Expecting the Unexpected

by Warviben

Disclaimer: I do not own most of these characters. A couple of them I created, but they're Death Eaters, so I don't really want them.

Summary: Content with his life, Harry lets his guard down long enough to change everything. When the important people in his life turn their backs on him, Snape is there to pick up the pieces.

Warnings: This story contains a detailed description of a gang rape. It also will contain a detailed description of a consensual sexual relationship between two males. It also contains the death of a child. Finally, a large element of this story centers around male pregnancy. If any of these things disturb you or aren't your cup of tea, please stop reading now.

Note: Assume for purposes of this story that Voldemort has not yet been defeated, though Harry has completed his schooling at Hogwarts and gone on to become an auror.

##########

"This was a great idea, Gin," Harry said, taking her hand on the tabletop. The restaurant she'd picked, Menagerie, in Diagon Alley, was softly lit and quiet, its romantic atmosphere a far cry from the scene they'd participated in the previous evening. "After last night, I appreciate the quiet."

"Yes, well, Mum did rather go overboard, didn't she?" Ginny said with a fond smile. Harry and Ginny had announced their engagement a week after Ron and Hermione had announced theirs, and Molly Weasley wouldn't be talked out of a party. It seemed like a good half of the wizarding world had been crammed into the Burrow, and the noise level had risen exponentially with the arrival of Fred and George and their Celebration Confetti, firecracker-like devices that exploded little bits of paper periodically.

"It was great," Harry said. "Your mum is the best. But Fred and George . . ."

"I know," Ginny agreed. "They can be a bit hard to take."

"A bit," Harry said. That was an understatement.

Ginny twisted the new diamond engagement ring on her finger absently, still getting used to the novelty of having it there. Her chin rested in her palm, and she looked a million miles away.

"So you said you wanted to talk about dates?" Harry prompted. "Have you spoken with Hermione?" The four of them had decided on a joint ceremony. It made sense – the costs could be split and they'd be standing up for each other anyway. As soon as Hermione and Ginny had begun talking about napkins and favors, Harry and Ron had decided that they'd let the women make all the arrangements. They seemed more certain to retain their sanity that way.

"Actually," Ginny said. "I know that's what I said, but there's something else." She looked down at the table, as though gathering her courage, but Ginny considered herself nothing if not brave. "Harry, I'm pregnant."

Harry's mouth dropped open, but he closed it quickly. "Are you sure?"

Ginny nodded, watching him, waiting for his reaction.

"From that one time?" Harry asked. "When we did didn't use . . ."

"I suppose so," Ginny said. "Guess I inherited more than my red hair from my parents."

Harry was going to be a father. He'd wanted kids with Ginny. Not yet, of course – that hadn't been the plan. But it was happening, now apparently. A large grin stole across his face. "Gin, this is wonderful!"

Ginny's answering smile showed her relief. "Do you think so? Oh, I'm so glad you feel that way! I was a little worried. We hadn't planned this."

"That's true. But it's happening now, so what else are we to do?"

"Well, we could . . . end it, I suppose."

"What? Abortion?" Harry asked, horrified. "No, Ginny! This is our child we're talking about!"

Ginny's shoulders slumped, her relief total. "Thank Merlin!" she breathed. "I couldn't ever do that, have an abortion, I mean. It just goes against everything I believe. This is a precious life we're talking about. I was just worried you weren't ready."

"You really thought I'd want you to do that?" Harry asked softly, taking her hand and squeezing it gently. "I know this isn't what we planned, Ginny, but I assure you, I want this child."

"I'm glad," Ginny whispered, tears in her eyes.

"What does this do to our wedding plans?" Harry asked. "Should we move them up?"

"I think that's a good idea," Ginny admitted. "Mum's going to be fit to be tied. She's very old-fashioned about some things. But she'll get used to it when she thinks about the end result – the grandchild she's wanted from my brothers forever! The sooner the better, don't you think?"

"I'm free tomorrow," Harry offered.

Ginny smiled again. "I don't think we need to do it that soon. I would like to have a little bit of the traditional pomp and ceremony. But I don't want to wait until I'm showing either. How about in a month?"

"My calendar is at your disposal," Harry promised. "What about Ron and Hermione?"

"Well, I guess it's up to them. They can either do the hurry-up thing with us, or they can wait. I won't mind either way. I'll talk to Hermione tonight. She's at the Burrow."

"Are you sure you have to go back? We could go to my place and celebrate," Harry suggested with a waggle of his eyebrows.

Ginny laughed. His attempts to be seductive usually were just plain cute. "I told Mum I'd help her sort the presents. There was so much stuff!" The pile of presents had been staggering. "I wish I hadn't now. Your offer is much more enticing."

Harry sighed dramatically. "It's all right. I've got to go back to the office anyway. I forgot to file my report on that bloke who cursed the tea cup. Idiot'll probably get a month in Azkaban, all for a practical joke. I was going to blow it off, if you were coming home, but since you're not, I might as well get it over with."

"Well, of course you should. Biting someone's nose off is a serious offense," Ginny said with a twinkle in her eyes.

"Even if it did get regrown," Harry agreed. "In a much more pleasing shape."

The waiter brought their bill and Harry fished the appropriate number of galleons from his pocket. "Keep the change," he instructed the fawning server.

"Thank you, sir, and may I say it's been an honor serving you, sir."

Harry refrained from rolling his eyes. "Thank you."

After the man departed, Harry turned to Ginny. "Thank you," he said, softly and sincerely. "For suggesting dinner out and for this . . . news. You've made me so happy."

They gazed lovingly into each other's eyes for a moment until Harry finally said, "I'd better be going. I'll see you tomorrow night?"

"Definitely," Ginny stood up, and Harry escorted her out of the restaurant and to the nearest apparition point.

"Are they still not allowing direct apparition into the Ministry?" Ginny asked.

"No. They're still trying to sort out how Gilroy apparated in with the hinkypunks. Took them a week to capture them all." The nearest public floo was two blocks way. He thought sure the restaurant would allow him (being Harry Potter, after all) to use their floo, but he could do with a bit of a walk.

He kissed Ginny tenderly, lingering on the sweetness of her lips. "I'll see you tomorrow." He watched her leave, then turned to go himself.

Harry whistled as he walked along sparsely-populated Diagon Alley. He was going to be a father! Finally, he would have the family he'd always wanted. He was getting a whole boatload of Weasleys and his very own child! Happiness like Harry had never known filled him, making him feel warm and secure and perhaps making him a little careless as well. He never saw or sensed the man step out of a dark doorway he'd just passed until it was too late. He heard, "Stupefy," and then the world went dark.

##########

Three days later . . .

Harry lay curled up in a corner of the small, stone-walled windowless room which had been his home for the last three days. He'd woken up on day one with a splitting headache, and it took many moments for his memory to supply him with the details about how he'd come to be here. Fear had crept in then, slowly and inexorably filling him until he'd become nearly hysterical. He'd tried to escape from this room, but the only exit was a large wooden door, locked from the outside. Without his wand, he was, for all intents and purposes, helpless. He'd searched the stone walls, looking for a crack or some other weakness, and he'd found nothing. So he'd sat and waited to find out who had taken him (though he thought he could guess that one) and what they wanted of him (though he could probably guess that, too) and cursing his own stupidity.

He had no way of knowing how long he'd been in the cell before they entered. Seven men. In full Death Eater regalia. Heart in his mouth, Harry crouched in a corner of the cell, trying to figure out who they were. He thought one of them was Lucius Malfoy, and he was quite certain that Snape was not among them, but other than that, he had no idea who his jailers were.

One of them had approached him with a vial and told him to drink. When Harry had refused, he was kicked in the ribs for his obstinacy. When he'd regained the ability to breathe, two of the Death Eaters had held him down while a third had forced the potion into Harry's mouth, holding his jaw closed and his nose shut until Harry had swallowed the vile-tasting stuff for want of a breath.

Harry expected a great pain to follow, or oblivion, but nothing happened. The Death Eaters stood around him in a semi-circle, as though waiting for something. Or someone. For several minutes.

Oblivion would have been preferable to what happened next. With a single word, Harry had been divested of his clothing. Embarrassed and humiliated, Harry had tried to cover himself while the ring of men around him laughed. Then the one who had kicked him earlier started in on him again, kicking Harry in the stomach and ribs. While Harry was on his hands and knees, vomiting and trying to catch his breath, he was immobilized. He couldn't move or see behind him, but he could feel every last thing that was done to him and hear every last filthy thing that was said to him.

And now Harry lay here, two days later, naked and hurting and covered in filth, bleeding, he suspected, hungry and thirsty almost beyond reason, wondering where he was and if anyone was searching for him and when Voldemort planned on making an appearance and how much longer he had to live. Not that he was sure he wanted to live now, after . . .

When Harry felt that despair start to fill him, he forced himself to think of Ginny and their unborn child and willed himself to want to live for them.

And then the door opened.

#####

Harry lay where he was, unmoving, watching as the door slowly crept open. A man Harry didn't recognize but whom Harry thought sure had been part of the group that had "welcomed" him here entered. Harry felt some small measure of relief that the man was alone. If the whole crowd had come back for a repeat performance, he wasn't sure he'd make it through with his mind intact. Maybe it if was just one . . . Harry curled a little tighter around himself, ignoring his aching ribs, his eyes never leaving his visitor.

The man approached and squatted next to Harry, but made no move to touch him. Even so, Harry tried to move further away. His back was already against the wall, though, and he had nowhere else to go.

"Are you all right?" the man asked softly.

The words and the tone surprised Harry so much that he couldn't speak. He hadn't expected kindness. Was this some sort of Hostage Taking 101 maneuver – treat the hostage kindly, form some sort of rapport, and then betray it?

"Potter, you need to get up!" The voice was no longer kind, as though it had depleted its reserve of empathy and patience. Harry thought there was something vaguely familiar, if not in the voice, at least in the tone. Still, he didn't move, unless you counted the trembling he seemed unable to control.

The man gave an exasperated sigh. "Potter, it is I, Snape. Do you wish to get out of here or not?"

Harry didn't move, but he said, "Right. You expect me to just believe that." His voice was raspy, the result of lack of water and the tremendous amount of screaming he'd done a couple of days ago.

Another sigh. "On your first day of potions, I asked you about the ingredients for Draught of the Living Death. In your fourth year, I accused you of stealing gillyweed. In your sixth year, you saw a memory of mine involving your father and his pack of marauding friends."

Harry believed him now, and he tried to sit up. The pain was too great, however, and he slumped back down.

"Can you stand?" Snape asked impatiently.

"I think so," Harry choked out.

With Snape's help, Harry got to his feet. Standing was much better than sitting, but still every muscle Harry had protested, and he wasn't sure how long he'd be able to stay upright. He leaned heavily on Snape's arm, conscious of his nudity and the filth covering his body but unable to muster the energy to be too discomfitted by it. He was, however, supremely grateful when Snape removed his own cloak and draped it around Harry's shoulders.

"Thank you," Harry bit out through his chattering teeth.

"Can you walk?"

"I . . . I don't know. Thirsty."

Snape removed a flask from the pocket of his robe and pressed it into Harry's hand. When he had trouble removing the stopper, his fingers too swollen to be of much use after having been stomped on repeatedly, Snape removed it for him, and Harry drank gratefully of the contents.

"Thank you. Better."

"There are anti-apparition wards in place," Snape said. "We will have to walk a bit. Can you manage?"

Harry thought so, if it meant getting out of here, and he nodded. Snape wasn't so sure as he looked down at Harry's unnaturally pale countenance, portions of his face smeared with blood, but he didn't say so. Instead, he handed Harry his own wand, which Harry had thought never to see again. "If we meet anyone, shoot to kill," he instructed. At Harry's amazed look, Snape said, "Muggle expression."

Harry allowed him a small smile, more the barest upturn of the lips, and nodded that he was ready.

Snape carefully opened the door and peered out into the hallway, then motioned Harry to follow.

Harry made it part way before collapsing. Snape had levitated him the remainder of the way until they could apparate. They'd met only the two guards Snape had incapacitated on his way in, whom he stopped now to obliviate, and they managed to escape with no difficulty. It was a bit anti-climactic really.

Harry was still unconscious in Snape's bed, though his breathing was deep and steady and his heartbeat strong. Snape had healed three broken ribs, a lip that looked like it had been bitten through, a fractured cheekbone, several broken fingers, and serious lacerations to Harry's rectum. He hadn't heard gossip, amazingly, from the other Death Eaters about what had happened to Potter after his capture, but it was obvious to Snape that he'd been brutally sodomized, likely more than once. There had been a substantial amount of dried blood on the boy's buttocks and the backs of his thighs, along with what Snape suspected to be dried semen, and a good amount of general filth from being on the dirty floor for three days. Snape also suspected that the boy had soiled himself at one point during his captivity, perhaps being unable to move due to his injuries. He'd clearly been through hell, and Snape could only hope he'd come out the other side of this experience with his mind relatively intact. As he cleaned the boy after healing his injuries, Snape couldn't help but feel sympathy for what Potter had been through.

#####

Harry awoke in unfamiliar surroundings, and for one brief, heart-stoppingly terrifying moment, he was back in that cell, bleeding and hurting, waiting for he knew not what. Thankfully, his memory caught up with real time fairly quickly, and he recalled his rescue by the man who was Snape but not Snape, and he relaxed fractionally into the soft bed. He located his glasses beside the bed and put them on to get a better look at his surroundings. They were unfamiliar, but he knew he wasn't in St. Mungo's, or even the Hogwart's infirmary. He was in a bed chamber, obviously, but he knew not where or whose. The large four-poster bed was surrounded by curtains, which were pulled open, of the darkest green. An open door revealed a sizeable bathroom. Another door, Harry suspected, led out into the quarters of whoever's bedroom this was. The walls were of stone.

Harry stretched tentatively and winced when the abused areas of his body remembered themselves to him. He didn't hurt as much as he thought he would, though, and he was grateful for that at least. Now, he supposed, he should get up and figure out where he was and get on with his life. Maybe a trip to the loo first, though.

Harry took up his wand, which he also found on the bedside table, and cautiously stood up. When he did, he realized two things. Standing up made everything hurt much worse, and he was wearing a nightshirt that was at least three sizes too big and actually brushed the tops of his feet. The call of nature was strong, though, and he put these thoughts aside to cross the room and make use of the facilities. Crossing back to the bed afterward seemed to take all the strength he had left, and he lowered himself to the edge of the bed gratefully, clutching at one of the posts for support.

When the door behind him opened, instinct and fear had him jumping painfully to his feet, his wand pointed at the potential threat.

"Mr. Potter," said Snape, seemingly unconcerned about the wand pointed at him. "You're awake."

Harry let his arm drop to his side, but he didn't lessen his grip on his wand. "Where am I?"

"These are my quarters."

"Why am I here?" A part of Harry couldn't be convinced that Snape hadn't rescued him from his cell only to turn him over to Voldemort.

"You are here because you were injured, and I thought you'd prefer to be healed privately rather than at St. Mungo's, where your condition could not have been kept from the masses. If you prefer, I can certainly take you there now, or even to the infirmary if you would be more comfortable."

"No," Harry said quickly. Snape was right. The fewer people who knew what had happened to him, the better he'd cope. In fact, if he had any control over it, no one would know. Ever. Suddenly, what little strength he had left deserted him, and he began to slump to the floor.

Snape was at his side in an instant, catching him before he hit the floor and holding him up with an arm around his waist. "Perhaps you should lie down."

"No, no," Harry protested, even as he slumped against Snape. "I'm fine."

Snape snorted at the obvious lie.

"I need to go home. Ginny must be worried."

"Miss Weasley has been informed of your whereabouts," Snape informed him.

"Oh. Why isn't she here?"

"She was. I persuaded her that you needed some recovery time. I can floo her whenever you like."

"So she . . . she saw me . . . like that?" Harry closed his eyes in consternation at that thought, which caused his already crazy equilibrium to shift even more.

Snape moved him to the bed and assisted him with sitting on the edge again. "She saw you only after I had healed and cleaned you," Snape assured him.

Harry felt relieved and so tired and weak. Perhaps he should rest a bit before trying to go home. He slumped sideways onto the bed and allowed Snape to swing his legs up onto the bed and under the covers.

As Snape pulled the duvet up to cover Harry's chest, he asked, "Would you like something to eat?"

Harry was hungry. He hadn't eaten in three days. Snape had spelled nutritive potions into his stomach while he'd been unconscious, though Harry didn't know that, but that was a poor substitute for actually ingesting healthy food. "I . . . yes, if it's not too much trouble."

"You are no more trouble today than you are on any other given day," Snape said, though the malevolence he normally used when speaking to Harry was missing from his tone. "Give me a few minutes."

Snape returned minutes later with tea and sandwiches. He set the tray on the bed beside Harry and sat in the chair and watched him tackle the pile of food. When Harry had demolished half of the sandwiches, Snape said, "Would you like to tell me what happened?"

Harry immediately lost his appetite, and he dropped the sandwich he'd been about to bite into back onto the platter. "I was distracted, and I let them get the drop on me."

"Distracted?" Snape repeated. "Is there something more important than your safety?"

"I know it was careless. I'd been with Ginny. We had dinner together."

"I saw the announcement of your engagement. You have my congratulations."

"You weren't at the party," Harry said quietly. He'd put Snape on the invitation list, although he'd suspected the man wouldn't show. He'd been right.

"My apologies," Snape said with a curt nod. "I had a previous engagement." He didn't bother to add that he'd actually planned to go to the party, if only for an acceptably-short period of time, before being called by Voldemort to yet another "How Do We Get At Potter" strategy session. Little had they known then that getting at Potter would prove to be so easy.

"S'all right," Harry assured him. "She's pregnant. Ginny, I mean." And really, who else could he mean? "She told me that night. That's why I was distracted."

"So you're to be a father? Again, my congratulations."

Harry smiled shyly. "Thanks. I was stupid. He got the drop on me and stunned me. When I woke up . . ." Harry's smiled fell away.

"You were in that cell," Snape finished.

"Yes. Where was I?"

"The basement of Malfoy Manor."

So he'd been right about the identity of one of his captors – Lucius Malfoy had been there. And of course, Draco – no, not going to think about that. "How did you know I was there?"

"Death Eaters talk."

"Well, thank you," Harry said uncomfortably. "I know you went to great personal risk and I . . . well, thank you."

"You are entirely welcome. You were telling me what happened."

No, Harry thought. I was trying to avoid telling you what happened. "Oh. Well, I woke up there. They roughed me up some. And then you came. Do you know why they didn't take me directly to Voldemort?"

Harry had obviously left out some important details in his narrative, but Snape didn't press. "No. I wasn't privy to that particular plan. And that's all that happened?" Okay, maybe he'd press a little.

Harry didn't meet his eyes when he said, "That's it. Listen, I'm a little tired. If you don't mind my using your bed a little longer, could I maybe sleep for a couple of hours? If you would, you could floo Ginny to meet me then, and I'll get out of your hair."

"Of course," Snape murmured. He stood and picked up the tray from the bed. "Take all the time you need."

#####

Two weeks later . . .

"Miss Weasley," Snape said when she opened the door.

"Professor Snape," Ginny said warmly. "Thank you for coming. Please, come in."

"You made the situation sound most grave," Snape pointed out as he entered the flat.

"It is. Would you like tea?"

Snape followed her into the flat's kitchen, a large, sun-drenched room. Ginny said quietly, "Harry's home. He doesn't know I've asked you here."

Ginny placed a cup of tea on the table and invited Snape to sit.

"How are you feeling, Miss Weasley? I understand you're expecting."

"Yes," Ginny said with a smile. "I feel great." She removed what appeared to be a photograph from the counter and handed it to Snape.

Snape examined a grainy black and white photograph of . . . something Snape could only describe as gray matter. He tried turning it sideways, but that didn't help. He looked up questioningly.

"It's the baby," Ginny explained, sitting across from him with her own cup of tea. "It's called ultrasound. Hermione told us about it. They tell us that that right there," Ginny leaned over and pressed a finger to the photo, "is a baby."

Snape looked again. "I'll have to take your word for that."

"I know. It doesn't look like anything. Hermione says that as the baby grows, the pictures will make more sense. You'll be able to see bones and organs. While they were doing that, we could see his heart beating."

"'His'?" Snape repeated, fascinated. "They can tell the gender of the child by this process?"

"Not yet," Ginny said. "He's not big enough. My mother tells us it's a boy."

"Ah," Snape said diplomatically, and handed the photo back. The age-old practice of witches predicting the sex of unborn children – a notoriously inexact science, but when the odds of predicting successfully were fifty percent, some success seemed almost guaranteed.

"Yeah. Anyway, about Harry. He's . . . I wanted to ask you what you knew about what happened to him while he was held captive."

Snape sipped his tea. "Mr. Potter has not spoken with you about it?"

"He refuses. But something awful happened, I just know it. He's left the flat exactly once since you brought him home, to attend the ultrasound. He's not eating, he's not sleeping. He jumps at the slightest sound. He showers three or four times a day. He won't let me touch him. I don't know what to do." Ginny wiped away the tears that had slipped from her eyes.

Snape considered how much he should say. Potter obviously didn't want anyone to know what had happened, but it didn't sound as though that strategy was helping him to cope. "The injuries which Potter had the night I found him were consistent with a sexual assault," he said, as gently as possible, though there was no way to soften that type of blow.

Ginny's eyes widened in horror. "I thought maybe it was something like that. What can I do to help him?"

"No one can help him until he admits what happened, first to himself."

"But he won't even talk to me. I hate to ask you this . . . you've done so much already. But he respects you, looks up to you. I think if anyone can get through to him, it's you."

Snape sighed. Perhaps he was uniquely qualified to make Potter confront his demons. Certainly he had a vested interest in the boy's well-being after all these years. "What do you want me to do?"

"Take him somewhere. Make him talk. Maybe if he can tell you, he can start to deal with it. Because now it's just eating him up."

"And if he refuses?"

Ginny smiled weakly. "Then make him. You have ways."

Snape understood what she was asking him to do. "Perhaps it would be better if you were not present. This could get . . . ugly."

"All right."

"I will take him to my home in Spinner's End. We may be some time. Do not worry if he does not return to you today. I will owl you with information."

Ginny nodded. "I'll just go tell Harry you're here and that I'm going out. Good luck, Professor. And thank you."

#####

Snape sat in the flat's large sitting room, waiting for Potter to make an appearance. Miss Weasley had left ten minutes ago, presumably after telling Potter that he had a visitor. Perhaps he was hoping that Snape would leave if he just ignored him. Perhaps he'd snuck out the bedroom window.

Snape had just decided to go and search for the boy when Potter finally made an appearance. His hair was wet and in its usual uncombed disarray. His skin was pink as though it had been scrubbed. It would have given him a healthy glow if it hadn't been for the ugly dark circles under his sunken eyes and the haunted look about him. His face looked pinched, as though he hadn't been eating, and he looked warily at Snape. No, Potter was clearly not doing well.

"Professor Snape," Harry said, trying to plaster a sincere-looking smile to his face and failing miserably, "I'm sorry to keep you waiting. I was in the shower."

"That is no matter," Snape assured him, standing to greet him. "I was admiring your view." And indeed, the flat had a spectacular view of London far below them. Rent here must be outrageous, Snape speculated.

Potter ignored the attempted pleasantry. "What can I do for you, sir?"

"Did Miss Weasley tell you why I was here?"

"She just said you stopped by to check on me."

So she hadn't confessed her complicity in his presence here. "Yes. I was wondering how you were following your ordeal."

"I'm fine," Harry said with as much conviction as he could muster. It wasn't anywhere near enough.

"You'll forgive my saying so, but you do not look fine. You look as though you've eaten very little since the attack and slept even less."

"I don't think we can really call it an attack," Harry argued. "I mean, he did stun me, but …"

"That's not what I meant and you know it," Snape interrupted.

Harry looked at Snape, but only for a second, before looking away. "I don't know what you mean."

Snape took a step forward. Harry must have found this menacing, because he took a similar step back. "I was there, Potter," he said. "I saw the damage that was done to you. I healed that damage. I don't know the particulars, but I think it's very clear that you were, indeed, attacked in that cell. Sexually attacked."

"No!" Harry said, whipping his head back and forth, denying the accusation violently, taking another step back, preparing to flee, but meeting the wall.

"Potter, what happened to you wasn't your fault. You mustn't blame yourself."

"No? Who should I blame then?" Harry challenged angrily. "If I'd been paying attention, I never would have been put in a situation where . . . they could never have . . ."

"Say it," Snape commanded softly. "Say you were raped."

"No," Harry choked out, tears spilling from his eyes. "No, they didn't . . . I would never …"

Snape closed the distance between them. "Until you can say it and acknowledge to yourself that it happened, you cannot heal. You will live your life in this scared shell, afraid to go outside, afraid to have your girlfriend touch you. Afraid. Is this the man you wish your child to know?"

"No," Harry whispered.

"I can help you," Snape promised. "But you have to talk to me. You have to tell me what happened."

"I can't," Harry said in a tortured whisper.

"You can," Snape contradicted fiercely "You will do this for your soon to be wife and your child, and you will do it for yourself. You will not. Let. Them. Win."

Harry slumped to the floor and covered his face with his hands. Snape crouched beside him. "This is going to be difficult. Perhaps somewhere else is a more appropriate place to unburden yourself. You should leave your home unsullied, if you can. Will you come with me?"

Harry nodded behind his hands. Snape took his arm and apparated them away.

#####

Harry stood in Snape's sitting room and looked around curiously. It was a dark and dingy room, the walls lined with books. The furniture and rugs were threadbare, but clean. It was very … Snape.

"Did you grow up here?" Harry asked.

"Part of my childhood was spent here," Snape said. "Would you like anything? Tea?"

"No, I'm good, thanks. Are your parents still in the area?"

"Potter, we did not come here to discuss me. Why don't you sit."

"I think I prefer to stand."

"Suit yourself," Snape said. He seated himself in the arm chair and kindled a fire in the hearth. "What happened after you woke up in the cell?" he prompted.

"You know, I appreciate what you're trying to do here, but I'm fine . . . really good . . . and I think I'd just like to go home now."

"No."

"You can't keep me here!" Harry said, panic starting to show on his face, in his eyes. He strode quickly to the front door, but Snape calmly reinforced the locking spell on it from where he sat. Harry grabbed the door handle and rattled it furiously when it wouldn't open. He whirled to face Snape. "Let me out!"

"No."

"Let me out, Snape, or I swear I'll . . ." Harry's wand was in his hand, but it wasn't pointing at anyone.

"You'll what, Potter? Hex me?" Snape wasn't concerned. He knew that, deep down inside himself, Potter wanted to do this, wanted to tell him. If he didn't, he would have apparated out of here already. There were no wards in place against that, and the fact that Potter hadn't tried it yet told him everything.

Snape stood up and approached Potter. Harry pressed himself against the front door, trying to keep as much space between himself and Snape as possible. "Are you afraid of me, Potter?"

"No. A little."

Snape stepped closer, and Harry cringed. "Don't," he whispered.

Snape reached up a hand toward Harry, but the young man shrunk away from him and said, "Please don't touch me."

"I won't," Snape promised, dropping his hand. "Come and sit down. Talk to me."

Snape returned to his chair. Harry stayed by the door, allowing his breathing to calm.

"I was . . . I don't know how long I was out before I woke up in the cell," Harry started. "I woke up with a splitting headache. I think I hit my head when he stunned me. I tried to find a way out, but I . . . didn't have my wand. I was angry at myself, and I don't mind admitting that the longer I sat there, the more frightened I got."

Harry wandered slowly toward the sofa and perched nervously on the edge. "I don't think I can do this."

"But you know you must."

Harry looked at his shoes. "I know. I haven't been able to sleep since . . . since then. I know I need to. I can't go to work. I can't eat. I can't . . . I want to be there for my son, and if I don't … find a way to get beyond this, I . . . Will it help to tell you? Will it really help?"

"I can tell you from experience that the longer you keep something like this bottled up inside you, the longer it eats at your soul. Allowing it out into the light of day relieves the burden considerably. It will not take it away. I will not insult your intelligence by telling you that you will magically feel complete relief, but you should begin to process what happened to you and force it into something much more manageable."

"I don't know if I can," Harry repeated.

"I can give you a potion that will remove your emotions. You will be able to relate the facts without the fear and the humiliation. Would you like me to fetch some?"

"No. I'll try to . . ." Harry stopped and leaned into his hands, concealing his face, gathering himself for the coming ordeal.

Snape let him be for a moment, but then he said, "How long were you in the room before someone came?"

"I don't know. I was unconscious part of the time. Hours, at least. Maybe a whole day," Harry said into his hands.

"Who came?"

"I don't know that either. They were wearing masks."

"How many?"

Harry dropped his hands, still staring at his shoes. "There were seven of them."

"What happened next, Harry?"

"One of them made me drink a potion. I tried to refuse, but he . . . kicked me in the ribs. Then two others held me down while he forced it into my mouth. The first bloke held my mouth and nose, and I couldn't breathe. I had to swallow, or I would have . . ."

"Do you know what the potion was?"

"No. I didn't recognize the taste or the smell. I waited for it to do whatever it was supposed to do. You know, I thought there would be pain, or it would knock me unconscious, or that my eyeballs would fall out or something. But nothing happened. They just stood around, as though they were waiting for something, too. But . . . nothing."

"And then?"

"I was on the ground. My ribs hurt. Someone . . . someone removed my clothes. With a spell. They . . ." Harry stopped. He couldn't do this. He felt as though he was back in that cell, with those men. His heart was beating erratically, and his breath was coming in shallow gasps. He was trembling like a leaf, and a bead of cold sweat was trickling down between his shoulder blades. Tears he made no effort to thwart rolled from his eyes.

"Take a deep breath, Harry," Snape urged, his voice soothing. "You're strong enough to get through this."

Harry retreated somewhere deep inside himself and somehow continued. "I was on my hands and knees, and they immobilized me that way." Harry felt now as though he had, in fact, taken Snape's potion. He was relating the facts in a seemingly detached manner, his emotions locked away somewhere inside.

"I felt one of them behind me. I couldn't turn my head to see what he was doing. He . . . um . . . he put his . . . p-penis in me. There was no preparation and no lubrication. I couldn't move, but somehow I could scream. After he . . . finished, someone else took his place." Harry had to stop here. Snape let him take as long as he needed.

"After the third one, one of the others complained because they'd immobilized me with my head down. So they took a break, unfroze me long enough to yank my head up, and then immobilized me again. Then, while the next one . . . raped me, another one . . . put his penis in my mouth. I think he had already had his turn in my arse, but I can't be sure."

Snape tried to keep the horror at what he was feeling from his face, not that Harry was looking at him. He'd known that Harry had to have been ill-used by the Death Eaters, but this . . . this was heinous, and his stomach hurt listening to it.

"When the bloke in my mouth . . . when he . . .I nearly choked. I couldn't swallow. So they decided that they'd better not do that again. Didn't want to kill me, I guess. When they had all taken their turn, they released the spell, and they left."

"Did they return?"

"They never came back. They didn't give me any food or water. They didn't give me back my clothes. And then you were there, looking like someone I didn't know, rescuing me."

Snape sat back. "Have you told me everything?"

Harry sighed. He hadn't told Snape the dry penetration had hurt so much Harry had bit through his lip. He hadn't told Snape about the vile things the men had said to him as they used him. He hadn't told Snape how he'd screamed and begged them to stop, or how he'd soiled himself afterward when he'd been too sore to move, and he certainly hadn't told Snape how much that had hurt. And he hadn't told Snape about Draco. "There's probably a million things I haven't told you. But none of them are relevant, and I certainly hit the highlights."

Snape stared up at the ceiling, suddenly very tired. "You did well. I don't expect that you feel any better now, but as the days go by, you should begin to. You should find someone to talk to, someone qualified to assist you with this. Admitting what happened is only the first step."

When Harry didn't respond, Snape looked over at him. Harry was curled up in the corner of the sofa, shivering violently. A sob escaped from deep in his gut. Snape jumped to his feet and grabbed the blanket from the back of the sofa. He threw it over Harry and knelt beside him on the floor.

"Potter . . . Harry, it's all right. It's over now." He extended his hand to the boy, wanting to offer comfort, but he hesitated, unsure if touching him was the right thing now. His dilemma was solved when Harry reached out a hand, searching for Snape. Snape grabbed the hand in his own and clasped it tightly. His other hand stroked through Harry's hair.

"Shhh!" he said. "It's all right now, Harry. You're safe. It's all over."

Snape thought a calming potion would be useful, but Harry was holding his hand tightly and Snape was reluctant to pull away from the boy now.

Eventually, Harry gave in to his cumulative exhaustion and fell asleep on Snape's sofa. As soon as Snape could safely do so, he pulled away from Potter. He stood, looking down at the boy. He looked so young and vulnerable, and Snape felt an unusual twinge in his chest at what Harry had gone through, what the young man would have to go through before he was able to live a normal life again.

Snape sighed and went to find a piece of parchment to owl a note to Miss Weasley. It looked like Potter was going to sleep for a while.

#####

Two weeks later . . .

Snape stood at the door to Potter's flat, hesitant to knock. He hadn't seen Potter since that emotional night at Spinner's End, though he had received notes bearing words of thanks from both Potter and Miss Weasley. He'd been summoned to Voldemort the previous evening, and what he'd learned had left him unsettled, to say the least. What he suspected could potentially destroy Potter, and he had no wish to add to the young man's already heavy burdens. He had no choice though, There would be no ignoring this problem if Snape's suspicions were correct. Resolutely, he raised his arm and knocked.

It was Potter who opened the door, and the warm and genuine smile he bestowed on his visitor made Snape regret even more the news he must impart.

When they were ensconced comfortably in the sitting room, Snape asked, " How have you been?"

"I've been all right," Harry said. "Better than I was anyway. I've talked with Ginny a little about what happened. I haven't told her everything, you know. But you were right. Talking about it helped, a little at least. I still have nightmares, but . . . it's better." Potter said all of this sincerely, and Snape had no reason to doubt him.

"And have you spoken with a professional?"

Harry fidgeted. "No. I can't imagine finding someone who could possibly understand. Other than you." Harry looked up at Snape with a look of trust bordering on adoration, which made Snape's stomach churn all the more.

"Is Miss Weasley here?"

"No. She's at work."

"You have not returned to work?" Snape asked, worried.

"I'm going back on Monday," Harry assured him with a smile.

"There is something we must discuss, so it is good we are alone. I was summoned by the Dark Lord last night."

"Are you all right?" Harry asked quickly, looking concerned. He knew what went on at these meetings, and he feared for Snape.

"I am fine. I learned what the Dark Lord had in mind once he learned you'd been captured."

Ice formed in the pit of Harry's stomach at these words. "Oh?"

"First, let me tell you that three of the men who attacked you are already dead."

Harry gulped. "Did you . . ."

"No. The Dark Lord killed them himself. Not that I wouldn't have done so happily had I had the chance."

Harry drew in a deep, steadying breath. "Who were they?"

"Malachi Avery. He was the man whose identity I borrowed. Warren Cabot and Eliot Adler were the guards on duty when I took you away."

"So Voldemort killed them because they let me get away?"

"He was most displeased."

"Do you know who the others were?"

"I do. Do you think it will help to know their names? Going after these men is not a good idea." Though Snape himself fully intended to take them all out should the opportunity arise.

"I'm not planning to do that," Harry lied. "I'd just like to know. I have the right to know."

Snape knew he was right, knew he would feel the same way, but still he was reluctant. "Peter Avery. Jonathan Eggleston. Samuel Gray."

"And?" Harry demanded, although he already knew.

"And Lucius Malfoy."

Harry stood up quickly and moved to stare out the window. "I thought he was one of them. He was the only one who didn't speak." Harry drew in a shuddering breath. "So what was the plan?"

"Come and sit, please," Snape requested.

Surprised, Harry complied.

"Before you were . . . before each one of them . . . raped you, did they say anything?"

Harry forced himself to think back over the experience, not that remembering was difficult. Each moment was burned into his memory. "They all said the same thing. Compello conceptio. I don't know if they were using their wands. I couldn't see them. Does it mean something?"

Snape covered his face with his hands, wishing he didn't have to say what he knew he must.

"Professor?" Harry asked. "What is it? Have I been cursed?"

Snape raised his head. The least he could do was look at Potter when he destroyed him. "The potion that you drank, in conjunction with the spell . . . they were designed to make male fertility possible, even guaranteed."

"Male fertility? I don't understand."

"The potion that you drank alters male anatomy to allow an environment where a fetus can grow. It also transforms each of the male's sperm into eggs. The spell guarantees that one sperm from the donor makes its way to what is now a receptive egg, penetrates that egg, and fertilizes it."

Harry was staring at him with horrified eyes. "You can't . . . you aren't . . . are you saying what I think you're saying?"

"It is possible that you are pregnant."

"No," Harry said. "No." He drew his knees up to his chest, hugging them with one arm, and he began rocking agitatedly, muttering "No," over and over. His other hand lay on the sofa, clenching and unclenching.

Snape reached over and grabbed that hand. "Harry, breathe. Come on, take a deep breath." He began to rub soothing circles on Harry's back. "Calm down. Hysteria isn't going to help you now. We'll figure this out."

Harry squeezed Snape's hand, once again allowing that contact to ground him. He drew in a ragged breath. "This can't be happening." He turned to Snape. "Why? Why would Voldemort want to capture me and have his Death Eaters knock me up? What does he gain?"

"The capture wasn't planned. Avery was in Diagon Alley and saw you. Once he had you, the Dark Lord got ideas. He used his Death Eaters to test the spell and the potion. If they were successful, he intended to terminate the resulting pregnancies and . . .

"Then kill me? So I was a guinea pig?"

"He didn't intend to kill you, Harry. He intended to impregnate you himself."

Did the horror never stop? This was just too much for Harry to bear, and he threw his head back and laughed, skirting the edge of hysteria. He laughed until tears streamed from his eyes, and he had to stop in order to breathe.

"Are you all right?" Snape asked.

"No. Of course I'm not all right!" Harry said, chuckling still and wiping at his eyes. "Did I thank you for rescuing me? I'm even more grateful now. Can you imagine if he'd been successful? Can't you just picture me and Voldemort watching little Tommy at his football games?" Harry snorted at the ridiculousness of the image.

"Rest assured, Mr. Potter, that had the Dark Lord's plan been successful, and had he been able to breed a witch or a wizard using seed from two of the most powerful wizards of our time, he would have killed you once the child was born."

Harry no longer found any humor in the situation, and he sobered immediately.

"There is one more thing," Snape said.

"Great. There's more," Harry muttered.

"It is possible that each one of your attackers' spells was successful."

Definitely not funny any more. Harry put a hand on his stomach, suddenly queasy. "You're saying I could be pregnant, which isn't surreal enough, but that there could be seven of them?"

"It would obviously be beneficial for us to confirm this before you even begin to decide how to proceed from here."

"So how do we do that? Can you wave your wand over me and see what's going on in there?"

"No. It isn't that easy. It occurs to me every now and then that Muggle technology has its uses."

"Ultrasound," Harry said, catching on at once. "Wizards don't have ultrasound or a magical equivalent?"

"No."

"So I'm going to take my male self into a doctor's office for an ultrasound and no one's going to bat an eye?"

"That would be . . . inadvisable. We will use polyjuice."

"We?" Harry repeated.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to presume."

"No. I'm glad you . . . thank you. I don't want to tell Ginny anything until we know for sure. So I polyjuice into a woman?"

"No. Given your potential condition, polyjuice is not safe for you. I will polyjuice into a woman. You will masquerade as my husband. Once we get into the examining room, I will convince the technician to examine you. And I will obliviate him or her after."

"Convince?" Harry asked.

Snape's look told him it was better if Harry didn't ask.

"All right, pumpkin," Harry said with a mischievous smile.

"You are able to make jokes? Now?"

"If I don't find humor where I can, I'll start to cry, and I might never stop. So I'll make an appointment with Ginny's doctor?"

"An anonymous physician's office might be a better idea."

"All right. I'm sure I can find one. I'll let you know when and where?"

Snape stood up. "I'm sorry about this, Harry."

"Not your fault, Professor. I appreciate your coming to let me know."

Snape looked as though he had something more to say, but he simply nodded at Harry and wished him a good day before taking his leave.

#####

Harry and Snape sat waiting their turn in the comfy chairs in the doctor's office reception area. Harry kept slanting looks at Snape, seemingly unable to stop himself. Snape had polyjuiced into a very attractive blonde woman, the type of woman who wouldn't have given an average looking bloke like Harry a second look. She was curvy in all the right feminine places, and Harry could tell Snape was very uncomfortable in her skin. For the benefit of the other woman waiting there, and also because he wanted to, Harry reached out and took Snape's hand.

"Don't worry, dear. Everything will be all right."

The glare Snape sent at Harry wasn't diminished a bit by the fact that it came out of such a lovely face.

"Your first?" the other woman asked.

Snape nodded stiffly.

"My third," she said, placing a hand on her distended belly. "Don't worry. You get used to it."

"I highly doubt that," Snape muttered. Even his voice was a thing of beauty, lilting and melodic.

Harry leaned across Snape to speak conspiratorially to the other woman. "She's a little nervous," he said, patting Snape's hand. "Aren't you, Sweetums?"

Again with the glare. Knowing that Snape wouldn't dare to hex him here, Harry dared to chuckle.

A door opened, and a voice announced, "Minerva Flitwick."

"Oh, that's us," Harry said cheerfully. "Come on, Snookums." He stood up and offered a hand to Snape, which she ignored, rising to her feet unassisted. Behind Snape's back, Harry winked at the other woman and whispered loudly, "Hormones."

"Good luck, dearie," she called sympathetically, though whether to Snape or Harry no one was sure.

They were led by a nurse to an examining room. Snape was then taken to a nearby loo and instructed to pee in a cup and leave the sample on the shelf over the sink. When she returned, flushed an appealing pink, the nurse instructed her to strip from the waist down, cover herself with a flimsy garment, and wait on the table for the nurse. The door was closed and they were left alone.

Snape wasted no time turning to Harry. "If you call me by another of those revolting endearments, you will only have yourself to blame for the consequences," he promised.

Harry ignored that. "You really are quite attractive in this form, Professor. Wherever did you get her hair?"

"I've a large collection of hairs. I collect them wherever I can, from wizards or Muggles. This particular young woman was in front of me in the queue at a Muggle bookstore. She never noticed when I removed a stray hair from her coat. Let that be a lesson to you in taking care of any little bits of yourself that you might leave lying around."

"I'll be sure to keep better track of my bits from here on out," Harry promised with a mischievous twinkle, causing that delightful blush to stain Snape's cheeks again.

"You wouldn't fancy a shag before you turn back, I suppose?" Harry asked.

Snape's eyes flew open wide. "You are nearly a married man, Potter!"

"A bloke can dream, can't he?"

Snape was saved from further assault on his virtue by a knock on the door, followed by the appearance of a nurse.

"Oh, I'm sorry," she said when she saw that the young woman hadn't undressed. "I'll give you another couple of minutes."

"No," Harry said. "Please, come in."

The nurse did, closing the door, though she was quite obviously bewildered.

"My name is Penny," she said. "How have you been feeling, Minerva?"

"Actually," Snape said, "we're not here about me. Imperio."

Penny's eyes took on a vacant expression, and she stared expectantly at Snape, as though awaiting directions.

"You will examine him," Snape said, gesturing at Harry, "just as though he were a woman. You will look inside him with the . . ." Snape had forgotten the correct term, and he looked to Harry for help. "Ultrasound," he finished once Harry supplied him with the word. "You will explain what you are doing and what you see. When we are finished, you will forget that you saw either of us today or ever. You will also forget that this ultrasound device was ever in this room. Do you understand these instructions?"

"I do," she confirmed, her voice dreamy.

"Let us begin."

"You will need to bare your belly," Penny instructed Harry, "and lie back on the table."

No longer feeling the slightest bit playful, Harry undid the button and the zip on his jeans and pushed them part way down over his hips. With a beseeching look at Snape, he hopped onto the table and lay back against the pillow.

Penny pulled the machine on wheels toward them. "This is the ultrasound machine," she explained. "The power button is here." She flicked it on, and it hummed to life.

"Can you explain how it works?" Snape asked, ever the curious scientist.

"The machine sends out a beam of sound, then listens for an echo. Every time it hears an echo, it places a dot on the monitor, here." She showed them the monitor. "This is the transducer. The crystal that sends out the beam of sound is in here." She picked up a plastic bottle. "This gel allows us a clearer picture inside."

Snape was watching everything carefully, while Harry stared at photos of landscapes that had been taped to the ceiling. He wondered briefly why they were there, but he was grateful for something else to concentrate on.

Penny squirted some of the goo onto Harry's abdomen, causing him to start. "Blimey! That's cold!" he protested.

Penny ignored him, placed the transducer into the gel, and began to move it around on Harry's skin. "This screen displays pictures of what we see inside." She moved the paddle around, seemingly having difficulty locating her target. "Ah! Here we go!" she said finally. "That right there is your baby." She pointed to a blurred spot on the monitor. Having just been through this with Ginny, Harry somewhat recognized the little blurb.

So it was true. He was pregnant.

"Please continue looking. There may be more than one," Snape instructed.

Penny did so without question. "Well look! Here's another! And another!" Followed by two more exclamations. She was printing photos as she spoke. "There are five of them," Penny said, as though this wasn't an amazing thing for a woman, let alone a man.

"Are you sure that's all?" Snape asked.

Penny retraced her path and counted them again. "One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Yes, there are five."

Still Snape wasn't satisfied. "Would you check the remainder of the abdominal cavity, please," he requested.

Not at all perturbed by this unusual request, Penny broadened the search. "There's one here. And here's another. It has similarly expired."

"Expired?" Harry repeated. "Two of them are . . . dead?"

"Conception occurred outside the womb," Penny explained. "There was no way for them to receive the nutrients they needed from your body." This actually happened to women, from time to time, so Penny had a ready explanation.

"Two of them are dead!" Harry said to Snape in an anguished voice. He felt tears in his eyes, and he couldn't really understand why. He didn't want to be pregnant at all, yet the thought that two of his children had died filled him with tremendous sadness.

"I'm sorry, Harry," Snape said softly, squeezing the young man's hand.

"Shall I continue looking?" Penny asked.

Snape looked into Harry's eyes. "Harry, did you tell me the truth? All of it? All of them?"

Harry looked away briefly, then looked back at Snape. "Yes. I told you about all of them." All that had used the spell anyway.

That flicker bothered Snape, but he had to take the young man's word for it. "No," he said to Penny. "That's it."

Penny tidied up the equipment and handed a paper tissue to Harry to clean the goo off his stomach. Harry seemed too distraught to manage it on his own, so Snape helped him to sit up.

"Do you require me for anything else?" Penny asked.

"No, thank you," Snape said. As soon as she left, Snape shrunk the ultrasound machine and several bottles of the goop he found in the cabinet and put everything in his pocket. "Get dressed, Harry. We need to get out of here before the potion wears off."

"What are you doing?"

"Taking the machine with us."

"But that's stealing!" Harry protested.

"Add it to my list of crimes. Get dressed."

Tears leaking from his eyes, Harry stood up and fixed his jeans.

#####

Harry had been pacing the flat since his return from the doctor's visit. Snape had offered to stay, to help him explain to Ginny, but Harry had declined. He had to do this alone.

He'd thought about what he'd say to her when she got home, but how do you explain to your wife-to-be that her intended husband is pregnant, with five children by five different men, all of whom were Death Eaters? Where were the words?

Sooner than Harry would have liked, Ginny was opening the door and entering the flat. "Harry!" she said with a warm smile.

Harry kissed her, then pulled her into a tight hug. When she pulled away, she searched his face. "Is something wrong?"

"Yes, Ginny. Something's wrong. Come and sit."

They sat on the sofa, knees touching, hands clasped.

"I . . . um I told you that I was attacked," Harry began. He hadn't told her the details, but she knew it was a sexual attack and that was enough. "I didn't tell you that there were seven of them."

"Merlin, Harry!" Ginny breathed, horrified. "Seven?"

"Let me finish. This is hard."

Ginny smiled encouragingly.

"What I didn't realize at the time was that they'd used a potion and a spell . . . I mean, I knew at the time that they'd used them, because how could I not know that I'd been forced to drink a potion, but I didn't know what they meant at the time. They . . . together the . . . um, used together they made me . . . pregnant."

Ginny stared at him in disbelief. "But . . . but you're a man. You can't . . ."

"I am, Ginny. I went to a doctor and had an ultrasound today. There's no doubt. I saw them."

"Them?" she repeated.

Harry took a deep breath. "There are five of them. Well, five left. There were seven of them, one for each . . . But two of them have . . . two of them are dead." It was very hard to say, even though he'd had all afternoon to think about it and try to convince himself that it was for the best.

"Oh Harry!" Ginny said, tears in her eyes. "I'm so sorry this happened to you." She pulled him into her embrace and relief washed through Harry that she wasn't rejecting him outright, that his freakishness hadn't turned her off. He'd been so afraid . . . Tears, of relief, of grief, of humiliation, filled his eyes.

Ginny pulled away, but not very far, and Harry was grateful for that. "Did you make an appointment to have it taken care of?" she asked, brushing a tear from his cheek.

"I'm not sure what you mean," Harry said, confused.

"It seems like the sooner you do it, the better, don't you think?"

"Do what, Ginny?"

"Surely you're not thinking about . . . You're going to terminate, surely."

"Terminate?" Harry repeated. "You want me to have an abortion?"

"I guess I just assumed you wouldn't want to . . . carry them any longer than necessary, given what's happened."

"I thought abortion went against everything you believed in?" Harry said, remembering a conversation that had happened not so long ago. Seemed like another life now.

"If ever there was a case for special circumstances, this is it! Harry, we're going to have a baby!" she said, curling an arm protectively around her abdomen.

"Actually, we're going to have six. But I don't see how the fact that you're pregnant, too, changes anything."

"Surely you don't think I'm going to raise my child alongside a Death Eater's child – children!"

Harry felt wounded. "They're my children, too, Gin."

"So what are you saying, Harry? Are you telling me you're going to carry these . . . abominations to term and raise them?"

"Abominations?" Harry repeated. "These are my children we're talking about." Harry's arm curled protectively around his own abdomen now.

"Think about how they were conceived, Harry!" Ginny pleaded with him. "This isn't natural!"

"Be that as it may, they are just as much my children as the child you are carrying."

Ginny stood up suddenly. "I can't do this, Harry. I can't . . . you're going to have to decide. You're going to have to choose between me and our child and those . . . atrocities."

"Please stop calling them names," Harry begged. "Ginny, you can't mean this. You can't make me choose. Please, I know this is a shock. Let's give it a few days, think about it, talk about it. I know we can . . ."

"No, Harry," Ginny interrupted. "A few days isn't going to change my mind. Look, I'm really sorry about what happened to you, but that's no reason to ruin your life like this! I'm going to the Burrow. Come to me if you change your mind and decide to end this. But Harry, if you don't – we're through."

"Ginny, please don't go!" But she'd disapparated away without a look back.

#####

A clearly distraught Harry Potter, his face tear-stained and his shoulders hunched, appeared at Snape's dungeon door.

"Potter! What has happened?!"

"Ginny. She left me. I told her about . . ."

Snape certainly didn't want Potter discussing his condition in the corridor, where anyone could overhear, and he took the boy by the arm and pulled him into his rooms, closing the door firmly behind him. "Have you forgotten where you are, idiot boy?" he hissed.

Snape propelled Harry to a chair and forced him to sit. "Speak."

"I told Ginny. Everything. She wants me to have an abortion. She wants me to kill them!" Disbelief that she could feel that way and horror at the prospect were plain on his face.

Terminating this ill-conceived pregnancy was clearly the wisest course, so obviously Potter was considering a completely different route. "You want to carry them to term?" he asked. Surely the boy couldn't be that stupid.

"They're my children!" Harry said fiercely.

Okay, maybe he could. "Do you have any idea how difficult that would be? Physically, emotionally? Are you prepared to give up everything? Your wife? Your family? Your friends? Your job? Is this worth all that sacrifice?"

"They're my children," Harry repeated, quietly this time. "My parents gave up their lives for me. How can I do any less?"

Snape was convinced now that Potter was a fool. "Do you think they would want this for you? You can't seriously believe that your parents wouldn't understand."

"I don't know," Harry said stubbornly. "And I can't ask them. 'Cause they're dead. They died, remember? For me."

Snape sighed. "Do you think Miss Weasley might change her mind, given enough time?"

"I don't think so," Harry said sadly. "She called them abominations, said they were atrocities." Another tear streaked down Harry's face at the memory.

Snape thought Miss Weasley had the right of it, but he was smart enough not to say so. No child had ever been conceived in this way, and who knew what the result would be when nature was interfered with so blatantly. "You must understand, Mr. Potter, that something must be done about the two fetuses that are no longer viable."

Harry hadn't really thought about that. "Something like what?"

"They will have to be removed."

Harry guessed this made sense. "Can you . . .?"

"No, Mr. Potter, I cannot. I am not qualified to perform such a procedure. I think we should involve Madam Pomfrey in your care. If you're determined to pursue this course, you'll need someone with far more medical knowledge than I possess."

Harry nodded. That made sense, and he trusted Poppy.

"Would you like me to contact her now?" Snape offered. "Perhaps she's free and could examine you."

"Sure."

"Let me just go up and speak with her. I will return shortly. You should . . ." He'd been about to say "make yourself at home", but this was Harry Potter. He went with "Sit until I get back," instead.

When he explained the situation to Madam Pomfrey, she was sympathetic and more than a little medically curious. When the strange and the rare came your way, it broke up the monotony. Snape explained to her about the ultrasound examination, and that piqued her curiosity even more. She insisted that Severus bring the machine when he returned with Harry.

Since she currently had no other patients, Madam Pomfrey only needed to ward the doors against intrusion when Snape returned with the patient. She directed Harry to undress completely, lie on an examining table, and cover his lower half with a sheet. Once he indicated he was ready, Snape set up the machine, spelled it to work without electricity, and turned it on.

Madam Pomfrey stared with curious eyes. "You know how it works, Severus?"

"I watched the nurse as she performed the examination earlier. I'm sure I could not read the images with any accuracy, but it should help to show you the location of the two . . . fetuses which are of immediate concern."

"My cousin has a daughter who works in a Muggle hospital in the neonatal unit. I shall contact her for some reference materials. You say that you were able to see the hearts beating?"

"Not on this examination. Potter's . . . Ginny Weasley is pregnant. She is further along than Harry. When they underwent ultrasound examination, they were able to detect a beating heart. These fetuses apparently are too small."

With tears still frighteningly close to spilling, Harry lay there and listened to them discuss him as though he were a scientific experiment. "Please," he croaked. "Could you just . . . get this over with?"

"Of course, dear," Madam Pomfrey said, patting his hand soothingly. "Severus, please proceed."

Harry had pulled the sheet up to his armpits, and Snape now pulled it down to Harry's hips, baring his chest and stomach, causing Harry to blush. He clutched at the sheet when he felt it slipping a little too low for comfort. Closing his eyes against the humiliation and memories of others who had bared his body, he waited for this to be over.

Snape squirted the gel onto Harry's belly, then placed the paddle into it, as he'd seen the nurse do in the general area she'd looked before.

"It's warmer than before," Harry noted.

"Warming charm," Snape said distractedly as he struggled to reproduce the images Penny had so effortlessly conjured earlier.

That Snape cared enough to warm the gel before using it struck Harry profoundly. In his already fragile emotional state, this simple act of kindness, after his fiance had rejected him and his situation, was enough to bring more tears and rip the sob that had been burrowing in Harry's chest out.

"Am I hurting you, Potter?" Snape asked, looking up from his task, surprised.

"No," Harry sobbed. "I'm fine. Go ahead. Please, just . . ."

Looking concerned, Snape nonetheless fiddled with the machine enough to get it working and was able to pinpoint for Madam Pomfrey the two fetuses that needed to be excised. They also were able to locate four of the remaining viable fetuses, and Poppy was awed at what she saw. Finally, they turned the machine off.

"I'd like to scan you now, Harry, to make sure you're physically all right, that nothing's hiding that won't complicate matters. It's best if you stand for that," Madam Pomfrey suggested.

"Can I get dressed?" Harry asked.

"Of course. We'll give you a moment, dear."

Snape and Poppy waited outside the curtain while Harry cleaned himself off and dressed. When they returned, Madam Pomfrey's wand started at Harry's head and began to slowly scan down Harry's body for injuries or lingering curses. Before she'd reached his neck, Harry began to feel dizzy and nauseous. The room began to sway, and he reached out a hand for support, finding Snape's solid black robe.

"Madam Pomfrey, I don't feel so good," he said just before his world went dark and he felt himself collapsing.

When Harry awoke again, he was back in the bed. "What happened?" he groaned.

"Magical backlash," Poppy explained. "Happens frequently with pregnant women." Harry flinched at that term. "The babies are extracting the magic from the air around you. They cannot absorb it to process it, so they deflect it back away from themselves, causing your magic to overload. Since there are five in there, the effect is likely much worse than for your regular pregnant wo– … person."

Harry sighed. He was such a freak. "Will it get better?"

"I'm afraid it's likely to get worse. As they grow, they'll be able to extract more and more magic and cast it back at you. The only way to prevent it is to avoid magic altogether."

"I won't be able to work!" Harry protested.

"You wouldn't have anyway," Poppy gently said. "There are rules against pregnant aurors."

"I did tell you, Potter," Snape added, "that you'd have to give up your job."

"Great. So everyone will have to know what a freak I am!"

"You cannot use magic at all, Harry," Poppy warned. "Your own magic will create a large enough backlash that it could put you in a coma-like state for an extended period of time. Those around you must eliminate use of magic as well, at least when in your immediate vicinity.

"We will need to remove the two fetuses," she went on, "that are no longer viable. That will need to be done the Muggle way now. I've some experience in Muggle surgery, and I'm confident I can handle that procedure. We should do it some time in the next few days."

Harry was having trouble coping with everything and had begun to shut down, barely listening to anything she said. Snape noticed this and intervened.

"I will let you know when, Poppy. I think Mr. Potter needs rest now. Thank you for seeing him this evening."

"You may leave the machine here," Poppy offered. "I'm happy to provide care for you for the duration, Harry. I understand the need for secrecy."

Snape acquiesced to this suggestion and led a very numb Harry back down to the dungeon. When Harry was settled comfortably on his sofa, Snape said, "Potter, you have decisions to make. You're going to have to quit your job immediately. You're going to have to decide what to tell your friends. You should move in with someone – it's not a good idea for you to be alone in your condition. Is there someone you can go to?"

"No," Harry said miserably, his head in his hands. "There's no one."

"Your Muggle family isn't an option?" Snape asked.

Harry laughed, the sound mirthless. He could almost imagine the look on Uncle Vernon's face if he showed up on Privet Drive, asking to be taken back in, pregnant of all things. "No. That's not an option. The Weasleys were the only other family I have in the world, but I doubt they'll want anything to do with me now."

Snape sighed and sat back in his chair. The options were apparently very limited. "You can not return home tonight in any event." Without the use of magic, the only way for Harry to return to London was via the Hogwarts Express, which did not run this late in the evening. "You may remain here, or I can find other accommodation elsewhere in the castle if you are not comfortable here."

"Thank you."

"I am going to speak with Minerva. It seems prudent to take her into our confidence. She may have suggestions. Is that acceptable?"

Harry shrugged. He curled up in a corner of the sofa, unable to find the energy to care about anything right now. He wanted to sleep, maybe forever.

"Get some rest," Snape advised. "I shall return shortly.

Harry was asleep before Snape closed the door behind him. He didn't awaken when Snape returned from his visit with the Headmistress and covered him with a blanket, but he did wake some time in the wee hours of the morning. Doubt, as it was wont to do at that time of the day, began to take hold, and Harry began to wonder if he was doing the right thing. He would be giving up everything if he continued on this path. It wasn't too late, he knew, to just have Madam Pomfrey eliminate the entire problem. The mediwitch had made sure to tell him that earlier, at Severus' urging Harry suspected. Then he could go back to Ginny (though some small part of him wondered if he'd be able to forgive her attitude when he needed her most), he could keep his job, his friends and his dignity, his magic. Wouldn't it just be easier, he reasoned with himself, to just make it all go away?

Wouldn't it just have been easier, another part of his mind argued, for his own parents to have stepped aside and let Voldemort have his way with Harry? Harry wasn't being asked to give up his life, as his parents had done for him, though he was going to have to give up everything that currently constituted his life. That seemed a pale comparison to his parents' sacrifice, and what kind of person would he be if he killed his own children for convenience's sake. He knew the odds of all five of these children being carried to term and actually drawing breath in the outside world – Poppy hadn't held any punches about that. But Harry would be damned if he would be the instrument of their destruction, and he'd do whatever it took to protect and nurture them for as long as he was able.

Awake and agitated, Harry sat up, knowing he'd get no more sleep tonight. He thought it might help to organize this thoughts if he tried to put them to paper, so he quietly searched Snape's desk for parchment and a quill. Feeling a bit strange about it, he settled himself at Snape's desk, lit a candle with the Muggle matches Snape had set out, and set quill to parchment.

Ginny,

I'm sorry for the way we parted earlier today yesterday. I already miss you and wish that we could be together again.

I have had some time to consider what you said. I wish that things were different. I wish that this had never happened to me. But it has, and I must deal with the consequences.

I love you, Ginny, and I love our child, but I cannot turn my back on my other children. I so wish we could raise these children together, give them the loving home every child deserves. But I understand your position. If you should change your mind, I pray you will let me know.

Please, Ginny, I wish to be involved in your pregnancy as much as I can. I understand that this may be uncomfortable now, but please don't shut me out. I'd like to attend doctor's appointments with you and do everything I can to make this as easy on you as possible. Just let me know what you need.

I love you, Ginny, and I always will.

Yours,

Harry

Harry leaned back with a sigh, then re-read the letter. There was so much more he wanted to say, but he was afraid he'd just revert to begging. And as much as he wanted to be a family with Ginny and his child, he would not trade them for the lives growing within him. He couldn't.

He nearly came completely out of his chair when a voice spoke to him from the darkness. "Can't sleep?"

"Professor!" Harry said, pressing a hand to his racing heart. "You scared me! I'm sorry if I woke you."

Snape shrugged his indifference. "Is there something that you need?" he asked, with a pointed look at Harry and his desk.

"I'm sorry. I was just writing a letter to Ginny."

"Telling her you've changed your mind?" Snape asked hopefully.

"No. Just telling her I wish things could be different."

"They could be," Snape pointed out.

"Don't," Harry requested. "Please, just . . . don't."

"I spoke with Minerva. She said that you are welcome to stay here for as long as you need. I would like to extend you an invitation to stay here . . . with me."

Harry was surprised by the offer, and his face showed it. "Why are you doing this?" he asked.

"You should not be alone. This is going to be more difficult than you can imagine. If you are here, you will have someone to keep an eye on you. You will be close to Pomfrey. Your friends can visit."

"It will be difficult for me to leave here if you get sick of me," Harry noted.

"Difficult, but not impossible," Snape assured him.

"You won't be able to use magic in your own rooms if I stay here."

"I have some experience living as a Muggle," Snape said, which was true, although it had been a while. "It will be an adjustment, not a hardship."

Harry rubbed a hand tiredly over his face. "I appreciate your offer, Professor, but I still don't get why you're doing it."

A full minute passed before Snape spoke. "I want to help," he said softly.

Harry suspected there was more, but he was too grateful to press. He was frightened, and he didn't want to go through this alone. "Thank you, Professor. I accept your offer, at least until . . . maybe Ginny will change her mind."

"You realize, of course, the need for secrecy. The Dark Lord still thinks that I am his loyal servant. I will, from time to time, be called to him. If he were to get wind that I was harboring you, after you escaped from his clutches once again . . . I would not like to think of the consequences."

"I understand. May I tell Ron and Hermione? I will tell them not to tell anyone else." Although frankly, he thought maybe Ron couldn't care less where he was staying.

"You trust them? Even with the discord between you?"

"I would trust them with my life," Harry said with certainty. Even when he was on the outs with them, he knew he friends would never betray him.

"You may very well be doing just that."

#####

A week later . . .

Harry had been with Snape for a week when he received a visitor.

"Hermione!" he said, delighted to see her. He hadn't seen her since before the attack.

She embraced him warmly, then pulled away. "How are you?" she asked, and he couldn't help but notice the glance she stole at his abdomen, as if he'd be showing already.

"I'm good. Come in. Tea?"

"Please." She looked around Snape's sitting room. "So, you're staying here in the dungeon. With Professor Snape."

"I know – surreal, right?" Harry joked. "Actually, he's been really decent."

"Is he here now?" she asked, seemingly nervous about that thought.

"No. He has a class."

Hermione watched Harry as he put the kettle on the fire to boil. "Harry, why aren't you doing that with your wand?"

He kept his back to her. "I can't. Magic makes me sick."

"Magical backlash," Hermione suggested.

Harry turned around and nodded. Leave it to Hermione to figure it out without being told.

"Can I do that for you?" she offered.

"No, thank you. Anyone using magic in my presence affects me the same way."

"So, you're living here, which means Snape can't use his own magic around you?"

"Mm hmm," Harry confirmed.

That surprised Hermione. She hadn't known Snape could be so . . . magnanimous.

"How's Ron?" Harry asked. "Couldn't he come with you?"

Hermione fidgeted, her face revealing what she so plainly did not want to say.

"He's angry with me, isn't he?" Harry guessed.

"He's protective of his sister. You know that. He's going to calm down eventually. Just give him time."

Harry smiled thinly, unable to meet Hermione's eyes. "What did Ginny tell you?"

"She told me everything – well, everything she knew. Oh, Harry!" Compassionate tears filled her eyes. "Are you sure you're doing the right thing?"

"I'm sorry?"

"Ginny said you refuse to have an abortion. I came to try to convince you."

"You?" Harry asked, surprised. "Champion of the rights of the downtrodden and those who can't speak for themselves? You're advocating abortion?"

"Well, under ordinary circumstances, no. But you can't argue that these circumstances are normal, can you? You're pregnant, Harry! Pregnant! You have a fiance and a child on the way! Don't you owe them more than this?"

"What about what I owe them, Hermione?" he asked, placing a hand on his abdomen. "I should just kill them because they're inconvenient? They didn't ask for this, did they?"

"No, of course they didn't. But Harry . . . how can you even think . . . how can you look at them and not see . . . them, think about what was done to you? They'll be a constant reminder!"

"They'll be babies, Hermione. My children! I will love them for what they are – innocents who had nothing to do with how they were conceived."

Hermione knew Harry well enough to see that he wasn't going to change his mind. But she apparently wasn't above hitting below the belt. "You've broken Ginny's heart."

"I regret that. But she made her decision. She called them an abomination!"

Hermione knew better than to say that she agreed with this assessment, but Harry read it in her eyes, and a small part of him died. He'd lost Ginny, and he'd probably lost Ron, which likely meant he'd lost the entire Weasley family. And now he was losing Hermione, too.

Harry stood up. "You should . . . maybe you should . . ." Harry didn't know how much longer he could keep it together, and he wanted her gone.

Hermione stood up as well. "Will you take care of yourself?"

Harry nodded. "You could come back and visit some time. I'd like that."

Hermione looked at her feet, then moved to the door before looking up at Harry. "I'm sorry, but I have to stand by Ginny now. We're going to be family soon." With one last sad look, Hermione left, taking that small dead part of Harry with her.

"I thought we already were," he whispered to the closed door as the kettle whistled, announcing the tea that no one would drink.

#####

When Snape returned after his last class, he found Harry sitting on the sofa, staring into the dying embers of the fire and clutching the grainy images from his first ultrasound. It was immediately obvious that something was wrong – Harry's eyes were red-rimmed, his cheeks tear-stained. Snape would have heard from Poppy if there'd been a medical emergency, so he sat in his chair and waited for Potter to speak.

"Do you think they're abominations?" he finally asked, thrusting the images out toward Snape.

"What has happened?" Snape asked quietly.

"Answer the question!" Harry demanded angrily. "Are they going to be monsters? Demons? Evil, soul-less creatures not worthy of anyone's love?"

Snape took a moment to frame his response. "These children were conceived in a way which is unprecedented. I would like to be able to provide you with assurances that they will be perfectly healthy, perfectly normal children. Those assurances would be empty because we simply don't know. As for their being worthy of love – my guess would be that you must already feel some of this for them, because mere obligation alone would not be enough to compel you to disrupt your life so completely."

"You're saying you think I already love them?"

Snape stared at Harry, challenging him to look inside himself for this answer. He did, and he acknowledged it was so.

"Do you want to tell me what brought this on?" Snape asked.

"Hermione came by today. To talk me into having an abortion. She's chosen sides." Snape didn't have to ask which side Granger had chosen. "She's been my friend since I was eleven," Harry said, his voice breaking. "How do you just turn your back on that?" He was crying again.

Snape sat and looked at the young man, a small part of his heart breaking vicariously. He didn't do comfort well (at all, really), and he had no words that would help. He did refrain from saying, "I told you so," at least, and for that he was quite proud of himself.

"I'm sorry," Harry said, angrily wiping tears from his face.

"You're hormonal," Snape said. "Get used to it. When did you last eat?"

"Lunch," Harry said with a great sniff.

"We should eat."

They both rose, and Snape gestured for Harry to precede him to the table. "Potter," he said, causing Harry to stop and look up at him with large, forlorn eyes. "Those children got half of what they are from you. Don't forget that."

#####

2 weeks later . . .

When Snape's day of teaching the uninspired dimwits that constituted Hogwart's current student body came to an end, he returned to his quarters, looking forward to a stiff drink and a hot meal. What he found was nothing – specifically, no Harry Potter. In the time that Harry had been staying with him, the boy hadn't expressed any interest at all in leaving Snape's rooms. In fact, he'd outright stated that he didn't want to see anyone and had seemed perfectly happy to hide away here. So where was he?

"Dobby!" Snape called sharply.

In moments, Dobby appeared before him. "Professor Snape is wanting Dobby?"

"Where is Potter?"

"Dobby does not know, Professor Snape, sir. Harry Potter is receiving an owl. Dobby believes it was from Miss Granger. Dobby is liking Miss Granger, Professor Snape, sir."

Professor Snape sir was liking her less and less all the time. "What did he do after the owl came?"

"Harry Potter left, sir."

"Left? Is he still on school grounds?"

"No, sir. Harry Potter left Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and apparated away," Dobby said sadly, as though he may never see Harry again. "Dobby does not know where Harry Potter is going or why he is leaving."

He'd apparated away? In his condition?! What was he thinking?! "When he returns, he will likely require assistance getting back to the castle. Watch for him and bring him back here instantly," he instructed the elf.

Dobby bowed low, his ears dragging on the floor. "Yes, Professor Snape, sir. Dobby is happy to be serving Harry Potter." With a snap, the elf was gone.

Snape paced his sitting room, wondering what could have drawn Potter away. Was it a Death Eater trap? Would the stupid boy not think of that possibility when receiving a message purportedly from a dear friend whom he currently desperately did not want to lose? Even if not a trap, Potter knew what he was risking by using his magic, so what had caused him to take that risk? Someone had to be ill or injured, and it was just like Potter to put himself in danger, damn the consequences to himself. Unless it was a trap, and he was once again in Voldemort's clutches.

Snape went round and round in this endless circuit until he finally decided he couldn't just sit here any more. He'd go to the Headmistress, tell her Potter was missing, then he'd go to Knockturn Alley, listen discretely to the gossip. Maybe he'd hear something or run into someone who knew something.

He was taking his traveling cloak down from its peg when Dobby appeared again, unsuccessfully trying to hold up an obviously unconscious Harry Potter. Snape dropped his cloak on the floor and went to assist the overburdened house elf.

"Get Madam Pomfrey!" he ordered as he dragged Potter to the sofa and lay him there. Snape quickly ran his hands through Harry's hair, feeling the scalp, then down his neck and both arms. He pulled Potter's shirt out of his pants and up out of the way while he inspected his torso. After rolling the boy over to look at his back, Snape ran his hands down Harry's legs. Satisfied there were no external physical injuries, he pulled his wand before debating the advisability of subjecting Potter to more magic.

He was saved from making that decision by the appearance of Madam Pomfrey in his floo.

"Potter apparated," Snape explained tersely. "At least twice. The elf apparated him back up here. I have no idea what else he might have done to himself."

Poppy drew her wand and began to run it over Harry's prone form.

"Is that . . .?" Snape began, but Poppy shushed him until she'd finished her scan.

"We had to know, Severus, and it was the quickest way," she explained. "He has no physical injury, and he has not been cursed. His magical reserves are dangerously high due to the apparition and perhaps other incidental magic he may have come into contact with. It will take some time for the excess to bleed off, but he should be fine. He'll sleep for a while. When he wakes, make sure he eats. I'll check on him tomorrow, and we'll do another ultrasound and talk about the surgery he needs."

#####

Snape sat and stared at Harry, watching him sleep, until his stomach protested his neglect. After he ate, he resumed his vigil, this time with essays to mark. He found his attention wandering often though to the young man asleep on his sofa.

Objectively, Snape decided, Harry really was a beautiful young man – sturdy features, compact yet nicely proportioned. His face was pleasing in an elven, waifish way, the lips slightly pouty in sleep, the nose upturned only a little at the end, even the worry lines permanently creasing the area between his eyebrows which Snape wanted to smooth away. And though he couldn't see them now, those eyes! A shade of green Snape had only ever seen once before. Captivating, they were.

Something had changed in the way he viewed Potter, and Snape wondered just when he'd begun to see him as a desirable young man. Perhaps it was after spending time with him and discovering that he wasn't the self-centered, irritating youngster he'd always seen him as. When he actually got to know Harry Potter, he'd found him to be a thoughtful, kind, unassuming young man, grateful for any act of genuine kindness showed him. Maybe it wasn't until he'd seen Harry Potter on the inside that he could appreciate the external qualities.

Snape stared at Harry until he fell asleep.

#####

"Professor?" Harry shook Snape's shoulder gently. "Professor, wake up. I'm sorry to wake you, but you look really uncomfortable there. You should go to bed."

Snape was instantly awake. The essays he was supposed to have been marking were strewn on the floor. He sat up and rubbed his eyes. "How do you feel?"

Harry sank back into the sofa. "Okay. Really tired, but okay."

"Whatever possessed you?" Snape asked, unable to keep the anger from his voice.

"It was Ginny. I had to go to her. She . . . she miscarried today. She lost the baby. I got an owl from Hermione, and I just couldn't stay away."

"I am sorry to hear that," Snape said sincerely. "How is Miss Weasley?"

"Physically, she's fine. Emotionally, she's a mess."

"And you?"

Harry squeezed his eyes shut against the threatening tears and leaned his head back against the sofa. "I'm okay. Disappointed, of course. Not only because we lost him, but because that baby was the only thing tying me to Ginny."

"She is unchanged in her opinion?"

"She wouldn't even see me. She hates me. Before, she disliked what I was doing and disagreed with it. But now she really hates me." A tear escaped Harry's closed eye and snuck down his cheek at the memory of Ron gleefully relaying the message from his sister. "She said she couldn't even stand to look at me. Not that I don't understand that. I can hardly stand to look at myself."

"You need to eat," Snape said. "Madam Pomfrey was by earlier and said you should eat as soon as you woke. The elves brought sandwiches." He nodded at the tray.

Harry sighed, but he sat forward and grabbed a sandwich. He really was quite hungry, he decided, and he ate two before the fatigue caught up with him again.

"Thank you," he said, and then he yawned.

"Get some sleep now," Snape advised. "Poppy will be back tomorrow."

Harry stretched out on the sofa. "I'm sorry I woke you," he said softly. "And I'm sorry I worried you. If you were worried. I should have left a note or something. I was kind of frantic."

"It is no matter," Snape assured him, and he stood up. "As long as you are all right. I will see you in the morning. And Mr. Potter?"

"Hmm?"

"I find you very easy to look at."

"Really?" Harry asked, sounding pleased by this. "Thank you, Professor. You're very sweet. But don't worry – I won't spread that around."

"I would tell everyone that you were under the influence of a particularly heinous curse if you did." He heard Harry chuckle before he said, "Good night, Potter," and left the room.

Harry felt ridiculously pleased by Snape's off-hand compliment, and just before sleep took him, he wondered when the opinion of Severus Snape had come to mean a damn to him.

#####

Harry slept quite late the following morning and was surprised to find Snape still there when he woke.

"It is Saturday, Potter."

"Oh. Guess I lost track of the days. I think I'm going a little stir crazy." Harry sat up on the sofa, then swayed a little when the room tilted crazily. "Whoa!" he said. He then realized that the food he'd eaten hours ago was going to make a reappearance very soon. He jumped to his feet, which multiplied the lightheadedness, and it was all he could do to keep his feet.

Alarmed, Snape jumped up as well. "Potter, what is it?"

A hand over his mouth, Harry said, "I'm gonna . . . I'm gonna sick up!" Somehow, he managed to make it to the loo before his stomach emptied. When he finally finished heaving, Snape handed him a flannel soaked in cool water. He gratefully rubbed the cloth over his face.

"Better?" Snape asked.

"Yes," Harry croaked, feeling weak-kneed. "Need to sit down."

Snape took Harry by the arm and helped him back to the sofa.

"That was fun," Harry joked feebly.

"Morning sickness, if I don't miss my guess. We will speak with Madam Pomfrey about it when she arrives."

"Great," Harry muttered. Morning sickness. He was heartily sick of being a freak.

"I hesitate to mention this, but are you hungry?"

Harry supposed he shouldn't be, after what he'd just done, but he found he was. "I could eat."

#####

Madam Pomfrey came by later in the morning, rolling the ultrasound machine into Snape's quarters.

"And how are we feeling this morning, Mr. Potter?" she chirped.

"Fine," Harry answered.

Snape waited for him to say more, and when he did not, felt compelled to say, "Aside from the episode of vertigo and vomiting this morning I'm sure he meant to say."

"Morning sickness, Mr. Potter," the nurse said. "A perfectly normal part of early pregnancy. Usually lasts until around the twentieth week. If it gets too severe, and you are unable to keep any food down, there are some Muggle remedies we can try. I've been reading up and talking with colleagues, discretely of course. If we're to do this without magic, I'd like to be prepared for all eventualities. Now shall we take a look?" Madam Pomfrey seemed downright excited about the prospect of using the machine. Harry wanted to punch her.

Instead he sighed, removed his shirt, and lay back on the sofa. He unbuttoned and unzipped his jeans and lowered them just enough, then tried to prepare himself for what came next.

With Snape's assistance, the machine was turned on. "I think leaving this down here makes the most sense, Severus. The infirmary has been quite busy lately, and seeing Harry here will be more discrete."

She squirted the gel onto Harry's belly, and he jerked back in surprise with a great hiss. "That was parseltongue for, 'Why is that bloody stuff so cold?'!"

"No magic," Snape explained, already thinking ahead to next time and how he could heat the gel without the use of his wand. Submerging it in warm water several minutes prior to the exam ought to do the trick.

"Let's take a look," Madam Pomfrey crooned, and she soon located Baby Number One. "Ah! There we are! Oh, look!" she breathed out in wonder.

Harry looked, and he immediately saw what had so captivated her – a tiny, fluttering heart beat. If he'd not seen it at Ginny's ultrasound, he would have had no idea what he was looking at. At the thought of Ginny and of what they had lost, Harry stopped looking at the screen and closed his eyes while Madam Pomfrey completed her examination. The concerned voices of Snape and Poppy brought him back to his reality moments later.

"What?" he asked. "What's wrong?"

"Maybe nothing," Poppy said soothingly. "We've detected heartbeats in four of the five fetuses. The fifth appears smaller and that may be why we can't yet see the heartbeat. It's too soon to tell if . . ."

"If it's dead," Harry finished for her.

"Yes, well why don't you sit up, and we'll talk."

Snape handed Harry a warm flannel, and he cleaned himself up before sitting up.

"I would like to wait another week before we do anything. If that fifth fetus has expired, it makes sense to take all three at once. I'd like to be sure, though, before we make any assumptions. I think another week should do it."

Harry felt numb and incapable of anything but nodding, and that is what he did. He lay quietly on the sofa while Madam Pomfrey packed up and spoke with Snape.

After she'd left, Snape sat in his chair. "If you're going to stay here, we should get you some place more permanent to sleep." When he got no response, he went on. "I can clean out the store room. It's large enough for a bed and a chest of drawers." Still no response. "Would that be acceptable?"

A cupboard? It would be perfect. "Not like I have any place else to go, right?" Harry asked despondently.

"Potter, are you crying?" Snape asked.

"No." Sniff.

Snape rolled his eyes. How would he survive hormonal teenager for the next seven months? "Do you wish to talk about it?"

"No." Sniff.

"Very well. You stay here, and I will prepare the store room. I will be using magic, so be sure you stay away."

"Okay." Sniff sniff.

Merlin, give me patience, Snape beseeched

#####

He was back in that cell, alone and helpless, and they were coming. He could hear them. He knew that he should run or scream or something, but he couldn't move, no matter how hard he tried. And then he heard another sound, just before the door opened. A cry. A newborn baby's cry. In the corner was a baby, being held by a woman in a rocking chair. Dear God, it was Bellatrix Lestrange, and she was holding Harry's baby. Harry knew it was his because it had messy black hair and it was wearing round eyeglasses and it had a lightning bolt-shaped scar on its forehead.

"Let go of my baby!" he ordered. When Bellatrix didn't respond, Harry screamed. "Give me my baby!"

And then the men were there, behind Harry, pushing into him, using him. And in the corner, Bellatrix crooned to the baby. "Look at daddy," she said. "Look at daddy playing with the nice Death Eaters."

"No!" Harry begged. "No! Stop! Please!"

"Maybe the nice Death Eaters will play with you next," Bellatrix sang.

"No!" Harry yelled, redoubling his efforts to break free. "Not my baby! Don't you touch my baby!"

And he was being shaken awake. "Potter! Wake up! You are dreaming."

Harry woke, drenched in sweat, breathing heavily, backing quickly away from Snape until he met the wall. He was disoriented in this new space Snape had created for him, and he cast his eyes about anxiously for something to anchor him to reality. There was only Snape.

"It's all right," the older man said soothingly, gentling Harry with his voice. "It was only a dream. You are safe at home in bed. I am here with you. You are in no danger."

"They were . . ." Harry gasped. "She had . . . Bellatrix had . . ."

"Shhh," Snape coaxed. "It's over. No one's going to hurt you."

"She had the baby."

"No one's going to hurt your children either," Snape promised.

Slowly Harry returned to where he was, and his breathing evened out.

"All right now?" Snape asked softly.

Harry knew that he was, relatively anyway, but he couldn't help the tears that fell. Snape sat on the edge of the bed until Harry fell asleep again.

#####

One week later . . .

Ultrasound had confirmed that the fifth fetus was no longer living. Steady, strong heartbeats were detected in the remaining four. Madam Pomfrey wanted to schedule the surgery for the following day.

"I would like to bring someone in to assist us. I believe I mentioned my cousin's daughter? She would be very beneficial. She's willing to come, though I obviously haven't told her who the patient is."

"I think the fewer who know Potter's condition the better," Snape said. "I could assist you with the surgery."

"I'd feel better with someone here with more specialized knowledge. Mandy did a rotation with a gynecological surgeon when she was fresh out of nursing school. She's familiar with the equipment I'll be using since we must perform the surgery the Muggle way. I've performed abortions the magical way, and I've performed surgery the Muggle way, but this . . . we're in unchartered waters here, Severus. I'd like to err on the side of caution."

Snape understood the situation all too well. "Concealing his identity would be difficult."

"We could always cover his face to prevent her from learning he's Harry Potter, but it would certainly be difficult to hide the fact that he's . . . well, a 'he'."

"Would she consent to being obliviated?"

"I don't know. Harry, dear, how do you feel about this?"

Harry had only been half paying attention. He disliked being spoken about as though he weren't in the room, and dealt with that by tuning out the conversation. So when they wanted his input, finally, he wasn't entirely sure what they'd been discussing. Not that he cared. The way he felt right now, it would be a blessing if he died during the procedure. "Do whatever you think is best," he said listlessly. And he stopped paying attention again.

#####

Apparently they'd decided to call in outside help, because a young woman introduced to Harry as Mandy was waiting for him and Snape in the infirmary the following day. Harry undressed and lay on the table, covered by a sheet. Mandy gave him a mask to breathe into, and seconds later, he was soundly sleeping.

When he awoke, he had been returned to Snape's quarters and lay in his bed clothed in a hospital gown. He tried to move but felt a stabbing pain in his abdomen. He groaned, then decided he'd really rather be asleep, and he drifted off again.

When he awoke again later, Snape was there to tell him the surgery had gone well and the remaining fetuses all appeared to have survived the surgery. Mandy had been obliviated.

#####

Harry stood naked in front of the full-length bathroom mirror, staring at the slight but noticeable bulge in his midsection. The last ultrasound had showed that the babies were only each around five centimeters long, but that was apparently enough to cause weight gain already. He'd noticed his pants were fitting tightly, and he wondered how much more time would pass before he'd no longer be able to wear them.

In addition to the weight gain, Harry had noticed an increase in the frequency of his trips to the loo to pee. He was still very weepy a lot of the time, and he became suddenly grouchy for no reason. He'd begun to crave foods he hadn't eaten since before coming to Hogwarts, and yesterday his nose had begun to bleed copiously out of the blue. He'd noticed a dull ache in his back a lot lately, and he was still sicking up every morning. So far, pregnancy was turning out to be not a lot of fun. He'd discussed each of these symptoms with Madam Pomfrey, and she'd assured him that they were all perfectly normal pregnancy-related complications.

And then there were the symptoms he hadn't mentioned because they were just too bloody embarrassing. He hadn't had a bowel movement in three days, and he'd noticed an alarming and dramatic increase in his sex drive. Harry's eyes drifted down in the mirror to his cock, already showing interest in this line of thought.

He took himself in one hand, enjoying the feeling of his prick growing to fill his palm. He began to stroke slowly, firmly. He wondered briefly if it was safe to orgasm while pregnant, but he couldn't seem to stop himself. Watching himself wank in the mirror was incredibly arousing, and it wasn't long before he had to step to the loo where he brought himself off noiselessly.

He had his wilting cock still in his hand when Snape knocked on the door and said, "Dinner is on the table."

"Coming," Harry said, then couldn't stop himself from snickering like a juvenile at the unintended pun. He dressed quickly, washed his hands and went out to join Snape.

#####

Harry stared down at his plate as his fork pushed his food around.

"Is the lamb not to your liking?" Snape asked. "I'm sure your friend Dobby will bring you something else."

"No. It's not that," Harry sighed. The one small bite he'd had had been very tasty. He just didn't think he had room to eat any more, until he could . . .

"Is something wrong?"

"I can't . . . I seem to be . . . I haven't been able to . . ." This was really embarrassing. Harry couldn't look at Snape, and he could tell his cheeks were blazing. He wasn't accustomed to discussing his bathroom habits with anyone.

"I believe the word you're searching for is constipated," Snape guessed.

Harry looked up quickly. "How did you know?"

"I've been reading," Snape said, taking a sip of his wine. Harry watched a pink tongue dart out to catch a drop of wine left at the corner of Snape's mouth, and he felt a familiar tingle of arousal zip through him. "It's a very common symptom. There are actually foods you can eat to assist with the problem naturally. I will have the house elves add them to your diet."

Why had Harry never noticed that Snape's voice was dead sexy? The man could melt gold with that voice.

"You are welcome to read my resource materials," Snape offered. "They are very informative."

Harry was staring at Snape's mouth as it formed those velvety, ordinary words. The lips were thin, but firm and Dear God, there was that tongue again! Harry was very nearly fully erect now.

"Is there anything else you've been experiencing that you did not feel comfortable sharing with Madam Pomfrey? We cannot help you if we don't know what's happening."

Harry nodded before he could think too much about it, then wished he hadn't. This problem was even more embarrassing. Snape was waiting expectantly, though, so Harry soldiered on.

"I've noticed that I get . . . um . . . aroused really easily."

"You are still a teenager. Surely that is not unusual."

Surely Harry had to be imaging that look of interest in Snape's eyes. "This is different," he explained. "It's more . . . intense . . . and . . . frequent."

"Ah," Snape said, and he paused to take another drink of wine, following it with more tongue. If Harry didn't know better, he'd think Snape was doing that on purpose. He couldn't help the low moan that escaped his lips. "Another common symptom actually, increased libido. I'm afraid there is only one way to take care of it."

Harry swallowed hard. "Is that safe?"

"You mean ejaculating?"

Harry groaned this time. "Yes." Oh God! Snape said ejaculating!

"The books say that orgasm in women is perfectly safe during pregnancy. I don't see why it would be any different for you."

Oh God! Snape said orgasm! "Professor," Harry gasped. "Could I be excused for a moment?"

Snape's stare was filled with the knowledge of what Harry was going to do and a little bit of amusement as well. "Of course."

Harry jumped up, trying desperately to hide the bulge in his jeans from Snape as he made a beeline for the loo.

Snape watched the boy go, amused at his predicament. He wondered briefly about the advisability of flirting with Potter, but he couldn't seem to help himself. Potter had become more attractive every day. His hair, which the boy had been growing out for some time, reached his shoulders in layers at its longest point. It was thick and shiny and begged for someone to run his long, potion-stained fingers through it. His skin had a healthy pink tinge to it and seemed, yes, to glow.

Snape had heard the myth that pregnant women glowed, but he'd never witnessed it for himself. Until now. Potter did glow with health and vitality, and he was attractive to Snape in a way that no one had been for a very long time. Besides, the boy had a habit of going about without his shoes, and Snape had something of a foot fetish.

And it wasn't as though they were going to act on this silly flirtation. Obviously, that thought was ridiculous. They were just having a little fun with each other. Right?

Harry slid back into his seat, determined not to be embarrassed. Snape had practically prodded him into doing what he'd done!

"Better?" Snape asked, still with the amused look.

"Much, thanks. It's a relief to know I can toss off whenever I like. It's been . . ." Harry looked up at Snape through his long eyelashes in what he hoped was a seductive manner, "hard keeping my hands off." Two could play this game.

Two spots of red high on Snape's cheeks told Harry he'd scored, and he grinned, inordinately pleased.

They sat in silence for a time, Snape finishing his dinner, and Harry still unable to eat, until Harry said, "You haven't got anything that needs doing, have you, Professor? Only I'm getting awfully bored here with nothing to do all day. I tried cleaning up a bit around the place, but Dobby popped in and nearly cried."

"Hmmm," Snape said, thinking. "You're welcome to read any of the books you find here. Were you anyone else, I'd set you to brewing some of the simpler potions that Poppy requires for the infirmary, but that's obviously out of the question."

"Oi! I got Exceeds Expectations on my potions O.W.L.!"

"I was referring to the fact that you can't use magic."

"Oh. That."

"Though how you managed to perform as well as you did does defy explanation."

"You want to know how I did it? While I was working, I didn't have someone standing behind me, terrorizing me and just waiting for me to screw up. Amazing what a difference that made, Professor," he said, with added emphasis on that last word. Harry was surprised to find he was still angry about all the years of undeserved abuse he'd suffered at Snape's hands. He'd thought he was beyond that.

"You realize now, I trust, that my enmity towards you was motivated in large part by the role I was playing?"

Harry wasn't going to let Snape get away with that. "Bollocks! There was more to it than that, and you know it! Even when we were alone together you were a right bastard."

Snape had to concede that was true.

"Do you have any idea how frightened I was when I first came here? How out of place I felt? How scared I was that everyone was wrong about me, that I was just a little boy with no magic at all, and that as soon as you figured that out, I'd be sent back to those people straight away?! And there you were, singling me out, humiliating me for not knowing what most of the class didn't know on the very first day, making me feel like a freak who ought to be shut away in a cupboard. I had no idea what I'd done to you to deserve that, though I was certainly accustomed to people hating me for nothing more than being alive. Do you know how many times that first year I cried in the bathroom after potions class?" To Harry's horror, he was crying now. Hard.

Snape stared at Harry. The boy had obviously needed to get that off his chest for some time. "I apologize if I stepped over any lines. I though it best to maintain my cover at all times."

Snape seemed truly contrite, and Harry wiped his face on his dinner napkin. "You had a job to do," Harry said. "I recognize that now, of course. But then – you made an already terrified little boy feel as worthless as possible on purpose."

"And you consequently made it your life's work to expose me as the traitor you believed me to be," Snape countered. "Yet here we are."

"Yes, here we are," Hary agreed, exhausted now that the strong emotion had left him. "I'd forgiven you long ago, actually. I don't know where all that came from. Can we just blame it on the hormones and forget I ever said anything?"

"It's already forgotten," Snape assured him.

#####

Two days later, Snape brought home a box filled with items designed to help Harry fill his days. There were a dozen jigsaw puzzles, four or five Lego building sets, and a large bag filled with postage stamps, along with an album. These last items had belonged to Snape's father, and Snape had had no idea what to do with them. So he gave them to Potter, with a book on philately he'd purchased, and told him to have at it.

#####

"And how have you been feeling?"

"Fine, Madam Pomfrey. The morning sickness seems to be getting a little better."

"Good. With any luck, that will disappear entirely in the next couple of weeks or so." They talked as she prepared Harry for his latest ultrasound.

Though he didn't mention it to the nurse, his constipation problem had resolved itself after the introduction of more fruits and vegetables and other high fiber foods into his diet. The other symptom he'd been too embarrassed to share with Poppy had not resolved, however. In fact, it was still popping its naughty little head up with increasingly frequent regularity and with very little provocation. Knowing now that it was perfectly normal and safe to alleviate, Harry didn't see the need to mention it now, either.

"Oh, look at the little bugger!" Poppy crooned, now an old hand at the ultrasound process. She hummed while she worked. "I believe I can tell the gender of this one. Would you like to know, Harry?"

Harry hadn't really thought about that. These babies were still such an abstract idea to him. "Yeah. Sure."

"You have a son," she told him. "Mind, I could be wrong. This is all new to me as well. He looks good." She clicked here and there on the screen. "He's just under fourteen centimeters now and likely weighs around two hundred forty grams. Right where he should be at eighteen weeks. And there's his little heart beating." That part never failed to enthrall her and bring a little lump to her throat. She clicked another button to print the image.

Harry held his hands up, with what he guessed was fourteen centimeters between them. Wow. They were getting big. No wonder he looked like he'd swallowed a watermelon whole.

"All right. On to number two. They're certainly easier to find now, aren't they? Soon they'll be so crowded in there they'll be touching each other. Here we go. A girl, I think, this one. She's a little smaller than her brother. Everything looks great, though.

"And another girl. And look at that, Harry! She's sucking her thumb! Isn't that just the sweetest thing you've ever seen? We'll want a picture of that to be sure! Roughly the same size. Everything's well here. Now for the last but not least." She ran the transducer over Harry's rounded belly once again. "Ah, here we go. Hello, number four. Another girl. But . . . oh . . ."

"What?" Harry asked, sitting up slightly to try to peer at the monitor.

"Is Severus home, Harry?"

Her voice had that I've-Bad-News-To-Tell-You-But-I-Don't-Want-To-Tell-You-While-We're-Alone quality to it, and Harry immediately got concerned. "He had a meeting with the Headmistress. Why? What's wrong?"

"Now, Harry, let's just stay calm."

"Madam Pomfrey," Harry said, raising himself up on his elbows. "Tell me what's wrong. I've a right to know!"

"All right," she said soothingly. "I'm not seeing a heartbeat on number four."

"Look again!" Harry ordered.

She did, but the result was no different. "I'm sorry, Harry. It looks like we've lost her."

Any other time, Harry might have taken issue with her use of the word "we", but now, he was too devastated by what she'd said to even hear it. "She's . . . dead?"

"Yes, Harry. I'm sorry. The other three seem to be growing perfectly fine. But number four is gone."

"Mary," Harry whispered. "Her name would have been Mary." Harry hadn't named any of these babies before now, but this name seemed right, and he didn't want her being called "number four" any more. He felt a single tear slide from one eye.

He barely registered Madam Pomfrey cleaning the gel from his belly and helping him to sit up.

"Come, Harry. Come and sit," she instructed.

Harry fixed his trousers and then let himself be led to the sofa. He was sitting down when Snape entered the room, muttering under his breath some complaint likely involving Minerva. He took in the scene before him and went immediately to Harry's side. "What is wrong?"

Harry couldn't speak through the tears that had thickened in his throat.

"We've lost one, Severus," Poppy said.

Snape sank onto the sofa beside Harry and put a comforting arm around him. Harry turned his face into Snape's shoulder and surrendered himself to the tears. Snape held him while he cried himself out, rubbing his back murmuring inanities. Finally, Harry stopped crying, but he didn't pull away from Snape's embrace. "Why?" he croaked.

"I wish I knew," Poppy said. "I wish I had answers for you, Harry, but I do not. She was smaller than the others. Perhaps it was a matter of survival of the fittest. We will likely never know for sure."

"And the others? Will they . . . Is there any chance any of them will live?"

"I don't know, Harry," Poppy confessed sadly. "All I can tell you is that they look fine today."

"Is there something I should have done differently?" Harry choked out.

"Harry, this is not your fault," Snape said sternly. "You cannot blame yourself for this."

Harry felt fresh tears threatening and tried to force them down. It helped when Snape tightened his arm comfortingly around Harry's shoulders.

"We will have to remove her," Poppy said gently.

"Is there risk to the other three with such a procedure?" Snape asked quietly.

"There's always a risk with surgery. To the babies and to Harry. But the risk of leaving her there is greater. Besides, the others will need the room soon. I will contact Mandy tomorrow, and we'll perform the surgery as soon as she can come. All right, Harry?"

Harry nodded, then turned his face back into Snape's shoulder. With one last sad look at the two men, Poppy left them.

Snape and Harry sat quietly on the sofa for a time, Harry still wrapped in Snape's arms, until Snape said, "Do you think you can eat?"

"No," Harry said. "Not yet." He paused, then said, "Her name is Mary. Mary Elizabeth Potter."

"That's a lovely name. Have you named the other three?"

"No. I just named her today. Poppy was calling her 'number four'. That didn't seem right." Harry pulled away from Snape and wiped his eyes. "There are two more girls and a boy. I think I'll name them now. I don't want to wait until . . ."

"I am sorry, Potter, about Mary. I am sorry also that I was not here with you when you learned the news."

"You're here now," Harry said simply, looking up at Snape with sad green eyes.

Snape had to touch him, and he raised a hand to Potter's cheek. Looking deep into the boy's eyes, he said softly, "You should eat. I know it is difficult. Do it for them." His other hand came to rest on Harry's abdomen.

Harry's eyes flew open. "Professor!"

Alarmed, Snape dropped both hands, mortified that he'd taken such liberties with Potter and that the boy so obviously didn't welcome them. "I'm sorry . . ." he said.

"No!" he said, his face a study in wonder. "One of them moved! I felt one of them move! Just now!"

Snape smiled then in relief. "There, you see? They want you to eat, too."

Harry smiled a genuine smile, then, though his eyes were still red and moist. "Or maybe they just liked it when you touched them."

"More likely they're hungry," Snape said, though he'd liked it when he touched them, too.

#####

Snape sat by Harry's bed in a corner of the infirmary watching Harry sleep. The surgery to remove the deceased fetus ("Mary Elizabeth," Snape reminded himself sadly) had been completed an hour ago. Potter would have to remain here, screened from view of others, until he woke. Ideally, he should be confined to the hospital wing for a day or two, but due to his intolerance for magic and the likelihood that Poppy would need to use it sooner rather than later to treat some student in need, he couldn't stay here any longer than necessary.

"Still sleeping?" Mandy asked, poking her head around the screen.

"Yes."

"He should sleep a bit longer. You really don't have to stay, you know. He's fine. The other babies are fine."

"I know," Snape conceded. "He sometimes has nightmares. I would like to be here when he wakes, just in case."

Mandy smiled knowingly. "All right. I'm off to see Poppy for obliviation," she said, cheerfully accepting. "Don't take this the wrong way, but I hope never to see you again, Mr. Snape."

"The feeling is mutual," Snape assured her. "Thank you for all you have done for Harry."

"You're welcome." Before she left, she said, "Poppy has the fetus. When he's ready, you should perhaps have a small ceremony, perhaps a burial. It will help him."

Snape nodded stiffly, and with one last understanding smile, Mandy left.

Snape returned his attention to Harry, feeling himself dangerously emotional. He'd been present during the surgery. Normally, that sort of thing didn't bother him, and indeed, the incision into Harry's abdomen, the subsequent bleeding, the peek into the human inside – none of those things bothered him at all. In fact, he was rather fascinated by the whole process.

But what Poppy had removed from Potter's stomach disturbed him tremendously, because it was so easily identifiable as a human being. A human infant who would have been called Mary Elizabeth had she been allowed to grow and draw breath. Perhaps she would have been called Mary Beth or Mary Liz. Perhaps she would have had her father's green eyes and his sunny disposition. Perhaps she would have been good at potions or transfiguration or, Merlin forbid, quidditch. They would never know, because she was gone. And Snape had seen her doll-like skull and her tiny limbs. She'd been nothing like the weeks-old fetuses Mandy had removed two months ago, which had resembled only lumps of tissue. It was too easy to imagine this one moving, crying, looking at you, and Snape was profoundly bothered by the loss.

A little angry with himself, Snape wiped away his maudlin tears and waited for the boy to wake.

#####

Harry sat quietly in Snape's sitting room working on a Lego set. Though he felt more than a little childish doing so, he found the activity soothing, and it helped to pass the time. The process of building was logical – he sorted the pieces by color, then by shape and size. The instructions were clear and simple, whether there were ten steps or two hundred ten. From a pile of loose bricks, he created something definable – a house, a rocket ship, a car, a dragon. There were no surprises, no monkey wrenches thrown into well-laid plans, no evil monsters waiting to do you in. The worst that could happen, other than losing a piece, was that you put the pieces together wrong, but even then, all you had to do was backtrack through the instructions, fix your mistake, and go forward. It was clean and orderly, unlike the rest of his life.

Harry looked up briefly when Snape entered at the end of his school day. He hadn't realized it was as late as it was. Snape approached with a large box which he laid on the floor at Harry's feet. Harry bent to look at it – it was another building set, this one a castle which contained over one thousand pieces.

"Cool," Harry said.

Snape dropped into a chair. "It reminded me of Hogwarts."

"Thank you," Harry said gratefully. He noted how tired Snape looked. "Bad day?"

"No worse than any other. The end of term is approaching. Attention spans are shorter than normal, difficult as that is to believe."

"I'm sure I never suffered from such an affliction," Harry said with a straight face.

Snape snorted. "It would have been difficult for your attention span to have dipped any lower than it was normally."

Harry smiled and returned to his project.

Snape watched him for a few moments. He really wanted a drink, but he didn't have the energy to get up out of the chair to get it.

Harry had been so sad since losing Mary Elizabeth six weeks ago. Regular ultrasounds had confirmed that the remaining three children were progressing well, but the loss of Mary Elizabeth had thrown Potter for a loop. He'd spent his time here since then quietly working on puzzles and pasting stamps into albums and putting together building sets, talking with Snape minimally, moping. There had been no friendly banter, no flirting.

"I've been thinking about the summer," Snape said.

"Oh?" Harry said, without looking up.

"Yes. I do not normally remain at Hogwarts during the summer months."

"No?"

"No. I have a home, as you know. That is where I can normally be found during the holiday."

Harry stopped working, but did not turn to look at Snape. Was he working up to telling Harry that he was going home, that he wouldn't be staying here with Harry? Harry's heart began to beat a little faster, and he began to steel himself for what was coming. "Are you going back there, then?"

"I thought to."

Harry's shoulders slumped.

"I would like it if you came with me," Snape said softly. "If you feel up to the trip. Madam Pomfrey has agreed to apparate there to continue your medical care."

Harry did turn and look at him now, and Snape was struck by the look of pathetic gratitude in the young man's eyes. "I'd like that," he said.

Snape cleared his throat, attempting to dislodge an annoying lump of emotion. "You'll be able to go outside. There is a garden in back. It's not very large, but it's well warded for privacy." Snape thought fresh air and sunshine would do the boy a world of good. He hadn't been outside since they'd buried Mary Elizabeth in a clearing just inside the forest. Some people weren't meant to be confined indoors – Harry was one of them.

"Is it safe? I mean, I know Voldemort hasn't called you in a while, but do your Death Eater buddies show up there periodically? I'd hate to answer the door and find Lucius Malfoy standing there."

"It is very well warded. My 'Death Eater buddies' do not come without invitation, but we would have ample warning if they did. And you will not be answering the door, so that is not a concern."

"It sounds great. Thank you, Professor."

Snape didn't want Potter to be grateful. He wanted him to be . . . normal. "Would you like to see any of your friends before we leave?"

"No," Harry said quickly, a hand going reflexively to his large stomach, rubbing slow circles there. "No. I doubt they want to see me."

"Potter, they are your friends. They've had time . . ."

"Professor," he interrupted. "I'm sorry, but you don't understand." Harry hadn't heard from anyone since Ginny's miscarriage. Obviously, they'd all banded together and moved on. Without him. He'd thought several times about owling Hermione, but the thought of rejection had stopped him. He didn't think he could stand that. Besides, he didn't want anyone to see him like this.

"It isn't healthy for you to be alone here all the time," Snape argued.

"I'm not alone," Harry countered. "You're here."

"I am hardly anyone's idea of an ideal companion."

"You're all I need," Harry assured him.

"Potter, you have very loyal friends. I am sure they've had time to reconsider the positions they took when they first learned what had happened and what you planned to do."

"Then why haven't I heard from them?" Harry asked, the pain obvious in his eyes. "Besides, I don't want . . ."

"What?"

"I don't want anyone to see me like this," Potter admitted, hanging his head, and Snape just knew he was crying again.

Would this never be over? Snape asked himself. "Potter, they're your friends. You needn't be embarrassed."

"No?" Harry asked, whirling in his chair, tears streaming from his eyes. "Look at me!" He stood up, ungainly with his girth. "Look at me! I'm a freak! I've always been a freak, but now even my freakiness is freaky!"

Snape rose to his feet with a soft sigh. If nothing else, he was getting good at this comfort business. He pulled Potter into his arms and held him while he cried.

When he had finally gotten himself back under control, Snape pushed Potter away, holding him at arm's length. "Forget I mentioned it. We will leave two days after school ends."

Harry gulped and nodded.

#####

Harry stood in Snape's sitting room, staring around him in horror. He'd been here once before, but he'd been too emotionally disturbed to really take in his surroundings. This had to be the ugliest room he'd ever seen. The peeling wallpaper was brown and turquoise with large paisley cabbage roses. Bookcases lined two walls, filled with dusty tomes, most of them black. The furniture was rickety, and the throw rug threadbare. He'd thought the Dursleys' sitting room was ugly, but this – this took ugly to a whole new level. At least Aunt Petunia had kept her sitting room clean. This room looked like it hadn't seen a cleaning charm, let alone water and cleaning products, for decades.

"How do you feel?" Snape asked.

"Tired," Harry said. The journey here by train and by cab had been long and exhausting. "Hungry. And I have to pee. Again."

Snape noticed Harry regarding the room. "It isn't much, I know," he said, a tad self-consciously.

"It's fine," Harry murmured, unwilling to hurt Snape's feelings with his true opinion. "I'm assuming there's a loo someplace?" That was his most pressing concern.

"Of course. It's up . . ." Snape paused, regarding one wall of bookcases, "stairs."

Harry turned to look at the wall, wondering why Snape looked so puzzled. He saw nothing out of the ordinary. "What?"

"The staircase is behind that wall. I open it with magic."

"Oh. Is there a button or something?"

"Perhaps. But I have no idea where it might be."

"Hmm. Well, I could wait outside while you open it," Harry suggested.

"I suppose you'll have to," Snape conceded. "The back garden is through here." Snape led Harry to the back door and held it open for him to pass through. "I'll only be a moment." Snape closed the door and left Harry alone in the garden.

Snape had told him the garden had privacy wards which kept the neighbors from seeing in, so Harry felt free to take the few steps required to cross the covered flagstone terrace and stand on the lush green grass. It was a small garden, grass pathways leading between tidy rows of plants. Flowers and herbs, Harry guessed. The garden, unlike the house, was neatly kept and obviously cared for.

Someone, Sarah, Harry guessed from the position, kicked him in the bladder, increasing the urgency of his need to urinate. He rubbed his belly. "Calm down in there," he ordered softly. "Or I'll wet myself."

Harry heard the door open behind him and turned to see Snape. "Done," the man announced.

When Harry turned, he noticed a bench swing hanging over the terrace and thought it looked like a wonderful place to sit and look at the garden. Later maybe. Now, he really need to relieve himself.

Snape escorted Harry up the narrow rickety stairs and showed him the loo and the room where he would be sleeping. When Harry exited the bathroom, feeling pounds lighter, Snape was dragging his trunk up the stairs.

"Let me help you with that," Harry offered.

"No. You know you're not supposed to be lifting."

Snape thumped the trunk the remainder of the way up the stairs and dragged it into Harry's room. "Would you like to rest, or would you prefer something to eat?'

Harry considered this. "I think I need a lie-down first. Just for an hour or so. Then something to eat."

"All right. I'll be downstairs. Call if you need anything. And do be careful on the stairs, Potter. They are uneven and can be treacherous."

Snape left, and Harry lay down on the bed. This room, though not as dark as the sitting room, was just as dirty and depressing. He thought the walls might be white under that layer of grime, but he couldn't be sure. Harry wondered why Snape had left it this way. Surely he could cast a few cleaning spells periodically, to at least take care of the dust and filth. Harry was wondering how much time Snape actually spent here when he drifted off to sleep.

#####

Groceries were delivered by house elf while Harry was napping, and Snape had put together a tasty chicken stew by the time Harry woke. Harry had very gingerly made his way down the stairs, over the cracked and uneven treads and found Snape setting the small table for an early dinner. On his way through the sitting room, Harry noticed it was considerably cleaner. The house elf must have done some work in there as well. It was still dark and depressing, but at least it was clean.

"Let me help with that," Harry offered.

"No. Sit. Rest."

"I've been resting," Harry said grumpily. "I'm not an invalid."

"Fine. The silver is in that drawer," Snape said, pointing, "and you could retrieve the milk from the icebox."

Harry fetched spoons and a knife from the drawer.

"You have an icebox? This looks new," Harry observed.

"It is new. I can hardly keep things cold by magical means, can I?"

"I'm sorry, Professor," Harry said. He put the milk on the table, sat down, and hung his head. "You must feel like you're never going to be rid of me."

"You do rather cling like a limpet," Snape observed, hoping Harry would hear the teasing in his tone.

"I don't deserve you," Harry said sadly.

"No one deserves me," Snape noted. He set the pot of stew on the table and ladled some into both bowls. "Eat."

#####

Harry had eaten and had made the journey up the stairs to the loo once again, then back down again. "Whew!" he said. "You should add a bathroom down here. Or maybe I'll just go out in the garden."

Snape shrugged. "Go ahead. No one will see your . . . equipment. Privacy wards, you know."

"I'm beginning to wonder if I shouldn't have someone look at my . . . equipment. Just to make sure it's still there. I haven't seen it in a while myself."

Snape smiled his understanding.

Harry perused the bookshelves for awhile, then moaned. "Man, my feet hurt!"

"Your feet?"

"More my ankles, I think. Swollen."

"Ah. I think I can help with that. Come." Snape patted the sofa beside him. "Sit."

Harry did, then Snape helped him to swing his legs up until his feet rested in Snape's lap and Harry reclined against the arm at the other end of the sofa.

"Comfortable?" Snape asked.

"Y-e-s," Harry said, eyeing the other man somewhat warily.

Snape pulled Harry's trainers off and dropped them on the floor. Harry's socks joined them. And then Snape placed a pillow in his lap, placed Harry's feet upon it, and began to massage Harry's feet and ankles. His long, warm fingers kneaded at Harry's skin, working the muscles underneath. "That feels really good!" Harry moaned, dropping his head back and closing his eyes.

Indeed, the sensation was incredible, and Harry felt it traveling up his legs to coalesce in his groin, though Snape's hands never wandered any higher than his ankles. Harry's cock began to grow and was half hard before he realized what was happening.

"Oh God!" he croaked. "Maybe you should stop!"

"Am I hurting you?" Snape looked up, surprised.

"No. It's just . . ."

Harry couldn't finish, but he didn't need to. Snape could clearly see the movement of Harry's elongating prick under his lightweight summer robes. He knew Harry had quit wearing pants and trousers when they'd become too tight on his abdomen, and he went around with only his robe on these days.

"Ah," Snape said, to verbalize his understanding. "I . . . see the problem."

"Oh God!" Harry moaned. "This is so embarrassing!"

"There's no need to be embarrassed, Potter. We cannot help how our bodies respond to physical proximity and touch. It is simply a matter of physiology."

"Well, unless you want me to die from 'physical proximity and touch', you probably should stop that."

Snape chuckled and removed his hands.

"As you wish. Oh, and Potter? I think it's plain that your . . . equipment is still there."

Harry couldn't open his eyes, but he just knew that Snape was smirking at his mortification.

#####

After a week in Spinner's End, they'd settled into a routine. It was a quiet existence, with just the two of them, and their days passed pleasantly if not a little boringly.

After breakfast, Snape disappeared into his makeshift potions lab in a room off the kitchen, and Harry went out into the garden. He usually did some weeding and pruning, but sometimes he just sat on the swing and enjoyed the summer day. He had missed the outdoors during his self-imposed asylum in the dungeons, and now the simple play of sunshine on his face gave him great pleasure.

Afternoons, when the weather became too hot to enjoy, were spent reading, or working on building sets, or playing chess with Snape, or just talking. Poppy's once-weekly visits were in the afternoon, and when Minerva popped in for a visit, she always came after lunch, almost always on the weekend.

And the evenings – evenings were becoming torture for Harry. He knew he shouldn't let Snape rub his feet any more because his now predictable erection embarrassed him every time, but he couldn't seem to say no. The touch of another just felt too god. Even if the other was Snape, with the large nose and the mean streak and the most awe-inspiring hands in all of Britain.

So it was no surprise when Harry found himself with his feet in Snape's lap and a raging hard-on twitching against his belly beneath his robe. Harry had stopped asking Snape to desist – the man didn't seem put off by it, so Harry just lived with his own mortification.

So the hard-on wasn't a surprise, this night or any other, but what Snape did next certainly was.

"Potter," he said in that voice that didn't help calm Harry's prick one whit.

"Hmmm?" Harry responded without opening his eyes.

When Snape didn't continue, Harry did open his eyes and looked at the man. "What?"

"May I . . . that is, I'd like to . . ."

Harry had never seen Snape at a loss for words, and he consequently just stared stupidly at Snape until the other man said, "If you'd like, I could . . . take care of that for you," with a gesture at Harry's groin.

Now Harry's mouth fell open. "You want to . . . what exactly?" Harry wondered.

"If you would like, I will . . . masturbate you. I suspect that relieving yourself is getting difficult, and I simply wish to . . . help."

Well, Snape was certainly right about the wanking thing. His belly got in the way of just about everything lately. "I . . . um I . . ." Harry wasn't sure what to say, but the truth was that his cock was very interested in the offer and had gotten harder still and seemed to be trying to leap toward Snape.

"Let me do this for you, Harry," Snape whispered, and he slid his hands up under Harry's robe.

What the hell? Harry thought, and he nodded and lay back and surrendered himself to Snape's talented hands.

In the silence of the room, Harry's gasp when Snape's fingers wrapped around his engorged flesh was audible, as was the moan he was helpless to hold back when those fingers started moving up and down.

"This won't take long!" Harry choked out. He'd been aroused for a while, and he hadn't come in what felt like forever, and he felt himself on the precipice of surrender far too quickly.

"It's all right, Harry," Snape soothed. "Just let it go. Come for me."

And Harry did. Snape had the foresight to move Harry's robe up and out of the way so that the inside didn't get covered in the sticky mess that erupted from the end of Harry's sputtering cock. Snape held on until Harry's hips stilled and his cock was a quiescent lump in his hand.

"Oh God! Thank you!" Harry said almost reverently. "I really needed that."

"It was nothing," Snape assured him. Harry jumped a little when he felt a cool flannel cleaning his belly and thighs. If he'd been a little more lucid, he might have wondered why Snape had a flannel at the ready, but as it was, he simply closed his eyes in the glow of satiation and drifted off to sleep.

#####

Harry awoke a short time later, his feet still in Snape's lap, but his robes pulled back down to cover him. He met Snape's eyes, but then had to look away quickly, color flaming his cheeks.

"You needn't be embarrassed, Potter. As I said, the human body reacts in predictable ways to stimulation. Consider yourself lucky you are able to enjoy the experience."

"Did you . . ." Harry wanted to ask if Snape had been aroused by what he'd done to Harry, but how do you phrase such a question? "That is, when you . . . earlier did you . . . did that excite you, too? When you touched me?"

"I am a man, too, Potter. I also react predictably to stimuli."

"Harry. Call me Harry. You just . . . it's Harry."

Snape nodded in acceptance.

"So you did, then?" Harry pursued. "You got hard?"

Spots of color infused Snape's cheeks. "Yes, Potter. Harry."

"I'm sorry."

That surprised Snape. "Why?"

"Because you were . . . and I didn't do anything about it . . . after you . . . took care of me."

"I am more than capable of 'taking care' of myself," Snape assured him. "I have been doing it for years. And I don't have three people between myself and my self-pleasure."

Harry thought he might get hard again if they continued this conversation, so he tried to sit up. It was a struggle, and Snape rose to assist him. "Thanks."

They sat quietly side by side on the sofa until Harry spoke again. "What you said about the body acting in certain ways in response to stimuli . . ."

"Yes?"

"Can it work that way under stress?"

"It can," Snape confirmed.

"Oh." Harry dragged a pillow over his belly and began to pick at the fringe, staring at his fingers as they worked.

"Is there something you haven't told me about the attack?" Snape asked softly, guessing where this conversation was going and what might be troubling the boy.

"No," Harry said, then, "Yes. Well, not about that night."

"What then?"

Harry drew a deep breath into his lungs. "The day after I was . . . I was in the cell, as you know. Someone came in. I was afraid they'd come back, you know? All of them? That they'd come to . . . hurt me again. But it wasn't them."

"Who was it, Harry?" Snape prompted.

"Draco. It was Draco. He knew I was being held there, and he came down to . . . Everyone thinks we hated each other, and we certainly didn't like each other much, but we had . . . history. Once, during sixth year, we . . . we were . . . um . . . intimate. With each other. Together. It was just the once. It was a mistake, but it helped to alleviate some of the bad feelings we had for each other."

"What did Draco want, Harry?"

"He said he was there to check on me. But then he . . ." A tear rolled down Harry's cheek. "He started touching me and kissing me. I told him no. I asked him to stop, but he wouldn't listen. I tried fighting him, but I was so sore from . . . from before. He said I was just being coy, that he could tell I wanted it because I was . . . I was hard. I didn't want to be! I didn't! But he was touching me, and I couldn't stop it!"

"Did Draco Malfoy rape you as well, Harry?"

Sobbing, Harry nodded.

Snape added Draco's name to the mental list of people who must pay for what happened to Potter. "Harry, did Draco use the fertility spell or make you drink the potion?"

"No," Harry choked out. "He only immobilized me when I tried to fight him. He released me after he . . . entered me, but it hurt so much I couldn't fight him any more. He reached around and . . . grabbed me, and when he came, I did, too! I didn't want to, Professor!" he said, raising his tear-stained face and agonized eyes to Snape. "I did not want him to do that to me! I didn't."

"I know, Harry, I know," Snape said soothingly. He slid closer to Harry and put a comforting arm about the sobbing young man, pulling him close. "Shhh," he soothed, rubbing circles on Harry's back.

When the boy had quieted enough to perhaps listen to reason, Snape took hold of his shoulders and turned him so they were facing each other. "Don't let your body's response to what Draco did to you make you question what happened. Draco took something from you you did not want to give, that he had no right to take. He may justify his actions in his own mind with your release, but what he did to you is no less rape than what those brutes had done to you on the previous night."

"After he was done," a sob caught in Harry's throat, but he pressed on, "he brought me in a tray of food. I hadn't eaten for a couple of days at that point, and I was really hungry, but I felt like a whore he was trying to pay off. Like if I'd eaten the food, it would have been some kind of . . . of acceptance, like he would have had the right to come back any time he wanted and . . . do it again. I threw the tray at him. He slapped me and left."

"Foolish boy, why did you not tell me of this before?" Snape asked, stroking Harry's head as it lay on his shoulder. "You had learned, I thought, the healing power of revealing such secrets."

"This seemed so much worse than the other thing, because I . . . I didn't want you to think that I'd enjoyed it or asked him for it. I was ashamed," Harry admitted in a small voice.

"You needn't be," Snape said. "You were very brave, and you survived. That is what is important."

"Yeah, and look at me now," Harry said, straightening up with a great sniff. "Just look at me now."

#####

Harry thought he would have trouble falling asleep that night after reliving his experience with Draco, but he dropped off quickly enough. Unfortunately, the memory came back to him in his dreams, twice as dark, twice as frightening. He woke with a start, his heart pounding, his breath coming as though he'd run a marathon, cold sweat covering his body. He sat up awkwardly, the need to move driving him out of the bed. He swayed when he stood up, his balance off by the sudden change in position. He grabbed his pillow and blanket up off the bed. He'd finish the night on the sofa.

The house was very dark, and Harry made his way down the now-familiar hallway to the stairs. Gripping his bed clothes, he reached for the railing. When he missed it, his already unstable equilibrium propelled him forward, and with a cry borne of fear and the knowledge he couldn't stop himself, he tumbled headfirst into the gaping darkness.