Disclaimer: I don't own either Harry Potter or the Firefly Universe. JK and Joss are much better writers than I am and deserve to earn the money I don't earn from these characters!

Title: Escape from the Dark and Into the Black

Pairings: Snarry - one-sided Harry/Mal…And Jayne? Let's not talk about Jayne. This be Slash. If you don't like, don't read. If you're set on believing Mal could never be remotely 'sly', don't read.

Warning(s): Use of toys, adult language, mention of non-con exhibitionism? Anyways, after a little smexy action that gets our boys onto Serenity, there's not much in the way of graphic sexy stuff. Badly written Czech accent and probably incorrect Chinese translations (although they do come from Firefly). AU for where, when and how Voldemort croaked and of course the Snarry relationship. Harry is 19 throughout the story. Minor spoilers for Firefly.

Summary: Snarry-a-thon 2010 Entry. Prompt – Snarry Firefly. Harry and Severus disappeared after they defeated Voldemort. They reappear 500 years later on Malcolm Reynolds' ship, Serenity, much to the surprise of all parties. No one knows what it means except that it is yet another job the Serenity crew might not get paid for.

A/N: Special thanks to Alisanne for being a quick and wonderful beta! Any remaining mistakes are my own! I hope that although this may not be a universe you are familiar with, you enjoy our boys being in it. You do not need to know Firefly to read this so I hope you'll give it a try. I've tried to explain as much as possible for those who do not know Firefly. Thanks to all my fellow Snarry-a-thon comrades who left such nice comments back at the fest!

Escape from the Dark and Into the Black

Prologue

Five hundred years after Harry Potter defeated the Dark Lord, his name lived on in legend and fables. Earth-That-Was was barely remembered among the Muggles that had ventured into space seeking refuge from a dying planet. The magical community that had joined the exodus, however, passed the oral traditions of the Boy-Who-Lived who defeated one of the most powerful Dark Lords of all time. His sacrifice led to 100 years of peace and prosperity. Numerous books were written of his exploits. His companions' names also became larger than life. Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Albus Dumbledore – Severus Snape. It was too bad that another Dark Lord had come along and Harry Potter was not there to defeat him. Wizard-kind had made his name so legendary that they believed he would come back from the dead whenever his world needed him. But that sword was never pulled from the stone. The violent and brutal war had depleted the planet of its magic and therefore ending up destroying the earth's eco-systems and the resources that were dependent on magic for their vitality.

Early on, the government of China, one of the two great powers, wanted to destroy all Wizards and Witches once they learned of the reason for the impending death of the Earth. They feared their power. The Americans, the other major power, still held on to their beliefs that "All Men Were Created Equal." They argued that credo included Wizards even though privately they also wished Wizard-kind did not exist so they happily agreed to a compromise which planned to set Wizards on their very own planet in the outer rings of the new solar system, far away from the Central Planets. They were left under strict governing rules that they were not to ever go off planet. The Alliance, as the combined powers were known, left them with little to no resources on a barely terra-formed planet and said they could use their magic to make their way. The Wizarding community, decimated after years of war and a declining access to their magic, accepted this decision. There were not enough magic users left to defeat the hordes of Muggles that now existed. In exchange for being allowed to live and move off planet, regardless of the restrictions, the Wizarding community used what little magic they had left to ensure that the fleet of ships successfully made the journey.

Along with Wizards and Witches, small groups of other magical creatures were allowed to join the exodus as well. Many chose to die with the Earth as their magic was too tied to it. Fairies, unicorns, thestrals, and centaurs did not make the journey. The few giants left were denied transportation due to their sheer size. They took too much in the way of precious resources.

Crups, kneazles, phoenixes, owls, elves, and goblins did make the trip. A few vampires managed it as well, but they generally remained in secure seclusion aware that the Muggles would never accept them. Families were not allowed to bring much other than what they needed to survive, but they made a pact to try to bring at least a few pieces of cultural relics in order to retain their cultural history. "Hogwarts: A History" was one of the relics that survived.

The goblins reestablished a "Gringott's" branch, but so few families had anything worth storing in the vaults, they were almost empty. Along with important goblin-made artifacts, including the famous Sword of Gryffindor used by Harry Potter used to kill Voldemort, the Goblins also preserved as much as they could of several key vaults of Wizarding Leaders.

Shortly after their arrival, exposure to bacteria not recognized by the immune systems of the many settlers took many lives. Goblins were the hardest hit. If the population had been small to begin with, it was devastated now. Those that remained focused on surviving. The goblins returned to working metal as that was far more valuable skill on the desolate planet they lived on than any banking services. The vaults were long lost to memory except by a Goblin of each generation tasked with being the sole holder of the vault keys and keeper of the traditions.

After this devastation, the Alliance lost interest in keeping track of the denizens of this magical community since they were no longer perceived as a threat, and, outside of rumor and myth within the Alliance walls, were forgotten about. The 'verse moved on.

Chapter 1 – Unexpectedly Lively Cargo

It was morning on Serenity – or as near as morning as one could get out in the black. The crew maintained a general schedule to keep a sense of daily rhythm. That morning, though, some were slower to get up than others since the day before had been filled with work. Another successful heist in fact. The crew had been allowed to relax a bit now that they were headed back to deliver the stolen goods and get paid.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds was in the Galley heating up an old cup of coffee and politely ignoring the slender dark haired man getting a plate of food from the dish left for the crew. Mal had attempted to eat but was tired of protein globs no matter how many ways Kaylee, his chipper chief engineer, tried to make it look like meatloaf, cake, or any other type of foodstuffs she attempted to make from the stuff. After weeks with nothing but "protein" forms for food, he couldn't wait to get paid for this job and go buy real food. Apples might be a nice change. He'd be sure to sharpen his knife again for that.

"Ughh – what exactly is this gos se*?" Simon, the other man, sat down at the table glared at the plate of food he'd just dished up. It did not look remotely appetizing.

"Kaylee's gone and made scrambled 'eggs', Doc," Mal said slightly amused at Simon's unusually vulgar language which seemed to match his equally unusually messy black hair and wrinkled clothes. Mal was used to seeing the Doc looking all crispy-like. Today he looked more like Mal himself, tousled and disheveled. Kaylee must have kept him up late doing things he'd rather not think about. "Least that what I think it's supposed to be," Mal added with a hint of a smirk as he swiped his large hand through his unkempt brown hair in an unconscious attempt to smooth it out.

As soft as the Doc was on Kaylee, Mal enjoyed watching Simon swallow the ghastly yellow blobs and try not to spit it out even while he was turning green. The Doc wouldn't want to insult her attempt at cookin'. Even if she wasn't in the room, he would always act the gentleman towards her. Mal appreciated that Simon treated Kaylee so well. She deserved it, even if she didn't understand his gallantry. Mal loved Kaylee like the sister he never had. He liked the Doc well enough. He did his job. He was also smart and useful. He also knew he'd kill Simon in an instant if he ever hurt his mei-mei*.

There was silence for a few minutes. Mal appreciated that Simon didn't feel the need to fill the air with useless chatter. He wasn't much for talkin' himself unless somethin' needed sayin'. He did however enjoy provoking the boy at times. Being brought up in the Central Planets made Simon a bit of an elitist even if he was on the run from the Alliance with his sister. He was about to say something to him about Kaylee and the noises he'd heard in a couple of nights before just to watch the private man blush all shades of red but just before he could say anything, a tall, lithe black woman came rushing into the hall. She moved with both speed and grace.

"Captain, you better come," she said urgently and yet she had a small smile on her face so Mal knew it wasn't something awful. "You too, Doc. It's River." Zoe, his second in command, knew how to cut to the quick. She had a commanding presence which somewhat irritated Mal since he was the actual commander. It was his boat after all. But Zoe had been loyal to him for some unknown reason Mal had never sussed out. He just figured she was crazy but too polite to let anyone know that.

Simon leapt up quickly at the sound of his sister's name. "What's happened? Is she alright?" Mal knew Simon hadn't seen the playful glint in Zoe's eyes as she had come in the room so he knew Simon would be worried.

"She's fine, Simon," she paused, "she just opened the package is all. And - well she's having bit of a spell," Zoe chuckled a little.

As they walked quickly to the cargo hold Mal asked, "The package? River opened the package we just stole? The one I said no one should touch since our 'client' said we shouldn't open it?" Mal asked to be clear he understood, "That package?"

"That's the one, sir," Zoe said striding beside him. "The good news is that nothing seems to have exploded."

That actually was a relief as Mal had no idea what had been in the package. He was hired to steal it and ask no questions. And that's what he and his crew did, at least most of the time.

As they came into cargo hold they could see the remaining crew members standing in front of a black box propped up against another case. They were peering into it.

Kaylee was tilting her head back and forth like a dog trying to hear a high pitched sound. She was dressed in her usual cargo pants and obnoxiously colored shirt. Her bright eyes were wide which would have concerned Mal had he not noticed the expression of delighted amazement on her face. Next to her was a large burly man was frozen in place with a flask halfway up to his mouth. He looked dumbstruck, but Mal did not find that at all unusual. Jayne wasn't known for his braininess.

Behind the two staring at the box was a pale, slender young woman dancing in circles with her long dark hair and pale pink skirt swirling around her. She moved with an easy elegant grace. It would have been a lovely sight had she not also been half yelling and half singing, "Come out now, come on out now. Time to get out. Accio – accio, please, please, come already." Zoe walked up beside the two at the box.

Mal stopped to look at the scene as Simon halted beside him, "So – uh, Doc, she's still having trouble?" Mal asked somewhat politely to the shorter man. River, the dancing girl before them, had never been a harbor of sanity but since the events at Miranda she had been remarkably better. This seemed like a throw-back to when she'd first been brought onboard.

Simon watched his sister for a moment then looked at the Captain, "She's lucid about 80% of the time now. Considering what those people did to her brain, I think she's doing pretty well," Simon said hesitantly.

"I get that but I ain't worried about the 80% of her that's ok, I worry about the 20% that ain't. The client will not be pleased if they learned this has been opened. Go get your sister 'fore she decides to spit on it or something."

He turned to the rest of his crew, "'Kay, folks – this ain't a peep show." He heard Kaylee giggle. "Let's pack up the merchandise and see if we can't pretend it was never opened." Mal headed over for them a little curious himself to see what was in the box.

"It's weird, it's like they follow me with their eyes," Kaylee said as she paced back and forth in front of it.

Zoe stood beside her in silence with a slight smile on her face.

Mal came around in front and stopped. "Huh…" he said, perplexed.

Simon had wandered over as well and taken River's hand. His eyes widened as he saw the contents of the box. "Oh my god – the merchandise is a pornographic painting?" He quickly covered River's eyes as if he believed she was still a naïve young girl and not the grown woman she'd become.

There were two men in the painting. A tall, stern looking man with a rather large nose and matching equipment below standing at full attention. It was rather impressive equipment. He was wearing a heavy-looking long black robe, like a priest's, but the robe was open and he clearly had nothing on underneath with the exception of sturdy black combat boots. Beside him was a younger man. He was slim and had dark tousled hair and brilliant green eyes. The young man was bent slightly forward and hanging onto a bar above his head just in front of him. The older man was obviously stroking the young man to completion while his other hand was behind him. In the lower corner of the painting there was a small square that looked like an alternate view from behind. In this view it could be clearly seen that indeed the older man was thrusting a sizable bright blue dildo in and out of the younger man.

The room they were in looked like a cellar, or perhaps a dungeon of some sort, although there was a desk off to one side and a oddly luxurious bed in the background on the other. The scene was dark so the green eyes of the younger man stood out brilliantly as did all his pale flesh, including very realistic flushing on both his face and chest.

Although Mal wasn't generally sly, he had to admit the young man was rather pretty. Long dark eyelashes framed the green eyes perfectly on a nicely angled face. His lips were cherry red. His legs were lean but muscular. The alternate view showed an ass that curved in beautiful round, firm mounds. There was a red shadow of a hand print on it as if he'd been spanked. Mal swallowed, disconcerted by the image. It had been too long himself since he'd had anyone, let alone another man.

They all stood for a moment frozen looking at the plateau when Mal thought he saw movement.

"Did that man just move?" Zoe breached the silence, "I thought I saw his hand move."

"Soon – soon. Coming here soon," River said in a sing-songy voice from beneath Simon's hands. Mal noticed she thrust her hips back and forth slightly obscenely until Simon stilled her with another shocked look on his face.

The younger man seemed to open his eyes slightly wider. Mal approached the painting and peered down to see the title etched on the plate in the frame, 'Snape and Potter'. There was no artist's name associated with it but there was a year - 1999.

Zoe had leaned in to read it too, the sound of her leather pants crinkling as she moved. "So, a famous painting of some sort?" she asked no one in particular.

Mal stood up again and turned around to Simon. "This is more your area of expertise, Doc, ain't it. Being cultural and all. What is it?"

Simon moved around Jayne who hadn't budged at all. Jayne was like a giant wall of muscle. "Nothing famous as far as I know. It's certainly no masterpiece. Looks like luh-suh* to me."

Kaylee laughed, "What do you know? I think it's shiny!" she said cheerfully. "Hey – did you see that? Mr. Stern Guy just raised an eyebrow! I think he heard me!" she added with a surprised chuckle.

"They can hear us?" Jayne finally asked looking confused.

"Don't be daft. Paintings can't hear anything. They're just…paint," Simon said rolling his eyes.

"ABaCabaBabbleladabra…Lost to bad faith. Will be looking, will be searching," River sang.

"Shut her up – she's bothering me. I'm appreciatin' art here," Jayne said as he took another swig and grinned.

"Could we cover it up already?" Simon asked plaintively. Mal noticed his ears had turned hot pink.

"I think they're pretty," Kaylee smiled obviously needling her boyfriend.

"Pretty? They're men. I don't think pretty's the word," Simon argued.

"I think 'he's' kinda pretty," Jayne pointed to the younger man. Mal had to agree. With those green eyes, dark hair and slender build, the young man was certainly the definition of 'prettyboy'.

"Well – so one of them is pretty. The other one is very attractive though in a manly way," Kaylee huffed.

Zoe laughed, "I'd have to agree there. He's," she smiled and looked down at the taller man's cock, "impressive."

Mal had to agree with that too – although not out loud. Instead he said, "Enough gawking, folks. I need to pack this up."

Kaylee grabbed Simon's arms and started leading him away from River. "I think we need to go to my room and discuss this further," she grinned.

"But River…"

River was still dancing and mumbling. Zoe grinned, "River will be fine. I'll keep an eye on her." Kaylee was grinning widely and pulling on Simon's arm. "Come on – let's go have sex now." Simon turned beet red but stumbled after her.

"I'll take River to the Galley for a bit," Zoe offered. "You got that?" she asked Mal, tilting her head towards the painting.

Mal was still smiling after Kaylee and Simon but nodded. "I got it."

He was gathering the packing materials that had been strewn on the floor when he realized Jayne was still standing there watching the portrait. "Uh – Jayne. You gonna help or you gonna watch all day?"

Mal then noticed that the painting did move and he realized why Jayne was staring. The young man slowly threw back his head and looked as if he was on the verge of cumming. He even thought he saw the glisten of some semen begin to shoot out. i'That's some interesting painting,'/i Mal thought, just this side of fascinated.

Jayne started at Mal's questions and then looked at him blankly, "I, uh…gotta… I'll be in my bunk." And he raced out of the cargo hold.

Mal watched out after him and shook his head.

He gathered the rest of the material and then sat the box on the floor. As he was tucking in the packing material around the frame trying to ignore the young man's apparent orgasm, a loose nail caught hold of the fleshy part of the base of his thumb.

"Gorram it!" he yanked his hand away before he could spill any blood onto the painting, but he was too late. Several drops had dripped onto the canvas. Maybe if he just wiped the blood off, no one would notice. As he reached forward there was an explosion that threw him back several feet and onto his back. His long leather trench coat did not buffer the impact.

No sooner had he landed and tried to get up then he was thrust back down to the floor as a very real person landed on top of him.

"Uh…oh God…uh…uh," the stranger grunted into his neck and he felt a strong thrust against his groin followed by a very warm spurt across it. Mal lie still for just a moment almost savoring the warmth on top of him but looked up to see a tall, imposing man wearing black robes staring down at him intently. The same man, in fact, that had been in the painting.

That meant the person that was currently collapsed on top of him, somewhat boneless he thought, was the other man. He looked down at the mop of messy dark hair just below his chin and he could feel the heavy panting against his chest. It had been a long time since he'd had someone press against him and it felt just a little too nice to be comfortable.

He looked back up at the other man trying not to notice his lean build and his, apparently not exaggerated for art's sake, swollen cock and then back down and just said "Huh…" very flatly.

After a few long moments the man standing said, "Harry – perhaps you could get off of that gentleman now." He had a deep rich and resonant voice. Mal watched as he arched an eyebrow at Mal in obvious curiosity as to who he was.

"Huh?" came a little murmur from somewhere in the area of Mal's chest. Without thinking, Mal had put his hands on the man's back and felt how hot his skin was and the slickness of sweat that would quickly cause a chill now that it was exposed to the air of the cargo hold.

Harry braced his arms on either side of Mal's body and raised himself a little to look dazedly at Mal. "Who're you?" he mumbled quizzically.

"Name's Malcolm Reynolds. Maybe we could discuss this sitting up?" Mal raised an eyebrow at Harry's puzzled expression.

"Um…sure," he said.

Mal sat up a little grasping Harry's hips to help him sit back up as well.

"OW! Damn!" Mal froze at Harry's yelp and then stared up at the other man who had not done anything other than begin to button his own robes up.

"What?" Mal looked at Harry's pained grimace. He watched as Harry reached around and pulled on something. After a second Mal saw the obscenely large dildo in Harry's hand that had been wedged so tightly into him in the painting.

"Bloody hell – that hurt," Harry sighed out a breath of relief and then sat up gingerly. Looking down, Mal saw that he noticed the wet spots now decorating Mal's khaki-covered groin and maroon-shirted belly. "Um...er sorry about that," Harry apologized sheepishly and then tried to wipe them off.

Mal grabbed his hand quickly. He didn't want the young man to notice how aware he was becoming of him. "No … no it's, uh, fine."

Harry finally looked him in the face so Mal could view him closer. Up close he seemed slightly older than he did in the painting. He could see the beginnings of a five o'clock shadow and the chiseled jawline and angled cheekbones of someone no longer carrying any sort of "baby fat". There were just the lightest traces of crow's feet evident at the corner of his eyes that were visible through old-fashioned round glasses.

"Get off him already, Potter," the older man pulled up on Harry's right arm and yanked him to a standing position in front of himself.

Mal stood and brushed himself off and put a stoic face back on.

"Exactly where is this place?" the darker man asked somewhat demandingly as he looked around. "Is this some sort of warehouse? Who do you work for?" Mal realized the man was interrogating him – on his own boat.

"Well now, as you are on my boat, I should be asking you. What in the hell just happened?" Mal could glare just as hard. There'd be no one intimidatin' him in his own home. "Who are you people?"

He saw the older man stand up even straighter, if such a thing could be possible. Honestly, the man stood as if an iron rod was plugged up his bum. And at that visual image, Mal looked quickly to see the large blue dildo laying on the floor just to be sure it wasn't in that man's butt.

"As if you don't know. How much are they paying you for us? What does Malfoy want with us now?"

The other man started leaning forward as if to try another intimidation tactic but Harry turned around to face the man and put his hand on his arm, "Severus – calm down," he said softly.

Mal tried very hard not to stare at the lithe taut lines of Harry's back and legs, let alone his nicely shaped ass. It had been hard enough not to stare when he'd been facing the other direction when Mal had noticed his reddened nipples and the treasure trail of soft dark curls from his belly downward.

"I will not calm down, Potter. We have been trapped for how long? How long have we been made to do whatever that idiot could think of? This guy's probably taking us straight to Lucius so he can finally do what he's been threatening to do." As he looked down at the shorter man, Mal could see a roiling of emotions in those dark eyes as they pleaded for understanding from Harry.

Mal watched Snape's pale face redden in anger. He thought he should do something to calm them. Obviously they were people important enough to someone to kidnap? Trap? Enslave? He wasn't sure what was going on but he sure as hell didn't care to be tradin' in people. He'd done his share of illegal blackmarket deals. Drugs, weapons, stolen fancies, but not people. That was where he drew the line. He tried to never care about what he was hired to transport or take but he did have limits.

He was reminded of the time he had stolen medicine and then stole them right back to the folks he'd originally stolen them from on account of his heart going a bit soft. At the time, he didn't know it was medicine for sick folks before he took it, but after he'd learned that, he couldn't rightly just give them up to the man that hired them. Made it a bit tough to find work as he'd earned a bit of a reputation for sometimes not finishin' a job.

'Course after the "Miranda" events, it got harder. They were now wanted even more by the Alliance, regardless of what the Operative had said. Those people still wanted River and her crazy brain.

So now he watched the two as they seemed to drift a bit back into their own world.

"How long have I had to…do those things to you? I just don't want him to touch you," he ended with a soft, sad whimper.

Harry reached up one hand and stroked Severus' face. "Not your fault – it's not your fault." And then Mal noticed Harry began to shiver.

'Damn – what kind of an idiot am I?' He whipped his leather coat off and stepped forward to wrap it around Harry.

Snape watched him carefully as he had stepped up behind Harry but didn't say anything. He watched intensely as Mal placed his coat over Harry's shoulder. Harry glanced over his shoulder and nodded "Thanks," he said quietly. Mal noticed a black clad arm wrap around Harry's back and pull him away from Mal.

Harry turned around to face Mal again and held the coat closed. The coat was overwhelming large and drug across the top of Harry's bare feet.

"So we're on a boat?" Harry asked, "Where are we heading?" He shifted his feet back and forth a bit as if nervous.

Mal stared at them and then the date he had seen on the frame came to mind. He realized if that was an accurate year, then there was a lot they had to talk about since that would have been five hundred years or so in the past and back on Earth-That-Was. And he really wanted to find out how in the hell a painting became a person. That would take some doing. Looking at Harry's bare feet, he made a decision.

Mal stepped back to make them feel more at ease and leaned against a crate. "So – I'm thinkin' you all have an interestin' tale to tell. And I sure as hell have one for you so why don't we start with," he eyed them both, "I don't know who you are, I didn't know you were in that box, and I don't have any intentions of hurting you less you hurt me or mine first. And I don't know who this Malfoy person is. If that's enough for you – I say let's get you some real clothes 'fore your bits freeze off."

Harry nodded and Severus looked suspicious, but said nothing. At that very moment Harry's stomach grumbled quite loudly, "And maybe some food," Mal finished with a small smile.

Severus actually smiled at Harry when his belly grumbled. Harry looked sheepish. "Sorry – I always get hungry after an orgasm."

"Don't need to know that!" Mal exclaimed and headed off down a corridor.

The other two hesitated and Mal turned back, "Are you coming or not? Or do you prefer sleeping in the Cargo Hold with nothing but my coat to warm you, Harry?"

They moved quickly to catch up.

Chapter 2 - Meeting the Crew

Mal left the two men in one of the guest quarters after telling them he'd go find a few supplies. They should probably be checked by the resident doctor but since neither man seemed particularly ill, Mal didn't want to interrupt the assignation he knew was occurring in Kaylee's quarters. He also didn't want her yelling at him for interrupting her fun. i'When did I go all soft?' /ihe wondered. His chief engineer should be in the engine room doing enginy things – but instead he just let her go have sex instead in the middle of the morning.

Ah well. He headed to Jayne's first. Other than himself, Jayne was the only other man large enough to have clothes that would fit Severus Snape. But he wasn't parting with his own clothes if he could help it. He'd been charitable enough for one day.

"Jayne – open up!" he yelled as he banged on the door.

"What! Hang on," After a few second, Jayne flung his door open in an irritated huff. "What's got you all worked up?" he growled as he buckled his belt.

Mal knew he should try to look stern that Jayne too was ignoring his duties, but seeing a large white glob hanging in Jayne's hair just amused him. It's not that he didn't know why Jayne had returned to his bunk that morning.

"Jayne – I need your clothes," he stated baldly with a small smile.

"What?" Jayne appeared shocked. "I ain't taking my clothes off for you. Go jerk yourself off," Jayne said, clearly misunderstanding.

"Jayne, I ain't interested in your manly body. Don't want the clothes you got on now. Just we have some unexpected guests and both of them need some clothes to wear – temporarily of course. One of them's your size."

"We got naked guests? How'd that happen? Where are they?" Jayne seemed enthusiastic about that change of events as he looked out into the corridor in obvious expectation that said naked guests might be standing there. He gave a sniff of disappointment to learn they weren't.

"Remember the portrait? Well those folks are ireal/i folk now." Jayne jerked back in surprise at Mal's statement.

"Thought Doc said they weren't real," Jayne thought out loud. Mal could smell the smoke of his thought processes being overworked. What Jayne had in brawn, he lacked in brains.

"Don't think of the hows Jayne. You'll just injure yourself. They were there, now they're here – in real living color. Get a couple of shirts and pants," Mal said.

"Why mine?" Jayne turned back to room and began pulling a few items out.

"Mine are dirty," Mal lied. At least Snape had had his boots and robes on, so he had something to start with. Jayne would never give a pair of boots up.

Jayne looked like he was calculating something. Mal was pretty sure he knew what was coming. "So – the two guys from the painting huh? Guessing this is for the taller guy. Maybe the other can stay naked…"

"No! And - they are off limits, Jayne. Dong ma*?" Mal interrupted. He would not have this big lug bothering either of them. They were guests on his boat, willing or not.

"Understood," Jayne answered. "But someone owes me for this. You can pay to get me some whores next time we're planet-side."

"It's just a loan, Jayne. You'll get them back," Mal argued.

"It's an IN..CON..VEN..IENCE," Jayne insisted and looked very proud at using such a large word.

"Fine – but I tell you that will be one very cheap whore for what your clothes are worth," Mal conceded.

"'Kay. That's fine by me. I like the cheap ones." Jayne handed him a couple of shirts and two pairs of cargo pants. Snape would have to do without any undergarments for now. "That all, Mal? 'Cause I'm busy here." Jayne looked deeply annoyed.

For that Mal chose to not tell him to clean up after himself. He was sure someone else would be happy to - or maybe they wouldn't.

"Thank you so much for your generosity," Mal said as the door closed in his face.

He hoped Simon would be more understanding when he took clothes from him for Harry. Of course since he was going to go find River to let him into Simon's room to get those clothes, Simon may not actually find out for awhile.

Meanwhile

Severus sat on the slim bunk and looked around the small, metallic room. It was sparsely furnished. Other than the bunk, there was no evidence of a lot of other furniture. There was a small chair in the corner by what seem to be a table that could be extended from the wall. Along one wall there were a couple of computer screens although nothing was currently being shown.

It looked as though there were several drawers recessed into the wall rather than freestanding furniture, like the pull-out table.

Harry sat next to him huddled up against his side clutching the worn leather coat around him. He had his eyes closed. His skin was pale and chilled, his lips almost blue.

Harry began to tremble a bit. Severus pulled him tighter and leaned forward to kiss his messy hair. "Harry, it's done. We're out."

"I know. It's just all so confusing." Harry looked up at Severus. "Do you believe him?"

Severus arched an eyebrow, "I take you mean the Captain." At Harry's nod, Severus tilted his head. "Right now I don't trust anyone but you, but at least we're out of that damn portrait so it's a step in the right direction."

Harry nodded again. "He seems trustworthy, but then again I thought that of Malfoy after he turned on Voldemort," Harry snorted. "I don't think I trust my own instincts anymore."

"Lucius Malfoy will pay for what he's done to you." Severus pulled Harry onto his lap and held him tightly.

After a moment Harry pulled back a little to look Severus in the eyes and cupped his face gently. "To us, Severus, he did it to us." Harry then leaned back into Severus and rested his head in the crook of the other man's neck.

Severus rested his head on top of Harry's as tears threatened to fall. "We'll be fine, Harry. Rest for a bit. And if that Captain is taking us to him, well then he'll pay, too." The young man nodded a bit and each man wrapped their arms around the other. Severus leaned back against the cold metal for added support as they held each other in silent reassurance for a long time.

As Mal approached the guest quarters he wondered how he was going to tell his guests that they were now, he guessed, about five hundred years from where they started. He wondered if they would believe him.

He knocked on the door waiting for one of them to say it was ok to enter. Being Captain he could, of course, override any lock or open any door on the ship, but he felt pretty sure that barging in would not reassure them of his intentions.

He heard a small rustling. Followed by some squeaking. He assumed they had been on the bunk waiting. After a few moments, he chuckled as he heard, "Where the hell is the doorknob on this thing?" It was definitely Harry sounding irritated.

"There's a button on your left. Just press it," Mal instructed through the door. "Where…? I don't see…Oh wait, hang…" Just then the door slid open sideways, "--on," Harry finished, looking surprised to see Mal appear before him suddenly.

Mal held out the first set of clothes with a pair of black shoes sitting on top. Harry took them from him. "Here – I think these will fit – or close enough," Mal said as Harry stepped aside and let Mal in the room.

Mal then walked to where Severus was standing. He handed the other set of clothes at him. "And I think these will do you for now."

Severus grimaced a little looking at the khaki pants and shirt. "Do you always keep such finery in storage for unexpected visitors?" he asked sarcastically.

"We only serve the best," Mal smirked. "Believe me, they cost more than you would think," he continued.

Harry put his items on the bunk and held up the starched white shirt a moment. Severus glared at him. "Why didn't he get a...," he looked questioningly at the graying white cotton tee, "'Blue Sun' shirt as well?" he finished.

"Seemed more your style," Mal teased.

"It is like someone swapped our wardrobe isn't it, Severus?" Harry grinned. He turned to Mal and filled him in on the irony of the situation. "Captain, normally I only wear jeans and tee-shirts. Severus likes to be far more formal. These black pants and white shirt are far more to his style." Harry grinned at the taller man. "You know, I don't believe I've ever seen you in anything other than black. This could be fun!"

"Shut up, brat!" Severus grimaced.

Mal smiled and said, "I'll wait out in the corridor while you change."

Mal chose to take them to the bridge where his story might be a bit more believable. Along the way he could see both Harry and Severus taking in every detail of their route. He even noticed the quizzical looks when they saw the Chinese characters in several places.

"Thanks for the clothes," Harry said from behind Mal. "They actually fit pretty well."

"You can thank the Doc later. I borrowed them from him." They reached a set of metal stairs and Mal stood to the side indicating they should go up them. As he waved them on he grinned at Harry, "'Course you'll have to be the one tellin' him where you got the clothes."

"What – you mean you stole them?"

"Borrowed…'sides he was busy. I don't think he'd have liked me interruptin' his afternoon just to ask him for something I knew he'd let you use."

Both Harry and Severus walked up the few steps and stopped at the landing in front of a closed metal door.

Mal stepped up and pushed a button. The door slid open and he walked through. Harry and Severus followed hesitantly.

"Where – where are we?" Harry asked looking at the myriad of buttons and lights and panels surrounding them. A young woman was seated in one of the two seats at the front of the cabin. A third chair was to the left of them. It was a small, cramped space with barely enough standing room for tall people like Mal or Severus. It was very utilitarian and somewhat dark.

"Welcome to the bridge," Mal said. He pointed to the dark haired girl, "This is River. River, meet Harry and Severus."

River's brown eyes danced with laughter. "So pretty…" she said. She leapt up in the chair, crouching in it as she spun it around.

Harry looked quizzically at both Mal and Severus then leaned forward and reached out his hand, "Um…Nice to meet you, River." Severus stayed where he was. Mal could see he was trying to size her up as a potential enemy. Most folks automatically discounted River as a potential threat seeing how thin and small she was when in fact she was probably the most deadly person on board. Not that she'd killed as many people as he had, or Jayne or Zoe, but she was certainly a lethal weapon in and of herself, no accessories needed. He was impressed that Severus did not make the same assumptions as most people.

She reached out to touch Harry's hand but instead of shaking it she poked it. "Mal – he feels real."

"Uh – 'Cause he is real River. Don't ask. Can't explain it. Just is."

"Oh – Ok then," she said acceptingly and then grasped Harry's hand and pulled him forward suddenly. Severus lurched forward but Mal held a hand in front of him and whispered, "It's safe."

She stood suddenly and hugged Harry. "Hello, Harry." Then she twirled around gracefully until she faced Severus. He tried to step back but she hugged him too. "Welcome, Severus." She immediately crouched back in her chair and looked forward again.

"So, River – everything ok?"

"Yep – Serenity's singing to me. She's happy now. She likes family reunions."

Both Mal and Severus raised their eyebrows at her. "Ok then," Mal said. "Why don't you take a break for a bit, River? Ask the crew to join us in the Galley in 20 minutes." She nodded and got up and left. He turned back to the other two. "So anyways, this is the bridge," he said as he sat down in the other chair.

Severus took a step forward to peer out of the front. "Where are we exactly? Are we underwater?" Harry stepped up beside him to look out. He put a hand on the small of Severus' back and rubbed small circles in reassurance. The view was very dark except for the lights shining on Serenity itself.

"No, we're not underwater. Actually – we're in space."

"In space?" Severus stared at Mal. "In outer space? You're telling us we are in outer space?" he asked sarcasm lacing his deep voice.

"Is there another kind?" Mal answered.

"What?" Harry exclaimed, "Are you freaking kidding? No way. There's no way. Not even magic could do that!"

Mal furrowed his eyebrows. What are they talking about? Magic?' he wondered.

"What kind of idiotic numbskulls do you think we are? Outer Space? In a Flying Saucer?" Severus asked point-blank.

"No. A spaceship. Firefly class. Named Serenity," Mal answered calmly.

Severus stared at him for a moment then started to laugh, actually laugh. His face turned red as he guffawed and collapsed in a chair. Mal looked to Harry not quite knowing what to say. Harry looked dumbfounded as he saw tears coming out of Severus eyes and rolling down his face.

"Uh…Severus…" Harry said.

"Space! The Final Frontier…, HAHAHA. Space…where no one can hear you scream, HAHEEHAA... By Grabthar's Hammer…Space!"

"Severus, are you…uh ok?" Harry walked over to him and put a hand on his shoulder. He looked at Severus in amazement. Mal wondered if Harry had never seen Severus laugh.

Severus took a deep breath while trying not to choke on a giggle. He looked at Harry, "Space travel – you know like all those Muggle movies."

"Uh, no. Remember I never saw any Muggle films? What are you going on about? And when exactly did you see Muggle films?"

Severus wiped the tears from his eyes. "Oh right, you never got to see any movies. Ah well, nevermind. I'll take you sometime." He patted Harry's hand which was still sitting on his shoulder. "I used to sneak in to watch them during holidays. Got me away from the always festive Snape household," Severus said to Harry. He turned to look at Mal with an odd smile. "I have to admit you had me going for a minute there. I don't believe I have ever found anything so amusing. Not even when I turned Potter's hair into Medusa's snakes."

Mal looked at Harry, puzzled. "He turned your hair into what?"

Harry rolled his eyes at both of them. "Snakes, and it wasn't my hair, it was my father's hair."

"He turned your father's hair into snakes? How in the crappin' 'verse does someone do that?" Mal asked wide-eyed.

Both men eyed him. "Magic," they stated flatly.

"Magic?" Now Mal began to laugh. "You mean, 'Hocus Pocus, abba cadabra…follow the yellow brick road?'"

"Actually it's Avada Kedavra…but yes – magic," Harry answered his eyes wide between the two men. Clearly Harry thought everyone had gone insane.

Mal stared for moment then laughed a full belly laugh that echoed Severus' earlier, "Right – and you're a bunch of wizards spelled into a magic portrait until Prince Charming comes to set you free. HAHAHA HEE."

"Uh – yes, actually," Harry stated.

Mal stopped and stared at them. "Really?"

Both men nodded at him.

"Huh..."

After a few moments Harry asked, "So seriously – where are we?"

Mal leaned back against the panel. "I wasn't lying. We are in outer space. In a spaceship. In my spaceship to be precise." There was a long silence in the room.

"Right. And I supposed we've traveled in time as well? At least a hundred years or so since no one was exactly capable of this type of space travel when I last saw Terra Firma," Severus said with more sarcastic snark. There was a long pause, "Right," Snape finished as he stood and stepped towards Mal.

"Five hundred years to be exact," Mal said with firm conviction as he stood back up. He wasn't going to let this man intimidate him.

A sudden "fwoosh" and both men turned to see Harry landing heavily in the seat. "Five hundred – iyears/i did you say?" His voice was small.

"Yes," Mal confirmed. "According to the date on the frame, that painting was done in 1999 on Earth-That-Was. It is now 2520."

"Earth-That-Was? What does that mean?" Harry asked looking up at them with wide green eyes. The round glasses he wore seemed to magnify his emotions. Mal felt a little ill having to tell them.

"Well, the Earth you know, the one you came from is gone. We're in a different solar system with planets terra-formed by the governments to accommodate the folks that left Earth behind. We are in space a great distance from the planet that you knew." He let that sink a moment, then added, "I'm sorry."

Both men watched Harry deflate into a kind of melancholy. "Oh…that means everyone is…they're all…" he looked up at Severus with big tears beginning to form, "--dead..Ron, Hermione, everyone…"

Severus seemed torn between running to Harry and exploding. He seemed to choose the latter.

"What kind of game are you playing, Captain?" Snape advanced swiftly on Mal and grabbed the lapels of his shirt and yanked him forward. "What kind of sick person are you? Why would you make up such terrible lies?" he spit in his face.

Mal reached down and grabbed the pistol out of his holster and thrust it under Snape's jaw. "Don't you accuse me of lying on my ship!" he yelled back. "Stand down!"

"I will not. You will not harm Harry. You can take me to Lucius but don't play games with him anymore. He's been through enough!" As Mal clicked off the safety, Severus added, "I can kill you with a thought before you have a chance to pull that trigger." He stared into Mal's eyes. Mal felt a kind of pushing forcing its way into his consciousness. It was a pressure he didn't like. He began to put pressure onto the trigger. He didn't want to kill the man but there was no gorram way in hell he would stand there and take this.

"Stop!" Harry rushed between them. Both men were sweating, adrenaline pumping through them. Mal wondered if Snape's heart was beating as fast as his and if Harry could feel both of them. He had placed a hand on either chest and pushed them apart. "Stop," he whispered.

The shorter man squared his shoulders and faced Mal. "Are you telling the truth?" he asked Mal softly with a slightly broken voice.

Mal gazed into Harry's eyes as if he could will the young man to believe him. "I may be a criminal but I ain't no liar. I wouldn't lie about something like this," he said. Again he felt a slight push into his mind like he felt with Severus. It was oddly warm. It didn't feel as aggressive as before. Mal didn't know what it was. He didn't like it, but he certainly preferred Harry's 'feel'.

"He's not lying, Severus," was all Harry said before he turned away and sat back down. Mal wasn't quite sure what just happened to convince him but Harry seemed to completely believe Mal. Harry left out a big exhale. "What are we going to do?"

Severus went over and knelt beside him. "We'll get through this like we always do." There was a pause for a moment and then Severus gave a hint of a smile. "Harry, I know that your friends may be gone, but that also means Lucius Malfoy is gone as well. He'll be one less worry for us now."

Harry looked up and smiled sadly at him, "You're right. Odd though, you finding the positive in a bad situation. Isn't that my job?"

"Well maybe this really is an opportunity for us to start over," he said as he squeezed his lover's hand. "We didn't have much time together before this whole mess started."

Harry nodded then looked at Mal. "Sorry. We seemed to have caused you a lot of trouble."

"Trouble would be my middle name. If I had a middle name that is." Mal nodded at them. "I know you have lots of questions. I got a load of questions too about this magic stuff as I'm guessing that wasn't a lie either. We can answer questions later though, 'cause right now I got a situation I need to handle. Best we introduce you to the rest of the crew. "

"Are they all like River?" Harry asked as he stood up. "She's a little..uh…different."

"Nope, some are even stranger," Mal answered with a smile as he adjusted a few controls to set the auto pilot in motion.

Chapter 3 – Devising the Plan

Mal led the two men back down the corridors and into the Galley. It was a large room with a kitchen area to one side and a sitting area on the other. In the middle sat a large wooden table and chairs. He saw his crew milling about the room getting drinks or snacks or just getting comfortable. He noticed how both Harry and Severus were eyeing up the crew as they entered the room and how they both quickly looked and registered where the room exits were. These were two men who were used to quickly sizing up potential trouble.

"Where'd they come from, Captain?" Kaylee asked before a dawning recognition hit her face. "Tsai boo shr* – you're the guys from the painting!"

Suddenly everyone started speaking creating a loud clamour. "Bizui*" Mal shouted. "Sit!"

Everyone quickly shut up and sat down, but all eyes were on the newest guests standing next to the Captain.

"Wow – they really are..uh..real. I thought you said they couldn't be real?" Jayne asked Simon.

Simon looked at the two men suspiciously. "They can't be. Maybe they stowed away. A trap of some kind?"

"You think they came on board when we loaded the painting?" Zoe said, her hand softly resting on the gun in her holster.

Mal indicated that Harry and Severus should sit in the empty seats next to him, but he remained standing.

"I can tell you that is not what happened. This is Harry and Severus and yes they came from the painting." He was very quiet as he said that.

Simon frowned, "Are you on some medications I should know about Captain?"

"Simon – I saw them come out of the painting. I don't understand it all but apparently magic exists and that's how they got in the painting."

"Again – are you on something? Because that story is a load of ee da tuo da bien*."

"Shut it! I don't know what's fact yet or not but for now let's take it at face value. At this point these two seem as lost as we are. Let's start with introductions," Mal faced the two men. "That very cynical fellow right there is Simon Tam, our resident doctor. You've met his sister River already."

Simon grimaced and didn't say anything. Kaylee, next to him, elbowed Simon. "Ow," He frowned at her, rubbing his side. She stuck her tongue out and stood and went to Harry and put her hand out, "Hi – I'm Kaylee. Forgive my very rude friend but I'm delighted to meet you!" Mal saw Harry visibly relax as Kaylee welcomed him and he took her hand. He could always count on Kaylee to make friends.

"That's Zoe, my second in command," he nodded towards the tall woman who was sitting on top of the table at the other end with her hand still on her gun. She just nodded back with no expression.

"And Jayne," Mal finished as he pointed at the remaining crew member.

"So – you all hump in real life like you did in the painting?" Jayne asked bluntly. "'Cause I'd like a shot at that."

Everyone stared at him in horror.

"What?" Jayne replied to the faces he was getting. "You all enjoyed looking too," he said.

"I didn't," Simon argued.

"Well, that's 'cause you're a …"

"Jayne!" Mal cut him off. "Enough."

Mal turned to Harry and Severus, "Sorry. So – why don't you tell us what you do know and let's see if we can't figure out what in the hell happened."

Severus and Harry spent the next hour describing their world, their time and their war. After several attempted interruptions from the crew, Mal told them to hold all their questions and let the men speak.

"When I finally defeated Voldemort, there was only me, Severus and Lucius Malfoy left standing in the room. Lucius had provided key information to destroying the Dark Lord and I trusted him. Although he had been a Death Eater, he turned traitor, or so I believed. I thought he was like Severus and had realized what a terrible path he had led his family down. Now I realize he just wanted Voldemort out of the way."

"After I turned to Severus in the moments after Voldemort's destruction, Lucius slapped a portkey on us and he were instantly transported to the Malfoy dungeons. After a long time, Lucius came to us and told us how he'd claimed to witness the deaths of the Dark Lord and of Harry Potter and Severus Snape as they defeated him. He was quite proud of the fact he didn't try to attain any of the glory himself. Felt it was more believable if we had defeated him while Lucius had hidden."

"Lucius always was a coward so that would be easy enough for anyone to believe," Severus added.

"Told us our names would live forever and weren't we proud of ourselves?" Harry finished as he started to tremble. Severus put an arm around his shoulder.

"Do you want me to continue?" Severus asked Harry softly.

"No I can do it," Harry said. "Lucius was afraid that although he had provided the key information for the destruction of the Dark Lord that Aurors would be suspicious of him. Seemed that Voldemort at least left some ashes behind him but neither Severus nor I did so there were rumors we were still alive. He needed to hide our 'live' bodies so magic couldn't detect us in the Manor. In our world, there's a way to animate portraits after a person's death so the portrait seems very real, but it's not really them no matter how real they may seem. Lucius, though, learned of a way to use Dark Magic to do the same thing except that it did really put us into that painting."

"I guess rumors went around for awhile or Lucius liked the fact we really were helpless as we had been there for months. Maybe he thought there was a chance we could escape had we been left in the real world. Which would have been true but a painting like that, we probably would never have figured out how to escape it. We didn't understand the magic that was used to put us in there. So he left us there, but he visited us often. The only time we became aware, or conscious as you'd say, was when he was present so it's not like we could try to escape when he wasn't there. And his magic could manipulate the setting of the portrait. It acted like an Imperius curse on us."

"Imperius curse?" Mal did interrupt at this point.

"It's a curse that forces the person it's cast on to do whatever the spellcaster tells them to do," Severus spoke up for the first time. "While Harry could and often resisted the curse, my ability to withstand it was slightly less. And Lucius liked to make me…" Severus stopped, seemingly unable to continue.

Harry spoke up. "Lucius had a cruel streak. And he enjoyed his victim's humiliations. He liked to…play with us. Liked to make us do things to each other."

"Or me to Harry would be a more accurate description," Severus finished with hard eyes shining as he squeezed Harry's shoulders again. Harry smiled at him with concern on his face.

"Well – that's just horrible," Kaylee spoke up indignantly. Mal couldn't disagree.

"And then one day in the middle of one of our tamer sessions we heard a loud explosion. He boxed us up quickly with no explanation. As the magic began to fade out of the room with his exit, we felt the tug of the portkey yet again before basically blacking out and waking up here. That's all we know."

Everyone sat drinking their various drinks while contemplating the story they just heard. Finally after a few minutes Harry sat up a little straighter. "So now what?" Harry asked. "I mean - what happens to us?"

Zoe watched the captain carefully before speaking. "We do have a problem sir. What exactly are we going to tell Badger?"

Mal nodded, "Yeah – that is a problem. Seeing how I got no cargo to deliver, I'm thinking he might be fussed a bit."

"And we won't get paid – again!" Jayne groused. "I'm getting gorram tired of not getting' paid."

There was silence around the room for a moment.

Harry coughed. "So is, um, this Badger, he a bad guy?"

"Well he's not known for his compassion and understanding," Zoe answered.

"How angry will he be? I mean – he hasn't paid you yet, so it's not like you stole anything," Harry said.

"Not really the point. This won't be the first time we've been unable to deliver the goods." Kaylee said as she handed a cup of coffee to Simon and put her own in front of her.

Simon thanked her with a nod but added, "Badger is somewhat of a bully. He'll feel the need to show his displeasure with us. He'll come after us."

"He's still a little king of a tiny hill…little kings like to play at being big men," River added as though she was clarifying it for everyone.

"Thanks, River," Zoe smiled indulgently. "No – the real issue is we've had some problems getting work lately. Had some issues in the recent past that makes our usual employers a bit nervous."

"We tanked some jobs thanks to Saint Mal," Jayne muttered.

"Jayne…" Zoe began.

"S'all right Zoe. Jayne's right. Our reputation's tanked lately 'cause we haven't gotten the jobs done that we were hired for."

Kaylee spoke up, "Captain – we did the right things, you know. You did the right thing. We all feel that way…" A little mutter from Jayne started and Kaylee shushed him. "Ok – we all, except for Jayne, feel that way."

Mal nodded, "I'm not saying we didn't. Those things needed to be done. They just weren't part of the job and I gotta accept that there are consequences. Not like I didn't know there wouldn't be. Just wasn't expecting one more job to turn south. And the Doc's right. Badger will come after us for this. He actually took a risk hiring us, and now we won't be delivering on the job."

"What exactly was the 'job', Captain?" Severus asked quietly.

"Huh?" Mal looked at Severus curiously.

"I mean, what exactly was this Badger expecting? Did he give you any ideas? Did he know what was in the box?" He leaned back a bit on the hard wooden chair. He felt Harry reach under the table and take his hand.

"He didn't give too many specifics on what the item was. He specified the size and the shape of the box and clearly said we weren't to take anything else from the place although it looked as though there might be other valuable items."

"Actually, captain, I think he may actually know it was a painting, but may not know just how special it was. He mentioned his client was a collector of things from Earth-that Was. I recall he was specific about storing the box somewhere cool, dark and dry."

"That would be expected with a painting that was old and valuable," Simon added.

"So he is a go between? Not the actual client?" Severus asked.

"No," Mal's eyes narrowed at the dark man. He could tell a plan was forming.

"What are the odds the real client would be in attendance?"

"Severus, what are you thinking?" Harry asked.

"In a minute, Harry. You said this vault you got us from looked ruined and abandoned right?" Mal nodded. "Hmmn…and Simon, you said there seemed to be no record of an old painting like us in your cultural records."

"None that I could find," Simon acknowledged.

"And it seems either Muggles still don't know about the Wizarding world or perhaps there are no Wizards left. We were a small population to begin with. I assume this Badger wouldn't be a Wizard."

"If he was, he would have 'abrakadareb' me, or whatever that word was, a long time ago," Mal acknowledged.

"What are the odds the either Badger or the client even know what the painting really is?"

"The client could be a Wizard though couldn't he?" Harry asked.

"Yes – but Mal says he wouldn't be there. It would give us time and they'd get paid," Severus said with a thoughtful tone.

Mal's eyebrows raised in understanding. Harry laughed suddenly. Mal knew he'd already caught on.

"You mean – we should fake it. Make a counterfeit," Harry said.

"It would have to look authentic. I don't suppose anyone here is actually a very talented, yet unknown artist that could replicate it?" Severus said.

"River…" everyone on the crew said and turned to look at the young lady currently studying her toes.

"I feel ridiculous," Harry said as he stood naked in front of River. He and Severus were trying to recreate the same overall look from the painting. They had been unsure how much the client knew about what they would be expecting. River could generally recall the overall setting since it was just a generic, run of the mill, dungeon setting, but she insisted she needed live models to get the musculature right.

Severus had been against it but conceded that being naked in front of one more person probably wasn't the end of the world.

"Also, I refuse to have the dildo in me again!" he added loudly to no one in particular.

Mal laughed. He was sitting in the room with them as River was mite unpredictable. He wanted someone on hand in case she did something outrageous. Simon would have been his first choice, but both Harry and Severus insisted on Mal as he'd already seen them naked, in real life at least. Mal tried to argue that Simon was a doctor and was used to real naked people.

"At least sit it on the table then," River said. "I probably should include it, but we'll do the moment just before then. Do you remember what you were doing before you inserted that, Severus?"

Harry blushed and Severus just glared, "No, Miss Tam. I do not recall exactly what I was doing. It's been five hundred years."

"You didn't know it was five hundred years. It should seem like just this morning," she argued. She paused for a moment and thought, "Maybe you were prepping him with your fingers?" Harry blanched. Mal saw the mischievous glint in her eye. He thought he should put a stop to it. The young man had been embarrassed enough to know the whole crew had seen the portrait.

"Mei-mei*, I think we should keep this simple. We know Severus was in his robes and Harry was bent forward. You should be able to paint something that hides the details a bit, hmnn?" Mal suggested.

"But Severus' penis was hard and red. I think he should do that at least. Red is a good color on him," she smiled sweetly and looked placidly at Severus. "I'll need to see that though. Severus can you make your penis hard for me?"

All three men choked.

"River!" Mal yelled. "Just – just paint them like this. It'll be fine." Mal was trying not to turn the same shade of red as the other men. i'Really what is it with the women on this ship?'/i

"Well ok, but it won't be nearly as interesting as the original. Don't blame me if Badger gets upset. He is a touchy little man."

A couple of hours later Harry and Severus were back in their quarters. River had actually done a pretty good job with the portrait.

The Captain had told them to rest for awhile. It would be another seventy-two hours before they reached Persephone where the trade would take place. He gave them the basic tour of the ship and showed them how to access the information panels.

The next night Mal was sitting in his quarters reading. He wasn't much of a reader but sometimes when he needed to get his mind off things he could lose himself in an old novel.

He was started to drift off when the intercom came to life.

"Uh..oh yeah that feel's good."

"Are you sure?" the deeper voice responded.

" Yeah. Really it feels good," the other man responded. Mal blinked trying to figure out if he was awake or had drifted off into some weird wet dream in which he was not the participant.

"I don't want to rush you after everything that's happened."

"You're not, that feels good. Oh yes – touch me there,"

"You're so beautiful. How can you let me…"

"Stop it. He's gone. I want him gone from us. This is just you and me now. And I want you to touch me. I want you to make love to me. Oooh – just like that," he panted as the other man apparently did something very nice.

Mal could hear the slurping sounds of kissing and licking and adjusted his own pants a little in the half-awake daze he was in.

"This ok?" the deeper voice asked with hesitation

"Yes. More than ok. Get me ready. I need you, Severus," came the answer. A few moments passed and Mal became very aware he was not asleep anymore.

"That enough lube, Harry? I've never done that wandlessly before."

"Yeah – yeah – I'm good. I need you, baby. Need you so much…Love you so much." There was some additional grunting and heavy breathing and Mal realized that somehow Harry and Severus' intercom had been turned on and they were unaware of it. The intercom controls were all the way by the door. How in the name of all that's horny had they turned it on?

"I'm putting in the third one now," Severus said, with a touch of fire in his deep voice.

"Severus…oh, I'm ready now. You won't break me. Just do it already."

Mal realized they didn't know he could hear them. He thought for a moment to let it go, but then realized they may be broadcasting through all the intercoms.

Just before he was going to say something, another voice broke in, "Captain? Captain, Serenity's giving some weird readings. The stabilizers went off-line for a few seconds but I can't figure out why." Kaylee's voice continued over the intercom. "I'm heading to the engine room." Mal couldn't help but notice the amused giggle underlying her serious words.

"Wha…?" Severus said.

"Severus, who is that?" he heard Harry ask with a slight hesitation.

Mal went to the intercom. "Kaylee, I'll meet you in the engine room in a minute. And..uh…Harry, Severus. You might want to think about hitting that off button on the intercom by the door now."

"Fuck!" Harry yelled.

"Yeah – that bis/b the impression you're giving the rest of us," Mal said.

"Ah, Mal – they was just getting' to the good part," interrupted Jayne's voice.

"I'll get it," Severus said calmly, obviously to Harry. "The rest of you will never mention this – ever," Severus said to whoever else was listening, a definitive threat resonating in his voice before he turned the intercom off.

In Harry & Severus' Room

"Ok – so wandless magic may not be the best idea around electrical equipment while we're in space. Might accidentally set something off…or on in this case," Snape said with a small smile to Harry before crawling back onto the bed.

"Good safety tip," Harry agreed. "Now where were we?" He grinned up at his partner as he wrapped his arms around his broad back.

Harry was in the Galley looking for something for Severus and him to snack on. As he mentioned to Mal earlier, orgasms always made him ravenous. Even with the embarrassing interruption from the crew, he had been able to thoroughly enjoy his first real alone time with Severus since Lucius had captured them. It was good to shake the ghost of Malfoy off. He knew they'd each still have their issues but he also knew now at least they would be able to get through them as a couple.

He'd planned to stay in bed next to Severus and sleep snuggled up beside him until his belly growled so loudly it woke his husband up.

Flashback

"What on earth did you swallow, Potter – a large crup?" Severus murmured.

Harry laughed softly. "Is that what you're calling your prick these days 'cause as far as I know that's the last thing I swallowed!"

Severus sat up a little and rolled Harry onto his back. "I can feed that to you again you know," he said with a smirk. "There are plenty of helpings left."

"Please, sir, may I have some more?" Harry said with an exaggerated cockney accent and smiled at him.

"Are you sure, Oliver?" Severus answered, his hair falling forward and lightly framing Harry's face with it. He leaned down to kiss Harry and then trailed light kisses down Harry's neck, little nips along his sternum with passing swipes on either nipple. He began mouthing Harry's taut abdomen and then Harry's belly suddenly growled again. In answer, Severus blew a raspberry on his belly back at him, "For god's sake – go get something to fill that endless hole."

Harry laughed, "You may want to rethink that statement." He got up and quickly threw on the borrowed pajama pants 'lent' by Simon. He didn't expect to be gone long so he skipped the shirt and shoes and headed out.

"Hey, bring me something, too, would you?" Severus asked, lying back down on the bed.

"Lazy…you don't care that I'm hungry at all. You just want me to wait on you." Harry walked over to the bed, picked up his pillow and bonked Severus on the head with it.

"Yes, yes…you've finally discovered my evil plot. To turn you into a house elf." Severus grabbed the pillow out of Harry's hand and put it behind his head. "Fetch me snacks, Elf!"

"I'm much better looking you know." Harry turned around and wiggled his bum at Severus and then turned back to wink at him before he left the room.

Just as he reached the door Severus said, "I don't know – Dobby was kind of..."

"Don't you finish what I think will be a very disturbing statement!" Harry yelled as he went through the doors. He was glad to see some humor coming back to his partner.

End Flashback

Now he'd opened several cabinets trying to find something for them to eat. Harry knew the ship was low on rations. That was why the crew were so keen on getting payment for the painting that he and Severus were no longer stuck in. But there had to be something to eat.

As he reached a third cabinet and opened the doors, several tumblers fell out at him and on to the floor. "Wha? Crap." He bent over to pick them up as Jayne was walking in.

"I have to say – for a boy you have a mighty fine ass. Nice and firm like I like 'em." Jayne said as he grabbed Harry by the hip with one hand and smacked his bum with the other. Harry jumped up then fell backwards into Jayne in surprise. Jayne easily caught him by the waist.

"Let go," Harry said trying to wiggle out of the larger man's arms.

"Nah – I kinda like how you feel there pretty boy," Jayne refused with a slight thrust into Harry's hips. "I know you like that. Come on…I bet I can do you better than that Snape fellow." Jayne swiped his tongue along Harry's neck.

Harry's face became a little red but he took a deep breath and decided not to struggle. Jayne was certainly much larger than he was. But Harry was smarter.

"Really?" He turned his head towards Jayne and batted his eyelashes at him. "You think you're a better man than Severus? You think you can satisfy me more than him?" He tried to shift around so he was facing the scruffy man. He smiled flirtatiously up at him as he only came to about chest height. Jayne pulled him close to him.

"I sure can. Come back to my bunk I'll show you how manly I can be." Jayne ran his large hands up and down Harry's bare back and then over his pajama-clad bum and squeezed.

At that Harry was able to lean back enough to slap him across the face and then slid down and out of his arms.

Jayne almost staggered after the loss of the weight underneath him disappeared. He stumbled forward a little and then turned around with a slight look of surprise on his face. "What?"

"Jayne – you could never satisfy me like Severus does." Harry whispered harshly at him. "He's a much better man than you'll ever be. Don't ever touch me again." Harry turned to leave, his appetite now gone. He brushed past Kaylee who was coming in the room.

"Hi, Harry," she grinned.

He answered her with a pained smile. "Hey." He could hear them talking as he walked away.

"What did you say to him you big oaf?" Kaylee asked.

"Nothing..." Jayne paused and then added, "I like that boy. He's a wily little thing." He heard Jayne walking the in other direction, "I'll be in my bunk," he said to Kaylee.

God – how was he going to explain to Severus why he didn't come back with any food. He couldn't tell him the truth. Jayne would be a dead man. Severus was a possessive lover, even if he thought Harry didn't know that. And how would he stop Jayne from doing it again? He knew Jayne wasn't really interested in him. He was just new and Jayne was bored, and horny apparently.

Chapter 4 – Delivering the Fake to Badger

"OK, folks – let's do this," Mal said. Jayne had loaded the black box onto the Mule and they were ready to transport their cargo to Badger.

Persephone was a bleak if busy planet. A dry desert turned to bustling marketplace due to its very convenient location. It was easy to dock in the shipyards and get repairs made while replenishing supplies and looking for work.

Mal sent Harry and Severus with Kaylee to begin replenishing supplies and so they could get their own wardrobe. In reality it was to give them a chance to begin learning how their new universe functioned. Kaylee was apt to be able to answer any and all questions cheerfully and was the least likely to draw attention herself. She could easily guide them.

Simon also departed to restock the infirmary supplies as best he could as well, leaving River in charge on the ship. A calculated risk, but one the Captain could live with as he hadn't planned to be gone long. He had laughed to see Simon's disguise as Kaylee had him wear some of her own clothes that she used when repairing the engines and made sure to cover him in dirt and mussed his hair up. Although Simon argued with her for the need, she was right. He had a tendency to look too neat and clean to fit in on most places they visited. He was able to act the part now but he very rarely volunteered to look the part. Mal enjoyed giving the order to Kaylee to mess him up. There were too many items she needed to get and they were short on time. Mal didn't want to stay any longer than necessary. So Simon had to venture out on his own. Mal had considered sending one of their new guests with him but in the end decided they'd be better off staying together and with Kaylee. She was happy to have them join her and Simon seemed visibly relieved. Seems he still hadn't quite warmed up to them.

Mal wanted Kaylee and Simon to figure out what they needed, what the costs were and to make arrangements for delivery for everything so when he returned with the cash they could pay the merchants and be on their way.

Zoe and Jayne accompanied him to Badger's less than impressive place of business.

"Well, well well…if it ain't Captain 'I got a stick in my bum' Reynolds. So you finally able to finish a job?" A short, weasily looking man wearing a ragged Bowler hat and what would have been a fine black silk vest twenty years prior, sat at his desk looking at Mal and Zoe. Jayne was outside watching the goods. Badger pulled a tarnished silver pocket watch out of his pocket and looked at the time. "And you're on time for a change," he said with a heavy Irish lilt.

"What are you talkin' about Badger? There was no set time. Just a date. Today. And here we are as promised."

"You got the goods?"

"You got the payment?"

The short man stood and walked around the front of his desk. "What's wif the attitude, iCaptain/i?" Badger liked to emphasize his title as if to remind him he was really only a Sergeant when he'd been in the war. "One would fink you'd be a bit grateful I frew work at you since no one else would touch you as you have a habit of dropping cargo."

"I only drop cargo that shouldn't be held in the first place," Mal argued.

"Captain…" Zoe put a hand on Mal's arm to remind him not to argue. "Do the deal, Captain." He was lucky to have her around. He decided to swallow his pride. Not liked he hadn't tasted that many times previously.

Chapter 5 - A Moment's Peace

The deal went fairly smoothly after that all things considered. That left Mal with an uneasy feeling. He was having trouble sleeping. Images of Harry doing inappropriate things were bothering him. Insomnia was nothing new to him. As he usually did on nights like this, he took to roaming his ship. He just couldn't get Harry out of his head. He didn't know why he felt this iattraction/i. He certainly never considered himself sly. No other man had ever appealed to him in this way. He was a bit bothered about it. Not that he thought anything was wrong with it, but that he should reach this age and still not know everything there was to know about himself.

He missed Inara and maybe that's all it was. She had left and gone back to the temple. They had never acted on their mutual attraction. Or at least Mal assumed she had been attracted to him. It was hard to tell since she did that kind of thing for a living. She seemed to care for him and he acknowledged he wanted her, but he had issues with her being a Companion that he couldn't surmount. As much as he cared for her, he could never bring himself to share himself with someone who could share themselves like she did, with folks who did not care about her personally. The Alliance considered it a respectable position, but he just was unable to share her with her work. It was a line he couldn't cross. He wasn't squeamish about sex for certain, but he trusted so few people he would have to truly care about someone before he could make himself that vulnerable. So he gave her up when she realized they would never make a go of it as she would not give up her career. He would never ask it. 'Why couldn't she have been a doctor?' he bemoaned. He also hated himself a little that he couldn't let those concerns go and lost a potential lover in the process.

So she had been gone for seven months now. He still dreamed of her at night, but tonight her dark wavy hair shortened, her warm golden skin lightened to a pale luminescent white, dark smoldering eyes lightened to a captivating green, and soft luscious curves turned into a lithe, taut chest that flushed pink. Mal had woken with surge of lust and then confusion as he recognized the new player in his dreams. He was uncomfortable inside his own head at the moment.

His favorite place for peace-finding was the bridge. He could sit and stare into the black and lose himself to it for awhile. As he quietly walked through the corridors, he could hear no other sounds. It was safe to assume no one else was up. He thought Zoe might be on the bridge so he'd go up and relieve her.

As he stepped onto the bridge, he was surprised the tall black woman was not manning the helm, but instead Harry was sitting there staring into space. He was wearing pair of green and black pajamas that he must have picked up on Persephone. His feet were bare and on the seat as Harry's knees were drawn up and his head rested on them, arms wrapped around his bent legs as he gazed out.

"Harry?" Mal asked softly. This was so not the person he wanted to see and yet he couldn't not acknowledge him.

The dark haired head turned, resting his cheek on his, and looked behind him. He didn't have his glasses on so he squinted a little to confirm that it was Mal standing there. Mal noticed the glasses sitting on the panel in front of him. Those eyes seemed wider and deeper than usual.

"Mal…hey," he said softly with a small smile. "Sorry, hope you don't mind." Harry began to unfurl his legs.

"Don't get up." Mal raised a hand to stop him. "Where's Zoe?" he asked looking around as if she was hiding.

"Oh – she went to get some coffee for us and asked me to watch the controls for a bit."

"Really? She does know you can't fly this thing right?" Mal said with a smirk as he sat down in the co-pilot's chair on the left.

Harry chuckled, "She said just to watch out for any blinky lights. Anything starts blinking, I'm supposed to yell. Told her I could do that for a few minutes at least. I'm pretty sure I can both see lights get blinky and yell." Harry grinned, but Mal noticed a slightly haunted look to his face.

"Well, I can watch for blinky lights now if you want to be relieved of duty," Mal said with a hint of humor and a little salute.

"I'm ok. I kind of like it here. It's quiet, you know. When your head's too loud." Harry tapped on his forehead. He then stretched out his legs and sat up turning the chair towards Mal.

Mal looked at him then out into space. "Yeah, I know." He turned to Harry again, "So, can't sleep huh?"

"Never could really. Used to wander Hogwarts' halls at all hours. Severus would get so irritated with me."

"Hogwarts. That's the school you went to right?" Harry nodded. "Was Severus a teacher there?" Mal asked in concerned curiosity.

Harry smiled, "Yes, but it's not what you're thinking."

"I'm not thin…"

"Yes – you're thinking he was my teacher and took advantage of me."

"Ok – that is what I'm thinking. But you're what – 19 you said? He indicated you'd been together for a year and half. Or was that ok back on Earth-That-Was?"

"Well…17 is, was, whatever, the age of consent so I was of age if that's what you are asking. Students of age were allowed to have relationships with teachers because the use of Veritaserum or Occlumency could easily prove if you were taken advantage of. Of course it wasn't legal at all in the Muggle world," Harry attempted to explain.

"Ok - well you lost me somewhere after "consent". I don't even know what half the words of what you just said actually meant," Mal confessed.

Harry laughed, "Guess we're even now. Anyway, to put it succinctly, yes it was legal. We didn't begin a romantic relationship until I was of age. In fact until I was 17, he loathed me, but war makes for strange bedfellows I guess."

"War. That was this Voldemort and Lucius you mentioned? Was it bad?"

"Yeah – it was bad. Severus was a spy for us and had to do some terrible things. For years I thought he was the enemy when in fact he was sacrificing everything for us."

"Years? How long were you involved in this war?"

"Since birth I guess, although I didn't know anything about it until I was dragged into it at 11." Seeing the confused look on Mal's face he held up a hand then reached down to begin tracing the outline of two toy dinosaurs stuck to the console as he spoke. "It's complicated. I don't want to go into it at the moment. Just know that once I realized who exactly Severus was and what he was doing, it was my choice to become involved with him. Just accept that."

"OK. I won't ask anymore about him," Mal said quietly watching him.

In an attempt to change the subject Harry asked, "Why are these dinosaurs here?"

There was a long pause. Mal looked away from Harry. "You lose people in that war of yours, Harry?"

"Yeah…too many," he whispered.

"Me, too," Mal said simply and then there was another long moment of silence.

"That's what war does, doesn't it? Makes you lose people," Harry finally stated still gazing into space.

"That what's keeping you up tonight?"

"No. I'm used to losing people. I'm thinking of the ones who lost me."

Harry turned and smiled at him to explain, "Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger – they were my two best friends since I was 11. I love, loved, them more than just about anything. But I disappeared. bWe/b just disappeared. And now they're gone and they never learned what happened to me. And I'll probably never know what happened to them." Harry folded his hands on his knees and placed his head upon it again to look out in space. "I just miss them."

Just then the strong smell of coffee wafted through the door. Zoe stood there and Severus was right behind her. "Seems just the smell of coffee is enough to wake everyone up," Zoe said as she walked in and handed a cup to Harry. "Sorry, Captain, didn't realize you were here."

"That's ok, Zoe. I'll just take your cup." Mal smiled as he reached up to grab it.

"Only if you want to lose that hand, sir." Zoe smacked his hand away with her free hand. "I believe you're in my seat."

"It's ok, Zoe. I can't sleep anyways. I'm good here."

"Harry, everything ok?" Severus stepped around Zoe to look at Harry in concern. Mal watched him closely. There was a tenseness there until Harry nodded and stood.

"Just the usual, Sev. Couldn't sleep. I'm probably ok to go back."

"Still wandering the corridors in the middle of the night, Mr. Potter?" Severus said with a slight hint of amusement. He opened his arms to put around the young man's shoulders to lead him out. Mal could see the worry in the older man's face even if his tone had been teasing. It put his fears to rest about him. People came together for stranger reasons and stayed together for less.

Chapter 6 – Discovery and Chase

The next day Harry and Severus took their time trying to get to know the crew and begin learning more about the time period they were in. Kaylee spent the morning gossiping over all the things she'd gotten to do while on Serenity. Harry found her chipper attitude wonderful. Severus enjoyed talking to Simon more with his more direct approach to imparting knowledge. The doctor had begun to thaw towards them. He admitted concern over River's and Kaylee's safety. Both of them had given the men some files to watch to give them a brief synopsis of the last few hundred years.

Most of the crew were gathered in the Galley late after their evening meal. River had decided to go back to the Bridge and Simon was updating some information in the infirmary. Kaylee, Zoe, Jayne and Mal were playing cards. Harry and Severus decided not to play but stayed in the room so they could ask questions about their reading material.

There were several soft seats around. Harry and Severus had plunked down together were sitting next to each other oblivious to game going on. They were talking quietly over various things each of them were reading. Severus was absently stroking the inside of Harry's thigh as he read. Mal was distracted by it until Zoe slapped him upside the head.

"Your bid, Captain." Zoe grinned.

"Uh right. OK I bid making two dinners," and he threw the two chore cards into the ante.

Mal turned to Jayne who he noticed was also watching Severus' hand very closely. Harry looked up at the taller man and said something Mal couldn't hear. Severus smiled at him and leaned down to give him a soft kiss.

"I'm going to my bunk. Think it's time to polish Vera," Jayne announced gruffly as he suddenly got up from the table and left.

"Vera?" Harry asked the room at large.

"That's what he calls his, uh, gun," Kaylee answered with a grin.

"His 'gun', huh? Is that what you call a …?" Harry tried to indicate his dick. He'd assumed Jayne was going to whack off yet again. He heard Kaylee's tales about the man and his habits.

Everyone laughed. Zoe smiled, "No "gun" is not a euphemism for "penis" Harry. Vera is a real gun."

"He named his gun?"

Kaylee giggled, "It is his favorite. It's a…"

Suddenly Mal and Zoe joined Kaylee together in a flat rhythmic cadence, "Callahan Fullbore autolock, customized trigger and double cartridge thorough gauge." Then the three began laughing.

Both Harry and Severus stared at the group. Obviously Jayne liked this gun. "At least he likes something I guess," Harry smiled with a giggle.

Kaylee smirked. "He seems to like you well enough, Harry or was that not him pinching your butt again this morning?"

Severus looked at him concerned. Harry nodded in agreement, "Yeah, he likes me a bit too much I think. I've asked him to back off."

Mal sat his mug down. "I need to talk to him?" he asked Harry.

"Nah – I can manage it." Harry waved him off, "I think he's just bored and I'm new. Too bad I don't have my wand though. A well-placed impotence hex would work wonders I imagine."

Zoe turned to Severus. "Jayne show any interest in you?" she inquired with a huge smile.

He rolled his eyes at her. "Not likely," he responded sternly.

"Well, let me know if he does. I'd like to see the ass-whoopin' that would happen afterwards," she grinned even more.

Harry snorted with laughter. "Jayne may not be the brightest lumos seen on a wand, but even he's not that dumb."

"Well, I don't like my crew touchin' where they ain't wanted. I'll have a word with him," Mal piped in.

Harry put a hand up at Mal's. "No – don't. Really. If I can't stand up for myself, I'll never get his respect. Let me handle it."

The next day, Mal watched a sparring match between Severus and Jayne, unseen by either contestant. It was obvious that the dark haired man had had some hand to hand combat training and they were fairly evenly matched in size so he was interested in seeing how he handled Jayne. Jayne was a pretty obvious fighter. He relied on strength and brute force rather than agility or stealth. He had a sneaking suspicion that Severus would be more clever. He had overheard Severus asking Jayne to be his sparring partner to keep his skills fresh, but considering the conversation the night before, Mal suspected there was more to it than that so he chose to attend the 'match' without either of them knowing just in case it got out of hand. It was obvious that Severus Snape had a protective streak about his partner several galaxies wide.

Severus pinned Jayne to the floor face down and yanked his left arm up behind his back. Mal watched Severus lean over him, lank hair covering his profile but he heard the heated threat, "You ever touch Harry again – jokingly or not, Mr. Cobb, you will lose your ability to ever use your 'manly parts'".

Mal watched Jayne's eyes go wide and his face grimace. It was obvious that Severus was squeezing a sensitive part of Jayne's anatomy as a demonstration with the arm hidden from view.

"Understand?"

Jayne nodded feverishly and said breathlessly, "OK – got it." After a few seconds neither had moved positions. Jayne's face was turning red. "Uh..can you please let go now?" he squeaked out in a high pitched whisper.

Severus stood up and offered his hand to Jayne. Jayne eyed him nervously. "Mr. Cobb, so long as you do not accost my partner, I have no quarrel with you. We are comrades." At that Jayne nodded, took his hand and got up.

Mal thought Harry wouldn't have to follow through on his threat now if he ever did find his wand.

"Captain, you better get up here. We got company!" Zoe's voice over the loudspeaker got Mal's attention and he went running for the bridge.

As he arrived, he saw Jayne, Severus and Harry had already arrived as well crowding the bridge a bit. He knew Kaylee would be in the Engine room and Simon in the Infirmary. He wasn't rightly sure where River was.

"Ah crap, Mal – that's a damn big ship over us. Who is it?" Jayne asked looking out the front screen above them.

Mal shot an irritated glance at him, "Don't know yet Jayne. Just got here, same as you. Report, Zoe."

"Sir, they came at us fast. That's a T-B 5946 Cruiser."

"Is it Alliance?" Mal asked.

"Doesn't seem to be so. The ship id markings aren't any Alliance markings I know," she answered.

"If it ain't Alliance then it's someone with wads of cashy money. Are you sure it's us they're after?

"No other ships in the region, plus there are several smaller Akahki fighters behind us that came from the cruiser. We are surrounded. I think it's safe to say they are looking for us."

A panel beeped.

"And I guess they found us. Best find out who they are," Mal said. He turned to the others. "Jayne, you know what to do. Harry, Severus, best lie low for now if you don't mind," as Mal jerked his thumb towards the door. They nodded and stepped out of the small bridge area. Mal realized though they lingered in the corridor just outside. He was ok with that as long as they stayed out of the way. He grabbed the intercom mic, "Kaylee – get the engines fired. We're gonna run in a few minutes," he ordered as he sat in the chair opposite Zoe.

"Well, Zoe, let's see who's knocking," Mal said as he reached over and flipped a switch that brought a screen to life.

On the screen, the face of an older gentleman with white hair appeared. He wore glasses and had a pinched look about his face although he attempted to smile as if he was welcoming an old friend.

"Niska! What an unpleasant surprise. What could cause a Tah mah duh hwoon dahn* like you to come looking for me? Need another body part?"

"So funny, Mr. Reynolds. You are alvays such an amusing fellow. In truth, you haf something that belongs to me," he smiled at them.

"Can't imagine what that could be," the captain said calmly. "Not like we fly in the same circles."

"You recently had job, yes?"

"I get a lot of jobs. You'll need to be more specific," Mal said trying to delay him. He hoped that Jayne would be able to fire up the canon gun soon. And that Kaylee could ignite the engines.

"It involved a painting. Very special painting."

"You were the client? Didn't take you for an art collector. Doesn't that conflict with your torture habit. I imagine blood would mess up the value of those pieces," Mal said.

"One that you vere not to tamper with and yet I find when I receive goods, it is false," Niska continued as if he hadn't heard Mal.

"I wouldn't know anything about that," the captain lied smoothly. "We followed the instructions and dropped the box to Badger as ordered. Maybe someone switched it before we retrieved the item." He paused then added, "Or maybe Badger hoodwinked you."

"I know you do not like Badger, but he is good businessman for me. He could not have done this. He did his job. You are only person who could haf tampered with painting." His face was becoming red, "I ask you to return what is mine and I vill forget that you tried to cheat me yet again."

"What? No threats to disembowel me or remove a limb with a rusty old saw? Don't you love me anymore? I'm almost disappointed. But I am telling you the gorram truth. I do not have any paintings on this ship."

"I believe you," Niska leaned back with a smile.

Mal stopped for second in disbelief, "You do?" he said before he could stop himself. Zoe widened her eyes at his idiocy.

"Yes. But you vill turn over Mr. Potter and Mr. Snape to me."

"Wha…who?" he tried to recover.

"The men from the painting Mr. Reynolds. I know you released them. They are mine."

"You must be joking," Mal tried to laugh him off.

"This is no joke. If you do not show zhem to me in 30 seconds, I vill disable your engines and leave you dead in space. I do not believe you haf enough time to get engines fired up before that happens. Ve vill board your ship in three minutes. Bring them to the Cargo Hold to be transported to my ship. You do this, your ship and crew will not be damaged."

Zoe sat up straighter, "Captain the three ships behind us do have their weapons locked on us."

Mal was about to order the run when Harry burst onto the bridge, "Don't hurt them! I'm here."

Niska smiled. "Ah – Mr. Potter so pleased to see you looking so…lively. I look forward to meeting you in person. We haf much to discuss." The screen went dead.

Mal raged as he turned on Harry. "What in the ruttin' hell do you think you're doing? I had a plan." He towered over the younger man.

"It wasn't working," Harry squeaked defiantly.

"bThat /bwasn't the plan you yu bun duh* idiot!" Mal screamed.

"I didn't want you or anyone else to get hurt over me," Harry said looking slightly ashamed.

"He always ready to throw his life away for others like that?" Mal asked irritatingly at Severus.

Severus stepped in. "He does have a 'saving-people' thing."

Zoe piped up, "Harry – if it makes you feel better, the Captain's plan wasn't a good one. We'd have likely died anyways." Harry smiled a bit.

"Bizui*," Mal grumbled at Zoe. "Well – let's get this over with I guess."

Chapter 7 – Captured!

Mal, Harry and Severus had been transported to Niska's ship. They were greeted by a small contingent of guards and the grey-suited bastard himself.

"Well Niska, I assume you want my other ear now that I've ruined your cargo?" Mal stood slightly in front of Harry and Severus in a protective stance. He knew that with the five armed guards surrounding them the odds were long that they could escape easily. But he hoped to avoid any unnecessary loss of body parts this time. Who knew if the Doc would be able to fix him up again? But more than that, he didn't want Niska to do the same to either Harry or Severus.

"I haf no interest in torturing you, Mr. Reynolds," the man said with a thick accent. "Ve are almost…family now."

"Family in that you're a son of a bitch?" Mal asked with a thick film of contempt. "That's the only kind of family I can think of you as. Besides, I recall what you did to a nephew of yours. Think I'll pass on our family reunion."

"Very witty, Mr. Reynolds. But I assure you I do not vant to harm you."

"Right. I suppose you want to give me cordials and chocolates," Mal said in a disbelieving tone.

"You brought precious cargo to me and that means great deal to me," Niska said.

"And you don't care that I opened it? I'm not really believing that seeing as you were so adamant in your instructions to Badger about not touching the merchandise," Mal asked, pushing for information.

"You did nothing I wasn't going to do once you delivered the package. Granted I thought it would possibly take more blood than you apparently lost in retrieving them, but oh vell..vater under zhe bridge. Or should I say blood under zhe portrait? What's important is zhat zhey are here."

Harry finally spoke up, "So you knew what the cargo was?"

At this, Niska nodded to a guard that yanked on Mal's arm and pulled him to the side as if to get him out of the way. He stepped closer to Harry and Severus and looked over them closely.

"Ah yes, my ancestor described you vell I think." He smoothed a rough, calloused hands on either side of Harry's face. "The Boy-Who Lived." Harry's eyes shot up at that. "Or do you prefer "zhe Chozen vOne?" Niska queried after lifting Harry's chin up to look closely into his eyes. "Yes…you are very pretty indeed my boy," he said while patting Harry's cheek.

At that, both Severus and Mal lunged forward only to be yanked backwards by each of their guards respectively.

"Don't you dare touch him," Snape snarled at Niska. Mal could see the anger radiating off the tall man.

"Ah yes, you are Severus Snape yes? The boy's paramour?" Niska smiled at Severus. A creeping chill slid down Mal's back.

"Good, good. Alvays nice to haf family no?" Niska smiled at them. None of the three were warmed by that smile. "I think a nice dinner is in order, yes?" He turned to the small, wiry man beside him and instructed him to add three for dinner.

"Now – Hubert here shall take you to your quarterz so you may rest and freshen up before dinner yes? I shall have some appropriate clothing brought to you for zhis evening."

"Niska – what in the hell do you want?" Mal ordered.

"Want? Nothing. I have it now. I merely wish for some nice companionship and a good bottle of wine zhis evening. Do not worry my dear captain. I have no plans to harm you. Hubert…you may escort them out now."

Mal muttered, "No plans now maybe," so soft that only Harry heard him as the guards pointed them out of the room.

"Mal, why does that man have a Czech accent if there's no Czechoslovakia anymore?" Harry asked with a quizzical look.

"What? What's Czechoslovakia?" Mal asked.

"Exactly my point. It was a country on Earth," Harry said.

"Huh – that's a good question. No idea," Mal said.

Severus put his arm around Harry as they walked down the hall. Each man was left off at a separate door. "I want to stay with Severus," Harry said as the guard pulled him away from the room Severus had just entered.

"No, these are your quarters." And the guard pushed Harry, albeit gently, forward to the next door. Mal realized that they were indeed prisoners even if Niska was being extremely polite about it this time. He wondered what torture book this idea came from.

As he entered the room assigned to him, he noticed it was small, but plushly furnished. The room was in shades of deep warm reds and browns with gold and blue accents. There was a small divan and chair in a sitting area and an unusually lavish bed with velvet curtains draping the frame. For a moment, Mal felt like he'd walked into Inara's shuttle. Even the smell was perfumed. Niska apparently felt prisoners felt better in gilded cages. It was odd for such a Spartan man to allow his "prisoners" this kind of luxury. He wondered what the rooms were usually used for. Off to the side there was a separate room. This proved to be a washroom. Certainly better appointed than any washroom he'd ever used. There was a deep tub and a separate shower. The floors were made of some kind of granite and the vanities were marble.

He turned back into the room. On an ornately carved coffee table sat a silver platter with a bowl of fruit and a water pitcher. On the wall opposite the divan, a small screen was embedded in the wall. It came to life a couple of minutes after he'd entered the room. Niska's aged and slightly lined face came into view.

"By now you haf been delivered to your qvarters," he said with that familiar accent that Mal now wondered about. "I hope you find them pleasing."

"I don't give a…" Mal started to say but Niska kept talking as if he didn't hear Mal. Mal looked around to see if there were any controls for him to respond with.

"Dinner vill be served in 90 minutes. The guards vill come to gather you zhen. You vill find a new outfit hanging in armoire in each of your rooms." That sentence confirmed that Niska was broadcasting to them and not seeking a dialogue at that time. "You will vash-up and vear the clothes given to you. Dinner is formal affair. I vill have your current clothes laundered and returned to your ships."

'Like hell I'll wear his…' Mal began to think but again Niska pre-empted him. "And, Captain Reynolds - if you choose to not vear outfit I've provided, then you vill be stripped at the table. I ask you for the delicate sensibilities of our other dinner guests, please vear appropriate attire."

The screen went off and Mal went to look at whatever ridiculous garment the bastard had left him.

In Harry's room

Harry nervously approached the sleek looking armoire. His room was very modern looking or he guessed it was considered modern since he had no idea what current styles were. While it was appointed with many amenities, it was also quite sleek with a white, grey and black color palate.

He couldn't find the pull to open the door on the armoire, but as he waved in front of it, both doors slid open revealing what seemed to be dark grey pants, a long satin dark grey vest patterned with slightly lighter grey roses that reminded Harry of a kimono, but without the sleeves. It had had long tails in the front, but a short crop in the back. There was an emerald green silk shirt. It was odd as the sleeves were full and somewhat flouncy and the neck cut into a very deep V-neck which allowed only one button before it ended at the very short waist. It looked rather feminine. i'Figures. But at least it's not a dress and heels,' /i he thought somewhat relieved. He'd assumed based on Niska's comments that maybe he'd try to dress him as a girl. There were shiny black boots sitting to the side along with what looked like black and green choker that had a long silver chain dangling with a silver sword as a pendant. He examined it closely to see if there were any indications that there might be some kind of weird technology. Of course, his knowledge of Muggle technology was so limited, how would he know if there was something wrong with it.

There was so much he and Severus didn't know about this universe so for now he would play along.

He showered quickly and put the designated outfit on. Everything fit fairly snuggly, but it did fit. The pants hung low on his waist and the shirt rode high which meant his lower belly was exposed if he tried to reach for anything. I look like some kind of weird Asian hippie. I hope they didn't give this same outfit to Severus,' he thought imaging the outrage his husband would express.

He waited for the imminent pick-up with a nervous twinge. There was nothing to do to occupy his thoughts so he tried to use some of the meditative techniques Severus had taught him in the war that he used to center himself before battle. Because, all appearances to the side, that was exactly what they were going into.

The door opened and the guard that had originally delivered them was back. "It's time, sir. Please follow me." Harry looked carefully into the hallway before stepping out. There was no one else out there. The guard walked away and passed the door that had led to Severus' room.

"Aren't we getting the others?" Harry asked.

"They have already been delivered, sir," the guard answered crisply without looking at Harry. He didn't say another word until they arrived a set of doors that Harry assumed opened to the dining area.

"Enjoy your meal, sir," the guard said before he opened the door and indicated Harry should walk in. Both Severus and Mal were already in the room. Niska did not look to have arrived yet. Severus was wearing all black. 'Wow – did Niska already know he wouldn't wear any other color?' He was mildly impressed at Niska's forethought. Severus had black woolen pants that fit neatly and a black turtle neck with an equally black jacket that had a white and maroon napkin neatly folded in the breast pocket . His long hair was tied at the nape of his neck with a long piece of black silk.

The man he watched was observing him closely as well. "Well – at least our host knows how to dress his guests well," Severus said eyeing Harry. "You look delicious," he added as he walked over to him and hugged him. Harry felt relieved to be holding him. "You are quite dashing yourself, Severus," he pulled back to say to Severus before giving him a quick kiss on the lips.

"You ok?" Severus asked Harry.

"Yeah – you?"

"Other than worrying about you, brat, yes." Severus kissed the top of his head and they both turned to face Mal.

Harry smiled at the other man. Mal was dressed in a lavishly dark maroon velvet dress coat with long tails and tight leather pants. He had on a tight tan shirt underneath as well as a dark brown brocaded vest. He looked like he could have just walked off the moors of an Emily Bronte novel. He was certainly a handsome man.

"Hello, Heathcliff," Harry teased and grinned ever brighter. "You look dashingly handsome tonight as well."

"I'm glad someone finds something funny about this," Mal grimaced as his face reddened. "Gorram thing's too tight," he muttered as he tried to stretch the snug jacket.

"There are a lot of things funny about this, but I mean funny strange, not funny ha-ha," Harry said.

Mal had watched Harry come in to the room and had to blink for a few moments. He had been jealous that Severus' outfit was so normal. He felt ridiculous in his own outfit. It was something he was sure Simon would have worn growing up privileged as he had, but Mal didn't do fancy. But Harry looked, well, stunning was the only thing he could think of. He ignored that odd feeling in his belly when he saw Severus go to his young lover and instead busied himself looking for a way out.

When Harry teased him about 'Heathcliffe', Mal was mortified both when he thought he was being made fun of and then when Harry said he was "handsome", Mal flushed with embarrassed pride. He had to look away. Harry wasn't his and he had no right to be thinking on those thoughts.

Severus had his arm around Harry's shoulder and pulled him to his side. "So – any ideas on how we are getting out of here?" he asked as Mal scouted around the room. It was small room that looked like it could entertain up to twelve guests. The table was perfectly laid out with a salad placed at four seats. As fresh vegetables were hard to come by, salad was an unusual commodity. Niska was showing off his wealth.

"Not so much, no," he admitted. "You?"

"I hope you aren't planning to leave before the salad course, gentlemen," Niska's voice came through the door as the man himself walked in. "That vould be rude."

"Well – honestly, Niska. I'm not very hungry," Mal said.

"Shame. I promise you – it is very good meal I haf planned. Let's start vith vine shall ve?" He snapped his fingers and four men walked in with a glass of wine for each guest. "I think we should haf toast. New beginnings maybe?" Niska asked as he raised a glass.

The three men eyed the red liquid in their glasses suspiciously.

"Now, now, gentlemen. I promise you, there's no poison," he reassured them as he indicated that they should all sit down.

"And of course you always keep your promises, do you?" Severus spoke up for the first time taking his seat next to Harry.

"Yes. I am a man of his vord. I always do vat I say I vill do. Is that not right, Mr. Reynolds? Your captain here can attest to that fact."

"I will have to give you that, you ruttin' bastard." He had sat across the table from them after his waiter had led him there. He turned to face Severus and Harry, "If he says he's gonna take your ear, he damn well takes it."

Niska chuckled and raised a glass to him, "That is all in past now. I am sure you haf many qvestions and I am hungry. Let's enjoy our repast and then I vill answer your questions." He began to take a bite of the salad in front of him.

"Actually I don't really have questions. After our repast, I'd like to get back to my ship if you don't mind."

"Of course not, Captain. You are velcome to go back to your ship at any time."

"Well then, ok, I'll go now then," he said as he stood up. "Let's go," he said to Harry and Severus. They attempted to stand up.

The two waiters that had waited on Harry and Severus stepped up behind them and placed a hand on each shoulder.

"You are free to go, Captain, but I'm afraid the others vill be remaining as my guests for some time," Niska said as he took another bite.

"Bollocks!" Harry blurted out and Mal thought he looked as though he was about to try to wrestle the guard.

"Language, Mr. Potter. Just so you know, if you try escape, you'll be killed before you cross the threshold of that door. My guards are on the other side. They vill let Mal pass vithout me but not you two," he pointed his salad fork at Severus and Harry. Mal wanted to stick that fork in his eye.

"Fine. Guess I'm stayin' for dinner," Mal said as he sat back down.

"Good. Eat first and then ve'll talk."

After what should have been a great meal, but only tasted like ashes to the three guests, Niska sat back from the table. They sat quietly as the table was cleared and several objects were brought into the room. There were several books and a very wide scroll.

"Do you know vhat these are, Mr. Potter?" He handed a rather large tome over to Harry. Severus also looked at it. Both men's eyes widened in disbelief.

"Hogwarts: A History," Harry whispered as he opened a very large book. "Look, Severus. It has all kinds of history from after our time."

Severus gazed at Niska. "Where did you get this?"

"It is an interesting tale and I do not vish to bore you vith details. Suffice it to say, it came across my attention several years ago. At first I thought it was fiction. I bought it from some smugglers who apparently had no idea what zhey had. Seems zhat zhey could not read it."

Severus eyed him, "But you can can't you?"

Mal wondered what they were talking about. The book seemed to be in English so unless the smugglers were illiterate in English, why wouldn't they be able to read it?

"Yes…and you know vhat that means don't you, Mr. Snape?" Niska looked very pleased.

Harry looked up, "You're a Wizard!" he exclaimed.

"Hmnn…yes. Although at the time I did not know vhat zhat meant. Not until I read zhis book and understoodd that only Vizards could see what was in book."

"That's crap," Mal said. "I can read it from over here and I ain't no Wizard."

Both Harry and Severus stared aghast at Mal. He wondered if he'd dropped some wine on his lapel or something.

"You can read it?" Severus asked surprised.

"Well, yeah. I mean I can see the words and all," he said wondering why they were so worked up. It was only a book.

"Mal, only Wizards can see the writing in this book. It just looks a like a blank book to Muggles," Harry explained.

"Muggles?"

"Non-magic folks."

"So you see vhy I vas so interested in it," Niska chimed in. "As soon as I realized zhis I became obsessed vith trying to find things out about magic, about zhe so-called vizarding world. I had never performed magic and could not seem to nor could I find information about it. However several months ago a creature named a goblin came to me. Said he could sense I had History of Hogwarts book and that I vas a vizard and that he had some items he'd been trying to return to rightful owner. He asked for my assistance.

"A goblin came to you? That seems unlikely," Severus asked, unconvinced.

"Yes. I understand in your time Goblins and Vizards had bit of unsettled history. However neither group handled moving off vorld very vell. The planet vhere Vizard-kind settled vas not hospitable. Few creatures lived. Zhis goblin vas one of few and he'd been desperate to find descendants of the few vizards who'd gone off-vorld to give remaining relics to as he vas already dying and he vas last of his kind, as far as he knew."

"The goblins – they're all dead now?" Harry asked, clearly shook up.

"I assume so. No others ever turned up. Anyvays he traced my bloodline to a very old vizarding families. Ones I believe you both knew well. Zhe Malfoys and Black families."

"What! " Both Harry and Severus stood up outraged.

"Sit down. I am not Lucius Malfoy."

"But you are keeping us prisoner as he did so I'm not seeing a lot of difference yet." Harry jeered.

"True. As zhey say, blood vill out I guess. Anyvays, zhat is how I knew vhere to find you. You see other book is Lucius Malfoy's diary. He described dark spell that entrapped you in painting after he port-keyed you avay from the battlefield after Voldemort's defeat, how he entertained himself by vatching Severus perform acts upon your body, young Harry. Do you know vhy he did that?"

"Because he was a sick sadistic man," Harry said tightly.

"Sounds like you," Mal added, "I guess you are family to him after all, Niska."

Niska frowned at Mal and then turned back to Harry, "No, because your marriage angered him. You see, he vas infatuated vith your husband. In fact they used to be lovers, did you not Severus?" Niska smiled at the now scowling man.

"If you think Harry is unaware of my past history with the Malfoys and you hope to turn him against me, you are sadly mistaken. He is quite aware of all the mistakes I've made in my life."

"Ah vell, good, good. Lovers should be honest vith each other?"

"Apparently you were in zhe middle of entertaining session for him one evening and he vas suddenly alerted to presence of Aurors approaching zhe Manor. Seems like he quickly put your painting avay and portkeyed you to his private vault in Gringott's as he vas afraid Aurors vould find you. Zhat is vhy you were left in zhe, uh, position you vere in. Apparently Aurors never found anything and he vas set free."

"So then why did he not retrieve us?" Severus asked. Mal also knew there was more to the story.

"He did not live long enough I guess," Niska shrugged his shoulders. "Open zhe scroll before you."

Harry unwrapped the ribbon and scroll spread out across the table. Names and dates began appearing before him. "This is a family tree," Harry stated. Mal stood up and walked around the table to the other side to be able to read it.

"How are the names and dates appearing?" Mal asked.

Severus looked at him to explain, "Wizarding Family Trees are spelled to automatically update. No one need record specific information. It just appears. Not every magical family has one but I'm not surprised the Malfoys would have had one created. They would be able to watch for any instances of half-bloods being born given the family penchant for pure-blood righteousness. "

"Yes – you are correct. This is the Malfoy family tree. As you can see, Lucius date of death was not long after his last entry."

Harry looked at Severus with wide eyes filled with relief. "He's dead, Severus."

"We knew that. I mean it's been centuries. Even Wizards don't live that long," he said with a soft smile. Mal wanted to ask why Lucius death date was in a grey ink rather than the dark ink found on most of the others, but he left it go. If Harry and Severus were satisfied, it was enough for him. 'Sides there were too many other weird things to absorb.

"Do you know why I hired you, Captain?"

"Badger hired us," Mal said. "I don't know why."

"I told Badger to hire you specifically. You see it would take a Vizard's blood to be able to open the vault at Gringott's."

"You knew I had Wizarding blood? How?"

"You see, the vonderful thing about the Vizarding vorld is zhat almost everyone related to everyone else. Zhis scroll vill automatically adjust to include anyone vith the slightest hint of bloodline either through birth or marriage. Mr. Potter became a part of zhe Black family through inheritance from Sirius Black, plus of course Narcissa vas also from Black family, but without Potter, I vould haf never known this. Once Harry married Severus Snape, zhe Snape family line became available for viewing as vell even though zhey did not haf children. But Severus Snape's aunt did. And byou, Malcolm Reynolds, /b are descended from her."

"So Severus is my great, great, great, great etc…etc… great Uncle?"

"Yes."

"Vhich is also vhy you vere able to release zhem from portrait. Zhe spell vas dark blood magic and required either blood or bloodline of zhe subjects or spellcaster to release zhem. I vas going to do it myself, but poof – you beat me to it," Niska ended the explanation with a snap.

"Okay – so that explains a lot of things except for why you plan to hold on to Harry and Severus but not me," Mal stood at attention.

"Captain Reynolds. I like power. Magic vill give me more power. You do not know how to do magic. Zhey do. Simple. I need zhem to teach me how to use my magic," Niska said.

"No way!" Harry exclaimed.

"I have vays of making you cooperate, Mr. Potter. I know you vill teach me these things."

"Niska, you may have read that using magic requires wands. If you read those books, you would know that. You would also know that we do not have our wands."

"Ah, but I do," Niska said.

"You have our wands?" Harry asked, "How?"

"Zhey are in zhe case. In order to keep your portrait alive it required something of both of yours nearby along vith any other vizard nearby to awaken you."

"That's why we went so long in limbo-land," Harry said in sudden understanding.

"Right. So I shall give you your vands after you agree to help me," Niska stated.

"I'd rather live without it, thanks," Harry said.

"You need convincing. I only need one of you to teach me. I vill use the other to convince you to do as I say. Mr. Reynolds can tell you how vell I can convince people. But vords are not enough. You need demonstration so I vill take you to the chamber now to show you."

"Chamber? Damn. I hate anyplace called a chamber," Harry muttered.

Niska stood and grabbed Harry's arm and pulled him out of his seat. "Come." As they headed for the door, the overhead lights flickered a bit. The doors slid open and the black-clad guards came back in. "Bring the other two and the box," Niska ordered.

There were two guards on each Severus and Mal as they were pushed down the hall. Each guard had a laser rifle in their gloved hands pointed at the two men's backs. Niska seemed to hold a surprisingly firm grip on Harry's arm as he led them into a small room.

The room was cramped and sterile. There was a small steel table towards the back with several tortuous looking devices hanging from the ceiling. An array of sharp looking instruments lay on a table nearby. The center of the room had a square column with heavy chains hanging off of it. Mal thought it looked rather similar in nature to the one he'd seen previously with Niska.

"Lay the box on the table," Niska ordered the remaining guard. The brutish man sat the box that had originally held the portrait on to the table. Mal was relieved as that meant at this point none of them would be lying on the table.

As the guard came back, Niska thrust Harry at him. "Hold the boy." The guard grinned showing his missing teeth at Harry. Mal almost felt the shiver he knew went down Harry's back as the man grabbed both arms from behind and held Harry firmly in front of him.

Niska carefully opened the box. He waved the guards holding Severus over and indicated the man should be brought as well. Niska reached for a sharp knife as he approached.

"Hold out your hand," Niska ordered.

"I think not," Severus said.

Niska looked at him carefully then nodded at one of the two guards besides Mal. The scarred-face man to his left stepped forward a little.

"Show Mr. Snape vhat happens to those who do not do as told," Niska said as he tilted his head towards Harry.

Mal noticed the man pick up a long steel prod off the wall and flick a switch. A hum of power could be heard going through it. So not good.

He tried to lunge forward before…

"AARGHH…" a surge of electricity shot through Harry's body as the man touched the electric prod to his bare stomach and the metallic sword pressed against his skin. Mal could smell the burning flash as the metal singed him.

"Stop! Here," Severus thrust his arm under Niska's face.

The guard pulled away but Harry's body convulsed with tremors and his eyes rolled backwards a bit but he was still conscious. The guard held him on his feet. Mal noticed he'd bitten his lip.

"Zhis vill only take moment, Mr. Snape." Niska cut a small slice across Severus' palm with a surgical precision. Severus didn't even wince but stood watching Harry. Mal realized there was no point in his feigning disinterest as Niska already knew they were bonded.

Other than Harry's panting, the room was silent as Niska held Severus' hand over the box. After a few drops of blood dripped onto the box, a small glowing light appeared. A small "whoosh" could be heard and Severus turned his head to look down into the box.

"Your vands, Mr. Snape. Retrieve zhem but be varned if you attempt to do anything…rash..your spouse vill pay." Mal could see the guard moving the prod very close to Harry's skin. Harry was holding a breath to keep it from touching him. Electrical arcs could be seen dancing around the end as if in search of a target.

"Quite a cattle prod, Niska," Mal said. "Is that how you get all the girls?" he smiled in an attempt to distract him. The guard next to him suddenly punched him in the face. Mal shook his head to regain his equilibrium. "Now that's more like the Niska I know."

"Enough fooling, Mr. Reynolds." Niska took Harry's wand out of Snape's hand. "Show me magic trick, Mr. Snape."

Severus rolled his eyes and said, "Lumos," and the tip of his wand glowed. Niska smiled lightly.

"Vell – I don't need flashlight. I read of spell called "Crucio". Show me that on Mr. Reynolds. I wish to see how this pain curse works."

Severus visibly balked, "That's… that's an unforgivable spell. I can't do that."

"Oh I think you can. Lucius was quite clear in your abilities with dark spells. Let's give you some incentive shall we?"

The guard hit Harry again. He convulsed and screamed while arcs of electricity danced along his body.

"CRUCIO!" Severus' voice registered for just a moment before Mal felt fire raging through him. He'd never felt such agony before. He collapsed on the floor after just a moment.

Suddenly the pain vanished and Mal lie panting on the floor. "You can't hold it for more than a few seconds without the victim going insane," Severus said coolly to Niska. "I assume you know this already."

"Yes. No, I don't vant him insane yet. You vill teach this spell to me," Niska ordered.

Snape stared at him and then in the most reasonable voice he could muster said, "You do know that your blood might be so diluted by Muggle blood that you may not be able to perform magic?"

"Ve'll see. You better hope I can Mr. Snape as I haf no use for you othervise. Your pretty husband however I can make good money vith by selling to highest bidder. I believe he vould fetch high price."

Mal could hardly think right but as he looked up at Severus, he saw a fierce determination cross his face. He looked over at Harry limping lying in the guard's arms. He looked unconscious. Looking back at Severus he saw a small arch of his eyebrow as he said, "I see," Mal heard a very deadly lilt to Severus' voice he had not heard up to that point. "Yes then I guess I should teach you, but I cannot do it on Captain Reynolds again. Perhaps you have someone else I could demonstrate on."

Niska seemed overly pleased and pointed to the guard on Mal's other side. Mal looked up to see the youngest guard of them all go pale in realization of what Niska just ordered. "CRUCIO," Severus said with a smile and the guard went down. Mal took the opportunity to kick the legs out from under the guard holding the "prod" at Harry.

At the same moment, Severus swung a leg out behind him to knock one of his guards away as he yelled "Stupefy" at Niska. Niska seemed to just avoid the spell coming at him. Niska ran to a wall just inside the door and began punching something on the panel. "He's calling reinforcements. We'd best finish this quick!" Mal yelled.

Mal was trying to get to his feet as the guard he was fighting came after him. Just behind the guard, he noticed Harry stamping on both of the guard's feet and then bucked the back of his head into the man's nose as he bent over. Guess he wasn't as passed out as I thought.

Mal took another hit to the chin by his opponent as he was distracted seeing Harry barrel into his guard forcing him into the wall. Harry leaned back and sucked punched the man in the throat. The man went down gasping for air. Wow – I'm impressed, and -POW!- Another punch to the stomach knocked Mal across the room towards Severus and the two guards he was fighting. 'OK, time to get serious,' he thought as he refocused on Scarface.

"ENOUGH!" Niska's voice rose over the scuffle.

Chapter 8 - Escaping Niska's Clutches

Mal was trying to get away from the guard he was currently fighting and Severus was engaged with his one remaining guard yet. The other three were down already.

He looked over to see Niska pointing a laser-rifle at Severus and him who were now standing side-by side. 'Must be what he got from the hidden panel,' Mal registered.

"Severus!" he yelled to give him warning as Mal yanked the guard he was fighting in a circle so now his back was to Niska.

In that split second, Harry leapt over the panel at Niska in an attempt to grab the gun away from Niska. While Niska was an old man and didn't have a lot of strength, Harry was slight and couldn't quite get it out of his hands. Mal kneed his opponent in the nuts just to get him down as he jumped to rescue Harry, he saw a bright bolt of light go off that blinded him and knocked him flat.

"What in the hell just happened?" Mal asked wide-eyed trying to get his sight back.

"HARRY!" Mal heard Severus's panicked voice.

Mal's vision came back in time for him to see that Severus had turned his back on the one guard still standing to rush to Harry who was lying very still on the ground. He couldn't see Niska at all.

Mal scrambled to a crouched position and leapt across the floor to tackle the remaining guard before he shot Severus. He managed to wrap his arms around the guard's knees and dragged him to the floor. They wrestled over the gun in the guard's hands for a few moments but Mal managed to elbow the man in the nose. The man dropped the gun as he realized his nose was broken and groaned in pain. Mal rolled off him and grabbed the gun that had dropped out of his hands. He spun on the floor and fired. The last guard stopped groaning.

Mal looked around. Severus was bent over Harry holding in his arms, clinging to him to his chest. Mal felt a big hole open in his chest. 'He can't be...,' he refused to think it.

He stepped up behind Severus while still watching for Niska or any of his men. As he came behind Severus he could hear the man whisper plaintively, "Don't die brat…don't you dare die on me. Not now…not after everything." Mal's heart was beginning to break as he heard one last plea, "You're the boy-who lived – so live dammit!"

"We got to go, Severus," Mal said firmly. They had to get out of there.

"I can't leave him," Severus looked up at him with a blank face. He'd seen that look before. Severus was in shock. He had to get them moving if the two of them wanted any chance to stay alive.

Mal knew taking Harry's body back would slow them down but he understood the need to do so. "Bring him then, but move it."

Severus stood and lifted Harry's body up with a grunt to carry him out. He followed Mal but was moving slower than Mal would have liked. "You need to move faster," he ordered.

"He's heavier…" Severus didn't finish.

"Can't you use your wandy thing and do something to make him – I don't know – lighter?" Mal said with a roll of his eyes.

"Oh – right," Severus said with a weird look on his face, a sort of hopeful. "My wand…I'd forgotten."

He quickly lay Harry down on the ground and fumbled with his wand for moment.

Mal watched him anxiously. He couldn't stop to think about it. He knew the way out, he just had to get to the shuttle before Niska tracked them. And why weren't there already a million guards on their tails by now. Niska surely had ordered them already.

"Hurry it up!"

Severus didn't look up from what he was doing. He finished mumbling something in Latin and Mal saw several bright lights surround Harry. That would probably give them away.

"Let's go. Niska will be after us any moment."

"No he won't," Severus said in an oddly serene voice.

'He's lost it,' Mal thought. Instead he asked, "What do you mean?"

"Niska's already dead," Severus said plainly with no emotion.

"What? I didn't see his body."

"You wouldn't have. Harry killed him."

Mal didn't believe a word of it but now was not the time, "OK – even if you're right we still need to get back to the shuttle."

"I agree. We're running out of time," Severus said.

Mal had been surprised that they had not been stopped or followed or anything. Maybe Niska truly was dead and no one else knew to stop them. With the exception of the loss of Harry, it was kind of anti-climatic. As they reached the shuttle are, the space was empty. No one seemed to be guarding it. Severus paused outside for a moment. "I think I can get them to not follow us."

"Anything would help 'cause they're apt to blow us out of the sky once we launch," Mal said.

Severus handed Harry to Mal. Mal grunted as he took on the weight of the young man's body. He didn't feel cold yet, but he was very still. Mal couldn't look at him. He watched Severus go over to a panel in the wall and touch his wand to it. An alarm starting blaring – "Self destruct in two minutes!"

Mal's eyebrows shot up. How in the hell had he done that?

"Let's go," Severus said as he retook Harry from Mal.

Severus was hovering over the young man's body waving his wand around. The shuttle they had stolen was performing a little oddly, but they wouldn't be in there long so Mal didn't say anything.

"How long until we get to Serenity?" Severus asked without looking up.

"About fifteen minutes," Mal answered.

"Tell them to have Simon standby. Harry won't have long."

"What?" Mal yelled looking back at him, "I thought Harry was…"

"He almost is. If it hadn't been for my wand I wouldn't have been able to stop the progression of his systems shutting down but I can only hold it off with magic for so long. He needs real medical help quickly or we will lose him."

"Right," a sudden whoosh of relief went through Mal as he picked up the communicator. "Zoe!"

"Yes, Captain?"

"Get Simon on the line now."

A few seconds passed that felt like an eternity before Simon's voice broke in "Captain – you needed.."

"Harry's been hurt bad. You need to be ready."

"What happened?" the doctor asked going immediately into care provider mode.

"Laser rifle to the stomach," he looked at Severus for confirmation.

"And he's still alive?" Simon asked with the sound of disbelief evident in his voice.

"Barely," Mal acknowledged.

"Got it. I'll be prepped. But Mal, you know…" Simon began. Mal knew where he was going and stopped him.

"No – you fix him. You have to," Mal ordered.

"Understood," Simon said, resigned.

"And Zoe - tell Kaylee to have those engines ready to burn. We need to run as soon as we're on board."

With the exception of River, who was currently piloting the ship, the most of the crew stood outside the infirmary. Zoe had just left the bridge with River and was coming to check on their injured companion. They had safely escaped as the cruiser seemed to lay dead in space behind them. None of the short-range fighters followed them.

"How's it going?" Zoe asked as she approached the people standing outside the infirmary.

"Slowly," Mal said. They'd been watching Simon through the glass window as he frantically worked on Harry for an hour. He'd ordered everyone out after they didn't give him enough space to work on his patient.

"Too slowly," agreed Severus. The man hadn't moved. He stood still watching Harry struggle with every breath now that he had released the spell. Mal couldn't remember what the actual name of the spell was so he just called it the "stasis" spell. He wondered if Severus had even blinked.

Kaylee was also standing by them. "He's still alive though, so that's good, right?" she asked with a nervous lilt.

"Better than the alternative," Zoe gave her a slight smile.

Jayne took a drink from his flask. "He's a tough little bugger. He'll make it." They all noticed Harry's breathing became a bit easier after yet another injection by Simon.

Finally Simon looked up at them and smiled slightly. He gave a quick thumbs up and put his focus back on his patient.

Kaylee actually jumped up, "Yeah!" she grinned at her boyfriend.

Mal released a breath he didn't know he held. Finally he looked around, "Zoe – who's driving?"

"River but I told her I'd come right back with an update. She'll be happy to know he'll be ok."

Simon poked his head out a few minutes later, "He needs a lot of rest, but he'll come through." He looked at Severus and motioned him to come inside. "You can stay for a couple of moments only, but I thought you'd like to see him."

"Thank you, Doctor Tam," Severus said with a slightly shaken voice.

"Ok everyone – back to work then." Mal ordered to give the men some privacy. He saw Severus take Harry's hand and talk softly to him. He turned away to occupy himself for awhile until he could speak with the older man later. He had a lot of questions but right now he felt downright giddy that Harry would be ok.

Simon had been gentle, yet firm in his decision that Severus could not stay there taxing Harry's energy. Few people survived laser rifle shots and Simon was being very cautious. He agreed that Severus could come in for five minutes every hour and Severus had been following that schedule with only short cat-naps for almost 24 hours now and had been parked on a bed just outside the infirmary that Simon had put up for him.

Mal had left him alone for a bit but felt it was time to talk. He brought the man some coffee and rolls Kaylee had made earlier. "Here you should eat something. You need your strength for when Harry wakes," Mal said cutting off the argument he knew would be coming.

"What did you do back there anyways?" he asked as he sat down next to Severus with his own drink in hand. "How did you know how to get the self-destruct sequence started?"

"I didn't. I just wanted to disrupt their electrical systems so I said the strongest spell I could think of. I basically 'Avada Kedavra'd' the ship. That's the killing spell that Harry used on Voldemort. I guess the computer interpreted that as a "Self-Destruct" command. It could have easily just turned on all the showers instead."

"Huh…that magic stuff's kind of creepy. I wonder why the ship didn't actually explode?"

"Ah well, it was just a temporary diversion. I imagine someone could have easily entered the codes to stop it once the magic had dissipated – which would have been after I left the ship."

"Severus. Can I ask you why you thought Niska is dead?" Mal said after a few moments.

Severus took a sip and then looked at Harry through the glass, "I saw the pile of ash where Niska stood."

"Pile of ash?"

"Harry disintegrated him," Severus stated flatly.

"He can do that? But I thought he needed a wand?" Mal was confused.

"He did it once, as far as I know, when he was 11 and he didn't have his wand on him at the time. Dumbledore always said his power was love. He thought it was because the person he did it to couldn't handle the touch of "love" that resided in Harry's blood from his mother's sacrifice. I think it's Harry's innate magic. I think it did what it needed to do to protect those he loves."

"Harry's lost people he's loved before though and it didn't save them," Mal asked.

"True – but he wasn't in immediate contact with the person threatening them. I think he actually needs to touch the person threatening the people he loves. And it has to be a very imminent and real threat. I don't think he did it intentionally."

"So he saved us," Mal said.

"Yes. He still seems to have a people-saving thing." Severus gave Mal a small smile.

"Well, we'll have to talk to him about that then won't we?"

"Thank you, Captain. I don't know how to repay you for everything," Harry said. The three men were standing in the cargo hold getting ready to get off the ship for the first time in several weeks. Mal was looking forward to spending some money. They had actually managed to hold on to the payment from Niska. It seems Severus had been right. He'd intercepted a few waves discussing his disappearance. No one seemed to know what happened to him.

Harry and Severus looked around at the planet they were on. "Guess it's time we got out of your hair. Don't know where the two of us will end up, but we'd like to stay in touch."

Mal stared at them. Where did they think they were going to go? They had no real ids and only the money they had was from this job. They still knew so little about this time. Plus, even if Mal didn't want to admit it to himself, he didn't want them to leave.

"Don't recall asking for payment. And what are you two yapping about? Why would want to stay on this rock? It's a crappy planet. Serenity's much better," Mal said.

"But…why would you want us to stay on board? We're not crew," Harry started.

Mal interrupted, "Look, I'm thinking we go back to that vault where we found you. Probably some other pieces might have some value but none of us know about things that came from Earth-that-Was. Likely Jayne might blow himself up handling the wrong thing. Not that that would be much of a loss, but he'd likely take Zoe and Kaylee as well and I can't have that. You know how hard it is to find good first officers and chief engineers willing to work for nothing? You two though might know what we're looking at, what might have value and what might go kaboom. Plus, you're family right?"

"Oh.." Harry replied. "Well I guess Severus and I will just have to cancel those fancy dinner plans and renege on the new house I bought so we can go with you. Severus you agree?"

"I concur. We could be of assistance in this to you and thereby repay our debt," Severus nodded at the captain.

"Shame we lost those items at Niska's," Mal said.

"What do you mean?" Severus asked.

"Just they'd be pretty compelling reading, is all."

"I have them," Severus said.

"What – when?"

"I shrunk them before we left the room and slipped them into my pocket. I wasn't going to let someone like Niska keep them. He was too preoccupied with threatening Harry to notice."

"I thought you needed your wand. You didn't have it until after we got into the chamber."

"Actually for simple spells like Feather-weight and Shrinking spells, I'm pretty good wandless. I'm just glad he didn't connect the brief light flicker with my magic.

"You know – I think you'll fit in here really well for as long as you want to stay that is." Mal smiled. He knew Severus realized he was giving them an option of time on their ship to begin to adjust to their new lives.

Epilogue

In the months that followed Harry and Severus managed to learn how to manage minor magic on the ship without interfering with the systems. Harry became a good pilot, unsurprisingly to Severus, given his ability on a broom. He and River split piloting duties. Severus managed to help out in the infirmary, as well lending a hand in battles and as a con artist. He was quite able to convince people to part with items for cheaper than they would really like to sell them for. He had no set role. He liked that. It was a freedom never afforded to him in the past. While he and Harry discussed leaving the ship, they had found no planet on which they wished to remain for any length of time.

Severus was in the Cargo Hold stacking some boxes with Jayne. He noticed Mal had wandered in and sat down on the walkway above and opposite him. He then saw River and Harry walking into the Cargo Hold. 'Zoe must have the con,' he thought as he realized what time it was. River and Harry had taken to sparring together as he and Jayne did. He admitted though their bouts were more like dancing than fighting at times. Severus stopped to watch for a moment as they began their bout.

River was a graceful, elegant dancer and it translated into beautiful martial arts poses and fighting stances. Harry was also a graceful fighter. Once Severus had told him to fight like he flew, he got it. He asked, with slight embarrassment, for dance lessons with River. She was happy to teach him. At 19, he was still young enough to force his body to accommodate the demands. While he'd always been fit, Harry had developed even finer toned muscles and lovely grace about him. The black sleeveless practice uniforms that River and Harry wore left little to the imagination since they fit so snugly.

Severus looked up and watched the Captain for a few moments. He left Jayne standing in a stupor watching the two of them. Really – Jayne would never change and Severus had given up. He never actually tried anything anymore after Harry followed through on the temporary impotence hex after one too many butt pinches.

After watching Mal watch the bout for a few moments, he decided to go sit with him. He surprised the Captain when he sat down. "Sorry, lost in thought," Mal said.

"Yes. I see that." They were quiet for a few moments as they watched the dance below them. "It's good to know my family line lived on, Mal. That my Aunt had children that survived," Severus opened the conversation.

"Yes, I imagine there's joy in that," Mal said.

"And I'm proud to call you my great, great, great to the tenth power great grand-nephew."

"Thanks, Uncle Severus," Mal said with a cheesy smile and it amused Severus. It was also the reason he wouldn't punch him right now.

"But if I ever find out you've touched Harry inappropriately, family bonds will not stop me from breaking your arm. Dong ma?"

Mal looked shocked. Severus thought Mal must not have realized how obvious he had been. After a second, Mal nodded, "Understood."

There were a few more seconds of uncomfortable silence. Severus took a deep breath and added, "If anything ever happens to me though, you'll watch out for him," not looking at Mal, but watching his partner who was twenty plus years his junior. Who knew what would happen in the future?

"Of course," Mal said quietly.

"I don't need to be watching my back now do I?" Severus pushed, eyeing him sideways.

Mal turned to look him in the eye. "I'll say it once. Never again and never to him. I lo…," he hesitated, "Well, he's special. That means I don't want him in pain. Losing you – that would be a hurt he'd not get over quickly so I'll do everything in my power to protect you both." Mal turned his darkened eyes away from Severus and began to watch the two again.

"Understood." Severus said and turned to watch them as well. He admired Mal's nobility. It surely hadn't come from his side of the family. But their joint love for Harry was something they did have in common.

Harry looked up and waved heartily at the two of them with a big smile. River took advantage of his distraction and kicked him in the gut, knocking the breath out of him as he sailed across the floor.

"Ooohh…that gotta hurt," Mal said.

"Idiot," Severus said softly.

*Translations:

Bizui – shut up

Dong ma? – Understand?

ee da tuo da bien - A big lump of crap

gos se – shit

luh-suh - garbage

Mei-mei – little sister

Tah mah duh hwoon dahn - Mother humping son of a bitch

Tsai boo shr - No way

yu bun duh - stupid

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