36. Before the Storm

A group of little first years barreled out of the Defense classroom; some were pouting but most of them sported wide grins, revealing an occasional missing front tooth.

"I got an Outstanding!" exclaimed one of the first boys out the door.

"Me too!" added the little witch to his left. "But Bernard only got an Acceptable."

The first boy turned back in surprise to the sad boy who followed him. "What happened Bernie? We practiced and practiced."

"I couldn't remember which way to swing my wand on Nox," the red-haired boy whined.

"Oh, that's an easy one. All ya do is …" the youngster stopped mid-sentence at the sight of Harry.

The entire group came to a halt and what had been a sea of flapping black robes settled to hang in silent folds at their sides.

"Hallo," said Harry as he leaned against the wall; he'd been waiting for the first year DADA class to finish. "All done with your finals?"

They nodded in unison.

"You were really good on Sunday, Mr. Potter," ventured the first boy, his voice cracking with nerves. After all, it wasn't everyday a Hufflepuff first year had the opportunity to chat it up with the winning Seeker, Quidditch star, Head Boy, The Chosen One.

"Thanks."

"How do you stay on your broom flying straight up and down like that?" asked the little witch.

"And so fast!" added another.

"Oh, it just takes some practice," Harry shrugged.

"Madame Hooch's class is my favorite," chimed the red-haired boy, his pout now gone. "She's taught us loads this year and I'm gonna do just that!"

"Do just what?"

"Practice my flying — everyday this summer. Then, when I'm old enough, I'm gonna try out for our Quidditch team!"

"What position?" Harry rarely had an opportunity to chat with the youngsters of the other houses. Standing here now, he found their innocent enthusiasm engaging.

"Seeker, just like you!"

The dinner chime sounded.

"You guys better hurry or you'll miss dinner."

"Is it okay to call you Harry?"

"Sure it is."

"Well then, bye Harry! Have a great summer!"

"You too. Bye."

They all waved and hurried off down the hall. Harry chuckled to himself and wondered if he'd ever been that small. But his smile slid away when he remembered the reason for his being in this neck of the castle at this time of the day.

Remus had just started up the stairs to his office when Harry stepped into the room. "Remus?"

The harried looking wizard turned in surprise. "Harry. What an unexpected pleasure."

"Do you have a moment?"

"Of course I do. Please, come in." Lupin set down the stack of tests. "Congratulations on winning the Cup this year. I heard you did a magnificent job on Sunday."

Harry had crossed the room but stopped just shy of the podium. He grasped either side, subconsciously using it as a sort of barrier. "Thanks. Yeah, it's especially nice having the win our final year."

"Will you be staying at the castle this summer?" Remus had actually hoped this might be the case, thinking that perhaps with everyone gone he would finally be able to have some one on one time with Harry and work on bridging the huge gap between them.

"Uh, no. I've got other plans."

His hopeful anticipation died behind his forced smile. "The Burrow, no doubt."

"Maybe, for a bit … later on." Harry was getting antsy. He hadn't come here to talk about Quidditch or summertime plans. "Look, uh … I wanted to thank you for what you did."

Remus wasn't certain to what Harry was referring; was he being facetious about what Remus hadn't done — all of Harry's life? "What did I do?"

"What do you mean, 'what did I do'?" Harry let go of the podium and held out his hands. "Everyone's been talking about it the past two weeks - you know, fighting that Bicorn … saving Professor Snape's life."

"Oh that," he sighed. "Why would you thank me for that?"

Down went the hands. Harry hadn't expected that question and he suddenly felt defensive. "It's just that he … well, he's helped me a lot the past couple of years and we're friends, that's all."

"There's no need to be defensive."

"I'm not being defensive," Harry said defensively.

"Is something going on? Is this why you were down in dungeons at the beginning of term?"

Here again was another unexpected tack in the conversation.

Harry tried to recall what Severus had taught him concerning verbal tactics, but somehow at this very instance — all that advice escaped him. "Where I go and what I do is none of your business!"

"I wasn't trying to pry! I just want to be your friend!"

"My friend?" Harry's yelled. "My friend?" he repeated, even louder. "Don't you think it's a bit late for that?"

"Please don't say that. If you could just understand …"

"Understand? I'll tell you what I understand!"

Harry stepped out from behind the podium; his emerald eyes were blazing. "I understand that you were never there when I was a kid living in that hell hole!"

All his insecurities and resentment that stemmed from Remus' continued absence poured out as he yelled his pointed questions.

"Why did you leave after third year? Where were you after the Tri-Wizard Tournament? Where were you after Sirius died? Huh?" he pressed, "Huh?"

The fury being thrown at him left Remus shaken. "Harry please, let me explain."

"Save it for someone else!" Shocked at himself and where his simple 'thank you' had wound up, Harry turned on his heel and marched straight out of the classroom.

~SH~

"You know I want Potter to stay in the apartment arranged for him," said Rufus Scrimgeour as he leaned back in his heavy leather chair and stared across his desk at Dumbledore, Shacklebolt and Robards. "It will be a perfect lure for You Know Who."

"I repeat Minister, once you hear the details of our plan …"

"All right then," the Minister yielded, "what is this great plan you've come up with?"

Albus turned to Robards. "Would you begin Gawain?"

The Head of the Auror department cleared his throat. "First of all, we plan to use the intended apartment, but it won't be Potter staying there."

"Oh really? Just whom did you have in mind?"

"An imposter."

That got the Minister's attention. "Go on."

"I have two Aurors who are willing to take Pollyjuice potion so that they can stand in for Potter."

"Two?"

"They'll alternate, as this might become a very long assignment."

"Continue."

"A direct Floo will be set up in one of the auxiliary rooms next to my office devoted solely for transport to and from the apartment. Additionally, the room will be the site for Potter to Port-Key directly to his actual residence. Since his Auror classes are located near my office, he can report to this room at the end of each day and Port-Key to the dwelling in Cambridge. At the same time, my Auror will Floo to the apartment."

"You Know Who is already aware of Potter's plans to attend Auror School and that we want him to stay near the Ministry," interjected Shacklebolt. "Later this summer, we'll have Snape leak information identifying the exact location. Once classes begin and the fake Potter begins turning up at this flat on a regular basis, we believe You Know Who will send in his Death Eaters to abduct the young man."

"Sounds like you'd be signing your Auror to a death sentence."

"Not at all," chimed Dumbledore. "The Auror on duty will have a Locatus charmed coin with him at all times. It will be triggered as soon as he is abducted and will in turn activate a homing beacon."

"The homing beacon," Robards took over, "will guide my awaiting contingent of Aurors to wherever the fake Potter has been taken. And that will in turn …"

"Lead us to the Fastness," Scrimgeour finished the sentence with anticipation. "This is a marvelous idea!"

"We thought you'd think so."

"All right, I'll go along with this plan if you can justify all this nonsense about Potter living in Cambridge. What in Merlin's name is that all about?"

"Rufus," Albus said in a smoothing tone of voice. "Harry has been held virtually captive at Hogwarts the past two years. He simply wants to live his life."

"But why Cambridge?"

"One of his good friends, a Miss Hermione Granger will be attending Oxford this fall."

He paused long enough to pull out his tin of lemon drops and pop one in his mouth. "There's a small cottage located just outside the city, which has been in my family for generations. It's protected under a Fidelius charm and I thought it might provide a safe haven for Harry and his friends."

"Dumbledore is the Secret Keeper," interjected Shacklebolt. "It's out of the way … You Know Who wouldn't be so apt to go looking for Potter in Cambridge …"

The Minister held up his hand. "All right, you've convinced me. We'll use the apartment in London for the sting operation and Potter can stay with his friends in Cambridge."

Dumbledore smiled, "Thank you Minister. Harry will be very pleased to hear this."

~SH~

Neville entered the boys' dorm and paused at the sight of Harry, lying on his bed staring up fixedly at the ceiling, "How come you didn't come down for dinner?"

"Wasn't hungry."

"Somethin' wrong?"

"No."

"Oh." Harry obviously didn't want to talk about whatever was bothering him, so Neville changed the subject. "Hey, did you find your amulet?"

During Sunday's match, while executing one of his vertical dives to try to catch the Snitch, Harry had somehow lost his amulet.

"No, I tried summoning it but it didn't come. I don't what happened to it," he replied and noticed that Neville had put on some cologne. "Hot date?"

"Yeah, somethin' like that; there's a big end of year party in the Ravenclaw common-room. Why don't you come? It'll be fun."

Harry sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed, "Nah, I can't. I have my training final in just a bit, but thanks for the invite."

He went over and looked out the window; there were students strolling about and sitting on the lawn. The reflection off the lake mirrored the peach hued sky tinted from the sun on the distant horizon. Even from this side of the glass, he could almost feel the lazy weight of calm that graced this summer's eve.

It was the last week of school and there was an easy mood about the castle. Exams were finished and the last Quidditch match had been played. The specially arranged graduation ceremony would take place the next day, Saturday, followed by the Leaving Feast and then — everyone would board the Hogwarts Express on Sunday to return home for their summer vacation.

"What the hell are you doin' in here?" asked Ron as he, Dean and Seamus filed into the room.

He had to step aside to skirt Harry, who was now making a beeline for his trunk, "Getting ready for my final."

"But you missed dinner."

"I wasn't hungry."

Ron knew what that meant. The conversation with Lupin had probably not gone well. He'd get the details later, when they were alone.

"Too bad you can't come with us to the party," Dean commented.

"You're goin too?"

"Everyone is," added Seamus.

Feigning remorse, Harry sighed as he slipped on his robe and then headed for the door. "This is my final exam. I can't miss it." He stepped outside the room but called back just before he closed the door, "Have fun."

Neville stared at the now closed door as the others began to change their clothes for the party. "Why is it that Harry always gets the short end of the stick?"

"I know," added Dean. "He's had to stay here at the castle for almost two years."

"We should do something fun … you know? I mean, before we all go home," said Seamus from under the shirt he was pulling over his head.

"We could have a party, here … in our common room," suggested Neville.

"No. I mean something crazy. Harry deserves to do something really fun."

"You know," Ron creased his eyebrows together in thought, "that's a great idea, and it should be just the five of us."

"Yeah, you're right. So what should we do?"

"Dunno, but we can talk about it more at the party," replied Ron. "Come on, let's get going."

~SH~

Harry spotted the stunning spell as it shot out from the wand just visible at the edge of an old wooden door to his left; he rolled to the ground to avoid being hit and called out, "Expelliarmus!"

The assailant's wand flew up, arcing high above the young wizard who was now already looking ahead for the next challenge.

From his vantage point, Severus watched Harry make his way through the gantlet. Surmounting one challenge after another, his protégé had dodged spell fire, avoided booby traps and defeated a string of simulated Death Eaters.

It had taken nearly forty minutes for the teen to finally reach the end of the gage, his training final. He'd had to use both defensive and offensive magic to complete his task, casting charms, spells, jinxes and hexes — sometimes combining two forms simultaneously, erecting temporary wards, employing strategy and tactics, and yes — even some hand to hand combat.

Exhausted, winded and bleeding from a cut on his right cheek, Harry waited for the next opponent to appear but instead he heard his Professor call out, "Congratulation, Mr. Potter. You passed."

Harry whirled and looked up to see Severus descend a nearby balcony. "Passed? That's it?" he asked as he tried to catch his breath. "Don't I even get an Exceeds Expectations?"

Severus walked toward the teen until they stood face to face, that was when he noticed the cut on the flushed cheek.

"Episky," Severus incanted then ran his thumb lightly over the now healed wound to wipe away the trickle of blood. "You passed with an Outstanding," he said and smiled. "You should be very proud of what you accomplished tonight."

"It's all because of you and everything you've taught me."

Severus slid his hand down the lithe back. "I think this deserves a celebration."

"Oh yeah?" Harry responded coyly as he pocketed his wand. "What did you have in mind?"

Severus turned to face the room. "We need to see the Ponte Vecchio."

The Room of Requirement immediately transformed itself from the dark alleyway into the famous Italian, Medieval bridge.

"This is that place you took me on my birthday," Harry extolled and then inhaled a lungful of the air, now humid and heady with scent from the lazy river that moved slowly beneath the shop laden bridge.

The ceiling had become a night sky filled with stars and an opalescent moon that hung heavy above the horizon.

"Oh Sev," Harry sighed as he pressed himself against the tall wizard, "this is so beautiful. Thank …" his gratitude was cut short when Severus began to kiss and caress the nape of his neck.

He melted under the amorous advance and his mind began to spin as the kisses moved up his throat.

The roused teen turned and pulled Severus down for a full mouthed kiss. They held each other tightly as their kiss deepened and their tongues swirled. They kissed and kissed for the most lusciously longest length of time, each man growing harder with every passing second.

Harry found an open path and slid his hand into the left front pocket of Severus' pants, and from behind this barrier of cloth he finally took hold of that hard length he'd so longed desired.

He began to stroke it.

"Clothes … stay … on," whispered Severus between his kisses.

"Uh huh," Harry uttered as he stroked Sev's full shaft up and down, pausing sometimes at the sensitive tip and then delving further into the deep well of cloth, until he reached the tender spheres.

"No …" Severus sighed.

"Forget it Professor," Harry whispered and pressed his smaller frame against the long torso, pushing Severus against a cool plastered wall. "Think of this as my graduation present."

"But …"

"And I'm not gonna stop …" which he didn't. He stroked and toyed and kissed as he pressed his own want against that endless thigh. He paced his persistence and continued his endeavors until amidst his own burning satisfaction, they both came.

Harry slumped blissfully against Severus. "Mmmm," he hummed and looked up into those delicious dark eyes. "I wish you didn't have to go … we could stay here all night."

"You know I can't," Severus said with regret and added a gentle kiss. "I have to finish my duties at the Fastness, but then …"

"… we'll Port-Key to your villa," Harry interjected.

"… for a proper celebration," Severus finished.

They kissed once more then Harry laid his head against Severus' chest and relished in the sound of his steady heartbeat. "I can't believe we get to spend the whole summer together, just the two of us," he said and then turned so that he now sat on Severus' lap. He leaned in close and gave Sev that look, "And I wanna fuck you every – single – day."

Severus succumbed to those green eyes and that sultry tone.

Before Harry knew what happened, his jeans had vanished and all he had on was his school robe; he was lying on his back, on something soft and Severus was stroking him.

"Oh God," he sighed. He'd never been touched with such skill. The timing, the changes in pressure, the way Severus tantalized one area of his cock and then moved to another. He'd bring Harry almost to climax and then ease off just enough to hold him there.

Over and over Severus made him ride this wave of ecstasy and as he slowly worked his magic, Harry felt a curious feeling start to build. It began in his toes or maybe it was his heart, or somewhere in between - he couldn't tell. It was so enticing and yet as it strengthened – it became ominous and even a bit frightening. In time he felt like he was standing on the edge of a precipice; it beckoned him to dive in but at the same time it was too powerful to face.

"Let go Harry," Sev's whispered voice seem to call to him from far away, "let it happen."

Harry trusted Sev and so he relaxed and released himself into the power of his own powerful climax. It was unlike any orgasm he'd ever experienced for this wasn't just a physical release but one that encompassed his very soul.

Through his ecstasy and immense pleasure, his distant joys and sorrows surfaced from somewhere deep inside; they engulfed him and he moaned and moaned as his emotions and rapture swept through him and out of him. Eventually the intense feeling subsided and then diminished until it was totally gone and left the teen feeling raw and completely undone.

Severus pulled Harry close. He carded his fingers through the damp raven hair as he laced the tear stained cheeks with gentle kisses.

"That was so amazing," Harry whispered. "I didn't know it could be like that."

"Are you all right?" asked Severus.

"Yeah," Harry answered and buried his face against Severus' chest. "I'm sorry I cried."

"Don't ever apologize for that Harry," he said and stroked his fingertips up and down the tone back.

They were silent for a while as Severus relished in the moment and Harry tried to make sense of what had just happened.

"There's something I want to tell you."

Harry tensed, "Is something wrong?"

"No. Everything is fine … more than fine," Severus said as he continued his caress. "I want to tell you that I …"

For so long he'd wanted to express his love to Harry, try to explain how much he'd changed because of him but such things were difficult for Severus. "I just want to thank you."

"For what?"

It was a moment before Severus answered, "For helping me to face my demons."

Because of what had happened during his transformation and all the experiences they had shared, Harry knew exactly what Sev was talking about. "I had Helena to help me deal with my demons, but you Sev — you dealt with yours all on your own. I didn't do anything."

"That isn't true Harry. If it hadn't been for you, I would still be that bitter closed off person."

Harry interlaced his fingers with the long elegant ones, stained from years of brewing potions. "We've been through so much, you and me." He looked for a long time into the sable colored eyes; they held no mystery this night, but showed only sincerity — and something else.

"What?" Harry asked. "What are you thinking?"

"I … "Severus tried again but those three little words were so elusive and just beyond his reach. "You mean a great deal to me."

Harry knew how hard it was for Severus to express his innermost feelings.

He reached up and kissed this amazing person, this man whom had brought him to his limits and back again. Someone who had, at one point in time, been a complete mystery to him — but over the years and through their joint struggles, this enigma had somehow become his soul mate.

"I love you too, Sev."

~SH~

Epilogue

At the same moment these two wizards were declaring their love for each other, Voldemort stood in the solarium of the King's chamber of the Fastness and stared out over the river to the distant treetops and beyond.

He pulled and twisted his wand through the tips of his boney fingers, thinking and planning how he would go about killing his longtime foe, once he was captured and brought to him.

"Only a few months now Harry Potter … and then you shall die."

Fin

Author's note:

This concludes part one in the series 'The Tenacity of Love'. If you've come this far, please take a moment to share your thoughts with me.

The series continues with the sequel 'The Catamite.'

SHaria