Title: Eye of the Beholder
Rating: Mature (PG-13)
Disclaimer: Still not JK Rowling. They are her boys and her universe. I'm just using them to play.
Feedback: Always welcome to The lovely and talented biting moopie
Archive: Part of the From Dusk till Dawn Severus Snape/Harry Potter Fuh-Q-Fest at http/ "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent." -- John Donne
Summary: After the final battle, Harry leaves the wizarding world. Severus is sent to find him. Fluff, hurt/comfort and cliches galore.
Eye of the Beholder
"You do know it isn't healthy for someone to be alone so often? To withdraw from society and those that care about us?"
"Albus," Severus pleaded, not willing to suffer through this conversation yet again. He may love the old fool, but that didn't mean he had to endure all of his lectures.
Albus went on as if Severus hadn't spoken. "Have you ever read Donne's-"
"Spare me, Albus. I'm already in the seventh level of Dante's Hell."
The Headmaster chuckled, eyes twinkling. "Perhaps, Severus, but in this case I was not referring to you."
"Oh?" Severus was surprised. Albus was still the only one that could do it. "Who then?"
Severus blinked. Then blinked again. "Harry? As in, Potter?"
"What is Potter's problem now?" Severus had a feeling he was going to regret sitting down in this chair this evening. He reached for his tea in self-defense.
"He has shut himself away from the world."
Severus couldn't help his smirk. "This is a bad thing?"
Albus sighed patiently. "Severus, am I mistaken in believing that you worked very well together to defeat Voldemort?" Severus looked away. "And that you could almost call him a friend."
"Friend?" Severus almost choked on the word.
"Did you not trust him?"
"Implicitly," Severus murmured.
"Did you not enjoy his company?"
"Did you not comfort each other in times of need-"
Severus shot to his feet. "It was perfectly consensual and he was no longer a student-"
"Calm down, Severus," Albus soothed. "I know there was nothing illicit about your relationship."
Severus almost snorted. Sometimes it had seemed illicit. At times, their passion had exceeded the boundaries of physical need, pushing the envelope of animal lust. But other times, it had been tender and sensuous, smoldering with their emotional desires and simmering with their search for mutual affection. It was – had been – just so bloody perfect.
"Until he defeated the Dark Lord and tossed me over like an empty sack of beans," Severus said, probably as bitterly as he felt about the humiliating affair.
"I know what you think, Severus, but-"
"Don't make excuses for that self-important blighter," Severus growled. "He knew he could have anyone he wanted after the Dark Lord's defeat. By Merlin, he didn't even have to defeat him. Potter was beautiful, exquisite in face and form."
And beneath the surface as well. Or so Severus had thought.
Severus turned back to the grinning old man. "Exactly what?"
"He could have had anyone, even before he killed Voldemort," Dumbledore went on. "But he wanted you."
"For a time," Severus said, regaining his composure. He had struggled with Harry's rejection for six months and had come to terms with it. "I understand that he wanted to move on," Severus said, nobly. "I supposes I shouldn't have been surprised by his total lack of manners, his complete lack of consideration." Severus slumped back into his seat. "He sent me a note, Albus. A bloody note. He wouldn't even see me."
"You do know that he didn't wish to see anyone."
"I had heard that. I did not wish to linger and waste my time trying to sway his decision."
A light chuckle came from the irritating man's lips. "Yes, he does have a rather large stubborn streak."
"Precisely," Severus stated calmly. "So, now, if the fool has decided to tell the world to sod off, what makes you think you can change his mind?"
Albus simply smiled. "Not I, Severus. You."
Severus sighed heavily. "All right, Albus. Just what exactly do you wish me to do?"
"I wish for you to find him, Severus," Albus told him. "Find him and bring him home."
Pacing the confines on the floor in front of the desk, Severus scoffed, "And how, pray tell, am I to find him if he doesn't wish to be found?"
"I'm sure you have your ways."
"You do have at least somewhere for me to start, don't you?"
Dumbledore straightened, looking serious again. "Indeed," he began shuffling some parchments around until he located a card. Handing it to Severus, he announced, "You can start there."
Severus hesitantly took the card. It was a wizarding business card. Flashing dramatically, colorful letters swirled around the face of the card, forming words.
Are you plagued by family curses?
Is your home infested with latent or active hexes?
Do personal poltergeists plunder your place of employment or home?
Ministry certified. Dark Arts Specialists. Free Consultation. Satisfaction guaranteed.
Black Dragon Security
Severus lifted a brow to Dumbledore. "And this is?"
"Really?" Severus said with interest, peering back at the card. "I haven't heard from him in a while."
"He's doing quite well actually," Albus told him. "He has tapped into a lucrative field after the war and is benefiting vastly from it."
"He is a Slytherin."
"He has earned himself a name and has become quite prosperous."
"Very well, now tell me why I am starting here?"
"As you know," Albus began, "Draco was the one to locate Harry after the final battle."
Severus nodded, hoping for any information that Albus hadn't told him yet. Severus didn't know whether Albus truly didn't know the details of the final moments of the battle or if he just didn't want to tell him.
The battle itself had been nothing special as battles go. Light and Dark wizards hurled hexes at one another with varying degrees of accuracy and potency. What made the battle special - what made the it "The Battle" - was that both Voldemort and Potter were there and they met in the middle of the battlefield.
Severus didn't recall much after his true allegiance was revealed to the Dark forces. He had simply fought to the best of his ability beside other members of the Order of the Phoenix. When his arm exploded with pain, scorching him to his very core, everything else faded to black.
He found out later that everyone with the Dark Mark had been incoherent with pain in the backlash of Voldemort's demise.
"Draco was also the last person to speak with Harry before Harry secluded himself," Dumbledore went on.
Stood to reason, Severus considered. Draco was a very attractive man. He hadn't thought Draco was Harry's type, but then who was Severus to say. Severus himself had enjoyed the pleasure of Potter's passions and he would have never considered himself Potter's type either.
"So you believe that Draco knows where he is?" Severus clarified.
Severus snorted. "So why not, simply ask him to-"
"Do you think I didn't try that already?"
Abashed, Severus had the grace to flush. "And you think I'll have more luck?"
"I do," Dumbledore declared, sharp eyes not quite twinkling, but not dull either.
"Very well, Headmaster," Severus said resigned. "I will try."
"Thank you, Severus." Dumbledore beamed at him and held out a small dish. "Lemon drop?"
Severus entered the shop, all his instincts telling him to tread carefully. The front office was decorated to impress the clientele. Fine furniture sat on genuine Persian rugs, and wizarding antiquities and rare books graced the shelves. The mantel sported pictures of Draco with various noteworthy persons; quidditch stars, ministry personnel and other well-known figures. He couldn't help scanning them for a shot of The Boy Who Repeatedly Lived.
The well-dressed secretary at the desk addressed someone in the fire.
"I assure you, Mr. Peterson, Mr. Malfoy will take care of the problem as soon as possible."
"I should hope so," the irate customer raged. "This is unbearable. The solution is worse than the original curse."
"I'm sure Mr. Malfoy will be in touch with you the minute he arrives."
"Tell him to send that Specialist – what was his name - Evans. The handsome one."
Evans? How very unoriginal. He'd have to disparage Potter on his complete lack of ingenuity in creating a pseudonym.
"If Mr. Evans is available, I'm sure Mr. Malfoy will send him, or come himself if necessary."
"Very well," Peterson replied haughtily. "I will await Mr. Malfoy's firecall."
The secretary waited until the face was gone from the fire, then she turned to Severus. "Can I help you?"
"I'm here to see Mr. Malfoy?"
She opened a scroll. "Do you have an appointment?"
"No," Severus replied. "But I dare say, he'll see me."
The woman rolled her eyes as if she'd heard that line a million times.
"Barbara-" Draco Malfoy burst out of the inner office and stopped abruptly when he saw Severus. "Professor," he said, recovering quickly, a mask of professionalism restored.
"Hello, Draco," Severus said with a smirk. "Might I have a moment of your time?"
"Of course, of course," Draco agreed readily. "Barbara, hold my calls."
"What about Mr. Peterson?"
"Get Evans to take care of it."
"Are you sure you don't want to ask Mr. Slyder?"
Draco's eyes shifted to Severus. "Ah no, Peterson would not allow the privacy Leo requires."
Draco shut the door behind them. "It's about bloody time," he muttered.
"Nothing," said Draco. "Come in, sit down. What can I do for you? Can I get you anything? Tea?"
"I'm looking for Potter."
Draco blinked. "Well, that was direct."
"I see no reason to prevaricate with unnecessary trivialities."
"Very well," said Draco, sitting behind a large and somewhat opulent desk. "Why should I tell you?"
"Dumbledore has charged me with the task of bringing him back to Hogwarts," Severus admitted. "I shall do what it takes to fulfill his wishes."
"I see," said Draco, pulling out a scrap of parchment. He ceremoniously dipped a quill in the ink well. "He lives under an alias," he divulged.
Severus rolled his eyes. "Yes, I assumed as much," Severus retorted. "Not the heralded and handsome Mr. Evans, is it?"
Draco smirked. "No, not even Potter is that predictably sentimental."
Severus looked down at the parchment Draco handed him. "Leo Slyder?"
Severus' surprise got another smirk. "Quite the little Gryffindor snake, isn't he?"
Severus' lip twitched. "Quite." He sighed. "So where may I find the slippery little lion?" He looked back down at the parchment as the London address materialized on the paper. "Ah, I see."
"He lives in a Muggle building but the landlord is a squib and is aware that Leo is a wizard," Draco generously told him.
"I take it he doesn't know that Mr. Slyder is the darling of the wizarding world?" Severus couldn't conceal his bitterness and didn't even bother trying to hide the sneer.
"Not a clue," said Draco.
"What's he using?" Severus inquired. "A glamour? Polyjuice?"
Draco nearly choked. "Um no," Draco said seriously. "He doesn't fear recognition there."
"Ah, just plain idiots then," Severus surmised. He stood up. "Thank you, Mr. Malfoy." He moved to the door and turned. "Congratulations on your success."
Draco nodded his thanks.
"So what does Potter do for you?" Severus couldn't keep the question in. If he stayed much longer, a great many more questions would surface.
"He is a Dark Magic exterminator," Draco told him, his expression sad. "The finest. He only works alone and even then only after I've conned him into it."
Severus smirked. "I see."
"You will," Draco said behind him as he left the room.
Severus looked up at the building then back down at the address. This had to be a joke – a bad one. Why ever would Potter dwell in such a dismal place? He had wealth and acclaim. Why would he choose such a…dump?
He entered the building and glanced down the dilapidated halls. A set of rickety stairs rose before him and he glanced down at the paper again, realizing there was no flat number on it.
Just then, a child appeared at the far end of the hall heading toward Severus at an alarming rate. Leery of drawing his wand, Severus called out. The youngster slid to a stop before him, breathing heavily.
"Wow," said the boy. "Are you a wizard too?"
Severus drew his most fiercesome scowl. "Are you?"
The boy seemed undaunted. "Not yet." He grinned. "Can I help you?"
"I'm looking for Po- Mr. Slyder," Severus said.
An obvious shudder ran over the boy. "Why?" He sounded incredulous.
"That is my business, Mr…" Severus raised a brow.
"Flannery," the boy said. "And he's got the entire top floor. Rarely has visitors though. Are you a doctor?"
Severus blinked at the question. A doctor? Oh yes, Muggle term for medi-wizard. "No, I am – I – er, friend," Severus said carefully, briefly wondering why Potter would need a medi-wizard.
The boy laughed. "Didn't think he'd have any friends," he murmured.
"Thank you," Severus afforded Mr. Flannery, and proceeded up the stairs.
It was only three flights but Severus found himself slowing down towards the top. He was about to confront Potter. For the first time in six months, he would see Harry.
The man who had made Severus feel certain things for the first time in his life. Who had taken Severus to new heights in both sensuality and affection. They had even snuggled for Merlin's sake.
And then Potter had dumped him.
Now, despite Severus' vow that he would never have anything to do with Harry Potter ever again, he found himself at his doorway.
Resolutely, Severus quickly moved to the paint-peeled door and knocked.
"Come in," came the even, unhurried response.
Still the trusting fool.
Severus stepped into the room and immediately noticed its sparse furnishings and thread- bare carpeting. It was also very dark.
"Just leave the bag on the table. I've had Sam put the charge on my account."
Severus located the voice to the form at a window across the room. Harry was facing the dirty panes and didn't bother to turn around. So, he had been expecting someone. That explained the careless bid to enter.
Severus stepped further into the room, noting that Harry still hadn't moved.
"Leave the bag and get out," Potter snapped.
Surprised, Severus smirked. "I realize you were raised by the worst sort of people imaginable, Potter," he said dryly. "But it is customary to say 'who is it' when someone knocks on your door."
Potter's entire body locked and he started shaking.
"Severus?" The question was a choked whisper.
"Your observation skills continue to astonish me," Severus retorted.
"Please leave," Potter said softly.
"Oh there's a fine greeting for an old friend," Severus snarled. "Thanks for nothing, Potter, but I won't leave until I've delivered the Headmaster's message."
"Fine," Potter snarled back. "Leave it and get out."
"Really, Potter," Severus said. "No tea and crumpets? I know you have no manners to speak of but-"
"Please," Harry said again.
Since Harry was still shaking badly and had a grip on the windowsill, which turned his knuckles white, Severus grew worried. Hadn't the boy downstairs asked if he was a medi-wizard?
"Do you require medical assistance?" Severus asked, moving closer.
Harry moved away, still avoiding Severus' gaze.
"No," Potter snapped. "Please, leave, Severus. I'm-I'm begging."
Confused now, Severus grabbed his arm. "For the love of-"
Harry wretched away, staggering gracelessly across the empty floor. "I mean it," he said, stumbling over to a side table and groping its surface until his hand found his wand. "Don't make me hurt you."
Severus scowled and nearly shouted, "You've already done that." He calmed himself quickly. He did not want to do this. "Just extend me the courtesy of listening to what I have to say."
"I'm listening," Potter said sharply. "I'm all ears. It's all I have left."
The last part was whispered but Severus had heard it.
"Albus wants me to bring you back to Hogwarts," Severus told him plainly.
"No," Potter answered directly. "There, we need not continue-"
"Bloody hell, Potter. Will you look at me."
Years of service to the Dark Lord, and more of supervising inattentive students had made Severus quick. He jerked Harry's face around.
If he were a man of low constitution, he may have screamed. Only a small gasp escaped his lips though and he released Harry's chin.
"What in the name of Merlin happened?" he blurted out. He pulled Harry's face around again, studying what were obviously, to him anyway, the results of a very dark curse. In fact, the only one who could have done that amount of damage to Potter was…
The Dark Lord.
"This is why you refused to see me?" Severus raged. "This is why you couldn't even tell me to my face that you didn't want to be with me anymore?"
Even as he was speaking, the truth became apparent in Harry's expression, as twisted as it was. It was also clear in Severus' mind, as cynical as it was.
Harry probably wouldn't have even ended their relationship if…
"No one deserves to be with me," Potter said, pulling his face out of Severus' grip. "No one deserves to live with a monster." He turned his face away and sat down heavily.
"Aren't we the selfless Gryffindor Martyr," Severus said with a sneer. "Did you even think to ask me what I thought? Did you even consider letting me have the choice? Do you think so little of me as to think I would let this – a curse – interfere with my judgement?"
"I won't be a burden on anyone," Harry said.
"And you think living like this is better than perhaps asking for help?"
"I don't want pity."
"Yes, and it's all about you, after all," Severus ranted. "It's always about you. You're still the arrogant, selfish little snot you've always been, Potter. It is a pity."
That said, Severus strode out the door and slammed it shut.
All this time, Severus had thought Harry had just thrown him over. And it was just this silly self-confidence issue. Harry simply couldn't bear to be rejected, abandoned.
Which was exactly what Severus had just done.
Footsteps pounding up the stairs kept Severus from moving. From the side window in the hall, Severus watched as a tall, lanky man knocked several times on the door.
"Leo," he called. "Leo, its Lawrence."
"Come in." The voice was coarse.
Lawrence opened the door and stepped in. "I'll just leave the bag here then."
"Sam wants to know if the new pain medication is helping?"
There was a choking sound. "Yes," Harry said roughly. "Tell Sam it helps."
Lawrence left as quickly as he had come, not even sparing Severus, who still stood in the small hall outside Harry's door, a glance.
Severus stared at the door. The paint was a dark shade of green, he noticed, peeling off in thin sheets. Appearing ironically similar to the scar tissue clumped horrifically on Harry's face.
His Harry was in pain, the victim of a dark curse.
Severus burst back through the door.
"You didn't even think to ask if I could help you?" Severus was raging again. "That maybe as an expert in the Dark Arts and in Potions that maybe I could help find a cure?"
Harry sadly looked up from where he sat at the table. "There is no cure," he said.
Severus crossed his arms. "There is no such thing as 'no cure.'"
He pulled Harry to his feet, wrapping an arm around his waist to keep him from moving away, and holding his chin up to inspect the damage to Harry's face. The scaring was horrible in that it twisted his features and miss-shaped his eyes. The clear green eyes were bright for the contrasting red veins running through the whites, but they were empty. His lips, still perfectly pink, were twisted into a forlorn frown, but Severus couldn't tell if it was from the scars or from his misery.
He tried to gauge Harry's feelings, staring deeply into his eyes but saw nothing. Even without his glasses…
Severus looked around at the lack of clutter on the floor. Nothing to trip over. That was why it was dark? Why Harry didn't face him while speaking? Harry couldn't see.
Severus frowned. What the hell kind of curse…
"Tell me everything, Harry," Severus said.
Harry, still caught up in his arms, shook his head. "It's no use."
"I'll decide what is or isn't of use," Severus declared, tightening his grip on Harry's jaw. He loosened his grasp when Harry gasped. "Please, Harry. Tell me."
Harry sighed. "Why would you want to help me?" he asked, amazed and doubtful. "I may be blind, but I know what I look like. I can feel it."
Harry finally pulled away and leaned on the table. "It's not just my face, Severus," Harry continued. "It's evil, Dark magic, and it's eating away at me."
"Then let me help you."
"Why?" Harry asked derisively. "So you finally have your revenge by watching me die?"
"Stop it this instant," Severus growled, pulling him around by the arm. He shook him once. "You won't talk like that! I forbid it."
Harry snorted then. "Sorry, Sev. It's out of your hands."
Severus bristled at the nickname that he'd always hated. Harry had liked it though and had pretended not to hear Severus' objections.
Harry pulled away from him again, moving across the spacious room toward the fire. Magic tingled around him as if Harry were feeling his way with his power.
"Pack quickly, Potter," Severus announced. "We will be leaving immediately."
Harry turned to face him. "What?"
"Didn't you hear me?" Severus replied casually. "You did say your hearing was intact."
"Precisely. The Headmaster wants you at Hogwarts and, now that I know the truth, I will certainly not leave you – er – here."
Spanning the gap between them quickly, Severus grabbed the stubborn creature once more and kissed him soundly. Harry's sweet mouth still tasted the same, the silken tongue wrapping instinctively around his own, to taste him in return. The response was instantaneous as they melted back together, belonging. Scarring could still be felt along Harry's scalp as Severus cupped his head, but the jet-black locks were still satiny soft, and the body crushed in his arms was a bit thinner, but it still felt perfect.
"Severus," Harry rasped as Severus lifted his head.
"Don't you understand yet, Potter?" Severus said, his tone losing its harshness.
Harry shook his head.
"I love you, you impossibly stubborn, irritatingly noble, annoyingly self-sacrificing and infinitely irresistible brat."
Harry blinked, unseeing. "What?"
Severus smirked. "I am very sure you heard me, Mr. Potter," Severus replied. "Now get moving. I don't want to hear anything else from that delicious mouth until you're ready to depart from this dreadful abode."
Harry's jaw dropped open and Severus made a warning sound. "I will hex you."
Harry simply sighed and nodded.
Severus sat at his desk pouring through the most ancient of his tomes. He had sat Harry down and finally extracted the whole story from him. Harry had been well prepared to meet Voldemort in battle. The spell they had created was difficult, but Harry was so familiar with it he could have done it in his sleep. It would – had – bound the Dark Lord's soul to his body, so he couldn't escape with possession or other Dark tricks, then his body was destroyed.
The only problem was, it was a lengthy incantation. Once started, it had to be finished or the caster would have to start again. And that was when the Dark Lord had had his chance to curse Harry with this horrible living nightmare.
The Dark curse was in fact almost like a parasite. It would live off Harry's being, both physically and spiritually, hence Harry's melodramatic yet accurate description that it was eating away at him.
Severus just had to find a way to kill the thing. Counter-curses, potions, charms and rituals had all proven ineffectual. He was almost to the point of desperation, almost enough to call – he scowled at the very thought – Granger.
Harry entered the chambers from the bathroom as carefully as he had been for the last two weeks. Terrified that he might run into something, he always moved through Severus' rooms with purposeful hesitance and awkward care.
Harry still would not leave the dungeons either. No disguises would conceal such a Dark curse. Glamours, charms and potions were just as ineffectual in hiding his disfigurement. He spent most of his time writing his memoirs, so that when he was gone, people would know the real Harry, with the help of a Dicta-quill or listening to self-reading books, which Severus had procured through Irma Pince in the library.
They shared the bed, but other than the first painful examination of Harry's body, they did not share any intimacies other than kissing. It enraged Severus to know that Harry hurt all the time. Pain potions were carefully administered, but they were still inadequate.
Severus' study of Harry's body had been an ordeal. Both appalled and incensed to view the results of the curse, Severus examined every inch of Harry's once glorious body. The disfiguring blemishes seemed to be slowly working its way down from his head. Harry's shoulders and torso were roughly spattered with the hard black scar tissue and the right side of his hip and leg were also affected. Harry's very slight limp had ceased to exist, but Severus didn't know what to attribute that to.
Severus had gently cared for Harry, bathing him and applying pain salves. Harry had been disgustingly grateful the first few days, until Severus put a stop to it with scathing remarks and grating observations.
They were somewhat back to normal, comfort wise, now. With the exception of Harry's affliction and the lack of sex, it was like they had been living together for years.
"You should have called me," Severus chastised him as he stood up.
Harry snorted, pulled a pair of boxers out of a drawer. "I'm not a complete invalid," he murmured.
Severus moved to stand over Harry who sat down on the bed. "Perhaps I merely enjoy pampering you," he suggested.
Harry looked up and smiled. Severus heart stopped. By Merlin, he hadn't realized how much he had missed that smile. Even marred, it lit up the room. Severus reached out and touched the beloved cheek. Harry pressed his face into his palm with a sigh.
"You're too good to me," he whispered.
"I am a selfish bastard who will take advantage as soon as I can," Severus retorted.
"Mm," Harry agreed, that little smile lingering. "I like you that way."
"Convenient, as I have no inclination to change." Severus pulled out Harry's pajamas and began to help him dress. Harry acquiesced, letting Severus manipulate his limbs into his sleeping clothes.
He ran a hand over Harry's calf as he pulled the material up the leg. He couldn't help noticing that the bundle of vicious marks around Harry's knee had faded to almost nothing. Frowning with thought, he continued to dress his Harry. The grouping of scars by his left nipple seemed different as well. He chose not to bring it to Harry's attention, instead he spent the remainder of the evening rubbing soothing oils into Harry's wrinkled skin.
Harry fell asleep under his skillful touch, a contented grin still across his lips.
The next day, Severus found even more of the scars faded or gone all together.
As soon as he was free, Severus conferred with Dumbledore who said he thought Severus may have stumbled upon something which could help.
It was with that glimmer of hope that Severus accepted the invitation to a Ministry banquet honoring many of the fallen heros of the war. To acquire Harry's acceptance, Severus skipped right over asking and begging, and went right to informing and demanding that Harry accompany him.
Severus stopped when he discovered Harry was no longer beside him. He turned to face the younger man, whose eyes were fixed, unseeing at the double doors. No doubt Harry could feel the magic of all those attending the function.
He stepped closer, putting a hand to Harry's cheek and could have wept for the fearful expression. Here was the defender of the Light, conqueror of the Dark Lord, terrified of going to a party.
Severus would personally lay waste to anyone who looked even remotely horrified at his Harry. At least Harry would not be able to witness the first reactions as people viewed his countenance.
This first step would be the hardest.
"Harry," Severus said. He reached out a hand and laced his fingers with Harry's clawed grip. Harry's chin inched up and he took a deep breath. A moment later, the determined Gryffindor Severus knew so well stood before him.
The door opened before them and they were announced.
Severus opened the newspaper. He really didn't hold much faith in the media but for Harry's sake he hoped they had been kind.
"Well?" Harry slid into the chair across the table from him. Severus couldn't help but notice his left eye appeared less twisted.
The first picture that caught his eye almost squeezed a foreboding sound out of him. It was a picture of Potter from school, looking healthy, cheerful and achingly beautiful. The next one was of Harry and Severus from last night. The caption read:
Harry Potter returns to life with – a Death Eater?
Severus snorted. Idiots.
Severus sent Harry a glance then studied the picture. "I actually look rather good," Severus said. "You look dreadful though."
Harry choked but there was a smile on his lips.
"The lighting is horrible," Severus told him. "Half your face is in shadow. And, of course, your hair is a mess."
"What does it say?" Harry asked.
With a sigh, Severus flattened out the paper and read:
"Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, returned to the public last night after six months of solitude after He Who Should Not Be Named was finally destroyed for good. He attended the Ministry's Merlin Awards Banquet to the surprise and delight of the assemblage.
"Mr. Potter was said to be drawn back to the wizarding world by the man pictured above, ex-Death Eater, spy for Albus Dumbledore and Potions Master at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Severus Snape.
"Sources say that the cause for Potter's forced seclusion lay in the curse inflicted upon him during the final battle. The Dark Lord left yet another lasting mark on Harry Potter. While Mr. Potter was unavailable for comment, Headmaster Dumbledore has expressed his hope that the public would see beyond Mr. Potter's disfigurement to the innocent young man who was thrust into the role of savior and bore the responsibility of our survival and salvation on his shoulders.
"'Young Harry deserves our gratitude and our admiration," says Dumbledore. "He is every bit the hero we expected.'
"From observing Mr. Potter's humble acceptance of his award and shy awkwardness in front of the crowd and the cameras, this reporter is inclined to agree.
"Other honorees include…"
Severus trailed off, not really interested in the rest of the names which he had heard the night before anyway.
Harry cleared his throat awkwardly. "Well, that doesn't seem too bad," he murmured.
"Indeed," Severus agreed, somewhat surprised that they didn't drag his name through the gutter. "Which is auspicious as there is another gala at the end of the week that we are expected to attended."
Harry almost dropped his teacup. "What?"
"You heard me, Potter," said Severus, enjoying the surprise and dread, which crossed Harry's face. "There will be dancing at that one."
"Dancing?" Harry swallowed.
Severus refolded the paper. "Yes," he informed. "I'm quite a good dancer myself." He stood up and began his normal routine for classes.
A knock at the door cut Harry off and Severus moved to open it. "Ah, Miss Granger, excellent timing." He ushered the woman in, noting the sack she was carrying. "Please amuse Mr. Potter for a while."
"Hi, Harry," Hermione said. She dumped the lot of scrolls and letters on the table.
Harry felt around on the surface. "What's all that?" he asked.
"Fan mail," she said. "Some of it is rather funny, actually," Granger went on, "But everyone is so glad to see you back."
Severus left the two, smiling as he heard Granger expound on the letters. Many of them swore support, promised research and offered private curse breaking abilities and/or potion making skills. A great many simply showered Harry with appreciation.
The results were apparent by the time Severus returned to his rooms later that evening. Harry was all smiles and fluttering about the room with the carefree ease of old. Happy chatter filled Severus ears all through dinner, which they always took privately, and through Harry's bath.
Rubbing the soothing oils into Harry's skin that night, Severus noticed the clearing of another patch of gnarled scar tissue. Smooth skin met his fingertips as he trailed them up Harry's stomach.
Severus kissed Harry's forehead as the younger man dozed off. "Goodnight, Harry."
"Mm, night, Sev," mumbled Harry. "I love you."
"And I, you," he murmured in Harry's ear then left to share his suspicions with the Headmaster.
"I'm telling you it's curing him!" Severus declared, standing before Albus' desk. "His skin is becoming clearer."
"Please be more specific, Severus," Albus said. "What is curing him?"
Severus scowled at him. How could he not see it? "The acceptance," he snapped. "The curse is defeated by others looking past the physical effects and not only accepting the afflicted person, but openly showing them affection. At first, I was the only one to do this for Harry. Now, the rest of the world has joined in and the cumulative effect has resulted in an accelerated rate of healing."
Dumbledore smiled. "Yes, I thought it might," he admitted.
Was that a smirk? Severus would kill him. "You knew?"
Albus shook his head. "Oh no. There is no guarantee with Dark curses. But as Voldemort himself could not bear to possess Harry for very long due to his great capacity of love, I would presume that any curse Voldemort inflicted on Harry would have the same problem."
Severus thought that over. Love. Of course. The Dark Lord always underestimated its power. "So what do you suggest I do?" Severus asked.
"Just continue with your present course of action," Dumbledore said. "And hope for the best. After all, we don't know how long it will last. The curse is progressive, after all."
Severus nodded and returned to his rooms. After preparing for bed, he slid into the bed beside his beloved. Harry rolled toward him and nestled closer to the added source of warmth. Wrapping his arms tightly around Harry, Severus combed his fingers through the dark mess of hair.
If they didn't stop it, the curse would start corroding Harry on the inside. Severus would not stand for it. He would not lose his Harry to the Dark Lord now. Not when they were finally free. Severus would just make sure Harry received all the love he deserved.
Potter and Snape – A Couple?
"Harry Potter arrived at the latest gala of the Ministry's Post You-Know-Who balls once again on the arm of Severus Snape. Snape attended all Potter's needs, new facts reveal that the Boy Who Lived is not only disfigured but blind as well, and ensured Potter's cup was always filled and his company never lacking."
Severus almost snorted. Was there any end to the Prophet's rhetoric? While it was true that Severus had doted more attentively than he normally would have, he was not the only one.
Severus had watched as people came up to Harry all night, thanking him for what he had done. "If it weren't for you, Mr. Potter," one woman had said, "my husband wouldn't be alive today." An elderly man thanked Harry for providing a future for his grandchildren, "I know that they can go to Hogwarts. Walk down the street without the fear of their Muggle heritage making them a target."
Harry had glowed in response.
"What else does it say?" Harry prompted.
Severus scanned the page. "More tripe on my charm and how the wizarding world's hero is no longer available," he said blandly.
"So, we've been outed," Harry said, rubbing a palm over his cheek. Severus didn't know if Harry had noticed, but that particular cheek was notably clear of blemishes.
"So it appears," said Severus. He stopped behind Harry, dropping the paper on the table and wrapping his arms around the seated man. "Do you have a problem with that?"
"No," Harry said. "As long as you don't."
Severus snorted. "I have serious reservations about it, Potter," he grumbled. "I've only been to every Ministry function this week with you because I enjoy being your seeing-eye dog."
Harry laughed. "You're so weird, Severus."
And so it went on. Five celebratory functions and twelve sacks of mail later, Harry's skin was almost as smooth as the day of the battle. The morning Harry woke up with his first erection in months had led to an interlude that left Harry claiming he saw stars. It had also made Severus late for class for the first time in twenty years.
The morning after Severus proposed that they have a public binding ceremony, Harry claimed he saw more than stars.
At the end of the ceremony, which was the event of the century and included a guest list that could only be supported by Hogwarts' Great Hall, Harry's eyes welled with tears. Another event in itself as Harry never cried, but his tears were black.
Once initiated, the thick liquid flowed from his ducts, stinging his eyes and burning twin paths down his cheeks. It pained Harry to such a degree that Severus was forced to take Harry away from the celebration to attend to it.
After thoroughly rinsing his eyes, Harry stood before him, blinking and looking around. He peered up at Severus and reached out to run his hands reverently over Severus' face. The red lines were gone and his irises were pure green again.
"I can see," Harry whispered.
It was the crowning touch to the finest day of Severus life. Wiping the remnants of the Dark curse from Harry's face, a surge of love and pride filled Severus. They were finally free of the Dark Lord and his influences. His Harry looked up at him with clear green eyes that focused on Severus for the first time in almost ten months.
"I can't believe that you didn't give up on me," Harry said, wrapping his arms around Severus' neck.
Severus pushed the stray locks out of Harry's eyes. "It would take a lot more than a dark curse and blindness to stop me from loving you, Harry."
Harry had the grace to flush. "I was an idiot. I'm sorry I didn't have more faith in you."
Severus nodded sagely. "In me, and in us," he said. "And in the world in general."
"They've turned on me before," Harry said in his own defense. "I didn't want to become known as the Monster Who Lived."
Severus held him tightly. "No one saw the monster, Harry."
The Potter-Snapes to Teach Together
Severus tossed the Prophet back on the desk. He picked up his cup and reclined back into his chair in front of the Headmaster's desk.
"I told you, Severus," Dumbledore had the nerve to say. "While you were curing Harry, you were re-connecting with the rest of the wizarding world as well."
The annoying old coot was right. They had both re-affirmed their place in society. Severus sipped his tea. "You do have an annoying habit of proving to be correct," he muttered.
Dumbledore smiled and twinkled. "Have a lemon drop," he said, settling back into his chair. "And let me tell you of another fascinating story I've heard."
"I swear by all that is magical, Albus," Severus growled. "If you mention the word children, I shall be forced to hurt you."
"Ah, so you and Harry have discussed it," Dumbledore said cheerfully. "Splendid."
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose and groaned as Albus droned on about passing talents and skills to the next generation.
Merlin help him, he'd be making a male fertility potion by the end of the month.