Rating: M/NC-17

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended – Standard disclaimer.

Warnings: Foul language and explicit sexual content between two males – slash; angst; hurt/comfort; family fluffiness; spoilers; AR.

Words: ~7,000


Epilogue

By Dani-ko
Beta'd by WithDemonWings


-January, 8th of 2010--

It was a mid-winter night and Grimmauld Place was covered in white snow. The Place looked the same it always did, except now, between the number 11 and the number 13, there was a number 12. The Muggle residents of the Place didn't notice any change because, for them, it was like that house had always been there, looking ancient and solid, but bright and homely.

Inside the number 12, in the master bedroom, underneath the heavy covers that fought against the cold, Severus pulled Harry against him, searching for the younger man's lips. Harry complied right away, surrendering to his husband without a fight. Sometimes he fought back for dominance and sometimes he won, but tonight he was willing to give in to Severus. Soft lips closed against the other rosy pair, while the men tasted each other, felt each other. Their arms entwined and their tongues moved against together easily and sensuously.

The candles flickered with the stray magic that hung in the air, until only two were lit up, setting a dark orange glow around the room.

Harry pressed his body against his husband's, while arousing hands roamed freely. Their clothes were discarded and thrown over the covers, as the men pressed their naked bodies against the other and frotted eagerly. Shifting his body for leverage, Severus pushed Harry onto his back and rolled on top of him, their lips never parting, even though their tongues were clashing ferociously. Harry whimpered and tried, fruitlessly, to thrust against Severus' crotch, desperately seeking pleasure.

Propping himself on his knees, Severus pushed Harry's legs apart until the man's thighs rested on his hips. He leaned down and claimed Harry's lips again, only nibbling gently on them; then, moving downwards, over the strong jaw and soft neck. Severus worshipped the expanse of skin, while Harry moaned his appreciation, thrusting up shamelessly until they were both so aroused that foreplay had to be forgone.

They never tore their eyes away from one another, as Severus thrust two slick fingers into Harry and began scissoring them, stretching the eager opening. Harry panted and keened and soon enough neither of them could take the teasing any longer.

"I'm not—ha—in need for much preparation, Sev," Harry panted breathlessly as he clutched blindly to the covers beneath him, in a meagre attempt to ground himself. Severus smiled and bent his head to kiss Harry passionately, gladly receiving the man's whimpers as he abused Harry's prostrate. Severus shifted slightly, letting his good leg support his weight and, with one swift motion, he filled Harry with himself. Harry choke back a sob, then rocked his hips gently to adjust himself. "Move."

Severus started to move, slowly, gently, planting soft kisses along his husband's cheeks. He looked down to see Harry's eyes roll close and a whimper exit his lips; Harry's tresses were moving in time with Severus' thrusts and his body was glistening with sweat, while his green eyes focused once again on the man on top of him. Severus leaned back on his heels so that he could thrust further in and the bed covers slid down his body, pooling around his hips, exposing his nude back to the cold, but it didn't matter anymore.

Their tempo quickened impossibly, and Harry bit his lip to prevent himself from moaning aloud; then, he curled his arms around Severus' neck and pulled the man down, spreading himself wider, eagerly taking his mouth and crying out into the kiss.

Severus reached between them and pulled at Harry's erection quickly, because he could not hold back any longer. Harry came with a muffled groan, all over his own chest, losing himself, while Severus thrust in deep, cried victoriously and then froze above him. After a moment, he began to thrust shallowly, riding his pleasure and giving Harry his until they both came down from their passion-induced high.

"Good heavens," Severus breathed after a moment, slumping on his side beside Harry. "Just when I reason it can't possibly get any better . . ." He let the rest of the statement hang in the air, but Harry heard it nonetheless and nodded in recognition, taking deep breaths, trying to recover. Severus reached with his free hand gently caressed the other's abdomen, startling Harry by pulling him against his body all of a sudden. Getting the hint, Harry snuggled against Severus' side, kissing the man on the lips.

Harry stopped suddenly when he remembered something, and turned to his other side; he squinted to distinguish the numbers in the clock on top of his bedside-table. "It's almost midnight," he said. Severus nodded and, solemnly, they waited for the pointer to hit the twelve―

-January, 9th of 2010--

"Happy fiftieth Birthday," Harry said, leaning in for a chaste kiss. Severus pulled Harry against him more securely and deepened the kiss.

"Thank you, Harry," he said and, for some reason he couldn't even begin to fathom, Harry blushed.

It was just that, for Harry, an overwhelmed Severus was a very attractive one; Harry knew he would never get enough of this dashing man beside him. Even considering that Harry was seeing Severus through rose tinted, heart-shaped glasses – with poorly prescribed lenses, by the looks of it – at some level, it was true. Severus was more attractive each day; he was more solid, well-built, and his face had softened into a mild expression that could only mean that this man was deeply loved. Ah, what ten years of love and care can do for a person!

Harry's blush was enough of a recognition, because they settled against each other peacefully once again. After a moment, Harry began to nuzzle on Severus' neck.

"Hum," he purred, "you feel so good." Severus smiled.

"Why, thank you," he replied teasingly, earning a glare from Harry. Severus chuckled, but, after a moment, he sobered and looked at Harry reverently. "It amazes that you are still by my side after all these years." Harry opened his mouth to protest against the self-deprecating speech, but Severus silenced him with his own lips. "I do not mean that I feel myself unworthy or insecure, because I do not—not anymore at least."

"Then, why―" Harry tried to say, but Severus shushed him with another kiss.

"I mean to tell you that you are a grace given to me and you're always deeply appreciated, even if I sometimes―" Harry interrupted him.

"If this is about today's fight . . ." Harry tried, urgently. Severus propped himself on one elbow, in order to have a better view of Harry's face, and gazed at him contemplatively.

Yes, they still fought. Quite a lot actually, but most of the time, it was harmless – and quite amusing, if you ask anyone else – bickering, because their characters clashed, always had. They both had dominant characters and, regardless to say, the house wasn't big enough for both of them. They had had their vulnerable moments, of course, but as they became more secure about themselves and their relationship, the fun had begun.

In the beginning, they were oh-so-in-love that some things hadn't matter. But, of course, then it came the time when those same things became annoying.

It irked Severus to no end when Harry jumped him in the middle of brewing, or when Harry fell asleep on the couch of the family room, or when he left the windows open in the summer. Harry absolutely loathed when Severus slipped and called him 'Mr. Potter', when he used dozens of robes in a week, just because he soiled them while brewing―

"If you washed your own clothes, I bet you would be more careful!"

"I was under the impression that you also didn't wash my own clothes. Or is Izzy on holidays?"

"That's not the point! Tell me how you manage to use three robes in one day!"

―and when Severus got so absorbed in his own reading, working or whatever, and forgot his basic necessities, like feeding himself or even say "Good morning".

Sometimes, however, their disagreements got serious and those fights, they didn't let anybody see. Even if they denied it, they still had their issues. Sometimes, Severus drowned in guilt and self-disgust and, sometimes, Harry felt overwhelmed with grieve and sorrow, and while, most of the time, they helped each other through it, there were times when they just took it out on each other. Like today.

What they never – never – did was hold against the other the things they had done and said before the war. That was in the past and, even if that same past came down to haunt them sometimes, the last thing both of them needed was to have their loved one adding fuel to the fire. It would be infinitely worse.

The quarrels never lasted, though. Edwin would cry out, Grace would hurt herself by bumping against something or James would ask for Severus' help with anything at all, and they would be forcefully reminded why they had got together in the first place. Sometimes, it wasn't even necessary the help of their children, but instead Severus or Harry would say something that reminded them of before – the loneliness, the fear, the longing – and they would give grace for what they had now. Like today.

"I would be lying to you if I said it was not about today's—strife," Severus began, at last, "but it's not only about it, Harry." Severus tucked a strand of Harry's hair behind his ear, gently. "I do love you. It seems like a lifetime has passed since I woke up alone in that hospital bed." Harry tensed and looked away, just like Severus unconsciously expected him to.

-xXxXx-

During the years, every time Severus mentioned the subject, Harry would become withdrawn and distracted, thinking that he should tell Severus that he had never been alone to begin with, but he had never mustered the courage to do so – much to his Gryffindor shame.

At first, Severus had thought that Harry was just uneasy because of the awkward theme, but then he was not so sure. He never asked and Harry never told him anything.

Today would be different, though. Because, you see, a year ago, Harry had made a promise not to let another year pass without telling Severus that.

-xXxXx-

Harry could not be sure what it was that he feared, but he knew Severus well enough to know that the man would resent Harry for letting him believe he was unloved. He knew that this lie, this omission, would mean a complete different thing for Severus. It would mean betrayal. Even so, he took a deep breath and looked straight at Severus.

"I have to tell you something." Severus tensed and retreated the hand that had been carding through Harry's black tresses. The younger man pushed himself into a sitting position and turned until he was facing his husband. "I think you'll be mad at me, and I don't want for us to be mad at each other for your birthday, so if you could, you know, postpone your anger until the tenth, it would be appreciated." Severus said nothing, because he could see Harry's affliction, but really? Postpone one's anger?

"I highly doubt you could make me mad at you now, Harry," he reassured mildly, not wanting to distress his husband further. "I'm still in post-coital bliss." Harry smiled half-heartedly at the attempt to lighten the mood. "So, do share what you have done." Harry sighed.

"During the time you were, you know, asleep―"

"It's called a coma, sweetheart," Severus said, and managed a straight-face even, not quite understanding where Harry was going with this. Harry just gave him a look.

"Anyway—you weren't alone." Severus quirked one eyebrow, not amused anymore. He sat back against the headboard, gazing at Harry intently. "I was there with you. I left the first time you squeezed my hand." Silence fell on the room. Severus looked away, trying to process that new piece of information; he schooled his face into blankness, and he could hear Harry shifting uncomfortably in reaction.

"Why did you leave?" he asked finally, aloofly looking at Harry.

"You hated me back then," Harry said, "I never thought you could be glad to see me—someone." He hesitated. Harry knew he had thought that he wouldn't be able to handle Severus' hatred after sitting with him for three months, feeding his fantasies of romance and happiness.

The older man sat in silence for a while longer, but he wasn't mad. Maybe he would have been ten years ago, but it didn't matter anymore. Severus held Harry's hand on top of the covers and tugged on it, until Harry got the hint and motioned forward, straddling Severus' hips. A bit awkwardly, as if he still wasn't used to this sort of intimacy, Severus pulled Harry to his chest and held him. A moment passed by, and Harry finally relaxed.

"I think I can understand why you feared my reaction, Harry," Severus began, because he still felt the shadow of his past bitterness and forged indifference. "But it happened so long ago that it doesn't matter. Perhaps it would have mattered at the time, but my anger would not have been personally caused by you." It wouldn't, because, at the time, Severus had been drowning in regret and sorrow for himself and Harry would have been a personification of his wrong deeds – quite literally, if you consider that everything began with that blasted Prophecy – and the man probably would have taken the blunt of Severus' frustrations. "Everything happens at its time."

"Yeah." Harry nodded and snuggled closer, while he Summoned their pyjamas wandlessly, handing Severus his. Then, lying down and pulling Severus to lie next to him, he Summoned the covers and wrapped them both safely in their warmth. Just before he let the comfort of the bed get to his mind, Harry lifted his head to look at his husband. "So, everything's okay, right?" Severus gave him a small smile.

"I believe so," he said, pausing dramatically for emphasis. "Unless you have any complaints?" Harry grinned and resumed his previous position. The lights went out with a flick of Severus' wand, and the man made himself comfortable as well.

Moments after, they were both deeply asleep.

Hours later, the sun drifted past the curtains of the window, and hit the raven-haired man square in the face.

Harry frowned and turned to the other side, curling up against his husband. The sun wasn't warm and its light was diffused by the frost caked outside the window, and it was still too bloody early to be woken up. After a moment, Severus' arms encircled his middle and he pulled the younger man securely against his body.

"You know it's useless to make yourself comfortable, since we're about to be attacked by midgets," Severus grouched, but his voice was sweet like honey and it made Harry's body twinge pleasantly. He laid his head on the older man's shoulder, burying his face in Severus' neck and placed soft kisses on his jaw.

"Oh, yes?" Harry asked, feigning innocence. "And why is that?" Severus didn't even bother to hide his smile.

"Brat," he accused, but there was no spite in his words and the general effect of the complaint was lost when he turned his neck to the side to grant Harry better access. Harry laughed.

"You know, some people might say that the first sign that tells you you're getting old is when you call a thirty year-old man a brat," he pointed out, teasing. Nothing pleased Severus more that to see that happy gleam in Harry's lovely eyes when he tried to bait him. Feeling the sudden need for intimacy, Severus pulled Harry on top of him, until the younger man sat, straddling his hips. A tell-tale blush made its way to Harry's cheeks.

"You know we don't have the time," he warned. Severus knew that and he hadn't even planned on doing anything – until Harry spoke, that is.

"Blasted children," he complained mildly, not meaning a word he said, as he ran his hands over Harry's legs just the way he liked it. "No sense of timing at all."

Harry laughed again and leaned in to steal a kiss from the man beneath him, just because he could, mapping Severus' chest gently. Severus opened his mouth without prompting and they moved their tongues and bodies against the other, seeking warmth and pleasure. It was Severus who broke the kiss, allowing himself to nibble on Harry's rosy lips, before he pushed the man off of him. It was right on time actually.

Three children broke into the room, the first one being a four-year old girl, with black curls waving behind her as she ran into the room and climbed onto the bed, yelling all the way. Behind them, an apparently floating tray full of food entered the room quietly.

"Wa-ke up! Wa-ke up! Wa-ke up!" Grace started to jump on the bed, between Harry and Severus. "Happy Birthday!" she shouted at last and threw herself into Severus' arms, hugging tightly and kissing his cheeks fiercely. Harry chuckled at the look of distress on Severus' face, as the girl must be about to choke him; still, he didn't complain. Instead, he hugged her tiny body back and kissed – once – her rosy cheek.

Harry felt a pull on his pyjama pants and looked down to see two-year old Edwin trying to climb up. With a smile, Harry pulled him up by his armpits and settled him against his chest. Edwin was shy and didn't like people much, so, most of the time, he just clung to Harry as if he were a lifeline. As it was, it was a surprise when Edwin took his sister place on Severus' lap and let himself be hugged by his other father. The pleased gleam on Severus' eyes was priceless – at least, for Harry it was.

James sat down on Severus' side of the bed and also hugged the man, wishing him "Happy Birthday" in a more subdued way. Grace kept on jumping on the bed, and, once Edwin return to his rightful place on Harry's lap – by his own volition, since Severus wouldn't refuse the child's rare affections – the older man pulled Grace onto his lap and petted her hair until the girl sighed, exhausted from all the excitement, and slumped against Severus' chest. Harry chuckled in amusement; nobody could control Grace except Severus.

"That's my girl," Severus praised, shifting to a more comfortable position. James settled in front of them, while Harry took the tray from Izzy – who had been carrying it on her head.

" 'Ook, 'ook!" Grace exclaimed, trying to break free from Severus' grasp, while pointing at the tray. "We made you breakfast!" Harry caught sight of James rolling his eyes and smiled conspirationally at the boy. Edwin was sucking on his thumb and was almost asleep on Harry's chest. Both of the men were sure that the boy had been taken from his bed by his crazily happy-go-lucky sister. In an attempt to keep Edwin awake for the exchange of presents, Harry Summoned the gifts – hidden on top of the closet – and set them in the end of the bed.

"Maybe we should give Daddy the presents now," Harry suggested. "What do you think, Edwin?" The boy lifted his head in recognition, and looked at Severus, who flashed him a gentle smile. The boy blushed and smiled back.

" 'Kay," he agreed.

As if she had been waiting for permission and had just been granted it, Grace scooted towards the end of the bed – good thing that Severus remembered to put the tray on the floor for the time being – and returned with a rectangular-shaped box, messily wrapped. Opening it quickly, Severus retrieved a hand-made notebook. On the cover, it had a picture of Severus brewing, drawn by Grace and Edwin had put some colourful hand-prints and with 'Our Potions Master' written in bold red in James handwriting. On the inside, there were some potions invented by them. Severus barely held back a laugh.

"Dear me," Severus commented with a grin that showed his pointy teeth. "Such talented children I have. May I ask who did this?"

"Me, it was me!" Grace exclaimed on cue; then, she sobered somewhat. "James and Edwin too, 'course." James looked at his sister exasperatedly, while Edwin giggled helplessly. Harry winked at him.

"Of course," Severus agreed, setting it aside carefully. "Oh, it seems I have many gifts this year." Harry almost snorted at Severus' acting skills. Of course he had, he had even helped Harry pick up some. Harry reasoned that their children trusted them implicitly, because nobody would be fooled by that act. As such, after a lot of fake oh's and ah's as he opened the presents, Severus was left with a silver dagger, some ancient book, a bottle of perfume, one more book and a new cloak.

"Okay, now breakfast," Harry commanded. The tray was set back on the bed and, between the two men, the three children were healthily fed.

"Grace," Severus admonished, with that tone that left no place for complaints, "eat your toast if you please." As he finished talking, Severus sent Harry a sideways glance, looking thoughtful.

It was a silly game, really. It started on their first year together. Not knowing if he had presumed too much when buying Severus a birthday gift, Harry hadn't said a word about the subject all day, nor did Severus, which had made Harry withdrawn, which by itself only made Severus more withdrawn. After this torture, Harry had finally snapped and decided that, whether Severus liked it or not, they were going to celebrate his existence.

Harry had never seen Severus looking so relieved, which was quite a feat considering that he had been bathing when Harry burst into the bathroom with a glittering box and shouting "Happy Birthday".

Sometimes, Harry's awkwardness was adorable; and sometimes, it was just inconvenient. As it was, since then, it had become a private joke, and they would try to surprise the other with their present. Harry was always the first one to break, which made Severus very glad that he had married such an affectionate person because, silly as it seemed, he was unable to give up his pride in such small matters.

"Papa," Edwin called, tugging on Harry's pyjama shirt. "A'en't you goin' to say Happy Bi'th-day?" With a burlesque long-suffering sigh, Harry looked at Severus and his eyes were shinning wickedly.

"I guess I should," he said, in mock defeat. "Happy Birthday," the younger man said gently, trying to hide his happy smile. Severus tried to hide his, too. Both of them failed, but neither cared much, as they leaned in and shared a chaste kiss.

"Ewww!" Grace exclaimed, bringing the men back to reality, where she had spilled her orange juice all over the beddings. James chuckled and Edwin giggled at the look of surprise in their parents faces as they took in the children in front of them. "Sorry," the little girl apologised. Harry just shook his head in exasperation. In times like these, Harry was reminded of Tonks very vividly. He cast a Cleaning Charm over the bed, while Severus filled the girl's glass again.

"Come, come, Grace, eat up," Severus said. The girl did as she was told without further delay. Harry simply lean back and fed Edwin his banana, letting James, Grace and Severus' bickering lull him into a sense of being wrapped in a cocoon of safety and happiness.

-xXxXx-

Harry looked up from the book he was reading at the grandfather-clock near the entrance of Grimmauld's Place family room to see that they should probably begin to get ready for the party.

At his feet, Edwin was very entertained in his play yard, playing with his magic blocks, and Grace was playing with her dolls further to the side – one of the dressed-up dolls magically waved at him when he gazed at his daughter; Harry shuddered: those creepy little things would have never set a foot in his house if he hadn't been told that it was a common gift for Wizarding children. James was in school, since it was a week day, though Harry chose to remain at home and close the shop on holidays.

"Kreacher!" Harry called. Immediately, the ugly house-elf Apparated at his side, bowing slightly in greeting.

"Master Harry called?" the creature asked, politely, since it was obvious that Harry had indeed called.

"Yes. Could you please go tell Severus that is time to finish up in the lab?" Kreacher narrowed his eyes at Harry, who shrugged helplessly.

"Kreacher thinks Master is a coward," the creature said under his breath, but Harry knew he would do as he was told. The house-elf's colourful opinion wasn't entirely a lie, though, because Harry dreaded to interrupt Severus when he was working. Oh, it was not that the man got angry, no – not about that, at least – but, as Harry had discovered very early in their relationship, Severus appeared to have a lab-fetish. After getting late for too many parties and events, Harry had simply given up altogether to enter the man's working room.

Trusting Kreacher and Izzy to make the necessary arrangements for the party, Harry took Grace and Edwin to the nursery and proceeded to make the children presentable for their guests. Regardless to say, Grace complained the whole time, causing Harry to almost lose his patience. When he was done, James arrived via Floo and Harry had to make sure that he was all set as well.

As it was, it was only after an hour and a half that Harry finally entered the master bedroom to get ready. Severus was limping out of their bathroom, drying his hair and complaining all the while, this time about the colour of the clothes he was supposed to wear. Harry was vividly reminded of Grace then – damned cohabitation. He sighed exasperatedly. Nobody could drive him crazy faster than his family. Severus turned around when he heard Harry, with his eyes shining merrily, and Harry had to let go of his annoyance.

"You and Grace are going to be the death of me," he said in guise of explanation, answering the question posed by Severus' quirked eyebrow. At Harry's response, though, Severus smirked at him.

"She can be impossible," he agreed, "and that's why I'm so very proud of her. That girl is going to be a Slytherin." Harry rolled his eyes. Severus said the same thing about James and Edwin, and Harry couldn't wait for them to enter Hogwarts so that he could rub in the man's face how all of them would be sorted into Gryffindor – not that it mattered to him, but since it irked Severus, he kept on saying it.

"We'll see," he replied, non-committally. Not that any of them would share it with others, but they sort of had a standing bet on the subject, and while one of them – Severus – was so very sure he would win, the other – Harry – did so enjoy the teasing and bickering.

"What is that tone I hear?" the older man asked, amused. Severus approached Harry, who was peeling off his own clothes, and pulled him against his chest, kissing his lips gently. Harry tried to suppress a smile, but the smile won and Harry grinned dashingly at the man.

Unable to resist a quick snog, they ended up taking more time than they had intended, but soon enough, they were greeting their guests in the entrance hall, with the three children near them.

"Harry!" Hermione exclaimed, wrapping her arms around Harry and hugging him close. They were standing in the newly decorated hall of Grimmauld Place, where – thank heavens – Mrs. Black was missing. Severus was standing behind him, politely greeting their guests as well, and he wasn't even scowling, which was a major feat in itself, since Harry had had to fight tooth and nail to make the man agree to throw a party every year on his birthday.

Hermione finally let go; they hadn't seen each other in only a week, but Hermione was always exuberant in her greetings. Remus stepped in his wife's place and gave Harry a one-armed hug, since he was holding his newborn baby in his other arm.

It had taken Hermione almost ten years, but she had managed to convince Remus to procreate. While he had been mildly reluctant about having a relationship with someone twenty-years his junior, he had outright denied Hermione when she breached the children subject. Hermione hadn't been deterred, refused a divorce and had been victorious in the end. The child, Connor, had been the result. Of course that she didn't know about Severus threatening Remus with body harm if he didn't make up his mind at once – in fact, Harry wasn't supposed to know that either.

"Seriously, Granger, what about some elegance?" drawled a voice from behind the couple. A moment later, Draco Malfoy came into sight, framed by the street lights from the doorway, with that annoying smirk of his. "In that big head of yours you must have the meaning of the word," he said. Hermione, who had been greeting Severus, turned her head sharply to glare at the blond.

"Oh, and pray tell, Malfoy," she gritted out, "do you know what it means? I'm sure that it means something like this: 'annoy Hermione again and she'll hex you into next year'." Draco glared right back, while Remus and Severus chuckled at the exchange, the latter leading their guests into the parlour.

Astoria, Draco's wife, held onto her husband's arm and gracefully greeted the hosts, quietly apologising for Draco's unbecoming behaviour. Harry just waved her off and bid her a good time, then smiled at the two blond children that preceded their parents into the house, Lyra and Perseus, twin siblings of eight years old.

By the time Harry entered to the parlour, Severus had already got his presents – politely set aside for opening later – and congratulations. Izzy came by with drinks and entrées, and after a while the conversation was flowing naturally.

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley arrived soon after, wearing the same benevolent smiles Harry had come to associate with them, with George and his new 'toy', a beautiful blonde that towered over him, wearing high-heels and a too tight dress. The elder couple greeted Severus with the ease of knowing each other for most of their lives, while Melinda just stood awkwardly next to George.

Although she seemed like all the other chits George dated for the past thirteen years, Melinda had a glint in her eyes that showed perspicacity and intelligence. She was very polite and, even though she was embarrassed about meeting Harry Potter and his unlikely husband, she was extremely discreet in her interest. Harry felt an immediate kinship and Severus was convinced during supper.

The table was already set. It truly looked lovely – despite all his stubbornness and tendency to boss around his own master – Severus had to admit that the damn house-elf sure knew how to serve.

The candles that lit the table were red, just as were the roses in the centre – which Harry had gone to pick up at the florist or Kreacher would give him 'The Look'. The tableware was porcelain white with red patterns and the glasses were crystal – an old Prince inheritance. The tablecloth was burgundy red and had one fine white linen cover over it. The silverware was polish and metrically placed beside the plates.

They took their places and many dishes magically appeared on the table.

"Are you having fun, Melinda?" Mrs. Weasley asked kindly, after a while, since the woman was looking a bit lost among the guests. The conversation had been focused mainly on the Minister and their politics, since all of them had jobs affected by it one way or another. Even if Harry was self-employed, he still spent most of his time persecuted by those endless lobbyists. Being a chaser for the Canadian Meteorites, Melinda was not familiar with the British events.

"Yes, thank you," she replied politely, smiling at the Weasley matriarch. "I'm finding all these intrigues fascinating. Mr. Potter sure seems to have a busy life." The blonde flashed Harry a dashing grin. George was looking at her as she spoke, looking a tad mesmerized by the girl.

"Please, call me Harry," Harry requested, a bit embarrassed. Melinda smiled brightly and nodded, looking slightly hesitant before continuing.

"I saw all of your games back when you played for the Puddlemore United," she told him cautiously, not knowing if he was willing to talk about the subject, but unintentionally, she brought the conversation to a theme that made Harry, Draco and George lean forward in interest. Severus and Hermione groaned in exasperation, making Remus chuckle merrily. "You were brilliant up there. I can't believe you retired at such young age." Harry cleared his throat nervously, since that brought up the whole Ginny issue.

Harry always went beyond himself not to breach that subject. He had, of course, explained to James, a couple of years ago, that his mother had been ill by the time she had died, but he had never elaborated just how delusional she had been. Severus had said that they should have a serious conversation with James before he started Hogwarts, just in case the boy heard a tendentious or exaggerated version of the facts from other students. Harry was dreading the moment, but he knew that was the right thing to do.

As the awkward silence stretched – even if Melinda hadn't noticed – Draco came in his defence.

"I understand that you never saw me play, or else you'd never say that Potter is brilliant," he drawled and Melinda frowned at the personal attack against the host.

"Hey!" Harry protested, shooting a glare at the blond, who smirked, challenging.

"You wish, Ferret," George put in, "Harry could beat you anytime, couldn't you, mate?"

Harry shouted "Yeah!" at the same time Severus spoke.

"Do not worry, Melinda," the man intervened, in his aloof dulcet tones, when he saw her confusion. "The feud between these two has lasted for almost twenty-years, I'm afraid we all have got used to it." Everyone laughed at Harry and Draco's feeble denials.

"It's true, dear," Astoria intervened, addressing Melinda. "You should have seen Draco last week, deciding what gift to bring Severus. Absolutely maniacal, almost scared the children. I wouldn't have made much of it, I know I married a mad man," she teased, looking at Draco with a mischievous smile, "but he kept muttering silly things about 'beating Potter' and utter nonsense."

"Astoria!" Draco exclaimed, appalled. "That's not true, but if it were, have you ever heard of family loyalty?" That sent the others into another fit of laughter. Even Severus chuckled behind his hand. Astoria smiled wickedly at her husband and Harry was assaulted again by the distinct impression that the woman should have been a Gryffindor.

"Face it, Draco," Hermione put in, taking Astoria's side in the playful accusation, "you and Harry are totally obsessed with each other. Harry works out daily just to beat you on your monthly Quidditch match."

"Hermione!" Harry protested, embarrassed, but a sight of Severus' unusual grin made him oddly alright with public humiliation. "That's not true!"

"Lying is unbecoming of you, Harry," Severus teased, putting a hand on Harry's thigh, as if to apologise for making a joke at his expense. Harry couldn't be happier to see Severus so at ease around those who he come to think as their family. Grinning helplessly, Harry turned to Severus, pretending to pout.

"You're supposed to take my side," he pointed out. Severus patted his thigh once and retreated his hand. Melinda felt her heart swell at the way Harry blushed and Severus' lips twitched upwards, and how their eyes glinted with so much pleasure at the sight of the other.

"It's embarrassing to see, isn't it?" Hermione whispered to Melinda, a tad too loudly for it to be a discreet comment. Something in her tone caught Harry's attention.

"What?" he asked defensively.

"The way you two are undressing each other with your eyes," Draco drawled and he did look a bit nauseous. "There are some things a boy shouldn't know about his godfather."

"You're hardly a boy, Malfoy," Harry pointed out, crossing his arms childishly. Then, at the other, "We weren't doing anything at all."

"I's lovely to see," Melinda reassured them. Unable to help himself, Severus snorted, making Harry glare at him for his rudeness. "It gives hope to the rest of us," she said and smiled gently.

Harry had long ago figured that the word 'hope' was the trigger to Severus' most pleasant persona, but nobody else knew that. As such, when the man smiled apologetically at the athlete, she couldn't help but to blush in awe. Severus frowned in confusion at Melinda's reaction, making George smirk at him.

"Love suits you, Professor," he said, not teasingly at all, "anyone can see that." The silence that followed was a tad awkward, but as usual, Draco turned the mood.

"So, Potter, have you given Severus his present?" the blond asked, nonchalantly, but everyone could see the train of thought. Harry glared at him, but answered nonetheless.

"Yes," Severus said, at the same time that Harry said, "No." They looked at each other in confusion. "I distinctly counted five presents this morning, Harry," Severus pointed out. Harry grinned brightly.

"That was from me and the children," he explained. "I'll give my present to you later." Severus' eyes flashed with awareness at Harry's words, and, if Harry noticed, everyone else noticed too. Then again, everyone knew what to expect for.

"Ewww!" Draco exclaimed, pretending to gag. Harry gave him a look.

"You sound like my daughter," Harry informed him, matter-of-factly. Draco's reply was to stuck out his tongue, making the others laugh at their childish antics. "Definitely like my daughter."

It was Hermione who changed the subject, and everyone easily fell into the conversation. The night passed by peacefully, even as they retreated for the parlour once again.

At Draco's insistence, who managed to attract the children to his cause, Severus opened his presents, which were truly thoughtful. It never ceased to surprise Harry how his surrogate family had accept this man so readily, but then, the Weasleys had always been known for their odd breed.

That was why it saddened him to see Mr. and Mrs. Weasley a shadow of what they were, but he could not imagine the pain of losing a child. Unsurprisingly, he understood that better since he had had James. It was not just Fred, but then Ginny became unbalanced and dangerous and their other children broke the ties with the family, moving abroad or just not visiting. Oddly enough, Percy was the only one that visited regularly, but the visits were always sombre. It was as if everyone of them could not help but to see the late loved ones in the others.

When Harry shared this with his husband, Severus had said that that was what wars did. They broke the core of the society, messing with something as sacred as families.

Harry had felt depressed after hearing that, and Severus, not wanting to see his husband so sad, had been quick to share with him that everyone could see how the Weasleys were healing. Harry had Hermione had given them a new family and, even if nothing could replace the old one, they could still be happy. Even Draco had become an addiction to their family.

Both his and Astoria's parents were rotting in Azkaban, still suffering from the pain of having lost their Master. It had been a terribly price to pay for bearing the Mark, and Draco had never been so thankful for not having taken it. Not everyone could be as strong as Severus and even he had suffered enough during his early years as spy for denying his Master. Yes, Draco was glad for his choices, and he was sorry for his parents', truly, but he also knew they had never been truly a family.

His family was right there in the not-so-shadowy-anymore parlour of Grimmauld Place. His children called Grandmother and Grandfather to the Weasley couple and Draco couldn't have cared less that they weren't related by blood. What did blood matter, anyway?

"Potter," Draco called suddenly, catching the raven-haired man's attention. "Where the hell―"

"Draco, dear!" Astoria admonished hastily. Draco smiled apologetically at her.

"Sorry, sweetheart," he said; then, turned to Harry and his expression hardened to a challenging scowl. "Where is that disc I gave you last year?"

Harry knew he was talking about the vinyl record Draco had brought on his last party, complaining about the lack of music. Harry pointed the closet where they kept the gramophone and, soon enough, music filed the room. Draco pulled Hermione to her feet and spun with her across the less furnished part of the room – right in front of the Black tapestry. George followed with Melinda by hand, and he Weasley couple did the same.

The children had been playing in the family room across the floor, but as the night wore on, they started to fall asleep on the weirdest places – how did the twins and James managed to fall asleep behind the couch was beyond them – except for Connor, who stayed on his baby chair most of the night and was now deeply asleep. The parents made sure the children were comfortable, before returning to the parlour to their friends.

Harry was the last one to do so. There was another record playing now, and Draco was dancing with Astoria, Hermione with Remus and George with his mother.

Discreetly, Severus nodded with his head towards the doorway, hinting at Harry to meet him outside the room. Harry walked out, excusing himself to Mr. Weasley, and then loitered in the hall, waiting for his husband.

After a moment, Severus appeared and, without giving Harry the time to speak, pushed the younger man against the wall of alcove under the stairs. Severus pressed his body against Harry's and, with a moan, took Harry's mouth and plundered it mercilessly. Harry allowed himself to be ravished, and he just knew that Severus had been dying to do this since Harry had promised him his present, during dinner.

They broke up the contact for air, while Severus sucked eagerly on Harry's neck. Harry brought on leg up and propped it on Severus' hip, urging the man to move against his crotch. Severus shifted and supported himself on his healthy leg, thrusting more passionately than either of them had intended.

"Are you going to tell me—ah—what you've got for me?" Severus asked, his voice hoarse and low. Harry whimpered, resting his head on the man's shoulder, eagerly spreading himself wider.

"Anything: ribbons, paddles, restraints," Harry breathed, "anything you want from me tonight, it's yours." Severus shuddered, and kissed the other again, this time gentler and slowly. Their movements began to built pace once again, as they held onto each other tightly, seeking release―

"Just for you to know," drawled a voice from outside the room, behind the closed door. Harry groaned in frustration, but Severus paled, ashamed at being caught. "We are kind of tired of you leaving your guests to go dry-hump each other every year."

THE END


Thank you for reading.

Afterword―

So, that's a wrap. I truly hope you enjoyed and expect that you take your time to tell me what you think, even if it's just "I loved blah, blah."

I have to say that I truly am proud of this story. I never read anything quite like it, so I hope it falls in the original side. It went just the way I planned it to, though I had some issues in almost every chapter. I had to struggle to keep them IC, to assure that things wouldn't be going too fast, that they truly got to know each other. I think I succeeded, but it's your opinion that matters.

Also, you may have noticed that I embraced one cliché in particular.

It's my personal favourite, which is: 'Severus is not as ugly as people made him'. Well, the man is ugly, it's everywhere on the original books and everyone knows it. However, the greasy, thin part can be changed. I mean, nowadays, I think it's hard for a person to be truly ugly. You can have bad teeth, a gigantic nose and be a walking skeleton, but, if you brush yourself up and have self-confidence, you can look really good and be sexy. It's a matter of self-confidence.

I can totally see Severus taking better care of himself, having a good diet, showering with nice products – or showering, period – smiling and just being happy. It can do wonders for a person. It may still have crooked teeth, too many scars and an ugly nose, but it's fine.

From what I could understand from the canon Severus was a proud man, confident about his magical abilities and intelligence. He just never cared about other people or impressing other people. The one he wanted didn't want him, so he just didn't care. I don't think it's that much of a stretch to have him looking better over the years, if given the chance.

There's also something funny about this. I was convinced, when I started writing the story, that Severus was indeed Draco's godfather. Then, I found out it was only in the fanon. I thought about changing it, but hey, I reasoned that I'm not plagiarising anyone in particular, so . . .

Anyway, do tell me what you think.