Summary: The first line pretty much says it all.
Disclaimer: I am not JKR and I do not own Harry Potter or his world.
A/N: Written for the SeverusSighs Birthday Challenge. Happy birthday to my favorite character! This was written to release a lot of the frustration I was feeling, and to get me back into the swing of writing. Thanks to all who are reading my WIP Pains and Contradictions. I'm about to start writing the next chapter. *tips hat*
Severus Snape hated Harry Potter.
He wasn't entirely sure when it had happened, he only knew that at some point in the last few months he had grown to completely hate his husband.
Little things he had once found endearing were now threatening to drive him mad. How was it possible that he'd once found Harry's messy bird's nest of a head of hair attractive, or—although he'd admit it only to himself—cute? And the way he hogged the blankets at night had Severus waking up absolutely freezing the next morning.
He hated the way Harry took his tea—far too sweet and milky for anyone who called themselves an adult. He hated the way he sucked his teeth after he finished a dessert, he hated the way he drummed his fingers along his part of the side table when he was bored, and he hated how he left his Quidditch gear all around the house on weekends.
Severus was filled to the brim with hate, and it was only getting worse.
He wasn't a fool, of course. He realized that not only was his fiftieth birthday approaching, but that they had now been married for seven years. Perhaps this wasn't the itch every other man experienced, but he was self-aware enough to know that it was likely a different clipping from the same asphodel.
He also realized that somewhere deep down—extremely deep—he still loved Harry. All he had to do to remind himself of this fact was think of that difficult time they'd endured when they'd first married, when Harry had all but left him with no explanation, then returned as though nothing had happened.
No, the idea of leaving Harry gave him a pang somewhere in the vicinity of his heart and the idea of Harry dying... Well, it just wasn't something he wanted to imagine.
No, leaving wasn't a possibly, Severus thought as he stared across the table at the man he'd once felt all-consuming love for. Watching Harry try and fail to twirl his pasta on his spoon, only to give up and cut it with a knife, had Severus falling back onto his war-time instincts.
"Why the straight face?" Harry said, apparently not noticing the bit of sauce on the side of his mouth.
"You have something..." Severus trailed off and wiped at his own mouth, then sneered in disgust as Harry flicked out his tongue to catch an errant bit of tomato.
"Thanks," he said with a smile that faded as soon as he took in Severus' face again. "Really, is something wrong? I haven't seen that face in...well, a while."
Wanting nothing more than to shout his annoyance at Harry's very existence, Severus clenched his fist under the table and said, "Just a bit tired, thank you. What are your plans for the evening?"
A lift of an eyebrow—thief! That had been Severus' facial expression!—and Harry said slowly, "Nothing really. It was a pretty long day. Looking forward to just a quiet evening..." he trailed off as he continued examining Severus' face. "Did you have a bad day?"
"I said I'm fine!" Severus shouted, barely able to keep himself from pounding his fist on the table. He rose quickly and excused himself to his potions lab. He'd find something to do there...he'd make up an emergency if need be, anything to get some time to himself.
A few hours later, he went out to their sitting room where Harry was quietly reading a book and went to join him. Not two seconds after he sat down on the sofa Harry was snuggled up next to him, shaking his foot, body heat driving Severus to agitation.
He took one breath, then another, reminding himself that he loved Harry and that none of this was technically his fault. No, it wasn't Harry's fault that Severus had married the most annoying gay wizard in all of Britain. It wouldn't do to shout now and give himself away, so Severus leaned away and began to read his own book.
The sofa was shaking.
Rereading the same sentence four times, Severus bit his lip and stilled Harry's foot with his own. A moment later and the sofa was shaking again and this time Severus did snap.
"Will you stop that!" he shouted, loudly, and felt Harry startle, then saw the confusion and hurt he couldn't hide.
There was that look again, but whatever it was, Severus couldn't place it. He cleared his throat and returned to his book, but he could still feel Harry's eyes on him.
The sentence was beginning to seem profound.
No longer able to ignore it, he looked up into Harry's penetrative gaze only to find himself being studied. It almost seemed as though Harry was analyzing him.
"What?" he asked through gritted teeth, irritated by the scrutiny.
Finally, Harry looked away, but not before Severus saw something odd flash across his features.
"Nothing," Harry said quickly, then closed his book and stood. "I think I'll head to bed a bit early. Goodnight."
"Goodnight," Severus returned as he watched Harry turn to the door that led to their bedroom. As the door shut, he felt a weight lifted and sighed deeply. He thought he should feel guilty for the way he was feeling, but dismissed that thought. It wasn't as though he'd told Harry he hated every hair on his ridiculous head. No, he thought he'd behaved admirably given the circumstances.
He leaned back into the cushions and read the next sentence.
The next morning, Severus was surprised to find himself warm and without a crushing weight on his chest. Opening his eyes, he felt himself relax as he realized he was alone. Further inspection yielded a note explaining that Harry had gone into work early and would be home far later than usual.
Smiling with relief, Severus rose from bed with a spring in his step and went about his day. Though he rarely saw Harry during his own working hours, he was amazed how lighter he felt knowing that his evening would be his own.
By the time he was ready for bed that night, he'd enjoyed a full Harry-free day, feeling as though he could breathe for the first time in a long time. That relief, however, was cut short as Harry stumbled out of the Floo, trailing soot everywhere, and annoying Severus as though he'd been there all along.
Scoffing, Severus ignored him and went to bed.
The pattern continued throughout the following week. Every morning Severus woke to a warm bed and a note on Harry's pillow, every night he went about doing whatever he cared to do until Harry returned to sleep.
Sitting back on his cushions, he took a moment to appreciate whatever it was that was keeping Harry out all night and away from him. He sipped his wine and stretched out on the sofa, enjoying having the entire space to himself.
It was all coming to an end tomorrow, he lamented. Tomorrow he'd turn fifty and Harry would be throwing him a party, the way he did every year without fail. He'd come into their sitting room after leaving his lab for the day and be assaulted by a sea of red hair and old colleagues he had no desire to speak with.
It was tedious at the best of times, but this year Severus was already fuming just at the thought.
His mood now ruined, he waited for Harry to return home, but when the hour struck and he didn't appear, Severus stood, relieved, and went to the bedroom.
When the minutes stretched on and still there was no blanket thief in bed next to him, he breathed a sigh of relief and fell into a peaceful sleep.
He had almost missed the absence of a note on Harry's pillow, or the way the sheets were only rumpled on one side of the bed. But when he stretched his arms upon first waking, only to encounter a cold pillow, that was when he knew Harry hadn't returned home that night.
He scoffed, then stilled, realizing that Harry did do dangerous work as an Auror and perhaps he should check in with him. No, he thought, knowing that if anything had happened he'd be the first called as his spouse. No, Harry was simply busy and Severus was glad to have the time to himself. It was the best kind of birthday present, really.
His day passed in the same way they usually did, and although he was still annoyed at the very thought of his party, there was some nagging feeling at the back of his mind: a tender kind of ache in his heart that he was all too eager to ignore.
He bottled the last commissioned potion with a sigh, then forced himself to adopt a straight face. It wouldn't do to completely alienate nearly every person he was acquainted with and anger his husband. With as much dignity as he could muster, he opened the door and walked into the sitting room.
Only to find it empty.
He looked around the room, trying to find some evidence of a for once not poorly planned surprise, but found nothing. He belatedly realized it was Saturday and yet there was no Quidditch equipment on the floor, nor were there remnants of a failed birthday cake in the kitchen.
Harry wasn't here. He was alone.
Right. Well, a birthday alone was exactly what he wanted, after all. No one around to bother him, especially not his husband...
His husband whom he hadn't said more than one word to in over a week. His fingers stretched of their own accord and he realized they hadn't made love in over a week either. It'd been a week since he'd kissed Harry, a week since he'd held him and been held...
And like a fire warming a cold room, Severus' petty, childish hatred of Harry began to melt away as he understood what had happened.
In his selfishness, he'd pushed Harry away, possibly even into the arms of another man if the cold pillow this morning was to be believed. A chill crept up his spine as he realized what he'd done and how he had no one to blame but himself.
He clenched his fist and cursed himself for his thoughtlessness, driving away the best thing that had ever happened to him as he looked around the room. Everything was so tidy and clean, as though all evidence of Harry had been wiped away. He closed his eyes as a heavy weight fell upon his chest, wishing he hadn't been so foolish, hadn't tossed away what was most precious to him as though it were nothing.
Hours passed and he remained still, his body tensed with grief. He felt if he were to move he would fall apart, and so he remained where he was. There was hardly any reason to move until it was time to sleep anyway.
Suddenly the clock struck midnight and Harry was ejected from the Floo. He was covered in soot and—like always—forgot to use a cleaning spell, leaving marks on the rug.
As Severus looked up into Harry's face, he was somehow glad that the rug would still have its marks even when Harry left.
"Hi," Harry said with a tentative smile. "Did you have a good birthday?"
Confused, Severus opened his mouth, and, with a dry throat, croaked out, "Not really, no."
Tilting his head to the side, Harry slowly approached the sofa, sitting on the far end. "Oh? Why not? Something bad happen in the lab?"
It was as though they were back to the beginning in an instant, with Severus wondering how much of himself to give away. Should he be honest and perhaps try to win Harry back, or lie and attempt to salvage what remained of his dignity?
"Where have you been?" he said, settling for a mixture of his options.
"Work, then Ron and Hermione's," Harry said simply, once again studying Severus' face. He allowed himself to be studied, knowing his every emotion was displayed, hoping he didn't have to voice his fears.
Slowly, Harry inched towards him, waiting for Severus to react. When he didn't, Harry draped himself over him, wrapping his arms around him with a heavy sigh.
"Oh God, I missed you," he whispered into Severus' ear, then asked, "are you finished now?"
Tentatively, Severus brought his arms around Harry, not completely understanding how Harry had ended up in his arms, but hardly caring. Closing his eyes, he embraced Harry, kissing his cheek, then his neck and his ear, silently thanking whichever unnamed deity was listening that the worse hadn't happened.
"Severus?" Harry asked quietly. "Are you finished hating me yet, or is my every breath still annoying you?"
Pushing Harry away quickly, he frowned and looked into green eyes he hadn't realized he'd missed until this moment. "How did you know?"
Laughing, Harry responded, "Well, you were hardly hiding it. I mean, scowling is normal for you, but when you started looking at me like I was going to interrogate you I got the hint."
Not caring how foolish he seemed, Severus pulled Harry closer to him once again and kissed him. Though it had only been a week since he'd done so, it felt as though ages had passed since the last time. The sweetness of Harry's lips, the way he smiled as Severus' tongue ran over his own, returned the passion that had all but gone in the last month. In an instant, his body remembered what he had almost lost while his heart was rejoicing at its good fortune.
He hated to pull away, but there were things to be said before anything else.
"Don't. It's alright, really. I understand, just...if it happens again, could we maybe try something else so I don't have to leave you for a week? I did miss you."
"I still don't understand how you knew—"
"Remember that time when we were first married? When I spent nearly every waking hour at Ron and Hermione's?" he asked pointedly.
"What does that have to—oh," he said, thinking back to that time, how on edge Harry had been and how things had improved once he returned. Sighing, he laid his forehead against Harry's. "I do love you," he said for perhaps the sixth time since they'd married.
"I love you, too," Harry said, and rubbed their cheeks together. He laughed, then said, "Well, it's been seven years. Think we'll ever get this marriage thing perfect?"
Smiling wistfully, Severus leaned back on their sofa, looking at Harry's face, then around the room and the world they'd created.
"Not perfect, no. But I believe we'll manage," he said honestly, knowing that the truth would stand the test of time far better than any pretty words. "Will that be acceptable?"
Harry remained silent, then ran his thumb over Severus' lips before he kissed him passionately, saying all that needed to be said in one gesture. With just a small grunt, Severus lifted him off the sofa and hurried to the bedroom.
Some time later, Severus woke in the middle of the night, feet like ice and a weight on his chest. He held Harry tighter, and kissed his face, thinking about his life—of their life together—satisfied.