Author: Evil Brooke

Title: Overhead, Underfoot

Rating/Codes: NC-17 for language, angst, m/m sexual content

Pairing: SS/HP, light references to DM/HP

Summary: After Voldemort's last stand, life is very different for Harry Potter.

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Challenge: Harry hasn't been at Hogwarts for years. Snape and he run across each other somewhere else. First meeting in a very long time. All kinds of sparks fly.

NOTE: Part of "From Dusk til Dawn - the Harry Potter/Severus Snape Fuh-Q-Fest" at: http://www.kardasi.com/HPSS

A/N: Yeah, I know my summary is lame. I'm horrid at those things.

Beta: Flame--my strength, my fortress, my Slytherin twin sister

Warning: This story deals with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome at its highest level. Please be advised. It is also rather lengthy. What can I say? I'm verbose.

// indicate thoughts, flashbacks, or basically anything that would normally be in italics


//Running. (He was always running.) Trees to the left and right of him. Soggy ground under him. Wet leaves. A big root. Tripping and falling. Cold. Night. Rustling sounds. Wand missing. Must have dropped it. Heavy cloak. Too heavy. Running again.

"Harry..."

He knew that voice. Hermione's voice. Couldn't be. Hermione dead. Blood in her hair. Eyes frozen open and staring. Accusing.

"Harry..."

Ron's voice. Couldn't be. Ron dead. Cold and clammy hand holding onto him. Slack-jawed. Words dead on his lips.

"HARRY POTTER!"

That horrible, hissing voice. Right behind him.

"You'll be dead just like your worthless parents..."

Mum and Dad in front of him. No. No. NO. Not real. NOT REAL!

Loud. Loud shrill sound. Everywhere. Hurting head. No more. Louder. Over and over. Running. Getting nowhere. Rustling behind him. Cold wind. TOO LOUD. StopstopSTOP! All voices now. All voices as one.

"Harry..."//

Harry Potter's eyes flew open, and the blood red numbers of his alarm clock stared back at him. The shrill cry hurt his ears, so he slapped at it until he found the button and silenced it. He stared up at the ceiling in the darkness. It was too early. Why did he have to be up? He couldn't remember. There seemed to be nothing important about the day.

It was Tuesday. Nothing special about Tuesday. Grocery day. He hated grocery day. His stomach rumbled, and he ran his hand over it beneath the sheet that covered him. There was no food in the house. He needed to eat. There it was, his motivation. Slowly, he crawled out of bed and made for the bathroom.

A good portion of the time after his alarm went off every morning was spent finding his motivation to get out of bed. Some days it came quickly. Other days, it didn't come at all. Today was a good day.

The shower felt good. He always ran it as hot as he could stand. He scrubbed himself down, rinsed, then stepped out, letting the cool air of the silent flat dry him. The scars decorating his abdomen were ignored as he stood in front of the mirror. The comb slid easily through his wet hair, but by the time he would walk out the door, it would be a mess. He combed it anyway. Then he dressed. Loose jeans and red sweater. Gryffindor red. His favorite color.

He crossed the living room and picked up his wallet from the counter. The answering machine blinked at him as he passed. He argued with himself then pushed the button.

//"Hey, it's me." Draco. Always Draco. "You said you'd come down and you didn't. I was worried. Ring me when you get up or come down."//

No more messages. He'd call Draco when he got back with groceries. Draco wouldn't be up anyway. Draco always slept in. Draco--once his hated enemy, now his only friend. His only proof that it had all happened. Everyone else was gone. Draco always worried.

He locked the door behind him and descended the stairs. Draco's door was at the bottom. He considered knocking but didn't. Draco wouldn't be awake. Let him sleep.

The morning outside was cool and damp. The mornings were always cool and damp. He walked up the sidewalk and no one noticed him. No one pointed or whispered. No one recognized him. Except Mrs. Farnsley on the corner because he bought a flower from her every day. That day, he bought a white carnation. He carried with him as he walked. No one knew him. No one talked to him. Maybe no one even saw him, he wasn't sure.

But for the first time in five years, for the first time since he watched everyone he loved die and watched as Hogwarts crumbled to a pile of rubble and watched the sky split in two as Voldemort proceeded to destroy them all--for the first time since his world ended, Harry Potter felt as though he was being watched.

*****

The grocery store was crowded. They were out of rye bread. Harry bought wheat instead. He carried his two bags back to his apartment, feeling the unseen eyes on him again. He smiled at Mrs. Farnsley and lifted the carnation he had bought as he passed by her again. She smiled back at him.

Draco's door was open when he reached their building. Music drifted out into the hall, and Harry smiled. He didn't recognize the song, but it didn't matter. Draco's music always made him smile. He climbed the stairs and quickly put away his groceries then came back down, not bothering to knock as he passed through Draco's door. He stooped to run his fingers up Armacy's back, the jet black cat arching up into his touch. He let out a soft mew then scurried off to hide. Armacy didn't appreciate Draco's music the way Harry did.

He found Draco at the back of the apartment, bare to the waist in a pair of faded black jeans. A long cigarette sat between his lips as he made short brush strokes on the canvas in front of him. His hair had gotten longer, and now when Harry looked at him, sometimes he saw a dim reflection of the man who Draco had called his father, though that man had been in the ground for five years.

Five years.

"You're up early."

Draco spun half way around and smiled, talking around his cigarette. Harry liked the way his lips bunched up when he did that. "Inspiration struck. I can't deny my muses."

Harry's eyes flipped to the easel. Hogwarts as it had been stared back at him. He quickly looked away.

//Not real.//

"Sorry about last night."

Draco shrugged. "You wouldn't have had any fun. Just some Slytherins I knew from school."

//Slytherins that didn't die. No Gryffindors would be calling on them. All the Gryffindors were dead, except Harry.//

"Still, I'm sorry. I should have called."

"No sweat, love," Draco answered, mashing out his cigarette in the ashtray sitting on the table beside him. He picked up a glass of clear liquid and drank from it. "I just worry." He had smoker's voice. It was low and scratchy.

"No reason to," Harry replied. "I'm all right."

"Are you?"

The question was too heavy. Harry couldn't pick it up. "Yeah. Hungry? I'm going to make breakfast."

"Sure, love. Call me when it's done."

Back upstairs, just as Harry was about to crack the eggs for Draco's omelet, his knees buckled. His hands shook too violently, so he sat the egg aside. Head in his hands, he pressed his back against the cabinets and cried.

~*~

//The shock of pain zig-zagging across his forehead should have tipped him off right away, but instead of sounding the alarm, Harry had kept on copying down Transfiguration notes as he tried to forget the events of the previous night. He ignored all the signs that might have saved them, and by the time anyone knew anything was wrong, one side of Hogwarts had caved in and dozens were dead.

It hadn't gotten better after that.

Dumbledore had led the flight with half the staff by his side, and they were mowed down like overgrown grass by a wave of Death Eaters. Harry had come across the broken body of the Headmaster as he was running, not having even a moment to mourn him. Screams and cries of agony filled the air. For all the preparation they had done to get ready for that horrible day--it was nothing like they had imagined. It was infinitely worse.

Ron was dead. Hermione was dead. Hagrid was dead. Sirius was dead.

Dead.

Dead.

And as Harry ran into the Dark Forest, that hideous hissing laughter rose above the fight and was deafening. It was the last sound Harry remembered hearing before the curse hit him from behind and knocked him out, sending him spiraling into darkness. When he awoke, all he heard was a resounding chorus of crying voices.

Crying for the dead, but crying more for those that had lived.

It had been Draco Malfoy who had found him unconscious in the forest. Draco--who had killed his own father to stop the endless charge of Death Eaters--had saved him.

"It's all right, Harry. It's over now."

But it would never be over.

There were dead to bury, wounded to tend to, and so many lives to try and rebuild. Among the countless dead were Dumbledore, Madam Hooch, Ron, Hermione, Sirius Black, Hagrid, and Voldemort. The Dark Lord lay motionless on the Quidditch field, of all places. Dead. Dead. Dead. No chance of him coming back, right? No more fear and hiding, right?

No one knew. They just hoped so.

Classes were held off for a week, as if a week could fix all that was wrong. Final exams were given at Durmstrang. There was a short graduation ceremony for those who had lived, and that was it. No plans were made to rebuild Hogwarts. Without Dumbledore, the heart wasn't in it. The remaining teachers went home for good--McGonagall with her broken arm, Flitwick with the tremors that made it almost impossible to swish and flick, and Snape, who no one had seen since the final battle. It had been Snape who had ended Voldemort's life, and he alone.

The greasy Potions master had saved the world while the Boy Who Lived hid in the forest and was knocked unconscious when it mattered most.

Irony, it seemed, was not without a sense of humor.

Rumors said that Severus Snape had been wounded and ran away after it was all over to die. No one bothered to confirm or deny it. He had done his job, they said. Leave him alone if he is alive. Mourn him and remember him if he is dead. Seemed a fitting end for him.

After graduation, Harry had run. Sirius was dead. The Dursleys--he didn't care about the Dursleys. He ran to London to hide. He had lost his wand that night in the forest. He burned his robes, his broom--any memory he had of Hogwarts had been destroyed. Harry's plan also included destroying himself.

That was when Draco had found him, and with him returned all the memories Harry had tried to forget. Looking at his former arch-rival was almost too painful at first--enhanced by the scar that marred the left side of Draco's once perfect face. It started as his hairline, ran down his forehead and tore through his eye, ending just below his cheekbone. The eye beneath the damaged lid was a cloudy white that looked more pronounced in comparison to Draco's remaining gray one. He had gotten the scar from his father just before Draco had shoved a sword through his stomach. A Muggle weapon had killed Lucius Malfoy. It was almost ironic enough to make one laugh. Draco had gotten the scar from the dagger his father always carried at his hip, a seven inch blade, encrusted with emeralds with the handle in the shape of a striking cobra. That scar replaced the one Harry had lost the moment Voldemort's life ended, and it was a continual reminder to them both that what had happened that rainy spring day was real and not just a hellish nightmare.

They had a brief romance, finding mutual comforts of the flesh with each other. It was the most natural and easiest way to forget it all. The nights spent with limbs intertwined and Harry's ear pressed to Draco's chest were the nights when they could finally sleep. They decided shortly after to be just friends. All of their wizard's money had been converted to Muggle currency, and together they had purchased a split-level house and lived their lives separately but always together. They took care of each other--more Draco taking care of Harry--and they tried to get along as best they could in the situation.

But it was at night when the dreams tormented Harry. In dreams was the only place that Draco couldn't protect him, and it was the dreams that they feared were driving Harry mad.//

"Harry...love...what's the matter?"

Draco's frantic voice pulled Harry back to himself, and he lifted his head to peer at him through blurry eyes. The look of worry that crossed Draco's features made Harry's heart ache.

"Nothing. I'm okay."

"Love, you're not okay," Draco sighed softly. "Have you taken your meds--"

"Don't baby me, Malfoy!" Harry snapped. "I'm not a bloody child!"

Draco backed up a step and raised his hands. "Okay, love. Calm down."

Harry rose slowly to his feet and tried to stand on wobbly legs. "I need to get some more eggs. I ran out of them. I can't make your omelet. I need more eggs."

Draco's eyes--both the good and the bad--flipped briefly to the open carton eggs on the counter, missing only one, then he nodded. "All right. I'll finish up everything else. You go and get some more eggs."

Harry didn't acknowledge him as he slipped out the door. He nearly missed a step as he descended the stairs.

//He thinks you're crazy.//

//Crazy Harry.//

//Why didn't you save us, Harry?//

Ron and Hermione.

//Not real. NOT REAL.//

He hit the street, almost at a run.

"Harry."

Snape's voice. Mocking him. Always so patronizing.

//Not my father.//

"Harry."

//NonoNO.//

"Mr. Potter."

Harry stopped and turned. Snape stared at him, standing on the sidewalk behind him.

Severus Snape. No robe. Muggle clothes. A single shock of snow white hair falling in his face, as white as Draco's dead eye.

//Real.//

~*~

They stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity, though Harry was sure he could hear a clock ticking somewhere.

//Seconds. Just seconds. Seconds can't make up for years.//

"Hello, Harry."

Those black eyes. Still cold. Watching him like they always had, like they were seeing more than some stupid Gryffindor, seeing more than anyone else. The last time those eyes had looked at him had been the night before Voldemort's final attack. Harry refused to remember that night. He'd forgotten those eyes.

Now they were looking at him again.

"Harry, are you all right?"

//Not all right. NOT all right.//

"You're supposed to be dead."

A slight smirk curled the corner of Severus' mouth. "I'd heard that, but I assure you, I'm very much alive."

Ron isn't alive. Hermione isn't alive. Sirius isn't alive.

"I thought you were dead."

"I felt mostly dead for quite some time," Severus answered.

"Is that why it took you five years to come back?"

Severus let out a soft sigh, very uncharacteristic of him. "Harry, I realize you're probably very angry with me--"

"You're supposed to dead," Harry cut him off sharply. "You died in my head, and that's how you'll stay."

"Harry--"

"YOU'RE DEAD!"

Then he was running again. Up the sidewalk, past Mrs. Farnsley with her flowers, past the grocery store with the forgotten eggs. He ran until he didn't feel those eyes on him. He felt like he might have to run forever. There was a bench ahead of him, and Harry fought his weakening legs to get there. It was hard beneath him when he sat down, putting his head in his hands.

//He won't come after me. Leave me alone.//

Alone.

He'd been alone since the day Voldemort killed everyone who had become his family after losing the only family he had to the same man. Draco was always there, but not. Harry was alone, and his darkest fear was that he always would be.

//"You're a very foolish child, Mr. Potter, and for whatever reason you're harboring this strange infatuation with me, it stops now. I'm not overly fond of you, and I cannot see myself as ever being so. I was under the impression that you dislike me very profoundly."

"I used to, but not anymore. Things are different now."

"How so? I'm still your greasy Potions teacher, and you are still my annoying, careless Gryffindor student."

"It's different, and you know it. It's been different since the Order."

"Keep your mouth shut, Potter! Do you want us both to be killed?"

"There's nobody here but you and me, Professor."

"The walls have ears, boy. Trust me."

"I do."//

Not real. Not real.

It's real and you know it, idiot. It happened. It happened just like everything else.

Harry couldn't deny it, especially not to himself. That conversation had happened. It had happened the night before Voldemort attacked. Alone in Snape's office. Alone together. Talking about the plans they were making, talking strategy, talking about things that, ultimately, didn't do a bloody bit of good. They were always talking, always throwing insults at each other, but a strange partnership had formed. They were on the same side, after all.

But talking wasn't all they had done that night.

//"Do you really hate me, Professor?"

That condescending sigh. "Of course not, Potter. I suppose in some small way, I respect you, though that's more than you've ever done for me."

"I was young and stupid then. I'm grown up now."

"You are far from grown up, Potter. You have quite a long way to go."

"Are you going to take me there?"

"What in the bloody hell are you talking about?"//

That was when Harry leaned over and kissed him. Kissed those soft lips, tangled with that tongue that was so quick to deal out insults and barbs, pressed against that hard chest--

--and was immediately shoved away.

//"Are you out of your bloody mind, Potter!?!

"No, I'm very much in it."

"Then what in the name of all that is holy was that?"

"That, Professor, was a kiss. Ever heard of them?"//

And that had set Severus off. He'd started shouting then, ranting about the teacher/student relationship. But more than that--about the Slytherin/Gryffindor relationship, about the Ex-Death Eater/Boy Who Lived relationship. He'd gone on and on until Harry had cut him by raising his hand.

//"What? For Merlin's sake, WHAT, POTTER!?!"

"I'm tired. I'm going to bed. I also graduate in three months. If you still think I'm a foolish, stupid Gryffindor by then, we can forget this night and that kiss ever happened. If not, just let me know."//

He'd gone for the door then, and he was almost out of it when that perpetually silky voice stopped him.

//"You'll have my answer after graduation, Potter."//

That answer had never come. Severus didn't go to graduation. Severus was gone, and Harry had accepted that. In fact, he'd convinced himself that Severus Snape never even existed and had gone on with his life.

Severus Snape did exist. He was probably still standing on the sidewalk.

Harry picked himself up and began to walk back toward the house. His heart pumped furiously in his chest, the beat resonating in his ears. He swallowed his fear and apprehension, and he pushed away all the voices whispering in his ears as he threw open the door to Draco's flat and stalked inside confidently.

His confidence momentarily faulted when Severus stared at him from his spot on the couch. Draco looked at him with dread in his eyes from the chair.

Confidence regained.

"I gave you something that day, you insensitive, unfeeling bastard! I told you that you had my heart, and then you won that stupid battle and you disappeared! I waited for you! You told me you'd give me an answer, and you never did! You just ran! And I will never forgive you for that! They all think you're dead, and that's what you are! You've always been dead, I just never saw it. I was stupid and foolish, just like you always said I was, and I thought you might be something different than what they all said you were. I was wrong, and that kiss is all you're ever going to get from me. Go back to the grave you crawled out of you, you fucking Death Eater bastard!"

He ran again, up the stairs, before either of the Slytherins before him could say anything. He found the bottle of sleeping pills that Draco had always kept such a tight lock on and downed one of them without water. The last thing he remembered before sleep claimed him was the image of the Dark Mark the way that it had been on Severus' arm so many years before.

~*~

"Harry...love...wake up..."

Draco. Harry blinked his eyes a few times and found Draco staring down at him, concern written across his face. Draco smiled and stroked the hair off of Harry's forehead. "You've been sleeping for hours."

"I was tired." He rolled over and away from him, burying his face in his pillow.

Draco inhaled slowly. "Love, I know you're angry at him--"

"I don't want to talk about him, Draco." Go away. Just go away.

"You need to talk about him." Draco's voice was hard. It was never hard. He was always so soft when he talked to Harry. "You've been hiding something from everyone for a long time. You even hid it from me."

Harry closed his eyes tightly. "There's nothing to keep hidden. It was nothing. At one time, I had a stupid crush on him, that's all."

"By the way you were screaming down there, it doesn't sound like it was just a stupid crush."

He closed his eyes tighter. "Maybe it was more than that, but it was a long time ago. Things are different now. I'm different now."

"That's right," Draco answered. The soft voice was back. Harry breathed a little easier. "You're very different. He doesn't know this you. So why not let him get to know you again?"

"I don't want him to know me."

That was the last thing that was said for a while. Draco sat beside him, occasionally stroking his arm, but that was it. Draco had never pushed anything. He eased Harry into everything, and sometimes Harry was grateful for it. Half an hour had passed before Harry spoke again.

"Where is he?"

"Asleep in my guest room. He was very tired."

Harry opened his eyes. "He looks old."

Draco chuckled, that light airy sound that Harry had always loved. "He is old, love. Probably feels older than he looks."

"That white hair thing doesn't help any."

"I think it looks pretty cool. I'm thinking of getting one."

Harry finally laughed and the tension broke. "Your whole head is one."

"I know." Draco paused, nudging him in the small of the back. "At least talk to him?"

Harry held his breath for a moment then let it out. "All right."

"I'll tell him as soon as he wakes up," Draco answered. "Try to be nice."

"Only if he does."

Then Draco was gone, and Harry was alone again. Alone again and waiting on Severus again.

Things weren't so different.

~*~

Another half hour passed before Harry heard footsteps on the stairs. He sat up on his bed and leaned against the headboard but didn't move any further. There was a timid knock on the door, then the sound of the door swinging open and footsteps across the floor.

//Don't panic. Just breathe. Breathe.//

Severus stood in the doorway of his room, his hands tucked into the pockets of his loose slacks. He looked nice. Harry had never seen him in Muggle clothes before, and he found that he liked it.

"May I come in?" That voice was still just as silky and mesmerizing as it had always been.

//May I come in? May I let you kiss me? May I run away and break your heart again?//

"Sure."

Severus took slow steps into the room and sat down in the chair across from the bed. His movements were still strangely graceful and fluid. He had always been a very graceful man. Age hadn't taken that from him, though if Harry remembered correctly, he wasn't even fifty yet.

"Thank you for agreeing to speak to me."

"I'm doing it for Draco. Not for you."

"Understood."

Silence. Deafening, never-ending silence.

"Where did you go?"

"Pardon?"

"Where. Did. You. Go."

Severus drew in a breath. "Home. I cloaked my home with a spell so it would appear that no one was there. I sent the house elves away and kept to myself."

Harry was incredulous. "For five years?"

"Not exactly," Severus answered with a shake of his head. "I was there for about a year recovering from my physical injuries as well as...others. After that, I spent some time traveling, seeing the world the way I had always wanted. I've been back for about six months."

"Why did you come back?" The questions were almost automatic. Harry had been wanting to ask them for five years. He thought they were questions that would never have answers, yet they came so easily that it startled him.

"I was asked to return. Minerva contacted me. Hogwarts has been rebuilt."

Harry reeled from the words as though they had been a punch in the stomach.

//Rebuilt. Not the same. Hogwarts is gone. Gone forever. Albus gone. Hagrid gone. Not the same. Never the same.//

"What?"

Severus nodded his head slowly. "Construction has just finished. Now, we are looking for a new staff."

"We?"

"Minvera and I," he replied, crossing and uncrossing his long legs. "She is to be Head Mistress, and I, her deputy."

"Who's going to teach Potions?" Empty voice. Black expression. Running on automatic.

Severus chuckled. "Ginny Weasley, if you can believe it."

"Ginny!?!"

"She turned out to be quite proficient at the subject. She was the best choice."

Harry processed that for a moment. Ginny Weasley. Professor Weasley. Ron would have been proud.

//Ron dead. Hermione dead.//

"What about Defense Against the Dark Arts?"

Another chuckle. "It seems I am finally getting the position I'd always aspired to hold."

"I knew the only way you'd get that job was if everyone else was dead."

Severus blanched at the statement, but recovered quickly. "It would seem that after the events of...that day...that I am the best equipped--"

"What about flying and Quidditch? Who's teaching that?"

Severus looked as though he was choosing his words carefully. Draco must have instructed him on how to talk to a crazy person.

//Crazy Harry. Crazycrazycrazy.//

"That...that is the reason I am here. We had hoped that Draco would be our flying instructor and Quidditch coach."

The terrifying thought that Draco would one day leave him had never entered Harry's mind until that point. No one else cared about him. No one else knew that he even existed. No one else knew how to take care of him. Draco and Harry. Harry and Draco. Together forever.

"You can't take him--"

"He accepted the job, Harry."

Harry gritted his teeth to hold back the tears that were filling his eyes. He would not give Severus Snape his tears. He didn't deserve them.

"It is time for you two to move on with your lives, to move past what happened and live the way you should."

"You don't know anything about our lives!" The words were fast and hard and loud.

Severus took the time to choose his words again. "I know that Draco is suffocating here. And I also know that things aren't getting any...easier for you."

"So this is your answer?" Faster now. Louder now. "Take him away from me? Leave me alone again?"

"We had hoped you'd accompany him."

Back to Hogwarts. Back to his life as it had been, even though it would never be the same. With Draco, but without him. Draco would be busy. Harry would be forgotten. Tucked under the stairs again. Hidden again. The big secret. Harry Potter has gone crazy. The Boy Who Lived is now the Boy Who is Crazy.

"Never."

The response seemed to let all the air out of Severus' sails. He took a moment to regain his composure. "Then I suppose you'll have to learn to live without him."

"I've done it before. I learned to live without you."

Another blow, and Severus began to falter. "That isn't fair."

"It isn't fair to break your word."

"I didn't have any other choice."

"There is always a choice."

The silence was back, hovering between them menacingly. Harry was the first to speak.

"What would your answer have been?"

Severus visibly blinked. "It would have been 'maybe'."

Harry paused, waiting for the explanation.

Severus sighed. "You were so young then, Harry. And I'm so old. I wasn't sure if I would know how to deal with you."

"I'm not a child anymore."

Severus rose to his feet smoothly. "No, I don't ever suspect you were a child. You are a soul who had the misfortune of youth."

Harry shut his eyes. "You can leave now."

"I am."

When Harry opened his eyes, he was alone. Severus was gone, but his words reamined behind him.

Maybe.

~*~

Harry awoke to the darkness of his room. He had drifted to sleep and had a dream of Ron and Hermione. No blood. No screaming. Just Ron and Hermione as they had been. So full of life. So loving. So perfect.

He could hear voices from the room below him. Severus was still there. Was he preparing to whisk Draco away to the pseudo-Hogwarts? Would it happen overnight? Would Harry be alone again so abruptly? He didn't know. He didn't think about it. Draco wouldn't leave without at least saying good-bye.

//Alone again, Harry. All by yourself. Like in the woods. Unconscious on the ground. Alone. Cold. Dark.//

Not real. Not real.

He reached over and turned on the lamp on his bedside table. There were footsteps on the stairs again. They were too light to be Severus. Harry was glad.

Draco breezed into his room without a word and sat on the bed beside him. He reached for Harry's hand and held it with both of his own, lifting them to kiss Harry's knuckles. "You won't come with me?"

Harry shook his head. The words simply wouldn't come.

"Do you hate me for this?"

He shook his head again.

"You won't be alone, love. I'm still here for you, just not right here. You know if you need anything--"

"Please just go, Draco." The words were slow and thick. "Just go before you have to see me cry."

Draco nodded once. "Severus wants to say good-bye to you. Will you see him?"

"I don't want to, Dray."

Draco stroked Harry's thumb with his own. "Please?"

Harry nodded after a moment. Draco smiled. "Thank you, love." He bent down and kissed Harry's lips chastely. "I'll send you a letter as soon as I'm settled."

"By owl?"

Draco chuckled. "Good old-fashioned mail."

Harry hitched one shoulder. "Might as well send it by owl. You won't get one back if you don't."

"True enough," Draco answered with a smile. He stood and looked down at him for a moment. "I love you, Harry James Potter."

Harry smiled slightly. "I love you, Draco My Parents Were Too Pretentious To Give Me a Middle Name Malfoy."

"Brat."

He was gone then, and the panic that Harry expected didn't wash over him. He took that as momentary good sign. There were more footsteps and suddenly Severus was staring at him with those eyes again. He took a few timid steps into the room and stopped by the bed.

"I did not want to make the mistake of not saying good-bye the way I have in the past."

"How considerate."

Severus sighed. "I hope that you can find it in your endlessly big Gryffindor heart to forgive me one day. I am sorry. So much so, I cannot adequately express it."

Harry's eyes made a full sweep of the man in front of him, the man he knew he had loved since some time during his sixth year. He was older, he was more cynical, but he was the same man that had lit a fire inside Harry that he had always been unable to extinguish. It had faded and was dim because of the years that had passed, but somewhere beneath the layers of insanity that were slowly overtaking him, Harry knew that it was still there. He just had to allow himself to feel the warmth again.

"I already have forgiven you, you stupid git. I'm just too stubborn to admit it. I might some day."

That drew a smile from the Slytherin. "Thank you."

Harry looked up at him once again. "Will you kiss me good-bye?"

This seemed to give Severus a moment's pause. "If you will permit me."

"I will."

Severus bent and sat down delicately on the edge of the bed, his weight forcing the mattress down just slightly. Harry had imagined he'd seem heavier. They both looked at each other for a moment before Severus bent down further, and Harry lifted his head, meeting him in the middle. His lips were cool against the flush that rose to Harry's cheeks at the feeling of the contact, and everything inside Harry went quiet and still. No voices. No thoughts. Nothing but the kiss they shared.

Nothing but Severus. The man he thought he'd lost.

The contact was broken far too soon. Severus pulled away first and looked at him, his eyes blinking slowly.

Harry was first to speak. "I want more. Will you give it to me?"

Severus nodded only once. "If you will permit me."

"I will."

Then the weight of Severus' body was covering him, pushing him against the firmness of the bed. Harry moaned--he might have whimpered. He wasn't sure. His hands felt for any part of the man he could reach, and he felt Severus' hands on him in response. They moved against each other slowly, fearing the years and space between them that were so easily melting away with the ease of a kiss, a slow caress beneath a t-shirt.

The cool air of the bedroom hit Harry's heated skin as Severus' peeled away the clothes he wore. He arched into the first touch on his bare skin and mewed like a kitten when the fingers traced his hipbone lightly. Severus pulled away suddenly, and for a moment, Harry feared he had changed his mind. Those thoughts flew away when Severus returned, blessedly free of clothing and pressing down against him. Harry's legs found themselves around his waist, hopefully conveying the need simmering inside him and desire to skip the build up. He feared the encounter would not last long if he was tested.

"Please..."

"You don't want..."

"Please...just..."

Severus needed no further instruction. His fingers slid slowly down Harry's sides, mapping the landscape of his body instantly. He stroked the curve of his hip and settled more firmly between his thighs. Harry's breath came in short gasps, moving against the firm body pressed into him. He heard Severus mumur something under his breath, then cool fingers nudged against him, sending a jolt up and down his spine that bounced back and forth inside him.

//Real. Real. Real.//

The fingers stroked him expertly, sliding inside him with just a bit of resistance as Harry clenched and tried to relax. He purred and forced a calm over himself to keep the strings inside him from snapping. One finger, then two, stretching him, preparing him for the thing he had wanted so desperately for so long. The thing he never thought he would get to experience.

//Real. Real. Real.//

The pressure that replaced the long, delicate fingers was more intense, but infinitely more enjoyable, and Harry exhaled and Severus pushed into him, sending off a shower of sparks behind his eyes and a tremor that shook him down to the tips of his toes. The voices and mumbles inside him went quiet again, and the world around them faded out, leaving just the two of them, locked in the most intimate embrace possible.

One thrust, then a retreat. Repeated over and over. No discernable pattern, and every time Severus' hips pushed forward, Harry let out a moan. The moans increased in pitch and volume each time, until he was howling and groaning uncontrollably, the arch of Severus' hips hitting him in just the right place. His arms wound themselves around Severus' neck, and the onyx hair, decorated with the stripe of ivory, fell into his face. He looked up through the curtain, though his eyes were half shut, and met those of his lover, wide and attentive as their bodies worked together toward the crescendo they were both nearing.

"Severus..."

The word broke the silence between them, and Severus groaned, increasing his efforts and driving himself deeper inside with each pass. His hand fumbled and stroked Harry, shoving him headfirst into a sudden explosion he was powerless to stop. Harry tensed and howled again as his release spilled between them. Severus was not far behind him. He sheathed himself completely in the heat that was torturing him and let himself go, groaning softly as he flooded Harry with his release and collapsed against him, their skin melding together immediately.

It was over far too soon for Harry's liking, but the coil inside him had been wound so tightly, he knew it would have ended no other way, he he wouldn't have wanted it to do so. He welcomed the weight of Severus' body, wrapping himself around him tightly. He kissed the shell of his ear and smiled just before sleep found him.

He was partially awake when Severus pulled himself from the bed and dressed. The Slytherin leaned down and pressed a kiss to Harry's forehead. "Change your mind. Come with us."

"Never."

"Good-bye, Harry."

" 'bye, Severus."

~*~

Two Weeks Later

Severus Snape stood on the brink of a new school year filled with dread he could not explain. Everything was perfect. The students had all arrived, and he was waiting by the doors for the late-comers, his arms crossed over his chest and his perpetual scowl back in place. Things would be back to normal before too long. Hogwarts and the spirits of all those who had died defending it would endure. Something in the world had to, why not the blasted school?

The night he had returned with Draco was still fresh in his mind, and the sting of watching Harry suffer for his decision was still painful. It had been the right decision, and he could live with that. It was the look of hurt and misery in Harry's eyes that had haunted his sleep. He'd managed to fight those demons for five years. He didn't understand why it had to be any different. He could live without Harry Potter. He'd done it for five long years, he could do it for five hundred more.

He just didn't want to anymore.

Checking his pocket watch, Severus turned to shut the doors, ready to begin the new life that stood in front of them all.

"WAIT!"

The voice shot through the air as clear as a bell, and Severus turned, his eyes narrowing at the figure running toward him. He didn't need eyes to know who it was, and a genuine smile spread across his face, threatening to reveal the joy spreading through him.

Harry skidded to a halt in front of him, panting and out of breath, and trying to keep the pack on his shoulder in its place. "I...changed...my mind."

Severus slid an arm around him and pressed a kiss to his lips, murmuring softly against them. "It's about time."

THE END

Soundtrack:
1. "Somewhere In Between"--Lifehouse
2. "Everywhere"--Michelle Branch
3. "Blurry"--Puddle of Mudd
4. "Something I Can Never Have"--Nine Inch Nails
5. "Cry"--Angie Aparo
6. "Goodbye To You"--Michelle Branch
7. "Better Man"--Robbie Williams
8. "Thank You"--Dido