Author Notes: Wishing everyone a Happy Valentine's Day! Here's another one shot of my HP OTP which takes place a few weeks after my Christmas one shot Turn Around to Receive Your Gift. Please read that one first if you haven't! Set during Harry's seventh year, PWP fluff, again done in Severus' POV.
Summary: Christmas has come and gone. Despite Harry returning his feelings, Severus is haunted by old insecurities especially with Valentine's Day just around the corner.
Appreciation: Thank you to Vine Verrine for beta, and Schattengestalt and Fang Filled Smiles for much needed encouragement. You ladies are awesome! *hugs*
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the brainchild of JK Rowlings.
- Story Start -
Tomorrow is Valentine's Day.
As if I am unaware of that, what with all the additional mishaps happening in my Potions classroom this week. Every single class of third years and above has been nothing short of an evil plot to raise my blood pressure, render my voice hoarse from scolding, and exercise my reflexes at casting stasis spells and throwing up shields. Attention span that is dismal at best has been reduced to that of a Flobberworm – non existent.
Even if most of the student population weren't walking around with heart shaped eyes, clasped hands and smothered giggles, the atrocious and lurid decorations adorning the castle corridors would be enough. Enough to drive a double spy mad, even one who is in – well.
Thank Merlin Potter is above such adolescent, commercial nonsense. He hasn't said a word about Valentine's Day. He hasn't made any plans for tomorrow either. In fact, he hasn't come to see me for the past two days.
Perhaps he's... forgotten.
Not that I care. I have better things to do than to wonder whether I'll get a garishly coloured card or a cringe worthy attempt at poetry or a diarhoea inducing heart shaped, handmade chocolate. No. I am not expecting any garish reminders of such ridiculous sentiment. I am not hoping that Potter is still as enamoured of his Christmas gift as he was almost two months ago.
I am most assuredly not pacing up and down in my quarters, trying to decide between a book of William Butler Yeates poems, a box of imported chocolate with liquer filled centres and a strawberry scented lubricant I brewed two days ago.
It is deplorable, really. I am apparently still undecided on how I view that wretched boy. After all, it's only been seven weeks. Seven weeks of shy conversations, unexpectedly sweet kisses and much too tight embraces. Tiresome and juvenile activities that should not leave me with shaky legs, a racing heart, an embarrassing physical reaction and a suspicious flush on my face that no potion on earth can dispel.
Believe me, I've tried.
As for the stubborn denial on my part and the unvoiced longings on his, both have merely combined to press further upon the growing weight in my chest. Yes. Despite Potter's apparent... willingness, I am reluctant to take things any further.
For one thing, he is still in school. I need this job as annoying as Albus can be, forever trying to rid his spy of his molars via those blasted lemon drops, and as idiotic as the students can be, forever trying to rid their Potions Master of his sanity via their deplorable inattention.
For another, Potter is still Lily's son. His eyes never fail to remind me of that fact each time I see him. How would she feel if she knew? I have done many things in my life, but the one thing I refuse to do is to tarnish my memory of her... or earn her contempt, even if it exists solely in my mind.
Compared to the above reasons, the fact that I am not the world's greatest lover is of little importance, really. Potter can hardly fault me for having the schedule of a full time Potions Master and double spy for the Light that leave very little, if any, room for chalking up experience of the more... ah, recreational kind. Add to that the almost nightly patrols to catch errant students out after curfew - although I do get to deduct points - and the infantile essays I have to grade coupled with horrific quillmanship more often than not has me crawling into bed, pleading a headache to my empty room.
But really, would Potter even notice any... ah, lack of skills thereof? He is as pure as the driven snow. I do not fault him for having the schedule of a full time student and Saviour of the Wizarding World which should, by rights, leave little room for chalking up experience not related to Quidditch or how to kill the Dark Lord.
No, I am not hoping. As I have said before, hope is for Gryffindors. I am merely stating a fact. I am not hoping that he won't notice my inexperience; I know he won't. The only reasons I am still holding back are as listed above, and certainly not because the very thought of bedding Potter has me shaking with both fright and want.
But perhaps... this is why Potter has not come to see me for the past two days. Yes. He must have noticed despite being a Gryffindor. After all, he has already proven that he can see beyond the obvious - the sarcasm and the insults, the greasy hair and the overly large nose. Despite those brilliant eyes seeing me as a man worth knowing, I can conclude only one thing.
A man worth knowing... isn't quite the same as a man worth loving.
I have no idea how long I stand there, staring unseeingly at the box of chocolates. I finally realise it is almost time for the last class of the day - seventh year Potions with Gryffindors and Slytherins - and wander back to my Potions classroom in a daze. Outside the door, I take a deep breath and steel myself, allowing the familiar mask and stance of the dungeon bat to fall into place. Then I push open the door and sweep into my classroom with my robes billowing and my sneer firmly in place.
I have survived twenty years without warmth. I can survive another twenty. Or forty. Or sixty.
- o -
As luck would have it, Potter's eyes are the first thing I see when I reach my desk and turn around. They pin me to the spot, robbing me of both breath and speech. Hence, I fail to deliver my yearly Valentine's Day diatribe to this class. The one where any inattention and giggling leading to botched potions and cauldron explosions will be rewarded with triple the amount of points lost and detentions earned, delivered in the sibilant hiss I have perfected over the years.
Because of those green eyes, I am one class short of achieving a record eighteen years in delivering that warning to each class from first years to seventh without fail. Because of Potter and those damned eyes.
"Mr. Potter, is there a reason why you are staring at me so avidly?" I ask in a silky whisper that I know will reach the furthest corners of the classroom.
The vivid colour that stains Potter's cheeks fills me with contradicting emotions of satisfaction and remorse. Sweet Merlin, what possessed me to say that in front of everyone? Even with our shocked gazes locked together, I can feel every other curious eye trained on my face.
"Ten points from Gryffindor!" I spit out before turning to the board. A vicious slash of my wand causes words to appear.
"Brew this potion. One hour. Now," I growl to the board without turning around. The feeling that I have just killed something very fragile produces a hard lump in my chest, hindering my breathing. When I realise there is total silence behind me, I turn around slowly.
Every single student is still staring at me, half of them with their mouths hanging open, including Weasley's. Potter's eyes are huge, wounded and accusing. I react in the only way I know how.
"Still staring then? Detention, Mr. Potter!" I snarl at him before flicking my gaze at the others.
"Begin. Now!" I roar. The sight of everyone jumping a foot in the air and then scurrying to the store cupboard at the back of the room is strangely satisfying, as is the squeak Longbottom gives when he trips over his own stool and goes sprawling to the floor, bringing down Finnigan in front of him.
"Ten points from Gryffindor for clumsiness, Mr. Longbottom! Detention for disrupting my class, Mr. Finnigan!"
Smirking at their stunned faces, Parkinson bumps into Zabini who drops a handful of beetle legs.
"Ten points from Slytherin for not watching where you're going, Miss Parkinson! Detention for your clumsiness, Mr. Zabini!"
By the end of the class, my reputation as evil bat of the dungeons is set in stone. I have deducted points and awarded detentions for every conceivable misdemeanour, including one for breathing too loudly. As they make for the door in stunned silence, students of both Houses shoot me looks that warn me not to eat, drink or touch anything that come my way tomorrow.
Not that I care. The only gift I'm interested in... doesn't exist anymore. Potter's glare is fiercer than that of all the Gryffindors combined, his eyes bright with anger, dark with betrayal and moist with hurt.
I don't care. I don't. Alfred Lord Tennyson is wrong - it is not better to have loved and lost.
I tell myself that repeatedly as I stand alone in the empty classroom, trying to breathe around the huge stone inside my chest.
- o -
The quiet knock at the door of my quarters makes me realise two things. One is that I have been staring at the same page of my Potions journal for the past hour without taking in a single word. The other is that dinnertime is already over and once again, I hadn't even noticed.
Potter comes in, closes the door behind him and leans up against it.
I close the journal and place it on the coffee table. Slowly, I stand up, my heart already lodged in my throat. Potter's eyes are brighter than ever, but they are set in an expressionless mask I do not care to see. I feel compelled to explain and yet I do not. I long to read his emotions and yet I dare not.
All I know is that I have made the worst mistake of my life. For the third time. The first was the work of an instant - destroying my friendship with Lily with a rashly spoken word. The second one took two years to achieve - giving in to Lucius' and pledging my life and service to a madman. The third one is just a couple of hours old and more painful that I could have ever conceived. Unbelievably, the means to undo it stands right before me.
I stare at him. Unlike Lily, Potter is giving me a chance to explain my actions. Unlike the Dark Lord, Potter is forgiving and compassionate. And yet, I stubbornly remain silent, bogged down by a lifetime of inadequacies that has already robbed me of everything else.
Potter sighs and the mask drops. His pale skin suffuses with colour, his eyes filling with anger and pain at the same time. I brace myself for a flood of furious accusations that will doubtlessly culminate in the repudiation of all the words and kisses we have exchanged since Christmas.
He says nothing and continues to wait.
I shake my head and turn my back on him, wondering why I am once again stupidly choosing darkness over light. Silently, I wait for Potter to leave. He can have no reason to stay here anymore.
When I hear his footsteps and feel a familiar warmth behind me, I shake my head again. I dare not hope. I no longer have a right to.
"Turn around," he whispers.
That's when I realise I am a fool. I don't have to hope. Not when it's Potter. He makes hope possible where there is none. I close my eyes and am not surprised when strong hands clamp onto my shoulders and spin me around forcefully. I should hex him for that. I will... as soon as I stop feeling so pathetically grateful.
"Open your eyes."
I give in and obey, but only because I know he will not take 'No' for an answer.
"I'm sorry," Potter says. Before I can do more than blink at him, he reaches up and kisses me. A slow, deep kiss that leaves me utterly befuddled and shaky with longing and guilt.
"Why?" I ask breathlessly the moment the kiss ends.
Potter stares at me with his head cocked a little to the side.
"Because I've made you wait for this."
He holds out a red envelope with my name written on it in his untidy scrawl. This time, his hands are steady while mine tremble. I stare at the envelope and find myself foolishly hoping it's a garishly coloured card holding a cringe worthy attempt at poetry. It's too flat to contain any chocolate though.
I raise my head and see the hurt in those eyes, amidst the astonishing understanding and love. I don't know if I deserve this boy, if I'll ever deserve him. But I know he deserves much better from me.
"Forgive me, Harry," I apologise as steadily as I can. "What I did was... I thought - that you had -" I stumble to a stop, swallow and look down at my hands. They are shaking worse than ever.
"Don't," he says softly. Gentle, forgiving hands frame my face and lift it up so that my eyes meet his.
"Gryffindors have absolutely no sense of self-preservation," he says with a whimsical smile, "but we never forget about the things that matter."
I have no words left to say so I kiss him instead. Once, twice, thrice before I reluctantly remind him that it's close to curfew.
He grins and kisses me back. Then he leaves my quarters with eyes now bright with happiness and a whispered reminder to read the card.
I lick at my kiss swollen lips and nod. Then I go to my bedroom on shaky legs, sit on the bed and stare at the envelope for a full five minutes.
I decide that I won't give back any of the points taken today, but I won't deduct anymore this weekend either.
With a resolute nod, I open the envelope and extract the card. It is handmade and far less garish than I had expected. The words 'To My Valentine' are in large, graceful script that flashes gold and silver by turns.
I further decide that I will allow Minerva to take care of all the detentions I had given to her House earlier.
When I open the card, I find an invitation to a date for tomorrow in place of a poem. Then I catch sight of the words 'Madam Puddifoot's Teashop'. My eyes widen in horror and I groan in despair. Looking wildly around my bedroom, I wonder if Albus had put Potter up to this, or if it is simply divine intervention at work.
Then I catch sight of my strawberry scented lubricant and smirk.
Except for Potter's detention. I will handle that one myself.
- Story End -