Things were different that New Year's Eve; Harry found himself alone and missing Sebastian, who'd refused to return with him to Grimmauld and had taken himself off to the Novitiate once he'd recovered sufficiently from his "pox" to leave the Burrow; he hadn't been pleased by Harry's talk of a memorial for Snape. Ron hadn't been pleased by Harry's announcement that he wouldn't be continuing his Auror training, which was why Harry wasn't celebrating the turn of the year with the Weasleys. He'd been invited to several parties, one of which had been, much to his surprise, the Malfoys' annual New Year's ball, but nothing could have induced him to celebrate with them—not even Luna, who'd fire-called earlier to ask him to attend.
"We can talk about the memorial," she'd suggested.
Harry sighed and closed the book he'd been reading. Luna's ability to go on with things was impressive—she'd fire-called from the Malfoys', and he couldn't believe she'd actually gone back to the manor—but he had other things to contemplate. He was worried about Sebastian, and he didn't know what he was going to do with himself now that he was no longer planning to be an Auror.
My marks were good enough that I could do several things, but a Ministry job doesn't appeal, and—
Harry started and drew his wand as a cloaked figure stepped out of his kitchen fire. "Who the hell—Luna?"
"Happy New Year's!" she exclaimed, stepping aside as another hooded figure whooshed! into the room.
"So, your raging fit of sulks hasn't dulled your wits. Good," Malfoy remarked, his sarcasm undercut by his smile.
Harry found it suspicious. "What are you doing here?"
"Following Lu," Malfoy replied with a shrug, and then he sat down without being asked.
"Harry, it's silly of you to hole up here when so many people want to see you."
Harry raised an eyebrow in irritation as he turned to regard Luna. "You know, when I gave you Floo access, it was just for you, not—"
"For my husband?" Luna interrupted.
"Traditionally, 'congratulations' are in order at such a time."
Harry glared at Malfoy. Pompous arse.
"Oh, we're not married yet, but we will be. Draco's just asked me to marry him," Luna said, holding out a hand to show Harry the diamond that graced her finger.
Gobsmacked, Harry could only say, "Congratulations."
"Very sincere. I almost believe you," Malfoy replied, while Luna moved around the table to kiss Harry's cheek before sitting down and gesturing him to do the same.
"I wanted you to know first, and well, there's something else you should know."
Oh, no. She's pregnant, Harry thought, looking at Luna's waistline.
She laughed. "I'm not marrying Draco because of pregnancy."
"What is this you've been reading?" Malfoy asked, picking up Harry's book while Harry looked from Luna to Malfoy and back again. "Addictive Potions and Their Cures: A Healer's Guide?"
"You owe me five Galleons," Luna said to Malfoy. Before Harry could ask why, she continued, "I know why the professor's statue disintegrated."
"So do—wait, what?"
"There's already a memorial to him. He created it, himself."
Luna looked so pleased that Harry didn't have the heart to tell her that she was wrong. "Give me that," he snapped at Malfoy, grabbing his book.
"Testy, and not particularly hospitable of you."
Upon Malfoy's words, a full tea service materialised on the table.
"What do you mean, Luna?" Harry asked, as Malfoy began pouring them tea.
"It's his quarters, Harry. No one's been able to enter them since he died. They're his memorial. They're Hogwarts' way of marking the professor's absence."
"You're not making any sense, Luna. You said that Snape memorialised himself."
"Well, yes, Potter," Malfoy interjected, "they are his quarters—but in death, his wards shouldn't have held."
"That's right," Luna agreed. "The fact that they remain intact is telling. But I think there might be something that we can do about that."
"What, get into his quarters?"
"Move them. To the Ministry's Remembrance Hall—his rooms."
"Do you understand her?" Harry asked, turning to Malfoy.
"I do. If Hogwarts won't allow anyone to breach the wards, we'll have to remove Professor Snape's quarters, well, his laboratory, at the very least, to the Remembrance Hall. The wards won't hold once outside the matrix of Hogwarts as a whole, and—"
"You're both mad. You can't just take part of the castle away."
"Oh, but we can!" Luna exclaimed. "I found the spell while researching building charms, and don't you think it would be a lovely memorial to the professor? To see what he loved most? People could wander through his laboratory and—"
"Gape at a bunch of slimy eyes in jars staring back?"
"Potter, the sort of man the professor was is inherent in his laboratory, in his quarters—people could see that he was disciplined, organised, creative, and—"
"Creative?" Harry asked, as Luna said, "Normal. Just a normal, brave man—if we can move his private quarters, of course, which I'm confident that we can."
"Snape would've hated the idea of people poking their noses around his private quarters."
"Yes, but the man is dead, and illustrating how he lived at Hogwarts would go a long way towards honouring his memory. Think of it: a normal man living an extraordinary life—the exhibition would have explanations about his history."
"It would be a complete history, too," said Luna.
"Including that he killed Headmaster Dumbledore?"
"Thanks to you," she said, "we know why he had to do that, and I think that everyone should know."
"Skeeter did write about it."
"Yes, but if people can see how he lived, if they can understand Professor Snape within the context of his life, then they'll be able to understand why he did what he did much better."
"Luna, what if you get into his moved quarters and discover poisons and torture devices?"
"There won't be those things. I know you know that because Hermione explained to me about Snape's will."
"Yes, and you see, that's why I thought of the building charm. The professor preserved his quarters, himself, didn't he? And Hogwarts is preserving his wards now that he's dead. It's almost as if the castle thinks he's coming back."
"At the very least, it's some acknowledgment by the castle's magics that Snape's should be preserved," Malfoy added.
Harry boggled at the way Malfoy had taken up Luna's odd way of thinking about things so quickly, but he couldn't very well tell them that Snape's wards were holding because Sebastian had never seen fit to remove them. And I suppose that the battle tunnels will adapt to the loss of the rooms, but—
"Will you help us, Harry?"
"With what?" he asked Luna.
"Convincing the Board of Governors to allow us to have the rooms for our exhibit, of course."
"To be more precise," Malfoy added, "will you speak to the Minister for us? I can't imagine that the Board would look too kindly upon any request of yours after you saved Slytherin House."
"That's true enough," Harry replied, crossing his arms and staring down his chest. I should really ask Sebastian about this first, shouldn't I? "I'm not saying no, but I'd like to think about it, all right?"
Luna beamed at him. "It would be the perfect wedding present, you know."
Harry fought not to gag as Malfoy reached for Luna's hand and they stared into each other's eyes as if he weren't even there.
Sebastian actually did sick up when Harry told him about Luna and Malfoy's plans.
"You okay?" he asked, rubbing Sebastian's back lightly in circles.
"Does it . . . look like it?"
Harry sighed and moved from his kneeling stance to a cross-legged position on the cold tile of the bathroom's floor. "They're both mad. I can't think it will work, and—"
Harry Summoned a towel for Sebastian and waited for him to clean himself up before speaking again. "I suppose you could always show up and protest the exhibit."
"Potter, a Death of Dementors couldn't compel me to set foot in the Remembrance Hall," he said, pushing up from the loo and stalking into his bedroom.
Harry followed him. "It wasn't my idea."
"I'm aware of that," Sebastian said, uncorking a bottle of wine and pouring what was left of it into a glass.
"Worried that I'm replacing one addiction with another?"
"Liar," Sebastian remarked, downing the glass in one long swallow. "I'm worried about it."
"Then don't drink."
"Idiot," Sebastian snapped, throwing the empty bottle into his hearth.
"What?" Harry asked, although he couldn't deny that the idea of shagging some sense into Sebastian was appealing.
"I've missed you, and tomorrow I have to deal with a bunch of dunderheaded novices."
Harry snorted. "You mean that tomorrow a bunch of terrified novices will have to deal with you."
"As you say." Sebastian began to disrobe. "I need the distraction, so get out so that I can charm my own if you're not going to fuck me."
Harry flushed and stared at his feet. A distraction. Is that all I am to you? "You . . . you don't want me. I've never—"
"It's not a difficult concept. You get hard, you lube up, and then you stick your cock up my arse. Thrust, pull out, repeat."
Harry supposed that Snape had never asked for any of his needs to be met in quite such a way, and he knew that Sebastian certainly wasn't himself, so in spite of his own desires, he said, "I just wanted you to know about Luna and Malfoy's plans. I'll . . . I hope we'll see each other again soon."
Swallowing down the wave of sadness rolling up his throat, Harry made for the door. Nude, Sebastian strode towards it to block his progress.
"Why won't you fuck me, Potter? I thought we'd established that you find me attractive like this."
"Bitter and angry and feeling violent?"
"I seem to recall that turned you on during one day's training."
"It's not doing anything for me right now. Get out of my way."
"Fickle little shite, aren't you?"
Harry glared at Snape, not Sebastian, and said nothing. Right. I'm the idiot. You're the one who's stuck with yourself.
"Or is it that you're only fit to bottom?"
"Oh, for fuck's sake! Cut the crap!" Harry shouted, turning his back on Snape and clenching his fists. "You're just looking for something to distract you from what you really want, and I won't be that for you."
"What will you be for me?" Snape asked, his rich voice hot and unmistakable against Harry's ear.
"Into what? Into him?"
Harry shuddered as long, thin fingers grasped his cock. They weren't fingers he'd ever felt before, not like this. He jerked and stepped forward.
"I know what you're doing, and since you've killed yourself, you should stop—unless you want to undo the rite and go give Malfoy a piece of your mind."
"What I want is a piece of you."
"Yeah, well, you're not getting me. Not like this," Harry asserted, steeling himself as he spun around.
He caught a flash of black hair and unhealthily pale skin, but just a flash, as Snape renewed his glamour.
"More to your taste?" Sebastian demanded, although Harry could still hear the old menace of Snape's tone lacing his voice.
"I fell in love with Sebastian Sharpe, Curse-Breaker."
"I am Sharpe."
"And you're Snape, which makes all this confusing as hell for both of us, but I won't fuck you now, not when you're so angry, not when you're hating yourself—not when you're hiding."
"Oh, spare me the dramatics. It's you who can't accept me as I am."
"Bollocks! You're not just a hateful, closed-off git! I know that, you bastard! I saw your memories. I know—"
"Nothing!" Sebastian shouted, beginning to stalk about the room and pick up his discarded clothing.
Harry could see that he was trying to hide his face, but Sebastian's shaking shoulders were impossible to ignore. He went to him, stopped him, moved into his arms.
"Stop, just stop, all right?"
His only response was the tightness of Sebastian's embrace.
"I know that you're scared. You're allowed to be scared."
"Shut up, Harry. Why won't you fuck me?"
"Because I want to . . . I want more than that."
Sebastian pulled away. "Don't tell me that you want to make love to me," he said, his tone derisive—and oddly hopeful.
Harry placed his hands lightly on Sebastian's cheeks and tip-toed up to gently kiss his mouth. "Yeah, I really do, but I'm not having you when you're so out of sorts that you don't know what you want. It wouldn't be right."
Harry looked into Sebastian's eyes and saw only confusion and fear, and all he wanted to do was ease those feelings for him—even though he knew that Severus had to do that for himself. Still, he couldn't bring himself to leave him.
"If I'd been set on leaving, I'd have done it, already. Are you hungry? Are you tired? You look—"
"Like hell, I know."
"Do . . . do you regret the Surrendering?" Harry asked, as he moved to embrace Sebastian again.
With his head resting against his chest, he could feel Sebastian's heart hammering.
"No, I don't. I don't want . . . to be him anymore."
"Then let's," Harry said, looking up into Sebastian's eyes, "do something about that, all right?"
He stiffened. "I won't have my life turned into some overwrought, romanticised display!"
"Right, so our course is clear, yeah?" Harry asked, keeping eye-contact with Sebastian while allowing an idea to rise in his mind.
Harry barely felt the push, and when Sebastian laughed, it was abrupt and choked, but Harry knew that he approved.
"I'll just send for Tissy, shall I? If her butter work is anything to go by, she'll know exactly what to do."
"Oh, but it's wonderful!" Luna exclaimed. "It's as if the marble melted into place!"
Draco—Harry had forced himself to be that familiar with the arse in recent weeks, but only because he'd accepted that Draco truly loved Luna—scowled and stalked around the near-empty main room. "Where the hell is everything?"
Minerva chuckled. "Well, it seems that Severus didn't preserve his quarters, but the statue, well, oh, my," she said, her laughter overtaking her.
"It's a good likeness," Harry said, as he turned his attention to the glaring, life-sized statue of Snape in the centre of the room. "Truly, it's the sense of billowing robes that makes it work for me."
Hermione, clearly trying not to laugh, declared, "You'll have to hide him from the Firsties. He's rather terrifying like this."
Luna clapped her hands in delight. "This is surely Hogwarts' doing!"
Draco caught Harry's eye and smirked, but his expression was one of astonished annoyance when he turned to Luna. "I'm sorry, Lu, but—"
"Oh, don't be. I think this will work very well."
"I agree. That's a proper statue of him," Hermione said. "Ron won't believe it when he sees."
Harry issued a sigh of relief. He'd hoped that Luna wouldn't be upset by the change in her plans.
"I know just . . . where we . . . can display him," Minerva managed to say, before gesturing everyone out. "Harry, have you considered my offer?" she asked, as Hermione, Luna, and Draco moved ahead of them.
"Er, yeah, but I've made other arrangements."
Hermione turned around. "Hasn't Harry told you?"
"Told me what?"
"Er, I've asked to become Madam Pomfrey's apprentice, and she's accepted."
"Provided that he begins his studies at St Mungo's so that she doesn't have to teach him the basics," Hermione added.
Minerva beamed at Harry. "I knew it! I knew that you'd find a way to return to Hogwarts. Poppy owes me five Galleons."
"Headmistress," Hermione said, sounding vaguely scandalised.
Harry grinned and shook his head, remembering how Draco had lost five Galleons to Luna because of his decision to leave Auror training. "It's all right. Minerva's not the only one who's been betting on my future."
"It's weird, you know—doesn't feel as if that much time has passed at all—and you were supposed to be my partner."
"I'm still your best mate," Harry said to Ron, smoothing down his lime green robes as Ron picked lint off his bright red ones.
"These look grand, don't they? Much better than yours."
"They clash with your hair, you berk."
"Poof fashion sense notwithstanding, I like my robes better."
"Git," Harry replied, giving Ron a good-natured punch to the shoulder.
Suddenly, a whistle blew.
"Shite! Must be off. Sharpe'll have my arse if I'm late to the morning briefing again. Good luck on your Skin-Healing exam!"
"Good luck with field work!" Harry called, watching Ron sprint across the training yard and waiting to catch a glimpse of Sebastian. The shouting alerted him to his presence before Sebastian actually came into view.
Poor Ron, he thought.
Master Sharpe had undergone something of a personality change in recent months; he was increasingly much less "forgiving," Ron had told him, as they'd toasted Hermione's acceptance into the Spellcraftres' Guild. Of course, "officially," Harry wouldn't have known this about Master Sharpe without Ron's having told him because Harry had been living at Grimmauld during the weekdays, and at Hogwarts on the weekends. Hermione knew that Harry spent most of his nights in Sebastian's quarters at the Novitiate, but Harry had thought it best not to tell Ron about their relationship until he was certain that it was going to take. Ron's feelings about relationships were simple: either one had one, or one didn't.
But 'Bastian still isn't as sure as he might be about who he is in ours, Harry thought, relief flooding him as Sebastian came into view. That's a good sign.
Sebastian was pulling on his Auror robes—over the jumper that Mrs Weasley had given him. It was the first time that Harry had seen Sebastian wear it since he'd removed it at the Burrow.
That really is a brilliant orange ess.
Harry could have stood there all day, but he had a class to get to, and Healer Heath was more alarming than any Master of Instruction had ever been. He was looking forward to the summer when his training would only be with Poppy; she was strict, but even when annoyed, she didn't make one think she might poison one with a twisted Healing spell.
If I didn't know better, I'd say Heath was a relative of Snape's, an older, grumpier relative, Harry thought, Disapparating to St Mungo's.
"Potter, get in here!" Heath demanded, as Harry arrived. "You're almost late."
"Sorry, Healer Heath. Won't happen again."
"Don't be stupid, boy. You're not late, just almost so—and stop standing at attention. Just pay it. You're not training to be an Auror, after all."
Harry tried to relax but found it difficult under his superior's glare.
"You'll have to take your examination this evening, Potter. I need you to make a call."
A "call" was euphemistic for notifying family members that their relative had died, or was about to. Harry swallowed. He'd not yet had to make one.
"Who was it?"
"Oh, he's not dead yet, but I understand that you know his ward—and the old man's being stubborn about his final matters."
"Master Brent?" Harry asked softly, as he entered Aldrich Brent's room.
There was a wheeze in response. From the pallor of the man's skin, his breathing, and his general sunken appearance, Harry surmised that he had some sort of wasting disease. Heath hadn't given him the particulars; at this point in their training, she expected all her trainees to be able to make their own diagnoses.
"My name is—"
"Harry Potter," Brent said, beginning to cough.
Harry eased his fit with a non-verbal spell and Summoned a chair. "I understand that you've not notified your next of kin about your condition. I'd be happy to—"
"If you're as good as your reputation," Brent interrupted, speaking slowly, "then I expect you know that I don't have any kin."
"I think that Se—Mr Sharpe would want to know, sir."
Brent coughed; it was clearly dismissive. "Bollocks. The ungrateful sod's not seen me since he found his true family."
The old man looked, underneath the hardness of his expression, almost sad, and Harry wished that Sebastian had told him more about his relationship with Brent. This isn't right. He shouldn't be left alone to die. "I'm sure that, er, Master Sharpe would—"
"Stop all that nonsense, boy. I'm well aware of your relationship with the Master."
"Of . . . of course."
"Snape tried, you know. He did his best for my boy, but the 'Bright, it just wouldn't let go of him."
"I, er, I didn't know that, sir."
"It's let go of Snape, I suppose?"
Harry bit his lower lip, not sure what he ought to say. "I think so, yes."
"Has he taken to drink?"
"No, not really. I mean, drink isn't a problem for him."
"Good, good. He's a strong one."
"Master Brent, there might be a way to bring Sebastian here for you. I could—"
"Needn't . . . bother. No."
"Well, if I'd known that, I wouldn't have wasted my Galleons on this Firewhisky," Sebastian said, entering the room and closing the door.
"Severus, why in Merlin's name are you—"
Brent stopped talking as his coughing overtook him, and Harry reached for his hand and squeezed it before casting his anti-spasm charm again.
"Thank . . . you. Going to . . . must rest for a bit. Don't drink . . . without . . . ."
Harry turned to Sebastian, his expression curious.
"I've known that he was ill for some time. One of the mediwizards has been updating me about his condition."
"Ah," said Harry, watching Sebastian's veiled expression as he sat down in a chair on the other side of Brent's bed. "You never said that . . . Sebastian had cut ties with Brent."
Harry's Sebastian looked down at his hands.
"That's what you meant by your having failed him, isn't it? That he took up the Firebright again?"
Sebastian sighed and began to fidget, eventually stopping it by taking hold of Brent's other hand. "I tried to help him, but Sharpe was long past saving in that regard. And he couldn't stand the thought of Brent seeing him . . . sick, so I've . . . looked out for him as much as he'd allow."
And not, Harry told himself, because Brent knows your secret. "So, we haven't spoken about it in a while, not since you've been going to Percy's group, but are you feeling . . . well?"
"Oh, I'm tempted—daily—but I have," Sebastian said, looking up at Harry, "other things that I want more. I don't think that Sharpe ever truly allowed himself to want anything other than . . . . Hell, after what he went through, there was only one thing that he trusted himself to want."
"You were never responsible for him, not with regard to the Firebright, you know."
"So Percy keeps telling me."
"Percy?" Harry asked, surprised by the idea that Sebastian might have told him about his secret.
"He doesn't know everything, of course, just that I did some work with the Order during the war. That's enough truth to put my life into the sort of context required to be understandable."
"Ah, all right, then."
"Percy's been a good teacher in some respects. His experience mirrored mine to some degree."
"Should you be telling me this?"
"You're family, and he's told me that I may."
"All right. How, then? Did his experience mirror yours, I mean?"
"You didn't think that Percy disowned his family purely out of a desire to succeed, did you?"
Sebastian snorted. "Dumbledore placed people everywhere."
"Merlin, and he couldn't speak of it. The guilt he must have felt . . . ."
"And the isolation. Percy understands me a great deal more than he knows, and . . . and he's been teaching me how not to lose myself in emotional withdrawal."
"He sounds like a Muggle head doctor, now—not that there's anything wrong with that," Harry added quickly.
The shadow of a smile crossed Sebastian's face but passed quickly. "I've had many teachers in my life, but from Sharpe, I learnt how to hide. He did it almost every day of his life. He had to, and once he didn't have to any longer, he couldn't break the habit of doing it. His affected persona hid more despair and fear than I have ever known, and I was so bound up in my own bitterness when I might have been helping him that I failed to teach him anything that might have saved him."
Harry understood Sebastian's saving people thing; they had it in common. "Well, what about his family? His mother and sister? I would have thought that their reunion—"
"Family isn't all Weasley-like. It's not all instant acceptance and jumpers and love. Even if they haven't turned him away, Sebastian's family are afraid of him."
"How do you know that?"
"I went to see him, to tell him about Brent."
"His family were happy to see him, initially, and he tried to be a good son, a good brother, but their fear . . . he said that he could smell it."
Harry felt suddenly angry. "That's the guilt. They left him. His mother left him to that man."
"To those monsters," Sebastian murmured, "yes."
"Why didn't you tell me this before?"
"Because I didn't wish to upset you anymore than I already had. Because . . . because of my own guilt."
Harry sighed; he didn't know what to say in the face of Severus' guilt. "I wish that Master Brent could see Sharpe again. He must feel so alone."
"I wish the same, but Brent's not alone. He has us."
"I've asked Healer Heath to give you charge of 'my' guardian. It's unorthodox, but you've had enough training to be able to manage his palliative care, and . . . ."
"And I don't think he could possibly be in better hands than yours."
Harry's eyes burnt with unshed tears at this display of Sebastian's trust in him.
"I know you'll be good to him, as patient as you've been with me."
"Well, of course I've been patient with you. I . . . I love you."
Harry wondered if he should have said as much as Sebastian turned away to stare at Brent.
"I thought, once I'd . . . chosen you, that it would be I who kept teaching you."
"How to protect myself?" Harry asked.
Sebastian nodded. "But it's you who've taught me more."
Harry frowned. "I don't understand."
"About forgiveness, compassion—those 'tender' feelings I used to believe made one weak."
"I think you're giving me far too much credit."
"I don't. My life, I would not be enjoying it half so much as I do if not for you. You saved me, Harry."
"No, please, let me finish. I can't think when I might ever say this to you again."
Harry nodded as Sebastian turned his gaze back to him. "No matter what's happened to you, you've always managed to avoid becoming . . . soiled by it."
"The 'pure' thing, again?"
"Always. It used to sicken me, really, but now . . . . You know that I love you, don't you?"
Oh, Harry thought, nodding because he didn't trust himself to speak.
"You know that I love only you?"
"Just me, yeah, I . . . I know," Harry whispered, reaching across the bed for Sebastian's hand.
Sebastian took it and squeezed, but then he abruptly stood up.
"I've duties to which to attend, but I'll return tonight."
"Visiting hours end at eight."
"I'll be here by midnight."
Harry snorted. "I'll be waiting. I won't leave Master Brent alone, I promise."
"Thank you, Harry. He's . . . a good man."
He's you, Harry thought, as Sebastian left them. He's who you might have been if you hadn't died and had the chance to start over—and you think of him like a father, even if you couldn't bring yourself to tell me that.
The fear that must drive such silence overwhelmed Harry, and his eyes welled. He blinked, and a single tear slid down his face.
For you, Severus.
He blinked again; another tear fell.
For you, Aldrich Brent.
And then Harry covered his eyes and wept a silent storm of tears for the Sebastian Sharpe he'd never known—it wasn't death that he was mourning then, he realised, but the absence of love and the presence of so much loneliness in the lives of these lost men.
Things will be different for my Sebastian, he thought, rubbing his sleeve over his wet eyes. I'll never let him be alone again.
"There's something we need to do together," Harry said to Sebastian, as they left Brent sleeping comfortably under a charm and in the care of a mediwizard later that night. "Something for which we're both ready, I think."
"Do you trust me?"
Smiling, Harry took Sebastian's arm and Disapparated from the corridor.
Sebastian frowned at the plaque affixed to Snape's statue. "It's still far too romanticised a description of his deeds."
"'His'?" Harry asked, sliding his hand into Sebastian's.
Sebastian merely nodded.
"Yeah, well, people will have their heroes, won't they?"
"Why did you bring us here?"
"To say goodbye to him—so that when . . . when I take you home, when I take you, you'll know exactly whom it is I'm loving."
Sebastian's embrace was so strong that it pressed all the air out of Harry's lungs, but Harry didn't care; he wanted to feel the depth of Sebastian's passion for him. He needed to feel it. It was his.
"You . . . you truly are mine now," Sebastian said, his voice hoarse, as he relaxed his hold upon Harry without letting him go. "You really want me."
The wonder in Sebastian's voice provoked Harry to do something that he hadn't planned; dropping to his knee and pulling Sebastian down with him, he said, "I really want you, 'Bastian. I want you to be my family. Will you—"
"No, I do not think it's too early," Brent was saying to the harried-looking mediwizard upon Harry and Sebastian's return. He looked up and his eyes narrowed as he took in their clasped hands. "But that may just be too much happiness for a dying man to take."
"You seem in high spirits," Harry said, running his wand over Brent.
Sebastian picked up the half-empty Firewhisky bottle. "I see that you didn't wait for me."
"No time left for waiting. Pour one for yourself and pass the bottle."
Harry was about to sit down when he noticed a package in the chair. "What's this? Have you had visitors?"
"That's for h—him," Brent wheezed. "Goblin brought it. Bad form, letting them spy out your movements," he said to Sebastian.
"Not when by request."
"Oh?" Harry and Brent both asked.
Sebastian, who'd opened the package and pulled out a small card, passed it to Harry, who read:
So that you know it is done, and that I have nothing left of yours, please accept this memory with my compliments.
Harry turned to Sebastian, his eyebrows raised, but before Sebastian could speak, Brent did.
"Go on. A Pensieve, is it?" he asked, peering down at the open box in Sebastian's lap and toasting them with his bottle. "I've company enough right here."
"I don't need to see—"
"It's all right, Harry. I'm sure that I know what this is, and there's no reason that you shouldn't see it."
From behind one of the columns in the courtyard given over to Snape's statue, one goblin turned to the other and said, "That should be confirmation enough of his approval even for you, Grapplethorpe."
Harry flushed as he watched Grapplethorpe cough lightly and turn away from Sebastian and himself. Having Severus after he'd accepted him had seemed like an excellent idea at the time, but at the time, he'd given no thought to how public they'd been.
"So it would seem, Thorntwister. Soon, I will close this case."
"And then retire," the younger goblin said, with no little eagerness. "Of course, I still don't understand how you could have given over your duties so easily."
"Mr Snape was quite clear in his instructions to me. No matter the contents of his will, it was he who desired to see to his own wishes with regard to any memorials."
"But you allowed him to use your form."
"He paid well, and it was my business to accept that payment."
"Why then did you bring us here?"
"Because it is right and respectful that one should mark the passing of a client. Have you learnt nothing from me?"
"He looks 'lively' enough to me—so unseemly!"
"And yet you continue to watch," Grapplethorpe replied mildly, shaking his head at Thorntwister.
"Only to learn the affairs of wizards. I still don't understand this rite of theirs. When a goblin dies, he dies, and he remains dead."
"Goblins aren't wizards. I suggest that you remember that going forward. Do not try to understand them. Take their money, see to their wishes, and be grateful that our way is the easier one."
Harry and Sebastian both snorted at that.
"What are you doing?" Thorntwister asked.
"Patience," Grapplethorpe replied, opening the casket that he held.
Thorntwister's expression became almost comically amazed as Harry and Sebastian's cries grew louder, and Harry's mortification was lessened by curiosity when a glowing, ragged bit of stone appeared in the box.
"A partial fairy stone! That is valuable, indeed, but where is the rest of it?"
"This is the part that held Mr Snape's glamour, and this," Grapplethorpe said, as another, smaller stone fragment appeared in the casket, "was the part that held mine. What's left in my client is all the glamour that he'll ever need again."
Harry turned to regard Sebastian, who smiled at him.
Turning back to the goblins, Harry saw how Thorntwister scowled as Grapplethorpe intoned, "On this day, let Severus Tobias Snape truly rest in peace as a worthy client who always paid up front and in gold."
"Superstitious wizarding nonsense, that—hells! Why did you hit me?"
Grapplethorpe lowered his cane. "The wishes of a client are to be respected in every way, no matter that you do not understand them. I have taught you this, but perhaps, not so well as I should have. I find myself rethinking my retirement. An apprenticeship of thirty years may not have been sufficient for one so thick as you. Surely the idea that a wizard might wish to have someone mourn him is not so fantastical to you?"
Oh, Sebastian, Harry thought, pressing against him to wrap his arm around his waist.
"I . . . I acted rashly, disrespectfully. I beg your apology, Father."
Grapplethorpe chuckled. "Take the casket, boy, I'm too old to carry such a weight. And do not concern yourself about your lapse—but do not repeat it."
"Mark this day, boy."
"For the wizard?" Thorntwister asked, thinly veiled disgust larding his tone.
"No, my son, for yourself. I shall retire, and today is the first day of the rest of your career."
The memory became cloudy, and then dispersed, and Harry felt himself floating upwards and out of the Pensieve. It was a relief to find Brent sleeping again, although he suspected that he might be feigning it.
"Well," Sebastian whispered, moving Brent's bottle to the table by the bed, "that's done, then."
"You planned for more than you let on."
"You said it was an impulse of yours, kissing me in Snape's rooms."
"I did say that, yes." Sebastian's expression was smug. "I can assure you that whatever plans I might have made did not include your fucking me into his memorial."
Harry's cock twitched at the memory. "I think I'd like to get a better look at that, at us, I mean—but I want you to be doing the fucking next time." He glanced quickly at Brent and then back to Sebastian. "If that's all right?"
"How you could ever have fancied Draco when you so clearly desire someone more 'assertive' is beyond me."
Harry laughed at the irony. We've only just made our goodbyes to Snape and here we are going on as if— "But you can accept that, can't you?"
Heat flared behind Sebastian's eyes. "Fucking you is always my pleasure, Harry."
They were leaning towards one another for a kiss when Brent coughed. "Have a little respect for the dying, you hounds—and pass me that bottle. I don't plan to meet Death sober."
There was nothing of sadness in Sebastian's voice as he replied, "I expect that Death's been drinking for days in expectation of meeting you, old man."
"That's as it should be, boy. That sack of bones will mark it well, the day he comes for me."
On the day after the fifth anniversary of Voldemort's demise, Harry woke up to the familiar sound of light snoring. He rolled over and watched Sebastian sleep, lightly tracing the laugh lines on his face in the air above them until he couldn't help himself and bent down to kiss his mouth.
"Mmrph, mm. Good morning, Healer Potter."
"It will be a much better morning in a moment, Master Potter," Harry promised, reaching down to fondle Sebastian's cock through the bedclothes.
"Mmm," Sebastian encouraged, thrusting upwards into Harry's hand. "Did you take your potion?"
"At three in the morning, yes, and I maintain that you still brew things to taste as disgusting as possible."
Sebastian smirked. "Lies."
"Right," Harry said, before sucking Sebastian's lower lip into his mouth and beginning to stroke him.
Sebastian broke their embrace too soon. "Oh, that's goo—you have to stop that or I won't last."
"I know how long you'll last. Why d'you think I woke you up so early?"
Sebastian pulled the covers off them and rolled Harry over onto his back. "So that we could break this bed again."
"Kreacher's becoming testy about that. The other elves tease him," Harry said, drawing his hands up Sebastian's back.
"Sod them. This is our day."
Harry's hands stilled. "Our fathers' day?"
Sebastian's warm brown eyes met his. "Don't be nervous. It'll work. It's my potion, isn't it?"
Reassured, Harry brought one leg up over Sebastian's arse to pull his body closer. "Want this. Want you."
Sebastian shivered, and against Harry's lips, he whispered, "Are you certain?"
"I've never been more sure of anything—I've even thought of a brilliant name for him."
"Have you?" Sebastian asked, grinding himself against Harry.
"Fuck now, talk later."
"Tell me now," Sebastian ordered, shifting his position.
Harry gasped as Sebastian pushed his arms up over his head and pressed them into the mattress. "Hard to—"
"I . . . know."
"Hard to talk when you're biting melikethat!"
"Love your throat . . . your skin . . . you."
Harry drew his other leg up over Sebastian's back and clamped them together, bucking his hips. "Love you, but . . . please, I nee—oh."
"As soon as . . . you tell me this . . . brilliant name . . . you've selected for . . . our son," Sebastian insisted, in between licking and nibbling his way up Harry's neck.
"Harry," Sebastian whispered, going still, "that's an aw—"
"No, it isn't," Harry interrupted, writhing a bit in frustration. "It's so his friends'll call him 'Asp' and he'll have to Sort Slytherin."
Sebastian dipped his head and smiled against Harry's neck. "Perhaps that's not such an awful name, then, but what of our daughter's name?"
Harry grinned and struggled free of Sebastian's grip before flipping him over and straddling him. "Too much talking," he declared, brushing his arse over the head of Sebastian's cock. "Want to feel you. I'm ready."
Sebastian groaned as Harry sank down upon his cock and began to ride him. "Promise me, promise me that . . . promise me that things . . . will be different for . . . them."
Harry locked eyes with Sebastian and allowed his mind to fill with promise. "See them. See what I see."
The brush against his mind was tentative at first, but then it grew stronger as the trepidation left Sebastian's eyes and he whispered, "Laughing. You see them laughing—and beautiful."
"They'll be ours. They'll have to be beautiful," Harry promised, beginning to rock his hips. "Beautiful . . . and . . . happy . . . and . . . ours."
"Our . . . children. . . . Our . . . family," Sebastian agreed, speeding his thrusts so that both of them lost themselves to their movement . . . until—
The collapse of the too-often repaired bed caused Harry to fall forward onto Sebastian's chest, and holding him tightly, all he could do was gasp for enough breath to laugh as the bed-curtain-muffled sounds of a disgruntled house-elf reached his ears—but he stopped laughing abruptly when he heard the Snick!
Looking up above the broken headboard at the clock that hung there, he found himself blinking back tears at the sight of the hand for himself: "Pregnant," it read.
"Told you it would work."
"Your potion, of course."
"No, Harry," Sebastian murmured, shifting so that he could meet his eyes.
Harry could feel him trembling.
And that was an admission, Harry knew, a confession, and one that wasn't Sebastian's.
It didn't surprise Harry to discover that even now, Severus was frightened that his new life might fall apart, no matter what he'd surrendered to create it. It didn't surprise him to learn the depth of Severus' will, either, and there was nothing creepy about it, he decided, not when he knew that Severus had chosen to die so that he could learn how to live again.
And so that he could become a man I could love, Harry thought, reaching up to caress his husband's face.
It didn't matter why the man loved him, only that he did: only a fool would refuse to accept so brave a love.
"So," Harry said, resolving never to become so foolish, "what you're saying is that you are a perv?"
Sebastian barked out a laugh. "Aren't you going to ask how long? Or when? Or . . . anything?"
"Mmm," Harry replied, grinning and thrusting his hips against Sebastian. "I know how long, and I think as soon as possible would be brilliant—and with you, with you, I know that I can have everything."