Chapter Nineteen -


"What's wrong, Harry? Nightmare?"

Harry did not immediately register Severus' words of concern, so engrossed in his own thoughts and the hypnotic sounds of night: the rustle of leaves swaying in the wind, the rhythmic chirping of crickets and the lulling whisper of the pond's waves lapping at the aged dock.

Only when that familiar pulse of love within him flared, warming his heart and rousing his soul from its peaceful slumber, did he become aware that Severus had spoken to him. He turned around and looked up, a smile spreading across his face when he saw a sleepy looking pyjama-clad Severus gazing down at him, dark hair mussed and eyes half-lidded with drowsiness.

"No. No nightmare, Sev," Harry answered, shaking his head. "Nothing's wrong."

The groggy look in those dark eyes lessened, replaced by an expression of relief as Severus approached Harry, taking a seat beside him on the steps of the front stoop. He brought an arm around Harry's shoulders and leaned in, placing a warm kiss to the night-cooled skin of his neck.

"What are you doing out here? It's nearly midnight and your skin is freezing," he said, wrapping his other arm around Harry's chest and pulling him close.

Pivoting so he could recline back onto Severus' chest, Harry nestled further into the man's warm embrace, head falling back onto Severus' shoulder. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, letting the aroma of midsummer fill his nostrils and deepen the pervasion of calm and contentment settling inside him.

"It's not that cold," he countered, the words escaping his lips along with a satisfied sigh, "especially now that you're here."

Only the second half of his statement was true, however. In contrast to the muggy heat experienced during the days, summer evenings holed up in a cottage surrounded by the Forbidden Forest's lofty trees and positioned in the shadow of the Scottish highlands were much cooler. After several hours of a relentless downpour earlier in the day, that unseasonable coolness was even more keenly felt, the mild evening breeze holding a brisk, biting edge.

"You haven't answered my question. I asked what you're doing out here this time of night," Severus muttered while ghosting his lips along Harry's jaw. He pressed another kiss to Harry's neck before ceasing his affections, pulling back abruptly. "Are you having second thoughts about tomorrow? Harry, I would understand if you would rather I stay–"

"Severus," Harry interrupted. He turned in Severus' arms to look him in the eye, knowing that once again, his lover was in need of reassurance. "We've been over this. I want you with me tomorrow. I'm not ashamed of you... or of us."

Edging forward, he placed his cool lips to Severus' warmer ones and kissed him, trying to soothe the undercurrent of anxiety he could feel from his lover through their connection. When their kiss slowed to an amorous caress of mingled breaths, he pressed their foreheads together with his eyes still closed, pleased when those waves of tension began to recede, a steady pulse of trust and deep affection replacing them.

Tomorrow's gathering had been troubling Severus for days now, his apprehension spiking any time the subject was brought up. Harry understood some of that anxiety; Severus attending this party would be akin to a snake entering a lions' den – not for the faint of heart.

The Weasleys, as was their custom since becoming Harry's surrogate family years ago, had once again offered to host a party to celebrate his birthday. Harry had visited Ron and Hermione at the Burrow about a week ago, answering what seemed like a million questions he had already answered about his journey back in time to Ron's inquisitive siblings, when Mrs. Weasley announced her own plans for the party.

At first, Harry was vehemently opposed to it, hating the idea of encroaching on the Weasley family during a time when they were still mourning Fred. He argued that family was much more important than throwing a party to mark his eighteenth year of life.

It was Ron who changed his mind. In a rare display of heartfelt emotion, his best mate, blue eyes wet with gathering tears, told Harry that he was absolutely right – family was the most important thing and that it just so happened that Harry was family and by extension, so was Severus. The poignant moment had both of them exchanging an awkward hug, chuckling through emotional tears while a tearful and smiling Hermione looked on.

Touched beyond measure, Harry had hurried home to the cottage to tell Severus about the Weasleys' party and to request that he accompany him. Severus had agreed without hesitation, the smile curving his lips giving every indication that he was pleased with the invitation. However, the potent blast of unease Harry received from his lover through their link told him otherwise.

Initially, Harry assumed that Severus was just nervous about the fact that this party would be their first public appearance as a couple. Over the last two months since Harry's return, the majority of their time was spent together in their new home, re-establishing their love and planning for their future. When they did venture out of the cottage, it was always separately – Harry, either to meet with Ministry officials to document his version of events leading up to the Final Battle or to check in on his friends to see how they were coping post-war... and Severus, to visit Professor McGonagall to discuss his role for the upcoming school year. Severus had refused to take up the position of Headmaster again – having never wanted it to begin with – but after much deliberation, he agreed to resume his previous post as Hogwarts' Defense against the Dark Arts teacher, as well as take on the position of Deputy Headmaster to the newly appointed Headmistress McGonagall.

Despite his and Severus' mostly reclusive behavior, Harry was eager to make their love public, suggesting to Severus that they start out by visiting Hagrid since the half-giant was one of the few people aware of both their history together and their recent reunion. Severus, however, always declined, leaving Harry to wallow in his lover's feelings of uncertainty and fear, the depth of which had Harry imagining the worst – that Severus was embarrassed to be seen with him.

Only after a heartfelt discussion which Harry initiated did the truth finally come out; Severus' trepidation about becoming public had nothing to do with being ashamed of Harry and everything to do with his own fear of losing Harry to his friends' disapproval. Fully aware of Harry's devotion to his closest friends, Severus couldn't help dreading that any strenuous opposition from them would eventually erode Harry's love for him.

Harry had lost no time in putting his lover's fears to rest. They spent many hours discussing Severus' doubts and insecurities, Harry dispelling each one of them in turn. At the end, he insisted that most of his friends already knew of their relationship and although some of them remained skeptical, their views would never change how he felt about Severus.

The love they shared was boundless and eternal, impervious to anyone else's ignorance or condemnation. Nothing would ever change that.

Harry's mind came back to the present when he felt Severus grasp his shoulders and turn him around, gathering him up in those long arms for another warm embrace. Content to be held once more, Harry reached up and pressed a kiss to Severus' cheek, taking even more comfort when those arms tightened their grip, their owner's warm lips ghosting along his neck.

"Thank you for being patient with me," Severus whispered, his head bent low and his breath caressing the column of Harry's throat. "Sometimes this all just seems..."

"...too good to be true?" Harry finished for him, a smile playing about his lips.

"Yes," Severus breathed, "exactly."

"I know. I feel that way too sometimes," Harry admitted, snuggling back further into Severus' warmth and letting his head fall back onto the man's shoulder again. "But I promise you've nothing to worry about. The Weasleys know how I feel about you and they accept that you're part of my life now."

Harry felt his lover smile against his neck, a shiver running up his spine when those grinning lips moved up to his ear to press a soft kiss just below it, tongue darting out to lick the breath-warmed skin teasingly.

"Sev," Harry chided in warning, "don't you dare start... or I'll never get to sleep tonight!"

Chuckling, Severus withdrew his mouth from Harry's erogenous zone, placing a chaste kiss to his cheek instead as he straightened up. "All right, love. I'll behave," he purred, voice filled with mischief now, "if you tell me the real reason behind your late night stargazing, that is."

Harry felt his own smile fade, a wistful melancholy stirring inside him as he considered how to answer his love. Memories – some pleasant, many not so pleasant – blazed across his mind, causing his emotions to churn and swell.

"Harry?" Severus questioned, his body tensing, no doubt in response to Harry's emotional flare-up.

"It's nothing, Sev. Really. I just... well, I sort of have this tradition of counting down the last few minutes until midnight on the eve of my birthday. That's why I'm out here. It's childish, I know, but I've been doing it ever since I can remember."

"And I suppose for many of those birthdays, you were alone," Severus added, understanding edging his tone.

"Yeah. For the countdown, as well as the day following it," Harry added, heart clenching in painful remembrance. "When I was young, I used to pretend that I had a birthday cake in front of me and the moment the clock struck midnight, I would blow out the imaginary candles. Then I would make a wish. The wish was the same every year."

"And what was that wish?" Severus asked.

"For the upcoming year to be better than the one preceding it," Harry said, shrugging. "I don't think I possessed the emotional breadth at the time to wish for what I really longed for."

"Love," Severus said, voicing that which Harry had left unsaid.


Severus slid his hand down the length of Harry's left arm and grasped his wrist, turning it slightly so that he could squint down at the scratched surface of the hand-me-down watch encircling it. Bringing it closer to his scrutinizing gaze, he tilted the watch until its darkened face caught enough moonlight to be readable and then lowered it back to Harry's lap. As he did so, his thumb swept across the back of Harry's hand which was now completely unblemished. Umbridge's cruel legacy had been erased for good, thanks to judicious application of Severus' scar-reducing potion over the past two months.

"Just a few more seconds until midnight, love," Severus whispered into his ear. "What will you wish for this year?"

Turning, Harry looked into his lover's eyes, his heart warming at the look of undisguised affection radiating from those dark orbs. He smiled, his unpleasant childhood memories momentarily chased away by the promise of love pulsing and thrumming inside him – inside both of them.

All thoughts of countdowns forgotten, Harry leaned in to kiss Severus but jerked back abruptly, startled, when a very familiar roar of flames erupted just feet from them.

"Fawkes! For the love of God, would you please refrain from bursting into being in our immediate vicinity?!" Severus chastised. His hands were now clutching the edge of the stoop with an iron grip, ebony eyes wide with shock.

The phoenix seemed unaffected by its master's admonishment, indifferent black eyes blinking once before it landed on the stoop beside Harry. It spread its vibrant red wings and extended to him one golden talon upon which two rolls of aged looking parchment were tied.

Shaking off his momentary confusion about who would be using Fawkes to correspond with him, Harry reached out and untied the scrolls. He spared a fleeting moment to watch the majestic bird spread its wings wide and take off into the night before directing his attention back to the scrolls in his hand, dropping one into his lap and then unrolling the other. He gasped in shock, nearly dropping the parchment, as his eyes fell upon the familiar flowing handwriting – handwriting Harry had only ever seen once before, on a crumpled up letter found on the floor of his godfather's childhood home.

"Lily..." Severus breathed, his cheek pressed against Harry's as he stared down at the letter. He sat frozen and rigid for a few seconds before wrapping his arms around Harry again as if foregoing his own shock in order to lessen his lover's.

"How–?!" Harry began, voice trembling. "How is this possible?"

"I... don't know," Severus replied. "Perhaps you'll find out if you read it."

Nodding, Harry swallowed hard and cleared his throat, tightening his grip on the paper to prevent his hands from shaking. At length, he began to read, his voice soft and tremulous, cracking with emotion.

My Dearest Harry,

First off, let me start by wishing you a Happy Birthday. Dumbledore has assured James and I that this letter, time delayed though it is, will be delivered to you by means of his phoenix on the stroke of midnight of your eighteenth birthday.

I must admit, it's difficult for me to imagine you as an eighteen year old man, as you are currently curled up and napping in your crib, complete with thumb in mouth and favorite stuffed toy dragon tucked under your arm. But as all mothers know, little boys do grow up and I count myself lucky enough to have been blessed with the knowledge that, despite the peril that surrounds you, you will in fact... do just that.

For the last year, your father and I have been in hiding, our family being pursued by an evil wizard who wishes to eliminate what he considers a threat to his power. Unfortunately, Harry, you are what he deems most threatening. Dumbledore, along with a few other members of the Order of the Phoenix, has arranged for our current residence to be under every magical protection available, but a mother's fear for her child cannot be so easily quelled, I'm afraid.

Yesterday, while sitting in this very rocking chair and crying for what seemed to be the thousandth time since going into hiding, James approached me and told me a tale so unbelievable, so utterly astonishing, I found myself shocked into stunned silence – my tears drying instantly as my brain grappled with the significance behind his confession.

So you are the famous Gray Skye we met in our seventh year!? My goodness, Harry – I truly had no clue, despite the fact that you yourself informed me that you were from the future! Of course, now that I reflect back on your brief time masquerading as one of our fellow classmates, I understand things I hadn't the insight to see at the time.

For instance, your surprising heroics in the alley beside the apothecary in Hogsmeade make much more sense now. Of course you would risk your life to save me and Sirius – though I hope you realize how much I wish to scold you now for coming so close to losing your own life in the process!

And that conversation we had in the Hospital Wing after the attack... Oh Harry, if I'd known it was you I was speaking to, I never would have been so curt with you. I wish I could have seen your true face then, knowing that you have inherited my eyes, but rest assured, love, I do understand why you maintained your secrecy and kept your reticence. I realize now you were only trying shield your future parents from the horrors that lie in wait for them.

Yes, sweetheart, I am aware that James and I will not survive this war. The truth wasn't difficult to surmise. I only had to recall that desperate yearning for my attention emanating from your eyes as we spoke in the Hospital Wing and couple it with the haunted expression James' face takes on every time he looks at you when he thinks I'm not watching. From there, the fateful end to this unhappy tale was more than evident to me.

It's not your fault, Harry, so please don't blame yourself. You gave nothing away. James likes to tease me about the fact that I received an 'O' on my Divination NEWT, referring to me as the resident seer in the family, but the truth is, I've always been a touch too intuitive for my own good. I went to Dumbledore with my suspicions and he swears that he does not know our fate, or perhaps he does and is keeping it to himself. Knowing him, it could easily be the latter.

But a mother knows, Harry. A mother knows.

Which brings me to my final reason for this correspondence – Severus Snape. Dumbledore let slip to me that your mission to travel back to the past had something to do with Severus. I know nothing more than that, but I do know that which I could so easily decipher in your eyes that day in the Hospital Wing. You, my son, have found your great love in one Severus Tobias Snape, just as I have found mine in your father. So I will leave you with this last bit of advice...

Live, Harry!

Live every day with the one you love and treasure your time with him! Life is a gift, my son, and so is love. You will do your father and me proud by spending the rest of your days cherishing those gifts, by pursuing a lifetime filled with love and hope, and devoid of any painful regrets.

I love you, Harry, and I am so, so proud of you.

Now live!

With all my love,


P.S. Your father is attempting to write you a letter as well, honey, but he hasn't gotten very far with it. He's having a hard time putting his feelings down on paper. Not many people know this about your father, but he has a very fragile heart, especially when it comes to you. In the event he doesn't finish his letter before... well, before I send this one, let me relay the message behind his attempts at correspondence. You, Harry, are your father's pride and joy, his whole world, his everything and he loves you so very, very much.

Sirius, having learned from your father that I wish to write you this time delayed letter, has asked that I relay a message to you; he wishes for me to stress to you that he has 'everything under control' – whatever that means – and that 'all will work out fine'. Oh dear, I sincerely hope that cryptic message does not inspire the sense of foreboding in your heart as it does mine, but alas, Sirius is quite stubborn when he gets some ridiculous notion stuck in his head! Regardless, Harry, your godfather loves you, too. Never doubt that.

Harry finished the letter, a burning deep in his throat and an ache burrowing in his heart. Warm tears fell from his eyes, sliding down his cool cheeks and onto the parchment held within his too tight grasp.

"That's... that's all of it," he croaked, hands lowering to his lap, trembling as they loosened their grasp on the crinkled edges of the paper.

"She knew?" Severus choked out. "She... she knew she was going to die?"

Harry nodded, not trusting his voice, throat closing up on him now.

Severus tightened his hold around Harry, burying his face into the curve of his lover's neck and breathing shakily. At length, he withdrew and spoke again, his voice a bit steadier now.

"Are you all right, Harry?"

Harry did not answer right away. Instead, he looked back down at his mother's letter, blinking away his tears to scan her words once more. Much of it had been painful to read and even more painful to dwell on. The very idea that both his parents had known ahead of time that they would not survive Voldemort's threat – but that their son would – was utterly heartbreaking, so much so that his insides twisted with gnawing guilt and deep sorrow.

Almost as painful to read was his mother's relayed message from Sirius – words meant calm him, to convince him that the fated horrors awaiting James and Lily were going to be avoided. It seemed his godfather really had taken his promise to Harry to heart and had instigated that fateful change in Secret Keeper as a measure to cheat destiny.

For a moment, Harry's heart constricted with such pain he could hardly breathe. Dropping the letter, he focused on taking deep, shaky breaths, telling himself yet again that there was nothing he could have done to alter the past, no miracle he could have wrought to ensure the survival of his parents and godfather.

It was the warmth of Severus' arms around him and the enduring strength of their connection that brought the realization that Harry's time travel had engendered a miracle after all – Severus' survival.

Harry's heart continued to ache with a soul-deep sorrow but the sharp edge of his grief had lessened. Bringing his hands to his face, he wiped away new wetness from his cheeks with trembling fingers. This time, his tears were not those of anguish or heartbreak, but of joyful renewal... of emotional contentment... of deep, heartfelt gratitude.

His mother's letter, despite its distressing revelations, was a precious gift. Her words, penned with love and pride, were sent to him with the hope that he would live his life without fear or regret… that he would look beyond the hardships and pain from his past and treasure that which was real and true and beautiful in his life. All at once, a profound feeling of fulfillment began to spread through him, his heart swelling with gratitude for his mother who had reached past the limits of time and death and fate to comfort him, to advise him, to direct his focus to what was truly important.

Harry lowered his gaze to Lily's parting words once more, his tearful eyes greedily scanning each word until they came to those final ones of heartfelt counsel and impassioned wisdom.

Live, Harry!

Live every day with the one you love and treasure your time with him! Life is a gift, my son, and so is love. You will do your father and me proud by spending the rest of your days cherishing those gifts, by pursuing a lifetime filled with love and hope, and devoid of any painful regrets.

Releasing a long, shaky breath, Harry folded up his mother's letter and held it to his chest, right next to his heart. His eyes fell shut as he squeezed the parchment, fingers crumpling the flimsy paper again.


"I'm OK," Harry breathed, voice a bit stronger now.

Taking another deep breath to steal himself, he relinquished his grip on the letter and placed it back in his lap, reaching for the second scroll and unfurling it. He immediately recognized Dumbledore's narrow, loopy script written at the top of what looked to be an official Hogwarts document. Swallowing past the renewed tightness in his throat, Harry began to read the late Headmaster's short missive.

Dear Harry,

Below you will find a list of Gray Skye's NEWT scores. You never mentioned to me whether or not you had sat your NEWTs during your own time, so I thought it prudent to send you this copy in the event you had not. You will notice that your given name, and not your fabricated one, appears above your scores, a modification I implemented to ensure your secrecy regarding your venture back to the past. An official record of these scores will remain on file at Hogwarts should you ever need them.

On a more personal note, Harry, I wish to thank you for rekindling my faith during these dark times in Wizarding history. Your journey back in time to save your true love has sparked new hope to flourish within my heart and renewed my belief that a future devoid of Lord Voldemort's tyranny is not only possible, but probable. I am now more convinced than ever before that the key to that future is the very same that will one day inspire the survival of your dearest Severus – love.

Thank you, Harry. Your tremendous courage and boundless capacity to love in the face of adversity is, and will always be, an inspiration to me.


Albus Dumbledore

Once again, Harry swallowed hard, his throat tight with emotion. He was moved beyond words by his former mentor's heartfelt words of thanks. However, it was the significance behind those words that had his brain reeling. The idea that he, Harry, was the actual inspiration behind Dumbledore's unwavering faith in love, as well as his belief that love will play a crucial role in the eventual downfall of Voldemort, something the old wizard had told him more than once, filled him with a profound sense of divine serendipity, his heart flooding with warm regard for the insightful Headmaster.

Overwhelmed, Harry gave himself a mental shake before dropping his gaze to the bottom portion of the parchment, his eyes scanning scores from tests taken over two decades ago.

Official NEWT scores for Harry James Potter

Advanced Herbology – A

Care of Magical Creatures – E

Advanced Defense Against the Dark Arts – O

Advanced Charms – E

Advanced Transfiguration – A

Advanced Potions – P

Mastery Potions – O

"An 'O' in Mastery Potions?! What the...? But I didn't–"

"You're welcome," Severus whispered into his ear.

Harry whipped around and stared at his lover, mouth hanging open and eyes wide with shock.

"What did you do, Severus?!" he asked, warning in his tone.

"Oh, nothing much," Severus answered, a smirk lifting the corners of his mouth. "I simply explained to the examining panel that you and I had actually worked on the Retorquentis Potion together and that unfortunately, you were too ill to attend the NEWT presentation. I might have also mentioned the fact that you were still suffering from the after effects of the curse you were hit with while attempting to save the lives of two fellow students, though I can't be certain."

"Severus! You know damned well I didn't earn this grade! Hell, anyone could figure that out – they'd only have to look at my other Potion score of 'Poor' to realize that something is seriously amiss with my Mastery Potions grade!"

"Fortunately for you, the Auror admittance office only reviews those NEWTs deemed most applicable when looking for Auror candidates. They won't bother giving your Advanced Potion grade a second glance if you've earned an 'Outstanding' in the more difficult Mastery level course."

Harry said nothing, jaw still slack and eyes as huge as saucers, a look of utter disbelief stamped on his face.

"You still wish to be an Auror, don't you, love?" Severus pushed.

"I... uh... yes. Yes, of course I do but... but, Severus... I don't deserve this grade!"

"Well, no. You don't. Nor did you deserve the countless failing grades I gave you when you were my student," Severus replied, a small flare of guilt reaching Harry through their channel at his words. "Harry, you'll never be a world-renowned Potions Master, that much is true, but I have watched you brew for the past seven years. When you don't have a teacher with a vendetta against you looming over your shoulder, you are more than adequate. If you truly are uncomfortable accepting this grade, I would be more than willing to tutor you over the course of the upcoming school year. Then you can retake the Advanced Potion NEWT with this year's current seventh years, along with any other NEWTs you wish to retake, when they're offered next June, this time as Harry Potter. I am certain you'll receive at least the 'A' in Potions that is the minimum requirement to be considered for the Auror program."

Harry finally shut his gaping mouth, his gaze falling back onto the NEWT scores he had achieved as Gray Skye while his mind raced with a whirlwind of conflicting thoughts. He really did want to be an Auror – a dream he had all but given up on once Dumbledore had died and left him with the task of hunting down the remaining fragments of Voldemort's soul.

But could he actually use a false test score to gain admittance into the Auror program?

"If you should decide to take me up on my alternate offer, Harry, I promise that our tutoring sessions will be strictly professional. Rest assured, sex will only be offered as a reward in the event that you brew a potion to my complete satisfaction."

Once again, Harry snapped his gaze up to those ebony eyes that were now blazing with impish delight, a huge grin stretched across Severus' thin face.

"You sneaky shit!" Harry shouted, elbowing Severus' ribs playfully while trying unsuccessfully to restrain his own laughter. "You know damned well I would never use this grade to become an Auror! This was just your way of... of..."

"...of giving you the kick in the arse you needed to start thinking about your career, yes," Severus finished for him, that endearing grin widening further. "So what do you think, love? Care to venture into a bit of reward-based Potion tutoring from an accredited Potions Professor? It sounds like an excellent way to get the grade, don't you agree?"

Harry lunged forward and crushed his lips to that mischievous smile, silencing Severus' mirthful laughter with a blazing kiss. With his heart feeling light and his soul sated, he withdrew from Severus' mouth and pressed his now grinning lips to one delicate ear, whispering into it his thoughts on the man's rather unorthodox plan for helping him pursue his chosen career.

"Yes, Severus. I agree. And I must confess... the subject of Potions has never before sounded quite so... stimulating."

Harry's comment caused both of them to laugh out loud, a much needed curative release of pent-up emotions from the evening's pendular events. As their hearty laughter died away, they maintained their hold on one another, staring into each other's eyes while that steady pulse of love flowed through them with fervent intensity.

Strong. Enduring. Timeless.

Then Harry smiled.

"Nothing," he whispered.

The seemingly out-of-the-blue comment caused Severus' brow to furrow, his eyes narrowing in bemusement. "What?"

"Nothing. I'm not wishing for anything this year," Harry explained, his eyes locked with those soulful ebony eyes that were now widening in understanding.

"There's nothing in this world I could possibly wish for that I don't already have. You're all I need, Severus."

Moisture filled those dark eyes, unshed tears crowding their corners as Harry pulled his lover into another tight embrace.

"Happy Birthday, my love," Severus breathed into his ear.

Harry smiled against his lover's neck while a profound feeling of peace and fulfillment enveloped him. His mother's words of advice came back to him unbidden, their meaning warming his heart and soul further, his mind now eagerly drinking in their offered enlightenment. No longer obligated to rid the world of evil or compelled to right the wrongs wrought by time and destiny, Harry realized he was now free to follow those impassioned words – free to explore to the fullest extent this newest and greatest journey awaiting him.

Live, Harry!

Yes – he would live.

And with his life laid out so invitingly before him and the man he loved by his side, tomorrow promised to be just the first of many, many happy birthdays to come.

Story End

A/N: This concludes my story, Gray Skye Mourning. I'd like to thank all of you who have taken this journey along with me, whether you reviewed or not. It means the world to me that you spared some of your free time to read my fic! An especially big thank you goes out to all of you faithful reviewers, though – your encouraging words of praise have been the fire that has kept me going throughout this whole process.

YenGirl, I just can't find the words to express my gratitude for all your Beta help with this story. Since starting this massive undertaking over a year and a half ago, you've taught me many things: POV stringency, adverb discretion, patience, subtlety, incisiveness, brevity and oh-so-many ways to be impactful and compelling through words, structure and tone. In short, you've made me a better writer. Certainly there is much more for me to learn and additional areas in which I must improve, but you have succeeded, in not only pointing me toward the path of my own development, but in giving me a great big shove in that direction as well! So thank you – thank you – thank you from the bottom of my heart. :)

One Final Note About GSM: Although it is true that I am calling this fic complete, I will tell you that I plan to revisit GSM's Harry and Severus in at least one future one-shot. I am fully aware that many of you were probably hoping to see some interaction with the new couple and Hermione and Ron, or maybe with the entire Weasley family. I admit this idea did cross my mind when considering how I wanted to write this epilogue. In the end however, I chose to finish this story how I wrote most of the story, with Harry and Severus – just Harry and Severus. Alone and emotional and in love... leaning on each other for support... finding comfort in their love... persevering in the face of any obstacle. Together. Just the two of them. To me, it seemed almost like poetic justice to end their journey this way. That being said, I realize there are other avenues that could be explored with these two, so I plan on doing just that!

Look for a GSM Halloween posting next year, possibly a Christmas one too. :)

Future Projects: I am currently working on two Snarrys – one is a three-part story entitled Whirlwind and the other is a RENT-inspired full-length story entitled One Blaze Of. I am also hard at work on a Severitus entitled Forsaken Scion and a Harry/Snape mentor fic (untitled as of now). Those are just the ones I have started to write, but there are many, many more story ideas rattling around my brain! If your interest is peaked, please put me on author alert!

Thanks again, readers! Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it, and I wish you all good fortune and happiness in the New Year!

Please Review.