I offer no excuse for the horrendous wait on this final chapter, only my sincerest apologies. To all of you who have taken this journey with me, thank you.


Seventy Six

Those long, languid days of summer slowly drifted to a lazy close, as preparations began in earnest for the beginning of a new school year. After their return from France, Harry had bid goodbye to his own quarters, settling in the dungeons with Severus. It had been an adjustment for the both of them. Severus, in particular, had struggled. After living alone in the space for almost three decades, adjusting to the presence of another had been difficult. Together, and not without a multitude of fights, hexes and making up, they had managed and, as the beginning of the school year loomed, so to did the prospect of the future in their minds.

As the reality of soon having less time for each other drew closer, their need for each other grew. Both had grown accustomed over the languid summer months to having the other within arms reach, ready to sate whatever desires appeared, immediately and thoroughly. As the end of this freedom drew near, their desire for each other increased, to the point where they were rarely from their bed.

Harry was sure he'd melted into some form of jelly one night, very near to the beginning of the new school term. Severus had worshiped his body for what felt like hours and now, his limbs apparently disconnected from his body, his brain turned to mush, his lover finally rested, his cheeks pressed against Harry's naked thighs, their bodies flush together, the barest hint of a beard grazing Harry's sensitive, over-heated skin in a way that wasn't entirely unpleasant.

It took Harry some time to realize that Severus was tracing the ugly, puckered skin of his wound with his fingers. The nerve endings on that part of his body had such little feeling these days that he hadn't been able to feel the light dancing against his skin.

"I hate that it was my spell that did this to you," when Severus eventually spoke, his voice was choked with remorse. "My spell caused so much agony, so many destroyed dreams. Every time I look at your wound I'm reminded of what I used to be and how much I have to make up for."

"Don't," Harry ran his fingers through the strands of Severus's hair. "Don't let it make you feel like that. This wound is the reason we found each other, remember? Would we have ever given each other a chance if I hadn't have come to you for help? When you look at it, let it remind you of the beginning of this and be reminded that if it wasn't for you and your exceptional skills, I would be living in daily pain. Partly because of my wound, and partly because I would still be alone."

"You amaze me," Severus murmured, rolling onto his back and pulling Harry atop him. "Every day, your bravery, your generosity, your love for me, astounds me. Your ability to forgive what I used to be is the most astounding thing of all. I will live every day trying to live up to being the man you motivate me to be."

Their lips met in a shared promise, an exchange of vows, more permanent than those said before a minister and friends ever could be.

"Have you ever grown tired of the castle?" Harry asked Severus a short while later.

"Of the castle?" Severus queried. "Of course. Of teaching, naturally. But of being at Hogwarts? Rarely."

"It truly is home," Harry sighed, pressing a kiss over the skin covering Severus's heart. "Dumbledore called us Hogwart's lost boys on my very first day back here. I think I know what he meant now," Harry chuckled. "I wonder if he knew...?"

"About us?" Severus asked. "He probably had some inclination. Omniscient old dodger that he is. Though neither of us would have listened had he said anything."

"I would have said he was barmy," Harry laughed. "I came to Hogwarts expecting to find some direction in life after leaving the Aurors. I didn't expect to find love... and a home."

"You think of the castle as home then?" Severus wondered.

"Hogwarts? Of course, I always have," Harry rolled so that he was facing his lover, brining their lips together in a chaste kiss. "But I was speaking more of you."

"Me?"

"The home I've found with you. No, not this dungeon," he corrected, as Severus looked around the bedroom they had made their own. "Severus, it wouldn't matter to me whether we were at Hogwarts, in France, in Muggle London or at Disneyworld, wherever I'm with you, that is where my home and heart will be."

Their lips met again, softly, tenderly, speaking everything that needed to be said. Each had found the other whilst neither had been looking and, for both, the other had filled a void they were unaware they possessed. In each other, they had found their heart, their salvation, their home. All was well.

Fin.


Thank you for sharing this journey with me. Your support, kind words and encouragement have made this sometimes difficult task a pleasure to undertake. I'll be leaving Harry and Severus here, but please put me on Author Alert if you would like to read the excerpts I have promised for this story, which will be posted in a separate story. In the meantime, I'll finally be finishing my other full-length story, All Was Well. After that, who knows? I'm sure I'll be back soon.

Once again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.