Before It's Too Late

Rice-Ball247: Well, this is supposed to be angsty. So if you're prone to tears -crosses fingers- I hope this works! Also beware of my... overuse of line separators here. They were necessary, unfortunately.

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or Severus Snape. Any characters you recognize here belong to J. K. Rowling.

"I love you."

It's a Monday morning when Severus glances up from the book that he's so engrossed in, and why wouldn't he, when it was about the newest theory behind the true origins of Potion brewing? At the door, his young lover smiles awkwardly, as if he is afraid of the very words he had just spoken; afraid of the backlash he will receive if Severus chooses to respond.

He doesn't. A mere grunt, Severus nods and returns to reading. There is a barely audible sigh from Harry's general direction and the door closes shut.

"I love you."

Harry is hanging around the doorway to the lab on Tuesday, pulling on a pair of thick winter gloves and a scarf for extra warmth. The weather outside is atrocious, as Severus had informed him, so Harry had taken his advice and fished out some proper attire before he went for his daily walk.

Severus looks up from where he is finely chopping various roots for his potion project of the week and nods once to Harry before returning his attention to the task at hand.

There is a pregnant pause and Severus can see that Harry is still hovering about the doorjamb. When he doesn't say anything else, Harry turns silently and leaves.

"I love you."

There are small smudges of dirt staining Severus' fingertips as he sits back on his hunches and wipes his forehead with the back of his hand. He glances down at the weeds he had just spent his Wednesday afternoon meticulously clearing away from his precious saplings which were beginning to grow – future potion ingredients in the making. Severus was proud of them.

Harry clears his throat and Severus snaps out of his gaze. He raises an eyebrow at Harry, who draws near and attempts to kiss his cheek, but Severus turns away. "I am dirty, at the moment. You may do that later on after I have showered."

Harry hesitates and nods resignedly before he gives Severus a small smile and turns to leave. Severus doesn't see the glimmer of tears that well in his eyes, unshed.

"I love you."

There is no one else around them when Harry says this, as everyone else is congratulating the ecstatic couple, Ron and Hermione, on the birth of their first child on that fine Thursday evening. Severus feels Harry's hand in his, squeezing gently. Severus merely pats Harry's hand and excuses himself, feeling the need to relieve himself of his full bladder.

He completely misses the way Harry's face crumples in barely hidden anguish, because seconds later, he's smiling again – a smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes.

"I love you," Harry whispers as Severus collapses atop him, finally satisfied after reaching his climax after a working week without sex. Severus grunts in response and shifts back to let Harry's legs fall to the side. He pulls out and rolls over, grabbing two towels that they keep handy and passing one to Harry. Severus cleans himself up efficiently before he moves to the bathroom to take a shower.

Harry is silent as he wraps his arms around him and allows himself to cry quietly for the seven minutes in which he can be alone.

"I love you."

Severus pretends that he is asleep as he feels warm lips press gentle kisses to his bare shoulder. He has his back turned to Harry, feigning sleep as he does so. The younger man behind him moves away at last and Severus breathes in deeply.

There is a faint rustling on Harry's side of the bed and moments later, there is the sound of Harry's pen scribbling something in his diary, no doubt. He always writes about his week every Saturday night, a habit he has kept up since the defeat of Voldemort in order to clear his thoughts on the nights when he was restless.

Severus can't sleep, but soon enough, Harry stops writing, puts his diary back in his drawer and settles down behind Severus to let slumber claim them both.

"I love you."

Harry smiles, or attempts to smile, warmly at Severus from where he is standing near the doorway to the kitchen. Severus is chopping carrots for their salad and simultaneously stirring the broth in the pot on the stove for their dinner.

Harry waits and when he hears no reply, he starts to leave. Severus stops him.

"Why do you always say that?"

Harry is confused and cocks his head to the side in question. Severus points out that he always says 'I love you' before going somewhere. Harry shrugs with a small smile, secretly glad to know that Severus has finally noticed.

"Because I do, love you, that is. And I want you to know everyday," Harry answers simply, waiting to see what Severus will say next.

"But why is it that you say so whenever you leave?" Severus points out, turning his attention back to his cooking as Harry rocks on the balls of his feet. There is a pause of a heartbeat between the both of them.

"Because I'm scared. If it's the last thing I ever say to you, I want you to know that it was that I love you. Very much," Harry finishes, gnawing on his bottom lip. Severus freezes where he stands, but doesn't look at Harry.

He clears his throat moments later while Harry is still expecting him to say something. Harry's heart is pained when Severus says, "You have no need to make such foolish sentiments known. Go on your walk, Harry."

Harry is pulling on his shoes as Severus sits by the fireplace, a quill in hand as he marks some essays he is finishing up over the holidays. He feels a small gust of cool air that signifies that the door is being opened and he is not disappointed when Harry whispers, barely audible, "I love you."

The door shuts with a gentle click. Severus glances up at the door and frowns. Something felt a little off at that moment, but he shrugs it off and returns to his marking.

Later on, he is still marking and Harry has not returned. It is already nine in the evening and Harry had left some time before noon. After the entire 'Boy-Who-Lived-to-defeat-Voldemort' chapter of Harry's life had come to a close, the young man had decided that although he would still live in the Wizarding world, his occupation would be kept in the Muggle world.

Severus couldn't understand why on earth Harry had taken up classes at university in order to get a teaching degree, but Harry wasn't an idiot and had succeeded – so now he was a 'student-teacher'. The dark-haired man glances at the clock on the mantle and decides that he has had enough marking for an entire week. He stands and stretches, wincing as the muscles in his lower back and shoulders protest after having to be sat in one position for hours on end.

He is about to enter the kitchen to brew some tea when the crackling fire in the grate roars to life and Hermione Granger's head appears in the licking flames.

"Severus! Severus!"

He scowls and turns, "What is it, you wretched woman? I am busy!" he snaps irritably. He feels no remorse as Hermione draws back a little, hurt evident on her face.

"It's Harry."

Severus lifts a brow as he crosses his arms over his chest. As if it would make an emphasis on the point that he wasn't impressed, Severus taps his foot. "So what has that recalcitrant brat done now?"

There is a pause before Hermione answers, "There's been an accident near his work."

Severus had never Apparated so fast in his life.

It's cold when Severus stumbles into the house close to one in the morning on Tuesday. His eyes are unseeing as he pushes past the door, not even bothering to remove his clothes or mud-caked boots as he makes his way to the bedroom and collapses onto the sheets.

His chest feels hollow, as if someone has just sucked the life out of him with a Dementor's Kiss. The sheets feel icy around him, lacking the warmth of his beloved.


Severus curls up on their empty bed and weeps.

At least Harry got what he wanted, for Severus had heard the final whisper. All that Severus wanted now was to be reunited with his love. Soon.