Warning: Harry is 17. This story is rated M so there will be sex between the two characters.
Written for the 2010 Snarry-a-thon! Prompt: Severus and Harry are reincarnations of two past lovers that died in a war or revolution. Each time their souls think they will be together, something is missing or one or the other dies. Maybe this time they will get it right?
A/N: Thanks to Torina for beta-reading, WhiteCotton for help with story structure, and RaeWhit for some help with history. Much gratitude to Accioslash for putting on a wonderful fest for a second year in a row. Long live Snarry!
"I've seen your flag on the marble arch, but love is not a victory march; it's a cold and it's a broken 'hallelujah.'" -- Leonard Cohen
"Gabriel, please," David panted, reaching out to grab Gabriel by his sleeve, then doubling over. He looked as exhausted as Gabriel felt, but they had to keep moving. "Let's rest for the night," David continued, his breaths coming out in gasps. "The light's almost gone anyway."
The fact that his heart felt like it was about to burst in his chest meant nothing to Gabriel, but the sight of David suffering was enough to stop him in his tracks.
It was sunset, and they'd been running all day—running for weeks, really—and they were both exhausted. The air around them was still and quiet, save for the sound of their labored breathing.
"All right," Gabriel said, acquiescing. "We'll rest for the night, then start up early in the morning." He looked around for a tree to rest by, and led David over once he'd found one. "We're so close to France, to freedom, I can nearly taste it."
"We're safe now," David said, his breath still strained, even as he laid down on the ground. "We're miles from Seville, and even if we weren't it's not as though anyone would find us here. We're in the middle of nowhere and no one's looking for us." He was quiet for a moment, and Gabriel took the opportunity to run his hand's over David's face and shoulders. He looked weary to the bone.
Handing him half of the provisions they had left, Gabriel said, "Rest. We're almost there, but until we are, we're not safe. And you forget that we're...special. There's no way to know whether or not they're looking for us."
"Yeah," David said as he stared into the sky through the trees and fingered the wand in his pocket. Gabriel watched as he ran his thumb over the six-pointed star that was carved into the handle. "Twice damned."
"Three times," Gabriel said, then leaned down to briefly kiss his lips, trying to ignore the pain in his heart as he heard David try to silence his gasps for air. Aiming for a levity he didn't feel, Gabriel said, "Did you know that the Moors created sodomy?" At David's scandalized look, he continued, "Yes, apparently they brought it with them. They invented it, according to the ambassador."
"Thank you, Moors," David said, his breathing better now. "Best invention ever," he said, leaning up and giving Gabriel a proper kiss. Gabriel lifted him up to let his arms slide under David's back and held him close, not willing to let go as the kiss deepened.
Suddenly Gabriel realized what they were doing and where they were doing it, and although there wasn't a town within miles, that hardly meant they were safe.
"We shouldn't," he whispered against David's mouth, even as his tongue reached out to caress Gabriel's own.
"It's okay," David whispered back, sliding his hand under Gabriel's shirt. The coolness of his fingers felt wonderful against Gabriel's heated flesh and he felt his cock harden in rebellion. "We're safe here. France is so close, and it's been so long..."
"It's been a few weeks," Gabriel laughed, but kissed him again. "And you're insatiable."
David looked up and smiled at him, running a hand through Gabriel's long, dark hair and giving him a smile that made him feel like the most important man in the world.
"You could have stayed," David whispered. "They might have forgiven you if you'd been baptized. You don't practice, you never go to Synagogue. Why didn't you just let them baptize you?"
Shocked, Gabriel struggled for the right words to say. He could say that he wouldn't live a lie. That he'd never done so before, not even when his mother pleaded he take their religion seriously, and he wouldn't begin now. But that wasn't the real reason. He'd thought David knew how he felt about him, had felt about him for years.
"Because I love you, and I have no desire to live my life without you." And then Gabriel was kissing him again, this time with renewed energy, tossing aside any remaining fears in order to show David exactly what he meant to him.
Their bodies melted against each other's in the evening light, soft pants and whispered endearments the only thing to be heard, until the sound of spellfire and then a branch crashing to the ground broke their embrace.
Gabriel had his wand in his hand and his body shielding David's before the attacker could utter another curse.
"Expelliarmus!" he shouted, but the attacker shielded himself. He shot off a curse, then another, but their attacker blocked each one.
"You thought you were safe here, didn't you?" said the attacker, his voice hoarse and aged. "You're so close to the border, why not let your guard slip for a moment?"
Gabriel squinted into the darkness in an attempt to make out who the man was; to see who he was up against. An old man held a wand pointed to Gabriel's chest; his robes were torn and tattered, his hair matted. Gabriel stared down the length of the wand, then looked up to meet the man's eyes.
They looked tortured and world-weary in a way Gabriel couldn't begin to fathom.
"We have no quarrel with you. Lower your wand and we'll leave here. We're only passing through."
A dark laugh caused a chill to run up Gabriel's spine and he could feel David tremble beneath him. It was all he could do not to reach out and comfort him.
"Lower your wand, boy," the old wizard commanded, his voice forceful and morose.
Gabriel shook his head and gestured with his wand. "I could kill you where you stand."
"But not," the wizard said slowly, relishing his every word, "before I kill him." He moved his wand away from Gabriel, re-aiming it at David's chest.
"Don't," David whispered, but Gabriel obeyed—hardly caring about himself, but not willing to take a chance with David's life.
"Petrificus Totalus!" the wizard shouted, petrifying first Gabriel, then David. Gabriel fell back, away from David, his eyes open so he could watch—helplessly—as the old wizard came to stand over them.
"You think you're so smart," he whispered, waving his wand over both of them. "What right do you have, escaping this, escaping them? What right do you have to live and be happy when she's dead?"
He wanted nothing more than to shout at the old man, tell him it wasn't his fault whoever he'd loved had died, but couldn't move a muscle. He tried to shake off the curse, tried to move himself to cover David, but couldn't.
"My wife..." the old man began, then shuddered, his eyes filled with grief. "She was innocent. She was a Muggle, she'd done nothing to warrant what they did to her!" To Gabriel's shock, tears filled the old wizard's eyes and he looked off into the trees for a moment before looking back down again.
With a sneer, he said, "She'd done nothing wrong, and she's dead. What right do you have to be happy when she's gone?"
Inwardly, Gabriel began to panic. He tried again to cast off the spell, tried to get himself and David away, but could do nothing as the old wizard sneered and began to wave his wand again.
"I curse you," he whispered. "I curse you in this life and the next and the life after that and the life after that." Rage and fear flooded Gabriel's senses as he began to feel ancient magic—magic so old it went beyond worded-spellcraft—fill the air.
"May you never know peace," he said, his voice a hoarse whisper. "May you always be at war. May you live by the sword and die violent deaths, for as long as wizards exist."
Gabriel felt a heaviness fall over him, a darkness he'd never felt before invade his heart—his very soul. He longed for nothing more than to feel David's hand in his, to touch him one last time.
"Avada Kedavra!" the old wizard shouted, and then Gabriel knew no more.
September 3rd, 1997
Harry adjusted his invisibility cloak as he neared the gates to Hogwarts. Approaching the wards, he mumbled a desperate plea that he be allowed inside—that he hadn't been barred from the only home he'd ever known.
He gripped his broom tighter, then breathed a sigh of relief as he passed the gate overhead and continued on towards the headmaster's office.
It would be his first time visiting since Dumbledore had died and Severus had taken his place. Flying past the Astronomy Tower, he thought of the last time he'd been in Severus' presence.
Everyone who'd witnessed his panicked chase after Severus had assumed he'd gone after him out of anger and the desire for vengeance, and Harry had been more than happy to have them believe that. Everyone—including members of the Order—had needed to believe Severus was a loyal Death Eater for Dumbledore's plan to succeed.
But when Malfoy had Apparated, and Harry and Severus had a stolen moment together, Harry had thrown caution to the wind and kissed Severus like he'd never see him again.
At the time, it had been very likely that he wouldn't.
Even now, with the wind blowing through his hair and chilling him to the bone, he could recall the frantic, wordless goodbye they'd given each other.
Their relationship had been tumultuous to begin with, both of them falling together so suddenly. And between Severus' resistance and Harry's anger towards an attraction that they'd both felt, somehow they'd managed to form something real; something Harry wasn't willing to give up. When he'd finally seen Severus, had finally understood who he was and that there was no one else for him, it had been more than falling in love; it had been a reckoning.
And even as Severus had tried to convince Harry—and himself—that it was only youthful enthusiasm and first love, Harry had known the truth was far more simple. And after an almost ridiculously small amount of time, Severus had realized it as well. As much as they both scoffed at the idea of destiny, there was no denying it. Not when the truth laid before them, undeniable, even to someone as world-weary and cynical as Severus.
They'd been happy for such a short time, Harry thought. May had been an odd month in particular, Severus growing quieter and always holding Harry close whenever they were together. And though at the time he'd thought the change in Severus' had been due to his role in Dumbledore's plan, now Harry wasn't so sure.
His suspicions had finally forced his hand. Something dark had been growing in the back of his mind, and Harry knew he had to speak with Severus about it before it was too late.
Coming back to himself, Harry approached Severus' window—feeling not a little like Peter Pan. More than anything he wanted Severus to open the window and welcome Harry with a smile and a joke about a thimble, but there would be no humor in this visit. Harry would consider himself lucky just to be allowed inside.
He knocked on the window, and waited a moment before knocking again. The first thing he saw when the curtains were pulled back was the end of Severus' wand, then black, astonished eyes before the window opened.
"Harry," Severus whispered so Harry could just barely make out the endearing tone in which his name had been muttered over the wind. For a split second Severus simply stared at him, then gestured with his hand and said, "Hurry! Before you're seen."
Harry flew inside and dismounted, glad when Severus closed the window against the chill.
"I know what you're going to say—"
"It was incredibly foolish of you to come here," Severus interrupted, even as his hands found Harry's body almost of their own volition. Harry allowed his own to run over Severus' shoulders and his back before he looked into his eyes.
Any anger Severus felt over Harry's admittedly reckless behavior left his eyes as they met Harry's; as their hands grasped each other tightly, as Harry's mouth found Severus' in the dark.
He breathed in the scent of the dungeons and potions—a smell Severus would apparently never be able to shake—and deepened the kiss, his tongue invading Severus' mouth as he whimpered.
Severus returned the kiss for only a moment before he pulled away.
"As happy as I am to see you, you should not have come here. If anyone finds you here they'll take you to the Dark Lord immediately," Severus said, holding Harry in a tight embrace, their faces only inches apart. "I won't be able to protect you."
"I needed to tell you..." Harry trailed off as he wrapped himself around Severus tighter, not willing to let any space between them while he could help it. "They found Grimmauld Place," he whispered, leaning up to place a kiss on the corner of Severus' mouth. "We had to leave."
Severus' hands pulled him back and began to look him over. "Were you injured?"
"No, I'm fine," Harry said, pulling Severus back to him. "Hermione and Ron are fine too, but we're...on the run, so to speak."
"Where will you go?"
"We have a tent," Harry said lamely, thinking of exactly how that sounded. "We're not sure where we'll go next, but right now we're in that forest they held the World Cup."
Severus nodded and began to walk towards the back of the room, bringing Harry with him as he went.
"And the...item?" he asked, not willing to utter the word within Hogwarts' walls. "Were you able to procure it?"
Harry nodded and smiled as Severus opened a door he hadn't noticed and began to pull Harry inside.
"You'll be reading all about it in tomorrow's Prophet," he said, pleased he could give some good news. "I left it with Hermione and Ron. Severus, I know I shouldn't have come, but..."
"Yes?" Severus said as they sat down on a bed Harry once again hadn't noticed until he was sitting on it. "What is it?"
"I feel..." Harry didn't know how to explain to Severus what it was he was feeling. He didn't understand it himself most days. He only knew that it had started before Dumbledore had died; a terrible, suffocating feeling that had grown so slowly over the months that he hadn't been able to give a name to it until last week.
"I feel something...dark. I don't know how to explain it, but something doesn't feel right."
Something like understanding and then worry flashed in Severus' eyes before he cupped Harry's face and tried to smile. "We're at war. It's natural for you to feel—"
"This isn't about the war. Or it's not only about the war. I know there's something else, something wrong, and I just—I just needed to see you."
"As you can see, I'm fine."
"Yeah, but for how long?" Harry asked, his hands beginning to creep into Severus' robes; tossing his outer ones off easily, then reaching up to smooth back his hair. "Something's happening and I just know...I just feel as though—"
Interrupted by a kiss, Harry temporarily lost his train of thought as Severus' mouth found his. His glasses were removed from his face and his shirt pulled off before Harry had the presence of mind to realize he was lying on Severus' duvet from the dungeons.
All thought gone at the comforting reminder, Harry kissed back in earnest, their tongues and lips tangling together and clothing quickly shed. Harry panted and his hands shook as they caressed Severus' arms and back through the fabric of his shirt, then tore off the offending garment altogether. Severus moaned and then removed Harry's trousers and pants, kicking his own shoes off so Harry could do the same.
Harry had longed for this moment for months. Their mouths never left each other's as Severus wordlessly summoned the lubricant, as Harry began to bite at his lips and pull at his hair in frustration. As he felt Severus slip a finger into him, he remembered all those months of longing and thinking this would go differently. He'd thought that they'd take their time; that there would be whispered endearments and long, slow kisses and that they'd make love slowly, make it last all night.
He tore his mouth away from Severus' to groan, "Severus, please..."
"It's been months and I won't hurt you," Severus said, and Harry heard the tension in his voice before he looked down to see his cock, fully erect and leaking. He moaned again and tried to tear himself away, but Severus pushed him back onto the bed and inserted another finger.
"I'm—I'm fine, I'm—" Harry cut off and began to babble as Severus inserted another finger, then all thoughts were gone.
The only noise in the room was his own moaning and the sound of Severus' fingers moving within him, the lubricant making a vulgar noise as they collided with his prostate with practiced ease.
Suddenly the sensation and the sound were gone and Harry groaned his displeasure before his legs were laid across slender shoulders and he felt the tip of Severus' cock at his entrance.
"Harry," Severus whispered in a pained groan as he began to push in. "Harry..."
Their eyes met as their bodies melted together, and Harry's heart soared at the endearment he heard as Severus whispered his name.
They'd gone too long without each other for it to last as long as Harry wanted, so when Severus' hand began to fist his cock he clenched his arse muscles in response, reveling in the abandon Severus always gave himself over to as he came.
Panting, Severus laid down on top of him, and Harry came back to himself enough to reach out and enfold him in his arms. Kissing his hair, he counted to ten and waited for Severus to whisper the cleaning charm as he always did, and it pleased him to know some things hadn't changed.
Distraction gone now, Harry looked up at the unfamiliar ceiling and realized that this had been Dumbledore's room a few months ago. The afterglow fading, Harry felt the darkness that had been playing on his heart return and he held Severus tighter.
"Something terrible is going to happen," he said in no more than a whisper, not willing to let the dark thing out into the open.
"We're at war, Harry. Terrible things are happening even now," Severus said, the words softened as he placed a kiss on Harry's chest.
"I know, but—"
"Shh. We can't help what may happen, but we can enjoy this moment, no matter how brief."
Harry tightened his arms around Severus, then said, "I wish I could stay."
"You can't. If you were found—"
"I know," Harry said. And he did. It had been foolish to come here, but as he held Severus in his arms, he couldn't bring himself to care. "Just a few more minutes."
Severus sighed as he acquiesced, and Harry leaned in for a kiss, slow and long just as he had planned.
Paris, July 14th, 1789
Bernard was startled awake by a pounding on their window, but remained in bed. He felt Louis get up from beside him and he cracked an eye open, noticing that the sun had only just come up and that there were already men on the street.
"Bernard," Louis said, shaking him excitedly. "Bernard! Wake up!" As he began to shift and lift his head, Louis ran to the window and began to dress.
"What? What is it?"
"Something's happening," Louis said, sounding very much like a child. "There are men in the streets, all bearing muskets." Bernard watched as Louis—now fully dressed—opened the window and began to watch as the men began to purposefully march down the street.
Now awake and out of bed, Bernard came over to the window and watched the scene unfold with Louis. As he saw what he knew would be a precursor to violence, that dark, terrible thing he'd been feeling suddenly welled up inside him.
"We shouldn't join them," he said softly, fearfully. "You and I have participated enough in this radicalism as it is. I'll not risk you."
Scowling, Louis turned to him and nearly shouted, "How could you say that? You don't sound like the man I fell in love with, the man who's been passing out pamphlets for the past two years, talking about citizenship and inalienable rights."
Frustrated, Bernard ran a hand through his long hair and bowed his head. Perhaps it did seem to be a dramatic shift for a man who only last week had been speaking of revolution, but he'd never felt fear like this.
"What's brought this on? You've never feared for your life before."
Angry now, Bernard grabbed hold of Louis harshly, his eyes violent as he hissed, "I don't give a damn about my own life, but I will not risk yours." Seeing the confusion and hurt in Louis' eyes, his anger left as quickly as it had come, and his grip turned soft as he said, "I've had a terrible feeling lately. It's like nothing I've felt before. Dark... Something that's kept me awake nights..."
Louis smiled and relaxed into his arms. "It'll be all right. I can hold my own in a fight, and I'll have you with me. We can't give up now, not when we're so close to real change."
"You're such an idealist, Louis, never thinking of your own safety," Bernard said through gritted teeth.
Louis laughed at that. "You're the one who's been putting yourself in harm's way for the past two years. I've just been along for the ride."
There was another pounding on the window, and they quickly broke apart at the sound of shouting in the streets.
"Let's go," whispered Louis, his voice full of mischief even as Bernard looked weary.
As soon as they hit the streets they were given muskets with no ammunition. They were quickly swept up into the crowd, Louis barely holding back his excitement as they made their way to the prison for gunpowder. Though the crowd was thick and no one was watching them, Bernard refrained from taking Louis' hand.
They reached the prison and waited for hours as men were sent in to negotiate. The heat of the sun and the anger of the crowd only caused the men to become restless. Bernard could see their tempers rising, and knew it would happen soon.
"This isn't going to end well," Bernard quietly to Louis. "We won't be cowards if we leave now."
Louis opened his mouth to protest, but before he could get out a word a shot rang out and the men began to surge forward into the outer courtyard. Bernard grabbed Louis' hand now, no longer caring if anyone saw, and was terrified when he felt himself being pulled forward into the fray.
Everywhere around them men were storming into the prison, fighting to gain entrance as though their very lives depended on it. Bernard watched as the crowd became a mob and watched in horror as the chains to the drawbridge were cut, a man crushed under the weight of it.
Leaving was no longer an option, so he put his all into the fight; telling himself he was fighting for Louis, that he had to keep Louis safe.
The mob only pushed harder, and Bernard heard gunfire and reached out for Louis in fear, but the crowd tore at them, forcing them apart. The darkness that crowded Bernard's thoughts at night surged to the forefront of his mind as he heard another gunshot. As though time had slowed down, he watched as Louis fell to the ground.
In his shock, he didn't bother to find out where the shot had come from or if there were more than one armed defender. All he cared about was getting to Louis, hoping to God that there was something that could be done. He turned over Louis' body, then stared in horror as lifeless eyes looked up at him, hardly noticing the terrible, surging pain that cut through his chest a moment later. As he collapsed atop Louis his last thoughts were muted by a blanket of darkness as he fell, his heart breaking as it ceased to beat.
December 26th, 1997
Severus sat in a tent somewhere in the Forest of Dean, his mind drifting over what had just occurred. As much as he'd prepared himself to see Harry haggard and thin, he'd been shocked to see him in his current state. And even as his cock had twitched and his fingers had ached to reach out and touch that firm body, his heart had twisted as Harry had stripped off his clothing to retrieve the sword of Gryffindor.
And to top it all off, neither of his two companions had been with him, making his dive into an icy lake even more pointless.
As soon as he'd realized Harry was alone Severus had begun to leave the copse of trees he'd been hiding behind, but then he'd noticed Weasley come from nowhere to rescue him. Pleased with how things had turned out, even if Harry had unnecessarily risked his life again, Severus had watched as they'd left and then made his way back to his camp.
He hoped Harry had been alone when he'd sent his patronus after him a second time. He had no desire to explain their relationship to his two friends, who, although they'd proven themselves trustworthy, would not be able to defend their minds from the Dark Lord.
Eyeing the bundle of food and provisions he'd procured from the house elves, Severus turned his mind away from the day's events and focused on the project he'd brought with him.
Harry had been right, and Severus supposed he shouldn't have been surprised he had sensed it too. He was a wizard, after all.
Severus had first noticed the darkness Harry feared beginning in May, around the same time Albus had told him the truth about Harry's connection with the Dark Lord. His worst fears had been realized that day, learning that Harry was living the life of a sacrificial lamb.
He'd been so distracted by his pain and heartache he'd almost explained away the darkness as his soul's realization that the only good thing in his life was marked to die. Those months of quiet agony had been a constant exercise in what it meant to truly love someone, Severus thought. He'd shouldered the truth alone, not letting Harry know he was the ultimate gambit.
He'd almost convinced himself of it, had brushed the darkness off as the natural mourning one goes through at the long farewell of a dying loved one.
But as much as Severus acknowledged he loved Harry like no other, it wasn't the pain of his inevitable death that was eating away at his heart. This darkness felt...old. It felt as though Severus had known it before, like it was an all-encompassing type of evil that went far past anything the Dark Lord had ever aspired to create.
When he'd finally realized the truth and was no longer willing to ignore it, Severus had poured every free minute he had into discovering what it was that was hanging over him. He'd dived into his oldest potions books and consulted every text he could, but he could find nothing.
And then Harry had visited, and Severus had realized that whatever it was affected him as well.
That had been the last night of decent sleep he'd had. Something new began to grow inside him, something far more heinous than even death.
Then, for the first time since he'd learned of Harry's eventual role in the Dark Lord's fall, Severus began to hope. If this darkness was choking the both of them perhaps it was connected to the Dark Lord, no matter how old it felt.
He'd consulted the former headmasters, had pleaded with Albus to tell him anything he knew, gone through the darkest texts of Malfoy Manor, but found nothing.
Now he was sitting in front of what was essentially a pile of stones, attempting a magic he hardly believed in.
Potions was a science; an exact art of which he had complete knowledge and perfect understanding. If the ingredients of a potion were altered, so was the properties of the potion. There was reason to be had in potions and that was why he'd chosen it for his profession.
The ancient magic he was attempting now was the complete opposite. He hardly cared about his own future; he'd known the truth the minute he'd acquiesced to Dumbledore's plea to take his life. There would be nothing for him after the war.
He did this for Harry.
He reached out and tried to sense his own magic, tried to visualize it and its connection to the earth. If there was darkness within him, within them, he should be able to at least see it.
He looked down onto the stones and saw just that—stones. He sighed and wondered what was keeping Harry.
"Hi," a familiar voice said, and Severus turned his head to watch as Harry entered the tent. "So the doe..."
"Don't get cocky," Severus said, forcing himself to soften his expression and standing up to take Harry in his arms. "It's been a doe for a long time."
Harry smiled as though as he didn't believe him, then reached up to kiss him. As Severus held him closer, he noticed how much thinner Harry felt and how his body still faintly trembled from the cold.
"You should eat something," he said, then went to the bundle he'd brought from Hogwarts and gave Harry some of the fresher, more perishable food he knew he and his friends would devour quickly.
"Not going to argue with you," Harry said, sandwich halfway to his mouth. "What's that you're working on?" he mumbled as crumbs went flying.
Severus forced his sneer away, thinking he could make concessions since they were at war, and tried to evade Harry's question.
"This? It's nothing." He made to put the stones away, but Harry grabbed his hand.
"You brought nothing out to the forest so you could work on it in the middle of the night?" Sandwich mysteriously gone, Harry peered at Severus curiously. "What is it? Tell me. Does it have to do with—"
"Don't!—say his name," Severus said quickly, then collapsed back onto his chair facing the stones. Perhaps addressing the problem Harry had already felt would be acceptable. And if Severus was going to make an attempt at this sort of magic, he'd need his help. As much as he longed to protect Harry from whatever it was that afflicted them, ignorance would not aid his cause.
"That thing you were speaking about the last time we met," Severus said and watched as Harry stiffened and instantly became alert. "That...darkness. What do you know about it? What have you...felt?"
Sitting down next to him, Harry ran a hand through his hair and looked at Severus' shoes, his face screwed up in concentration. Slowly, he began to speak. "I don't know. It's like...it's almost like a nightmare that follows me around everywhere. You know that terrified feeling you have when you don't realize you're dreaming? When you really think that whatever's happening is really happening?"
Severus nodded. He knew that particular emotion all too well.
"It's like that, only worse. Because it's nearly all the time." He looked up at Severus and asked in a hushed whisper, "It's not because of...him...is it?"
"No," Severus said, letting his eyes fall back on the stones. "It's not because of him." He paused and wondered how he could explain their situation without causing Harry any undue stress.
He turned and saw green eyes filled with something that went far beyond worry. Harry knew something terrible was falling upon them, even if he didn't know exactly what it was.
"Can you recall being cursed?" Severus asked, feeling as though he were walking out onto unstable ground.
"No," Severus interrupted, understanding where Harry's mind had taken him. "Not that kind of curse. Not an Unforgiveable, not something that was cast on you in a duel. Have you ever felt this kind of dark magic before?"
Harry shook his head. "Not like this. Not even from him."
Nodding, Severus looked back down onto the stones.
"We've been cursed?" Harry asked in a whisper, and Severus nodded.
A silence fell over the tent and a tension grew between them before Harry's hand found Severus'.
"What kind of curse? Who cast it?"
"I don't know," Severus said, grasping Harry's hand tightly in his. "I've exhausted every reliable form of magic. I've done every test with every potion I could think of, several of which would have alerted the wards in Hogwarts were they still set to sense dark magic."
He looked over at Harry, at his wide eyes and pale face, then looked back down to the stones again.
"This form of magic is closer to Divination than Arithmancy, and it hasn't been widely practiced in hundreds of years..." he trailed off and pulled his wand from his pocket. "However, it is also our last option if we are to discover what has been cast upon us."
Severus watched as Harry inspected the stones, trying to understand the method to a magic that had none.
"Give me your palm," Severus said, and Harry opened his hand without hesitation. He didn't make a sound as Severus performed a cutting spell, letting Harry's blood drip over the stones, then did the same to himself.
Seeming to understand the need for quiet, Harry remained silent as Severus began an ancient chant, a part of him feeling ridiculous even as another part closed in on desperation. If this didn't work, if he couldn't discover what they'd been cursed with...
Harry gasped as the stones turned black, but Severus had been expecting that. Silently, they waited for a few moments, Severus praying the stones would reveal something.
They'd been cursed, that he knew for sure now, but it was hardly anything he hadn't known before. He closed his eyes for a moment and forced away the despair at his failure before silently cursing the war and the Dark Lord and everything that kept him from Harry.
He breathed deeply and kept his eyes shut even as he felt the last tendrils of hope die. Slowly he looked towards Harry and resolved to do whatever he could to protect him, even if that meant telling a lie.
"I believe with more work I may be able to decipher what's happened here," Severus said. As the lie cut through his heart, he told himself that it wouldn't help Harry to know that he'd failed, that there would be no stopping whatever was coming. "I may even lower myself to look through a few Divination books."
"What do they say?" Harry asked, looking down on stones that would serve more use skipping across a lake.
Severus came up with something plausible with practiced ease. "We've been cursed, yes, and I believe there is another test which will determine how to counter it."
Harry's furrowed brow showed he hardly believed Severus' story, and he hurried to continue the lie.
"Harry," he said, grabbing Harry and pulling him close, "I believe I can discover what it is that plagues us. There are books at Malfoy Manor that are nearly as old as Hogwarts. Now that I know where to begin, I can research this."
"Are you lying to me?" Harry asked, his eyes revealing an anger Severus hadn't seen trained at him for a long time. Severus opened his mouth to say no, that he was sure he could remove the curse, but something in the way Harry was looking at him forced him to reconsider.
"All my life," Harry began, still glaring daggers at Severus, "people have been lying to me. The Dursleys lied to me about...everything. Dumbledore told me half-truths and kept me in the dark about my entire life. But you..." he paused and looked down on the stones again. "You've never lied to me."
"Harry, there are going to be things I cannot tell you—"
"I don't want you to tell me everything," Harry said, sensing Severus' attempt at evasion. "But you're keeping something from me, something big, and I'm so tired of being kept in the dark for my own good."
Lowering his eyes, Severus considered Harry's words but it hardly made his situation easier. Harry might say he wanted to know everything, but this last, final truth was far more debilitating than any of the others that had come before it.
"If I told you the truth was something you shouldn't know...for now...would you leave it be?" he asked, hoping Harry would understand and let this discussion end.
He watched as Harry considered his words, then leaned in closer so his face was inches from Severus'.
"Would you want to know?" he asked, and Severus felt his heart still. The answer to the question was yes, and somehow Harry knew him well enough to cut to the quick in a single stroke.
Severus' heart began to speed up as he decided how best to explain this. How did you tell the man you loved that he had to die or their enemy would win?
"The Horcruxes," Severus started, standing up and leading Harry over to the cot in the corner of the room. He sat him down slowly and slid an arm around his shoulder, Harry's eyes widening as he began to realize he'd gain the truth at last.
"What about them?"
"There are seven Horcruxes, not six," Severus said as Harry frowned. "The diary," he began to count, "the ring, the locket, the cup, the snake, something from Gryffindor or Ravenclaw..." He paused and prayed he wasn't making the greatest error in judgment since his he'd joined the Dark Lord, that Harry would somehow possess the godlike strength to shoulder this burden.
Slowly, he lifted his fingers and traced Harry's scar.
"And this," he whispered, then watched as Harry frowned more deeply before his eyes went wide.
"What?" Harry whispered fearfully, shaking his head and backing away from Severus' hand. He watched as denial set in, as Harry tried to shake off the truth while another part of him began to put the pieces together. "But...how is that possible?"
"The night he attacked you, the night your parents died," Severus explained. "It was an accident, one of which he is not aware. When he cast the spell, a piece of his soul attached to yours."
Harry stood up and began pacing inside the tent, running his hands through his hair, his expression lost. Severus watched as Harry came up with the only possible conclusion, the reason why Severus had kept this from him in the first place.
"I have to die," he whispered, his words a statement, not a question. "I have to die before he can be killed, don't I?"
"Yes," Severus said, hating himself now that the truth was out. "That is the last step in the great master plan of Albus Dumbledore," Severus said bitterly, spitting out the name. As much as he understood that the lives of three people meant nothing in the scheme of things, he hated that it was Harry who would be called upon to give up his life so the war could be won.
"Dumbledore—" Harry began, then broke off. His face was clouded and Severus watched him struggle with what to ask first.
"He wanted me to tell you close to the end, once all the other Horcruxes had been destroyed. He wanted you to...enjoy life," Severus said with a sneer, "for as long as you possibly could."
Harry laughed bitterly and Severus wanted to join him.
"When did he tell you— Oh. In May?" he asked, suddenly understanding. "You were so sad, and I didn't know why."
Harry slowly walked over to the cot and then looked down at Severus, his eyes wild. "He was sure...about...all of this?" Harry asked, his breath coming out in pants.
"Yes," Severus said, taking him into his arms and holding Harry as he began to tremble.
Severus heard a terrified gasp and then felt a shudder against his skin as he continued to hold Harry, unable to find words of comfort that would hold any meaning. Minutes passed as he attempted to ease Harry's suffering, the silence broken only by the occasional stifled breath.
"Harry?" he questioned a few minutes later. He was loathe to intrude on Harry's private suffering but he was worried now, and needed to know if he'd made a terrible mistake.
Hands clutched at his robes as Harry said in a harsh whisper, "I don't want to leave you."
Severus stilled. Of all the thoughts to be passing through Harry's mind at this moment, that one seemed the least likely. The reality of it was also completely untrue. He briefly considered keeping this last truth to himself, then quickly decided it pointless.
"You can't possibly think I'll survive this."
"What?" Harry asked, lifting his head to look Severus in the eye. "What do you mean?"
"Harry, my fate was sealed the moment I agreed to murder Albus Dumbledore. I'll not survive this war. I'll either die in the fighting or immediately after." The way he stated this must have seemed too cold to Harry's ears, because he shook his head as if to deny it. "When all the Horcruxes have been destroyed, you will have to face him. I won't reveal my true allegiances until you absolutely need me, but I will defend you to my death."
Harry's eyes became glassy and his mouth opened slightly, but Severus didn't allow him to speak.
"If you succeed—and I believe you will—I will die protecting you. If you fail...I'll die immediately in the aftermath." Though he loathed melodrama, Severus looked Harry in the eye and said in a solemn tone, "Once he's discovered where my loyalties truly lie, he'll kill me."
"You could—" Harry began to protest, only to be cut off again.
"I have no desire to live in a world where he has won and you are dead."
One errant tear fell from Harry's eye before he wiped it away with a grimace, and Severus turned his head in order to give him a moment to collect himself.
"This isn't fair," Harry said, sounding very much like a teenager.
The words were on his tongue before he could help himself. "Life isn't fair, Harry. Especially not for men such as we."
"Be quiet," Harry said harshly, and Severus obeyed. The heavy weight of Harry's body came down upon him, leaning him down onto the cot where Harry laid his head on Severus' shoulder.
"So we're both going to die?" he asked softly, his body calming as Severus held him close.
Strong, slender arms grasped him tighter and he squeezed Harry harder in response. They laid together, holding onto each other, each lost in their own minds for a while, the sounds of the forest the only noises to be heard. As Severus stroked Harry's hair, he couldn't help but feel guilty as a fraction of the weight he'd been carrying left him. He was no longer living a lie, no longer keeping a terrible secret from the only man he'd ever loved. He kissed Harry on the forehead and silently begged his forgiveness.
"Severus?" Harry asked a few moments later.
"Do you believe in an afterlife?"
Adjusting himself on the bed, Severus answered honestly. "I don't know. However, if there is an Elysium, I'm sure you would be allowed entry, even as I am sure I would not."
"Don't say that," Harry said, clutching his robes in his fists desperately. "You're the bravest man I've ever known. You're a hero."
He couldn't hold in his scoff as he said, "I'm no one's hero, Harry."
The fist on his chest relaxed as Harry kissed his neck and leaned in to breath in his ear. "You're my hero."
Hardly knowing what to say to such a statement, Severus laid back quietly and cursed himself as he mentally replayed the words in his head, knowing he would do so many more times in the future.
"There are so many things I'm going to regret never doing," Harry said into the silence a few minutes later. "I have—had—no idea what I was going to do with my life after...him. Now I'll never need to figure it out."
Hating Harry's morose line of thinking—even if he'd had the same thoughts himself—Severus turned and kissed him, trying to belay all those dark thoughts. Harry broke the kiss before it could become too desperate, and Severus looked into his eyes, which no longer seemed so wild.
"Right now...you know what I regret the most?"
"No," Severus replied, knowing this conversation couldn't end well. "What do you regret the most?"
"That I won't—" he broke off and cleared his throat before saying, "I really wanted to see your hair turn white."
A piece of his heart Severus had thought dead since May twisted in his chest and he reached out to kiss Harry again, this time for his own comfort. As the kiss deepened, he felt a shudder go through his own body and broke the kiss in order to regain control of himself.
Not knowing what to say, he deadpanned, "It probably would've looked ridiculous. I doubt age would've improved my...already dashing features."
Harry laughed hysterically at that and then leaned over him on the cot.
"We're going to die," Harry stated, his voice steady once again.
Studying him for a moment, Harry looked his fill, then removed his shirt and tossed it in the corner.
"If we're going to die I want to be inside you one last time."
Severus smiled around Harry's lips as fingers smaller than his own began to undo his rows of buttons. "That would be acceptable."
Harry's laugh was hysterical again, but as he calmed he leaned down so he was only inches away from Severus' face. "I love you," he whispered, his tone saying everything neither of them had the heart to.
And although Severus had already said it once over the course of their association, he thought perhaps some declaration was called for on a night such as this.
Pulling Harry down so that his ear touched Severus' lips, he said in a voice almost too soft to hear, "You are the only man I've ever loved." As he felt Harry shudder against him, he grabbed his hair almost violently and hissed, "My only joy, my only..."
As his hands began to tremble, Harry's peeled them away and moved to kiss him again. Harry's mouth met his, and Severus forced away his desperation, allowing his mind to concentrate on this moment while he was here with Harry. The body on top of his was warm and alive, and Severus compelled himself to memorize every detail in case he never had this again.
The last thought that went through his mind before Harry penetrated him was how glad he was that the boy he'd once hated had grown to be a man.
Petrograd, October 19th, 1919
Mikhail ignored the sound of gunfire and screams as he bent in concentration over the stones. It took hardly any effort to do so, his mind focused only on the curse that afflicted himself and the man he loved.
"Mikhail!" he heard Nikolai shout from the other side of the room. "We have to go! Please!"
Frustrated, Mikhail said nothing, and continued to stare down at the stones—black except for the blood they'd both shed over them. He could almost hear them as they began to whisper to him... Or at least he'd be able to if Nikolai would stop his shouting.
Not lifting his head, he responded, "Just give me a moment. I can almost see it..."
Mikhail had always denied his gift of Divination. While at Durmstrang he'd fought to keep his abilities hidden, choosing Arithmancy as his favored subject. Predicting the future through numbers was something appealing to him. Numbers could be calculated and explained. There was reason to be applied in that discipline, charts that could be interpreted and measured, where Divination was based on the intangible. Or worse—intuition.
And as much as Mikhail liked to trust his instincts, they were nothing compared to cold, hard facts.
Nikolai was his exact opposite. It was the reason they'd clashed so violently while in school, at least at first. Nikolai had always loved spellcraft and was so powerful the spells he created didn't always make sense—they just were. Mikhail thought Nikolai was lucky Durmstrang had always appreciated powerful wizards more than they feared them.
Pausing in his concentration on the stones, Mikhail allowed his mind to drift over their courtship; on how difficult their school years had been before they stopped fighting their attraction and came together. How Nikolai had encouraged his gift in Divination once he'd discovered it and how Mikhail hadn't spoken to him for over a week as he nursed his wounded pride.
How they'd left school and made a life together—a life that was now threatened by a curse far too old to have been cast in this lifetime.
He'd continued to ignore his gift even when he had begun to feel a growing darkness falling over him several months ago. When it had begun to weigh more heavily on his heart, he'd brought out his charts and began to calculate, trying to determine what it was that had cursed him.
It was only when Nikolai had finally broken down and admitted he'd felt the darkness too that Mikhail cast off his stubbornness and began to use his gift. It had taken months of searching through Durmstrang, but he'd finally found the text that would aid his cause.
He was so close to finding the answer to their problems he could taste it.
"Mikhail!" Nikolai shouted, grabbing his shoulders and spinning him around. "They're coming! Please, if we stay here we'll die!"
As if confirming Nikolai's words a canon fired at that exact moment, and his eyes went wide as the sounds of destruction increased.
"We'll die either way if I can't discover what's been done to us," Mikhail responded, turning back to the stones. He was so close to the truth.
Closing his eyes, he attempted something he hadn't in years. He reached out and tried to sense his own magic, tried to visualize it and its connection to the earth. He allowed his magic to flow through him; he could feel it within him and all around him, binding him to everything.
Slowly, he opened his eyes and stared into the blackness of the stones. They would tell him how to save Nikolai—he knew they would. He forced himself to calm, to be at peace and allow his eyes to see what other wizards' could not. Things he'd ignored all his adult life.
He ignored the sound of violence in the streets, the sounds of Nikolai's shielding spells, of shouts of agony and torment. He concentrated on the stones and began to hear them whisper.
They faded from view and he was taken to some other place: a green place filled with trees, the sun just barely setting. He saw two young men embracing each other under a tree, then an old man coming up from behind them.
He strained his ears to hear the man's words, his eyes widening as the vision ended.
"Nikolai!" he shouted, finally finding the answer to their problems. "Nikolai, I've found—" but his words were cut off as the sound of canon fire filled his ears, a sudden, terrible pain tearing the world away.
May 2nd, 1998
The first thought Harry had upon waking was that there was an afterlife. Though seeing his parents, Sirius, and Remus had soothed his fear, he'd been cautious in truly believing. It must have been Severus rubbing off on him.
Awake and alert now, his thought turned to finding Severus. He stood up—barely noticing and hardly caring he was naked—and began to take in the room he was in, wondering where Severus could be waiting for him.
Absentmindedly putting on a robe, Harry began to look in earnest; recognizing the place he was in, now, but realizing Severus was nowhere to be found.
"Severus?" he called out, his voice echoing along the walls of King's Cross Station. "Severus!" he shouted louder, afraid of what it meant that he couldn't find him.
The hope of finding Severus again in the afterlife was the only thing that allowed Harry to part from him in the Shrieking Shack, blood leaking from his throat onto the floor, black eyes revealing terror and sadness...
Even now, Harry's breathing became harsher and his fists clenched as he thought of holding Severus—Ron and Hermione looking on in amazement and terror—as he lay dying. Tears had flowed from black eyes, eyes that never left Harry's, before they closed and his breathing stilled. Being prepared for that moment—knowing it had to happen—hadn't made it any easier.
It was only the thought of joining Severus shortly that had allowed Harry to hold it together; to go out and meet his death deep within the Forbidden Forest.
"Severus!" he cried out again, turning around in the near-empty station, but finding no one. Panicking, he didn't notice the small, flayed-looking child that lay naked on the ground, and nearly stumbled as he walked over it.
"Oh, God," he whispered as he began to reason what the thing was.
"You can't help him, Harry," said a familiar voice, and Harry spun around to watch as Dumbledore crossed the room to meet him. "He's far beyond either of our help."
"Professor," Harry breathed, relieved to see him—he had to know where Severus was.
"Oh, Harry, my dear boy!" Dumbledore greeted him; he patted him on the shoulders, his eyes glowing and his smile wide. "I knew you would succeed."
Relief flooded his mind as he took in Dumbledore's words. Their sacrifice had meant something, then; Voldemort was dead. Pride like he'd never felt before welled up within him and he longed for Severus even more. This was their victory.
Before he could open his mouth to ask the question, Dumbledore said, "Now, come with me, Harry. We don't have much time and there are many things we must discuss."
"Wait," Harry said, looking around King's Cross Station again. "Where's Severus? He should be here already. He went before me."
"That..." Dumbledore said slowly, "is only one of the matters we must weigh. Come now. Walk with me."
Though his worry for Severus never abated, Harry allowed himself to take some joy at being with Dumbledore again. Walking with him here, their work done now, gave him a sense of accomplishment he'd never felt before. For all his manipulations and secrets, Harry knew Dumbledore had only the best intentions and had truly cared for him.
They walked through King's Cross Station, and Harry tried hard to concentrate on Dumbledore's explanations: how Voldemort had assured Harry's victory when he'd used his blood to reform himself; how the last Horcrux had been destroyed and now Harry was currently in between life and death—holding on only because of his mother's sacrifice.
After he'd heard all of this, he looked up into happy blue eyes and still had only one question. "But where's Severus?"
To his relief Dumbledore's smile only grew broader, and his eyes left Harry's and looked around the room.
"This is your crossroads, Harry. Severus is at his own at the moment, I'm sure." He paused and smiled to himself, as though he was the only one in on some great joke. "I hope he isn't being too hard on himself."
Harry's eyes widened as he took in the words. "You mean he's not—"
"No," Dumbledore said, his voice growing solemn. "And yes."
Back to word games, Harry thought, and bit his tongue so he wouldn't scream at Dumbledore explain things plainly.
"Harry," he began, all humor leaving his face. "You know of the existence of a curse...a terrible, dark curse that was cast on you and Severus?" At Harry's nod he continued, speaking slowly, his words deliberate.
"There is some magic that goes beyond words, Harry. Some magic is so old it transcends time and is carried over from one life onto the next."
Harry furrowed his brow as he tried to understand what Dumbledore was saying, but his confusion must have been evident on his face because Dumbledore began again.
"You and Severus were cursed...a very long time ago."
"I know," Harry said, and Dumbledore nodded. "But by who...and when?"
"By a sad old man, Harry. A very sad old wizard who couldn't stand the sight of two lovers living and being happy together when he was so miserable. He cursed you and Severus, and that curse has continued until today."
Harry wanted to ask what Dumbledore had meant about one life to the next, or how he and Severus had been cursed if neither of them could remember it, but something caught his attention.
"What do you mean, 'until today?'"
Dumbledore's smile returned. "I mean that by embracing death, the curse has finally been fulfilled. By walking into the Forbidden Forest and giving yourself up to die, you satisfied a curse that was cast upon the two of you...oh, lifetimes ago.
"And now," Dumbledore said, his smile growing, "because of your mother's sacrifice and Voldemort's short-sightedness, you have a choice. At the moment you are technically dead, however—you could return and, in doing so, defeat Voldemort and save Severus' life."
He paused and something like pride shined from his eyes. "I can't promise you an easy victory, but I believe you can destroy Voldemort and retrieve Severus in time. I don't imagine your lives will be easy..." he trailed off as he considered Harry, no doubt remembering Severus' sarcasm and sharp-tongue. "However, you will live. Both of you."
"Or?" Harry asked, fearful of the answer.
"Or you could chose not to go back," he stated plainly.
"But..." Harry asked, and suddenly he could hear a train whistle blowing and watched as the Hogwarts Express pulled into the station. As the doors opened, he half expected Severus to be inside waiting for him, but there was no one. "Where does it go?"
"On," Dumbledore said. "If you would like, you may board the train and Severus would join you shortly. With the curse gone now you could go on to the afterlife—enjoy your eternal reward. Or, if you'd like, be reborn again. Have the freedom of finding each other all over again, this time in a life free from violence and war."
His thoughts turned inward as he began to understand what was happening. His heart ached for Severus as his mind tried to wrap itself around the truth of his life; as he tried to decide what would be best for both of them. Looking away from Dumbledore, he allowed himself to think of Severus—of what he would want—when something caught his attention.
Looking past the train, he saw the slightest movement of shadow. Concentrating, he could almost make out faces—dozens of them—of men who seemed all too familiar.
"But if we were reborn...would we be...us?" he asked.
"Yes...and no. But rest assured your souls would find each other...again and again."
Harry considered this for a moment, then thought of Severus—alone and dying in a shack—and of all the hopes and dreams he'd let die in that tent in the Forest of Dean. Without any effort the desires he'd had for their future returned to him, excitement overflowing within him for the first time in so long.
"Would we be able to come back here?" he asked slowly, wanting to understand the decision his heart had already made. "Would we be welcome again?"
"Oh, yes," Dumbledore said with a happy whisper. "Neither you or Severus ever have any reason to fear returning here."
He nodded, decision made, and Harry turned to Dumbledore and smiled, extending his hand. As Dumbledore took it, his smile returned and Harry felt something long-awaited had finally arrived. Looking on Dumbledore now, as an adult, he was able to fully appreciate him and all his sacrifices.
"I'm so glad I got to see you again."
"The pleasure has been all mine, Harry. When you see Severus, thank him for me."
Stifling a laugh that was half born of happiness and half from hysteria, Harry said, "Thank you, Professor. This was all your doing."
"No, Harry," he said, already fading from view. "It was yours."
Though he'd always been doubtful, Severus had begun to hope there'd be an afterlife. A non-believer since he was a boy, it was only the knowledge that Harry would die with him that had given Severus the slightest hope there could be a place where heroes went to rest and that perhaps Harry could put in a good word for him.
But as he drifted in a dark formlessness, he reminded himself that hope had always led to disappointment for him.
He mentally sighed—which was all he could do at the moment—and wondered if he would remain conscious throughout eternity. Or perhaps, he thought as a chill ran down his spine—or it would have if he had one—this was hell, with no Harry to be found.
Well. That was hardly a surprise. Good men like Harry didn't deserve a fate such as this, he reasoned, his heart filling with misery as he began to realize what torment without relief really meant.
Suddenly there was something else in the darkness. He strained his consciousness and thought he could hear voices, feel vibrations through the air. He tried harder to listen and was able to make out shouting and someone calling his name.
Gathering all his strength, he tried to make his way towards where he thought the sound was coming from. Slowly he began to feel his body again, and almost took a step back into the nothingness as the pain in his neck made a reappearance. He felt something cool being pressed against his lips and smelled dittany in the air.
Then he heard his name again.
"Severus!" the voice called, and Severus recognized it instantly. He would recognize that voice in a room full of a hundred others and he rushed toward the sound of it.
He tried to call out to Harry, but he could barely move. His body aching and his thoughts murky, he tried to make out what Harry was saying.
"Severus, it's over! We've won! Severus, please wake up..."
Fear rushed back to him in an instant. Perhaps he was moving into an afterlife with Harry after all. There was no way Harry could have survived, not with the Dark Lord and a curse hanging over his head.
"Severus," Harry whispered in his ear, and he felt the tiny hairs on his neck stand on end. "We beat it. The curse...it's over. Listen...feel it. It's gone..."
Slowly, Severus tried to seek out the darkness that had hung over his mind and his heart for a year. He searched his consciousness and reached out, feeling nothing. The thing that had been choking him, that had drifted over his soul like a cloud, had gone.
He gasped in surprise and felt pain as a deep breath filled his lungs.
"Yes," Harry whispered. "We beat it. It's over."
Severus opened his eyes.