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Complete header information may be found in Chapter One. You may find all parts of this story by clicking the Remembrance and Reunion tag.

Chapter Seventeen: Taking Speech

Harry awoke safely in the shelter of Severus' arms, luxuriating in the feeling. It was just them, and she had never felt happier. But as her sleepiness abated, she realized that her husband felt . . . distant. The glow of their magic-fasting was still swirling over the bed, but the playful patterns it had made during their love-making had calmed into a steadier glow that hovered like a mist above their bodies.

With a thought, Harry dispelled the fog and sat up to look at Severus clearly.

"What's wrong?"

"You're still wearing it," Severus whispered.

"What? Oh!" Harry responded, one hand flying to the white-gold band that dangled between her bare breasts, the same hand that also bore the Sigil of Authorization of her Family.

"Blaise's . . . gift to you."

"And Ron's."

"What?"

"The day that I was . . . first married, Ron gave me this chain. There's a Muggle tradition, "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue . . . ."

"And the chain was to be your 'something new'?"

"Yes. And it was also Ron's way of telling me that he accepted things."

"Your marriage?"

"More than that. My being a girl—Ron and I . . . we never talked about the Change. He tried to ignore it, really, but when . . . well, on my wedding day, he couldn't anymore."

"I see. And the ring, Harry?"

"I've just never taken it off."

"You still love him."

Harry sighed, remembering the last time that she had seen Blaise before leaving the Wizarding World.

"Why don't you talk to me, anymore? Why won't you tell me what happened? I'm your husband. I love you, Ree!"

"Of course you do," she replied, sitting by the hearth in her room at the Zabini estate.

"Look, I know that it must have been . . . awful, but it's time to forget about all that now."

The pain of her miscarriage came back to her then, and she laughed at Blaise's assumption that she could so easily forget what had passed and move on. But he doesn't know, she told herself before another voice whispered to her, hissing through her consciousness to rise out of her in a laugh that was not her own.

"Is it, boy?"

"Boy? I'm a boy to you, now?" Blaise demanded, grasping Harry's shoulders and shaking her.

The witch/wizard heard the anger in the boy's tone, and it amused her/him. [But not as much as fear would be pleasing], she/he thought in Parseltongue. [Will you allow such as this to touch you? Finish the him for his impertinence!]

"No! I won't! Get out! Get out!" Harry shrieked, though not quite in a tone of voice she could call entirely her own.

The serpentine essence of Lord Voldemort retreated, just as did Blaise.

"I . . . love . . . you," she said, brokenly, beginning to cry. "Oh, gods! Oh . . . Blaise, I . . . do . . . love you, but . . . I can't . . . I can't do this anymore."

She had left the estate that night and gone to her godfather's old home, and had stayed there through the Second Trials. Only Draco had gotten in to see her there, bearing a letter from her husband. But she had never opened it.

"You have to tell him something, Potter."

"I know," Harry said in both her memory and the present.

Severus jerked himself out of the bed.

"I see. I had thought . . . no matter, I—"

"—misunderstand! Severus, of course I still love Blaise. He was my husband."

"He still is," the wizard said coldly.

"No, he isn't!" the witch yelled, the rage she held in check—not her own—lashing out at her lover through their bond before she could stop it.

"Get out!" she shrieked, running to where Severus had fallen. "Leave us alone!"

The wizard grasped Harry's hands before they could claw at her face and pulled her down on top of himself, willing his love inside of her. He understood.

"Harry, come back to me. Harry!"

Crying, the woman went limp. "I can't, Severus. He won't let me. He's always waiting . . . inside. I . . . don't . . . know how to stop him."

"Shh," Severus comforted Harry. "It's all right. Harry, shh. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have pressed you."

Severus picked Harry up, ignoring the pricking in his skin from the pain of the bond-send he had just experienced, and took her back to the bed.

"I hurt you. I'm so sorry, Severus. I . . . I never meant . . . ."

"That is why you left."

"Yes."

"To keep Blaise safe."

"And you, and everyone—I . . . I just didn't understand what had happened. And when I was near you . . . ."

"Our magic-fasting—you didn't understand . . . ."

"Why I felt drawn to you, but, but still loved Blaise."

"And Lily Peace, you . . . ."

"Oh, Severus, I didn't know whose baby she was. How could I have faced you? How could I have explained that? I just felt . . . I just had to get away," Harry said, more calmly. "How did you know?"

"Molly let it slip."

"Oh."

"She appeared horrified by her admission, but I think perhaps—"

"—she told you on purpose. So that you would find me."

"Yes."

"But you were already looking for me. Why?"

"How can you ask that? I . . . I have loved you for . . . far longer than was appropriate, Harry."

"You are never inappropriate, my love."

"You don't have to say that."

Harry turned to face Severus, straddled him, and took his face in her hands. "I do have to say it. I want to say it. You need to hear me say it. Severus, Blaise will always have a place in my heart, but you . . . you rule there. I am Harry James Potter, the Girl Who Lived, the Vanquisher and Mother of the Snape Family of the Gift Clan of the Goblinate, and your wife. The only title that matters to me is that last one, the chief one. Severus, I love you. I am in love with you. You are the only man I want."

A strangled groan escaped the wizard's lips as he pulled his wife into a deep kiss. The magic of their bond tightened between them, and all of Severus' doubts faded.

Harry broke their embrace, and attempted to remove the chain she wore, but the wizard took her hand.

"No, you needn't do that, Harry. I do not require . . . proof."

"No doubts?"

"No doubts."

"You're . . . you're crying," she said in a wondering tone, lightly brushing her husband's tears away. "I've never seen you cry before."

"I . . . cried in Malfoy Manor, after the attack, when I collected the shards of your wand," Severus admitted. "It shattered after I used it to stop your shielding spell. Do you not remember?"

"No, I . . . don't. I don't remember anything about that day."

It was a lie, and they both knew it.

"Ah," Severus replied, adjusting his position so that Harry could lay back against him.

She did. He sighed, and attempted to collect himself. He wanted to understand.

"He was with us that day, when we . . . wasn't he?"

Harry stiffened, as if fighting with herself, but at last she drew in a deep breath, and exhaled it as she said, simply, "Yes."

"I did not realize that then. I . . . Harry, if I had known what you were going to do because of what I caused to happen—"

"—you didn't cause—"

"—I blame myself. I should have protected you!"

"Severus, please—I don't blame you for what happened. You saved me. You always do."

And that was a lie, too, one that Severus would not permit Harry to believe.

"Not always, Harry."

"No, not always. You're right. . . . But it's not your job to protect me, you know. Some choices . . . some decisions . . . you know that I had to do what I did."

"No, I do not know that, but . . . it's in the past now."

"No, it isn't."

"No," Severus agreed, thinking of what he had just experienced. "It isn't."

"I don't know what to do about my . . . possession, but I think I can control it, him, long enough for us to do what we must. . . . And we'll do that together."

"Yes. Together," the wizard replied through a yawn.

Harry snuggled more deeply into her husband and yawned, as well. "Do we have to get up, now?"

"No, not yet, my love. Sleep. We have time."

It had been over a day since the party, and Harry knew that time was, in truth, rather short, but she wanted a bit of peace for herself.

. . . and for Severus, for everyone, really, she thought before apparently drifting off to sleep.

Peace for everyone, Severus thought, gazing protectively at his wife's pale features, at her scar, comes at, perhaps, too great a price to pay.

But remembering the joy he had experienced in his wife's arms only hours before, he knew that he would pay any price to see Harry safe and happy.

"You are my only concern, my only comfort," he whispered, knowing, of course, that Harry did not share his selfishness.

For his wife, he knew, though it no longer caused jealousy to rise in his breast, had love enough in her heart for everyone.

It seems that I still have much to learn from you, Harry.

A feeling like warm amusement flowed through him then. If you promise to stop thinking so loudly and sleep, I might be persuaded to do a little teaching before we have to leave our chamber.

None of your Gryffindor cheek, if you please.

That's not what you said earlier.

Mrs. Snape, I'm shocked.

You're never shocked, Mr. Snape, Harry thought at him before willing their bond-send to once again become visible.

"Will you teach me to do that, too?" Severus whispered.

Harry opened up her clear, deep green eyes and winked at him. "There will be no foolish wand-waving in this hall."

"You don't use a wand," the wizard replied, smirking.

The witch took his words as the challenge they were, and began to show her husband exactly of what use a wand could be to her.