The first thing that Harry became aware of was a pounding headache. The second was a familiar, oddly comforting scent. It was only when he blearily opened his eyes and tried to focus on his surroundings that he was able to place it.
"Lie still or you risk exacerbating your injury."
The velvety deep voice was like a balm to his soul.
Harry couldn't see him from where he was lying on the plush couch he'd seen so many weeks ago, but a moment later a blurred figure settled next to him and something cold was placed at his lips. Harry opened his mouth and drank without question, grimacing slightly at the potion's bitter taste but immensely thankful for its immediate effects. He sank back onto the cushions and looked up at Severus, unable to gauge his expression without his glasses.
"You should never drink something without first ascertaining that it is safe. Have I taught you nothing?"
Harry gave a small shrug, carefully adjusting his position to get more comfortable. "I trust you."
Severus didn't appear to have an answer for that. He simply said, "I have repaired the damage, but you should rest for a few hours to aid your recovery."
"Your foolish Gryffindor tendency to do something heroic, at the risk of your own life, happened," Severus replied irritably. "You protected the students but neglected to shield yourself when Ryder's magic surged, resulting in a sizeable crack in that thick skull of yours."
Harry couldn't have cared less that he was being insulted because he could tell that, underneath that tough exterior, Severus had been worried. He did care. That made any injury fade into insignificance.
"If I'd known this would get you talking to me, I'd have knocked myself out weeks ago," Harry murmured, squinting around for his glasses which were then placed in his hand. The room came into focus as Harry gingerly slid them on, his eyes instantly flying to Severus' face.
The older man looked conflicted and started to rise but Harry reached out to grab his robes, holding him in place. "Stay with me for a while. Please?"
Relenting, Severus sat back down and Harry relaxed his grip. "Is Thomas alright?"
"Mr Ryder is shaken, but unharmed. It seems that he has been subjected to a sustained level of taunts and jibes this year due to his father's recent imprisonment for practising dark magic. I will, of course, be looking into the matter thoroughly."
Harry exhaled heavily, remembering his own troubled childhood and the way he had withdrawn into himself. His magic had burst forth several times when things had become too much. "I should have seen the signs earlier."
"As should I," Severus replied, a trace of regret colouring his tone. "As his head of house, it is my duty to ensure his safety and well-being. Lately, however, I have found myself… somewhat distracted."
"I've missed you, too," Harry said softly.
Severus opened his mouth, no doubt to protest, but Harry quickly pressed a finger to his lips. "Just listen to me for a minute, okay? I don't give a damn about your age, or what people will think. I don't care about anything. I just want to be with you."
Severus shook his head as Harry dropped his hand. "It is not that simple."
Throwing caution to the wind, Harry surged upwards and effectively silenced any and all arguments with his mouth, gripping Severus' robes tightly to prevent escape as he laid his heart on the line. After what seemed like an eternity, but only a few seconds in reality, he felt Severus' lips begin to respond. Harry felt a heady rush of relief and joy, relishing an embrace unclouded by alcohol. His dim memories did not do it justice.
Finally Harry lifted his head, unwilling to pull away fully. Not until he was sure. Severus' black eyes gave nothing away, but his grip remained reassuringly strong. Emboldened, Harry raised a finger to gently trace a path down his pale cheek.
"It is if you let it be. Stop running from this, Severus. Stay with me."
There was still a degree of doubt clouding the dark orbs so Harry leaned in to capture Severus' mouth again, persuading him the best way he knew how. When he swiped his tongue across Severus' lips, seeking entry, the older man's self-control appeared to snap completely and he plundered Harry's mouth like a man starved.
A barrage of emotions and sensations swept through Harry like fire, and he was unable to stop a moan from escaping as he met Severus' tongue just as enthusiastically, his fingers creeping under the older man's robes to reach warm flesh. Severus ripped his mouth away and, for a split-second, Harry was afraid that he'd had second thoughts again, but his fear was proved unfounded when Severus merely moved to attack his neck, pushing him back down onto the couch. Feeling giddy with relief and desire, Harry began working on removing the many layers of clothes covering Severus' body, feeling much like a child unwrapping his most yearned for present on Christmas morning.
"I don't believe that this constitutes rest," Severus murmured, trailing his lips back up to Harry's.
"I can rest later," Harry replied against his mouth. "I've waited too long for this. Besides," he added, gasping as Severus brushed their arousals together through their clothes, "I'm sure this is the best form of medication." Harry could feel the smirk form on Severus' lips in response.
"Then I shall attempt to medicate you thoroughly."
Losing patience with small buttons, Severus removed all of Harry's clothes with a simple spell.
"Cheat," Harry grinned, arching up as his nipple was enveloped by Severus' mouth.
"I never cheat," Severus replied huskily, moving to the other nipple. "I am simply utilizing the power within me to achieve the same result faster."
Harry shuddered, both at the sensation of Severus' tongue around his nipple and at the deep, almost criminally sexy voice. Deciding that Severus had a point, Harry relented and removed the black robes still separating them, using wandless magic. The feel of Severus' naked flesh pressing down the length of his body momentarily stole the breath from Harry's lungs.
Severus raised his head to look at Harry, fiery desire evident in his eyes. "Might I suggest we continue this somewhere a little more comfortable?"
Harry's leg was bent at an odd angle, and the edge of the couch was digging into his back. It was better than a stone wall, but still left a lot of room for improvement. He lifted his head to peck Severus' lips with a seductive smile. "Lead the way."
Harry soon found that making love with Severus while sober and clear-headed was an entirely different and profound experience. This time it was slow and tender, both of them drawing out each moment of pleasure to its fullest, worshipping every inch of the bodies and souls they'd missed so much. Harry kept his eyes open throughout, not wanting to miss a second of it, memorizing the varying expressions of bliss which flickered across Severus' face as he leisurely thrust into Harry's willing body. When they finally reached the pinnacle, Harry's entire being was rocked with the most powerful, toe curling orgasm he'd ever experienced, made all the more beautiful when Severus joined him with a whispered, "Harry."
Gloriously sated, and more than a little sleepy, Harry lay entwined with Severus on the satin sheets, his head resting against Severus' chest. He could hear the comfortingly strong heartbeat beneath his ear, gradually slowing after their exertions.
"Are you still in any pain?"
Severus' voice was tinged with concern, making Harry raise his head to smile reassuringly up at him. "I'm fine." He paused, a hint of mischief creeping into his green eyes. "I think I need to rest with you for a while longer, though… maybe even get a second dose of medication a little later on."
Laughing at the quirked eyebrow he received, Harry settled himself back in his previous position and an arm wrapped itself around him firmly.
"Brat." The older man's tone was warm and amused. "I assume that I am not your first, judging by that display of knowledge and technique."
"No," Harry smiled, lazily tracing a path across the sprinkling of hair surrounding Severus' navel. "Charlie Weasley—way back when the war with Voldemort was really starting to heat up. I was struggling to cope with the pressure of expectation, and Charlie made it better… for a while, at least."
"And since then?"
Harry shrugged slightly, the gesture limited by his position. "After the war ended, I went a bit wild. Lots of clubbing and one-night stands—just sex, without any complications or commitment. There hasn't been anyone serious." He paused. "What about you? If you don't mind me asking."
"I have indulged in pleasures of the flesh with many willing partners over the years—a pressure release of sorts. I never felt the need or inclination to settle."
Harry nodded and a sleepy hush descended once more. His eyes were just beginning to droop shut when Severus' voice roused him.
"I seem to remember the younger Mr Weasley making a remark about his brother on his last visit."
Harry shifted to meet Severus' gaze again, trying not to smile at the undercurrent of possessiveness in Severus' voice. "Charlie wants more from me than I can give." He placed a kiss on the warm, pale skin that he was resting against. "Everything's different now."
Severus studied him seriously, and his next words were spoken with careful deliberation. "Are you fully prepared for the consequences of this decision? It will not be easy, Harry. We will have to fight for acceptance, and most likely face a tide of disapproval—"
Harry clamped a hand over his mouth. "Then we'll face it together. I'm not going to let you chase me away again, Severus. Besides," he grinned, moving his hand down to splay his fingers on Severus' firm chest, "have you ever known me to take the easy route?"
Severus smirked. "A valid point." He lowered his head to meet Harry's lips, rolling them over so that he was once again on top, and Harry felt his fatigue disappear with a surge of renewed desire.
The unmistakable voice of Professor McGonagall effectively doused the fire.
"Infernal woman," Severus huffed, when it became clear that she wasn't simply going to give up. Disentangling himself from Harry, he got up and threw on a robe before walking out of the room. Harry lay still, listening intently to the voices that floated through the open bedroom door.
"Yes, what is it?"
"I was just wondering how our youngest professor is doing."
"Remarkably well, considering. I assume that knocking him senseless was not part of your plan?"
Professor McGonagall spluttered something, but Severus overrode it. "I have managed to repair the damage inflicted. If that is all, Minerva?"
"Could I see him?"
"For what reason? Are you worried I might have poisoned him and disposed of the body?"
"Oh, for heaven's sake—"
"I admit that the thought did cross my mind, but, ultimately, I decided that it was not worth my time or energy."
Harry smothered a snort with his hand. He heard Professor McGonagall sigh exasperatedly.
"Can I see him or not, Severus?"
"No, he is asleep at present. However, if you wish, I can ask him to visit you in the morning if he is well enough."
"Yes. Thank you."
"Very well. Goodnight, Minerva."
Severus re-entered the room a moment later, throwing off his robe. "It seems that the rest of the faculty is worried about your well-being."
Harry grinned, sitting up to pull Severus back into bed and latching onto a dark nipple. "I'm in good hands."
Growling, Severus pinned him down to the bed by his wrists. Harry offered no resistance, his cock already hardening from the predatory glint within the dark eyes locked with his own, his breath quickening.
"And I believe it's time for more medication…"
Three days later, in the sunny garden at The Burrow, Harry broke the news to Ron and Hermione. He knew, of course, that Hermione would be happy that he and Severus had worked things out, but had been anxiously worrying about his best friend's reaction. However, it didn't turn out anything like the nightmare he'd had the previous night—in which Ron had drawn his wand, cursed him, and then cut him out of his life completely. Instead Ron, no doubt forewarned by Hermione and coached in his response, merely blew out a deep breath and nodded with an attempt at a smile.
Harry's worried expression immediately transformed into one of immense relief and happiness. "Thanks, Ron."
"So I can add Severus to the wedding guest list, then?" Hermione smiled, after hugging Harry to within an inch of his life.
Harry hadn't thought that far ahead, let alone asked Severus. He'd been too busy fretting over telling Ron. It would be nice to have a plus one for a change, though. He might have to convince his partner, but he always relished a challenge. "Sure," he grinned.
"Just do me one favour, mate," Ron said good-naturedly, as Hermione went to find the guest list. "Keep the snogging down to a minimum in front of me."
Harry laughed, his spirit feeling lighter than it had in days. "Deal."
Ron slung an arm around his shoulder as they headed back inside, and sighed melodramatically. "And you were so nearly a Weasley…"
Harry couldn't wipe the smile off his face for several days. His ordeal was by no means over—this was just the first step—but now he had the strength of his friends to lean on when things got tough, and that meant a great deal.
No one else knew anything yet. The staff and students couldn't fail to notice his improved mood, of course, but were unaware of the reason, although the other professors had gathered that it concerned their resident potions master. The number of detentions which Severus was handing out to his students had dropped ten-fold in the last week.
The world would no doubt find out eventually, but for now it was nice just to enjoy each other without pressure or prejudice. The next step for Harry was telling the rest of the Weasleys. They were the only family he had left now, and their support was very important to him.
Harry pondered how best to tell them as he patrolled the school's dark corridors on the following Saturday night, searching for students out of bed and up to mischief. Since it was now the last week of term, and all the exams were over, there was usually a rise in rule breaking as students made the most of their remaining time at Hogwarts before the holidays. So far, however, it had been a quiet night, leaving Harry alone with his thoughts and plans.
He had already made up his mind to stay at Hogwarts for the following year. Although a large part of his decision was based on his desire to be close to Severus, he had found, quite unexpectedly, that teaching suited him, plus Hogwarts had always been his home. Where he was going to spend the holidays was another matter entirely, something which he hadn't yet discussed with Severus, and he still didn't know whether Severus would agree to accompany him to his friends' wedding in August.
Thinking hard about possible methods of persuasion, Harry turned another corner on the fourth floor into a long corridor. As opposed to the last, which had been flooded with moonlight from the large, mullioned windows, this one was bathed in darkness, the light from Harry's wand tip only penetrating it a short way. The occupants of the portraits, which lined the walls on either side, stirred and grunted irritably as he passed.
Harry had just reached a portrait of a rather ugly witch, in a gown with far too many frills, when he was pulled sharply backwards into a deep alcove, which was partially concealed by a heavy tapestry.
"Constant vigilance, Professor. Must I remind you again?"
Harry's fingers relaxed around his wand as the familiar, deep voice whispered in his ear and stirred the hairs on his neck.
"Now I have you."
"Yes, you do," Harry replied softly, grinning as he relaxed back against a firm chest. "The question is, what are you going to do with me, Professor?"
A pair of arms snaked around his waist securely, holding him in place as his neck was gently nipped. "I can think of several equally enticing possibilities."
Harry shivered with delight and anticipation as the hands holding him wandered lower. Emitting a quiet moan, he turned his head to capture Severus' lips in a heated kiss and, without warning, Severus turned him around and switched their positions so that Harry's back was against the panelled wood.
The next moment, Severus had sunk to his knees and freed Harry's already straining erection. Harry bit his lip to silence a cry when he was abruptly enveloped in a deliciously warm and talented mouth, his fingers winding their way into Severus' silky black hair. As Severus got into his stride, Harry allowed his head to drop back against the wall with a soft thump and closed his eyes. His increasingly ragged breathing sounded overly loud in the hushed darkness.
Harry inhaled sharply as Severus circled his entrance and inserted a finger, then two, creating a mounting pleasure from both sides as his tongue swirled around the head of Harry's aching cock. Harry pushed back against the intrusion, desperate for more, and Severus complied, thrusting his fingers inside and twisting them to brush that special spot.
"God, Severus… yes. Ah!"
Severus reached up with his free hand and pressed his finger to Harry's parted lips, hushing him without words, then brushed his thumb across them gently. Harry latched onto it to stifle another moan, his hips thrusting forwards of their own accord as the knot of tension is his groin continued to tighten. Distantly, Harry's brain registered footsteps approaching but then Severus deep throated him and nothing else mattered. The whole school could have blown up at that moment and he wouldn't have noticed. With a strangled cry, he emptied himself down Severus' throat in pulsing waves of ecstasy.
"Hello? Is someone there?"
Harry froze at the sound of Professor McGonagall's voice close by, the pleasure fading from his boneless, sated body. He could see a soft glow of light beyond the tapestry, and knew it was only a matter of seconds before she would discover their hideout. Severus, however, seemed completely unconcerned, licking the remnants of Harry's juices from his softening cock with relish before getting to his feet. To Harry's astonishment, he merely straightened his robes and stepped out into the corridor. Harry heard a small squeak of surprise at his sudden appearance.
"Severus! What are you doing up here at this time of night?"
"Obviously, I was investigating a suspicious noise."
Harry snorted inwardly. It was Severus who had been causing the suspicious noise. Harry had to admire the man's ability to appear calm and collected, though, when he was no doubt hiding a raging erection beneath his robes.
"Really?" Professor McGonagall's tone told Harry that she wasn't remotely convinced. "And have you found anything?"
"No, I have not," Severus replied smoothly. "Of course, it could have been one of the ghosts."
"Hmm. I should warn Harry to be on the look-out just in case… but no doubt you're going to see him first, Severus." Harry resisted the urge to laugh. It appeared that there was no fooling his old Head of House. "So I'll bid you both goodnight."
The sound of swift footsteps signalled her departure, and Harry was willing to bet that Severus was scowling after her. A moment later he reappeared, scowl still firmly in place.
"Minerva is proving worthy of her predecessor, it seems."
Harry chuckled. "At least she doesn't seem to mind." He grabbed a handful of Severus' robes to pull him closer. "Now, where were we?"
Severus smirked. "I believe we were finished, if only barely."
"No, you were finished," Harry corrected, grinning cheekily as he sank onto his knees. "I haven't even started yet."
"Do you really think that's—"
Harry very effectively cut Severus' protest short by hungrily devouring his impressively erect cock. He smiled around the hard, hot flesh as he heard a tiny groan, liking nothing more than making Severus lose control, if only for a brief moment. He ran his tongue up the shaft before swiping it across the head and then drawing the entire length into his mouth, employing a technique he'd learnt from a guy he had met in Australia to stimulate the most sensitive areas with his tongue while relaxing his throat to the intrusion.
Severus certainly seemed to find it agreeable, coming down Harry's throat only a few minutes later with a long, drawn out release of breath, his fingers digging into Harry's scalp.
"You were saying?" Harry asked innocently, as he licked his lips and looked up at Severus' shadowed face. The next moment he was hauled to his feet.
"Brat," Severus murmured, pecking his lips. He paused to straighten his robes, and then continued, "Seeing as your vigilance is obviously lacking, I will accompany you for the rest of the evening's patrol."
"To protect me from those suspicious noises?" Harry grinned.
Severus' eyes gleamed. "Or merely to create new ones."
Laughing, Harry stepped back out into the corridor. The portraits grumbled at the continued disturbance, but were silenced by a glare as Severus followed.
"In that case," Harry remarked casually, as they began to walk, "maybe we could patrol past your desk."
Severus glanced sideways at him, his eyebrows raised. "Dare I ask how long you've harboured that particular fantasy?"
"Not long," Harry chuckled. "It just occurred to me."
"Indeed? I am discovering hidden depths this evening."
"So, can we?"
"I believe that my desk has often harboured miscreants in the past. We should therefore cover the area fully."
"Brilliant," Harry grinned.
Lying sprawled across said desk a little later with Severus draped over him, both of their naked bodies flushed and sweaty, Harry decided that he couldn't leave it any longer.
"Ron and Hermione have invited you to their wedding." Only getting a soft grunt in response, Harry pressed on. "Will you come with me?"
Severus lifted his head, a curtain of black hair falling around his face to frame it. "I believe I just did."
Harry elbowed him, grinning. "To the wedding, Severus." His grin faded as Severus appeared to consider the question carefully.
Harry couldn't stop his face from lighting up. "You will?"
"Indeed. However, the rest of the Weasleys will have to be told beforehand. I do not wish to cause a scene."
Nodding in agreement, Harry said, "I can tell them on my birthday. I know they're planning some kind of big surprise party at The Burrow."
"I believe the point of a surprise party is to be unaware of it until the proper time."
Harry smiled, idly running his fingers down the ridges of Severus' spine. "Ron never could keep a secret." He paused and then, attempting to keep his tone casual but not quite meeting the dark eyes above, asked, "Will you be around in July?"
"If, by around, you're referring to Hogwarts, then no. I generally spend the holidays at a small cottage I own near the coast." Harry's heart sank, but quickly soared at Severus' next words. "Of course, you are most welcome to join me."
"I'd love to."
"You've got the rings, haven't you?" Ron asked, for the fourth time in as many minutes, as he stood nervously awaiting the arrival of his bride to be.
"Yes," Harry laughed, patting his back soothingly, "I've got the rings, Ron. Stop worrying, okay? Everything's going to be perfect."
It was certainly a perfect August afternoon, the sun shining down from a cloudless azure sky upon the garden of The Burrow, where the guests were steadily gathering on rows of white seats surrounded by flowers. The minister stood waiting at the front under a floral arch, and there was a large marquee erected nearby to host the reception.
The scene reminded Harry forcefully of another wedding on a similar summer's day only a few years before, but the undercurrent of emotion was very different this time. There was no longer the threat of war and death, no longer a mission that he had to undertake, or a prophecy on his shoulders. Today he was free to simply enjoy the celebration with all those he loved.
A moaned protest from Ron broke into his thoughts at that moment, for Mrs Weasley had bustled over with a comb and was fussing over his hair. She was dressed in a colourful floral outfit and matching hat, and almost blended in with the flowers behind her.
"Mum, get off! It's fine!"
"Fine won't do for your wedding, Ronald."
Harry unconsciously tried to flatten his own hair, but Mrs Weasley merely smiled affectionately at him.
"Oh, Harry, you look so dashing. That suit really brings out the colour of your eyes."
Harry smiled, his eyes flicking over to the tall figure standing with Professor McGonagall near the house. Mrs Weasley wasn't the only one who approved of Harry's attire—he'd had to redress twice that morning after Severus persisted in helping him back out of his suit and into bed. It was a wonder the whole thing wasn't ruined.
"Oh, blimey," Ron croaked, staring past Harry towards the far end of the makeshift aisle. "She's here."
With a small shriek, Mrs Weasley hurried off, and a hush settled as the guests took their seats and the first strains of music began. Harry, along with everyone else, turned to see the bride's entrance.
Hermione looked radiant on her father's arm in an ivory gown. The intricate bodice accentuated her figure, flowing out at the waist in a soft arc and extending outwards at the back to form a modest train. Ginny and Luna followed, in identical lavender gowns, their faces shining with pride and happiness.
The ceremony itself was just as beautiful. Harry stood proudly beside the two friends he treasured above all others, overjoyed and honoured to witness the beginning of their new life together after such a long and rough road. As the vows were exchanged, he couldn't help stealing a glance back at Severus, who was sitting rigidly in the third row behind a mass of redheads and glaring at anyone who attempted to talk to him. Harry had to hide a grin at the wide berth the other guests were affording him, many of them his ex-students.
Harry had never really considered getting married himself but, now he'd found the right man, it was definitely a possibility… and he was absolutely sure that Severus iwas/i the right man. Perhaps sensing his gaze, Severus looked up, and Harry felt the familiar swooping sensation in his stomach as their eyes locked, as if to emphasize the point.
As planned, Harry had told the rest of his family at his birthday celebration after he'd spent most of the day in bed with Severus —by far his best birthday present ever. They'd reacted rather well on the whole, allaying his fears.
George had settled for a good-natured, "Bloody hell," proceeding to slap Harry on the back, Percy had merely nodded with an awkward half-smile, Bill had shook his hand with a broad grin, and Mr Weasley, while stunned at first, had offered his own hearty congratulations. Ginny had hugged him tightly, whispering how happy she was that he'd found someone, and Mrs Weasley, while speechless for a moment, simply said, "Well, as long as you're happy dear."
Only Charlie had seemed a little quiet. He congratulated Harry along with everyone else, but his smile didn't quite reach his eyes. Harry had known that it might take a little more time for him to accept, but it had still caused a painful stab of guilt. Today, however, Charlie seemed to be back to his old self and the last of Harry's worry had dissipated.
The ceremony eventually concluded, to applause and more than a few tears, but Harry's duties as best man continued and he only caught a few brief moments with Severus in-between. Knowing that he was there, supporting him, was enough, although he suspected that he might have to pay dearly for subjecting Severus to so many Weasleys at once—especially Ron's Aunt Muriel, who seemed to have taken a shine to him, much to Harry's amusement and Severus' chagrin.
Evening slowly descended and, the speeches and toasts done, the dance floor began to fill around the newly married couple. Harry sat alone at the top table watching Severus across the room, who sat watching him with the hint of a smirk.
Severus had warned Harry to be discreet, with so many reporters present, but, sitting there, so close, yet so far apart, Harry decided to hell with it. If he was going to come out to the world, he was going to do it surrounded by the people he loved, on one of the happiest days of his life.
Severus, along with many others, eyed him curiously as he got to his feet, some even a little hopefully, but Harry only had eyes for one man and he slowly approached him across the dance floor. By the time he reached him, many more eyes had swivelled towards them. Harry held out his hand and Severus grasped it firmly, rising fluidly from his chair.
"Might I ask what you are doing?" Severus murmured, as they took to the dance floor and Harry pressed his body closer.
"I'm dancing with the man I love. Any objections?"
A small smile played around the edges of Severus' mouth at the impromptu declaration. "None whatsoever."
"Good," Harry smiled, letting Severus take the lead as the music changed, while Hermione beamed at the two of them nearby, "because I wasn't planning on leaving your arms for the foreseeable future."
Severus expertly spun him around and then dipped him backwards, leaning over him seductively. "I wasn't planning on letting you go."
"Ever?" Harry grinned breathlessly.
"Never," Severus replied and, ignoring the flashes from the various cameras around them, he captured Harry's lips to seal their very own vow and the promise of a bright new future.