A/N. Not as long as I would like, but it will have to do.

Chapter 39

London ignored the fighting wizards who surrounded him in favor of seeking out Sev. Their bond, which he still had a difficult time believing in, was practically quivering with wrongness and he just knew that the stupid fuck was responsible for it. Barely even being aware of it, he sidestepped a dark purple curse and ducked underneath a glowing silver one and moved closer to his mate. With only the bond to guide him, he knew that he had to focus to find him in time.

He wound his way through the fight, ignoring the witches and wizards from both sides of the war so that he could keep moving. He found himself behind the hospital, in the poorly lit back loading docks where supply deliveries were made and where funeral homes picked up corpses for burial. Stupid fuck. What the fuck was Sev thinking, letting himself be moved so far away from the other fighters, away from the relative safety where he would have his friends and colleagues and London to watch his back?

With a deep, aggrieved sigh, London realized that Sev was in a deep loading dock. This particular area was sunken down a good 10 feet from the rest of the parking lot, with a ramp going down to the basement entrance and tall bushes and shrubs planted on either side of the ramp. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Why not just cut your own throat for them?

A peek between the bushes showed Sev fighting desperately for his life, with three wizards throwing curses at him as fast as they could. London grudgingly admitted that Sev was pretty good - certainly able to hold his own. But he stood no chance of actually winning this fight. At best he could hold them off until help arrived. Seeing as the stupid fuck had cornered himself in this out of the way, nearly impossible to see location, he would have been downed soon enough. One of the other wizards would have got in a lucky shot and Sev would have dropped. And London had seen how these wizards fought. He knew with certainty that if they got Sev, he would be dead in seconds.

The wizards attacking Sev though, were stupid. Three against one and they didn't think to set up a look out. London snorted softly before he pulled out a knife. It was one of his larger ones, with an ivory handle and a slightly curved blade. He tested its weight in his hand for a brief second before he squatted down between the shrubs and took careful aim. A split second later it was lodged in the throat of the smallest (but seemingly the meanest) fuck that was attacking Sev.

That was all that was needed to end things. As the other two wizards looked around themselves wildly, trying to find their "invisible" attacker, Sev dropped the other one with a quick sleep curse and restraint charm while London changed the bones from the other wizard's wand arm. His right arm flopped uselessly at his side, wand dropped to the ground. He quickly held his left arm up in surrender before he could be cursed with something darker and more deadly. Wise, given London's temper at the moment.

"What the fuck were you thinking?" London demanded as he jumped down into the loading dock.

Severus sighed. He knew that London was convinced that he was only a scholar and was completely incapable of defending himself but that just wasn't the case. While his position wasn't perhaps the most strategically safe or defensible one, it wasn't quite as deadly as it seems that London thought it was. "I was able to hold them off until you got here. And we were able to capture three more Death Eaters."

"Two," London said, pausing to light a cigarette.

Severus quirked an eyebrow at him before turning to look at the first victim, the one that London had killed with his knife. "Ah. I see. Well, two then. And these two are powerful wizards, and likely inner circle. They should have good intelligence, if we can get it out of them. The risk was worth it."

"The risk was never fucking worth it you useless bastard," London said, poking Severus repeatedly in the chest. Severus closed his eyes as the smoke from London's cigarette was irritating his eyes, but he couldn't keep the brief smile from his face. "Stop smiling," London ordered, getting more pissed off by the minute. "You're a fucking moron."

"Is the fight over?" Severus asked, nodding toward the cigarette.

"I need a fucking break after that," London said, his ire still evident. "Gave me a fucking heart attack. I'm beating some stupid fuck's face in and next thing I know the bond's throwing a fucking fit and I'm off on some sort of stupid mission to save you. Stop it. I don't like it and you'd better not make it happen again."

Severus was startled for a moment to hear that the bond had alerted London to his status. "I hadn't been aware that the situation was as…dire…as it evidently was," he finally said slowly. "I will endeavor to take better care in future. I know it can be alarming the first time you feel the bond."

London snorted but he didn't reply.

Severus secured the prisoners and dropped port keys on both of their chests to move them back to the Order's holding cells. With any luck these two would have some valuable information for the Order. They needed all the help they could get in this fight, and the capture of two inner circle members was definitely a boon. A separate port key took the dead Death Eater to another location for them to deal with later. "Shall we engage again?" Severus asked, motioning for London to lead the way.

"You're out of your fucking mind if you think I am letting you go back out there," London snarled.

It took everything in him to hold back his sigh. "London, I am a grown man. I was once a Death Eater myself. I am more than capable of defending myself and of using lethal force when necessary."

London looked him up and down, carefully studying him for signs of weakness or weariness. He threw his cigarette to the ground in anger, having been unable to find any further reason to keep Severus from the fight apart from his own unwillingness to allow his lover to risk his life. "If I didn't want to bash someone's face in, we'd be going home right now to fuck," he said belligerently.

Severus smiled briefly but followed London back around the large muggle hospital. They needed to end this fight soon. There were privacy wards and anti-muggle wards surrounding the area which prevented any muggles from entering the hospital for care. They would suddenly be taken with the desire to go to another hospital across the city. While it kept them safe from the Death Eaters, he was well aware that some muggles would not make it all the way to the other hospital. Especially those who were coming to the hospital for emergency care.

He paused for a brief moment to take in the sight of the small battle. The Order seemed to be coming out on top, if only slightly. The number of Death Eaters had fallen somewhat - hopefully by capture rather than by abandonment. Order numbers seemed to be down as well, and again he hoped that the Order members had left for care at St. Mungo's or Hogwarts, rather than by death or capture. But the tide seemed to be turning in their favor, ever so slightly, and for that he was thankful.

London barely took a breath before he attacked a black robed Death Eater. The Death Eater was taken by surprise by the purely physical attack and London got in more than a few good punches before the man began to fight back. Severus left him to his fight, and turned to assist Molly in fighting off two Death Eaters.


Severus guided a weary London from Headquarters, taking him out to the front doorstep so that London could change them back to Hogwarts. Sirius had offered them a room for the night, if they were too tired to travel home, but as tired as London was, Severus could tell that he was still antsy. As the adrenaline from the fight left the boy, Severus could see him recalling the revelation that had occurred directly before the battle, and he knew that they needed to be home for any further discussion. Or fighting. Or sex. With London, he really wasn't sure what to expect after a revelation of that magnitude.

London was furious, of that he was quite certain. He did not take knocks to his self esteem very easily, and the revelation that he was illiterate was a devastating blow.

London stepped out into the night and without warning, he grabbed the potion master's hand and changed them back to their rooms at Hogwarts. He stepped away from Severus quickly, evidently over his need to stay close to his side now that they were in the relative safety of Hogwarts.

Severus moved to the side table and immediately poured himself a large brandy. After a moment's thought, he poured a second. London reached over and helped himself to a glass, startling Severus from his thoughts.

"OK?" London asked, surprised that Severus was so jumpy.

Severus nodded. He tried to organize his thoughts. He had so many things he wanted to speak with London about, so many questions he wanted answers for. Right now he was so mind numbingly exhausted though that he couldn't gather his thoughts enough to formulate a first question.

London sighed heavily and threw himself into an armchair. His drink sloshed onto his fingers and he licked at them absently. "You want to talk," he said, his voice making it quite clear how he felt about that.


Another deep sigh. "Why?"

Severus moved slowly, silently, into the other chair, sitting his drink down on the table. "Why, when given the opportunity to tell me everything all those years ago, why didn't you tell me then? You had already revealed that you were homeless. You told me about your sleeping arrangements. Why not just finish it then? Why not tell me that day, in the bath, that you were illiterate?"

London shrugged and took a deep drink from his cup. He knew that Severus wanted an answer and he wasn't really sure what that answer was. "We didn't know each other then. I mean, not really," he finally said, uncertain what else to say. Severus stared at him in silence, evidently not willing to help him out. London shifted in his seat, uncomfortable in the extreme. "Look. The other stuff I figured I couldn't hide. Not for long, that is. This I could. So I did."

"But why would you feel the need to hide anything from me?" Severus asked, the pain and hurt clear in his voice.

London's head sank further. He brought his thumb to his mouth and started worrying the nail, gathering himself enough to speak. If there was anything he hated talking about it was emotions and feelings and crap like that. "Have you ever," he started before pausing again. "Have you ever been so…ashamed. So completely and utterly humiliated by something…that you could barely even think about it? That to say the words out loud made everything ten million fucking times worse than it felt already?"

He risked a glance up and saw Severus's dark eyes glittering in the dimly lit room. Understanding lurked there. And acceptance.

"And anyhow, I had a plan. Marian wrote things out for me to look at every once in a while. I learned your name that way. And my name. And Ana helped me out tons. I tried to deal with it on my own but when I came here, I realized I needed more help, that maybe this was something I couldn't do on my own. And I found help. I did it. And I was going to learn it all, all the words in the stupid books that Sirius studied with me, even though they were fucking stupid, worthless words, I was going to learn them for you. And then someday, I was going to take a book off your bookshelf and sit down on the sofa and open the book and read it, right next to you. And you'd never notice or think anything of it or care but it would have been fucking perfect."

Severus opened his mouth to say something but before he could collect himself enough to speak, he realized that London had more to say.

He threw back the rest of his drink and shook his head once. "I guess…I guess I should have said," he said softly. "But it was my problem, my shame. I needed to deal with it my way."

Severus nodded. "As you wish. I…" he took a breath. "I understand why you didn't say anything at the time. Or after. I just wish you had been more comfortable with me, more confident in us that you would have been able to tell me. Illiteracy is nothing to be ashamed of. I could have helped you."

"That was exactly what I didn't want!" London exploded. "Here you are, big rich man all but buying the pathetic little whore. You, with all your degrees and your money and your fancy job and you waltz in and you fucking take over my life and you change everything! To have you have that too - I just couldn't do it. What would I have left? I have little enough dignity as it is. At least leave me that."

Silence reigned.

A log popped in the fireplace and the flames seemed to shoot up for a brief moment.

"This isn't a competition," Severus finally said quietly. "We aren't taking our skills and our talents and our qualities and weighing them against one another. My education and my job do not compare in any way to anything you are, or anything you bring to the relationship. You bring so many things to our relationship, to me. So many things that can't be quantified or that I would stand little chance of having a comparable gift for you. Don't you understand? We are one. People take us as one entity, all of our strengths and weaknesses bound together into one unit."

"And all I bring are weaknesses. I fucking know that already, Sev. You bring all of the good things and I bring…what? My skill with a blade? Oh, I know, my skills in unloading trucks. Better yet, my cock."

"Don't be crass," Severus snapped back. This was not going how he had envisioned it. Perhaps he should have put the discussion off for another day, until they had rested and recovered. "You want to speak of unfair comparisons, of the deck stacked against someone? I used to be a Death Eater. I wasn't a spy at first. I tortured and raped and killed with the best of them - gleefully. I am not a kind man and never have been. I have few acquaintances I can tolerate and fewer still friends. I have absolutely no people skills, and had no joy in existence whatsoever until you entered my life. You saved me. Not the other way around. If there was ever anyone in need of saving in this relationship it was, and has always been, me."

"Stop making yourself out like you're some great loser, Sev. You're pretty fucking perfect and everyone knows it."

"London, this is getting ridiculous. I think we can take it as read that neither one of us is perfect. We both have our faults but somehow, together, we just make sense. Don't you see that?"

London threw his glass into the fireplace and stood up. "This is fucking stupid. I'm done."

Severus felt his heart thud to a stop. He stared apprehensively at the tall figure of his lover, forcing himself to keep his eyes open and drink in his beautiful face one more time before he left. He couldn't begin to imagine what his life would be like, alone again. Could he even survive alone, after all this time with a lover, a helpmate, a companion, a soul mate?

London walked toward the bedroom. Severus let out a shuddering breath. Packing. Again. He could do this. He would be brave and strong and he wouldn't protest. He had pushed London too far, knowing as he did the extreme stress that the boy was under.

London turned back at the doorway. "Are you coming or not? I can't very well fuck myself, you stupid bastard." His obvious irritation with Sev was downright heartwarming.

Unwillingly, a smile stole across Severus's face. They were going to be ok. The discussion wasn't over yet, but it would have to do. And he had no doubt that, as always, they would come of an accord in the bed. Their first connection had been sexual and it remained their easiest mode of communication.