A year later, the seventh anniversary of the death of Voldemort is imminent. Like the years before it, preparations are underway for the celebrations that will take place the next day. Of course, Severus and Harry have never been free to take part in these, not that they'd ever really wanted to attend. But as it stands, they still are not free, having made a promise to Albus Dumbledore eight years earlier. Strangely, it is not an obligation from which they have yet been released.
They had both expected, last year, after the sixth anniversary in Harry's flat, that surely the old man's hopes for them had been fulfilled. They were puzzled when their expectations had been met with a continued silence from beyond the grave.
Not that it's made any difference in how they chose to live out their lives. Severus continues on as Hogwarts Potions Master, and Harry works out of the dungeons, doing independent contracting work in graphic design. He also teaches art to private students at the school who've demonstrated both the aptitude and desire to learn. And he still sketches his favorite subject at odd moments. Severus gives in to it gracefully now, as he finds he has little will these days to deny the artist anything he wishes.
There is an old, familiar feeling to the tradition now, as they prepare to lock themselves in together for the seventh time. They find it a little humorous, as being closeted together like this is so far from the irritating experience that it once proved to be.
But this year will be a memorable one in its own right. Unofficially a couple, they have decided that this year, they will take the step to make their relationship permanent. There was never any question that they'd do it eventually, but Severus had hit upon an idea that had appealed to them both.
The public Binding Ceremony is really just a form. It is done in public so that friends and family may share the experience with the couple. But the public gathering is not a requirement, and is not what lies at the heart of the bond. The true binding between partners takes place with the incantation of commitment, and as such, requires no witness but the couple themselves. It is Deep Magic, and when called forth, it witnesses and binds, creating a legal and permanent bond.
Severus and Harry had decided that this year, while locked in by their promise to the Headmaster, they would pledge themselves in the Binding Ceremony. Although it would become a matter of public record once they had done it, the privacy of the moment was something they wanted to protect.
And so, they spent that day of celebration much as they had the prior six years, Severus working at his desk, and Harry at his. And in the afternoon, they had indulged in their favorite pastime, that of giving pleasure one to the other. But in the evening, they dressed in their finest formal robes, as the occasion required, then stood in the sitting room. They faced each other with a sudden, solemn shyness. Joining hands, together they incanted the words of the powerful spell. Being Deep Magic, it was, of course, in Latin. But Severus had reprised his professorial role, and had made sure that Harry not only knew the spell by heart, but understood every single word.
As they spoke it in unison, they held each other's eyes. They felt the heat grow in their hands where they clasped each other, then watched together in satisfaction as a white arc of light encircled them. It pulsed brightly for a moment, before fading softly away. The spell requires true love and commitment for the binding to take place, and the circle of light is the validation that these conditions have been met and the bond has been forged.
They stood for a very long moment, both of them experiencing deeply the final welding of that connection which had so inexorably pulled them together, despite all the circumstances and temperament which had conspired against it.
Then they leaned in to seal themselves with a slow, soulful kiss. When they finally broke away, Harry was the first to speak.
"Wow. That was incredible," he said.
Severus agreed. "I wasn't aware that it would evoke such...sensations."
Harry laughed. "It was a little...sexual, wasn't it?"
Severus smiled at him. "I think elemental is the word, Harry."
"Well, whatever it was, I'd like to continue exploring elemental a little later on." He nodded toward the bedchamber.
"Count on it." Severus assured him.
When they heard the first fireworks begin, Severus went to the sideboard and poured the Glenlivit. Harry stood to take his. Nodding at each other, they echoed the words for the seventh time. "To Albus Dumbledore."
They had just clinked their glasses together, when there was a distinct popping noise, and a small scroll appeared out of thin air and fell to the floor between them. They stared at each other for a moment, then said in unison, "Albus."
Sitting close together on the couch, they unrolled the scroll and bent in to read the short paragraph written in the Headmaster's distinctive hand:
My Dear Severus and Harry,Fin
Congratulations on your successful Binding Ceremony.
I have long known that only in the binding of yourselves together could either one of you hope to be complete. As John Donne so aptly put it, "No man is an island, entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."
You both have been islands for far too long, and I rejoice with you that your isolation has been ended, and that you've found that you are pieces of one another.
Live long and happily, my dear boys. And as a favor to an old man, remember me with a toast now and then.
P.S. I wonder how long it's taken you? About seven years would be my wager?