A/N: Well hello there lovely readers! I know, it's been many centuries since my last update. I'm very sorry for that; I've had such massive writer's block and I just haven't had the time to devote to NA. We're in the home stretch now! I'm SO CLOSE to finishing this beast, finally! I will try my hardest not to allow such a long time gap again, but I make no promises. Without further ado, enjoy!


Ch 57.

Breakdown

There was such a thick and charged silence in the small basement kitchen that it felt hard to breathe. No one seemed willing to break it either, just simply stared at the man seated at the head of the table, who was busy examining his own hands with the reverence of an infant who had just discovered their limbs.

After what felt like ages, Sirius looked up from his hands and glanced between the three other men in the room. "So, what the bloody hell is going on here, may I ask? Last I remember, Bellatrix was cackling as I took a nose dive through that bloody veiled archway in the Department of Mysteries. And judging from Harry's extra height, Remus' new scares and the fact that Snape is willingly in the same room as me tells me I've missed a bit in my absence."

"Er, just a bit. It's good to see you, Sirius," Harry said, his voice slightly breathy with emotion. He had blinked back his tears, determined to keep it together for everyone's sake. Blubbering like a fool would only make it that much harder for all involved.

Sirius grinned and reached over to grip Harry's shoulder, which he did as if he were not just an echo of his former self. This was a very good sign. "Right back at you, kid." He turned towards Remus and his grin fell into a soft, loving smile that sent a chill down the werewolf's spine, and a niggling of annoyance in Severus' nervous twitch.

"Remus, you look good. Happy. I'm glad."

"Thank you, Sirius," was all Remus could get out before the lump in his throat cut off all other hope of speech and he turned abruptly in his seat, fighting back tears of mingled grief and relief.

"And Snape, of course, lovely as ever to make your acquaintance! To what do I owe this past-life pleasure?"

"We have a request for you, Black, but first, I think it would be wise to bring you up to speed on the year you've been beyond the veil. Much has changed."

"I gathered as much. Well, clue me in, then. Also, I'm going to go ahead and just assume that this is a temporary invitation back to the living, right?" Sirius asked as he nonchalantly threw his arms behind his head and kicked his feet up onto the table, his easy slouch and soft grin enough to take the edge off Harry's anxiety and Remus' grief.

"You assume correctly. We have a job that needs doing, and once that job is done, you must go back. Do you understand?" Severus asked, hoping the man wouldn't become insufferable and refuse to go back willingly. He was a little shocked as Sirius nodded with a sad smile.

"Yeah, I got it, Snape. Even I know there's no way to bring someone back from the dead; I've hitched a temporary ride beyond the veil somehow. I'll take what I can get. So, tell me what I've missed."

There was a pause as the three men among the living came up short. They hadn't really discussed how and what they were going to tell Sirius once he got there. They had expected more confusion, fear and outrage, not this calm, understanding echo of Sirius.

"Well, a lot has happened. After the battle in the Department of Mysteries, the Ministry finally acknowledged that Voldemort was back. During the summer, the Dursleys and I were attacked by Death Eaters. I was the only survivor, and just barely. D – Severus came, answering my distress call and he took me to stay with him. A lot of stuff happened this summer…I don't even know where to begin," Harry trailed off, giving his fathers a worried look. He wasn't sure if he should tell Sirius about how the three of them had bonded and become a family in the past year, but he didn't see a way around it.

"Severus saved Harry's life. During the summer when Harry was staying with Severus, his cover was blown during an Occlumency lesson, and Severus was almost killed by Voldemort and his Death Eaters. I was Polyjuiced as a Death Eater, spying on the inside, and I managed to get Severus away from them. I moved in a few days after, and Harry and I nursed him back to health and…and Severus and I became quite close. Draco Malfoy was exiled from his home and family after his mother was killed, and lived on the streets for months until he came to stay with Severus, Harry and I. Draco was nearly killed during an attack on Diagon Alley and ended up in a coma for months, which Harry and I awoke him from. He was amnesic and could not remember a thing for months, but Harry helped him to regain his self and memories once more. The two became quite close and have been dating since." Remus stopped. He wasn't sure how to go forward. So much had happened; he knew he was paraphrasing and grazing over the details so much that Sirius might not understand.

"To go back to the beginning here, this might all make a little more sense. Just before Harry began his first year at Hogwarts, I made an Unbreakable Vow with Dumbledore to protect Harry no matter what. Remus was our bonder. This should give you a little more context to work off of for the rest of this. We're leaving out a great bit of detail, but if you have any questions at the end, we'll try to answer them as best we can.

"Now, because I was very weak, mentally, from torture, I could no longer teach Harry Occlumency, and so Draco took my place. He learned much about Harry during this time, and the boys became close even before the attack and Draco's accident. After the attack in Diagon Alley, Harry, Remus and I moved back to Hogwarts prior to the start of the term for extra protection. We had learned that the attack had been a setup, and we couldn't risk being out in the open. Draco, still comatose, was moved to the infirmary. Remus had signed on to teach Defence once more. Harry moved down to the dungeons in my rooms for extra protection as well. We had become close after going through much hardship together over the summer, and had long since put aside our differences.

"Much happened over the course of the school year; Harry became estranged from Ron and Ginny Weasley, he was guilt ridden over Draco's condition and spent nearly every free moment at his bedside while Hermione, Remus and myself searched for a way to awaken him. Dumbledore was fatally cursed by a ring and had only a year left to live. After Draco woke up, he had amnesia and Harry struggled to help him get his memories back. During all this time, Dumbledore had been searching for a more secure form of warding to protect Harry since the blood warding on the Dursleys' had been broken. He found a Gaelic warding spell, but in order for it to work, Harry would need to be bonded to a guardian. The Weasleys offered to become Harry's guardians, but he decided to ask me in the end. I adopted Harry at the end of the year, quite readily, and the wards were put in place." Severus knew Sirius had many questions from the range of emotions flying across his face, but the man smartly held them in for the time being.

"Arthur had a stroke shortly before Christmas and was in hospital for a bit. He died. Not long after, Azkaban was infiltrated and the Death Eaters who had been imprisoned after the attack that caused your death were broken free, including Lucius Malfoy. He had no idea his wife had been murdered by her own sister, or that his son had been abused, nearly killed, was comatose and then amnesic.

"When Severus adopted Harry, I was quite upset that I could not offer to be his guardian because of my condition. Severus and I had been dating since the summer, and…and Severus asked me to marry him. That way, the warding included me as a guardian to Harry because we were all bonded to each other."

"Joining of the Souls. I can feel it, you know. You're not…here anymore," Sirius said quietly, rubbing at his chest. Throughout the barrage of information he was receiving, he kept all of his questions and confusion at bay, but after realizing that his Remus and the Potions Master were more than friends, he noticed the lack of connectedness the bond usually created between himself and Remus. He felt a hollow sadness, but tried not to let it show. A slight creeping anger and indignation was growing in his heart as well, but he squashed that down immediately. Remus had every right to move on with his life and fall in love again. Even if Sirius was not a big fan of his former lover's new husband, he could not begrudge the man his happiness; that's all he ever wanted for Remus.

"Yes, we performed the Joining of the Souls Ceremony at Hogwarts. On the night of our wedding, Nymphadora Tonks went missing. The Ministry tried to cover it up, but the Aurors and the Order launched a full-scale search. The Magical Law Enforcement Department was up in arms and Kingsley, the Head Auror, was fired. Many Aurors left the Ministry in protest. Dumbledore beseeched me to join the search for Tonks and leave Hogwarts, as there was some suspicion that Tonks had been taken by Greyback. It was a very rough time for all of us."

"Draco had an aneurysm and regained all of his memories once more, which caused some hardships between him and Harry. Remus returned from his mission, but there was no sign of Tonks. Not long after, she turned up at the Ministry, unharmed, and claimed that she had been detained by Lucius Malfoy, who had questioned her about the whereabouts of Bellatrix and Voldemort because he wanted revenge after learning about his wife's murder and Draco's abandonment. Fudge was impeached because he refused to put together a Ministry sponsored search for Tonks, and Kingsley was elected as Minister, which he still is today."

"Blaise Zabini, a Slytherin in my year, was a Marked Death Eater and was given a mission by Voldemort to sneak Bellatrix and Greyback onto Hogwarts grounds via the Forbidden Forest in order to kill Dad and abduct me. However, Lucius Malfoy interfered and the mission went awry. I was lured to the Forest, but Lucius stopped Bellatrix and Greyback and they were arrested. Lucius asked Dumbledore for sanctuary after talking to Draco, and offered himself to the Order as an informant. Kingsley granted him clemency after foiling the attack on me and the advantage of his inside information."

"I did not trust Lucius at all, and was very much against all of it at first. I fought it, hard, but Lucius started telling us about these crazy plans that Voldemort had come up with to essentially round up all the muggle-borns and use a potion to strip them of their magical abilities and use them as an Imperioused army."

"While the Order was trying to prevent that from happening, Dumbledore pulled me aside and started telling me that Voldemort had found a way to make himself essentially immortal. Do you know what a Horcrux is?" Harry asked his godfather, who looked like he was bursting with questions but was dutifully holding them all back.

"Yes, I do. Don't tell me he made one? That's beyond dark magic," Sirius said, trying his best to make sense of all the crazy things that had happened since he died. It had been one hell of a year, apparently.

"He actually made seven, and it was put up to me to figure out what they were, where they were, and how to destroy them. Dumbledore forbid me from telling anyone else, but I broke my word and I told Ron and Hermione, and eventually, Draco, Dad and Moony…you get the picture. I couldn't do it on my own, and it was unfair of Dumbledore to suggest I should. The curse on Professor Dumbledore spread, and he was dying more quickly than we thought. After learning about the Horcruxes, Hogwarts went crazy. The wards apparently went senile and the castle started attacking students and professors, and the wards had to be stripped and reset. The only way to do that was to evacuate the entire castle, so a makeshift campground was created on the Quidditch pitch. We were out there for a month while all of the professors worked to strip the wards and reapply them. At one point, a weak part of the castle broke away and nearly killed a few professors, including Dad, who broke his leg and got a concussion. Not long after, we all moved back in to the castle, and Dumbledore told me he found another Horcrux and we were going to get it. He promised to take me when he found one, but he broke that promise and went alone."

Severus shared a glance with Remus, hearing the lingering anger in Harry's voice as he spoke of the late Headmaster. "And good thing, because Dumbledore tripped a ward and Voldemort showed up. Because of his weakened state, Dumbledore lost a duel with Voldemort and was killed. His body was dramatically placed in the Fountain of Magical Brethren in the Ministry."

"Wait, Albus is dead? Sweet mother of Merlin…I never thought I'd see the day! Well, I guess I never would have if you hadn't called upon me," said Sirius was a sad shake of his head. He owed Albus a lot, and was curious if he'd interacted with the great wizard beyond the veil, as it seemed he had little recollection of that time.

"It was shocking and sudden. The Order was very out of sorts at the beginning of this summer. Severus, Harry, Draco, Lucius, the Weasleys, Hermione and I all moved in to Grimmauld Place for the summer and the Order went through an overhaul. We broke up into specific focus groups and have been meeting as individual entities as well as complete Order meetings. Most of the summer has been devoted to finding all of the Horcruxes and finding a way to destroy them."

"While retrieving a Horcrux from Borgin and Burkes, there was another attack on Diagon Alley and a few Hogwarts students were killed. Dad was severely injured and was dying. He was put under a stasis spell while we looked for the counter-curse. Luckily Moony found it, but it was a near thing. Dad took me to see my parents' graves because I had never been, and there was a Horcrux there. That was…unpleasant. We ran out of resources for finding the remaining Horcruxes, so Dad and Lucius decided to kidnap Pettigrew and use his Life Debt to me for saving him in third year to see if he had any inside information on the Horcruxes, as he spent the most time around Voldemort as his little assistant. That's when I found out that I was a Horcrux myself; my scar was cursed."

Sirius nearly fell out of his chair as he quickly removed his legs from the table and leaned forward to grasp Harry's shoulder. "Oh Merlin, Harry, are you ok? How on Earth is that even possible?"

"It was an accident. Voldemort had been attempting to use Lily's death to make another Horcrux, but it went wrong because his soul was so weak and splintered from making so many Horcruxes that it latched on to Harry," Severus explained, feeling his heart race with what he knew they had to explain next. He saw Harry go pale and Remus looked very near hyperventilating.

"We were beyond terrified for Harry, and we weren't sure what we were going to do. We weren't giving up though, and we searched tirelessly for a way to remove the Horcrux from Harry without harming him. While Remus and I were away gathering another Horcrux, Harry took matters into his own hands."

There was a silence as Sirius gave them all questioning looks, waiting for the story to continue. None of them seemed willing to go on, however. "What happened? Harry, did you find a way to remove the Horcrux?"

Harry gulped and nodded slowly, sharing a look with his parents across the table. He was sure Sirius was going to freak out on him like everyone else. "Yes, I…I didn't believe there would be a way to remove it without it killing me, and I wasn't about to let the entire wizarding world die to save myself so…I slit my wrists. I killed myself, Sirius."

Utter deafening silence took over the basement kitchen, and Harry felt bile rise in his throat at the sight of shiny tears leaking down his godfather's cheeks.

"Oh, Harry…I'm so sorry. I know what it feels like to be so absolutely hopeless. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I tried to kill myself in Azkaban. But how are you here then?"

"I found Harry…after. I put him under stasis and while everyone was up in arms and grieving, the boy mysteriously came back. Apparently the sacrifice of his suicide caused the sliver of Voldemort's soul to die, but because Harry had not died by Voldemort's hand as the Prophecy stated, it was not Harry's time to die, so he was sent back with more knowledge from Dumbledore on the location of the very last Horcrux, and how to destroy them."

"Dear Merlin, Harry, you have more lives than a cat. So are these Horcruxes destroyed? What's the plan? Why am I here?"

"This is where you come in, Sirius. Albus told Harry that destroying all of the Horcruxes at once would be the best plan of action because it would make Voldemort extremely weak. Throughout all this, Voldemort still does not know we have been hunting Horcruxes, or that we know about them at all. When we destroy them, Voldemort will know; he'll feel it. There's one more piece left to destroy, and that's the one living inside Voldemort himself. This is the dilemma. Harry cannot use his wand against Voldemort's, as they have twin cores and refuse to work against one another. Using someone else's wand would be foolish as it would not work as well for Harry. There is a battle plan in place for the rest of the Order; they know their duties. We've also devised a plan that will take Voldemort by absolute surprise, but we cannot do it without you," Remus explained, feeling exhausted from recanting the entire past year. It had indeed been one hell of a year. They hadn't even explained everything, they left out many glaring details, but they did not have time to waste.

"What do you need me to do? If you're willing to call an echo of myself from beyond the veil, it must be important. I'll do it, whatever it is," Sirius assured his former lover, godson, and…Snape, whatever he was to Sirius now. Friend? Family? Who knew.

"In order to destroy the Horcruxes, they have to be soaked in a variation on a dissolving solution made with Basilisk venom, one of the only known substances to destroy Horcruxes. Voldemort is essentially just a Horcrux himself, with that last sliver of soul inside of him, so we decided to use the same solution on him by putting the potion in a muggle syringe, and injecting Voldemort with it. The problem was administering it. Anyone who gets close enough to Voldemort to stick him with a needle probably won't survive," Harry explained.

"So you want me to do it, because you can't kill a dead man. Brilliant! Who came up with all that? And while we're at it, how the hell did you call upon me?"

"Combined effort, I assure you," said Severus. "This is slightly more complicated. Do you know the Tale of the Three Brothers?"

"Sure, who doesn't? Three brothers challenge death and he rewards them with three magical objects; the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Invisibility Cloak. Wait a minute…don't tell me that's a true story?"

Remus grinned and nodded as Harry pulled his cloak out from underneath the table and laid it gently at Sirius' elbow leaning on the table. "Sure is, and me, you, James and Peter used one of the Deathly Hallows to wreak havoc on Hogwarts. As you can guess, the Resurrection stone is what called you back."

"What about the Elder wand, and how did you get the stone?"

"The curse that was killing Dumbledore was placed on a family heirloom belonging to the Gaunt family, passed down many generations. It was a black stone set in a goblin made ring. It was the Resurrection stone all along. The Elder wand had ended up in the hands of Grindelwald, and when Dumbledore defeated him, he became Master of it. He'd had it all these years."

"But then that means that Voldemort is it's Master if he killed Albus. He doesn't have it, does he?"

"No, it's buried in Dumbledore's tomb with him. He also does not know he is its Master or where it is, and we need to keep it that way."

Another silence took over the kitchen as Sirius tried to digest the ridiculous amount of knowledge they had heaped upon him. His former husband was married to the man he despised as a teen and an adult, if he were honest, and that same man had adopted his godson. Lucius Malfoy was a good guy, Arthur Weasley and Dumbledore were dead, Kingsley was the Minister of Magic, and Draco Malfoy was in love with Harry. That wasn't even half of it, but Sirius wasn't sure his brain had the ability to process it all beyond that.

"So, when am I giving Voldie his shots? And I suppose I owe you and Snape my congratulations, Moony. I'm happy for you, I really am. I'm also glad Harry has a family to take care of him. You finally got to be a father, eh?" Sirius grinned, true happiness reflected in his silvery eyes.

Remus blushed as Severus cleared his throat. Harry was beaming and couldn't hold back any longer. "It's also pretty awesome that I'm not an only child."

Sirius's eyes bulged nearly out of his head. "There's another kid? A baby? Why didn't you tell me?! I'm a step-dad! Kind of…an undead one. I want to meet him – her – it!"

Remus gave a sad smile as Severus snorted, half with amusement and half with exasperation. "She hasn't been born yet, Padfoot, but it'll be soon. I wish you could meet her."

Sirius frowned but nodded in understanding. "Well, just be sure to tell her Uncle Padfoot loves her, ok? Does she have a name yet? Who's the mother?"

"Aurora Sinistra is our surrogate. We're both the biological fathers; perks of being married to a Potions Master. Her name will be Ophelia Revé Snape-Lupin, and I will be sure she knows how much her Uncle Padfoot loves her," Remus assured his former husband, feeling a great sense of relief. He wasn't aware of the grief he'd still been wearing like a shroud, but he felt like he finally had the closure he needed to completely move on, eventually.

Sirius beamed, though his eyes were a little bright. What he wouldn't have given to have the opportunity to have a family with Remus. It was no use stressing over now, however; Remus and Harry were happy, and that's all Sirius ever truly wanted for them.

"There is already a battle plan in place, thanks to Harry and Ron discussing details with the rest of the order. You will be our secret weapon, Black. You're to be kept out of sight until the right time, just in case a Death Eater knows some archaic spell to banish spirits. With the plan the order has come up with, this is hopefully going to play out like a sting operation; Order members will be standing by, ready to fight. Harry will lure Voldemort to the Little Hangleton graveyard, which he'll surely bring his Death Eaters along for. No holds barred – we aim to kill," Severus explained. The air in the room seemed to grow tense. It was almost time.

"When?" Sirius asked, meeting Harry's eyes. The young man looked tired, and Sirius hoped he'd be able to get some rest before facing off with Voldemort once and for all.

"Soon, but we need to do a few test runs first. You were able to touch Harry, which means you're more corporeal than a ghost would be. That's a good thing, but the real test will be whether you can wield objects as well," Severus explained, standing up and walking to a cabinet to pull out a tea cup. He then walked around the table and held it out to Sirius, gesturing for him to take it.

Sirius looked a little hesitant at first, but then shrugged and reached for the cup. His hand closed over the rim of the cup as he lifted it from Severus' hand, and then twirled it around so he could grasp the handle. There was no fumbling or risk of it falling through; it was as though Sirius were actually there.

"Well, I guess that answers that question. I think, however, that you should teach me how to use a syringe, as I've never had need to use one before," Sirius stated, setting the tea cup down on the table in front of him. He had a satisfied smirk on his face, as though he too had been worried he wouldn't be able to manipulate objects as an echo.

"We'll need to try to get our hands on one of those. We'll want one of the larger ones so it can hold as much of the dissolving solution as possible. I think I should ask Madam Pomfrey if she has any. They're rarely used with healing, but there's always a possibility. I'll go floo call her from the drawing room," said Remus as he stood and smiled gently at Sirius before turning and leaving the basement kitchen.

Severus sighed quietly as he watched his husband's retreating back. As much as Remus had said he would be ok with brining Sirius' echo back with the Resurrection Stone, it seemed as though he hadn't anticipated how hard it would truly be once Sirius was there before him. He glanced at Harry, who gave a subtle nod towards the door and a significant look. Maybe Severus wasn't the only one who needed to talk to someone privately.

"Excuse me; I should go speak with Poppy as well."

Once the swinging door of the basement kitchen had finally settled in its frame following Severus' departure, Sirius stood and moved around the table, gripping Harry's shoulders and pulling him up into a tight embrace.

"Merlin, it's so good to see you, Harry. After the way I…after what happened, I had been so worried about you. I tried to resist moving beyond the veil, to stay earth bound so that I could look over you, but the nature of that archway in the Department of Mysteries was odd. It was almost like an express route to the afterlife. I had no choice. I'm so sorry I was so careless," Sirius muttered into Harry's hair as he held the young man close.

Harry was trembling as he wrapped his arms just as tightly around his godfather. It was amazing, feeling Sirius' warmth and strong grip. It was hard to believe this man was just an echo, that he wasn't back for good, and Harry felt his stomach drop at the thought of having to let Sirius go once more. He had taken an oath, though, and he knew Sirius would never truly be back. But being held in his godfather's arms, smelling his natural, spicy scent once more made Harry feel like a lost fifteen year old again.

"I'm sorry I fell for Voldemort's trap. You would never have been there in the first place if I had just learned Occlumency from Dad like I was supposed to. It's my fault – "

Sirius pulled back far enough to hold Harry at arm's length, looking the teen squarely in the eyes. "No, Harry, it wasn't your fault. You were in danger and I just panicked. I had to be there to protect you. Remus warned me not to go, he told me something awful would happen if I went, but I ignored him and went anyway. I was a fool, and now I can't protect you, I can't do my job as your godfather. I will never forgive myself for that. I failed you, Harry."

Harry felt tears burning behind his eyes and tried to blink them away, but it was no use; hot tears slid down his cheeks as he buried himself against Sirius' chest once more, gripping the man's robes tightly in his fists.

"We both fucked up, but I forgive you. I miss you so much, Sirius."

Harry felt his godfather's arms tighten around him, and a kiss was placed atop his messy hair. He could feel Sirius trembling as well and heard his laboured breathing as tears dripped into Harry's hair.

"I'm so sorry, Harry. I miss you too. I'm so glad that you have Remus…and I guess I should be grateful for Snape as well. It sounds like he's been very good to you. I can't say I understand, but I'm just glad you're not alone. Are you happy, Harry, truly?" Sirius asked, lifting Harry's chin so he could see his godson's expression. The boy looked wrecked and exhausted, but his emerald eyes, so like Lily's, were shining with emotions, and not just from his recent tears.

"I am. I haven't been alone; I've been very lucky. I have a family with Snape and Remus, and my little sister too, whenever she's born. And I also have Draco. I know it's weird; I'm kind of surrounded by Slytherins now, but I'd be lost without them. I am happy, Sirius."

"That's all I've ever wanted for you, Harry."

S~S~S~S

The hearth in the drawing room was still unlit when Severus entered, carefully closing the door behind him. Remus was sitting on the edge of one of the sofas, his face in his hands. He looked up at Severus as the man walked over and sat down beside him, wanting very much to embrace him, but somehow knowing he needed a little space right then.

"I'm sorry; I just needed a minute to gather myself. I'll call Poppy now."

"Wait. Remus, are you alright? I can't imagine how hard this is for you, but I understand. It would be like seeing Lily again for me. It's ok to be upset; I won't hold it against you. I know I could never replace Sirius in your heart, that he would always have a place there."

Remus bit his lip as he looked searchingly at his husband. He was surprised with how calm Severus was with all of this, but he was also very glad for it. "I imagine it's not very easy for you either, seeing Harry and I fall to pieces over someone you hated."

Severus sighed, shook his head and he reached for Remus' hand, threading their fingers together and turning the man towards him. "I understood when taking Harry in and allowing myself to fall in love with you that there would be parts of both of you that I would not agree with or be able to fully accept, but that's part of loving someone unconditionally. The good and the bad, Remus, I'll take every piece of you I can get. I know Black was a massive part of your life, Harry's too, and always will be. It is part of why I suggested him as the echo to summon."

Remus smiled as he scooted closer to Severus, reaching up to swipe a lock of hair that had fallen in the man's eyes behind his ear. "I wondered about that. I thought you might have suggested Albus before anyone else. He was the most recent passing, and I did not think you would choose someone like Sirius over the Headmaster."

"I did consider Albus, a lot, but I wanted to leave the man at peace. He's done enough in this war and the last; he deserves to rest now. I'll admit I was also being a little selfish; I don't know if I could handle seeing Albus again and having to let him go when it's all said and done."

"I don't blame you at all, Severus. Thank you for your understanding in all of this. I love you," Remus whispered as he grasped Severus' chin and pulled him into a deep, meaningful kiss. They stayed locked in their embrace for a few minutes, stubbled chins rasping together as they explored each other's mouths leisurely.

When they pulled away from each other, it was with a certain level of reluctance. Severus vowed that once this whole mess was over, he and Remus would be going on a long holiday to finally celebrate their marriage properly. "I love you too."

S~S~S~S

When Severus and Remus entered the basement kitchen together, a newly acquired syringe in Remus' hand, courtesy of the Hogwarts matron, they both paused in the doorway to take in the scene in front of them.

Sirius and Harry were still wrapped around one another in a hug, soft murmuring coming from Sirius as he ran a hand through the teen's hair affectionately. They heard a soft sniffle as Harry nodded against his godfather's chest in answer to whatever Sirius had said.

Remus felt Severus' hand reach for his, gripping tightly. He knew the man had worried that Harry would be unable to let Sirius go once it was all said and done, and Remus didn't blame him, gripping his husband's hand back.

Sirius stepped back from Harry and tilted his face up. Using the sleeve of his robes, he wiped Harry's tears away and smiled, ruffling the teen's hair as some sort of silent agreement passed between them. Harry looked over Sirius' shoulder and saw his parents standing in the doorway of the kitchen, and offered them a sad smile.

"I'm ok," was all Harry said, and it was all they needed to hear. It had been a very long night for them all.

"We've got the syringe. I'll fill it with water for now and show you how to use it, Sirius," Remus said as he subtly nudged Severus toward Harry, who had moved to the counter and busied himself with making a cup of tea. Sirius and Remus went to the other side of the kitchen towards the sink.

The potions master gently took the tea cup out of Harry's hand, which was still trembling slightly, and pulled his son into a tight hug. He felt Harry practically melt against him as the tension bled out of his body at last.

"It is perfectly fine if you are not ok, Harry. I would not hold it against you at all."

Harry gave a shuddering sigh as he allowed his father to just hold him, taking comfort from the man – comfort he thought he would not feel again after the man had been so angry with him for what he'd done to destroy the Horcrux within himself. If he were perfectly honest with himself and everyone else, Harry was an utter wreck and it was taking every last shred of control he had to keep it together.

"I know, Dad. I just…I don't think I can really process everything completely right now. I'm so tired. I just want this to be over already."

Severus gripped Harry tighter and nodded in agreement. "Me too, son. Why don't you head up to bed? It's late and I'm sure tomorrow will be very busy as well."

Harry thought of crawling into bed with Draco and letting the blonde hold him, and felt a pang of longing. He felt incredibly needy, falling apart all over everyone tonight, but Harry had been strong for so long; it was time for him to let go a little.

"Ok, that sounds like a good idea. Goodnight, Dad. I love you."

Severus smiled down at his son, giving his shoulder one last squeeze as he released him. "I love you too. Goodnight."

Harry bid Remus and Sirius – who was injecting a banana full of water with a large and lethal looking syringe – goodnight and headed out of the basement kitchen and up the stairs to the room he shared with Draco. As he'd hoped, the blonde was sitting against the headboard in just his boxers, waiting up for him.

Harry was glad for Draco's perceptiveness as the blonde held his arms open and allowed him to fall apart once more, his face buried in his boyfriend's neck as he wrapped himself completely around the taller teen.

"Shh, Harry. It'll be ok. It's almost over…" Draco continued to mutter soft words of comfort and love as he gathered Harry against him and slid them both down into bed, pulling the covers up around them. He didn't need to ask what had happened or why Harry was so upset; he knew Harry just needed a chance to breakdown, and he would be there to put him back together again in the morning.


A/N: I know this chapter was very dialogue heavy; I apologize if some of it was a bit tedious. I think part of the reason this chapter took so long and was so hard to write is not only because I had to essentially summarize everything up until this point, but it was also a very emotional chapter. I wanted to get everyone's reactions right, and I hope I did them justice. PLEASE review and let me know that people are still reading this! We're almost to the end now. I predict 2, maybe 3 more chapters, and that's it! Thanks for reading!