Title: Forgiving Fictions

Summary: How do you find faith again, after it is broken?

Author's Note: I wrote this story years ago. I think it was in 2005, back when my pen name was Tubesox, back when I still wrote in the HP fandom, back before everything changed for Snape, back before we all found out how it ended. Today, I changed my pen name on this site, and as I read my profile, I realized that there are quite a few of my old HP stories that were archived on other sites and never made it here. So, I'm posting my oldies. Obviously, these stories are dated and should be labeled AU. Just keep in mind, this was before The End. On with the fic!

...OOO...OOO...

The flat was dark when Harry came home, as was to be expected. Severus often had duties outside of the classroom that kept him late at the school, and there were even nights when he'd stay in his old dungeon rooms rather than make the trip home. Granted, it wasn't a very long trip, taking only as long as a walk to the edge of Hogwarts's wards, but lately Harry had been spending more and more nights alone. So what did it matter if he didn't come back until the early morning hours?

"Have a nice night out?" came a voice from the darkness. By the time Harry had gasped and cursed and fumbled for his wand, Severus had turned on the lamp beside his chair, throwing a stark light on his rather cold face.

"Bit dramatic even for you, isn't it?" Harry laughed uneasily, firmly closing the front door behind him and putting his wand down. It missed the table, and Harry wondered, not for the first time since he started his journey home, just how much he'd had to drink.

"Where have you been?" Severus asked, his tone one that Harry was very familiar with. Severus was in a snit.

"Down the pub," Harry shrugged, toeing off his shoes before crossing the room, patting Severus lightly on the shoulder and walking on into the kitchen for some water.

"You reek of smoke," Severus sneered.

"It's lovely to see you too," Harry muttered, his head buried in the cooler. He knew he'd squirreled away some sweet the other night. "Did you steal my pudding?"

"No."

"Right," Harry sighed. The man would actually have to be there to steal the pudding. Well…not really, but it would sure make it easier. "I didn't think you were coming home tonight."

"Obviously," Severus called from their bedroom.

"What, am I supposed to sit here all night, hoping you'll come back?" Harry shot back, knowing that starting a fight at three in the morning would get them nowhere, but this had been going on for months. Severus would spend less and less time with him at home, and then he'd come back and act like he was the injured party. But what worried Harry more these last few weeks were the less-than-subtle insinuations that Severus was making, implying that Harry was being unfaithful. It was as if the bloody man had forgotten all they'd gone through to get to this point in their relationship. Hogwarts. The war. Opinionated friends. House rivalries. Inherent differences. It had been a long, hard road, these four years since Harry killed Voldemort and ended the war, these four years since he'd finished his schooling and convinced Severus that he was wanted. How could the man think he'd throw it away for some quick fuck?

"I'd expect you to at least tell me where you are," Severus answered stiffly.

"I told you, I was at the pub," Harry answered, giving up on his search for sugar and going into the bedroom. "Don't you believe me?"

"Turn the light off, Potter," Severus answered. "Some of us have to work in the morning."

Normally, Harry would have taken the bait, but he knew that if he opened his mouth this time, he'd say something that would have them fighting for days, and he was just too tired for that. And he hated that part of him was questioning if it was even worth it. So Harry turned off the light, and felt his way to the bathroom to take a long, scalding shower. As he slowly undressed, wincing at the bruises and strained muscles common to Quidditch practice, Harry looked around the bathroom. It had always made him happy, seeing all of Severus's things mingling with his, but lately he'd been noticing that his lover's things were slowly disappearing. A book here, a shirt or two there. It was as if the man was gradually moving back into Hogwarts. Depressing as it was, Harry couldn't help a strained, sobbing laugh when he stepped under the showerhead and saw that Severus's monogrammed washcloth was gone. "Greasy bastard," Harry whispered.

...OOO...OOO...

Harry woke up alone. The sun was pouring through the window, and he guessed it was nearing afternoon. Severus was being honest with that crack that Harry didn't have to work in the morning, but it still hurt his pride whenever the man acted like he was some shiftless lay about. After all, professional Quidditch was hard work, and personally rewarding, no matter what Severus said. Harry knew there were probably more world-changing things he could be doing, but he thought he'd done enough. And Quidditch was fun. And it was something Ron would have wanted. So what was so wrong with that?

Deciding not to linger on the issue anymore, Harry rolled out of bed and hobbled into the kitchen. He always hoped for a note from Severus, but as usual there was none. In their better days, Severus would Owl him mid-morning, just to say hello, or maybe to send Harry one of his favorite pastries from the Hogwarts kitchen. "Just a slump," Harry sighed to himself as he fixed his morning tea. He wondered if Severus would come home tonight. Maybe he'd fix them a nice dinner, something romantic. Candlelight and all that crap. And then they could talk.

...OOO...OOO...

Hours later, Harry was sitting alone at the table, scratching at the drying pool of wax with his fingernails. Nine o'clock. He was pretty sure Severus wasn't coming home. Blowing out the candles, Harry rose to clear the table, wincing at the sharp pain in his thighs. Severus would probably yell at him for it, but Harry decided to head over to the school. Just for a potion. It's not like I can expect anything else, Harry thought to himself bitterly.

It was a cold night, having snowed earlier that day, the first snowfall of winter. The school looked dead, save for all the lights burning in the windows. Harry had open access to the castle, having so many friends on staff, so there was no great welcoming party to greet him at the front doors. He considered going to the kitchens first, just to warm up, but instead headed straight for the cold of Severus's old rooms.

"Severus?" he asked, knocking softly on the door. There was no answer. After five minutes of knocking, Harry turned around and headed for the Potions lab, which was also empty. He would have gone to the Headmaster's office next, if hadn't run into the man on the walk.

"Harry!" Albus Dumbledore greeted warmly. The headmaster was showing his age more and more each day, but his smile and eyes were as young as Harry could remember them as he beamed at his former charge. They hadn't seen each other since Harry's birthday party.

"Headmaster," Harry greeted, shaking the man's hand, only to be pulled into a hug.

"What brings you to the school?" Albus asked.

"I was hoping to get a potion from Severus," Harry answered.

"Severus?" Albus frowned, releasing his hold on Harry. "Isn't he at home?"

"No. I figured he was just going to spend the night in his old quarters again," Harry answered, not liking the sinking feeling in his stomach as he watched the headmaster's face.

"Again? But Harry, Severus hasn't spent the night in this castle since you two set up house."

The few moments of silence before Harry's quiet answer of "Oh" were spent tallying up the nights he'd spent alone this year. Damn near fifty.

"Harry?" Albus asked, and Harry was sure he'd been calling him for some time.

"Yes?"

"I asked, have you two fought?"

"Oh. Oh, no, no. No, I just thought he'd said he was going to be working late tonight and that he might stay over. You know, so as not to wake me," Harry answered quickly. He wasn't sure why he bothered lying to the man any more, but part of him couldn't admit to the possibility, or probability, that Severus was sleeping with someone else all those nights.

"Maybe you just missed him," Albus offered gently. "Why don't you go home? I'd wager he's there waiting for you, wondering where you are."

"Yeah. Probably. Goodnight, Headmaster."

"Goodnight, Harry."

...OOO...OOO...

Harry didn't go home immediately. He couldn't bear the thought of sleeping there alone, knowing that Severus was with someone else. And he couldn't bear the thought that Severus was off somewhere, sleeping alone himself. So Harry did what he normally did when faced with a cold bed and a cold house and a cold relationship. He got pissed at the nearest pub. He drank until he'd spent all his cash, he tried to push himself into a fight, and, failing that, he stumbled home near sunrise. Of course, Severus was there, waiting. Accusing.

"Where the fuck have you been?" he snarled, eyes calling Harry pathetic as he fumbled with his shoelaces and the button to his pants as he stood in the doorway.

"Getting drunk," Harry giggled, giving up on the laces and just kicking his trainers off, aiming for Severus. Of course, seeing double, he was way off the mark.

"You're pathetic," Severus sneered, getting up and storming into the bedroom.

"Ah, come on Severus," Harry whined. "It's a special occasion."

"What's so special about it?" Severus countered, coming back into the main room to help Harry out of his shirt. He'd bought that shirt for him and he'd be damned to see it ruined by clumsy hands or a weak stomach.

Harry had a silly smile on his face as he watched Severus's fingers unbutton his shirt. God but did he miss those fingers. Suddenly, he forgot why he'd tried to drink himself into a stupor in the first place.

"I want you," he shamelessly purred, laying his flushed face on Severus's chest. His sober side screamed at him to see if his lover smelled any different, to look for stray hairs, or to just run away, but that sober side was overruled by hormones and Severus's deep voice rumbling in his ears.

"I'm not surprised," Severus answered smugly. Harry told himself there was some tenderness there. And really, there might have been.

"You up for it?" Harry asked, though his hands were already burrowing their way into Severus's pants.

"Merlin, you're hands are freezing!" Severus hissed, but he didn't stop Harry from pulling out his cock, and he certainly didn't stop him from warming him up with his hot mouth.

Harry's knees were aching as he knelt there before Severus. And his thighs were burning, and then he remembered why they were still sore. Because Severus hadn't been where he was supposed to be. How did this happen to us? Harry asked himself, wishing to God that Severus would hurry up and come so Harry could go throw up and have a good cry. He tried not to imagine the places where this cock in his mouth had been.

Severus came with a moan. He used to call Harry's name. As Harry stood and hurried to the bathroom, he couldn't keep one thing out of his head. Severus didn't cry his name anymore because another name was on his mind.

Twenty minutes later, Harry was still crying in the bathroom when Severus knocked on the door.

"Be out in a minute," Harry called, rubbing furiously at his eyes.

"Are you alright?" Severus asked through the door.

"Are you sleeping with someone else?"

Harry hadn't meant to ask that. He was fairly sure he didn't even want to know the answer, but it was out there now, and they were having this conversation with a door between them. Harry didn't know how these things were supposed to go, but he was pretty sure this wasn't the way.

"Yes."

This wasn't the way it was supposed to happen.

...OOO...OOO...

Harry woke up alone. Naturally. Last night, he'd locked himself in the bathroom, refusing to come out and speak to Severus "reasonably". The man hadn't bothered to make any excuses, or even any apologies, especially to a bathroom door. Harry was sure Severus had left their home soon after, but still he'd spent the night curled up in the tub in a nest of towels, talking himself into a melodramatic fit, imagining gruesome scenarios of suicide and regret. Like him slitting his wrists and Severus walking in to find that Harry had bled to death. All over his favorite dressing gown, too. Or he could overdose on one of the many sleeping and pain potions in the medicine cabinet, a real sting to a Potions Master. Bastard might as well have killed me himself, Harry thought meanly. In the end, he didn't try to take his life. He just tried not to think about it. Of course it didn't work.

If he'd been sore last night, Harry was the walking dead that morning. Unfortunately, he'd have to play through it, with practice in an hour. Harry cleared the tub, took a shower, tried to think of nothing as he took care of an erection that remembered long fingers and a too-brief blowjob. Severus was gone when Harry finally unlocked the door. No note. Harry hated himself for feeling so deliriously happy when he saw that Severus hadn't moved out his things. Harry hated himself for feeling guilty for shutting the greasy bastard out last night. Harry was so busy hating himself all morning during practice that he didn't notice the Bludger aimed at his head until it was too late. The last thing he thought before it made contact was, "Thank God."

...OOO...OOO...

"He'll be fine, Severus," Albus Dumbledore whispered.

"Thirty feet."

"He'll wake soon and will be fine."

Severus stared at Harry's face. At the bloody gauze on his brow. At the hollows beneath his eyes. "We have no idea what this has done to him," Severus whispered.

...OOO...OOO...

Severus had never thought they'd have a real relationship. The attraction between them was impossible to ignore, that last year of the war, but both had refused to act on it until their futures were a bit more certain. That caution alone should have warned Severus that this would be no mere fling, for either of them, but their first night together had been just as rushed and lustful and quiet as any one-night stand he'd had before. Severus had never thought that he'd ever want a real relationship. Especially with an eighteen-year-old hero. A Quidditch player for Christ's sake. But one night became weeks, months, and suddenly, they were living together and talking about forever. And Severus had to admit that he'd enjoyed it, and found comfort in it. It was a novel approach for him, commitment. His life up until then was divided into so many roles that he'd never bothered to build a life with anyone. Of course, his position in life, and his very nature, put a limit on the number of lovers he'd had, and three years into his relationship with Harry, Severus had started feeling restless. He had this freedom, since the end of the war, that hadn't been available to him since he was a teenager. Going out with Harry, seeing his young friends fall in and out of love and into each other's beds, Severus couldn't help but think of a life wasted in near-celibacy. But it wasn't just sex, Severus told himself over and over again. Harry was a young man, and always more than willing to indulge in carnal pursuits. Severus told himself that it was Harry himself. He was young, and they had so few things in common. He felt terrible, sick at heart and stomach, the morning after he first cheated on Harry. But Jasper was his age, and they could talk about things, and…well, Severus felt terrible the first ten times he spent the night with Jasper instead of Harry, but then, he stopped thinking of why what he was doing was cruel. Soon enough, Jasper was gone and other men took his place, but Harry never thought to doubt him. And somehow, Severus twisted that trust into indifference, and he began to hate Harry for it. So when his young lover started staying out nights, drinking and fighting too much, destroying himself with it, Severus half hoped that he'd found him out. He still loved Harry. It was hard not to. He still wanted to be with him, to live with him. To come home to him. He just didn't know how, now. He never imagined it would be like this, with Harry in a hospital bed. But he always knew that he'd be the bastard in the end.

...OOO...OOO...

Harry woke up alone, except for the bitch of a headache. Squinting at the bright hospital lights, Harry looked at his bedside table. A note. From Severus. "Come home when you're ready. I'll be there," Harry read aloud.

"He's a real romantic," a voice called from the doorway. Remus.

"He tries," Harry smiled softly. It made his face hurt. Other things hurt as well, but it was easier to concentrate on one thing at a time.

"He's been spending his nights here," Remus went on, sitting on the chair beside Harry's bed.

"How many?" Harry asked.

"Three. They kept you under the first two days while they patched you up, and since then you've just been sleeping it off."

"Wow," Harry whispered. "Three days in a row. Should feel honored."

"Harry," Remus began, in that half-serious, half-sorrowful voice that told Harry that Remus thought he was butting in. "Harry, he told me what happened."

"You must think I'm a bloody idiot," Harry croaked, horrified that he was crying in front of this man.

"No. No, you're not an idiot," Remus smiled softly, taking hold of Harry's hand. "Severus is an idiot."

"Don't," Harry warned. Much as he hated it, he was unprepared to let anyone say anything bad about Severus. His lover. That thought just set him off crying harder.

"Harry, I know how this must feel. Trust me, I know. But…things might not be as bad as they seem."

"He's done with me," Harry sniffed.

"Only if you're done with him," Remus answered.

"He told you that?"

"Not in so many words. But I know you. Both of you. If he didn't want to be with you, he wouldn't be. And if you don't want him to leave, I know you're too stubborn to let him go."

"I should just let him though. Shouldn't I?" Harry asked.

"You wouldn't be doing him any favors," Remus smiled, squeezing his hand.

The flat was warmly lit when Remus dropped him off early the next morning. Severus was sitting in his usual chair, looking like a man in his home. Harry hadn't seen their flat as a home in so long, but it took this moment to notice the change.

"How are you feeling?" Severus asked him. He looked tightly wound, as if he wanted to leap to his feet, maybe even hold him, but was determined to stay seated. Or maybe he wanted to flee from the scene.

"Like shit," Harry answered, toeing off his shoes and sitting on the sofa opposite Severus.

"Your head still hurt?" Severus frowned. "I can – ,"

"No," Harry answered, even though it did. "It's just…I've only ever loved you. So…I'm kind of fucked."

"I'm sorry," Severus said.

"Are you leaving me?" Harry asked.

"Not unless I have to."

"I don't know what that means!" Harry shouted, regretting it immediately when a sharp pain came to his head.

"It means I love you," Severus answered calmly. "It means it won't happen again. It means I'll do whatever it takes to earn your forgiveness and your trust. And your love, if I've lost that as well."

"You haven't," Harry whispered.

"Give it a few days. You've been in a drug-induced coma."

...OOO...OOO...

This is a sex scene, Harry kept thinking. Because it didn't feel real. It felt like a performance of love, a parody of it, maybe even a puppet show, but that was too fun and light and innocent, and Harry kept thinking, This is a sex scene, like a fucking porno. Technically superb. Lover A, the older, more experienced alpha male, fucking the life out of his pretty boy. Clinical. No words, no longing gazes, no pleas for more, for relief, for respite. Hard hands on hard hips, directing Harry to move with him, because he needed to be reminded that he was with him. A low groan, a biological reaction to stimulus. Desperate not to be there, Harry kissed Severus. Too hard, and there was blood, and shock, and distance. Severus looked at him, torn between trying too hard and giving up, but for a moment they remembered who they were, and what they were supposed to be to each other, and that, and hands that knew what was needed from four years of trial and error, were enough to make them come.

Harry was winded and too warm with Severus draped over him, and was about to push him off when he felt the older man trembling.

"Severus?" he asked, trained to be worried at displays of extreme emotions from this man. This man who was crying, he just realized.

"I thought I'd lost you," Severus whispered thickly against the back of Harry's neck. Harry thought about that last bar fight where a Muggle had pulled a knife. He thought about the hours he'd spent in the bathtub staring at suicide. He thought about falling from the sky. He thought about hard kisses and a stranger's lips. He thought about Severus spending nights and nights away with some other man.

"Shh, shh," Harry said, not able to make himself say that he was here, that everything would be ok. At that moment, he only wanted Severus to get the fuck off him, because he hurt. Because he couldn't breathe.

...OOO...OOO...

"The salad is very good."

"Thank you."

"And the lamb, it's excellent."

"I'm glad you like it."

It was ridiculous, but more than that, it was painful. Ever since the fall, Severus had been coming home at six on the nose. He'd say hello, ask Harry how his day had gone, ask him if he needed any muscle relaxants for Quidditch injuries, and then he'd sit grading essays in silence until the meal was served, unless it was his turn to cook. And then, it was all talk like this. Food talk. Like they were dead, or strangers, or perpetually hungry. It was driving Harry insane, and he knew Severus must be feeling the same way, if the bulging vein at his temple was anything to go by.

After two weeks of this, Harry had had enough.

"I think we should see other people," he blurted out between bites of excellent lamb.

"Excuse me?" Severus asked very evenly. Dangerously. The tone alone convinced Harry this was a great idea. Even if he didn't want to see anyone other than Severus.

"Well, you don't have to. But I think I should see other people," Harry clarified, already trying to build his enthusiasm by making a mental list of the advantages, number one being that it would piss Severus off. Of course, it might be nice to sleep with someone else, bring his total of lovers to two. But mainly, he wanted to piss Severus off. He knew that, if he sat and reflected on this, he'd realize that it was an idiotic, even cruel, motive, and a sure sign of his immaturity. Which is why he didn't think about it.

"And you think this would be good for us…why?"

Silky, smarmy bastard, Harry thought to himself.

"Well, it'll give me a bit more experience, won't it? Isn't that something you were missing? Experience?" Harry asked meanly.

"Harry, you don't have to – ,"

"I know I don't have to. Maybe I want to! Maybe I want to fuck someone else! Have someone else's dick inside me, in my mouth, coming all over me. Have you think about that every time you look at me! Sounds like fun!" Harry growled.

"Do as you wish," Severus answered calmly, before wiping his mouth and leaving the room.

Ridiculous. Painful.

...OOO...OOO...

"One more?" the man asked him.

"Keep 'em coming," Harry mumbled, downing his shot before swiveling his chair for a view of the room. He'd been coming to this sex club for weeks now, and it was well beyond the point of being tedious. Well, it wasn't exactly a sex club. It was a gay bar with a few private rooms upstairs, available for…whatever. Harry hadn't been, and only imagined what went on up there. When he was drunk enough that his mind strayed from the lover he had at home, brooding, waiting for him.

When he'd started this experiment, once his temper had cooled a few degrees, Harry had thought he'd spend his nights visiting old friends, old bars. Catching up on Muggle cinema. Staying out of trouble. It worked for two days, and then he noticed a certain black cloud following him around. That was when Harry searched the back pages of the Daily Prophet for an ad for the most tasteless club out there, and since then he'd been spending his nights at the bar of the Leaking Wand, half-heartedly flirting with the bartenders whenever he felt eyes on him. If Severus was still spying on him, he was doing it less obviously these days, and Harry, determined not to crack, and determined to keep drinking until his liver gave out and put him out of his misery, kept staying out all night. Some mornings, he'd get in just before Severus left for work, a subtle bruising charm on his lips, a silly grin on his face, or guilty smile if he felt that was the way to go. He'd stay at home all weekend, if only to remind himself what he was trying to fight for. Or rather, who he was trying to forget with all the drink. Come Monday, he was back at the bar. Again. Because Severus never looked mad, or hurt, or like he cared at all.

"How come you never dance?" the man asked him. Harry made it a point never to catch people's names.

"My boyfriend wouldn't approve," Harry slurred, motioning for another drink. Part of him wondered if his team had noticed his new habit. He swore his pores oozed scotch some days. Maybe he could blame his wobbly flying on the old head injury.

"But he's not here, is he?" the man grinned.

"Course not," Harry snorted. "I wouldn't be doing this if he were."

Harry completely agreed with the man's confusion.

"Well mate, I'm not an expert on relationships or anything, but you've been coming here almost a month now. That's a lot of nights alone."

"Yeah, well, he left me alone for almost fifty nights, so this is payback, isn't it?" Harry snarled.

"Oh. That, is it?" the man smirked.

"Yeah, what would you know?" Harry always did get a bit belligerent after the fifth drink.

"Nothing about nothing. Only that it doesn't seem to be working, does it?"

"What?" Harry asked.

"Revenge."

"It's not revenge," Harry snorted. "Either I forgive him, or I make him leave me. And as I see it, staying away all night drinking is the only way it'll get done." With that, he left a few galleons on the bar and headed outside.

The Leaking Wand (and Harry couldn't help but giggle every time he thought of that name) was in a darkened side street in Muggle Chester. The sky was turning a lighter blue when Harry stepped outside. Not quite dawn, but daylight wasn't far off. Harry stomped his feet a couple of times, trying to warm up and wake up at the same time. He roughly ran his hands over his face for a few minutes, before heading for the city walls, hoping the walk would sober him up enough to make him fit for Apparating. He'd only gone a few paces away when a hand grabbed his arm and he was dragged into an alley and pushed against the wall, his nose close to breaking on impact.

"Where you going, pretty?" a moist voice hissed in his ear. Harry panicked and jerked his head back as hard as he could, smacking hard against his attacker's forehead. The man stumbled back, cursing, but before Harry even had the chance to turn around and either fight or run, he was pushed against the wall again, harder. He decided to run the risk of inquiry and tried to find the focus to Apparate, but the sound of a zipper being undone made him lose all hope of concentration, and he just started struggling like a trapped animal, using all his strength to push away from the wall and get away. But his attacker was a large man, and probably less drunk than he, and soon Harry was on the ground, curling into a ball and clutching his stomach, trying to breathe, to not throw up after having been hit so very hard. Perhaps deciding that Harry was next to useless, the man didn't rape him. He only bent over, ripped Harry's jacket and shirt open, exposing his stomach to the cold, and wanked on him, silently coming all over him before leaving him there.

Harry wasn't sure how long he sat there crying and retching in the alley, but the sky was a beautiful pink when he finally stood up and Apparated home. He needed home. He needed Severus.

"You bastard," Severus hissed at him when he walked through the door.

"What?" Harry asked, dazed. His limbs were itching from the sudden heat of the flat, and he was so tired. So very tired.

"I'd ask you to at least clean yourself up before coming into this house," Severus snapped, before storming out of the flat.

Harry stared at the empty space for a few moments, before looking down, seeing the semen drying on his chest, and running to the loo to be sick and take an hour long bath.

...OOO...OOO...

The flat was empty when Severus came home. Really empty. Harry was gone. Harry's things were gone. The only thing left was a bowl on the table, and a very short note.

"I can't do this anymore," Severus read aloud. The bowl was filled with silver light. Severus didn't know if he had the strength to watch. He'd tortured himself enough these past weeks, imagining his Harry with countless men. Cruel men, if this morning's show was anything to go by. But still, this was what he had left of Harry, and no matter how much it would hurt, he needed to see him again. Even now, even after seeing his love ravished by another lover, even after finally being left behind, Severus needed Harry. So of course he looked.

...OOO...OOO...

Miles away, Remus was making up his sofa for Harry.

"What did you leave him?" he asked.

"Just last night," Harry answered, warming his cup of coffee. "Penseive," he clarified.

"Oh. Anything painful?" Remus asked. He'd told Harry that this 'seeing other people' business would only end nastily, but as he'd said, Harry was a stubborn man.

"Yes," Harry whispered.

"Harry?"

"He'll never forgive me, Remus," Harry sobbed. "Never."

"Harry, whatever you - ,"

"No, it's done," Harry croaked. "It's done. Thanks for letting me stay."

"Of course," Remus smiled.

"I quit the team."

"Are you sure that's what you want?" Remus frowned.

"You disappointed?" Harry asked softly.

"Never."

"Well, it's what I want. Need a break."

"Well, get some sleep. I'll see you tomorrow evening, when school's over."

...OOO...OOO...

"Is he…how is he?" Severus quietly asked Remus the next morning in Hogwarts' staffroom.

"He's fine, Severus. Upset, naturally. I don't want to break any confidences, but this whole thing is just…well, he thinks you'll never forgive him," Remus sighed.

"Forgive him?" Severus frowned.

"Look Severus, I don't know exactly what Harry did last night, but you have to admit that, while two wrongs don't make a right, you had a little punishment coming your way this time."

"He didn't tell you?" Severus asked.

"I got the impression that he was a bit…embarrassed, if not ashamed, by what he did," Remus admitted.

"He didn't do anything!" Severus barked.

"That's the spirit," Remus smiled. "Now if you just tell - ,"

"I don't think you're understanding me," Severus interrupted. "I can't forgive him because there is nothing to forgive. Harry didn't cheat on me. He was almost raped last night!"

"Raped?" Remus gasped. "But…he -,"

"He obviously thinks it's his fault," Severus muttered, more to himself. "Because it was his choice to be there, and to get drunk, but this bastard had him against a wall, and he hurt him, and…count yourself lucky, Lupin, that you didn't see what I saw."

"Christ."

"Yes. What do I do?"

"Talk to him?" Remus asked.

"Brilliant," Severus snarled.

"Ask Albus?" Remus smiled.

"Will you be serious?"

"Honestly, Severus, my first thought was to track down the bastard and kill him, so I'm trying to steer my mind in a less barbaric direction," Remus sighed.

"I need to do something. What does he need?"

"I think all he's ever needed is you loving him."

"But I do! I tell him all the time!"

"Show him."

"How?"

"That, my friend, has to be up to you."

...OOO...OOO...

Harry looked up from his book when he heard the owl tapping at his window. A Hogwarts owl. He cursed the part of himself that was still hoping to hear from Severus, ten days after that horrible night. Or morning. But the man hadn't tried to contact him yet, and Harry had to accept, every day, that it was over. That he'd ended it.

He let the owl in and untied the roll of parchment from its leg. Breaking the generic seal, all he saw was a blank piece of parchment. He was just about to throw it into the trash when he felt a tug at his navel, and disappeared.

...OOO...OOO...

"What the hell?" he gasped when he landed.

"I wanted to be sure you came," Severus answered from behind him. Harry turned around, shielding his eyes from the sun, wishing he could see Severus's face more clearly, wishing that this didn't feel like a last time thing.

"Impressive, that," Harry whispered.

"I portkeyed a couple of owls here before I finally got the timing right," Severus shrugged awkwardly, perhaps because his body was unaccustomed to shrugging.

"If you'd asked me to meet, I would have come," Harry said to the ground, finding that looking straight ahead was too painful, in many ways.

"I'm glad for that, but I had to be sure."

"Why?"

"Because I need to speak with you, and you need to hear what I have to say, and I just…I needed to see you. To make sure you're ok. Are you?"

"I'm fine," Harry answered.

"Are you really?" Severus asked again, and he made to move towards Harry, to touch him, but he held back, and doing so was painful for both of them.

"You think I'm disgusting?" Harry asked hoarsely.

"I think you're the most beautiful person I've ever known," Severus answered, voice rough from unshed tears.

"Then it's ok if you hold me," Harry said, and before he could blink, Severus's arms were wrapped around him. Harry held on tighter, breathed Severus in, that clean soap smell, that warm spice smell, the soft skin of Severus's throat pressed against his brow. God but did he miss this.

"Why am I here, Severus?" Harry asked.

"I want you to come home, Harry," Severus answered, his voice vibrating all throughout Harry as they still held on to each other, holding on for dear life. "I want to be home to you. I want us to be a family. I…I love you more than I can say, and less than you deserve, but if you'll have me, and forgive me, I'll spend my life loving you the best I can."

"Will it be enough?" The unasked question was, Will I be enough?

"Yes. Yes, Harry."

"Then yes."

"Thank god," Severus gasped, burying his face against Harry's shoulder. They stood there for long minutes, holding on too tightly, breathing too hard, but afraid to let go too soon. Letting go of the good things too soon was something they were both guilty of.

"Where are we, anyway?" Harry asked when they finally untangled themselves.

"Wales," Severus answered, and Harry swore he saw the man blush.

"Why?"

"My gift," Severus shrugged, vaguely pointing east of them.

"Severus?"

"The house."

"The house?"

"The house, Harry," Severus sighed, still feeling foolish at his desperate extravagance. "That house, stone, garden with potential, nice master bedroom. That house," he clarified, pointing at the house in the distance.

"What about it?" Harry asked.

"I…well, you always talk about a home. A real home, where all our stuff is bunched together. Now, I did keep one of the rooms as a potions lab, but…I put a few pictures of you in there, if that is acceptable."

"You bought me a house?" Harry stammered.

"No. No, I bought us a house. If you don't like it, we can sell it a buy another one. But you said you wanted a nice garden, and something old (other than me), and…I thought you'd like it."

Yes, Severus was blushing.

"I love you," Harry grinned.

"Yes, yes, but what about the house?" Severus sighed.

"I love it! But I love you more."

"I'm not surprised," Severus answered, but his fierce kiss that followed showed that he was relieved. And grateful. And home.