Harry Potter lay sprawled across an outdoor chaise staring at the brilliant blue water of Opunohu Bay, thinking about how his life had changed in the four years since Dumbledore's death. He'd come so close to giving up sometimes, to losing hope, only to be buoyed by strange and serendipitous events. His endurance had won him a most curious sort of joy. He closed his eyes and let his mind wander.
A soft blanket wrapped around him some time later, stirring him from his wanderings. The smell of peppermint and cloves made him smile. "Been out collecting again?"
"Yes," Severus said, as he continued tucking the blanket around Harry's shoulders.
"It's not that cold." Harry leaned forward to make Severus's task easier. "What'd you get this time?"
"I found a large crop of bitter melon, which means I won't have to Owl Order it any more. I also gathered more wood sorrel, kava kava, noni, and Tahitian chestnut."
Harry wriggled. "Oy! I feel like a mummy wrapped up in this thing. Despite Voldemort's best intentions, I'm not dead yet."
"No, definitely not dead. But still recuperating. I have a vested interest in your recovery, you know."
Harry snorted. "You just want to have sex that lasts longer than five minutes."
"Cheeky little beast. I never should have given into you."
"Ah, but you did. Potter stubbornness ruled the day."
"Well, there is that," Severus said with a glance that made Harry shiver. "You're cold. I knew it. You shouldn't be out here."
Harry managed to free one of his hands and waved Severus away. "Stop that. I didn't shiver because I was cold."
Severus's hands stilled. "Really, now?"
"You gave me that look. You know the one." He licked his lips. "Up for a quick go?"
"I think not. Orama will be here soon for your massage therapy and then you've got your potions."
"Sodding massage, and sodding potions. I'm tired of the massage. It bloody hurts, and those potions make me feel all loopy. Honestly, I don't see what the big deal is."
"What the big—Potter, must I remind you that only two months ago, you used astral projection from thousands of kilometers away to possess Nagini, force her to attack the Dark Lord with her venom, and then convince her to fling herself into a cauldron of toxic potion, thereby destroying the final Horcrux, but not before leaping from her body and Apparating your physical body to the Dark Lord's feet, dueling him, killing all of his followers, and finally sending him to the depths of hell, after which you collapsed from injury, magical exhaustion, and a toxic overdose of Dark magic, from which you are still recovering?"
"Oh. That. You've been waiting a long time to say that all in one go, haven't you?"
"Yes. That. What's got into you?" Severus asked, not answering Harry's question.
"Not you, that's for sure. Not in a long while, anyway." Harry snaked his hands from beneath the blanket and began fiddling with the placket of Severus's robe.
"Stop that! Remove your hands at once. There isn't time for such tomfoolery. You're not well, you know."
Harry let his hands drop and slumped back into the chaise. "Must you remind me at every turn? I'm not an invalid."
"When you accost me thusly, yes, you need reminding. And you're not especially spry at the moment, now are you?"
"I'm fine. I'm loads better."
Severus assumed his professorial air as he stood at the edge of the lanai. "Are you able to walk more than twenty steps or so unaided?"
"Has the nerve function miraculously returned to your limbs since yesterday?"
"No, but I really–"
Severus stalked forwards, leaned over, and pulled Harry close. He brushed his lips against Harry's before pressing harder and feasting on Harry's bottom lip, nibbling with teeth and soothing with tongue. Harry moaned and crushed his lips against Severus's, giving as good as he got. Before things could get too heated, Severus pulled away. "And are you able to handle more than a rousing bit of fellatio before collapsing coma-like into bed?"
Harry, feeling dizzy and aroused from the kiss, fell back against the chaise. "You're an evil git, you know that?"
"I thought that was the appeal. Answer my question."
Harry grumbled a sullen, "No," before crossing his arms and staring at the wide plank deck.
"Then there will be massages and potions until those things change. Besides, you're quite chatty when looped up on the muscle relaxants. I've gathered enough blackmail material to keep you in line for quite a long time. Why in Merlin's name would I give that up?"
Harry sighed. "Why does it have to hurt so much?"
"Because it's working. Six weeks ago you still couldn't feel your legs. Now you can walk. Rest. Orama will be here in an hour. If today goes well, perhaps we can have dinner al fresco and watch the canoes at sunset. There's supposed to be some festival of a sort as well."
Harry nodded, already slipping into sleep, the view still imprinted in his mind. He never thought he'd make it to Moorea. In the end, he hadn't thought he'd have a reason to.
"Do you have it, then?" Harry asked, not removing his hood. He never removed his hood and he never looked anyone in the eye. Despite years of serious attempts, Harry had yet to master any facet of Occlumency.
The noise and stink of the raucous pub made Harry's head ache more. A crude duel had broken out in the far corner, but Harry paid it no attention. His focus was on the man in front of him—the man who professed to be a collector of rare magical artifacts. Harry didn't much care if the man was lying. All that mattered was whether he had the key; the one he'd been tracking for over a year.
"Yes. Said I would, didn't I?" the man sneered in a heavy, North Counties accent.
Harry tossed a bag onto the table.
The man's eyes flicked left and right as his grubby fingers crawled along the table towards the small bag. He hesitated a moment before reaching for it, as if he'd been tricked too often in similar situations. He yelped as a Stinging Hex struck him the moment he touched the bag. "What's the meaning of this?" he spat as he nursed his twitching fingers.
"I'm sure a man of your ilk knows what that was about."
Expressions of false outrage, incredulousness, and finally shrewd resignation flitted across the man's face as he dug into his pocket and tossed his own bag onto the table. "Go on, then. Take it and release the bloody Stinging Hex."
Harry shook his head as he fingered the small bag that—according to the man—contained the key to Rowena Ravenclaw's fabled hidden library at Hogwarts. He held his breath as he shook out the bag's contents. A bright golden key landed in the middle of the table, glittering as if lit by the sun. Harry's inhalation was sharp. He could feel the magic coming from it—the same twisted, horrible magic he'd felt when they'd finally destroyed Merope's golden locket.
He swept the key back into the bag, released the Stinging Hex, and stood, having no more need of the man in front of him.
Harry said nothing as he walked away from the dingy, rowdy pub. He had the key and now he had to destroy it. As soon as Ron and Hermione found Helga Hufflepuff's cup, only Nagini and Voldemort would remain. They were almost done. Of course, how in the hell he was going to accomplish casting two Unforgivables through astral projection, he hadn't a clue. They'd only managed to come up with the theory for putting down Voldemort—not the actual execution. His scar prickled and his headache throbbed at the thought of Voldemort. Harry put that aside. He focused on life after Voldemort as he weaved through the forest.
"Then, a long holiday in Tahiti with fruity drinks and swimming in the ocean, and not an effing care in the world," Harry whispered to himself. "No more headaches in Tahiti. No more visions or Cruciatus. You promised me, Hermione. You promised, and I'm bloody well going to hold you to it."
Harry soldiered on, his lips set in a thin line of determination. He wondered what Ron and Hermione were doing. He wondered if she'd figured out a way to use astral projection without Occlumency shields. He wondered if they were laughing, or talking, or snogging.
"I wish you were here with me," he said as he thought of them. "It gets old talking to myself, but needs must, yeah? Soon. We'll be done soon. And then we can forget we ever fought a war, we can pretend we're normal people, we can go on holiday and celebrate."
Harry's steps faltered as pain exploded behind his eyes. He groaned and dropped to his knees, holding his head in his hands. "Tahiti, Tahiti, Tahiti," he chanted over and over, trying to focus on the white sand. It wasn't working. "I'm trying, you bossy bint!" Harry screeched through his clenched teeth while attempting in desperation to Occlude. There was nothing for it. He'd never be able to do it, despite Hermione's insistence that he just wasn't trying hard enough.
He rode it out until the pain receded to a dull pounding. Harry shuddered and wiped his bloody nose on the sleeve of his robe. He got to his feet. "Soon, you effing bastard. Soon I'll send you back to hell and I'll dance on your bloody grave." Harry stumbled to his feet and trudged into the heart of the forest.
He staggered into a small clearing. Pushing aside his throbbing headache, he made a circle of flat stones, fished out a bit of broken chalk from his robe pocket and hastily drew protection runes on the stones. He dropped the key in the center.
Harry drew himself into a battle stance and pointed his wand at the small key. He swayed on his feet. "Have to finish, then I can sleep. Have to finish," he muttered to himself with a sniff. He closed his eyes and readied the chant.
A snapping twig had him dropping to his knees and rolling into an offensive crouch, ready to strike. He waited and listened.
A man dressed in a dark cloak glided into the clearing. He stopped, noticing Harry straight away. In one fluid movement, the man dropped his satchel, withdrew his wand from his sleeve, and pointed it at Harry. "Show yourself," the man snarled.
Harry knew who it was at once. Three syllables, two words, and he was eleven years old again, floundering over a question about bezoars. Fate was an absolute bitch.
He stood, pleased that he'd managed to get upright without too much of a stumble. "Snape," he sneered. "Fancy meeting you here. I wondered when I'd come across your traitorous hide." He tried to sound as if it had been his plan all along to wind up in the heart of a silent forest, tired, ill, and in the company of someone quite deadly.
"Who—Potter!" Snape spat. He laughed—the sound bitter and dark. "Of course it would be you. Three blissful years I've had. I knew it was too good to last. I'll never be able to rid myself of your useless presence, will I? No, Fate has never smiled on me."
"Nor me, you bloody git. Why don't you come a little bit closer and I'll show just what fortunes Fate can bestow."
Snape stilled and was silent for several long moments. "You're either very brave or very stupid to be out here, all alone, weak as you are. I can smell your exhaustion from here."
"Yes, well, you'd have the nose for it, wouldn't you?"
"Very stupid, then." Snape started walking forward. Slowly.
A chill went through Harry as he realized the precarious position he was in. He needed to get rid of Snape so that he could finish destroying the key. He only had enough in him for that, so hexing Snape was out of the question. Bugger.
Ravenclaw's key sparkled in the moonlight. Harry's gaze darted to it. It was a momentary lapse, but one he regretted in an instant, because Snape saw it too.
Snape rushed forwards, his wand still held high, trained on Harry's heart. "What have you got there? What are you doing?"
"None of your damn business, Snape. I'll warn you only once. Leave now and I'll let you live."
"Don't threaten me, you sickly little whelp!"
Harry leapt in front of the circle of stones. "Go away!" Desperate, Harry angled his wand and prepared to cast.
Snape ran and knocked into him. Harry snarled and pushed back. Soon, they were locked together in a parody of a lover's embrace. They struggled back and forth, until finally both fell to the ground, panting.
Harry pushed all of his will into getting back up. He got to his knees and fought the urge to vomit. He started crawling towards the stones. He heard a gasp and looked up. Snape was staring at the key. Harry started as Snape's nimble fingers darted into the circle and snatched it away.
"Put that back," Harry cried. "Please, Snape. It's nothing. It doesn't interest you. Please, just put it back. If you ever cared for Dumbledore, put it back."
Snape's sharp gaze flew to Harry. He studied him for a long while. "Do not threaten me with Albus's memory. You have no idea what you're playing with."
"Please," Harry begged again, his mind turning over every possible way to get the key that would still allow him the energy to complete the spell. As he was sizing up the odds for another physical fight, Snape's voice cut through his ruminations.
With one word, the entire world shifted and rearranged itself. "What?" Harry asked, feeling off-kilter.
"I can't believe you found it. You actually found it. How many others? Have you got the locket? What of the cup? Have you found Hufflepuff's cup?" Snape queried.
"You—you know about the Hor—er, the cup, and things?" Harry asked, bewildered.
Snape sneered. "You're not the only one Dumbledore shared his Pensieve with. I'm well aware of the Horcruxes. I've been able to confirm five of them—the diary, the locket, the ring, the key, and the cup, but am unsure of the sixth."
Harry opened his mouth to say, "Nagini," but snapped it shut when he remembered whom he was talking to. "Not good enough, Snape. I'm not falling for it. You can't trick me into telling you the sixth Horcrux."
"Silence, you fool! You're not the only person who wants to see an end to this madness."
Harry blinked. His hand dropped to his side. The sense that the world had changed was back full force. "Come off it, Snape. The last time I checked, you were a traitorous bastard, the enemy of the Order, minion of Voldemort. Why should I believe you?"
"I could have killed you the moment I saw who you were. Or gathered you up and taken you straight to the Dark Lord. You're exhausted, weak, ill. Pathetic. You, Potter, are no match for me." Snape made a show of looking Harry over with a critical eye. "You won't even be able to utter the words Aeternus mortem. You're more likely to fall over in a dead faint than destroy the key."
"How do you know about that spell?" Harry demanded. As far as he knew, only he, Ron, and Hermione were aware of it.
"You waste time with these ridiculous questions. You cannot cast that spell without help. I could be of use to you. If you wait, I have a potion I can brew–"
"Of use to me? Like you helped Dumbledore? Right over the Tower wall? Don't even try to justify that—I don't care. Not anymore. I just want to finish this, and as far as I'm concerned, you're either with me or against me. Now give me that key!"
"I. Am. Not. Your. Enemy." Snape threw the key back into the circle of stones.
Harry stared at the key. Snape had given it back. Willingly. Harry didn't know what to make of that. Well, he did, but it was too confusing to think of Snape as anything but a one-dimensional enemy with a permanently affixed sneer.
"Are you listening to me? Are you?"
Harry looked up. "What?"
"I said that spell will kill you unless you've taken the right precautions. With more Horcruxes to find and a Dark Lord to dispose of, your death would be most inconvenient."
"Why are you doing this?"
Snape leaned across the stone circle. "You are not the only one who wants his freedom from a fate bound to him before he was old enough to understand it."
Understanding roiled through Harry, a painful emotion when tied to Snape. "My blood," he blurted, his brain betraying his body. "My blood protects against the spell. A willing sacrifice."
"The spell, then. It takes two–"
"I'm strong enough. I don't need you. Besides, the magic must be complimentary. I don't think there's a single thing between us that's complimentary. Do you?"
"Go on. Destroy it, then. The world shall be a brighter place when it's Potter-free."
Harry staggered to his feet. Blackness crept into the sides of his vision. With a wary eye towards Snape, he summoned every ounce of strength he had remaining. "Ad malum ex luce! Aeternus mortem!" he roared as a bright blue light shot from his wand and slammed into the key.
The rune circle flared to life. A noise like a wailing banshee pierced the air as the key vibrated and hovered and fought the spell and the rune circle. Harry's arm shook and his teeth cut into his lip as he forced himself to maintain the spell while the key gnashed at the magic surrounding it. His scar ripped open and blood poured down his face, his screams matching those of the key. He leaned forward and allowed the blood to drip into the rune circle. The key shuddered and tore at Harry's defenses. Harry wailed in agony, the grip on his wand faltering. Before it could fall, a body wrapped around his and helped him clasp his wand. Magic—sweet, seductive magic—flowed into him from the body behind. Harry gasped, awash in sensation. It shouldn't be possible that his magic complimented Snape's, but it shouldn't have been possible for them to find themselves sharing the same forest clearing in the middle of the night, either. Harry was sure he heard Fate's amused laughter ringing in his ears.
The blue light shooting from his wand doubled in intensity and encompassed the key. The smell of rotting flesh flew into the air as the key began to smoke and sizzle. The key grew hotter and hotter until it burst and burned away to metallic ash. With a loud whoosh of air, the blue light transformed into the white heat of the sun, vaporising the ash until nothing was left.
The spell ended.
Harry swayed on his feet. "Almost finished," he panted, before sagging in a dead faint, Severus still holding him.
Orama smiled at the sight before her, grateful that her feet made little sound as she tiptoed up the lanai's wide steps. She stood to the right of the cottage and watched as Severus carded his hand through Harry's hair.
Harry roused. His movements were stiff, and his wrinkled nose expressed the deep ache he likely felt. At least he was moving.
Severus looked up at her soft sigh and nodded. "Harry? Orama's here. Time for your massage."
Harry groaned. "Can't I miss one day? Just one?" he mumbled, as he snuggled into the blanket.
"No. Hold still." Severus Transfigured the chaise into a padded table. He pulled away the blanket and helped Harry remove his robe and pyjama bottoms. "Lie on your stomach," he said as he helped Harry turn over. He draped Harry's lower half with a soft white sheet. "I'll be back in an hour. Mind your manners."
"Yes, Father," Harry snapped.
Orama shook her head. Over the course of two months, she'd learned to read Harry's moods quite well. Snappish meant he was tired and apprehensive. He was that way most of time—when he wasn't half-drugged with pain potions and muscle relaxants. She'd said from the beginning that the she thought the protocol was far too aggressive, but both Harry and Severus insisted on daily treatment. Massage, they called it. It sounded less threatening than Extraction.
It was funny to watch Severus's tenderness with Harry. He'd been a terror when she'd first met him eight weeks prior. He'd come to her demanding that she treat Harry. He'd been cursed in some sort of battle and now Dark magic was buried deep within his body, shredding his muscles and nerve endings every moment it lingered. She'd said no, initially, put off by Severus's demands. But then she'd met Harry, she'd seen them together, she'd felt their magic. In the end she'd agreed.
Orama stepped forward, adjusting her medical bag. She saw Harry grimace at the sound of her delicate steps. "Iaorana 'oe," she called in greeting. "Good morning, Harry."
"Oh, goody. Orama's hands of pain have arrived," Harry joked, obviously nervous. "Ianorana, 'oe," he whispered.
"Such a funny little man you are," Orama said as she got to work. "How are you feeling today, hmm?" She laid the crushed kava kava leaves soaked in sesame and vanilla oil across Harry's back.
"Okay today, I guess. I don't feel like needles are gouging me every time I move."
"And your Severus? How is he?" She brushed the leaves across Harry's skin, working in the oil and the kava kava sap before touching his skin with her hands.
"A bloody taskmaster." Harry sighed as Orama cleared away the leaves and allowed her magic to flow through her fingertips and into Harry's muscles.
"Not hurting today?" Orama asked, happy to see Harry relax.
"Not yet. Is—is that a good sign?"
Orama smiled. "A very good one. I think we've eliminated all of the curse scarring in your back and torso muscles. Now we just have to concentrate on your legs. Soon you'll be hiking up to Belvedere's Lookout."
A long stretch silence passed before Harry spoke again.
"I'd like that."
"Well then, we'll make it happen," Orama said as she moved the sheeting and started working on Harry's calves. She worked through the right calf and dissolved a few small deposits of curse scarring. That leg was almost healed—it was the left leg that was causing such problems.
"Harry? I'm switching to the left now." She sighed as she felt him tense. There was a large deposit of Dark magic somewhere in his left calf. She knew it was there, but she couldn't find it. They were running out of time. Every day she didn't find it was another day for it to bury deeper and spread.
"Ready?" she asked.
"No. I suppose I don't have much choice, though, do I?"
"I'll be as quick and sure as I can." Orama worked for several minutes before she felt a small knot and sensed a magical block. She pushed her fingers and her magic. She felt Harry wince and had to hold his ankle down as he tried to pull his leg away.
"Stop. It's too much."
Orama shook her head. "Sorry, Harry. I'm too close. Got to work this one out. You know how the curse works." She could almost see the scarring buried deep within the muscle. Excited, she worked the muscle harder, pushing more of her magic into the massage.
Harry's hands gnarled into fists, pain etched across his face. "Please, no more," Harry cried, wincing as Orama's thumbs dug harder.
"Breathe through it, Toanui. Remember how Severus and I showed you? That's it. Breathe through it. I've almost got it. It's a big one. Come on now, stay with me," she coaxed, ignoring the way Harry's hands clenched around the edges of the massage table.
Orama could feel it. She was almost there. With one big push of magic, she dove down and broke apart the ugly knot of curse scarring.
Harry screamed and arched his back, the intensity of his pain visible.
An instant later, Orama found herself knocked to the ground with the force of a typhoon. She looked up to see Severus gathering Harry in his arms, pouring potions down his throat. and whispering nonsensical things in his ear, desperate to calm him, while Harry continued to scream in agony.
"What do you think you're doing?" Severus roared at Orama as he got the last of the potions in Harry and re-Transfigured the table into the comfortable chaise. Harry's eyes were slipping closed and the wailing had disintegrated into choked sobs.
Orama gathered herself up and stood. "There was a large knot of curse scarring in his left calf. I was afraid I wouldn't find it again tomorrow. His legs have been problematic, you know that. I had to push while I could."
Severus and Orama waited until Harry had fallen unconscious. Orama braced herself—it was time for Severus's daily ritual. She almost chuckled as he grabbed by the elbow and dragged her to the other side of the lanai.
"How dare you! What kind of healer are you? The purpose of this is to rid him of pain, not cause it to such an excruciating degree that I have to drug him into unconsciousness."
Orama was not cowed by Severus Snape. She found his daily fits and bombastic sputters endearing, because in those times more than any others, he showed how deeply he cared for Harry. She raised her chin and stared him in the eye.
"My job is to heal him, Tauraii. You knew what this curse was like, and you knew what the treatment entailed when you found me and asked for my help. The process is a painful one. He's tough. He'll make it through. Deal with it."
"Why do you insist on those infernal pet names? The least you could do is tell us what they mean."
Orama chuckled, sure now that they were past their daily argument. "That, Tauraii, is for you and Toanui to figure out."
"Is this worth it?"
Severus's voice stilled Orama. Her smile was soft and knowing as she turned to him. "It is up to him. Look at the progress he's made. He's worked very hard and I suspect you've pushed him through the worst of it. That's no different than what I do. He needs this, Severus, and so do you. We're almost done. Once the scarring is gone, he can begin to recuperate in earnest and you can coddle him all you like, but now he needs you—both of us—to be tough, to stay strong with him."
Severus snorted. "That's all I've ever been in his life, I'm afraid. The menacing taskmaster."
"Don't doubt yourself. I see the way he looks at you. I can feel the way your magic joins and weaves together. He knows how you feel and doesn't expect you—or want you—to be anything other than who you are."
"I don't pay you to play mind healer."
"Consider it free advice, then. I'll be back tomorrow. He needs to walk five lengths of the lanai tonight and again in the morning. I want to get those muscles moving before they have a chance to atrophy or weaken further. Also, he needs to drink at least two pints of guava juice with the bitter melon infusion. That should flush out any residual Dark magic floating around that large tangle I just managed to remove." Orama paused, her heart reaching out to the bitter man in front of her, so clearly besotted with Harry. "He'll make it through. So will you. I predict Belvedere's Lookout by the end of the summer. Párahi!" she called as she left.
When he was sure Orama was gone, Severus knelt next to Harry. His fingers traced Harry's brow, still marred with pain. He knew they had to do this. He knew Orama was the best in the field. But it didn't stop him from wishing that it didn't have to be so painful for Harry. For both of them.
"Sev'rus?" Harry mumbled as he roused a bit.
"Shh. Go back to sleep. I was just checking on you."
"I know. I'm sorry. I'll send her away. I promise, no more pain."
Harry shook his head. "No," he slurred and raised his left leg for a few seconds and flexed his calf muscles before letting his leg drop back down to the chaise. "See? Couldn't do that before. Good things… hard… hurt… worth it."
Severus watched as Harry slipped back into his potions induced sleep. "Yes, good things often hurt the most."
"Finally. Golden Boy lives."
It was the first thing Harry registered as he clawed his way to consciousness. The stone floor was cold and unforgiving. Why in God's name was he on the floor? He forced his eyes open and tried to sit up as he blinked away the dull light from the candles set about the room.
"You are an idiot."
Harry turned slowly towards the voice and squinted. "Where am I?" he rasped. His throat was sore and his limbs felt like someone had tied rocks to them.
"The floor. After you expressly did what I expressly told you not to do."
"What did you expect me to do? I can't sit around here all day playing maid and do nothing towards learning this spell. If you aren't going to help me, then I'll have to do it on my own."
"I told you, Potter, you cannot attempt astral projection, much less animate possession, until you master Occlumency. You haven't mastered anything yet—excluding brash stupidity, of course—therefore, I will not help you learn a spell you have no hope of casting."
"I've been here, what, three months now? The only thing you've managed to teach me is that you're still a miserable sod who doesn't give a damn about anyone but himself."
"I can teach you nothing if you don't clear your mind! Even after all this time, do you not trust me? Do you not believe that I was acting on Dumbledore's orders? Is that the problem?"
Harry slumped and scrubbed his hands across his face. "Not this again. Please. We've been cooped up in this house for months. I've been trying. I've done all of the meditation. I've read your bloody books. I've practised night and day. I can't do it."
"What was that?"
Harry scrambled to his feet and promptly fell back into the wall. "I said, I can't do it! I bet you love that. Harry Potter admitting he's a complete and utter failure."
The basement of the small cottage fell silent.
"Are you quite finished with your little temper tantrum?" Severus asked giving Harry sufficient time to pull himself together.
"I am well aware of your efforts. It has not escaped my notice that you've actually been doing what you should have done six years ago."
"It's not working," Harry interrupted.
"Quiet. As I said, I am aware of that. In the meantime, your nightmares and visions are getting worse."
Harry opened his mouth to say something.
"I know it hurts, you idiot. I know the pain is unbearable. But I will not indulge it or you."
Harry's mouth snapped closed. His expression turned sullen. Severus cursed under his breath.
"I cannot say why you are so utterly unable to master Occlumency. Your general lack of guile likely has something to do with it, though I believe the Dark Lord's mark has more to do with it than that. In his creation of a conduit to your mind, and yours to his, I believe he's made it impossible for you to combat that. At least on your own." Severus hesitated. "There is something else we can do, but it requires absolute trust on both our parts."
Harry snorted. "What, do I have to fuck you or something?" He was glad that in living with Snape for three months he'd been able to get away with saying such things without fear of being poisoned. As surprising as it was, they'd settled into a comfortable rhythm. Needs must for Dumbledore's men, Harry supposed.
"In a manner of speaking, yes."
"You can't be serious."
"Oh, but I am. Relax. I'm not going to steal your virtue. As you will recall from our rather auspicious reacquaintance, our magic is complimentary, which means we can share it. I can lend you my Occlumency shields until such time that you can make your own."
"What does that entail, exactly?"
"Being completely open. Hiding nothing."
"Er, when you say open… do you mean in the literal sense, or–"
"Oh for the gods! This is not about sex, you imbecile. We just have to touch each other. The easiest way is for you to sit with your back to my front. Cooperative meditation will lead us into the right trance and from there I can share my magic with you."
"What's the big deal, then? Why didn't you try this before?"
"No hiding. We will have access to each other's darkest secrets. I'm sure you can understand that that is not something one shares with a student or casual acquaintance."
"I suppose we're not so casual anymore, are we? Comrades and all that."
"That's one way of looking at it."
"Fine. When do we start?"
"So eager to know my secrets?"
"No," Harry said in a dull, defeated tone. "I'd give you anything right now if what you say is true. I have to finish. I have to. And if I have to do this to finish, then I will."
Severus closed his eyes. "So determined, are you?"
Harry snorted. "Aren't you? Think about it, Severus. A free go at the inner workings of Harry Potter's mind."
"Hold your tongue, you impudent whelp."
"Impertinent brat getting a bit boring, is it?" Harry said, delighting in catching Severus off-guard, if the quick upturn of his lips was anything to go by. It was almost a smile, Harry thought. "Ha! I knew there was a funny bone lurking somewhere in the deep recesses of Severus Snape."
"If you are quite finished," Severus said.
"Yeah, yeah… cooperative mediation. I get it." Harry sat cross-legged on the floor and closed his eyes.
"Focus on the ball of light and let yourself fall into it," Severus said in soft tones as he eased himself behind Harry and pulled Harry to him.
Harry shivered as Severus's magic brushed against him. It was as sweet as he remembered. Such an odd paradox that Severus's magic would fill him with gentle warmth, when the man elicited such white-hot anger. He sighed, focused on the guided visualisation exercise, and hoped he wouldn't embarrass himself beyond measure.
"Forget it. I'm not doing it," Harry said, his arms crossed in front of him. He'd woken an hour before and had just been finishing his guava juice when Severus announced that before a late lunch, Harry was going to walk the length of the lanai five times. They'd been arguing ever since, both remaining intractable.
"No. I won't. She's mad if she thinks I can walk this bloody lanai five times this afternoon and again five times tomorrow. I can hardly make it out here in the morning on my own. I hurt, I'm tired, and I'm hungry. You saw her. She almost killed me! You're going to follow her advice after that? I'm not doing it."
"What is this? What is this pouting and churlish behavior?"
Harry sighed. "I'm tired. More than ever before. That extraction today was the worst yet. I'm not doing it."
Severus swooped in and grabbed Harry's robe by its lapels, pulling Harry closer to him. His stare was heated, intense. "You will do this."
"It's too much. Don't you understand?"
"Harder than mastering the astral projection and animate possession spell? Harder than that?"
Harry opened his mouth to retort, but closed it and looked away.
"Harder than finishing your task when Ms. Granger and Mr. Weasley were no longer with you?"
"Harder than convincing me to bed you?" he asked in a softer voice as his hands let go of the robe lapels and caressed Harry's face.
Harry snorted. "That wasn't so hard. I saw it all in your bloody mind while you were giving me your shields. You, Professor Snape, are one perverted bastard."
"I never said you weren't a beautiful man, Harry." Severus nipped at Harry's throat. "And the thought of you tied to my bed, begging me to fuck you is a lovely one."
Harry whimpered and thrust his hips forward, frustrated that they met nothing but air.
"Or perhaps it was the little fantasy of you in the green silk kimono with the tight lace knickers that's got you so hot and bothered, hmm?"
Harry squeaked, a noise that promptly turned into a moan. He let his head drop to his shoulder while Severus feasted with lips and tongue and teeth.
"I sent you away time and time again, but you wore me down. You got me to fuck you, to make love to you. Most would have given up after the impotency hex."
"Yeah, well, I'm rather stubborn," Harry panted as his eyes crossed. A dreamy haze settled over his mind as Severus pushed him down on the chaise and kissed his way down Harry's body.
"You worked very hard at seducing me," Severus said in between kisses.
"Course I did. I saw—I saw—oh bloody fuck! —I saw the way you looked at me in those fantasies. I wanted that for real."
"And you got it, didn't you?" Severus murmured as he peeled Harry's pyjama bottoms away, marvelling at Harry's erection as it bobbed and swayed. There had been a time when they were both sure that would never happen again.
"Yeah. I did, oh fuck!" Harry cried as Severus's tongue circled the head of his erection. "Please. Oh, please."
"Are you my lover, Harry?" Severus asked in between slurps and licks.
"Er, yeah. I'm—I'm your lover," Harry stuttered, wondering what was going on.
Severus swallowed him whole, like he was an ice lolly, before coming back up.
"Severus, what's got into you?" Harry's heart pounded in his chest, waiting for what Severus might say, but hoping he didn't stop giving him the best blowjob of his life.
"My lover," Severus began before his tongue circled Harry's slit, "is brave and fierce. My lover is not afraid. My lover, in the face of the insurmountable, spat on caution and fear and flung himself through time and space to accomplish his goal."
Severus plunged down again, and Harry felt as though his entire world grayed out.
Severus came back up and pinned Harry with his gaze. "My lover is not afraid of what might not be. He focuses—ridiculously so—on what could be. Are you my lover, Harry?"
Harry nodded, caught in the honeyed wake of Severus's words, his touch, wanting more than anything to be that man Severus spoke of.
Severus sat up and slapped the side of Harry's thigh, leaving his painfully erect cock wanting. "Then get off your arse and walk the bloody lanai."
"You bastard! You got me all hot and bothered so that you could trick me into doing what I said I wouldn't. Well, it won't work," Harry snapped. His throbbing cock did nothing for his cross mood.
"You must," Severus said. No demanding tone. No cajoling. No manipulation. Just earnestness.
Harry sagged from the weight of Severus's request. Shame burned across his cheeks. "Please. I can't. I've been trying for so long. I'm tired. Don't make me do this."
"And you will fight and try for longer still. What, did you think that when we arrived here that life stopped being hard? Did you honestly think there wouldn't be more healers? Potions? Goals? Life is bloody hard, Potter. I would expect you of all people to know that."
"Can't you see? Can't you understand? It's not supposed to be this hard. I was—we were—this was supposed to be different. It was supposed to be—to be–"
"Paradise," Severus interjected as he whirled around. "Nirvana. Eden. Utopia. A place where you would never, ever hurt again."
Harry nodded. "Yeah," he said recalling the night he, Ron and Hermione had discovered the discarded travel brochure for Tahiti in the dingy Muggle motel they were holed up in. Exhausted, terrified, and wounded, they'd lapped up the pictures of white sandy beaches and crystalline blue water with piggish eyes, desperate to know that there was something unspoiled waiting for them. They'd huddled around the cheery brochure, crinkling and marring the glossy, thick paper while tracing the lines of palm trees and snatching it back and forth between their greedy hands. They began to dream. It started with Hermione's hesitant words that she'd heard that Tahiti had the whitest sand in the world. Ron followed up with speculation about the food. Harry chimed in about the mountains and soon they were imagining and dreaming about what a beautiful life they would have in Tahiti. It was, for them, a world without pain. Without terror. Without sorrow. Tahiti became the only thing keeping them from falling apart.
"Harry," Severus said in a softer voice, calling him back from his memories. "Life will always hurt, but we are not without the things that make it bearable. It's time for new goals. Belvedere's Lookout by the end of the summer."
Harry nodded. He understood. Utopia was an illusion. The time for wallowing was over. With great effort he stood, almost falling. Severus caught him.
"You will fall, you will fail, but I won't let you go through it alone. And when you succeed, you will have no fiercer champion than I," Severus said as he helped Harry stand. When Harry was steady, Severus let go.
Harry grimaced and began the slow, painful trek down the lanai, knowing that Severus shadowed every step.
Six Months Ago.
"This isn't working!" Harry shouted as his eighth attempt at the astral projection spell failed.
"I'm seriously beginning to think that all you do is whinge all day."
"Fuck you, Severus."
"How many times must I tell you? I'm not fucking you."
"I'm not talking—would you stop—just shut the bloody hell up."
"I knew you couldn't do this. I knew it all along. You're just a little boy who wants to play at being hero, but when it gets hard he runs to the corner and cries. Good to know I've wasted the last six months of my life trying to teach that rock of a brain anything useful."
Harry growled and rushed at Severus. "Stop pushing me!" he screamed as he shoved Severus hard.
Severus pushed back, causing Harry to stumble backwards into the wall. He pinned Harry's shoulders and bent down so that their eyes were level. "Are you quite finished?"
"Now listen to me. I will say this only once. I will push you, and push you, and push you until you stop this whinging, get bloody good and angry, and prove me wrong. Do you understand me?"
Harry nodded as the warmth of Severus's magic leapt out and tickled him with a soft caress.
"You must do this."
Harry nodded again as he lost himself in the feel of Severus's magic. Without thought, he leaned forward and tried, with clumsy hands and lips, to kiss Severus. He needed that touch. He needed to know there was more between them than complementary magic and growing camaraderie. He needed to know why Severus's magic felt so warm. His lips made it to Severus's cheek before he was pushed away.
"I've said no. You can't keep doing this. I am not going to have sex with you."
"Why not? What's so wrong with me? I saw—I saw what you wanted. I saw your fantasies."
"That's all they are. Fantasies. You're a beautiful boy, but I'm not going to fuck you." Severus hesitated for a moment, as if deciding whether to continue.
"What?" Harry snapped. "Just say it. Just say whatever you're holding back."
"Your clumsy attempts at seduction are excruciating. Even if I were amenable to fucking you, you've put me off."
The words stung. Harry recoiled, letting his cooled anger boil over again. "I hate you!"
"Good. Use that and project yourself to bloody Romania before I strangle you."
Harry cursed Severus's name and everything associated with it, and then—for the first time—flung himself through space and time and landed in a little old witch's parlour in downtown Bucharest.
"I hate you," Harry hissed as he panted. It seemed to Harry that Severus might as well be two continents away, instead of just fifteen metres. Harry wasn't going to make it. He couldn't make it. He was dizzy and exhausted. His arms shook and his legs felt like dead weight.
"Once more. That's all. Then you can tell me you hate me all you like. Come on, Harry. You're almost done."
Harry cursed under his breath and staggered forward. He cried out as pain shot through him. His knees buckled. He bent over and reached out to keep himself from falling. Footsteps pounded across the decking. Arms grabbed him round the middle and pulled him up before he could fall.
Severus's hand pushed back Harry's sweaty hair. "You can do this. Once more to the end. Then you can rest. Just once more."
Harry nodded. He clenched his teeth and shook away Severus's hands. "If I've got to do this, I'm doing it on my own," he muttered as he took a step forward, missing the flicker of fierce pride in Severus's eyes.
Harry fell to the floor, exhausted, but smiling. He heard the crack of Apparition and opened his eyes. "I did it." He craned his neck to look at Severus.
"You did it," Severus agreed as he pried the coiled snake from his wrist and forearm and set it down gently.
"Though I don't think Byron there was too happy about me taking over for a bit," Harry said with a nod to the snake. He laughed at Byron's angry hissing. "Sorry," Harry hissed before promising Byron a wonderful meal and a warm rock to sun himself on.
"You need to be able to do it well enough that you don't pass out from the strain of projection, possession, and Apparition. You'll still have to duel Voldemort after destroying his final Horcrux."
Harry closed his eyes. "I know."
"Have you heard from Ms. Granger and Mr. Weasley?"
"No. The last note I got said they'd located the owner of the cup and were negotiating with him."
Severus conjured several pillows and pulled Harry on top of them.
"Thanks," Harry said as he got comfortable. "Sorry, I can't quite seem to get my bearings."
"You expended a lot of magical energy today. It's like a muscle. It will take time for you to be able to work at that level without falling down immediately afterwards."
"Yeah," Harry said, closing his eyes. The smell of peppermint and cloves wafted around him as Severus conjured another pillow and sat close.
"I've been meaning to ask about the last note you received."
Harry held his breath for a moment. "What of it?"
"I was curious. Why did it begin with, 'They say there are no poisonous insects in Tahiti?'"
"That's how I know it's from Ron and Hermione."
"Is it code of some sort?"
"Er, sort of."
"Do you begin all correspondence is such a way? I thought I saw you writing something about black pearls in your return post."
Harry fingered the edge of one of his pillows for a moment. "We share facts about Tahiti—some are real, some made up."
"Why? And does this have anything to do with that crumpled brochure you're always staring at in the middle of the night?"
Harry opened his eyes and sent a sharp glance Severus's way. "Reading my post? Spying on me? What else have you been doing that I should know about?"
"Do you mean something other than knowing all of your prurient thoughts?"
Harry looked away.
"If I'm up in the middle of the night, it's out of habit."
"Yes, that's one reason."
Harry turned his head. He figured Severus didn't know he'd felt him hold him and try to soothe him through some of the worst nightmares. Harry liked keeping that secret. It was a part of Severus, willingly given, that Harry refused to expose for fear it would be taken away. His comforts in life were small; he guarded them jealously.
"I suppose you would like to know about Tahiti."
"I would, though I understand if you wish not to say."
Harry made a dismissive gesture with one hand and ordered his thoughts. "There was a time—early on. We'd been captured by a rogue Death Eater—Gregory Goyle. He'd… well, he and his father tortured us and, and… did things—to Hermione. And me. We escaped, killing them in the process. We were terrified. Somehow we made it to a Muggle motel in America and stayed there for a few weeks, ordering our food in, huddling together in the same bed, jumping at every noise. One day we found this travel brochure for Tahiti attached to one of the takeaway bags. The pictures… they were—it was like—I can't describe it, really. We just knew we wanted it. We wanted to survive Voldemort not because it meant salvation for the Wizarding World, but because we wanted to go to Tahiti. We decided we'd live in a thatched cottage on the beach, eat fish we'd caught, sell bits of found coral, and drink Sundowners all day." Harry sighed. "You probably think that's stupid."
"No. I don't. A desire to live in paradise? A desire for simplicity and companionship? A desire to be completely free? Who wouldn't want those things?" Severus murmured, as if he were talking to himself instead of answering Harry's question.
Harry swallowed and screwed up his courage. "You could come with us, you know." His words rang in the small space, leaving the question open far longer than Harry would have liked.
Severus didn't respond.
Harry closed his eyes. He allowed the question, the hope, to die with most of his dignity intact. He turned away again.
"Rest. You've accomplished the spell once. We need to try it again after dinner."
Harry nodded, grateful not to have to say anything more.
Harry took the final step and let himself fall to the chaise. His lungs burned and his body was covered with sweat. He groaned as Severus turned him so that he was lying on his back.
Severus swooped down and kissed Harry hard, stealing the rest of his breath. "Well done," he said before conjuring a cool flannel and wiping Harry's face and torso. "Feel better?"
"Better," Harry bit out. He clenched his teeth as the muscles in his legs started cramping. "Fuck, it hurts."
"Give it just a minute. Breathe through it. I can give you a mild muscle relaxant, but nothing as strong as what I gave you this morning."
Severus swept away, returning moments later with the potion, a salve made from kava kava and bitterwort, and a plate of fresh mango. He pulled Harry up and helped him take the potion.
"Thank you," Harry said, as the cramping in his muscles lessened.
"I'd like to try the salve."
"This is the kava kava salve–"
"I know what it does, Severus. I know I won't be able to feel my legs. Just fucking do it! I'm going to kill her tomorrow, you do realise."
Severus went to work before Harry could change his mind. Harry tried to hold back his whimpers and curses as Severus worked the salve deep into the muscles.
"Almost done," Severus said as he worked up the left leg and down the right.
Harry let the tension go as the pain went away. He was so tired that he didn't care if he couldn't feel his legs. He just didn't care anymore.
"It's only temporary. The feeling will come back in a few hours."
"I know. Sorry I've been so shitty about the salve before now. I just… It makes everything numb, and after the battle and everything, I was so afraid I'd never feel anything again."
"No need to explain. I understand. Now, I think it's time for some lunch."
Harry groaned. "Don't you have some potions to brew or ingredients to gather? I just want to sleep."
"Lunch first. Sleep after that. And a reward when you wake up."
Harry perked up. "A reward? What kind of reward?"
Severus leaned down and sucked the love bite he'd made earlier.
"Oh. That kind of reward," Harry moaned. "But you promised dinner al fresco. I want to see the canoes and hear the music."
"I'm sure I can rouse you from your sleep," Severus whispered, causing Harry to moan even more.
"Well, when you put it like that, why would I ever say no?" Harry panted.
Severus's grin was feral. "I thought you might see things my way."
"Can't I skip lunch, though, and go straight to sleep?"
"No. Eat," Severus said as he slid a juicy piece of mango between Harry's lips.
"What—oh, brilliant! I love mango," Harry murmured as he nibbled the fruit and sucked the juice from Severus's fingers.
"Yes, I know."
Harry's tongue darted over Severus's fingers. He smiled like the Cheshire cat when he heard Severus's breath quicken, and the way his voice sounded a bit strangled when he asked Harry if he'd like a bit more to eat.
"Yes, please," Harry responded. "I promise to make it worth your while."
Severus dutifully fed Harry all of the mango, and when he'd finished that, Harry insisted on more kissing, as well as nibbling and licking of a different sort. Severus seemed only too happy to comply.
Afterwards they lay there, Harry curled at Severus's side, both enjoying the breeze as the mara'amu cut across the lanai, that brought with it the mingled scents of frangipani and gardenia. The lazy sounds from the bay below soothed. Both slipped into sleep.
Harry stood in front of the mirror. He smoothed the green silk once more and turned, looking at his backside to make sure everything was in place. "I must be out of my sodding mind," he muttered to himself before banishing the mirror.
He checked the small clock on the nightstand. Severus would be back soon. He'd gone to meet a contact to confirm where Voldemort was hiding. It amazed Harry how much information Severus had been able to gather in the months he'd been with him. Lots of things about Severus amazed him, which was why he was now kneeling in a green silk kimono waiting for Severus to come back. His seduction had almost been successful the last time. Of course the impotency hex he'd gotten for his efforts hadn't been pleasant. Nevertheless, Harry was determined to bed Severus.
He heard the crack of Apparition. His heart was pounding and his arms trembled. The closer the footsteps came, the faster Harry's breathing got. The door creaked open. Harry gasped, but dared not look up. He knew Severus was in the room. The weight of Severus's magic, his silence, was oppressive. He could feel him staring at him, deciding what to do. Harry, though, would not yield.
"What do you think you're doing?" Severus said after a long while.
"I told you I wouldn't give up."
"If you think kneeling there in that garish costume--"
"I told you I wouldn't give up," Harry interrupted.
The silenced stretched. Harry refused to look up.
"Stand up," Severus barked.
Harry got to his feet and walked forward, his heart racing. A hand against his chest stopped him.
"I didn't tell you to move. Stand still."
Harry nodded, still keeping his eyes on the floor.
Severus circled him as his fingers skimmed across Harry's body. Harry felt Severus stop behind him. He cried out in surprise as sharp teeth nipped at his ear lobe.
"You will not give up, will you?" Severus whispered as his hand reached around Harry's body and pulled him closer.
Harry shook his head. "No. I won't."
"Because I want you. I want you to look at me the way you look at me in your mind. I want you to—to desire me. I—I want to feel like I'm the only thing in your world worth having, even if for only a little while."
"Go on," Severus said as his hand rubbed lightly across Harry's stomach.
Harry shuddered. "I—I want you to feel like you're the only thing in my world worth having. I… I lo–" A hand across his mouth stopped him from saying anything more.
"Fine, Harry. I'll give you what you want," Severus said as he tugged at the knot in Harry's sash.
Harry gasped. He couldn't believe it was finally happening. He'd assumed Severus would hex him again. He never thought he'd give in. His mind reeled at the thought of things to come.
"You got the kimono exactly right. If only you showed as much diligence in your studies," Severus said as he unwrapped Harry like an exquisite Christmas gift.
The heavy silk was pushed from his shoulders. Harry felt it slither down his body as it fell in loose folds on the floor. Severus's gasp told him he liked the other part of Harry's costume. He moaned as Severus's fingers dipped into his lace knickers and massaged his cock.
"On the bed," Severus whispered. He bit the side of Harry's neck and gave his cock a good squeeze. "Keep the knickers."
Harry moaned, unbelievably aroused. He hoped to find places on Severus's body that made him melt like that.
Harry hurried to the bed and stopped. He wasn't sure what he was supposed to do. He looked over his shoulder. Severus was staring at him with such intensity, such want, that Harry shuddered.
"I said, on the bed."
Harry hopped up and scrambled back towards the headboard with his legs folded underneath him.
"How do you expect me to fuck you like that?" Severus asked as he removed his robe and trousers.
Harry licked his lips, fascinated as each layer of clothing was removed. "Er… you know," he eventually said, hoping he that sounded like he knew what he was doing.
Severus got onto the bed. He prowled forward and cupped the back of Harry's head, pulling him closer. His lips hovered at Harry's ear. "Do you like dressing up for me, Harry?"
Harry, dizzy and aroused, could only nod, his half-lidded eyes glittering in the candlelight.
"Is this what you want? You want me to fuck you?" Severus nibbled the shell of Harry's ear.
Harry panted. "Yes. Please. Fuck me."
"On your hands and knees, then."
Harry looked at him strangely before complying. He was about to ask why he needed to be on his hands and knees when he felt his knickers being pushed to the side and something slick and pointy poking him in the arse. "What the fuck?" he squeaked, jumping in the air.
A hand at the small of his back kept him from getting away. "You said you wanted to be fucked, so I'm going to give you what you want. You have been fucked before, haven't you, Harry?"
Harry could hear the teasing challenge in Severus's voice, but he wasn't going to back down. "More or less," he hedged, wincing as the thing poking him found its way in. After a few seconds, he realised it was a finger. Severus's finger. Up his arse. Wiggling around. What the bloody fuck? Harry was just about to call him on his charade when the finger crooked slightly and brushed against something that made Harry see stars. He screamed and fell forward. It felt like gold glitter was dancing around in his veins. "What, what," he panted, unable to say anything else.
"Liked that, did you?" Severus asked as he brushed against the same spot again.
Harry cried out and fought to keep himself under control. If Severus did that again, he was going to come, he knew it. He tried to tell him to stop, to wiggle elsewhere, but Severus did it again, and again, and again, until Harry arched his back, fisted the sheets and came in thick, ropey spurts.
The finger withdrew. "That should put an end to your curiosity," Severus said with a firm slap to Harry's bottom. "Get your things and get out."
Harry had never been so humiliated in all his life. He closed his eyes and screwed up his courage. He flipped over, taking in Severus's surprise. "Expected me to run out of the room, did you?"
"More or less."
"Pretty obvious I've never done this before, yeah?"
"Obvious would be a vast understatement," Severus said, staring at Harry as if he were an unpredictable, potentially explosive potion.
"I'm not leaving."
"I see that."
"Just goes to show you can't scare me off that easily. Now. You promised me a fuck," Harry said, hoping Severus couldn't hear how loud his heart was pounding, or see the fine tremors in his hands.
After a few moments of pondering, something flared in Severus's eyes. It took Harry's breath away. It felt like the first time Severus saw him as an adult. In everything.
"I do believe I did."
"All right, then," Harry said, pleased that Severus hadn't tried to talk him out of it. "Show me what to do and let's get to the gorgeous mind-blowing sex."
"As you wish," Severus crawled forward. He fingered the lace stretched tight around Harry's cock, his touch maddeningly light.
Harry writhed and bucked his hips, hoping for more contact.
Severus kept the touch light and constant, making Harry's erection swell even more.
"If you keep …uh… keep touching me like that, I'll—I'll come again."
"Tsk, tsk, Harry. You need to learn a bit more control, I think. Lucky for you I'm your teacher."
Before Harry to respond, lips and tongue latched onto one of his nipples, licking, before teeth nibbled. Harry cried out and bucked his hips again.
"Like that?" Severus mumbled as he nibbled his way across Harry's chest and skimmed his fingers over Harry's lace covered cock.
"Y–yeah," Harry stuttered, wondering dimly if he should be doing anything.
Severus moved back and sat up. "Take off your knickers for me, Harry."
Harry's gaze never wavered from Severus's as he reached down and peeled the emerald green lace from his body.
"Toss them on the floor."
Severus's gaze roved over his body. Harry tilted his chin up and bore the inspection. He got the feeling that he was rather like a bundle of rare ingredients that Severus wasn't quite sure what to do with yet. Hands reached out with furtive darts, caressing here and there. Harry figured Severus hadn't done this much either. He liked that. He liked the idea of them figuring things out together.
"I don't know why you want this. It will hurt."
Harry was of the opinion that Severus had been in his position far too many times; one-offs, perhaps, with people who didn't care about whether he liked it or not. He shrugged. "Most good things do."
"A glutton—that's what you are."
"I know." Harry screwed up his courage. "And it's not like this isn't the only time we'll do this. I—I imagine it gets better. Easier."
Severus didn't say anything. He just stared at Harry with the same smoldering passion as before. He reached over to the nightstand and dipped his fingers into a salve of some sort. "Don't close your eyes," he whispered as he circled Harry's entrance and pushed both fingers in slowly.
It burned, it hurt, and Harry couldn't imagine for the life of him how Seveurs's cock was supposed to fit in there. His thoughts skittered away as the fingers found the same spot as before and as Severus's other hand brushed against his nipples. The pain receded, replaced by a curious ache that demanded satisfaction. He couldn't express what he wanted with words, so he let his body explain. Severus understood. Harry let go.
When Severus finally pushed himself in—holding Harry close, stroking his cock, whispering words of comfort—Harry was breathing through the pain. His focus wasn't on the moment; he thought of the future. He set his sights on a time when this wouldn't be their first experience together, to a time when they knew each other, when everything was familiar, when there was more pleasure than pain. And then Severus moved. A thousand light bulbs flashed before Harry's eyes as heat and arousal zoomed through him.
Severus thrust gently, but with purpose. He touched Harry everywhere, with fingers, with lips and tongue, with magic. With each stroke, each touch, the pleasure built until it tipped over. Harry and Severus's world collapsed to their bed, to their bodies.
Harry woke. The sun hung a bit low in the sky and the breeze was cool. His stomach growled. He snuggled into Severus, who was still asleep. This was Harry's favourite part of the day. No matter the work Severus claimed to have, they always managed to fit in nap after lunch.
He twisted around to see if he could see the canoes at the edge of the bay. His back twinged at the sudden movement. He flexed his calves, noticing that both the salve and the muscle relaxant had worn off. He found he didn't mind the pain so much. He'd earned it today. Harry cast his gaze to Severus and brushed the fine black hair away from his face. Severus muttered something in his sleep and nuzzled closer. Harry's face split into a wicked grin as he thought of the perfect way to wake his lover.
Severus had been dreaming about finding a vast store of dragon scales at the bottom of a small basalt pool on Mount Rotui. He imagined stripping and dipping into the warm pool, collecting the glittering scales one by one as he dipped below the water's surface. Heat coiled in his groin with each dip, the warm water arousing him. As the dream dissipated and scattered to the far corners of his mind, Severus woke, but the wet heat didn't go away. Bewildered, he looked around and noticed he'd fallen asleep on the chaise on the lanai. He looked down and saw a black head of hair moving up and down.
"Oh, you wicked, wicked boy," he moaned as he realized Harry was giving him an exquisite blowjob. The touch was perfect, just the way Severus liked it. Harry had found almost every spot on Severus's body that, when touched or licked just so, would fling him into a transcendent state of pleasure. Severus was grateful that there were still more for both of them to discover.
"Yes. Like that." Severus stretched his legs a bit wider and bucked up a fraction.
Harry paused and lifted himself by his arms. "So nice of you to join us," he said, his voice thick and raspy. "Shall I continue?"
Severus wanted to say no, to ask how he was feeling, to make sure he felt strong enough, but the look on Harry's face made all of his concerns melt away. Harry wanted to do this, and who was Severus to deny him? "Of course," he said, his fingers wending through Harry's hair and gently pushing him down, letting himself get lost in the pleasure.
He stood there, staring at the crumpled piece of parchment. The line of his body was as rigid and closed now as it had been playful and languid only hours before in their bed. Severus waited.
"It's done," Harry said after a long while, still staring at the parchment.
"They destroyed the cup?"
"It's done," Harry repeated, tossing the parchment on the table, as if it hurt to touch it.
Severus walked to the table and picked up the parchment. Two words written in Granger's neat cursive. Nothing more. No facts about Tahitian pearls, or coral reefs, or mysterious temples. Two words.
There was still the owl to deal with. Before Severus could suggest something, Harry withdrew his wand and, in a series of quick slashes, released the owl from its Transfiguration. When he was done, a box of Muggle dental tape sat innocently on the table. Harry laughed, the sound hollow.
Something was clearly amiss, but Severus didn't understand. Before he could ask, Harry threw the dental tape across the room and screamed, "Fuck you!" to whom, it was unclear—at least to Severus.
"I need to Firecall. Is the Floo secure?" Harry asked in clipped tones, still not looking at Severus.
"Yes. What's happened?"
"The cup. They destroyed it."
"We must begin to plan, then. We'll need to find out when the next meeting is with all of Voldemort's supporters. I'll get in touch with my contact right away."
"It doesn't matter," Harry muttered.
"Have you lost your mind? We have a major offensive to plan."
"Leave it, Snape. At least for the night."
Severus reared back. It had been months since Harry had called him Snape.
"What are you–"
"I said leave it!" Harry screamed before dropping to the floor and Firecalling to a place called Phoenix.
Severus stayed where he was and listened. Moments later, the fiery outline of Hermione Granger's face rose from the embers.
"Hermione," Harry called.
"Harry. I—you got my message."
"Yeah. Where's Ron?"
There was a long pause. Harry waited.
"The cup—we destroyed it. It was an amazing bit of magic. Your blood helped tremendously."
"Where's Ron?" Harry asked again.
"Where's Ron?" Harry bellowed.
More silence. Granger's voice broke in again. "Ron …he…. I'm so sorry. There was a curse, he tried to… we didn't anticipate. It—he—I'm sorry."
"Sorry for what?" Harry asked. Severus had never heard such bitterness and fear in Harry's voice.
"He didn't make it. I'm sorry."
Severus watched as Harry's hands balled into fists and he heaved silent cries before raising his head to Hermione again.
"You okay, Hermione?" his voice beseeching.
"Yes. No. I don't know." She laughed a soft little laugh. "I will be, I suspect."
Harry leaned forward. The firelight flickered in his eyes. From the side, Severus thought he looked a bit crazed.
"It's almost over."
"No, listen. I've learnt the spell. We're just planning the offensive now. Snape's trained me up. It will be over before you know it, and then–"
"I'm not going, Harry. I'm leaving."
"No. That's not—you can't–"
"Please, Harry. Please don't make this harder."
"We promised. Don't you remember? We promised."
"I can't. I'm so tired, Harry. The last few years have been so hard. But I had Ron and that made it okay, made it bearable. Now I don't. We finished what we set out to do. I can't give anymore. I'm sorry."
"But—the pearls, and the coral, and the thatched cottage. Don't you remember? Don't you?" Harry cried, his voice breaking.
"I'm leaving the Wizarding World. Too many reminders. I don't want it if Ron's not there with me. So, I'm going home. To my parents. We're moving to America. I'm sorry, Harry. It's just too hard. I loved him. I can't do it without him. Please, forgive me."
"The Hermione I know wouldn't leave. She wouldn't give up. She wouldn't turn her back–"
"I'm not the same Hermione!" she snapped, the sound blending with the crackling embers. "I haven't seen you in two years, Harry. We've shared half a dozen scraps of parchment with cryptic messages. We're not the same people anymore. I'm not the same."
Harry nodded. And then he nodded some more.
Severus watched as Harry's body slouched in resignation.
"Of course," Harry said in a distant voice, his eyes glazed and his body still.
"You should still go. You should–"
"Doesn't matter," Harry interrupted. "Doesn't matter."
Silence descended as Harry's head dropped to his chest.
"I've got to go, Harry. I love you. Never forget that. I'm sorry."
Her head disappeared. The embers died. Harry slumped to the floor.
"Harry?" Severus called as he walked towards the fireplace. When Harry didn't respond, Severus narrowed his eyes and nudged Harry with his boot. "Up. Now. I don't have time for your whinging," he said, his heart beating too fast, his breathing too rapid.
Harry rolled over. His eyes were dull and lifeless. "Ron died."
"Yes. I heard."
"She loved him."
"She still does."
"She's too tired."
"She's lost hope."
Harry nodded. He sat up and stared at the floor.
Severus watched, unsure of what to do. The sobs started as nothing more than silent, wracking things that devolved into wet, red faced wails of fury and loss.
Severus pulled Harry to his feet and talked to him the way he did when he soothed him through a nightmare. He led Harry to his bed, undressed him, and tucked him in. He lay next to him, letting Harry roll to his side and clutch him as if he alone kept Harry on the mortal plane. Perhaps that was true, but Severus didn't like to think of such things. Instead, he let his magic flow out and do what he could not. He carded his fingers through unruly hair and let Harry cry until he had nothing left in him. He let him mourn without fear of reprisal. He let him sleep.
And then they planned.
The sun was finally beginning to set. Pinks and oranges streaked across the sky as Severus helped Harry sit up and enjoy his dinner.
"Can we get closer to the edge? I can't see the outriggers."
Severus smiled at Harry's enthusiasm. It took so little to make him happy. "Such a demanding little beast you are," he said as he pushed the chaise closer to the edge.
"Yes, I suppose. Though you'll notice I haven't demanded my reward yet."
"Oh yes, I'd nearly forgotten."
Harry snorted. "Don't worry, old man. I'd never let you forget."
"No, I suppose not. Now eat your dinner and watch your canoes."
Harry took a generous bite of mahi-mahi mousse. "God, I love this stuff."
"More than the mango?"
"Hmm… yes, I think so."
"I don't think there's anything on this island you don't like."
"Orama—don't much care for her at the moment."
"I know, I know."
They ate their dinner in silence, both enjoying the small festival taking place at the edge of the bay. Coloured lights and large fire pits cast a cheery glow over the whole thing. Couples danced the upa upa with wild glee, while the sweet strain of the vivo and erotic beat of the pahu drums played in sensual counterpoint.
"I think Hermione and Ron would have liked to dance like that. I think even Ron could've got the hang of those steps."
Severus stilled. It was the first mention of Ron and Hermione since the night of Harry's Firecall.
"I think they would have liked it here."
"I'm sure they would have."
"I didn't think I'd ever make it here. I never in million years thought you'd be with me. I'm—I'm glad things worked out the way they did."
"I am as well."
Harry looked up, his eyes glittering in the gloaming. "I love you."
Severus didn't stop him this time. Instead, he reached out and let his fingers trail down Harry's face. He drew him into a soft kiss. "Me, too," he whispered in Harry's ear before leaning back and returning his gaze to the wild dancing.
"Think we can do that next year?" Harry asked, as he watched the dancers whirl and jump and writhe with joyous abandon.
Severus could see the hunger in Harry's eyes. The hope. But how could Severus answer that? There were too many caveats, disclaimers, and other qualifiers wrapped within those seven words, making such a simple question far too complex to answer. Harry turned to him. His eyes danced with determination and the irrepressible joy of meeting the future with Severus, whatever it might hold. The world collapsed to the space around them. Disclaimers and caveats vanished. It was simple, really. He had Harry. Harry had him. Life, future, Fate—those were just the bits in between.
Severus leaned forward and cupped the back of Harry's head with his hand. His thumb brushed across Harry's cheek. He marveled at the fact that he never tired of touching him there. "Yes, I think we can."
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