Written for week two the Snarry Last Drabble Writer Standing competition. I won! Thanks to lovetoseverus for the beta and the fest mods for putting it on.
Back straight and shoulders tense, Harry opened the door to the cottage, stepped inside, and sighed.
He felt the stoic facade he presented to the patients and staff at St. Mungo's melt away as he stepped inside his home, ready to let the horrors of the day finally affect him. He'd never regretted choosing to become a pediatric Healer, but there were days when the sadness of his chosen career all but defeated him. It was on those days he was most glad to have Severus.
Or he would be, if Severus was ever truly around to comfort him.
He sat down on their sofa and stared into the fire, allowing himself to contemplate all sorts of fantasies—including turning in his resignation tomorrow—when a sleek, black cat jumped into his lap.
"Right on schedule, you are," Harry said, lifting a hand to pet the black fur. "And how was your day?"
The cat purred and nuzzled Harry's face, coming to stand on his lap. Harry closed his eyes for a moment and tried to take the same solace he'd told himself was enough every time he came home from a bad day.
For some reason, it wasn't enough anymore. Perhaps it was because he'd lost one of his favorite patients today or maybe it was because he was a grown man and didn't want to be comforted by a cat. Whatever the reason, a small rage built up in Harry. He was angry at St. Mungo's, angry at death, angry at things he had no control over, and he wanted to speak with his lover, not an animal.
He picked up the cat and sat him on the sofa. The purring stopped and the cat looked confused.
"Transform. I don't want to talk to you like this." When the cat did nothing for a moment, Harry pinched the bridge of his nose and nearly shouted, "Transform, damn it!"
Harry kept his eyes on the fire as the cat lengthened and formed the familiar shape of his longtime companion. Severus looked confused and angry and moved away from Harry.
"Is there any particular reason you shouted at me? You know my ears are sensitive in feline form."
"I can't do this anymore," Harry said in a hiss. He saw Severus' posture stiffen out of the corner of his eye and shook his head. "I mean this. This thing with you and the cat." He sighed and felt his anguish boil up inside him. He wanted to hit something hard. "I need more. I need you."
"I am the cat," Severus said, exasperated and sounding as though he was speaking to an idiot. "What's brought this on? You've always enjoyed my animagus form."
"No," Harry said, and this time he turned to Severus, meeting his eyes for the first time. He started to apologize, but instead said, "I love you, and I understand that showing...affection can be difficult for you. But it's never truly been enough for me."
He reached a hand out to Severus who swiftly drew away, going to stand by the fire. "I wasn't aware that you'd settled for me."
"That's not what I meant." Harry sighed and went over to stand behind Severus. "I love...all of you. I understand that it's hard for you sometimes, and the cat was all right before. But...things are so much harder now. I need you, Severus."
He'd expected anger and accusations when he'd first opened his mouth. He didn't expect to see Severus attempt to blend in with the walls, as though Harry had examined him and had found him wanting.
"When we began this you knew I was not a demonstrative man—"
"That was five years ago." He turned Severus to look at him, pleading with him to understand. "Haven't we come so far, gained so much from those days? Don't you trust me now? Don't I talk to you more? Can't you please—" He stopped speaking as he began to hear his voice tremble.
Severus shrugged him off and walked away, leaving Harry alone. The warmth of the fire left him feeling cold and hollow, and he tried to calm his shuddering breaths.
But then there was a hand on his shoulder—a tentative touch, almost fearful of its welcome—but a human hand all the same. Then there was its partner, and then Severus was turning him around and taking him into his arms.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "Even after all this time..." He sighed into Harry's hair.
Harry felt his heart unclench and his body tremble with the weight of his day. He wrapped his arms tightly around Severus and held on for dear life.
"Shh," Severus whispered. "What happened today?"
Harry buried his face in Severus' hair and whispered, "Cassie died."
Severus held him tighter. "I'm sorry."
"She was so small and so brave, Severus."
Severus led him over to the sofa and listened as Harry let loose the weight of his burdens. He spoke of how difficult it had been, and told Severus what had happened. As he relaxed into Severus' embrace, he felt safe and comforted in a way he'd never felt before. The terrible burden that had laid so heavily on his shoulders lifted, and Harry felt lighter than he ever had.
"This is something I should have done a long time ago." He loosened his grip on Harry enough to place a chaste kiss on his lips. "I worry for you, going to that place every day. Is this something you wish to continue?"
Harry had been wondering that himself, but the warmth surrounding him gave him the strength he'd so desperately needed to carry on. "Will you be here for me when I come home? Just like this?"
Severus nodded, and kissed him again. "Always."