To Heal These Wounds
Harry woke to the feeling of fingers combing through his hair. His first thought was that it had to be Remus, because Remus was the only one that did that. The second was that his ever waking up was highly improbable and that there must be some type of cognizance in the afterlife.
He sighed and shifted, opening his eyes briefly to an overly bright white light before closing them again. The hand in his hair started to pull away but he squirmed back into the touch.
Breathing deeply, he turned away and curled into a small ball.
"Are you awake, Harry? Please be awake."
"If Potter refuses to wake up then so be it. Personally, I wouldn't. Who would want to deal with you lot on a daily basis."
Harry had missed that last voice. The last time he had heard it, it had been rough; Snape's vocal cords had still been healing. He forced himself further into consciousness, but didn't open his eyes.
"No one asked you, Snape."
"You may have left Hogwarts, Weasley, but that does not mean you can fail to show me the proper respect."
Ron huffed and Harry could hear him move across the room. The fingers in his hair continued their rhythmic movement.
"Perhaps he wasn't awake. It isn't the first time that he's shifted like that. Poppy said that it was normal for comatose patients to move as if they are in a normal sleep at times."
"Poppy is a school mediwitch and is not qualified to deal with something like this. That is why he's been placed in St Mungo's. Really, Lupin, I was under the impression that you had a modicum of intelligence."
The fingers stilled for a moment before continuing to stroke his hair. He was right then, it was Remus.
"No one wanted to bring Harry here, Snape. Only you. I don't know why Dumbledore gave in. Mum was perfectly happy to have Harry at home."
"Mr Weasley, you may insist on continuing to show how ill-mannered you are and address me by my surname, but I refuse to listen to you address the Headmaster by anything other than his proper title."
Harry groaned. He didn't want to listen to their petty squabbling. He would have preferred them to return to their conversation on just how he ended up here at St Mungo's and not buried in an overly ornate mausoleum or some such nonsense.
"I'm not in school any longer, Snape, you can't tell me what to do."
"Shut up!" Remus' hand -- there was no doubt that it was his -- landed on his shoulder and gently shook him. "I think he really is waking up. Harry?"
"Bright," was the only word he could get out before he started hacking.
"Don't talk, you stupid boy."
But the lights were put out and he was helped up into a sitting position. He opened his eyes and was met with the dark eyes of his professor. A damp cloth was pressed to his lips.
"I don't trust you not to swallow a whole glass of water and make yourself sick."
Harry nodded and opened his mouth just enough for the moisture to enter. It didn't do nearly enough to wet his throat, but he knew better than to ask Snape for more.
"How are you feeling?"
"Ron, Harry hasn't used his voice in nearly three months. Perhaps something simpler?"
"Three?" He collapsed back into fits of coughing and Remus started to rub circles in his back, starting small and then getting gradually bigger.
"Perhaps we shouldn't force Potter to talk at all."
"I'll go get a Healer." Ron walked out the door.
Harry finally looked around his surroundings. The walls were a plain white just as in every hospital he had ever been in. The bed was different, though; Harry found it odd to be in a four-poster bed while in hospital.
"Harry, there are some things that you need to know."
"Now isn't the time, Lupin."
"What?" Another cough and the cloth was rewetted and pressed back to his lips.
"He has to be told, Severus. Putting it off will not help matters."
Snape crossed his arms and turned his back, stepping toward the picture window. Harry looked at Remus curiously, but didn't try to ask anything again.
"Hermione passed. She's gone, Harry."
It was something he knew was going to happen; he knew that she wasn't going to wake up, knew that he had lost her forever. But an indefinite coma had seemed better than this... this... very definite death. He shook his head, blinking eyes that refused to let tears fall. He drew away from Remus' comforting hands and curled back into a ball.
He continued to shake his head. Squeezing his eyes shut he tried to will himself to go back to sleep. It wasn't fair. He wasn't even used to the fact that he was alive; did they have to tell him that Hermione was dead?
Laying the roses on the headstone, he stepped back. It had taken him another month to finally get here to say his goodbyes. He sighed, his chest tight. He didn't care that there were tears running down his cheeks; he was allowed to cry, just this once. He'd lost a best friend.
He wished he could have seen her before she went. Ron had told him that she hadn't looked good; her skin had been pale and clammy, her eyes had looked bruised, and she'd been cold to the touch. But he would have still liked to see her one last time.
She had died at the exact moment he had cast the Killing Curse on himself.
It had worked. He'd been able to send the curse through the link they had, and it had destroyed Voldemort. And kept him alive. Because one cannot live while the other survives. The words sounded in his head like a death knell.
He wanted to say that the cost was too great, but he knew that Hermione wouldn't think so, that Hermione would have given her life as willingly as Harry had been to do so. God, he missed her, he wanted her back. It was a foolish wish. He had a lot of those.
He wrapped his cloak around him tightly to cut out the chill wind that really wasn't that cold. He always felt cold now, and he wondered if it was an effect of the spell. Had some part of him died with Voldemort? Sighing, he turned away from the grave and started toward the exit to the cemetery. His thoughts were dark, and he knew that he couldn't attribute them to the bleakness of the day. They were always dark, even on the brightest, happiest days.
At the exit he passed by another dark cloaked figure that fell into step beside him. He didn't need to tell Severus how his time at the grave had gone. And Harry knew he wouldn't ask.
Staring out the window, Harry watched as a couple walked down the street. He followed them with his eyes until they rounded the corner and disappeared from sight, his eyes not moving from the spot that they had last occupied for minutes afterward. Not that he realized this. His mind was caught up in other thoughts.
He hated this house. Not as much as he hated the run-down shack that Severus owned, but Grimmauld Place was not the happiest of places no matter how much Remus remodeled and no matter how many of the Dark Artifacts he got rid of. Of course, he had no other place to stay. He had some money left from what his parents had left him, but it had never been an unlimited supply of funds, and seven years of tuition and books and clothes had placed quite a dent in it. With his N.E.W.T.s a month away, and with no job in the interim, it occurred to him that he really only had two choices. He could live on it for a very limited period of time, or he could move in with someone.
Mrs Weasley had offered him Percy's old room, but when he insisted on paying rent, she'd firmly refused. He would feel absolutely awful about taking advantage of her like that. Besides, his relationship with Ron had been rather awkward of late. It would be easier for the both of them if they didn't live in the same house.
His only other option was living with Remus. He helped pay for the groceries and other things that they needed, and Remus even accepted a small bit of rent -- mostly to appease him. It wasn't so bad, they got along great, and as long as Harry was able to put the end of last summer and the beginning of the school year out of his mind, he was comfortable with the other man. The best part was being able to come and go whenever he pleased. He'd spent so many years with the Dursleys hiding from the neighbors and then at school hiding under his Invisibility Cloak. He had needed to leave school to hide from Voldemort, and then he'd had to hide from the people in the nearby town. It was nice to be seen.
Not that he would dream of going to Diagon Alley. Remus went to a small market there each week, and each week the shop keeper would ask how Harry was and when he'd be stopping by in the Alley because he wanted to thank him. Then about fifteen other people would approach Remus while he was on his way to the bookstore, and they'd all ask the same thing. If Remus looked haggard before he went to the market, then he looked even worse after getting back. Harry shuddered just thinking about what it would be like for him to step into the Alley.
He pulled the blanket a bit tighter around his shoulders. It shouldn't be this cold in the summer, but to him it was; he was shivering and he felt cold through every cell of his body. But his fingers were warm when he touched them to his cheek. It had been this way since he had woken up in the hospital.
He squeezed his eyes shut. He didn't want to think about the hospital, or Voldemort or Hermione, or anything. He just wished for a Time Turner so he could go back in time and stop this all from happening. If he could only figure out what he wanted to stop from happening. Did he want to go back and keep from having that "dream" where he attacked Hermione? Did he want to go back to when his parents died, and keep the prophecy from ever involving him? Biting his lip, he sighed. He shouldn't wish something like that on Neville. Prophecies were made to come true, and if it hadn't been him, it would have been Neville. Maybe he could go back before that and stop Trewlaney from having the prophecy in the first place. A wine bottle over the head would do the trick. Dumbledore would just think that she was a lousy drunk and leave. No one would be there to see it, and she wouldn't even remember having it since she never remembered her true prophecies.
Harry entertained the thought for a minute before banishing it. There was no point in wishing, since wishes rarely came true.
For a moment before he had cast the Killing Curse on himself, he had wished that his and Voldemort's deaths would bring Hermione's powers back, but instead it had killed her. If it would have done any good, he would have wished for everyone who had died at the hands of that horrible megalomaniac to come back to life, including Sirius and Hermione.
Bellatrix was right, he did keep losing people.
He blinked. His eyes were burning, but he ignored that. Turning away from the window, he looked around the room. There were some flowers from Parvarti on his nightstand, and an unopened letter from Seamus on his table next to the chess set. There were scads more letters and flowers from people he didn't know downstairs. He'd set fire to them later. Bloody famous Harry Potter. He hated it. Moving to the wardrobe, he pulled out the robes that he planned on wearing to the Ministry hearing the next day.
"Right this way, Mr Potter."
Harry followed the low-level Ministry aide to the lifts and stepped inside after her. He tried to pretend that he didn't see when she'd glance at him from beneath her eyelashes, but when she outright looked at him, her bottom lip caught between her teeth, he couldn't keep quiet anymore.
"Is there something the matter?"
She shook her head.
He turned to the doors waiting for them to open. It shouldn't take this long to go up two floors. But it didn't feel like they were going up at all; it felt like they were going down, but why? Fudge's office was two floors above the entrance. This wasn't making much sense.
"Where are we going?"
The aide still hadn't taken her eyes off of him. "To a meeting room on a lower level, Mr Potter. Did you..."
"Yes, I killed Voldemort. Why down there?" She flinched at his harsh tone, and Harry sighed. She hadn't done anything, not really. "Look, I'm sorry. I'm just not looking forward to this meeting. When was the place changed?"
The doors opened, and he followed her out.
"Yesterday, at the very end of the day."
He looked around, and immediately knew where they were.
"Right down these steps, and through the door."
He shook his head. "I'm not going down there. You go down there and tell Minister Fudge that I'll meet him in his office, but I'm not going down there. I didn't do anything wrong." His chest clenched at the thought of going back into that huge auditorium. Would it be the full Wizengamot this time, or just a few of its members?
"I'm sorry, Mr Potter, but the door will only open for you." Her voice was a bit shaky, and she bit her lip again. "I'm sorry."
He clenched his jaw and nodded. Throwing one last furtive glance his way, the aide hurried back to the lift, leaving him alone in front of the steps.
There wasn't much light, but he made it down the stairs, and rested his hand on the handle of the door. He wasn't quite ready to go in and face whoever Fudge had arranged for him to face. He should have expected this from the Minister; he'd done it once before and would probably do it again. He just wished he hadn't been the poor sod it had happened to. Another futile wish.
The door opened without him turning the handle. It was brighter inside than out, and he squinted as he walked inside. If the aide was right, then there was no other option for him. As soon as the door opened, everyone inside knew he was there. Bloody hell.
"Have a seat, Mr Potter."
"Thank you, Minister Fudge, but I think that I'd rather stand." Even standing Harry had to tilt his head back to see him.
"I'd really prefer it if you took your seat, Harry."
Two Aurors came up behind him and dragged him the few feet to the chair set in the center of the room, the steel clasps of the straps catching the little light in the room and drawing his attention to them Forcing him down into the seat, they drew his wands and activated the straps to hold him in place. "Am I under arrest?"
"No, no, my boy, of course not." Fudge pulled off his bowler hat and set it in front of him. "But I'm sure that you understand that certain precautions must be taken in light of recent occurrences."
"Not really, no." Harry tried to pull his arms up against the restraints, but he could barely move them a few centimeters. Not that he had expected he could. He sagged against the back of the chair and closed his eyes, only listening with half an ear to some secretary or other reading off the list of things he had done. It belatedly occurred to him that they were most likely charges. But he didn't do anything wrong. Not that that ever mattered. Life wasn't fair.
A hand landing on his shoulder grabbed his attention, and he twisted to look at Dumbledore. He barely caught the whispered words. "There was nothing I could do."
Harry nodded and turned his attention back to the people seated above him.
The questioning began.
An older wizard stood, the ornate cut of his jade robe drawing more of Harry's attention then his face, at least until he opened his mouth. "I would like to start with last summer, Mr Potter. You were supposed to be under the care of your aunt and uncle, by the name of Dursley. Correct?"
"Not to my knowledge, no. On the last day of school, Professor Snape arrived in my dormitory and informed me that I would be spending the summer with Mr Remus Lupin."
"I see. Did you question Professor Snape as to why?"
Harry shook his head, and was about to answer when Dumbledore spoke.
"Professor Snape was acting on my orders, Tineas. I arranged for Mr Potter to spend the summer holidays at 12 Grimmauld Place with a trusted friend of mine."
"Of course." Tineas nodded. Harry wondered at his easy capitulation. Was it because he was friends with Dumbledore? How many more of the Wizengamot could Dumbledore stop from questioning him?
"Why such an arrangement, Albus?" Fudge was someone that Dumbledore certainly wouldn't be able to stop.
"I thought it would be best for Harry under the circumstances."
"And what circumstances were these?"
Harry opened his mouth to tell Fudge exactly that and then some, but Dumbledore squeezed his shoulder and he snapped his mouth shut. He could wait. He could be patient.
"That is school business, and is not in the realm of what is being discussed here today, Minister."
"Of course. How could I ever think otherwise?"
This time it was a witch who stood. She was much younger than the last wizard, most likely somewhere around Fudge's age. Would he be here until every witch and wizard had a chance to ask him a question? He strained against the straps again, an itch was developing on the inside of his left wrist and there was no way for him to get at it. Frustrated, he bit his bottom lip.
"Mr Potter, according to records, you were issued a special dispensation at the beginning of last summer. May I ask why?"
"To practice spells that I was being taught until I came of age." Dumbledore's hand squeezed his shoulder too late. Not that he cared what these people thought. It was all going to come out one way or another, might as well let them get to the thing they really wanted to discuss: Voldemort.
"And who tutored you in these spells, Mr Potter?"
Dumbledore stepped away from him, either distancing himself from Harry's answers or just letting him answer on his own, he didn't know, nor did he care. He just wanted out.
"And what spells were these?"
"Alpha through kappa level Dark curses, hexes, jinxes, etc."
"Mr Potter, Kappa level spells are only cleared for use by those who hold a N.E.W.T. in Defense Against the Dark Arts."
"Well I-" Harry bit his tongue. Mouthing off to these people wouldn't help.
"Were these the only spells that Professor Snape taught you, Mr Potter?"
Harry looked over at Dumbledore, but he was staring up at the gathered wizards and witches, not looking at him. "No."
"Did he teach you defensive spells?"
A new wizard. "Other curses?" At Harry's nod, he continued. "Up to what level, Mr Potter?"
He swallowed. "Up to and including omega."
It was absolutely silent for all of a minute, and then a hundred people all started talking at once, and Harry couldn't hear anything, not even the thoughts in his head, over the noise.
"Silence!" Dumbledore always did have a way of bringing a room to order. "Harry was taught those spells because I thought it would be best for him to learn them. I believed that he needed to learn to protect himself. I'm sure that I have your agreement on that."
A little under half of the gathered wizards nodded their agreement, but Harry noticed that quite a few, Fudge among them, were looking at him curiously; like he was an animal in Muggle zoo, behind bars, and if they got too close, he'd bite off their hands. Fools, the lot of them.
Harry didn't even bother looking for the person that stood up to question him this time. He was getting a kink in his neck and would give anything to be able to reach up and rub it out.
"Hogwarts has wards up that keep such magic from being cast on the grounds. Where were you taught these spells, Mr Potter?"
He didn't want to answer any more questions, but he knew that he'd have to, that the worst hadn't even begun. "A small house in East Devon."
"And what were you doing there, Mr Potter?"
If he never heard "Mr Potter" again, it would be too soon. "I was taken there for my safety during the school year."
"Dumbledore, why wasn't I informed of this?" Fudge again. Harry narrowed his eyes and glared. If he could have, he'd cast a silencing spell on the man.
"It was in Harry's and Professor Snape's best interests that no one knew their location. Only one other person besides myself and the two of them knew their whereabouts."
"And this other person?"
"Is someone that I trust implicitly."
"Note down that Mr Harry James Potter ran away from school. It is to be added to his record."
"What! I didn't run away. I was sent away!"
"When you were removed from your aunt's house you became a ward of the Ministry. The Ministry did not give you permission to leave school, Mr Potter."
Harry ground his teeth. "I had already reached the age of majority mid-summer. Doesn't that mean the Ministry wouldn't have a say?"
Fudge said nothing. Damn him.
"So explain, Albus, why you had Harry removed from school."
His explanation lasted for what felt like hours. Every sentence was questioned and each answer was questioned. No one seemed pleased with Dumbledore's explanations that it was all in his best interests, and that he needed to be protected from the Dark Lord. Even the doubt as to the existence of Voldemort was brought out again, but at least this time there had been a body, a corpse to prove that he had been alive. Many of the Wizengamot refused to believe that he had been after Harry in the first place; after all, he was just a boy. But what amazed Harry was that during the entire time that Albus talked, he never once mentioned Occulmency or Legilimency or the prophecy, and though there were still questions he was able to put the matter to rest without those three most important subjects -- at least to Harry's mind -- being brought up.
Harry tried stretching his neck and back in the tight confines of the chair, but didn't receive much relief from the movement. To distract himself he found the next wizard standing to ask a question. This one was rather short and plump and red in the face. He reminded Harry of a picture of Dionysus that he'd once seen in a mythology book, in his purple flowing robe. Another day Harry might have had to choke back his laughter, but today he just sighed and waited for the question.
"You said that you were taught omega level curses, Mr Potter. Did this include the Unforgivables?"
"He did teach me omega level spells."
"That didn't answer my question, Mr Potter."
"Does it matter?"
"Of course it does, those spells are highly dangerous, Mr Potter. Their use is punishable by time, if not life, in Azkaban."
Shit. This was not going well. And now instead of Dionysus, he saw a short, fat demon that was out to send him to hell because he doubted that these people would let him get away with casting any of those spells.
A witch stood up. "I'm sure that we can waive any punishment for Mr Potter learning those spells; after all, he did so in order to learn how to better protect himself. That said, Mr Potter, I am interested in your answer."
Harry almost turned his head to look at Dumbledore, to see if the Headmaster would give him a clue about what he should do, but he stopped. This was something that he needed to do on his own. He couldn't rely on the man anymore because he needed to learn to rely on himself.
"Yes, I was taught the Unforgivable curses in order to protect myself."
"And what, Mr Potter, did you practice these curses on?"
"A rat, some small spiders and a tarantula."
"And this prepared you for casting these spells on He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"
Harry rolled his eyes at the blatant nonuse of Voldemort's name. "To a point. Professor Snape also made sure that I could cast the Imperius and the Crutiatus on a human being by having me cast them on him."
Another fall of silence, but this one wasn't ended with every person talking, though Harry thought that it would be more appropriate. Instead, a wizard right beside Fudge stood and spoke in a voice barely above a whisper.
"Let me see if I understand this correctly, Mr Potter. Are you telling me that you've cast Unforgivable curses on a professor?"
"For training purposes, yes."
"And did you ever use these curses after you finished your training?"
"There was no set end to my training, so I'm not sure what you mean." Glancing over at Dumbledore, Harry saw him smile in his direction. It was nice to know that he'd said one thing right.
"After you left the house in East Devon."
Harry thought of lying, thought of telling them something that would keep him from having to live through these memories again, but wasn't that just hiding again? He didn't want to hide anymore.
"How did you kill the Dark Lord, Mr Potter?"
Harry squeezed his eyes shut as he felt a sharp pain shoot through his scar. A memory, it was nothing more than a memory. "A reflexive Killing Curse."
An elderly witch in the back stood with the help of the wizard next to her. "Would you care to explain that, Mr Potter? I have never heard of a 'reflexive Killing Curse' before."
Harry tried to pull his arm loose so he could swipe the fringe away from his scar, but he couldn't. He shook his head a bit, but it didn't work either. Sighing, he looked up at the ceiling for a moment, trying to gather his thoughts. He only wanted to go through this once.
"Voldemort was originally sent out of his body by a reflexive Killing Curse. The original spell was cast at me, but bounced off and hit him. In the process I got my scar. --"
"And which scar is it that you are referring to?"
Harry just stared, as if they didn't know, but the witch motioned toward an aide hovering over a quill and parchment. For the record, then.
"The lightning bolt shaped one on my forehead."
"Thank you, Mr Potter, please continue."
"I don't know why it didn't kill me or Voldemort, and I can only suppose that it was because there was no link between us at the time, and in fact the link was formed with this first spell."
"Link, Mr Potter?"
He was changing his last name to Evans at the end of this. "I've had a link with Voldemort for some time. I've told Minister Fudge about it."
"You've done no such thing, Potter!"
"The boy is quite right, Cornelius. I was there, and I believe that you implied the boy was disturbed."
Harry breathed a sigh of relief as the attention was taken off of him and focused on Fudge. It only lasted a minute, but it was a welcome respite nonetheless.
"Please continue, Mr Potter."
"I used the link. I cast the Killing Curse upon myself and hoped that it would reflect and kill him. Of course, I was not sure it wouldn't kill me, too."
"And if you had died?"
"Then the wizarding world would be out one bloody Boy-Who-Lived," he snapped.
"Thank you, Mr Potter. I think that we've heard enough." Fudge signaled to the Aurors that were still near the chair, and his restraints were released. Harry rubbed at his wrists, trying to rid them of the pins-and-needles sensation. One Auror grabbed his upper arm and pulled him in the opposite direction from where he had entered and through a door into what seemed like a holding cell. Leaving him alone in the cell, they shut and locked the door, and Harry was pretty sure they magically warded it too.
He didn't know how long they kept him in the room. It could have been minutes. It could have been hours. It felt like days. He paced from one side to the other and back again. Ten steps across and ten steps back. Ten across and ten back. Each time it felt like the room got smaller, like it took fewer steps to get across. Had it been eleven steps a moment ago?
Harry snapped his head around and looked at the Auror that had opened the door. It was the first time one of them had said anything through the entire ordeal.
"If you'll come with me."
He nodded and made his way to the door, counting his steps as he went. Ten. Definitely smaller.
"Please have a seat, Mr Potter."
Harry looked everywhere except Severus' face, his gaze finally landing on the finger that Severus was tracing the lip of his teacup with.
"But they did eventually let you leave." Harry glanced up. The look on Severus' face was closed, guarded, almost angry. "They didn't lock you up in a cell."
"If you don't count the one they put me in while they decided if I belonged in Azkaban."
Severus waved one hand in dismissal and lifted his cup to his lips with the other to take a sip. "It could have been worse."
"Fudge had the gall to suggest that I take the necessary tests to become an Auror. Said that I'd be an asset."
"I assume that, as usual, you forgot proper behavior and told him exactly what you thought of that idea."
Harry shrugged. "I thought it. I wanted to, to the point that I could taste the words, but I didn't. I wanted out of the room more."
Severus' slight nod felt like approval. Everything with this man always seemed like a test. Harry felt the need to prove that he had grown up, that he wasn't the stupid kid that kept doing stupid things. He wondered if he ever would stop feeling that way.
"I assume now that you will adopt the life of a playboy and flit from place to place with person after person."
It was said so matter-of-factly that Harry was startled out of his thoughts. There was an intensity behind the words that made Harry narrow his eyes and look for something in the way that Severus was sitting, was drinking his tea, was looking at him. There was nothing.
"I don't know what I'm going to do, other than not become an Auror. If I never set foot in the Ministry again, it will be too soon. Though, I doubt that becoming a playboy is high on my list either. Can't afford it."
"And what ever happened to the great fortune that I hear tell about? All spent on broomstick wax?"
Harry smiled slightly. This was the Severus he was used to. "Either it wasn't that great a fortune, or Hogwarts took extra for all the trouble I caused. Did you receive your "The-Boy-Who-Lived-is-finally-gone" bonus?"
Harry blinked. "You really received one?"
Severus took a deep breath. "No, you fool. You lived twice. I must admit, however, that you did a decent job at playing a corpse."
Harry closed his eyes as a mesh of remembered things flitted through his head. The smell of dust. The deranged laugh of Bellatrix. The taste of fear. A hum. The smell of soap and the scratch of coarse cloth. The warmth of security.
"You followed me."
"Someone had to bring your body back so that the wizarding world had something to worship when you succeeded."
"I didn't know if I would succeed."
Severus barely lifted one shoulder. It occurred to Harry that Severus barely did everything; he had to pay close attention to catch the little things that Severus did do. It was those little things that curbed his speech, made it seem less harsh. Before Harry would have taken his silence as just that, silence, but it was no such thing; there were all these little nuances in tone and action that only someone who knew what to look for would pick up. He grinned.
"I don't see what you're so chipper about."
"Nothing in particular."
"So what do you think I should do? I got good scores in every subject I sat. If I had taken Arithmancy like you, I'd be able to go and study Healing magic which is what I think I want to do, but I'm not sure. You were the smart one; you knew what you were doing, Hermione." Harry brushed his fingers across the flat marker. "It's weird -- now that I don't need to study it -- I spend all my time reading archaic books on the Dark Arts. Severus let me borrow them. They're interesting, much more so now that I don't have to go chasing after any megalomaniacs. I think that I'd rather leave that to the Aurors; I have no intention of joining their pursuits." Realizing that his voice had turned bitter, he shrugged from his position close to the ground and took in a deep breath before changing the subject. "It bothers Remus. I don't really know why, but he gets really quiet every time he finds me studying one of them. It doesn't make much sense since it's his field of study, but I have the feeling that it really has nothing to do with the books at all."
Harry sighed and then shifted until he was sitting, knees raised, next to Hermione's grave. "He's interested in me. Really interested." He kicked at a small rock by his foot. "I don't think he's what I want, though. Don't get me wrong, Hermione. I like him. He's nice and he cares about me, but I don't think we want the same things. And it's not because I see him as a father figure, I donít, but I donít see him as a lover either. Besides, he doesn't really understand me. I'm starting to think that no one does." He paused and looked over to the gates of the cemetery picking out a dark figure dressed head to toe in black even in the heat of late summer. "Well, maybe there's someone. I don't really know what to do." He paused. "About the way I feel." A deep breath. "For Severus."
As he sat there, he kept a running commentary going about everything that had been going on, but he wasn't really thinking about it. His mind was too occupied with the small truth that he had, finally, admitted to himself. Severus was always lingering at the edge of his thoughts. He had learned so much about the man during their time stuck together. He'd gone from hate to... he wasn't quite sure what, but it certainly was not hate. He cared what Severus thought, was actively interested in it, if he was to be completely honest with himself.
Severus' presence was calming. He didn't feel like he had to force the man to see who he really was, even though Severus often acted like the only 'Potter' he ever saw was the famous persona that Harry hated.
But that wasn't what drew Harry to him. They had shared so many memories, had been inside each other's minds. It had been a disturbingly intimate action. He knew he didn't have to explain things to Severus any more because Severus already knew. Knew how he thought, how he felt, how he hurt. He knew who he was.
Then there was the fact that Severus made him feel safe.
This was something that he knew he needed in a relationship. Nothing in his life had remained secure. Even the marginal safety of Hogwarts had disappeared, but Severus had remained Severus. And Severus always kept him safe even if it meant following him to the one person that had wanted him dead.
It was a comforting feeling.
Eventually there was nothing left for him to say, to think. Pressing a kiss to the tips of his fingers, he placed them against Hermione's name on the marker. He stood and started toward the exit. Severus fell in step beside him at the exit. He almost didn't notice the familiar touch of Severus' hand on his arm.
"I can see why Ron always wins."
Harry blinked, and pulled his gaze away from the window and toward the chess board and Remus sitting across from him. "Because I'm a horrible player."
Remus shook his head. "No, because your heart isn't in the game."
He breathed in deeply. "I suppose. I've just always enjoyed more fast-paced games, ones with little strategy. I've spent so much time plotting on how to escape bullies and not get caught by teachers that I don't want to plan, don't want to think."
The moment the carefree expression left Remus' face, he knew that he had said the wrong thing. The last thing Remus wanted to hear about was how his life hadn't been perfect. He knew it wasn't because Remus didn't care; it was because there had been nothing he could do about it. Remus had wanted him to have a happy childhood, and the fact that he hadn't obviously bothered him.
"I promise I'll focus more on my moves if you'll explain to me what I'm doing wrong. Ron always enjoyed winning so much that he never really taught me much of anything as far as chess goes."
"All right, it isn't that difficult." Remus stood and moved his chair so that he was sitting on the same side of the board as Harry. "Reset."
The pieces moved back to their starting places, and Remus spun the board so that the white side was near them.
"It's always best to have the first move." Remus grinned. "Don't give that up. We'll play against the chess set."
Harry nodded and rested his head against his hand. He'd be content watching Remus play.
"What are you waiting for?"
He sighed. "Pawn to D4." The first move was always the easiest. However, each succeeding move became more difficult and Remus would have to stop him in mid-command to explain what exactly he was doing wrong. Harry leaned his head on his hand and listened to each direction; by the end of this he might actually be able to understand the strategy behind this game -- not well, but better than he had before.
It was nice talking to Remus like this. Since his trip to the Ministry he'd been on edge and moody and most likely annoying everyone he came into contact with. Sighing, he returned to his attention to what Remus was saying about the value of a bishop.
"If you'd rather stop, I don't mind."
Did he want to stop? The game, yes, he wasn't focused enough to do much of anything, let alone learn the finer points of a game that he'd been losing at for seven years. But he didn't want to stop talking to Remus. "I... Could we talk about something else? Something innocuous, maybe."
"More innocuous than chess?" Remus shrugged. "I suppose. What do you want to talk about?"
He opened and closed his mouth; finally, giving up trying to come up with a topic, he leaned back in his chair and shrugged. "I don't really know."
Remus grinned and leaned forward in his seat, bringing his face closer to Harry's. "A topic of conversation that deals with nothing. I never took you for the idle chit-chat type, Harry. I must admit that this comes as a bit of a surprise."
"Well, now that I don't have to think of serious things I'd rather not."
Remus chuckled, and Harry found himself smiling at the light tone. He missed the sound of laughter, and Remus did have a nice laugh. "You should laugh more often."
He raised an eyebrow at him. "Do you think so? You should try it yourself sometime, Harry. I've been told on occasion that reading too much can drain the fun out of someone."
Harry's grin faded. He knew that Remus hadn't meant to remind him of Hermione, but the comment had been similar to what he and Ron used to tell her when they wanted her to stop studying and have fun. Closing his eyes, he tried to hide the fact that there was a prickling behind his eyes and a fist clenching around his heart. As much as he loved her, he didn't want to think about her; it hurt too much and he didn't know how much longer he could take it.
"Oh, Harry. I'm sorry. I didn't realize-" Remus' hand was on his cheek and his thumb was running along his cheekbone. Harry relished the warmth that Remus' hand imparted to his skin.
He licked his lips. "It's fine, Remus. I'm just tired."
Remus pressed his forehead to his, and when he spoke Harry could feel his breath touch his lips. "Don't lie. It's all right to be sad, to miss her. She was special to you."
He didn't want to think about Hermione. He didn't want to think at all. Remus should understand that; after all, Remus was no stranger to loss and the pain that came with it. Squeezing his eyes closed even tighter, he closed the little distance between them and pressed his lips to Remus'.
Remus stiffened, but only for a moment, and when he wrapped an arm around him and deepened the kiss, Harry sighed into it. It was warm and affectionate. A quiet kind of kiss that chased his thoughts away but didn't ignite any great desire in him. Like kissing a really good friend with no attachments when you are first learning how to kiss. Better than just nice. Comfort.
When it ended, he pressed his forehead into Remus' shoulder and just breathed in and out slowly. Remus stroked his hand up and down his back, and Harry rested his hands on Remus' thighs. They stayed like that for a while, but when Remus finally left the room to go and put on dinner after brushing his fringe away from his face and pressing his lips to the corner of his mouth, Harry didn't miss the touch. It had been what he had needed when he had needed it.
Looking at the door, he realized that he felt guilty about that.
Harry walked up the steps to the front door and sighed; they really needed to do something with the outside of the house. It was still as drab and dreary as it had been the first time that Harry had seen it. After unlocking the door, he stepped inside.
Remus should have started supper; it was late, and his weekly visit to Hermione's grave had run over. It was comforting in its own way to just sit there and talk about everything. Comforting that he hadn't lost that even though she'd died. Deep inside him, he knew that she still heard him, somehow. Ron had gone with him a few times, but had always left after a few minutes. Harry knew that Ron didn't understand that in his own way Harry needed the continued contact with Hermione. That he wasn't ready to let go.
For the first time, Severus hadn't been there when he left the cemetery. The lack of his presence had bothered him. He supposed it shouldn't have surprised him; after all, school had started again and Snape had to return to Hogwarts in order to torment a school full of children, but he found himself missing the silent communication they had built up.
He didn't say anything as he passed Remus on the stairs, just walked into his room and picked up the book he had been reading. He climbed into bed with it and traced over the words with his fingers. How many times had he watched Severus do the exact same thing and trace the words as he read?
He ignored the quiet knock on the door that was Remus telling him that supper was ready, in favor of lying there staring up at the ceiling and focusing on his breathing.
"Snape wouldn't like it if you didn't eat."
Sitting up he looked at the wall where the usually silent and empty canvas was -- for once -- filled with the image of Sirius' great-great-grandfather, or whatever. "And how would you know that?"
Phineas Nigellus made a disgruntled face and muttered, "Youth, they have no proper respect for their elders. You'd think that after all the yelling those two did over you to the Headmaster that you'd know. Don't suppose you've heard anything about it." The portrait looked him up and down and Harry shifted uncomfortably. "I don't see what's so great to look at, you seem too skinny and knobbly to me."
"Excuse me?" And then recalling what Phineas had muttered added on, "sir."
The portrait shrugged. "I don't see what you've done other than sit there and gawk."
"Actually, I was hoping that you'd clarify what you meant, about those two men."
"Snape and Lupin? They've argued about you at least once a week since before you came back here, mostly to Dumbledore, but occasionally here too. Apparently, they each think that the other is detrimental to you in some way. According to Snape, you're nothing other than a replacement for my grandson, and according to Lupin, Snape is using you as a means of redemption." Phineas started to leave the frame. "Like I said before, I don't see why. You can't be that great a catch."
Laying back on the bed he tried to think about what Phineas had said. Why would he be a point of contention? He didn't want to be, all he wanted was... He didn't know. Running his fingers over the spine of the book, he sighed. A good night's sleep would help him figure things out. At least, he hoped that it would.
"Just get out."
"I do have as much right to talk to him as you do, Lupin."
Harry stared at the study door. The last thing he had expected when he came home from the pseudo job search he had started was to hear Remus and Severus arguing in Remus' study. He should probably leave. Should probably just go upstairs and forget that he heard any of it, but he didn't. He stepped closer to the door and just listened.
"He doesn't need you to remind him of everything that he went through, Snape. He needs to put it behind him and you will not help him do so."
"I doubt that you have the faintest idea what the boy needs." Harry could hear the sneer in Severus' voice. A part of him resented that Severus still thought of him as a boy, and part of him hoped that it had only been said because he was talking to Remus.
"A boy, Severus. Is that all he is to you? He's not a student anymore."
"I am well aware of the fact that he's not a student. The rest is none of your business, Lupin. I am here to talk about what is best for Potter and reiterate the fact that you certainly are not it."
"Really? And you are?"
There was a pause. Harry wished that he had been in the room, so he would know what it signified, but if he had been then the conversation wouldn't even be going on.
"What I am saying is that this foolish notion of an apprenticeship that you've cooked up is not what he needs."
What apprenticeship? If it was with Remus then it would have to do with his study of Dark Creatures in general and werewolves in particular. As much as he was interested in the Dark Arts and the Defense against them he didn't want to spend the next three years studying it. Besides, shouldn't Remus have come to him first instead of Snape?
What he needed was-
"Give him the chance to make his own choices, Lupin. Do not rope him into something else without a choice. From my understanding he's had that done to him most of his life. He's had no childhood and most of his adolescence has been stripped away. What right do you have to take the beginning of his adult life too?"
"Get out. I don't care for your opinion. You don't know Harry."
"I think that I know him better than you do. He is not your canine companion, no matter how much you wish otherwise. Do not use him as a replacement for him."
Another pause and Harry swore that Severus was raising his eyebrow at Remus.
"You know nothing, Snape. I'm well aware of the fact that Harry is not Sirius and never will be. Is it so hard to think that I can care for him on his own merits? He has many, no matter how much you'd like to believe he has none."
The only noise Harry heard for a minute was the click of shoes on the floor.
"I stand by the things I've said, Lupin. What is best for Harry is for him live on his own, and learn to make his own choices even if they're the wrong ones. He does not need to be led around like a puppet for any longer." The steps were coming closer to the door and Harry started to scramble away from the door but froze. "He deserves to be first in someone's life."
It was whispered, and for a moment Harry thought it was just his imagination.
"What was that, Severus?"
"I said good day, Lupin. I suspect that your superior werewolf hearing isn't all it's been made out to be if you couldn't even hear that."
Harry had made it to the steps by the time the study door opened and Severus walked out.
He nodded. "Severus. Would you care to stay for supper? I was just about to go into the kitchen and start cooking." He tried to ignore the pointed look that Remus sent his way.
"No, thank you. I have an appointment I have to keep."
"Of course." Harry didn't move from where he was standing on the stair until the front door shut behind him.
"Harry." He turned his head to look at Remus. "Can I speak to you a moment?"
He shook his head. He didn't want to give Remus the chance to bring up the apprenticeship because he didn't think he could say no if Remus asked. "Maybe later."
Closing his bedroom behind him and leaning against it, Harry stared across the room at nothing. Severus was right. It was time that he left.
Harry breathed in deeply. It had been so long since he had smelled the crisp, Scottish air. Staring across the Hogwarts lake he thought he saw a tentacle break the surface briefly, but it might have only been wishful thinking. The Giant Squid was as much a staple of Hogwarts as the castle or the Quidditch Pitch. He hadn't realized how much he had missed it.
He needed to start over. Had already started, in fact, by giving up on becoming an Auror; that had been what he had wanted as a child and he didn't think of himself as one anymore. There were other reasons too. After his anger at Fudge had died down, he'd considered it, had reviewed the curses that he had spent so much time on learning, and he had realized that casting them left a bitter taste in his mouth and a churning feeling in his stomach. He thought about casting them at Severus. He'd hated doing it at the time but had because he'd had to, and now that he didn't have to he didn't want to. He couldn't live with himself if he had to do that everyday. He'd end up reliving things that he didn't want to relive, that were better off left in the past.
And in the past they would stay. He was going to move on.
If he got the Seeker position on the Edinburgh team that would get him out of Grimmauld Place into a flat of his own. It would also give him time to figure out what he really wanted to do, because he didn't have the faintest idea.
Edinburgh was certainly closer to the school than London was, and it would be easier to see Severus during the week.
Harry bit his lip. He liked spending time with Severus. It was quiet.
The Weasleys were always so loud, and Remus was always asking how he was.
He wasn't looking forward to telling Remus that he was moving, but he had put it off for as long as possible. He couldn't care for Remus as anything else than a friend. A dear friend, but a friend nonetheless. He didn't want what Remus did.
It hadn't taken him long to come to that conclusion. Being around Remus didn't leave him any room to breathe.
He sighed and brushed his fringe out of his eyes. It was getting colder out, and he rubbed his hands together before stuffing them into the pockets of his jeans. His Weasley jumper didn't keep quite enough of the chill air out.
"I was hoping that the time you spent with me would have increased your intelligence at least marginally. Once again I am faced with the futility that is hope. You didn't even learn to get yourself in out of the cold."
Harry stiffened at the first of the words before turning around to face Severus. He hadn't heard or sensed the man approaching him at all. He shrugged his shoulders. "My aunt always said I had a thick skull, and I had a professor at school who insisted that I was a dunderhead."
Severus didn't respond to that. He just stood there and looked at him, his gaze hard. Harry kept himself from flinching; he couldn't remember a time that Severus had looked at him that appraisingly, even during his Occlumency lessons his fifth year.
"What do you want," he paused. "Harry?"
Harry turned his face away, looking at the castle instead of at Severus. "I wish I knew. I've lost so much that I'm scared of wanting anything."
"Would you change what has happened?"
He shook his head. The image of Hermione cold and lying on the floor of the Chamber of Secrets flashed before his eyes. "No." His heart clenched and it felt as if he had just betrayed her but knew that he hadn't. He was just moving on. He turned back to Severus.
He was holding his hands at his side, palms out. It seemed an oddly open gesture for Severus and Harry looked up at his face.
"I have a broken-down house that we both hate, a lot of moldy, old books that you seem to enjoy, and whatever is left of myself at the end of a day attempting to teach a school full of imbeciles how to defend themselves against Dark magic."
"But it's mine, if I want it?"
Severus just looked at him with a steady gaze. It was his choice to make, and he marveled at the quiet strength it must have taken Severus to lower his guard as much as he did to offer this. Severus knew that he would never have asked, would never have made that move.
Lifting a hand, he pressed it against Severus' cheek and unconsciously licked his bottom lip. Severus tilted his head down to look at him, and that was all. If Harry wanted this, the next move was his. He slipped his hand around Severus' neck so his fingers could tangle in the loose black strands, and lifted his face, pressing his lips softly, gently against Severus'. Long fingers closed around his hip, not really pulling him forward or pushing him away, just holding him still.
It wasn't enough of a touch for him, and Harry pressed closer, deepening the contact but not the kiss. One hand pressed into the small of Severus' back, and his fingers started to rub in small circles. Severus opened his mouth to sigh and the release of breath brushed against Harry's lips, leaving a small taste of liquor. Harry thought that maybe it had taken a little more than just that inner strength of Severus' to offer this. He smiled against that mouth and then opened his mouth just enough to suck on Severus' bottom lip.
They stayed like that, gently kissing, until Severus eventually stepped back. "It appears that I was correct; your idiocy is contagious. I'm standing out here in the cold with you when I could be inside."
"Looking over a bubbling potion?"
Severus lifted one shoulder slightly. "I'd ask you to come up to the castle with me, but it would be inappropriate." He looked over Harry's shoulder toward the lake. "There is the house in East Devon."
Closing his eyes against a surge of memories, he shook his head. "I'd rather not." Harry bit his lip. "You could come to Grimmauld Place with me." At Severus's shuttered gaze he hurried on. "No one's there."
The house was abnormally quiet; it was the first thing that Harry noticed as he opened the door. Remus hadn't come back early, and Harry breathed a sigh of relief. Harry didn't quite know where to go next. He was out of his depth. Severus motioned toward the stairs before placing a hand on his hip, long fingers digging into his skin betraying how tense he was. Harry purposely tried to keep himself from thinking about how tightly wound his own nerves were as they approached his room.
Once they were inside, the door shut and warded against entry, he wasted no time in capturing Severus' lips with his own. His fingers fumbled at the hook that held the throat of Severus' teaching robes closed, and Harry cursed against those lips, wishing for the Muggle clothes that Severus had sometimes worn while they were stuck at that godforsaken house. Severus' hands lifted to tangle with his own, impeding his attempts.
He let his hands fall away and focused on the small sounds that came from Severus. The groan as one of Harry's hands slipped down his side, the small sigh of breath his mouth made when Harry moved his lips from lips to throat to, finally, collarbone.
The salty taste of skin was bitter on his tongue, and as he sucked on that bit of exposed skin he ran his hands up Severus' sides relishing the small shiver that passed under his fingertips. Eventually he reached for the row of buttons that held Severus' robes closed, each one pressing into his fingers as he pushed them through the holes. His whole body was oversensitive, and when Severus pressed his lips against his neck, Harry groaned low in his throat, caught up in the sensations of the moist heat of mouth and breath. His fingers clenched the coarse fabric, and he didn't know if he was twisting away from or into the touch.
His sense of time was slipping away and everything was blending together; the sensations of lips and hands, the groans and sighs and gasps, the scent of soap and Scottish air and bitter potions ingredients. They tumbled onto the bed, and Harry couldn't recall who had removed what or when as their bodies came into contact, skin against skin, both slick with sweat already; he buried his face into the crook of Severus' neck and breathed in deeply.
Severus' hand slipped down Harry's spine, and Harry twisted and writhed under the touch, pushing his body against Severus' and gasping when their erections touched. The puff of breath against his cheek was another sensation on top of all the others that made Harry squirm closer; flinging one of his legs over Severus' and drawing his body closer, closer than he had though it was possible before. His attention was centered on the movement of Severus' hand down his back, and as one finger pressed against his cleft and slid toward his entrance his whole body tensed. Harry released all the air in his chest with one sharp exhalation, and with his hands centered on Severus' chest, he forced himself to push away so he could look up at Severus' face. "I can't..." He shook his head slightly. "I've never... I--"
Severus placed his thumb over Harry's lips. "Relax." Harry breathed in, willing the muscles in his back and arms to relax, and the pressure in his chest to evaporate. Sucking Severus' tongue into his mouth, he nibbled at the tip before running his tongue along it. His mouth opened in a gasp as Severus' hand slid up, fingers pressing into his hipbone briefly before slipping between their bodies and grasping both of their cocks.
Harry tangled his hand in Severus' hair as Severus' lips covered his own, and between the movement of those lips and the strokes of that hand it didn't take much before Harry was coming and he knew Severus was too, their muscles tensing and their chests becoming covered with sticky wetness. It was over too fast and left Harry gasping for breath.
He entwined their limbs, not ready to let go of the closeness of a moment before, and letting his head rest on Severus' shoulder, he listed to their breathing. Closing his eyes, he focused on the movement of Severus' chest and the rhythmic movement of Severus' hand down his back. It was soothing and calming, and the last thing Harry wanted was to lose that feeling. He tilted his head so that he could press a kiss to the pulse point in Severus' neck, savoring the silence for a moment.
"What if I want it?"
"Then it is yours."
Severus barely lifted his shoulders in a shrug. "Does there have to be a reason?"
"I suppose not." Harry shifted so that he could raise himself up on one elbow. Severus' face was relaxed, eyes closed, and lips bruised. No doubt his were in a similar condition. "When did you know? When did you know that you didn't exactly hate me anymore?"
"I don't remember. It wasn't a sudden piece of knowledge that came to me. Two years ago, I hated you as much as I did your father, and now..."
"Fine line and all that rot?"
Severus shook his head slightly, and Harry wondered if he knew that he was being watched. "Utter nonsense." Those black eyes opened. "There was never a definite moment, but if I had to name one, I suppose that it would have to be that last Death Eater meeting."
Harry bit his tongue.
"I didn't hide the truth, didn't manipulate it to suit the Headmaster's purpose. In that moment, I chose to train you over spying for the Order."
"You could have died."
"Your point? You are not the only one unafraid of human mortality."
Harry leaned down and pressed his lips to Severus' sternum.
"The moment I realized that you and I aren't nearly as different as everyone thinks."
Severus fisted his hands in Harry's hair and pulled his head up. "It doesn't really matter."
"No, it doesn't."
Harry stared around at the nearly empty living room of his flat. The sofa -- from Severus' office -- was pushed up against one wall; various pieces of furniture were haphazardly placed in the room, waiting for Harry to decide exactly where he wanted them. He set down the box he had in his hands and turned toward the door.
"Oi, Harry, mate, where do you want this?"
"Set it down anywhere in here." Harry moved further out of Ron's way. "Thanks for helping me move. I know it's your day off and all-"
"Don't worry about it." Ron moved and collapsed on the couch. "Didn't expect you to move to Scotland, thought you'd stay in London with Remus. Won't be able to see you nearly as often now, mate."
Harry grinned. "I didn't realize how much I missed Scotland until I tried for the Quidditch club here." He sat down on one of the boxes filled with books. His, not Severus'.
"Now, that came as a shock. Last thing I'd thought I'd see was you trying out for Quidditch. Especially for a club that no one's really heard of."
He shrugged. "For now it's all right. I'm still looking into my career options."
"Why not an Auror?"
"I don't think that line of work is for me, Ron. I'd rather end up in the hospital because I've fallen off a broom than because I couldn't dodge a curse fast enough. Besides, I'm on the outs with the Ministry, you know that."
"Yeah, but it would still be nice to have you around, working in the same building and all."
"More likely we'd get on each other's nerves."
Ron nodded. "Are you going to be able to get the last few boxes in by yourself? I have to get going or I'll be late for supper, and you know how Mum is."
"Yeah, I know. Give her my love, and tell her I'll see her soon. Your dad too."
"I'll be fine. Remus is coming over in a bit."
Ron patted him on the shoulder. "I'll talk to you soon."
Harry nodded as he closed the door behind Ron, and he wondered if he would. Hermione's death had caused an irreparable rift in their relationship and Harry didn't know if it could be fixed. They had dealt with her death in different ways, and had grown apart because of it. In a way she had been what had held them together without them even realizing it. Without it being the three of them the friendship seemed empty.
He was putting the books away when Remus showed up.
"Settling in all right, Harry?"
"Yeah, just putting some stuff away. Don't know how I'm going to set up the furniture in here."
Remus leaned over to grab a pile of books and headed over to the bookshelf with them, pausing in mid-motion looking at the cover of one. "The Decameron?"
Harry took it out of his hands and set it on one of the shelves. "It's Severus'."
"Don't. I understand. I might not like it, but I understand."
"You're a great friend, and I don't want to give that up."
Remus laid a hand on his shoulder. "You don't have to. Just don't ask me to like him."
"I won't." Harry turned back to setting up the books; he hadn't realized there were so many. "How did you know?"
Remus rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. "I could always tell when you were thinking about him, and it annoyed me to no end. He occupied so much of your thoughts that I -" He broke off and swallowed. "It doesn't matter."
"Sorry. I didn't realize."
Remus shrugged. "You can't control the way you feel, Harry. I knew that you felt close to him during your sixth year, I should have expected that you'd start to care for him eventually."
"He's what I need. What I want." It was said absentmindedly while he set up his broom polishing kit in the corner by a stool and his broomstand. He started as Remus' hands settled on his shoulders.
"I'm glad you've found something, someone that you want."
"I should get going."
"Yeah, you probably should. I'll be by later this week. We'll finish that game of chess we started."
"I see that you've given the monstrosity a proper home."
"The couch, you mean? Yeah. I knew you wouldn't miss it from your office."
"Some students had gotten it into their heads that it was there so that they'd feel more comfortable talking to me. One of Albus' long-term plans for it, no doubt. I'll admit that I'm glad it's gone."
"No doubt." Harry hung up Severus' coat on one of the hooks. "There really isn't anything for you to help with. Ron helped for a bit, and then Remus stopped by." He looked up to gauge Severus' reaction, but his face was blank. "Then the twins came with their mum after supper, and once Molly started to help me organize everything it was done in a jiff. They only just left a few minutes ago."
Severus nodded and went over to the bookshelves.
"I haven't harmed any of your books." Harry stopped a few steps behind him. "I'm sorry that you came all the way out here for nothing, Severus. I know you have classes tomorrow and-"
"Is it so hard to believe that I don't mind being in your company from time to time?"
Severus turned and pressed a finger to his lips. "Well it shouldn't be. Now can't I pick out a book to read in peace without all your incessant prattling?"
Harry nodded; he didn't have much of a choice with Severus' finger still on his lips. Severus turned around and lifted one of the books off of the shelf. Book in hand, he made his way to the couch and sat down. Harry looked at him for a minute, tracing the words with his fingers before going into the kitchen to fetch the pot of tea he had been preparing.
He poured Severus a cup, leaving it on the small table in front of him and curled up next to him with a Quidditch magazine. He was halfway through a very good article when he was startled by Severus pressing a kiss into his hair. He leaned toward him slipping his arm around him and continued reading while his head rested on Severus' shoulder. He was secure, he was content, and he was home.