DISCLAIMER: I own nothing you recognize.

WARNING: This WILL EVENTUALLY be SLASH, meaning Male/Male relations, and there is implied MPREG, meaning Male Pregnancy.

SUMMARY: Based on the novel "Girl With A Pearl Earring". Eventual HPSS, though Snape/Bill Weasley, Bill Weasley/Lucius Malfoy (implied), and Harry/Terry Boot along the way. When Harry was 11, his aunt convinced him that the Hogwarts letters he was getting were from bad people who wanted to kill him. So he wished they never find him, and thus made himself unfindable. No one who had the purpose of finding him could do so. Now Harry is 16, and totally oblivious to the magic world. Meanwhile, Lord Voldemort is on the rise. And Severus Snape finds himself practically on Harry's doorstep. Read on to find out what happens!

RF's Note: Wow! Been a long time, huh? Well… I guess I'm back, at least for a little bit.

Previously:

"Damn it, I'm hurting Voldemort!" snapped Harry. "A part of his essence is in Severus' mark and I can hurt him through it. You can bloody expel me later. I have to make him let go. Crucio!" He could feel Voldemort's rage. Laughter was bubbling inside him. That's right, bastard, I'm winning, he thought madly. "Crucio! Crucio! Crucio!"

And suddenly it was over. Voldemort's strand dislodged from the Dark Mark, snaked away, and was gone.

Harry pulled his hand away. In the crook of his master's elbow a tiny lightning-bolt shaped scar was visible. "You're mine now," whispered Harry to the stunned onyx gaze. "You're mine."

Then the boy swayed, and darkness took him.

Chapter 21: Morning After

Coming back to consciousness was not an easy task. Severus shifted slightly, willing his body to come awake, and made a mental note to make his Dreamless Sleep potion less potent. Then again, it probably wasn't the Dreamless Sleep that made him feel vaguely as though a horde of centaurs had trampled over him with vicious delight.

Yes, he reflected. His whole body throbbed with each heartbeat, and felt just barely—taut, like a robe tailored just a bit too snugly. His flesh had been re-healed and re-generated a thousand times over during the night, and it felt slightly new, unused and in need of being broken in. He tried to stretch, and his muscles only reluctantly complied.

He opened his eyes to an infirmary coated in deep shades of grey that told him it was almost dawn. Lifting his arm was a hard task, but he managed, straightening his elbow as he reached towards the ceiling, fingers outstretched. He flexed his hand, and thought he could almost hear the joints creak.

"Strange, right?"

Severus started at the barely audible sound, his head whipping to the side with a vicious crack, in search of the speaker.

"It's sort of like you bought shoes one size too small, isn't it? Except that the shoes are actually your body."

Harry sat huddled on the floor in the darkest corner of the room. In the pre-dawn gloom his face looked ashen, and his eyes held a wild, haunted look. Severus thought the boy might be shaking slightly.

"Yes," he agreed carefully, speaking at a whisper. "Sort of like that. How do you…?"

One bony shoulder moved up in a crooked shrug. "I guess I had some damage. Madam Pomfrey fixed it." His voice was distant, his words coming as though from miles away, and Severus felt inexplicably frightened by their lack of warmth.

"Ah," he said, wishing Harry would come closer.

Silence reigned for several long minutes, as Harry stared into nothing, and Severus stared at Harry.

"Like what you see?" Harry finally whispered hoarsely, his eyes falling closed. There was something hating, demeaning in his manner, and Severus bristled for a long moment before realizing the hatred was not directed at him.

"Harry−"

"Don't; I know. I'm a monster."

The boy was shaking, shudders racking his body in a haunting, precise pattern, twice in each space between Severus' heartbeats. Suddenly he rose, swiftly, with an agility that was belied a moment later when he stumbled and almost fell in his eagerness to get to the door. "I'll leave," he said. "You don't deserve putting up with a madman. Don't worry. The staff can train me. I'll fulfill my destiny."

He picked up his staff, and the Lion rose out of it, supporting his master in the arduous journey towards the door, past long rows of empty beds.

Severus froze. His eyes widened.

"You wish to leave Hogwarts?" he blurted to the boy's retreating back.

A slight nod, or were his eyes playing tricks? Harry didn't slow.

"Harry," Severus whispered. "Harry!"

The boy urged the Lion to go faster. Severus made to move, to catch him, but his body did not wish to serve him.

HARRY!

Harry stumbled, and Severus hoped against hope that he had heard his soul's desperate plea.

Stay, he chanted in his mind. Stay, Harry. I need you.

Suddenly the Lion disappeared, Harry's slow journey coming to a shaky halt. He turned around. "I shouldn't even be hearing that," he whispered. "But I am. How could you stand to be around me?"

"I trust you," said Severus. "Please. At least, let us talk."

He watched in silence as Harry made his slow progress back towards his bed, finally perching in a chair by Severus' side.

"I'm so sorry," he whispered. After a moment, Severus realized the boy was looking at the crook of his elbow. "I'm sorry," Harry said again. "I'm just like Voldemort." He was shaking again.

Severus looked down, touching the tiny mark lightly. It felt warm. "Is this what's been troubling you?" he asked gently.

Harry gave a harsh laugh, hugging himself as he rocked back and forth ever so slightly. "Partly, yeah. There's also the complete insanity, hysteria, and random urges to torture people."

The Potions master shook his head. "Have you felt an urge to torture anyone besides the Dark Lord?"

Harry shuddered. "No, but−"

Severus pressed on. "Did you use an Unforgivable because you wanted to, or because you thought it necessary for my sake?"

Harry looked down. "Both," he whispered.

"Truly?"

He could see a flurry of emotions running through the boy's hunched over form. "I… I…" Harry stumbled for words.

"I didn't think so. You are unstable, Harry…" The Potions master paused thoughtfully. "…But I do not think there is evil in you; not any more than in an average wizard."

Harry breathed out; a long, deep breath, of what Severus hoped was relief. "You know, they say Merlin was ruthless. The ends justify the means and all that. Guess I'm his successor for sure."

"Was there ever a doubt?"

A pause. "Yes."

Severus winced, wondering what it would take to help the boy believe in himself.

"Harry, do you understand where the power of the White Mage comes from?"

Harry shrugged. "Owl says, I have power because I've got a little bit of every single thing inside me, and that gives me a unique connection with the world."

"Yes," Severus agreed. "But do you understand what that means?"

"Um…"

"It means that you are composed of every single element, every being, every tendency, desire, weakness, and strength, that is present in the world. And I would think," he paused significantly, "that that does not lend itself to stability and peace of mind."

"But I've never had trouble before!" Harry smacked his knee in frustration. "I've always had control."

"Yes," Severus agreed again, noting in relief that the shaking was gone. "But, you've never been under pressure this dire before."

"But now… but now…" Harry struggled for words. "Now I feel like I might do something mad any second! It's like all my control's been shattered, all! It wasn't a once-only thing."

-Yes. Thus, you must train.-

Severus jumped at the voice that came seemingly from inside his head. Harry looked at him suspiciously. "You heard that?" he queried.

-We respect the position of this man in your life, as your master. And so, we let ourselves be heard.- With these words, the Badger ambled out of the great staff, settling himself on Severus' bed.

-In the ancient times it was said that a wizard only comes into his true power through a trial by fire and agony. You have withstood agony. You are truly, now, the White Mage. And now, you must train in control and mastery of your gift.—

"You are saying he did not have his full powers prior to the, ah… incident?" Severus asked.

-Yes. Trials are crucial to the maturity of the White Mage.-

Harry nodded, a spark of hope appearing in his eyes. "So… I feel out of control because I have lots more power in me?"

"I believe so."

"So…" the boy fell silent for a long minute. "…So I'm not evil?" he blurted finally.

Badger eyed him calmly. -We do not concern ourselves with such things.- And he was gone.

Harry blinked, then sighed. "That was abrupt. You know, it's sort of like I got myself five more meddlesome but loveable old men. Er, I guess some of them are women."

Severus chuckled, then grew serious. "Understand this, Harry. In you, all parts are equal. You will never be evil, unless you wish to be."

After a moment's silence, the boy nodded.

"Um… is it okay if I… listen to you again?" A sheepish smile graced his lips. "I'm sort of not quite sure what that mark actually… does."

Even as he raised his eyebrow coolly, Severus felt his heart jump, remembering the sweet feeling of the boy's explorations. "Yes," he whispered, suddenly hoarse.

Tentatively, Harry took his hand, and Severus gasped as tendrils of warmth shot up his arm, then focused on the crook of his elbow. He felt as though he was tickled lightly, and struggled not to twitch.

After a moment, Harry let out a long breath. "It's okay," he murmured. "It can let me know if you're in danger, and you can call me through it if you'd like. It sort of lets me monitor your well-being a little, but that's about it."

Severus nodded vaguely, struggling to concentrate on the boy's words as the warmth stroked and lapped at the sensitive skin around the mark. Then, slowly, it began to withdraw, and he whimpered with the loss.

"I… I don't have to stop," Harry whispered, his palm growing sweaty in Severus' burning grip.

As the tendrils kissed the skin of Severus' wrist, all he could say was, "Yes. Don't stop."

Warmth surged up his arm, fast, hot, needy… Then Harry took a breath, and time seemed to slow down as the caress simmered down to barely a trickle… a trickle which, nevertheless, felt more intimate than anything he'd ever felt.

Severus shivered. It was as if gentle palms were sliding over his skin, so softly, barely touching, making the hairs on his arms stand on end. He gasped as the sensitive flesh above his collarbone was traced gently, and then more firmly. He squirmed as gentle fingers ran down his chest, growing hotter as they circled the hard nubs that had been paying rapt attention ever since Harry's hand had first touched his.

A gentle, but firm, hand trailed to rub hot circles over Severus' stomach, and he sucked in a breath as another seemed to caress his cheek, trace his nose, eyebrows, lips, ever more lightly…

The touch grew more vague, warmth spreading over Severus' body, no longer hands but a blanket of comfort, soft and heavy, lapping at his skin like waves at the shore.

With his last shred of consciousness, he lifted his head slightly to look at the boy by his side. Harry's head was pillowed on his arms; he seemed to be dozing slightly, on the edge of deep sleep. Severus smiled.

"Sleep well, my savior," he whispered, and let sleep overtake him.

RF's note 2: Many thanks to everyone who's stuck with this story! I really appreciate it. Your reviews have been wonderful, especially during my acute-writer's-block times. I haven't written in many months, so… go easy on me with this chapter. I hope you enjoyed it.

I'm deeply grateful to all the reviewers… Am too sleepy right now to list you all, but I'll be sure to do that next time.

Don't forget to R&R! Thanks!