Warnings: None. Trust me.
A/N: I am not JKR and do not own the HP world. Many thanks to WhiteCotton for beta reading and Torina and LD7 for hand-holding. This was written for SeverusSighs Anti-Valentine's Day Mini-fest. I used prompt number one: News like this was not what he wanted to hear, particularly on Valentine's Day.
For those of you who are patiently (so patiently!) waiting for the next chapter of Pains and Contradictions, I'm writing the next chapter even now.
Severus opens the oven and examines his roast, nodding, then pulls it out and allows it to cool on the countertop. He'd sneered at the serving platter Molly Weasley had gifted them with on their wedding day—the domesticity of the gift had seemed ridiculous at the time—but as he hunts for it in their cabinets, he admits that that is what his life has become.
And after two wars—one decade of uncertainty and fearful caution, followed by another which brought dread every morning—Severus decides he is glad for the change. And aside from the constant terror, the living in fear, there's the fact that the first forty years of his life had been spent in virtual solitude.
Finding the platter on the bottom shelf of a cabinet, he allows his thoughts to drift as he arranges the roast, then the vegetables he knows Harry will actually eat—how is it possible to still be a picky eater at thirty?—and sets the table.
He lights the candles—they have to be able to see each other, after all—and dims the lights, then opens a bottle of wine and allows it to breathe.
There. It is the perfect setting for a nice dinner at home with his husband. That today is St. Valentine's Day is of absolutely no consequence. Just because a bunch of besotted idiots allow their hormones to run amuck doesn't mean he can't enjoy a decent meal.
The flames of the candles dance merrily, and Severus thinks they are winking at him. Stupid candles.
He scoffs at himself, at the entire situation, but slowly takes it all in, allowing himself a brief moment to appreciate where his life has taken him.
He never would've thought he'd be so content at fifty, or at any age really. The last ten years had all but made up for the forty that came before, so much so that he is actually looking forward to the next forty.
Sometime in the next decade he'll become headmaster, and Harry will quit his work with the Aurors and take up the Defense post that Minerva continued to offer him every year. They'll settle in at Hogwarts even more with him and Harry working together. They'll make their life here, among Hogwarts' hallowed halls.
He sighs as he thinks of the hints Harry has been ungracefully dropping for the past few months. The thought of adopting at his age threatens to upend all his peaceful plans, but he will do it if that's what Harry wants.
Perhaps some small part of him wants it too. A very small part. Nearly microscopic.
But if a child is the only thing he dreads, he's forced to admit he has a good life.
Damn, where is Harry, he thinks when his stomach makes an undignified grumbling noise as the smell of the roast further permeates the room. It's now half past seven and he should be here by now.
As if thinking of Harry makes him appear, Severus hears the Floo come to life in the sitting room and goes out to greet him with a scowl.
"At the risk of sounding like a nagging wife, I have had dinner waiting—" he begins as he enters the room, only to cut off when he sees the ashen face of Colin Jameson, the head of Harry's department, staring out at him from the Floo.
Merlin, no. Dear God in Heaven...
His steps halt immediately and his entire body stiffens as though petrified. The past ten years, a thousand nightmares, waking up in a cold sweat only to grasp Harry's warm body to him in the dead of night...
"Mr. Snape," Jameson says, his voice low, his tone all business, but his eyes revealing everything to Severus. "May I please come over? There's something—"
"What's happened?" Severus asks even as fists clench, as his eyes start to tear from not being able to blink. "Where's Harry?"
"I would prefer not to tell you this over the Floo, Severus," he says, his eyes growing sadder and his voice losing its formality. "Please, let me—"
"Tell me!" he shouts as he inwardly begins to pray to gods he doesn't believe in.
Jameson's eyes lower for a moment, and Severus realizes in an instant what has happened.
Harry isn't injured. There will be no pacing in the hallway of St. Mungo's, no Weasley hoard patting him on the shoulder, telling him everything will be alright, that Harry's survived worse.
"We went on a raid today—this morning. We'd thought—I'd thought that the situation was under control, nothing too..." he trails off, and clears his throat before he begins again. "There was an explosion and the building collapsed. A few of the men made it out, but Harry..."
An icy chill creeps up Severus' spine and he forgets to breathe, barely hearing the words as the world crumbles around him.
"The Minister didn't want me to tell you until we recovered his body, but...it'll be days, even with magic."
Severus is silent as his mind instantly goes to some cold, dark place and imagines Harry there, alone. His breath hitches and he swears he can feel his heart twist as it breaks and he forces himself to ask, "Is there any chance—" but his voice comes out as a croak and he cannot finish the question.
Jameson shook his head. "We scanned for signs of life...pulled one man out, but the rest... We know where his body is, but we can't get to it yet. Severus, I'm so very sorry."
Severus begins to shake and he cannot force himself to blink as he feels his eyes begin to water, and some part of him realizes that shock has set in but it hardly matters because Harry is dead.
"Yes," he says, not knowing what he is saying. "Right." He continues to stare at Jameson's face in the fire, not able to pull his eyes away for the moment, then says, "Thank you for calling."
"Severus, if there's anything I can do—" but he's cut off as Severus closes the Floo connection.
He continues standing, staring at the fire, until he feels a tear fall from his eyes, then another. Hastily he hastily lifts a hand to wipe them away before a sob is pulled from his body and his stomach heaves and then he cannot stop the tears from flowing.
His knees are locked, but he doubles over and weeps into his hands, the hiccuping, frantic type of sobbing that is usually only done by small children. His vision blurs as he runs his hands through his hair and then screams.
It isn't supposed to be this way, some part of his mind thinks even as the rest of him has become some inhuman beast, some barbaric creature as his mourning burns from disbelief into rage.
His breath comes out in gasps while he looks around the room, and some part of his mind wonders what to do, that there must be something he has to do, while the rest of him is simply screaming Harry's dead, Harry's dead, Harry's dead.
And he can't believe it, can't fathom it as he stumbles over to the sofa, not to sit but to think to try to fucking remember what was the last thing he said to Harry this morning, tries to pull up the memory of Harry's last smile, last kiss, last...
He stumbles into their dining room and looks at the table he's set, at the life they had shared, at the dreams that had been destroyed in a single day. Dreams destroyed in one Floo call, in one afternoon and his entire life, their entire life...
With one swipe of his arm his efforts are destroyed, the meat making a sickening sound as it falls from its platter onto the floor, as the stupid vegetables fly across the room where Harry will never eat them. He curls in on himself and tries to breathe, tries to gain control, but he only ends up holding his breath as the rage and the pain and hysteria and the—please Merlin, why God, no!—and releases his sorrow in an inhuman wail as he hears every piece of glass in his quarters shatter.
Finally, he sinks to the floor and doesn't notice when he holds a hand to his chest as he feels his heart break, eyes wide open to watch all of their dreams die. The life they had built, all their plans, the nameless, faceless child they would have raised...
He cries openly now and buries his head in his hands, his hair forming a black veil, as though his body had always been prepared for suffering.
His strength leaving him, he lies down on the floor, amongst the broken glass and spilt wine and thinks there is no reason to get up ever again. His eyes open, he looks at his hands, torn and cut and bloody, and the truth sinks in.
"Harry," he whispers and again sobs, his nose scraping the hard stone floor so he barely notices the glass that is now embedded in his cheek. Some part of him thinks he'll never notice any kind of pain again. Not now, not after this.
His mind is drifting over a hundred memories—how hard Harry had tried to court him, how difficult that first year of marriage had been, how shocked he was when he suddenly found himself loving someone as much as he was loved—that he didn't hear the sound of someone Flooing into his quarters, or the frantic, heavy breathing, or the sound of boots crunching on glass.
"Severus," he hears a voice say, but he does not look up because he recognizes that voice—he could recognize that voice in a crowd of hundreds—and he cannot stop the flutter in his heart, the prayer that his shattered soul begins to mutter.
He forces himself to look towards the entrance of the dining room, and his body stiffens again as he takes in the sight of Harry—covered in dust, clothes bloodied, with a deep gash across his cheek—but it's Harry. He faintly feels pain as he picks himself up, the sound of glass breaking under his hand, as Harry rushes over to him and tries to maneuver him to safety.
Standing, Severus grasps Harry's shoulders and looks his fill, taking in the beloved face he thought he'd never see alive again. Tentatively, as though he is afraid that this will prove to be a delusion, he lifts his hands to Harry's face, fingers tracing the cheek bones covered in dried blood, then eyes that have never been more beautiful.
"I Apparated as the building collapsed," Harry said, allowing Severus to touch him, his hands roving over his chest, then his stomach and his legs. "I barely got out in time, but... Well, I passed out as soon as I landed. I only came to a few minutes ago," he says but Severus barely hears him.
No, all he hears is the sweet murmur of a tenor voice he thought he'd never hear again as his hands touch every part of Harry he can, needing to know he was really there. That he hasn't fallen into some fevered dream, that life as he knows it isn't truly over.
"I'm alright, but my team—" then Harry is silenced as Severus embraces him, wraps himself around him and takes in Harry's scent and he knows that this is really happening. That Harry is safe and home and life hasn't ended.
His body shudders against Harry as one last sob is torn from his throat, and Harry allows himself to be manhandled even though his body must be bruised and aching. He doesn't say a word as Severus envelops him, breathing as though he'd run for miles, holding onto Harry like he never has before.
"I thought I'd lost you," he says softly, his voice raspy and his breath still hitching. "They said you were dead."
"I'm fine," Harry says while standing in Severus' arms, then allowing himself to be pulled back as Severus looks at his face again. "I'm here, I'm—oh, Severus. Your face..." he says as he winces, then begins to pluck bits of glass from Severus' cheek. So glad, so relieved to see Harry, Severus hardly feels the pain.
Holding him now, he realizes he would not have survived Harry's death and, in an instant, knows what must be done.
"You're quitting tomorrow."
Harry looks into his eyes, and Severus can see the beginning of a protest, but he grasps Harry's shoulders tighter and says in a tone he hadn't used since the war, "I'm serious, Harry. I won't go through this again."
Harry steps back and opens his mouth to protest, then looks around the room as though he only now notices the devastation. His eyes take in the spoilt roast laying on the floor and the vegetables that made it halfway to the sitting room, then looks at Severus again.
"I thought you were dead," Severus hisses as he grabs Harry's face so harshly he cannot hide a wince. "I'm not going through this again, Harry, not ever. You're going to take the Defense position where the worst thing that could possibly happen would be an overeager student getting a poorly-aimed hex through your shields."
"I'll be more careful in the future, Severus, I promise," Harry says, fanning Severus' anger once again.
"Do you have any idea..." but he stops and forces himself to calm, remembers that Harry is injured and tries to control himself. He has no idea what to say, how to express the devastation he had felt—was barely recovering from—at the news of Harry's death, and how he could not possibly live life without him. How can he put into words how meaningless his life had become in those few moments when he believed the only good thing in his life had been taken from him?
That he now knows that he would not survive it, that he wouldn't have if it had been true.
He has no idea what to say, he only knows how to begin. "Please," he whispers, knowing that he has rarely said that word in his life, that the weight of it has never been so heavy. He leans into Harry and presses their foreheads together. "Please," he begs.
Noses rub against each other and lips find each other in haste, and Severus puts everything he feels into it. As lips slide over lips and tongues touch in practiced grace, Severus again asks Harry to spare his heart.
A moment later and they are gasping for air, and drawing apart, though no further than a kiss could reach.
"Please," Severus begs again. And then again, "Please."
Harry drapes his arms over Severus' shoulders and clings to him, his own body relaxing into a sigh.
"Okay," he says.
Closing his eyes, Severus exhales and mutters thanks—to Harry, to Merlin, to gods unseen—and simply stands amongst the rubble, holding the man he loves.
"And I will be the one to die first," he says minutes later, which causes Harry to chuckle.
"You do, huh?"
"Yes," Severus says plainly and he is only half-joking. "We will both die incredibly boring deaths in no less than fifty years. You may follow me if you wish, but only after you are assured I am well and truly dead."
Harry chuckles softly and pulls back, then continues pulling the glass from Severus' cheek for a moment before he's pulled back into Severus' embrace. Pulling Harry in tight, Severus smothers him with lip-biting kisses, swipes of his tongue and mutterings of love and devotion.
"What was that?" Harry pants. "What did you say?"
Softly, Severus says, "I hope you like your potatoes mashed." And then Harry is laughing and Severus thinks there's never been a more beautiful sound in the world.