Just a Snarry oneshot. Set in the immediate aftermath of Voldemort's death. HBP compliant.

Disclaimer: Hmmm. I own Harry Potter. Savour the words, for a brief moment, before reality kicks back in. Sigh. Not gonna happen. Oh well.

Understand me

Smiling exhaustedly, Severus leant back against the wall with a sigh. His eyes drooped, every part of him sagging towards the floor. He looked utterly, absolutely, mind-numbingly tired. And he was. His injuries sang quietly at him, calling attention gently to themselves, to the blood slowly pooling on the flagstones beneath him. His being seemed stitched together with the dull fires of pain, their steadfast burning the only thing keeping his exhaustion from drowning him, from dragging him down into the endless, peaceful black from which no-one ever returned. He was mildly disappointed with that. The blackness beckoned alluringly, singing its own siren song of peace. The harsh melodies of blood and pain struggled weakly, but they had sung for him so often that their call was dull and familiar, and could be ignored, if he chose. If he chose.

What was he to choose? Should he face his debt, look into the eyes of those he'd betrayed, submit to their anger? He probably should. No. He definitely should. But he didn't want to. He was too tired. Too tired to contemplate lingering, contemplate bowing once more to punishment. He was drifting on the edge of the veil, the last abyss, and he was just tired enough to let himself fall. He just had to overcome that pesky little part of him that clung to life with all the fierce tenacity of a limpet to a rock as the storm crashes furiously around it. He just had to fight the instincts of so many years fighting to stay alive. That was all. Just one more little fight ...

"Hey! Moody! Come look at this!"

Voices. Harsh and excited, gathering around him. Oh, bugger it. Couldn't he get a moment's peace? Just a moment, to die? That was all he asked, just one measly moment so he could gather himself up and jump into the abyss. For Merlin's sake, it wasn't as if any of them particularly needed him to be alive! Just leave me. Just leave me be, for one minute! It won't matter then. You can all do whatever the hell you like then. You can string my corpse up for a Guy Fawkes and burn it, if you fancy! Just give me my moment.

Hands next, pulling him up, manipulating his limp form. Shoulders, under his arms, holding him upright. Hands running along him, testing the limits of his injuries, sizing up his battered body. If he'd had the energy, he'd have shuddered. If he'd had one single scrap of energy left, he'd have jerked himself free, collapsed, but he didn't. He had nothing, no spark of power or motivation left. Everything was spent, thrown eagerly into a useless gesture, thrown against the might of a Death Curse, thrown into the teeth of the Dark Lord's malice. Thrown uselessly away.

"Sir? Snape? Sir, are you there?"

Or maybe not uselessly, if that voice could still badger him. If that eternally petulant voice could still ask stupid questions of a dying man, then maybe his power had not been spent for nothing. The voice was rasping, taut with pain, but alive. That stupid, heroic, self-sacrificing Gryffindor was alive, gloriously so. Well then. Wonders never ceased.

"SNAPE! Answer me, you stupid snarling Slytherin!"

Wow. That was fairly domineering of the boy. Man, he supposed, by this point. He felt humour touch him, amusement at the nerve of the other. This same Gryffindor that would face the Dark Lord without a second qualm, but had quaked before his glare. This same voice that had sulkingly aquiesced to his imperious commands, now demanded his own obedience.

"You ... have grow... grown, Potter," he whispered haltingly. He sighed. His voice, an instrument once honed to perfection by years of training and developement to contain the maximum of honeyed menace, now rasped brokenly. Drained, used up, and cast into the dust, just like the rest of him. Such a pity. Such a desperate pity.

He felt light slip in through cracks as his eyelids were gently opened by someone else's hands, felt his head being tipped gently back by another pair so he could look forward. At first, only a blur of light and colour manifest itself, but gradually it cleared, shifting and forming a face. A pale, concerned face, pulled tight by lines of pain and worry. A brilliant pair of emerald eyes stared out at him from that face, shining with unshed tears. He tried to frown, tried to make his face do what he told it, but couldn't. He could only stare in surprise as one of those tears fell, slowly, shining like a shard of moonlight, caught and painted across a saddened face by the delicate brush of a master. He wondered at it, at its existence, at his role in bringing it to slip gently down this face.

He tried to smile, and succeeded marginally better. "Still ... think me ... a coward, Potter?" he murmured, almost laughingly. Potter flinched, shame rolling over his features in a slow, sickening wave. Severus stared in fascination. What had happened to this man, who would turn aside common sense and self-preservation with prideful disdain? What could happen to bring shame to this defiant spirit?

"I'm ... I'm sorry," Potter whispered, eyes averted in shame. Severus' breath hitched involuntarily. That, he had not expected. That, he had firmly believed was so far beyond the bounds of possibility that it near defined the term 'impossible'. Well. Well then. Perhaps it had be worth it to stay stubbornly clinging to life that bit longer. Not that he could have done anything else. In all honesty, the only way anything had been taken from him was when it was ripped forcibly from his clenched hands. Life was no different, and thus far it had been the one of the only things no-one had yet succeeded in taking. That, and his mind. Even if he died, no-one would ever take that. No-one.

"No ... need. No point ... now ... in being ... sorry." He wished his breathing would even out, come back under his control. Was it worth fighting for? Yes. Why not? Just a little concentration. Reach inward with your mind, grab the lungs, push, pull, push, pull. Get a rhythm. Control it. Breathe. That was all there was to it. It was his body, inhabited and controlled by his spirit. His will commanded it.

"...ir! Sir! Are you still there!" There was panic in Potter's voice. Strange, that. He pulled his eyes open, on his own this time. It was his body, and he'd be damned if he let himself be content with others working it for him. Any others. That was right. As if he could let Voldemort force him to surrender this, his life, his body. As if he would let that half-creature, that seventh of a soul, dictate the hour of his death. Damn his exhaustion! Was a little bit of tiredness reason to abandon this world! No. It was not. He would not surrender, would not give in. He might not have his magic back yet, but it would come. And when it did ... He would be free yet. Whatever it took.

It was time to retake control of his situation, and there were some things he needed to know before that could be accomplished. "Potter. Where am I?"

The shaken hero looked rather surprised, but answered readily. "You're ... um, you're still where you ... fell. After ... you know. Um ... Why did you ... do that? Whatever it was. I mean, um, why?"

Severus shook his head, lightly, so as not to jar his brain any further. In truth, he wasn't all that sure himself. The Order hadn't been doing so well, and chances were that unless someone intervened, they'd have lost. It would have been far wiser to let things happen by themselves. If his gamble had failed, if his experimental spellcast had misfired, then he would've been dead, or spell-mangled, or at the Dark Lord's mercy, none of which were pleasant options. If he had let it alone, let Potter lose, then he would still have been Voldemort's favoured servant, the killer of Albus Dumbledore. Why had he risked so much?

It had been Albus' last wish, the condition on which the old manipulator had allowed Severus to kill him to save himself and Draco. It had been the old man's design, to lull Voldemort into complacency. He wondered if Albus had meant for him to die in the attempt. Perhaps. With that, with all the risks, with all the promises of wealth and fearful respect had he done nothing, why had he still acted as he had?

Oh yes. "Because, Potter, I will not be ruled. I will not be content to be a servant, no matter how persuasive the master. Do not fool yourselves into thinking otherwise. I am no Gryffindor, to live and die bravely for a cause. I am no hero, no fanatic, like Voldemort or Albus. I simply will not tolerate an existence bowing to the will of another. Any other. Not Voldemort, not Dumbledore, not the Ministry. Not you. I will live and die by my own design." He looked up into Potter's eyes, challengingly. "You can kill me now, easily enough. But it will be because I chose to throw away my defenses. It will be because of my choices. No-one else's."

The parade of expression across the younger man's face was fascinating to watch: confusion, shock, consideration, then grudging respect and a curious relief.

"You know," Harry said cautiously, a half-smile on his face, "it's good to know you're still ... you, I guess. It's good to know that getting blasted across a hall by a warped Death Curse meant for me hasn't damaged your Slytherin self-preservation instincts. Or your personality." Was that amusement in the insufferable brat's eyes? Was that goodnatured mockery inhabited by a little reproach? Yes. It was. The boy had grown. And grown fast.

There was a commotion by the doors. Still propped up on Lupin and Shacklebolt's shoulders, Severus had a rather good view of the stream of red-robed aurors that burst into the remains of the Dark Lord's hall. Potter swung to face them, wand raised automatically. Moody was rubbing off on him, obviously. Or possibly the eternal threat to his life was starting to make an impression on the once reckless youth. Either way, Severus was impressed by the smooth move to defensive stance.

He smiled wryly as the gazes of the trigger-happy wizarding police came their way. "Looks like you may have missed your chance to off me, Potter," he murmured, watching as the cold gazes of the aurors settled on him, little flares of anticipated violence appearing in some of the younger ones. He met the wall of ill-will with a sneer, the glimmer of self-mockery visible only to Lupin, who happened to look his way. It was time again. Time to play the ring-around-the-rosie of violence with the forces of officiatious righteousness. What fun! "Lupin? Shacklebolt? If you could release me ...?" He ignored Lupin's look of surprised censure, focused on steadying himself, pulling his legs properly under him, gathering up his last smatterings of magic. He had very little strength, but he wouldn't need all that much. Just enough to apparate to a random location once his 'helpers' let go. That was all he needed.

Except they weren't letting go. And neither were Potter and his friends lowering their wands. He tensed slightly, ready to finally try to jerk free, but his captors tightened their grips without even looking. The aurors paused, confused by the hostility of their reception. Severus understood how they felt. He was rather shocked himself. Then Harry moved protectively in front of him, and 'shocked' became an understatement. No-one's jaw quite hit the floor, but it was a close-run thing.

"Potter?" he rasped. "What are you attempting to do? Is fighting off one army not enough?"

Harry didn't budge. Didn't even look back at him. "Hopefully we won't have to fight them, sir," the brat said calmly. "We just have to make them understand."

"Make them understand what? Exactly?" Severus growled in exasperation.

"That we are perfectly willing to defend you, sir." Severus blinked. For an instant, he was actually grateful for the arms supporting him, as he came very close to collapsing in stunned amazement. For a long moment, no-one spoke. No-one could speak. Then a familiar fury caught up with Severus, erupting out of it's dormancy and carrying him along with it. He shook free of the hands that held him, striding forward before they could react, and, grasping Harry's shoulder viciously, spun the youth around to face him, uncaring of the yells and threats that the action catalysed. He ignored all else, his furious gaze locked square on the defiant green eyes staring up at him in shock.


"You ... You ..." Severus struggled, trying to restrain the urge to physically knock some sense into this appallingly naive young man. "You idiot! You utter, absolute, bred-in-the-bone, rock-for-brains idiot! Just where do you think you are? Who do you think you are? Who do you think I am? For Merlin's sake, boy, I wear the Dark Mark. Do you think for a moment they will be content to let that lie? Do you think even you can stop what's to come? Albus Dumbledore himself couldn't achieve what you propose, and that was before I earned the hate of a nation by killing him! Let it go, you idiot! Let it slide, take your Order of Merlin, and be the hero they've always hoped you would be. Or you will have to fight, and all this will have been for nothing! As long as a single Death Eater lives, no-one will feel fully safe. The fear will continue. It will grow. It will seed resentment, and in time that resentment will turn on you, and your friends, for having let such a thing happen. Is that what this battle was meant to achieve? Is that what all these sacrifices were made for? Think, Potter!"

The boy's eyes were hot and angry. It was obvious he couldn't accept this. "So what do we do, sir?" Harry spat back. "Do we let their fear kill the person who sacrificed most to give them their freedom! Is that what this war was for?"

Severus shook his head, anger ebbing a bit as sorrow made itself felt. "I have sacrificed nothing, boy. Albus gave his life. Others gave the same, gave their time, their blood, their children. Even the bloody mutt gave his life for the cause, for you. I am who I am. I am the spy, the traitor, the dark child. I apologise for nothing. I give nothing. What I lost, was taken forcibly, and I fought it tooth and claw. I gave nothing willingly. Don't you bloody get it yet? Everything I've done, I did to survive, and live in a world I deemed appropriate. It was not for you, or Albus, or even the bloody people of the bloody world. It was for me. And I will deal with this as I choose. Do. You. Understand?"

Harry looked at him strangely. He could feel the other gazes centered on them, feel the force of their puzzled scrutiny, their confusion and worry, and he wondered briefly why nobody had acted, why the twenty odd aurors hadn't cursed him into the next life, why the Order hadn't pulled Harry from his forceful grip to safety. It was strange, not how he had thought this would end.

"Do you really believe that, sir?" Harry asked him quietly, but everyone heard. They were all hanging on his every word. "I don't. You wanted to save my life? You wanted to be forced to bow to Voldemort? You wanted the Dark Mark burned into your arm? You wanted to spend time in Azkaban? You wanted to spend years teaching us dunderheads? You wanted to spend years with everyone looking at you with suspicion, with hate? You wanted to throw yourself in front of a bloody death curse? You wanted that? I don't believe it! You didn't want any of that! You didn't want to do what you did, to sacrifice what you have. But you did it anyway! If it had all been for you, you would have left the country, run, made a new life. But you didn't! You stayed. You fought. You saved my life I don't know how many times, and you hate me! You did all this, for people who hate you and suspect you, who couldn't care less if you died! And you want to let them kill you! You want me to hate you!"

Harry paused, listening to the echoes of what he had just said. Comprehension flickered in his eyes, followed by horrified shock. "You want me to hate you," he whispered, horrified. Severus gently let go of his shoulder, stepped back. Thirty wands swung to follow him, but he just kept looking at the youth in front of him. "You do, don't you? Sir? You actually want me to hate you. Why?"

Severus shook his head slightly, a strange smile on his face. Finally, Harry did understand. Finally, someone did. That was good to know. Pity he didn't plan to stay to explain. With everyone all caught up in the drama, no-one had thought to grab ahold of him again. No-one had figured out that, though gravely injured, he had found the strength to stand, and if he had strength enough for that, he had strength enough for a little apparition. Whether or not all that had gone before was for him, and he certainly thought his intention had always been to survive a free man, this was pure selfishness. As Potter had pointed out, it was time to leave the country and make a new life.

Something must have shown in his eyes, some flicker, because as his will coalesced into action, and the ruined, bloodstained hall faded around him, the younger man's hand clasped around his arm in what could safely be called a deathgrip. Shock frittered through him. Jumping an apparition was incredibly dangerous, for both parties. But Severus had more practice than most, and more willpower than any, and he'd be damned if his escape was going to be spoiled by an enforced splinching. The apparition ran its course, the strain pulling severely on his already shaken resources, and they landed safely enough, the extra kinetic energy from Harry's leap to catch him pushing them over, Harry on top.

All breath was rudely shoved out of him as the boy landed on his chest. White stars went nova in his vision, the dull fires flaring to hound his consciousness, striving to push him beyond the limits of awareness. He fought back, clawing his way through the pain back to the surface, and opening his eyes to look up into Potter's terrified face. Blinking, he forced a measure of air into his lungs. Bringing his hands up slowly, behind Potter's field of vision, he put them against the youth's chest and pushed. Not roughly, not panicked, just slow and insistent. Potter scrambled back, pulling himself up off of him to crouch concernedly over his legs. Severus lay there, watching him warily.

Embarrassed, ashamed, Potter looked away, and caught his breath. The hero of the hour looked around in amazement, pure wonder in his face. From where he lay, Severus smiled. He knew this place, knew it well, and saw how its beauty affected those who came unknowing inside its bounds. Harry could hardly be blamed for his awe.

The grotto glowed softly with a greenish werelight that had nothing to do with muggle or magical artifice. It was the natural phosphoresence of the crystals that colonised the walls, the ceiling, each other. The crystals themselves glimmered in the werelight like miniature stars, towers of ice and mirror. As a waystation, it had a certain something that human constructions lacked. Severus had found it after a truly random apparition. He had focused all his will on a place of beauty and safety, anonimity, and the magic had brought him here. Just went to show that sometimes magic did get it right.

"Sir?" Harry whispered softly, awed. "Where are we?"

"I have no idea," he answered gaily. "At a guess, from the temperature, we're still somewhere in Europe. Beyond that, I haven't a notion." Harry looked down at him in shock that suddenly, for some reason Severus couldn't fathom, slipped into amusement. He humpffed, raising a questioning eyebrow, and the youth looked away in embarrassment, but there was a flicker, a glimpse of some humour, as if Potter knew something he didn't. "What, may I ask, is so funny, Mr Potter?"

"It suits you," Harry smiled.

"What does?"

"This place. A random place of secrecy and beauty. With, of course, the obligatory green and silvery decor. Once a Slytherin, always a Slytherin. Are you alright?"

Severus looked askance at him. "Why bother asking now? What brought on this sudden, rather suicidal, concern for my wellbeing?"

Harry looked away. "Well ... You did save my life," he whispered.

"I've done that before. It never stopped you hating me. It was never meant to. Why now? Why do you choose now to see me? It could have destroyed everything we worked for, back there. It still might." He masked his features, letting only mild curiousity show. Harry couldn't see the tiny sliver of hope that for some crazed reason he had chosen to entertain. He couldn't show how he suddenly, desperately, wanted this young man to see him for who he was inside. What must be done, must be done.

"Why?" Harry asked, a touch violently. "Why should rewarding a hero destroy the peace? And why do you want me to hate you! All along, you've been sniping at me, riling me up, pretending to despise me, and then you keep saving my life! It doesn't make sense! Tell me why!" In his anger, his hands had fisted reflexively in Severus' robes, pulling the injured man up slightly. When he realised that, he lowered the battered wizard back down, ever so gently, shame on his face. This reflexive violence followed by such curious tenderness confused Severus, and played havoc with his emotions. Something must have showed, for Harry reached up and touched his face, wonder in his eyes.

"You don't," he whispered, awed. "You don't want me to hate you. You just think you have to, don't you? You think that if I don't hate you, I'll do something stupid like ..."

"Like what you've just done?" Severus asked snidely, but there was no force in it. It seemed a side effect of throwing his magic, and possibly soul, into that ridiculous spell was that everything he felt and thought now floated on the surface, all riled up and confused together. He wanted to be angry at the youth for being so reckless, and there was some anger there, but he was primarily relieved that the pretense was over.

Harry looked at him, his desire for an explanation obvious. Severus sighed, closing his eyes in exhaustion. "Harry," he began, ignoring the shock his use of that name garnered. "You know who I am. You know what I am. I am a Death Eater, a murdering, villainous excuse for a human being ..."

"You're not ..." Harry started to protest, but Severus cut him off, grinding out the name of his crime.

"I am Albus Dumbledore's killer." Harry fell silent. "Regardless of my reasons and motives, regardless of the actions I have done before and since for the sake of those I have killed and those who stand to die should I fail, I am still that killer. That is all anyone will ever see when they look at me. Don't you understand, Harry? That's all I was ever meant to be. It was the role I was given, that I played with absolute perfection. Voldemort was too distant and vast an evil. Too many people had difficulty believing in such a monstrosity, too many more were paralysed by the vastness of the evil they had to fight. To make them fight, to fuel their courage, a smaller evil was needed, a common criminal, a madman who had the audacity to slay their leader. I was that evil. I was Dumbledore's murderer. I was the torch that lit their fire. And I should have burned for it. I was never meant to survive."

He felt a sudden, tiny splash of cold on his face, and his eyes flew open in surprise. Harry wept silently over him. No sobs, no noise, just tears, flowing down a drawn, pale face. Then a hand appeared in his line of vision, reaching up to brush those diamond tears away. With a start, he realised it was his own. He dropped it, looking away in shame, but Harry caught it, held it. Kissed it, once, softly.

The world contracted, edges blurring and disappearing. Severus felt his breathing stop, his heart paralysed as a wave of shock and desperate longing swept through him. He didn't understand. This ... This shouldn't be. He was meant to be dead. He was meant to be drifting in his abyss. Yet here he was, and here was Harry, and though he'd told the truth, driven home his crimes, this strange creature wept for him. What was this place, this world? It wasn't the one he'd lived in for most of his wretched life. Nothing like this could have happened in that world.

"Why did you?"

He shook his head, confused by the whispered question. "Why did I what?"

Harry tilted his head to one side, staring into his eyes with an expression close to desperation. "Why did you choose to survive? I know you chose it. If you'd wanted to die, you'd've found a way to make it happen. You chose life. Why?"

Severus stared back, the world narrowing further until there was only two verdant eyes glimmering with tears both shed and unshed. He swallowed, trying to find words to explain. It had been stubbornness, yes, but that was only how he had lived, not why. Why was more complicated, stranger, and infinitely harder to explain. It had to do with a hope he'd held close, hidden from all the pain of his world, nurtured even though he'd known it could never be fulfilled. Terrible, painful to him in its impossibility, but so precious.

"I ..." He swallowed. "Maybe I wanted ... to know you understood. Maybe I wanted to see that you knew me. No-one does. Maybe I just wanted to know someone could."

Harry looked away. "Someone?" he asked softly, avoiding Severus' eyes. "Or ... Or me? Do you want them to understand, or ... only me?"

Severus bit his lip so hard he drew blood. Could Harry mean ...? Was it worth finding out? Could he bear another smashing of hope? But he had lived for this, to know this. He had to know, one way or another. If his hope died, then the abyss was never far away for him, and if it did not ... Then his world would be complete.

He reached up to cup Harry's face in his hands, to draw those vibrant and pained eyes around to look into his. He brushed gently at the fresh tears that slid softly down those pale cheeks. He smiled, painfully, hope and fear in equal measure in his face. "Only you, Harry," he whispered. "Always, only you. I'm so sorry."

Harry leant down, the tip of his nose just brushing Severus'. He was weeping still. It seemed he couldn't stop. He took Severus' hands from where they rested on his face, and clasped them painfully hard, their joined hands supporting him. "Don't ever be sorry," he whispered, "Not for that. Not ever for that. Severus."

His breath caught, and Harry leant down all the way, and joined their lips. Warm breath, flavoured with the salt of tears and the coppery tang of his blood, flowed into him from the other body. Harry was breathing for him, breathing life into them both. For one delirious moment, it seemed to Severus that the young man was breathing life, and spirit, back into the husk he'd become. For that one moment, he felt all-powerful, gloriously alive, and full to the point of explosion with love. Pain and sorrow and fear fell away, and all he wanted was to give back to Harry some inkling of what that kiss was for him. He wanted to give that power back, that life, to feel it flow back and forth between them until they shattered with the strength of it. All of his will, all of the desperate strength that had sustained him for so long, bent to the task.

White fire flashed through them, and they were lost. For a brief eternity, there was nothing but this white, burning void. Then they fell apart. Severus lay there, blood roaring in his ears, heart pounding so hard it hurt. Harry lay across him, breath rasping as hard as Severus', body shaking with aftershock. Neither could speak, or move, or do anything but be, lying there together. Then Harry moved, shifting so that he slid free to lie beside Severus, lidded eyes staring.

"I don't want you to be sorry for that," he whispered, eyes never leaving Severus' face. "I don't want you to be sorry for letting me see something I've wanted to see for so long. I hated you for not showing me earlier. I hated you for not trusting me to see you. And I hated you because I thought you'd never see me either. I don't want you to be sorry for letting me have what I wanted. Unless you didn't want to."

Severus rolled over to face him fully, putting his arms around the trembling body of the man he loved, tears finally springing up in eyes that had been dry for so many years. "Never doubt that I want it. Never doubt that I want you, Harry. Never. I love you."

"I love you too," Harry whispered back, burrowing into his embrace. "The world be damned, I love you."


Two months later, Severus sat out on their porch, and reflected that however stubborn he'd thought himself to be, Harry had outdone it. In all his life, he would never forget the faces as Harry had reappeared, carrying him, to his eternal shame. He would never forget the confusion, and then the utter shock as the Boy-Who-Lived marched up to the Minister, hiding behind his shield of aurors, and calmly point a wand at him as he laid down the way things would be. He would never forget the feeling of awe he'd felt when Harry had freed him, proclaimed him a hero, fought for him to be treated as one. And he would never forget what it had been like to be surrounded by people willing to fight for him, as those who trusted Harry backed them up.

But more, so much more than that, he would never forget how Harry had looked at him when it was finished, when he'd been freed and expedited in the eyes of the Ministry and a majority of the Wizarding world. There had been no triumph in that look, no challenge. There had been joy, pure and simple. And love. It had shaken him down to his core. Uncaring of propriety, uncaring of the eyes on them, the Minister, the Order, the press, he'd caught Harry up and kissed him. Desperately trying to express everything the man made him feel, he'd kissed him, and it had changed the world.

"Penny for your thoughts?"

He looked up. Not Harry. He would have felt Harry's presence coming had he been dying. Remus had snuck up on him, the werewolf's silent steps carrying him up beside Severus before the distracted wizard had a chance to prepare. Severus blinked at him. "Hmmm?"

Remus sat down beside him, smiling. "I said, 'Penny for your thoughts'."

Severus shook his head. "Sorry. I was just thinking about ... the Order of Merlin ceremony. The first time I ..."

"Oh!" Remus laughed. "When you laid Harry out for the count with that kiss! Yes! You practically gave half the wizarding population of Britain a collective heart attack! I remember. Frankly, I don't think anyone could forget. It was definitely something!"

Severus looked sideways at him, considering. "I never asked. Do you disapprove?"

Remus spun to stare, looking as if he'd just been struck. "Are you joking!" he exclaimed. "How could I disapprove! I've never seen Harry so happy! He's been so sad for so long, do you really think any of us could begrudge him his happiness, no matter who he found that happiness with? Besides, we all saw what you did for him. We saw you almost die for him, when if you'd stayed put, you'd have been Voldemort's favoured servant. We know, now, at least, that your loyalty has always been with him. And I can see how much you love him. Hell, half the goddamn world saw it that day!" He stopped, breathing hard. Severus stared, stunned.

After a minute, he found his voice. "Well. Um, thanks? I ... didn't know how strongly you all felt about it. I didn't think ..."

"That we'd ever forget what you were?" Remus asked shrewdly. Severus ducked his head. "You're right," Remus went on. "We haven't forgotten. We haven't forgotten who took our scorn and mistrust for years while fighting for us, who faced horrors for a bunch of idiots who couldn't bring themselves to see past a stupid tattoo, who nearly died to save a man he loved even though he thought that man hated him. Even though he thought everyone hated him. We can't forget that. And we can't apologise for it. because you knew us. You knew exactly what we would think, and you used it. We can't apologise, but neither can we begrudge you the happiness you and Harry have found."

"That's good to know," Harry said coolly, behind them. His arms wrapped around Severus as he rested his chin against the top of his husband's head. Severus tipped his head back to look up at him, a slight smile playing on his lips. Harry smiled back, kissing him softly on the forehead. "Morning, love," he whispered.

"Morning, Harry," he whispered back. The name itself was an expression of endearment from him, considering the many and varied alternates he had found to address this man over the years. From the corner of his eye, he saw Remus look away blushing, and smiled. "I think we are embarrassing our honoured guest," he murmured. Harry looked over at Remus, a playful smirk on his face.

"Well, it's his own fault for interupting our honeymoon. But we haven't even begun to embarrass him. Want to give it a proper try?"

Severus smiled wickedly. "You brat," he whispered. "You insatiable brat. But alright. If you're up for it?"

"Always, Severus." Harry leant in. "Always."

Neither of them noticed Remus leaving.


The End. What'cha think, people? I like Snarry! I like SSSB more, but Snarry is a strong second. How 'bout ye? R&R?