Title: Runes of War

Pairing: Harry/Snape

Rating: NC-17

Summary: Post-HBP. The first anniversary of the death of Albus Dumbledore is fast approaching, and people are beginning to lose hope. The fate of the wizarding world rests in the hands of one young man and the strange power he holds.

Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all related characters, plots, events belong to J.K. Rowling.

-

Epilogue:

Harry opened his eyes, titling his head to one side, stifling a groan at the dull ache it caused him. He gazed around him, recognising Severus' bedroom, and he smiled when his eyes lit upon the man himself, slumped in a chair beside his bed, exhaustion lining his face. His cheek rested on the bed next to Harry's thigh, and Harry reached out a hand to run it gently over the man's cheek. He stirred, but didn't wake, and Harry withdrew his hand, shifting instead across to the other side of the bed. He swung his legs over the side, rising with the help of the post nearest to him. It took him a moment to find his balance once on his feet, and his hand gripped the post in order to stop him from falling face-first onto the floor. Feeling more stable, he made his way over to the bathroom at a near shuffle, slipping inside, and closing the door softly behind him. Let Severus sleep, he thought to himself; the man looked like he hadn't slept properly in a week. Knowing the older man as he did, the care which he now held for Harry, and his knowledge of how long his body would have taken to recover after the battle, it was very likely this was the case.

Harry quickly relieved himself, not even bothering to wonder who had taken care of such things while he had been unconscious - he'd spent far too long in the Hospital Wing not to be familiar with all the basic patient spells. He stripped off the pyjama bottoms he wore - the only thing he wore - and stepped into the shower stall and turned on the water to full heat. He sighed as the hot water cascaded down his back, and bent his head to rest gently against the wall so that it fell on the back of his neck too. He felt along the tiled wall blindly with one and, until his hand touched a bottle; taking it, he glanced at it, and once assured that it was in fact soap, he proceeded to wash himself thoroughly. After finishing with his body, he moved onto his hair, pouring shampoo into his palm, and lathering it in, massaging away the lingering aches. He was rinsing it out, tilting his head back to make sure none of the foam went into his eyes, when his hand brushed across his forehead. He froze, his entire body going still as he probed more carefully.

Uncaring of his nakedness or the water still streaming off his body, Harry got out of the shower, and hurried over to the mirror on the wall above the sink, using a hand to wipe away the condensation on its surface. He leaned forward, eyes seeking out the jagged red line that had been on his forehead as long as he could remember.

It wasn't there.

He lifted a hand and touched the skin with his fingertips, but found it to be as smooth and pale as if he had never been cursed. A smile formed on his face, stretching into a grin when the full meaning of his scar's disappearance sank in.

'The Dark Mark has vanished too.'

Harry turned his head to the door of the bathroom, eyes brightening when he saw Severus leaning on the doorjamb, a soft look in his black eyes, overriding the tiredness underneath. Harry turned to face him fully, and ran over to him, crashing into Severus' outstretched arms, and was pulled into a strong embrace. He felt tears form in the corners of his eyes, and buried his face into Severus' shoulder, fingers digging into the man's slender back.

'Severus.' He breathed.

'I thought you'd never wake up.'

Harry lifted his head, and moved his hands to frame Severus' face, concern flickering inside him at the slightly haunted look in the other man's eyes.

'It's okay. I'm awake now; I'm fine. It's okay.'

Leaning forward, Harry tucked his head under Severus' chin, arms going back around to circle his waist. Severus pressed a kiss to the top of his head, and his arms tightened around him, pulling him closer. They stayed like that for long moments, until a cold breeze coming from the bedroom caused Harry to shiver.

'Come on. Let's get you dressed. The Wolf will kill me if I let anything happen to you.' Severus spoke softly, giving Harry one last squeeze before he stepped away. One hand remained settled firmly on Harry's waist, though, as if he couldn't bear to let go just yet.

Severus reached for one of the towels sitting on the counter to one side, and pulling out his wand, transfigured it into a larger towel, which he then wrapped around Harry. Finishing that, tucking it around him, he picked Harry up, carrying him back into the bedroom and depositing him onto the bed once more. While Harry used the towel to dry himself, Severus went to his cupboard, looking inside for something for Harry to wear. Finding nothing, he straightened, and called out:

'Dobby!'

The little House-Elf appeared at once, waiting for Severus to speak. His already large eyes widened, however, when he caught sight of Harry sitting on the bed.

'Mister Harry Potter is awake!' he squealed, and before anyone could so much as move, flung himself across the room to wrap his thin arms around Harry's waist. Harry grinned, and patted his back.

'Hello, Dobby.'

The elf stepped away, wiping at the tears leaking from his eyes with the corner of his ear.

'Oh Mister Harry Potter - it is so wonderful you is awake! And defeated He Who Must Not Be Named! How we is all grateful!'

'Dobby!' Severus cut across him, sending him a somewhat quelling glance, which had the elf dampening his enthusiasm ever so slightly. 'Can you fetch a set of clothes for Harry, please. You can find them in the Chamber.'

Dobby nodded, a touch less enthusiac. 'Is there anything else, sirs?'

Severus hesitated, then glanced at Harry. He grimaced before speaking again.

'Tell Lupin that Harry is awake, too.'

As Dobby went with a little crack, Harry glanced at Severus.

'Is Remus here then?'

Severus walked back over to him, using his wand to conjure a small towel, in order to start drying Harry's hair. Harry raised an eyebrow at his actions. He couldn't remember a time anyone had ever done such a thing for him before, but he found the sensation rather pleasant, so let him carry on.

'Yes.' Severus sighed rather more theatrically than required. 'He's been pounding on my door day and night ever since I brought you here.'

'And that was how long ago?'

There was a brief pause, in both speech and Severus' movements. 'Two weeks.' He finally answered.

'Merlin.' Harry levelled a shrewd look at Severus. 'And while Remy was outside, you were sitting by my bed for those two weeks.'

Severus gave him a half-shrug. 'Somebody had to care for you.'

Harry smiled, and closed his eyes as Severus moved from drying his hair to running a comb through it. His movements were gentle and so much more patient than Harry could ever have managed when doing it himself. He relaxed into the older man's ministrations, giving up on drying himself.

A moment later, there was a pop as Dobby returned. He handed Severus the pile of clothes, smiling brilliantly at Harry.

'Dobby is fetching the clothes, and Dobby is telling Professor Lupin, about Harry been awake Sir. He is wanting Dobby to tell you that Sir had better let him in before he breaks the door open.'

'Thank you, Dobby.' Severus replied, but Harry could see he had no intention of obeying Remus. He couldn't help but chuckle. He wondered whether the two of them would ever be able to get along.

Turning around, Severus handed Harry the pile, taking the towel lying across the bed and giving it to Dobby to take away with him. Harry quickly sorted through them, pulling on the familiar plain trousers, shirt and boots. He tied his hair back from his face with the leather band that Severus gave him, smiling in thanks, an attempt to ease the concern that still lingered in Severus' face. Harry got to his feet and he and Severus went through to the main sitting room, the older man staying close by his side.

'I have some potions I want you to take; just restorative draughts and the like, to make sure there are no lasting ill effects.'

Harry nodded, and watched as Severus went into his private lab and began rummaging around for some of the potions he had likely spent the week making.

'Do you think I could let Remus in here?' Harry called out, receiving a grunt for a reply. He took it as a yes, and hopped down from the armchair he had been sitting on to head towards the door.

'You'll have to take down the wards and silencing charms before he'll be able to come in.'

With an indulgent smile, Harry made a detour, scooping up Slytherin's wand which Severus held out for him, and then walked to the door. He held out the wand, concentrating on the magick of the wards, and the spells necessary to take them down. There was barely a second's warning before his inner magick came rushing through his body and down his arm to the wand, exploding from the tip, and sending him flying backwards. He heard the voices of Severus and Remus shouting out, before his head hit the wall behind him, and he blacked out.

-oOo-

'Not even up half an hour from your last brush with death, and already you're back in the Hospital Wing.'

Harry tuned out the Medi-Witch's scolding, sighing miserably as she began to scan his body with her wand, muttering medical phrases under her breath which were copied down by the quick-quotes quill floating beside her. He glanced over at Remus and Severus, both men standing to one side and waiting anxiously for Pomfrey's verdict. Harry closed his eyes, turning his face away from them and wondering just why these things always happened to him.

'Oh my...'

'What?' Severus asked sharply, but the witch ignored him, and ran her wand the length of his body again, using a different spell. After a few minutes, Pomfrey put away her wand, and Harry sat up, swinging his legs off the side of the bed. Severus came and stood beside him, his pale hand resting on Harry's shoulder in silent support.

'Well Mr. Potter, there doesn't seem to be anything physically wrong with you, apart from the bump on the head and the...'

'And the eyes.' Harry offered.

Pomfrey's look was full of sympathy. 'Yes, and the eyes. I've done every scan I know, but you'll be glad that whatever happened to you, it isn't causing you any harm. There is no presence of malevolent spells or magick that one might find in some other cases. Even the eyes seem harmless.'

'Harmless?!' Remus burst out angrily. 'Look at them, they're -'

'Can you fix them?' Harry cut the werewolf off.

She shook her head gently. 'I'm sorry.'

'But his eyes weren't like that when he woke up earlier.' Severus stated, a thin thread of worry colouring his tone. Harry lifted a hand and squeezed the hand resting on his shoulder briefly. Severus smiled down at him.

'No, of course not. They wouldn't have been then.' Pomfrey stated matter-of-factly.

'Then?' Severus' tone sharpened. 'But he did nothing untoward from the moment he woke up.'

'Except use magick.' Remus said quietly, figuring out the answer.

Severus glanced from Harry to Pomfrey, a small frown creasing his brow. 'That was it? That was what triggered it?'

Pomfrey bit her lip and gave a small nod. 'I believe so.'

Severus sighed, lifting a hand to rub his forehead, even as he took a seat next to Harry. 'But how?'

'Well, I have a theory, but it's based on a lot of things I can neither prove, nor know a lot about.'

'What is it?'

'You won't like it.'

'Tell us.' Severus ordered.

'Well, as far as I can guess - it comes down to the day Harry fought.. You Know Who..'

'How so?' Remus interjected.

'I think I can answer that.' Harry said quietly, and waited until everyone's eyes had turned to him. 'It was Voldemort.

Severus' expression seemed to close off. 'But he's dead.'

'I know. Yes, he is.' Harry reached out for Severus' hand, both seeking and giving reassurance, and after a moment's hesitation the older man allowed the touch.

'Then I don't understand.'

'What happened when Voldemort died?' Harry prompted him.

Severus shook his head, so it was Remus who answered.

'The runes… they surrounded him, and lifted him up. And then he just… vanished… There was so much light it was a little hard to see.'

Harry nodded, content with the amount of information Remus had offered him. It was not as if he did not know himself, but it would help them understand.

'When horcruxes have been destroyed in the past… the normal trend is that they destroy the piece of the soul, leaving the container of the soul intact. Take the shield for example - it was completely unharmed by the runes. This wasn't the case with Voldemort.'

'Because he was living?' Remus offered.

Harry inclined his head. 'Partly that, and also partly because of the very substance of his body…. It wasn't his body; it was a creation from a spell. As a result, it was far more unstable than a regular horcrux vessel might have been. The runes…' He paused, trying to find the words. 'The body shattered under the force of the runes, before the soul and magick inside were destroyed. They could no longer be contained in one place, and so were free to…attack.'

Realisation flooded both Remus' and Severus' faces.

'There was that rush at the end…it went straight at you.' Remus said softly, recalling the scene he had just described, the fear that had caught his chest when he'd seen it.

Harry nodded. 'Yes, that.'

'You stopped breathing.' Remus offered, his expression pained.

'I expect anyone would do the same, having the evil that was Voldemort's soul go through you.' Harry drawled.

'But you survived.' Severus protested. 'Algiz protected you. I even added my pendant to yours.'

'But not enough.' Harry explained patiently. 'Can you imagine how tainted Voldemort's soul and magick would be? Irreparably tainted from years of Dark Magick and splitting it in his quest for immortality. Even with the runes, something slipped through.'

'A latent curse, or dark magick, triggered by your use of a spell...one last attack from You Know Who.' Pomfrey finished.

Harry's smiled faltered, and his tone was bitter when he spoke. 'I lose one mark just to gain another.'

Severus sat down beside him, pulling him into his arms, kissing the top of his head. The pair ignored Pomfrey's widened eyes and Remus' pained expression.

'It makes no difference to who and what you are.' Severus murmured quietly in his ear.

'Yeah.' Harry closed his eyes, unsure whether the feeling inside his chest was relief or despair. In the end really, it didn't matter. He'd lived the life he had, and as always, he would do the best with his future. There was little else he could do.

He gave a quiet sigh, and opening his eyes, glanced at the three people in the room. 'I won't hide my eyes.' He told them. 'We'll just tell people that they're just a residual mark from killing Voldemort - the same as my scar was the first time. Agreed?'

'Of course, Harry.' Remus murmured, while Severus and Pomfrey nodded.

'Thank you.'

Smiling, Pomfrey clapped her hands briskly. 'Well, Mr. Potter, I suppose you'd like to get out of here now? I know for a fact that there is a rather substantial group of people waiting outside the Hospital Wing to see you.'

Harry rose to his feet, smoothing down his clothes. 'Then I'd better not disappoint them.' He grinned.

'And I don't want to see you here again for at least another few months, or I shall be exceedingly vexed with you.'

'What if I'm accompanying someone else?' He asked, then quickly ducked Pomfrey's playful swat.

'Oh go on with you!'

Saluting briskly, Harry strode towards the Wing entrance, a happy smile on his face, Severus and Remus flanking him like two fearsome guards, which, admittedly, was not far from the truth.

-oOo-

The anniversary of Dumbledore's death arrived, and with it a bright cheery day, not a cloud in the jewel blue sky. It was as if Dumbledore himself had had a hand in it, Harry mused, standing at the edge of the lake, hands in pockets, wind playing with strands of his hair. It would have been just like the old Headmaster to want people to honour his death with life and laughter, remembering his quirks or peculiarities rather than be sad and ruin a perfectly good day.

Dressed in elegant black and silver robes, Harry had been called upon to give a speech to all the students and visitors that would soon be arriving at Hogwarts to pay their respects to the dead, and to celebrate finally being set free from the fear that had lain like a smothering cloud over them, for so long. While he would rather not have to get up on stage and receive the award that would be presented to him by Kingsley, the newly appointed Head Auror, he couldn't deny the witches and wizards their chance of joy. After all, it would only take a few minutes at most.

Harry had been pleased to discover that Draco, Severus, Neville and Luna were also getting rewards for their part in the battle, and for the courage they had shown. When he had heard about it, Severus had complained about Ministry officials just trying to ingratiate themselves after he had been pardoned for Dumbledore's murder thanks to the testimonies given by Harry, Minerva, and Dumbledore's letter and pensieve. Despite his grumbling, Harry could see that he had been pleased. Draco had been as well, saying that it was a chance to start redeeming his family name. Harry wished him well, but knew the blonde well enough to know that he wouldn't settle for anything less than what he wanted. Blaise would have his hands full in the future trying to control his overenthusiastic lover.

Harry sighed, his eyes tracking the movement of some birds in the trees on the shoreline opposite him, when he suddenly felt the tingle at the back of his mind informing him that someone was approaching. He cocked his head and recognised the aura as Severus'. He smiled, waiting, but didn't bother to turn around until the man was a few steps away from him.

'Severus.'

The Potions Master's face softened, his mouth curling into an amused smirk.

'Woe betide anyone who tries to sneak up on you.'

Harry laughed lightly, holding out a hand to Severus, which the man took in his own, coming to stand beside Harry. He was dressed in his customary black, though Harry had persuaded him to buy a new set of robes for the occasion, and standing beside him now, Harry thought that there were only a few who could deny that Severus looked handsome. He leant against Severus' chest, resting his head on his shoulder, an arm slung over his own shoulders.

'It's strange to think that it's all over now.'

Severus shifted his head to look down at him. 'How so?'

'I mean, I've spent my life fighting one thing or another, and now, there's nothing left to fight. It leaves me at an impasse as to what to do next.'

Severus chuckled. 'Why not do nothing for a change? Relax for a while, and just do what you want, rather than what others think you should do.'

Harry glanced up at him, a touch of anxiety in his voice as he asked: 'With you?'

Severus met his eyes, lifting a hand to brush along Harry's cheek. 'If you want.'

'I do.'

'Then yes.'

Harry smiled, raising his head so he could kiss Severus, just gently. 'I love you.'

Severus' eyes darkened a touch, and his own mouth softened. 'And I love you too.'

It was quietly said, and although he'd known it already, somewhere inside him, to hear it made his heart melt.

In the shining sun, under the out-spread branches of an old oak, Harry kissed him again, before turning back to the lake, his back to Severus' chest, his lover's arms wrapped tightly around his waist. In front of them, the birds let out a great cacophony of whistles and chirps, taking to flight, their wing-tips skimming the surface of the lake, watched by eyes of black, and eyes of green, ringed by red the colour of blood.

Though Voldemort was dead and gone, the mark he had left would remain forever.

- FIN -

Words: 3,527 - 4.10.06 (revised: 29.12.09)

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Started: 30th June 2006

Completed (First Draft): 4th October 2006

Completed (Final Draft I): 29th December 2009

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Well, here it is. The End.

I have mixed feelings towards this story. It was my first foray into writing a full-length story, and while I think it could have been so much better were I writing it now, I find I'm content enough with how it is. I was flicking over some of the reviews people have left for this story over the years I've been posting it, and decided, as I read them, that if people enjoyed it despite its faults, then so be it, it'll do.

One thing for which I will always be grateful to this story, is through it I met Amanda, to whom I dedicate both this chapter, and the story as a whole, in recognition of her friendship to me, and her birthday yesterday. Amanda, you're a gem.

I suspect in a few years or so I may come back to this story and rework some of it, but for now it's complete, and I'll be turning my attention to other things, namely that monst- *ahem* - er, story, that is LeRoi, and a few other tidbits I've been working on recently. So look out for them.

For now, until next time,

Yours,

Nimohtar