A Roof for the Rain
Summary: Harry convinces Severus Snape that life is worth living. With that comes certain responsibilities.
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. They belong to JK Rowling and probably a bunch of other companies/entities. But not me.
From Chapter 3:
Harry chewed on his bottom lip. He wanted to ask Severus how he'd paid the man, but if Severus confessed to a sex-for-services arrangement, Harry wasn't sure what he'd do. They were bonding the day after tomorrow! Would Harry be able to go through with it if Severus had betrayed him again? Would he be unable to sever his relationship with Severus, thereby giving his husband the idea that he could dally with whomever he wanted with no consequence? Could ignorance really be bliss?
"Harry, I did not let him fuck me," Severus said softly. "He was willing to accept that as payment, but I told him we had to arrive at a more . . . traditional understanding. He will send me an invoice, which I will pay – with galleons."
Harry closed his eyes and swallowed loudly. How badly he wanted to believe that!
"You may use legillimency on me," Severus offered.
And now Harry was sure. "I don't need to. I believe you."
Severus put a hand on Harry's knee, and Harry looked up at him. Severus' mouth lowered to Harry's, and he kissed the younger man. "There is only you, Harry," he whispered. "Only you, now and always. I love you too much to risk what we have here together. I would die without you."
Harry felt a stinging in the corners of his eyes, and he blinked several times rapidly. "I love you, Severus," and he leaned up to kiss his soon-to-be-husband again.
"Tell me again why we're driving to Dover," Severus grumbled as he escorted suitcases to the front door.
"Because that's what families do," Harry responded from the kitchen. "And stop levitating those suitcases!"
Severus made a face at Harry which Harry, of course, could not see. Harry was, however, accustomed to dealing with five-year olds. "I saw that!" he called out, making Severus smile.
"Ready to load up?" Harry asked as he joined his lover at the door.
"I think this is everything," Severus said as he opened the front door. "What is that?" The vehicle sitting by the curb was not the one Severus thought they owned.
"Surprise!" Harry said. "I bought a new vehicle and had it delivered this morning. It's called a mini-van. Lots of room for kids and their stuff."
Severus sneered at the unassuming vehicle. "It's very . . . stylish."
Harry snorted. "No, it's not. Makes me feel like a middle-aged woman. But it's practical, and that's what's really important. Come on. I'll show you."
An hour later, Severus had to confess that the automobile had its good points. There was no way they would have gotten the kids and all of their luggage into Harry's previous sedan without the use of magic, which Harry was very annoyingly refusing to let him use. As it was, there wasn't a free spot to be found in here now.
"Everybody ready?" Harry called cheerfully, undaunted by the prospect of the long ride ahead with two relatively young, easily bored children.
"Ready!" Emily and Erica assured him, both bouncing excitedly.
"Severus?" Harry asked.
"Hmmm? Yes, I'm as ready as I'll ever be," he said. He despised traveling this way and did so as little as he could possibly get away with. He should have insisted that they travel by floo. Or apparition. Even the Knight Bus would be better. Well, maybe not the Knight Bus. Harry wasn't that bad a driver. But flooing was a perfectly acceptable means of transportation and . . .
Harry interrupted Severus' panic-driven thoughts. "Severus?" He'd noticed the white-knuckle grip on the door handle. He laid his left hand over Severus' right, interlaced their fingers, and gave a gentle squeeze. "It's going to be all right," Harry assured him. "I know you don't like this, but I promise you we'll get there safely."
Severus snorted. "Just go."
Harry smiled, but didn't let go of Severus' hand. He put the van in gear and began to drive away. Horrified, Severus removed Harry's hand from his and placed it on the steering wheel. "Two hands on the . . . on that," he said, not sure what the wheel-like device was called. "At all times."
"Yes, sir," Harry agreed with a smile.
"Perhaps I should learn to drive," Severus speculated. Maybe if he were in control of this death machine, he'd feel less – out of control.
Harry snorted his disagreement at that suggestion.
"What? You don't think I could learn?" Severus asked, insulted. After all, hadn't he learned how to operate a Muggle washing machine and dishwasher? How much harder could this be?
"Of course you could learn. I just don't think the world is ready for your particular brand of road rage."
Twenty minutes into the ride, and the girls were already bickering, tired of sitting still. "Da!" Emily whined. The girls had taken to calling Harry the very Scottish-sounding "Da", to differentiate him from Severus, whom they both called "Daddy." "Erica's touching me!"
Harry was about to respond when Severus said, "You. Eyes on the road." He turned to face the girls. "Let's keep our hands to ourselves, shall we?"
"She touched me first," Erica groused.
"I do not care to hear your excuses," Severus told her. "Either behave or you shall suffer the consequences." Severus sat back in his seat, a look of horror on his face that left him looking almost green. "Dear Merlin! I just sounded exactly like my mother!"
Harry smiled at Severus' discomfiture. "Promise me you'll hex me silly if I ever start sounding like the Dursleys. Hey, girls. Check this out." He pushed a couple of buttons on the dash, then reached up to push another button, which dropped a small screen down from the ceiling. Severus was about to growl at Harry for taking his eyes and hands away from their present task, but Harry said, "Shut it, will ya?"
Five minutes later, the girls' eyes were glued to the screen, their mouths hanging open as they stared at the movie – someone called Barbie was singing a sickly sweet song. Harry had been assured by the clerk at the store that all little girls loved Barbie. Apparently, she'd been right.
Harry settled back happily, ready to enjoy an argument-free ride.
Severus muttered something that ended in "mush". Harry was familiar enough with Severus' rants about the telly to know what he'd said.
"You'd rather listen to them bicker?" he asked.
"No. I'd rather have traveled like a proper wizard," Severus pointed out.
Harry sighed, discouraged momentarily, then squared his shoulders and strengthened his resolve not to let anything interfere with his joy of this trip.
Severus studied his lover's profile. He knew what it meant for Harry to participate in what he considered "normal" family activities. His own childhood had been devoid of such experiences, and he'd told Severus more than once how important it was that he give them to the children. He knew his own peevishness about this means of transportation wasn't helping, and he relented just a little. "At least we get to listen to this lovely singing."
Harry snorted at this and then smiled, recognizing the effort Severus was making. "Git," he offered cheerfully.
Four hours and a stop for lunch later, they arrived at their destination – The Inn at Dover, a wizarding hotel on the cliffs of Dover. It was here that, tomorrow, Harry and Severus would bind themselves together for the rest of their lives. They'd invited only their closest friends – Arthur and Molly Weasley, Ron and Hermione, and Minerva McGonagall. Hagrid had sent his regrets – he had several expecting thestrals and didn't want to be too far away from the herd.
"This is beautiful!" Harry said as he exited the van and stretched his stiff muscles. The salty sea air skated across his face and ruffled his hair, and Harry breathed deeply of the salt air.
Severus came to stand beside him. "Wait until you see the cliffs and get a proper view of the sea."
Harry rested his head on Severus' shoulder. Severus put an arm around Harry's waist, and they stood together for a moment to enjoy the peace, maybe for the last time until the ceremony was over and they moved on to the "honeymoon" portion of this bonding experience.
They'd checked into their suite, and Severus was neatly stowing his clothing away in the wardrobe. Harry lay on the bed and watched him. They could hear the girls chattering excitedly as they explored the rooms and the balcony overlooking the ocean. Severus had been right – Harry's first view of the cliffs and the ocean had literally stolen his breath. This was the perfect spot from which to join his life to the only man he would ever love.
"Aren't you going to unpack?" Severus asked.
"Why bother? We're only here tonight and tomorrow night," Harry pointed out. "Then we'd just have to pack it all back up. Seems like a waste of time to me."
"You are slovenly," Severus noted.
Harry shrugged. "I'd rather watch you."
Snape turned to stare at him, and Harry was instantly hard at the barely-controlled lust he saw in those black eyes. "You look imminently fuckable sprawled out there on the bed."
Harry closed his eyes against the spike of desire that coursed through him. It had been almost a week since he'd come last, and he knew he wouldn't last long if Severus decided to push him. "No sex, remember?" he said weakly, his voice entirely lacking in conviction.
Snape swooped to the bed and sat on the edge. "Did I say anything about having sex? I only commented on how fuckable you look."
"You bastard," Harry groaned, using all of his will power not to strip off his trousers and take hold of himself. "Stop saying 'fuck'."
Severus knew exactly what effect his voice would have on Harry, and he smiled a slightly evil smile. "I think it would behoove us to relieve you of your acute need before our wedding night. Else I fear the festivities will be over before they ever really begin."
Harry knew that was likely true. He also knew that Severus would have him ready to go again in minutes.
"You never have learned self-control, have you, Potter?" Snape growled, injecting into his voice some of the venom he used to direct at Harry years ago. He leaned menacingly close to Harry, their mouths almost touching. "It's one of the things I like best about you."
Severus' mouth came crashing down on Harry's at the same time the palm of his hand pressed down on Harry's erection, exerting just the slightest pressure. It was all Harry needed, and after two wriggles of his hips that caused a delicious rubbing sensation on his cock, Harry came in his pants.
"You bastard," Harry repeated, smiling up at Severus once the waves of pleasure had receded to a dull sense of well-being.
Severus kissed him again until a small voice said, "Da, are you taking a nap?"
Severus surreptitiously removed his hand from Harry's groin and pulled away from him slightly. Harry sat up, hoping Emily wouldn't notice the wet spot on his trousers.
"No, honey," he said. "Just resting. Where's your sister?"
"She's getting her bathing suit on. She wants to go to the pool. Can we go?"
"Sure," Harry said. "Go get your suit on."
Emily skipped happily to the room she shared with Erica. Harry kissed Severus hard on the mouth. "I'm sorry I don't have time to return the favor."
"It is no matter," Severus assured him, running a finger down Harry's cheek. "I have much more self-control than you have. I will not be a problem tomorrow night."
"I accept your challenge," Harry said with an impish grin. "But now, I have to go."
Harry jumped off the bed and rummaged through his trunk. "Coming to the pool with us?"
"I will stay here and unpack."
Harry smiled. He knew when he returned, his things, as well as the girls', would be put neatly away. Locating his swim trunks, Harry wandlessly shut the door, cast a glamour over his wedding present, and dropped his trousers and pants in one quick motion. Severus stared hungrily as Harry removed his shirt as well.
"Sure you don't want to come?" Harry asked, swiveling his hips shamelessly, making his package swing tantalizingly. His double entendre would have been obvious to a troll.
Severus licked his lips, then swallowed audibly. "I could be convinced to reconsider."
"Da! Hurry up!" Erica said from the other side of the door.
Harry smiled mischievously and put his swim suit on quickly. "Alas!" he said, his tone playfully imperious. "I fear I must go."
"Cretin. Go before I take matters into my own hands. I will join you in a while," Severus promised.
Harry opened the door, but before he left, he whispered, "No wanking." Then he winked and left Severus alone with his stiffy.
"Shouldn't you be more nervous?" Hermione asked. "You're getting married tomorrow."
Harry sipped his drink and smiled as the smooth flavor danced over his tongue. "You planned all this, Hermione. And the people here are taking care of all the details. And I'm bonding tomorrow with the only man I've ever loved. What do I have to be nervous about? " Harry waved at Erica, who sat floating in an inflated yellow duck, splashing happily. His eyes automatically sought out Emily, swimming a short distance away with water wings on her arms.
"I'm so happy for you, Harry. I've never seen you looking more content."
"I'm so lucky, Hermione. I've got two great kids, a job I enjoy, and a partner I love. My life is perfect." Harry immediately spotted Severus when he exited the hotel. "Look, here's the love of my life now. And doesn't he stand out like a sore thumb?" Severus, dressed in his customary head-to-toe black, looked austere, even menacing, amidst the gaily-clothed and scantily-clad vacationers surrounding the resort's pool.
Something was wrong, and Harry sat forward on the chair, setting his drink down quickly. Severus was searching the pool area, apparently looking for Harry, who had tucked himself away in a corner, attempting to be unobtrusive, with an air of urgency, almost hysteria, about him.
"Severus?" Harry asked softly.
Though he could not have heard his name over the noise of the crowd, Severus' eyes swung around and met Harry's, and he began moving swiftly toward where they sat, the crowd parting instinctively as he swooped through.
Even Hermione could feel his agitation now, and without even realizing she'd done it, her wand was in her hand.
Severus stopped by the pool's edge and wandlessly summoned both girls toward him. Emily protested, but Erica liked the ride and giggled. When they were at the edge of the pool, Severus levitated them out of the water, set them on the deck, and herded them toward Harry.
Harry and Hermione stood as they approached. "Severus, what's wrong?"
"We have to go," Severus announced tersely. He picked up towels and wrapped them around both girls. "Now. We have to go now."
Harry put a hand on his arm. "What's wrong?"
"Daddy! I don't want to go! I want to swim some more!" Erica protested.
"Hush, child!" Severus growled, and Erica began to cry. Emily stood staring up at Severus, her eyes wide with surprise and just a touch of fear.
Harry gathered Erica up into his arms. "Severus, you're scaring them. And me. Tell me what's going on!"
Severus scanned the area again, as though he expected an attack immediately. "Not here. We must get under cover."
His own fear spiking at Severus' demeanor and words, Harry took Emily by the hand. Severus took Harry by one arm and Hermione by another and apparated them back to their room.
Harry looked around the room and, perceiving no threat, let go of Emily's hand and placed Erica on the floor. "Why don't you girls go get changed," he suggested. "Maybe we can go back to the pool after dinner."
Severus preceded the girls into their bedroom. Once he was sure it was secure, he allowed them to enter.
"Now, what is going on?" Harry demanded.
"I . . . saw someone. As I was on my way to you. In the lobby."
"You saw someone?" Harry repeated, wondering who it could have been to have garnered such a reaction. "Who?"
"Your . . . what?" Harry asked, incredulous. "Are you sure, Severus? It's been a very long time since you've seen him. Maybe it was just someone who looked like him."
"It was him," Severus assured him. "He spoke to me."
"What did he say?"
"He said, 'Hello, son'."
Oh. Well that tended to support that the man was, indeed, Severus' father.
Harry stepped closer to Severus, wanting to comfort him, but not sure how. "You're very upset," he said quietly.
"We must leave here at once!" Severus announced.
"Why? Did he threaten you? Did he tell you what he wants?"
"I did not give him the opportunity. I threatened to hex him if he did not get out of my way, and I went to find you."
"And what do you think he wants?" Harry asked.
"He wants to take you and the girls away from me!" Severus said, anguished.
"He can't do that, Severus," Harry said, trying to soothe his upset lover. "No one can. We love you. But why do you think he wants to do that?"
"Because he has always taken everything that I love!" Severus said, nearly crying now in his agitation.
Harry put a steadying hand on Severus' arm and looked at Hermione. Their long-standing friendship allowed her to know exactly what Harry wanted without him having to speak a word.
"Why don't I take the girls back to my room?" she suggested. "I'll keep them there with me until you send for them."
Severus was torn between wanting to protect his children himself and needing to deal with this threat.
"You know she'll keep them safe, Severus," Harry pointed out softly.
"Apparate directly there!" Severus ordered. "Keep them inside. Let no one other than myself or Harry in."
"All right," Hermione agreed. She went into the bedroom to collect the girls and brought them back into the sitting room once they were both dressed.
Harry knelt in front of them. "Aunt Hermione's going to take you to her room for a while. Have fun and behave. We'll come to get you in a little bit."
"Is Daddy okay?" Emily asked with an anxious glance at her father.
"Daddy's fine," Harry assured her. "There's just something we need to take care of."
Erica let go of Hermione's hand and ran to Severus, hugging his legs. Severus dropped to his knees to envelop her in a hug. Emily ran to join them.
Severus hugged them tightly for a moment, then kissed both of them. "Go with Aunt Hermione. We'll come for you soon."
Hermione took both girls by the hand and looked at Severus. "We'll not let him hurt you," she promised. "None of us."
Severus smiled thinly at her, moved by her fierce protectiveness for him. "Thank you, Miss Granger. Just keep them safe."
"I will," she assured him, and with a pop, they were gone.
Harry immediately gathered Severus into his arms. He held him tightly for a time, until he felt a little of the tension drain from his lover's body, then led him to the bed and sat them both down. "Talk to me."
Severus' dark hair hung in his face, his head bowed. Harry made no move to brush it away.
"I've told you what my life was like. When I was a boy. My father was cruel and vicious. He hated magic. He hated my mother. He hated me. He took every last thing that meant anything to me away – a favorite toy, a book my mother had given me. When I was five, a stray dog adopted me. He was just an underfed mongrel pup, but I loved that dog. Maybe because he'd picked me. My father killed it one night. He was drunk, as usual, and the dog barked at him when he came staggering home from the pub. He . . ." Severus swallowed thickly, fighting the emotions dredged up by this memory. "He kicked the dog until it was no longer breathing. He made me watch. Told me if I closed my eyes, he'd do the same thing to my mother and then to me."
Harry listened silently, his hand tracing small circles on Severus' low back, his heart breaking with the pain of his lover's childhood, a pain which, Harry knew from experience, you never really got beyond, no matter how many years had passed or what you'd made of your life in the aftermath.
"Why do you think he's showed up now?" Harry asked.
Severus sighed, a wet, emotional noise. He really had loved that dog. "I can't help but think he's come to take away everything I love. Again."
Now Harry did tuck Severus' hair behind an ear so that he could see the man's face. "Look at me," he requested.
When Severus looked up, Harry said, "There is nothing he can do to you now, Severus. You are not that small and vulnerable five-year old boy. You're a grown man and a powerful wizard. Plus you've got me. If he's here to hurt you, he'll have to get through me first. And Hermione," he added in a lighter tone.
Severus' look of gratitude warmed Harry's heart just a little. "Do you think it's possible his being here is a coincidence?"
Severus snorted. "The Prophet has been full of nothing but the news of our bonding for weeks now. Everyone knows we're here."
"But your father is a Muggle. He wouldn't be reading The Prophet, would he?" Harry pointed out.
Severus shrugged. "I don't know how he knows, but his showing up here now, on the eve of our bonding, is not a coincidence."
They were silent for a moment, then Harry said, "Severus, I think you know how much I love you. Nothing will stop me from bonding with you, and if anyone tries, I will hex them myself. That being said, if you would like to postpone the ceremony, we can . . ."
"Harry," Severus interrupted.
"No," Harry bulldozed on. "If you would feel safer leaving here, we can do this another time. Because as much as I want to be your husband, I'd much rather see you happy and secure. The bonding can wait."
"And allow him to take from me what I want most? No. We will become a real family tomorrow, just as we had planned. I would like to know what his intentions are, however, to avoid surprises tomorrow."
"There's only one way to figure that out, isn't there?"
Severus nodded, looking anything but happy. "Yes. I'll have to talk to him."
"I'll respect the use of the singular pronoun, if that's what you want, love. But if you'd prefer, we could talk to him."
Severus reached over and took Harry's hand. "I would appreciate that. I may need you to keep me from doing something I'll regret."
Harry wondered if he was the best person for that job. He hated Tobias Snape more than he reckoned he'd ever hated anyone – Voldemort included. Who would keep Harry from killing the man?
Harry had been trying to wheedle Tobias Snape's room number out of the desk clerk for five minutes. Though the man seemed genuinely distressed that he couldn't provide Harry Potter with this one simple thing he was asking for, rules, he said, were rules.
Finally, Severus' patience expired. "Enough," he growled, and he stepped in front of the man, staring directly into his eyes. Since the man had been trying so hard not to share it, the information was sitting right there in his mind, just waiting for Severus to retrieve it. Once he had it, he turned abruptly away. "Let's go," he told Harry.
Harry trotted away behind Severus with a last apologetic glance back at the confused clerk.
Harry had to jog to keep up with Severus until he finally stopped before the door to Room 178. Severus raised his hand as if to knock but did not do so.
After a moment of silence, Harry said, "We don't have to do this, Severus."
"Yes, we do," Severus said quietly, and he rapped sharply on the door twice.
Only a moment passed before the door was opened by a man who could only be a close personal relative to Severus Snape. Father and son were the same height. Both had black hair, though Tobias' was streaked with gray. They had the same complexion, the same thin lips, the same hooked, overly large nose. The two men stood and regarded one another. Only Harry, who knew Severus so well, would have been able to see the signs of tension in Severus' body – the slightly flaring nostrils, the fingers curled but deliberately not clenched into fists, the set of the jaw.
Finally, the older man smiled. "Severus. I was so hoping you'd come. Would you like to come in?"
Severus did not want to go in, but he needed to, to get information and find out just what this man was after. Without speaking, Severus strode past his father and into the room. Tobias smiled hopefully at Harry as they followed Severus into the room, but Harry couldn't find it in his heart to smile back.
Once the older Snape had closed the door, he asked, "May I offer either of you a refreshment?"
Severus merely shook his head. Harry said, "No, thank you."
"Aren't you going to introduce me to your friend?" Tobias asked nervously. "I know, of course, who he is, but a formal introduction seems in order."
"Tobias Snape," Severus said stiffly. "Harry Potter. Harry and I are to be bonded tomorrow. As I'm sure you know."
"It is a great pleasure to meet you, Mr. Potter," Tobias said warmly. He made as though to offer a hand to Harry in greeting, but something in the young man's expression made him rethink that. "I have read all about your engagement to my son in the paper."
Harry nodded curtly, unable to return any pleasurable feelings at meeting this man.
"What do you want?" Severus ground out.
"I wanted to get to know my son again. I wanted my son to get to know me. When I saw that you were to be married, I thought now . . ." He paused.
"You thought now would be the time to come forward to extort money from me?" Severus guessed, his black eyes glittering with hatred.
"No!" the older Snape protested. "No, Severus. Although I can understand why you'd suspect my motives. I treated you horribly. Your mother as well. I cannot take away the pain I caused you when you were a boy. All I can do now is apologize and tell you that I have changed."
"Changed?" Severus spat. "People don't change."
"But I have, Severus. Eleven years ago, I found the Lord. I was in prison and joined a prayer group, mostly, I admit, for something to do, but it . . . changed my life," he said earnestly. "I came to see the error of my ways and all that I had wronged."
"I have no interest in your proselytizing."
"That's not what I'm doing," Tobias explained. "I'm happy with my faith, but I have no desire to convert others to it. I simply wanted you to know that I understand what I did was wrong, and I've come to ask for your forgiveness."
"Forgiveness?" Severus repeated with disbelief. "You want my forgiveness? Did you ask my mother for forgiveness? No, you couldn't, could you? Because she's dead!"
"I have had to make my peace with the fact that I cannot apologize to your mother, at least not in this lifetime. But I do believe that when she and I meet again, she will be able to find it within her to forgive me."
Severus snorted. "You don't know her as well as you apparently think you do. She became a different woman after you left – bitter. Forgiveness was not one of her character traits. I, on the other hand, rejoiced when you left and did not return."
"I understand your anger, Severus, and I do not blame you for it."
Severus snorted again. "How magnanimous of you. I do not believe you came here simply to lay eyes on me and beg for something I have no intention of giving to you. What will it take for you to go away and leave my family alone? Name your price." He'd bought peace from those odious O'Days – he had no qualms about doing the same from this man.
Tobias actually looked saddened by the offer. "I don't want your money, son."
"Do not call me that!"
"All right, Severus. I simply wanted to see you, to talk to you. I know how heroic you were in the war, and I know how successful you've become in your business. I've been keeping an eye on you from afar. You've made me very proud."
"Imagine how very much better I'll sleep tonight knowing I've earned your approval," Snape said, his voice as dry as the Sahara.
"Mr. Snape," Harry interjected. "If you don't mind my asking, how have you kept up with Severus? I mean, you're a Muggle. He doesn't get a lot of press in the Muggle papers, I'd imagine."
"But that's why now is the perfect time for me to come forward, on the eve of your wedding," Tobias said, pleased to have someone not quite so dour and intimidating to talk to. "Because I, too, have found happiness with someone. A woman I met at church. She and I have been married for twelve years. We have two children, a boy, age ten, and a girl who's eight. The boy starts at Hogwarts next year."
While Severus was pondering the horror of Tobias Snape inflicting his parenting skills on more children, something more obvious occurred to Harry. "Your wife is a witch?"
"She is," Tobias confirmed.
Severus saw red, and his wand appeared in his hand before he had time to think about it. "You son of a bitch!" he snarled, advancing on his father. "After everything! After . . . how much you hated that my mother was a witch! After how much you hated everything about me and my magic! You married another witch?!"
With a quietly spoken "Severus," Harry stepped in front of his lover.
"I understand the hyprocrisy, Severus, I truly do," Tobias said. "But I could not help the way I felt about Theresa. She is a fine woman who happens to be a witch. When I met your mother, when we married, when you were born, I was consumed by drink. I was unemployed and penniless. I was a miserable excuse for a man. You know this. But I have been sober for thirteen years. While in prison, I learned a trade, and while we are not wealthy, my wife and children want for nothing. We are a family, but we are not complete without you, my first born, and your new husband and your beautiful children."
Severus actually growled at his father's mention of the girls.
Tobias bravely continued on. "I came here today to invite you and your family to join me and mine, for us to become one family. I understand your anger, and I know I deserve it. I want nothing from you other than a relationship with my son. If you tell me that is impossible because of all that has passed, I will respect that, and you will never see me again."
Severus stared for a very long time at his father. Harry had been on the other end of Severus' legillimency often enough to know what was going on, and he waited patiently while Severus ransacked his father's mind.
Severus sifted through the memories one by one. He went quickly through the scenes of Tobias Snape with his new family. Going further back in time showed him in prison, learning a trade, finding religion, changing his life. Severus then watched the remembered fights with his mother, the yelling, the hitting, the cruelty. But there were other memories, too, which Severus himself had buried. Tobias Snape taking his son fishing, sitting up with a feverish toddler, throwing a ball with him in the yard. Severus jerked away from his examination of his father and simply stared at him.
After a moment of intensely uncomfortable silence, Severus said, "You may attend the ceremony tomorrow."
A genuine smile spread across Tobias' face. "Thank you, Severus."
"You may also bring your family, if you wish," Severus continued.
Astonishment joined the delight on Tobias' face. "I hadn't allowed myself to hope . . . Yes, yes, they'd love to come! They'll be overjoyed! I've told them all about you!"
"Tomorrow then." Severus nodded once, then turned to go. "Harry," he commanded.
But Harry wasn't ready to heel, not yet anyway. "I'd like a word with your father. Alone."
Severus' dark eyes searched Harry's green ones. Clearly, he wanted to ask why, but he controlled the impulse. "I will see you back in the room then." And without a further word or glance, he strode from the room, closing the door firmly.
Tobias Snape turned his eerily similar dark eyes on Harry, clearly puzzled.
Harry got right to the point. "Your son is the most powerful wizard I know, Mr. Snape. But if you hurt him again, you'll never get to find out just how powerful he is, because I'll get to you first." It was a threat and a promise.
Tobias actually smiled. "I'm so glad my son has found someone who loves him as much as you obviously do, Mr. Potter. You needn't worry about me. I have no intention of hurting Severus or anyone. I'm not that man any more."
"I hope that's true, Mr. Snape. For all our sakes."
Though he'd promised to meet Harry back in the room, Harry found Severus waiting for him in the hallway outside Tobias' room.
"That didn't take long," Severus noted.
Harry shrugged. "I didn't think it would."
"So what did you say?" Severus asked impatiently when it became apparent that Harry wasn't going to say anything further.
"I explained to him what he stood to lose if he hurt you again."
Severus was strangely pleased by this thought, but he didn't let it show. "I do not need your protection from my . . . from that man."
"I know that. I just wanted him to be clear."
They didn't speak again until they were safely inside their rooms.
"So. You have a brother and a sister," Harry said.
"It would appear so."
"Do you want to tell me what you learned during your little legillimency session there?"
Severus sighed. "He was telling the truth. He hasn't had a drop to drink in thirteen years. He is a firm believer in Christianity. He loves his wife and treats her with respect. He's never laid a hostile hand on his children or even spoken to them harshly."
"Well, that's all good. Right?" Harry asked. "Maybe he really has changed."
"Perhaps he has," Severus allowed. "But that doesn't mean that I can just forget how he treated me. And my mother."
"Of course it doesn't," Harry said soothingly. "Nor should you. But it shows that maybe this new man is worth getting to know. You have a brother and sister!" Even at his age, Harry still dreamed about having a family – his family – show up out of the blue. He couldn't imagine many things that would make him happier.
Severus, of course, knew this. And in typical Severus Snape fashion, he struck out at those around him when he was in emotional turmoil himself. "This isn't one of your pathetic adolescent fantasies of a family, broken apart by some tragic circumstance, being reunited after many years, Potter," he spit out.
That hurt, just a little, but Harry knew that one of the potential consequences of sharing anything personal with Severus was the possibility of having it thrown back in your face at some point. "I know," he said softly. "I'm sorry."
Severus huffed an exasperated sigh, disgusted with himself for lashing out at Harry, who had done nothing but stand by him for years. But Severus Snape hardly ever apologized, even when it really mattered, and he certainly wasn't going to do so now. "I saw other memories there, too. Memories involving me, as a youngster. Things I'd forgotten, or perhaps chosen not to remember. Things that were not all horrible."
That was Severus' apology, Harry knew, this explaining of the reason for his upset. And Harry accepted it as such, because another part of loving this difficult man was never hearing the words that others spoke and expected to hear as a matter of course. "I'm glad," Harry said quietly. And he was. He had no good memories of his own life prior to age eleven, and he was thrilled for Severus if he did. "And I'm glad you invited them to the ceremony."
"I did that so I could see for myself that his . . . children are fine. If I see any evidence that he is abusing them, or his wife, I will . . ." He left the threat unfinished.
"And I'll help you," Harry promised.
Severus surprised Harry by laughing, though the sound was devoid of any humor. "My life is surreal. I'm about to marry someone young enough to be my son. My father has married a woman who was a year ahead of me at Hogwarts. My children are young enough to be my grandchildren. What would Albus say if he could see me now?"
Harry took Severus' hand and rubbed his thumb over the knuckles. "He'd say that you are an extraordinary man, so why should you be leading an ordinary life?"
Severus looked down at Harry and smiled wryly. "What would I do . . ." Even now he couldn't express to Harry how much having the irritating pup in his life had come to mean to him. He squeezed Harry's hand, hoping that gesture could convey some of what he couldn't verbalize.
It did, and Harry squeezed back and smiled. "Shall I get the girls back?"
When Severus nodded, Harry withdrew his wand, conjured his patronus, and sent it bounding off to Hermione's room.
Severus stared at him, incredulous. He'd never seen Harry produce a messenger patronus, indeed he hadn't even known the young man could produce such a thing.
Harry enjoyed Severus' gobsmacked look. "What?" he said innocently.
"You . . . you can . . . I did not know you could do that."
"Mmmm. You know I produced a patronus for the first time when I was thirteen, yeah?" Severus nodded. Another incredible feat this young wizard had mastered well before his time. "Well, from there, the messenger wasn't all that hard. Hermione and Ron can do it, too."
"Oh." Severus was silent for a moment. "I cannot. Produce a patronus. With regularity, I mean. I've done it, twice, under extreme duress both times. I think you saw them both, actually."
Now it was Harry's turn to be stunned. He'd never known. Certainly since Voldemort's defeat, the need for a patronus hadn't presented itself, and Harry hadn't known Severus was incapable of performing this spell (or any spell, for that matter) whenever he chose to. He suspected he knew why, though, and his heart ached a little for Severus. He'd be willing to bet Severus could do it now.
"It's a useful little thing to know," Harry said as off-handedly as he could. "I'll teach you."
Severus stared at his young lover, soon to become his husband, his heart overflowing to the point of bursting with love for this generous, kind, desirable man who so shockingly had chosen Severus Snape, who was none of those things, to share his life with. "I'd like that," he said quietly.
Hermione knocked on the door and entered with the girls after Harry admitted them.
"Go get ready for dinner," Harry instructed, and the girls skipped off to their room.
"Is everything all right?" Hermione asked. "Where's Severus?"
"Lying down," Harry said. "I think everything's okay. Tobias has apparently cleaned up and sobered up. He's married another witch and has two young children. He came because he wants a relationship with his son."
"Well, that's good, isn't it?"
"I don't know. He hurt Severus pretty badly as a child. Those things are hard to get over. Severus did invite them to the ceremony tomorrow, so we'll see what happens, I guess."
Hermione nodded. "I'll alert the caterers that there will be four more for dinner. Oh, and I talked to the girls. They'll be staying with me and Ron tomorrow night."
"I don't know, Hermione," Harry said reluctantly. "I thought we'd spend our first night as a family together."
"You'll have hundreds . . . thousands . . . of nights to spend together. You should be alone on your wedding night."
Harry smiled at his friend. "What would I do without you?"
"I expect you'd manage," Hermione said as Harry pulled her into a hug. They stood this way for a moment, holding on to each other tightly.
"Do you two wish to be alone?" a dry voice asked.
Harry chuckled and stepped away from Hermione. "I was just thanking Hermione."
"I'm glad everything worked out, Severus," Hermione offered.
"Thank you for taking the girls. Will we see you at dinner?"
"Yes. I should go and get ready." She smiled warmly at them both and left.
Dinner had been eaten, the girls had been bathed and put to bed, and Harry was undressing for bed himself. Severus, already in bed with the covers pulled up to his chest, watched his young lover complete his ablutions, then flipped the blanket back in invitation.
Harry climbed in and snuggled close. "What a day!" he said with a sigh, burrowing under Severus' arm to rest his head on a bony shoulder.
"Mmm," Severus agreed, stroking Harry's messy head of hair. "I was thinking how much a rousing bout of mindless sex would help to alleviate the tension."
Harry lifted his head and peered blearily up at Severus, his green eyes solemn and sincere. "You know that if that's what you really need, I'll give it to you, yeah?"
Severus did know that. He contemplated for a moment telling Harry that he did, indeed, need to lose himself in the pleasure that was Harry's body, but decided against it. They'd made it this far – what was one more day? "I know," he said softly and placed a gentle kiss on Harry's forehead. "And as tempting as it would be, it would diminish the sacrifice we've made to date."
Almost humming with happiness, Harry snuggled back down on Severus' shoulder and spelled the lights off, plunging them into total darkness. "I don't know how I'm ever going to get to sleep. It's like Christmas Eve. Well, Christmas Eve with you, not Christmas Eve with the Dursleys. That was just another night."
Severus' hand resumed its ministrations to Harry's hair, first smoothing it down (sort of) one way, then ruffling it up worse than ever the other. As much as he teased Harry about his unruly hair, it was one of the things Severus secretly liked most about his young lover.
"Mmm, s'nice," Harry mumbled, his voice sounding sleepy despite his protestation that he wouldn't be able to sleep. Prone to insomnia at prior points in his life, he'd had no such problems since acquiring children. He always seemed exhausted when he hit the pillow, and tonight was no exception, despite the excitement he felt about what was to come.
"Are you ready for tomorrow?" Severus asked.
"Mm hmmm," Harry confirmed.
"No second thoughts?" Severus persisted.
"Well, there was that one moment of doubt when I saw those swimming trunks you bought, but I got over that by picturing taking them off you."
Severus smiled in the darkness. "Prat." He felt Harry's answering smile against his skin. "Go to sleep, love."
As if he'd been waiting for permission, Harry's body sagged even more, his breathing deepened and evened, and he was snoring lightly within moments. Severus continued stroking Harry's hair until he, too, succumbed to the pull of sleep.
Harry opened his eyes slowly, then stretched like a cat, his hand searching for Severus but finding only an empty expanse of sheets. Where was he? Harry yawned and sat up.
"The mummy awakens," Severus said, pushing his way into the room, a tray laden with breakfast things leading the way.
"Morning," Harry said, his smile brightening Severus' day like the sunshine outside never could.
"A good morning it is," Severus agreed, settling the tray on the bed. "It's going to be a beautiful day. Perfect for a bonding ceremony."
"We could be in the middle of a raging hurricane, and if I was bonding with you, I'd think the day perfect," Harry said sincerely. Not to mention, he thought to himself, I'd just cast a weather charm to fix that right quick.
Secretly pleased, Severus nevertheless rolled his eyes at Harry's sentimentality. "I thought you might like breakfast in bed."
Harry ran his eyes up and down his soon-to-be-husband and waggled his eyebrows up and down, a move that turned out more comical than it was sexy, but Severus suppressed his laughter. "What are you offering?" Harry asked, adding a leer for good measure.
Severus couldn't help it – he was just so damn happy – and he threw back his head and laughed. Pretending to pout, Harry plucked a piece of bacon from the tray and chewed it while sticking his bottom lip out.
Typical Harry – he was at his most sexy when he wasn't trying. Rather than making Severus feel repentant for laughing, he now felt like sucking that succulent lip into his mouth. Seeing no reason not to do just that, Severus sat on the edge of the bed and did so. Harry returned the kiss enthusiastically. Severus' tongue crept into Harry's mouth, and when they parted, Harry had lost possession of his bacon.
"Hey!" he spluttered. "That was . . . that was sneaky!"
Severus chewed happily. "You are not the first person to think I put the 'sly' in Slytherin."
Harry chuckled and took another piece of bacon. When he caught Severus eyeing him in a predatory manner, he made a great show of closing his lips together tightly to protect his treasure.
Severus leaned in close, his breath warm on Harry's lips. "Think I couldn't get that one as well if I set my mind to it?"
Harry chewed quickly and swallowed the large lump of bacon, then smiled triumphantly.
"Think you're clever, do you?" Severus asked, his voice a low purr.
Grinning broadly, Harry nodded.
"You'll just force me to put something down your throat that's longer than my tongue," Severus pointed out.
"Longer?" Harry repeated, his pulse quickening.
"Much longer," Severus assured him.
"That sounds . . . interesting," Harry said, his grin unfading. "It's pretty far down there, though. Think you've got what it takes?"
"I think you're about to find out." Severus leaned closer and captured Harry's lips again. The kiss started out demanding and only got more intense. Severus ran his hand up Harry's sheet-covered leg and rested it over the bulge that arose from Harry's groin. He began to stroke, and Harry groaned into his mouth. Severus' own cock lengthened in response to the stimulus.
"Are you eating breakfast in here?" a voice asked from the doorway.
Severus jerked guiltily away from Harry. Harry jumped and grabbed for the tray, dragging it quickly across his lap to hide his erection, and smiled at Emily.
"Morning, hon!" he said, his voice overly bright. "Yes, we're eating in here. Hungry?"
Emily ran and jumped onto the bed, causing the tray to sway and slop juice and tea out of their respective cups. She snuggled close to Harry and kissed his cheek. "Morning, Da."
Severus, still sitting on the edge of the bed and with no convenient objects to cover the sign of his own arousal, turned his back to Emily.
Harry hugged Emily with one arm, sparing a sympathetic glance for Severus.
"Daddy! Daddy!" Erica called from the other room. She ran into the bedroom. "Look outside!"
Back to normal, Severus stood and looked out the window. Erica joined him, pulling on his shirt until he lifted her into his arms. Together they looked out across the expanse of lawn between their suite and the cliffs.
"What is it?" Emily asked.
"It looks as though the circus has come to town," Severus said. Carnival rides dotted the lawn and ponies were milling about in a pen.
"What?" Emily screeched, and she launched herself off the bed, spilling breakfast beverages again.
"Can we go? Can we go?" both girls cried.
A knock sounded on the door.
"And this day started off so well," Severus complained.
"That's probably Hermione," Harry said from his spot under the breakfast tray. "She said she'd be here to help."
But it wasn't Hermione. Tobias Snape stood in the hallway, a woman and two children standing behind him.
Well, this morning was going downhill fast, wasn't it?
"Good morning, Severus," Tobias said, his happiness at being here evident.
Severus stared at them a moment before inviting them inside. Emily and Erica came out of the bedroom and stared at their visitors. Tobias smiled at the pajama-clad girls.
Without even realizing he was doing it, Severus stepped between his father and his daughters. Tobias noticed, and his smile faltered just a little, but didn't completely disappear. "They're beautiful, Severus," he said quietly.
Severus sighed and stepped back out of the way. "This is Emily and Erica," he said. "Girls, I'd like you to meet Tobias Snape, my . . . father."
The girls gaped up at the tall man standing smiling at them. "I'm so very glad to meet you," he said. The fact that he looked so much like Severus Snape might have been off-putting for most, but to Emily and Erica, who loved Severus, it was a comfort, and they smiled back without hesitation.
"And may I present my wife, Theresa," Tobias said.
Theresa stepped forward, a warm and genuine smile on her face, her hand extended to Severus, who took it into his own reflexively. He bowed formally over her hand and said, "A pleasure, madam."
"The pleasure is mine," she assured him. "You may not remember, but we were at Hogwarts together."
"Indeed, I do," Severus declared. "Theresa Wallbergen, as I recall? Ravenclaw?" He'd recognized her from his foray into his father's mind yesterday. The name and house had come to him last night.
Theresa smiled, delighted. "You do remember! It's very good to see you again after all this time."
Severus couldn't quite bring himself to reciprocate that sentiment, given the circumstances, so he merely nodded his acceptance.
"And these," Tobias said, "are your brother and sister, Joseph and Gwyneth."'
Joseph, tall for his age, stepped forward. Severus shook hands with the boy, studying his brother as he did so. There was no mistaking he was a Snape, but he was fortunate in that he'd inherited his mother's nose. With more normal-sized features, a willingness to smile, and a posture that spoke of easy confidence and not fiercely-held-together pride, the boy was almost handsome. Who'd have thought it possible – a handsome Snape! Severus looked deep and saw no signs of abuse of any kind.
He then turned his attention to the girl, his sister. She was obviously more shy than her older brother and stood at her mother's side. She favored her mother, except for the onyx eyes that came from her father.
"Hello, Gwyneth," Severus said.
"Hello," she answered, but she was more interested in the two girls in the room than she was any of the adults.
Harry emerged from the bedroom fully dressed. He'd heard unfamiliar voices and determined at once that it hadn't been Hermione at the door.
"Good morning," he said with a friendly smile.
Introductions were made, with Harry even charming a smile out of Gwyneth. Hermione finally made an appearance, and after another round of introductions, she said, "Severus, leave. Now."
"I beg your pardon!" he said with an affronted lift of an eyebrow.
"You shouldn't even be here now!" Hermione declared. "Don't you know it's bad luck for partners to see each other before the ceremony?"
"So why didn't you mention this yesterday?" Harry cried.
"Are you kidding?" Hermione scoffed. "I think the chances of getting hexed were pretty good if I tried to keep the two of you apart last night, don't you?"
Harry conceded she had a point by a slight tilt of his head in her direction.
"But now? Out!" she ordered, pointing at the door.
"Is this some sort of Muggle tradition?" Severus groused.
"Actually," Theresa spoke up, "it's a tradition common to both worlds."
Harry and Severus looked at each other and shrugged. Who knew?
"But why me?" Severus asked. "Why do I have to be the one to leave? And where will I go?"
"I was going to offer you my room," Hermione said. "I'll stay here and help Harry get ready." She eyed his hair critically. "He needs all the help he can get. I can pop back and forth between rooms if you think you'll need help, too."
"I assure you, Miss Granger," Severus said haughtily, "I have been dressing myself for years."
Hermione was undaunted. "You'll want everything to be perfect today, though, won't you?"
"I'd be happy to help, in whatever way I can," Theresa offered softly. "If it's all right with you, of course, Severus."
Severus was about to assure them all, as nicely as he could, that he didn't require anyone's assistance, when Hermione spoke up again.
"That would be great! Oh, I've had the perfect idea! I'll have Ron take the kids down to the rides, I'll help Harry get ready, and Mr. and Mrs. Snape can stay with Severus!"
Severus stared at Hermione. "Miss Granger, I'm beginning to remember why I disliked you so when you were a student."
Hermione had long ago lost any fear she had of this man. "Oh hush. You need to go and get ready in any event. Go on – go get your things." She made little shooing motions at him with her hands.
Harry saw the look in Severus' eyes and figured he'd better intervene before really bad things started happening. "Severus," he said quietly, stepping close to the man and intertwining his fingers with Severus'. "You'll regret it if you hex Hermione on our bonding day."
Severus' skeptically raised eyebrow told Harry just how little he would regret it.
"Okay," Harry said. "I'll regret it if you hex Hermione on our bonding day. Please. It's just easier to go along. I'll see you in a little bit. I promise."
Severus' nod was imperceptible to everyone but Harry.
"Let's just get your dress robe then," Harry said, more loudly. Tugging on Severus' hand, he towed him into the bedroom.
"Sorry about that," he said when they were alone. "I recognized that look in Hermione's eyes. Will you be okay with your dad?"
Severus sighed. "He's not the issue. I was hoping to have a leisurely morning with you. Breakfast in bed. That sort of thing."
"Well, I got the breakfast," Harry pointed out. "And if you stay, you'll probably distract me in that deviously sexy way you have."
Severus stepped into Harry's personal space and put his arms around his lover's waist. "Like this?" he murmured, and leaned in to kiss Harry.
Harry made a little huffing sound of surrender that went straight to Severus' cock. The kiss was demanding, all wet tongues and open mouths, until Harry pulled away. "Yeah, just like that."
"I could lock the door and throw you on the bed," Severus suggested, trailing a line of kisses down Harry's neck.
"I think . . . Hermione would break the door down."
"Could I hex her then?" Severus asked, nuzzling at Harry's shirt with his nose, trying to work his way underneath to kiss a shoulder.
"I might just let you then," Harry conceded, then he sighed and stepped backward. "But she's right. You need to go or I'll be naked when the ceremony begins."
Severus' eyes widened comically in appreciation at the image.
Harry laughed and retrieved Severus' new dress robes. He placed them up against Severus' chest, creating a barrier between them. "I look forward to taking that off of you tonight."
Severus leaned in and stole another quick kiss. "I'll be counting the minutes." Resigning himself to getting through the next few hours, Severus turned and went bravely to face the tyrant.
Harry fidgeted nervously in his new bottle green dress robes. Hermione, who had been joined by Mrs. Weasley, was in the girls' bedroom helping them to dress and fixing their hair. Erica came skipping out in a white frilly dress, her hair braided with flowers.
"You look like a princess!" Harry told her.
Erica smiled happily, then jumped into Harry's arms for a hug. Emily entered, followed by Hermione and Mrs. Weasley. Erica slid to the floor. "Is it time yet?"she asked, bouncing excitedly.
"Almost," Molly Weasley said. "Harry, dear. You look absolutely stunning. That color really brings out your eyes."
"Thanks, Mrs. Weasley," he said, giving her a hug. "Emily, you look beautiful."
"So do you, Da."
"Can I go see Daddy?" Erica asked.
"I don't see why not," Harry said. "I'll take you."
"You'll do no such thing, Harry Potter!" Mrs. Weasley said at the same time as Hermione said, "Nice try, Harry. I'll take them down."
"All right," Harry agreed. "A few minutes alone might not be a bad idea."'
Harry sat with a quiet sigh when the room was devoid of females. He cast a quick tempus – in twenty-eight minutes, he and Severus would begin the ceremony that would bind them for life. Full of happy expectation, Harry conjured his messenger stag and sent it bounding off in search of its intended target with a simple message: "I love you, and I can't wait to see you again."
Severus had chased everyone out of the bedroom of the Weasleys' two-room suite. He had had enough of the fussing. He was bathed and dressed, and no amount of adjusting this or that was going to make him any more presentable. All that was left was to wait until it was time to go down to the lawn and bind himself to Harry Potter.
Harry Bloody Potter. There were times, still, when Severus felt himself amazed at how his life had turned out. A small part of him was still convinced that one day, Harry would wake up horrified at how he'd spent the last few years of his life and with whom he'd spent them. Maybe today would be that day. Maybe, when Severus made his way down to the dais set up below for the ceremony, Harry wouldn't be there. He could picture himself telling everyone that Harry was perpetually late and that they should just wait a bit for him. But he knew, and he could tell from the looks on everyone's faces that they knew, too, that Harry wasn't running late, but that the desirable young man had finally come to his senses and had bolted as fast and as far as he could. Severus could feel the humiliation he would experience as their closest friends looked on, none of them surprised, all of them doing nothing to hide their relief at Harry's defection. He could feel the humiliation – and the mind-numbing grief that would accompany losing Harry.
Severus stood up and began to pace. Maybe . . . maybe he should avoid that little scene that had just played out in his head and leave now – make a preemptive strike of sorts. Could he do it, he wondered? Could he leave Harry, and the girls, and the life they'd made together?
This is the question he was debating when a ghostly stag burst through the wall to stand before him, pawing at the thick pile carpet. Harry's voice spoke to him. "I love you and I can't wait to see you again."
Severus felt his knees weaken as relief flooded through him. He reached out in wonder to touch the stag, but it flickered twice then disappeared before he got to within inches of it.
Harry hadn't left. Harry was waiting for him. Harry loved him.
Severus picked up his wand and let that feeling fill him completely. When he thought he might explode from the sheer brilliance of the bliss he felt, he said, "Expecto patronum."
From the tip of his wand burst a silver cat. It landed on the floor, then looked up at Severus expectantly. Surprised, Severus nonetheless closed his eyes, thinking only of the message he wanted to convey to his betrothed. Then he opened his eyes and said, "Go."
And the cat did.
Harry cast another tempus – T minus twenty-three minutes and counting. He had planned to wait until ten minutes before the ceremony to make his way downstairs, but this waiting was starting to drive him spare. Maybe he'd go down now, see how everything looked, walk off some of this nervous energy. He stood up to do just that when something astonishing happened.
A cat, made of nothing but silvery mist, walked through the door as though it owned the place. It sat on the rug at Harry's feet and looked up at him.
"Hello," Harry said, beginning to suspect who had sent the message. His suspicion was confirmed when the cat "spoke". "Thank you, Harry. Self-doubt was threatening to overwhelm me when your message arrived. I now feel quite at ease. Rest assured that I return your affections and that I, also, anxiously await the moment when next we can be together."
Harry's eyes filled up with tears as the cat disappeared. They'd discussed the mechanics of the messenger patronus charm last night, but Severus hadn't even so much as attempted it. On what must have been his very first attempt, he'd cast the beautiful feline that had just visited Harry. And he'd told Harry, in Severus' own inimitable way, that he loved him. Harry thought he probably looked a little goofy, smiling so wide his face hurt, in the middle of an empty room, but he didn't care.
He managed to wait another ten minutes before his desire to see Severus made him move. He'd just left the suite when he met Hermione escorting the girls back.
"How are you, Harry?" Hermione asked.
"I'm good," he said. "Great, actually."
"Severus is surprisingly calm," she reported. She'd expected him to be a bundle of nerves.
Harry smiled. "I know."
"Da?" Emily said.
"Lift me up."
"Daddy asked me to give you something."
Harry waited, expecting a kiss on the cheek. Instead, Emily reached up with both hands and completely wrecked the smoothed-down hairdo Hermione had spent thirty minutes on. Harry threw back his head and laughed.
"Oh no! Harry! Your hair!" Hermione wailed.
Harry set Emily back on her feet. When it looked like Hermione was going to attempt to flatten his hair out again, Harry grabbed her hand. "Let it be, Hermione," he requested.
Though she was nearly twitching with the effort to contain herself, she nodded her understanding.
Harry was waiting in the tent set up for this purpose, Emily and Erica telling him all about the carnival rides that had since disappeared. When he heard Severus' voice, speaking presumably to his father, just outside the tent, his pulse quickened, and the sound of the girls' chatter faded from his ears. When Severus passed through the flap and entered the tent, Harry only had eyes for him.
Severus walked toward Harry and stopped in front of him. Harry reached out and hooked Severus' fingers with his own. "You ready?"
"Quite," Severus assured him. "You look . . . incredible."
Harry smiled, pleased with the praise. "You, too. I love that color on you. What do you call it?"
"Black," Severus said wryly.
"It suits you." Harry squeezed Severus' fingers when he recognized the strains of the music they (or rather, Hermione) had chosen for their processional. In return, Severus kissed him on the forehead.
"Ready, girls?" Harry asked.
"Yes!" Erica said.
Both girls took their baskets full of red rose petals. Emily had seen a program on the telly where a little girl had strewn rose petals on a white carpet runner prior to the bride being escorted down the aisle by her father. She'd begged to be allowed to do the same during the bonding ceremony. They had no carpet, Harry certainly was no bride, and his father was long gone, but there had been no reason not to allow it, and Harry had requested that Hermione work it into the ceremony.
"Ready, Erica?" Emily asked.
When Erica nodded, Emily took her hand and led her out of the back of the tent. Once the tent flap had closed, Harry turned to Severus. "That's our cue."
Hand in hand, they emerged from the tent into the beautiful sunshine. They both watched proudly as Emily and Erica walked slowly down the length of the white runner, dropping rose petals, towards the assembled guests. Even from behind, they could tell that Erica was talking and Emily was trying unobtrusively to shush her.
Once the girls reached the dais, Harry and Severus started their slow, stately walk. Severus, feeling more than a little foolish, kept his head high and his eyes forward. Harry was grinning uncontrollably, infecting all of their guests with his joy. A photographer snapped photos regularly.
"Soooo . . . a pussy cat, huh?" Harry asked. "I thought your patronus was a doe."
"One's patronus can change if one undergoes a life-altering event," Severus reminded him.
Severus slanted a look at Harry. "That should be obvious."
"Hmm. Just wondering what your new patronus says about you." Harry's tone was light and teasing.
"Not what you apparently think it does," Severus assured him.
Harry's smile grew impossibly wider.
They reached the dais at last and turned to face their guests. Arthur Weasley joined them.
"Friends, family and loved ones," Arthur said, beaming happily down at those assembled. "Join with me in celebrating this union between Severus Snape and Harry Potter as their paths merge to become a singular road paved with love." He turned to Harry and Severus. "You are aware of the seriousness of the vows you are about to make and of the responsibility that arises from a partnership such as this one you are about to enter. If in your hearts you know of any reason why you should not enter into this partnership today, I charge you to state them now, as a bond can only create a successful partnership if it is based on honesty and trust."
Arthur waited a token amount of time for either Severus or Harry to speak. When they did not, he said, "Then I pronounce you ready to bond."
"Cool," Harry said, causing those assembled to smile. Arthur returned to his seat while Molly took his place on the dais.
Molly took Harry by the hand and smiled at him. "What is your name?"
"Harry James Potter."
"And what is your desire?"
"I desire to bond with the one I love."
Molly now took Severus' hand in her other and smiled at him, disconcerting him just a little. "And what is your name?"
"Severus Tobias Snape," he intoned.
"And what is your desire?"
"I desire to bond with the one I love."
"Harry, will you have this man as your partner, living together in marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, and keep him, in sickness and in health, for as long as you shall draw breath?' Molly asked.
"I will," Harry promised sincerely.
Molly repeated the question to Severus, and after he replied with his assurances, she placed Harry's hand inside of Severus' then covered both with her own hands. "Will you seek to be honest with each other in all things?" she asked.
"We will," they said together.
"And will you support each other in times of distress?"
"And will you temper your words and actions with love?"
Harry cocked an eyebrow at Severus at this one, which caused an answering raised eyebrow, then both said, smiling slightly, "We will."
"These things you have promised to each other. May you be bound by these promises for all of eternity." She turned to the guests. "Will those of you present today and witnessing the promises Harry and Severus have made to each other assist and support them as they endeavor to keep these promises and honor one another in their bond?"
A murmur of, "We will," from the crowd was the answer.
Molly turned back to the couple. "Then I pronounce you ready to bond."
She kissed Harry, then Severus, on the cheek and returned to her seat.
Harry and Severus now turned to face one another. It was time for the vows they'd written for each other. Harry had agonized over what to say, wanting Severus to know exactly how he felt yet sure in the knowledge that the man would be extremely uncomfortable with that in such a public setting. For that very reason, he didn't expect much in the way of sentiment from Severus beyond a very general declaration of affection and commitment. He'd jokingly told Ron he expected Severus to say, "I find you marginally tolerable" and nothing else.
Harry took a deep breath and began. "Since before I can even remember, you have been protecting me and watching out for me. I know I never thanked you then, and I can only hope I've expressed my gratitude adequately somewhere along the way since. Thank you for fulfilling me, for supporting me, for making me the best that I can be. You have become every bit the man Albus Dumbledore knew you could be. I love you, Severus Tobias Snape, and I will love you until the day that I die."
Harry bowed his head and kissed Severus' hand, still clasped in his own, then raised his head and awaited Severus' vows.
Severus had written nothing down, had practiced no flowery speeches. But the words came to him now as though inscribed in his heart. "I have done many things in my life of which I am not proud," Severus began, speaking loudly so that all could hear what was in his heart. "When I finally found myself in the depths of hell, I thought I deserved to be there, and I was happy to remain. And then you showed up, and in your inimitably annoying way, you convinced me that I had something worth living for. For that, I owe you my life.
"Extraordinarily, you refused to go away, and you wormed your way into my new life. You refused to run when I tried to chase you away, and you bared yourself to me in ways beyond my comprehension and that I could not refuse. For that, I owe you my heart.
"When I sought to turn my lifelong love into a vocation by which I could earn my way through my new life, you were there, offering assistance and support, both monetary and otherwise. For this, I owe you my livelihood.
"And when I thought I had all I could ever desire and so much more than I ever deserved, you brought two perfect, wonderful children into my life. I had never dared to dream that I might have a family such as this, but you have made it possible. For this, I owe you my soul."
Tears had started in Harry's eyes, and he tried valiantly not to lessen Severus' wholly unexpected declaration by shedding them. Which worked until he blinked, causing one fat tear to roll down each cheek. Severus reached up to cup Harry's jaw in both his hands, brushing the tears away with his thumbs. Looking straight into Harry's eyes, and speaking only for him, he said, "I love you, Harry Potter, and I will until the day that I die."
Harry reached up to touch Severus' cheek in wonder, overcome by the sentiment, then reached up on his toes to kiss Severus softly on the lips.
Harry's eyes weren't the only moist ones in the crowd. Only the children seemed unaffected by Severus' words. Harry wanted nothing more than to burrow his way into Severus' embrace and never come out again, but they had a ceremony to finish. He cleared his throat, hoping he could speak without embarrassing himself.
"I, Harry, take you, Severus, as my life partner. Always I will strive for your happiness and welfare. Let my love be your treasure when life's coffers are low, your medicine when you are ill, your laughter when your heart is touched by sadness, your light in the darkest of nights. All this I promise you with all the love that is in my heart."
"I, Severus, take you, Harry, as my life partner. Always will I strive for your happiness and welfare. Let my love be your cushion when life knocks you down, your feast when life's banquet seems empty, your dreams when you lose hope, your ground when life's storms threaten your skies. All this I promise you with all the love that is in my heart."
Feeling on firmer ground now, Harry smiled up at Severus. "Severus, I ask you to be my partner in life. I ask that you accept my strengths and my weaknesses as I promise to accept yours."
"Harry, I ask for your support and strength when my own fail, as I promise my strength and support to you in your times of need."
Together they said, "I bring you, with the best of intentions, my love, my understanding. I give you all that I have, all that I am, all that I hope to be."
Holding hands, they turned to face Ron as he made his way up onto the dais. He smiled thinly at them, his eyes suspiciously red. He held up one hand, in which rested two gold rings.
"These rings," he said, "a token of your love for one another, serve as a reminder that life is a circle, with no beginning and no end. As honesty and love build and grow, so will your bond."
He handed one ring to Harry, who took Severus' hand into his own. "This ring I give you as a symbol of my love and the promises that I have made to you." He slid the ring onto Severus' finger. With a small glow and a bit of warmth, the ring sized to its owner's finger.
"I shall wear this ring as a symbol of your love and of the promises you have made," Severus said.
Ron then gave the other ring to Severus, and the words were repeated as he slid that ring onto Harry's finger.
Harry then withdrew from his own pocket two much smaller rings. He handed one of them to Severus, and the two men simultaneously bent to one knee. Harry took Emily's hand and Severus took Erica's hand, and Harry said, "These rings we give to you as a symbol of our love and the promise we make to you that we will love you as long as we live and that we will provide for you as long as you require it. And maybe even beyond that," he added with a smile. The rings were placed on the girls' fingers, both children beaming at their fathers.
Harry and Severus stood again, and Ron and Hermione changed places. In her hand, Hermione held a small silver knife and a braided cord, colored red, gold, silver and green. She took Severus' right hand into her own and made a small cut in his palm. She then did the same to Harry's before pressing their palms together. "As the blood of your bodies joins and becomes one, so do your lives and souls merge. The giving of the essence of the self, the sacrifice of something vital, will strengthen the bond between you."
Hermione now wrapped the braided cord around their clasped hands. "Woven into this cord," she said, "are the hopes of your friends and family for your new life together." She tied the cord into a knot. "With the fashioning of this knot, I tie all the desires, dreams, love and happiness wished here on this day and in this place for as long as you shall draw breath. By this cord, you are thus bound to your vow. May this knot remain tied as long as you shall draw breath."
Hermione magically removed the cord from their hands, leaving the knot undisturbed. She set the cord aside and removed her wand. She first took Harry's hand, healed the cut magically, and placed a kiss on his hand where the cut had been.
Severus's eyes widened. Surely she would not . . . but yes, she did. She healed his palm and placed a kiss in his hand as well. Then she smiled up at him, and he could see in her eyes that she realized she had disconcerted him and was very pleased by that fact.
Hermione resumed her seat, and Minerva joined them on the dais, still dabbing at her eyes with a tartan handkerchief.
"May the winds of communication blow ever strong between you," she said. "May the fires of love sustain you. May the waters of life heal and soothe you. And may the strength of the Earth bind and steady you throughout your time together.
"May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door.
"May the light of friendship guide your paths together. May the laughter of children grace the halls of your home. May the joy of living for one another trip a smile from your lips and a twinkle from your eye.
"May you always have walls for the winds, a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire, laughter to cheer you, those you love near you, and all that your heart might desire.
"You have made your vows, one to the other, before this company, and exchanged tokens of your love. In the binding of yourselves, you have created life anew. Step forth, therefore, into that new life, and rejoice in your love." She turned to face the assembled guests. "Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the Potter-Snapes."
Their guests stood and applauded as Harry beamed back at them and Severus looked his usual austere self, or as austere as he could look with Erica dropping the rest of her rose petals onto his shoes.
Severus was content to sit in a quiet, shadowy corner of the room and watch the goings-on around him. Their guests seemed to be having a great time if the noise level and the amount of spirits being consumed was any indication.
As they had been doing with frequency, his eyes sought out Harry, his husband – his husband! That would take some getting used to! He was currently sitting at a small table with Ron and Minerva, yet another glass of champagne in his hand, his head thrown back as he laughed at something Minerva had said. Merlin, but he was beautiful – his ever-messy hair, the line of his jaw, the curve of his neck, those damnably green eyes. He looked forward to tonight, to running his hands through that hair, to trailing kisses over that jaw and down that neck, to making those eyes dilate with pleasure and roll up into his head.
Severus gave himself a mental shake – best not to go down that road, not yet anyway.
He'd been so absorbed in watching Harry, he'd failed to notice that Hermione had come to stand beside him. His reflexes could use a little fine-tuning, he thought.
"He looks so happy," she said.
"He's consumed quite a quantity of champagne," Severus pointed out.
"He looked that way before he started drinking," Hermione rejoined. "You do that to him. Thank you."
Severus looked up at her, then back to Harry. "If anyone should feel gratitude, it is I."
"Don't sell yourself short," she ordered. "Have you seen Erica? I thought I'd take the girls up to bed now. Emily's pretty tired."
Severus twitched his outer robe back to reveal Erica, slumped against his side, fast asleep. She'd crawled in there twenty minutes ago and had fallen asleep immediately.
Hermione smiled down at her. "Definitely ready for bed. Shall I take her?"
Severus gathered Erica up into his arms and stood up with her. "Harry will want to say good night."
As though he knew he was being discussed, Harry looked over at them. He smiled brightly and gave them a little wave.
"Come over here," Severus mouthed at him.
Harry looked surprised. "Who, me?" he asked.
Severus rolled his eyes. "No, the hippogriff standing behind you. Yes, you!"
Harry turned dramatically and looked behind him, then looked back at them and giggled.
"Get over here, you imbecile!" Severus growled.
Harry said something to Ron and stood, swaying only slightly, before making his way a little unsteadily toward them.
"Aw, someone's all partied out!" he said upon seeing Erica.
"Miss Granger is taking the girls to bed. I thought you might like to say good night before they go."
"'Course I do." Harry bent down and kissed Erica on the forehead. "Good night, angel," he whispered. "Where's Emily?"
"She's with Molly," said Hermione, pointing across the room. Emily sat on Molly's lap, watching Arthur perform Muggle magic tricks with silver rings.
The small group made its way across the room. When they reached the Weasleys, Severus announced, "Emily, it's time for bed."
Emily yawned. "But I'm not tired."
"Aunt Hermione is," Severus countered. "She needs to go to bed."
Emily slid off Molly's lap, hugged both Weasleys and bid them good night. After receiving hugs from both of her fathers, Severus transferred Erica to Ron, who had come to join them. With a final chorus of good nights, Ron and Hermione took the girls off.
Minerva approached them now. "I, too, hear my bed calling. I shall call it a night. Thank you for inviting me, and congratulations to both of you."
Harry reached up and kissed Minerva on the cheek. "Thank you for coming. Will we see you in the morning?"
Minerva's eyes twinkled mischievously. "I will be present at breakfast. You two, though, may be too . . . exhausted to rise that early."
"I certainly hope so," Harry said gleefully, while Severus blushed.
Pleased with herself, Minerva took her leave.
Molly and Arthur stood up now. "Good night, gentlemen," Arthur said. "And congratulations again." He shook both their hands heartily.
Molly hugged them both. "I am so happy for you. Thank you for letting us be a part of your special day."
"It wouldn't have been as wonderful without all of you," Harry assured her.
"We will see you tomorrow, yes?"
"Yes," Harry promised, and the Weasleys took their leave.
Harry turned to Severus. "Looks like we're all alone." Tobias and his family had left soon after the meal was served, something about needing to get back home and put the children to bed. Harry, of course, hadn't been able to let them go without requesting that Joseph and Gwyneth spend a few days with them soon.
"I'm glad to see the alcohol you consumed hasn't dimmed your admittedly already suspect powers of observation."
Harry giggled. "You use big words."
Severus snorted. None of the words he'd used were all that large.
"I danced with everyone tonight," Harry noted. This was true – not only had Harry danced with all of the females present (including members of the wait staff), he'd coerced Arthur into twirling him once around the dance floor and had slow danced with an equally inebriated Ron Weasley to the amusement of the other guests. "Everyone except you."
Severus Snape didn't dance, not in public any way, where others could see him. But they were alone now, and he pulled Harry into his arms. "There's no music."
"Don't you hear it?" Harry asked from somewhere down by Severus' right armpit. "I can hear it."
As Severus pulled Harry closer, he thought maybe he could.
They held each other tightly for a while, swaying slightly. "Shall we adjourn to our room?" Severus finally asked, somewhat concerned that Harry would fall asleep in his arms.
"Thought you'd never ask," was Harry's response.
When the door closed behind them, Severus eyed Harry, his gaze predatory. He'd been deprived for long enough. He'd waited forever, it seemed, to partake of his lover's delights, and he didn't intend to wait much longer.
Harry sighed and flopped down onto the bed. "That was great!" he declared happily. "Start to finish. I'm so glad we asked everyone to have a part in the ceremony. Wasn't that just perfect?"
Severus sat on the edge of the bed. "It went well," he agreed. "But how could it dare be otherwise, with Hermione Granger in charge?"
Harry snorted. "Did you see her berate that waiter when he brought out the wrong champagne?! She reminded me of you."
"You seemed inordinately fond of that champagne."
"Mmm," Harry said, smacking his lips. "Tasty. Wish I had some now. Oh, look!" Harry had spotted a bottle on the bedside table. "This is like a seaside room of requirement!" he said, delighted. "Want some?"
"No, thank you. I have had enough. As, I think, have you."
"You think I'm drunk!" Harry squinted at Severus through one eye, tried to sit up, failed, and fell back down. He gigged like a five-year old girl. "I think you're right!"
"Of course I'm right," Severus said, laying on his side next to Harry, head propped up on one hand. "When have you known me to be wrong?"
Severus reached for Harry, intending to take full advantage of his partner's compromised condition, but Harry suddenly bolted up and off the bed, his tipsiness overcome by sheer excitement. Severus' eyes gave a frustrated little roll.
"That reminds me!" Harry said. "I got you a present. Well, several actually." The rest of what Harry said was lost to Severus when the young man bent into his trunk and rummaged for something. While he waited, Severus amused himself by picturing Harry bent over like that, unclothed.
"Ah ha!" Harry finally said, and he stood up again, a bottle of amber-colored liquor in his hand. He came back to the bed and presented it to Severus, displaying it as though it were a valuable artefact.
Severus sat up and took the bottle. "Machiavalia," he breathed. Purportedly the world's best Scotch, made by Muggles, one bottle cost roughly half what Severus' monthly teaching salary had been. He looked up at Harry with gratitude approaching awe. "How did you know I've always wanted to sample this?"
Harry shrugged, chuffed he'd been able to wow Severus. "You like Scotch. This is supposed to be the best."
"Not supposed to be," Severus corrected. "Is the best."
"How do you know if you've never tasted it?"
"You have to understand the process, Harry. You see, Machiavalia is produced only from water and malted barley at a single distillery in Speyside, Scotland, an area renowned for the quality of its whiskey. Some of the most famous distilleries in the world are found on the River Spey. Machiavalia malts its own barley and distills its product three times, rather than the standard twice."
Harry settled back against his pillow and closed his eyes. "You keep talking. I'm just going to lay here and listen." He then gave a very convincing little snore.
"You are . . ." Wrapped up in this wondrous treasure, Severus had been about to list Harry's perceived faults, but then thought better of it. This was, after all, their wedding night, and they likely had better ways of spending their time. "Right," he continued. "You are right." He set the bottle very carefully on the bedside table, and then leaned over to kiss Harry, causing Harry's eyes to pop open.
"Thank you Harry. I shall save this for a very special occasion."
"Our anniversary, perhaps?" Harry suggested, sitting up next to Severus on the bed.
"A truly worthy occasion," Severus conceded.
"We can have a little glass a piece on this day every year."
Severus cocked an eyebrow at him. "You thought I was going to share?"
Harry laughed. "Not your strong point, I admit, but I can be very persuasive."
Severus' other eyebrow joined the first, then he nodded his concession of that point. "I was going to save this for later," after a rousing round of sex, "but as you've given me your own generous gift, I feel as though I should give you mine."
"You already did, Severus," Harry said sincerely.
Severus snorted. "Are you going to channel Albus Dumbledore and tell me the gift of my wonderful self is all you'll ever need?"
"No. Even though it's true. No, the gift was your saying those things to me today, in front of everyone. That was . . ." Harry felt tears pricking behind his eyes at the memory. "I appreciated it. Thank you."
"I don't often give voice to such maudlin expressions of sentiment obviously. But please don't operate under the delusion that because I don't declare my affection, I do not feel it."
"Huh?" Harry said with a mischievous grin.
Severus couldn't help but smile back. "You are an imbecile, Potter."
"Shouldn't that be 'You are an imbecile, Potter-Snape'?"
"I stand corrected." Severus leaned over and kissed Harry thoroughly. Harry responded heatedly, and Severus thought finally – finally! – they could get to the interesting part of the evening.
Until Harry pulled away and said, "Did you say you had a present for me?"
Severus sighed again. "Yes. In my trunk. The wooden box."
Harry bounded off the bed and crossed the room in two eager strides. He flipped Severus' trunk open and easily found the box since it was the only item inside. He reverently lifted it out and carried it back to the bed, where he sat next to Severus and looked up at him with large, expectant eyes.
It was the look Harry gave him whenever Severus favored him with a gift, and it was a look that never failed to move Severus somewhere deep inside because he knew that look was mired in memories of a little boy unwanted by those who were supposed to care for him. "Aren't you going to open it?" he asked, his voice hoarse.
With one last look of deep gratitude, which twisted Severus' insides just a little more, Harry looked down and opened the lid of the box.
Inside the box, nesting in what looked like straw to keep them from clinking together, were thirty to forty small glass vials. Some of the vials had green stoppers, some had red, some yellow, and the rest were brown. Each vial contained a silvery white substance twisting about inside. Harry, of course, knew immediately what they were.
"Memories?" he asked, looking up at Severus.
"Yes. Mostly of your mother. The green ones," Severus said, placing a long finger on one of the green tops, "are mine. They are all of your mother. The red ones I obtained from Minerva. Those contain memories of both your parents, mostly together, as do the yellow, which came from Molly and Arthur. The brown ones were obtained from Hagrid and are mostly of James as Hagrid knew your father much better than he knew your mother. I wish that there had been more people to obtain memories from, but those who knew your parents well are . . . mostly gone. I can give you memories of your father, if you want them, but I think you know that I never saw your father in a very favorable light."
Severus' voice trailed off when Harry blinked and two fat tears rolled down his cheeks. He was immediately mortified. "I did not wish to make you unhappy!"
Harry very carefully closed the box and placed it on the floor. He then turned to Severus and threw himself into the other man's arms. He hugged Severus tightly for a moment, then pulled back and looked up into Severus' troubled dark eyes and said, "You haven't made me unhappy. It's just . . . thank you doesn't seem anywhere near adequate. I'll treasure those memories for the rest of my life."
"I haven't made you unhappy?" Severus confirmed.
"No. I'm sad they couldn't be here, of course, but I love your gift. Thank you."
Severus chuckled. "If they were here today, your father would likely have hexed me for daring to defile his son."
Harry smiled. "You're probably right. But if Voldemort hadn't killed them, then you and I wouldn't have followed the paths we did, and we wouldn't be here now. And there's no where I'd rather be than here. In your arms."
Severus pulled Harry in for another hug, and they sat that way together for a time, letting nostalgia wash through them and away.
"I want to give you another present," Harry said into Severus' shoulder.
"You've given me more than enough already," Severus protested.
"I think you'll really like this one," Harry said, and he stood up and removed his outer robe.
"If it's got you undressing, I like it already."
Harry smiled his understanding and removed his inner robe. Severus' cock sprang to life so quickly he was surprised it wasn't accompanied by a "sproing" sound effect.
"Remember that first night?" Harry asked. "When you jumped me in the shower?"
"I didn't jump you in the shower," Severus protested. "I merely . . . joined you."
Harry chuckled. "You told me you were possessive and didn't like to share what was yours. So I thought you'd like it if I was marked as yours."
Severus got uncomfortable (and soft) in a hurry, the idea of marking someone associated with many unpleasant memories. "What do you mean?"
"I'll show you." Harry unbuttoned his trousers and pushed them down to his ankles, revealing that he wore nothing beneath. Despite his reservations, Severus' interest was beginning to peak again.
Wearing nothing now but his white dress shirt, the tails hanging low enough to cover the parts of his anatomy Severus most wanted to see right now, Harry stood next to Severus and slowly lifted the hem of the shirt covering this right hip.
Severus' eye was immediately drawn to the red heart etched into Harry's skin. It was perhaps three centimeters at its widest and four centimeters tall. Inside the heart, two green snakes formed two letter "S's". It was actually an exquisite piece of artwork, but Severus was still having a difficult time with the whole "marking of the skin" thing.
"Is it permanent?" he asked.
"Yup. It's a Muggle tattoo. Not put on by magical means at all. That's why it doesn't move. Do you like it? Because I thought if you wanted to, you could use it as a logo for Inceptum. You know, put it on your letters and packages and stuff."
Severus reached out a finger and touched the tattoo. "It's beautiful. But how did you . . .?"
"I drew the design. Then I took it to a Muggle tattoo parlor, and they did the work. They use needles."
Severus drew in a sharp breath. "Did it hurt?"
"A little. Not too bad."
"When did you do this?"
"Two weeks ago. I cast a glamour over it in case you saw me naked. I wanted you to be surprised."
"Oh, I am that," Severus assured him.
"Do you like it though?" Harry asked, a little of his insecurity starting to show through.
Severus placed a kiss on the tattoo, then trailed a hand up the inside of Harry's thigh until he was cupping Harry's balls. "I do."
Harry drew in a ragged breath as a tent began to form in his shirt. Severus lifted the shirt up out of the way, and his eyes feasted hungrily on Harry's erection. "Mine," he growled, and he lowered his mouth to take the head of Harry's cock into his heat.
Harry threaded his fingers through Severus' hair and tipped his head back, enjoying the pleasure shocks coursing through him. Severus dropped to his knees in front of Harry, then pushed backward until Harry was forced onto the bed on his back, his feet still on the floor. Like a dog worrying a bone, Severus kept after Harry's prick, sucking and nipping until Harry came explosively down his throat.
"That wasn't fair!" Harry wailed when he could speak again.
"Oh?" Severus asked, licking his lips with satisfaction like a cat who's been in the cream. "What was unfair about it?"
"You sucked me off, and I haven't even touched you yet."
"Well, we'll have to fix that, won't we?"
"It'd be a good start if you'd get naked."
Harry scuttled backward on the bed, removing his shirt as he went, until he was sitting up against the headboard where he settled in to watch his husband undress.
When Severus had removed the last of his clothing, he joined Harry on the bed. They both liked to kiss, and they engaged in a fairly heavy makeout session, Severus frotting his needy prick against Harry's thigh, awakening Harry's cock from its post-satiated state.
"Severus," Harry murmured into his husband's mouth.
"Yes, Harry?" was the reply, their lips never breaking contact.
"I have another present for you."
Severus had had enough of the delays. "Can't this wait until later?"
"I think you'll want this now. In fact, I'm pretty sure you'll want this now. One hundred percent certain."
Severus pulled away, his expression more than easy to read. There was only one thing he wanted one hundred percent certain right now.
"Really," Harry said, putting on his best convincing face. "You'll love it."
Severus sighed. "Will it take long?"
"Only a couple of seconds," Harry promised.
"Oh, all right!" Severus conceded with not very good grace.
"Great! Lie back! I just have to get my wand."
His wand? That made Severus a little nervous, but he lay back against his pillow.
Harry grabbed his wand from the bedside table, pointed it at his throat and spoke the spell only in his head. After returning his wand to the table, Harry turned to Severus. "Now just lie back and enjoy."
Harry kissed him once on the lips, then began to trail hot kisses down his husband's body, stopping here to toy with a nipple and there to lick a belly button. He nosed his way through Severus' lush pubic hairs and licked a wet path from his perineum, up over his balls, to the very end of his aching prick. After placing a very gentle kiss on the tip of the leaking head, Harry asked, "Ready?", his voice a little scratchy.
Severus' hips surged upward in answer.
"Such an eager boy," Harry said before taking the head into his mouth. Harry sucked for a moment on just the head, then began to slide his lips down Severus' shaft. Merlin, that felt good! Severus thought, expecting any moment for Harry to reach his limit and for Harry's hand to circle the base of his penis to assist with the remainder.
But Harry's hand never joined the party, and Harry's lips didn't stop moving down Severus' engorged flesh until they rested in Severus' pubic hair (which, truth be told, tickled just a little bit).
Severus' prick was buried deep in Harry's throat, a feat he'd never been able to accomplish before.
"Harry!" Severus gasped. "How?"
Harry didn't think Severus really wanted him to pull away and explain right this second, so he didn't. Instead, he drew back until only the tip of Severus' penis was in his mouth, then he dove back down, burying Severus to the hilt again.
"Arrgh!" Severus wailed. "Harry! That feels . . . nnnggg!"
"Nnnggg?" Harry thought. He'd smirk if his mouth weren't so full. He'd have to remember to ask Severus later exactly what "nnnggg" meant.
Relentlessly, Harry drove himself up and down, again and again, burying Severus deeper down his throat each time, until suddenly Severus said, "I'm . . . I . . ." and his entire body stiffened straight as a board. After a brief moment of suspension, Severus released a guttural cry and began to ejaculate deep in Harry's throat. As Harry swallowed to keep up, the contractions of his throat muscles around the sensitive head of Severus' prick caused Severus to come and come and come like he never had before and like he'd never stop.
Harry drank it all down (like he'd had any choice – Severus had made his deposit almost directly in Harry's stomach!) and once Severus finally stopped moving, he slowly withdrew the softening cock from his mouth, kissed the head one more time, then released it.
He smiled up at Severus. "Was I right?"
There was no reply. Severus lay still upon the bed, both hands still gripping the sheets, his eyes closed. Harry watched him for a second, unsure if the man was breathing. He scrambled to the head of the bed.
"Severus! Are you all right?!"
Severus' left eye fluttered open and he peered blearily at Harry.
"Are you all right?" Harry repeated.
"Nnnggg," Severus said, and his left eye closed again.
Harry put a hand on Severus' chest, relieved to find the heartbeat thumping, fierce and strong, beneath his hand. "Severus?" he asked. What had he done? Had he killed his husband on their wedding night? "Do you need a mediwizard?"
Severus gave a weak snort which went a long way toward alleviating Harry's worry. Both his eyes opened now. "Whelp!" he said. "I suppose you'll be insufferable now."
"Huh?" Harry said, genuinely confused.
"You don't really expect me to believe that you won't gloat for days or even weeks after giving me such a mind-blowing orgasm?"
Harry's smile was slow to arrive, but when it did, it was a sight to behold. "So you liked it?"
"Was that not obvious?"
"I half thought I'd killed you!" Harry confessed.
"See? Insufferable brat! Although I do feel a little breathless. Perhaps some of that Muggle mouth-to-mouth resuscitation might be called for."
Harry leaned in, then stopped. "I have come breath."
Severus shrugged. "So do I."
So Harry kissed him, long and wetly. When he pulled away, he said, "I'm not sure I should give you my last present. I might really kill you!"
"There's more?" Severus asked with equal parts anticipation and horror.
"We haven't even made love yet, yeah? Of course there's more. But maybe I should wait. Too many shocks like that to your system could cause permanent damage."
Severus sighed. "Insufferable git, just as I predicted. It'll take more than the scrawny likes of you to do in Severus Snape."
"Severus Potter-Snape," Harry corrected. He snuggled up against Severus, head on his shoulder, and threw a leg over Severus' stomach. "Maybe we should rest a bit."
"Certainly, if you think you need it. Just so we're clear that I am ready to go again any time."
Harry chuckled. "We're clear."
"What was that spell?"
"Expositus gutter. I found it in a sex magic book. The effects only last a few minutes. My throat is already back to normal."
"Well, it was . . . incredible."
"Glad you liked it." Harry settled in against Severus. Maybe they'd have a quick nap before moving on to Round Two (or was it Three?). His eyes closed, and he was very nearly asleep when he remembered something.
"Yes, Harry?" Severus sounded just as close to sleep as Harry was.
"What does 'nnnggg' mean?"
"Shut it, you intolerable prat, and take the rest you so badly need."
Harry chuckled warmly against Severus' chest and let sleep claim him.
Severus was awoken some time later by a mouth nibbling and sucking and kissing his neck. All in all, a very pleasant way to wake up. "What time is it?" he asked.
"Dunno," Harry murmured, rolling of top of Severus, his already hard prick poking Severus in the groin. "Does it matter?"
Severus' arms circled around Harry's back, then his hands wandered down over that enticing bum, pulling Harry in closer. "Not at all."
Harry's mouth found Severus', and their tongues dueled for dominance in the hot, wet cavern formed by their joined mouths. Two hard cocks rubbed together in the delicious friction between their bodies.
"Are you ready for my last present?" Harry asked without taking his lips from his husband's.
"Are you going to try to kill me again?"
Harry snorted. "God, I hope not! If you'd rather wait, we can do this another night. Although you're not getting any younger."
Severus pulled away at this challenge to his age and manhood and fixed The Glare on Harry. "I can take whatever you can dish out."
Harry laughed. "All right! Okay, well, you're gonna have to let me top. And it might be best if you were blindfolded."
The Glare turned into a stare of incredulity. "You want me to bottom and wear a blindfold?!"
"Well, the bottoming is pretty necessary, but the blindfold is optional, I guess. Could get a little . . . freaky without it."
Severus pulled away so he could study Harry carefully. Harry looked back at him, trying to project guileless confidence and innocence, though that last was beyond him.
"Will you tell me what you're going to do?"
"Hmmm," Harry considered. "Not in advance. But I will tell you as we go along, if you want. And if you get uncomfortable at any point, we'll stop. Not that that's going to happen. I think you're really going to like it."
"As much as I did the earlier thing?" Severus asked with equal parts trepidation and anticipation.
"More," Harry promised.
More?! The thing earlier had nearly stopped his heart. More just might do the trick. But what the hell, Severus figured. You only live once, right? "I place myself in your capable hands."
Harry's smile was full of joy. "Great! Let's get you ready."
After all their time together, Harry was an expert at preparation for anal penetration, and he soon had Severus stretched and slippery and panting for more.
"Now, Harry," he gasped.
"Ready for the blindfold?"
Harry picked up his wand and cast the spell to darken Severus' vision. He retrieved the pot of lube and generously slathered his aching cock with it. When Severus started to roll onto his stomach, Harry put out a hand to stop him. "No. On your back."
Harry took a moment to enjoy the sight of Severus laying naked and ready, his stiff cock twitching impatiently. That Severus trusted him enough to do this touched him, and he resolved to make this really good. "Ready?" he asked, nearly breathless with desire.
Harry knelt between Severus' legs and positioned a pillow under his husband's hips. Severus drew his knees up to his chest and held himself open.
"God, Severus! You look so hot like that!" Harry breathed.
"Would you just get busy?" Severus ordered with a growl.
Harry was more than happy to comply. He pushed his cock slowly into Severus' tight heat until he was buried completely. He drew in a deep breath to steady himself.
"Harry!" Severus said, the warning note in his voice pronounced.
"Una momento, por favor," Harry said. He picked up his wand and cast two spells on himself wordlessly.
Severus lay beneath him, filled with Harry's hot prick, wondering why the man wasn't moving. He contemplated taking hold of his own erection when he suddenly felt a hot, wet mouth lowering over said erection.
Wait a minute! Harry was currently buried balls-deep in his arse. So that had to be someone else's mouth on his cock! Harry had let someone else in here?!
"Harry?" he asked, on the verge of panic.
The mouth pulled away. "It's okay, Severus," Harry reassured him.
"Is there . . . is there someone else here?"
"No. It's just us."
The mouth slid back down until Severus' cock was deep in the throat, just as it had been before, when Harry had . . .
"How?" Severus choked out.
The mouth left him again. "It's a spell. It liquifies the bones in the spine. Or something. Temporarily, of course. Makes it so you can bend like a snake."
Okay, that was a little freaky. But when the mouth descended on his cock again, and the cock in his arse began to move slowly in and out, striking his prostate, Severus exchanged "freaky" for "ohmygodthatfeelssofuckinggoo d".
"Harry!" he gasped. "Harry! I want . . . to see!"
The mouth withdrew again, and Severus whimpered at the loss. "Are you sure?" Harry settled himself in Severus' arse and waited.
Harry picked up his wand and canceled the blindfold spell. He then returned to his previous occupation.
Severus looked down but couldn't really see all that much with Harry's oddly rounded back and shoulders in the way. When he looked to the side, at the mirror on the wall, though, his heart nearly did stop.
Harry's pace had picked up now, and he was slamming into Severus more quickly now, deliberately not hitting his prostate with any frequency which Severus could predict. Harry went several strokes without hitting that magic button at all, then hit it in two successive thrusts, leaving Severus unsure when the jolts of pleasure would be administered.
With each thrust forward of Harry's hips, Severus' cock was rammed deep into Harry's throat. It was just like having a third person involved, but it was Harry, only Harry. Harry curved over him in such a way that could only be described as snake-like, which only a Slytherin would find as erotic as Severus found the sight of them in the mirror.
It didn't take long watching before Severus knew his climax was approaching like a high-speed commuter train. He didn't even have time to warn Harry before his little passengers were being ejected from the train into Harry's greedy throat. When Severus finally finished pulsing, Harry went perfectly still on top of Severus, ensheathed completely, before he began to release his own seed deep into Severus' arse.
When Harry finished, he collapsed atop Severus, literally boneless. Severus straightened his legs but left them spread apart to accommodate his spent lover. Harry's cock slowly shrank until it fell out of Severus. Only then did Harry cancel the spells he'd cast on himself. A weird feeling of bones clicking into place ensued.
Severus regained his voice first. "Where did you learn that?"
"I sort of made it up," Harry confessed.
Severus felt as though he ought to get angry and reprimand Harry for his reckless stupidity, but he just couldn't find the energy. Later, perhaps. No, definitely later. "If I could muster the requisite feeling, I would berate you for testing spells on yourself that removed bones."
"Good thing you're too tired then."
"Prepare yourself. You will certainly hear it later."
"It worked, didn't it?"
"Idiot," was Severus' brilliant reply. Anything else he might have added was pointless since Harry was snoring.
They woke slowly the next morning, snuggling into each other and the warm cocoon they'd made in the sheets. Harry smiled tentatively at Severus, waking up inexplicably insecure on his first day as a married man. Though he couldn't understand it, Severus recognized the doubt in Harry's eyes, and he leaned in to kiss it away.
"Good morning," Severus said.
"Morning," Harry responded with a much more genuine smile. "Sleep well?"
"After a fashion."
Harry sighed happily and snuggled closer to Severus, resting his cheek on Severus' chest. "I don't think I could be any happier."
"I am pleased to hear that."
Harry peeked up at Severus. "If someone had told you, say, five years ago, that you'd be married to me, what would you have said?"
"Hmm. I likely would have hexed them for a fool. Or suggested they check themselves into St. Mungo's for a psychological evaluation."
"Are you glad that we . . . are you happy to . . ." Harry floundered, looking for the right words to request the reassurance he needed.
Severus kissed the top of his head. "I never in my previous life allowed myself to dream that I could have what others take for granted – a home, a job I love and that provides for more than the bare necessities, a mate to share my life, children." He said this last word as though still amazed. "You have given all of these things to me. How could I not be happy? How could I not worship the very ground you walk on? You have given me everything."
Harry was positively radiating happiness. "I love you, Severus," he said, dangerously close to sentimental tears.
"And I, you, brat."
Harry was quiet for a moment. "So . . . you worship the ground I walk on, huh?"
"Did I say that? I think what I meant to say is that I worship your arse." He ran a hand down Harry's back until he was cupping the body part in question. "Yes, definitely your arse."
Harry chuckled warmly and wiggled back into Severus' touch. "Ready for another go?"
Severus hummed in agreement. "I was thinking you could use your new spell again."
"You want to bottom again?" Harry asked, surprised.
"No. I shall top this time. And while I am penetrating your worship-inducing arse, you can suck on your own cock. While I fuck you from behind," Severus growled into his ear, "you will give yourself the same mind-bending blowjob you gave me yesterday."
"And after we are finished, assuming I can speak, I shall give you a very large piece of my mind for daring to use a spell such as this on yourself unsupervised. And after that, you will promise never to use the spell again under any circumstances."
"Even if you beg?" Harry asked mischievously.
Severus placed a finger on Harry's lips to shush him, but Harry only nipped it, then pulled it into his mouth to suck on it. "Are you going to lecture me about the tattoo, too?" he asked around the finger.
"No. The tattoo I . . . like." Severus' hand sought out the heart, and he pressed his thumb on it. "I like that anyone who looks at you will know that you belong to me. And if you were serious about my using it for Inceptum, I would be honored. Though perhaps I'll change the heart to a circle."
"Of course I was serious. Anything I have is yours. You know that."
"Anything?" Severus challenged, dropping his hand to curl it around Harry's cock. "Even this?"
Harry closed his eyes and drew in a quick breath. "Especially this."
Harry and Severus sat in low-slung beach chairs, their toes buried in the sand. Some distance away, Emily and Erica splashed in the azure sea. They had the beach to themselves. Sometimes it was a good thing to be Harry Potter who, even after all these years, still received offers of favors. This one, of a small private island in the Eastern Caribbean, had been too good to pass up – four acres of jungle surrounded by sandy beach, with a four-bedroom stone cottage sitting on the shore. Somewhere on this island, Ari and Frankie were catting around. They'd intended to leave the cats at Grimmauld Place, but the girls had begged that the cats be allowed to come with them, and since the island was isolated and deserted, there was no reason not to bring them.
Harry sighed. "This place is perfect. I love the Caribbean."
"We could stay longer than two weeks," Severus suggested.
"I wish we could. But I need to get back and begin preparing for the school year."
"Speaking of school . . ." Severus began, then stopped.
"Yes?" Harry prompted. "Erica! Don't throw sand at your sister!"
"I wanted to speak with you about an idea I had. Have. I have discovered that several of my employees have children who are old enough to attend school, but are not yet old enough for Hogwarts."
Harry smiled encouragingly. Before Severus had children of his own, he'd had no idea whether any of his employees were married or had children. Having children had opened up his world to others in the same position.
"I would like to start a school, at Inceptum. For children of the employees. Including my own, of course. Our own. Erica has been at Inceptum every day anyway, and we could give Emily the choice of continuing to attend school with you or coming with me."
Harry thought about this. "She's no longer in my class. I think she's always been a bit jealous about Erica being able to go with you. I think she'd like that. Who would you get to teach?'
"I don't suppose you would be interested?" Severus asked. Harry was his first choice, but he thought he knew what his young husband's answer would be.
"I like it in the Muggle world, Severus. I like being just another bloke. I'm not ready to give that up. I'm sorry."
"Don't be. I knew you'd feel that way, but I wanted you to have the right of first refusal. Remy, I think, to start. She's very good with children, she's a powerful enough witch and seems to have a good basis of knowledge. If she proves unequal to the task, I can look around for someone else."
"Have you spoken with any of your employees, to see if they'd be interested in sending their kids to your school?" Harry asked.
"I have not. But I've spoken with enough of them to know that they'd be grateful to have a resource such as this. Some of the children are old enough that hiding what they are is becoming difficult. They could be themselves at our school. What do you think?"
Harry thought this was a wonderful idea. It would be wonderful for the children, of course, but it also enforced for him how much Severus had changed over the last few years. He'd once feared that Severus couldn't show affection to his children. He'd lost that fear a long time ago, and now he had evidence that Severus wanted his children closer constantly. Harry smiled at Severus, not sure he could put into words all that he was feeling now for his new husband.
"When you smile at me like that, I fear for your sanity," Severus noted.
Harry self-consciously cleared his throat. "I think it's a terrific idea. And I'm sure the girls will love it, too."
Harry reached over and took Severus' hand, lacing their fingers together. They sat quietly and watched the girls play, enjoying the sun and the cooling ocean breeze. Could there be a more perfect man for him or a more perfect way to begin their bonded life together?