Rating: NC-17, Harry/Snape
Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns the Potterverse, I just play in it from time to time.
Warnings: AU, angst, child abuse, non-con, chan, violence and character deaths.
Summary: Dumbledore's methods to ensure Harry's safety after the defeat of Voldemort do more harm than good.
Thanks again to rakina for the beta and to linnpuzzle for allowing me to use her artwork for the icon base.
Extra warning: Homophobia
Links to earlier parts
Harry was hiding something from him; for the three weeks since they'd been back at school, Harry had rushed away as soon as their tutoring sessions had finished and didn't stay to linger for kisses and cuddles. If Severus didn't know better, he would almost say that Harry had been avoiding him and he was almost sure he knew the reason why.
He'd seen Harry laughing and joking with his godson at meals; they even seemed to tolerate each other in class and Severus was heartily sick of it. He knew he'd asked Harry to be friendlier with Draco, but did he have to be so friendly? When was the last time Harry had laughed with him like that? The two young men were at the Gryffindor table at dinner that evening; sharing jokes with Weasley and Granger. Since when had all four of them become such firm friends?
The way the quartet were sitting, Harry next to Draco, Hermione next to Ron, it almost seemed as if they were paired off. Had Harry regretted agreeing to the Courtship already? Did he want to be released so that he could pursue Draco Malfoy? Compared to Malfoy's silvery beauty, Severus knew he fell short and wondered what on earth Harry saw in him. Maybe Harry had come to his senses at last. Severus sighed and speared a chunk of beef with more force than was really necessary.
How dare Malfoy sit so close to him? Laugh with him? Severus let his fork fall to the plate with a clatter; he couldn't manage another bite. Everything tasted like ashes in his mouth.
Harry had a tutoring session tonight and for once Severus wasn't looking forward to it. How could he look forward to finding out for sure that Harry wanted to leave him?
As usual, Harry was five minutes early and Severus had left the door open for him. Severus saw Harry take note of the empty desks; there were no textbooks or parchments tonight. The boy stared around the room and then at Severus, noting too that Severus was still in his teaching robes and hadn't had a shower yet. What was the point? There was no reason to look good for Harry anymore; it wasn't as if he'd ever appreciated it, was it?
Harry sat down at his usual place by the desk and removed his own textbook, along with a quill and parchment.
"We won't be studying tonight, Potter," said Severus, feeling his heart shatter in the middle of his chest even as he said the words. Guileless green eyes sought his.
"Severus? What's wrong?" asked Harry as he stood up and attempted to hug him. Severus backed away.
"Hugs won't fix this, Potter."
"Fix what? And what's all this Potter business?" demanded Harry.
"I thought it would be easier when we go back to being just teacher and student."
"Severus, what are you talking about? You've completely lost me."
"You've been hiding things from me, Potter. Things regarding a certain Mr. Malfoy."
"Oh. That," said Harry darkly and Severus felt as if he'd just had the wind knocked out of him. It was true? Dear Merlin, his suspicions were true? "I'm sorry I didn't tell you, Severus, but he made me promise not to. It's his secret to tell, not mine."
"How - how long have you been enamoured of Mr. Malfoy?"
"Enamoured? What!? You don't think that me and Malfoy ... You do! You think that there's something going on between us? The bond won't let us be with anyone else, Severus, you know that!"
"The bond won't allow physical intimacy with someone else, that's true, but you may still have developed feelings for him. I've seen the two of you. At meals. In class. Laughing and joking."
"Yes, that's what friends do! You were the one who wanted me to be friends with him in the first place!"
"Friends? Are you sure that's all it is?"
Harry glared at him. "I am not having this conversation with you." Harry threw his things back in his bag and stalked to the door; he flung it open and didn't look back.
Severus stared at the door for a long time after Harry had gone, wondering how he could have been so stupid.
Harry was so angry that he was sure there must be a thundercloud over his head. How could Severus think that of him? How? Didn't Severus trust him? Was he always going to be like this? Jealous over any friendships Harry had? He had made friends with Draco after that night; even Ron and Hermione had accepted Malfoy into their little group but all Severus saw was that Harry wanted someone else.
He didn't want someone else. Harry wanted Severus, only Severus. Didn't the fact that Harry had agreed to this Courtship, that they'd bought a house together mean anything? What did Severus think this was? That Harry was too young and was only experimenting with him or something? Harry had tried so hard to defend their relationship, did that mean nothing now? How could Severus think he could ever be interested in someone else?
Harry almost knocked someone over as he entered the common room and mumbled an apology before striding straight for his room. "Hey, Harry," called Draco just as Harry reached the door. "What's up?"
Harry turned, glowering at everyone who was in the common room, Slytherin and Gryffindor alike. Professor McGonagall had decided to keep the two Houses together but right now Harry didn't want an audience for what he was about to say to Malfoy. Harry nodded at Hermione and Ron as well, then held his door open so that all three of them could go into his bedroom.
He cast a locking and silencing charm on the door.
"Harry, we're not supposed to lock –"
"I don't give a fuck what we're supposed to do!" he roared at Hermione and began pacing the room. His skin felt too tight for his body and he just wanted to rip it off in shreds. His hands itched to do it and he made them into fists before he could start clawing at himself.
"Harry? What's wrong?" asked Ron, his hand automatically reaching out for Hermione's as if he needed some moral support in case Harry went mental again.
"Draco," spat Harry. "Severus thinks there's something going on between me and Draco."
The three of them laughed, but Harry didn't think it was even remotely funny.
"That's ridiculous," said Hermione. "How can he think that?"
"Either you tell him what happened that night, Draco, or I will," threatened Harry.
"You promised you wouldn't tell anyone!"
"You're my friend Draco, but he's - he's my - "everything", and I won't let anyone come between us, not even you. Tell him what happened that night and why we became friends in the first place. He thinks we're developing feelings for each other."
"But I don't like you like that!" protested Draco.
"So go and tell him and while you're at it, tell him who beat you up that night."
"I never said anyone beat me up."
"You didn't have to say it, Draco. I knew." Harry had been on the receiving end of so many beatings over the years that he knew what the victim of one looked like. Someone had really gone to town on Draco that night, but who and why? That was something Draco had never revealed to any of them.
"What did happen that night?" asked Ron as he stared round at each of them in turn. "Come on, Draco, I'm not letting Harry get hurt over this. You have to tell."
"I don't have to do anything, Weasley! It's no one else's business!"
"It is when my best friend gets accused of having an affair with you!"
"Stop it! That's enough, both of you!" Harry stood in front of both of them, hoping it wouldn't come to hexes or even fists. He felt sick to his stomach from all the stress and he just wanted to be curled up in Severus' arms right about now, but from the way they'd parted, Harry would be lucky if Severus ever wanted to see him again.
"Draco, please, please tell Professor Snape what happened if you won't tell us. He's your godfather, he's hardly going to think any less of you," said Hermione, the voice of reason.
Draco ran his hands through his hair and sat down on the chair by Harry's desk with a sigh.
"All right, I'll tell you, but it goes no further than here, okay? Then I'll go and speak to Severus. It was - it was Blaise Zabini. That's who beat me up that night. I - I've fancied him for ages; I thought he liked blokes; I really did, otherwise... Well the long and the short of it is that I asked him out on a date for the next Hogsmeade weekend and he totally freaked. Called me all sorts of names, then the punches and the kicks started; I think there might have been some hexes there too, but I was so surprised I don't really remember much. It seems he didn't like being mistaken for a queer – his words, not mine. The whole fucking school knows I'm gay and he goes mental because I asked him out? All he had to do was turn me down."
"He beat you up because of that?" exclaimed Harry. "You didn't try something with him, did you? Hit on him or something?"
"No, I didn't. I just asked if he wanted to go with me to Hogsmeade and he went crazy. He was vicious."
"I know," Harry almost whispered. He'd seen the damage inflicted on the other boy that night. "But you will tell Severus, won't you?"
Draco nodded and stood up. "I'll go now, but no one else is to know about this, right?"
The trio nodded as he left.
"I always thought Blaise was gay," mused Ron. "I've never seen him with a girlfriend or anything."
"Just because he hasn't got a girlfriend doesn't mean he's gay, Ronald."
"I know, Hermione. I was just saying."
Harry sat down on his bed and hugged his panda to his chest, wishing it was Severus who was hugging him. He shouldn't have stormed out like that; he should have stayed and talked things through but he'd just been so angry when he realised that Severus didn't trust him.
Hermione sat down beside Harry and placed a hand on his arm. "Harry? You okay?"
He nodded, rocking the panda, willing the tears not to spill. He wasn't okay and he wondered if he ever would be.
"Wh - what if he never wants me back?"
Harry was sobbing into his pillow later that night when he heard his door opening; since he'd warded it, he knew only one person could have breached the protection.
"S- Severus? Severus? Is that you?" asked Harry, sniffling a little as he sat upright on his bed. He hadn't slept and his throat was raw from all his crying.
"Oh, Harry, I'm so sorry," Severus said, sitting down on the bed beside him. Harry didn't speak, didn't think, he just flung himself into Severus' arms and bawled his eyes out. He had been so afraid that they would never be able to fix it, that Severus would never want him again.
"Ssh, Harry. It's all right, it's all right," whispered Severus as he stroked Harry's back. "Draco explained what happened, but it still doesn't excuse my actions. I know you wouldn't betray me, Harry. I know it, but this bond has been playing havoc with me lately. I'm afraid I'm getting very possessive of you. I never meant to hurt you, Harry. You have to believe that."
"I do, Severus," said Harry, wiping the tears from his eyes. Everything was blurry round the edges; he'd already taken his glasses off. "I - I was afraid you wouldn't want me back after - after I walked out like that. I'm sorry I was angry."
"Harry, you have nothing to apologise for. You had every right to be angry about how I was with you."
"I- I don't like being angry," admitted Harry. "It scares me. It - it reminds me of Uncle Vernon. He was always angry with me and then he would - and then he would –" It was no good, Harry broke down in tears again feeling as if he might never stop. He clung to Severus like a shipwreck survivor might cling to a floating log. "D-don't leave me, Severus! Promise you won't l-leave m-me!" he begged through his sobs.
Severus lowered Harry to the bed, still holding him, and kissed his forehead. "Ssh, Harry. I'm not leaving you, ever. I promise you. Ssh, sleep now, Imp. Sleep."
As Harry's eyes drifted closed, Harry realised it must have been a spell. He allowed dreams to claim him, knowing that whatever happened, he had Severus' promise now. Severus would never leave him.
Nothing could ever part them. Not now.