A/N: I did it! I know it took what seemed like for-EV-er, but it is *finally* done! Although, I will say you are all lucky - my original novel was only about 45,000 words and it took me 10 years to write. This fic is nearly 70,000 words and it took just over 7 months. And I am definitely toying with a sequel. I have a whole future in my head for these two, but I don't know if I have the time or stamina to write it. I have to come up with a conflict. It wouldn't be a story if I just went on and on and on about our boys. So stay tuned for a potential part II. Thank you to everyone who has read and commented on this fic. I am glad you enjoyed it and I hope this ending leaves you with a smile! Happy New Year!
Harry awoke feeling simultaneously incredible and sore. At first, the haze of sleep prevented him from remembering why he felt this way. Slowly, though, as he began to gain more consciousness, he remembered the night before and smiled as he drew in a deep breath and opened his eyes. He was laying on his side next to Severus, who was on his back. Harry had one arm draped across Severus's stomach. The white sheets didn't come up that far; they stopped at both men's hips. Harry had no idea what time it was. He thought he might be hungry, but wasn't sure. Suddenly, he tensed, unsure of where he was going to eat breakfast. He hadn't gone back to the dormitory last night. The other Gryffindors who were still there – 7th, 8th, and all the others alike – would know he hadn't come in. He was sure it was late enough that most of them were up; the light was shining through the window of Severus's bedroom with a golden glow – something well past the soft light of a sunrise.
What was he going to do? Where would he say he'd spent the night? All his things were still in the Tower; everyone knew he hadn't left the castle. And he did have to leave the castle today, even if he could figure out what on earth he was going to tell them if they asked where he'd been all night. And where was he going to go? Grimmauld Place, of course – he knew that's where he had to go. No more crashing at the Burrow; no more staying over holidays at Hogwarts. He was done. He was an adult.
He was alone.
His heard began to race at the terrifying thought. When would he be able to come back to see Severus? Would Severus even want him to come back? Or if he did, when would that be? Would he want Harry to have decided what he wanted to do with his life? Last night, he'd mentioned thinking that spending time alone at Grimmauld Place was a good idea. Maybe he didn't like Harry as much as Harry had thought. Maybe Severus felt like he needed space? Was Harry being too overbearing? Was he pushing too hard, too fast? He knew Severus was wary of a relationship. Maybe he wanted a lot of time to think about it. Harry wanted to believe what he'd heard – twice now – from Severus's own mouth as he'd drifted off into slumber: that he loved Harry. But what did that even mean? And did he want to know how Harry felt about him? Could – should? – Harry tell him that he loved Severus? Would Severus even believe it? Would Severus just think him naïve and confused?
And what on earth was he going to do at Grimmauld Place, anyway? Severus had suggested cleaning it, but Harry was pretty sure that if he tried to do anything himself, Kreacher would pitch a fit. Now that the elf genuinely served Harry, the place was really in quite good shape. Severus just hadn't seen it since right after Dumbledore died. So what would he do there? He started to regret having turned down the Apprenticeship; at least he'd have something solid to do. Maybe he should apply to the Auror program. The deadline had already passed, but he figured Shackelbolt would make an exception for him. He sighed; that really wasn't what he wanted to do. He didn't know exactly what he did want to do, but he definitely knew a few things he didn't.
"Your angst is ruining my lie-in."
Severus's voice rumbled softly in the morning silence. Harry's head tilted up to see Severus's eyes were still closed. He felt Severus's arm tighten gently around his back.
"Care to share what is troubling you? Are you in pain? Shall I fetch you something for it?" Severus cracked one eye open and looked questioningly at Harry.
Harry opened his mouth, but wasn't sure which of the questions to answer. "Sure," he finally settled on.
Severus stretched out his hand and in just a few seconds, Harry saw a small vial fly into the room and into Severus's outstretched palm. Severus handed it to Harry, who took it with the hand that had been draped over Severus's stomach, and swallowed it down in one gulp. He grimaced, then let out a sigh of relief as the potion began to work.
"Better?" Severus took the empty vial back and set it on the nightstand.
"Yeah," Harry assured him. "Thanks."
"Now, would you like to discuss what else is troubling you?" Severus asked.
Harry rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. "Everything," he closed his eyes. "Nothing," he retracted. "I don't even know where I should say I spent the night," he began.
"Mmm," Severus made a non-committal noise.
"And I have to leave Hogwarts today," Harry continued. "I suppose I'll go to Grimmauld."
There were a few moments of silence.
"And…this bothers you?" Severus sounded mildly confused.
Harry opened his eyes and folded his arms behind his head. He turned his head slightly so he could see Severus, who was watching him closely.
"It probably shouldn't," Harry fought embarrassment and some other emotions he was unsure how to name.
"Feelings are just that: feelings. They are neither right nor wrong. Perhaps unjustified, at times, but one cannot say whether or not he should or should not feel a certain way." Severus paused, holding Harry's gaze. "Is there something more?" he finally asked.
Harry's mouth opened, then shut.
Severus gave him a scrutinizing look. "I," he said after a few moments of what could have constituted a staring contest, "have a suggestion."
Harry's brow rose slightly.
"Why don't you tell anyone who asks that you spent the night out celebrating in London?" he waited until Harry signaled agreement, then continued. "Gather your things, and then go to Grimmauld. Take a shower. Unpack. Get settled. Have that elf cook you something." He waited, ostensibly to see if Harry would object to any of his plan. "Then, if you like, I shall meet you there this evening and take you out to dinner."
Harry's eyes must have widened with the surprise he felt at hearing the last statement, because Severus smirked and folded his arms across his chest.
"I imagine last night raised several questions in your mind about our relationship?" Severus nodded once at the look on Harry's face. "I thought dinner by ourselves, outside the castle, might help things."
"I…" Harry stammered, "yeah, brilliant."
Severus made to get out of the bed.
"Wait," Harry stopped him. "What…what are you going to do this summer?" he asked.
Severus looked toward the ceiling pensively. "I honestly hadn't given it much thought," he said.
"Do you still," Harry started, then stopped. "One time I was down here, as Cat, you mentioned something about going to Australia."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "Your marks over the years may have fared better if you'd employed that type of attention in your classes," he remarked.
Harry jerked a grin at him. "I mean, when you said it, you were talking about…about finding someone to help you forget about me. But now, well, I thought maybe if you were still interested in the travelling bit," he trailed off. Severus waited patiently. "I mean, we're both free, now," he picked back up. "I've never seen anything outside this bloody island. I think I need to get out…go somewhere. I need some time to clear my head. I think it could be…a lot of fun, you know, if you came with me. If we went together."
Severus looked at him inscrutably.
Harry backpedaled a bit. "If, you know, you want to."
A smile curled on Severus's lips. "Spend time with you? Alone?" Severus moved in toward Harry. "In places where no one will know us?" He lowered himself so that he was hovering over Harry's body. "Without threat or fear of madmen awaiting us at every turn?" He bent his head down so that his mouth was at Harry's ear. He traced it with his nose, and then said, his breath hot on Harry's skin, "That, Mr. Potter, may be the best idea you have had in the nearly eight years I have known you."
Harry sucked in his breath as he felt himself harden, Severus settling himself on top of Harry. He felt Severus's hardness, too, never having quite softened from his morning erection.
"How about I let you take care of that," Harry ground his hips up into Severus's, causing him to groan and roll his eyes back in his head, "in me before I go?"
"Oh look," Severus smiled as he brushed his lips across Harry's, "you've gone and had two good ideas in the same day. That bodes well for your NEWT scores."
Harry reached his arm down and smacked Severus lightly on the bottom.
"That was not a punishment," Severus growled in a voice laced with desire.
Harry grinned and repeated the gesture, earning himself an arm and face-full of Severus.
A whisper, and the sheets were gone, and Harry found himself vaguely thinking what he was going to have to tell people when he showed up in the tower well after lunchtime.