Title: Why Do I Scare You So Much, Severus?

Rating: T

Genre: Pre-Slash, Romance, One-Shot intention but I may write a sequel if there is demand.

Pairing: Harry/Severus

Disclaimer: Harry Potter and Severus Snape belong to that lovely British lady. Unfortunately.

Summary: Severus' curious glances lead Harry to concern. An example for my "Why Do I Scare You?" Challenge.

Harry glanced down the staff table in time to see Severus Snape shift his eyes away from the younger man. Interesting: that was the fourth time tonight.

When Severus made to look at him again, Harry made eye contact with the man, a question in his eyes as the black ones widened and stared into his. The other man held the gaze for a few seconds, then turned to the headmaster, excused himself, and fled through the staff exit.

Harry waited a few moments, made his excuses, and followed.

He wasn't sure exactly where in the castle Severus resided, but he knew to head to the dungeons. He let his intuition take over from there, and just when he was wishing he had the Marauder's Map on him, he spotted Snape before a portrait. The dark man murmured words in a language that Harry didn't recognize, and then simply walked through the portrait and the wall behind it.

Harry stepped up to the portrait. The woman in it looked strikingly like Severus and Harry realized they must be related. He searched the painting for clues, and noted that a locket she wore bore the letter "P" in a curly script. The woman whom Harry assumed to be Severus' mother smiled down at him, but when he pressed his hand to the edge of the portrait, it remained very solid.

"May I enter?" he whispered to her. She continued smiling but shook her head in the negative.

"Please?" No.

Harry realized she was protecting the reclusive man. "I mean him no harm." Her expression changed slightly. She was still smiling, but her black eyes were searching, skeptical.

He sighed, debated admitting to her what he had only just admitted to himself. She eyed him questioningly.

"I like him. I don't wish to hurt him if he doesn't return my feelings. I just want to help him. He's so unhappy all the time." Her black eyes met his green ones, and she smiled sadly. Then she nodded: once, twice, and the portrait and wall seemed to disappear. He hadn't been able to see it when Severus walked through, but he was able to enter without the odd feeling that he was going to run into the wall, like one got when entering Platform 9 ¾.

Severus rose quickly when he felt the wards around his home being breached, but he knew it wasn't a forced entry, for they wavered only a second before returning. He turned to see the bane of his existence standing in his sitting area.

Fuming, he forced his voice steady. "Mr. Potter, what are you doing in my rooms and how did you enter in the first place!?"

"She let me in," he replied, as if it explained everything.

"Why? And why did you follow me?"

"Why were you staring at me?"

"I -" Severus' voice caught, and he couldn't meet the younger man's eyes. "- don't have to answer to you. It is you who are invading my privacy."

He turned to walk into another room, but Harry seized his arm, and his former professor turned to look at him, eyes glittering angrily.

So close-

Harry reached up behind the taller man to pull him slightly forward, leaned in, and kissed him, ever so gently. The older man whimpered and tried to pull away, but Harry held him, tenderly but firmly.

When Harry pulled away, Severus could only stare at him. Harry didn't know how, exactly, to decipher the look in the man's eyes. There was anger, confusion, pain, and, most prominently, fear.

Harry reached out his hand and brushed his fingers lightly along the man's face. The other flinched.

"Why do I scare you so much?"

The words came out sounding more hurt than he had intended. The pain in his voice was echoed a thousand times over in Severus' face.

"I followed you because I wanted to know why you were staring at me, and because I care. Your mother let me in because I -" The man looked ready to flee again. "I like you, and I want to help you."

"Help me? I don't need your help." He steadfastly ignored the 'I like you' part.

Harry's defiance kicked in. "I daresay you do. You need someone's help."

"If you know this so well, then what, pray tell, do I need help with?"

"You need help because you are unhappy. You need someone who cares, someone who will protect you. She -" He indicated the portrait that had allowed him into the room, "- thinks so too! You've been protecting people for so long that you've forgotten you deserve to be protected as well, that you deserve to live without the burden of being a savior to others without the recognition of it, that you deserve -" he trailed off, suddenly afraid to scare the man away with his next words.

"That I deserve what, Mr. Potter? Mind you, you are grating on my patience."

"That you deserve love."

Severus was trembling now. "If you speak of protecting my heart, Mr. Potter, the time for that has long passed. If you wish to protect it from further harm, I suggest you leave me the hell alone."

He didn't say leave his heart alone, he said leave him alone… have I already entered his heart?

"Severus -" He reached out his free hand again, but the man flinched in an attempt to escape his grip.

"And don't call me that."

"Severus, please. Let me help you. Please." He extended his hand, much more slowly than he had in his failed attempts. He placed it over the man's wildly beating heart. "Let me protect you. I've no intention of hurting you."

"That's what they all said – my mother, Lily, Lucius, Voldemort, Albus… they all promised to protect me, promised they wouldn't hurt me -" He looked away.

That's why he's afraid. He's afraid I'll hurt him like they did. He's afraid I'll go back on my promise, that I'll betray him.

"Severus, you well know I've done a lot of stupid things… but I've never gone back on my word, love."

Severus' eyes flickered up at the last word. Love? "No?"

"Never." He leaned up to kiss the man, who didn't flinch this time.