Author's notes: This is it, folks. The very last piece of this fic. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thank you once again for all your reviews over the course of the fic! They were all greatly appreciated. For all warnings, summary and disclaimer, see Prologue.
Twelve years later...
Harry stared out the tiny window from his seat by the bed. Twilight had finally set in, the last rays of the summer sun setting behind the hazy low hung clouds. A loud sigh had Harry immediately focused on the figure lying on the bed.
Snape turned his head in sleep, and Harry relaxed, unclenching his jaw. His hands, folded neatly in his lap, began to fidget. Licking his lips he checked the clock on the wall. Not quite time yet. He reclined slightly in the chair, his eyes flicking to the nearby nightstand littered with potion bottles.
Downstairs he could hear the old record player softly turning out an opera piece. Harry didn't know which anymore. Severus had way too many records nowadays. The music floated pleasantly up the stairs into the small bedroom and for a moment, Harry felt at peace. He shut his eyes and just listened to the beautiful voices, hearing, but not understanding. But with opera, it was all about the music, not the language. Love is a universal language.
Harry swallowed deeply as the room sank into complete darkness. He had no idea how long he'd been sitting there, just staring. Severus still slept, seemingly at peace. The clock chimed with a shrill sound.
Harry pursed his lips at the interruption. He glanced at the bed in dismay, noticing the other man rousing from his slumber. He felt pained. A three hour nap, uninterrupted. A rare occurrence indeed. He slowly rose out of his chair and sat on the edge of the bed.
Severus rubbed at his eyes in irritation. He coughed slightly and Harry was there, water in hand. Severus thanked him with a nod and greedily drank from the cup.
With shaking fingers he handed the cup back to Harry. The older man looked at the nightstand and sighed. Then he looked at Harry. The expression was the same every day, and without fail, it physically hurt Harry to see it.
"Please, Severus. Not today. Here." He handed the first vial over and averted his eyes as Severus gulped it with a grimace. A larger vial was passed. Coughing ensued. Harry did turn then to look at his lover, his brows furrowing with worry. Severus waved him off.
Harry nodded while screaming on the inside. No, Severus. You are not fine. You die a little every day. He allowed a smile as he passed yet another vial. Severus did not take it.
"I can't. There is no damn point to this. Do you enjoy seeing me like this?"
It hurt. Jaw clenched, Harry insistently thrust the vial out. Snape shook his head before laying back against the propped pillows. Harry refrained from sighing.
"Severus, please. Don't make me beg again." He would. He had. And he'd do it again.
"Harry, it's useless. We both know this." He licked his lips and Harry wondered at what he wouldn't say. He didn't ask. He never did.
Harry carefully placed the vial on top of the nightstand, his throat constricting painfully. He observed the man on the bed carefully. It was hard not to see the changes that had ravaged the older man.
The strong face, so commanding once long ago was lined with fatigue and more gaunt than Harry had ever seen it, the unhealthily glow of death etched into every crevice. A body so frail that he needed aid just getting out of bed every day. Food was barely kept down and it seemed no appetite was left.
Harry did not like seeing Severus like this. He did not like knowing the cancer had spread like an inescapable wildfire, burning through Severus's body like kindle. He had not liked finding out that wizards can indeed develop the same diseases as muggles.
His half-blooded Prince...he had taken the news remarkably well. He must have known. Known that he was at risk.
"I am only a half-blood. It is to be expected. I believe there was a history in the family..."
Harry had stormed out of the house, angry at himself. Angry with Severus. While Harry slept, Severus had gone to a muggle hospital, Remus in tow. There are some things potions or magic cannot cure. Severus had found that out soon enough.
Harry had come back the next night, begging forgiveness.
"Do not be so melodramatic, Potter. I shall be fine."
Liar. Harry grimaced in remembrance.
A knock sounded downstairs. Harry sighed but left Severus's side without a word.
He found Teddy at the door, groceries in hand. Harry stepped to the side, letting the teen pass.
"How much do I owe you?"
Teddy shrugged. "Don't worry about it. It wasn't much. Besides, dad would kill me if I took money from you."
Harry huffed. "Teddy, just don't tell him. You're doing me a favor here. I can't exactly go to the market myself."
Teddy ignored him, instead indicating the stairs with his head.
"How is he, today? He whispered. Harry swallowed and shook his head.
"Stubborn, of course. Like every day." The attempt at humor failed miserably and he found his chest constricting.
"Harry, this is killing him," Teddy said quietly. Harry knew he wasn't referring to the cancer. He released a shaky breath and motioned outside.
The air was sticky with humidity as they sat on the front stoop. Harry knew he should be getting back to Severus.
"I don't know what else to do. Hermione has exhausted herself in research. I can only be of some help."
Teddy looked at the ground. "I know it's killing you too, Harry." He sighed then, cautiously glancing at Harry. "But...well, there's always-"
"No." Harry stood. "No. Out of the question. I may be so selfish as to damn myself further, but I would never do it to Severus. He has never even-"
Teddy looked away, ashamed. He nodded, telling Harry he should get back.
"Tell your dad I said hi." Harry saw Teddy nod and dissaparate. Harry went back upstairs.
He found Severus awake and reading. "Teddy brought food. Would you like me to make you something?"
"No. Thank you."
Harry gritted his teeth but nodded. He himself had not fed for a couple of days. He couldn't bear to leave Severus's side, even for a few hours. But he could not get his meals from Severus anymore, so it had been back to Knockturn. He was shocked at how revolting blood had tasted when it had not been from Severus. But he had no choice now.
He sat down in his chair and watched Severus. Weeks, the doctor had told Remus and Severus during his last appointment. Months, maybe.
"Stop it, Harry."
Harry blinked, not even noticing the streaks on his face. His lips were moist. Bloody and tasteless. He didn't bother wiping them away. Severus resumed his reading.
"Did Theodore bring any chocolate?"
Harry started, sitting up in his chair. Severus was staring at him, book still open in his hands. Harry stood, quickly.
"I'll go check for you." He swept out of the room and down to the kitchen. He sifted through the brown bags until he found what he was looking for. One foil-wrapped dark chocolate bar. He found himself smiling despite everything. He practically ran upstairs.
He happily handed the bar to Severus, who immediately unwrapped it.
"You will have to thank Remus for me, of course. I know he makes that boy buy it all the time."
Harry smiled. "Well, you know how Remus is. Thinks chocolate is the cure for everything. And you can thank him yourself next time he stops by."
Severus paused mid-bite. He did not look up at Harry, choosing the book instead. He settled back in the pillows, chocolate bar in hand.
Harry blinked. "What? What was that?"
Harry grew alarmed. "WHAT?"
An exasperated Snape looked up. "Harry, we both know there won't be a next time."
Harry felt as if a mountain troll had punched him in his stomach. He stood rooted to the floor unable to process what Severus was telling him. After an agonizing minute of shock, he stared into Severus's eyes.
"I love you, Harry. Have I ever told you?"
Oh God. Harry crumbled to the floor, not caring what Severus thought of him. His body was wracked with heavy sobs and he was startled to feel deceptively strong arms wrapped around him. He looked up to find Severus kneeling next to him.
"God, Severus, don't." He hurriedly wiped at his face as he tried to get a grip on Severus's shoulders.
"Harry, stop," he whispered in his ear. Harry felt long fingers raking through his hair, back and forth. It felt soothing. He allowed himself to lean against the older man's chest. Soft hair tickled his cheeks and he found his fingers wrapped around a silver strand. Even Severus's hair was not immune to the stress.
Harry's tears did not stop for a while. Still, Severus held him, propped against the side of the bed, playing with his dark locks, whispering soothing words in his ear.
"Severus," Harry sniffed.
"No. You won't be. You won't be. You're leaving me, already. I can feel it in your beating heart and I see it on your face. Every day you leave a little bit more. You're breaking your promise to me, Severus. You told me you never would. You told me." He knew he was rambling, acting like the coward he was. So damn selfish. Severus was the one dying here. Then why did it feel the opposite?
Harry pulled away, coming face to face with the man he cared for more than anyone.
"What do you want me to do, Harry?"
Harry's eyes widened. The rhetorical question was staring him in the face. The question and answer to both their happiness.
"Nothing." Coward, indeed.
Snape shook him. "Damn it, Harry! Just tell me. What do you. Want me to do?" Harry tried not to read anything in those black eyes.
"I just want you to live. I want you to stay with me." He leaned away.
"Fuck! I know I sound like a selfish asshole. I am so sorry." He wiped at his eyes, angry at himself for acting this way in front of Severus of all people.
Severus licked his lips, the motion so deliberate and cautious, it made Harry pause.
"I would have never thought..."
Harry refused to breath, never mind the fact that vampires don't actually need to.
Severus began again. "You've never even hinted at the possibility. I could only begin to wonder how traumatizing it would be for you."
Harry put his face into his hands with a grimace. "It would be more so, to lose you." The words came out muffled, but Severus heard them nonetheless.
"I have no wish to be parted from you."
"Even if it means death of another kind?" Harry looked through blurred vision at the man in front of him.
"I would find no peace behind the veil. Not without you."
Harry shot to his feet. "That isn't an answer! I can't- I won't do this if you despise me for the rest of eternity!"
"I am days away from death, Harry. But I have had months to think. There has ever only been one answer. My human life was bearable because you were there. But I would understand your trepidation. The decision is entirely yours. If you refuse, it would change nothing of how I feel about you. In this life, or the next."
Harry turned away, hand clutching at his throat. The tears pooled endlessly behind his closed lids, but really, there was never any decision. All he needed was for Severus to ask him. Damnation was long gone from his mind. All he cared about was what Severus thought.
Turning slowly, he looked down at the man sitting patiently on the floor, awaiting his doom, whatever it may be.
A smile, the first in weeks had Harry kneeling in a blink. Relief had settled in the potion master's eyes, as if the pain of the past two years was nothing more than a terrible dream. Harry reached over and took the other man's hand.
"I can't promise this won't hurt," he warned the other man. Severus didn't even flinch.
"Try servitude under Voldemort."
Harry actually smiled. He searched Severus's eyes for a last confirmation. He saw acceptance, not resignation. He carefully gathered the man in his arms and pressed his lips to the pulsing vein in his neck. Squeezing his eyes shut, he carefully pierced the skin.
Severus opened his eyes and looked up at the dark ceiling. What he actually saw was every crack, stain, and crevice that stood out like a soar thumb. How he never before noticed the imperfections, he wasn't sure.
He breathed in the air but felt his senses assaulted as he smelt every odor within ten feet of him. The smell of soil, of sweat, of old. Potent potion ingredients. Calming draught, numbing potion, something powdery. He smelled the wood of the floor beneath his body. It was almost too much at once.
"You'll get used to it."
Severus lurched off the floor, eyes darting madly to the other figure in the room. The face looked so familiar but it was impossible that it was the same Harry. His Harry.
His eyes glowed, a million swirling variations of green embers. More pretty than any jewel. Hair that looked like spun silk, flowing perfectly around his face- a face that he was so sure was without a single flaw.
But no, there were marks, there were scars. So pale and so masked that a human eye would never notice. And still exotic and beyond compare.
"Harry?" His voice sounded strange. The same, but clearer, louder. He heard Harry swallow.
"Are you alright?"
The boy was frightened. Frightened that something was wrong. Yet, the pain was gone. Severus released a shaky breath. No, definitely gone. His chest didn't hurt anymore when he breathed. His body no longer felt weak. Severus in fact had never felt better. He was alive. He would not die. He could not die.
"Yes?" Harry got to his feet, towering over the kneeling man.
Harry sniffled. And then again. The boy was crying. Severus had hoped never to hear that heart-breaking sound again. He stood up in front of Harry and extended his arms. Harry immediately lunged at him.
"Oh God, Severus. I love you so much." He squeezed tighter. "Don't ever put me through that again."
Severus chuckled. "I shall endeavor not to. Now please cease the tears."
Harry looked up and Severus wiped the blood away with two strokes. He looked down at his hand in wonder. The watery blood sparkled in the dark, or maybe it was his imagination.
His hands looked pale-white and every vein was visible. But they were his hands. The same hands he perfected potions with. The same ones he held Harry with over and over again. Strong, full, mobile. He smiled as he met Harry's eager eyes.
His vision blurred and for one embarrassingly long second he realized he was actually tearing up. He blinked them away and suddenly kissed Harry. The younger man sighed in contentment. After a moment, Severus slowly disengaged himself from Harry.
"I feel parched. Like I haven't drank in years."
Harry nodded. "Yes, I imagine you would be. You need to feed. The sooner the better or it will get worse. I'm surprised you weren't begging for it the moment you woke." Then, more apologetically, "I'm sorry."
Severus merely smiled. "Do not apologies. I am perfectly aware of how a vampire operates. And I must have you to thank for the strong blood. I imagine your blood combined with your powerful magic is why I do not feel the strong urge to feed. But perhaps we should..." He indicated outdoors.
"Yes. Whatever you want, Severus." He looked Severus over with obvious approval. "Perhaps you should get changed first," he added.
Severus looked down at the sweaty pale nightshirt and nodded. Harry suddenly smiled. "Stay here, I'll pick out something for you." He was off in a dash and Severus merely rolled his eyes as he shook his head.
He peeled off the nightshirt, dropping it to the floor. Clad only in his boxers, he made his way across the room where the full length mirror hung on the wall. He suddenly stopped as he stared at the reflection.
His mouth drooped slightly in sheer shock. It was surely he, but oh so different. He approached closer, taking in his entire frame. His body, practically skin and bones hours ago now stood regal and strong, despite the state of undress.
Sinewy muscles lined his arms and his shoulders were no longer boney. His chest was flat but carefully defined and his hip bones barely protruded as they had. His legs were shapely and muscles flexed with every turn.
Old scarring faded to almost nothing and his skin from head to toe was pale and smooth. He touched his chest in wonder, feeling odd at the sight of himself. He never imagined he could look like this. It was a strange sensation.
His hair remained shoulder length, the soft ebony wisps just grazing his collar bone. It seemed fuller and darker and it felt soft to the touch, like Harry's.
He stared into his own eyes finally. The bottomless black pits stared back at him in apprehension but a quirk of his eyebrow reminded him quickly just who was standing there. He was never a vain man, but he allowed himself a slight curve to his lips as he secretly marveled at what he had become.
He flicked a pink tongue to wet his crimson lips and immediately felt the prick of his razors. Curiously, he opened his mouth and mapped each perfect fang with his tongue. With a slight, "hmm", he twirled around just as Harry walked back in.
The young vampire noticed the mirror and his smile turned mischievous.
"Like what you see, Severus?"
Severus coughed. "It is...different. I am quite pleased."
Harry's smiled widened. "You look twenty years younger."
Severus paused and turned back to the mirror. Yes. That was it; the unfamiliarity. It was the same man staring back at him in the mirror, but younger, more handsome and more alive than ever before. He frowned as he realized his nose unfortunately remained as it was. Ah, well. Immortality clearly wasn't a cure all.
"I suppose I feel twenty years younger too. I confess I never thought much would change. But it is a pleasant surprise, I assure you."
Harry smiled, handing over the clothing he had collected. Severus looked down at the familiar black garments of years ago and arched a brow in question.
"It suits you. Now please put them on before I lose control."
Severus laughed and started to dress. Harry walked over to the window and stared at the night sky, a peaceful expression on his face.
Severus found himself copying Harry's demeanor and realized for the first time ever, what it was to be perfectly content.