Title: Blood Once Spilled

Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.

Pairings: Snape/Draco at the beginning, then Snape/Harry/Draco

Warnings: Angst, issues of disability, AU in that Snape survived

Wordcount: 8800

Rating: R

Summary: When he needed someone who would answer his griping with griping, Harry went to them.

Author's Notes: This was written for a prompt left by hpjk_addict, who asked for a fic where Harry turns to Draco and Severus (Harry is friends with Draco and Severus who are together) after a really bad break-up or something extremely painful that left him wounded (physically or emotionally) and they provide him with a listening ear, understanding, comfort, affection, etc... Harry ends up together with them. Naturally :-)). And here we are.

Blood Once Spilled

Harry straightened out his right arm, staring at the ceiling. He hissed through his teeth as he repeated the motion, and then hissed again as he did it again.

And again, and again. That was the point of therapy, after all. You had to keep doing it whether you wanted to or not, and it had to keep happening no matter how much pain it caused you, and it went on and on until you wanted to scream at someone, but you couldn't scream at the friends who were sorry for you, or the Healers who were helping you, even pushing themselves to learn Muggle methods in order to do so.

Finally, he'd reached the limit of that particular set of exercises. Harry dropped back in his chair, limp and panting, and looked down at his body. He still flinched from the sight of it, but he would never get used to living with it if he went on that way.

The skin looked healthy and fit near his right wrist, which luckily was the part of him that most often showed outside of shirtsleeves. Then it seemed to ripple apart, and a scar like the wake of a boat dived down his right arm towards his elbow, curved into his armpit, passed down his flank and ribcage while growing broader and wider and uglier and redder, and ended up at his hip. It looked as though someone had tried to slice him in half.

Which was what had happened. And the reason that Harry wasn't an Auror right now, and wouldn't be one unless he got back full mobility in his right arm and leg, and could sit in a bloody chair without pain, and could bend at the waist without crying out in agony.

Harry ground his teeth. He would do it. His friends were helping him. Hermione showered him with books and information and was relentlessly cheerful about Harry's prospects of learning to move again. Ron was there for him, cracking jokes and telling Harry about all the cases he was missing so that he would be fully informed whenever the Ministry was ready to accept him back again.

But there were some things Harry couldn't share with them, because those things made his face burn with embarrassment, or shame at his ingratitude. Things like whether he would ever have sex again, whether anyone would be able to stand a scar that ugly. Or things like the fits he got into where he didn't want to be cheerful and hopeful and forward-looking, he just wanted to scream and throw things at the wall to hear them break. Or the hours that he sat up in bed wondering what he really believed about death.

Then he knew where to go.

Harry heaved himself to his feet, refusing to listen to what his spine said to him and what his muscles screamed at him. He picked up his coat and put it on, using his right arm to lead all the way, like he was used to doing. He would keep up the exercises and get the function back; he just had to have this mood sometimes where it was bitter defiance thrown into the face of the universe, not a smiling benevolence for all mankind.

They take me out of myself, he thought as he limped towards the front door, refusing to let his stupid right hip take less than its fair share of weight. That can only be good for me, right now.


"I do believe we have a visitor."

It was what Snape said every time Harry came over, or at least every time Snape woke out of the daze that his Potions lab put him into to notice that he and Malfoy had a guest. Harry nodded to him and kept sipping his tea. He had taken the most uncomfortable chair in the house, on purpose. He wouldn't be able to sit in comfortable chairs all the time when he was hunting criminals or planning ambushes with Ron. He was going to get back to what he had been, and that was that. He wouldn't accept anything else.

"We do, Severus," Malfoy said, and let a hand rest on Snape's shoulder for a moment, not caressing but touching, as though to brace himself. Snape tilted his head back and looked at Malfoy for the same length of time. By the time Snape looked back at Harry, Malfoy had released Snape's shoulder and was moving on.

Snape bares his throat when he does that, Harry thought, and swallowed more tea, concentrating on the scald against his palate. I wonder why he puts up with the vulnerability.

Stupid reasoning, of course. For the same reason Ron put up with Hermione's fussing about rules and Hermione put up with Ron's horrid table manners. Because there were things that were more important in both cases. Harry told himself to be smarter.

"And what has he come for this time?" Snape leaned forwards. "An illegal pain potion? Some remedy for a sleepless night? The testimony of those who knew he would never last as an Auror?"

Malfoy narrowed his eyes, the way he usually did when Snape said something like that, but Harry laughed and moved his teacup up to his mouth again, ignoring the way that stretched his arm. The point was to stretch. The point was to be smart.

The point was to let it sting, because Snape would, that way, encourage the cold, grim determination Harry wanted to encourage in himself, the determination that would let him recover.

"All of those would help, and more, if I could have an illegal pain potion without losing my job," Harry said, saluting Snape with the teacup, "and if I had nights that were sleepless because of nightmares instead of pain, and if the testimony could be sent to my enemies instead of my friends." He lounged back against the chair and ignored his own tendency to flinch. Visiting Snape and Malfoy meant ignoring lots of things like that, but it was always worth it. "I've come to listen to you abuse me."

Snape narrowed his eyes in turn. "Where do I begin?" he murmured. "There are so many topics."

"Wherever you like," Harry said, and stretched his arm up again. This time, he couldn't help the hiss that broke from his lips, because the pain was sharper than normal, exquisite, like someone thrusting a needle into him instead of a knife.

"With this, then," Snape said. "You have been an Auror for five years. You endured the torture of the Cruciatus before that. And you haven't yet built your pain tolerance up to the point that you can keep silent through it?"

Malfoy put his hand on Snape's shoulder again, and they exchanged glances. Probably remembering some of the torture they had been through during the war, Harry thought. He had the strong impression their relationship had formed because they had sought pleasure to endure the pain, and had seen no reason to give up the pleasure when the pain retreated.

"You're right, I should be better at it," Harry said, and used that thought as a hammer against himself, against the silent dread that he would never be able to return to fieldwork because he wasn't as fit as an Auror needed to be. If he had his full range of motion back, what did it matter if it hurt? He would just keep going through it, of course. "This isn't as bad as the Cruciactus."

"How many times were you under the Cruciactus?" Malfoy said, and shook his head.

"During the war? A few." Harry shrugged, imagining that for Malfoy it must have been many more than that. He'd lived in Malfoy Manor right next to Voldemort, after all. "Since the war? About twelve."

Malfoy choked a little on his own tea and glanced at Snape again. Snape's return gaze was mild, and unrevealing. Well, of course it is, Harry thought, and sipped again at his tea, concentrating on the way it stung his throat. He went through more than that, but Snape doesn't want to tell me exactly how many. It would mean showing too much personal emotion.

Harry reminded himself of that every time he became too comfortable around Snape's harsh comments and Malfoy's enigmatic questions. He was tolerated here, like a feral cat they fed, but he wasn't a friend, not really. On the other hand, he didn't think Snape and Malfoy could make friends in a normal way.

And it was good for him to have something different from the Weasleys, in the way that a potion that tasted awful might nevertheless be good for him. It was bracing.

"High, indeed," Snape murmured, steepling his fingers in front of him. "Alas, this is only proof that nothing truly dents a Gryffindor's skin."

That's right, Harry thought, glancing down his right shirtsleeve at what he could see of the scar. Nothing gets through. So this won't, either.

He looked up in time to catch a glimpse of an expression disappearing from Snape's face. Disgust, probably, to see Harry examining the damage. Harry made a note to wear thicker clothes the next time he was here.

"No, it doesn't," he said, and sipped some more of his tea. "No, I come here to have you scold me back into health."

Snape sat up, and from the way his shoulders tensed, Harry had crossed some invisible line. By talking about what I want from him so openly? Maybe that upset him. Harry opened his mouth to frame an apology.

Malfoy intervened, leaning over and plucking the teacup from Harry's hand. "You can hold my china when I think that you might be able to take care of it," he snapped.

Harry looked, and saw that his fingers were shaking. He grimaced. The problems he had were really with his right arm, and not his right hand, but sometimes something like this would start up, and he could never predict it. He leaned back and lifted his arm in one of the exercise positions that the Healers had taught him, which made the scar burst into fire and gave him something else to think about. "Sorry," he said.

Snape and Malfoy exchanged another glance. Harry had to imagine, this time, that they were tired of him and his dramatics. Harry grunted and hauled himself to his feet the way he had to do it, twisting so he led with his left hip instead of his right. That made the pain start up in his hip, too, even better for focusing his attention on than the agony in his arm. "See you later. Thanks for the tea."

He felt their combined, silent stares at his back all the way across the room, but he still wasn't sure what he had done wrong. He shut the door gently behind him, and shook his head. He would have to avoid visiting for a few weeks, to give them time to cool off.


"Primitive."

Harry blinked around his current Healer's shoulder, and saw her freeze in front of him. Olivia Mandar was nice enough, but he had noticed before that she tended to flinch around Slytherins. Perhaps the people who had tortured her during the war had been Slytherins. She had mentioned she'd been tortured, to justify why she knew about these exercises, but not more than that.

"So nice of you to visit me, Snape," Harry drawled, leaning back on the bed and lifting his leg when Mandar silently directed him to. She had her eyes fastened on the sheets of the bed and a fine tremor ran through her limbs. Harry checked a sigh. He would much have preferred that Snape and Malfoy come to visit him when he was alone, rather than terrifying his Healer. "So nice of you to think that you know better than my Healers, in fact. Why don't you do this more often?"

Snape stopped in the doorway and stood there. Malfoy peered over his shoulder. "Anyone might think that Potter isn't happy to see us," he remarked.

Harry rolled his eyes. "I need to concentrate here," he said, and tightened the muscles in his leg. That made him want to bark with pain, but after his weakness the last time he'd visited the two of them, like hell if he would. "So you can sit in the corner of the room and be quiet for now."

Surprisingly, they took the waiting chairs and did just that. Ron had occupied both of them earlier, his feet propped up while he cheered Harry on, but he'd had to go back to work. Harry eyed these "supporters" sideways and wondered what their agenda was. Especially since it had only been a few days since the last time he annoyed them.

Snape sat watching him with a stillness that made him look predatory. Malfoy, as he usually did, sat beside him with a hand on his shoulder. Maybe he's his tamer, Harry thought, and chuckled at the picture that formed in his mind, of Snape pacing back and forth and roaring out a desire for vengeance, while Malfoy blocked the doorway to the lab.

The chuckle became that bark of pain despite himself when he lifted his leg again. Mandar shook her head. "The function may never come back," she murmured. "You need to accept that."

Harry shrugged. "I know," he said, while his expression, he knew, communicated Fuck you. Mandar looked back, unimpressed. With him, someone going through some of the same therapy she'd had to, she was different than she was in front of Snape.

"My career isn't as active as yours," she said, and gestured to the cane she'd left leaning against the bed. "So you need to accept that you can have a full life, but not the life of an Auror anymore."

Harry gave her another Fuck you look in response, and went back to raising and lowering his leg. By the time he had to stop, because it felt like the muscles would rip away from the bone if he continued doing it, Mandar was looking at her watch and muttering. She nodded at him, said something in a hurry about the next appointment they had already arranged, and grabbed her cane to limp off.

Harry stretched his hands out and watched the way his fingers on his right hand strained to go further than his right arm permitted them. He could still wield his wand, though, and he was fucking well going to do better than this.

"Why don't you take pain potions?"

That was Malfoy, soft-voiced and right beside the bed, staring at Harry with piercing eyes. Harry met his gaze and shrugged a little, letting a faint smile touch his lips. Malfoy was easier to deal with in ways than Snape, but he wouldn't give the same bracing effect, and Harry never spoke to him alone anyway. "Because they make my head reel."

"And God forbid that your head reel even when you aren't on active duty?" To Harry's surprise, Malfoy went on speaking alone, and Snape simply watched from behind him.

"They make it so that I can't concentrate on anything, and they don't put me to sleep," Harry corrected him. "That makes them useless for both night and day. I'd rather be clear-headed and hurt." He shifted his right leg and grimaced. He might have overdone it.

Malfoy looked back at Snape, and that wordless communication flowed between them again. Harry wondered idly how many different ways they had to say "Harry Potter annoys me" in their private language.

"It sounds like you might have a reaction to a common ingredient in the pain potions," Malfoy said softly, playing with the edge of the sheet next to Harry's left leg. Harry took his leg away to give Malfoy more space to play. "Have you ever been tested?"

"Yes, of course," Harry said. "The Healers did those tests years ago."

"The Healers," Snape said, with all the arrogance of a private Potions master.

Harry rolled his eyes. "They did the best they could, and there's been no reason to retest me. The injury didn't change my magic or my blood. It changed my body." And how I hate that, he thought, glaring down viciously at the scar on his side.

Again Malfoy and Snape's fleeting glance between each other was just disappearing when he looked up. Harry wished he knew what bothered them so much about him looking at his scar. He was simply trying to get a sense of it. If they hated it, they didn't have to visit him in hospital, or let him visit them.

"You need to be retested," Malfoy said, and drew his wand. Harry didn't react in enough time, having grown out of considering Malfoy a threat, and Malfoy lashed his wand in a cruciform pattern, muttering a spell that Harry couldn't hear under his breath. Blood erupted out of the scar on Harry's arm.

Harry closed his eyes and forced himself into silence, into strength, into thought. He had already disgusted Snape once by betraying weakness in front of him. He would not do it again.

Ron would probably ask why in the world it mattered to Harry what Snape thought of him, but the fact remained that if he disgusted Snape enough, Harry wouldn't be able to go back to his house and imbibe that stinging tonic of disbelief he needed. And that was unacceptable.

When he opened his eyes again, Malfoy was glaring at him and catching the blood in a vial. Harry raised his eyebrows at him. "So sorry that I didn't have a vial ready to catch that, particularly when I didn't know you were doing it," he murmured.

"It's not that," Malfoy said, staring at him as though Harry was the stupidest person on the planet. Harry glared back.

"Draco," Snape said.

Malfoy turned to him at once, one hand oustretched, and Snape seemed to meet the gesture although he hadn't moved. The gesture made Harry feel scratchy and envious. He satisfied himself with shaking his head and moving his newly-damaged arm closer to his side. At least he knew how to close a simple wound now, and he was becoming adept at using his wand with his left hand.

"Episkey," he murmured, and then leaned back in his bed, eyes closed. "The next time you want some blood, just ask."

"You've shed enough blood for us."

Harry opened his eyes and turned his head, but Malfoy was on his way out of the room with Snape in tow, not glancing back. Harry shrugged and shut his eyes. Malfoy probably just meant that he had enough blood to make a judgment on, and test for Harry's probably non-existent allergy to Potions ingredients.

Sometimes he sounded as if he meant something else, but Harry never allowed himself to explore the possibility that he did, even in his mind. That might have unfortunate consequences, and Harry was too busy with a bunch of those right now to need another one.


"It's as I suspected. You're allergic to lavender."

"I'll make sure not to wear any clothes that color, then," Harry said dryly, keeping his head bowed over his book so Malfoy wouldn't see how much his entrance into Harry's house had startled him. Yes, he'd built an exception into his wards for both Snape and Malfoy as long as they didn't come in with hostile intent, but they had never taken advantage of it before. "Hermione will be thrilled. She's never thought I looked good in it."

"Idiot. The flower." Malfoy slammed a jar down on the table next to Harry. Harry glanced at it and rapidly away again. It was full of swimming blood with black flecks in it. It reminded him of-well, hospital and the days right after he was wounded. "A lot of pain potions use it. Severus has some that don't."

Harry nodded. "All right. How many Galleons?" He didn't have much money in the house at the moment, but he was up to a trip to Gringotts. He would force himself to be up to it.

Malfoy froze like one of the lion statues that the Ministry had replaced the Fountain of Magical Brethren with. Harry knew he had offended him, but not how, so he leaned patiently back in his chair and waited for Malfoy to explain it to him.

Malfoy didn't want to. Harry finally turned back to the book, and then Malfoy deigned. Harry grinned to himself. It was as he'd thought. No Slytherin liked having attention shifted away from him. "You think that's the price we'd ask?"

"Well, Sickles and Knuts don't seem appropriate."

Malfoy turned his back and paced across the room. Harry continued watching him. Malfoy was graceful like this, the long line of his shoulders falling neatly into the spine, and Snape seemed to like him in things that showed off a bit of skin, so Harry got to see a lot of him.

Besides, the price could be anything from Harry telling everyone who had helped him to Harry not telling anyone who had helped him. It paid to make Malfoy say it rather than making useless guesses about what Harry should do next.

"You don't realize what's happening." Malfoy halted and spoke to the mirror on the far wall, the one where Harry confronted himself over and over with how ugly he was now, as if it had more sense than Harry. "You don't understand what we're doing."

"Will discovering that I'm allergic to lavender help you develop new potions? You're more than welcome to the discovery. Do you want a finder's fee or the money to set up a new lab or something?"

Malfoy braced his hands in front of him on the shelf beneath the mirror and took a long, deep, painful breath. Then he turned around, and his face was calm again, his hands still at his sides.

"We want you to take the potions," he said. "Faithfully. For a week. These are them." He laid out a bewildering array of small green and red vials on the shelf under the mirror. "Each of them has instructions. You're to follow the instructions exactly as they tell you to. Hard though that is for a Gryffindor," he added.

"Where are the instructions? Written on the sides?" Harry gestured at his glasses. "I'm not sure I can read them."

"You're a wizard," Malfoy said, voice so low that Harry thought for a moment he would attack. His wand twitched in his hand. Harry shifted his balance so that he could rise from the chair quickly if he needed to. "You know how to enlarge printing."

"I only asked where the printing was," Harry pointed out, smiling at Malfoy with more force than necessary. "Hard to know what to enlarge if I don't know where to point my wand."

"If you'd pointed your wand the right way, this could have been over long ago."

Harry clenched one hand down so hard that he thought he would rip the page out of the book he was studying for a second. Then he let go, and smoothed it down, never taking his eyes from Malfoy.

"I'm sorry that I disappointed you so much with how I handled the attacker who gave me this," he said, gesturing to the scar on the right side of his body. At the moment, with anger and adrenaline hammering through his blood, he didn't even care how much that flick of his arm hurt. "Next time, I'll be sure to let them rip me apart."

Malfoy blinked at him, and blinked again. "You thought I meant you should have died," he said.

"No." Harry knew his voice was brittle, but he didn't care. "I know you mean I was inadequate in defending myself, and I deserve the consequences. I won't do it next time. Get out."

Malfoy backed a step towards the door, and then another, but never took his eyes off Harry. He didn't seem as afraid as Harry would have liked, either, and Harry's hand strayed down to his wand.

"That explains a lot," Malfoy said, to himself.

"It sure does," Harry said. "Like the fact that I must be some sort of masochist, putting up with this for as long as I have." He heaved himself to his feet, ignoring the way his leg twinged, and pointed his wand. "Get out."

Malfoy nodded to no one and slipped out the door. Harry sat down and leaned back against the chair again, his chest heaving, the scar pulling as he breathed.

I need the anger they give me. When I'm in the middle of that rage, I don't notice the pain.

But he also needed some sense that the people he was speaking to respected him enough to give him a bit of attention along with their insults. It was all too clear now that Malfoy and Snape despised him for not doing as he should have in the first place, raising a Shield Charm in time. Harry wondered what they would say if he told them that they couldn't despise him more than he despised himself.

But I'm not going to. Malfoy never even told me the price they wanted for their help with the potions, which means it'll come later. I'll wait until it arrives and pay it, then tell them never to bother me again.

Harry went back to his book, on defensive magic and spells that verged on the edge of Dark but didn't cross it, with an ache in the back of his mind. He had lost something important, almost certainly, but since it had only been important to him and not to the other people it concerned, he would get over it.


"You have not come."

This time, Harry was lying in bed, looking up at the ceiling. It was ten in the morning, but he had no desire to get up. Last night, the pain in his leg had got bad enough that the leg had collapsed beneath him. Even with the pain potions, the ache hadn't dulled yet. This was a morning for lying in and feeling sorry for himself. No one would care. It was what they expected him to do anyway.

"What?" Harry turned his head, and scowled when he saw Snape. Had he really not changed the exception in the wards that had allowed Snape to get through? He'd meant to do that. "Yes, I haven't come to complain or give you the price. You might as well tell me what it is, and I'll pay you when you do." He turned his head away again.

Snape sat in the chair next to the bed, his eyes silent and scathing. Harry knew they would be without even looking at him, because since when was Snape anything else?

"You have not been taking the potions the way you should." Yes, Snape's voice could still cause a residual flinch in the middle of Harry's stomach, something that made Harry scowl at the ceiling this time. When would he get over being such a child, so weak, to jump at something like that and fear it?

About the same time as I get over being childish enough to spend the morning in bed. Which wouldn't be today.

"Yes, I have." Harry summoned the same iron patience that he needed sometimes when dealing with Rita Skeeter. "The instructions said to take them on the hour, and I always do that. The green ones three times a day, the red ones twice a day. I've done that. And the purple one only once a week. Since it's been a week since I saw Draco, I've only done that once."

Snape was silent, but Harry could feel the fury building up next to him. Well, fine. It could just burn itself out on the ashes of his indifference. He wasn't going to get angry this time. He had to break that dependence he had on Snape and Malfoy being the only ones who could stir him up.

"You were to come to us after five days on the potions, so we could examine you," Snape said at last.

Harry did turn to stare at him then, because that made no sense. "That wasn't part of the instructions."

Snape leaned forwards and stared at him from less than an inch away. Harry's breathing sped up, because he was stupid. "We did not think we needed to make it part of the instructions," Snape hissed at him. "You had always come to visit us at least once a week before, and you would have done it this time."

"You're angry about me disobeying something only written down in your head?" Harry laughed, and knew his laughter was ugly, and rejoiced. It was probably the only way that he could convince Snape to leave. "God. Typical Slytherin."

Snape leaned back on his chair and put his fingers together. Sometimes Harry had dreams where he did things like that. "We are not angry about that," he said. "We want to know why you have isolated yourself here."

"The pain potions aren't fucking working, Snape." Get angry one more time. Go out with a bang instead of a whimper. "I fell down last night, which has never happened before. And I woke up today feeling worse than I have since I got the bloody thing. I appreciate your effort, but you can't do anything for me."

Snape went on staring. Then he said, "Yes, we can."

"I'm not one of your pet projects, where you can go on experimenting when the first dose of potion doesn't work." Harry rubbed at his eyes, then dropped his hand hastily. He was only rubbing away sleep, but Snape might think it was tears, and Harry didn't want to deal with that shit. "Why did you come here? Shouldn't the way I threw Malfoy out be enough of a sign that I wanted to be let alone?"

"I did not understand why you threw him out." Snape arranged himself on the chair as though settling in for a long stay.

"Because he told me the truth," Harry said, and gave him the most unpleasant smile possible. "That both of you think I'm an idiot for not raising a Shield Charm in time."

"You are an idiot for spilling your blood and risking your life at all." Snape folded his fingers again. "And you are an idiot for pursuing a career that has already cost you so much."

Harry pushed himself up, and grunted as the scar pulled again. But this was the last time, it had to be, so it didn't matter how much of his weakness Snape saw. For the first time, Harry was grateful that he was the bloody Chosen One. People would believe him over Snape and Malfoy if they tried to spread rumors about how childish he was.

"This is the only thing I want to do," he said, voice low. "This is the only thing. Helping other people. Chasing down Dark wizards who don't care about people's lives. What should I do, other than this?"

Snape leaned in again, when Harry would have thought he'd get up and leave the minute he heard such sentimental Gryffindor shit. And he kept on leaning in, bearing Harry down to the pillow again, nose pressed against his.

"You could focus on yourself." Snape's voice stroked the stubble on Harry's chin he hadn't bothered to shave this morning. "You could learn what your talents are other than Quidditch and defensive magic. You must have some. You could recover from your wounds and learn that other people might value you for more than spilling your blood in their defense."

Harry got a hand up and in the middle of Snape's chest, and shoved. Snape staggered back, and had to rise from the chair to preserve his balance. From there, he stared at Harry like a vulture.

A particularly handsome vulture.

But that had never mattered, yesterday or today or any other time, and Harry spoke. "Yeah, yeah, you want to preserve my mother's sacrifice, I get it. But I don't need you to do that any more, Snape. She did her part and died to save me, and I paid her back by dying in the Forest. Now I can choose what to do with my own life."

"Damn you."

Harry had never seen Snape look the way he did now, pale and red at the same time, spots of the second color breaking out like pox on his forehead and cheeks, but then he whirled away and stormed out of the house, and Harry heard glass breaking as Snape slammed his front door.

Harry leaned back on his pillow and stared at the ceiling again. Then he shook his head and hauled himself upright.

The anger Snape and Malfoy inspired in him could be useful one last time. He would take those fucking exceptions out of the wards right now.


Dear Mr. Potter, I am sorry to inform you...

Harry's chest was tight. He threw the letter, which he'd already read three times, down on the couch beside him, and wrapped his arms around himself. If he squeezed hard enough, maybe he could start breathing again.

He should have known, from the moment the letter started with Mr. Potter, instead of Auror. But he hadn't. He'd read on, foolishly hoping they would return him to active duty.

He bowed his head and told himself they had to do this, that he hadn't passed the tests, that an Auror without the necessary speed and strength and flexibility was a liability in the field. And he had told them that he didn't want to return simply to go on desk duty, that it was as an active, arresting Auror he wanted to work, or nothing.

I was the one who said that I wouldn't accept a different kind of job, that I didn't want to be a different kind of Auror.

For some reason, reminding himself that it was his own fault wasn't driving him on to do better the way he usually did. But what better did he have, about this? The decision was made. He wouldn't be going back.

Harry absently made a fist with his right hand, and then flinched, and then shook his head. What did it matter? He had back as much flexibility as he was ever going to gain, according to the Healers, which was the reason he had gone to take the tests for readmission. No need to keep on doing the exercises. He should be satisfied with what he had.

He never had been. But there was a first time for everything.

Harry stood up with one hand on the arm of the couch. No one was here, and he didn't think he could bring himself to contact Ron and Hermione with the news until tomorrow morning. That meant no one would know if he went to bed for a while. He doubted he would sleep, but at least he could say that he was resting, and that would be somewhat productive.

Tomorrow, I'll decide what to do. Tomorrow, I'll decide what other job might be open to Harry Potter-

There was a brisk knock on the door, on the one part of it that he left unwarded for casual visitors and other people who weren't his friends and might need him. Harry frowned at it, his fingers tapping on the couch. Then he shrugged and crossed the room, letting his leg drag. He would try to be kind to himself for one day.

Looking out through the newly-repaired window in the door revealed Snape on one side of the doorstep and Malfoy on the other. Harry caught his breath, and then leaned against the door and thought about what he should do.

In the end, he shook his head and opened the door. There was a limit to how much he could change.

Snape stepped into the house, followed by Malfoy. He looked at Harry in silence. Harry stared back. He wondered what Snape had expected. To find him a sobbing mess on his couch?

No, he would only think that if he somehow knew about the letter. Which he can't.

"Did you come for your potions vials back?" Harry finally asked, because he had thought of something that might legitimately bring them here. "You can have them. They're not washed, but they're all arranged." He nodded to the kitchen table, where the empty vials they'd lent him stood in neat ranks. He wouldn't need them now. The pain was manageable, and it would stay that way for the rest of his life.

Snape and Malfoy exchanged another of those silent, communicative glances. Harry couldn't read this one. He leaned on the table and extended his right arm in front of him, then hissed as the scar pulled.

Snape stepped up to him and pushed his right sleeve back. Harry was so busy gaping at him that he didn't think to yank his arm away until Snape's fingers were on the scar itself, fluttering above it, and then Snape's grip was too firm.

"You no longer intend to use them?" Snape murmured, as calm as though he was in his own lab among his own ingredients. "A waste. The scar is less thick than it was, and less restrictive on your movements."

Harry tried to think of a way to explain the owl that wouldn't sound self-pitying. In the end, there was no way. "I'm not going back to the Aurors. They told me today that I don't have enough strength or flexibility left in my right side to be out in the field."

Malfoy made a sound. Harry kept his head turned away, because if the sound included a sneer or a chuckle he didn't want to see it.

Snape simply looked at him. Harry had never understood him less. His eyes were bright, and he seemed to have forgotten that he had a hand on Harry's right arm.

"Did they tell you that?" he asked, which made Harry narrow his eyes, because Snape didn't ask for things to be repeated, either.

"Yes, they did," Harry snapped back, and yanked on his arm. Snape let it go this time, but stood as near to Harry as he had before, gazing into his eyes. Harry could feel Malfoy moving up behind him. His fingers curled around his wand. I might be less flexible, but I can still use the curses. "I should have suspected it before, but I'd allowed myself to hope. You can laugh now," he added, because Snape had missed his cue.

Instead, Snape took another step forwards. And Malfoy pressed against his back, and a moment later, pressed a kiss to the nape of Harry's neck.

Harry spun around to face him, shaking him off. "If this is a joke-"

"It's not," Malfoy said, all hot and soft and bright against him, white hair swaying in as he lifted Harry's right arm and kissed the scar. Harry gaped at him, which was apparently the cue for Snape to wrap his hand around Harry's nape and lean in over him to kiss the scar on his forehead. "It's us."

"You're making no sense." Harry tensed his shoulders. He had learned to read them, he thought, fairly well, and he'd never had a hint of this? That made it all the more likely that they'd finally grown tired of helping him and decided to get revenge on him in the most humiliating way possible.

"You are the fool, not to have suspected this." Snape kissed him on the lightning bolt scar again and turned him around. Harry reassured himself it only happened because all his muscles were limp with shock. "We want you."

Harry shook his head. "You despise me. You've made that clear more than once. You have that right, since I wasn't exactly nice to you when I was a kid, but you can't act that way all my life and then expect me to believe that you just changed your mind."

Snape closed his eyes in that asking-for-patience expression Harry had seen so often since he started going over to their house so they could brace him into reality. "You know something else that you have always been, Mr. Potter?"

Malfoy made a noise in the back of his throat.

"Harry." Snape took a moment to glare at Malfoy, another continuance of a long, silent conversation that Harry didn't understand and never would, and then turned around again. "Unobservant. You have not realized that we have been questioning your dedication to the Aurors for more than a year?"

"Of course you did," Harry said. "Because if I did it, it must be stupid."

"You do a great many things that are stupid." Snape's hand moved into place on the nape of Harry's neck again, a soothing manacle. "But spilling your blood in defense of people who should have learned to defend themselves is by far the most stupid. You have done enough. I did not phrase it in those words, thinking-wrongly, as it turned out-that you would see the drift of my criticisms."

"Of course he didn't," Malfoy said, moving up behind Harry again. "Because of the reason you saw in hospital. He always takes the criticisms to apply to himself and his decisions, not things outside of him." He looked at Harry, his eyes bright with the same gleam Harry had seen when he delivered his potions to Harry. "Because he's stupid enough to believe that no one could fall in love with him."

"Someone could," Harry said, shocked into speech. "But not you two."

"When we asked how many times you had been under Cruciactus since the war?" Malfoy said, his voice suddenly soft and warm against Harry's ear as he stepped up to him. Snape had never let Harry go, but Malfoy's hands found places and purchase on Harry's body, mostly on his hips and belly, moving reverently over the scar on the right side. "We asked because we wanted to know how much danger you were in. But we knew nothing we could say would ever take you out of that danger. You had to do something that would remove you from the danger on your own."

"Like get wounded, and unable to have a career again," Harry said, his voice overflowing with something he didn't want to examine. "Yeah, it was my fault. I get it."

"Idiot." Malfoy's hands tightened, even on the scar, making Harry wince and hold still. "We've wanted you for a while. But how could we say that when you used us as some kind of medicinal potion that would hurt you enough to get you back on your feet? As your fistful of nettles? We wanted someone who could focus on us, not something else."

"I have to do something." Harry tensed to fight again, but he wasn't sure how he could fight words. "I can't just be your pet."

"We know that," Snape said, into Harry's hair, into his neck, over him. "But you can take the time to recover more fully from your wounds, to search, to slow down. You have done nothing but fling yourself from one crisis to another since the war. Into Auror training, into full-time work as an Auror, and then into wound after wound, and recovery period after recovery period. You act as though you despise your body for anything but its strength."

"Well, I do so many things wrong." Harry squirmed around to look up at Snape. "And I thought you agreed with me about despising me."

Snape's hands tightened. "I do not want to sleep with people who disgust me," he said harshly. "And I do not want to sleep with people who hate themselves."

"Go away, then."

"You don't understand." Malfoy sounded gleeful, and he stepped around Harry again, cradling his face this time. "We know that we have the ability to make you stop despising yourself."

Harry opened his mouth, because struggling against Snape and Malfoy had become so automatic by now, but Malfoy kissed him before he could, one arm around him keeping him still so that he couldn't fight too hard on the right and hurt his scar. He was still free to lift his left arm and punch Malfoy, of course.

Somehow, it was hard to do so. He shivered, and ended up keeping his hand still. The kiss was doing odd things to him.

Malfoy kissed fiercely, driving his tongue in as though he could imagine nothing he wanted to do more than shut Harry up. Or spend time in Harry's company, or kiss him, or touch him the way his hand was doing, scrambling at Harry's back with opening and closing desperation to get to his arse.

Snape was there, too, forcing Harry into Malfoy's arms with his hands on Harry's shoulders, and then ripping open Harry's robes from the back, ignoring the far more appropriate buttons on the front. But when had Snape ever been appropriate, or fair?

Malfoy's kiss was wild now, down and down and down, into the center of his mouth and his throat, and he forced Harry into Snape's arms in turn when putting weight on his right leg became too much for Harry. Snape kissed his ear, around the corner of his neck, and then turned and took Malfoy's place at Harry's mouth, while Malfoy yanked the ruined robes off Harry.

Snape's stubble scratched more than Malfoy's had. His arms were firmer about pinning both of Harry's, but Harry had fought through more constricting holds and worse pain than this. He could have ended it.

He told himself he was weak for yielding, but when Snape groaned into his mouth at the way Harry's lips parted, well. That was making Snape weaken, too, give something up that he would never have given up under normal circumstances, so Harry thought he could count it as a victory.

Malfoy stepped around them, his movements light and steady, his eyes alight when Harry managed to catch a glimpse of them behind Snape's head. But mostly Snape dominated Harry's world, which was why he was so surprised when Malfoy abruptly grabbed them both and shoved them in the direction of something else. Harry braced himself to stumble over his couch or maybe his end table.

He landed on something softer and more yielding even than he was instead, and looked around to find himself in the bedroom. He blushed. "I'm not usually that unobservant," he told Snape, who was hovering over him and staring down at him like an even more handsome version of the vulture Harry usually compared him to. Except this vulture was going to devour him while he was still alive.

"Stop apologizing," Malfoy snapped, and flopped into bed beside him. "You'll make us doubt our taste." He began kissing Harry again, and Snape moved over to the side. Harry hoped he was taking off his clothes. He had wanted them; so long as they had gone mental and wanted him back, he might as well enjoy it.

Malfoy reached down and pinched one of Harry's nipples so hard he jumped, then leaned back and tugged off Harry's pants, the only piece of clothing he had left. "You do look nice," he said, looking down at Harry's erection as though he had been the one to personally put it there.

"You're only half of it," Harry said.

If he hadn't always understood the silent messages Snape and Malfoy were exchanging, it appeared that they understood him better. Malfoy smiled at him, said, "Oh, I know that, and I wouldn't want it otherwise," and bent down to take Harry in his lips.

Harry started and opened his mouth, but Snape filled it with his tongue before Harry could protest. Well, not protest exactly, but he didn't know what he would have said. Snape kissed him some more, and pulled his head back so that he could apply his teeth-those teeth so many sarcastic phrases had slipped through-to Harry's neck, and Harry's head whirled.

When he could see again, or sense things again, he realized that Malfoy had let his cock go and was probing into him with slick fingers. Except he was doing it too slowly. Harry spread his legs as encouragement and pushed down on them, making Malfoy suck in a startled breath and Snape give a greedy groan.

Realizations trembled and shivered in Harry's mind. Snape would never have let himself make that kind of sound for a joke.

They wanted him.

Malfoy's fingers went into him, and Snape's tongue went into him, and it was hard, sometimes, so ferocious were they both in working him, to tell who was at which end. But it snapped into clarity when Snape lifted his head and Malfoy lifted Harry's legs, looking steadily between them at Harry as if expecting him to back out.

"We're tired of you acting like a martyr to pain."

Harry understood the message and retorted with a smile. "You'd have to fuck me harder than you will to make it hurt. I'd had plenty."

As he had thought it might, that made Snape's fingers curl near his throat and Malfoy shove into him with a snarl. Snape whispered in Harry's ear as he gasped through the first moments of Malfoy fucking him. "Will you ever go back to anyone else again? Will you ever be with anyone, but us?" His hand curled around Harry's throat this time, and Harry grinned up at him through the small black spots bursting in front of his eyes, because it was so good, and this was real, this was them. Arguing and fighting and pushing him past the immediate crisis, into something better.

"That depends on how good you make it."

Snape turned away and did something; he turned back with his cock out, and presented it to Harry in silent demand. Harry didn't need the demand, actually. His mouth was already open, and with Snape in his mouth, Malfoy in his arse, he had something to push against from both directions.

He was the one who wore them out, in the end, impaling himself and asking for more, grumbling around Snape's cock until he came with a gasp that involved a great deal of black hair flying and heavy teeth biting his lips, and clenching down around Malfoy until he gave up even thrusting and just knelt there, rocking in place. Harry felt Malfoy come in turn, and lifted his head to laugh. Or snort, maybe. One sound of pure joy.

Snape and Malfoy tried to race each other to his cock. Harry flung up his right arm as they touched it at the same time, and gasped as his scar pulled.

The flash of pain mingled with the dazzle of pleasure racing through his body, and they both faded at the same time, as Malfoy stroked him a few more times and Snape pulled his arm gently back into position.

Then Snape collapsed on the bed-Harry was silently amazed he had kept on his feet that long-and Malfoy crawled up towards the pillow so it was easier to see his face. Harry raised his eyebrows at both of them, and waited.

"You're not weak," Malfoy whispered. "That was the exasperating thing, that we were so interested in your strength, and you kept acting like it wasn't enough, like it wasn't real, that it didn't exist."

"But he wanted us to push him back to strength," Snape said. Harry had never heard his voice so unmetallic. "That was the irresistible thing."

Harry reached out and put one hand in black hair, one in blond. He didn't think he could say anything, right now. There was still the question of what he would do, whether he was going to be able to fill his life with something else now that he wasn't an Auror.

But they had convinced him that he would have a life to fill. That this was not the end.

I still have blood in my body.

The End.