Word count: 13,000
Warnings: MPreg, Slash
Summary: When an experimental potion goes wrong, Harry does everything in his power to make it right.
The Second Month
"Harry, look out!"
A banging crash echoed throughout the dungeon followed by total silence. Harry Potter, age twenty-four, gasped for breath even as strong hands gripped his waist, keeping him on his feet. His own hands were pressing against Snape's stomach and he quickly retracted them, staring over Snape's shoulder. Snape's sharp exhalations brushed against his ear in warm bursts.
He was going to die.
"I-I," he stammered, wondering what it was about being in this room that made him feel like he was eleven all over again.
Without warning, Snape shoved him backwards, sending him pin-wheeling into the first row of desks, almost knocking over another cauldron.
"Class dismissed!" Snape roared. The first years flinched and scrambled to obey the command.
They gathered all their materials together, some not even bothering to clear out their cauldrons
as they pushed out the benches and fled. Harry wished he could go with them. Despite the number of days it had been since he had last seen Snape, he doubted any of their earlier 'friendly' encounters would save him now.
Harry stared at the blackboard while he waited for Snape's lecture to begin. The familiar, neat script seemed to stab into him now as it became increasingly clear Snape wasn't about to speak first. Whether it was anger or horror that kept Snape quiet, Harry couldn't decide. Neither made him feel better about this.
"I'm sorry, sir," Harry muttered to Snape's hunched-over back. "I'll fetch Madam Pomfrey before I go."
Snape's shoulders shook and Harry blanched. "You fool."
"What?" Harry took a step forward with one hand stretched out, but he quickly let it fall to his side.
Harry didn't move. He couldn't.
Snape turned around with a flap of his black robes, eyes bloodshot and crazed. "Has your capacity to follow even the simplest instructions diminished? Yes? Then let me repeat myself: GET OUT!" Snape flung an empty vial across the room, hitting the back wall with a smash and a gentle tinkling noise as the shards hit the floor.
"Minerva, I wish to speak to you."
She waved him inside the late headmaster's office with a small roll of her eyes. "There's no need to seek permission, Severus, surely you know that by now."
She leaned back in her chair, so different from the plush affair Albus had favored, but similar regardless. It was the pattern that gave him that feeling, he determined, staring at the maroon wing-backed chair Minerva was sitting in. He stood before her desk with a miniscule scowl, unable to shake the feeling she knew exactly why he was here. It may have been the casual way she was examining him, or the smirk that tweaked the corner of her mouth.
"You know what it is I need to speak to you about, don't you?"
"A certain someone told Poppy about it before fleeing the castle. I doubt we shall be seeing or hearing from him for a few days. You must have done something horrible to him, Severus; I've never seen Harry leave the castle so pale or shaken."
"I've seen him leave in worse states than today's."
Minerva opened her mouth to speak but Severus cut her off before she could even think to make a smart remark. "I need you to inform your niece that a minor setback has occurred, and that I will be rectifying it as soon as possible."
"Severus..." Minerva's warning resounded within him and he had to tamper down the urge to shift where he stood. "You are not suggesting what I think you may be."
"There is no other possibility, Minerva. Surely you see that."
A dull ache took up residence right above his temple and he knew it would only grow sharper.
Minerva observed him with infuriating patience. "Does Harry know you're thinking about doing this?"
"Of course the irresponsible brat doesn't know!" Severus spat, sitting down in the chair opposite Minerva's, hard. "He will have nothing more to do with this disaster."
"He needs to know."
"He most certainly does not."
Minerva hummed and tugged on the high collar of her robes, fingering the brooch there as she stared across the office in thought. "He will be told, whether or not you are the one to do so. Poppy has been informed of the situation and has already gone through your stores, removing anything you could use to induce abortion yourself, and she will not aid you in this until you have Harry's consent."
Severus couldn't believe what he was hearing. The audacity of the women surrounding him boggled his mind. How dare they go through his things? How dare they even think he would be all right with this situation? "You--"
"The issue is moot, Severus," Minerva stated, meeting his glare with her own. "No amount of arguing will get them back for you, and now that you have effectively ostracized your messenger boy, I fear you are left with one option."
Severus rose to his feet in an instant. Anger and bitterness pounded through his body. "I will not be treated with such ill respect, you meddling old spinster. I--"
"Severus Snape!" Minerva snapped, slamming her palm on the cherry wood desk. He blinked in shock and fell back into his abandoned seat. His resentment filtered away with every tick and whir of the gadgets surrounding them. Bitterness sank in and soon he found he couldn't focus on Minerva's face.
She sighed and poured tea into one of her personal cups. It seemed an age passed while she did this simple action, and shame started to creep in at the edges of his mind. He quickly locked it away. It would be of no use to him here. No, he'd let the shame seep in once he was dismissed.
Minerva stood as if there were stiffness in her joints. With an impassive expression, Severus watched her move around the desk. He had seen her angry before, but it had been a great length of time since any of it had been aimed at him. It was a surprise when she brusquely handed him the fragile crockery. He stared blankly at it for a moment, before raising it to his lips and taking a sip. His lips parted in pleasure as the warm liquid trickled down his parched throat.
"I know rationality may not be your strongest suit, but I could not have you storming out of here as you were about to do. Don't bother denying it," she chided, patting his shoulder fondly.
"Minerva," Severus growled, eyes narrowing in on her hand. She took her time pulling away from him and when she did, he regretted it. Now he could see her face clearly. "What would you have me do?"
"Speak to Potter before you run off and do something you'll wind up regretting in the morning."
Severus frowned and exhaled sharply. "I regret ever waking this morning."
"I'm sure you do," she murmured, sitting behind her desk once more. "But what is done, is done, and now all we can do is move forward, and forward for you is contacting our errant boy."
"He won't be pleased. I am the last person he would wish to have children with."
Minerva smirked. "If you're certain of that."
Harry gripped his hair and pulled sharply as he flung himself down onto his lumpy sofa. Snape was going to kill him. The thought plagued him as he stared up at the ceiling. It amazed him that Snape hadn't done more than throw something against a wall, like throw him across the room maybe. He wouldn't have held it against Snape if he had. There was no denying Harry had completely messed up a fragile experiment. He had known what day it was and he knew just how important that afternoon was going to be in terms of making the procedure a success. After today, it was just a matter of sitting back and waiting another seven months for the baby to be born.
Merlin, he was a moron. Snape had to hate him now. He'd just cost him well over a hundred Galleons between getting the ingredients and rare texts, and the price Minerva's niece and her husband had been willing to pay for the trial run. He knew there was no way he'd ever make this up. Harry couldn't even bring himself to think of the disgust Snape felt when Harry had touched his stomach to steady himself. To make matters worse, he'd made a fool of himself in front of twenty impressionable eleven year olds.
When he had entered the Potions classroom that morning, he hadn't planned on tripping over an untied shoelace. It was a small relief that he hadn't been carrying any valuable ingredients.
With the potion itself done and digested all Snape had to do was make protein potions to keep his energy high so he could teach. Oddly, no one seemed to notice Snape's temper fraying more towards the end of the day, nor the evident signs of exhaustion. If Snape's secret got out, he'd be pestered day and night, especially now that he was carrying Harry's--
Harry sat up too quickly and his head spun. Severus Snape was carrying his child! Hysterical laughter bubbled up Harry's throat as the full implications of his actions reached him. His child.; It was going to be his child. His mouth went dry and he rolled onto his stomach, burying his face in a throw pillow. He let loose a scream that rebounded around the tiny room and drilled into his ears. It didn't make him feel better.
He wasn't sure if he was ready for this. He knew he wanted children someday, but someday wasn't supposed to be this soon. His stomach cramped and his hands shook as he groped for the tiny, black phone that lay abandoned on the floor. He pressed one number and held the phone up to his ear.
It rang twice before someone answered.
"Ron?" Harry stared at the phone in surprise, but that surprise couldn't stop his hands from shaking. "I just did something incredibly stupid."
"That's nothing new, mate." Harry frowned at Ron's mocking tone, but let it go.
"I'm serious, Ron. I've really fucked things up this time and I don't think I can fix it."
"All right, all right," Ron sighed over the phone and Harry could almost picture his best friend nervously rubbing his neck. "You want me to get Hermione?"
"N-no, not yet." Harry rolled to his feet and began to pace. Anything to stop the trembling.
"You've got to promise not to tell anyone though."
There was silence at the other end of the line. Harry rested his forehead against the mantel of his fireplace and waited. Ron would either disown him for what he was about to say, or kill someone. It would be a gruesome outcome either way.
"I promise, but, mate, you've got me worried now. You aren't sick, are you? Because if you are I'm not keeping that from Hermione, you can't ask that of me."
"I'm not sick," Harry told him, closing his eyes. "But I think that I'd have a better chance of muddling my way through that than this."
"That's not reassuring, you know."
Harry snorted. "No, I reckon it's not."
"Are you going to tell me then, or are you just going to breathe heavily into the phone for the next five minutes?"
A light buzz began in Harry's ears. "I'm going to be a father."
"You're what!" Harry held the phone away from his ear and winced. "With who? I didn't even know you were seeing anyone. Merlin, please don't tell me you broke and got a prostitute and now she's--"
"No, no," Harry interrupted, eyes popping open. "What? I--No!"
If the question had been anything but curious, Harry wouldn't have answered, but this was the reason he had called in the first place, to talk to someone about it.
Ron's laughter hurt. It shouldn't have, and had anyone else told Harry this news, he would have been laughing with Ron, but right then it stung. "Yeah, real funny, Harry."
"I'm not laughing."
Another silence occurred, this one longer than the last. "But he's a bloke. No offence, mate, but blokes...they just don't get pregnant."
"Snape created an experimental potion," Harry began softly, staring into the face of the carriage clock that ticked the time away, "that's supposed to work on either gender, but the key component is the spell that creates the embryo. It's not--I don't really understand it myself."
"And?" Ron's puzzled question shook him from his reverie.
"I was helping him get the ingredients and the like, running errands for him if you will, for helping me study for my NEWTs outside of school."
"You were Snape's errand boy?"
Harry blinked. "You knew?"
"Everyone knew he was sending someone out for him, mate, but no one knew why."
"He was afraid that if he went out he'd upset the stages of the potions' progression in his body. He had to take it four times over the course of a month to stabilize the pregnancy."
"Then what do you mean you're the parent? Listen, Harry, I love you like a brother, but if you're finally cracking up, it's not so hard for me to get you into a padded cell in St.
"Thanks, Ron," Harry said dryly. He shook his head. "I've got to go. I'll explain more later."
Ron seemed to be readying himself to say something, but what came out was, "Take care of yourself."
"Yeah," Harry mumbled, "You too."
Meet me at the front gates immediately.
Harry stared at the parchment in his hands for a few seconds. Sighing, he stuffed the note into his jeans' pocket and swiped his wand up off the kitchen table. He glanced at his stove; he'd just been getting ready to make dinner. With a flick of his wand, the stove turned off and he cast a quick stasis charm over the pot of noodles.
He suspected it'd be a long while before he got to eat them.
The sun had just dipped below the rolling hills surrounding Hogwarts when something popped nearby. Severus straightened his robes as he stood up off the stone bench he'd Transfigured for the wait. His lower back twinged.
Potter walked the short distance to the gate and stepped through without saying a word.
Severus sneered. "You're late."
"You never specified a time," Potter returned, but the confidence in his tone couldn't mask the apprehension in his eyes.
Good, Severus thought, examining Potter from head to toe, let him squirm.
"I thought immediately was quite clear." Potter shrugged and it infuriated him. "Minerva insisted I hold an audience with you before I terminate the experiment."
"So glad to know that--" All the colour drained from Potter's face. "What?"
"Your listening comprehension skills are as honed as ever. Now that you have the message, perhaps I can tell Poppy to give me the potion to rid myself of this abomination."
Potter's mouth opened and closed a few times, before one word escaped him. It wasn't one Severus had anticipated. "No!"
"What do you mean no?"
"No," Potter repeated, firmer this time. "I refuse to let you do that."
"Potter," Severus growled, fingers twitching by his sides.
"You need my permission to do this, yeah? Well, you're not getting it!"
Potter glowered, eyes narrowing behind his wire frames, body tensing for a fight.
"How hard do you suspect it would be to cast a memory charm?"
"Hard enough, but I also suspect Minerva has placed a tracking charm on you and knows you are down here. Poppy might have too. As a matter of fact..." Potter took out his wand and without a care in the world cast a simple detection charm over Severus' body.
Severus stared dumbfounded as a light blue aura appeared around him, confirming the brat's theories and sending ice through his veins. The urge to kill rose unbidden but welcome through him and his wand was in his hand in an instant.
"Killing me won't achieve anything but getting you locked away," Potter informed him, crossing his arms across his chest with a smug smirk.
"You are damning me and this child," Severus whispered, backing away.
Potter had the audacity to laugh. "And you tell me I'm over-dramatic. Merlin, Severus. You are not damned; you're just not going to get any Galleons for this. Minerva has yet to fire you, and if you honestly believe the child will have a rough life, you're daft."
"Potter..." he growled in warning. It didn't surprise him as much as it should have when Harry took a determined step forward.
"I won't allow it to happen, so just drop the idea," Potter snapped, eyes flashing. "You're stuck, Severus Snape, and I'm going to get you to like the idea."
"What? Is it possible that your brain has been--"
But he was gone. Potter had Apparated away, cocky grin firmly in place.
Merlin, how he hated the brat! Why had he hired him in the first place?
The Third Month
"You're sure this is right, Hermione?" Harry asked, re-buttoning the cuffs of his robes for the third time, fingers fumbling to get them into the appropriate holes.
She chuckled and fluffed a bit of his hair off his face. "Would you rather Molly be here doing this?"
"No!" Harry squawked, his face going a brilliant shade of red. "I just feel so..."
"Stupid?" Hermione offered, narrowing her eyes as she waved her wand over his dress robes. "It's not. It's traditional, and honestly, Harry, don't pull at the sleeves like that, they're already fraying as it is."
"I can't believe Arthur lent me this," he muttered, twisting in front of the full length mirror as his eyes traced the runic designs the embroidery made. Gold thread dull with age curved down his back from his collar to the hem of the robe. Hermione settled a hand on his shoulder and squeezed once.
"He already feels like your father, Harry," she pointed out. "You're right, he didn't have to lend you the robe, but he did it because he loves you and wants to see you happy."
"The Weasleys care for Professor Snape as well, Harry," Hermione interjected, locking a silver bracelet around his left wrist. Her fingers traced over the delicate swirls in the band, before she retreated.
Suddenly all business again, she dusted imaginary lint from the collar. "Do you have the other?"
Harry dug into his trouser pocket and pulled out a handkerchief with the bracelet nestled carefully within. "Dad would kill me if he knew how I planned on using it."
"No, he wouldn't," Hermione refuted calmly. "He would be proud his son was securing his family, which is what you're doing. It helps that you may have strong feelings towards Severus as well."
"I do have strong feelings towards him, Hermione," Harry stated, meeting her eyes through the mirror. "I just don't know what kind."
She hit the back of his head and muttered something about idiotic men, so he did the only thing he could do and smiled at her. All the research into the courtship had been hers and hers alone.
Once Harry had asked around for suggestions on traditional methods of engagement and dating, it had sounded like the easiest and least hazardous to both his and Severus' dignity. While
Hermione researched, however, Harry had been too busy trying to find a way to get around the first part, which was public declaration. It wasn't that he had a problem with verbally announcing his intent towards Snape, but to have to do it in front of people bothered him. A simple newspaper announcement would have been just as easily done, and it would have saved him the pain of public humiliation. He refused to think that Severus might outright reject him. It hurt his head to do so.
Harry carefully pocketed the band and patted it once to reassure himself of its continued existence.
"I wish you the best, Harry," Hermione told him after a moment's silence. "You're going to need it."
Harry exhaled and straightened his shoulders. Minerva had been told what he was about to do barely four days ago and had been very forthcoming in her opinion of the situation. At that time, it had stung to hear her verbally flay him on how much this could hurt Severus, without first giving Harry the benefit of the doubt. Once convinced that his intentions were as pure as they possibly could be under the circumstances, she had offered him a room in which to get ready the day before.
Now here he was standing inside a room he'd likely never be in again, preparing to start a ritual that once completed would be virtually unbreakable…with Snape. The fidelity clause never bothered him until that moment. Once he entered the Great Hall, he would be giving up his rights to date anyone else, fuck anyone else, ever again.
Stomach tied in knots, Harry stepped out into the empty hall. Laughter and loud talking could be heard through the doors to the Great Hall as he neared it and he nearly stumbled to a halt.
Severus would hate him for this. The blow to his dignity and pride would be catastrophic. Harry only hoped the wards to Snape's personal lab would let him in after this display.
He needed to go through those doors. Harry tilted his chin up in defiance and braced his hands against the tall wooden doors, giving them an almighty shove.
A hush fell around the hall as Harry strode down the center aisle towards the table where the professors sat. He had joined them there on many occasions, but not tonight. He wasn't certain if he'd ever be joining them again. Excited whispers burst around him as they caught sight of the robe he was wearing. It wouldn't take long for the entire school to discover its significance. Someone gasped, and he saw Pomona flush scarlet.
He'd have to thank her later for her help when it had come to locating the flower that resided with the silver band. If it weren't for her hothouse, he would feel less than prepared for what he was about to do.
Taking a deep breath, Harry came to a stop beside Snape's chair. He could practically see the anger brewing within Snape's body. It was unfortunate that it would be aimed in its entirety at Harry. There would be no buffer, no running away, not if he wanted this to work.
He wanted it to work.
With shaking fingers, Harry retrieved the bracelet from his pocket, unfolding the white linen on the head table to reveal a pure white snowdrop and the silver band.
His throat ran dry as Snape touched the flower with the tip of his index finger, lightly stroking one of the four white petals. Harry knew he was supposed to be speaking, but the words were missing.
"What is this?" Snape asked, pitching his voice low so only Harry and Minerva, who sat on the other side of him, could hear.
Harry opened his mouth and let out a mortifying croak. Clearing his throat, he straightened, looking over Snape's head to one of the banners on the far wall. He wanted to get through this without passing out, and if that meant he had to look over his intendeds head for the duration of his speech, so be it. "I, Harry Potter," he started, unable to make his voice carry, but he had to. At least the front row of students had to be able to hear or he might as well give up while he could. But that had never been an option and would never be one. In a firmer voice, he continued, "hereby request permission to court thee, Severus Snape, in the hopes of one day reaching a mutual arrangement to marry."
In the hall, the silence was deafening. Harry tried to keep himself from fidgeting with the hem of his sleeve but it was impossible.
The scraping of Snape's chair across the wooden floor made him flinch, but he made no move to stop the man from storming out of the hall. His fists clenched at his sides as he brought his gaze down to the abandoned seat. Wild whispers erupted throughout the hall, likely spreading the news of what had just occurred. Harry's eyes moved to the table and his heart flipped as his stomach rolled. The band and flower were gone.
Hope bloomed in his chest and, shooting one last excited glance at the sea of students before him, he turned tail and fled through the same door Snape had disappeared through seconds before.
Severus slumped into his favourite chair and stared at the objects clutched in his fists. Potter had given him hope. His finger smoothed one of the rumpled petals before he set the snowdrop on the arm of the chair in favour of examining the band. It frightened him that Potter might be sincere in his efforts. Research took time even with careful planning and connections. Snowdrops were out of season as well, and Severus was certain that the band had been made specifically for him.
For a brief moment, he contemplated sliding the silver onto his wrist, but doing so would mean he accepted Potter's pledge, and he was not ready for that step. The band went the way of the flower.
It was ludicrous to let himself think of a nonexistent future. Potter only wanted him because of the child he carried. It was honourable, and dreadfully predictable. He should have left the tokens of declaration on the table.
A soft knocking at his door interrupted his thoughts. He flicked his wand, opening it a crack to signal that it was open. Even before the messy black hair appeared around the door, Severus knew who was there.
"Sir? May I come in?"
He snorted. Even over the age of twenty, Potter still reacted to certain situations with a sixteen-year-old mindset. It would be laughable in any other circumstance. "I would not have opened the door for you if you could not."
Potter gaped at him for an unnerving second, before shutting the door with a gentle click. "You kept them," Potter breathed, eyes narrowing in on the items on his armrest. "I thought...well, obviously I was wrong."
"As you say." He couldn't stop the smirk that stretched his lips. "What did you think I would do with them, if I may ask?"
"Er..." Potter blushed and gazed pointedly at the fireplace. "I rather assumed you'd just toss 'em."
"Do you want me to?" Severus asked, keeping his tone deceptively calm. "It would not be a hardship to 'toss 'em'."
The fear in those brilliant green eyes startled him more so than the sharp, "No!" that erupted from Potter's mouth. "Please, I mean--I just, please don't," he finished in a near whisper.
Severus' head spun and as casually as possible, he raised two fingers to his temple, trying to still the sudden onset of vertigo. "Tell me why I shouldn't, and perhaps I will retract my desire to destroy the articles."
"Can't you ever just say yes or no?" Potter grumbled, and a sneaking feeling like guilt clutched at Severus' chest. "For once, just tell me if you're going to agree or not."
"Do not take that tone with me, Potter," he growled, digging his fingers into the arms of the chair. Potter was serious.
"I bloody well can take whatever tone I want with you," Potter snapped. "I proposed to you and you haven't even said yes or no. Give me some credit; at least I'm not blowing things up yet."
"If you were, my answer would be very much in the negative," Severus responded, leaning forward in his seat. "So perhaps your patience with these matters is mutually beneficial."
Potter stared at him, anger and worry swirling in his eyes, but for what, Severus could only guess. "So, it's a yes?"
"For Merlin's sake, Potter. You're the second richest wizard in the country, your name alone can secure a person's status in society for life, and you're not so horrific to behold."
"It is a yes then," Potter said, giddy laughter escaped him as he doubled over holding his stomach. "You said yes."
"I said nothing of the sort," Severus pointed out with detached amusement. "But you are correct, my answer is yes."
The Fourth Month
Harry guided Severus through Hogwarts' halls towards Gryffindor Tower. He had promised Minerva that he wouldn't keep Severus from his rooms for too long, and he suspected that if Severus knew the sort of conversations he and Minerva had on a weekly basis, Harry would be tossed out of Severus' quarters the next time he showed up for their usual Friday night drink.
He shook off the thought as he put pressure on the inside of Severus' left wrist indicating a turn in the hall. The amount of trust this exercise proved both frightened and thrilled Harry. Very few people could have convinced Severus to blindfold himself, let alone take him for a walk outside his quarters. He supposed that he wouldn't have been able to do so either, except for the circumstances being what they were.
"There's a slight incline about five feet in front of us," he murmured, trying to ignore the heat the man was producing. Harry could feel how warm Severus was through all the layers he wore under the thick black robes. He didn't think he'd be able to bear being so hot all the time, but Severus wasn't even sweating.
It wasn't until Severus stiffened beside him did Harry realize the hand he'd been using to guide Severus along from behind was tracing tight circles over Severus' lower back.
"Sorry," he muttered, retracting his hand before he lost it. Snape grunted, but otherwise remained silent. Harry took it as a signal to continue moving forward and instructed Snape to do
so. "Just one more flight of stairs before we arrive."
"How you ever managed to convince Minerva to give up her rooms for this is beyond me."
"Well, it was either her or Filch, and I rather thought he wouldn't approve," Harry joked, and was amazed at the almost silent guffaw that earned him. "Did you just laugh?" he asked in shock.
"I did no such thing," Snape said imperiously, turning his nose down towards him as if he could see through the charmed blindfold. Harry wouldn't put it past him.
"Whatever you say." Harry shrugged. "Step up," he ordered, waiting for Snape to do so before joining him. For half an hour, Harry had been instructing Snape through Hogwarts, and he reckoned if they hadn't killed each other yet, then they might just make it through the dinner Harry had spent half the day cooking. They might.
The Fifth Month
The bed seemed inadequate for what they were about to do. Severus watched as Harry moved around the bedroom, stopping at the bureau to examine the few photos that resided there, before moving on. After what seemed an eternity of curious examination, he came to a halt at the other side of the bed.
"You sure you're okay with this?" Harry questioned, gingerly sitting on the edge of the relatively small bed. "We are supposed to keep in contact the entire time."
"I know the requirements," Severus bit out with an angry snarl. His heartbeat raced as he stared at the shorter man on his bed. This would be the first time he'd voluntarily take a truth potion and not resist it. The spell at their bonding wouldn't work if he didn't comply fully with these proceedings. His stomach churned acid as he slipped off his shoes and straightened them out alongside the foot of his bed. The lack of control in the situation made him bristle at the slightest things and he felt it a small accomplishment that Potter wasn't running from this.
Who would wish to spend the night trapped in a bedroom with him?
Harry propped some pillows up against the headboard and lay back against them. With what Severus assumed the brat thought was a reassuring smile, he held out his hand. "Sit next to me. All we have to do is hold hands for this to work."
How cruel were the fates that made it possible for Harry to try to comfort him? Feeling ten times a fool, he took the outstretched hand and sat down on his own bed. He had never felt more a stranger in his own room. None of the previous proceedings had the same air of discomfort, none of their habitual Friday night drinks held this sense of anticipation and dread.
He pondered setting barriers for questions being asked, but knew logically that doing so would defeat the purpose. Harry hadn't backed down from his initial pledge of fidelity nor had he broken off the engagement, and a small part of him was beginning to hope that this wasn't some elaborate joke done in retaliation for making Harry his errand boy all those long months.
"Here, you must take this now," he said, plucking the vial of Veritaserum from the decorative bedside table. It had been sitting there since Monday, not that he would tell Potter this, or at least not until he was asked about it. He highly doubted the brewing process of the potion would ever crop up in their line of questioning tonight, though.
Their fingers brushed as the vial was passed between them and a jolt shot through him. His eyes snapped up to see startled green staring back at him. Potter turned an alarming shade of red and he tried to cover it by administering the requisite three drops of potion. Severus calmly accepted the clear vial back though his hands had begun a fierce trembling that hadn't been there previously. Potter reached across the bed and stilled his free hand, and one quick glance at the young man was enough to tell him Potter was worried about him. It certainly was an odd sensation to be sure, but no odder than the gentle caress to the suspicious outward curve of his stomach that Potter kept doing every time he visited.
Tonight would be no exception to the rule. Although Potter had yet to break the promise of hand-holding, the night was still young.
"What is your name?" he asked once Harry's eyes glazed over.
"Harry James Potter," came the prompt response.
Oh yes, the night was very young indeed.
"How old are you?"
"Twenty-four," Harry answered without missing a beat. Everything seemed to be working properly, not that Severus doubted his own brewing skills. It was Potter's knack for being able to find a way around most compulsion spells that was bothering him. He needed to ask a more personal question to know for certain.
"When was the last time you had sexual intercourse?"
"Last winter, January."
Severus arched a brow and shook his head. Potter's cheeks were flushed a dull red. He contemplated poking about for more information, but decided it was best left to rest. It mattered very little in the grand scheme of events; however, it was reassuring to know that Harry hadn't broken his vow.
"I always assumed you were more inclined to take up with women. W—"
"You're wrong," Harry interrupted, clearly hearing the implied question. "I haven't been interested in any girl since seventh year. It's been an awfully long time since I found tits to be a turn-on, or any other female bits."
Severus scowled for a moment. There were some questions he needed answered before the hour ran out, and he didn't feel like wasting precious time digging into Potter's love life, or lack thereof. "Why have you forced me to keep the experiment?"
"Because you call it the experiment. It's not an experiment anymore. It's a child. A baby, a little boy, your son. My son. I've always wanted a child, you know. Someone I could say without doubt was my family, and not just my honorary family. Marriages don't always succeed, but children, if you love them, there's a good chance they'll love you back. It's almost unconditional love. I want that feeling, I want to feel that feeling. You gave me the chance, and I didn't even have to knock up some floozy in Knockturn to do it either. I'm sure you think I would rather it be anyone else in the world, but you're wrong.
If you had worded your initial request to abort the baby differently, I might have considered it longer. But it doesn't matter now, since you're showing already. It's sort of cute."
The dull flush staining Potter's cheek had reached a brilliant red, and Severus found himself stunned speechless. That was not what he had been expecting. Especially not the last comment. Cute? Severus snorted, and observed Potter's slack-jawed expression contemplatively. He'd been trying to ignore the small lump, calling it a cankerous tumour easily got rid of, but it wasn't so. It was a living creature. A parasite, an unremovable one, but still as easy to kill as those that grew on herbs.
"And the courtship?"
"I didn't even know about it until Hermione pointed it out. It's really old. Did you know the robes I wore that night were Mr. Weasley's? I still can't believe he lent them to me, even if it was for one evening. I think they were his great-great-grandfather's or something. I actually did some research on the ritual, too. Did you know that even if you had accepted, we might not have been able to go any further if either of us felt negatively towards the other? I just found that out yesterday. I didn't think the magic started until the actual ceremony. Also, I bet you didn't know that the person who sets forth the courtship needs to be feeling strongly for their intended. It didn't specify what emotion, but I don't think hate would have cut it. At least I know you don't hate me anymore. That's a relief, you know? I always figured you'd hate me forever for making you stick through with the pregnancy, especially since you hated the idea. I—"
"Potter, enough." Severus slipped a few droplets of the antidote into the younger man's open mouth and sat back to wait for it to take effect. It didn't take very long for the hazy expression to be over taken by embarrassment and a healthy amount of fear.
"I—I," Harry stammered, squeezing Severus' hand so tightly he was certain it would bruise. "I—"
Severus rolled his eyes, and grasped Harry's chin firmly between two fingers. "Be quiet, Potter," he muttered before pressing a chaste kiss to startled lips.
The Sixth Month
As enormous as the book beside Harry was, the list Hermione had made up for him barely reached halfway down a page. He never knew there were such a large variety of flowers to choose from. It seemed nearly every flower had a special meaning, and he knew that without Hermione's help he'd choose one that meant a lack of passion or something equally insulting.
"I'd choose three flowers," Hermione advised, tilting the paper towards her. "And be sure you can explain each."
"Explain what they mean or..." Harry trailed off, tapping the feather of his quill against the table.
"Or," she said knowingly. "I know you don't like the idea of expressing your feelings so boldly, but how else will he ever know? Severus may be brilliant, but he can be astoundingly thick-headed."
"You don't have to tell me that, Hermione," Harry snorted, rolling his eyes. "I swear, even after I testified under Veritaserum that I'm not just doing this for the baby, he still doesn't think I care for him."
Hermione squeezed his shoulder. "And you do?"
"Very much. I may very well love him," he told her, grinning. Saying the words out loud released a heaviness from his chest that he hadn't known existed. She kissed the top of his head and he laughed. "Now, I just need to make my flowers say the same thing."
"Ivy," Hermione suggested, tapping the word. Harry scanned the meaning with some trepidation. "It's fitting, Harry, both meanings."
Harry held up one hand to halt any more unnecessary prodding. He'd get some. Fidelity and marriage strongly covered his and Severus' relationship, but he wondered if it would seem too forward. After all, once married Harry would no longer be bound by the fidelity clause and neither would Severus, but the thought of sleeping with anyone else made his insides twist.
No, ivy was perfect for the occasion. He knew this was truly his last chance to get Severus to accept that his feelings were legitimate and not just some forgery or mockery.
"Purple lilac," he said, mindlessly going through the list of meanings.
"Harry?" Hermione touched his cheek with the tips of her fingers, trying to draw his attention towards her. He could sense her confusion about the choice, but he did not want to go into it with her. This was something that only Severus needed to hear. Maybe later he'd explain it to Hermione as well, but that would be much later.
He shook his head not wanting to go into it. "Purple lilac, where would I get some?"
"Owl order to the florist again," Hermione answered uncertainly. "But Harry--"
"Don't ask," Harry said, eyes flicking up to meet hers.
"All right." She straightened and made two check marks next to the chosen plants. "What else?"
"Walnut?" he asked, wrinkling his forehead in thought. They were green, and pinecone shaped. He decided that maybe it wasn't the best choice. "No," he stated, not waiting for her answer. "Myrtle?"
Hermione shook her head. "You already have Lilac to cover for that. Severus may find it suspicious if you have two flowers that both mean love in some form. What about a sunflower?"
"Adoration?" Harry blurted out in disbelief once he found the flower on the short list.
"You do, you know," she teased. "I can see it on your face every time you talk about him. It's cute."
"Merlin, Hermione," he chuckled and tickled the crook of her arm with his feather. "It is not."
"Is so, now are you ready to place the order to the florist?"
"So I need a sunflower, some ivy and purple lilacs?" Harry recounted, glancing at the sheaf of crinkling parchment.
Hermione nodded and withdrew her wand from her trouser pocket, summoning another piece of parchment. "And you'd like them by tomorrow."
When the door opened to his quarters without so much as a courtesy knock, Severus didn't know whether to be outraged or horrified by the fact that he wasn't outraged. Only one person showed up at eight on Friday, and if the brat was as nervous about this as he was, then it made sense that Harry would have forgotten to knock.
He debated waiting in his bedroom until Harry searched him out, but in the end determined that doing so would only delay the inevitable. If Harry didn't take this step seriously, then the verbal contract would be broken. Severus wouldn't know so until their bonding day on Halloween. Setting the book aside, he swung his feet off the bed and stood. The wooden floor of his sitting room creaked once, twice, three times, and Severus knew Harry had begun to pace.
Sparing a glance at his abandoned robes, he stepped out of his room. "Potter," he greeted.
He inwardly chuckled when Harry jumped out of his skin. It was nice to know that even with his cumbersome stomach he could still enter a room noiselessly. The black-haired man stuttered something that may have been a greeting before moving towards him.
"I-I..." Harry stopped, snapping his mouth shut. Severus spied a creeping blush stalking up Harry's neck and smirked.
"You deemed it appropriate to purchase me flowers," he said, taking the small bouquet from Harry's lax fingers. He kept Harry's gaze instead of looking at the damnable flowers. The bulk of Harry's intentions and feelings were being held in his hands, and only the knowledge that Granger, or Weasley as she was now, had helped him choose them made it bearable. She had probably made the idiot a list to help him decide, and he was secretly glad of her predictability.
"I can take them back," Harry blurted out, biting his lip hard. He jammed his hands into his jean pockets and rocked back on his heels. "If you don't like them, that is. I can take them back."
It was a strange relief seeing Harry so irrefutably nervous about his choices. There must be something in his hands that caused the emotion and Severus was torn between fear of discovery and fear of rejection. The last bit worried him most. He could not recall the last time he'd been worried about someone rejecting him in this manner. Severus acknowledged that the very few relationships he'd had in the past were insignificant in comparison to the farcical one he'd been sharing with Harry.
"Maybe purple lilac was too much," Harry murmured in distress.
"Purple..." Severus' gaze shot down to the bouquet clenched tightly in his fist and he gaped.
"You surely jest," he snapped, glaring at Harry's fidgeting hands. They had gone from his pockets to his belt loops, to under his arms in less than a minute and it was irritating.
"Weasley's wife must have explained what--"
"I know what it means," said Harry with a strained smile. "And it's the truth."
"First love," he spat. "Not even I am foolish enough to believe you love me, let alone you loved me first. You and your paramours have been splashed across every tabloid in the country since you were fourteen."
"And I loved only one of them."
"But I loved you before them," Harry insisted, taking another step forward until he wasn't
standing more than a few inches away. "I loved you even when I thought I was in love with Ginny."
Severus couldn't believe what he was hearing. "What?"
"I've loved you since sixth year."
"Impossible," Severus scoffed, anger shimmering just below the surface, "you loathed me as much as I you that year."
Harry's eyes widened and incredibly, a chagrined smile appeared on those youthful features. "True, I did hate you. I wanted to kill you at one point, but still..."
"You had best explain yourself, Potter, this instant."
"I still have it, you know, your Potions journal. I went back and found it and kept it."
"My what?" Icy dread caught at his heart as he recalled the Malfoy incident in Harry's sixth year. His suspicions had been strong at the time, but without the physical evidence he had been unable to prove his theories true. Now here he stood, sixth months pregnant with Harry's spawn of all things, and instead of the familiar elation of being proved correct he felt nothing but fear. "Dispose of it, immediately."
Harry blinked up at him, his mouth parting in shock. "Why?"
"Do you know how dangerous an object that is? You foolish, arrogant--"
"Stop right there," Harry snapped, gripping his chin firmly in one hand. Severus inhaled
sharply, but couldn't find it in himself to move away. He found himself captured by the frustration in those glittering emerald eyes. He nearly missed what Harry had to say to him, but another sharp squeeze forced him into paying attention. "I haven't even touched the sodding thing in years, and it's locked up as tight as anything in Gringotts, so stop right now."
Harry pressed two fingers to his lips stemming the flow of verbal accusations. His eyes crossed as he tried in vain to see those fingers. He could feel them though. With one hand, he reached out for Harry and pulled him flush against him. His lips burned under the gentle touch and before he could stop himself he pressed a small kiss to them.
"You..." Harry breathed, letting out an airy chuckle. His eyes flicked up to meet his and for a moment Severus couldn't breathe. "I may have loved the Half-blood Prince when I was sixteen but--"
Severus carefully removed Harry's fingers from his lips. "Now, I believe it is your turn to stop." And to prevent anything else from being said, he bent down and captured Harry's lips in a firm kiss.
"Ginny!" Harry laughed, sweeping the redheaded girl into his arms, and twirled her around. The usual crowd in Diagon Alley pressed around them as the patrons made their way from shop to shop, small children wailing as they were dragged past the ice cream parlour, and new Hogwarts' students pushing their way into Flourish and Blotts to purchase their first textbooks. "How's the team been?" he asked.
Ginny beamed and pulled out a ribbon from her pocket. "We won! Harry, we won!" she shouted, wrapping her arms around his neck with reckless abandon. The Chudley Cannons Championship win had been in every edition of the i Prophet /i for the past week and Harry had a hard time pretending he hadn't noticed. "I can't believe it." She laughed delightedly.
"Neither can I," Harry answered, tugging on her braid. "I mean, seriously, I bet Ron was over the moon."
"He had box seats. I think it's amazing he didn't fall over the edge in his excitement."
Harry smiled and shook his head. "Congratulations."
"I've heard the same could be said to you," she teased. "Finally managed to bring about that baby you always wanted."
Harry flushed, but not even his embarrassment could stop the smile those words caused from spreading across his face. "It's amazing, Gin. I don't even--"
Ginny chuckled and pinched his cheeks. "Aren't you a proud one," she cooed, fluttering her eyelashes up at him. "And you've managed to let Snape keep you around as well."
"He's certainly not making it easy," Harry mumbled. "He hit me with a newspaper yesterday, nearly put out an eye."
"Hormones," Ginny supplied.
"That's what Poppy says, but knowing that doesn't make the irrational anger any easier to handle."
Both of Ginny's eyebrows lifted in surprise. "You're telling me Snape's not always irrationally angry?"
"No, he's not," Harry answered shortly.
Neither of them noticed the flashbulb of a camera go off across the street.
The Seventh Month
The chilled September air fit the sombre mood that surrounded the duo standing beside a large white tomb. Three feet separated their persons, providing no barrier for the wind that whipped about them. Harry shivered and tugged his heavy winter jacket closer around him. This afternoon expedition served no purpose if he couldn't get Snape to forgive him. They might as well not be standing there at all. Harry pulled his wand from his pocket and took Snape by the arm before stepping inside the protective shield surrounding the tomb.
Warmth pervaded his skin and he sighed, ignoring the pang of hurt when Severus wrenched his arm
from Harry's hand. It didn't matter that they hadn't spoken in weeks; the only important thing was that they were both still following through with the courtship. Harry had thought that Snape would have pulled out of the ritual after last month's news article. It wouldn't have been as painful as being so near to the man and unable to touch him without risking being hexed. All his efforts had nearly crumbled into ruin by his careless show of affection towards Ginny. He hated that Severus hadn't even let him explain the circumstances to his face and that he'd been forced to pen him a letter instead.
It seemed inadequate, pathetic and hopeless. But Snape hadn't incinerated the note, nor had he sent it back unopened. He hadn't done much of anything but use the backside of the same piece of parchment telling him to set the date for the next stage of the ritual.
It had been cold and precise, leaving Harry oddly numb as if nothing had been resolved.
Glancing up at Severus' stony expression, he realized nothing had.
"What are we doing here, Potter?" Snape asked with a disdainful look at the white and yellow potted flowers surrounding Dumbledore's tomb.
"Seeking approval." Harry looked up at him with a weak smile. "And saying goodbye."
"You do realize that this stage involves communicating with people who are of our world," Snape sneered, nudging one of the terracotta pots with the toe of his boot. "Or rather, alive."
Harry shrugged, kneeling beside the monument. "It never specified, not that it matters," Harry added, pulling a pot full of daffodils towards him. He pulled off a single bud and transfigured it into a spade. "Dumbledore was the closest person to a parent either of us had. It seemed right."
Rustling could be heard as Snape dropped slowly to his knees beside him on the hard earth without comment. His hand rested on his bulging stomach, rubbing in small circles. Harry's eyes were drawn to the moving hand and he flushed when Snape caught him at it. He quickly looked down at his own hands, trying to calm his nerves. They stayed like that for a few seconds, shoulders brushing with each breath.
Snape touched the pot of snowdrops before him with the tip of one bony finger. "These will all be dead in a week's time. They are not meant to be planted in this season."
"No, they won't." Harry handed Snape the transfigured spade, before picking up a rock and making one for himself. He dug a small hole before answering Snape's unasked question. "This bubble we're in acts as a hothouse. The temperature regulates itself to keep the flowers alive."
Snape upturned a pot of white periwinkle into his hand, fingers threading through the stalks so he didn't crush them. Harry grinned down at the ground as he dug out the rest of the hole. Severus' easy acceptance of the situation filled him with dizzying elation. There had always been the chance that Severus would back out at the last second, leaving Harry alone in the dirt.
"Feeling clever, Potter?"
"Harry," he said, patting down the earth around the daffodils.
Snape's eyes narrowed and Harry continued to plant as if he didn't notice. He wasn't sure what Snape was searching for and as the seconds slowly crept by, Harry found it harder not to look over at him.
He swallowed at the whispered name, eyes closing as a tremor raced through him. It had been so long since he'd last heard his given name pass the older man's lips. His fingers twitched in the moist earth, and were suddenly covered by a larger dirt encrusted hand. "Not especially," he finally answered, offering Severus a shy smile before fumbling for the next container of flowers.
The Eighth Month
Harry spun around as he made for the stairs down into the dungeons. Poppy came bustling towards him at a harried pace and as she drew nearer the blood leeched from Harry's face. There was something in her expression that made his stomach flip-flop. His fingers slackened on the hanger in his hands and he nearly dropped the formal white dress robes that it held.
"What...?" he asked in a tone no louder than a whisper. One horrifying thought after another crossed his mind in the short silence that followed his question.
"Oh, now." She absentmindedly petted his cheek as if reading his thoughts. Her tone, however, was strained from worry. "You must come with me this instant."
Harry nodded, and almost had to jog to keep up with the rushed woman. "What happened?"
"Severus wishes to see you, dear," Poppy said instead. Harry gripped her wrist to get her attention and she stopped. Taking a hard look at his face, she sighed. "He began to have contractions this morning during his lessons."
"But it's too early," Harry gasped, stomach bottoming out even as his heart became stuck in his throat. "Is he okay? Is the baby?"
"They're both fine, Harry," Poppy soothed, cupping his cheek once more. "Have you heard of false labour?"
"Yes," Harry hesitated, one hand still gripping her wrist. "But?"
"I have ordered Severus to take permanent leave of all his classes and stay in bed until the child comes into this world."
Harry winced in sympathy. "I take it he didn't like that very much?"
"As much as Severus likes any of my mandates," Poppy replied, lowering her hand from his face. Harry released her, irritation and fear replaced by concerned amusement. "But like I said, he's been asking after you for the past hour, now come along and take care of your grumpy life-mate."
"We haven't bonded yet," Harry mumbled, colouring in embarrassment. He had been hoping to discuss the closing of the courtship ritual with Severus that night. First, however, he needed to reassure himself that the git was okay. "We were supposed to do it tomorrow."
"You still can, dear." Poppy's smile was full of affection as she led him down the hall towards the hospital wing. "Many rituals do not specify what position the couple needs be in. So long as Severus remains in bed, there should be no difficulties."
Harry nodded his head. He had read of one bonding ceremony that called for them both to be naked, but Harry would rather go for the more traditional one. It wasn't that the idea of stripping naked before Severus bothered him, it was the fear that Severus would be uncomfortable stripping before him. The more time Harry spent in Severus' company, the more often he found himself fantasizing about what the man hid under his plentiful robes. There were also times when all he wanted to do was touch Severus' bare stomach, to feel the baby he had accidentally given his DNA to beneath his fingertips only separated by skin, not layers of clothing.
"I demand to be released at once," Severus snapped the moment they stepped through the doors. Poppy huffed and Severus' scowl deepened. "I am perfectly capable of getting rest in my own rooms."
Harry scooted around the mediwitch with a large grin on his face. He knew he was taking advantage of the situation and Severus' arm restraints when he leaned over and planted a kiss square on his forehead. "You're whining. I thought I had the monopoly on that."
"Snape," Harry mimicked, resting his hand on Severus' greatly protruding stomach. It felt odd to him and he couldn't tell why. Severus kept up his glare for another minute before it fell into a petulant scowl.
Harry sat down on the edge of the hospital bed, and tucked a strand of Severus' hair behind his ear. "Poppy," he asked, looking over at the hovering woman. "If I stay with him for the night, can he be released?"
Her lips pursed and Harry wondered if she was about to scold him. "Are you willing to restrain him if he tries to get up to do anything more than use the bathroom?"
"Of course," he said, fighting the smile off his face.
"Mr. Potter," she warned.
Harry grinned. "I promise," he said, holding up a hand, "and if I can't, I'll firecall right away and we can get Minerva to make him cooperate."
Severus grumbled under his breath and Harry shot him a dirty look. They could fight about Harry's take-charge attitude later, it wasn't like he had expected Severus to act completely docile about the proceedings, but a little gratitude for helping him escape the hospital wing would have been nice. Poppy moved around the bed, undoing the metal restraints with a simple incantation.
It took another ten minutes of firm instruction on Poppy's part before they escaped down into the dungeons and the safety of Severus' rooms. Harry busied himself in the kitchen area, preparing a pot of tea. Until he sloshed tea over the rim of one of the cups he hadn't even realized his hands were shaking. He gripped the counter in a lame attempt to stop his entire body from trembling, but the action couldn't prevent the burning in his eyes as tears began to form.
"You're an idiot," he muttered, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand and finished pouring the tea.
Two hours of silence was more than he could bear. Harry shifted in the chair beside Severus' bed where he had been watching him sleep. He knew he had promised Poppy he would keep an eye on the man, but he had taken it that one step further and now regretted his hasty decision to watch over Severus at all times.
He stood and stretched his stiff limbs, before heading into the sitting room and the bookshelf in the far corner of the room.
If Severus woke up in his absence, Harry hoped his self preservation skills would kick in and he wouldn't move. The book he was looking for rested on the bottom shelf, which wasn't where he had left it the last time he'd been there. How often had Severus removed the book and read through it, he mused, thumbing the yellowed pages without reading the headings. Its musty scent made him smile.
He reckoned Severus liked it as well, he would be the type. He'd ask one day after they were bonded, which he hoped to be in the next hour.
Book in hand, Harry returned to the bedroom, determined to present his plea to Severus the moment he woke up. Rejection was unacceptable.
Severus opened his eyes the moment Harry sat down in his abandoned chair. He stared up at the ceiling and heaved a sigh. He would get used to this position. He had to. The stillness in the room was not a coincidence, and he realized part of it was his fault. They were going to discuss their bonding tonight. It felt ages ago now since Harry had firecalled him to ask if it was all right to come over that night, to ask if he was all right. He hadn't been, but the pain in his lower back hadn't been new either.
It occurred to him that Harry thought he was sleeping peacefully and that was part of the reason for the quiet in the room.
"I am not dying," he said gruffly, pushing himself up so he was sitting. Harry was at his side in an instant, helping him settle into a more comfortable position. Without bothering to ask, Harry crawled up onto the bed beside him, flinging an arm over his abdomen. A wet nose brushed against the side of his neck. "Are you crying?"
"No," Harry gasped, his grip tightening. "Yes."
Severus lifted his hand to run it over Harry's quaking back. "Yes."
"I am fine," he said, continuing the soothing motion until the shudders had subsided. "I'm fine."
"God, you both could have," Harry choked on his own words as he pushed himself up onto his elbow, and Severus' hand trailed down his back and fell to the side. "You could have…"
"Died?" he supplied in a detached manner. "Yes, I do suppose we could have."
"I don't want you to," Harry whispered.
"No, listen." Harry leaned against Severus chest, unhappiness written in the deepening lines on his forehead. "I know that everyone has their own time to go, but yours is not for a very long time, do you hear me?"
The tension in Severus' shoulders dissipated at the confession, and he reached out, tracing the curve of the younger man's cheekbone. "Harry—"
"You're not allowed to go before me," Harry grumbled into his chest. "And neither are you," he added in a gentler tone, dusting his lips over Severus' blanket covered stomach.
"I can't make that promise, Harry," he murmured, tilting up Harry's chin. "The likelihood of me outliving you is slim, but I can promise that I shall not be leaving this world presently."
Harry nodded slowly and pulled back, but not before kissing the corner of Severus' mouth. The bedcovers rustled as Harry struggled to get off the bed and Severus couldn't repress the smirk when Harry nearly fell off the side. Severus watched the black-haired youth cross the room to the armchair Harry had designated his own months ago when their Friday night drinking ritual had begun. It was strange to think that those nights of drinking tea would be occurring more frequently if Harry decided to reside with him.
The idea didn't disgust him as it once would have. Fascinated with the way Harry's trousers stretched taut over his arse, Severus missed Harry's hesitant question. He didn't even notice the other man had spoken until a quirky smile lit Harry's face.
"And here I thought I was the one who didn't listen," Harry teased, folding one leg under him as he sat back down on the edge of the bed. Severus barely glanced at the large book in Harry's hands already knowing what it would say. Despite the events of earlier that day, Harry's visit to the castle hadn't been pure luck. There had been a purpose for them today, and with a sudden feeling that his mouth was full of cotton wool, Severus understood exactly what Harry wished to do.
"I want to do it now," Harry said, pushing the book into Severus' hands.
He glanced down at the tome with disinterest, but the pleading tone in Harry's voice as he said, "Please" made him reconsider. He flipped through the pages finding the spell they needed to complete the ritual and held the book back out to Harry.
"You must incant it. I cannot," Severus told him. "I am not allowed to cast anything of substantial power."
"And that's it? I just have to wave my wand and say the spell and that's it."
"That's it," he agreed, settling the massive book onto his lap. He caught Harry's hand in his own and brought it to his lips, brushing a kiss over the knuckles. He smirked at the tremor that took hold of Harry's body. "You hold many misconceptions about this part of the ritual for having done such great amounts of research on the other stages."
Harry bit his lip, raking his fingers through his recently cut hair. "I actually wanted to talk to you about it, but I guess there's not much to say."
"No," Severus agreed, wincing when the baby kicked in his bladder. Rubbing his hand idly over his stomach, he waited for Harry to proceed, but it seemed the brat had other ideas. "I am fine," he said, misinterpreting the look on Harry's face completely.
"I've never been here when he moved," Harry breathed, reaching out a trembling hand towards Severus' rotund stomach.
He caught Harry's clammy hand in one of his own and carefully set it on his lower abdomen. Harry glanced up at him in surprise, before an ear-splitting smile blossomed on his face. Severus kept a loose hold on Harry's hand, but even he didn't miss the telltale movement of a tiny foot bending his flesh slightly outwards. The expression on Harry's face could only be described as bliss and then mortification.
Severus smirked. "Are you going to say the spell, or are you going to content yourself with staring at me for the rest of the evening. If it's the latter I must insist you summon me some book to cure the doldrums that will surely follow."
"I'm saying the spell," Harry muttered without removing his hand. "Just…give me a second."
"One," Severus drawled, earning a nasty glare which was perfectly acceptable.
Harry sniffed and turned his attention back down to the book. "Once we do this, there's no backing out, yeah?"
"Yes," he affirmed, briefly tapping Harry's cheek.
The younger man's shoulders relaxed and a daft grin crept back onto his face. "All right, then. Let's do this."
The Ninth Month
Harry jerked awake only to find Severus was no longer sleeping beside him. Instead, a terse note rested on Severus' pillow telling him in no uncertain terms that he was never allowed to drink a sleeping aid again, and if he didn't meet him in the hospital wing in less than five minutes he would wish he had taken something stronger and never woken up. Harry reread the letter three times before the message finally clicked.
He couldn't remember getting dressed or putting on his glasses, but, when he tumbled out of the Floo into the hospital wing, his blank memory didn't matter so much anymore.
"You're late," Severus' low hiss froze Harry in his tracks. The man was propped up by no less than three pillows and his entire body seemed deflated.
Harry scratched the back of his neck with a sheepish grin. "You could have doused me with water."
"And risk having you kick the baby in the head? I think not," Severus huffed.
Harry stepped forward again, but this time with a great deal of caution.
He stopped when his knees hit the side of Severus' bed. "The baby?"
"Is being cleaned, Mr. Potter," Poppy told him, elbowing him none too gently out of the way, "and I will kindly ask that you wait across the room while I cast some last diagnostic spells on your husband or you shall be forced to leave."
"Poppy?" he asked in confusion.
But the mediwitch wasn't listening. Harry shot Severus a desperate look, but it too was ignored. Defeated, Harry slouched off across the room to wait. He couldn't believe what an idiot he was. The baby was being cleaned, vitals being checked? How could he have missed this? Sinking down on one of the empty hospital beds, Harry drew his knees to his chest content to just watch. What must they all think of him? He was the worst person on the planet.
Harry couldn't see the Healer that had come from St. Mungo's to assist Poppy, but he suspected even if he could the Healer wouldn't wish to be disturbed. It was an oddity, after all, male pregnancy. Harry wasn't sure he'd see his son at all that day, especially if the Healer kept insisting on doing more tests. He wanted his baby healthy for his and Severus' sake, but he wanted to see the newborn as well.
"Mr. Potter, you may come back over now," Poppy called, beckoning him over with a glove-covered hand. Her eyes glittered in the low candlelight of early morning, and Harry knew he'd been forgiven, if he was ever in trouble in the first place. Scrambling off the bed, Harry practically ran to Severus' side, a dull flush creeping up his cheeks as he tried to think of an appropriate way to apologize for being so stupid.
"I'm sorry," he blurted out, the moment Poppy moved away from the bed. Harry didn't even look up to see where she had gone, too focused on the man lying on the bed before him. "I knew that...and the potion was only...and I was an idiot!"
Severus scoffed and grasped Harry's hand. "Of course you're an idiot, Potter, I would be forced to worry if you were anything else."
"Thanks, I think," Harry said, grinning uncertainly. He sank down onto the rumpled linens of Snape's bed, staring at their joined hands. "I'm sorry," he whispered after a few minutes. "I never thought I'd miss--"
"It was a simple surgery, nothing more."
Harry blinked and searched Severus' face in confusion. "That was almost reassuring, you know."
Severus arched a brow, a smirk breaking his expressionless mask. "I certainly cannot have you wailing harder than our son, can I?"
"Have you seen him? The baby?"
"Certainly not," Severus huffed. "They took him the moment they removed him from me."
Harry wrinkled his nose. "That's cold."
A polite cough saved Severus from having to answer. Harry looked up to find Poppy smiling at them. His heart flip-flopped as he realized what she was about to say. He bit back the wide smile that threatened to spread over his face when she said, "I'm sorry to interrupt, gentlemen, but Healer Jordan wants to know if you would like to see your son."
"Yes," Harry answered in a breathless whisper. "Yes?" he repeated gazing down at Severus as if to reassure himself that they both wanted this. Severus gave a short nod and Poppy clasped her hands together. Harry got the faint impression of Hermione in sixty years time and the thought nearly made him laugh. He felt ready to burst in a thousand different directions, and Snape's hand in his was the only thing anchoring him. He couldn't remember a time he'd been more excited or nervous about something before now.
Healer Jordan, a tall, mousy-faced brunette, emerged from Poppy's office carrying a blanketed bundle in her arms. Harry worried his lower lip as she drew closer, finally gazing up from the baby to look at them.
"Which one of you would like to hold him first?" she asked, adjusting the yellow blankets to reveal a small, red, sleepy face.
"He would," Harry said, managing to speak despite the pounding of his heart and the sudden lack of air in his lungs.
Severus spluttered in shock or outrage, but Harry folded his arms across his chest giving the healer no other choice. It was Severus' right, not Harry's, to be the first to touch their son, to hold him, to claim him. It had to be Severus whether or not the man agreed with him.
The healer didn't seem to mind the sudden undercurrent in the room as she circled the bed. "Hold your arms like this," she instructed, demonstrating for them both. When Severus made no move to correct the position of his arms, Harry adjusted them for him. The look in Severus eyes promised death, but Harry found he really didn't care, and was delighted when Severus turned his attention back to the witch holding their baby.
She smiled as she carefully settled the newborn into Severus' arms. "Meet your son."
Harry swallowed thickly. Severus wasn't moving, Harry wasn't even sure if he was breathing. "My--"
"Son?" Jordan chuckled. "I'll leave you three alone for a few minutes, but he still needs to be looked after, in all my years...male pregnancy."
Severus exhaled in a whoosh of air that ruffled the blankets surrounding the boy's hair. "Son."
"Weird, isn't it?" Harry joked, pushing down the edge of the thick yellow blanket so he could get a better look. It took him a few seconds to realize the baby wasn't trembling from the cold, but that Severus was shaking instead. "Severus?"
"I'm cold," Severus grunted, shifting in the bed so he was sitting just a bit higher against the backboard. Harry was afraid the baby would roll out of Severus' arms because of how loose his hold was. "Just cold."
Silence descended upon the hospital wing as both men stared down at the rousing newborn. Tiny arms flailed a bit before stilling, and Harry noticed the way Severus' grip tightened on his son.
"We need to give him a name," Harry remarked, hating that he had to ruin the sudden life in Severus' eyes. "Have you given it any thought?"
"Not as such, although I have a strong suspicion you've been waiting for this occasion to tell me what you wished to call him."
Harry flushed, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose with his thumb. "Dorian. It means 'from the sea', not that that matters all too much, I just thought it'd be nice to know that it didn't mean anything horrible." When Severus didn't say anything, but look back down at the baby, Harry knew he'd won, not that there had been much of a competition. He traced the baby's nose with the tip of his index finger. "Reckon he has my nose and not yours."
Severus' finger followed the same route a beat later. "It won't be obvious until he's grown more."
Harry nodded, dropping his wandering hand to Severus' thigh. He looked up into calm black eyes and grinned crookedly. "Do you think we'll be any good at this?"
"No," Severus shook his head, snarled black locks falling across his face, hiding what Harry suspected was a very real smile, "but we shall manage. We always do."