Author's Note: I caught the fanfiction bug again, so this is just the first of three oneshots that I'll be posting over the next two or three weeks. All of these will be snarry, but not connected at all. There's also a Give Me Life chapter in the works, so for those of you reading that, just be patient with me for a little while longer; we'll get there eventually. If you're new to my work, and you like this story, be sure to browse through my backlog; there's some pretty good stuff in there.

This story is not epilogue compliant, but otherwise doesn't take too many liberties with cannon.

Hope you enjoy.

oOoOoOo

Early in the Morning, and Late at Night

oOoOoOo

Lucius Malfoy, lashed to an oak tree in the darkened cemetery with magical rope, coughed and sputtered as he regained consciousness. He looked around as his eyes adjusted to the dark. The only light was cast by the fire beneath a huge cauldron off to the side near a bundle of rags. He caught sight of Potter then, shirtless and covered in sweat and dirt as he labored against a shovel.

"If you think you can murder me and get away with it," Malfoy began, struggling against the ropes that bound him.

Harry stopped shoveling and looked up. "Oh, Malfoy, you're awake. There's no use struggling. Those ropes are made of enchanted acromantula silk. They'll only get tighter the more you struggle, and I'm the only one who can untie you. I don't want you to be uncomfortable." He shoveled another scoop of dirt over to the side. "We'll be ready in a moment, and I'll let you go when I'm done."

There was only the sound of the shovel piercing the ground and dirt hitting the pile on the side as Lucius was silent, trying to figure out what was going on. The last thing he remembered was sitting down in his study to do some paperwork after dinner. Had Potter attacked him there? He couldn't remember. That must have been what had happened.

"What are you doing, Potter?" He asked, finally, when no answers were forthcoming.

"I'm fixing it," Harry said. He sounded slightly unhinged. There was a loud thud as the spade of his shovel connected with something hollow. Harry let out a satisfied sigh and disappeared into the hole for a moment. When he resurfaced he held a human bone clutched in his hand, darkened with a tattering of withered and decayed human flesh clinging to it.

Malfoy looked around in alarm, straining at the ropes to get a better look at the hole Harry had been digging. Now he saw the headstone. If he craned his neck just right, he could read the inscription. Tobias Snape. He looked back toward the cauldron and now he saw that the bundle of rags lying there resembled a human form. Suddenly, everything clicked into place. "They'll send you to Azkaban for this!" he yelled.

Harry regarded him coolly. "Me? You have to be joking."

"This is dark magic you're playing at boy. You can't honestly think you'll just get away with this."

"What? Like you have all these years? I'm Harry bloody Potter," he spat out with a tone of distaste. "You don't think they could actually send me to Azkaban do you? You think that they would even try? Or that I would allow them if they did?"

"Allow them? You're not as powerful as all that."

"I'm not, am I?" Harry asked, sounding amused. His smile faltered then for an instant. "Oh, shut up, Malfoy. This won't take long. If you're a good boy, I'll let you go when I'm done. What Severus does to you after that, is his business."

"Have you gone completely mad? Don't you realize what will happen if you go through with this?"

Harry shot a curse toward Malfoy and he went mute. His mouth continued to move, but no words came out. Harry almost missed the threats; the cemetery seemed eerie in the silence. Now that he wasn't exerting himself, he was cold without his shirt on, and the wind chilled the sweat on his skin and made him shiver. He shook it off and turned his attention to the cauldron.

"Bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son." Harry said and dropped the bone into the cauldron. The cauldron spit up sparks and turned blue.

Harry picked a knife up off the ground and held his hand over the cauldron. He didn't even falter as he sliced the knife over his wrist. It cut through flesh and bone like it was softened butter. "Flesh of the servant, willingly given, you will revive your master." The potion turned a burning red color.

He was breathing heavily, and he tied a tourniquet tightly over the stump where his hand had been. He'd fix it in a moment; there wasn't time now. He picked the knife up again and went over to Malfoy. "I'm sorry about this," he said as he sliced the knife across Lucius' face.

Lucius winced back as the blood flowed down his face. Harry scraped the blood with the flat of his knife and returned to the cauldron. "Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken, you will resurrect your foe." He flicked the knife in a downward motion, and the blood fell into the potion in droplets. The potion turned blindingly white and shot sparks in all directions. Harry stooped, and, struggling with only one arm, lifted the corpse into the cauldron.

He collapsed, breathing heavily, against the piled dirt from Tobias Snape's grave.

Lucius watched in horrified silence as a form rose out of the mist from the cauldron. Harry looked up and smiled as the form of Severus Snape, naked and emaciated with dirty hair, but undoubtedly alive, resolved itself. Snape regarded him with slightly unfocused eyes, then turned to look at Malfoy.

"Potter, what have you done?" Harry heard the most beautiful voice in the world say as he lost the battle for consciousness.

Severus climbed out of the cauldron and stumbled on legs that had a moment ago been decaying bits of flesh and bone. "Malfoy, what's going on?" he demanded.

Malfoy, tied to the tree, just gaped at him like a fish out of water. Severus sighed. He searched around on the ground until he found Potter's wand, and cancelled the curse on Malfoy so that he could speak again.

"Potter's gone mad," Lucius said as he regained his voice. "He's tried to resurrect you."

Severus gave an experimental stretch and looked down at his body, thin and the worse for wear, but quite functional and as good as it had been before he'd died. "I think it's safe to say that he's succeeded."

Malfoy regarded him with obvious fear.

He turned his attention to Potter. He was losing blood rapidly, and Severus cast a number of spells to try to staunch the flow. His magic reacted slowly, and Potter's wand channeled it clumsily. After a few minutes he managed to stop the bleeding, but he felt magically depleted. Reluctantly, he left Potter and went to untie Lucius.

The knot slipped and evaded his fingers. He tried again to little avail. Malfoy watched him as he tried for a third time, pointing Potter's wand at the knot.

"Potter said that the rope was enchanted so that only he can untie it."

Severus considered trying again with the wand, but with his magic as shaky as it was and someone else's wand, it was no use. He left Malfoy and went back to Potter. He tried to revive him for a long time, trying any spell he could think of, before finally resorting to gently slapping his cheeks, without any luck. He turned back to Malfoy, a look of resignation on his face.

"I'm going to have to leave you here," Severus told him. He reached up and untied the cloak from Lucius' neck, carefully sliding it out from the ropes, and tied it around himself to cover at least some of his nudity. "I'll be back as soon as I can," he promised.

"You're really just going to leave me here?"

"You're lucky I don't kill you where you stand," Severus told him. It was an empty threat, but Lucius didn't know that.

Severus scooped up Harry's prone body, staggering under the weight, and set off out of the cemetery. He didn't trust himself to apparate in his weakened state with an unfamiliar wand. The walk was torturous, but he forced himself onward, step by agonizing step. The rough road cut and scraped at his bare feet and every few steps he stumbled under Harry's weight and almost dropped him. It seemed like an eternity before he covered the miles to his house in Spinner's End. He was relieved to find it just as he'd left it and to feel his wards give way to his touch. He all but collapsed onto the sofa with Potter still in his arms. He flicked Potter's wand at the fireplace to light a fire.

He needed to call someone for help, but he had no idea who. Obviously Potter was convinced of his innocence, but had he gone as far as clearing Severus' name? And how long had it been? He glanced at Harry and tried to gauge his age. He didn't look much older than the last time Severus had seen him, gazing into the boy's eyes as he died, but it was impossible to tell; Potter had always been somewhat underdeveloped- product of constant malnutrition as a child at the hands of his abusive relatives. He wanted to call Minerva, but had no idea what sort of reception he'd get. Before he could consider it further, exhaustion claimed him, and he fell into a deep sleep.

Harry woke, feeling weak, to the gentle rise and fall of Severus' bare chest beneath his cheek. He looked around, surprised to find himself in a dingy little cottage. How had he got here then? He looked down at Snape, still quite naked, but with Lucius Malfoy's cloak wrapped around his shoulders. Snape? It all came back to him in a rush then. Harry groaned. What had he done? What had he done? Sure, he'd been thinking about it for weeks, months even, but what fit of blackest despair had driven him to finally go through with it? He looked down at the stump where a perfectly functioning hand had been only a few hours ago. He only felt a detached sort of curiosity as he looked at it. That would put an end to his days as a seeker. They could probably fix it of course, wondrous things they could do with magic these days, but it wouldn't be the same.

He set that aside to tend to Severus. His skin was cold to the touch, but his heart beat steadily. Harry should have thought ahead to bring the man some clothes, but he obviously hadn't been thinking straight. If he'd been in his right mind he never would have gone through with this. He walked over Severus and did a better job of tucking Lucius' cloak around his sleeping form- difficult to do with only one hand, and his stump was beginning to throb. When he reached Severus' feet, he found them scraped and bloody and was horrified, far more horrified than he'd been by the bloody stump at the end of his arm.

Harry made a search of the house, realizing who it must surely belong to as he took in the shelves and shelves of books, and confirming it when he finally found the small potions laboratory hidden behind a secret door in the bookcase. He searched the cabinet there until he found the potions he was looking for, taking several vials with him back to the sofa. He downed a blood replenishing potion and a pain reliever, and then gave the same to Severus, holding his head carefully in the crook of his crippled left arm as he opened Severus' mouth and tipped the potion carefully in with his remaining hand. Severus swallowed the potions but didn't wake, and Harry carefully lowered him back down onto the sofa. He found his wand on the floor where Severus had dropped it when he'd fallen asleep, and he quickly healed the wounds on Severus' feet. He considered doing the same with his stump, but wasn't sure if Madam Pomfrey would be able to grow it back then, so instead he transfigured some spare parchment lying on the tea table into gauze and bandages and did his best to bandage the stump with his right hand.

After a few attempts, he had only managed to make it start bleeding again and soak the bandages with fresh blood. He was beginning to feel faint, and he finally resorted to trying to wake Severus to help him.

He leaned over Severus. He had Lucius' cloak clasped over his shoulders and wrapped like a blanket around his otherwise naked body, but Harry still had a view of more of Severus' bare skin than he'd ever seen before. The skin was so pale it was almost white in the places that it wasn't mottled with dirt and mud. It made Severus seem vulnerable somehow.

"Snape," Harry called softly, shaking him gently. There were no signs that Severus was beginning to rouse. His face remained lax. "Severus," Harry tried again, shaking him harder. "Severus," his voice cracked in desperation. He laid his head against Severus' chest and started to panic when he didn't hear a heartbeat right away, but relaxed when he heard the slow but steady thump-thump of Severus' heart.

He pulled away and rested a hand on Severus' jaw. "Snape," he said, "I need you to wake up now."

Severus moaned, and his eyes fluttered open. It took a moment for him to focus, and then he looked at Harry as though it was the first time he'd ever seen him. "Potter," he said in a dry rasp.

Harry felt his heart skip a beat and flutter erratically in his chest. He needed all of his concentration to force himself to calm down before he passed out. "I need your help. Can you sit up?"

Severus struggled into a sitting position and took in Harry's condition. "Your hand,…"

"That's what I need your help with," Harry said. He sat on the edge of the couch, and held his arm within Severus' reach, handing him some of the bandages that hadn't already been soiled in Harry's failed attempts earlier. He could see the horror on Severus' face, and did his best to reassure the man. "It'll be okay. Just help me bandage it, and I'll have Poppy take care of it later."

Severus tried to focus on the task at hand. He was coherent enough to realize that he was in shock, as was Harry, but the only thing he could think to do about it was just to take one thing at a time and try to get through this mess that he found himself suddenly in the middle of. He wrapped the bandages carefully around the end of Harry's arm, lamenting the loss of the boy's hand more than Harry seemed to. And then… not really a boy anymore. He looked up at Harry's face. His eyes were focused on Severus' hands as he expertly worked the bandages, but while his face remained untouched by age there was something in those eyes that spoke to Severus of years beyond counting.

"The war?" he asked, as he finished with the bandages.

"Over," Harry said in a tone of finality.

"Who won?" Severus had to ask, though Harry's presence seemed to make the answer clear, he had to hear it for himself.

"We did," Harry answered. "I killed him the night you…" he trailed off.

Severus took a deep breath. "How long?"

"Almost four years now," Harry said. "I presented your memories at the ministry hearing, cleared your name. They built you a memorial next to Dumbledore's." Harry pulled his arm back when Severus had finished, and seemed to recoil in on himself. "I'm sorry."

"Sorry?"

"I shouldn't have done this. I should have let you rest…. You deserved peace. I just…." Harry let out a sob.

Severus took Harry into his arms and cradled him against his chest while he cried. He felt detached, adrift. He felt Harry's body shake as he sobbed, felt the wet tears fall against his skin, but it was almost like it was happening to someone else. When Harry finally stopped, what seemed an eternity later, Severus said, "You need medical attention, Potter. We can worry about the rest once you've had your hand seen to." He held Harry by the shoulders to guide him to the other end of the sofa as he got to his feet, noticing for the first time how thin Harry had become. "I'm just going to wash up and put some clothes on. Will you be okay for a while?"

Harry nodded, curling into the back of the sofa, and Severus left him reluctantly. He still felt unsteady on his feet as he ascended the stairs to his bedroom. He took the first robes he found in the wardrobe, and went to the bathroom. He looked at himself in the mirror for the first time while he let the shower run for a couple minutes to give the old pipes time to warm up. He removed Lucius' cloak, suddenly remembering that his old enemy was still lashed to a tree in the cemetery and not caring, and used the edge of it to wipe at the dust that had accumulated on the mirror.

Severus gazed at his reflection and was met by the image of a corpse, pale and emaciated. He lifted a hand to his reflection and focused on the point where his fingers touched the glass. What had Harry done? Severus thought back to the Dark Lord, remembering the monster as he had been on the day of his resurrection and thinking back to the man he had pledged his fealty to on the day he'd received his dark mark. He glanced down at his arm, and for a moment he didn't realize that it was gone. The shape of it still burned into his mind, a ghost image that seemed to hover there over his skin and he thought that no matter how long he lived in this new existence, he would always see it there. He wondered what that existence would be like. Had he become some kind of monster? This was dark magic Potter was playing with, and old, there was no telling what the effects would be, but his resurrection had not made Voldemort a monster- some combination of bad blood, hatred, and abuse had done that.

Severus stepped in under the running water and let it warm him and wash the filth of the grave from his skin, feeling some trace of life and normality returning to him for the first time since he'd stepped from the cauldron.

He stepped out of the shower and toweled himself off, dressing slowly. He took some comfort in the old familiar task of buttoning his robes and looked at himself in the mirror again when he had finished. The reflection didn't bother him as much the second time. He still looked a little like a corpse, but then, that wasn't such a change really, and he supposed that with a few decent meals he would look like himself again.

He was surprised to see that Harry was still awake when he finally made it back downstairs. Neither one of them spoke. Severus went to the sofa and wrapped an arm around Harry's shoulders to help him to his feet. The blood loss was starting to affect him, and he had to hold onto Severus to remain standing.

"We'll have to floo. You can't apparate like this." Severus led him to the fireplace, and Harry held onto the mantle to steady himself while Severus went to the hall closet to get his cloak. It was old and battered, unremarkable, and it would provide him better protection than Lucius Malfoy's finery ever could. He wrapped it closely around himself and pulled the hood up to cover his face.

Harry had already thrown a handful of floo powder into the flames when he returned, and he wrapped an arm around Severus' waist as they stumbled in onto the grate.

"Hogwarts infirmary," Harry said, and buried his face into Severus' chest as they were swept through the floo system like nothing more than a gust of smoke and flame.

They fell out onto the hearth at the other end in a pile of tangled limbs. Severus managed to make it to his feet first, and helped Harry up. The infirmary was dark and empty, but they had obviously made enough noise with their entrance to wake someone, probably Madam Pomfrey, because there were noises coming from her chamber at the end of the hall. Severus quickly pulled the hood of his cloak down to better hide his face, though there was little he could do to disguise his rather memorable profile, not to mention his voice, so he would just have to rely on the fact that he was supposed to be dead to hide his identity.

"Professor," Madam Pomfrey exclaimed as she swept into the room, and Severus started a little, but it was Harry she was rushing over to. She took on his weight, relieving Severus of his burden. Cradling his injured arm, she led Harry to the nearest empty bed and sat him down. "What have you done to yourself this time?"

Harry smirked a little, looking sheepish. "It was a necessary casualty, I'm afraid," he told her, "but some sacrifices are worth the return." He glanced down at the bandaged stump at the end of his arm, as Madam Pomfrey began removing the soiled wad of gauze. "Any chance you can grow it back?"

She stopped what she was doing to give him a hard irritated look. "Oh, certainly, no problem at all growing back limbs is it?" she asked him.

"You're the medi-witch," Harry said. "You tell me."

Madam Pomfrey snorted. "You're entirely too flippant about your own health and safety."

"I just have the utmost faith in your abilities."

She prodded at the wound with the tip of her wand, and Harry cringed. "I might be able to do something. It depends on how you did this."

"I cut it off," Harry told her.

She stopped what she was doing to look at him with disbelief. "You did this?" She asked.

"I told you," Harry said. "It was a necessary sacrifice."

"And you just let him go ahead with this, did you?" she asked, turning on Severus. "Who are you, anyway?"

"He didn't have anything to do with this," Harry said. "He's just a friend."

Madam Pomfrey scowled.

Severus personally thought that the reason Potter had cut off his hand had a great deal to do with him, but he remained silent.

"Well, it's a clean cut. I should be able to fix it, but it will never be the same," she shook her head in dismay. "I just need to get a few things from the cabinet. And you, Mr. whoever-you-are," she said, looking to Severus. "I want you gone by the time I get back. Professor Potter needs to rest now."

Severus watched her go, thinking that some things never change no matter how long you've been dead and buried.

"You're a professor?" he asked, turning to Harry once Poppy was out of earshot.

"Defense Against the Dark Arts," Harry answered.

Severus glanced down at Harry's stump. "That's a little ironic, under the circumstances," he said.

"I suppose it is."

"How are you going to explain that to your pupils?" he gestured at the wound.

Harry shrugged one shoulder. "Oh, I'll refrain from comment, and they'll assume that I injured it fighting dragons or the forces of darkness."

Severus snorted.

"How do you feel?" Harry asked.

Severus considered it for a moment. "Strange," he said. "Physically, I seem to be alright. My muscles are a little stiff, but otherwise I feel much as I did before. This is all… very peculiar."

"I'm sorry," Harry said. "I know it was wrong, but I just wanted to fix everything."

"There are some things that shouldn't be fixed," Severus said, "but let's not worry about that now. Once you're healed, come to my house, and we'll discuss it. I'm not sure now's the time."

"Okay."

Madam Pomfrey returned then, arms full of potion vials and ointments. "I thought you were supposed to be gone by now?" She said pointedly to Severus.

He nodded to her and turned to go.

"Oh," Harry said, "and check in on our friend with the tree," Harry said, and Severus turned back. "I guess it will be a few days before I can help him out with that little problem he's having, but I'm sure he won't mind waiting."

Severus' smirk was just visible in the shadows of his hood, and Harry smiled back.

"Whatever happened to that nice bloke from the ministry that you were seeing?" Severus heard Madam Pomfrey ask as he walked to the door.

"Wasn't my type," Harry answered her.

"Well, in that case, I can't say I much approve of your taste."

The sun was just beginning to rise, but thankfully the castle was still sleeping, and Severus made it out onto the grounds without running into anyone else- living or dead.

He found himself automatically drawn toward the monolithic white marble memorial as he made his way to the edge of the wards. There beside Dumbledore's grave stood a life sized granite statue of himself. He would have bet money that the sculptor had been one of his students- probably a Gryffindor or a Hufflepuff. The statue glanced out over the grounds like some great hook-nosed gargoyle in flowing robes. It probably scared the first years. Yes, some things never changed. He stooped to read the plaque in the gloom.

Severus Snape died as he had lived- in service to the greater good.

The world mourns his passing, and is all the lesser that he is gone.

Snape scoffed and straightened, giving the statue a parting glance as he continued away off the grounds- wondering if anyone would be happy to know that he had returned.

He made it all the way out the gate before he realized that he didn't have a wand. He was about to turn around and head back to the castle to find a floo, when his hand, making an automatic check of his sleeve out of habit, encountered something long and thin. He stopped, pulling out the wand- Harry's. As his hand wrapped around the thin length of polished wood, he heard a voice in his head. "Thought you might need this. I'll get it back in a couple days." He was amazed by the show of power as well as confused as to when Harry could have slipped the wand into his sleeve, and surprised to see that Harry was so willing to part with his wand.

Deciding not to question his good fortune, he used the wand to apparate back to Spinner's End. He went to the kitchen and filled a jug with water from the tap. A quick excavation of the cupboards found a couple loaves of bread and a few apples with still functioning preservation charms. He put the food and water into a canvas bag and apparated to the cemetery.

Lucius was asleep when Severus approached the tree. He decided to leave him sleeping, and instead focused on refilling his father's grave. He stood back from the hole, not wanting to see whatever was inside. The magic came easier this time, still clumsy with Harry's wand, but there was no want for power, and Severus easily filled the grave with the dirt that Harry had mounded to one side. He surveyed his work, glancing with distaste at the gravestone. With a quick flick of Harry's wand, he banished the cauldron and other items Harry had used for the spell, leaving Lucius and a fresh grave as the only evidence of what had happened here last night. One final spell, a muggle-repelling charm, should be enough to buy them some time.

That just left Lucius to deal with. Severus approached him slowly, trying to reign in his anger. Part of him wanted to give in to it, ride that surge of emotion, because it made him feel alive, but he forced himself to remain in control. The few kicks he administered to Lucius' side to wake the man seemed perfectly justified.

Lucius groaned and looked up at him with bleary eyes. Severus dropped the canvas bag into his lap.

"Brought me Potter's head as a gift?" Lucius asked.

"Bread and water," Severus sneered. "It's more than you deserve."

"You aren't going to release me?"

"Harry is going to be in the infirmary for a few days, so you're just going to have to wait," Severus told him. "Frankly, as far as I'm concerned, you can just stay here and rot, but I'm sure Potter's bleeding heart won't let that happen." He kicked him again just for good measure.

"How the hell am I supposed to eat?" Lucius demanded, as Severus began to walk away. "My arms are tied behind my back."

Severus glanced back at him. "I thought you were a pure-blood wizard. Surely you can manage a wandless hovering spell?"

Lucius scowled at him.

"No? Well, you'll certainly have plenty of time to practice then." He disapparated without even giving Lucius another glance. One day without food and water wouldn't kill him, and Severus would check on the bastard tomorrow. He couldn't bring himself to hand-feed Lucius like a baby. Not today.

By the time he finally made it home, Severus was too exhausted to eat himself, and he didn't even bother to walk upstairs to his bedroom. He just collapsed back onto the sofa to sleep for a few more hours.

The next three days were some of the longest of Severus' life. He never did check on Lucius again. He just couldn't bring himself to care if the man starved to death, and upon closer consideration, he decided that he didn't want to risk leaving the house before he'd had a chance to speak with Harry. There was enough food left in the larder to last him a few days, and he spent his time reading or cleaning the house, trying to get used to being alive again. He slept a lot, and took a shower or bath every few hours. He never seemed to feel clean anymore.

oOoOoOo

Harry's power had grown immeasurably since the war had ended. Coming into that power had not been easy for him. It was during that time that he had most keenly missed Snape's guidance. While it was true that the two men had never actually gotten along, since Harry couldn't remember a single conversation with the unpleasant Potions Master that had not ended with Harry wanting to pull his wand on the man, there was something about Severus Snape that had always drawn Harry to him- something about the emotions smoldering in those black eyes that told Harry that there was more to Snape than could be guessed at from the surface. The memories had been proof of that.

Harry had watched Severus' memories hundreds of times- had spent a small fortune on a pensieve of his own so that they could keep him company on the long nights. Additionally, he'd spent days searching through the destruction in the Room of Requirement until he found what was left of the Half Blood Prince's textbook, and had since read its charred pages to tatters. It had become an obsession- he was devoted to learning everything he could about the man who had sacrificed so much for him.

Even after his death, Harry thought that perhaps they had come to an understanding. At least, it was easy enough to convince himself that they had.

It was armed with this knowledge that Harry ventured out into Diagon Alley on the day he was finally released from the Infirmary.

It took no effort at all to wandlessly cast a glamour over himself to keep his anonymity, but once he stepped into Ollivander's, the protection proved to have been in vain. The myopic Mr. Ollivander took a single look at him and said, "Why, Mr. Potter, what brings you here today?"

Harry dropped the glamour and asked, "How did you know it was me?

"Take no offense," Mr. Ollivander assured. "It was a fine glamour, and remarkable work with no wand in sight, but you forgot one minor detail in your disguise."

"What was that?"

"Why your boots, my dear boy! They've become almost as famous as you are."

Harry glanced down at the basilisk skin boots he wore. They'd been made from the skin of Voldemort's great snake, Nagini, and had indeed been the subject of some deal of speculation- seen as a grisly trophy of his defeat over He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

Harry smiled. "I'll have to remember that for next time." He wandlessly cast a second glamour over his boots, making them appear as plain black dragon hide.

"Now, what can I do for you?" Ollivander asked. "It can't be a wand, as you hardly seem to have any use for one."

"It is a wand," Harry answered, "and I have a favor to ask."

"You have only to name it. What do you need?"

"Your discretion," Harry answered, "and this." He handed Ollivander a slip of paper with the desired specifications written on it.

Ollivander's eyes widened. "This is a wand for a dead man."

Harry smiled a mirthless smile. "Not quite."

oOoOoOo

For a moment, Harry thought that Lucius Malfoy was dead. In three days he had gone from an immaculately well-kept noble to someone easily mistaken for a bum sleeping one off in the cemetery. Harry could smell him from ten paces away- the stench of stale sweat and urine. His pale skin had burned from exposure, even in the shade of the tree, and his lips were cracked from thirst.

Severus had been here. The tools of Harry's midnight foray into the realm of dark magic were all gone, and Malfoy had been given food and water; it appeared that he had even managed to eat most of it with his hands tied behind his back, but the man was in rough shape.

He jerked awake as Harry approached, eyes fearful. "Did you come to finish me off?"

"I came to set you free," Harry said, "unless you'd rather I killed you?"

Lucius said nothing, glaring up at him through crusty eyes.

"If I ever find out that you breathed a word of this to anyone, I will hunt you down and kill you. And, if you don't think I can do it, just remember how easily I abducted you from your home in the middle of the night when I was drunk and practically hysterical, and think of what I could do if I really put my mind to it."

"You can't hide him forever," Lucius said.

"I have resources," Harry said. "I can hide him for as long as he wants to hide, and I'll do whatever I have to ensure his privacy."

Harry waved a hand in the general direction of Lucius, and his bonds loosened. He tried to get to his feet a couple times, but struggled. On the third try, he managed to stand and lean against the tree.

"I didn't think to take your wand when I abducted you," Harry said, "but there's a small wizarding community about fifteen miles that way." He pointed off to the East. "They have a public floo in the business district."

"I'll never be able to walk that far."

"Take your time," Harry said. "It's not a race."

Lucius looked at him, horrified.

"Good luck, Mr. Malfoy, and remember what I said. If anyone hears that Severus is alive, I will kill you." With that, he apparated away.

oOoOoOo

Severus startled awake as he felt his rudimentary wards being breached. The wards worked into the walls of the house by his mother had needed to be renewed, but the best he could do with Harry's wand was hardly enough to give a powerful wizard pause.

Potter was already knocking at the door by the time Severus got there, and Harry almost seemed surprised to see him when he opened the door.

"Hey," Harry said, after they stood in awkward silence for a few moments.

"You'd better come in," Severus replied by way of greeting, and stood aside for Harry to enter. "How's the hand?" Severus asked as they walked the few steps into the parlor. He inspected the limb in question as Harry stopped and did the same. He held his left arm out stiffly. The hand was covered by a thin leather glove- one he'll probably wear for the rest of his life, Severus thought. It was noticeably smaller than the right, and Severus could imagine what it must look like under the glove- skeletal and inhuman.

Harry flexed the hand, making a fist. The fingers moved slowly, as if powered by some system of ropes and pulleys. "It's a hand," Harry said. "I'm not sure I'll ever really think of it as my hand, but I'd rather have no hand at all then fuse myself with dark magic the way Wormtail did."

"You weren't so reluctant to use dark magic a few days ago," Severus pointed out.

"Using it is one thing, fusing it with my magic and making it part of me is quite another," Harry said. "Anyway, your life is worth more to me than my hand.

Severus shook his head in disbelief. "I shouldn't be alive."

Harry sat down heavily on the sofa. "I know I shouldn't have done it, but sometimes the wrong thing is the right thing to do. You should know that better than anyone."

"I'm not saying you shouldn't have done it. I wouldn't condone the use of dark magic for anyone, especially you, but as I'm alive, I'm finding it difficult to have an unbiased opinion on the matter. What I meant was that you shouldn't have been able to do it."

"I'm not as stupid as you think I am," Harry sneered.

"That's not what I meant." Severus sat down on the sofa next to Harry. "The spell itself is simple enough; it would have to be, if Pettigrew was capable of performing it." He didn't voice his other thought- that Harry had changed, and he could never use the word 'stupid' to describe him in good faith ever again. "But, you seem to have forgotten that the Dark Lord was not dead when Pettigrew used your blood to return him to his body. The spell returned him to full health; it did not bring him back to life." Severus paused as Harry seemed to see the logic in this. "No spell, Mr. Potter, light or dark, can resurrect the dead."

"But," Harry frowned, "the resurrection stone-"

"A fairytale," Severus cut him off, "nonsense to entertain children."

"It isn't" Harry argued. "I've held it in my hand."

Severus frowned. "Perhaps it's time you've told me the full story of all that transpired after my death."

Harry nodded, seeming to brace himself. After a moment, he gathered his thoughts, and began to tell Severus the story of the fall of Voldemort. He began with how Aberforth had helped them sneak into the castle and ended with his discussion with Dumbledore's portrait.

He left nothing out.

It was a story that Harry had been forced to tell many times before, but he's never felt the kind of resolution he did this time. It was three in the morning by the time he finished, and his voice was hoarse. In all that time, Severus had never said one word, asked one question, or made one comment. He had just listened with complete concentration- taking in every word and detail.

When Harry had finished, Severus just rose to his feet, stretching his back with a crack. "I could use a drink. I think the Dark Lord's demise deserves a toast, don't you."

"Sure," Harry agreed, a little surprised at the blitheness with which Severus greeted the end of his story.

Severus disappeared into the kitchen for a moment, and returned with two glasses and a bottle of scotch. He poured a generous helping into each, and handed one to Harry before he sat down beside him on the sofa again.

They sat in silence for a while, sipping their drinks and thinking over what had passed between them.

"You're not, er… mad at me for bringing you back are you?" Harry asked. This was a question that had been niggling at him since he awoke in Spinners End, next to a mostly naked potions master, minus a hand.

"Angry with you," Severus seemed surprised. "Why would I be angry?"

"Well, I don't know. Were you, you know,… in heaven?" Now that he had voiced his concern, he felt stupid, and the way Snape was looking at him wasn't helping.

Severus snorted. "Heaven? I never believed in it, and even if I had, I hardly think I'd qualify for admittance." He paused to think it over. "No, the last think I remember before waking in the graveyard was looking into your eyes as I died."

Harry looked away from Severus' gaze then. "Oh," he said quietly.

"I'm not sure what my life will be like now, but I am glad to have it back." Severus reached over and put his hand over the wrist of Harry's good right hand until Harry looked up to meet his eyes. "Thank you," he said. "It is good to see the man that you've become. Perhaps I needn't have been so cruel to you for all those years, but I hope that you can at least understand my reasons, and forgive me."

"Forgive you?" Harry was shaking his head violently, and Severus pulled his hand back quickly as though burned. "Severus," Harry said fervently, still shaking his head. "There's nothing to forgive. You've saved my life more times than I can count. Probably more times than I even know about. I owe you so much. I should be the one begging you for forgiveness. I've misjudged you for so long. I hated you so much. You deserved better."

Severus frowned. He wasn't sure that he wanted to go in the direction that this conversation was heading, but he had just been given his life back, and he didn't want to live it the way he had before. He wanted a fresh start, and that meant that he needed to be honest about certain things- honest with himself and honest with Harry.

"I didn't do any of those things out of some noble sense of honor and goodness. My reasons were not at all honorable. I didn't protect you because it was the right thing to do. I protected you because I loved your mother, and I couldn't bear losing the last piece of her I had left. If it wasn't for Lily, I would have remained a faithful servant to the Dark Lord. And, if you hadn't been her son, I would have done everything in my power to kill you."

Harry shook his head. "I don't believe that, and I don't think that you do either. It may have taken you longer to switch sides, but I know you, Snape, and I know what Voldemort became at the end. You would never remain loyal to a soul-less monster like that. There would be nothing to gain. Even if Voldemort had won and come into power, there would have been nothing in it for you. The world you knew would have been destroyed and everything you loved with it. I know you don't have a lot of love in your life, but I've seen the truth of your character, and I know you would have done what was right in the end."

Severus was shaking his head, but somewhere deep down Harry's words had struck a chord of truth. Maybe he wouldn't have changed sides out of a sense of goodness, but he would not have stayed in servitude to a madman either. As he had grown older, he had a hard time remaining in service to anyone other than himself.

He suddenly felt wonderfully free. Dumbledore and Voldemort were both dead now, and with both of his masters gone, he was finally free to live his life as he chose.

"I have a lot to think about," he said finally, standing up. "Will you stay the night? The sofa might not be the most comfortable bed, but it's late, and I want to talk more in the morning."

"Not a problem," Harry said. He rose to his feet and waved a hand almost lazily over the sofa, transfiguring it into a double bed with lots of pillows and a huge, fluffy down blanket.

"Maybe I really don't have to return your wand," Severus observed.

"Oh, I almost forgot." Harry went to his cloak where he had laid it over one of the tea tables, and dug into the pockets until he found a thin wrapped package. "I picked this up for you today."

Severus took the package and opened it to reveal a new wand. He lifted it gingerly out of the box and waved it in a wide arc, shooting a rain of sparks out the end. "Thank you," he said. "This should do nicely," he frowned, "but how did you get it."

Harry smirked. "The nice thing about saving the world is that just about everyone owes me a favor. I trust Ollivander to keep his mouth shut. Reckon he just thinks that I've gone a bit batty anyway."

Severus thought that if that was the case, it was more likely fear of the power that Harry had somehow come into since his death rather than any feeling of debt that would keep the wandmaker's silence, but he didn't voice the thought. Instead, he pulled Harry's wand from the inside of his sleeve and handed it back.

"Goodnight, Harry," he said.

"Goodnight, Snape," Harry replied. "I'm glad you aren't dead anymore."

Indeed. Severus extinguished the lights with his new wand and crept up the stairs to his own bed.

oOoOoOo

Severus descended the stairs the next morning to the smell of cooking food. He found Harry in the kitchen before the stove.

"Oh good," Harry said, smiling as soon as he saw him. "You're up."

"I'm glad to see that you haven't lost your keen knack for stating the obvious."

Harry continued on unfazed. "You didn't have any food, so I had to go to the market," he explained. "Then I wasn't sure what you liked, so I made a bit of everything- figured you could use a good meal anyway."

Undeniably, Harry seemed to have put every pot and pan that Severus owned to good use. There were eggs and bacon as well as sausages and hash browns, a towering pile of golden flapjacks, a bowl of cut fruit, toast with three kinds of jam, freshly squeezed orange juice, and the kettle was just starting to whistle.

"I have muffins coming out of the oven in a moment," Harry said, waving a hand at the kettle to silence it and hovering it out of the way.

Severus looked at the spread in astonishment. It was more food than the two of them could hope to eat in a week of breakfasts. "You're not expecting a hoard of Weasleys to descend on us at any moment, are you?" he asked, only half joking.

"And risk having you kill me?" Harry shook his head. "No thanks. This is just for us. Grab a plate." Harry hovered one toward him, still warm from the sink. Between grocery shopping and cooking enough food to feed an army, it seemed that Harry had found time to tackle the towering pile of dishes that had been accumulating since even before Severus' death. They all lay gleaming in the drying rack and across the counter.

Severus took the plate and walked over to the counter to fill it. "How long have you been awake?"

Harry shrugged. "A few hours, I guess. I don't sleep much." Harry poured tea for both of them and got his own plate, then filled it and joined Severus at the table.

"Do you mind if I stay awhile?" Harry asked, before he began eating.

Severus stopped with his fork halfway to his mouth. "Don't you have a class to teach? A lot of eager pupils waiting to hang on your every word?"

Harry laughed and held up his hand. "I'm a cripple now, remember? Hermione is covering my classes for awhile."

"I would have thought she would have classes of her own by now."

"She does. She took over Transfiguration when McGonagall became Headmistress, but she took a leave of absence this term to have her daughter. She's two months old now, and Ron is watching her this week." Harry shook his head. "I can't even imagine."

Severus raised an eyebrow. "Who am I to argue? If you want to stay, there are a few things I could use some help with. The wards need to be refreshed, and if I'm to be hiding out here again, there are some repairs that should be made- starting with the leak in my bedroom roof."

Harry smiled. "I can do that, but you don't have to. Hide out, I mean."

Severus nodded. "I know, but I don't think I'm quite ready to face the rest of the world just yet."

oOoOoOo

Working together in a way that their previous interactions should have proved impossible, they managed to renew the wards on the house, Harry's new power guided and stabilized by Severus' making them nearly impenetrable, fix the leak in the roof, abolish all the dust that had accrued and layered every surface in the house in Severus' absence, and, by lunchtime, they were just getting around to tackling the boggart that had taken up residence in Severus' upstairs broom-cupboard.

Severus had insisted upon taking it on himself. Though Harry had assured him that he was perfectly capable of handling it- he'd had enough practice.

"You may have my old position at the school," Severus said, "but it was my position, and I still have years of experience on you, boy."

Harry snorted and gestured at the cupboard. "You do it then," he said. "I'd rather not deal with a dementor this early in the day anyway."

Severus positioned himself before the cupboard with his wand at the ready. Truth be told, he wasn't very enthused over the idea of meeting his greatest fear either, but the thought of his father lying on the floor in a House Elf's rags was a tempting enough reward. Harry pulled the door open, but instead of being presented with a looming specter of his father, the boggart that burst from the cupboard took on a new shape.

Lily Evans stepped toward him, looking slightly disheveled, a sad look on her face, and Severus took a step back, faltering for a moment before he cast, "ridiculous," in a raspy voice. The sad look was replaced by one of joy, and Lily stepped forward again- looking lovely in a long flowing wedding gown. Harry glanced in a panic between the vision of his mother and Snape- who was now backing away even as she approached. Harry quickly stepped between them, just as Severus was falling to his knees and blocking his view. The boggart shifted again, but Severus didn't see what it changed into, and in a moment Harry had cast his spell and driven the creature away.

The room went still, only the rasp of Severus' breathing breaking the silence. It seemed like an eternity as Harry slowly turned to him and offered Severus his hand. The Potions Master took it and regained his feet, brushing himself off with quivering hands.

"Did you want to talk about that?" Harry asked, clearly confused.

"No." Severus swallowed, hoping that Harry wouldn't push the subject.

He didn't. "Alright then," Harry said. "I think we might have time to start on your lab, and then a late lunch?"

Severus nodded.

oOoOoOo

All too easily they fell into a routine. It had been almost a week, and Harry showed no signs of leaving. In a way, Severus was relieved; he was beginning to get used to the man's company.

Each morning Harry would cook them breakfast, then Severus would move his attentions to the lab, trying to get things in order for a time when he would need to resume making his living now that he had a living to make. Harry would shower and disappear for a few hours- Severus never asked him what he was doing during that time, but Harry always returned in time to cook them lunch. After lunch, Severus would go back into the lab to work on building up his stores of pre-made potions, and Harry would clean or read for a while. In the evening, Harry would start on dinner, Severus would shower away the potion fumes, and they would eat together- usually sharing a bottle of wine. Severus washed the dishes, and Harry would set up the chess board. They'd play a few games and then sit on the sofa to read in comfortable silence before the fire until bed.

It was all very pleasant, the sort of thing Severus could all too easily grow accustomed to, but in the back of his mind he couldn't banish a niggling, and early into their second week he simply had to know.

"Why are you here, Harry?" They were sitting beside one another on the sofa, and Harry had his feet propped up on the cushion between them.

He folded his book closed and looked up. "What?

"Why are you here? Why are you doing this? I now it's not just about some sense of honor or duty. If that were the case, you could have considered your debt paid once you had seen that I was alive and well, and been on your way. So, what is the real reason that you are still here?"

"Do you want me to go?" Harry asked, already looking like he was ready to bolt.

"No," Severus said, no hint of uncertainty in his voice. "I simply wish to know why."

"It isn't the reason you think," Harry said.

"And what might that be, since you know my mind so well?"

"You think I'm trying to play savior again, like you always do, but the truth is, that was never a role that sat very well with me."

Severus snorted. "You still haven't answered the question. I'm sure it's simple enough for you to comprehend."

Harry nodded. "It has a simple answer too, but you won't believe it."

"Try me." Severus felt pretty confident in his ability to tell if Potter was lying.

Harry sighed, but looked resigned. "I missed you."

Severus snorted again.

"I told you that you wouldn't believe me."

"I don't," Severus agreed. "There has to be another reason."

"There isn't. After the war, what I wanted most of all was just to talk to someone who understood, but there wasn't anyone. Ron and Hermione had their own stuff going on. I'm not sure if talking to them would have really helped anyway. Their lives were never really defined by the war the way mine was. I learned a lot about myself after that, and you. I just wanted to see you again more than anything else. I needed some resolution, but you weren't around to give it. I guess at some point I decided that I needed to have you back. I'm still not sure that actually going through with it that night in the graveyard was the right thing to do, but I'm glad I did. Once I knew that you were alive there was just this huge sense of relief- like everything was finally right with the world. It might be hard to understand, but it's just nice to have someone to talk to and spend time with- someone who doesn't have ulterior motives or a hidden agenda. I just need someone who doesn't want anything from me."

"Surely you don't think that Granger and Weasley have just been using you all this time."

"No, but that doesn't mean that they don't want something from me either. Ron wants me to get him good seats to all the big Quidditch matches, and Hermione wants me to use my fame to help the disenfranchised. Ron wants me to join the Auror corps with him and fight evil and have adventures. Hermione wants me to get married and be happy. Ron wants to know why I'm not getting laid, and Hermione wants to know why I drink so much." Harry sighed. "It's just all so exhausting."

Severus was quiet as he thought this over, and something occurred to him- a memory from the night all this had started. Harry had indeed smelled like alcohol when Severus had laid him in bed in the hospital wing to have his missing hand mended. And Pomfrey had said something that hadn't made sense to him at the time, but now he was starting to get a clearer picture. She'd been referring to Severus, and she'd said that she didn't think much of Harry's taste.

"You're gay, aren't you?"

Harry snorted. "Oh, did I forget that particular headline when I was filling you in on the history of the past four years?" He mimed holding up a newspaper. "Chosen one chooses men," he announced in a newscaster's voice, gesturing across the top of the imaginary paper in large font print. In smaller print at the bottom of the page be blocked out, "England wins Quidditch Word Cup for first time in over a century: page two."

Severus laughed. "I might be able to believe that breaking news of your sexual orientation could bump that story to page two, but first I'd have to believe that England won the World Cup."

Harry nodded. "They did actually, first year after the war. It wasn't the same time that the Prophet felt the need to announce the broader details of my sex life to the whole world, but that's how it felt. Anyway, it's old news. No one really cares anymore, and I don't date, so…" Harry shrugged.

"Why don't you date?"

"I just got tired of all the posing. The wizards I dated just wanted to date The Chosen One, not me- Harry Potter the man, and I could never be completely honest with any of the muggles I dated. That's no way to have a relationship, so I guess I gave up."

"Can I offer you some advice- speaking from experience?" Severus asked.

Harry nodded.

"Don't be so quick to isolate yourself like that. I made a similar decision once. After your mother died and the first war ended, certain things came to light. Dumbledore was forced to expose me as a spy- in an effort to clear my name. Being marked meant that I could never hope to have any kind of relationship with anyone who wasn't also marked. I had no interest in muggles after a lifetime of bad experiences, and no desire to involve myself with one of the numerous displaced followers of the Dark Lord. So, I too 'gave up', as you put it. I can tell you that it makes for a lonely life having no one to share it with."

Harry looked saddened by this little insight into Severus' love-life.

"What about now?" Harry asked. "Your name is cleared for real this time. You're a hero."

Severus shook his head, sneering out a grim smile. "I have no desire to be a hero, and as little regard for fame as you. Besides, who would possibly want me anyway?"

Harry grinned. "Ah, don't be so hard on yourself, Snape. I'm sure there are plenty of good-looking necrophiliacs out there who would jump at the chance to jump your bones."

This was met with a firm wall of silence. Then the blank look on Severus' face broke into a smirk. Harry smiled too. Then, Severus snorted, and Harry started to laugh. Soon they were clutching each other as they dissolved into fits of laughter- both sounding rusty and out of practice.

When they finally managed to get themselves under control, Harry leaned against Severus, gasping for breath. "It wasn't even a very good joke," he said, "but that look on your face," he snorted again, "then you smiled, and I just couldn't stop laughing." He giggled again- one last outbreak of uncontained mirth, and rose to his feet, pouring a last swallow of scotch into his glass to steady himself. "Too bad you aren't gay, Snape," he said after he downed his drink. "That would solve both of our problems."

Severus snorted. "Best hang onto that day job, Potter. I don't think you'll ever make it as a comedian."

oOoOoOo

But, hours later as Severus lay awake in bed, he wondered if it had been a joke after all. Did Harry truly believe that he was straight? And why wouldn't he? Hadn't Severus been playing the pronoun game all night- perhaps subconsciously, since he'd discovered Harry's sexual orientation. And Harry surely believed that Severus had been in love with Lily.

He had loved her of course. More than he had ever cared for anyone else; she had been his only true friend in his whole life. And, yes, he'd felt betrayed when she had chosen a relationship with James Potter over her friendship with him, but his feelings for her had never been of a romantic nature. He'd loved her the way that he imagined Harry must love Hermione Granger or Ginny Weasley.

But what did it matter if Harry thought that he was straight? It didn't make it any less of a joke. Harry couldn't possibly mean what he'd said. Maybe he'd wanted someone that he could talk to, but that didn't mean his feelings for Severus extended anywhere beyond simple friendship. How could Potter possibly find him attractive?

As he drifted off to sleep, one final absurdity occurred to him.

Harry Potter was his friend.

And that's all it took; he was laughing again.

oOoOoOo

As much as Severus wanted to set the record straight, if only to avoid any awkwardness and discomfort at a later stage, an opportunity to broach the subject never presented itself.

Gradually, Severus became aware of a change within himself. He was finally beginning to feel human again. All this time spent with Harry was making him real again, and he thought he just might have managed to shake the last of the grave-dust from his boots.

With that came something else: another realization. He was falling in love.

The idea was laughable, of course. Harry couldn't possibly return his feelings. He was old, and disagreeable, and he'd seen his reflection looking back at him out of enough mirrors to have a pretty good idea of what he looked like.

He almost wished that Harry was straight; at least that would disband this damnable hope.

oOoOoOo

That day, after lunch, the thing that Severus had been dreading since this whole sorry business began finally came to pass.

"I have to return to work next week," Harry commented as he looked over his mail.

Severus sighed. "Are you recovered enough for that?"

Harry looked at his hand. It was still clad in the thin leather glove that he now habitually wore. He flexed it again and it moved stiffly. "I suppose. Will you be alright on your own in the afternoons?"

"Afternoons?" Severus asked, raising an eyebrow. His heart rose at the hope of what Harry was suggesting.

Harry smirked. "Sure, you know, that part of the day that comes after morning and before night- that sunny part of the day. Well, no, not really- rainy and overcast, but you know… I can still cook you breakfast in the morning," he was quick to assure, "and I'll be back in time for dinner of course. Unless there's a Quidditch match I have to referee." Harry was looking at him searchingly. "If you need me here, though- I can tell Minerva to make arrangements for someone else to cover my classes. It's just that Hermione needs to get back to the baby. I think Ron is starting to get overwhelmed."

"I'm quite capable of cooking my own meals, Harry." Severus took a deep breath. "I'm happy to have you here, but you don't need to feel obligated to stay and care for me." Severus saw Harry's face fall at these words, but he felt that he needed to be clear on this point before he could proceed with whatever this was they were doing.

"Don't set your life aside for me. I'm not worth it." Harry seemed about to object, so Severus cut him off. "If you wish to stay, however, I think it's time we cleaned out the spare room for you. Then you may come and go as you wish. It's too much trouble to be constantly transfiguring the sofa so you have a place to sleep."

Harry brightened at this. "We still have a few days. We can start on that tomorrow."

Severus fought to maintain his composure, but inside he was happier than he could remember being in a long time. Harry was staying. He no longer had to live with the threat of his imminent departure hanging in the air between them. How strange his life had become that such a thing should make him happy.

That just left the other issue, and Severus knew better than to bring that one to light.

Harry, it would seem, did not.

oOoOoOo

They'd made good progress in getting the spare room cleaned out over the next couple days. It was the only room that hadn't been touched during their systematic cleaning of the house previously. The room hadn't been used in years, and had turned into a sort of catch-all for anything that didn't have its own place elsewhere in the small house.

Mostly it was boxes of old clothes and things that Severus no longer had any use for. They banished these, or Harry brought them to a second-hand shop in Diagon Alley to donate. Some cauldrons and potions supplies were moved to Severus' lab for storage. What remained after those were just a few boxes of family mementos and Severus' old school trunk.

Harry grinned when a trip with some boxes to the attic revealed the trunk. "Can I look in here?"

Severus glanced distractedly at it from where he was sorting through a box of papers. "If you'd like. I believe it's empty though."

It wasn't.

Harry ran his finger over the Slytherin crest on the lid before he unfastened the latch and lifted it open. There were a few sets of patched and frayed robes. Harry picked these out and set them aside. Beneath them were a few abused text books that looked out of date, half a bag of ancient Bertie Bott's every flavor beans, and a few letters- mostly from Severus' mother, but a few from Harry's own. He was about to open one of them to read before Severus could stop him, but he caught sight of a photograph pinned to the inside of the trunk's lid beside a Slytherin pennant, and he paused.

"Who is this?" Harry asked, leaning forward for a closer look. It was a dark-haired man with an expression somewhere between a scowl and a smirk. The expression was familiar, and for a moment Harry had thought it was Severus, but a closer inspection revealed none of Snape's features. The hooked beak of a nose being most notably absent, but still the young man in the picture looked very familiar.

Severus let the papers he was holding fall back into the box and came over to have a look himself.

"That's Regulus Black," Severus answered. There was a strange tone in his voice as he said it- one that Harry only half-correctly identified as regret. Severus bent and ran a thumb along the edge of the photograph, then pulled it from the trunk- tearing little slashes into the edge where the pins had pulled free from the paper.

"Were you friends?" Harry asked.

"No," Severus said quickly, and Harry seemed puzzled by the answer. Regulus Black and Severus Snape had once been many things to one another, been friendship had never been among them.

Well, here's your chance, Severus thought ruefully. He took a deep breath before clarifying with, "We were lovers."

Harry's eyes widened at that. "I didn't know."

"I don't suppose it's the sort of thing Sirius would have willingly brought to your attention," Severus said, deliberately not mentioning the other thing that Harry hadn't known.

"That's not what I… Wait, is that why he hated you so much?"

Severus laughed bitterly. "Oh, no. Your beloved dogfather's disdain for me far outdated me shagging his brother, as you should well know. In any case, Sirius has moved out of Grimmauld Place by then- living with your father and grandparents."

Severus looked thoughtfully at the photograph. "It hadn't helped much, but at the same time, Sirius made it a practice to avoid his brother as a matter of course, so it hadn't hurt either." Harry was still staring at him with a look of awed realization, so Severus just continued talking as though he didn't know the reason why- saying much more than he would have otherwise in an effort to forestall Harry's questions and any ensuing awkwardness.

"We joined the Death Eaters together, at Lucius' urging, and with the blessing of Regulus' parents. It didn't take long for both of us to realize that we'd made a mistake, but by then it was too late. I started spying for Dumbledore- which meant that I spent a good deal of time and effort in an attempt to curry favor with the Dark Lord so I could bring back as much information as possible. Meanwhile, Regulus was becoming more and more open about his change of feelings toward what the Dark Lord was and what he represented. Then he just disappeared. I assumed that word of his dissention had reached Voldemort, and he had been killed as a result, but I never did find out what really happened."

Harry was quiet for a moment, almost reluctant to speak. "I know," he said finally. Severus' eyes bore into him, and Harry let out a heavy sigh. This definitely wasn't something that Harry had any desire to recount, but Regulus had given his life for the cause, and he deserved for someone who cared about him to know what really happened. After all these years, Severus deserved to know too.

"The night you… the night Dumbledore died, we went after one of the horcruxes. You know that much."

Severus nodded.

"It was the locket: the one that Voldemort's mother sold to Borgin and Burkes before he was born. He tracked it down and made it into a Horcrux, hiding it in a cave by the sea for safekeeping."

Another brisk nod, somehow robotic.

"Dumbledore took me to the cave, and we managed to get the locket, but it wasn't easy. The place was… horrible. There were inferi in a pool, and we crossed over them in a boat…" Harry's voice broke and his words drifted off again. "The locket was in a stone basin full of some kind of potion." Harry halted for a moment, realizing that Severus, as the most skilled potion master in Voldemort's ranks had likely brewed the dreadful concoction himself without knowing what it was for. The idea sent gooseflesh up his skin. He forced himself to continue. "The potion needed to be drunk to get the locket out. Dumbledore told me to feed it to him- made me promise to make him drink every drop, no matter how much he might fight or beg me to stop." Harry paused; his face had gone pale, and he looked like he might be sick. "And he did beg. He whimpered and cried. It was… the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Worse than killing, it was torture."

Harry took another deep breath. "When it was over, he was so weak. He'd been very ill already, no matter how hard he tried to hide it, and the potion drained him of whatever strength he had left."

"He was dying," Severus said.

Harry nodded. "We barely made it out of the cave. I never thought we'd reach the castle in time. And then,… well, it was probably the worst night of my life, and I've had plenty worth comparing."

"Mine as well," Severus agreed, quietly.

The realization of what Severus had been required to do that night made Harry's gut twist. Feeding potion to a crying old man and fighting off a bunch of inferi maybe hadn't been so bad by comparison. At least Dumbledore hadn't ordered Harry to kill him. "I'm sorry, Severus, you're right."

Severus waved it off. "Those were bad times for everyone. We did what we needed to. What does any of this have to do with Regulus?"

"The locket was a fake. It wasn't the real horcrux. As awful as the whole thing had been, it was that much worse to know that it had all been for nothing. The true locket had been taken and replaced with a copy and a note, signed with the initials R.A.B."

"Regulus Arcturus Black."

Harry nodded. "It took us a long time to figure it out, but once we did, we learned the whole story. Regulus had gone into the cave with Kreacher-"

"That horrible old house elf?"

Harry didn't argue. "He made Kreacher feed him the potion, replaced the horcrux with the fake, and then ordered Kreacher to never tell anyone about what happened and to destroy the locket. Regulus died in the cave."

Severus' mouth was a thin hard line. "He could have ordered the elf to drink the potion."

"Yes, he could have, and Kreacher would have done it gladly. He would have been honored at the opportunity to die to save his master. I guess that just wasn't the kind of man that Regulus was."

Severus shook his head. "He wanted to die. He felt like he deserved it for the things he'd done. I felt like I didn't even deserve the peace of death for the same reason. I tried to atone for what I had done. I think that Regulus would have felt that was what he was doing by sacrificing himself."

Harry rested a hand on Severus' shoulder. He had to reach up to do it, but the gesture wasn't awkward. "Are you okay?"

"Yes. It was a long time ago. It's good to finally know what happened." Severus looked down at the photograph still clutched in his hand. "I barely even remember him anymore. I don't recall how he smelled, or the sound of his voice. I don't remember any of our conversations. I just remember feeling young and powerful and being so very stupid." He sneered at this last word, spitting it out bitterly.

"We've all been stupid," Harry said.

oOoOoOo

That night Harry slept in Severus' childhood bed. The single bed had a brass frame that squeaked every time he moved. He could have cast a charm to silence it, but he found the sound oddly comforting.

As he lay in bed, springs squeaking as he turned to find a comfortable position, his thoughts kept returning to Severus. So the old bat was just another shirt-lifter. Harry wasn't completely surprised- not completely. What he was, was confused. He couldn't quite understand why Severus had been hiding the information from him, and it hadn't just been Harry's own assumptions working against him, Severus really had been trying to hide it. Harry was sure of that. He hadn't used 'she' or 'her' when discussing potential or former lovers, but he hadn't used 'he' or 'him' either. That had been deliberate. So, why had Severus tried to hide his sexuality from Harry- who clearly had no grounds or reason to hold it against him in any way? And, more interestingly, what had changed his mind?

Severus could have been keeping it from him in case Harry got any ideas- developed some kind of romantic interest. The thought made a certain amount of logical sense, but the idea itself was ridiculous. How could he and Severus ever be that for each other? It would never work. It was impossible.

Still, maybe Harry shouldn't have joked about it.

These thoughts all chased themselves around in his brain , eluding sleep, and Harry finally resorted to the one sure-fire way to send himself off into slumber- a certain indulgence he hadn't been able to enjoy while bedding down on Severus' transfigured sofa. But, with a door shut firmly between him and the rest of the house, he was allowed the privacy to enjoy a quick wank.

It was slow work. The very sight of his left hand disgusted him- with its pink and newly formed flesh like the skin beneath a freshly shed scab, and this had never been a task for his right.

He focused on the sensation as he stroked himself, and tried to drive all other thoughts from his mind. The springs squeaking, and he couldn't help but chuckle as he imagined Severus in this same bed, trying to be quiet lest his parents catch wind of his own nocturnal activities.

Images of the other man flood his thoughts then- dark eyes and pale skin, prominent nose, curling lips, long dexterous fingers, swirling black robes encompassing him like an embrace of fog. He begins stroking faster. Severus' voice infiltrates its way in: velvety tones rasping in his ear. He could almost feel Severus' hands on him.

Harry comes abruptly with a gasp, and flushes with embarrassment. He has mixed feelings of the whole experience as he drifts off to sleep.

oOoOoOo

Breakfast the next morning was oddly quiet. Not the companionable silence they had grown accustomed to, but a laden sort of silence filled with things unsaid.

Harry began to do the dishes, but Severus stopped him. "I'll clean up," he said. "You need to get to work."

Harry nodded. "Thanks. There's some leftover lasagna in the cupboard under a stasis charm for your lunch."

"Thank you."

"I'll be home a little after five."

"Okay," Severus said. "I will see you then."

"Are you sure that you'll be okay?" Harry asked. His eyes searched Severus' blank expression. That alone concerned him; the spy had never hidden his emotions from Harry since his resurrection, and now that mask of control that had been so present during their prior interactions worried him.

"I'll be fine, Potter," he responded with a sneer that likewise hadn't been present over the last few weeks. "Go," he said, gesturing to the fireplace in the sitting room, "or you'll be late."

"Alright, alright, but if you need anything, floo call me in my office."

Severus raised an eyebrow. "Wouldn't it be a bit hard to explain why you're receiving floo calls from a dead man?"

"Wear a cloak with the hood pulled up over your face, and try to make your voice sound less… sultry. One advantage of everyone thinking that you're dead, is that no one will believe it's really you even if they see you with their own eyes."

Severus' lip curled into a smirk. "You think my voice is sultry?"

"I think I'm going to be late." Harry didn't meet his eyes as he tossed a handful of floo powder into the fire and stepped into the grate.

oOoOoOo

Harry was having a slow day. Most of his classes had been spent reviewing what Hermione had been teaching his students in his absence. As diligent as ever, she'd covered the outline of the syllabus and coursework that he'd provided and given him detailed notes, but that didn't really tell him how much of the information his students had actually retained. The answer was a little disheartening. It seemed that Hermione was even better at teaching his subject than he was.

Really, he shouldn't be surprised.

He'd also spent a good deal of effort deflecting questions of where he'd been and what had happened to his hand. It seemed there were several ridiculous rumors floating around the school- all outrageous, but none so unbelievable as the truth.

So, he was glad when lunch finally rolled around to give him a break from the barrage of interrogation- or so he thought.

oOoOoOo

Severus sat at the kitchen table, staring at his lunch. Harry had left a note with the large serving of lasagna. It wasn't a long note, nor a particularly interesting one, but Severus had been sitting here reading and rereading it for the last five minutes.

The note read simply:

Severus,

I hope you're having a good day. Enjoy the lasagna, and try not to kill yourself before I get home; I only have one good hand left.

~Harry

He didn't know why this small gesture should affect him so strongly. Perhaps it was just that it had been so long since anyone had cared enough about him to offer the simple courtesy of wishing him a good day, or maybe it was that Harry considered his ramshackle little house home, or that Severus, who had never had any pleasant feelings toward the place, had begun to feel the same- now that he shared it with Harry.

Whatever the reason, Severus was unable to stop the tears that had begun to trickle down his cheeks.

oOoOoOo

"Professor Potter," Minerva said when he sat down beside her at the staff table. "Good to see that you've finally rejoined us."

"Yes," Harry said. "Hermione's been doing a good job with my classes, but I'm sure she was ready to get back to the baby. I'm sorry for the trouble."

"No trouble at all," Minerva said in a tone the clearly implied the opposite. "Stop by my office for tea when you've finished eating," she said as she rose to her feet- her own lunch long finished. Harry got the idea that she'd only been waiting around for him.

"I'm awfully busy, Minerva," Harry said, trying to excuse himself. "Maybe I can drop by later this week."

"That wasn't a request, Mr. Potter," she said tersely- dropping the 'professor' and making him feel like he'd just lost twenty house points.

"You're in trouble," Neville said from Harry's other side once she'd gone.

"That doesn't really seem fair." Harry picked at his food with the point of his knife.

"She's been worried about you; we all have. You could have actually talked to someone before you left, instead of just leaving a cryptic note and dropping off the face of the planet for almost a month. Where have you been anyway, and what happened to your hand?"

Harry sighed. He was beginning to tire of those two questions. "Oh, you know how my life is," he tried offhandedly. "Just the usual."

Neville frowned. "Dark wizards, adventure, and insane amounts of danger?" he asked.

"That's about it."

"Well, you usually let Ron and Hermione in on it at least. With all the new baby hormones, she's been mental the whole time you've been gone. I've been doing damage control for weeks."

"I'm sorry, Neville, but this one was kind of personal."

Neville nodded. "Okay, but you're back now, right? Everything is okay?"

"I think so."

oOoOoOo

Severus was in a chair in the sitting room, lasagna sitting heavily in his stomach. He had a book in his lap, but he hadn't more than glanced at it since picking it up. His eyes were firmly fixed to the fireplace.

After another long moment of staring at the embers, Severus snapped the book shut and tossed it onto the tea table to the side of the sofa. "This is idiotic," he mumbled to himself darkly, and went upstairs to find a cloak with a hood.

oOoOoOo

"Harry," Minerva greeted as soon as he stepped into her office. "Have a seat. Take a biscuit."

"I've just had lunch," Harry said. That was a bit of a stretch; what he'd actually done was sit at the head table for twenty minutes picking at his food and dreading this conversation. He took a seat in one of the padded chairs before her desk and waited for the axe to fall.

"Tea then," she said, floating a cup to his hand with a casual wave of her wand.

He took it grudgingly, not having much choice in the matter. "What is this about, Minerva?" he asked, deliberately not taking a drink from the cup.

"You weren't at breakfast this morning," she observed.

"No," Harry allowed. "I ate before I flooed in this morning."

"And where was that?" she demanded. "Where the bloody hell have you been?"

Harry had been expecting this line of questioning, but nonetheless recoiled at her tone. "I've moved into one of my houses," he answered. "I have three of them, so I figured I might as well put one of them to use." Technically, this was true. Harry had purchased the house in Spinner's End from the ministry after Severus' death, mostly so it wouldn't fall into the hands of any of his former professor's less savory colleagues, but Harry had never stepped foot inside the house until Severus had brought him there, and he'd never mentioned the fact to the man.

"Not Grimmauld Place," Minerva said. "Hermione went there looking for you and said that there were no signs of anyone having been there in years. And it would have been all over the papers if you'd been spotted in Godric's Hollow."

Harry shuddered at the thought. There had been a media blitzkrieg when he had begun rebuilding his parent's old house in Godric's Hollow, and, while he had been planning to live there when he finished, he'd never moved in.

"No," Harry answered. "It's the other one."

Minerva sighed in abject sadness. "Isn't it enough that you've taken up residence in his horrible old rooms down in the dungeons? Why do you have to live your life as a monument to Severus Snape?" She almost spat the name out.

"Because no one else seems to give a rat's arse about him," Harry spat back. "You of all people ought to understand. I thought you were friends?"

"I miss him too," she said, "but turning into him won't bring him back."

Harry snorted. "I could never hope to be half the man he is… was," he corrected quickly.

Minerva frowned. "The students talk, you know."

Harry raised an eyebrow in an unnerving imitation of the man in question.

"They say that you favor Slytherin," she explained. "They call you The Gryffindor Serpent behind your back."

Harry smirked. "I find that rather flattering."

"You shouldn't. I've been looking over your points log for the year, and there's some merit in their claims. You've awarded three times as many points to Slytherin than the other three houses combined, and Gryffindor is lowest in your tallies."

"Have you looked over the other professors' logs?" Harry asked. "I'm just trying to give the Slytherins an even field."

Minerva tutted. "I know I'm not supposed to play favorites, but I would like the Gryffindors to at least have another chance at the House Cup before I retire."

"They can have the Quidditch cup," Harry responded. "The Slytherin team is rubbish this year."

Minerva smiled with something approaching malicious glee. "Well, at least you're a fair referee."

"I'm a fair teacher also," Harry said, "if you look at it from a certain standpoint."

"If you're using Severus Snape for a template, maybe," Minerva snorted. "The point is, I'm worried about you. You've been in a dark mood since the start of term, and then you just took off for a month, and your poor hand…"

"It's fine," Harry dismissed.

Minerva stared down over the tops of her spectacles at the skeletal thing in the thin leather glove that held Harry's teacup. "At least you're able to get some use from it," she observed, "but it is most certainly not fine. What happened?"

"I cut it off," Harry answered truthfully. He'd said as much to Madam Pomfrey anyway, and he was sure that word of it had reached the Headmistress by now.

"Whatever for?"

"It needed to be done," Harry answered. "It was the only sacrifice I had left to make."

Minerva shook her head sadly. "Won't you please tell me what's going on in that head of yours? You've been troubled, and maybe I should have said something sooner, but I didn't feel like I had any right to dictate your life- too many people have done that to you already. But now, I'm starting to wish that I'd put a stop to this a long time ago. It's time you've let go of whatever it is that's been haunting you. I'm guessing it's the ghost of Severus Snape."

Harry chuckled. "I'm fine, Minerva, really- better than I have been in years. One hand wasn't so large a price to pay for that."

She examined him closely, and found herself ready to believe him. The darkness that had followed Harry like a cloud for the past few years did indeed seem to have finally dissipated. There was some hint of the boy he'd once been before Voldemort had entered his life with such a force of presence. Some slight trace of the eleven-year-old who had once faced down a mountain troll lingered around his eyes. "Very well," she finally relented, "but promise me that we'll speak of this more when you're ready."

"Soon, just a little more time, and I think you'll get to hear the whole story." He smiled. "I promise it'll be a good one."

oOoOoOo

"Potter," a gruff voice spoke his name from the fireplace.

Harry looked up from the paperwork he was looking over for his next class to see the visage of a hooded man in the embers. The cloak pulled up to cover his face did little to hide the recognizable profile of his considerable nose, and the voice he used, for all of its gruffness, was as sultry as ever. Harry cast around for a suitable pseudonym just in case anyone was listening.

"My Prince," he said finally, a small smirk on his face. "Missing my company already?"

"I just wanted to ensure that you were still planning on returning this evening."

"Yes," Harry said. "My last class ends at four thirty. I have a few things to take care of here first. I need to get some of my things from the dungeons, but I'll probably be back around five."

"The dungeons?"

Harry smiled. "Oh, didn't I tell you that I'd taken your old rooms? I still have all your things in storage if you want anything." He could barely see Severus' lips turn down in a frown under the edge of the hood.

"That won't be necessary right now," he answered, "but I'll think it over."

"I was going to shrink everything and bring it to you this weekend anyway," Harry said.

"That will be fine."

"Is there any other reason you called?" Harry asked, a slight smile playing the edges of his mouth. Severus really did miss his company, if he was just calling to make sure Harry would be home on time.

"Not particularly," Severus admitted. "I'm running out of things to fix in the house, and my stores in the lab are too low to brew anything interesting. I was simply wondering how your day was going."

"Long," Harry answered with a sigh. "Everyone is asking a lot of questions that I don't want to answer, and Minerva just had me in her office for tea- which is apparently Hogwarts-speak for interrogation. She's fitting into Dumbledore's shoes quite nicely."

"What did you tell her?"

"That she'll know the whole story eventually. I assume that you plan on coming out of hiding at some point. When you're ready to do that, we'll need her help- probably Kingsley's and a few of the other Order members as well. I'll meet with them if you decide that's what you want."

Severus nodded. "Yes, soon, I think: a month's time, perhaps less, if it can be arranged."

"Okay," Harry answered. He was glad to hear that Severus wasn't planning on hiding forever, but, on the other hand, Harry was beginning to like having the man all to himself. "We can talk about it tonight; my class will be here soon. See you at home?"

"I can't imagine where else I would be."

Harry smiled. "Farewell, my Prince."

Severus grunted and disappeared. Harry stared at the empty fireplace for a long moment, and then had to put a hand to his mouth to stifle a laugh.

He smiled silently to himself at odd moments all through his last three classes of the day.

oOoOoOo

"Honey, I'm home," Harry joked as he stepped out of the fireplace into their little house in Spinner's End. He tossed the small bag of his belongings, mostly clothes, onto the sofa, and followed his nose into the kitchen.

Severus stood at the gas range stirring a frying pan of beef and vegetables. "I'm relieved to see you in one piece," he commented drily when he turned to look at Harry.

Harry shrugged. "Oh, I don't get up to nearly as much trouble as I used too. "You're cooking dinner."

"Your powers of observations have improved," Severus remarked. "Since you seem to think I don't have the ability to care for myself, I thought I'd give you a little demonstration of my culinary acumen."

"No complaints here," Harry said, taking a place next to Severus at the counter to help dice some tomatoes.

Severus shooed him away the moment he saw what Harry was doing. "Stop butchering my ingredients and sit down, Potter. There's some wine cooling over there," he pointed to an ice bucket on the other end of the counter, "pour yourself a glass and get out of the way."

Harry smiled and did as he'd been instructed, taking a seat at the table and sipping appreciatively at the sweet red Severus had selected from the cellar.

"I thought we could play chess after dinner," Severus said when he was sure that Harry wasn't going to try to help him again.

"Not tired of beating me yet?"

"You're slowly improving."

"You should play with Ron sometime. He might actually give you a bit of a challenge."

"I can hardly imagine a situation where Ronald Weasley would consent to be in the same room with me long enough for a chess match."

"Give him some credit," Harry defended. "Everyone knows that you were on our side now- including Ron. You might be surprised at how much that changes things."

"I'm still the same person I've always been."

"That doesn't mean that anyone knew the real you to begin with. There are people out there who miss you, Snape."

"Forgive me if I find that rather hard to believe."

"Minerva was just saying so today," Harry said, "and I'm sure Draco would like to know that his godfather is alive- if Lucius hasn't told him already. You were the only halfway decent person in his life."

"You're in contact with Draco?" Severus asked, turning to look at Harry with disbelief.

"Occasionally, at family gatherings and things."

Severus raised an eyebrow.

"He's engaged to Ginny."

"His family can't be very happy about that."

"Hers isn't either," Harry admitted, "but there isn't much they can do about it."

"Things really have changed while I've been dead."

"For the better, I hope."

"The Dark Lord is dead," Severus responded, "everything else is inconsequential." Severus dished up two plates and set one in front of Harry before taking a seat himself.

"Won't you be in trouble if we reveal the true nature of my resurrection?" Severus asked, after tasting his meal. It was a question that had been bothering him since his conversation with Harry earlier that afternoon.

"Maybe a little, but there isn't really much they can do."

"They could put you in Azkaban."

Harry snorted. "They could certainly try."

"You aren't invincible, Potter."

Harry finished chewing a bite of food and washed it down with a sip of wine, then fixed Severus with a hard look. "What exactly do you think would happen if the ministry tried to imprison me?"

Severus considered it, but didn't quite see the point Harry was trying to get at.

"Do you suppose that my friends and supporters would allow that to happen- even if I did nothing to stop it myself?"

"I suppose not," Severus said uncertainly. "But they could mount another campaign of propaganda against you."

"They might, but then Luna Lovegood would mount a counter campaign. Then they might try to bring me to court, but Minerva is the head of the Wizengamot now. If they were really desperate, they might try to take me under martial law, but do you suppose that all the Aurors in the ministry would have any chance of taking me from Hogwarts if I didn't want to go? Let me think, who's in the Corps now…. Well, Ron of course. Dean Thomas, Cho Chang, Terry Boot, Dennis Creevey, Susan Bones… I could go on, but I think you get the idea."

Severus made a thoughtful sound. "I take it back. Perhaps you are invincible."

"Not invincible, just well protected, and you will be too when the time comes, so we don't have to worry about that." He took another bite of his dinner. "This is really good, by the way. Maybe you can feed yourself after all."

Severus smiled. "I prefer cooking for two."

"Planning on keeping me around then?"

"With the full protection of the wizarding world at my fingertips, I'd be a fool not to."

Harry laughed. "You have more than that."

"Oh?"

"You're under my personal protection now."

"And what's so formidable about that?"

There was no wave of the hand, no incantation, no warning at all. Harry didn't even pause eating his dinner. There was just a loud thud as the heavy chopping knife Severus had been cooking with sailed from the counter and stuck quivering in the center of the wooden table. It moved so fast that Severus didn't even have time to flinch.

"If anyone tries to harm you, I'll kill them," Harry said mildly, and Severus believed him.

oOoOoOo

"When was the last time you had sex?"

Severus looked up at Harry over the chess board, a look of mild shock on his face.

"Not an actual lover, just a little stress relief. There must have been someone."

"The occasional muggle," Severus answered, "a rent boy here or there."

Harry's eyes widened. "Hookers, really?"

"Discreet ones," Severus said, slightly embarrassed.

"What's that like?" Harry asked, genuinely curious. He couldn't imagine paying for sex, but there was a certain appeal to guilt-free sex with no strings attached.

"Hollow and generally unsatisfactory."

"Oh," Harry frowned. "Isn't there anyone you're interested in now?"

Severus' heart began pounding hard in his chest, but he kept a steady hold on his calm façade. "Not anyone who would return my feelings. What's brought this about?"

"Oh, I dunno," Harry shrugged. "Just seems like the first thing I'd want after coming back from the dead is a good shag to make me feel alive again."

"Are you speaking from personal experience?"

Harry paled. "No, I guess not. I didn't really have time- had to save the free world and all that."

"Indeed."

"Still, if you wanted…. a hooker, I mean. I suppose I could…" Harry trailed off looking embarrassed.

"That won't be necessary," Severus replied with a scowl.

"Oh, okay. I just thought…," he fingered one of the black chess pieces he'd managed to capture from Severus, "I don't know. If you needed anything like that, I could help. I want you to be happy. I feel bad about forcing you back into life without your permission."

"I find life preferable to death, and you have nothing to apologize for. You don't owe me anything, Harry."

"You just seem like something's been bothering you the last week or so, I thought maybe that was it."

"You came to the conclusion that I was horny?"

Harry flushed crimson. "Forget I said anything."

That was easier said than done. Potter's sudden interest in his sex life brought on a whole flood of thoughts and feeling regarding what really had been bothering him the last week- namely Harry Potter and the unequivocal fact that he'd fallen in love with the man. So much so that he couldn't spend a single day apart from him without staring at his watch every five minutes awaiting his return.

"What about you, Potter. When was the last time you had a good buggering?"

"I said, forget I mentioned it."

"No," Severus said, "turnabout is fair play. If you expect me to answer a question like that, you should be willing to answer it yourself."

Harry mumbled something under his breath.

"Pardon?"

"Two years, alright?" Harry snapped, flushing again.

Severus blinked a couple times in shock and regarded the man before him. Even disregarding his status as a war hero, Harry Potter shouldn't have had any want of partners. He was striking by his looks alone- those brilliant green eyes, tousled hair, strong jaw, and that fit lean body. So, why? "Two years?" he said finally.

"Two and a half, actually."

Severus frowned. "Why?"

"You said it yourself. Meaningless sex is hollow and unsatisfactory."

"Even so- that's a long time. I would have thought that your baser instincts would have taken over by now."

Harry snorted. "I'm not an animal, Severus. I do quite well on my own, thank you."

Severus smirked. "Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that your sexual development hasn't progressed past the point of a wanking schoolboy."

"It's not my sexual development that's the problem, it's my emotional development. You know," he said, as though the thought had just occurred to him. "Living with you these past few weeks is probably the closest I've come to having a real relationship with anyone."

Severus managed a snort, "now there is a laugh."

"No, really," Harry defended. "It's been nice- surprisingly normal, all things considered."

Severus inclined his head. "I've enjoyed your company as well."

Harry smiled sadly. "Too bad it really is laughable, huh?"

Severus drained the glass of scotch sitting at hand beside the chess board. "And yet, you're not laughing."

"No," Harry said quietly. "I suppose I'm not."

Severus tried to quell the surge of hope in his chest, and proceeded carefully. "What is it exactly that you've been trying to say for the last ten minutes?"

Harry bit his lip. "Honestly, I don't even really know. I'm happy with you. I don't want this to end."

"Have I indicated in some way that I plan to kick you out?"

"No," Harry smiled a little. "You can't anyway. I own the deed to your house."

"And yet you admit that it is mine."

Harry had expected more of a reaction to this news, but maybe Severus had already assumed as much. "You can have it back as soon as we let everyone know you're alive. I'll sign over all the papers."

"In any case, I've already said that you're welcome to stay as long as you like."

"Even after people find out that you're not a corpse?"

"I don't see why that should change our present living situation."

"Things could get weird."

"Stranger than they are already?"

Harry cocked his head to the side. "How is it weird now? You're not uncomfortable with me being here are you?"

"Certainly not." This wasn't the complete truth. Severus found Harry's constant presence both reassuring and a continuous reminder of all the things he could never have with the other man- an ever present temptation. "I've recently returned from the dead and find myself living happily with the very last person I could ever have imagined. Perhaps this is just an average day in the life of Harry Potter, but yes, I find the situation very strange indeed."

"Compared to my normal days, a little comfortable domesticity is a nice change," Harry said, "even if it's with you."

"I've never claimed to be an agreeable roommate," Severus said, "but you can stay for as long as you can put up with me."

"I've always been a glutton for punishment; you could be stuck with me for a while."

"I have no problem with that."

Harry smiled. "You really do like having me around then?"

"I think that I've said as much on multiple occasions now."

"Well yeah," Harry said, "but you still seem like something's been bothering you. Isn't there something I can do to help? I'd do anything for you."

If only that were true, Severus thought. "There is something you can do."

"Name it."

"Stay," Severus said. "No more discussions, or dissection, just stay- not for a few weeks or months, but indefinitely.

Harry smiled so brightly Severus thought he would melt beneath the regard of those brilliant green eyes and that wide grin.

"That's easy," Harry said. "I'll move the rest of my things in this weekend. Isn't there anything else?"

"Yes," Severus answered. "You can make your damn move already; you're only prolonging the inevitable."

"Oh," Harry glanced down at the chess board and moved one of his pawns. "I almost forgot we were playing."

"And get me another glass of scotch."

oOoOoOo

Harry moved the rest of his things in Friday night. He didn't own much and, with the aid of magic, this was easily accomplished without much break in their usual routine. Severus made dinner, as he had taken to doing now that Harry had returned to work, and they discussed plans for the weekend while they ate.

So, Saturday afternoon was spent cultivating and planting some staple potion ingredients in the small back garden. Severus was impressed by how readily Harry took to gardening, but upon learning that this skill too had been acquired by catering to the every whim and need of his horrible muggle relatives, he wanted even more vehemently to hunt the wretched people down and make them pay for what they had done to an innocent child- well, relatively innocent anyway.

"I made lemonade," Harry announced cheerfully, stepping out of the house with two glasses and a pitcher on a tray.

Severus brushed the dirt off his hand and got up to join Harry on the porch.

They sat on the back steps and surveyed their work as they drank. Now the outside of the house had undergone as much of a transformation as the interior.

"How long before everything starts growing?" Harry asked.

"We should start to see some sprouting in a week or two with regular watering."

Harry nodded and took a sip of his lemonade. "We should plant some flowers too- maybe in front of the house."

Severus looked up at him, planning to make a quip about planting pansies, but at the sight of Harry's face he began laughing.

"What is it?" Harry asked, frowning. "What's wrong with flowers?"

"Not that," Severus said, shaking his head. "It's your face."

Harry's frown deepened.

"You're filthy," Severus clarified, deep lines of mirth forming in the corners of his eyes as he smiled- making him look years younger. "Were you rolling around in the dirt when I wasn't looking?" He raised a hand to Harry's cheek to brush some of the dirt away and felt the other man freeze under his touch.

Harry's breath hitched, and he closed his eyes remaining perfectly still. Severus quickly pulled his hand back and turned away- still watching Harry out of the corner of his eye. Harry took in a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh.

"There's something I should tell you, Severus," he said. "I wasn't going to say anything, but if I don't do it now, I probably never will, and that could cause more problems in the long run."

Severus sighed. "There's no need, Harry."

"There isn't?" Harry asked, surprised.

"No, and it won't cause any problems. I know you're not interested."

Harry frowned. "Not interested?"

He sounded confused, and Severus suddenly felt caught. He'd been so sure of what Harry was going to say- that he knew Severus was attracted to him, but that, while he was flattered, it simply couldn't be. Now it seemed that he had been wrong. Harry had probably been about to say that he really didn't like Severus' cooking and had just been being polite all week, and now Severus had rashly revealed too much.

Harry's eyes suddenly widened in recognition. "Severus are you…? Are you saying what I think you're saying?"

Severus sighed. "Forgive my assumption, but I thought you already knew."

"I…" Harry frowned. "But you…"

It seemed that he had rendered the other man speechless.

"But, I am," Harry managed finally.

"You are what?" Severus snapped, feeling rather embarrassed.

"Interested," Harry said simply.

Severus shook his head. "I fear there's been some breakdown in communication here," he said, sure that Harry had simply misunderstood him. "You're interested in what exactly?"

Harry frowned in a moment of intense concentration and then seemed to come to some conclusion. "In you," he said, and he leaned over to place a small, warm kiss on Severus' lips.

Well, there really wasn't any arguing with that.

Before Harry could pull away completely, Severus gripped the back of his neck and pulled him roughly forward- pressing their lips together again in desperate need. Harry responded quickly, slipping his tongue into Severus' mouth. He tasted of lemonade and something uniquely his own- sweet and tangy and wonderful.

Severus felt his blood rushing in his head and smelled the earth and sweat that clung to Harry after all the hard work they'd done that day. These sensations and the feeling of another man's touch blocked out the rest of the world around him.

They clung desperately to each other- all frustrations and uncertainties gone in this perfect moment of pure need.

"Come with me," Severus said when they finally broke the kiss. He took Harry by the hand and led him into the house- their lemonade abandoned and forgotten.

He took Harry through the house, pausing only long enough for one brief kiss as he swung one of the bookcases open to pull him up the stairs. Harry, for his part, didn't ask any questions. Severus led him into the bathroom, starting the water running in the shower with a flick of his wand before turning his complete attention to divesting Harry of every dirty stitch of his clothing.

He grinned licentiously as he revealed Harry's straining erection and ran a finger along the length of his cock. Harry gasped, but Severus wasn't distracted for long as he continued to remove the rest of Harry's clothes until all that remained was the thin leather glove covering Harry's skeletal left hand. Harry pulled back when Severus made a move for this too.

Severus growled and grabbed Harry's hand, pulling it back and peeling the glove away. Severus lifted the thin pink thing to his lips and gently kissed the palm- both in reverence and apology for his rough treatment. "This is nothing to feel ashamed of, Harry," he said in a thick voice. "It's a mark of your selflessness, and it's why I'm here."

Harry flushed and looked away, but didn't have time to make some humble response before Severus pushed him into the shower. He closed his eyes and relaxed as the warm water sprayed down on him. A moment later, Severus stepped in, and Harry let his eyes roam the naked body on display before him.

He'd seen Severus naked before-the night this had all started in the graveyard, but some sense of decency had kept him from really looking at what he had seen then. Now he took it all in, the thin chest with its washboard ribs, tan nipples erect like little buds, a hollow stomach that had only begun to slightly fill to something approaching normal health with a constant diet of Harry's cooking, the lacework of scars covering that pale skin, the sparse hair that trailed down to form a nest of black around Severus' half-hard cock, skinny legs likewise only dusted with hair, long thin feet. Harry took in all of this and did not find it wanting. He kissed the corner of Severus' mouth and whispered, "Perfect," in a harsh rasp against the shell of his ear.

Severus pushed him against the cool tiles of the shower wall, pressing into him, and sucking lightly at the sensitive place at the base of Harry's neck as he buried his hands in that mop of black hair.

Harry moaned, pressing his erection against Severus', and there was only a moment of hesitation before the older man pulled away.

"Let's just wash up and then move to the bedroom, my muscles haven't recovered enough to continue this here."

Harry reached for the soap and quickly began scrubbing away the last clinging garden soil from his arms and face.

This lasted only a short while before they were on each other again- more or less clean, but still reluctant to leave the warmth of the shower. Severus lathered the soap on Harry's chest, playing with the taught muscles, and swiping his fingers over Harry's belly. Gasping, Harry pressed himself closer to the touch, and Severus hugged him to his chest, reaching one hand around to first knead at Harry's bottom, and then ghost soapy fingers over the cleft, finally slipping one slowly into him.

Harry moaned again, and Severus smirked. "The bed now, I think."

They wasted little time departing the shower now. Severus toweled off first then handed the damp towel to Harry, who only gave a perfunctory wiping of his body before following Severus down the hall into the master bedroom. This was the only room in the house that he hadn't been in, but Harry hardly took the time for a cursory glance before falling into the bed atop Severus.

Their wet bodies slipped flesh against flesh as they explored each other: erections grinding together, and both men gasping and moaning at the friction. Harry flipped over onto his back, pulling Severus with him, so that the older man was on top. Severus didn't need a second invitation. He lifted Harry's legs up over his shoulders for better access and resumed the gentle teasing he'd begun in the shower- fingers still slick with soap. Harry was moaning and writhing beneath him by the time Severus removed his fingers and thrust into him. His eyes shot open and then sunk lazily closed again with each slow thrust of Severus' hips.

Severus took him carefully for both their sakes; two years was a long time and neither of them was fully recovered from the episode in the graveyard. He didn't need to rush, as great as his need for release; Severus reveled in every moment he was inside Harry. By the time Harry came with a jerk and lay limply against the pillows, Severus was close enough to his own release to tip himself over the edge with one look into those sated green eyes.

Severus stayed there for a moment, his cock still inside Harry as it began to soften, and then rolled over onto his back and pulled Harry against his chest. They lay that way for a long time as their ragged breathing gradually slowed and normalized.

After a blissful eternity of just holding each other, Harry rolled over onto his side to look at him. "What are you thinking about?" he asked.

Severus had always hated that question, especially when posed right after sex, but found himself answering anyway. "I'm thinking that I must still be dead. None of this can be happening, so I must be dead, and this must be heaven. Dumbledore probably pulled some stings to get me in."

Harry smiled and leaned over to kiss him. "Then I must still be dead too."