Summary: Severus gives Harry the key to their future.
They'd been strolling through the unfamiliar bit of countryside for over an hour when Severus finally spoke. "Do you like it here?"
"It's peaceful," Harry said, taking Severus' hand.
They continued walking; it was something they'd often do—Apparate to a random place and explore it. Today, however, Severus' "aimlessness" seemed both studied and purposeful; Harry felt as if he were being led somewhere in particular. This feeling only increased as Severus turned him off the dirt road they'd been following onto a smaller path between the trees, which eventually opened up into a clearing. Magic shimmered in the air, and concentrating, Harry could see the cottage that was hidden by the wards.
He smiled, and Severus squeezed his hand before passing him a key with his free one. Trust Severus to find a decent alternative to a ring, Harry thought, as he proceeded to the door.
They moved through the rooms in silence, occasionally sharing a glance or brush of fingertips; Harry could see how nervous Severus was, but he didn't feel any trepidation, himself. From the furnishings to the finishes, it was obvious to him that Severus had spent quite a bit of time here already.
Making it perfect . . . for us.
The cottage had a cozy, hospitable feeling and was warm in more ways than one. It was as if another family had lived in it with love so long that the emotion had been absorbed into its wood and stone. There was a laboratory, which didn't surprise Harry at all, and stepping out the kitchen door at the back of the house, Harry found a long stretch of meadow. The trees lining it had been cultivated, or more likely, spelled, to curve inward to create a leafy, partial dome. The covered area was large enough, secluded enough, to make a good half-Quidditch pitch.
"You thought of everything," Harry murmured.
Severus wrapped his arms around him from behind and rested his chin atop Harry's head. "I thought of you."
The unspoken question hung in the air between them more pressingly now, and Harry's answer came from deep within him. "Yes."
Severus' embrace tightened for a moment; his breathing quickened, and Harry didn't turn around until it had evened out into its normal rhythm. Severus had learnt to share himself with Harry over the years, and Harry had learnt to give Severus his privacy during his moments of strong emotion. When they finally shifted into a kiss, it felt as though they were sealing a vow—one to the future and themselves—and the key grew even warmer in Harry's hand.
It was only later, while Harry waited for Severus to do up his buttons, that he had occasion to read the key's inscription.
He forgave Severus the pun without reservation.