by Warviben

Summary: Harry and Hermione were nearly captured at Godric's Hollow. And then things got worse.

Disclaimer: These characters are owned by their creator. I'm only borrowing them.

Author's Note: I am generally not a fan of censorship, on this site or anywhere else. It seems obvious to me that in order to curb complaints from unsuspecting readers, which could likely in turn lead to censorship, clear warnings should be given if a story contains content that some may find disturbing. With that in mind, I give you the following . . .

Warnings: Snarry ahead. This fic contains a sexual relationship between two males. Some of it is very explicit. It also contains a somewhat violent non-consensual sexual encounter. If any of this bothers you, or if you are underaged, I would request that you read no further. Also, this story veers off canon. That's not really a warning – more of a heads-up.

Acknowledgment: Some of the text at the very beginning of this fic has been lifted directly from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I'm sure you'll recognize it.

I was going to post this in separate chapters, as it's a bit long, but it's all done, so I figured . . . what the heck?


"Harry," Hermione whispered. "Do you feel all – all right?"

"Yes," he lied.

He was in the tent, lying on one of the lower bunks beneath a heap of blankets. He could tell that it was almost dawn by the stillness and the quality of the cold, flat light beyond the canvas ceiling. He was drenched in sweat; he could feel it on the sheets and blankets.

"We got away."

"Yes," said Hermione. "I had to use a Hover charm to get you into your bunk, I couldn't lift you. You've been . . . Well, you haven't been quite . . ."

There were purple shadows under her brown eyes and he noticed a small sponge in her hand: She had been wiping his face.

"You've been ill," she finished. "Quite ill."

"How long ago did we leave?"

"Hours ago. It's nearly morning."

"And I've been . . . unconscious?"

"Not exactly," said Hermione uncomfortably. "You've been shouting and moaning and . . . things," she added in a tone that made Harry feel uneasy. What had he done? Screamed curses like Voldemort, cried like the baby in the crib?

"I couldn't get the Horcrux off you," Hermione said, and he knew she wanted to change the subject. "It was stuck, stuck to your chest. You've got a mark; I'm sorry, I had to use a Severing Charm to get it away. The snake bit you too, but I've cleaned the wound and put some dittany on it . . ."

He pulled the sweaty T-shirt he was wearing away from himself and looked down. There was a scarlet oval over his heart where the locket had burned him. He could also see the half-healed puncture marks to his forearm.

"Wher've you put the Horcrux?"

"In my bag. I think we should keep it off for a while."

He lay back on his pillows and looked into her pinched gray face.

"We shouldn't have gone to Godric's Hollow. It's all my fault, it's all my fault, Hermione, I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault. I wanted to go too; I really thought Dumbledore might have left the sword there for you."

"Yeah, well . . . we got that wrong, didn't we?"

"What happened, Harry? What happened when she took you upstairs? Was the snake hiding somewhere? Did it just come out and kill her and attack you?"

"No," he said. "She was the snake . . . or the snake was her . . . all along."


He closed his eyes. He could still smell Bathilda's house on him: It made the whole thing horribly vivid.

"Bathilda must've been dead a while. The snake was . . . was inside her. You-Know-Who put it there in Godric's Hollow, to wait. You were right. He knew I'd go back."

"The snake was inside her?"

He opened his eyes again: Hermione looked revolted, nauseated.

"Lupin said there would be magic we'd never imagined," Harry said. "She didn't want to talk in front of you, because it was Parseltongue, all Parseltongue, and I didn't realize, but of course I could understand her. Once we were up in the room, the snake sent a message to You-Know-Who, I heard it happen inside my head. I felt him get excited, he said to keep me there . . . and then . . ."

He remembered the snake coming out of Bathilda's neck: Hermione did not need to know the details.

". . . she changed, changed into the snake, and attacked."

He looked down at the puncture marks.

"It wasn't supposed to kill me, just keep me there until You-Know-Who came."

If he had only managed to kill the snake, it would have been worth it, all of it . . . Sick at heart, he sat up and threw back the covers.

"Harry, no, I'm sure you ought to rest!"

"You're the one who needs sleep. No offense, but you look terrible. I'm fine. I'll keep watch for a while. Where's my wand?"

She did not answer, she merely looked at him.

"Where's my wand, Hermione?"

She was biting her lip, and tears swam in her eyes.

"Where's my wand?"

She reached down beside the bed and held it out to him.

The holly and phoenix wand was nearly severed in two. One fragile strand of phoenix feather kept both pieces hanging together. The wood had splintered apart completely. Harry took it into his hands as though it was a living thing that had suffered a terrible injury. He could not think properly: Everything was a blur of panic and fear. It took every ounce of self-control he had to clamp a lid down on it.

"Good thing I don't need it, huh?" he said, striving to keep his voice light and failing miserably.

"I tried to mend it," Hermione said, her voice quavering. "Nothing works. I'm so, so sorry. I think it was me. As we were leaving, you know, the snake was coming for us, and so I cast a Blasting Curse, and it rebounded everywhere, and it must have hit your wand."

"Hermione, it was an accident," Harry said, and it was easier now to sound calm and steady in the face of her obvious upset. "You were trying to get us out of there alive, and you were incredible. I'd be dead if you weren't there to help me."

Hermione sat on the bed beside him, and Harry put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close, the remainder of his anger draining away at his relief that they had both made it out of there relatively intact. He opened the connection between their minds. Good thing we've mastered wandless magic, eh?

Hermione smiled up at him from her spot on his shoulder. I guess all those hours were worth it.

Hours? More like days and weeks. They'd had nothing but time on their hands for the last several months, and Hermione's books had come in handy. They'd begun, back when Ron was with them, a physical exercise regimen, and Hermione devised a lesson plan using all of the resources at her disposal, with the aim of learning everything they could. Ron had lost interest in the academics quickly, but Hermione and Harry had stuck with it, soaking up theory and practicing endlessly. They'd both mastered occlumency and legillimency, they'd learned spell after spell after spell with all sorts of purposes (Harry could now sew a button on a shirt, fillet a bluefin tuna, if he had one, and sharpen a knife, as well as disarm, freeze, eviscerate, and/or melt an opponent), and though their wanded spells would always be stronger, they'd learned to do it all without the benefit of a wand.

Most amazingly, Hermione had found a spell that created a sort of pathway between their two minds which allowed them to communicate telepathically. It wasn't a constantly-open link, which would have been way too distracting and invasive – it was something they could open or close down easily.

Activation of the spell was something Harry was never going to forget as long as he lived. Hermione had found a book in the Black family library entitled, Sex Magicks for All Seasons, and as the title would indicate, all of the spells contained therein had a sexual component to them. The spell he'd used with Hermione had required him to recite a complicated string of Latin phrases while having sex with his best friend. He'd never felt like that about Hermione, but he did love her, and it was easier than he'd thought it would be to work up the required . . . interest. The experience had been beautiful, for both of them, if he believed Hermione. He'd been a virgin, but Hermione had been with Ron twice before, and she'd helped him through the physical parts of the process with compassion and a gentleness that had Harry loving her even more deeply when they had finished.

They had intended to include Ron as well, though Hermione confessed she wasn't entirely sure that a three-way communication link could be established. By the time they'd been ready to actually attempt the spell, Ron was gone. Hermione had never been entirely sure that Ron would consent to having sex with Harry in order to complete the spell – the man was straight as a ruler. They'd never had a chance to broach the subject, though, before Ron, more effected than the others by the negativity of the horcrux, had become disenchanted and gone home.

Harry sighed. As much as he acknowledged that he didn't need his wand, he was keenly aware that he was now without the protection of the twin cores , and only now that it was gone did he realize how much he had been counting upon it. He placed the mangled treasure into the mokeskin bag around his neck.

"I worry about the protection that wand provided me," he confessed. "It was a twin to Voldemort's and without it . . ." Harry's voice trailed off at the sound of the distinctive crack of apparition outside the tent.

Hermione's face went instantly white. "The protections . . . I never put them back up. I was so worried about you, and I . . ."

Voices now, excited voices, coming closer. "Come out of there with your 'ands up!" came a rasping voice through the darkness. "We know you're in there! You've got 'alf a dozen wands pointing at you and we don't care 'oo we curse!"

Hermione acted quickly. Knowing they had little time, she pointed her wand at Harry, then at herself. "Glamours," she explained briefly. Harry cast notice-me-not charms on Hermione's bag and his mokeskin bag, just before several bodies crashed through the door of the tent.


Harry and Hermione sat side by side on the camp bed, both wandless now, their hands touching, and their minds connected. Four wands pointed at them.

Can we overpower them? Harry asked.

There are four of them, Harry. Hermione reasoned. Let's just wait and see what happens.

All right. But if they try to touch you . . .

"Names," the apparent leader of this band of merry men demanded. He was a filthy little man, perhaps somewhere in his twenties though it was difficult to tell under all the dirt. His hair was knotted and straggly, as though it hadn't been washed in months. His clothing was stained, and they could smell him from several feet away. His companions were no better kept.

"Thomas," Harry said quickly. "Thomas Bertram." He had no idea where that name had come from, but it tripped off his tongue as though it were actually his name.

"You a student at Hogwarts?"

"No," Harry said. "I was home schooled."

"And you?" the man turned to Hermione.

"Charlotte Bronte." She doubted any of these lowlifes was familiar with Muggle literature. "Also home schooled."

"What are the two of you doing out here in the middle of nowhere?"

Hermione was better at thinking on the fly, and the story that came out of her mouth was entirely credible sounding. "We ran away together. We wanted to get married. Our parents thought we were too young. We've been living in this tent for a month." She reached over and took Harry's hand into her own, squeezed it lovingly, and looked at him with adoration.

"Sweet," the man sneered. "You're coming with us."

"Where?" Hermione asked, and she didn't have to pretend the fear that was evident in her voice.

"That don't matter." He cast a binding spell on Harry, then on Hermione, then stupefied them both.


Harry! Harry, wake up!

Harry heard the voice, but tried hard to ignore it. It was warm and comfortable where he was, and he suspected that wherever and whenever he woke up, he wasn't going to be warm and comfortable any longer. Still, Hermione was nothing if not insistent.

Harry Potter, wake up NOW!

Harry's eyes blinked open. He was right – he was anything but warm and comfortable. He groaned as he realized he was lying on the floor, on what felt like a scanty bed of straw. A woman he didn't recognize was kneeling beside him, and he jerked away from her.

Harry, it's me! The glamour, remember?

Feeling like an idiot, Harry placed a hand over his heart and tried to steady his breathing. "Where are we?" he asked, sitting up slowly, his head still groggy.

Hermione offered him a hand and helped him to his feet and held on when he swayed. "I don't know. I woke up here. There are others."

Harry looked around. There were, indeed, several others, perhaps as many as fifteen or twenty milling about in what appeared to be a stable of some sort. Some of the faces were familiar – former Hogwarts students. "What is going on here?" he muttered.

"Let's sit," Hermione suggested, noting that Harry had greyed suddenly.

When they were sitting with their backs against the wall, Hermione shared what she'd learned, keeping her voice low so as not to be overheard by the others. "I've been talking with some of them. Did you see Dean Thomas?" Harry nodded. "I didn't tell him who we were, and he didn't seem to recognize me, but he told me that those people that took us are called snatchers. They work for Vol– the Dark Lord. There's a jinx on his name. That's how they came so fast. They're rounding up magical people for the Dark – for him. He's decreed that anyone magical who is of school age must attend Hogwarts. Those who don't are violating the law. The Ministry has also decreed that everyone with magic must be registered, and the Ministry must have current information about their whereabouts. You and I are obviously violating both laws, as are Dean and several of the others here. The rest of them are too old to go to Hogwarts, but are in violation of other Ministry laws."

"So what are we doing here? What are they going to do with us?"

"No one seems to know," Hermione admitted.

"Should we try to get out of here? It sounds like we're only one step removed from being under Vold– under his direct control."

"There are anti-apparition wards," Hermione told him. "I checked. I have no idea how many guards there might be. No one inside here is a Death Eater, but they're likely right outside the door. Without knowing the odds, we could be walking into instant death. All of these people are being held here against their will. There may be others here that we know. "

Harry had to acknowledge the truth of these statements. "So we wait a bit, get a sense of what's going on, then make a plan?"

"Yes," Hermione agreed. "And we leave the glamours on. Yours came off briefly when you were stunned, but I got it back on before anyone noticed."

Harry nodded, then scrambled quickly to his feet at the sound of the stable doors creaking open. They were about to learn what was going on.


"Hermione, do you see what I see?" Harry muttered, hardly moving his lips.

Hermione nodded, but didn't speak.

Severus Snape had entered the stable, strutting in in all his black-robed glory. He was accompanied by four severe-looking Death Eaters, who immediately took up positions near the door, their wands drawn and obvious. Moving as one, Harry and Hermione edged to the fringe of the crowd, whose mood had grown edgy at the appearance of the man known to most of them as Dumbledore's killer.

"Welcome," Snape said, his voice low but carrying well to all those assembled. "You are here because you are in violation of one or another decree issued by Our Lord. Which decree you have violated is not important. You are here to be rehabilitated so that once the Dark Lord has obtained his rightful place in wizarding government, you can be reintegrated into wizarding society as productive members of the new world order. While you are here, you will work to earn your keep in one of a number of occupations. You will obey all rules. Those who do not obey the rules will be disciplined accordingly.

"I can see that some of you are wondering how you might escape from this facility. Let me urge you to put these thoughts aside. There is no escape, and you will only injure yourself in the attempt. This facility is well-guarded, and you will fail. I would urge you to use your time here as productively as possible, by working diligently at your assigned occupation and by doing your best to understand all that Our Lord can do for you personally and for wizardkind as a whole."

It's a bloody concentration camp! Hermione said. We're to be brainwashed to Voldemort's way of thinking!

I'd like to see them try, Harry rejoined.

Snape had begun circulating through the crowd, staring at each person present, sizing each up. Harry fidgeted nervously – would their glamours hold up under the scrutiny of someone who knew their magic so well?

"These men behind me," Snape said as he continued his perusal of the detainees, "are supervisors in the four departments into which you will each be placed. Once you are placed, you will eat, sleep and work with others in your department. How many do you need, Alphonse?"

One of the men by the door, apparently Alphonse, responded, "Six, sir."

"Mister Eccles needs six workers in his laundry. Momentarily, he will circulate among you and choose six of you to accompany him," Snape explained, working his way through the crowd still, coming perilously closer to Harry and Hermione with each passing moment. "When he chooses you, you will accompany him, and he will bring you to your new quarters, get you settled, and explain the rules and your new responsibilities to you. You will be expected to begin your new assignments tomorrow. Once he has finished, Mister Falstaff will choose those he needs for the kitchen, Mister Nottingham will do the same for the fields, and finally, Mister Woolburton will choose workers for the laboratory."

There now stood only three people between Snape and Hermione. "Please rest assured that you will be treated well and fairly here. You will not be assaulted or accosted as long as you are capable of following the rules." Snape was now studying the person standing next to Hermione. Any moment now, he would lock eyes with her, and they would know whether their disguises were going to protect them here.

It was immediately obvious that they were not. Snape's eyes widened noticeably, though he made no sound. Because Harry and Hermione had worked their way to the corner of the room, Snape's back was to everyone else, and only Harry and Hermione noticed his reaction. Snape turned to face Harry, as though knowing what he would find when he examined the young man standing next to her. His eyes narrowed and he stared down his nose at Harry.

"I suspect there are some of you who are incapable of obeying the rules," he said, obviously directing this observation at Harry. "I can promise you that you will be made an example of if you attempt to flout the rules here."

Snape whirled away from them. Harry felt a trickle of sweat race down his forehead, the only outward sign that Snape's scrutiny had affected him in any way.

He knows, Harry said.

Yes, he knows, Hermione agreed. But he didn't say anything. Why?

I don't know, Harry said, at a loss to explain why Snape hadn't immediately announced the capture of Voldemort's Number One Undesireable. He was certainly surprised to see us here. I got that much before he turned around.

"Mister Eccles, you may begin," Snape announced.

Eccles peeled himself away from the wall and began to circulate through the crowd, much as Snape had done, studying each of those assembled, searching for whatever qualities made one a good laundry worker. As he did, Snape returned to Harry's side, slouching beside him against the wall, not speaking.

Eccles had picked four workers by the time he arrived in Harry's corner. The way he eyeballed Harry made Harry feel as though he was being chosen for something other than laundry work. Eccles was about to make his choice when Snape spoke first. "This one stays with me."

Surprised, Harry looked up at Snape, but the taller man paid him no mind whatsoever. Eccles, however, took the news in stride and turned his attention to Hermione.

"She's for Woolburton," Snape declared.

Eccles shrugged and moved to re-review those he'd already looked at before quickly selecting his remaining two workers.

They stood, the three of them side by side, until Woolburton selected his contingent, including Hermione.

Hermione! Harry called anxiously when her new boss ordered her outside.

Don't, Harry. There's nothing you can do here. If you try, Snape will be all over you. We can keep in touch. That will have to be enough for now.

Harry didn't like it, but he knew she was right. All right. You take care of yourself.

Don't antagonize him!

Me? Harry asked, all mock innocence, even in their heads. Why would I do that?

Harry reached out and captured Hermione's hand, squeezing it gently before she pulled it away to follow Woolburton out.

Harry watched her go, fearing for her safety but knowing there was nothing he could do to stop the separation.

"She will be fine," Snape said, low enough so that only Harry could hear him. "This is not a prostitution ring, nor is it a pool for sadistic perverts to satisfy their every whim. She will work in the laboratory, and she will receive three meals a day, and she will have a bed – her own bed – to sleep in every night. You needn't fear for her."

This somehow did not comfort Harry. He stood next to Snape as all of the supervisors selected the workers they needed. The two or three left over were assigned randomly by Snape to random sections, and all of the newest batch of slaves were led to their new homes, leaving Harry and Snape alone in the stable.

"Follow me," Snape ordered.


Harry followed Snape out of the stable, across a rolling field and toward and into a large stone manor house. Harry was very interested in his surroundings, of course, but saw little other than the tree-lined field they were traversing, with breaks in the trees that were likely paths leading to various unknown destinations, the stable he had come from, and the house he was headed to. It was actually a beautiful setting, but Harry figured that whatever was going on here had nothing to do with beauty. Snape said nothing to him as they trekked across the lawn.

Once they entered the house, Harry found himself in a large, airy kitchen. This was nothing like the place he'd expected Snape to live – he'd expected dark, dingy, cobwebby. He knew he'd made many incorrect assumptions in his life about Severus Snape, and this was just another, he supposed.

As soon as they'd both entered the kitchen, Snape rounded on Harry. "How is it you managed to get yourself captured after all these months, Potter?"

Harry thought about playing dumb, but he knew it was useless. He could only bluff Snape so long. "A series of unfortunate events that led to me saying his name. We were unaware of the jinx."

Snape sighed. Almost as though he was disappointed that Harry had gotten himself captured. This puzzled Harry. He knew that Snape had worked for Dumbledore as a spy for many years, that he had actually saved Harry's life on more than one occasion, that the man had loved Harry's mother when they were children, and that Dumbledore had forced Snape to perform the "murder" that had ended his life. Harry had learned all of these things from the portrait of Phinneus Black that accompanied them wherever they went at the behest of Dumbledore's portrait.

Still, Harry had had to wonder about Snape's true motives when he'd left Hogwarts grounds after killing Dumbledore. He'd thought the plan was for Snape to become Headmaster during Voldemort's hopefully brief reign over the wizarding world. When someone else was appointed, Dumbledore had been surprised and disappointed, and Harry had wondered what had become of Snape. Apparently he'd been selected for the honor of running this slave/detention center.

"So this is what you've come to then?" Harry asked, wanting Snape to look at him, long and hard, so that Harry could get a good look at what was inside the man's brain. "Overseer at the plantation?"

Harry's taunt worked. Snape's head snapped up, and his eyes bored aggressively into Harry's. Harry's occlumency shield was already up, and he threw at Snape memories of their last few months on the run to keep him busy while Harry dove beneath Snape's legillimency attempt to read the Slytherin's thoughts. Snape was the most accomplished occlumens Harry had practiced the craft on, and while he didn't have total access to everything in Snape's over-stuffed mind, he picked up enough to know that Snape was not happy that Harry had been captured. He had selected Harry as his own "house slave" to keep the irritating boy close and protected, but he would not make it easy, because if the Dark Lord encountered Potter before they were ready, he'd know if Snape had coddled his worst enemy. In that event, the Dark Lord would expect to see memories of humiliation and pain. If Snape had known of Harry's new abilities, he could have dispensed with much of what he was planning, but he didn't know, and the boy's life would be close to hell for a while. Harry was shocked to discover that Snape knew about the horcruxes and had been actively hunting for them, with the assistance of Albus Dumbledore's portrait. And beneath everything else, Severus Snape was frantically working on a plan to use Harry's sudden appearance here to destroy Voldemort.

Harry couldn't help the little smile that crept onto his lips. So Snape was still on the side of the light, still working to bring down the evil that had invaded their world, still just about the sexiest bastard Harry had ever met. And thank God he was able to keep that hidden. He'd developed a serious and disturbing crush on Snape some time during fifth year, and once he'd learned to accept that he could somehow feel sexual attraction to someone he despised on every other level, he'd stopped angsting over the fact that his wank fantasies included a tall, dark, and very snarky man and simply let it happen. Acceptance had deepened the enjoyment of the process, and Harry didn't wank now without Snape as his constant companion.

But Snape read none of that in Harry's mind. He did see what he thought was a smirk on the boy's face, and he grabbed Harry's chin roughly, digging his fingers into the soft flesh. Harry winced and said, "Hey!"

"Take that stupid glamour off," Snape ordered, not relieving the pressure one bit.

"Can't," Harry gasped. "Haven't got my wand."

Snape pointed his own wand at Harry's face, and Harry had time to wonder if these were his last moments before Snape intoned, "Finite incantatum." Harry felt his features melt back to their true form. Snape's grip on his chin hurt, and Harry let some of that show on his face. Snape squeezed a little tighter and grabbed the mokeskin bag around Harry's neck that had suddenly become visible to him. He pulled it roughly over Harry's head, then thrust Harry firmly away from him.

Harry managed to stay upright and brought a hand up to rub his chin.

"You haven't changed," Snape spit. "Still arrogant. Still so sure of your own imagined superiority." Still so attractive. That last was thought, not said, but Harry picked it up just as clearly.

Oh ho! he crowed to himself. Snape likes me! Now that was something he could probably use.

"You haven't changed either," Harry countered, because Snape would expect him to argue. "What happened to 'this isn't a pool for sadistic perverts to satisfy their every whim'?"

"You've had worse, Potter, and you know it. Most of it at the hands of those people you called family."

"My family is all dead," Harry spit. "Thanks to you!"

"This is only going to end with you hexed, Potter." He pulled a chair away from the table and slammed it down on the floor in front of Harry. "Sit down!"

Warily, keeping his eyes on Snape, Harry sat.

"Listen. Do not talk. I do not care if you have questions. You will know what you need to know, when you need to know it. You are here as my personal house aide. What that means to you is that you will do what I tell you, when I tell you, without delay or complaint. Your duties will include keeping the house clean, cooking meals, and servicing me in whatever way I deem appropriate."

This last sparked a bit of fear in Harry, in spite of his attraction to Snape. He had no interest in being the man's sex slave. That was not what he fantasized about when he thought of Snape as he lay in bed at night.

Snape saw the fear, and he smiled, a nasty, dirty smile. But when Harry looked up into Snape's eyes, briefly, he saw reluctance and hesitant resolve that that sort of thing would be necessary as well, were the Dark Lord to go digging around in Potter's mind.

"Because I know you so well," Snape continued. "I know that you will attempt to escape from this place. I meant it when I said before that you will fail should you try. The boundaries to this property are warded very strongly. Any unauthorized person attempting to pass through those wards will be incinerated." A look inside Snape's mind told him that Snape was exaggerating quite a bit about this. A moderate electric-type shock would greet anyone trying to pass through the wards, which were invisible to the naked eye. They'd be thrown back, maybe stunned, but they wouldn't be "incinerated." Good to know.

"Any attempt will be disciplined seriously. Any misbehavior on your part will result in consequences, not only to yourself, but also to Miss Granger." At Harry's indignant start at this, Snape said, "I know you well, Potter. As such, I know that threats to your friends are a much more effective deterrent to your own misconduct. I will not hesitate to use her, or anyone else out there you might know, against you. You would do well to remember that."

"'Anyone else out there' I might know? Is there anyone else out there I might know?" Could Ginny be here, or Ron, or Neville?

"Tsk tsk. You've already disobeyed the first order I gave you. What shall I do with you?" Snape stroked his chin, appearing to think deeply about the alternatives while he stared down at Harry. "I shall think on that and assign your punishment this evening. For now, the rules are basic. You are not, under any circumstances, to leave this house, unless you are in my company. You will not be wearing that hideous glamour, and were anyone to learn you were here, I could not control the outcome. I am taking a great risk in not informing the Dark Lord of your presence here immediately. But I think he will be pleased with the way in which I plan to present you when the time is right." Snape was leering at him, trying to instill fear in the boy. Harry knew the threat was mostly empty.

Snape sat at the table. "As I stated before, you will perform chores here in the house. I will give you a list each morning which you will be expected to complete by the evening. These chores will be in addition to cooking three meals a day for me and whatever guests I may have here. In the event of guests, we will disguise you using Polyjuice Potion." Harry made a face at that – he remembered how awful that particular potion tasted. "You will also be responsible for cleaning up after these meals, and keeping the house tidy. Is any of this unclear to you?"

Having learned his lesson, Harry shook his head no rather than speaking the word aloud.

Snape nodded his approval. "Perhaps you can learn. I had my doubts. Now, let's see what we have here."

Snape upended Harry's mokeskin bag, but nothing fell out. Perplexed, he shook the bag vigorously. "Mokeskin," he realized. "Very rare. Where did you get this?"

Harry looked at Snape, the message on his face obvious: "You told me not to talk."

"Do not try my patience so soon," Snape growled.

"Hagrid gave it to me for my birthday."

"What is in here?"

"My wand and a snitch that Dumbledore gave me." He didn't tell Snape about the broken mirror, the map or the locket. Some small instinct toward self-preservation was telling Harry not to tell Snape about the horcrux, and he really didn't want to lose the mirror or the map, the only things he had left that belonged to his father and Sirius. He would sacrifice his wand, since it was broken and he really didn't need it, and the snitch, which appeared to be useless in any event, in hopes that would appease Snape.

"Remove them," Snape ordered, thrusting the bag toward Harry.

Harry took the bag, reached inside, and withdrew the pieces of his broken wand. When he saw them, he felt his heart beat painfully at the loss all over again.

Snape seemed genuinely distressed to see Harry's wand in this condition. "What happened?"

"Spell gone awry," Harry said, his voice tight and anguished.


"Yesterday? The day before?" The last forty-eight hours had run together to form one long, action-packed sequence.

"How have you managed without it?"

"I haven't really had a chance to. It was broken, I was . . . ill for a bit, and then we were captured. There wasn't any time."

Snape appeared curious about the illness, but he didn't say anything. The non-working wand at least explained to Snape how Potter had allowed himself to be captured. He'd been reduced to practically a Muggle without it. Or so Snape thought.

"What else?" Snape asked, holding out his hand imperiously.

Harry reached back inside the bag and removed the snitch. Reluctantly, he handed it over to Snape.

"A snitch? You said the Headmaster gave this to you?" Harry nodded. "Why?"

"We've never been able to figure that out. I thought there might be something inside, but it doesn't open, not in any way that we've been able to figure out. It's just a snitch, I guess. You knew Dumbledore – maybe you can explain what he was thinking." Harry had no intention of telling him about the writing on the snitch. It meant nothing to Harry or Hermione, but it might mean something to Snape, and Harry couldn't take that chance.

Snape studied the snitch, turning it over and over between his long fingers. Harry watched, mesmerized. Snape then proceeded to try every opening and unlocking spell he knew, but none of them were any more successful than the trio's attempts had been. With a sigh, Snape finally gave up and set the snitch on the table beside Harry's wand.

"What else?"

"There's nothing else," Harry lied, meeting Snape's eye. Harry pushed at him memories of the contents of the bag, showing him only the two items that currently lay on the table.

"Very well." Snape replaced the wand and snitch, wound the string around the bag, and threw it carelessly on the table, well within reach of Harry. "I have business to attend to outside. You will begin preparations for supper. You will find supplies in the pantry and in the icebox. I eat just about anything. Until I return, you will remain in this room. There is a loo through that door. You will not wander about the rest of the house. I will know if you do. I shall return in an hour."

And Snape stood up and left him, carelessly leaving the mokeskin bag on the table. Or maybe not, Harry thought as he slipped the bag into his pocket. Maybe Snape wanted him to have it.

Harry sighed, thought about getting up to poke around as much as he could, then decided he needed to speak with Hermione first.


Hermione, Harry demanded. Can you talk?

Harry waited patiently for her response. He hadn't realized how worried he'd been about her until he heard her response. Harry! Are you all right?

I'm fine. How about you?

I'm all right, she assured him. You should see the amazing laboratory he has set up here.

Hermione, you're a slave, Harry pointed out. Stop having an orgasm about his stupid laboratory.

Sorry, Hermione said, and Harry could tell she was blushing. I'm not sure yet what we're to be brewing, but it looks as though we could brew up anything anybody could ever want.

Dark stuff, you think?

I don't know. Some of the others said there's another lab in the basement that no one except Snape goes into. I'm not sure what that's about. Oh, Lee Jordan's here. He works in the lab, too. I'd tell him you say 'hello' but I think it's better that no one knows you're here.

Harry sighed. Probably smart.

So how are things there? Where are you anyway?

I'm in the big house, Harry joked. Snape's personal residence. Apparently I'm to be his personal house elf. Hermione, he knows about the horcruxes. He's somehow been in contact with Dumbledore's portrait, and he's looking for them, too. Since he has the Headmaster's help, maybe he actually stands a chance of finding them. God knows we haven't gotten anywhere.

Is he treating you all right? Hermione asked worriedly.

So far. He's cooking up some kind of plan involving the horcruxes and destroying Voldemort. He's on our side, Hermione. I'm sure of it. He doesn't know I can occlude, and he's worried that if Voldemort were to show up here before he's got his plan worked out, he'll look inside my mind and be pretty unhappy if Snape's been nice to me. So he's planning on not being nice to me, though I'm not entirely sure what that means.

Oh, Harry! Do you think he might actually show up here?

I have no idea. I don't know if he's a frequent visitor or if he's never been here.

I'll see what I can find out, Hermione promised.

Just be careful. Don't ask too many questions and get yourself into trouble.

I'll be careful. You, too, right?

You know me – Mr. Caution. I've got to cook supper for his Highness now. Talk again tonight?

Yes, Hermione promised. Love you.

Love you, too.


Snape returned almost exactly the hour later that he'd promised. By the time he arrived, Harry had made a decent start on jacket potatoes, skillet-fried pork chops, and carrots boiled with onions. He'd found a trifle in the ice box for pudding and was somewhat impressed by the contents of the larder here. The pantry was filled with tinned goods of all kinds and fresh in-season vegetables, while the ice box contained meets and cheeses. Harry thought he could feed two people on the food here for a month.

Snape stalked into the kitchen and strode to the sink, where he fastidiously washed his hands. While he dried them, he surveyed the meal that Harry was in the process of preparing, and Harry thought he saw a tiny nod of approval, which sent a strange pulse of pleasure through him.

"When will dinner be ready?" Snape asked.

Harry opened the oven door and poked the potatoes with a fork. "Twenty minutes or so."

"I shall clean up a bit more then," Snape said. "You may set the table in the dining room. That is where I take my meals."

After Snape left, Harry found the china and took a service for one out to the dining room, where he set the table flawlessly. He hadn't gotten much from the Dursleys but rejection and pain, but he'd learned one thing, at least: appearances mattered, and doing things correctly was important. Though Harry was never allowed to eat at the table, he certainly knew how to set it properly.

Harry returned to the kitchen and began to wash up dishes while he waited out the remaining cooking time. When Snape returned, Harry could tell that the man had showered – his hair was still damp, and he smelled . . . clean.

Harry began plating up the various dishes he'd cooked, and he followed Snape out to the dining room with a platter of pork and potatoes and a dish of carrots. Snape stopped abruptly in front of him, nearly causing Harry to crash into his back and smear the food all over the man's shirt. He stopped himself just in time.

"Why is there only one place setting?" Snape asked.

"What? I just . . . I assumed you'd be eating alone. Have you a guest?"

"No, you dolt. Did you expect that I would not feed you?"

"I assumed I'd eat in the kitchen," Harry admitted.

"You should stop assuming. Put that down and get yourself a plate."

Harry hurried to comply – he was hungry. He hadn't had any lunch, and food had been rather scarce for him and Hermione for longer than he cared to contemplate. He'd nibbled in Snape's stores while he worked, things he was sure wouldn't be missed if Snape kept a close eye on his inventory, not sure he'd be fed at all, but a solid, hot meal was something he'd not had in a long time, and he was nearly drooling with anticipation.

When they were seated, Snape looked pointedly at Harry, and it finally dawned on Harry that he was expected to serve his new master. Blushing in embarrassment, Harry piled a couple of chops, a potato, and a substantial amount of carrots on Snape's plate. Still uncertain, he sat and looked at Snape.

"Oh, for heaven's sake," Snape huffed impatiently. "Serve yourself."

Harry did, trying not to heap food onto his plate. When his plate was as full as he could decently manage, he stopped and looked at Snape.

"Is it your custom to say a blessing before your meal?" Snape conjured a bottle of wine from – somewhere and poured a glass for himself and for Harry, which surprised Harry greatly.

"No," Harry said, confused.

"Then I suggest you eat."

So Harry did. Everything was delicious, if he said so himself, and for a time, there was no sound in the room but the clinking of silver on china. Harry cleaned his plate in record time. When he looked up again, Snape was staring at him in amusement, his own plate still half full. Behind his eyes, Harry read his tolerance for the fact that Harry was so hungry, appreciation for the meal he'd cooked, and little else, and Harry began to relax. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad.

"You may help yourself to more, if you wish," Snape offered.

Deciding not to feel self-conscious, Harry took another chop and another potato. "Thank you," he said. "So where do the other slaves eat?"

"We refer to them as 'detainees', Potter, not 'slaves'," Snape informed him. "There is a mess hall that sits between the three buildings which house the detainees. A contingent of detainees work there, cooking for the others. Other detainees work in the laundry, which purpose should be obvious. We have a laboratory on the premises, where we brew potions needed by the residents here, such as healing potions, and also special order potions as required by Our Lord. And a large number of our detainees work in the fields, helping to produce the food which you are so appreciatively eating."

"So Hermione went to one of those places?" Harry asked, feigning ignorance.

"Knowing Miss Granger as I do, I marked her for the laboratory. She can earn her keep here by using skills which I know she acquired at Hogwarts."

"What? You didn't send me to the lab?" Harry joked.

Snape looked down his large nose at Harry, not amused. "I do not have a death wish, Mr. Potter."

"So what exactly is the purpose of this place anyway?" Harry asked.

"As you are aware, there are many who have gone to ground in order to escape the Dark Lord's rule. It is Our Lord's belief that those of us with magical blood should live, learn, and work together, in harmony. The people collected here have been living basically in exile. Once the Dark Lord has eliminated any and all resistence to his rule, the residents here will be allowed a choice: conform to the new world as the Dark Lord sees it, or die."

Harry blanched. Cave to the demands of a megalomaniacal madman, or die. Some choice. "You really believe this is the best way?" Harry questioned, though he knew from examining Snape's thoughts that the man was not a zealot to this cause.

"I believe in serving my Lord in any way he deems appropriate."

Harry sighed. What had they gotten themselves into here? Would they not be better off, he and Hermione, escaping this place at their first available opportunity? Who knew what would become of them if they stayed here?

"How often does Vol– does he visit?"

"He has not been here once since we established this facility. He could, of course, come any time it took his fancy. He is a bit busy, with many things on his plate, and he trusts the reports that I provide to him." Snape didn't sound in any way proud about Voldemort's reliance on him.

"Are there other facilities like this one?"

Snape's lip curled in disgust. "There is one other, run by the Carrows, a brother and sister team. They are unreasonably cruel and vicious people. You should consider yourself lucky that my snatchers captured you and not theirs. You could be in a much more dire situation."

Harry had lived all of his life telling himself that things could be worse, just to help him deal with how things currently were. He was kind of sick of it.

"So let's assume that Voldemort wins – "

"Do NOT say his name!"

"Oh shit! Will the snatchers come here?"

"No. The entire camp is warded against the jinx. But you WILL NOT throw his name about so!"

"Sorry," Harry huffed. He started over. "So let's assume that the Dark Lord," Harry infused as much contempt as he could into those three words, "wins. He'll come here and he'll offer everyone the opportunity to join his bright new world, after he eliminates the stench of Muggles and Muggle-borns and likely blood traitors, of course. Say I agree that he now represents the path and the light I want to follow. What's to stop me from getting out of here and then working against him?"

"I prefer not to speculate on ridiculous 'what-if' scenarios. And you have asked entirely too many questions already. I have always believed that your boundless curiosity would one day be your downfall. I see you have not yet learned to rein it in. I suggest you keep your head down and your mind on your duties if you want to get through this experience relatively unscathed. Now, if you've had enough, let's get pudding out of the way, and I'll give you a tour of your new home."

"My new prison, you mean," Harry grumbled, but he got up and went to the kitchen for the trifle.

After they'd finished eating, Snape bade Harry to finish the clean up, and when he had, Snape took him on a tour of the house. It wasn't overly large, but it was nicely furnished and quite comfortable. Aside from the kitchen and the dining room, the main floor contained a large sitting room/library. Upstairs were three bedrooms. As Harry was led through them all, he wondered which was to be his.

The tour ended in Snape's bedroom, which was the largest of the three and contained private access to a large bathroom with a sunken tub which was bigger than any tub Harry had seen outside of Hogwarts. Something about the layout of the bathroom made Harry think that part of it had been constructed in space which didn't actually exist, but he didn't think too much on that – it was called magic for a reason. The room itself was done up in dark, masculine colors, so appropriate to Snape, Harry thought. The four-poster bed was covered with a dark green coverlet which contrasted well with the tan carpet and the dark paneled walls. There was a fireplace large enough to contain a floo, with a settee before it upholstered in dark green fabric which matched the curtains on the windows. It was a very nice room, Harry thought, except for one corner, which contained, oddly, two wooden pallets butted together, a scrawny looking pillow that looked as though it had been flattened by a Muggle steamroller, and a threadbare blanket.

"This is where you will sleep," Snape said, gesturing to the makeshift bed on the floor.

"What?" Harry asked, appalled. They'd just seen two perfectly adequate bedrooms, with actual beds and bedclothes. Why couldn't he use one of those?

"You didn't think I'd let you use one of the guest rooms, surely?"

"Well," Harry sputtered, "I guess I – I didn't think – "

"Imagine my shock," Snape said dryly.

Harry stopped. This was just like being at the Dursleys. He was going to be forced to cook and clean all day, and when he lay his tired head down at night, it would not be in a proper bedroom meant for decent people, but in an otherwise unused corner of the house that wasn't fit for anyone but a freak. He hung his head, tired suddenly beyond belief. While one part of him tried to console himself that if he'd survived this at the Dursleys, as a small and vulnerable child, he'd get through it now, as an older, smarter, and powerful wizard. It could be worse, he told himself wryly.

"With your permission then, sir," Harry said, raising his tired head to look Snape in the eye, "I'll retire for the night. It's been a long day."

"Oh, you're not quite finished yet," Snape informed him.

Now Harry began to get nervous.

"You, quite frankly, stink. You've seen the bathroom. You are to use the shower only, not the tub. You may have five minutes of hot water."

Well, that was an improvement over the Dursleys. They'd only allowed him three minutes of hot water. He was quite sure that Aunt Petunia used a stop watch to time him and flipped off the furnace switch after two and a half minutes.

Harry felt the weight of defeat on his shoulders. "Yes, sir," he said. "What shall I do about clothes when I'm done?"

"You will find night clothes in the loo. When you are finished, dress and comb that tangled mass of a birds nest you call hair and come back out here. You will take up a position on this corner of my bed," Snape said, indicating, "until I have released you to your own bed."

Great. What was that all about? Harry wondered. But instead of asking questions, he dropped his chin to his chest and trudged his way into the loo.


Harry's five minutes under the hot water was heavenly. He wet his hair immediately and shampooed it quickly twice, then washed his body thoroughly. He hadn't been clean in such a long time, and he felt like a new, likely lighter, person. With his remaining time, he simply stood under the hot spray, enjoying the feel of the water as it beat down on his tired body.

After his time was up, Harry dried himself off and slipped the ugly grey, too-large nightshirt over his head. Gathering up his courage, he opened the door to Snape's bedroom and tried to prepare himself for what he would find.

There was no way that Harry could have imagined what he found when he entered Snape's bedroom: Snape was sprawled on his bed, sitting up against the headboard, completely naked, his erect cock in the circle of his fist. His hand wasn't moving, but he gripped himself firmly while staring at Harry.

Harry didn't have to manufacture the fear he felt when he saw Snape this way. What did Snape intend? Was all of his talk earlier just that – talk? Was he going to . . . rape Harry, here on this opulent bed, on Harry's first night in captivity?

Snape used his free hand to indicate the corner of the bed he'd pointed out to Harry earlier. Harry's feet didn't want to move, and he felt his head shaking back and forth in the negative.

Without picking up his wand, Snape cast a stinging hex at Harry that had him jumping. "You would do well to remember that I have no trouble casting cruciatus. Now get on the bed."

Wanting with everything he was to refuse, Harry believed Snape would cast the unforgivable on him, and he forced his feet to cross the remaining distance to the bed. He sat gingerly on the edge, as far from Snape as he could manage and still be, technically, "on the bed."

"Sit facing me," Snape instructed.

Harry turned to face Snape, crossing his legs, grateful now that his nightshirt was so large and covered him so well. He settled his back against the bed post and waited, tense.

Snape didn't speak again. He picked up a small bottle on the bed beside him and turned it upside down over the reddened head of his cock. A thick liquid dribbled out, and Snape massaged it into his turgid member, making it shine and glisten in the dim light. While he stroked himself, he kept his eyes locked on Harry's. Harry's occlumency was being tested by the heightened state of his emotions: he was trying desperately to push at Snape feelings of fear and anxiety, which he was feeling; disgust, which he assumed Snape would think he was feeling; and despair, which he would be feeling if things got out of hand here. All the while he was desperately trying to keep well away from the man the niggling arousal that he felt in response to what Snape was doing in front of him. He wanted, badly, to look down, to watch that large hand with its long and elegant fingers work its way up and down that beautiful, needy prick, but he didn't dare. If he did, he'd never look away again.

Harry's mouth was incredibly dry, and he licked his lips to moisten them. Seeing Harry's pink tongue dart out caused Snape's pace to increase, until his fist was nearly a blur of motion pistoning up and down on Snape's pole. Slowly Snape was slumping down onto the bed, his right leg getting closer and closer to Harry until finally his big toe touched Harry's foot. That contact sent a jolt through Snape, and his entire body went rigid, he groaned loudly, and his cock began to shoot spurt after spurt of come up into the air and back down onto Snape's belly, chest and thighs as Snape's continued thrusting up into his fist sent his ejaculate everywhere. Something landed on Harry's toe, and he feared he knew what it was, though he didn't look down. Once Snape's eyes had closed as his orgasm slammed through him, Harry hadn't been able to resist the pull any longer, and he'd looked down, fascinated, watching Snape's cock pump out its seemingly endless load.

Harry had known since his sixth year that he preferred men, but he'd never had any sexual experience with a male, and next to none with a female. This was the first time he'd seen a cock other than his own ejaculate, and it was difficult to not react physically to the sight. Snape finally stopped coming, though his hand remained curled around his rapidly-softening prick as he lay panting, looking at Harry again through half-closed eyes. Harry crossed his hands in his lap nervously, pushing down on his erection so that Snape would not see it poking up the front of his night shirt.

It seemed as though Snape had to force his fingers to uncurl, and he finally released his flaccid cock. It flopped over onto his thigh, apparently ready to curl up and go to sleep.

Harry looked up into Snape's eyes again, sure that his face was a frightening shade of red. Before he could read anything in the man's thoughts, Snape had inched closer and used his foot to push Harry forcefully off of the bed. Harry landed painfully on his hands and knees, nearly falling forward and squashing his erect penis against the floor, which would have likely been worse than the cruciatus Snape had threatened earlier.

"Bed!" Snape ordered.

From his spot on the floor, Harry heard Snape rustling around, likely standing up so that he could get dressed for bed. Harry didn't look – he didn't want to know what Snape was doing. He crawled on his bruised knees to his pallet, settled himself as comfortably as he could with the pathetic provisions he'd been given, curled up tightly in a ball, and closed his eyes.


Harry? What's up?

I don't know what just happened. Even inside his mind Harry sounded lost.

Is something wrong? Are you all right?

Harry sighed. I'm fine. Snape just . . . He searched for the words to describe what he'd just experienced.

Did he hurt you? Hermione asked anxiously.

No. He hasn't touched me. Well, not really. He . . .he made me take a shower, then when I came back out, he was on his bed. Naked. He made me sit on the bed and watch him wank.

Oh, Harry. That sounds . . . awful. Are you sure that's all he did? He never touched you or asked you to touch him?

No, Hermione. I'm pretty sure I would have noticed if he'd done either of those things, Harry said sarcastically.

That's not what I meant. I thought maybe you weren't telling me the whole story.

No. I've told you everything. Except the part where after he was done, he kicked me off the bed. I'm to sleep on a wooden pallet on the floor. It's harder than the ledge we pitched the tent on last week. I guess slaves aren't entitled to use the spare bedrooms he's got up here!

But why would he want you to watch him masturbate? That's quite disturbing.

I suspect that's why. He's trying to treat me like he thinks Voldemort would think he should be treating me. Did that make any more sense to you than it just did to me?

I know what you mean. He's forced you through a humiliating experience so that if Voldemort enters your mind, he'll see that Snape has treated you in the way he believes Snape would treat you.

Exactly. I saw in his eyes that he was reluctant to do anything beyond touching himself. He liked that I watched him, though. I saw that, too. Guess what, Hermione? I kind of liked it, too. I got really hard. Harry rubbed himself surreptitiously under his thin covering. He was still hard.

Did he see?

I don't think so. I hope not. He'd be sure to use that to humiliate me forever if he did. I don't suppose you know any spells to keep a bloke from getting a hard-on, do you?

Sorry. Never had the use for such a thing. Everything else all right?

They talked a bit longer, but they were both exhausted, and soon Harry was sleeping soundly, despite his meager accommodations.


Harry's routine was established over the next three days. He'd wake up in the morning, after an uncomfortable night trying to sleep on the hard pallet, make breakfast for Snape, clean up the dishes, and perform whatever chore Snape set him. These chores consisted of household duties: polishing silver, dusting the books in the library, washing the floors. After lunch clean-up was completed, there would be additional housework: laundry, polishing the furniture, changing bed linens, organizing the pantry. None of these jobs was especially taxing to Harry: he'd done these and worse for the Dursleys when he was a very small boy. He quickly came to discover that Snape was doing this on purpose: setting tasks for Harry that he knew the boy was comfortable with and capable of performing without difficulty. He needed to treat Harry like a slave, but he wasn't making any of it too challenging. Snape left the house each day after leaving Harry a list of chores required for that day and returned only for meals.

Dinner preparation consumed the late afternoon. Harry liked cooking, and he was happy when he discovered Snape's cache of cookbooks. The Dursleys were meat-and-potatoes people and weren't much into experimenting with new cuisine, and Harry was pleased to be able to spread his culinary wings. He made gazpacho with some of the late summer vegetables the house was always stocked with (courtesy of the facility's large garden) and beef stroganoff and herbed veal with summer squash. Snape's lack of complaint about the fare told Harry that it was more than adequate, and on the third night, Snape actually complimented Harry on his ability. Harry took an inordinate amount of pride in his words. When he caught Snape wondering why Harry was being so tame and compliant with his captivity, Harry sighed internally and knew that he was going to have to do something worthy of punishment soon.

Harry's evening was spent quietly with Snape in the library, both of them reading or talking about inconsequential things. They never discussed what Harry had been doing over the past several months, and they never discussed Albus Dumbledore or Hogwarts. Much to Harry's frustration, they never discussed exactly what was going on at this place either. Harry and Hermione kept in regular contact throughout the day, trading information they'd been able to glean from their surroundings and Hermione's conversations with the other detainees. They'd decided to put any plans for escape on hold until they knew more. There was simply no way they could turn their backs on the others imprisoned here. Until they knew the real reason people were being kept here against their will, they would stick it out, too.

Somewhere around nine o'clock each night, Snape would order Harry off to the shower and then to the bedroom. Invariably, when Harry entered Snape's bedroom, Snape would be on the bed, naked and hard. Harry would sit on the bed and watch the older man bring himself to completion, willing his own interest unsuccessfully down. Harry knew his face was burning, and he knew Snape believed he was ashamed, but it wasn't shame that brought color to Harry's cheeks and a quickening to his breath. Snape was, quite simply, beautiful when he came, and Harry couldn't help his teenaged reaction to what he saw. Harry was quite certain that Snape never knew how Harry felt about being forced to watch Snape wank: he would most certainly stop doing it if he suspected Harry was anything less than mortified. So Harry kept his reactions to himself as well as he could and, knowing what would happen when Snape finished, avoided being kicked onto the floor. Instead, he left the bed when he sensed Snape was ready for him to go and crept to his pallet, where he spoke with Hermione about mundane things until his erection left him so he could attempt to sleep.

And the next day, he started all over again.


Harry set Operation Act-Out into play the following morning. He'd been sullen and barely holding onto his sarcasm during breakfast, and when Snape handed him his list of chores, he snorted contemptuously as he looked down at it. "Dust the books again?" he challenged. "I just did that two days ago!"

Snape stared down at him. "You are aware that your input is neither desired nor welcome in this situation?"

"You've never wanted my input. That's never stopped me from offering it."

"You'd do well not to push me. I have better things to do than stand here and debate with you. You will do as you have been told, and you will have it finished by lunch. You will not like the consequences if you do not." And Snape was thinking, I've wondered when this honeymoon with a compliant Harry Potter would end. I guess this is it.

So Harry let it go. For now.

Of course, when Snape returned for lunch, Harry had not dusted the books. He hadn't cleaned up the breakfast dishes, and he hadn't made lunch.

"What is the meaning of this?" Snape angrily demanded.

"Hmmm?" Harry asked, looking up from his spot on the sofa where he'd been reading. "Did you say something?"

"You have done nothing today. You are being deliberately contrary. You will get into that kitchen now, and you will get to your assigned duties. If you do not, you will not eat for the remainder of the day."

Harry shrugged. "Won't be the first time I've gone without food."

"Mr. Potter, your juvenile attitude will stop now. Get up."

"I'm comfortable here."

"Get up now, or I shall make you!" Snape demanded.

"Jeez, don't get your knickers in a knot," Harry set the book beside him, his outward demeanor calm and insolent, his nerves strung taught, expecting Snape to do just about anything. He stood slowly and faced Snape.

"Come here," Snape ordered.

Harry crossed the room until he was standing two feet from Snape. Quick as lightning, Snape struck Harry across the face. Before Harry could react to that, Snape had sat down upon the settee and was pulling Harry over onto his lap. Harry struggled, instantly aware of what Snape intended – he was going to spank him like a recalcitrant three-year old! This was too humiliating for words!

Harry had not expected this! As he tried to slide off Snape's lap, he felt the first blow land on his bum. "Ow!" he yelled. That stung!

"Perhaps you will begin to act more like a mature young man of seventeen and less like a toddler," Snape said, striking him again and again. "Try this again, and you'll bare your arse next time. And I won't be so gentle."

Snape pushed Harry onto the floor. "Now get into the kitchen and clean up. I find I am no longer hungry. You will finish your assigned chores by the time I return for dinner, or you will suffer the consequences as I have described them."

Snape whirled and left, leaving Harry on the floor.


When Snape returned, Harry had dusted all of the books in the library. He had also rearranged them, completely destroying the order Snape had established. Snape spotted this immediately upon entering the library. "Potter!" he roared.

"Yes, Severus?" asked Harry innocently as he came into the room from the dining room.

"My books! What have you done to my books?"

"I dusted them. Just like you said." Harry left again, and Snape strode into the dining room after him.

Snape's ire at the disorder Harry had wreaked in his library was stalled for a moment, and he stood, gaping, at what he saw waiting for him on the table.

"What is this?" he asked, temporarily distracted from the fiasco in the library.

"Dinner," Harry said.

"Peanut butter sandwiches?"

"Don't you like peanut butter?" Harry asked quite ingenuously. "You said you ate anything."

"That is it!" Severus declared. "I have had enough of your attitude! You do not appreciate just what I have been doing for you here, and it will stop! Now! Drop your trousers!"

Harry had expected this. He'd really not liked being spanked this morning, and he'd thought all afternoon about how to make sure it didn't happen again. He was quite sure he'd come up with a plan that, while embarrassing, would ensure Snape would never spank him again after this.

But first he had to plead for mercy. "Snape, look, I'm sorry. I'll fix your books tomorrow." He said this as he backed away from Snape, his hands up in a pleading gesture. "And I was only kidding about the sandwiches." He actually had a real meal prepared in the kitchen, but he knew he'd need to push as many of Snape's buttons as he could safely get away with.

"I do not want to hear your excuses! Drop your trousers!"

"No. I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry. I won't do it again!"

"No, you won't." Severus flicked his wand at Harry, and his trousers and pants disappeared instantly.

Snape dragged a chair away from the table and dropped into it, pulling Harry with him as he went. Harry could feel his face redden at the realization that his arse was on full display to Snape. He flinched when Snape's hand connected solidly with his flesh. "Count!" Snape demanded.

Now time to put his plan into action. It was easier than he'd thought it would be to get aroused in this position. "One," he moaned.

Snape continued hitting him, and Harry kept counting. By seven, Harry's moans had taken on a decidedly different tenor, and he was rubbing his erection against Snape's leg, waiting for the moment when Snape felt it.

Harry knew instantly when he had because Snape froze, his right hand resting on Harry's buttocks after a particularly vicious slap. Harry continued thrusting, actually lost in the feeling now, more than willing to keep doing this as long as Snape let him or until things reached their natural culmination.

But Snape was done, and he stood abruptly, dumping Harry onto the floor, where he sat looking up at Snape and panting.

"You . . . you little . . . degenerate!"

"You're the one who took my trousers!"

"Get up."

Harry scrambled to his feet, conscious that his still-hard prick was on display but determined not to give in to the desire to cover it up.

"I will eat elsewhere," Snape announced. "You had better get yourself under control before I return." And Snape whirled once again and was gone.

Harry headed for the stairs and some trousers, confident that whatever punishment Snape might dream up next, it wouldn't be spanking.


Snape had not returned by the time Harry went into the shower. He had no idea what to expect when next he saw Snape, and the more time that went by, the more nervous Harry became. He'd known that he needed to allay Snape's suspicions and rebel against the man's imprisonment, but he couldn't push so hard that Snape got angry enough to turn him out or, Merlin forbid, over to Voldemort.

Harry left the shower hesitantly, dressed only in a towel wrapped around his waist since he'd forgotten to bring his nightshirt into the bathroom. Snape was there in the bedroom, staring down at Harry in disgust. The man was fully clothed and looked as though he had just come in.

"Hi," Harry tried.

Snape did not respond, continuing to look at Harry as though he was disgusted beyond words. He turned and started to get undressed.

Harry stood and stared. He'd never watched Snape undress before – the man was always naked when Harry exited the shower. He was fastidious and sure in his movements, elegant and graceful as he removed his robe, then his trousers, next unbuttoning his shirt and removing it, hanging it neatly over the nearby chair. Alternating from his usual routine, he selected a nightshirt from his wardrobe and draped it over his head, covering all of the lovely skin Harry had been admiring.

"What, no wank session tonight?" Harry prompted.

"You disgust me, Potter. What makes you think I want anything to do with you? Get into your bed and keep quiet."

Harry stroked himself over his night shirt, his cock hardening rapidly. "Too bad. I was hoping for a show. I might even have participated this time. I don't know why you should be the only one to get off."

"Potter, I have reached the end of my tolerance for your disrespectful behavior. I suggest you get into bed and that you not irk me further."

Harry ignored him. "Why'd you do that anyway?" he asked with a look of curiosity, like knowing the answer to that question was really important to him. "Kind of disturbing that a bloke would jerk off like that in front of another bloke. Whassa matter? You can't get one of the little slave wenches to lie back and take it for you? Or maybe you'd prefer one of the slave boys to spread his . . ."

Harry's lewd speculations were cut off by a roared, "Crucio!" He dropped to the floor immediately, cracking his head on the bed post in the process, his nerves screaming as they burned white hot. Harry was too far lost in the pain to register whether or not he screamed as well (he did), and only the fact that he'd still been semi-erect had kept him from losing control of his bladder during the ten seconds that he twisted on the floor under the curse.

It felt like an hour later when Snape finally lifted the curse. Harry lay panting and twitching, tears flowing from his eyes and blood oozing from a gash in his forehead. He tried unsuccessfully to curl himself into a ball, trying to stop the tremors coursing through him, but the spasms of pain were slow to leave his limbs. He knew he was whimpering pitifully, but he simply couldn't stop.

If Harry had been cognizant enough to look at Snape, he would have seen the look of complete and utter horror on the man's face at what he'd done. Snape stared down at the boy still writhing through the after-effects of the torture he'd inflicted. Disgusted with himself for losing his temper so thoroughly, Snape spun around, unsteady on his feet and his hands shaking, and left the room. He needed a drink.

Harry lay on the floor until the tremors lessened to a slight shaking. He couldn't seem to stop crying – that had hurt dammit! When he could get his muscles to respond to his commands again, he half-crawled, half-dragged himself to his pallet and collapsed into a heap on the hard surface. He was shivering now, most likely from shock, and he tried to pull the blanket up over himself, but he was half-laying on it and couldn't seem to lift enough to work it free, and he finally gave up and lay there, curled up and shivering, still sobbing.

Something warm and furry brushed against him, and if Harry had been able, he likely would have jumped away. As it was, the complete exhaustion he was experiencing left him no choice but to stay where he was, and he was quite relieved when the fact registered that there was a cat walking around beside him on the pallet, its paws flexing and extending as it purred, rubbing its warmth against him. Harry choked on a sob and forced his arm to move so that he could hold his hand out to the cat. Through his tears, he could see the scrawny black feline rubbing its jaw against Harry's shaking hand.

Feeling a tiny bit better when the cat settled at his side and began to purr loudly, Harry dropped his hand and tried to curl around the tiny beast, soaking up as much of its warmth as he could. As his painfully contracted muscles relaxed infinitesimally, Harry's crying quieted, and his shivering subsided. He'd pushed Snape too far, obviously. He'd wanted to anger the man and make him believe that Harry wasn't just accepting this situation he'd been forced into. The Harry Potter Snape had known at Hogwarts would make trouble and push boundaries and break rules, and in an effort to ensure that Snape didn't suspect that Harry had changed in fairly significant ways in the past few months, he'd devised this really stupid plan to show the man what he expected to see. Well, he guessed the plan had been successful, and now Harry was paying the price.

Thankfully, he thought even the old Harry Potter would behave himself after being subjected to cruciatus, and Harry had every intention of doing just that for the foreseeable future. Snape had surprised him with his cruelty. He'd thought that he knew Snape's motivation for keeping him here: to keep him close and ready to destroy Voldemort at the time Snape deemed right. And while that might still be the objective, Harry could no longer assume that Snape wouldn't hurt him, and hurt him badly, in the interim.

Able now to stroke the cat, Harry did so, deriving a great deal of comfort from the animal's presence here. Some time later, after what felt like hours, he fell asleep, the cat still by his side.


When Harry woke in the morning, he groaned, the usual soreness at sleeping on the hard pallet compounded by the lingering effects of the torture he'd been subjected to last night. He raised his head enough to ascertain that Snape was not in the bed before collapsing back against the wooden slats which formed his own bed. Harry cast a wandless tempus and was surprised to see it was nearly seven. Snape had always woken him just before six. He rolled off of the pallet and onto his hands and knees, then pushed himself to his feet. He couldn't afford to anger Snape and figured he'd better see to fixing breakfast. After a fast trip to the loo, he threw on some clothes and he made his way warily down the stairs and into the dining room.

Snape was seated there already, a platter of scrambled eggs and bacon in the middle of the table. Harry stood watching, trying to gauge whether Snape was angry over having to make his own breakfast. The man's shoulders were hunched inward, and he looked like he hadn't slept any better than Harry had.

"Breakfast is ready," Snape said. "You may as well sit down and eat it."

Giving Snape a wide berth, Harry slowly approached the table and sat gingerly, his muscles protesting nearly every movement. He eyed the platter of food, not sure whether his stomach was stable enough to handle any of it. His eyes flicked constantly to Snape, hoping the man wasn't still as angry as he'd been last night, the thought of suffering another round of pain like that making his abused muscles quiver all over again.

Snape must have seen this because he was rising suddenly from his chair and stalking away into the kitchen. Harry couldn't help it – he jumped clean off his chair at the unexpected movement and was still breathing hard when Snape returned. Snape all but slammed a vial of amber liquid on the table beside Harry's plate, causing him to flinch away, before returning to his own seat.

"Drink it," Snape ordered.

Harry didn't want to, but his trembling hand reached out and picked up the vial. The thick liquid inside shook with the force of Harry's tremors as he brought it to his nose to sniff carefully. Harry's doubting green eyes landed on Snape briefly, then back on the potion, then on an interesting spot on the wall.

"Oh for Merlin's sake! It's not poison. It will soothe the nerves and lessen the pain. Drink it or don't drink it – I couldn't care less."

Harry drank it, tossing it back all at once, assuming it would taste as vile as most other healing potions he'd had the misfortune to take in the past. Strangely enough, it had no flavor, but it was viscous, and Harry felt like he was swallowing sludge. Harry nearly choked before he got it all down his throat.

"Thank you," he said meekly, meaning it because instantly his trembling disappeared and the pain decreased to manageable levels.

"You should eat," Snape said gruffly.

Harry pulled the platter of food toward him and pushed some eggs onto his plate. The bacon seemed like too much to attempt. He ate two bites of egg before he thought he'd had enough, and he set his fork down quietly beside his plate.

"Potter," Snape started, then stopped.

Harry looked up into Snape's eyes for the first time that morning and was nearly struck by the force of the regret he saw there. Snape regretted punishing Harry as he had, was ashamed of himself in fact, to the point where he had nearly apologized. He'd stopped at the last moment, unable to make himself do it.

"I would like you to weed the herb garden today," he said instead.

Harry had seen the herb garden out the kitchen window, but he'd never been allowed in it. The sun was shining brightly, and it appeared that a very nice day was in the making. Harry would like nothing better than to spend the day outside in the fresh air and sunshine.

"This will be your only chore for the day, aside from meals," Snape continued, his voice almost gentle. He stopped to remove something from a pocket of his robe. "If you are to go outside, you must wear this." He dropped a collar onto the table. "It is set to the wards around the perimeter of the garden. If you attempt to leave those boundaries, you will be . . . deterred."

Harry thought he understood what this meant. He'd heard of Muggles who put collars on their dogs, with an invisible fence to keep them in the yard that would shock the poor animal if it tried to cross it. Harry was just desperate enough to get outside to agree to almost anything. Besides, he had no intention of pressing any of Snape's boundaries, emotional or physical.

"All right," he said quietly.

"If you are finished . . ." Snape said, indicating Harry's plate.

At Harry's nod, Snape stood up, collar in hand and approached Harry, his intent clear. Harry arched his neck to allow Snape better access, then sat as still as possible. Snape hesitated for a moment, studying the curve of the boy's neck, before coming to his senses. He wrapped the strip of leather around Harry's neck and did up the buckle. His hands lingered at Harry's throat.

"Too tight?"

Harry rotated his neck, testing. "No. It's fine," he said, conscious of how close Snape was standing, feeling his blood quicken at the scent of the man.

Harry couldn't help but jump when he felt Snape's hand on his forehead. "You are bleeding."

"Oh." Harry had cleaned the blood off his face when he'd been in the loo this morning, and apparently had succeeded in reopening the gash in the process.

"May I?" Snape asked softly.

Harry looked up at Snape. The desire he saw there would have been apparent even to someone who wasn't a legillimens. Unable to speak, Harry nodded.

Snape gently brushed Harry's hair back from his forehead, then touched his wand to the cut, murmuring a healing spell. Harry closed his eyes, enjoying the light touch. When it was over, Snape stroked his hair one final time before stepping away.

"I will clean up," Snape said. "You may head outside."

Harry waited until Snape moved back. If he'd stood up, with Snape standing that close, he would have been in the other man's arms. And while part of him would very much have liked being that close to Severus Snape, his self-preservation instincts were screaming at him that now was not the time.

Harry started to leave the room, then stopped. "May I ask you a question?" he asked, his tone containing a note of respect that Snape didn't think he'd ever heard coming from this boy.

"You may."

"What's your cat's name?"

"Cat?" Snape said, raising an eyebrow in surprise. "I have no cat."

"What?" Harry sputtered. "But I . . . last night . . ."

"You must have been hallucinating," Snape said firmly.

But when Harry looked up at Snape, he knew everything. Snape's animagus form was a weedy black cat. He'd transformed and offered comfort to Harry that he wasn't able to offer in human form. Harry dropped his eyes, not sure how to feel about this newest revelation. Tugging a little at the unfamiliar collar, Harry turned and left for his day in the outdoors.


Harry was very careful not to challenge Snape or his authority over him – he'd learned his lesson. Though he knew that Snape deeply regretted what he'd done, he couldn't be sure that it wouldn't happen again if he pushed Snape hard enough. And he had no intention of taking a chance. So he was as obedient as he could be, only talking back when he couldn't control his temper, but never again did he deliberately try to press Snape.

For two months, they lived in relative harmony. Harry did the chores that Snape assigned him without complaint. None of them were very taxing. He planned and made three meals a day for both of them, and every night he sat on the bed while Snape masturbated before being banished to his own uncomfortable bed.

Harry mentally spoke with Hermione several times every day, but he saw no one in all that time but Snape. They continued to gather what information they could about what was going on here, but it was scarce. The guards were tight-lipped around the detainees, and no one ever left and came back, bringing outside information into the camp. Most of what they knew they'd pieced together and assumed, and it was far too little to even begin to make a plan for getting out of here and taking everyone with them.

And when their routine was broken, it was in a way that disturbed Harry greatly.


"We are to have a guest for dinner on Friday evening," Snape said nonchalantly after serving himself a second helping from the bowl of broccoli.

Harry immediately became nervous. He hadn't seen anyone in such a long time, and he knew his presence here needed to be kept secret. "Oh?"

"Mmm," was Snape's confirmation.

"Will you want me to stay upstairs then?"

Snape looked up at him, surprised by this suggestion. "No. I'll want you to serve. You're quite capable, I think."

"But what about . . ." Harry waved a hand vaguely at his face. "I thought we were keeping me hidden."

"We are. You've no doubt heard of polyjuice potion."

"Ugh." Harry made a face. "That stuff tastes awful."

Snape stared across the table at him. "Care to tell me how you know that?"

Oops. Harry flushed and looked away. "Um . . . no?"

"Let me guess . . . fourth year."

Harry also stared back, neither confirming nor denying.

"Did it have something to do with the Tri-Wizard Tournament? Who did you need to impersonate?" Snape continued. "I know when, but I do not know why."

"Okay," Harry agreed, but it was obvious he was humoring Snape's misapprehensions rather than agreeing with the man.

"No?" Snape asked, surprised. "Not for the Tri-Wizard Tournament?"

Harry raised his eyebrows but still didn't speak.

"Not in fourth year?" Snape asked, though it was obvious his conviction in that regard was quite firm.

Harry couldn't help it. He smiled slyly and shook his head.

"When?" Snape demanded.

"What good would it do you to know that now? You can't take points. You can only get angry and . . . take it out on me." Harry said this last with a fearful look at Snape, the memory of his encounter with cruciatus still fresh enough to make him wary.

The look on Snape's face was a mixture of horror, regret and sorrow. "I would not do that, not over something like this." When Harry seemed inclined not to trust him, Snape said, "You have my word."

Harry swallowed thickly. "Second year," he whispered.

"Second year?" Snape repeated, amazed. "You brewed polyjuice potion in your second year?"

Harry stared at Snape until the other man got it. "Miss Granger brewed the potion."

Harry nodded.


Harry sighed. He guessed it really no longer mattered. "The Chamber of Secrets had been opened. Everyone was speculating on who the Heir of Slytherin was. Loads of people thought it was me. We thought it was Malfoy. We wanted to get close to him, just long enough to get some information. Ron and I transformed into Crabbe and Goyle."

"And did you find what you were looking for?"

"Not really. We found out it wasn't Malfoy and also that he didn't know who it was either." Harry had no intention of sharing with Snape his second experience with polyjuice, when the three of them had infiltrated the Ministry and retrieved the horcrux which was currently buried in the herb garden, waiting for a means for its destruction.

Snape looked at Harry for a moment, his eyes appraising. "You amaze me."

Was that a good thing or a bad thing? "Um . . . thanks?"

"You were, what, twelve years old? And you managed to obtain the ingredients to successfully brew a potion that was years beyond your capabilities and transform yourselves into two people that Draco Malfoy had known since he was a toddler without raising his suspicions. Had you channeled that sort of dedication and creativity into your sanctioned school work, you likely would have been top of your class."

Harry shrugged. "We were motivated."

"Not to mention young and reckless."

"That, too," Harry agreed. They ate silently for a moment. "So are you going to tell me who's coming to dinner? Tell me it isn't Voldemort."

Snape glared at Harry over his continued refusal not to use that name. "No, it's not the Dark Lord. I would not allow you to be in the building if the Dark Lord was coming here. No, it is . . . Bellatrix LeStrange."

Harry felt his blood pressure begin to rise and thought he could hear the blood rushing through his body. He'd been looking forward to his next meeting with that bitch. Since Sirius' death, Harry hadn't been able to decide who he wished dead more: Voldemort or Bellatrix. He was quite frankly dreading his next meeting with Voldemort, but he had eagerly anticipated an opportunity to avenge Sirius, and now it was within his grasp. Harry didn't even realize he was rocking back and forth, rubbing his hands on his thighs in anticipation.

"Potter!" Snape snapped, trying to get his attention. When Harry looked up at him, Snape said, "You will control yourself. You are not ready to face Bellatrix LeStrange: she will kill you if you confront her, and she will take me to the Dark Lord and tell him that I have been holding you here without informing him. He will kill me, but not before he tortures me for a good long while. Then we will both be dead, and what good does that do either of us?"

"But she killed Sirius! You can't just expect me to serve her starters like she's the Queen of England!"

"You will do what you are told," Snape said coldly. "I have something that will assist you in that regard. I've been waiting for an opportunity to test it, and this seems perfect."

"What are you talking about?"

"You will know that when the time is right. Now if you're finished, you should get to the clean-up."

And no matter how much Harry plagued Severus, the man would not divulge any more about this mysterious method he had for ensuring Harry's obedience, though he did assure him it was not cruciatus when it became obvious that that was what Harry feared was going to happen.


"Drink this," Snape instructed, handing Harry a goblet full of a brown sludgy-looking potion.

Harry wrinkled his nose at it and stared down into the cup. He did not want to drink it, but he knew he had little choice. Snape could force him, he knew, and would do so without a moment's hesitation. Besides, Harry Potter could not be here when Bellatrix LeStrange arrived – he knew that. Everything would go to hell if she saw him here.

"Drink it," Snape ordered again, his impatience showing.

Harry heaved a dramatic sigh, pinched his nose closed, and tipped the cup up. The contents tasted as putrid as he'd expected, and it took all of his will not to barf it back up. Once he had it all down, he felt his features begin to melt and reform, a feeling he remembered from his previous experiences with polyjuice. When the transformation was complete, he looked into the bedroom mirror: he was a bit taller, his face was wider, his hair was a sandy brown, his eyes a dark chocolate brown. His vision was blurry, so he removed his glasses and set them aside. He turned to face Snape, who was holding out a suit of clothes.

"Put these on."

Harry took the clothes from Snape and stared at the man. "Turn around." He clutched the clothes to him, as though he was already naked and needed covering.

Snape snorted in disbelief. "You've got nothing I haven't seen before, Potter. Besides, what you've got currently isn't your own. Your modesty is pointless."

"Still. Turn around. Please."

Snape rolled his eyes, but he turned around. Harry dropped the robe he'd been wearing then quickly dressed himself in the clothes Snape had given him – a white shirt, black trousers, and black vest. He looked quite smart, and he felt totally ridiculous.

"Done?" Snape asked with exaggerated politeness.

"Done," Harry said.

Snape turned around and looked Harry up and down. "Acceptable," he said. "Your name is Malcolm. You are one of the detainees who has come to assist me this evening. I don't expect Bella to engage you in conversation – she will likely ignore your existence entirely as she considers servants to be beneath her notice." Snape handed him another goblet. "Drink this. Do not argue with me."

Harry clearly wanted to, but the look in Snape's eyes told him not to trifle with the man right now. He saw how nervous Snape was about this evening, despite all of his precautions, and the man was definitely on edge. Reluctantly, Harry tipped the vial up and drank down the contents. This potion was thinner than the last and tasted of licorice. "That's not bad tasting," Harry said. "What's in it?"

Snape looked somewhat amused. "You will not have heard of most of the ingredients, and you probably wouldn't remember them for more than five minutes anyway. The most important ingredient keys the potion to me, so that you will be compelled to obey me. The potion requires that a part of me be ingested by you to create this effect in you."

Harry looked at him horror. "Don't tell me you pissed in that!"

Snape actually chuckled. "No, Potter. The potion was much more . . . pleasurable to create than that."

Harry's jaw dropped. "You . . . you wanked in here!"

"You know how I enjoy my self-pleasure, do you not?" Snape stepped closer and grabbed hold of Harry's chin to tilt his head up so that he could look into the unfamiliar brown eyes. "Your eyes appear vacant. While that is often the case, it seems a bit . . . deeper than normal. Similar to imperius. Interesting."

"I can throw off imperius, you know."

"Yes, I know. I don't think you'll be able to do that with this potion. Let's try it out. On your knees."

"What?" Harry squawked, even as he felt himself dropping to his knees at Snape's feet. "No!" he said to himself. "What are you doing?" He looked up at Snape, a touch of fear coloring his brown eyes. What did Snape intend for him to do now? This position was highly sexually suggestive after all.

Snape laughed outright and stepped back until he was several feet away from Harry. "Crawl to me."

It was obvious from the murderous look in Harry's eyes that he did not want to, but he was unable to disobey, and he dropped to his hands and crawled across the floor to Snape.

"Good," said Snape. "Stand."

When Harry stood up, Snape was surprised at the depth of hatred Snape saw in the boy's eyes, but he didn't let it bother him – it couldn't be helped. Potter would behave this evening. If he didn't, he would get them both killed.

"The potion will last for twelve hours before it is completely eliminated from your system. During that time, you will do what I say. You will not do anything to call attention to yourself. You will do nothing that gives away your true identity. You will drink your polyjuice potion once each hour as long as our guest is here. You will not confront Bellatrix LeStrange or try to harm her in any way. You will act the perfect servant, as much as you are capable. You will follow any instructions given to you either by me or by Bellatrix, without hesitation or complaint. Are any of these instructions unclear to you?"

"No. I understand."

"Good. This is important. Now go downstairs and finish dinner preparations. She will be here soon."


The war raging inside Harry at his first sight of Bellatrix LeStrange was likely to tear him apart. One part of him wanted to hex her, or reach out with his bare hands and wrap them around her neck and squeeze until she popped like an overripe grape. The other part of him, the part being controlled by Snape's potion, had its own stranglehold on Harry's homicidal tendencies, and he felt like he was being ripped in two directions at once, the sensation so strong it was nearly physical.

"Calm yourself," Snape muttered to him as he passed, leading his guest to the dining room. "We'll have drinks in the library."

And Harry had no choice but to obey. God, how he hated this potion! He drew in large breaths of calming air, then went to serve drinks as instructed.


Harry had been dismissed to the kitchen while Snape and Bellatrix ate, though Snape had left the door open, presumably on purpose, and hadn't cast any silencing charms, so Harry sat just inside the door and listened to their conversation. LeStrange was her usual coy, creepily flirtatious self, teetering between taunting Snape with her closeness to their lord and insinuating that she'd be interested in spending the night here with Snape. Harry shuddered at that, wondering how anyone (other than Voldemort maybe) could get it up with Bellatrix LeStrange in their bed, always wondering if she wasn't going to knife you while you were distracted at a crucial point in the proceedings. He hoped Snape was able to withstand her blatant attempts at currying favor, though the petty part of Harry speculated that Snape being what he was, perhaps he jumped at any opportunity to get laid. Harry shuddered again.

Harry did learn some interesting things though while eavesdropping. Bella talked a lot about the other camp holding magical detainees, the one run by these Carrows, apparently a brother and sister team, but there were comments on the parts of both Bella and Snape that caused Harry to believe that there was some sort of unnatural relationship between them. Bella spoke glowingly of the harsh treatment of the witches and wizards under the Carrows' care, clearly enjoying vicariously the talk of torture and humiliation being suffered by those unfortunate to have ended up in this other camp. She shared with Snape the opinion that his own camp should be run more along the lines of that one, because the real goal of these camps was to force these proven rebels to toe the Dark Lord's line, and treating them with respect and dignity was not going to accomplish that. Snape bluntly told her that he would conduct his business in the way that he saw fit and would answer only to the Dark Lord's displeasure. Bella took that in stride, switching smoothly to other topics.

LeStrange finally got down to her reason for being here: she'd been sent by Voldemort to convey to Snape his desire that his potions master create for him a potion, a potion which could be used to poison a large group of individuals, one that would have no alarming symptoms before its victims just dropped dead, one that could be disbursed over a large area. Snape had been given a deadline of one month to have this potion completed. Cost was no object, and whatever ingredients Snape needed would be procured posthaste. When Snape inquired as to what the Dark Lord intended to use this potion for, Bella smirked knowingly, gloating, and told Snape that he didn't need to know that information.

"It's all right if you don't know, Bella. You could just say so," Snape taunted.

Bellatrix huffed in indignation. "Of course I know!" she said. "Our Lord trusts me implicitly, and he confides everything in me!"

But it was clear to Snape that she did not know what the Dark Lord was planning, despite her protestations. But he let it go because he was tired of his guest and wanted her gone. "Can I offer you pudding, Bella?"

Her demeanor changed from affronted to salacious in the blink of an eye. "I thought we might take our pudding . . . upstairs," she fairly purred.

In the kitchen, Harry stopped breathing so as not to miss Snape's answer.

It was a moment in coming, and Harry could picture Snape staring the woman down. "You are not interested in intimacy with me," he finally said. "You look upon me as a conquest, one of the few in the ranks of our Lord who have not succumbed to your . . . charms. Frankly, Bella, I would rather engage in sexual congress with a niffler."

Harry covered his mouth quickly to cover the laugh that escaped.

"Well!" Bella exclaimed, completely insulted now. "If that's how you're going to be, Severus Snape, I shall take my leave."

"Leaving so soon?" Snape asked with false dismay. "I'm so sorry to see you go."

Harry heard the sound of something being thrown to the table, then the sound of the floo. He poked his head around the edge of the room, and when he saw it contained only Snape, he stepped into the dining room. He had a hard time hiding his amusement at the thought of Bellatix LeStrange propositioning Snape, and Snape noticed.

"Wipe that smirk off your face, Potter," he instructed, and because he had to, Harry ran his hand over his face. When his hand came away, he was outright smiling. "So . . . you and Bellatrix . . . I must say I'm surprised. I thought your tastes ran more to . . ."

"Men?" Snape supplied.

"Human beings," Harry amended. Suddenly his smile disappeared. "What do you think he's planning?"

"I've no idea," he said before he remembered to whom he was speaking. "It is nothing that concerns you, in any event."

"Will you do it?"

He didn't need the boy to be any more specific. "I have no choice. If I do not, he will kill me and then order someone else to do it."

"You can't!" Harry protested. "You can't brew a potion, knowing it will kill however many people he's targeting! That would make you a murderer!"

Snape stared at Harry for a long time, and in that stare Harry read several things: I already am a murderer, Potter, remember? And, It won't be the first time I've brewed a potion for the Dark Lord that I know he has used to kill and torture. And, I cannot fathom why what you think of me should mean a damn, but I find that it does, and that makes me angry. And, finally, There is simply no winning in this situation.

"Clean up," Snape ordered brusquely.

Harry's feet took him toward the kitchen, but his mouth continued to run. "Snape, you've got to find a way around this. You just can't . . ."

"Shut it," Snape ordered.

Harry's mouth snapped closed, but he forced it open enough to say, "I loathe this potion." He glared at Snape with a death ray rivaling the man's own, then went to do as he'd been ordered.


Harry had been sent to bed early, alone, and he lay on his pallet that night, alternately fuming about the compulsion potion and worrying about the target of Voldemort's lethal mass attack. Snape wouldn't really do it, would he? The man had made some poor decisions in his life, but when it came down to it, Harry thought he was actually a decent man. No decent man would knowingly contribute to a terrorist attack the likes of which Voldemort must be planning. Did Snape plan on trying to trick Voldemort, creating a potion that couldn't do what had been demanded? But wouldn't Snape then be in a terrible amount of trouble with his master? Voldemort was notoriously unforgiving of mistakes: surely one such as this would come with its own death sentence for he who failed to deliver. Harry sighed in the darkness: there was no easy way out, that was clear.

Harry started when he felt the brush of fur against his hand. The cat Snape didn't have was back. "Hello, Scrawny," Harry whispered, smirking in the dark at the name he'd given the cat, which he knew Snape was hearing. "It's nice to see you again." Harry petted the cat, scratching its ears and under its chin, the beast demanding the affection every time Harry thought to stop, until he fell asleep, soothed by the creature's rough purr.


"Severus?" They both heard the voice from the sitting room, and they both recognized it. Lucius Malfoy was floo calling.

"Stay here," Snape ordered. "If he comes through, you are to go upstairs as quietly as possible and keep yourself hidden. Do you understand?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "Even I couldn't fail to understand that," he said.

Harry followed Snape to the door and listened raptly.

"Lucius, are you coming through?"

"No," Harry heard Malfoy's tinny voice reply. "I have information for you, but I don't have a lot of time. You'd asked me to let you know if I heard what the Dark Lord was planning. At great risk to myself, I've come to report what I've learned. He is making plans for an attack on Diagon Alley, some weeks hence. He hasn't chosen a precise target, but the initial phase of the attack will be small, something along the lines of a contained explosion. Casualties are not the main aim of this portion of the attack. He's hoping to cause mayhem and panic. It's the first wave of emergency responders he's actually targeting. Once aurors have arrived on scene, he will release the potion you are so competently brewing for him, killing everyone within a one-kilometer radius. He intends to issue a warning to all of his followers telling them to stay clear of Diagon Alley on the day in question. Those remaining will be those who are not sympathetic to our Lord's aims and those who outright oppose him."

"Along with countless others who are innocently going about their day," a stunned-sounding Snape observed.

"Well, yes, that can't be helped, I guess. You wanted to know, Severus, and I have told you. I would expect you to keep this knowledge to yourself. I also expect that you will owe me one, my friend."

"Yes, Lucius," Snape said, still distracted. "Thank you. We shall speak soon."

"Good day," Lucius said, and he was gone.

Harry waited until Snape returned to the kitchen. "What are you going to do?" he asked quietly.

"I don't know," was Snape's bleak response.


"Do you remember the glamour you were wearing when you came here?" Snape asked

one morning several days later at breakfast.

"Yes. Getting tired of looking at this face?"

Snape ignored that. "Work will begin in earnest in the fields today. It's 'all hands on deck' until the fields are planted."

"Voldemort's planning on attacking Diagon Alley, and we're going to plant runner beans?" Harry asked incredulously.

Snape stared him down. "There is nothing I can do presently about the Dark Lord's plan. If we do not plant vegetables and make them grow as profusely as possible, we do not eat. It is a simple matter of prioritizing."

"All right. So you want me to go out in the fields with you?" Harry asked, hopeful at the thought of getting outside and seeing actual human beings. Maybe even Hermione.

"You were adequately well behaved when Bellatrix graced us with her presence, and you deserve a reward. Assuming you are able to maintain the glamour for several hours."

"Hermione's been doing it for weeks, right? I should be able to manage it for a day."

"Hermione is twice the witch you are," Snape taunted.

Harry cocked his head at this weirdly worded insult.

"You know what I mean," Snape said, waving it off. He pointed his finger straight between Harry's eyes. "You will behave. You will be wearing a collar, exactly like the one you wear in the herb garden. If you attempt to go beyond the camp's boundaries, you will regret it. Is this clear to you? Or do I need to give you a certain potion?"

"No!" Harry said quickly. "It's crystal clear." His happiness at the thought of seeing Hermione again was somewhat dimmed. He was going to have to test Snape's boundaries again. He knew that Snape would expect it. He only hoped cruciatus wasn't the man's response this time.


Harry scanned the crowd of detainees milling about beside a large tilled patch of ground, searching for Hermione as he remembered her glamour. Hermione? he asked.

Harry! Are you here?

Yeah. Where are you?

Suddenly the crowd parted, and Harry spotted his friend. There you are! It's so good to see you!

Hermione turned and immediately spotted Harry, who was standing a foot behind Snape. She started to raise her hand to wave, then caught herself, then remembered that she had come here with this glamoured Harry and allowed herself the greeting. He smiled back at her, the ache of missing her a physical thing. He longed to run to her and hug her, but he wasn't sure what kind of reaction that would garner from his master, so he held his place. It's so good to see you.

You, too. Maybe we'll get a chance to talk later.

I hope so.

What's that around your neck?

It's a dog collar. Hermione, don't be mad, but I'm going to have to try to escape later.

Harry! Don't! You'll only bring trouble down on yourself. You know what Snape did to you the last time.

I know, Harry agreed. But I've got to, Hermione. He expects me to try something. If I don't, he'll begin to get suspicious. The Harry Potter he thinks he knows would try. If I don't show him that Harry Potter, he'll start looking closer at me, wondering in what other ways I've changed. We can't afford that. I've got to give him a little taste, every now and then, of the person he's sure I am, to keep him away from the person I've become.

Be careful, Hermione begged.

I will. But remember – no matter what he does, you can't interfere. I don't want to have to worry about you, too.

Their attention was diverted toward Snape who, up until now, had been convening with his underlings. He now stood before the large group, and they began to gather closer around him in anticipation of his speaking.

"Good morning," Snape began pleasantly enough. "As you know, you have all been brought here to assist with planting. Your usual routine will be disrupted for the next several weeks and whenever additional assistance is needed here in the gardens in order to get our crops planted and harvested. You all have a vested interest in doing this job well: we eat what we grow. If we do not grow it, we do not eat it. It is as simple as that. You will be broken up into teams of two, and you will be given instructions on your duties for the day. We will break for lunch at noon, and the day will end at five, but only if we have met our quota. If we have not, we will all remain here until we have. Our goal for today, ladies and gentlemen, is to get this entire patch of earth planted with peas." A groan went through the crowd at this announcement.

Snape clapped his hands. "Come now. Let us spend our time more productively. You will go with your supervisors, and they will give you your assignments."

The crowd broke up, and Harry turned to Snape once they were alone again. "What about me? Can I work with Hermione? Please?"

Snape stared hard into Harry's eyes, and Harry knew he was trying to read Harry's intentions here. Trying to portray nothing but innocence and good will, Harry stared back up at him.

"You remember the warning I gave you this morning?"

"I do," Harry assured him.


Harry smiled hugely at Snape before hurrying off to find Hermione.


Harry was so happy to be with Hermione again that he didn't even mind the thought of the backache he was sure to have tomorrow from all this stooping over to plant pea seeds. He and Hermione followed along behind a young man who introduced himself as Stephen, who was making a furrow in the row with a hoe, into which were dropped the seeds. Someone else followed behind them, covering the seeds with dirt. It was an assembly line of sorts and was working along quite proficiently. The work was not taxing, and the friends were able to converse as they went along, though they were careful what they talked about out loud.

Working in the row beside theirs was Zachariah Smith, whom Harry recognized from Hogwarts. He'd never been friendly with the boy, and in fact Smith had been downright nasty to him at times, but Harry nevertheless gave the blonde a friendly smile when they met.

"House slave," Smith said, his tone nasty.

"What?" Harry asked, confused, the remark totally unexpected.

"House slave," Smith repeated. "Living up in the big house, getting buggered by the master while the rest of us are working our arses off out here."

Harry's jaw dropped and he forgot what he was supposed to be doing.

"Easy," Hermione warned under her breath, looking around anxiously to see if anyone had noticed that they'd stopped moving. The girl behind them took the chance for a break and rested on her hoe, watching them.

"You think I . . . you think he . . ." Harry sputtered, unable to put his outrage into words.

"Don't deny it. There's a reason you're up in the house," Smith continued. "Maybe he could tell you'd like it. Even got yourself a pretty little collar, like the good doggie you are. Fucking poof."

"You'd better shut your mouth," Harry warned.

"Oh yeah? And if I don't? What do you plan to do about it? Tell your master?" Smith sneered.

Harry made as if to move closer to the irritating boy, but Hermione put a restraining hand on his arm. "Don't," she said. "He's not worth it. Come on. Let's get back to work." And she pulled Harry back to the chore at hand, though Harry kept shooting angry looks at Smith and muttering under his breath about the things the other boy had said.

An anger-fueled burst of adrenaline allowed Harry to work quickly enough so that they soon caught up with Stephen. They received a drink at the end of the row and started down the next. Halfway down, they crossed paths with Smith again.

"Whore," Smith muttered loud enough for Harry and everyone else within a three-meter radius to hear.

Harry! Hermione admonished quickly. Ignore him!

"Shirt-lifting pillow biter," Smith continued to taunt.

Harry squeezed his fists, pressing his nails into his palms, the slight pain helping him to keep a lid on his anger. "That the best you got?" he asked. Smith's insults were pedestrian, and if they weren't being addressed to him in such a nasty tone of voice, Harry probably would have been able to ignore them with ease. But he'd never liked Smith, and he suspected that Smith had never liked him. Even though Smith didn't know he was mocking Harry Potter, he was apparently just a nasty human being.

"Pervert," Smith countered. "Like it doggie style, don't you?"

Hermione had dragged Harry along so quickly that he would have had to call back to Smith to continue the exchange, and as angry as he was, he didn't want to attract undue attention, so he bit his lip and continued angrily dropping seeds, anticipating his next meeting with Smith. If he opened his mouth even to breathe loudly in Harry's direction, Harry was going to drop him on the spot.

But he did more than breathe loudly. "Bet you love sucking his cock, don't you?" Smith accused with a malicious sneer. "Can you get it all the way down your throat? Is that why he chose you? Because he could see you were a champion cocksucker?"

Before Smith could even register that he'd moved, Harry had launched himself across the space separating them and had his hands around Smith's throat. They tumbled to the ground, thoroughly disturbing the row of peas Smith's crew had just planted.

Harry was smaller than Smith, but he had fury on his side, and he rolled atop the other boy, pummeling him. Smith wailed like a girl, putting his hands up to cover his face in an attempt to protect himself from the rain of punches falling down.

Oblivious to the crowd gathering around them, Harry gave vent to the anger and frustration he'd been storing up since he'd come here. Smith may have been the accelerant that ignited the fire, but there was plenty of combustible material underneath to burn, and the fire would have raged for a good long time if Harry hadn't suddenly felt himself being lifted bodily off of Smith by two strong arms around his waist. Harry continued kicking and punching as he was carried away from Smith, who laying cowering on the ground, curled in the fetal position. Once they were out of the garden, Harry was thrown forcefully to the ground. He lay there panting heavily, anger still simmering.

"This is how you behave?" Snape asked, his own anger more than obvious. "This is how you repay me for allowing you out in the sunshine?"

"He said . . ." Harry started to defend himself.

"Do you think I care what he said?" Snape roared. "Save your excuses. You are lucky that we are busy, or I would take you back inside immediately and punish you in a way that you would not soon forget. Now get your sorry arse up and repair the damage you have done to the garden. And do not try my patience again today. I have reached my limit with your juvenile antics."

Harry got slowly to his feet and returned to the scene of the crime. Smith was, thankfully, gone, and Harry didn't know or care what had become of him. He quickly fixed the row they'd destroyed, replanting the seeds that had been uncovered, and then rejoined Hermione.

Are you all right?

I'm fine, Harry assured her. Smith hadn't even attempted to fight back, the coward. He'd been hurt more by being dumped on the ground by Snape than he had in the altercation with Smith.

That temper of yours, Hermione sighed.

He had it coming. It was only going to get worse if I didn't do something.

You're right, Hermione agreed, surprising Harry. Bullying arsehole.

Harry snorted in amusement, causing Stephen to look back at him quizzically. Harry coughed, as though he'd only gotten dirt in his lungs, and bent back to his work.


When the lunch break finally arrived, Harry stood up fully for what felt like the first time in hours and gratefully stretched his back, hearing and feeling his spine snap as it slid back into its normal position. There was no doubt about it: he was going to be sore tomorrow.

As teams reached the end of the rows they were working on, they were sent off to the side of the garden, where a table had been set up containing the sandwiches that had been brought out for lunch and jugs of cold water. There was much milling about and no real supervision here, and with a sigh, Harry told Hermione it was time. I'm going to do it now, Hermione, while things are a bit hectic.

Oh, Harry, are you sure you have to?

I wish I wasn't, but he's been watching me all day, expecting me to do something. While his attention is elsewhere, now's the time to do it. I only hope he doesn't crucio me again.

Again?! Hermione demanded, and Harry could hear the outrage in his head.

Oops. He hadn't told her about that previous encounter with Snape's unforgivable. It was only the once, he said quickly, and he really regretted it afterward. That's why I'm hoping he won't do it again.

Harry, I really think –

There's no time, Hermione. It's go to be now, while he's not looking. Remember, don't interfere.

With that, Harry melted away from the crowd and into the trees bounding the garden. He heard no alarm sound, and he assumed he'd gotten away without anyone noticing.

He had no idea where the perimeter of the property was, and he tugged at his glorified dog collar nervously. He'd gone nearly a kilometer through the trees when he began to relax and wonder if perhaps Snape hadn't lied to him and there was no warded boundary. Then he began to wonder what he would do if he was actually able to escape from this place. He couldn't leave Hermione here, not by herself, not even for a moment after he'd gone. He'd have to go back for her. But what about the rest? (Well, all except Smith – for all Harry cared, that arsehole could rot here.) He was just making a vague plan about getting word to the Order about this place so they could hatch a rescue plan when a shockwave coursed through his body, less painful than the cruciatus but still strong enough to drop him to his knees. Still in the middle of the ward, Harry's body continued to burn and shake, until he was able to work up enough control over himself to drag himself the short distance back to relative safety.

Shit. Snape hadn't been kidding. He lay on his back, panting, feeling the tremors of the near-electric shock work their way out of his body. Before he had enough energy back to stand, Snape was looming over him, looking thunderous.


Snape had been speaking with his four supervisors while the detainees ate lunch when the amulet he kept in his pocket began thrumming in announcement that the northeast wards had been breached. He knew instantly who it was, and as his eyes searched the assembled throng for his troublesome Gryffindor, he could feel his blood pressure rising. He'd done it – he'd actually tried to escape, despite the numerous warnings Snape had given him about what would happen if he tried to cross the wards and the threats of how he would be punished. He found the glamoured Granger and was unsurprised not to find her friend at her side. She seemed to be pointedly not looking at Snape, though she was doing a bad job of it.

"Damn his cursed hide to hell and back!" Snape snarled. "Woolburton! You are in charge of this lot until I return. I've an escapee to bring back and make an example of." Snape was gone before Woolburton could acknowledge the order.


"You stupid, stupid boy!" Snape snarled at Harry Potter, whose glamour had been dropped during the assault on his body. "One day! I give you one day to enjoy the sun and the company of your friend, and this is what you do! I warned you what would happen. I warned you that the wards would not let you pass through, and I warned you that you would be punished."

Snape saw the fear spark in Harry's eyes. No doubt the boy was expecting the cruciatus. Snape had something a little more public and visible in mind.

"Get up!" he ordered.

Harry tried, but his muscles weren't really taking orders from him just yet, and he collapsed back to the ground. Snape reached down and grabbed him by the arms and hauled him roughly to his feet. He was able to stand, but only by clutching Snape's robe and holding on tightly. When Snape pointed his wand at the trembling boy, Harry's flinch away was very noticeable.

"I'm only putting your glamour back on," Snape spit, disgusted. "Do you know what would have happened had the perimeter been closer to the garden, if others had seen who you really are? You are just as stupid and reckless as you have always been, which let me tell you does not come as any surprise to me. Though I was hoping you had grown up a bit, I somehow knew you would do this, act without any thought to the consequences."

Harry let the man rant without saying a word, not that he thought he was capable of actually speaking at the moment. He stumbled his way back in the direction of the garden, with Snape's insistent pushing and prodding, until he was pushed to his knees in the clearing. Without lifting his head to confirm, he knew that all of the detainees and the guards were watching him now, and he felt his face began to heat in humiliation. What would Snape do to him?


"One of you has tried to escape," Snape announced to the crowd. "Were I an unfair man, I would punish all of you for his stupidity. But I am not that man, despite what some of you think, and I will punish only the miscreant who deserves whatever he gets. Let this be a warning to the rest of you, though: there is no way out of here. And anyone else who is foolish enough to try will get the same treatment."

Snape transfigured the lunch table, which had been cleared of any remaining food, into a wooden structure resembling the stocks used two hundred years ago to punish lawbreakers. He grabbed a handful of Harry's hair, hauled him to his feet, and threw him onto the form, magically binding his hands and his chest to the wood before Harry could pull away.

Suddenly very afraid, Harry heard himself whimper, "Please – I'm sorry." He hoped he hadn't said that loud enough for anyone to hear.

But Snape had. "You're sorry? It's a little too late for that."

With a flick of his wand, Harry's shirt disappeared, and though it was an incredibly hot day, Harry shivered. Snape spoke again, his voice louder this time as he was addressing the group milling around and watching the spectacle.

"The punishment for a first escape attempt is ten lashes. You will count those lashes as they are delivered, or I will double the penalty."


No, Hermione. You have to let him do this. You'll only get the same if you try to stop him. Please.

Harry could not see Snape, but he could hear him moving around behind him. He was unprepared, therefore, when the stinging whip came crashing down across his lower back. He bit his tongue to keep from crying out, and he immediately tasted the copper tang of blood. "One," he said, as loudly and firmly as he could. Only nine more to go. He could do this. He would not cry, would not give Snape that satisfaction.

But he did cry, after lash number eight. He wasn't even aware that he was doing so, but tears were leaking from his eyes as he stuttered out the count. His back had been flayed open, and the sting of the cuts being invaded by salty sweat was enough to make him almost wish he'd been crucio'd. Two more, he chanted to himself. Just two more. Please, God, don't let him continue after ten, because I will break.

"N-nine," Harry spit out. The tenth came immediately after the ninth, as though Snape were in a hurry to get this over with. "Ten," Harry whispered, then slumped in relief. He hadn't realized his muscles had been so tense, but as soon as they let go, the change in position caused the ten slash marks across his back to move and open up, and Harry was unable to hold in a cry of pain.

He thought Snape would let him up now, would let him crawl away to lick his wounds, but Harry found himself still stuck down, unable to move, his back a roaring mass of agony. Through the haze of pain, he heard Snape's voice, farther away now, ordering the detainees to get back to work now that the show was over. When it became obvious that Snape intended to leave him here, Harry couldn't help the sob that escaped his dry throat. Some part of him hoped his glamour was still in place, but he couldn't tell and he really didn't care.


When Hermione reached the end of a row an hour later, she was nearly beside herself with worry over Harry. He'd been in the blazing sun for an hour now, without any water to drink. She'd been attempting to contact him through their mind bond, but he wasn't answering. When she was handed her own cup full of cool water, she gathered up her courage and approached Snape. "Sir, may I . . . may I give him some water? Please?"

Snape took the cup from her hand and poured most of the contents onto the ground before handing the cup back. "You may."

"Are you all right?" she asked, her voice low, when she arrived at Harry's side. She winced as she looked over the mass of cut flesh that was her friend's back. She helped Harry to lift his head enough to get the water into his mouth. It was gone much too soon. "That was all he'd let me bring. I'm sorry there isn't more." Then, damning caution to the wind, she performed a wandless, wordless aguamenti and refilled the cup. Making sure that she couldn't be seen, she helped Harry to drink it down.

"Thank you," Harry groaned, dropping his head down tiredly. "Don't worry about me, okay? He's been hitting me with cooling charms and hydration charms. Well, someone has. I'm assuming it's him. It could be worse. But that water sure did feel good in my mouth."

"Your back looks horrible," she said, tears in her eyes looking over the bloody mess that had once been unblemished skin.

"It hurts like hell," Harry confessed. "And I don't even want to think about the sunburn I'm going to have."

"He's coming this way," Hermione said hurriedly. "I'd better get back over there. Will you be all right?"

"I'll be fine."

If you have to use your wandless magic, Harry, do it. It's worth the risk. Dehydration is nothing to fool around with.

He's giving me enough to fend that off. I'm really okay. Get back to work before you get in trouble.

With one last longing look at her friend, Hermione returned to her duty, glaring reproachfully at Snape as she passed.


Harry was left in the roasting sun until the remainder of the detainees stopped for the day at dinnertime. Once everyone else had been led away, Snape released Harry from his magical bindings. Harry slumped to the ground, unable to support his own weight.

"Up," Snape ordered.

Harry could only roll, and he did – onto his back. He whimpered as his flayed back made contact with the ground, but couldn't muster the strength to roll again. Snape heaved an exasperated sigh and levitated Harry up off the ground. Glad that everyone else was gone and no one was witnessing this particular humiliation, Harry was floated back to the house and up the stairs.

Snape placed Harry gently face down on the bed in the master bedroom. Harry nearly cried in relief at the soft mattress beneath him. When Snape began to rub a healing salve into his back, he couldn't hold back the sobs he'd been fighting all day. He'd thought he was hardened to physical pain, but Snape kept finding ways to inflict suffering that he found hard to bear. He suspected part of it was that he'd come to trust the man, and any time Snape hurt him, he felt the sting of betrayal as well as the physical pain.

Snape was surprised and disconcerted when he heard the young man weeping beneath his hands. He hadn't thought he'd dished out any more punishment than what Potter could handle. He could have been much, much more harsh that he'd been, but making the child cry like this was hard for him to take.

"Hush," he said, attempting a soothing tone of voice as he rubbed as gently as he could. "It's not as bad as all that. The scars will be gone by tomorrow, and this sunburn will be only a memory."

This gentle kindness was Harry's complete undoing, and he lost himself to the sobbing. He was tired, so tired, from endless nights spent sleeping on a surface harder than the ground. He'd been battling guilt more and more as days went by and they were no closer to getting out of here, or finding and destroying horcruxes, or killing Voldemort. He was torn daily by his desire for Severus Snape and his revulsion at being kept nearly a slave here. He did not want to be here any more and it seemed he'd finally reached his breaking point.

Snape continued to massage Harry's back even after the healing salve was all worked in and the welts were visibly beginning to heal, calming the distraught boy in stages, until Potter finally lay on the bed a shuddering, gasping mess. He'd needed to teach the boy a lesson, for his own sake as well as for the sake of all those who'd known a detainee had tried to escape, but he'd not wanted to break the boy. Potter was far too important to plans that were coming to a head sooner than he would have liked. Voldemort's direction for a potion that would be used to kill countless aurors had made waiting for an opportune time to lure him here so that the Chosen One could do his thing much more difficult.

"I will draw you a bath," Snape announced. "You will bathe, and then you will eat, and then you will sleep. And everything will seem better in the morning."

"Maybe," Harry agreed miserably. "But it won't be better, will it?"


The deadline for Snape to complete the lethal potion assigned to him by Voldemort was tomorrow, by Harry's calculation, and Harry grew increasingly nervous. Either Snape produced the potion, in which case many innocent people would be killed, or Snape didn't produce the potion, in which case Snape himself might possibly be killed. Almost certainly, he would at least be tortured. Harry couldn't keep the worry from affecting him, and when he dropped his fork for the third time at dinner, Snape finally snapped at him.

"Potter, what on earth has you so jumpy?"

"Sorry," Harry said, though he really wasn't. "It's just . . . the deadline is approaching, isn't it? And I don't know what you've decided. I don't know if you've been brewing the potion, or if you intend to give it to him, or if you're going to give him a potion that doesn't work, or if you plan on telling him to get stuffed!"

"You want me to tell the Dark Lord to 'get stuffed'?" Snape asked, amused.

"Well, maybe not in those exact words. The few times I've met him, he hasn't had much of a sense of humor. He might not take kindly to being told that so bluntly."

"Might not?" Snape repeated. "You are the master of understatement today."

"So what are you going to do?" Harry asked quietly. He needed to know that everything was going to be all right, that Snape wasn't going to be responsible for the deaths of all those people.

"I think we will not have to worry about it for a while longer yet."

"You're going to stall Voldemort? How's he going to take that?"

"It will be out of my hands," Snape told him.

"Out of your hands?" Harry repeated. He wondered what that meant, but then thought up a likely scenario. "Oh, you're going to tell him that some ingredient or other isn't available? Won't he be able to check up on that, though? And won't he be really angry if he finds out you've been yanking his chain?"

"No, Potter, I would never hand him a false excuse that was so easy to confirm or deny," said Snape, and then he stopped, apparently intent on not saying anything further.

Harry ate a few more bites of his dinner, wondering how he could probe at Snape to get the assurances that he needed without angering the man. Before he could formulate a plan, a newspaper popped into existence on the table. Snape's personal copy of the Prophet appeared this way every morning, redirected by spell from the others delivered to the cabins by owl.

"Oh, look. A special edition of the Prophet," Snape said, just as though he'd expected this very thing. He pushed it toward Harry as though he had no interest in what it said. Or as though he already knew.

Harry unrolled the paper and spread it flat on the table. WEASLEY TWINS UNDER ARREST, the headline read. And underneath that, in smaller type, Prank Goes Awry, Diagon Alley Closed Indefinitely.

Harry read the article aloud:

Fred and George Weasley, proprietors of Weasley Wizard Wheezes, were arrested earlier today after a prank they attempted to perpetrate on other proprietors of Diagon Alley went massively wrong. This reporter has learned that the Weasley brothers planted dung bombs in almost every business on the Alley's main thoroughfare, set to detonate at precisely the same time. While this prank would have led to a bad odor and mild inconvenience for the Alley's inhabitants, no lasting damage would have been done.

Unfortunately, the dung bombs placed by the Weasleys contained lethal amounts of an undisclosed chemical. The Ministry informs us that this chemical, released even in small amounts into the atmosphere, would be deadly to anyone coming into contact with it.

The Weasley twins have reportedly admitted to placing the dung bombs, but have disavowed all knowledge of the dangerousness of a product they offer on their shelves for sale to schoolchildren.

"This is a very safe product," said Fred Weasley in a released statement. "We have tested them mercilessly ourselves and would not have allowed them for sale had we not been completely sure they were safe for use by the general public. We are investigating the source of the materials used in this particular batch of dung bombs, which obviously has been tampered with or altered in some way. We sincerely regret any inconvenience this has caused to our fellow shopowners on the Alley. We intended this prank in good fun and could not have foreseen these dreadful consequences. We issue a very heartfelt apology to everyone who will be in any way inconvenienced by this mishap."

When asked about the ingredients contained in the dung bomb, the Weasleys refused to release that information on the grounds that the information was proprietary.

Ministry officials indicate that the Alley will remain closed for the foreseeable future. In a statement issued by the Assistant Chief Auror, it will be at least two weeks before all of the devices can be safely contained and removed from the Alley, and likely another two beyond that for air quality concerns to be addressed.

"Wow," Harry said when he'd finished. "That's really lucky timing."

"Convenient, isn't it?" Snape asked, nonchalantly sipping at his cup of tea while looking at Harry over the rim.

Harry looked up into the dark eyes and suddenly was bombarded with information that came so fast and furious, it was hard to process it all. Minerva knew: about Harry being here, about Snape's double agent status, about the potion Snape had been ordered to make. The Weasley brothers were taking a fall, at the request of the Order, to keep Diagon Alley closed as long as possible to put Voldemort's plan on hold. Harry also learned that when Voldemort had not appointed Snape headmaster of Hogwarts, as everyone had expected him to do, Minerva and Dumbledore's portrait had shared information about the horcruxes with Snape, which had allowed Snape to obtain and destroy a cup that had been hidden in Bellatrix LeStrange's vault. Minerva had found and destroyed a diadem which had belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw. With the diary and the ring already destroyed, and the locket in Harry's possession, only Nagini was left unaccounted for.

Harry nearly fell off his chair as this barrage of information struck him. He'd all but given up hope of completing the mission Dumbledore had given him, and now it seemed as though victory was in his grasp. Was in their grasp. Should he say something to Snape, share with him that he knew what was going on, that it was time for Harry to face Voldemort, so that the snake could be destroyed, taking with it the last of Voldemort's unnatural ties to life?

But there was something else, something very important, buried deep beneath the other information that already had Harry reeling, and before Harry could excavate it, Snape had broken their eye contact. "If you've finished eating, I suggest you get to the clean up."

Harry nearly argued, wanting to press Snape to look at him again, so he could learn that one last piece of the puzzle, but he had a lot to think about already, and he wanted desperately to talk to Hermione. So he got up wordlessly and went into the kitchen, calling for Hermione in his mind as he went.


Harry tagged along behind Snape, very surprised that he'd been allowed to come with the older man on this excursion. After his last outing, and his escape attempt, he'd been sure he'd be confined to the indoors for the duration of this stay here, so he was pleasantly surprised to be let out and vowed to himself not to antagonize Snape in any way. Glamoured, he'd kept his mouth closed and his eyes down and was preparing himself to show no emotion at all if they chanced to run into Zachariah Smith.

But they didn't. Snape led him straight to the potions laboratory, and Harry began to get his hopes up that he'd see Hermione while he was here.

The detainees who worked in the potions division lived and slept in a barracks attached to the laboratory itself. It was evening, and there was no one in the lab, but Harry could hear sounds of movement and a low buzz of talking coming from the adjoining room. He looked up hopefully at Snape. "Hermione?"

"Asking for favors?" Snape sneered. "After the stunt you pulled last time I took you outside? You are lucky you aren't chained in the basement back in the house."

"There is no basement in the house," Harry pointed out.

"Your cheekiness is not appreciated." He led Harry to a locked and warded room at the end of the laboratory, away from the detainees' personal living space. "You will sit there," Snape instructed, pointing at a chair. "I have a potion I must work on. You will not move from that chair, and you will not speak."

Harry mimed zipping his lips closed and locking them, then tossed the imaginary key over his shoulder and sat in the indicated chair. Snape rolled his eyes, then set to work.

The only sounds in the room for many minutes after that were of Severus clanging around near the one cauldron simmering in this room. Periodically he stirred the cauldron, but he neither added anything nor did anything other than stir it during the fifteen or so minutes they were there.

Harry sat in his chair, behaving himself as best he could. He bored quickly of looking around this bare room, which contained nearly empty shelves, drawers he couldn't know the contents of, and the one cauldron. He strained his ears, trying to hear the sounds of his fellow witches and wizards who were in close proximity, but he could hear nothing and assumed that the room was soundproofed as well. He sighed, then couldn't keep quiet any longer.

"Whatcha got brewing?"

Snape sighed as well. "This is you being quiet?"

"Sorry. Bored. So . . . what is it?"

"It is none of your business. We are nearly finished here. Do try and sit still."

Harry tried. He sat in the chair and swung his feet back and forth soundlessly and turned his attention to the cauldron. Maybe he could figure out what was in there. Snape obviously wanted him to see this particular potion, else why would he have brought Harry here? He never had brought him here before to watch him brew, so there must be something special about this potion. But what? Maybe it was the potion he was working on for Voldemort. Harry couldn't see what was in the cauldron from where he sat. He sniffed deeply, but he could detect no odor. He wasn't close enough to see the color of the potion, or the consistency. Harry gave up: there was no way he was going to figure it out, not without some additional information.

Suddenly, Snape's head lifted from his work. "Damn!" he muttered. "There is a disturbance in the quarters. If you people acted more like the young adults you are than children, life would be much smoother around here. I will be gone only a few moments. Your buttocks are to remain glued to that seat while I am away. Can you manage that, or should I apply a sticking charm?"

"I can manage. Say 'hi' to Hermione for me, would you?"

Snape ignored that and left the room.

As soon as he was gone, Harry jumped to his feet and approached the cauldron. He noted that the flame beneath it was set on low, as though the potion within was kept on a simmer constantly. Harry checked the door, to make sure that Snap e wasn't returning, then went closer. He peered over the edge of the cauldron. The potion filled the bottom third of the vessel and appeared to be black, though it might be dark blue, or brown, or even a very dark green. The potion was moving slightly over the heat, not even up to a simmer. It appeared thin, the consistency of water. Harry sniffed tentatively but still couldn't pick up any odor. So he wasn't any closer to figuring this out now than he had been earlier.

"Potter!" Snape barked from the doorway.

Surprised, Harry jerked back, and when he did, he bumped the cauldron. Things happened very rapidly after that.

After it was jostled, the potion within the cauldron came to an immediate and hard rolling boil. A cloud of gray vapor rose up instantly, engulfing Harry's head. Harry breathed in, and his entire body felt as though it were on fire. The vapor singed everything in its path: the hairs in Harry's nose, the lining of his nasal passages, his tongue and lips, his vocal cords, his trachea, and finally his lungs. The pain was intense and excruciating, and Harry stumbled away from the cauldron, his hands around his throat, unable to pull air into his ruined lungs or force it back out again. The more Harry tried to suck in breath, the more the vapor remaining in his respiratory system ate away at it. Panic set in, but only briefly before Harry passed out and crumpled to the floor. Though he didn't realize it, Snape caught him before he landed.


Harry startled everyone in the room when he woke abruptly, sitting up and gasping in a deep breath. He'd been dreaming, dreaming he was on fire from the inside out, that a million tiny, sharp knives were attacking his lungs. Oxygen was hard to come by, and panic began to set in.

"Easy," he heard a familiar deep voice murmur close to his ear. "You are all right. Just breathe slowly. Shallow breaths. That's it."

Harry began to quiet under the soothing treatment, and he slowly opened his eyes to find Snape staring down at him. He looked around and immediately realized he was in Snape's bedroom. He spotted Hermione looking at him anxiously, and he tried to sit up and speak to her.

"No," Snape said, pushing him back down gently. "You are still mending. Do not try to get up."

Harry opened his mouth to ask what had happened and why he was here and why he felt as though his throat had been ripped open by angry claws, but Snape stopped him from doing that, too.

"Do not try to speak. Do you remember the potion that you jostled in my lab?"

Harry thought back. He remembered going to the lab with Snape. He remembered Snape leaving the room and he remembered deciding to investigate the potion, but he couldn't remember anything after that. He shook his head anxiously.

"Your reckless foolishness caused you to bump against a cauldron containing a highly volatile potion. The potion vapors damaged your nasal passages, your trachea, your throat, your vocal cords, and your lungs. I was able to heal most of the damage. Your lungs have regained ninety percent of their utility, and you should not notice any deficiency in their function. All of the other damage has healed completely, with the exception of the vocal cords. I . . . could not heal that damage. I am sorry, but they were completely destroyed. You will likely never speak again."

Harry looked up at him, confused. Never speak again? How was that possible? He looked beseechingly at Hermione. Hermione! Tell me he's joking!

Hermione looked at Snape for permission to approach Harry, and when he nodded and stood up off the bed, Hermione took his place at Harry's side. She took his hand into hers and leaned her head on his shoulder, tears leaking from her eyes. He's telling the truth, Harry. He called me as soon as it happened. I watched him heal you. He did everything he could. It was amazing he was able to heal as much as he did.

Do you know what was in the potion that I inhaled? It must have been something pretty awful to have such caustic vapors. Harry's hand came up to hold the back of Hermione's head.

I don't know. There are any number of potions that would react that way to being jostled. Are you all right?

Harry took a chance and tried to clear his throat and speak. He opened his mouth, but no sound at all came out. It was then he let his own tears come, burying his face in Hermione's hair.


Harry was refusing to believe that he would never speak again. It simply didn't seem possible that damage to something as vital as his lungs could be healed, but something so seemingly trivial as vocal chords could be damaged beyond repair. He tried, every day, to push some sound out of his damaged throat, and every day that went by with no success he grew a little more discouraged. After two weeks, he was finally coming to terms with the fact that he might very likely remain mute for the remainder of his life.

Snape was struggling with guilt over the boy's condition. He'd taken Harry to the lab with a purpose in mind: to show him the potion that destroyed horcruxes. He couldn't tell Harry what the potion was without revealing just how much he knew about the horcruxes and his own position in this war. He knew that a time was approaching when he would have to share some of this information with Harry, but that time had not arrived yet. So he'd taken the boy with him when he went to the lab, hoping he would piece together the fact that the potion was something he should pay attention to. Apparently, he'd managed to arouse Harry's curiosity, because the boy had been foolish enough to put his face into the fumes of an unknown potion. Disaster would likely have been averted, however, if Snape hadn't startled Harry. But he had, and the cauldron had been jostled, stirring up the potion within. Though Snape outwardly blamed Harry for his own injury, he knew he was partially to blame.

So he felt guilty for this permanent damage that had been done to the boy who was supposed to save them all. How could a young, undisciplined, marginally talented wizard who could not perform wordless magic hope to defeat the Dark Lord now, without his voice? Snape had had his doubts about the young man's ability to perform the job before, but now, he was nearly in a state of despair. Time was running out, and a monkey wrench the size of Ireland had just been thrown into the works.

And to make things even better, Lucius Malfoy was coming to dinner. Snape informed Harry of this fact one night following dinner.

Harry's eyes widened in surprise. "MALFOY?" he scribbled on the slate he'd taken to carrying with him. "COMING HERE?"

"Yes," Snape confirmed. "The day after tomorrow. We will polyjuice you again."

"CAN'T I SKIP THIS ONE?" Harry wrote, looking up at Snape with an exaggerated hopeful look.

"No. I want you close by." Lucius was coming to discuss the Dark Lord's plans, and Snape wanted Harry close enough to eavesdrop.

"Lucky me," Harry wrote, then scribbled his words away furiously.


"You look very fetching," Snape said, and Harry could tell that he was trying very hard not to laugh.

Harry had forced the polyjuice potion down his throat and suffered through the too-familiar contortions of his body as it shrunk and transformed into a gender he hadn't been born to. A pair of sizeable breasts were throwing off his balance, and he forced his shoulders back to counter the gravitational pull. He stared down at them as though he'd never seen women's breasts before. And really, he hadn't. Except for Hermione's that one time. But hers were not like these behemoths. Harry couldn't help it: he brought his hands up underneath them, cupping them and pushing up. His longest finger grazed the bottom of the sizeable nipple on his right breast, and he drew in a quickly breath. Oh – that was unexpectedly . . .nice.

"Would the three of you like a moment alone?" Snape quipped.

Harry looked up at Snape and blushed, but he didn't immediately drop his hands – it felt too good. Finally, he released his abundant new flesh and stepped to the mirror to get a closer look at himself.

Auburn hair flowed down over his shoulders. Luminous blue eyes looked back at him beneath long, naturally curled eyelashes. A button nose, a bow-shaped mouth – Harry had transformed into a fine-looking young woman.

He turned to Snape, raising his eyes to ask where Snape had obtained a hair from a woman that looked like this. He couldn't imagine his crusty old potions master getting within twenty feet of a creature this fine.

Snape didn't understand the facial tic and asked, "You like what you see?"

Harry picked up his slate: WHERE DID YOU GET THIS HAIR?

"I've a large collection of hairs. I could not possibly remember where I got them all. Here," he said, thrusting some clothing in Harry's direction. "Your uniform."

Harry held the garment up. It was a black two-piece outfit, the shirt obviously very form-fitting, with a v-neck cut very low, and the pleated skirt very short. When he'd lifted the outfit up to look at it, a pair of sheer nylons and a lacy bra and knickers had fallen to the floor. Harry looked up at Snape in disbelief. This time, Snape understood very well what Harry was trying to convey, and he smirked at the uncomfortable boy.

"You've got it – you may as well flaunt it. Lucius will certainly appreciate the view."

Harry wanted very badly to share his opinion of Snape verbally, and he huffed in frustration because he couldn't. This caused a guttural sound deep in his throat, which was the first sound Harry had been able to produce since the potions accident. Harry's eyes widened in surprise, and he forgot about his anger at Snape as hope blossomed in his chest.

Snape approached him immediately, took Harry's chin in his hand and forced the boy's mouth open. Without instruments, he couldn't see far enough into Harry's mouth to tell whether anything looked different in there. "We will take a closer look tomorrow. For now, get dressed. And tie your hair up. We've a lot to do."


Harry maintained his position by the door, every now and then surreptitiously pulling down his skirt so it covered more of his thigh. He'd felt like a piece of meat when Snape "introduced" him to Lucius Malfoy earlier in the evening. Malfoy had eyed him appreciatively up and down, his open interest turning a bit disgusted when Snape explained that "Fanny Hill" was a mute squib Snape had bought from her family. He insinuated that Fanny served him in more ways than just domestic. They then both acted as though the third person in the room wasn't worthy of their notice.

Harry served them as unobtrusively as possible and listened in on their conversation. They spoke of Draco, who was currently at Hogwarts and assuming a leadership position among the students, according to his father's proud boasting, and looking forward to taking his rightful role in the Dark Lord's court. They spoke of Narcissa, who apparently was losing some of her dedication to the cause, if Harry interpreted Malfoy's couched comments correctly.

And when dinner was finally served, after several rounds of Snape's best Scotch and wine with the starters, they began to speak of important things: the Dark Lord's irritation that his plan to hit Diagon Alley had been thwarted, his impatience that the Alley had not yet been re-opened, and his increasingly fanatical alternate plans, including the most recent, which was an attack on Hogwarts with the same design in mind: draw in the aurors and kill as many as possible when they were attempting to rescue the first wave of victims.

Malfoy conveyed to Snape, his dismay obvious, that he was becoming convinced that the Dark Lord was coming to view the Hogwarts plan as his best option. He'd warn the loyal pure bloods, of course, so that their children would be out of the way at the time of the attack. But the blood traitors who had been forced to send their children to Hogwarts: they'd have no advance warning of the coming attack, and their children would be sitting ducks. This fact didn't seem to bother Malfoy as much as the thought of his beloved Hogwarts being damaged during any battle that would ensue.

Snape began to question Malfoy about how far Voldemort had gone in the planning of this attack when a sharp knock sounded on the back door. "See who it is, Fanny," Snape ordered.

Harry crossed through the kitchen and opened the back door. Eccles stood there, a hat in his hands which he was twisting nervously. His surprise at seeing such a comely young woman in Snape's kitchen was obvious, but he pulled himself together enough to announce, "I need to see Severus."

Harry looked in at the table. He looked back at Eccles and shook his head. Eating, he wrote on his slate.

"It's an emergency. Step aside or I will hex you aside."

Harry shrugged. He wasn't getting paid enough to take a hex for the man. He stepped aside and let Eccles enter, then stayed behind, so if Snape had displeasure he wished to display, he would get it out of his system on Eccles.

"I'm very sorry to interrupt your dinner, Mr. Snape. Mr. Malfoy," he said with a courteous bow at the other man. "We've had an incident in the barracks. Your intervention is unfortunately required."

Snape sighed. "Is there loss of life involved, Mr. Eccles?"

"Not yet, sir, but it may be imminent."

Snape snatched his napkin from his lap and wiped his mouth. "Please forgive me, Lucius. It appears I must go and see to this 'emergency'. With any luck, it will only take a few moments. Please, stay and enjoy pudding. Fanny has made a delicious-looking trifle. I will return as soon as I can. If you must leave before I get back, please accept once again my apologies. We must speak again soon. I have many questions."

"Certainly, Severus. Do not fret, my friend. Duty calls. I understand completely. I shall sit here as long as I can and enjoy your . . . hospitality."

Throwing his napkin to the table, Snape rose gracefully. "Eccles, go. I will meet you in the barracks directly."

Snape followed Eccles into the kitchen and waited until the man had closed the door behind him before turning to Harry. He rummaged around in his robes and withdrew a vial from one of his many pockets and thrust it toward Harry. "Drink this."

Harry's suspicious gaze clearly asked, "What is it?"

"More polyjuice. Your current dose will expire in twenty minutes. Having you revert to your natural form in front of Lucius Malfoy would be disastrous. I must leave you here with him while I am away."

Harry agreed that becoming Harry Potter in front of Lucius Malfoy would lead to a very quick audience with Voldemort for himself and likely a very painful death for both him and Snape. He reluctantly took the vile-tasting stuff, uncapped it, and drank down the contents. Underneath the very horrid taste of the polyjuice potion, Harry detected faint traces of licorice, and he glared accusingly at Snape.

Snape sneered at Harry's clear self-righteous indignation. "I do not trust you while alone with Lucius Malfoy not to do something stupid that will get us both into a tremendous amount of trouble." Snape stared into Harry's eyes and saw the telltale dilating of the pupils that told him the potion had started to take effect. But he needed to be sure. "Stand still while I kiss you."

The rational, calculating part of Harry knew he should try to squirm away, because that was how he thought Snape thought he would react. The hormone-driven part of Harry wanted to latch onto the taller man and return the kiss with all he had. But he could do neither of these things, and he remained standing quietly while Snape plundered his lips and searched the cavern of his mouth with his tongue.

Snape finally pulled away, his face flushed and his breathing rapid. "Good." He backed away and slung his cloak over his evening robe. "I will take my leave of Lucius, and you may then serve afters." He came to stand before Harry. "You will not do anything to reveal your identity to Lucius. You will not attempt to harm him in any way. You will not attempt to communicate with him in any way unless he requests it of you. You are a mere servant, and you will do everything he tells you to do. Are all of these instructions clear? Answer me!"

Mutinously, Harry nodded. "Good. I will return as soon as I am able. After Lucius has gone, you will clean the kitchen and the dining room, and then you will take yourself to bed."

Snape left Harry and returned to the dining room long enough to make his regrets again to Malfoy, then returned to the kitchen. "Remember what I have said. He is ready for his afters. The brandy is on the sideboard." And he left the house through the back door.

Harry sighed and began arranging the trifle and coffee on the serving tray. He carried the tray out to the dining room and set it down on the sideboard. After bringing a single serving of the trifle and a cup of coffee to the table, Harry returned to the cupboard and removed the brandy and a snifter. These he brought back to Malfoy and held them out to him invitingly, his question clear.

Malfoy looked up at Harry now, his eyes traveling up over her bodice and the line of her neck, over her full red lips and up to her blue eyes. He pushed his chair back a little from the table and said, "Put those things down on the table."

Once Harry had done so, Malfoy grabbed his hand and pulled Harry into his lap. "I think I'll pass on the brandy. I've seen something I much rather prefer." He pointed his wand at Harry and said, "Imperio." Malfoy stared into Harry's eyes and saw the telltale sign of a person under the influence of the imperius curse: dilated pupils.

Certain now that he had this attractive creature under his thrall, Malfoy raised a large hand to the back of Harry's head and pulled him down into a brutal kiss, crushing the younger man's lips in his intensity. Beneath his bum, Harry could feel Malfoy's erection, and he began to get very afraid. He wriggled in the man's lap, trying to get away, but that only served to increase Lucius' excitement, and he pushed his tongue further into Harry's mouth with a groan while thrusting his cock up against Harry's arse.

Harry was only able to squeak in terror and began to struggle actively to get away. Lucius removed his mouth from Harry's long enough to say, "Calm down, little one," with a false sense of concern and affection. And Harry had no choice but to still his frantic movements.

Certain now that the curse was working, Malfoy smiled an evil, terror-inducing smile. "That's better," Malfoy crooned, petting Harry's hair. With a quick movement, he yanked the tie out of Harry's hair, causing the long auburn waves to cascade over his shoulders. Malfoy crooned in appreciation. "Oh, much better. I do love something to hold onto."

Suddenly, Lucius stood up, dumping Harry onto the floor. Harry started to scramble to get up, but Malfoy stopped him with a word. "Stay." He parted his robes and began to unbutton the placket on his trousers.

Harry's panic was rising quickly, and he gulped to keep it down. He'd been told to stay, and that compulsion to obey Snape in his order to obey Lucius was stronger than the instinct to flee. In effect, Snape had transferred the power of the mind potion to Lucius Malfoy, and Harry was as powerless to disobey Malfoy as he would have been had Snape been here giving him commands.

Sitting on the floor in horror, Harry watched as Malfoy pulled his hard thick cock out of his trousers, stroked it a couple of times lovingly, and pointed it at the boy/girl on the floor. "Come here, wench," he ordered. Harry started to get to his feet to obey, but Lucius stopped him again. "No, I want you on your knees."

Humiliated but unable to stop himself, Harry made his way to Malfoy on his knees. He stopped before the man, unable to look up at that monstrous cock or the cruel face above it. Lucius reached down with both hands, grabbed handfuls of Harry's hair and pulled his face forward, bumping his cock against Harry's closed mouth.

"Open up," Malfoy commanded, and Harry's mouth opened against his will.

Lucius shoved just the head of his cock into the hot moistness of Harry's mouth and groaned with pleasure. "No teeth, now, or I shall remove them all from your head." He hadn't needed the threat. All he needed to get Harry to comply was the order not to use his teeth, but threatening those beneath him was second nature for him.

Tightening his grip on Harry's hair until it was painful enough to cause Harry to wince, he began to push himself further into Harry's unwilling mouth. Using his grip to move Harry back and forth, he began to fuck himself with Harry's mouth. With a sudden thrust of his hips, he buried himself in Harry's throat, causing the boy to gag and tears to sprout in his eyes.

"Oh, tears. How pretty," Lucius murmured in appreciation. He pulled himself out of Harry long enough to collect one tear on the tip of a finger. He placed it gently on the head of his cock, smeared it into the tip, then drove himself back into Harry's mouth.

When Harry gagged again, Malfoy threatened, "If you vomit, I shall make you clean it up with your tongue." Harry knew that he could make good on that threat, and everything he had went into fighting his body's demand that he somehow force this intruder out of his throat. Malfoy hadn't told him not to vomit, so he was capable of doing so. But the consequences of doing so had been spelled out for him, and Harry had no wish to eat his own vomit off the floor, so he concentrated, and he silently begged whatever deity might be listening to help him, and he was able to keep the barely non-existent contents of his stomach there while Lucius continued to plunder his mouth with his thick cock. Finally, finally, he pulled away. The small part of Harry that had been paying attention to the other man thought Malfoy had been very close to coming, and he was disappointed that he hadn't so this could be over.

But Malfoy had other plans.

Harry dropped to his hands and knees, coughing, his throat already ravaged by Snape's potion now freshly assaulted and raw. Tears ran from his eyes, and snot ran from his nose, and he wanted to drop to the floor and curl into a ball and die.

"Up now," Malfoy commanded, and when Harry rose shakily to his feet, the man tutted at him. "Now, now. Let's get that pretty face cleaned up." He waved his wand and Harry's nose cleared and the mucous was scrubbed from his face. "Much better." Lucius left the tears and the tear tracks – he liked those.

Harry kept his eyes lowered which, in effect, was a mistake because it allowed him to see Lucius' angry red cock still standing erect out of his trousers. Harry knew this wasn't over yet.

"Undress," Lucius commanded.

Reluctantly, Harry moved his hands to the back of his neck and tried to undo the single button there. His hands were shaking badly, and after several attempts to push the button through the hole, Malfoy lost patience. With a flick of his wand Harry's bodice ripped down the middle in the front. Malfoy pushed the pieces off his shoulders and down to the floor, leaving Harry in his bra and skirt. Not wanting to wait for the girl's clumsy fingers, Malfoy came closer and unhooked the lacy bra himself, revealing Harry's rounded young breasts to his hungry gaze.

Malfoy's hands came up and began to caress Harry's flesh, causing the young man to flinch away. Remembering Malfoy's earlier instructions, Harry forced himself to stand still.

"It's all right," Malfoy assured him. "I like a bit of a fight. In fact, it really turns me on. You may fight me all you wish."

Now Harry was conflicted. Snape had told him not to hurt Malfoy in any way, but Malfoy had just given him permission to try to fight him off. So Harry could struggle, but not in any meaningful way. To add to his confusion, he felt the connection open up in his head and a voice said, Harry? Is everything all right?

Oh God. Hermione! He couldn't deal with her right now, not and concentrate on what he needed to do to survive this encounter with his life and his sanity intact.

Hermione. I can't right now.

Are you okay? I sensed something . . .

Please, Hermione, Harry begged as Malfoy's caresses began to get harder and more aggressive. I can't explain now. I'll tell you tomorrow. I need you to leave me alone tonight. Please. It's important. He didn't know how he could tell her he was in the process of being raped by Lucius Malfoy. He couldn't admit that, and even if he could, there was nothing Hermione could do but get herself into trouble trying to help him.

All right, Harry. I trust you. But I know something's wrong.

You're right, but I can't do this now. I love you, Hermione. Harry had the awful feeling that those sounded like the last words he might say to her, and he cursed himself for his melodrama. Malfoy wasn't likely to kill Snape's servant, even if she was just a worthless squib.

I love you, too, Hermione countered, now sounding more than a little worried. We'll talk tomorrow. And Harry felt the connection close.

So now he had nothing to concentrate on but Malfoy, now squeezing his breasts hard enough to cause pain. Harry couldn't help but gasp, and Malfoy seemed to like that, so he did it again and again, and Harry was sure that if he still had breasts tomorrow, he would have bruises on them.

One of Malfoy's hands came up to Harry's throat and encircled it. "You're not fighting enough," he whispered to Harry, and his hand began to squeeze, slowly and efficiently cutting off Harry's air supply, which certainly got him struggling. His hands came up to Malfoy's and while he couldn't use his fingernails to actively pry Malfoy's hands off his throat, he did try to pull the hands away, feeling his vision begin to narrow as the oxygen supply to his brain was diminished.

"That's better," Malfoy purred, relenting some on the pressure on Harry's throat. He kept his hand there, though, while he continued to squeeze Harry's breasts, then added a vicious pinch to one nipple, which caused Harry to whimper in pain.

Malfoy removed his hands and stepped back. "Continue undressing," he ordered.

Harry began to push his skirt down, but Malfoy reconsidered. "No, leave that on. Just remove your underthings."

Harry stepped out of his shoes, then reached down under the short skirt Snape had dressed him in to humiliate him and removed the nylon stockings and then his lacy underwear. Malfoy grabbed Harry roughly and threw him onto the table on his back. He pulled Harry towards him until his legs hung off the table at the knees.

Malfoy reached down and flipped the skirt up, revealing Harry's female parts to his gaze.

"Are you a virgin?" Malfoy asked.

Harry didn't know if the girl whose identity he'd stolen was a virgin, and he didn't know if that even mattered since he was only borrowing her body. Harry was a virgin, but he wasn't sure if that mattered in someone else's body. He didn't want to get this answer wrong.

"Answer me," Malfoy growled.

Harry nodded.

Malfoy smiled again, that evil smile that made Harry's insides liquefy in fear. "Good."

He pulled Harry closer and hooked his knees over his arms, allowing him access to Harry's most intimate places. He lined up the head of his prick with her vagina, and said, "I doubt this will be as good for you as it is going to be for me, but we can't have everything, can we?" And with a vicious thrust of his hips, he drove himself into Harry's virginity, piercing him in one swift move that completely ensheathed his unlubricated cock in Harry's unprepared opening.

The pain of the dry penetration was incredible and convinced Harry that whoever this girl was, she had been a virgin as well. He wanted to cry out, but his damaged throat would only allow pathetic whimpers to escape as Malfoy began to thrust into her, long, barely-lubricated slides which were torture to Harry but which Malfoy seemed to find extremely satisfying.

"Bit dry, aren't we, love?" he mused, his disappointment and amusement showing in equal parts.

Forgetting that he was supposed to be fighting back, Harry just lay there, tears streaming from his eyes, as Lucius Malfoy ripped him in half, each thrust more painful than the last. Harry was sure there had to be blood, likely lots of it if the pain was anything to go by. He closed his eyes, hoping that this would be over soon, that Malfoy would reach the end and let him go. But that wasn't to be, not yet.

Malfoy pulled out of the girl beneath him slowly, watching her face screwed up in pain and wanting only to pound the harder into her for it. But he wasn't finished with this lovely little impure thing. He pulled himself out completely and watched the girl tense, wondering if he was finished or if he was going to drive back in.

Instead, Lucius flipped her over onto her stomach roughly, smashing her hips down onto the hard wooden table as he did so, causing that exciting little whimper to escape again.

"What a lovely arse you have, my dear," Malfoy crooned, slapping one cheek hard enough to leave a red hand print. It looked so lovely, he left a matching one on the other side. "It's perfect, really. Perfectably fuckable."

And now Harry did begin to fight as it dawned on him what exactly Lucius planned to do. If he'd thought the vaginal penetration hurt, he couldn't even imagine how it would feel to have that huge cock shoved up his backside. He knew he couldn't hurt Lucius here on his stomach on the table, but he gave in to the panic threatening to override everything else.

In the end, of course, it did no good. Lucius was bigger and stronger and enjoyed the struggle too much to want to wait forever. Slapping Harry's arse was fun and caused the girl to try to squirm up the table to get away, so he did that several times before tiring of the whole thing. He had things to do this evening – he couldn't spend all of it chasing this delicious arse all over the table. Grabbing Harry's thighs tightly, Malfoy pulled him down to the end of the table and forced his cock into the tiny arsehole. God, it was tight! And the noises being forced out of the girl that supposedly couldn't speak were too thrilling to ignore, so he pushed harder, hoping to intensify them to the point of an actual scream. When he did, he set up a steady pounding rhythm, looking down and glorying in the increasing amount of blood and filth that appeared on his cock each time he pulled out.

Finally, it was too much, and Malfoy pushed himself in further than he had before and let loose his orgasm, making little jabbing thrusts into her until he was finished and pulled himself out, knowing that that last action had probably hurt nearly as much as the fucking itself had.

Malfoy thought about casting a cleaning spell on his cock, the condition of which now disgusted him, but then had another idea. "Up, whore," he ordered, all pretense of affection and caring gone now.

Slowly and painfully, Harry slid from the table onto the floor and knelt before his attacker, still crying, filth leaking from every orifice.

"Clean me up," Malfoy ordered with a gesture at his groin.

Hands shaking, Harry picked up a napkin which had fallen from the table and approached Malfoy with it.

"Oh no. A Muggle whore such as yourself can use her mouth."

Closing off his mind before he lost it completely, Harry moved to comply with the order he'd been given. He wouldn't think about what he was doing. He couldn't. He'd still have to clean up if he vomited.

"That's right," Malfoy said with a vicious tug to Harry's hair, "this is all a piece of shite like yourself is worth. Severus must enjoy you, you pathetic little slut."

He pulled away from Harry and tucked himself back away. Looking down scornfully on Harry like the unworthy piece of humanity she was, he stalked from the room. Harry stayed where he was until he heard Malfoy floo away.

Harry hurt. He could feel every bruise that Malfoy had inflicted on him, and the burning and throbbing in his arse and other parts that he wasn't even supposed to possess were threatening to undo him. And still under the compulsion of the mind potion, Harry knew he had to get up and clean away the remains of the dinner and wash up the dishes. The potion wouldn't allow him to stay where he was and curl up and die as he wanted.

Painfully, Harry stood and cleared the table of the pudding that Malfoy hadn't touched. Refusing to look at the stained tablecloth, he pulled it off before returning the brandy and the snifter to the cupboard and then went into the kitchen and looked with dismay at the dishes that needed washing and putting away. He couldn't do it – he just couldn't do it. Every part of him ached, and the need to find a dark corner in which to lick his wounds was overpowering. That thought brought to mind the awful taste that was in his mouth, and Harry bolted to the sink and vomited violently. When he'd heaved up every last bit of the contents of his stomach, and then some, he stood over the sick, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He ran water into the sink to wash down the mess, then filled a glass with cold water. He swished the water around in his mouth and spat it out again.

Harry turned and surveyed the mess again. He had to clean it up. But he didn't have to do it by hand. Fighting exhaustion, Harry wandlessly put the kitchen to rights in a matter of minutes, sure that Snape would never know the difference.


Wearily, Snape returned to the quiet house, brought up the lights in the kitchen, and surveyed the spotless room in satisfaction. At least Potter followed directions when under the influence of the potion. He should consider using it more.

He trudged up the stairs and into his room, lighting a single torch to illuminate the room enough to undress and get into bed. The first thing he noticed was that the bed was empty. Where was Potter? He knew Snape expected him in the bed each night, and he hadn't seen or heard him anywhere else in the house.

Snape lit another torch, and by its light he saw the form of the boy curled up on his pallet, apparently asleep. This would not do.

"Potter!" he barked, startling the boy into consciousness. "What are you doing down there? Get onto the bed instantly!"

Harry scrabbled back against the wall, panting in fright and pain.

"What is wrong with you, boy? Didn't you hear me? Get up!"

His eyes wide, and fighting for all he was worth the compulsion potion still in his system, Harry shook his head no.

"The potion couldn't have worn off already," Snape muttered. "How are you doing that? Get up and get onto the bed," he tried again.

Again Harry refused, and Snape now noted the fierce trembling in the boy's body.

"What is the matter?" Snape asked. And then he noticed the blood on the pallet where the boy had been sleeping, and he became immediately alarmed. "Are you injured?"

Harry again shook his head. He didn't want Snape, or anyone, touching him right now.

Snape dropped to his knees beside the pallet, concerned. "Where are you hurt?" He reached out a hand to the boy, intending to check him for injuries.

Harry tried to push himself further away, but he was flush up against the wall and there was nowhere to go, and he whimpered in fear.

"This is ridiculous," Snape said, standing up, his patience already used up after the trying night. He grabbed hold of Potter's arm and pulled, trying to make him stand. Harry hissed in pain and tried to pull away, but Snape was having none of it and hauled Potter to his feet. Harry stood before him, his shoulders hunched in his pitiful grey night shirt, his entire body shaking, his eyes glazed with pain.

Snape pulled him to the bed and forced him to sit, which caused Harry to jump up again, tears now in his eyes. "What has happened to you?" Snape asked, his very deep concern evident in his voice.

Harry wouldn't answer. He couldn't. So Snape held Harry's chin so he could look into the boy's eyes and went searching for an answer. Harry felt Snape burst into his mind, and he wanted badly to occlude, but he knew he wasn't supposed to know how to do that, and the memory of what had happened to him this evening was there for Snape to see without even raising a sweat.

When he'd finished attacking Harry's mind, Snape sat on the bed, stunned by what he'd seen. Lucius had raped Harry, brutally. "Potter . . ." he began, but stopped when Harry flinched and stepped back away from him, shivering.

Snape's anger made him almost unable to function. But the damaged boy in front of him needed his help, so he put the anger away to be dealt with later and stood again.

"Potter," he said, very gently and very reasonably. "Let me help you. You are injured."

Harry shook his head no.

"You must let me heal you. He has . . . he has made you bleed. Please let me help."

Harry, crying silently and miserably, nodded his acceptance. Snape's quiet, almost begging tone, convinced him.

"Come here," Snape ordered gently.

Harry approached him slowly and stopped when he was a foot away. Snape raised a hand to tip Harry's chin up and examined the bruises, in the obvious shape of fingers, on the boy's throat. Lucius had nearly strangled him. Snape's fist curled up tightly in response to the anger flooding him. He raised a hand quickly, intending to accio a bruise paste, and Harry flinched away violently.

"I am sorry," Snape said quietly. "I only wanted a bruise paste. Accio bruise paste." The tube came sailing to him from the bathroom. Snape squeezed a small amount of the paste onto a finger and worked it gently into the boy's throat, covering the many circular bruises there.

"Are there other bruises?"

Harry raised a hand weakly to his chest.

"May I?" Snape asked, indicating Harry's nightshirt with a gesture of his hand.

Looking Snape deep in the eye, his longing to be able to trust the man nearly palpable, Harry nodded once.

Snape unbuttoned the top two buttons on Harry's night shirt, which allowed him to open the shirt enough to push it down off of Harry's shoulder, revealing the well-toned chest of the young man, which was mottled with bruises around both nipples. Snape growled low in his throat, then began to work more salve into the boy's skin. When he was finished, he pulled Harry's shirt back into position and buttoned him back up.

When he finished, he hesitated. This next bit would be difficult. "I will need you to lie on the bed now."

Harry very clearly didn't want to, but he moved slowly to the bed and lay on his side, facing away from Snape.

"I must examine your injuries, Harry," Snape said quietly. "I cannot heal you if I don't know what I am dealing with. "

Very gently, keeping a steadying hand on Harry's shoulder, Snape pulled Harry's night shirt up over the boy's buttocks. Harry's trembling increased, and the hand on Snape's shoulder began to pet him gently. "Shhh," Snape urged. "It is all right. I am not going to hurt you. I need you to lie flat. You know I will not hurt you."

With firm but gentle pressure, Snape used the hand on Harry's shoulder to push the boy onto his stomach. "You have bruises on your thigh," Snape told him. "I am going to use bruise paste on them as well." Harry went rigid as soon as Snape touched him, but he allowed Snape to smear the cream over his thighs.

"It will be a little easier if you can make yourself relax for this next part," Snape advised him. "I will be as gentle as I can."

A sob escaped from somewhere deep inside Harry.

"Would it help if I brought Miss Granger up here?" Snape offered.

Frantically, Harry shook his head no. He did not want Hermione to see him like this.

"All right. Then you're going to have to let me look, Harry," Snape said. "I will not hurt you," he promised again. "And I will no do anything you do not want me to."

Crying openly now, Harry nodded his acceptance.

"All right," Snape said. "You have some bruising on your buttocks. I would like to treat that. Is that all right?"

Harry nodded, his eyes squeezed tightly shut, tears finding their way out from between the lids. Snape put a soothing hand on Harry's lower back, then began to work the healing paste into the boy's buttocks. He worked as quickly as he could, knowing that the hardest part was still yet to come.

"All right," Snape said, "I'm going to look between your buttocks now, Harry. I will not touch you there without your permission, but I need to look. May I do so?"

A louder sob and a smaller nod.

As gently as he could, Snape separated Harry's buttocks so that he could examine the damage. Harry had obviously tried to clean himself up, but touching himself would have been very painful, and traces of blood still remained. His anus was badly torn, and likely the rectum was as well. The boy had been brutalized, there was no other word for it.

Harry lay quivering beneath Snape's inspection, flinching whenever he was touched, tears streaming constantly.

"I will need to use my wand to heal the damage inside. I will not need to insert the wand," Snape explained, trying to keep this explanation as clinical as possible. "I will simply need to touch the wand to you. Is that all right?"

When Harry nodded, Snape set to work with his wand, accomplishing the job with as little fuss and as quickly as he could. "That should help the pain," Snape noted. "Is it better?"

Harry nodded.

"Good. Now, there are some tears that I will need to heal. I have another ointment in my medicine cabinet which will work very quickly. I am going to summon it now, all right?"

Again, Harry nodded, and Snape called for the topical healing/pain relieving potion that he kept on hand at all times. "I will need to . . . touch you, Harry, to apply the ointment. If you prefer, you could do this yourself."

Harry sobbed loudly again, unable to do anything but wallow in his misery, and he shook his head no.

"Shhh," Snape soothed. "I will do this as quickly as I can." And he did, applying the ointment with one swipe of his finger. "All done."

"Are there bruises on the front of your thighs, Harry?" Snape asked.

Sniffling loudly, Harry shrugged.

"Let me see, then. This is almost over. We are nearly done."

Harry rolled very suddenly onto his back, startling Snape slightly. The boy did have bruising on the front of his legs as well, and Snape retrieved the bruise paste and treated them quickly and efficiently. While he did, he examined the boy's genitals. Since he hadn't had them at the time of the attack, he'd at least been spared damage to this area.

"All done," Snape said, lowering Harry's night shirt over his beleaguered private parts.

With the pain now mostly gone, Harry drew his knees up to his chest and held on tightly, still crying softly. Snape covered him with a blanket, and Harry closed his eyes in relief that he was no longer on display.

"You may sleep now, Harry," Snape said soothingly.

Harry looked up at him now, and through his eyes, he could see Snape's concern for him, a layer of reluctant affection beneath an anger and thirst for revenge. Harry closed his eyes and wished himself to sleep. It took some time, and Snape sat with him all the while. Just before he succumbed, he heard Snape whisper, "I will make him pay for this, Harry. On that, you have my word."


Harry awoke the following morning still in Snape's bed, which surprised him. He'd have thought that Snape would have healed him and sent him off to his pallet at some point in the night. The man himself was nowhere to be seen.

Harry rolled onto his back, and memories of last night's assault surged through his mind. He curled up into a tight ball, rocking gently, fighting tears. Tears were useless. Tears wouldn't change anything. Desperately needing the contact, he opened the mind connection. Hermione?

It took a moment, but she responded. Harry! Are you all right? What happened last night?

Oh, Hermione, Harry moaned. I . . . I don't know if I can . . . It was awful.

He could hear the concern in her voice when she said, Just tell me, Harry. Whatever it is. Did Snape do something to you?

No. It wasn't him. It was . . . Lucius Malfoy came by last night. He came to dinner, to talk with Snape about Voldemort's plans. Snape polyjuiced me into a girl, and I served them dinner and listened to their conversation. But then, after supper, Snape was called away. Eccles came up here, something about a disturbance and someone being nearly dead.

Oh, I heard there was a fight in the laundry cabins. A couple of the detainees. One of them beat the other pretty badly I heard.

I didn't know what it was, only that Eccles came and took Snape away. After he left . . . Malfoy . . . Oh, God. I can't even say it!

What did he do to you Harry? Hermione demanded, and Harry could hear anger creeping into her voice.

He . . . um he . . . attacked me. Before Snape left, he tricked me into drinking that imperius potion . Remember, I told you about it? And he told me that I had to obey Malfoy while he was gone. So I couldn't . . . I couldn't stop him . . . when he . . . he made me . . . suck him . . . and then he threw me on the table, and he . . . he . . . Harry couldn't say it. He just couldn't say the word.

It's all right, Harry, Hermione soothed, tears in her voice. Don't. Are you all right? Sorry. That was a really dumb question.

No, it's okay. When Snape got back, he healed me. The bruises are gone, and I don't even feel sore. I just feel so . . . dirty, on the inside. Like I could take a hundred showers and I still wouldn't be clean. He was so cruel, Hermione. He didn't realize they'd started, but his tears were flowing freely now. He delighted in seeing me cry, in hurting me. I think he got off more on that than the . . . I just wanted to die, Hermione. I just wanted to crawl off somewhere and die.

Harry, please don't talk like that. I know you've been through an awful ordeal, but please, please don't give up.

I don't even know why I feel like this, Mione. It wasn't me, you know? It wasn't my body he . . .

Yes, it was, Harry, she said gently. It was you that he violated. And you have every right to feel that way. Are you going to be all right? Do you want me to come up there? Because I'll find a way.

No, it's all right. But I don't know how much longer I can keep doing this, Hermione. I don't know how much longer I can keep pretending that I'm something I'm not. If I'd been able to defend myself last night, there's no way that bastard could have . . .

What are you saying, Harry? You're not thinking about doing anything foolish, are you?

Aren't I always? he quipped. No, I just think we should figure out some way to get this over with. Move up the time table. Something. Anything to get us out of here. Get rid of that snake-faced bastard once and for all. And that bastard Malfoy, too. I think Snape's waiting for something – I don't know what. I've got to push him into getting Voldemort here so I can get rid of him.

But, Harry, the horcruxes. We can't kill him until we've gotten rid of the last horcrux.

I've been thinking about that. Once we figure out how to get rid of the locket, it's just the snake left. Nagini will probably be with Voldemort, but even if she's not, it makes sense to kill him if we have the chance. Sure, he won't really be gone, but he'll be close to it, and we'll have a chance to find Nagini and kill her while he's down for the count. Don't you think that makes sense?

I suppose so, on one level. But what are you going to do to convince Snape that it's time for you to face voldemort?

I've got to make him think that I'm losing it. After what happened last night, that won't be hard to fake. Don't freak out, Hermione, if you hear that I did something. It'll all be an act. Oh, hello.

What is it, Harry?

It's the cat. Snape's animagus. I've gotta go, Hermione. An idea, likely a very bad one based on Harry's history, was forming rapidly in his mind. Wish me luck.

Be careful, Harry.


Harry allowed himself a brief cuddle with Scrawny before putting his plan into action. Finally, putting the cat away from him firmly, Harry sat up, then got off the bed. With Scrawy winding around his feet, Harry pulled the sheet from the bed and began to twist it into a makeshift rope. Scrawny jumped back onto the bed and m'rowed at Harry, his head tipped to one side in question. Harry ignored him and continued his task until the entire sheet was wound into a tight coil. Harry then tossed one end of this "rope" over the bed's canopy, then tied both ends together so it formed a loop high up off the bed.

He turned to Scrawny again and took the cat into his lap and stroked its back. The cat kept casting confused looks up at the noose Harry had made. Harry patted Scrawny one more time, then knelt on the bed under the noose. Stretching up, Harry put his head through the noose, wrapped it once around his neck, and then leaned forward, unsupported, letting all of his weight hang from the noose.

It was immediately apparent that this would be an excellent way to kill himself if that was what Harry had actually intended. He could feel his airway being constricted by the sheet, and a tiny seed of panic sprouted in his brain. Fighting it and his body's instinctive desire for survival, Harry allowed himself to hang there, until finally his vision began to gray. Harry knew that he could still save himself simply by taking his weight onto his knees, but the point of this whole exercise was for Snape to save him from himself.

On the bed beneath him, Scrawny was pacing in agitated circles, looking up at Harry in consternation. Harry was just beginning to wonder if Snape in his cat form didn't possess the necessary cognitive powers to realize what was happening and if he was actually going to have to save himself when two things happened almost simultaneously. Snape changed back to human form on the bed beneath Harry fractions of a second before Harry lost consciousness.


Snape in his cat form sensed that whatever Potter was doing with the bed sheet was not a good thing, but since animals didn't possess any awareness of suicide and were incapable of producing a desire to kill themselves for any reason, he didn't process what Harry's intent was until Harry hung above him, eyes fluttering closed, breath no longer audible.

It finally dawned on the beast what Potter was up to, and he hurriedly changed back into a man. Surging to his knees, Snape supported Harry's body weight, getting the pressure off the homemade noose, before wandlessly cutting him down. He caught Harry as he slumped bonelessly to the bed and laid the young man down. He bent near to Harry's mouth and immediately discerned no breath sounds.

"Dammit, Potter!" he growled, angry with Harry for doing something so stupid and with himself for not realizing earlier just what the foolish boy was attempting. "Ennervate!"

Harry drew in a great gasp of breath, then began coughing. The blue tinge that had come into his lips began to diminish, and color returned to his pale cheeks. His eyes opened, and he stared up at Snape. "Thank God!" he thought to himself, then turned onto his side away from Snape and began to cough. He felt a hand rubbing soothing circles into his back, and he couldn't stop the tears that that gentle touch caused.

"Why?" Snape asked, his voice shaking with relief and dissipating adrenalin. "Why would you do this?"

Since Harry literally couldn't speak, he didn't try. He curled up tighter around himself and gave vent to the anger and grief he was feeling through his tears.

Snape sat with him until Harry's tears had dried and he was left feeling miserable and sniffly. When he was quiet, Snape put a hand on his shoulder and forced Harry to turn toward him. Through red-rimmed eyes, Harry blinked up at him.

"Why?" Snape asked again.

Harry shook his head and looked away. He couldn't. Although his suicide attempt had been faked, the reasons behind doing such a thing were all too real. His life, in a word, sucked.

Snape took Harry's chin firmly in hand and turned the boy's face back toward him. "You have to know how important you are. You cannot give up now. Not when we are so close."

Harry knew he should be confused by these words, but everything Snape meant was right there for Harry to see. Most of the horcruxes had been found and destroyed, and Voldemort was closer to mortal than he had been in a very long while. All they needed was to locate the one remaining unidentified horcrux and an opportunity for Harry to kill the bastard and his over-large familiar, and it would be over. And Snape could create that opportunity. All he needed to do was invite Voldemort here.

Harry wanted to tell him that it hurt too much to think about all of this right now, but, of course, he couldn't. His eyes must have betrayed some of what he was feeling, because Snape said, "Let's get up and have some breakfast. We will talk. You will tell me what was going through your head when you decided this," he held up the still-twisted bed sheet, "was a viable option. And I will do what I can to make things better for you."

Trying to look pathetic and grateful, neither of which was a particularly hard emotion to manufacture, Harry nodded, sniffed, and sat up.


"Sit," Snape instructed after he'd led Harry to the table. Snape had obviously already prepared breakfast as it was waiting for them under a warming charm. "Eat."

Harry didn't feel much like eating, but he managed to put a few bites into his mouth and force them down his gullet. He kept his eyes downcast on his plate, not looking forward to the discussion Snape was going to force him into. He'd have to walk a fine line, not letting on how much he already knew, while at the same time exhibiting great despair at how his life had turned out. Once he'd eaten all he could, he pushed his plate away and sat back in his chair, watching his hands as they twisted together in his lap.

Snape pushed his means of communication across the table toward him. "Tell me why."

Harry looked up at him briefly but made no move to pick up the chalk still rolling back and forth across the slate.

"Look at me, Harry," Snape ordered gently.

Harry looked up, surprised. He remembered that Snape had called him Harry during the healing ordeal last night, but Snape had never called him Harry in any other context.

"What happened to you wasn't your fault. There was nothing you could have done."

Harry grabbed his slate angrily and wrote, Your fault.

"My fault?" Snape asked, seemingly surprised by this assertion. "How is it my fault?"


Oh. "You think that if I had not given you the potion and forced you to obey Lucius that you could have fought him off, escaped somehow?"

Harry nodded emphatically. He knew he could have.

"You are wrong," Snape said. "If Lucius had his mind set on having you, he was going to have you. Without a wand, you would have been just as helpless."

Harry snorted through his nose. Little did Snape know that Harry's wandless magic was more powerful than the average wizard could command with his wand.

"It is time you learned that you are not invincible," Snape said. "But we have gotten off the topic. Regardless of what you think you may have been able to do to prevent his touching you, you were attacked, and unless you can admit what happened, to yourself and to me, you will not be able to begin to heal."


"I know what you are feeling," Snape said, his tone supportive. "I know how difficult it is to admit that someone could violate you in this way. And I also know that denial is not healthy for you now or in the future."

Harry didn't even wait for him to finish before he started writing furiously. SHUT UP! THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!

"You can continue to blame me if you want, but it's not going to change anything."


Snape's eyes took on a great sadness. "I did. For that, I am very sorry, Harry."

Harry angrily wiped at the tears in his eyes. He tapped the chalk viciously on the last words he'd written on the slate.

"I cannot change that, just as you cannot change what happened."

Harry looked away from him, tears trickling down his cheeks. Snape sat back in his chair, took a deep breath, and started over. "Harry, did you want Lucius Malfoy to touch you?"

Startled and indignant at the question, Harry glared at Snape and shook his head firmly.

"But he did so anyway?"

Harry's answer this time was longer in coming, but he eventually nodded once without looking at Snape.

"And what is it called when someone forces another to engage in sexual intercourse?"

Harry stared at the floor as though it held all the answers he could desire.

"Harry, what is it called? You are not a coward – stop acting like one."

As he'd known it would, this had Harry's head snapping up. Snape tapped the slate. "Write it down." Snape erased the slate, cleaning it so that Harry could defile it with the heinous word.

"Write it down, Harry," Snape urged. "You will feel better once you do."

Harry picked up the chalk, but his hand was shaking too badly to write. He set the chalk on the clean black surface, then looked up at Snape, who nodded encouragingly. In large, ugly script, Harry wrote the four letters that had forever changed his life.


The chalk fell from Harry's trembling fingers, and he lowered his head to his folded arms and began to sob. Snape reached over and rubbed Harry's back in great gentle circles. "You've done well, Harry. You've done very well. It is all right to cry. Let it all out."

Snape sat with Harry for as long as he needed to work out some of the grief and the anger.

When Harry's tears had finally receded, Snape pulled away. "That's a good first step, Harry. Admitting what happened will make it possible to heal."


"What is stupid?"


Snape looked confused. "I'm not sure what you mean."

Harry cleaned the slate and started over. WASN'T ME. WAS "FANNY". HE DIDN'T TOUCH ME.

"You think it's somehow 'stupid' for you to feel this way, because the body that Lucius abused wasn't your own?"

Harry nodded, not looking at Snape.

Snape leaned in and said earnestly, "Make no mistake about it, Harry. It was you that Lucius Malfoy held down on this table and raped. You have every right to feel violated, because you were. But you must understand that what he did to you does not define who you are. I know that you feel dirty, and worthless, and like no one could ever want you, but you're wrong, Harry. You're a very attractive young man, and you will find someone who values you for what and who you are, and you will have a normal, healthy sex life, despite what has happened to you. Any young lady would be lucky to have you. Or young man. Whichever you . . . prefer," Snape finished awkwardly.

The way Harry was staring at him now left Snape feeling uncomfortable, but he pushed on to the more important topic. "What I'm trying to convey to you is that you have a full life to look forward to. Do not let this one awful experience push you into a despair so deep that you do something drastic."

Harry cleaned his slate again. IT'S NEVER GOING TO END. THIS LIFE. I CAN'T STAND IT ANY MORE.

Snape sat back in his chair. This was the moment where he had to proceed carefully, to not give Potter too much information before he was ready for it, but to provide the boy with the assurance he so desperately needed that they were near the end. He chose his words carefully.

"I cannot provide you with details, not yet, but you must believe me that you will not have to suffer this life much longer."

Harry raised an inquisitive eyebrow.

"I expect the Dark Lord to visit us some time in the next few days."

Harry's eyebrows now rose in consternation. Voldemort was coming here? Why? He'd wanted this, but now that he was getting it, he had several things to fear. Would he discover who Harry was? Did Harry have any hope of successfully facing him? What if he didn't bring Nagini with him? What if something happened to Hermione? Did Snape have a plan? Harry had so many questions, and all he could get out was a single ? on his slate.

"That is all I can tell you now. We will speak more of this later. But for now, promise me, please, that you will not repeat what you did this morning? Please? Give me a few days. Things will begin looking up in just a few days. Will you promise me?"

Snape was very earnest, and since Harry hadn't really wanted to kill himself anyway, he nodded once.

Snape seemed very relieved. "Good. Thank you. Now, do you feel well enough to spend some time in the garden?'


Both Harry and Snape spent the next few days in a constant state of nervous anticipation. Snape's plan was simple: get the Dark Lord here so that Harry could kill him. The complications were many: Harry could no longer speak – how was he going to cast the spell needed to complete the job? What if he and Minerva's frantic searching for the final unidentified horcrux was unsuccessful? And assuming they could identify it and destroy in the next few days, what if the Dark Lord didn't bring Nagini with him? As the last horcrux, killing her before her master's own death was vital. But he couldn't very well invite the Dark Lord and request that he bring his overly-large familiar, could he? Would it all be pointless, assuming Potter was able to actually kill the Dark Lord, if two horcruxes remained behind? Would there be time then to find the one and destroy them both? And was Potter strong enough, physically and mentally, to finally end this? After his too-close-for-comfort suicide attempt a few days ago, Snape wasn't sure just how stable the boy was. He'd been keeping a close eye on Potter since then, not comfortable leaving him alone for any length of time. The boy had even been sleeping with him in his bed.

Some of Harry's concerns were similar to Snape's: he also wasn't sure he was capable of destroying Voldemort. He had no concerns about his ability to cast wandless and wordless magic – he'd mastered both, and even though he hadn't used either regularly for a while now, he was confident that whatever spell he chose to cast he could do so without his wand and without being able to speak. But could he successfully cast, with or without a wand, any spell powerful enough to destroy true evil?

He really needed to talk to Snape, but couldn't find a way to broach the topic in the many hours they'd been spending together since his "suicide attempt". Snape had become very protective, gentle even, with Harry since that event. He'd stopped forcing Harry to watch him pleasuring himself every night, but did allow Harry to sleep in the bed with him. Almost every morning, Harry woke to find himself plastered to Snape's back, morning wood painfully obvious to both of them, though neither had spoken of it.

When an owl arrived at lunchtime bearing tidings of the Dark Lord's approach, all hesitation went out the window.


"He is coming tonight," Snape announced after reading the owl's missive.

Harry's gulp was audible in the suddenly silent room. This was it – there was no more time for prevarication or delay. Snape needed to know everything that Harry knew, and vice versa.

"HORCRUXES," he wrote on his slate.

Snape studied Harry intently for a moment. "That's the task Albus set for you," he said, though it wasn't a question – more a statement of affirmation of something Snape had long suspected.


"Have you destroyed the one that you found?"

Harry shook his head. "COULDN'T. AD THOUGHT THERE WERE MORE."

"Yes," Snape confirmed. "Seven. We have found and destroyed two more."


"Albus set Minerva and I on the same mission," Snape confessed. "When I was not named by the Dark Lord as Headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus thought I might be of some use on the horcrux hunt."


"I suspect he was accounting for the fact that something could happen to one of us. If that were to come to pass, the other could continue on with the task. Where is the one that you found?"


"My garden?" Snape asked, seemingly appalled at the thought.


Snape stared at Harry, wondering how the boy had smuggled a horcrux past him. He thought about questioning him, but decided they had more pressing things to worry about. "The potion that damaged your voice – that potion destroys horcruxes. That is why I brewed it and why I keep it handy at all times. Minerva and I thought we had one more horcrux to locate. This is actually quite good news."


"Nagini. Albus thinks that Dark Lord's familiar is a horcrux."

Harry erased the 5 and replaced it with a 6. "BUT THAT'S ONLY 6."

"You should retrieve the horcrux now. I will take it to the lab and destroy it immediately."

Harry pointed to his words on the slate – BUT THAT'S ONLY 6 – and underlined the 6.

Snape looked away from Harry, long enough so that Harry tapped several times impatiently with the chalk on the slate. BUT THAT'S ONLY 6.

"Dumbledore did not tell you?"


"His speculation about the seventh horcrux."

Harry shook his head. He could tell by Snape's manner that this was something that Harry was not going to want to hear. Snape was refusing to look at him, instead staring at a point on the wall. Harry reached over and grasped Snape's wrist, causing the man's eyes to snap to meet Harry's.

Snape met his gaze steadily. Neither man tried to read the other's thoughts. Snape reached up and covered Harry's hand with his own, removed it from his arm, and cradled Harry's hand between his own. "Albus thought that because of your connection with the Dark Lord, through your scar, that you were the seventh horcrux."

A tiny part of Harry thought that maybe he'd already known this, somewhere deep inside. It explained so many things. But to hear it stated to bluntly, so plainly, stunned him. He tried to pull his hand away from Snape, but the older man held on tightly. "Harry, he may have been wrong. We cannot know for certain."

But Harry knew for certain. Having it said out loud clarified things, solidified them, made them real. He nodded once, his eyes never leaving Snape's, and Snape nodded in return that he understood.

Harry pulled his hand away successfully this time. "I MUST DIE," he wrote.

"No," Snape said immediately. "We will find another way. You will not do anything stupid."


"Let's say I accept that. Let's say I'm willing to let you face the Dark Lord on your 'own terms'. Unless you destroy him in the process, your self-sacrifice is pointless. You cannot face him alone. You have no wand."


Harry could almost hear Snape's mental snort. Snape? Trust a Potter? He'd have thought a few short weeks ago that that would never be possible. But he looked into the man's steady green gaze, and he saw so much more in Potter than had ever been there before. He saw a maturity and a resolve there that soothed his shattered nerves.

"You will not be alone," he assured Potter quietly.

Harry nodded in appreciation. "I'LL GET THE HORCUX. CAN I SEE HERMIONE?"

Snape nodded. "I will bring her back here with me after I destroy the horcrux."

Harry closed his eyes to concentrate more completely. He thought, Accio horcrux. Moments later, the back door opened and a burlap sack zipped through the room into Harry's outstretched hand, leaving a trail of garden soil in its wake. He ignored Snape's gobsmacked expression and opened the sack. He removed the locket and lay it carefully on the table.

Snape didn't even spare it a glance. "Potter. That was . . . wandless . . . and wordless."

Harry met the surprise in Snape's eyes with a confidence of his own and nodded.

"And you've been able to do this the entire time you've been here?"

Again Harry nodded.

"Why? Why have you hidden these abilities?" Snape asked, bewildered.


"No," Snape agreed. "No, we don't. But you'd better survive this, Potter, because you and I are going to have a long talk."

Hermione. Harry waited a moment for her to respond, and when she did, he thought, Snape's coming down to destroy the locket. He's going to bring you back up here. I'll explain everything then.


Snape seemed incapable of doing anything but staring at Harry in wonder. "A very long talk."



Somehow, events from that point on moved simultaneously slowly and at the speed of light. Snape destroyed both the horcrux and its locket container. Hermione came back to the house with him, and she and Harry had a very silent conversation wherein he explained everything to her very hurriedly. She cried and begged and pleaded with him not to sacrifice himself, but Harry firmly told her that this was what he had to do, what he'd practically been born to do, what his parents had died for him to do. He then took her upstairs, to the bedroom he'd shared with Snape for the last few months, and magically locked her in, to keep her safe from harm. She was furious with him, and banged on the door and swore at him and called him awful names, but he refused to let her out. He was going to die, but Hermione – she would live to see the end of this, she would live to find Ron and make a life with him.

Voldemort began his visit to the detention center with a tour of the barracks and work areas. Snape led him around, explaining the function of each and every area, desperately hoping that none of the detainees would get it into their heads to confront the Dark Lord and get themselves killed. Thankfully, everyone was cowed enough by Voldemort's familiar to only watch from a distance as the two men and the great dirty snake sailed through their midst.

Snape had been relieved beyond measure when the Dark Lord had showed up here with Nagini. He kept a wary eye on the snake as it slithered along behind her master, all the time leading them back to the house, where hopefully their doom awaited them both.


Harry hadn't even bothered to glamour himself. The Dark Lord followed Snape into the kitchen of the house and found himself facing the menacing stare of Harry Potter. Before Voldemort could even turn on Snape to demand to know what Harry Potter was doing in Snape's kitchen, Snape had cast Sectumsempra on the snake, causing deep gashes to appear in her body. He pulled a spray bottle from his cloak and misted the writhing snake with the horcrux destroying potion. Before their very eyes, the snake's flesh and muscles melted from her bones, her bones turned to powder, and the powder disappeared in a puff. Within seconds, the snake had ceased to be.

Before Voldemort could retaliate against Snape in any way, Harry kicked a kitchen chair over to get Voldemort's attention. Seething with anger, Voldemort turned to Harry, raised his wand, and spoke the words that would end his own life. "Avada kedavra!"

Snape watched in horror as the green spell light struck Harry directly in the lightning bolt scar. Potter dropped immediately, apparently dead before he hit the floor. Surprisingly, Voldemort fell to the floor as well, rolling and moaning, obviously not dead but not entirely conscious either.

Snape ran to Harry, hoping against the evidence that his eyes provided him and everything he knew about the killing curse that the boy had managed to survive again. He dropped to his knees and could tell instantly that Harry wasn't breathing. He took that messy head into his lap, feeling tears start in his eyes, keeping watch on the Dark Lord as he lay only feet away. He had just decided that he would cast his own killing curse on the evil bastard when he felt Harry stir in his lap. Unbelievably, it appeared that Potter wasn't quite as dead as he had first appeared.

Keeping one eye on the Dark Lord, Snape watched Harry's green eyes flutter open and stare up at him. "Are you all right?" Snape asked stupidly.

Harry blinked and tried to sit up. With Snape's assistance, he was able to manage it. They both watched as Voldemort also seemed to regain full consciousness and began to struggle to his feet. Snape helped Harry to stand, and as soon as Voldemort got to his feet, the two stared at each other, sizing each other up, estimating the weakness of the other. Reaching a decision at exactly the same moment, both cast their spells to end it all.

"Avada kedavra," Voldemort gasped.

Expelliarmus, Harry thought, and closed his eyes again, hoping that Dumbledore was right, that this killing curse wasn't the one that would end him.

And Snape watched in absolute disbelief as the Dark Lord crumpled to the ground. It was obvious even from this distance that he was dead. And Potter – Potter was swaying like a breeze was buffeting his weakened body, but he was alive – he was breathing, and he was alive! Snape had no idea how it had happened, but Potter was alive and the Dark Lord was dead.

Snape sent the prearranged signal to Minerva, that it was time for the aurors to arrive, and dismantled the wards surrounding the house. Pops of apparition came fast and furious after that, and soon the house was filled. Minerva went directly to Potter and hugged him tightly. Harry searched for a piece of parchment and wrote, Hermione upstairs.

"Well, let's go retrieve her, Mr. Potter," Minerva said. Using the arm still around his shoulders, Minerva steered him to the stairs. Harry looked back at Snape, who was surrounded by aurors but was looking back at him. He wanted to stay here, to talk to Snape, to make sure the aurors knew that Snape had been working with Dumbledore all along, but he was tired and weak and Hermione was upstairs and didn't know what had happened, and he let himself be led away.


Knocking at his door still made Snape extremely nervous. It had been three weeks since Voldemort had been finally and irrevocably destroyed, and Snape's orderly life had been thrown into some serious upheaval. Snape had been taken directly from the house at the detention facility to the Ministry of Magic. He was placed in what was called a "conference room" but looked more like a holding cell to Snape. He felt strongly comforted by the fact that Minerva McGonagall had accompanied him there.

He'd been left to stew in that small room for hours before the interrogation, polite but firm, began. Though it was obvious to Snape that they had the answers to many of the questions they'd asked him, he answered them anyway, as patiently as his temperament would allow. He was quite proud of himself for not calling any of the aurors he spoke with over the ensuing ten days anything more derogatory than "naive", but he was becoming seriously concerned about his future prospects. He hadn't been allowed to leave the Ministry after his day of "questioning", but instead had been escorted each night into a real holding cell and locked in. The first night, he'd had to fight feelings of claustrophobia and anxiety. He'd thought that with Minerva's testimony, and the portrait of Dumbledore speaking on his behalf, and presumably Savior Harry Potter championing his cause, he would have been out of here after a few hours of confirming information the authorities already knew. Apparently that was not to be the case.

So he'd spent ten days being interrogated and ten nights in a small barren cell before Kingsley Shacklebolt, the acting Minister of Magic, had come to him, thanked him for his patience during this grueling process and for his service to wizardkind, and released Snape, finally and completely.

He'd retreated to his home on Spinner's End, and other than to two trips out to Muggle stores to stock up on necessities, he hadn't left since. Minerva had come to see him three times, and each time she'd knocked on his front door, his heart rate had quickened, and he'd had to almost physically shake himself to return himself to his senses – the Ministry had not reconsidered its decision to let him go free, they were not standing on his step waiting to arrest him as soon as he opened the door.

Other than Minerva, he had seen no one since being released. And now someone was knocking on his door. Even money said it was Minerva again, but he took a fortifying breath, just in case, rose from his chair, and went to the door. When he cast the spell allowing him to identify who was on the other side of the door, he caught his breath. It wasn't Minerva – it was Potter. Harry Potter had finally come to call.


Snape thought briefly about ignoring the visitor at his door. He had so much to regret when it came to Potter, who was likely to be exceedingly angry at him and demanding of explanations. It would be so much easier to just turn away, hope that Potter would eventually give up, and get on with his life. But he owed the boy more than that, and with a deep sigh of regret, he opened the door.

Green eyes immediately met his. Potter stood looking up at him, looking neither angry nor demanding. Snape read uncertainty and nervousness and perhaps a little bit of fear in those emerald depths. Strange.

"Mr. Potter," he said, without opening the door fully or inviting the boy in. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"

To Snape's great surprise, Potter did not remove his slate, or a piece of parchment and quill, but said, in a quiet voice that sounded as though his throat were full of loose gravel, "I'd like to talk to you."

Snape raised his eyebrows in surprise. "You . . . you can speak?"

Harry nodded, never breaking eye contact.

"But . . . how?"

"If you let me in, I'll tell you," Harry bargained.

Snape seemed to realize suddenly that he'd been standing there clutching the partially opened like a shield. "Yes," he said. "Yes, of course. Come in." He turned and began to walk back to the sitting room, assuming Potter would follow. When he heard the front door close, he said, not entirely sure why he was defending his life to Harry Potter, "I'm afraid it isn't much. I've not spent much time here over the last few years."

Snape felt a hand on his arm, halting his progress. "It's fine," that coarse voice assured him.

An electric shiver started at the base of Snape's spine and wriggled its way, snake-like, up his back and down his legs and, strangely enough, into his bollocks, and Snape cleared his throat to speak in what he hoped was a normal tone. "Tea? I was just about to have a cup . . ."

"Yes, thank you," Harry said, looking with no more than polite interest around Snape's sitting room.

"Please, have a seat and I will be right back."

"Can I help?"

"No. No, I will only be a moment. Make yourself comfortable."

Snape stopped long enough in the kitchen to get his wayward body back under control, then poured two cups of tea, loaded a tray with tea things and a plate of the biscuits he'd purchased during his last shopping trip, and carried everything out to the sitting room. He found Potter sitting somewhat stiffly in one of the arm chairs in front of the fire. He jumped up when he saw Snape approaching and cleared the table between the two chairs of the journals it contained so that Snape would have somewhere to place the tray.

"Thank you," Snape said. He set the tray down, handed Harry one of the cups and watched as the boy added more sugar than any reasonable person should put into two cups of tea.

"Sit, sit," he urged when Harry was finished doctoring his tea. They both sat, facing each other, and stared at one another over the rims of their cups as they drank the hot brew.

"Biscuit?" Snape offered.

"No, thanks," Harry declined. "Just had breakfast at the Weasleys. I probably won't be able to eat again for a week."

Snape snorted his disbelief at that statement. He'd seen Potter eat. "So tell me about your voice."

Harry set the cup down on the table between them. "Healers at St. Mungo's used a scope and found a tiny piece of undamaged larynx and vocal cord in my throat. They enlarged it as much as they could, and you can hear the result. It's not likely to get any better. I'll always sound like I'm gargling with marbles, and if I talk too much or too loudly, I lose my voice entirely, but it's better than being completely mute."

"Your voice is music to my ears, Potter," Snape confessed. "I feel as though I must apologize for the accident that took your voice. I had intended . . ."

Harry put up a hand to stop him, and Snape complied. "You don't owe me anything. Well," Harry amended, "maybe one thing. But I'll get to that later. I wanted to talk to you, to explain . . ."

"Explain?" Snape asked. "You want to explain? Frankly, I expected you to come here demanding explanations of me."

"No. There's a lot that I didn't tell you then, that I didn't feel I could tell you. Stuff that if you'd known, it might have been easier, different. But when we were first captured, I didn't know if I could trust you completely, and once I figured out that I could, it seemed easier for both of us if I just continued playing along." Harry drained the tea in his cup. "You wouldn't have any honey, would you? It helps with . . ." He gestured at his throat.

"No, I'm sorry. I don't use it."

"That's all right," Harry assured him. And without speaking a word or drawing his wand, Harry conjured a bee-shaped jar of honey. "Might I have another cup of tea?"

Harry had displayed for him on their last day at the detention center that he was capable of wandless, wordless magic of great power, but they'd not had the chance to discuss it. Snape nodded and rose to his feet. "This is one of the things you will be explaining." It wasn't a question.

Harry nodded. When Snape returned with the second cup, Harry added a generous dollop of honey and sipped at the hot liquid. "Ahhh," he said, appreciating the way it slid down his ravaged throat.

He took a second sip before he began to speak again. "When we were on the run, looking for horcruxes, Hermione and I read. A lot. Ron joined in sometimes, but that wasn't his idea of fun, as I'm sure you'll recall. But there was just nothing else to do much of the time, and if we didn't keep our minds engaged, we would have gone mad. Hermione is an excellent teacher, and we learned so much during that time. I think we learned every spell in every book Hermione had brought with her. We practiced every day, hours every day. We decided early on that wandless and wordless was really the best way to practice magic, for reasons that I'm sure are obvious, so we forced ourselves to practice them that way. We got really good at it."

"I have seen evidence of that myself," Snape noted.

Harry nodded his appreciation at the compliment and continued, "One of the things we both mastered was occlumency."

Harry could see the surprise in Snape's eyes at this announcement. "So everything I've seen . . . you've shown me only what you wanted me to see?"


"Remarkable. I never even knew." As a skilled occlumens himself, Snape had always been able to tell when someone was blocking him and feeding him selected information. He'd never had the sense that Potter was anything but an open book. In fact, he found himself somehow doubting Potter's claim, because he'd encountered no one that was that good.

Harry seemed to sense his doubt because he then said, "We also both mastered legillimency. Almost as soon as I got there and you brought me back to the house, I knew. Almost everything. I knew that you were on our side, that you were Dumbledore's man to the last. I knew that you and Minerva had been hunting horcruxes. I knew that you were running that facility in such a way that it kept people safe. I knew, Severus," Harry said sincerely.

Snape hadn't given Potter permission to use his first name, but he didn't call the boy on it. He was too stunned. "So you knew, that . . . when I forced you to . . . watch me, it was because I was . . ." Snape's cheeks were turning a delicate shade of pink.

Harry hid his smile at the adorable blush. "Planting memories for the Dark Lord to view should he ever enter my mind again. Yes, I knew. You couldn't know that I could prevent that."

"So if you knew that, why in all of heaven and hell did you make that foolish attempt at escape, forcing me to . . . hurt you in that way?"

Harry shrugged, as though ten lashes with a whip weren't an unusually cruel thing to do to another human being. "You had begun to suspect that something was off with me. I was being too obedient, too respectful. I had to do something so that you wouldn't suspect anything was different with me. I knew that you were on my side, but I didn't know how much that would mean if Voldemort were to suddenly show up. I needed you to be unaware of my new abilities. I was trying to keep us both safe."

Snape sat back in his chair, his empty tea cup forgotten in his hand. Potter had known, all of it. Snape had struggled so hard with what to tell the boy, and when to tell him, and all along, he'd known.

"If Dumbledore had only told us," Harry said. "We could have worked together. Or at least not totally independent of each other, as it was. We would have both known that the horcruxes were all accounted for. Except for me. That was the one thing I never saw in your mind, Severus, until the very end. But that was probably for the best, because if I'd had too long to think about it, I may not have been able to do what I needed to do."

"The Headmaster likely had numerous reasons which he considered valid for doing things the way he did."

"I'm sure he did," Harry agreed. "I certainly understand why he wanted someone other than me, Ron, and Hermione looking for the horcruxes. There was no reason to think the three of us would succeed, so having a back-up plan was smart. Or maybe the three of us were the back-up plan. Whatever. My point is that if we ever had all the information necessary, you and I would be a formidable team."

Snape eyed Harry, suspecting that the boy was right. "It sounds as though you know everything. If there is anything I can tell you, feel free to ask."

Harry shook his head. "That's not why I came here."

"You came here to tell me what you already knew?" Snape asked, confused.

"Yes. And to collect what you owe me," Harry stated.

"I . . . I do not know what more I can do for your voice. The healers have already accomplished far more than I could ever have hoped to."

"It has nothing to do with my voice." On this last word, Harry's voice broke. He'd been speaking a lot more than normal today. The healers had told him to rest his voice, and he'd stayed away from Severus as long as he could. He knew it was only a matter of time before his voice disappeared completely. He wanted to get this all out there today, so he pushed on.

"There's one more thing that Hermione and I learned while we were on the run. Have you heard of the mens mentis iunctio spell?"

"Mens mentis iunctio? That is a mind-sharing spell, no longer in general use, I believe, but used quite extensively a hundred or so years ago, mostly by married couples or partners. If memory serves, the spell establishes a mind connection between two parties." Snape rubbed his chin, attempting to recall anything else he knew about this spell. "I do not recall if the literature I have read indicated over how long a distance the spell worked."

Harry was glad Snape knew as much as he did – not having to explain would save his voice. He nodded. "Correct, but Hermione thought the spell can be used with more than two parties, if all participate in the ritual. And the spell has no geographical limitation." Hermione was currently in Australia, re-introducing herself to her parents and attempting to bring them home, and they'd communicated daily through their mind bond. "I want to do the spell with you." Harry's voice was little more than a whisper now.

"With me?" Snape asked, surprised by this statement. "Why?" Something else occurred to him. "Wasn't there a sexual component to the spell?"

Harry nodded, just about out of words.

"You want to perform a spell . . . a sex magic spell . . .with me?"

Harry nodded again. "You owe me," he ground out.

"I'm not following your reasoning," Snape sputtered, standing up to pace before the fire. "I owe you this because I forced you to watch me masturbate? Because I treated you harshly, by crucioing you once and by whipping you? I don't see the quid pro quo in that."

Harry shook his head. "Not that. You owe me a first time. You let Lucius take mine."

Oh God. Lucius had been his first. But . . . "But you said . . . the spell with Miss Granger . . . you and she must have . . ."

Harry stood and put himself in Snape's path. "With a man," Harry clarified. "First time with a man." That last word came out as a breath of air. Harry had no words left to give.

They stood looking at each other, Snape staring down into bottomless green pits, Harry's neck craned to look up into Snape's dark, dark eyes. Snape wanted this, had wanted Potter for some time now, but he was stunned to know that Harry wanted him as well.

Harry could see the conflict in Snape's eyes. He reached out and took Snape's hand in his and pressed it to his heart. "I . . . want . . . you," he mouthed, pressing their clutched hands against Snape's chest on the last word.

Snape gave in to the pull he'd been fighting for months, leaned forward, and kissed Harry's warm pink lips. The kiss was brief but electric, and they pulled away from it looking for more. Harry went up on his toes and licked Snape's top lip. Before he could pull away again, Snape crushed his mouth to Harry's. Harry opened to grant Snape access, and Snape's tongue plunged into the hot cavern that was Harry's mouth. They continued to kiss, their bodies touching nowhere other than their mouths and their still-clenched hands.

Before Snape passed the point where his body took complete control of his mind, he pulled away from the intoxicating temptation that was Harry Potter. "The spell . . ." he gasped.

Using his free hand, Harry withdrew a piece of parchment from his pocket. He handed it to Snape, who read the very long, very detailed spell. Harry poked Snape in the chest, his message clear. Snape would have to say the spell, since Harry was no longer able. A note at the bottom of the spell read: "Final words must be spoken at moment of ejaculation by partner who ejaculates inside the other."

"Are you sure about this?" Snape asked, giving Harry an out if he wanted it.

Harry pulled Snape's hand to the front of his trousers and pressed it against the prominent bulge there. Snape's fingers curled into a fist with the desire to wrap his hand around that hardness.

"May I suggest that we retire to the bedroom?" Snape suggested, his voice low and sultry.

Harry nodded his acceptance, rubbed Snape's hand against his hard-on again, and closed his eyes with anticipation.

Snape led Harry up the narrow stairs, their hands still clasped together, and into the small, dingy bedroom. The decor held no interest for Harry, and he kept his eyes on Snape as they crossed to the bed.

Harry wasted no time taking his clothes off, while Snape watched in anticipation. When Harry was completely naked, Snape reached up to start on his own clothing, but Harry stilled his hand. Using gentle pressure, Harry forced Snape to sit on the corner of the bed. As though gesturing to a dog, Harry held his hand, palm toward Snape, in a classic "stay" gesture. When it looked as though Snape would, Harry climbed onto the bed, sat up against the head board, and began to stroke himself, all the while keeping his eyes steadily on Snape's.

Oh Merlin. This was payback, for all those times Snape had forced Harry to watch. Had he known that Harry not only didn't mind watching but would have liked to actively participate, things might have been quite different over the past few months.

Snape's eyes flitted over the tableau in front him – Harry's head thrown back, staring at him through slitted eyes; the nearly hairless chest, with its pert brown nipples, heaving already; that small hand wrapped around the impressive hard-on, pulling himself toward completion. Snape wanted to touch, wanted to help, but he knew he owed Harry this. He did, however, rise from the bed long enough to retrieve a bottle of lube from the bedside table. He removed the cork, tipped the bottle over the reddened head of Harry's cock, and allowed several drops to ooze out. Harry rubbed them languorously into his skin, appreciating the slickness of the likely homemade lubricant. Careful to touch him nowhere else, Snape leaned forward and kissed Harry, hoping the young man would pull him down and they could get on to more mutually satisfying activities. Harry didn't though, and after a thoroughly devastating kiss, Snape, painfully hard in his trousers, pulled away and returned to his spot at the end of the bed.

Where he stayed, while Harry's strokes increased to a furious pace, until he curled around himself in release, pumping his orgasm onto Snape's coverlet. He lay there panting as he recovered, sated and floating peacefully in a sea of ecstacy, not even noticing when Snape disrobed completely in front of him.

Snape crept up the bed and lay his body against Harry's, his chest to Harry's back. "Was that wise?" he murmured in the young man's ear. "Coming like that? Before we even get started?"

Harry rolled onto his back and looked up at Snape. He tapped himself on the chest and held up two fingers, his meaning immediately obvious to Snape. I can go twice.

Snape leaned forward to kiss the enticing young man. He rolled on top of Harry and felt the young man's cock already hardening as it was pinned between their bodies. His own prick was throbbing with an ache he hadn't felt in a very long time, maybe ever, and he couldn't stop his hips from thrusting himself into the tight heat between their bodies.

Harry's hand searched the bedding for the bottle of lubricant that he knew had been discarded there. When he found it, he tipped Snape off of him and handed him the bottle.

Snape got to it immediately, dipping his fingers into the lube and spearing two of them into Harry's tight arsehole. They both groaned at the intrusion. Snape wanted to work quickly, knowing that he was so close that it wouldn't take much to tip him over the edge, but he was mindful that Harry was a recent victim of a sexual assault, and he faltered. He looked up into lustful green eyes, his hesitation apparent. "Go," Harry ground out, knowing what Snape was thinking and wanting this so badly that he'd hex Snape if he tried to stop now.

Trusting that Harry knew what he wanted, knew what he could handle, Snape worked a third finger in and grunted, "The spell?"

Wordlessly and wandlessly, Harry summoned the parchment from the pocket of his trousers on the floor. He handed the parchment to Snape and pressed down on the fingers spearing him, desperate for more, his cock hard again and desperate. Because he could not speak, he reached up and grabbed a handful of Snape's hair, pulling hard to get the man's attention. The grunt he forced out sounded enough like "Now!" for Snape to get the message.

"Face up or down?" Snape asked, withdrawing his fingers and taking more lubricant to oil his raging hard-on. He was quick about it, because too much would have led to an abrupt ending of the proceedings.

Harry was already on his back, and he patted the bed to indicate he was good as is. He wasn't sure he could do this if he wasn't looking at Snape. Lucius had . . . No, best not to think about that now. He would not let Lucius Fucking Malfoy ruin this thing he had wanted so badly for so long.

Snape slid a pillow beneath Harry's hips and positioned himself between the young man's knees. He picked up the piece of parchment, sure that if he'd had several hours, he could memorize the words and do this right. But they couldn't wait several hours. He didn't think he could wait several more seconds. He placed the parchment on Harry's stomach with a quick look of apology, then positioned himself at Harry's entrance.

"Ready?" he asked.

At Harry's nod, Snape pressed forward, finding the way instinctively to heaven. "Dear Merlin!" he breathed, the grip and the heat nearly overwhelming. He pushed until he was halfway buried, then stopped, panting. "Okay?" he asked.

Harry nodded and thrust his hips up, forcing more of Snape inside. When that wasn't enough, he reached up, put his hands on Snape's hips, and pulled him down forcefully, until he was fully impaled, and his balls rested against Harry's arse.

Snape froze, knowing he was only moments from coming, and began to read the archaic Latin spell, being careful not to stumble on any of the words. He was halfway through before he allowed himself to move again, knowing that it wouldn't take long and that he had to finish the spell at the moment of release. It became increasingly difficult to concentrate, and Snape clung with tenacity to the script in front of him.

Miraculously, the spell and the build-up ended simultaneously, and Snape uttered the final words just as he exploded deep inside Harry. Without even realizing it, he'd wrapped a hand around Harry's cock, and Harry joined him in bliss a moment later, shooting ropes of pearly come all over the parchment and himself and Snape. Snape collapsed atop Harry, pressing the parchment and the come into both of them. Snape knew they'd be stuck together if they stayed here long, but he couldn't make himself care.

Snape? he heard in his head, startling him up off of the warm body beneath him.

He stared down at the bright, happy eyes below him. "It worked?"

Harry shook his head and pressed a finger to Snape's lips, Not here, then pointed to Snape's head. Up here.

Snape concentrated for a moment, until he could feel the "door" in his mind that hadn't been there several minutes ago. Cautiously, he "opened" it. It worked.

It did.

This is amazing. Can I keep you out if I want?

Sure, Harry assured him. Just keep the door closed.

How far away can we get before the . . . connection no longer works?

Harry shrugged beneath him. Dunno. Hermione's in Australia, and I can talk to her there.

Amazing, Snape repeated.

And so much easier on my voice, Harry pointed out.

I suppose we ought to get up and get cleaned up, Snape thought, looking down between them.

Bath? Harry suggested with a suggestive raise of his eyebrows.

I've no bathtub here, regretfully. But a shower seems appealing.

Snape started to rise, but Harry pulled him back down and kissed him ardently. Snape went without protest. Thank you, Harry messaged him. That was incredible. It was everything I knew it would be. He reached up and pushed Snape's hair behind his ears, revealing the man's face. I'd like to do it again.

What? Now? Snape joked. I'm not as young as you, Potter.

I didn't notice any deficiencies. You have a magical cock there, Severus, and I can see you're not afraid to use it.

Whoa! Am I interrupting something? a female voice said in both their heads.

Snape's eyes went wide in shock at the intrusion, and Harry couldn't help but laugh, covering his mouth as he snickered soundlessly at Snape's discomfort. Hermione! Yeah, I'd have to say you were interrupting. But that's okay. We just finished.

Snape's face turned an adorable shade of magenta.

Hello, Severus, Hermione offered. I thought we could three-way with this!

Hermione! Harry pretended shock. You naughty girl!

Harry! That's not what I meant, and you know it! How are you?

I'm good. How are your parents?

As fascinating as this all is, Snape said, only half sarcastically, as this mind bond thing really was amazing, can I close this on my end?

Of course, Harry said. Close it the same way you opened it.

Snape "felt" for the door and "closed" it gently, just as he heard Hermione call, Sorry for the interruption!

Snape pulled himself off of Harry and stood up. The parchment ended up stuck to his stomach, and he heard Harry snickering again as he peeled it off. He bent over to pick up his clothing from the floor and heard Harry groan on the bed behind him, followed by the knocking at his mental door. He opened it and admitted Harry, just Harry this time.

I want your arse, Severus. Will you let me have your arse?

Tell me Miss Granger is gone, Snape begged.

Harry chuckled. She's gone. Well? Will you let me at that beautiful arse?

How could I resist such a romantic request? But first, a shower. And then, some food. After that . . . well, we have a lifetime to figure that out, don't we?