End of April
Harry shut down his shop early on Thursday, leaving himself just enough time to wander to the far end of Diagon Alley and pick up more moving boxes from Under the Cloak Moving Services. They’d been recommended to him by several of his friends, as apparently they were the best at moving wizards and witches to houses in muggle neighbourhoods.
As Harry fit twelve moving boxes into one space-enhanced one, he had to admit that he was impressed by them so far. They were to show up at Severus’ Oxford home on Tuesday in a muggle lorry, complete with movers and moving trollies to use so that their new neighbours wouldn’t see boxes being levitated into the house.
Harry ducked under the eaves of a shop and clutched the boxes tightly, apparating home. Tomfoolery greeted him with non-stop chattering until Harry dug out some owl treats. Tom wasn’t too bothered by the whole packing process, but then, he was always content if he got food.
“I’m moving in with Severus Snape,” Harry cheerfully told the bird. Tom ignored him.
“Surprising news from the Ministry today as Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour announced that this year’s Wizarding War Anniversary will be a celebration of sorts, featuring his own band. Mixed reviews have been given by witches and wizards polled on the streets of Diagon Alley, but what do you think? Owl us here at 88.2 WizzFM. Coming up next, Arikka Jones and Experimental Magic!”
Harry had only managed to pack one box, singing along to the radio, when he heard a knock at the door. Severus hadn’t mentioned visiting that evening, as he had a meeting with a friend of his book publisher, so Harry was a bit cautious opening the door. His wariness turned out to be founded, upon seeing the twin grins that met him on the other side.
“Heckie boy!” George cheered, or maybe it was Fred.
“We’re here to help you pack!”
They pushed Harry aside, bringing a bottle of firewhiskey and a large paper sack of snacks. Ron and Hermione followed straight after, and Harry shook his head.
“You know this is a one-room flat, right? I could probably do it with my eyes closed,” Harry said, stepping into the kitchen. There was a salad bowl in the sink that looked clean enough to hold crisps.
“I think they’re here to hinder more than help,” Hermione answered, rolling her eyes at the twins. Fred had levitated Harry’s shoes and was making them tap dance on the ceiling.
“Why do you have so many shoes, Heck?” Ron asked, sprawled onto the chesterfield and watching the dance above his head. “Is that a gay thing? Too many shoes?”
“Those are for running,” Harry said, laughing. He placed his running box in the middle of the room and Fred made the shoes dive bomb into it from the ceiling.
George passed around the shot glasses as Hermione plunked herself down in front of Harry’s bookcase, taking over that packing by unspoken agreement.
“So,” Fred started, pouring some firewhiskey out. “Next week is May, and it’s the second wizarding independence.”
“Bollocks to that,” Harry grumbled, accepting his glass.
“Harry,” Hermione shook her head. Hermione saw value to the ceremony, and Harry did too, but he hated the idea of the Ministry putting him on a pedestal again for the day.
“Right. But, after the second, there’s the full week of hols,” Ron continued on. He was sitting up on the couch now, holding a steaming glass of firewhiskey and carrying the same expression he wore when playing chess. “A whole week off, summer not far off, Diagon Alley probably full of customers.”
Harry had stepped over to his wall shelf of knickknacks and performed the packing spell on them when he narrowed his eyes at Ron.
“Well it’s obvious, Hector,” George replied, in formal tone. “Weasleys Wizard Wheezes hereby sets forth a Challenge to Bottoms Up.”
“Oh this will end well,” Hermione rolled her eyes, carefully packing Harry’s books into a box.
“What’s the challenge?” Harry asked, after a moment of thought.
“It’s simple, really,” Fred explained. “We each go into each other’s shop, and pick five items. One under 9 sickles, one under 17 sickles, one under 2 galleons, one under 6, and one over 7.”
“And for that entire week,” Ron continued, “only your sales for those five items count in the challenge.”
“Advertise them any way you want,” George added. “But at the end, the store with the highest number sold wins.”
Harry gave a glance to Hermione, who didn’t seem to be completely put off by the idea. And having suggested many hare-brained plots to her before, Harry knew exactly what her face would look like if she had disapproved.
“If I lose?” Harry asked, remembering the bits of New Years that he could. Percy still refused to mention the night.
“Whoever wins,” George grinned, “gets to run the other’s shop for a day.”
Harry loved that his friends still used the nickname Heck with him, and that they were relatively accepting of his relationship with Severus. He loved the blind loyalty they’d developed and maintained with each other, even when it ended up with silly challenges and dares like the one the Weasleys were proposing. And as much as Severus tolerated his friends, Harry knew Severus would be more than a little annoyed at the prospect of another dare.
“Challenge accepted,” said Harry, toasting his glass.
Monday April 26th
“Potter! You wouldn’t happen to know anything about this, would you?” Draco demanded, storming into the shop from the back steps and waving an envelope. It was early on Monday, and Harry hadn’t quite had enough caffeine to deal with a peeved Draco Malfoy.
Harry snatched the envelope and took his time unfolding it, rubbing his thumb over the official ministry seal.
“Dear Mr D. A. Malfoy,
As per section 223b of the Ministry contract regarding your work-release program, a detailed observation will be made of your work habits, environment, and records at Bottoms Up, 2 Addition Alley. Please inform your employer of this investigation, which will occur on Tuesday, May 4th, 2004.
A full report containing all the findings from this investigation will be available at the Ministry of Magic Archives Department within one month of the visit.
Draco’s eyes were still brimming with frustration and suspicion by the time Harry had put the letter down, and Harry summoned the coffee pot for a refill.
“Sounds just like a routine check up,” Harry ventured. Perhaps he wouldn’t tell Malfoy about the new contest with the Weasleys just yet.
“If I fail this investigation, Potter,” Draco growled, stuffing the note back into the envelope, “I risk going back to Azkaban.”
“Back? You were only there for two days,” Harry blinked.
Hermione slipped into the shop just in time to see Draco slam the door of the staff room.
“Did I miss Fred and George?” Hermione asked, dropping her bag under the counter on a shelf. She stole a sip of Harry’s coffee, unwilling to face Draco in the back room.
Harry shook his head and pulled out a list of items he wanted to put up for selection for the challenge.
“He’s getting inspected by someone from the work-release program,” Harry shrugged.
“That could be pretty serious, Harry,” said Hermione, glancing at the back of the shop. They could hear Draco banging around in the staffroom, but no actual words from him.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine. He’s actually been pretty tolerable,” said Harry. It was time for the shop to open, and he casually walked to the front door to flick the sign over.
“Thanks for volunteering to help with the move on Saturday, by the way.”
“You’re welcome. I don’t think you realize how tiring a full move can be,” Hermione said, twisting the engagement ring on her finger. Harry’s attention was drawn to it, and he admired the elegant design. “No offense, Harry, but you’ve never really had enough stuff before to suffer through a proper move.”
“It’ll be fine, Hermione,” Harry assured, rolling his eyes. He pulled out his sheet of inventory and started ticking off items that needed to be ordered. “We have this handy thing we can use, called magic.”
Hermione huffed and shoved his shoulder.
“Well, I still think you’re crazy to do a marathon a week after you move,” said Hermione, chastising in a friendly manner. “What does Severus think?”
“Oh, he thinks running is daft,” Harry grinned. A timid man, dressed in dark non-descript clothes, entered into the shop and slunk towards the magazines at the back. Being as it was a bright, sunny spring day, he stuck out like a sore thumb.
“Well, he doesn’t strike me as the athletic sort,” Hermione pondered. “Was he the major delay on finding your new place?”
“No, not really. It was more the estate agent,” Harry’s eyes swept the shop as he took stock of what was on the shelves. “She overheard Severus saying he needed a fireplace big enough to fit a fully grown adult in. Was rather distant after that.”
“Potter, you will show me all the reports you’ve sent to the Ministry regarding my work here. I want to know exactly what I’m up against,” Draco demanded, bursting into the room and startling the man looking at magazines.
“One shouldn’t make such demands on their boss, Draco,” Harry said, twirling his quill in his hand. “Just saying.”
“Granger,” Draco nodded at Hermione. His face was twisted up in a strange way, as if he was trying to figure out how to be nice to Harry.
“Oh, I’m back to Granger now, am I?” she muttered, slipping out from the cash desk and moving to the back of the shop.
“I will not have you stand in the way of my freedom, Potter. I have been following the rules for almost five years. They will not arrest me again.”
Draco lifted his head up snobbishly and moved to the magazine section, offering to help out the customer in an overly sweet and sugary voice. The man fled before Draco could even see what sort of kink magazines he was looking for.
“Luna didn’t stay over last night, did she?” Harry asked, studying Draco as the shop door swung close.
“No,” Draco answered, glaring at the door. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Not a thing.”
Harry spent the rest of the morning setting up a new display for a product that he’d been anticipating since February, and that he’d actually broken his golden rule to test out. Harry had never ordered products for the shop for pre-testing, preferring to wait until his customers could buy the product before getting his own and trying it out. But the Cockitator, that was something he just had to try. It was not, as it sounded, a freak cross between a rogue potato and a cock, but instead a system of two simple magical black bands.
Harry stacked the boxes of Cockitator on the display table, as Hermione chatted to a customer in the background. His mind faded off, as he remembered their testing of the product.
Severus had raised an eyebrow at the bag Harry had brought home from the shop, and crossed his arms suspiciously at the dildo that was removed from it.
“We have two of those already. Real ones,” Severus had said, watching as Harry slipped a black elastic band over the head of the dildo and down the shaft. It was only about a centimetre thick, and went on much like a condom.
“I’m aware of that,” Harry said, walking up to Severus and cupping him through the thick woollen trousers he wore. Harry smiled into Severus’ neck, happy at finding his boyfriend half-hard already.
“Do you want to bottom or top?” Harry asked, nibbling at Severus’ collarbone.
“Who gets the fake phallus?” Severus murmured, his voice low and his body relaxing.
“The top,” Harry smirked, leaning in for a kiss that distracted him.
“Then by all means,” Severus had said, waving his arm toward the bed in invitation.
“Harry, what does this do?” Hermione asked, startling Harry so bad that he dropped the box in his hand.
“What? I …what?”
“This toy. What is its function?” Hermione asked, rolling her eyes.
Harry’s face flushed bright red as he stacked the last box on the table.
“It’s an imitator. You put the one band on one man’s penis and the other on a dildo, and then that man is the, er, top. The toy imitates every..er..thrust the top makes, so he can give and get at the same time.”
Harry stood up and picked up the packaging bits that were to be binned, feeling his face aflame. Fortunately, Hermione seemed to be a bit flustered as well.
“Well. That should be a good seller,” she said, winking at him.
Harry arrived at Severus’ house at ten to six, leaving Malfoy to do the closing for the night. The house smelled warm and spicy, and Harry wasn’t surprised to find chilli on the stove in the kitchen. Severus himself was puttering in the living room, fiddling with dials on an old black and white muggle telly he’d unearthed. He was sitting on a large packed box of linens, and trying to find the right station. To his left, on the bare dining room table, was an enormous bouquet of colourful and mismatched flowers.
“What’s with the flowers?” Harry asked, searching for a card.
“Hello to you too. They’re from my mother,” said Severus, not bothering to look at Harry.
“Oh. That’s..ehm, nice of her.”
“I have yet to figure out her motive for sending them,” Severus confirmed. He gave the tv a strong whack with his palm, and the news startled to life.
“Ah. Since when do we watch the evening news?”
Severus stepped back from the telly and stood beside Harry as the announcer welcomed the news team. Harry rested his hand against the small of Severus’ back, massaging Severus’ spine lightly with his fingers.
“Since I signed the contract to be the voice of the BBC,” said Severus, sounding rightfully smug.
“Severus! That’s great!” Harry beamed, pulling Severus down slightly for a kiss. “When do you start?”
“A fortnight from now. After the move and your silly little race.”
“My sil…it’s a bloody marathon,” Harry huffed, pretending to be annoyed. “But since you won’t start until then, perhaps you can help me with a little work project.”
Severus steered Harry toward the kitchen, where dinner had finished cooking and was ready to be served.
“This work project would not have anything to do with any Weasley, would it?”
“Well, Hermione is marrying Ron in September, so technically anything to do with work involves a pseudo-Weasley,” Harry reasoned, fetching bowls for the chilli.
Severus took the loaf of French bread out of the oven and pointed it at Harry like a sword.
“You’re involved in another ridiculous challenge.”
Harry tried to look contrite, but he could tell that Severus wasn’t overly annoyed.
“This one doesn’t involve any drinking,” Harry explained, plunking down at the table.
Friday April 30th.
Harry did a funny little jig as he pulled his spandex running shorts up over his thighs. They rubbed oddly against his leg hair and Harry scrunched up his face as he rearranged himself inside the shorts.
“You look like a right tit,” Severus mumbled, not lifting his head from the pillow.
“Nobody asked you,” Harry replied, slapping Severus’ blanket covered foot.
Slipping on his trainers, Harry set his watch and started jogging down the street. It was not yet six, and Oxford was slowly waking. Today would be a short run, only an hour, but Harry had plenty of things on his mind to ponder out. Harry headed towards the Oxford University Cricket Club field, waving at a dog that barked madly as he ran by.
Yesterday afternoon Bill and Charlie Weasley had stopped by to pick the five items for the challenge. Hermione had pointed out that they were a much more neutral judge than the twins would ever be, and both were eager to help with the competition. Harry was very grateful that they’d picked the Cockitator as one of his items, but wasn’t sure how well costume Auror robes would sell. He also had a regular stock dildo on his list, a pair of spikey stiletto leather boots that looked like something Bellatrix Lestrange would wear, and a novelty doorknocker in the shape of testicles.
Harry swerved to avoid two small bikes dropped on the lawn and covered with morning dew. He shouldn’t have too much trouble selling some of the items, but the boots would be tricky. Had the contest taken place in late June, Harry would have pushed them as dancing boots for the muggle London pride parade.
Oh well, Harry thought, hitting the halfway mark in his run and turning to head back home. He had Hermione, Draco, and Severus on his side. If he still lost the contest, he shouldn’t own a shop.
“Sometimes you can't make it on your own
Sometimes you can't make it
The best you can do is to fake it
Sometimes you can't make it on your own.”
“Wanker,” Harry muttered, turning off the radio. “That’s not even his song.”
He walked back over to the counter and grinned.
“Okay, so here’s the game plan,” said Harry, pointing at the five competition items on the counter. It was twenty to nine, and the shop wasn’t open yet. Hermione had a notebook out and was staring thoughtfully at the items, and Draco was barely stifling a yawn.
“Only the sales of these next week count toward the competition. There’s nothing in the rules saying we can’t start promoting them today and on the weekend.”
Draco leaned forward and picked up the life-sized doorknocker.
“The Big Brass Ball Knocker,” he said, reading off the box. “How on earth do you plan to market these, genius?”
“Well,” Harry said, biting his lip. “It’s the anniversary of the war this weekend. I was thinking of having a special to promote the war heroes. Like a ‘show you had the balls’ kind of thing.”
“Oh Harry,” Hermione shook her head, trying not to laugh. “We’ll call that plan B.”
“Brilliant idea, boss,” Draco added, rolling his eyes.
“Watch what you say, Malfoy. Your investigation is next week,” Harry countered.
Draco scowled, but kept his mouth shut.
“It might actually work, though,” Harry continued, rubbing the back of his neck as he thought. “The contest says we need to sell the most of those products. It doesn’t say anything about keeping the profits.”
“Isn’t that the whole point of owning a shop? To keep the profits?” Draco asked, looking baffled.
“Yeah, but the money is minor,” Harry waved his hand. “We could make a lot of money by selling these items, and setting up a scholarship or something in the name of those who died in the war.”
“You might be able to work with that, Heck,” Hermione trailed off.
“Maybe. We’ll keep that as a possibility.”
“How is that any different from the rubbish Scrimgeour wants to sing at the ceremony?” Draco asked, nodding toward the radio.
“I’m one of the war heroes, so I can offer it. Scrimgeour is embarrassed that he wasn’t able to rid the world of Voldemort himself, and needed a seventeen year old to do it,” Harry explained.
Harry went through the rest of the items, explaining his idea for pushing the Cockitator and the Auror robe costume. By the time 9 am had rolled around, Draco had set up a box display of the boots, and Hermione had begun making signs advertising a special sale to start the following Monday.
Harry still wasn’t sure what items the twins had to sell, but he was certain that Ron would be over later to spy on their game plan, so he’d find out.
The bell rang above the shop door and Harry plastered a smile on his face.
“Good morning, how may I – hi Mrs Thompson,” Harry said, his voice warming.
She was carrying a large blue purse in her hand, large enough to fit a bowling ball in, and it matched her blue flowered dress suit. Her blue hat, with its white string of pearls across the brim, was perched on a slightly off angle and covered most of her forehead.
“Heckie dear. How are you this morning?”
“Very well, thanks,” Harry grinned. He followed Mrs Thompson to the back room for tea, watching as she patted Draco’s arm along the way and pinched the bum of one of their mannequins.
She settled herself into her favourite chair in the staffroom, dumping half her bag on the table as she searched for a small tin of biscuits hidden within. Harry busied himself with making the tea, and enquiring about the large bouquet of flowers she’d sent.
“Severus is a bit suspicious,” Harry admitted, plunking two lumps of sugar into Mrs Thompson’s cup.
“Pardon, pet? Would you like a shortbread?” Mrs Thompson asked. Harry noted, as he set down the tea, that she’d missed part of her lip with the lipstick again.
“Alistair is suspicious of your flowers. He says none are useful in potions. And yes, please, shortbread are my favourite.”
Harry sat down and blew some air over his piping hot tea, amused at Mrs Thompson’s mischievous smile.
“Alistair is a very smart boy. But he is sometimes pigeon-holed,” Mrs Thompson confided, once again telling Harry something he both knew and had no idea what the connection was to the rest of her sentence.
“Have you killed any of the flowers yet?”
Harry sat back in his seat, wondering if he should lie. He’d never lied to Mrs Thompson though, and he had a feeling she preferred the truth for the most part.
“I don’t think the pink ones will make it,” he confessed. “But I like the tulips, and they’re doing well.”
“Pink is the colour of grace,” Mrs Thompson said wistfully. She took a bite of her own biscuit and perked up. “You’re moving tomorrow!”
Harry stole another shortbread and dunked it in his tea.
“Yes, but we’ll still be in Oxford. Sever– Alistair and I are getting a house together, remember?”
“Of course, young man,” Mrs Thompson said, and for a second Harry thought he’d be scolded. “Oxford is a lovely town. You watch those muggle chemistry lads, Heck. They’ll sweet-talk you with compounds and reactions, but they all want one thing. Lab time.”
Mrs Thompson gazed off out the back room window, and Harry finished his tea, trying not to laugh.
Harry locked the front shop door at six straight up, flicking the blinds down to the front of the store. He’d written out a list of instructions for Draco during a lull in customers that afternoon, and was explaining them as he walked to the back of the shop.
“Potter, I’m not stupid. I’ve been working here for four and a half years.”
“Saturdays are busy,” Harry bristled, walking into the staff room. “And I want to get ahead on promotions for the contest sales.”
“The shop will be fine. I’m under investigation, remember? It would be counter productive to sabotage our sales right now,” Draco muttered, putting coffee cups in the sink to wash themselves.
“That’s reassuring,” said Harry, rolling his eyes. “Look, we start moving at 9 am. Hermione should be here around noon to help you for a few hours. If you absolutely need to, you can let Luna help out. I know she’ll be here anyway.”
It was interesting to see the two small dots of pink on Draco’s normally pale face.
“You know nothing of the sort.”
Harry straightened up the stack of magazines where Mrs Thompson had sat at the table, curling his lip at Witches in White.
“Why is Hermione leaving wedding magazines around?” he muttered, flipping through the magazine. Surprisingly, there were actually photos of a wedding done in a nice silver and blue mixed that he actually liked.
A muffled thump sounded upstairs, from the general area of the fireplace.
“I think that’s Luna now. Good night, Draco!” Harry called cheerfully.
“Good riddance, Potter,” Draco replied in a relatively friendly tone, making his way quickly up the stairs to his flat.
The new house was on Quarry road on the outskirts of Oxford, tucked into a thatch of trees behind a cemetery. Severus had chosen it for the privacy and large secondary building in the garden, and Harry had fallen for the large bright windows in most of the rooms.
It didn’t take long for the house to be filled with boxes, noise, and more Weasleys than Harry had been expecting. The movers had left an hour previously, and the home was now host to Harry’s pseudo-family as they came to help cast safety wards and stayed for a barbeque dinner.
Severus was sitting at the head of the table, sipping wine and ignoring most of the conversation around him. His mother sat to his left, and seemed to have a smile for everyone. She was on her third piece of cake, and was dancing in her seat to the music playing out the kitchen window.
Arthur, who hadn’t helped with the move as much as he had been distracted by some of the muggle appliances, stepped out into the garden from the garage.
“So Harry, what’s this running mill you have? It seems very interesting. Many buttons,” Arthur asked, his eyes excited.
“It’s a treadmill,” Harry laughed. “It lets me run in place indoors, when it’s raining.”
“Daft invention,” Severus muttered.
“Hey! It’s allowed me to train for the marathon all winter,” Harry protested.
“But why are you training so hard, Heckie?” George asked, snatching a dinner roll right out from under Ron’s hand.
“We’re wizards. We don’t need to train that much,” Fred finished, poking Ron in the ribs when he tried to get his roll back.
“Training is a necessary evil,” Harry shrugged, picking up his glass of water. “Necessary if you want to be evil.”
Ron and the twins laughed, but Molly and Arthur sucked back a breath at Harry’s comment. Everyone else had a rather uncomfortable look on his or her face.
“What? Too soon?” Harry asked. “It’s been six bloody years.”
“Quite right, young man!” Mrs Thompson said, toasting him with her upraised fork and a bite of cake. Severus poured her more wine and she smiled fondly at her son.
“Harry, will you be giving a speech this year at the ceremony?” Molly asked.
“I’m not even sure if I’m going,” Harry said. He straightened up in his chair when he felt a bare foot resting lightly atop his. Severus wasn’t even looking at him.
“Why wouldn’t you go?” Hermione asked.
“Yeah, Heck. I mean, you were the one to win this war for us,” Ron added.
“Technically, it was Severus and I. And I don’t want to go, because Scrimgeour makes a huge deal out of the day, almost to make up for the simple way we killed Voldemort.”
“Well, I never! You’ll have your mouth washed out with soap, if you keep up with that, Hector!” Mrs Thompson scolded, shaking her fork at Harry. She was oblivious to the puzzled looks being sent her way.
“Scrimgeour wants to honour those who died for the cause,” Molly said, not quite sounding convinced by her own reasoning.
“No, Scrimgeour wants to make a spectacle over something private. He’s embarrassed that he did nothing to stop Vol…You Know Who. You Know Who broke into the castle and came to Severus’ classroom, one morning when everyone was out on a Hogsmeade weekend. I was in detention and after Severus stunned him, I killed him,” Harry said, leaning his calf against Severus’. “A bit pathetic that the whole affair was over in five minutes after a year of the Ministry not being able to do anything.”
Hermione couldn’t stop from giggling, but she managed to hide it as a cough behind her serviette.
“Sheer dumb luck, eh Harry?” Ron grinned, remembering their very first adventure together with a troll.
“Precisely,” Harry agreed, securing himself another piece of vanilla cake. “So my choice is to either go to his ceremony and listen to him cover popular muggle songs, or stay at home and plan my complete dominance in our sales challenge.”
“You wish,” Ron muttered, his eyes glittering as he shoved Harry slightly. “The Christmas challenge was child’s play. Weasleys Wizard Wheezes is going to crush you this time around.”
“Good lord,” Mrs Thompson said, staring right at Harry. “You’re Harry Potter!”
“Ghastly, isn’t it?” Severus commented, as he leaned over towards his mum.
Harry lay naked and stretched out on the bed, the duvet tossed haphazardly across and the cover not put on yet. He was on his stomach, with his arms scrunching the pillow his head rested on, and his eyes were closed. The Line-Mate was circling around his lower back, a wide mesh of pressure points steadily massaging his muscles. It was primarily a sex toy, but Harry found it absolutely priceless for sore muscles.
“Hmm,” a deep voice grumbled, startling Harry. “Is some moron sore because he chose to run seven miles the same day we moved?”
“Eight,” Harry smiled into the pillow, not opening his eyes. He could hear Severus moving about the bedroom, avoiding the yet to be unpacked boxes.
“And instead of asking me for a massage or a potion,” Severus continued, undoing his belt buckle, “the boy hero of the wizarding world is using a sex toy to ease his aches and pains.”
The controller for the Line-Mate was picked up off the bed and Harry stretched his leg out as it passed over his calf, wincing when a cramp almost set in.
“Mm. You’re rubbish at massages. Fingers too bony – ahhh,” Harry exhaled. The mesh netting of the Line-Mate constricted itself into a smaller contact point and flexed itself in and out over Harry’s bum, causing him to melt into the bed.
His sore legs were forgotten as the Line-Mate switched tactics under Severus’ command, imitating the feel of pulsing fingers and swaying back and forth at the line where Harry’s legs met his arse.
“Complaints, Harry?” Severus said, and Harry could hear the smirk in his voice. He canted his hips ever so slightly to make room for his growing erection as Severus moved onto the bed.
“Just honesty,” Harry replied. “You do have bony fingers. Great for potions, I think, and…oohh.”
The bony fingers grasped his hips strongly and held him still, the Line-Mate still fluttering about.
“And a razor sharp tongue, full of wit and…and…”
The sharp tongue was put to better use, as Harry was held open for Severus. Harry’s eyes rolled to the back of his head and the rest of his comments became garbled murmurs captured by his pillow. Harry lost all track of time, his body humming and his mind praising Severus to the stars. He’d never told Severus he loved him aloud, but the thought was very sound in his mind.
Severus finished before Harry could, and gave Harry’s lightly furred bum a smack.
“Whazzat for?” Harry mumbled, turning on the bed to gaze at his boyfriend. Severus’ hair hung forward slightly, shadowing his cheeks. His eyes roamed appreciatively over Harry’s body though, and focused on his groin.
“I’ve read,” said Severus, as he tugged Harry over onto his back and summoned wandlessly the bottle of lubricant. “That runners should exercise their gluteal muscles.”
Harry looked on with great interest as the cool, oily substance was dripped onto him.
“Yes,” Severus answered, and his look dared Harry to contradict his logic as he straddled Harry’s hips.
“And if I have to spend an entire Saturday watching you run for twenty six stupid miles,” Severus hissed as he lowered himself down and Harry fought to keep his eyes open. “I intend to make sure you’re in well enough shape to run it.”
Harry felt the breath knocked out of him as Severus adjusted. He reached forward and grasped Severus’ hips, his slightly bony hips where there was a scar on the right side from an old errant curse. Harry’s thumbs moved in small circles as he tried to look in Severus’ eyes, which were shrouded with his dark hair.
“Always looking out for me,” Harry smiled, flexing those exact muscles. If this type of exercise helped with his marathon, he quite looked forward to getting as much work outs as he could.
On Sunday, Harry ignored all letters and notices that arrived by owl mail. He didn’t go to the shop, and he didn’t turn on the radio. He did not attend the Minister’s anniversary function. Instead, he apparated with Severus to the edge of the Forbidden Forest, to participate in the yearly ceremony that Severus undertook on May second.
They walked silently towards Dumbledore’s tomb, an impressive light grey slab of marble in the forest. Severus didn’t look at Harry, but instead placed a solitary candle at the tomb and lit it. Harry had always suspected that Severus felt guilty for Dumbledore’s death. The man had passed a mere two days after their victory, sheer exhaustion from the lengthy war.
“In Finland, it is traditional to go to the cemetery on Christmas Eve,” Severus said, watching the candle flame fight against the wind. “Entire families go to visit the graves of their loved ones, and they light a candle. To show they are not forgotten.”
Harry felt an ache for Severus, a strong need to take this solitary man into his arms and never let him go. Dumbledore had been one of his only friends.
“You didn’t go this past Christmas. You should have told me, I didn’t…”
“I did,” Severus said, looking up. “I came early in the morning.”
“Oh,” Harry replied, feeling stupid. Of course Severus would have gone before meeting up with Harry to go to the Weasleys. “I didn’t realize you came every year.”
“You have never mentioned your snowy owl,” Severus pointed out in return, causing Harry to look away, lest he start tearing up. “I assumed that you wish to keep some things in the past.”
Severus had left most of his own past unmentioned, and though Harry’s life was mostly an open book, the facts at least, Harry himself found that he liked the control he had over his reactions and feelings to things that happened to him. People knew what he was up to, but Harry guarded his thoughts fiercely.
“Hedwig died two years ago, of old age,” Harry explained, the words flitting across his lips for the first time in more than a year. He’d woken up one sunny morning in July, and found that Hedwig hadn’t. She’d passed away in her sleep, and Harry had shut down the shop for a week for ‘inventory.’
Severus stood up, the folds of his black cloak giving a breath of air to the hungry candle flame. He didn’t say anything, but stood close enough to Harry that their shoulders touched.
“She stayed with me until she knew I’d be okay on my own,” Harry added. He liked to think of Hedwig that way, and even though he loved his new owl Tomfoolery, he was glad that no one would take the guardian spot she’d had when he was a child.
“Your justification is unnecessary,” Severus softly said, holding out his hand to apparate them home.
Monday May 3rd
Monday morning was bright, warm, and came with a fresh breeze that rejuvenated the alleyway. Harry arrived at the shop early, ignoring Draco’s thumps above as he affixed sale posters to the windows. They allowed the sunlight to filter into the shop, and were boldly colourful. “WHY SO SERIOUS? SUPPORT THE BRAVE WITCHES AND WIZARDS OF THE WAR.”
Inside the shop, Harry had set up a large display of Brass Ball Knockers on a table surrounded by flashing lights, with a large sign that advertised the charity information. Every galleon, sickle, and knut from the sale of the ball knockers would be put into the Sirius Black and Cedric Diggory Fund for Hogwarts education. It was a risky move, but as one of the two primary soldiers in the war, Harry hoped he would get away with it.
“I thought this was plan B?” Hermione said, entering the shop. She blinked at the bright display of ball knockers. “At least they don’t have hair on them.”
“Well, it was,” Harry shrugged, shoving his hands in his pockets. “But I thought about the idea more, and I liked it. Even if people buy them as a joke, the money’s being used for a good thing.”
Hermione studied him carefully and put her bag down behind the cash. The sign that was up with the display had a picture of a wizard in a duelling pose, his face in shadows and his stance imposing. The text underneath plainly described the fund, and the fact that it would provide a brand new wand, a brand new robe, and two brand new textbooks for any Hogwarts student that needed the financial help.
“I’ll buy the first pair, Harry. One for yours and Severus’ door,” Hermione finally said, squeezing his shoulder.
“Hah,” Harry grinned, just imagining Severus’ face when he found a brass pair of balls hanging from their front door. “I guess I should buy a pair for Ron, seeing as he finally asked you to marry him at Christmas.”
Hermione laughed and went toward the staffroom, flicking on the radio. Harry leaned against the counter, watching people saunter by in Addition Alley as Rufus Scrimgeour sang a muggle song on the wireless.
“And it's you when I look in the mirror
And it's you when I don't pick up the phone
Sometimes you can't make it on your own.”
Suddenly melancholic, Harry dug under the counter of the cash desk until he found the old rotary phone he used if he needed to call muggle suppliers. He dialled the number he’d only recently learned, and hoped that Severus would realize it was his phone ringing.
“Hullo?” Harry said, keeping his voice down even though there were only two customers in the shop. Draco had the morning off, and Hermione was in the back room.
“Hah, no I’m fine. I was listening to the radio and I felt like calling to see how you were.” Harry tapped on the desk with his fingers, letting Severus’ voice sooth him.
“Shut up. I’m not being sentimental.”
He drew a series of pyramids on the desk with his finger and listened to Severus tease him.
“Yeah, all right, I’ll get back to work. Want me to bring you something for lunch? I can pop by at home.”
A man in the store picked up one of the ball knockers and headed toward the cash.
“Okay, I’ll see you. Take…care,” Harry finished, hanging up the phone and feeling better.
Tuesday May 4th
Basil Molesworth was a short, round wizard with stringy thinning hair and a large chin. He wore his trousers pulled up almost to his breastbone, and a dark navy blazer over top that had a Ministry of Magic logo embroidered on the pocket. His bowtie was blue, his shirt starched to the point that it made Harry’s collar itch, and his shoes appeared to have been spit-shined.
“Good morning, Mr Potter. I am here regarding your employee with our work-release program, Mr Draco Arturius Malfoy.”
Molesworth said this in a very nasal tone, and he glanced around the shop with the kind of look that meant he thought sex toys were for the commoners, and not people of his class.
“Mr Molesworth,” Harry said, offering his hand to shake. It was a bit oily from transferring a large box of condoms to the flavour-labelled buckets they had lined up against the north wall of the shop, and Molesworth grimaced at the feeling. “Draco’s just on his lunch break right now, he’ll be back in twenty minutes or so. Care for a cuppa?”
Harry left Hermione in charge of the shop, noting with satisfaction that she seemed to be on a selling streak with the Auror robes. He wasn’t sure what sales tactic she was using with them, but as long as it worked, he didn’t much care.
Back in the staffroom, Molesworth gazed around with unhidden curiosity at the oddities that adorned the walls. It was a long room that stretched the length of Harry’s shop and the back of the locksmith’s next door, and was decorated by various posters, plants, stuffed animals, and supplier pamphlets. Molesworth seemed to finally notice the staff schedule up by the coat cupboard, and actually pulled a clipboard out to check off that Harry had safety rules posted, an employee handbook available, and a form for his employees to request time off.
“They are also covered for full medical leave, and have six weeks vacation per year,” Harry said, not even looking up as he prepared tea in the pot.
“Mr Malfoy is only allocated to make 170 galleons, 6s and 23k, per month,” Molesworth said, his voice boring and authoritative.
“As included in the information packet requested semi-annually by the Ministry, you will find that his pay stub reflects exactly that,” confirmed Harry. He placed the mismatched tea service down and wished that he was taking tea with Mrs Thompson instead.
Molesworth flicked his gaze to the back door of the staffroom, the one that lead upstairs to Draco’s flat.
“And can you confirm Mr Malfoy’s ability to afford his living expenses directly in Addition Alley?”
“It’s provided as part of his employ. The contract allows it.”
“Hem,” Molesworth said, talking down towards his clipboard. “A promotion?”
“Security,” Harry shrugged, keeping his eyes narrowed as he sipped his tea. “The Chosen One running a sex shop? I sleep better knowing Draco is living above the store and can safe guard it.”
“I see,” said Molesworth, dumping an obscene amount of sugar into his tea. “And how often does Mr Malfoy take sick leave?”
“He’s taken it twice in the four and a half years he’s been here. Once for dragon pox, once for a personal matter.”
Molesworth’s eyebrows narrowed at that, but instead of looking intimidating like Snape, he only managed to look constipated.
Harry held his hand up and glanced down at his nearly finished teacup.
“I didn’t ask, it isn’t any of my business.” Out in the main shop area he could hear a roar of laughter from what sounded like a gaggle of witches on a girls’ day out.
“Mr Molesworth, I have a busy day on the floor. I’ll summarize Draco Malfoy’s career at Bottom’s Up for you though. He started out surly and suspicious that his school enemy had become his boss, and he’s still sarcastic on a daily basis. He is never late, he has put in extra time everyday to ensure the shop is clean, and for some baffling reason, the customers like him. I trust him to run my shop when I’m not here, and he’s proud as hell when he has a good sales day.”
Harry stood and moved to put his mug in the sink. Molesworth was furiously scribbling down what Harry had said, and just finished when the back door opened. Draco stepped into the staffroom and immediately stiffened upon seeing Molesworth. His eyes flashed suspiciously, and his head rose ever so slightly.
“Draco Malfoy, Basil Molesworth.”
Harry noticed Draco subconsciously rub his left arm through this thin dress shirt, where the Mark was covered.
“Come back out when you can, Malfoy. You’re doing well today with the door knockers,” Harry said, hoping to put some colour back in Draco’s ashen face.
Harry stood behind the cash desk, trying not to eavesdrop back towards the staffroom. He had the sheet of sales numbers from Monday and Tuesday in front of him, but the numbers were blurring in his mind. The generic dildo wasn’t really selling, and the few witches who’d come in looking for one had gone with a model that had all sorts of fancy attachments, beads, and ticklers on them.
Hermione interrupted his thoughts as she placed a small scroll down on the desk in front of him.
“An enquiry from Professor McGonagall,” Hermione said, trying to keep her face straight. “She’d like to know what sort of discounts are available to Order of the Phoenix colleagues.”
Harry scrunched his face up and shook his head.
“Tell her that whatever she decides to get, and no I don’t want to know what it is, she can have a 15% discount,” said Harry, turning his attention to the male section of the shop and focusing his mind on that.
“Harry, you own a sex shop. You had to know that your ideas of some adults we know would be shattered eventually,” Hermione said, smacking him lightly with the scroll and laughing.
“I don’t want to think about my teachers having sex!” Harry hissed, lowering his voice as Draco and Molesworth came into the shop from the staffroom.
“Oh really?” Hermione said, hands on her hips and eyebrow raised. “You’re sleeping with Snape.”
“I …yes, but,” started Harry, pulling the sheets of numbers towards him.
“No buts, Harry James Potter. You’re a hypocrite.”
“He’s very good at it,” Harry grinned, taking satisfaction in the fact that it was Hermione whose face went red this time.
Across the room, Draco led Molesworth over to the Brass Ball Knockers display and was explaining the scholarship connection.
“Hey, how are you selling so many of those Auror robes, by the way?” asked Harry. “I didn’t think there were that many people into roleplaying.”
“I’ve been wearing them around the shop in the morning,” Hermione blushed.
The door chime sounded and a tall, sturdy wizard entered, wearing a wig that would put Lucius Malfoy’s hair to shame. It was poufy and several shades of blond all melded together. The wizard was dressed in a shimmery blue robe, with a bright silver necklace and shiny bangles on his wrists. He had a bejewelled belt loosely slung around his hips, more makeup on than Harry had ever seen on Trelawney, and sharp blood red nails that Aunt Petunia would have found scandalous.
“Wow,” Harry breathed. He reached under the shelf for a thick piece of decorative parchment, and muttered a charm to make his wand work like a brush.
“Special! Receive a 50% discount on the compatible Mr Wizard’s Wand dildo when you buy the Cockitator!”
The words appeared with flourish on the sign, and Harry cast a second spell to make the parchment rigid. He’d change the display in a few minutes to add the dildos next to the boxes of Cockitators. He wasn’t quite sure if it was cheating, but again the contest was for the amount of product sold, and not the money earned.
Harry spent a few more minutes sketching up some plans to market his other products better, but put the sheets away when the flamboyant wizard came to pay for his purchases.
Harry rang through the three bottles of massage oil, scented lube, the balloon animal pack of condoms, and the Cockitator box that the man had selected as well.
“I’m just about to put out a sign for this special,” Harry said, nodding towards it. “You can get the 50% off that dildo, if you’d like.”
Harry smiled at him, and pointed over to the toy section where the dildos were currently on display. Unfortunately, Basil Molesworth and Draco had made their way to that section as well, and going by the way Draco was fiercely squeezing the hell out of a bright pink silicon prick, Molesworth’s questions were irritating him.
The queen standing next to Harry followed his pointed finger and gazed appreciatively at Draco.
“Mmm hmm. Sign me up for one of those too, sugar, if the toyboy comes with it.”
“No,” Harry answered, barely choking back a laugh. “Sorry, he’s taken by one of our female friends.”
“Well you let him know he can squeeze by my place anytime,” the man said, giving Harry a wink.
Thursday May 6th
Harry stopped off at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes on the way home, taken back as always by the bright lights and loud noises in the shop.
“Heckie!” Ron cheered, looming on a platform above Harry’s shop. A toy helicopter buzzed around his head like a demented fly.
“Hey Ron!” Harry called back.
“You wouldn’t be trying to spy on us for the contest, would you Heckie?” George asked, popping up beside Harry and startling him.
“No, not that desperate,” Harry teased.
“Pity,” George shrugged. “Sure I can’t interest you in a set of Auror robes?”
“You’ve got those on your list too?” Harry asked, glancing around to see if he could spot any other items. “Nah, I just came for some of your bruise healing paste.”
“Rough day at the sex shop then?” George smirked, leading Harry over to the ‘Oopsies!’ section of the shop.
“Ha,” said Harry, rolling his eyes. On the shelf there were several varieties of the bruise healing paste: the original and a few newer versions the twins had worked on after input from their mother. “I need one that works well on deep bruises.”
George stared at him thoughtfully before selecting two boxes, the original one and one labelled ‘The Sister Rattler.’
“This one got poor old Hermione’s bruise out right quick,” George said. “But this one’ll work if it’s been a few days since the bruise set in. Think you’ll crash during the run? I don’t know if it works on road rash.”
“Not planning on it,” Harry shrugged. “Road rash goes away fine though. How well do you think this’ll work on scars?”
George eyed the second box critically, and glanced toward Harry.
“Your scar’s all white now, it can’t fade much further, Heck.”
Harry grabbed the box of The Sister Rattler and plucked a thin tube of Weasley Cut-Be-Gone Cream from the shelf. He gave George a grin and pulled out his moneybag.
“Sometimes you still gotta take the chance.”
“True! And yet, your money still isn’t good here,” George replied, pushing him toward the door and ignoring the galleons Harry tried to hand him.