When Harry left it was as if all the lights in the house had gone out. Julia cried. Severus locked himself in the office. Ginny tried to comfort Julia, but she ended up crying too.
Scared to see her mum crying, the little girl, who would be two next month, stopped crying and tried to comfort her. Ginny held Julia against her chest and tried to reflect upon what had happened.
Many times she had wondered whether that relationship would last. One day Harry might meet and fall for another person, or he might want to form his own family. She knew their triad hadn't been as solid as they had pretended to be. But Ginny had decided not to bring the subject up, lest it disrupted the balance they had been keeping so well. Now the dream was over.
She had to talk to Severus. Maybe there was a chance...
After a lot of insistence, Ginny convinced Severus to open the office door and let her in. She leaned on the desk in front of him. "Severus, if Harry means so much to you, couldn't we change things between us and make our relationship more equal?"
Severus paled and clenched his fists. "What do you want? Do you want to have a child with him? How do you think I would feel when people started mocking me because my wife cheated on me with Harry Potter under my very big nose?"
"Er... we could tell people the truth."
Severus became even angrier. "I should have known you would say something like that, being the Gryffindor you are. I wouldn't have much to lose, Ginevra. I am already infamous in most circles. But have you thought about what this could mean for our, or maybe just your, children? Did it pass through your mind they might be stigmatised because of that?"
Ginny sighed. Severus was right. But Ginny was somewhat angry with him. She knew she was being selfish for having such feelings, but she also thought that, deep inside, Severus was being selfish too.
Having nothing else to say, Ginny left, and Severus locked himself in the office again. That night, before going to bed, Ginny went to call him, but he didn't want to open the door. He told her he was doing important research and would go to bed later - which annoyed her very much.
Severus wouldn't leave the office. To make him eat, Ginny had to take him food and threaten not to leave if he didn't eat it. He didn't talk to her unless she talked to him, and when he talked, he looked distant. He told her he slept at night in the office, but Ginny couldn't see any evidence of that. On the contrary: his eyes were red, and there were dark circles around them.
Ginny blamed herself for not having foreseen that outcome. Were she the only affected one, she would outgrow it. She knew she was strong enough for that. Julia was very young, she would soon forget Harry, if she had the love and support of her parents. But Severus... Severus wasn't taking it well. Ginny was very worried.
On the afternoon of the fourth day Severus spent in the office, Ginny knocked on the door. He didn't answer. Ginny opened the door by casting Alohomora and found Severus with his head on the desk. She tried to wake him up, without success. Scared, Ginny ran to the apothecary and talked to Clara. Clara had worked at St Mungo's for many years and knew how to deal with most illnesses and diseases. They closed "The Simmering Cauldron" and ran upstairs.
Clara entered the office and observed Severus attentively, checking his pulse and breathing. She took the book he had been reading from under his head and examined it. Suddenly, she dropped the book on a stool, wiped her hands with a handkerchief and looked at Ginny with a curious expression. "Fascinating. I'd bet all my galleons that Professor Snape was infected by Pogrebin powder. This book has been impregnated with it."
"What's the effect of this powder? How can we heal Severus? Should we take him to St Mungo's?" asked Ginny, getting closer to Severus and wrapping an arm around his shoulders.
"Hmm... I don't think it's a good idea to take him to St Mungo's. The Pogrebin powder induces deep depression. The victim is overcome by a sense of great futility, and falls into a state of lethargy and despair. Professor Snape might have an emotional crisis and even suicidal drives when he recovers consciousness. In such cases, the best we can do is to give him an Euphoria potion to counter the emotional effects of the powder, and surround him with care and attention."
"Oh, my God! Will he be all right?"
"The powder effect should pass in about 24 hours, without leaving any sequelae. The only risk is that he may try to hurt himself, due to depression. Professor Snape is a very reserved, controlled man. He seems to be in a sort of coma, probably due to an excess of emotional turmoil. However, as soon as he wakes up, the crisis will be inevitable and... well, it will be even worse because he will realise he's not able to control it."
"I'll take care of him as best as I can. But what shall I do with Julia? I don't think she should witness such a moment. She's too young!"
"That's a hard question. On one hand, her presence here could help him. On the other hand, you're right... When he wakes up, it will be very difficult to keep him under control, and Julia is too young to understand what she might witness. Why don't you take her to your parents'?"
"I'll do that, Clara. Can you stay here with Severus while I call my mother through the Floo and take Julia to the Burrow?"
"Of course. If he seems about to wake up, I'll cast a Full-Body Bind on him." Clara gazed at Severus with admiration. "I'm not powerful enough to face Severus Snape!"
Her father hadn't arrived from the Ministry yet and Ginny didn't want to worry her mother, so she told her Severus had got a strong flu and they didn't want Julia to catch it from him. After her mother agreed to take care of Julia, Ginny had a talk with the little girl and explained that she would spend a day or two with her grandma. However, when Ginny started packing a trunk with her belongings, Julia started to cry and only stopped when Ginny asked her to take care of Arnold. Julia could be as selfish and demanding as every child, but she was also compassionate and tended to forget her own problems when someone needed her help.
Ginny took Julia to the Burrow by Floo and returned home as soon as possible. In the office, Clara was watching Severus, who hadn't moved an eyelid during all that time.
"All right, Clara, Julia's at the Burrow. What shall I do now?"
"I believe you should give him a bath to wash off some of the powder that might have stuck to his skin."
"But... we touched him. Couldn't we have been infected too?"
"The powder infects only those who touch the book."
"But you did touch the book!"
"Professor Snape had already absorbed most of it, and I wiped my hands immediately. Even so, I have to admit that I'm not in the best of my moods... I'm feeling guilty and eager to do something to help. I'll help you to take him to the bath. After that, while you bathe him, I'll prepare a bottle of Euphoria."
"Thank you, Clara. I don't know what I'd do without you!"
"Oh, you don't have to thank me. I love working with you. I feel part of the family. However, if you allow me to give you advice, I believe you'll need the help of a wizard or a witch more powerful than I am when he wakes up. And it must be someone Professor Snape trusts."
Ginny shook her head. "You know how Severus is. He doesn't trust anyone."
"Why don't you call Harry?"
"Oh, God." Ginny became thoughtful. "I really wouldn't like to do that, but I think you're right."
"Call him now. Professor Snape may wake up at any moment. I'll keep watching him while you call Harry."
Ginny threw Floo powder into the fireplace. As classes had already ended that day, she contacted Harry's private quarters. She felt very lucky when his face appeared in the flames.
"Harry, I need your help. Severus isn't well."
"What do you mean, not well? You're so pale! What happened?"
"Please, can you come now, at once? I'll explain everything when you arrive."
"Of course. I'm coming."
Harry tossed a pinch of Floo powder into the fireplace, stepped in and stumbled out into the Snapes' sitting room, where Ginny was waiting for him. "What happened?"
"He's unconscious, in the office. Clara thinks he absorbed Pogrebin powder from the pages of a book," said Ginny.
"How grave is that?"
"She says that when he wakes up, he'll go through a depression crisis, and he may even try to kill himself."
"And what can we do?" asked Harry, alarmed.
"Clara advised me to give him a bath and try to wash off some of the powder from his body."
"Okay. Let's do it."
They went upstairs to the office. Clara was there, calmly sitting on a chair a few feet from Severus. "Hello, Harry. I'm glad you came."
"Shall we take him to the bathroom, then?" asked Ginny.
"I'll levitate him," said Harry. "Clara, please, open the bathroom door and fill the bath."
"Just over half-full, with lukewarm water," added Ginny.
"Ginny," said Harry, "please hold Severus's legs when I lie him down. I'll take care of his head."
As Clara left to prepare the bath, Harry pulled Severus's chair away from the desk, removed Severus's wand from a pocket on his robes and put it into one of the desk drawers. Then Harry took out his own wand and cast a protective spell on it. Finally, he cast a Levitation Charm on Severus. As soon as Severus's body levitated, Harry put him in the horizontal position, so that Severus could be more comfortable. Ginny steered Severus carefully by his legs while Harry took care of his upper body.
It was scary. Severus didn't move a muscle. Harry felt guilty. He couldn't understand how such a thing could have happened to Severus: he would never be as reckless as to browse a suspect book.
After entering the bathroom, Harry and Ginny undressed Severus. Then, with Clara's help, they lowered his body, making him sit in the bath. Ginny had to hold Severus's head up as Harry rubbed his body with a sponge. After a while, Clara excused herself and headed down to the cellar to prepare the Euphoria.
Severus knew Ginevra and Harry were there, holding him, touching him. He didn't want to wake up. He wished he would be allowed to deal with this alone, but he knew they wouldn't let him.
It was Harry's voice. Severus wasn't sure how long he sat there before Harry's face appeared in front of him.
"How do you feel?"
He turned his head, unable to bring himself to look Harry in the eye. "Miserable. I... I hurt Ginevra. I want to die."
It would be easy. He just had to slide down and let his head submerge. Even weak as he felt, he could do that.
"Severus!" shouted Ginevra. "Stop it. You're going to hurt yourself. We're not going to let you do anything stupid. Stop it, or you'll feel even worse."
To hear the despair in her voice was too painful. He was hurting her again. He wanted to disappear. Wariness overcame him.
Harry's voice mingled with the mist of Severus's pain: "Ready to get out?"
Severus had lost track of time. He looked down and saw that his fingertips were white and wrinkled. He tried to rise.
"Don't," said Ginevra, sounding alarmed. "Stay put. We'll levitate you into the bedroom."
He was going to protest that he could very well stand up and walk, but he was drained. He felt his body become lighter and float up.
Harry reached over and wrapped a towel around him.
A heavy black fog of exhaustion settled over him. Harry was saying something, but Severus was too tired to listen.
Ginny led them, carefully steering Severus's body. She opened the bedroom door, then went to the bed to pull the covers down. Harry came in right behind her. He bent over the bed and laid Severus gently in the centre. Severus was limp as a rag doll, his head flopping on to the pillow at an awkward angle. Harry reached under Severus's head and moved it to a more comfortable position.
Ginny was pulling the blankets over Severus when Clara arrived with the potion. They had to make Severus sit up again and drink it.
Severus opened his eyes and turned his face away, refusing to drink the potion. "Leave me alone. I don't want anything."
"Severus, please," said Ginny. "You have been contaminated by Pogrebin powder. That's why we're giving you Euphoria, to counter its effects. You'll feel much better after drinking it."
"This is useless," grumbled Severus.
Ginny pressed the glass to Severus's lips, and he slapped it from out of her hand, throwing the glass and its content on the blankets.
"Take your hands off me! Where is my wand? I want to get out of here," he shouted, trying to stand up, but was restrained by Ginny's arms.
Clara got closer and handed another glass of potion to Harry. Ginny shivered when she saw Harry taking out his wand and pointing it at Severus. There was a determined look on Harry's face that Ginny hadn't seen since the end of the War.
"Imperio," hissed Harry.
Severus calmed down immediately; his arms fell to his sides and his hands dropped on the bed. Then his hands rose up mechanically and grabbed the glass Harry was handing him. He drank the potion, then lay down and closed his eyes.
Ginny saw Harry relaxing and lowering his wand.
"I'm sorry, Ginny. I didn't want to do that, but..."
"It's all right," said Ginny. "I think you did well."
Clara was watching them with widened eyes. When she noticed that Ginny was looking at her, the old woman trained her expression back to normal. "I brought a bottle full of potion. Make him drink a glass every eight hours. I used a slightly different recipe that professor Snape taught me: I added a few drops of Sleeping Draught to the Euphoria. It will be easier if he spends most of the time sleeping. I... I think you'll manage to take care of him. Don't leave him alone, even for a minute. If you don't require my assistance, I'll go back home now. Tomorrow morning I'll be back, as usual."
"Thank you, Clara. Once again, I don't know what I'd do without you," said Ginny.
Ginny cast a spell to clean and dry the blankets and sheets. Severus's body started to shake. Ginny lay down beside him and hugged him.
"Oh, God. It must be a residual effect of the Imperius curse," said Harry. "I shouldn't have done that."
"Oh, no, not you too! Don't start to get depressed and have guilt trips. Is the powder affecting you as well? But you haven't even touched the book... Why don't you lie down, too? Severus would like to feel you close."
Harry followed Ginny's advice and lay down beside Severus. During the past horrible week, he had missed them terribly. He couldn't help thinking that it was his fault that Severus was in that state. It was a strange coincidence that Severus had suffered an accident a few days after Harry's departure. And Harry didn't believe in coincidences, especially in anything concerning Severus.
Harry could imagine the guilt and anguish Severus was feeling. He embraced Severus from behind. Severus was shaking so hard that Harry felt the tremors coursing through his own body. He tightened his hold around Severus and stroked his hair, murmuring, "I'm here, Severus. I'll never leave you again."
Ginny's brown eyes were overflowing with tears. The hand she placed on Severus's back was shaking, and Harry held it.
Severus's body relaxed against Harry. Severus was exhausted, his energy sapped. The tremors had lessened, but were still discernible.
They stayed beside Severus, in silence, for long minutes.
Suddenly, Severus began to talk to Ginny, in a sleepy tone. "I don't know why you married me, Ginevra. I am a monster. A Death Eater. You have no idea of all the horrible things I did."
"Shh," said Ginny. "You're not a Death Eater any more. This is over. You're my husband and father of my daughter."
Severus sat up abruptly on the bed. "Julia. Where is she? Don't let her come near me. I may hurt her."
Ginny sat up and hugged him from behind. "Calm down, please. I asked mum to take care of Julia while you're unwell."
"Don't let her ever come near me. She's so... fragile... I don't want to hurt her."
Harry couldn't see Severus's expression as he said it, but his voice sounded terrified.
"Severus, come here." Ginny pulled him down again, and he let himself collapse on to the bed. "You're a good father and husband. You're feeling bad just because of the Pogrebin powder."
Harry wrapped an arm around Severus's waist and felt him sigh before falling back asleep.
While Severus slept, Harry and Ginny stayed with him. Neither Harry nor Ginny felt like eating. Harry went downstairs just once, to fetch a jug of pumpkin juice and a few glasses in the kitchen.
Then Harry lay down beside Severus again and fell asleep.
In the middle of the night, Harry woke up to a loud conversation. When he opened his eyes, however, neither Severus nor Ginny were on the bed. A little dizzy, Harry stood up and walked into the corridor. Ginny was at the bathroom door.
He ran towards her. "What happened?"
"Shh. It's nothing. He needed to pee. He wanted to come alone, can you believe it?"
Harry felt relieved, but when he saw Severus coming out of the bathroom he couldn't help worrying again. His face was drawn and haggard, and he couldn't muster the energy even to react with his usual sarcasm and grumpiness.
When they returned to the bedroom, Ginny gave him another glass of Euphoria. He took the potion obediently.
Then Severus looked at Harry as if he was just noticing his presence there and realising what it might mean. "You came to help Ginevra. Thank you."
"It's... it's not just that," stammered Harry. "I'm here because of you, too."
"I don't want your pity, and don't deserve it," said Severus, his voice cracking. "I was the one responsible for your parents' deaths. I don't know how you could stand my presence for so long."
Harry held Severus's shoulders firmly. "You didn't know who the prophecy referred to. I took a long time to understand your actions, but I could finally understand and forgive. Now it's me who has to apologise for having left the way I did."
"You didn't do anything wrong," said Severus. "Nothing that happened is your fault. The fault is all mine."
Harry smiled and brushed his knuckles across Severus's face. "Beware what you say. If I know you well, tomorrow you'll regret a lot of what you said today."
Severus gazed at him with vague eyes. The exhaustion was evident on his features.
"You must rest," said Ginny, pulling him to bed.
Harry watched silently as Ginny helped Severus lie down and pulled the blankets over both of them. Then Ginny embraced Severus and rubbed his back. She knew how to comfort him.
Severus was at a loss. His urge was to run. He wanted to hide. He didn't deserve their help and their care. Ginevra was looking at him, her eyes full of concern. He couldn't bring himself to look at her. He knew he had hurt her. He had behaved like a bastard since Harry had left.
Severus suddenly felt very cold. A chill ran through his body. He was dizzy and slightly nauseated. Maybe he should just do like Ginevra said. Maybe he could sleep and all this would go away.
Ginevra pulled a sheet and a blanket over him. Harry and Ginevra snuggled up against him. He closed his eyes.
Ginny was well aware that Harry was not angry with Severus, or even disappointed in him. His anger was channelled towards himself. Poor Harry. She didn't blame him for anything either.
Harry was staring at her. "Are you okay, Ginny?"
"Yes," she said.
Harry wrapped an arm around both Severus and her. He squeezed her shoulder and lowered his voice. "He'll be fine, Ginny."
She saw fear in the
green eyes, despite his words. "We're not going to let anything happen
to him," she said, both to him and to herself.
When Harry awakened next morning, Severus was deeply asleep. His face was pale, but completely relaxed and in repose. Ginny had her eyes open, though.
"Good morning," said Harry.
"He looks better, don't you think? Won't you go back to Hogwarts for your classes?"
"No. I want to stay with him. I'll call McGonagall through the Floo and tell her I won't be able to give my classes today. Then I'll prepare breakfast for us. Don't you think it's a good idea?"
Ginny gave a pale smile. "Yes, I think so. We'll have to wake him up for his potion in about fifteen minutes. Maybe he'd like to eat too."
Ginevra's voice seemed to come from a great distance. "Would you like something to eat, darling?"
He didn't open his eyes. The thought of food or drink was only less unbearable than the thought of how he had hurt Ginevra and Julia. Without a word, he shook his head.
After that, it was quiet for a while. They were probably watching him, wondering what he would say or do next. All he wanted to do was crawl in a hole. He burrowed deeper in the blankets. Then he felt a weight press down on the bed next to him. Harry was rubbing his back. It felt good.
"Severus, listen to me. I know you're feeling guilty and ashamed and helpless. But you will get through this. You just have to keep fighting. We'll be right here with you."
Harry's words echoed inside his mind. Foolish boy. Foolish and adorable.
After taking the morning potion, Severus fell asleep again. Harry was sitting on a chair in the bedroom when Severus woke up, in the middle of the afternoon, and looked around, seeming confused.
Harry moved quickly to the bed. "I'm here, Severus."
Ginny was sleeping on the bed. Severus seemed to notice her, but made no comment. He swung his feet over the side and slid towards the edge.
"Hey, where're you going?" said Harry.
"To the bathroom."
Harry reached a hand out to steady Severus as he rose. "Let me help you."
Severus stood and swayed a bit, starting to move towards the door. He leaned against the walls as he shuffled through the corridor and entered the bathroom. Harry followed him.
Severus turned to him with an irritated look. "I can do this by myself, thank you."
Harry backed up, but stayed at the door.
When Severus finished and turned to wash his hands, Harry felt relieved. Then he helped Severus back to bed. "Feel better?"
"Yes. Just a little gloomier than usual." Severus lay back against the pillows and sighed. "I hate to be so much trouble."
Harry smiled. "You'll be all right."
"We will be all right," said Ginny, sitting on the bed.
"Ginevra... I am very sorry for the way I have been treating you since... since Harry left."
Ginny raised a hand to stop him. "No, Severus, you have nothing to apologise for. Please forgive yourself."
"I was afraid." Severus took a deep breath, then continued. "I was afraid I had lost you, too."
Ginny turned and looked at Severus. Severus's black eyes met hers and her throat constricted. "That will never happen, Severus. There's nothing you could ever do to make me stop loving you."
Severus embraced her tightly and buried his nose in her hair. "I love you so much."
She had waited so long to hear him say those words, but right now what most cheered her up was that he was getting better. He wasn't the old Severus yet, or he wouldn't have declared his undying love that way, in front of Harry. He still sounded vulnerable, but he had stopped talking about killing himself. "Would you care for a cup of darjeeling and toast with blackberry jam?"
He frowned. Then he brushed her hair away from her face and dropped a tender kiss on her lips. "Darjeeling and blackberry jam, as in the day you asked me to marry you. Do you remember?"
"How could I ever forget?"
They were having tea in the couple's bedroom. The storm seemed to have passed. But, suddenly, Severus started. "The parchment!" He put the cup on the bedside table and stood up.
"What is it?" asked Ginny.
"I have to go to the office."
"Darling, please, stay put. Tell me what you want and I'll fetch it for you."
But there was no way of stopping him, now that he had recovered part of his strength. Severus stumbled out the bedroom and through the corridor towards the office. Harry ran behind Severus and Ginny. When he entered the office, Severus was wildly rummaging around and shuffling books from one shelf to the other.
"I can't believe all my work has been in vain," Severus whinged. "Ginevra, didn't you see a parchment on my desk?"
"Calm down, Severus, you're too nervous. Let's go back to bed and you'll explain to us what's all this about."
"The book. Where is the book?" asked Severus, an insane glint in his eyes.
Harry saw Severus approaching the book that had infected him, and panicked. "Petrificus Totalus!"
Severus was instantly paralysed. Ginny sighed.
"Er... I'm sorry," said Harry.
"It's all right. I was terrified and didn't know what to do. Let's carry him back to bed. Carefully."
When they had laid Severus's paralysed body down on the bed, Clara appeared at the bedroom door.
"What happened? I was closing the apothecary when I heard shouts."
"He was looking for a parchment in the office and... he looked delirious. Harry had to paralyse him to prevent him from touching the infected book again."
"A parchment? Oh... There was a sheet of parchment fallen on the floor... When you left to call your mother, I put it into one of the desk drawers. I'll fetch it right now."
As Harry and Ginny waited for Clara's return, they tried to soothe Severus with reassuring words. Luckily, Clara was soon back with a sheet of parchment in her hands.
She handed it to Ginny, who didn't even look at it. Ginny pointed her wand at Severus, instead. "Finite Incantatem."
Severus could move again. His eyes met Ginny's, and she handed him the sheet of parchment. He grabbed it in silence and quickly scanned it. Then he finally seemed to relax.
"Since everything seems under control, I'm going home," said Clara. "I'm glad to see you well again, Professor."
"Thank you, Clara," said Severus.
While Ginny accompanied Clara to the staircase, Severus sat on the bed, leaning against the headboard, still holding the sheet of parchment in his hands. Harry placed a pillow behind Severus's back and sat in front of him.
Severus's eyes met Harry's. "Were you serious when you said you wouldn't leave again?"
"I was," answered Harry.
"If you are saying that just to cheer me up..." began Severus, his voice full of sarcasm.
Harry interrupted him. "No. I wouldn't lie about such a thing."
"Would you come back and live with us under the same terms as before?"
"Then you are more insane than I thought you were."
Harry laughed. The old Severus was gradually coming back. "That's what you always say to me."
"Do you understand that you would be submitting to a profoundly unequal balance of power?"
Harry shook his head, not knowing what to say. Ginny came back and sat beside Severus on the bed.
"I don't want to lose any of you," said Harry.
Severus turned to Ginny. "These last days I spent in the office, I was looking for the recipe for an ancient potion I once read about, the Amphitryon*. I knew that potion was in one of my Dark Arts books, those I had promised myself I would never open again... Amphitryon creates a bond between two wizards and a witch so that, when the witch becomes pregnant, she will bear twins from different fathers, that is, each of the wizards will be the father of one of the twins. The Muggles call that 'heteropaternal superfecundation'."
"Uh-huh," said Harry ironically, but with a spark of hope in his heart.
Severus went on:
"After three days researching in my books, I finally found a mention of the book that contained the potion, and the book itself: the Philtrokatadesmos, an Ancient Greek collection of erotic and binding recipes. I knew that the pages of that book had been impregnated with Pogrebin powder - that's why I had never opened it, and that's why it's said that everyone who has tried to open it has died."
"This Amphitryon... is it a Dark Arts potion?" asked Harry.
"Oh, no. It's neither dark nor complex in the least."
"Then why did they put this powder in the book?" asked Harry.
"Ah, no one knows who did it, and why, but that must be because of other potions contained in the book!"
"But you managed to copy the recipe," said Ginny. "How did you do that?"
Severus took a deep breath. "My reasoning was that if I could concentrate on my innermost positive feelings, as when I conjure a Patronus, I would have time enough to copy the recipe on a parchment. Unfortunately, the powder ended up defeating me, but I managed to copy the recipe and... survived, nonetheless."
"What a reckless thing to do, Severus! You could have died!" exclaimed Ginny.
Harry glared at her. He couldn't believe she was being harsh with Severus at such a moment.
But Severus framed her face with both hands. "I was angry and impatient. In truth, I was angrier with myself than with any of you."
"Right," said Ginny. "There's just one thing I don't understand. You have been so sad these days... How could you think of something so positive as to enable you to delay the effect of the powder for so long?"
"I remembered the joy I felt when Julia was born, and when I held her in my arms for the first time."
Ginny embraced Severus, and Harry closed his eyes, willing back the tears that threatened to fill them.
It was time for Severus to drink the last dose of Euphoria. After he drank it, he fell asleep again.
Severus was surprised when he woke up feeling rather well. Evening was falling. He stood up to go to the bathroom and his two caretakers besieged him.
"I am perfectly well. Will you please allow me a modicum of privacy?"
Severus felt triumphant when, for the first time, they let him go to the bathroom alone. He looked in the mirror and was relieved to recognise himself.
On his way back to the bedroom, he looked at Julia's clock. The arm was pointing to "helping Grandma with dinner". Severus felt calmer and... hungry. When he walked into the bedroom, Ginevra told him she was going downstairs to cook a quick dinner. Sometimes he wondered if she could read his thoughts.
They had dinner in the kitchen. Severus was still feeling well. There was just one problem: he missed Julia. A lot. It was late, though, and Severus had seen Julia's clock pointing to "sound asleep". Ginevra had talked to Molly through the Floo system and reassured her by saying that Severus had defeated the flu. He would see Julia again tomorrow.
After dinner, Severus sat in his favourite armchair; Harry and Ginevra were on the sofa.
"So, will you agree to drink the Amphitryon potion?" he asked abruptly.
"I'd love to. I've always wanted to have twins. I know it's going to be hard work, but if I have two husbands to help me..." said Ginevra, grinning.
"I want to do it, too. Of course I want it. But... I thought you didn't want Ginny to bear my child. Are you sure you're comfortable with that?"
"If our children are born at the same time, I am not opposed to it. However, I have two conditions. The first one is that everything in our lives should be decided by consensus, and there will be no distinctions among our children. Including Julia."
"I agree. I love Julia as if she were my own," said Harry.
"What about the second condition?" asked Ginevra.
"I require our deal to be publicly disclosed, after the children's birth. I will call the press and we will concede an interview. Rita Skeeter, Lovegood... the whole circus."
"Indeed, it will be a circus. They'll never leave us alone again," said Ginevra, discouraged.
Harry rolled his eyes. "I'm used to it. If there's no news about me, they invent some."
"This is the price we will have to pay. The last thing I wished to do was to become a spokesperson for the sexual minorities." Severus sighed. "However, sooner or later our secret will be revealed. I would rather adopt an offensive approach and discuss the subject openly."
"Not before the children are at least six months old," said Ginevra, unyielding.
"I agree," said Severus. "In the mean time, we may talk to our closest acquaintances and try and obtain their understanding and support."
"Yeah. If we have our friends' support, everything will be all right," said Harry.
Ginevra sighed. "My mum. How can I tell her about this?!"
That night, Ginevra and Harry decided that Severus was too tired from the emotions of the day and that they would take care of him.
They undressed him slowly - tantalising fingers spiraling around his nipples, bold hands slipping inside his underpants, velvety lips brushing on his thighs.
After they stripped off the last of his clothing, Severus was pitilessly assaulted by his two lovers.
Harry knelt between his legs and spread his thighs apart.
Ginevra knelt beside Severus, the candlelight playing across her lovely body. Her red hair fell over Severus's thighs. She held the base of his cock and her mouth covered - oh, so lightly - its tip.
Harry lay down with his head between Severus's legs and licked right behind Severus's balls, sliding across his perineum, then shifting even lower... His tongue was hot and wet and soft when it probed at his opening.
Ginevra's hands cradled his balls and kneaded them, palming and rolling them gently, forcing a long groan from deep in his chest.
Harry's lips teased at the edge of his hole and his tongue pressed lightly against its rim, licking around and over, again and again.
Ginevra's mouth closed around his cock, and her silky lips moved slowly up and down as Harry was pushing his tongue in, worming its way inside, stretching him open, pushing him apart.
Harry was probing deeper and deeper. Severus's opening gave willingly to his thrusts, sliding open and then clenching around his tongue as if to hold him inside.
"Oh, fuck. Be careful, you two," groaned Severus.
But they were merciless. Harry fucked him harder, sliding his tongue in and out, faster and faster. Severus felt as if all his nerves were concentrated in his balls and cock and arse hole. Severus's fingers twined in Ginevra's hair, cupping the back of her head as she kept moving up and down. He was hovering on the edge, his body trembling with need. He clenched his inner muscles and rocked his hips back and forth. The soft caresses of Ginevra's hands on his nipples set him on fire. He felt his body tighten, and before he knew it, the first shuddering wave of his climax was upon him and his seed spilled into the back of Ginevra's throat.
Severus just lay on the bed for a long time. When he could breathe normally again and be aware of his surroundings, Harry was lifting Ginevra's leg over his hip and pushing into her in a slow but firm thrust.
Even after all that time Severus was still jealous - of both of them. So he couldn't and wouldn't stay put. After all, he wasn't dead yet...
Severus spooned up behind Ginevra and cupped one of her breasts. She moaned and covered his hand with hers. He circled her nipple with his fingertips, then rolled it between his thumb and forefinger as he flicked the tip of his tongue against her earlobe. She wriggled, wavering between two pleasures. But he had just begun... He slid his hand between Ginevra and Harry to tease her clitoris, massaging it in time with Harry's steady thrusts.
Because Ginevra was clearly on the edge, and because Harry also deserved his attentions, Severus coated his fingers with lube and, while he stroked Ginevra with his right hand, he slipped his left forefinger inside Harry's entrance. Harry moaned loudly and jerked backwards, then forwards. Severus smirked: he loved to be in command.
Severus caressed Ginevra's clit sweetly, firmly, until she shuddered hard, pleasure rippling through her. He held her tight against his body. Harry continued rocking into her, and Severus kept fucking Harry with his finger, matching his pace. After a few more thrusts, Harry tightened around Severus, stiffened, and filled Ginevra with his semen.
Harry collapsed on to the bed.
"Severus, you're a git," grumbled Harry. But the smile on his lips showed that he was far from angry.
"Our git," murmured Ginevra, embracing Severus.
The next morning, Molly brought Julia and Arnold back. It was Severus who welcomed them into the sitting room - Harry had returned to Hogwarts for his classes and Ginevra was cooking lunch. Severus reached out for Julia, but she pulled away from him and ran back to Molly. Severus understood she resented the fact that they had sent her away. Julia hugged Arnold and didn't lift her eyes to her father.
Severus got near her again, and this time she let him pick her up. "Julia, I missed you so much!" he whispered in her ear.
Julia wrapped an arm around his neck.
Severus held her against his chest and looked at Molly. "Thank you for taking care of her."
"Oh, you're welcome. I'm glad you're feeling well again." Molly stared at him even more fixedly than he was staring at her. "Harry's back, isn't he?"
Severus frowned. "I hope so."
"I'm glad he decided to come back. His place is here, with you."
Severus didn't even have to use Legilimency. It was as if a flash of lightning had suddenly lit up the darkness. Molly knew about the triad, and understood. He couldn't help the smile that overtook his lips.
Ptyx, October 2006