Notes: Many thanks to abigail89 for her beta help. All remaining errors belong to me.

Darker Still

Severus Snape hated the dark.

Most would scoff if they ever heard him admit it. The rumored sovereign of the undead, whose hair, eyes, and very nature personified blackness, who lived in a windowless dungeon, and whose monochrome wardrobe often left people wondering if color feared him as much as his students, hated darkness.

It began when he was a child. His father's idea of discipline was to warn his son of the dangers that befell children who misbehaved. His nighttime stories were full of ogres that loved to tear the flesh of young boys from their bones. Of giants ready to crush him like a beetle beneath their huge feet. Of manticores and banshees and werewolves. He would then extinguish all the lights in Severus's room and lock the door, trapping a small boy in suffocating blackness with only his imagination for company. When he screamed from the nightmares, there was no one to comfort him. No calming voice to chase aware the fear. No steady hand to soothe his trembling body. Severus Snape learned early on that monsters lived in the dark, and that there was no one who would protect him.

As he got older, the ogres that stood at the ready to rend his flesh from his bones turned into men with featureless white masks. The giant ready to crush him was one man whose name he couldn't say. All hiding in the dark.

Sleep became a burden, a nightly battle between his body's need for rest and the monsters that lived in shadowed corners and fed on his childhood memories and his youthful mistakes. He slept less and less as the years passed, until he could get by on an hour before dinner and two hours between dawn and breakfast. The strain showed itself on his face, in his sallow skin and sunken eyes. Albus expressed his concern, as did Minerva and a handful of others, but after a time they all grew used to it. The look fit his demeanor, after all. So to fight the monsters, Severus became one and would be forever known as the ugly, greasy, vampire-like bastard, who tormented students for pleasure and haunted the halls at night.

He liked to wait until the clock struck midnight, when the last bell chimed, marking the end of the day. Severus would leave his dungeon chambers and make his way through the silent corridors of Hogwarts, a bright light radiating from the tip of his wand, illuminating his path. He would make a quick sweep of the Slytherin dormitory-- girls' side, boys' side, common room, and the seven hidden corridors that the students insisted no one knew about. He then checked the rest of the castle, tracing a familiar path through empty classrooms, bathrooms, broom closets, the owlery, hidden passages behind statues, and suits of armor. When he was sure the castle was secure he would go over the grounds, and past Hagrid's hut where he paid close attention to any markings on the ground, checking for evidence that the groundskeeper might have brought home another unusual pet.

It was a well-worn path, one he had followed for years; and while it occasionally rewarded him with an unruly Gryffindor or two, most nights it was just Severus and his nightly battle against the shadows. It was a routine that would remain unchanged for years until the night he found that there were other dangers lying in the shadows, and the night can grow darker still.

It was during the end of his rounds, as the first light of morning was breaking through the horizon when he heard it: a soft moan, almost like a cry, coming from the Slytherin common room. Severus normally ignored such noises, having learned early on what they usually signified. While he loathed such licentious behavior sullying his house, he understood that even Slytherins had to give in to their baser needs once in a while. There was something in the tone of the whimper, however, that caught his attention, something that almost sounded like a wounded animal and convinced him that perhaps an intervention was warranted.

He crept along the corridor noiselessly, floating as if caught up in air and paused at the edge of the common room, waiting for any sign of exactly who was inside. After several minutes of silence, when he had nearly convinced himself that the room was empty, someone moaned again. Severus slowly drew his wand, holding it upright and close to his body. Without warning to the room's occupants he turned the corner, aimed his wand, and waited for the shriek of shock and indignation that he was sure would follow.

There was no shriek of shock and indignation, however. No pair of students caught coupling on the common room sofa. No mad rush to cover exposed bits of skin or pick up discarded clothing. Nothing of any interest, except Draco Malfoy asleep on the settee, his head tilted back in such a position that would no doubt guarantee a most painful cramp in his neck for most of the day.

Severus dropped his wand in disgust and stood shaking his head as Draco's soft snoring filled the room. He took three purposeful steps towards the young man and was prepared to wake him when he moaned again.

There was something strange about it. Something unnatural, nearly painful, in the sound. Draco was obviously dreaming and Severus wondered of what. He had spoken with Albus about Potter's dreams and his possible connection with the Dark Lord. Was it possible that Draco was encountering the same visions? That he, too, was suffering?

Everyone was so busy monitoring Potter that no one really bothered with the other students, especially those in his own reviled house. It wouldn't be unthinkable that Voldemort would use the same dark magic on others. Potter he was probably torturing for sport, in that way a cat plays with a mouse before he tears off its limbs. But if the Dark Lord was infiltrating other students' dreams, if he was tapping into their minds, it would mean he was trying to control them, perhaps trying to build his army. Voldemort couldn't make any overtures towards the students while under Dumbledore's tutelage, but who was to say he wouldn't try to influence them nonetheless, and in a way that was difficult to detect.

And wasn't Draco the perfect candidate? Already promised, but not likely convinced?

Severus remembered the day Draco was born as clearly as it was yesterday. He was a small baby, one that almost didn't survive its own birth. The babe was pale-skinned and had soft tufts of hair that were virtually white. Severus watched Lucius preen over his heir, listened as the new father told his infant son how lucky he was to be born on the cusp of a new dawn. But Severus knew the world Lucius envisioned was crumbling. The Dark Lord was clearly insane, Lucius was well on his way towards insanity himself, and neither would really care what happened to the boy. He would be left alone to fight the monsters that came out at night. Severus swore then that he wouldn't let that happen.

It was time to make good on that promise.

Severus watched Draco's eyes move swiftly beneath his eyelids as the boy groaned again. That same strained, intense moan echoed through the empty common room. Draco was suffering, Severus was sure of it now. His first instinct was to wake the boy, startle him into disclosing what filled his dreams, but he knew that Draco was well trained to disclose nothing, especially to one that who many considered a traitor. Severus's mind whirled with possibilities as the room began to lighten with the rays of dawn. The sun grew brighter over the horizon and Draco began to stir, so Severus did the only thing that seemed to make any sense.


The practice of Legilimency on a sleeping individual is extremely difficult as one had to work around the lack of eye contact. It is only because the target is in such a relaxed state and can offer no resistance that is even possible. Still, it is a very dangerous practice as the spell-caster often stumbles upon unguarded, and often unpredictable, images and emotions. More than one highly skilled Legilimens had gone mad from attempting it. Snape had only ever done it once before and the results were disastrous. But, as he felt it was his only option, he risked it, and prepared himself as best he could for the images that were about to bombard him.

The unfettered, unrestricted mind of a dormant individual is nothing but a jumble of memories and feelings and chaos. The barrage of images was almost overwhelming and Snape felt his stomach slowly churning. It was impossible to wade through the clutter to the one thought that occupied Draco's current dream. Severus was about ready to pullout when Draco's moan repeated and resonated through his consciousness like a flash of lightning that pointed to one particular image. As Severus concentrated on the image, the rest melted away one by one, disappearing and marking a clear path.

Severus saw Draco's dream, felt it as if he was living it, and when he realized what it was that he was seeing, he quickly broke the connection. For one brief second Severus was back in the common room, now awash in the light of morning. He felt his knees buckle as the room began to swim and swirl around him and the last thing saw before the world went black was Draco still asleep and still the throes of his vivid dream.


He heard someone calling his name, and felt a cool hand rest across his forehead.


He knew he should open his eyes, but he had no idea what he was going to find and knew better than to enter into any situation without accessing exactly what he was walking into.

"Severus, I know you're awake."

Dumbledore, then. And he sounded amused. Lovely.

Severus's eyes slowly fluttered open and registered the soft glow of the wall torch in his private bedroom.

"You really must resist these tests of my blood pressure, dear boy."

"What happened?" Severus asked, his voice cracked and hoarse.

"Draco came running into the infirmary, screaming that you were dead. I'm quite happy to say that Mr. Malfoy's assessment of your condition was incorrect. But seeing you unconscious and collapsed on the Slytherin common room floor with the pallor of your skin, one could easily see how he came to that conclusion."

"Sorry to have alarmed you, Headmaster," he said tersely as he made to get up.

"I was alarmed, Severus," Dumbledore said softly as he placed a gentle hand on Severus's shoulder. "I thought I lost you once a very long time ago. I'm not prepared to let it happen again so soon."

Severus could only nod as he wasn't quite sure how to respond and laid back down on his bed.

"Now," Dumbledore continued, "are you going to tell me what happened?"

He felt his cheeks redden. His actions were a betrayal of the trust the headmaster had in him, a violation of a student's privacy during a very vulnerable time. There was also the matter of what Severus had seen in the dream. The thought of relaying that to the headmaster left him cold. "I can't, Headmaster," he offered weakly. "Not yet."

"Very well, Severus. But whatever happened, let's try not to have a repeat performance, shall we?"

Again, Snape could only nod.

After being subjected to Poppy Pomfrey and one her overly exuberant examinations, Severus was left alone to rest and reflect.

He abandoned his nightly routine for three weeks. Each night he would prepare to roam the halls as was his ritual and each night he would see a flash of another's thoughts, and remain in his chambers. Those damned images haunted him, burned into the backs of his eyelids, full of color and fire.

Pale skin stretched over fine bones. A smooth chest and a tightly-muscled torso. Flushed cheeks. Parted lips. Half-lidded eyes. Head thrown back, exposing a long slender neck that tapered to the well-defined lines of a collar bone. His erection, pink and hard and jutting out of a mass of curled fair hair. Thighs spread wide and straddling another as his body rocked up and down.

It was an image Severus could not forget-- the wanton , lustful thoughts of a teenage boy just coming to grips with his sexuality. Perhaps it was because he couldn't remember ever being that young or that uninhibited, or because it had been a decade since he had had those thoughts himself, that the image replayed in his head over and over again. Perhaps it was because Draco looked so beautiful-- his face full of yearning--that made Severus ache in places he thought long dead, that haunted his dreams and thoughts.

He wanted so badly to hold onto the vision, to hold tightly to the bit of rapture he was fortunate to glimpse. But as the picture of Draco in the throes of passion set fire to every nerve ending in his body, it burned him in the process. It made him feel old and ugly and terribly foolish. Draco was a child and these thoughts were wrong: immoral and depraved and sinful in ways that shamed him. After nearly a month of torture Severus did the only thing he could do: He placed the memory in a pensieve and stored it away.

He went back to roaming the halls at night, back to the pattern that made the dark bearable: Slytherin dormitory-- girls' side, boys' side, common room, seven hidden corridors, empty classrooms, bathrooms, broom closets, the Owlery, the grounds, and Hagrid's hut. Each morning, just before sunup, he would return and pause briefly in front of the common room. He would stand for a moment as a feeling of loss swept over him; he knew he lost something precious, but he couldn't remember what.

The rest of the school year passed in a blur and ended just as dramatically as did each year he had been cursed with the presence of Harry Potter. This year, however, would see Dolores Umbridge a near vegetable in the infirmary, Lucius Malfoy and other faces from his past sent to Azkaban, and Sirius Black dead.

He cared little what happened to the Grand Inquisitor of Hogwarts; she could rot in that bed for all he cared. Black's death should have given him a modicum of joy, but it was ruined by the fact that the dolt had the nerve to die in battle, thus making him a martyr and a hero. It was the capture of Lucius and the others that weighed upon his soul. They were not a forgiving bunch. Soon enough they would be free, and sooner still they'd seek revenge. Severus knew he was living on borrowed time.

With the onset of the summer holidays, Severus found himself immersed in Order business. He was building up the stores of medicinal potions, updating all of the wards that protected Hogwarts, and working on improvements to strengthening elixirs and wit-sharpening draughts in what he was sure was a futile attempt at making soldiers out of children. Amidst it all, he was also organizing his personal papers, updating his will, and writing personal letters that were only to be opened when his past finally caught up with him. Severus knew this time would come; on some level he supposed he welcomed it. Without giving it anymore thought then it deserved, he got his affairs in order and prepared for his own death.

All pretenses faded, however, when he was asked to identity Karkaroff's body.

July was coming to an end and the Order was preparing to retrieve Potter from the Muggle prison he was forced to return to every year. Severus was preparing a batch of burn salve for Madame Pomfrey when a knock at his door startled him and nearly caused him to add too many dragonfly wings to the mixture.

"Who is it?" he snarled as he checked to make sure his potion was not ruined.

"I apologize for disturbing you, Severus," the headmaster said as he entered the room, "but I'm afraid that your presence is required in Belarus immediately."

Severus continued to inspect his potion, "And what on Earth could be in Belarus that would require my attendance?"

"We believe we found Karkaroff."

Snape snorted, "I suppose he's asking us for some sort of asylum."

"He's not asking much of anything, Severus," Dumbledore said carefully. "I'm afraid he's dead."

Severus didn't remember the rest of the conversation; everything blurred until he found himself face to face with the cold corpse of his former friend and lover. He couldn't say he was truly surprised that Karkaroff was killed, but he was surprised at how much it hurt to have to confirm it. He liked to imagine that Karkaroff had found a way to survive, that he was fat and happy somewhere with a young lover, laughing at how he cheated death. It gave Severus some hope that perhaps he might find a way out as well.

Severus always felt he would see Karkaroff again, hoped to see those dark eyes, the beard he was fond of twirling in his fingers, the hair he always let grow too long. Even after he disappeared, abandoning the students he was responsible for, Severus always felt they would meet again. He had, however, expected a more pleasant reunion.

A face he remembered from another life, one that he's seen smiling down at him, glowing under the light of a dozen floating candles, looked twisted from the pain of hours, if not days, of Cruciatus. Lips that once pressed warm and wet against his own, were now colorless and slack. Igor shared his past, and Severus was left wondering if they would share the same future as well.

Late at night, after answering enough questions to leave him wondering if he was suspected as an accomplice to the execution, Severus returned to his rooms only to find that he was broken. Any bit of him that held hope for surviving, was gone. He poured himself a generous glass of scotch and swallowed it in one gulp. Tears stung in his eyes as the liquid burned a trail down his gullet, but it didn't stop him from pouring another glass and drinking it down as well.

He was dying. He could feel the walls closing in, feel phantom fingers tighten around his neck, feel the darkness come to claim him. Severus needed to feel something, anything other than what he was feeling at that moment. He threw back a third, even more generous serving of scotch and left his parlor for his workrooms.

The pensieve sat exactly where he placed it, in a seldom-used storeroom packed away, behind and underneath cracked cauldrons, crumbling books, broken equipment, and other things best left forgotten. As much as he liked to tell himself he never thought of it, he always knew it was there, knew it was something he wanted, that he needed, and knew it was something he should never look upon again.

But he was dying.

He watched the silver and white swirls of memory spin and before he could sober up enough to know what he was doing, he reached inside and drowned in the forbidden.

Draco's dream. Draco's beautiful dream. Draco's moans. Draco's skin. Draco's cock. Draco's lust. Draco's need.

Severus drank it like wine, slowly sipping, careful not to waste a drop. He savored every image, memorized each movement of the lithe body. He replayed the image over and over until he didn't know a world existed outside of the pensieve. Watched it again and again until it no longer mattered whether he lived or died because Severus Snape no longer existed outside of a stone basin.

He should have known better, he knew. Draco was a child, a child he had known since the day he entered this godforsaken world, and he, Severus, was violating any trust that was placed in his hands. He burned with shame each time his trembling hand reached into the swirling mass, but he reached for it nonetheless. With each visit he fell deeper and deeper into the abyss of his own disgrace.

The new school year loomed before him and he had no idea how he was going to survive it. How he would face Draco each day. He was dying and he prayed it would happen quickly. But the gods, it seemed, had other plans. When the carriages that carried the students from the Hogwarts Express to the school finally arrived, Draco was not on them. He and six other Slytherins had vanished. All inquiries yielded nothing. Narcissa has vanished as well, so Severus could only hope that she had gone into hiding for Draco's protection. She was always smarter than her husband.

To some extent Severus was relieved; his secret would remain his own. His shame could be hidden away in dark corners with the other monsters that preyed upon him at night. But the greater part of him ached. Chances were that he would never look upon the sharp grey eyes and smooth skin again. That he would never hear that youthful voice say his name. Never be rid of the hunger that twisted him inside out.

It was then, in an attempt to give himself a reason to live, that a new nightly ritual had begun.

He still made his rounds -- Slytherin dormitory-- girls' side, boys' side, common room, seven hidden corridors, empty classrooms, bathrooms, broom closets, the Owlery, the grounds, and Hagrid's hut – but he would rush through them, rush to get back to his rooms as quickly as possible. He would enter his bedchamber, activate a series of complicated wards, and pray for strength that always seemed to fail him.

A year passed. There were missions and rumors and interference from the Ministry and arguments and Potter getting into trouble and none of it mattered because he was dying and his only salvation sat in a stone basin, swirling in grey mist.

Before the sun came up each morning, he would visit the memory that became his refuge.

As the edges of reality blurred further, Severus had begun to talk to the images; he began to tell Draco of his day or his latest mission. He gave him progress reports on the state of the war, play by plays summaries of Order meetings, or a recap of Potter's latest foible. Time passed; people died; the Daily Prophet made a fortune. And each morning before the dawn, Severus fell further in. He told Draco of his past. He spoke of his father's manipulations and his mother's indifference. Of the difficulties during his school years and the ruined life that remained after he left the Dark Lord. He shared the intimate details of his life as he never had with anyone else. When it was far too late to turn back, he realized that he had fallen in love. As ridiculous as it was, it seemed fitting; the humiliation was now complete.

The next year would see him in the infirmary for three months after a raid on a suspected Death Eater camp turned out to be a trap. He lost the use of his right eye and would never be able to walk again without pain; he was one of the lucky ones. Those months were the hardest of his life, not because of physical trauma or the loss of any mobility, but because he couldn't visit his dream lover.

Severus tried on several different occasions to return to his rooms, if only for a moment for a quick glance at the images that soothed his tattered soul and made him feel human again. But Pomfrey was always there; the blasted woman must have cloned herself because he could never get by her. She told him repeatedly that she would get him anything he needed, but he could never, would never, ask.

He realized he was an addict, and there was no treatment for his habit. Draco was the only thing that tethered Severus to a world he had long since lost touch with, that he no longer belonged to. Severus would have to destroy the damn thing outright to be free of it and he wasn't prepared to do that. When he was finally able to return to the privacy of his chambers he locked himself in for three days.

The war raged on and time continued to pass. And then, nearly three years to the day he first entered Draco's dream, Severus destroyed the pensieve.

"I apologize for disturbing you, Severus," the headmaster had said as he entered the room, "but I'm afraid that your presence is required immediately."

Severus froze. He remembered all too clearly the last time he heard those words.

"We believe we found Draco."

"Don't," he pleaded. "Don't say it."

"Severus, I'm so sorry…."

"Leave me," he commanded. "Leave me!"

Dumbledore left without another word and Severus destroyed everything in sight. When the dust settled, all of the furniture in his rooms was overturned, everything made of glass was shattered, ripped pages from his books littered his floor, and the stone basin that had been his salvation for three years was nothing but dust.

Severus fled his office, and then, fled the castle. He had nothing: nothing left in him, nothing to live for, but he had had something to die for. He ran towards the monsters that tormented him for a lifetime; it was time to take back the night.

They had known for months where the Dark Lord was hiding, and in those months a hundred men carefully orchestrated a strategy for his destruction. Severus knew he was going to wreck those plans, that he was about to destroy all their work, but it mattered little. He was no longer going to simply wait to die.

He blasted through the wards protecting the site, blasted through the legion of minions that were too stupid to act without being given instructions. Through his wand shot a lifetime's worth of hatred with dark magic that hadn't been seen since the days before Hogwarts stood. Through his very fingers pulsed a wave of power that incinerated everything it touched. He was ready to die and he was going to take as many of them as he could with him.

Then he heard it: a laugh so sinister that it froze the blood in his veins. Ogres and giants and manitcores and banshees and werewolves. The monsters were coming out of the dark.

The pain was unlike anything he'd ever felt. It began at his back, where the spell hit, and burst over his body like splinters of shattered glass. He felt his muscles constrict, felt his lungs collapse, felt his blood vessels rupture. Everything went black. Just before the darkness overcame him he caught one last glimpse of stone grey and Severus Snape smiled and welcomed the night.


It must have been heaven. He never thought he would find such a place. There were special levels of hell for people like him; places so bleak they were never spoken of, where light was consumed and hope suffocated beneath the layers of misery and eternity.

But he was warm and there was no pain. Instead he felt the touch of soft fingertips grazing his cheeks and a gentle voice calling his name. His eyes fluttered open and the sight before him was enough to convince him that he had found paradise for nothing else could have been that glorious.

"You're a fool," Draco said, the words sticking in his throat. "A damn fool."

Severus only blinked in response.

"You nearly ruined three years worth of planning. What the hell were you thinking?"

"You," he rasped, "you were dead."

Draco smiled. "You great damned fool."


"What happened?" Draco finished for him.

Severus nodded slowly.

Draco shrugged, "My father went insane and my mother refused to let the same thing happen to me. She hid me away. When it looked like we might be able to stop Voldemort we contacted Dumbledore-"

"He knew." Severus's blood began to boil.

"Now don't go blaming the old bastard. Mother told him if he said anything about us, or our whereabouts, all bets were off. He had no choice. Anyway, we were on the cusp of ending it all when you came blasting in and nearly ruined everything. What were you thinking?"

Severus just shook his head. "You were dead."

"So you said."


"How did you make it out?"


"Potter saved your arse. Do you really want details?"

Severus closed his eyes. Wonderful. He had just compounded his life debt. Would the indignity ever end?

"It's over, Severus." Draco's somber voice cut through his thoughts.


"It's over. He's dead. Really dead this time."


"Potter," Draco said exasperatedly. "Potter did it. Our plan worked. Not quite as we thought it would, but the result was the same."

"It's over." Even as the words left his lips, Severus didn't believe them. It couldn't be over. He couldn't be alive. A hand rested on his cheek.

"Yes, you great bloody fool, it's over and you are so lucky you didn't die because I would have gone through every bit of Dark Magic in the restricted section until I could bring you back and kill you properly." His eyes grew glassy as he said the words and if Severus didn't know better, he might have thought he saw a tear travel down the boy's face. No, not a boy. Not anymore. Maybe not ever.

He should say something, he thought. Tell Draco why he nearly committed suicide, but he couldn't find the words. He looked up in the eyes he never thought he'd ever see again and could only manage a soft, "I'm sorry."

Draco didn't reply, he simply leaned forward and pressed his mouth to Severus's.

There was an urgency to the kiss that Severus had never felt in life. A plea and a prayer and a sob from the simple joining of lips. The hand that was cupping his cheeks, slid up to his hair where it laced through the dark strands. He was wrong, he thought, he was dead after all, for this had to be Heaven.

He was released from St. Mungo's two months later. Draco, who had visited him everyday, took him back to Hogwarts and to his private chambers.

"I had to clean it up myself," he said indignantly.

"Clean what?" Severus asked.

"Your rooms," he replied. "The house elves wouldn't go near it. They insisted that if you left it that way that you wanted it to remain like that. Tell me, does every living creature fear you?"

"You don't."

"I the exception to every rule."

Severus smiled; there was no way to counter that. As they entered his bedchambers Severus looked upon the small table that once held the pensieve. He wondered if Draco had cleaned up the debris, wondered if he knew what the pile of grey dust once was. He felt his shame return. What was he doing with his young man two decades his junior?

He wanted to tell Draco to leave, to go and find a nice young man his own age, someone who wasn't wrinkled and bitter and broken. He may have even said it aloud but Draco wasn't listening. He was busy unbuttoning Severus's robes and pulling him to the bed.

The precious image of Draco he'd held sacred for years vanished. The picture of a pale, lithe form was replaced by the image of a man with a muscled chest and broad shoulders. The nearly translucent skin was now covered by scars. The eyes were darker. The moans, deeper.

When his fingers reached out, Severus was not met with mist and smoke. They felt the soft curve of his back, the sharp angles of his hips, the raised reminders of spells he wasn't able to sidestep. Severus's hands grasped arms and legs that wrapped around him, soft hair that felt like silk, and a lightly stubbled face that felt oddly appropriate. His fingers wrapped around a hard shaft that was thicker and more beautiful, than he remembered, and began to stoke. It didn't take long that first time for either of them, but they made up for it as the day passed and the moon rose over the horizon.

They relaxed in each other's arms for an hour not speaking, content to watch a flame flicker from a candle and think. "I used to dream of you," Draco said. "Since I was fourteen and I first kissed Blaise Zabini behind the Quidditch pitch. I kissed him but I thought of you. I realized then that there was no one else for me. I dreamt of you almost every night for years. Can you imagine what it's like to see images of something you want so badly but can never have?"

Severus said nothing as he traced circles on Draco's arm.

"It was madness, I knew it; but I promised myself if I survived that I would tell you. I don't know what I would have done if you'd died."

"Ssssh," he replied as he placed a kiss on Draco's forehead. "Now is not to the time to dwell on what could have been. The only thing that matters is what is."

"What is," he repeated.

"What is," Severus said as he extinguished the lights of his bedchambers for the first time in his life. What is. Hope and love and dreams yet to be dreamed. And with his arms securely wrapped around his lover, Severus Snape slept until well past noon the following day.