Severus Snape never expected to survive the war.
To survive it with little more than a few scars and a nagging ache in his neck that never seemed to vanished...
To survive it and not end up in Askaban...
To survive it, to finally be free and to end up - if he dare think it - happy, with the man who had been the boy who lived...
It was beyond unimaginable, beyond impossible, there was no way to explain the magnitude of how inconceivable it was.
And there he was being asked too.
When the request had come, Severus had scoffed at it. "No one," he said distastefully. "Has any interest in reading about my life. Even if I had the slightest interest in telling them."
Harry had disagreed. "You're a hero Severus, you saved lives."
"I took lives," Severus retorted. Which was cruel, bringing up the one bitter pill neither of them could ever truly swallow. The blame, the recriminations, were long gone. But the loss was still tangible. Even after nearly a decade.
"You made a choice... a hard choice that stole away every other choice you might have had, for almost twenty years. I had my... destiny," the word drew a snort from them both. "Chosen for me by a mad man. You made that choice freely even when it cost you. Maybe reading your story will help others who are caught between light and dark, even with Voldemort long gone, there are plenty of other dark - if not as powerful - wizards around. And you are a hero. You always will be too me."
There was very little Severus could say to that. His mind was still made up about saying no. But Harry's words chased him even when Harry stopped and eventually, he gave in.
He didn't feel like a hero, but maybe he could stop someone making the same mistakes he made. The same mistakes he'd been unable to stop so many of his Slytherin's making over the years.
It was harder than he thought. Putting his life story down on paper.
He wrote by hand - hating the idea of a quick quotes quill, or worse, Harry's suggestion of using his muggle computer - which only made the process longer, but it did give him more time to think.
Severus avoided thinking about 'what if's' as a general rule of thumb. There were too many possibilities and no actual hope to change anything, but it was hard, as he sorted through the memories off his life not to see the important moments and wonder how things might have been different.
Harry didn't interfere when he was home.
Occasionally he'd bring Severus a pot off tea, or make him come to the table for dinner - with Harry's work taking him all over the place, they would sometimes go weeks without eating together and so made the effort when they were both home at dinner time - dragging him to bed when he worked into the night and fell asleep at his desk.
Otherwise though, he left him alone to work.
Never asking questions. Never asking to see what he'd written even though Severus knew him well enough to know it had to be killing him. Harry was too curious not to want to know.
Severus worked steadily, if slowly, for three months, before he stalled.
Had made it all the way to the end of the war and half way through what was a long, painful recovery, before he froze, almost literally, with his quill hovering over the page and no idea what to write next.
It was how Harry found him, still sitting several hours after he'd written his last words and the first time he asked how it was going.
Severus did not have an answer.
"They say writers block is pretty common, maybe a few days break is just what you need..." Harry offered him over dinner two nights later. Severus had still gone no further despite several hours cooped up in his study with his pensive looking through the memories of that time.
Some were hazy, his recovery in St. Mungo's not entirely clear from all the potions he'd been on just to keep him alive.
Others were crystal clear and sharp edged.
But he still couldn't... grasp what he was looking for.
"Maybe if I see what you've written..." Harry offered. "Or just the last bit, if you don't want me to see it all I..."
"You can read it," Severus said. Because there honestly wasn't much in it Harry didn't already know after almost nine years together.
And maybe it would help, to be able to talk it out properly.
Harry almost cried - even though he knew what had happened - when he read Severus' account of Dumbledore's death.
Had laughed at the sharp recounting of Bellatrix whining because Voldemort wouldn't allow her to torture Severus. It shouldn't have been funny, but even Severus had been amused at the time.
And when he was done reading everything Severus had written, looked just as puzzled as Severus was.
"You stopped," he said slowly. "Right before the night of our first kiss."
Severus had known that. It was one of his few memories from St. Mungo's that was crystal clear. Sharp edges and brilliant colours and every emotions as real and alive in his memory as if he was still there and feeling them in that moment.
"I remember it so clearly," Severus said out loud, because Harry was obviously waiting for a response. "But it's... I can't put it into words when I try to think of them it just... none of them are the correct ones."
Harry smiled softly. "I know the feeling."
Severus raised an eyebrow.
"Do you know how many times I had to try and explain it to Ron and Hermione. The other Weasley's. They all thought I was deranged. Or that you'd somehow cast a spell on me..." Harry chuckled. "I think even now, Ron still thinks you might have."
"To maintain a spell this long, I would have to be an exceptionally powerful wizard. Perhaps you put the spell on me," Severus said.
Harry laughed softly.
Words crystallised in Severus' mind.
The book was released on a Monday. Severus suffered through several days where his stomach felt like it was tied in knots before it went on sale. He still seriously doubted anyone would buy it. Expected that in all likelihood, the publisher would be sending him a letter in a few months, with - if he was lucky - a bronze knut attached as his royalties.
The last thing he expected was the Daily Prophet to arrive on the Tuesday buzzing about it. Two pages, a profile on himself and a review of the book that included things like 'heartbreaking', 'true loyalty', 'heroic', 'stunningly beautiful' and 'love like we can only aspire too'.
Severus' throat felt tight as he read through it, barely pausing even when he felt Harry's hands on his shoulders and soft kisses against the side of his neck.
"I told you," Harry said, when Severus looked up from reading it.
"I suppose you're going to be smug now," Severus said, his voice a little rough.
Harry laughed and pressed their mouths together in a tender kiss. "I'll try not to be," he promised.
Severus snorted softly. "That," he said. "Would be a first."
I recall the first time Harry kissed me with a sharp edged clarity that still makes my heart race when I think about it.
I was on a chair beside my hospital bed at St. Mungo's, he'd been there most of the afternoon loosing at Wizard's Chess and catching me up on the goings on outside the hospital. I read the Prophet of course, but there are some things a paper just can't tell you.
One moment he was laughing about something, a bright smile lighting up his face and the next his mouth was pressed against mine, soft and warm. A more tender touch than anyone had bestowed upon me in many years.
Always, through choice or necessity, keeping my inner most feelings hidden - sometimes even from myself - having this young man, whom I had watched grow, had loved and hated for those people he represented and only then recently for himself, lay me bare with one kiss, was at once the most terrifying and exhilarating experience I have perhaps ever had.
I could not have hidden myself from him in that moment. Not with all the will in the world.
And I didn't want to. For the first time in my life, I wanted someone to see me.
To see the broken parts, the sharp edges, the soul deep ache in me.
I wanted Harry to see it, because I knew he would understand it. Would not judge me for it.
I knew that he would help ease it. Help dull the sharp edges and fix the breaks, filling them in with his love and affection. With a bright mind and open heart.
I think maybe, that is the moment I fell in love with him.
And I do so again, every time he smiles at me.