Just Breathe

by Lara Wilson

"Do you have any clue where we are?" the blond panted, trying to peer through the gloom for any sign. As his companion tightened his arm around his waist, he winced. The two broken ribs in his side grated together with every movement.

But they had to keep moving.

The dark haired young man looked around as well. They were in a field. He could see a couple of cows eying them suspiciously. "Um...not really."

"Where were you apparating us to?"

"Out, away, anywhere."

Draco rolled his eyes dramatically. "We're lucky we didn't end up in a tree."

"Yes, well, I felt this insane need to save your life," Harry replied waspishly. "Come on, it's getting colder and foggier."

"You think the Dark Lord would mind if we moved the war to Tahiti?"

The whine in his friend's voice made Harry smile as they began slowly walking across the field. Along with the broken ribs and bruised chest, Draco had a twisted knee and a cut across his thigh. Harry smelled the tang of blood and the smile faded. "Are you bleeding badly?"

"It's just a scrape," was the hoarse reply. Draco tried to keep the pain out of his voice, but he knew he failed.

"I should tend that." Harry stopped and reached for his wand, but the other man stopped him.

"It'll be fine. We need to keep moving. If they traced us..." There was no need to continue.

Reaching a stone wall, Harry helped Draco over a stile, then followed him onto a narrow road. "Maybe we should apparate again?"

"And go where? They found our delightful hovel. They've found every safehouse we know about except the main one, and we don't dare lead them there."

Harry blew out his breath in frustration. Draco was right. They were rapidly running out of places to go. "Shit."

"Come on," the blond encouraged, his voice tired. "Maybe we can find a barn or something like when you were hurt."

They started walking down the road, Draco leaning heavily against Harry. After about a mile walking in silence, they reached a crossroads with an old white metal sign. As Draco rested against a wall, his face pale, pants of air escaping him into the chilly night, Harry read the sign.

Most of the villages were unfamiliar, but one sparked a memory.

"I think I know where we are. Come on." He hoisted Draco up and started down an even narrower lane.

When Draco didn't respond, the other man gave him a worried look. The blond's eyes were narrowed to slits, and, though he was moving, Harry could tell he was slipping into shock. Apparating in his condition was too risky. Harry hoped he was right about the direction. He'd never been there, but he was sure the name was right. Pulling out his wand, he cast a spell to find someplace with heavy wards.

The spell led them farther down the lane until they reached a high stone wall. Following it around they eventually came to an entrance to an estate. Slipping through in the dark, Harry guided them not to the mansion in the distance but to a walled cottage to the east.

"We're almost there."

"...Huh?" Draco opened his eyes wider then gasped just as Harry pushed open the green wooden gate. "No!"

"We'll be safe here."

Panic filled the blond's fevered eyes and he tried to pull Harry away from the gate. "You idiot. Do you know who lives here?"

"Yeah. I don't like him, but I'd think you would." Harry frowned and pushed the gate open farther, stepping onto the property. "Come on, you're cold as ice and bleeding into your shoe." He tugged the other man through the gate.

The door to the cottage was flung open and magic lit the air, blinding them and freezing them in place.

"Great. We'll be in the Dark Lord's clutches within the hour," Draco snorted bitterly.

"Huh?"

The lights dimmed slightly, enough so they could see Snape stride from the cottage, wand in one hand, sword in the other. He stopped short when he saw Harry, who stood in front of Draco.

"Potter," Severus said coldly. "To what do we owe this unexpected...pleasure?"

"We were attacked. We got away. We ended up here." Harry glared at his former teacher. "Draco's hurt and we're both frozen to the bone." He stepped sideways.

Severus immediately sheathed his wand and made the sword disappear, concern stretching across his face. "Draco?"

"Potter, he's a Death Eater," the blond man gasped painfully through tightly drawn lips.

"Huh?" Finally it hit Harry why Draco was so frightened, and he laughed. "Right. I didn't tell you, did I."

"You brought him here? Why on earth would you do that?" Severus snapped, even as he moved to support Draco and lead him to the cottage. "Why he saved your worthless life is beyond me, but did you think to ask if you could betray my secrets?"

Harry scowled at Snape. "I trust him. Lilith trusts him. I don't give a fig what you think."

"I'm confused," Draco managed to get out between painful breaths. His head throbbed in counter beat to the stabbing pain from his broken ribs. As they stepped into the cottage, the warmth hit him and he nearly passed out.

"Take him to the guestroom. It's the open door at the end of the hall. I'll wake Lilith." Severus released his hold on Draco and stepped into the master bedroom, as Harry continued the two of them past him towards the second bedroom.

Lilith was struggling into her robe, her hair tangled down her back, a worried expression on her face. "I just saw them. Is Draco okay?"

Severus grabbed his satchel of healing potions. "He will be. If they weren't tracked here." He saw her eyes widen in fear and reached for her hand. "I'll check after I've healed Draco."

"I can do that. Just tell me which potions to administer and how much. Please, Sev, check the wards." She tried not to let the panic show on her face, but she knew she failed. He brushed his hand soothingly over her pale cheek and nodded, then pulled three vials out of the bag and gave her brief instructions.

As Severus started for the door, Lilith wrapped her fingers around his arm, stopping him. "You'll keep us safe," she murmured, rising on her toes to kiss him softly. There was no need for him to answer and he swept out the door.

Carrying the vials and a set of measuring spoons, Lilith walked down the hall to the guestroom. Harry had removed Draco's cloak and boots and was helping him lie on the bed. Lilith magically lit a second lantern, then started a fire in the fireplace.

"Severus is making certain you weren't followed. I have the healing potions here." She cast a worried eye over her nephew. The boy was pasty looking and the pain was evident by the strained expression on his face and the trembling in his hands. He was also very frightened, shivering from fear as much as shock. As Lilith crossed the room, Harry's eyes fell on her stomach and he stared for a long moment, then shook his head slightly and pulled up a chair for her from the small desk. Lilith gave him a look, then sat down facing Draco. A wound across his thigh was slick with blood, and she conjured up some towels and directed Harry to staunch the blood flow.

"What hurts, Draco?"

At the first pressure on his leg, he nearly bolted from the bed, howling. "My leg at the moment," he panted, falling back on the pillows.

"Sorry," Harry muttered.

Lilith measured out a spoonful of potion for open wounds and poured it down Draco's throat. "What else?"

"Ribs...broken."

A draught of bone knitting potion followed. As her nephew groaned in pain, Lilith examined the third bottle. "I think this one is for pain." She gave him some of that, as well.

"Do you have one to make us disappear before we're slaughtered?"

"Huh?" Lilith looked from Draco to Harry. "What?" She placed a cool hand on her nephew's forehead. "I think you're in shock, Draco, and you have a fever."

"I kind of forgot to tell him the truth about Snape," Harry admitted.

Lilith's eyes widened. "And you brought him here with him believing that Severus is...Oh, Harry!" She shot him an exasperated look, then turned back to her confused nephew, softening her tone of voice. "Draco, Severus is a spy for us, for Dumbledore. He has been for twenty years. He never truly returned to the Dark Lord's service."

Draco stared at her, stunned, then a hesitant smile crept across his face. "So...you're not being held here against your will?"

She smiled back and shook her head. "No, Draco. Oh no. Severus truly saved my life that night."

"Such selflessness is rarely seen in a Slytherin."

The blond's self-mockery made her lips twist. "Well, to be fair to the Slytherin ideal, if I'd been claimed by another and kept on a full dose of Obfuscare, I'd have inevitably blown Sev's cover."

"That sounds more like it." The boy laughed, then coughed and winced, grousing, "I think it hurts worse knitting the damn things than breaking them." He looked back up at his aunt. "So, why are you still here, then?"

"If I left, the Dark Lord would quickly know that something was wrong and suspicion would fall on Severus. His cover would be blown that way, too." She patted her stomach. "I'm not much use in a fight at the moment anyway, but I'm safe here, and I've been able to feed some disinformation to Him, too."

"Everything believes he's a Death Eater, one of the most powerful, one of the darkest. I've...I've seen him kill," Draco murmured, not wanting to hurt his aunt, but trying to understand.

"He had no choice," she replied sadly.

Draco decided to change the subject. "So, um, why aren't you wondering what I'm doing with wonder boy?"

"Hm? Oh, I saw it right after the battle, plus Harry sent us an owl a month ago to inform us that you'd saved his life and joined our side."

The blond shot the brunette a nasty look. "Oh, you can risk an owl to your godmother about me, but can't tell me, who lives with you, about Professor Snape?"

"I forgot, okay? I don't exactly like thinking about him," Harry snapped back.

"The feeling is mutual," came a cool voice from the doorway.

Harry reddened, Draco looked relieved, and Lilith rolled her eyes.

"The wards?" she asked, changing the subject.

"Secure. No one tracked them. It was still incredibly stupid..." He broke off as he saw the extent of the damage to Draco's thigh. "How deep is that cut?" He moved towards the bed, and Lilith rose, letting him take her place. As he examined the wound, he frowned. "Have you given him the mending potion?"

"Yes."

"It only works on surface wounds. There's damage to the muscle here. I'll have to fix that first and suture it before I can heal the wound." He glanced up at Draco and saw that the pain potion had kicked in. "How did this happen?"

"Shrapnel. Something exploded, metal flew everywhere. We could only shield against some of it."

"Are you wounded as well, Potter?" Severus asked, his voice tighter, harsher than the one he used to address Draco.

The young man shrugged. "A few scrapes. Draco took the brunt of the explosion."

"Lilith, perhaps you could tend to your godson and put the kettle on?" Without waiting for a reply, he turned back to Draco and pulled out his wand.

Lilith frowned at her husband, remembering other times she'd seen him with Harry, how sharp and cold he'd been. Yet, he'd also saved Harry's life several times. One more layer in the enigma that was Severus Snape. Sighing softly, she gestured for Harry to join her and led the way to the kitchen.

"Draco will be all right. Severus is quite good at healing with his potions." As Harry took a seat at the table, she went to the sink and filled the kettle.

"Draco's his golden boy," Harry replied, without any bitterness, simply stating a fact. "I used to think it was because he's a Malfoy, but that's not why."

"Although he's had to walk a fine line with the Death Eaters even before the Dark Lord's return, they've always needed his favor much more than he's needed theirs."

"For creating dark potions."

As she set the kettle on the stove, she gave him a stern look, then reached into a cabinet for a first-aid kit. "For creating all kinds of potions. You do know he is the premier potion master of this age, right?" She plunked the first aid kit down on the table and sank down into one of the chairs. Harry shrugged, not wanting to admit anything positive about his long-time nemesis. "Harry, many of those potions save lives every day. He's not just a teacher. In fact, he's only a teacher because Dumbledore was the only one who would hire him after the fall of the Dark Lord. He could have trained to be a healer, or worked in a laboratory and built himself an empire doing what he loves."

"He brought all that on himself," the young man replied sullenly, rolling up his sleeve to reveal several small cuts.

"Yes, he did, and for over twenty years he's worked to make amends." Opening the first aid kit she removed some cotton swabs and a bottle of alcohol. "His potions are marketed under another's name. He's allowed to teach the children of wizards because it's believed he is totally controlled by Professor Dumbledore, but none of those wizards would buy a potion made by him. Very few people make potions anymore, you know, so no one really cares if the kids are taught properly. They are, of course, but how many of your friends make their own healing potions or shrinking potions?"

"Hermione did," Harry said, quietly, then hissed as she dabbed at his cuts.

"Yeah, and so does Draco. They were Severus' best students in years. When was the last time you made anything?"

"Does soup count? I'm pretty good at soup?" He gave her a hesitant smile, which she returned fully, then slapped a bandage on his arm.

"You'll live. Speaking of food, are you hungry?" At his nod, she rose to fix some sandwiches.

"Lilith? Um...you're pregnant, aren't you."

She sighed as he finally addressed that subject, but didn't look back at him as she opened the refrigerator. "Yes. And, yes, it's Severus'."

"But..."

"The Dark Lord gave us no choice, Harry. He forced Severus to drug me, using a potion that counteracts anti-conception charms and potions. He forced us to...well, I won't go into that. Pregnancy was always a risk. Severus took me off the drugs as soon as he discovered I was pregnant."

"Sirius never mentioned you were pregnant."

She frowned at the slightly accusatory tone of his voice. "He doesn't know. Only a few people on our side know." She slapped meat and cheese on bread and reached for plates.

"What a mess," Harry mumbled.

Lilith changed the subject as she finished up the sandwiches, "What happened? Who attacked you?"

Severus entered the room, drying his hands on a towel which he discarded in the laundry basket next to the washing machine. "I'd like to know that, as well. Draco's sleeping," he added, his voice gentling when he addressed his wife. "He'll be fine, though he has to stay off that leg for a few days. He walked entirely too much." That was directed pointedly at Harry.

"We apparated until Draco was too weak to attempt it and not end up half in a tree," Harry snapped back.

Lilith frowned again, and the kettle began to whistle. "Severus, sit down. Harry, who attacked you?" she asked again, as she poured the hot water over the tea leaves.

"Death Eaters, none I recognized. They were young, the new breed, next generation. We'd only been in our latest safe house for six days. I have no idea how they found us so quickly." He took the sandwich she offered him gratefully. After swallowing a large bite, he continued, "Ever since the attack on headquarters we've been shaken and scattered so badly. We're all just licking our wounds and trying to recover."

"They found you too quickly," Severus emphasized, his brow furrowing. "Could we have a spy in our midst?"

Lilith gave him a dismayed look. "Surely, not."

Harry gave him a pointed look and he scowled even more. "Watch the look, boy."

Carrying the tea set to the table, Lilith turned her exasperation on her godson. "Harry, Severus is completely trustworthy. You know that." The young man flushed at her scolding and dropped his eyes. She set the tray down and joined them at the table. As she poured and Harry munched on his sandwich, a disconcerting thought came to her and she murmured, "Could it be Draco?"

"No," Harry responded firmly. "Definitely not. He hates Voldemort as much as I do."

"Why?" She handed around cups of tea, adding sugar and milk to her own.

"You'll have to ask him, but I believe his reason." Harry took another bite of his sandwich, then washed it down with a gulp of tea. "I've wondered...hated doing so, but...could Ron or Hermione have broken?" He couldn't hide the pensive sadness from his voice.

Severus shook his head emphatically. "I'd be dead if either had broken. The Dark Lord wouldn't waste time toying with me. Plus, neither one of them knew the location of your safe house."

"True. Only Professor Dumbledore knows everything."

"And he's recovering and his shields are as strong as ever," Lilith added, sipping her tea.

"I've been allowed access to Mr. Weasley under the guise of administering potions to strip away his mental shields."

Harry gave Snape a startled look and demanded, "Why haven't you rescued him then?"

"You're just like your godfather," Severus retorted, banging his cup down in the saucer. "If I did that, my true nature would be revealed and I would be of no use to the Order."

"You're not much use now," Harry sneered back.

Severus rose furiously to his feet. "I will not be insulted in my own house by a puling youth with an ego..."

"Enough," Lilith snapped harshly. "Both of you. *I* won't have this in *my* house. Apologize, Harry, now."

Harry stared at her, then narrowed his eyes at Snape and muttered an apology. Severus sneered back and retook his seat, crossing his arms over his chest.

Taking a deep, soothing breath and feeling her baby stir beneath her heart, Lilith spoke again, more softly this time. "The Order must find a way to rescue them, Harry. It's possible that Severus can aid us in that attempt, as he's already providing Ron with potions to strengthen his shields as much as break them down, but we need him inside. I'm sorry, Harry, but we need Severus' position more than we need Ron or Hermione."

Paling, Harry shoved the remains of his sandwich away with a trembling hand. "I know, Lilith. I know, and that hurts even more. They've been my best friends forever and...we may have to sacrifice them."

Lilith reached for his hand and squeezed it gently. "We'll do what we can to prevent that."

Turning to Severus again and taking several deep breaths, Harry asked, "You spoke of Ron, but what of Hermione?"

Severus' face hardened even more and his eyes darkened. "She's alive, but she's not being held by the Dark Lord. She was gifted to Ginny, who, undoubtedly, has turned her over to Lucius."

"I don't understand, what would Ginny want with her?"

"In the six weeks she has been at Court, Ginny has become well known for her perversions. She revels in causing pain, especially sexually."

Harry flushed and dropped his eyes. "You mean, she and Malfoy are..." He shook his head, unable to continue that line of thought. "I never thought...I mean, spells, potions, even torture, those I knew would be used against anyone captured, but...not this."

"Rape has long been a tool of torture, Harry," Lilith said sadly, still holding his hand.

"You should be prepared for that with Mr. Weasley, too. Most of the Death Eaters and the Dark Lord himself have never been fickle where gender is concerned when it comes to punishing and torturing," Severus added.

Harry pulled away from Lilith and pushed himself to his feet. "I need some air." With a strangled sound he left the kitchen for the garden.

Lilith reached for Severus, gripping his hands tightly in her own. "He's too young to have to deal with this. They all are."

"They're adults, Lilith, and they've seen and done so much since they were children. They have unimaginable inner strength. Don't underestimate them."

Tears filled her eyes. "We need to get them back, because even the strongest will eventually shatter. They don't deserve that."

Severus nodded slowly. "I shall speak with Dumbledore tomorrow, but I don't know how we can get either of them free. I don't even know where Miss Granger is. And...in the end, we can't risk them giving away our secrets. I know what Dumbledore will say, what he will tell me to do if there is no other choice."

The tears spilled down Lilith's cheeks and she pulled his hands to her lips, sobbing softly against his knuckles. "This war will destroy us all."

"I'm afraid so, my love. Just breathe...," he replied, his voice full of sorrow, as he pulled her easily onto his lap. They sat there quietly, him rocking her slightly, matching each other breath for breath, grief weighing heavily on them.

Harry stood silently in the doorway for several minutes, watching them, feeling...weird. Lilith was supposed to love Sirius, had forever, and Snape was just a nasty git capable of no decent emotions.

So, why did Snape and Lilith look so right together?

This war was messing up everything.

End

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