Author: occasusvenustas
Title: To Know Himself In You
Pairing: Severus/Harry, past!Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione
Summary: When Severus Snape accidentally casts a bond over himself and a married Harry Potter, both of their lives are turned upside down. Someone has a cure to their ailment but in the end, do they want to be cured?
Prompt:175. AU, post-war. Arguing with the clerk in Flourish and Blott's over a contract for the purchase of a sizeable amount of books makes Severus draw his wand to hex the man. Unfortunately the spell backfires and instead of doing something nasty to the innocent clerk, it bonds Severus to an innocent bystander. Suggested by: snapelike. Although I have to say it's not exactly A/U.
Warnings: Canon!Compliant, Character Death, Epilogue Compliant.
Disclaimer: I don't own this clearly and I would really not wish to be JK Rowling at all. So there you go.
A/N: A huge thanks to my beta spiritwhite for the wonderful help.

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"...and he was totally like, and you are a thousand times more beautiful than this flower," said the young clerk behind the counter at Flourish and Blott's.

The second clerk ooh'd. "Oh wow! Oh wow! You're so lucky!."

"I know!" the first clerk said.

"Ahem," Severus Snape, who had been standing there for at least ten minutes, unwaited on, said loudly.

The first clerk looked over at Snape. Her eyes flickered to the bottom of his Dark Mark that was barely visible under his sleeve that had pushed up slightly on his forearm. "Anyway," she said, turning back to her co-worker.

"Not anyway," Snape hissed. "I've been standing here for ten minutes and I need to place a rather large special order. Besides," he said and glanced behind him at the ever-growing queue, "I don't appear to be the only one in here needing services."

The girl looked down at the list Snape had been waving under her nose. "Large orders have to go to the back of the queue," she sniveled. "Next."

Snape stared at her, open mouthed, as she signalled for the wizard behind Snape.

"Some Wizards," she said, taking the other man's books. "Dunno why we have to serve his kind in here. Should've stamped out the lot of them after the war. Instead we have to call them war heros."

Snape had lost his temper. Without even really thinking, he pulled out his wand and flicked it at her with the intent to bind her lips shut. Unfortunately, as the jolt of light flew at her, the girl ducked down for a sack to put the customer's books in and the curse hit a mirror and rebounded.

Snape stumbled backward in an attempt to avoid the rebounding curse but his path had been blocked by a body. Just as he tumbled into the person, the curse hit him full on. Snape let out a howl as it burned straight through him.

A howl? Well, obviously the hex had failed because his lips had not bonded together. In fact, Snape noticed as he attempted to regain his bearings, apart from that initial burning pain, he felt quite fine.

"Do you mind getting off me?" said a rather annoyed voice from the wizard Snape was still lying on top of.

Snape heaved himself up and to his horror, looked down and saw a rather ruffled, thirty-something Harry Potter with his glasses askew and hair even more mussed than usual.

"What the hell just happened?" Harry muttered, glowering up at Snape. Even though Snape had managed to survive the war and his name had been cleared and he and Harry had been finally rid of each other, they still quite disliked one another.

"It was a hex meant for that ruddy clerk," Snape muttered and nodded towards the clerk who was staring at Snape with narrowed, angry eyes. "Doesn't matter, didn't seem to work anyway."

"Oh. Well then-" Harry began but his words were cut off when he gave a loud, ear-splitting shout of pain. Harry clutched at his left hand and both he and Snape watched in horror as Harry's wedding ring literally began to melt off. It pooled onto the floor and immediately cooled into a shapeless blob.

Harry hissed in pain as Snape absently cast a quick healing charm over Harry's hand. His head was still spinning from what had just happened and he wondered if maybe the curse had worked... in some form.

"What the bloody hell?" Harry whispered as he massaged his ring finger.

"Search me," Snape said, pinching the bridge of his nose. He felt his person for a moment and then stated, "I feel perfectly fine."

"Maybe the hex reacts poorly with gold?" Harry wondered. "What hex did you use?"

"I was sort of making it up," Snape said with a small shrug. "Binding her mouth shut, the little tart."

Harry gave a slightly amused snort. "You didn't use an incantation?"

"No, Potter, and I hardly need them most of the time anyhow. I expect you can get that fixed at a jeweller."

"I expect," Harry replied under his breath, "Ginny's going to have my head. But what's new?"

"Trouble in paradise?" Snape asked gloatingly.

"Stuff it," Harry bit. He reached down and pocketed the gold blob. "I'd better go sort this out. Snape, always a pleasure..." Harry started off but as Harry tried to leave the shop, he stopped suddenly, looking confused.

Snape watched as Harry tried to walk out the door again, and failed. Snape started to shake his head but, all of a sudden, he felt something tug at his middle. Without consciously doing it, Snape found himself walking towards Harry, and only when he had reached the irritating, younger man, could Harry leave the shop.

Harry fixed Snape with a wide-eyed stare. "What did you do?" he whispered. "Shit, Snape. What did you do?"

An hour later found them sitting in Hermione Granger's office. Things of this nature wasn't exactly Hermione's area of expertise, but she was the only one at the Ministry Harry really trusted besides the Minister, Kingsley. If whatever this was leaked to the public, the Prophet would be all over it and Ginny would be livid, not that she wasn't going to be anyway.

"So your ring melted off," Hermione said absently, poking the blob of metal with her wand, "and you can't leave each other's sides..."

"We can leave each other's sides," Harry corrected, "but we apparently can't leave the room without each other."

"Anything else?" Hermione asked.

"A disturbing desire to make sure Potter feels no pain," Snape said suddenly and shuddered. "I cast a healing charm on his burn, which normally, I wouldn't have given a second thought to."

"Ever my hero," Harry muttered under his breath.

Hermione licked her lips in thought and tapped her chin. "I think you've bonded," she said.

"We've what?" Snape and Harry chorused.

"Bonded," Hermione said again. "Like an ancient Wizarding bond. They were used before proper wizarding marraiges about a thousand years ago. Wizards and witches thought to separate themselves even further from Muggles by bypassing marriage altogether and creating permanent bonds. It ended with loads of complications so regular marriages eventually took their place."

"How can we possibly have bonded?" Snape growled. "I know what they are and they require ceremony and..." he grimaced as though he'd just swallowed something very bitter, "intercourse."

Hermione shrugged. "That's usually the case, but whatever else, it's what seems to have afflicted you both."

"So how do we take it off?" Snape demanded.

"That remains the question," Hermione said with a shrug.

"Well if there's a way to get it on, there has to be a way to get it off, right?" Harry asked, now sounding half-panicked. "I mean what goes up..."

"No," Hermione said. "Not in the Magical World. Harry, the bonds were created to become something permanent. Almost every bond, however, requires a second ritual to solidify the bond. They were created that way to make sure the two people had an opportunity to back out if they wanted. Permanent meant permanent and if I recall correctly when one of the bonded died, the other followed within a matter of days."

Harry let out a sharp breath. "Fuck me."

"That is something you must not do, either of you," Hermione said. "I suspect the urge for physical contact and... you know... other things, will start to arise, but you mustn't give in."

"Me and Potter?" Snape asked, his nostrils flaring in disgust, "I hardly think I would ever desire him."

"You say that now, but give it a day or two," Hermione said.

"Day or two?" Harry bellowed. "I can't be stuck to Snape for a day or two!"

"I'm going to need time to research!" Hermione defended. "I don't keep books up my arse, you know!" She blushed at the foul language she'd used but held firm.

Harry opened his mouth to retort but before he could say anything, the door to Hermione's office burst in and a furious, red-faced, very pregnant, Ginny-formerly-Potter, marched in. "You," she hissed, levelling her finger at Harry. "You!"

"What?" Harry snapped at her, already pushed to the edge of his temper.

"Care to explain this?" she snarled, tipping her own, rather mangled wedding ring atop Hermione's desk. "What did you do?"

"Oh as it's always my fault," Harry bit out childishly.

"It usually is," she spat.

"She's got a point," Snape muttered.

Harry elbowed Snape in the ribs. "Shut up. And it wasn't me this time."

"Somehow it's your fault," she snarled. "Somehow you did this. Somehow you caused our marriage certificate to burst into flames. It's now a pile of ash on the floor of our study! And my ring! I suppose yours is the same?"

Harry shrugged, didn't answer her and looked away.

"You bastard," she screeched. "You rat bastard! This is your way of getting at me! It's not going to work, Potter. Whatever you did, you're going to bloody-well fix it and be home by dinner!"

"Ginny," Hermione said, trying to pacify her sister-in-law.

"Shut up, Hermione," Ginny snapped.

"Home by dinner?" Harry repeated. "So I'm allowed to come home now, am I? No more kipping on Ron and Hermione's sofa?"

"You've been dying to air out our problems in front of our friends, haven't you?" Ginny bellowed. "How dare you?"

"How dare you," Harry snapped. "Where is Lily?"

"With Ron," Ginny said. "Not that you care."

Harry bit the inside of his cheek and looked away again.

"If you'd all calm down, I can at least attempt to sort this out," Hermione said. "Ginny, you go home and rest and Harry will be back as soon as he can."

"Don't you tell me what to do, Granger," Ginny spat and turned, storming out of the office rather gracefully for a woman of her immense size.

When she was gone, Harry bowed his head and sighed. "So what now?"

"Jesus Christ, Potter," Snape breathed. "You married that?"

"Pregnant hormones," Harry muttered.

"Yes, and I'm a bloody hippogriff," Snape retorted, voice dripping with sarcasm.

"Anyhow," Hermione said, cutting them off, "if you'll go on about your business, I'll get to research. I'll meet up with you... er..."

"I live nearby," Snape said and reached for parchment to scribble the address. "We shall reside at my quarters until such time comes that Potter and I can separate."

"Your quarters?" Harry asked with wide eyes.

"Unless you prefer us to join your livid wife at your home?" Snape suggested.

Harry shuddered. "I wouldn't even wish that on you, Snape."

Hermione sighed. "I'll do my best to be in touch soon."

"Not soon," Snape bit, "imediately! I do not wish to be bound to, of all people, Harry Potter."

"This isn't exactly a picnic for me either, Snape," Harry muttered.

Snape rose and beckoned Harry out of the room. Neither man spoke as Harry followed Snape out of the Ministry and to a flat in Muggle London where Snape apparently lived. It was up on the first floor of a rather modern building.

"I never would have guessed," Harry said with wonder as he looked round. Inside was far less Muggle, no electricity, ancient looking furniture, a green fire burning in the hearth. It was oddly dark for being so high up in the building and the dark walls were littered with books.

"Of course you wouldn't have guessed," Snape said irritably, "that's the point. A person such as myself, with the enemies that I have acquired in my extended years, must be able to hide, as they say, in plain sight."

"In your extended years?" Harry asked with a snort. "You're a wizard, you're middle aged at best."

"And you are nothing but a toddler," Snape retorted as he went to the kitchen for tea.

As Harry and Snape were still forced to be annoyingly close, Harry had to stand in the doorway while Snape busied himself with the kettle.

"I have three, nearly four children," Harry said suddenly.

"So?" Snape asked as he offered Harry a cup.

"Please," Harry said to the tea. "And I could hardly be considered a toddler having fathered four."

"Impregnating a woman does not make you an adult, Potter. A thirteen year old could do what you did." Snape paused and said, "And yet I do not know personally, so I suppose my opinion is only intelligent theory."

"You say that as if you don't ever want children," Harry commented absently.

Snape quirked an eyebrow. "And you say that as though you are surprised. Would you imagine me being a father to a child?"

"It's different when they're your own," Harry said weakly. "I mean, you find this love you didn't know you could have for another person when you look at them."

"Tell that to my father," Snape said bitterly as he fixed two cups of strong, dark brew, and Harry had no reply to that.

The pair took up seats at the kitchen table and did their best not to look at one another. Eventually Harry sighed. "So what do we do about this?"

"Nothing," Snape said shortly. "I'm sure your little friend Granger can sort this all out."

"She's a Weasley now," Harry said.

Snape laughed cruelly. "For how long? Don't try to tell me that woman will suffer through an eternal marriage with that idiot. He's so below her intelligence it's almost amusing."

"Ron's not an idiot!" Harry defended, though truth be told he did think Ron was often quite slow.

"That Weasley is the stupidest one of the lot. Even your blessed wife-"

"Wouldn't go so far as to call her blessed," Harry interrupted.

Snape pretended he didn't hear Harry. "-could cast spells round her brother. It's almost sad, really. Makes me wonder if something went wrong at his birth. Or maybe those ruddy twin brothers of his worked a bit too many experiments on him."

Harry sighed. It was no use arguing with Snape, he knew, so he changed the subject. "What do you do, Snape?"

"What do you mean?"

"For work," Harry said.

"I run a private apothecary," Snape said with a shrug. "And occasionally I write."

"Write what? Potions Books?"

"Amongst other research books," Snape said with a smug grin. "What do you think pays for my fine lodgings?"

Harry hadn't even really thought about it. Now that Snape mentioned it, the flat was rather posh and had to be quite expensive. "So I suspect I'll have to owl my work and take a few sick days. They can't complain too much, haven't missed a day since my youngest was born."

"Your youngest," Snape repeated with a grimace. "That titchy little thing who you thought you might name after me?"

"Despite the nastiness between us, I was touched by your loyalty to my mother," Harry said, "and how much you actually did for our cause during the war. My son wears your name proudly. But no, my youngest is my daughter, Lily. After my mum."

Snape rolled his eyes. "Obviously." And he didn't say anything else. He was currently fighting off an annoying feeling of affection he hadn't felt since the last time he'd been round Lily Evans. "Blasted bond," he muttered.

"I know," Harry sighed. "It's making me want to say ridiculous things. I did mean what I said before, though. I respect you for all of that."

Snape rolled his eyes and then said, "Find something to do, Potter. I'm not here to entertain you and your presence is growing on me. I don't like it."

Harry sighed, drained his cup and he and Snape left the kitchen. Resigned to staying in the same room, Snape decided to take up some research while Harry found a book to read. It felt like a slow form of torture, being stuck bonded to the one person you could have gone your entire life without seeing ever again.

By the evening, Harry was desperate for some answers. He and Snape experimented, seeing if perhaps they could at least be in separate rooms while they were under the same roof, but that experiment failed spectacularly. They gave it a go by having Harry stand in the corridor and Snape stood in the bedroom and shut the door. When the door shut, Harry and Snape were flooded with agonising pain that brought them to their knees.

Both wizards clawed at the door until it was open and, nauseatingly enough, the pain only receded when they embraced. When the pain had gone, Harry and Snape were both a bit green in the face and they separated as quickly as they could. They decided it was not worth experimenting if it was going to cause them such pain and end with each other cuddling on the floor of the corridor.

Resigned, they both returned to the lounge and Harry went back to staring blankly at a book and Snape returned to what he insisted was research. By dinner time, Snape and Harry, though not exactly hungry, went into the kitchen and managed to produce an edible meal. They ingested the food in total silence.

Harry caught himself stealing glances at Snape, and every now and again, he caught Snape's eye. They both would quickly look away but it seemed that they could not help themselves.

"This sucks," Harry muttered, viciously stabbing a chunk of roasted potato on his plate.

Snape snorted. "Indeed, Mr Potter, it does. I don't appreciate my mind refusing to let me hate you. I haven't been able to come up with a single, cruel barb since this hex affected us."

Harry sighed. "I noticed your insults had gone quite mild. I hope Hermione comes up with something soon."

---------- -----------

Days passed and with it, the desire for physical contact grew. There was an underlying, growing desire for intimate contact that both men readily ignored. They ignored both desires, in fact, but that wasn't doing them much good.

Snape had transfigured an armchair into a camp bed so Harry could sleep in the same room as Snape, and every morning both men woke, facing each other, arms outstretched, hands fisted in the bed sheets as though they were trying to grab at each other. Neither men remarked on it but deep down they both knew something was going to have to happen soon.

Five days had come and gone. Each day Harry had been pelted by a Howler sent by his former wife, the language and threats growing more and more vicious.

"Is she always so pleasant?" Snape asked with disgust as he repaired his singed carpet.

Harry sighed and brushed bits of the burnt letter from the sleeve of his robe. "She's become more," he paused and searched for the word, "verbal, over the years."

"I see," Snape said.

Harry shook his head. "Ever look in the mirror and wonder how the hell you got where you are?"

Snape didn't reply but he did fix Harry with a slightly warmer glower than usual. After a few moment's silence, the fire in the hearth roared and a moment later, Hermione stepped out.

"Still alive, I see," Hermione commented.

"It's about bloody time," Snape said. "Have you found the countercurse?"

"There isn't a countercurse," Hermione said irritably, "as it's not a curse. I just need to find the ritual to break the bond. And no, I haven't found that either. I have, however, found every wizarding bond in existence. My next step is to find every ritual to break the bond that goes with each, which is going to be the most difficult part of the task."

"Lovely," Snape groaned as he sank into an arm chair.

"I'm doing my damn best," Hermione hissed. "I can't say it's exactly pleasant with your darling wife breathing down my neck every ten minutes," she directed at Harry. "Even Ron's fed up with her and you know he's always tried to support your marriage."

Harry sighed and ruffled his hair absently. "So what's the plan, Hermione? What do we do?"

"Tread carefully with each other," Hermione said. "It takes just a little bit of magic to make the bond permanent. I mean, if you were able to create the bond without knowing it... well I don't want the same thing happening again." She sighed and then said, "But sex seems to be the common ground all the bonds share. Don't bugger and likely you won't be in any danger of becoming permanently attached."

"We shall try to control ourselves," Snape said dryly.

"Don't be so sure you can," Hermione scolded. "You think it's tough now, give it a few more days. The desire will keep building. Eventually it'll drive you mad and I don't think you'll be able to help it."

Harry's eyes widened. "What? What hope do we have if we can't control ourselves?" His voice was on the point of hysteria.

"As a matter of fact, you can control it, but you'll have to give a little bit," Hermione said.

"Kindly elaborate," Snape bit angrily, his sallow cheeks unusually pink.

"Touching," Hermione said. "Just simple touching. Try sleeping in the same bed," she said and rolled her eyes at their identical shudders. "It'll help, I assure you."

Harry licked his lips and then looked over at Snape. "I..." he said and shook his head. "We'll come up with something."

"Indeed," Snape said.

"Meanwhile I'm going to get straight to research. I expect to take a week or so, but I can't make any promises. Some of these bonds are so old that there isn't any proper written record of them, just mentions in old books."

"Fantastic," Snape breathed.

"It'll work out," Hermione said. "Just take care. And Harry, you might want to write Ginny."

"Why?" Harry snapped irritably. "She only cares because this time it's not her chucking me out. Let her stew for a while, it'll do her good, I'm sure."

Hermione reddened a little but gave a small nod and headed for the fire. "I just don't want to see you suffer," she said and let them both take the words as they wanted. She disappeared through the flames and both men continued to stare into the hearth with dead eyes.

--------- ----------

Another two days passed. The desire to touch began to feel like a constant itch beneath their skin. They were able to resist it before but it was beginning to consume their waking throughts. Often, Harry or Snape found themselves clawing at the table top, arm of the sofa or even their own robes. They were able to stop themselves for the moment but both of them realised what Hermione had meant.

Also, as they couldn't be in separate rooms, neither of them had bathed and it was beginning to become a problem. "I need to get clean," Harry said suddenly. "I mean, honestly, you may like being greasy but I don't."

"Contrary to popular belief, I do shower, Potter. I just don't fancy you seeing me in all my glory."

Harry snorted with laughter. "Same here, Snape, but we're beginning to stink. We can go in and make it quick, take turns and I promise to look away if you do."

Snape sat in silence for a long moment. Eventually, he gave a curt nod and beckoned Harry along to the bathroom. They had already devised this system when either of them had to use the toilet and they were pleased to find that silencing charms didn't cause them any sort of pain or discomfort.

When they stepped into the bathroom, Snape took out two large, fluffy towels and two dressing gowns. "Would you like to go first?" he asked.

Harry's eyes widened at the odd sort of kindness. "Go ahead," Harry said.

Snape shrugged and motioned Harry to turn round. Harry obeyed and could hear the soft sounds of Snape's robe hitting the floor. He heard the door to the shower click as Snape opened it and started the water, and totally unable to help himself, Harry peeked over his shoulder and caught a glimpse of Snape's very thin, very pale body.

Somehow, it was the most attractive thing Harry'd ever seen in his life and he had to grip the top of the counter in a white-knuckled hold to keep himself from rushing Snape in the shower. He swallowed, forced himself to control his feelings and before long, Snape was finished and sliding his dressing gown on.

"Hurry up, then," Snape said shortly.

Harry didn't even bother to wait for Snape to turn round. He tossed his robes to the floor, kicked them aside and as he stepped into the shower he could feel Snape's eyes on him. He caught a quick view of Snape's shocked expression and saw Snape nearly physically wrestling with a desire to go to Harry.

Glad I'm not alone in this, Harry thought to himself as he began to scrub himself off. He poured a liberal amount of soap on his hair, scrubbed it vigorously. He tipped his head under the hot spray and closed his eyes. It felt good to be clean and for a moment he wasn't thinking about Snape.

Eventually he turned off the water, stepped out and dried himself off. By this time, Snape had turned round and didn't turn back to Harry until Harry had shrugged on the dressing gown. They headed to Snape's bedroom where they dressed and then opted for some lunch.

"I was thinking of going out," Harry said slowly as they left the bedroom. "For lunch, I mean."

"Do you think that wise, Potter?" Snape asked.

"No," Harry said, "but I rarely make wise decisions." He grinned wryly. "Anyhow I was thinking Muggle London. We should be safe there and I'm not sure I can handle being inside any longer."

Snape seemed to have been thinking along the same lines because he immediately agreed. As robes wouldn't do for Muggle London, they changed into Muggle clothes they kept on hand and then headed out.

The day was rather glum, the skies grey and leaking rain every so often, but it was better than the flat which had become rather stuffy. The pair didn't say a word as they walked to a nearby restaurant, sat down and ordered.

Their food was brought and although the silence was thick, it had ceased to be so tense. Harry actually felt comfortable, and this in itself was a little disconcerting. He hadn't felt this comfortable in a long time. Not since the birth of his middle son, Albus Severus. It was after the boy was born that Ginny had become increasingly demanding, angry and vicious. She and Harry could hardly go a day without a violent row and Ginny had become less and less concerned whether one of the children was in the room or not.

It was a weekly habit that Harry was chucked out and forced to kip on Ron and Hermione's sofa. It happened so often that Harry found he saw their children more than his own. His godson, Teddy Lupin, was even trying to convince Harry to file a separation and stay with him a while. He was just out of school and starting on his Auror training.

Harry had considered it, and the day that hex gone awry and hit him he had been on his way to see about separation papers for him and Ginny. It had been quite some time that he'd even thought of Teddy. His thoughts had been so centred on Snape that Teddy seemed like a distant memory.

"Jesus, Potter, you'd think your mother had just died, the expression you're wearing," Snape said suddenly. "It's causing an annoying reaction in me so could you kindly stop."

"Sorry," Harry muttered.

"What were you thinking about?" Snape asked. He had been completely unable to keep from asking Harry that question and he looked as though he thoroughly hated himself for it.

"I was thinking I should've cashed in on my fame and married some dumb bird who wanted me for the boy-hero they thought me to be," Harry said bitterly. He sighed and then said, "Do you want to know what I was doing the day we were in Flourish and Blott's at the same time?"

Snape fully meant to say, "Absolutely not," but instead the word, "Yes," passed his lips and again he looked as though he might be ill.

Harry laughed. "I was killing time before filing separation papers from Ginny."

"One can hardly be surprised by that information," Snape said dryly. "I have experienced a bit of her. It rather boggles the mind how you lasted this long, Potter."

Harry sighed a little roughly. "I just wanted something to last in my life. Everything I thought I could have as family somehow got ripped away before I could see how good... or bad... it might become. I didn't want to give up... just in case."

"That is the stupidest reason to stay in a marriage I've ever heard," Snape spat. "Just in case? You are a bloody idiot, Potter."

"I know," Harry said and grinned just a little. "But you've always known that about me."

"Can't argue there," Snape deadpanned.

Neither man wanted to admit they'd just had a rather pleasant, rather illuminating lunch with each other, so they fell silent on the walk back home and went to their usual routines.

It was sometime past midnight, though Harry wasn't exactly sure what time it was. All he was conscious of was that things, burning, piercing things, were crawling under his skin. He couldn't stop twitching and turning this way and that. He was desperate for relief and he was half mad from it.

Without knowing what he was really doing, Harry crawled from the camp bed and found himself staring down at Severus Snape. Snape appeared to be suffering much the same, because when his beetle-black eyes shot open and saw Harry standing there, his thin hand shot out, grabbed Harry by the front of his pyjama shirt and yanked him down to the bed.

Harry let out a gasp when Snape pulled Harry tightly against him. Their bodies collided and relief was nearly immediate. Harry wound his arms round Snape's middle while Snape clutched the back of Harry's head in a fierce grip. Harry pressed his face against the side of Snape's neck and gave a shuddering sigh.

"Kill me," Snape muttered as he buried his large nose in Harry's messy hair.

When morning came, Harry and Snape were still tangled together, but their grip on each other was less desperate. Harry lay against Snape's side, his hand clutching the centre of Snape's pyjama shirt lightly. Snape had his arm round Harry, his hand pressed against the small of Harry's back.

Harry didn't dare look at Snape, although he knew the other man was awake. He carefully extracted himself from Snape's grip and immediately felt a bit of longing surface in the back of his mind.

"This is what she was talking about, wasn't it, Hermione?" Harry asked.

Snape groaned and gave a small cough. "Seems that it is."

Harry rubbed the sleep from his eyes and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. "That could've got dangerous. I mean, at that moment I wasn't think of, you know, sex... but I have this little voice in the back of my mind telling me that's coming next."

"Your little friend had better hurry her research along then," Snape said. "I doubt I could've stopped myself, even if the result of touching you would have meant my death."

Harry nodded miserably. "And that pain. Jesus, I don't want to feel that again."

Snape got up from the bed and shrugged on his dressing gown. "We'd best take care not to let it get too bad, then, Potter. I will not live the rest of my life bound to you." He spat the word 'you' with such contempt that Harry flinched.

Harry couldn't think of anything to say to that so he stayed silent and followed Snape to the kitchen for breakfast.

About an hour after breakfast, Snape fixed Harry with a hooded gaze and said evenly, "I require a day at my apothecary."

Harry, who had been penning a letter to his office explaining his need for further absence, finished the letter before looking up at Snape. "Alright," he said in a sort of hollow tone. He had been negatively affected by the way Snape had spoken to him earlier. For some reason he had fallen into a sort of pseudo-depression when Snape declared he didn't want to be bonded to Harry.

Harry reckoned it was the bond making him feel that way, but that wasn't much comfort. "Yeah, okay," Harry said when he realised Snape was still standing there staring at him. "Do you need something else?"

"What are you writing?" Snape asked by way of answer.

"Letter to work," Harry explained as he signed the parchment, sealed it and tied it to the leg of the tawny Ministry owl that was perched on the back of his chair.

"Oh," Snape said, and there was a strange flicker of emotion in his eyes that Harry couldn't quite read. "Let's go," he snapped eventually.

Harry sighed, pulled on his cloak and they took the floo to Snape's shop. It was still closed up but clearly someone had been running things while Snape was away. Ingredients were simmering in a large cauldron in the back and the shades over the front windows were open.

"Ruddy child, never cleans up anything," Snape grumbled as he flicked his wand and cleared up the mess of leftover ingredients on the chopping board.

"Who?" Harry asked absently as his eyes scanned shelves upon shelves of ingredients. It reminded him heavily of Snape's classroom back at Hogwarts and he gave an involuntary shudder at those memories.

"My apprentice," Snape explained but didn't go into detail. "Sit wherever, I have a lot of work to do."

Harry sighed, still feeling annoyingly depressed, and sank down into Snape's squashy chair behind his work desk. He looked over the parchments that were lying haphazardly across the desktop but they weren't anything more interesting than special orders for potions.

About an hour later, the Ministry owl returned with several scrolls, so many that she had trouble getting in the window. Harry quickly ushered her to the desk, cleared a space and unrolled the one with the Minister's seal.

Mr Potter,

Mrs Weasley has explained the situation to me. You are free to take leave until the situation is sorted out. For convenience sake I've included some desk work for you that needs to be completed. I'm sure you'll need something to occupy your mind. If you need anything at all, don't hesitate to owl and rest assured, Mrs Weasley and I are on research together. Please give Severus Snape my regards.

Kingsley Shacklebolt

Minister for Magic

Harry sighed and looked at the pile of desk work Kingsley had included. He did so appreciate that Kingsley Shacklebolt was Minister; he had stopped being so paranoid about government when he got the post, and knowing that Kingsley was helping Hermione was also somewhat of a comfort.

"More letters from work?" Snape asked blandly.

"Desk work," Harry said. "Oh, and Kingsley says to give you his regards. Apparently Hermione went to him for aid and he's helping her on our little situation."

"Our little situation," Snape repeated with a snort. "Indeed. Well that's a small comfort, he's not a complete moron."

"And he's not likely to go blabbing," Harry added as he unrolled the first scroll. He groaned at the boring, mundane desk work that he had been previously avoiding now for the past month. "Lovely," he moaned and looked up at Snape. "You don't need a hand with that stuff, do you?"

"Not your hand," Snape said with a sneer.

"Yeah yeah," Harry muttered, knowing that although he wasn't total crap at making potions, he probably would be under Snape's impatient instruction.

With a sigh, Harry decided to busy himself with the desk work. As he scratched out notes and completed forms for prisoners he had brought in, Harry kept stealing glances at Snape who was working meticulously on a potion that was simmering in a very large cauldron.

Harry watched as Snape chopped, measured and stirred things into the brew. Snape's brow was furrowed in concentration, his hands moving fluidly as he created his best form of magic. Harry, to his horror, found his mind travelling back to the shower and the view he had stolen of the other man's naked backside.

"Fuck," Harry whispered under his breath. He shook his head and went back to scribbling.

Snape, who had heard Harry's pause, looked up but saw that the bespectacled man had gone back to writing. Snape shivered with desire and a bit of horror as he found the image of Harry's naked body floating to the surface of his mind. He also found it disturbingly erotic when Harry began to chew on the end of the quill, spilling a bit of ink onto the corner of his mouth.

Terrified that he might have feelings of attraction towards Harry effing Potter, Snape turned his attention back to the potion and was determined not to look up again.

After several hours, though, the stomachs of both men were protesting loudly at not having been fed all day. Snape and Harry both removed themselves from their work and stood.

"Lunch?" Harry asked.

"Nearly supper," Snape replied, glancing at the clock. "There's a place round the corner, but we'd be seen, so we can floo back to my flat if you prefer."

"Round the corner is fine," Harry said. At this point, the desire for Snape was building up so heavily that he was afraid to be alone with him. He wanted to try and figure out something before they went back to the flat so they didn't have a repeat of the night before. Especially since now it was a sexual desire.

"Right," Snape said. "Suppose someone questions us why we are having a meal together?"

"For business," Harry said with a shrug. "I'm head of the Auror Department and you're a renowned potion maker and we use a lot of potions..." Harry trailed off.

"I suppose that could work. Might look better if you had a wedding ring on, though," Snape added.

"Not much we can do about that now," Harry said with a sigh.

Snape, who was feeling the same desire for Harry, and had also decided he probably shouldn't be alone with Harry at the flat before he figured something out, didn't give more argument and led the way out of the shop.

Harry took along some parchment and quill to make it look a bit more official. They walked into the restaurant and although they were fixed with curious gazes, no one said anything. Their lunch was ordered and they ate in relative silence.

When they finished, instead of getting up, Snape ordered cups of coffee for them. When their coffee was brought, Harry stirred a liberal amount of cream and sugar into it, not taking his eyes off Snape.

"I feel it's safe to assume," Snape began slowly, "that the intense feeling of sexual desire that has been building up in me all day as afflicted you as well."

"Yes," Harry said with a nod. He took a sip of his coffee.

Snape gave a small sigh. "I'm hesitant to return to the flat alone with you for fear of what might happen."

"Same," Harry said.

Snape tapped his long, thin fingers on the table in thought. Eventually he looked at Harry with a deep, piercing stare and grabbed the hand Harry had been resting near his coffee cup.

Harry gave a small start as Snape locked fingers with him and felt an almost electric connection pass through him. Snape felt it too, but he gave no outward sign of it as he squeezed Harry's fingers tightly in his.

It took a second for Harry to notice, but Snape's touch took a definite edge off of the building desire. "Oh," Harry said with realisation.

Snape nodded. "Although, to be honest, I didn't think that was going to work."

Harry looked down at their intertwined fingers and then back up at Snape who was scowling. "So you think we have to touch to make this go away?"

Snape pulled his hand away suddenly, casting a glance round the room. He had totally forgotten for that moment they were in public and supposed to be having a business meeting. "I think it will help, but I'm not sure for how long. Not to mention," he said and sighed, "that we run the risk of the physical contact making the desire spread more quickly."

Harry rubbed his hands over his face roughly. "Rock and a hard place," he muttered.

"What?" Snape asked a little loudly.

"Rock and a hard place," Harry repeated.

"Oh," Snape said. "Seems so."

Harry drained his cup of coffee and pushed the mug away. "So now what?"

"Back to work," Snape said. He pulled out a pocket watch and said, "For a few more hours, at least."

Harry and Snape both knew they were trying to avoid going back to the flat where they would be so alone. Harry rose from the table and led the way out of the restaurant. Back in Snape's apothecary, Harry sat himself back at the desk and got to work while Snape resumed brewing.

During the next couple of hours, Harry watched Snape out of the corner of his eye as Snape brewed and dealt with a few customers. He could feel the desire to grab the man, shove him against his work table and take him right there growing and growing.

And for Harry, that wasn't a natural thought. He'd only ever had sex with one person, and that one person had been Ginny Weasley. He didn't even know where to begin when it came to a male, for starters. He also wondered about Snape, because as far as he knew, the only person Snape had ever loved was Lily Potter and nothing had ever happened between them.

Feeling frustrated, both mentally and now sexually, Harry finished up the last scroll, shrank the lot and shoved them into his pockets. Snape was just finishing up bottling the potion he had been brewing and when he set the final phial on the shelf, he turned to Harry.

"Suppose we'd best get home," Snape said a little apprehensively.

Harry nodded and walked up to Snape. They took the floo back to the flat and both of them collapsed on Snape's sofa. They sat a cushion apart, but as the silence and desire built between them, their hands crept closer to one another and clasped together in that empty space.

Harry shuddered with relief as the almost painful desire eased up quite a bit. "This sucks," he said for the second time so far.

Snape gave a sort of humph noise under his breath but said nothing else. He involuntarily squeezed Harry's fingers a bit and realised, with extreme horror, that he had been rubbing circles on the side of Harry's hand with his thumb.

"It's getting kind of ridiculous," Harry said. "I mean, we really can't be walking round holding hands. Even proper couples don't do that once they reach puberty."

Snape gave a little amused snort. "Well I'll take that over a mindless, uncontrollable urge to throw you over my desk and bugger your arse raw," Snape blurted before he could stop himself. His pale face immediately reddened but he couldn't take back the words he'd just said.

And at those words, Harry's cock sprang to life. He shifted to try and conceal it and stammered, "Y-you were thinking that too?"

"Seems we are riding the same, disgusting wavelength," Snape muttered.

"Have you had sex with a man before?" Harry suddenly asked.

Snape's eyes widened a fraction. "Have I what?"

"Had sex with a man?" Harry repeated. "I don't mean to ask such a personal question, it's just that I've never even really considered having sex with a man. Now I'm flooded with all these thoughts of you and I..." Harry trailed off, quite red in the face and breathing rather hard.

Snape sat there, very silent, squeezing Harry's hand tightly, for a little while. Eventually he took a breath and said, "I usually prefer men."

Harry looked at Snape sharply. "But I thought you... I mean my mum..."

"Love and lust are two very different things, Mr Potter," Snape said in a low, oddly calm voice. "I loved your mother. I lust after men."

"So you've never had both?" Harry asked.

"No," Snape said with a shrug. "I've never really desired both."

Harry scratched the back of his head with his free hand and looked down at their joined hands. "I guess I'm not the best judge of what should and shouldn't be. I'm getting ready to divorce the only woman I ever loved."

"You loved? Or you were supposed to have loved?" Snape challenged.

Harry bit his lip and looked at Snape. "I guess I'm not sure. I could never really see that line clearly. I won't lie and say I didn't wonder but after the war it just..."

"Happened?" Snape offered.

Harry nodded and then, before he realised it was happening, he was leaning forward and Snape was kissing him. Snape had his free hand in Harry's hair, holding onto the locks tightly, keeping their heads pressed together tightly.

Harry shivered and opened his mouth to the kiss. It was different, so different than Ginny, but it was so good. His head spun and his body sang with desire. He groaned and tried to press himself tighter against Snape. His sudden movement, however, caused Snape to come to his senses and the older man pulled back.

"No," he said.

Harry let out a puff of air, his glasses askew and a bit foggy from Snape's hot breath. "Right," he said. He felt rejected and thought for a second that he might be ill all over Snape's lap.

Snape blinked at Harry's tone and said, "We might lose ourselves and solidify the bond," Snape said.

"Yeah, I know," Harry said. For some reason, that suddenly didn't sound like such a bad idea, but he didn't know if it was because of the bond or if he really just wanted Snape.

Snape slowly pulled his hand from Harry's. "Are you hungry?"

Harry shook his head. "Not so much. I have to owl these forms to the office, though."

Snape called for his owl, a large black, amber eyed bird, and stood back as Harry fixed the scrolls to the bird's leg. When that was done, Snape pulled a book off his shelf and collapsed into his armchair.

Harry knew there would be no more talking, and he thought for the moment that might be a good thing. He seized his own book and lost himself in his thoughts until Snape declared it was time for bed.

In the bedroom, Snape waved his wand and vanished the camp bed. "I think we can control ourselves enough to sleep in the same bed."

"I think it might be the only way to control ourselves," Harry added.

Snape nodded and quickly changed into his pyjamas, only stealing the quickest of glances as Harry was doing the same. They climbed beneath the covers and lay there shoulder to shoulder.

"Reckon this will keep us from acting like we did last night," Harry said, though saying that was really unnecessary.

Snape grunted and put out the lamps with a whispered word. In the dark, Snape turned his head back to Harry. "It will be over soon, Potter."

"Yeah," Harry said. And then what, he thought to himself. Back to Ginny, or alone. He supposed alone sounded much better than going back to the insanity that was Ginny. He would just have to work something out with the kids. He loved each one of his children but it wasn't worth living with someone so unstable. He was tired of being chucked out of his own home over and over.

"You've been sighing repeatedly for the past ten minutes," Snape said wearily. "Do you want to share or is this a new form of torture you're trying out on me?"

Harry chuckled. "Lost in thought, sorry." Harry paused and then realised Snape asked him to share his thoughts. "I was thinking of what was going to happen to my life when our fun little bond is broken."

"I see," Snape said slowly.

"Ginny and I are over," Harry continued. "I can't deny that. I can't live with that woman any longer."

"So you have repeatedly said."

"It's the truth," Harry said. "It's taking time to get used to the idea." Harry fell silent for quite some time. "I'm a decent husband, don't you think?"

"Potter, do you think perhaps you are asking the wrong person for vindication on your ability to be a decent husband?"

"I suppose so," Harry said and then after a long pause added, "But even though you hate me as a Potter, do you think Ginny was right? I mean, yeah I've always been crap at Potions, and granted, I made impulsive, thoughtless decisions which really irritated you, but apart from that, am I really all that bad?"

"I don't know what she accuses you of, so I can't give that question a proper answer." Snape dearly wished Harry would stop talking. With the building desire to bugger him, and a strange tolerance for his personality, along with a distressing desire to keep him from feeling any sort of pain, especially emotional pain, Severus was having trouble keeping himself from answering Harry's questions.

"She thinks I'm a cock-up," Harry said. "About everything, not just typical things. Everything that goes wrong at all she screams at me for. She's forever accusing me of being a poor father and bad lover and husband. She often says that I was not made for anything except killing Dark Lords and all of that is already done so I have no point."

"She said you have no point?" Snape asked and shook his head. "I sincerely hope you don't believe her, Potter."

"No," Harry said slowly. "Anyone could've done what I did to kill Voldemort. Of course, they would've had to kill me too seeing as I was a horcrux-"

Snape twitched. "You were a what?"

Harry's eyes widened and he turned on his side. "Didn't you know?" he asked and then realised that as Voldemort hadn't even really known it, neither would Snape have known. "It was an accident on Voldemort's part," Harry added. "I was able to kill it without dying."

"That is something," Snape breathed, sounding very much not himself.

Harry chuckled hollowly. "I suppose. It wasn't really my doing. But that's a story for another time. But to answer your question, no, I don't believe her that I don't have a point aside from killing a Dark Lord."

"So why are you asking me for reassurance?" Snape demanded. He, too, shifted so that he was facing Harry.

Harry shrugged. "I don't really know. I guess, maybe it's because you were the one man who hated me most of all and if you can find something good in me, something to desire, something marry-able, maybe I'm not a lost cause."

"No one is a lost cause, Potter," Snape said. "Even I am not, though I choose to be."

"Why choose to be?" Harry asked.

"Your marriage, for one," Snape said. "Rarely does it remain something to desire."

"You would have married my mum," Harry pointed out.

"Potter, must I repeat that I loved her, not lusted after her?"

Harry stared at Snape for a moment. "But... you... but you were upset about her and my father. You only did what you did for me because of her!"

"Yes, but I was only upset about your father because he was an arrogant arse and your mother deserved far better. I didn't fancy her, Potter. I didn't want to bugger her, marry her, have children with her. I just loved her and wanted her to be happy."

Harry fell back onto his back and let out a long breath. "Wow."

"I partially regret giving you those memories," Snape said.

"Only partially?" Harry asked with a small smile.

"If you were even half-competent I might not regret it at all," Snape answered.

Harry laughed loudly. "I see. It was a big reason why I called my son after you, Severus."

"Kindly refrain from being so familiar," Snape bit.

"Oh that's stupid," Harry said. "We've had a nice snogging session on your sofa, I think I've earned the right to call you Severus."

Snape hummed but didn't argue.

"I know you'd rather die than be bonded to me," Harry said. "I guess I can understand that, but I just wanted to know why it would be that bad. Why I'd be that bad."

"You sound like a woman," Snape said.

Harry rolled his eyes but didn't say anything.

Snape, after a long pause, reached into the space between them and grabbed Harry's hand. "I never said I'd rather die."

"Yes you did, you liar ," Harry argued, squeezing Snape's hand. "And I feel so stupid, like I'm having a row with a lover, which we aren't. I mean, it's probably the bond making you care at all."

"Go to sleep, Potter," Snape said wearily and, keeping a hold of Harry's hand, lay down on his back.

Harry closed his eyes, and although he thought he wouldn't sleep at all, he dropped off quickly. The next morning he woke to the feeling of hands running through his hair. He cracked open one eye and saw that he was curled up against Snape's side. His head was on Snape's shoulder and Snape's arm was around his middle. Snape was using his other hand to brush his fingers through Harry's hair.

"I-" Harry began.

"Quiet, Potter," Snape said in a rough, tired voice and Harry obeyed.

------- ----------- --------

The next few days passed without incident. Their casual touches increased to a near constant, just to keep themselves from ripping their clothes off and going at it on any nearby surface. As Snape suspected, the physical touching increased the desire for sex, but only when they had stopped touching.

It was annoying, they both found, but it was the only way.

That night found them in the kitchen, Snape chopping vegetables and Harry stirring a stew. They were so close their hips were touching and oddly it had nearly become second nature to them, making constant contact.

"Can I ask you something?" Harry said as he stirred the food absently.

"Could I stop you if I wanted to?"

"No," Harry said. "When this is all over, when Hermione and Kingsley find the way to break the bond, do you think-"

"Potter," Snape said, his voice a little thick, "I know what you're going to ask, and for the love of Merlin, please don't."

"Right. Sorry," Harry said and flushed.

Snape shook his head. "You refuse to take into consideration that it's likely the bond making you have any sort of feeling for me."

"I'm not so sure," Harry said. "It's making me want you, but the rest of it, I think, is just me getting to know you."

"Before that day in Flourish and Blott's you hated me," Snape said. "You thought I was an ugly, greasy, evil git."

"Well you kind of are," Harry said with a smile, "but you're other things too. I've just gotten to see that. I thought maybe you've gotten to see that I have other things besides an arrogant, irrational Gryffindor attitude."

"I've always known that," Snape said carefully.

Harry looked at him for a moment. "So why turn me down?"

"I didn't," Snape said. "I just ask you to have a bit of patience, as hard as that might be for you. Once this is broken, your feelings will likely change."

Harry sighed. "I don't know-"

"No," Snape said, "you don't know. Nor do I. So we shall wait, Potter."

Harry nodded and went back to the stew. As Snape tipped the last of the vegetables into the broth, they heard a soft hooting noise. Both men turned and Harry saw a very familiar owl belonging to Ron and Hermione. There was a letter tied to the owl's leg and the owl was hopping up and down a little impatiently.

Harry broke away from Snape to fetch the letter and quickly unrolled it. "Shit," he said reading the few lines aloud. "Hi Harry. Ginny's in the hospital in labour now. She wants you there without Snape but that's impossible. Anyhow, you should probably come anyway as the child is yours. See you there? Love, Hermione."

"Great," Snape moaned. "A room full of Weasleys?"

"I really should go," Harry said with a sigh. "Hermione's right, the kid is mine."

Snape gave a small nod and cast a staying charm on the food so they could continue cooking it when they got back. He fetched cloaks for himself and Harry and together they Apparated to the lobby of St Mungo's.

The welcome witch stared at Harry for a moment, her eyes flickering up to his scar and then gave him Ginny's room number. "Family only," she said when she handed Harry the visitor's badge.

"Special circumstances," Harry said. "He doesn't go and I don't go."

The welcome witch frowned but handed another badge to Snape, and he and Harry made for the lift. When they stepped out, Harry spotted a gaggle of redheads standing at the end of the corridor. They all spotted Harry and rushed over. The first to reach him were the twins.

"Oy," Fred said in a rush, "it's true then?" He nodded to Snape.

"I'm afraid so, Mr Weasley. I assure you I do not wish to observe this little... get together... any more than you wish me to."

Fred smirked. "Well our displeasure will be nothing compared to Ginny's."

"She's going to have to deal with it," Harry snapped.

George gave Harry a sympathetic smile. He knew exactly what Harry had been going through. Putting his arm round Harry, he said in a low voice, "You know it's bad when a marriage to Snape is a better alternative than your marriage to Ginny."

Snape felt a sudden surge of intense jealousy when George touched Harry, and pulled Harry into his arms firmly. Snape, mortified when he realised what he'd just done, released Harry immediately. "Sorry," he muttered. "The bond."

"If you say so, mate," George said, tipping Snape a wink. "Anyhow, Ginny's a bit furious. The baby came quick, three quarters of an hour and she was here."

"A girl?" Harry asked.

Fred nodded. "Black haired, like Al. Pretty cute for being your spawn."

Harry rolled his eyes and looked at Snape. "We should go in."

Snape was warily eyeing Mr and Mrs Weasley who were standing near the door, giving Harry and Snape dark looks. "If you feel it's safe."

"They understand more than you think," Harry said.

"Except they did see that article about you two in the Prophet. They knew what Hermione had told them but mum thinks that the article is what sent Ginny into labour," Fred chimed in.

"What article?" Snape and Harry chorused.

"You don't read the Prophet?" Fred asked with wide eyes.

"No, they've only ever printed rubbish," Snape hissed. It was no surprise that Snape hated the Daily Prophet. When it came to light that Snape was still living, he was repeatedly slandered in the publication. His absolution of all war crimes was footnoted and details about his personal doings while working for Voldemort were highlighted.

"Well there was a photograph of you two having a cozy lunch together, holding hands," George said in a mock-swooning voice. "The Prophet found out that your marriage with Ginny had been dissolved and now they're printing rubbish about how you've left your childhood sweetheart for your former professor."

"Jesus," Harry muttered.

"Hermione explained it all to mum and dad but they're still a bit... you know... mum and dad."

"Yeah," Harry said. "Not much we can do about it now, though." He motioned Snape along and paused when he reached Molly and Arthur. "You know it's not true," Harry said immediately.

"Yes," Molly said slowly.

"There will be dire conscequences if they don't touch," Hermione chimed in.

"Yes, we know," Arthur said. "Are you sure there's no way you can go in there without Severus?"

"You wouldn't like what would happen if I did try," Harry said grimly.

The two older Weasleys nodded and then stepped back so Harry could push the door open. On the bed, Ginny was lying there quietly, staring at the sleeping infant in the small, plastic cot beside her hospital bed.

When Harry walked in, Ginny's head snapped over and her eyes narrowed when they landed on Snape. "Are you kidding me?"

"It's the only way I can see the baby," Harry said.

"The baby," she sneered. "Never mind your wife," she hissed.

Harry shrugged and approached the cot, Snape close at his heels. Reaching out, he gingerly picked up the sleeping infant and cradled her against his chest. "I take it everything went well."

"As can be expected," Ginny said in a dead tone. "You know, without her father here at my side to see it happen."

"The owl came late," Harry said.

"Yeah, I know. I didn't want him here," Ginny said, nodding towards Snape.

"Nor did I want to witness something that disgusting," Snape retorted.

"Enough," Harry said to them both as the tiny infant in his arms began to stir. The small being opened her swollen eyes and Harry saw the dark blue orbs looking around a little. "We never picked a name."

"As though you care," Ginny snapped.

"Considering you've had me name each child we've had," Harry retorted, "shall I pick this one?"

"Considering you're a control freak," Ginny spat back, "why not?"

"Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?" Snape cut in and Ginny glowered at him.

"What about Abigail?" Harry asked.

"Whatever," Ginny sniveled and turned away.

Harry looked up at Snape. "What do you think?"

Snape shrugged. "I've never thought about a child's name. Abigail is suitable for a name, however."

"Are you seriously, seriously asking Snape about our child's name?" Ginny hissed, still turned away.

Harry didn't answer her. "Abigail," Harry repeated to himself and smiled. "Perfect."

Snape had never seen that look of utter love and adoration on Harry's face. Never. He had never seen it on anyone's face and it stirred something in him that he wasn't entirely comfortable with. He shifted a little and backed away.

Harry looked up at Snape with a frown. "Severus?"

"He's Severus now?" Ginny shrieked, causing the infant to start bawling.

Harry bounced and shushed his daughter while casting a glare towards Ginny. "Nice," he murmured.

The door opened and Molly poked her head in. "Is everything alright?"

"No," Ginny snapped.

Molly walked in with a small redheaded girl trailing behind her. "Daddy?" the girl said.

Harry looked over and saw his other daughter, Lily, poking her head round Molly's robes. Harry smiled, knelt down and beckoned her over. "You've met your sister, haven't you?"

"No," Lily whispered as she crept over. "Mum was too upset for me to come in before."

Harry bit back a nasty comment and helped the ten year old girl take the infant into her arms. "She looks like you," he said.

Lily giggled. "She looks like a wrinkly baby, dad."

Harry kissed the top of Lily's head. "Well you did too, once."

"Dad," she moaned. "Jeeze."

Harry chuckled and cupped the back of his newest daughter's head in his hand. "Her name is Abigail."

"Did you pick it?" Lily asked.

"Yes," Harry said.

Lily looked down at her new sister and then her eyes flickered over, seeming to just notice Snape for the first time. "Oh," she said. "That's um..."

"Severus Snape," Harry said.

"Like Al's Severus?" Lily asked.

"The same," Harry said.

Lily leant forward and whispered, "He's why Mum is so mad?"

"Mum's just feeling overwhelmed right now," Harry said gently.

Molly swooped down and scooped Abigail out of Lily's arms. "So beautiful," Molly cooed and walked to Ginny's bedside.

Harry took Lily into his arms and walked to the corner of the room. "Things are different now, I'm sure you've noticed."

"Yeah," she said. "I mean, Mum's always so mad and shouting and she sent me to Gran's for a week."

Harry sighed. "I'm so sorry."

"Are you going to come home at all?" Lily asked. "I wrote to Al and asked him and he said that you might not."

Harry licked his lips and glanced over at Snape who was watching Harry with an odd expression. "Lily, I probably won't be coming home, but I'm never leaving you."

"Okay," she whispered and put her head against his shoulder, crying just a little. "Can I come and live with you?"

"We'll see. Right now there's a small problem and the second that's sorted out-"

"The problem Auntie is helping you with?" she asked and then added, "I heard her and Uncle Ron talking."

"How much did you hear?" Harry asked, glancing over at Snape who had moved closer to them.

"Just that Auntie was pretty sure she had figured out how to fix it," Lily said. The little girl cast a glance over at Snape. "You're the mean Potions Professor."

Snape's lips twitched. "I was," he said with a nod.

She sized him up and then declared, "You don't look so scary to me."

Harry laughed and shook his head. "You've lost your touch."

Snape rolled his eyes but didn't say anything as Harry lowered his daughter to the ground. He looked back at Ginny but suddenly the door opened and Hermione popped her head in. Harry could see the tall, dark form of Kingsley standing behind her and her excited grin told Harry that there might be new information.

"Let's go," Snape hissed in his ear.

Harry nodded, feeling apprehensive and something else... disappointed? They walked into the corridor without saying goodbye to Ginny. Hermione was nearly bouncing on her heels with excitement.

"Got it," she beamed. "We've got it."

"You're sure?" Snape demanded.

"One hundred percent," Hermione said.

Snape checked his pocket watch again. "Give us half an hour to pack up Potter's things and meet us at my flat."

"Okay," Hermione breathed.

Harry nodded, his throat feeling suddenly constricted and he followed Snape out of St Mungo's. They Apparated to Snape's flat and together they went into the bedroom. Without looking at Snape, Harry began to pack.

"Potter?" Snape said as he watched Harry angrily throw things into the small suitcase that they had been sent over in.

Harry didn't look up. "What?"

"I thought you would be jumping for joy," Snape said.

Harry suddenly realised how childish he was acting, took a deep breath and turned to face Snape. "Sorry. It's probably the bond making me feel this way."

"What way?" Snape asked rather softly.

"Disappointed. Angry." Harry shrugged helplessly. "Maybe it's the bond, or maybe it's because I haven't actually felt anything like I felt when I was kissing you on the sofa."

Snape stood there silent for a long moment. Suddenly, in a few quick strides, he crossed the room and took Harry by the shoulders. "You don't want me," Snape breathed, his face painfully close to Harry's. "I'm nasty and mean, and you keep forgetting that you don't like me."

"That's before I got to know you a little better," Harry defended weakly, desperately wanting to lose himself in Snape's arms. "It's different now."

"Is it?" Snape asked. His hands went up and carded through Harry's hair before trailing down Harry's cheeks. "Or are you just so desperate to be away from your wife-"

"No!" Harry said fiercely. "I don't need someone to help me get away from her, Severus. It's not about her. It's about you. It's about how I've felt something with you that I've never felt before."

"Because of a magical bond," Snape said.

Harry shook his head but couldn't argue because Snape had closed his mouth over Harry's. The kiss wasn't as deep as it had been on the sofa, nor was it as desperate. It was soft and lingering and almost sad.

Snape pulled away and took a step back.

Harry bowed his head and finished packing without another word. When he finished, he and Snape went into the lounge and only had to wait a moment before Kingsley and Hermione appeared. Immediately, Hermione pulled Snape and Harry to the centre of the lounge and ordered them to clasp hands.

Kingsley and Hermione pointed their wands at the clasped fingers and they began to chant something Harry didn't understand. There was a warmth spreading through Harry and Snape, a faint glow surrounded them and then...

Nothing. When Harry let Snape go he still felt that strange pull, the desire to touch Snape again. He looked at the older man who clearly still felt it as well.

"It didn't work," Hermione breathed and looked at Kingsley.

The Minister for Magic nodded. "So I noticed. I've explained to you what that means and I think I'll leave it to you to explain to them." He turned back to Harry and extended his hand. "I only hope for the best, Harry."

Harry frowned, took Kingsley's hand and shook it. "Thank you."

Kingsley nodded and extended his hand to Snape. "And you Severus," he said and smiled, "I've only ever wanted the best for you."

Snape took Kingsley's hand but didn't say anything as the Minister backed up and Apparated out of the flat. When he was gone, Snape rounded on Hermione. "Alright, Granger, explain!"

Hermione didn't even bother to correct Snape this time. She sighed and began to pace up and down the floor. "The bond that you cast was accidental," she began, "but there was something Kingsley and I learned when trying to find what we needed to break it."

"And?" Snape demanded.

"And," Hermione said patiently, "bonds, while they can be accidental, they can't be forced."

"Forced? What do you mean?" Harry asked, his head swimming with confusion.

Hermione shrugged. "I mean, a bond can be cast accidentally on two people, but..." she trailed off, searching for the right words. "A bond can't affect two people if the bond was not meant to. Magic can't force two people together that don't want to be togther."

"Obviously it has," Snape snarled.

"No," Hermione said. "It literally can't."

"But what about all this stuff, us feeling a need to touch and everything else?" Harry gasped.

"All the pre-bond can do," Hermione said slowly, her pacing slowing along with her words, "is heighten the feelings you two had for each other."

"No," Snape said, shaking his head firmly. "No."

"Yes," Hermione countered. "The only reason my counter-bond didn't work was because the two of you want to be bonded."

"No!" Snape shouted. "We don't!"

"Clearly you do," Hermione said, now sounding impatient. "Clearly because if you two didn't want it, if it wasn't meant to be that way, if you two weren't literally, and I mean literally, perfect for each other, my spell would have worked."

Snape crossed his arms. "I can't believe that. I will not believe that."

Hermione sighed and looked at Harry who remained silent. After a few moments, she reached into her robes and pulled out a folded piece of parchment. She handed it over to Snape. "This spell will break the bond," she said. "Regardless of how much the two of you want it. You have to cast it, Snape, as you were the one who cast the bond in the first place. It'll break it but just know that once it does, the two of you will be broken forever. It cannot be repaired." Hermione paused, her eyes lowering to the parchment in Snape's thin fingers. "It's very dark magic, but it will work without fail." Bowing her head, she took a step back from them. "I just hope you two can make the right decision." With that, Hermione Apparated away.

Harry looked over at Snape who had unfolded the parchment and was reading it silently. When he finished, he looked up at Harry. "I refuse to believe this."

Harry shrugged. "It wasn't the bond," was all he said.

"Potter," Snape said wearily.

"It's fine," Harry said. "Cast it, Snape, because I don't want to spend my life bonded to a person who will do nothing but regret me."

Snape gave a frustrated growl, pulled his wand out and pointed it at Harry. He looked down at the parchment and opened his mouth to read it. But no sound came out of his mouth. He cleared his throat and opened his mouth again. Black eyes shot up to look at Harry, and before Harry could ask what the problem was, the parchment and his wand fell from Snape's hands and the older man bolted from the room.

Because the pre-bond was still affecting them both, Harry had no choice but to follow after Snape and let himself into the bedroom. Snape was sitting on the side of the bed with his back to Harry.

"Why didn't you cast it?" Harry demanded. "Snape!"

"Because, you stupid, idiotic Gryffindor fool, I didn't want to," Snape bit. "I didn't want to destroy what little hope the two of us had to be happy."

Harry's eyes widened and he spluttered. "But you said... but you... and Hermione..."

Snape turned round and fixed narrowed eyes on Harry. "Somehow this is your fault," he said, though his voice was utterly free of venom.

Harry swallowed. "I've heard that before."

Snape rose and closed the distance between them. "Yes," he whispered and shoved Harry hard against the wall. "Yes, but it's true."

"I-" Harry started but Snape kissed him, silencing him.

"Thank you," Snape whispered against Harry's mouth.

Harry looked up into Snape's black eyes. "You're welcome," was all he could think of to say.

Snape fisted the front of Harry's robes and kissed him again. "I'm liable to kill myself once I've realised what we've done, I hope you know that."

"I'm sure," Harry murmured as he nibbled on Snape's neck.

Snape roughly pushed Harry across the bedroom floor, throwing him to the bed and nearly pouncing on him. He kissed Harry hard, their teeth clashing together painfully. He grabbed Harry's hair and pulled Harry's head back, biting hard on the skin between his neck and shoulder.

"God," Harry gasped. He'd never experienced anything like this before. Sex with Ginny had always been short, in the pitch black, never anything more than a quick in and out.

"Yes," Snape said. "Yes." Fumbling for something Harry couldn't see, Snape came back to Harry's body and quickly pulled his robes up and removed Harry's pants.

Harry quickly did the same to Snape as he felt Snape's wet, cold fingers toying with a place no one had ever touched before. "Oh," he said.

"Stay relaxed," Snape instructed as a finger slipped inside.

It was a sensation Harry had never felt and he wasn't quite sure he liked it. It was almost painful, at the very least intensely uncomfortable, and he shifted under Severus. "Does it get better?" he finally asked.

Snape smirked. "Yes, it does." At that moment, Snape's finger brushed against something that made Harry immediately flush and gasp with pleasure.

"Oh fuck!" he cried out.

"Yes," Snape said again and lowered his head to kiss Harry.

Harry bucked under Snape as he was prepared and thought it couldn't get better. It didn't. Snape began to slide inside him and if he thought a finger was uncomfortable, Snape's cock was downright horrible. It did hurt. He felt stretched to the point of tearing and something was stinging.

"I don't think I like this," Harry said.

"You will," Snape whispered. "Hold on to me tightly."

Harry obeyed, burying his face in Snape's neck. "Ouch," he breathed as Snape pushed himself completely in.

"I'll go slowly," Snape grunted. He wasn't sure how long he was going to last, as it had been quite some time since he'd had sex and the fact that Harry's arse had never been buggered and was just so tight was almost enough to send him over the edge right there.

Snape thrust inside Harry gently, angling himself differently until, "Ohfuck," Harry gasped when Snape's cock found that spot again.

"Ah," Snape said and made sure to keep that angle as he slowly sped up his pace.

Both men were sweating as Snape pushed himself in and out. In and out. He reached between them and grabbed Harry's hard cock. Harry groaned and arched into Snape's hand.

There was a long moment where neither men moved and then, with a strange tingling feeling passing between the both of them and a sudden flash of light, both men came. It was a quiet climax for both of them, as they were a bit stunned by the strange feeling and the strange light.

When it was over, Snape pulled away and looked over at Harry. "We did it, didn't we?"

Harry nodded, mopping sweat from his brow. He now noticed the pain in his arse and winced. "I guess we did."

"Shall we experiment?" Snape asked. "I could do with some tea."

"Yeah," Harry said. He watched with bated breath as Snape composed himself and then, very slowly, left the room. On edge, Harry waited for that feeling of desperation, but it never came. There was just the sound of Harry still trying to catch his breath and then the faint sound of water filling the kettle in the kitchen.

"Fuck," Harry whispered to himself. What had he really done?

----------- ------------

With the sunrise came the realisation that they were, in fact, bonded and there was no going back on it at all. It wasn't just a marriage, it was permanent. During the night, Harry and Snape had sex again and Harry found it to be increasingly more pleasant as he got used to it.

When he woke in the morning, he was not touching Snape like he had done the past few nights, but he felt... warm. Comfortable. Welcome, even. He stretched and watched his new lover until Snape's eyes fluttered open.

"That is a bit creepy," Snape said in a thick voice.

Harry laughed. "Because I'm Harry Potter?"

"Because you're such a woman that you lay there and watch me sleep," Snape answered.

Harry grinned and bent over to kiss the side of Snape's face. "You have horrible morning breath."

"Your mouth isn't exactly pleasant either," Snape said and then yawned loudly.

"First day of the rest of our lives," Harry said as Snape got up.

"Christ," Snape said with a shake of his head.

Harry got up with Snape and shrugged on his dressing gown. It was still habit to follow the older man around but found it pleasant when he used the toilet by himself. When he was done, he found Snape in the kitchen, pouring two cups of tea.

"We do need to figure some things out before I leave today," Harry said as he took a seat at the table.

"Leave?" Snape asked.

"We're bonded," Harry said, "so I'm assuming that means we should live together."

"Great," Snape muttered.

"Not to mention that I've got things at my former home to pack and an entire family of former in laws to explain everything to." Harry hesitated and then added, "And four kids to deal with."

"Kids," Snape said with a heavy breath. "Do you plan to have them live here?"

"No," Harry said and then hesitated, "Yes. Maybe. It's one of the things I wanted to talk to you about."

"I hate children," Snape said but before Harry could retort he added, "however seeing you with your daughter made me think that perhaps your children are not animals and I might tolerate them. Do you think they will understand our situation at all?"

"I wish I could answer that," Harry said and took a long drink of his tea. "I think Albus will understand, and Lily as well."

"And your eldest?"

"James," Harry said and sighed.

"Say no more," Snape said with a sneer.

"He's not," Harry defended weakly. "I mean, well he's sort of..." he trailed off. "He's a James. I suppose I can't compare him to my father because I didn't know my father. He is, however, very much like his mother."

"I suppose we shall have to take it as it comes," Snape said. "After all, what we've done can't be reversed."

"Are you regretting it now?" Harry asked.

"Are you?" Snape countered.

Harry absently rubbed the empty spot on his left ring finger. "No," he said and then smiled. "No, I'm honestly not."

"And I suppose we can both get back to our respective careers," Snape said.

"Which I'm sure the Ministry will be grateful for." Harry shook his head. "Considering they're the Ministry and keep tabs on all magical things, I'm sure they know about the bond by now."

"It's going to leak into the papers," Snape cautioned.

"So I'll deal with that too," Harry said a little hotly. He finished up his tea and rose. "I've a long day so I suppose I'll see you back here when I'm done."

Snape nodded curtly and watched as Harry ambled to the bathroom to get ready. When he came back out, Snape was still at the table and regarding him with a slightly softened expression.

"So I'm off," Harry said, swinging his arms, feeling a little awkward. It was taking some time to get used to the fact that he was permanently attached to, of all people, Severus Snape.

Snape nodded and didn't move. With a sigh, Harry started for the door. His back to Snape, he reached for his cloak but turned when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"If you need anything, firecall the apothecary. I shall be there all day and I can assist you if you find yourself troubled." His tone wasn't entirely kind but it wasn't nasty, either.

Harry grinned and brought his face in for a kiss. It was chaste but it was exactly what Harry needed before going off. "See you," Harry said and stepped outside.

Parting from Snape for the first time in what felt like an eternity was very strange. He no longer felt the need to have Snape at his side but he most definitely felt Snape's absence. It made it slightly more difficult to concentrate as he found a secluded alleyway to Apparate.

Arriving at the Ministry, Harry nodded hello's to those he passed and he could see wonder in their faces. "Oh, they know," he muttered to himself as he rose the lift, bypassing his own floor in favour of heading to the Minister's office.

Luckily, Kingsley was in and beckoned Harry inside before closing the door tightly. "You've completed the bond," Kingsley said in his low, rumbling voice.

Harry nodded and collapsed into a chair. "I feel like an idiot. I mean, I don't even know what I was thinking!"

Kingsley shook his head. "It's been recorded, and unfortunately the news circulated before I had a chance to buffer it."

"That's okay," Harry said wearily. "I was really just coming by to say thank you for all your help. I know you don't have a lot of time to research something as petty as a bonding ceremony for some Auror."

"Not some Auror," Kingsley said with a small smile. "And not just for you."

"You like Snape, then?" Harry asked.

"Always have," Kingsley answered. "Never got a decent chance to get to know him but I always knew there was more to him than he was letting on. I just hope it brings you more joy."

Harry sighed. "I'd better get down to Hermione's office. I'm pretty sure she knew even before the news of the bond broke, but I want to talk to her."

"She's not in today," Kingsley said sombrely. "Seems that there's been a bit of a problem with your former wife. Tried to send you a curse by post and they've got her at the Burrow."

"What?" Harry asked with wide eyes.

"The news of your bond hit the papers first thing," Kingsley explained. "Miss Weasley's not been quite right since the bond hit you and Snape and now she's really gone round the bend."

"Shit," Harry moaned, dropping his face into his hands. "This is all my fault."

Kingsley leant forward across the desk and pat Harry's shoulder gently. "I don't believe it is. But perhaps your explanation might calm things down."

Harry looked up and nodded. "Right. I'll be back to work when I'm done."

"Take your time," Kingsley said. "You might be Harry Potter, but the Ministry can, indeed, function without you here for a bit longer."

Harry rolled his eyes and used the Minister's floo to travel to the Burrow. When he stepped out of the hearth, he nearly smacked straight into Molly, who was dashing to the kitchen. "Oh dear!" she said, catching herself on Harry's arm. "Oh, Harry!"

Harry flushed. The two people he hadn't wanted to hurt or disappoint were Molly and Arthur. They had been the only true family Harry had known, seeing as all the others had died. "Molly," he said.

Molly shook her head and dropped her voice to a whisper. "Come on to the kitchen, dear."

Harry followed, his head still bowed a bit, and when the kitchen door closed, he looked up and saw Arthur sitting at the table.

"Harry," Arthur said in a low voice. "When did you get here?"

"Just now," Harry said. "I used Kingsley's floo."

"I suppose you know it hit the papers," Molly asked as she fussed with the kettle.

"I didn't mean for that to happen. I didn't even know it was going to happen at all," Harry said, feeling momentarily overwhelmed. "I didn't- I never meant-"

"We know, dear," Molly said, grasping Harry's arms and pulling him into a motherly hug. "We know. You don't need to explain yourself. It was all just a bit of a shock."

"We aren't placing blame on anyone, Harry," Arthur said. "Mainly we just want Ginny to work through whatever's been so wrong with her."

"You do know it's not just this, don't you?" Harry asked as he accepted a cup of tea from Molly and took a seat next to Arthur.

"Oh yes," Molly said, looking rather distressed. "We've ordered some psychological tests done on her and hopefully by the end of the month we will have some idea where to go with her. I suspect it has something to do with the trauma of war and the births of the children."

"Right," Harry said. "Do the children know?"

"Not yet," Molly said, "but it's only a matter of time before they find out. You know how Hogwarts is."

"Yes," Harry said.

"And Teddy's already been over asking if it's true," Arthur said.

"How was he?" Harry asked, a little more apprehensive now.

"He seemed to take it okay," Arthur answered with a shrug. "He was always more mature for his age, anyway."

"But there is a matter we need to discuss," Molly said, pouring more tea into Harry's cup. "No matter what the test results on Ginny come out as, I just don't think she's going to be fit to tend to the children for a while. She hasn't touched the baby since that night at the hospital."

Harry's eyes widened. "I... oh," he said.

"The children are always welcome and comfortable here with us," Molly added hastily.

"Yes, but that won't do," Harry said. "I've already spoken to Severus about this, anyway, and the children are welcome to live with us."

"With Snape?" Molly asked, wringing her hands. "Oh, Harry-"

"They're my children, Molly," Harry said a little fiercely.

"I know," Molly said, "but Abigail's a newborn and it can be so hard-"

"I've done it three times before," Harry bit and then calmed himself. "Listen, I'll still need you to care for her during the day while I'm at work, but I'm going to take Lily and Abigail with me because we're all going to have to get used to the change."

"Harry," Molly said but Arthur put his hand over her's, quieting her for a moment.

"Whatever we can do, Harry, we will," he said.

Harry cast him a grateful look. "Who's here?"

"The twins just left," Molly said as she cleared up their tea. "Ginny's upstairs and Bill and Fleur are watching Abigail right now. Fleur's expecting again, did you know?"

"No, but congratulations," Harry said. "Where's Lily?"

"Went off with the twins. They promised her ice cream," Molly said with a small smile. "Oh, and Teddy's supposed to be dropping by at any time." She checked her watch and then peered out of the kitchen window as if expecting to see him crossing the garden to the door.

"Are the rest of the family," Harry asked. "I mean, how are they taking the news?"

"Well enough," Arthur said reassuringly. "No one's angry with you, Harry. We've all been witnessing the downward spiral. None of us expected this, I can tell you that much, but no one blames you."

Harry felt relieved and gave his former in-laws a small smile. "I think I'd like to go see the baby now."

"Of course," Molly said hurriedly. "Ginny and the baby only just got here a few hours ago, released straight away, but Ginny's quite tired."

"I can imagine," Harry said as he followed Molly into the lounge where Fleur was cradling his newest baby girl.

Fleur looked up and smiled at Harry. "Bill was wondering when you were going to show up," she said and stood up to hand Abigail to her father.

Harry cradled the tiny infant in his arms and took a seat in a rocking chair. Looking down at her, he smiled. She looked a lot like Albus Severus, a lot like him. It was usually hard to tell with babies but this one had the distinct Potter features.

"So it's true, is it?" Bill asked after Harry had got settled.

Harry looked up. "What the Prophet said?"

Bill nodded. "I mean, we can't trust everything it said, but for the most part-"

"Yeah," Harry said quietly. "It wasn't planned. It just happened."

"Hermione explained a lot of it," Fleur said. "But it is rather strange."

Harry shrugged. "Strange, yes. Meant to be? Perhaps."

Bill chuckled. "You and old, greasy Snape, eh? That's a sight I'd like to see."

"Oh I'm sure you will soon," Harry said darkly, eyeing the paper. "Not likely to be left alone. Again."

"I'm sure Snape's enjoying it," Bill chuckled.

"Oh yes, adores fame, that man," Harry said sarcastically.

"So what about ze baby?" Fleur asked.

"Taking her home tomorrow night," Harry said with a quiet sigh. "Snape and I'll just have to make do."

"Make do?" Fleur asked with wide eyes.

"By that I mean his quarters are a little small. We'll probably have to move, but that won't be too hard, we are wizards after all." Harry noticed the quizzical looks and added, "He lives in a flat in Muggle London."

"Snape?" Bill asked. "In Muggle London?"

"He has a lot of enemies," Harry replied. "He says it's hiding in plain sight. I think he's a bit paranoid."

"Only a bit," Bill added. "He has got quite a few people who dislike him."

"All the more reason to think of the childrens' safety," Molly put in as she entered the room.

Harry shook his head. "Snape's got about as many wizards hating him as I do, and no attempt has been made on my or my childrens' lives."

"This is bound to stir them up, though," Bill said. "Just tread carefully."

"Do you love 'im?" Fleur asked after a moment.

Harry blinked. "I dunno. I mean, I hadn't really thought. We're bonded which means something, but I dunno if I'm ready to call it love just yet."

"Can you love 'im?" Fleur questioned. "Is 'e someone you can love ze way I love Bill?"

"Yes," Harry said firmly. "We just need a bit more time."

"Zen it is ze best idea to 'ave a family with 'im," Fleur said firmly.

"Don't you think," Molly said, her voice a bit tight, "that maybe you should establish something like love, between you and Severus, before throwing children into the mix?"

"No," Harry said, "because my children are part of me and if he is going to love me, he's going to love them."

"But he's Snape," Bill said with a bewildered shake of his head. "I don't imagine him loving another adult human, let alone a child."

Molly turned to Harry with her arms crossed and an expression that said, 'See?'

Harry shook his head. "He's not what you think he is. The only Snape you know is the Snape he's let you see. That's not to say he's not a nasty git; he is. But he's a little witty sometimes. I don't imagine he'll ever profess his undying love to me, that might actually give me a coronary. I think he'll be a strict parent-"

At the word parent, Molly gave a derisive snort.

"Yes," Harry said, "parent. Step-parent but one nonetheless. You're all going to have to get used to that. Maybe you all haven't realised it just yet, but Snape and I are permanently bonded. No going back, ever again."

Molly gave a shudder but Bill grinned. "I'm on your side, Harry. You can't blame us for worrying about the kids, but we are on your side."

"Give it time," Fleur said. "It will work itself out in ze end."

Harry looked down at his slumbering daughter and gave a very small nod. "In the end," he repeated.

After spending a fair amount of time at the Burrow, Harry went back to work for a few hours and finally arrived back at Snape's flat, totally exhausted. Snape wasn't there yet, so Harry took the time to explore. There were three rooms in the flat, one for the bedroom and two that were used to house books. Harry half-expected to find a laboratory, but Harry reckoned that wouldn't have been safe in a Muggle flat. The two rooms would be suitable for the baby and Lily but it was pushing it when he added James and Al.

They really did have no choice. They would have to move. Harry decided to start on some dinner, and he was partway through preparing a roast when there was a knock at the door. Frowning, Harry went to answer the call, although he didn't know what to expect. It wasn't much like Snape to have visitors.

When he opened the door, he was surprised to see Teddy Lupin standing there, looking a little apprehensive. "Harry," Teddy said.

Harry let his godson inside and shut the door. "What are you doing here?" Harry asked. "Not that I'm not happy to see you. I waited for you at the Burrow earlier."

"I guess I got there a bit after you left," Teddy said. Together he and Harry went into the kitchen so Harry could continue making the food.

"What's up?" Harry asked as he started to chop potatoes.

Teddy chewed nervously on his thumbnail as he watched Harry preparing the dinner. "I've had a talk with Hermione," he said after a moment. "She explained everything."

"Good," Harry said slowly. He quickly fetched two bottles of a Muggle brand beer and opened them, handing one to his godson. "But I take it you have more questions?"

"I guess," Teddy said and shrugged. "I just want to know how this all happened. I mean, Jesus, Harry, did you always know you were gay?"

Harry blinked. "Gay?" he repeated. That hadn't even occurred to him. "No," he finally said. "I mean, before Ginny there was Cho and that's been the extent of my love life."

Teddy hummed and played with the paper label on the bottle.

"I'm not even sure if that makes me gay," Harry added after Teddy's continued silence. "I think all it means is that Severus and I are two people who can share something most people can't. Does it bother you?"

Teddy looked up with wide eyes. "Bother me? No! I mean..." he trailed off and Harry could see a faint blush tinge his cheeks. "There's never really been anyone to talk to about this before."

"About what?" Harry asked. "Homosexuality?"

"Sort of," Teddy mumbled and took a long swig of the alcohol.

Harry abandoned his cooking and took a seat next to his godson. "What's wrong?" He had known Teddy since he was a small baby and Teddy could rarely keep anything from Harry.

Teddy sighed and looked up at his godfather. His eyes, which were quite amber like his father's had been, were red-rimmed. "I don't really like Victoire."

"Have you two split off?" Harry asked.

Teddy shook his head. "I haven't really had much time with her, what with my Auror training and everything. But things have been sour for a while." Teddy paused for another drink. "Harry, I think I'm gay."

"You think, or you know?" Harry asked. "I mean, it's not a disease, Teddy, it's just a preference."

"Alright, then I know I'm gay," he said a little more firmly now that he could tell Harry wasn't going to have a problem with it. "Victoire already knows, but she thinks it's something I'll grow out of."

"That's a bit ridiculous," Harry said, shaking his head.

"I've... I mean I haven't cheated on her, or anything, but I've come close and I don't want to hurt her. But leaving her will mean that I'll have to admit it to everyone and I'm not sure how they're going to feel."

"I doubt anyone will care," Harry said, trying to keep it light. "If they can get over me bonding to Severus Snape, they can handle you fancying some young, cute bloke."

Teddy smiled a little. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess. It's just, there aren't any others in our family, you know?"

Harry chuckled and shook his head. "Teddy, did you not wonder why George always has some woman on his arm at some point but Fred never does?"

Teddy's eyes widened. "I never really thought about it."

"And," Harry said but hesitated. There was something he did know but wasn't sure if he should share that information with Teddy. "I know you know all about your mum and dad," Harry said.

"Yeah," Teddy said slowly.

"There's something that most people know but only because it was pretty obvious. Your father didn't really talk about it much." Harry took a breath. "Your mother was not the first person your father loved. Your father, since his days at Hogwarts, loved someone so fiercely and intensely that I never thought he could love another."

"Sirius," Teddy whispered.

"You know?" Harry asked, a bit bewildered.

"I could tell," Teddy said quietly, "from old letters and photographs and things that Gran kept. I just... I just never wanted to believe it because..." Teddy trailed off and sighed. "I guess it just would've been nice to know them."

Harry reached out and squeezed Teddy's shoulder. "I know."

"I started to talk to James about it, but he got a bit upset at the notion. I don't think he really cares about gay wizards, so long as his best mates aren't gay. He wrote to me about you and Severus; he's quite put out."

"I thought he might be," Harry said.

Teddy shrugged and looked far off. "Victoire's moved out. It's just me now, but I think now that I've talked to you, I'll end it with her properly. I'm not looking to fall in love right now, but being open to it, with a person I'd want, makes me feel better."

Harry smiled a little and offered to have Teddy stay for dinner, but the younger man declined, not wanting to impose on Harry and Snape's first dinner as a couple. Harry showed Teddy the door and when his godson was gone, only then did Harry notice just how late it was.

"Odd," he said to himself. Snape had agreed to meet Harry back. Harry felt a bit of worry prickle in his stomach and without even really thinking about it, he grabbed his cloak and Apparated to Snape's shop.

He landed outside, so as not to be rude, and quickly walked up the steps to the front door. He didn't go in, however, when he peered through the glass and saw them. Snape was seated in a chair, very near to another tall, young man with dark hair and a smile.

Snape was speaking with lips barely moving and suddenly, as Harry watched, the younger man leant in and kissed him. Harry made a choked sound as jealous, rage and hurt flooded through him. He backed away and the next thing he knew he was standing outside of the twins' flat above the joke shop, knocking.

Fred answered and fixed Harry with a quizzical look. "What's wrong? We haven't got Lily, took her back to Mum's early this evening."

Harry let out a breath. "I just... need somewhere to stay. Can I borrow your sofa?"

Fred let Harry in immediately. George was not there, which usually meant he was out on a date. "Drink?" Fred offered.

Harry nodded and accepted the liquor without question. He took a drink and sank down into the sofa. "I don't know what just happened," Harry whispered. "Things were fine. He was the one who didn't cast the spell! He had every opportunity."

"What are you on about?" Fred asked with a frown.

Harry looked at Fred. "Hermione told me the bond intensified feelings of attraction we already had for each other," Harry said, still not making much sense to Fred. "Which was probably true, but I didn't even think that Snape might've been involved with someone! I mean, I was married but he knew that! Why wouldn't he break the bond if he was with someone he liked."

"Snape was seeing someone?" Fred asked. "How do you know?"

"Because I just saw them together," Harry said. "Kissing."

"Are you sure?" Fred pressed. "I mean, I'd seen Snape around quite a bit and have never seen him with another witch or wizard."

"They certainly looked like they were comfortable," Harry spat bitterly.

Fred shook his head. "Dunno what to tell you, mate. If he's got someone besides you, that'd be a shock to me. But then again, stranger things have happened."

Harry laughed hollowly. "Yes, they have."

---------- -----------

Snape had been at his apothecary all day. His apprentice, a young twenty-seven year old wizard named Marco Blackwell, former Slytherin, hadn't shown up all day. Snape was seething, as he had a lot of work to make up for and Marco's sole job was to keep things from getting out of control.

When Marco finally showed up, it was so late that Snape was ready to call it quits. "Thought you'd make an entrance, eh?" Snape snarled as Marco strode in. "Thought you could make your own rules since I'd been out? Is that why things are in a complete mess?" Snape's voice was low and dangerous.

Marco paled a bit. "No, Severus, I'd just had a few things to finish up and... and I read the Prophet and wasn't sure if it was true."

"What the Prophet says is likely none of your business," Snape hissed as he slammed the now-empty cauldron to the floor.

Marco flinched but boldly approached Snape. "I just never knew you and Potter... you know... and he was married and all."

"As I said before, none of your business," Snape said hotly. He was on edge and another insolent word from his so-called apprentice would find the man out on his arse before he could blink.

Marco bowed his head the moment he reached Snape's side. "I apologise."

"You are not forgiven," Snape said and began to clear up what was left of his mess. "I will find some way to punish you." He spoke at barely above a whisper, his lips barely moving, he was so angry.

Marco laughed just a little and before Snape could look up to chastise him, Marco was kissing him. So surprised, Snape didn't move for a minute. Eventually his senses returned to him and Marco found himself sprawled out on the floor, a wand pointed between his eyes.

"Do I even have to ask what you were thinking?" Snape hissed, spittle flying from his lips.

"I thought... I mean, you and I were always..." Marco spluttered, not daring to move. "And Potter? I just refuse to believe it."

"You, Mr Blackwell, are to consider yourself immediately sacked. I will ask you only once to remove yourself from these premises and if you dare to set foot here again, you will not like the concequence." Snape took a step back and kept his wand fixed on the younger man until Marco hurried out of the shop.

Shaking slightly, Snape felt filthy. He wanted nothing more than a hot shower and a quiet dinner with Harry. The want for Harry was going to take some getting used to, but Snape could no longer deny his feelings and no longer wanted to, if truth be told.

He didn't even bother to clear up the rest of his mess before he left the shop, set the wards and Apparated home. Inside, he could smell the supper cooking and he didn't even bother to pause in the kitchen.

"I'm taking a shower, be out in a moment," he called and rushed into the bathroom. He had absolutely no intention of telling Harry about what had happened between himself and Marco, as it would likely upset Harry, not to mention Snape really was eager to forget it had ever happened.

He took a bit longer than usual in the shower but when he came out he felt refreshed and went into the kitchen, secretly hopeful for a small kiss. What he found, however, was an empty kitchen and half-prepared supper on the cooker. The roast was still out and still raw, there were unchopped potatoes on the cutting board and two open, mostly empty bottles of beer were sitting on the kitchen table.

"Harry?" Snape called, sounding rather irritated. "Harry!" He was met with silence. As the flat was rather small, it only took him a moment to discover that Harry was not there and there was no note or any other indication where he had gone.

Snape sat at the table long enough for an annoying bit of panic to build up in him. He fancied he could feel his bond coursing through him and that thought led him to his fireplace where he decided to firecall one of the few people he never thought he'd actively seek out. The Weasleys.

When Snape's head popped into the fire at the Burrow, Fleur and Molly, who happened to be there, jumped in surprise. "Severus!" Molly cried out.

"I apologise for my abrupt intrusion," Snape said tersely, "but I require..." he paused and then said, "ahem... Potter."

"What?" Molly said.

"Potter," Snape said and then added, "Harry. He's not home and I'm not sure where he went."

"'e has not been 'ere since ze afternoon," Fleur put in. "We 'ave not heard from or about 'im."

Snape grunted what could be construed as a thank you and then disappeared with a pop. Feeling most definitely panicked, Snape tried everyone else he could think of, but to no avail. Eventually he found himself seated in a chair, staring at the door, refusing to move until he heard something about Harry Potter.

-------- ----------

It was morning. Harry had a rather nasty hang-over but he was up early. He had to get back to the flat and at least try to talk to Snape. He wanted answers. He wanted to know why Snape hadn't said anything, why he had fucked Potter and created the permanent bond and yet had someone else he wanted to share himself with.

Trying desperately not to vomit all over Fred and George's new rug, Harry crossed the room and left without waking anyone up. It was a short trip to the flat and he was groaning by the time he reached the front door and his head was spinning.

Taking the handle, he pushed the door open and the second he set foot inside, he was dragged in and shoved hard against the wall.

Snape was seething. He was so angry he couldn't even speak at first; he merely stood nose-to-nose with Harry, breathing heavily, a steady red spreading over his cheeks.

"You arroagant, insolent, evil, twisted bastard," Snape spat hatefully. "How dare you? How dare you walk into this home!"

Harry's eyes widened. "You were the one who did it! You were the one who couldn't cast that bloody spell Hermione gave you-" Harry's words were cut off when Snape slammed him against the wall again and then, to both of their surprise, Snape kissed Harry.

"I thought something had happened. I thought you were dead," Snape heaved as he let Harry go.

Harry massaged the back of his head and took a few steps away from Snape. He'd only seen him this angry a few times and he wasn't sure what to expect. "What?"

"I came home and no one was here. A mess in the kitchen. Weasleys knew nothing." When Snape spoke in sentence fragments, Harry knew it was bad.

And yet, Harry thought, why should Snape get to be angry? "How dare you," Harry eventually snapped. "How dare you, when you're off snogging your employees like some horny teenager! How dare you?"

Snape's eyes narrowed, his nostrils flared and he took two steps back. "What?"

"Oh don't try to play dumb," Harry sneered. "I saw you. You were in plain view of anyone walking by. You were late and I came to check on you."

"Only you could arrive at such a moment," Snape muttered, now sounding somewhat deflated. "You're such an idiotic... such a stupid, Gryffindor... jumping to conclusions," he babbled.

"Am I?" Harry challenged.

Snape took a deep breath and proceeded to recount the events at his shop that evening. "The young man in question, hopefully, knows I will make good on my word. And if it's not enough," Snape added, "I shall be happy to turn him over to your jealous hands."

Harry took it all in. He wasn't sure if it was because of the bond, or because for the first time since Harry had met the man Snape's expression was so open, but Harry believed him.

"Okay," he said. The nausea had returned full force and Harry staggered into the lounge where he collapsed onto the sofa. Snape joined him a moment later, settling next to him and Harry sought out Snape's hand.

"Where were you?" Snape asked, his voice painfully constricted. "I even attempted to contact that ruddy godson of yours but he wasn't home."

Harry's eyebrows rose in surprise but he left those questions for another time. "I went to Fred and George's."

"Ah," Snape said. "Those Weasleys. I rarely think of them unless it involves chaos... which ironically enough it seemed to have this time."

Harry laughed a little and squeezed Snape's hand. "I'm sorry I jumped to conclusions."

"As much as I regret saying this," Snape said, "I honestly would expect nothing less from Harry Potter."

Harry rolled his eyes but leant over for a kiss. He was rewarded with a deep one that conveyed both the worry and relief Snape felt now that Harry was home. "I'm really sorry."

"Do stop apologising, it's getting old," Snape said. "I believe we have another matter to discuss, which was something I was saving for last night's dinner but-"

"Okay," Harry said, interrupting him.

"Your children," Snape said.

"Bugger," Harry replied. "I totally forgot I'm supposed to take Lily and Abigail tonight."

"Yesterday," Snape said quietly, "after you left, I did a bit of thinking and I've decided we have to move. If you are going to bring those... those..."

"Children?" Harry offered with a smirk.

"Not the word I was searching for, but it'll do," Snape said. "Into our home, we're going to need proper room. I will not have my every step tripped up because of some ankle-biting creature."

"Wow," Harry said. "I mean, I didn't think you'd want to move."

"I don't want to move," Snape said a little harshly. "I didn't want to rearrange my life for someone, but I have and as much as I hate to say it, I'm going to make sacrifices."

"I love you too," Harry joked, but the words had an effect on them both and they froze. "I didn't mean-" Harry started.

"It's okay," Snape said.

"I don't mean that I do... or don't..." Harry stammered. "I just..."

"Things," Snape said slowly, "will come in time."

"Right," Harry said and breathed a little easier. "So when do you want to move?"

"Some point before the hellions return from that so-called school."

"So-called?" Harry admonished. "You went there! You taught there!"

"So I have every right to discredit it," Snape replied with a shrug. "Somehow they let you leave as a fully-trained wizard."

Harry rolled his eyes and snuggled into Snape's side. The older man grunted but put a grudging arm round Harry. "I'm not going to work today," he moaned.

"One shouldn't reward a hangover," Snape chastised. "You should be taught a lesson."

"After a kip," Harry said from behind a yawn.

While Snape wanted to argue for argument's sake, he, too, knew he deeply desired sleep. But instead of allowing Harry to bury into his side, he pulled the younger man into the bedroom, shut the drapes and together they sank into a comfortable, relieved and sated sleep.

--------- ---------

"Are you sure you want it to be tonight?" Molly asked as she paced, watching Harry pack up all of Lily and Abigail's things into a large sack.

"Yes," Harry said. "We need to get them settled. Lily's been moved round so much and she needs to know that although things are changing, things are going to be stable. It's going to have to be this way, Molly, until Ginny is well enough to be a parent."

"I know. I know," Molly said, "but as you've never seen Snape with children-"

"Oh we've all seen him with children, mum," Fred chimed in. "He was, after all, our most favourite professor."

"At least he didn't pull an Umbridge," George said, flashing his hand where he still bore a very slight scar.

Harry's lips twitched. "As much as Severus likes to threaten he pickles children, I have been through every inch of his laboratory and have yet to see evidence of it."

"Probably because he eats them," George said seriously.

"Ahhhh, some little infant with a bit of fava beans and a nice Chianti," Fred added in his best Hannibal Lecter voice.

Molly, who didn't get the reference, just shot Harry a fretting look. "You just promise that if things get out of hand you will let me know."

"Molly, I promise," he said putting his hand over his heart. Everything was packed, shrunk and shoved into his pockets, so Harry held his arms out for the baby.

"Lily," Molly called and her voice wobbled.

"Oh Mum," Fred said, throwing up his hands, "don't act like you're not going to see her tomorrow while Harry's at work."

Molly straightened up, cleared her throat and held her hands out to give Lily a hug. "See you tomorrow," she said firmly. "And you behave for your father and..." she looked at Harry quizzically.

"Severus," Harry said. He and Snape decided that as Snape was not a professor anymore and Mr Snape was too formal, Severus would have to do. Harry knew Snape had to swallow a lot of pride for that, so he remembered to be very thankful during that morning's shag.

"Promise?" Molly asked.

"Yes," Lily said and took her dad's hand.

Harry winked at Molly and said, "Be there tomorrow at seven and you can see exactly how well put together we have everything."

"Don't you think I won't be looking over everything with white gloves and a fine-toothed comb, Harry," Molly said sternly, but wearing a smile.

Harry nodded his head goodnight and with a loud crack, he Apparated himself and his two daughters into his home.

Severus had spent the time making sure everything was ready. He had crammed everything he could into one room and left one for Lily and one for a nursery. He could say he was most definitely not amused by everything in there suddenly going pink and lacy with little teddy-bears and unicorns, but he supposed he wouldn't have to look at it often.

He was now pacing the lounge and gave the barest of starts when Harry and the girls Apparated in. "It's about time," Snape said a little sharply.

"We're glad to see you too," Harry said, giving Snape a sharp look. Apparating had woken the small infant who was now mewling rather quietly. Harry bounced the infant on his shoulder until she quieted and fell back to sleep. "Is everything ready?"

Snape nodded and led the way to the nursery first where the cot sat against the far wall. Harry went and set the baby down and stood there until he was sure the baby was going to remain asleep.

Creeping out of the room, Harry took Lily to the next room and showed her inside. It was still quite bare, save for the bed, a wardrobe and a few sparse wall decorations. When he saw Lily's face fall, he put his hand on her shoulder. "Gran is going to decorate it for you tomorrow and you can pick anything you want."

Lily brightened. "Really?"

"Yes," Harry said.

"Where are Al and James going to sleep when they get back from school?" Lily asked as she set her small rucksack on her new bed. "Gran said they were going to live with us too."

"As it's James' last year, I'm not sure he will if he doesn't want to," Harry said. "But Al will and we're going to move into a bigger house soon."

"Oh," Lily said. "With Severus, too?"

"Yes," Harry said. He sat her down on the bed and looked at her. "Do you know what's happened?"

"Not really, but I sort of guessed," the small girl said. "Mummy is ill and Gran is trying to take care of her. You and Mum aren't husband and wife anymore and you and Severus are..." she hesitated and then said, "husband and husband?"

"Basically," Harry said, proud at how intelligent and understanding she was.

"Are you and mummy ever going to fix things?"

"Mum and I aren't going to be husband and wife ever again," Harry said, "but I still love her and I want her to get better."

"Me too," Lily said. She gave a small yawn.

"I think it's time for you to change and get settled. I'll be in later to make sure you're okay." He bent over and kissed the top of Lily's head.

"Good night, daddy," she said.

Harry closed the door half-way and walked out into the lounge where Snape was sitting on the sofa. He looked tired and perhaps a bit concerned. He didn't look up as Harry entered the room and took a seat next to him.

"It's all a bit overwhelming, isn't it?" Harry asked.

"Are you implying that I seem overwhelmed?" Snape asked quietly. "If you would care to recall, I was in charge of many more than two annoying infants for years upon years."

"Yes, but you were never asked to be an actual parent," Harry pointed out.

"Clearly you didn't understand what it meant to be Head of a Hogwarts House, then," Snape bit, sounding almost angry.

Harry frowned. "McGonagall was head of Gryffindor and I can safely say she neither acted like a parent nor treated us like one of her children."

"Students in Gryffindor tended to have different needs than those in Slytherin," Snape said. "I wouldn't expect you to understand."

Harry mused on that for a moment. "Perhaps then, it wasn't only the fact that I was carrying a bit of Voldemort's soul in my body that the Sorting Hat wanted to put me in Slytherin."

Snape quirked an eyebrow at him. "Indeed?"

Harry laughed and gave a small shrug. "Well I can't say it wanted to put me there, but it suggested it. Said I'd do well there."

"Doubtful, as I would have been your head of house," Snape retorted.

"Yeah. If you'd been fatherly towards me I daresay this marriage might be a little more than awkward," Harry joked.

Snape rolled his eyes. "Back to the subject at hand, I am not feeling overwhelmed by children."

"You just look..." Harry trailed off and shrugged. "Something a bit more than tired."

"Things will settle into place," was all Snape said. Absently, Snape reached over and took Harry's hand, giving it the smallest of squeezes. "I think, though, bed is an inviting idea."

Harry couldn't suppress his yawn and grinned sheepishly. "Yeah. I've a long day ahead of me, back to work full-swing and I've also got to write to James and Al."

"Are you nervous?" Snape asked as they made their way to the bedroom.

Harry shrugged and began to change into bedclothes. "No. I know James is old enough to understand the situation and Al is quite mature for his age."

Snape didn't reply to that. He merely watched Harry undress and climb into the bed. Snape soon did the same and, to Harry's slight surprise, he pulled Harry close to him and held him. There was nothing sexual about it, and for that reason it was intensely comforting. Putting out the light, Harry settled against Snape and let sleep take him.

Of course sleep didn't last long. It was only an hour before the baby woke up and cried for her first feeding of the night. Without word or complaint, Harry extracted himself from the total comforts of his bed, picked up the baby and went to the kitchen for her bottle.

After a feeding, a nappy change and a burp, the infant went back to sleep and Harry was able to crawl back into bed. Of course, two and a half hours after that, the baby was up again, and two hours after that, and after that.

When dawn approached and the infant woke up yet again, Snape was up before Harry stirred. He cast a charm to keep out the baby's cries and he crept out of the room, letting Harry rest. Peering his head into the nursery, he saw the wailing infant, gathered her up into his arms and went into the kitchen.

Although Snape had never taken care of an infant, and the idea of him doing so still seemed ridiculously absurd, he managed to put together a bottle and feed the child. Once the babe's hunger was sated, he took her back into the nursery, changed a rather foul smelling nappy and then wrapped her tightly into a blanket and sat down in the rocking chair.

She was lying there, wide awake, her slightly greyish-blue eyes staring up at Snape. She was cute, fat as most infants were, and didn't really have any distinct features quite yet. Her hair was dark, though, and if he could guess, he would wager the child would look much more like her father than her mother. Snape considered that a good thing as he had never found any of the Weasleys particularly attractive.

Well, except maybe the twins, but he doubted it was their looks more than their personalities which he secretly enjoyed.

Still quite tired, Snape began to rock the child and as her eyes drooped, so did his. Before he even realised it, Snape was drifting off along with the infant, the rocking slowly ceasing and both of their breathing evening out.

A few hours later, Harry woke with a start. If the sun's rays were anything to go by, Harry knew he was late. Fumbling for his glasses, he peered at the clock and realised two things; he was late and the baby had missed one of her morning feedings.

Feeling a bit of panic, Harry bolted from the bed and shot down the hall. He came to a skidding halt in front of the nursery door and stood there opened-mouthed at the sight. Snape was in the rocker, snuggling Abigail to his chest and they were both sound asleep.

"It's how I found them," came a soft whisper from behind.

Harry started and turned to see Molly standing there. "When did you get here?" he whispered back and they hurried away from the door.

"Ten minutes ago," she said. "I've started some breakfast. Had a lie-in, did you?"

"I didn't mean to," Harry said, rubbing at his eyes under his glasses. "I'm not sure why I didn't get up."

"Well it looks like Severus is getting the hang of things," Molly said carefully.

"Yeah," Harry said. He helped himself to coffee and some toast. "I didn't even notice he'd got up with her."

"Did Lily settle in okay last night?" Molly asked as she began to fry up some eggs and sausages.

"Yeah. She went right off to sleep and I didn't hear a peep out of her all night."

"She's still asleep but I expect she'll be up soon. We can start to decorate her room, I'm sure that'll make her feel more at home."

Harry smiled. "And Ginny? Did she- I mean- how is she?" He blushed a little.

Molly smiled sadly. "She's still not herself. We'll get her right soon, though. She'll be back to her old self in no time."

"If anyone can do it, you can," Harry said, trying to sound reassuring through his doubt. He didn't think Ginny was ever going to be completely okay but he wasn't about to voice that to Ginny's mother.

They sat in silence for a few minutes until suddenly Severus appeared with the baby who was quite awake but laying in his arms quietly.

Molly looked as though she wanted to lunge for the baby but she stood very still until Severus offered the infant over. With an audible sigh, Molly took the baby into her arms and kissed her. "I've made breakfast, Severus," she said as she bustled about, getting the bottle ready. "Do help yourself, you're looking peaky."

Snape rolled his eyes but helped himself to coffee and, at Harry's pointed glower, took a bit of eggs and a single sausage. "Thank you," he said grudgingly as he sat down opposite his bonded. "Where is Lily?"

"Still asleep," Harry said. "Molly's going to help her with her room later."

Snape hummed a bit as he sipped his black coffee. "And what sort of day are you looking at?"

"Probably long, but I should be out of the office on time. I'm back in the field today, though."

"It won't be a problem," Molly said hurriedly. "I'll be here as long as you need me."

"I shall be home on time as well," Snape said in firm tones.

Molly bit her lip, as though trying to prevent herself from saying anything else and quickly busied herself with feeding the baby. Snape and Harry finished their breakfast at the same time and then Harry moved to kiss Molly and Abigail goodbye.

"See you this evening," he said. "Tell Lily to be good and I'll see her tonight."

"I will," Molly said.

Snape merely nodded his head in farewell and followed Harry to the lounge where they both prepared to Apparate. They exchanged a small kiss and a quiet look before they both disappeared.

----- ----- ----

Saying he was exhausted was an understatement. Severus Snape entered his home with the weight of his new life resting heavily on his shoulders. He hadn't been the one to get up every couple of hours with the baby, but he did stay awake each time his newly bonded had gotten up. He had spent the time thinking and trying desperately to accept the changes.

He didn't want to accept them, but he had no choice, and Severus Snape was definitely used to that. But he would be damned if he let other people control his world, changed or not.

That's what prompted him to immediately throw out Molly Weasley when he walked into his flat. "You can go," were the first words out of his mouth as he hung his cloak up.

Molly, who was just about to open the fridge, froze. "Are you talking to me?"

"No, I'm talking to the child," Snape said sarcastically, irritable from just about everything. "Of course I'm talking to you."

The young girl, who was sitting at the table, gave a small gasp and her eyes were wide. Molly looked down at Lily and then back at Snape with a fierce glare. "I was just about to make supper."

"I'll handle the food," Snape said, waving his hand.

Just then the infant, who was sleeping in her portable cot, woke and began to mewl. Molly moved to grab her but Snape was much quicker. He picked up the baby and held her over his shoulder.

"You plan to cook and take care of the baby?" Molly challenged, putting her hands on her hips. "You do realise you can't have a baby around the hot cooker, don't you?"

"I do," Snape sneered and reached into his pocket. "And it's a damn good thing I'm a wizard with a wand," he bit and flicked his wand at the counter where a bottle began to ready itself.

Molly sputtered and puffed at him but Snape held his ground. "I appreciate you helping us out while Pot- Harry- and I are at work, but as I am now here you are no longer needed."

Molly turned a bright shade of red. "Now see here-"

"No," Snape said, cutting her right off. "There will be no 'see heres' or 'I'll have you knows' in my home. My home, my choices. I will say it ruder if I have to."

With a few muttered swear words that were very much unlike her, Molly pressed a rough kiss to the top of Lily's head, spluttered a goodbye and Apparated out with a loud pop.

Lily was still staring at Snape, gobsmacked. "Why'd you kick her out?"

"Because she bothers me," Snape answered. He summoned the bottle and began to feed the baby. "Was there any word from your father?"

Lily nodded mutely and pointed to a piece of parchment that was lying on the table. Snape walked over and inclined his head to read it.

Will be quite late. Sorry. Home as soon as possible. Save me dinner.



"Oh just fantastic," Snape groaned.

"Er, should I call Gran back?" Lily offered.

"Absolutely not. This is my home and I am perfectly capable of taking care of everything."

"Um... okay," Lily said slowly.

---- -------- ------

Had it been anyone else, those probably would have been famous last words, but when Harry finally came home from work, swearing colourfully at being kept away so long, everything was in perfect order. He Apparated into the lounge but the room was darkened. There was a small light on in the kitchen and a light coming from the corridor.

Frowning, Harry peeked into the kitchen and saw a small plate of food that looked to be charmed to keep warm. Bypassing that for the moment, he headed down the hall and saw the light was coming from Lily's room.

Harry stopped in the doorway and saw Lily and Snape sitting on Lily's bed, Snape reading to her from a rather large book. Lily and Snape looked up when Harry appeared and the young girl smiled.

"Hi dad!"

"Hi darling," Harry said and took a seat on one of Lily's new, white painted chairs. "Where's Molly?"

"Severus sent her home when he got here," Lily said, sounding rather awed. "He said, 'This is my home and my choices and I can say it ruder if you'd like.'" Lily did her best to mimic Snape's sneer and Harry had to bite his cheek to keep from laughing.

"Is that so?" he asked.

"Yeah!" Lily said. "I think Gran wasn't happy."

"I expect not," Harry said with a nod.

"Perhaps she shouldn't assume things next time," Snape said. "Everything went quite well."

"I can see that," Harry said, peering over to read the title of the book Snape was reading to his daughter. "The Gnostic Gospels?"

"She asked for it," Snape defended.

"Yeah. I like it," Lily said with a smile.

"Oh lord," Harry muttered and shook his head. "So nothing spectacular happened?"

"No," Lily said before Snape could answer. "Severus took care of Abby and me, and made dinner and gave Abby her bath and put her to bed and then he's been reading me this book. He said I could stay up until you got home. He also said he's going to make sure I study things with him every night so I'm not a moron like most of the students that go to Hogwarts."

Harry pursed his lips and looked over at Snape who smirked and closed the book. "I suppose that will conclude our reading for tonight."

"Oh fine," Lily said with a sigh, and then, surprising both Harry and Snape, she reached over and embraced the snarky older man and kissed his cheek. "I miss mummy but I'm glad dad found you."

Snape didn't say anything and shot Harry a warning look as Harry kissed his daughter goodnight and left the room. Snape quickly steered Harry to the kitchen and Harry sat to inhale the dinner Snape had left him.

It was chicken with sweet peppers and curried couscous which was delicious but definitely something Harry wasn't used to, as neither he nor Ginny had been much of a chef. "Did Lily eat this?" he asked as he swallowed his first bite.

"After some persuasion," Snape said.

"Meaning you intimidated her into eating it all?" Harry asked.

"How well you know me," he snarked back but with a half-smile. "She decided she liked it a few bites in."

"Guess I really can't complain now, can I?" Harry asked as he consumed the rest of his dinner. "Did she really pick that book, though?"

Snape picked two bottles of beer out of the fridge and handed one to Harry. "She did, in fact, pick that book."

"Hmm," Harry mused as he sipped his beer. "This is..." he trailed off and shrugged. "Well I guess all I can really say is that my life has taken an interesting turn."

"Indeed," Snape said.

A second later, a tawny owl flew through the window and perched on the back of an empty kitchen chair. "That's James' owl," Harry said and quickly pulled the parchment off the bird's leg. He unrolled it as Snape fetched the owl a bit of water and a left over piece of chicken from Harry's plate.

"What does he say?" Snape asked.

"It's from Al, actually," Harry said. "It says; Dad, Lily and Mr Snape, I just wanted to let you know that everyone here at Hogwarts heard the news. Professor McGonagall's been trying to get information out of me and I think she's probably going to invite you to the school because I told her I don't know anything. It's weird, you know, but Fred and George have both sent letters with the whole story instead of Aunt Hermione's half-truths." Harry paused and laughed. "Hermione's always trying to protect them."

"Not like her," Snape said.

"Oh very much like her," Harry said. "She' more like Molly now that she's got kids." Harry cleared his throat and continued. "I haven't seen or spoken to James since the news hit the Prophet, but then again Slytherins and Gryffindors don't have much time together and I'm not even sure where Gryffindor Tower is even if I wanted to find him. I looked for him on the pitch yesterday but I guess he skipped practise. Anyway I just wanted to let you know that when we get home for Christmas, I'm okay with it all. It's weird but whatever. Neville says hi, and so does Hagrid and everyone else. Write back and let me know how everything is, oh and send me a picture of my new sister. Much Love, Al."

"Slytherin?" Snape said after a long pause. "He's in Slytherin?"

"Did I fail to mention that?" Harry asked with a deliberate smirk.

"On purpose, you did," Snape said.

Harry shrugged. "His first day of school he was terrified he'd be put in Slytherin. When he wrote to us to let us know, I think he was secretly relieved. I told him to be proud."

"And damn proud he should be. I expect your other son wasn't pleased?"

"It's caused a rift," Harry said, nodding a little morosely. "Not just with his brother but his cousins as well. The older Weasley brothers thought it was brilliant, especially the twins, but everyone else had some reservations. First Slytherin for both sides of the family, I guess."

"Until now," Snape said, referring to himself and turning up his nose.

"That is true," Harry laughed and finished his beer.

"And if I have anything to do with it, we might also have a second," Snape added, nodding towards Lily's room.

"Nice," Harry snorted, stowing away the knowledge that Snape had just referred to his family as part his. "Shall we get to bed?"

"I suppose so," Snape said, "I don't expect that infant is going to be asleep much longer."

"Long enough for something though, you think?" Harry asked and put his hand on Snape's shoulder.

Snape closed his thin fingers round Harry's wrist and pulled him in for a kiss. "Oh. Oh I expect so."

------- -------- ---------

"So this is it?" Harry asked, looking round at the empty lounge. They were standing in the still-empty house that Snape had finally settled on. It was still in London, rather close to Grimmauld Place, actually, but Harry didn't bother to point that out. The house was fully Muggle with two stories, five bedrooms and was delightfully close to Wizarding London.

"The papers are ready to be signed," Snape said. "We can actually begin the move in today, which won't take long because I intend to shrink and pocket everything."

"You won't hear me complain about that," Harry said.

The couple started out of the house, to the street when there was a sudden flash of light and a voice that said, "Mr Potter! Mr Snape! Would you be willing to answer some questions?"

"Bugger off!" Snape hissed venomously.

"Is this your new house? Starting your new life as a couple? How has it been, moving on from your wife, Mr Potter?" The reporter was almost a male version of Rita Skeeter and Harry felt a wave of intense annoyance.

"We have absolutely no comment," Harry said. Taking Snape's hand, the couple Apparated away.

They landed at the Burrow where Molly was babysitting Lily and Abigail for them while they finished up their moving business.

"What happened?" Molly asked, looking worried. They weren't due for at least a few hours.

"Dodging reporters," Harry said with a sigh, sinking into a kitchen chair.

Lily came bounding into the kitchen and launched herself at Snape whom she'd become very attached to in the past few months.

Snape absently hugged the young girl and settled her in a chair next to himself. "I half expected it, but didn't prepare for it."

"We're just staying a moment," Harry said. "We still have packing."

"Just don't do anything stupid to my room!" Lily said.

"Manners," Snape bit at her.

"Sorry," she mumbled. "But really, just don't make it look gloomy."

"I've already assured you I won't put anything from my laboratory in there," Snape said. Earlier he had teased her about decorating her walls with pickled creatures and body parts which caused a panic attack in the young girl. Snape had done his best to repair the damage but Lily was still fretting about it.

"Okay," she said softly.

"Have a sweet, poppet," Molly said, glowering at Snape as she passed a bowl of wrapped chocolates towards Lily.

"Don't spoil your supper," Snape said firmly and took Harry's arm. "We're wasting time."

"See you soon!" Lily called and waved as Snape and Harry Apparated away.

Hours later, they had finished. The paperwork was signed, the contents of Snape's flat and Harry's former house were shrunk and replaced into their new house. The childrens' rooms remained as they had been before at the old house and a new nursery was put up for Abby.

Letting out a breath, Harry wiped his brow and then turned his face up to Snape for a kiss. "I'd say we did well."

"Hmmm, I suppose," Snape said, giving no more compliment than that.

Harry laughed and wrapped his arms round Snape. "Shall we get the little ones?"

"We'd best. I want Lily eating at home. Molly feeds her too much rubbish."

"She's supposed to, she's the grandmother," Harry said, rolling his eyes. He was getting used to the rivalry between Snape and Molly which was becoming less hostile and more familiar with each passing month.

They Apparated to the Burrow but as soon as they appeared, they were accosted by George who dragged them into the kitchen. George was pale and shaking and it looked as though he'd been crying.

"...trying to reach you but you had the house warded," he was muttering.

"What?" Harry asked. There was a strange feeling of panic that was starting to infect him and he shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "What's going on? Where's Lily?"

"She found her," George said, his voice cracking.

"Please explain," Snape said sharply. He was white and his eyes were wide and intense.

"Lily," George said and took a breath. "An hour ago Lily snuck off upstairs to peek at her mother. Found Ginny lying on the floor with the Prophet in her hand. Poison said the Auror. Suicide."

Harry swayed on his feet. He was holding Snape's arm in an iron grasp as he felt his face prickle with horror and disbelief. He was led backwards into a chair and someone shoved some sort of drink into his hands. He sipped it, the taste not registering with him but he figured it was either water or vodka.

"How..." Harry breathed.

"She'd been dead for about an hour when Lily walked in on her."

"Where is Lily?" Snape suddenly demanded. He pulled himself away from Harry and stood up.

"In there with Fred," George said weakly.

Harry watched with hazy vision as Snape burst through the kitchen door and returned a few minutes later, clutching a crying redhead to his chest. Snape walked over to Harry and tried to pry Lily off him but she wouldn't let go. Eventually he pulled a chair up to Harry so Harry could rub his daughter's back.

"Mummy," was the only word she spoke from behind pitiful sobs.

"Mum and Dad are at St Mungo's with," George paused and mouthed 'the body', "and they said to tell you they'd be back later. Fred and I've been handling the kids."

Snape let out a breath and looked at Harry who was still reeling. His face was pasty white with shock and his hands were trembling round the glass he was holding. "Calming draughts," Snape said. "I have plenty. You and Lily both need one."

"Abby," Harry said weakly.

"I can take care of her just fine," Snape said firmly. "And you're not Apparating. In you're state you're certain to splinch yourself. Use the floo. Please meet us there with the baby and their things," Snape said to George.

George nodded, his face miserable and his eyes red and puffed. He disappeared out the kitchen door and Snape helped Harry to the floo. Snape waited until Harry was gone before following and landing in the lounge of their new home.

Snape realised that their comfortable homecoming was now marred with death and he suddenly felt bitter and angry. Harry sat down on their sofa and Snape managed to pry Lily from his arms so he could gather his stores of calming draughts for the pair of them. When he returned, Fred and George were there with the baby.

Snape gestured for the twins to have a seat and he dished out doses of calming potion and shoved several phials into the twins' hands. "These are for you and your parents and anyone else who might need them."

Harry gave a small shudder as he swallowed his down and then helped Lily take a sip of hers. The young girl's eyes fluttered a moment and then closed as she sagged against her dad. Her breathing was immediately deep and even and Harry stroked her back lightly.

"I just don't understand," Harry said. "It's so..."

"I know," Fred said as he absently rocked the baby who was sleeping on his shoulder. "We knew she was ill but we didn't realise... we never thought..."

"...she'd ever take it this far," George finished. "I think she thought maybe it would all go away but when she saw the Prophet, it must've hit home."

"I didn't even see it today," Harry muttered softly.

"Front page article of you two holding hands outside of your new house. Somehow the Prophet was able to obtain information on the sale of the house you owned with Ginny," George said morosely. "It was complete rubbish. The reporter said you were erasing every painful memory you had with your former wife to begin anew. Supposedly you've been quoted saying you never loved Ginny and it was all a farce. That you were holding out until you could reunite with Snape."

Snape snorted with heavy disdain. "Oh yes, Potter and I are such star-crossed lovers."

"Technically you are," Fred said with a hint of a smile.

Harry rolled his eyes. "We would have happily ignored it if it weren't for someone's careless hexing."

Snape chose to ignore that in favour of returning to the article. "We were accosted earlier by a reporter who asked us for an interview and we politely told them to bugger off."

"That was also quoted," said George with a shake of his head. "It was almost jokingly, saying they were interrupting you two honeymooners or some rubbish."

Harry let out a shuddering sigh. "I can't believe she read all of that."

"She should have known better but she wasn't in her right mind," Fred said.

"She hasn't been for quite some time," Harry answered quietly.

Just then the baby began to whimper and Snape quickly took over. "You should probably be with your family," he said as he gathered the baby to him. "But if you need sanctuary from them, you're welcome back."

"Thanks, Snape," said George. "That actually means a lot, coming from you."

"Don't expect to hear it often," Snape said sternly but his eyes were softened just a bit. He watched as the twins said goodbye to Harry and disappeared with a crack.

When they were alone, Snape suggested that Harry put Lily to bed and while Harry was off doing that, Snape prepared Abby a bottle and got her settled down. When she was asleep, Snape put the baby down in the cot and went to find Harry who was in their bedroom, staring out the window onto the London street.

Snape came up behind Harry and enveloped him in warm arms, pressing a kiss to the back of Harry's neck. "I'm sorry this happened," Snape muttered against Harry's skin.

"So am I," Harry said. His voice was thick with tears that would not yet fall. "She didn't deserve this."

"I'm angry," Snape said. "I'm angry because she was selfish, even if she couldn't help it. She hurt Lily."

Harry turned his head slightly and looked at Snape out of the corner of his eye. "It still amazes me how much you care for my children."

"Our children," Snape said. "They were part of the package deal, remember."

Harry hummed and intertwined his fingers with Snape's. "The old, snarky, Potions Professor does have a heart."

"Yes, but it's my biggest secret and I'll thank you to keep it that way," Snape said and kissed Harry's cheek.

Harry smiled just a little and pulled Snape to the bed. They didn't bother undressing, simply crawled beneath the covers and as Snape held Harry, Harry cried.

--------- Epilogue 3 years later -------------

"Do you think I'm a bad person for not crying?" asked a surprisingly deep voice coming from a rather short-statured young man.

"No," Severus Snape said. "I never cry."

"Have you ever cried?" Al asked as he watched his younger sister quietly weeping beside the grave of their mother.

"Yes," Snape said slowly.

"I bet you can count the number of times on one hand," Al said with a small smile. Snape snorted a laugh but didn't answer. "I don't think I'm a bad person. James still thinks I am, but I rarely agree with him on anything."

"I shall refrain from comment," Snape said.

"Good," Harry said with a small smile as he came to stand by his bonded and his son. "Did you get a picture of Abby?" Harry nodded towards the three year old girl who was pulling petals from a small bushel of daisies that were growing beside a tall tree. She had the white petals all over her black hair as she pulled them off the flowers and threw them into the air.

"Too many," Snape said and tucked the camera into the pocket of his robes. He put his arms out and called for the young girl. Abby looked up and immediately darted into Snape's arms. "Daddy, do you want a flower?" she asked.

"I have plenty in the lab," Snape said with utter seriousness as he watched what was left of the daisy fall from her chubby fingers and land on the ground.

"Okay," she said. "We go home now?"

Snape looked at Harry who nodded. "Suppose so," Snape said and handed Abby over to Harry. Without looking at anyone, Snape walked forward and gently laid a hand on Lily's shoulder. She looked up, almost startled and allowed Snape to pull her away from the grave.

"I know, I should get over it," Lily sniffed and rubbed her eyes with her sleeve.

"No, you shouldn't and I think I tell you that every year," Snape chastised quietly.

"I thought it would hurt less," Lily said. She and Snape trailed behind the rest of the family as they made their way out of the cemetary.

"I doubt it ever hurts less, I think we just become more accustomed to the pain," Snape said with a shrug. "And distracted by those around us who can tell us every day how much they care."

"You never tell us how much you care," Lily pointed out.

"Don't I?" Snape asked.

She grinned sheepishly. She knew he was right. Perhaps Snape had never said it, but never once had he ever acted as though the children were anything but his. Never once had he ever acted like they had become a burden to him, even when James Potter openly rejected and insulted him.

Snape had bore every insult, ever question, every accusation with dignity and grace and never once had rejected the family that had been forced upon him. So perhaps he had never said it, but Severus Snape was the kind of man that never needed to.