Author Notes: This OS is the latest part of the Ultimate series.^^ If you haven`t read the other stories of the series, I ask you to do that first, otherwise this OS won`t make much sense to you and you won`t be able to enjoy it very much.
Appreciations: A big thank you to YenGirl!* She beta-read this OS and pointed out weak points to me, so that I was able to improve the story with her help.*smiles* The OS wouldn`t be the same without her. Thank you, dear!*big hug*
It was warm. The sun was shining and the birds were singing.
Students were spread all over the grounds of Hogwarts. Some were practicing Quidditch, some were swimming in the lake and others were just bathing in the sun. The one thing they all had in common was that they were happy the exams were over and they could, after weeks of studying, finally relax.
Harry, Ron and Hermione had claimed their usual spot –in the shade of the big tree down by the lake.
Hermione wasn't thrilled when Ron chased away the first years that were there before them, but after some of his sweet words and kisses, she agreed they deserved to enjoy the calm and peace of their favorite place.
Harry smiled as he watched his two best friends kiss. It was obvious to him that they had been in love with each other since Valentine's Day last year. He had hoped that they would get together then, but somehow they had needed another year to confess their feelings to each other.
Harry's smile grew even wider. It was perfect!
His two best friends were happy together, he himself had found the man he loved and... Ginny wouldn't be sad after she got to know about Severus and him, because she had... Malfoy. Harry still couldn't understand what she saw in that arrogant Slytherin, but since she seemed happy, Harry had decided not to hex him.
And since Ron was busy with Hermione, he also didn't have the time to harm Malfoy!
Harry couldn't help suspecting that Ginny had pushed her brother and Hermione in the right direction and helped them come together. One day, he promised himself, he would ask Ginny if the Sorting Head had wanted to put her in Slytherin House as well.
Shaking his head inwardly, he forbade himself to think further about Ginny and Malfoy, and just enjoy the moment. After all, they had just finished their NEWTs and these few days were the last they would spend together at Hogwarts.
With a nostalgic sigh, Harry gazed at the walls of the castle. Hogwarts still seemed as imposing and magical to him as the first time he saw it at the age of eleven. No matter what happened in the future, Hogwarts would always remain as the first real home he had ever had. His time here hadn't only provided him with a comfortable bed and three delicious meals a day, but also the best friends one could ever dream of having... and the love of his life.
Harry grinned to himself. Severus would probably tell him that he was an emotional fool if he knew of his thoughts. That made Harry's grin vanish. He hadn't seen Severus as often as he wished to during the last few weeks, since both Hermione and his lover insisted that he had to study for his NEWTs.
Of course, he was thankful now that he at least felt like he had passed all his exams and that his dream of becoming an Auror was likely to come true, but still...
"Stop daydreaming, Harry!"
Startled, Harry turned to Hermione. She shook her head at him the way she always did when he didn't get started on his homework at once.
"Yeah, mate!" Ron agreed. "We only brought these books with us because of you, so concentrate on them!"
Harry blinked down at the books spread out on the grass. He had almost forgotten about them, although they were important, probably more important even than studying for his NEWTs.
"Ah, I knew from the start we shouldn't have taken this book with us," Hermione sighed as she closed a very old looking book and put it down.
"But it's about bonding potions," Ron argued, only to be silenced by a stern look from his girlfriend.
"Yes it is, but it's also from the Restricted Section and I doubt Harry wants to form a Master-Slave bond with Professor Snape."
Turning pale at the thought, Harry shook his head in horror.
He had finally managed to convince Severus that they should hold an official bonding ceremony. It would take place after the school year was officially over and only Harry's and Severus' friends were invited. The Potions Master would never admit it, but Harry knew that he counted Dumbledore and Molly and Arthur Weasley to his friends and since Severus hadn`t protested against inviting them, Harry had seen his assumption confirmed.
The Potions Master hadn't been thrilled at the prospect of such an event, but at last he agreed that it was better to make their relationship public rather than wait for someone to find out about them. At least this way, they would be able to control to a certain degree what would be printed in the papers.
Harry knew they didn't need another binding potion since they were already bonded since his birthday last year but he was still determined to find something that would perhaps enhance what they had. It wasn't that he didn't trust Severus'potion brewing skills; he just wanted to contribute something of his own.
Even though they had already exchanged their magical signatures, Harry wanted to feel even closer to Severus. Still, he had to admit he didn't know what other kinds of binding potions there were.
That was the reason why he, Ron and Hermione were looking through old and heavy books, hoping to find something useful.
Harry glanced at Hermione, who was frowning over some complicated text and Ron, who looked rather frustrated, and felt a little guilty. His friends had to help him with this task now because he didn't get started on it sooner and the ceremony would take place in one week's time.
"Don't you dare apologize, Harry." Hermione's eyes twinkled as she shut the book in her hands and turned to face her best friend.
"I don't know how often we have to tell you until you believe us, but we help you because you're our friend. So don't make it sound like you forced us to do anything, understood?"
Harry gaped at her before he managed to nod.
"Yes, mate," added Ron, "and... hey, this potion sounds interesting."
Ron held out his book to his girlfriend. She scanned the text on the page and frowned before blushing.
"Hermione?" Harry asked. He inched closer to take a look at the text.
"It's a binding potion that would allow you and Professor Snape to share a mind link, so you two can share your thoughts without having to talk out loud, but... you have to have sex in order to make it work."
She said the last few words very fast. Now, it was Harry's turn to blush as well. It wasn't because he was ashamed of having sex with Severus, but he had never discussed that particular subject with his friends.
Harry glanced at Ron whose face was even redder now than his hair. Ron had already been uncomfortable with the fact that Harry and Severus were bonded, and that his best friend had something of their Potions Master inside him, so Harry could only imagine what was going through Ron's mind now.
"Besides the sex, everything else sounds feasible," Hermione announced after having finished reading that section.
Ignoring Ron who looked like he wanted to run away, Harry turned to Hermione. He was ready to tell her that sex wasn't a problem, but the brilliant witch was faster.
"Look, Harry, I'm sure that making this potion work won't be a problem for the two of you," Hermione managed not to blush at these words, "but you can't use this potion at your bonding ceremony."
Harry blinked. He opened his mouth to say something and then closed it again as he understood.
"We would have to... you know?"
He gestured with one hand and Hermione nodded.
"Yes. I don't mean that you can't use it in private, but it wouldn't do either of you any good to indulge in certain activities with Sirius and Ron's whole family looking on. Oh, Ron - please!" she added as her boyfriend shook his head violently.
"It's not as if we are still little children who can't talk about sex!"
Harry chuckled in amusement at the behavior of his two best friends before his mind wandered to the potion again and its requirement. Too bad they won't be able to use it at the bonding ceremony, but perhaps Severus had an idea...
Both of his friends looked up in surprise as Harry jumped up.
"We can ask Severus if he has a solution for this problem!"
Before Ron or Hermione could remind Harry that their Potions Master wasn't likely to be thrilled at seeing them, their best friend was already on his way to the entrance of the castle, walking at a fast pace.
Exchanging glances, the two young Gryffindors shrugged and followed Harry.
If Professor Snape didn't want to see them, he could just throw them out.
He felt terrible!
With an effort, Severus dragged himself to the armchair and sank down. Classes were never as exhausting as at the end of the school year. Most students never paid much attention at this time and hence, the other teachers weren't interested in teaching these dunderheads anything as well.
Severus held the head of the Lions in high regard since she was the only one besides him who wasn't influenced by the end-of-school-year-mood. Of course, Severus would never tell her that.
Just like he didn't intend on telling anyone that he had caught the flu.
After two days of feeling under the weather, Severus had finally run some diagnostic tests on himself this morning only to confirm his suspicions. It was his own fault.
There was a reason why one should avoid the crowded tubes of Muggle London, but since Severus had an errand to run, he didn't have a chance. Okay, so he had, but he had always enjoyed taking the tube in his childhood during the few times he had been in London.
He hadn't been able to withstand the temptation this time. Not that he would ever admit that to anyone. It was bad enough that the start of the holidays would find him in bed with a flu, he didn't need anyone making fun of him as well.
Severus sighed. He would have to tell Harry that they had to postpone their ceremony, since he knew that he wouldn't recover fast enough to endure such an event within a week.
As if agreeing with him, his head started to pound even more painfully than before and he felt dizzy. Great and he was out of anti-influenza potions, too.
This day just couldn't get any worse. Just as that thought crossed his mind, he felt Harry's presence near his quarters as well as two others.
He he wasn't mistaken, Harry had brought his two best friends with him.
Just bloody perfect!
Taking a deep breath, Severus forced his usual mask into place so that Granger and Weasley wouldn't notice anything was wrong with him. He forced himself to get up to open the door just as the first knock sounded.
"Hello, Professor Snape."
Harry heard the slight uncertainty in Hermione's voice as she greeted their Potions Master. Strange since she had never been afraid of Severus, but then... she had also never met him as her friend's bond mate, outside of the classroom. Harry suspected that it was hard to see Severus as something else than their teacher… and she probably also was nervous about hearing Harry broach the subject of the bonding potion. After all, that was a very personal matter.
Harry looked at Ron and Hermione.
While the latter had the courage to even smile at Severus, Ron obviously didn't know where to look, since his eyes were darted from the walls to the floor and back.
"Sorry for coming here without telling you first, Sev... Professor."
Harry caught himself just in time before he could call Severus by his given name. Ron and Hermione knew of their relationship and it was unlikely that there were some other students around them, but he didn't want to take any risks, not after Malfoy had found out.
Harry was glad that Malfoy had kept his promise and hadn't told anyone about Severus and him. That didn't mean that they had become good friends... no, not even the fact that the blond ferret was Ginny's boyfriend now could change Harry's dislike for his school nemesis.
"Good afternoon, Miss Granger, Mr. Weasley," Severus greeted in a cold, but polite tone before his dark orbs fixed on Harry.
"Since I am used to Gryffindors by now, I shouldn't be surprised by such behavior, although I hadn't expected so many of you at once."
Harry knew this was Severus' way of making him understand Ron and Hermione weren't welcome to his quarters. At any other time, he might have been annoyed by such words, but this time he was too excited to say anything about it.
"We only brought the book Harry forgot, Professor."
Hermione held the book out to Severus who glanced at it suspiciously before taking it from her.
Severus frowned before directing his gaze at Harry.
"I didn't know you were so interested in this subject that you even study after your exams are over."
Harry grinned, knowing that Severus still thought him a hopeless case at potions. That was one reason why he hoped to surprise the man with their discovery.
"You see, the potion we found can..."
"Uhm... Harry, sorry to interrupt you!" Hermione flashed him a quick and apologetic looking smile, her cheeks a bit pink.
"We ah... uhm, we forgot the other books down at the lake. Madam Pince will kill us if anything happens to them! It was good seeing you, Professor. Till later, Harry."
Before Harry could utter a word, his two best friends hurried away. When he glanced at Severus and then at the book in his hands, he realized that they probably didn't want to hear Severus and him discussing... that particular topic.
"Do you want to come in?"
For the first time this afternoon, Harry looked directly at Severus and couldn't help a slight frown. The man was never tanned, but somehow he looked even paler than usual. Or maybe that was just because everyone else was sunbathing and the Potions Master's skin only seemed whiter in comparison.
Harry made a mental note to force Severus out of his lab during the summer holidays, but for now he had something else to discuss with him.
"You know I want to."
Oddly enough, Severus didn't comment on Harry's cheekiness, but just gestured him to come in.
Severus felt so tired.
With a heavy sigh, he sat down in one of the armchairs. Although he hated admitting to any sort of weakness, right now, he would have given his right arm to be able to lie down and sleep for a few hours. His little walk to the door and back had left him as exhausted as though he had trekked through a tropical jungle for hours, like he often did during the summer holidays while searching for exotic potion ingredients.
Severus' gaze fell on Harry, who sat on the edge of the armchair next to him and seemed excited about something. He only hoped that it didn't have anything to do with the upcoming ceremony, otherwise Harry might take the news of his illness badly. It would mean postponing their bonding ceremony and he hated seeing his young lover disappointed in any way.
Severus sighed inwardly. His head was still pounding and his muscles ached. In fact, his whole body was aching. For the hundredth time, he cursed himself for not stocking up on anti-influenza potions. Of course he could still brew more, but that wouldn't be such a good idea right now, considering how poorly he felt.
No, he told himself. First of all, he had to concentrate on the issue at hand and listen to Harry, so that would be one less problem off his mind.
"So, why did you three come down to the dungeons when it's much nicer outside?"
Severus certainly hadn't expected to see Harry until after dinner this evening and he didn't mind him spending time with his friends. After studying hard for their NEWTs, they deserved to enjoy their last few days at Hogwarts. He would never tell Harry of course, but he was glad his bond mate had such wonderful friends... who even accepted his relationship with the most hated teacher of Hogwarts.
But since Granger and Weasley were the very same persons who were always with Harry whenever he got into trouble, Severus hoped they weren't planning any new mischief. He wasn't well enough to save three stupid Lions from any mortal dangers right now.
All right, Granger was a brilliant young witch and Weasley was supposed to be a talented chess player... but they were still Gryffindors.
"Do you know this book?"
Startled by Harry's question, Severus looked down at the book in his hands.
Very Old Potions Still Used in Current Times,read the title.
"Of course I know this book, but what does it have to do with... wait, you didn't experiment with any of the potions, did you?"
Dizziness rose within Severus as he leaned towards Harry, but he ignored it in favor of examining his bond mate closely. As far as he could tell, Harry seemed unharmed.
"No, of course not."
The young man had the nerve to sound as if he had never even thought of experimenting with potions, but Severus still remembered the Polyjuice Potion story Harry had told him about back in his second year at Hogwarts.
Severus had wanted to deduct points for the three Gryffindors' stupidity, but hadn't wanted to destroy Harry's trust in him.
"So, what is it then?" he asked and leaned back in his armchair. He just wanted to get this conversation over with so that he could take a pain numbing potion and lie down for a while.
Nonetheless, he forced himself to meet Harry's gleaming eyes and listen to his explanation.
"We found a potion on page 394 that lovers can use to form a mind link. It allows them to exchange their thoughts."
Severus nodded and opened the book at that page. He didn't have to read the instructions since he had a good memory and was familiar with that potion, which was good since the words were dancing in front of his eyes as he stared down at the page.
"Hermione said that we would need to... make love to each other in order to make it work. I thought that you might have some idea how we can make it work without having to sleep together so that we can use it at our bonding ceremony."
Severus shook his head. It was more a reaction to try to clear his vision than to Harry's words, but the young Gryffindor interpreted it otherwise.
"I just meant that you might be able to do some research... Of course, I know you have only one week left to do so and I'm sorry that I didn't find the potion earlier but..."
"Harry," Severus lifted a weary hand, interrupting Harry's babbling. He didn't know how long more he would be able to sit up since he was already beginning to shiver.
"I wanted to talk with you about the bonding ceremony."
Severus closed his eyes for a brief moment and willed his teeth not to chatter, before continuing.
"I know you're looking forward to it, but we can't hold this ceremony next week, because..."
Harry leapt to his feet.
"You're so selfish!" he burst out.
That wasn't fair!
Harry shook with anger and disappointment as he listened to his bond mate. He knew that Severus didn't like public events, but only the Weasleys, Dumbledore and Hermione would attend the ceremony.
It wasn't as if they had invited any reporters or any other students.
"You're so selfish!"
Harry clenched his fists at his side.
"We have planned everything! I've been looking forward to it for months!"
He took a deep breath, but that did nothing to calm his anger. Maybe he wouldn't have been so angry if he hadn't just found the perfect potion for the ceremony, but as it was, he couldn't stop the hurtful words from leaving his mouth.
"If I had known that you don't even want to grant me this little pleasure, I would never have agreed to bond with you in the first place!"
A gasp sounded. If Severus had looked pale before, he was ashen now.
Dark eyes that were wide and filled with pain stared up at Harry. He felt as if someone had hit him with the Cruciatus curse.
"I..." he was at a sudden loss for words. His anger had vanished just as fast and the meaning of his own words sank in.
Cursing his own thoughtlessness, he would have given his wand for a time-turner to go back a few moments and stop himself from saying those hurtful words. As it was, he couldn't take his words back and he didn't know how to apologize to Severus.
"I'm sorry, I just… I have to use your bathroom."
Without waiting for a reply, Harry hurried out of the room. He needed a few minutes to calm down and think of a way to make up for his stupid and absolutely untrue words.
It was over.
Severus gasped for air as Harry hurried to the bathroom. He was feeling terrible earlier, but it was nothing compared to how he felt now with his teeth chattering and his body wracked by violent shivers. He couldn't even tell if they were due to his illness or due to Harry's words.
So Harry would have never agreed to the bond, if... yes? If what?
The dizziness assailing Severus made thinking impossible. The trembling of his aching body wasn't helping either.
Forcing himself out of the armchair, he stumbled over to the couch and collapsed on it. He hadn't wanted to lie down as long as Harry was with him, but it didn't matter anymore if he showed his weakness now.
Severus bit down hard on his lower lip to push back the burning moisture in his eyes. He had always thought of the bond between them as the most beautiful gift in the world.
Of course, deep down inside his heart, Severus knew he didn't deserve it. Even though Harry had told him every so often that he loved him and wanted to spend the rest of his life with him, the Potions Master could never fully believe him.
As long as Harry was with him, hugged and kissed him, Severus could believe it. But when he sometimes woke up in the middle of the night with nothing but darkness surrounding him, he didn't even dare to believe that Harry would smile at him the next time their eyes met.
Severus hadn't told Harry about how insecure he felt, but now he realized he should have done so. He turned on his right side and tucked up his legs. Even though his mind felt clouded and heavy, it seemed like he had never seen things any clearer than now.
If Harry knew about his insecurity, then he wouldn't expect Severus to fulfill his every wish...
Severus didn't mean material things. Even the most expensive item in the world wouldn't be exorbitant for him if they were for Harry, but he obviously wasn't able to fulfill the young man's other expectations.
A dry sob escaped past Severus' lips and he squeezed his eyes shut against the hot tears that felt cold against his burning cheeks.
Harry knew what he wanted from life. He probably imagined having a family or at least a caring lover and as soon as he would realize that Severus wouldn't be able to give him all that... Harry would leave him.
New tears ran down Severus' face, but he ignored them. He knew that Harry had only said those things about the bonding because he had been angry. He suspected the young man would have reacted differently if he had known that his lover was ill.
Yes, Severus was sure of that. But... it didn't change the fact that he would never be able to make Harry truly happy. He forced a gulp of air into his lungs as his chest clenched painfully at that thought.
Harry would realize the same truth soon enough. He would understand that his words, while angry, were also true and he would finally... turn his back on Severus.
More sobs escaped Severus' lips. He didn't try to hold them back any longer. He was too weak to do anything other than lie where he was with his mind drifting in and out of consciousness, wishing he hadn't caught the flu, but Dragon Pox instead.
At least then he would have a greater chance of dying.
He was such an idiot!
Furious green eyes glared back at him as Harry stared into the mirror. This time, his anger wasn't directed at Severus, but at himself. He could have hexed himself the moment these hurtful words left his mouth.
Taking a deep breath, he clenched his hands at the edge of the right, he had been angry at Severus. After looking through all those boring, dusty books, he had finally found the one perfect potion for their bonding ceremony, only to have Severus telling him that he didn't want to celebrate their bonding.
But... wait. Stop!
Green eyes widened in horror. Severus hadn't told him that he didn't want the ceremony, but that it couldn't take place in the upcoming week.
Harry gulped. He hadn't even given his bond mate a chance to explain his decision. Maybe something had happened that would force Severus to spend next week elsewhere... or maybe Dumbledore had been called away and couldn't attend their bonding ceremony.
These were all possible explanations... there were probably others... and Harry had jumped to the worst conclusion there was. He punched the mirror hard with his fist. Even though his knuckles stung, the glass didn't break. Perhaps Severus had charmed it to be unbreakable after accidentally breaking the mirror himself in the past.
Only Harry wanted to hurt himself right now. The sight of dark eyes full of hurt rose in his mind. There was no doubt at all that he had hurt Severus very deeply with his thoughtless words.
Damn, why couldn't he have heard his bondmate's explanation first?!
Instead, Harry had made it sound as if his bond with Severus didn't mean anything to him when the opposite was true. The bond... No, Severus meant the world to him!
Harry took another deep breath and managed to calm himself down. He would go apologize to Severus and tell him how he truly felt.
With that intention in mind, he left the bathroom, hoping that Severus would forgive him.
Something was wrong.
Harry hurried across the room when he saw Severus lying on the couch. He couldn't remember a single time when the Potions Master had lay down while Harry was with him.
All right, they had slept numerous times in the same bed, but that wasn't the same thing. The sight of Severus bent double on the couch didn't look right at all.
Harry gulped as he sat down on the edge of the couch.
"Severus," he whispered, but the Potions Master didn't react to his voice. Was he so angry at Harry that he had decided to ignore him?
The thought was as soon dismissed as it had emerged. Severus would rather rant and rave than ignore Harry like that. But it was just as unlikely for Severus to fall asleep right after looking so crushed by his lover's words.
Concerned green eyes roamed over the form of his bond mate and came to an abrupt halt as their gaze fell on Severus' face.
Harry gasped. An icy chill gripped his body and clenched around his chest.
He was such an idiot!
No, even worse than that.
If he had just been an idiot, he would have stormed out of the bathroom and proved what a child he still was by continuing his rant. Instead, he had hurt Severus so deeply that the proud man had even shed tears.
Harry took a deep breath and forced back his own tears that were threatening to spill over. He had no right to cry... not after making Severus cry.
With a trembling hand, he reached out to touch the latest evidence of his cruel words on Severus' cheek. He almost didn't believe that he still had the right to do so. The only other time Severus had been so desperate that he cried was when he had confessed to Harry about the ordeal he had once endured at Amycus` hands.
If Harry had succeeded in making Severus breaking down again... then… what did that make him? What was he in comparison to Amycus?
He couldn't answer these questions, but he suddenly realized something else as his fingers came into contact with Severus' skin.
It was warm.
Much too warm.
Harry's hand flew up to Severus' forehead. It was burning, radiating heat.
For one horrible moment, he sat there as if petrified, before forcing himself to act. Severus was ill, very ill, if his fever was as high as Harry suspected.
Congratulations, Harry! You have been utterly cruel to Severus and brought him to tears. He was running a high fever all this time and you didn't even notice that something was wrong with him! the young Gryffindor scolded himself.
But now was not the time for reproaches. He had to reduce the fever as fast as possible!
Harry looked around the room. In a Muggle household, he would know where the medicine was usually kept, but he had no clue where...
Oh, he was so stupid! Was he a wizard or not?!
With an almost hysterical laugh, Harry drew his wand.
"Accio Fever Reducing Potion!"
As luck would have it, the required potion vial flew to Harry's hand. He didn't see where it had come from and he didn't try working the stopper loose, but used his magic again to get rid of the stopper.
With shaking hands, he lifted Severus' head up and poured the potion down his throat. He didn't know how much to give, but it shouldn't harm the man if he drank half contents of the vial... he was very hot to the touch.
Severus swallowed the potion automatically, but he didn't wake up and that was probably for the better. Harry knew from experience that one felt terrible when running a fever, so it wouldn't do Severus any good, if he were to wake up and tried to talk.
Summoning a blanket, Harry covered Severus before sitting down in one of the armchairs. He would watch over his bond mate, even if that meant sitting up the whole night.
Severus deserved nothing less.
His head was pounding!
Groaning, Severus opened his eyes. It took him a moment to take in his surroundings and realize where he was - lying on the couch in his living room and covered with his blanket.
Great, he hadn't even made it to his bed. What would Harry think if he...
That was when the memories of their last conversation hit Severus like a punch to the stomach. It forced all the air out of him as he gasped in pain. Every word and every thought came back to him, echoing in his mind again and again, leaving him in utter desperation.
He didn't know how much time had passed since then. It felt like he had slept for a few hours since he didn't feel as dizzy as before anymore. That meant that Harry must have seen him on the couch and...
Severus closed his eyes against the pain in his chest that had nothing to do with the infection. Harry had probably left his quarters and Severus didn't know if he would ever come back... and since the school year ended in a little less than a week, that meant... he would never see him again.
Not if Severus didn't take the initiative to do something, only he didn't even know if Harry still wanted him. Not after realizing he wouldn't have the future he obviously wished for with the Potions Master as his bond mate.
Groaning again, Severus opened his eyes again... and blinked in he having hallucinations?
What else could explain the sight of Harry coming out from his kitchen and walking towards him with a steaming bowl in his hands?
"Ah, you're awake."
Relief shone from green eyes as Harry put the bowl down on the coffee table and sat down on the edge of the couch next to him.
"I've prepared chicken soup for you. Hermione told me that it always helped her to recover faster when she was ill. I have also cast a warming charm on the soup, you don't have to eat it at once."
Severus finally managed to pinch himself while Harry was adjusting his blanket. It hurt and the young Gryffindor didn't vanish on the spot so Severus accepted the fact that he wasn't having hallucinations.
Harry was truly here with him! But why?
"I've also given you a Fever Reducing Potion," Harry continued, nervously clenching and unclenching his fists. "I looked back at my third year Potions text and it said to give the patient half a vial every two hours if the fever is very high."
Severus nodded although he wasn't really listening. Maybe Harry was only here because he felt responsible for him... but it would have been easy for the young Gryffindor to call someone else to take care of him, like Poppy or even one of the house elves.
Slowly, since he still felt dizzy, Severus turned his head until he was fixing Harry with his gaze.
"Why are you still here?"
His voice sounded hoarse, but recognizable. He didn't want Harry to think he had to stay if he didn't want to. Severus would let him go... even if it broke his heart.
To his utter astonishment, Harry's cheeks colored and he bit down on his lower lip, looking ashamed.
"I'm s-sorry," Harry stuttered. "I know you have every right to be angry at me after everything I said to you... and if you want me to go, I'll do so... but only when you feel better again."
Severus opened his mouth and closed it again, frowning. This wasn't what he had expected.
Harry had apologized for his words and it seemed like he was serious about it, but... Severus still believed that they had been true.
"But... you said... you didn't want me anymore."
Severus cringed at how broken his voice sounded. He almost missed the bewildered look in Harry's eyes when they met his gaze.
Merlin, what had he done?!
If Harry had felt guilty before, then it was nothing compared to how he felt now. Regretful green eyes met desperate dark ones.
"Severus," he forced that name past the huge lump in his throat. "I'm sorry for what I said before, but I don't know how you can think that I... don't want to be with you anymore."
Severus looked at him as if Harry had grown a second head.
"But... you said... that you wouldn't have agreed to our bond if... you had known that I would fail you."
Severus' words were barely above a whisper, but they cut through the silence like a razor blade.
Harry gulped. Come to think of it, he saw that it was possible to interpret his words like that. Of course, Severus had jumped to the worst conclusion... just like he had.
Hot Tears pricked at Harry's eyes, but he ignored them. Instead, he focused on his bond mate's pained face, which spoke of utter hopelessness.
How could he have done this to Severus?!
He should have known how the man would react. After all, it was he who had witnessed Severus' insecurity time and time again.
First, at Valentine's Day when Severus believed Harry's gift was only a prank and at the many other occasions when he had been unsure of Harry's feelings for him. The young Gryffindor remembered all too well how much he had to convince Severus of how he felt back then.
Now... he had destroyed the trust his bond mate had in him.
When Severus told him about Amycus, Harry had sworn to make the Death Eater pay for what he had done. Well, he would have to begin with himself now if he intended to punish everyone who had ever hurt Severus.
"You don't have to... feel obligated to stay here," Severus whispered, while avoiding Harry's gaze. "I know how to care for myself... I have done it numerous times already."
Harry's aching heart clenched painfully in his chest at what the words implied.
No one had ever cared for Severus when he had been ill – no one!
Harry was suddenly reminded of his life at the Dursleys' and how they only cared whether or not they would catch his disease when he was ill. In fact, Madame Pomfrey was the first person who had cared for him ever since he could remember.
Harry pushed his painful memories away and instead concentrated on the problem at hand. He wouldn't leave Severus alone while he was ill, but before he did anything else, he had to make sure that every doubt the man had of why he was still here was removed.
"I don't feel obligated," he said out loud. He leaned forward and touched Severus' forehead before summoning another vial of Fever Reducing Potion. "I want to stay with you because you're the most important person in the world to me. I want to take care of you when you are ill."
Dark orbs widened in disbelief, but their owner didn't say anything until he had swallowed half the contents of the vial.
"But you... you said..."
Harry lowered his head in shame before meeting Severus' gaze.
"I know and... it was wrong. No, hear me out!" he begged before Severus could interrupt him. "I was angry, because...I was so excited after finally finding a potion that was perfect for our bonding ceremony. I just thought that you would be as excited as I was."
Shaking his head, Harry pressed his lips together. Now that he thought about it, his behavior sounded even more childish than before.
Harry stared at his bondmate in absolute horror.
"You don't have anything to be sorry about, Severus!" he protested. He laid his palm against the lean cheek. It was still much too warm to the touch.
"I behaved like a... spoiled brat. I didn't even notice you were ill. I only thought of myself and didn't think of you and I... I didn't realize that it doesn't matter whether we have a bonding ceremony or not."
A frown appeared on Severus' face.
"But you... wanted the ceremony... so badly."
Harry smiled sadly.
"Yes, and I forgot that we already have a bond and how much it means to me... and how happy I was when you offered that beautiful gift to me on my birthday."
Cautious hope glistened in the dark orbs.
"You wanted... the bond?"
Two tears escaped Harry's eyes and ran down his cheeks.
"Yes, of course and I... didn't even think of a bonding ceremony back then. It was enough for me to... have you."
More tears spilled over, but Harry ignored them.
"I don't even know now why I was so keen on that ceremony. I mean, yes, I want everyone to know that you belong to me, but the most important thing is... that we are together... that I'm with you. Everything else is just... icing on the cake.
Harry took a shaky breath and wiped away his tears. Then he looked at Severus, hoping his bond mate would believe him.
Harry wanted their bond!
Severus didn't know if he should cry or laugh. Neither of these reactions seemed appropriate at the moment, but tears started running down his face and took the decision from him.
The only thing that mattered was what Harry had said. Harry still wanted him... and thought him the most important person in his life.
Severus didn't believe him at first. How could he, after everything his mind had made of Harry's angry words?
But when those big green eyes filled with tears, looked at him like that, Severus was able to see the sincerity in them.
"Will you ever be able to forgive me, Severus?"
The Potions Master almost laughed at the absurdity of that question. He would forgive Harry everything. Even if he had broken up with him, Severus would still forgive him.
But instead of long and grand and Gryffindor-like speeches, Severus answered the question in a different way.
"I love you, Harry."
Green orbs widened in wonder and relief before filling with more tears. If Severus had needed anymore proof of Harry's sincerity, that sight alone would have removed the rest of his doubts.
"I love you too, Severus."
Before the Potions Master could prevent it, Harry leaned forward and hugged him.
"I'm so sorry, Severus. I'm so sorry."
Tears wet Severus' face again, but this time it wasn't his own. He cursed his weakened arms which made it impossible for him to hug Harry back and pull him even closer, but the feeling of his bond mate's strong arms around him made up for it.
As long as Harry was with him, Severus could endure everything.
Even the flu.
"Stop mothering me!"
Harry sighed. He was glad that Severus had accepted the fact that he would never get rid of him, but it had been far easier caring for the man when he was still sleeping.
"I'm not mothering you, but you have to eat something!" he insisted as he held out the soup filled spoon to Severus who glared back at him.
"I am able to eat by myself. You don't have to feed me."
Harry rolled his eyes.
Severus was much too weak to sit at the table and eat his meal. Harry didn't want to risk him spilling the hot soup on himself while trying to eat on the couch. He was smart enough not to mention these points to Severus since that would only hurt his pride. He didn't want to hurt his bond mate anymore, not after what he did this afternoon.
Nonetheless, Harry wouldn't give up until Severus had at least emptied half of the bowl, even if he had to try a different tactic.
"I know that I don't have to feed you... but I want to."
Harry almost laughed when Severus gasped at him.
"Just like Molly Weasley," Harry heard him mutter, but he didn't complain when Harry held out another spoonful of soup.
Harry congratulated himself as he continued feeding the chicken broth to Severus. Maybe the Sorting Head had been right, and he would have been a good Slytherin. After all, he had just convinced the Head of the Snakes to be fed by a Lion... that had to mean something!
Green eyes focused on Severus' mouth as he opened it and closed his sinful lips around the spoon before swallowing. A faint blush graced the lean cheeks as their owner accepted another spoonful from Harry.
Merlin, how could someone look so... tempting, while eating... chicken soup?!
Harry couldn't decide if he was glad or disappointed when Severus announced that he had had enough. He supposed he should be relieved since he doubted his bond mate was up to certain activities that had come to his mind while watching him eat.
The young Gryffindor put the bowl on the table and cast another warming charm on it before turning back to Severus. The man's normally pale face was flushed and his lips...
Harry gulped. They looked even more tempting now and... surely a kiss wasn't too exhausting, right?!
Harry was kissing him!
It took a few seconds before this fact registered in Severus' mind.
Warm and soft lips pressed gently against his. It wasn't a passionate kiss, but a sweet one. Before Severus could think twice; he was already kissing Harry back.
They stayed like this for what felt like an eternity, just kissing and tasting each other before Harry drew back.
Severus took in the flushed cheeks of his young bond mate and grinned mockingly at him.
"Congratulations, Mr. Potter, I have to inform you that you have successfully caught the flu as well."
Dark orbs took in how Harry's lips formed an "O", before something dawned in these green eyes and the young Gryffindor shook his head.
"No, I doubt it. Hermione insisted on a vaccination last autumn for all of us, since her parents told her that the flu would be terrible this year, so... no, I don't think that I'll share your sickbed anytime soon... although I wouldn't mind!"
Harry leaned down for another brief kiss, before getting up and taking the bowl of half-eaten soup back to the kitchen.
Severus huffed in frustration. It wasn't fair that Harry was so cheeky when he was feeling ill and unable to do anything about it!
"If you have the flu," Harry's voice sounded from the doorway and made Severus look up. "Why don't you take an anti-influenza potion?"
The Potions Master congratulated himself that Harry remembered which cure was necessary for the flu. Obviously, his potion lessons had borne some fruit.
"I don't have any left and Madame Pomfrey is already away on holiday, since the school year ends in a few days."
Severus could almost see the wheels in Harry's head turning as the young man tried to think of other ways of getting his hands on that potion.
"But St. Mungo's certainly..."
"No," Severus interrupted him. "I won't take any potions from those charlatans!"
A quiet sigh echoed through the room. Severus almost felt sorry for Harry because he knew how exhausting it must be to take care of someone as fussy as him.
"And if I brew it?"
Severus pinched himself for the second time today. He must be dreaming! Harry, who hated brewing, had just asked if he should brew a potion for him!
He looked at the young Gryffindor who had sat down in the armchair next to him. He was sure Harry only had his best interest in mind, but that didn't mean that he wanted to poison himself.
On the other hand...
"If you are able to convince Miss Granger to brew the potion, and you and Mr. Weasley - if he wants to help - assist her, then I accept your offer."
Dark orbs gleamed with amusement as Harry's eyes widened in disbelief.
Severus trusted Hermione and Ron! Enough to let them brew a potion that he intended to take!
Baffled, Harry stared at Severus. Perhaps he should be annoyed that the Potions Master didn't trust him enough to let him brew a potion by himself, but he wasn't. He knew all too well that he would never manage to brew the rather complex anti-influenza potion without help.
He supposed he had done well enough at his NEWT level Potions practical exam, but no one intended to consume what he had brewed then. Minor mistakes wouldn't matter too much, but it was different now. A tiny mistake could mean the difference between an effective potion and a useless or even poisonous one.
But Hermione wouldn't make any such mistakes. Harry knew of her skills and he was sure Severus knew of them too. He just hadn't expected to ever hear the Potions Master admit that.
"You... are serious?"
A grin spread over Severus' features. A grin typical of a Slytherin.
"I do not joke when my well being is at stake, Harry. I trust Miss Granger to brew an adequate potion... if she is willing."
Still surprised, Harry nodded.
He had no doubt that Hermione would brew the potion. It was a challenge the brilliant witch wouldn't be able to refuse!
"You had better go and ask her then... while I go to bed."
"Aren't you comfortable enough here? Shall I bring you something or...?"
The mocking gleam in the dark orbs stopped Harry's babbling.
"I am not surprised that you are a Gryffindor," Severus declared and Harry knew it was meant as an insult. "I am going to my bedroom because I don't want to witness your friends rummaging through my things."
Harry blinked. Why would Ron and Hermione... then his gaze fell on the door to Severus' personal potion's lab and the knut dropped.
"You want us to brew the potion... here?"
Severus rolled his eyes, while sitting up on the couch.
"In that room is everything you three will need to brew the potion. I cannot let you use one of the school labs since that would raise questions. And now, if you please, look for your friends and bring them here."
Harry should be insulted by Severus' choice of words now. He really should be... but he wasn't. Even if he was sometimes stupid enough to hurt Severus with his thoughtless words, he still understood what the Potions Master meant, but couldn't speak out loud.
Severus wanted Harry to leave his quarters so that he could drag himself to bed without disclosing how weak he was. At least, that seemed to be Severus' intention as he stood up and grabbed the backrest of the couch to support himself.
Harry quickly came to his bond mate's aid and wrapped one arm around the slender waist, ignoring the dark orbs that glared down at him.
"I'm old enough to walk without help! Just because I'm suffering from a minor infection doesn't mean you have to pamper me!"
Harry almost laughed out loud. Not even Madam Pomfrey would be able to pamper Severus, although even the most stubborn students obeyed her orders.
"I'm not pampering you. I'm only taking advantage of the situation so that I can touch you before Ron and Hermione get here."
Severus quirked an eyebrow, but didn't respond to that, which was as good as a compliment.
"And how," he asked as he allowed Harry to help him to the bedroom, "are your friends going to know that they supposed to be here if you don't tell them?"
Harry grinned, but he didn't answer until Severus was safely sitting on the edge of his bed.
The little house elf appeared and looked from Severus to Harry before bowing.
"Could you please find Ron and Hermione and tell them to come down to Professor Snape's quarters? Make sure that no one overhears your message."
"Dobby will do that, Master Harry Potter Sir. He finding friends of Master and tell them to where to go!"
With a crack, the little house elf disappeared and Harry turned to Severus with a proud smile.
"I don't even want to know how Lucius' servant became yours."
Harry chuckled, but his face turned worried when Severus lay down with a heavy sigh.
"Are you sure I can leave you alone while we brew the potion? Or should I stay with you and..."
"And dodge slicing ingredients? No way!" Severus countered. "Besides, I can't sleep with you looming over me."
Smiling, Harry sat down on the bed. As long as Severus was still his sarcastic self, Harry didn't need to worry he might get worse any time soon.
"Are you afraid of what I might do to you while you're sleeping?"
That time, Severus raised both of his eyebrows.
"Hardly. You aren't the type to take advantage of a sleeping and sick man."
Instead of an answer, Harry just leaned down until his lips were only an inch away from Severus'.
"But I don't mind taking advantage of a sick man who is still awake."
The kiss was sweet and slow, different from the ones they normally shared in bed. Harry enjoyed every second of it which didn't last as long as he wished it would.
A sharp knock at the door outside interrupted them and Harry sighed heavily as he got up.
"I promise not to destroy your lab," he said over his shoulder.
Severus rolled his eyes at him.
"It's a shame that you even have to promise something like that."
Harry only answered with a smile before closing the bedroom door behind him and going to greet his friends.
"I never thought the day would come when I would get to brew a potion in Professor Snape's private lab!"
Hermione's eyes glowed with eagerness as she regulated the flame underneath the cauldron.
"I mean, he gave me the top marks every school year, but I never thought that he would allow me to brew a potion for him. Ron, you have to slice the bark of the magic oak and not dice it!"
Harry chuckled to himself. Who would have thought that potion brewing could be so much fun?
Okay, they were all sweating because of the hot fire and their fingers felt stiff from slicing and dicing so many ingredients, but still... it was kind of fun.
Amused green eyes regarded Ron, who looked subdued as Hermione explained to him how to hold the knife correctly - "and you've already sat for your NEWTs, Ron!" - before turning back to the cauldron.
Severus was right, neither he nor Ron would have managed to brew the potion without Hermione.
"It's good that you convinced Professor Snape to let us brew the potion. Not even a brilliant Potions Master could brew such a complicated potion while suffering from the flu."
Hermione was stirring the cauldron so she neither saw Harry's eyes widening nor the small smile that turned up his lips.
"I didn't have to convince him. It was Severus' idea. He trusts you... both of you!"
Only Hermione's quick reflexes saved the stirrer from falling into the cauldron as she jerked in surprise. Ron's knife missed his finger by less than half an inch.
"Are you serious, mate?"
Harry thought it was rather comical to watch Ron's face, with his mouth hanging open like that.
"Yes," he answered and tried to keep a straight face as he diced the last of his daffodils stems. "Severus doesn't trust me to brew the potion, but he knows that Hermione can and he even suggested that you help with the preparations."
Harry wondered if Ron's blue eyes would really fall out of their sockets if they grew any wider. But he understood his friend's astonishment. It wasn't every day that you got a compliment from the stern, unbending Potions Master of Hogwarts.
Hermione reached for the diced stems to add to the cauldron. She stirred it one final time as if Harry's words hadn't affected her, but when she turned around, he saw the smile that lit up her face.
"I'm so happy, Harry!"
She gestured to the two boys to clean up their working area while she made sure that the flame was of the right temperature for the potion to simmer for the next hour.
"You are happy because if this is a success, Snape might decide to call us down to his lab whenever he doesn't want to brew potions himself?!"
Hermione shook her head in disbelief and gave an apologetic look at Harry, who grinned at her. It wasn't news that Ron wasn't best friends with Severus, although he obviously didn't hate him anymore. But as long as Ron accepted the Potions Master in his best friend's life, Harry was okay with it.
"I'm happy that Snape has accepted us in his life."
Hermione smiled at Harry who wondered - not for the first time - if she could read his mind.
"I was worried the whole time that he might not welcome us to your bonding ceremony or that he didn't like us and that the two of you might argue because of that."
Harry rolled his eyes. Leave it to Hermione to see problems where there weren't any.
"But now, I'm confident those things won't happen... although I'm still sure that Ron and I will have to wait another year, at least, until we can have a dinner party for four.
They both looked at Hermione and then all three of them laughed. It was a freeing type of laughter and it made Harry realize that Hermione's words weren't as untenable as he thought they were.
Of course Severus hadn't been sure of his friends' support at one point in their relationship, but if he hadn't accepted them, then that would certainly have led to numerous arguments.
Only now, while they were waiting for the potion to be finished, did Harry understand what Severus meant when he allowed his friends access to his quarters. He was providing a stable basis for their future by making room for Harry's friends in his private life.
Harry wiped away the happy tears that threatened to spill over as he looked at his two laughing friends.
It was perfect.
He had Hermione and Ron, and he had Severus... he didn't need anything or anyone else. He just had to make sure he remembered to thank Severus properly when he got the chance to do so.
"I hope you have cleaned up my lab."
It wasn't a question. Severus was certain that his lab was as clean as before.
Granger would be sure to return everything back to its proper place, although he would never admit that belief to Harry. His young bond mate didn't have to know how highly Severus thought of the young witch or he wouldn't be able to maintain his reputation as the meanest teacher at Hogwarts.
"We have cleaned everything up and the extra potion vials are stored in your potions cabinet, labeled and dated."
Severus nodded at Harry's words. He still felt drained and was probably running a mild fever, but he could feel the potion already taking effect. At least, he would be cured in less time than he had expected.
Severus glanced up at Harry who was sitting on the bed and looking down at him. Harry had insisted that he finish the remainder of the soup before helping him to the bathroom, where Severus took a brief, hot shower and changed into his pajamas.
Harry didn't show any signs that he would leave anytime soon. In fact, it looked like he intended to spend the night here since he had changed into his pajamas as well. Harry had had left a set of pajamas in Severus' wardrobe a few months ago... and the Potions Master wasn't going to complain about that or the fact that he wouldn't have his bed all to himself tonight.
He was grateful that Harry was here with him. He enjoyed his solitude sometimes, but - like most people – he didn't like being alone when he was ill. And since Harry wasn't going anywhere, it was safe to continue the discussion they couldn't finish this afternoon.
"Your friend is a brilliant witch, but I still won't be fully recovered by next week."
Harry had convinced him that the bonding ceremony wasn't as important as Severus thought it was, but he still didn't know how Harry would react to this news.
Instead of a sigh or at least a pout, Harry only smiled. He settled down next to Severus and covered himself with the blanket.
"I already told you that the ceremony isn't as important as I thought it was."
Severus already felt too warm, but he didn't mind Harry's body heat seeping into him. It was nice to be so close to his bond mate.
As if the young Gryffindor had read his mind – which was of course, impossible – Harry moved even closer and finally bedded his head on Severus' chest.
"We can cancel the ceremony if you want."
Severus shook his head, knowing that Harry could feel the movement. He knew that the ceremony still meant something to Harry. He would endure anything for Harry... even a traditional bonding event with a twinkling Albus witnessing it.
Or maybe, their bonding ceremony wouldn't be... as traditional.
A grin that would make Salazar Slytherin's blood run cold ghosted on Severus' lips. While Harry and his friends had been in his lab, he had given the bonding potion some thought. Or as much thought as he could while feeling so ill.
He stroked Harry's messy hair with one hand. He wouldn't tell his young bond mate anything until he was sure his idea would work, but if it did... the bonding ceremony would be anything but boring.
For the two of them anyway...
"'Night, Severus," Harry mumbled against his chest.
"Sleep well, Harry."
The even breathing a minute later told Severus that Harry had fallen asleep. A small smile turned up the Potion Master's lips.
"I promise you an unforgettable bonding ceremony," he murmured to a quietly snoring Harry before allowing sleep to claim him as well. He wanted to recover as fast as possible so that he could run the necessary experiments with the potion.
And sleep still was the best medicine, especially with Harry in his arms and held close to his heart.