Thank you again for all the reviews!

This is the very last part of Inter Vivos. Writing this story has been a tremendous experience; it's the longest story I've written and by far the most full-fledged AU I've done. Thank you to everyone who supported me and the story by reading and reviewing.


There were words being said. Draco didn't care about the words.

There were people moving around them, distant relatives who had felt the obligation to show up for the occasion, reporters held at a respectful distance by wards, and curious onlookers. Draco didn't care about the people.

Harry was by his side, and his mother was being lowered into the ground. That was what he cared about.

Draco felt Harry wrap an arm around his shoulder, and glare at the people who came shuffling up, trying to talk to him. He was aware of a distant gratitude, which he could show only by leaning against Harry and closing his eyes. His tongue was too thick and heavy in his mouth to talk. His eyes burned.

Where are the tears? When he had envisioned his mother dying before, Draco had always pictured tears. But he couldn't weep, any more than he'd been able to when he first saw his mother's body lying motionless on the floor of the Black attic. The shock of her death had burned away the tears. The fire was still there, charring any attempts to come to a reasonable conclusion or respond to the platitudes that people offered him.

Harry protected him. Harry stood by his side and snapped at or gave stiff thanks or offered a glare to the people who came stealing up to them. On the other side of Harry was a wall consisting of his friends and Professor Snape and Harry's Black, but Draco didn't have to be aware of them.

He was glad.

Narcissa's will had decreed that she should be buried in rain. Draco didn't know why. Only now, as he watched the coffin vanish into the heavy earth, turned mud by the steadily pounding storm, of the small private graveyard that the Malfoys had used for centuries, was he coming to realize how little he had known about his mother. She had been an imposing presence in his life, but she had occupied little space in his mind.

Until now, when he knew that he would never see her again.

The coffin had already vanished. The earth descended on it in a light, skimming arc, lifted by the wand of the grey-robed priest Draco had hired to officiate. He was droning some regulation words about rebirth and flowers rising in spring that were killed in autumn. Draco knew that was nonsense. His emotions might come back to life—though, at the moment, it didn't feel like it—but his mother never would.

Is there a bleaker month than November? Every tree Draco could see in the graveyard was black and slender and twisted, its leaves already gone. The graveyard itself was flat and blank beneath the leaden sky. The rain could have been cleansing, but it didn't feel either warm or cold as it fell on Draco's skin; he'd told Harry not to bother with the Impervious Charms he wanted to cast. It felt simply neutral, as if the world didn't care that Narcissa was dead.

It doesn't, Draco reminded himself. You do, and Harry does, and the other people who were there do. But the rest just want a good story. And Father can't care, because he was dead before she was.

The grief for his father that he hadn't really allowed himself to acknowledge mixed with the grief for his mother, and he turned and buried his head in Harry's shoulder as the funeral wore on to a close. Harry wrapped another arm around him and stood there rocking him. Draco stiffened, but Harry didn't seem to care about what the observers would say, so Draco forced himself to relax and not care, either.

I just want it to end, he thought. I want the rain to stop. I want to stop feeling. I want to go to sleep and never wake up.

But then he felt Harry's warm hand on his back, stroking over and over, and he had to realize that even that wasn't true, not really. I want the pain to stop, but I want to roll over and see that Harry is still next to me, too. I can't stop living, because it wouldn't be fair to either of us. Any of us, if you include Mother in that.

She was never reconciled to Harry dating me.

That was the way it would have to be, Draco thought, as the ceremony finally ended and the grey-robed wizard departed, followed by most of the people who'd been staring. He wouldn't get some miraculous rebirth or sudden end to his pain. He would have to wear and muddle through it, and gradually the grief would dull and become a wound that chance circumstances pressed on sometimes.

That's all.

"You must be Draco," said a diffident female voice. "I—I know that your mother probably warned you against me, but she was my sister, and I can't go on thinking that her son hates me. Will you talk to me, at least?"

Draco raised his head, blinking. Harry tightened his embrace, but he'd allowed these people to approach, which meant they weren't reporters. Draco examined them cautiously, his mind so fuzzy that even the clue of one of them being his mother's sister didn't register for long moments.

One of them was older and heavyset, with so many streaks of grey in her hair that Draco wondered why she didn't use glamour charms. Her hair and eyes were dark, so that she looked a lot like Harry's Black. The other was a young woman with shockingly pink hair, which Draco couldn't help thinking was indecent in a graveyard. She wore Auror robes, too, which made Draco look in several directions for other Aurors.

"I am Andromeda Tonks," said the older woman. "I'm Narcissa's older sister." Draco nodded slowly, feeling as though he were moving underwater. Yes, the one who married a Muggleborn. I remember Mother telling me about her. "And this is my daughter, Nymphadora." She gestured to the young woman, who offered Draco a grimace that could have been embarrassed or sympathetic. "I hope—I hope that you'll allow us to know you, and not keep up this separation between our branches of the family that has already gone on too long."

Draco spent a moment studying them instead of answering. He didn't know what his mother would have wanted him to do. There must be a reason that she had never contacted Andromeda again, even though she wasn't mad or a follower of the Dark Lord like Bellatrix.

But Narcissa was dead, and Draco was sure that he would never know the reason, any more than he knew why she had wanted to be buried in the rain.

With a little effort, he found his voice. "I'd like to know you," he said. And that was true as far as he went. He didn't say anything about what his mother would have thought, because he didn't know about his mother. "I—can you speak to me some other time, when I'm not trying to—" He gestured towards the grave, and then shut his eyes and shook his head.

"Of course, dear," Andromeda said at once, and squeezed his arm. "Come along, Nymphadora."

The girl, or woman—Draco thought she was older than he was—muttered under her breath as she followed her mother. She looked back once to smile slightly at Draco and offer a wink. Her hair changed to black, and Draco blinked. She must be a Metamorphmagus.

That one fact, strangely, altered his perception of them. There were relatives out there he didn't know about. There were facts that he could consider whether or not his parents would have considered them.

There were months of his life still to come that would not be spent in grief for his parents, as odd as that seemed to him right now.

Harry suddenly put a hand beneath his chin and turned Draco's face around, so that Draco was looking straight up into his eyes. "Are you all right?" Harry whispered. His own voice was hoarse with weeping, though Draco knew that was more because of him than anything else. Harry had no reason to mourn Narcissa.

Draco looked slowly in several directions, blinking now and then when his eyes encountered another bleak tree. Weasley and Granger were coming slowly towards them, pausing every few steps to watch him with covert anxiety. And that was another thing Narcissa wouldn't have understood, the idea that someone Muggleborn could have any consideration for someone pure-blood.

The necessity to muddle through this wouldn't ease. But for the first time, Draco thought he could muddle through.

"I will be," he told Harry quietly.


"And it is the verdict of the Wizengamot that Sirius Black be cleared of all charges."

Harry shut his eyes and sagged against his chair as the words hit his ears. He'd been granted a seat of honor to watch the proceedings, as Sirius told his story under Veritaserum and gave his Pensieve memories of the day when he'd confronted Pettigrew in a Muggle street. Pettigrew, the coward, had refused to give his own memories, but, luckily, the Wizengamot had decided that didn't matter.

Sirius was free now. He could get better help for the injuries of his that still remained from Voldemort's torture of him. He could walk freely down any street in wizarding England and not be arrested on sight. He had a wider, better life awaiting him.

Harry could feel the intense relief washing him like cool water. His victory over Voldemort would have meant little if people like Sirius were still going to be mistreated and vilified. The Ministry's power structure would have remained in place, unchanged and unchallenged. And probably another Dark Lord could have come along in a few years to take advantage of that.

Instead, Sirius was free, and that gave Harry some hope for the other changes.

He opened his eyes to see Sirius standing in front of him, beaming like a maniac. "We did it!" he crowed, and seized Harry in his arms, swinging him around and around like he was a much younger child. For once, Harry didn't mind that. He laughed and hugged Sirius back, hanging on even when Sirius puffed dramatically and set him on the floor of the courtroom.

"Aren't you glad now that you didn't kill him?" Harry asked, as he wiped something that was surely not a tear out of his eye and smiled up at Sirius.

And just like that, the shadows came back, sliding across Sirius's face and darkening his joy. He turned away to stare at the wall. Harry winced. He might have defeated Voldemort with unusual certainty, but the sureness had left him since then; it seemed that killing someone wasn't enough to make him grow up, no matter how much he wished it were.

"There are some hours I still wish I could have killed him," Sirius whispered. "For James and Lily. They didn't deserve to die like that. You deserved to have them with you." He stroked Harry's hair. "And he made me spend twelve years in Azkaban when I didn't have to."

Another shadow. Harry doubted he would ever understand the full scope of Sirius's suffering, of what he'd had taken away from him.

"But on the whole," Sirius said, with a shake and a straightening of his shoulders, "I'm glad I didn't, yes." He cast a glance at Pettigrew, who was being marched out of the courtroom between two Aurors. His trial for the crime would come later, Harry had heard, but he'd still been required to attend in case he had some defense of himself to offer against Sirius's testimony and memories. He'd had none, and now he walked with his head bent and his feet wavering with shock. "I owe that to you," Sirius went on, pulling Harry's attention back to the conversation in front of him.

"What?" Harry frowned at him. "No, you don't."

"Of course I do." Sirius's voice was soft, and he took Harry's shoulders and gave them a little shake. Harry swallowed. He had to blink hard in the next moment, because he knew that his eyes would do something embarrassing if he gave them the chance. "I wanted to live because of you. I started caring about something other than killing Wormtail because of you. When I came to the school, I knew you were James and Lily's son, but I didn't know you. You were just a symbol to me.

"But you became more than that. You gave me a chance. Sometimes you did things I didn't understand—" Sirius's eyes rolled to the side, to the chairs where Draco and Snape were sitting "—but that hardly matters. After all, that showed you were your own independent person, not a reflection of James.

"You gave me something to live for. And that's the debt I owe you, the debt I'll never be able to repay."

Harry tried to answer, but his words were all choked and his stupid eyes were watering, so in the end, he hugged Sirius again and hoped the words he couldn't speak would be understood. Sirius's hand slowly smoothed up and down his spine. So Harry thought they were.


He should not be here.

But Severus had never been good at resisting temptation in the sense of ignoring it. He must dance up to the line and look thoughtfully at the consequences of his actions before he could be convinced that it was better to do nothing.

In this case, the problem was that all the consequences he could see were favorable, and provided him with no reason not to do what he was contemplating.

Which almost certainly means there is something I am missing.

Severus walked quietly through the neatly tended front garden and tapped his wand against the door. He hardly needed magic to charm open the cheap Muggle locks. He stepped into the house and shut the door behind him, so that no curious neighbor would see it hanging open. He had no intention of bringing himself into conflict with either magical or Muggle authorities.

Number Four, Privet Drive, was a smaller and more ordinary place than he had imagined. He had thought, against all his previous experience, that the very walls would somehow stink of the pain they had witnessed. But, of course, they stood silent, as mute as the walls of his own house had been when his father—

Severus carefully wrapped the memories in thick paper and tucked them away into darkness and silence. Then he began to walk through the house, a charm muffling the sound of his steps, his wand carrying a weak Lumos that he could extinguish at any moment if he heard someone stirring.

There was the cupboard door that led to the "room" where Harry had lain for ten years of his life. Severus put a hand on that door and stood with his eyes shut, counting a hundred breaths. It needed that long to calm the black anger that had risen to the surface of his mind. It was an anger he remembered from conflicts with the Marauders, and he did not want to act that incautiously here.

He stepped away from the cupboard at last and continued his exploration of the kitchen. It was impeccable, the table scrubbed as if Petunia wanted to use it for a mirror rather than a place to eat food from. He opened the icebox and the cabinets and looked in silence at an abundance of food.

All this food, and they could not feed him a few morsels of it.

Again Severus had to pause and freeze his anger before he could go on.

He walked up the stairs, listening intently for the sounds of Muggles. It was a winter midnight, and from what his spying spells had told him, the Dursley family went to bed early on almost all cold nights. But even Muggles sometimes had almost magical ways of detecting intruders in their home. Severus wished to use as little magic as possible to evade them, particularly when normal caution would do.

Until the moment when magic is required.

Harry's room was not hard to locate. Severus had seen enough from his memories to know approximately where it lay in relation to the other bedrooms, and the locks on the door rather gave it away. Severus spent a moment tracing his wand over the locks and imagining the various ways he could disintegrate the metal, which lessened his temptation to burst the door open and scourge the prison clean with fire.

He stepped inside at last, and gazed around.

There were marks of dust and rust where the owl cage had once stood. There was the small and empty bed. There was the barred window that Severus still could not fathom escaping the notice of any halfway competent observer.

And here at last was what he had been almost unconsciously searching for ever since he stepped into the house. The Dursleys must not have cleaned this room since Harry had been resident here; indeed, given the locks on the door, they seemed to have preferred to shut it up and forget it existed, rather like its inhabitant. Severus's nose moved carefully, sniffing out sweat and urine and pain.

Perhaps pain did not have a smell, but Severus had learned a scent rather like it in his years with the Death Eaters. That scent was here.

He held out his wand and whispered an incantation that was unlikely to set off any Ministry alarms. It was a memory spell, calling on the bed and the other furniture to give up their impressions of humans who had lived here. One might well see something upsetting from it, but it was not an upsetting spell in and of itself.

In silence, Severus watched as a wispy shape blew up out of the bed and settled itself into a lying posture, reading an invisible book. Another shape appeared next to the window, and then a third by the owl cage, his hand lifted to pet the bird who no longer lingered there.

The shapes acquired more form and definition as he waited. There was no color—they remained little more than grey copies of the living boy that was, or had been, Harry—but he could see the state of their health from a swift examination.

Every one was too thin. Every one was too small. Harry might have moved on, and would never again live in a situation where he was subjected to such regular and intense starvation, but the consequences of that malnutrition would persist for the rest of his life. He would never be as tall as James had been, would never look like the person he had been destined by his inheritance to be. Severus supposed he should be thankful that the Dursleys had not starved Harry in the same way when he was a young child, or his brain would have been affected.

The notion of being thankful to the Dursleys for anything made him close his eyes and fight nausea for long moments.

When he opened them again, the wispy figures had gone. Severus turned and walked out the door of the bedroom, locking the locks again with a series of quick wand-taps.

Then he stood in the middle of the upper corridor and had to make a decision, one that he would not be tempted to reverse the next day.

He knew that Harry would prefer simply to not think about the Dursleys ever again. He had moved on. He would sigh if Severus asked him about his "family" and say that he didn't wish them well or evil. They were part of his past.

But the effects of what they had done lingered, and if Harry was capable of dismissing that from his mind, Severus was not.

On the other hand, if he moved too openly against the Dursleys, in a way that could be traced back to him, Harry was unlikely to forgive this interference. Severus had spent enough years struggling to gain Harry's trust that he was reluctant to sacrifice it now.

And yet…

Severus opened his eyes and began to move his wand in a series of sinuous passes through the air, whispering the Latin words he had studied before he came here with careful concentration. The incantations included masking spells that would keep his magic from the notice of the Ministry. If he faltered in the pronunciation of any of the words, the masks would fall and the Ministry could sense what he was doing.

The main spell took form as a long black ribbon that billowed through the air and then dived through the walls. It would settle in the foundations of the house and go to sleep like a seed waiting for the proper circumstances to grow and flourish.

Those circumstances would involve behavior like the cruelty the Dursleys had shown to Harry. If they someday had a magical grandchild or relative in their custody and abused him or her again…

Severus smiled slightly and turned to leave the house.

He would not want to die the death the Dursleys would die if that happened.


"Do you want me to come with you, mate?"

Harry smiled and glanced over his shoulder. Ron stood just behind him, eyes wide and concerned. The scars on his chest and arms from the Flaying Curse were still visible, angry red lines that raced and twined past each other. Harry looked at them and lost his smile. He would never forget the part Ron had played in defense of his life, giving him time to get the Horcrux out of his head.

"You're a hero," he said. "You know that, right, Ron?"

Ron blushed. Then he cleared his throat. "Hermione might have said something like that once," he muttered.

"You are." Harry walked back to him and put his hands on Ron's shoulders, holding him tight. "About everything. The way that you accepted my friendship with Draco and Snape helping me, the way that you kept me sane when I was trying to go mad, how you stayed here and researched the Horcruxes and the basilisk venom with Hermione when you didn't have to, and then the way that you went up against Voldemort himself."

Ron reached out and put a hand on Harry's shoulder, too. He shook his head and tried to say something, but whatever it was died before it left his mouth. His eyes were too bright.

"For right now," Harry whispered, "you've done enough. I don't think that anyone but me can really go through with this. And it might not be fair to him if I brought company. I don't think he has anyone standing with him as moral support."

"Who would?" Ron muttered, but he clapped Harry on the shoulder, hard, and let him go when Harry opened his mouth to argue. "I know. There are still people saying he did the right thing and you did the wrong one, or that there should have been some way to compromise. But there are a lot more who think that you're the real hero. You know that, right?"

Harry managed to smile. "I think I managed to figure it out, somewhere between the Order of Merlin and the cheering crowds who watched me receive it."

Ron nodded without smiling this time, his eyes blazing and intense. "Go show Dumbledore that you don't need him to give you meaning in your life, or tell you that you're right."

"No." Harry smiled more widely and more naturally. "I have you and Hermione and Draco and Snape and Sirius for that." He waved, then turned and spoke the password, "Canary Creams," to the gargoyle. It leaped aside, and Harry stepped slowly onto the moving staircase behind it. He didn't think that Dumbledore would really close the walls on either side of the staircase and crush him between them, but he had to admit that it was something he had wondered about.

Dumbledore had sent a message saying that he wanted to see Harry soon after Sirius was cleared of all charges. Harry had refused then, not feeling up to talking with him. Then another letter had come, and another. By the third owl, Harry had decided that this was something he needed to face.

The staircase stopped moving and deposited him before the door of Dumbledore's office. Harry took a deep breath, blinked slowly, and then decided there was no point in putting off the inevitable. He knocked.

Dumbledore's voice answered, low and pleasant. "Do come in, Harry. I've been expecting you."

That could be good or ominous, Harry thought, and pushed the door open.

The office inside looked much as it ever had, except less crowded. Dumbledore appeared to have got rid of a lot of the artifacts that had been sitting in corners and on tables. In one corner sat Fawkes on his perch; he pulled his head from under his wing and cooed when he saw Harry. The window showed the sparkling, hard crystal-clear winter morning outside, under a sky of hammered blue.

"Thank you for coming, Harry." Dumbledore rose from behind his desk to command Harry's attention.

Harry blinked. He knew he had grown since the last time he was at Hogwarts, but he still had not expected the Headmaster to look so—small.

Dumbledore smiled as if he knew what Harry was thinking. Harry wondered if he'd used Legilimency, but he thought he would have felt someone sliding behind his shields now. He would never be as accomplished at the mental arts as Snape and Draco were, but he was good enough.

"It feels like decades have passed since we last stood here, instead of the almost-year that it's been." Dumbledore clasped his hands together and looked pensively at Harry. "I would give a great deal to change the past."

Harry wondered if he expected a similar sentiment from him. Harry couldn't give it, since he wouldn't change the past for anything. That would probably have left him with the Dursleys, and distrusting Snape, and apart from Draco. Not to mention that it was hard to see how Voldemort would have been defeated, if Dumbledore had insisted on keeping the Resurrection Stone.

"I know the Stone has been destroyed," Dumbledore went on. "You need not fear that I will ever attempt to take it from you again."

"Is that only because the Stone's been destroyed," Harry asked, the words almost wrenched out of him, "or because you're really over your obsession with the thing? If we'd managed to keep the Stone somehow while removing the Horcrux from it, would you still try to take it away?"

Dumbledore looked at the floor for the first time. His voice was a sad whisper. "Alas, Harry, I do not know."

Harry looked at him, trying to find the real Dumbledore in the one in front of him, not simply the one he remembered. He looked at the way Dumbledore's hands twitched across each other, and the way he hunched his shoulders as if he were resisting a strong wind, and the way his beard trembled.

He's afraid that I'll reject his apology. Or maybe he's afraid of me.

Harry felt most of his irritation melt into pity. "I forgive you," he said.

Dumbledore looked up, his face showing that he hoped Harry's words were true, but couldn't allow himself to accept them yet. Harry almost smiled. Dumbledore had always wanted more proof for the things that Harry thought were obvious, more explanation than Harry wanted to give him.

Maybe that's part of the reason I get along so well with Snape. Neither of us want to show our emotions all that much, so we do what we have to and ignore the rest.

"I don't like what you did," Harry said. "But I can understand why you did it. I just—I couldn't stay here and let you try to possess the Horcrux and defend it from being destroyed. Do you understand why I left now?"

Dumbledore nodded slowly. His eyes had no trace of a twinkle. "That is the way in which I would give a great deal to change the past, Harry. If you had had Hogwarts as a refuge—if you could have trusted me—I could have been a great help to you in destroying the Horcruxes and training to defeat Voldemort."

"Yeah," Harry said simply. Maybe Narcissa and Lucius and Seamus wouldn't have died.

But he didn't know that, and one of the things he had tried to stop himself from having since the final battle with Voldemort were useless regrets. Draco had whispered to him in the night how he didn't know his mother well enough to realize why she wanted to be buried in rain, or to know whether she would have ever approved of his relationship with Harry. Harry had stroked his hair and said the appropriate comforting things, but the conversation had started his mind running on whether his parents would have approved of the way he'd turned out.

Then he rejected the thought and refused to consider it again. Because they might not approve of him—lovers with a Slytherin, student and in some ways adopted son of a man his father had despised—but Harry didn't care. He'd never known them, and the circumstances of his life hadn't let him cling to the dead. It was the living he needed.

And who need me, he thought, as he looked up and into Dumbledore's eyes again.

"Don't blame yourself for might-have-beens," he said. "At least everything turned out all right, and your chasing me away from Hogwarts wasn't fatal." He mustered up a faint smile, since Dumbledore still looked so anxious. "If it had been, and Voldemort was able to get hold of the Horcruxes before we did, then maybe I would never have forgiven you."

Dumbledore nodded. Harry doubted that he had accepted the words yet, but at least, from the slowness of the nod and the long sigh that he gave afterwards, he might have begun to let them percolate through his mind.

"Will you come back to Hogwarts, my boy?" Dumbledore's voice was gentle now, and Harry realized it was a question rather than an assumption. He relaxed, where he had begun to bristle. He isn't demanding it. He isn't assuming that I'll do it because he wants me to. He's leaving it up to me.

"I don't think I can," Harry said. "Not because of you," he added, as Dumbledore's face changed again. "But this place is my past. I want to go forwards, to live my life with Draco and Professor Snape and see what happens."

"I hope," Dumbledore said, "that you will at least visit when you can. To keep an old man and his phoenix company, if nothing else." He held out his hand.

Harry shook it. Fawkes flew over and sat on his shoulder, fluffing out his tail and crooning importantly. Harry touched his feet and received a swift rub on his cheek from Fawkes's head.

And one wound of my life closes without much bleeding.


Draco had known it was coming.

It had been obvious for some days now that Harry wanted it. He kept staring at Draco with this sharp expression on his face. Draco couldn't interpret it any of the obvious ways. Harry wasn't restless; he'd been the one to suggest staying mostly in Grimmauld Place for the first few months after the Dark Lord's defeat and giving the mobs a chance to get over their passionate frenzy for news of the Savior. They could catch up on their reading and the education they hadn't got at Hogwarts, he'd pointed out. And he could help Draco work through his grief over his parents.

Draco hadn't had much to object to, once Harry put it that way.

So Harry wasn't restless. He wasn't bored, since he would be tapping his foot on the floor and sighing if he was. He couldn't be hungry; they'd eaten only two hours ago. And he wasn't tired, since he and Draco had decadently slept in until noon today, tangled around each other and snoring—well, Harry was snoring, since Draco didn't snore—into each other's ears.

So he must, finally, want the kind of sex that Draco had flatly told Harry he wanted some months ago.

Of course, it was more fun to pretend that he didn't know that. So Draco kept his eyes innocently on the book in front of him, and watched from the corner of his eye as Harry abandoned any pretense of study to stare at him openly. Harry's fingers were tightening more and more on the page. His legs were slightly parted, and Draco could see the growing erection.

He held back his chuckles and sat still, now and then asking Harry a question or giving him advice in a tone so bright and helpful that Harry would have seen through it in a second, ordinarily. But Harry didn't have much blood in his brain at the moment. He answered shortly, and the silence went on growing more and more tense.

"Fuck this."

Draco looked up with eyes even wider as Harry flung his book to the floor, stalked over to him, and grabbed Draco's book away. He was just glad that Granger wasn't here as Harry hauled him into his arms; she would squawk about the treatment of a precious, precious tome and destroy the mood entirely.

Do you want to destroy the mood, substituting for her absence by the voice in your head? Draco asked himself, and then curled his arms around Harry's neck and returned his kiss with some interest. He could feel Harry rutting steadily against his leg, and his own erection pressing into Harry's stomach, and his own smugness and pride and pleasure. This was happening. It was really, finally happening.

Anyone else would probably have moved like this generations ago, but Harry had had to deal with so much grief and stress and tension and relief that Draco wasn't that surprised it hadn't happened earlier.

Now—now they were free, or something like it. Now he could think of Harry's cock up his arse without feeling that he should be thinking about the Elder Wand instead, or Horcruxes.

And that's another thing that could destroy the mood if I let it, so that's enough of that, he decided firmly, and tilted back his head so that he could study Harry's darkened eyes, his red face, his straggling hair and huffing breath. Even the slight redness in his scar—Harry had taken to rubbing it when he was angry or deep in thought—was appealing. "Fuck me," Draco said, because that was what he felt like.

Harry actually held his breath, until Draco nudged him sharply in the chest to get him breathing again. Then he whispered, "You—you want that?"

"If I didn't," Draco said, "I would have hopped down from your arms by now and returned to my studies with a tirade that would put Granger to shame. And no," he went on, as Harry opened his mouth to ask more questions, "I don't want to fuck you right now. That will happen later, when you're in the mood of calm anticipation that you must be in to appreciate such an enormous favor. Preferably after you've fucked me and we've slept." He curled his leg around Harry's waist and kicked him in the arse when Harry just stood there, blinking. Harry yelped and staggered forwards. Draco scowled at him. "What part of fuck me are you not understanding?"

And then, finally, Harry's brain caught up with his muscles, and he both dragged and wrestled Draco up the stairs to bed.


Draco was laughing. He sprawled back on the pillows, his hair stuck to his face with sweat, and laughed as Harry fumbled inappropriately with the tube of oil they'd used plenty of times before, to slick their fingers and make wanking more pleasant, or ease the slide of a finger into an arsehole. Chuckles rippled up from his chest and made his eyes shine brighter. His chest shook, and so did the erection standing clearly up from his lap now that he was naked.

He looked glorious, and utterly abandoned, and happier than happy.

Harry almost dropped the oil because he was busy staring at Draco, instead of what he was doing. Draco laughed at him again, and because he was thinking about how to make that sound even better, Harry finally got the oil in the right place.

He was too rough when he penetrated Draco with his finger, and Draco hissed and complained between his teeth, and Harry slowed, mortified. But Draco stared back at him and said, "Where were you raised, that a bit of pain means stop?"

Harry laughed in turn, because this was how comfortable they were with one another, that Draco could refer to his childhood and Harry wouldn't mind it, and slid his finger a bit deeper. Draco tilted his head back and gasped for air. Harry leaned down before he thought about it and mouthed at Draco's throat.

A hand clasped his head and hauled him close. Draco kissed his temple, then his hair, then his cheek. "Harry," he sighed into his ear.

"Yeah?" Harry smiled. Draco's tone was so soft that he thought he might be about to hear a declaration of love.

"Get on with it."

Harry laughed again, and went on exploring with his fingers. Once or twice he managed to hit Draco's prostate; it wasn't something he was good at. But that didn't matter, because he expected to have the rest of his life to get good at it.

Draco snapped out when he was ready for two fingers, and then went on to three before Harry thought he could possibly want them. When Harry expressed that opinion, though, Draco glared up at him and said, "Listen, whose arse is it?"

Harry laughed again, and had to fight the temptation to collapse on top of Draco and kiss him until they both came simply from that.

It had never been like this, this uncomplicated and brilliant laughter without a hint of the tension that had ruled the relationship between them and the war outside their room for so long. Harry highly approved. They deserved one thing that was simple and straightforward.

"Cock now," Draco said. Harry had driven him to monosyllables some time ago. Still, Harry swallowed, because it seemed awfully soon.

"Are you—"

:"If you ask if I'm sure," Draco said, one eye peering up at Harry from his flushed and ecstatic face, "then I'm throwing you out of the room and finishing this in a wank by myself."

"Oh, dear," Harry said, pressing his erection into place, "back to two syllables. That's not a good sign." He felt dizzy and reckless and light as the words blew out of his mouth. Whenever he'd dared to picture this in the past—whenever he'd thought he'd live to see it, instead of dying at Voldemort's hands—he'd thought of it as a deep and solemn affair, with him and Draco rocking together and staring into each other's eyes. One mistake would ruin it forever.

It was nothing like that at all, he thought as he slid in, and he was so glad.

Draco caught his breath and held it for a moment, his eyes fluttering almost shut. Then he nudged pointedly at Harry's arse with his foot. Harry slid another few inches, and laughed at the look of bliss on Draco's face. "I can't possibly be hitting anything worth hitting yet," he said. He had to concentrate on his own words to force them out. Tightness and gripping heat, and oh, it was brilliant.

He tried not to tell Draco that, though, because he was fairly sure that Draco already knew.

Then they were rocking together, but Draco's legs were going at all sorts of awkward angles, and Harry was moaning and sighing about heat and tightness even though he'd promised himself he wouldn't, and the oil made the most terrific squelching noises, and Draco squealed like a pig introduced to sugar. They rolled halfway across the bed and almost off. Then Harry braced his knees and started shoving, and Draco's head hit the headboard.

Draco complained again. Harry laughed—it seemed to be the only response he was capable of—and dug his heels in more firmly. Then he settled down to more straightforward fucking, whilst Draco panted and writhed and in general acted in a way that Harry fully intended to tease him about.

More heat. More brilliance. Harry could feel happiness coiling through him in long, lazy strings, like swirls of sunlight in water.

Draco opened his eyes and gave him a deep, sweet smile, craning his neck as if he wanted a kiss.

Harry came, hard. He babbled out nonsense as he did, and pleasure kicked him in what felt like every single muscle of his body, and he was laughing again, really, he needed to stop that—

And then Draco was coming, arse pumping, cock spasming, a sort of complicated blaarrgh noise emerging from his mouth, and Harry slumped forwards over Draco's chest and got his cheek in the mess.

Then he apparently went to sleep, because the next thing he remembered was waking up and seeing Draco in the fall of spring sunlight through the window, still naked but with a Cleaning Charm done, standing beside the table on the other side of the room where he'd left his notes for a new spell he was inventing. He turned around when Harry woke up and gave him the sweetest smile on earth.

Harry knew that not everything in their lives would be good, but some things had to be, and that moment was one of them.


"Professor Snape?"

Severus glanced up and blinked. He had been so deep in the trance of brewing a Burn Paste Madam Pomfrey had requested from him that he had not even heard Harry come in. But there he stood by the door of the potions lab, looking at him with a fragile and yet determined expression that Severus didn't think he'd seen on his face since the start of the war.

Severus turned around and settled himself on a stool next to the table he'd been working at, flicking his wand at the cauldron to hold everything inside motionless in the stage it was at. "Yes, Harry?" he asked. "Is something wrong?"

Harry came a few steps closer. His eyes were large, and he was fidgeting from foot to foot like a child, instead of the fine young man he'd become. Severus watched him in increasing concern. Did he find out about the itching powder I added to the mutt's toilet seat?

"I—" Harry swallowed several times, which only sank Severus's heart further. Even worse, Black has made a fantastical accusation against me, and Harry believes it.

Then Severus reminded himself that he should have learned more trust than that. Perhaps Harry had learned that he had visited his Muggle family. Severus asked again, "Is something wrong?" in his quietest tone, and leaned forwards, trying to look helpful, patient, and wise.

Harry broke suddenly, and ran to him. Severus, trying to brace himself for a punch or a shout in the face, found himself dealing with an embrace instead, which was so tight that it seemed Harry was jealous of every bit of air in his body.

"I didn't say it," Harry was whispering, fervently. "But I trust you so much, and you helped so much, and I don't care what Sirius says or if my parents would have disapproved of my trusting you—" He lifted his head and looked Severus square in the eye, very small and very brave. "I love you."

Severus couldn't say anything, because it would break the eggshell mood in the room. He lifted a hand and brushed it slowly through Harry's hair, staring all the while into his eyes.

He could read the emotions there; they were sincere enough that he did not need Legilimency. At the moment, he felt as if he might not need Legilimency ever again to tell what Harry was thinking.

"Professor?" Harry whispered.

He is afraid of its not being returned. Still.

But Severus put aside his rage at what the Muggles had done, because now was not the time for that, and pulled Harry close so that his head rested on Severus's shoulder. He stopped stroking his hair and instead held him tight, one arm around Harry's shoulders, one around his waist.

He opened his mouth, and the words were waiting there after all, though he had to whisper them so softly that he was not sure Harry would hear them. "I love you, too."

From the way Harry's arms tightened around his body, he was sure Harry had heard.

Severus looked up and away from Harry, because he had to, and almost blindly outside. Not so blindly that he did not notice that the tree branch outside the window, which yesterday had contained only tightly furled buds, now shook with unfolding green leaves, reaching stubbornly for the sun.

Life will not always be like this.

But at the moment, it was, and Severus let out a breath that felt as if it had been penned up in his lungs for two decades.

This was their spring.