It just so happened that
Severus was the only Order member to hear it when the alarm for #4
Privet Drive went off. He had to be, for on his insistence, the
spell was set to alert him at Spinner's End only as a last
resort. He looked up from his book with a glower, but the little
silver instrument didn't explode into dust at all, and instead went on
squeaking and hooting and hopping up and down in its distress.
"Surely there is someone
else you can shrill at," he sneered, flipping a page harder than
necessary. "Try Grimmauld Place again. Or the Burrow."
The alarm changed pitch as
a particularly energetic hop sent it off the mantle ledge, but the fall
only added an insectile buzz to the panicked racket. The damned
thing, he noted with a glance, was now vibrating itself across the
floor, each blast of steam glittering with red sparks. It seemed
to be angling toward his foot.
"Fine, fine," he grumbled,
throwing the book aside and standing. "I'll go and bloody see to
it." He'd have fought harder, of course, had it been Albus in
person instead of his gadget demanding that Severus hie himself down to
the depths of that well-groomed Muggle hell just because Potter
couldn't keep his bloody wand to himself. But though it was
tempting, there was little point in protest now: the damnable
charm would give him no rest until he went and made sure Potter's nose
was wiped. And besides, and after the last time it had annoyed
with its antiphony Severus, Albus had warded the thing against hexing,
cursing, hurling, boiling, and being hammered with shoe-heels.
Potter would have to do for
Severus apparated to #4
Privet drive's back garden directly once he'd hastened to the edge of
Hogwarts' wards, and transfigured his clothes to something a Muggle
wouldn't mistake for a vicar's. He had caught sight of the
shielded nook -- between the Dursley's cheap metal garden shed and the
hydrangea bushes -- in Potter's memories, back when he'd been trying to
teach the wretch to keep his brain, such as it was, to himself.
He had, Severus recalled, remembered the spot as a particularly good
hiding place. Severus supposed it would surely do service for him
now -- If Potter knew one thing, it was how to skulk about unseen,
after all. He turned in place...
And cursed at once as he
emerged into overgrown shrubbery and cobwebs, with barely enough room
to draw breath, let alone hunker down and take shelter! Hiding
place indeed! A toddler would be too large for it! The brat
was an idiot, and Severus was lucky not to have been splinced!
"Sorry to disappoint,
Potter," Severus gritted through his teeth, his struggles snapping off
several of the hydrangea's repulsively pink blooms. "It will take
more than a hedge and your celebrity to cover your arse this time!"
A shriek sounded from
within the house, shrill and loud as a rabbit being wrung slowly in
half -- a rabbit the size of a cart-horse, perhaps. Still, the
noise provided the burst of adrenaline Severus needed to extricate
himself from his herbaceous attacker, and a moment later, he flung wide
the kitchen door to find Bedlam within.
A mountain of a man -- the
Uncle, Severus recalled -- lay on the floor like a felled, fat tree,
his face and arms bleeding freely from dozens of long, ragged cuts, as
though he'd been set about vigorously with a metal pen-tip.
Severus caught his breath on a curse, but a second, closer look eased
the lurch of panic in his belly; Sectumsempra left smooth cuts, deep
and clean as a razor, while these were jagged, clumsy tears. And
besides, there was no way Potter could possibly know that spell, unless
Severus himself had taught it to him.
Not likely, that. But
reassurances aside, it still cast the man's injuries in a mysterious
light. The cuts on his arms were angry, but hardly looked deep
enough to account for his collapse. More bloodstains wicked up
through his shredded oxford and the vest showing through beneath, but
the man breathed, and showed no signs of convulsion or vomiting.
His head seemed intact, if unpleasantly pale, so whatever had toppled
the obese creature, it hadn't been a common poison, or a murderous
In the corner behind the
man huddled a boy -- roughly Potter's age, and half again Gregory
Goyle's size, squealing like a stuck pig, and gripping a dishtowel to
his wrist as though the limb were severed and spraying his life's blood
in gouts. Through the flailing, Severus was hard-pressed to see
any blood at all on the ham-sized, but otherwise average
hand. The boy's -- the cousin's scream twisted off into a
sharp, terrified hiccough as his watery blue eyes took in Severus and
"Mum," the boy wheezed as
the blood drained from his face. Merlin help him, was the idiot
delusional? Severus raised his wand as muffled thuds and shouting
sounded from the next room, all but drowning out the whimper.
"Mummy!" he tried again, desperation clearly growing.
"Where is Potter?"
Severus growled, feeling his temper fray as he noted that the idiot's
hand sported nothing more than two small puncture wounds on the pad of
the thumb. Not even enough to stain the dishtowel, though they
were a bit inflamed.
not enough for you, Potter? Severus wondered, stepping
The fat boy made to step
back, as though he weren't already crammed into the corner, and his
voice rose again to the hysterical squeal when Severus reached for his
hand to examine the marks for traces of venom. "MUMMY!
MUMMY COME QUICK!" he screamed, trainers squeaking and slipping,
leaving black streaks of rubber across the gleaming tiles.
Fed up, Severus caught a
flailing arm, and pressed the nerve cluster between the wrist tendons
to make the idiot be still and listen to him. Only instead of
having the thick, heavy arm to limp in his grip, Severus found himself
suddenly catching the entire, not-inconsiderable mass as the boy gave a
final whimper and fainted dead away.
Dursley stood in the kitchen doorway, flushed, panting, and brandishing
a cracked plastic broom like a demented, homely valkyrie. "WHAT
HAVE YOU DONE TO MY SON?!"
Severus cast a wordless
charm to lower the flabby lump to the ground with far more care than he
deserved. "Merely stopped him dashing his brains out on your
countertops, Tuney," he smiled, relishing the
horrified recognition that spread across the woman's face as he wiped
his hands on her dishtowel. "Now suppose you cease all these
histrionics, and explain what happened, hmm?"
Like her son, Petunia's
face went white, but then it flushed furiously crimson. She
pointed a shaking finger. "You! YOU! YOU FR-" A
rising twitch of Severus' wand-tip froze the word on her tongue.
"Freely admit that I'd like
nothing better than to show you the exact colour of your own
spleen?" Severus made a show of musing, "Absolutely.
However, as I don't suppose Lily would have condoned me eviscerating
her sister, I shall simplify my question for you instead: What's
happened here." He twitched the wand again as her mouth opened
wide. "Politely, if you please."
Oh, what cool satisfaction
curled in his belly to watch Lily's repugnant sister struggle to
contain her loathing. He offered her an unreservedly smug smile,
and nodded at the man on the floor. "If you're having trouble
working out where to start, perhaps you ought to fetch another towel
while you're thinking. Your husband seems to be leaking on your
nice clean floor."
That tore it. Her
eyes flicked toward the man, fluttered in distress, and then she turned
a glance of incandescent hatred on Severus. "You get him out of
here!" Petunia hissed, and her knuckles creaked audibly around
the broom-handle. From the lounge came a thud, a crash, and a
small noise of distress.
"Did you hear me?"
the woman screamed, lurching once more into fury. "He's an
animal! He's a dangerous, mad beast, and I won't have him
here!" She stopped just short of grabbing at Severus' clothes,
but only because he put his wand in the way. Even then, she
leaned into the jab as though unaware of the danger. "You take
him away! Take him away, and I don't care what you do with him,
do you hear me?!"
Severus caught the broom in
his off hand, gripping hard at Petunia's knuckles to wrest it
free. Only the moment his skin brushed hers, the unmistakable
feeling of wild magic burst through the crackling air between them, --
as yet unseen, but intent, so very, darkly intent.
He drew a breath, tried to
think, but the magic coiled up, sharp and unexpected in Severus'
throat, rushing out with the words on his tongue before he realized
quite what was happening. "Yes," he heard himself say with a
terrible certainty. "I will take him."
Petunia gasped, shocked
rigid as scarlet sparks leapt from Severus' wand, pinning both of them
in place with looping chains of fire and shadow. "What- what are
you doing?" the words were shrill and terrified, as though she'd
only just remembered what magic could do to the likes of her.
Another day, Severus might
have pressed that advantage, but at that moment, he was struggling with
that same question. What was happening? What the hell
had Potter done in this house to charge the very walls of it with such
a potent, desperate power? Now that the magic gripped him,
Severus could see it all around, grudging dust ingrained in the
spotless worktop, the gleaming appliances, the pristine floor, all
filthy with anger, fear... pain. What had Potter done? And
why, in the name of Merlin's hairy grey scrote, was Severus, even
gripped by this primal misery, promising to take the boy on himself?
However, Severus would
sooner have shown his throat to that cur Black than allowed Lily's
petty, envious, useless sister to see him wrong-footed. So he
focused on the woman herself; face pinched and sour, even in reckless
fury, the shadowy magic wrapped so tightly around her that it seemed to
weep from her pores like tarry sweat. Gone far beyond the realm
of logic and forethought now, he stored the vision away, to consider
once his primal, animal instinct had done with them both.
"I'm giving you what you
want, Tuney," Severus used his best classroom sneer and a grip of iron
to hold the woman still until the dancing sparks faded, and the chaotic
magic settled its will into place inside them both. "I am taking Harry
James Potter away from you, as you've asked," he said, and the words
rang with unquestioned truth inside him, even as they echoed from the
flowered kitchen walls. "He is mine now, not yours. And you
will never speak of him again, nor seek for him. He is gone from
you now, never to return."
Once more, Severus felt the
magic pushing out through his lips, read its subtlety in the sudden
dilation of the woman's eyes, the unfocusing of her glare into soft
puzzlement as she sensed the loss of something she could not
fathom. The magic, satisfied at last, becalmed itself, rendering
Petunia merely homely instead of horrible.
"But... but you can't
do..." she pulled away, dropped the broom, and stepped back, pressing
her hand to her brow. "What... what are you... I
didn't...Vernon? Where are you? Verno-" Then she stumbled over
the fat boy's outflung arm, and utterly distracted herself with a
scream. "DUDLEY! Oh, my Diddykins, what's wrong!"
Disgusted, Severus threw
the dishtowel at her head on his way out of the kitchen.
The parlour was in utter
disarray; lamps smashed, tables overturned, chairs tipped, framed
photos scattered in drifts of smashed glass at the base of the
mantelpiece. Even the sofa's chintz cushions were cantilevered,
as though Potter had kicked them out of his way. There was a fat
handprint in blood on the white-painted doorframe.
Potter was here.
Somewhere. Severus could always sense when the little bastard was
lurking where he oughtn't to be, and the recently faded magic amplified
that prickling in his thumbs into a full-blown, itching desire to lay
hands on the idiotic, careless, reckless, impulsive little fool,
and.... He shook his head to clear it. Potter was here, and
with the amount of magic that had been going off around the place, the
Aurors would be soon as well if he didn't get about his job.
Severus concentrated to block out the histrionics in the kitchen, and
summoned his Patronus -- a soothing silver grace in this florid
mundanity of a house. "Go to Arthur Weasley," he told the
doe. "Tell him that I have the Potter situation in hand."
With a solemn-eyed nod, she
leapt away, and as the fat boy returned to consciousness and began to
squeal in the other room, Severus envied her escape no little
bit. He flicked a silencing spell at the doorway, and turned back
to examine the lounge as the yowling faded.
He heard Potter's shallow,
panting breath at once -- low to the floor, rapid and pained. It
stilled the instant he took a step toward the sofa, and there came just
the barest rustle of movement. Something curled in his stomach,
hard and angry. Potter never did know when not to provoke, did he?
"Come out of there,
Potter," Severus said, watching the space behind the sofa for any
glimmer of invisibility-cloaked escape. Another rustle was his
only answer. A clock on the mantle began to whirr, and Severus
ground his teeth as its chime shattered the silence. "If you make
me fetch you out," he said once the clanging stopped, "it will go the
worse for you, boy!"
There was no reply -- even
the panting had gone still.
Severus was used to his
skin prickling around Potter -- the brat had a way from first glance of
setting his teeth on edge, -- but something intangible, some sense
subtler than a hunch, was telling Severus that things were more wrong
than even Potter's disastrous norm. He flicked a silent summoning
spell, but the hated invisibility cloak did not come slithering from
beneath the skirted chintz sofa. Instead, something thudded hard
against the wall behind him, startling Severus around in a whirl.
Severus could feel the
magic of his summoning spell dragging as the cloak, not with Potter, as
he'd assumed, fought to obey. Another wand-flick turned the wall
transparent, and Severus squinted into a narrow, dark sort of cupboard
behind. Potter's school trunk, pressed tight against the
invisible barrier, the silvery mass of the cloak wadded up inside
it. Well then. That would make things easier.
"Last chance, Potter," he
said, and gave the sofa a kick. "You should know I'll not mind
dragging you out of there by force, if you-"
He froze at the throaty
yelp. Then he shook his head again. "Oh, do stop whining,
you wretch!" He kicked the sofa again, harder. "From the
look of things in the kitchen, you deserved everything Petunia could
possibly have dealt out with that flimsy broom of hers!"
wail was longer this time, louder, with a shrill sort of desperation
soaking the sound with equal measures of warning and plea. The
hair on Severus' arms stood up. "Potter?"
"Mmmf." A rustle, and
the panting resumed.
Severus dropped to his
knees, and edged his wand under the sofa's ruffled skirt. A loud
hiss gave him pause, until he remembered Potter's gift with
Parseltongue. The little bastard couldn't be that badly off if he was up to
multilingual profanity. Severus lifted the fabric aside and
Two green eyes caught the
dim light and glowed briefly red as the loud, warning hiss sounded once
"Bloody hell," Severus
agreed after a stunned and silent moment.
bellowed over the screaming as soon as the flames turned green.
"Damn you, man, ANSWER ME!"
With a yelp and scrabble,
Hagrid's useless boarhound fled from the Floo-portal's view, tail
firmly tucked. Severus braced his weight against the cupboard
door as best he could while keeping his feet out of reach from the
crack beneath it, and strongly considered just casting an accio on the gamekeeper to get him
from Hogwarts to Spinner's End more quickly. It was more the
question of power requirement than the dubious legality that gave him
enough pause that the hairy half-giant could come thundering in from
"Howd on there, Fang, ye
great ninny! You don' fit under the wardrobe, and you know it!"
"Rubeus Hagrid, damn you,
leave that idiot dog alone and get through this damned Floo," Severus
bellowed over the din.
"Tha's never Severus Snape,
is it?" Hagrid's face filled the hearth with whiskers and confusion as
an unearthly howl rang from the closet behind Severus' well-braced
shoulders. "What've you got there, Professor?"
thought, stifling a jump as Potter screeched and threw himself at the
door again. *Just the Boy
Hero of the Wizarding World, who's taken it into his foolish head to
transfigure himself into a-*
"A bloody disaster is what
I've got here," Severus gritted at last, eyeing his wand where it had
rolled to rest beside the fireplace. "And it's only going to get
worse if you don't get over here and make the idiotic thing calm down
before it injures itself!" *And possibly
me* he didn't add,
thinking of the marks on Vernon Dursley with some trepidation.
A sparkling surge of green
light, and a billow of soot on his mother's hearthrug heralded the
arrival of Severus' current definition of salvation. "Good
Heavens, Professor," cried Hagrid, tossing his great, hairy coat over
Severus' fireside chair, as soon as he'd regained his feet,
"what's got into that cat? She's howling something awful."
"Is he really?"
Severus couldn't stop his lip curling, even as he had to brace himself
against the door again. "Oof. You lie still in there, you
little cretin! You'll only make it worse for yourself!"
looked scandalized, "It's no good trying to give a moggy
detention, 'specially one tha's been hurt, from the sound of it!
You need to calm him down, not get im even more excited."
"Oh, very astute!"
Severus threw up his hands and shouted over the din. "And just
how would you suggest I achieve that, given that I've already tried calming charms, stunning
spells, binding spells and sleep spells, and nothing seems to make the
damned thing stop hurling itself about like a fur covered
bludger!" He panted, quite unable to recover the slightest grip
on his dignity, now there was an actual human to be ranted at.
"It was all I could do to even get him here with those blasted Muggles
still about, and now I can't even get close enough to examine his
"He is injured then?"
Hagrid was scandalized.
"Well, why did you think he
was SCREAMING?" Severus leapt away from the door as Potter's
transfigured talons sank clear through his boot leather, and pricked
his ankle bloody. "LITTLE BASTARD!" he bellowed, whirling
to give the door a solid kick. "I OUGHT TO SKIN YOU FOR A HAT,
YOU UNGRATEFUL- MMMMF!!"
"You hush up now!"
Hagrid said and kept his hand wrapped firmly over Severus' mouth,
bodily lifting him out of reach of a flailing, grabbing black
paw. "That's no way to talk to a poor frightened creature now, is
Severus closed his eyes,
took a breath through his nose, and willed himself to find the strength
to resist murdering flea-bitten pair of them.
"You got to speak in a soft
voice," Hagrid explained, clearly mistaking Severus' lack of violent
resistance as aquiescence. The half giant set him on
the far end of the sofa and removed his paw just as Severus' resistance
to biting the man was beginning to fail. "It don't do to expect
him to calm down if you're all in a froth yourself. Half his
fear's of what you'll take an urge to do to him, most like."
"Perhaps you were sleeping
when I told you that I have already tried calming spells on him,"
Severus managed to get the words through his teeth, but only
just. He glanced at his wand, but decided to let it lie, lest he
accidentally hex the eyebrows off the half-giant. "The little
bastard threw off every one, and then he damn near broke his own neck
trying to climb the bookshelf!"
"Aye, that's the trouble wi
cats," Hagrid chuckled, dropping to his knees, and crawling toward the
coat cupboard, where the Cat Who Used To Be The Boy Who Lived was
yowling and clawing at the gap. "They've got just enough magic in em to
slip out of any bag, don't they? Spells don't do no good when
they get in a mood. Can't keep one in when he want's ter get out,
can't keep one out when he wants ter get in. Here now, Maulkin,"
Hagrid's rump towered as he put his cheek on the floor and crooned to
the crack under the door. "What's all this noise then?"
Potter yowled again, claws flashing white as he dug at the door with a
frenzied urgency. One would have thought he were locked in with
rabid acromantulas instead of just Severus' extra rain cloaks and
"You ran in there yourself,
you ungrateful little cretin!" Severus shouted back, sucking his
bitten thumb, now that he didn't need both hands to wedge the door
shut. "And by Merlin, you'll pay for the damages! I ought
to have left you with the Muggles, you -" Too late, he spotted
Hagrid's reach for the cupboard's latch. "No! Don't
The door crashed free of
Hagrid's grip, releasing a jagged streak of black fur and spitting
malice. Severus refused to be ashamed of lifting both feet out of
reach when the evil little creature flung itself under the sofa.
"It took me an hour," he said with terrible precision as Hagrid sat
upright with a grin and picked a bit of fluff from his beard, "to get
the damned animal IN there."
"Aye, well, he didn' much
like it anyhow." Hagrid dusted his thighs, and got to his
feet. "Why not leave 'im to me for a bit, now I can have a proper
look at him? You can fix up some tea while me and your man there
get to acquainted."
There were at least six
deadly poisons which were undetectable by taste or smell in black
tea. Ten, if one was only looking to make the drinker temporarily
miserable, instead of permanently dead. Severus silently recited
their ingredients alphabetically and then the poisons themselves in
order of toxicity while he sought the patience to answer Hagrid's
impertinence. By the time he'd composed himself, and a
sufficiently pointed response, however, the imbecile had wedged his
head and shoulders under the sofa and could be heard murmuring in a
childish sort of sing-song. The cat hissed again, though it was
beginning to sound a bit uncertain of itself.
Snarling a curse against
Gryffindor idiots everywhere, Severus pushed to his feet, and then
stormed into the kitchen to find his mother's tea things.
Tea being a quintessential
English ritual, it turned out to be a good idea; attending to the
details of the arrangement gave Severus time to think. The china
pieces were ferreted out and assembled on the tray alongside delicate
nuances of truth and obfuscation; sugar and milk found, but certainty
of approach was not; the pot warmed, and the temper cooled; the tea
leaves and the story measured, checked for freshness and believability;
biscuits and bread with butter (not too much of either, on his salary,)
plated, along with such tidbits of advice and usefulness as would be
most tempting to the great, oafish Gryffindor; each step as
precise as any potion Severus had brewed for either of his masters.
Of course Hagrid couldn't
be told where the cat had really come from. The man couldn't keep
a secret no matter whose life depended on it, and Potter's current,
self-transfigured state had to remain a secret, even from the Order and
his meddling friends. Especially from the Order and his friends,
Severus realized with a grimace, for wild magic followed no rules
of spellcrafting, but flowed like a dark river from desperation, fear,
anger, hatred, lust, avarice and envy directly into result. Often
even the wizard responsible couldn't know exactly what he had done, but
one thing was certain; only the will that had shaped the wild magic
could fully undo it.
The Ministry tended to look
the other way when such instinctive -- even animal -- bursts when they
occurred in young children, so long as no one was killed. Let the
infant's tantrum be calmed, and reason reasserted itself often as
not. Once a child had attained his wand though, he was expected
to master his temper; not to inflate his aunt, not to fling puddings at
dinner guests, not to turn himself into a vicious beast and attack his
relatives, not to smash glassware and dent the spines of rare books in
his teacher's cherished library, and most certainly not to bite holes
in the boot leather of his potions master!
This latest scrape was far
beyond even Potter's usual level of disastrous, thoughtless
mischief. Transfiguring himself into a cat -- not even a proper
animagus, not even able to function with what usually passed for a
brain, but an actual animal! Even Potter's celebrity wouldn't be
enough to dig him out from under the scandal -- not so close on the
heels of the Prophet's slander campaign last year.
Severus set the boiling
kettle on the countertop, took a deep breath through his nose, and
ignored a thud, crash, and muffled cry from his lounge. Potter
was going to have to clean up his own mess this time -- no whitewashing
from Albus and the boy's friends in the Order of the Phoenix.
Potter had transfigured himself, and who better than Severus to enforce
the consequences of such an undisciplined action?
He felt the stirrings of a
smile begin to tug at his mouth at the realization that for once,
Potter was stuck with his own comeuppance, and even if the Order were
to learn of it, they could none of them change a thing! Even his
Head of House, the meddling old tabby, couldn't un-spell such a primal
working without Potter first having decided that he wanted to be an
aggravating, impudent, spoiled, and shallow boy again, instead of an
Well. If it was
motivation the boy wanted...
Another thud. A
shriek set Severus' feet in motion before the thought could form to
bolt to the lounge. He hit the door at a run, tea tray levitating
forgotten behind him just as Hagrid gave a shout of triumph and held
the squirming, screaming cat aloft.
Hagrid pushed himself
upright with one hand, the other holding Potter firmly by the barrel,
black fur bristling between his thick fingers. "Whoa now, old
son, easy, easy," he crooned, as though Potter weren't clawing and
kicking bloody furrows in his forearm.
Wild magic surged up once
more, spurring Severus across the lounge to snatch the cat away with a
wordless snarl. The black, taut body whipped around in Severus'
arms the instant Hagrid loosed his grip, but instead of attacking him,
Potter latched his claws into Severus' robes and clung. He was
shaking violently and voiced only a murmur as Severus curled both arms
around his back to support his weight and hold him close.
was a man with huge, hard hands, his face was purple with rage, his
voice a meaningless thunder as the man shook him, and shook him, and
shook him, and he couldn't breathe, couldn't speak, couldn't see,
couldn't get away, couldn't get-
"Good," Hagrid's low, easy
voice cut through Severus' confusion, "tha's good. Hold him
soft now, Professor. Budge down yer hand under a bit so he don'
think he's like to fall..." Severus let his wrist be tugged into
position, wincing as his palm passed over a hot, swollen lump at the
base of Potter's tail. Potter flinched as well, voiced a tiny
bleat of protest -- A high voice
shrieking, swearing. A fierce grip that hurt his tail, hauling
him backward, upside down and swinging. Pain, such pain as the
world wrenched askew,
Then once Severus' hand pressed up under his heels, Potter leaned into
Severus' grasp with a shuddering purr.
"Who's gone and dislocated
yer tail then?" Hagrid murmured, oblivious to Severus' own shiver
at the flashes of sense-memory the cat was bleeding. He
could feel the half-giant's touches as though Potter's body was a
drumhead, each gentle brush of finger or thumb echoing in twitches and
tiny, lurching gasps against Severus' chest. Hagrid's umbrella
sketched healing spells in the air as the litany continued.
"Ooer. Been kicked as well, aven't yer? Sorry I ad to
grab yer so, I didn't know it would hurt. And look at all these
pulling, fingernails digging into his scalp, ripping his hair, forcing
his face down into-
"Do not touch him there,"
Severus heard himself snap, his voice choking-dry and strangling-tight
as he shielded the back of Potter's neck from Hagrid's hand. "He
doesn't like it."
"No, I can see why he'd not
do," the man nodded grimly. "All these little grey patches in his
coat, see? Those're scars, they are, and old ones too.
Nothing else makes black fur go white in streaks like that."
Severus looked up at the strange coldness in Hagrid's voice and found
himself startled at the quiet outrage hardening the brown eyes as he
wiped his bloodied arms clean with a spotted handkerchief. "These
Muggles you said you took him from; they had a boy, didn't they?"
Wary, Severus nodded.
"Why should that matter?"
"Well, it's usually boys as
torture cats, isn't it? There's some as can't let the beasts be
themselves without thinkin' their ownselves is made smaller for it, so
they prove how much bigger they are by makin' em bleed." Hagrid
wrung the atrocious handkerchief with grim dislike, though his voice
never rose above the low range he'd used before. "A boy who likes
to hear a cat scream gen'rally learns he likes human screams too,
explains some Gryffindors, Severus thought
sourly. But then Potter's distorted, blurry memory-faces
flickered once more through his mind. Angry man, hateful woman,
frightened boy, barking dog, jeering children, cold teachers, in an
endless, swirling assault. "He is not going back there," he
snarled, as much to himself as to Hagrid.
"Nouuu..." Potter agreed,
clinging a bit harder.
Hagrid blinked, then smiled
and dabbed at his eye. Severus only then realized he'd been
actually stroking the damned cat. "I always knew you was a good
"Spare me your puerile
declarations," Severus grumbled, pushing past with the shoulder which
wasn't bearing up under six-odd pounds of bony, purring Potter.
"My interest is purely practical. I can't afford a House Elf, and
something must keep down the mice and rats in this place when I'm at
"Oh, a course," Hagrid
didn't sound convinced, damn him. "And so he's a good mouser
Severus sat and waited for
Potter to let go now he wasn't so far from the ground. "He is a
cat, is he not?"
"Nou," said Potter as he
let go his hold on Severus' shoulders, and clambered down to settle in
"Be quiet, you," he told
the wretch, receiving only a solid thump of Potter's mended tail across
his thigh by way of a reply.
Smiling indulgently, Hagrid
helped them both to tea.
dealt with the contretemps at Potter's house. After considerable
effort on my part, I have convinced the Muggles not to throw his
useless hide out into the street for his unwarranted display of
magic-laced temper. However, as Mrs Figg can most likely tell
you, the Dursleys are quite easily alarmed by the appearance and
interference of magical folk, and it is my concerted opinion that, upon
the appearance of any further wizarding citizens in their home, they
would most likely repudiate Potter entirely, and thereby render the
lingering blood protections on him entirely null.
are ignorant Muggles, Headmaster, but they are ignorant Muggles who
hold sway over a celebrity whose importance even I am not prepared to
entirely decry. Kindly refrain from sending any other Order
members to that house until the beginning of term, if you would be so
kind, as I do not care to see my considerable exertions of tact and
restraint fall to naught over a well meaning but intrinsically
disastrous desire for a teatime chat and a game of exploding snap with
the boy hero of the Wizarding World.
Severus set down the letter
and considered. Ought he to claim that he had confiscated
Potter's wand to prevent further infractions, or would that goad the
Headmaster to even further meddling? He could just imagine the
twinkle the old man's eye would get if he guessed Severus was keeping
something from him. He took a sip of his morning tea and
grumbled, "Heaven forefend, of course, that anyone might conceal a
detail or two from Albus Dumbledore. Hmph."
"Wow," Potter observed from
the countertop, where he was sniffing dubiously at the window screen,
his tail erect and twitching just at the tip as he tracked some bird or
other across the garden. Clearly his Seeker instincts would not
suffer from the idiot's latest debacle.
"What did you do with your
owl, anyhow, Potter?" Severus suddenly thought to wonder.
"Owwt," came the reply.
Severus ground his
teeth. "Don't be ridiculous! Concentrate, you idiotic
animal. The owl. Where is it? So help me, if you make
me return to that suburban cesspit just to rescue your blasted
familiar, I shall skin you for mittens!" He leaned his chair back
in the tiny kitchen and swept the cat from the windowsill with one
arm. Potter squawked in alarm and clung with more force than was
strictly necessary, but he let Severus drop him into his lap with only
mildly affronted dignity.
insisted, tail giving three emphatic flips as he glowered. The
damned cat seemed to be waiting, as though Severus were the pupil slow
on the uptake, damn it.
"Speak English or cease
wasting my time, Potter!" Severus demanded. It was hardly
as though the boy couldn't, after all. It was just a
matter of the idiot deciding he wished to undo what he and his wild
magic had wrought.
Laying his ears back,
Potter stood up in Severus' lap, pushed one paw directly over Severus'
lips, and enunciated the word almost as clearly as ever he had when
he'd been a boy. "Oouuwwwwwt!"
Severus drew breath to
reply to the cheek, when a flicker of memory drew him short. He
closed his eyes, recalling in exact detail the memory-image of the
Dursley's rumpled lounge, where he'd found the cat huddled beneath the
sofa. Shattered pink pottery from a hurled lamp, framed
photographs askew on the walls, cushions rumpled, feathers scattered
about... white feathers. An effort of will drew one feather in
particular, into sharp focus; a long, blunt wing pinion ticked with
black at the edges had been stuck in the overly-groomed hedges just
outside the windows. It had twisted gently in the breeze, just
barely pinned in place by the holly's prickly branches.
"You let the owl out,"
Severus said, opening his eyes to regard the cat soberly. Potter
sat back on his haunches, forepaws still braced on his chest, ears not
yet fully un-tucked as he waited. "You tried to, at any rate,
didn't you?" A slow blink of those green eyes, and at last Potter
sat back properly, turning to groom his already smooth shoulder.
Severus prodded the beast
out of his pretended inattention. "Did they kill it?"
"Out." Potter launched
himself off Severus' lap, and went to stick his nose back into the vile
smelling tinned paté that Hagrid had sent along by way of the
animal's 'food'. "I hope you know," Severus told him, "I
shall henceforth never heed another complaint from you regarding the
taste of my potions. Not if you're willing to eat that wretched
Potter merely mumbled with
his mouth full and switched his tail again. Severus took up his
calm the Dursleys, and alleviate their worries, I released Potter's
owl. I daresay the creature will have the wit to take herself to
Hogwarts, or to somewhere equally unobtrusive until school reopens...
The dried Kingbeetles
rattled into the mortar like golden beads, bouncing and jostling as
Severus watched the scale's needle carefully.
observed from the other end of the worktop, his green eyes alight with
Severus, weary of the
endless chore of pitching the cat out of his brewing space, simply
moved his knives to the other side. Potter had never demonstrated
such a fascination with potions preparation before he'd turned himself
into an animal. "You may not help!" Severus warned as a
black paw quested idly for the mortar's alluring contents.
Potter sank obediently back
on his haunches and washed an ear, but his attention was clearly
caught. Severus sighed. "The beetles get their colour from
the dragons they infest," said, as though the wretch were any more
likely to heed him in fur than in a school uniform. "And they
provide a less volatile result than pure dragonscale in potions where
there is a chance of interaction with dark magics... such as Remus
Lupin's bloody Wolfsbane potion, which I am preparing to brew ...
now." He tipped the jar upright with a flourish. "Four
Checking his notes, Severus
set the jar aside only to have the damned thing topple over and send
Kingbeetles rolling everywhere. Potter, of course, gave chase at
once, knocking the tightly-rolled insects far and wide.
"IDIOT!" Severus bellowed, dropping his knife to make a grab for
the cat. "YOU ARE HELPING AGAIN!"
Undeterred, Potter leapt to
the floor and chased one of the gleaming beetles into the corner with
barely a backward glance for Severus' ire, damn him. Cursing
roundly, Severus fetched out his wand and summoned the beetles back to
the jar. Potter, half under a shelf with his tail twitching in
delight, made an excited sort of chirrup, a lightning-fast backward
scramble, and an acrobatic leap, twisting wildly to snatch his quarry
like a snitch from its flight. Like a crunchy snitch.
"You'll regret that,"
Severus predicted darkly, watching thirty knuts' worth of Kingbeetle
disappear down Potter's maw. "Reactions with dark magics,
remember? That includes such magics as when idiotic boys turn
themselves into cats, and drive their Professors to homicide. It
could very well make you explode. Or liquefy. Or
regurgitate fire. You had better turn back into a boy at once, so
I can throttle you properly..."
Potter merely finished his
snack, sat up smartly, and said, "Mowr?"
The parlour Floo activated
before Severus had finished counting to ten.
Potter sought refuge behind
the athanor at once, and managed to kick over the coal scuttle
wriggling his way into the narrow crack.
Headmaster's voice rang down the kitchen stairs. "Are you all
right down there, dear boy?"
"Quite," he shouted back,
tightly capping the Kingbeetles into their jar once more. "I
shall come up directly." He crouched to glower into Potter's
refuge, and mouthed 'stay there'. Useless, of course, but
one had to try, and after the idiot's panic at being locked in, he
hardly dared shut the workroom door with him inside. He sketched
a quick warding spell on the threshold instead and hoped Potter would
know better than to try it.
"I can come down," Albus'
voice was cloying with concern. "I shouldn't like to disturb your
"It can wait." He
took the stairs two at a time and ascended into the kitchen to find the
Headmaster filling his mother's teapot at the tap. "What are you-"
"Well," the old man
chuckled, boiling the water with a tap of his wand, "I could hardly
just have a House Elf ask you to come up to my office for a spot of
tea, given that you haven't been at Hogwarts in a week and a
half." He tipped a wink at Severus and added two cups to the milk
and sugar he already had on the tea tray. "I take it Hagrid was
able to assist you adequately when you summoned him last week?"
Rolling his eyes at the
unsubtle interrogation, Severus fetched a packet of biscuits down from
the cupboard and dropped them on the table. "He was not entirely
useless," he allowed, thinking of the scat-clearing charm, the
feeding instructions, and the surprisingly effective notion of using aguamenti minimus as a discipline
tool. Although Severus was certain a squirt of water, however
cold, just did not quite deliver the same satisfaction as throttling
the irritating creature would do, he did have to admit that it resulted
in fewer applications of healing salves to his own arms. And too,
Potter didn't hide under the sofa and murmur his distress after a
dousing, as he had the one time Severus had attempted physical
correction. "Had you wished for an evaluation of your Care of
Magical Creatures professor, however," he went on, "you might simply
have owled me..."
Albus twinkled and slid
into the facing chair. "Pish tosh. I merely wish to be
certain you had the help you needed, Severus."
"If this is yet another bid
to force me to allow that Granger girl to assist me with the Wolfsbane
"Nothing of the sort,"
Albus cut him off with an upraised hand and a smile. "Although I
do still believe she would be an asset to your efforts...?"
Severus shook his head decidedly. Albus sighed and went on.
"Of course. No, Severus the reason I needed to speak with you is
this; I have a... small errand, which will take me away from
Hogwarts for some time. A fortnight, perhaps. Or longer."
"Then the Order meeting on
Thursday," Severus prompted, his mind already sorting his questions in
order of importance. "Cancelled?"
"Oh no, I daresay Kingsley
can moderate the meeting in my absence," Albus smiled absently.
"I merely wished to inform you, along with a few other key Order
members, that you might wish to keep your schedules somewhat flexible
whilst I am gone." At Severus' sharp glance, Albus gave a solemn
nod. "I should like to know, in the event of unexpected trouble,
that I might count upon your support..."
So he would be going alone
into danger then. And worse, into danger he wasn't certain of,
and thus had no means to plan against. Small wonder Potter was
forever diving into similar debacles, given his chosen role
model! "And the school?"
"In Minerva's capable
hands. Though, of course you may come at any time, should you
wish to do your brewing in the dungeons. I am told we have quite
a complete potions supply pantry."
"Give or take the odd,
migratory boomslang skin and gillyweed," Severus grumbled under his
breath. "I'll do well enough here. Unless you're afraid I
might poison your pet werewolf...accidentally."
"Actually, it is only a
matter of quickness of response, actually," Albus replied, deadly
sober. "If my Patronus knows where to find you, the chance of
your aid coming in time is highly improved."
Ah. So it was that sort of an errand then.
Severus drained his own cup. "Then you may send him here. I
shall endeavor to be prompt in my usefulness."
The Headmaster traded a
smile for his sarcasm and refilled their teacups. "So then," he
changed the subject with a show of bonhomie, "have you considered what
projects you plan to assign your NEWTs students this year?"
Albus took an hour further
to leave, gossiping about various Order members, and Hogwarts staff
politics while Severus steadfastly tried not to imagine the havoc that
Potter, high on stolen Kingbeetles, was likely to be wreaking in his
brewery. When the old man finally took himself away, Severus
wasted no time on clearing up.
He rushed down the stairs,
bootheels clattering, only to stop at the threshold, caught up by his
own spell of warding. Inside, the #2 cauldron he'd left on the
worktop lay on the floor, rolling back and forth in the shattered
remains of several jars, which must have toppled from that cleared
section of shelf above. One candle lay on its side, guttering in
a pool of wax, while the other teetered on the worktop's edge.
Shreds of paper fluttered in the air, and the cat... the damned cat was
nowhere to be seen.
Drawing his wand, Severus
heard again Hagrid's admonition -- Yer
can't just go shoutin and flingin im about if yer want im to settle
here. That's what them Muggles did to im, clearly, an he didn't
take that well, did he? What he needs if he's to trust you, is a
pattern he can rely on, like. So's he'll know when you yell, it
means summat about him, an what he's done, not jus that he's in for a
beating for no reason at all...
While Severus maintained
that ransacking his brewery and destroying potions supplies was, in
fact, an offense worthy of a little beating, he did have to allow that
drowning Potter would most likely not help his cause. So instead,
he took a calming breath. Then he took another, then he kicked
the doorframe twice. Then
he unwarded the door and stepped in.
"Come out here at once, you
little cretin," Severus demanded, not disguising the fury in his
voice. "Do not make me hunt you out, or I shall-" A scrabble of
claws on stone had him whirling to the right, wand drizzling sparks to
highlight a scabrous brown rat streaking for the door. A second
clawing racket turned him back, just as Potter, eyes feral with the joy
of the hunt, burst from his
hiding place and barreled up the stairs in hot pursuit.
Severus stood still,
thinking for a moment, recalling the more finite details of what he had
seen. Then, when a rattling clang sounded through the floorboards
above his head, he shook off his reverie on whether the term
'cannibalism' would entirely apply, and rushed upstairs to see what
could be done to save Potter from his instincts again.
What he found when he
arrived in the lounge, however, was that the chase had ended --
apparently in a sliding struggle across the hearthrug, and directly
into the fire irons, which had gone over and rolled everywhere.
Potter seemed winded and a bit dazed -- clipped by the fire shovel,
Severus supposed, -- but unhurt as he stood unsteadily at Severus'
approach. Pettigrew, however, lay curled in the ashes of the
grate, leaking blood from his nose and eyes as the hair on his back
singed. The poker's heavy, sharp iron hook was embedded in the
back of his neck.
"Hmph," Severus observed,
crouching to be certain the traitor had breathed his ratty last.
"Perhaps you are not entirely useless after all," he allowed as the cat
wobbled near and leaned against his knee.
"Owt?" Potter asked,
pawing the lifeless tail.
"I think not," Severus
replied and wedged the tiny body firmly into the hottest part of the
coals. Then he stood, brushed off his knees, and took his ease in
the wingchair he kept there for reading. Potter took the refusal
and the invitation in stride, leaping into Severus' lap and settling
down with a rumbling purr.
"We shall wait for the
silver paw to fall free," he told the brat as he smoothed the fluffed
ridge of fur still standing along his back, "then I'll dispose of it in
a Knockturn Alley gutter. No one need ever know that he came here
to spy at all." One black ear swiveled back, but the purring did
not abate, nor did the contented flex and release of Potter's claws
against his knee. "That does not mean, however, that you've leave
to ransack my workroom for amusement's sake." He poked the cat in
the side and won a glare for it. "And if I find you eating my
Kingbeetles again, I shall dose you on Gillyweed and throw you in the
Potter continued to purr,
undeterred, and after awhile, Severus found himself smoothing the cat's
fur once more while they watched the flames consume the creature who
had robbed them both.
That night, it was harder
than usual for Severus to clear his mind for sleep. He had, over
the past two weeks, become accustomed to Potter's nightly regard when
he would prop himself against the bedstead, close his eyes, and breathe
deeply until the pattern of ebb and flow subsumed all the chattering
thoughts of the day. In fact, he had rather grown to hope that
the wretch might take a lesson from that memory, assuming he should
ever decide to resume his life as the Boy Who Lived, instead of the Cat
Who Lived To Make Severus' Life Interesting.
So he could not truly blame
his agitation on Potter, crouched just by his feet, and kneading the
tatty knit throw with gusto. Not when it was memories of Lily
that flitted, bright as sparks in a summer night, through his
brain. She unsettled him, always had done, from the first time
her green eyes had met his, from the first time she'd said his name,
shouted at him, laughed with him, fought with him...
Severus took a deep breath,
held it, and told himself firmly to desist. Lily was gone --
first at his own offense, twice over when she married Potter, thrice
and irrevocably when she died that night in Godric's Hollow.
Harry Potter was his problem now. He cracked an eyelid to glower
as the cat wandered up the length of his leg and settled against his
thigh with a rumbling purr.
"You might take heed, you
know," he grumbled, "seeing as how it was this very practice at which
you so spectacularly failed last year."
Potter only yawned, then
licked his paw. Severus went back to his breathing.
An eternity later, tense
and irritated as much with himself, as with the vibrating lump beside
him, who bloody well would not
be still and let him concentrate, Severus gave it up as a bad job
altogether. He'd have to resort to drastic measures if he wished
to get any sleep at all.
Potter grumbled as the
blankets flopped over his head and whined when Severus leaned over to
rummage in the night table. Severus ignored him, finding the
earthenware pot he wanted and thumbing the cork out of its
throat. He was half hard already, as frustration often made him,
so the cooling, tingling dribble of oil along his cock was enough to
bring his twitching flesh smartly to attention.
He sighed as he took
himself in hand, focusing readily on the sensation of twist and slide,
the oil cold where his hand slipped away, nearly burning where skin
touched skin. He needed no imagined lover for this, no sparkling,
heated green glance, no soft-bitten lip holding back a sigh.
Here, the mechanics of friction were enough to whelm the fractious,
leaping distractions of -
Tickling whiskers on his
shaft, each brushing touch a torment and a shocking delight. "Wow!"
Severus' orgasm startled
out of him with a shout and a convulsive shudder. Hot, sticky
ropes of come slung up along his chest and belly as he gasped, milking
the release for all it was worth. Potter scrambled off the bed,
getting halfway to the door before he realized that Severus wasn't the
least bit inclined to follow him. There, he turned back to
glower, somehow managing to look offended, excited, horrified, and
enthralled at once. And debauched, with a pearly strand of come
strung between his bristling whiskers like a spider's thread.
Severus' cock gave another twitch when Potter's pink tongue slipped out
and removed it.
"When I said you might take
note," he panted, reaching for his wand to clear the mess up, "it was
not precisely an invitation." Severus cast the spell and flipped
the covers back over his lap. Potter watched, still licking at
his whiskers, clearly unconvinced. "Fine sensibilities for one
who was eating insects earlier today," Severus smirked, then patted the
covers at his side again. "It won't kill you. Now come on,
and let's get some sleep."
And if he should dream of
Potter himself, boy-shaped and irreverent with Severus' come dripping
in artful ropes from his nose and chin? Well, he'd just take care
not to recall it in the morning, that was all.
On Tuesday night, at 3:35,
Potter slipped again. This time, the subtle shift of the bed, the
settling of a heavier weight, a greater mass against his left side, did
not catch Severus off guard as it had the first time Potter had turned
back into a boy in his sleep.
He lay still, eyes closed
and listening to softly whistling, even breaths too deep for any
housecat to make. Potter's skin was hot against his palm, no
trace of the silken fur Severus knew he'd fallen asleep stroking.
He traced the line of a shoulder and a rib-striped side against the
darkness, first with his eyes and then with his hand.
Something in him knew
beyond question that waking the boy would be disastrous -- likely as
much of a setback as Severus' response to the unexpected change the
previous week had been. Whispering scorn and derision for his
cowardly behavior had not, as expected, sparked the Gryffindor to
challenge and prove him wrong. Instead, Potter, furred and four
footed by the time the sun rose, spent the next three days sulking
underneath the athanor. If he'd ventured out for food or water,
it had not been where Severus could see any trace of it, and given that
he had spent much of that time in the brewery himself, he was fairly
certain the fast had been complete.
"You got to just keep to the pattern, see?"
Hagrid had told him through the Floo that first night. "Whatever it is that's scared him, he'll
only come over it once he believes things en't going to follow along
like they always did in the Muggle house. Summat you've done's
reminded 'im, see? An only time'll mend it, not you yourself."
The fifth day had found the
cat sitting, silent and grave on his worktop when Severus came down to
see to the Wolfsbane potion's progress. Even hardened as he was
to such childish manipulations, Severus was not entirely able to quash
a sense of relief to see the cat in the open again. He hadn't
even scolded when Potter devoured an accidentally dropped Kingbeetle.
And now, sleep and a week
of pussyfooting between them found Potter in flesh once more --
vulnerable, warm, and soft against Severus' side, head pillowed on
Severus' arm, his belly swelling and easing against Severus' palm with
the rhythm of his breath. He smelled more or less the same
as he had done in fur, Severus realized; dry, faintly spicy, with a
salty, subtle musk that spoke to the baser instincts in a plainly
sexual tone. His baser instincts, untroubled by such issues as
age, gender, or propriety, responded readily.
Rolling onto his side,
Severus gathered the boy into the hollow of his body, and brought his
knees up behind, cradling his erection in the warm welter of blankets
between them, spreading both his hands over the smooth expanse of chest
and belly. Potter mumbled in his throat, but accepted the change
readily, curling firmly into Severus' hold before settling soft once
more. His penis, Severus couldn't help but notice, was erect,
brushing damply against the bone of his wrist as Severus buried his
nose in the boy's downy hair.
"I know why you stay," he
whispered, letting Potter's scent fill up his nose. "I know it's
not that you fear the Dark Lord, and you certainly have not ever truly
feared me..." His fingertips caught on a chilly, pebbled nipple,
and Severus did not resist the urge to gently pinch it. "You'd
not have transferred your kin-bond to me, if you did." A gentle
moan, a stretch that pressed those narrow hips back against his
erection, and snagged the breath in his throat. "No, Potter, you
fear you'll be sent back to them again. To the Muggles. To the
belts, and the fists and the words that cut you worse than either could
do..." his lips found the warm ridge of an ear, and Severus paused to
sample it with lips and tongue. "But I wonder if you realize how
greedy I am, boy... I wonder if you know that I do not give up what I
have claimed as my own..."
The boy whimpered --
whimpered, by Merlin, -- and his hands sought blindly to relieve the
pressure in his cock. Severus caught and entangled those hands in
his own, and pressed his erection more firmly against Potter's
arse. "Hush, my boy, easy now, I'll see to it when you're
ready..." Another mewling, delicious whimper. Severus
shivered. "I am not your father, Harry Potter. I am not kin
to you, and we share no blood between us, but you wished to be mine,
and you made it so..." He transfered both the boy's hands to one
of his own and trailed his fingers along the youthful, eager erection
with just enough pressure to titillate. "You made yourself mine,
do you understand, Potter? That means I will suffer no other to
abuse you, to claim you, or to name you..."
He curled his fingers
around Potter's cock, slid them down to the root, and took a firm,
ready hold. "You are not a freak."
A stroke for emphasis, and to make the boy's weight judder against
him. "You are not a hero.
You are not a cat. You
are not a savior." His
own breath was coming faster now, pressure and pleasure gathering
behind his bollocks as the smell of Potter's urgent desire filled
Severus' nose, and the feel of it filled up his hands. "You are mine, boy," he could sense the
magic rearing once more in his throat, in the looming release, in the
gasping, eager body that writhed -- but did not struggle -- against
him. "You are mine, and
I want you-" Orgasm reared up, like a towering wave inside him.
Severus stroked harder, twisted, swiped a thumb over Potter's slick
cockhead, and snarled his desire against the sweaty, downy hollow
behind the boy's ear. "I want you to come... right... now."
Potter's wailing cry, the
wet, hot throb of his cock in Severus' palm, the wire-strung shudders
wracking his slim, lithe body; all of these tripped Severus over the
edge, and he clutched the boy tight as his own orgasm erupted into the
If Potter awoke, he gave no
sign of it, easing down from his passionate crest, going lax and
contented in Severus' arms before his breath had evened out. But
his slim, strong fingers tangled willingly with Severus' own, and his
satiny cheek creased in sleepy satisfaction when Severus had recovered
enough of his own equilibrium to examine the boy. He reached for
his wand with a sticky hand, and banished the mess they both had
made. Then, purely afterthought, he summoned the sheets and
blankets from beneath the boy, and put him properly inside the nested
warmth, skin to skin, weighty comfort settling over them both.
Potter stretched a little,
cuddled close, and settled easily once more. Severus, tucking his
wand beneath his pillow, smoothed once over the fractious curls before
nestling close again. "You're mine, boy," he said once more as
sleep drifted close. "You're mine, and this is what it means."
In the morning, the warm
body pressed tight to Severus' belly was small and furry once again,
but given that the cat showed no signs of skittish trauma, Severus
found himself inclined to suppose they had made progress. The
only sign that Potter might have recalled the encounter, or the words
spoken into his human ear, was a certain clinginess in the cat's
behavior as he followed Severus from room to room throughout the day.
Oddly, Severus found it not
half so obnoxious as he might have expected.
Albus' Patronus summons
came just as Severus was finishing the washing-up from dinner.
Potter arched up, startled and fluffy as the silvery phoenix burst
through the wall, and backwinged over the kitchen table.
"Severus, come to
Hogwarts." Albus' voice was taut and strained and did not sparkle
at all. "There is a captive, and you know her. Make
haste!" And then the bird evaporated in a swirl of sparks.
Severus set down the
washrag and took a shaky breath. A captive. Her. It
could only be Bellatrix... who was constantly searching for any
possible way to undermine the Dark Lord's faith in him, who would like
nothing so well as proof of his complicity with the enemies of her
idol. Damn it!
Potter, still bristling,
leapt from counter to table, to sniff suspiciously at the air where the
Patronus had vanished. "Houw?"
"Ask me again once you're
holding your wand," Severus replied, catching up his own and striding
for the lounge. He scooped out a large pinch of Floo powder from
the bone cup on the mantle and called "Hogwarts, Headmaster's office,"
as he threw it into the fire. The green flames reached for him
with a roar, and only then did Severus realize that Potter, ever the
reckless imbecile, had entwined himself between Severus' feet.
"You IDIOT!" he shouted as
the Floo swallowed them both in a dizzying swirl of green.
"-by candle light?
Yes, and back again, if your feet are nimble and light, you'll get
there by candle-light..."
"Why were you in the Gaunt
house, Mrs. Lestrange?" Albus' voice carried calmly over the
ragged sing-song. "Were you sent there to guard it? Or were
you seeking - ah! Severus, just in time."
Dusting soot from his
clothes gave Severus the moment he needed to control his nerves.
The cat had scrambled for cover the instant the flames had released
them and was now wedged under a curio cabinet. Fawkes seemed the
only creature in the room besides Severus who had noticed, but the
phoenix was in decline, moulting and bedraggled, and seemingly in no
mood to defend his territory.
"Hark, hark, the dogs do
bark! The dead men are coming to town..." Bellatrix, sang to the
ceiling in her breathy, baby voice. "Some in bags, and some in
rags, and one in a velvet gown..."
Severus caught her chin in
his hand and turned her face to his. Her eyes were a sea of
black, barely ringed with steely grey. Her skin was clammy and
flushed. "Veritaserum, I take it?" he asked, releasing her back
to her nursery rhymes.
Albus, looking more than a
bit haggard himself, nodded. "Regrettably, she seems to have
prepared against it. Legilimency, now, I fear will be our only
recourse." Severus raised an eyebrow, but the headmaster waved
off the question before he asked it. "Yes, of course I could do
it alone, but not without severely damaging her mind -- perhaps
forever. And too, it would take much time, which I fear we might
not have. To find her there at my destination, as though set to
guard... that is an ominous thing indeed, Severus." He shook his
head and smoothed his beard. "If Voldemort suspects that I have
guessed his vulnerability..."
"He will have no need to
guess, if you continue to discuss it in front of her!" Severus snarled.
But he pulled one of the straight-backed chairs close all the
same. It would be tricky, doing as Albus requested. It
called for a joining of their own minds to a certain extent, before
they could breach the madwoman's skull. Severus' secrets --
including the green eyed, hairy one currently growling softly in the
shadows -- would be perilously vulnerable to the old man. But he
needed access to Bellatrix' mind if his place with the Dark Lord were
not to be shattered the instant the wily bitch managed to get free and
go crawling back again.
"Sadly, war makes some
infractions unavoidable," Albus sighed and stood to round the
desk. "Altering another's memories is not something of which I
approve, but there are lives at stake, and that must take
precedence." He reached for Severus' hand, but halted abruptly as
Severus jerked it back with a hiss. "You are called?" The
blue eyes were sharp as knives, and all weariness burned away.
"I..." Severus rubbed
at his tingling mark through the sleeve. "I think not, but there
is something... wrong. Something very close..." a glint of gold
on the Headmaster's right hand caught his eye, and just looking at the
ring made the Dark Mark ache once more. "What, in Merlin's name,
is that?" he demanded
through his teeth.
The aged face transformed,
suddenly icy, and fierce. He curled the ring under his other hand
for a moment, eyes blazing with a strange light. Severus' fingers
tightened on his wand.
"It's you'll sit on his
white haus bane," Bellatrix sang into the tense silence. "And
I'll peck out his bonny blue eyen..."
Fawkes bated stiffly on his
perch, a note of warning in his cry.
Albus blinked, looked down,
turned the ring on his finger, and sighed. "It is... very dark
magic, I'm afraid. My quest... was to locate it and secure it
from its hiding place."
Understanding more than he
supposed he was meant to, Severus nodded. "To destroy it, yes?"
Again, the thin old fingers
curled... but then they released. "To destroy it," Albus agreed,
slipping it off his hand. "Perhaps it would be a liability to our
immediate goals." And he turned to set the gleaming thing on his
desk blotter. His collection of silvery charm-gadgets edged away
as though it stank, which, on a magical level, Severus supposed it must.
Later. he thought, taking a breath,
and clearing his mind, Bellatrix
first, and then the rest once it is known how things stand...
The madwoman's mind was a
battlefield: cracked, and wild, and pitted with holes where Dementors
had torn loose massive chunks. The Veritaserum added a
psychedelic quality to the search, distorting memories into a wild
fairytale perspective fit to give Beedle the Bard
nightmares. And, as hotly defended as any castle besieged.
Albus and Severus took turns as to who searched and who distracted, who
was sword, and who was shield, who diverted, and who untangled the
barriers between one kernel of truth and the next.
Both were half stunned,
weary, and dazed once the answer finally drifted to light.
"Finite," Severus breathed.
"Incantatem." Albus finished.
Still bound to her chair,
Bellatrix wept in silence.
"Pettigrew gone missing...
yes. Weeks now-"
"And she sought
proof. Does she suspect he's dead?"
Severus shook his
head. "Unless she sees a body, he will always be a
deserter. But the cup? Was that Gringotts?"
"Yes." Albus, his
eyes still full of memories, sighed. "Her key will be
Severus scrubbed at his face, trying to disentangle his thoughts.
"There will be safeguards to that. She must do it herself, under
guard, and bring it back here. But one way to achieve that..."
"Not only one," Albus
sighed, shaking his head. "Though perhaps Imperio is the safer option.
I wonder, though, does she know with what she has been entrusted?"
"Or does she only know it
is important to him?" Severus mused, watching the woman's throat
as it worked around her sobs. It wasn't very thick, that
neck. He had always thought that his fingers might be long enough
to span it completely...
"Either way, it must be
seen to," Albus replied, "and Bellatrix must be secured."
"Not Azkaban," Severus
"No, my boy." Albus
stood carefully. "I've a more secure measure in mind.
Fidelis, I think, to begin with." He chuckled, turned to the
fireplace and reached for his Floo powder. "And who keeps better
secrets than a cat?"
Cat! The idle joke shot like
icewater down Severus' spine, and he jerked about in his chair to
search for the green-eyed stowaway. No movement beneath the
cabinet -- he'd slunk away! The door was closed, surely
warded. Where the devil could the idiot creature have got off to?
"Minerva," Albus was
saying, leaning low over the hearth, "I wonder, would you do me the
favour of a brief visit in my office?"
A flicker of movement in
the corner of his eye, stealthy and sable. Severus whipped around
once more, just in time to see a black paw reach up onto the desk, snag
the ring, and draw it toward the edge. Potter's eyes could just
be seen over the blotter, rapt and lambent.
Choking back a curse,
Severus cast a wordless and frigid aquamenti.
The thin stream caught Potter square in the scar, and sent him
scrambling back to cover as the ring clattered and spun across the
Snape rose, wand at the
ready. Albus turned from the Floo, wand also raised. Fawkes
stooped from his perch, and caught the ring up in his beak before
either of them could react.
"NO!" Albus shouted,
hurling himself at the bird. But Bellatrix gave a sudden wriggle,
and tangled them both in her toppling chair. The phoenix laboured
back to his perch, already smouldering, and there he tossed his head
back, swallowed his prize, and promptly burst into flame.
McGonagall's voice cut through the haze of smoke that filled the
room. "Good heavens! Severus, what on earth happened?
I could hear that explosion in the main stairwell!"
"Fawkes-" Severus choked,
too stunned to shake off the witch's assistance as she hoisted him back
into his chair. "He ate-"
"Something which disagreed
with him, I think." Albus' voice came from beyond the thickest of
the lingering smoke, obnoxiously cheerful, as though he had not just
been as near a killing rage as Severus could remember seeing him.
"His egg appears to be all right, however."
"Prisoner, yes," Albus
spoke over Severus' protest, conjuring a breeze to dispel the lingering
haze. "We seem to have a rather urgent need for a Fidelis Totalis anchor,
Minerva." He waved a hand at Bellatrix, still tied to the chair,
but unconscious now. "I wonder if you might consider assisting us
with that small matter?"
The witch's grey eyes
narrowed as she took in the prisoner, the pile of ash under the perch,
the scattered chaos of toppled bric-a-brac around the office, and
Severus' disheveled state. Then she gave a tiny huff and conjured
herself a seat. "I might do," she allowed, crossing her arms over
her breast. "Tell me more."
interrupted. "Gringotts. She must be visible and audible to
others besides the Secret Keeper, or we cannot force her to retrieve-"
he cut off at Albus' warning glance.
Minerva, sharp eyed as
ever, raised an eyebrow, but forebore to comment. Instead, she
pulled a hairpin from the tight knot at the back of her skull, and
transfigured it into a gleaming ring. Two more spells she
sketched into the metal, too quickly for Severus to follow, and then
she held it out on her palm. "There. This ought to keep her
within reach until she's made herself useful."
Albus plucked the ring from
her hand with a glowing smile. "A homing portkey with a sticking
spell?" he laughed. "Why you are a wily old cat."
"Should she escape your control in Diagon Alley, she
will fall directly into mine,"
she added, no little smug. "I trust that will serve. Once
you return, I've a place in mind where she will be quite secure indeed."
"Elves mustn't be allowed
to see her," Severus warned, "They are too easily tricked."
"Lecture your own Granny,"
she smiled back, patting his hand. Then she stood, shook her
night robe straight, and nodded to Albus. "If that's all you
require for now?"
"Of course, Minerva," Albus
smiled, stepping around the desk to take her elbow and lead her toward
the stairwell. "Only one or two more small things..." Severus
pointedly did not watch as the pair edged out onto the landing, but he
was on his feet the instant the door clicked shut.
Potter lay on his side at
the base of a bookshelf, one particularly large tome flared open across
his head and shoulders. His hind legs and tail were lax and
still, even when Severus plucked the book away, and he did not so much
as whimper in protest at being scooped up and stuffed under Severus'
cloak. The white scar on his forehead was pink with water and
"Well, that's settled
He resisted the urge to
whirl guiltily, instead only turning his head to tip a nod at the
Phoenix's perch, and the egg just visible under the pile of ash.
"Will he be all right?"
"Oh, I daresay it would
take more than a horcrux to dispatch a phoenix as old as Fawkes,"
Albus chuckled, shuffling into the room and leaving the door open
behind him. "And the egg is white instead of black. A good
sign, if ever I've seen one. I expect we shall find what remains
of the ring once Fawkes is ready to leave the shell behind." For
a moment, Albus Dumbledore looked every one of his hundred and fifty
years. Then he shook it off with a smile and a comforting pat to
"Why don't you return to
your quarters in the dungeons and get some rest, dear boy?" Although
phrased as a question, they both knew it was not. "I believe
Minerva and I have things in hand for now, but I should very much like
to know that you are close by. In case of mishap..."
Too weary to dredge up his
temper, Severus only nodded and turned to go, taking care to keep
Potter on the far side of his body as he made his way to the
door. The cat was a warm, solid weight against his ribs as he
paused on the threshold to look back. "Take care with her," he
said as Albus righted the Death Eater's chair, and cleared her face of
hair. "She is surprisingly vicious, and always more cunning than
"Yes," Albus nodded, but
did not look up from his task. "I know the type."
"Potter, you are not hurt,
but you will be, if you continue squirming-"
stretched the cat's ear out, ignoring the paw that was trying to push
his fingers away. "You ought to know," he growled, "that I am not
in any way morally opposed to the idea of sitting on you."
"Then... be..." he pinched
a little harder, and brought the charmed silver earring into range,
screamed as the ring punched through his ear, just above the split
folds, but still close enough to lay safely against his head. The
wound healed at once, but the idiot animal was already thrashing loose
of Severus' grasp, and making for the shelter of the desk where he
usually sat to do his late-night marking.
Severus let him go and
sucked a bleeding thumb into his mouth. The damage was accidental
this time, rather than deliberate and defensive... but it still
stung. He took the time to cast antiseptic and healing charms and
to banish the clumps of cat hair from his robes -- and just how could a
cat that was largely black manage to leave so much visible hair on
black fabric, anyway? Then, once his temper had calmed a bit, he
activated Potter's earring, and summoned him briskly back to his lap.
"Hush," he said, curling
his hand in front of the cat's shoulders and smoothing his ridged back
with the other. "You're all right, little fool... just not where
you expected to be." The cat looked back at him, eyes narrowed
with suspicion, tail beating out his indignation against Severus'
belly. "It means you are mine," Severus explained, a smug curl of
pleasure unfurling in his groin just to feel the word on his own lips.
Potter sat, his agitated
tail stilling, his be-ringed ear giving an intrigued twitch.
"It means," Severus went
on, stroking one finger over the smooth brow and down the length of his
back, "that you cannot be stolen away from me, neither here at
Hogwarts, nor at Spinner's End, nor anywhere else your restless,
interfering, irrepressibly trouble-seeking feet might take you."
Potter flinched from a tug at his whiskers, but Severus noted that his
attention held fast. "It means that, should you find yourself
cornered," another stroke, "helpless, or lost, you may use the portkey
I have charmed into the ring to bring you home again." Potter
arched into his finger, a purr growing in his chest to match the
proprietary glow in Severus' own. They knew, the both of them,
exactly what that word meant -- home was him now, wherever he might go.
muttered, pushing his nose and cheek along Severus' thumb as he made
himself comfortable in the lap. The cat's buzzing weight nestled
deliciously against Severus' half-hard cock, and he did not bother to
resist a shiver of pleasure. Mine,
the rhythm seemed to say, mine mine
mine mine mine mine mine.
added, tipping Potter's chin up to meet his gaze, "you will need
fingers, feet, and a human tongue, should you ever wish to make use of
this safeguard," he delivered his ultimatum without a moment's
concern that the boy behind the beast's slitted eyes could take his
meaning. "You are mine, Potter, and it will as often fall to you to enforce that as to me.
Am I understood?"
Potter gave a sleepy, smug
blink and rubbed his cheek along Severus' hand once more.
"Mnyeah," he said then yawned hugely.
And Severus, seeing no
reason to be shy at this late date, picked up his pet and took him to
Severus' rooms at Hogwarts
were always colder than Spinner's End, especially in the summer.
The castle's ancient stones held the chill of ages in them, and cared
no more for a hard ground freeze than a dry summer swelter.
It was not a surprise,
therefore, that Potter chose to burrow beneath the covers and curl up
tight against Severus' hip. His nose and earring made twin points of
chill under Severus' ribs, but warmed up quickly enough, and the low,
contented purr was strangely soothing to Severus' nerves as he drifted
into an exhausted sleep.
And into his sleep crept
the most delicious dreams... thick, velvety fur becoming heated
skin against his flank; a cold, wet nose becoming smooth and warm,
snuffling at the join of his hip and thigh; a stealthy paw slipping
over his belly to trail clever fingers through the hair that curled
toward his groin. Those fingers traced swelling veins as his cock
twitched and grew, toyed with the foreskin as it tightened, brushed the
sensitive head over dry, chapped lips, which parted to let a wickedly
curious tongue slip out and swipe across the head.
Then he was awake; the
shock of it ringing through him in a twitch he could not repress.
The boy nestled between his thighs froze absolutely, not even a whisper
of his breath warmed the cold trail his tongue had left behind.
There was no pretense to sleep possible here, no animal's innocence to
cover the desire lurking in the heart Severus could feel hammering
against his knee.
He smiled at the darkness
and slid one hand over the boy's static-wild hair, just as if he were
still a cat. "Your tongue," Severus said, "is more pleasant like
this." Potter's fingers flinched tightly, but his breath escaped
in a gush of hot relief that made Severus' trapped cock throb in
response. He sought through the boy's tangled curls until he
found the earring and gave it a gentle twist. "You may continue."
And with a tiny, hungry
whimper, Potter did exactly that. His technique was clumsy, but
eager, his mouth a sloppy welter of sucking, slurping pressure, flexing
press of tongue and throat, and the delicious grip of the occasional
gagging sob that brought stars to Severus' eyes. Potter's clever,
calloused hands wrapped low down on Severus' shaft, slipping in the
hot/cold/wet that trickled down from the boy's eager lips as he worked.
"I could spend myself down
your throat," Severus mused aloud, his hands pushing the boy back into
action when he froze at the sound. "Fill your irreverent mouth
with spunk until it flows over and then lick it from your chin... ahh,
yes, mind you use no more tooth than that, boy... You have tasted it
before, haven't you? Oh yes... sampled your own when no one could
catch you... move your hand down... cradle them... yesssss."
Moaning unreservedly now,
Potter rutted at Severus' foot, his eager young cock leaving damp
trails against the sensitive arch. Oh, such promise. Oh,
such innocent, ignorant passion strung, taut as a bowstring in that
trembling body burrowed into his sheets...
Seized by a sudden whim,
Severus lurched up, grabbed the boy under his armpits, and pulled him
up along his body. Potter's yelp gave way to a groan as Severus
caught his eager young cock between his thighs, and flexed around it,
his own prick tightly pressed between their bellies. Potter'
blushing hot in the darkness, clutched at Severus' shoulders, and
clung, his mouth falling open to gasp the cooler open air, until
Severus claimed it in a kiss.
Mine, the word thrummed up and down
Severus' spine, set up a rolling, surging rhythm between them as they
clung and slid, slipped and suckled, one against the other. He
slipped a finger deep between Potter's flexing buttocks, pressing,
teasing against the boy's entrance, but never more than a caress, a
gentle promise, a coy threat. Soon, Severus was the pursued, with
Potter wriggling fiercely to get his finger where they both truly
wished it to go.
Only when he felt his
orgasm building inexorably in his bollocks did Severus let himself be
caught. He pressed in, smoothly, deeply, hooked his fingers and
flexed his thighs and held on tight as the boy thrashed and spurted and
wailed his release.
Mine! Control slipping, heart
a racket in his chest, Severus rolled the still-twitching boy beneath
him, reared up onto his knees, and took his cock in hand. His own
grip was not so hot, not so wet, not so tight as the boy's skin, but
the sight of his come slinging in long, pearly ropes across Potter's
flushed and gasping face more than made up for the lack.
Mouth wide and gasping,
Potter craned up to catch the spend, his tongue pink and eager, his
eyes fierce and bright. His lips were softly damp now, swollen
with kisses. Severus brought his spunk-smeared fingers down to
trace them and breathed a sigh as the boy sucked them eagerly in.
"Good, boy," he allowed,
smearing a drip of come along Potter's downy cheek with the tip of his
thumb. "Quite acceptable..."
Eyes lambent in the gloom,
Potter sighed and gave a delicate shiver, his cock bouncing against his
sticky belly as Severus lay himself down alongside and reached for his
wand. There was a tension in that working tongue, a faint shadow
of crease beside the warm, soft O those sucking lips made, which
suggested the wretch was smuggling a smirk into Severus' bed.
A brisk cleaning charm put
an end to that.
"Stay," Severus commanded
over the boy's yelp. He caught Potter's shoulder and stilled his
backward scramble. "Stay."
With a grudging glare,
Potter let himself be pushed down. "M'not a dog, y'know."
Severus quashed a chuckle,
and pulled the blankets up over them both before curling his boy snug
into his arms. "Mm. Good thing, too. I cannot abide
Potter was in fur again by
morning, missishly grooming his coat, and pretending not to notice when
Severus came out of the bedroom in his nightshirt and chamber-robe.
"Ah," Severus said after a
moment. "I see it's time for the sexual identity crisis."
Potter cocked back an ear
and paused before attacking his shoulder even harder. Severus did
not bother to restrain a chuckle. "Oh, do carry on, by all
means. I should hate to deprive you of your daily dose of
self-imposed angst and woe. Only perhaps you ought to consider
this while you are working out whether or not your ego can stand the
fact that you sought and attained pleasure at my hand." No mistaking
Potter's glare now. It was nearly as petulant as had it come
through a pair of spectacles, and over a pout. Delicious, but
Severus brushed it off with a negligent wave of his hand.
"I, personally, do not find
myself overly concerned with the outcome of your little introspection
today," he said, striding to the kitchen to start his tea.
"You are mine, Potter. Fait accompli, as they say. Your
only choice now, is how you mean to take it -- as a man, or as a pet."
Potter's offended growl
nearly made him laugh, but the timely arrival of a house elf spared him.
"Professor Snape sir is
waking now?" it asked, ears twitching.
It flinched under Severus'
scathing glance. "Only, Gabby is being told to let Professor
McGonagall to know it when Professor Snape is waking and before he is
going anywhere, and so-"
"Tell the interfering old
cat," Severus quashed its monologue with volume, "that she may attend
me whenever she may choose." The ring in Potter's ear jangled as
he whipped his head around to stare, tongue poking out and forgotten
between his bristling whiskers. Severus gave him a smirk.
"In fact, do relay that I should like the deputy headmistress to join
me for breakfast here in my quarters."
"Gabby is doing that," the
creature burbled, bouncing on its toes. "And what would Professor
Snape sir like to be eating for his breakfast?"
Watching Potter beat a
streaking retreat to the bedroom, Severus indulged in a smile.
"The usual, of course. Kippers as well. Professor
McGonagall likes them, I believe."
The elf left with a snap
and a twinkle, and Severus sat down to attend to his morning post
before his guest arrived.
The Prophet was, as usual,
full of nonsense. The new Minister, like the old one, was putting
his all into appearing to do something, while in fact doing precisely
nothing, and the rag's tame staff writers were taking care to shovel as
much journalistic manure as they could, in hopes of justifying their
pay, while still saying nothing conclusive at all. Much the same
as ever it had been.
Narcissa Malfoy's barred
owl had brought a terse, hand written note which asked him to visit,
but offered no clue as to why. Severus tossed it into the
fireplace without a second glance. Whatever the woman's request,
it could not be very urgent if she could not bring herself to come and
speak to him at Hogwarts or Spinner's End.
Severus was just pouring
his second cup of tea when McGonagall and his breakfast both arrived.
"Well, that's done then,"
the witch said, sweeping into Severus' quarters as soon as he'd opened
the door. Such presumption had always annoyed him before;
however, having lived for several weeks with Potter making free with
anything or any place to which he took a fancy, Minerva's entrance
hardly raised his eyebrow.
"The ...withdrawal went
well, I take it?" Severus asked as the house elf set out three
times more food than either of them could eat. He could tell the
<I>Fidelis Totalis</I> had been cast, because for the life
of him, Severus could not recall just why Albus had needed to go to
Gringotts, or whom he had taken with him. "Nothing untoward or
unexpected?" he asked as Potter peered around the bedroom door, nose
twitching and eyes grudgingly curious.
"Not that Albus mentioned,
when he dropped..." the witch's grey eyes cut briefly toward the
serving tray, "the package off with me. Oh lovely -- kippers!"
Trying not to let the
spell's limitations vex him, Severus helped her to a couple, then slid
two more onto a saucer, and set it on the floor for Potter when she
turned to fawn over the house elf. He was pouring her tea by the
time she'd finished.
"Thank you, Severus," she
said, tapping her wand on the rim of her teacup in the habit of one who
had lived through many years of war. ('Once 'gainst poison, once
'gainst potions, and once if the water's queer', as his mother had
always said.) "Ahh, but that's nice tea after a long night and a
bitter fog -- I'm chilled near through!"
Severus took a closer look
at the witch, noted the red nose and cheeks, and the thick winter
tartan she had on over her robes. "And what were you doing
outside?" Severus asked.
She cut him a sidelong look
and smirked. "Installing a new Gargoyle on Ravenclaw Tower."
Severus jerked at the
sensation of his memory pouring back into place. The Fidelis -- she'd broken it
already! His cup clattered on the table as he set it down.
"Severus," she cut him off
with a level stare. "Someone besides myself must remember she
exists, and where she is. Out of all the Order, you are the most
likely to keep the matter quiet. Fidelis
Totalis is a crueller death sentence than the Dementor's kiss if
the Secret Keeper dies in silence, as you ought well to know!"
She took another sip of tea and reached for her knife and fork.
"Never to see or be seen, hear or be heard, touch, or feel the touch of
man or woman, wizard or witch, or any breathing creature. Torture
enough, even if it's only a matter of weeks, and evil as Bellatrix
Lestrange might be, I'll not be party to such a fate as that for her."
Severus drank some more tea
while he riddled the matter through. "And so how," he asked as
Potter slid silently along his ankle and crouched to sniff at the
kippers, "precisely, is turning her to stone and cementing her to the
roof of Ravenclaw tower a more merciful end?"
"Well," Minerva smirked,
"I'll own that Draught of the Living Death does help a bit. And
she's not transfigured, precisely... just encased in a time paradox
which happens to be shaped a bit like a gargoyle, is all." Noting
Severus' blank look, Minerva contrived an innocent smile. "Well,
it's not as if she'll feel the cold inside it, will she?"
Severus muttered, shaking his head. "the lot of you are
mad!" Potter began to purr around his breakfast. "And,
should you expire," Severus said, "you'll have arranged the means for
me to break the paradox, I take it?"
"How's your Gran coming
with those eggs then?" the smug old cat smirked. "Of course it
won't come to you. It'll go to someone who'll be told to find you in order to learn where to
go. I am conscious of the importance of her being contained until
the war is over, after all."
Severus had to smile.
He knew where Bellatrix was, but not how to free her, while someone
else would learn how to free her, but not where she was. Such
admiration, however, was anathema to the relationship the colleagues
shared, so Severus marshaled his expression as Potter finished his
treat, and leaned hard against Severus' leg, in case more might be in
the offing. "It seems to me that any plan which relies upon this
many people coming together is, by nature likely to turn ...
interesting. What happens if one or another link in your chain of
information should break?"
And at that, the witch's
grey eyes darkened. "If so... well, she will not be the first to
die in this war, and I daresay her end will be a kinder one than what
she's inflicted on her share of innocent souls in her day."
And with that, Severus had
Albus would not approve, of
course; they both realized that much. However they likewise
shared an unspoken agreement that, war being what it was, sometimes a
fastidious attachment to the Light was more costly than
conscionable. Bellatrix Lestrange was no longer a soldier for
Voldemort. That was the sum that mattered.
Potter stood up against his
chair, and patted Severus' elbow, just to be sure he and his breakfast
needs hadn't been forgot. Severus trailed his fingers down the
cat's back, chewed his toast, and thought.
"Albus is resting after his
travels, I presume?" he ventured after a moment.
Minerva shook her head,
clearly annoyed. "No. Apparently he happened upon a piece
of information that has given him cause to believe that Mrs. Malfoy may
be amenable to opening negotiations with the Order." Her sour
tone spoke volumes, but whether it spoke of the lady in question or the
old man who'd gone courting her, was not clear. "He has gone to
Whitby to call on young Draco and his mother."
Severus thought of the note
he'd burned, and said nothing. Then Potter gave an impatient
squall, hiked himself up and wriggled into Severus' lap, where he could
sniff at the eggs and kippers just out of his reach. Severus
pushed his plate out of paw's range, but sufferred the invasion in
silence. It did make an improvement to Potter's earlier sulk,
Minerva gave the cat a
narrow, suspicious look. "Severus," she scolded, setting her tea
aside, "Have you transfigured Mr. Potter into a cat just to keep those
dreadful Muggles quiet!"
"For the Muggles? You
do remember my transfigurations marks, do you not? Why on earth
should I put myself to such inconvenience?" Severus rolled his eyes in
derision at the witch's narrow scrutiny. "There are twenty or
thirty things I should sooner transfigure Potter into, were I so
inclined, and all of them more useful than a silly, scrappy, starveling
"You-" Minerva pressed her
lips tight, then tried again. "Severus, you never struck me as
much of a cat person." She held out a finger for Potter to sniff,
which he did obligingly and with a tentative purr.
"I keep him for potions
ingredients," Severus growled. Potter dug claws into his knee and
whinged when he got a pinch for his presumption. "And he keeps
the rodents down as well," Severus allowed, distracting the cat's ego
with an offering of more fish. "In that particular usefulness,
his minor resemblance to the Boy Who Lived fails utterly, I believe."
Minerva did not look
convinced, but she finished her toast all the same. "That reminds
me," she said, fetching a fold of parchment out of her pocket and
sliding it across the table. "Before Albus went to Whitby, he
asked me to give you this. It's about Potter, I believe," she
added, as he picked up the note to read it.
In his lap, the cat
abruptly ceased to purr. Severus lay a warning hand over
his back, and the purr recommenced, a trifle forced now.
"I know you'll think it's
coddling the boy," Minerva went on, her gaze following Severus' hand,
"but I must agree with Albus. If Mr. Potter's Muggle family were
as unsettled as you claimed last month, then it can only be a comfort
to them, as well as him have Mr. Potter spend the rest of the summer at
the Burrow with the Weasleys."
Slithering from under
Severus' hand, Potter dropped to the floor, stretched showily, and
trotted to the bedroom, his tail held tensely erect. "I suppose
you both imagine I've nothing better to do with my time than to play
Knight Bus Driver for your pet hero?" Severus sneered, crumpling
"Well, you were adamant that none of the Order
visit the house except for yourself, Severus," Minerva smiled, entirely
disingenuous. "And since you seem to have such a comfortable
rapport established with the Dursleys, it seems a shame to disrupt it."
"Fine." Severus stood
and banished the remains of breakfast. "It will not much signify,
I take it, exactly when I deliver him?"
Minerva accepted the
dismissal with aplomb and brushed the crumbs from her lap with brisk
strokes as she rose. "Oh, some day this coming week should do,
like as not," she said. "I believe the Weasleys are expecting him
to accompany their family to Diagon Alley, but I daresay an extra day
or two certainly wouldn't tax their hospitality." She swept from
the room, leaving Severus nearly certain that she'd guessed exactly how
far he would be traveling to collect the Boy Who Lived.
Damned cats, always seemed
to think themselves sphinxes...
He shut the door, tossed
the note into the fire, and went to find where Potter had hid
himself. He did not have to look far -- the lump under the
bedcovers gave the boy away almost at once. With a sigh, Severus
sat on the edge of the bed and waited.
"...I don't want to go,"
Potter's muffled voice announced after awhile.
Severus gave a snort.
"That much is obvious. I believe I had made it clear, however,
that you would not be returning to-"
"No!" he clawed the covers
down far enough to glare, damply rumpled. "I don't just mean the
Dursleys! I don't want to go to the Burrow, or to Diagon Alley,
or to Grimmauld Place, or anywhere!"
Severus raised an eyebrow, and Potter rushed to the challenge, colour
rising in his cheeks and chest. "They'll ask questions."
"And this is unusual for
friends one has not seen over summer holidays?"
"No, you don't
understand!" he punched the duvet in frustration. "They'll
know something happened... to me there. At the
Dursley's. What if I have a nightmare? What if I
change back again in my sleep and can't remember how to fix it?
Crookshanks lives right there in the dorm! He'd know for
sure! And what about Remu-"
Severus caught Potter's
jaw, turned his dammed the flood of conjecture with a kiss. As
expected, the oral assault derailed the boy's useless train of thought,
and before long, Potter was a squirming armful, game and gasping and
hungry for more. He arched up with a shivering gasp as Severus
palmed his cock and bit gently at the silver portkey in his ear.
"One crisis per day is your
limit," Severus growled, and rolled his boy firmly back down into the
sheets. "Ergo, since you seem to have moved on to social
matters, I shall assume that your virginal nerves are no longer a
concern..." He laved the smooth chest with his tongue, enjoying the
warm, slightly sweaty taste as Harry panted under the assault.
"M'not," he gasped, fisting
Severus' hair tight around his knuckles, as though he feared he might
float away without the anchorage. "Not a ... virgin."
Severus paused, raised his
head to examine the fierce blush that had taken over Potter's
cheeks. "You have been with a man before?" he asked,
something cold and angry knotting in his belly.
Potter looked away, and his
lips pressed the memory of kisses away against his teeth. "What
if I have? What if ... What if he did? Would you
care?" Eyes glimmered, fiercely afraid. His teeth shone,
pointed and small, and too sharp in his angry mouth as the words began
to distort over his tongue. "Arre youw gon' t throoow me back jus
becaussh I'm no-"
Severus gave Potter's ear a
sharp tug, and kissed him until he consented to it and kissed back
properly. "I wish to know how careful to be with you," Severus
said, pulling back once the rebellion had been forestalled. He
left off toying with a taut nipple to catch Potter's bony wrist and
draw it down beneath his nightshirt, where his own cock was throbbing
"Yes," he nodded as Potter
swallowed, "I could easily hurt you with this, as I'm sure you are
The cool, nimble fingers
curled around him, timid now, as they had not been in the dark of the
night past. Potter's other hand slipped tentatively along
Severus' arm. "What if that's okay?" he whispered, and gave a
"That's for me to say,"
Severus growled as the chill inside him faded, "though you may
certainly ask me to hurt you, if you'd like." He gave the nipple
a severe pinch and was intrigued at the desperate note of Potter's gasp
and the urgent arch of his spine. "Please me well," he offered,
leaning low for another kiss, "and I might grant your request."
Potter's eyes fluttered
closed, his kiss and his grip equally frantic. He cried out,
wordlessly bereft when Severus pulled abruptly out of his arms and rose
from the bed to strip. His eyes followed, combed the length of
Severus' body as the nightshirt fell away, and though there was a
flicker of... something when the boy noted the white scars along his
belly and thighs, the hunger never once left his gaze.
Severus dared, giving his cock a long stroke. "Am I going to put
this inside you? Am I going to fuck your narrow arse so
thoroughly that you feel it next week? Or are you too..." he
The scarred brow knit, but
that pink, pretty cock did not flag as Harry flopped back into the
knotted blankets, spread his arms wide, and said, "Tell me what to do."
Harry was pliant and
eager. He liked to be kissed until he couldn't breathe, only to
be kissed again after a single, straining gulp.
Harry was reckless and
giddy. He took orders -- suck, deeper, be silent, bend and take
it -- as eagerly as dares when his cock was needy and hard.
Harry liked to have his
hair pulled, to be bitten hard, and to be given something against which
to fight when restrained. He liked his mouth un-gagged, free to
lick, to bite, to grit curses when he learned he could not twist free
of his bonds.
Harry was, Severus quickly
learned, quite a different creature when soundly fucked, or promised
the same. A shame he had not discovered the secret to tolerating
the brat six years ago.
Of course, regular and
enthusiastic sex did not harm Severus' prevailing mood at all,
either. Still, one did have classes for which to prepare, and the
Headmaster had begun to give Severus that level stare when they passed
in the hallways -- the one that meant 'do
you have anything you'd like to tell me, Severus?' would soon be
finding its way into a conversation.
Potter seemed to have
settled his nerves about the coming school year as well, so on
Wednesday morning, with the boy drowsing, heavy and warm along his
side, Severus made his decision.
Summoning a silver cock
ring from the night table, he reached down into the warm nest and
slipped it over Harry's quiescent penis.
"Wha?" the boy jerked
at the chill, then purred and arched as Severus stroked him to full
hardness. "What was that?" he asked once allowed.
"A challenge," Severus
murmured, rolling Harry under him, so their cocks bumped and skidded
together. "Think you're up to it?"
"Up to it," Harry panted,
fisting the sheets. "Hah. Yeah. Reckon I am."
rolled away and out of bed, taking the sheets and blankets along with
him. "There is clothing in the wardrobe. I wish to see you
dressed in it and ready by the time I am finished showering."
Harry choked down his
indignance and cast a narrow glance down at his prick, straining around
the ring's charmed grip. "That's not going to come off, is it?"
"You're welcome to experiment and find out, however, as it would slow
you down considerably, I cannot advise it." He turned on
his heel and went to have his shower, not in any real doubt as to the
decision his boy would make. The only question was how long he
might take to come to it.
Harry was dressed when
Severus emerged, however, sullen and resplendent in robes of a deep,
sanguine brown with Gryffindor maroon worked cunningly into the
trim. The charmed ring did its work, making the elegant drape of
the fabric fall just so, to best display the straining erection
within. Harry's cheeks were stained a hectic, humiliated hue, but
his eyes were bright with nervous challenge.
asked, turning with arms akimbo.
Severus cocked his head,
and considered how revealing a robe cut on the bias could be with a
lithe, healthy boy inside them. Then he straightened his own
robes with a tug and extended an imperious hand. "Do I look
Casting a lewd smirk at
Severus' crotch, and the bulge waiting there, Potter slunk from the
bed, and suffered himself to be gathered close. "Not yet," he
murmured, rubbing his palm over the wool until Severus caught his wrist
and pulled it away.
"Not yet." Severus
unsleeved his wand with a twitch and pinned Harry's gaze as he traced
its tip down the line of his throat, over the seam of his robes and
down to nestle through the fabric until he found the firm resistance of
the ring he'd placed there. Harry swallowed, then keened as
Severus gathered a handful of his hair and scruffed him into a
kiss. "Soon though," he said as they parted. Then, "Portus."
#4 Privet Drive was empty,
as Severus had ascertained with two simple charms before he had even
left the bathroom in his chambers. The whole grisly lot of them
had heeded a sudden, pervasive urge to spend the day together down the
shops, and he wished them full measure of enjoyment from the company.
In the space of a breath,
however, Harry went from eager in his arms, to rigid and barely held in
place. Severus gave his scruff a bracing shake and kissed the boy
until he no longer felt quite on the verge of bolting.
"Sir..." Harry breathed as
Severus released him. A finger across his lips dammed the
"The back garden is no
place for this," Severus said, steering Harry toward the kitchen
door with a firm hand in the hollow of his back. "Let us go
inside, where we may speak in private."
"It-" A gulp, and a
shiver. "The door's probably locked."
"You know where they hide
the key, I expect?"
Another fine tremour
coursed through the tight-knotted muscles under his palm, then Harry
nodded. "Flower pot. Under the hydrangeas."
"See to it, then."
Potter seemed calmer once
he'd emerged from beneath the shrubbery, though the line of his jaw and
the whitened knuckles as he gripped the key, betrayed his effort.
His hand shook badly getting it into the lock, and by the time he'd
turned it his fingers were noticeably shorter, nails lengthening and
folding back into their beds.
"Cease," Severus growled,
tweaking the ring in Harry's too-long ear and pressing the boy back
into his chest. "You are mine, remember?" The belly under
his palm trembled, and he dug his fingers in as Harry nodded
shakily. "You are mine, and you are to trust me and do as you are
told." He tipped Harry's chin up, and farther up, until he
peered, inverted and helpless, into Severus' eyes. "Do you
The shadows of a hundred
mundane torments flickered through those green eyes, but between one
blink and the next, they were veiled behind a feline show of
nonchalance. "Sure," the boy whispered, then pushed the door open
and awaited his next order.
And that was surely worth a
kiss and a promising stroke, wasn't it?
Harry led the way upstairs
for his trunk. Severus followed, examining the Dursley's suburban
hell with fresh eyes for its history. The picture-lined
staircase, devoid of any face that was not Petunia's, her husband's, or
her son's. Lily's eyes were nowhere to be seen and neither were
He did not miss the
cupboard beneath the stairs, with its locks all on the outside, nor did
he fail to notice similar locks on the door to which Harry led
them. The irony of the cat flap did bring a smile to Severus'
face, however brief.
Whether from distaste,
Harry's reckless, formless spell, or fear of reprisals, the muggles
appeared to have left his trunk alone. His owl's cage stood empty
but intact on a lopsided cabinet, and as Severus watched, Harry emerged
from under the bed, clutching his wand and a small cloth bag that
clinked as he stood.
"That's it, then," Harry
said too brightly.
"What about the rest of..."
Severus sneered at the jumble that crowded the room, "this?"
"Dudley's," he said in the
same brittle tone as he toed the trunk. "Everything of mine's
locked up in here."
Severus nodded, then shrunk
the owl cage to pocket size and sent the trunk floating out through the
door. Reassured, perhaps, that his hated relatives were not
about to burst in and find him there, Harry grinned in answer to
Severus' mocking bow and sweeping arm. But his grin faltered
when, after following him out onto the landing, Severus sat down on the
trunk, flared his robes out of the way, and began to unbutton his
"What are you doing?" he hissed, clearly torn
between the urge to bolt down the stairs and the wish to interfere with
Severus' deliberate, inexorable disrobing. "You can't! What
drawled, lifting his cock free and giving it a stroke to wake it from
its doze. "Do you imagine they
matter to me in any way?"
"N- no sir," the boy
managed after a moment. Then he drew a deep, shaking breath and
drifted close, the charmed ring displaying his erection through his
robes with every trembling step.
Severus gathered Harry in to straddle his lap. "I care more for a
fart in a windstorm, to put it bluntly..." catching the brown robe up
out of his way, he wrapped Harry's own hands around the bunched cloth
and clamped the bloodless fingers tight with a glower of unmistakable
command. Rattled, but obedient, Harry held on and bit his lips as
Severus' fingers set about a far more pleasurable task.
"You belong to me, do you
Trembling for a far better
reason now, Harry nodded and bore down with a shiver.
"Y-yeah. Yours... But it's just-"
"You are mine, Harry," Severus growled,
oiled fingers working deeply into Harry's taut, vibrant heat.
"Mine. Not just in my house. Not just in my bed." He
hooked his fingers just so and reveled in the desperate noise his boy
made. "Not just in my classroom, or my dungeon rooms, my
office. Not just in Hogwarts..." Another inward push, and the
charmed oil dripped hot and slick down his knuckles. Severus bit
at Harry's collarbone through his robes, and pulled his fingers free as
his boy pressed close with a cry.
"You're mine," Severus
breathed, taking hold of Harry's hips and guiding him into place.
The tip of his cock nudged against that greased, twitching hole, and it
took no wild magic to summon the claim to Severus' lips then.
"You're mine everywhere, no matter who's looking, or who might
see. And you will ride my cock here and now, to prove it!"
breathed, entranced and panting and sinking down, down, down. The
heat of his body clasped Severus in slow, blissful torment. He
held tight to Harry's hips, forcibly restraining the urge to plunge the
boy downward, hoist him off, and drop him hard again, and again, and
Damp lips pressed against
Severus' temple, gusting a low, damp groan as at last, Harry gained his
seat. Severus leaned back, drew Harry's hands to his shoulders,
and then leaned back to brace his weight on the far edge of the trunk.
"Now," he said and caught
Harry's glassy, hungry stare. "Fly for me, Seeker, fly for me alone!"
And with a keening shout,
Harry did. Fingers wound tight in Severus' robes, he clutched and
writhed, bucked and plunged and fucked himself beautifully, wantonly,
perfectly, his swollen lips tumbling a silent litany as he went. 'Yours... please... yours...'
the words slipped out, gasp-taut and shiver-quick. Harry was
every inch of him sinuous and lissome, and so very beautiful that
Severus couldn't stop himself lunging in to bite that flexing, sweaty
neck and leave his mark there for all to see.
yelped, coming with a fierce wriggle.
Severus could only growl as
his vision blurred to white sparks, and his bollocks turned themselves
out into Harry's spasming, blinding heat.
They clung for awhile,
gasping in tandem, propped into each other's weight with far too much
faith in balance while they waited for hearts to slow and brains to
clear. Harry's nimble fingers quested through the sticky mess on
Severus' belly for a moment, then he hissed, trembled, and brought out
the silver ring -- or rather, the broken twist that remained of it.
"Was that supposed to
happen?" He giggled, turning it between finger and thumb.
Severus scowled. "If
you persist in breaking my gifts, they'll be longer in coming."
But Harry's grin only
deepened as he flicked the ring to the carpet. "Hey, you set the
challenge! Not my fault if I exceeded expectations..." the
puerile joke flickered and died out in his eyes as the crunching sound
of tyres in the front drive and the hum of a motor filtered through the
Severus traced a
thumb down Harry's cheek, kept the boy's eyes focused on his own as he
A gulp, a smile, and not a
twitch of shifting weight. "Yours."
"Just so," Severus agreed,
and gathered the boy close once more. Voices outside, strident
and shrill. The jingle of keys, the clatter of shoes.
Severus yawned. "I
have always found that woman utterly tedious," he said as the front
door's lock ground open. "She and her grotesque family are not
worth getting dressed over."
And so saying, Severus
apparated the both of them home to Spinner's End.
~*~ Fin ~*~
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