ICLYLM chapter 39: "Of golden sands and crystal brooks..."

A/N: The final chapter is dedicated to Raven (who let me borrow the Barneses) and repeat reviewers... I looked forward to seeing your reviews after each new chapter. It was like hearing from old friends: Arcane (read it in one go and reviewed every chapter),Allosia, Anla'shov, Ayod Botla, bdwrm, Caius Julius, Debbi, Elanor, Kazza, Leandra, loPotter, Mop Head (and her Daemon), Princess Mordor, Rockchick, Skyfire, Troy

Severus and Phoebe both recovered remarkably quickly after "Snuffles" left. Despite this, both insisted (with sly smiles) it would likely take the rest of the term for them to recover completely. After about a week, Dumbledore had their beds moved to two smaller rooms adjoining the one they had been in, which was likely intended as the main sitting room. He furnished the whole suite fairly modestly but rather comfortably. Severus kept Dobby busy smuggling books up from his office and rooms below.

Phoebe's office and rooms had been packed up and "stored" in the event a next of kin could be found. Actually, they had been moved to the smallest room of the suite (rather more like an over-large broom cupboard) When she was feeling better she could go through them and decide what she might keep.

With a rather broad wink Jeffrey Barnes promised to continue to describe their health as "precarious." Still, being in different rooms had both Severus and Phoebe on their feet rather sooner than intended.

On their first night in "private" rooms Severus woke some time during the "wee small hours" not knowing what had caused him to wake. After a moment or re-orienting himself (Where was he now?) he looked around and saw her.

Phoebe was standing in the doorway with her arms wrapped tightly about herself. As his eyes adjusted, and he saw it was her and not his imagination, he noticed she was biting her lip and there was a hesitant tension in her frame. He pushed himself up and her eyes flew to his face, wide, and a bit frightened.

"Phoebe," he said softly opening his arms. There was a moment's pause and then she moved to him quickly. He threw the covers aside and Phoebe climbed in, sighing as his arms encircled her.

"What's wrong?" he murmured

"Bad Dream" she said shortly, and her body shuddered at the memory. Severus began to stroke her back gently, surprised and pleased he knew what to do, afraid to ask the next question.

"What was it about?" he asked gently

Again she shuddered and shook her head, burying it in his chest. Severus shifted and pulled her to him so that she was curled in his lap being held and sheltered in the way he had longed to do for some time.

He laid his cheek on the top of her head and whispered, "Please tell me."

She trembled and drew a shuddering breath. He thought she was going to speak but then she buried her head in his chest again and soon warm tears were soaking through his nightshirt. He rocked and crooned and soothed her, a few tears falling from his own eyes in the process. It broke his heart but he was intensely glad, somehow, that he could be the one to comfort Phoebe. After a time the tears slowed and stopped and Phoebe hunched into herself a bit, her hands moving over one another compulsively. Another ragged breath.

Then, leaning into him but not looking at him she began to speak.

"I, I was dreaming about that night again" she eked out feeling Severus hand's moving in comforting circles. "I, it, oh gods, it was so awful, Severus. I thought I might die, and I wanted to, I wanted to. I couldn't move, they had Wormtail use magic to bind me."

Severus' jaw worked in anger, no rage, but he concentrated on keeping his grip on Phoebe firm but gentle.

"He watched the whole thing," she whispered, voice filled with disgust and shame. "Malfoy tried so hard to hurt me-" her voice trailed off as tears, again, began to slide from her eyes. But she couldn't stop now. She had to say it, she had to speak and rid herself of this one last toxin poisoning her system. She began again in a tight voice, "he never- finished - inside me and I didn't understand that at first but then," A sob escaped her and Severus began to rock and soothe her again for a few moments.

"Phoebe, it's alright now. I'm here." He whispered, "It's okay, tell me, love... let it out, let it go."

Phoebe's voice was muffled as she continued. She had turned her head into Severus' chest and was now clutching handfuls of his nightshirt and probably some bedclothes as well.

"He was just getting me ready. For that foul.. for, for... him. I can't, I couldn't, I feel so foul, and disgusting." Severus rocked her again.

"I am so sorry, love, so sorry. I won't let them hurt you again. I'm here. I love you."

"Still?" Phoebe asked in a small uncertain voice.

"What?" Severus replied, surprised.

"How can you now that..." her words trailed off and it took her a long time to eke out the rest, "Now you, know... you know how... foul I am?"

"You? Earth and Elements! You are not foul! Those hideous monstrosities masquerading as human creatures are. You have nothing of which to be ashamed. They do!" the words tumbled out with such force behind them that Phoebe flinched without meaning to. Severus gathered her back to him and spoke more softly, "How can I not still love you? You are..." he trailed off as words failed him. Finally, he just said, "You are YOU. You are my love" and kissed her gently as more tears flowed ...hers were of gratitude and relief, his of anger and sorrow.

After a time Phoebe thought she had no tears left in her. With another breath she asked,

"Will it always feel this awful?"

Severus shifted her slightly and put his hand under her chin and tipped her face up so she could see his face. He looked at her quite intently and finally said, "No. It does get better. Trust me." And Phoebe cried again, recognizing what she saw in his dark eyes and realizing that she shared more than love with this man. She wished with all her heart she did not.

He kissed her softly and gently wiped some tears from her cheeks with his hand. She looked at him with love and he felt her hand brush lightly against the tears on his own face. Eventually They feel asleep clinging to one another.

That was how Jeffrey found them in the morning. Fast asleep clutching one another, faces streaked with the salty trails left from tears. The scene was both sad and sweet. It seemed they might be working through some of their recent experiences together and he was glad. He, himself, hadn't refused his father's offer to sit by his bed and watch over him on his first few nights back at home.

These two had finally discovered what they should have learned as children about people who love one another. They were finding that people ho love you want to help and support you. It was a lesson learned none too soon. The situation was complicated, to be sure, but he now felt they would be alright, come what may. Plus, he had a little good news for them if his suspicions about their hoped-for plans turned out to be correct. He'd found a cleansing and healing potion that might well reverse some of the damage to Phoebe's reproductive system.

He chuckled softly to himself as he realized that those were also his hoped-for plans for them. He really hoped, someday, that Phoebe would come to him because she was pregnant, and happy about it. And Severus? It would definitely be fun to watch him tackle parenthood. He smiled broadly picturing Severus giving children and family all the love he'd never had a child. It was nice picture.

"What are you giggling about?" a sleepy voice asked from the bed. Severus was looking at him with a brow raised. Phoebe was also regarding him, sleepily.

"Oh, I was just imagining the future... it was a nice vision."

"Predicting the future now, are we?" Severus teased, "Expanding the practice?"

"Well, full-service clinic and all that. Checkups, surgery, tarot..."

Phoebe smiled. "Don't forget therapy."

"I think you two look like you're doing okay on your own. This is miles away from where you were."

Just as he said it, Jeffrey realized the phrase "miles away" might have been a poor choice. Both faces clouded over at these words. He opened his mouth to ask the proper questions, "What are you thinking? What are you feeling?" but shut it right away. He knew. They didn't have to tell him.

"It won't be forever." he said, "and hopefully not for very long each time, anyway."

Phoebe forced a small smile and Severus took a deep breath. Both began to untangle themselves and sit up.

"You're here to do another few scans and dose us again, I suppose?" Severus said heavily, handing Phoebe his dressing gown from the end of the bed.

"Well," Jeffrey allowed, "I do have a potion I need Phoebe to take. I think I'll just leave it though. You can take it and I'll explain it to you another time. As for the scans, another time maybe."

Both patients looked at the healer curiously. His manner was, strange. He seemed to have something up his sleeve.

"You're giving up an opportunity to nose around our innards?" Phoebe asked, incredulous.

"Well," Jeffrey said pulling a bottle out of his satchel and putting on a dressing cabinet, "I've got to catch the Headmaster first thing and give him my estimation of your prognosis, you know. It's important he know that I'm adamant that both of you must stay right here to rest and recover AT LEAST until the term ends."

Severus tried to give Jeffrey a stern look but the corner of his mouth kept twitching. Phoebe walked over and gave him a soft kiss on the cheek.

"Thank You." she said.

"Oh, I wouldn't thank me just yet," Jeffrey said heading for the door as he spoke. Just before moving out of sight he turned with a wicked look on his face. "I don't know WHAT the two of you will be able to think of to DO to fill that time. Do you?" With that he had scurried off, his light chuckles echoing behind him.

Phoebe picked up the potion bottle, uncorked it and took a sniff. "There are no directions so I suppose I just take it straight?"

"I suppose," Severus said carelessly as he fished in the wardrobe for another dressing gown.

Phoebe sighed and tipped the potion back taking the lot in one swallow. Severus' eyebrow rose sharply.

"I had no idea you could toss stuff back with such... uh... skill." He said, teasing.

"A product of my first exile in the Muggle Universities, I'm afraid. The variety of ways I could teach you to consume alcohol would astound you, my dear."

"Well, I suppose we could put that on the list of activities to keep ourselves from getting bored," he said in a deliberately off-hand fashion.

"You don't suppose that's why he beat such a hasty retreat do you?" Phoebe asked.

"It may well have been," Severus laughed. "Come on, let's give Dobby a treat and try out the dining area, shall we?"

The house elf was only too happy to serve them a bountiful formal breakfast. Neither Severus or Phoebe felt like eating much but they tried to taste as many things as they could to please the elf. Afterward both parted to do their morning toilet and soon both were curled up together on the couch, reading.

Toward the end of the morning Phoebe shut her book and tossed it to the floor. Severus looked up over the top of his book, "All right?" he asked.

"Um, rather I think," Phoebe said squirming around so that she was lying atop him and they were face to face. Severus tossed his own book to the floor.

"Yes?" he asked.

"You don't suppose that potion Jeffrey left me was an aphrodisiac, do you?" Phoebe asked with a glint in her eye.

"Um, ah, Don't know." Severus managed before Phoebe tipped her head and kissed him.

Severus closed his eyes and returned the kiss savoring both the physical and emotional sensations of the closeness. Things were just beginning to escalate when he suddenly pulled back, horror struck at his own insensitivity.

"Merlin, Ptolmey," he gasped, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I shouldn't. You..."

Phoebe was confused for a moment when suddenly the pieces dropped together. She reached out a gentle hand and clasped his shoulder.

"I want you to be close to me," she said blushing slightly, "As close as you can be. I want to know ...the joy of having that with someone I love. With you. Can you, will you do that for me?"

"I don't want to hurt you," Severus said, uncertainty colouring his voice.

"You won't." she said and smiled shyly, "Please?"

Phoebe's heart dropped as Severus shifted her, stood, and moved toward the entrance. He paused and fumbled in his robes for a moment before fining his wand and aiming it at the place where the Unicorn sculpture stood guard. Turning back he smiled gently.

"Just a little locking charm," He said sheepishly. "It's one that I'm pretty sure Albus doesn't know." he added with a very sly smile. He put the wand back into his robes and regarded the maddening, wonderful, lovable person in front of him. What was it Albus had said about love? 'It just happens.' It did, indeed.

He extended his arm and held his hand out to her once again. As she rose and took his hand he drew her to him and laid a gentle hand upon her face, moving it to stroke her hair before bending his head to kiss her. When they broke apart he smiled and quoted the verse that had been tickling his mind all morning,

"Come live with me, and be my love,

And we shall some new pleasures prove

Of golden sands, and crystal brooks..."

He didn't get to the rest.

Later, as he left the castle Jeffrey Barnes wondered if he ought to have explained the potion and its side effects to Phoebe. Well, it WAS a rare side effect. Besides, it took the potion at least two hours to work, if she even took it that morning - which he doubted she would... Honestly, he was turning into a regular mother hen. What were the chances, after all, that they would do anything before he returned that afternoon? No. The aphrodisia was a rare side effect and he was being a worry-wort. Wasn't he?


A/N: Okay, so I'm hooked on cliffhangers. I guess we'll all have to wait and see if the stick turns blue, won't we? Even I don't know yet. If it does I promise I'll let you know (that's what sequels and author alerts are for, I suppose.) I have been informed by a reliable source (not me) that Severus wants two children. Silly man, be careful what you wish for.

I suppose the moral of the final paragraph is that sometimes your inner voice IS trying to tell you something, ...Jeffrey!

Many, many thanks, again, to all the readers and especially ALL the wonderful reviewers (not just the multiple ones)!

For the literary minded: yes there is a connection between Phoebe's being trapped in that room of her subconscious and Severus going in freeing her and their liberating conversation in this chapter. Same problem, same solution: subconscious and conscious.

Finally, one loose thread remains: Severus had hoped if he made it back to Hogwarts promptly the ministry might be able to dispatch some Aurors to the Riddle estate to "uncover" Wormtail and McNair. By the time everything settled down it was too late. Sorry Sirius, he did the best he could.

Thanks again, -Persona non Grata.