Disclaimer: I am not JK Rowling and I make no profit from this fic.
Prompt: "Wait. Please... Don't go," Severus begged in a pleading whisper as he felt his entire world break apart.
Author's note: Thanks to thesewarmstars and WhiteCotton for the beta. Yesterday I finished my Snarry Games fic! To celebrate, SeverusSighs had an angst challenge and this is my offering. For those of you following Pains and Contradictions, I am starting on the next chapter now. Thank you all for your patience.
"I think there's a hole in the bottom of my glass. Pour me another, Severus, would you?" Harry said, extending his arm toward him with a beseeching smile that Severus stared at for perhaps a second too long.
The bottle was in his hand before he even had a moment to consider denying the request.
"Tell me, Potter," he said, pouring Harry another, "why is it you seem to be so insatiable when it is my alcohol being guzzled? Hmm?"
Harry smiled and raised his glass in a mock salute before taking a sip then bowing his head to return to his grading.
"It's not my fault if your Scotch is so much better than mine."
"Actually it is, seeing as you are the one who is buying it. No one forces you to buy swill."
Another smile and this time Severus looked away from it before he began to smile himself. Truly this was growing ridiculous, he thought as he dabbed his quill in red ink, then marked a large 'X' on some hapless Gryffindor's potions assignment.
What could possibly be more absurd than the darling of the Wizarding World spending his evenings grading with Severus? Not much, he scoffed to himself as the ink bled into the parchment. And yet he savored these times with Harry, begrudgingly those first two years, but now more and more he was beginning to realize how very much he'd come to mean to him.
How very much Severus had fallen in love with him.
Severus sighed and gave into the desire to fidget in his chair, growing uncomfortably warm as he often did while in Harry's presence these days.
Suddenly, Harry grunted, forcing Severus out of his thoughts and redirecting his attention to the man himself, rather than just the idea of him.
"I suppose if I'm honest, I should admit that there's a reason why I'm drinking a bit more tonight."
"Oh?" Severus said, curiosity piqued.
"John called it quits this morning. And while I was in the shower, too, that bastard."
Severus' heart sped up a bit at this news, as it always did, he lamented, when Harry told him about the end of his most recent affair. He cursed himself for being so ridiculous and then again when he realized he was holding his breath.
'Besotted doesn't suit you, Severus,' he thought.
"Oh?" was all he could say to that, his head still bowed over the now horribly red parchment.
"Yeah," Harry said, pushing aside his papers and leaning back in his chair.
Severus supposed that the grading was done for the evening and so he did the same, then leaned back in his own seat to mirror Harry.
"When am I going to learn, Severus?" he said in a miserable tone.
"I'm not sure I understand what you mean, but in general I would say you never learn, Potter."
His attempt at humor caused a wince in his companion and Severus immediately regretted it, regretted saying anything that would cause Harry pain.
"Forgive me," he said in an even tone. "My attempt at humor–"
Harry waved him off, drink still in hand, and said, "If I got upset every time you insulted me, I'd walk around crying all day."
Well, that wouldn't do.
"Only in a bid for more attention, I'm sure."
Harry chuckled at that and Severus' heart soared.
"But really, Severus, when am I going to learn not to date these...boys?"
"Sometimes I forget I'm a veteran and that while John and the rest of them are the same age as me, they haven't seen the things I've seen or...been through a war. Does that make me sound self-righteous?"
Oh, Severus thought, and rushed to reassure Harry. "Not in the least. It is only natural for you to seek out someone who would...understand your life."
Severus turned away from Harry and took a sip of his drink, not believing he had said something so completely obvious. He might as well have spelled it out for him.
"All my life...all I wanted was someone who would understand me and now... John said I was too dark for him, but... I don't know how to be any different and I don't want to change," Harry said, voice soft and his tone dark. "I just want someone who was there, you know? Someone who was in the thick of it and understands, someone who is just as dark as I am. Is that too much to ask?"
Heart thudding in his ears, Severus found he couldn't take this any longer. Did Harry realize he was talking about him? Who else would understand what Harry had gone through during the war? Who else would accept him for everything that he was?
Severus had sworn that he would never reveal his true feelings to Harry, knowing instinctively that he would be rejected. It was enough to have his friendship, and Severus did cherish it. Harry was the best friend he had ever had.
But what if he wanted more?
Perhaps Severus should only mention it, just allow Harry to know that Severus felt the same way, but they need not do anything at the moment. He wanted Harry forever, not for just a few months the way his usual relationships worked out. If Harry thought a future was possible, he could wait.
Severus was willing to wait as long as Harry needed him to.
His stomach churning, Severus decided he needed to tell him or he would never be able to rest again.
"Harry, may we speak of something? There's something I'd like to discuss with you...just this once and then we need never speak of it again, until you're ready."
Harry looked over, curiously, most likely due to the use of his given name.
"Of course, Severus. Is something wrong?"
"No," Severus said, putting down his glass and turning towards Harry. "There is something I have been...hesitant to mention to you, but hearing you speak about the state of your affairs has prompted me to break my silence."
Harry frowned so that a tiny wrinkle appeared in between his eyebrows and Severus almost smiled.
"Okay," Harry said slowly, hesitantly.
"I understand that you are a young man and that you could have any partner you want. But, as you have said, it is difficult to find someone who understands all that you are."
Harry nodded and the frown left his face.
"You are young," Severus repeated, just so Harry would know that he understood. "But I just–I wondered if you...realized how incredibly perfect we would be...together... And that if you asked it of me, I would wait for you as long as you would want me to."
There. He'd said it. A part of him was relieved even as another part screamed at him for being such a fool.
Now he just had to wait on Harry.
Harry, whose eyes were wide and mouth open in shock.
Silence grew between them and he held his breath, not allowing himself to hope but praying Harry would see that which Severus thought was obvious.
"Severus...I–" he cut himself off as he ran a hand through his hair and seemed to curl in on himself. "I've...never thought of you that way before."
Cold washed over Severus as he fought to keep his face straight, even as he felt his heart break irreparably.
"I'm sorry...I...I never meant to lead you on. I–did I do something that would lead you to believe I wanted more?" Harry asked in a soft, kind tone.
Severus wanted to sink into the floor.
"No," he said, turning his head from Harry and taking a sip of his drink as though his hand was not shaking. "Of course not. Forget I mentioned it."
He waved him off with a hand closed so tightly around his glass he thought it would break from the pressure.
"I'm sorry. I wish I felt that way. God knows you'd be a better partner than most of the guys I've gone out with."
Severus couldn't help a hysterical bark that came from his throat at that, nor could he stop the hand that went up to rub his temples.
"I think I should go," Harry said, placing the glass on the table as he stood to leave. He picked up his grading, his ink and his quill and made for the door.
Suddenly, Severus realized that if Harry were to walk out that door, he would never come back again. That sounded fine to his wounded ego and shattered heart, but Severus knew that he wouldn't survive the loss of Harry's friendship. He couldn't go back to a friendless, lonely existence, not after having accustomed himself to having Harry's presence in his life.
"Wait. Please... Don't go," Severus begged in a pleading whisper as he felt his entire world break apart.
He watched Harry's shoulders slump as his hand traced the doorknob.
"I really think I should. I don't feel...comfortable right now, Severus. I think I need to get away for a bit."
The last bits of Severus' heart fell to pieces as he realized in his greed he had lost the one thing he treasured most.
"I'll be back tomorrow," Harry lied. "Didn't get through with even tonight's grading so..." he said, his back still towards Severus.
He nodded, though he knew Harry couldn't see it. "Yes, of course."
The door closed and Severus sank slowly into his chair, barely able to comprehend all that he had just lost.
"Goodbye," he whispered to the silence.