Disclaimer: The Harry Potter Universe belongs to JKR and anyone she legally lets use them. Not me.
To Lose and To Gain
Severus clenched his fists as he heard the patter of footsteps ascending the staircase above his lab.
One rule, I give Potter one rule and he can't fucking follow that?
Slamming his fists down onto the countertop, Severus knocked back the pain reliever and numbing potion he kept handy in a drawer.
And then it began. The slow sensation of creeping ants up his arms, his nerves tingling in painful anticipation. Teeth clenched, he let the fire of agony pass over his body.
And then it was finished. Severus barked a bitter laugh, 20 minutes.
Young people these days. No stamina.
Harry sighed as he washed up. He'd thrown Malfoy out after their little tumble, hopefully Snape hadn't noticed them. He'd been desperate, and Malfoy and he hadn't been able to find an inn to go to so they'd resorted to sneaking into the house.
Tipping his head back against the shower, Harry grabbed the pain reliever that seemed to be constantly present in the bathroom. Snape probably kept them stocked, Merlin knew why.
For the last three years this had been Harry's life. Work, sleep, work, sleep, eat when possible and sleep with random men in random places. Snape's one rule: don't bring the catch of the day home.
Forced to bond because of meddlesome Headmasters that insisted that their combined magic was the only way to win this war, Snape and Harry had been stuck together for 1254 days, 8 hours and 7 minutes. Harry wanted out, but apparently that was impossible.
Drying himself off, Harry shoved his thoughts to the back of his mind, wondering what Snape had made for dinner today.
Sighing, Severus placed the last cauldron into a brown box, leaving himself a moment to view the empty laboratory. His for the last three years, his sanctuary, his life.
But enough was enough.
Since they only needed to be near each other once every few months to keep their magic stable, Severus had decided that it was time to leave. He'd return for tea or something of the sort every few months and then go about his life. Living with Potter was a torture he could not live with any longer.
It seemed that everyone but Potter knew how much his husband desired, perhaps even loved him. But Potter had never wanted this, never wanted Severus, and probably never would. So why did he bother? He knew it was impossible. Twenty years his senior, not attractive in any respect, with a career hardly viewed as dazzling, Severus's image was not exactly lust-inducing.
So, after three masochistic years, Severus was leaving.
Furrowing his eyebrows, Harry glanced about the living room, searching for a sign of his bonded.
"Snape?" Silence seemed to permeate through the air and Harry bit his lip. Snape hardly left, and never this late, or at least, not that Harry knew of anyway.
Deciding to risk his neck and enter Snape's lab, Harry knocked before pushing the door open.
"Snape, what's for—" Harry stopped, gaping at the room. It was spotlessly clean and cauldronlessly bare. Not a single vial or book lay in the room.
"Snape!" Harry barked, in panic, opening the study door and the storage room, attempting to find his bonded. And to his surprise, there was nothing in any of the rooms.
Severus Snape had disappeared.
Severus shrunk his boxes and pocketed them before Apparating to the Transatlantic Traveling Agency. He'd been planning this for months, but hearing Draco Fucking Malfoy in his house had been the last straw. Accepting the Portkey from the witch, he nodded before murmuring the activation word.
He was escaping at last.
Collapsing onto the sofa, Harry buried his head in his hands. Severus was gone. His bedroom was empty, his laboratory bare, even his slippers that had been under the sofa were gone. Green eyes confused, Harry glanced about the room, his gaze landing on the parchment that lay on the coffee table in front of him.
Gingerly opening the seal, Harry began to read…
You seem to be incapable of following the most simple of rules. I had but one request, and you would begrudge me even that? Never mind, you and I both know that this cohabitation that we were both forced to endure has become stifling and torturous at best. After careful thought, I have deduced that we can survive independently, as long as we meet for tea or something of that kind once every three months. You need not worry yourself, I shall contact you when it is required. Perhaps I shall visit without your knowledge, and you shall find no need to burden yourself with thoughts of me.
May you find happiness in your future ventures,
Harry stared at the parchment in his hand, disbelieving of what he was seeing. He'd thought they'd come to an agreement, Severus and he. While he wanted out of the marriage, he'd liked having Severus there as an…acquaintance. They'd gotten used to each other over time.
Holding his head in his hand, Harry squeezed his eyes shut in confusion. He couldn't understand why Severus's leaving left such an ache in his chest. They had not been lovers, simply roommates really, and yet...
Sighing, Harry rummaged through the cupboards looking for something to eat. Severus had taken over cooking duties, even though Harry could cook for himself, so Harry was out of practice. After months of eating subtly flavored, exotic food, spaghetti was looking very bland and boring. But, spaghetti it would be, he supposed.
Harry poured the pasta into the boiling water, trying not to concentrate on how the soft bubbling of the water filled the resounding silence around him.
Severus stood on the balcony of the hotel he was staying in, his eyes taking in the glittering stars that shined over the rippling ocean water.
He already missed dreary London weather.
Spinning around, Severus walked into the bathroom to stare into the mirror.
What was he going to do now? He had left his prestigious job with the research company in England behind, on a whim.
His eyes trailing over the slight hook in his nose, his sallow skin, and crooked teeth, Severus pursed his lips. This was his opportunity to start anew.
Step One: Glamours and cosmetic enhancements.
Step Two: Name change
Step Three: New Career Path
It was time to let go of the past.
Harry groaned as he woke up, glancing at the clock. Seven AM. Hopefully Snape…
Snape was gone.
No coffee this morning.
Harry couldn't make coffee for his life. But Snape made the most delicious, rich, delightful coffee Harry had ever drank. The man had a thing for drinks. His cocktails were inventive, but always delectable.
Dragging himself out of bed, Harry got ready for the day, just beginning to realize how central to his life Severus Snape had become.
Severus ran his fingers through his hair, lingering on the short ends. The hairdresser had assured him it would change his whole look, but Severus was not so confident.
Thank goodness for hair lengthening potions.
Taking a deep breath Severus looked in the mirror and started. Somehow the shorter hair, the new black rimmed glasses he was now wearing, and the new clothes made him look entirely different.
Stepping out of the barbershop, Severus slipped into the alley to cast a slight glamour to lighten his eye color, straighten his nose, and add color to his skin. For now, he'd use magic to alter his appearance.
He had an interview today.
Harry sat on the bed, naked as the day he was born, misery welling in his chest.
It had been two weeks since Severus had left and suddenly everything seemed awful.
Bringing people home to sleep with? Useless.
Not having to inform anyone of his whereabouts? Not all that great.
Not having someone to come home to when he was drunk and have them take care of him? Terrible.
Harry hadn't realized that morning coffee, nightcaps and political arguments had been some of the high points of his day. When had Snape stopped being the greasy git who he hated to a man he enjoyed spending time with?
Harry barked out a bitter laugh.
Only he would miss the fact that he'd started to care for his husband more than his lovers.
Only he would've lost the person he cared for before he even knew it.
Severus stood in front of the mirror, examining his appearance. Charcoal trousers, a white shirt with silver threading, a black vest with green undertones, and a charcoal fitted jacket. With the slight glamour to complete the look, he looked like a completely different person. Which had been his goal.
Severus sighed. He was preparing himself to move on with his life, to find someone to spend his life with, far, far away from the man he loved who would never care for him. Who hadn't even bothered to contact him.
Severus fingered the gold and silver ring on his finger and then slowly slipped it off for the first time in three years. His marriage was a farce, so why was he gripping onto the one thing that still remained?
He gently tossed the ring into the drawer and strode out of the hotel.
Harry sat at the Weasley table, pushing his peas about his table like a five year old. Pathetic.
"Harry dear, is everything alright?" Mum Weasley's concerned words broke through his convoluted thoughts, as he looked up to see the rest of the family staring at him in confusion.
Sighing and fingering the wedding band he'd recently begun to wear again, he said, softly, "Snape left."
Ron's jaw dropped, which would've been funny if he hadn't felt so horrible, and Hermione simply stared at him.
"When?" George reached out to grip his arm lightly in comfort.
"A month ago."
"And you didn't tell us?" Mum Weasley said in surprise. Harry shrugged, too numb to care. Bloody hell, why did he feel this way?
"Well, good riddance, eh Harry? You don't have to deal with the greasy git anymore!" Ron said humorously.
Harry narrowed his eyes, "He's not greasy!"
Ron raised an eyebrow, "Oh?"
Harry clenched his fists, "He just spends an awful lot of time over boiling cauldrons. His hair is fine after he showers and doesn't brew. It's quite—"Harry cut himself off. Had he really been about to say that Snape's hair was nice?
Preoccupied with his ruminating, Harry missed the gleam of triumph in Ron's eyes.
"Harry dear, do you know where he's gone?"
Harry shook his head dejectedly, staring sadly at his ring.
Who would've known he'd want this marriage to work?
Severus wiped down the bar counter, his keen eyes taking in the various Aurors who were now pouring into his bar. After three months of hard work, Severus Snape was now the proud owner of The Emerald Stone, the reference having nothing to do with his husband, nothing at all. A café by day and a bar by night, his entrepreneurial venture was paying off, known for its creative drinks, gay-friendly environment, delicious food, and unique coffee.
Turning around to make sure the cook was ready for the inevitable "Auror-hour", as he called it, he started as a familiar voice said softly, "A pint please."
Turning slowly, Severus came face to face with the one man he'd thought he would never interact with again.
Harry sat at the bar, watching his new colleagues laugh at some joke they'd made. Turning to the bar tender he called softly, "A pint please."
The man turned to look at him in surprise and he sighed. Of course, "Yes, I'm Harry Potter. Please don't ask to see my scar."
The man blinked before nodding and pouring him a glass. Setting it on the table with a napkin, he turned around once more.
Cocking his head Harry said, "Hey, what is there to eat here? I'm new and don't know I'm afraid."
Turning back around the man said, "Sheppard's pie, chicken casserole, or mozzarella and tomato panini."
Severus quickly drawled his answer out in a slightly heavier American accent, masking his British pronunciation. Hopefully no one would notice the change. Many of the people here were regulars, but he rarely said much to anyone.
Harry started and stared at him, so he said a little impatiently, "Yes?"
Harry shook himself and smiled sheepishly, "I'm sorry, you reminded me of my husband there."
Severus blinked in surprise. Harry was acknowledging him? To a supposedly, complete stranger? "Oh?"
Harry nodded, "Yea, but he's very British, so the accent is different."
Severus nodded, "And you'll have?"
"The Sheppard's pie."
Of course, your favorite.
"It will be out in a few minutes."
Slipping into the back Severus dished out the pie before pausing and adding just a touch of white pepper. It wouldn't ruin the taste but would give it a different flavor from his normal. Wouldn't do for Harry to recognize his favorite dish, now would it.
Setting it on the table, Severus watched Harry take a bite, savoring the flavors, before turning to attend to the other customers.
Harry had been sitting at the bar, ruminating his life for over three hours. Most of his colleagues had left, so it was just him, the dancing mass on the dance floor, and the very silent bartender.
The man in question came to take his plate, so he smiled and said, "Thank you, it was delicious!" the man paused and inclined his head to acknowledge the compliment.
Finding himself suddenly in the mood to reminisce, Harry said, "My husband made the most delicious pie. Sort of like yours, but, just a touch different. It was my favorite. He made if for my birthday every year."
The man paused again before asking, "Married long?"
Harry smiled, "Almost four years."
The man nodded, "Ah."
"I've lost him though."
The man turned, "Oh?"
Harry laughed bitterly and nodded, "Didn't realize what I had until it was gone. And now I can't find him again."
"Perhaps he does not wish to be found."
Harry shrugged, "Probably. Doesn't make me miss him any less."
"Why did he leave?"
"Because I was an idiot."
Severus nearly laughed, aren't you always?
He was intrigued however, by this Harry Potter. More mature, sophisticated,…and wearing his wedding ring?
"You wear the ring still," he said, trying to wrap his head around the fact that Harry seemed to want him back.
Harry nodded, fingering it lightly, "Didn't wear it when we were married. Big mistake." Harry sighed, "I left Britain to get away from the misery. But I guess you can't escape that. Here I am, depressed once more."
Severus wiped a glass, eyeing Harry critically, "How do you know you love him? Perhaps you simply miss him, and if he were to return you would return to not caring."
Harry smiled, "No. It would never happen again. I thought I didn't care, and then he left. The ache in my chest has been there for three months. Never again. If he would come back to me, I'd cherish him until I died."
Severus nearly dropped the glass in surprise. Swallowing deeply he said, "Will he return?"
Harry shook his head, a miserable look on his face, "Too stubborn, my Severus. He's gone, he'll never come back." Harry laughed bitterly once more, "And so I've lost the love of a lifetime, cursed to live the rest of my life alone."
"Perhaps life will surprise you," Severus wasn't ready to trust Harry Potter again, but he couldn't help the small burst of hope in his chest.
Harry smiled sadly, "Maybe." Draining his glass, Harry stood to leave, "No one around to help me when I'm drunk anymore. Got to control the alcohol intake," he said smiling. He placed a few bills on the table and shoved his hands in his pockets, "See you later. Thanks for listening!" and he walked out the door.
Severus watched him leave, deep in contemplation.
Harry washed his dishes, thinking about the bartender he saw every night. It had been two weeks and he hadn't gotten the man's name! He'd rambled on and on about Severus almost every night, and the poor man had listened to his every word.
Making up his mind, Harry grabbed his coat and walked out the door, aiming for the café cum bar. Slipping in he smiled as he saw the bartender, dressed in deep black trousers, a crisp white collared shirt and Slytherin green sweater, taking a young lady's order. She was clearly flirting with him. Poor thing apparently didn't realize the man was gay. That, Harry was positive of.
The man looked up and gave Harry a small smile before saying, "You are early Auror Potter. I hope you are not here to drown away your sorrows this early?"
Harry laughed, "No, but I'd like some coffee please."
The man nodded, "A latte?"
Harry nodded, "Yes please."
Paying, Harry sat at a small table in the corner, watching the quiet chaos of the eatery.
"Your latte sir," the day waitress set the cup in front of him and he smiled, taking a sip.
And then he froze.
He looked down at the latte and noticed the small marshmallows littering the top. Licking his lips, he sipped the coffee again.
There was only one man in the world that made coffee like this.
Turning to the man sitting in the table next to his, he asked, "Excuse me, I hate to bother you, but do you know who makes the coffee here?"
The man grinned, "Magnificent isn't it? The bartender, Sebastian, does. Won't give away his secret."
Harry thanked the man, his hands shaking. He looked up to see Sebastian conversing with the day waitress, his head tilted, his eyes on her. He could imagine the way Severus's hair would've fallen in front of his face, hiding his profile from everyone.
Standing, Harry gathered his Gryffindor courage and walked to the bar counter.
"Sebastian?" the man turned at looked at Harry before striding over.
"Yes, is something wrong?"
"Why does my latte have marshmallows in it?"
Severus froze. He'd fallen into his routine of making Harry coffee and had put little marshmallows in it. The little bugger had developed a liking for them when he'd visited the States in his fourth month of training, and Severus had begun putting them in his coffee.
Harry looked like he was going to cry, "I know it's you Severus."
Severus gulped, "Auror Potter, I do not know what you are saying."
"Don't. Please, do you want me to beg, I will. I'll get down on my knees and beg in front of these people. But please, please, don't deny it. I know it's you."
"I do not know what you mean Auror Potter, please stop this at once."
Harry narrowed his eyes, "I can play this game Severus. I will keep coming here until you admit it."
And so it went. For three weeks, Harry came in, breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, unless he had an assignment, talking to Sebastian as if they hadn't had that encounter, but leaving always with the question, "Are you ready to admit it yet Severus?" And Severus always replied, "Auror Potter, I don't know what you're talking about."
Until the day Harry didn't come in.
The first day Severus figured he was out on assignment. On the second day as well. But by the fifth day he began to be concerned. Either Harry had given up, or…
When Harry hadn't come in for a week, he finally asked one of the Aurors, "And where is Auror Potter?"
The Auror gave him a sad look, "Poor thing is in the hospital. They don't know how long he's going to live."
Severus froze, disbelief flowing through him.
He finished the night with robotic motions, closing up earlier than normal. He rushed to the hospital and snuck in, intent on finding Harry.
He found him, bandaged up, bruised and asleep. Lowering himself into the chair by the bed he looked at his husband sadly. Gripping his hand, he dropped his head to the bed.
Cancelling the glamour, Severus nodded, kissing Harry's hand gently, "Harry"
A tear leaked out of Harry's closed eyes, "It's you?"
Harry gripped his hand back lightly, "I'm sorry I was such an idiot."
"I love you."
Severus choked, his emotions intense, "I know."
Severus nodded once more, pressing the younger man's hand against his cheek.
"They're not sure if I'm going to make it."
Severus clenched his hand.
"I'll miss you."
"Do not say such things."
Harry smiled sadly, "Not even if they're true?"
"Harry," Severus said softly, "Harry, open your eyes."
Harry shook his head, "No you'll be gone if I do."
Severus nearly cried at the plaintive tone. "Get better, and I promise I shall find you."
Harry frowned, "For real?"
Severus nodded, "Yes."
Harry walked into the cafe a week after being discharged from the hospital. The doctors couldn't believe he'd survived, but Harry knew why he had. The dream with Severus had seemed so real, he had wanted to be better. But now that he was he wasn't sure if Sebastian was going to reveal he was Severus. Had he really just dreamt it all?
Sitting down, he knew the waitress would bring him his latte. Mind wandering, he didn't notice the silence until a fine boned, porcelain white hand adorned with a gold and silver ring set his coffee in front of him. Snapping his head up, he came face to face with Severus Snape.
"Severus," he breathed, rising from his chair.
The other customers were staring at the bartender and the Auror, their keen eyes connecting the matching wedding bands to be related to the alteration of their barista's face.
"I did promise."
Harry raised a shaking hand to cup Severus's face. Dark black eyes met his, a little guarded, but warmer than ever.
Tears forming in his eyes, Harry crushed his lips against Severus', melting against the older man's taller body, as they kissed passionately.
When oxygen became necessary, Harry released his husband reluctantly, before wrapping his arms around him and burying his face in the man's neck.
"I knew it was you." He said through the tears, gripping the back of Severus's shirt.
Severus long, warm arms enfolded him gently, lips pressing against his wild hair, "I know."
"I'm sorry. I love you."
Harry could feel the smile that was forming on those thin lips pressed against his hair, "I know."
"Are you ever going to say anything else?" he growled, pulling back to pout at the Slytherin. He kept his arms tight around Snape though, as if to prevent him from disappearing again.
Severus chuckled, his dark, warm, chocolate laughter flowing over Harry's skin, "I love you too, my impetuous Gryffindor."
A/N: I was sick and tired of reading stories where it's Severus who's the problem in a relationship and Harry's like the victim and Severus has to grovel and grovel. I mean, I think, Severus hasn't had anyone to love in his life. Wouldn't he cling to his husband, not cheat? And isn't Harry, young and carefree, more likely to wander? And thus, this story was born :)