As Harry trekked through the snow-laden forest, he wondered if he had made a very serious mistake. He wasn't really dressed for the icy conditions, and his feet were numb in their boots. Night was drawing in, and he had seen no sign of human habitation. Life in the wizarding world had become unbearable. For months he could hardly draw breath without some journalist or another pouncing on him. The Ministry for Magic wanted him. A dozen orders wanted him, even though he'd never heard of half of them. Hogwarts wanted him back, and three continental schools had offered him jobs. He couldn't move for people who wanted to shake his hand and tell him about how they had always believed he could do it. He was tired to the core of his being from publicity and the demands of others. Voldermort might be dead, but Harry's life still wasn't his own.
He had sold his fame, in exchange for being sent to Snape. Being without it felt odd, and he still hadn't grown used to that. Just as the fame had been a weight he carried with him, now the absence of it made him feel small. All the things he had done would slip from the public awareness. With time, even his friends might forget what had happened. He could only hope they would not forget him entirely. He missed them.
Somewhere deeper in the forest, a lone wolf howled. Harry shivered at the sound, fearing that a whole chorus of them would start up. He supposed he would have to stop soon, conjure up some kind of shelter for the night, and see what the morning would bring. It was entirely possible that the witch had cheated him, or that Snape was dead. He tried not to think about the latter possibility. Another sound caught his ears – the sound of an axe impacting on wood. Harry guessed that nearby, some simple muggle woodsman was splitting logs for his fire. It would be better to beg shelter and have some company, then be out alone in the presence of wolves, Harry decided. He started walking.
With the loss of daylight, the density of the forest and the snow having eradicated any paths, Harry made slow process. Several times, the sound of the axe ceased, and he feared he would not find its source before the woodcutting was done. At last the sounds became clearer and he could smell wood smoke in the air. A light began to show through the trees, and Harry hurried towards it. On the edge of the clearing he stopped. Years of habitual caution slowed him, and he considered the scene carefully, not wanting to rush into danger unnecessarily.
The cottage was a small stone construction, and warm light poured from the one visible window. Now that he was closer, Harry could smell something appetising cooking. Beside the house, a man was cutting wood. Despite the cold, he had stripped to the waist, and the young wizard could see the ripple of toned muscles each time he moved. His dark hair was gathered in a small ponytail at the nape of his neck, and he wielded the axe with considerable skill. There was no sign of anyone else. Deciding it was probably safe enough to approach, Harry stepped forward and called out.
"Excuse me!" He had no idea what language they might speak round here, but hoped to attract the man's attention without alarming him.
The man turned, the axe thrown from his hands as he reached for something at his waist. Without even thinking, Harry grasped his own wand and readied himself. As the man turned, he saw who had hailed him, and the aggression melted from his posture.
Harry nodded, finding that his voice would no longer work. He tried to take a step forwards, but somehow his feet wouldn't work either. It wasn't magic, just honest trepidation.
Snape pulled on his coat and jogged lightly across the clearing.
"Harry?" he asked again, as though he couldn't believe it.
"Yes," Harry managed.
"But what are you doing here? Is anything wrong?"
"I wanted to see you."
Snape halted in front of him, his fingers brushing against Harry's cheek.
"You're frozen. It might make more sense to continue this chat beside the fire rather than freezing to death, don't you think?"
Harry nodded, and followed him in. This wasn't quite the greeting he had hoped for. Snape seemed cold, and Harry wondered again if he was making a dreadful mistake.
The interior of the cottage was very neat indeed, but crammed with books and items. There was a stove, for both heat and cooking, and candles flickered in every corner. Snape gestured to the one chair beside the stove, but Harry sat down on the floor. He noticed the look of amusement on Snape's face as the older man took his seat.
"An unexpected pleasure, to have you at my feet Potter." He passed Harry a mug of something hot. It smelled good, and the heat radiated through Harry's body as he sipped the beverage.
"So tell me, what brings you to this isolated spot. You didn't simply happen to be passing, did you?"
"I didn't," Harry said.
"And how on earth did you find me?" Snape's expression darkened considerably as he asked.
"You left a hair on my pillow - that was of considerable assistance," Harry said. "I had some help."
"Am I likely to have other visitors do you think? Should I be on my way?"
"She wasn't interested in where I was going. I shouldn't worry about that."
"You still haven't answered my question Potter, what were you doing skulking about in my forest at this late hour?"
"I was looking for you. What else would I be doing?"
Snape shook his head.
"Foolish, if somewhat heroic. The story of your life, I might suggest." Snape smiled faintly, and shook his head. "And now you have found me, what do you mean to do?"
Harry took a deep breath, then moved so that he was kneeling alongside Snape's chair.
"This," he said.
He caught the back of Snape's head in his hand and pulled him closer, his lips closing over the other man's. Then Snape was kissing him back, hungry and passionate, his hands circling Harry's waist and his breath coming light and fast. Whatever word games the man might play, his body told a different story, one of need and desire. Harry buried his face against Snape's shoulder, then pushed back the jacket so that his cheek was against Snape's bare chest.
"I came because life without you wasn't turning out to be any fun at all," Harry confessed.
"Surely not? And you so famous and so popular."
"If you think that's my idea of fun you don't know me at all. I'd rather an hour in your arms than a month of what I left behind."
Snape said nothing, but Harry pressed on all the same, needing to speak his heart regardless of the consequences.
"If you want me, then I will stay with you," Harry said.
He felt Snape's fingers in his hair, then the press of warm lips to his forehead. He was held, so tightly he could hardly breathe.
"You could have had anything in the world after what you did. Anything at all that your heart desired. Power, influence, wealth, luxury. Anything."
"There is only one thing that I want," Harry replied. "I want you."
"Oh you sweet and precious fool," Snape murmured.
He covered Harry's face with kisses. Finding himself a good deal warmer, Harry pulled off his own coat and then reached for Snape again, needing to taste his lips anew, and reassure himself that it was all real. The weariness of travel had gone from his limbs.
"Can I stay?" he asked.
"You may," Snape replied.
Harry pulled himself up so that his face was very close to Snape's.
"As your lover?" he ventured.
Snape lowered his eyelids and breathed out slowly, heavily.
"I suspect that if you were to stay here in any other capacity, I would find it almost as intolerable as you being altogether absent."
"That's a yes, isn't it?"
Harry slipped into the chair, to sit on Snape's lap and be held by him. For the first time that he could remember in all his life, he felt perfectly safe and protected. He could not have said how long they sat together, with Snape's arms encircling his body, and his palm pressed to Snape's chest so that he could feel the older man's heart beating. A beautiful lethargy crept over Harry, brought on by the heat of the fire, and the giddying sensation of being held so tightly and so long. With deft fingers, Snape set to work on the various fastenings securing his clothes, and soon his chest and stomach were exposed to the whispering touch of Snape's fingertips. Harry sighed, melting into these caresses. He knew what must follow, sooner or later, and feared it just as he longed for it. Snape tipped him backwards a little, and kissed his chest.
"Take me to bed," he murmured. "Please!"
"Impatient as ever," Snape returned, his tone affectionate.
"I've waited so long for this," Harry said.
"Perhaps, but not as long, I think, as I have been obliged to wait."
With that, Snape rose from the chair, scooping Harry up in his arms. The sensation of being lifted startled the youth considerably. He had carried Snape himself once, but it seemed a very long time ago, and the man had acquired a few muscles of his own since then. He almost protested that he must be too heavy, but Snape's arms gripped him securely, and as they ascended the stairs, Harry stopped even thinking about resisting. He found he rather liked the feeling of having been overpowered.
The bed was large, and very soft indeed as Harry felt himself lowered into it. He watched, mesmerised as Snape discarded his jacked, baring his body to Harry's scrutiny. The man looked very well indeed, he decided. Then he sat, his fingers gliding over Harry's chest, making his skin tingle and his pulse race.
"Oh," the young wizard sighed.
"Oh?" Snape questioned
. Harry moaned again, and caught his lower lip beneath his teeth.
"Anyone might think that you wanted me to stop."
"Never," Harry responded. "Don't ever stop."
Snape stripped him to the waist, tugging off his clothes and dropping them carelessly alongside the bed. This time when they embraced, their chests pressed close together, skin hot against skin. Harry wriggled against Snape's hip, moving his hands over shoulders, spine, feeling the firm curve of buttocks beneath cloth. He looked up, and dark eyes met his own - eyes that smouldered with passion. One soft kiss teased his lips, followed by harder, all-consuming presses. Harry felt Snape's tongue enter his mouth, filling him with warmth and granting some relief from the hunger that had tormented him for so long.
Harry lay very still, eyes closed as Snape parted him from the rest of his clothes. He craved this exposure, wanting to hold nothing back, to offer the entirety of himself to the man he had longed for.
"Oh Harry," Snape breathed as he pulled away the last of the fabric. "You always were exquisite."
He pressed a kiss into the soft flesh just above Harry's hip bone. He paused then, gazing up at Harry, a wolfish smile twisting his lips. Harry watched, captivated as Snape parted those lips slightly, running the tip of his tongue across them. Harry swallowed, paralysed by the intensity of his desire. Harry found he would have to wait. Snape rose gracefully from the bed and slipped off the rest of his clothing. He stood for a while, looking down at Harry and giving the young wizard every opportunity to observe him.
The last few months had put flesh on Snape's bones, toning his muscles. Harry rose to his knees, needing to touch. Snape's hands were in his hair, trailing over his neck and shoulders so seductively that he could barely think.
"Enough Harry," Snape instructed, his voice hoarse.
"But I want to do so much more," Harry protested.
"So do I," Snape answered him, sitting on the edge of the bed. He kissed Harry deeply.
"You expressed an inclination to be my lover," Snape said. "Is that truly your desire?"
Harry smiled, reeling from what they had already shared, and the joy of finding Snape again.
"I want you," he said. "I've spent months wanting you."
Snape pressed him back onto the bed, kissing him.
"And do you want me here?" Snape asked. "Would you like me to penetrate that tender, innocent body of yours?"
"Please!" He was nervous, but eager, wanting to finally surrender his body and be loved. Snape kissed his cheek, then bit his ear lobe, making him jump.
"From the look on your face, I suspect this is a new experience for you Potter."
Harry nodded and squeaked.
"You like that, don't you Potter?"
"Yes sir," he said without thinking. He didn't regret the words.
"Breath slowly and deeply," Snape said, his voice a soothing caress to Harry's ears. "That's good. Don't fight me Potter, don't resist, simply allow this to happen."
Harry concentrated on watching Snape's face, and on breathing. Snape gazed down at him with such fire in his eyes that Harry thought it might burn him to a crisp. There was a kindred heat in his own body. Harry ran his hands down Snape's back, pulling the man closer to him.
"I'm not made of glass," the youth whispered. "You won't break me."
"Not too painful I hope?"
"It didn't hurt at all," Harry said. He kissed Snape's shoulder.
.Harry had never felt anything like it before. He gasped and shivered, digging his fingers into Snape's skin as he clung to the older man tightly. Snape kissed his face, his neck, his shoulders, then pulled at his lower lip with insistent teeth. Harry remembered the lessons about prolonging pleasure, and knew he could not possibly endure much more of this ecstasy.
"I can't hold it," Harry confessed through gritted teeth.
Snape laughed, and the vibration of it reverberated through Harry.
"Then let go Harry."
This permission was all he needed.
"Enough?" Snape asked. "Or are you desirous of more."
"I want you," he gasped, then kissed Snape's neck.
Snape pushed against him and Harry cried out at once.
"Did I hurt you?"
"No," he said. "No."
Harry knew what was happening, just as he knew the speed of his heart and the urgency of his breathing. Harry pulled Snape close again, wrapping his arms around his lover's body. Peace engulfed him. Harry felt as though he was glowing, warmth permeated his being and a tranquil bliss consumed him. For a long while, they lay still, holding each other. Eventually Snape moved away then touched his cheek - a gesture laden with affection and tenderness. Harry felt as though his heart might burst through his chest.
"I love you," the youth confessed.
"I'm sure in a day or two the novelty will wear off and you'll think better of it."
"I won't," Harry replied. "I've given up everything to find you, followed you to the most obscure corner of the world. What on earth do I have to do to convince you I'm serious?"
Snape closed his eyes, a wry smile on his face.
"It's not that I doubt you Potter, rather I struggle to believe that I could have inspired such adoration."
"Get used to it," Harry said. "It isn't going to stop."
Snape looked at him quizzically, then shook his head.
"Do you love me?" Harry pressed.
"More than I could ever hope to express," Snape told him.
"Couldn't you just say yes for once in your life?"
Snape pushed him back onto the bed, teasing at his lips with a wicked tongue.
"Just say it," Harry demanded, laughing as he tried to wriggle free. Snape let him go, regarding him earnestly.
"Potter, try my patience too far and I will put you over my knee and paddle that bottom of yours."
Harry's eyes widened as he considered the possibility.
"And that's supposed to make me behave?" he asked.
"I had a suspicion it would not."
With that Snape rose from the bed and headed towards the door. He stopped, and looked back over his shoulder.
"You know I love you," he said, and the words made him blush slightly. "Enough to kill for you, or to die for you. Enough to live the rest of my days without seeing you again if you had chosen to forget me. And enough to spend the rest of my life with you, if you chose to stay."
Harry rose from the bed and found his legs weren't all that steady as he walked across the room. He slipped easily into Snape's embrace.
"This is where I want to be," he said simply.