The Last Battlefield

Chapter 3 - Homecoming

By Sushi


"Okay, now, just hold onto me, Severus--"

"If you'll pardon me, Lupin, I'm more than capable of walking into my own home," Severus snarled at the damnable wolf. Harry and Black were still getting their things from the Knight Bus. Last time I take that godforsaken contraption. Really, have one tiny fibrillation and one might as well be made of china for all the rest of the world cares. One trip through a Floo connection isn't going to do me in! More than I can say about that bloody bus.

He dug in his sleeve for his wand. Lupin kept his hands out, ready to catch him should he keel over. Snape glowered as he tapped the lock. "I assure you, should I suddenly drop dead, cracking my skull shall be the least of my worries."

"Yeah," came Black's voice, "it might break the steps." He dragged Harry's old school trunk, which he and that bloody werewolf had filled with enough clothing, books, toiletries, and whatnot to last a month. Fawkes perched on one of his shoulders, Hedwig on the other, and Harry's damned puffskein waved its tongue from his pocket. They seemed to have enjoyed their holiday at Hogwarts, if their frequent elated squeaks and squawks meant anything.

Harry followed with his arms full of things from the hospital: potions, potions formulae, books, pamphlet scrolls, more books, cards, a cauldron of roses from Emily that kept flashing silver and green, and an enormous chocolate gateau given to them by the whole of the nursing staff. (All things told, it was a gift in somewhat poor taste, given that Severus couldn't touch it until the doctors removed the - pointless, in his opinion - restrictions on his diet.) The gateau was meant as a "belated wedding gift." Severus was going to have a little talk with Hieronymus Bauble the next time he was down Diagon Alley.

"You've no idea how much it pleases me, Black, to be reminded that I am living in a house built to your shoddy standards. I expect I'll wish the heart attack had killed me some night when the roof caves in on top of me." The door swung open, and Severus stepped inside. "Now, if the lot of you are finished treating me like a porcelain do--sweet Merlin's teats! What in god's name happened to my house?"

The walls of the foyer were smeared with scorch marks. Tiny piles of ash littered the floor all the way out from the sitting room. Small objects - phials, quills, books, knickknacks - had shifted from their spots as though shaken by some huge explosion; a small bottle of Rosare (a late birthday gift from Black) had shattered on the foyer floor, leaving a hideous pink blob in the middle of the brown stones. For every scorch mark or lump of ash, though, sat at least a dozen letters. Some were in envelopes; some were rolled into scrolls. Rather a lot were addressed in more than one language. Nearly every single one was addressed to, 'Mr. Severus Snape-Potter and Mr. Harry Potter-Snape'.

"Bloody Hell," Harry whispered.

Lupin knocked one pile of ash with his toe. "Howlers." He bent and picked up one of the letters. Unrolling it with a bit of a frown, he read while Severus stared at the hundreds upon hundreds of parchments filling his home.

He was shaken out of it by a hand around his upper arm. "Come on, Snape. If anything's going to kill you it's going to be me." Black, while not quite his old self, had certainly regained an edge of his former sadism in light of the dubious legality of Harry's nuptial status.

Severus allowed himself to be led to his chair in the sitting room. Fawkes perched on the back to nip at his hair. Harry was in the doorway, reading over Lupin's shoulder, eyes growing wider and wider by the moment.

Lupin cleared his throat. "Listen to this. 'My partner and I have been together since nineteen fifty-four, but never in all that time did we ever imagine that there was a chance we might officially become wife and wife. Your courage and devotion is an inspiration to every wizard and witch in our predicament, and we thank you. Yours, Aurelia Verbosa, London, Ontario, Canada.'" The damnable werewolf glanced up with a wicked little grin. "Congratulations, Severus. You've started a movement!"

Snape folded his arms across his chest and snarled. "Harry, give me back that fucking watch. From now on, we're living in sin."

Harry, smirking, shook his head. "Nope. I sort of like the idea of keeping you honest." He picked up another letter and tore away at the envelope. "My god. This is unreal!"

"Hmm." Black pulled another of the scrolls from the table beside Severus' chair. He read for a moment. "This isn't." There was a chilly note of protectiveness in his voice.

With more than an edge of anger, he read, "'Your lot killed my mother. I don't care if you're hiding behind poor Harry Potter, you'll get yours, Snape. Those Aurors should have let you die.' It's not signed." Jaw set and eyes hard and cold, Black wadded the parchment and threw it into the hearth. "Son of a bitch," he muttered under his breath.

Harry whimpered. He dropped the letter he was holding and scurried over to Severus' chair. Hesitating at the last second, he perched on the arm, put his arms around his maritus, and rested his chin on top of Severus' head.

"I've not been assassinated yet, Potter," Severus snapped. He put a hand on the brat's waist anyway, stroking with his thumb.

"Shut up, you greasy bastard," Harry whispered, kissing the top of his head. "Don't fancy the idea of someone trying to kill you now I've just got you back."

With a cold, quiet air, Black took the puffskein from his pocket and began gathering up letters. "Harry, you get this git to bed," he said. "Feel up to checking for hexes, Moony?"

Lupin only nodded and began gathering scrolls as well. "In the cellar?"

Severus glowered. "I'll thank you to leave my laboratory alone, Lupin."

"Sorry, Severus, it's the only room in the house shielded against an explosion. Just in case," he added.

"Yes, and I'd rather it be shielded from such a blast. Unless, of course, you'd like to hunt down another unicorn for me?" Severus pursed his lips.

Lupin paled a shade, but, to his credit, didn't snap, shout, or scurry. Rather, he tucked a few more letters under his arm and said, "I'm going to take these out into the garden. We can set up some shielding charms, can't we, Paddy?"

Black grunted. To his credit (or general stupidity), he didn't argue.

Harry tugged at Severus' sleeve. "Come on, time to get you to bed."

"I've been in bed for a solid week and a half, Potter. I haven't any desire to return there just yet!"

"Please, Sev?" Harry's eyes were serious and steady, brows slightly pinched behind his ridiculous glasses. "The doctor said you need to--"

"I know, the doctor said I need to rest; the doctor said I shouldn't be left alone; the doctor has officially and formally been elevated to the status of a god. Is that what you want to hear?"

"Settle down. You'll make yourself sick."

Severus sighed, letting his temples rest against his fingertips. "If I agree, will you at least join me?"

Harry's fingers twitched. "I--"

"You've barely slept four hours a night in the past ten days, not even mentioning the nights you didn't bother at all. Don't worry, I'm in no state to violate your precious corpus."

Severus frowned a little bit as he spoke. He would have very much liked to violate Harry's corpus whether he was in a fit state or not. Harry had touched him a great deal more in the previous week than he had in months, and every tiny brush seemed to shoot through his jangled nerves to bounce between over-stimulated neurons. While he knew perfectly well it was only Harry's natural response to the situation, some unconscious part of Severus' brain had decided to interpret everything at the basest possible level.

Harry sighed. "Fine, if it'll make you happy, I'll come with. Greasy bastard."

"Obnoxious brat."

Severus allowed himself to be helped out of his chair. The effort left a lingering tightness in his chest as his heart once again tried to argue that, no, it oughtn't be beating. The array of potions he still took on a daily basis refused to listen, and the muscle continued to jerk and squeeze as it had for the vast majority of his life.

On the way through to the stairs, they met Black and Lupin coming back for more letters.

"Do you need us to carry you, Se--?"

"Don't even think it, Lupin. I will live under the same roof as you, I will brew your potions, and I will even tolerate your repeated attempts to turn my kitchen into a blazing inferno. However, neither you nor your pet mongrel is going to carry me to bed like some blushing young bride. Do you understand?"

Lupin held up his hands. "Only asking."

Black snorted and rolled his eyes. "Greasy git," he muttered. "You know, technically, I could order you to be carried. I mean, I am your godfather."

Severus shuddered. He leaned a bit of his weight against Harry. "Only by the most dubious of technicalities. Now, if you'll excuse me, I am taking your godson to bed." He urged Harry forward.

Black chuckled. "Good luck."

"I beg your pardon?" Snape asked in his silkiest voice.

"Oh, nothing, nothing." Black scooped up an armload of letters. "Only, after what you've been through, your vascular system's shot to Hell."

"Sirius, shut up," Harry muttered through his teeth.

Lupin nudged the cur. "Come on, Paddy. We need to get this finished, and Severus needs to rest."

"You'd know all about that, wouldn't you, Black?" Severus smirked to himself, ignoring the weakness slowly running up his legs. He'd not stood or walked so much in too many days, much less the previous months.

Black sniffed. "Don't know what you're talking about."

Severus smirked. "Sirius Black just missed a subtle point? I believe that's a sign that the world's about to end. To put it more bluntly, though, perhaps now we know why you could never keep a lady interested for longer than a night?"

Before Black could retaliate, Severus urged Harry forward and took a slow step up the stairs. Behind him, he heard a low growl and a sharp, hissed, "Padfoot! Put it away!"

"That wasn't very nice," Harry said between his teeth as soon as they were out of earshot. "You owe him an apology."

"Sirius Black owes me far more apologies than you shall ever know. Until such time as he pays in full, I shall attempt to balance the debt by other means."

"God," Harry muttered. "Are you sure you two are older than me?" He steered Severus into their room at the top of the stairs.

The walls and ceiling were painted a deep, rich green, the dark oak floor covered here and there with heavy braided rugs. With its stone fireplace, the room rather resembled a more inviting version of the Hogwarts dungeons. Severus' ancient claret duvet covered the bed once more despite Harry's gentle insistence that perhaps it was time for a new one. (Admittedly, it had suffered for the worse in the past year or so. Severus' meagre skills at re-weaving ripped cloth notwithstanding, the cover at the very least could have done with replacing.) He settled on it, his coarse breaths slow and measured while Harry knelt to remove their shoes.

"We're taking you to Madam Malkin's once you're mended," Harry said in a very no-nonsense sort of way. He held up a shoe to demonstrate. The sole had worn flat and thin with the better part of two decades of pacing.

"I think not. They're barely broken in."

"You mean broken, don't you?" Harry squinted at the other one. "How many spells are holding these things together?"

"That's none of your concern, Mister Potter. Anyway," Severus sniffed, "whatever happened to your glorious plan of living solely on your sorry excuse for a pay packet? As far as I know, treating me like some sort of Wendy Witch doll isn't in that budget you coerced me into creating."

"I think we can dip into the bank this once, thanks. Anyway," Harry reached around and started fiddling with the hooks along Severus' neck, "it was your idea. Not like we're going to go bankrupt anytime soon."

Severus growled and swatted Harry's hands away. Undoing his own clothing like a grown, rational human being, he said, "In case you've forgotten, Potter, I've no desire to touch certain funds, much less use them for something as distasteful as--for god's sake, I can take off my own socks!" He kicked with as much force as he could muster as Harry peeled one from a bony foot.

"Doctor said you're supposed to rest."

"After the excitement that constitutes public transportation in this bloody country, I don't think bending over is going to kill me."

Harry shrugged. "Not as if anything's worked yet."

Severus snorted. Grumping to himself, he folded his arms and kept his other foot as stiff as possible while Harry tried to tug down the annoying layer of knit. When it lay limp and useless next to its mate, he snarled, "Are you quite finished?"

"Not unless you want to sleep in your robe."

Severus had his mouth open to snap that his robe was perfectly comfortable when a set of knuckles ran up the sole of his foot. His biting argument turned into a low groan. Harry smirked.

"You're such a softie, Sev."

Severus would have kicked him, but that might have interrupted the foot rub. Instead, he growled under his breath and fixed a sharp glare on Harry. He finally muttered, "Are you going to get me my nightshirt, or do I have to suffer the indignity of sleeping in my robe, Potter?"

"Okay." Harry dropped the foot he was rubbing and jumped to his feet.

"You didn't have to stop, you know! You could have Summoned the damned thing!"

Harry shrugged and, with a grin welling with schadenfreude, scurried towards the heavy wardrobe in the corner. He yanked out the old grey shirt and made a great show of investigating the seams.

Severus shot him a weary look and pulled out his wand. "Accio nightshirt!"

He caught the worn cotton in his wand hand and gave Harry a glower that would have made Neville Longbottom wet himself.

Harry, being the daft little brat that he was, beamed.

"You could at least pretend to be intimidated," Severus grumbled as he worked his robe up over his body. The deepest of the shadows of emaciation had vanished, although his skin still, as it had for so long, lay stretched over his frame. He hunched, trying to hide the way his ribcage still jutted out over his hollow belly.

Harry arched an eyebrow at him. "I've seen you with a hangover, Sev. After that, nothing is intimidating."

Severus snorted. "Just for that, you can go and sleep in your damnable godfather's room."

He was rewarded with a pout. "This is the thanks I get for letting you hog the covers."

"I could hog more of them if you weren't trying to do the same thing." The nightshirt went over his head in a cool fall of cotton. Its ancient, fraying fibres felt like sin given form after a week and a half of stiff, draughty hospital robes. The first time he'd had a walk after his heart gave out, he'd kept readjusting his dressing gown to make up for the fact that the robe underneath left his bum bare for the world to see. Out of sheer relief to have it covered again, he left his shorts on under his nightshirt.

Harry tugged back the duvet. Severus allowed him; the fatigue weighting his limbs made him dizzy enough without adding exertion to the dilemma.

"Come on," Harry said as he finished folding the covers into place, "into bed."

"I've been in bed for ten bloody days. I'm not that eager to get back."

"You don't want to come to bed with me?" Harry glanced up, eyes round and impish behind his glasses. Severus shot him a weary look.

"So eager to give me another heart attack already, are we?" He pushed himself to his feet and toddled towards the far side of the bed. "There's no need to give me such a disapproving look, Mister Potter. Were you a gentleman, you'd have offered me your side. At least then I wouldn't have to walk all the way across the room in my pitiful state."

Harry shrugged. "Thought you'd be more comfortable over here."

Severus grunted. No need to admit the little brat was right.

He allowed himself to be tucked in, glaring at Harry the whole time while a contented, warm feeling built in his belly. Settling back against his stack of pillows, he grumped, "Do I even get a sleeping potion?"

Harry frowned. "You remember what the doctor said, none for at least a month."

"I'm perfectly aware of the potential depressant effect on the circulatory system, thank you very much. I've studied these things longer than you've been alive."

He folded his arms, watching with veiled interest as Harry stripped down to his T-shirt and Y-fronts. The Y-fronts were new, or almost new anyway, and the black Cannons shirt with the orange logo across the chest was just a bit snug. The shirt rode up when Harry stretched, revealing a flat Seeker's stomach with a narrow stripe of hair running up towards the navel. Severus recalled of late noticing details like that far more than he'd done in a while. Something in his own hollow stomach lurched; it was a disconcertingly pleasant feeling.

Harry, who hadn't noticed he was being observed, said, "Yeah, and when you show an ounce of sense, I'll believe that."

Severus blinked himself out of it. "Show more sense than you."


"I'm not the one who came back from doing the marketing bearing twelve pounds of mince and some Ginger Newts."

Harry glared and dropped his glasses on his bedside table. "I told you, Sirius said he was going to get the rest. Not my fault Rolanda decided to drag him down the pub. Anyway, you didn't mind the biccies so much." He slid into bed and poked Severus' stomach.

"I still don't understand why we needed nearly a stone of mince."

"It was for Remus. You know how he gets--" Harry yawned and snuggled into his pillow. "How he gets after the full moon."

"Hmm. How long are they staying again?"

"Only the weekend. Hermione's coming to stay with you while I'm at practise."

Severus groaned. "Brilliant. You know, I thought once the lot of you had left school I'd never have to see any of you again."

"Should've thought about that before you shagged me into the floor." Harry pulled the duvet up to his ear and wriggled underneath it. Severus had to blink to push away the rather enthralling imagery it inspired.

"At the time, Miss Granger wasn't exactly the foremost thing on my mind," he said.

A soft snort came from Harry's side of the bed. "I could tell."

Severus rolled his eyes. He leaned over for a kiss, which Harry gave with a soft, happy sound.

"She doesn't know what she's missing," Harry murmured.

Severus sniffed. "As she shan't. No matter to what lengths you may go to thrust the two of us together."

"Mm. Good. Wouldn't want to inflict you on anyone else." Harry settled in a little closer. He slid a hand across the bottom sheet and felt around until he found Severus'. Severus clutched it as tightly as he dared and squirmed beneath the duvet like Harry. Harry smiled at him, his eyes unfocused without his glasses. "Go to sleep," he murmured.

"Hmph." Severus squeezed Harry's hand and closed his eyes anyway. He lay there, hovering near the edge of sleep, listening to his maritus' breathing as it slowed and grew even. A slight, chesty whistling sound foretold a threatening cold on Harry's part. Severus reached over with his free hand and tucked the covers a bit more tightly around his maritus' shoulders; he made a mental note to prepare a batch of Pepper-Up Potion when his nursemaids finally let him get back to work.

His own breathing had just started to slow when the house rocked. A bare instant later, the sound of the explosion jolted him awake.

Harry sat bolt upright. "What the fuck was that?"

"Not my doing," Severus said calmly, heart thudding so hard it felt like it was trying to break loose. While Harry got tangled in the duvet and hit the floor with a thump, Severus eased his legs over the edge of the bed and stood with as much haste as he dared. He grabbed his wand out of sheer habit. He reached the door several steps behind Harry, and the bottom of the stairs well after. From the direction of the back door just off the kitchen, he heard voices.

"... Even see who it was from?"

"Lancashire, that's all I know. Ow! Moony!"

"Well, if you'd stop fidgeting and let me look at it, it wouldn't hurt so much!"

"What happened? Sirius?" Harry said too quickly. "Oh, god, we've got to get you to hospital."

"Ease up! You've got time to put your robe on! It's only a broken leg. You don't need to turn up at casualty in your pants for that."


"Harry, I know." Black's voice sounded strained beneath an affected calm. "Look, I'm only glad I opened it wrong way up. No telling what would have happened if..." He trailed off.

There was a growing pool of blood on the dining room floor. The door stood open, letting in a chilly October breeze. Black, perched on a chair and growing pale, had his robe up over his knees. He leaned on the table while Lupin prodded his bleeding leg and Harry hopped from foot to foot, hands to his mouth. A white shard of bone poked from Black's skin, and the lower half of his shin looked loose and rubbery. Short spurts of blood came from the wound to splatter on the floor.

Severus glanced at the wound. There was a distorted circle of blackened skin around it, a very telling (if obscure) pattern. Gran must have drilled him on that range of curses a thousand times. "Bonebreaker Hex?" he clipped.

Lupin nodded. "I think so. At least, it looks like the pictures I've seen." He glanced back as Harry whimpered.

Severus brushed them both aside. Grumbling under his breath about people who couldn't be bothered to bleed to death in peace, he knelt just out of range of the spreading pool. Peering at it, he found different strata within the circle: blue, brown, purple, darkest green, all verging on the same shade of black and difficult to see through the blood and trauma. He grunted. "Boneshatterer Hex, a fair clip of one at that. Somebody knew what he was doing."

Black arched an eyebrow at him. "Come to finish the job?"

"Only if you don't shut your mouth. Have any of you got a belt or a bit of rope handy?"

"Er." Lupin blinked, brow furrowed, as he undid the braided leather belt around his waist. He handed it over in what appeared to be mild shock, and Severus pulled the thing much tighter than was really necessary around Black's lower thigh. Black winced.

"Ow! Tight enough?" He clutched the edge of the table. What blood remained in his face drained away until he looked dead.

Severus made a small noise as the rapid spurts lessened to a weak trickle. "Harry, would you go to my laboratory and fetch the jar of purple salve?"

Harry made a wet noise. "Er, you mean that jar?"

"I don't know what other jar I'd mean." He prodded the wound as Harry ran off. Black yelled and bit the back of his arm.

"For god's sake, Snape! What are you trying to do to me?"

"Lupin, muzzle him," Severus muttered, wiping his bloody fingers on the tablecloth with a delicate swipe. He wrinkled his nose at the thought of what he was about to do. "Or hold him down, one of the two."

Lupin was silent for a bare moment but finally said, "Okay." He moved behind Black and leaned down on his shoulders. "Let Severus look."

"Why? So he can--MERLIN'S BALLS!" Black nearly fell out of his chair as Severus lifted a flap of skin and muscle and tucked the shattered edges of the bone inside. The cur clawed at the tabletop. "Fucking Hell! Be a little careful, would you?"

"No." Severus shoved the tip of his wand into the wound. "Ossis Regeneratis Tibia Sinister!" He plucked the wand free before bone could close around it. Before Black could even react, he'd dipped it into the pit again. "Ossis Regeneratis Fibula Sinister! Fragmenti Ossis Diluo!"

With a haughty air, he removed his wand again and wiped it on the stained tablecloth. "You'll need to see a mediwizard as soon as possible," he grumped, "but you'll live. Pity to say." Severus hauled himself sideways into another chair. He folded his arms over the back of it and rested his face there, chest tight and hands cold.

Black stared at his leg. He'd gone ashen and leaned on one elbow with his forearm across the table's surface. "How... Why...?"

"I shan't explain the how again. I'd think even you could have understood first time 'round. As for why, as much as it pains me to say it, Harry still has some modicum of regard for you, and I'd rather he not suffer any more senseless losses in his life, as pleasant as some of those losses might be for the rest of us." Severus lifted his head just enough to glower at Black.

"As for what would have happened had you opened whatever contained that hex right way up, we would be scraping your brains from the side of the house rather than simply mopping the floor." Severus ignored the chilly edge of fear that gripped him as he said it. That hex had, without a doubt, been meant for him. Settle down, Severus. Nothing's managed to kill you yet, and nothing will anytime soon. He couldn't quite make himself believe it.

"You didn't have to say it," Black muttered under his breath. Severus opened one eye to see Lupin hugging the cur from behind, Black clutching that damnable werewolf's upper arm with both hands. They were pallid as corpses; they looked rather like children, Lupin's chin resting on Black's shoulder, Black's eyes displaying none of his normal arrogant squint.

Rapid footsteps pounded up the cellar stairs and through the kitchen. Harry barged through the double doors, setting them swinging, stumbling and sliding in his sock feet on the slick wood floor. A small jar half-full of purple gel was clutched in his hand. Panting, he held it out to Severus. "Here."

Severus inclined his head towards Black's seeping leg. "Apply it to the bruised portion of the flesh. It ought to help slow the bleeding. Try not to get it inside the wound."

Harry fell to his knees beside the pool of blood and did as he was told. The reek of burnt rubber filled the air. Severus watched, wincing when Harry's fingers moved too close to the edge of the open flesh and a large, dark scab formed. It would have to be removed - painfully, not as though it were a bad thing in this particular instance - before any proper healing could be performed. Black and Lupin didn't seem to notice.

Before the two of them Disapparated to Saint Mungo's for the second time that day, Black grabbed Harry in a crushing hug. "I love you," he growled.

Harry stiffened. He blinked a few times, the corners of his mouth tugging down in shock. "I love you, too," he whispered, patting Black's shoulder.

"Make sure this greasy git treats you well, okay?"

"I will." Harry glanced at Severus, face creased with worry and surprise. Severus closed his eyes and shook his head a bit. When he looked again, Black was holding Harry out at elbow's length, balancing on one foot and murmuring something too low to hear.

"Severus?" came Lupin's soft voice from behind. Snape heard the slight rustle of the cloaks in Lupin's hands.


"Thank you."

Severus shrugged. He could feel those gentle, gold-flecked eyes on him. "It was solely for Harry's sake, I assure you."

"I don't care about your reasons. Sirius and I are both in your debt." He touched Severus' back. "If you ever need anything..."

Severus shook his head. "I need sleep."

"All right." Lupin moved away quietly. He tugged on Black's sleeve, and a few moments later they both vanished.

Harry simply stood there. He shivered, clutching his arms. Severus stepped behind him and closed the door. He leaned against it a moment, watching his maritus.

"It's not fair," Harry said. His voice had gone husky, low.

"Very few things are ever fair."

"I'd noticed, thanks. God." He snorted. "Ready to tell Ron and Hermione not to leave home now. Only who knows when the post is going to blow up?" Harry glanced back. His eyes were reddened, and his upper lip had pulled back in a bitter sneer. "I'm not ready to lose them, or Sirius, or especially you, you greasy bastard."

"I suppose I shall have to hire someone on to read my letters then. Do you suppose Gilderoy Lockhart might be interested? He's certainly had enough experience."

Harry's sneer broke into a weak grin, and he chuckled. "Not like anybody'd miss him. Nobody with any sense anyway."

"Which would put you in a spot should any letters suddenly catch fire and singe that overdone mop of his."

"Hush." Harry shuffled over and leaned his head against Severus' chest with a low thump. "Sirius said you saved his life."

"Please. There wasn't enough damage there to kill him." Unless, of course, one counts that artery.

"He still says you saved his life."

Severus shuddered. "Would you stop saying that? It's not the sort of thing I like to think about."

Harry swatted him. "Prat. He told me to make sure you take care of yourself."

"Funny, I thought he said I should make sure to look out for you."

"Yeah, because he hates your guts."

"Pity. And here I've been fuelling my hopes of waking up to find him doing unspeakable things to my leg."

He received a weary look for that. "Shut up, you git." Harry leaned up and pressed a small kiss to his cheek. His eyes were still a bit too wide, a bit too wild.

Severus gave him a crooked frown. It broke into a yawn. "You ought to lay down," he grumped at Harry.

Harry arched an eyebrow. "You're the one who needs to lay down, mate. Don't think I could sleep anyway." A slight shiver ran through him, and Harry glanced at the smeared puddle of blood next to the chair.

Severus plucked his wand from his sleeve where he'd stowed it and waved it at the puddle, muttering under his breath. It vanished. Harry relaxed a bit.

"Thanks," he muttered.

"Only a matter of hygiene." Severus tucked his wand back into its little pocket and pressed his lips carefully to the top of Harry's head. Harry flinched but made a clear effort not to pull away, for which Severus was infinitely grateful.

"What did you do?" Harry asked.

"As little as possible."

"You know what I mean."

Severus sighed. "I applied a rudimentary tourniquet, repaired the damaged bones, and cast an Ossic Dissipatory Spell to prevent any fragments lodging themselves where they oughtn't. I can't guarantee my handiwork will be perfect, but it should hold."

"Wow. Where'd you learn all that?"

"Where do you think?"

Harry was silent for a moment. Finally, he asked, "Your Gran?"

"Well done, Potter! Now tell me what two plus two makes, and you'll be well on your way to a positive IQ!"

Harry smacked him on the arm four times. "Can you be serious for one minute?"

"No, that's your godfather's job."

Harry opened his mouth to say something. He groaned. "I'm taking you back to hospital and leaving you there." With gentle fingers, he took Severus' hand and started urging him towards the stairs. "Come on, back to bed with you."

"I don't want to go back to bed."

"Would you rather help me reapply the fireproofing spells in the kitchen? Remus is the only one of us in any state to cook tonight, and--"

"Bloody Hell. We're all doomed."

"Yeah, I know. Figured you might want to get some rest before you're bl--before we have to call the fire brigade again." Harry didn't shiver, didn't tense, but a faint pallor ran through the visible edge of his cheek.

Severus squeezed his hand. "Perhaps in that case it might be best to ask him to, ah, cook by Floo? I shan't think you're terribly eager to spend the rest of the day casting all those tedious little charms."

Harry shook his head.

"Would you like me to read you a bedtime story?"

Harry blinked at him. "Are you serious?"

"No, I'm Severus. That's a very disturbing distinction to miss, Mister Potter, all things given."

Harry shuddered. "That's it. I'm giving you back to Hogwarts," he muttered under his breath.

Several minutes later, Harry was tucked into bed. His eyes were closed, but he wasn't asleep. Over the course of two chapters of The Princess Bride, he gradually inched closer to where Severus lay propped up against the pillows with the book in one hand.

Severus glanced at him; it would have taken no effort whatsoever to wrap an arm around Harry's shoulders and let him nestle close. He resisted the urge and continued reading until his eyes refused to stay open. When he finally gave in and buried himself beneath the covers, he could feel warmth beside him, cool breath on his face, and for a brief moment he imagined it were more.

Return to Archive | next | previous