Written for Webmistress Torina! Originally published on SeverusSighs. This little bit of fluffy fluff was written as a welcome reprieve from the angst of my Grand Challenge fic.
Warnings: Established relationship fic. Nothing here but us shy violets. I suppose a long-suffering!Harry, surprisingly clueless!Severus (for a change) and perhaps too much fluff. It's for Torina, after all.
A/N:Thanks to shoebox for the ultra quick beta. Happy birthday to Torina! She asked for a possessive!Snape rescuing Harry. Not sure this is what she meant, but hey. Here you go, darling. The author means no offense to any Keiths or people who love a Keith.
"So you're going with me to Hermione and Ron's engagement party next week?"
Severus made a little groan, and turned the page of his potions periodical a bit harder than necessary. "I said I would... Unless you've decided to offer a much-appreciated reprieve?"
"Ha. No way," Harry said with a laugh. "You're going. There's no way I'm sitting at that table alone."
The people in attendance were all Harry's friends, so Severus had no idea why he wouldn't want to be in their company. Resigning himself to suffer half of the Order and nearly all of Harry's Gryffindor classmates for an evening, Severus leaned back and focused his attention on his article.
"So that means..." Harry said, trailing off. "Remus and Tonks, Molly and Arthur, George and Angelina, Ginny and Neville, Percy and Penelope, Bill and Fleur, and Seamus and Dean," he said, listing everyone on his invitation list. "Do you think it's weird that all our friends are married?"
Shrugging, but not lifting his eyes from the article, Severus replied, "That's what people tend to do when they reach a certain age. The rest of us simply have to deal with mundane ceremonies and try not to roll our eyes when they ask for gifts."
Harry sighed, a deep, miserable sound, which was enough for Severus to put down his periodical. "Are you feeling well?"
Running a hand through his hair, Harry looked up through his fringe and said, "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just...tired."
"Did something happen at work?" Severus asked, concerned now.
"No, it was good, actually," Harry said, putting aside whatever was bothering him a moment ago and leaning back to speak with Severus. "There's a new person at work, which is great. Our offices are right next to each other, so we share a secretary. We grabbed lunch together and found out we have a lot of things in common."
Something cold began to run through Severus' blood at Harry's description of his new friend. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but he knew something wasn't right.
"They're really funny," Harry said with a smile.
There it is, Severus thought. The use of the pronoun they instead of he or she. The idea of Harry hitting it off with another man left Severus with an empty feeling in his heart and a terrible churning in his stomach. Still, he was no coward.
"And your new friend's name?" he asked, even as he prayed for an Ethel, Frances or Mildred.
"Keith," Harry said in a happy chirp.
There weren't enough Mildreds in the world, Severus thought.
His heart clenched as his suspicions were confirmed, and he reread the last paragraph in his article ten times before he calmed enough to remark, "Ah."
"Oh, Merlin," Harry whispered into his hands. "Don't do this. Not again."
"What?" Severus asked innocently.
"This. This thing you do whenever I make friends with another man."
"So you admit it," Severus said, not able to keep the accusation buried for another moment.
"Admit what? That Keith's a man?"
"That you enjoy the company of other men. And what kind of wizard name is Keith for that matter?"
Harry sighed and put his guest list away. "What kind of wizard name is Harry?" Seeing that Severus wasn't going to back down, Harry stood up and walked over to Severus' chair, putting his hands on his face and smiling sweetly. "I love you, you know? And no one else. I like having friends, Severus, especially friends at work. It's too boring otherwise."
Severus groaned. "Yes, but why can't you have any girl friends?"
"I do. Their names are Hermione, Luna and Ginny," Harry said with a smirk. "Look, this guy seems really nice, and I don't have a lot of friends in the department. Don't scared him off the way you did with Mark and Tim and—"
"Fine," Severus said with a grunt, and allowed himself to remember how loyal Harry was, and how he was the one that approached Severus in the first place. They wouldn't be together now if not for Harry's persistence. He supposed he could accept Harry's new friend, but resolved to keep an eye on their apparent friendship. As much as he boasted his independence, he knew he couldn't bear to lose Harry.
"If I get fish and chips, would you share with me?" Harry asked as he looked through his menu.
"All right," Severus replied, then put down his own. Harry had taken a personal day from work to accompany Severus as he procured his potions ingredients. It was something he was used to doing alone, and had given a very uncertain nod of his head when Harry had asked to come along.
But he was surprised to discover how much it warmed his heart to see Harry take an interest in his line of work, his life. To know that Harry wanted to share in it—especially when it was something he had no personal interest in—procured a happiness Severus had never felt before.
Though he hated public displays of affection, he didn't hesitate to take Harry's hand on the table, entwining their fingers. The response from Harry was immediate; a surprised smile and eyes that shone with affection. He caressed the palm of Severus' hand, their eyes communicating a silent declaration, before their server came to take their order.
Severus looked up to address him, only to find his senses assaulted. The young man had several silver chains hanging around his neck and multiple rings on each finger. The afternoon sun reflected on the metal and nearly distracted Severus from ordering his lunch.
When he'd left, he turned back to Harry, who had an odd look on his face. Slowly, he said, "That guy had a lot of jewelry. You know, if I was ever going to wear any jewelry at all, it would probably be something very simple. Like a plain band."
Scoffing, Severus said, "Men shouldn't wear jewelry unless it's a religious symbol or a wedding ring." He had no idea what he'd said that caused Harry's face to fall or the deep sigh that expressed his sadness. Not knowing what to do, he took his hand again, not wanting Harry to feel any kind of displeasure.
"Severus, do you ever—" Harry said, but was cut off as an owl flew over him and released a letter onto his head.
Perplexed, Severus asked, "How could an owl possibly deliver mail to a restaurant?" He watched as the little bird circled the room, not waiting for a response, then went out the door.
"Ministry owls," Harry said, "they're training them so they can find us wherever we are. Convenient, that." He opened the letter, took one look and began to laugh out loud.
"What Ministry business could possibly be so humorous?" Severus asked, even as a chill went up his spine.
"Oh, it's not business. Not hardly. It's Keith being Keith."
Severus gritted his teeth and clenched his fist in an effort to control himself. It was just as he'd suspected. This idiot wizard with his ridiculous name was attempting to take the one thing in this world Severus couldn't do without. And he was doing it right under his nose.
"May I see that letter?" Severus asked, preparing himself for some hastily-penned love note, declaring Keith's affections.
Wilson did it again! Even after we told him not to! It's like he just can't help himself. Ha!
A lift of his eyebrow and Harry replied, "It's just some idiot at the office. We were filling out our reports the other day, and..." He laughed once more and waved a hand around saying, "It's just office stuff. Really stupid."
"Well..." Severus started, uncharacteristically uncertain of himself. He didn't want Harry to share things with this Keith person that he couldn't share with him. "Perhaps if you told me the story I might find the humor in it as well?"
Tilting his head, Harry gave him a curious look, then said, "It's stupid, Severus, really... Oh, look! Our food's coming."
The rest of the meal was spent discussing potions ingredients and where Severus would procure them, but it left a bitter taste in his mouth. The only thing he could concentrate on was the fact that he was losing Harry.
Severus straightened his collar and fastened his cufflinks, looking himself over in the mirror one last time. Though he'd been disheartened to realize Harry was falling for another man, Severus had quickly gathered himself and remembered who he was.
Perhaps he wasn't traditionally handsome, but Harry had often called his features dashing and remarked on how much he liked his nose. And no, he wasn't exceptionally warm, but Harry had once told him that their quiet affection was something he needed, and that he wouldn't know what to do with a more needy lover.
He wasn't perfect, but he was a good man for Harry and would not go down without a fight.
He'd made a reservation at the new restaurant in Diagon Alley a week ago, and he planned on showing Harry exactly how much he meant to him. The perfect meal, an accompanying wine, then back home to bed to enjoy a special lubricant Severus had brewed for the occasion.
The sound of the Floo tore him from his thoughts, and he straightened his collar one last time before he heard Harry call out his name.
"In the bedroom," he said, turning away from the mirror and standing ready for Harry's appraisal.
"Hey, what are you doing...in here?" Harry asked, a wide smile gracing his features as he took in Severus. "Oh, wow. You look...amazing. How did you know?"
Severus cocked an eyebrow, confused, and asked, "Know?"
"That I made plans for tonight," Harry said, walking forward and running his hands over Severus' body.
Oh, he thought. "I didn't. I made plans myself," he said, wondering if he'd made a terrible mistake.
"Oh," Harry said, taking Severus' hands in his. "I made reservations at that new place in Diagon Alley. What about you?"
"It seems great minds think alike," he said, even as he began to wonder if Harry had some other agenda.
"Wonder what the hostess thought when she saw our names on separate spots? Oh, well." He was quiet for a moment, and seemed to run something around in his head, before he said, "I'm going to use the Floo for a second, then I'll change." He cast Severus another heated glance, then placed a quick kiss on his lips. "You really do look amazing."
He grunted his acceptance and then left the bedroom to wait, all the while wondering what Harry had planned for tonight.
"This was an excellent idea," Harry said as Severus poured another glass of wine.
"Indeed," he replied, and, without hesitation, held Harry's hand over the table. Harry had yet to give away his intentions so far, but he'd seemed distracted as they ate their meal, his eyes wandering around the dining room for something. Whatever it was, Severus was sure it couldn't be good. Though he knew it seemed unlikely, this entire gesture could be Harry's way of breaking terrible news. It seemed like a thing he would do if he wanted to move on. Severus couldn't see Harry simply tossing him out the door.
He pushed away his morose line of thinking and concentrated on Harry in a near superhuman act of faith.
They'd finished their dessert and were nearly done with their second bottle of wine when Severus gestured for the bill, ready to enact his plan for the second part of their evening.
As Severus turned from their server, he noticed Harry's eyes scanning the dining room once again, making a nervous laugh then running his hands through his hair. "I guess this is it, then," he said, his tone betraying his nervousness even as Severus' heart sank.
Ah, he thought, and even as one part of his heart said not to jump to conclusions, the other began to break. Perhaps he'd been too late to save his relationship with Harry after all.
"God, I'm nervous," Harry said, and Severus noticed he was tapping his foot under the table. "There was a thing... It should've been here by now—"
He was cut off as a tiny, silvery seahorse pranced up to him and said, "Harry, I'm outside, but they won't let me in."
Sputtering, Harry turned to the door, even as Severus' blood began to boil.
"To whom does that patronus belong?" he asked, his voice like steel and his fists clenching.
"It's um...Keith's. Look, he's got something for me—"
"He's outside?" he asked even as his anger mounted. "You couldn't wait to bed your paramour, so you had him waiting outside!" Severus shouted, throwing his chair to the floor as he stood.
No, he thought, he wouldn't let Harry go, not without a fight. A real fight, if need be. He pushed his way through the crowd of people waiting to get in and looked around, realizing he had no idea what the bastard looked like.
But apparently, Keith knew him. A tall, gangly-looking wizard was looking at him with wide eyes, backing up until he was against a wall as Severus charged him.
Wasting no time, Severus stalked the few steps separating them, satisfied as Keith began to panic. "Listen to me, you little bastard," Severus shouted, dismissing his wand and grabbing him by the collar instead, throwing him against the wall, "if you think I'll simply stand aside and allow you to take my place, you are sorely mistaken." Knocking his head against the brick, even as Keith's eyes widened in terror, Severus hissed, "If you ever come near Harry again, if I ever see you within one hundred feet of our home, I will—"
"Severus!" Harry shouted, pulling at Severus' hands which were currently curling around Keith's neck. "Let him go! You're being an idiot!"
He released the scoundrel, but gave him a look that was sure to keep him from escaping. "Harry," Severus said, then grabbed Harry by his shoulders, "Harry..." he whispered, and suddenly no words came to him. What could he say that could possibly make Harry want to stay with him?
Though he knew he possessed the ability to cut men down with his tongue, he had no idea what to say in this situation. Doubtless he'd say the wrong thing, but desperation pushed him to reveal all. Pride hardly mattered, not when he stood the chance of losing Harry.
"Harry, you're the most magnificent thing that has ever happened to me, and I have no idea what I would do without you," he said, offering his heart as he never had before. "If I thought for a moment that boy could make you happy, I'd stand aside, but I...know you and I love all of you. Surely that must count for something?"
"Severus..." Harry started, then sighed and pulled away, and Severus felt his heart breaking. "You do this every time." He gave Severus a sad look, then turned to the runt and held out his hand.
Severus closed his eyes and turned away, ready to Apparate back home... To Harry's home, he thought, to pack his things.
"Here," Harry said, and put something velvety into Severus' palm. "Keith was supposed to give it to me during our meal, but they wouldn't let him in the door."
With a shaking hand, Severus opened the box and found two plain gold bands inside. Or rather, they were plain on first sight, but as he looked closer he saw a simple pattern finely engraved in the gold.
"Keith's father is a jeweler, which is why he was bringing them to the restaurant. He helped me design something plain but...unique. Something we could both wear without feeling like a pair of idiots." Harry sighed and looked at Severus, who had no doubt he was revealing his bewilderment plainly on his face. "I figured I'd ask you. I got tired of waiting for you to ask me," he said plainly, as though Severus had wondered aloud. "Marry me...you bastard?"
Astounded, Severus stared openly at Harry, even as he struggled to fathom what was happening. He'd never once considered marriage, not once. The idea of Harry wanting to be with him for the rest of his life...
"Keith!" a woman shouted from the other side of the street, distracting Severus. "Oh, darling, what happened?" she said, pulling the pipsqueak close to her and enfolding him in her arms.
"I'm all right, Anne," he said, then glared at Severus.
"Anne?" Severus asked to no one in particular.
"Yeah, Anne," Harry said, "Keith's wife. I Flooed to let him know he could have our extra reservation, but they wouldn't let him in."
"Yeah, apparently you have to be famous just to get through the—"
"Not now, Keith!" Harry said, tossing his friend a sharp look before turning back to Severus. "I swear, you do this every time!" He ran a hand through his hair in frustration and said, "Look, I think it's sweet that you get so jealous, really. I know you love me, and this is just how you show it, but you can't go off trying to choke my friends all the time."
Severus knew he should apologize, to both Harry and his friend, but all he could concentrate on were the rings in his hand. Sensing Harry was waiting on him, he turned to the couple and said, "My apologies. I believe I...assumed too much."
"You think?" Keith asked, rubbing the back of his head.
"Guys, can you..." Harry asked, and they nodded, giving Harry and Severus some privacy. "Severus, I love you. Can you just trust that? Please? I don't know if I can marry someone who doesn't trust me."
Astounded that Harry still wanted him, Severus gave a small smile and nodded his head. "Forgive me. Sometimes it is...difficult to cast off fears from the past."
"I know," Harry whispered, then leaned forward to kiss him. "Believe me, I know. But...try? Please?"
"Yes," Severus said, giving a response and an answer to Harry's question at the same time. "Yes," he said, then put the box in Harry's hand, placing a long-fingered hand over his.
All anger and hesitation left Harry in an instant and he wrapped his arms around Severus, green eyes shining brightly. "You going to make this up to me?"
"Oh, yes," Severus said with a smirk, thinking of the lubricant he'd left on their bedside table, "I believe I have just the thing."