Title: Betrayal is the Only Truth That Sticks
Artist: 7types (can be found though snape-potter's livejournal/insanejournal/dreamwidth SeverusHarryBigBang)
Word Count: ~25,890
Fic Rating: NC-17
Art Rating: PG-13
Content/Warnings: (highlight for spoilers) *Angst, character death: NOT Harry or Severus, self harm (not in the form of suicide), character death (minor), sickness in children, child death, mention of miscarriage, language. Happier warnings: felching, (if you read all that and are unsure, I can promise a happy ending.)*
Summary: Love is whatever you can still betray. Betrayal can only happen if you love. John le Carre.
Author's Note: A huge thank you to allthingsmagical for her ideas, support and for being my sounding board. Beta'd by Abrae. The tile is courtesy of a quote from Arthur Miller. Notes at the end.
Artist's Note:Please click on the art to make it larger.
Betrayal is the Only Truth That Sticks
"Look at me," Severus gasped, and Harry turned his head to meet the inky black eyes.
Harry watched as Severus' eyes closed and he groaned loudly before falling back onto the bed. Frantically tugging at his own cock, Harry came over Severus' stomach and chest before he, too, slumped down over his lover.
One of Severus' hands swept over Harry's back and up into his hair, curling in the black mass there. Sighing happily, Harry nuzzled his lover's neck and raised his head to kiss Severus languidly. He pulled back and rested his head in Severus' palm, content to watch his lover as he was being watched himself.
It wasn't uncommon for Severus to stare into Harry's eyes, and Harry was content to let him. He knew his eyes were his best feature, and he loved that Severus loved that about him.
Shifting, Harry shivered as he felt Severus' soft cock slip out of him, sliding against his sensitive rim and making his own cock twitch. Suddenly, two fingers were teasing his entrance, just barely pressing inside him. Arching his back, Harry cried out and rocked back onto the fingers while trying to get more friction on his now-hard cock.
Severus moved quickly, withdrawing his fingers and pushing Harry off and onto his stomach on the bed. Hands pushed his thighs apart and teeth bit one of his arse cheeks before a slick tongue soothed the bite and trailed down his arse into the cleft, swiping over his used hole. Harry let out several moans and pleas as Severus lapped at his entrance, cleaning his young lover of his own seed, thrusting his tongue inside Harry and caressing his inner walls.
Holding out his hand, Severus silently summoned the lubricant he had made and efficiently slicked his own cock. Even though he was in his forties, Severus was a wizard and his recovery time was just as quick as Harry's. He removed his mouth and tongue from Harry's arse, causing a moan of protest to escape from the deliciously parted red lips.
Severus crawled up Harry's body, pulling his hips from the bed, and thrust in hard at the same time that he captured his lover's mouth in a fierce kiss, pushing his tongue inside as his cock thrust into Harry's body.
Harry tasted the earthy taste of his own body and the familiar tang of Severus' come as he was fed them by Severus' unrelenting tongue. Having come so soon beforehand and been teased relentlessly afterwards, Harry couldn't last long. After mere moments of furious fucking, Harry came hard and, as his body tensed, his channel convulsed around Severus, milking the older man of his own orgasm.
Exhausted from their efforts, Severus had barely enough energy to pull out of Harry and fall onto his back on the bed beside his young lover.
"Wow," Harry stated after a few moments of silence that was broken by their heavy panting.
Harry turned to look at his lover and blinked his eyes sleepily. "Sev'rus?"
For a moment Harry's half lidded eyes opened fully, and he whispered, "Love you," before closing his eyes and letting sleep overwhelm him.
Watching his lover fall asleep left Severus with a guilty feeling in his gut. They'd been dating for over a year now but that was the first time either had mentioned love, and Severus wasn't sure if he was relieved or disappointed that Harry fell asleep before he could respond.
Sighing heavily, Severus relaxed and curled one arm over Harry, pressing a kiss to his forehead before allowing himself to sleep.
Harry woke and glanced at the clock on the bedside table, groaning when he saw that if he didn't get up now he'd be late for work. Shifting away from Severus' warm body, Harry winced as the tender hairs on his stomach and groin pulled from the drying come on him.
Harry whispered a cleaning charm, then began to get himself ready. He pulled on his clothes and tossed his lime green robes over them, then turned to leave. Severus' sleep-rough voice sounded from the bed.
"Leaving without saying goodbye?"
"I didn't realise you were awake," Harry apologised as he made his way over to Severus. Sitting on the bed beside him and stroking his hair away from his face, he said, "I'm heading off to work-"
"Yes, I garnered that from the atrocious robes." Harry smiled as Severus continued, "I hate those robes. They do nothing for your eyes."
Harry grinned at Severus, then bent down and kissed his lover. "I know you just adore my eyes."
"You have Lily's eyes. Your best feature."
"Surely not my best feature, Severus." Harry smiled coyly. "I was always under the impression that my cock was my best feature."
Severus cupped said cock and gave it a squeeze through Harry's trousers, relishing the way Harry's eyes fluttered closed and his cheeks flushed.
"Get to work, brat," Severus said affectionately as he released Harry.
Glowering at Severus, Harry stood and kissed him fiercely. With a bit of wandless magic, Severus' cock was encased in a cock ring and Harry turned back to look at him from the doorway. "Don't go getting any ideas about taking it off. We'll finish this when I get back from the hospital."
Severus growled, and he heard Harry's laughter fade as the Floo took him away. He rolled out of bed and smirked at the place where Harry had been. He knew Harry's magic and what was required to take the cock ring off, so he waved his wand and…nothing happened. Silently cursing Harry for changing the magic around the ring, Severus endeavoured to make the most of his time alone, preparing for Harry's return.
It had been a long day for Harry and his shift was almost over, but an emergency call had just sounded and Harry ran into the room, pausing when he saw Ron and Hermione with their young daughter, Rose, on the bed.
"We don't know. She was fine all day -" Hermione bit her lip.
"But…" Harry prompted, running diagnostics on Rose's body while his friend talked.
"But a few minutes ago she just turned. Went limp in Ron's arms, went cold and was barely breathing." Hermione bit back a sob.
Harry chanted in Latin, trying a few of the more obscure diagnostic charms, but he could find nothing wrong with Rose. He surreptitiously conjured a vial and drew two separate blood samples from the five year old, then he put his goddaughter in a stasis spell with another charm that would alert him to any change – big or small – in her condition.
"I'm going to send one lot of blood down to the lab and give the other lot to Severus."
Surprised, Harry glanced at Ron.
"He's the best chance you've got at finding what, if anything, has contaminated her blood. The labs here are useless – we all know it – and nothing is showing up on my scans for curses, charms or magical interference."
"I don't care. He's a slimy bastard."
Sighing heavily, Harry looked at Hermione, who had moved to Rose's bedside and away from her friend and husband. This was an old argument between the two men, and Hermione never wanted any part of it.
"Look, I know you don't like him and never have, but Severus is able to help."
"I don't care!"
"What is your problem with him, Ron? I'm getting really sick and tired of you hating him all the time." Harry threw his hands up in frustration, glaring at Ron, waiting for an answer.
"I don't want to see you hurt." Ron's voice had gone soft and his eyes sad as he stared at Harry. "I don't want to be the one to tell you but, Harry, he's in love with your mother, and when he's with you all he ever says is 'you have Lily's eyes'."
"That's not true!" Harry denied.
"But it is! You know it is! Think about it, Harry. You're kidding yourself if you think he loves you. I know you love him, I know that you think he loves you, but he doesn't. He's using you!"
Harry didn't answer, he couldn't. Instead he glanced at Rose and said quietly, "I'll let you know as soon as I find anything." He fled the room, and finally the hospital, without so much as looking at his friends or anyone else.
Once he was back home, Harry was pinned to the wall by Severus, who kissed him harshly and thrust his bound erection against Harry's hip.
Pulling away from the kiss and waving his hand to release Severus' cock, Harry moved away from his lover to sit on the sofa, staring into the fire. Severus sensed that something was wrong and summoned his robes, tugging them on as he moved to sit beside Harry.
"What is wrong?"
Harry shook his head and clenched his fists, only then realising that he was still holding the vial. Silently, he handed it to Severus.
"Ah. And what symptoms does the patient exhibit?"
"Limp body, cold to the touch, and shallow breathing."
Nodding his dark head, Severus then pinned Harry with his dark gaze. "Would you like to be alone?"
"Please." Harry whispered, wondering how Severus could not love him, if he knew what Harry needed? Or had his mother been like this, too?
Severus brushed his lips over Harry's eyes, which closed as he got nearer, then stood and made his way to his potions laboratory. Watching him go, Harry stood and poured himself a drink of scotch from the sideboard. Severus liked it when he only knew the symptoms of the patients, and he could work out the patient's age, blood magic levels of their parents, their sex and what, if anything, was contaminating the blood.
Once he was settled back on the sofa, Harry summoned his medical dictionary and began perusing it for possible causes of Rose's symptoms, trying to push Ron's words to the back of his mind.
Harry woke with a start and glanced around his bedroom. This wasn't where he had fallen asleep, but when he felt the bed shift next to him as Severus turned over, Harry realised that he must have fallen asleep while reading the large tome and been carried to bed by Severus.
Harry lay back on the bed and curled away from Severus' warmth, Ron's words still echoing in his head. He stared at the ceiling until Severus shifted, his hand stretching across the sheets to see if Harry was still there and, when it encountered Harry's bare hip an arm's length away, Severus opened his eyes and peered at his lover.
"Harry?" he questioned quietly.
"Morning." Harry leant over and pressed a kiss to Severus' cheek, then rolled over and got out of bed, pulling on a pair of boxers. When he turned back around, Severus was sitting up against the headboard scowling at him, lazily twirling his wand between his fingers. It was a gesture that Harry had seen often enough in the war to know that Severus sensed something was wrong and wasn't sure if it was dangerous or not.
"Is it the little girl? Or is it something else?"
"It's the girl," Harry rushed out, sighing as Severus' frown deepened into a look of disbelief. "What information have you gathered?"
"Five year old girl, one parent pureblood, the other Muggleborn, and nothing is contaminating her blood. I've set it in another potion to see what is in her blood and discover whether it contains anything unusual to which she may be allergic."
"Okay," Harry nodded, and when Severus did nothing more than stare at him, waiting for an answer to his previous question, Harry crumbled onto the mattress. "It's Rosie."
"Yeah -" Harry hiccoughed a sob "- and I don't know how to help her, I don't know what's wrong. Ron's being a bastard. Saying that – things that aren't true."
Severus' hand rested on Harry's chest, his thumb moving in soft strokes across Harry's skin. "What has he been saying?"
"That you don't love me." Harry held his breath, waiting for a reaction. However, Severus was impossible to read, he always had been.
"Is that all?" Severus asked, leaning down to suckle at Harry's neck, pressing soft kisses into the flesh there and moving up to his face.
As he pressed his lips to Harry's cheeks and up to his eyes, Harry continued, "He says that you're using me 'cause I'm the closest thing you can get to being with my mum. Ron reckons that you're in love with her and are only with me because we have the same eyes."
Harry felt Severus pause above him and draw away, Harry opening his eyes in time to see a flash of something cross Severus' face, which Harry read as guilt, before Severus calmed himself into impassivity. "It's true?" Harry's whisper hung in the air between them as Severus neither did nor said anything to dispute it.
Feeling sick to his stomach, Harry got off the bed and away from Severus as quickly as he could, grabbing his wand and the medical tome that were on the bedside table. "I feel sick. You were fucking me all this time imagining I was mymother. Oh god…" Harry gasped as his vision blurred and he rushed to the bathroom, heaving over the toilet bowl. A wet, cold flannel was placed on the back of his neck, and he flinched as Severus' long fingers tried to hold his hair back.
"Don't touch me! Don't you dare touch me!" Harry cried out hysterically, not seeing the hurt on Severus' face as he reached out again.
"Shut up! Shut up! You sick son of a bitch! I wish you had have died when that snake bit you! I wish I'd never bothered with you after the war! I- I wish- I wish I had never loved you!" he screamed. Gathering his magic and clutching the book and his wand tighter he Apparated out, straight through their wards.
Severus stared at the place from which Harry had literally ripped himself, and he sank to his knees with burning eyes, a lump in his throat and an overwhelming ache in his heart.
Harry landed with a thud in the dusty living room of an empty Grimmauld Place, and he dropped his wand and book. Looking around the old living room he caught sight of a picture of his parents on the mantel and, stumbling to his feet, Harry grabbed it and threw it into the cold fireplace, then hunched over sobbing and screaming. He tore at his chest, nails digging in, wanting to rip the pain from his chest, wanting the memories of Snape's touch out of his head. He dry heaved over the carpet.
Harry was oblivious to the crack in the air that signalled Kreacher's arrival to, and quick departure from, the house. Soon after, he felt small, soft hands pulling him into Molly's embrace as she cuddled him, whispering, "Let it out, sweetheart, let it out. That's it, Harry, you cry love, you get it all out."
Harry sobbed brokenly into her chest until he eventually calmed down enough to be able to talk.
"Hush, Harry, hush. You don't need to talk, I'm here."
Harry pulled back and looked into her kind face, trying to stop more tears from falling as she wiped her handkerchief over his face. "Do you want to talk about it, love?"
Harry shook his head vehemently. "He used me, Mum, he used me."
Molly's eyes went wide with surprise, whether at an idea of Snape she'd never thought possible, or at being called 'Mum', Harry didn't know. Then she pulled him back close. "Let's get some tea and some water shall we? Kreacher," she called after Harry nodded, "tea and a glass of water please."
The old elf bowed and popped out of sight while Harry snuggled into the warmth of her chest, feeling her gentle hands soothe him to sleep.
Harry woke with a start, tears blurring his vision again. He still felt sick to his stomach, but he was going to do what he could to help Rosie and put Snape out of his mind. Wiping a hand over his eyes, Harry noticed that he wasn't in the living room of Grimmauld Place any longer – he wasn't in Grimmauld Place at all. He was upstairs in Ron's old room at the Burrow, the orange walls and Chudley Cannons bedcover and poster, from which the players waved happily at him, a dead giveaway.
Sitting up, he saw that his chest was covered in pink, newly-healed skin overlaying the crisscross of nail scratch marks. He knew that some of the deeper ones would not have healed well under Molly's home magic, and that without a healer at least three of them would scar.
Harry put his glasses on, then stretched and stood. Looking out the window, he saw that the sky was red and the sun was setting – or was it rising? – so he threw on an old pair of Ron's jeans, which were slightly too long and too tight, and a faded Cannons t-shirt before making his way downstairs.
As he got closer to the kitchen he heard the soft murmur of voices. It was difficult to tell who was there, but Harry felt confident that he was safe. Walking more heavily so they would hear him, Harry entered the kitchen to find Molly, Arthur and Ron sitting in silence.
"Morning," he said gruffly, his voice rough from all the crying and screaming.
"Evening, more like." Arthur smiled as Molly stood.
"I'm just about to start some tea, any requests?"
"Whatever you're cooking will be wonderful M-Mum."
Molly put the wooden spoon she had just picked up back onto the bench and came round to hug Harry, who clung to her for a moment before pulling away. He coughed awkwardly and Molly wiped her face.
"How's Rosie?" he asked Ron, who inclined his head towards the door.
"Let's get some fresh air."
They made their way outside. Harry knew that Ron wouldn't be able to be completely frank with him if Molly and Arthur were listening.
They got to the chicken coop, and Ron stopped and hugged Harry quickly and tightly before letting go, ears red with embarrassment. "Rose hasn't improved. Her skin is still cold and her body still limp. Hermione's with her now but I need to get her home. She can't stay at the hospital all the time."
"It's hard for her, I know, I've seen it before. Hermione will be okay, though. She needs to be there more for herself than for Rosie."
"It's not that, it's the stress of seeing Rose like that. It ain't good."
Harry frowned and Ron shoved his hands deep into his pockets. "She's pregnant, mate."
"Congratulations." Harry smiled and hugged Ron before his smile faded. "I will do everything in my power to make sure Rosie gets better, so she can be the best big sister. And I'll talk to Hermione."
They stood in silence watching the chickens for a few minutes before Ron asked cautiously, "You okay?"
"No. No, I'm not. You were right, Ron, and I- I can't believe I didn't see it."
"You loved him."
"It's not loved yet, Ron. I still do. I hatehim too but-" Harry took a deep breath. "I'll be okay. I'm going to stay here for a while and then look for my own place. But I'll be working more. I found a couple of things last night that it could be, and Se- Snape said that there was nothing unusual in her blood. However, there could be something that she's had before but her body can't tolerate. I'll look into it, and I'll be okay."
"I know you will." Whether Ron meant that he knew Harry would look into Rose's condition, or that he would be okay, Harry couldn't say, but he accepted the statement for what it was, an apology.
Slowly they headed back inside and Ron left via the Floo. Harry helped Molly chop some vegetables for the chicken and vegetable pie while Arthur laid the table. When the pie was cooking in the oven, the three moved to the lounge where Molly started knitting, Arthur read the paper and Harry summoned his medical tome to read through. Their simple domesticity calmed him in a way that nothing else could have, and he was grateful that Molly and Arthur understood him enough to give him this sense of support.
A tapping sound made them all look up at the window, where an imperious eagle owl was holding a letter. Harry froze.
"Do you want me to send it back, son?" Arthur asked.
"It might be something about Rose," Harry said, sounding uncertain.
"Would you like me to read it?"
Harry nodded and let Arthur take the letter. The bird flew in and landed on Harry's shoulder. "Atticus, you need to go ho- home. You can't stay here. And there will be no return message."
The bird flew out the window and Harry turned to Arthur, who opened the note, read it over once and looked up at Harry. "He says that there was nothing unusual in Rose's blood. There were trace elements of valerian and Flobberworm mucous, which are in multiple potions. He says that he's researching what potions contain those ingredients. And-" Arthur hesitated, "and he says that he misses you. Asks that you at least talk to him."
Arthur sighed. "I know that, Harry."
They settled into silence until dinner was served, and after the hearty meal Harry went upstairs to Ron's room and made notes on potions with Flobberworm mucous and valerian before he eventually crawled into the too small, too cold and too empty bed and cried himself to sleep.
Over the next week Harry kept himself busy at the hospital. There had been little change in Rose's condition, and there were two more cases that had Harry running ragged trying to find their cause.
The first, a little boy: Frank Longbottom Junior, Neville and Hannah's six-year-old son. Frank's symptoms were a high fever and hyperactivity; he was usually such a calm, quiet child that his bouts of enthusiasm and loudness were unusual and disconcerting.
And a girl, Kayla Jones, aged four, whose only symptoms were a high fever and chills. She'd been diagnosed with a mild case of the wizard flu, but her mother brought her back in after a week because she wasn't getting any better.
None of the children had anything in common, but something in Harry's gut was telling him that they were all somehow connected, and he hadn't stayed alive for twenty-six years by ignoring his instincts. So he kept the three isolated in individual rooms next to one another, and Harry went from one to the other trying find something they all had in common. He barely slept, and his dreams were more like nightmares about Snape. He spent most of his nights sitting up in Ron's bed, poring over books and articles for something that might connect the symptoms of the three children.
The day after Ron visited the Burrow, Harry had gone into Rose's room to find Hermione heaving into the little bin by the side of the bed, her hand gripping her daughter's limp one.
"Oh, Hermione," Harry had said while he held back her hair and conjured a facecloth that he dampened with anauguamenti. Wiping it over her face, he had waited until she was finished throwing up before helping her stand and pulling her out of Rose's room.
They had made their way to the foyer, from which Harry then Flooed with her to the Burrow. Molly had popped her head in from the kitchen and then gone back inside to make a cup of tea while Harry knelt in front of his best friend.
"Hermione, love, you need to rest. It's no good being with Rosie twenty-four seven."
"She needs me."
He had laid his hand on her flat abdomen, saying "This one needs you too."
Hermione's eyes had filled with tears and Harry pulled her into his embrace, letting her sob into his shoulder as he whispered, "I'll be with Rosie, Mione. I'll keep her company and make her better. I promise I will do everything in my power."
"I know," she had whispered into his neck before pulling away and wiping her face as Molly came in from the kitchen with a cup of weak tea. Harry had smiled at the two women, standing to leave. "I have to get back to work. I'll let Ron know you're here, Hermione, and I'll be home for tea, Mum. See you both later."
Harry had Flooed back to work, and when he'd gotten back that night, Ron and Hermione had moved into Fred and George's old room. Molly and Arthur were pleased to have the house filling up again, despite the unhappy circumstances.
And a few days later, Harry had two more cases and no idea what to do. The atmosphere in the Burrow was becoming strained, as Ron didn't think Harry was doing enough.
"How is she?" Harry asked as he made his way to Kayla's bedside.
"No change, Healer," Kayla's mother, Jordyn, sighed.
"I'm doing all I can, Miss Jones."
"I know, but she's all I have."
Harry placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. "Why don't you get a cup of tea? I'll stay with her."
Jordyn reluctantly left, and Harry pored over the girl's notes once more, hoping they would show him something new. Unfortunately, just as Jordyn came back in the room, the alarm sounded and Harry had to rush out, making his way to a room where a group of people were waiting.
"What's going on?" he demanded as he pushed through several children to reach the parents. The father was holding a lethargic boy, and the mother held the hand of a girl who was running around, seemingly unstoppably. Much like Frank, Harry thought, and he cast a diagnostic spell over them, discovering that the boy was cold while the girl was hot.
"Follow me," Harry said, then spun around and made his way to a room opposite Rose's. He was so focused on the twins that he didn't notice Ron watching from the doorway. Harry directed the parents to put one child on each bed, and then he took two lots of blood from each child before placing them under a Stasis spell and talking quietly to their father, while their mother sat between the beds holding her children's hands. Their four accompanying children crowded around her.
Finally, Harry was able to leave the children's room, exhausted.
Startled, Harry looked up at Ron, not liking the unreadable expression on his face, and nodded. "Two, twins."
"Mate, I know it's hard and you're doing all you can do, but you need to admit you need outside help."
"I've consulted with Healers everywhere, Ron."
"That's not what I meant. It's not whoI meant."
Harry frowned. He didn't know what Ron was on about until the redhead took a step forward and nodded at the vials of blood in Harry's hand. "Snape. I know you don't want to Harry, and I hate the fuckingbastard but you need his help."
A feeling of cold gripped him and his stomach twisted. A lump formed in his throat, and he shook his head. Ron was right beside him, his large hand on the back of Harry's neck, holding on and grounding him while Harry's vision bubbled black and his ears roared. Moments later they cleared, and Harry found himself shaking his head and gasping, "No, no."
"Mate, I know you don't want to have anything to do with him. I knowthat you want to pretend the last year didn't happen, but it did. And you need to face it. The more you're in denial about your relationship with Snape, the worse off you're going to be."
Harry slid to the floor and Ron was right beside him, kneeling down. "Harry, you need to face this, and you have to ask for his help. You know how long I was in denial about Fred, how I wouldn't accept his death until you forced me to by taking me to his grave. You risked our friendship that day, and now I'mrisking it for you. Write to him, send him the blood, and see what he says about what is in their blood. You can't save these kids, Harry, not by yourself."
Harry grasped Ron's hand, nodding at his oldest friend. "Okay," he said hoarsely. "Okay."
"Good," Ron said, satisfied, and he stood and left, leaving Harry sitting in the corridor staring at the vials of blood in his hands.
When Harry got to the Burrow that evening, he had five vials of blood labelled Patient One: which was Rose, Patient Two: which was Frank, Patient Three: Kayla, Patient Four: Christopher and Patient Five: Sally. He ran out to the shed and collected an old test tube rack from among Arthur's Muggle items, adjusting it to fit the vials. Carefully, he placed the little glass jars in the rack and warded them with charms against breaking and leakage, then went to the table in the kitchen, quill in hand, and stared at a piece of blank parchment.
Footsteps behind him made Harry turn guiltily. He flushed in embarrassment as Hermione smiled at him kindly. "Having trouble?"
"I don't know what to say. I can barely think about him without wanting to throw up. The thought of writing to him makes me want to shower; it makes me feel so dirty and so used. I don't know how to react to that."
"I think I understand."
The two friends sat in silence for a few moments, Harry writing a few lines and then crossing them out, before Hermione said, "What have you got so far?"
To Mister Snape
"I don't even know how to start it." Harry slumped in his chair. "I can't even say his name and writing it isn't much easier. But calling him Mister Snapeseems too cold." He held up his hands in frustration. "I know, I know. What he did was callous and cold, but I don't have it in me, Hermione."
She wrapped an arm around his shoulders. "So how about just 'Snape'?"
Harry pursed his lips, then grabbed a new piece of parchment and wrote the name with careful deliberation. Then he glanced up at Hermione. "Now what?"
"Here," she said, taking the quill from him and writing on his rough piece of parchment. She scribbled for a few minutes before pressing her lips to his cheek as she stood to leave. "Just copy that down. He'll never know."
He grinned as he read over what Hermione had written. "You're a wonder, Hermione. I could kiss you, but I'd rather not, so go snog Ron or something."
Her soft laugh echoed as she left the kitchen, and Harry got down to writing word-for-word what Hermione had drafted. When he was done, he read it over just to be sure it was what he wanted to say.
There is a situation at the hospital. Children are presenting with various symptoms, and I feel they are all connected in a way that is not clear. Your help is needed to find what is in each child's blood, to see if it matches up with Rose Weasley's.
The symptoms of each patient are as follows-
Patient One: cold to the touch, limp and shallow breathing.
Patient Two: high fever and hyperactivity.
Patient Three: high fever but complains of feeling cold.
Patient Four: hyperactivity and cold to the touch.
Patient Five: limp and hot to the touch, but no fever.
St. Mungo's will compensate you for your time and expertise.
Harry sat back and waited until the ink was dry before folding the letter up and attaching it to the vial rack. He opened the window and called for the Weasleys' owl, Aleda, and when she was perched on the windowsill, Harry tied the letter to her leg and placed one more charm over the whole container, watching as the owl grabbed it with both feet.
"It needs to go to Se- Severus Snape," Harry choked out, and the barn owl took to the air. Hurrying away from the window, Harry stomped up the stairs two at a time until he reached the bathroom, slamming the door shut, then throwing his glasses onto the counter so forcefully they fell into the sink. He turned the shower on and, while he waited for the water to heat up, he stripped off his clothes and climbed in.
His skin almost immediately turned pink, and he opened his mouth to let the water fill it up as he tried to get rid of the bitter taste left by Severus' name. Unable to stop the tears that welled in his eyes, Harry hung his head and allowed the water to beat down over his shoulders and hair as he cried silently. He couldn't help but imagine the feel of Severus' comforting warmth against his chest, his gentle, potion-stained hands smoothing down his thighs, and soft kisses against his neck.
Grabbing his wand, Harry conjured a facecloth and some soap and scrubbed harshly at his skin, purging himself of the imagined touch. When he had finished, Harry's skin stung in the hot water, and he looked down at his chest and thighs to find his skin mottled with streaks of blood where his fingers had dug into it through the cloth.
Fumbling a little, he turned the water off and gently patted himself dry. He tenderly slid his boxers back up his legs and stepped into his jeans, wincing as the rough denim irritated the now-tender skin of his thighs. Harry put on his shirt and sucked in a startled gasp as the material brushed his stomach, where most of the skin on his torso was chafed. His pectorals were the only unscathed part of him, protected from the frenzied scrubbing by the hair that covered them.
Harry avoided looking in the mirror and wiped a hand over his face. He picked up his glasses and wand, then left the bathroom.
Ron was waiting for him on the landing.
"This came for you," he said, handing Harry a letter. He gripped his friend's shoulder briefly before making his way downstairs. Harry turned the letter over; there was no name on the envelope to tell him who it was from.
Warily, he sat down on the bottom step leading from the landing up to Ron's attic bedroom. Harry opened the letter by carefully lifting the wax seal. Though he didn't look at it closely, he vaguely recognised it, which made his stomach jump into his throat.
Healer Potter, Harry read, and the cold grip of fear slowly melted away as he realised he didn't recognise the writing after all. My wife, Susan Bones as you know her, has begged me to write you. Our son Scorpius is three years old and has been showing some erratic behaviour – his features change and his hair takes on a tinge of colour occasionally, and he is unable to make any noise.
Our friend Hannah Longbottom has informed us of your dealings with Frank, and we are hoping that you will be able to help Scorpius.
I am willing to pay you extra for your discretion and help.
Harry sat back in shock. He hadn't expected this. It had caused quite the scandal four years ago when pureblood Draco Malfoy had, seemingly out of the blue, proposed to halfblood Susan Bones. They'd had little interaction at Hogwarts but, after leaving school, both had gone to work for Gringotts and met there. In the post-war world, Draco Malfoy was learning to accept people of other blood statuses and other Hogwarts Houses, and he clearly had accepted Susan more than anyone might have expected.
Re-reading the letter, Harry detected a note of urgency in its lack of formal small talk at the beginning. Checking that he still had his wand in his pocket, he stood and ran a hand through his hair before clomping down the stairs and back into the kitchen, where Molly and Hermione were preparing dinner.
"I can't talk right now, Hermione, I have another possible patient. I don't know when I'll be back so don't wait up – but save me some dinner, yeah?" he said as he ran round the kitchen to peck Hermione and Molly on their cheeks. He hurried to the Floo and stepped into the hearth. Harry took a deep breath and shouted "Malfoy Manor," then threw down the powder and tucked his elbows in for the ride.
Tumbling out of the Floo at the other end, Harry cursed as he looked through cracked glasses at the white marble floors over which he had just rained dust. He drew his wand from his pocket and cast in quick succession "Occulus Reparo" and "Scourgify." Satisfied with the results, Harry turned around to find a door and jumped when he noticed a house-elf standing in the doorway.
"Shit!" he exclaimed. "Can I help you?"
The creature's eyes widened almost impossibly. "Oh no, sirs, you cannot be helping me. I must be helping you."
"Can you tell Draco Malfoy that he has a visitor?"
Small, long-fingered hands reached up to grab long ears. "Master already has a visitor. They's not to be interrupted. Master is angry with his potions visitor."
Harry froze, panicking slightly. 'Potions visitor' would mean Snape. He still had a lot to do with the Malfoys, but Harry had never asked to accompany him on his visits. Harry was not ready to face Snape, so he asked instead, "How about Susan Malfoy?"
"She is with young Master." The elf shook its head and twisted the clean pillowcase it was wearing around the fingers of one hand while the other tugged at its ear.
Sighing in frustration, Harry asked through clenched teeth, "Well, can you take me to them?"
The elf said nothing, but merely continued to twist its ear and clothing. Harry drew out his wand, and saying, "I'm Healer Potter." He conjured up the logo of St. Mungo's, a magic only Healers were allowed. The elf bowed at the sight and said, "Please being following me."
They strode through the halls to the grand entrance and then up the stairs, walking quickly past a slightly open door from which Harry could hear the low hum of male voices. He quickened his pace, almost treading on the elf, who had stopped four doors down from the office. "You is here."
Harry thanked the elf, who meeped and winked out of sight with a quiet pop. Knocking softly on the door, he pushed it open to the sound of Susan's quiet, "He's asleep, Draco."
"Uh, I'm not Draco," Harry said just as quietly, and he soon found himself with an armful of heavily pregnant Susan.
"Harry, thank you so much for coming!" she said as she pulled back and wiped her eyes. Harry smiled at her before glancing at the small blond boy lying on the bed.
As he started on the diagnostic scans, Harry heard Susan say, "He didn't think you'd come after all your issues at Hogwarts, but I told him you were beyond that – both of you were – and then Draco thought you'd stay away because of how badly your relationship with Se- Scorp's uncle ended."
"My private life won't prevent me from treating a patient."
Susan smiled gratefully and waddled over to her chair next to the bed, taking Scorpius' hand. The boy shifted in his sleep, and Harry leaned close as the boy's eyes fluttered open. Harry was aware of two distinct things: one, that the bedroom door had opened, meaning Snape and Harry were only feet apart, and two, that Scorpius' pupils were contracted unnaturally for such a dark room.
"Hello, my name is Harry. Can you tell me your name?" Harry said softly to Scorpius.
The boy's small mouth opened, and his white blond hair began to glow with a faint pink tinge, but no sound came out. His little hands grabbed at Susan's, and Harry turned to look sharply at Draco, momentarily ignoring Severus and the way he was eyeing Harry up and down like a starving man. "Has he exhibited any signs of being a Metamorphmagus?"
"No," said Draco warily.
Harry cast a gentle sleeping charm and then drew two vials of blood before turning to Susan. "Susan, how far along are you?"
"That's not why you're here, Potter," Draco snapped from behind him, but Harry ignored him, keeping his attention on his wife.
"I need you to stay here for the time being. I want to take Scorpius to St. Mungo's, and I will need to perform a certain spell on him, one which will not harm him but is not pleasant for the parents to watch."
"Okay." She nodded and looked over Harry's shoulder at her husband, who strode forward to pick up his son while Harry picked up the two vials and followed directly behind Draco. He didn't look at Severus, but pressed one vial into his hand as he passed, doing his best to ignore the sparks that shot up his spine at the touch. He could not, however, hide his shiver of disgust or the sneer that curled his lips.
Snape glanced from Harry down to the vial in his hand as Harry forced himself to follow Malfoy to the Floo, feeling sick and suddenly exhausted. They were soon down the stairs and in front of a different Floo from before. "Floo to my office, Malfoy," Harry said. "I'll be right behind you."
The blond tightened his grip on his son, called out, "Healer Potter's office, St. Mungo's," and was gone in a woosh of flames. As soon as they had died down, Harry stepped in and put his glasses in his pocket before he, too, left.
Arriving at his office, Harry felt in his pocket for his glasses and shoved them on his face. He placed the vial of blood down on his desk and quietly said, "This way," guiding Malfoy and Scorpius out of the room and down the hallway to a room next to the twins' and opposite Frank's.
Draco laid Scorpius on the bed, and Harry asked him to leave the room.
"I'm not leaving my son!"
"Mal- Draco, I'll charm the wall so you can see inside, but as I told Susan, this test will not be pleasant to watch and I cannot have you in here interfering with my job. Please," Harry said, holding open the door, and reluctantly Malfoy left. Harry shut and locked the door, then cast a charm on the wall where Malfoy was standing so only he could see what was happening.
Taking a deep breath, Harry raised his wand and began to chant under his breath. Scorpius' little body rose in the air and harsh light shot out from his fingertips and toes, arching around him and encasing his body in a bubble of light.
Harry cast another spell at Scorpius' body, but this one had no effect. He nodded in understanding before lowering the little body back down onto the bed and covering him with the sheet.
Unlocking the door with a wave of his wand, Harry let an irate Malfoy into the room. "What the fuck was that Potter?"
Harry cast a Stasis charm over Scorpius and one to alert him to any changes, then turned to face Draco. "That was a test we do to check Metamorphmagus ability. It didn't hurt him, I promise you that. But I did find out some things."
"What?" Draco's voice was weary. "Tell me, Potter."
"Scorpius has a dormant Metamorphmagus gene, one that comes from the Black side of the family, and whatever is causing the various illnesses, in Scorpius and the other children, has awakened the gene in Scorpius, forcing it to manifest. Unfortunately, Scorpius' magic and body cannot handle it, because it is forcing a dormant magic to the surface, and his body is too small to cope with the pressure it is causing on his magic. Also, other parts of his body are shutting down. His voice box was affected first. Physically, there is nothing wrong with it and he should be able to make sound, except the pressure of the Metamorphmagus magic is making it impossible, because it's shutting down some of his normal functions to work. Also, unfortunately, his kidneys are only working at about eighty per cent efficiency.
"I've put him under a Stasis charm to keep the magic – and whatever is in his system – dormant. However, as with all the children, he can only be under it for two weeks. The first patient in has one week left, and we need to find out what the underlying problem is before then. You are welcome to stay with Scorpius."
Draco seemed at a loss for words, so Harry laid a hand on his arm. "I'll tell you what I've told all the other parents: I will do everything in my power to make him better. There is a room at the far end of the hall, opposite my office, where you can get tea and coffee and water, and meet the other parents whose children are here."
"Thank you," Draco said quietly and gratefully.
"You're welcome," Harry said, then smiled wanly and left the man with his son. He returned to his office and started to write up reports on Scorpius, sending the vial of blood down to the lab. He was so tired that the words began to blur, but Harry couldn't afford to fall asleep—not when the lives of six children were in his hands. Sighing heavily, he pulled yet another tome down from the shelf and began to research what might cause the Metamorphmagus gene to exhibit in a child while simultaneously shutting down other bodily functions.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Harry startled awake and let his heavy head fall into his hands as he waited for the pounding to go away. He sat up slowly and stood, opening the window to untie the letter on the owl's leg. Atticus flew in and landed on his shoulder, his beak lightly pecking at Harry's hair. Harry cast a Tempus charm and groaned: five-fifteen in the morning. He cast a spell to light the lamps in the room, then sat back down to read the letter.
All the patients, Scorpius included, have the same trace amount of Flobberworm mucous and valerian in their blood. This indicates that they have all been dosed with a potion, for that is the only logical reason for both ingredients to be in all their bloodstreams. Below, I have compiled a list of potions that contain these two ingredients; however, I am at a loss as to how six children could all be affected with the exact same amount of a potion if they are unknown to one another. We need to discern where they could all have been in the two days prior to their poisoning. Further, I do not understand how they could all have been affected on different days. It is a complete mystery.
Forgetfulness potion (perhaps, if there is a nefarious plot involved… but unlikely)
Cough potion (most likely)
Sleeping potion (plausible)
Passion potion (also unlikely)
Hiccoughing Solution (likely)
Swelling Solution (plausible)
The majority of these contain valerian, be it root, sprig or leaf, and Flobberworm mucous is used to thicken the potion, not as a main, nor active, ingredient. Valerian can also be used to treat epilepsy and nerve damage if crushed to form a paste, and Flobberworm mucous could be added to thicken the paste, but that would be highly unusual.
On a personal note, I miss you, Harry, and I never got the chance to address your accusations. If you are amenable, I would like the chance to do so.
Harry put the letter down on his desk and ran a hand over his face, rubbing his eyes under his glasses. Severus' letter was perfectly professional until the last line, and Harry wanted to scratch it out and pretend it wasn't there. Severus had nothing to say that Harry wanted to hear.
He raised his arms over his head and stretched, then stood and headed down to check on each of his patients. He began with the twins, but there was no change in either.
Scorpius' room was empty except for the little boy, who was still in his protective Stasis charm bubble, so Harry left him to go and see Kayla. Miss Jones, as usual, was sitting by her only daughter's bedside. Harry had learnt that when Kayla was born her father had done a runner and, as he had not contacted either since, Jordyn had been raising the girl alone.
Frank was also alone in his room, as Neville and Hannah both had gone home the night before to sleep, trusting Harry to alert them if anything changed. Harry checked Frank's stats and sighed. No change.
Finally, Harry went to Rosie's room. Looking down at his goddaughter's pale, still body, Harry felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. He should fix this, he hadto fix it, and to fix it he needed Severus. Admitting that to himself was hard; the feelings that rose up when he thought of the man confused him. He hated Severus, but that didn't mean he'd stopped loving him. Harry's magic had sung yesterday when he touched Severus. But, at the same time, his body was disgusted by the touch, and it was all so confusing. He sat down on Rosie's bed and put his head in his hands. The day was just not starting out well. He hadn't been home nor eaten since lunch yesterday, and he'd slept poorly, bent over his desk. He wanted it all to be over – he just wanted to crawl into his bed with Severus and hide under the covers until it was all done and the sickness had gone away.
Harry knew that he couldn't do that, though, so he stayed there holding Rosie's hand and praying to a god he didn't believe in that she'd be okay, going over every tiny detail in his head one more time.
He was still sitting there a little while later when Ron and Hermione arrived to see their daughter.
"Harry?" Hermione asked tentatively, before rushing forward to engulf him in a hug. Harry started, as he'd been lost in his own thoughts, and pulled back slightly before drawing his best friend into a tight embrace.
They broke apart, and Hermione bent down to press a kiss to Rose's cheek while Ron brushed her coppery hair away from her face. Harry slipped silently out of the room, pausing in surprise as Neville, followed closely by Draco, came out of Scorpius' room.
Frowning, Harry watched as Neville patted Draco on the upper arm before squeezing his shoulder in a friendly manner. The two men smiled sadly at one another, and Draco departed the hospital, leaving Neville to head into Frank's room.
As he walked slowly back to his office, Harry wondered how the two men had become friends. Of course, Harry thought quickly, their wives had both been Hufflepuffs and were friends at Hogwarts, and they would have remained friends and brought their husbands into each other's lives.
Sitting down at his desk, Harry went over what he knew.
Six patients. Three boys, three girls. Two boys aged six, one aged three. One a twin, his sister also three, and the two other girls were four and five. All had the same trace amount of valerian and Flobberworm mucous, but how? That was the question that he couldn't even begin to answer.
Harry determined that he needed to talk with the parents of the children. He grabbed a few quills and some parchment and then checked the rooms. Only Neville, Ron and Hermione, and the ever-present Jordyn Jones were in with their children.
"Nev?" Harry asked softly.
The man looked tired, Harry thought. He had black shadows under his eyes and his skin was pale. "I need to speak with you and Hannah later this afternoon."
"Okay. Do you want us here?"
"It doesn't matter. I can come to you if it's easier."
Neville nodded, his eyes sad as he looked at his son. "That might be best. Hannah can't cope with being here for too long. It's hard for her to see him like this."
"It's hard for all of us, Nev," Harry said in sympathy. "If it isn't too much trouble, I need you to write down everything you can think of that Frank ate and drank, where he went, who he played or interacted with, how he was feeling, and when his behaviour changed. If you or Hannah gave him any potions in the two or three days before he was brought in, write those down, too." Harry looked seriously at his old friend. "I know it's going to be difficult, but it'll really help."
"I know it will, Harry. You never ask for anything unless it'll help someone else." Neville grinned for a moment and Harry reached up to grip his shoulder
"I'll see you later on this afternoon."
"I'd best tell Hannah so we can put our minds to it."
Smiling wanly, Harry left Neville to say goodbye to his son, heading into Rose's room to see Ron and Hermione.
"Harry, you look awful!" Hermione sighed, a frown marring her forehead as she worried over him.
"I'm fine, Hermione. Just fell asleep over my books last night, nothing to worry about. Now, I need to ask the two of you to do something for me."
"Anything, mate," Ron said.
"I need you to write down everything that Rose did, ate, drank, anybody she spoke to or played with. If she complained of not feeling well, and if you gave her anything to make her feel better, okay?"
Hermione nodded and got the same look on her face that she used to get when she was planning her study calendars, which caused Ron and Harry to exchange an amused glance. Then Harry said, "I'll come by the Burrow later today to pick it up and go through it with you."
"Of course, Harry," Hermione said and he turned to leave.
When he was at the door, Harry turned back. "Did you know Neville and Malfoy were friends?"
"They are?" came Ron's surprised reaction, but Hermione calmly said, "Well, it only makes sense, considering that their wives were best friends at Hogwarts."
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Harry said, convinced that Draco and Neville's exchange in the hallway came from their being closer than he'd originally thought. Ignoring the way it niggled at his mind still, Harry smiled at his friends and said goodbye, then headed in to see Jordyn and Kayla.
"Hi, Healer Potter," Jordyn said tiredly from her chair beside Kayla's bed.
"How are you, Jordyn?"
"I'm- I'm okay." She was silent for a moment, looking over her daughter and pressing her hand to the girl's tight cornrows, then said, "Can I help you with anything, Harry?"
Smiling, Harry conjured a chair with a wave of his wand, oblivious to the wonder-filled look that passed over Jordyn's face. He sat and looked at the woman, taking in her pale skin and lank blond hair, and her blue eyes gazed steadily back at him. "This may be difficult, but I need you to write down everything that Kayla ate or did, who she played with. Anything that you can think of during the two days or so before she was brought in here," Harry said.
"I can do that. Do you have a pen I can use?" she asked, warily eyeing the quills in Harry's hand.
"A pen?" Harry asked, surprised.
"Yes. Oh, um, a- Muggle writing instrument." She chuckled to herself. "You never forget that word, it's so unusual.Muggle," she said again, smiling softly at a memory.
"You- You're Muggle?" Harry asked.
"Yes. I- Kayla's father told me once when I was pregnant that if I needed a hospital for something magical to go to the shuttered department store in Holburn and tell the mannequin what's going on. It's how I got in, but if I leave I'll never get back in, because I don't have someone magical with me."
Jordyn was close to tears, so Harry got up and put his arm around her, comforting the young mother. "I tell you what, why don't you let me take you to my parents' house? You can have a good sleep, a shower and some decent food, and then I'll have one of them bring you back here. I know for a fact my Dad'll love you 'cause you're Muggle."
"If you don't want to leave her, that's fine. I understand."
Jordyn shook her head, "No, I'd like that. How will we get there?"
"Have you ever travelled by Floo before?"
"Once," she nodded, grimacing.
"Right then, let's go shall we? Get you rested before you start that list. I'll take you there now. I'll have to come back here, but I'll stop by to see you later this afternoon. My best friend, Hermione, will be at the house – her daughter has been admitted here, too."
"Oh, the poor dear," Jordyn said after leaning down and pressing a kiss to Kayla's forehead. Leading her down to his office, Harry dropped the quills and parchment on his desk and took Jordyn's hand, guiding her into the fireplace.
"Whatever happens, don't let go," he warned, and she clung to his waist. Wrapping one arm around her, he threw a handful of Floo powder down, shouting "The Burrow." When they arrived, Harry fell to his knees while Jordyn walked out of the hearth.
"Harry?" she asked, her voice full of worry.
"I'm fine," he gasped and stood, only to have the room spin.
"Harry Potter!" Molly shouted at him, hauling him from the fireplace and pushing him into a chair before shoving a glass of water into his hand. "Drink this."
As Harry sipped at the water, letting it soothe his aching head and cramping stomach, he heard Molly introduce herself to Jordyn and offer her some breakfast. Soon the kitchen was filled with the smell of breakfast cooking, and Hermione came downstairs into the kitchen, her hair still damp from a shower.
"Harry, you're here for breakfast?"
"No, I've got to be getting back-"
"You'll do no such thing," Molly threatened. "You will eat your breakfast, and only when I'm satisfied that you've eaten enough will you be allowed to go back to work."
Harry nodded, chastised, and ate one sausage and one piece of toast when it was put before him, as well as the cup of tea Molly had made. When he was done, he left the three women chatting and escaped out the Floo before Molly could pull him back.
Back at St. Mungo's, Harry penned letters to Draco and Susan, and Robert and Julia, asking for the same information he had of the others and requesting to meet with them. Robert's reply came quickly, saying that Harry would be welcome after six. Malfoy's arrived later that day, with the response that Harry could come later in the evening, as he got home from work late and Susan usually napped in the early evening.
With Kayla and Jordyn on his mind, Harry headed down to the little girl's room and transfigured the chair he had conjured into a bed for Jordyn, so she wouldn't have to keep sleeping in the armchair if she decided to stay the night. As he looked at the little girl, he couldn't help but wonder who her father was – or, at least, his blood status. There was only one man who could tell him that, and after his last letter Harry wasn't prepared to write to Snape again, especially because he was waiting for a reply to his first letter. He didn't want declarations of love from Snape. He didn't want anything from him. At least that's what he told himself.
Back in his office, Harry closed the door and warded off the Floo before stripping off his clothes. Harry saw that his thighs were still red, the flecks of blood scabbing over, and his torso was the same. The only difference was that amongst the hairs on his chest were a few silvery scars from where he had first tried to claw out his breaking heart. Sighing, he tugged his clothes back on and got to work.
Harry pored over his notes, writing charts and flipping from one page to another, moving from one volume to another until he was dizzy. Books were scattered all over the floor, his desk was covered in various notes on each child and ones comparing them to another, trying to find that one thing that connected them all.
Harry knew that as soon as he discovered what potion had been used and how it was either brewed or administered incorrectly, then he'd have to ask Snape for help in rectifying the situation. Harry knew he would contact the man, spend all day working with him no matter how much he didn't want to, just to make sure those six children would be alright.
Running a hand over his face, Harry cast a Tempus charm and saw that it was nearing three o'clock. He decided to head over to Neville and Hannah's before it got too late; it didn't matter that he'd missed lunch or that he'd wasted an entire day learning nothing new.
Harry stared at the Floo for a moment before deciding that he really didn't want to go through the twisting motions again, so he checked that he had his wand in its holster and walked quickly down from level three to the apparation point where, with a step and turn, he winked out of sight. He landed in Neville and Hannah's garden and inhaled the scent of flowers, then strode to the front door. Hannah opened it before he'd even arrived, smiling as she said, "Come in, Harry, come in."
As he passed by her, Harry pecked Hannah on the cheek. "It's been a long time, Hannah, and I only wish the circumstances were better."
"Too long, Harry. And yes, these circumstances are trying."
"It's not your fault," Neville said as Harry and Hannah entered the living room. Neville turned away from the window. "You're doing all you can."
"Here." Hannah picked up a couple of sheets of parchment from the coffee table and handed them to Harry before he could reply. "Take a seat and we can answer any questions you have. Would you like anything to drink?"
"No, I'm fine thanks," Harry said, his concentration focused on the papers. They were full of details of Frank's life and routine. He moved to sit on their blue sofa and read in silence. "Is any of this unusual for Frank," he asked, "new to his day or a disruption to his routine?"
"No. He goes to playschool every day, takes his lunch with him. Nothing new happened that day, nor that week." Harry glanced up at Neville's melancholic face and down to where Hannah was squeezing his hand, her own face pale.
"Okay. These are very thorough, thank you. I've got to get the same information from the other parents, so I'll get back to you if I find anything."
"We know. Come on, I'll walk you out," Neville said, standing though Hannah didn't let go of his hand.
"No, it's fine, Nev, I'll see myself out. I'll see you later, and when everything's better I'll stop by more often."
"You should do. We miss seeing you, Harry." Hannah smiled as she spoke.
"You, too. See you both later."
Harry let himself out of the house and shrank the papers, putting them in his pocket. He Apparated away to the Burrow, where he found Molly in the kitchen preparing dinner and Arthur questioning Jordyn on Muggle items at the kitchen table.
"So, a mobile is a portable fellytone?"
Jordyn grinned; she looked much happier and healthier than when Harry had seen her before. Instead of limp, greasy locks of hair that went unwashed while she stayed by her daughter's bed, her blond hair was shining and falling in soft waves down her back. Her skin was flushed with happiness, and while there was a tinge of sadness about her, she seemed content and relaxed amongst this magical family.
"Imagine that, Harry! A portable Floo!"
Exchanging a glance with Jordyn, Harry smiled. "Indeed, Dad. That's certainly something." Harry moved forward and pressed a kiss to Molly's cheek, hugging her and hanging on for a moment longer when she hugged him back.
Arthur sat at the table with pride on his face, and Harry assumed it was because he'd called Arthur 'Dad' for the first time. He handled it better than Molly had – at least he wasn't crying over Harry.
"Is Ron home?"
"Okay, Jordyn, shall we?" He held open the door to the living room and followed her through. When they had sat down, he asked, "How are you? You're looking much better than when I last saw you."
"I ambetter. Molly and Arthur have offered to let me stay with them until Kayla's better. They said they have plenty of room, and that Ron or Hermione would Floo me to and from the hospital in the evenings and mornings to see Kayla. Or if they can't, then Molly said she'd take me. Isn't that nice of them?"
"Yes, it sounds just like them to make you feel so welcome and a part of the family. They do that a lot."
Biting her lip Jordyn asked, "Like with you? I don't mean to pry or be rude, but it's clear you're not one of their biological children."
"Yes, like with me. My parents died when I was a baby, and when I came to the magical world at eleven Ron became a fast friend, Hermione too. I spent my summers here. They are the only parents, and the only family, I know."
Jordyn smiled, but there was more melancholy there than happiness. "I'm terrified," she whispered. "When Kayla gets to eleven she'll go to your school in the castle, and she'll have one foot in both worlds, but- it'll be so hard for her to stay in my world. Magic can offer her much more than I can."
"I know it's hard. I had no regrets leaving the Muggle world behind, simply because where I grew up I wasn't loved. If you don't mind my suggesting it, talk to Hermione. Her parents are Muggles, and she's got a foot in each world. It is possible. Now, I need-"
"Oh sorry, here." She thrust the papers at him, and he took them with barely a glance.
"Thank you, but that's not what I was going to ask. I need – this may be an uncomfortable topic – but I need to know about Kayla's father. If something is needed requiring magic, then we will need him."
"We met by the Thames. He was painting the water and people on the other bank. I walked past on my way home, and he asked if he could paint me. I said no. The next day I was walking back from work, and he was waiting for me and asked again. It went on like that for a week. I was flattered by the attention, and on the final day said yes. We- we went for coffee, we were together a month when I fell pregnant. I was so afraid to tell him – I didn't know what he'd think – but I told him and he was so happy." Jordyn wiped the tears from her eyes "He'd paint me in various stages of pregnancy, brought so many things for the baby, and then one morning I woke up and he wasn't there.
"I didn't think anything of it, thought he was probably off painting somewhere. Then I went into labour. I tried to ring his mobile, but I couldn't reach him and ended up calling an ambulance. And- when I got out of the hospital three days later, Ihatedhim. He hadn't come in, none of our friends had seen him, and I asked at the hospital if anyone fitting his description had come in, but no. I've not seen nor heard from him since."
Harry reached out and took hold of her hand. "Jordyn, a name. I need a name."
"Dean," she whispered. "Dean Thomas." Jordyn pressed her lips together and her nose flared as she tried to contain her emotions. "Excuse me," she barely got out before fleeing the room.
Harry was in shock. Dean lived with Seamus. The two friends were inseparable, but Harry hadn't seen them for a few months and decided that if – when- he got Kayla better, he would talk to Dean and get his side before letting him see them. He didn't think Dean could be so cruel as to leave without a word, but maybe Harry didn't know him as well as he thought. Aware he couldn't dwell on it, not when time was limited, Harry cast a Tempus charm and was surprised to find that it was just past five in the evening. He had an hour with Ron and Hermione before he had to be at Robert and Julia's.
It was times like this, when he had things he wanted to discuss and get off his chest, that he missed Severus. He'd become Harry's confidant years before they'd actually gotten together, and now who could he talk to about Dean and Jordyn and Kayla? Hermione wasn't an option – she was so stressed about Rose and keeping the baby healthy – and Harry didn't really have emotional talks with Ron. Refusing to dwell on it, Harry shrank Jordyn's papers and went into the kitchen. As soon as he opened the door, Ron was up and coming through into the lounge, Hermione following immediately after him. They clearly wanted this done quickly.
"Here you go." Hermione thrust the pages of parchment at him, and he could clearly see that she had used multiple colours and various diagrams. He knew it would take him half the night to decipher what she meant from it, but he dutifully read the sheets over and asked questions about the bits he thought were important.
"She didn't feel well on that Sunday?"
"No, said her throat hurt and she had a bit of a cough, so I gave her some cough solution." Ron's face paled. "I- I didn't do this to her did I?"
"No, of course not, Ron," Harry said, but deep down he wasn't sure. Cough solution was one of the potions on Snape's list.
Hermione watched Harry's face with her eyes narrowed. "Are we done here? Dinner will almost be ready."
"What time is it then?"
"Quarter past six."
"Yes, we're done. If I have any other questions I'll let you know." The three friends headed into the kitchen where Molly was serving up dinner for Arthur and a red-eyed Jordyn.
"Harry, how much would you like?"
"Oh, none for me, Mum, I'm expected at the Smiths'. Then I need to head over to the Malfoys'. I'll be back after that, so save me a plate?"
Molly sent a disapproving glare at him, but he just grinned and shrugged helplessly, then Flooed out.
The room kept spinning after he landed at the other end, and Harry stepped out of the fireplace slowly, brushing soot off his robes. He glanced up and caught sight of himself in a mirror above the fireplace. His skin was pale, he looked like a raccoon with huge dark circles under his eyes, and he hadn't shaved in a couple of days so the stubble on his chin, combined with his bloodshot eyes, made him look more like a drunk than a healer. Running a hand over his jaw, Harry resolved to have a shower and shave when he got back to the Burrow.
"Robert, I'm sorry I'm a bit late."
"It's fine." Robert smiled and indicated for Harry to follow him, and soon Harry found himself in a cosy kitchen.
"Take a seat, please. Can I get you anything to eat or drink?"
"No, I'm fine, thank you. Where's Julia?"
Robert sat opposite Harry. "She's just finished feeding the little one and is putting him in his cot."
"So you have three other children?"
"Yes, Christopher and Sally are the eldest. Then we've got Mary and Jane, another set of twins who turn two next month. Then there's the little fella, Rob Junior, who's only four months."
Harry nodded. "It must be hard with so many so young."
"We manage, Healer Potter," Julia said as she came sweeping into the kitchen to take a seat next to her husband.
"I'm sure you do. Now down to business-" Harry started, then stopped when both took out some papers, one pile for each twin.
Taking time to read through the papers, Harry observed that they were almost as detailed as Hermione's. Harry had no issues with them, save one thing they hadn't accounted for.
"What of the other children? Did any of them get sick and have a potion? Chew on a toy that maybe Christopher or Sally picked up?"
"No, none of them," Julia said, her voice confident.
"Fantastic. I was just checking. I'll leave you to your evening, then," Harry said, suddenly exhausted. He was feeling light-headed and slightly nauseated, but he smiled and stood, gripping the back of the chair for a moment as he waited for the black spots to stop dancing across his vision.
"I'll walk you out," Robert offered and led Harry back through to the Floo. Just when Harry was about to Floo out, Robert stopped him by grabbing his elbow. "This is very difficult for Julia, having both twins sick. She miscarried twice before the twins, and then had a hard pregnancy with them. The second pregnancy was just as bad, and in-between the girls and the little fella, she miscarried again. It destroyed her when she couldn't keep those babies alive. When the healers told her she couldn't have any more, she almost died. I don't know what I would do if I lost my wife, but, Healer Potter, I'll know exactly who to come for if I lose one of my children."
"Threatening me won't make your children better, Mister Smith. I am doing everything in my power to keep them alive and to find the problem and a solution. I suggest you let me get back to my job, or you'll find that six children will have died needlessly because of your temper and your threats," Harry hissed back. Robert let go of Harry and offered him the Floo powder.
Harry was too caught up in his anger to take off his glasses or tuck his elbows in, although he kept a steady grip on the paperwork as he shouted "Malfoy Manor." But as he neared the end of his spinning journey Harry felt as if the world was closing in on him, and he was aware of falling to the Floor. He felt no pain as he blacked out.
When he came to, Harry was conscious of three things: one, the hand on his forehead was warm and dry; two, the scent that filled his nostrils was achingly familiar; and three, the voices in the room were speaking about him.
Frowning, Harry opened his eyes, blinking rapidly in the harsh light, which was dimmed quickly. Snape removed his hand from Harry's face and turned to someone behind him.
"Can we get a glass of water, please? And something to eat?"
"Yes, sir." The elf, Harry had deduced from its high pitched voice, popped out of sight, and Snape turned his dark eyes on Harry.
If he hadn't known Snape so well, Harry wouldn't have seen the guilt and worry and longing in his face. But he pushed the observation aside and sat up, brushing away Snape's hands as the older man tried to push him back down. "I have to speak to Susan and Malfoy."
"You'll do no such thing."
"You can't tell me what to do anymore," Harry spat.
"You are in no condition to help those children. You collapsed as soon as you arrived here, and you have been unconscious for several minutes. You didn't even step out of the Floo!" Snape shouted. "Susan was worried and called me straight away. I have given you a restorative potion – you have not been sleeping nor have you eaten anything substantial today, have you? You will sit there and eat something or else-"
"Or else what?" Harry snarled. Getting angry was easy, especially when Snape was angry and shouting at him. "What will you do? What canyou do, Snape?"
The taller man recoiled as if he had been hit, and a surge of regret flowed through Harry, but he ignored it in favour of standing. "Where are my notes?" he asked after looking around and not finding the parchment sheets with the Smith children's information.
"They are in the drawing room. Susan and Draco are eating their dinner." The elf returned with a steaming bowl and a glass of water on a tray. "I suggest you do the same."
The elf brought the tray over to Harry, who slumped back down onto the sofa and accepted the tray, inhaling the aroma of chicken and vegetable soup.
"I-" Harry didn't mean to say anything, but given the way Snape was looking at him, he decided to say what he really needed to voice. "I will need your help with determining how these children were poisoned and how to cure to them. Ifthey can be cured."
"Of course, I'll help in any way I can." Snape took a step forward, tantalizingly close to Harry, who busied himself with eating so as to stop himself from reaching out and touching the man.
"I also do not want anything said that does not relate to the patients," Harry snapped, not wanting Snape to think that working with him meant that Harry forgave or didn't hate him. Because he did hate him. Harry also didn't want the bastard to know he still loved him.
"As you wish." Snape inclined his head, and Harry knew his mind was whirring, thinking of all the loopholes in the conditions Harry had set forth. "I am to take it that you do not wish to talk about what is on your mind. Besides the children."
"It's only the children that are on my mind." Harry pushed away the empty soup bowl and started to down the glass of water, ignoring both the way that Snape watched his throat, and the jittery feeling it gave him in his stomach. Damn the man for getting under his skin. Harry supposed it was only to be expected when you had lived with someone for nine months, or had been his lover for twelve and his friend for many years before that.
"No, there is something else. But you do not wish to speak about it, I understand. You forget, Harry," Snape said, his voice caressing Harry's name and his face sincere, "that I know you. It has not been so long that Ihave forgotten."
"Then perhaps it should have crossed your mind that I don't want to talk about how you used me for your own sick-" Harry hissed before being interrupted by a knock on the door. It opened to admit Susan, with Malfoy close behind.
"Have you finished your dinner?"
"Yes, thank you, Susan. I'm sorry you had to deal with me like that."
She waddled into the room to sit by Harry and take his hand, while Snape moved to the fireplace as Draco came up beside him. "It's understandable. You've got a lot of weight on your shoulders, not to mention how much work you're putting in to trying to help our child. All of those children."
"I'm doing my best. Se- Snape has it narrowed down as to what ingredients have been used but not the specific potion, so we still have a long way to go. Do you have the information that I asked for?"
"Here you go, Potter." Malfoy strode forward and handed the parchment to Harry. The information was arranged like Hermione's, and that made it both easier and harder to understand.
"Draco wrote it, so if you need help deciphering all his notes and colours and what-not, just ask," Susan offered.
Chuckling, Harry glanced up at her, keeping her husband in view. "It's very similar to how Hermione writes things out. I'm used to it."
Malfoy pulled a face and Susan laughed, and while Harry continued to read he was conscious of the weight of Snape's eyes on him.
"It's all quite self-explanatory here, I have no questions. Thank you." Harry stood. "I should go over all of this. If I could have the work I dropped when I arrived, I'll be out of your hair."
"Are you sure you're alright, Harry?"
"Fine, Susan, just fine. I'll just remember to eat lunch and not get caught up in my research."
Biting her lip, Susan nodded and then glanced at Snape and Draco. The older man stepped forward and said, "I'll show you the way."
Harry followed his ex-lover, aware of the looks Malfoy and Susan were exchanging behind his back. Malfoy's interaction with Neville in the hallway of St. Mungo's flashed through Harry's mind, and he turned back to face them, asking bluntly, "Malfoy, how did you and Neville become friends?"
Looking slightly shocked by the question, the blond blinked a few times before saying, "Our sons are friends. They've grown up together because of Susan and Hannah. Nev and I would have to interact when we picked them up, and eventually we became friends."
"Picked them up?" Harry repeated, his instincts singing.
"From playschool. Beatrice Bloxam's School for Children."
"Bugger me," Harry said under his breath. "Thank you," he said louder, before brushing by Snape and looking at him pointedly. They made their way to the drawing room, and Snape shut the door quietly.
"What is it?"
Harry picked up all the papers and shrank them, then put them in his pocket with the others. "Not here, meet me in my office. I have a feeling this will be a long night." He picked up a handful of Floo powder and stood in the earth, but Snape put his hand on Harry's, stopping him from releasing the powder.
"Not alone. You'll only be worse off with nothing to anchor you. And take off your glasses, they'll get weak with the number of spells on them."
"I-" Harry began, then sighed in resignation. He knew Snape was right, so he moved over and let the tall man stand near him in the Floo while he took off his glasses and held them tightly in his free hand before stepping into Snape's space. Harry kept his face impassive as he felt the man's body heat radiate through him, and he forced himself not to shiver when Snape gripped his back. Harry ignored the urge to just melt into the familiar embrace and lay his head on the oh-so-familiar shoulder.
"Healer Potter's Office, St. Mungo's," Harry shouted before his emotions could take hold.
As soon as they landed in Harry's office he quickly left Snape's warm embrace. As he put his glasses back on he caught the look of hurt that passed over Snape's face.
"What has you so excited?" Snape asked.
"Beatrix Bloxam's School for Childrenis where Rosie goes. All six children went to playschool in the days before they got here. And- what are their blood statuses?" Harry suddenly looked up from where he was shuffling through papers on his desk. Snape's face was forming a concentrated frown as he tried to remember the different blood statuses of each child. "None of them are purebloods are they?"
"Not a one."
"I didn't think so, because Beatrix'soffers a curriculum that incorporates Muggle things, and many of the pureblood families don't like it. No child in that school is a pureblood. I'll need to visit them tomorrow, but now we have something to work with and-" Harry was rambling in his excitement, but he stopped when he looked up to find Snape watching him with a combination of pride and desire. It was the same look that had made Harry kiss him in the first place all those months ago, and it had the same effect now. Harry wanted to kiss him.
He flushed and looked back down at his desk, his excitement fading as desire and old hurt warred inside him. Sitting heavily in his chair, Harry shifted so the desk hid his half-hard cock, as desire was easily winning. It didn't mean he trusted Snape; he wasn't sure he ever could again. Besides, the man hadn't even offered any apologies or explanations for what had split them apart.
"Take a seat, Snape. It'll be a long night." Harry withdrew the various pages of parchment from his pocket and resized them, dividing them into two piles and making sure the twins were in two separate piles, and then giving one of them to Snape. Harry made sure that he had Scorpius while Snape had Rose, so there were limited emotional ties on either side. He gave Snape Frank's parchments for the same reason, leaving himself with Sally, Kayla and Scorpius. Harry brought a new piece of parchment out for both of them and gave Snape a quill so he could write notes as they went through the piles.
Partway through the night, when each had finished with his notes, they swapped the parchments and went through the other three children. When that was done, Harry put down his quill and yawned widely. "This will do for tonight. You need rest," Snape said.
"I know. I'll head straight over to the school tomorrow morning and see what they've been giving the kids, and find out if any of the others have been sick. I'll owl you when I'm done there with the information."
"You won't be able to Floo alone." The implication in Snape's comment was clear, that Harry should go home, back to their house, with him.
"Then I'll Apparate," Harry said, deliberately not telling Severus where he was going, so the other man couldn't follow.
Snape's eyes dropped and his shoulders slumped almost imperceptibly. "If you're sure."
"I am. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Tomorrow," Snape agreed, and he headed towards the Floo in Harry's office while Harry made for the door. He turned at the doorway to look back at the man who had broken his heart, only to find the dark eyes watching him, melancholy radiating from his body. "Harry," Snape began, but Harry didn't want to hear what he had to say. He wasn't ready for it, not emotionally nor physically.
"Goodnight, Severus," Harry said softly, not even aware of his use of Severus' first name.
"Goodnight, my Harry." Severus whispered so quietly that Harry was sure he had imagined the words as he walked through the doorway and into the dark hall. Harry's eyes burned with unshed tears, and he tried to swallow past the lump in his throat. Severus had bid him goodnight in the way he had every night they were together, claiming him with a word, and Harry had always snuggled into the warmth of his arms and body – except tonight. Tonight he walked away.
Harry popped in on each of the children, checking their stats and pressing a kiss to Rose's cheek before he made for the apparation point and Apparated to the Burrow's yard. It was late, so he let himself quietly into the house and up to his room. He was so exhausted that he fell onto the bed fully clothed, and even the loneliness couldn't keep him awake.
Harry had gotten up that morning and had a proper shower, healed the remaining raw skin on his thighs and torso, and had a wank for the first time since leaving Snape. He knew he needed to relax, and that was a surefire way; he had just needed to make himself think of someone young and blond, but as he'd come, Severus' pleasure-filled face flashed through his mind, and Harry whispered the man's name into the steady stream of water falling from the showerhead.
As he looked at himself in the mirror while he shaved, Harry noticed how much better he appeared without stubble and after a decent night's sleep. He was still pale and still had bags under his eyes, but he was feeling much better. Dressing in his most formidable robes, Harry carried the lime green healer robe over his arm and down to the kitchen, where he sat at the table and helped himself to some of the scrambled eggs and a few pieces of toast, as well as a cup of tea.
"Are you sure you've had enough, dear?"
"Yes, Molly. If I have any more I'll burst!" Jordyn laughed.
Molly came round and brushed a hand through Harry's hair, and then she kissed his forehead. "It's good to see you eating something," she whispered.
"You look very serious today, Harry," Jordyn said.
"I have some business to attend to, and I need them to remember who I am -" he ran a hand through his hair, deliberately pushing his fringe back so his scar was showing, "- and what I did. Jordyn, you said Kayla goes to playschool."
"Yes, everyday from twelve till three."
"What's the name of her school?"
She looked startled by the question and answered, "Beatrix… something School for Children. There's a Muggle entrance so I can get in to pick her up and drop her off."
"I thought it would be that school. I'll need to check with the Smiths about the twins, but I'm sure that's where they go as well." Finishing off his tea, Harry wiped his mouth with the back of his hand as he stood, then put his lime green healer robe on over his own, leaving it open so his robes accentuated not only the broadness of his shoulders and the length of his legs, but also displayed the power in his body with each movement. "How do I look?"
"Very dapper." Molly smiled.
"Scary," Jordyn breathed.
"Brilliant. Just what I was aiming for." He winked at them before heading outside to Apparate. "I'll be home for dinner, Mum," Harry called over his shoulder.
When Harry Apparated from the Burrow to Beatrix Bloxam's School for Children, it was eight in the morning and there were already children there. They ignored him in favour of their toys as Harry strode passed them and made his way inside, where he found three adults.
One young woman spotted him and made her way over, a welcoming smile on her face. "Can I help you sir?"
"Are you here at all times?" Harry asked firmly, getting directly to the point.
"Y- yes sir. I work here seven days a week, for the full school day."
"So you know Kayla Jones, Frank Longbottom, Rose Weasley, Scorpius Malfoy, Sally Smith and Christopher Smith?"
The girl nodded. "They haven't been in for a while-"
"They are in my hospital wing fighting for their lives, and this schoolis the only thing they have in common."
"Healer." Another woman approached him, looking more matronly and no-nonsense. "I'm going to have to ask you to leave if you're not here for your child."
Harry turned away from the young girl and faced the older woman, nonchalantly tossing back his hair so his scar flashed in the bright light before his fringe fell down over it again. The older woman's eyes widened and her jaw dropped. "Har- Harry Potter."
"I am indeed. Perhaps you could be so kindas to tell me what you give these children to eat or drink?"
"Nothing. They all bring their own food."
"Well, I believe that you, or your staff, have given six children something that has made them extremely ill. You must have given them some sort of potion. Perhaps they had a cough, or the hiccoughs?" Harry took a step forward, "If you do not tell me what potions you have on the premises, I will be forced to find them."
The woman narrowed her eyes and folded her arms. "You have no right to do that. You're a Healer, not an Auror."
"I have jurisdiction when children are at risk of dying because of something this facultyhas done."
They stared at each other until Harry raised his empty right hand and called on his magic, non-verbally Accio-ing the potions. Somewhere a crack sounded, and about twenty bottles came hurtling towards them. With a wave of his hand they slowed down and floated in front of him. "Are you going to tell me which one you used on the children?"
The woman's eyes had widened again and she seemed to tremble. "No?" Harry asked, his voice dangerously quiet. He looked over the vials and picked out the four that were on Severus' list: Cough Potion, Sleeping Potion, Hiccoughing Solution and Swelling Solution.
He waved his hand again and the rest of the vials were returned to their place. With one last sneer at the old woman and her young co-worker, he Apparated straight through their wards to St. Mungo's.
Sending his Patronus to Severus with a wave of his wand, Harry hurried up to his office, pleased to see the tall man already waiting for him there.
"I Flooed as soon as I got your message."
"Here." Harry thrust the vials in his hands at Severus. "These are from the playschool. The hiccoughing solution and sleeping potion look off; their colours aren't quite right."
"You are right." Severus sounded impressed. "I will go through these at the lab. Draw some more blood from the children so I can see how it reacts to various possible cures."
"Will do. I'll Owl them over."
Severus nodded his dark head and left in a whirl of green flames, and Harry tamped down his excitement as he went to do his job. As he checked the children's stats and drew some more blood from them, Harry began to worry that they wouldn't hold for much longer. Rose only had two days left under the Stasis before she would have had to be removed.
After labelling each vial of blood with the child's name and patient number, Harry sent them to Severus through the Floo so he would get them as soon as possible. Before sending them off, he had warded them carefully and thoroughly so they didn't break.
It was now a waiting game.
With nothing to do except wait, Harry headed over to the Burrow for some lunch, and he felt better for having eaten, despite not really wanting to.
Harry had a good time at lunch, spending it with Hermione, Molly and Jordyn, as Arthur and Ron were both at work at the Ministry. He knew that Severus would be working as quickly as he could, though, and that after two hours he might have something to report back. So Harry left the Burrow for the hospital, taking Jordyn with him through the Floo so she could visit Kayla.
Watching Jordyn talk to Kayla made Harry more determined to find out Dean's side of the story and bring them together. Jordyn loved her daughter, but there was a sadness in her that stemmed from being hurt, something Harry could identify with.
Returning to his office, Harry saw a note resting on the stones of the hearth. Severus had obviously sent it through the Floo. Picking it up and reading, Harry was pleased to see the progress that had been made.
I have identified that it was definitely the sleeping potion that poisoned all the children. It was made incorrectly – there was no lavender. Lavender helps the potion move through the system so it does not remain in the bloodstream, and because the potion could not be purged it sat in the children's blood, and that is why there were time delays in the children. Each child's magic has reacted in a different way, causing the different symptoms.
I do not understand why they were given a sleeping potion in the first place; perhaps that is something for you to look into? I know you'd rather be doing something other than twiddling your thumbs.
I'll let you know as soon as I have something with which to cure them.
Anger welled up in Harry again. He hadn't expected it to be the sleeping potion – he was sure it had been the hiccoughing solution. He stormed through the hospital, alarming the patients, until he was down at the apparation point, and once more he made his way to Beatrix Bloxam's School for Children, where he again came face to face with the matronly old woman.
"Healer Potter, I didn't expect you back."
"No, I don't imagine you did. Would you mind telling me where you get your potions from, and why you are giving sleeping potions to children?" Harry's voice had gotten louder as he spoke, and he ended up shouting at her.
"Sir." A voice came from behind, and Harry turned to face the speaker. It was the young woman from earlier. "The children have nap time between one and two. Not all of the children sleep, so we give them a few drops of the potion to get them to settle down."
Harry closed his eyes in frustration and breathed out harshly through his nose. "Are you aware that the sleeping potion you gave to those children was poorly made?"
"It can't have been, Mary made it herself."
The matronly woman – Mary, Harry assumed – puffed out her large chest and a sneer rose to her lips.
"And, Mary, may I ask when you added lavender to this latest batch?" Harry asked. Not letting the woman answer, he continued, his voice cold and hard, "You didn't! I've had Britain's best Potions Master analyse your sleeping potion, and you forgot a vital ingredient. After all this is over, if you have not got a potions master making your potions for you I will shut you down."
Mary paled and took a step away from him, but the young girl nodded. "I'll look into it right away, sir. Are there any potions masters you recommend?"
"Severus Snape. And tell him I sent you." Harry smiled at her. "Thank you for your help and cooperation," he said before apparating back to the hospital.
Back in his office, Harry had finished writing the letter to Severus explaining what had happened at the school, and his head was buried under his desk looking for the device Healers were given to call owls to them so they could send a message when the Floo flared. It was Severus.
"I believe I've got something. I have tested it on the blood samples you gave me, although Kayla Jones and Rose Weasley's blood reacted negatively, in a way that I do not know how to correct." He handed over his notes and observations to Harry, who looked through them. It had taken Severus four hours to create this potion and observe the effects; once he knew a problem, it was easy for him to create a solution.
"This means that Rose's blood is not working with her magic to get rid of the potion, and we may have to help her along. Kayla's magic is simply not strong enough. In effect, the same thing is happening with both girls, but it is possible to correct." Harry looked up into Severus' dark eyes and asked, "Are you sure this will work?"
"As sure as I can be without proper trials on other subjects who have not had the potion in their systems," Severus replied.
"Okay, I'll owl the parents and let them know to come here, that we are ready to revive their children. I'll explain that there are risks involved, and that it may not work in their bodies as it did in the lab, but that that is why we are both going to be there."
Severus inclined his head in acknowledgement. While Harry busied himself with writing to the parents, Severus went to check on each child's magic levels, in order to determine how much extra effort would be needed to help his potion along.
The letters were sent via owl, and Harry went into the room that had been set up for the parents. Jordyn was the first to arrive; Harry had forgotten that she was at the hospital, just down the hall.
"Harry, what is it? A tall, scary looking man just sent me here."
Taking her hand and guiding her to a settee, Harry reassured Jordyn, "I'll explain everything when the other parents arrive."
Malfoy and Susan were next, taking a seat opposite Jordyn. Hermione came in five minutes later. "Ron'll come straight from the Ministry," she explained before taking Jordyn's hand in her own.
The Longbottoms were next, and Hannah rushed to sit by Susan, with Neville sitting next to his wife. Ron arrived fifteen minutes later. Severus slipped into the room just after the Smiths, who stood by the back wall.
"Right, thank you all for coming so quickly," Harry started. "We have found out what is wrong with all your children and what caused it. Also, we believe that a cure has been found." Harry hesitated, and Ron took the opportunity to speak.
"What's the issue, then? If you can cure Rose why haven't you?"
"Hush, Ron," Hermione whispered.
"It's a fair question, Hermione. The cure is experimental. It has been tested on your child's blood, and from there we can calculate how it will work in each child's body. Unfortunately, it will be risky, and we need your consent to give them this potion as we don't knowexactly what will happen."
"So Scorpius could die?" Susan asked tearfully.
"Yes," Harry said honestly, "but he willdie if we don't get him out of the Stasis. This is the only option. I'm sorry, I know it's a difficult decision, but I wouldn't bring you here and ask you if I didn't think it would work."
"We'll allow it," Robert said. "Do we need to sign anything?"
Harry nodded and floated the waiver of liability over to them. Both of them signed twice, for each of the twins.
"Okay," Jordyn croaked, and she too signed.
After that all the others signed, and Harry looked at Severus. "Who first?"
Harry, Severus and the Smiths headed to the twins' room. Harry let the parents say a possible goodbye to their son, and while in the corridor Harry asked Severus quietly, "Why Christopher first?"
"His blood showed the most positive response, followed by his sister. After seeing how he reacts, I recommend that we move on to Frank or Scorpius and then Rose or Kayla, going in order of most to least reactivity. And then start the process again from the second strongest."
The Smiths opened the door and let Harry and Severus inside. Harry informed them that they would be allowed to remain as long as they didn't interfere. He wanted them close by so, if the boy woke, he wouldn't be faced with strangers.
"When I indicate, remove the Stasis and I'll pour the antidote into his mouth," Severus commanded, taking his place by Christopher's head and tilting it up so it would be easier for the potion to enter his system. "Now."
Harry instantly dropped the Stasis and watched intently as Severus poured a measure of the potion into the boy's mouth. There was no immediate change, and Harry cast a charm informing him of the boy's stats, releasing the breath he was holding when he saw that it was working. A gasp filled the room as Christopher woke up. Severus laid the boy's head back on the pillow and moved away as Robert and Julia rushed forward.
"Mummy," Christopher cried out.
Leaving the room quietly, Harry turned to Severus. "Who next?" He couldn't allow himself to be happy over the success of one when there were so many more left.
Harry headed to get the Malfoys, and he was assaulted with questions from the parents over whether or not the cure had worked.
"Please, not now." He held up a hand and looked at Susan and Draco. "We're going to try Scorpius next, if you'll come with me."
Susan and Draco followed him to their son's room, and they too said a possible goodbye. Susan left the room, smiling apologetically at Draco. "I don't want to risk anything with this one," she said, patting her pregnant belly.
"Ready?" Severus asked, poised, and when Harry nodded he said, "Now."
The Stasis dropped and the potion was given to Scorpius. Harry cast a charm to see what was happening; there was no change in Scorpius' condition for a minute, and Harry began counting to thirty in his head. But at seventeen, Scorpius' stats began to rise and, before long, the blond boy was awake and being hugged by his father. Harry left the room to let Susan know and get Ron and Hermione. Rose would be the real test.
Once again, Harry and Severus got into position and repeated the process. This time, when Harry cast the charm to see Rose's stats, he was immediately alarmed to find that her stats worsened slightly: her blood pressure and breathing rate increased, then dropped dramatically and Harry sent spell after spell at Rose trying to get her heart rate up in order to push the potions through her system and to purge the sleeping potion from it. When the spells weren't working, Harry shouted at Severus, "Get them out of here!"
Ignoring Ron's shouts of anger and Hermione's broken sobs before the door closed on them, Harry pressed his wand to Rose's heart and fired a spell to get it pumping quicker, while he pressed his left hand to her head and let his magic flow through her to help her own magic along.
He stopped after one minute and recast the monitoring charm. She was improving slowly. Her stats improved, and after five minutes she opened her eyes. "Uncle Harry?"
Letting out a laugh of relief, Harry pressed his lips to her forehead. "You just wait here while I get Mummy and Daddy, okay, sweetheart?"
She nodded and yawned. Harry opened the door and Hermione looked up from where she had collapsed on the floor, while Ron was glaring at Severus. "She's okay," was all Harry managed to get out before Hermione was rushing past him, stumbling in her hurry to get to her little girl. Ron clapped Harry on the shoulder as he went inside.
"I believe we should give you a rest and then go to Sally. You cannot wear yourself out again doing that with Kayla."
"You're right," Harry conceded after a short internal battle. They made their way to the Smiths' room. Harry was glad to see that Christopher was awake, but he didn't want him watching what was going to happen, in case anything went wrong.
"Christopher, I'm Healer Potter and I'd like to see your sister. Would you mind waiting outside with one of your parents?"
The young boy shook his head, and Julia picked up her son and leant down to press a kiss to Sally's forehead, Christopher imitating her. Then they left, leaving Robert watching Harry and Severus.
When Harry cast the spell, after the potion had been poured into Sally's mouth, he frowned. Nothing changed in her stats, so after a minute he began mentally counting to thirty.
When nothing had changed, Harry cast a spell to get Sally's heart pumping faster, but it didn't take effect. Worried now, he looked at Severus. "Get him out," Harry said as he made to stand by her side. Pressing his wand to her heart and his hand on Sally's head, Harry performed the same procedure on her as he had with Rose.
Unfortunately, Robert was shouting and fighting Severus, and he managed to punch the potions master in the jaw before grabbing Harry's shoulder and shouting, "What are you doing!?"
The spell misfired and, instead of going into her heart to restart it, the short, sharp jolt of magic hit her neck. Harry knew then that it was a lost cause, but he wouldn't stop fighting for her. Elbowing the man out of the way, Harry put his hands on either side of her neck and let his magic flow through; he could feel that her neck was intact, but the jugular vein was severed and blood was pooling inside of her. There was no way Harry could save her, and as his charm beeped to let him know that she was fading, all Harry could do was hold her as the life seeped out of her.
When it was over, Harry pulled the blanket up over her lifeless body and turned to face an empty room. Severus had obviously gotten Robert out, but it was too late. Sally was dead.
Taking a deep breath, Harry opened the door and found Robert shouting at Severus, holding him against the wall with his wand at Severus' throat. Julia was shielding Christopher, and Ron was trying to break up the fight. Harry cleared his throat and they all turned to look at him, the hope in Julia's face shattering his heart.
"I am sorry. I did all I could, but she didn't respond to the potion and," Harry glanced at Robert, whose hand had fallen away from Severus' throat, "there was nothing that could have been done."
"No," Julia whispered, disbelief etched onto her face. She let go of Christopher and ran into the room. Harry closed his eyes as a wail reached his ears, and Julia sobbed brokenly, shouting, "No, no! Wake up, Sally! My little girl! No!"
Robert rushed forward, forcefully knocking Harry's shoulder and saying, "I warned you," before he entered the room. Christopher stood in the middle of the hallway looking confused and weak, so Harry crouched down in front of him.
"Christopher, let's get you back into bed," Harry said softly, his heart aching as the little boy raised his arms and let himself be picked up. Confusion marred his small features, showing that he didn't understand what was happening. Turning back to the room, Harry walked in carrying Christopher who, scared by his mother's crying, began to cry as well.
Harry brought him over to Julia and Robert; Robert took his son while Julia launched herself at Harry as soon as her son was out of harm's way. She pounded at his chest, nails raking against the skin of his neck, and she kicked at his legs, shouting wordlessly into his face. Harry pushed her away gently, his jaw clenched as he tried to control his emotions. She went easily, sinking into the chair, her head buried in Sally's hair.
Harry turned up the collar of his robes, hiding his neck, and when he was back outside Ron was still there, concern on his face. Harry smiled weakly and said to Severus, "Frank, now?"
"In a moment," Severus said, drawing Harry away from Ron and to a secluded area. He gave Harry some privacy and waited silently while Harry took a few deep breaths and collected himself.
"We should get to Frank," Harry said looking up at Severus, holding back a gasp at the concern in Severus' face.
"If you are sure."
"I am," Harry said, trying not to let Sally's death affect him. If he didn't continue, then more than one child would die tonight. He went to get Neville and Hannah, smiling apologetically at Jordyn. "I'm sorry you have to be here on your own, Jordyn. It won't be too long, I'm sure."
She nodded but looked terrified, and Harry realised he could hear faint crying – whether Julia or Christopher, he couldn't be sure.
After Sally, Frank was a breeze. Everything went according to plan, and the little boy was asking about Scorpius when Harry and Severus left. Jordyn was willing to stand back and let the two men work, and she held herself as close to the wall as possible. When Severus had finished pouring the potion into Kayla's mouth, he moved to stand by Jordyn, offering her his hand to hold as she watched Harry cast spells over her daughter.
Brown eyes opened and Kayla smiled at Harry before Jordyn was there, pulling her into a hug. Leaving mother and daughter to the reunion, Harry and Severus headed to his office, interrupted only by Neville asking if they could take Frank to see Scorpius.
Harry went by Frank's room to bring his bed into Scorpius' room, smiling as the two boys started chattering away. Harry told both sets of parents that he'd need to keep them in hospital for a couple of days, and then he headed in to see how Rose was doing.
"Uncle Harry! I'm gonna be a big sister," she squealed, and Harry grinned at her, cuddling her close.
"That's so exciting, Rosie," he said, feigning enthusiasm. "But you're going to have to be a really good girl and think of all the things you're going to teach your brother or sister." Moving towards the door, Harry bent down and whispered in Ron's ear, "She'll have to stay a few days to make sure there are no reactions."
"Thanks, mate, for everything. Is- Are-"
"Kayla and Frank are fine. It- it was only Sally who -" he trailed off, aware that Rose was listening. "I'll see you at the Burrow later."
Severus was still in Harry's office when he got there. "I have called for the coroner to take care of Sally's body. I trust you are aware that there will be an inquest?"
"I know," Harry said tiredly. "They wouldn't let me check over Christopher – I had to send in another Healer. I- I tried to talk to them, but they didn't- " he broke off and swallowed heavily. Harry busied himself by pulling off his Healer robes and chucking them onto the chair, and then he landed on top of them.
"Would you like me to heal your neck?" Severus said, drawing Harry to his feet and squeezing his hands in comfort, distracting him from his thoughts.
"What?" Harry frowned, then remembered the feel of Julia scratching at him. "Yeah, please." He unbuttoned his smart robes, the ones he had worn to the school that morning. Was that only this morning?he thought. It seemed like a lifetime ago.
Severus drew his wand over each mark, healing it with gentle magic. Harry studied his face, and after the day he'd had, he just wanted to fall into Severus' familiar arms and have him kiss and fuck the day from Harry's mind. Sally's death played over in his head, and the way Severus' long fingers brushed over the newly healed skin before falling to his chest, tracing the scars from when Harry had clawed at himself, distracted him. Harry realised that his calm façade was cracking. He needed comfort, somebody to hold him as he cried. He needed Severus, and the older man knew it as well.
Harry looked up, daring Severus to comment, but the older man was close and his face inches away, dark eyes intense. Harry only then noticed the purpling of his jaw where Robert had hit him. Blinking, he raised his hand and grazed the bruise just as Severus' lips brushed his. Harry allowed himself a moment to relish the feel of Severus' love and the comfort he was offering before he turned his head and dropped his hand, moving away quickly. It was too soon, his emotions were too raw, and he didn't want to fall into bed with Severus and make a mistake just because his patient had died.
"I- I have to go and let Mu- Mol- Mum and Dad know that Rosie is okay." Harry struggled into his robes, flinching when Severus made to help him.
The older man took a step back, melancholy radiating from his frame. "You're calling Molly and Arthur 'Mum' and 'Dad' now?"
"They are the only parents I know, and they have been there for me without me even asking. And I can't bear to think ofLily in that role. Not anymore," he stated before Flooing away, ignoring Severus calling his name.
Molly and Arthur were waiting anxiously when Harry got home. He was emotionally and physically exhausted; the magic he'd used was draining, and losing a patient was never easy. Add Severus into the mix, and Harry just wanted to sit in front of the fire with a glass of wine and some chocolate.
"Harry," Molly took one look at his face and pulled him into her chest. "Oh my darling, what happened?"
"I lost a patient. Rosie's fine," Harry hurried to say. "It was touch and go with her, though. I thought I'd lost her. But she pulled through." Harry smiled briefly. "I lost one of the twins. She didn't respond to Severus' potion, and I tried to start her heart, but her father wouldn't leave the room and Severus couldn't keep him away. He… distracted me and my spell misfired and severed her jugular. She stood no chance, I-" Harry never finished as Molly pulled him back into a fierce hug. She knew he blamed Sally's death on himself, believed it to be his fault, just as he had shouldered the burden of Fred's death. And many of those who died in the war. Molly whispered nonsense into his ear as she held him tightly.
Harry let himself be held. He felt sad and responsible, but no tears came. He let himself enjoy the embrace until he pulled away and pressed his lips to Molly's cheek. "Thanks, Mum."
She stroked his cheek affectionately. "Fish and chips for tea alright with you?"
"Perfect," he smiled.
Arthur moved and sat down in the armchair. "Harry, I need you to explain something to me."
Harry slouched over to collapse on the sofa, and he looked at Arthur. "What is it?"
"Today Ron and I got a call out to Kent, where music was making the Muggles dance uncontrollably, to the point of exhaustion and unable to stop for food or drink. Some neighbours called the please-men about the noise and the Aurors were called in and then us, but that's beside the point. It took us a while to find what was playing the music, and it was a little rectangular, thin, pinkbox. Attached by a wire to a slightly bigger box, and the only way we could stop the sound was by cutting the wire." Arthur looked thoroughly puzzled.
Smiling to himself, Harry Accioed two glasses and a bottle of merlot from the kitchen and, ignoring Molly's annoyed huff, he poured each of them a glass. He handed one to Arthur, taking a sip of his own, then began, "That sounds like an iPod. It's sort of like the wireless, but smaller and the Muggle gets to choose what music they listen to. Unlike with the wireless, where we have to listen to whatever is on."
Arthur continued to ask questions and Harry answered. He'd kept up with the Muggle world after leaving the Dursleys; he couldn't just let that part of himself go. It was something in which Arthur rejoiced and Severus despaired.
The Floo flared and Hermione came through, a grin on her face, followed closely by Ron and Jordyn. Hermione plonked herself on the sofa next to Harry, nudging his arm out of the way until he curled it about her shoulders. Ron sat next to her, his arm around his wife and his hand resting on Harry's shoulder in both thanks and support.
With a small smile, Jordyn excused herself and went to help Molly in the kitchen. She sometimes got uncomfortable at the intimacy between the three friends; it unnerved her that they could be so close.
"Rose is asleep," Hermione said needlessly, yet it was a reminder of how alive the young girl was.
"I know," Harry replied.
Rolling his eyes in Ron's direction, Harry answered sarcastically, "Magic."
"Ass," Ron laughed.
"Stop it you two," Hermione admonished, not really meaning it. She hugged Harry tighter and buried her face in his chest, and Ron's hand gripped his shoulder. No words were necessary; they were both thanking and comforting him.
Molly and Jordyn came through carrying drinks, the plates of food floating behind Molly. Jordyn handed Ron his beer and put a pumpkin juice on the table in front of Hermione as she sat up, and two glasses of white wine for herself and Molly.
The plates floated over to each person, Harry and Ron saying, "Thanks, Mum," wolfing down their food.
Shaking her head, Hermione said, "This looks lovely, Molly," and waited for the woman to sit down before she started to eat.
Sitting back and picking chips from his plate, Harry surveyed his family. He could imagine the two girls, Rose and Kayla, getting along and playing together in the corner, and it made him smile that they'd got two new additions to the family. But he couldn't shake the feeling of loneliness that had surrounded him since seeing Severus, knowing that he wasn't going to have him again. Forcing the melancholy thought from his mind, Harry leant forward for his wine, watching Jordyn and resolving to make sure that one of them wouldn't be alone for life.
The following day, Harry headed to work and checked on his patients, discharging Frank, Scorpius and Kayla. He wanted Rose to stay another night, just to be safe. When he went to see Christopher to discharge the boy, neither Robert nor Julia was there. In their place was a mousey woman, and Sally's empty bed loomed in the corner.
"Hi, I'm Heal-"
"I know who you are."
"Right. I'm here to discharge Christopher, but I can't do that unless I have verification of your identity and your relationship to him."
"I'm his Aunt Matilda, Julia's sister." She dug around in her hand bag before handing over a Muggle driver's licence. "It's all I have, I'm sorry. I'm a Squib, you see, and I can't offer anything else."
"That's fine." Harry smiled at her before turning to the little boy, "Christopher, I'm going to let you go home today, are you alright with that?"
"No, don't wanna," the boy said, shaking his head.
"And why not?"
Matilda sat forward and put a hand on his leg. "We talked about this, Christopher. Sally is up in heaven. She won't be coming back, she's happy now."
Death was a difficult concept for a three-year-old to understand, and Harry didn't know how to handle it, so he conjured up the paperwork and signed it for Matilda. Leaving it on the edge of the bed, Harry left the woman comforting her confused, crying nephew.
When Harry got to his office, he was surprised to find Severus there.
Severus held up a vial. "I thought you might be needing this. It will ease your headache." He placed the vial on Harry's desk.
"Thank you. Why are you here?"
"I wanted to-"
"No. Why are you at the hospital?"
"To see you," Severus said. "And to give my statement for the inquiry into Sally Smith's death. I imagine they will be seeing you soon." And without saying anything more, he turned from the room, leaving in a flap of robes. If Harry hadn't been so confused and tired he'd have thought that Severus was hurt.
Swallowing down the potion, Harry felt the headache that had been building up fall away just in time for a missive to shoot out through his Floo, summoning him to the Hospital's Board for his statement on Sally Smith's death.
Harry rubbed his forehead. He knew it was going to be a long meeting, and so he silently sent up a thought of thanks that tomorrow was Saturday and he could relax at the Burrow.
After a lie-in and a hearty breakfast, Harry spent some time in the yard de-gnoming it for the enjoyment of Kayla, who found the gnomes fascinating and laughed joyously as Harry spun them round and flung them into the field. Jordyn watched from the kitchen window with tears in her eyes.
After all the gnomes were gone, Harry went to St. Mungo's with Ron and Hermione so he could discharge Rose. He spotted a package on his desk and told the pair he'd meet them at home. They didn't want to question him with Rose around, so they left him at the hospital.
Unwrapping the brown paper package, Harry saw that inside were his favourite chocolates, Muggle Milky bars, which were something that only Severus knew he liked. Not sure what to make of the gesture, Harry put them aside in his drawer so that, when he'd had a hard day at work, he could munch on them.
Then with a deep breath, not sure if he was doing the right thing, he Flooed to Dean and Seamus' flat, surprised to find Seamus in the living room.
"Harry!" The Irish man grinned. "Welcome. It's been months, what's kept you away?"
"Work, unfortunately," Harry sighed. "Kind of why I'm here. Sorry, Seamus, but is Dean around?"
The sandy haired man clapped him on the back. "Not a problem, mate, he's through there."
Making his way through the door Seamus had pointed out, Harry found himself in a studio. There was one painting on the wall of a pregnant Jordyn smiling out at the viewer, her hand resting on her pregnant belly, blonde hair falling around her shoulders and over her heavy breasts.
"Her name is Jordyn."
Ashamed that he had been caught looking at her for too long, he glanced guiltily up at Dean. "What happened to her? To both of them?"
"They died." Dean's tone was flat.
"Oh. Want to talk about it?"
"I haven't spoken about it in five years, Harry. Why would now make a difference?"
"Because I'm trained to help, and," Harry stressed after receiving a disbelieving look from Dean, "I'm your friend. I won't judge you. I'll just listen."
Dean put down his paintbrush and wiped his hands on a rag that didn't look too clean. Then he sat down, offering Harry the Floor space in front of him.
"A day before her official due date I got an owl from Seamus. It didn't make much sense. I figured he was drunk, but I went to check on him just in case there was something else more serious. When I got back to our house it was empty and I came back here." Dean breathed a huge sigh. "Seamus said there'd been a report on the wireless about a Muggle district having a gas leak. They'd finished clearing it up, but there had been one casualty: a woman. I figured it couldn't be her, but I went back twice a day for three days, and she never showed. I accepted that they were dead. I've lived with Seamus ever since."
Frowning, Harry studied Dean. He wasn't lying, so Harry was certain that Seamus had made the story up; but the question of why remained.
"Do you mind if I go talk to Seamus for a sec? There's something I want to clear up. I promise I'll explain myself."
"Yeah, sure." Dean looked sad and as if he'd appreciate the time alone, so Harry left him and found Seamus in the kitchen.
"Four years ago you told Dean there had been a gas leak and a woman had died. You led him to believe that it was the woman he was living with, even though you knew she wasn't dead."
"Yes or no, Seamus."
The Irishman gripped the edge of the sink. "Yes," he breathed, barely audible.
"Why? Why'd you do it, Seamus?"
"Because I love him. I wanted him to myself and she was Muggle. She didn't understand our world. And I was drunk when I did it, selfish. I didn't know how to tell him what I'd done after a while, and it became harder each day, each year. I thought he'd turn to mefor comfort, but he became more and more reclusive." Seamus shook his head, his eyes bright. "Do you know what it's like to love someone and have them love someone else the entire time they are with you?"
"Yeah, more than you can begin to understand. It breaks your heart every time you see them, it hurts your soul, and your whole body yearns for them."
"I have to tell Dean."
Seamus nodded, resigned. "I figured this day would come."
Harry headed back to where Dean was still sitting in the same spot on the floor, looking up at Jordyn's portrait. Harry noticed, only now, that it was a Muggle one.
"I have something to tell you, my reason for visiting. Over the past few weeks I've had sick children in the hospital, and there was one little girl, a halfblood. Her mother is a Muggle and her father is a Muggleborn wizard."
"I don't understand what this has to do with me."
"The children, there were six in total, were sick. Really sick, and I didn't know what was going on or how to cure them, and I needed to know their histories. I asked the mother about the girl's father, and she told me about how her daughter's father had run out on the day she gave birth, never once coming to see her while she was in hospital, and not coming round once she was back home four days later. I asked her for a name. She told me yours."
"No, don't do this to me, Harry."
"Your daughter's name is Kayla, and Jordyn has done a fine job of raising her alone."
"Alone? She never-"
"I didn't ask her that, but I got the impression that she was always alone."
"Where are they?"
Harry smiled. "At the Burrow. I need to let her know, and you need to talk to Seamus. He'll explain. I'll see you in a couple of hours."
"I -" Dean looked at the picture on the wall, moving to stand before it, his hand resting over Jordyn's painted one on her belly. "Thank you, Harry."
"Don't thank me yet. I fear Jordyn will be difficult to convince."
Dean grinned. "She will be, but tell her "hyacinth" and she'll know that it is me you're talking to, and that I will come back for her."
"Okay. But you could tell her yourself." Harry left before Dean could reply, and with a meaningful nod in Seamus' direction, Harry Flooed back to the Burrow, preparing in his mind how to tell Jordyn that Dean Thomas had thought her dead all these years because of a jealous best friend who was in love with him.
Harry tracked Jordyn down near the chicken coop at the Burrow. The two moved inside, leaving Hermione and Molly to watch the girls, and Harry said, "You know when you told me about Dean Thomas?" Jordyn nodded and looked wary. "I wasn't honest with you," Harry continued. "Dean is a friend of mine. We were roommates at school, and I went to see him this morning. To ask why he left you. I never thought Dean could be like that, to just up and leave, and he isn't. Dean's been under the impression that you died in a gas leak five years ago. He didn't know you'd gone into labour, and that's why he never came to the hospital."
Jordyn looked stunned. "This is a lot to take in. Does- does he know about Kayla?"
"He does now."
Harry put his hand on hers and squeezed. "He wants to see you and meet Kayla when, if, you're ready for that. Today, if you want. If not, I can tell him another day would be better."
"When will he be here?"
Looking at his watch, Harry smiled. "In about an hour and a half. You have time to get your thoughts together."
Pushing her blonde hair behind her ear, she glanced up at Harry and asked, "Why did you do this?"
"Because I know what it's like growing up without any parents, and while you've been fantastic raising Kayla on your own, both you and she deserve to know Dean. And he deserves to know Kayla. He still loves you – he's got a painting of you on the wall of his studio."
She smiled. "Will you wait with me?"
They went back outside, and Harry shook his head when Hermione sent him a questioning glance. The girls continued to play while the adults watched in silence. After an hour, the girls were hungry and they all headed inside for afternoon tea. Harry put the kettle on while Molly got some biscuits out, and then they heard the Floo flare in the living room.
"I wonder who that could be?" Molly said. "It won't be the boys, they'll be at George's until closing."
"I'll check," Harry offered.
Dean was standing nervously by the fire, twining his fingers in the hem of his shirt. He smiled weakly at Harry, who nodded before putting his head into the kitchen. "Jordyn," he called.
She stood, looking terrified, and walked towards Harry and into the living room. Jordyn stopped dead just inside the doorway, and Dean's mouth opened and closed in disbelief. "You- you're alive."
Jordyn nodded, unable to say anything, her eyes fixed hungrily on Dean's face as his eyes roved over her body. Harry gave her a nudge, and she moved towards her daughter's father. Dean's hand reached up and touched her face, stroking lovingly over her features. Harry saw Jordyn's eyes fall shut, a small smile curving her lips.
"Mummy!" The door to the living room burst open and Jordyn turned round to face Kayla, who'd come shouting into the room. Dean's hands dropped down to his sides but he didn't step away. He just stared at Kayla, happiness radiating from him as he looked at his daughter for the first time.
Kayla looked back at him and then at Jordyn. "Mummy, can I stay at Rose's? Her-minnie said I could."
Kayla ran out and Jordyn turned to Dean, who was staring at the spot where Kayla had stood. "That was your daughter.Ourdaughter, Dean." His dark eyes met Harry's before he faced Jordyn.
Harry decided that he had imposed enough and left the two to get reacquainted. In the kitchen, Hermione looked up from where she was washing the mugs and plates from afternoon tea. "Going to tell me what that's all about?"
"Dean is Kayla's dad. He thought Jordyn was dead all these years because Seamus told him."
"Why would Seamus do that?"
Harry smiled bitterly. "Because he loves Dean."
"Oh, poor Dean," Hermione sighed. Harry picked up the tea towel and began to dry the dishes in the companionable silence, not voicing the fact that he felt sorrier for Seamus than Dean.
Severus had stopped by Harry's office every day for the past two weeks; sometimes Harry was in and other times he wasn't. When he was, Severus tried to say something, but Harry still couldn't bear to hear how right Ron had been or his false apologies, so he always cut the man off, claiming he was busy and couldn't be distracted.
Each time he came, Severus brought something with him. Sometimes it was something insignificant – a cup of tea, a collection of potions that were necessary for Harry's work, but that the St. Mungo's potioneers couldn't brew as efficiently as Severus, or some food. Once, when he was on a late night shift, Harry had done his rounds and come back to find a plate of dinner under a warming charm, waiting for him.
Some of Severus' gifts were personal to both of them, and one of these was a photo of two couples dancing at a wedding. One couple was Lily and James in their wedding clothes, Lily looking stunning in her white dress and James resplendent in his dress robes. The other couple was two men, and Harry was surprised to see a young Severus. Disgusted, Harry had hidden the photo away until he'd gotten back to the Burrow.
It had become a tradition over the weeks that Friday nights would be family fish and chip night. Harry was still living at the Burrow with Molly, Arthur, Jordyn and Kayla, though Dean was quickly becoming a fixture in their lives. It was taking time for Kayla to understand that the man who made her mummy happy was her dad. She didn't call him Dad or Dean; she didn't really speak to him at all, but just watched him, trying to understand.
Hermione's morning sickness was playing up in the evenings, and Harry had come home from work with the photo and another of Severus' gifts, anti-nausea potion. Drawing Hermione into the garden away from the family gathered in the living room, and Molly and Jordyn cooking in the kitchen, Harry handed her the potion, which she gratefully drank.
"Thank you, where did you get it?"
"Sev- Snape has been stopping by giving me things." Harry bit his lip and Hermione blinked in surprise.
"For how long?"
"A couple of weeks. Sometimes I'm in, and when I'm not he leaves it for me."
"Okay, so why are you telling me just now? What's he done that's got you worked up?"
Silently Harry handed over the photograph, his hand shaking. Hermione looked at it and gazed at Harry sadly. "Don't you understand?" Harry shook his head. "He's showing you that you're wrong. That Ron was wrong. This is your mot- Lily'swedding day and he's not looking at her at all. If he did love her like Ron thought, he'd be watching her, looking upset, but he's not. Severus' eyes are glued to the man he's dancing with. Look at their body language, the way they are pressed together."
"I-" Harry frowned. "Give it here." He took the photograph back and scrutinised it in the light from the kitchen window. His gaze remained on Severus' face, and he noticed that not once did his eyes stray to Lily. Severus kept looking at the man he was dancing with. He was blond and tall, about Severus' height, so Harry couldn't imagine that he was replacing that lover, either.
"You're right. I should talk to him, shouldn't I?"
"You've not spoken to him?" Hermione asked, disappointed.
"I don't want to hear what he has to say. Or I didn't. I'll talk to him Monday when he comes in."
Hermione pulled Harry into a hug and whispered, "I know it's hard, but he loves you and he's probably just as hurt as you are. He's been accused of something he's probably, in all likelihood, not even considered."
"He kept saying 'you have Lily's eyes'."
"And until Ron said something, that used to make you proud. Severus knows that you hate being constantly remi
nded of how much you look like James, especially because Severus hates him. So, as Lily's best friend, Severus is reminding you that you are your mother's son as well."
"Oh." Harry's shoulders slumped forward. "I- I didn't understand."
"But you do now?"
"Yeah, thanks Hermione." He squeezed her waist tightly for a brief moment, then let her go as they walked back inside.
"Anytime. As long as I can get more potions from him to keep this morning sickness at bay, I won't complain."
Laughing, Harry held the back door open for her, tucking the photo into his pocket at the same time. "I should have known you'd have an ulterior motive."
That night, Harry lay in bed staring at a stuffed lion on the pillow beside his head. The lion had been another of Severus' gifts, and it had brought back memories of them in bed, Harry lying in Severus' arms, cuddling close to the man and softly stroking up and down his side.
Severus had asked sarcastically, "Do I remind you of your childhood stuffed toy?"
Harry had quickly stopped and tried to move out of the embrace; but Severus wouldn't allow him until Harry said, "I never had a stuffed toy. I never had anything to hug."
Smoothing back Harry's hair, Severus pressed his lips to the lightning bolt scar and said, "Neither did I. I'll get you a lion for your birthday."
Grinning, Harry had spread his legs as Severus had shifted to lie between them, reaching down to fondle Harry's balls while kissing him.
Harry sighed at the memory, then reached over and tucked the lion under the pillow, self-conscious even though the animal wasn't real, and reached below the waistband of his trousers to tug at his hard cock. He swiped the precome over the tip and closed his eyes, allowing himself to think of Severus.
He imagined it was the older man's hand tugging at him, wrist twisting just so, and Harry came with a whimpering sob all over his hand. Reaching for his wand with his clean hand, Harry cast a cleaning charm and curled in on himself, tugging the lion into his arms. Harry resolved to spend the weekend thinking about what he was going to say to Severus.
On Monday, Harry spent as much time as he could in his office, hurrying back to it between jobs, but there was nothing from Severus, and Harry was getting worried that something had happened to him.
Now eager for the end of his shift, Harry hurried to the apparition point and Apparated to the home he'd shared with Severus in Yorkshire. Landing on the road before the house, Harry ran inside, stopping when he saw that the lounge was a mess, the furniture turned over and papers strewn everywhere. On the walls were scorch marks from spells, and they indicated that whoever had fired them had headed for the dining room. This room was just as bad as the living room, and there was a hole in one wall, under which were splatters of blood. Harry got really worried and drew his wand, calling out warily, "Severus?"
Moving through to the kitchen, Harry saw that the door leading down to Severus' laboratory was open, though it never used to be. Not sure if he should head back through the lounge and up the stairs to their bedroom, or if he should go down to Severus' private space, Harry called out again. This time he got a response.
"Harry?" Came the faint shout, and Harry realised that Severus was in his lab. He approached the open door, but was blocked by Severus, who stared at Harry in disbelief. "What are you doing here?"
"You didn't come to the hospital today," Harry said, feeling very stupid for having come at all.
Severus sent him a withering glance and stepped over the shattered pieces of what had been their plates and dishes and cups. "I was under the impression that I was not welcome. Why would I put myself through that for longer than I already have?"
"I didn't mean to make you feel like that." Harry shrugged, feeling helpless. He tucked his wand back into its holster. "I don't know how I feel around you anymore. I used to get so angry, and then I'd feel ashamed because that's not fair, I never gave you the chance to explain. And you made, make, me feel safe." Harry ran his hands through his hair and tugged harshly. "I don't know what to think anymore."
"Then let me take you out to dinner."
Severus nodded. "Allow me to court you again."
"I don't know," Harry said, unsure and noticing how Severus' features didn't shift from their impassive mask. Harry looked away and at the house. "What happened here? Were you robbed?"
"Then what happened?"
Severus glared at Harry as if he were mentally challenged before he huffed and said, "I got angry."
"You got angry." Harry repeated slowly.
"Yes," Severus said simply.
Bending down, Harry began to pick up the ceramic shards, thinking as Severus watched him impassively from his place by the sink. "You never explained."
"You never gave me the chance."
Harry looked up at Severus, who looked resigned and sad. Harry could see how much it had been hurting him to be continuously rejected by Harry.
Severus was quiet, so Harry said, "Okay, I'm listening."
"You want me to apologise now? After your accusations, I have nothing to apologise for. As for the explanations you want, Lily was my best, my only, friend and for you to accuse me of sleeping with her son in some attempt to connect with her is sick and an insult to her memory. Mymemory of her. I do not know why you listened to Ronald Weasley. He does not know me as you do. I will admit that part of the reason I first looked at you as a friend was because of your eyes, but there is nothing sexual in that attraction. You are constantly reminded of how much you look like your father, and I know you are desperate for a connection to your mother."
"Why didn't you say anything when I first brought it up?"
"I was shocked and appalled at the accusation, and I did not know which words to use. I could barely think beyond what you said."
"Oh," Harry said softly and then he smiled up at Severus. "I'm free for dinner tonight."
Severus tentatively smiled back.
Two Years Later
The Burrow was filled with people. Arthur, Ron and Hermione were under the shade of a large tree, their fifteen month old son, Hugo, in Hermione's arms. Rose was now seven and ran around playing with Frank and Scorpius.
Neville and Draco were having a heated discussion with George over something, while their wives, Hannah, Susan and Angelina, were sipping some of Molly's homemade lemonade at the table that had been put outside for the afternoon.
Susan and Draco's youngest, two year-old Orion, was playing under the table near his mother's feet.
Angelina was six months pregnant with her first child, and she and George were planning to call it Fred, no matter the sex.
Jordyn and Dean were in their own bubble, Dean's hands caressing Jordyn's heavily pregnant belly. She looked about ready to drop, and Kayla was very excited about being a big sister. She was currently running after Rose and the boys, her hair an afro bobbing about her head and cheeks.
Whistling a happy tune, Molly came out of the kitchen with another pitcher of lemonade and grinned in Harry's direction. Harry smiled back, looking down when his trousers were tugged. He picked up a small boy, pressing a kiss to the soft blond hair of his eight month old son, Lawrence, and cuddling him close. Lawrence gave a cry, and Harry knew it was feeding time, so he headed inside and heated up a bottle.
When the bottle was empty, Harry conjured a towel and burped Lawrence. Once done, he vanished the towel and then headed up to Charlie's old room, where a cot had been set up for them, and he laid the baby down, pulling a soft blue blanket up to cover his little body.
Harry leaned down to press a kiss to the soft skin of Lawrence's cheek, then stood back just watching his son. He jumped when he felt his lover touch the small of his back, smiling when Severus moved and stroked a finger down the same cheek Harry had just kissed.
"Did he go down alright?"
They stood together watching Lawrence sleeping for a moment, Harry leaning back into Severus' arms. It had taken them awhile to get back to what they had had, but Harry had learned to trust Severus again, and they had adopted Lawrence from a magical orphanage.
Severus tugged on Harry's hand and pulled him from the room, quietly shutting the door behind them, and they headed back down stairs.
In the kitchen, Molly was preparing some snacks to take outside. "The children are hungry. They're going to eat me out of house and home."
"Ah but you love it, Mum. You know you do." Harry grinned at her.
"For that cheek you can help me," Molly said, ignoring Harry's mock moan of annoyance.
Smirking, Severus slid out into the garden leaving the two alone, and Molly turned to look at Harry seriously. "Are you happy?"
"Yes, Mum, you know I am."
Stroking his cheek softly, Molly smiled. "I do know that, but I wanted to be sure that you did."
"What's brought all this on?" Harry asked, confused.
"Nothing dear, it's just so nice to see you all happy. All of my children."
Taking the plate out of Molly's hands, Harry gently placed it on the table and wrapped his arms around her. "We're all happy, Mum. Bill and Fleur, Charlie and his dragons, George and Angelina, Ron and Hermione, me and Severus, and Ginny and her Quidditch." He put his chin on her shoulder and held her close. Pulling back to look her into her eyes, Harry said seriously, "We're all happy, thanks to you and Dad letting us be happy with whomever, or whatever, we chose."
Molly tugged Harry back into a fierce hug and peppered kisses over his cheeks. "I love you."
"I love you too, Mum. Now let's get out there before they drink all the lemonade." Harry pulled away, coughing slightly to try and clear the lump that had formed in his throat over all the emotion.
Together they carried out platters of fruit and cheese and crackers and biscuits. As he put them on the table, Harry could see that Severus had been brought into Neville, Draco and George's conversation.
Hermione sidled up to him, and Harry stroked Hugo's ginger curls. "This one is definitely a Weasley. You could deny it with Rose, but not this little man."
Hermione sighed mockingly, "Oh no, whatever shall I do?"
"Run. Run while you can," Harry intoned before grinning, and the two friends laughed together. "What brings you to see me anyway?"
"Ron and Arthur are talking shop, so I thought I'd escape before they ask me about what this Muggle thing is or that Muggle thing. I swear the only reason Ron married me was so I could help him at work."
"Probably," Harry agreed laughingly.
Hermione kept looking over to where Severus was standing, and she had a knowing gleam in her eye which worried Harry. "What's going on?"
"Why do you ask, Harry?"
"I feel as if I'm missing something really big. Something that I should already know but really don't." He looked around the garden again as if another look would make it all clear to him, but it didn't. When he turned back to Hermione, she was smiling at him. "What is it? Is there something on me?" He looked down at himself but stopped, blushing, when she laughed at him.
"No, Harry, there's nothing wrong with you." Hermione smiled and leant forward to peck his cheek. "You look perfect."
"Perfect? Perfect for what?" Harry asked, now even more confused, but Hermione nodded at something behind him as she walked away. Turning, he found Severus was making his way over. Harry smiled at his lover.
"You don't sound so sure," Severus said as he wrapped himself around Harry, resting his arm across Harry's shoulders.
"I feel as if I'm missing something."
"Nothing I know about, I'm sure." Something in Severus' voice made Harry turn to look at him suspiciously. Severus smirked and pulled Harry closer, but offered no explanation.
Harry relaxed into his lover's arms and willingly let the taller man stroke down his spine as they watched their family. Resting his head on Severus' shoulder Harry craned his neck and pressed a kiss to the underside of Severus' jaw, murmuring, "Love you," into the skin.
Tilting his head down, Severus captured Harry's lips in a gentle kiss, pulling away for a brief moment before he leaned back in. Harry sighed into Severus' mouth and licked at his lower lip, then broke away. Severus pressed his forehead against Harry's and murmured, "Marry me?"
Harry chuckled lightly. "Is it not a generally accepted practice to have a ring when one proposes?"
Severus moved away from Harry slightly and put his hand into his pocket, drawing out a small black box and pressing it into Harry's hand. Harry removed his arm from around Severus and opened the box; inside was a plain gold band. He stroked his thumb over it, looked up at Severus and whispered, "Yes."
Severus took the band out of the box and slid it onto Harry's left-hand ring finger, then slipped the box back into his pocket while his other hand cupped the back of Harry's head, fingers twining in his hair and holding him steady as he kissed the smile from Harry's face.
Cheers sounded and wolf-whistles abounded as they kissed, and with flushed cheeks Harry turned to face his family, pleased and embarrassed to see them all watching the two of them. Harry soon buried his face in Severus' chest, enjoying the feel of it moving beneath him as Severus chuckled.
And Harry, feeling the cool metal of the ring on his finger, smiled against Severus' robes. He knew that Molly would be unbearable as she planned their wedding day to make it perfect for the two of them. Harry wrapped his arms around Severus' waist and closed his eyes against the happy tears that threatened to fall, wondering if he could convince Severus to wear white. And when Severus' hand tightened in his hair and Harry could hear his lover's heart beating under his ear, he knew that all was well.
Notes: The potions ingredients from: Pottermore.
Hannah Abbott's half-blood status comes from: Harry Potter Wiki.
Susan Bones' half-blood status comes from: Harry Potter Wiki.
Children's book writer Beatrix Bloxam: HP-Lexicon.
St. Mungo's Location taken from: HP-Lexicon.