Dobby's Plan, omake:
Severus Snape and the unexpected problem.

AN: this was meant to be a scene in 'Dobby's Plan' however it was written quite a while later, and when I then re-read Dobby's Plan, it was obvious that I should have re-red that fic first because this did not quite fit in that story. So, please read it as a rejected scene or omake in that 'verse rather than an update.

Severus Snape held in his hand one of the long tresses of curling red hair that flowed over his shoulders, his mind wandering as he rubbed it between his fingers absently while waiting for his husband to come home.

It was not the shimmering multi-coloured dark red of his Lily, no, this was a far more mundane shade, a second or even third class red in his opinion; a 'red' which would be more accurately called 'ginger'. It was strange that it had not occurred to him to think of it before, but it might be possible to further alter the Polyjuice Potion so that hair which was the result of Polyjuice could be used in subsequent batches of Polyjuice to re-create the effects of the original potion. That would negate the need to keep a supply of the original. Um, he would have to...

His thoughts were interrupted by the soft pop from downstairs of incoming Apparation. Harry was home.

Perhaps it might have been a better idea to await Potter in the kitchen or lounge room rather than the bedroom. What on Earth had made him think waiting here was a good idea? Waiting here in the bedroom smacked of nervousness, of needing the bed as a bolt hole if things did not go as planned, which was, of course, ridiculous... Severus Snape was never actually nervous; a mild apprehension was the most he ever allowed himself.

Even so, if Potter were to suspect that all was not as it appeared... Potter was ... ah, this was utterly ridiculous. He strode toward the bedroom door, paused, shortened his pace to one that he imagined a female would use, and tripped lightly down the stairs and into the hall.

"Home already darling?" He ventured.

Harry frowned and said in an annoyed voice, "Don't start that again. You know I have to work back occasionally. Besides, I'm only half an hour or so later than usual."

What? Apparently, although Potter was ignorant of the ginger disaster's adultery, there were other things that were not as happy in Potter Paradise as he had thought them to be. He decided to smooth it over.

"Sorry. No really darling, I did not know what the time was, so I wasn't being sarcastic. I really am glad to see that you're home." Merlin that hurt. Still, any sacrifice in the interests of getting a good shag. In fact, might as well 'go the whole hog':

"Could we talk? We have been rather too much at odds lately. I'd like to get back to how we used to be." Well, one had to assume that they had been happy together at one time. He hoped.

Harry however, looked as uncomfortable with the talking idea as ninety percent of any other males would be. "Er, yes, well, can't we have something to eat first? I'm starving." He walked into the kitchen. Snape, er, 'Ginny', followed him.

"Certainly," 'Ginny' smiled. The more Potter squirmed the more comfortable he felt. "We can talk about it over dinner... Kreacher!"

"Kreacher got stomach pains. Dobby be serving good masters," announced Dobby, as he popped into the room. "What can Dobby be getting masters Harry Potter and ... ," he caught himself short, having caught 'Ginny's' warning glare, "Master Harry Potter and Mistress Ginny Potter." He winked at Severus.

Gods! The brain deficient elf was going to give the game away before it had even started. Luckily Potter's powers of observation were no more efficient than they had ever been, and he seemed to notice nothing amiss.

"What do you fancy for dinner darling?" Snape asked.

He must remember to get details of Harry's preferences for food and other things too, he reminded himself; he'd been so concentrated on finding out the Ginger's personal details that he had not paid enough attention to Harry's predilections. Not that the lobotomised Dobby had told him anything of great use or interest about Ginny Potter either; apart that is, from his opinion that she was 'too much sexed'. But whether that meant that she was a nymphomaniac, or merely that Potter had fucked her more often than Dobby thought proper, he had not been able to establish with any degree of nicety.

"Have we got any of that mushroom and chard quiche left?" Harry asked Dobby.

"Sorry Harry Potter sir; youse was eating it up."

"Oh, well... what about fried seitan with gravy, mashed potatoes and, I dunno, something green I suppose."

What? Seitan? Potter was a vegetarian? Cripes, (momentarily reverting to his Spinner's End childhood) perhaps the freckly faced adulteress had been a vegetarian too. There were limits to what even he was prepared to endure. Best to discover the extent of this unwelcome development; "Dobby!" he called.

"Yes mast... Mistress Potter sir?"

"How long would it take to cook another of those quiches for Harry? And I would like chicken Kiev with fried wild mushrooms and tossed salad."

Dobby, who was standing between Snape and Harry, turned his back to Harry and screwed his face up, frowning, pursed his pouted lips even further together, and shook his head: fast, tiny little shakes from side to side, trying to convey that 'Ginny' was behaving out of character. Damn it all. It seemed the elf was a ham, and worse: the late Mrs Potter had indeed been a vegetarian.

"What happened to the 'eating animals is barbaric' thing?" Harry demanded. "Three years of it, and I was just getting used to it too, and now all of a sudden we can eat meat again? No, damn it, I like eating vegetarian now; I feel much healthier than I used to and I'm sure it's due to the food."

Perhaps it would be best to back-peddle Snape thought; he could always reintroduce the idea later. "I was just testing your commitment darling. I'll have the seitan too. Although, of course, if I do ever decide to start eating meat again, you do not have to follow suit."

Harry looked annoyed, opened his mouth, closed it again, shook his head and said nothing.

Dobby nodded. "Dobby cook seitan," and popped out of the room.

Bugger. He'd have to eat real food when Potter was out of the house, or during the times when he was back being Snape. Meanwhile, at least they were having imitation meat that was somewhat like meat, not those lentil and tofu abominations.

Now, time to change the topic; arguing about food was not getting this evening's project any nearer a satisfactory denouement.

"Pour me a drink please love. No... wait, I've changed my mind... Dobby!"

Dobby re-appeared. "What can busy Dobby be doing for Master Harry Potter's Weazey now?" He queried with a strong hint of disapproval.

Snape frowned at him. The little beggar was daring to censure him! "Get me a cup of tea. You know how I like it," he ordered.

"How Mistress Potter like it?"

"Yes. Of course how Mistress Potter likes it, you imbeci... er... you silly little thing, of course I want it how I like it." Snape gave what he imagined, erroneously, to be a girlish light laugh.

Harry shook his head. "What has got into you and Dobby today? You're both acting funny. And what can be the matter with Kreacher? I suppose I'd better go and check on him."

"No need to do that," said 'Ginny' quickly. "He was attending me earlier and said that he was merely feeling a bit off-colour." Well yes, if the stomach pains were what he expected, the 'off-colour' was probably a deathly grey by now.

Earlier that day Dobby had seemed delighted by Snape's 'off-hand' remark that an old elf such as Kreacher could not be expected to be around much longer.

To which Snape had added, "Dobby ... go to my previous domicile and check that I have locked the door to the laboratory. I suspect I may have left it unlocked, and several of the potions on the high bench under the left hand window are dangerous to leave unattended - especially the indigo blue potion in a squat two inch bottle that shimmers with a green glow. It is rather an attractive bottle; I would hate a child to wander in and take it. A single sip would be lethal for a child, and it is tasteless."

"Child die in agony? Dobby not like agony."

"No, no, the potion is remarkably benign. Granted, there might be a slight feeling of indigestion, but that would soon ease, and the recipient would fall into slumber. It is an easy way to go."

To give him his due, for the little it may be worth, Snape had been prepared to deal fairly with Kreacher had the elf been at all reasonable. It would have been almost impossible to deceive an ever-present house-elf for any length of time, so he had decided to be frank, and, with luck, enlist Kreacher's aid. As a known friend of the elf's venerated Malfoys, Snape had expected Kreacher to be amenable to anything he suggested.

It had not gone as he had expected. It seemed that despite Kreacher's former fanatical loyalty to the Blacks, his admiration of the Malfoys and his often-voiced contempt for all non-pure-bloods, Potter had won his devotion. When told of the switch Kreacher had declared that it was his duty to tell 'Good Master Potter' of it.

Subsequent Obliviation had solved the problem for the nonce, and by now Dobby had probably done his best to achieve a more permanent solution. If so, then tomorrow the sponge-hearted Potter would be sad to learn that poor old Kreacher had died in his sleep.

Meanwhile, it was prudent to ensure that Potter did not check up on the old elf who might give... Where was Potter off to? He had been distracted for a moment and in that moment Potter had walked out of the room, with the intention of checking up on Kreacher no doubt, despite his assurances that the elf was fine. Damn the man.

"Harry!" he called, rushing after him.

Too late... Harry was in the kitchen and bending over Kreacher's prostrate form. Kreacher was lying on the mat in front of the Aga stove, asleep, and softly moaning in his sleep. Couldn't the bloody elf have had the decency to get out of sight before...

Harry turned to Severus. "He's not okay at all! More than just a bit 'off-colour'!" he stated accusingly. "He won't wake up. I tried Renervate on him twice but it had no effect!"

"Oh dear! I did not think... Well, yes, he looks a lot worse now, perhaps ..."

"The healers at St Mungo's won't treat elves," Harry said, "I'll call Poppy." He walked quickly to the fireplace, threw a pinch of Floo powder into it, and called "Hogwarts Infirmary! Poppy!"

Snape was certain that if it was the Boy-Who-Lived-To-Kill-He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named who did the asking, any St. Mungo's healer would be honoured to treat his elf. That Harry could still be largely unaware of the extent of his name's power was only mildly surprising; it was typical of the man Snape supposed, and almost, well, almost endearing.

No Healer would be able to detect any cause of Kreacher's malady other than old age, so he made no effort to stop Harry calling Poppy. After a few seconds a head appeared in the flames, but it was not Poppy; it was that of a teenage boy, a boy whose surprise morphed instantly into the befuddled awe common amongst any wizarding polloi who found themselves in Potter's presence. This one however, pulled himself together more quickly than was the norm; he managed a creditable "Oh! Hello Mr Potter. Sorry, but Poppy isn't here. There's an emergency at Mungo's and she's gone to help," in a slightly croaky voice, but with no discernible trace of a stutter.

"Bugger. Okay, thanks...?"

"McDonald sir." He hesitated.. "Shall I fire-call her for you sir?"

"Well, thanks McDonald. No, thanks, she will be busy. I'll have to make other arrangements. Bye."

"Sorry sir. Goodbye." The head disappeared and Harry turned back to Snape.

"Well, I suppose we'll have to ask Snape. Blast it... and you don't have to look at me like that; I know you don't like him, but he's probably as good as any healer, better in some ways. Not only that but he won't be too proud to treat an elf... "

"No, no, I am certain that if you mention whose elf he is, any St. Mungo's Healer would be eager to have him as his patient." Harry must not be permitted to call Snape, that would be damnably inconvenient.

But Harry was not to be so easily dissuaded. "You know how I hate all that fuss. No, Snape'll be fine," and he turned to Dobby. "I can never seem to get through to Professor Snape's laboratory lately, so please go to him and ask him to please come at once. Tell him what's happened to Kreacher so he'll have some idea what potions might be needed."

Dobby turned his eyes to Snape, who mouthed 'library' at him, then he popped away, and Snape turned to Harry.

"Going to the loo. Back in a tick."

Harry nodded, his attention all on Kreacher.

Snape walked to the door, and once through it, picked up his pace until he was nearly running, right down the hall, and into the library which was at the rear of the house. He was relieved to see Dobby waiting for him. Dobby was hopping from foot to foot, on his face an expression of extreme anxiety. He opened his mouth to speak, but Snape forestalled him.

"Cease your ludicrous faces and wriggling and listen to me. We only have one option; go to my lab and collect one of the very small bottles of Polyjuice from the top shelf of the locked red cupboard. There are no wards on it; it is merely locked with a muggle device. Here is the key." He handed it to Dobby. "The bottles are clearly labelled. Return here with it... and don't forget to bring some of that hair of mine that we put aside. Also collect... no, leave the rest to me... Oh, yes, you may need a wand." He turned around, looking for something suitable to transfigure, but before he could find anything Dobby had popped out and then back into the room, and he held out a wand to Snape.

"This be bad Weazey Potter's," he said.

Snape grabbed it from him, waved his own wand over it and changed it to look like his own. Then he waved his own again and it changed to look like the real Ginny's wand. He was annoyed with himself that he had not thought of that before as both wands were easily identifiable if anyone noticed them. Luckily he had not had occasion to use his wand in the presence of other people since taking the Polyjuice.

"Off now. Be quick."

Dobby popped away, and Snape left the room, went back down the hall, up the stairs, and into the main bathroom, where he grabbed a small cosmetic jar, emptied it into the loo, flushed the loo, rinsed out the jar and then refilled it with water. He pricked a vein in his left middle finger with the sharp end of a pair of pointed tweezers, and allowed a few drops of blood to slide into the jar, before wandlessly healing his finger. He shook the jar and the blood mixed with the water to become a light pink; he replaced the lid, before hurrying back to the library. Dobby popped in a second or two later, and held out the Polyjuice bottle to him, together with a few strands of lank black hair.

Snape carefully took a single hair and dropped it into the bottle, and the contents gurgled and then turned a charcoal grey.

Dobby held his hand out for it, but Snape held it up out of his reach. "Once you have swallowed this and transformed I shall cast a spell on you so that your voice becomes harsh and croaky - and you must say nothing; merely look at the decrepit old elf, pretend to cast a spell or two and shake your head as if nothing can be done. Just follow my lead in what to do. Now remember, this batch of Polyjuice is the old formula which only lasts an hour so you will only have roughly fifty to fifty five minutes in the room with Kreacher before you must either leave Harry's presence or take another mouthful of the potion, which is inadvisable as Harry might see you do it. Got all that?"

Dobby nodded in reply.

"Good... You will wait here for four or five minutes before poking your head through the Floo for Potter to let you in. When he does, use signs and a few squeaks and grunts to inform him that you have lost your voice. I will do the rest; just take your cues from me. Here, take it now," and he handed the Polyjuice to the elf.

Dobby drank the potion eagerly and with no sign that he found the taste as disgusting as Snape knew it to be. Within thirty seconds 'Potions Master Snape' stood in front of 'Ginny'. 'Ginny' handed 'Snape' the bottle of mixed water and blood.

"Here's the 'curative potion'. Remember, four or five more minutes before you ask to come through, and for the gods' sakes remember not to talk, leave that to me... just make a few sounds and signs to indicate the loss of your voice, and then point to your own head and then to mine a couple of times."

Dobby left again to go back to Snape's laboratory, and 'Ginny' walked back to the kitchen. He tried to look slightly disgusted, and said, "Dobby came back just as I was on the loo! That elf has no sense of privacy. Anyway, he says that Snape will be coming through the floo in a few minutes."

Snape had expected Potter to enquire as to where Dobby was now, and had an answer, of sorts, ready, but apparently Potter was so concerned with his inability to wake Kreacher up that he had not noticed Dobby's absence.

"Wouldn't it be better to let him sleep?" 'Ginny' queried.

"I thought you had to keep the patient awake?" Harry looked worried.

"I think that's for concussion."

"Oh. Perhaps it is. I don't know," Harry replied uncertainly.

Snape, unaccustomed to having his opinion treated with such little respect, with difficulty restrained an acerbic comment. Being Ginny Potter had a drawback or two he realised.

For a couple of minutes neither of them said anything more. Harry had a look of deep concern on his face and was stroking Kreacher's head with one hand as if the house elf were a pet dog. It seemed that Harry was genuinely fond of the creature. Snape was surprised to feel a pang of what he, almost positively, could identify as pity, for Harry.

Harry suddenly spoke again, "Oh... Well, concussion? Professor Snape will know... he should be here by now," headded, looking worried. He looked around. "And where's Dobby got to? Perhaps he went back to Snape's place."

"Possibly, he didn't say - or probably he is making our meal,"

"O, yes, I forgot. Or gone to Molly's to check on the kids." He started stroking Kreacher's head again. "I hate this. I feel so helpless. Surely the prof should be here by now..."

Ah, yes, the great and wonderful professor Snape, the fount of all knowledge," Snape said in a sarcastic tone, interested in what might be Harry's reaction.

Harry however showed little reaction, merely annoyance, and said tiredly, "I really wish you didn't detest him so. You should have forgiven him by now; if it wasn't for him we'd all probably be dead. - but where the heck is he?"

'Ginny' laughed, "settle down, They'll both be here as soon as possible, don't worry. Snape will rush over as soon as he can. He always rushes to do whatever you ask him. I sometimes think the greasy git is in love with you, well, in lust at least."

Instead of looking appalled as Snape had expected, Harry grinned and said, "As if!"...

Then he laughed, momentarily distracted from his concern for Kreacher. "Well, it's possible... It's my stunningly beautiful bum you know. I read all about it in Witch's Weekly just last week. Apparently it's irresistible to witches and wizards alike... Yeah, yeah, laugh all you like woman. I have an arse in a million I'll have you know."

"No, you're confused. It's the millions in your vault they find so irresistible... well, it has to be admitted, all that money does have an attractive smell to it, that, and all the power, and I suppose your beautiful buttocks cannot be completely discounted," 'Ginny' joked. Harry laughed, then went back to patting and stroking the old elf's head.

But, Snape was starting to be concerned... where the hell was Dobby? It was long gone five minutes. Don't tell me there's a problem with the Polyjuice...

It was at that instant that Snape's head, or rather, Dobby's head Polyjuiced as Snape's, appeared in the fireplace, opened its mouth and grunted something. 'Ginny' rushed towards him saying, "Oh, at last. Please come through Professor."

Dobby, not used to a body twice as tall as his own, stumbled out of the fireplace. Harry found it difficult to hold back a grin at seeing the usually elegant Snape be so clumsy.

'Snape' pointed to his mouth and neck, shook his head, and demonstrated that he had lost his voice with a few squeaky sounds and further head shakes. Then looked at them both and mouthed, "Patient?"

"You've lost your voice," stated Harry, unnecessarily. Then he gestured towards Kreacher, "I found him like this and I can't wake him up. He told Ginny he was feeling a bit off earlier this afternoon, but he now seems to be seriously sick," and he stood aside to let 'Snape' examine the elf.

Meanwhile, while Harry was concentrated on 'Snape' and Kreacher, 'Ginny' walked over to a table in the corner of the room, hastily scribbled a few lines with a quill, on the top sheet of a muggle writing pad, tore the sheet from the pad, pocketed it and the pad, conjured a glass of water as his excuse for going to the table, and walked back to where 'Snape' and Harry were bent over Kreacher.

"I suppose you'll cast a diagnostic charm, but that will be difficult with no voice," 'Ginny' hinted.

'Snape' nodded, ran his hands over Kreacher's neck and chest, pulled out Ginny's wand, the one which now looked like Snape's, and waved it around the old elf. Not surprisingly, there was no result. He turned, pointed at his mouth and shook his head to indicate that the charm he was attempting was not one he could cast silently

'Ginny' pushed herself between 'Snape' and Harry, "I know what you're trying to cast. I remember Poppy using it and I'm pretty sure I can cast it. I'll do it, and you can write down what the results mean. Here, take this writing pad and quill," and she handed them to 'Snape', who nodded, looking slightly confused.

'Ginny' waved her wand, and incanted Infirmitatis Revelio.

'Snape' studied the resulting swirls of colour above Kreacher and shook his head sorrowfully. He touched his wand to the paper pad, tore off the top sheet and handed it to 'Ginny', who, in one quick sleight of hand, shoved it up her sleeve and then palmed and read the one she had prepared earlier, turning back to Harry as she did so, and then back to 'Snape' again, "Why is this in Latin? Oh, I suppose that's because the charm controlled what was written?"

'Snape' nodded.

'Ginny' turned to Harry again, and held the note so that he could read it. "I'm not sure what all these Latin words mean. Something about him being very old?"

Harry stumbled over the Latin: "Moriens ex causis naturalibus. Est annorum centum septuaginta," he read. "Well, if moriens means death or dying as I think it does, it means he is dying from old age. But centum septuaginta, that's one hundred and seventy isn't it? Can that be right?" He asked 'Snape', who nodded, and continued to nod repeatedly until 'Ginny' glared meaningfully at him.

'Ginny' put her hand on Harry's arm to distract him from 'Snape', at whom he had been looking with a slightly puzzled frown. "No, that would be right darling. House elves live really long lives," she said. "Poor old Kreacher," she added, with a fleeting pang of pity. The creature had been evil it was true, but who would not be evil after over a century and a half of being bonded to the Blacks? It was remarkable that it was not even more seriously criminally insane than it had been.

A muttered, and thankfully garbled, "s'evil s'murdering s' killer" from the mat shocked 'Ginny'. The elf had woken up. That should not have happened. Well, apparently the past tense had been premature, slightly. Bugger.

Harry was bending down towards Kreacher again. "You're awake! I couldn't quite get that though," he said. "Something about Sirius?"

'Ginny' was at a loss; she couldn't cast a silencing charm on Kreacher without it hitting Harry at the same time. In any case Harry would detect any magic being cast.

'Snape' elbowed Harry aside. "Don't get in the way Potter. He needs to take this potion, it will ease his throat. Well, if you must stand there, then give it to him yourself. It will make him feel much better, though nothing can cure what he has." He handed Harry a bottle of almost clear pink liquid. ('Ginny' just stood there; she had yet to recover from Dobby forgetting that he was supposed to have lost his voice, and also his suddenly competent acting ability.)

Harry sniffed it suspiciously. "What's in this? I don't recognise the smell."

'Ginny' thought it time to intervene. "I think I know what it is. Let me smell it."

Harry handed it to her and she held it beneath her nose. "I forget what it's called, but it's what they gave me at St. Mungo's after the Dar... Voldemort, possessed me in the Chamber of Secrets. It's mainly a painkiller and it also helps you to sleep."

"Sleep? But he has only just woken up."

"He needs to sleep."

.

Harry looked to 'Snape' for confirmation. He nodded, and Harry, reassured, held it to Kreacher's lips. Kreacher, surprisingly, and to 'Ginny's' and 'Snape's' great relief, swallowed it obediently and without attempting to say anything else, though he did glare at 'Ginny' before his eyes gradually closed.

Belatedly, Harry realised that 'Snape' had talked, and talked without any hint of loss of voice at that "You've got your voice back!"

'Snape' looked surprised. "Ah... So I have! Wonderful. The potion must have worked at last! Thank Merlin. Well, I must be off; there's nothing more I can do here. That potion will keep him comfortable but he won't last the night. Goodbye," and he popped away. He had sounded and acted remarkably like the real Snape, but had not 'Ginny' coughed loudly, simultaneously with his exit, the unmistakable difference between the sound of a house elf's 'popping' and that of a wizard's Apparation would have been obvious.

Kreacher eventually passed away peacefully at eleven fourteen that night.

Naturally, Harry's concern and attention to the dying elf had taken most up most of the remaining evening. When Harry, after calling Dobby to instruct him about the burial arrangements, did eventually get into bed around midnight, he turned away from 'Ginny', pulling most of the blankets with him, and fell asleep almost immediately.

Snape shrugged, grimaced, yanked back his own share of the bedding, turned over and tried to go to sleep. Not succeeding, he got up again, Accioed a phial of Dreamless Sleep, took a dose and fell back into bed, hoping, no, determined, that tomorrow would be a more successful day.

….

Potions Master Severus Snape was again waiting in the master bedroom of 12 Grimauld Place for Auror Potter to return home. The house had been extensively renovated by the Potters; walls knocked down or re-located, dark colours replaced by light, all doxies and other nasties removed, the disquieting mounted house elf heads taken down from the wall and respectfully buried under a Catalpa tree in the garden. When first seeing the house after the renovations Snape had been struck by the change in the house's ambiance, in its personality. What had been both grim and old had become amiable, light and new...yet... somehow, right now, some of its old atmosphere seemed to have re-asserted itself.

Snape had retreated to the bedroom after finding the library, the drawing room and the kitchen uncomfortable and unwelcoming. In the end an unsuccessful attempt in the library to read the latest Potions Quarterly publication - the articles in it had apparently all been written by Neville Longbottom wannabes, was the editor an utter moron? - had driven him to take refuge in the bedroom. Unfortunately the bedroom was not proving to be the sanctuary that he required; the blue and white colour scheme was insipid, certainly more suited to a bathroom or seaside cottage than to a London house. It needed a new colour pallette... perhaps brown and green? Some butterflies were brown and green or silver and green. What had made him suddenly think of butterflies he wondered.

A few minutes later Snape had realised what had made him think of butterflies and was feeling annoyed with himself. No, he thought, that did not begin to cover it, he was exceedingly vexed with himself. He had acted like a Gryffindor and subjected himself to an insufficiently tested potion, the new version of Polyjuice, and he was now, obviously, being affected by it in a way he had not imagined possible. There were over a hundred available house elves, at Hogwarts on several of whom he could have tested it at the time without Dumbledore being any the wiser. Even now there was his own elf, Winton, or he could have bought a few new ones. But no, he had used it on himself first and was now suffering the consequences. Suffering from,of all things, nervousness. It seemed to indicate that Polyjuice 2 changed the body at a fundamental level, changed the very cells themselves, to such a degree that even one's thought processes and feelings were altered to those of the person into whom one changed. Nothing else could possibly account for the fact that he was acting like an anxious little love-sick female at the thought of the imminent arrival of the male object of her obsession. (That the only time in which Ginevra had acted that way around Harry was when she was only ten or eleven years old, was another disquieting thought and one that he rapidly dismissed.)

At last he managed to repress his nerves. The previous evening had not culminated in the pleasure and satisfaction that Snape had expected, but this time was going to be different. This evening he would seduce his reluctant husband and discover the joys, or otherwise, of Potter as a lover. Also of course, he would discover if that Greek chap Tiresias had been correct in reporting that women enjoyed sex more than men did. He doubted that was true; he missed his penis; a cock you could get a nice firm grip on had been far more convenient, satisfactory and available than his clitoris now was.

Three days later 'Ginny' had still not discovered what Harry was like as a lover, and was becoming more and more frustrated. He had been reduced to asking his husband what the problem was, why he had refused to sleep with him, but the reply of "Just leave it alone for a bit for the gods' sake. I am late for work... Look, alright, it's a date for tonight. Okay?" and Harry's speedy retreat had not explained a thing but had sounded promising.

That evening Severus was feeling slightly apprehensive, but apprehensive more of something good than of anything bad happening. That was not a feeling with which he was particularly familiar so it took him a second or two to recognise it despite the butterflies of the previous evenings, and a few seconds more to identify what was causing it.

The Dark Lord's managerial style, which had consisted of all huge stick, no carrot, and the ever-present possibility of being discovered to be a spy, had sometimes induced a fear that took all his courage to overcome, but never a feeling as mild as slight apprehension, while Albus, despite being the one who sent him on his missions to Voldemort, had usually behaved in a manner that induced exasperation and frustration, not a feeling of apprehension. In Severus Snape's experience, ridiculously over-powerful wizards did that; they made one feel things that one would rather not, thank you... on the other hand, it must be admitted that they also stimulated more pleasurable feelings. In the parlance of his youth, he had always known that he 'had a thing' for powerful men ... and how damnably inconvenient that had been ... well, until now anyway.

The only wizards he'd ever known who had wielded more power than he himself possessed had been Voldemort, Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter. The Dark Lord had been beautiful when a young man, beautiful and charismatic. Even so, the attraction tended to wither when one realised that not only was he beautiful and charismatic, he was also an insane psychopath. Any beauty possessed by Albus had probably withered long before the turn of the century, and while longish age gaps meant little to Severus, since the denizens of the wizarding world lived about twice as long as did Muggles, a gap of just over a hundred years was a little too long to stomach, even for him.

That left Potter. Potter and the forthcoming evening with him was the reason he was feeling slightly apprehensive. Potter would surely be home within the hour, should have been home now in fact.

The age gap was in the opposite direction between himself and Potter, he was eighteen years or thereabouts older than Harry, he must remember to call him Harry, but that was nothing. When he was a hundred and eighteen, Potter would be one hundred. And Potter was powerful, perhaps even more so than either Albus or Voldemort had been, and youthfully attractive, those eyes...

Of course there was the inconvenience of Harry being not only ridiculously powerful, but also, even more ridiculously, straight; hence the current body. Severus looked down at it. Alright if you liked that sort of thing he supposed. The mammaries were small which was something to be grateful for at least. He ran his fingers over the nipples to assess their sensitivity. Hmm, well, not impressive. One could only hope that they would work better when Potter did the fingering. The loss of his penis was most disquieting, he was finding it difficult to imagine having much sexual pleasure without it. There was the clitoris of course, but the bloody thing was so small one could not see it, at least not without a mirror and feeling around for it, pathetic! And that he certainly did not intend to do, feeling the body he was in seemed uncomfortably heterosexual. Still, that Tiresias fellow who'd spent seven years as a female had then reported to Zeus that males only experienced one tenth the pleasure that females did. Tonight he would find out, well if not tonight, then very soon. He cast a Tempus, eight forty five, Potter was late, very late. He walked over to a sideboard which held a selection of spirits and poured himself a firewiskey. 'Goddammit man, settle down, you're behaving like one of his fan girls.' It felt like stage fright.

There was a soft popping sound and Harry materialised into the room. "You can pour me one of those, no, make it a cognac," he ordered.

"Rough day... dearest?" Severus ignored the rough tone in Harry's voice, poured him the requested cognac, tugged the neckline of his dress down a little, sidled over to his quarry, and stroked his cheek. Harry edged back nervously, somehow reminded of 'Harry Hunting'.

"Yeah ... the usual stuff up ... what are you doing? Gods woman, can't you ever give it a rest?" So much for making it a date tonight!. Harry chugged back the drink, coughed, and then continued, "where are the kids?"

"The rug... children are with Molly Wea... with my mother, at The Burrow." Gods he was making a hash of this, no wonder Potter was regarding him strangely. Years spying on a deranged Dark Lord and he could do no better than this?

"That's just typical of your attitude; you were going to call them rug rats again. So much for spending more time with them. I'm fed up with your nonsense. I'm going to the Burrow and then having an early night - in the spare room. I will leave the children with Molly. No doubt that will please you, but I am not doing it for you, they need someone to mother them. I'll see you in the morning." He Apparated away.

'Well, that could have gone better. A lot better. Very anti-climatic in fact, in more ways than one.

The following day and evening Severus fared no better. Apparently displaying one's charms by lying naked upon the marital bed did not entice his husband in the least. Potter was scarcely talking to him and either totally ignored or edged away from any attempt to bed him. When nothing had improved by the fourth day Snape came to the reluctant conclusion that Potter did not intend to exercise his marital rights or duties at all. Severus had previously been under the impression, as was Dobby, that Potter was besotted with his wife. Potter's continued almost aggressive attitude showed that either that was not the case or something recently had caused the break in the harmony of their relations. Had there been some minor misunderstanding? He hoped that was the case and that Potter had not discovered his wife's infidelity. Or, was Potter almost asexual, in which case perhaps there was some excuse for the behaviour of his wife? No, thank the gods, that did not seem likely as it did not explain why Potter seemed so annoyed with Ginny.

'I'll have to use Plan B. If I had a Plan B.' "Dobby! To me"

Dobby popped in almost instantaneously. "What can Dobby do for Master Potions Master Sir? Where is Master Harry Potter Sir?" He asked, looking around.

"Potter is not here thank Merlin, or your 'Master Potions Master' would have given the game away. Cretin." Snape glared.

"No! Stop that, you'll damage the tongs." Severus grabbed the fire-tongs Dobby was starting to hit himself over the head with, and tossed them back into the inglenook.

"Elf, the intelligence you provided has proved incomplete, if not totally fallacious. That is not entirely your fault as I admit my own naivety in thinking, even for a moment, that a house-elf could provide data that could with any degree of exactitude and veracity be labelled 'intelligence'. However, be that as it may, it seems that the marriage of Potter and the red-haired Harpy is even less of an ideal bonding than you had led me to believe. In order that I can look forward to successful conjugal relations in the near future, you will provide me with more, and more accurate,intelligence on the previous state of Potter's marriage. Unfortunately you are the only being who can provide it."

"Er ... Dobby will ... er." Dobby looked bewildered. "Dobby think Master Harry Potter Sir's Grangy know. She disgust Master Harry Potter Sir with Harry Potter Sir's bad Weazy."

"They were disgusted with Potter? ... Ah, I see; you mean they discussed the marriage. And how is that helpful? How do you suggest we extract the knowledge from Mrs Hermione Weazley whilst retaining secrecy and legality?" Not that Veritaserum, or the Imperius followed by an Obliviate need be ruled out, but the elf did not need to know that.

"All I require from you is a full report on the state of the marriage. It seems that Potter may be not so in love with his wife as we had believed. Or possibly the rift is of recent occurrence. If you have any insightful suggestions as to how best I may establish or re-establish marital relations between Potter and his wife you may enlighten me."

"Dobby not understand..."

Talking to House elves, translating one's thoughts into words suitable for the mentally challenged was a tiresome business, one usually avoided by more rational wizards such as himself. Severus sighed.

"In other words, Potter is avoiding having sex with me. You shall help me to change his mind, I am becoming sexually frustrated. Firstly I need to know exactly how often he bedded his wife, if indeed he did ever bed her at all. Secondly, what is to be done about it."

Severus was uncomfortably aware that not only was the elf not the best person from whom to obtain marriage counselling, but also, worse, of the inadequacy he felt in needing help at all. As a man he would have had known how to approach a possible male bed partner, as a woman he felt completely at a loss.

"For Master Harry Potter Sir must be happy. Not yous rocks!"

"'Not my rocks?' What on Earth are you blithering about now?... You mean that the purpose of the exercise is Potter's happiness, not for me to get my rocks off? Well, that is a given, it goes without saying, it is precisely what I meant. Our goal is of harmonious marital relations conducive to the Most Marvellous Harry Potter Sir's blissful happiness, nothing else. Perish the thought!

"Dobby will ask Winky what to do."

"You certainly will not! Advice from a dipsomaniac House-elf? No, indeed not. It is not advice I require."

Well, yes it was, but it was not available. All he needed from the elf was accurate information about the previous state of the marriage and if possible what the argument had been about. It was at that point that he realised that he would probably have to get it from Harry himself, despite Harry's reluctance to talk; he would have to corner him and force him to talk about it, without it becoming obvious to Potter that his wife knew nothing about their recent history. Thank the gods that Harry was not too quick on the uptake... though even he might realise...mm... From Harry's comments before he left, he thought Ginevra lacking in maternal virtues. Potter being the sentimental young idiot that he was, that might be the sum of the problem.

Dobby had been awaiting further instructions. He looked up hopefully as Snape ceased muttering to himself and looked at him.

"House elf magic, am I correct in thinking it leaves no magical signature?"

"No, magic leave signature but wizard magic not find it."

"Excellent. Tomorrow morning, just as Potter returns home, I shall have a nasty accident; I shall fall down the stairs and hit my head. You will have previously damaged the banisters in the path of my fall and then create the noise appropriate to my body hitting them and the stairs on my way down, and then make yourself scarce. Harry will find me crumpled at the foot of the stairs and bleeding profusely from a cut on my head. I will create the injury to my head the muggle way, with a knife, unless you can do that too?"

"Dobby can do. What for?"

"Obviously, slight amnesia, followed by a change in personality in a direction Potter will appreciate. The prospect of close association with the rug rats is dire, however it seems necessary."

"Dobby not know why sick make Harry Potter Sir happy."

"Amnesia will explain my ignorance and need for explanation of the cause of our estrangement, and a new and motherly attitude to the brats, however distasteful, will enable us to make a new start, and result in conjugal bliss for us both – but particularly the happiness of Potter, which has ever been our aim of course."

"Master Potions Master Sir's good plan, like Dobby's plan!"

"I cannot dignify such a simple ruse by calling it a plan, however one does not need to be Machiavelli to confound Potter, as we have amply demonstrated."

"Huh?"

"Never mind. I will explain later."

"But Dobby have idea. Dobby think Harry Potter sir take you St. Mungo's."

"Indeed not. A suddenly developed latrophobia and a panic attack will stop that."... Well, perhaps the elf had a valid point; avoiding the hospital might be achievable, but avoiding Harry calling a healer instead might not be so easy.

"No, on second thoughts, I have decided to interrogate Mrs Granger- Weasley first. That may negate the need for the accident."

Dobby gave that his considered opinion. He nodded. "Better plan."

"I am, of course, overjoyed to have your approval. No doubt the 'plan' is now an assured success... Well, off with you, fetch her."

As Dobby started to fade away, Severus called after him, "Don't let anyone see you take her!"

Within a few minutes Dobby reappeared, accompanied by a squealing Hermione whom he was holding by a bunch of her hair. He let her drop the last few inches to the floor. "Where have you taken me? What..." At that point she noticed 'Ginny' who was hurrying towards her with a concerned look on her face. "Harry's house? What have you brought me here for, you...?"

"Oh, Hermione! I am so sorry! It was all a misunderstanding; I asked Dobby if he knew how you were, not to go and get you... How he mistook that for me asking him to bring you here I can't imagine…" 'Ginny said, ignoring Dobby's glare.

Hermione was regaining her composure surprisingly rapidly. "No harm done really I suppose, now that I know where he's taken me anyway. I wasn't doing anything important; it was just a shock that's all. He must have misheard you somehow... But now I'm here we might as well have a chat...But could I have a cuppa first, and a couple of ginger biscuits if you have them? I was just about to have bite into one when Dobby kidnapped me, they help settle my stomach, I've been feeling a bit queasy recently."

"You're pregnant?"

"No! Of course not... Er..." She tried to remember when she'd had her last period. "Gods! I might be! Do you happen to know the spell to find out? I can't cast it on myself."

'Ginny' lifted her wand and murmured a short incantation. A blue light surrounded Hermione's stomach. They looked at each other.

"I am! At last... We had almost given up hope. Oh Ron will be so happy and so am I. Oh gods! This is wonderful!

'Ginevra' was thinking along somewhat similar lines; 'Oh gods, a bushy carrot-topped know-it-all rug-rat.' Thank Merlin he was no longer a professor. "Oh sweetie, that's wonderful. . . Ronald will indeed be over the moon." And the other side of the moon would be an excellent place for him too.

The ensuing thirty or so minutes of female bonding over parturition was a trial, but one that Severus would later congratulate himself upon passing with at least an E. He felt that any other professor with less exacting standards than his own, that is to say, any other professor at all, would have awarded him an A. Yes indeed, taking into account that he had managed to participate in two hugs with the newly enceinte and excited Granger-Weasley, awkward hugs granted, but hugs nevertheless, the exercise would definitely qualify for an A.

His success had been mainly achieved by his voicing the exact opposite of whatever he happened to be thinking at the time. This was a skill that had been learned and honed to an exquisitely sharpened edge at the feet of an incomparable teacher, a maniac dark lord. Apparently the skill had not yet deserted him completely.

Having provided enough memories of Granger-Weasley's conversation with 'Ginevra' for his purposes, he offered her another drink. "I have an excellent remedy for morning sickness, a refreshing drink with ginger. Allow me to get it for you."

Hermione grinned at 'Ginevra'. "You voice sounded almost like professor Snape's then."

Damn! "Did it? How odd… O, I think I know why. . . that's Harry's fault; he finds it entertaining when I 'take people off', and he thinks I mimic Snape better than I do anyone else, so it must be becoming a bad habit. I'll have to watch that.. . . Anyway, let me get that drink for you. It is a favourite of mine so it's already made up apart from adding water. If you like it I'll write the ingredients down for you, but really, it's just lemon barley water with quite a lot of ginger in it. . . Dobby, fetch me the tall green bottle on the draining board and a jug of cold water."

Dobby fetched the bottle, a tumbler and a jug of water. 'Ginevra' who had turned towards him so that she had her back to Hermione, took it from him, added to the tumbler four drops from the phial of Veritaserum she'd previously secreted in her bra, an inch of the ginger cordial, filled it with water, and turned and handed the result to Hermione, who took a sip, liked it, and gulped down the whole glassful. A few seconds later her eyes showed the unmistakable swirly glaze of a successful Veritaserum dosage.

'Ginevra' did not bother with the usual verification questions as he trusted his own brew and also had added an extra drop of the serum to the tumbler in case Hermione did not drink it all. If anything she was slightly over-dosed.

"Is Harry as besotted with his wife as is generally believed?"

"I'm not sure."

"Why are you uncertain?"

"He always says he loves her dearly, but then he says that she is an indifferent mother to their children, and I know he hates that."

"That means a lot to him?"

"Of course; he is almost besotted with them, and he's always yearned for a family."

"What else does he complain of?"

"Just that, oh, and that she is never home, which is part of the same thing.."

"Why does he avoid sex with his wife?"

"I don't know. I didn't know he did."

"Ginevra did not give you any indication that her husband was inadequate sexually?"

"No. But she says he doesn't pay her enough attention, so that might have been what she meant."

"Have you talked to Harry about it?"

"Yes. I told him that."

"What was his reaction?"

"He said that if she were home more then he'd pay her more attention."

"Given that he does avoid sexual congress with her, then why do you think that is?"

"I think he might be so upset with her not being a very good mother that he doesn't feel like making love to her."

"Surely that is more a female reaction than a male one?"

"Perhaps, but Harry's very romantic and has strong principles."

"Can you think of any other reasons he does not, at least not currently, desire to 'make love' as you call it?"

"No."

"What should Ginny do to rectify the situation?"

"She should talk it out with him, apologise for her behaviour and promise to turn a new leaf."

The Veritaserum was beginning to wear off. 'Ginny' waited a few moments more and then cast "Obliviate."

Hermione started to come around, sat down and then smiled up at 'Ginny.'

"That worked really well! I don't feel at all nauseated now... Would you mind awfully if we put off that chat for another day? I'm dying to get home and tell Ron the news."

"Of course I don't mind. Here, take the lemon and ginger cordial with you. You're going to need it."

Hermione grinned. "I am indeed. Thanks." She turned to Dobby. "Can you take me back again Dobby please? The sensation is far less unpleasant than the Floo or Apparation — but not held by the hair this time please! " She held out her hand, Dobby grabbed it and they vanished.

Hmm, still not much further ahead really. He could try the talking and promising to be a veritable saint idea — if he could actually get Harry to discuss it. He could always body bind him he supposed. Actually body binding might not be such a bad idea; a quick Incarserus and if the silly man still wouldn't discuss what his problem was, then at least there would be a ready-made opportunity for a bit of light bondage.