Point of Love: a GSM Halloween
Summary: Halloween has never been one of Harry's favorite holidays – far from it, in fact. This all changes when Severus makes it his mission to give Harry what he's never had before... a Halloween worth remembering. HP/SS. A Gray Skye Mourning Halloween one-shot.
Rating: Rated T for language and a few very mild sexual situations.
Disclaimer: All characters belong to J.K. Rowling.
A/N: First off, I'm sorry to post a Halloween fic a day late, but it really couldn't be helped. In actuality, this one-shot almost didn't happen at all since I've been so darned busy lately. My schedule did clear up a bit by mid-week however and I thought... OK, I'll give it a go. Then I happened to look at the calendar and said to myself... Holy crap, that's not enough time to write a GSM Halloween fic! Am I crazy?!
Answer to that question: Yes, I am crazy, because three days later, here it is. However, I must caution you lovely readers not to expect anything even close to perfection here. This is un-beta'd as I had absolutely no time to send it to my beta, Yen, let alone benefit from all her lovely edits and suggestions. In fact, she doesn't even know I'm posting anything at all! (Surprise, Yen!). So, any errors, awkward phrasing or plot oddities are 100% my fault. :)
Anyway, despite the roughness of it, I do hope it's an enjoyable read. It's not nearly as angsty as GSM (how could it be now that these two are finally reunited?), but nevertheless, you'll find a couple of moments of tearful drama along with lots of lovely Snarry romance. I must admit that I had a lot of fun writing more for this particular Harry and Severus. They are by far, my favorite incarnations of Rowling's two best original characters! :D
This is not a dream. No, not this time. This time it's real – it must be.
What other explanation could there be when Harry could actually feel the shock of cold against his long, spidery fingers as he gripped the night-chilled doorknob? What else could account for the dull jab of pain in his hip and shoulder as he used them to shove the door aside, bursting violently into their sitting room? What dream-induced fantasy could possibly replicate with such exquisite detail the sound of the door being wrenched from its hinges and falling to the hardwood floor with a deafening crash... or the delightful resonance of his victims' blood-curdling screams and frightened whimpers as their wide eyes finally locked with his own gleaming red ones and they realized their deaths were now only moments away?
"Lily, take Harry and go! It's him!"
And the smells... indeed, this must be real; the smells are so strong, so pungent! A hint of vanilla from a nearby scented candle permeated the interior of their cottage along with the unmistakeable aroma of warm mulled cider and... what was that? Smoke?
Ah, yes. That's right. Colored smoke. He remembered now – it was the same every time, how could he not remember? – the man had been conjuring streams of vibrant-colored smoke for the boy's entertainment just moments ago, making a different color appear from the tip of his wand every time the tot's laughter would begin to ebb. Harry had watched their pointless game through the window for a time but grew bored quickly, driving anticipation for their impending murders making him impatient, his restive soul hungry for the promised release that came with disseverance.
But now the man – that arrogant, blood-traitorous imbecile – was without his wand, having foolishly set it down on the dining room table when his filthy Mudblood wife entered the room. He was unarmed, defenseless... and completely at Harry's mercy.
"Lily, go! I'll hold him off!"
Hold him off? Not a chance. What foolish ideas love inspires when fear clouds all traces of logic!
A blinding blast of green light suffused the small room as Harry's curse hit the halfwit and he crumpled to the floor in a lifeless heap. The magicked pulses of light, still strobing weakly, were just enough to illuminate his way down a narrow hallway. Stepping over the corpse, he swept forward, his heart pounding an eager rhythm against his ribs. He restrained himself when he reached a closed door at the end of the hallway, taking a moment to listen before blasting into the room beyond it. Then he smiled, relishing the muffled sounds of the Mudblood sobbing pathetically, already begging for her Muggle-tainted progeny to be spared.
Oh, he was going to enjoy this!
One blasting curse later and Harry was at last towering over the woman, his wand pointed directly at her heart. Both of her trembling arms were spread wide, a pitiful attempt to shield the boy who was now sitting in a small baby's cot behind her.
And he was screaming. Merlin, how he hated the screeching wails of children, though her tireless ranting wasn't much better...
"Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!"
"Step aside, you silly girl... stand aside, now."
"Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead–"
"This is my last warning–"
"Not Harry! Please... have mercy... have mercy... Not Harry! Not Harry! Please – I'll do anything–"
"Stand aside. Stand aside, girl!"
Of course she didn't heed his warning. Mudbloods are ruled by their emotions; not an ounce of self-preservation between the filthy lot of them infesting the Wizarding World like a cancer.
Best to be rid of her. Much neater that way. Almost poetic in its divine justice; another step toward the betterment of Wizardkind.
"No... no... please don't, no... NO!"
Gasping for breath and trembling all over, Harry forced his eyes open, terror coursing through him. He felt strong arms wrapping around him from behind, pulling him back into a firm, warm body and he immediately clung to those embracing arms, his hands grabbing onto them as if they were the only things keeping him from falling back into the hell that had just played out in his own mind.
"Shhh… Harry, it's alright now. It was a dream – a nightmare – but it's over. You're safe. You're in our home – our bed – and you're safe, love. I've got you. Shhh…"
Despite the words of comfort whispered in his ear and the warmth surrounding him, Harry continued to breathe too quickly – short, shallow breaths that seemed to die in his throat, never quite reaching his lungs. He felt lightheaded, disoriented, and his skin was hot and sweaty, yet still cold to the touch like ice… like death...
…like long, pale fingers… brittle and frigid… with sickeningly chalk-white skin, almost translucent, stretching over protruding knuckles... long fingers that were bent around the handle of a wand… a familiar wand… Harry's wand…
"No…" Harry whimpered, feeling himself falling back again, his nightmare swallowing him up, pulling him under once more. He squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head violently, torn between his desire to forget those horrid images and his longing to make some sense of them – to find some thread of truth and certainty amid the ocean of sadistic thoughts and emotions bestowed upon him by a madman. "No…no, it-it isn't mine…. it isn't my wand and that... that wasn't me! I couldn't… I could never–"
His terrified rambling ceased, transforming into deep, rattling exhalations of shaky breath when the warmth surrounding him suddenly receded and he was forced onto his back. His right hand was snatched up and held within two others, gentle fingers of one wrapping around his palm, those of the other around his forearm. Then there was the familiar pressure of fingertips pressing hard against the side of his right inner wrist, just beside his pulse point. The abrupt change in sensation had Harry sucking in a deep, raspy breath. Relief flooded him when he felt the much-needed air reach his lungs. As the air slowly emptied from his mouth, he felt his tremors lessen and the clammy, sweat-cold sickness pervading his skin being replaced with ripples of tingling, soothing warmth. The terror inspired by his nightmare was fading now, driven out by an overwhelming feeling of calm and peace that was sweeping through him, grounding him to the here and now… and to the man who was still applying steady pressure to his wrist while whispering words of comfort to him.
"It's alright, Harry. Breathe, love. Just breathe."
"M'OK now, Sev. M'alright," Harry mumbled, wincing at the burn in his throat engendered by the poorly enunciated words. He swallowed and then licked his sleep-chapped lips, forcing open tightly closed eyes. The green orbs immediately sought his lover's ebony ones. As expected, the dark orbs held an expression of deep sorrow and despair, so much more than just concern shining from their shadowy depths.
"Did you see any of it this time?" Harry asked, already knowing the answer.
"Some of it," Severus admitted, thin lips turned down in a pained grimace. "I saw Lily shielding you and... I heard you crying and…"
Harry shook his head, eyelids shut tight again as a surge of pain plowed through his heart. "I wasn't the one crying; I was–"
"Yes, you were, Harry," Severus cut in, his tone suddenly fierce. "You were the baby… the little boy screaming… that was you. You know that to be true! You know it! You were not… him, Harry, you know that!"
Harry nodded. Yes, he did know that. Of course he did. But every time he woke from this particular nightmare – an occurrence that seemed to be happening more often these past few nights leading up to Halloween – Harry found it harder and harder to distinguish himself from the twisted monster who had actually lived it. When the memory first entered his mind last Christmas Eve, Harry was still harboring a piece of Voldemort's soul, so even though the memory played out from the bastard's perspective, some part of Harry had recognized it as belonging to himself. It felt like a part of him. And despite the fact that Harry was now horcrux-free, his mind still had trouble sometimes making the distinction. Especially when the nightmare always felt so damned real... so tangible... and so fucking personal...
Severus must have sensed his spiraling thoughts through their link because he once again pressed his fingertips to Harry's inner wrist, the pad of his thumb rubbing soothing circles along the back of it.
The effect was immediate, just as it had been before.
Green eyes disappeared again beneath their lids as waves of contentment washed over Harry. He drew in a long, slow breath, letting it out a little at a time while his body began to let go of the worst of its tension, tight muscles loosening and softening, his heart rate slowing. He felt rather than saw Severus release his wrist and lean forward, the sensation of his lover's warm breath on his lips pulling an easy smile from him. The warm breath was soon replaced by the exquisite feeling of the man's soft lips pressing a tender kiss to Harry's mouth. The kiss soothed him further but it wasn't until Severus' body finally made contact with his own, that long, slender one covering his own with strong arms winding their way under his back to pull their bodies closer, that Harry felt the very last of his anxiety leave him.
Severus held him in a protective hug for a long moment, abandoning Harry's mouth in favor of brushing soft, barely-there kisses along his stubbled jaw and then down the column of his neck to his collarbone, moist breath ghosting over his kiss-warmed skin. When those attentive lips moved back up, reaching the sensitive spot just below Harry's ear, Severus shifted, lifting up further to press them to the shell of his ear instead.
His soulful words, whispered with such passion, caused yet another pleasurable warmth to rush through Harry, settling deep in his chest.
"He was never part of you, love. A fragment of his soul may have resided within you... for a time... but your soul was never touched by his evil. Never. Please remember that."
"Then why are my dreams still haunted by him?" Harry replied, voice cracking with emotion. "Why does my own mind betray me like this, Severus? Why must I recall and re-live his experiences... his sick fucking memories... as if they were my own?"
Once more, Severus reached for Harry's wrist but was denied the chance when Harry pressed both palms down flat on the bed, pushing himself up to a sitting position, the action forcing Severus to sit up as well.
"No. It's OK, Sev. I don't need it again," he whispered, rubbing his own wrist now. "Just... just give me a second. I'll be alright."
Leaning back on the headboard of their four-poster, Harry closed his eyes and breathed deeply, willing himself to calm down once again, this time without the aid of Severus' skilled fingertips. As much as he appreciated his own body's hypersensitive response to his lover's acupressure therapy, he was loath to rely on it all the time.
Within just a week after coming back from his venture to the past – almost five months ago now – Harry was cured of the nerve damage caused by Caedis Avery's curse, thanks to Severus' Nerve Regeneration Draught. Soon however, Harry realized – or more accurately, Severus realized – that somehow, a small amount of Harry's hypersensitivity still remained.
Just days after Harry finished taking the Nerve Regeneration Draught, said realization made itself known... and in a very pleasurable way.
He and Severus had already been engaged in about an hour of foreplay. His lover had spent most of that time covering Harry's entire body with hot, wet kisses. After a thorough job was bestowed upon Harry's neck, chest and stomach, Severus turned his attention to Harry's leg, kissing every inch of it with torturous slowness. He paid particular attention to the sensitive skin of his inner thigh, kissing and licking and nipping at it before moving down to his knee and lower leg and repeating his sensual ministrations. When Severus reached his ankle, he pressed a particularly arousing open-mouthed kiss there that had Harry's already half-hard erection lengthen to full hardness in no time flat. Then Severus grasped onto Harry's foot, placing his thumb just below the calloused platform in the very center and applying a bit of pressure.
The resultant orgasm that spontaneously befell Harry in the next second quite literally took his breath away. His throaty screams of delirious pleasure reverberated off the cottage's stone walls while his body writhed and contorted, back arching upward and fingers cramping as they gripped the bed sheets. Of course that orgasm was soon rivaled by Severus' own, the echo of Harry's powerful climax through their link. So surprised by the strong surge of mind-blowing pleasure coursing through him, his lover ended up falling off the bed backwards, landing in what he later described as an undignified heap of twitching limbs and heavy gasps.
After a bit of research, Severus discovered what had caused Harry's extreme reaction to being touched in such a seemingly inconsequential place. As it turns out, Severus' Nerve Regenerative Draught did indeed work, but a little too well in certain areas.
Apparently, the bottom of the foot, along with at least a dozen other spots on the human body, contains bundles of nerves known as pressure points. When pressure is applied to them, these highly responsive nerve clusters can trigger a mild to moderate emotional and in some cases physical sensory response in the person experiencing the touch.
In Harry's case, the potion to heal his nerve damage actually went a bit too far on these already sensitive nerve clusters. It took a bit of uncharted exploring on his lover's part – though he told Harry several times that it was by far the most enjoyable research he'd ever undertaken – but they both soon became familiar with Harry's most potent pressure points and the physical and emotional responses they engendered.
Besides the center point on the bottom of both his feet, Harry had two other highly sensitive erogenous zones that would stimulate the same extreme sexual response: his lower back at the very base of his spine and the stretch of skin at the back of his neck, just below his hairline at the base of his skull. Severus could touch him at either one of these three spots and Harry would experience instant arousal – a fact that thrilled the older man to no end.
In addition to the three erogenous zones, there were several other hypersensitive pressure points he and Severus discovered. There was a spot behind Harry's right ear that when pressed even lightly would make even the most horrendous headache go away instantly, a place near his left hipbone that resulted in Harry feeling famished enough to eat every edible thing in sight and a small point just below both knees that when pressed hard enough, caused him to lose control of his bladder (that was not a fun discovery for Harry, though Severus still chuckled every time it was brought up).
There was even a small area at the very base of his third finger on his left hand that when pressed, elicited a rush of love and affection for his lover so strong, Harry found himself weak-kneed and teary-eyed every time it was touched. Severus had grown quite fond of the little spot, never missing an opportunity to caress it when they were making love or even when they were just holding hands. He'd even named it Harry's 'point of love'.
Out of all the pressure points though, the most helpful by far was the anti-anxiety spot on his inner wrist. Severus was a master at finding it when Harry was in need of its effects. And Merlin knew the man had had enough practice at it this last week as this particular nightmare had become an almost nightly occurrence. Harry only wished he could find a spot somewhere on his body that when pressed, would make these vile nightmares go away.
Severus' softly spoken question pulled Harry back from his runaway thoughts. Eyes snapping open, he turned to see his lover studying him, concern still evident in his piercing gaze.
Nodding, Harry tried for a smile, pleased with himself when it felt almost natural on his face.
Sighing, Severus smirked at him and shook his head. "You do realize I can feel your worry and discomfort. Or have you forgotten we're soul-linked, brat?"
The oh-so-typical Snape-ish sarcastic remark, as well as the unorthodox term of endearment, had Harry's saccharine smile transforming into a genuine one in an instant, a quiet chuckle escaping his grinning lips.
"Come on, love," Severus added as he got up from the bed. Reaching out for Harry's hand, he lifted it to his face and placed a kiss to the open palm before pressing his own to it and lacing their fingers. "We need to get up now or we'll be late for the party. Care to join me in the shower?"
Brushing aside that rather tempting invitation – at least for now – Harry looked over at the small clock on his bedside table, brow furrowing in confusion. "Sev, you know I love showering with you, but it's only nine o'clock. Molly and Arthur aren't expecting us until noon. And... shit, Severus... I'm not even sure I want to go to this thing. I mean, why the bloody hell would they want to have a Halloween party... and in the middle of the day, too!? It's not their style. Birthdays, weddings, baby showers... now that's cause for a Weasley bash. But Halloween? I just don't get it. And considering my track record with this particular holiday, perhaps it's best I sit this one out and stay home."
Severus sat back down on the bed and leaned forward, grasping the sides of Harry's face and then crushing their lips together. The kiss was an outpouring of love and affection, that pulse of love deep within Harry flaring like a fervent blaze of swelling emotion.
When at last Severus withdrew from the kiss, he stared unflinchingly into Harry's wide eyes, his voice steady but hushed as he said, "Perhaps what you need to do in order to get beyond your past, Harry, is to simply choose to let it go... and then replace what is gone... with what is being offered to you."
"Shower in five minutes. And don't keep me waiting, Mr. Potter, or I may decide not to wash that special spot on your lower back that always has you begging me for more."
Deciding that a shower really was a much more worthy morning pastime than brooding over his nightmare or figuring out how to let go of said nightmare, Harry hastened after Severus, loosening the drawstring on his sleep pants as he went.
Forty-five minutes and two reciprocal acts of mind-blowing oral pleasure later, Harry was clean and dressed, his shower-dampened hair combed back and lying as flat as was possible for his unruly mop. He'd put on his most comfortable pair of black jeans, as well as a plain white collared shirt and a light grey cable-knit jumper Hermione had gotten him for his eighteenth birthday. He had just sat down on the edge of the bed to tie the laces of his dragon hide boots – another birthday gift form her as she insisted that it was high time his wardrobe was updated – when Severus entered the cottage great room and sat down beside him.
"How are you faring?" he asked, bringing a hand up to brush a few wet strands of hair off Harry's forehead and then tuck another few wayward ones behind his ear.
Harry smiled, both at the loving caress that had become Severus' after-shower habit over these last five months and at the question whose answer should've been more than obvious.
"You seriously have to ask that after the reaction you pulled from me in the shower?!" Harry asked, smirking. Glancing up from his boots, he stared into those endless ebony depths, a shiver running down his spine at the strong surge of love that pushed through their connection when their eyes met. "Merlin, Severus! I broke the damned towel rack I was holding onto when I climaxed. So, yeah. I think I'm faring alright, love."
Stifling a laugh, Severus pressed his fingertips to his lips and turned away, no doubt in an effort to keep the memories of said shower incident from derailing his train of thought. After a moment, he shook his head and lowered his hand, fixing Harry with more serious expression.
"I didn't mean physically, Harry. I meant up here," he explained, gentle fingers once again placed to his forehead, lingering this time. They raked through his damp hair once and then curled around the back of his neck, carefully avoiding the pressure point just below his hairline. "You know our link doesn't afford me a window into your thoughts, but based on what I'm getting from you emotionally, I can discern that you're still quite troubled by this latest flashback into Voldemort's memories."
Harry broke eye contact with his lover to stare down at his lap. He let out a shaky breath and swallowed roughly as he attempted to garner the courage to open up and tell Severus what was really bothering him. As close as he and Severus had become, it was still sometimes hard to divulge his deepest worries to the man – especially when those worries had no concrete basis in logic.
Taking another deep breath, Harry braced himself and then voiced out loud his most well-guarded and caustic fear.
"I feel responsible for their deaths."
At the look of growing protest on Severus' features, Harry rushed to clarify, cutting the man's words of refutal off before they could be voiced.
"Look, I know I'm not actually responsible! I do, Sev, I swear! And believe it or not, my feeling this way… this guilt… it actually has very little to do with me being forced to relive their deaths from Voldemort's horrifying perspective almost every night this week. In my mind, I know that I was the baby that night – not the murderer – and that an infant couldn't possibly be responsible for such atrocities."
"But in your heart?" Severus asked, his thumb now tracing small circles on the side of Harry's neck.
"In my heart… I'm to blame. It was me Voldemort was after. Me, not them."
Severus was quiet for several long moments, his brow furrowed as if he were deep in thought, thumb still bestowing its measure of comfort by caressing Harry's damp skin. At length, he stood, grasping onto Harry's right hand and pulling him up to stand directly in front of him. He turned Harry so they were facing one another and then waited until those green eyes looked up into his before asking his next question.
"Have you ever apologized to them?"
Taken aback by the question, Harry narrowed his eyes, lips parting to request some kind of clarification.
Severus continued however, cutting off his still unformulated query.
"I have. Many times, actually. Every Halloween, in fact. In those early years, it was only Lily whom I would share my regret with, begging her for her absolution. But after the Dark Lord rose again at the end of your fourth year, I began to ask for James' forgiveness as well. She loved him with all her heart and he was good to her, protecting her and you as best as he could. Loath as I was at the time to humble myself before one of my childhood tormentors, the man deserved my remorse and humility as much as Lily did for my part in precipitating both their deaths."
Severus paused here and brought both hands to Harry's waist, sliding them around to the small of his back and pulling the younger man closer to him.
"It did not eliminate all of my guilt, Harry, but it did help me cope with it."
Eyes moist after hearing his lover's heartfelt confession of enduring guilt, Harry completed their embrace, wrapping his arms around Severus' neck. He lifted up and placed a soft kiss to the man's lips, lingering just long enough to convey through the intimate touch his abiding adoration for this man whom he loved unconditionally, and then he pulled back slightly, locking gazes with those dark, soulful eyes again.
"I never thought to ask for their forgiveness, but… yeah… yeah, I'd like to do that. We have some time before the party. Do you think we could–?"
Harry's request was cut off when he suddenly felt as though all the air in his lungs had left him. It took only a few more seconds – helped along by the familiar sensation of feeling like he was being shoved bodily through the thin connecting cord of a pair of extendable ears – for him to realize that Severus had Apparated them to some unknown location.
Surely, he hadn't taken them to the Burrow? They weren't expected there for another two hours.
"Sev, Where–?" Harry asked, blinking in the bright sunlight as he whirled around, trying to discern his new surroundings.
Then he saw the kissing gate.
"Oh," he breathed, recognition hitting him like a well-aimed bludger.
The gate's centuries-old wrought iron posts stood before Harry like a beacon of the painful past. The last time he'd seen them, they were snow-covered and barely discernible in the dim moonlight. Now – ten months later and in the light of day – the rusty metal bars were easy to see, every twist in their intricate tendril-like woven pattern crystal clear in the late-morning sun. Beneath the gate, where months ago lay a blanket of snow, now lay piles of restless leaves, dried up mementos of summer that scurried along the browning grasses of the cemetery lawn in the brisk autumn wind.
Yes, Godric's Hollow looked very different than it had last Christmas Eve, but not enough to matter. It was still his long lost childhood home... and the cemetery just beyond that gate still remained the final resting place of his murdered parents.
With a gentle squeeze to his hand, Severus roused Harry from his idle state, beckoning him to follow as he led the way through the narrow opening in the curved gate and down one of the many rows of time-weathered gravestones. Before long, Harry was standing in front of his parents' graves, green eyes locked on the white marble stones inscribed with some obscure commentary on conquering death. He vaguely remembered feeling annoyed about it the first time he'd read it, though right now, he couldn't recall why.
So engrossed in the eerily familiar sight of those white stones, Harry almost didn't notice Severus' hand pulling away until he felt a pang of uncertainty from the man through their link.
"Don't leave me," Harry breathed out shakily, grasping the retreating hand and pulling it back to his chest. The action caused Severus to take a step closer from where he stood behind him, his chest now pressed to Harry's back.
"Are you sure you wouldn't rather speak to them alone, Harry?"
Throat suddenly constricting with emotion, Harry shook his head, gripping Severus' hand more tightly to his chest.
"Alright," Severus whispered in response, wrapping his other arm around Harry's front to embrace him more fully. He dipped his head down to rest his cheek to Harry's, turning slightly to speak softly into his ear. "Just tell them how you feel, love."
Again, Harry answered without words, giving a shaky nod. At a loss for what to say, Harry cleared his throat and then, before his courage could fail him, began to voice his long overdue outpouring of sorrow and regret.
"Mum. Dad. I-I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I got you killed. You shouldn't have died. You should have lived out your lives... with me... we should have had more time together."
Harry released Severus' hand, bringing his own up to his eyes which were becoming blurry with tears. He wiped the tears away and exhaled a tremulous breath before placing his hands atop Severus' embracing arms, taking comfort from his lover's nearness and warmth. Clearing his throat again, he forced himself to continue, unable to quell the tremor in his voice.
"I love you. And I wish... God, I wish he'd never targeted me. Because if he hadn't, you never would have died! And we'd still be a family and... and..."
Harry stopped his emotional rambling and turned abruptly in Severus' arms, his green eyes wide with sudden understanding as he stared up at his lover.
"Sev... I'm really not to blame, am I?"
Severus shook his head slowly, a sad smile curving the corners of his mouth as he brought a hand up to Harry's tear-streaked cheek, wiping some of the wetness away with gentle fingers.
"No, my love. You're not to blame. You never were. Not for any of it."
"Oh God. Oh... Oh God..."
Burying his face into Severus chest, Harry released an anguished sob and with it, years of guilt and self-condemnation that had been crippling him almost as long as he'd been alive. He let it go... all of it... grieving tears of renewal and regret pouring out of him like a summer's downpour. His body shook with the force of his unleashed emotions, but Severus held him through it, wrapping his arms tightly around Harry's back and keeping him up... keeping him grounded... letting him know through their enduring soul-link that he was safe and protected and loved...
...and finally free from the past.
Palming away the last of his tears with a trembling hand, Harry swallowed roughly and drew in a deep breath, welcoming the familiar scent of his lover that ignited his senses along the cool, crisp autumn air. He pulled back from Severus' chest – from the man's midnight blue jumper that was now drenched with tears – and lifted his head, meeting Severus' dark gaze with over bright emerald eyes.
"Thank you," Harry whispered.
"Whatever for?" came Severus' response, but Harry could tell by the knowing look in those ebony eyes and by his off-kilter smile that the older man knew exactly why he was being thanked.
Harry answered him anyway.
"For bringing me here… and for believing in me enough to do so even though you disagreed with my harbored guilt. Thank you for giving me the opportunity I needed to finally see what I hadn't been able to before… and most of all, Sev, thank you for giving me the means to choose to finally let go."
Severus' crooked smile evened out, morphing into full-fledged grin as he leaned in to kiss Harry, a tender meeting of wind-cooled lips and warm breath. He lingered for the space of a heartbeat, then pulled away, his features holding a hint of uncharacteristic nervousness as he met Harry's gaze again.
"And now that you have indeed chosen to let go, Harry, are you ready to take the next step with me? Are you ready to replace what has left you… with what is offered?"
At his lover's question, Harry's brow furrowed and his eyes narrowed, his head tilting to the side slightly in confusion. Then he remembered. Severus had said something very similar to him earlier that morning – just before their amorous adventures in the shower. He recalled being bewildered by the strange statement then. Now however, he had a greater understanding about the first part of the puzzling words… but he still felt rather in the dark regarding the last part. Because of this, he hesitated in answering, unsure of what exactly to say.
Seemingly unfazed by the silence that met his question, Severus reached for Harry's left hand, holding it gently with his own while his right hand fumbled for something in the pocket of his trousers. Harry was on the verge of asking his lover why he was acting so mysteriously… and why the hand holding his was shaking like it was, but he held his tongue as Severus' right hand emerged from his pocket a second later. Gripped between his thumb and forefinger was a small golden object which Severus immediately placed to the tip of Harry's third finger.
Still bewildered, Harry shook his head a fraction, feeling inexplicably nervous and excited all at once but not immediately understanding why. It wasn't until he felt the cold metal slide past his fingertip to sit idly halfway down his finger, brushing up against his knuckle like a chilly caress, that he got a good enough look at the object to decipher what it was…
...and what it meant.
"Severus?" he choked out. His throat felt like it was closing up all of the sudden and his heart was roaring like a drum cadence in his ears. His eyes, having only just dried, were now filling with tears once more as they held onto that dark, soulful gaze.
"I…" Severus began and then paused to moisten his lips with his tongue. Before he continued, he bit down on his lower lip to steady its sudden trembling and exhaled a shallow breath – the effect reminding Harry of the eighteen-year-old Severus so much, that his breath caught in his throat in reaction.
"I had originally planned on doing this in the forest clearing, the one where you and I used to feed Spera together. But after your nightmare this morning, I thought perhaps it was best I brought you here instead so that you could work through your pain and find a way to move past it."
Harry nodded but said nothing, waiting for Severus to continue. He wasn't altogether certain he could speak now that his heart felt like it was lodged in the upper portion of his throat.
"Harry," Severus continued, voice a bit higher and fainter than it normally was, "the first time I remember feeling alive was when I touched your face in the Slytherin common room all those years ago. Our time together then, although brief, was the best time of my life... until you returned to me, that is. If anyone had told me during those years I waited for you... mourned for you... that the month we shared at the end of our seventh year would one day pale in comparison to the present... and to the foreseeable future, I would have laughed in their face. But now, I can honestly say that it's true; I've never been happier or felt more loved or more complete than I do right now, with you as my partner."
Severus stopped talking again and Harry held his breath. The tears welling in the corners of his eyes were now blurring his vision, but he maintained his fervent gaze on his love, on those endless dark depths so filled with emotion.
After a long moment, Severus averted his gaze to look down at the thin gold band encircling Harry's knuckle and at his own fingertips still holding it in place. His fingers fidgeted with it then, causing the cool metal to rotate halfway around Harry's knuckle and then back again.
The nervous gesture prompted Harry's lips to curve into a smile, amused by his lover's obvious display of procrastination.
Feeling a sudden spark of boldness, Harry cleared his throat softly and asked, "Are you going to finish putting it on my finger, Severus? Because… I think I'd really like that."
Still not looking up from the ring, Severus smiled, shaking his head in amusement as a breathy chuckle escaped him. "Patience, love. Patience. This is a very special ring and in order to wear it, you must answer a certain question of mine first."
Then he looked up, dark eyes glistening with tears and a warm smile lighting up his thin face.
"Harry James Potter – my beloved, my soulmate, my timeless love – would you do me the honor of becoming my bond mate?"
"Yes," Harry answered through tears, his voice cracking. "My answer is yes. How could it not be? God, Severus, you're my everything… my heart, my soul, my whole world… and I love you so much. Yes! Yes, I'll bond with you!"
Leaning forward, Harry lifted up, attempting to kiss Severus, eager to celebrate this incredible moment with his lover – no, with his fiancé – and to share the love that was swelling inside him, surging through both of them like a tidal wave via their soul link. But he was denied the chance when Severus gave his hand a deterrent squeeze, an obvious appeal for his continued patience.
"Hold on, love. Let's make this official, shall we?"
Dark eyes lowered once again to the ring around Harry's knuckle, tearful green ones following suit a split second later. Harry watched as the thin gold band was slowly pushed further down until it was placed as was intended. Realizing that it was a bit too big for him, Harry quickly brought a thumb up to push the ring down further, hoping to secure it better on his finger. He gasped when, before even touching it, the ring resized itself, conforming perfectly to the exact width of his finger, the cool metal growing warm against his skin as it transformed.
That's when he felt it.
The ring, now snug around his finger, was pressing against his pressure point – the one Severus had affectionately dubbed his 'point of love'. He shivered as the contact engendered a powerful wave of warmth to sweep through him, flooding his heart and mind with exquisite emotion – indescribable love, passion and an achingly sweet sensation of belonging. Shuddering from the rush, Harry closed his eyes and released a slow, measured breath from his lips that were parted and trembling. Losing his balance, he tipped forward, only to be caught in his fiancé's arms. Severus held him in a tight embrace, their bodies so close it felt as if they were one, their arms gripping one another with force. Harry could feel Severus' heart racing against his own, the twin pounding like a synchronized cadence of love through their link.
"I'll never take it off," Harry choked out, tears of joy now sliding down his cheeks. Lifting his head, he gazed deeply into Severus' eyes, pleased beyond reason to see them as wet as his own. Bringing a hand up the tear-tracked face, Harry brushed a few of Severus' tears away with his thumb, but was unable to pull his eyes away from the new addition on his finger, its glint of shined gold reflecting the mid-day sun.
"Should I get you a ring, too?" he asked, suddenly aware of his ignorance regarding not only engagements in the Wizarding World, but more specifically, same-sex ones.
"There's no need in this case," Severus said, a contented smile stretched across his face. "This ring was my Grandfather Prince's and has been in the family for generations. On the day of our bonding, when we exchange vows in front of our friends and family, this single ring on your finger will become two, the second of which, you will remove from your own finger and place onto mine."
"That's brilliant, Severus" Harry whispered, lifting his head so that their lips finally met. The kiss that followed was passionate and deep, but slow, their love for each other never before so keenly felt as Harry's 'point of love' continued to remind them both of their abiding devotion to one another, pulsing in time with their swelling hearts.
"Oh!" Harry exclaimed as their lips broke apart. "Speaking of friends and family, we should probably head to the Burrow. It's about that time, isn't it?"
Severus' gaze drifted over to the gravestones a few feet away for a moment before returning to Harry. "Are you certain you're ready to leave, love?"
Harry mirrored his gesture, turning his head to side and staring down at the white stones marking his parents' final resting place. There was an odd feeling of warmth growing inside him as he realized that they had been right here with him – both physically and in spirit – throughout these last few minutes, that they had witnessed Severus' proposal and their mutual affirmation of enduring love.
Smile widening, he turned back to Severus. "Yes. I'm ready."
"Hold tight then. I'll take us."
They arrived in the front yard of the Burrow seconds later, Harry stumbling when they landed despite being encased in Severus' arms. As they walked hand in hand to the front door, Severus tapped the tip of his thumb into the side of his ring causing the band to press a bit harder into Harry's pressure point. Harry smiled at this, realizing that this was most likely going to become of habit of his fiancé's – one that he would enjoy thoroughly.
Upon reaching the front door, Harry gave Severus' hand a sharp tug, preventing him from turning the brass knob already clutched in his hand. It occurred to Harry that once they walked through the door and everyone spotted the engagement ring on his finger, Severus would be forced to endure a litany of personal questions about their relationship and their upcoming bonding ceremony. His friends and family had all accepted Severus as his partner months ago, but the older man was by nature a private one who had battled through a lifetime's worth of self-recrimination and insecurities. Never was this more apparent than when the two of them would attend one of these family gatherings. Although his lover always smiled and put up a brave face, Harry could sense his unease and nervousness through their soul connection.
As much as Harry longed to go through that door and share his joy with the people he loved most in the world, he would wait and do it another time if it were going to upset his fiancé.
"Severus? We don't have to do this right now if it makes you feel uncomfortable. I mean, as soon as they see this ring and realize that we're engaged, it's going to be like a hugging and crying fest in there. And I know that's not your thing."
What he expected from Severus were reluctant words of protest and denial… or perhaps the opposite, a lengthy lecture on the importance of sacrifice for family's sake, but what he didn't expect was the rather complacent look Severus was currently giving him – complete with crooked smirk and a single eyebrow arched high. Dark eyes full of mischief, the man spun back around without a word, twisted the knob and led the way into the Weasleys' cozy sitting room.
Immediately Harry was bombarded by a sea of red hair and freckles, arms wrapped around him from every direction and hands enthusiastically patting his back. Excited shouts of congratulations and best wishes were echoing in his ears.
"Let me see it, Harry, please?" someone pleaded – Hermione, judging by the distinct absence of red to the bushy mass of hair currently taking up his field of vision. His hand was then snatched up and Harry's suspicions were confirmed when he finally got a look at the speaker's face. It was indeed Hermione, brown eyes shining with excitement as she stared down at the simple gold band. "Oh my God, this is a Gemina Bonding Ring! Severus, where did you get it? Was it a family ring?"
"Yes, it was my Grandfather's," Severus answered, smiling broadly.
Harry stared at him, shock and confusion over being greeted in this manner barreling through him. He honestly couldn't figure out how on earth they all could've known about their engagement already. It had only just happened, for Merlin's sake!
"Harry, do you realize how rare this type of ring is?" Hermione asked, her excited features giving every indication that she was chomping at the bit to explain in great detail the history of this particular piece of jewelry.
"Please, Severus. Call me Hermione."
"Alright, Hermione. I have yet to explain to Harry the history of the ring, only what makes it unique – its ability to split into two once its wearer becomes bonded."
"So, did he propose at the clearing, mate?"
That was Ron, shoving his way through the crowd of Weasleys and smiling like a loon when he finally made it through and took his place beside Harry.
"Nah, must'a done it somewhere else," Hagrid commented, his booming voice carrying even from where he stood near the far corner of the room. "I'd'a known if Sev'rus went there ter do it, now wouldn't I?"
"Oh for goodness sakes, it doesn't matter where Severus proposed, only that he did it and now we have a wedding to plan!" Molly squealed and clapped her hands as she bustled over, grabbing Harry's cheeks and leaning in to plant a wet kiss on one of them.
"Mum, Harry will thank you not to go to the trouble you did for my wedding with Fleur," Bill piped up, an arm wound casually around his wife's back. "Honestly, I think the ice sculptures shaped like Cornish Pixies were a bit over the top."
"Nonsense, ice sculptures are tradition. You can't have a wedding without–"
"Woah, everyone! Wait… just wait a minute, please…" Harry interjected, hands raised with fingers splayed. He needed the excited chatter to die down long enough for him to wrap his brain around what was happening here. "I don't understand this. How did you all know Severus asked me to bond with him? It just happened like twenty minutes ago?"
Harry looked around at all their sly smiles and knowing eyes, feeling more and more certain with each passing second that he was definitely missing something important here.
"Severus came to see us three weeks ago, Harry," Arthur answered, the kindness in his tone rivaled only by his warmhearted smile. He stepped forward and placed a hand on Harry's shoulder, giving it an affectionate squeeze as he continued. "He told us how much he loves you and about his wish to bond with you. And that's when he asked for our blessing."
"He… he did?" Harry breathed out, stunned to the point of stammering. "And… and you gave it to him?"
"Well, of course we did, Harry, dear!" Molly added, her smile huge, brown eyes brimming with unshed tears. "And we're just so happy for you! Why else would we have planned this engagement party for you and Severus?"
Harry stood motionless, mouth hanging open and eyes wide with shock. He stared at each member of his surrogate family in turn, taking in the genuine smiles and the warm glow of unconditional acceptance emanating from each pair of eyes locked with his own. Slowly, he turned his gaze back to the only dark pair of eyes in the room just as the owner of those eyes cleared his throat nervously and began to speak.
"Harry, I hope you don't mind my asking them for their blessing ahead of time. I... well, I realize I can be a bit old-fashioned in my ways, but I know how important they all are to you and I–"
Severus never got to finish as Harry launched himself across the room and into the man's arms like a shot. Heedless of the surrounding crowd of party-goers, he crushed their lips together and kissed Severus for all he was worth. A part of Harry's mind registered the cheers and catcalls reverberating throughout the room, but he paid them no attention, deepening their already passionate kiss.
Needing to breathe and to give his racing heart a chance to slow down, Harry withdrew from the kiss, taking his sweet time puling back from those soft lips he loved so dearly. Exhaling a trembling breath, Harry gazed deeply into the eyes of his love, trying to express without words just how grateful he was to have him by his side – twenty years ago, now, and for the rest of their lives.
"I love you, Severus," Harry whispered, speaking at last when it occurred to him that his fervent gaze simply wasn't enough to convey all that he felt for this man. "Thank you."
"And what, pray tell, are you thanking me for this time, Harry? I assure you, the party was Molly's brainchild, not mine."
Harry smiled, his heart overflowing with affection for the man. "For knowing me," he answered, "and for loving me. For being you – the man I fall in love with a little more with each passing day and the man I want to spend the rest of my life with."
"Oh bloody hell, I was fine until that last part – eyes completely dry. Now look at me! My face looks like the damned floor of Moaning Myrtle's bathroom on one of her bad days!"
"Language, Ronald!" Hermione and Molly shouted at the same time amid a cacophony of laughter and boisterous whoops of delight.
Harry ignored it all, green eyes still fixed on dark ones. Leaning in, he brought his lips to within a hair's breadth from Severus' and whispered, "And thank you for making this Halloween the first one I've ever had that's worth remembering."
"You're welcome, love," Severus breathed, his lips brushing up against Harry's in an intimate caress. "What would you say if I were to tell you I'm planning on achieving that same goal this Christmas Eve as well?"
Pulling away from Harry just enough to grasp his left hand, Severus laced their fingers and then brought their clasped hands to sit between their chests, his thumb sneaking up to tap against the gold band.
As expected, a strong surge of love washed over Harry when the ring grazed his 'point of love', his knees weakening instantly and his head feeling light and foggy. He gave himself a mental shake, gathering himself enough to inquire, "Christmas Eve?"
"Yes, Christmas Eve. Our bonding day. What do you think, Mr. Potter? Care to make that holiday worth remembering as well?"
Harry nodded in agreement and pressed another kiss to Severus' inviting mouth before pulling back again, smiling from ear to ear now. "That's Mr. Potter-Snape to you, thank you very much."
"Oh no, no, no. That won't do at all. Snape-Potter has a much better ring to it."
Unable to stop himself from laughing, Harry wrapped his arms around his soon-to-be bond mate, feeling more content and happy than he could ever remembered being.
As Severus returned the loving embrace, giving him an affectionate squeeze, Harry spared a moment to consider the name.
Snape-Potter or Potter-Snape. Truth be told, it really didn't matter to Harry one way or the other. The name was beside the point. The only relevant point worth considering was their love.
And on this first memorable Halloween of their new life together, Harry had to admit – there certainly was an abundance of it.
(until Christmas Eve... hint, hint!)
A/N #2: Oh, and by the way, those of you who are eagerly awaiting the next chapter of Forsaken Scion, hold tight! It's coming soon. I plan to begin writing it early next week. :)
As always, please review.