Time and Time Again
Chapter Eleven – Over and Over
It was the fifteenth morning. A dawn breeze skittered along the shore of the Dead Sea, coaxing breaths of sand across the hotel fronts. Over night, a cool had come in from the sea. It calmed the air, softening the encroach of dawn. On the bedside table, an anxious letter from Ron and Hermione sat forgotten.
Harry woke nearly naked beneath crumpled white cotton. For some time he laid at utter peace in this realm of quiet into which they'd fallen, let it hold him, rock him, listening to the ebb and release of the sea. He opened his eyes to the half-dark. The sun was rising in ribbons of liquid gold and coral. Light was spilling back into the sky.
In the wicker chair beside the glass doors, Severus was applying ointment to the fresh scars on his neck. His eyes were closed. He was draped only in his dressing robe. Harry watched him, marvelling, falling.
Severus knew he was awake. His eyes opened briefly to pour out more ointment and they met each other's gaze across the room, held it for a moment, but did not speak. Harry stirred beneath the sheets. Severus went on with his scars. In the end, Harry eased out of bed and slid one of the thin robes around his shoulders, aware of Severus watching, the sun's ribbons patterning over his skin bare but for shorts.
As he approached, Severus said quietly: "Good morning."
Harry took the bottle from him, oiled his fingers, and Severus tilted his head back. The scars were fading more and more with each passing day. They would never truly go. Always Severus would have silvery white knots and stars at his throat - they were constellations, Harry thought, mapping the night. People revered the lightning bolt on his forehead, and the past two weeks had taught him something. His scar was not a souvenir from Voldemort, as people so often said - as he himself had always thought of it. It wasn't a mark, a threat.
It was a gift from his mother; the gift of a second chance.
He would always love the stars on Severus's throat.
He worked the ointment gently into the skin, leaning close. He caught the scent of sleep and sex on the older man's skin. Fingertips splayed on Harry's lower back. He obeyed their gentle wish, easing into the chair, onto Severus's lap. The older wizard's lips lifted to his throat. His eyes drifted out of focus as they kissed, brushing, feathering, and the fingertips came to his leg. He swallowed. Shivers traversed his body.
Severus's mouth sought upwards towards his ear, warm breath tickling and gentle, the Roman nose nuzzling into his hair. He felt the broad chest under his fingers expand in a silent sigh.
It was a question. His answer was yes. He hummed it, as lean fingers grazed over his thigh and all too fleetingly over his belly. He quivered. There was a pause; they shared breath, waiting, knowing. Then Severus reached down.
The hand slowly cupped his erection. Harry shuddered and bit down on his moan, catching the intake of breath from Severus. The older wizard was watching him, chin raised, beginning to fondle and rub him in demand of a reaction. The steady squeezes shook Harry to the core. Blood began to pool between his legs, stiffening, helpless to the fingers that gripped far more than his cock.
"Kiss me," came the breath against his mouth.
He did. Out of every touch, this would always be his favourite. The play of lips across his own was unlike any other touch, though he adored those as well. There was something about the gentle prods of Severus's tongue, convincing him to open a little. He felt the fingers seek up a little and snare in the waist of his shorts, creep beneath. He tremored. Their lips broke.
"N-no... you're weak, you... we already, last night - ... I..."
Severus was slipping his shorts down, easing them over the curve of his arse. Anxiety and desperate triumph pounded through his blood. Severus returned to his swollen cock, fingers coiling about him, and lazily began to fist.
He was watching Harry with half-lidded eyes. Not a muscle in the body beneath Harry's hands was tense. Control, satin in its luxuriance, radiated from the older man as he observed, drank it all in, and Harry was little more than goo. Severus's fingers were creeping down, brushing his balls lightly, taking them into his palm. He tumbled them gently.
Harry stifled a moan into his shoulder, clamping down on the shudder.
"No, no..." Severus's lips tilted to his ear, voice rumbling straight to Harry's soul. "Let me hear, Harry. Share it with me."
The fist tightened around his cock. He shuddered and pushed into it, eased into it, burying his face in Severus's neck.
"Yes... tighter, mm?"
"Yes – " Harry reached down and held Severus's hand in both of his own, just to feel the slide of fingers and hot skin. "F-fuck..."
Amusement rumbled softly in his ear. Severus was stroking down his back, inch-by-inch, drawing him closer. The hardness of the other wizard's erection brushed his thigh and he reached for it, but had his hand swatted aside.
"I haven't finished," came the reprimand - infinitely soft. Crossed fingers sought their way down his cleft. His cheeks blazed. He shifted, spreading his legs.
Nothing happened. He lifted his head, looking to the side in confusion. Severus was unscrewing the ointment one-handed.
"Is that safe?" he managed. Severus's lips curled against his temple.
"What do you care for 'safe'?"
It was surely illegal to sound quite so enticing, Harry decided. He then decided he didn't care. Oil dripped on the base of his spine, pooling, trickling down, fingers following in its wake and he forgot himself entirely. For a long time he was nothing but that sensation of easing and persuasion, and the salt of Severus's skin when it hurt and he bit down on his shoulder. He became aware of a rise and fall, an ebbing. It was in the rhythm of Severus's chest as he breathed. It was in the breeze and the tide beyond the thin curtains. It was in himself, waxing and waning, fingers seeking and stretching until he was being coaxed up for a kiss. He moaned, restless. Severus shivered and bit at his lower lip, pushing into it, touch shaking for the first time.
It was an ungainly stagger to the bed. Harry wasn't willing to wait for Severus to get comfortable. He caught the older wizard's wrists the second he was down, pinning them to the sheets, stretching him out and climbing over him. He wouldn't ever remember how they came to be holding hands. They gripped each other, half-fierce, half-afraid, and Harry shifted into place.
His eyes scrunched shut as he pushed down, taking it, fighting the initial discomfort. Severus knotted their fingers tighter. It seemed endless. Through the ache Harry squeezed the other wizard's hands, huffed, fighting to relax. One hand let go of his own. It reappeared on his cock, curving, stroking, easing him back to pleasure. Harry's throat worked as he swallowed. At last, the pain was calming. He stirred, mumbling, head rolling back. Severus began to move in him.
"Oh god," Harry whispered, voice thick.
Severus, wordless, moaned his agreement. The older wizard shifted and triangled his feet, raising his knees for Harry to lean back against them. The shift in angle was enough to rob him of all thought. He stopped fighting. He bucked slowly, rocking into each stroke, working, easing, responding to the familiar rise and fall of pleasure and Severus's mercy.
He would never tire of this. This would never lose its wonders. He thought of the terrible first time, and all the wounds that had healed in the rush of the second time, Severus's fingers seeking under his clothes and the mouth at his ear whispering, promising, I'm sorry. He thought of the third time, the fourth. This was the seventh time. He would count them. He didn't want to lose a single one. He didn't want to lose another minute. Their pace was picking up and there was sweat on his lower back, his cock so hard it hurt. Severus was wearing an expression as if in pain. Not long now. It was too good. A strange, urgent need rose up in Harry like a bubble and he gasped it, begging Severus to look at him.
The black eyes opened; life shone from within, liquid life, and Harry shattered. He came, crying out, washed away.
In the heart of his shudders he saw only the coal-black eyes, gazing at him, adoring him, fading and their focus melting as they closed over, lost in the very littlest of deaths.
"You must reply to that letter today. Your fan-club will think you have been devoured by the space-time continuum."
"Ron will probably wish I had, when he finds out."
"Ronald Weasley never has, nor never will, have any place in my sex life. When I desire his opinion I shall ask for it."
They were in bed. They had been so for the past few days, never leaving except to shower and quickly return. An evening walk along the shore had been the extent of their exploration.
Harry was beginning to see the massive benefits to laying low here for a while. After all, the world had no use for him anymore. Nobody cared who he was and what he'd done. It was the best possible start to a new life that he ever could have asked for. He didn't know how he'd adapt to a life with no overriding, terrible purpose looming and waiting for him on the horizon. Then again, he supposed he had plenty of time to choose.
Lifting his head from Severus's chest, he peered into the other's eyes. They regarded each other closely.
"What?" Severus said, at last.
"Please desist. It makes me uncommonly nervous."
Harry's lips curved. "Thinking good things. About you."
"Yes, hence my nervousness." All the same, he began to stroke the back of Harry's neck, deft fingers curling in the soft black hair. "I need you to know something. To bear it in mind."
"You're not... straight or something, are you?"
Severus snorted. "Even if I was, I'm certainly not anymore. It's worse."
"Are you part vampire? Because I could have guessed. There were a lot of rumours."
"No, I – stop trying to guess. I'm not trying to instigate one of your blasted games. I'm trying to be serious." Severus shifted. "Be quiet and listen."
Harry said nothing by way of agreement, laying his head back down. Severus went on.
"I'm... not clear on your intentions towards me. What you want from me. Part of me doesn't want to know and as far as I'm concerned, things should develop along their own course. Anything we do... eh, pursue, will be extremely difficult. I will never be welcome again in wizarding society. You will forever be their hero, and the consequences will all come to light in their own time. Until then, this... this arrangement we have. It suits me. Very much."
Harry grinned into his lover's chest, but still said nothing.
"Though I need you to know. Every hour of every day, I will be waiting for you to come to your senses and run screaming. You will never convince me otherwise. Never."
There was quiet for a while. Harry tilted his head.
"Is that it?" he said, lightly, and Severus frowned.
"It's a significant issue."
Harry hummed. "If you say so." He pushed himself up a little, ignoring the protests of his lower back, his exhausted muscles, and twisted in order to look down into Severus's eyes. He pressed their foreheads together. "I guess I'll just have to stay, then. Every hour and every day."
Severus shook his head, as if dumbfounded. He said nothing for a moment, then: "You absolutely mystify me."
"Of all the people you could choose to share a bed with."
"You think I chose you?" Harry said, and he found himself grinning, teasing. "I didn't choose you. The universe chose you for me. Tell the universe it mystifies you. I make total sense."
There was silence. Severus reached up, petting his cheek, and Harry felt as if he could purr.
"Why in heaven's name did you come back for me?" Severus whispered against his lips.
Harry said the only thing he knew to be true. He wouldn't insult Severus with anything else; he wouldn't belittle what they had with things they didn't have yet. He said it with as much care and regard as if it were three other words, and he knew the answer would never change.
"I don't know," he whispered.
Severus took this in. He stroked Harry's cheekbone with a thumb, eyes quiet.
"Stay," he said. He didn't make sound. He shaped it with his lips, pleaded it, as if he couldn't bear to voice such a thing and have it declined.
Harry closed his eyes. "I will," he said. He brushed their cheeks; he let the arms wrap him up, wrap right around him, feeling his soul expand into the hug. It would be difficult. He knew it would. Even now he was making plans to write to the Ministry, to start clearing Severus's name, but even if it never cleared he didn't care. They could stay right here. They would disappear from the world and in ten years, people would be writing articles asking whatever happened to Harry Potter.
Harry Potter would be here; just here, just as he was, kissing the stars on his lover's throat and wanting nothing more.
Severus stirred beneath him, with a noise of protest.
"Insatiable beast," came the murmur. Harry was unrelenting. He raised his head and spoke against Severus's jaw, as his hands wandered over the flat belly.
"You know you said you'll never believe me."
"How many times do I need to have sex with you before I change your mind?"
"Once more," he decided, and leant for Harry's lips. "Always once more."
A few days later, Ron was sitting in the front yard of the Burrow. He sat cross-legged in the dust by the front step, polishing his Cleansweep and ignoring the chickens as they darted about him. Ever since Harry's disappearance, Ron had kept to himself. He occupied himself with things – chess, washing up, helping his father repaint the shed. His mother was concerned. He hadn't done this much activity in years, she said, and asked Hermione if she thought he was looking pale. Ron scowled and left the pair of them to it.
He still didn't understand why Harry had gone alone. He didn't understand why Harry had gone at all, come to that. The last encounter they'd had with a Time Turner hadn't exactly been smooth. He worked his cloth into the corners of the tin, fighting for the last streaks of polish. Surely Harry should have been back moments after leaving, and it was nearly a week now. Ron didn't want to think about it.
Losing his best friend to Voldemort would have been unbearable. Losing him to time, to just nothing, having him accidentally erase himself out of history, would be even worse. And what would they tell people? What if a month went by, a year? What if people started asking questions?
Frowning, shoving the thoughts away, Ron turned his broom over and began to polish the underside. An owl flapped its way overhead and down the chimney without him noticing.
The door opened a minute or two later.
"I'll come do it," he said, vaguely. "Just let me finish this."
"Kind of you," said Hermione, as she sat beside him on the step, brushing her skirt neatly into place. "But if you don't mind, we'll stop the confusing me for your mother right now. There's a letter."
He looked up. "Who from? From Harry?"
She held it up. He snatched it off her and ripped it open.
"Dear Ron and Hermione," he read aloud. Relief flooded him. "It's him, it's really Harry! I recognise his hand-writing! Dear Ron and Hermione. Hope you're both okay and not missing me. I guess from this you know I'm fine! Everything went great. We've not been seen - I promise, Hermione! There's been some problems with fainting and stuff but all the venom is gone now. He's good as new. Maybe he's even a bit better than he was."
"What's that supposed to mean?" he said, and continued. "Anyway, keep writing and I'll write back sooner next time, I promise. Severus and I are lying low here for a while. We'll be back in a few weeks or maybe not – you might have to come and visit. I miss you both. Love, Harry."
Something was wrong about that last part. He re-read it. He then realised.
"Whoa, excuse me. 'Severus'? Since when do we know a 'Severus'?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Snape, Ron. His name was – "
"I know what his name was! And so far as I knew, his name was Snape. What's this 'Severus' stuff about? All this... 'we'." He studied the envelope. "Where's that stamp from? That's not English. And – "
As he turned it over, a handful of dust hissed out into his lap. It blew away across the yard.
"Was that sand?" he said, dumbfounded.
He looked up at Hermione. She had a very far-away look in her eye, and a soft little smile on her lips. She knew something he didn't. His brow furrowed.
"What's up with you?" he said.
Her eyes sparkled. "Do you remember David and Aulius, Ron?"