had to obey," said Harry.

"Yes, that was before you had accepted me as your mate. Things have changed now that you've done that. They will probably change even more once I have fully claimed you."

"I – I really don't feel ready for that yet, Dominus."

"I know, Harry. We'll just take one day at a time, right?" Severus handed him the vial and kissed his forehead. "But right now it's time you were in bed. Goodnight, Harry."

"Goodnight, sir. And thank you."

"You're very welcome, now scoot!" Severus waved his hands as if he was trying to get rid of an imaginary cat and Harry couldn't help giggling. He hoped he'd be able to laugh a lot more in future.

***

Part 12

Harry wasn't the only one who stared around the dungeon classroom in some surprise. In Professor Snape's day there had been little light except for the flickering candles and lanterns dotted about the room. Now, Professor Slughorn had charmed three windows and sunlight flooded into the dungeon classroom, dust motes swirling in the beams. Harry wasn't sure, as he hadn't really paid that much attention to Potions before, but he seemed to remember Severus mentioning something about darkness being needed for a lot of Potions and that sunlight could ruin them. On the work station next to his, Hermione raised her hand and Ron rolled his eyes at Harry. Harry smiled at his friend. At least some things never changed.

"Yes?" queried Slughorn. "And your name, dear?"

The man didn't favour black as much as Severus did. Underneath a rust coloured robe, with sleeves so long and sweeping they were impractical, he was wearing a brown pin-striped suit that was strained across his ample midriff. Harry would hazard a guess that he hadn't actually brewed any sort of potion for years. His hands were soft and flabby with stubby fingers; Harry would be surprised if the man remembered the right way up to stand a cauldron.

"Hermione Granger, sir. I just wondered why we have daylight in here. Professor Snape said–"

Slughorn cut her off. "You will find that Professor Snape and I favour very different teaching methods. He might have been at home in the dark, but I for one like my sunlight. Not all of us are related to bats, you know!" He paused for laughter, but there was none. "I also find that students perform better and there are less unruly disruptions when everyone can see what they are doing. Mr. Malfoy, are you eating in my classroom?"

"No, sir," said Malfoy with a sullen pout, but Harry had seen him swallow something as Slughorn turned around to him.

Slughorn narrowed his eyes at the Slytherin side of the room. "Yes, well see that you don't. There are very many volatile substances in this room, even a drop of saliva might have disastrous consequences. You are all here to learn. This is not your common room or the Great Hall. There are things I will not tolerate in my class. This is not a place to gossip about your latest boyfriends and girlfriends, in fact there should be no talking at all unless it is related to your potion or this class in general. It is not a place where you may sneak a piece of your lunch or play practical jokes on one another. I expect each and every one of you to clean your cauldrons and leave a tidy workspace for the class after you. Dirty implements can render potions useless or even dangerous and I will not have any of you skimping on the practical stuff."

"We're not house-elves!" protested Malfoy. "We shouldn't have to clean things."

"Mr. Malfoy, while you are a student in this class you will do what you are told, just like everyone else."

"I'll write to my father about this," Malfoy grumbled to Pansy beside him.

"You do that," Slughorn said amiably. "But there's not much he can do about it from prison, is there?"

Malfoy's face flamed and the Gryffindors in the room burst into giggles, Ron and Harry the loudest. Despite being a Slytherin himself, it seemed Slughorn was not going to suffer Malfoy gladly.

Malfoy turned and glared at Harry. "Go fuck yourself, Potter!"

***

"To summon a Patronus and master the Patronus Charm itself, you must first be free of any negative emotions. Fear, hate, greed and envy will only block your power and you will be unable to conjure the charm. You should think of something joyful, a happy memory is the strongest bet. Mr. Stephenson, why don't you come up and demonstrate to the rest of the class?"

The seventh-year Ravenclaw glanced around at his classmates as though for rescue, but the rest of the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs ignored him, just thankful that they hadn't been called upon. "Sometime this century, Mr. Stephenson," Snape growled, tapping his wand against his hand. He'd been in a foul mood all morning but couldn't quite work out why. Harry had looked perfectly fine at breakfast, flanked by Weasley and Granger like his own personal bodyguards, but Severus couldn't stop the nagging worry at the back of his mind. He wished the bond was a bit more accurate than just some flimsy feeling of unease. Why was Harry uneasy?

Bill was smirking in the corner, supposedly marking some third year essays, but they both knew Bill Weasley wasn't really here to help teach Defence. Severus took a deep breath. It wasn't really fair to take his temper out on the students, but he'd been doing it for so long it was a hard habit to break. Stephenson had finally left his chair and made his way up to the front of the room just as the classroom door swung open and Hermione Granger appeared in the gap looking distressed and dishevelled.

Severus felt his heart jolt into his throat.

"Sir! You've got to come!" screeched Granger, earning her curious looks from the seventh year class.

"Mr. Weasley, please look after the class while I am gone."

Bill nodded, but his eyes held the same knowledge that Severus was sure was in his own. Harry. Granger was only here because something had happened to Harry. Severus followed her out and he knew even before asking that Harry was in the infirmary, and indeed her steps were heading in that direction.

"What happened?" Severus asked her as they walked up the stairs side by side.

"Harry got hurt in Potions," she said, but Severus was sure there was more to it than that. Granger hadn't said that Harry had an accident, but rather that he'd been hurt.

"Was it the compulsion?"

"Yes, sir," she admitted at last. "Draco Malfoy – Draco Malfoy told Harry to – to fuck himself."

"Merlin!" Severus breathed. "What happened? What did Harry do?"

Granger started sobbing and it was all she could do to try and string a coherent sentence together. "H-Harry went to the store room. Sir, he used one of the glass stirring rods, but it broke. Inside him."

Severus didn't wait to hear anything more; he jumped up the rest of the stairs two at a time and almost flew to the hospital wing. At the bed furthest from the door, a screen was draped around it, hiding it and its occupant from view, but Severus could see the shadow of Madam Pomfrey through the cloth as she bustled about. Granger had followed Severus into the infirmary and Severus was rapidly trying to think up an excuse as to why he was here. After all, why would Severus Snape care about Harry Potter being in the infirmary?

"Sir? May I wait?" asked Granger, wringing her hands.

"I think it's best you get back to class, Miss Granger. I will inform you how he is later."

"Oh. Oh, right. Can you tell Harry I was asking about him?"

"I will, Miss Granger."

He watched her leave, her shoulders so stooped it was a wonder her nose wasn't trailing along the floor. Severus hovered by the door of the infirmary, but knew he couldn't leave when Harry needed him. Was that what the bond had been trying to tell him? That Harry was hurt?

The screen was pulled back and Poppy nodded at him. "Ah, Severus. You're here. Good. Harry was asking for you."

"He must be delirious," said Severus, the first thing that came into his head. "Why would he be asking for me?"

Poppy arched an eyebrow at him. "Why else? He was hurt and he needed his mate. Do you think I don't know a Sylph when I see one?"

"So, you know."

"Yes, Severus. I know. Now get in there and comfort him, that's what he needs at the moment."

"Will he all be right?"

"The damage was quite extensive, but nothing a good few stitching spells and some blood replenishing solution won't fix. He'll be fine in no time, but as Harry's physician I must insist that anal intercourse is not attempted for at least a month to give his rectum time to heal properly."

Severus blushed like a schoolboy despite her no nonsense tone. "Very well," he said as he walked down towards Harry's bed.

Harry was fast asleep, curled up on top of the bedcovers in a pair of the hospital striped pyjamas. The top was bunched up at the back as the material tried its best to cover Harry's wings, but Severus could see a few feathers peeking out above the collar. Not wanting to wake Harry, but yet needing to hold him, Severus settled instead for resting his hand on Harry's head and just listening to him breathe. He tried not to think of what might have happened if Harry hadn't managed to get to the infirmary in time. But it was all right; Harry was safe. For now. For who knew what other orders might be given to him?

They needed Harry to get over his fear of intimacy or he was going to be at the mercy of people like Malfoy all year. That was easier said than done. Severus wasn't blind; he saw the way Harry trembled when he caressed him and it wasn't from desire. It was fear, pure and simple. It was all very well to say they would take things slowly, but until Severus had fully claimed him, Harry was in danger from the rest of the school. The rest of the world, for that matter.

Severus didn't know how long he sat by Harry's bedside until the boy woke up and stared at him.

"Dominus, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to do it!"

"It's all right, I know. The main thing is that you are safe. How are you feeling now?"

"A bit sore," Harry said, flushing a delightful shade of pink.

"I would like to wring Draco Malfoy's neck!"

"It wasn't his fault either," said Harry. "He didn't know what I would do."

"Does anyone else know what happened with you?"

"Just Hermione. She followed me into the store room; she knew I was going to do something. Hermione was the one who took me to the infirmary. Ron's probably guessed or Hermione has told him by now."

"She was asking about you. You have good friends, Harry. How soon before you are out of the infirmary?"

"Madam Pomfrey said I should stay for a few days." Harry hung his head, not looking at him.

Severus nodded. "Very well. Once you are released, I would like you to come to my quarters one evening, we have a lot of things to discuss, pet."

"Yes, Dominus."

"For now, just get some rest. I will visit you again after dinner."

Severus leaned over to kiss Harry's forehead and he didn't miss the flinch as he did so. Merlin, how was he ever going to claim Harry as his own when the Sylph balked at the slightest kiss?

He was going to have his work cut out for him, that was for sure.

***

Part 13

Take it! Take it in your mouth, freak! That's all you are, isn't it? Nothing but a freaky whore! Did they teach you how to suck cock at that freaky school? Suck it, and if you bite me again I'll kill you!

Harry woke up, gasping for breath, nausea roiling in his stomach as the nightmare flashed through his mind even though he was now awake. The bedclothes were in a sweaty tangle around his legs and he struggled to free himself to get to the bathroom, but he didn't make it in time. He threw up over the side of the bed, his throat sore and his eyes watering as he retched again and again, until very little was coming back up. Madam Pomfrey rushed down the ward to him, her face marred with worry as she banished the vomit with her wand. She poured out some water for him from the jug sitting on the bedside table.

"Thanks," said Harry, taking a long sip to try and get rid of the horrible taste in his mouth.

"Harry, I don't feel happy having you leave the infirmary when you are still getting ill like this. I wonder if it is a reaction to some of the potions you're taking. I think you should stay for a few more days."

"No, please. I'd like to get back to normal. I'm fine, really."

"Harry, you've been throwing up for the past few days, you are not fine, and it would be irresponsible of me to release you when you aren't well. How about a compromise? If you can manage to eat your breakfast and your lunch and keep it down this time, you can go this afternoon."

Harry dreaded the thought of any food, but he wanted out of the hospital wing too. Had he once thought he liked being here? He'd been here almost a fortnight now and the longer he stayed, the more frequent the nightmares seemed to be becoming. Harry didn't know how many more of them he could take; the Dreamless Sleep was no longer keeping the nightmares at bay and he just wanted out and back to his own bed.

"I'll try. Thank you."

"Okay, dear. I'll just order you some breakfast, something light, and I'll get some peppermint tea too."

As soon as she was gone, Harry sat up against his pillows and took a few deep breaths. Severus had been to see him every evening he'd spent in the hospital wing and Harry knew his Dominus was very worried about him; he could sense it sometimes. Harry was worried too, but not about his health. He knew his sickness wasn't anything to do with how healthy his body was; no, Harry was worried sick. He could guess what Severus wanted to discuss with him and Harry was terrified of that conversation. Terrified of what they might have to do in order to complete the bond. Sex. They were going to have to have sex and that horrified him. For Harry, sex had always been about the pain and the humiliation that the Dursleys had inflicted on him. There was no love, no tenderness and even though Harry knew Severus could be tender, and in fact had been tender with him, Harry couldn't see how he could ever endure sex with him. With anyone ever again.

Madam Pomfrey returned with a plate of toast and a boiled egg, along with pumpkin juice and the promised peppermint tea. Harry sipped the tea first to help settle his stomach; much to his relief it worked and he felt confident he could eat the breakfast without bringing it straight back up again. Madam Pomfrey hovered close by his bed as she fussed about straightening non-existent creases on the other beds near his. Once Harry had cleared the tray, she smiled down at him. "That's great, Harry. Keep that up and you'll be out of here in no time."

Ron and Hermione came to visit him straight after breakfast, both dressed casually today rather than in their robes and uniforms.

"It's Saturday already?" Harry asked in some surprise, the time had gone by so quickly.

"Yep, so we can stay longer today," said Ron as he settled himself on one of the chairs by Harry's bedside. Hermione sat on the end of the bed and smiled up at him.

"Feeling any better?"

"A bit. Madam Pomfrey said I can go if I can manage to eat my lunch today."

"That's great, Harry." Hermione patted his foot under the bedclothes. "You can borrow my notes for anything you've missed, but I'm afraid you'll have to rely on this idiot for Divination."

"Oi," said Ron in mock indignation. "Anyway, Harry, you haven't missed much there. Trelawney's still foreseeing your demise every lesson, she doesn't have time to mention much else these days."

"Hermione, can I talk to Ron alone for a bit?" Harry asked, not sure how comfortable he would be discussing this with a girl, even if she was one of his best friends.

"Of course, Harry. I'll just be in the library."

"Now there's a surprise," Ron mumbled under his breath, but Hermione just giggled at him.

Hermione giggling. At Ron! Once Hermione had left, Ron looked a bit sheepish.

"Is there something you wanted to tell me, Ron?"

Ron blushed almost as red as his hair. "Er, yeah. I asked Hermione out for the first Hogsmeade weekend and she said yes. So I suppose we're sort of going out. You're not upset, are you? I wasn't sure how it would work, with the three of us always being friends. I don't want to ruin that."

"Ron, we can still be friends even if you're going out with Hermione, that doesn't bother me. And if you're already friends with Hermione, that might work even better; you'll be able to talk to her and everything."

"That's true," said Ron. "So, what did you want to talk to me about?"

God, it sounded so simple in his mind, but now when it came right down to it, Harry could barely get the words out past his throat. This wasn't going to be easy, but then he'd known that from the start.

"Ron – I – when I lived with the Dursleys, they –" Harry took another deep breath. "They did things to me, Ron."

"I know, Harry. I saw bruises on your back at the Quidditch World Cup. I should have told someone, I'm so sorry that I didn't."

"It's okay. I'm not sure anyone would have been able to do anything anyway. Dumbledore always ordered me back, even when I ran away in third year. But – but that wasn't all they did."

"Oh, Merlin! Do you mean they touched you? Molested you?"

Harry nodded, he couldn't speak through the tears that had suddenly come upon him and he hugged his knees to his chest as he just wept and wept. The bedclothes were getting soaked but still he couldn't seem to stop as all the horrible memories just kept assailing him.

"Oh, Harry," Ron said softly as he stood up and held out his arms. "Is this okay? Can I hug you?"

Harry nodded and dived for the comfort afforded by his best friend's shoulder. To know that he had told Ron and Ron was still here, was even touching him, brought it home to Harry that maybe he wasn't as disgusting and as dirty as he'd always thought himself.

"I never feel clean!" Harry sobbed. "I scrub and scrub but I can't get their filth off me!"

"Ssh, Harry. It'll be all right," Ron said. "You did nothing wrong. And they can never hurt you again. Never."

Harry's tears subsided and he wriggled, trying to get away. Ron was quick to let him go once he realised Harry was no longer comfortable with the touch.

"I can't do it, Ron! I won't be able to do it!"

"Do what?"

"The Sylph bond. Severus will want us to complete it soon so that what happened with Malfoy won't happen again. He doesn't want to see me hurt by some idiot ordering me to do something."

"Harry, you can't do that, not yet. You're nowhere near ready! You'll have to tell Snape what happened with the Dursleys."

"He already knows what happened."

"And he's still forcing you to have sex with him?" demanded Ron hotly.

"No, no, he just wants to discuss it for the moment, but I know I'll never be able to do it. Ron, I've never – I've never even had an erection never mind anything else. I don't have any libido to speak of at all. It's like I just don't work down there." Harry waved a hand over his groin, blushing furiously. He was so glad Hermione wasn't here listening to all of this. It was so embarrassing, but he knew Ron wouldn't spread gossip about it.

"So you've never even, you know..." Ron moved his hand in a crude gesture.

"No, I've never felt like it. I've never even tried it."

"Harry, I'm no expert or anything, but maybe you should. Try it, I mean. See if you can make yourself come. Let yourself enjoy it, like you're supposed to. But I don't think you should be doing anything with Snape yet, even if he is your mate. You need to feel comfortable in your own body before you let someone else start messing about with it."

"Do you like doing it?" Harry asked. He didn't want to embarrass his friend, but he was genuinely curious.

"Since I know you're not going to go spreading this around the whole school, I'll answer. Yeah, it's fun. And sometimes if I feel too stressed or wound up to go asleep, I have a wank first and then I fall asleep almost straightaway. It will also help you with Snape later on, because you'll know the sort of things you like."

"Thanks, Ron."

"Harry, I really am sorry about what happened to you. But you know it wasn't your fault, right? Those bastards are to blame, and don't you dare feel guilty over what they did to you!"

"I try, Ron. But sometimes it's so hard to think like that. Sometimes deep down inside there's a scared little boy who thinks that it's his fault."

"Well, then, we'll just have to prove that scared little boy wrong, won't we?"

***

Part 14

It was Sunday evening before Harry drummed up enough courage to go and visit Severus in the Defence quarters. All through dinner he had felt his Dominus' eyes on him and knew he could no longer put it off. Harry barely ate any of the roast chicken and he left the rhubarb crumble altogether. Ron and Hermione were giving him worried looks and Harry couldn't help remembering the day before. Had he been right to confide in Ron? Maybe Severus would be angry with him for talking to Ron about it when Harry knew he really should have been talking to his Dominus instead. Harry had told Ron he could tell Hermione what had happened at Privet Drive, but Harry knew he really didn't want to talk to Hermione about this. It was far too personal.

Harry waited for about ten minutes after Severus had left the table, before he too downed his cutlery and made his way out of the Great Hall. The walk to the third floor and the Defence classroom had never seemed to take so long. Harry was dragging his feet, trying to delay the moment of inevitability that bit longer, but maybe the anticipation was worse so he started speeding up just a little. Severus had been expecting him; all the lights in the classroom were lit and the door to the office was open, and Severus was standing in the doorway. Harry paused by the bottom of the steps.

"Come on up, Harry," said Severus, turning aside and entering the room. Harry took a deep breath and wiped sweaty hands on his robes before following his Dominus. Once he'd reached the office, Harry knelt down on the floor, his head lowered, and immediately felt much better. This was something he wanted, something he had control of.

"I think we ought to have this conversation where we're both on more of an equal footing, Harry," said Severus. "Please take a seat."

"Yes, sir," said Harry, doing as he'd been told, even though he didn't feel that same compulsion to obey like he'd had that day with Draco. It felt good to obey his Dominus, but not because he might feel pain otherwise. There was no pain when he was with Severus, so that, at least, was something different from when he was with the Dursleys. Severus dragged his chair out from behind his desk so that they were sitting opposite each other without anything in between.

"How are you feeling?" Severus asked, concern evident in his tone.

It made a welcome change to know that someone cared for him. "Fine, thank you, Dominus."

"And are your injuries healing?"

"Yes, Dominus. I'm healed, but Madam Pomfrey wants me to wait for a while before we ... do anything." Harry wished his voice didn't sound so wavering.

"Harry, I know this is going to be hard for you, but if we don't want what happened with Draco Malfoy to happen again, we are going to have to consummate the bond as soon as possible. Who knows what else might happen? Someone could order you to jump off the Astronomy Tower or drown yourself in the lake and you would be compelled to do it."

"I know, sir, but it doesn't make this any easier," Harry admitted softly. "I'm not ready." Harry wasn't entirely sure he'd ever be ready, but he wasn't sure he could tell Severus that.

"I know you're not ready yet, Harry. You flinch when I come anywhere near you, but it is essential that you get over this fear sometime soon. We can try and build up your confidence gradually with kissing and touching first. What is it that frightens you so? Is it the pain? Did they hurt you?"

"Partly," said Harry. "But I think it's more how they made me feel. Humiliated and helpless. Worthless, that I was dirty. I feel dirty inside. I don't want to feel like that with you."

"Do you think I want to humiliate you? Hurt you?" Severus tapped his forefinger along his chin, as if he was thinking of something.

"No, sir. But I still feel scared. I just panic, I feel I'll not be in control and that terrifies me. They never listened to me when I told them to stop." Harry didn't voice his major fear, that if things got too much and Harry could no longer handle it, that he would ask Severus to stop and he wouldn't. Just like before.

Severus nodded, his hand under his chin as he stared hard at Harry. "Which is why what they did to you was rape, Harry. I don't want to force you, I want you willing, for that is the only way the bond will complete. You've read the books too, how rape and abuse will hurt a Sylph. You need a loving mate and we need to make love to consummate the bond. You've felt no sexual compulsion yet?"

"No, Dominus. I'm sorry."

Severus sighed. "There's no need to be sorry. These things take time, in the meantime I want you to keep close to your friends, so that they can try and head off any orders that might come your way. Hopefully Malfoy won't be aware of what you did or what you are.

"Meanwhile, I have a little present for you. Wait here a moment."

Harry sat in his chair, watching as Severus went through an inner door and into his private chambers, Harry presumed. A few moments later, Severus returned with a battered leather-bound book. Severus shook his head as he stared at it. "I found it like this in the dungeons the other day, this won't do at all." Severus waved his wand at the book so that it looked like new once more and Harry caught sight of the title: Advanced Potions Making.

"Oh, I already have that book for Potions," said Harry. "You didn't have to go to so much trouble for me."

"You don't have this book," said Severus. "It was my copy when I was at school here. I've added some improvements in the margins; this book was outdated when I was here. I want you to do well in all your subjects, Harry, and that includes Potions. Just don't tell anyone where you got it from."

"Wouldn't that be cheating?" Harry asked, frowning. He wanted to do well on his own merits.

"Not really, just think of it as an improved version of your textbook. You still have to study and do the work."

"Oh," Harry replied, not really sure it was as simple as that, but he was supposed to obey his Dominus, wasn't he? "Thank you, sir. May I go now?" Harry was almost half out of his chair before the answer came.

"Not just yet, Harry. I would like you to sit on my lap for a little while."

"Your lap?" Harry's heart began to thump like a drumbeat in his ears. He tried to tamp down the panic that wanted to claim him, but it was clawing its way up from his stomach and he swallowed back nausea, not looking at Severus.

"I just want to hold you for a few moments, Harry. My arms will be around you, but that's all. I don't want to hurt or humiliate you in any way. We need to get used to each other's touch soon, don't we?"

Harry nodded as he stood up from his own chair. He'd accepted comfort from Ron yesterday; would accepting it from his mate be any different? But Ron would never try to bugger him, would he? Harry took another deep breath and sat down on Severus' lap, perching right on the edge.

"Lean against me, Harry. I don't want you to fall."

Harry scooted back a little and rested his head on Severus' shoulder. Severus' arms came around and held onto his waist, but moved no lower, and gradually Harry felt himself relaxing on his Dominus' lap. It felt quite good to be held like that; Harry had never really had that sort of comfort before.

"How's that, pet?"

"It feels nice," said Harry in some surprise.

"Good, that's the idea."

"May I ask you something, Dominus?"

"You may, but I might not be able to answer."

"Why is Bill Weasley really here? He's not really a classroom assistant, is he?"

"Very astute of you, Harry. No, he's not. He's spying on me."

"Spying on you? But why?"

"Because Dumbledore no longer trusts me and Bill is here on behalf of the Order to make sure I don't jeopardise any of their plans."

"Me, you mean. I'm their plan, aren't I?"

"Indeed, Harry. Dumbledore wants to know what I've been telling you for the month we spent together over the summer. He is not pleased that I have refused to reveal anything of our summer, not what we talked about, and not where we were."

"He could just order me to tell him, couldn't he?" asked Harry, worrying his bottom lip. He didn't want to get his Dominus into trouble, but if the Headmaster ordered it, what choice did he have?

"He can try," Severus said with a smirk. "There are extensive wards on that boat, Harry. No can reveal its existence except for me and nothing that is talked about there can be revealed to anyone either. I'm quite paranoid that way."

Harry grinned. "So I can't betray you, even if it's an order to tell him?"

"No, you can't."

"Good. But how do you know Bill's been sent to spy on you?"

"Bill told me. He no longer trusts Dumbledore with your welfare. I'm assuming Ron told his brother something of what you endured at Privet Drive."

"Oh." Harry wasn't sure how he felt about that. He hoped Ron hadn't told his brother everything that went on in that awful house.

"I don't think he told him everything, Harry," said Severus, as if reading the worry in Harry's mind. "Just that the wards didn't work and so you were never as safe as Dumbledore made you out to be. I've been meaning to ask you about that. Why didn't the wards work, have you any idea? It should have done, it's very old magic to sacrifice yourself for your children, and you should have been safe."

"But that's just it, sir. My parents didn't sacrifice themselves for me. It wasn't them who died that night."

***

Part 15

Harry had barely left his office before Severus was out of it and on the way to see the Headmaster, for he had got little sense out of Harry. It was just the same answer over and over again. Harry's parents hadn't died that night. Then who had died instead? And what about Harry's visions whenever he saw Dementors? Hadn't he always said he heard his mother's screams just before she died?

Severus snapped the password at the gargoyle before it allowed him to pass, and impatient to get to the bottom of things, Severus was almost running up the moving staircase in order to get to the top that much quicker. He heard voices from within the Head's office but he could not make out words or who the second speaker was. The voices lowered in pitch, as though aware they were being overheard.

A few moments later the wooden door opened and Severus was left staring at the face of the Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour. Now what would the Minister be doing at Hogwarts so late at night?

"Snape," he sneered before turning for the staircase.

"Minister," said Severus just as Dumbledore appeared at the open doorway.

"Do come in, Severus."

Severus followed the Headmaster into the office, Fawkes trilling a greeting as he did so. Ever since he had discovered Harry's heritage, Severus was quite curious about Dumbledore's phoenix and the loyalty it had shown Harry in the Chamber of Secrets, for Severus didn't believe the Phoenix had come to Harry's aid on Dumbledore's behalf. No, Severus was of the belief that Fawkes helped Harry because he somehow knew that Harry was a Phoenix Sylph.

Dumbledore summoned an elf to order tea and biscuits, but when they arrived Severus had no patience for them.

"Who really died that night?" he asked without preamble.

"What night?"

"If it wasn't the Potters, who was it?"

"I'm not sure I understand you, Severus. James and Lily Potter did die at Godric's Hollow that night." Dumbledore poured himself out a measure of tea before adding four sugars to it, making Severus wince. He could almost feel his teeth ache.

"Then why did Harry say his parents didn't die that night?"

The hand Dumbledore had been using to stir his tea paused for a few seconds before continuing its journey.

"Ah. I didn't think Harry knew of that. No one else should know. How did he find out?"

"So the Potters weren't his parents?" Severus asked, mentally going backwards in time. "But Lily was pregnant."

"Indeed she was, Severus. Unfortunately, the baby was stillborn. Lily had been very unwell throughout the pregnancy and the Healers performed a magical Caesarean section when it was discovered the baby was in some distress. Lily had been put under, so she didn't know her baby had died. James too was distraught and he didn't know how he was going to tell his wife that their child had died. It was my suggestion."

"What was?" Severus was just getting more and more confused the longer the conversation went on. His heart went out to Lily, his only true friend at Hogwarts, that she'd lost her baby. But they'd had Harry, in the end. "They adopted Harry?"

"In a way," said Dumbledore. "There was another newborn in St. Mungo's that night; a baby had been abandoned in the courtyard of the Leaky Cauldron and he'd been brought to St. Mungo's. No one had claimed him, so we swapped the babies over. Lily never knew her own child had died and I Obliviated James and the Healers at the hospital, so no one knew of the swap. Everyone thought that Harry was really the Potter's child and I was the only one who knew any different."

The casual way he said it sent chills down Severus' spine, for in Dumbledore's eyes he hadn't done anything wrong! Never mind Obliviating who knew how many people without their consent, but to let everyone think for all these years that Harry was really the Potter's baby.

"So who is Harry, really?" asked Severus. "Who were his real parents?"

"As I said, Severus. No one came forward to claim the abandoned baby; no one knows who Harry Potter really is. He was just unwanted, maybe his parents realised he was a Sylph and didn't want a creature for a son. I have no idea and neither does anyone else."

"And yet you still sent him to Privet Drive, knowing that he shared no blood with Petunia Dursley at all? All these years you were lying about the wards! He could have been killed!"

"Maybe that is his destiny, Severus. To sacrifice himself for all of us."

And in that instant, Severus knew Dumbledore would have no qualms about sacrificing Harry for what he saw as the greater good. Well, no one was going to hurt Severus' mate; he would make sure of that. Severus brought down every barrier in his mind and just stared at the Headmaster, realising that he had never really known the man at all. He thought he had, he thought he'd understood his reasoning, but Dumbledore was as set on his path as Voldemort was. The two of them were playing a giant chess game with the wizarding world and the rest of them were pawns, all expendable.

"Good evening, Headmaster," said Severus taking his leave, his left forearm burning. "I am summoned."

"Good, good," said Dumbledore. "I'll expect your report in the morning, Severus, as usual."

Of course he would, Dumbledore wouldn't care how many Crucios Severus might endure during the course of a meeting, just as long as he got his bloody report!

"You can count on me," said Severus. But not for long.


***

Harry woke up with a hand clamped to his mouth and the dark eyes of his Dominus boring into him.

"Sssh," Severus whispered and Harry nodded. Severus released his mouth. "We have to leave. Now!"

Harry couldn't miss the urgency in Severus' tone. "My Invisibility Cloak?"

Severus nodded. "We can get your things later, but we have to leave now!"

Harry climbed out of bed and removed the Cloak from his trunk, wrapping it around both of them. They tiptoed across the dormitory and down the steps to the common room and then out through the portrait hole. The corridors were quiet, all the other portraits were asleep, and there was no sign of Peeves or Filch. There was frost on the grass and Harry's bare feet were almost frozen by the time they got to the edge of the school gates and the wards.

Severus held him tight and Apparated them to the deck of the houseboat. The river looked like a ribbon of black ink and even though they were now here, Severus didn't let go of him.

"You're safe, Harry. You're safe."

"Severus? What's wrong?" Harry asked in a whisper just as Severus let go of him and waved him to the doorway.

"Inside, Harry. We can talk inside."

Harry obeyed and sat down at the kitchen table while Severus rattled about the cupboards getting down cups and plates. He made some hot chocolate and waited until Harry had drunk some before he began his tale.

"I was summoned by the Dark Lord tonight, Harry. It's very unusual to be called on a school night, but what was even more unusual was that one of my students was also there. The Dark Lord has never recruited anyone so young before."

"Draco," Harry said, his voice hollow.

"Indeed, it seems Voldemort is looking for Draco to take his father's place in his inner circle, but Draco has a mission to fulfil before he will be marked."

"What mission?"

"I'm not sure, the Dark Lord did not confide in me. But I fear his mission was either to harm you or kill you, that's why I had to get you away from Hogwarts tonight."

"But won't it be suspicious that we've both left?"

"I will return, but you will stay here until I can find out more about Draco's mission. Tell me, Harry, who do you trust implicitly?"

"You," Harry said at once, knowing it was true.

"Besides me, are there any others?"

"The Weasleys. The DA. Remus, Moody, Shacklebolt."

"The DA? What's that?"

"It's what we used to call ourselves, before we knew Dumbledore had lied to me all those years. Dumbledore's Army, we still call it the DA, but now it stands for Defence Association. When Umbridge wouldn't teach us defensive spells, we taught ourselves in the Room of Requirement. We had someone who betrayed us back then, but everyone who's still in it now, I'd trust them."

"And you have still been meeting and training?" Severus asked, frowning.

"Um, yes. Sorry."

"Harry, don't be sorry. This is excellent news. But right now I'd better be getting back. I don't want to leave you on your own, but I'm not sure yet who we can still trust and won't go running back to Dumbledore. I will come for you in the morning, all right? The wards should stop anyone unauthorised from entering. You'll be safe here tonight, safer than at Hogwarts anyway."

Harry didn't want to stay here on his own either, not with so much water surrounding him, but he wanted to seem strong and not clingy for his Dominus.

"I'll be fine, Severus. It's only for one night."

"The cupboards are well stocked, so eat when you need to. I hope I'm wrong about Draco, Harry, I really do, but I'll feel better knowing you are away from the castle tonight. Send me a Patronus message if you need me at all."

"Yes, Dominus," replied Harry, standing up and opening his arms.

"You need a hug?" Severus asked, sounding surprised that Harry had initiated any sort of contact.

Harry had made a pact with himself that he wasn't going to let Severus' touches scare him. He still didn't think he was ready for intercourse yet, but hugs and touches he was determined to get used to.

Severus wrapped his arms around Harry and hugged him fiercely, his fingertips trailing along the edges of Harry's wings through his pyjamas. Harry shivered at the sensation, his wings were very sensitive and he gasped as a spike of arousal shot through him. He'd certainly never felt like that before!

"Harry, did I hurt you?"

"No, Dominus. I'm fine," Harry said as he stepped back, out of reach. He didn't want Severus to know in case Severus thought it meant Harry was ready for more, but he wasn't. Not yet.

"Very well. I'll see you in the morning."

"Goodnight, Severus," Harry said as he watched his Dominus leave the boat. A few moments later he heard the crack of Apparition and knew that now he was finally alone. Harry went around turning on every light on the boat, feeling very vulnerable being here on his own. He'd never been truly alone like this before; that time he'd stayed at the Leaky Cauldron there had been lots of other patrons and the corridors and other rooms had been filled with other people's voices.

Here there was only his own breathing and the swish-swoosh of water lapping against the hull of the boat.

Harry went to his bedroom and tugged the quilt off the bed before heading back out to the sofa. Leaving just one light on, he curled up and wrapped himself in the quilt, not sure he'd be able to get any sleep tonight. A few moments later, however, he drifted off.

TBC



Chapter 4: The Weight of Water
Part 16

Severus hoped he would have a few hours' grace before it was discovered Harry was missing and that he too had left the school tonight. He'd barely got back to his own quarters before there was a knock on his office door. He hastily took off his clothes, mussed up his hair and draped a dressing gown around himself before he went to answer it. Probably the headmaster, no doubt wanting to know what he'd done with Harry.

"Draco?" he asked in some surprise. Draco's face was pale and there were dried tear-tracks on his cheeks, certainly not something Severus would ever have associated with Lucius Malfoy's son.

"May I speak with you, sir? About – about tonight?"

"Come in," said Severus, leading the boy to a chair in his office. Maybe now Draco would confess what task the Dark Lord had assigned him.

"I want to leave!" Draco blurted out before he'd even sat down. "I didn't know they did things like that! I swear I didn't!"

Severus nodded, thinking back to the evening's earlier entertainment, when three Muggle women were brought out to be tortured, first with the Cruciatus Curse for the best part of an hour, then to be raped by Voldemort and two of the Death Eaters he'd picked for the 'privilege'. Severus took an impotence potion every time he was called and let them all think that he was naturally incapable of performing. Watching the violations was bad enough; he did not want to participate, spy or no.

"What did you think joining the Death Eaters would entail, Draco?"

"I don't know!" he wailed. "But I didn't know it was that!"

"Feeling sorry for the Muggles and Mudbloods now, are we?" Severus sneered. "I should report you to our Lord for your lack of conviction!"

"No, please! Don't! He'd kill me!"

"You are only just now working this out? The Dark Lord does not tolerate treachery, and I could be condemned with you for even listening to you!"

"Please, sir! I don't know who else to turn to! Father's in prison and Mother thinks that Voldemort is right! And Aunt Bella..."

"Do not speak his name in my presence! And what if I think he's right, Draco? I could deliver you to him tonight, wrapped in a pretty ribbon, haven't you thought of that?"

Severus used silent Legilimency on the boy to see if his distress was sincere or just a ploy to get Severus to confess his spying. Draco had no defences in place at all and it was easy to breach his mind. Everything was laid bare for Severus to see and indeed, Draco was feeling rather sick at what he had witnessed. His bullying of students at school had not really prepared him for what the Dark Lord required of his followers. Had Draco just been naive, or had it been his mother's idea for him to join the Death Eaters? Or maybe his mad aunt's?

"Draco, I may be able to help you," Severus said carefully. "But first you must tell me what task he wants you to perform. Without that knowledge I cannot help you."

"Uncle Severus!" Draco cried out, using the term he hadn't used since he was a much smaller child. Severus was not Draco's uncle, he wasn't even his godfather, but he had been friends with Lucius once and perhaps Draco too had remembered those earlier times at Malfoy Manor. "It's awful! He wants me to kill someone! I don't want to be a murderer!"

"Who?" Severus demanded, mentally preparing himself to dispose of Draco's lifeless body if he made one threat towards Harry. Towards Severus' mate.

"The headmaster! He wants to me to kill the headmaster to prove my loyalty!"

"Dumbledore?" Severus gasped in surprise. He hadn't seen that one coming at all. "Why would he want you to kill the Headmaster?"

Voldemort knew how powerful Dumbledore was, surely he couldn't expect a mere student to defeat him? Ah, of course. The Dark Lord wasn't expecting Draco to succeed, and once he'd failed in his task Voldemort could make an example of him and of his mother. It was revenge for Lucius getting caught at the Ministry that night. In Voldemort's disordered mind, it probably made a whole lot of sense.

"Draco, are you willing to be put under a charm so that what we speak of here will never be revealed to anyone I do not wish to know?"

"Anything, Uncle Severus! Please! I don't know what to do!"

Severus nodded and cast a similar warding spell on Draco that he had used on his own boat. Draco would only be able to speak of this if Severus was with him and approved of the person Draco was talking to.

"Here is what we are going to do, Draco. We are going to the headmaster right now and tell him everything you have told me. You will be in danger; there is no doubt about that. Dumbledore will arrange a safe house for you somewhere, for Hogwarts would be too dangerous for you once word of your betrayal gets out. And it will get out." Severus didn't bother mentioning that he would be the one to inform the Dark Lord of said betrayal. Draco didn't need to know any more than he already did.

"They'll really keep me safe? After all I've done? Why are you helping me?"

"I'm helping you because it's you, Draco, but no one must know of my involvement. My spell will ensure that." There was also the fact that if Draco was ferreted away in some safe house, he couldn't hurt Harry ever again, whether intentionally or not.

"Thank you."

"I wouldn't thank me yet. You don't know what the headmaster is going to say."

***

When Harry woke up, it was still dark outside and he wondered how long he'd been asleep. His eyes felt gritty and sore, but even when he closed them again, he knew he wasn't going to get back to sleep. Harry sat up, draping the quilt around his waist and wondering how soon before Severus got back. Thinking of that brought his mind back to earlier in the night when Severus had touched his wings. It was the first time Harry had ever felt anything like arousal and he wondered if that meant he was getting better. Being on the boat by himself meant he had the privacy to try things that he would have felt too shy to try at school, for in a dorm with four other boys privacy was a very rare commodity.

Harry unbuttoned his pyjama top and shrugged out of it, his wings feeling a lot better now that they were no longer covered in fabric. He stood up, the quilt falling to pool around his legs so that he could spread them out and not worry about anyone else seeing them. Harry didn't know if was part of the Sylph bond, but he found he didn't want anyone else except Severus to see his wings. It seemed something very personal, something very private, and he wondered if that's why Severus caressing his wings had aroused him. Were the wings connected to his sexuality in some way? Were they another way to arousal?

Harry's heart was beating too fast for his chest and he wondered if he could actually do this, actually touch himself for the sake of pleasure. He curled his wings around in front of him and lifted his hands to caress each one lightly. His feathers were soft and silken to the touch and he loved the play of light that rendered them a shimmering silvery green depending on their angle. It hadn't escaped his notice that they were Slytherin colours and he wondered how differently his life might have turned out if he'd gone to Slytherin after all. Maybe he would have known Severus was his mate a lot sooner if the man had been his Head of House. But maybe that would just have meant even more complications.

Harry trailed his fingers along each wing, but he didn't feel that spark like he had when Severus had touched them. It felt nice, but nice in the way a breeze across your face on a hot summer's day was nice. There was nothing electrical or earth-shattering about it and no movement at all in his groin. Harry had seen a few of the other boys masturbating in the showers, but he was always quick to look away again, but all seemed to have one thing in common: they were touching their cocks with their hands curled around their shafts, and they were obviously enjoying it. Should he try that, just to see?

Harry tucked his wings back in place behind his back and sat down on the sofa, not bothering to pull the quilt back up again. He tugged his prick out of the fly of his pyjamas and just sat there holding it and staring at it for a while. It was soft and showed no sign of hardening at all. Harry thought back to Severus touching his wings, trying to get some sort of fantasy going, but it wasn't helping. He spat on his hand and rubbed it a little, but it remained stubbornly soft. He knew it could get hard now, for that's what had happened when Severus had touched his wings.

Harry tried to coax an erection from his cock, but the flesh remained unresponsive. He hadn't even been thinking of the Dursleys, so he knew it wasn't fear this time that was holding him back. What was it, then? Harry grunted in frustration and tucked his penis away again, not wanting to see himself all soft and floppy like that. Ugly. It was ugly and freakish just like the rest of him and the tears began falling before he was even aware of them. Harry hugged his knees to his chest as he just sobbed and sobbed. How was he ever going to be normal? He wasn't normal, that was part of the problem, for whoever heard of a teenage boy who couldn't wank? But he wasn't really a boy at all, was he? He was a creature, a Sylph. A freak, just like the Dursleys had always said.

His chest ached with the force of his crying, for with no one else to hear him, all the pent-up emotion he'd been holding in for years erupted out of him with the force of a volcano. All the abuses he'd suffered at the Dursleys': the beatings; the rapes; the starvation and the one he felt most keenly – the lack of love and affection. Harry craved that, he had always craved it but even now, knowing that Severus was his mate, Harry wasn't sure he deserved it.

"Harry?"

The soft voice of his Dominus broke through his weeping; Harry looked up, wiping his eyes. He'd been so distraught that he hadn't even heard Severus Apparate.

Harry stared at the man for a few moments, before launching himself off the sofa and into his Dominus' arms, sobbing his heart out against the man's chest.

"Harry? What is it, what's wrong?" asked Severus, but Harry was too emotionally fraught to talk about it at the moment.

He shook his head, his voice muffled against Severus' robes. "Just hold me, Dominus. Just hold me!" he begged.

Severus wrapped his arms around him and held him tight against his body. "Always, Harry. Always."

***

Part 17

Severus held Harry in his arms until his mate had calmed down enough to speak, before heading over to the sofa and tugging Harry down in his lap. Harry didn't protest at being held and Severus was determined that they would not start going backwards. He was going to get Harry used to his touch as much as possible before he even considered going any further with him, despite his own urges. For while Harry may not have been feeling any sexual compulsion yet, Severus certainly was.

"Would you like to talk about it?" Severus asked, damping down his own feelings of arousal; for he knew Harry wasn't ready to know about that quite yet.

"I don't know. I was just thinking about everything and it all got a bit much."

"Things can be overwhelming sometimes, Harry, but you know you can talk to me if you need to."

Harry shrugged his shoulders. "I know. It's just things are hard to talk about sometimes. I'm not like you; I don't have the right words. I'm stupid."

"Harry, you are not stupid, far from it and just because you don't have an extensive vocabulary doesn't mean you are not intelligent."

Harry looked at him, his green eyes glistening in the light of the lamp. "Do you – do you even like me, or is all this because of the bond?"

"I know we have had our differences in the past, Harry, but as I've watched you grow and mature into the young man you are, I've come to like you and respect you; and that was before I was aware of any bond. Or perhaps since you seemed to have chosen me when you were eleven, maybe it is the bond, I just don't know. But I know this, right at this moment in time I would have no qualms in killing anyone who ever dared harm you."

"Oh," Harry said softly. "You'd do that for me?"

"I would."

"Um, Severus. Something happened tonight. I suppose I ought to tell you."

Severus felt a pang of annoyance that the Sylph had been keeping something from him; he thought they'd got beyond that now. "What is it?"

"Earlier, when you touched my wings, you didn't hurt me. It was – I was – I got hard. For the first time ever. But then I tried to – you know – touch myself." Harry's face was scarlet as he blurted out his tale. "But it didn't work, nothing was happening there. I feel like such a freak, just like they always said."

Severus kissed his head and hugged him tight. "You are not a freak and I do not want to hear you using that word about yourself ever again. They were the freaks, Harry, for abusing a child in their care. You were a victim and none of it was your fault. None of it."

Harry was silent then and Severus just held him, enjoying the closeness when it seemed Harry wasn't about to bolt like a frightened horse.

"You're back early," said Harry.

"Draco is no longer at the school; I've come to take you back."

"So was he ordered to kill me?"

"No, Draco was given another task but he has defected and told the Headmaster everything. He's at one of the Order's safe houses and will never bother you again."

"Good," said Harry.

"Are you ready to go back to school?" Severus asked, trying not to notice he had his hands wrapped around Harry's bare waist. Harry's skin was as soft as silk and Severus wanted nothing better than to stroke and caress it, but he knew Harry wasn't ready for that yet.

"I suppose so," Harry mumbled. "I like it here with you though. When it's just us. Is that very selfish of me?"

Severus laughed lightly. "Sometimes I feel like that too. Like I want to take you and hide you from the rest of the world."

Harry's whole body tensed and Severus realised his mistake at once. "Merlin, Harry, I'm sorry. I don't mean it like that. I would never lock you away like they did, I promise."

"Let's go back," Harry said, climbing down from Severus' lap, his whole face shuttered. Severus could have kicked himself for even hinting that he might do something like that.

"Harry, not yet, we need to talk about this."

"There's nothing to talk about." Harry turned away from him and pulled his pyjama top back on, his hands shaking as he did up the buttons.

"Please sit down, Harry. You can't Apparate away from here without me and we are not leaving until we have this talk."

Harry turned, his eyes blazing. "So you are keeping me prisoner, just like you wanted? You just want me to be your toy, is that it?"

"No, that is not it!" Severus almost screamed, at the end of his tether over tiptoeing around every little thing. It was draining and it was not helping that he felt an urgent sexual pull towards Harry, who was still skittish about anything more than the few touches they'd had. "If I'd just wanted that, do you think I'd be standing here talking to you about this rather than just fucking you?"

Harry glared at him, before tugging unbuttoning his pyjama shirt again. "Go on, then! Fuck me! I know that's what you want!"

"Don't tempt me!" Severus warned. He folded his arms across his chest and took a few deep breaths. Merlin, the boy was too tempting and Severus was afraid of what he might do if he let his feelings take free rein. "Get dressed!" Severus was shaking, he had the strongest desire to claim, to possess, to mark the boy as his and even with no visible evidence of his arousal (the impotence potion wouldn't wear off for another few hours), he knew it was there and he could not give in to it. Not yet.

"DO IT! JUST DO IT!" Harry screamed, his face red, tears streaming down his cheeks. "I want it over with!"

Ah, and wasn't that the problem? Harry saw it as a chore, something to be got out of the way. And it could never be that or Harry would die, it was as simple as that. As a Sylph, he needed it to be an act of love and nothing short of that would ever do. Severus wished he'd never used the word 'fucking'. That wasn't what they needed at all. And it couldn't only happen once, not like Harry seemed to be anticipating. It had to be something they kept up with regularly or the bond would wither and Harry would die along with it.

"Do you want to die, Harry?" Severus asked bluntly.

"What?"

"Our bond doesn't just need to be consummated," Severus explained. "We need to keep renewing it. There will be no option for us just to 'get it over with'. It can't only happen once, Harry, or you will die. You will get sick and you will die. Is that what you want?"

Harry shook his head, tears still falling. Severus knew he was being a cad about it, but he couldn't just nod and pretend things were going to be all right when he knew they weren't. Harry was a Sylph who needed sexual contact to survive, but because of the abuse he was afraid of that same contact. Things were never easy when Harry was concerned, were they?

"We have to do something to let you enjoy sex, Harry, or you will die. It's in your nature to want this bond as much as I do, and I'll admit I don't know what we are going to do to get you to that stage."

"I've tried!" Harry protested, waving at his groin. "I just don't work!"

"But you did feel aroused when I touched your wings."

"Maybe that was just a fluke."

"Well, it's something we can try, isn't it? But for now, let's get back to school."

Harry sank to his knees and lowered his head. "I'm sorry, Dominus. I didn't mean to make you angry."

"I'm not angry, Harry. I'm..." but Severus wasn't sure that telling Harry he was sexually frustrated was the best thing at the moment, so he let the sentence trail off before Apparating them back to Hogwarts.

***

Once Severus saw Harry safely back to Gryffindor Tower, he made his way back to his own chambers and sat staring at the fire until the impotence potion had worn off. It was as if all the arousal he'd been feeling earlier around Harry had just been waiting for this moment and his cock was as hard as stone. Groaning, he unbuttoned his trousers, knowing he didn't even have the patience to make it to the bedroom or even the bathroom, his need was too great.

He closed his eyes, seeing Harry as he'd seen him earlier, the bare chest with its pale pink nipples that just begged to bitten; the furred trail leading down beneath the waistband of his trousers and the treasures hidden there. In the fantasy, Harry wasn't scared or frightened of any touch and Severus let his fantasy self stroke the silken skin of Harry's sides as he'd not allowed himself to do in real life.

Severus fisted his cock in his hand as he let the vision play out behind his closed eyelids; how Harry smiled coyly at him, before sinking to his knees and taking Severus' cock in his mouth. "Harry! Yes, suck it! More!"

Severus thrusted his hips into his hand as he imagined the feel of Harry's mouth around him. He ached with want, a want he couldn't yet fulfil and his own hand was no match for what he really wanted, but it was the only outlet available for him at the moment and he was determined to wring as much pleasure from it as he could.

He licked his hand before settling it back on his cock, loving the slick slide of skin against skin. His climax wasn't far off, his balls drew up, so full and heavy and he let himself fall over the edge with a guttural, wordless moan. He spurted, hot and wet over his hands, the orgasm seeming to start in his toes and work its way out through his cock.

"Harry," he whispered as the last tremors wracked his frame.

Severus lazily cleaned himself with a spell and sat staring out into the darkness. What were they going to do?

***

Part 18

Harry slid onto the bench in between Ron and Hermione, feeling as exhausted as if he'd never been to sleep at all. He knew he'd had some sleep, but it wasn't enough. His eyes ached and he removed his glasses to rub them with his fists. Hermione poured him out a cup of coffee before buttering him some slices of toast as well and handing him the plate. "You don't look well, Harry," she said with some concern.

"Thanks," Harry said as he accepted the toast, knowing he couldn't really face anything much heavier. "I didn't get much sleep last night."

Ron was already tucking into his sausages and scrambled egg; Ron's appetite didn't seem to fluctuate with his moods, unlike Harry's. Harry sipped the coffee, the strong brew making his head feel less fuzzy at once. "Hermione, would you be able to get a pass to the Restricted Section again?" Harry asked in a low voice.

"I can ask Professor Flitwick, we have Charms just before lunch," said Hermione confidently and Harry knew she was right to be confident. "Couldn't you have asked Professor Snape for one?"

"I could, but Madam Pince would never believe it wasn't forged." Not only was Harry not well-known as such a studious person, but with all the antagonism he and Severus had shown over the years, the librarian would not believe Professor Snape would have given him a pass for the restricted books. The library was Hermione's second home and Madam Pince would be only too eager to help her with anything.

"Is this about..." Hermione waved at Harry's back, indicating his wings.

"Yeah. I need to find out more about Sylphs and – and how they react around their mates."

"Leave it with me, Harry. I'm sure I can find something useful for you."

"Thanks, Hermione. What have we got first? I've forgotten." Harry nibbled on his toast, not really tasting it. He felt very spaced out, what with the worry about last night and when he did finally get back to Hogwarts and his own bed; nightmares had plagued the few hours of sleep he'd had.

"We've got Care of Magical Creatures," said Ron around a mouthful of egg and Harry felt his stomach roil.

"Ron! Can't you at least swallow before you talk?" demanded Hermione.

"Sorry," Ron said, after he'd swallowed the remains of his breakfast. Harry finished his coffee but couldn't even manage the rest of his toast; even though he felt the eyes of his Dominus on him and knew he would get a telling off about not eating later. Harry waited for his two friends to finish before the three of them headed off towards Hagrid's hut and their lesson; at least Harry wouldn't have to be too awake for this one. Hagrid wouldn't pick on him or give him detention, even if Harry got the answers wrong.

The air was getting cooler now and he shivered as they made their way down the path from the Stone Circle to Hagrid’s cabin, and Harry found himself wishing he'd worn his cloak this morning. Hagrid was waiting by his front door, Fang at his side; Hagrid himself had a beaming smile as he waited for everyone to arrive. They shared this class with the Slytherins but Draco was no longer among them and Harry heard some of the others wondering what had happened to him, why he was no longer at school.

"Righ' everyone. I've a very special lesson for yeh today, very special indeed. We don' normally have this lesson until next year, but Professor Dumbledore knows how brigh' yeh all are, so we're starting early. If yeh'll follow me down to the lake, we can start."

"The lake?" Harry queried, his voice cracking. Ron and Hermione flanked him, as if protecting him already.

"We won't let anything happen, Harry," Ron whispered. "I promise."

"That's righ', Harry. C'mon."

Harry had no choice but to obey Hagrid's order, but what if, once they got down there, Hagrid actually ordered him into the lake? He followed with the others but was relieved to discover there were a few benches set up around the water's edge. It didn't look like they needed to be in the lake for this lesson after all. Hagrid waited while everyone got settled on the benches before he started talking.

"Now, I know this is called Care of Magical Creatures, but the creatures we'll be finding out abou' today, you don' actually care for them as such. They're not pets. But sometimes it's jus' interestin' to find out abou' the different types of magical creature there are. These are very rare and very special creatures and we have one in the lake!" Hagrid grinned again and strode over to the edge of the lake. He put two fingers in his mouth and whistled, scaring off some birds in nearby trees.

It took a few moments before anyone noticed anything, but soon the surface of the lake was frothing with large bubbles near the shore and a few moments later a merman breached the water and smiled at Hagrid, speaking something in screeching Mermish. Soon it became clear, that it wasn't quite a merman, for everyone saw that although he had a tail, there was a flash of bright light and in the next instant he had legs and was striding out of the lake.

"Everyone, I'd like you to meet Crellidus, he's a Mer-Sylph."

Pansy Parkinson snorted. "They're mythical! They don't exist!" she exclaimed.

Crellidus had dark green hair resembling seaweed. His hair was so long that it covered him from chest to ankle and hid his nakedness, even though it was obvious that he was indeed naked under all that hair. His skin had a blue tone to it and no one looking at him could ever mistake him for fully human.

"I am not a myth," said Crellidus in perfect English, but the accent was different. He stared around the class with bright blue eyes, his stare lingering on Harry the longest. Harry felt his wings bristling and his heart thudded against his chest. Crellidus knew what he was but Harry hoped he would have enough sense not to reveal it.

"Now, who can tell me what they know abou' Sylphs?" Hagrid asked and Harry wasn't surprised when Hermione raised her hand.

"They're very powerful elementals," said Hermione. "The Mer-Sylph has an affinity to water of course, just as the Phoenix Sylph has an affinity for fire. They need a dominant mate and they obey any orders given to them before being claimed by their mates."

"They're a doormat, in other words." Pansy sniggered and sauntered over to Crellidus. "I order you to kiss Hermione."

Harry could see Crellidus fighting the order, just like Harry always had, but he knew and Hermione knew that the order would have to be completed. Crellidus stalked over and kissed Hermione softly on the cheek. "I'm sorry," Harry heard him whisper to Hermione before he stepped back and glared at Pansy.

"That's enough out of yeh, Parkinson!" snapped Hagrid. "Five points from Slytherin for abusin' our guest's trust!"

"Guest? He's not a guest! He's a thing! A freak!" Pansy snapped back.

***

Harry tried his best to eat something at lunch, but he could only manage to trail his fork through his shepherd's pie and try not to think of that awful lesson. Why had Dumbledore suddenly insisted they learn about Sylphs now? It was almost as if he wanted people to figure out what Harry was and that could not be good for Harry. Hermione was at the library so he was sitting between Ron and Neville today, and even Neville was picking up that something was wrong with Harry.

"Harry, you haven't eaten much today," Neville said. "Is everything all right?"

"Just feeling a bit under the weather," said Harry. "I might be getting a cold or something." It was the first thing Harry thought of and something that wouldn't have him being sent to the hospital wing.

Hermione entered the Great Hall with three books clasped across her chest and she scanned the table looking for Ron and Harry. Both of them got up at the same time and followed her out as Hermione led the way up to the Tower.

All three of them settled on Harry's bed in the boys' dorms while Hermione cast extensive warding spells around the room and locked the door for good measure.

"The Restricted Section only had these three books, and one of them is the one Professor Snape already showed you, Harry. Is there anything in particular you wanted to know? It'll take a while to get through both of these."

Hermione cast a charm and both books now revealed their full size, each must have been about a thousand pages each. "It's – it's a bit embarrassing," Harry admitted.

"Harry, we're your friends, we're not going to gossip about it or anything. We know how important this is for you. A Sylph will die if they don't bond with their mate. I know sex isn't easy to talk about, but we should just forget about embarrassment for the moment if it will help you."

Harry was glad Hermione could be so matter-of-fact about it, it might make this easier. "Um – is there anything in there about reactions when a Sylph is touched by its mate or – or about when it touches itself?" Harry blurted out, closing his eyes and willing the blush away from his cheeks. He heard the fluttering of pages as Hermione skimmed through one of the books.

"Ah, here we are," said Hermione and Harry felt able to open his eyes once more.

Hermione read out the paragraph and Harry wished he'd realised this a whole lot sooner. It hadn't been in the book Severus had shown him, so he knew Severus hadn't known about it either. It explained quite a lot actually.

A Sylph is a very sensual creature but can only find sensual pleasure and climax from its mate's touch. A Sylph may feel arousal from time to time, but sexual needs can only be assuaged by its mate.

"Oh," said Harry. So that's why Severus could arouse him, but Harry couldn't arouse himself. It wasn't anything to do with the Dursleys or what happened to him at all. It didn't negate the fear Harry sometimes had, or the sense of violation, but it meant that he could find pleasure with his mate. With Severus.

"Bad luck, mate," said Ron in sympathy. "Imagine, not even being able to wa–" He cut himself off on seeing Hermione's dark glare.

"It's not bad luck, Ron," said Hermione. "It's essential for Harry. This makes perfect sense actually. Because he needs to be with his mate in order to stay healthy, this ensures that he will seek him out when he needs to."

Harry realised at once what she meant. If Harry became too aroused, with an erection that wouldn't go away, he would have to seek out Severus to take care of it and he blushed even harder imagining that conversation with his Dominus.

"Thanks, Hermione. I'm still a bit tired; I might have a nap before our next class, okay?"

"Of course. I can finish my lunch. Come on, Ron," Hermione said, dragging on Ron's arm. "Let's leave Harry to get some rest."

""I'm coming, I'm coming," Ron said irritably. "If you need to talk tonight, I'll be here, right?"

"Okay, Ron," said Harry, but he knew that tonight his talking would be with his Dominus.

***

Part 19

It was shortly after midnight when Severus heard the knock on his outer door; he knew it had to be Harry, for the headmaster would have just Flooed in without bothering with anything as polite as knocking. Severus smoothed down his hair, feeling as nervous as a teenager going on his first date. In effect, that's what they needed to do. He needed to woo Harry first, seduce him, not go straight for the consummation, no matter how much that needed to be done. Going too fast would only make things worse and Severus knew he had to be patient. It didn't make things any easier though, when he was feeling the sexual pull of the bond and Harry wasn't.

Severus opened the door and led Harry into the living room. Harry sank to his knees, his neck peeking out from the collar of his pyjamas. Severus found himself quite enamoured of Harry on his knees and his hand had reached out to card through Harry's hair before he'd even thought about it. Harry's breath hitched, but he didn't tell Severus to stop. Harry's hair was a wild mop and Severus knew no matter what he did to it, Harry's hair would never be tamed, just like Harry himself. He was powerful; sometimes Severus could feel Harry's power like Harry was a magnet and he was an iron filing with no way to resist the pull.

"Dominus, I'd like to talk to you," said Harry, lifting his head so Severus could see his eyes. Sometimes it still surprised Severus how green Harry's eyes actually were and he found himself staring into them. "Sir?" Harry's voice brought him out of his reverie.

"Oh, of course, Harry. Whatever you need to talk about. Would you be more comfortable on the sofa?"

"May I sit in your lap?" Harry asked, worrying at his bottom lip. As if he needed to ask permission for that! Severus certainly wasn't going to refuse holding him and he opened his arms.

"As often as you wish, Harry," Severus said softly as Harry settled himself across his lap.

Without prompting, Harry wrapped his arms around Severus' neck and laid his head against Severus' right shoulder. For a few moments Harry was silent, and toyed with the buttons on Severus' shirt. Severus tried to tell himself that it was just Harry playing with his buttons, it wasn't a prelude to anything else, but that didn't seem to matter to his wayward cock which reacted predictably enough at having a handsome young man sitting on his lap.

Harry's hands paused in their playing and Severus felt his mate's whole body tense up. "You're hard," Harry whispered.

"It's just a reaction, Harry. I am not going to do anything about it, all right? I'm not going to hurt you."

"I know, Dominus. I know you won't. It – it feels different with you. You hold me and touch me. It's nothing like what they did."

Harry sounded as if he was bravely trying to convince himself of something.

"I should hope not. We're destined to be lovers, Harry, which is a mutual thing, even if I am to be dominant over you."

"Does that mean you have to hurt me?" Harry asked in a small voice.

"Despite the rumours circulating around the school, I am not a sadist," Severus said firmly.

"A what?" Harry asked, his eyes wide.

Severus realised just how innocent Harry still was, despite all the terrible things that had happened to him.

"A sadist is someone who takes pleasure in other's people's pain. I much prefer my lover to be screaming from pleasure at my touch, not pain. A little pain can be erotic, scratching and small bites, but I am not going to whip you or do anything of that nature. Submission doesn't have to be about pain, Harry, but it will mean that you will conform to my wishes. The bond will want you to; you will feel the need to please me."

"I do want that," Harry said. "I want you to be proud of me. I don't want to disappoint you."

"Oh, Harry," Severus said softly, kissing Harry's hair. "You could never be a disappointment to me. You've been through so much but you've come out the other side of it stronger than ever before. I think this is what the prophecy is all about. The power the Dark Lord knows not is your strength of will to survive. And maybe even the fact that you're a Sylph, for he doesn't know about that at all."

"Hermione found some more books in the Restricted Section about Sylphs and their mates," Harry began, and Severus felt a bit irritated that Harry had confided in his friends before him, but then cursed himself for a fool. For if Harry had someone to talk to about his worries, then wouldn't that mean he would be ready for intimacy that much quicker?

"And she found something to shed some light on the subject?"

"Um, yeah," Harry admitted before clamming up once more.

"Well?"

"Um – a Sylph can't find pleasure except from their mate's touch. I can't – I can't make myself come." Harry hid his flaming face against Severus' shoulder once more. "Only you can do that."

Severus felt his heart speed up at that knowledge. He had no idea he would have such power over his mate; in effect Harry would be a prisoner of his own sexual desire, for he could find no release except with Severus. It also meant that Harry would never be able to cheat on him. Not that he had really expected Harry to do such a thing, but this – it was almost like a guarantee that Harry would be his and his alone; he could never belong to anyone else. Never. It was a heady thought and Severus' hands tightened around Harry's waist.

Severus couldn't imagine what that would be like: relying totally on someone else for satisfaction. Harry couldn't come without someone else's touch. Without his touch, and that thought sent a thrum of possessive desire through him.

"Um, so Severus – I was wondering – um – if we might be able to – you know – try it."

"Try it?"

"I – I um – I'd like to see if I can come."

Severus could feel the heat of Harry's cheeks even through his shirt. What courage it must have taken to even ask this, for Severus knew how uncomfortable these sorts of talks were for Harry. But to ask for it himself? That was something Severus hadn't expected. Unexpected, but welcome.

"Harry you don't need to be embarrassed about asking for anything you need, whether it's a hug or something more. And you need never worry that I will refuse you, for I know how important this sort of touching is for a Sylph. Have you thought about what you would like to do?"

"Not – nothing inside," Harry hastily said, and there were no surprises there. "Maybe, could you kiss me and touch my wings? I liked that before."

"Do you want to take your top off?" Severus suggested, making sure he worded it as a suggestion and not as an order. Harry had had enough orders in his life.

"Yeah, thanks. I think that will be more comfortable for my wings."

"And easier for me to touch them," said Severus, his hands almost itching with the need to touch, to caress those silken appendages once more. Harry squirmed a little on Severus' lap – which was doing nothing to help diminish Severus' own arousal – as he tried to shimmy out of his pyjama shirt. Severus noticed that the skin of Harry's back was looking a little raw around his wings. He traced a finger along one of the raised patches. "Does that hurt?"

"Not really, it's more like an itch I can't reach to scratch. I think my clothes irritate my wings, it's a lot more comfortable without a top but I can't really go about shirtless all day at school, can I?"

"No," Severus said hoarsely, wondering how he'd ever get through a lesson with Harry shirtless in the middle of it.

He tilted Harry's head up to his and brought his lips down firmly against Harry's. Harry's lips remained closed for the whole duration of their kiss and it soon became apparent that whatever Harry had done with Miss Chang, he did in fact know very little about kissing.

Severus pulled his mouth away and cupped Harry's face in his hands. "It'll go much better if you open your mouth a bit, Harry."

"Sorry, I'm not very good, am I?"

"Ssh, you just need more practice, that's all. Why don't you shift round a bit. Put your legs around my waist; that will be a better position for your wings too. You can spread them out."

"Oh, right." Harry stood up and then moved back into position, his legs on either side of Severus' waist and his knees resting on the sofa cushions. Harry groaned as he stretched his wings to their full span. "God, that feels good. I think I need to stretch them more often. It's so hard when I have to hide them."

"You don't have to hide anything here, Harry. Now, shall we try again?"

Harry nodded; the tip of a pink tongue peeked out to lick his lips and Severus didn't need any further encouragement. He pressed his mouth to Harry's cheek and trailed soft, moist kisses along his skin to the jaw line. Harry was arching towards him, his mouth open and eager as he sought out Severus' mouth, but Severus didn't give him the kiss he was expecting just yet. Instead, he turned his attention to Harry's earlobe and sucked on it, hard. Harry's whole body jerked in Severus' arms and he could feel Harry's erection straining the fabric of his pyjamas. Harry gasped in surprise, as if he had never considered his ears to be erotic before. He probably hadn't.

Severus continued alternating little sucks and bites on Harry's ear lobe with soft kisses along his jaw and down to his neck and shoulder. Harry was squirming in earnest now as Severus used his tongue to map out the whirls on the shell of Harry's ear. "Oh! OH!" Harry panted, his hands coming to rest firmly on Severus' shoulders, clutching at his shirt.

Severus worked his way back around to Harry's mouth. "Relax your mouth, Harry. Don't keep your lips so stiff this time," Severus breathed against Harry's lips before leaning in for a kiss. Harry took his lessons to heart and he copied everything Severus was doing, opening and closing his mouth in time with Severus' as the two of them kissed the breath from each other.

Severus reached one arm up to caress Harry's wing and the Sylph shuddered against him, pulling his mouth away. "Oh, God! I'm going to fall!" Harry gabbled, sounding panicked. Severus remembered all to well that all of this was new to Harry; he'd never come before, not even a wet dream and it was bound to be overwhelming.

"It's all right, Harry. I've got you. You won't fall. Just relax and let go, I've got you. I've got you."

Harry threw his head back, revealing the pale column of his throat. It was begging to be licked, so that's what Severus did, making sure to hold tight to Harry's waist so that he knew he wasn't going to fall. Severus sucked on Harry's pulsepoint, loving the salty tang of his skin. Harry responded with a howl and an arch of his hips, bucking wildly in Severus' arms as he came, spurting inside his pyjamas, his breath coming in ragged gasps and moans as he spilled himself.

"Dominus! Dominus!" Harry wailed and the knowledge that Severus had made Harry finally come was too much for Severus' control. He pressed his hips up against Harry, the climax taking him by surprise as he made a mess of his trousers like an out of control teenager.

Harry leaned his forehead against Severus', breathing as if he'd just finished a Quidditch match. Severus moved Harry's fringe and gazed up at him. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, I just feel really weird. Like I'm all floppy or something. I don't think I can move yet."

"Then don't," said Severus, kissing him again. "I quite like you on my lap."

"You – you came too."

"I'm sorry, I hadn't meant to, but watching your reactions got me so excited."

"So – so maybe we can do this again sometimes?" Harry asked, blushing.

"We can, Harry. If you need this, you only have to ask me."

"Thank you, Dominus. Thank you," said Harry, kissing Severus on the cheek, his eyelids drooping as he fell asleep on Severus' shoulder.

It was going to be a wrench to send him back to Gryffindor Tower, but Severus knew he had to.

Hugging Harry tight to his chest, Severus decided not to wake him quite yet.

A few more hours of holding Harry should do it.

***

Part 20

He was dreaming the same dream again. A nightmare that just wouldn’t leave. In the dream he was in a dark forest, but it seemed lit by some otherworldly light that cast a greenish hue over everything. A low lying mist obscured his legs from the knee down and embraced the surrounding trees like a lover. In the distance he heard a wolf howling at an unseen moon. Others joined in and he shivered at the sound. It was the sound of a predator that had spotted its prey.

A scream rent the night – Lily Potter's scream. Harry tried to run towards the sound but it was as though he was running through sand. His legs just couldn’t move.

"HARRY!" screamed Lily again and he tried to increase his pace, but it was no use. Harry was stuck to the spot no matter how hard he tried to run towards her. His heart and lungs felt as though they were about to burst from his chest at any moment.

The screams continued. Sometimes she called his name, other times it was nothing more than a horrifying sound devoid of words. Her screams were mixed in with the baying of wolves. And then he heard the most horrifying sound of all.

Silence.

Suddenly the dream released him and he could run. Harry ran in the direction he thought the screams had seemed to be coming from. He could see nothing in the fog. He stopped, gasping for breath, and listened. Screams were coming from the opposite direction now. He turned, but no matter which way he ran, the screams seemed to come from a different direction. He stood and looked around him, trying to decide which way to go, when the mist began to clear.

He didn’t need to go any further.

Lily was lying on the ground, naked, her clothes strewn about the clearing, ripped to shreds. There was a gaping hole in her abdomen, the blood almost black in the darkness. The wolves still hunched over her body. One of them turned and looked at him, something in its jaws. No, it couldn't be. It couldn't be that! Then Harry found his voice and screamed.

In the wolf’s mouth was a dead baby with Voldemort's face.

"NO!"

Harry woke up, his heart still pounding from the dream. His pyjama shirt was stuck to his body with sweat and his heart was thudding so hard it was a wonder his Dominus didn't hear it. The first thing he realised was that he wasn't in his dorm, but still sitting on Severus' lap. The second thing he realised was that Severus still had his arms around Harry and the morning bell had just rung for breakfast. He'd stayed all night!

"Dominus!" he hissed urgently, shaking Severus awake.

"Harry? What time is it?" Severus asked as he stifled a yawn, his hair mussed on one side.

"We're late! The breakfast bell's just gone! Oh, God! I shouldn't have fallen asleep!"

"Don't panic, Harry. Take the Floo back to the Tower and get to the bathroom, people will just think you were having your shower."

Harry nodded. "Right. Sorry."

"It's no trouble, now off you go."

Severus stood up and kissed him soundly before steering Harry in the direction of the large fireplace. Harry hoped it was late enough that the others had already gone to breakfast or they'd be wondering why Harry had suddenly appeared out of the Floo first thing in the morning in nothing but his pyjamas. Luck was on his side, the common room was empty of Gryffindors when Harry tumbled out of the fireplace and he ran down the hall to take a quick shower and make it in time for breakfast.

***

Harry took his seat in Defence Against the Dark Arts and willed himself to stop blushing. It was their last class before lunch but Harry couldn't stop remembering what he and his Dominus had been doing last night. He was doing his best to look anywhere but at Severus, but it was as if his eyes kept being drawn back time and again. Harry could feel his wings tingling and trying to flutter within his shirt, but they couldn't and it was getting uncomfortable. He knew now what those tingles meant; it was the first stages of his arousal and if he let it go on long enough, an erection wouldn't be far off. Harry tried to think of something else, anything else.

Making a conscious effort to ignore the tingling sensation, Harry removed his textbooks, scrolls, quills and ink from his bag and arranged them on his desk; then moved them about a bit before rearranging them again. He chided himself for getting distracted. If there was one class he needed to pay attention in, it was Defence. He needed to know as much as possible in order to defeat Voldemort, didn't he?

Severus lifted up a pile of scrolls that had been sitting on his desk and magicked them to each student. "Potter, see me after class. I expect better work from you in future," said Severus as he tapped the blackboard and their next assignment appeared. Harry dreaded turning over that scroll; what would he see? A large red 'T' marring the parchment? Harry thought Defence was one of his best subjects, but he knew he couldn't put off looking at the mark for very much longer. He turned his essay over and heaved a sigh of relief. 'E' for Exceeds Expectations. That wasn't too bad, was it?

So why was Severus so keen for him to stay behind after class? Oh, something to do with the Order or Voldemort perhaps? Severus couldn't very well say that in front of the other students, could he?

"Just because you have had the luck to escape the Dark Lord's clutches in the past is no excuse for you to slack off in my class, Mr. Potter. I will not tolerate shoddy, slapdash work that appears to have been written by a troll with nothing between its ears but cobwebs and sawdust. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir," Harry whispered hoarsely, his throat aching with the effort of trying not to cry in front of the Slytherins who were giggling madly at his dressing-down. Harry had obviously lost the knack of not caring when he was ripped to shreds by Professor Snape. And it was Professor Snape in that classroom, not Severus, not his Dominus, but Harry still felt the need to please him and he wanted to prostrate himself on the floor and ask for forgiveness, even though he hadn't done anything wrong. Harry knew it was just an act, Severus had to act that way in front of the Slytherins, but why did it have to hurt so much?

The rest of the class went by in a bit of a blur. Harry had endured much worse things in his life than being berated by Professor Snape, but the ache he was feeling somewhere deep down inside his chest and his midriff was making him feel slightly sick and he willed the bell to ring and let him out of that classroom. But of course, the bell ringing only meant relief for the others; Harry still had to stay behind.

Harry packed away his things and waited by his desk while everyone else filed out. Severus waited until the last student had left before casting silencing and warding charms on the door. In the next instant, he had stalked down the aisles between the desks and wrapped Harry up in a fierce hug. Harry broke down in sobs, the emotions he'd tried so hard to control during class came spilling out of his eyes as he clung to Severus with white-knuckled hands. He hated feeling so fragile and what was worse that it was always in front of his mate.

"Harry, I'm sorry. You know I didn't mean those things, don't you? But we can't let them suspect we are anything more than teacher and student, and they have to believe that I still hate you."

"I know, but it still hurts." As Harry glanced up, he caught sight of Bill Weasley still sitting quietly in the corner. Harry had forgotten Bill was even there. He tried to shift out of Severus' embrace.

"What's wrong?"

"Bill," Harry whispered.

"Harry, it's all right," said Bill. "I know that Severus is your mate, but don't worry, I won't say anything. I know about creature bonds and how much you need this."

"Thanks," said Harry, but he still stepped away from Severus, not feeling comfortable with someone watching him with his mate.

"We wanted to talk to you about some extra training, Harry," said Severus. "Has the headmaster talked to you at all?"

"Not really, no. I think he's been avoiding me."

"Well, that's good for now, but we need to get you trained in Occlumency. Not only to protect you from the Dark Lord but also from Dumbledore. You do know he is a very accomplished Legilimens?"

"Oh, God," said Harry. "So he could find out things from my mind, even if I don't talk about them?"

"Indeed. I know our previous lessons weren't exactly pleasant, but you do need to learn this. I will be teaching you Occlumency and offensive tactics, and Bill will help you with defensive spells and jinxes. Are you playing Quidditch this year?" Severus asked. "I need to know so we can fit these extra lessons around your timetable."

"No," Harry said. The thought of trying to hide his wings in the communal showers after matches was giving him a headache just thinking about it. He hadn't been on a broom since Umbridge had banned him the year before and Harry didn't really feel like getting on one again. And now that he had wings, he knew what he really wanted – and it wasn't to fly on a broom. "I'd like to learn to fly though, with my wings."

Severus smiled. "Well, maybe we can see about that as well. Have you had any weird dreams or pains in your scar, anything like that?"

"No, no pain. But I had a weird dream. After – last night."

Severus coloured. "I see. Bill, why don't you go on and get some lunch? I'll let you know the timetable later."

Bill winked at Harry on his way out and mouthed: 'Good luck'.

"What was your dream about, Harry?"

"There were lots of wolves and I was lost in a forest, there was fog everywhere and I kept hearing her screaming. My mum – Lily Potter. I know she isn't my mum, but that's how I think of her. The wolves had mauled her, her abdomen was ripped open. There was so much blood and one of the wolves had a baby in its mouth, but the face looked like Voldemort. It was awful, Severus. Really horrible." Harry shuddered and wrapped his arms around himself.

"I can imagine," said Severus. "And did your scar hurt after this dream?"

"No, I don't think it was sent by him. I think it was just a nightmare."

"Indeed," was all Severus replied, but Harry had the impression that Severus knew a lot more than he was letting on.

TBC




Chapter 5: The Weight of Water
Part 21

Harry sat on a boulder by the edge of the lake just staring at the water. The boulder had been worn smooth over the years with so many thousands of students having sat on it just like this. Ron and Hermione were still at dinner, but Harry had felt the need to be alone for a while and refused their offers to accompany him. The sun was hanging low in the sky, it would soon set and the evening was getting chilly. Harry wrapped his cloak tighter around himself and sighed. It was one thing to lie to his friends, but quite another to lie to himself. He hadn't wanted to be alone at all; he was hoping to catch sight of Crellidus again. Harry had never known another Sylph and he was curious.

How had Hagrid called him? It was some sort of whistle, wasn't it? Harry pursed his lips and tried to whistle, but he had never been able to. All he managed was to blow a breath of air out of his mouth. Giving up, he lifted up a few stones and threw them in the lake, not really trying to skim them tonight. He knew he couldn't stay out here all night just on the off chance that Crellidus might appear; even being this close to such an expanse of water was giving him the creeps.

No one else was about, it was too cold and it was getting too dark for any Quidditch practices, so Harry knew no one would be able to see him. Gathering his courage, he stepped until he was at the very edge of the lake, near the waves lapping against the shore. Harry didn't know how long he stood there, but the sun had already gone beyond the horizon and lights were flaring to life from the castle windows.

Just as he turned to leave, Harry heard water bubbling in the lake and looked back. Crellidus was emerging; his blue skin luminous in the ever-growing darkness.

"Harry Potter," he said and bowed from the waist.

"Um, yeah," Harry said as he too bowed. A few moments later Crellidus emerged from the lake, his tail giving way to legs once more. "How do you know my name?"

"You came to our lake once, and the girl speaks of you often."

"The girl?"

"Myrtle, from the castle. She is a constant visitor to our realm."

"Oh." Harry wondered what Myrtle had said about him, but he didn't feel like asking.

"You are a Sylph," Crellidus said then. It wasn't a question.

"Yes."

"I did not sense you as one when you first came to the lake."

"I didn't have my wings then," Harry admitted. "Do Mer-Sylphs have wings too?"

Crellidus laughed, it sounded like water tinkling against a glass. "No, young one. What use would wings be for a Mer-Sylph? I have a tail or legs when it is necessary. You are a strange one. I sense that you are finding it hard to accept your heritage. You think of yourself as a freak, as something unnatural, when this is not so. Do you think those things of me?"

"No! Of course not!" Harry said hastily.

"Do you think any less of your friends because they are only human?"

"No, I love them."

"Then why can you not accept that they love you too, no matter what you are? You are just different, just as I am different from most Mer-People, I can walk on land, but they are still my people, just as humans are still yours. You have to accept who you are before you can be truly happy."

Wasn't that part of the problem though? Harry didn't know who he was. Severus had told him what the headmaster had said, that Harry had been abandoned and given to the Potters. Harry Potter didn't exist, he never had. Harry had no idea who he was, who his parents were, or if he'd ever be able to find out. After all, who would admit to abandoning a baby like that?

"Why do you think so little of yourself?" Crellidus asked softly, moving to stand closer to Harry, his eyes seeking out Harry's.

"Because they beat it into me!" Harry blurted before thinking of what he was saying, and in the next instant he felt himself falling into the memories once more.

***

"Do you call this clean?" Aunt Petunia hissed as she smeared a white-gloved hand across the television screen. It came away grey with dust and Harry's heart lurched. He'd dusted everything in the room besides the television, which he'd forgotten. Harry was kneeling in front of the sofa, his arms behind his back, his head bowed as she continued to berate him over all the little things he'd done or failed to do today. "And you broke Dudley's favourite glass! How many times must I tell you to be careful with the washing up? What are you, boy?"

"A useless, filthy freak," Harry responded, his voice hollow.

"And?"

"And I deserve to be punished."

"That's right, you do. Into the kitchen with you."

Harry made to stand up. Petunia glared at him and clipped him round the ear. It stung but Harry didn't cry out. Not that time.

"Haven't I taught you better than that, freak?"

"Sorry," Harry mumbled as he made his way to the kitchen on his hands and knees. The lino was cold on his bare knees and hands but he knew better than to show any discomfort in front of his aunt; that would only make the punishment last longer.

"Where is the broken glass?" Petunia demanded, tapping her foot on the floor.

"In the bin, Aunt."

Petunia slapped him hard across the left cheek. "In the bin? And what happens when Vernon goes to empty out the bag? He'll cut his hand! Or is that what you meant to happen all along? You ungrateful brat!"

"I wrapped it in newspaper first," Harry protested, but it was no use. His aunt was in full flight and her rage would not be abated until she'd drawn blood. Petunia was never satisfied until she'd seen him bleed.

"Our newspaper! Our glass! Take it out of the bin, now!"

Harry crawled over to the small plastic pedal bin that sat by the back door. He lifted the lid and tried to ignore the smell of rotting food that was coming from it. Harry knew he had emptied the bin earlier that morning, but it looked like Petunia had managed to put in some fish and overripe fruit and they were sticking to the sides of the plastic. His stomach roiling, Harry reached in and removed the newspaper with the glass wrapped carefully inside it. Fish scales and fruit juice stuck to his hands and he tried his best not to shudder at the feel of the sticky, foul mess on his skin. They never let him wash until it was time for him to go back to school. Once his household chores were done, Petunia would tie him up in the cellar again and then he had nothing to do but wait for Vernon and Dudley to come home for Harry's other duties.

"Unwrap it," ordered Aunt Petunia.

Harry did so, staring at the shards lying on the newsprint, the picture of an Action Man figure shattered in pieces.

"Lift up all those pieces and squeeze your hand around them."

Harry knew it would hurt, but disobeying the order would hurt even more so it wasn't long before he scooped up all of the pieces of glass in his left hand and squeezed around them. He gasped at the stinging pain and watched in fascinated horror as blood dripped from between his fingers, plop, plop on the floor. It was so red and he couldn't stop staring at it.

"Enough!" snapped Petunia just as Harry swayed with dizziness. Harry's hand opened and he dropped the glass onto the floor. "And now you've made the floor messy again, you ugly piece of filth! How can you be a relative of mine? Get into position!"

Harry turned and leaned his upper body on one of the kitchen chairs, gripping the legs of it for support. He heard the whistle of the cane long before it came down to land on his back. And there was no stopping his screams that time.

***

Harry pushed Crellidus out of his mind, feeling sick and faint. "You had no right to go through my mind!"

"I am sorry, Harry Potter. Your mind sought out mine; I thought you had invited me."

"No!" As if Harry would want anyone to witness the humiliations he had suffered at the Dursleys', never mind one who was almost a stranger! "Just leave me alone!"

"Harry Potter, is your mate a very jealous and possessive man?" Crellidus asked, looking behind Harry.

"Yes, but how on Earth did you know that?"

"Because I fear he has come to some misunderstanding and is on his way here. He has a thunder face."

Harry turned to see Severus stalking towards them on the gravel pathway leading to the lake. Crellidus was right; Severus' looked as if he should have had a thundercloud above his head.

"What the hell are you doing? Get away from him!" Severus roared at Crellidus. "You have no right!"

"We were just talking," Harry tried to explain.

"Talking? At one o'clock in the morning?"

"What? I can't have been here that long! I only left dinner an hour ago!"

"Time moves differently in the universe of the mind," Said Crellidus.

"You let him into your mind? A stranger?" Severus demanded, taking hold of Harry's arm and yanking him to his feet. "Have you no sense?"

"Goodbye, Harry Potter. It was a pleasure to meet you."

Severus stared at the water as Crellidus dived into it, tail flashing in the moonlight.

"He's not a stranger, he's a Mer-Sylph called Crellidus. We met him in Hagrid's class!"

"I see," said Severus in the tone of voice of one who didn't see, not at all. "You still have no business being out in the grounds in the middle of the night on your own! I don't want you talking to him again, are we clear?"

Harry didn't know how he dared do it. Maybe he was still overwrought from the memories of Privet Drive but his mouth seemed to open before he knew what he was going to say.

"What's the matter? Jealous?" he spat angrily. Severus tightened his grip on Harry's arm and whirled Harry to face him, their faces only inches apart.

"Are you really trying to provoke me?" Severus snarled. "When you know what this bond does to me?" Severus thrust against Harry's midsection and Harry could feel the erection trapped within the fabric. He swallowed.

"I'm sorry, Dominus."

"Sorry doesn't fix this!"

Harry didn't think it did, but what else could he do? He didn't want his Dominus to be angry with him. Shifting a little, Harry managed to wriggle out of Severus' arms and knelt down on the grass by his Dominus' feet. But this time his hands weren't by his side, they reached up and began to undo Severus' trousers.

Severus stepped back. "No! Not like this! That isn't supposed to be a punishment!"

"Then punish me," said Harry hoarsely. "Punish me how you want to."

***

Part 22

Harry's words were doing little to calm Severus down. Punish him! Oh, how he would love to do that, but he knew it would be a mistake. The bond was playing havoc with him and what was worse was that it appeared to be so one-sided. Harry didn't seem to have this overwhelming need to be touched by Severus, unlike Severus, who only too often had stared at Harry at meals or in class and wanted nothing more.

Severus stopped along the path, his thoughts a jumble. Harry needed a dominant mate, that was in all the literature. Is that what this was about? Had Severus been too gentle; too understanding with him? However, Severus could not forget what Harry had gone through with the Dursleys. How could Severus even contemplate punishing him physically? It could put them back months, no matter how many dreams Severus had of Harry sprawled naked across his lap, his arse marked by Severus' hand. Severus refused to let such thoughts control him. It wasn't what Harry needed. Harry needed to see their relationship as something apart from what had happened at the Dursleys, something very different; Severus was not going to take the role of abuser, which is what Harry seemed to be trying to cast him in lately.

"Dominus?" Harry asked softly, his voice wavering.

Severus hugged him, noting at once how cold Harry's skin was. "Merlin, Harry, you're freezing. Let's get you inside and warmed up."

"What about my punishment, sir?"

"Harry, you haven't done anything wrong. I have," Severus confessed. And wasn't that a turn-up? Severus hadn't confessed his wrongs like that since the night he'd claimed sanctuary at Hogwarts all those years ago. "Yes, I was jealous and I let it control me, when I know that you would never cheat on me."

Severus wanted to apologise, to say sorry, but the words stuck in his throat. Seeing the two of them together though, so close to each other, had made his chest ache. Crellidus was so handsome in an other-worldly way, a bit like Harry. They'd looked good together and Severus had felt as if someone had reached in and yanked out his heart, stomped on it and then put it back without being repaired. Self-doubt had crept in, even when he knew it was an impossibility that Harry would ever seek out another lover. Severus had enough trouble getting him relaxed as it was, there was no way Harry would be comfortable enough to seek out someone else, especially someone he hardly knew, for sex.

All that hadn't seemed to matter, though, as he saw the two of them together. He'd been working on instinct and had been afraid that someone was trying to steal his mate. To steal his Harry.

"No, Severus, I wouldn't," said Harry as he reached up and caressed Severus' cheek. It was one of the few times that Harry had touched him intimately of his own volition and Severus felt his breath hitch. "You're my mate and I would never betray you. I only want you."

Severus bent down to kiss him, doing his best to keep it light, for he was still painfully aroused and was afraid his control would slip and he'd go too far. He ached to claim Harry, make him his own, but he had yet to even see Harry fully naked. Harry still wore his pyjama trousers and would only let them rub against each other, he wasn't even comfortable yet with Severus trying to give him a hand-job, for he'd balked at that the last time they were together.

"You should get to bed," Severus suggested once he'd broken off their kiss.

"Can I stay with you tonight?" Harry asked.

It was tempting – more than tempting, but Severus knew his own limits and knew the temptation of having Harry so close would be too much for him tonight. No, it was better if Harry was as far away from him as possible, for now.

"No, Harry. Not tonight. I'll see you tomorrow after your Occlumency lesson."

"Oh. Oh, right," Harry said and walked off towards the castle on his own and soon vanished in the darkness. Severus stared at where he'd seen him vanish for a few moments longer, before making his way back to his quarters and another lonely shower.

***

Severus bounded up the spiral stairs two at a time, not waiting for them to land him at Dumbledore's door. It had been another restless night as he'd alternately had nightmares about Voldemort and dreams about Harry that had left him waking up to soiled sheets again, wet with sweat and sticky with semen. He didn't even remember having this many wet dreams as a teenager and now he was in no mood for patiently waiting on the stairs. Harry hadn't been at breakfast and Severus wondered if he was still very upset over last night.

Severus rapped the griffin door-knocker and shifted about while he waited for his summons.

"Enter."

He pushed the door open and stopped in mid-stride. There, sitting by the headmaster's desk, was one of his Slytherins: Pansy Parkinson. She turned and smiled at him, as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. Severus knew better. The girl was worse than a viper. Severus had lost count of how many first years had been hexed – or worse – by her this year alone, even Slytherins.

There were two scarlet-robed Aurors standing to the side of Dumbledore's desk and Severus felt all the breath leave him in a whoosh, as if he'd taken a Bludger to the gut. Severus didn't recognise either of the Aurors and wondered why Moody and Shacklebolt weren't here. Unless this wasn't an Order matter at all?

"Ah, Severus. So good of you to come," said Dumbledore in a sweet voice that was already grating on Severus' nerves. As if anyone could disobey an order from the headmaster!

"What have you done with Harry Potter?" demanded one of the Aurors, a pimple-faced, sandy-haired youth who looked as if he wouldn't have the sense to come in out of the rain, never mind make it through Auror training.

"I beg your pardon?" Severus asked calmly.

"Miss Parkinson claims she saw you with Harry last night," said Dumbledore, still smiling genially.

Well, no point in denying that; Severus knew they would simply have to use Veritaserum on Parkinson and she would spill all she knew. But what did she know? Had she seen them embrace, or kiss?

"And what were you doing out after curfew, Miss Parkinson?" Severus asked sternly.

"I couldn't sleep. So I was just walking along the hallways when I saw the two of you from a window. I thought you were going to hit him," she said with relish. And she would indeed relish the thought of violence.

"Severus, is this true? Did you assault Harry?" Dumbledore's smile was long gone now.

"Of course I didn't hit him! I shouted at him for being out after curfew and sent him back to his dorm."

"Without even taking points or giving him a detention? That is most unlike you, Severus. However, that is not the issue at stake at the moment. You were the last person to see Mr. Potter."

"Albus, will you stop talking in riddles and tell me what this is all about!"

"Harry is missing, Severus. His bed has not been slept in at all. You may have sent him back to the Tower, but Harry never went there. His dorm-mates haven't seen him since dinner last night. He then had a lesson with Bill Weasley – lessons I have not authorised, I hasten to add – but after that no one else saw him. No one else but you and Miss Parkinson. So, Severus, as I'm sure we'd all like to know, what have you done with him?"

"I haven't done anything with him!" Severus protested. "He headed back to the castle after our – altercation."

"But did you actually see him enter the castle itself?"

"No," Severus admitted, realising he'd been too hell-bent on taking care of his raging erection to pay much attention to where Harry had actually gone.

"Thank you, Miss Parkinson. That will be all," said Dumbledore, getting up and leading her to the door. She pouted at being denied a longer gossip session. Once she was gone, Dumbledore turned to the Aurors. "Well, it seems clear to me that Mr. Potter is indeed missing. He is nowhere in the castle or on the grounds; I checked, but the wards would have alerted me to his presence. I suggest you go and start looking."

"And where do you propose we start, sir?"

"That's your job, isn't it?" said Dumbledore sweetly, ushering both of them to the door and slamming it hard behind them.

Once the two of them were alone, the headmaster cast strong warding and silencing charms on the whole room.

"Now, Severus, we can be honest with each other, can't we? I've suspected something for a while and now Miss Parkinson confirms it, although she doesn't actually realise what she saw. She thought you wanted to hit Harry. But no, that's not it at all, is it? It's something quite else. You are Harry's mate, aren't you?"

"Quite an imagination you've got there, Albus," Severus replied, without accepting or denying Dumbledore's statement.

"It's not imagination at all. Do you think I haven't noticed how protective you've been of him lately? Even going so far as to secrete him away this summer? You're his mate, Severus, but Harry is still a student at this school. There are rules to be obeyed for staff members too. If I so much as hear a whisper of impropriety about you towards Harry, then I will have no choice but to let you go. I will not let you ruin all our plans; I don't care how much news you bring back from Voldemort! Harry still needs to obey me!"

"Forgive me, Headmaster," said Severus.

Dumbledore smiled at him. It soon faded, however, at Severus' next words.

"But for a minute there I thought you actually cared about Harry, but I see you don't. You never have. All you've cared about is what he could do for you and your precious Order. Harry is nothing but a weapon to be used and then discarded after you have no more use for him. It's sickening, and I will not listen to this a minute longer. Good morning." And Severus stalked out.

At the foot of the stairs, he found Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley waiting for him.

"Sir," began Hermione. "We think we might know where Harry has gone."

"Very well, take me to him," said Severus, not caring that he had a class to teach and that these two would also be skipping lessons.

Finding Harry was much more important to him than any class.

***

Part 23

Severus followed the two Gryffindors out the gates and down the path to Hogsmeade. Autumn was giving way to winter; a few golden leaves still clung tenaciously to some of the trees on the pathway, but most were denuded already, the leaves already rotting on the ground beneath their feet. None of them spoke until they were out of sight of the school.

"Where do you think he went?" Severus asked.

"There's a cave in the mountains behind the village," said Hermione and worried at her bottom lip, as if debating whether or not she should continue. "It's where Sirius was hiding out and I thought Harry might have gone back there, especially if he's upset about something. I don't think Harry ever really got over what happened at the Ministry that day."

"No," Ron agreed. "Sirius invited Harry to live with him, did you know? Harry was so looking forward to getting away from the Dursleys; he really loved his godfather."

Severus didn't answer, he couldn't. In the few months since Sirius Black's death, Severus had barely thought of the man except for brief pangs of relief that his tormentor was finally dead. Now he had to wonder if Harry had been hiding his grief from him because he knew how much it would upset Severus to speak of Black. The memories rose up, hot and bitter, of all the humiliations and petty injustices the Marauders had inflicted upon him during his schooldays and Severus almost stumbled.

"Has Harry spoken to either of you about his godfather?" Severus asked them.

"Not really, but then Harry never does say much," replied Hermione. "He bottles everything up and that's not good for him, is it, Professor?"

"No," Severus said, resolving to have a long talk with Harry once he got him somewhere safe. Severus knew now there was no way Harry could go back to school. And wherever Harry went, Severus was going too. Dumbledore had shown his true colours and Severus was not going to allow his mate to return and be manipulated at Dumbledore's whim, like Severus had been all those years ago. Hogwarts was no longer a sanctuary; it would become a prison for both of them with Dumbledore as their jailer.

No. Harry was not going back to Hogwarts as long as Albus Dumbledore was there.

Severus sighed, knowing he would have to go back. Voldemort thought he was spying on Dumbledore and if Severus left Hogwarts, Voldemort would know that wasn't the case any longer. He would be hunted and killed like all who had dared defy the Dark Lord. And what would happen to Harry without his mate? No, he needed to find somewhere safe for Harry, but Severus himself would have to return to the school.

It didn't take the three of them long to reach the entrance to the cave; the interior was shrouded in darkness. Severus and his two companions each cast Lumos and entered the cave. They found Harry deep in the cavern, lying down, his face pale. Severus knelt down beside him and tried to shake Harry awake, but to no avail. Harry was deeply unconscious and while Severus shook him his whole body flopped about like a rag doll shaken too hard.

"Oh, God! What's wrong with him?" gasped Hermione.

"He needs medical attention," said Severus. "But we can't take Harry back to the school."

Severus cancelled his Lumos and sent a Patronus message to Poppy Pomfrey, just hoping that she could get here soon. Once his Patronus had fled the cave, Severus lifted Harry up in his arms and cradled the young man to his chest, not caring what his other two students thought of the gesture. Harry was growing feverish as the minutes passed and all three of them sat in tense silence while they waited for the mediwitch to arrive. Harry's legs twitched then lay still as he wheezed for breath.

The crack of Apparition startled all three of them, but Harry gave no indication that he had heard. Poppy was bending low over her patient in an instant, her professional demeanour soon taking over from the first flush of shock that had been on her face.

"How long has he been like this?" Poppy asked, examining Harry while he was still on Severus' lap.

"We don't know. He was like this when we found him about twenty minutes ago," Severus explained.

"It's time, isn't it?" Hermione asked the matron, her hazel eyes hardening. Severus and Ron glanced at Hermione in some confusion.

"Yes. Take them all to the safe house, Hermione. I will get there as soon as possible and bring her."

With those words, Poppy Apparated back out. Hermione turned one of the loose rocks into a Portkey and had indicated that Severus and Ron should take hold of it. Could he trust her?

She seemed to sense his doubts. "Please, Professor. We have to get Harry away from Hogwarts and away from Dumbledore."

Severus nodded as he took hold of the Portkey with Harry still clasped in Severus' arms. That Portkey journey seemed one of the longest in Severus' life, so filled with worry as it was. When the world finally stopped spinning, they landed in the kitchen of a house somewhere in the middle of nowhere, for all Severus could see through the windows were trees and more trees. Still unconscious, Harry threw up over his clothes and Severus was quick to turn him over so he wouldn't choke. Once Harry had finished, Severus banished the vomit with a wave of his wand and conjured a wash cloth so he could wipe Harry's face.

"Miss Granger, can you explain to me what is going on?" Severus asked her, not loosening his hold on Harry. It was as if Severus thought that by holding onto him, Harry would not get any worse. His other hand sought out his wand, ready to hex her if she showed any sign of treachery.

"Not me. I don't know all the details; just that we need to protect Harry. I'm only a novice; I'm not an initiate yet."

Her words made no sense except for the part about protecting Harry, for that was Severus' reasoning as well.

"None of us can go back to Hogwarts now," she continued. "Dumbledore would never leave us alone while trying to find out where Harry was, and we can't let Harry be manipulated any longer."

The words, coming from the mouth of a teenager, seemed strange, as if Hermione Granger was much older than her years.

"We should get Harry to bed, let him rest," she said. "There's a bedroom through here." Hermione pointed out a door to their left.

"Hermione, how do you know about this place?" asked Ron. "Have you been here before?"

"Yes. It's where they take us for training."

"What training?" asked Severus.

"Who takes you?" asked Ron at the same time.

"They'll explain when they get here," said Hermione as she nodded towards the bedroom door.

Severus set Harry down on the bed but couldn't leave him. He sat on the edge of the bed and pushed Harry's fringe away from his forehead. The scar looked normal, so whatever was wrong with Harry it wasn't anything to do with Voldemort. Severus didn't know how long he sat there just watching Harry breathe before there was a knock on the door and Hermione's head peered around it.

"Professor, they're here."

Severus returned to the kitchen to find Poppy Pomfrey and her companion.

"What is that charlatan doing here?" Severus demanded as he spied Sybill Trelawney in all her wispy shawls and bangles, her eyes magnified by the ridiculous spectacles she wore. She grinned at him and removed the glasses.

"Now, Severus. There's no need for hostility, is there? Not now that we know you are Harry's chosen mate." The voice was one he had never heard Sybill use in all the years he had known her. This was no whispery voice trying to sound mystical. In fact, she sounded almost sensible.

"Can someone tell me what the hell is going on?" Severus roared, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Let me attend to Harry," said Poppy as she strode toward the bedroom, black bag in hand.

"I'll make some tea," said Hermione as she sorted through a cupboard to find everything.

"Just tell me!" Severus had little patience for tea and all it entailed. He needed to know.

"Sit down, gentlemen," said Sybill, waving Ron and Severus into the chairs around the kitchen table. "This could be a long tale. As you may have surmised by now, Sybill Trelawney the teacher is indeed a fraud, but I'm sure that you, Severus, understand the need for acting in order that your real intentions are never discovered."

"You're a spy!" Ron exclaimed. "What are you going to do to Harry?" Ron and Severus both raised their wands at the same time.

"Relax. I am not, nor was I ever, a follower of Voldemort. There was only one reason I sought the position at Hogwarts, for I knew that Harry would go there eventually and I would then be better placed to protect him; for all of us had failed miserably in the years before."

"You know what happened to him?" Severus asked.

"We do now. All of us failed in our duty, our sworn duty. Minerva is also one of our number and she was there on the night Dumbledore left Harry on the Dursleys' doorstep. She knew Harry would never be happy there and tried to persuade Dumbledore to leave Harry with someone else, but he refused and Apparated her away from there before she could do anything else. We lost sight of Harry's magical signature after that. Dumbledore had added other wards so that no one seeking Harry could find him. Minerva tried, but she could never find the Dursleys' house ever again and none of us saw him until he came to Hogwarts."

"But who are you? And why are you protecting Harry? Do you believe your own prophecies that Harry is the Chosen One?"

"We are protecting Harry because our sisters swore an oath to our queen over a thousand years ago. We are the guardians of that bloodline and Harry is the last of that line. Prophecies have nothing to do with it, at least not in the way you're thinking. Dumbledore murdered Harry's parents and abandoned the child in the alley just so he could give the Potters a child and make Voldemort think the prophecy was true."

Severus had suspected as much, but to hear it confirmed like this was almost more than he could bear. Because of everything Dumbledore had done, Harry had lived with people who had abused him for years. The kettle hanging over the fire whistled then, and Hermione bustled about making tea and pouring it out for them.

"Dumbledore has to be eliminated," said Sybill as if she was contemplating what shawl to wear. "The ravens have left the Tower of London, Severus; do you remember your tales?"

Severus nodded. The Muggles had a similar legend too. "The country will fall."

"Indeed it will, unless Harry can stop Voldemort. His destiny doesn't lie in a classroom, Severus, but on the battlefield as it always has."

"Dear Merlin!"

Sybill quirked the corner of her mouth. "Well, Merlin did have a hand in his conception once, but not this time."

"So the bloodlines... Harry is a descendant of King Arthur?"

"No, not Arthur. There was another royal line, on the wrong side of the blanket and adulterous too, but royal all the same. No, Harry is a descendant of Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot."

***

Part 24

"So you're some sort of secret society?" Severus asked, with one ear trained on the bedroom door. How long was Poppy going to be in there? "To protect the bloodline?"

"Indeed. It's one of the oldest tales, Severus. Lancelot was Arthur's best friend but fell in love with his wife. However, Lancelot also loved Arthur and didn't want to do anything to betray his friend, so he tried to avoid the Queen as much as possible, but of course none of them had reckoned on Merlin and his interference. Merlin was a very strong Seer and he saw far into the future. He foresaw the rise of Voldemort, but he didn't know how far into the future he'd seen." Sybill paused and sipped at her tea. By his elbow, Severus' teacup was ignored.

"Merlin knew the child who would become the Dark Lord's destroyer would be born of Guinevere and Lancelot's line, but the two would-be lovers showed no sign of consummating their desires. It was all very chaste, the epitome of courtly love, and even Arthur began to tease his wife about Lancelot's infatuation with her – his friend even took her favours at the joust and wrote love poetry to her."

"He didn't get mad that some other man was writing his wife poetry?" asked Ron in some surprise. "Wouldn't that have tipped him off that something was going on?"

"Well, nothing was going on as you put it, not then. This was a different time, and it was perfectly acceptable for knights to write poetry and receive favours from women, even married ones, as long as that was all it was. Adultery however, was not acceptable, but particularly frowned upon if it was the woman who cheated on her husband."

"Since Harry is born of that line, I take it their love didn't remain chaste for long?" Severus asked.

"No, but it was Merlin who set things in motion. He wangled it so that Arthur would be out of the castle for a few days and left Lancelot behind to look after his wife. Merlin used the Imperius Curse both of them to dose them with aphrodisiac potions. Thus they had little choice and the child was conceived in those few days. Unfortunately, Arthur was away for a few months, not days, and when he returned his wife was already starting to swell with child. The king knew the babe could not be his.

"Arthur wasn't happy that he'd been cuckolded by one of his own knights and he intended to dispose of the child, but one of her ladies in waiting, Walpurga, was a witch and a Seer too. She dreamt of what the king wanted to do and warned Guinevere. Walpurga chose six of Guinevere's most loyal ladies to attend the child's birth and then to take him away. Guinevere never asked where her child had gone, but she knew that he would be looked after and Walpurga and the others swore a vow that they would always protect her bloodline. We became known as the Sisterhood and only our other sisters have ever known of our existence. Until now, that is."

Sybill looked pointedly at the two of them. Neither he nor Ron had laid down their wands. Severus was weighing the woman's words carefully. It didn't really surprise him; Severus had known from the first moment he had set eyes on Harry that there was something different about him. His eyes had seemed far too old for an eleven year old, but Severus had assumed it was because of the abuse he'd suffered at the hands of the Dursleys. But maybe it was more than that; maybe it was some sort of sense memory concerning his royal ancestors. Harry looked as if he'd lived through many wars already.

"He isn't ready to face Voldemort yet," said Severus, surprised at his own use of the name rather than the title.

"No, not yet, but it is his destiny, Severus. The prophecy was true. I am no Seer myself, but sometimes my ancestor speaks through me and her prophecies are the truth."

"Walpurga?" Severus guessed.

"Indeed."

"So what was all that about in class when you kept predicting Harry was going to die all the time?" demanded Ron.

"A ruse, to get him thinking of the dangers he faced. He was much too innocent, Ron, surely you've noticed that? He trusts too easily and too quickly."

"No he doesn't!" Ron protested. "He knew what sort of person Malfoy was straightaway on the train his first day to Hogwarts."

"But what about since? I've seen the way he allows people to walk all over him."

"That's not really Harry, though. It's the compulsion," said Ron softly and Severus knew that Harry's friend worried for him as much as Severus did.

"Did Dumbledore put a compulsion spell on him? That man just adds more to his crimes by the second!"

"Not as far as we are aware, no," replied Severus. "But it's in Harry's nature to obey. He's a Phoenix Sylph."

Sybill was quiet then, gathering her thoughts when there was a loud screech from the bedroom. "Severus Snape get your arse in here right now!" Poppy hollered from behind the closed door.

Severus was out of his chair, his heart thundering like surf in his ears as his mind scrolled through various scenarios as to what might have happened to Harry. He pushed the door open and entered the bedroom.

"What have you been doing?" Poppy demanded, hands on her hips. "I know Harry is submissive by nature, Severus, but you cannot be so rough with him!"

"Poppy, what on Earth are you talking about? I haven't been rough with Harry, I swear. I know he is delicate."

"Then how do you explain the damage, hmm?" Poppy had Harry undressed to the waist; she turned him over so Severus could see the damage. The skin around his wings was raw and blistered; there were scabbed-over cuts as well and some of the skin was discoloured, as if it was bruised. Poppy stretched out Harry's left wing and even Severus could see there was something wrong with it. It hung limply from his back, the shine muted.

"Poppy, I'm not sure, but I think Harry may have been trying to get rid of his wings himself. Look, there, doesn't that look almost like an incision mark?" Severus pointed out the smooth scab by the spot where Harry's wing joined his shoulder.

"But why would he do such a thing to himself?" Poppy asked as she turned Harry onto his side.

"Because he still thinks he's a freak," said Severus. "Harry thinks he's ugly, that his wings are ugly."

Severus was more worried about the fact that Harry hadn't told him how he was feeling, rather than the fact that he'd tried to cut off his own wings. Severus should have realised Harry still wasn't as happy as he was pretending to be. Last night Severus had been an idiot. What courage must it have taken Harry to ask to stay with him and what had Severus had done? Rejected him out of hand. To Harry it must have seemed even worse – that perhaps Severus thought him ugly and repulsive because of his wings.

How could Severus get Harry to understand that his wings were beautiful? That he himself was gorgeous.

"The scars are infected, he has a fever, that's why he was unconscious," said Poppy. "I've given him some fever-reduction and a pain reliever. He's just sleeping now; he needs lots of rest so he can heal properly. I'm sorry I jumped to conclusions, Severus. I should have realised you would never hurt him."

"Not intentionally," said Severus.

"I've put some salve on the worst of the wounds; they should clear up in a few days. Make sure he keeps his wings uncovered until he heals."

"He did tell me that clothes were irritating them; I think we'll have to get some specially made to accommodate his wings."

"The two of you really need to sit down and talk more," Poppy advised. "I might even suggest some counselling if I could be sure Harry would actually go."

"I can suggest it, but I don't think he would agree to it. And I am not allowing him to be locked up in St. Mungo's."

"No, I don't think that would be best for Harry either."

Ron and Hermione knocked on the door. "How's Harry?" Hermione asked.

"He'll be fine, Miss Granger, as long as he doesn't do something so foolish again."

Ron and Hermione both looked curiously at Severus.

"We believe Harry may have tried to cut off his wings."

"Oh, Professor! That's awful! He really hasn't accepted himself yet, has he?"

"No, not yet, Miss Granger."

And if Harry hadn't even accepted himself as a Sylph, then he hadn't really accepted Severus as his mate yet either. Poppy was right. The two of them did need to sit down and talk things through properly.

It would be a very long talk.

***

Part 25

Steam was still rising from the soup as Harry tried his best to sip it, but it was taking a long time. His limbs felt as if they didn't quite belong to him and the hand holding the spoon trembled so much that more soup was ending up on the table and down the front of his shirt rather than in his mouth. He hissed as the hot liquid fell onto his chest once more. Without a word passing between them, Severus took hold of the spoon and fed Harry the rest.

The broth was thick with vegetables and chunks of beef that Harry was finding difficult to chew. He would have preferred something lighter, but both Severus and Madam Pomfrey felt he needed something substantial after his illness and to get him used to eating proper food again.

Harry had been so ill that he'd been in and out of consciousness for over three weeks. At the cottage Madam Pomfrey and Severus had looked after him. There had been magical drips to feed him nutrient potions and medicinal ones too, and spells to take away his waste. Harry wondered if there had been spells to clean him as well, or if either of them had washed him by hand.

"How about some dessert?" Severus asked as he levitated the dishes into the sink with a wave of his wand. "How does chocolate ice-cream sound?"

It sounded quite tempting, but not at the moment. "I still feel a bit full after all that soup. Maybe later?" Harry suggested, knowing Severus would only keep on at him if he didn't think Harry had eaten enough.

"Very well."

Severus went to the sink and started washing up the dishes they'd used. Harry stood up from his chair, intent on reaching for a tea-towel and helping, when another bout of dizziness washed over him. In the few days since he'd been up and about, the dizziness would creep up on him unawares and it was all he could do to keep the soup down where it belonged. Harry sank back into his chair and tried to breathe through it.

"Dizzy again?" Severus knelt down beside him and placed a hand on Harry's knee. The soft touch was helping somewhat; at least he knew he wasn't alone and if he did actually faint Severus would be able to help him.

"I'm sorry, Dominus." Harry was appalled to hear his voice cracking; he always seemed to break down at the smallest things these days.

"What for?"

"Being so sick that you have to look after me. I don't want to be a burden."

"Harry, you are not a burden! Far from it. You'd look after me or your friends if they were ill wouldn't you?"

Harry nodded.

"Then why do you feel you don't deserve the same consideration in return?"

"But that's different. It's my fault I got sick in the first place. I shouldn't have done what I did."

"No, Harry, you shouldn't. But you were distraught that night and I can hardly blame you. My behaviour wasn't exactly exemplary, was it? I don't blame you for wanting to try and change things, but I don't like you disparaging yourself all the time. It isn't healthy for you, and speaking as your Dominus, it displeases me to see you think so little of yourself."

"You could just order me to stop doing it."

Severus sighed. "I could, but what would that change? You'd still be thinking all these horrible things about yourself and they are not true. I want you to be able to realise your own self-worth, Harry, and not because I've ordered it. I want you to realise that you are a fine young man and you are allowed to be happy. And as for your wings, they are beautiful because they are part of you."

And now the tears Harry had tried so hard to hold back could be held back no longer. They dripped fat and wet onto his knees and his Dominus' hands as he just wept and wept. Severus wrapped one arm around Harry's waist and with the other tugged Harry's head so that it nestled against Severus' shoulder. Severus just held him and stroked Harry's hair until Harry could get control of himself again.

"I got your robes all dirty," Harry noted, sniffling a little. Severus produced a handkerchief from his pocket so that Harry could wipe his eyes and his nose. "You must think I'm such a cry-baby."

"Robes will wash, Harry. And as for crying, who can begrudge you that after what you have been through? Cry as often as you need to, I will never hold it against you. Now, do you feel up to talking?"

Harry had known the talk was coming, just as he'd known he'd never really be ready to talk about what had happened to him. "Can I – may I sit in your lap?" Harry nibbled on his bottom lip, feeling a bit like he was acting like a girl to ask for such a thing, but unwilling to give up the comfort of Severus' arms anyway.

"That would be delightful. Shall we adjourn to the sofa?"

Harry nodded and took hold of Severus' hand, wondering if Severus would still want to be his mate after he'd heard all the depraved things Harry had done.

***

Severus could tell Harry was nervous; the Sylph was shaking as he settled himself on Severus' lap. They sat in silence for a few moments and Severus knew it was going to have to be up to him to get Harry to talk. It seemed it was a well-known secret that Harry had been abused, but Harry himself had never really talked about it to Severus. The things those people had done were still haunting him, even though they were now dead. Severus knew that if the Dursleys still lived, they wouldn't have lived for long after he'd discovered what they'd done to Harry... what they'd done to his mate.

"Harry?"

"This is so hard to talk about," Harry murmured.

Severus stroked his back. They hadn't yet been shopping for Harry's new clothes; so Severus had improvised by magically altering some of Harry's shirts so there were holes for Harry's wings at the back. "I know, just take your time. I'm not going anywhere."

"I'm afraid," said Harry.

"Of what?"

"That you'll think I'm dirty and disgusting."

Poppy had already told Severus this – that it was quite common for rape and abuse victims to feel this way, and it would not be easy to convince Harry otherwise.

"Harry, if I came back from a Death Eater meeting in pain and bloodied from enduring the Cruciatus Curse, would you think I was dirty and disgusting?"

"No, but that's different."

"Why?"

"Because it's not anything to do with that – it's nothing to do with sex."

"Neither is rape, Harry. It's as far from loving sex as you can get. It's an act of violence, not a sexual act at all, and none of it was your fault."

"It feels like it is. Like I must have led them on somehow, or something."

"How about you just tell me one instance of what happened to you? I think you need to talk about it to get rid of some of that guilt, even though it's not going to be easy."

For a long time, Harry didn't say a word. He just rested his head on Severus' shoulder and breathed deeply, as if he was preparing himself for something terrible. "I was fifteen; it was the summer after Cedric died. The Order had threatened Vernon at the train station and promised to check up on me, but none of them ever did," Harry said bitterly.

"They did try, Harry, but none of them could penetrate Dumbledore's wards. No one could find the house. So if they couldn't find it, how on Earth did Peter Pettigrew manage it?"

"I don't know."

"Sorry, Harry. I didn't mean to interrupt your story, please continue."

"Vernon took no notice. They always made sure that it was dark before we reached Surrey so that the neighbours wouldn't see me. I had to get out of the car in the garage and go through the house that way. They were ashamed of me; they didn't want anyone to know they had a freak for a nephew."

Severus wanted to tell him he wasn't a freak, but was afraid of interrupting Harry's narrative again. It was best to let him talk it through now that he was actually speaking of things.

"Vernon took my trunk and my wand like he always did and then Aunt Petunia locked me in the cellar. At night Vernon would come down and do things to me."

"Do what, Harry? You have to say it."

"He raped me!" Harry almost screamed. "He put me on my hands and knees before whipping me and making me thank him for the punishment. And it wasn't just Vernon, it was Dudley too while his father watched and wanked. Dudley brought his friends over and I had to suck them off, one after the other until I was sick! Is that what you want to hear?"

Harry started to move, trying to get out of Severus' embrace, but Severus wasn't letting him get away.

It wasn't what Severus wanted to hear, but he knew Harry had to speak of it or he would never heal enough for them to have the loving relationship they needed. Harry was sobbing again now and Severus knew it would be cruel of him to make Harry relate any more today. He hugged Harry tight to his chest and soothed him by rocking him and whispering softly to him.

"You've done so well, Harry. I'm so proud of you."

Harry looked up through tear-filled lashes. "You're proud of me, Dominus?"

The hope in Harry's voice almost broke Severus' heart, an organ he wasn't sure he'd possessed any longer – until he'd discovered Harry was his mate.

"I am, Harry. It was so brave of you to talk about those things."

"And you're still touching me? You don't think I'm dirty?"

"No, Harry. Because you aren't."

"So why do I feel like I am?" Harry asked almost whispering.

"Because for years those people brought you up to believe that, but none of it was true. Just like when they told you there was no such thing as magic when you were small – they lied. It will take time, Harry, but you will heal. You've even started recovering, or you wouldn't have been able to enjoy frottage with me."

"I – I did enjoy that," said Harry. "Is that bad? That I enjoyed it? Shouldn't I have hated it?"

"Harry, enjoying a loving interlude with a partner is not bad. The only thing that is bad is one person forcing another against their will. I will never force you to do anything sexual you don't want."

"You can't be sure of that. The bond might make you force me."

Had Harry really thought that? Severus remembered how out of control he'd been that night at the lake after he saw Harry talking with Crellidus. And he realised now that's all they'd been doing – talking. Harry would never cheat on him.

"That isn't what you need, Harry. You need a loving relationship to stay healthy and forcing you will not be that. How about we have a safeword? Would that help you?"

"What is it?"

"It's a word you'd use to get out of a situation you feel uncomfortable in. So if there is anything sexual I do that is not to your liking, you'd say the word and I would stop."

"You would? Even if you were very aroused?"

"Even then. It's what a lot of people use who are in a Dominant/submissive relationship."

"Oh. I was – I was worried about that. That things might get out of control one day and you wouldn't stop even if I wanted you to. They never – they never stopped."

"Harry, that will not happen with us, I swear it. Don't make me into the Dursleys. That is not who I am."

"No, you're not. I'm sorry. I'd like that, I think. To have a safeword."

"Then that's what we'll do." Severus hugged him fiercely. "You will have nothing to fear from me."

TBC



Chapter 6: The Weight of Water
Part 26

The cottage was constantly busy with people popping in and out all the time. Harry could sense something major was going on, but as per usual no one thought fit to tell him what it was. It was as if there was a big secret and everyone knew what it was except him. Severus and Madam Pomfrey both told him he wasn't ready to hear it after he'd been so ill and even despite knowing he was a Sylph, or maybe because of it, Madam Pomfrey ordered him to stop asking questions about it. It had upset him tremendously that she'd used his nature against him like that, but there were other questions he needed answers to. This time he didn't even bother asking Madam Pomfrey or his Dominus.

Harry hovered uncertainly by the kitchen doorway.

"Professor Trelawney?" Harry still hadn't quite recovered from the shock that far from being some ditzy creature who wouldn't know the right way up to hold a teacup, never mind divine anything from within it, Sybill Trelawney was some sort of bodyguard for him – and had been ever since he'd started at Hogwarts. It seemed everyone else but Harry knew why she was his bodyguard.

"Ah, Harry. Up and about at last I see. How are you feeling?" Trelawney had ditched the shawls and bangles and the ridiculous glasses. Today she was wearing a flowing navy Muggle dress with a pattern of pink and blue flowers on it.

"Better, thank you. I wondered if I could ask you some things?"

"Of course, come in. This is your house; you don't need to hover in doorways."

"Oh," Harry said as he came in and sat down on one of the hard kitchen chairs. He hadn't known this was his house; in fact things didn't seem quite real to him at the moment. Harry felt as if he was looking at things through a wobbly pane of glass, everything was so out of focus and strange. It was like they were in some sort of shielded bubble; there were no newspapers delivered here, no mail either so Harry had no idea what was going on in the outside world.

Was Hogwarts even still standing? Was Voldemort searching for Severus as a traitor? Was the war getting worse while Harry was stuck here with no knowledge?

"What did you want to ask me, Harry?"

"It was about my dreams. Do you think you could interpret them for me?" Harry toyed with the edge of the tablecloth.

"I can try. Is it a recurring dream?"

Harry nodded. "It's a nightmare I have all the time. I'm lost in a forest and there are wolves all around."

"Are the wolves hunting you, or are you chasing the wolves?"

"They're not chasing me; I'm searching for them because I know they've got my mum. I mean, Lily."

"Hmm, well generally it's not good to be dreaming of wolves, Harry. It's considered a bad omen in many cultures. And as you're chasing or searching for the wolves, it means danger is coming. But then that's pretty obvious in your case, isn't it? And a forest, you say? Being in a forest indicates there is a risky enterprise ahead, but actually being lost in the dream means that it will be a success. Anything else you can remember?"

"When I find the wolves, Lily is dead with her abdomen torn out and there is a baby in one of the wolf's jaws, but it has the face of Voldemort."

"A newborn baby or older?"

"Newborn, it still had the cord and everything."

"Hmm, that's not too auspicious. It indicates that you are exhausted because of some task you have yet to master, that you keep trying and failing. Or it could also mean that you have a strong, childlike dependence on someone, but as you are a Sylph, that cannot be helped. You will rely on your Dominus, it's in your nature, but I don't think you are necessarily being child-like about it. As for the baby having You-Know-Who's face, I think that is just your worry about facing the Dark Lord coming through in your dreams. You are worried, aren't you?"

"Yeah. I think everyone forgets that I'm still only sixteen and I'm supposed to defeat the most evil wizard of all time. That hardly makes sense, does it? I don't know enough, I'm not ready."

"Not yet, Harry, but you will be. You will have plenty of teachers to guide you but in the end it will come down to you alone. No wonder you're worried. You'd be a fool not to be."

Harry's wings fluttered; he turned in his chair to find his Dominus standing in the doorway, his arms crossed over his chest, his face unfathomable.

"It's time for your lesson, Harry."

Occlumency. The task Harry had yet to master, despite the lessons and the effort he put into it.

"Severus, I want Harry to be at tonight's meeting," said Trelawney. "After his lesson, of course."

"I don't think that's wise."

"It's time, Severus. He needs to know."

"I don't want him upset! As his Dominus, I forbid it!"

"I have no intention of upsetting Harry and I am afraid that in this, I outrank you. He needs to know his own heritage, Severus. Harry will be at the meeting, as will you. We need to arrange things for the castle, and Harry is the only one who can access the wards."

"Dominus, please," begged Harry. "I need to know who I am. Isn't that what you wanted, for me to accept myself? How can I do that if I don't even know who I am?"

"Very well, I will allow it," said Severus. Harry sank to his knees and bowed his head, not even caring how it looked to Trelawney; Harry just knew this was the right thing to do.

"Thank you, Dominus."

Severus helped him up and they went to the living room to start their three hours of Occlumency, or as Harry had come to call the lessons in his mind: three hours in the deepest pits of Hell.

***

After another disastrous Occlumency lesson where Harry failed to repel Severus' repeated attacks on his mind (and with his Dominus discovering a lot more of Harry's abuse than Harry had been comfortable with) Harry wasn't really in the mood for dinner, but with everyone around the table stating pointedly at his full plate, he began to pick and prod at the vegetables and roast beef. It wasn't that the dinner was horrible; it was tasty as Mrs. Weasley had cooked it, but Harry wasn't feeling particularly hungry. All the Weasleys except Percy were there, as were Madam Pomfrey, Hermione, Trelawney with Severus and Harry sitting next to each other.

Conversation ebbed and flowed as everyone consumed their meal and Harry toyed with his. In reality he just wanted the dinner finished so he could find out the big secret that everyone was trying to keep from him. He guessed it must be something to do with his real parents; maybe they'd come to claim him back?

Harry wasn't sure how he felt about that. After abandoning him in an alley, did he really want to know people like that even if they were his parents? Harry could never imagine doing such a thing; to just throw a baby away as if it was rubbish. Had he really been that unwanted? His throat closed over and he could not face another bite, no matter how many dark looks his Dominus was giving him.

When it was clear no one was going to eat anything else, Mrs. Weasley cleared the table and set the dishes to wash by magic as everyone settled in for the meeting. Harry had guessed already that the people here were another sort of secret society, one without Dumbledore at its head, although it still surprised him that Sybill Trelawney seemed to be in charge of it.

"Harry," she began. "First I would like you to know that your parents never abandoned you. They loved you very much and if they hadn't died, you would have grown up in a loving family and have known who you were a lot sooner than this."

"They died?" Harry asked, grief for people he hadn't known, and now would never know, was welling up in his breast. They'd loved him. He hadn't been thrown out like rubbish after all.

"They didn't just die," Severus spat. "Dumbledore murdered them so he could hand you over to the Potters and bait the Dark Lord about the prophecy."

"Dumbledore? The headmaster murdered my parents?" Harry had known for a while now that Dumbledore manipulated people according to his whims, but murder? That still seemed too farfetched. But everyone else was nodding at Severus' words. They didn't seem to find it surprising that Dumbledore could commit cold-blooded murder. He certainly had no qualms about returning Harry to a life of abuse at the Dursleys'.

"Your real surname is Lake, Anglicised from Du Lac."

"My parents were French?" Harry asked in surprise.

Trelawney smiled. "No, but one of your ancestors was. Sir Lancelot Du Lac."

"Lancelot?" Harry asked, his heart beating so fast he could barely hear himself speak. "As in King Arthur's Lancelot?"

"Indeed, Harry. You were born of the royal line of Guinevere and Lancelot. My ancestors were charged with protecting that bloodline, protecting you."

"But they weren't married, were they? It couldn't have been a royal line, they wouldn't have allowed it."

"Perhaps the English wouldn't," Trelawney replied. "But Guinevere was royal in her own right, not just because she married Arthur. She was a Welsh princess and a lot of people still followed the old ways there. Marriage or lack of it would not have been an impediment."

"Oh. This – I never expected this," said Harry. He knew there had been a secret, but this was totally unexpected. It was like he'd just stepped into the pages of a book.

"I know it's been a bit of a shock, Harry, but as you may have noticed, this cottage is getting rather crowded with our allies. We need you to open up the castle, because only someone of your bloodline can manage to get past the wards. It will be big enough for those who need to take refuge there; all your friends and allies. You need to open up your headquarters."

"Oh, God. You're talking about Camelot, aren't you?"

"Yes, Harry, I am."

***
A/N: Some of the dream interpretations were loosely based from the book The Illustrated Encylopedia of Dreams and some just made up by me, LOL!


Part 27

The meeting broke up shortly after Trelawney's announcement, and for the first time in weeks only Harry and Severus were left at the cottage. Harry didn't know where the others went to and right at this moment he didn't particularly care. He'd been lied to for half his life and what was worse no one seemed to think there was anything wrong with that, including his mate.

"Why did no one tell me any of this before? Didn't I have a right to know? Or do you all really think that I'm not a person at all? Just some thing to be used to win this war?"

"Harry, it wasn't like that."

"No? You were the one who didn't want me to know! And why does it have to come down to me? I'm not ready to face Voldemort! I can't even keep you out of my mind, what chance do I have against him?"

"You just need to clear your mind, Harry. It will get easier after that."

"Clear my mind? That's easy for you to say! You haven't told me how I'm supposed to do that! Everyone just expects me to do things and react without explaining anything to me! I'm not a tool or a weapon, Severus, I'm a person!" Harry ranted, then took a deep breath after he realised what he'd just said. And for the first time in a while, he actually believed it. He was a person, not a thing. Not a thing.

Severus smiled at him and embraced him. "Yes, you are, Harry. I was wondering how long it would take you to realise it. You are a person. One of the most wonderful people I know." Severus stroked his back and squeezed him tight with his other arm. Harry's wings started fluttering, as they did quite frequently now once he was in the presence of his mate. Harry wished it wasn't so obvious when he felt desire, but at least they were in private this time. It had been hard watching everyone else's knowing looks when his wings started fluttering when Severus was near. It was almost as if he had a flashing sign above his head pointing out his desire for his mate.

"Why are you being nice to me?" Harry asked, his voice muffled against Severus' chest.

"What do you mean?"

"Shouldn't you be punishing me for shouting at you?"

"Harry, I am not going to punish you for speaking your mind. It's high time you lost your temper, don't you think? You've been bottling everything up for far too long. Don't you feel better now that you've said what you did?"

Harry nodded; he did feel better. In fact, more than better. His wings were fluttering even more at being this close to his Dominus and he bit back a moan. His prick stirred against the front of his trousers, making Harry scoot backwards a bit so that Severus wouldn't notice. It had been a while since they'd done anything intimate and Harry knew as well as Severus that he needed intimacy in order to keep healthy, but Harry was still afraid of initiating things in case he got rejected. It wasn't easy for him to think about sex, never mind do anything about it.

Maybe Severus had read his mind, for Harry was always more vulnerable to that after the Occlumency lessons. "Harry, don't ever be afraid to ask me for what you need. Even this. Especially this. I'm a mate to a Sylph, do you think I don't know how much you need this? So... would you like me to touch you?"

Harry nodded, blushing as he did so. Severus smiled and lay down on the sofa, opening his arms. "Lie on top of me," Severus suggested.

"On top of you? Shouldn't that be the other way round?"

"Not, tonight, Harry. Tonight I want you to be in complete control."

"Me?" Harry squawked. "But you're my Dominus. Aren't you supposed to tell me what to do?"

"As your Dominus, it's up to you to please me. And right now what would please me best is for you to lead things."

Harry stared hard at his mate; his eyes travelling from the top of Severus' head right down to his toes. Harry noticed his eyes lingered longest on Severus' chest and on the bulge at the front of his trousers. Severus was tall and he had a wiry strength that belied his slim frame. His shoulders were broad, tapering a bit at the waist, leading down to those long, lean legs. Harry wasn't quite sure what to do; he'd never initiated anything like this before.

"Um, what should I do?" Harry asked, nibbling on his bottom lip. Severus' dark eyes followed his teeth.

"Whatever you want to do, Harry. Nothing will happen tonight that you don't want."

"Right. Okay," said Harry, not sure how he felt about this at all. Giving Harry control, well, that meant that whatever Harry did was entirely voluntary and if he came, it was because he wanted to. Not that he'd been swept away in the heat of the moment and couldn't help it.

Harry stood by one end of the sofa and began by unlacing Severus' boots. Severus was so tall that his feet dangled off the edge of the sofa. Harry tugged Severus' trouser legs up so that he could get at the top of the boots and tugged at the black laces holding them closed. Harry tried not to laugh when he pulled the boots off and saw the socks. Black woollen ones. Why wasn't he surprised? "Don't you have any other colours?"

"I like black," said Severus as he lifted his head up and watched Harry remove his socks.

"You have beautiful feet," said Harry, as he leant down and kissed each one in turn. There was a hum of pleasure from his Dominus. Severus liked that? Harry licked a trail down the arch and then nibbled on Severus' ankle, but taking care not to break the skin. Severus gasped and bucked on the sofa. Who knew feet could be so sexy?

Harry turned his attentions to the other foot, pleased at the wonderful sounds he was wringing from his Dominus. Severus had very sensitive feet, but not ticklish it seemed. Harry knew if the same attentions were being paid to his feet, he would have been giggling and trying to wriggle away. Severus didn't seem as if he was trying to get away at all.

"Harry!"

Severus gasped, and at the sheer need in the voice Harry felt his own cock throb in his trousers. Severus was enjoying this.

Before he'd started, Harry hadn't been sure what he was going to do, but now things just seemed to flow along naturally.

Feeling how constricted he felt within his own jeans, Harry knew how uncomfortable Severus must be feeling, so it seemed perfectly natural for Harry to reach up and undo Severus' trousers. It took a few moments to figure out the fastenings; there were hooks and eyes rather than a zip and buttons, but at least Severus wasn't wearing his usual robe tonight with its hundreds of tiny buttons. Harry found himself getting rather impatient to get his mate's clothes off.

Once the trousers were down, Harry wasted no time in pulling the underwear down as well and he stood for a moment, just staring at the sight he had never seen before: Severus' naked and aroused cock. It was longer than Harry's and quite a bit wider, curving a little to the left as it stood up from the dark hair at Severus' groin. There was so much hair. Harry couldn't resist reaching out to caress it, comparing it to his own wispy curls. It was so soft to touch and the skin underneath was like velvet. Harry moaned as he continued to stroke and twirl it round his fingers. "Harry!" Severus gasped again.

Harry had no idea it would feel this good to touch someone else. Doing these things to Severus was making him dizzy with want and Harry's knees almost gave way beneath him. His jeans were too tight; his wings ached where they were chafing against his shirt. Harry ripped the shirt; he just couldn't get it off his skin fast enough. There were tingles everywhere on his body, as if there was some sort of electricity thrumming beneath his skin. Clothes were a hindrance; he needed to be totally naked, and this was a new need, for Harry had felt too self-conscious before.

He wasn't self-conscious now. Not when Severus was looking at him like that. As if he wanted to eat Harry up and then get seconds. Harry tugged his shoes and socks off before tugging down his jeans and underwear in one fell swoop. He stood up and stretched his wings to their full span; noting how Severus' breath deepened as he did so.

"Do you see something you like?" Harry asked, trying his best to sound flirtatious, but worried he just sounded foolish.

"Yes. Everything," Severus replied, opening his arms. Harry settled himself on Severus' waist, his legs either side of Severus' hips. Both of them groaned when their cocks aligned perfectly. Harry couldn't stop the urge to thrust no more than he could stop the sun from setting every day. He leaned over and captured Severus' mouth in a sloppy kiss, but Severus' shirt was rubbing uncomfortably against his chest.

"Off!" Harry hissed against his Dominus' mouth, still thrusting his hips below.

"Your wish is my command," said Severus, smirking as he slowly undid the top button.

Harry almost shrieked. It was too slow. Harry yanked at each side of Severus' shirt, some buttons popped off, but some remained stubbornly where they were. "Aaarrgh!" he grunted in frustration and bent down to bite the buttons off, not caring if he happened to bite Severus' skin in the process.

Severus bucked beneath him again, hissing.

"Did I hurt you?" Harry asked after he'd spat out the last button and could finally touch his Dominus skin to skin. Ahh, bliss!

"Pain was not an element, I assure you," said Severus, reaching up to grip hold of Harry's head and mashed their mouths together in a hungry kiss. Oh, God! Harry had never felt anything like it in his life. Their movements were frantic; teeth clicked together, tongues collided as they kissed and kissed, hips moving together in an urgent rhythm. Harry had never felt the need, the desire this urgent before. It was as if he was out of control with lust; it was exhilarating and he was light-headed with it. He had to come; he needed to come so badly.

Heat coiled low down in his belly and in his balls as he thrust and thrust against Severus but there was something missing; something else he needed. It surprised Harry with the force of his desire; the thought that he wanted that. That he needed that. Severus' hands were on his hips. Harry pulled his mouth away from their kissing. "Lower," he whispered blushing.

Severus gaped at him. "Lower? You're sure?"

Harry nodded. "I'm sure. Please – I need –" Harry couldn't quite voice it, but Severus understood. His hands moved lower until he was gripping Harry's arse.

Harry moaned and arched forward. "Harder. Squeeze me. I need you to squeeze – ahhhh!"

Severus squeezed Harry's arse and pressed his hips up so that their cocks were sliding against one another. Harry reached down and gripped both of them in his fist, the first time he'd ever touched a naked cock besides his own. Oh, God, two cocks so slick and pulsing in his hand. Both were so hard, both near to climax. Harry rubbed the cocks as hard and fast as he could, while Severus kept squeezing and pressing against his arse. It wouldn't be long for either of them. Harry's whole body was shaking as he tried to hold back the inevitable, but it was no use. Everything was just so intense and he could no longer hold back..

The orgasm erupted like a tidal wave. Harry bent down and kissed Severus again, his tongue plunging into Severus' mouth just as the orgasm overtook him and he spilled hot and wet over his hand and Severus' chest. It was barely a few moments later before Severus joined him, adding to the slickness on Harry's hand. They kept kissing through the tremors; their urgency fading as the climax did, the kissing becoming softer, more languid as they shuddered through the aftershocks. Harry's hand began to cramp, being trapped beneath their sticky and sweaty bodies.

Reluctantly, he sat up and moved his hand, caressing Severus' cock as he did so. It twitched a little.

"Oh, God," Harry moaned. "That was..."

"Hot," Severus finished for him.

"It never felt like that before. I mean, it was good. But not like that."

"It's because you knew it would go no further than you wanted it to. Your safeword will be like that too, Harry. Even if I am your Dominus, it's you who will be in control of our lovemaking."

Harry lay back down on Severus' chest, not even minding the stickiness that still coated them. "I don't think I'm ready for everything quite yet, Severus. But I didn't feel scared at all tonight, not even when you touched my – um –"

"Not even when I touched that lovely arse of yours?" Severus caressed the arse in question, but didn't venture anywhere near the crease of it. "And it is lovely, just like the rest of you."

"I feel strange," Harry said. "All sort of... floaty – is that the right word?"

"It's the afterglow, Harry. A good bout of sex usually makes you feel like that."

"I feel sleepy too."

"Right, let's get cleaned up and then we can get you to bed."

"No."

"No? I thought you were tired?"

"I am, but I don't want to get sent to bed like a naughty child. I want us both to go to bed. I want us to share the bed, Severus. I know I'm not ready for full sex yet, but I think I'll feel better about it if we're sharing a bed, not just the sex. I'm not making much sense, am I?"

"Harry, you are making perfect sense. Very well, we'll have a shower and then get to bed. Together."

"I love you," Harry whispered, not sure if he'd ever said the words before.

"I love you too."

***

Part 28

Harry stumbled from his arms as they finished Apparating to the co-ordinates Trelawney had given them. The former Divination teacher was standing on top of the hill awaiting their arrival. Frost sparkled on the grass beneath their feet and stars were visible in the clear sky. A full moon shone down on the ring of stones she was standing next to, making long shadows of the stones themselves. There were eighteen monoliths in all and Severus had never seen a circle in such good state of repair. The stones looked as if they'd only just been erected.

"Harry? Are you all right?" Severus asked as he helped his mate up from the ground.

"Yeah, I think so. I hate Apparating."

"You also hate Flooing and Portkeys," Severus reminded him.

"True. You promised me some flying lessons, remember?"

"Yes. I didn't forget."

Trelawney waited while they climbed to the brow of the hill. All of them were wrapped in cloaks against the chill and Severus wished this didn't remind him of other nights when cloaked and hooded figures gathered together. At least none of these were wearing masks.

"Is this it?" Harry asked. "Are these the ruins of the castle?"

Trelawney smiled. "No, Harry. Camelot isn't really a physical place in our world. This is just a gateway to reach it, a portal to a different realm. Much like Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are hidden from Muggles, so Camelot is hidden too, from both Muggles and Wizards. Its ways are closed except to those of bloodlines linked to its creators and those worthy of discovering its secrets."

"Worthy?" Harry asked, sounding nervous.

"Those pure in heart," she replied. Trelawney marched towards the centre of the circle and as they got closer Severus could see an altar in the middle of it. It was a grey stone slab with a groove worn down the middle, as if many sacrifices had lain there over the years. Severus honed his senses, but he could sense nothing Dark within the circle or without it.

Harry hung back, making Severus turn to stare at him. "But I'm not pure. I'm not a virgin," he whispered urgently.

Trelawney heard him. "Harry, virginity or lack of it is not what the circle senses. Purity in this sense means someone good, someone of the Light. Like you. You are also of the correct bloodline, so you have double chances of being able to open the portal."

"Oh. What do I have to do?"

"The wards are blood linked, aren't they?" asked Severus, keeping hold of Harry with one hand, with the other he was holding onto his wand. Was this some sort of trap to murder Harry?

"They are. You only need to spill a few drops on the altar, Harry. From your hand or your arm."

"Give me your wand," Severus commanded Trelawney; his own wand aiming at her heart. "I don't trust you."

"I know," she sighed, but handed over her wand without protest. "Just kneel beside the altar, Harry and let your blood spill onto the stone."

Harry looked to Severus for guidance and Severus couldn't help feeling a strange frisson of pleasure that Harry had indeed done so, despite Trelawney basically ordering him to do it. Harry's face was pained as he fought the compulsion, but he still wanted to please his Dominus at the same time.

"It's all right, Harry. Do as she said."

"Thank you, Dominus," Harry said as he knelt down beside the altar. Harry used his wand to cast a small Sectus spell on the palm of his hand. Three drops fell onto the stone with soft plops. There was a bright flash of light and then Severus knew no more.

***

"Dominus?"

There was an angel standing above him. No, not an angel, he realised. Harry. Severus struggled to right himself, discovering that he was lying on a grassy bank next to a moat. And there, on the other side of the moat, stood Camelot. It wasn't so much a castle as a fortress. This was a castle built for war and to withstand siege. The walls were thick, topped with crenellated towers on all four corners. There were no windows on this side at all, just slits big enough for arrow shafts to be fired through. The drawbridge was up and beyond it Severus guessed there would be a portcullis protecting the inner keep as well.

"What happened?" Severus asked as he struggled to right himself. Harry helped him up.

"You fainted when the portal opened," Trelawney said, coming to stand beside Harry.

"How do we get inside?" Harry asked.

"You use your magic to pull the drawbridge down."

Harry nodded and waved his wand at the large, wooden bridge. It was over twice Harry's height and about five times his width. It looked solid and sturdy, despite being over a thousand years old. "Accio!" Harry called out. There was a scraping and a rumbling, chains rattled as the bridge lowered across the moat and fell with a 'thunk' onto the bank, sending up a cloud of dirt as it did so.

The moon was lower in the sky and there was a blue-grey hint on the horizon; it must be nearly dawn. How long had Severus been out? Harry turned to him, his face lit up by an enormous grin as he took hold of Severus' hand and pulled him into the inner bailey of the castle. They were stopped short by the portcullis blocking their path. Harry waved his wand at the spiked gate and it slid up out of the way.

Low-lying buildings were tucked against the walls of the inner courtyard and Harry had to inspect each one in turn, dragging Severus along with him. His excitement was infectious and Severus couldn't begrudge him this chance to explore what was in essence Harry's inheritance. All the buildings were empty now.

"What do you think they were?" Harry asked as they made their way to the main keep.

"A castle in those times was almost like a town in and of itself," said Severus. "There was probably a dairy, a baker, a butcher."

"A candlestick maker," said Harry with another broad grin. "From the nursery rhyme."

"What? Oh, yes. Yes, there probably was a chandlery of some sort, not to mention stables and armouries and everything else needed for the community who lived here."

There was no bolt, no lock on the door to the castle proper; like most medieval fortifications, they relied on the outer defences such as the moat to keep invaders out. But this castle had magic to defend its position now. For it didn't really exist in the world any longer, but somewhere apart. It would make a great base for their allies, for no one who wasn't close to Harry could get to it. Here, they would have time to train Harry without worrying they were going to be attacked by Voldemort's forces at any moment.

They entered into a dark corridor; there were sconces on the wall, as yet unlit. Harry soon took care of that with another wave of his wand and some Incendio spells. Soon they came face to face with two ornately carved doors. There were dragons and serpents entwined around swords and flowers.

"This is probably the Great Hall," said Severus.

"Shall we?" Harry grinned and pushed the doors open.

Great, indeed. The room was easily double the size of the Great Hall at Hogwarts and the fireplace here was big enough to roast an ox or five. The ceiling arched high above them and along these walls there were no tapestries or House colours. Every weapon imaginable was hung on the walls around the room: broadswords, battle-axes, quarterstaffs, maces, lances and longbows.

And there, taking pride of place in the centre of the room, was the round table.

"Wow!" Harry exclaimed as he ran towards the table and the wooden stools that were set around it. There was no throne in this room, no dais for the king to be above his people. "It's amazing, isn't it, Severus? That my great-great-great-whatever grandfather sat here. I wonder which place was his?"

Harry trailed his fingers along the scarred wooden top of the table. It was not fancy, it had seen some use but was as sturdy as the day it had been made.

"It might have been anywhere. That was the idea of the round table in the first place. So that no man was higher than another when they were with the king. So they couldn't claim favourites."

"But they did, didn't they? Lancelot was one of his favourites, wasn't he?"

"Well, there were plenty of rumours," Severus explained. "That Arthur wasn't upset so much that his wife was bearing a child with another man, but that the man had been Lancelot. That Lancelot wasn't just a friend of the king, but a very good friend."

"You mean they were lovers too?"

"Apparently, and sometimes the three of them were together. Arthur was jealous the two of them got together without him."

"Oh," Harry closed his eyes, deep in thought. "I don't think I'd like that. A threesome, I mean."

Severus pulled him close. "My dearest Harry, you don't have to worry on that score. I have no intention of sharing you with anyone."

"You're very possessive," Harry smiled against his mouth before kissing him deeply. "I like that."

"Get used to it," growled Severus as he claimed Harry's mouth once more, his hands reaching out and searching for Harry's wings. As expected, they were fluttering wildly and Severus was glad there was some outward sign of Harry's desire for him. It meant he knew when he could take things further without Harry balking at an intimate touch.

Ever since that night when Harry had taken control; he had seemed to enjoy their touching a lot more, even if it was Severus controlling things most of the time. There was a discreet cough from behind them. Severus reluctantly let go of Harry and looked back over his shoulder.

"Sorry to interrupt," said Sybill, failing to hide a smirk of amusement. "But Harry needs to make a list of people who will be allowed access to the castle. Without the list, they will never be able to find it."

"Oh, right," said Harry, blushing a little as he stepped out of Severus' embrace.

"And after that, I can show you the bedrooms."

***

Part 29

"Dumbledore's dead," said Shacklebolt, dropping the Daily Prophet onto the round table. A photo of Dumbledore looked out across the front page; eyes twinkling even in the black and white photo.

Traitor Executed at Ministry the headline proclaimed.

"What happened?" asked Severus, lifting up the paper and scanning the article.

"Death Eaters attacked Hogwarts," said Shacklebolt bitterly.

"What? But how?" asked Harry. "Draco didn't..."

"No, not Draco. Pansy Parkinson somehow got Death Eaters into the castle. None of the students were harmed, but the Muggle Studies teacher, Babbage was it?"

"Burbage," said Severus with a sigh. "Charity Burbage."

"Yes, well she was tortured and killed that night. The Carrows have been made head and deputy head of Hogwarts. And all the Muggle-borns have been rounded up and taken in for questioning."

"Rounded up?" Harry asked, his voice shaking.

"Yes, rounded up like animals and taken before the Muggle-born Registration Commission. Those purebloods still at Hogwarts have a new curriculum, relying heavily on the Dark Arts. Dolores Umbridge is in charge of the commission and is quite keen to know where you three are." Shacklebolt looked pointedly at Harry, Ron and Hermione. Hermione had paled on hearing about the Muggle-born Registration Commission. Harry saw Ron squeeze her hand.

"I just bet she is," replied Harry. His hand throbbed in remembrance of that woman and her quill. "So, she was working for Voldemort all along?"

"Well, she certainly is now. The Ministry is under Death Eater control now."

"Oh, those poor children!" exclaimed Molly Weasley, her hands fluttering to land on her breast. "We have to do something!"

"Like what?" Moody growled, his magical eye spinning so fast it was making Harry dizzy. "They'll be safe enough at Hogwarts as long as they keep their heads down for the time being. It seems Voldemort wants to make them into warriors, but they aren't that, not yet. They're safer where they are. We aren't ready for a full-out assault."

Moody didn't look at him, but Harry knew what he was thinking, what they were all thinking. Harry wasn't ready yet.

"Some are," said Harry as Ron and Hermione nodded their agreement.

"Are what?" asked Remus Lupin. He looked tired, but then they all did. Camelot may have been a new headquarters, but things in the world were still getting worse and the worry was wearing everyone down. Worry for the friends still outside Camelot. It may have been magical, but even Camelot wasn't equipped to hide everyone from the war.

"Warriors," replied Harry. "We were training all last year. They should be allowed to come and fight if they want to."

"Children? No, Harry. I can't allow that," said Molly firmly. "It wouldn't be fair on them to expect them to do that."

"It wouldn't be fair? No? At least I would give them the choice!" Harry raged and stomped out of the Great Hall, his wings fluttering from anger this time. What choice had he ever been given? Was it his choice for his parents to have been murdered? Was it his choice to end up with the Dursleys? Was it his choice to be manipulated for years by Albus Dumbledore, or be expected to defeat Voldemort? None of it had been his choice, but they still seemed to expect it of him anyway.

Harry trudged up the narrow winding staircase to the suite of rooms he shared with Severus. Even though the castle was constantly filled with people coming and going on missions, up here he had a sanctuary and could get away from everyone for a while. Things were getting to him; he knew they were and he knew the time was rapidly approaching when he had to do something about it. The papers were full of Death Eater attacks; families and homes destroyed; disappearances; businesses closing down in Diagon Alley. Now the Ministry and Hogwarts had fallen as well.

Harry sat on the window seat and tucked his knees up to his chin; his wings wrapping around himself as he let himself cry for all those people who had died and would die if he couldn't defeat Voldemort once and for all. It didn't matter that he hadn't been given a choice at first. This was his choice now, no matter that he was almost terrified out of his wits. He had to go up against Voldemort, but not quite yet.

A knock on the bedroom door roused him from his ruminations. Ron and Hermione peeked in.

"Can we come in?" asked Ron.

"Sure," said Harry, sliding his legs off the window seat. Outside, cherry blossom fluttered to the ground. It was always spring in Camelot, but that was an ideal. Because it was always spring, they couldn't grow their own food. There was no planting time, no harvest and all the food had to be brought in from outside. It was hard enough to feed everyone who was already here; would they cope with the students from Hogwarts as well?

"Harry, I'm worried about my parents," Hermione said as she sat down on the bed. "What if the Death Eaters go after them? They might think I'm hiding there with you and Ron or something."

"Oh, I'm sorry, Hermione. I'll add them to the list. I should have done it before, I'm sorry." Harry conjured the parchment with the list of names of people who could come to Camelot, without him writing it down, none of them could come in.

"It's really getting serious, isn't it?" Hermione asked with tears in her eyes. "This isn't a class or a test."

"Yes, Hermione," Harry said as he wrote the names of her parents on the list, but Harry didn't send the quill or parchment away yet. Sod Moody and Shacklebolt, Harry knew the DA ought to be given the choice. He wrote down all of their names, starting with Neville. "We have to fight," said Harry. "I know it's scary and all we should be worrying about is how we're going to do on our NEWTs, but Voldemort doesn't care about that. He doesn't care how young we are; he'd kill us as soon as look at us. We just can't sit by and let him take over the Wizarding world. We can't."

"You'll defeat him, Harry. I know you will," said Ron as Hermione stood up and hugged him.

Yes, Harry had to defeat Voldemort, but there was something else he had to do first. He hopped down from his seat and accompanied Ron and Hermione back downstairs.

He needed to find his mate.


***

When they returned to the Great Hall, strategies were still being discussed. There were maps and charts laid out all over the table. There was a loud pop as Dobby Apparated beside him. "The dinner is being ready, Master Harry, but there is being nowhere for it to go."

"It's time to pack up," said Harry to the others gathered around the charts.

"But we need to get this done," said Shacklebolt. "Moody, if you..."

"Didn't you hear Harry?" Fred interrupted him. "Clear the table!"

Shacklebolt looked as if he might have wanted to say something, like he didn't take his orders from them, but he saw Fred's glare and started clearing things away. It seemed they were quite willing to accept Harry as the Chosen One but not to take orders from him. It was Harry's bloody castle! He tried to get a rein on his emotions; he was feeling in a foul mood and that would not help him later tonight.

"Thanks, Fred. Have you seen Severus?"

"He went looking for you. I expect he'll be back down again for dinner."

"Yeah, you're probably right."

Once the table was cleared of anything work related the food and cutlery appeared and everyone got settled on their stools to eat it. Harry kept the place next to him open for Severus when he came back. Dobby and Winky had outdone themselves today. Roast chicken with all the trimmings: chestnut stuffing; roast potatoes crisp on the outside with fluffy middles; glazed carrots and peas; boats of aromatic sage gravy and jugs of iced pumpkin juice to wash it all down. There was no alcohol tonight, but Harry saw Moody sipping from his flask when he thought no one else was looking.

Harry had just finished eating his roast potatoes and was helping himself to seconds when Severus entered through the double doors. His face lit up as soon as he saw Harry sitting down and eating. Severus slid in beside him and kissed Harry's cheek, making Harry blush furiously with everyone watching. Fred and George wolf-whistled and winked at them from across the table.

"That's enough out of you two!" said Shacklebolt. "It's bad enough that..."

"It's bad enough, what?" asked Harry, his earlier anger returning.

"Nothing," he said, stabbing at a carrot.

"Nothing? If you have something to say, I'd rather you say it to my face."

"It's bad enough you've got Snape as a mate, you don't need to rub it in our faces."

"What?" Harry stood up and glared at everyone around the table. "Is that what you think? Severus Snape is my Chosen. I chose him, don't any of you forget it."

"Kingsley! That was an awful thing to say," said Molly Weasley. "How dare you disparage Harry's choice of partner."

"Choice? Are you sure Snape hasn't Confunded the boy or something? Maybe it's all some ploy of the Dark Lord's and Snape is going to deliver Harry to him giftwrapped in a green ribbon! I don't trust him! Once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater."

Harry couldn't listen to this a moment longer. He stood up and threw his napkin on the table. "Severus," Harry held out his hand. Severus hadn't had chance for much dinner, but Harry knew Dobby could be relied upon to bring them something in their rooms later.

"You don't want it rubbed in, Shacklebolt?" asked Harry coldly. "Then I suggest you might want to cast Silencing Charms on your own rooms tonight."

"Why?"

"You're a man of the world. I'm sure you can work it out." With that, Harry turned on his heel and walked out with as much dignity as he could muster, his hand still clasped in Severus'.

By the time they reached the sanctuary of their own rooms; Harry was shaking like a leaf and his heart was beating so fast it felt like he'd just run a marathon. Harry sank to the floor by the foot of their bed and bowed his head.

Severus knelt down beside him and tilted his chin up with a pointed finger. "Harry, what was all that about?" Severus asked him, caressing Harry's cheek with the pads of his thumb. "What's this about Silencing Charms?"

"It's our home, Severus. We shouldn't have to cast charms just to make everyone else feel comfortable."

"Right, but why would we need Silencing Charms tonight?"

"Because it's time, Severus. I want you to make love to me."

***

Part 30

Severus didn't ask if Harry was sure; he knew that Harry would use his word if things went too far or too fast for him. He knew Harry had been thinking of this for a while now; for there was no point in Harry going up against Voldemort until Severus had fully claimed him as his mate. Until that time, Harry had to obey any orders, even if it meant harming himself. If Voldemort had discovered Harry's heritage, that's all he would have to do – tell Harry to kill himself and Harry would have to do it, his natural compulsion would see to that.

Harry's wings were fluttering wildly, as if he was in the centre of a whirlwind. As his mate, Severus reacted to that knowledge, the knowledge of Harry's desire.

"I want you to claim me, Dominus," Harry said softly, lowering his head again.

Oh, yes, how Severus wanted to claim him! To mark him. To possess him fully.

"Lie down on the bed," Severus said, realising too late he'd worded it as an order, but before he could take the words back Harry was rising to his feet, his back straight, his wings outstretched before lying face down on the bed. Face down? Severus hadn't expected that position from Harry; but it was probably more comfortable for him with his wings. Severus used a spell to remove his own clothes, but decided to go slower with Harry's undressing.

Severus stared at the lithe form spread out on their bed, just awaiting his pleasure. Not only his, but Harry's too, for Severus knew how sensual a creature Harry really was and he had no intention of hurting him. Nothing tonight would remind Harry of rape; Severus would make sure of that. Severus knelt on the bed, straddling Harry's hips and trailing his fingers along the edge of both Harry's wings. Harry shuddered beneath him, letting out a small gasp.

"Do you like that, Harry?" Severus breathed the words in Harry's ear, still caressing his wings. His fingers tingled where they touched them.

"Yes. Oh – Dominus!" Harry squirmed on the bed and his movements were having an effect on Severus too.

"Does it make you hard?"

Harry nodded his head.

"Speak to me, I want to hear you. Don't just nod."

"Yes, Dominus. It makes me hard. It makes me ache." Harry's words ended on a breathy moan.

"Where do you ache, pet?"

"I – inside, Dominus."

Severus smiled and kissed the back of Harry's neck. "That's good."

Severus removed Harry's shirt and threw it onto the floor. He scooted back down the bed and tugged off Harry's shoes and socks. "Lift your hips."

Harry did as he was bid and Severus was able to remove Harry's trousers and underwear. Once he had pulled them down and discarded them; he reached a hand around and stroked Harry's cock, finding it firm indeed. Harry mewled as he was caressed, his body bucking. Severus was draped along Harry's bare back; the Sylph's skin was hot to the touch, although he wasn't sweating yet.

"I – I feel a little scared, Dominus," Harry admitted, hanging his head, "that it will hurt, like it did before."

"Pass me a pillow, Harry." Severus was determined to show him that penetration did not have to mean pain or humiliation for him. Severus wanted to show him only pleasure.

***

Harry moaned when Severus placed the pillow underneath his hips and ordered him to spread his legs a bit wider. Orders from Severus weren't difficult to obey, especially when they made Harry feel like this. It was almost as if he wasn't really here, but floating somewhere else. His cock was so hard it was leaking precome onto the pillow beneath him. When Harry widened his legs it felt odd. It felt as if he was displaying himself for his Dominus, and really that's what he was doing, wasn't he? Severus was the only one allowed to look at him like that. The only one allowed to touch him like that now. His wings were spread to their full span and still fluttered like mad. The more aroused he got, the more they fluttered.

Harry startled when he felt a hand caress his left buttock and cried out in surprise.

"Ssh, pet. It's only me."

"Sorry, Dominus."

Severus continued to caress his arse, one hand on each buttock. Harry shivered in delight, his whole body trembling now, not just his wings. How he needed this! He needed his Dominus to touch him, to possess him. "Please!" Harry gasped, his arse twitching as if he wanted something back there, something that only Severus could give him. He felt so needy, so wanting.

"So eager for my touch, my Harry?" Harry could almost imagine the smirk. My Harry! How he loved to be called that!

"Always, Dominus."

"Lift up a little, Harry. On your hands and knees."

The order sent a thrill of heat through Harry, spiking in his cock and sac. He swayed a little as he got into position, his breathing ragged. Harry clutched at the covers beneath him, trying to steady himself for whatever Severus had in mind. The fear had left him completely now. This was Severus, his Dominus, his protector. Severus would never hurt him and Harry was keen to find out what delights Severus had in store for him next.

Strong hands were back on his buttocks, spreading them even wider. Harry's arse felt achingly empty; his cock felt so full and heavy. "Sir!" Harry panted, wriggling a little. Severus licked a path from the base of Harry's spine right down the crease of his arse. Harry moaned and buried his heated face in the mattress below him. Oh, God! He'd never have expected that in a million years.

"Oh fuck!" Harry arched his back, moaning again as that wonderful tongue began to tease at his entrance, tasting and licking the ridge all around it. With each flick of Severus' tongue, Harry's cock twitched violently and he was babbling nonsense. He wanted to touch his cock, he wanted to come, the excitement rising with each and every lick, but he was afraid that if he moved his hands he would fall flat on his face.

Then Severus' tongue was no longer teasing; it was firm and hot and pushing inside Harry. The pleasure was so intense Harry saw stars and was shuddering furiously, his wings rustling like leaves in the wind. The tongue was softer, more pliable than a cock. There was no pain at all; only ecstasy. Severus curled his tongue, then straightened it and Harry was keening with need as Severus fucked him with his tongue.

Almost unconsciously, Harry was thrusting his hips back, anticipating each thrust until Severus removed his tongue completely.

"Dominus!" Harry whined in disappointment; that had felt so good!

Severus chuckled behind him and then Harry felt himself filled again, this time with a slicked finger. His arse grabbed at it greedily, almost sucking it inside. Harry sighed in relief as he was filled. "More!" Harry demanded. "Fill me!"

"All in good time, Harry. Who's the Dominus here, hmm? You'll get my cock when I want to give it to you."

Harry didn't think that time would be long in coming; for Severus' voice sounded shaky, as if he was very aroused as well. Soon, three fingers were thrusting in and out of Harry's arse and he was arching his hips back to take each and every one. Harry felt loose and wet both from Severus kisses and the lubrication he was using on his fingers. Harry felt no pain at all, just very stretched and full.

"Please!" He wailed, unable to take the tension for much more.

"Very well," said Severus as he removed his fingers. Something much wider than fingers pressed between the cheeks of Harry's arse.

"Wait!" Harry gasped out.

"Harry? Do you need to use your word?"

"No, not that," said Harry, shifting around on the bed so that he was facing Severus. "I need to see you."

Harry began to lie back down, but Severus stopped him with a hand on his arm. "No, I don't want you to hurt your wings. You go on top. Ride me."

Harry nodded and shifted his knees so that Severus could lie down below him. Severus coated his cock with another layer of gel and Harry was pleased at the care Severus was taking so that he wouldn't be hurt. At least not deliberately. This was different, much different to what had happened in the past.

Harry raised himself up on his knees and then gradually lowered himself down on Severus' cock. It did hurt a little at first, but because he was controlling the depth and the angle himself; he could ease off when it got too much and try again. He was being stretched to his limit, but he wanted that fullness and Harry couldn't help moaning once Severus was fully inside him.

"Dominus!" Harry shrieked, his hands grasping hold of Severus' shoulders as he began thrusting up and down on Severus' cock. Severus' hands gripped Harry's hips, his own hips matching the rhythm of Harry's as both of them sought the peak of pleasure together. The feelings were building to a crescendo and when Severus' cock brushed against Harry's prostate on every second or third thrust, Harry was howling in ecstasy, his hands clawing at his mate.

"Touch yourself, Harry. Come for me," Severus ordered, his own breathing erratic; his neck muscles taut with the tension of trying to hold back. Harry grabbed hold of his cock and wanked himself furiously; too far gone for anything like teasing himself. He'd been on the edge so long already; he needed to come. But the harder Harry rubbed his cock, the more the need increased, but there was no respite. He couldn't come, not by touching himself.

"Dominus, I can't! You need to make me come!" Harry writhed on top of him.

Severus nodded and replaced Harry's hand with his own. Oh, yes! It was different; feeling so full while his cock was stroked in tandem with their rocking against each other. Good, it felt so good and all too soon Harry knew he was going to come at last. His balls drew up and he felt the climax start in his toes and work its way out through his cock.

Harry threw his head back, wrapped his wings around Severus and screamed wordlessly as he spilled himself in white hot heat over Severus' hand and his belly. His buttocks clenched as the orgasm ripped through him and he was sure Severus was going to have bruises from where Harry's hands gripped him so hard. Severus held onto his cock until Harry felt sure he was milked dry. Severus lifted his hand to his mouth and licked Harry's essence, moaning around his fingers before he too was spending himself inside Harry.

Harry collapsed on top of Severus' chest, his rubbery legs unable to keep his balance any longer. Severus' stroked Harry's wings until he got his breath back. Harry didn't even mind the sticky mess between their chests.

"Harry, you were amazing."

"Thank you, Dominus. Now Voldemort won't be able to order me around."

"Harry, you weren't doing this just because of that, were you?"

"No, Severus. I made love with you because I wanted to. I felt ready." Harry twirled a lock of Severus' hair round his finger.

"No bad memories?"

"Some," Harry admitted. "But I just had to remind myself that it was you – the man who loved me. I see the difference now. What they did to me; it had nothing to do with love at all. It was about making me suffer, humiliating me. What we have is a lot different to that."

"It is, Harry. I'm glad you can see that it is different."

Harry yawned and snuggled deeper against Severus' chest. "So comfy; so tired," he mumbled.

"Then sleep," said Severus with a chuckle and pressed a soft kiss in Harry's hair.

TBC

Chapter 7: The Weight of Water
Part 31

Harry woke up still wrapped in his lover's arms and surprisingly, they were not stuck to each other's chests. Severus must have cast a cleaning charm on both of them before he fell asleep himself.

Lover. Harry smiled to himself as he wriggled on top of his sleeping mate. There was no doubt that they were lovers now and despite his own shyness, Harry found himself perversely hoping that everyone in the castle had heard them last night and now knew without a doubt that that was indeed what they were. Lovers. He smiled again, his wings starting to flutter as he remembered everything they'd done the night before.

Lover. It was a beautiful word.

Severus was still asleep, it was quite dark outside but Harry wasn't remotely sleepy any more. Smiling to himself, he bent his head and kissed his way all along Severus' face, starting with his forehead. His lover's cheeks were licked and kissed, before Harry turned his attentions to Severus' angular jawline, nibbling softly along the edges to his chin. Severus moaned in his sleep and moved restlessly, a morning erection starting to firm against Harry's own. Harry shifted his hips to line them up better; then brought his lips down hard on Severus.

Severus' eyes flashed open, then fluttered shut as he moaned again and grabbed hold of Harry's hips to keep him in place. He needn't have worried; Harry had no intention of going anywhere quite yet. Harry's arse was feeling a bit sore this morning, so he knew he wasn't ready for that again quite yet, but this – rubbing up against his Dominus' hardness – this he could do. This he wanted to do.

Their kissing was soft at first, increasing in intensity as their lower bodies speeded up their thrusting. The need this morning was not as urgent as the night before, but it still felt good. More than good. Harry pulled his mouth away when his need for air became too great.

"Dominus," Harry breathed as he rocked backwards and forwards on Severus' thighs; his own spread wide either side of his mate. Severus' hands were all over him; caressing his back, his wings, his thighs, but neither of them touched each other's cocks; they just slid faster and faster against each other until Harry felt the tension build up in his lower belly and sac, and the ache as his cock seemed to harden even further.

"Ahhh! Sev'rus! Sev'rus!" Harry shrieked like a banshee as the orgasm overtook him with the force of a tidal wave; his whole body shuddered along the length of Severus' as he spilled himself in ecstatic torrents over his Dominus' chest and abdomen. Severus' hands grabbed hold of Harry's hips as he thrust his own hips upwards as he came, and now both of them were a sticky, damp mess.

Severus tugged Harry's head down so that he could kiss him again, his tongue thrusting in and out of Harry's mouth as fervently as if their passion hadn't already been sated. Harry felt himself growing hard again as Severus kept kissing him; his wings were fluttering wildly.

"Shower?" Severus suggested, his eyes darting to Harry's now erect cock.

"Together?" Harry asked breathlessly, his hips moving of their own volition.

"Indeed."

***

They were late down to breakfast (the shower having taken longer than anticipated), earning them knowing looks and winks from most of the Weasley males and a soft smile from Molly Weasley. But Kingsley Shacklebolt was nowhere to be seen this morning. Molly was helping Dobby dish out more breakfast for Harry and Severus, putting large portions of everything on their plates.

Harry sat down a little gingerly on the wooden stool and couldn't help sharing a grin with Severus when he caught his eye.

"Do you need a pain potion?" Severus whispered to him.

Harry shook his head; he quite liked the physical reminder of what they'd been doing. He dug into his breakfast; he felt ravenous and ate everything Molly had given him, even having seconds of scrambled egg and sausage.

"Oh, it's good to see you with an appetite, Harry," said Molly. "You're still far too thin. You need feeding up."

"It's in his nature, Molly," said Severus. "He won't be putting on weight no matter what he eats. Haven't you ever heard of a Sylph-like figure?"

Molly blushed. "Oh, of course. It's just good to see you eating, dear."

"Thank you," Harry replied. "I've always loved your cooking, Mrs. Weasley. It's the best."

Beside him, Harry saw Ron roll his eyes, but Harry was only telling the truth. He had always loved Molly Weasley's cooking and it wouldn't hurt to let her know she was appreciated. Harry knew too well what it felt like to be under-appreciated and he wouldn't wish that on anyone.

Scanning the other faces round the table, Harry realised that a few familiar faces were missing.

"Where are Bill and Remus?" Harry asked as he set down his knife and fork, feeling amply fed now.

"They've gone to meet the DA and Hermione's parents at the portal," said Arthur. "They should be back soon. Hermione's gone with them, of course. You couldn't keep her away."

"No, I don't suppose you could," said Severus. "Harry, if you've finished, I thought we could continue with your flying lessons today."

"Oh, yes please!" said Harry. He was feeling too excited at the thought of seeing his friends from the DA again today and concentration on anything else was going to be difficult. "What time do you think the others will get here?"

"They'll probably be here by lunchtime or so," said Molly as she and Dobby began gathering up plates and Banishing them to the kitchen.

"Do you need any help with that?" Harry asked.

Both Dobby and Molly looked affronted.

"No, off you go to your lesson, Harry. It's important." Molly waved him away.

"Right, okay."

Harry followed Severus outside to one of the inner courtyards, noticing his Dominus looking at him oddly. Cherry and apple blossom littered the ground around the trees, but there would never be any fruit with it being spring all the time here. There was a fountain in the middle of the courtyard in the shape of dolphin, but no water played. Harry cast an Aguamenti spell and watched as a trickle began to dribble from the dolphin's mouth and begin to fill the pool beneath it.

"Harry, why did you do that? Offer to tidy up, I mean. Are you still feeling a compulsion?" Severus sat down on the edge of the fountain's pool and trailed a finger through the water there. Harry stayed well back.

"No, it's not that. I just feel a bit guilty when everyone else is working so hard to keep the castle clean and everything. I feel like I'm being lazy."

"There's nothing wrong with offering to help, but you must realise that your work is something different. Just because it isn't cleaning and tidying, doesn't mean it isn't work. All your lessons: flying, Occlumency, the spells; all of these are what you need to know in order to defeat Voldemort. Since you are the only one who can in fact defeat him, these are what you need to concentrate on, not on whether or not the dishes get put away. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Dominus," Harry said as Severus began to cast cushioning charms all around the courtyard. Harry removed his shirt and sighed in relief as he stretched his wings to their full span. Although his new shirts had been designed to let his wings fit through them, it was still much better when his upper body was bare.

"Ready, Harry?"

Harry nodded and began climbing onto the roof of the lowest outbuilding.

***

Feeling pleasantly exhausted after their lesson, Harry and Severus made their way back to the Great Hall as noon approached. Harry didn't bother to put his shirt back on; he was still sweating so much and it would only get wet. Due to his longer legs Severus had been striding ahead along the corridor, so much so that he had reached the Hall long before Harry, and Harry was waylaid outside the hall by Ginny Weasley. Great, that was all he needed!

Harry folded his wings back and clutched his shirt to his chest, but not before Ginny had raked her eyes over his half-naked torso as if Harry was a particularly tasty dessert.

"I heard you. Last night," Ginny confided. "I suppose everyone heard you. It's sick. You and him together."

"What I do with my mate is none of your business," Harry said coldly, trying to push past her.

"It is when he stole you from me!" Ginny spat, as she grabbed hold of his arm.

"I was never with you, Ginny, so no one could steal me from you."

"It's not too late. We can still be together. Just forget about him."

"He's my mate. I can't forget about him. Now leave me be!" Harry yanked his arm away and pushed open the door to the Great Hall, to be greeted by cries of Harry and Potter, as he was suddenly swamped with hugs from the members of the DA.

Neville was there, as was Luna; Justin Finch-Fetchley; Ernie Macmillan; Susan Bones; Seamus and Dean; Lavender Brown and the Patil twins; even Cho and some other students Harry didn't know by name. Harry noticed his Dominus was glaring at their backs, no doubt upset that Harry was still shirtless in public. All of them looked thinner than Harry remembered, with haggard, drawn faces; as if they'd seen too much horror. With Death Eaters taking over the school, they probably had.

"Um, let me go and get changed," Harry managed to gasp out. "Then we can all catch up properly. Did Bill and Remus tell you what's happening?"

Neville nodded. "Of course we want to fight, Harry. That's why you formed the DA in the first place, right? We've been training every day in the Room of Requirement. It's where we've all been hiding out since the Carrows took over the school. They couldn't get into it."

"And Neville has a present for you as well," said Luna, giving Neville a prod in the small of his back.

"Oh, right." Neville removed a small, wooden box from the pocket of his robe and set it down on the table to enlarge it to its full size again. "This should come in handy, I expect."

With dozens of sets of eyes upon him; Harry opened the box and gasped. Nestled in red velvet was Gyffindor's sword! "How did you get it?"

"I stole it from the Head's office," said Neville, "while Seamus and Dean distracted the Carrows with some of Fred and George's fireworks. Then we hid it in the Room."

"It feels like it's meant to be, doesn't it?" asked Luna. "But, look, Harry. You see the runes underneath the hilt? It wasn't just Godric Gryffindor's sword, at least not at first."

"What do they say?" Harry traced the runes with his finger, but he couldn't read them.

It was Hermione who answered him. "Excalibur."

***

Part 32

For love is strong as death;
jealousy is cruel as the grave;
the coals thereof are coals of fire,
which hath a most vehement flame
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can the floods drown it.

Song of Solomon 8:6


Fire. It was all he ever dreamed of now. Flames consuming him until he was nothing but ashes.

"Dominus!" Harry cried out as he woke, the dream lingering long after his eyes were opened.

It was still dark, and although the ceiling of grey stone looked somewhat familiar, Harry knew it wasn't the ceiling he'd fallen asleep staring at. "Severus!" he cried out again, panic making his chest constrict.

"It's just a dream, Harry. You're safe now."

"Thirsty," Harry rasped. His throat felt as if he'd been swallowing sand all night. His lips were dry and when he licked them, he noted they were cracked in places as well.

Severus helped him to sit up, settling Harry back against the pillows before pouring him out a glass of water from the jug sitting on the bedside table. A jug with the Hogwarts crest on it. Harry stared around the infirmary in wonder.

"Hogwarts? We're back at Hogwarts? Why? What's happened to Camelot?"

"Drink your water first," said Severus as he held the glass to Harry's lips. Harry tried to lift his own hand, but discovered that they were covered in bandages and difficult to move. Underneath his pyjamas he could feel the excess linen on the rest of his skin as well.

"What happened?" Harry asked again as soon as he'd finished sipping the glass of water.

"You don't remember the battle?" Severus asked him, setting the water back down. There was a small bowl and a washcloth beside the jug. Severus wrung out the cloth and wiped Harry's face; the cool water was a soothing relief on his heated skin. Harry felt so hot and he needed more water.

"You're still a bit feverish," Severus said as he wrung out the cloth into the bowl sitting on the bedside cabinet. "You need to keep drinking and keep your fluid intake up for a while yet."

"The others? How are the others?" Harry asked, struggling upright.

"Everyone is fine, Harry. They are all safe, thanks to you."

Harry heaved a sigh of relief and sank back against his pillows.

"Do you remember anything?"

"Not much," Harry admitted. "I – I changed?"

"I've never seen anything like it," said Severus. "You were beautiful as a Phoenix, Harry. And a lot bigger than Fawkes! The Death Eaters didn't know what hit them when you burned. You killed them all in that one conflagration, the Dark Lord included. He's gone, Harry. You did it. At some cost to yourself, but Poppy says the burns are healing well and you should be able to come home in a few weeks."

"But how could I have destroyed the Death Eaters without hurting anyone on our side?" Harry's head ached as he tried to work it out.

"You somehow cast a barrier to protect those you wanted to protect; none of us were hurt at all. You were the only casualty, Harry. You sacrificed yourself for everyone else."

"Why can't I remember?"

"Harry, you do know what happens to Fawkes on a burning day, don't you?"

"I – I died?" Harry gasped.

"You did, Harry. But like Fawkes you were reborn. Your skin was very badly burned though and the new skin growing is still very sensitive, that's why you have so many bandages. You are healing; it will just take a bit of time."

"But he's gone? He's really gone?" Harry asked, hardly daring to believe it.

Severus waved his wand to light a few lanterns on the wall before rolling up his left sleeve. The arm there was completely unblemished; the Dark Mark was gone.

Harry tried to move his hands towards his head, but they were just too painful to move and he didn't get very far. "My scar?"

"It's fading a bit more each day. You did it, Harry. We are all in your debt. But right now you still need to rest. The sooner you get better, the sooner you can come home."

"Where's home?" Harry asked softly. They'd been living openly as lovers in Camelot, but what would they do now they were back at Hogwarts? Severus would be his teacher again, Harry a student. Were they going to have to sneak around as if what they had was something shameful and sordid? Harry didn't want to feel like that ever again. The things he'd gone through with the Dursleys – they were sordid and shameful, but he knew that what he had with Severus was a lot different.

"Home is with me, Harry. Everyone now knows you're a Sylph and that I am your mate. We need to be together for you to remain healthy; school rules have no bearing on it at all. You will be living with me in the Defence quarters, but you will still be a member of Gryffindor House; it's just you will sleep with me and not in the Gryffindor dorms."

"But won't people think I'm just getting special treatment?"

"And why shouldn't you?" Severus asked him, smiling in the lamplight. "You saved the Wizarding world, Harry. If anyone deserves special treatment, it's you. And if anyone says anything to you about our living arrangements, let me or the Headmistress know. It will not be tolerated. Now, weren't you supposed to be getting some rest?"

Severus stood up to leave; Harry reached out and grabbed his hand, groaning and wincing in pain as he did so.

"Can you stay with me, Dominus? Please?"

Severus nodded and sat back down. "Of course I will, pet." Severus leaned over and kissed his forehead. "Now, sleep."

***

"Harry!" Hermione screeched as Harry stepped through the portrait hole into the Gryffindor common room. All conversation in the vicinity ceased at her greeting and everyone turned to stare at him. Ron wrapped Harry in a hug, causing Harry to wince in pain.

"Sorry mate," said Ron, as he raked his eyes over Harry's form. "I thought you were better?"

"The bandages are off, but my skin is still a bit sensitive," said Harry. "Madam Pomfrey says it will feel a bit sore for a while."

All the other Gryffindors were eagerly watching and listening to their conversation, and some of them were even whispering to each other behind their hands. In fact, most of the younger years, and those who hadn't been in the DA, were looking at him a bit awestruck, really. Harry didn't want to become the subject of gossip yet again; he hated being the centre of attention.

"Can you and Hermione come to the Defence quarters?" Harry asked.

"Sure. Now?" Ron looked back towards Hermione who nodded and set her book down. The three friends were quiet as they made their way to the third floor and the Defence quarters.

Severus was sitting on the sofa, class notes and essays spread all around the coffee table.

"Good afternoon, sir," Hermione said as he stood up to greet them.

"Miss Granger, Mr. Weasley."

Severus tapped his wand against the coffee table and almost instantly Dobby appeared and bowed low to Harry, his face breaking out in a large grin.

"Harry Potter, sir! You is getting better?"

"Yes, thank you, Dobby."

"Is you wanting anything, Master Snape, sir?"

"Some refreshments for our guests please, Dobby, if it wouldn't be too much trouble."

"Oh, no, sir. No trouble at all for Harry Potter's Chosen!" Dobby exclaimed and popped out again.

Hermione raised an eyebrow. Harry knew she didn't really approve of keeping house elves as slaves, but Dobby wouldn't be happy unless he was serving someone and he did get paid. Trying to get the others to accept payment was another matter, however.

"You wanted to talk to us, mate?" asked Ron once Severus invited them to sit down. Hermione and Ron settled in an armchair each, while Harry sat beside Severus on the sofa.

"Um, yeah. We've had a talk, Severus and I, about sleeping arrangements."

"I thought you'd be coming back to our dorm?"

"We thought at first that Harry would share quarters with me," said Severus. "You both know he needs contact from his mate to stay healthy, but as the Headmistress rightly pointed out, that would only fuel gossip from the rest of the school. Harry doesn't need that. You and his friends from the DA know we are lovers, but it is not really something the younger years need to know, is it?"

"No, sir," replied Hermione. "We can be discreet and insist the others are as well."

"And if sometimes Harry is late getting back to the dorms, you will know he will have been with me."

"You're very understanding about this, Hermione," said Harry, surprised at his friend. Here they were, basically talking about Harry having an affair with one of his professors, and she didn't seem to find it upsetting.

"Harry, you're a Sylph. School rules don't really come into it. Professor Snape is your mate; you need to be together or you'll die. Of course I understand that!"

Harry blushed and couldn't look at her. When she said together, they all knew what she was really talking about. Harry needed to have sex with Severus or he would die. It was so embarrassing having all his friends know that about him. His private life was anything but private.

"Harry," Severus said softly. "You are not doing anything to be ashamed of. We are not openly sharing rooms here like we did at Camelot for the simple reason that the rest of the school doesn't need to know. And the less they know, the less gossip there will be."

Dobby popped in with trays of tea and cake hovering in front of him, and their conversation became lighter as they made short work of the food and drink.

Harry nodded at Severus to show he understood. There were only a few more days left before the school broke up for the summer, and Harry knew even without being asked, that he and Severus were going to be spending the summer together.

The first summer where he would feel that he was actually wanted by someone.


***

Part 33

Severus never thought he'd be back here. He'd hated Spinner's End when he'd lived here as a child, and hated it even more when he'd returned as an adult. But today he hoped it would be the last time he would ever set foot in the place. He'd put it up for sale with a Muggle estate agent ages ago, but the buyers just weren't forthcoming. The estate agent gave Severus the same excuses the would-be buyers had given him: the house was too cluttered, too dark and needed a lot of work done on it.

"We can do it up and clear it out, Severus," Harry had suggested. "I've painted and decorated before."

So now here they both were walking down the road towards the mid-terraced house that brought back nothing but bad memories. Instead of going on holiday to somewhere warm and sunny, they were going to spend most of the holidays in this Northern backwater trying to sell a house that Severus detested. That wasn't the only problem. If truth be told, he was worried how Harry would react to the knowledge of how poverty-stricken Severus' childhood had really been.

The net curtains hanging on the window of number eight were yellowed with dust and age and all the paintwork on the windowsills and front door was peeling and cracked. There was a brass letterbox that was almost green with verdigris; but it wasn't an artistic effect, it was because the place hadn't been cleaned for years. Severus couldn't even remember the last time he'd been anywhere near the house. He supposed he could have set up arrangements for someone to look after the place, but what with Dark Lords and Headmasters manipulating him from both sides, he hadn't really had the time.

Severus turned the key in the lock and pushed hard on the front door; newspapers, letters and bills had built up behind it in the week since the estate agent had last been. The door opened straight onto the living-room which was unfurnished except for the bookcases, still filled with Severus' and his mother's books. Dust covered the bare floorboards and the rug in front of the fireplace had scorch marks on it where pieces of coal had once fallen out and burned it.

Harry was glancing around the room and nodding to himself. "Lots of people like bare floorboards now and these are in excellent condition. We can sand them and varnish them; the room is quite a good size and once we clean the windows, paint the walls and get some furniture in to dress it, it will look great." Harry looked to the door at the back of the room. "Is that the kitchen?"

Severus nodded. "If you could call it that." Severus followed Harry through to the small room at the back of the house. There was a sink with two cupboards underneath, a cooker that was so filthy Severus was sure he'd get food poisoning just looking at it, never mind cooking anything, and an old-fashioned water heater hanging on the wall over the sink.

"Are the bathroom and bedrooms upstairs?" Harry asked.

Severus flushed with shame. "There isn't a bathroom, Harry. There are two bedrooms upstairs and there is a loo outside at the bottom of the garden. We had a tin bath and bathed in front of the fire. This house isn't exactly equipped with all the mod-cons. My parents couldn't afford all that."

"What about magic? Couldn't you or your mother have Transfigured something?"

Harry's question was so innocent, he couldn't have known what he was asking.

"Only if we wanted broken bones," Severus said shortly. "My father hated magic."

"Oh God, Severus! I'm so sorry!"

"You weren't to know."

"But we have magic. We can use that to help. I think we should extend the kitchen and add a proper bathroom; that's what's probably putting people off buying it."

"Or maybe they can sense the sadness still clinging to the walls," said Severus with a shudder. If he closed his eyes; he could still imagine he could hear his mother's screams and his own sobs. "Houses absorb atmosphere."

"I know," Harry said softly, his eyes closing.

Severus nodded; both of them had known such sadness in the way they were brought up. Is that why Harry had chosen Severus as his mate? Had he somehow known that they had this in common, for Severus had never spoken of it to anyone.

"But we can change it, Severus. Make it into a house a family would want to live in." Harry conjured a sketch pad and pencil to his hands and began scribbling away, his tongue peeking out from his mouth as he concentrated on whatever he was writing or drawing.

It had been weeks since Severus had seen Harry so enthused about anything; he'd been very distant ever since he'd returned from the infirmary. Even as he thought it, a small bell chimed. "Time for your next dose of regenerative potion, Harry."

Harry nodded and set his paper and pencil down on the floor before rummaging in his jeans pocket for the vial.

"How much longer do I need to keep taking it?" Harry asked once he'd downed the potion.

"I'd say about a week, maybe a week and a half. How is your skin feeling now?"

"It's still sore, but I don't think it's as bad as it was." Harry lifted up his sketch pad again. "Severus, you're trying to sell this house to Muggles, right? So that means we can really only use magic for decoration. We'll need everything else done the Muggle way or it won't be able to be sold either. We need planning permission and building regulations consent to extend or add bathrooms, that sort of thing. If we don't have the certificates, the estate agent won't be able to sell it."

Severus was sure Harry was speaking in English, but he barely understood a word of that. Harry headed towards the back door and went out into the garden. He returned about five minutes later with a broad smile on his face.

"Well, that's good. All of the neighbours have had extensions done, so we should be able to get planning permission."

"Harry, how do you know about all of this? I wouldn't have known where to start."

"Hermione's cousin is an architect and he had an article published in a Muggle magazine that Hermione brought with her one day. I found it very interesting, so I've had a subscription ever since. It's called Homebuilding and Renovation."

"I never knew you were interested in that."

Harry grinned; that wonderful grin that had been missing for far too long. "I bet there are a lot of things you don't know about me, Professor."

"Indeed, but it would be fun finding them out."

Harry's wings were hidden with a glamour today, but from the blush gracing Harry's face Severus guessed his wings might have been fluttering at their banter.

"Are we ready to go?" Severus asked. "We still have to go back and get changed for the party. Molly is expecting us at four."

Harry's eyes lit up. "You didn't forget after all!"

Severus grinned. "Forget your seventeenth birthday, Harry? Not a chance. I took the liberty of ordering you some formal robes from Madam Malkin's."

"Does it have to be formal?" Harry asked, wrinkling his nose.

"Yes," Severus said in a stern tone. "It's your Coming of Age party, of course it has to be formal."

Severus didn't mention the other reason it had to be formal; keeping that as a surprise had been very difficult. At least none of Harry's friends had broken down and told him either, so it would indeed be a surprise.

Harry lowered his head. "Sorry, Dominus. I didn't mean to be disrespectful."

Severus ruffled his hair. "I know you didn't, pet, but we should be getting back soon."

Harry nodded. "Can I just take a quick look at the bedrooms to see what needs to be done there?"

"All right, just don't be long." Severus slid the bookcase in front of the narrow stairs aside and waited while Harry went upstairs alone. While Harry was gone, Severus perused the bookcases, smiling to himself when he found books he'd long forgotten: some children's tales and Potions books for beginners that his mother had somehow managed to borrow or steal, for there was no way his father would have allowed any of their scant money to be spent on books. Books? Waste of bloody time! You can't eat books, can you?

Sometimes Severus wished he'd had the courage to stand up to his father; so many times he'd had to bite his tongue to prevent himself saying something about Tobias Snape's drinking and gambling. But Severus knew if he had his father would take the belt to him as he had done so many times before. Severus was glad when Tobias died – run over by a Muggle car when he'd been too drunk to see it coming. His mother had been distraught though; despite what he'd done to her and her child, she had loved the useless, violent bastard and had pined for him until she died herself.

The house was bringing back too many bad memories and Severus just wanted to get as far away from here as possible. "Harry?" he called up the stairs.

"Just coming," Harry called back and a few moments later he was skipping down the stairs two at a time. He Banished his sketchbook and reached out for Severus' hand.

"Are you okay?" Harry asked once they were outside again. Severus was amazed anew at how intuitive Harry was.

"I will be once we are away from here. I would rather not come back, Harry, even if it's just to decorate."

"I can arrange things if you want, Severus; organise an architect and builders and everything. You don't have to be anywhere near this house if you don't want to be. I know I wouldn't want to be anywhere near Privet Drive ever again."

"You shouldn't have to do all that on your own though," Severus protested. "I will just have to grin and bear it."

"Severus, is the Dark Lord gone?" Harry stopped in the middle of the street and placed his hands on his hips.

"Yes."

"Is the Headmaster dead?"

"Yes."

"Then you are going nowhere near this house again if you don't want to. You had to endure years of being made to do things you didn't want to do. You don't have to grin and bear anything anymore, Severus. You can do whatever the hell you want, and you will not step foot in that house again unless you want to, agreed?"

Severus stared at him. "You know, Harry, for a submissive, you can be quite dominant at times."

"You haven't answered me. I can cope with it, Severus. You don't have to worry about that. We can maybe even get Hermione's cousin to help; he can be there when we can't be to keep an eye on things. So? What's your answer?"

"I won't go near it again unless I want to."

"That's right," said Harry, taking his hand once more and Apparating them back to the gates of Hogwarts. "I won't stand for anything less."

***

Part 34

When they entered Hogwarts, Professor McGonagall was standing by the gargoyle leading to her office, a stack of papers in her hand as they approached her. "Severus, I wondered if I might have a word?" she began, perusing the top paper on the pile.

"Not now, Minerva," Severus growled and Harry felt his wings flutter nervously. Severus usually only used that tone of voice when they were being intimate.

"Well, it's not that urgent," she agreed. "I suppose it can wait."

Severus grabbed hold of Harry's arm and all but dragged him away. He glanced back over his shoulder once she'd gone back to her office. "It will wait," Severus muttered. "But this won't."

They had reached the bottom of the moving staircase, but rather than try and ascend it, Severus pushed Harry up against the corridor wall and pressed their mouths together in an ardent kiss. Harry moaned and wrapped his arms around Severus' neck, keeping their mouths firmly locked together. Oh, God it had been too long!

How had Severus known Harry needed this? For Harry was still too shy sometimes to ask for it, either by word or deed. But he didn't need to ask. Severus knew what he needed: deep, open-mouth kisses that stole their breath from each other. Severus' tongue traced a soft line along the seam of Harry's lips; his mouth opened instinctively and his moans got louder.

Severus' hands were already easing their way inside Harry's t-shirt; the sensation of skin on skin as Severus' caressed his chest almost had Harry's knees buckling. He pulled his mouth away. "Dominus! What if someone sees?" For Severus seemed in no hurry to take this to somewhere more private. "Filch might catch us!"

"So?" Severus drawled, nipping lightly on Harry's earlobe. "He'll see what I want everyone to see."

"Which is what?" Harry asked breathlessly.

Severus took hold of both of Harry's arms and pinned them high above his head. The rough stone was scraping along his skin, but Harry didn't mind in the least. "That you..." nip "belong..."nip "to..."nip "me!"bite.

"Severus!" Harry wailed, his whole body on fire at the possessive lust in Severus' voice.

Harry loved when Severus got like this; the dominant, possessive lover who couldn't seem to get enough of him. His cock was pressing uncomfortably against the front of his jeans, becoming harder by the second as he rutted shamelessly against Severus.

"Your wings. I want to see your wings," rasped Severus, his hands tugging at the neck of Harry's t-shirt.

"Oh fuck!" Harry groaned as Severus ripped the t-shirt from him and threw it on the floor. Harry struggled to spread his wings, but he was pinned to the wall by Severus' body. Severus kissed him roughly, then pulled back and turned Harry around so that he was facing the wall.

Moaning with relief, Harry spread his wings to their full span and rested his forehead and palms flat against the wall. The cool stone was a welcome relief to his heated skin. Severus pressed himself flush against Harry's body; Harry could feel Severus' erection pressing against him even through the layers of their clothes. His arse twitched with anticipation. "Please, Dominus!" Harry begged.

"Please, what?" Severus asked smugly as he kissed along Harry's neck and shoulder.

"Touch me, please!"

"I am touching you," Severus replied and Harry could almost imagine his lover's smirk.

"My – my c-cock," Harry choked out. "Touch my cock."

One of Severus' arms snaked around his waist and unzipped his jeans. Severus' hand delved in and stroked Harry through his underwear. "Like this, pet?"

"Mmm. Like that. Oh God!" Harry's hips were thrusting now too, getting as much friction on his cock as he could.

Severus' strokes slowed down. "Stay still," he ordered.

"But...!" Harry protested.

"Stay still or I'll stop," Severus warned him.

How could Harry be expected to stay still when Severus was touching him like that? But Harry knew Severus meant every word. He stilled his hips with an effort of will that he was almost sure would be beyond him. The stroking began again, but it was so difficult to stay still. Harry wanted to move, he needed to move! This was pure torture; blissful, wonderful, ecstatic torture! "Dominus!" Harry wailed.

Harry heard a whispered spell; his jeans and underwear were no longer covering him, but he still had on his shoes and socks. The image of himself like that had him stifling a giggle.

"Is this amusing you, Mr. Potter?" Severus asked in his best professorial tone, squeezing hard on Harry's prick for good measure. "Spread your legs."

Harry did so, feeling his heart lurch at the lurid picture he must be making. Spread-eagled against the castle wall where anyone might see them. "Wider," Severus commanded, putting his own legs in between Harry's and pushing his ankles apart with his own feet.

Severus stroked his wand down Harry's back, the edge of it stopping just at the top of Harry's entrance.

"I'm going to fuck you right here, Harry. But don't worry; it won't take long, will it? You haven't been touched for weeks. How long do you think you'll last?"

"Not long, Dominus," Harry agreed. What with Severus' strokes on his cock and the position he was in, Harry didn't think he was going to last long at all. Already he could feel the need to come coiling deep within his belly and lower still. "Please! Inside me!" Harry whined, already aching with the want of it. To feel Severus inside him once more; it was almost more than he could bear. How much longer was Severus going to tease him with the edge of his wand, when they both knew Harry wanted something bigger and thicker. He wanted to be stretched to his limit, to feel himself expand around the large cock inside him and spurt all over the wall in front of him.

"Oh fuck! Ohhhh! Oh fuck!!!" It felt like he was just about to come, but he couldn't. Not unless Severus touched him. "Severus! Please! Oh, please! Hurry! Hurry!"

"So eager, my Harry?" Severus pressed the tip of his wand lightly against Harry's anus and cast a lubrication spell.

"In me! In me!" Harry whined again, his breath coming in ragged pants, but despite his urgings; Severus took his time to stretch him with fingers first; his other hand reaching around to caress Harry's cock. Harry was rocking backwards and forwards between both hands; feeling so adrift on a sea of desire that he was getting light headed from it.

At last, Severus removed his fingers and grunted as he lined up his cock. As Severus pushed inside him, Harry realised that Severus was still wearing his clothes. The thought that Severus was so eager to pound into him without even removing his clothes had Harry's toes curling inside his shoes. That was so hot! Severus, fully dressed, his body wrapped around Harry as he fucked him as if there was no tomorrow.

Oh, God; Harry had never felt anything like it before! He was worried at first that Severus taking him from behind would remind him too much of the Dursleys, but no, it was nothing like that at all. This was so sexy; Harry was lost in a haze of lust as he met each thrust of his Dominus. Severus' hands were firm on his hips; every so often he would bend down and kiss or bite lightly on Harry's neck.

Harry's knees were getting weaker by the second; his whole body was trembling, his wings fluttering as they both eagerly strived for the peak. Severus got there first, gripping hard on Harry's hips as he released, howling wordlessly as he came and bathed Harry inside with wet warmth. Harry was already on the edge, but he knew without Severus he could never fall over it. "Please! Oh, please! Let me! Let me!" he begged.

Severus slipped his cock out and turned Harry around before sinking to his knees on the flagstones.

Harry yowled in ecstasy when Severus took him completely in his mouth. Gripping Severus' hair, Harry came in an embarrassingly short time, shooting straight down Severus' throat. "Ahh! Ahhhhhh!" he cried, his whole body bucking as if he was trying to crawl inside his Dominus' throat. Severus kept hold of his hips as he continued to suck softly on Harry's cock, draining him of every drop.

Harry's wings calmed down as his heartbeat slowed; his fingers ceased their death-grip on Severus' hair. Harry just stroked it now; feeling so sated as Severus continued to tend to him, easing him down gently with soft kisses and sucks on his cock.

"Merlin, I needed that!" Harry chuckled as Severus let his cock go.

Severus grinned up at him. "Indeed, I could sense it. You know you only have to ask, Harry."

Harry shrugged his shoulders as Severus stood up, buttoning his own trousers as he did so. Severus summoned a cloak to him and wrapped Harry up in it. Harry's t-shirt was beyond saving, but his jeans and underwear were nowhere in the vicinity. Harry guessed Severus must have sent them on to their rooms.

"It still makes you so uncomfortable to ask for sex? You know I won't refuse you, don't you?"

"I know. It's not that."

"What is it, then?" Severus took his hand and led him back to the Defence quarters.

"I don't really know. If I ask for it, it makes me feel selfish or something."

Severus pulled Harry into his arms. "Harry, pet, you wouldn't know how to be selfish if you tried. Please, I want to know you feel comfortable with us having sex."

"I am," Harry said firmly. "I'm just not really comfortable about asking for it. At least not yet."

"So it's just shyness?" Severus asked, kissing him softly. Harry could still taste his own emission on Severus' lips and licked at them like an eager puppy greeting his owner.

Harry nodded, still kissing. He loved kissing Severus. Even if they never did anything else, he couldn't get enough of kissing his Dominus.

"Into the bedroom with you. I have a surprise for you."

"Oh? What sort of surprise?"

"Go into the bedroom and you'll find out, won't you?"

Harry grinned and bounded ahead, draping the cloak across the sofa as he did so. He heard Severus' intake of breath as he watched Harry walk almost naked into their room. Harry stopped short in surprise. The large bed was covered in hundreds of strawberries.

"Severus?" Harry queried as his lover stopped behind him and pulled Harry back against his chest. "Why is the bed covered in strawberries?" This was a rather strange birthday present, but then Severus was never one to do things the ordinary way, was he?

"Because I want you to lie on them."

"Lie on the strawberries? But wouldn't I get covered in strawberry juice?"

"Indeed," said Severus licking the shell of Harry's ear. Harry shuddered with rekindled desire.

"You want me to get covered in fruit juice?"

"Yes. For then I get to lick it all off. From every inch of you. Every inch," said Severus, squeezing Harry's cock again.

This time, Harry's knees did indeed buckle beneath him, but he was held in such a firm embrace that he didn't fall. Harry turned and kissed Severus long and deep. "I love you, Severus."

"I love you too. Happy birthday."

***

Part 35

The first kiss and the first time that I felt connected to anything
The weight of water, the way you taught me to look
past everything I had ever learned
The final word in the final sentence you ever uttered to me was love


Make This Go On Forever by Snow Patrol


Severus was up to something. Harry couldn't quite put his finger on it, or even indeed explain how he knew such a thing. Maybe it was the same facet of the bond which allowed Severus to know when Harry needed sex, even if he didn't ask for it. Whatever Severus was planning didn't involve sex, or at least not from the little Harry could glean from their connection. He guessed it was probably something to do with his birthday and the party at the Burrow.

The strawberry juice had indeed got everywhere and after a joint shower, Severus left Harry to shampoo his hair while Severus got ready. They'd got a bit distracted by the strawberries and the shower and were running late. Harry smiled as he stepped out of the shower, remembering how carefully Severus had licked him clean. His body was still twitching somewhat with aftershocks.

Harry draped one towel around his waist and was patting his hair dry with another when he stepped back into the bedroom. Severus was already dressed in robes of deep silver trimmed with green. Severus had set out Harry's new robes on the bed and Harry's eyes widened when he saw them.

"Severus! They're gorgeous!" Harry ran to hug him before trailing a hand along the material. "Silk?"

"Indeed. Only the best for you, Harry."

There was an open-fronted robe in midnight blue with embroidered silver stars which shimmered as the light caught it. Leggings in plain blue silk matched the robe, and a silver tunic completed the ensemble.

"The leggings are probably a bit tighter than the trousers you're used to," said Severus, who was also wearing leggings today. Harry's eyes raked over his lover's form and he couldn't help the grin. "But it is a traditional outfit for a bo–" Severus cut himself off. "For a Coming of Age."

"That isn't what you were going to say first," said Harry.

"Nonsense!" Severus scoffed quickly, much too quickly for it to have been anything but a lie.

"I won't ask any more. It's something to do with my birthday, isn't it?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"It's okay, Severus. I like surprises."

***

Harry was greeted like a long lost son by the time they finally managed to arrive at the Burrow – at four-thirty instead of four, for Severus had been unable to resist kissing Harry some more when he was dressed in all his finery. The young man was so handsome that sometimes Severus felt the need to pinch himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming. For who would have thought that someone like Harry Potter would be interested in someone as homely as himself? It wasn't as if Severus had a decent personality to even things out, but Harry didn't seem to mind that Severus could be stubborn, vindictive and downright cruel more often than not.

All the Order members were here, as well as the staff from Hogwarts and all of Harry's friends from school. It was such a sunny day that Molly had decided to have the party out on the lawn. Tables of food and drink were already set up and the centrepiece of it all was a three-tiered cake, decorated with strawberries and chocolate.

Harry glanced at him and grinned, blushing a little. "What is it with strawberries today?" he whispered.

Everyone was dressed as formally as he and Harry; but none of them looked as good as Harry in their dress robes. Ron caught Severus' eye when Harry wasn't looking and gave him a wink and a thumbs-up.

"We thought you were never going to get here," Molly said in mock-exasperation as she hugged them both.

Ginny was standing to one side of the cake; her eyes kept straining to the gate as if she was expecting someone, but all of Harry's guests were already here. Had the bint gone and invited someone else? Perhaps some last ditch ploy to make Harry jealous? Severus snorted and pressed a kiss to Harry's cheek, just to see the look on her face. And what a look it was. She wasn't glaring daggers at him; she was hurling flamethrowers and broadswords. "I'm afraid Harry is quite irresistible," said Severus, scandalising Harry, who blushed an even deeper shade of red making the rest of the guests laugh.

"Right, let me get you some drinks. What would you like, Harry?" Arthur asked, waving a hand to the laden tables.

"Oh, pumpkin juice is fine for me."


***

Harry had never had a birthday like it. Last year he had received his first ever birthday present from Severus, for in the years before he'd always been locked in the cellar. How different this was! Everyone outside in the sunshine, enjoying the food and drink; people chatting, laughing and taking part in all the games Molly insisted they should play. Musical chairs, pass the parcel, apple-dunking and charades.

Harry was loving every minute of it, despite guessing that these were all children's games and today he was supposed to be grown up. He knew what Molly was doing and he loved her for it. She knew that Harry never had a chance to play these games before and she was letting him enjoy them on this last day before he was considered a fully grown wizard. Even the adults joined in with the games, although Severus was a sore loser when it came to musical chairs. Harry never thought he'd heard so many swear words at once!

As the sun was setting, lanterns flared to life in the trees and fairies flittered from branch to branch, sprinkling pixie-dust in their wake. It was magical.

"Enjoying your party, Harry?" Fred asked him, draping an arm casually round his shoulder.

"It's great!" said Harry, scanning the crowd for Severus, who was indeed looking askance at Fred having his arm around Harry.

"Er, Fred. I don't think you should do that. Severus gets very jealous."

Even as Harry finished speaking, Severus was stalking towards them. Fred hastily dropped his arm and winked at Harry before gliding into the crowd once more.

"What did he want?"

"He was just asking if I was enjoying the party."

"And he needed to have his arm around you to do that?" grumbled Severus.

Harry grabbed hold of Severus' face and pulled him down for a kiss. "I love you, Severus. Only you. I will never be with anyone else. You are my mate and I chose you. I chose you."

As they pulled apart after the kiss, Severus dropped to one knee and the whole crowd became utterly silent.

Harry's heart and his wings were both fluttering madly.

"You chose me, Harry. Now, I want everyone here to know that I choose you as well. There is another reason I invited all your friends here today besides your birthday. Harry James Potter, will you do me the honour of becoming my husband, now, today?"

Time seemed to stand still, as everyone was hanging on Harry's answer. Harry couldn't have been more surprised if Voldemort had suddenly risen from the dead and claimed Harry as his long lost son. He'd had no idea Severus had this in mind, but now Severus' insistence on formal robes made a lot more sense.

"Yes! Of course it's yes!" Harry cried as he dropped to the ground and wrapped his arms around Severus' neck.

The guests were cheering and clapping, and Harry felt as if he was floating on air.

"I was hoping you'd say that," said Severus. "I arranged for a celebrant to be here for the bonding ceremony in case you did."

"A bonding ceremony? That's what you were going to say earlier, wasn't it?"

Severus nodded. "I almost ruined the surprise. Ah, Madam Goodwood."

Severus helped Harry to stand and they came face to face with a wizened witch with long grey hair to her waist. "This is my intended, Harry Potter."

"So pleased to meet you, Mr. Potter. Ready for the ceremony, are we?"

Harry nodded and squeezed Severus' hand.

"We'll need witnesses and rings; do you have rings, Mr. Snape?"

Severus nodded and waved his hand at Hermione and Ron who came to stand beside them, both of them grinning fit to burst. Ron produced two black velvet boxes from his robe pocket and handed them to Madam Goodwood.

"You knew?" Harry accused good-naturedly. "You knew about the ceremony?"

Hermione nodded. "Severus asked us to be your witnesses. It was so difficult trying to keep it hidden from you. I'm so glad we didn't ruin the surprise."

Madam Goodwood used a spell to make the ring boxes hover in the air before turning to Severus and Harry.

"Great friends, we are gathered here today to witness the joining in a legal and magical bonding of Severus Tobias Snape and Harry James Potter. If there is anyone here today who knows of any impediment why these two may not be joined, let them speak now or forever hold their peace."

"Wait!" Ginny roared, shouldering her way through the party guests. "I want to make a formal objection!"

Molly and Arthur, as well as the rest of the guests, looked gobsmacked.

"A formal complaint, Miss...?" Madam Goodwood asked, her eyes widening.

"Weasley. Yes, under clause 16B of the Marriage and Betrothal Act of 1864. The Domna Afflictus," Ginny said triumphantly.

"The Damsels In Distress clause?" Severus glared at her.

"Yes, Harry saved me from the Chamber of Secrets when I was eleven, so I have a prior claim on him. He has to marry me."

"Is this true, Mr. Potter? Did you save Miss Weasley?"

"Yes, but I've never heard of this clause, what is it?"

Severus glared even more at Ginny. "It was a clause invented when a young Minister of Magic in 1864 wanted to marry a girl of a much higher status than he was. The girl's parents refused his offer, but the two of them were in love and wondered how they could get their parents to agree to a match. He made up the Damsels In Distress clause, wherein if he saved his sweetheart from something, she could claim him as her husband as his reward. It started a whole trend of people putting their lover in danger just so they could save them and get a wedding out of it."

"I can't marry you, Ginny. You know I can't," Harry protested. "I will die if I am not with my mate. And that mate is not you."

"You have creature status, Mr. Potter?"

"Yes, I'm a Phoenix Sylph and Severus Snape is my mate."

"Then, Miss Weasley, I am afraid I must deny your request. There cannot be a prior claim where a creature bond already exists."

"But I want him to marry me!"

"Ginny, that's enough!" scolded Molly, pulling her by the arm and taking her away. "How dare you do such a thing!"

"You all love him more than me!" Ginny sobbed as she ran off in the direction of the orchard.

Harry knew that Ginny would always hope there could be something between them. but it could never happen and it was time she realised it.

"Right, are we ready for the ceremony now?" asked Madam Goodwood.

"Yes, Madam Goodwood," Harry replied, taking hold of Severus' hand and not letting go this time.

"Do you, Severus, take Harry to be your lawful wedded husband in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, for richer for poorer, all the days of your lives?"

"I do."

"Do you accept his life, his love and his magic? Do you promise to be faithful to him, forsaking all others?"

"I do."

Severus' voice was strong and steady, as if he didn't have his heart hammering away like a hammer in his chest.

"And do you, Harry, take Severus to be your lawful wedded husband in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, for richer for poorer, all the days of your lives?"

"I do." Harry's voice wasn't as steady as Severus' had been; for joyful tears were threatening at the back of his throat.

"Do you accept his life, his love and his magic? Do you promise to be faithful to him, forsaking all others?"

"I do."

Madam Goodwood handed one ring box to Harry and the other to Severus. Severus removed a plain gold band from the box and slipped it onto Harry's ring finger. "Harry, wear this ring as a reminder of the promises we said here today. There is no beginning and no end to the ring, for like our love it is eternal."

Harry took a deep breath before settling the other ring on Severus' finger. "Severus, wear this ring as a reminder of the promises we said here today. There is no beginning and no end to the ring, for like our love it is eternal."

Madam Goodwood smiled and waved her wand. A goblet of spring water suddenly appeared in her hand.

"Drink, both of you, from the same cup to show you two are now one."

Severus swallowed some water first, before holding the goblet to Harry's lips, his eyes glittering. Harry sipped at the sweetest water he'd ever tasted before handing the goblet back to Madam Goodwood.

"Ladies and gentlemen, Severus and Harry have been joined in matrimony according to our laws and customs. To Severus and Harry!" she lifted the goblet and drank deeply from it.

"To Severus and Harry!" The rest of the guests whooped and cheered.

"You may kiss each other." Madam Goodwood winked at them.

Severus pulled Harry into his arms, before dipping him backwards and claiming his mouth in a kiss that, to Harry's mind, was much more suited to somewhere private.

Not that he was complaining, mind you! Severus kissed the breath from him for a few minutes, amid lots more cheering and wolf-whistles. When Severus finally pulled him back up, Harry was feeling rather dazed and wondered if everyone felt a bit unreal on their wedding day.

"I know now what you're up to." Harry smiled up at his new husband.

"Oh? And what might that be?"

"You married me today so that this way you won't ever forget my birthday or our anniversary."

Severus placed his hands over his heart in a dramatic gesture. "Indeed. You've seen right through me, Mr. Potter."

"Mr. Potter-Snape," said Harry, leaning up to kiss him again.

"Forever?"

"Forever."


THE END
论坛功能提示:luvharry.net(或app)搜索9706可直达本帖。
发表于 2011-11-16 08:53:07 | 显示全部楼层
啊,昨天一晚上才读了20章,哭...还好大致剧情都明白了(又见温柔的教授~)。
这个作者很高产啊,为什么作品没人翻译呢?
发表于 2011-12-10 23:03:32 | 显示全部楼层
不愧是ERIADOR啊, 她的文章真的很有创意, 让人看了欲罢不能.
发表于 2012-2-13 16:45:17 | 显示全部楼层
the weight of water is the first story i read written by Eriador117. after that i can't help reading more from Eriador117's journal. good to see it again here, remind me some sweet memory. 总觉得eriador117的文很贴心,简简单单的词简简单单的句子就足以表达,适合非母语者阅读,谢谢lz辛苦搬文~
发表于 2012-2-21 19:49:20 | 显示全部楼层
Love this sooooo much! It's the first English Snary story I've ever read, so good! 只是好奇这么好的文章竟然没人翻~
发表于 2012-8-25 22:12:41 | 显示全部楼层
天啊这篇文太美了!!!整个意境整个FEEL都SHOCK到我了!真心好棒啊!太欲罢不能了TVT求更多!
香缘 该用户已被删除
发表于 2012-9-5 00:52:39 | 显示全部楼层
难道大家都是英文高手?嘤嘤嘤嘤……我看英文文章的时候好困难啊,只有对话的时候比较容易懂
感觉这篇的小哈很惹人怜啊,以前看的都是比较自信(或者自信过头?)的那种
发表于 2012-9-16 02:12:28 | 显示全部楼层
同看英文小说非常困难啊,要努力学习英语,不然这么多好的同人都没有办法看!
发表于 2012-10-14 13:25:17 | 显示全部楼层
回复 1# 月下珠


   上帝啊,我花了大概四个小时终于把这篇文用百度翻译看完了,很好的一篇文,但是我想大概是不会被翻译完的吧,很遗憾!
发表于 2012-11-14 01:15:23 | 显示全部楼层
很棒的文啊,在文区看了几张实在想看后面的可惜英文白痴啊~!没办法学楼上的用百度翻译看完了。教授真是温柔啊!
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