AN: Since this seemed to be such a huge hit at Christmas, I wrote a sequel. :) Still crack, still mentions a lot of sex toys, still has silly Weasleys and a tolerant Severus. Hope you enjoy reading it, cause I had fun writing it! And to Adrian, hope your weekend gets bettah!
End of April
Harry shut down his shop early on Thursday, leaving himself just enough time to wander to the far end of Diagon Alley and pick up more moving boxes from Under the Cloak Moving Services. They'd been recommended to him by several of his friends, as apparently they were the best at moving wizards and witches to houses in muggle neighbourhoods.
As Harry fit twelve moving boxes into one space-enhanced one, he had to admit that he was impressed by them so far. They were to show up at Severus' Oxford home on Tuesday in a muggle lorry, complete with movers and moving trollies to use so that their new neighbours wouldn't see boxes being levitated into the house.
Harry ducked under the eaves of a shop and clutched the boxes tightly, apparating home. Tomfoolery greeted him with non-stop chattering until Harry dug out some owl treats. Tom wasn't too bothered by the whole packing process, but then, he was always content if he got food.
"I'm moving in with Severus Snape," Harry cheerfully told the bird. Tom ignored him.
"Surprising news from the Ministry today as Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour announced that this year's Wizarding War Anniversary will be a celebration of sorts, featuring his own band. Mixed reviews have been given by witches and wizards polled on the streets of Diagon Alley, but what do you think? Owl us here at 88.2 WizzFM. Coming up next, Arikka Jones and Experimental Magic!"
Harry had only managed to pack one box, singing along to the radio, when he heard a knock at the door. Severus hadn't mentioned visiting that evening, as he had a meeting with a friend of his book publisher, so Harry was a bit cautious opening the door. His wariness turned out to be founded, upon seeing the twin grins that met him on the other side.
"Heckie boy!" George cheered, or maybe it was Fred.
"We're here to help you pack!"
They pushed Harry aside, bringing a bottle of firewhiskey and a large paper sack of snacks. Ron and Hermione followed straight after, and Harry shook his head.
"You know this is a one-room flat, right? I could probably do it with my eyes closed," Harry said, stepping into the kitchen. There was a salad bowl in the sink that looked clean enough to hold crisps.
"I think they're here to hinder more than help," Hermione answered, rolling her eyes at the twins. Fred had levitated Harry's shoes and was making them tap dance on the ceiling.
"Why do you have so many shoes, Heck?" Ron asked, sprawled onto the chesterfield and watching the dance above his head. "Is that a gay thing? Too many shoes?"
"Those are for running," Harry said, laughing. He placed his running box in the middle of the room and Fred made the shoes dive bomb into it from the ceiling.
George passed around the shot glasses as Hermione plunked herself down in front of Harry's bookcase, taking over that packing by unspoken agreement.
"So," Fred started, pouring some firewhiskey out. "Next week is May, and it's the second wizarding independence."
"Bollocks to that," Harry grumbled, accepting his glass.
"Harry," Hermione shook her head. Hermione saw value to the ceremony, and Harry did too, but he hated the idea of the Ministry putting him on a pedestal again for the day.
"Right. But, after the second, there's the full week of hols," Ron continued on. He was sitting up on the couch now, holding a steaming glass of firewhiskey and carrying the same expression he wore when playing chess. "A whole week off, summer not far off, Diagon Alley probably full of customers."
Harry had stepped over to his wall shelf of knickknacks and performed the packing spell on them when he narrowed his eyes at Ron.
"Well it's obvious, Hector," George replied, in formal tone. "Weasleys Wizard Wheezes hereby sets forth a Challenge to Bottoms Up."
"Oh this will end well," Hermione rolled her eyes, carefully packing Harry's books into a box.
"What's the challenge?" Harry asked, after a moment of thought.
"It's simple, really," Fred explained. "We each go into each other's shop, and pick five items. One under 9 sickles, one under 17 sickles, one under 2 galleons, one under 6, and one over 7."
"And for that entire week," Ron continued, "only your sales for those five items count in the challenge."
"Advertise them any way you want," George added. "But at the end, the store with the highest number sold wins."
Harry gave a glance to Hermione, who didn't seem to be completely put off by the idea. And having suggested many hare-brained plots to her before, Harry knew exactly what her face would look like if she had disapproved.
"If I lose?" Harry asked, remembering the bits of New Years that he could. Percy still refused to mention the night.
"Whoever wins," George grinned, "gets to run the other's shop for a day."
Harry loved that his friends still used the nickname Heck with him, and that they were relatively accepting of his relationship with Severus. He loved the blind loyalty they'd developed and maintained with each other, even when it ended up with silly challenges and dares like the one the Weasleys were proposing. And as much as Severus tolerated his friends, Harry knew Severus would be more than a little annoyed at the prospect of another dare.
"Challenge accepted," said Harry, toasting his glass.
Monday April 26th
"Potter! You wouldn't happen to know anything about this, would you?" Draco demanded, storming into the shop from the back steps and waving an envelope. It was early on Monday, and Harry hadn't quite had enough caffeine to deal with a peeved Draco Malfoy.
Harry snatched the envelope and took his time unfolding it, rubbing his thumb over the official ministry seal.
"Dear Mr D. A. Malfoy,
As per section 223b of the Ministry contract regarding your work-release program, a detailed observation will be made of your work habits, environment, and records at Bottoms Up, 2 Addition Alley. Please inform your employer of this investigation, which will occur on Tuesday, May 4th, 2004.
A full report containing all the findings from this investigation will be available at the Ministry of Magic Archives Department within one month of the visit.
Draco's eyes were still brimming with frustration and suspicion by the time Harry had put the letter down, and Harry summoned the coffee pot for a refill.
"Sounds just like a routine check up," Harry ventured. Perhaps he wouldn't tell Malfoy about the new contest with the Weasleys just yet.
"If I fail this investigation, Potter," Draco growled, stuffing the note back into the envelope, "I risk going back to Azkaban."
"Back? You were only there for two days," Harry blinked.
Hermione slipped into the shop just in time to see Draco slam the door of the staff room.
"Did I miss Fred and George?" Hermione asked, dropping her bag under the counter on a shelf. She stole a sip of Harry's coffee, unwilling to face Draco in the back room.
Harry shook his head and pulled out a list of items he wanted to put up for selection for the challenge.
"He's getting inspected by someone from the work-release program," Harry shrugged.
"That could be pretty serious, Harry," said Hermione, glancing at the back of the shop. They could hear Draco banging around in the staffroom, but no actual words from him.
"I'm sure it'll be fine. He's actually been pretty tolerable," said Harry. It was time for the shop to open, and he casually walked to the front door to flick the sign over.
"Thanks for volunteering to help with the move on Saturday, by the way."
"You're welcome. I don't think you realize how tiring a full move can be," Hermione said, twisting the engagement ring on her finger. Harry's attention was drawn to it, and he admired the elegant design. "No offense, Harry, but you've never really had enough stuff before to suffer through a proper move."
"It'll be fine, Hermione," Harry assured, rolling his eyes. He pulled out his sheet of inventory and started ticking off items that needed to be ordered. "We have this handy thing we can use, called magic."
Hermione huffed and shoved his shoulder.
"Well, I still think you're crazy to do a marathon a week after you move," said Hermione, chastising in a friendly manner. "What does Severus think?"
"Oh, he thinks running is daft," Harry grinned. A timid man, dressed in dark non-descript clothes, entered into the shop and slunk towards the magazines at the back. Being as it was a bright, sunny spring day, he stuck out like a sore thumb.
"Well, he doesn't strike me as the athletic sort," Hermione pondered. "Was he the major delay on finding your new place?"
"No, not really. It was more the estate agent," Harry's eyes swept the shop as he took stock of what was on the shelves. "She overheard Severus saying he needed a fireplace big enough to fit a fully grown adult in. Was rather distant after that."
"Potter, you will show me all the reports you've sent to the Ministry regarding my work here. I want to know exactly what I'm up against," Draco demanded, bursting into the room and startling the man looking at magazines.
"One shouldn't make such demands on their boss, Draco," Harry said, twirling his quill in his hand. "Just saying."
"Granger," Draco nodded at Hermione. His face was twisted up in a strange way, as if he was trying to figure out how to be nice to Harry.
"Oh, I'm back to Granger now, am I?" she muttered, slipping out from the cash desk and moving to the back of the shop.
"I will not have you stand in the way of my freedom, Potter. I have been following the rules for almost five years. They will not arrest me again."
Draco lifted his head up snobbishly and moved to the magazine section, offering to help out the customer in an overly sweet and sugary voice. The man fled before Draco could even see what sort of kink magazines he was looking for.
"Luna didn't stay over last night, did she?" Harry asked, studying Draco as the shop door swung close.
"No," Draco answered, glaring at the door. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Not a thing."
Harry spent the rest of the morning setting up a new display for a product that he'd been anticipating since February, and that he'd actually broken his golden rule to test out. Harry had never ordered products for the shop for pre-testing, preferring to wait until his customers could buy the product before getting his own and trying it out. But the Cockitator, that was something he just had to try. It was not, as it sounded, a freak cross between a rogue potato and a cock, but instead a system of two simple magical black bands.
Harry stacked the boxes of Cockitator on the display table, as Hermione chatted to a customer in the background. His mind faded off, as he remembered their testing of the product.
Severus had raised an eyebrow at the bag Harry had brought home from the shop, and crossed his arms suspiciously at the dildo that was removed from it.
"We have two of those already. Real ones," Severus had said, watching as Harry slipped a black elastic band over the head of the dildo and down the shaft. It was only about a centimetre thick, and went on much like a condom.
"I'm aware of that," Harry said, walking up to Severus and cupping him through the thick woollen trousers he wore. Harry smiled into Severus' neck, happy at finding his boyfriend half-hard already.
"Do you want to bottom or top?" Harry asked, nibbling at Severus' collarbone.
"Who gets the fake phallus?" Severus murmured, his voice low and his body relaxing.
"The top," Harry smirked, leaning in for a kiss that distracted him.
"Then by all means," Severus had said, waving his arm toward the bed in invitation.
"Harry, what does this do?" Hermione asked, startling Harry so bad that he dropped the box in his hand.
"What? I …what?"
"This toy. What is its function?" Hermione asked, rolling her eyes.
Harry's face flushed bright red as he stacked the last box on the table.
"It's an imitator. You put the one band on one man's penis and the other on a dildo, and then that man is the, er, top. The toy imitates every..er..thrust the top makes, so he can give and get at the same time."
Harry stood up and picked up the packaging bits that were to be binned, feeling his face aflame. Fortunately, Hermione seemed to be a bit flustered as well.
"Well. That should be a good seller," she said, winking at him.
Harry arrived at Severus' house at ten to six, leaving Malfoy to do the closing for the night. The house smelled warm and spicy, and Harry wasn't surprised to find chilli on the stove in the kitchen. Severus himself was puttering in the living room, fiddling with dials on an old black and white muggle telly he'd unearthed. He was sitting on a large packed box of linens, and trying to find the right station. To his left, on the bare dining room table, was an enormous bouquet of colourful and mismatched flowers.
"What's with the flowers?" Harry asked, searching for a card.
"Hello to you too. They're from my mother," said Severus, not bothering to look at Harry.
"Oh. That's..ehm, nice of her."
"I have yet to figure out her motive for sending them," Severus confirmed. He gave the tv a strong whack with his palm, and the news startled to life.
"Ah. Since when do we watch the evening news?"
Severus stepped back from the telly and stood beside Harry as the announcer welcomed the news team. Harry rested his hand against the small of Severus' back, massaging Severus' spine lightly with his fingers.
"Since I signed the contract to be the voice of the BBC," said Severus, sounding rightfully smug.
"Severus! That's great!" Harry beamed, pulling Severus down slightly for a kiss. "When do you start?"
"A fortnight from now. After the move and your silly little race."
"My sil…it's a bloody marathon," Harry huffed, pretending to be annoyed. "But since you won't start until then, perhaps you can help me with a little work project."
Severus steered Harry toward the kitchen, where dinner had finished cooking and was ready to be served.
"This work project would not have anything to do with any Weasley, would it?"
"Well, Hermione is marrying Ron in September, so technically anything to do with work involves a pseudo-Weasley," Harry reasoned, fetching bowls for the chilli.
Severus took the loaf of French bread out of the oven and pointed it at Harry like a sword.
"You're involved in another ridiculous challenge."
Harry tried to look contrite, but he could tell that Severus wasn't overly annoyed.
"This one doesn't involve any drinking," Harry explained, plunking down at the table.
Friday April 30th.
Harry did a funny little jig as he pulled his spandex running shorts up over his thighs. They rubbed oddly against his leg hair and Harry scrunched up his face as he rearranged himself inside the shorts.
"You look like a right tit," Severus mumbled, not lifting his head from the pillow.
"Nobody asked you," Harry replied, slapping Severus' blanket covered foot.
Slipping on his trainers, Harry set his watch and started jogging down the street. It was not yet six, and Oxford was slowly waking. Today would be a short run, only an hour, but Harry had plenty of things on his mind to ponder out. Harry headed towards the Oxford University Cricket Club field, waving at a dog that barked madly as he ran by.
Yesterday afternoon Bill and Charlie Weasley had stopped by to pick the five items for the challenge. Hermione had pointed out that they were a much more neutral judge than the twins would ever be, and both were eager to help with the competition. Harry was very grateful that they'd picked the Cockitator as one of his items, but wasn't sure how well costume Auror robes would sell. He also had a regular stock dildo on his list, a pair of spikey stiletto leather boots that looked like something Bellatrix Lestrange would wear, and a novelty doorknocker in the shape of testicles.
Harry swerved to avoid two small bikes dropped on the lawn and covered with morning dew. He shouldn't have too much trouble selling some of the items, but the boots would be tricky. Had the contest taken place in late June, Harry would have pushed them as dancing boots for the muggle London pride parade.
Oh well, Harry thought, hitting the halfway mark in his run and turning to head back home. He had Hermione, Draco, and Severus on his side. If he still lost the contest, he shouldn't own a shop.
"Sometimes you can't make it on your own
Sometimes you can't make it
The best you can do is to fake it
Sometimes you can't make it on your own."
"Wanker," Harry muttered, turning off the radio. "That's not even his song."
He walked back over to the counter and grinned.
"Okay, so here's the game plan," said Harry, pointing at the five competition items on the counter. It was twenty to nine, and the shop wasn't open yet. Hermione had a notebook out and was staring thoughtfully at the items, and Draco was barely stifling a yawn.
"Only the sales of these next week count toward the competition. There's nothing in the rules saying we can't start promoting them today and on the weekend."
Draco leaned forward and picked up the life-sized doorknocker.
"The Big Brass Ball Knocker," he said, reading off the box. "How on earth do you plan to market these, genius?"
"Well," Harry said, biting his lip. "It's the anniversary of the war this weekend. I was thinking of having a special to promote the war heroes. Like a 'show you had the balls' kind of thing."
"Oh Harry," Hermione shook her head, trying not to laugh. "We'll call that plan B."
"Brilliant idea, boss," Draco added, rolling his eyes.
"Watch what you say, Malfoy. Your investigation is next week," Harry countered.
Draco scowled, but kept his mouth shut.
"It might actually work, though," Harry continued, rubbing the back of his neck as he thought. "The contest says we need to sell the most of those products. It doesn't say anything about keeping the profits."
"Isn't that the whole point of owning a shop? To keep the profits?" Draco asked, looking baffled.
"Yeah, but the money is minor," Harry waved his hand. "We could make a lot of money by selling these items, and setting up a scholarship or something in the name of those who died in the war."
"You might be able to work with that, Heck," Hermione trailed off.
"Maybe. We'll keep that as a possibility."
"How is that any different from the rubbish Scrimgeour wants to sing at the ceremony?" Draco asked, nodding toward the radio.
"I'm one of the war heroes, so I can offer it. Scrimgeour is embarrassed that he wasn't able to rid the world of Voldemort himself, and needed a seventeen year old to do it," Harry explained.
Harry went through the rest of the items, explaining his idea for pushing the Cockitator and the Auror robe costume. By the time 9 am had rolled around, Draco had set up a box display of the boots, and Hermione had begun making signs advertising a special sale to start the following Monday.
Harry still wasn't sure what items the twins had to sell, but he was certain that Ron would be over later to spy on their game plan, so he'd find out.
The bell rang above the shop door and Harry plastered a smile on his face.
"Good morning, how may I – hi Mrs Thompson," Harry said, his voice warming.
She was carrying a large blue purse in her hand, large enough to fit a bowling ball in, and it matched her blue flowered dress suit. Her blue hat, with its white string of pearls across the brim, was perched on a slightly off angle and covered most of her forehead.
"Heckie dear. How are you this morning?"
"Very well, thanks," Harry grinned. He followed Mrs Thompson to the back room for tea, watching as she patted Draco's arm along the way and pinched the bum of one of their mannequins.
She settled herself into her favourite chair in the staffroom, dumping half her bag on the table as she searched for a small tin of biscuits hidden within. Harry busied himself with making the tea, and enquiring about the large bouquet of flowers she'd sent.
"Severus is a bit suspicious," Harry admitted, plunking two lumps of sugar into Mrs Thompson's cup.
"Pardon, pet? Would you like a shortbread?" Mrs Thompson asked. Harry noted, as he set down the tea, that she'd missed part of her lip with the lipstick again.
"Alistair is suspicious of your flowers. He says none are useful in potions. And yes, please, shortbread are my favourite."
Harry sat down and blew some air over his piping hot tea, amused at Mrs Thompson's mischievous smile.
"Alistair is a very smart boy. But he is sometimes pigeon-holed," Mrs Thompson confided, once again telling Harry something he both knew and had no idea what the connection was to the rest of her sentence.
"Have you killed any of the flowers yet?"
Harry sat back in his seat, wondering if he should lie. He'd never lied to Mrs Thompson though, and he had a feeling she preferred the truth for the most part.
"I don't think the pink ones will make it," he confessed. "But I like the tulips, and they're doing well."
"Pink is the colour of grace," Mrs Thompson said wistfully. She took a bite of her own biscuit and perked up. "You're moving tomorrow!"
Harry stole another shortbread and dunked it in his tea.
"Yes, but we'll still be in Oxford. Sever– Alistair and I are getting a house together, remember?"
"Of course, young man," Mrs Thompson said, and for a second Harry thought he'd be scolded. "Oxford is a lovely town. You watch those muggle chemistry lads, Heck. They'll sweet-talk you with compounds and reactions, but they all want one thing. Lab time."
Mrs Thompson gazed off out the back room window, and Harry finished his tea, trying not to laugh.
Harry locked the front shop door at six straight up, flicking the blinds down to the front of the store. He'd written out a list of instructions for Draco during a lull in customers that afternoon, and was explaining them as he walked to the back of the shop.
"Potter, I'm not stupid. I've been working here for four and a half years."
"Saturdays are busy," Harry bristled, walking into the staff room. "And I want to get ahead on promotions for the contest sales."
"The shop will be fine. I'm under investigation, remember? It would be counter productive to sabotage our sales right now," Draco muttered, putting coffee cups in the sink to wash themselves.
"That's reassuring," said Harry, rolling his eyes. "Look, we start moving at 9 am. Hermione should be here around noon to help you for a few hours. If you absolutely need to, you can let Luna help out. I know she'll be here anyway."
It was interesting to see the two small dots of pink on Draco's normally pale face.
"You know nothing of the sort."
Harry straightened up the stack of magazines where Mrs Thompson had sat at the table, curling his lip at Witches in White.
"Why is Hermione leaving wedding magazines around?" he muttered, flipping through the magazine. Surprisingly, there were actually photos of a wedding done in a nice silver and blue mixed that he actually liked.
A muffled thump sounded upstairs, from the general area of the fireplace.
"I think that's Luna now. Good night, Draco!" Harry called cheerfully.
"Good riddance, Potter," Draco replied in a relatively friendly tone, making his way quickly up the stairs to his flat.
The new house was on Quarry road on the outskirts of Oxford, tucked into a thatch of trees behind a cemetery. Severus had chosen it for the privacy and large secondary building in the garden, and Harry had fallen for the large bright windows in most of the rooms.
It didn't take long for the house to be filled with boxes, noise, and more Weasleys than Harry had been expecting. The movers had left an hour previously, and the home was now host to Harry's pseudo-family as they came to help cast safety wards and stayed for a barbeque dinner.
Severus was sitting at the head of the table, sipping wine and ignoring most of the conversation around him. His mother sat to his left, and seemed to have a smile for everyone. She was on her third piece of cake, and was dancing in her seat to the music playing out the kitchen window.
Arthur, who hadn't helped with the move as much as he had been distracted by some of the muggle appliances, stepped out into the garden from the garage.
"So Harry, what's this running mill you have? It seems very interesting. Many buttons," Arthur asked, his eyes excited.
"It's a treadmill," Harry laughed. "It lets me run in place indoors, when it's raining."
"Daft invention," Severus muttered.
"Hey! It's allowed me to train for the marathon all winter," Harry protested.
"But why are you training so hard, Heckie?" George asked, snatching a dinner roll right out from under Ron's hand.
"We're wizards. We don't need to train that much," Fred finished, poking Ron in the ribs when he tried to get his roll back.
"Training is a necessary evil," Harry shrugged, picking up his glass of water. "Necessary if you want to be evil."
Ron and the twins laughed, but Molly and Arthur sucked back a breath at Harry's comment. Everyone else had a rather uncomfortable look on his or her face.
"What? Too soon?" Harry asked. "It's been six bloody years."
"Quite right, young man!" Mrs Thompson said, toasting him with her upraised fork and a bite of cake. Severus poured her more wine and she smiled fondly at her son.
"Harry, will you be giving a speech this year at the ceremony?" Molly asked.
"I'm not even sure if I'm going," Harry said. He straightened up in his chair when he felt a bare foot resting lightly atop his. Severus wasn't even looking at him.
"Why wouldn't you go?" Hermione asked.
"Yeah, Heck. I mean, you were the one to win this war for us," Ron added.
"Technically, it was Severus and I. And I don't want to go, because Scrimgeour makes a huge deal out of the day, almost to make up for the simple way we killed Voldemort."
"Well, I never! You'll have your mouth washed out with soap, if you keep up with that, Hector!" Mrs Thompson scolded, shaking her fork at Harry. She was oblivious to the puzzled looks being sent her way.
"Scrimgeour wants to honour those who died for the cause," Molly said, not quite sounding convinced by her own reasoning.
"No, Scrimgeour wants to make a spectacle over something private. He's embarrassed that he did nothing to stop Vol…You Know Who. You Know Who broke into the castle and came to Severus' classroom, one morning when everyone was out on a Hogsmeade weekend. I was in detention and after Severus stunned him, I killed him," Harry said, leaning his calf against Severus'. "A bit pathetic that the whole affair was over in five minutes after a year of the Ministry not being able to do anything."
Hermione couldn't stop from giggling, but she managed to hide it as a cough behind her serviette.
"Sheer dumb luck, eh Harry?" Ron grinned, remembering their very first adventure together with a troll.
"Precisely," Harry agreed, securing himself another piece of vanilla cake. "So my choice is to either go to his ceremony and listen to him cover popular muggle songs, or stay at home and plan my complete dominance in our sales challenge."
"You wish," Ron muttered, his eyes glittering as he shoved Harry slightly. "The Christmas challenge was child's play. Weasleys Wizard Wheezes is going to crush you this time around."
"Good lord," Mrs Thompson said, staring right at Harry. "You're Harry Potter!"
"Ghastly, isn't it?" Severus commented, as he leaned over towards his mum.
Harry lay naked and stretched out on the bed, the duvet tossed haphazardly across and the cover not put on yet. He was on his stomach, with his arms scrunching the pillow his head rested on, and his eyes were closed. The Line-Mate was circling around his lower back, a wide mesh of pressure points steadily massaging his muscles. It was primarily a sex toy, but Harry found it absolutely priceless for sore muscles.
"Hmm," a deep voice grumbled, startling Harry. "Is some moron sore because he chose to run seven miles the same day we moved?"
"Eight," Harry smiled into the pillow, not opening his eyes. He could hear Severus moving about the bedroom, avoiding the yet to be unpacked boxes.
"And instead of asking me for a massage or a potion," Severus continued, undoing his belt buckle, "the boy hero of the wizarding world is using a sex toy to ease his aches and pains."
The controller for the Line-Mate was picked up off the bed and Harry stretched his leg out as it passed over his calf, wincing when a cramp almost set in.
"Mm. You're rubbish at massages. Fingers too bony – ahhh," Harry exhaled. The mesh netting of the Line-Mate constricted itself into a smaller contact point and flexed itself in and out over Harry's bum, causing him to melt into the bed.
His sore legs were forgotten as the Line-Mate switched tactics under Severus' command, imitating the feel of pulsing fingers and swaying back and forth at the line where Harry's legs met his arse.
"Complaints, Harry?" Severus said, and Harry could hear the smirk in his voice. He canted his hips ever so slightly to make room for his growing erection as Severus moved onto the bed.
"Just honesty," Harry replied. "You do have bony fingers. Great for potions, I think, and…oohh."
The bony fingers grasped his hips strongly and held him still, the Line-Mate still fluttering about.
"And a razor sharp tongue, full of wit and…and…"
The sharp tongue was put to better use, as Harry was held open for Severus. Harry's eyes rolled to the back of his head and the rest of his comments became garbled murmurs captured by his pillow. Harry lost all track of time, his body humming and his mind praising Severus to the stars. He'd never told Severus he loved him aloud, but the thought was very sound in his mind.
Severus finished before Harry could, and gave Harry's lightly furred bum a smack.
"Whazzat for?" Harry mumbled, turning on the bed to gaze at his boyfriend. Severus' hair hung forward slightly, shadowing his cheeks. His eyes roamed appreciatively over Harry's body though, and focused on his groin.
"I've read," said Severus, as he tugged Harry over onto his back and summoned wandlessly the bottle of lubricant. "That runners should exercise their gluteal muscles."
Harry looked on with great interest as the cool, oily substance was dripped onto him.
"Yes," Severus answered, and his look dared Harry to contradict his logic as he straddled Harry's hips.
"And if I have to spend an entire Saturday watching you run for twenty six stupid miles," Severus hissed as he lowered himself down and Harry fought to keep his eyes open. "I intend to make sure you're in well enough shape to run it."
Harry felt the breath knocked out of him as Severus adjusted. He reached forward and grasped Severus' hips, his slightly bony hips where there was a scar on the right side from an old errant curse. Harry's thumbs moved in small circles as he tried to look in Severus' eyes, which were shrouded with his dark hair.
"Always looking out for me," Harry smiled, flexing those exact muscles. If this type of exercise helped with his marathon, he quite looked forward to getting as much work outs as he could.
On Sunday, Harry ignored all letters and notices that arrived by owl mail. He didn't go to the shop, and he didn't turn on the radio. He did not attend the Minister's anniversary function. Instead, he apparated with Severus to the edge of the Forbidden Forest, to participate in the yearly ceremony that Severus undertook on May second.
They walked silently towards Dumbledore's tomb, an impressive light grey slab of marble in the forest. Severus didn't look at Harry, but instead placed a solitary candle at the tomb and lit it. Harry had always suspected that Severus felt guilty for Dumbledore's death. The man had passed a mere two days after their victory, sheer exhaustion from the lengthy war.
"In Finland, it is traditional to go to the cemetery on Christmas Eve," Severus said, watching the candle flame fight against the wind. "Entire families go to visit the graves of their loved ones, and they light a candle. To show they are not forgotten."
Harry felt an ache for Severus, a strong need to take this solitary man into his arms and never let him go. Dumbledore had been one of his only friends.
"You didn't go this past Christmas. You should have told me, I didn't…"
"I did," Severus said, looking up. "I came early in the morning."
"Oh," Harry replied, feeling stupid. Of course Severus would have gone before meeting up with Harry to go to the Weasleys. "I didn't realize you came every year."
"You have never mentioned your snowy owl," Severus pointed out in return, causing Harry to look away, lest he start tearing up. "I assumed that you wish to keep some things in the past."
Severus had left most of his own past unmentioned, and though Harry's life was mostly an open book, the facts at least, Harry himself found that he liked the control he had over his reactions and feelings to things that happened to him. People knew what he was up to, but Harry guarded his thoughts fiercely.
"Hedwig died two years ago, of old age," Harry explained, the words flitting across his lips for the first time in more than a year. He'd woken up one sunny morning in July, and found that Hedwig hadn't. She'd passed away in her sleep, and Harry had shut down the shop for a week for 'inventory.'
Severus stood up, the folds of his black cloak giving a breath of air to the hungry candle flame. He didn't say anything, but stood close enough to Harry that their shoulders touched.
"She stayed with me until she knew I'd be okay on my own," Harry added. He liked to think of Hedwig that way, and even though he loved his new owl Tomfoolery, he was glad that no one would take the guardian spot she'd had when he was a child.
"Your justification is unnecessary," Severus softly said, holding out his hand to apparate them home.
Monday May 3rd
Monday morning was bright, warm, and came with a fresh breeze that rejuvenated the alleyway. Harry arrived at the shop early, ignoring Draco's thumps above as he affixed sale posters to the windows. They allowed the sunlight to filter into the shop, and were boldly colourful. "WHY SO SERIOUS? SUPPORT THE BRAVE WITCHES AND WIZARDS OF THE WAR."
Inside the shop, Harry had set up a large display of Brass Ball Knockers on a table surrounded by flashing lights, with a large sign that advertised the charity information. Every galleon, sickle, and knut from the sale of the ball knockers would be put into the Sirius Black and Cedric Diggory Fund for Hogwarts education. It was a risky move, but as one of the two primary soldiers in the war, Harry hoped he would get away with it.
"I thought this was plan B?" Hermione said, entering the shop. She blinked at the bright display of ball knockers. "At least they don't have hair on them."
"Well, it was," Harry shrugged, shoving his hands in his pockets. "But I thought about the idea more, and I liked it. Even if people buy them as a joke, the money's being used for a good thing."
Hermione studied him carefully and put her bag down behind the cash. The sign that was up with the display had a picture of a wizard in a duelling pose, his face in shadows and his stance imposing. The text underneath plainly described the fund, and the fact that it would provide a brand new wand, a brand new robe, and two brand new textbooks for any Hogwarts student that needed the financial help.
"I'll buy the first pair, Harry. One for yours and Severus' door," Hermione finally said, squeezing his shoulder.
"Hah," Harry grinned, just imagining Severus' face when he found a brass pair of balls hanging from their front door. "I guess I should buy a pair for Ron, seeing as he finally asked you to marry him at Christmas."
Hermione laughed and went toward the staffroom, flicking on the radio. Harry leaned against the counter, watching people saunter by in Addition Alley as Rufus Scrimgeour sang a muggle song on the wireless.
"And it's you when I look in the mirror
And it's you when I don't pick up the phone
Sometimes you can't make it on your own."
Suddenly melancholic, Harry dug under the counter of the cash desk until he found the old rotary phone he used if he needed to call muggle suppliers. He dialled the number he'd only recently learned, and hoped that Severus would realize it was his phone ringing.
"Hullo?" Harry said, keeping his voice down even though there were only two customers in the shop. Draco had the morning off, and Hermione was in the back room.
"Hah, no I'm fine. I was listening to the radio and I felt like calling to see how you were." Harry tapped on the desk with his fingers, letting Severus' voice sooth him.
"Shut up. I'm not being sentimental."
He drew a series of pyramids on the desk with his finger and listened to Severus tease him.
"Yeah, all right, I'll get back to work. Want me to bring you something for lunch? I can pop by at home."
A man in the store picked up one of the ball knockers and headed toward the cash.
"Okay, I'll see you. Take…care," Harry finished, hanging up the phone and feeling better.
Tuesday May 4th
Basil Molesworth was a short, round wizard with stringy thinning hair and a large chin. He wore his trousers pulled up almost to his breastbone, and a dark navy blazer over top that had a Ministry of Magic logo embroidered on the pocket. His bowtie was blue, his shirt starched to the point that it made Harry's collar itch, and his shoes appeared to have been spit-shined.
"Good morning, Mr Potter. I am here regarding your employee with our work-release program, Mr Draco Arturius Malfoy."
Molesworth said this in a very nasal tone, and he glanced around the shop with the kind of look that meant he thought sex toys were for the commoners, and not people of his class.
"Mr Molesworth," Harry said, offering his hand to shake. It was a bit oily from transferring a large box of condoms to the flavour-labelled buckets they had lined up against the north wall of the shop, and Molesworth grimaced at the feeling. "Draco's just on his lunch break right now, he'll be back in twenty minutes or so. Care for a cuppa?"
Harry left Hermione in charge of the shop, noting with satisfaction that she seemed to be on a selling streak with the Auror robes. He wasn't sure what sales tactic she was using with them, but as long as it worked, he didn't much care.
Back in the staffroom, Molesworth gazed around with unhidden curiosity at the oddities that adorned the walls. It was a long room that stretched the length of Harry's shop and the back of the locksmith's next door, and was decorated by various posters, plants, stuffed animals, and supplier pamphlets. Molesworth seemed to finally notice the staff schedule up by the coat cupboard, and actually pulled a clipboard out to check off that Harry had safety rules posted, an employee handbook available, and a form for his employees to request time off.
"They are also covered for full medical leave, and have six weeks vacation per year," Harry said, not even looking up as he prepared tea in the pot.
"Mr Malfoy is only allocated to make 170 galleons, 6s and 23k, per month," Molesworth said, his voice boring and authoritative.
"As included in the information packet requested semi-annually by the Ministry, you will find that his pay stub reflects exactly that," confirmed Harry. He placed the mismatched tea service down and wished that he was taking tea with Mrs Thompson instead.
Molesworth flicked his gaze to the back door of the staffroom, the one that lead upstairs to Draco's flat.
"And can you confirm Mr Malfoy's ability to afford his living expenses directly in Addition Alley?"
"It's provided as part of his employ. The contract allows it."
"Hem," Molesworth said, talking down towards his clipboard. "A promotion?"
"Security," Harry shrugged, keeping his eyes narrowed as he sipped his tea. "The Chosen One running a sex shop? I sleep better knowing Draco is living above the store and can safe guard it."
"I see," said Molesworth, dumping an obscene amount of sugar into his tea. "And how often does Mr Malfoy take sick leave?"
"He's taken it twice in the four and a half years he's been here. Once for dragon pox, once for a personal matter."
Molesworth's eyebrows narrowed at that, but instead of looking intimidating like Snape, he only managed to look constipated.
Harry held his hand up and glanced down at his nearly finished teacup.
"I didn't ask, it isn't any of my business." Out in the main shop area he could hear a roar of laughter from what sounded like a gaggle of witches on a girls' day out.
"Mr Molesworth, I have a busy day on the floor. I'll summarize Draco Malfoy's career at Bottom's Up for you though. He started out surly and suspicious that his school enemy had become his boss, and he's still sarcastic on a daily basis. He is never late, he has put in extra time everyday to ensure the shop is clean, and for some baffling reason, the customers like him. I trust him to run my shop when I'm not here, and he's proud as hell when he has a good sales day."
Harry stood and moved to put his mug in the sink. Molesworth was furiously scribbling down what Harry had said, and just finished when the back door opened. Draco stepped into the staffroom and immediately stiffened upon seeing Molesworth. His eyes flashed suspiciously, and his head rose ever so slightly.
"Draco Malfoy, Basil Molesworth."
Harry noticed Draco subconsciously rub his left arm through this thin dress shirt, where the Mark was covered.
"Come back out when you can, Malfoy. You're doing well today with the door knockers," Harry said, hoping to put some colour back in Draco's ashen face.
Harry stood behind the cash desk, trying not to eavesdrop back towards the staffroom. He had the sheet of sales numbers from Monday and Tuesday in front of him, but the numbers were blurring in his mind. The generic dildo wasn't really selling, and the few witches who'd come in looking for one had gone with a model that had all sorts of fancy attachments, beads, and ticklers on them.
Hermione interrupted his thoughts as she placed a small scroll down on the desk in front of him.
"An enquiry from Professor McGonagall," Hermione said, trying to keep her face straight. "She'd like to know what sort of discounts are available to Order of the Phoenix colleagues."
Harry scrunched his face up and shook his head.
"Tell her that whatever she decides to get, and no I don't want to know what it is, she can have a 15% discount," said Harry, turning his attention to the male section of the shop and focusing his mind on that.
"Harry, you own a sex shop. You had to know that your ideas of some adults we know would be shattered eventually," Hermione said, smacking him lightly with the scroll and laughing.
"I don't want to think about my teachers having sex!" Harry hissed, lowering his voice as Draco and Molesworth came into the shop from the staffroom.
"Oh really?" Hermione said, hands on her hips and eyebrow raised. "You're sleeping with Snape."
"I …yes, but," started Harry, pulling the sheets of numbers towards him.
"No buts, Harry James Potter. You're a hypocrite."
"He's very good at it," Harry grinned, taking satisfaction in the fact that it was Hermione whose face went red this time.
Across the room, Draco led Molesworth over to the Brass Ball Knockers display and was explaining the scholarship connection.
"Hey, how are you selling so many of those Auror robes, by the way?" asked Harry. "I didn't think there were that many people into roleplaying."
"I've been wearing them around the shop in the morning," Hermione blushed.
The door chime sounded and a tall, sturdy wizard entered, wearing a wig that would put Lucius Malfoy's hair to shame. It was poufy and several shades of blond all melded together. The wizard was dressed in a shimmery blue robe, with a bright silver necklace and shiny bangles on his wrists. He had a bejewelled belt loosely slung around his hips, more makeup on than Harry had ever seen on Trelawney, and sharp blood red nails that Aunt Petunia would have found scandalous.
"Wow," Harry breathed. He reached under the shelf for a thick piece of decorative parchment, and muttered a charm to make his wand work like a brush.
"Special! Receive a 50% discount on the compatible Mr Wizard's Wand dildo when you buy the Cockitator!"
The words appeared with flourish on the sign, and Harry cast a second spell to make the parchment rigid. He'd change the display in a few minutes to add the dildos next to the boxes of Cockitators. He wasn't quite sure if it was cheating, but again the contest was for the amount of product sold, and not the money earned.
Harry spent a few more minutes sketching up some plans to market his other products better, but put the sheets away when the flamboyant wizard came to pay for his purchases.
Harry rang through the three bottles of massage oil, scented lube, the balloon animal pack of condoms, and the Cockitator box that the man had selected as well.
"I'm just about to put out a sign for this special," Harry said, nodding towards it. "You can get the 50% off that dildo, if you'd like."
Harry smiled at him, and pointed over to the toy section where the dildos were currently on display. Unfortunately, Basil Molesworth and Draco had made their way to that section as well, and going by the way Draco was fiercely squeezing the hell out of a bright pink silicon prick, Molesworth's questions were irritating him.
The queen standing next to Harry followed his pointed finger and gazed appreciatively at Draco.
"Mmm hmm. Sign me up for one of those too, sugar, if the toyboy comes with it."
"No," Harry answered, barely choking back a laugh. "Sorry, he's taken by one of our female friends."
"Well you let him know he can squeeze by my place anytime," the man said, giving Harry a wink.
Thursday May 6th
Harry stopped off at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes on the way home, taken back as always by the bright lights and loud noises in the shop.
"Heckie!" Ron cheered, looming on a platform above Harry's shop. A toy helicopter buzzed around his head like a demented fly.
"Hey Ron!" Harry called back.
"You wouldn't be trying to spy on us for the contest, would you Heckie?" George asked, popping up beside Harry and startling him.
"No, not that desperate," Harry teased.
"Pity," George shrugged. "Sure I can't interest you in a set of Auror robes?"
"You've got those on your list too?" Harry asked, glancing around to see if he could spot any other items. "Nah, I just came for some of your bruise healing paste."
"Rough day at the sex shop then?" George smirked, leading Harry over to the 'Oopsies!' section of the shop.
"Ha," said Harry, rolling his eyes. On the shelf there were several varieties of the bruise healing paste: the original and a few newer versions the twins had worked on after input from their mother. "I need one that works well on deep bruises."
George stared at him thoughtfully before selecting two boxes, the original one and one labelled 'The Sister Rattler.'
"This one got poor old Hermione's bruise out right quick," George said. "But this one'll work if it's been a few days since the bruise set in. Think you'll crash during the run? I don't know if it works on road rash."
"Not planning on it," Harry shrugged. "Road rash goes away fine though. How well do you think this'll work on scars?"
George eyed the second box critically, and glanced toward Harry.
"Your scar's all white now, it can't fade much further, Heck."
Harry grabbed the box of The Sister Rattler and plucked a thin tube of Weasley Cut-Be-Gone Cream from the shelf. He gave George a grin and pulled out his moneybag.
"Sometimes you still gotta take the chance."
"True! And yet, your money still isn't good here," George replied, pushing him toward the door and ignoring the galleons Harry tried to hand him.
Severus plunked himself down on the chesterfield, unbalancing Harry and nearly causing him to spill his glass of water.
"Oi yourself. The chesterfield has a liquid-repelling charm on it."
Harry stared down at the couch, but it didn't look any different from the day in the store they'd chosen it out.
"Well, but does the floor have one too?"
Severus sat back into the cushions, leaning his head back against the couch and closing his eyes slightly. His lips quirked up slightly, in the manner they did when he was trying not to smile.
"Smartarse. If the race is on Saturday, should you be drinking this much water already?"
"I'll be drinking it at work tomorrow too. But you're supposed to start preparing your body during the week before, and tonight I need to get a good night's sleep," Harry explained, swatting Severus' hand out of the air, where he was doing the 'blah blah blah' motion.
"You're nervous," Severus said, after Harry fidgeted in silence on the chesterfield.
"It's 26.2 miles," Harry answered, not addressing the question.
"And you chose to do it," Severus continued.
"You're coming to watch, right?" Harry asked.
Severus sat up a little, and his dark eyes narrowed in on Harry.
"I was there the last time you faced something drastically challenging. I shall be there again."
Harry smiled and felt his chest warming.
"Mostly to laugh when you can't move Saturday evening," Severus finished, and Harry huffed.
Harry drew his feet up onto the couch and sipped his water as the radio played on. Severus had his eyes closed again, but Harry knew he'd been signing paperwork all day for his new job – and muggle/wizard employment records were a pain – so Harry could understand the tiredness. For all that he'd been through, however, forty-four year old Severus Snape didn't look too shabby. His hair was less greasy now that he was out of the dungeons and not brewing the same potions every day. The lines on his face were distinguished, and now that he went out doors on a semi-regular basis, his skin had lost the yellowish pallor that it had while Harry was a student. The nose was still large and crooked, but Harry liked the character it gave Severus. Harry trailed his eyes down the lean chest, covered in a plain white dress shirt, and imagined the muscles he knew were in the resting arms. Severus used those muscles often, flexing his arms around Harry's shoulders and head when they had sex.
Harry picked up Severus' left hand, cradling it in his own two and tracing the lifeline in the palm with his finger. One dark eye fluttered open as Harry's trace lightly went over the fingertips, and closed again as Harry gave a soft kiss to Severus' wrist. His sleeve buttons were open, and Harry slowly drew a finger up the inside of the shirtsleeve, tapping on the skin where the Dark Mark lay. Severus had never hidden it from him, not when they became intimate, but Harry knew Severus was still very conscious of it.
Case in point, the soft skin under his hand stiffened, and Harry felt Severus slowly try to move his arm away.
"Have you ever tried to remove it?" Harry asked, stopping Severus' retreat.
Severus was staring at the ceiling, his arm warm under Harry's fingers.
"No spell will remove it," Severus conceded, still not looking at Harry.
"I didn't think…could I try something?"
Severus was hesitating, and Harry knew that it was likely very frustrating to keep facing failure when trying to accomplish something. Next to Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape was probably the second greatest wizard that Harry had worked with.
"No spells," Severus finally said, rolling up his sleeve. He eyed Harry curiously when the cream and the bruise paste was summoned.
"Over the summer of sixth year, Hermione got punched in the eye with a Weasley product," said Harry, unscrewing the bruise paste. He scooped up a dollop of it on his finger and let it drip down onto the centre of the Dark Mark. Severus was watching his every move.
"Mrs Weasley tried everything she knew to get the bruise to fade, every spell in The Healer's Helpmate. Nothing worked."
Harry spread the cream over the Mark, making sure that he covered the skin around the ugly tattoo as well.
"Whatever the twins did, the bruise was so deep that only their cream worked. So I wondered," Harry continued, wiping his finger off on a towel.
"Because muggle tattoos are injected into the dermis layer, if this may achieve a positive result," Severus finished.
"I don't think it'd make the tattoo vanish completely," Harry said. "But it's worth a shot."
The bruise healing cream finished sinking into Severus' arm, and Harry added a thin layer of Cut-Be-Gone on top.
The cream had barely sunk in when Severus moved his arm away and rolled the sleeve back down.
"Hey! It's supposed to work almost immediately," Harry protested.
"A watched cauldron never boils, Mr Potter," Severus scolded, crossing his arms.
On the side table to the left of the couch, the final daisy petal fell, leaving the white tulips as the only flowers surviving in the basket Mrs Thompson had sent them.
"Fine. And you can tell your mum that we killed everything but the tulips."
Severus' lips twitched again, and he broke into a smile.
"She won't be surprised."
"And now, before the next greatest hit from The Twisted Broomsticks, a message from Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes! The wackiest joke shop in all of Diagon Alley. Save this week on classic muggle card trick sets! Gross out your professor with a belching cauldron! Have a snack on the run with our Every Flavour Bubble Gum, and save five galleons on our famous Talk 'n Dance Puppet Pals! Ten percent discounts on all children's Auror robe costumes too, so show your support for the second wizarding war's heroes!"
"What? Show your support? They stole my sales idea," Harry grumbled, looking annoyed.
"Belching cauldron?" Severus said, an expression of displeasure on his face.
Later that evening, when Harry had sunk into the fluffy duvet on their bed, with the lights out and the window cracked for fresh air, the arms around his head flexed just as strongly as they ever did while Severus thrust into him. But the left forearm, which Harry leaned over to kiss, had a tattoo on it that was now a very light shade of grey.
Friday May 7th
Whether it was due to Harry's anxiety about the upcoming marathon, or the mad rush to get good numbers for the last day of the sales contest, Friday passed by in a blur. Severus had woken him with a blowjob, something that was always appreciated, and Harry had gone to work with a smile on his face.
The shop had opened with four customers waiting patiently outside, and with Hermione wearing the Auror robe costume, the sales started. Not even Draco complaining about danger pay (the very gay wizard had returned to buy some other accessories and flirt with Draco) ruined the morning.
A bit disappointed with the low numbers for the kinky leather boots, just before lunch Harry strapped a pair on and popped a muggle cd into the music player that was behind the cash desk. They usually got quite a few customers on the Friday lunch hour, and today was no exception. He didn't expect Severus to show up though, and see him orchestrating seven pairs dancing to 'These Boots Were Made for Walking' up on the counter.
"Potter," Severus said, standing in the doorway with his arms crossed and a blank face. Hermione shot Harry an amused look from across the store; even though Severus had been exonerated and stopped teaching, he was still very recognizable. No fewer than four different customers slipped quietly behind the racks of role-playing costumes or the leather whips and flogger stand.
Severus pointed toward the back staffroom and Harry slowly made his way there, trying not to wobble in the leather boots. Once he got through the door, Severus threw a quick locking spell at it, and roughly pushed Harry against the wall, attacking his lips.
Harry whimpered, his hands immediately flying up to fist Severus' shirt. His mind went completely blank as Severus sucked on his lower lip, before moving to pepper his neck with kisses. Harry was glad he was wearing the boots, as it put him within much easier reach of Severus.
Once Harry was thoroughly distracted and well on his way to fully hard, Severus stopped and rested his forehead against Harry's.
"If you weren't running a bloody marathon tomorrow, I would take you home right now and fuck you through the mattress," Severus said, his voice a low growl of hot air against Harry's cheek.
Severus almost never swore, and Harry's cock very much liked the suggestion put forth, to the point that he nearly said 'bugger the marathon.' He was just about to ask the reasoning, when Severus put his bare left arm up against the wall next to Harry's head. His fishbone-pale Englishman's arm, which had only the faintest trace of the Dark Mark left on it, and only because Harry had seen it so many times could he recognize the image.
"Severus! It's…you…you're free of it," Harry said, feeling a mixture of euphoria and arousal, as Severus slowly moved his hips against Harry's.
"Your idiot Weasley friends are actually very good at what they do," said Severus, and Harry knew that if he wasn't so pleased about losing the Dark Mark that he wouldn't be so free with his compliments. "Their Cut-Be-Gone cream generates new skin cells to speed up recovery. I merely added skin coloured pigmentation to the bruise paste, which sunk into the new cells and recoloured the tattoo area."
"You're brilliant," Harry smiled, kissing Severus again.
"And you're wearing hooker boots," Severus countered, causing Harry to snort with laughter.
Severus took a step back and adjusted his trousers, his black travelling robe concealing any erection he had. Harry's stiffie wasn't so well concealed, but Harry wasn't as bothered. There was a lot of porn in the shop; it wouldn't be a problem for long.
"It's the last day of the contest. I need to sell them," Harry explained, extending one leg and rubbing his calf against Severus'.
"Not interested," Severus said, his eyes never leaving Harry's gaze. "Do not wear them home tonight, we're going to dinner at Quod."
Severus cancelled the spells on the staff door and pulled his collar up, making sure his clothing was unrumpled.
"At where? And what's the occasion?" Harry asked, straightening his own shirt.
"An Italian restaurant. A gift certificate from mum," Severus said, looking unsure of the actual reason himself.
The mid-afternoon Friday crowd dwindled, and Harry put a sign up on the door stating that Bottom's Up would be closed on Saturday. Draco was driving him crazy, obsessively sorting the magazines by kink while he tried not to worry about Molesworth's findings. Harry figured the chances of Malfoy going back to prison were almost non-existent, but he well remembered his own fears during his trial for underage use of magic.
Unfortunately, Molesworth hadn't mentioned any possible date that Draco would find out the results from his investigation, save for when the files would be dutifully added to the Ministry's archives.
"And a lovely Friday afternoon for us all, bright and sunny here in Diagon Alley! Don't forget to stop by Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes to check out their latest spring explosions, and then to Fortescue's for an icy treat! And now a question for the masses, has Rufus Scrimgeour pushed his ministerial duties aside for his rockstar dreams?"
"Malfoy!" Harry called, skimming over a map of tomorrow's marathon that he'd gotten from the organizers. A stretch of uphill road around the 18-mile mark looked like it would be a real challenge. He turned the radio down, hating the song that had come on.
"I have a first name," Draco said, walking up to the desk.
"So do I, but you insist on calling me Potter," Harry pointed out. "We're going to close tomorrow, so you've got the day off."
Draco nodded mutely, looking like he was trying to imitate the slight head nod that Severus gave when he agreed with something. Draco couldn't quite pull it off.
"You've got an employee discount, why don't you…ah…get something for yourself and Luna?"
Draco stiffened and glared at Harry.
"Are you implying that I am lacking?"
Harry looked up and sighed.
"Not everything I say is an insult, you prat. I just meant you might find it fun to take your mind off things."
Draco's reply was cut off by some banging on the front shop window. Both Draco and Harry looked up to see a group of thirteen year olds, in London during their holiday week from Hogwarts, trying to peer into the shop. They were wearing plain black house robes, and appeared to be a group of mostly Gryffindors, with a Ravenclaw and a Slytherin at the side of the group.
"Precocious little twits," Harry grinned, going back to the marathon map. He'd made a few scribbles on the side, his list of things to bring to the start line of the race. Hermione, who had a larger urge to help people than either Harry or Draco, stuck her head out the shop door and talked to the group. There was a charm on the shop door and windows that made the surface a simple mirror for anyone under 17 trying to peer in.
After a minute's chat, Hermione shooed the boys away and came over to the desk.
"We've got a product suggestion," said Hermione, trying not to laugh. "They want to know if you sell a band or a cup to prevent unwanted erections."
Harry didn't look up from his marathon list.
"If they learned to rest it upwards when they put their pants on, it would just grow into their belts."
Hermione's jaw twitched, and she snapped her mouth shut. Draco winked at her and flexed his fingers out, cracking his knuckles.
"Slytherins use billowing charms on their robes."
"Boys," Hermione huffed, walking off to the back of the store.
Saturday May 8th
Harry shivered as he waited in the start area of the Oxford Marathon. He was wearing an old pair of sweatpants (a pair of Dudley's found stuffed in the bottom of his school trunk) and a plastic garbage bag with arm and neck holes cut out of it. Severus stood near him, critically eyeing the rest of the runners and questioning the odd bits of gear. Harry had already confiscated his time chip band from Severus, to prevent him from tinkering with the data. It was not yet seven in the morning, and it was still rather cold.
"There is a ridiculous line for the washrooms," Severus commented, holding onto a banana and a small rucksack for Harry.
"Yeah. I need to go again soon. Running makes things loose," Harry responded. He was distractedly looking all over the starting field, and nervously rubbing his hands up and down his arms.
"That's disgusting," Severus said, wrinkling his nose. "Stop fidgeting about. If you can't finish, just apparate out."
"That's cheating," Harry said, rolling his eyes as the organizers gave a fifteen-minute warning.
"That's a perfectly good solution to your problem," Severus countered.
"It's still cheating."
Harry took his holey track pants off, leaving him standing in his spandex running shorts, red and yellow running shoes, and bright red shirt.
"At least you don't look as queer as some of the other runners," Severus said, staring at a man near them who was wearing a strange spandex bib without a shirt.
"Pass me the plasters from my bag," Harry said. He'd lifted his shirt and was coating his nipples with petroleum jelly.
"I stand corrected," said Severus, shaking his head slowly.
"You what? Are you making fun of me?" Harry asked, looking up.
"I have never done that in my life," Severus deadpanned, handing over the box of plasters.
Soon enough, it was time to line up for the race to start. Severus took the bag and track pants to dispose of, and Harry nearly jumped out of his skin when the gun went off. The group started in a slow jog as they started to pace out, and Harry was pleasantly surprised to find about five hundred runners had turned out for the race. When he passed the start line and his ankle chip timer bracelet beeped, he plastered a smile on his face. Muggle race volunteers were standing on vans parked at the side of the course, blaring dance music and cheering on the crowds. One girl, dressed in striped black and white tights and a pink tutu, was singing the title song for Fame! The musical. Harry felt as pumped as he did for his first ever quidditch match, or when his house was cheering him on in the tri-wizard tournament.
The morning progressed slowly, and Harry had to remind himself a few times to keep to his set pace and not rush himself. All along the first few miles of the route were family members and people out for the day of race watching, many holding motivational signs. He saw Severus at the mile markers a few times, and each little nod of Severus' approval made Harry feel a little more energized as he passed.
At the eight-mile mark, Harry learned that he could not jog and sip water from a little paper cup at the same time. He had a cup of Gatorade in his other hand, and managed not to snort that as he drank it. A good thing too, as just around the bend was Hermione and Arthur Weasley, the latter holding a muggle camera. Harry waved for the camera, hoping his bright red racing shirt wasn't too sweat soaked yet.
Harry's legs started to ache around the twelve-mile mark, and he stopped for a drink at every water station. The crowd was thinner at this section, but there were still quite a few families holding up signs and a few dog walkers looking on with curiosity. Most of the signs named certain runners, but Harry still found them fun to read as he ran. Once he passed through a thick section of trees on the course, a muttered spell wrote the letters HARRY on his shirt in bright white, and people started calling his name out to cheer him on. Harry had no idea who they were, but encouragement was definitely appreciated.
Mrs Thompson stood next to Severus at the seventeenth mile, two dark haired and slightly out of fashioned people standing behind the route marker. Mrs Thompson wore a smart red skirt suit, with beige gloves and a beige rounded hat atop her black hair. She waved as Harry ran by, and blew him a kiss.
A time check as Harry turned on to North Hinksey lane showed that he'd been running for nearly three hours. With six and a bit miles to go, he wasn't too panicked about his pace. A bigger concern was the threatening cramp in his thighs, but Harry found a snack station with cups of salted water. He kept pushing on, knowing Severus was waiting for him at the finish line, and that his friends were still cheering him on.
Harry waved to a few cows in the field to his left as he ran, and burst out into exhausted laughter near the twenty-one mile mark. There stood Fred, wearing a short dark red cape that appeared to be stolen from a child's Auror robe costume, with a blue Superman shirt on underneath. He had a big colour-changing sign (which Harry hoped was plain to any muggles looking at it) that read "You Know Who was harder to beat than this!"
Harry waved tiredly and flashed Fred a smile. A few feet behind him stood George, wearing the same cape but with a t-shirt of The Flash's lightning bolt symbol on it. His sign was bright green, and read "That's what he said!"
Harry was both immensely grateful for the support, and amused by the costumes. As a form of distraction for the next stretch of road, Harry dreamt up different ways of running the twins' shop for the day if he won the contest. He wouldn't do anything to embarrass them, but then again, the twins weren't easily embarrassed. Ron usually was, however, which made the line a fine one for Harry not to cross.
A big, loud lion head at the twenty-five mile sign caught Harry's eye as he jogged through the crowd, and he wondered if Luna would…Harry nearly tripped as he snorted at the crowd. Several people around the roaring lion hat jumped and spilled drinks onto the pavement, glaring at Luna's headpiece. Draco stood next to her, looking slightly put out that his girlfriend had dragged him to a silly muggle race, but he had a smirk on his face and his own sign. Harry had absolutely no doubt that Draco had made it himself, either.
"Gryffindors: doing it the hard way since the 9th century!"
Finally, the finish line came into view and Harry pushed what last bits of energy were left in his legs to work and sped up to cross the finish line. Kids, teens, and adults clapped and cheered him on, shouting his name and yelling things he couldn't understand. Up in the distance he thought he saw Severus standing beyond the giant time clock, but the sweat from his forehead had fogged up his glasses enough to blur his vision. And then it didn't matter anymore.
Harry crossed the line, raising his arms tiredly in victory, smiling for the camera he knew was somewhere in the crowd. Somehow Severus caught him, handing him a sports drink from his after-race bag while a race volunteer plucked the velcro'd race time band from his ankle.
A banana and a packet of raisins were shoved at him from another race volunteer, and someone draped a medal over his neck.
"How'd I do?" Harry huffed, walking slowly away from the finish line to keep his legs from cramping.
"Three hours, thirty-one minutes, and four seconds," Severus said, his voice deep and sounding pleased. "Quite a feat, Mr Potter. Quite an impressive feat."
Severus had given him similar praise when they defeated Voldemort, but this was the first time since then that he'd sounded impressed by Harry.
Harry grinned like a maniac, leaning heavily against Severus as they walked towards an apparition point. Along the way, Harry staggered towards a table that had piles of pizza boxes on it, grabbing six slices of pizza. Harry hadn't felt this hungry since defeating the dragon in his first tri-wizard task, and he was quite certain that this was the best pizza he'd ever had in his life.
"I'm rocking your world today, aren't I?" Harry grinned, pizza sauce on his cheek.
Severus raised his eyebrow and took hold of Harry's arm, keeping him at a slight distance.
"As much as any man can that smells like the inside of a tip," Severus answered, before disapparating them.
Severus had to levitate Harry up the stairs, as he discovered how sore his back was with the very first step. His running shoes would definitely need to be replaced, but Harry didn't want to think about running for the next week at least. The shower was enlightening, as all the chafed skin he had made itself known with the warm salt from his body washing over it. Harry managed to put on a pair of underpants and an undershirt before sprawling out atop their bed. He could hear Severus puttering about downstairs, the radio giving its hourly news report in the muggle and wizarding world issues. His feet were beyond sore, and his calves would be aching for days, but Harry felt truly accomplished.
Harry normally felt Severus' gaze on him when he was being watched, but this time was so tired that he'd nearly jumped out of his skin in surprise when Severus poured a cold cream on his legs.
"Ffffffizzing whizzbee that's cold!" Harry yelped, squirming away from Severus' cold fingers. He was only in his pants, and the cream felt smooth against the furry back of his thighs.
"It'll warm up," Severus said, moving down to massage the cream into Harry's lower legs. He'd just finished rubbing cream into the soles of Harry's feet when it started to warm.
"Whoa," Harry murmured, stretching like a cat. The cream was heating up fast, making Harry feel like he was wrapped in a toasted hot dog bun. "What's this stuff?"
"Muscle Relaxer for Idiot Runners," Severus said, lifting Harry's shirt and spreading more along his lower back. Harry melted into the bed.
"I love the Half-Blood Prince."
"You plagiarized from the Half-Blood Prince," Severus said, his tone flat. He whispered a spell to clean the cream off his hands and then stretched out beside Harry. Harry's body still ached slightly, but it was the good sort of pain that spoke of hard work accomplished. Harry knew he'd made the right decision to run like a muggle.
"No, I learned from him," Harry mumbled, lifting his head off the pillow. "Nap?"
"We have two hours until mum and Minerva arrive," said Severus, his eyes closed. Harry sat up and groped at the bottom of the bed for the blanket, and then pushed Severus slightly to his side.
"Plenty of time," Harry answered, flopping back down and curling up behind Severus. He tucked his knees tightly behind his boyfriend's and slung a heavy, possessive arm over Severus' waist.
"Thanks for being there today," said Harry, into Severus' shoulder.
Warm and large fingers curled around Harry's own, pulling his grip tighter. Severus loved to sleep in enclosed spaces, and he was particularly fond of being surrounded by Harry.
"Sure it is," Harry grinned softly.
Mrs Thompson arrived early for dinner, patting Harry on the shoulder and commenting on his strangely large necklace. Harry, who'd answered the door in jeans and a button down shirt, stared down at the medal hanging from his neck. It didn't look anything like a regular necklace, but what did he know.
"That was a nice little jaunt in the park this morning, Hector," Mrs Thompson smiled, as Severus led her into the living room.
Harry limped after her and got her a mug of tea.
"It was more of a race, really," Harry corrected.
"Sure it was, pet," Mrs Thompson said, accepting the mug. "Now Heckie, how do you look in a skirt?"
"I…what?" Harry blinked, slipping down onto the leather sofa in the living room.
"Does your family have any set colours?" She smiled at him, the one side of her mouth rising slightly higher than the other.
"I don't wear skirts," Harry asserted, wondering what Mrs Thompson was thinking about. "Ever."
"It's more of a kilt, Heckie. For proper ceremonies," she patted his knee, and Harry winced only a little. The last ceremony he'd been to was the First Wizarding Independence gala, and he'd worn trousers to that.
"Why are you trying to put Harry in a skirt?" Severus asked, offering a tray of tea biscuits. His eyes were narrowed at his mother, who looked at him guiltily.
"Some things in life must be done properly," she answered. The doorbell rang before either Harry or Severus could ask for clarification, and the house was suddenly as noisy as a Hogwarts dormitory.
"H to the Heck! You're going down!" Fred crowed, waving his black top hat in the entryway. George was right behind him, looking equally triumphant. Severus stood to the side of Harry, his leg brushing against the arm of the couch.
"Er, maybe he did that earlier," George stage whispered, watching Harry drop his head to the chesterfield arm and roll his eyes at Severus above him.
"Oi!" Harry called. "There's a lady in the room."
"That's never bothered them before," Hermione said, coming into the house behind the twins. Ron was behind her and was carrying a large pastry box with a fancy WWW logo stencilled on it.
"If you think we're going to eat anything from that shop of yours, you're mad," Harry proclaimed.
"Just you wait and see what that is," George winked.
"Oh, I can wait," Harry asserted. "I thought we weren't declaring the winners until tomorrow."
"We aren't. We brought you a gift," Ron said, levitating the box with his wand. It floated over to where Harry was sitting and he eyed it carefully.
"Anything going to pop out?"
"Of course not," said George, sounding completely innocent.
"You're like a brother to us, Heckie," Fred finished.
"You lot changed your brother's teddy bear into a spider when he was three," Harry accused, pointing his finger at them.
"You both must have been a right pain as children," Hermione said, eyebrow raised at the twins.
"My Alistair was a quiet boy," Mrs Thompson said, smiling at Severus. She seemed happy to see the visitors.
"Yeah, I'll bet he was," Ron muttered.
"It's the quiet ones you have to look out for," Fred stage-whispered toward Hermione.
"I am aware that this particular ability escaped you at school, but do shut up, Mr Weasley," Severus said, his tone bored.
"Alistair!" Mrs Thompson admonished, but she had a smirk on her face.
"Oh wow," Harry said, grinning. "That's brilliant!"
He'd opened the box and found nothing explosive, or colour-changing or any other trickery. Ron, Hermione, and the twins had taken pictures of Harry from the marathon and put them in a long photo frame. Harry at the starting line, Severus watching the first mile, Harry at the water stop, the twins in their capes, Mrs Thompson and Severus watching, Arthur and Hermione, Harry at the halfway point, and Harry crossing the finish line. It was in a dark wooden photo frame that would fit perfectly on the wall going up the stairs.
"This is awesome," Harry said, feeling loved. He didn't have many photos outside of Hogwarts.
"You ran twenty six bloody miles, Harry," Ron said, checking out Harry's medal. "That's probably the definition of awesome."
An owl, rapping on the kitchen window to be let in, cut out Harry's reply. Severus stood to fetch whatever letter was too important to wait for a few moments outside.
"It's for you," Severus said, tossing Harry a thick, chocolate brown envelope.
"Well, we'll let you go then, Heck," Fred said, ruffling Harry's hair.
"Yeah, mum's expecting us for tea," George added.
"And that looks official," Ron tagged on, sounding like the third twin. It was evident that he was quite used to working with his brothers.
Harry waved goodbye to his friends as they popped out, apparating from the front garden. He'd put the picture up on the wall in the morning, when the light was strong enough to see the best angle for it.
"You should open that," Severus said, nodding toward the envelope. His mother was behind him, checking out Harry's taste in music. He wasn't sure that Mrs Thompson knew what cds were, but Severus' dad had been a muggle, so Harry supposed she'd learned a bit about the muggle world.
Harry glanced at the envelope curiously, noticing the official Ministry seal. He ripped open the letter, reading it to himself. Severus was staring over his shoulder, but Harry didn't mind.
As part of the Ministry of Magic work-release program, you are to be notified of the findings of any investigation of the employee you have agreed to employ. It has been found that Draco Arturius Malfoy has met and or exceeded all expectations put forth by the work-release program, and is eligible for early dismissal from the five-year contract.
As the final signator on the contract is Bottom's Up of Addition Alley, it is your decision whether Mr Malfoy is released early from your employ. All work-release dismissal forms have been included with this letter.
"Basil! Basil Molesworth, that old sod!" Mrs Thompson exclaimed, having moseyed over to read over Harry's other shoulder.
"Molesworth?" Severus replied, giving his mother a curious look. "You've never mentioned a Molesworth before."
"He's a Hufflepuff, Alistair. He asked me out to a Hogwarts ball once," she said, her fingers dancing in the air.
Severus looked ill at that idea, and Mrs Thompson closed her eyes as she relived her memories.
"Well, Draco will be glad to hear this, he's free," Harry said, tapping the letter against his palm.
"If you decide to release him," Severus commented. Right on time, the fireplace knocked and Headmistress McGonagall flooed in, leaving Harry to ponder in silence what to do with Malfoy.
Dinner was a lovely pork roast with mashed potatoes and homemade applesauce. Severus had made it during the afternoon while Harry was napping, and it was cooked to perfection. Harry got sleepier and sleepier as he ate and listened to the conversation around him, answering a few questions when Severus prodded his arm. He finally gave up just before pudding was served, excusing himself and curling up on the couch in the living room. The blanket on the back of the chesterfield smelled like Severus, and Harry pulled it up to his shoulders.
He didn't know how long he'd been asleep when he started to overhear bits of conversation again. Mrs Thompson and Minerva were still there, and it sounded like mugs they were putting down on the table. Perhaps Severus had made coffee.
"You'd be surprised at how many students never see their professors outside that idealism," Severus was saying, his deep voice comforting to Harry's ears.
"None of my professors were married whilst I was at school," Mrs Thompson said, sounding sharp.
"Posh, Eileen," Minerva said, and it sounded like she was smirking. "Don't you remember the rumours about Professor Tandley and Professor O'Mallor?"
"Oh that's right," Mrs Thompson said, and her voice sounded sweet and warm. "They were always in the green houses together."
"How many years did you have your husband in the castle with you?" Severus asked.
"Fourteen," Minerva said. "He prefers our cottage now, it's less drafty."
"Smart fellow," Mrs Thompson said. "And speaking of husbands, Alistair, when will you be making dear Hector an honest man?"
On the chesterfield Harry's eyes flew open.
"Mum, his name is Harry. And I have no plans to," Severus insisted.
"Alistair!" Mrs Thompson said, and Harry swore she smacked him with her napkin.
"Severus, you've been together for almost five months now. Surely the thought has crossed your mind," Minerva contended.
"It has," Severus admitted. Harry scrunched the blanket tight under his hands. "But I do not think that Potter wishes to settle any time soon."
"You bought this house together," Minerva said. Harry heard a slight clunking noise and figured there was a plate of cookies out. "That's not something one does lightly."
"Alistair, he asked you out on the first date. He's waiting for you to mention this next step," Mrs Thompson said.
Harry hadn't been, not quite. He figured it would be at least a year before the idea of marriage was ever thought about, and even then, only really for the tax benefits.
"Ridiculous. A man like myself is of no fit material to be married," Severus said, his voice a bit stronger. Harry felt his heart pain at the thought that Severus thought so little of himself.
"I'll thank you to not speak rubbish of my only son," Mrs Thompson admonished.
"I have never lied to you, or myself He's Gryffindor enough to mention marriage if he wants to," Severus said. Harry could hear him rolling his mug on the table.
"Sometimes it's nice to be surprised," Minerva commented. Harry rolled on the couch to prevent his leg from cramping, and the three others froze. He feigned sleep for a few minutes, and the conversation started up again.
"I've made a list, Alistair. He likes tulips; they're the ones that he paid attention to enough for them to stay alive. He likes Italian food; he likes blues and silvers for colours. And he likes vanilla sweets, darling. You can make him a vanilla cake."
Severus questioned his mother on her source of information, while Harry lay on the couch and inexplicably felt a tear rolling down his cheek. It was Mrs Thompson who had left the wedding magazines around work, it was her who noticed all those things about him, and sounded like she honestly cared to know about him. And half the time Harry was certain that she wasn't even aware he was the Boy Who Lived.
"And what am I to do with this information? I - he'll resent tying himself to me."
"Severus Alistair Snape," Mrs Thompson said, her voice low but firm. "That boy loves you more than you'll probably ever realise. You're not asking him in order to keep him. You marry him to show him how much you love him back."
"Albus always said Harry's greatest power is love," Minerva added, and Harry felt his cheeks flame.
"Serve chocolate cake at the wedding too, Alistair. I do enjoy a good chocolate treat," Mrs Thompson finished.
Monday May 10th
Harry sat on a bench conjured to rest right under the large shop window of Bottom's Up. It was a sunny morning, and though his legs still ached, he was quite content to sit on the bench with his coffee and look out over Addition Alley. It was not yet nine, and the spectacle Harry was waiting for wouldn't start for another fifteen minutes. The shop numbers were exchanged the night before vial owl, and Bottom's Up had won by a very small margin.
Severus sat beside him, with his own cup of coffee, and didn't flinch when the door to the shop opened.
"Harry," Malfoy said, dressed in his best suit as he faced whatever news Harry had to give him.
"It's your day, Draco," Harry said, squinting up at him against the eastern sun. He pulled a large envelope out of his rucksack and handed it over. Draco took his time reading the contents; the letter from Molesworth, the voided contract from Harry, all of his positive work evaluations, and a new contract, unsigned.
"Are you playing with me, Potter?" Draco asked, narrowing his eyes down at Harry.
"Do you honestly think I'm capable of that type of subterfuge?" Harry asked, ignoring the snort from Severus.
"This new contract names me as an equal partner."
"Not quite," Harry said, swirling his coffee mug to mix up the sugar at the bottom. "It makes you equal to Hermione. Your pay is raised, but you can still rent the flat above the shop."
Draco was silent for a moment, and all three turned their heads to the entrance of Addition Alley as cheering sounds echoed from Diagon Alley.
"I am uncertain what to say," Draco commented.
"You can make your mind up later. I think you'll like what you have to do today," said Harry, breaking into a smile.
Laughter echoed off the Alley walls as three bright figures came into view. Fred, in a full Superman spandex outfit and cape taking the lead. George wore the Flash's outfit, following behind, and Ron took up the rear, face flaming as he wore the Green Lantern's kit.
"You'll be in charge of their store today," Harry finished. Draco's face broke into a malicious smile and he banished the paperwork from Harry to his flat.
"I'll give you my answer by tomorrow," Draco said, stepping away from the shop and leading the three heroes back to their own store. Neither the twins nor Ron looked particularly impressed to be under Draco's supervision.
"You should never put a Slytherin in charge of a bunch of Gryffindors," Severus idly commented, as he finished his coffee. "Slytherins don't play nicely."
"Well, we've gotten along rather well, I should think. Maybe that's the key for stability, a Gryffindor and a Slytherin together," Harry said, squeezing Severus' thigh and standing up.
Harry stood in front of the bench, the sun behind his head, looking down on a suddenly uncomfortable Severus.
"You've been talking to my mother."
Harry held his hand out for Severus' coffee mug and waited for his boyfriend to stand up.
"No," Harry said, trying for nonchalance in his voice. "But I plan on sticking around for a long time. So, you know, I'll still be here when you decide to take her advice."
Some of the tension left the lines in Severus face, and he put his hand in the small of Harry's back as they walked into the shop.
"Good. I believe you owe me another toy from your little shop. I've put up with a lot of Weasleys this past week."
AN2: the brass ball knockers were absolutely inspired by bumper nutz, which make me laugh hard every time I see someone driving with them on their truck.