Author's notes at the end : )

Chapter 52

"Lars, can I speak with you for a moment?" Severus asked, finally locating the man after spending a good half hour looking for him, and finding him in one of the many now abandoned classrooms.

"Of course," the man replied, closing the book he was engrossed in. "Something wrong?"

"Um...I don't really know, I'm...somewhat confused," Severus said, rubbing the bridge of his nose agitatedly as he leant against one of the tables. "I've just been with Harry and he thinks...he thinks he knows how to solve the fact that he can't get close to Voldemort."

Lars' eyebrows rose upwards in surprised. "How?" he asked.

Severus took a deep breath and met Lars' eyes, saying quietly, "He wants to use our soulmate bond to transfer his power to me so I can use it to kill Voldemort."

The surprise was evident on Lars' face and he let out a long, slow whistle, running a hand through his scruffy hair.

"Is it possible?" Severus asked.

" theory...yes I suppose it would be, although I've never heard of it being done before. I suppose there's no reason why it couldn't be done, although I have no idea how."

"Would Daskalov know?"

"He might do, the only way to find out would be to ask him. But Merlin Severus, this is...this is big."

"I know," Severus said quietly, thinking, but not saying, just how tremendously 'big' the situation really was. His head had been spinning ever since Harry had told him of the plan, and the enormity of it was threatening to overwhelm him. He was shaken from his reverie by Lars' hand coming to rest on his shoulder, and he looked across at the man beside him, who offered him a gentle smile.

"I'll go and speak with Daskalov," Lars said, "and then we can see just what it is we're dealing with."

"It is," said Daskalov, sipping at his whisky, "possible I believe, if only in theory at least. I have consulted several of my colleagues and though the idea is a novel one to them all, they agree that there is no reason why it could be accomplished."

"I knew it!" Harry exclaimed, practically vibrating in his seat. "I knew we could do it. This is it, this is our solution."

"Harry slow down, we mustn't allow ourselves to be carried away," Dumbledore chided, but Harry completely ignored him, ploughing ahead and saying,

"There's nothing else that can be done, this is our only option. Voldemort can only be stopped by a power equal to or greater than his own, and mine is the only power that comes close – fact. This is the only way we can use that power."

"But how is it even done Harry?" Draco asked as he and Ron sat squashed together in one of the armchairs.

"Well...I'm not exactly sure," Harry admitted, his excitement deflating slightly, "but if it's possible in theory then it must be possible in practice. It'll just...take a little more research."

"Not more research surely?" Marcus asked with a raised eyebrow.

"It's necessary," Harry insisted. "Where are you going?" he asked as Severus stood up and headed for the door.

"I need some fresh air, it's too hot in here. I'll be back in a bit," he replied, leaving and closing the door behind him.

"Perhaps tea is in order?" Dumbledore suggested and Harry sighed but nevertheless moved into the kitchen to put the kettle on, glad to have something to do.

Draco took the opportunity, while the meeting had broken up, to give Ron a nudge and say, "What's wrong?"

"What do you mean?" the red-head replied, turning to face Draco.

"Ron I know you too well; you haven't said a single word and you've been watching Harry and Sev so closely that I'm surprised you haven't strained your eyes. What are you thinking?"

Ron frowned and shifted slightly in the chair, his expression pensive as he said, "It just seems to me...that Sev isn't as thrilled about this whole thing as Harry. In fact, he seems downright worried. I'm just concerned that this isn't as clear-cut as Harry thinks it is."

"And maybe," Draco said, running his fingers lightly through Ron's hair, "we all need to have a little more faith in Harry." At Ron's questioning look Draco elaborated, "How often has he been proved wrong? Think about it; Harry always seems to have these madcap ideas and he's nearly always proved right. It doesn't matter whether or not people believe him, he usually comes up with the goods. Maybe we all need to have a little more faith."

Ron sighed and took Draco's hand as he said, "Perhaps you're right love. I suppose the more cynical part of me just doesn't believe that the answer can be this easy."

"I don't think easy comes into it," Draco said softly. "We still don't know how this can be done, and, if as you say, Sev is reluctant, we still have a way to go before the finish line."

"I thought I might find you here," Harry said softly as he sat down next to Severus, who was seated on a rickety old bench half-way down the west side of the cliff that supported the school building.

"I wasn't hiding," Severus replied as he continued to gaze into the distance.

"You weren't hoping to be found either," Harry returned as he sat shoulder to shoulder with his husband. "Are you going to tell me what's wrong?"

Severus sighed and clasped his hands together as he continued to gaze ahead to the distant shoreline. He was about to speak when he felt Harry's small hand slide into his own and he looked across to the young man, who offered him a gentle smile.

"We share a mind link Sev, I can sense everything that's rolling off you in waves. You don't think we can do this do you?"

Severus clasped Harry's hand tightly and replied, "It isn't that Harry, it's's all just a little overwhelming. What if...what if I can't use the power as well as you can? What if I can't use it to proper effect or it doesn't take with the transference? There's so much that can go wrong and I understand that you're excited because you think we've found the solution...but I just think we need to be realistic."

Harry sighed and shifted closer to his husband, holding his hand tightly as he said, "I understand that, and I understand that everyone thinks I'm being completely crazy and going overboard about this, like I'm just grabbing onto anything in some desperate attempt to find a solution, but I'm not. Severus have you ever been so sure of something that you just knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was true, that it was real? I know you're worried about this and I know why, but what I'm asking you, what I need from you, is faith. I need you to believe in me, I need you to trust that I know what I'm doing."

"How can you be so sure?" Severus asked softly, searching Harry's eyes for a hint of uncertainty, but finding none.

"There are some things in life that you just know, things that you feel and this is one of those things. I can't explain it and I don't expect you to understand, but I know this will work and I really need you to believe that it will too. Think about it Sev, think about what we've been through with the soulmate bond, how connected we already are, doesn't this just feel like the next natural step?"

"You're not going to find the answer at the bottom of that thing."

Severus looked up from his drink to find Ron hovering over him, indicating at the bottle of whisky standing sentinel beside him. "Maybe not, but it's definitely taking the edge off."

Ron sighed and sat down beside Severus on the bench that the man was perched on in one of the unoccupied corners of the Great Hall, whilst everyone else buzzed actively around them. He grabbed a spare glass and poured himself a finger, taking a slow sip before saying quietly but firmly, "You're being an idiot Sev."

Severus threw back the remaining liquid in his glass and turned to face the red-headed annoyance at his side. "And why would that be this time?" he asked, trying to fix his most imposing sneer on his face, but knowing that it would have very little effect on the person it would have once terrified.

"Because instead of talking to your husband, the one great love of your life, you're hiding yourself away in here getting steadily wasted and avoiding the issue entirely. And stop pulling those ridiculous faces at me, you look like you're sucking a lemon."

Severus rolled his eyes and said with a wistful sigh, "I miss the days when I could make you cower with fear with just a raise of my eyebrow."

Ron laughed and clapped his friend on the back, saying, "Sorry Sev, but those days are well behind us now."

"Yes and instead of you being afraid of me, you lecture me and steal my alcohol!" Severus groused in response, pouring himself another glass.

"Well someone has to point out when you're being a moron."

"And it always has to be you," Severus returned grumpily.

Ron shook his head and took another sip of his whisky, regarding the man next to him over the rim of his glass. He was looking tired and worn, paler and thinner than usual, with his mouth set in a firm line as he clenched it firmly shut. The tension throughout his whole body was palpable as if one wrong move would send him shattering into a thousand pieces, and although Ron's tone had so far been jovial, he knew he had to tread carefully with the man if he was going to get his point across.

"I don't understand what's troubling you so much," Ron said gently.

Severus exhaled deeply and rested his head in his hands, rubbing agitatedly at his temples. "I just...I just think that we all need to slow down and stop treating this latest theory as the solution to all our problems."

"Funnily enough," Ron said, placing his glass on the table, "I said much the same thing a few hours ago."

Severus turned to face him and raised a questioning eyebrow, to which Ron elaborated, saying, "I was thinking along the same lines as you, that it was all too fast, that everyone was getting carried away, that Harry was clutching at straws in some desperate attempt to find a solution, but..."

"But?" Severus prompted with a sigh.

"But then Draco reminded me that this is Harry we're talking about, and things are rarely that straightforward when it comes to him."


"Meaning," Ron said levelly, "that, as Draco pointed out, Harry isn't like everyone else, just look at his track record. He has this habit of always managing to come up with the goods just in the nick of time when everything else seems hopeless. He never stops to think about whether it may be wrong or crazy or end in disaster, he just somehow knows instinctively that he's right and that everything will work out ok. Believe me, I've been there for enough of these little 'episodes' to know what I'm talking about, and maybe Drake's right, maybe we all just need to have a"

Severus gave a half-shrug and reached to pour himself another glass, but Ron moved the bottle out of the way and said, "Stop avoiding the issue."

"Stop stealing my alcohol off me," Severus returned petulantly.

"Stop being a child."

"Ron," Severus growled.

"Don't 'Ron' me, you know full well that it doesn't work anymore. Don't tell me that you're so pig-headed that you can't see what I'm saying."

"I know full well what you're saying, I just find it difficult to believe that it's as straightforward as that."

"Have you not heard a word that I've said so far? No one is saying that any of this is straightforward, it's far, far from it, but you have to put that aside as secondary to the real issue here – that what we all need to do right now is put our faith in someone who, so far, has never once let any of us down, someone who we all love and trust, and someone who is probably one of the most unique and gifted people on the face of the planet. How on earth can you possibly expect things to be straightforward when it comes to him?"

"I really hate it when you're in one of your practical moods."

"Remus won't be back until the small hours, and Fred and George are on their way back now I think."

"Good, the sooner we have everyone here the better it will be to try and get all this in some kind of order."

"True enough and I think..."

Harry tuned out the conversation and resumed his activity of staring out the window. The debate hadn't stopped all day and his home had someone turned into the epicentre of the discussions, the activity not abating despite the late hour. Severus hadn't returned and now Ron was also suspiciously absent, although Draco had assured him that the red-head had simply gone for some air. He was beginning to get agitated with everyone around him and wished that they would leave him alone to mull over the events of the day, not to mention the fact that he very much needed some time alone with his husband to try and sort out whatever it was that was preoccupying him.

He knew that Severus was having difficulty processing the whole situation and that he had his reservations about the whole thing, but how would it every get sorted out if the man kept avoiding him? He had been so sure that he'd found the perfect solution, that everything would be ok, but he hadn't considered that Severus would need to be strong-armed into it. Not that he wanted to strong-arm anyone, he had no intention of bullying Severus into anything he didn't want to do, but if he really was so against the idea, then they were back to square one as far as Voldemort was concerned.

"I take it our home is still overrun?" came Severus' voice across his senses.

"They're still talking everything through, they don't seem to be taking the very subtle hints I've been dropping for them to fuck off."

"Well you're in as charming a mood as ever," Severus replied, a tinge of humour in his voice.

"Can you blame me?"

"Come outside," Severus instructed gently.

"Outside where exactly? In case you've noticed, we're surrounded by 'outside'," he replied, knowing that he was being childish, but unable to contain his frustration.

"Stop being an idiot, you know exactly where I am," Severus returned. And it was true; Harry did know where his husband was, as he always did, in the same way he always knew what the man was thinking and feeling.

He glanced around at everyone else in the room, and, rather than waste time with explanations as to where he was going, he cast a temporary veil over their vision, so they would be blind to his movements. Not that he really had too much to worry about; they were all so preoccupied with their debate that he doubted they'd notice his absence anyway. He slipped quietly out of the room and made his way along the corridor to a little side-door Severus had shown him months ago. He pushed open the door and saw that his husband was waiting for him a few feet away.

"You managed to slip out then?" Severus asked.

"They're too preoccupied to even notice."

"They're excited I suppose."

"Well someone has to be," Harry said pointedly, not wanting to start an argument, but still smarting slightly from Severus' distinct lack of enthusiasm.

"Harry," Severus said with a sigh, "I think perhaps we've misunderstood each other."

"I think I understood you perfectly Severus," Harry said, leaning against the wall and regarding his husband.

"No Harry, I don't think you did," Severus replied, moving to stand next to him. "My...reticence wasn't a refusal to try this idea, or me saying that I thought it wouldn't work, I just needed some time to get my head round it and really think it through. I also needed some time to realise that...that sometimes I just need to put my faith in you, to realise that the man I married is quite an exceptional and brilliant person. I just needed to trust you Harry."

Harry looked up at his husband, trying to sense if what the man had just said was just to placate him and smooth things over for a little while, but he could feel his sincerity and he could sense that Severus' mood and thoughts had altered. "Are you...are you saying that you want to do this?"

Severus paused for a moment then reached up to brush the across Harry's forehead, "I'm saying that I trust you, that I believe in what you believe in and yes, if this is really what you want, if this is really what you think we should do, have my full support."

"Sev, I don't want you to feel like I've bullied you into this. Sometimes it always feels like it's me ploughing on ahead and I just drag you along for the ride."

"What are you talking about?" Severus asked, frowning in confusion.

"Well...sometimes it's like I make all these decisions and then spend my time talking you into them. I mean, it took ages to talk you into having a family and – "

"Harry stop," Severus said firmly. "I want a family just as much as you do and just because I take a little longer to warm to ideas than you do doesn't mean that I don't feel the same way about them."

"It's just...this is huge Severus, this is the biggest, scariest thing we've ever done and I have absolutely no intention of doing it if you're not one hundred percent behind the idea."

"But I am! That's what I'm trying to tell you you infuriating boy!" Severus said exasperatedly. "How exactly would you like me to say it so that it penetrates that thick skull of yours?" He moved closer to Harry and placed his hands either side of the boy's face, looking him directly in the eye and saying, "I'm with you, we will do this together and we'll come through it."

Harry felt a surge of relief flood through him and he could almost physically feel the weight lifted from his shoulders. He smiled up at Severus and said quietly, "Thank you. I promise we'll do this properly, we won't make a move until we know everything. It's going to be ok."

For the first time in several weeks, Harry felt a wonderful sense of contentment. He was lying on the sofa in the living room, his head pillowed on Severus lap whilst the man slowly ran his fingers through his hair. Ron was sitting opposite in the large, comfy armchair, with Draco sitting at his feet, resting his head on Ron's knee. Everyone else had left and though it was the small hours of the morning, no one had any intention of going to bed. There seemed to have been an unspoken agreement that the four of them would stay together and enjoy a rare moment of peace and relaxation.

"It would be nice to have a spring wedding," Draco said, in response to Harry's comment that April would be a good month to get married. "But I'm not sure I can wait 8 more months!"

"Patience my love, patience," Ron said with a laugh.

"You should know me better than that," Draco replied, poking his tongue out at his fiancé.

"And when will be hearing the pitter-patter of tiny feet?" Harry asked with a grin.

"All in good time you four-eyed git," Ron replied, finishing the last of his wine. "Anyway, you two will be the first in that department. Which one's the older one again? Caleb is it?"

"'The older one'? That's your nephew you're talking about!" Harry said with mock indignation. "And yes, Caleb is our first child, Benji's the younger of the two."

"And they're both going to idolise their Uncle Ron and think that he's the smartest, most intelligent member of this family," Ron said with a grin.

"Not unless they're both a little slow," Harry returned.

"Don't let him speak to you that way Ron," Severus said with a smile. "We all know that your intelligence is matched only by my own."

"Ah Sev, I do love you. How about ditching these two morons and you and I can set up home?" Ron asked with a dramatic waggle of his eyebrows. "I've often thought that we'd make lovely looking children!"

Severus snorted into his wine glass whilst Harry and Draco exchanged fairly scandalised looks. "I think they're pissed," Draco said in a stage whisper.

"Happily sozzled thank you very much!" Ron said, raising his wine glass in a happy salute. "You two are just jealous spouses because Sev and I share a special bond."

"Right you are my red-headed friend," Severus chimed in. "It's our higher powers of intellect and of course the fact that we're so much better looking than these two."

Harry burst out laughing, swiftly followed by Draco and soon enough the entire room was filled with the sound of laughter and hilarity. Harry looked round at his friends and his husband and allowed himself to indulge in the happiness of the moment. So much was about to change, so much was about to happen, and although he was prepared for it, he was happy to have this precious time to enjoy the things he held so dear in his life.

"I don't suppose you got a look at our children in your little vision?" Draco asked Harry.

"Nope, sorry, just my strapping young lads," Harry replied with a grin.

"Our strapping young lads," Severus corrected with a gentle swat to his husband's head. Harry grinned up at the man and reached a hand up behind his neck to pull him down into a kiss.

"Ewwwwwwwww!" Draco called out dramatically. "Ah my eyes, my eyes! Some sights a young boy should never be exposed to!"

"Let's show 'em how it's done darling!" Ron said, grabbing his blond counterpart and planting a big, theatrical kiss on his lips, whilst Harry and Severus looked on laughing. "I think we have the edge on them where snogging's concerned," Ron said, draping an arm around Draco's shoulders and grinning across at his friends.

"You can have snogging, we win on shagging," Harry returned with a smirk.

"You are such an embarrassment," Severus told him, rolling his eyes.

"But you love me!" Harry told him confidently.

"That is, unfortunately, true."

"In the light of which, I would like to propose a toast," Harry said, awkwardly pushing himself up to a sitting position as he tried not to pour his wine all over himself. "These last few weeks haven't been easy for any of us, and I have no doubt that there are worse times to come," he said, everyone's mood suddenly becoming more serious, "but, I know we can do this, and I know that we're going to make it through. So, I would like you all to raise your glasses to friendship, family...and to hope."

Draco, Ron and Severus all exchanged smiles and Severus ran a hand through his husband's hair as they all raised their glasses and echoed Harry's toast.

"Most of all to hope," Severus said softly to Harry.

"It's our best weapon right now," Harry replied.

"One of our best Harry, only one of our best."

"I do love you you know," Harry said emphatically.

"Of course I know. You're only human."

"Oh Merlin, they're doing their little mind thing again," Ron said, rolling his eyes. "Stop it you two, it's rude when you have company!"

"You two aren't company, you're just a nuisance that we can't get rid of," Harry returned as he separated his mind from Severus'.

Ron took umbrage to Harry's slight, Draco giggled into his drink and Severus shook his head at the whole sorry lot of them, whilst Harry simply leant into his husband's side and revelled in the feeling that, for a little while at least, all was right with the world.

AN: I know, I know, I've neglected you all terribly, but unfortunately life has just been a little mental lately and I've had no time whatsoever for writing. I'm going to try and get this finished in the next couple of months, but I'm afraid I can't make any solid promises. I hope you all enjoyed the chapter and I really look forward to hearing what you all thought of it, and of course just hearing from you all again, I've missed you guys! Much love xxx