Harry put down his quill with a sigh and stretched his arms, working the creaking stiffness out. It had been almost three years since he had received his NEWTs and won a place at Durham University. He had been required to take classes in both the Wizarding and Muggle courses, so that he had a good basis for non-magic-assisted teaching, which would be useful if he ever had to teach potions, or anything else that was sensitive to magical outbursts. The wizarding course was very interesting. He had decided to specialise in Transfiguration and, as a tribute to Severus, Potions. His mother was right, the strangeness of his new life and new opportunities had worn off eventually and he could now think of Severus without the sudden wave of grief.
A knock startled him from his contemplation and Harry waved his wand carelessly at the door. It swung open to admit Toby.
“Hi Harry,” Toby said, flopping onto the chair beside Harry’s desk.
“Hey Toby,” Harry replied, shifting a pile of parchments enough that he could see his boyfriend. Toby was quite like Harry in looks; dark hair, glasses and rather small for a man. His eyes were brown though, and his glasses slid continuously down his nose. They were doing it right now, Harry noted with a grin, watching Toby push them back up. Harry had met Toby early in his course. Toby had turned up ten minutes into their first lecture, sliding into a seat at the back beside Harry.
“I couldn’t find the lecture hall,” he whispered to Harry, digging parchment out of his back. “What’d I miss?”
“You can have a look at my notes after class,” Harry whispered back before returning his attention to the lecturer and scribbling as fast as his muscles would allow.
They had developed a close friendship, which had blossomed into a sexual relationship some months into their second year. By their third year, they had both moved out of university accommodation and were sharing a flat in the centre of the town.
“Have you finished that essay yet?” Toby asked. Harry looked down at the paper, absently rubbing an ink stain from his skin.
“Almost,” he said. “'Explain the differences between visual and active learning' isn’t the most exciting of titles, is it?”
“Not really,” Tony replied with a lopsided grin. “I just finished. Wanted to know if you fancy going out.” Harry glanced at the clock. The plain, practical hand was pointing at “Time to eat”.
“Well I’d like some dinner first,” he said. “And I can’t do that until I’ve finished this, but then who knows? I’ll see how I feel.”
“Okay,” Toby replied, shrugging. “You get that done, I’ll go boil some pasta, shall I?”
“Thanks, Toby,” Harry said with a sigh of relief. “I would be brilliant to have something ready when I’m done.”
“No problem,” Toby replied with a smile. “Hopefully the food will wake you up enough to come out with me later.”
Harry dipped his quill back in the inkpot. “Hopefully.”
Twenty minutes later, Toby and Harry were wandering through the wet streets of Durham, following the moving stream of people heading out to its nightclubs and bars.
“Where do you want to go?” asked Toby. “Studio? Love Shack?”
“I don’t really feel like clubbing,” Harry said, then caught the look of disappointment on Toby’s face. “Sorry, Toby,” he said. “I don’t mean to be gloomy. I’m just not in the mood. You go ahead, if you like. I’ll see you back home.”
Toby sighed. “No, there’s obviously something wrong. Come on, we’ll go to the cathedral.”
The cathedral grounds were quiet and mostly empty so late in the evening. Toby settled himself on a bench beside the dewy grass and patted the space beside him. Harry sat with a soft exhalation.
“What is wrong?” Toby asked.
“Nothing, really,” Harry protested.
Toby gave him a stern look. “I’m not stupid, Harry. This has happened every year since I met you. We get into the new year and you go all moody for a few days, then get back to normal. I don’t understand.”
Harry stood and wandered into the churchyard. He sat down just inside with his back against the cold metal gate.
“I had a… good friend,” he said quietly, trying to fight down the sadness that never really went away. “A very good friend. He died a while ago. I can’t forget. I’ve tried to get over it, but I can’t.”
Toby sat down beside him and put one arm around Harry’s shoulders.
“He was your lover.”
Harry shook his head. “No, he was much more than that. He was one of the few things left when everything I remembered disappeared.” A sob escaped him, and Toby felt the familiar body shake with the force of it. “Why did he have to die?”
Toby had no answer.