Imperfections of the Flesh

Blood, so much blood. Harry brushed away the warm fluid that kept obscuring his vision. The twenty-year-old was not surprised to see the bright crimson on his hand. His head felt as if he had been hit by several bludgers and his face was sliced open from temple to jaw. He knew he had additional wounds, but there was no time to worry about it.

He pushed himself up, using his elbows for leverage. Sharp pain exploded behind his eyes and down his legs. He waited a moment and slowly sat up, stomach lurching; it was all he could do not to vomit. He was surrounded by blood. Around him lay the carnage of battle. It was odd, he thought, that a battle fought between wizards could produce so much blood. The Avada Kedavra curse killed without leaving a mark on the corpse, but bodies littering the ground around him were marred by dark curses and hexes. Someone had used a severing charm against an opponent; in his lap was the bottom half of a man's arm, the Dark Mark burned into the pale flesh. Harry was about to push it away when he noticed the signet ring still attached to the amputated limb. Sweet Merlin, it was Severus' arm.

Harry tried to move, but found himself pinned beneath a black robed wizard lying across his legs. He didn't know if friend or foe had fallen, but before he could investigate further, a breeze caught strands of long white hair and Harry's attention was drawn to his left. He recognized the purple and green paisley robes of Albus Dumbledore; they were pushed high up his legs, exposing his pale calves and thighs. On reflex, Harry reached over to tug the robe down, preserving the old wizard's modesty. A soft snort escaped Harry's throat. Only Albus would attend the final battle wearing miss-matched socks and carpet slippers. Afraid to know the truth, the green-eyed wizard placed his fingers behind one of Albus' knees, just above a scar that peculiarly enough resembled a map of the London Underground. Harry sighed in relief as he felt a weak pulse. Albus still lived.

It was strangely silent all around him. No one was moving. Listening closely, he could hear soft moans of the wounded, broken cries for help and the distinctive pop of Apparation, but it all seemed so removed from his consciousness. Harry tried to identify those who had fallen around him, but it was hard to distinguish one black robe from another. He did not see Neville's royal blue robe on the ground beside him.

He knew Lord Voldemort was dead, or at least as dead as the snake-eyed bastard could ever be. Not wanting to risk the outcome of the prophecy, Harry and Neville joined their magic and hit the Dark Lord with an obscure curse they had found in the Black library at 12 Grimmauld Place. Adding Neville's magic and wand into the equation was enough to override the stalemate previously caused by Harry and Voldemort's brother wands. Weakened and distracted by the dual curses, the Dark Lord was finally destroyed by Albus and Severus.

Harry rolled the black clad wizard carefully off his legs, recognizing the lank black hair. A spurt of blood erupted before him. Unfortunately Severus' arm, severed at the elbow, had not been cauterized by the hex.

"Sev!" Harry shook him gently, but Severus did not answer. In a distance he saw figures moving through the battlefield, checking for survivors, but they were too far away. If he could not stop the blood flow, Severus would soon bleed to death.

Harry grabbed a wand he saw, but realized he didn't know healing charms strong enough for an amputation. Memories of Muggle first aid classes in primary school crystallized in his mind. The young wizard pulled off one of Albus' slippers and removed the striped knee sock; he didn't think the headmaster would miss it. Using the sock and the wand, Harry fashioned a tourniquet around Severus' upper arm stanching the haemorrhage.

Harry grimaced; a high-pitched ringing in his ears was growing louder. He brushed the blood out of his eyes again and identified the high-pitched sound as sirens in the distance. Muggle sirens.

Harry tried to stand, but the ground pitched and he crumpled into a heap, belatedly remembering both his legs were broken. In battle, he had received a Bonebreaker Curse. The sirens of the Muggle emergency vehicles were growing closer; they needed to leave before the Muggles arrived, but Harry was too weak. Where were the Ministry Aurors, he wondered.

The sirens seemed to change into a child's terrified cries. Harry thought he saw a nearly naked, blood covered toddler climbing over the dead and injured witches and wizards just before his strength gave out and he collapsed beside Severus.

Harry brushed back the greasy, black hair, exposing Severus' face. "Please wake up, Severus. Don't leave me alone."

Confused shouts and additional sirens filled the air. The less injured witches and wizards Apparated away from the battlefield, some carrying casualties. Harry doubted he was in any condition to Apparate without splinching himself, and, at any rate, would not leave Albus and Severus behind.

Harry opened his eyes in time to see the shocked face of a Muggle policeman. The dark haired wizard raised Severus' maimed arm, drawing the man's attention.

"Please," Harry croaked.

"Holy Mother," the officer exclaimed. "What in hell happened here?"

"Old man." Harry gestured toward Albus' splayed figure. "Felt a weak pulse."

There was a flurry of activity as emergency workers swarmed the area. Severus' arm was wrapped in icepacks and placed on the stretcher beside the unconscious Potions master. Around him, Harry heard snatches of conversation as the Muggles tried to sort out the surreal situation. Harry vaguely wondered when the Ministry of Magic Aurors and the mediwizards from St. Mungo's would arrive. There were certainly going to be a lot of Muggles to Oblivate.

"Terrorist attack… bombing… work of radicals… who would target a costume party… odd little sticks… many dead… body parts… air lifting survivors to London hospitals to handle overflow…."

Harry held Severus' uninjured hand in his as they were placed side by side in a row awaiting transport. A steady pulse in the dark wizard's wrist reassured him the man was still alive. Beside him, Albus made a rattling sound and then was silent. An EMT shook his head and closed Albus' eyes. He realized Harry was watching.

"I'm sorry, Mate. Your granddad didn't make it." The EMT said softly and covered Albus' body with a blanket.

A female officer walked by, cradling a distraught white blonde toddler in her arms. She sang softly to the child in an attempt to calm him. Harry was beginning to lose consciousness. His last thought before darkness overtook him was to hope the mediwizards arrived soon. He was obviously hallucinating; the toddler looked exactly like Draco Malfoy.

The steady beep of a monitor eased Harry back to consciousness. He tried to open his eyes, but only one would open. Half his face felt numb. Lifting his hand to feel his face, Harry noticed the IV lines attached to his hand. He didn't remember Poppy ever using an IV drip at Hogwarts. He felt his head; it was wrapped in gauze. His fingers ghosted over the numb portion of his face.

"Don't touch your face," a female voice curtly ordered. A nurse approached his bed, checking his vitals. "You have 217 stitches in your face. You don't want to undo the surgeon's hard work out of curiosity. I will give you a mirror if you want to see the damage."

"My eye?" Harry croaked. She gave him a sip of water.

"The eye itself is uninjured. It was taped shut due to the close proximity of the stitches."

Stitches, Harry thought bleakly. He was in a Muggle hospital; the Ministry had not arrived in time. His eye drifted to the bed beside him and he relaxed. He would know that hooked nose anywhere. Severus.

"How is my husband? How is Severus?"

The nurse blinked at the word 'husband" but covered her reaction immediately. She realized both charts held the surname of "Snape" but assumed them to be father and son or possibly brothers. Mentally, she shrugged; the good looking ones were always married or gay and this pair was both.

"I am very sorry. The surgeons could not successfully re-attach your… husband's… arm. It was amputated just above the elbow in the blast. He has a few additional minor injuries, but we expect him to make a full recovery."

Harry looked to the other side of his bed and saw a crib tucked into the corner. Within the crib was a small boy. The blond toddler was asleep, dressed in hospital issue teddy bear pajamas, sucking his thumb and hugging a stuffed bunny.

The nurse caught his eye. "Do you know who he is? He was found clutching the body of an albino male, trying to wake him up. Judging from his pale coloring, we assume the man was his father. The officer on scene said he was extremely agitated — seemed to think we were going to eat him. He started screaming when she passed by you on the site — calling out 'Uncle Sev' and what she thought was 'Aunt Ree' — but seeing as your name is Harry that was probably what he actually said. The wee one insists his name is Baby Dragon."

Harry tried to smile, but it came out a grimace. The stitches left half of his face immobile. The toddler really was Draco; he had obviously been on the receiving end of some sort of de-ageing hex. Harry wondered if the hex was reversible, or if the young Death Eater would be forced to re-live his childhood. When Severus awoke, he would have to ask.

"Actually, his name is Draco which means 'dragon'. Is he injured?"

"A few minor cuts and bruises. From what I heard about the blast site, he was extremely lucky. One of the adults must have shielded his body from the brunt of impact. What happened?"

Harry blinked. He was not about to mention wizards, war or magic to the Muggle nurse; they would certainly place him in the Psych ward. He opted for feigned ignorance. The Muggles seemed to believe a terrorist explosion had caused the carnage. "I don't know. The world simply exploded around us."

She nodded. Harry imagined that if there were other injured witches and wizards in the hospital, they would also be avoiding questions.

"Where are we?" he asked changing the subject. "Are others from our group here as well?"

Harry examined his face in the hand held mirror. The bandages had been removed, but the stitches remained. At least he now had vision from both of his eyes, even if it was a bit blurry from the loss of his eyeglasses. His always-erratic hair looked even worse. Medical personnel shaved patches of it off due to injuries. The long, straight line of stitches closing a gash that ran from his right temple to jaw dwarfed his trademark lightening bolt scar. Harry had never been especially vain, but this would heal as a hideous scar.

With a soft sigh, Harry placed the mirror back on his side table and re-adjusted his position, manually moving his broken legs, immobilized in ankle to thigh casts. He sighed again; they were still trapped in the Muggle hospital and no one from the wizarding world had attempted communication or rescue.

"It will be all right, Love," Severus said quietly from the adjoining bed. He did not want Harry to slip into depression,

Harry was shocked at how well Severus accepted the loss of his limb. The Muggle nurse cautioned him that his companion was in denial and reality would hit soon enough. Harry knew Severus better; the snarky Potions master did not do denial. The older man seemed to be almost relieved to be finally rid of the taint on his soul caused by the Dark Mark. Harry wondered if Severus had ever entertained the thought of self-amputation in all the years he bore the hated mark.

Toddler Draco peered out at them from his crib. He had no recollection of his life past the age of two, and was actually a delightful bundle of energy. A few picture books and toys arrived on loan from the Pediatric ward, but he was currently mesmerized by children's programming on the television.

"Aunt Ree has an owie," he announced to the male nurse checking the IVs and catheters the adult wizards were wearing. The nurse smiled; the staff was amused that the child called his younger uncle "Aunt".

By all rights, Draco should have been transported to the Children's ward or released into temporary foster care, but he became extremely agitated when Severus and Harry were out of sight. The ward nurses decided the little boy was no trouble and with the double trauma of the terrorist attack and the loss of both parents, they would leave him with adults he knew and trusted.

Harry and Severus were amused by the name "Aunt Ree" for a totally different reason. What the baby Draco used as a term of affection, had actually been coined by the adult Draco as a term of derision.

Early in Harry's seventh year, Severus' role as spy was compromised; an attempt on the life of the Potions master by several of his Slytherins had forced the dark wizard into hiding. Several days later, the complete prophesy found its way to Voldemort. For their protection, Harry and Neville were also sent into hiding. Under the Fidelius Charm, the three wizards joined Remus Lupin at 12 Grimmauld Place.

Both seventh year Gryffindors needed to continue their studies; they would leave the safety of Grimmauld Place at the end of term to take their NEWTS. The professors not only tutored them in their class work, they also set them on an intensive training program in preparation for the final battle.

Under the strict supervision of Severus and Remus, the students stepped deeper into the Dark Arts than Dumbledore would have condoned had they still attended Hogwarts. The Black family library was a treasure-trove of information available not even within the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts Library.

Severus' disdain at being trapped as nursemaid to a "complete imbecile" and an "arrogant brat" soon dissipated. Neville was no longer the shy, clumsy boy he had been; maturity and extra tutoring by the DA gave him confidence, and with that confidence, his control of his magic increased. For the first time, Severus could see the power of Frank and Alice Longbottom in their son.

Harry was a surprise. The young man was not his father; he was very much like his mother in heart and spirit, but he had a fierce determination that was his alone. Rejected by his Muggle relatives and canonized by the fickle wizarding world, Harry had been forced to raise himself. He fought very hard for his place in the world and, what Severus assumed was arrogance, was the self-preservation skills of a child who did not know how to ask anyone for help.

Harry's quest for knowledge rivaled only that of Severus. As they delved deeper into the darker magics, they found a camaraderie apart from Remus and Neville, who preferred to study the lighter, more obscure magics. Harry was intrigued by blood magic and he wanted to know if there was a way to use his blood link to the Dark Lord to destroy him. The research into blood magic lead inevitably into sexual magic and that was where the relationship between student and teacher truly began to change.

Being a hormonal seventeen year old, Harry volunteered to experiment in some of the more benign forms of sexual magic, and Severus, being human, did not refuse. They began a casual relationship of mutual gratification, with no emotional strings attached. Happy to have them fucking and not fighting, Remus and Neville turned a blind eye to the relationship. It was only when Albus and Mad Eye Moody arrived to check the wards that the situation exploded.

Even though Harry was seventeen and over the age of consent, Severus was still his teacher. Through a loophole in Wizarding Law, statutory rape laws still applied because Severus was considered to be in a position of authority over the younger man. It did not matter that it was consensual. Given the choice of Azkaban or marriage, Severus chose marriage and Harry, as a "victim" had no real choice but to go along with it. The forced bond could have torn their fragile relationship apart, but instead, it anchored the two solitary wizards and over the next few years, their camaraderie grew into mutual affection.

When Neville and Harry re-appeared at Hogwarts to take the final NEWTS, the news of Harry's marriage was already common knowledge. Most of the students, if they had any opinion at all, assumed it was a hare-brained scheme of the Headmaster to protect Harry from "You Know Who". But Draco would not ignore it.

Already upset that the man he loved more than his own father abandoned him and betrayed the "cause", Draco was livid that Severus married Potter, his enemy. The blond wizard waited for the couple and accosted them.

"So, Uncle Sev," he said, venom dripping from his lips. "Just when I thought you couldn't sink any lower, you prove me wrong. How should I address your bitch? Do you want me to call him ‘Auntie Harry' or would you prefer 'Aunt Ree'?"

When the terrified two-year-old Draco found himself suddenly among dying witches and wizards and captured by Muggles he latched onto the beloved "Uncle Sev" of his childhood for security. The real surprise was how the traumatized toddler latched onto Aunt Ree. There had been no Aunt Ree in Draco's childhood, that fragment of knowledge survived when no other memories of his adult life remained.

A frantic Draco rattled at the crib, trying desperately to escape his prison, jolted Harry awake from his light slumber. Severus tried to sooth the young child as he fumbled one handed with the safety latch. The hospital crib was enclosed on the top as well as the sides to prevent injury from a fall or escape so he could not just lift him out. Draco was huddled in the corner, apologizing profusely; by the time Severus finally released the catch, resorting to a quiet "Alohamora" and wandless magic.

"What's the matter with him, Sev? Did he have a nightmare?"

"No. He's soiled himself."

"But he's wearing a nappy. All he needs is a change. It's nothing to be scared about."

"Harry, Draco is potty-trained. He doesn't understand he's allowed to go in a nappy… Lucius was very … creative… in his punishments when Draco had accidents."

"He's a baby. He's allowed to have accidents. Lucius Malfoy was a sadistic bastard."

"Watch your language in front of Draco."

"Sorry, Love, but he was. When they found Draco, he was terrified of the Muggles."

"He was told to be afraid of strangers. Even Muggle children are taught that, aren't they?"

"True. Muggle children are taught to beware strangers… but they aren't told the strangers are going to eat them."

Draco cuddled against Harry as he read stories from a picture book. His hair was still damp from a bath and he smelled of baby powder and shampoo. Harry pretended his fingers were spiders as they tickled up his pale arms. Thankfully, the Dark Mark disappeared as Draco de-aged; explaining a hideous tattoo on a baby would have been difficult.

The soft pop of Disapparation caused him to look up in alarm. Neither he nor Severus had a wand and he wasn't sure his wandless magic was strong enough to fend off an attack. He relaxed when he recognized the trademark Weasley red hair.

"Thank Merlin I finally located you two."

Fred Weasley's sudden appearance startled Draco, who burrowed closer to Harry's chest. Fred couldn't hide his grimace as he took in Harry's immobilized legs, the stitches in his face and Severus' stump of an arm.

"Muggle medicine is barbaric… they actually took a needle and thread and sewed you back together?" he exclaimed incredulously. The toddler on the bed caught his eye. "Who's the sprog?"

Draco glared at Fred, his pale gray eyes narrowed fiercely. "I'm not a fwog, I'm a dwagon."

"My mistake," Fred laughed; the miniature Draco really was adorable. "Is he a Malfoy?"

Severus nodded.

"Junior or Senior?"

"Junior." Severus slipped his disposable scuffies onto his feet. "What took you so long to find us? Very few Aurors ever made it to the battle."

"I can sum it up in two words. Cornelius Fudge. Demanded the Aurors stay and protect the Ministry of Magic against possible attack… and the mediwizards were forbidden to Apparate into a battle zone without protection. The Aurors who did fight were acting against direct orders. Fudge tried to slap the survivors with insubordination. Needless to say, Amelia Bones is the new Minister of Magic and Fudge is lucky Mad Eye didn't turn him permanently into a ferret.

"The Muggles had shipped most of the wounded off by the time Aurors finally arrived. I don't want to think of how many we may have lost because the Muggle doctors didn't know how to fight dark curses. Do you have any idea how many hospitals and morgues there are?" Fred paused, unable to look for long periods of time at the embroidery marking Harry's face. "Let me pop on out and get reinforcements. Time to get you some proper medical care."

Harry slowly towel-dried his hair as he examined his reflection in the bathroom mirror. For years people had stared at the small scar that identified him as "The Boy Who Lived". He wondered if the new scar would attract or repel an audience. After removing all of the Muggle stitching, the mediwizards managed to reduce the appearance of the scar, but could not remove it entirely. The blade that caused it carried a curse, and the scar remained. Harry felt disfigured, ugly. Severus re-assured his beloved that he was not a monster.

He pulled a pair of boxer shorts up his repaired legs. The Bonebreaking Curse had shattered both the femur and tibia. Harry was extremely lucky that one leg had not healed shorter than it's mate. Days afterward, Harry insisted he could still taste the Skele-gro on his palate, but he knew it was his over active imagination.

Harry padded into the bedroom and slid under the warmed bedding. Severus set down the potions book he was reading and placed his reading eyeglasses atop the massive tome. Using his freshly re-grown hand, he plucked Harry's eyeglasses off his nose and placed them beside his own.

At first, Severus had been reluctant to let the medical staff attempt to recreate his missing limb. In the back of his mind, he feared the appendage would be like the silver hand of Peter Pettigrew, but the mediwizards were able to regrow a hand and forearm of living flesh and bone.

Harry kissed the pale arm. There had been fear that the Dark Mark would appear on the re-created limb, but the skin remained unmarked. The green eyed wizard wondered how different Severus' life would have been if the mark and its poison had not contaminated the young potions protégé.

Harry immediately stopped that train of thought. For better or for worse, the Dark Mark shaped Severus Snape into the wizard Harry had fallen in love with, into the complex man Severus had become.

Severus wrapped both of his arms around his companion and settled them comfortably into the massive bed.

"They are transferring Draco out of the Magical Maladies ward and into foster care tomorrow."

"They have given up? They can't undo the hex?"

"No. They've tried everything. It appears he was hit with more than one spell. I have to admit, though, that I am relieved. If they restored him, he would be facing a one way trip to Azkaban or execution for war crimes."

Harry shifted so he could see his lover's face. "I don't want Draco in foster care. I want to bring him here to live with us."

"You would willingly do that? I thought you hated the Malfoys."

"I hated Lucius and all he represented and I disliked the adult Draco, but the Draco at St. Mungo's is a blank canvas. He has not been twisted and scarred by his father's influence, we could raise him to his full potential — not as a puppet of Lucius Malfoy — even if that means he's sorted into Huffflepuff in eight years."

"Do you think the Ministry would permit it? I am, after all, a former Death Eater."

"A war hero. And I am the fucking 'Boy Who Lived'. It actually makes perfect sense. You are Draco's godfather. It would be your legal responsibility to raise Draco in the event both his parents died and I am the heir to the Black family estate. Draco's mother was a Black, so by rights, Draco should be entitled to part of the Black estate. As the Black heir, it would be my moral responsibility to raise him, protect him and his financial assets until he reaches his majority."

"You have thought this out." Severus sounded impressed. "We'll contact Family Services tomorrow to set the paperwork in motion."

Harry smiled. "Well, actually, I've already set it in motion. Mandy Brocklehurst works in the Children's Welfare Division. I spoke with her several days ago when it appeared the hex was irreversible. I was hated and abused while growing up because of who my parents were and what they represented. Can you imagine what would happen to that child if he is placed into a family that wants revenge?"

"You're right. If they won't place him with us, we'll keep an eye on whomever they do choose." Severus extinguished the lights in the bedroom. "We should go to sleep. We'll have Family Services to impress tomorrow."

"Oh," said Harry huskily as he nibbled suggestively on Severus' earlobe. "I wanted to make sure your new hand was working to its fullest potential. The mediwizards do want you to exercise your fine motor skills."

Severus flipped Harry so that the smaller wizard was beneath him.

"I think we can arrange that," he said as both hands began to explore the slender body, causing Harry to shiver in anticipation. Severus' fingers teased, tickled and tweaked his lover's responsive flesh, proving he still had total control of his fine motor skills. Although many thought the Potions master to be cold and cruel, Harry discovered the man possessed an extremely wry sense of humor that manifested itself at the most unusual times.

Harry caught his breath as Severus' fingers circled his puckered opening, teasing him. The dark wizard bent forward, nipping at Harry's exposed throat, marking a path up the younger wizard's jaw line.

"I'm sorry, Love," he breathed. "My hands are too tired to continue."

"Is your cock too tired, too?" Harry shot back.

"And if it is?" Severus returned the verbal volley.

"I hope you find the couch in the study comfortable, because you won't be sleeping here with me."

"Insufferable brat," he laughed, spreading Harry's legs and raising his ankles to rest on his shoulders. His strong hands caressed the calf muscles and swept down toward the inner thighs. "This won't aggravate your legs, will it?"

"No. They're totally healed, but try not to twist them. I'm not as limber as I used to be before they shattered."

Severus placed a kiss on Harry's left anklebone. He lightly grasped his wand and uttered a lubricating charm. Harry willed himself to relax as Severus buried himself to the hilt in one sure thrust. Severus devoured his mouth, muffling Harry's gasp of discomfort. As he adjusted to the fullness, Severus caressed his face, covering him in kisses, not avoiding his scars at all.

When Severus began to move, he set a slow, deliberate rhythm, adjusting his angle to cause the most pleasurable response. The tension in Harry's body and soul relaxed into Severus' possessive manipulations. The slender wizard felt more in control of his emotions when Severus was buried deep within him.

As Severus' slow pace quickened, Harry turned his mood away from its customary internal debates and just rode the waves of pleasure coursing through his body. With Severus, he was worthy of love and affection. He was not the scarred freak of a boy living ten years in a cupboard. He was not hunted and tormented for sport. He was not starved for food and basic human contact. With Severus, he was complete.

His orgasm built so slowly, its explosive release caught him by surprise. As the sticky mess dripped down his chest and abdomen, his lover lifted his hips. Harry wrapped his arms around Severus' chest and held on as the pace quickened.

"Harder," he gasped. "Take me harder."

Severus complied with the request, pulling all the way our and slamming back in. Harry's hips were in motion, taking him deeper. Early in their relationship, Severus held back, fearing he would hurt the younger wizard, but Harry could take anything he might deliver and a rough ride was often just the thing to shake his young mate out of his melancholy moods. Severus shouted out his own release and collapsed, rolling off Harry as not to crush him.

Harry breathed to the rhythm of Severus' snores. There was a comforting pattern to them, not the gasping grunts and rattles of sleep apnea that his uncle and cousin suffered. He set aside the horrors of the battlefield, of the memories of blood, and looked to a future that was just beginning to unfold. In raising Draco, he too, would have a second chance at childhood.


Read the sequel Better Than a Kitten


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