Expecting the Unexpected
Disclaimer: I do not own most of these characters.
Warnings: We're beyond the sexual violence, but the detailed consensual sexual relationship between two males is yet to come. Be prepared also for the death of a child.
From Chapter 1:
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.
Snape awoke with a start, not entirely sure what had woken him. And then he heard the heart-stopping sound of a body tumbling down the stairs, crying out, then grunting on contact with the unforgiving wooden treads.
"Harry!" Snape called, throwing back the covers and leaping out of bed. "Lumos!" he called as he ran down the hall, lighting all of the torches as he went. He stopped at the top of the stairs, and his heart leapt into his throat when he saw Harry lying in a heap at the bottom.
"Harry!" he gasped and took the stairs down two at a time. Afraid of what he might find, he leapt over Harry's prone form and crouched beside him.
"Harry!" he said again, turning the boy gently over onto his back. He debated with himself for only a moment before deciding to hell with the restriction on magic and said, "Ennervate."
Harry's eyelids fluttered open, and he groaned. Snape started breathing again.
"Harry, can you hear me?"
Harry moved as though trying to sit up, and Snape put a hand on his shoulder to stop him. "Don't get up yet."
"Going to sick up," Harry moaned, and he turned his head and did so.
Snape wiped vomit off Harry's cheek as Harry coughed to clear his lungs of what he'd aspirated.
"Can you move your legs?" Snape asked.
"Yes. Professor, the babies," Harry said, an edge of panic to his voice.
"All right. We need to get you up. Do you think you can stand?"
"Yes. Professor, the babies!"
"Let me help you." Slowly and carefully, Snape assisted Harry into a sitting position, then onto his hands and knees.
"My ankle," Harry said. "I think something's wrong with my ankle."
Leaning most of his weight on Snape's scrawny shoulders, Harry was able to stand. He was unable to put any weight onto his right ankle, though, and Snape helped him to hop to the sofa.
"Professor, the babies!" Harry repeated, tears now in his eyes.
"Yes, Potter. Lie down. I'll get the equipment."
Harry lay back on the sofa, praying that he hadn't injured his children in the fall. Please, God, he thought, if you're up there, please let them be all right.
Snape worked as quickly as possible, torn between wanting to reassure Harry and afraid of what they might find.
One by one, they examined the children. Sarah Rose, in her usual position at the bottom of Harry's "uterus", was first: Her heartbeat fluttered obviously. Benjamin Severus (and no, Harry hadn't told Snape the name he'd chosen for his son), on the left side of Harry's abdomen, was likewise fine. And finally, Sadie Alexis, on the right, was sucking her thumb busily. Three beating hearts, and all appeared well. Sadie backed this up by kicking her feet playfully, causing Harry to nearly sob in relief. "They're okay?" he asked.
"They appear to be fine. If you believe that you are all right, except for the ankle, I will wait until a respectable hour to call Poppy."
Harry collapsed back onto the sofa. "I'm fine. We can wait." He was having a hard time fighting the tears that wanted to fall.
Snape collapsed himself into a nearby chair. The last twenty minutes had been the most harrowing of his life. "What on earth happened?" The question came out a little sharper than he'd intended.
"Thank you, Potter. I hadn't guessed that much."
"I lost my balance when I missed the railing. I was holding my pillow and a blanket, and I couldn't stop myself."
"You were carrying something down those stairs? In the dark?" Several months ago, Snape would have added "Idiot!" to the end of that. Although several months ago, Harry wouldn't have been here to tumble down his stairs in the dead of night.
"I think the pillow was under me . . . under my belly when I landed on the stairs. I think it provided a cushion. It may have saved them."
Snape sighed and failed to mention that he may not have fallen at all if his hands hadn't been full. "And what are you doing up at this time of night?"
"I had a nightmare. I was coming down to sleep on the sofa."
Snape ran a hand over his face. "Do you think you can sleep now?"
"I don't know. Life got a little exciting there for a moment."
"Indeed," Snape agreed. "Do me a favor and don't do that again. I think you frightened ten years off my life, years I really couldn't afford to lose."
Harry really looked at Snape now and saw plainly the truth written on his face. "You were really worried," he said softly. "They're okay, Professor."
Snape snorted. "It was not them I was worried about," he muttered. "I thought you'd broken your fool neck." And this time he didn't restrain himself. "Idiot."
Harry smiled, strangely pleased to be called names by Severus Snape. "I think I'll just stay here for what's left of the night." He yawned. "Stairs seem a little daunting with this ankle."
Snape got up from the chair, stowed the ultrasound equipment back in its place, retrieved Harry's pillow and blanket from the foot of the stairs, and brought them to the boy. He helped Harry to lie down comfortably, then covered him. He extinguished the lights, then dropped back into his armchair.
"Why don't you go to bed, Professor?" Harry suggested. "Try to get some more sleep."
"Severus," he said, with no intention of going anywhere.
"Call me Severus."
"All right," Harry agreed, warm pleasure filling him at the permission. He snuggled down into the sofa and closed his eyes, stroking his belly, pleased that Snape showed no intention of going back upstairs and leaving him here by himself.
Harry was almost asleep when Snape whispered into the darkness. "I am glad you are all okay."
"Me, too," Harry whispered back, a smile gracing his lips.
"Might I suggest that the next time you find yourself the victim of a nightmare, you come to my room, rather than attempt the stairs again in the darkness? We can talk, or if you just want to lie down, to not be alone . . . well, I have plenty of room."
"I'm not a little boy who needs to be comforted after a nightmare, Severus," Harry said, but he was more pleased at the thought than offended, since when he actually was a little boy who needed comforting after a nightmare, there was no one he could go to.
"I am aware of that. If you must maintain your brave and mature facade, you could tell yourself that you're doing it for me. That I might not have to awaken again in the night to the sounds of a clumsy boy somersaulting down my stairs."
Harry thought he saw through Snape's request, and he chuckled. "All right, Severus. Next time, I'll come to you. You can tuck me into your bed with a glass of warm milk and a maternal kiss."
Maybe not so maternal, Snape thought, but all he said was, "I appreciate that. Good night, Harry."
"Good night, Severus."
Harry sat on the backyard swing, enjoying the sultry night, his legs propped up on the swing. Madam Pomfrey had examined him hours after his ignominious tumble down the stairs and confirmed the ankle was badly sprained but not broken. Because she could not use magic to heal his injury, his ankle had been braced and he was getting around on crutches. Snape helped him to hop up and down the stairs every time he needed the loo, at bedtime, and in the morning.
Poppy had also confirmed that the children hadn't been injured and were still thriving.
So Harry lay here on the swing, enjoying the solitude, pushing himself back and forth gently with a crutch. He rubbed his belly absently, feeling the bump of a heel here and a small rounded head there. He believed these little creatures were developing personalities already – when he felt some part of Sadie under his hand, he would press upon her, and she would press back. When he did the same to Sarah, she would retreat. He liked these quiet moments when he could commune with the small wonders inside him. He spoke to them often, having been told by Madam Pomfrey that they could, indeed, hear him.
The back door opened, and Snape was beside him. "Lovely evening," he ventured.
"It certainly is," Harry agreed. "Sit?"
"No, no. You look comfortable. Stay where you are."
"Please. I insist."
"All right." Snape carefully lifted Harry's feet and slid onto the swing beneath them.
"Were you thinking about anything in particular?" Snape asked after a moment of silent contemplation of the star-filled night.
"Actually, I was hoping for a shooting star so I could make a wish."
"And what would be your wish?"
"Would you grant it if you could?" Harry asked.
"Were it within my power to do so, I would," Snape surprised himself by saying. Truth was, at this point, there wasn't much Snape would or could deny the young man.
Harry went silent, gathering his courage. "I would wish for you to make love to me."
There were many things Snape might have expected Harry Potter to wish for: that he'd never been raped, that he wasn't pregnant, that he had someone other than Snape to care for him or somewhere else to live, that his parents hadn't been killed by a mad man, that he had his friends back. But to wish for his formerly hated professor to bugger him – well, that was a shock.
"What?" was all Snape could manage in response.
"I just think that . . . I've resigned myself to the fact that I'm going to have three children." He rubbed his belly again. "You've been so good to me over these last few months. I would really like it if you were the father of these children. And if you were to make love to me, I'd feel, in my mind anyway, like that was physically possible."
Snape cleared his throat. "Potter, I hardly think that I . . ."
"Harry," he corrected. "Are you not attracted to me? Is that it?" Snape could hear the defeat and self-doubt in Harry's tone. "I guess I can hardly blame you for that."
"Harry, I would think the fact that I achieve erection simply from touching your feet each night would convince you of my physical attraction for you."
"Are you . . . are you even gay?" Harry realized how inappropriate that question was as soon as it had left his mouth, and he blushed and hastened to stammer an apology. "I – I'm sorry. I shouldn't have . . . that's none of my business."
"I have known since I was sixteen that I enjoy the company of other men more than I do women. You, however, seem straight as a plank."
"You're forgetting what I told you about Draco."
"A single dalliance with a classmate can be chalked up to experimentation," Snape argued. "Very common in teenagers."
"Draco wasn't the only one," Harry confessed. "There were others." Oliver Wood, returned to Hogwarts to watch a quidditch match, in the locker room after the game; John Devane, seventh year Ravenclaw when Harry was in his sixth year, on the astronomy tower; Will Mancini, sixth year Hufflepuff when Harry was a seventh year, on the quidditch pitch; a bloke whose name he didn't know, in the bathroom of a Muggle pub, when he and Ron had been out drinking.
"And what about you and Miss Weasley?"
Thoughts of Ginny still hurt. "I loved her. And I liked being with her. She was the only woman I ever had sex with. I think she represented the normal life I'd been looking for. And I think we could have made it work, even if it's apparent I swing both ways. I shouldn't have to tell you that I'm attracted to you. I give you evidence of that every night, don't I?"
"But I am hardly . . ."
"Look, if you don't want to do it, just say so, okay? You don't need to make excuses or give me reasons why it's not a good idea. I know them all. But I'm not going to beg, so . . ."
"I would not want you to. I will do it," Snape said. "If you're sure this is what you want."
Harry smiled. "It is. Give me your hand."
"You want my hand?"
Harry chuckled. "I'm not asking you to marry me, you git. Just give me your hand."
Snape did, and Harry pressed the large hand to his abdomen. "Meet Sarah." After Harry felt the movement beneath Snape's hand, he moved it. "And Sadie." Then, "And Benjamin."
Snape had felt them move before, of course, but this time was different. Now they were his. Or would be. "When do you want to . . ." Because suddenly, he found that he wanted to do this very much. And very soon.
"The sooner the better," Harry said, echoing Snape's thoughts. "Tonight?"
Harry sat on the edge of Severus' bed, a towel wrapped around his hips, more than a little nervous. It wasn't that he didn't want to do this. He was attracted to Severus, and he would like to think the older man was the father of his children. But this would be the first time that he would be intimate with anyone since his capture. He and Ginny hadn't ever made love again because he just couldn't stand to be touched back then. Would he be able to go through with it, or would the memory of that horrible experience rear up and chase away what was meant to be a pleasurable, fulfilling experience between two consenting adults?
Severus entered the room wearing a robe, straight from the shower. He finished toweling his hair and arranged the towel over the back of a nearby chair. "Are you nervous?" he asked.
"I am," Harry confessed. "Not because I don't want to do this, but because this will be the first time since . . ."
"Ah," Severus said, understanding. "Would you like to forget this, then?"
"No," Harry said, putting all of the certainty he felt into his voice. "No, I want to. Just … be patient with me. Be gentle with me. And keep talking so I'll know it's you and not them."
Severus sat beside Harry on the bed, their thighs and shoulders touching. "Can I assume that none of them kissed you?"
"No. Not even when Draco . . . not even Draco."
"Then let us start with that. If at any point you want me to stop, Harry, you need only say the word." Severus leaned in until his lips were nearly touching Harry's. "You must not worry that you will upset me. I would do nothing to hurt you."
Severus' voice was low and sexy and mesmerizing, and Harry felt like a deer caught in the headlights. "Okay," he whispered into Severus' mouth, and then the thin lips were on his, and Harry momentarily lost his higher brain function.
Severus started out gently, the merest touch of lips, before Harry demanded more pressure. Still the kiss was somewhat chaste, two sets of lips moving against one another, nice but dry.
Again, Severus let Harry up the ante, and when the younger man opened his mouth into the kiss, Severus followed suit. Soon tongues joined the action, and the kiss became decidedly wetter, hotter, sexier.
To this point, only their mouths had engaged, Harry's hands curled into fists in his lap to keep them under control. When Snape reached up and ran a finger down Harry's jaw, Harry moaned, and one of his hands rose to grasp the lapel of Severus' robe. Without breaking the kiss, Severus put his arms around Harry and leaned them both back until they were lying side by side on the bed.
"All right so far, Harry?" Severus asked, finally pulling away.
"Yeah," Harry breathed. "Like kissing you. You're good at it." He was, in fact, the most talented with his lips that Harry had ever experienced. "Am I okay?"
Severus took one of Harry's hands and drew it to his groin, where Harry felt a very definite bulge under the flannel. "Does that answer your question?" Severus asked.
Harry pulled his hand free of Severus' grip, flipped the garment out of the way, and wrapped his warm hand around Severus' warmer erection. "Wanted to do this for a long time," he whispered into Severus' neck.
Severus hissed at the contact. "If you don't want this little venture to end prematurely, you'd better be careful what you do down there."
Harry relaxed his grip but did not let go completely. "Kiss me again," he requested.
"How are you most comfortable?" Severus asked before complying. "On your side or on your back?"
"Back," Harry said.
"Let's get you comfortable, then." Harry pulled his towel free and dropped it to the floor, then lay on his back on Severus' bed. Severus settled in beside him, lying on his side, letting his eyes range over Harry's naked form. He ran a hand down Harry's chest and over the extended belly, resting it on the apex.
"You've scaled Mt. Harry," Harry joked.
"You are beautiful," Severus said, "every inch of you." And he lowered his mouth to Harry's again.
They kissed for a very long time, content with this amount of contact for now. Until Severus dropped his hand down the other side of "Mt. Harry" and rested it on Harry's eager cock, which jumped in his hand.
Harry groaned, trying to arch his hips up into Severus' hand, but finding it difficult due to his bulk, and his groan turned into a moan of frustration.
"I can't . . ." Harry said, aching. He wanted more, but he didn't know how to ask. "Please."
Severus sensed Harry's desperation and had no desire to torture the young man. "Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked one more time.
"Do you want to come now, or while I'm inside you?"
"Both!" Harry grunted. He wanted both, he wanted everything, and he wanted it all now.
"Shhh!" Severus stilled him, brushing Harry's hair out of his face. "We'll not rush this."
Harry breathed deeply, trying to control himself.
"Okay?" Severus asked.
"Okay," Harry confirmed.
"Good. How do you wish to do this?"
"I don't think I can do it on my hands and knees."
"That's all right." This was not a surprise. The memories associated with that position were just too fresh and vile. "There are other ways. On your back, or on your side?"
"I want to be able to see you."
"All right. On your back, then. We can do this. But we'll prepare you first."
And prepare him Severus did. He positioned Harry on his side with a pillow under his belly and retrieved a pot of lube from his bedside table. Slowly, speaking to Harry quietly all the while, Severus used one finger, then two, to prepare and stretch Harry's opening for penetration.
"I'm ready!" Harry finally gasped.
"Are you sure?"
"Scoot to the edge of the bed."
Awkwardly, Harry did so, and Severus positioned him so that his arse was at the edge of the bed. Magically, the bed was just the right height, and when Severus stood beside the bed, his groin was just at the right height. Still speaking soothingly to Harry, Severus threaded his arms around Harry's knees, hoisting his legs up. Then he positioned his throbbing prick at Harry's entrance and waited.
"Now!" Harry ordered, closing his eyes.
"No, Harry. Look at me," Severus said softly.
When Harry opened his eyes, Severus pressed himself slowly into the tight heat that was Harry Potter. "Look at me, Harry. Look into my eyes." Snape began to move, in and out, slowly. "You're here and you're safe with me, Harry. And any time you want me to stop, you need only say the word. You can trust me, Harry. You know you can."
"I do," Harry panted. "I do trust you. Faster."
Severus obliged, quickening his pace. Severus shifted Harry's legs so that they were on his shoulders, and the different angle caused Severus' cock to brush against Harry's prostate, and Harry growled his approval. Now that his hands were free, Severus wrapped his long fingers around Harry's cock and began to stroke him in time with his own thrusting hips.
"Yes!" Harry panted. "Just there!" Here, Harry lost the battle to keep his eyes open, but it didn't matter. There was no question where he was and whom he was with. He was in Severus' bed, with Severus' cock pounding into him and Severus' hand wrapped around his aching prick. Harry was close – very close.
"Please," he gasped. "Need . . . now."
Severus' hand wrapped tighter around Harry, which was all that he needed to crest the hill of pleasure, and he shot thick ropes of come onto Severus' belly and his own. Harry's orgasm milked Severus' own, and he released his offering deep inside Harry with a shout.
Severus' knees were rubbery, and as much as he wanted to stay inside Harry forever, he would collapse if he stayed here. He pulled slowly out of Harry, helped the younger man back up to the top of the bed, then cleaned both of them up.
"All right, Harry?"
"Better than all right. Thank you."
"Would you like to stay here tonight?"
In answer, Harry snuggled down under the covers. Severus settled himself, and they lay quietly together, catching their breath.
"Severus," Harry said quietly.
Severus looked down at Harry, who was looking back at him with large doe eyes. Severus immediately became concerned – the things people said while in the throes of post-coital bliss were notoriously overblown. Not that he didn't want to hear Harry's confession of love or words of affection, but he didn't want to hear them now, when he would have to doubt their sincerity. Bracing himself, he said, "What?"
Harry's eyes filled with some sort of pleading, and Severus' heart plummeted more, sure that Potter was working up to some emotional announcement. "I'm hungry," he finally said.
This was so not what Severus expected to hear that he began to chuckle, and he couldn't stop for a bit. "Is that some sort of barely-veiled hint?"
Harry batted his eyelashes in what he hoped was an endearing manner. "Of course not," he said disingenuously.
Severus kissed Harry on the forehead, then got out of bed. "If you are asleep when I get back, I will hex you."
"Everything looks just wonderful, Harry," Poppy said as she finished her examination. "They all look healthy and strong, if a bit small."
"How big are they now, Madam Pomfrey?" Harry asked as Snape helped him to sit up.
"You son is the largest. He's just under thirty-seven and a quarter centimeters. The girl here," she said, laying her hand on the left side of Harry's abdomen, "is the smallest, and she's just under thirty-seven. They all should weigh in about just about one thousand grams each. They're small for thirty-two weeks, but that's not uncommon in multiple pregnancies."
"I . . . um . . . I've been avoiding asking this because I didn't want to jinx anything, but I need to know . . . how will they be born? I mean, I don't exactly have the necessary . . . um . . . equipment for them to come out the natural way, do I?"
"No, dear, of course not. No, when the time comes, we shall deliver them via caesarean section. It's quite common in the Muggle world I'm told. I've actually attended a couple of the surgeries with Mandy, to learn the technique. It's simple enough, I suppose. You'll be anesthetized, of course."
"And how will we know it's time? Am I going to go into labor?" Harry wasn't exactly sure what that even meant, but he'd seen enough telly as a child to know that it was painful.
"We don't know for sure now, do we? I think it's best if we choose the time. That way, we control more of the circumstances, and Mandy will be on hand."
"We could do it now, although the children would likely require intensive neonatal care. I'd prefer to wait another four weeks if we can. Their lungs will be that much more developed, and we stand a much better chance of everything coming off without a hitch."
"And what if something goes wrong?"
"Once they're born, Harry, I'll be able to use magic. Everything will be fine."
"I need the loo," Harry announced.
Severus leaned over Harry, and Harry reached up to grab hold of Harry's shoulders. Snape stood, pulling Harry up with him. "Merlin, Harry, you're . . ." He'd been about to say huge, but thought better of it immediately. "Beautiful," he added quickly.
Harry was perfectly well aware of Severus had been about to say, and he rolled his eyes and smiled thinly at the taller man. He felt a little light-headed as he sometimes did after standing, and he clung to Severus until the feeling passed.
"Be careful on the stairs," Severus said with an apologetic grin.
Harry smiled up at Severus fondly. Since Harry's fall, Severus had told him a hundred times to "be careful on the stairs".
When Harry reached the bottom of the stairs, he sat on the bottom step, still feeling a bit dizzy, choosing to wait for the feeling to pass completely before trying to surmount the stairs. He didn't mean to eavesdrop, but he was just sitting there, and Severus and Poppy made no effort to keep their voices down.
"Where will you perform the surgery?" he heard Severus ask.
"Why, here, of course."
"Here is not acceptable."
"Why not?" Poppy sounded surprised.
"It's just not."
"We can make it perfectly sterile."
"It isn't that." Severus was silent for a moment before he finally burst out with, "Hasn't my home been invaded enough? Haven't I been inconvenienced enough? The thought of that . . . of them being born here is just . . . I can't do it any more."
On the stairs, Harry felt as though the bottom had dropped out of his world. He'd thought something had changed between them. He'd thought they'd forged a strong new bond by sharing this experience, by sharing themselves. He'd thought Severus had come to care for him. Obviously, he'd thought wrong. Severus was tired of his presence here, felt inconvenienced. The thought of Harry's children apparently filled Severus with such disgust that he couldn't bear the thought of seeing them born in his home. Using the railing, Harry pulled himself to his feet. Tears streaming down his face, he climbed the steps, used the loo, then went into his room and began to pack.
He'd intended to be gone before Severus finished up with Poppy. He had no idea where he was going, but he'd figure that out once he was away from here. Unfortunately, he was moving very slowly these days, and he'd only gotten half his things packed when he heard Snape on the stairs. He froze in the act of putting his shoes in his trunk, his back to the door.
Severus was surprised to find Harry in this bedroom. Since the night they'd made love, Harry had been sleeping in Severus' bed. They hadn't been intimate again, but he'd grown quickly accustomed to having the young man in his bed.
Shock would better describe how Severus felt when he saw what Harry was doing in this bedroom. He took in the young man's stiff posture and half-packed trunk, and he had to swallow before he could ask, "What are you doing?"
"I'm leaving," Harry said, and Severus could hear the tears.
"May I ask why?"
Harry had not wanted to have this conversation. He felt too hurt, too betrayed, too vulnerable. "I just have to."
"Where will you go?"
"I'm not sure yet. I'll figure it out."
"How will you get there?"
"I don't know," Harry conceded, and his shoulders slumped just a little as the dearth of his options really hit home.
"How will you carry your things?" Severus pursued. "You can't shrink them, and your trunk is much too heavy for you to carry." Severus had no intention of letting Harry go anywhere, but it would be easier on both of them if he could get Harry to see the folly in this idea.
"I don't know," he said again, and his shoulders caved in completely. He dropped his shoes into the open trunk.
Severus stepped closer. "What's going on, Harry?"
"I heard you, Severus!" Harry wailed, now obviously crying. "I heard you talking to Poppy! You told her I was an inconvenience, and you don't want me here after the babies are born. I thought . . ."
What he thought was lost when Severus reached Harry, turned the young man toward him, and smothered him in a tight embrace, all in one smooth continuous motion.
Harry let himself be held, crying unashamedly into Severus' chest, trying to explain but incoherent in his emotion. Severus smoothed his hair, held him close and let him vent. Finally, when Harry seemed to have cried most of his feeling out, Severus led him to the bed and pulled Harry down to sit beside him.
"Listen to me," he said earnestly. "I'm sorry you overheard what I said out of fear and frustration. You obviously did not eavesdrop on our entire conversation." Severus took Harry's tear-stained face between his hands. "I do not want you to have your children here because I am deathly afraid that something will go dreadfully wrong, and I will lose you or them or all of you. In my attempt to keep the real reason for my distress from Poppy, I'm afraid I misled her and you as to its source. I do not want you to leave, Harry. But I do not want these children born here. When the time comes, I want to move you to the Hogwarts infirmary. That way, we'll be more prepared to handle whatever complications may arise. Because the thought of losing you . . . is something I do not wish to contemplate."
"Oh Severus!" The tears in Harry's eyes were there for an entirely different reason now.
Severus pulled him close again and they hugged tightly until the activity in Harry's belly distracted them. They each put a hand on the distended flesh and stroked softly.
Harry looked up. "Severus, why did you take me in? In the beginning? You had no obligation to me. Everyone I thought loved me had turned their back on me, but there you were, providing me with a home and all the support I needed. Why?"
Severus stared at him for a moment before he said, "Because it was my fault," in a tortured whisper.
"Your fault?" Harry repeated. "You didn't distract me so that I could be captured that night. You weren't one of the men that raped me."
"No, Harry, I wasn't." To his horror and Harry's dismay, tears were now leaking from Severus' eyes as well.
Harry reached up and stroked Severus' cheek. "You rescued me. How could you possibly be responsible?"
Severus strongly suspected that he would lose whatever he'd built here with Harry when he uttered the next words, but he forced himself to do it anyway. Harry deserved to know. "Because it was my potion and my spell that made this possible." He dropped his hand from Harry's stomach.
Harry stared at Severus, emotion overflowing from his eyes once again. "I know," he said softly.
"You . . . what?" Severus asked, not comprehending. Harry should be shouting invective at him, hurling things, justifiably self-righteous at this betrayal and the long-kept secret.
"I already knew that, Severus. Or, at least, I strongly suspected. I mean, who else would have brewed a potion like that for Voldemort? You were his potions man. Even someone as dense as me could put two and two together and get the right answer."
"I don't understand. You knew, and you never said anything? How could you stay here with me? How could you let me touch you?"
"I don't blame you, Severus," Harry assured him. "You made the potion because Voldemort ordered you to, and you couldn't really refuse him, could you? You didn't know how he'd use it or who he'd use it on."
"I wasn't even sure it would work," Severus confessed with a sniff.
"Of course it would. You made it."'
Severus was absurdly pleased by Harry's confidence in him, despite the circumstances. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be." Harry took one of Severus' hands and placed it back on his abdomen. "This isn't how I would have planned for my life to turn out. But I'm gonna be a dad, Severus!" Severus got lost in the wonder he saw on Harry's face. "And if you want, you can share that with me. Because I'd really really like that. I'd like us to be a family."
"What have I done in my despicable existence to deserve you?" Snape mused.
"You were there for me," Harry said. "You were kind to me. You made me fall in love with you."
Severus was going to scoff at this declaration, but his mouth was busy being kissed by a very earnest, very pregnant, and very convincing young man.
"How are you feeling, Harry?" Professor McGonagall asked.
"Rather like a dirigible," Harry said. At the looks of confusion on both faces looking back at him, he continued. "It's a Muggle thing. An airship. It's also called a blimp. It's huge, filled with air. It has a driver." The confusion hadn't cleared. "It's used to get aerial views of things like football games. Forget it. Let me start over. I feel fine, Professor McGonagall. How are you?"
"I am well, Harry. And you must call me Minerva. You aren't a student any longer."
"I'll try," Harry said, feeling a little uncomfortable. He hadn't seen Professor McGon– Minerva – for some time, and he hadn't missed the look in her eyes as she'd taken in his size.
"You are nearing your time?" she asked.
"Poppy wants me to wait another two weeks. Lung development, she says. I would have thought she was keeping you updated."
"Poppy takes patient confidentiality seriously. She would no more share information about you with me than she would share details regarding my annual physical with you gentlemen."
And thank Merlin for that, Harry and Snape both thought.
"I don't mind if you know," Harry said, avoiding Severus' eye. "She's scheduled surgery for two weeks. Severus wants me to go to Hogwarts for that, but we're not sure yet how to get me there without using magic."
"Is the same way you got here not feasible?"
Harry looked down self-consciously. "I'd attract quite a lot of attention if I went out now, I think."
"Yes, I expect you would," she agreed. "Have you thought about house elves, Severus?"
"House elves?" Harry repeated. He could tell from the look on Severus' face that the older man was already two steps ahead of him, as usual.
"You know, that might work. I should have thought of that myself long before now."
"Would someone like to clue me in?" Harry asked.
"A house elf's magic is different from ours, Harry," Severus explained. "You know this. For example, they can apparate within Hogwarts while we cannot."
"So you think that if they used magic around me, I wouldn't suffer from magical backlash?"
"It is possible," Severus conceded, still thinking it through.
"And we're just coming up with this now?" Harry asked, incredulous. "All these months of no magic? We could have had a house elf here doing the cooking and the cleaning?"
"Who knew?" Severus asked with an adorable little shrug.
"Well, let's test it! Get Dobby here now!" Harry said.
Minerva looked at Severus, who nodded. "Dobby!" the Headmistress barked.
With a crack, the house elf appeared before Minerva and bowed low to the ground.
"Well, make him do some magic!" Harry said impatiently.
"Harry, he just did," Severus pointed out. "Do you feel anything?"
Harry took a moment to think about how he felt as Dobby turned around, his huge eyes going impossibly wider.
"Harry Potter!" the elf said, his expression rapturous. "Dobby has not been seeing Harry Potter for many months!"
"Hello, Dobby," Harry said with a smile for his diminutive friend. "How are you?"
"Dobby is better now that he is with Harry Potter. Dobby was thinking that Harry Potter had forgotten Dobby."
"I could never forget you, Dobby. I've just been . . . busy."
Dobby approached Harry and laid his head with one large ear flattened on Harry's stomach, as though listening to the life within, one hand rubbing gently, almost reverently, over the distension. Moved, Harry placed his hand on Dobby's head and stroked the bumpy skull.
Still touching Dobby, Harry said to Severus, "Fine. I feel fine."
"No effects at all?"
"None," Harry confirmed.
"Elf!" Severus commanded, causing Dobby to startle back away from Harry and causing Harry to glare at Severus.
"His name is Dobby!"
"Dobby," Severus corrected, reigning in the eye roll that threatened furiously to escape. "Come here. Please," he added at Harry's scathing look.
Dobby lifted his watery eyes to Harry's. "Harry Potter has three babies!" he whispered as though it were a great secret.
"Yes, Dobby," Harry said with an affectionate smile. "Professor Snape has been taking care of me. He needs your help to do that. Will you help him?"
"Dobby would be doing anything to help Harry Potter! Anything!" Dobby said fervently.
"I know, Dobby. So go see what Professor Snape wants."
Dobby presented himself to Severus. "Would you summon a ham sandwich from Hogwarts, please."
"With cheese," Harry added quickly.
This time the eye roll wouldn't be held back. "A ham and cheese sandwich."
With a snap, Dobby did so. Severus looked at Harry, who smiled back, obviously not affected. "I'll take that sandwich," Harry offered. Dobby very willingly delivered the sandwich to Harry, who munched it happily while Severus put Dobby through a series of tasks, none of which affected Harry in any way.
"So there's only one thing left to try," Minerva noted. "The apparition itself."
"Dobby, please go to the infirmary and tell Madam Pomfrey that she is required here. Tell her it is not an emergency, but that we require her presence as soon as practicable. Then come back here yourself," Severus instructed.
"Will this be helping Harry Potter?" Dobby wanted to know.
Harry said, "It will help me very much."
"Then Dobby would be honored." And he bowed low and left.
They waited for perhaps fifteen minutes before the nurse appeared with Dobby. Once they explained what they planned to do, she reluctantly agreed to be on hand to test the hypothesis. "Give me thirty minutes," she ordered, "then bring him in." And Dobby returned her to the infirmary.
They had been sitting quietly for a time when Minerva offered, "I received a visit from Hermione Granger yesterday, Harry."
"Oh?" Harry said, suddenly finding breathing just a bit more difficult. "And how is she?" he asked, feigning a nonchalance he certainly did not feel.
"She's quite fine. She wants to see you."
"No," Harry said immediately.
"She feels badly about the way she treated you," Minerva said earnestly.
"No," Harry said, shaking his head violently from side to side. "No no no."
"Harry, I really think . . ."
"Minerva," Severus said softly. "Drop it."
"Do . . . do I have time for the loo before we do this?" Harry asked, obviously needing to get away more than he needed to relieve himself.
"Of course," Severus said, and he leapt to his feet and gave Harry a hand up. "Be careful on the stairs."
"Yes, dear," Harry deadpanned.
Minerva looked between them, her gaze speculative. Severus didn't care – let her think what she wanted. He made sure that Harry actually went upstairs this time before he returned to the sitting room and his conversation with Minerva.
"It's his decision, Minerva."
"Severus, he's been shut up here with you for months. The boy needs his friends."
"Friends!" Severus spat. "What friends? They abandoned him when he needed them most."
"And they regret that! They want to see him, to make sure he is all right."
"Does he look as though he is not all right to you?"
"No. He looks great." She seemed surprised by this.
"He is incredibly self-conscious about how he looks."
"Well, I guess I can't blame him for that. But they're his friends. They will look beyond –"
"You Gryffindors," Severus scathed. "You think friendship and bravado will get you through anything. Harry does not want to see her. More to the point, he does not want her to see him. You will tell her no. She can owl him, and if he is so inclined, he will respond."
They were saved from any further debate by the return of Harry, then the house elf. Finally, it was time to conduct their little experiment.
"Dobby will take good care of Harry Potter and his son and daughters," Dobby promised, taking Harry's hand.
Harry swallowed once, hard. "Okay," he nodded.
A second later, Harry found himself standing in front of Madam Pomfrey in the Hogwarts infirmary. "How do you feel?" she asked worriedly.
"I feel fine," Harry said, and he did.
"No light-headedness? No nausea?"
Poppy smiled. "Looks like it worked. Dobby can take you back now."
"I'd like to make sure everyone's okay," Harry said, rubbing his belly.
"Severus can do that for you when you get back. If you need me, send the elf."
Harry had no adverse effects after the trip back, and ultrasound confirmed that the babies had survived the trip just fine. Minerva stayed to watch, and Harry was sure he saw tears in her eyes as she studied the images of his children on the screen. "Amazing," she muttered. "Completely amazing."
Dobby begged pitifully to be allowed to stay in Spinner's End. Minerva had no objection, but it took a while longer for Severus to agree. In the end, it was Harry's pleading green eyes that did it, and they found themselves the proud masters of an obsequious house elf.
Two days later, Hermione Granger showed up at the door.
"Miss Granger," Severus said to his visitor, staring down his nose at her.
"Professor Snape. How are you, sir? May I come in?"
"I'm not sure I see the purpose in that."
"I'd like to see Harry," she said firmly.
"I thought he made it rather plain to Professor McGonagall that he did not want to see you. He was quite adamant."
"Yes, she told me. But I needed to see for myself that he was all right."
"Do you doubt your former Head of House's word?" Severus asked. "Surely she told you that Mr. Potter is fine. He is healthy. His children are healthy. Surely you don't think I'm keeping him here against his will."
"No, of course not."
"I will be sure to tell Mr. Potter that you stopped by," Severus said, and he began to close the door.
"Wait! Please, Professor!" Hermione begged, tears in her eyes. "I was awful to Harry. We all were. I want to see him, to apologize, to beg him to forgive me."
Severus sighed and opened the door, but only because he thought it would be good for Harry to see her, not because he gave a damn about Granger's need to assuage her guilt.
"Sit," he instructed when they reached the sitting room. "I will send the elf in with tea. I will go and speak with Mr. Potter. It is his choice whether he sees you."
"Thank you!" she said fervently.
After a brief stop in the kitchen, Severus made his way up to the bedroom he shared with Harry, where Harry was taking his afternoon nap. He watched the young man sleep a moment before sitting on the edge of the bed. He brushed some stray hairs from Harry's face, then shook the young man's shoulder gently. "Harry. Harry, wake up."
Harry's eyes blinked open, and he smiled sweetly up at Severus. "Severus," he said, causing the older man's heart to lurch sideways, a feeling he was growing accustomed to. "Is something wrong?"
"No, nothing's wrong. I am sorry to wake you. Miss Granger is here. She would like to see you."
Harry's eyes opened wide, fully awake now. "She's here?! But I told Professor McGonagall 'no'!"
"Miss Granger is much like you, with a determined inability to accept 'no' as an answer."
"I don't want to see her, Severus."
"That is your choice, Harry. I will say that she seems contrite and would like to apologize."
Although Hermione turning her back on him and not so much as writing over the past few months hurt, he could forgive that. But he couldn't do it now, not when he looked like a small planet. "I can't," he said, his voice no more than a whisper.
"All right. I will tell her. Go back to sleep if you can."
"Severus, tell her . . . tell her that I can't see her now," Harry requested. "But maybe in a few weeks, after the babies . . ."
"All right." Snape planted a kiss on his forehead. "I will tell her."
"He does not wish to see you, Miss Granger."
Hermione put her cup down on the table, the distress evident on her face. "Please, Professor! If I could just have a moment . . ."
"He has said no, Miss Granger, and I must ask you to respect that. I will not have him upset. Not now that he is so close to his time."
Hermione sat back, and a tear slid down her cheek. "I don't blame him for not forgiving me. I was horrible to him!"
Severus relented just a tiny bit and sat. "It is not a matter of forgiveness. Mr. Potter has a seemingly bottomless capacity to forgive those who have wronged him. I myself have been the beneficiary of his largesse in that regard. I think he would very much like to re-establish ties with you and whomever among the Weasleys is amenable to doing so."
"Then why won't he see me?"
"He is ashamed of the way he looks, Miss Granger. It is as simple as that."
"They way he looks?!"
"He is pregnant. With triplets. He is correspondingly large. A woman in his condition would no doubt feel self-conscious. Perhaps you can't even imagine how he feels as a man in this situation. He has seen only myself, Madam Pomfrey and the Headmistress for months. We are accustomed to him, and he to us. Having walked out on him months ago, you are of no use to him now."
Severus knew these words hurt, but she deserved to hear them.
"He would, however, like to see you after the birth. I would suggest that you wait until then."
Hermione sniffed and smiled weakly. "Thank you, Professor. I'll do that. Will you keep me informed?"
"And you'll take good care of him?"
"As I have done until now," he said.
"Thank you, Professor," she said again. "For everything that you've done for Harry. I'm so glad you were here for him."
Severe nodded again in acknowledgment.
"I'll be going now."
"Good day, Miss Granger," Severus said, and he escorted her to the door.
The day had finally arrived, and Harry was beside himself with worry. He'd been instructed to eat or drink nothing, and he lumbered agitatedly about the sitting room, waiting for the appointed time to leave.
Severus entered, looking just as frazzled as Harry felt.
"Did you eat?" Harry asked.
"I tried. I could not."
"It's gonna be all right," Harry said with as much conviction as he could muster. "By tonight, we're gonna be a family." He rubbed his big belly. He was convinced a family of gnomes could live beneath his stomach and not get wet if it rained. He was looking forward to being slim again almost as much as he was looking forward to finally holding his children in his arms.
Severus smiled weakly. "Yes, I know. Are you ready?"
"I want to go up and see the nursery one last time."
"Do you really need to climb those stairs again?"
"I do," Harry said. "I need to see that everything's ready for when we bring them home."
Severus didn't bother to tell Harry to be careful on the stairs. Instead, he took Harry's arm and helped the ungainly young man to climb them.
Harry toured the bedroom that had been his when he'd come to stay here. Dobby had repainted it a soft pastel green. Three cots had been set up along one wall, with the children's names stenciled above them, and a changing table and a chest of drawers filled the other half of the room. The drawers were filled with impossibly tiny baby outfits in all colors of the rainbow, and a tall stack of nappies was waiting for duty on the changing table. Harry knew that boxes of tinned infant formula were stacked in the kitchen. Harry's favorite part of the room was the two wooden rocking chairs positioned in front of the window overlooking the back garden. He could just picture himself and Severus sitting there, both of them holding at least one baby, rocking them gently. Harry would be singing to the one he was holding. Severus wouldn't be singing – he was humming, though, holding the tiny baby close to his chest.
"Harry?" Severus prodded.
Harry realized he'd been standing in the middle of the room, just staring, and he smiled abashedly. "Sorry. Is it time?"
"It is time." Severus pulled the young man into his arms, holding him tightly, knowing he'd not be able to do this once they arrived at Hogwarts. He wanted to hold his young lover and never let him go again. He was so worried that something would go wrong today, that Harry would go to sleep and never wake up. He felt as though there were things he needed to say to Harry, in case … in case he couldn't say them later.
He held onto Harry's upper arms and pushed him far enough away so he could look down into the boy's face. "Harry, I . . ." But the words wouldn't come. He knew what he wanted to say, but with his natural reticence, his fear, and the emotions roiling through him, he couldn't put voice to the overwhelming affection he felt for this amazing person before him.
Harry watched Severus struggle for a moment, then took pity on him. Cupping Severus' jaw in his hands, Harry said softly, "I know. I love you, too." Harry felt the tenuousness of the situation as well, though he was more worried about the babies than he was himself. "We should go now."
"You are so brave," Severus noted.
"Only because I know you'll be there when I wake up."
"There Harry Potter is!" Dobby announced joyfully, making both men jump. "Dobby was thinking that Harry Potter was running away!" Dobby looked up at him slyly. "Dobby is making a joke, Harry Potter."
Harry smiled at Dobby, then hugged Severus again quickly.
"It is being time to go," Dobby said.
"All right, Dobby. Can you take us both together?"
"Yes, Harry Potter."
Dobby took them both by the hand. Harry took one last look at the nursery, and then they were gone.
Harry lay naked beneath a sheet in a hospital bed in a warded corner of the infirmary. The ultrasound equipment was beside him and would be employed to help Poppy and Mandy determine the babies' positions prior to making the first incision.
"All right, Harry. It's time for you to take a little nap," Poppy said brightly. "When you wake up, you'll be a papa."
Harry's eyes searched frantically for Severus, until he stepped up beside the bed and took Harry's hand.
"Severus, keep them safe for me, until I wake up?"
Without thinking about it or caring who was watching, Severus raised Harry's hand to his mouth and kissed it. "You know I will. Sleep now, Harry."
And Harry did.
Harry came to awareness very slowly, fighting his way out of the deepest sleep he'd ever known. When he was finally able to blink his eyes open and make them stay that way, he realized he was in his bed in Severus' bedroom. He wondered how long he'd been asleep. He wondered how he'd gotten here. Dobby, he supposed. And suddenly, it dawned on him that he was no longer pregnant. Slowly, he dragged a hand up to his belly. Although it had certainly reduced tremendously in size, it wasn't flat, as he'd expected. Well, that was disappointing.
So, Harry guessed, he should get up and figure out what was going on, meet his children, kiss his lover now that he could stand close enough to the man to actually touch him with something other than his stomach. Harry tried to sit up, but pain ripped through his abdomen, and he cried out in pain and surprise. Gritting his teeth, Harry lay back and rode out the pain. Before it had completely abated, Severus came into the room.
"Harry. You are awake."
"Hello, Severus. Where are they? Where are my babies?"
"They are in the nursery. They are sleeping. Harry, they are . . . beautiful," Severus said with obvious emotion.
"I want to see them. Will you help me up?"
"Harry, there is . . . something I need to tell you."
The look of sadness now on Severus' face was difficult to miss. Suddenly, Harry didn't want Severus to speak again. Ever. Harry shook his head no. "No." He wouldn't listen. If he didn't hear it, it wouldn't be true. Whatever it was.
Severus sat on the edge of the bed and took Harry's hand. "It's Sarah. She . . . didn't make it."
"No," Harry said again. "Why would you . . . it isn't . . . don't . . ."
"Look at me," Severus ordered. Harry needed to accept this. "I wish it were not so, but it is. Benjamin and Sadie are fine. They are small, but they are perfectly healthy. Poppy was unable to detect Sarah's heartbeat when she performed the pre-surgical ultrasound, so she removed her first. Sarah was not breathing. Poppy did everything she could, but she was unable to revive her."
"Where is she now?"
"Poppy performed a preservation spell on her so that you could . . . say goodbye." It had been Mandy's advice that Harry be allowed to hold his daughter, to touch her, to make himself believe that she was gone. This would, she told them, allow Harry to begin to mourn her loss. "When you are ready, I will have her brought in."
"I want to see her now."
"Would you like to meet Sadie and Benjamin first?"
"No. Sarah. Now," Harry demanded.
Severus stared at the young man, and Harry stared placidly back, his eyes dead. "All right. I will get her."
Severus left the room and returned moments later with a small bundle wrapped in a pink blanket cradled carefully in his arms.
Harry had managed to painfully drag himself into a sitting position, and he accepted the bundle when Severus placed it in his arms. Harry could not look at her. "I'd like . . . could I have a few moments alone?"
"Are you sure?"
"Please," Harry said simply.
"All right. I will be in the nursery. Call if you need me."
After Severus left, Harry stared straight ahead, stealing himself to look down at his daughter. He wasn't sure what he expected to see, but when he looked down, his eyes landed on the most beautiful child the world had ever known. Her cheeks were made of porcelain, her nose a tiny round button, her eyelashes pale beneath her closed eyes. She had no hair to speak of, but her perfect skull was covered by a peach fuzz that looked blonde in color. The reading he'd done about babies told him her hair color would likely change, as would her eye color. He resisted a sudden impulse to pry her eyes open, to see what color they were, then decided it didn't matter.
"Hello, Sarah," he whispered. "I'm your daddy. I've been waiting a very long time to meet you."
She's only sleeping, Harry thought. Nothing this perfect could be beyond life. Slowly he unwrapped her from the blanket, being careful to support her fragile head and neck. Yes, only sleeping. Except that the tiny chest wasn't moving up and down with the steady rhythm of life. Harry placed a hand on her chest, just to make sure, and found her perfectly still. He was amazed by how his hand completely covered her chest.
"You're so tiny," he told her.
Harry lay Sarah carefully on the bed and completely unwrapped her. Someone had dressed her in a pink striped one-piece outfit with an embroidered butterfly on her left chest, over the tiny heart that Harry had seen beating but which now lay utterly and absolutely still. Harry wondered why he hadn't sensed something was wrong. Did this mean that he was a bad parent? Had he failed his daughter before she even had an opportunity to draw breath? If he'd sensed something was wrong, would Poppy have been able to save her?
"I'm sorry," Harry whispered, and the first tear slid down his cheek.
Heedless of that tear and the many that followed it, Harry unsnapped the outfit and undressed the still child. She was wearing a nappie, which Harry did not remove, though a small part of him wondered why it had been put on in the first place. He picked up her feet and counted her ten perfect little toes. He did the same with her hands and her tiny little fingers. She was the picture of cherubic perfection, and it was so wrong that she could look like this and be . . . dead, Harry forced himself to say it in his mind. She's dead.
A gasping sob escaped from deep in his chest, and he began to dress her back up again. When he had her wrapped back up, he clutched her tightly to his chest and called for Severus.
"Would you help me?"
"Of course I will. What do you need?"
"Will you bring one of the rocking chairs in here and then help me up? I want to rock her."
Severus considered this. "Would you like to rock her in the nursery?"
"No. Here, please." He had plenty of time to spend with the other children, later. This was the only time he was going to get with Sarah, and he wanted to be alone with her.
"All right." Severus left the room and returned with the chair. Harry was reluctant to let Sarah go, but he allowed Severus to take the baby and place her on the bed so that he could assist Harry up out of the bed and into the chair. Harry clenched his teeth against the waves of pain until he could breathe through it, then accepted Sarah back from Severus.
"Thank you," Harry said, his dismissal obvious.
Severus left them and from the nursery down the hall, he could hear Harry singing softly to Sarah.
Two hours later, Harry was still sitting and rocking the baby, and Severus was starting to worry. Mandy had said that they should give Harry all the time he needed to say goodbye to his daughter, but how much was too much? How easy would it be to convince yourself that the child lived? And how difficult would it be to lay the child down for the final time? He'd seen her – he'd dressed her. She was as perfectly formed as her siblings who currently lay quietly, mercifully, in their cots. Since their birth earlier today, one or the other of them had been awake almost constantly. Severus was learning on the job how to change nappies and feed and burp infants and swaddle and change clothes. He'd put a silencing spell on the room so that Sadie and Benjamin wouldn't interfere with Harry's leave-taking with Sarah.
Severus was relieved when Poppy returned.
"He's still in there with her. Last time I checked on him, he wasn't ready to let her go." In fact, Harry had glared at Severus when he stuck his head into the room. "I'm not sure he'll ever be ready."
Poppy shook her head sadly. "I will go and speak with him. How are the other two?"
"They are very demanding," Severus said dryly.
Poppy chuckled. "I will check on them after I examine Harry and convince him it's time to let go. Are you all right, Severus?" She'd seen his reaction to the death of baby Sarah. After Poppy had removed her from Harry's womb and determined that she was not alive, Severus had taken Sarah and cleaned and dressed and held her while Poppy and Mandy delivered the other two children. He'd tried to hide the tears, but Poppy had seen them.
"I am . . ." Severus thought about how he was. He was tired. He was sad. He was elated. He was nervous. He was heartsick. "Managing," was how he finished.
Poppy's smile was understanding. "I'll be back."
Harry was singing The First Noel when Poppy opened the door without knocking. Harry had run through his repertoire of lullabies quickly and had moved on to Christmas songs. Poppy ignored the scowl Harry shot at her, which did not fade when he saw it was Poppy and not Severus.
"Harry. How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine," he assured her. He wanted to tell her to go away so that he could be alone with Sarah, but she'd done so much for him over the last few months that he couldn't bring himself to be that rude.
"I need to examine you," she told him.
"Not now, please," Harry said, more of a statement than a request.
"Harry, you've been out of bed for hours. You had major surgery earlier today. You need to rest. And I need to examine you. Now. I will be brief, but we will do this now, Mr. Potter." Poppy's tone left no doubt that she would have her way on this, even if she had to hex Harry to get it.
"All right," he relented.
"Here, let me take her." Poppy held her arms out for the baby.
Harry was reluctant to hand her over, afraid that Poppy would not give her back. He was not ready to let her go.
"Harry, no one will take her away until you are ready," Poppy promised softly.
Harry offered Sarah up to Poppy, then got slowly and painfully to his feet. He steadied himself against the light-headedness that assailed him.
"Have you eaten today?"
Harry shook his head. He hadn't been hungry.
"I'll have Dobby bring something up. On the bed, please."
As Harry made his way to the bed, Poppy looked down at the still child in her arms. "She's beautiful, Harry. I'm so very sorry that we couldn't do anything for her."
Tears filled Harry's eyes again as he lay gingerly upon the bed. He didn't have it in him to comfort her, though he certainly didn't blame her for anything, and he said nothing. Once Harry was lying on his back, Poppy placed Sarah on the other side of the bed, within reach.
"I'm going to check your incision now," she said, and she raised Harry's robe to do so. Harry had stopped being embarrassed by his nudity in front of this woman a long time ago, and he didn't blush now.
Poppy poked and prodded about Harry's abdomen for a time. "Is there any pain?"
"Some," Harry admitted. "When I move."
"Everything looks good. I'll leave dittany to help with the scarring. Apply it twice a day. Now, let me tell you about your children. Sadie weighed just under seventeen hundred grams and is forty-two centimeters. She is perfectly healthy and ate two ounces of formula within minutes of her birth. Benjamin was a bit longer and weighed a few grams more. He was a little slower to take to the bottle, but he, too, has exhibited a healthy appetite. They're small, Harry, but their lungs are perfectly formed, and they're breathing just fine on their own. They will be just fine."
Harry's eyes never left Sarah, and he hardly heard a word the witch said, until she spoke louder to get her attention.
"Harry." When he was looking at her, she went on. "She's gone. You're going to have to accept that and let her go. I can cast preservation spells on her indefinitely, but that won't bring her back to life. She deserves to be at peace. And so do you. And your other children are so looking forward to meeting you."
Harry knew she was right, but it was just so hard. "Do you think . . . that when she got to … to heaven, that someone might have been waiting for her, to look after her and take care of her?"
"I think that's a lovely thought. Your parents?" Poppy asked.
"Yes. And Sirius. She'll need an uncle. And maybe even Professor Dumbledore."
"She's in good hands, Harry, isn't she?" Poppy pointed out.
"Yes, she is," Harry agreed.
"May I take her now then?"
Finding it hard to swallow around the large, painful lump in his throat, Harry said, "Yes."
Before he could change his mind, Poppy scooped Sarah up off the bed.
"Wait," Harry said. "Just . . ." He bent over and kissed his daughter on the forehead. "Goodbye, Angel," he whispered. "Your daddy loves you. Remember that always." Harry squeezed his eyes shut and willed Poppy to go before he grabbed the baby out of her arms and refused to let her go ever.
Poppy knew this, and she left the room.
When Dobby came up with a tray a short time later, Harry was asleep. The elf gently placed the tray on the bedside table and quietly left the room.
Six days later, Harry sat numbly in a chair in the front row of a hastily-erected tent on the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Severus sat beside him, and they listened to a wizard sermonize baby Sarah. Harry hadn't heard a word. There were people behind him, and if Harry turned, he would see Hermione and Minerva and Hagrid and Professor Sprout and Madam Hooch and Professor Flitwick. But Harry didn't turn around because he didn't care enough to. For six straight days, Harry hadn't cared about anything. He didn't care if he ate or slept. He didn't care if he got out of bed. And he hadn't cared to meet, hold, or even look at his son and daughter.
Severus had been caring for them, and he was completely exhausted. He'd canceled the silencing spells on the nursery, hoping Harry would hear his children crying and would take some interest in them. He had not. The children were with Poppy now, so that Severus could attend this funeral.
Finally, the man stopped talking – the service was over. The few mourners present stood and began to follow the tiny floating casket out of their makeshift church. Sarah was to be interred in the forest beside her sister.
Harry did not rise – he couldn't move. When Severus reached for his hand, Harry shook his head once, firmly. He couldn't possibly bear to follow his daughter to her final resting place, could not suffer watching her be lowered into the ground, knowing that he would never hold her again, never hear her cry, never watch her grow or see the sunlight play across her beautiful face. The circumstances which had conspired to put her on this earth meant nothing now. She was his, and in less time than it took to blink an eye, she was gone. Harry was a brittle shell filled with grief and pain and anger and confusion.
Severus looked down into the eyes of his lover and knew that nothing he said would convince Harry to do this inconceivable thing that was expected of him, so he didn't try. He turned and left Harry sitting silently alone in the chair, tears streaming down his face.
After the interment was over, Severus returned to the tent and found Harry sitting exactly where he'd left him. "It's over," he said to the grief-stricken young man. "Let's go home."
This time, when he offered Harry his hand, Harry took it, and Severus led him back to the gates so he could apparate them both back to Spinner's End. They spoke to no one, not even each other, but Harry never let go of Severus' hand until they were once again in the sitting room.
Severus went up the stairs immediately to check on the babies and relieve Poppy, and Harry flopped lifelessly into a chair in the sitting room.
Until he heard a knock on the door. He thought briefly of getting up to answer it, but quickly decided to stay where he was. He didn't want to speak to whoever it was anyway. Newly sensitive to the use of magic around him, Harry was aware of the wards on the front door being released. He then heard the door open and close, and Hermione Granger entered the room.
"Hermione," he said, surprised. "How did you get in?"
"I talked with Severus earlier. He knew I was coming. He must have heard me and let me in."
Harry stood, feeling awkward with this person who used to be his best friend, someone he could rely on for advice and back-up, someone who wasn't afraid to tell him when he was wrong and call him out when he was acting like a prat. Until that moment almost a year ago when she'd chosen to stand with Ginny instead of Harry. Ginny, who had a family's worth of people to support her through a difficult time, while Harry'd had no one. It had hurt then, and it still hurt now. But more than he wanted to nurse the hurt, he wanted his friend back. He may never get Ron back, and he'd learn to live with that. But here was Hermione, whose face showed a myriad of emotions, reaching out to him after all this time.
Harry held his arms open, and Hermione's face crumpled into relief as she crossed the room, barreling into his embrace. She was sobbing before she got there. Harry held her while she cried great gulping tears.
Finally, Harry led her to the sofa and sat them both down, keeping an arm around her. Hermione pulled away, scrubbed at her face, and looked at Harry with large wet eyes. "I am so sorry," she croaked. "About Sarah. And about not being here for you all these months. I was wrong to turn my back on you. You were my friend, and you deserved better."
"Are," Harry corrected. "Am. I am your friend."
Hermione smiled at him through fresh tears. "Thank you! I know I don't deserve your forgiveness, but . . . thank you."
"Hermione, I understand what you did. It hurt, I'll admit, but I know you felt like you had to be there for Ginny."
Hermione nodded. "But I could have been here for you, too. I should have been."
"How is Ginny?" Harry asked quietly.
"She's . . . it's taken her a long time, but she's finally starting to move on. She's sort of seeing Neville. I don't know if it's serious or not. It's still early."
"I'm glad," Harry said, and he found that he was. "I hope she finds happiness. Do you think that Ron . . ."
"Ron will come around," Hermione said, sounding sure. "He sees that Ginny is okay, and he misses you. I wanted him to come today, but he's not quite ready."
"It's okay," Harry assured her. "When he's ready, tell him to come see me. We'll talk."
"How are you, Harry?"
"I'm all right. Hermione, there's something you need to know. Severus and I are . . . involved. He's been really great to me over the last few months. I don't know what I would have done without him."
Harry saw the flash of guilt in Hermione's eyes. "I sort of guessed as much, after the way he spoke of you. With tenderness. I can see that he really cares for you. And you feel the same about him?"
Harry nodded. His feelings for Severus weren't in doubt. It was everything else that left him confused. "Yes. I think of him like the father, like we're a family."
Hermione fidgeted now, obviously nervous about what she was about to say. "Harry, Severus tells me that you've refused to touch or even see your babies. He's worried about you and your ability to bond with them. Why won't you see them? I'm not judging – I just want to understand."
Harry felt the ever-present tears filling his eyes. "I was so looking forward to them being born," he whispered. "We fixed up the nursery and bought them clothes. I wanted to rock them and feed them and sing to them. All three of them. And then I woke up, and Sarah was gone. She used to suck her thumb, while she was inside, you know?" Harry absently rubbed his now-flat belly. "I loved them all so, and I thought that would be enough to keep them safe. But it's not! Everyone I love, everyone I get close to, dies. And I can't take that risk with them! They're too vulnerable. If I love them, they'll be taken away from me, too."
"But you love Severus," Hermione pointed out.
Harry sighed. "I know, it's contradictory. But he's a grown man, a very powerful wizard. And he's already lived through hell, so I think maybe he's indestructible. And I can't help loving him. But if I don't see them, if I don't love them, they'll be safe."
Hermione reached over and took his hand. "Harry, you already love them," she said. "I can see that you do. You've been carrying them and caring for them for nine months. How could you not love them? And I'm still here, aren't I? I was stupid for a while, but I'm here now, and no one will take me away from you again. And I don't think there's any force on this earth that will get Professor Snape away from you now. But Harry . . ." Here she stopped, clearly uncertain she should continue. She gathered her courage and soldiered on.
"He's exhausted, Harry. He didn't say anything, he didn't complain, but I can see the fatigue in his eyes. Taking care of one newborn by yourself must be exhausting, but he's got two to deal with. I don't want to jeopardize our newly re-established relationship, but I'm going to speak bluntly. They're your children, and you need to accept responsibility for them. Professor Snape can't go on doing it alone forever, nor should he. You're their father. They need you both."
Harry hung his head. He knew she was right. His conscience had been telling him the same thing for days. Over the last couple of days, his conscience had been getting louder than his grief.
"I know," he whispered. "I'm scared, Hermione. I couldn't stand it if something happened to one of them."
"I've always admired your courage, Harry. I've told you that before. This is the most important battle of your life, and you can't lose. Two little people are depending on you."
"You're right," Harry said. "I've been a fool."
"It's not too late. Go to them, Harry," she urged. "Go now."
Harry's smile was watery, but genuine. "Would you like to meet my children?"
"I'd love to," Hermione said, "but not today. You need some time alone with your family. Can I come back tomorrow?"
"I'll hunt you down if you don't," Harry promised.
He stood, and Hermione followed. Harry pulled her into another hug. "Thank you," he whispered fiercely. "I've missed you so much."'
Hermione pulled away and kissed his cheek. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Harry stood at the door to the nursery, watching Severus as he looked down into Sadie's cot. Feeling as though he hadn't earned the right, Harry asked, "Severus, may I come in?"
Severus turned to face him, surprised by his request. "Harry. Of course you can."
Harry slowly approached the cot positioned under the word "Benjamin".
"Your son," Severus said softly.
Harry looked down at the boy sleeping on his back, and his breath was stolen away. He was perfection in the form of dark lashes brushing pink, round cheeks, a shock of thick black hair, tiny hands curled into fists. As Harry watched, Benjamin's mouth puckered into little sucking motions. His incredible beauty and the thought that he'd turned his back on his own children for a week started tears he was helpless to stop.
"He has your hair," Severus offered.
"Severus," Harry croaked, and he turned to face his lover.
When Severus noticed the tears, he immediately stepped closer and pulled Harry into his arms. Harry pressed his face into Severus' neck and tried to pull himself together. "Hush," Severus said, stroking Harry's back in large circles. "Your hair isn't that bad."
"I've been such an idiot!" Harry choked out. "How could I . . . you've been . . . what would I . . .?"
Severus thrust Harry away. "Harry, stop!" he ordered. "You've been through hell for the last few months. No one can blame you if it finally became too much for a bit."
"And you've been there for me every step of the way," Harry said, looking up at him through wet eyes, tear tracks lining his face. "I don't deserve you."
"No one deserves me," Severus quipped.
Harry shook his head, to make his objection to that statement obvious. "No. Anyone would be blessed to have you. I am blessed to have you. I know that. Thank you. I'm so sorry I've left you to deal with everything these last few days. Can you forgive me?"
Severus leaned down to kiss Harry gently, briefly. "There's nothing to forgive. Come and see Sadie."
Harry moved to the other cot and looked down at his daughter. She, too, was more beautiful than anything he'd ever seen. She had the same pink cheeks, but her lashes were much paler, and she shared the same head of peach fuzz that Sarah had had. While he was looking down at her, she opened her eyes, and Harry's heart stopped. "She's awake!" he whispered, suddenly terrified.
"That she is," Severus agreed. "Right on schedule."
"What do I do?" Harry asked, still whispering.
"She'll need to be fed. She'll likely want her nappy changed. She takes a few minutes to wake up. The other little terror wakes up wailing. He's demanding and impatient."
"Sounds like someone else I know," Harry noted.
Severus ignored that. "Why are you whispering?"
"I don't know," Harry whispered.
"Well, stop," Severus growled. "Would you like to pick her up?"
"Should I? I don't know how."
Severus bent over the side of the cot. "Put your hands here," he said, demonstrating the proper spots for supporting the baby. "Her neck is still very weak. She cannot hold her head up by herself yet." Effortlessly, Severus lifted the baby and her blanket up and cradled her tenderly against his chest. He looked down at her and crooned, "Hello, Sadie. How is my little bruja? Are you hungry?"
Harry felt tears prickling again, for a different reason. The incredible sweetness of Severus Snape, austere, uptight, forbidding Severus Snape, speaking baby talk to the tiny infant clutched at his heart and squeezed tightly.
Severus turned to Harry, prepared to pass the child off to her father. When he noticed the fresh tears, he said, "What is wrong?"
"You," Harry said. "With her. You're so . . ." Harry couldn't put what he was feeling into words, but Severus seemed to guess.
"Sentimental twit," he said gruffly, whether about himself or Harry neither was sure. He thrust the baby at Harry and gently transferred her to the other man's arms.
"Hold her a moment. I will get a bottle, and then I'll demonstrate the skills necessary for nappy changing."
Harry was looking at the wonder in his arms and didn't even notice when Severus left. Father and daughter studied each other for a moment, until Harry said, "Hello, Sadie. I'm Harry. I'm your father. I'm so sorry I haven't been here for you, but I'm going to make up for that now. I have to confess that I have no experience with babies, so I'm probably going to be very clumsy at first. I hope you'll be patient with me, because I'm going to try so hard to be the best daddy anyone ever had."
Harry touched her tiny hand with his finger, and she curled her finger around it, holding it with a surprisingly tight grip. The simple motion threatened to melt Harry's emotions again, and he wondered at the mess he'd become. Is this what being a parent did to you?
Sadie pulled his finger into her mouth and began to suck on it. "Oh!" Harry breathed, and he decided not to worry about any mushy tears that might be leaking from his eyes.
When Severus returned, Harry looked up and said, "She's sucking my finger."
Severus smiled at his awe-filled expression. "She's hungry. Come, bring her here." He indicated the changing table, where Harry carried the baby and gently set her down.
"Watch carefully," Severus instructed. Harry blinked at the surrealism of Severus Snape demonstrating the proper way to change a nappy, to clean an infant's private areas to prevent rash, and to redress when finished. He then settled Harry and Sadie into a rocking chair and demonstrated the proper positioning for feeding.
"How did you know all this?" Harry asked when Sadie was contentedly sucking away on a bottle. Harry stroked her soft cheek with one finger, Sadie gripping the finger once again in her first.
"Poppy instructed me on the rudiments of infant care. It gets easier with practice. And you will get practice."
As if fulfilling a prophecy, a wail arose from the occupied cot.
"Ah, the beast has awakened," Severus noted, and he moved to the cot and extracted the squalling infant.
"But I wanted to feed him, too!" Harry protested.
Severus laid Benjamin on the changing table, raising his voice to be heard over the crying. "He will not wait. And you will get your chance."
Quickly, with deft, practiced movements, Severus changed Benjamin, then settled into the other rocking chair with the baby and a second bottle he'd had the foresight to bring up.
Harry smiled at the picture they made, the very fantasy he'd imagined before . . . His eyes strayed to Sarah's cot and her name on the wall, and his smile disappeared. "Why did you leave her cot set up?"
"I was going to remove it. I thought it would be easier on you. But it did not feel . . . right to remove all evidence of her existence until you'd had some say in it."
Harry smiled again. "Thank you. I appreciate that. I . . . the cot can go – we could probably use the space. But I'd like to leave her name up there."
Severus considered him. "That's what I thought, too. And I took some photographs of her. We could put one up."
"I'd like that. Thank you, Severus, for caring for them. I'm so sorry I was so stuck in my own grief that I couldn't . . ."
"It is all right, Harry. We are all right. We are all all right."
"You must be really tired," Harry noted.
"Infants are . . . exhausting," Severus admitted.
"Later on, if they're both asleep, and if you're not too tired, I'd like to take you to bed and thank you properly."
Severus' pulse quickened. "It's hardly necessary for you to . . ."
"I know," Harry interrupted. "I want to. I've missed you. And then, you can sleep. I'll take care of them tonight. You deserve a good night's sleep."
Severus looked at him, the interest plain in his eyes. "I look forward to both those activities."
Harry noticed that Sadie was no longer sucking on the bottle. "Looks like she's done. Now what?"
"You'll need to burp her. Lift her up to your shoulder and pat her on the back."
Awkwardly, feeling inadequate and gawky, Harry repositioned Sadie to his shoulder and began gently patting her fragile-feeling back.
"You may use a firmer hand," Severus noted. "She'll not break. And you'll get the desired result quicker."
Harry began to pat a bit harder, until soon he got what was a predictable result to anyone who'd been around infants any length of time.
"She sicked up on me!" Harry exclaimed, wrinkling his nose at the foul-smelling mess on his shoulder.
"That sometimes happens. Oftentimes, actually. It's only a little spit up. You'll be fine."
"She's not sick, is she?" Harry asked, worried.
"No. They just do that. You'll learn to protect against it." Harry watched as Severus flicked a cloth onto his shoulder, then raised Benjamin so his tiny head rested on it. Severus briskly patted the baby for several moments before eliciting a hearty burp from the boy. "Dry this time," Severus noted, peering at his shoulder.
"You might have warned me," Harry grumbled.
"Quiet, or I'll not warn you what sometimes happens when you change him," Severus warned with a mischievous gleam in his eye.
Severus had meant to lay on the bed and wait for Harry, looking forward to this evening's activities. He and Harry had bathed both babies after dinner, and Harry had spent some time rocking both of them. Harry had insisted on taking the nine o'clock feeding, forcing Snape into the bathroom for a relaxing bath. He had emerged from the bathroom while Harry was finishing up with Sadie, and he'd slipped into the bed, naked and ready, to wait. The last thing he remembered was hearing Harry go into the bathroom.
He didn't realize he'd fallen asleep until he felt the bed shifting beside him and Harry rolling up against him. A cold, wet head then settled on his shoulder. "You bathed," Severus said.
"Yeah." He hadn't done so since Sarah's death, and it felt good to be clean. "You were sleeping. Are you too tired?"
"No," Severus said, struggling to wake himself up.
"How long do you think we have?"
"Their normal routine is to sleep until some time between midnight and one o'clock."
"You just lay back," Harry ordered softly. "I'm going to do all the work."
Harry slid down under the covers, pulling them back as he went. Severus' cock, like Severus, was still mostly asleep, and Harry had no trouble fitting the entirety into his mouth. He nibbled the spongy member gently, trailing a hand up the inside of Severus' thigh. Harry's thoroughness was rewarded when Severus began to grow in his mouth, until finally he was at full mast and Harry had to hold the base in his hand while he worked his mouth up and down the engorged shaft. He pulled back and circled his tongue around the head, then placed a tender kiss there.
Harry pulled himself back up the head of the bed and kissed Severus passionately.
"Are you only going to tease?" Severus asked, poking his cock into Harry's hip, searching for contact, for friction.
"I'll not make you wait," Harry promised. He'd kept him waiting long enough. "Do you have lube?"
"Drawer beside the bed."
Harry leaned over to get it, giving Severus a prime view of his backside and the luscious balls hanging below. He reached over and fondled the soft orbs, raising a squeal from Harry. He retrieved the lube and rolled back over toward Severus.
Severus held out his hand. "May I?"
"No," Harry said. "I told you I was going to do everything. You're to just lay back and enjoy. Watch," he invited.
Harry stuck a finger into the lube, coating it completely. He positioned himself on the bed so that Severus could watch him as he circled his own arsehole with the slick finger. Harry kept his eyes on Severus' face as he pressed slowly inward, just the tip, then to the first knuckle, then the entire finger. When he began to move the finger in and out languidly, Severus groaned, and his hand drifted to his own cock. He gripped himself loosely, stroking lightly.
"Careful," Harry warned. "You don't want to come too soon, do you? I'm gonna want you to fuck me. If you insist on doing something, take this and prepare yourself." Harry instructed, handing Severus the pot of lube after dipping two more of his own fingers in.
Harry inserted a second finger into himself and began to frig himself more firmly with the two digits, stretching his long-unused hole carefully and thoroughly. Severus covered his own fingers with the gooey substance and began to do the same to himself.
"We must look incredibly erotic," Harry gasped as they fucked themselves with fingers, side by side. When Harry inserted a third finger, he knew he was ready. "Let me know when you're ready," he requested.
Severus had been ready when Harry rolled up against him. "I'm ready."
"Hold still." Harry scooped out another dollop of lube and smeared it up and down over Severus' hot flesh. When he had the angry red cock completely covered, he straddled Snape's hips and slowly lowered himself onto Snape's rigid pole. When he was completely seated, he stopped and lay himself down on Snape's chest, stilling the passion raging inside both of them.
"Harry," Snape sighed as his arms crept around Harry's back, holding the young man to him tightly, fighting the urge to move up into the delicious tightness encasing him.
"Severus," Harry returned. He pulled away enough to kiss Severus, then sat back up. Using muscles he hadn't used in a long time, Harry raised himself off of Severus, then lowered himself back down. Up down, up down, slowly, awkwardly, with no discernible rhythm, but just oh so right. Abstinent himself for long enough that any stimulation was enough stimulation, Severus soon felt the familiar drawing up of his balls and knew that orgasm was close.
"No!" he groaned. "Not yet! Want it to last!"
"Don't worry," Harry gasped, finding it difficult to breathe as he continued stroking Severus' cock with this arsehole. "There'll be other times. It's been too long, Severus. Let it go. Come for me."
"I should . . ." He made a weak gesture at Harry's bouncing erection.
"No, leave it. Come now, Severus!" Harry ordered.
Severus couldn't hold it back any longer, and with a guttural cry, he drove himself fiercely up into Harry's heat and exploded his passion into the tight passage. His orgasm seemed to go on forever as Harry stilled himself and let Severus set the pace as he drained himself dry.
"Harry," Severus moaned.
"Hush, Severus," Harry soothed. Harry lifted himself slowly off of Severus, enjoying the squelching sound and the icky feeling of Severus' come dripping from his arse. He fumbled for the lube, which had gotten displaced in the vigorous movement of bed, and when he found it, he hurriedly slathered his own cock with the viscous fluid.
Harry repositioned himself between Severus' legs, lifted his hips up off the bed, and shoved a pillow beneath his arse. "Can I . . ." He wasn't sure how long he could wait.
"Do it, Harry," Severus urged.
With one sure thrust, Harry embedded himself in Severus' tight arse. "Oh God Severus! You're so hot! So tight!"
"Yes, Harry! I want it now!"
Harry obliged, and he picked up the pace as he slammed over and over again into Severus. He would have liked this to last forever, but nature and celibacy were against him, and before he could help himself, he was sawing into Severus' arse and then losing his mind and his spunk in wave after wave of soul-altering pleasure. When he finally pumped himself dry, he collapsed onto Severus' chest and into Severus' arms, breathing hard, unable to move or even to lift himself off the older man.
"Am I too heavy?"
"No. You feel just right."
"That was too fast," Harry complained, turning his head to kiss Severus' chest.
"You were right. We'll take it slow next time." He placed a kiss on top of Harry's head. "We should get some sleep."
Harry rolled off of Severus. "I'm going to sleep in the nursery. I transfigured Sarah's cot into a bed. That way, you'll be able to sleep the night through."
"Harry, that isn't necessary. I'd rather you stay here."
Harry wanted to stay, too. But he also wanted Severus to get some sleep. "I will sleep with you every night for the rest of my life. But tonight," he said, placing a kiss on the end of Severus' nose, "you will sleep."
Harry had placed a silencing spell on the nursery, but somehow, when Harry was trying to deal with hurriedly changing Sadie's diaper while Benjamin cried robustly in his crib, Severus wandered in and picked up the crying infant.
Surprised, Harry said, "Did you hear him? Didn't my spell work?"
"No, I didn't hear him. Something just woke me up. I don't mind. You take care of her, and I'll deal with this little demon."
Grateful, Harry smiled at Severus and turned his attention back to the damn sticky tabs on the nappy so that Sadie's diaper would actually stay on her tiny hips.
True to her word, Hermione returned the following day. Surprising everyone, she brought Ron with her.
"Ron," Harry said with a curt nod. He wanted desperately to throw his arms around his old friend and clap him heartily on the back in welcome, but he wasn't sure how willingly Ron had come here. Hermione could be very forceful when she wanted something.
"Harry," Ron said, unable to look Harry in the eye. "I . . . How are you?"
"I'm good," Harry said, meaning it. "I'm really good. You?"
"I've been better. Look, Harry," Ron said, raising his face and looking beseechingly at Harry with his large, mournful eyes. "I'm really sorry about . . ."
Before Ron could finish, he found himself the recipient of a tight man hug. He returned his mate's embrace, perilously close to tears. "It's all right," Harry said into his shoulder. "It's all right."
The hug lasted long enough to become awkward, and Harry finally backed away, suddenly shy and unable to look up at Ron. "It's really good to see you," he said, toeing the threadbare carpet in the sitting room.
"Yeah. Hey, Hermione tells me you've got a couple of kids. We'd really like to see them."
Harry smiled proudly. "I'd love to show them to you. Come on up to the nursery."
"So this is Snape's place, huh?" Ron asked as they climbed the stairs.
"Yes," Harry said, looking at Hermione, asking with his eyes whether she'd told Ron about him and Snape. She nodded, once. "I've been here since the school term ended in June."
"It's . . . cozy," Ron said tactfully.
Harry snorted his agreement with what Ron was probably actually thinking and led them into the nursery. Severus was here, just finishing up yet another diaper change.
"Hello, Professor," Hermione said cheerfully.
"Miss Granger," Severus said in acknowledgment. "Mr. Weasley."
"Professor," Ron said tersely.
Hermione watched as Severus nappied and dressed Benjamin. "You've very accomplished at that, Professor," she admired.
"Practice, as they say, does make perfect. And I am no longer your professor, Miss Granger. My name is Severus."
"Hermione," she said with a warm smile.
Severus finished his task and lifted Benjamin from the changing table. "Would you like to hold him?" he asked, offering the blanket-wrapped infant to Hermione.
"I'd love to," Hermione said, and she accepted the precious bundle. "What's his name?"
"Benjamin," Harry said. "Benjamin Severus Potter."
Severus' head whipped around. He hadn't known. He'd assumed the boy's middle name was James. He stared at Harry, emotion filling his dark eyes. Harry smiled warmly at him. Ron and Hermione watched the interaction between the two.
Harry broke the mood when he said, "And this little angel is Sadie."
Harry and his friends gathered around Sadie's cot where she lay sleeping peacefully. "Oh, Harry," Hermione said. "She's so beautiful. They're both so beautiful." She cradled Benjamin close to her chest, rocking him gently. He looked up at her with his dark eyes, seemingly studying her. "Hello, precious," she crooned. "Ron, do you want to hold him?"
Ron willingly held out his arms. He liked babies. He held Benjamin in his large hands and looked down at him, looking for Harry in the baby's features. He'd never been very good at that, though, so he wasn't surprised when the baby looked like nothing so much as a squishy tomato.
"So, how are they treating you, Benjamin?" he asked. "You got any complaints, you come see me. I'm your Uncle Ron, and no one's gonna mess with you while I'm around. I guarantee you that."
"Ron," Harry said, wondering if he should spoil their reunion with this, but feeling as though he had to get this out there. "I'm sorry . . . about what happened with Ginny. I never meant for any of this to happen, and I certainly never meant to hurt her."
Ron looked down at the baby in his hands, then up at Harry. "I understand why you did what you did, Harry. If I wasn't such a prat, I would have been able to see it right away. She was asking you to . . . Well, she seems happy now, and you look happy now, so it all worked out for the best, yeah?"
"Yeah," Harry agreed, relieved.
"And for the record," Ron continued, "Mum and Dad always understood the choice you made. In fact, Mum was quite put out with Ginny for a while after she found out that Ginny had forced you to choose. Said it was an impossible decision, but that you had chosen the only way you could. Broke her heart, I think, to stay away from you, but she wasn't sure how angry you were with Ginny. None of us were . . ." Ron let his voice trail off, rather than get into the fact that none of them had had contact with Harry to know how he was feeling about anything at the time.
"I'll send them an owl straight away," Harry said, feeling emotional all over again. "I'll invite them to come and meet Sadie and Benjy."
Ron smiled. "They'd like that."
Harry smiled at Ron, close to tears again. He had his very best friends back. Things were going very well with Severus. And he had the world's most beautiful children. His life would be perfect if not for one thing – Voldemort. It always came down to Voldemort. Everyone he loved most was in this room – wait, when did Severus leave? Okay, everyone he loved most was in this house, and Harry resolved on the spot that he was going to do something to eliminate the control Voldemort had over his life. He didn't know what yet, but once he figured it out, he was going to be free to live his life the way he wanted.
As Severus had promised, Harry had plenty of opportunities to feed his son, and his daughter, and he soon became expert at changing nappies, burping babies, rocking tired infants to sleep, and all of the other sundry and myriad tasks involved in caring for very young children. He and Severus tried to alternate nightly feedings, but with two babies, the sleep disturbance was shorter if they both got up in the night. They napped together in the afternoon while the children were sleeping, which helped to stave off utter exhaustion. After the first month, the time required between feedings became noticeably longer, and both looked forward to that night in the hopefully not-too-distant future when both babies would sleep through the night. Madam Pomfrey came to check on the children weekly and assured them both were thriving and growing just as they should be.
Harry lay on the bed beside Severus, who was snoring lightly. He'd been unable to sleep, despite how tired he was, thoughts racing through his mind as he stared up at the ceiling, his hand touching Severus', drawing an incredible peace from the simple contact. He'd been gathering up the nerve to talk to Severus about what he wanted to do, but until he'd thought it all the way through himself from every angle, he didn't want to approach the man, whom he knew would do everything in his power to convince him that he was foolish to even consider it.
"Could you think more quietly, please?" a voice beside him said. "The hamster running on the wheel in your brain woke me."
Harry turned to Severus and smiled warmly. "Sorry."
Severus stretched himself awake and rolled onto his side to face Harry. "Are the wee beasties sleeping?"
"Haven't heard a peep yet," Harry assured him
"So why are you not sleeping? Are you finally getting used to this chronic lack of sleep?"
"No," Harry said, rolling to face Severus. "I was just thinking. I've been thinking a lot lately."
"Care to share?"
Harry sighed. Might as well get this over with. "I was thinking about the prophecy. I wanted it not to mean what Dumbledore said it meant. Have you heard the entire thing?"
Severus grimaced, remembering what had happened when he'd carried the part of the prophecy he had heard to the Dark Lord. He shook his head.
Harry squeezed his hand encouragingly, then closed his eyes to concentrate on getting it right. "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches; born to those who have thrice defied him; born as the seventh month dies; And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have powers the Dark Lord knows not; And either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives."
Severus didn't speak while he pondered the words. Finally, he said, "What is unclear to you?"
"It's not that it isn't clear," Harry clarified. "In fact, I wish it were more ambiguous. Shortly before the kids were born, I had decided that I was leaving. I was going to wait until they were born, then I was going to pack them up and go somewhere. America, maybe. Or Australia."
"Just some country that started with 'A'?"
"Well, I was hoping to avoid Antarctica, but yeah. Some place he couldn't get to them."
"What changed your mind?"
"There were several things. I thought about how everyone would look at me, like I was running off and leaving them to deal with everything like a coward."
"No one could ever accuse you of being a coward, Harry. You're the bravest man I know. And who could blame a man for wanting to protect his children?"
Harry smiled and squeezed Severus' hand again. "Then, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to convince you to go, and I couldn't imagine living without you. I was going to try, though. Would you have gone?" Harry looked at him through curious eyes.
Severus thought about how to answer for a moment, then decided to go with the truth. "I would have followed you anywhere."
"Even to Antarctica?" Harry joked.
"Well, I have always been rather intrigued by penguins."
Harry chuckled out loud at that, then turned serious again. "But what it came down to was that because of that damn prophecy, it had to be me. Even if I convinced you to go with me, and we left, leaving no trace of where we'd gone, he'd still be here, because it has to be me. And with you and I both out of the way, he'd have that much easier a time taking over here, then spreading his area of control until he reached us wherever we were. We'd never be safe. There's only one way to ensure that we, and everyone else, can live free."
"No," Severus said, well aware of where Harry was going with this.
"Severus, it's the only way."
"No," he said again, then suddenly sat up on the bed, his back to Harry. "You've sacrificed enough. You have children now. They need you." He drew in a shaky breath. "I need you."
Harry rose and sat cross-legged on the bed behind Severus. "And that's exactly why I have to do this," he said softly. He moved to Severus, putting his arms around his lover's neck and pressing himself against Severus' back. "It will never be over, unless we end it. This way, we can choose the time, and the place. We can control the situation."
"He is the Dark Lord, Harry! You cannot control him. He is irrational and cruel and more than a little mad. You don't know his weaknesses, where he is vulnerable."
"Well, that's why I need you," Harry said reasonably. "You can help me. We can do this together. We can do it, Severus. I know we can. We have to."
Severus was saved from having to reply by a cry arising from the other room. He stood up, glad to be done with this topic, though he suspected Harry would not let it go.
Severus sighed as he stepped out of the floo into the sitting room. He'd never particularly enjoyed Diagon Alley, and today's trip had been no exception. He dropped his purchases onto the sofa and went into the kitchen in search of Harry. He wasn't surprised to find the room empty – they seemed to spend all of their non-eating hours on the second floor. He started the water for tea and began to climb the stairs.
He was halfway up when he became aware that something was amiss, and he stopped, all senses attuned to his surroundings. That sixth sense he seemed to possess, the one that had kept him alive for the past twenty years, told him someone was here, someone besides Harry and the children, and the hairs on the back of his neck rose. He heard the murmur of Harry's voice and waited tensely for whoever it was to reply, hoping against everything his radar was telling him that it was a friend. Though he couldn't make out the words when the man spoke, he'd have recognized the voice anywhere.
Lucius. Lucius Malfoy was with Harry and the children.
Soundlessly, Severus crept the remainder of the way up the stairs, wand drawn and ready, until he could peer into the nursery.
Malfoy's back was to the door, and Severus could just see Harry between Malfoy and the cots, where presumably the babies were sleeping. Severus was about to hex Malfoy when he froze, aware that the man was crying.
"Can't you see I have to know?" Malfoy sobbed. "Now that I have lost everything? You cannot keep him from me!"
"He's not yours," Harry said, his tone a mixture of pleading and fear and resolve.
"You've not done a paternity test. You can't know that. He's my son, and I will . . ."
Malfoy started to raise his arm. Severus couldn't see if he was holding a wand, but he wasn't taking any chances.
"Petrificus totalis," he intoned. Lucius' legs straightened and came together, his arms snapped to this sides, and he slowly toppled over, falling onto the floor with a clatter.
Harry stared at Severus with wide eyes for a moment before bolting across the room and into his lover's arms.
"Severus, thank God!" he sobbed into Severus neck. "He just walked in, and I . . . I . . ." Harry could no longer speak he was crying so hard, and Severus pulled him tighter into his embrace. Harry was trembling uncontrollably, and Severus rubbed soothing circles into his back.
"Shhh! It's over, Harry. He can't hurt you now. Are you harmed?"
"N-no. I'm okay."
"And the children? They are unharmed as well?" he asked soothingly.
"They're good. Slept through the whole thing." Harry was starting to calm down, his breathing slowing and the trembling diminishing. Severus was here – Severus would take care of Lucius Malfoy. "He said Benjy is his son. He wants to take him away." Harry stilled, then pulled away from Severus enough to look up into his eyes. "He said Draco is dead."
Severus drew in a sharp breath at this news. "Did he say how?"
"No. He only arrived a few minutes before you. Said he knew Benjy was his son, and now that Draco was . . . gone, he was going to take him and raise him as the Malfoy heir." Harry stopped again and looked up at Severus. "How did he get through the wards?"
Severus had already asked himself this, and he had an answer ready. "He knew I owned this place. He was here once, many years ago. He knows me well enough that he probably dismantled the wards without too much difficulty. If I'd had any inkling he knew you were here . . . That's why I didn't kill him outright – we need to know if he came here on his own or if others know you are here. I'm sorry, Harry. I shouldn't have left you."
"It isn't your fault, Severus."
"Where is your wand?" Severus asked, more than a little angry as the adrenalin faded that Harry hadn't been more vigilant about his safety.
"I had it," Harry said, withdrawing it from his back pocket. "I could have used it. But then he told me that Draco had died, and I . . . I know what it feels like to lose a child, and I guess I felt sorry for him."
"He could have killed you!" Severus pointed out.
"I know. I also didn't want to have hexes flying around in here and risk having one of them hit Sadie or Benjy."
Severus gave Harry one more quick hug, relieved things had turned out as they had. "I must release him, Harry. I must question him. There may be others on the way. We have no time to waste."
"Not here," Harry said. "I don't want him near my children."
"I will take him to the sitting room."
"I don't think I can . . ." Harry said, looking down at Malfoy's lifeless body and beginning to shiver again.
"It's all right," Severus said, laying a soothing hand on Harry's cheek. "You stay out in the hallway. I will question Lucius under veritaserum. But you should hear what he has to say."
Harry nodded and stepped back out of Severus' embrace. "I'll just check on them."
Severus nodded in return before levitating Lucius' body out of the room and down the stairs.
"Finite incantatum," Severus intoned.
Malfoy slowly unfroze and sat up on the sofa, disoriented. His eyes darted to Severus wand, pointed at his heart, and when he made a small movement to go for his own, Severus said, "It's not there. I have placed it somewhere you cannot summon it. I need answers from you, and I will have them. If you wish, I can physically restrain you."
"That won't be necessary. Severus, Draco –"
Severus held up a hand. "Please, Lucius." He removed a vial from a pocket of his robe. "Veritaserum first. Then, we will speak, of Draco and other things."
Without argument, Malfoy took the proffered vial, unstoppered it, and drank down the contents. Severus took back the empty vial, giving the truth serum time to begin its job.
"Are you pure of blood?" Severus asked, knowing the answer and knowing that Lucius would never speak this particular truth if not compelled to do so.
"No. My mother's biological grandfather was a Muggle. He was killed shortly after impregnating my great grandmother. She married a wizard before giving birth, and everyone assumed he was the father of her child."
Severus knew this because his own Grandmother Prince had known it and had been only too happy to share it with her only daughter, who had no qualms about pointing out the hypocrisy in an attempt to deter her only son from following wizards who believed that only the pure of blood were worthy.
"Good," Severus said. "Tell me about Draco."
"The Dark Lord killed him, Severus!" Malfoy said, anguished. "Right before me! Draco was resisting the taking of the Mark. He had been reluctant, but I pressed him, told him it was his duty. He failed to show our Lord the proper respect, and when the Dark Lord made to force him to take the Mark, Draco tried to run. He, of course, stood no chance, and the Dark Lord tortured him as an example to all and then killed him." Tears were streaming down Malfoy's face by the end of his recitation
Outside the room, Severus heard a knock on the front door, then voices he recognized as Granger and Weasley. Harry had apparently called them. He waited out their whispered conversation so that Harry wouldn't miss any of Malfoy's testimony.
"Who else knows you are here?" Severus asked.
"No one. I came on my own."
"Where is Narcissa?"
"She has left the country. I do not know precisely where she is, but I believe that she is safe."
"Why have you come here?"
"To claim my son, my rightful heir."
"You cannot know that Benjamin is yours."
"Have you conducted a paternity test? You know it is a simple spell. Have you done it yourself?"
"No," Severus lied.
"Then you can't know for sure either."
"Lucius, you raped him. Even if the boy were yours, you can't expect Harry to just give him up to you."
"I will petition the Wizengamot for my parental rights. Once we establish paternity, they will award them to me. You know they will," Malfoy argued.
Given the current composition of the Wizengamot, and how many galleons Lucius Malfoy had "donated" to various causes, he was likely right about this.
Harry stepped into the room now. "Why?" he demanded. "Why did you do that to me? Why did you rape me?"
"The Dark Lord wanted to know if the potion would work," Lucius said, as though this were a run-of-the-mill scientific experiment they were discussing. "He ordered that you be raped by as many men as were present at the Manor to increase the sample. I chose to keep Draco away. He was already far too obsessed with you. Given my position, I, too, could have abstained, but I wanted to participate. I have found you attractive since . . ."
"Enough!" Severus barked, sickened by what he was hearing.
"Benjy is not yours," Harry said, pointing a shaking finger at Malfoy. "But even if he were, there's no way you're getting your hands on him. I'll kill you first. In fact," here Harry pointed his wand at Malfoy, "maybe I'll just kill you anyway. Do the world a favor."
Severus moved to stand between Harry and his intended target. "Harry," he said, calmly and rationally. "Wait a moment. You have every right to do this, and I will not stop you if it is what you truly want. But you wanted to engage the Dark Lord, on your terms. We can use him."
"What makes you think he'd be willing to help us?" Harry asked with a sneer in Malfoy's direction.
"He killed my son," Malfoy said simply. "I want him dead."
"You know he's not lying, Harry," Severus pointed out. "He can't."
"Doesn't mean I trust him," Harry said, but he lowered his wand.
"Nor should you," Severus agreed. "But if we can use him to destroy Voldemort . . ."
Harry looked up at him. "I don't know if I can . . ." His breath caught in his throat, and all the bravado he'd felt moments ago left him now in a rush, leaving him feeling vulnerable and scared and used. Harry had no doubt about his ability to kill Voldemort should he be faced with the opportunity. What he couldn't stomach was the thought of working alongside Lucius Malfoy to accomplish that goal. Malfoy, who had been the ringleader of the group of men who has used him so horribly. And who had done so not because he'd been forced to, but because he wanted to.
Severus reached Harry in two steps and enveloped the younger man in his protective embrace, turning the boy so that he could keep an eye on Malfoy. "It's all right, love," he whispered into Harry's ear. "You don't have to be anywhere near him. I will call in the Order. We will deal with him. We will formulate a plan. I will keep you informed. You never have to see him again."
"Is there a spell, Severus?" Harry asked.
Severus didn't have to ask what he was talking about. "Yes."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't think it mattered."
"It didn't until now. Can we do it? Now? He'll never give up. You know he'll never give up."
Severus pulled away a little and looked down at Harry. "Are you sure this is what you want?"
"Not because I need to know, but . . . yes."
"All right," Severus agreed. "Let me take him to the Order. I'll return as soon as I can."
"Take Ron with you. Please. I don't trust him. Ron!"
"Yeah, mate?" Ron had watched the interaction between Snape and Harry. He'd been uncomfortable about their relationship since learning of it from Hermione, but seeing it for himself made all the difference to him. Snape obviously cared for Harry and treated him gently, with respect. Ron wanted that for his friend, and if it was Severus Snape that gave it to him, Ron would stand with them proudly.
"Will you go with Severus?"
"'Course I will."
Severus kissed Harry briefly on the lips, then released him. "I will return shortly."
"You do it. I'll wait in the bedroom."
Severus sighed. "I don't have to do it."
Harry's brow furrowed in confusion.
"I've already done it," Severus confessed.
"Right after they were born."
"So you already know?"
Severus nodded in affirmation. "Would you like to witness the spell for yourself?"
"No. I trust you to tell me the truth."
Severus reached for Harry's hand and held it tightly. "Malachi Avery was Sadie's father. Eliot Adler was Benjamin's."
"And they're both dead," Harry said, sighing with relief. "Did you do that spell on Sarah, too?"
"I did," Severus admitted.
Something in Severus' demeanor told Harry the answer to his next question, but he asked it anyway. "He was her father, wasn't he?"
After a moment, Severus nodded.
"Are you going to tell him?"
"I don't see how that could help either of you at this point."
Harry had to agree with that. The small part of him that felt sympathy for Malfoy over the loss of a child didn't want to add to that burden with the news of another. But the larger part of him felt a tremendous amount of relief. "So Malfoy can't take them. No one can take them."
"I would not have let that happen in any event," Severus pledged.
"Will Malfoy believe you? About the spell?"
"He will have no choice. Anyone who performs the spell will obtain the same results."
"Good. And Severus?"
"You are their father," he said, his voice soft and firm. "Regardless of who contributed their sperm."
Severus pulled Harry into his arms and kissed him soundly, hoping to impart with the kiss all of the emotion he was feeling – gratitude, relief, and love. When he pulled away, he went only far enough to rest his forehead against Harry's. "I must get back to Grimmauld Place. The Order was assembling."
"Promise me you'll be careful. I don't like relying on someone I can't trust. If he hurts you, in any way, I won't be able to stop myself. I will kill him."
"I will be careful," Severus promised.
Harry reached up on his toes to kiss Severus one more time. "I love you. Come home to me."
With all that he had waiting for him here, how could he not?
It was over. It was finally over. Harry stood panting over the corpse of Tom Riddle, the residual spell energy coursing through him. Weakened by this and by the tremendous relief he felt, Harry fell to his knees, barely aware that tears were coursing down his face.
Strong arms lifted Harry to his feet, and suddenly he was surrounded by his friends and members of the Order. Harry thought he should take note of who he could see and who he couldn't, make some effort to determine who had survived the battle and who might not have. With the little energy he could spare, he felt Severus holding him up. He saw Ron and Hermione on either side of him. And for the moment, that was all the concern he could muster.
"You did it, Harry." Severus spoke directly into Harry's ear. "It's over."
"I hope you rot in hell," Lucius Malfoy said, too close to Harry, before spitting on Voldemort's lifeless body.
Harry turned his face away and burrowed into Severus' robe. He knew they couldn't have done this without Malfoy's information and active assistance, but he couldn't stand being near the man, his presence a constant reminder of the worst night of Harry's life. Malfoy had tried to apologize, but Harry had refused to hear it, sure after his confession under the compunction of truth serum that the man didn't really mean it, his empty words an attempt to keep himself out of Azkaban for his assault on Harry. Warren Cabot, Jonathan Eggleston, and Samuel Gray, the other men who had attacked Harry and survived the aftermath of his escape, had been killed by various Order members over the last several months. With Draco's death, Lucius Malfoy was the only assailant left alive. And given what he'd done recently, Harry thought it likely that he would escape punishment of any kind for his many misdeeds. Although Harry thought maybe being responsible for his only son's death was punishment of the cosmic kind.
Severus pulled Harry away from Malfoy and the ever-increasing group of people surrounding the fallen Dark Lord. "Come, Harry. Let's go home. Molly and Arthur will be anxious for news. And your children will be missing you."
"Our children," Harry corrected. "Don't forget that again."
Severus smiled down at Harry, pulled him close, and turned both of them on the spot.
2 ½ years later . . .
Severus stepped out of the floo into the sitting room of the house at Godric's Hollow and sighed. It was good to be home. Two weeks away from his family, even if it was for an extremely interesting potions conference in Mexico, was just too long. He resized his bags, left them on the floor, and headed for the kitchen.
Harry was standing at the table, shirtless and in indecently short cut-off jean shorts, kneading bread dough and chatting with Sadie, who was sitting in a metal tub in the middle of the floor, completely naked, splashing happily in three inches of water.
"I leave for two weeks and come home to a couple of nudists," Severus observed.
Harry looked up as soon as Severus spoke, and a joyful grin spread over his face. "Severus! I wasn't expecting you until tomorrow!" He wiped his floury hands on the butt of his jeans and rushed at Severus. He threw his arms around his lover and practically jumped into his embrace.
"I'm sorry if I interrupted your plans for revelry and debauchery," Severus said into Harry's hair as his arms snaked around the young man's naked waist.
"No worries," Harry said. "I've only just now got the rentboys out the back. I'll just cancel the others I had scheduled for tonight." Harry squeezed Severus tightly enough to crack ribs. "God I missed you!"
"I decided to skip the closing dinner and chose to come home today." He swiped at a spot of flour on Harry's nose.
"I'm so glad you did," Harry said sincerely, looking up at Severus. And he let his lips finish his welcome home.
They were interrupted by an impatient toddler. "Daddy! Wiff me, Daddy!"
Sadie was standing now, her arms outstretched, beseeching.
"Let me get a towel," Harry offered.
Ignoring him, Severus scooped the child up and held her close. "And how is my Sadie Monster?" he asked.
"Daddy, I swimmin'," she told him.
"I saw you. Where is your brother?"
"And why are you not sleeping?"
"I not tired," she said very logically.
"You're getting all wet," Harry said, wrapping a towel around Sadie.
"If only I knew a wizard who could perform a drying charm," Severus mused, but he wrapped the child in the towel, then planted a kiss on top of her messy hair.
"Have you eaten? We ate, but I could fix you something," Harry offered.
"No, I'm fine. And you look like you're in the middle of something. I think what I need is a nap of my own, and I'll be good as new."
"I was going to get the bread into the oven, then put her down."
"I'll take care of her," Severus finished. "You finish up."
Harry kissed Sadie, then pressed his lips to Severus'. "Welcome home."
Severus smiled, unable to articulate just how good it was to be here, holding a wet and naked toddler and kissing a flour-covered and entirely edible-looking Harry Potter.
Harry smiled at the sight before him. Severus lay on his back, sleeping. Curled up at his side was Sadie, dressed now, thumb in her mouth, sleeping just as soundly. This wasn't quite what he'd had in mind when Severus had offered to put her down.
Walking noiselessly, Harry approached the bed, scooped up the sleeping child, and brought her to her own bed. He checked on Benjy, listening briefly to the boy's slightly snuffy breathing, wondering not for the first time today if he was coming down with a summer cold. Secure in the knowledge that the children would sleep for a while yet, he re-entered his bedroom.
Harry curled himself into the warmed spot Sadie had just vacated, his back to Severus. He smiled when he felt an arm steal over his waist and pull him tight against Severus' chest. He wriggled his bum enticingly against his lover's groin, the invitation plain. Severus' hand wandered lower until he felt the bulge in Harry's jeans. Exploring a little further brought his hand to the edge of Harry's shorts. From there it was a short journey to work his way up underneath, into Harry's smalls, and directly to the jackpot. Harry rolled onto his back to force himself further into Severus' questing hand and so that he could see Severus' face.
"Told you I missed you," Harry said.
Severus leaned forward and kissed Harry, his hand caressing the engorging flesh it held. When he pulled away, Harry looked up at him, chewing on his bottom lip, a sure sign that something was on the young man's mind. Severus stilled his hand and watched him for a time, wondering if the boy would spill it on his own. When he didn't speak, Severus said, "What is it, Harry?"
Harry smiled shyly. "I've been thinking . . . wondering, actually. For a little while now. I don't know how you'll feel about it, though, so I haven't said anything."
Severus placed a single finger on Harry's lips, silencing him. "Maybe you should just come out with it, and then I'll tell you what I think.
Harry's tongue darted out to lick Severus' finger, and his eyes twinkled mischievously. Severus pulled his finger away. "Spill," he ordered.
"Well, I was just wondering if you had any more of that potion."
"You know, the potion. The one that made me pregnant."
"No, I don't. I have the formula, though. Why would you . . .?" Severus stopped as the answer to his question occurred to him. "You want to . . ."
Harry nodded solemnly. "Have another child. With you. What do you think?"
Severus' hand slid completely out of Harry's shorts. "I think that just when I begin to believe that life holds no surprises, you open your mouth and prove me wrong. You would willingly put yourself through that again?"
"I'm thinking it'd been loads easier with only one, yeah?"
"I suspect so," Severus agreed, distracted.
Harry mistook his distraction for unwillingness, and he began to backtrack. "You don't have to decide now. It's just something to think about," Harry said, suddenly self-conscious and half-wishing he hadn't brought this up.
But Severus already knew what he thought. "You do realize that it'll take some time to secure the necessary ingredients and brew the potion."
Harry's smile when he realized Severus was saying "yes" was something to behold. "I realize that, of course. But that's okay, because while we're waiting, we can practice the sex part. You know, to get it down so that it's perfect."
"I never thought I'd ever say this to you, but I like the way you think."
From The Daily Prophet, 42 weeks almost to the day later:
Harry and Severus Potter-Snape welcomed a third child into their home yesterday. Tessa Eileen joins older twin siblings Benjamin and Sadie in rounding out the household. The two heros of the battle against the Dark Lord were bonded in a privately-attended ceremony on Christmas day at their home in Godric's Hollow. Both Harry Potter and the child are reported to be in excellent condition following the birth at St. Mungo's. The Prophet joins its readers in wishing the Potter-Snapes all the happiness they so richly deserve.
Take our poll: Should Severus Potter-Snape be forced to divulge his formula to make male pregnancy a possibility for all?