Epilogue

This is not here:

Severus didn't know for how long he'd been sitting in the living room, waiting. Everything had been reduced to this: Elbows on his knees, his palms covering his face. His eyes were closed; the only sounds he could was a clock ticking away somewhere and his own breathing. With each breath he took he could smell the scent of his own clean hands, intermingled with the barest hint of Harry and the thrum of magic running through his veins.

He'd cleaned away the last remnants of breakfast in the kitchen; he'd made himself go upstairs to the guest room where he'd methodically stripped down the bed and then put the linen in the washing machine, together with every single piece of clothing Harry had worn over the past few weeks.

He'd sent the boy away hours ago. That short, awkward kiss had done nothing to keep Severus' heart from aching for the younger wizard. Sending him back had been the only possible solution, of course. Everything else would have been insanity. And yet...

He would never see him again. He would never know whether he'd defeat Voldemort and survive the war. Severus wondered if he'd ever find peace, if his restlessness and simmering anger would disappear once they weren't needed anymore to keep him alive.

He wondered if Harry would ever find somebody to love.

And finally -

"Severus?"

He looked up, slowly lowering his hands. Harry stood before him, looking exactly as he had when they'd parted all those hours ago – messy black hair and short robes, with a tired, drawn face that seemed to have aged a lot in a short amount of time. And yet the green eyes blinking at him were not full of confusion and distrust; rather they were achingly familiar to Severus, expressing cautious joy and hesitation all at once.

"Harry?" he asked, standing up, "Is it... I mean, is it you? Are you my Harry?"

And the other man laughed, a pure and full sound that he hadn't heard in far too long.

"Severus!" Harry crossed the room in long strides and swept him into a bone-crushing embrace, still laughing. Severus could feel his chest rumbling against his own, the fast staccato of his hear beat reassuring him that this was real; this was here.

"It's me," his lover whispered, "I'm yours, if you'll have me. I love you. Merlin, I love you."

Burying his nose in the other man's hair and cupping his face with both hands Severus squeezed his eyes shut and nodded.

"I know."

But this is; later:

"Brooding, Potter?"

Harry half-smiled upon hearing Snape's voice behind him but didn't turn around. Instead he shifted in his seat, sitting cross-legged on the white marble stone.

"You could say that I am, yes."

"Not... celebrating with your friends?"

"Not hiding away in Spinner's End rejoicing in your new-found freedom, sir?" Harry asked back cheerfully. "Really, we both know how to annoy each other until one of us starts shouting. We could try having a real conversation instead."

Snape laughed softly, scornfully, and took a few steps forward until he was at the edge of Harry's vision. For some moments neither of them spoke, instead looking at the sun setting over the lake.

"You should make some asinine remark now, Potter," Snape said drily, "About how you can't believe that it's over and that both you and me are still alive."

"I'd rather not if it's all the same to you."

"Fair enough."

The silence stretched between them, the only sounds being the waves lapping against the shore and the wind rustling the leaves in the nearby forest.

"I've got something for you," Harry said eventually, retrieving a small leather bag from his heavy wizarding robes. "Severus told me to give it to you."

Snape leaned against the stone Harry was sitting on and crossed his arms.

"Severus," he said softly and Harry couldn't tell whether he was angry or surprised.

"I didn't... I don't know – Just take it."

The older wizard looked down as Harry let the bag fall in the space between them with a soft clink but made no move to pick it up.

"It's memories," Harry explained, "He told me that much. But I don't know which ones."

"Memories of a happy life where I'm not despised and loathed by a bunch of dunderheads?" Snape asked caustically. "Visions of me living in homosexual bliss with your Quidditch-playing counterpart?"

He took the bag with a sniff of disdain and shook it.

"I didn't keep them for years just so you could chuck them into the lake the minute you got them!" Harry snapped. "You don't even know what you're talking about!"

"Have I struck a nerve somewhere? Maybe... Have you fallen for dear Severus?"

Harry bit back an angry retort and clenched his hands into fists. He felt like hexing Snape and nearly started reaching for his wand – thirteen inches, mahogany with a core of dragon heartstring. Finding it after emptying out the bag he'd brought with him from the other dimension, Harry had gone to the nearest Muggle pub and drunk himself into a coma. He'd woken up twenty-four hours later with the fuzzy desire to die, though whether that stemmed from the alcohol or his heartache he hadn't been able to tell.

Snape chuckled. "That's it, isn't it? Harry Potter, newly resurrected from the dead, hero of the wizarding world – queer and in love with the enemy!"

"You don't know what you're talking about," Harry repeated.

"We'll never be friends," Snape said, "Or nostalgic comrades-in-arms comforting each other in twenty years' time. I don't know what you're hoping to accomplish by giving me this sentimental rubbish, but it's not going to work. Good night, Potter."

"Night, sir," Harry called after Snape's retreating figure. He stared at the lake for quite some time after the other wizard had left, eventually releasing a choked laugh that could easily be mistaken for a sob.

"Unbelievable," he muttered to himself. When he glanced down and prepared to leave, the bag and the memories with it were gone.

Fin.

Author's Note: The title for this story is taken from the poem 'Fire in a Dark Landscape' by Charles Tomlinson (1927 -). No copyright infringement is intended.