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Waiting to Divide

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Title: Waiting to Divide
Author: [info]emynn
Gift Recipient [personal profile] green
Other pairings/threesome: Ron/Hermione
Rating: NC-17
Word count: ~22,500
Warning(s): None
Summary/Prompt: Harry always thought soul mates were the domain of overly-soppy romantics. What he didn't realise was that they were very real, very dangerous, and very inconvenient...especially when your soul mate is the very dead Severus Snape. Fortunately, with the help of his friends and a Time Portal, he's able to get past that pesky obstacle...and finds his life completely changed.
A/N: Giftee, I tried to work in your likes and really hope you enjoy the story! Thank you to [personal profile] alisanne and [personal profile] lilyseyes for the handholding! Title taken from the song "Borrowed Time" by A Fine Frenzy, which also inspired a great deal of the story and you can view as the official soundtrack to this fic.

 


Waiting to Divide

It was official: Harry Potter was going to murder Ron Weasley.

Just as soon as he could get the energy to sit up again.

He was fine, really. Sure, he might have been a bit lethargic the past few weeks, and occasionally ran a fever, but it was likely just due to the demands of being an Auror and running about at all hours of the night in the cold after the scum of the Wizarding world and never taking a holiday. Okay, perhaps he had a touch of the flu, but he was off that weekend. He’d just have some soup and sleep it off.

But no. Ron had to blab to Kingsley that he was feeling a bit off, but exaggerated to the point where Harry imagined it must have sounded like he was on his death bed. Next thing he knew, he was receiving a notice that he wasn’t allowed back at work until he had a note clearing him from a St Mungo’s Healer.

Bollocks.

“Well, Healer Sudol?” Harry asked when she came back into the room. “What do I have? Regular flu? Dragon flu? Fairy flu? Doxy flu?”

“Not any type of flu at all, I’m afraid,” said Sudol. She tucked her long, bright red hair behind her ears.

“Well, great,” Harry said, ignoring the rather sombre look on Sudol’s face. “Just a cold? Could I get a note?”

“You don’t have a cold either, Mr Potter,” continued Sudol. “You have a soul mate.”

Harry blinked. “Well, thank you for that encouragement on my love life, but I really don’t think – ”

“You misunderstand me, Mr Potter,” Sudol said, pulling up a chair. “The reason for your illness is that you have a soul mate.”

“Wait, my soul mate is making me sick?” Harry asked. “What the hell kind of soul mate is that?”

“An absent one,” Sudol said. “Tell me, Mr Potter. Do you know much about Wizarding soul mates?”

Harry shrugged. “Figured they were pretty much like Muggle ones: non-existent.”

“Oh, they’re very real, Mr Potter,” Sudol said. “And potentially very dangerous. Now, approximately one out of every seventy wizards has a soul mate. Not a huge number, to be sure, but enough. For some people, they find their soul mate and never encounter a single problem since once the match is made, the bond between them solidifies and they can get on with their happily ever after, so to speak.”

“I take it I’m not among those lucky ones, am I?” Harry asked.

“Well, let’s not be too hasty,” Sudol said. “There’s still a strong possibility that once we sort out who your soul mate is, all will be fine.”

Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Fat chance of that happening. He hadn’t been on a date since breaking up with Ginny nearly three years ago, after deciding he didn’t believe in soul mates, and, given his distinct preference for his own sex, he certainly, certainly didn’t believe his was Ginny.

“Now, here is the difficulty,” Sudol continued. “The dangers of soul mates … well, it goes without saying that soul mates need to be in close, frequent, physical contact with each other. And when the match is made by whatever higher being governs the fates of wizards, not much care is given to the wizard’s time or locations. There have been cases of wizards expiring because their soul mate was born four centuries before their time. Others have died waiting for their soul mate to be born. Now, fortunately, with all the advancements with the Floo Network, location is no longer such a hindrance, although up until the last century there were some soul mate deaths due to that, as well.”

“That’s completely idiotic!” Harry exclaimed. “People die just because they were born in the wrong time period? How is that even possible?”

“Many books have been written about the theories behind it,” Sudol said. “I’m happy to give you some recommendations. The general idea behind most is that souls are so infinitely complicated that to find two that are completely compatible is already rare enough, so to find two that were born generally around the same time is actually quite miraculous. The more romantic of the theories says that for whoever this higher power is, all time is but a second, not an endless stretch of time like it is for mere mortals. And if soul mates can’t find each other on this earth, they will be united in ecstasy in the afterlife.”

“I like my life right now, thanks,” Harry muttered. He sighed. “So, is there any way to determine who my soul mate even is, or do I just keep wandering around until I find somebody and hearts and flowers just fall upon us?”

Sudol smiled. “I’m afraid you’ll find soul mate reunions are not quite as dramatic as all that. But there is a way. The Unspeakables at the Department of Mystery have developed a technique that is entirely effective.”

“Great,” Harry said, feeling more optimistic than he had all morning. “My friend Hermione is an Unspeakable. I’ll see if I can talk with her today.”

Sudol nodded. “See that you do. I’ll be sure to give you a copy of your file to take to her.”

“Wonderful. So, can I get a note now? Today’s probably a wash, but I’d love to get back to work on Monday.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” Sudol said with a slight smile. “Until you find your soul mate, you are still very much at risk. I cannot stress this enough, Mr Potter: being without physical contact of your soul mate for an extended period of time can be deadly. You will likely only get worse if this goes on for much longer. We must take this search for your soul mate very seriously.”

Harry sighed. Leave it to him to have a sodding soul mate.

~*~


“Harry!” Hermione exclaimed. “What are you doing here? Ron said you were seeing a Healer. I thought you’d be resting today.”

Harry thrust the file into her hands. “I have a soul mate.”

Her eyes widened. “Oh, Harry. Are you sure?”

“Healer says. She also said I should talk to an Unspeakable to find out who it is. Can you help?”

“Well I…yes, of course. It’s only…” she sighed. “Normally they discourage consultations with friends as a conflict of personal interest, but soul mates have always been a tricky subject in that they are so inherently personal.”

“Well, I’d rather not have a stranger explore who my soul mate is, if it’s all the same,” Harry said.

Hermione nodded. “Well, Harry, I’m going to have to take you into the Ever-Locked Room.”

“The Love Chamber?” Harry asked. “I thought it was, well, you know. Ever-locked.”

“To everybody except Unspeakables,” Hermione said, as though it should have been entirely obvious. “And the occasional poor individual looking for their soul mate. Now, I need to warn you that you’ll never be able to speak of what you see in there. And I mean that literally. Should you begin to either say or write anything about it, you’ll find you are physically unable to.”

Harry nodded. “Fine. Shall we?”

Harry wasn’t sure what he expected the Love Chamber to look like, but it certainly wasn’t this. It was fairly dark, lit by torches lining the stone walls that cast flickering lights over the deep, mahogany furniture. It had an odd smell, a combination of a fire burning and cedar, mixed with something he couldn’t quite identify but that reminded him of being in an apothecary. It felt powerful and a little dangerous, but also very comforting. Harry felt rather warm, and he didn’t think it was entirely due to his fever.

“Not very romantic for a love chamber, is it?” Harry asked with a smile.

“Hmm,” Hermione said. Harry very much got the impression she wasn’t telling him something. Damn her and her Unspeakable sensibilities.

“So, what do I have to do?” Harry asked. “Drink a potion? Let you point your wand at me?”

“Step over this way,” said Hermione, moving to stand by a large cauldron that Harry hadn’t noticed before. “I can prepare it while you ask questions. I’m sure you have many. I have to warn you I might not be able to answer them all as an Unspeakable, but I can speak a little more freely with you since I’m treating you.”

Harry nodded. “So, what happens once I find out who my soul mate is? I just go look them up and say, ‘Hi, I’m Harry, and we’re supposed to be together,’ or is there some sort of protocol?”

“Well, I suspect you already know the person,” Hermione said. “Given that your symptoms only began relatively recently, I expect you were in fairly close contact with them until perhaps a few years ago.”

Harry frowned. “Well, that doesn’t make sense. Healer Sudol said sometimes people were born in the entirely wrong century as their soul mate. How would that work?”

Hermione smirked as she emptied the contents of a large phial into the cauldron. “You stormed out of her office before getting a full explanation, didn’t you?”

Harry’s face flushed. “Perhaps.”

“Well, it’s a little complicated,” Hermione said. She threw a pinch of a bright pink powder into the cauldron. “For people who have the misfortune of being born in a different time period from their soul mate, they tend to grow up just slightly sickly. It’s a very slow process because they’ve never touched their soul mate. Think of it as having a minor immune disorder for most of your life. It will eventually grow worse, and yes, kill them, but usually not until they’ve reached their seventies or so.”

“And your theory about me?” Harry asked, rather afraid to hear the answer.

“I believe it was likely somebody at Hogwarts you saw regularly. You see, a soul bond initiates when the two soul mates have physical contact,” Hermione said. “Any sort at all, even just a slight brushing of shoulders. Once that happens, however, it accelerates the cycle. Being away for a few weeks, or even a few months, usually isn’t cause for much alarm. But after a few years, the separated parties will grow very ill very quickly. If there’s no contact…” Her voice cracked slightly. “Nobody has survived more than a decade after the symptoms set in. And it tends to be a very long, painful death.”

Harry felt his knees grow weak, and then found himself seated in a deep green armchair. “Hell, Hermione.” A horrible thought occurred to him. “A few years ago…that was when the war was going on. What if my soul mate is dead?”

“I was just thinking that,” Hermione said, her voice grim. “I have some ideas, but they would only be temporary solutions. It’s dangerous to travel through time that frequently.”

It was a testament to how mind-boggling the day had been that Harry didn’t even bat an eyelash at the idea of travelling through time to find his soul mate. “And there’s no cure?”

Hermione shook her head. “Not yet, but we have been working on something. Professor Snape was actually working on a potion for it before he died. He left very detailed notes in his potions journal, but his notes came to an abrupt stop a few months before he was killed. I expect being a double agent didn’t allow much time for experimenting. And unfortunately we simply don’t have a potions master of his calibre in the Ministry, although we’ve been looking.”

Harry held his head in his hands. “Well, bugger.”

“Quite,” Hermione said. “Okay, this is when I need you.”

Harry stood up, still feeling rather weak, and moved to the cauldron. “My blood, I assume?”

Hermione smiled, but Harry thought it looked rather pained. “Looks like you did learn something in Snape’s class after all. Arm?”

Harry obeyed, not saying a word as Hermione ran a silver knife over his arm and allowed the droplets of blood to fall into the cauldron. As the potion bubbled and hissed, Hermione quietly healed Harry’s wound.

“This needs the afternoon to mature and crystallise,” Hermione said. “You really should go home to rest. How about I bring the final potion to your home around seven tonight and we can figure it out together?” Her face turned pink. “Or by yourself, of course. I know it’s quite personal, and if you’d rather view who your soul mate is alone, I completely understand. As an Unspeakable I should be there to supervise, but as your friend…”

“It’s fine, Hermione,” Harry said, taking her hand. “I want you to be there. And Ron.”

Hermione smiled. “It will all work out, Harry. I promise.”

Harry squeezed her hand, wishing he could share her optimism. The only problem was when you grew up being Harry Potter, you rather came to expect the worst.

~*~


Harry put down the book on Wizarding soul mates Hermione had loaned him and rubbed his eyes. There had been some encouraging information – for one, the soul bonds did take into account sexual attraction, so the odds were great his soul mate was at least a man. He didn’t know what he would have done if, after breaking Ginny’s heart, it turned out she was his soul mate after all. She would never let him hear the end of it … and he’d have to endure a lifetime of that.

For another, while the vast majority of united soul mates, upon recognising their deep spiritual connection that supposedly went beyond compare to anything any other couple could experience, did form a romantic union, it was not required. So long as they engaged in some sort of regular physical contact, all would be well. In fact, the book reported a case in the 18th century where two soul mates were married to other people and were adamantly opposed to having an affair, and contented themselves with a single spouse-supervised tea a week and did quite well. Harry did notice, however, that the book didn’t mention what the spouses felt about the situation, but did casually note that they both died rather suddenly under mysterious circumstances five years into the arrangement.

Unfortunately, there was still the matter that Harry didn’t know who his soul mate was, and given the number of casualties in the last war, there was a strong possibility he was dead. And then what?

He heard his fireplace roar to life and glanced over at it. “Come on through, Ron.”

Ron was sitting in the chair beside him a moment later. “Hermione told me you have a soul mate. Bloody rotten luck there, mate.”

“You know, I rather miss the days when I thought that term was reserved for obnoxiously in love couples,” Harry groused.

Ron snorted. “Well you know, it’s romantic when it works out. Just when it doesn’t…”

“Don’t remind me,” Harry said. “I don’t know what tricks Hermione has up her sleeve, but I don’t think even she can figure out how I can be with a dead soul mate.”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” Ron said. “Maybe it’s just somebody we haven’t seen in a while because they went off to the States or something.”

Harry raised a brow. “How many of those can you think of?”

Ron at least had the grace to look sheepish. “So, Hermione’s coming at seven? Have you eaten?”

“No,” Harry said, shaking his head. “Didn’t have the energy.”

“Merlin, mate, why didn’t you tell one of us?” Ron asked, standing up. “We would have brought you over something. You stay here. I’ll find something in your kitchen.”

Harry and Ron were almost finished with their beef stew by the time Hermione appeared, holding an almost iridescent crystal ball. She carefully set it down on the kitchen table before helping herself to a chunk of crusty bread and sitting next to Ron.

“Harry, how are you feeling?”

Harry shrugged. “About the same. Not much has changed, after all. Right?”

“Hmm,” Hermione said. “Mind if I brew myself some tea?”

“Help yourself,” said Harry.

“So do you know who Harry’s soul mate is?” Ron asked, draining the last of his stew.

“Of course not,” Hermione sniffed. “It would be completely inappropriate for me to look before Harry himself knows. Besides, it wouldn’t work properly if I were the first one to look.”

“So what do I do?” Harry asked. “Just look into that crystal ball?”

“Pretty much,” Hermione said, bringing her cup of tea back to the table. “You’ll need to think about finding your soul mate. A vision should appear out of the crystal ball, and it will actually appear as though your soul mate is standing in this room. They will state their name and where they can be found before vanishing.”

Harry nodded. “So, when do we do this?”

“Whenever you’re ready,” Hermione said.

“Might as well get it over with,” Harry said, and moved the crystal ball closer to him.

Up close, it didn’t seem quite as sparkly. In fact, for a crystal ball, it was rather sedate, but Harry could just feel something in it that made him think it contained far more matter and power than should have been physically possible. Once again he smelled cedar and cinders and spices, but when he tried to comment on this to Hermione, he found his lips frozen. Damn Unspeakables.

But when he looked back at the crystal ball, he found it hard to think of anything but his soul mate. He knew this man, and he knew he was whip-smart, passionate, and brave. He had always been connected to Harry, for one being his soul mate, but also for another more mundane but still terribly important reason. Harry had dreamed of him.

The crystal ball grew even warmer, and a wisp of smoke snaked out of it. It grew larger, finally taking the shape of a man. Harry felt his mouth grow dry as he recognised who it was.

“Severus Snape,” said the vision, his voice sounding as if it was coming from very far away. “Deceased.” He bowed to Harry, and then the crystal ball tugged his slowly evaporating form back into its depths.

Nobody said a word for a long time after that. Then, just as suddenly as the vision of Snape had disappeared, everybody started talking at once.

“Fuck,” Ron shouted.

“I’m going to be sick,” Harry groaned.

“I need to contact my supervisor immediately,” said Hermione. “I did warn her something like this might happen.”

“Now what?” Harry said, feeling dangerously close to hyperventilating. “My soul mate is dead. And even if he wasn’t dead, he hated me. Who the fuck determines these soul mate matches? This is completely mad.”

“Don’t panic just yet,” Hermione said. “We can sort through this. It might actually even end up working out really well.”

“Don’t panic?” Ron shouted. “Hermione, did you see that? Harry’s soul mate is Snape!”

“Yes, and he only died a few years ago. This makes it relatively easy to create a Time Portal for Harry to go through occasionally.”

“A Time Portal?” Harry asked. “Like a Time-Turner?”

“In a way,” Hermione said. “The Portal is a recent development, and a bit more limited in its scope. With a Time-Turner, you can go back to any point in time, but the danger is it’s harder to get back to the present day. A Time Portal is created for a set amount of time – for instance, the year 1998. But it’s a physical place, as opposed to a Time-Turner that you can carry with you. We will need to establish a Time Portal here in a location that also existed in the time you’re going back to and would be close enough to Snape for you to easily find him. You can step into the Portal, spend enough time with Snape for your symptoms to abate, and then step back through and land exactly where you started out. And once you finish the time allocated to the Portal, it disintegrates, so as not to further contaminate the timeline. Think of it as borrowing time, rather than stealing it.”

“Wait a minute,” Ron interrupted. “All of a sudden you’re fine with Harry going back in time on a regular basis? What about the whole ‘don’t change time’ business? You can’t tell me an adult Harry visiting Snape isn’t going to change time just a little bit.”

“I could always use a glamour,” Harry suggested.

“I’m afraid you can’t,” Hermione said. “Now that you’re aware who your soul mate is, you’ll find it’s impossible to deceive him. Glamours, Polyjuice…none of that will work on Snape.”

“Damn,” Harry muttered. “But doesn’t Ron have a point?”

“He does,” Hermione replied. “But Harry, you are going to be as discreet as possible and will not do anything to disrupt time.” She shot him a harsh look. “That means no sharing the outcome of the war or trying to prevent any deaths.”

“I know, I know,” Harry said impatiently. “But come on. Snape’s not just going to say, ‘Oh, look, it’s a Harry in his mid-twenties. I’m sure this is entirely normal and I’ll just ignore it and go along my merry way and allow him to shake my hand every so often.’”

“Actually, I think he might,” Hermione said. “According to his diary, this was the only potion he was working on the last year of his life. It’s very possible he had a personal reason to do so.”

“You mean he at least suspected he had a soul mate?” Harry asked.

Hermione nodded. “And he might have even suspected it was you. He never had it officially confirmed; I did check our records to see who had asked for a soul mate test in the past century, and his name was not on the list. But still, if you explain, I doubt he’ll be all that surprised.”

“Probably not all that happy, either,” Harry muttered. “Besides, how will I explain having to go back in time to be with my soul mate without him realising he’s dead?”

For the first time, Hermione looked rather uncomfortable. “Well, I don’t believe he expected to survive the war,” she said delicately. “But I would still be sensitive.”

Harry rolled his eyes. Sure, he was going back in time to proclaim to a professor who despised him that he’s actually his soul mate and they need to touch, and Hermione was telling him to be sensitive. Perfect.

“How long will I have to stay in the past?” Harry asked. “An hour or two?”

“We’ll have to play it by ear,” Hermione said. “I imagine that amount should be enough, but we’ll see. Certainly no longer than a day at a time.”

“And what happens once we reach the end of the Portal’s limits?” Harry asked. “I mean, this soul bond is for life, right? And if the Portal is finite…”

“The one element of time I think you should change, and you will have to do this very carefully,” Hermione said, a determined glint in her eyes, “is learn from Snape how to finish that potion. Then you’ll no longer have to go back, and it will end up helping other people who had unfortunate matches.”

Harry swallowed, feeling vaguely ill. He knew what Hermione was suggesting wasn’t anything too horrible, but he couldn’t help but feel he would be betraying his soul mate. And the thought of no longer being connected to him just felt wrong.

He paused. What the hell was wrong with him?

“We’ll need to determine a location for the Portal,” Hermione continued.

“The Shrieking Shack,” Harry said immediately.

“Harry,” Hermione said warningly, “I told you there’s no changing time. You can’t use this to save Snape.”

“Yeah, that and Death Eaters were using it that last year,” Ron said. “You really fancy having another go at them every time you go back in time?”

“I’ll use my Invisibility Cloak,” Harry said. “And I’m a bit stealthier now than I was then. If there are any hanging around, they won’t know a thing. But you have to admit it’s perfect. Out of the way, but easy access to the castle. Other than the Death Eaters, nobody was there.”

“Other than the Death Eaters,” Hermione repeated sarcastically, rolling her eyes. “Honestly, Harry. Be reasonable.”

“The Shrieking Shack,” Harry said stubbornly. He didn’t know why, but this was very important to him. “It’s my soul mate and I say that’s where I’m going.”

Hermione sighed. “Fine. Well, I need to get back to the office to start building this Portal. I doubt I’ll be able to create one for an entire year as soon as we need it, but I should be able to get at least a few months. I’ll be in touch tomorrow.” She gave Ron a quick kiss. “Are you staying here?”

Ron turned to look at Harry. “What do you say, mate? Want some company?”

Harry did, actually. It was all still rather overwhelming, and he didn’t much fancy the idea of being alone. “Would you mind?”

Ron grinned. “Come on. Snape may be your soul mate, but I’ve staked my claim to the best mate title years ago and I’m not giving it up any time soon.”

Harry smiled. Perhaps, even with all this madness, it would turn out all right after all.

Stranger things had certainly happened.

~*~


“Are you ready?” Hermione asked, handing Harry his Invisibility Cloak.

He nodded. He desperately needed to see Snape. He’d barely been sleeping, all his joints ached, and he could barely keep any food down. It didn’t mean he wasn’t nervous, but if popping through a Time Portal and saying hello to Snape would alleviate some of his symptoms, he would do it in a heartbeat.

“Now, remember,” Hermione said. “The Portal only recognises your soul, so you are the only one able to pass through it, or even see it. If you see a Death Eater in the Shack, come back immediately and don’t try to re-enter for at least an hour.”

“Got it, Hermione,” Harry said impatiently.

“I’ll stay here for as long as I can, and then Ron will take over. There will be somebody waiting for you when you come back.”

“I know, I know. Hermione?”

She sighed. “All right.” She handed Harry a small box. “You need to do this last step. Just take it out, set it on the ground, and then step over the line.”

Harry nodded and opened the box. Inside was a long golden ribbon. He let it drop to the filthy floor of the Shack, watching in amazement as it immediately formed a large, perfect circle. The light coming from it was nearly blinding, but it seemed to be drawing Harry in.

“Is it glowing?” Hermione asked. “I can’t see it at all anymore.”

Harry nodded. This was it. “Well, here’s to borrowed time,” he said, giving Hermione an encouraging smile. Then, covering himself with the Cloak and taking a deep breath, he stepped into the circle.

The only sign that anything had changed was that Hermione was no longer with him. Harry turned to look around the Shack. There didn’t appear to be any Death Eaters in it; in fact, there was no sign anybody had been there for a while. Still, he wasn’t about to risk anything. His Cloak still wrapped firmly around him, he began to head back to Hogwarts.

It was certainly unnerving to see Hogwarts like this. The silence was deafening. There was no chatter of students running about the corridors, no laughter on the stairs. Even the portraits appeared to have taken a vow of silence. The castle that Harry had always thought of as warm and inviting was now cloaked in fear.

A scream echoed through the halls. Rationalising to himself that Snape would probably be nearby, Harry hurried to follow the sound.

Alecto Carrow was looming over a student Harry didn’t recognise but appeared to be in her first year. Harry watched in horror as Carrow aimed her wand at the student’s face, causing a long, bloody gash to form across her cheek. The student was trembling, clearly trying not to cry but drawing terribly close to losing the battle.

“Professor Carrow, what do we have here?”

Harry turned to see Snape coming down the corridor. It took all of his willpower not to run to him, even as every cell in his body was telling him to touch the man. He tightened his hands into fists and bit the inside of his mouth.

“This little girl was out of bed past curfew, Headmaster,” Carrow said. “It’s terribly unsafe.”

“Indeed,” said Snape, crossing his arms. “I will see she makes it to bed. But I wanted to ask you to investigate the third floor corridor. I heard suspicious noises. I fear the students may be plotting something.”

Carrow’s eyes lit up with glee. “Oh, yes, Headmaster. Right away,” she said, scurrying down the hall.

The young student was trembling even more fiercely as Snape looked down at her. “What were you doing out of bed, you foolish, reckless child?” he hissed.

“I wanted…my mother…I hadn’t heard from her since Christmas and…”

“Your mother will hear from me,” Snape said dangerously. “You can be certain of it.”

Harry’s breath caught in his throat. So this was how Snape played his role. In the most cutting way possible, Snape had assured this young girl her mother was alive and would hear that she was alive as well.

But of course, the girl, being so young and blinded by Snape’s performance, took the words at face value. Tears streamed down her cheeks, even as her face burned with righteous fury.

“You…you…”

“Get out of my sight, Miss Mockingbird,” Snape snapped. “And take the direct route back to your dormitory. No dawdling about. I will know if you disobey me.”

She didn’t need to be told twice; Snape had barely gotten his last word out before she was sprinting away. Snape watched her go, not moving until she was well out of eyesight. Then, with a heavy sigh and a swear under his breath, he turned back to the direction he had come from.

Harry hurried to keep up with him. He was slightly out of breath and still felt like shite, but seeing Snape so close to him gave him a renewed burst of energy. Moving as quietly as he could, he followed Snape all the way to the headmaster’s office.

“Medusa,” Snape muttered to the gargoyle guarding the office. Not wanting to miss his opportunity, Harry darted to make it in after him.

Snape sat down at his desk, holding his head in his hands. Harry took a moment to study him. He was even thinner than Harry had remembered, and he had dark bags under his eyes. What’s more, melancholia seemed to come off him in waves. He was a single man slowly being crushed by the weight of trying to maintain some sort of order in a mad, dangerous world.

But the room smelled of cedar and cinder and herbs, and Harry knew there was a reason he was here. He took a deep breath and steeled his nerves. Then, cautiously, he cleared his throat.

Snape was immediately on his feet, wand at the ready. “Who’s there?” he barked. “Show yourself.”

Harry removed his Cloak. “Hello, Professor.”

Snape’s face drained of all colour. Shock quickly gave way to resignation, however. “Potter,” he said. “Shouldn’t you have your wand raised?”

“I wasn’t planning on hurting you,” Harry said. “I know you’re on our side. And really, it would be in my best interest for you to stay healthy. Are you planning on hurting me?”

Snape said nothing, but he did lower his wand. “Given that I saw you last week and you looked decidedly younger, I can only assume you’re from the future,” he said.

“From 2002,” Harry confirmed. “You don’t seem surprised.”

“Very little surprises me these days, Potter,” Snape said. “What are you doing here? Surely this is not a pleasant time for you to revisit.”

“It’s not,” Harry agreed. “But I came to see you.”

Snape didn’t look surprised to hear that. “There are strict rules against changing time, Potter,” he said.

“I know, and I’m not going to change anything, as much as I want to,” Harry said. “But…well, you’re my soul mate.”

Snape closed his eyes. When he reopened them, he looked even more exhausted than he had before. “So my suspicions were correct.”

“Hermione thought you might know,” Harry said. “But if you don’t mind my saying so, sir, you don’t seem as upset as I thought you’d be.”

“I’ve resigned myself, Potter, and I am so very tired,” Snape said. “Besides that, I’m half-convinced I’m going to wake up in a moment and find this has all been one very long, very mad dream.”

“It’s not a dream,” Harry said. “I’m sorry.”

Snape pursed his lips. Then, without saying a word, he walked to his desk, picked up a pot of ink, and hurled it with all of his might at the wall.

Harry watched in horror as the red ink dripped down the stones, looking disturbingly like blood. “Snape!” he said, reaching out grab his arm. “What are you doing?”

Snape stilled, but Harry couldn’t even focus on that. For the second he touched Snape, he was completely overwhelmed. It was the sweetest, heaviest relief Harry had ever felt. It was like the moment right after an orgasm, when he was still riding the last waves of pleasures and easing into complete relaxation and the sense that everything in the world would be right, at least for those few seconds.

Or for as long as Snape would allow Harry to latch onto his arm.

“Do you feel that too?” Harry whispered.

“A bit,” Snape said. “Although I expect not to the extent you did. You look like death, Potter.”

“You’re one to talk,” Harry retorted.

Snape sighed. “Is the war over in your time?”

“Yes,” Harry said. He wanted to say more, but felt that would likely be stretching the bounds of what was appropriate.”

“And I take it I don’t survive.”

Harry paused. “What makes you think that?”

“You’re my soul mate, and you travelled through time rather than use the Floo.”

Harry sighed. “You know I can’t talk about anything that happened.”

“I know,” Snape said. He nodded towards a couch. “Would you like to take a seat?”

Harry nodded and allowed Snape to lead him to the couch, noticing that he didn’t remove Harry’s hand from his arm. Once they were seated, Harry put up a good fight to stop touching Snape, but found he just couldn’t bring himself to do so. It was as though Snape was feeding him energy just through that slight contact.

“I think you should tell me what you know,” Snape said. “At least, what you’re able to.”

Harry nodded and shared how he’d noticed he’d been feeling rather run down but blamed it on the rigours of being an Auror, how Ron managed to make him go to a Healer, his diagnosis of having a missing soul mate and discovering it was Snape, and finally coming through the Portal. Throughout it all, Snape didn’t say a word, only making the occasional odd noise.

“And Hermione said there were…signs you might suspect you had a soul mate,” Harry said, finally attempting to carefully broach the subject.

Severus nodded. “I had begun experiencing the very early stages of the symptoms you’ve been experiencing. Then there were…” His voice trailed off. “Soul mate or not, there are some things I’m not willing to share with you, Potter.”

Harry nodded. “That’s fine,” he said. “But you thought you had a soul mate? And did you think it was me?”

“Yes,” Snape said shortly. “I suspected it when you arrived at Hogwarts, and it was confirmed this year when you left.”

Harry’s eyes widened. “You never…”

“What? No!” Snape said. “Merlin, Potter. I have no interest in young boys. But you felt the relief of even the slightest contact. You and I did come into fairly regular physical contact during your time here, whether it was my placing a hand on your shoulder to warn you I was about to deduct points, or –”

“Or when you threw me out of your office?”

Snape glared at him. “Yes. But all those times, brief though the contact was, I could tell immediately that you were my soul mate.”

“Did you…try to fix it?”

“Yes,” Snape said. “I’ve been working on a potion, but I’ve…lacked motivation to finish it.”

Harry nodded. He understood the feeling. “I’d be interested in hearing more about it,” he forced himself to say.

Snape was silent for a moment. “I understand,” he finally said. He let out a heavy sigh. “How long will you be here?”

Harry shrugged. “Hermione told me to stay a few hours. Do you mind?”

“I find it difficult to say no,” Snape admitted. “It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so at peace.” He froze. “I didn’t intend to say that.”

“Hermione said soul mates find it impossible to deceive each other on any level,” Harry said. “Don’t worry. I won’t hold it against you.” He yawned. “Sorry. I don’t think I’ve slept more than four hours this entire week.”

“Potter, please don’t take this the wrong way,” Snape said slowly. “But we’re both exhausted, and seem to find some comfort being in contact with each other. My bedroom is just through those doors, and…”

“Are you suggesting we sleep together?” Harry asked with a slight grin.

Snape’s cheeks flushed. “I assure you I wouldn’t attempt to – ”

“Snape, it’s fine,” Harry quickly said. “I was teasing. But yeah. That would be great.”

Snape stared at him, disbelief plain in his face. “You realise this is all quite mad. This is the stuff hallucinations are made of.”

Harry grinned. “Ah, but what’s life without a little madness?”

~*~


Harry eased himself out of Snape’s bed, careful not to wake the man. It had been the most relaxing sleep he’d had in years, and he knew it was due to his bed partner. He would have been tempted to spend another few hours in bed, but he’d already been gone much longer than he’d promised Hermione, and he knew she’d be worried enough to be tempted to find a way to come after him if he put it off any longer.

He quietly slipped off the nightshirt Snape had loaned him and pulled on his jeans. When his shirt got caught on his glasses he accidentally whispered a curse. He looked over at the bed in a panic; sure enough, Snape was rousing from sleep.

“Leaving?” Snape murmured, rubbing his eyes.

“I have to,” Harry said. It was ridiculous, but he felt rather like a lover attempting to slip out in the middle of the night. There was surely no need to feel guilty, but Harry couldn’t shake the feeling he was disappointing Snape. “I had only planned to stay for a few hours. It’s been nearly nine.”

Snape nodded. “Be sure to take your Cloak, and don’t make a sound. The castle isn’t safe.” He frowned and sat up. “I should escort you.”

“I’ll be fine,” Harry quickly assured him. “Trust me.” A thought occurred to him. “Is the Shack safe?”

“As it’s ever been, but that’s not saying much,” Snape replied. He threw the blankets back. “I’m coming with you.”

“You’re staying here and getting some more rest,” Harry said, gently pushing him back into bed and covering him with the blankets. “I’ll be back soon.” Then, on impulse, he kissed Snape’s forehead. “Stay safe.”

Snape’s eyes were as wide as saucers. Seizing his advantage, Harry gave him one last smile, grabbed his Cloak, and hurried out of the room before Snape came back to his senses.

~*~


“What were you doing there?” Ron asked the second Harry stepped out of the golden circle. “You were gone for ten hours. Hermione’s been worried sick. Are you okay? Did you find Snape?”

“One question at a time,” Harry said. He still felt rejuvenated from his time with Snape, but now that he was an entire world away from him, he felt oddly jittery, and Ron’s well-intentioned interrogation was rather overwhelming. “But yes. I’m great. And I found him.”

“And? Did he take it well? I mean, this is Snape we’re talking about, so well is a relative term, but…”

“He took it well,” Harry said. “Much better than I did.”

“Snape? Wow. How is, um, was he doing?”

Harry shrugged. He felt rather protective of Snape and didn’t feel right divulging all the details about their time together. “Exhausted. The stress was definitely getting to him. Not to mention he was beginning to feel symptoms as well, but not as strongly as I’ve been.” He paused. “We took a nap together.”

Ron blinked. “You took a nap? That’s why you were gone for so long?”

“Yeah,” Harry said. “And it worked wonders. I haven’t slept that well in ages.”

Ron chuckled. Soon enough, it was a full on laugh. “Only you, Harry. Travel through time to meet your soul mate and take a sodding nap.”

Harry felt he should have been offended, but couldn’t bring himself to be. After all, it was true.

Only him.

And maybe Snape, too.

~*~


It was another week before Harry worked up the courage to see Snape again. He’d felt wonderful immediately after returning to the present day, but in the days following his little trip he couldn’t help but stop and analyse every single moment of it.

How could he have been so bold as to kiss Snape? What was he thinking? And Snape? Why was he so…not kind, but not biting and sarcastic? Was it simply his exhaustion? Did he still think he was dreaming Harry? Was it their soul bond?

The questions circled round and round in Harry’s head, and he found himself second-guessing every single interaction he had with Snape. He couldn’t remember ever obsessing over somebody this much. Perhaps it was a side effect of going through a Time Portal. If that was the case, he was in for quite a bit of trouble.

But the time had come. His lethargy was starting to return, and he was running a low fever. Besides that, he needed to learn more about the potion. He was able to determine that he had visited Snape in early January, given the student’s reference to Christmas and Snape saying he had seen Harry the week before, likely when he hid Gryffindor’s sword in the frozen pond for him. That meant Harry had less than five months with Snape. And since he didn’t know how time worked beyond the Portal, he certainly couldn’t afford to waste any time here worrying about how Snape would react to seeing him again.

And so he made his way to the Shrieking Shack. This time he insisted Ron and Hermione not come. Hermione had protested, but Ron, having ended up dozing on the Shack’s floor, was able to make her see reason fairly quickly.

The golden ribbon was still there and shining as brightly as ever. It still boggled Harry’s mind that nobody else could see it, given how he needed to shield his eyes just to step into it.

Fortunately, there was nobody in the Shack, and the castle halls were empty again. Harry was too anxious to get to Snape to pay much mind to that, however. He hurried through the corridors and up to Snape’s office.

When he first entered the room, he thought Snape wasn’t there. He was just about to try to find a hiding spot in case Snape returned with company when he heard a soft snore. He turned and smiled when he saw Snape asleep on the couch.

Harry knelt down beside him, unable to suppress the warm fondness spreading within him. He removed his Cloak and gently caressed Snape’s cheek. He looked so tense, even in sleep. Harry felt his chest grow tight as he thought about this man’s fate – to spend his entire life in misery, working as a double agent, and ultimately dying, receiving precious little happiness in return for all of his sacrifice.

Well, Harry might not be allowed to change Snape’s destiny, but he could at least change this. Snape would have some happiness before he died. Not all that he deserved, and Harry wasn’t arrogant enough to think Snape wanted happiness with him, soul mate or not. But in this little way? In this little way, Harry could help.

“Hey,” he whispered. When he got no response, he figured he might as well go all in. “Severus. Hi.”

Severus stirred slightly, rubbing his cheek against Harry’s hand. He breathed in deeply. “Harry.”

Harry smiled, pleased. “Hi, Severus.”

Severus reached for Harry’s face with both hands and, before Harry even realised what was happening, pulled him in for a kiss.

Harry didn’t know if it was because they were soul mates or because Severus was a damn good kisser, but it was by far the sweetest kiss he had ever experienced. Severus kissed with his entire being, as though Harry was the only thing existing in the world. Harry felt cherished, protected, owned.

He reluctantly pulled away with a soft gasp. “Severus.”

Severus looked at him with dazed, lust-filled eyes. He reached out to stroke Harry’s cheek. “Harry,” he whispered. “You’re here.”

“Yeah, I am,” Harry said. A sick feeling began to fill his stomach. “Severus, you’re not dreaming. I’m really here.”

The fog slowly lifted from Severus’ eyes, and he shot to his feet. “Fucking hell,” he said, pacing back and forth. “Goddamn it all to fucking hell.”

“Severus, come on,” Harry said, standing up. “It’s okay.”

Severus shook his head. “I practically assaulted you.”

“Did you hear me protesting?” Harry said. He reached for Severus’ arm and tried not to crow with joy when he noticed some of the tension immediately ease out of his shoulders. “It’s part of the bond, isn’t it? I felt it, too. There’s a pull.”

Severus nodded shortly. “It won’t happen again.”

“Unless we want it to,” Harry said with a grin.

“Potter…”

“Harry,” he corrected. “And there’s no reason we can’t. We’re both consenting adults, and we’re soul mates. I think a little kissing is expected.”

“I’m fairly certain our developing some sort of romantic relationship would alter the course of time,” Severus said drily.

Reality hit Harry like a bucket of ice water. What was he thinking? He was essentially embracing a dying man. Severus was right; there was no way they could keep this up without at least somewhat altering time. But beyond that, Harry had already been overwhelmed with guilt when Severus died and he hadn’t known he was his soul mate. How much worse would it be to know he died after Harry had engaged his heart?

He snorted. His heart was already involved. From here on out it was only a matter of degrees.

“You’re right,” Harry said. “But I know what has to happen. And as much as I want to stop it from happening, I just won’t. No matter how much it hurts. I just want to enjoy my time with my soul mate.”

Severus looked ill. “I despise that term. It’s so melodramatic.”

“What would you prefer I call you then?” Harry asked with a grin. “My boyfriend?”

Severus rolled his eyes. “You’re being ridiculous.”

“I’m not the one protesting kissing my soul mate,” Harry said. He laced his fingers with Severus’ and pulled him back toward the couch. “Come on. We have a lot to catch up on.”

Harry decided right away there was no better place to sit than on this couch with Severus’ arm around his shoulders. He leaned against Severus’ chest, feeling warm and protected. The level of closeness he felt with this man, with whom he’d always had a contentious relationship on the best of days, was rather astounding. Harry knew it would be much harder to leave this time.

“So, first things first,” Harry said. “What’s the date?”

“February 3,” Severus said, raising an eyebrow. “When did you think it was?”

Harry’s jaw dropped. “I’ve been away for an entire month?”

“Yes,” Severus said. “I had begun to think you… that you weren’t coming back, or that I had finally gone mad and hallucinated the entire experience.”

Harry squeezed his hand. “Time works differently here. I was only gone a week in my lifetime.”

“Ah. Interesting.”

Interesting and scary. That only gave Harry a few weeks in his own timeline with Severus. He wasn’t even thinking of getting Severus to share the secrets of the potion. He just desperately wanted more time. This was all still terribly new, but Harry could already tell that it had the potential to be the most passionate relationship of his life. If he hadn’t known Severus would be dead soon, he would have also called it the most promising relationship he’d ever been in.

Damn it all.

“How long are you staying this time?” Severus asked.

Harry smiled. Severus was trying so hard to sound indifferent, but he couldn’t quite hide the curious, hopeful lift in his voice.

“Well, Ron and Hermione aren’t waiting for me this time,” Harry said. “But I probably shouldn’t stay too long, just since clearly time runs at different speeds between the two worlds.”

Severus nodded. “And you’ll be back?”

Harry couldn’t help it. He kissed Severus softly on the lips. “Yes, I’ll be back. And now that I know how time works, I’ll only stay away a day or two.”

“Thank you,” Severus said. “It’s been…difficult. When there’s nobody around who knows you’re not a complete monster, and it’s only you protesting inside your own head, it’s quite easy to feel you’re going entirely mad.” He met Harry’s eyes. “Sad though it may be, you are my last grip on sanity.”

“Well, hold on tight, Severus,” Harry said, wrapping his arms around him. “Because I’m not going anywhere.”

~*~


Harry sat at his kitchen table, playing with a fork. He’d only gotten back from his last trip to Severus late the night before, but he was already anxious to go back. Even though there had only been two more visits, he could tell the bond between them was growing much stronger. Even though Hermione’s book had stated the bond would intensify the more time the soul mates spent together, Harry didn’t expect to feel the effects so suddenly. It was a little overwhelming.

He glanced at the clock. Really, would it be so bad to spend more time there? Time moved slower here, so if he spent Severus’ last few months with him, he’d likely only be gone for a couple of weeks here. And he was still on administrative leave, so it wasn’t like it could really be held against him. Besides, he was going mad with boredom. He was used to working all the time, not sitting around thinking about a love interest.

Love interest…

“You’re playing with fire, Potter,” he said to himself. “Dangerous moves.”

And it was dangerous. Harry had nearly bitten his tongue off repressing the urge to tell Severus to always carry a bezoar and antivenin potions on him. Not saving Severus went against his every instinct, and it was killing him.

It was at those times Harry was tempted to ask Severus about the potion. Perhaps if they were cured of this bond, Harry wouldn’t mind quite so much what happened to Severus. Well, he’d care, of course, but it wouldn’t feel like the wind was being knocked out of him every time he pictured him lying on the floor of the Shack with blood seeping out of his neck.

Harry shook his head, trying to eradicate the vision from his mind. He couldn’t waste any more time dwelling on that. He was already living on borrowed time as it was. He needed to treat it with the respect it deserved.

And that meant going back to see Severus.

~*~


Harry and Severus quickly fell into a comfortable routine. Harry would head to the Shack right after breakfast, which usually translated to a few hours after supper in Severus’ world. He’d stay curled up against Severus, trading kisses, before they’d retire to bed. As tempting though it was to spend the night, Harry only allowed himself a few hours of the most luxurious sleep he’d ever experienced before pulling himself out of bed and returning to the Shack. Harry would arrive back at home mid-afternoon. It wreaked hell on his sleeping schedule, but it was worth it.

So accustomed was he to their routine that when he entered Severus’ quarters and found them empty, he almost didn’t know what to do with himself. He settled on a book he pulled at random from Severus’ bookshelf and made himself comfortable on the couch. He felt slightly uncomfortable sitting for so long in his Invisibility Cloak, but he still couldn’t afford to take the risk of somebody seeing him.

By the time the clock struck midnight, Harry was worried. Even on the nights when Severus needed to leave to protect the children from the Carrows, he was never out this late. He tried to comfort himself by reminding himself that Severus hadn’t died until May, and it wasn’t even March. He had to survive whatever happened tonight.

But by one Harry was pacing the floor.

By two he was wondering how he could find out where Severus was.

By three he didn’t care where Severus was; he was going to go out and find him, damn it.

Harry was just about to leave when the door opened and Severus stumbled in. His skin red and his eyes swollen, he looked blindly around the room, and, upon apparently not finding what he was looking for, let out a low, agonised groan. “H’rry…”

It was only then that Harry remembered he was still wearing his Cloak. He quickly threw it back and ran to Severus. “I’m here. Severus?”

Severus struggled to focus his eyes on Harry. “H’rry,” he repeated. “Here.”

“Yes, Severus,” Harry said, reaching for him. “I’m here.”

Severus collapsed in his arms, and Harry nearly sagged under the weight. With as much care as he was able, he carried him to the couch and set him down to examine his injuries.

There was an ugly gash on his neck, disturbingly close to where Nagini would one day strike him. An ugly burn covered his right arm, and his body was covered in bruises. Harry gently removed his outer robes to feel for broken bones, relieved when he couldn’t find any. But Harry was certain there were injuries he couldn’t see; he harboured no illusions of the tortures Voldemort was capable of. Severus likely underwent several rounds of the Cruciatus Curse that night.

Harry looked around the room, panicked. He had gone through the basics of Healing as part of his Auror training, but those were under controlled conditions. He didn’t know how to take care of Severus here. Hell, he didn’t even know what potions Severus had available to him.

“Breathe, Potter,” he said. “Severus survived this once without you. He can survive it again with or without your bumbling.”

“Harry,” Severus gasped, forcing his eyes open. He grabbed Harry’s wrist tightly. “Dying?”

Harry felt his chest tighten when he realised Severus was asking him rather than stating a fact. “No,” he said firmly. “Not tonight.”

Severus nodded, his eyes clenching shut again. “Hurts.”

“I know, Severus,” Harry said, gently stroking his cheek. “I’m going to try to help. I just don’t know how.”

“Hand,” Severus sighed. “Hand feels…”

Harry frowned and looked down at where his hand was touching Severus’ face. The skin that had once been mottled was now clean and pale. “Would you look at that?” Harry breathed. Gingerly, he moved his hands over Severus’ eyes, focusing all his energy on healing him. Under Harry’s touch, the bruises melted away as though they were mere glamours. “Brilliant,” he said. “Severus, you’re going to be just fine.”

Methodically, Harry began tracing his hands over Severus’ body. He found if he focused his energy just so, he could literally feel in his own body exactly where the worst of Severus’ pain was. With the utmost care, he worked to ease the injuries out of Severus’ body.

By the time he was done, Severus was moaning and squirming on the couch, and from the way his boxers were tenting, Harry could tell it was for an entirely different reason. Relieved to see Severus well enough for that, Harry turned his head towards him and kissed him as fiercely as he’d been dying to do all night.

“Harry,” Severus moaned into his mouth. “Feels incredible. Like flying.”

“Hmm,” Harry agreed, reaching for Severus’ erection. “How would you like to go a little higher?”

Severus appeared to snap out of his haze. “You don’t need to,” he said hurriedly. “I never meant to presume – ”

Harry silenced his protests with another deep kiss. “I spent all night worrying about the safety of my soul mate. He comes back and I’m worried how I’ll manage to save him. And now he’s suddenly alive and well and hard… can you blame me for wanting to do something a little life-affirming?” He gently stroked the length of Severus’ prick. “Do you really mind?”

Severus groaned. “No.”

“Good,” said Harry. “Budge over.”

Severus pushed himself into a sitting position, and Harry gently removed his boxers. He felt his heart beat faster the moment Severus’ erection burst free from its confines. He’d felt the length of it occasionally when he’d wake up in Severus’ arms, but seeing it now, thick and hard and pulsing with need, made his mouth water.

Unfortunately, tonight was not the night to explore. Aroused though he was, Harry was nearly delirious with exhaustion, and he wouldn’t be surprised if Severus felt the same.

He sat next to Severus, spat on his hand, and loosely grasped his prick. Severus leaned his head back and groaned, thrusting his hips into Harry’s grip.

“You feel incredible, Severus,” Harry whispered, slowly rubbing Severus’ cock up and down. He flicked the head of it, eliciting a low moan from Severus. “Fucking amazing.”

Severus kissed Harry fiercely, seemingly using his tongue as a way to draw Harry even closer to him. “Harry,” he murmured. “Can’t…not going to last long.”

“You’re not going to,” Harry said, speeding up his movements. “You’re going to come in my hand. You’re going to come in my hand, and I’m going to use it to stroke myself off.”

“Fuck, Harry,” Severus gasped.

“That’s right,” Harry whispered. “Come for me, Severus.”

Severus grabbed Harry and treated him to another scorching kiss, but Harry didn’t allow it to distract him from his task at hand. And soon he was rewarded: Severus suddenly stiffened and his orgasm overtook him, leaving him shaking in his arms.

Harry pressed his lips to Severus’ sweaty forehead. He’d felt protective of Severus ever since coming back in time, but now, having nursed him through both pain and pleasure, the feeling had intensified. He wished nothing more than to be able to throw time out the window and allow them both to stay like this, together, unmoving, for as long as the world would let them.

Severus gently nudged Harry. “I believe you mentioned something about pleasuring yourself with my ejaculate. It’ll be useless if you don’t do something soon.”

Harry flushed at hearing his words. He wasn’t typically so…chatty during sex. “It’s not necessary. We should get you to bed.”

“I think it’s very necessary,” Severus said, unzipping Harry’s trousers. “You’ll never be able to sleep without relieving that.”

Harry sighed as his prick burst free, and outright moaned when Severus pulled down his y-fronts. “Severus…”

“Besides,” Severus said, guiding Harry’s hand to his own prick, “I won’t have you breaking your promises to me. Now do it.”

And how was Harry supposed to resist that? He wrapped his hand around his prick, groaning with satisfaction. There was something deliciously dirty about using Severus’ semen as lubricant. Harry moved his hand faster, enjoying the slickness of the motion.

Like Severus, Harry couldn’t last long. It was only a minute of stroking to the sound of Severus whispering the sweetest, filthiest words Harry could ever remember a lover saying before he was coming, Severus’ name on his lips.

As much as he simply wanted to rest there all night, Harry only allowed himself a moment to catch his breath before cleaning up the remnants of their activity. “Come on,” he said, reaching for Severus’ hand. “Let’s get you to bed.”

They didn’t bother changing into nightshirts this time like they usually did, and instead simply stripped bare. Harry curled up along Severus’ side, luxuriating in the warmth of his chest and his steadily beating heart.

“Can you tell me what happened?” Harry asked.

Severus arched a brow at him. “You don’t already know?”

Harry shook his head. “I actually don’t know much about what you did while I was out looking for Horcruxes.”

“I suppose it was fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things anyway,” Severus said thoughtfully. “Well. As I’m sure you guessed, there was a Death Eater meeting tonight. It followed a raid in Cornwall, actually, but I managed to avoid that.”

Harry reached for Severus’ hand, gratified when Severus squeezed it.

“The Dark Lord decided I am no longer to attend meetings outside of the castle,” Severus said. “He wants me to spend literally all my time at Hogwarts. He suspects the students are forming a rebellion, and that…Potter will be arriving soon to assist them, and he wants me to keep a careful eye out for anything suspicious.”

“That won’t happen for a while,” Harry said. “But isn’t that a good thing? You’re safer at Hogwarts. Look at what happened to you when you left. And this way you can dedicate all your time to keeping the students safe.”

Severus shook his head. “And then I can only rely on my instincts and react once I determine what the Carrows have planned. I’d essentially be operating in the dark, whereas if I attend the meetings, I will learn ahead of time what to expect. I can be prepared and know exactly where to position myself.”

Harry frowned. It made sense, but he’d never like the idea of Severus facing Voldemort on a regular basis. Selfishly, he didn’t care how many lives Severus might be able to save. What did it matter to Harry, when he already knew the life he cared about most would be extinguished soon?

“In any case, I made the mistake of attempting to convince the Dark Lord I should attend all the meetings. I claimed I couldn’t stand the thought of not being among his circle of most trusted confidants, and that it was an honour to be before him…he did not take well to it.”

Harry pressed a kiss to Severus’ hand. “I was so relieved to see you walk through those doors. I didn’t even notice at first that you were injured.” He paused. “Is it normal for soul mates to be able to heal each other?”

“It’s not typical, but it’s happened occasionally,” Severus said. “Most books describe it as more of a mental healing, however, a kind of therapeutic wave that eases the spirit in times of weakness. Healing physical injuries is a rarity, even among soul mates.” He paused. “But I suppose you’ve always been the exception to the rule.”

Harry grinned. “The exception? Or exceptional?”

Severus snorted. “Both the exception and exceptional, clearly.”

Harry leaned over and kissed him, lacing his fingers through Severus’ hair. “I’m so glad to have you back. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be here with you right now.”

Severus gently caught Harry’s wrist. “Stay,” he said. “Stay the night. The entire night.”

Harry froze. As much as he wanted to spend the night, hell, every night, with Severus, he knew it was dangerous. The last time Hermione had stopped by she had carefully left a pamphlet detailing the dangers of spending too much time in another dimension on his kitchen table. She would murder him if she knew he was spending the night.

“Please,” Severus whispered.

But hearing the quiet plea in Severus’ voice, Harry knew there was no way he could resist him. And after such a terrifying evening, hadn’t they both earned the right to wake up in their lover’s arms?

“Okay,” Harry said quietly. “I’ll stay.”

~*~


Harry stepped out of his Floo and into his living room. He usually Apparated out of the Shack, but as soon as he stepped back into the present day, he was overcome with a fit of nausea. His entire body somehow felt both impossibly heavy and entirely empty. Knowing there was no way he’d be able to Disapparate without splinching himself, he used every ounce of willpower to make it to the Hog’s Head to use their Floo. Fortunately nobody seemed to notice when the fireplace appeared to roar to life for nobody.

He bent over, holding his head between his knees. It did little to help. He was about to give up and head to bed (or perhaps simply his bathroom floor) when he heard the very last voice he wanted to encounter.

“Harry James Potter, just what do you think you’re doing?”

Harry groaned and covered his face with a hand. “Hermione, could you please not speak so loudly? I swear, every single word is just echoing in my head.”

“I’ll speak as loudly as I want!” she said, but Harry noticed gratefully that she had listened to him. “Did you think I wouldn’t know you spent an entire day in the Portal?”

“Well, I can’t say I’m surprised,” Harry said, moving past her and into the kitchen. “Severus had a difficult night. I couldn’t leave him.”

“You can’t help him!” Hermione exclaimed, following him. “And the more time you spend in the Portal, the more likely you are to do irreparable damage to the timeline.”

“We never even leave his rooms,” Harry said, pouring himself a glass of water. “How much can I really be changing?”

Hermione flushed pink. “I wasn’t asking for details about how you spent your time.”

“Well, in a way, you were,” Harry noted. “But regardless. What exactly did you expect to happen when I went to see Severus? We’re soul mates. You couldn’t have expected us to just sit at a table chastely holding hands.”

“That’s all the contact that would have been required to alleviate your symptoms,” Hermione said primly. “Considering your history, it’s exactly what I expected you to do.”

Harry shook his head. “When I hold hands with Severus, it doesn’t feel like I’m just holding hands with another person. It feels like it’s an extension of myself that I hadn’t even realised was missing. And when I’m here? I just feel…like half of me is gone.” He paused. “Not that I want to give you this to use against me, and I intend to go back regardless of anything you tell me, but are there any health risks to using the Portal? It’s just that I thought having more contact with Severus would make me feel better, but I can’t remember ever feeling this awful.”

“No,” Hermione said, a slight frown on her face. “It’s perfectly safe. The only advisories against it are limited to the dangers of changing time.” Her eyes widened. “Wait here. Where did you leave the crystal ball?”

“Book shelf in the living room,” Harry replied. If he didn’t already feel so wretched, he would have been sick to his stomach at the way she rushed out of the room. Instead he took a sip of water.

“Now,” Hermione said, taking Harry’s glass and thrusting the crystal ball into his hands. “Hold that. Close your eyes, and think about Severus.”

That was at least easy to do. Severus was never far from Harry’s thoughts these days. He thought about how he had looked when he left him that day. Since it would have roused suspicions for Severus to walk about the castle in perfect health after the Carrows knew he had been tortured the night before, they had been able to spend a peaceful day in bed bringing each other pleasure. It was only when a shrill alarm sounded in Severus’ office, signifying a student in danger, that Harry had finally realised they had likely been foolish to waste the entire day lounging about in bed, as delightful as it had been. What if in the other timeline Severus had been doing something else during the day, something that would save a student’s life? He had begun to apologise to Severus, who was already hurrying to get dressed, for distracting him from his duties. All the frenetic motion in the room had suddenly stopped, and Severus pulled Harry firmly into his arms, kissing him with that same fiery passion Harry had grown addicted to that day. “No. Thank you,” he had whispered fiercely. Then, just as suddenly, he rushed out of the room, wand at the ready.

Harry gripped the crystal ball even more firmly, feeling it grow warm in his hands. As both a fighter and a lover, Severus was a remarkable man.

“Oh, Harry,” he heard from very far away, and reluctantly opened his eyes.

The crystal ball, which once had been clear, now was a dull shade of brick red. He looked back at Hermione. “What does this mean?”

“When the bond is fully consummated, the crystal ball will glow a deep scarlet,” Hermione said. “I would say you’re almost there.”

“How did it happen so quickly?” Harry asked. “The book said it sometimes took years for the bond to be fully realised.”

“Well, sex, for one thing,” Hermione said, casting him a sharp look. Harry refused to be ashamed. He was a grown man with a dead soul mate. He deserved to get a little pleasure out of the situation. “But it’s also partially emotional. I suppose since you’ve been with Snape during some exceptionally stressful circumstances, it might accelerate the process. It could also be that, since you’re Harry Potter and all and the normal rules don’t apply to you, you could have an even stronger bond with Snape than most soul mates do.”

Exception. Exceptional? Exception and exceptional.

“Well, I still don’t understand,” Harry said, carefully setting down the crystal ball. His hands felt oddly bereft without it. “Shouldn’t that be a good thing? The bond being stabilised and all that? The book said once that happened, there shouldn’t be any more physical symptoms of having a missing partner.”

Hermione took Harry’s hand and pressed his fingers to his wrist. “That’s why.”

Harry frowned. “I don’t feel anything.”

“Exactly,” Hermione said, taking back his wrist and pressing her own fingers to it. When she looked back up at Harry, she had tears in her eyes. “You barely have a pulse.”

Harry’s jaw dropped. “What does that mean? How can I not have a pulse?”

Hermione gently pulled Harry into a chair, for which he was grateful, as he doubted he could have moved on his own. “I suppose you didn’t get to that chapter yet in your book,” she said, sitting in her own chair.

“The chapter on suddenly losing basic bodily functions that indicate somebody’s alive?” Harry asked, aware that his voice was rising. “Yeah, missed that.”

She shook her head. “When soul mates are fully bonded, their souls literally merge. Because of that, when one dies, the other doesn’t take long to follow. And since you’ve gone back in time to build upon your bond with your soul mate who’s dead in this lifetime, you’ve created a paradox. The bond is confused. If you had continued living in the timeline you’re visiting and bonding with Snape in, you would have died shortly after he did. But in this timeline you haven’t experienced the event of Snape dying with you as his bonded soul mate.”

“So I’m half-dead?” Harry asked incredulously.

“I’m not sure I would put it like that,” Hermione said pensively. “I think a more accurate description would be you are carrying a deceased soul around with you, and it’s weighing your own soul down.”

Harry rested his head on the table. It felt refreshingly cool and solid. “This is all so thoroughly fucked up,” he groaned.

“I’m so sorry, Harry,” Hermione said miserably. “I honestly never thought your bond with Snape would progress so quickly. I was so excited to find a possible quick solution that I didn’t think it all the way through and analyse the potential consequences, even the most extreme. Knowing it’s you, that’s the first possibility I should have thought of.”

Harry reached for her hand. “It’s okay. You had no way of knowing. It’s not like I ever thought it would be like this with Severus. Can’t change it now. Unless you wanted to create a Portal to go back to when we decided to create a Portal,” he said with a slight smile.

“Not funny,” Hermione said.

“Sorry,” said Harry. “So, what do we do now? Am I…am I going to die?”

Hermione bit her lip, looking determined. “Of course not. You’re simply going to need to stop the bond from intensifying any further. No more sex –”

“Hermione!” Harry exclaimed.

“No more sex,” she repeated firmly. “And try not to let you heart become further…engaged.”

Harry sighed. It sounded so simple. What Hermione still didn’t realise was that what she was asking him to do was like diving off a cliff and then stopping midway to the water below. He’d sooner stop breathing than stop being with Severus in every way that he could. And from the sounds of it, that might actually happen.

“And,” Hermione continued, “more than ever, you need to have Snape tell you how to brew that potion.”

“But I don’t want it,” Harry said immediately.

“How could you not want it?” Hermione asked, stunned. “You’re dying because of it. And if the bond gets any worse, there may be nothing else we can do to stop it.”

Harry couldn’t help it. He knew this soul bond was dangerous. He knew no sane person would ever want one. But he still bristled at the way Hermione described it as a bad thing if the bond grew “worse.” It was such a derogatory way to describe something that made him feel so incredibly alive.

“It’s not up for debate,” Harry said. “I’m not disintegrating the bond.”

“What exactly are you going to do then?” Hermione snapped. “Just wait around for it to kill you? We don’t know how long it could take. That Portal is going to close eventually, Harry, and you’ll be trapped here, just languishing away.”

“I don’t care,” Harry said. “Trust me, Hermione. If you felt the way I do when I’m with Severus, it wouldn’t matter how horrible you felt without. You wouldn’t want to get rid of that chance, no matter how slim, that somehow, against the odds, it just might work out.”

“But it’s not going to,” Hermione said quietly. “Snape’s dead, Harry.”

Harry stood up. His legs felt shaky beneath him, and his chest still ached, but at least the nausea appeared to have passed. “I’m going to bed. And then I’m going to see Severus.”

To her credit, Hermione didn’t try to stop him.

~*~


Harry walked into Severus’ rooms and sat on the couch. It had taken a few visits since his extended one the day Severus was tortured for them to fall back into a regular routine again, but they had finally managed it. Severus had to stalk the hallways even later than he had before, so Harry typically spent an hour or so reading under his Cloak before Severus returned. While he would have preferred to have Severus safe with him, he didn’t mind having the time alone to adjust to being in the other timeline.

It still amazed Harry, the stark contrasts between being in this timeline where Severus was alive and the one where he was dead. When he returned to his home, he felt half-dead. After that first time Harry returned nearly unable to move, he’d agreed to send a Patronus to Hermione and Ron the second he returned to the present day so they could retrieve him from the Shack. He pretended not to notice that they stayed with him long after they helped him get into bed and always left some food and water by his bed.

But the second he stepped through the Portal and into a world where Severus was still alive, the strange feeling of a slow suffocation turned itself on its head. In this world, Harry felt light, strong, and powerful, and it was only amplified when he was with Severus. It was something far deeper than being in love. It was…

The book fell from Harry’s hands. In love?

The thought shouldn’t have surprised Harry as much as it did. He certainly talked about Severus as though he were in love, and it was by far the best relationship he’d ever been in...even if it took the meaning of a “long-distance relationship” to the extreme. Under any other circumstances Harry would have easily said they were in love. But it was so easy to simply say that the emotions Harry felt were due to the soul bond. Would Harry have still developed those feelings for him without the aid of the bond? He likely would never know. But it didn’t really seem to matter. He was happy with this. For now. And for now was all he could allow himself to think about.

Harry smiled and picked up his book again, feeling oddly even more content than he had before.

The door slammed open and shut again.

“Hey,” Harry called, removing his Cloak once he saw Severus was alone. “How was your day?”

Severus grunted and stalked to his bedroom, kicking the door shut behind him.

Harry frowned. Severus occasionally came into the rooms in a foul mood – well, truth be told, more than occasionally – but usually he settled himself quickly in Harry’s arms and allowed him to soothe the rage and fear out of him. This was the first time Severus didn’t even acknowledge Harry’s presence.

If they had the gift of unlimited time, Harry would have left Severus alone for a while to tend to his own wounds. He certainly understood needing space. But they only had about a month and a half of this strange Portal time left together, and Harry wasn’t about to use up one of his precious visits to Severus with his soul mate sulking in his room. They didn’t have time for that.

He knocked softly at the door. “Severus?”

“I don’t wish to see you tonight,” Severus shouted back. “You might as well go back to your own timeline.”

Harry took an involuntary step backward, stunned. He hadn’t seen this side of Severus since he’d started coming back in time. He’d almost forgotten it existed.

But he had never backed down to Severus back when he was a student and this was the only side of him he ever saw, and he wasn’t about to start now.

“I’m not leaving,” Harry called back. “So you can let me in or you can hear me bang on the door all night.”

Severus threw the door open. “You wouldn’t dare,” he hissed, his eyes flashing dangerously.

“You know I would,” Harry retorted. “Now what’s going on?”

“Not everything’s about you, Potter,” Severus snapped. “I don’t need to tell you everything that happens in my life.”

“I didn’t say you did,” Harry said. “But you’re clearly upset, and I want to help.”

“You can’t help,” Severus said. “And what’s more, I don’t want you to help. Now would you leave me the hell alone?”

“No!”

Severus snarled and stepped closer to Harry, an insult clearly waiting pursed on his lips. But before he could open his mouth, Harry reached for his arm.

Severus sagged under the touch. “Damn you,” he said, his eyes closing.

Harry carefully roped his arms around Severus’ waist. “What’s wrong?” he asked quietly. “I don’t like you like that.”

Severus’ arms tightened around Harry. “I’m always like that, Harry. That is me. I’m a petty, irascible bastard with a short temper. Despite what you may have seen when we are in these rooms together, that has not changed.”

“You’re not the man I thought I knew when I was a student,” Harry protested.

“I assure you, Harry, I am every bit the monster you always thought I was,” Severus said. He sounded weary, as exhausted as he had the first day Harry came back in time. “Except with you, when I touch you, I can’t be that way.”

“It’s not just the bond,” Harry said, immediately guessing where Severus’ logic was headed.

“No,” Severus agreed. “But the bond started it. Once I knew what I could have when I entered these rooms and found you in them, I wanted to continue living that life. In here, I can pretend that I’m not the person I am out there. I can pretend I have a future, even though the very fact that you need to travel through time to be with me tells me this isn’t so. But when I see you, an older you, looking at me the way you do, I can forget that.”

Harry caressed Severus’ face and kissed him tenderly. “Severus, you’re not the man out there. You’re strong and brave, and the most honourable man I know.” He placed a hand over Severus’ heart. “And while the bond may have given me the opportunity to experience this firsthand and act on it the way I should, believe me, even if I hadn’t been able to come back, I knew it anyway. And the whole world knew it as well. I promise you, Severus. Everybody knows you’re a hero.”

“I hexed a student,” Severus said, his voice monotone. “I made a first year girl bleed. And when Minerva intervened, I hexed her as well. Are those acts of a hero?”

Harry felt ill. He knew Severus did these things, and committed far more heinous acts as well. Hell, he could still see Dumbledore falling off the tower, and could still see Severus hexing off George’s ear. But since he started travelling through time, he had been exposed to such a different side of Severus that he had nearly forgotten about what he had to do as a Death Eater. For Harry, jumping between worlds, it was nearly like living in a very strange dream. But for Severus, this was reality.

“I’ve killed,” Severus continued, his voice rising slightly. “I’ve killed, I’ve tortured, I’ve maimed. I’ve betrayed people who called me their friend.”

Harry held a finger to his lips. “And you did it because you were the only one who could help us from the inside, and it required you to do terrible things. Were the Carrows with you today when you hexed Minerva?”

Severus didn’t say anything, which was as good as an affirmative for Harry.

“Minerva keeps a picture of you on her desk now,” Harry said softly. “She said she likes having you close by in some way, because one of her greatest regrets in life was not being there for you during your last…during your time when you had to act like you betrayed the Order.”

Severus exhaled deeply. “I don’t like talking about these things with you. I prefer to not think of the outside world when you’re here. You’re my escape from that madness. But sometimes…sometimes I can’t escape so quickly. What’s more, I don’t even want to. Like tonight.”

“I understand,” Harry said, taking him by the hand and pulling him into the bedroom. “And you know ordinarily I wouldn’t have pushed you so quickly. It’s only…” He sighed. “You have to understand I just want to spend as much time as I can with you.”

“I know there are still things you can’t tell me,” Severus said, kicking the door shut behind them. “But, even if I couldn’t guess what you are trying so hard not to reveal to me, you have to know that I also wish to spend as much time as I possibly could with you.”

Harry grinned and kissed him. “Severus, you old romantic.”

“Hmph,” Severus smirked. “I suppose you won’t allow me to blame it on the bond.”

“You can if you want,” Harry said. “But honestly, at this point, I don’t really care either way.”

Severus pushed him onto the bed and covered his body with his own. “Neither do I.”

~*~


Harry opened his eyes and immediately regretted it. His time spent in his regular timeline was nearly unbearable. This most recent return, Harry had even struggled to cast a Patronus to Ron to come fetch him from the Shack. Ron had Apparated them both to Harry’s bedroom, where Harry passed out nearly before even hitting his bed.

This time, it appeared Ron had never left. He held a glass of water up to Harry’s lips. “Drink that. Think you’re up for some soup?”

Harry shook his head. His ears were ringing. “Can’t. I’ll eat when I go back. Don’t worry. Thanks though.”

Ron sat back in the chair next to Harry’s bed. “This isn’t right, mate. I can’t even begin to tell you how not right it is.”

Harry leaned back into his pillows. “Don’t I know it. I wish I could just stay back there and not deal with coming back, but Hermione has promised all types of gloom and doom for me if I do that.”

“Not to mention you’d be in the same predicament eventually, if you’re lucky,” Ron said. “For all we know, you’d die on the spot the moment Snape gets bitten.”

Harry felt his stomach revolt. “Ron,” he gasped, covering his mouth with his hands.

Ron quickly conjured a basin and handed it to Harry, politely looking the other way while he vomited up what little food was left in his stomach. When Harry felt a little more in control, Ron cast Evanesco on the contents and set the basin aside.

“Okay?” Ron asked, handing Harry his glass of water.

Harry took it gratefully and nodded. “Yes. Sorry. I know he…doesn’t make it. But hearing it is upsetting, to say the least.”

Ron didn’t say anything as Harry slowly finished his water. It was only when he refilled Harry’s glass with a pitcher set on the bedside table that he finally opened his mouth.

“Don’t tell Hermione I said this,” he said in a low tone, “but I really hope you can figure out a way to save the old bastard.”

Harry’s jaw dropped. “Ron, you know this is Severus Snape, right? I’m sorry, but I can’t really imagine you being so eager to have me be with him.”

“Take a look at yourself and then ask me the same question,” Ron said drily. “And maybe I wouldn’t have been so thrilled if Snape had survived and you two just casually started dating. But you’re soul mates. I get that.”

“Really?” Harry asked, surprised. “You and Hermione?”

“Oh, no,” Ron said quickly. “But I have an uncle who has a soul mate. It’s really special to see. Don’t get me wrong – I’m in love with Hermione and I can’t imagine anybody I’d ever be happier with. But watching Uncle Angus and Edith? They have all that, plus just something more I could never hope to touch with Hermione. And if that’s what you and Snape have…well, you deserve to experience the happiness a soul bond can create and not just the shitty side effects.”

Harry closed his eyes briefly, remembering just how incredible the sensation Ron was describing actually felt. “Well, thanks,” he said when he opened them again. “But it’s not going to happen. Even I know I can’t change time.”

“You’ll figure out a way to make it work,” Ron said confidently. “I’m sure of it.”

Harry jolted upright in bed, not even caring about the way it made his head spin and his stomach rumble again. “Why do you say that? Do you know something? Did Hermione say something?”

“Calm down,” Ron said, gently pushing Harry back into bed. “And no. It’s just…you’re Harry Potter. You tend to get yourself into these situations where the only possibility is that things get even worse, and then manage to soundly defeat the odds. It’s happened a hundred times before; why wouldn’t it happen now?”

Harry tried not to be too disappointed. But really, despite his past luck, he couldn’t see how he’d be able to emerge from this fully intact.

~*~


The next time Harry stepped through the Portal, Severus was waiting for him in his rooms.

Actually, waiting was far too gentle a term. Severus had clearly been pacing the floors for some time, and the second Harry pushed open the door, he had literally run to him. He tore the Invisibility Cloak off of Harry and shoved him against the wall, kissing him fiercely.

“Mmph, Severus,” Harry said, tearing his mouth away to catch his breath. “Warn a man, will you?”

Severus lowered his head onto Harry’s shoulder, breathing heavily. “I needed to be sure you were real.”

“Of course I am,” Harry said. “Why? Did something happen?”

“Potter was captured,” Severus said. “He’s been taken to Malfoy Manor, along with Weasley and Granger.”

“Ah,” said Harry. “Well, clearly I survived. So did Ron and Hermione, if you’re curious.”

“Did you?” Severus asked, cradling Harry’s face in his hands. He rubbed his fingers across his cheeks, as though he were trying to memorise all of Harry’s features. “You were safe?”

“Eventually,” Harry said. “Actually rather quickly, all things considered. You’ll hear soon that we escaped.”

“I don’t want to let you out of my sight,” Severus whispered. His voice sounded as though it were crawling over shards of glass – broken, pained, and desperate. “If you’re wrong, and we lose you in this timeline…I don’t want to lose you in yours as well.”

“You won’t,” Harry said. “I promise.”

Then, just as suddenly as Severus had pounced on him the moment he entered the room, he released him.

“Severus?” Harry asked, following him into his bedroom. “What is it?”

Severus pulled a small book out of his bedside table drawer and thrust it into Harry’s hands. “Take that back to your timeline.”

Harry knew without opening the book what it contained. His heart sank. “I can’t take this.”

“I’ve found myself literally unable to complete it,” Severus continued, as though he hadn’t even heard Harry speak. “Every time I try to write the final steps my hand freezes. But please note that after the solution described in there is complete, you must add an infusion of wormwood and let it simmer for an entire lunar cycle, then drink one sip first thing in the morning for two weeks.”

“Why are you giving this to me?” Harry asked. He was proud of himself that his voice didn’t shake, although he could tell eventually it would be a losing battle. “Do you not want this bond?”

“Nobody wants a soul bond,” Severus snapped. “They’re nasty, dangerous inconveniences, created by some mad spirit with more romance than sense, where the risks far outweigh any potential benefits.”

“You can’t think that,” Harry said. “If you feel even half of what I do when I’m with you…”

“I know what I felt when I feared you’d been killed,” Severus said. “And if you feel even half of that each time you step into the Portal into the other world, how could you not know why I would want to give you a way to break that poisonous tie to a dead man?”

Harry shook his head. He had never told Severus what it was like when he went back to his own timeline, although he thought Severus might have suspected something by the way Harry couldn’t contain his nearly giddy relief to be back with him. “I’d never take it,” Harry said. “Even when the bond hurts, I can’t imagine just not having it.”

“That’s because you’ve grown accustomed to it,” Severus said shortly. “In time, you won’t even remember what it was like to have the bond.”

Knees weak, Harry sat down on the side of the bed. “Do you not want me?”

Severus sighed and sat next to him. “I would want you with or without the bond, Harry. But I know that I cannot always have what I want.” He paused. “Although if you do know exactly when… it happens, I would not be opposed to you waiting until just before that time to take the potion. Not that I have any right to request that.”

“You have every right,” Harry said, taking his hand. “Except I’m telling you: I’m not going to take that potion.”

“Why would you put yourself through that torture?” Severus asked.

“It reminds me that you’re there,” Harry said. “It reminds me that what we have is real, and that I didn’t make it up.”

“It reminds you of what you’re missing,” Severus pointed out.

“True,” Harry conceded. “You. But it’s not up for debate, Severus. I’ll take the diary back, but there’s no way I’m ever brewing that potion.”

“Perhaps somebody will force it upon you,” Severus muttered.

Harry laughed and covered Severus’ mouth with his own. “When have you ever known anybody to be able to force me to do anything?”

Severus snorted. “Merlin knows I tried for years with no success.”

“Exactly,” Harry said. He pushed Severus down onto the bed, pinning him to the mattress with his body. “Now, are you going to sulk all night that I’m not going to listen to you, or are you going to let me prove to you just how very alive I am?”

“I am Slytherin, Mr Potter,” Severus said, pulling him down for a kiss. “And as such, I look out for my own interests.”

“How convenient then,” Harry said, unbuttoning Severus’ robes, “that our interests align so well.”

Severus grabbed his wrist. “I do wish you’d listen to me, however. I don’t want you to do something reckless and stupid because you’re clinging to this romantic notion of soul mates being separated by time and space being reunited in the afterlife.”

“I am listening, Severus,” Harry said. “And I promise if it ever becomes unbearable, I’ll brew that potion. But it’s not going to ever get to that point. Even when it feels the worst, there’s always that spark that reminds me what it’s like to be with you, and that fire isn’t going to be extinguished in this, or any, lifetime.”

Severus shook his head in wonder. “Madness.”

“That’s me,” Harry agreed. “Now shut up and kiss me.”

Severus did just that.

~*~


It was almost like actually living through the war again. Jumping back and forth even more frequently between the two worlds, Harry lost all concept of time. All he knew was that Severus was getting thinner and even more short-tempered, and more desperate in his desire to always have Harry within arm’s reach. That didn’t matter much to Harry – he refused to even spend the night in his own timeline now. He travelled back strictly to report back to Ron and Hermione and then grab some clothing, but he hated even doing that, because he felt he was losing vital time with Severus. It didn’t matter if Severus was busy running a school or reporting to Voldemort; Harry simply preferred to know he was in the same world as Severus during his final days.

Of course, Hermione was livid. Every time Harry stepped back through the Portal and saw her standing there, she would threaten to deactivate it. Harry would have been more troubled by it if they hadn’t both known it was an empty threat. He had never told her that Severus had told him how to brew the potion, and she would never cut off the possibility of learning how to destroy the bond.

Harry far preferred when he returned and it was Ron’s turn to fetch him. Usually Ron already had a bag of clothes waiting for him and let him go back after spending a few minutes making sure he was okay and hadn’t irrevocably altered the other timeline. Harry did wonder how he and Hermione were doing since they had such strongly opposing opinions of what Harry was doing, but frankly, Harry couldn’t handle asking either of them for details just now.

Because really, Harry only had the energy to deal with one timeline right now, and his first priority was always going to be the one where Severus was in it. What time wasn’t spent with Severus was spent wondering if there was any way he could stop time entirely, or go back and relive it all over again over and over without driving either of them entirely mad.

And even as time was speeding furiously past them, the nights grew longer and darker. Harry spent more of his time alone, anxiously waiting for Severus to finally return to his rooms. Even if Harry hadn’t already lived through this war, he would have sensed a change was coming. There was no way the world could continue on this way for much longer without imploding.

Severus realised it as well. That night, he didn’t return until long after Harry had retired to bed. He moved quietly, but Harry woke at the slightest whisper these days, so he immediately opened his eyes. If he hadn’t already been lying down, he would have collapsed at the sight. Standing there with only the light of the moon flickering over them, Severus could have been a ghost. Always pale, he nearly seemed to glow now, and he looked far too thin to be standing. His face was etched with exhaustion, but his eyes… that was what gave him a supernatural persona. For as weak as his body appeared, his eyes were as impenetrable as ever – dark, powerful, all-knowing, but with a new weariness just beginning to soften the stare. They didn’t seem to belong to a mere mortal. Rather, Harry thought they were the eyes of a god, or an oracle, gazing at his future through Harry’s eyes.

“It ends soon, doesn’t it?” he asked. His voice seemed to echo in the night.

Harry nodded, unable to lie.

“It ends well?”

Harry closed his eyes. Perhaps if Severus couldn’t see them, he wouldn’t see what Harry knew to be so, and they could go on pretending for a little while longer.

“Harry?”

But the truth was, Harry couldn’t even form an answer. Because had he been asked a year ago if the war ended well, he would have immediately said yes, but that the victory came with great losses. Now, for him, the loss seemed to outweigh everything else.

“We win,” Harry finally managed to bite out. “Voldemort dies.”

Severus didn’t even flinch at the name. That’s how Harry knew how tired he was. Severus nodded.

“Severus,” Harry whispered, and held out his arms.

He fell into them, and they held each other as they waited for the sleep that didn’t come.

~*~


Severus was on the floor of the filthy Shrieking Shack, blood spilling out of his neck. He turned to Harry, fear and resignation in his eyes.

“Look at me…”

Harry woke with a start and looked over at Severus. It had taken them both ages to fall asleep, and he didn’t want to wake him, but the nightmare was just too real to ignore. He rested his head on Severus’ chest, taking comfort in the still-beating heart thudding against his ear.

Long fingers combed through his hair. “Harry?”

Harry pressed his lips to Severus’ stubble-covered cheek. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Nightmare?”

Harry nodded. “What’s the date?”

Severus frowned. “It will be May once the sun rises. Why?”

Harry closed his eyes. So this was it. He’d been anticipating this day. He thought perhaps he’d cry, even though he’d cried over very little in his adulthood, or at the very least scream. But instead he felt only numb resignation. He had lost. They had lost.

But they still had tonight.

“I want you in me,” he said suddenly. “Please. Severus.”

Severus sat up, suddenly wide-awake. “We shouldn’t.”

Harry knew this. They’d limited their physical activities, mainly because they knew it would be, at the very least, very nearly entirely consummated if they actually had sex. Severus had outright refused on a regular basis, unwilling to allow Harry to return to a world where his fully bonded soul mate was dead. But now, so close to Severus’ last day, Harry couldn’t imagine returning to his own world being entirely bonded with him in mind and spirit but not in body.

“Please,” Harry repeated. He buried his head against Severus’ shoulder. “I can’t go back like this. I’ll regret it the rest of my life.”

“You’ll regret it if we do,” Severus corrected him. “It’s already difficult enough when you go back. This could entirely consummate the bond. I don’t even know if the potion will work then.”

“It will,” Harry said. “And I will definitely take it if it gets too bad.”

Severus arched a brow. “You’re conceding far too easily.”

“I’m desperate,” Harry said, brushing kisses over Severus’ neck. He paid special care to the spots he knew would soon be torn apart by Nagini’s fangs.

Severus’ breath hitched. “I’m a weak man,” he said quietly.

“The strongest,” Harry said. “Stronger than me. Stronger than anybody I know.”

Severus’ hands came up to run his fingers through Harry’s hair. “Flattery will get you nowhere.”

“And where does the truth get me?” Harry asked. His mouth was close enough to Severus’ that he could have simply exhaled and fallen upon Severus’ lips. But he wanted Severus to be the one to reach.

“Everything,” Severus said, and pulled Harry down into a crushing kiss.

Harry groaned. He always loved the feeling of Severus’ hard cock rubbing against his own, but now, with the promise of what was to come, it felt even more intoxicating.

“Wanted this for so long,” Severus said, bringing a hand between them to stroke both of their pricks. “Dreamed about it.”

“Not just dreams,” Harry said, thrusting into Severus’ grip. Given how he had just spent himself in Severus’ mouth a few hours before, it was a little surprising how hard he was. But he wouldn’t spare another thought questioning that. If his cock wanted to put in a stellar showing for what might be his only time with Severus Snape, then he would count his lucky stars.

Severus appeared to be similarly inspired. In minutes they were both hard and aching, their breath coming in sharp gasps and moans. Harry was desperate to get as close to Severus as possible; perhaps if he could just melt into him, the rest of the world would continue turning and leave them alone.

“Ready?” Severus asked. He wordlessly Summoned a fat jar from his bedside table.

Harry nodded. “Please.”

He gasped as Severus worked his lubricated fingers up his bum. They had done a bit of this before, but nowhere to the extent that it was happening now. Severus focused all of his attention on stretching him, making him feel open and exposed and ready.

“Now,” Harry said when he couldn’t take it any longer. “All of you. In me.”

Severus nodded and kissed Harry deeply before positioning himself at his entrance. Then, never taking his eyes away from Harry’s, he slowly slid home.

“Fuck, Severus!” Harry gasped.

“More?” Severus asked.

“God, yes!”

“Yes,” Severus repeated, increasing the pace of his thrusts. “Fuck, Harry. You feel so hot. So tight around my prick.”

Harry groaned and reached a hand around his erection. Severus hit his prostate every other thrust, bringing Harry just to the height of pleasure and backing off slightly. If it was possible to go mad from pleasure, Harry was certain they’d be able to accomplish it that night.

“I love feeling you inside of me,” Harry said, stroking his prick in time with Severus’ thrusts. “Fuck, Severus, you feel so good.”

“That’s it,” Severus said, his thrusts coming a bit more erratically now. “Come for me, Harry.”

“Severus,” Harry whinged.

Severus captured his mouth in a searing kiss. “Come for me. I want to feel it, and then I want to come inside of you. Do it, Harry.”

“Harder!” Harry gasped, and when Severus immediately complied, screamed, “Yes!”

Harry felt his balls tighten, and then a second later he was lost, coming in long, hot bursts, screaming out Severus’ name. He was dimly aware of Severus following him in his own release, but he couldn’t take his eyes away from his face.

He looked euphoric, blissful, years younger than he was. There were no lines aging his face. And, what’s more, he seemed to glow.

Harry held a hand up to Severus’ face. He was glowing, and when Harry touched him, his fingertips tingled.

“Severus?” he whispered. “Do you feel that?”

Severus opened his eyes and looked down. “Your skin,” he breathed, pressing a hand against Harry’s cheek. “It’s beautiful.”

“You feel so warm,” Harry said. “Even more so than before.”

“I suppose this means the bond has been consummated,” Severus said. He sounded more content than resigned, and Harry wondered if that was due to the bond or the fact he’d just had a rather remarkable orgasm.

“Do you mind?” Harry asked.

Severus wrapped his arms tightly around Harry. “Now? How can I?”

~*~


They reached for each other twice more that night. The first was a frantic and desperate coupling, two bodies striving to reach the heights of passion as quickly as possible. The second was slow and sweet, a tender moment between lovers that neither wanted to end. They didn’t see that surreal glow covering their bodies again, but Harry could feel it within himself, and when he pressed his hand to Severus’ chest, he could have sworn he felt it there as well.

“Severus?”

Severus opened one eye and looked at him. “Yes?”

“Will you tell me now?”

Harry knew he wouldn’t have to explain any further what he was asking, and he was relieved Severus didn’t force him to. Instead he sighed, eased himself up in bed, and pulled Harry with him. “You want a bedtime story, do you?”

Harry leaned against Severus’ side and snuggled into the crook of his arm. “If you don’t mind.”

“Hmm.” Severus pulled Harry closer to him. “Very well. Once upon a time – ”

“Severus!”

“Well, you said you wanted a story,” Severus said waspishly, but he kissed the top of Harry’s head. “Very well. It’s nothing terribly exciting, I’m afraid. I always knew I would have a soul mate. Every fifth Prince has had one for nearly six centuries, and it was my turn. My very early years were similar to that of a child who has a still unrealised soul mate – slightly sickly, but no cause for alarm.”

“You said your very early years,” Harry noted. “You weren’t like that your entire life? I thought the symptoms tended to gradually grow more severe unless the match is acted upon in some way.”

“They do,” Severus said. “But my symptoms abated for several years.” He paused. “When I was close with your mother.”

“My mother?” Harry yelped. He tried to pull away, but Severus held him tight. “You thought your soul mate was my mother?”

“It made sense,” Severus said calmly. “I felt significantly stronger in her presence. Yes, that could in part be because she was my only friend, but I was convinced it was due to the bond… especially once I betrayed her. The grief that I felt went beyond anything I had ever experienced. When she died, I was in both physical and emotional pain. I was certain it was because I had lost my soul mate.”

“Then how did you know it wasn’t her?” Harry asked. Even though he knew he was Severus’ soul mate, and he was the one in Severus’ arms, he couldn’t help but feel a little put out.

“Well, for one I was always surprised my soul mate was a woman, given my strong preference for the male sex,” Severus said drily. “But for another, you arrived at Hogwarts.”

Harry perked up. “Oh?”

Severus nodded. “I came up behind you one day in Potions, ostensibly to see if you were taking notes as you should have been, but really to look for an excuse to take fifteen points.” He smirked as Harry smacked his arm. “You were, of course, not doing as you were supposed to, and I put my hand on your shoulder to shock you. Instead, you were the one who shocked me.”

“What happened?”

“With that touch, I felt such a sense of peace wash over me that I nearly lost consciousness,” Severus said softly. “It felt as though the world had righted itself. I had never felt that way before, not even with Lily.”

“But you felt…”

“I believe that on some level, the bond recognised she would one day carry you,” Severus interrupted. “And so it accepted her touch, her presence as an adequate substitute for the time being.”

“You were still awful to me,” Harry pointed out.

“How could I not be?” Severus asked. “It wasn’t exactly a pleasant discovery, to find out your soul mate was not only a child, but the child of a man you despised, and, later, the boy one of your masters expected you to want to see dead. It was…frustrating, to say the least.”

Harry nodded slowly. “I see.”

Severus frowned. “Is my answer not satisfactory?”

“It is. It’s only…” Harry sighed. “Were you disappointed your soul mate was me and not my mum?”

“Of course not,” Severus said immediately. “Well, if all this hadn’t happened, I might have been disappointed that I never got to experience what it’s like to be bonded with my soul mate. But no. Lily was my first and dearest friend, but we were too dissimilar. She knew nothing of pain, of being forced to do terrible things, of being conflicted. She was entirely pure of spirit, and I loved that about her. But you…I see more of myself in you than I’d likely ever care to admit. You have all of Lily’s compassion and loyalty and devotion, but you also know what it is to ache at your very core. You’ve known sorrow and loss and still emerged triumphant. I’ve never known anybody of such fine character.”

Harry looked down at his hands, still feeling at a loss.

“Harry,” Severus continued. He tucked a finger beneath Harry’s chin, forcing him to look at him. “Had I not suspected a bond with Lily, I never would have considered her in a romantic way. But even had I not suspected a bond with you, the moment you walked through my door, I knew that I wanted you in every way possible.”

Harry let out the breath he hadn’t even realised he’d been holding, feeling as lightheaded and relieved as he had the first time he’d stepped through the Portal and touched Severus. He leaned fully into Severus’ embrace, kissing him soundly.

“Now,” Severus said when they parted a long while later, “can we get a little bit of sleep?”

Harry smiled and kissed the tip of his nose. He knew what was coming, but at the moment, his heart was too light to be grieving. “Only a little.”

~*~


When they woke again, the sun was already rising. Harry clung to Severus, trying to memorise the sound of his heart beating steadily against his chest.

Severus’ hand came up to stroke Harry’s hair. “So this is the end,” he said.

Harry closed his eyes. “I can’t say.”

“You don’t need to,” Severus said. “You always were a terrible liar.” He paused, his fingers still running though Harry’s hair. “Will you go back?”

“Not until… not until there’s no longer a reason for me to stay,” Harry said. His throat was tight, but he was proud of himself for managing to maintain a steady voice. He wanted to be strong for Severus. “I won’t risk not being here for when it’s important.”

“Don’t stay too long. We don’t know what my death will do to you through the bond. Besides, you can’t do anything,” Severus said. He almost sounded as though he wanted to talk Harry out of it. “You can’t change anything.”

“I know that,” snapped Harry. “I wouldn’t.”

“I didn’t mean anything by it,” Severus said quietly. “Only that I know it will be difficult for you.”

Harry sighed. “I know. It’s just… can we not talk about it? Maybe have you inside me one more time?”

A slow smile spread across Severus’ face. “I believe that can be arranged.”

Harry kissed Severus hard. He needed it strong and fast, a reminder that they were not only alive but living, that at least for that moment, they were stronger than Voldemort and destiny and time.

Severus let out a pained gasp.

“What is it?” Harry asked. “The Mark?”

Severus nodded. “I need to go. Damn it.” He gently pushed Harry off of him and got out of bed, already hurrying to throw robes on.

Harry didn’t know what to say. If he hadn’t known the future, he would have told Severus to be safe and that everything would be fine, but the words would only sound laughably pathetic now. What did you say to your lover when you knew, without a question, that he would be dead within a day? Severus deserved to have words of comfort and encouragement from his lover as he marched off into the face of danger, and Harry hated that he couldn’t give them to him.

“Will I see you again?” Severus asked when he finished buttoning his robes.

Well, at least that Harry could give to him. “Yes,” he said, making his voice as confident as he could. “I’ll be there.”

“Good,” Severus nodded. He swept Harry into a quick, fierce kiss. “I shall see you then.”

And then, just as suddenly as he had entered Harry’s heart, he strode out of their rooms and into the war.

~*~


Harry confined himself to Severus’ rooms that day. Even if he hadn’t been afraid he would cause the fated events to go awry if he followed Severus, he also didn’t have the strength to relive those last two days. He couldn’t stand to see all of his old friends bravely running through the halls, aware that they might die but not realising that they would. He couldn’t watch them die all over again.

He couldn’t see how he forced Severus to flee the only place Severus had called home.

But it was maddening, to say the least. When faced with danger, he was always the one to charge first and wonder if it had been a good idea later. Hell, if this had happened years ago, Harry likely would have thrown Hermione’s warnings to the dragons and saved Severus, regardless of how it changed time. Was this what it meant to be an adult? Harry wanted nothing more than to be his old rash, reckless self who did what he felt was right, regardless of the consequences.

But no. He couldn’t be that selfish anymore.

Although was it selfish to save a hero from dying? What if he rescued Severus before Nagini struck, then immediately hid him away? He would still be out of the battle, just alive. Harry could even keep him in seclusion for weeks afterward just to be safe.

Except that Voldemort never would have rested until he killed Severus, and who knew how many more people would have died because of that? And what if it were Hermione? Would that create a paradox where she wouldn’t be able to create the Portal, and Harry never would have been able to spend any time with his soul mate?

Damn it.

And so Harry sat and stared at the clock, watching time go by far more slowly than it ever had when he stepped into this world, and waited.

~*~


The Shack was as dark and terrifying as Harry remembered, but this time, there was a blindingly bright ring in the middle of the room. Harry crouched there, hidden under his Cloak, close enough to Severus to touch, and watched Voldemort explain to Severus why he had to die. Harry had to work to block all sounds out of his ears – in his mind, he could still hear Voldemort explaining why Severus must die, Severus’ pleas to be allowed to find “the boy,” Nagini’s hisses…if Harry heard them again, he was certain he would go mad.

So instead he waited. He watched Voldemort speak to Severus, and there he was, his Severus, clearly so terrified but trying desperately not to show it. Severus knew he wouldn’t leave this room alive. He would have known it even if Harry hadn’t hinted that today was his last day. But he was there, fighting, playing the spy, up until the very end.

Harry couldn’t even look away when Nagini struck. He had thought perhaps seeing it again, the vision would appear to play in slow motion, but no. It was as fast and brutal and horrifying as it had been the first time. Harry bit down on his fist, hard enough to draw blood, to stop himself from screaming out and running after Severus.

And then Voldemort and Nagini were gone.

“Hurry up,” he pleaded to his younger self. “Hurry, damn it.”

Merlin, had he really taken that long to go to Severus? Had he really hated him that much, that he’d contemplate allowing a man to bleed to death alone on the filthy floor of the room where he’d nearly been killed as a teenager? Or was it just shock? At that moment, Harry didn’t much care either way. He just wanted his younger self to go to Severus and take his memories, so that way Harry could finally be alone with his lover.

“He’s bleeding, you idiot,” Harry whispered fiercely. “He can’t last much longer. What are you waiting for?”

The younger Harry finally came to his senses and removed his Cloak, moving toward Severus. He could see Severus telling him to look at him, could see his memories spilling forth. Harry felt a surprising amount of anger towards his younger self; what right did he have to be there with Severus, to be the one holding him during his last seconds on earth? He knew nothing, nothing about him.

So caught up was Harry with his fury that he didn’t even realise at first that Severus was finally alone. He cast one more frantic look around to make sure nobody would come back to the Shack, and tore off his Cloak.

“H’rry…”

Harry’s jaw dropped. He had always assumed Severus had died before he left the Shack. But there he was, still breathing, and … crawling?

“Severus?” Harry asked, hurrying towards him.

“Here,” Severus rasped. His eyes were glazed and unfocused, but he continued to inch towards Harry. “H’rry.”

“Yes, I’m here,” Harry said, kneeling by his side. “I told you I would be.”

“Afraid…would be…Potter. Not you.”

“I promised you,” Harry said. He took Severus in his arms and cradled his head against his chest, using one of his hands to staunch the flow of blood. His pulse was dangerously weak. Harry knew he didn’t have much time left. The thought actually filled him with relief; he would have hated himself if it had turned out he’d run out of the Shack years ago to allow Severus to languish for hours before dying. “I’m here. I’m staying with you.”

“Yes,” Severus whispered. “Come with me.”

“Come where?” Harry asked. He was stroking Severus’ face, neck, chest, anywhere he could touch, desperate for any sort of live contact he could get.

“The light,” Severus said. “Have to. Dying.”

“Shh, Severus,” Harry said. “Don’t talk about that.”

“Saw it as soon as I came in,” Severus said fervently. “I need to go to it now. Please, Harry.”

Harry frowned. He was clearly losing it, because Severus’ voice seemed to be growing stronger instead of weaker. It had to be wishful thinking that made it seem as though Severus’ pulse was now beating steadily.

“It’s right behind us,” Severus pleaded. “We need to go through.”

Harry’s jaw dropped. Severus could see the Portal? “Severus,” he said, scarcely daring to believe it, “what do you see?”

“A blindingly bright circle of light right behind you,” Severus said impatiently. “Now hurry, before it disappears.”

Harry’s heart pounded. Had he managed to change time anyway? He knew he should be horrified by the implications, but he felt nearly giddy with relief. He rubbed his fingers over Severus’ neck; there wasn’t even a sign Nagini had ever bitten him. “Severus! You’ve stopped bleeding!”

Severus covered his mouth with his own, kissing him hard. Already lightheaded, Harry lost his balance, stumbling backwards with Severus on top of him.

And then they fell into the light. Together.

~*~


“HARRY! And is that SNAPE? Oh, my God, RON! Get over here, NOW!”

Harry clung to Severus. He was hearing Hermione’s voice and also feeling Severus’ breath in his ear. He was afraid if he let Severus go, he’d fall back through the Portal, or, worse, he’d find out it had all been a dream.

“Harry, you’re bleeding! What happened?”

“Not bleeding,” Harry said. “Severus’ blood.”

“Severus…oh, Harry, what did you do?”

“I believe he saved my life,” Severus said. He pushed himself up off the floor without breaking contact with Harry. “A feat for which I am exceptionally grateful.”

“Harry, mate, you’re back!” Ron said as he Apparated into the Shack. “And with Snape! Well done, mate! I knew you’d figure it out.”

“You knew about this?” Hermione asked dangerously. “You said he’d accepted Snape was going to die.”

“I had,” Harry said quietly. He reached for Severus’ hand, gratified when he squeezed back. “I don’t know how this happened. I thought I was the only person who could go through the Portal.”

“Well, we could use the crystal ball, but I don’t think it’s necessary at this point,” Hermione said. “The only possible explanation is that the two of you are now fully bonded, and so the Portal only recognised a single soul passing through.” She cast a pointed look at Harry. “Except I do believe you knew better than to heal Snape.”

“I didn’t mean to,” Harry said. “I just wanted to hold him.”

“And conveniently forgot you’d been able to heal him before?” Hermione asked.

“You’d want to hold Ron too if he was dying,” Harry snapped. “Severus is my soul mate. Why would that be any different?

Hermione flushed. “I’m only saying that this will raise a great number of difficulties.”

“Hermione,” Ron said, grabbing her arm. “Harry managed to save the life of his soul mate. Give him a moment, would you?”

“More than a moment,” Harry said determinedly. “He’s not going back.”

“Well, I don’t even think he can,” Hermione said. She sounded more resigned than angry now, much to Harry’s relief. “Even if he goes back through the Portal, he would have completely altered time simply by being alive for the end of the war. At least if he stays in this timeline, those five years will remain the same. We only have to worry about the future, as opposed to unravelling the past.”

“I’m not too concerned about the future,” Harry said. He looked at Severus. “It finally seems to make sense. Maybe this was how it was supposed to be all along.”

“Guess we’ll never know,” Ron said cheerfully.

“Actually, we will,” Hermione said. “Or at the very least we’ll need a contingency plan. Professor, I’ll need for you to come with me to the Department of Mysteries. We have some tests we can run that I think will be useful in determining our course of action. Unless, of course, you think you need to go to St Mungo’s first.”

“He’s not some lab rat,” Harry snapped. “And he doesn’t need to go to St Mungo’s.” He looked at Severus. “You don’t, do you? It’s just that you feel fine.”

Severus shook his head. “No,” he said. “I merely feel slightly lightheaded.”

“You should get to bed,” Harry said firmly. “We can go to the Department of Mysteries in the morning.”

“Harry – ”

“Hermione, a day isn’t going to make a difference,” Harry said. “Please. I need this.”

Her face softened. “It’s not that I’m not happy for you, Harry. I am. I know you love him.”

“Hermione,” Harry muttered, his face flushing. He loved Severus, and he knew Severus loved him; the bond told him as much. But they had never spoken the words aloud, and he didn’t much fancy the first time being in front of Ron and Hermione.

“And I know you need this for the bond,” she continued. “You have to know I’m relieved you’ll be healthy. But you realise I have to think of what impact Snape’s survival will have on this timeline.”

Harry nodded. She was an Unspeakable. He knew she was only doing her job.

She sighed. “But I do hope more than anything that you’ll finally know true happiness.” She kissed Harry’s cheek. “Go on. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Harry grinned. “Thanks, Hermione.”

“Are you safe Apparating?” Ron asked.

“Yeah,” Harry said. “Thanks.”

He turned to look at Severus, who was looking rather more dazed than before. “Come on,” he said with an encouraging smile. “Let’s go home.”

~*~

Harry handed Severus a glass of water and sat next to him on the couch. “How are you feeling?”

“Slightly in shock, I’m afraid,” Severus said. “Even before you arrived, I never expected to survive the war. To go from knowing with utter certainty that you’re going to be killed, then feeling that moment, and then suddenly be perfectly healthy in the future? It’s rather… overwhelming.”

Harry wrapped an arm around Severus’ shoulders, pleased when Severus huddled in close. “I know. I spent night after night reliving your death. I still can’t believe you’re here in my house.”

“And yet, here we are,” Severus said. “I don’t even know what to do. I’ve made no plans. The world believes me to be dead. What am I supposed to do?”

“Whatever makes you happy,” Harry said. He brushed Severus’ hair back and toyed with the long strands. “We can figure it out together.”

“I suppose,” Severus said slowly.

Harry frowned. “Are you disappointed? I only assumed we’d stay together. Would you rather live separately and only see each other when the bond requires it?” A horrible thought occurred to him. “Or do you want to use the potion?”

“Of course not,” Severus said immediately. “I only thought it might be difficult for you. You had a life here, one without me. I wouldn’t want to interfere with your plans.”

“Severus, I had no plans,” Harry said. “I worked all the time. I rarely dated. My only close friends were Ron and Hermione. I couldn’t even dream of something like this.”

“And now?” Severus asked.

Harry tucked his finger beneath Severus’ chin, forcing him to meet his eyes. “My only plan is making sure we have the happiest lives possible, the lives we deserve. Together. So long as that’s what you want, too.”

Severus leaned in, capturing Harry’s mouth in a fierce kiss. “I do,” he whispered.

“Good,” Harry said, smiling. He continued to play with Severus’ hair. “So, tell me. Did you know what you were doing when you pushed us through the Portal?”

“No,” he replied. “At that point, I believe, while you had healed my wounds, I was still suffering from loss of blood and was terribly lightheaded. I was convinced I was feeling stronger because I was about to die. Once I had realised the Shack was to be my death chamber, I convinced myself that the strange glowing circle was the light I needed to follow to reach the other side, and it had appeared early because it was such a certainty that I would not escape with my life.”

“So you were going to your death…and you were going to take me with you?” Harry asked.

Severus smirked. “I’m a terribly selfish bastard. It’s best you learn that now.”

Harry laughed. “Well, at least you’re honest.”

“Indeed,” Severus said, his voice low. He pushed Harry back into the couch, covering him with his body. “And honestly, right now, I could stand to do something a little life-affirming.”

“Could you?” Harry gasped.

“Yes,” Severus growled. “I believe I was denied earlier due to a certain megalomaniacal monster.”

“Ugh, can we not talk about Voldemort in bed?” Harry asked. “Kind of ruins the mood.”

“But we’re not in bed,” Severus said, nipping at Harry’s ear.

Harry forced himself to focus and Apparated them to his bedroom. “Now we are.”

Severus looked down at him. “Banishing our clothes while simultaneously Apparating? Impressive, Potter.”

“When given the proper incentive, I can be quite skilled with my magic,” Harry said, latching his mouth around Severus’ nipple.

“Among other things. Ahh!”

It was only earlier that morning that they had last done this, but for Harry, it felt like the years they had leaped through had truly passed. He made it his mission to touch, kiss, lick, and suck every square centimetre of Severus’ body, and he’d be willing to wager Severus was thinking the same thing.

“So good,” Harry whispered. “God, Severus, you feel so good.”

Severus looked up from where he was currently sucking on the tip of Harry’s prick. “You taste even sweeter in this world than in the last.”

“Fuck, Severus,” Harry groaned as Severus returned his attention to his prick, swirling his tongue around the head. “I need you in me. Now.”

“Ah, thank Merlin,” Severus said, lifting himself up to kiss Harry on the lips. “I don’t know how long I can last tonight.”

“That’s okay,” Harry said, stroking his cheek. “We have all the time in the world.”

And they did, now. Whereas before their lovemaking was rushed with the knowledge they would not have much time left together, now it was heated and desperate from the heady excitement that as soon as they finished, they could relax for a moment and then do it again, again, again!

“I’m trying,” Severus gasped, driving his hips in again. “Fuck, Harry, so tight.”

“Yes!” Harry shouted. He pulled Severus down for a kiss, rapidly stroking his cock at the same time. “Harder, please.”

Severus immediately complied, slamming feverishly into Harry. “Fuck, yes. Harry, I’m so close. Want you to come first. Want to feel you come on my cock.”

“Yes,” Harry whinged. “Severus…”

“I can feel you,” Severus said, his voice low. “I feel you around my prick, but I feel you in my soul as well. I feel how hard you are, how desperate, how much you love my cock in your arse, how much you love –”

“Severus!” Harry screamed, and came, his entire body shaking with the intensity of it.

“Yes, Harry!” Severus thrust a few more times, his breath coming in heavy gasps, until he followed Harry in his release.

They stayed there together, curled up in each other’s arms, not saying a word, for a long time after that. Harry idly stroked Severus’ hair, blown away by the wonder of it all. To think he had once been convinced that to learn that his soul mate was Severus Snape was a death sentence. It couldn’t have been further from the truth; Severus had given Harry a new life, one in which he was excited for the future. He had found the piece of himself he hadn’t realised was missing, and now felt more alive than ever before.

“I do, you know,” Harry finally said quietly. “Love you.”

Severus snorted. “You do have a penchant for stating the obvious, don’t you?”

Harry laughed. “It just seemed important to say. Most happy couples do.”

“Well, there’s no need to say the words when both of us can feel through the bond our affection for each other,” Severus said.

Harry’s face burned. He knew Severus wasn’t a romantic man, and he wasn’t especially either. But…

“But it’s still nice to hear the words,” Severus continued. “Even if something as mundane as those three little words is entirely inadequate to express the depth of my feelings for you. But I do love you as well, Harry.”

Harry felt a wide grin spread across his face. “You’re right. It is nice to hear. And now that we’re together…really together, for…” His voice trailed off.

“Forever,” Severus said firmly. “Soul mates are bonded for life, and even if we weren’t, I wouldn’t be letting you go any time soon.”

“Good,” Harry said, kissing the top of Severus’ head. “I wouldn’t let you, anyway.”

“Hmm,” Severus said. “Anyway, as you were saying?”

“I was saying,” Harry repeated, “that now we can finally just focus on what makes us happy. No worrying about dark lords or deadly snakes or –”

“Or time,” Severus said.

“Exactly,” Harry agreed. “I mean, eventually I’ll need to go back to work, and I imagine you’ll want to do something you actually enjoy instead of being a full-time teacher and spy, and we’ll also have to figure out how to explain you coming back from the dead, and – ”

“I have an idea,” Severus said. “How about we stay here in bed, enjoying each other quite thoroughly, and then deal with tomorrow as it comes? We have that luxury now.”

Harry pulled Severus up for a kiss. He was right, of course. They had spent so long waiting for the inevitable, but instead time had divided and offered a new, wonderful possibility. A new chance at life. He and Severus had countless days ahead of them, and Harry was planning on enjoying each and every one of them.

“Yes,” Harry said, content. “We do.”

-The End-


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