Title: The Memory Box
Author: DragonLight (ze_dragon)
Genres: Romance & Angst
Prompt: King's Cross
Warnings: See Snarry Games post for warnings.
Word Count: 19,000 +/-
Author's Note: Non-traditional use/interpretation of prompt. Huge thanks to femmequixotic for the beta job. And to the mods for being more than patient with me as I struggled to pull this fic together.
Disclaimer: The Harry Potter universe certainly doesn't belong to me. Neither does any member of the Royal family…
may have saved England, but it's those he couldn't save that haunt him.
The Memory Box
…completely unexpected, and the old ways of wizardkind would be forever changed. Stolen away were the chances for past events to repeat themselves, since the past seemed so focused on maintaining our secrecy and making those unaware of even our existence pay for crimes they didn't know they'd committed…
- H. Granger "A History of the Voldemort Wars"
The Bubblehead Charm protected him from the smoke. The Family was still inside, he thought. There was no way that they could have escaped. He had to get them. For once being a murderer was secondary. This time he was here to protect.
"And a fucking awful job I'm doing of it too," he muttered, though the words only carried to his own ears. Harry swept down the hall as fast as he could, turning corners by intuition. Bloody hell. How they expected him to memorize the blueprints of Buckingham Palace in under an hour was beyond him.
"William, Harry, to the door, quickly! Run!"
In the end he was late. Too late to save Her, but she brushed soot from his face and bade him to follow the boys and to protect them, her voice already mostly gone from the smoke.
"Lord St Cross?" A gentle hand touched his shoulder, and Harry stirred.
"Did I doze off?"
The retainer nodded, and backed a few steps away. "Your match is about to begin. Edmund has your horse."
"Thanks." Harry got up and wiped at his eyes with the heel of his hand. It wouldn't do to be late for his charity match. Swiping his gloves from the table in front of him, Harry strode from the plush lounge and made his way to the field.
Polo wasn't Quidditch by a long shot, but it was still fun.
As he stepped outside, Harry pulled his sunglasses from his pocket and put them on. There were advantages of living completely in both the Muggle and Magical world; contacts and sunglasses were just two of them. Edmund handed him the reins for Nimbus, his first mount of the day, and Harry stepped onto the mounting block. He was ready to kick some lesser Windsor arse.
... In his greed for power, Voldemort had gone after the Royal Family with plans for their demise. Many thought he had succeeded, but days after the fire had burned Buckingham Palace down, Harry Potter returned with the young King. Many rumours surfaced regarding what had taken place far below London, but neither King William V, his brother, Prince Harry, or Harry Potter wished to speak of those tales.
For his brave actions, Harry Potter was Knighted and given the title "The King's Cross"…
- L. Lovegood "The King's Cross"
"You know, it's almost like watching you ride a broom, but not because you're on the ground and you're not playing as a Seeker, kind of a cross between a Seeker and Chaser, but you know that because you're the one that plays!" Ron sucked in a deep breath. "Did you see him, Hermione?"
"Yes, Ron, I saw." She smiled.
It was good to see his friends. There were times during the war when Harry feared that he might never again. That he would die, or that he'd return to Order headquarters and find that they'd been captured, tortured, killed, or Kissed.
It really was amazing that all three of them survived.
"And I saw that somehow you convinced Luna to dress appropriately, and in turn she dressed you in proper polo match attire."
"Shut it, mate. I've finally come to enough to these things to realize that what I'd wear to a Quidditch match wouldn't exactly pass for acceptable here." Ron paused, and looked at his empty hand. "Hey, where is Luna?"
Hermione shook her head and leaned toward Harry as Ron turned and started toward the blonde a few meters away. "He's always misplacing her."
"Personally, I think that she likes the idea that someone is always looking for her."
"Hmm. I think that you maybe right, for once. Is it still a bit odd, the two of them?"
"If anyone should be asking that question, I should be asking you."
Hermione's eyes widened and she stood a bit straighter. "Me? You mean because of Ron?"
"At first I think it was very hard. I mean Luna didn't mean it, of course. She rarely means so many things. She was just so overcome, I think, by Ron… loving her that she didn't even realize—"
Harry watched Hermione's face cloud over and lifted her chin with his finger. "He didn't mean to hurt you. Neither did she. Soleil loves her Auntie Mermaid."
"Don'tcall me that. It's bad enough that she does."
"Could be worse, she could call you Auntie Hinkypunk."
"Or Uncle Heffalump?"
The two of them were still laughing when Ron and Luna returned. "I found…" Ron's forehead furrowed as he stared at his best friends.
"Perhaps they've been attacked by a Twice-Giggling-Snooper," Luna said.
"A what? Nevermind." Ron hurried on. "You two all right there? You've not been at the Cheering Charms again, have you?"
Harry shook his head. "No," he gasped as he clutched at his belly. "We were just thinking about Soleil." Swallowing a huge gulp of air, he continued. "Where is my littlest bit of sunshine anyway?"
"We left her with Gin. Figure she's got to practice being a mum and all. Besides, last time we brought her to one of your matches, she screamed bloody murder and Luna had to Apparate her home from the washroom. She doesn't like it when that ball goes flying at you."
"Yet she giggles incessantly at the bludgers during a Quidditch match." Hermione shook her head.
"Ronald, we really should be getting back."
"Yeah, I know. Dinner Tuesday as usual at Harry's place. We'll bring the little gremlin with us and you can coo at her all you want. Keep her even."
"He doesn't mean that." Luna stood on tiptoe and pressed a kiss to Harry's cheek before doing the same with Hermione. To her credit, Hermione barely stiffened. One day she'd get used to the idea that Ron was with Luna, but it'd take time.
He still wasn't completely over his first love himself.
"I think we need some whisky," Harry said as he watched the couple leave. He felt Hermione's agreement as she laced her fingers through his.
…a highly poisonous plant. Although it is one of the main ingredients of the well-known Wolfsbane Potion, Aconite has to be carefully cultivated in a shady portion of any greenhouse far away from more magical plants. Aconite can be tainted and rendered magically inert without proper care and handling…
- N. Longbottom "Herbologist's Guide"
"You can't be serious, Severus. There's no way that I can afford this."
Severus stared. "And you can't expect me to charge the same price when there is a drastic increase in the cost of raw ingredients. There are very few places where I can get a decent supply of potions grade Aconite at this time, Lupin. Apply to the Ministry for aid."
Remus crossed his arms. "I can't. No, I won't."
"It's the King's edict that all werewolves take two doses of Wolfsbane prior to the full moon. It is also the King's edict that the Ministry is to provide aid for those werewolves that cannot afford the brew. I believe said law is called the Lupin Edict. Or am I mistaken?"
Narrowing his eyes, Remus stood his ground. "If Harry finds out that I had to apply for Ministry aid to afford my Wolfsbane-"
"Then ask him for the money! Everyone knows that with his fancy title came a hefty cash reward. Lord Strutting Cross-eyed can afford to buy you Wolfsbane after all you did for him!"
"No, I can't. Not after all he did for us. We wouldn't have the King's Edicts without Harry. We probably wouldn't be where we are if it wasn't for his friendship with the Crown. Or don't you remember all the public cries for witch burning after the war?"
"Yes, now Potter has even more reasons to strut wherever he goes."
"That isn't fair, Severus."
"Very little in life is. I have every intention of remaining bitter for the rest of my days."
"Fine then." Remus's shoulders sagged. "I'll be back later. Perhaps the Ministry will push the paperwork through since it's so close to the full moon."
Severus remained behind the counter, a look of shock on his face as he watched Remus leave the small shop. Grabbing a piece of parchment and a quill, he quickly started a scathing letter.
…and there was a secret room way below the London Underground. The three brave boys hid there for days while everyone up above in London thought that they were all dead.
But they weren't, right, Auntie Ginger?
No, they were fine. But soon a giant wrym hydra attacked, breaking down the door and tried to eat them.
And the King and Prince Harry tried to fight it with toes.
Torches. Yes, and your Uncle Harry fought it with magic, and killed it, just as it bit into Prince Harry's arm.
Then Uncle Heffalump called the poison out…
- G. Weasley as told to Soleil Lovegood-Weasley
"So she found Luna's knitting needles and has been wandering around fighting off wrym hydras and then screaming 'Achoo! Achoo!' At the top of her little lungs." Ron let his head slip down onto his folded arms. "I have a headache."
"Achoo! Uncle Heffalump! Achoo! Achoo!" Soleil bounced on Harry's lap, her little strawberry blonde ringlets bouncing right along with her.
"Your daughter is a force of nature." Harry wrapped his arms around the bouncing bundle and hugged her. "You're going to be quite the proper witch someday, aren't you, Sunshine?"
Hermione giggled. "She really is adorable, Ron. I'm sorry that Luna couldn't make it."
"Me too. She makes dealing with the little hellion so much easier."
"Is your mum still on about 'reaffirming your vows'?"
"Yeah, but we think that it's rubbish. We were married before Soleil was born and really that's all that matters. Mum just wants an excuse for a big party. Why, has she been pestering you?"
"Only asked if you asked if you could use the Hall for the wedding for the fiftieth time."
"Oi, I swear that woman needs someone else to harass besides me." Ron turned his head toward Hermione. "What about you? You should go out with Charlie or one of the twins, then maybe mum would start in on them."
Harry watched Hermione's hand tighten on the glass she was holding, her knuckles going white.
"Or maybe she should catch Bill and I behind the cherry tree again. That got her off your case for at least a month."
"Nah, Bill's been-" A screech owl soared through the open parlour window at such a speed that Harry had pulled his wand ready to cast a series of spells that would make it slow down and veer off it's trajectory, but instead the bird flapped it's wings, slowing it's flight and landing on the oak table in front of Harry.
Soleil bounced up and down as she giggled, her head hitting Harry's chin and causing him to see stars which was only slightly worse than watching the owl dig it's claws into the finish of his table.
"Achoo! Achoo paper!"
"I fear the day she gets the pronunciation right." Hermione leaned forward and untied the scroll from the owl's leg, handing it over to Harry.
"You and me both. I can see the toys veering around the living room already." Ron groaned.
It took Harry a few tries to make out the words as his vision was still blurry from the knock that Soleil had delivered - and which she didn't seem the least bit affected by at all - but when the words came into focus, he didn't waste any time. He handed Soliel off to the first available adult hands and raced out of the room, calling over his shoulder that he had a floo call he had to make right away.
…the many injustices that the wizarding world has enacted upon itself. We take it upon Our shoulders to help care for and lead Our people. All Our people. This includes the cursed and the disenfranchised, those of pureblood or mixed, those with magic and those without, human, elf, merfolk, centaur, and all the other sentient beings that grace Our land. Our land is rich with the magical heritage that Merlin himself left us.
To protect this as We should We hereby declare the following…
- King William V, "The King's Edicts"
"Remus! Remus, where are you?!"
Harry waited, not taking his head out of the floo, and finally he heard a cough come from the other room.
"Remus, I can hear you. You better just face me and answer your floo before I decide I should come and visit. Soleil will not be happy that I have to leave."
There was shuffling coming from the other room and Remus came through the swinging door that led to his kitchen. "Ron and Luna are visiting?"
"No, Ron and Soleil and Hermione are… Don't change the subject! I've just got a letter from Snape of all people informing me that you felt it necessary to go for Ministry aid to pay for your Wolfsbane! Remus,-"
"I didn't think that he would actually feel the need to inform you."
Harry glowered. "Don't take this so calmly. I'm certainly not calm! How could you-"
"How could I call upon one of the Edicts that you fought so strongly for? So strongly, in fact, that you practically brought the Monarchy into the Wizarding World single-handedly because you had no faith in the Ministry?"
"That's not what I—"
"The Edicts are in place for the good of all, Harry. You saw to that, and I'm thankful, and it's because I am so thankful that I decided I wouldn't call upon your generosity and instead chose to use the Edict created in my name."
"There are no buts, Harry. Severus will have his payment on the morrow and I will have my Wolfsbane. We'll meet for tea next week like always, all right?"
"Harry." Remus has sat down in an armchair near the fire and was giving him his teacher to an unruly student look. Harry hated it.
"Fine then, next week, but I'm bringing this up again. Just see if I don't." And before Remus could object, Harry pulled his head out of the fire and severed the connection.
"You all right?"
Harry looked over his shoulder. Hermione was standing in the door, little Soleil clinging to her skirt. He could feel a headache building just behind his eyes. There was a reason that he hated floo communication as much as he did. "Yeah. I'm going to take some peracetamol and then I'll be right back."
"Wouldn't a potion work faster?"
"Probably, but I'm out. I haven't had a chance to go to Diagon Alley lately and stopping at Snape's-"
"What's wrong with Snape's? It's closer to here than Diagon Alley, and you never have to worry about getting deferential treatment from him."
"I know, it's just… a long story. I don't want to even be in the same room as him, all right?" Harry could hear the exhaustion in his voice and stood up. "You want to go upstairs with Uncle Harry, Soleil?"
The little girl darted over to him and right into his arms.
"We'll be back. Tell Ron not to worry about his daughter."
"He'd probably say good riddance."
"Couldn't you have found another way of making me miserable?"
"What are you on about now, Lupin?"
Remus tossed a scroll onto Severus's counter. "I've received a letter from the Ministry revoking my aid per my brewer's request. You are my Wolfsbane brewer."
Glancing up from his ledger, Severus looked at him. "Ahh, yes, I do recall something about sending them a letter saying that payment on your behalf was no longer required. There was something about the previous month being a one off, et cetera."
"I purchase from you every month."
"Not any longer."
"Lord St Cross is purchasing Wolfsbane from me on a monthly basis to be delivered via personal courier to you. We have a contract. And he has another debt."
Remus shook his head in disbelief. "It was one thing to go behind my back and tell him I needed the Ministry aid in the first place, but it's quite another to coerce him into—"
"Entirely Potter's idea, I assure you," Severus cut him off. "Though I do prefer not to do my business by post. You might remind him of the fact during you next luncheon with him."
"I didn't want to rely on Harry. He shouldn't be taking care of me; he's too young."
"You act like you're a decrepit old man just because you're cursed. Your argument wearies one after a while." Turning away, Severus returned to scribbling transactions down in his ledger.
There was nothing further to be said, so Remus turned on his heel, letting the shop door clang shut behind him.
The Transmittance Charm was derived to reimmerse the wizarding world into secrecy. By Royal decision the Kingdom, just united, was split again for the safety of Muggle and Wizard alike.
But the split didn't mean a return to the way things were before. The current monarch refused to turn a blind eye to the actions of wizards on his soil. There would be no more wars such as the one started by Tom Riddle. As Sovereign he would take responsibility for both worlds.
- H Granger "A History of the Voldemort Wars"
Harry tapped his spoon against the lip of his teacup. Highly inappropriate behaviour, of course, but he was bored. Usually these meetings went quickly, William not having the time to spend it leisurely inquiring after the state of things on the wizarding side. Not anymore. Not after peace had finally got a small hold.
"You know, I think that I shan't call you Harry ever again. I mentioned that I must speak with Harry and the MP I was with thought I was talking about my brother and explaining made me even more late than I already was."
Harry looked up. "Ah, that explains it. I kept thinking back to the days of an earnest young king who was such a stickler for propriety and punctuality…"
"Been time travelling perhaps? An ancestor of mine?"
Laughing, Harry shook his head. "How's things?" There was something about being locked up in a slimy underground cell for days with someone that made formality fly out the window.
"My brother was grousing last night about losing his latest polo match. I think his ego is bruised."
"It was a good game, though. Mungo's will have enough money to help some war victims for the foreseeable future, at least."
"The King's Cross Foundation for Rare Maladies and Injuries. I wonder how many people realize what your charity is for exactly."
"I don't think they care, it's more a degrees of separation thing, I think. The foundation is supported by the crown; that's all that matters."
William nodded. "I've seen that before, unfortunately, but in this case it might be fortunate, we don't particularly want a second Obliviation, do we?"
"I think the first was enough. Things have settled now, and there've been no hunts since the last one a few months ago up in Aberdeen."
"And the Death Eaters?" The king sat in the chair across from him, and Harry could finally stop tilting his head up.
"There's been no activity at all. We've lessened, but not stopped the watches, and we're considering clearing a couple of people of collusion charges." Harry shrugged. "It's a slow news month."
"A good thing."
"Yes," he smiled, "that is indeed a good thing."
Luna set her coffee down and took the proffered seat across from Hermione. What possessed her to bring Luna here -- to her favourite café -- was beyond her.
"I'm so glad that you agreed to go out, Hermione."
"Well, you said it was important. Do you have questions about the Transmittance Charm used for The Obliviation?"
"Oh, no, I'm understanding the papers you gave me just fine. My mother was rather taken with Charms and I've been studying her notes for ages." She paused, beaming at Hermione, and Hermione couldn't help but smile back. There was a time when they had been such good friends. "It's about Harry actually."
"Oh?" Hermione glanced from her cup to Luna's face, which had suddenly become quite serious.
"I'm a bit worried, you see. He's still not dealing with… well, you know. It's been over a year now. He got an owl the other day-"
"I was there, you know." Hermione snapped a bit more forcefully than she'd intended. There was just something not yet healed between them.
"Oh, I know. I wasn't talking about that one." Luna brushed a lock of hair behind her ear and glanced across the street, her eyes glazing over as she saw something that apparently only Lunas could see. Eventually she snapped back and returned to the conversation, her features light, but Hermione wondered at the cause of the sudden lines around her eyes.
"Harry didn't deal with this letter well at all. He collected another debt from Harry, but Harry didn't want to talk about it."
"That … that—" Hermione cut herself off with an aggravated snarl.
Luna sighed. "I was hoping that you'd talk to him. Maybe if he went to the shop and saw him, then maybe…" Luna shrugged.
"Because you've been so good about Ron and I, and really you've had about the same amount of time to get used to things as Harry has. You understand better than I could."
Used to things. That was one way of putting it, though Hermione didn't think that she'd put it quite as nicely. Returning from a six-month-long assignment in France to find your friend pregnant with your boyfriend's baby was…
"I still don't like it."
"Of course not. I didn't mean-" Luna reached over and grabbed Hermione's wrist. "We didn't mean— and then you left with Harry and—he was lonely—no excuse, of course—but I love him…" Luna trailed off and sighed. "I didn't mean to get pregnant."
"He's a Weasley," Hermione said as if that explained everything, and maybe it did.
"It hurts him. Seeing the distance between you."
She waited for Luna to continue. They'd never actually talked about what had happened. In fact, she and Ron had never really broke up. He'd come to Hermione and stated - the very obvious by that point – that Luna was pregnant and that he thought he should probably marry her and Hermione had just sighed and said that it was probably a good idea. That was all there was to it.
Any tears shed for the entire incident were between her and Harry.
She motioned Luna to continue.
"He said that after it happened he couldn't have made things right with you. That you'd have wanted a rational argument for what he did, and there wasn't one. Just a bunch of garbled emotions, and he's never been good at expressing those."
"Except with you." That was what broke Hermione about the whole thing in the end. Ron could never ever tell her how he felt. It was always a struggle to get him to admit the smallest thing, but with Luna the words just dripped off his lips. It killed her to see and hear that.
But Luna was shaking her head. "Not really. I'm no good at it either, so we just stumble along together instead of feeling as if we're stumbling along after…"
Hermione frowned. "I don't—'
"I never expected you to. Neither does Ron, but he still wishes… You'll talk to Harry?"
Nodding, Hermione felt relief at the change in conversation back to a safer topic flood through her. She didn't think that she could handle much more sharing with Luna.
Picture caption: The Trio with friends Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom celebrating the victory at Beer Head in a local pub.
Picture caption: Harry and Hermione at the wedding of Ron Weasley.
Picture caption: Harry with Ginny at Howarts during the Last Year. Gryffindors, Hermione and Ron among them, look on affectionately.
Picture caption: The three friends at the funeral of Auror Kingsley Shacklebot. Inset: Harry Potter at Draco Malfoy's grave, Severus Snape in the background.
Picture caption: Ron and Hermione greeting Harry Potter in the atrium of the Ministry of Magic with open arms after his harrowing escape from the London Underground.
- C Creevy "Journey with Heroes: A Photoessay"
In a shocking twist to what has been a very predictable love life, Ronald Weasley announced his marriage to Luna Lovegood. The wedding took place over the anvil in Gretna Green. Luna Lovegood, who didn't take her husband's name, is already expecting their first child.
Some have said that the wedding took place after pressure from the Weasley matriarch forced her son to do the proper thing.
Good friends of the couple, namely Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, were not available for comment.
- Padma Patil Daily Prophet Society page
"It's ancient history. I shouldn't care, but part of me still does. I care for them, and I adore little Soleil, but it kills me every time Ron brushes back a lock of Luna's hair behind her ear or knows what she's going to say before she says it. It was never like this with Viktor."
Harry shifted his arm so that it was behind Hermione on the back of the couch. They were supposedly watching the telly, but they'd abandoned that falsehood forever ago. The images on the screen were still happily flickering in front of them while Hermione told Harry about her meeting with Luna.
"That's because you fell for Ron first and harder. Viktor was… Viktor was your Lav-Lav."
"I can't believe you said that. He wasn't." Hermione leaned forward to grab her beer. "Did this last as long for you?"
"It's different. I was the interloper between them. I couldn't be around while he was mourning; it didn't feel right, and then there were the accusations that I should have done something, protected him. That it was my fault Draco died. It was either kill him or leave. So I left."
Reaching behind her, Hermione patted Harry's hand. "And you never went back."
Harry hummed. "I wouldn't go back. I suppose I could have. There were… opportunities…"
"He wanted you back?" Hermione turned slightly so she could see his face.
"There were overtures made." Harry sighed. "But I couldn't; it was like a river of bad blood was flowing between us, practically literally in many cases. I'd had enough blood during the war."
"Don't you miss him? Want to talk to him?"
Harry jerked out of his slouch and turned. "You can't honestly be insinuating that I'm in touch with my feelings."
"That's better." He gave her one of his brightest lopsided grins for a fleeting moment. "I was starting to worry." And then it was gone again.
"I meant it, though. Don't you, at all?"
"Do I miss him?" The question was slow and drawn out, and Hermione could tell that he was feeling it out, letting the words trip over his tongue and lips tasting them like he would a good scotch. She might actually get a real answer. "Sometimes."
That wasn't actually what she was looking for from him, but pressing him wouldn't get her anything else. In fact, she was probably more likely to get further by just letting things stew, so she turned back to look at the telly and shook her head as another Coupling rerun came on. Why they were even watching this, she had no idea.
"There was a time, right after everything was finished, where I would wake up in the middle of the night and reach out for empty air. I used to wonder what he would say about my dreams, the things that were happening with the Monarchy, but by then everything was rather irreconcilable."
"You could always go see him."
Harry stiffened. "No, I don't think so."
"Soleil, where are you going?! Your mother is going to kill me if I misplace you!" Ginny chased after the tiny minx who'd somehow escaped while Ginny was looking (rather wistfully) at a gown in a shop window. Pressing one hand to the small of her back, she paused to catch her breath. The little blonde had vanished. It wasn't even that crowded.
If only the little troublemaker didn't do this every week. Worse case scenario someone would grab her and deposit her at her mum's office.
No strawberry blonde ringlets anywhere, but there was a familiar shock of messy black hair. "Harry, thank God! Soleil escaped!"
Ginny couldn't tell if Harry found the situation amusing or not, he almost looked like he was about to laugh, but knew better. Ginny smirked, her mood swings had become legendary.
"Sunshine," Harry called. "Where are you?" Pulling out his wand, he laid it flat on his open palm and whispered "Point Me." He'd worked out a non-verbal modification to the spell with Luna shortly after Soleil had started crawling. Ginny could never quite get it to work right, though.
Grabbing his elbow, Ginny started pulling Harry in the direction the wand was pointing them. They ended up only a few feet away from where Ginny had gotten tired in front of an old shop, the sign in front seemed to be in an advanced state of disrepair unless you looked at it from just the right angle.
The Prince of Potions.
"Well, it seems that she's in there, Ginny. I'll just wait out here then."
Ginny scoffed. "Don't be ridiculous." She twisted the handle and dragged him with her.
"Ah, Mrs Smith. It's about time. Your charge is over there." Severus pointed one long finger toward the corner of the shop where Soleil was struggling to grab a potions bottle that was bobbing just out of her reach. "After you collect her, you may come and collect the potion you ordered."
Harry hung back by the door and shoved his hands into his pockets. Ginny sighed. It was quite obvious that he didn't want to be here.
"Lord Potter." Severus nodded in his direction.
If anything was going to get a rise out of Harry, Ginny thought, that would do it. But she was wrong. "That's not necessary. You know that it's not necessary. Especially… No, it's one thing when I'm out there," Harry motioned to the door, "but in here… Just forget it."
"It only seems appropriate that I address such a distinguished gentleman as yourself with the proper respect."
Ginny, with Soleil firmly trapped in her arms, approached the counter. "Would you stop tormenting him, Severus. I was wondering if you've anything for my back. The twins aren't even born yet and already they're being pains. They better not take after my brothers."
"Merlin protect us if they do." Stepping out from behind the counter, Severus started toward the front wall. "I might have something in stock."
Harry, being the Gryffindor that he was, filled with bravado and no sense, stood his ground and didn't turn and run out the door, though his eyes did glance in that direction. Severus brushed against him as he reached toward a row of small bottles and gingerly picked one off the shelf.
"You didn't come to discuss your contract, Potter," he drawled as he drew a finger down the list of ingredients printed on the back label.
"Everything seemed quite clear to me. There was no need."
After replacing the bottle and selecting another one, Severus paused and looked at Harry. "Oh, I think that there are quite a few places that could use further clarification." Turning, Severus offered the bottle to Ginny. "This one should do, Mrs Smith. Stay away from anything with fluxweed."
Ginny nodded and let Soleil pluck the small bottle from Severus's grasp. "Gentle, Sunshine."
"You drink, Auntie Ginger?"
"Yep. After I pay, love."
Harry strode across the small shop and dropped a pile of Galleons on the table that far surpassed the two potions that Ginny was buying. "I've got it, Ginny." Taking her hand, he started to manoeuvre her to the door.
"Next month, Severus. The last dose, thank God."
"Bye bye, Potion man!" Soleil waved her little hand over Ginny's shoulder.
…He would always disappear into the library after his lessons. At first it would be to throw things. We could all hear the crashes as valuable Black heirlooms smashed and shattered, but eventually things got quieter. They were not less tense, but the tension between you had twisted and formed into something different.
I, of course, had to know what had changed. Things were supposed to remain unchanged. He was supposed to hate me, but want me without realizing that he wanted me, and you were supposed to worship me.
You never stopped worshipping me, and he still hated me but wanted me, but it wasn't the same. I refuse to believe that it was me who changed. It was the two of you. I knew it, and I wanted it to stop, so I did the only thing I knew how to do to infuriate you. I don't even know if I wanted him at that point.
I had to get what I wanted, but I failed. I shouldn't have failed…
- Letter from DM to SS (delivered after his death)
"You're always alone, Potter, why is that?"
"It's quiet in here."
"You didn't answer my question. Do you answer Severus's?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing, I suppose."
"Not in the least, but I do have eyes and ears and a brain, unlike some Gryffindors that I could name." Draco paused, smirking. "Nothing to say to that. Not surprised. Come on then."
Harry followed Draco down the corridor, up the stairs, and into a rarely used room.
"Severus isn't here."
"Yeah, I can see that. What—" Draco's lips crushing his own made his question moot.
Pulling away, Draco looked at him. "What? Don't tell me you are just going to stand there doing nothing."
Harry blinked. "Um… oh… oh!"
"You really are slow, Potter."
"'m not. Just surprised." Harry glanced at the door again. "What about—"
"I told you. He's not here."
Warm lips ghosted along the skin of his neck, chasing coherent thought right out of his head. Harry grabbed a fistful of fabric and pulled the blond flush against him, grinding his hips against Draco's.
"Better." Teeth scrapped against his jaw before lightly biting down on his chin.
Harry didn't care anymore that Draco was the one pushing him against the wall, palms pressing against his sides and sliding up under the fabric of his t-shirt to skim across his chest and back. "Fuck," he groaned. Harry let his hand slip down between them and started to palm Draco's cock through his trousers.
"Yes," Draco hissed, and he gasped as Harry undid the zip and slid his hand through the slit of his pants, wrapping his hand around Draco's cock. Draco's tongue darted out to lick his lips, and Harry leaned forward, and sucked it between his lips, but Draco jerked back.
For a moment Harry thought that he'd done something horribly wrong, but then he looked back and caught sight of Severus. He had the collar of Draco's shirt clutched in one hand and his wand out and pointing at Harry with the other.
"Just what do you miscreants think you are doing?"
Harry jerked awake.
"Lord Harry Potter! Lord Harry Potter, sir! Dobby is coming to tell you that your flowers arrived just like you said they would. Dobby be waking Lord Harry Potter like Lord Harry Potter told him to!"
Harry shifted in his chair. It was pointless arguing with Dobby about terms of address especially when his brain was replaying the last images of his dream in such detail over and over. "Thank you, Dobby." The words were heavy on his tongue. "Please leave them on the table in the foyer. I'll be leaving soon."
The elf popped out of existence. Stretching, Harry smacked his lips trying to remove the dry taste in his mouth.
His dream would have been pleasant except for the end. He'd been lucky that Dobby woke him when he did. Harry shuddered at the memory.
Oddly fitting, though, Harry thought as he summoned his coat, seeing as to who he was about to visit.
… an odd friendship to say the very least. There was camaraderie between the two after a time, a strange understanding that seemed to fill in the hidden gaps. They did not get along at all. Of course they wouldn't, but no longer did they set out to kill each other.
The inhabitants of Grimmauld Place all breathed a collective sigh of relief when meals were no longer a battle zone between Malfoy and Harry. And when they were found sitting at opposite ends of the library intent upon their own tasks, there was talk of how the apocalypse must have come while no one was on looking.
Of course everything changed after Draco Malfoy never returned from his last mission.
- L Lovegood "The King's Cross"
Harry dropped the bouquet onto the marker with little care. There was something about laying it down gently as he'd seen others do that grated on him when he came here. They weren't like that. Everything he needed to express was already done.
There was another small bundle of flowers, ones that had obviously been placed there with due consideration. Primroses, sweet peas, and poppies. Much simpler than his own jumble of flowers. The poppies were still there, but they were offset by a fern, yellow and purple hyacinth, delphiniums, and ambrosia. An eclectic bunch of weeds to be sure, but something that Draco would appreciate.
Subtlety that wasn't subtle at all.
"I didn't think you'd come."
Harry wasn't surprised that Severus was still there. He'd seen him sitting on the small bench a short ways off. He'd been watching him, in fact, waiting for him to leave, but he hadn't and Harry's flowers had started to wilt.
"I couldn't not come."
"Of course. Pick those up from a Muggle selling at a street corner? They look ghastly."
"Yeah, of course, thought I needed to bring something." Harry shuffled his feet and dug the toe of his shoe into the ground. "You know that Draco wouldn't have appreciated my arriving with nothing to offer. Would have called me a bad guest."
"Care to sit, Potter?" Severus motioned to the expanse of bench next to him.
"No, not really. Just came to pay my respects. Two years today." Shrugging, Harry turned away from the grave and Severus. "You still have my condolences. Probably always will. Take care."
It was silent the first few steps he took toward the exit, but the stillness was eventually cut through by Severus's voice. "Potter." Harry didn't turn around, though, just kept on walking. There wasn't anything to say to Severus or Draco. Everything had already been said. Had been said years ago shortly after Draco died. Harry knew whom Severus thought was to blame and he really didn't want to rehash that argument again. It had hurt enough the first time.
The niggling feeling that he hadn't done something that he needed to do followed him all the way home.
Severus rarely had time for frivolities while running his shop, which was in all likelihood a good thing, as he didn't particularly like idle laziness. There was a challenge to working for himself that was always missing while in the Headmaster's employ.
It also kept him from spending too much time brooding, which he had been told was bad for the constitution. He brooded still, of course, but there was so much that he could spend his time brooding about. Particularly the sorry state of his cold bed. It hadn't always been cold, but for almost two years he'd had no one there but himself. One lover was interred in the cold earth at much too young an age, and the other…
Harry had taken off as quickly as he could after Draco's death. Severus wasn't surprised to discover that it had all been about Draco. It was always all about Draco. The young man would have had it no other way. Severus, however, in the moments that he did spend brooding, often wondered why a small portion of things couldn't have been about him.
It was an odd emotion to be jealous of one's lover, he decided, and tried to lay such disturbing thoughts to rest. He had both wanted to protect Draco from Potter's unwarranted advances and had coveted them for himself. It was a selfish, greedy and completely Slytherin thing to want, so Severus didn't waste much time feeling guilty over it.
When he wasn't brewing, he was manipulating -- his favourite victim, of course, being the werewolf.
"Tell me, is it completely necessary for the courier to arrive wearing gold and red and announcing to the entire building that I live in that he has a delivery from the great Lord Harry Potter, King's Cross and friend of the Crown?"
Severus ran the tip of his finger across his chin. He'd forgot to shave that morning and reminded himself to take care of that lapse at his earliest convenience. "That is the agreed upon method of delivery as assigned in the contract I have with Potter."
"I can't believe that Harry would agree to such terms. He hates the titles and whatnot but couldn't convince His Majesty that they were not necessary. One doesn't tell the King 'no, thank you.'"
Severus drew out a roll of parchment and spread it open on the countertop. "In the event that the requester does not appear to make arrangements for the delivery of agreed potion two days prior to the full moon, it shall be decided upon by the brewer the method of delivery."
Remus crossed his arms. "So you're telling me that because Harry didn't come here to tell you the exact way he wanted it delivered, you hired someone to rap on my door in the most obnoxious way possible?"
"Is that a problem?"
"Why waste the money?"
A cruel smile twisted Severus's lips. "I'm not. It's at Potter's expense. If you really find it a problem, I suggest that you take it up with him."
Sighing, Remus moved toward the counter. "I don't suppose that you'd let me pick up the potion myself?"
"That was not agreed on in the contract."
"Tell me, Severus, whose life do you want to make more difficult, mine or Harry's?"
"Do I even need to answer that?" Severus took a box out from a cupboard and set it on top of the counter. "I suggest you hurry. The courier is coming to pick this up any minute now, and if you aren't home, he's been hired to stay there waiting for you, periodically announcing his reasons for being there."
Remus glared and Severus smirked.
It shouldn't take long now.
There was something about idle days that always had Harry dozing off on the veranda. For all that he didn't have a regular job, he rarely had the time to just sit around and not do something. There were meetings at the Ministry, visiting friends, playing Quidditch and polo for various charity organizations, and a load of other crap that he really didn't want anything to do with, but he didn't really have a choice.
Unfortunately, Harry also didn't have the option of slipping off into a dream that afternoon as Remus had shown up and was stationed on his sofa demanding that he do something.
"So the problem is that Severus is delivering your potion on time?" Harry sighed.
"Yes-" Remus stopped and started over. "No, it is the manner in which he is having the potion delivered regardless of it being on time."
"I'm not even going to ask." Leaning forward, Harry planted his elbows on his knees and looked at Remus. He looked harried and as if he really didn't want to be here complaining, but couldn't find a better way of resolving the whole issue. "Did he tell you why?"
Remus didn't move at first, but then he nodded very slowly. "He insinuated it was because you failed to hash out the finer details in the contract that you signed regarding the potion and he was therefore allowed to have it delivered in anyway he saw fit."
"It can't be lavish for the simple-"
"He's adding the delivery charge to the cost of the potion."
Harry shook his head. "He can't. The agreement was for a lump sum every month covering the cost of potion, labor, and delivery with a large profit left over afterward. He's lying, he's not charging me, per se, he's taking a smaller profit in order to annoy you."
It was Remus's turn to shake his head. "I don't think that's it, Harry. This wasn't the first time that he insinuated that he was handling things in the way he was because of you. It always revolves around you. Won't you go and talk to him?"
Jaw set, Harry pushed himself out of his chair and paced over to the window. "There are issues, Remus, between us that can't be resolved by talking. I know that. He should know that, but he doesn't, apparently. I'll send him an owl revising the section of the contract. I don't know, I'll say the potion has to be delivered discreetly and to keep him from complaining, I'll offer an extra galleon in payment."
"He doesn't like to do business by owl."
Harry scoffed. "I know for a fact that approximately half of his sales are from owl post orders. He doesn't like to do business with me by owl." He could feel a need to just flee, to jump on his broomstick or on the back of one of his horses and take off.
"So then go and talk to him. You used to be able to talk to him, what changed?"
Remus stood and Harry watched him approach in the reflection in the glass. Remus made no sound as he crossed the carpet, and seeing his reflection was the only thing that kept Harry from jumping when his hand landed on his arm.
"I don't know what was between the two of you, but there was something, that much was obvious, just as it was obvious that something changed when Draco died."
"It wasn't just Draco. It wasn't even him blaming me for Draco's death."
Remus sucked in a sharp breath.
"It was a bit of everything, I suppose. I killed Voldemort, Soleil was born, Draco died, the King's Edicts were put into effect…"
"You gained this house and were ennobled; you needed to bridge both worlds in ways that you never had before."
Harry nodded. "And I couldn't talk to Severus about any of it at all because Draco dying broke him." Harry's voice lowered until it was the barest of whispers. "I've never seen him shed a single tear, even when he was in so much pain that a lesser man would have been begging for it to stop, but when he found out about Draco… found out that I was only a few feet away when it happened…" Harry hung his head. "He loved him, Remus."
Remus just nodded. "I didn't know-"
"He'd rather have had me save Draco than kill Voldemort." The severe feeling of depression that had been about to overcome Harry vanished, replaced by such rage that Remus pulled away.
"He couldn't have meant that, Harry, even if he did tell you that."
"That or he had wished that I had died instead. If he could have only kept one of us…"
"I know that he didn't mean either of those things. Somewhere in here," Harry laid his finger against his temple, "I know that." Harry's fists clenched. "I need to go flying. Now." Looking at Remus, he tried to soften his features failing miserably, even he could tell that. "Please, Remus?"
Remus didn't say anything, just turned and left.
There was shock and dismay when Harry Potter decided not to accept the generous offers to fly with either the Chudley Cannons or Pride of Portree. He instead announced that he would only be playing Quidditch in games set to raise funds for those affected by the War.
There has already been a rallying of players ready to set aside their team colours on some weekends to play in the charity matches as well as a few former Hogwarts House team players that had decided not to go professional after leaving school, and at least one famous international player.
The world shall see Harry Potter once again play against Viktor Krum at next month's first charity event, location to be determined.
- Dean Thomas, Sports Page Daily Prophet
"I don't believe the charity games are still getting such a response." Hermione leaned over to speak in Harry's ear. The stands were extremely noisy as the blue team had just made a goal.
"I know. I figured at the beginning it was because people knew at least one person or family that had lost someone, or knew someone who was injured, or something, and wanted to support that."
"I think a bit of it had to do with seeing you, as well."
Harry didn't acknowledge her comment. "See, the thing about this is that it gives any player a chance to play. Sort of like the Pro-Am tournaments in polo."
"Put the weaker players with someone stronger balancing out the different level of talents and then charge people a fraction of the price to watch. They get the chance to see some of the big Quidditch names."
"Sometimes even flying against one of their own." Harry motioned to Soleil who was bouncing on her mother's lap while watching her father play Keeper against Oliver Wood. "There's also the lack of team lines so you can see people waving both teams colours."
"Yeah. I'm glad that you started this, Harry. Even getting the Ministries to help build the stadium."
"I'm just glad that I convinced you that you wanted to spend your time helping me keep the organization from falling apart."
Hermione smiled at him. "Well you needed someone who could organize everything. Your first attempt was pitiful."
Harry stuck his tongue out at her. It was true though. Q & P Charity Fundraising Inc with its dual structure in both the wizarding and Muggle sectors of the UK was beyond a handful for just Harry. Hermione had come in and helped organize everything and revamped his business model. She made a good VP and hopefully, Harry thought, Ron could completely take over recruitment soon. After two years he was still learning how to talk to polo players. Luckily Harry still had William and Prince Harry on his side. They'd introduced him to enough polo players that he still had a good size pool to draw from when he was planning a charity match.
"Week after next we have the polo match for SOS Children. All those waivers have to be turned in."
Hermione nodded. "We've a couple days yet. Look, Harry, the Snitch!"
Turning back to the game, Harry watched Cho and the other Seeker spinning around each other trying to grasp the Snitch first. Going into a deep dive, the two pushed at each other glancing back and forth from the Snitch to their opponent, and Harry had to a suppress a sigh as the sight brought back images of he and Draco playing during school. He'd been thinking of the blond often lately.
Cho came out of her dive, Snitch in hand and flew a victory lap for the grey team. "We're going to have to buy Ron a drink or two," he whispered to Hermione.
She nodded. Ron was flying toward them. "Hey, princess," he called. "Cho gave me the snitch for you!" He leaned over his broom and dropped the fluttering object into his daughter's hands. She giggled madly.
"Hurry and meet us at the entrance. We're getting drinks." Harry called as Ron flew off toward the locker rooms.
"Uncle Heffalump, daddy gave me a snip!"
"Snitch, love." Luna pressed a kiss into her daughter's hair. "That's a Snitch, not a snip." She looked at Harry and Hermione. "Where to, then?"
"Three Broomsticks will be too crowded after this match. Lots of former Hogwarts players." Hermione paused to think, looking between Harry and Luna. "Gryffindor's Rest?"
The pub was out near Godric's Hollow and was filled with mixed clientele. It'd make a good change for them. "You want someone to carry Soleil for you, Luna?"
"No, I got her just fine. Besides, as soon as she sees Ron, she's going to jump for him. He's her hero today."
"Potion man, Mama!" Soleil was pointing at a tall black figure not too far away, and he was getting closer. "Potion man! Potion man!"
Harry's laughter died in his throat. He could feel Hermione's hand land on his wrist and squeeze before letting go.
"It seems that Remus is with him. That is an interesting development."
Something twisted in Harry's gut, and he didn't want to examine it too closely in fear that he'd find jealousy instead of anything more appropriate.
"Potion man!" Soleil struggled in her mother's grasp and reached out with her ams.
"Your child seems to be under the delusion that I would like to hold her, Lovegood. You might want to do something about that."
"I could hand her over to you, sir." Luna smiled and instead handed Soleil over to Remus who had willingly held his arms out.
"It's been a while, hasn't it, little one?"
"Why is it that the lot of you resort to acting like utter imbeciles in the presence of one messy two-year-old girl child?"
"I think it's because she was the first, Severus. The first child born to any of us at the end of the war. We're rather attached to her joy of life after having dealt with so much horror and death." Remus was lifting Soleil up in the air over his head watching her eyes widen and listening to her laugh.
"Soon we'll have another two. Ginny will be happy to be able to play seeker again for the Harpies."
"Potter, a word."
"Is it really necessary? We were about to go for a drink."
"Yes, Potter, I think so."
The two of them hung back as the rest of the group proceeded to the entrance. "What is it this time? No more of that nonsense about the contract not being formalized because I didn't want to step into your shop."
"It has been brought to my attention that I behaved inappropriately following the Dark Lord's demise and Draco's death. I've decided that I agree with the assertion that I behaved as a boar and have come to—"
"Oh, it's much too late for an apology, Severus." Harry choked. "You were right, I didn't do enough. I could never do enough." Harry turned on his heel and took off at a jog toward the entrance.
He didn't let the guilty feeling swamp him. Part of him had always wondered if Severus was right, had agreed with him. He didn't do enough for Draco. That same part always cast the niggling doubt in his head that he didn't want to save Draco. He didn't let it go into the reasons.
"So you and Snape, huh? That's an interesting turn of events, Remus." Ron took a sip of his beer.
Remus spluttered. "What? No!"
"You brought him to a Quidditch game. That's definitely something a bloke does on a first date. Probably even more so when it's a date with another bloke." Ron prodded Harry in the side with his elbow. "Don't you think so, Harry?"
Harry ran his hand over his face. He really didn't like this line of conversation. "I don't know. Been a while since I went on anything that could be labelled as a date."
"It wasn't a date!"
"Sure it was, Remus. Don't be shy about it, Harry boffs blokes too." Ron took a swig of his beer.
"Boff?" Soleil tilted her head to the side and repeated the word again.
"Ronald!" Luna gave him a look. "If you're going to have that conversation, hand Soleil over. The last thing I want to explain to your mother is where she picked up that word. It'd be the 'shite' conversation all over."
"Sorry, Luna. Go to mummy, pumpkin." Ron let Soleil go and she ran over to where Hermione and Luna were sitting and talking, scrambling up into Hermione's lap, beaming as she didn't follow directions. "Not mummy, Auntie Mermaid, daddy!" She twisted around. "What boff?"
Luna put her face in her hands.
"Severus decided to come with me for reasons of his own," Remus glanced at Harry. "It wasn't a date, Ron. I'm still just interested in women."
"You mean you and Sirius didn't—"
"What?! No! Harry, where does he come up with these ideas?"
"Um, I always thought that you and Sirius… No idea, really. That's a dumb thing to say, Ron."
Ron scoffed. "You thought it too, Harry, you've just admitted it. All right then, why aren't you seeing anyone. Tonks and you ended forever ago, and I haven't seen you with anyone since."
"Six months is hardly forever, Ron."
"What is it about people in relationships always wanting to set up those that are not in relationships," Hermione added from the other table. "It's perfectly acceptable to not be with someone, Ron."
"You aren't allowed to talk. It's been over two years," Ron said.
"And I'm happy." Hermione stressed the last word more than was completely necessary.
Rolling his eyes, Ron leaned forward in his chair. "No, you aren't. Even I can see that, and I'm lousy at telling how you feel."
Harry leaned back and drank his beer. Whenever a large group of them got together the conversations always ended up in perilous territory. Any moment now, Ron and Hermione would start sniping, and then Luna and Remus would get involved in stopping them, and even Harry would help, except he had no intention to be there when the sniping started.
There was a bloke over at the bar that kept glancing at their table, and it had been an awfully long time since he'd been with anyone…
"I'm going to the bar."
"Be careful," Luna told him as he escaped.
"I'm always careful."
"No, you're not, but in this I think you might be."
"Uncle Heffalump, boff?"
"You're in trouble, Luna."
"Oh, I know. I think I'm letting Ronald explain this one."
"Wow, this place is nice. I mean I figured it would be and all, you being who you are, but really-"
"Yeah, I know, it came like this." Harry nodded toward the stairs. "You want to…?"
"Oh, yeah! Let's go."
The bloke, Paul, a tall and dark haired guy who tended to babble too much, but otherwise seemed amiable, followed Harry upstairs. He usually didn't bring men back here and when he did they rarely ended up in his bed, but there was something about this one. He wanted to see him laid out on his bed.
"You top? You seem the pushy type."
"Well, I wouldn't expect someone like you with a life peerage and all to bottom."
"I've done a bit of both." Harry closed the door to his bedroom and turned to face his companion. "Can we just --" Harry motioned toward the bed.
"Oh, yeah. See where things take us. I usually bottom, but I've always wanted to top."
Not for the first time since he picked the guy up, Harry thought that looks weren't everything. "Yeah, we'll see where this goes." He reached out and pulled Paul's lips down to his. He usually wasn't the one in charge. Draco was always so demanding and Severus had always just assumed control of things when they were together that this, even with all the babbling, was rather novel.
Paul leaned closer, trailing his fingers up along Harry's side to his shoulder, the tips of his fingers brushing the hair at the back of his neck. There were memories associated with that feeling, and Harry groaned pushing his paramour toward the wall.
"God, I knew that you were pushy." Fingers were working on the buttons of his shirt, and Harry didn't even comment, just latched his mouth to the vein visible on Paul's neck and intermittingly sucked and tongued the spot. Paul was pushing the shirt off his shoulders and onto the floor.
Tangling his finger in Paul's hair, Harry returned to ravaging his mouth, pulling his bottom lip into his mouth and sucking on it until the other man groaned and pushed his hips against his. Harry could feel the hard length of him, and snaked a hand down to run his fingers lightly along it. "Christ."
With a smirk on his lips, Harry sunk to his knees and reached out to undo the buttons on Paul's trousers and push them down. Luna's words played over and over in his head, and he shoved his hand into his pocket to pull out a condom he'd stuck there earlier. A moment later, Paul's cock was covered and Harry licked his lips and leaned forward, taking Paul's cock into his mouth. It had been so long since he'd done something like this that Harry hadn't realised how much he'd missed the weight of a cock on his tongue. He ran his tongue along the underside, drawing a harsh breath from tonight's conquest, and Harry closed his eyes. Paul had almost sounded like Severus just then, the sound sending shocks of pleasure down his spine and straight to his cock.
God, he missed that man. Looking up, he saw that Paul's head was thrown back exposing the mark that he'd left on his neck earlier, and Harry hummed at the sight. Paul's hip jerked in response so Harry repeated the action. "Yeah, just like that."
Cupping the man's balls in one hand, Harry let his other hand drop to his lap, pushing the palm of his hand against his own erection in a currently vain need for any sort of pressure and friction.
He stroked as much as he could with his tongue, slowly pulling away until only the head was still his mouth and he sucked hard. Paul cried out and groaned, his orgasm ripping through him, and Harry swallowed though there was actually nothing to swallow until the pulses of his cock stopped and Paul sank down toward the floor and covered Harry's mouth with his own. The kiss was long and hard and left Harry gasping for breath.
"I want you to fuck me," Paul groaned against his lips. Harry's cock twitched in anticipation.
Harry had been right. Paul looked a certain way tangled in the sheets of his bed that was completely satisfactory for future fantasies. His black hair wasn't as long as he'd want, but it cast a sharp contrast against the pillow.
Looking at his profile, Harry realised that his nose wasn't nearly prominent enough either, but still.
He should feel guilty about comparing them, wanting an image he could call up later and not think of this person. Guilty for picking him because of a vague resemblance in the first place.
They'd both enjoyed themselves, Harry decided, and that was all either of them had expected out of the evening, motives and desires, notwithstanding, they'd got what they wanted.
Sliding out of bed, Harry padded to the window and looked out. It was dark out and there wasn't much to see. In fact, the open expanse of his riding area in the dark reminded him of another field and another time of which he didn't want to think. He found his trousers and pulled them on and went to the bedside table to pull out a pack of fags. He rarely smoked, only kept them out of habit, but tonight seemed like a night to indulge in bad habits.
He stepped out onto the balcony, shutting the door behind him. He didn't want to be disturbed. Letting his mind wander to the time where Draco had taught Ron and him how to smoke in exchange for them going to a store and actually buying the fags, gave Harry something that wasn't too depressing to think about.
By the time he went back inside, Paul had gathered his things and left.
The Weasley Family
Cordially Invites You
Soleil Anne Weasley
On the 16th of August
Waiting was always one of the things that Harry was bad at. No other way to put it. He simply couldn't stand waiting around for something to happen. Unfortunately that's exactly what all of them were doing in Ginny and Zacharias's sitting room. It didn't help that the room was small and cramped, as already too many people had decided to show up.
Harry, had he known that Ginny hadn't actually given birth yet, would have freed up the small corner of the room he was occupying except Ron had cornered him – it hadn't really been that difficult a feat to manage – and was babbling.
He should feel bad, he thought. Luna's labor had been extremely difficult and Ron had spent most of it panicking, and since that was his last major brush with a woman giving birth, he was now worried about his baby sister. So instead of taking off, he stood there, listening to Ron's prattle and trying to keep from fleeing.
Zacharias came through the door and everyone collectively stopped talking and turned to look at him. "Um." He cleared his throat. It must be nerve-wracking to have so many people staring at you intently. Harry didn't envy him at all. "Ginny's fine. The boys are fine." He ducked back out of the room before people could start slinging questions at him.
Ron smirked. "Not an easy job, that. And Luna and I didn't have nearly as many people waiting around. Just the people that were at Grimmauld Place. I would've taken off too, if I could have, but Luna's dad had insisted on hugging me. He's a strange one, he is."
Harry nodded. Soleil's birth hadn't had a room nearly so ready to burst with people as this. Most of Zacharais's family were there as well as all the Weasleys and quite a few friends of the family, like himself.
Before Harry could actually respond though, Mrs Weasley and Zacharias had returned each holding a newborn boy. "Brighton and Duncan Smith."
Luna approached and handed Soleil over to Ron. "She wants to go hold the babies, and I can't convince her that now is not the best time."
"Come on, princess. You were very tired when you were first born too, you know. You just wanted to sleep. Maybe in a week or so we'll come by and ask your aunt about it, all right?" She laid her head on her father's shoulder and stuck her thumb in her mouth.
"Now there are two pouting Weasley females," Harry mused.
"Didn't you know that your sister wanted girls?" Luna pulled Soleil's thumb out of her mouth. "No, Soleil."
"Soleil's a girl. Do you know how surprised Mum and Dad were about that? Weasleys have boys, it just is. Ginny should have known that, especially carrying twins."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I'm going to try and get a look at the two new additions and then maybe try and get some sleep. Gin never has any consideration for anyone's circadian rhythm."
"Never mind." Making his way through the throng, he was able to get a glimpse of Brighton and Duncan. They were still all red and splotchy and the look was made even worse by the bright patches of red hair. Typical Weasleys the both of them. "Zacharias, I'm going to see Ginny."
He acknowledged him with a nod, but couldn't even spare a glance or a word as he passed Brighton into his father's arms.
The hallway was at least ten times quieter than the sitting room and Harry breathed a sigh of relief. There were definitely too many people out there. Ducking into the door that was ajar, Harry glanced around and found Ginny propped up by a bunch of pillows on the bed.
"That was the single most harrowing experience of my life. I never want to do it again. Tell Zacharias that if he wants anymore children, he has to carry them and deliver them himself."
Harry smiled and handed her a glass of water from the bedside table. "You look a sight, Gin."
"Well you try squeezing—"
"There's a reason I'm gay, and part of it has to do with unsolicited information about female bits." He leaned over and gave her a chaste kiss on the lips.
"There were a couple occasions where you didn't have any problems with my bits."
"And there were a few occasions that you didn't mind my messy hair." Harry rubbed at the back of his head. "You're happy, right, Ginny, with the boys?"
She nodded. "It was wrong of me to try and change them to girls. I know that now. I wouldn't have them any other way."
"Yeah, it's the potion that I was buying from Severus. I'm not looking forward to telling him it didn't work."
"That certainly is something that you might not want to do."
"You could do it for me." She gave him her best innocent, pleading look.
"Oh, come on. It'd make things so much easier if you'd do it."
"It'd be even easier if you just let him find out from the birth announcement."
"For me?" Ginny yawned. "You'll do it, you can't deny me anything." She offered him a wry grin. "Well, almost anything. I'm tired. Tell Zachy that I want to sleep and that he's on his own for a bit."
Harry stepped through the shop door and kept from flinching when a bell jangled announcing his presence. That was new. So much for staying under the radar for a few more moments.
"The potions for delivery are on the counter. Take them and get out."
Harry cleared his throat. "You must pay your delivery men quite well to take such abuse, Severus. Unfortunately I'm not your courier."
The door to the back flew open and Severus appeared, shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows and a functional apron tied in front of him. "If it isn't his Lordship. There are no missing children and no one holding a wand to your back, but yet you are standing here in my shop. Tell me, has the apocalypse occurred?"
"Nothing so dramatic. Ginny's had the twins."
"I assume they are as she expected them to be."
Harry took a few steps forward and leaned his hip against the counter. "They're healthy, if that's what you're insinuating, which I know it's not. And no, the two boys – Brighton and Duncan – are just that. Two healthy Weasley boys."
Severus pulled a cloth out of a pocket in his apron and wiped at his hands. "I see. The outcome isn't completely unexpected. Unfortunate for Mrs Smith, of course."
"She's all right. Happy even, though she never wants to go through that again, she says."
"Tell me, Potter, would you want to birth a single infant let alone two on the same day?"
Harry shook his head. "I appreciate the fact that I've a cock everyday. Sometimes twice." He smirked as Severus spluttered for a moment.
"That was quite juvenile."
Shrugging, Harry turned toward the door. "I can't seem to actually care if you think me juvenile any longer." Harry did, but he would never let Severus know that again.
"Did you want tea?"
Harry's hand dropped away from the handle of the door. "That was practically human of you to offer. Why?"
"Does there have to be a reason?"
Harry spun around abruptly to find Severus much closer than he had been a minute ago. "For you," his voice cracked. "Yes. I can't… No, I won't."
"Won't take tea with me?"
Harry shook his head, his fringe falling into his eyes. "No. Well, yes. If you feel the need to apologise again, well, I won't listen to it any more this time then I did the last time. Just because someone tells you to-"
Severus grabbed his arm in a tight grip. It'd been so long since Harry had felt those fingers curl around his arm, that he felt torn between sagging toward Severus or yanking his hand away.
"Yeah, because I wouldn't listen. Good thing too. You didn't mean it!"
"No, I didn't."
Harry did jerk away at that and left the shop as fast as his feet could take him. Though, as always after a conversation with Severus, he thought that maybe he had missed something. Maybe they weren't talking about the same thing. But that was just silly and wishful thinking on Harry's part, he was sure.
Voldemort's Bane Battles Big Business Instead of Big Baddies
In an interesting turn of events, Harry Potter has registered two businesses both with the same name. One was registered through the Muggle channels for such things, and the other was registered with the Department of Commerce, Exchange and other Oddities at the Ministry. The names of these businesses have yet to be divulged by sources, but it raises the question: Has Our Saviour decided to fight the good fight in conference rooms instead of with the Aurors?
- Rita Skeeter, Special Correspondent Daily Prophet
Hermione tossed her pencil down onto her desk and looked up at Harry. "Maybe he meant it. Maybe he really is sorry."
Harry just continued to look at her.
"Right, this is Snape. What was I thinking?" She pushed away from her desk and tapped her finger against her nose. A habit she'd acquired when she was thinking. "I don't know, Harry. His behaviour since the end of the war has been extremely varied especially with you. At times he practically borders on nice. Usually he approaches tolerable. To us at least."
"I don't know, Hermione. It's strange."
"Could it be another overture? You said there had been overtures."
Harry shook his head. "Those were more along the lines of 'You've not shown your face at all recently, Potter. I thought you could not stand not getting shagged at least once every other day.'"
"Hmm. Maybe if I knew more about your relationship prior-"
"There's nothing to tell." Harry sunk into the chair on the other side of her desk. "First it was Draco and him, and then for whatever reason Draco decided that he wanted me at as well, and well, I was stupid so I let that happen. Then there was the time with all three of us – that one was complicated, and I'd rather not talk about it – and then Snape and I… which I shouldn't have done because that was off limits. It was all off limits. I don't even know how I got mixed up into it all."
"We, Severus and I, gave it a shot, but it failed horribly. I've told you that."
"That's about all you've told me."
"Because there really isn't anything else to add!" Harry ran a hand through his hair messing it up even more. "He made some insinuations that I didn't appreciate-"
"Were they true?"
Harry stopped and looked at her. She couldn't honestly think that- "What?"
"I assume they were about you and Draco. Were they true?"
"They might have been." Which was true, though Harry doubted they were talking about the same insinuations about Draco.
"Maybe you should apologise."
Harry sighed. Hermione was a girl after all; it probably made sense in her head. "I've apologised and he's accepted, but that's not the point. I don't want to be with him, Hermione!"
"You do, you're just too… hurt, maybe. Stuck is probably a better word to see what it is that you actually want."
"I thought that we were in this together."
Hermione smiled. "We are, Harry."
"So when did you decide that I couldn't be happy on my own?"
"But you aren't happy on your own. I saw the man you left with at the bar before Ginny gave birth."
"What's that to do with—You've been out on a date! You've been shagging someone!"
"Harry James Potter, that is none of your business, and it has nothing to do with anything. Get out of my office before I do you damage!"
Hermione's blush was confirmation enough. "I'll ask Luna, I bet she knows."
"You'll be careful?" Severus ran his fingers down Draco's cheek who brushed his hand away.
"Of course. What do you take me for?"
Leaning forward, Severus brushed his lips quickly against Draco's. "You'll watch him," he whispered.
Draco scoffed. "It's the only reason I'm going, Severus."
"Then I shouldn't have to worry. You'll bring you both back safely?"
Drawing his bottom lip between his teeth, Draco paused. "I'll even share you, just once, after all this is over. Maybe… maybe we'll give the three of us a try."
- Personal Pensieve memory of S. Snape
Severus made another tick on the counter with a piece of chalk. He had probably missed about five since it didn't occur to him to start counting how many times Potter walked past the door to his shop until a little over an hour ago. Since then, Harry had passed by no less than twelve times.
He was obviously up to something.
Another tick of the chalk. And another.
Severus rounded the counter and went to stand in the doorway of his shop. This area of Bath, while not completely closed off to Muggles, received very few of them travelling down this way. Those that were standing around were watching the young man as he walked a few storefronts down, before turning and passing right by The Prince of Potions.
Severus applauded Potter who barely hesitated as he passed by and had only caught the barest of flickers toward him.
Again and again.
"Looking for something in particular, Potter?"
The gravel grated under Harry's boots as he skidded to a stop in front of Severus. "No. Not looking. Tell me why?"
"I have no idea about what you are dithering on about."
"Why? Why did you say those things? I know you meant them, but could you have possibly picked a worse time for it all?" Harry's voice was getting louder the more he went on. People were stopping to stare at them, but Harry must not have noticed, or perhaps he was enjoying the crowd of gawkers that had gathered to watch him tear into Severus. "Why? And the fact that you are an unmitigated bastard is not an answer regardless of how true it is! Just tell me fucking why so I can finally-"
Severus grabbed his arm and pulled him through the shop, slamming the door as he passed. There were people trying to stare in through the clean patches of glass, so Severus tightened his grip on Harry's arm and tugged him into the back, slamming him against the back wall.
"What exactly do you call that spectacle?"
Narrowing his eyes, Harry closed his lips tight and shook his head.
"I demand to know, Harry. Right this instant. If you wanted to destroy my business there are better ways to go about it than to scream your fool head off in the middle of a Bath street."
"I just want to know why. You always put the blame on me. It's always all my fault, and I want to know why?"
Severus brought his face close to Harry's. "If you would care to enlighten me about this never-ending blame I am apparently heaping upon your weary shoulders then perhaps I will in turn enlighten you about the reasons behind it."
"I didn't do it! There's nothing that I could have done! And I know that you think I should have done more, but I've thought about it and I can't figure out what I could have done differently! I might not have loved him like you did, but I did care!" Harry shoved his hands between them and pushed at Severus until he stumbled a step or two back, and then he took off.
Harry spent more time running from Severus than anything else.
"As much as it pains me to request your help, Lupin, nothing I have done so far has seemed to do any good."
"So very little does until you've made your intentions clear." Lupin cleared his throat and turned to give Severus a cheeky grin. "I suppose this is why you've decided that just this once I am allowed to pick up my own potion?"
"That could theoretically have something to do with the situation." Serverus pushed the box with its two sealed containers across to Lupin. "In actuality, I've come to realise that I don't precisely know how to deal with Potter."
"One would assume that you are still dealing with him as you have done so since he was a student. With the greatest disdain. I really don't see how I can be of any help in that regard, Severus."
"Do not be ridiculous, Lupin. If I wanted to deal with the boy as if he were still a boy, then I would do so, and I would not even consider degrading myself to ask you for help. The mere idea that I have done so has left my skin crawling."
"Then I suppose that I'll just take my potion and be on my way then."
Severus laid one bony hand on top of the box and held it on the counter. "Do stop behaving as if the world is only capable of handing you injustice after injustice. Things are changing, and with them so must you. Now, if you don't mind, can we discuss my dilemma with Potter?"
"You should heed your own advice, Severus."
"My advice to myself – and not to others, I should add – has not been guiding me to satisfactory results." Severus's long fingers tapped in a slow rhythm on the top of the box. "Therefore, I have attempted to gain the aid of someone that Potter holds dear."
"As if my advice will even be heeded. Though if you actually did..." Lupin trailed off for a moment. "Though if you actually chose to heed my advice, I could tell you to do something like offer to jump off a cliff."
"Which you won't for the simple reason that you are a noble simpleton. Now, my issue is thus-"
"Are you sure that you want the advice of a noble simpleton?"
"Do be quiet." Severus said, the last word curling into a growl. "Potter came through here the other day raving that he had done all that he could and that it wasn't his fault. I assume, given a later statement, that he was talking about Draco, though I suppose that I could be wrong in that regard, though I do not think so."
"And the part where you need my opinion is…"
"His behaviour is unhealthy, and I think it should be explained to him that he—"
"If you want me to help you win him over, then tell me that, don't spin a lie because I won't fall for it this time. You've become disgustingly transparent in regards to Harry, you realise."
"I realise that I've been disgustingly transparent for quite some time. Potter has always been in a flaw in the disguise."
Lupin sighed. "I still haven't decided if I am going to help you or not, you understand, and I really don't consider the piece of advice I'm about to offer very helpful."
"Get on with it."
"I'll put it in the form of a question, then. Do you want him for who he is or because you can't have Draco?" Lupin pulled the box out from under Severus's hand and left the shop.
The silence that followed after Lupin's departure was not comfortable at all.
…an orphan King will take the throne.
In a brave showing, he returned to the site of Buckingham Palace and greeted the mourners gathered outside while accepting their flowers and condolences with his brother Prince Harry by his side. It is quite obvious that these amazing young men are facing the deaths of their grandmother and father admirably.
The fire at Buckingham Palace that killed both Her Majesty and her heir, Prince Charles, is still under investigation, but it is currently believed to be due to faulty electrical wiring. Some, however, believe that it was an attack by…
- Associated Press, appearing in multiple papers
Harry took a sip of his drink and didn't turn around. "A former lover tried to blow himself up yesterday."
Sighing, Harry set his tumbler down on the table. "He's a brewer, and there was an accident at his shop." He carded his fingers through his hair, setting it into further disarray.
"That's a magical chemist?"
"And you're upset." William hummed. "You must have parted on good terms."
"The worst actually." Harry pressed the tips of his fingers against the bridge of his nose. "My head is not really into giving a report today, William."
"No doubt. Is he all right?"
"He's in Mungo's." Standing, Harry headed to the window and looked down at the ornate gardens. William had taken up residence in his mother's preferred home, Kensington Palace, after the fire had destroyed hunks of the traditional home to the monarchs. "How is the rebuilding?"
Answering, William waved a hand in quick dismissal. "Almost done. I should be able to return to the palace by the end of the year. But… Let me see if I understand. You parted on bad terms, but you're still worried about him? Has anyone told you that you're still interested in him?"
"Hermione has recently told me that I'm obsessed."
"She's the one that is always right?"
Harry narrowed his eyes. "You do realize that I see where you are taking that comment."
William grinned. "I have never accused you of being stupid or dense, Harry, though maybe in this case I shall have to consider the latter."
"You are not one of my favourite people today, Your Majesty."
"I don't really find that surprising. In fact, I will find it even less so in a minute."
"And why is that?"
"Because I am about to tell you to get out of my study and go to St Mungo's. You can't choose whom you love."
William probably knew that better than he did, Harry thought. Everyone knew about the Royal Family's tribulations regarding relationships. They were plastered across the tabloids often enough.
"No, I really don't." Harry shook his head.
"Of course you would answer with that. You do; he just hurt you obviously. With my brother Harry I would offer to get pissed with him, but in this case, I've work to do. More so than I would normally on days we meet. Apparently my trustworthy informant isn't in the right frame of mind to explain what is going on, so now I have to sit down with my Ministers and attempt to make sense of what they're saying."
"Fine, I'll go, but when bad things happen, I have every intention of laying the blame at your feet."
"A man who would put his life on the line for an entire nation is too good of a man to do that." William handed Harry another tumbler of scotch. "To having the fortitude to deal with meetings neither of us desire, but are unfortunately necessary. Cheers."
Grinning at each other, both men downed their scotch.
Harry skidded to a halt in the centre of the corridor. There was a man standing in the doorway of Severus's room and he looked oddly familiar. The hair was bit long, Harry knew that much, but other than that, Harry knew that he'd met the man at least once, but he couldn't place where.
It was the tilt of his head and the way the manicured fingers clutched at the jamb with a careless elegance that triggered his memory. Draco used to stand in the doorway to the library at Grimmauld Place just like that.
It felt like someone had just punched Harry in the stomach. "Draco?" His voice cracked. It wasn't possible. It couldn't be. Draco was dead.
"Miss me, Potter?" Draco turned toward him, his lips turned up in a smirk.
"Wouldn't admit it if I did." The casual retort slipped off his tongue without Harry thinking about it.
Draco turned his face back toward Severus's room, but Harry didn't miss his response. "Smart of you."
Awkward silence fell between them, and Harry couldn't help but shuffle his feet as they stared through the hospital door at Severus's sleeping form.
"I tried coming when he was awake, but it upset him." Draco's shoulders lifted in a sigh.
"How are you… I was at your funeral!"
"I'm stuck here, of course. It's not like either of you ever come here. You've lost your penchant to get hurt every other day, apparently."
Harry blinked. "Then you're a ghost?"
The look on Draco's face said it all. Harry was a moron. Of course Draco was a ghost, what was he thinking!
But he didn't look like a ghost. Reaching out his hand, Harry laid his hand on Draco's shoulder, his fingers clenching around what felt like solid flesh when they didn't pass right through.
"Your fingers are going to freeze." Draco grabbed his hand and took it away from his shoulder. Draco's fingers weren't any warmer, however, and Harry pulled his hand away.
"He's missed you, you know."
Draco's chin dipped toward his chest. "You want him for yourself."
"No!" Harry started at the accusation. "No… He could never care for me like he did for you."
"Of course he won't." There was something in Draco's voice that he couldn't place. "Do you miss me at all, Potter?"
This was treacherous ground, and Harry didn't want to lose his footing. Though what footing he had was the question. He was talking to a corporeal ghost with no signs of how he died on him like with most ghosts. "I…"
Suddenly Draco spun around and grabbed his hand, pulling him toward a supply closet down the corridor.
"Is there any use telling you that this is a bad idea?"
"No, because I miss you even if you don't miss me. I miss him even if he thinks about nothing else other than brewing and fucking you." Draco's hands ran over Harry's face chilling his cheeks. It was almost like being kissed in a cold winter wind.
Draco's finger ran along Harry's lip and he kissed it.
"But he still thinks about it."
"You can't know that."
Draco's lips felt real pressed against his, if cold. It was disturbing, but exciting at the same time. Harry would take what little he could from this.
"I do." Draco whispered across Harry's lips. "I know he does, and it's not fair. It should have been the three of us together, but instead—"
"It's just the two of us apart. I should have saved you like Severus wanted me to."
Resting his forehead against Harry's, Draco shook his head. "He sent me to that battle to bring you back safe, and I did. I just failed in bringing myself back with you."
Harry swallowed. "I should have saved you. It's my—"
"No. You can't honestly believe that, Potter. Not even you are that dense."
"But Severus said… I know I shouldn't believe what he said, but—"
"Fuck!" Draco pulled away from him. "Fuck. Fuck. Fuck." He vanished.
The warm, stifling air of the supply cupboard hit Harry then and the constant chill he'd been feeling left him, leaving a rather disturbing emptiness behind.
It was time to visit Severus.
Opening the door, Harry made his way back down the hall and into Severus's room. For the first time since the accident, Severus was awake while Harry visited.
Harry wished he wasn't. Severus was pale, his lank hair falling into his face and sticking to his cheeks which were even more hallow than when he was healthy. His face was coated in a light sheen of sweat and his eyes darted around until they landed on him.
"You!" Severus spat, his voice laced with venom.
"Yeah, if I knew that you'd be up, I wouldn't have visited."
"How did you do it?!"
The accusation was thrown, but Harry had no idea how to respond to it.
"I don't know why you would be so cruel as to cast that particular charm on me, Potter, but I assure you, your arrow hit its target."
"Having Draco's voice deliver the message; I didn't think that you were that… that…" It was a bad sign when Severus was too angry to find the word he was looking for.
"I didn't!" Really, that was the only thing that Harry knew for sure. Not that it would help matters. It never did.
"Of course not. Not the mighty, ennobled and legendary Potter. You wouldn't dream of casting a spell so I would hear Draco accusing me of pushing you away in my ear. You're much too kind, is that it?"
"I didn't do it! Draco did! Stop blaming me for everything!" Harry was screaming, he couldn't stop himself. "Draco's a ghost-like thing that's been haunting your rooms, and I didn't do anything!"
A burst of raw magic left Harry, and pushed Severus back against the headboard. Severus's wild gaze caught his and collapsed.
Dragging in a shuddering breath, Harry turned and fled the hospital.
An hour later, he received an owl forbidding him to visit Severus from the primary Healer in charge of Severus's case.
Harry didn't even want to anymore.
Harry was sitting crouched against the damp stone wall next to his brother watching the strange boy that had ambushed them and pulled them into the room. "Do you think…?"
"I don't know, Harry." William shook his head, his gaze fixed on the boy as well, his brow furrowed in concentration. The situation was not good at all. They were likely still in danger, and it was probable that the boy with them was one of the masked men that had attacked the palace. No matter how unlikely it looked.
"He's small, I could take him with hand-to-hand." Harry leaned forward. "What's he muttering?"
"I don't know, Harry."
"Did you know that this place was down here—"
William stood. There was only one way to find out if he was in the employ of the attackers. It probably wasn't his brightest plan ever, but…
"Hey! Wills! … He could be dangerous. One of those weirdoes." William felt the Harry's hand brush against the fabric of his shirt, but fail at grasping the material.
"I'll let you know, Harry." He made it across the room and stood a bit away from the boy. He was smaller than him with messy black hair that toppled in every direction and made him look as if he belonged in primary school, but when he turned around and William caught sight of his bright green eyes, he knew that he couldn't have been further off base. So he asked, "Where are we?"
"Someplace not good, Your Majesty."
William shook his head. "But I'm not—"
"Yes," the boy said in a quiet voice, "I'm afraid you are."
- Excerpt of Pensieve memory of William Arthur Philip Louis Mountbatten-Windsor submitted willingly as evidence in the Buckingham Palace massacre case.
"You're playing for shit today."
Harry wasn't used to being ignored. When Potter did answer eventually after a few moments, Harry was taken aback by the abrupt change in topic. "Do you believe in ghosts?"
"I believe in a lot of things that I wouldn't have three years ago. Speaking of which, when is your next Quidditch match?"
"What? Oh, a couple of weeks. I'll have someone deliver a VIP ticket and squib enabled Portkey to your office."
"Something inconspicuous this time."
"What about a pound with your brother sticking his tongue out at you?"
"Only if I can keep it after." Prince Harry grinned. "So is the ghost thing why you are playing as if you have a cow instead of one of the finest polo ponies in England?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"I thought you people had ghosts all over the place."
"But they usually aren't corporeal, and they don't do that."
"I get the feeling that I don't want to know what that is."
"You probably don't. Chakka's starting. Let's go."
"Don't let me win by too much, Potter." Harry mounted his horse and set off onto the field. Keeping one eye on Potter, Harry played his hardest. Normally Potter was the player to watch, taking to the breakneck speeds of riding and swinging the mallet like he was born to it. Maybe he was, he took to Quidditch the same way with instinctive reflexes and an innate feel for the movement of the broom.
Potter was rather like himself in some ways, Harry thought. They both took to dangerous sports and stunts. He would bet that Potter would have loved the Wall Game had he gone to Eton instead of Hogwarts.
Potter was coming dangerously close to crossing the line in front of Harry, but swerved just short of it being called a foul. Taking his chance, Harry made his shot and the goal just as the chakka's end was called.
"Sometimes I think that you're trying to get Nimbus killed out there," Harry said as Potter rode up next to him.
Potter just gave him a crooked grin. They reached the sidelines where their new mounts were waiting for them. Grabbing a squirt bottle from his groom, Harry splashed water all over his face before chugging some down.
"I'm still distracted," Potter was saying.
"Last chakka and we're up by two."
"Which is your handicap anyway." Potter threw him another one of his cheeky grins, and with a last pat against Nimbus's neck, mounted Gin and Tonic and took off to his position on the field.
Groaning, Harry realised that his team wasn't doing nearly as well as he thought. Throwing himself into the game, he set out to pad his lead and show Potter just whom was the better polo player between them."
Harry smiled. The fact that William had not flinched in the slightest as Hedwig swooped down onto his arm while they were having dinner impressed him. "It has to be important, or she wouldn't have interrupted."
"And what are you doing that is so important?"
"Planning to take over the world, of course."
William smirked. "Then I want the Caribbean back. Lovely spots for holiday."
Harry's eyes flew over the words, stopping when they reached the end, but not raising them. Absentmindedly he gave a piece of meat from his plate to Hedwig and took off.
"Well? If it's so important that an owl swooped in, I want to know."
"It's a summons."
"And whom, besides myself, has the authority to summon my Cross?"
It was said in jest, but the statement was very true.
"The man who saved my life. It is a summons concerning my life-debt to him. Or rather just one of them."
"Is that an actual… Do you have those?"
Nodding, Harry tried to grin. "They're rather serious, and I'm heavily indebted."
"To how many people?" Harry could see the offers to buy the debts off floating in the air between them.
"Just one, actually. The rest balanced out."
"You should have him make an appointment with my assistant."
Harry sipped his wine in silence for a minute. "He wouldn't. He values the power he has over me."
"Well, I don't like the thought of one of my advisors in the pocket of an unknown entity."
"In his pocket?" Harry mulled the thought over. "I wouldn't put it that way, precisely. More of a… He wouldn't use the debt to take political advantage."
William raised an eyebrow. "And of course that's the only way that matters to me, correct?"
"He can't control me. Not really. He just makes demands that I subsequently ignore in order to make the remaining days of my life an unholy hell. Eventually, he'll tire of it and leave me alone."
"Because there's unfinished business between us."
Giving Harry a questioning look, William set his fork down. "Unfinished business?"
"We used to be… no, that's not quite right." Harry sighed. "We were in love with the same man. At times we were in love with each other, but we needed Draco. He gave us permission to be together. Not literally, but…"
"Enough said." William stood. "I think that we should head into London and celebrate the single life. You don't enjoy it nearly enough."
William clutched the charmed pound in his pocket and squinted his eyes. In the past couple of years he had come to realise that certain things were possible if one just had the knowledge that magic existed. Odd signs above shops reading differently depending on the way one looked at them for example.
This quest would have been easier if a number of things were different. For example, if he could lose his bodyguards, but William knew that would never happen because such things only happened in fiction. He sighed and stopped at the next sign, clutching the coin and glancing up through squinted eyes. Nothing, this was going to take forever. He pulled his hoodie further down over his forehead, shoving his hands into the pockets and trudged down the street hoping he looked like the nondescript twenty-something he was going for.
It was times like this that he envied Harry Potter and the ever-ready glamour charms at his fingertips.
As luck would have it, The Prince of Potions happened to be the very last shop on the street. Putting his hand on the handle, William took one last breath before twisting the knob and stepping inside.
The place smelled horrible as if some poor animal had died and been left to rot somewhere inside. Thinking about it that was a very probable circumstance considering what he'd been told about magical potions.
"You've come to the wrong shop. You want the tavern down the street."
Nodding, William took a step back to the door before stopping. A spike of pain shot through his skull and down his spine and a moment later a feeling of nausea overcame him. He coughed and stood his ground, waiting for the feeling to pass and it did.
"You do realise that is illegal."
"Not exactly." William glanced around until he caught sight of the man standing in the door that led to the back storeroom. "I could have you taken in on charges."
The ugly man sneered at him, his lip curling up over crooked, yellowed teeth. He'd have to have a word with Harry about standards. Not that he'd listen, but William felt it his duty to be a good friend and point out that his choice in lovers was bloody ugly.
"Not that it matters. What do you want? I don't sell any potions to restore latent magical powers. They're myths."
"Doing so would probably be illegal as well. I said I wasn't a Squib. I'm here on behalf of a friend."
Snape pressed his palms against the front counter and leaned forward. The man needed a manicure and William doubted that anything could remove the yellow stains on the fingertips. Again with the standards. "A friend? Let me guess. By your obsession with that which is illegal and that which is not, I assume you are from that special dual-Ministry enforcement department. You should ask for a more opposing uniform."
William slid the hoodie back. "Technically, I do hold the title of chief of that department, but really, I have nothing to do with it other than reading reports. So your guess would be wrong."
If Snape was surprised by William, he did a good job of hiding it.
"I have come to discuss a friend of mine."
"And I can assume that this friend would be his lordship, Harry Potter."
"Of course." William strode to the counter and leaned against it. "I want to purchase his debt."
The last thing that William expected was the sharp bark of laughter. "You can be on your way then, Your Majesty. Potter's debt is not for sale."
"You have not heard my terms yet."
"I don't have any need to since I have no intention to sell the debt I've collected. Not even to you. Though I'm sure the thought of having Potter in your thrall is very tempting. I'd never have thought that you were such—" The sharp thud of William's fist hitting Snape's jaw cut him off.
William rubbed his fist. "Never speak to me like that. You show absolutely no respect so I feel no need to demonstrate proper behaviour. Harry is my friend, not your toy or your pet. The mere fact that debts such as his to you even exist sickens me and I have already put into motion –"
Snape had covered his cheek with his hand. "You halfwit. You know nothing! NOTHING! The Wizarding world is not your toy. You can't dispel OLD MAGIC just because you've a whim to do so! GET OUT!"
"Perhaps you are right and dispelling the magic is impossible, but there is nothing stopping me from putting restrictions on the way such debts can be collected and used."
"You're insinuating that I'm abusing the hold I have over Potter."
"It is not an insinuation. You do abuse it, and it is going to stop. Now."
"For the record, Potter, I do not appreciate it when you send your lackeys to do your dirty work."
Blinking, Harry looked up from the plans that he was working on for the next Quidditch match. "You're dressed like a Muggle."
Snape slammed his hands on the desktop and leaned forward. "We already know that your powers of observation are behind the rest of the universe. I want to know why you sent your friend the King to harass me."
"You're saying that I sent William, the King of England, to harass you?" Harry shook his head. "Wait, did you mean to call him my lackey?" Harry couldn't help himself - he started laughing.
"Do not laugh at me!" Spit flew from Snape's lips.
"Well, when you do something like call Wills my lackey, I can't help it. You're being ridiculous."
Long fingers closed around his wrist with a vicelike grip. "Potter—"
Harry wrenched his arm away. "Stop it. Look, I don't know what you're talking about let alone why you're so upset, but this isn't exactly a new thing. You're always taking the first opportunity to blame me for everything, so I don't see why this time has to be so different. Just get out."
"I do not take the first opportunity, just the most convenient one."
Harry shook his head. "Yes, I'm sure there is a huge ideological difference."
Snape ignored Harry's earlier demand to leave, and pulled out the chair from across his desk and sat down, crossing his arms across his chest. "Potter, you can't have the monarchy run roughshod over age old traditions just because you disagree with them."
"You're just coming to me now to complain about the Edicts? What, did you run out of other things to yell at me about?"
Harry shoved the plans away from him with enough force that the top pages flew off the top and fluttered to the floor. "The Edicts had nothing to do with life-debts. I've a healthy respect for them." He narrowed his eyes in Snape's direction.
"At one point I had believed the same, however, yesterday your friend stopped at the shop with an offer to buy them and upon my refusal, he punched me."
"I don't believe you."
Snape pointed his wand at his temple and the air in front of his face shimmered revealing an impressive shiner.
Harry snorted. "Oh, I believe that he punched you, but I doubt that it was just because you refused to accept his offer. Wills is much more level headed than you are."
"Fuck you, Potter."
"Look, I don't know what's going on, but I'm really getting tired of it. Whenever I see you, I know that you're blaming me for Draco dying, and I get that. I get that it was my fault. I've accepted it. What I don't understand is why you keep showing up or trying to talk to me."
Harry sucked in a harsh breath between clenched teeth and stared at Snape who was just sitting there not saying a thing. It was a strange experience having a speechless Snape across from him.
"You've changed the subject."
"And now you are, but fine, whatever. I don't know why Wills did that and since I'm not a Legilimens let alone a mind reader, I don't see how that line of conversation can go further. If that's all you want to discuss then you should go. And don't come back."
Snape reeled back in his chair as if Harry had slapped him instead of just asked him to leave. Harry decided that he'd never understand Severus Snape. Ever.
"You don't understand anything."
"Yeah, I'm a dunderhead, I get that too."
"I do not blame you for Draco's death." The words were said so slowly that, to Harry, it seemed as if Snape was cutting each syllable from him with a scalpel.
They were never words that Harry had ever expected to fall from Snape's lips. Harry leaned back in chair as far as he could and glanced at the ceiling. It felt like the world was spinning, but Harry knew that it was only his brain trying to right things that made no sense any longer. Snape didn't blame him. It was strange and couldn't possibly be true, even if Snape had said the words himself.
"I had a choice, and I didn't make the one that you wanted. Draco was there behind me, protecting me at the cost of his own life because I didn't turn around and save him." He scrubbed his hands over his face.
"Because you chose to slay the Dark Lord instead."
"I," Snape paused and Harry heard him suck in a hard breath. "I should not have said what I did after you woke. I am sorry."
The ceiling swam in and out of focus. He blinked rapidly and could feel tears on his cheeks. Why? Why did those words break him? "I wish I could have saved him. Things would have been better had I saved him."
"Things are how they are. Draco chose to sacrifice himself for his own reasons."
"Because he cared?"
"For you, yes." Snape's voice had dropped to a whisper. "Much to my chagrin."
"He loved you. He should have died for you, not me." Harry stood and headed for the door. He couldn't have this conversation. Not with Snape. It would change things and he couldn't handle that change now. Maybe never. He was mostly healed from the aftermath of destroying Voldemort, why would he want to open those wounds and make them bleed?
"Do not leave, Potter." Snape grabbed his wrist and held it. "You always run away from conversations that could potentially lead somewhere."
"All this conversation is leading to is a lot of pain. Things aren't going to change between us. I will never be Draco."
"No one could be Draco, however, you can be yourself, which in itself is not a horrendous thing. You have your moments."
"We can't go back to that!"
Snape sighed. Harry still wouldn't turn his face and look at him. He didn't want to know what he'd see there. "No, we cannot, but there are other directions in which we may go."
"I don't… I don't know if I can."
"Honesty. That is an interesting thing coming from you."
Harry glared and turned toward Snape expecting to see disdain or hatred or at the very least a snide look, but there was none on his face. His face was almost devoid of emotion, but there was glint in his eyes, and a slight quirk to his lips that gave away the joke. Harry let the glare slip off his face.
"Harry, we have both seen and done things that we regret especially when it comes to the handling of each other. Neither of us can replace Draco, and I do not suggest that we try. We would both fail in a rather spectacular fashion."
Harry didn't say anything; there really wasn't anything to say. Severus hadn't been this honest with him either in a rather long time.
"I would not mind seeing you returning to spending a portion of the time you aren't wasting playing ridiculous sports in my company." Severus brushed the side of Harry's neck with his fingers before resting his hand on Harry's shoulder.
Harry wanted it. He really wanted it. It could be good. It could be so very good.
The last time he'd been this scared he had been looking into the business end of Severus's wand. There were very few instances in his life that could frighten him more and they all either had to do with large three-headed dogs or maniacal madmen.
"I don't know if I can."
"But I'll try. I'll try."
Don't forget to close this window to go back to vote and review!