Age Is Just A Word
Chapter 13
By Corgi

Harry barely got a chance to wave goodbye to Severus before being caged between Ron and Hermione. They dragged him to the library. Waiting for them inside was Ginny and the twins. Harry found himself pinioned between his friends on the sofa that was recently added to the room. Once they were sure that they had him secured the questioning began.

"When did you change back? You looked about twenty when we saw you in the Hospital Wing." Hermione asked in a rush.

"I was twenty-five. We took the antidote to Voldemort's supposedly irreversible potions this morning."

"Why the hell were you snogging Snape the other day?" Ron asked and Harry could hear a hint of disgust in his voice.

"Because I wanted to."

"Harry that kind of relationship isn't allowed." Hermione stated with absolute assurance.

"Actually that's the case in the Muggle schools, but not in magical ones," George refuted.

"Thanks to handy truth serums like Veritaserum." Fred added immediately after his brother.

"That isn't right. Harry, he went to school with your parents." Hermione scolded as if she didn't hear a word the twins said.

"And Professor Dumbledore went to school with McGonagall's Great Grandfather and that didn't stop them." Harry snapped in annoyance. He couldn't quite place what was wrong, but something about Hermione's behaviour was bothering him.

Jaws dropping all around him made Harry smile, but it was quickly gone when Ginny joined Hermione's crusade.

"Since when did you like boys? You went out with Cho." The red-headed girl asked with a slightly predatory look about her.

"I realized after that nonsense with Cho that I wasn't into girls." Ginny looked determined and Ron gave every indication of helping her. "Don't waste your time trying to fix me or try to convince me that I'm deluded. Anything you guys say isn't going to alter my feelings or my relationship with Severus." Harry told them while a burst of amusement flew through the bond between him and Severus. This was the second bout of input from their bond that he's received. The first time it was something that gave him the impression that Severus was plotting.

"Well the Ministry can, Harry. They won't allow even a reformed Death Eater take advantage of a student." Hermione said in a smug voice, which brought Harry's attention back to the matter at hand. "Remember Fudge's seen Snape's dark mark." Harry just wanted to slap his friend silly for her foolish attitude and wondered why she was being so obstinate.

Their behaviour hurt, though Fred and George weren't joining in Harry wasn't sure of them. He couldn't understand why they couldn't be happy for him.

"I wouldn't count on that." Harry snarled at them and noticed twin glares being leveled at Hermione. A small bit of relief crept into him at the twin's actions, but it didn't help him deal with the whole situation.

"Why, Harry? For God's sake tell me why!" Hermione shrieked and Harry eyed her suspiciously. Hermione never ever referred to God and more than once indicated that she didn't believe in the Muggle organized religions.

"Why what?"

"Why Snape? Why you're so sure that the Ministry won't do anything?" Hermione asked, throwing her hands in the air to show her frustration.

"I had several weeks to think after Sirius died and my thoughts always came back to Severus. No matter what I did or what I turned my mind to, my thoughts always returned to Severus. Then I had that vision that sent the Order into a tizzy. I saw Severus helping several of our classmates escape being marked. I saw him being captured and tortured. I realized then that I really cared about him. A lot. I would have ever said anything to him, but after Malfoy's attempt to disable us and Dobby's meddling, I ended up telling him. It took him a while to see me instead of my father, but he did." Harry was aware of the slight smile that broke into existence as he said that last part.

"That still doesn't explain why you don't think the Ministry isn't going to interfere if I lodge a complaint." Hermione snapped, wiping the small grin of his face.

"Well the first point is that Severus no longer has a dark mark and if Fudge brings that up, it'll make him look even more incompetent that he already is."

"What happened to his mark? We all saw it after the tournament." Ron asked, while Fred and George followed the conversation with marked curiosity.

"I removed it."

"How?" Hermione asked, forgetting her anger as he need for answers took over.

"I'm not sure how, but it happened after I received my new wand."

"What happened to your old one?" Hermione asked suspiciously.

"It broke." Harry answered, but elaborated when Hermione gave him her patented 'I don't believe you' look. "I tripped over Severus' coffee table and broke my left arm and wand."

"What next?" She asked and Harry knew she didn't believe him.

"Dumbledore healed my arm and brought Olivander to the school. I tried every wand he had brought, all the ones Dumbledore had from his family and friends and all of McGonagall's. My new wand once belonged to someone Severus was very close to when he was younger."

"That still doesn't answer my original question."

"Fine. I don't see why you think it's your business to know considering how you're acting." Harry got up and shouted in her face. "He's my soul mate and no one in the Ministry is going to mess with that."

Silence filled the Black family library as the four Weasleys and one Muggleborn witch stared at him blankly. Hermione began to get red in the face and Harry was expecting another explosion from her. He really didn't know why she was behaving like this. It wasn't like her. Ron's gaze was still blank and Harry hoped his best friend was thinking hard and carefully before he said anything. Ginny looked devastated and ready to cry. Fred and George looked surprised and were the first to recover from the news.

"Congratulations, Harry." They sang out in unison as only they could. They quickly turned to the livid Hermione.

"He's right, Hermione. The Ministry can't and won't interfere with soul mates." George told the irate witch.

"Even if Harry was eleven when they discovered it, the Ministry would let it be." Fred added.

"Snape's cast some spell on him or fed him a potion. This is an abomin…" Hermione started to rant before Ron sprung into action and clapped his hand over her mouth.

"Hermione, are you mad? Disparaging a soul mate bond brings bad luck. It's especially worse if they've consummated it." Ron told Hermione in a shaky voice. "For the amount of time you've spent in the library one would have assumed you've come across the soul bond stuff."

Fred and George gave Harry a calculated look before looking at each other for several minutes. Harry wondered, not for the first time, whether the two could communicate without a word. It certainly looked it to him. They twins turned back to him and Fred took a half step towards him.

"So Harry, did you and Snape, you know?" Fred asked while wiggling his eyebrows. Harry saw quite a lot of mischief in their eyes and decided to play along.

"No, I don't know." Harry replied with a smirk.

"Come on, Harry. You know what we're asking." George replied.

"You'll have to say it. There are a lot of things Severus and I have done over the past few days." Harry's grin widened after Ginny laughed at the frustrated expression on her twin brothers' faces.

"Awww… Come on, Harry." The twins cried in concert. "Did you and Snape do it?"

"Do what?" Harry asked with false innocence.

"Argh! Did you bed Snape or not?" George begged in exasperation.

"Why do you want to know that?" Harry was having too much fun baiting the twins to stop.

"Harry, they want to know if you've consummated the bond. There are two different rituals to congratulate soul mates in pure-blooded circles, which one we us depends on whether the bond was sealed or not." Ginny told him now that her disappointment had faded. He wondered if she really wanted him or The-Boy-That-Lived.

"Oh. Well in that case, yes we did, but I don't know if Dumbledore knows yet."

"Harry, that gives off a lot of magical energy. Dumbledore would have to be dead not to have noticed, not to mention the rest of the school." George said and the Weasleys were taken a back by the smug expression on Harry's face.

"Ah, but we gave the magic to the castle, which was very happy to accept it."

Hermione stood off to the side glaring at him and Harry didn't know what to do about her. Was it because he was now with Severus that bothered her? It certainly wasn't the fact that he was gay. He told her about that the year before and she was okay with his orientation. He expected the response he got from her to come from Ron and he knew how to deal with his hot tempered friend; ignore hi until he cooled off enough to think like a normal human being. He didn't think that tactic would work with the bushy-haired witch. He needed to discuss this with Severus. It was really worrying him and he feared that someone was impersonating his long time friend, or perhaps controlling her. Severus would know how to tell if it was true, he hoped.

"I still think it's wrong and I'm going to find out what Snape's done to you." Hermione snarled her expression twisting into something totally unlike her.

"Maybe your time would be better spent trying to research what's wrong with you. You're not acting like yourself and until you get over yourself don't bother talking to me." Harry snapped back and stormed from the room.

Harry made his way downstairs and headed towards the door that separated the rest of the house from the kitchen. He was half aware of the rest following him, but he was too upset to pay them any mind. When he reached the door to the kitchen he reached out to open it and found it spelled shut. Harry pulled out his wand and cast the spells to undo those on the door. He wondered briefly about where the knowledge to undo those spells came from, but at this point he really didn't care.

The door swung open to reveal their arguing adults. The shout of shouted echoed through the room and then went utter silent when the occupants noticed the door was open. Harry took a brief moment to locate Severus and made his way straight to him. As Harry made his way closer to his mate, Severus bent slightly to allow Harry the ability to talk to him privately. Well aware of the presence of his friends behind him, Harry snaked an arm around Severus' head and pulled him even lower in order to give the older man a kiss before urgently whispering his concerns into his mate's ear.

Severus' smirk didn't go over well with Albus. Not at all. The room broke into angry whispers while Albus tried to regain his composure enough to yell. Nothing the old man could say would make Severus regret his actions. The only thing he would change would be having Harry witness it.

"Severus, what possessed you to take such an action? We had already obtained information from Lucius Malfoy with Veritaserum." Albus snapped in aggravation.

"Unlike you, Albus, I am very much aware of Lucius' status with the Dark Lord and the extent he went to in order to curry that favour. The Dark Lord has conditioned Lucius until he was able to sidestep the effects of Veritaserum and able to utter half truths. I wasn't about to risk my soul mate by letting him run blindly into a trap!"

"What do you mean, Snape?" Mood asked suspiciously.

"The ritual that Lucius told you about is nothing but a farce. It's to lure Harry close enough for the Dark Lord to use their link to drain the boy of his magic." Severus snarled in reply, looking directly into Albus' shocked blue eyes as he did so.

"What about the children that are going to be sacrificed?" Molly asked in concern.

"The children are going to be the children of Death Eaters posing as victims." Severus told the older witch across the table from his position. "There is no way the Dark Lord is going to harm the future members of his army before he could brand them as his."

"We'll since we aren't going to be rescuing any children, how about rounding up some Death Eaters instead?" Moody asked while rubbing his hands together in anticipation.

The group then broke into a series of arguments about who was going and whether to involve the Ministry in the operation. Severus let them argue and allowed himself to observe the principle players as they hashed out a plan. Most didn't even glance at him while Arthur Weasley shot the occasional glare at him. Due to his refuse to involve himself in the current argument he was the only one to notice the wards on the door come down and the barrier blocking them from the rest of the house open.

Harry stood framed in the door way and the anger Severus unconsciously blocked earlier doubled with Harry's proximity. The loud arguing stopped as the rest of the room noticed Harry's arrival along with his friends trailing behind him. Harry took a moment to survey the room and then homed in on Severus. He bent forward prepared to listen to whatever Harry wanted to say, but he was surprised when the younger man pulled him down lower and kissed him. Severus returned the kiss and found himself struggling not to deepen it. Now that Harry was close, Severus could feel the hurt and anger pouring through their fledgling bond, but he could only make an educated guess as to the cause. Harry solved his dilemma and filled in the blanks when he pulled away and began to whisper in his ear. Severus was surprised by the information the younger man present.

"I think there's something wrong with Hermione. She acted so negatively to my news. It's like she's someone else entirely." Harry said quickly in a low voice so only Severus could hear him.

"I will make sure that Madam Pomfrey and I check her for curses and other tampering as soon as she returns to school." Severus told his young partner while lightly stroking Harry's back. Severus would have said more, but when he glanced up he found himself ringed by the four youngest Weasleys.

Severus straightened and pulled Harry against him as he stared straight at the redheads before him. To his surprise they began to speak in unison and what they said was the last thing he'd expect from any Weasley. They didn't hold to the majority of the pure-blooded customs, but hearing the blessing from their mouths stunned not only him. The rest of the Order stood and sat in shocked silence as the Weasley children spoke.

"May the Powers-That-Be bless your union and grant you joy. May all your endeavors be fruitful and your home keep all that dwell within safe from the weather and all harm. May all your days be filled with love and may no one sunder that love until the Mother-Of-All calls you to her bosom." The four red-heads chanted and despite the shock he didn't outwardly show, his years of being force fed pure-blooded customs allowed him to respond properly.

"May the Mother-Of-All bless you all as she as blessed us." Severus replied formally. "Thank you," he added a moment later in a voice pitched only for the four Weasley children. Harry gave him a little squeeze to thank him for accepting his adoptive family, though Severus was more thankful that the majority of his lover's friends accepted their new found relationship.

The lone dissenter entered the room muttering under her breath. Severus couldn't hear a word she was saying, but Minerva did and her reaction was to go ballistic.

"Ms. Granger, how dare you say such a thing!" Minerva shouted at the young witch, who was standing defiantly in front of her Head of House. Molly added her formidable glare to Minerva's, but allowed the elder witch to do the yelling. "I will not tolerate such behaviour from anyone, especially an inexperienced witch as yourself. Soul-mates are sacred in the wizarding would given how rare they are."

Severus saw Granger mumble, but was once again unable to make out what she was saying. What ever it was didn't sit well with Molly or Minerva. Both witches rounded on her and erected silencing charms so the rest of the room wouldn't hear what they were saying. Dumbledore looked shocked; Lupin was glaring in disapproval at Granger while the rest of the room stood around pretending not to notice the drama unfolding in front of them. Harry stood stiffly with his back to the room and his face buried in the folds of Severus' robes. Severus unconsciously ran his hand gently along Harry's spine and the other was tangled in the younger man's hair. He never took his eyes off the three witches as he comforted his lover.

A few moments later Granger stepped away from the two older witches, who removed the charms they had erected. Granger had a stubborn look on her face as she tried to leave the room. Minerva wouldn't let the teenage witch leave.

"Ms. Granger, you will apologize at once to Harry and Severus." Minerva told the younger witch in her no nonsense tone.

"Never. It's wrong and disgusting. I won't say a word to them." Granger glared in their direction and her eyes were full of loathing.

Once the words were out of the young witch's mouth, Severus realized that Harry's fears were correct. Someone was impersonating the young witch. Her syntax and delivery was very unlike his student and more like a pure-blooded and raised witch's. While Granger had glared at him in the past it was never with this degree of malice or for as long as the person was doing now.

As 'Granger' tried to leave, Severus drew his wand and stunned her before she could escape the room. When everyone turned to look at him he calmly stowed his wand and addressed his fellow Order members.

"That is either someone polyjuiced as Ms. Granger or she's being controlled. Her speech was more consistent with a pure-blooded witch's mode of speaking and her actions were very unlike the young witch I've taught."

"Minerva, take Ms. Granger back to the school and put her into an isolation room in the infirmary. Inform Poppy of the situation and have her examine Ms. Granger." Albus ordered and Minerva levitated 'Granger's' prone form and left the room. Albus turned to Severus and fired off another set of orders. "Severus, floo back to Hogwarts with Harry. He'll still be remaining in your quarters since there's no way to protect him in Gryffindor Tower."

"As if I'd let him stay there in the first place." Severus replied, but obeyed the order pushing Harry out of the room in front of him.

It didn't take them long to floo back to the school. During their walk back to Severus' rooms Harry was quiet and deep in thought. Severus could feel the younger man's worry pouring through their bond and he wracked his brain trying to find some way to help his mate, but failed to come up with anything to allay the younger man's concerns. When they arrived at his quarters, Severus settled into his favourite chair and watched as Harry paced in front of the fire. All he could do was wait until Harry worked through what was troubling him or ask for Severus' help.

"If someone went to use polyjuice to impersonate Hermione, they would have to have been an Order member right? They wouldn't be able to enter Grimmauld Place without the Headmaster's written approval?"

"Yes, you're correct. Polyjuice is akin to putting on fancy dress. You're still yourself and you have to count on your acting ability to fool those close to the victim." Severus answered with a nod of agreement and not a little dread.

"And Ron's not the most observant of people, but I didn't see Hermione drink anything while we were up in the library and we had to have been there for at least an hour if not more."

Severus paused to mentally calculate how long he was in the kitchen with the Order before Harry broke through the wards.

"I'd say you were there for about and hour and ten minutes." Severus replied before asking his own question. "Wouldn't Ms. Weasley and the two terrors she must call her brothers have noticed anything odd with Ms. Granger?"

"Not really. Ginny doesn't hang around with us except when we're doing our homework after dinner. Fred and George pretty much ignore her since they consider her a bore like Percy." Harry said while staring at the fire. "Unless someone's invented a longer lasting polyjuice..." Harry paused long enough for Severus to indicate that he hadn't heard of a new advancement with polyjuice. "Then that means someone's using the Imperious Curse or some other means to control her."

"That is the most plausible explanation for her behaviour. If she was under the Imperious Curse then her radically out of character actions could be explained by her fighting the curse."

"A cry for help? That's a possibility. I told her last year that I was gay and she didn't have a problem with it."

"You should have mentioned that earlier."

"It didn't occur to me. I also don't remember the things we've touched up earlier."

"Can't be helped now." Severus replied quietly and snagged Harry when the other man's pacing brought him within reach. He pulled his mate onto his lap and whispered soothingly to him. "We'll know soon enough about Ms. Granger's status. There's no need to work yourself up over it."

"I know, but I'm worried about her. She's the closest thing to a sister I'm going to get." Harry replied in a small quiet voice.

"Do your best to put it out of your mind for the time being." Severus tilted Harry's head up and gave him a gentle kiss before tucking the younger man's head beneath his chin. He held Harry tightly against him and stroked the younger man's back.

Harry settled in snugly, but took several long moments to relax. Severus pressed a kiss into Harry's hair and felt the younger man return the kiss against his neck. Instead of stopping with just the small kiss, Harry began to search for every sensitive spot on Severus' neck. He firmed up the strokes against Harry's spine in response and he soon felt his cock stirring due to the younger man's success. He did his best not to let on, but Harry could obviously feel Severus' reaction. The Potions Master felt the lips pressed against his neck curve up into a smile and he could picture the mischievous look glinting in Harry's green eyes. Mischief was definitely on Harry's mind. The younger man began to tease Severus' cock with the minute shifting of his hips over the sensitive organ. Severus couldn't stifle the moan Harry's movements caused and soon gasps were added as the younger man's fingers managed to open his robes to stroke his chest. The brat continued to torture him until he was on the brink and he refused to come in his pants like a teenager. He was going to put a stop to it before Harry embarrassed him.

"If you do not stop teasing me this instant, I will make you wish you never were born." He snarled menacingly.

"Could we settle on making me forget the past few hours?" Harry asked in an unsettled voice. His forehead was creased with worry and fear darkened his eyes.

"As soon as they can secure the person I stunned tonight they will find out what happened to your friend. I'm sure she will be well. Ms. Granger wouldn't be worth anything to them if she's dead."

"Yeah. She'll be bait to lure me out of Hogwarts if they do have her." Harry replied bitterly. "Please, Severus, help me forget for a little while. Before I ruin our first Christmas together."

"You won't." Severus told his lover as he tilted the younger man's head back so he could capture Harry's lips hungrily.

Severus made sure Harry didn't have an ounce of breath left to protest or voice anymore negative feelings. Harry asked to forget his worries for the time being and Severus intended to honour that request. He vacated the armchair while holding Harry securely to him as he did so. Harry took advantage of his movement to latch onto his neck once again, which the younger man sucked, bit and kissed with enthusiasm. Severus wondered what was said to the younger man when he was stuck in the Order meeting that made Harry desperate to mark him. Not that he minded it, but it wasn't something he expected from the younger man.

Severus took a step towards the bedroom, but when Harry's leg bucked firmly against his aching erection he changed his mind and gingerly lowered them both onto the rug in front of the fireplace. Harry didn't seem to mind the location and began to attack the rest of the hooks that held Severus' black robes closed. Instead of letting the younger man undo all the tiny hooks, Severus pulled his robes over his head. When he was done tossing the garment to the side he noticed that Harry had already removed his jumper and shirt as wells as his shoes and socks. Severus made haste to even the playing field before launching himself at his mate.

He made sure that Harry didn't knock his head on the floor before exploring every inch of his mate's exposed skin. Neither man thought of much else as they wrestled control from each other. Trousers and pants fell to the wayside as the two strained to melt into the other. Severus had lost all concept of time. He was too absorbed in the flow of lust, desire and love flooding the bond between him and Harry to pay attention to something as insignificant as time. By the time he entered his mate they were practically one entity and as one they reached the heights of bliss before succumbing to sleep.