I do not own Harry Potter. Such rights go to J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros.

A/N: Hi there, I know it has been a long while since I last updated, I apologize. I've been frequently sick and have had a lot of college work. I really do hope this chapter is accepted and does not disappoint. I am worried that it might. But still, I am glad to have passed this point in the story. Thank you for your reviews, they mean a lot.

On with the story:

Warning: This chapter contains M/M and mature and graphic content. Don't like it, don't read it. Thank you.

Chapter 42: Fall Away Part II

Black on white, he stood out profoundly, the darkest shadow passing through this winter; towering, sleeping forest trees for his company. His guarded steps carried him across the snow compacted ground, soundless, the howling wind turning in his ears, his form strict as his heavy cloak caught the frigid air. His sight was clear before him, his eyes blank and feeling cold, hair propelling back and forth, bothering his face though he might not have noticed it for the swell of determination that seemed to damn him. Perhaps it felt like he was falling the entire time, falling without end, without anything to take hold of but still Severus breathed, still he knew the way ahead, his eyes clutching passionately at his aim.

And before him was a place he had never been; a mansion built of dark gray stone, the high iron gates a sleek black. It was an old structure, the great windows curtained and murky, the courtyard solemn and vacant; it was a departed place, like an asylum, kept away by steep mountains, forlorn and miserable.

This was the Dark Lord's hideaway. This was where Harry was being kept.

Consciously, he felt the chilled mirror piece and its smooth texture in his left hand, how he rotated his wrist ever so slowly, keeping the scenery that the others were witnessing unwavering, as clear as he hoped it could be; all it would take now was concentration and Dumbledore's inimitable set of skills. He did not know how much time they had but the sun was beginning to set, winter light varnishing his surroundings, fractured through the trees, bright glints of diamond flickering and jumping through his eyelashes, hypnotizing his awareness, causing him to remember the boy's stare, topaz gems of innocence so watchful, so wondering, so timid, rising up to give him all of what they were, unshielded. He needed to see them again as if it had been ages since the last gaze between them.

As Severus came upon the front gates he saw her, Bellatrix Lestrange, walking along the stretched path of wet gravel, like an evening stroll; she had come to greet him and behind her Draco Malfoy followed, like a hurried duckling, his head down, bare hands gripping at his coat, body looking thinner.

His eyes did not wander, they stayed focused straight ahead until the two were very near the gates and that was when the shard disappeared from his hand and he felt his heart bend, felt the knotted anticipation grip his joints and singe in his shoulders and down through his spine.

He saw her leering at him, that fixation of vile thrill trembling behind her irises; she was ecstatic, something had her feeling eager, lustful. He felt sickened by it, the bile churning in his stomach but his mind was empty, all of his secrets buried deep, unreachable, disguised with invented truths, false timelines he had created efficiently, his steadfast defense against the Dark Lord's prying mind but he was not afraid of battle, of his own vicious instinct. He would save Harry no matter what the cost; that decision was finite.

With a swipe of her hand Bellatrix drew out her wand, tracing it through the air and, like smoke, Severus was able to pass through the iron bars. He sensed many protective enchantments; the most powerful was the one that only allowed Death Eaters to cross the threshold and any who accompanied them. He did not know what sort of dark wards it was enforced with, they were complex, treacherous, time-consuming, but Severus couldn't be concerned.

Bellatrix's steps came to a gradual stop in time with Severus's and now they faced each other, sable eyes looking him up and down vigilantly.

"Snape," she voiced coaxingly, her features quite cynical.

"Bellatrix," Severus countered idly.

"I was so sure something would go wrong today, that Potter would escape again by the skin of his teeth; that someone would know to come to his rescue…" Bellatrix's words slinked away from her lips in a low drift.

"I suppose you were quite fearful of disappointing him again—"

"I didn't think you would show up at all, Snape…considering this is the moment we've all been waiting for," her eyes broadened with indictment, her gaze rigid upon his face. "What did Dumbledore order you to do? Stay like a good boy? Have you really betrayed the old man?"

Severus's solid stare did not weaken, his mind void of real thought, of worry for the outlook of things to come in the next moments.

"I was waiting to be summoned," Severus spoke calmly.

"Of course…the Dark Lord's watchdog…our meticulous spy…" Bellatrix expressed in a fake pensive tone. "I guess you'll be given a new position after tonight…I wonder what use will you be to him…He seems to think you can be trusted after all these years as Dumbledore's stooge."

A wailing wind chased through the woods around them until it reached the courtyard and Severus saw Draco flinch, the boy's bothered eyes upon his aunt.

"We have had this conversation before, Bella—"

"And I will not be dissuaded on how I feel about you, Snape," she spoke nastily, her eyes wincing.

"I am here, am I not?" was all that Severus responded with.

Bellatrix whipped around on her heel and began walking up the long path with Draco. Severus followed.

"He's been quite agitated…impatient for this day," Bellatrix said quietly, her head held high. "Everything had to be so precise…working behind closed doors for months…making use of those ingredients you had to fetch for him…"

"I suppose you've been curious," Severus almost whispered.

Bellatrix made a quick noise with her teeth.

"We'll finish that brat, destroy him—" she began.

"It's an excellent achievement, you were able to actually do something right," Severus said placidly. "Perhaps you can redeem yourself with this…How it must have hurt to be pushed off his lap."

Bellatrix spun around to look at him, her fiery eyes confronting his demeaning response as Severus halted his steps.

"I am his most loyal servant," she hissed. "He has entrusted me with things, Snape, things that only I know—"

"How special you must feel—"

"After tonight everything is going to change drastically," Bellatrix said, her tone viciously sincere. "We won't have to hide out like this; nothing is going to stand in our way, not that senile coot Dumbledore or the baby Potter! I can imagine how the old fool will feel when he knows what's happened to his favorite tool…what we've done—" She turned around once more and continued on with Draco who stared down at his feet.

"I'm certain you've made a good plaything out of Potter, Bellatrix, like all the rest," Severus responded automatically, keeping his voice level, keeping his mind clear and alert, his breathing regular.

"Oh, but I wish he had chosen me!" she said earnestly. "But he chose Royle! Over me? When I've been by his side longer than that coddled halfwit!"

"Royle?" Severus responded lightly, his arms barely swaying with his strict stride.

"Yes…It's been hours, trying to get that brat to scream…" she answered with annoyance. "The Dark Lord will be here soon with everyone; we'll celebrate…like old times."

Severus masked his trepidation and drove out the images of the boy that threatened his conscious, images of Harry being tortured, in pain, suffering…

Up the snowy steps they went, reaching the large front doors made of bulky steel that opened on their own, grating along the stone floor, presenting a dark grand entry hall. The ceiling reached high above, tapered with shadows and creaking chandeliers. It was musty and cold, the meek daylight fading with every minute.

The doors shut behind them. The silence was deafening, haunting, the walls empty. They did not venture up the main staircase but further through the ground floor down a lightless corridor. They continued, through the feeble firelight that flickered unsteadily upon the torches that lined the passageways, down steep, dank stairwells; it was a labyrinth, much like the dungeons of Hogwarts though this underground prison was entrenched with a cold that ate at Severus's bones even through the layers of his clothes; it ached, as if the frigid atmosphere were cursed and their footsteps echoed sullenly, he could hear Draco's thin breaths, his wracking heart and the quiet in his head was like a growing fever…

"I don't know how he plans to do it…" Bellatrix said in a fervent whisper. "But our Lord is confident…"

"I do not doubt that—"

His words were swallowed by what he heard next. It jolted him horribly, the pitching, agonized scream that seemed to drown the corridor; that wailed through the walls, a long cry of searing pain that reverberated around them, loudly. It pierced him cruelly, engrained itself through his skin, his bones, his heart, a sound he had never heard before, not like this, never like this.

The scream belonged to Harry, there was no questioning it. He knew, dreadfully, he knew.

Harry's voice had returned.

The sheer shock of it attacked his senses, memories fracturing through the shields, colliding and spilling like twine, fragile and warm, fleeting desperation, a quiet hope he had wished for selfishly. Harry's voice; this was the way it had come back, beaten out of him…

He hadn't been able to control his reaction; he had staggered into the wall, his hand catching it, his breath gone from his lungs.

"What's the matter with you?" he heard Bellatrix's hushed reproving, from somewhere far away though she was right next to him. "Are you drunk?"

He straightened himself, staring dead ahead, moving his feet, forcing oxygen to his brain, and he begged, begged for Dumbledore to get here soon.

It was back, his voice was back. He was almost relieved until he realized where he was again, what was happening, and the constant waves of hurt that rolled through his body served as the perfect reminder. Of course this wasn't how he had imagined it would be but there was no time for such thinking, he was trapped.

His blurred vision fell down until he saw Royle's face and the inkling of achievement that grew upon his features, a sick enjoyment.

It wasn't fair. This wasn't how he pictured it.

It was a great test upon Harry to not let it overtake him, the guttering sadness that clustered over his heart.

"That a boy, Potter, let's hear it! Crucio!" Royle shouted bombastically, his wand swiping through the air.

The curse charged through him, spreading out through his entire body, driving the scream from his raw, swollen throat. His cry whistled in his ears, roaring. He could do nothing but scream as his body jerked, his limbs gripping, his hands clawing at the ground.

He was freed from it, gasping and choking, blinking away the tears quickly. He wanted to black out, to be liberated from this undying pain.

He heard a splash of water and then Royle's footsteps coming close to him.

"Let's get your glasses on and you'll be all ready—" the man was saying but all Harry really saw was the tiny distance between him and the Death Eater that was leaning down upon him.

He didn't know how he could have done it because surely he had no strength left after all that happened in this forsaken space.

A bright swooping ball of light was above them, blinding Harry as he lunged his body forward, an instinct fueled by survival, by the thought that he couldn't just give in, that life meant everything. His propelled self shoved into Royle's body, his hands grabbing and pushing with all the might in him and his teeth found exposed skin, just above the man's covered collarbone.

They dug in hard, Harry tasted blood, the heat of the substance plastering over his tongue and he heard the man's gasp, heard his own grunt of energy that sparked this primitive action. It was so fast, it scared him deeply.

But he scrambled somehow, his arms and legs clambering with heightened reflexes and he got away from Royle's grasping strong hands, stumbling and then running, running but never feeling his body move, not the cold iron of the door handle or how difficult it was to thrust open or the man's impressed laughter that seemed to bury itself in Harry's ears, his own throat.

He ran, ran with such speed through the shadowed passageways, thirsty for breath, his eyes stinging from the weak torchlight, his wet jumper heavy and clinging to his form, his heart wild in his chest, leaping and in suspense, his mind thoughtless, weightless, like a nightmare. He turned this way and that, running into stone walls, tripping and panicked, he didn't know if Royle was behind him, he couldn't look back.

Harry made his legs climb up a long stairway. He had no idea where he was going; he just had to get away from that disgusting beast.

He was met with another corridor; he looked right and then left and chose right, compelling his legs to keep running no matter how completely exhausted his body was.

But he stumbled and fell forward. He was wheezing, his limbs trembling as he tried to push himself up from the ground but it was as if his muscles were sedated, asleep.

"What's the matter, Potter?" Royle's rasped voice called from behind him. "All worn out are we?"

Harry looked back to see the tall man walking unhurriedly, his hands in his pockets, blood smeared over the spot where Harry had bitten him.

"I had hoped we could have our fun for a bit longer," Royle taunted.

Harry hauled himself from the ground, resolute desperation flooding his nerves. He couldn't give in, he wouldn't, he would survive—

His breath was ragged as he pushed himself ahead, his mind in a thick haze, darkness etching at the corners of his eyes, his vision blurred and spinning. He ran out of a corridor and turned left but stopped abruptly at the sight of the three bodies before him; Draco Malfoy who was slightly hidden behind his aunt, Bellatrix Lestrange, and who stood next to her, a man clad in all black, whose eyes were like pitch dark tunnels that met his own fear ridden ones, Severus Snape.

And he couldn't move, his heart strangled and tight in his chest, he was petrified.

"Potter," Bellatrix said snidely.

It was then that he was caught by a sturdy hand that snatched the back of his neck. Harry's eyes jumped to see Royle's leering face. He didn't know what to do, his emotions twisted and crashing inside of him. It had gone so wrong; this wasn't how it was supposed to be…

Harry tried to pull away from Royle's hold, his eyes fleeing from Royle's to Severus's, back and forth until Royle struck him across his face, the slap making his skin burn from the brutal contact. Before he knew it the man was tossing him into a room, the dining hall he had woken up in. Harry hit the ground, droplets of blood from his busted lip falling down upon the stone.

He crawled forward but he knew he was trapped again, cornered, there was no escape. He heard them enter the room behind him as he got to his feet. He turned around to see them as he shuffled backward.

"What happened to you?" Bellatrix was asking Royle.

"He bit me," the man answered with amusement.

He heard Bellatrix scoff. Harry's back met the wall, he closed his eyes, he couldn't let himself find Severus again with them and he didn't know what else to do but pray.

"You should take a seat," Royle said. "You're the honored guest after all."

He felt like someone else, an imposter as he walked into the large dining hall. The boy was there, he could see him, but he could do nothing. He was ashamed of this reality, distraught because he had let the boy down, he hadn't been able to keep him away from harm, had not yet built the life he so wished to live between them, a safe place.

It was foolish to think this could have been avoided. It had been inevitable, all along. But still he could not stop thinking that there could have been some way to avoid this, to prepare for it, to protect Harry from it. He blamed himself entirely, no matter how things had gone. Not long ago had he criticized the boy's ability to fight in a war, his strength, and now here he was, cornered just like Harry, at a loss for time, trying to abide by the orders that were given to him.

One thought scorched through his mind, what had been his reason from the beginning, his atonement that was now his purpose, his existence.

He was supposed to protect Harry.

He felt frozen where he stood, his eyes directly upon the boy. He was feet away, across the room, and he could not move closer, he could not risk it, he did not know what his body would do if he came closer to Harry.

And the boy stood there, like a spirit in this lightless place, looking cold in the black knitted jumper that he had bought for him, his hair wet and disheveled, face shadowed and skin flushed, blue eyes bright but they were not wide with fear nor panic, no. Harry's features were sharp, thwarting the dread that made his body quake; Severus could see it, the boy's trembling shoulders, his hands were before him, held together before his chest, clutching, muscles straining. His jaw was clenched, lips pressed together to ignore the striking chill that plagued his skinny form.

Like a hunted animal that could go no further, that knew its time was up; Harry's eyes bared that look of the unknown, not quite empty, as if his thoughts had ventured off somewhere else, as if he was imagining himself far away from all of this.

It tore at his heart and he almost wanted Harry to look at him, as if he could put on a kind of guise that would console the boy, let him know that not all was lost.

Severus could see the swarm of bodies all clad in dark robes and those metallic masks entering the room. They had the smell of wet mold and earth upon them, shoulders hunched, strides short. He saw Lucius Malfoy's plait of blond hair and his wife and Draco huddled very close to him, he watched as Bellatrix, at the front of the pack, moved forward with Fenrir Greyback and Royle toward Harry whose eyes were trying to keep each of their expressions in place.

It was as if he could hear Harry's battling heart, the frantic beats of heighted anxiety, of fear. Of course Harry was afraid, he was their target, their key to their freedom, he was their grudge, their revenge, all the hatred they had conceived over the years in hiding; their retribution was waiting for them, tempting them.

Royle stepped forward, coming in front of Harry who was concealed from view because of the man's stature. Severus tried not to hold his breath but it was useless, every muscle in his body tensed up, he couldn't blink. Royle came away from the boy after a moment and Severus found that he had placed Harry's glasses back on. He heard the low growl emitting from Greyback's throat, the coarse whispers that broke out amid the assembly.

"You mustn't touch him, Greyback, control yourself," Bellatrix seethed and the werewolf had taken a step back, grunting in response to her.

And Severus saw how suddenly the boy dropped to his knees, his hands rising up to clutch at his forehead. It was the noise of Harry's afflictive reaction that made everyone fall silent at once. Many turned their heads to face the Dark Lord, spreading out to create a direct path to The Boy Who Lived. Severus himself responded easily by stepping sideways as he bowed, keeping his eyes hidden.

The throng of Death Eaters followed, all of them bowing in impressive respect towards their master as he paced forward and all Severus saw were the ends of the Dark Lord's swaying robes across the glossy granite surface. He felt the temperature in the room plummet even more as he witnessed Nagini slither her lengthy body alongside her master.

And Harry pulled himself up to stand, grasping at the wall behind him for support.

Falling, yes, it was like he was falling, his mind swooping through distilled blackness as his heart stayed clamped inside his ribcage, listening to Harry's sounds of pain and to the trembling air that scathed his skin. He did not know what his body was in this moment, if he was that crying, cowering child in the hallway while his hopeless mother was being beaten by a man he hated and feared with such wrenching force, or the heart broken teenage boy who craved nothing but power, or the twenty-one year old man who had lost everything and deserved nothing more than that, or the real man he was now, whose entire world was teetering on a broken edge, that his beloved boy was facing his death right before him.

Time was bleeding out faster than he could imagine.

But he heard nothing, nothing was happening except that he was on his feet now and the Dark Lord was before the boy who was staring up at him, eyes gritting at the seizing pain that flamed over his skin because they were close now, so close; the confident hunter and the determined kill.

"Did I not say you would lose, Potter?" the Dark Lord's voice was hardly a whisper but it was so quiet in the hall that he could hear it partnered with Harry's shaking breaths. "Such a worthless child...weak...so helpless without Dumbledore, aren't you Harry? What has he taught you these past months? Nothing useful, I can presume...considering you standing here...before me...quivering..." The Dark Lord's skeletal hand rose up to lift Harry's chin. "You look so lost...Tell me, boy...do you still feel sorry for me?" The boy cringed as the Dark Lord's grip tightened and Severus could almost feel the man's heightened elation as well as his rancorous fortitude. "It is a shame...you will miss it all, Potter...my reign over them...If only they could watch as well...watch you perish and all their hope will follow...dry out and cripple underneath my hold..." He drew closer to Harry and Severus could see the boy's watering eyes. "I want to see all that good in you burn into ashes...and finally I will be rid of everything that you are..."

Harry shut his eyes tightly, bowing his head as the Dark Lord came away and unsheathed his wand from his robes, slicing it across through the air. And where the vacant dining table had been, a solid white altar made of stone took its place. It was cut to a perfect rectangular prism, polished under the light that now shown above from the chandelier, slivering through the dim shadow to fall upon the clean surface.

All around them torches were lit, the heated light stinging their eyes that drifted to the altar, including Harry's that filled with dread and confusion.

"Wormtail," the Dark Lord called.

Severus did not move as Peter Pettigrew walked past, his back hooked. In his possession was a serving tray and atop it were two glass goblets, one filled with an ink colored liquid and the other with crimson. These were the potions that the Dark Lord had concocted.

Severus kept his face stiff with obedient composure and buried his thoughts once more, stamped out the surge of anxiety that belted at his senses. Harry was meant to drink one of the unknown potions. What was he to do?

He wouldn't let it happen; he needed to do something, fast.

But the Headmaster's placid gaze kept his body from acting on such an impulse, such a dire urge. He needed to wait, he had to, that was what he was told; they would come, they would save Harry. The sun had set. He could not run to Harry and take them away from this place. He had counted the bodies minutes ago, the Order was out numbered.

"Strip him," their master commanded as Wormtail waited beside him.

It was Royle and Nott who seized Harry who began to struggle against their ruthless clutches. Cruel mirth rose through the horde of raven black robes and silvery glinting masks.

Severus's heart felt crushed as he witnessed the two men undress Harry of his jumper and the shirt underneath as the boy's body twisted against their hold.

"What is that?" the Dark Lord questioned with suppressed aggression.

"A necklace, my Lord," Nott answered as Harry was attempting in vain to pull away from them.

"Give it to me now."

"No...No!" Harry shouted with anguish as Royle yanked the necklace from the boy's neck.

The Dark Lord took the piece of jewelry from Royle's out reaching hand and examined it. "A token from a significant other, Potter?" he voiced lightly.

Severus heard Bellatrix's cackling and without another word the Dark Lord let the necklace fall but before it hit the ground it disintegrated into nothing but powder. He felt the throbbing ache fill his chest as Harry resisted against their hold, crying out for them to stop as his belt was being undone.

"You can let him keep some of his dignity, Nott," the Dark Lord said.

They laughed at him, sickeningly, as if the boy was their doll; a deep humiliation that Severus could feel burrowing itself inside of his own body as he eyed Harry's lean form, his shivering skin; like hot coals in his stomach.

"Bind him to it," the Dark Lord ordered. "Gather, my devoted audience; it is time we purge our world of the parasite that Harry Potter has become. With his death, we will take back what has been rightfully ours from the beginning!" He rounded the altar, his robes floating gracefully and the room's light delineated the demon's form almost in a sanctified way, his eyes darkly focused on something Severus could never imagine.

Royle and Nott carried the boy to the altar as he fought harshly against them. Harry was laid upon the smooth surface while Nott cast the spell over Harry to be fastened to the stone, his body unable to move anymore, his arms flat at his sides. Harry's breath was rapid as his eyes darted back and forth in panic.

"Wormtail, make him drink it," the Dark Lord hissed.

"Yes, my Lord," Pettigrew replied in an unsteady tone as he came to the altar with the two goblets. He took up the black potion while Royle clasped the boy's face, forcing his mouth open. Wormtail tipped the goblet, the glass brushing against the boy's bottom lip as its contents spilled into Harry's mouth. Royle quickly coerced Harry to drink the substance as the boy tried indomitably to cough it up, eyes squeezed shut and face contorted in distress.

But Harry's efforts were useless and Severus felt numb. Because he was trapped here along with Harry, worthless. His mind was blank as he watched the two men come away from Harry.

Flawlessly, they created a circle around the altar and Severus's legs felt deadened. He now stood before Harry's right side, seven feet or so away. Everyone was clad in a mask except for the Dark Lord who stood inside the circle at the head of the altar as Wormtail recoiled away but did not join the link. Severus studied Harry as the boy's breathing grew shallow and rough, his features limp, his eyes opening wide and then drooping, the light in them deserting that blue, emptying as they stared up at nothing.

The demon closed his eyes.

This, this was something that Severus did not know of, had never studied or come across in any book on the Dark Arts; this was ancient, secret, something indescribable and forbidden. He could only understand it as such because that was what if felt like in the room; where the darkest of evils lay, this...ritual had come from, where it had been born.

Harry lay there, unmoving but for his eyes that began to search everywhere they could, his breath leaving his lips in mist like the night on the balcony where they had slow danced and it had snowed and Severus had felt a kind of happiness he didn't deserve.

He was flooded with a gouging fear, he could not breathe as the light in the hall seemed to brighten and his vision grew cloudy, the circle of black and metal masks looked like it was spinning, melting together and tearing apart, the gaps between their joined bodies growing and shrinking and the boy's skin looked so flushed, eyes shedding tears, body quaking on the cold white stone.

Severus felt as if he was being torn apart, his mind fraying into pieces, the fire in his head roaring as his ears were engulfed in the echoes of ghosting memories that tormented his dreams. Who was he? What was he in this place? Was he a monster like them after all? For letting this go on like it was and doing nothing to end it? Had this all been some sort of lie he had fashioned in attempt to save himself? Why was he feeling like this now? What was happening to him?

But those eyes drew to his delirious gaze. They were hurting, they were afraid, and they were his. There was truth there, there was reason and wonder. They called him. He was bound to it. A life, Harry's life and his light that led the way...

Harry. Harry was a part of him.

He couldn't forget himself, not now, it was not over yet, there was still time, there was still time.

He wasn't nothing, he wasn't that man, that felt like a lifetime ago, he had gave it up, he had thrown it away, buried the bitterness and regret. This wasn't where he belonged. He knew who he was. He was an imposter, had always been amongst them, amongst the starving, gruesome slaves that they were. He was still a Death Eater, yes, his skin bore the mark as clear as day but he was not owned by the Dark Lord. He was Harry's and he had that love, he wore it proudly upon his skin and in his eyes, it was something he had earned.

He couldn't let it all fall away, not this, not the new life he was building, that they were building together with their hands and their hope and the constant reminder that he wouldn't be anything without this and they would share their pain and their doubt and their fear and their grief and their warmth and their desperate, clashing souls; he didn't care what it took, he didn't care.

It was strange, the way he was feeling now, like he could feel the blood move through his vessels, as if it were breathing with every loud pump of his heart. Whatever they had given him had tasted horrible, it was bitter and coppery and grainy and numbed his throat and now it felt like there were stones in his stomach and a fire in his head, his skin feeling a blistering heat.

He tried to hold onto what was going on but his vision ambled through the dark and the light, the light was painful, the sheen on their looming masks stung his eyes and it was like the air was whirling, his mind swung with this bizarre sensation. What did Voldemort want to do with him? Had he decided to kill him in some other way besides the Killing Curse? He didn't understand. What was this? Why were they all around him as if he were some sort of sacrificial lamb?

Was he dying already? Was the life leaving him, but slowly? Why? Didn't Voldemort want a fight? Like that night in the graveyard? Or was he just tired of him being in the way? It must be it. Harry had always been in the way of the Dark Wizard, he had destroyed the demon once, with his mother's shield.

But of course there were ways around that shield. He wasn't so resilient, indestructible. He was very human.

He was seeing things, delusions of memories that floated down from the glowing light above, like drizzling rain, he felt cold and then hot and then freezing and then he was boiling. Back and forth, up and down. He saw things that weren't really there. Black birds that climbed up and swooped by and people that he knew that paced outside the circle of black robed figures and a small girl with dark red hair and fair skin running from a scrawny black haired boy; she was laughing and the boy was smiling and somewhere he heard a dog barking and when he closed his eyes he was lying in a snowfield and there was a birch tree with its stretching, naked branches and a wolf waiting below and then his eyes were open again to that light and then closed and there were painted carnations and they floated in the ocean and he smelt the sea air and the sun was skating its radiance across the rippling, gentle shore and there was a man, tall and pale and a mystery and his blue shirt was soaked, handsome and real with a summer sky above him, cool shadows tracing over his face, his skin tasted like salt and sweetness and there was no way to go back to that, to the way the wind had been on that day or the sun or the flowers on the green, falling hills, or that certain hush and heartbeats between the two bodies that lay across the blanket; that man wasn't the same, he wasn't that boy, it was special but he remembered it all and he'd do it over again and again, he would do anything to keep falling away with that love...

"The knife, Wormtail," came Voldemort's callous words.

Harry knew Voldemort was impatient and he knew he himself was terrified. He felt like crying, like calling out for them to stop this, like begging but he wouldn't, he couldn't feel his lips. But his eyes watched as the demon came to his side and through the blurring spots of light he could see the short dagger with its shined blade and bone-like hilt in Voldemort's gaunt hands, those sharp and yellowed nails, he could hear him breathing, could feel his scar ache. Voldemort raised the sharp blade over Harry and Harry felt his breath catch in his throat.

And he saw Voldemort slice open his own right hand and Harry felt the beads of warm blood drop upon his chest, a piercing sound, one after another onto his shivering skin. That wounded hand descended onto his form, skeletal fingers smearing the blood in rough lines upward from his abdomen to his neck and onto his face. He could smell it, it made him disoriented, made his head spin violently.

Voldemort placed the stained dagger beside Harry's head. He let out a tremulous breath, heart hammering incredibly in his chest as he waited for whatever would come next. He couldn't move, his body was stuck to the stone like a magnet on metal.

Severus was with him, Severus had seen everything, had seen what they had done to him and he could feel their eyes on him, he could feel their malice and their hunger. Severus was here, so close and yet he couldn't do anything. He didn't know what to feel but fear and remorse, a sadness that encased his heart. He had never meant for this to happen and he didn't want the man to risk his life to save him, he couldn't want such a thing.

Harry let his eyes fall to where the man stood; he could tell it was Severus even with the mask. The tears burned in his eyes and his throat felt tight. He didn't know how long he had. Was he going to die? He didn't want Severus to see it.

He didn't want Severus to be alone.

The demon began to speak, a string of Latin tongue that Harry couldn't follow. And then there was pain, fresh and indescribable. It felt like his body was splintering, all of him, piece by piece, shred after shred, twisting and winding as if the demon himself had possessed him once more. He couldn't tell if he was screaming; he could only hear Voldemort's abstracted voice, it was inside of him, in his head, cramming itself in his skull.

He couldn't take it, he was going to die, this savage pain was going to kill him.

It couldn't end like this. He didn't want the man to see this, he wanted him to look away.

Through the blinding throe he compelled his fading sight to find the man, to see Severus where he stood so firmly. The flaring torchlights were so vivid, outlining the man's tall stature, like the sun.

This feeling…this feeling—it had always been more than love, but he had never had a name for it, it didn't exist, something he'd never get used to, but that was ok, because it was his, it was something that no matter what, it would never leave him.

Could they ever truly be together?

He couldn't help but think it and he couldn't stop thinking.

I'm sorry…

I wanted to live a life with you…a full, long life…

I didn't know people could feel like that until I felt it with you…

I'm afraid…I don't want to be without you…

How long was it before I knew that?

I don't know…From the beginning of all this…somewhere far off in my mind…in my dreams…I had always believed that just the thought of loving you forever would be enough to overcome the time that's between us…

Without words…without anything else but that one thought…

I love you…

I love you…

I will always love you…

Suddenly he was speaking in a language he didn't know; his vocal cords working against his will; Voldemort was controlling him and his heart was dying and his body was burning from the inside out and darkness grew around his eyes, smothering his sight, the light broken, staggering and someone was screaming, the sound buried in his ears, spilling through him along with such despair and emptiness and he felt so cold as if his blood had turned to ice inside of him and his breath was stolen, he was being strangled by invisible hands, his life was tearing away, he would disappear, he would be no one, he would be alone—

And then there was fire, a burst of flames that erupted all around him, a roaring wave of noise and it was then, through his hazy half-consciousness, that he understood what Voldemort's words had meant; he would burn, he would burn to ashes—

And yet the sound vanished and the raging fire blew out in a sharp frozen gust of wind that seemed to put the air back into Harry's lungs. His sight grew clouded, his heart pounded weakly but he could hear shouting, could see flashes of light, and then he saw eyes, green and big like tennis balls. Before he could think of anything the world reared backward and he was gone from everything…

He had almost stopped it. He knew that truth and he would not have regretted it if it had meant saving the boy. It had been…completely devastating to witness the ritual or whatever sort of dark spell that had been taking place among the Dark Lord's circle and it had felt like time had run out, that there was nothing to be done, that the plan had failed.

So it was in that moment, stinted and suffocating, when he had seen the fire cast from the Dark Lord's wand, like serpents that made his eyes burn, he had made a move, a jerk of a motion, because he couldn't spare another half second, because it was the only thing he could do, because he would die before Harry did—

And then it happened, there was a deafening crack and the hall was flooded with pitch darkness.

The conflict couldn't have lasted no more than ten seconds. There were bursts of light and sound, swift streaks of red and green flew across the space before him and then he too was armed and defending himself against curses that were flung toward him and for an instant he relied solely on his instincts, survival tactics that were drilled into his nervous system and he saw them, when there was light, Dumbledore and Kingsley and Mad Eye, the Order had arrived and he could not fight down the feeling of relief that was like a torrent in his chest, his body thrilled with spiking adrenaline.

Harry was safe. Harry would live.

The air rattled with energy and in a sheer breath of a pause there was nothing, only gasping darkness again until wands were lit and the torches came alive. Severus eyed the number of bodies that had fallen and then his vision swept to the altar. The boy was gone.

He found the Dark Lord, brought to his knees, his breathing ragged, his features contorted into fury. His wand was clutched in his hand and Bellatrix had rushed to her master's side. He threw her from him, though the attempt was feeble.

And then the Dark Lord's wand was raised and for one blind accent of time Severus believed the wand was pointed at him but he was mistaken. It was directed at Royle, who stood near his left and quite soon was he driven to the floor by his Lord's merciless and torturing curses.

He ignored the man's pleads for clemency as the mark on Severus's arm blistered with pain. Soon they would all be obliged to the Dark Lord's hellish wrath. Harry Potter had thwarted him once more.

He did not know what to feel. He was relieved but he was angry. He did not know the truth behind what had happened, what this dark sacrament had been, what it had been meant for or what it would have done to the boy had it not been interrupted. It was inane.

He had been the one to gather the ingredients, he was the cause of Harry's capture. He didn't want to do this anymore, he couldn't stand for both sides. It was enough, he couldn't protect Harry like this. He had almost lost Harry, in a most horrid way. He was done with it, done with obeying anyone but himself. He couldn't go on like this without knowing what was being hidden from him.

His life belonged to Harry.

He stood there, his mind silent, his heart calm, but somewhere he wished, a distant desire, that he hadn't been left behind.

He could not follow the passage of time. He only knew that he was not asleep. And he knew the smell of the Hospital Wing, knew that he was within the walls of Hogwarts.

He remembered glimpses of memories.

Hermione's red cheeks and tearful eyes, the brown sort of sparkly like dew in the morning. And Ron's ginger hair, messy, his face scrunched up with mixed emotions. He had felt like he was floating then, upside down and then right side up again. It confused him greatly. It was hard to breathe because so many people were surrounding him and he heard a woman crying.

He was lying down on something soft and clean and he smelt winter and there were hands on him almost all the time, or so he thought, he couldn't really remember. Some were cold, others warm and there was a light, swaying over his eyes before it was gone and he felt heat inside of him, traversing heat and he heard voices, quick and concerned tones that flicked by his ears. He couldn't make out anything.

He grew fearful at some points, delirious and inconsolable. That was the fever setting in. It tormented him brutally, like a wild living thing wrangling in his body, through his skin. He didn't know who he was for ages and he could feel his limbs wrestling with unknown obstacles, the bed sheets tangling and smothering.

For a long while he could hear nothing and could do nothing but force himself to breathe. The night went on, hours slugging by as bodies came and went, shadowing his eyes, bringing different scents with them. He liked Mrs. Weasley's the most, because it was comforting, it reminded him of the window in Ron's room, the smell after a rainfall, the scent of growing things like flowers and the wheat field and a kind of lonely peace.

And then he was sick, terribly sick.

For hours it went on, the nausea and the retching and the view of the pearl white washbasin and the sound of running water. It was horrible, the slashing, gnawing feeling in his stomach, like his insides were being knotted and burned. They couldn't give him anything for fear of a bad reaction. They could only wait it out with him, Madame Pomfrey and whoever else was assisting her.

It lasted until late into the night when he was left, curled into a ball on his hospital bed, his stomach feeling shrunken and his throat stripped and his head pounding. He had never felt this weak before but he had refused the broth that Madame Pomfrey had brought. He stuck with ice water and the sight through the window of the clear night and the hovering moon, its illuminating glare.

The madness of it all was over, he could think clearly, could feel the overwhelming relief that he had gotten out of there alive. He would need to thank the house elf, Dobby when he had the chance.

He hadn't seen Dumbledore at all and no one spoke of what had happened to him, they only talked about his condition stabilizing and all the abrasions that the mediwitch had healed.

He was made to take a bath, an affair he did not know how he managed with. He brushed his teeth somehow. He was given pajamas, white and cotton soft and a knitted gray and white cardigan, a gift Mrs. Weasley had quickly prepared to take her mind off all the worrying she had been under.

He did not speak to anyone. He didn't know why. He knew he could of course, his voice hadn't run away again after all that happened that night. It was with him, safe and back where it belonged. It was very strange to have it back, it felt foreign, this liberty.

Harry guessed that he wasn't ready to talk.

Or the actual truth; that he wanted Severus to be here when he did.

He was worried about the man. He didn't know where he was or what was happening to him. But it was difficult to feel much through the exhaustion and he didn't know what time it was.

But he lay there, warm and staring at the frosted window, his glasses set on the bedside table next to his wand. He didn't know who it had been that had retrieved it, he was just glad it was beside him.

He didn't want to remember what had happened in that haunting place. Luckily, he was asleep before such thoughts could take shape.

Severus could not give reason to why he had come to the house, the house that he had grown up in down Spinner's End. But he had, with a bottle of scotch and no glass. It was late but the moon was bright and made spiny shadows of the empty furniture on dusted wood.

There were no curtains and the windows were layered with grime and the stairs groaned under his footsteps and there were boxes, stacked up in corners and the bookshelves were bare.

But he sat upon a covered armchair, the one his father had been fond of if his father could be fond of anything other than alcohol and fits of drunken rage.

He was injured, yes, but had healed himself enough and surely the scotch would take care of the rest.

It was self-pity that he was indulging himself in. He had not seen Harry yet, he felt almost afraid to see the boy.

But he sat in the small study and drank and let the numbness take over his nerves, let it blanket over his hollowing thoughts.

He would not be disturbed here. He could brood for as long as he pleased.

At least that was what he thought until he heard the door creak open and his heavy eyes, laden with an inebriated aggravation, held steady the image of the Headmaster waiting with his hands behind his back, his expression earnest and fatigued.

"I did not think you would be here…" Dumbledore's voice was soft.

"Then why did you come?" Severus questioned with annoyance, his tone low.

"Because I wanted to find you, to make sure—"

"I'm not dead or maimed and I can take care of myself so you can kindly take your leave." Severus took a swig from the bottle that was less then half full now.

But Dumbledore did not move.

"What? What are you in need of now? Another dose of your potion? Come to recount tonight's events, do you want to fill me in on the missing little details? Well I'm not in the mood to hear your dreary voice spout everything that I can figure out on my own." Severus's words were sharp and swift in response to the Headmaster's tranquil stare, those watery eyes twinkling in the dim shadow of the room.

"You are angry…" Dumbledore said quietly.

And Severus laughed; it was crass and it hurt his chest but he let the short sound free.

"Angry…angry you say…" Severus whispered as the amber liquid in the bottle sloshed about with the movement of his hand.

"You've come here instead of the castle…instead of seeing—"


The volume of his voice surprised him and he hadn't realized he had stood up or that his black eyes were cold and glaring at Albus.

"I don't want to hear it…not from you," Severus said roughly. His heart rate spurred in his chest as his right hand gripped the neck of the bottle.

"You are acting as if we had failed tonight—"

"Do you know what they did to him!? Do you!?" he shouted. "Don't you dare…don't you dare ignore it, Albus! Or so help me—"

"I have had my own revelations because of what took place tonight amongst Voldemort and his followers, Severus…I told you months ago that Florean Fortescue possessed knowledge of very ancient magic…magic that to this day and age has become lost forever…" Dumbledore said, holding Severus's hard gaze.

"And what does that mean, what do you know about—"

"This information is the sort that I cannot share with you, Severus—"

"I'm not accepting that as an answer! I refuse! Tell me, tell me what you've been keeping from me all this time! I won't be kept in the dark anymore!" Severus bit out his words and the bottle of scotch fell from his hand, landing on the floor with a definite thunk.

"You know that is not possible, for your own safety."

"Safety? My safety?" his voice was trembling. He was shaking with fury, his distressing thoughts were racing as he glowered at the old wizard as if he could not believe how composed his demeanor was. "They were going to burn him ALIVE!"

"I recognize that tonight's events were…horrendous and that we could have lost Ha—"

"No, no, it wouldn't have come to that, I would have saved him, I was going to—" Severus began to yell.

"Did Voldemort suspect you?"

"Do you think I would be standing here if he did!? No! He punished Royle! He thought it was her, Sophia, because he didn't kill her! But whatever happened tonight, it has weakened him, greatly…" Severus's breathing was harsh. "He has taken leave of that place, he has ordered the rest to continue recruiting…"

Severus eyed the Headmaster for a short moment, waiting in the stale silence.

"Thank you, Severus…" Dumbledore said. "I will leave you be—"

"You will not! You will tell me what is going on! You can't hide things from me and expect me to just go along with your manipulations, remaining ignorant! I don't care how long you've let your brain stew in all those fixed calculations! I don't care how many ways I've fit into them! You can't do this to him! You can't let him think that he's the one who can put an end to all of this! It's insane! He is a boy, a kind, innocent boy…He does not have it in him to kill—"

"He will fight, Severus—"

"No! I won't let him!"

"How can you stop him? You can't protect him from such a thing…Voldemort will not stop—"

"Tell me why this happened! Explain it to me, what you plan to have him do—"


His heart was full, wielding such a hysterical need for answers, for the actual truth.

"TELL ME!" his words felt like they shook the walls.

In this moment he hated the old wizard, loathed his solemn stare, those knowing eyes as his body trembled with anger.

"You should go to him, Severus," the Headmaster said gently.

And Severus's shoulders lowered, his expression losing tension, his eyes gleaming with contempt, with carved defiance.

"I made a promise to you…to protect him…and I will," Severus said, his voice just above a whisper.

The moonlight was shaped over Dumbledore, just like on that night fifteen years ago, that night where he had turned cold, unfeeling. The Headmaster left the room noiselessly, leaving Severus in this broken house, with all the rueful memories that lived inside it.

He didn't know if it was possible to feel like his whole body was bruised but he could only describe the way he was feeling as such. Harry had woken up to find that the sun had not risen, it was still quite dark outside in fact.

He didn't know how long he had slept but fatigue still riddled his muscles and there was a cavernous feeling in his stomach. He drank from the glass cup, letting the icy water trail its way down his sore throat and give his stomach a sense of it being filled. He was warm under the blankets and with his cardigan but he was alone, the lamps doused and the ward much too silent for him to bare at the moment.

He had had enough of silence.

Harry sat up in bed, pulling the knitted sweater over his shoulders for it had slipped during sleep. He grabbed up his glasses and placed them on, looking around for any sign of human presence and found none, the light in Madame Pomfrey's office was off, the mediwitch was sleeping.

He was restless, a tempered feeling that made him want to move around, to be some place where there was company, comfort, some place happy.

Harry lifted the covers away from his body and leaned over to take up his wand. It took a moment for him to get his legs to move, however, they hurt, a stinging soreness in his joints and muscles but he managed to get them on the side of the bed, the icy ground awaiting his bare feet. The first attempt to stand failed, he had lost his balance easily and fell onto the bed. The second went just the same though he tried to find leverage by keeping his arms up.

He was out of breath already and frustrated but he wouldn't give up. He mustered all the strength he could to will himself to stand and then he was standing, his legs shaking and his right hand out to grasp at something if he should fall, but he was standing.

And he began to walk, slowly, toward the ward's open doors. He caught himself on one of them when he came out of the Wing, leaning onto the sturdy object as if he could borrow some of its solidity because he did not feel solid at all, rather like rubber or a liquid.

But he went on, using the stoned walls for support, his wand tip lit with a faint Lumos spell to at least part some of the castle's darkness as he ventured down to the lower floors, his destination was the dungeons of course, he wanted to find Severus, he needed to, he needed it more than to feel normal, needed it more than the want to forget all that had happened that night.

It took longer than he would have liked, a lot longer. His strides were little and he had to rest a few times when he grew winded, his lungs burning. His hands and feet were numb when he was finally following the spiraled staircase which made him lightheaded, which put a fear in him that he did his best to ignore.

He had survived after all, he could speak again, and his hands, to his surprise, were as still as ever no matter how shot his nerves were at the moment.

Nothing could hurt him now, he was at Hogwarts, he was a mere handful of steps away from the person he loved. He had not died that night, had not left the man alone, they had been spared from all of it. As much as he wanted to know why Voldemort had put together such a horrific design he wanted to put it in the past just as much. He didn't care right now, he had no room in his heart for it. All it called for was Severus, all he could do was see the man and truly know that everything would be alright.

And the anxiety was so quick to slink its way into his chest and put heat in his cheeks. What would he say to the man? What would it be like between them now that he could speak?

He didn't understand why he suddenly felt this way, nervous, his stomach fluttery, his heart jumping. It felt like he would be confessing for the first time all over again or like it had been on their first date, as if he didn't know what to think or how to be himself, like if he said the wrong thing Severus would find him weird or turn him away, change his mind.

It was stupid to believe that, to even think of it in the first place but he couldn't help it. He was embarrassed, emotional, afraid, afraid that the man would look at him differently because of what they had done to him in that awful prison. He had been tortured, stripped half naked in front of them all, cornered and preyed upon.

He had gone through it all, the Cruciatus Curse over and over, the drowning, all of it so interminable, so breaking. He could remember it so closely, so alive over his skin, etched into his flesh.

Harry lost all feeling in his legs and sunk to the ground, his hands sliding down the frigid wall. He clasped them over his head to keep the swelling sensation of panic that rifled through him. He sucked in the dank air and forced it out as his eyes burned with tears.

The attack passed after a while, after he listened to his thumping heart, the pulse in his wrist joining the banging in his ears.

He had to get through this, he had to be stronger than this, not just for his own sanity, but for Severus, for what they had together, for the life they were building together. There was so much worth in that, it was beyond him.

Harry, with immense effort, was able to stand again and he continued to hobble forward, bracing his balance with each step.

And then he was in front of the man's office door and he had missed the sight and he tried not to remember thinking he wouldn't ever come here again.

He reached for the handle, hesitated only for a second and then tried it. The heavy door responded and opened for Harry but the room behind it was lightless.

Harry eased the door shut behind him and waited, his back against it before raising his wand, the illuminated tip growing brighter and catching on all sorts of things, steel cylinders and potion bottles and tiny vials and a mask, a mask that the man sitting on the floor was wearing. Severus was feet away, clad in all black but for the silver disguise. He sat against the shelves, head hanging somewhat, arms resting on his knees.

He might have been sleeping, Harry didn't know but he saw the almost empty bottle of scotch set on man's desk. Harry held his breath as he walked forward, his heart feeling scrunched up in his chest, trying to stop his body from shivering.

He was close to the man now as he leaned down to sit on his knees slowly. And it was just the two of them here and he didn't care about time or when the sun would rise, he was with Severus again, it was all that mattered.

The man raised his head slightly and ever so slowly Harry lifted his hands and his fingertips brushed against the smooth and cool surface of the mask, the metal reflecting his wand light and his own careful expression. He brought the Death Eater mask away gently and uncovered Severus's face. There were light bruises upon the man's skin, one under his left eye and another on his cheek bone. The man looked repentant, there was such sorrow in those black pools and he thought the man might have been crying.

He set the mask down along with his wand.

Harry could smell the faint scent of Severus's cologne and the outside chill hovering on the man's cloak. He could hear their breathing, it was very quiet but it seemed to fill up the room, settling over his cold skin.

Harry leaned in, his eyes itching, his breath shaky, and let his hands grab at Severus's chest, the material of the cloak wrinkling under his hold as he brought his body against the man's own, resting his chin upon a steady shoulder. He could smell Severus's hair, feel the man's heart beating against his chest. Harry brought himself closer, holding tighter, as he buried his face in the crook of the man's neck.

He didn't count the minutes that went by, the minutes that it took before Severus's strong arms came around him, those big hands that held him as if he were porcelain.

"Harry…" the man whispered painfully. "I am sorry...I'm so sorry…I was…I was going to stop it…before it…before he…God…what they must have done to you...I wasn't there for you…You were all alone…Please…I won't ever let them have you…ever again…I will do whatever it takes, I would die before—"


The word caressed itself against the man's ear, leaving his lips with such softness that it startled him, made his breath quick, made his eyes fill with tears. He heard the hitch in the man's breathing, felt those hands clutch at his clothes.

"Oh…" Harry's voice trembled as he shut his eyes, his shoulders shaking as he hid his face again. "I've... wanted to say your name for so long...I wanted to know what it sounded like…I thought I'd never get to…I really thought…" And he was crying, his emotions so mixed in his heart he couldn't control them. He didn't know what he felt. He was sad and exhausted and he loved the man with him so much more than he knew and he was so happy, he had never felt this happy in his life.

"Say it again…please, say it again…" Severus was speaking but Harry couldn't really breathe, he felt such warmth in his cheeks, felt that nervousness seize his thoughts all at once.

"I'm sorry…I'm sorry it happened like this…and that you had to be there…and see those things…" Harry was trying to keep his voice even, audible. "But you did save me…you did…"

"Harry…please…" the man sounded as if he were almost begging, past impatience. "Say my name again…I want to hear it..."

Harry didn't know why he was stalling as he breathed in the man's scent, he couldn't get rid of the lump in his throat. But he lifted his face, felt his hot cheek touching the man's skin.

"Severus…" the syllables were delicate, timid.

"Again…please…" Severus said.

"Severus…Severus…oh god…Severus…" Harry said in a quivering voice as his tears fell, as he tried to find his breath. "I'm sorry…"

And Severus was holding him closer, their bodies pressed hard against each other as the man began to plant kisses over his clothed shoulder and bare neck.

"Harry…I love you, I love you," Severus whispered between them. "You are everything to me…everything."

Harry took in a deep breath, keeping his eyes closed and placed a kiss on the man's shoulder before saying:

"I love you too…I love you too…"

And then Severus's lips were pressing against his own. The man kissed him for a long moment, leading Harry's lips as his hand came behind his head, fingers combing through his hair.

When the man parted Harry was panting, his body trembling as Severus began to kiss along his neck, a hand keeping a firm hold on his lower back.

"You must be freezing," Severus breathed.

The man's kisses felt as if they were leaving behind a trail of hot embers over his skin. A timorous longing swirled in Harry's chest.

"You're warm…" Harry whispered.

And it was those words that had Severus kissing him again, deeply, parting Harry's lips and letting his tongue revel with Harry's. He could feel the man's need through their kissing as his breath was gone again, his body no longer feeling cold as his heart was leaping. Shivering passion was climbing through him as the man's strong hands were feeling up his body, the cotton of the pajamas thin.

"I want you…I want to hear you…the sounds you make…" Severus said and his voice was husky, the way of it making a sharp shudder go up Harry's spine, made heat spread through him.

Those hands skated under his shirt, finding his torso. The touch didn't hurt him, it was soothing to his skin, made him feel energized, awake.

Before he knew it Severus had stood, taking Harry up into his arms. He was carried inside the man's quarters and to the bedroom. Harry's nose filled with the scent of fresh linen and he felt like it had been so long since he had last been surrounded with these walls.

Severus laid Harry on the bed while he kissed him, climbing on top of his form while removing his cloak and robes. Harry watched as Severus sat up on his knees, unbuttoning his overcoat with agile fingers, letting it fall to the floor as he started on his white dress shirt.

Harry felt the blush kindling in his cheeks, the flurry of heat over his ears as he eyed the man's naked upper body. He knew he wasn't the same boy he had been yesterday, he had changed, he was no longer mute, he wanted to hear himself, to hear the words that had been so covered up in his mind, hidden, during these intimate times.

But what would he sound like?

"You're handsome…" Harry managed as his eyes chased the muscled lines, the shadows splayed over the flesh from the light above the bed.

"You say it so shyly," Severus said in a gentle tone and there was that modest smile on his face. The man moved his body over Harry's so that his head was lying on the cool silk sheets and he was staring up at Severus.

"But…I…I mean it," Harry tried to say it confidently but it was no use. He had been timid with his signs, and so it was with his voice, that hadn't changed.

"You are far more handsome than me, Harry…" Severus said as his hand touched the side of Harry's face.

"No…I'm not a man…not yet…" his words were very quiet.

"You will be soon…you'll look older, more mature…perhaps you might grow…"

"I…I will…I'll get taller," Harry said, his voice a bit stronger but Severus's obsidian eyes were searching his face and the man looked so refined, "…maybe…"

"It doesn't matter to me…" the man's velvety tones carried on as his body came closer. " You're lovely the way you are…" Those slender fingers began to pull at the clear buttons of his pajama shirt.

As the man did this Harry was surprised to feel his member responding to the indirect touches, of the man's fingertips and knuckles as they grazed his chest. He was embarrassed because he hadn't been given underwear along with the pajamas.

His body shivered with anticipation however. He wanted to feel good again, he wanted Severus inside of him.

The man's fingers brushed aside the cotton material to reveal Harry's right nipple, a soft pink, taut from the cold air. Severus gave it a light pinch.


The small noise had been involuntary, something he couldn't resist against and he felt his face redden entirely.

"Don't hold back…I want to hear you, Harry," Severus said. "Don't be embarrassed."

In spite of Severus's words Harry pressed his lips together. But when the man leaned down to lick the perked nipple Harry let another noise escape, a quick gasp in response to the feeling as Severus sucked the blushing flesh.

"Always so sensitive," Severus said in that tantalizing manner.

The man's hand moved down from Harry's torso to his hip and up again. Harry let out a breath before Severus began to kiss his neck, sucking on the subtle spot and Harry felt the reaction rising in his throat and then he was making those small noises again as the man's lips and teeth enticed his skin and he felt the tendrils of pleasure make their way straight to his groin.

He shut his eyes tightly as Severus's wandering hands sought after all the places he so desired to be touched; they stroked his torso and hips almost roughly as the man's lips moved along Harry's neck. Harry was panting, stifled sounds of heightened breath leaving him as he felt his member harden. Severus undid the rest of Harry's shirt buttons and those fingers skated along his stomach, sliding over his waistline, tracing his hip, the receptive skin and slope of bone, the burning heat reaching to his cock.

And he moaned, he couldn't bite back the sound, he was aroused and highly embarrassed and he wanted the man, his body ached for it.

Severus was kissing his collarbone as his fingers tugged on the silk drawstring of his pajama pants. They had been somewhat loose on him so Harry had tied them snug.

Harry's fingers rumpled the sheets as he grasped for them, letting out a harsh breath as he felt the cotton shift over his erection, the man's hand was so close to it.

Harry moved his hips, biting his lip as Severus tugged the loose pajamas down, his hand sliding over Harry's hip and cupping his bottom, fingers slipping underneath the fabric. Severus was kissing Harry now, slow, the movement matching the rhythm of Severus's taunting hand that was fondling his arse, the man's body drawing nearer.

Harry moaned into their kissing as his pajama bottoms were pulled down quickly, his erect cock free from restraint. Their lips parted and Harry was breathless.

"Severus…" Harry panted as his hands gripped at the sheets. "Please…I…want to feel it…to feel you inside…"

The man's only response was leaning over to reach the bedside table. He opened the drawer and retrieved the small bottle of lubricant. Severus set it upon the bed before bringing his body down against Harry's and kissing him with eagerness. Their forms moved with a matching, erotic rhythm, spurring heating friction, exciting their skin, and the longing in Harry's heart was overwhelming, making his hands grab at Severus's skin, his nails dragging along flesh as if he just needed to feel Severus to know he was really here with him, that he really was safe and they were together like this, crushingly close, and he wasn't in that dark room where he had felt such excruciating pain, where he had seen such horrifying images that he just wanted to forget and here, with this man, he could believe in hope, believe in their life and their love and forge the way on, to keep going, to live and live and just live like this, with their battling breaths so warm against their lips, so fervent and loud to the room and he could hear how it mixed together, how it sounded and it made his heart squeeze and made his eyes glossy, his lips trembling with that feeling, that finally, finally he knew, finally he had found what had been lost, finally he had let go of his grief, of his guilt.

That well in his heart was overflowing now, mended and whole.

Severus, with a graceful haste, had rid himself of the rest of his clothes and had pulled down Harry's pajama bottoms quickly. Harry panted against the man's ear, his arms wrapped around Severus's neck.

"Oh…oh…god…!" Harry let out when their erections met and he could feel the heat from the man's hard length cover him. Severus had come away somewhat to accommodate this position but Harry didn't let go, keeping his fingers laced as his cheeks were aflame, his lips dark.

"Spread your legs, Harry," the man said, that husky tone placing more embarrassment upon Harry as he obeyed, opening his legs and raising his thighs a bit. Harry tried to catch his breath, tried not to writhe his hips in order to receive some kind of relief from the restless urge that wouldn't calm itself. He didn't want this to end too fast, he wanted to stay like this with Severus, to make each other feel that rapturing bliss for as long as he could.

"Are you alright? Does it hurt anywhere?" the man whispered.

Harry shook his head, his eyes closed, his hands gripping over the back of Severus's neck, arms quivering.

"Look at me," Severus spoke, his voice sounding deeper to Harry's ears.

Harry did just as the man rocked his hips forward and their cocks rubbed together.

"Ah!" Harry gasped. It had been loud, making Harry shut his mouth quickly, looking away from Severus as he did. He knew no one could possibly hear them but it was the fact that Severus could and he didn't know what other noises to expect or just how loud they could become.

"Don't be embarrassed," Severus said in time with giving his hips a gentler thrust.

"Oh…! I…can't help it…" Harry voiced, soft and abashed while looking up at the man who might have been holding back a satisfied smirk.

Severus continued his slow thrusts, allowing their members to rub smoothly against each other, the man's cock creating such friction over the sensitive nerves, enticing such roused noises from Harry's throat. The pleasuring, heightened stimulation that swayed and jolted between their bodies was building with such speed as Severus was in complete control of it, the man's tall and muscled body over his as he watched those rippling abs, Severus's naked form in effortless view, his long cock stroking his, the tip shined with precome and he felt like his bones were melting, his mind flourished and driven with this carnal need, his young heart racing, his ears filled with the sounds of his arousal…

"St…stop…I'll come…I'm going to—" Harry hurried his words with his eyes shut tight, his face hot and lips numb, hands rushing against the man's shoulders.

And the man did stop his thrusting and Harry watched, breathless, as Severus took hold of his wrists and pressed them down onto the cool silk and leaned in, blanketing Harry's lips in a deepening kiss. Harry was very dizzy when the man came away, his eyes trying to follow as Severus slipped down his body quickly until his mouth hovered above Harry's stiff member.

"AH!" Harry moaned heavily, fingers grappling with the sheets as Severus took his cock whole, wrapping it with slick heat. Harry reared his head back, groaning as the man's mouth began to slide up and down his member, the rhythm fast.

"Se…Severus…st…op…I'll come…" Harry managed to work his quivering sentence together as his left hand fell atop the man's head. "Oh…ah…I can't…No more…I'm going to come…I—" His orgasm was blinding hot, splashing spots of light behind his eyelids, deriving a long moan from his throat as Severus swallowed his release.

He was left panting, his limbs tired, his mind unable to shake off the euphoria it was clouded with, a thick fog.

"Ah…" Harry breathed as he felt the cold gel come in contact with his entrance. He looked to see the man spreading his legs further apart to gain better access to it. Harry's sight found the ceiling as he felt the man's left hand rubbing over his thigh before lifting it slightly as one finger eased its way into the tight hole.

"Relax…" Severus said softly. "You look so alluring, Harry…I'll have to let you see yourself some time…"

Harry shut his eyes at those words as the man's finger went deeper before slipping away and thrusting back in and finding that pleasuring spot with ease. He tried to keep quiet as Severus prepared him but he couldn't control how his body was feeling.

He felt his cock hardening as the man fingered his arse, was lost in the sensation until he opened his eyes to see Severus pumping his length with his hand, coating it with the lube, his abdomen flexing, his chest taut, those richly black eyes looking at Harry's body with that hunger. Severus grabbed Harry's hips, lifting them slightly.

"Nn…" Harry winced as he felt the head pressing into him. His breath quickened as Severus's cock slid inside, Harry's walls stretching to conform to the man's size. It felt so good like this, to have Severus deep, to feel the man's length throb.

"Are you alright?" Severus sounded breathless.

"It feels good…You can move…"

Harry gasped lightly as Severus brought his body close to him once more. The man was gentle as his hand caressed Harry's side, the other cradling Harry's face before kissing him. His thrusts were sensual, the rhythm slow. Harry moaned against Severus's cheek as the man kissed his neck. Harry's hands felt up Severus's back. The pleasure was spiraling high as he could hear Severus's sounds, low moans and huffs of shaky breath that filled him with arousal. The heat between them rose, bringing perspiration to their skin.

The man quickened his momentum, thrusting harder into Harry, exciting his voice, the volume escalating the faster Severus rocked his hips, hitting that perfect spot, thrilling Harry's fevered skin. He held onto the man's body with desperation, he couldn't get enough of this ecstasy, he felt such lust rifle through every inch of him, wiping his thoughts, his eyes bleary with tears, his heart over bared with emotion, with the love he felt for this man and his head felt filled with their memories, those daring black eyes that tied him down, that he had never put up any kind of guard against, and Severus had learned all of him, had accepted it all, it was real, they had accompanied each other's dreams in the late nights, constantly, they had shared each other's sadness, their weakness, their stormy fear in that forsaken place and still, still they would stand together, walk together, and find a place that was meant for them, it wasn't hopeless, it might even be closer than he believed it to be…

"I love you…" Harry let go with bated breath.

"I love you," Severus joined. "Harry…"

Harry cried out against the man's shoulder as he came along with Severus whose hissed moan was smothered by Harry's sweater.

Their staggering breaths fell as the seconds went on. Harry's hands slipped away from the man's back as he felt no such strength left in his body, the room spinning weakly before his eyes. Severus raised himself, supporting his weight with his hands, staring down at Harry, his expression endearing, compassionate.

When they took a hot shower the man was very careful with him, examining his body to make sure his injuries were healing. He didn't speak and Harry knew Severus was angered by the sharp red lines that could been seen on his back. They would be gone in a few days, that's what he was told, no scarring, just soreness. Severus dried his hair and helped him dress back into the white pajamas and cardigan.

"It's nearly five in the morning," the man said after buttoning his overcoat. Harry sat upon the bed, wishing he could sleep with Severus, wishing they could sleep until the weekend was done.

"How did you find me?" Harry asked quietly. "Did you know where he was?"

"Your godfather's mirror…and the piece of yours," Severus responded gently.

"Oh…" was all Harry could come up with after a while. His heart felt feather light in his chest.

"I'm sorry…" Harry said softly.

"Don't be…I don't want you to think about it…"

Harry nodded his head once.

"What happened…to him…after?" Harry asked without looking up at Severus.

"I don't really know…and Dumbledore will not explain it to me…"

Harry could hear the tension in the man's voice.

"I should get back…" Harry said quickly, changing the way the conversation was going.

"I will walk you…I'll stay until you fall asleep," Severus said. "Are you sure you're alright? I know you were quite sick—"

"I'm fine, really…" Harry said as he got to his feet.

After retrieving his wand from the man's office floor they left the dungeons and walked in silence through the shadowed corridors of the castle. Harry knew he wanted to keep talking to Severus, to talk for hours but he was supposed to be in the Hospital Wing and he didn't know when he would be allowed to leave. He couldn't keep up with Severus's long strides but the man slowed down for him, keeping close to Harry and helping him up the staircases.

The ward was still as quiet as it was when Harry left and he was grateful to be able to lay down again. Severus took off Harry's glasses and brushed a hand through his bangs. Harry had questions for the man, but they could wait, maybe for quite some time.

Harry's thoughts drifted along as he stared at Severus's face. The man was holding his hand, his thumb brushing over his skin and Harry was happy, happy to feel the man's touch, to feel that small weight, to see this kind love mirrored in his eyes.

And it had all been worth it; the pain, the indomitable fear, how wretched they had made him feel, it had been worth it to be with Severus again. Such a thing was invaluable.

As the dawn shifted into place, its quiet light plying the dark, Harry's eyes closed and he fell asleep.

And the man stayed with him for a long time after that.

A/N: I hope this chapter wasn't disappointing and that you enjoyed it. I have had to write this chapter whenever I had free time so I hope the flow of it isn't too fast or forced. If you are confused, I apologize, things will be explained in further chapters if you can't already guess. It was a struggle to write this chapter, I was frustrated and I have been sick but I am better now and am happy it's the holidays and that college is almost over for me which means more time to write. I have to apologize again for this chapter's lateness, the next chapter will be fairly easier to write though it will be very long.

I hope everyone looks forward to the next chapter. To come next: Harry adjusts, Ms. Gardiner and Severus, Dumbledore and Horcruxes, and much more!

Please review if you have the time. Thank you for your support : )

Questions, comments, concerns, complaints? Don't hesitate to PM me.

I apologize for any errors I may have missed.

I hope everyone is well.