Title: Echo.

Author: thesewarmstars.

Rating: R.

Warnings: Allusions to child abuse

Word count: 1301.

Disclaimer: I'm making zero dollars off this story.

Author's note: Thank you to atypicalsnowman for beta reading. She kept poking me, telling me to write, so you can blame her for this. Okay, fine, I'm to blame. d= I promise fluff next time! Maybe. Originally posted at Severus Sighs Yahoo! group.

"Severus, would you help me just this once?" Harry called, his voice boiling in frustration.

"I am busy at the moment," Severus shouted back. He hurried to the kitchen, wondering if brewing tea constituted 'busy'.

He was standing over the kettle, waiting for it to boil, when a hand on his shoulder startled him.

"Severus? What are you doing?"

Severus scowled. "I should think that is obvious."

"Making tea was so important that you couldn't help me give Teddy a bath?" It was Harry's turn to scowl as he bounced the wet, towel-clad toddler on his hip.

"You should get some clothes on him."

Harry gave a frustrated growl. "This is ridiculous! Why are you doing this?"

"Doing what?" Severus asked, eyes sliding away.

"You never help take care of him. You don't bathe him or dress him. Thank god he's not in nappies anymore, since I don't think you ever changed a single one. Merlin, Severus! Do you want to be his father or not?"

Severus drew his jaw back up from the place it had fallen. "I feed him. I… I read to him! How could you say such a thing?"

"I'm sorry, it's just… I don't understand!"

"Papa!" Teddy said as he leaned away from Harry, reaching for Severus with both arms, squirming free of his towel.

Severus wanted to take him, to hold him, but he took a step back. "You should put his pajamas on."

"Fine, but you're coming with me." With that, Harry grabbed Severus by the arm and marched them to Teddy's room. Once inside, Harry lowered Teddy to the floor and dropped to his knees, drying him with the towel. He was brusque, but thorough, brushing the towel over all the cracks and crevices, running his hand along behind it.

He turned to glare at Severus, standing in the doorway. "Well? Are you going to help?"

"This… no. This is inappropriate. I should leave you."

"Inappropriate? What are you saying, that you wear the pants in this family and you shouldn't be minding children?"

"Don't be ridiculous."

Harry threw the towel to the floor. "Then what the fuck is your problem?"

"Nothing whatever. I simply… would you dress him?"

Harry got to his feet and picked up Teddy. "You do it!" he demanded, holding the naked boy out.

"No yelling," Teddy mumbled, but neither paid him any mind. He kicked his legs, and his tiny penis bobbed between them.

Severus leaned back, clenching his fists. "Are you mad?"

"He's your son, you git! What is wrong with you?"

"Completely inappropriate," Severus grumbled.

"I can do it. I'm a big boy!" Teddy chimed in.

Finally, Harry put him down. "That's right," he said without feeling, peering curiously at Severus. "Of course you can, Teddy. Go on."

Teddy clapped his hands and busied himself sorting out the bottoms from the tops, and Harry came closer to Severus. "Why is this inappropriate? Talk to me."

"No," Severus answered, nodding toward Teddy, who was bent over his pajamas with no concern as to his unclothed state.

"Fine," Harry said. He helped Teddy sort out his night clothes, first tugging white Y-fronts, then the sleep pants up over his bottom. He pulled the shirt down over his head, found his stuffed bear, and tucked him into bed. Finally, he brushed his thumb over Teddy's cheek and pressed a kiss to his forehead.

All the while, Severus stood silently at the door, watching.

Once Teddy was just about asleep, Severus followed Harry to the sitting room.

For an endless moment, neither man spoke. Severus simply stared into the fire, while Harry studied him with a furrowed brow.

"You don't want to be around him when he's naked," Harry said finally. "You never touch him."

Severus stiffened. "Well, of course I don't!"

"It's normal to be close to him, Severus. He's your son, and he's not even four years old. There's nothing inappropriate about giving him a bath."

Severus made no answer. All he could think about was large hands on a small, wet, completely defenseless body and it made him shudder.

"Do you think it's wrong when I dress him?"

"No, of course not."

"Then what makes you any different? You don't… I know you don't, but I'm going to ask you anyway. Does touching him arouse you? Does seeing his naked body turn you on? Do you want to – "

"No!" Severus choked out, his pulse pounding in his ears. "Merlin, Harry, of course not! Stop it." He clenched his trembling hands into fists.

"Severus."

"Stop it," Severus whispered, closing his eyes. He felt the sofa shift as Harry moved closer.

"Severus, look at me."

He could not, but when Harry grasped his hand he managed to open his eyes and train them on their entwined fingers.

"You are not your father," Harry said. "Or your uncle, or your grandmother, or whoever it was. That's not you. You just love our son – that's all."

Severus worried that his tight grip was hurting Harry's hand, but he could not seem to loosen it.

"It's normal to want to touch him. To smooth his hair and kiss his cheek and tickle him. There's nothing wrong with that. You won't hurt him."

"How do you know?" Severus whispered.

"Because I know you."

"What if – "

"No, Severus. That's not you. If I thought for a moment that you liked little boys, I wouldn't let you near him. But that's not you. Just because it happened… before doesn't mean it will happen here."

"But – "

"No! Tell me honestly. Does thinking about him get you hard? Seriously, you can tell me."

"No." Severus shook his head. "No."

"You're certain?"

"I… Yes, I'm certain."

"Then stop worrying about it. You're not going to hurt him."

Harry leaned his head against Severus' shoulder and Severus soaked in his warmth, his scent. They breathed.

"When did it start?" Harry asked after a while. "How old were you?"

Severus was glad Harry could not see his face. "I don't know. As far back as I can remember." He brushed his fingers through Harry's hair and swallowed through the thickness in his throat. "I do not wish to discuss it."

"Fair enough. You all right?"

"Fine. I'll be certain to… help out more."

Harry squeezed his hand. "Good, Severus. That's good." He leaned up and pressed a kiss against Severus' jaw. Just as he was moving to kiss him properly, Teddy poked his head through the door.

"I'm thirsty," he said, rubbing his eyes.

Harry quickly got him half a glass of water and he drank it down. "All set?" Harry asked.

Teddy shrugged. "Yeah."

Harry was about to reach down and scoop him up when Severus spoke.

"I'll take him."

"You sure?"

Severus nodded decisively and picked him up. After an awkward moment, he got the boy's legs settled comfortably around his waist. He could feel the heat of his skin through his thin shirt, his moist breath on his neck when he laid his head on Severus' shoulder.

He could feel Teddy's little cock pressed into his side. He tensed and almost balked, but then felt the greatest rush of relief he had ever experienced when he realized he really had no desire to touch it, that the love he felt for this child was something entirely separate from that. It was what a father should feel, he thought.

"All right?" Harry asked.

"Time to go back to bed," he muttered in lieu of an answer.

As he laid the boy in bed, already half asleep, he almost panicked again. Surely it was inappropriate, but would one little kiss hurt? He had seen Harry do it.

"It's all right," Harry murmured behind him.

After another moment's hesitation, he leaned down and quickly pecked Teddy's cheek.