Title: Falling Gently
Word Count: ~1060
Content: Non-magic AU, pre-slash
Disclaimer: Not mine. They belong to JKR.
When it became a routine, Severus really couldn't say. Often towards the end of the month, Harry—for surely he was no longer Potter outside the factory—would linger after their shift, a time when money, and coal, were in short supply.
Severus had been a solitary man his entire life, rarely seeking the company of others. When he had, it hadn't ended well. However, now, he couldn't deny he enjoyed the company.
Dominoes and cribbage made regular appearances at his small kitchen table. Sometimes neither spoke a word save 'Check' and 'Mate' during a game of chess.
During the warmer months, Harry had no excuse to come by. Nevertheless, he did, lending a hand when Severus mentioned a bit of maintenance he had planned, including replacing a broken pane of glass.
He'd seen Harry's flat a handful of times. It was clean but sparse. Very few personal touches, though he noticed a photo of Harry's parents on the wall in the sitting room.
Harry definitely seemed to prefer to visit Severus and, to be perfectly honest, Severus preferred it that way as well.
A year had passed since that first meal they'd shared and this year the winter had been brutal, one of the coldest on record, with a heavy snowfall expected that night. Thankfully, they both had the next night off and wouldn't need to be in to work until two evenings hence.
"Have you enough coal?" Severus asked as he pulled on his gloves and wrapped his scarf around his neck. It was a bit moth-eaten but it did the job.
Harry tugged his knit hat down on his head, trying to cover his ears but not quite succeeding. "I'll be fine. I always am." His gloves were threadbare, both his index fingers poking through the wool.
"I'm sure that's true, but you didn't answer my question." Severus pushed the door of the factory open and they stepped out into the weak winter light, the sky already heavy with the promise of snow. "We may get a foot or more before it's through."
When Harry looked away, his face no longer split by the ever present smile—the smile Severus found strangely compelling, though he pushed the thought away every time it floated to the surface of his mind—Severus drew his own conclusion. "Come. It's more efficient to warm one house instead of two."
"I don't want to impose—" Harry began but Severus held up a hand.
"I don't want to explain to my supervisors why one of their best men has expired from the elements." Severus began walking and heard Harry's soft, "Thanks," as he caught up to him.
Severus made a pot of tea and two bowls of porridge, one much larger than the other. They'd both fall asleep within the hour but the warmth, as well as a full stomach, would hold them until lunchtime. That was another confusing thing about the overnight shift; it was hard to know which meal was most appropriate after work. He never could stomach 'supper' first thing in the morning.
Harry was quiet. Moreso than usual but Severus wasn't one to pry. He built a fire and, once it was burning steadily, handed Harry a spare blanket.
Pulling it to him, Harry sat down in the chair closest to the fire and let his eyes fall closed. It couldn't be comfortable—Severus had fallen asleep in that chair often enough to know—but there was no sense arguing with him.
Though his own bed called to him, the bedroom was much colder, so Severus stretched out on the sofa and shortly succumbed to his exhaustion.
Severus woke immediately aware of his surroundings—he was in his sitting room, on the sofa and Harry was dozing by the fire. He sat up slowly, not wanting the springs to creak and wake Harry. Harry's body was turned slightly so his face was pressed to the back of the chair. The blanket had slipped down and Severus noticed his hands were out of sight, curled beneath his arms for added warmth.
Standing, Severus approached him slowly, taking care not to step on the loose floorboard near the hearth. He gently pulled the blanket back up over Harry's shoulder, eyes fixed on Harry's lashes, dark against his pale skin.
He didn't know what made him do it, but he adjusted the blanket again, tucking it under Harry's chin, stubble rough against the back of Severus's hand. He very nearly reached out to touch Harry's hair—standing up every which way as ever—then stepped back, horrified at his behaviour.
Not that Harry had the least interest in him, regardless, but the man was sleeping. Severus himself wasn't even sure what he'd been thinking. There was something about Harry that got to him, though, in a way no one else had.
Swallowing hard against the thoughts—some mundane, some utterly foreign—Severus turned and went to the kitchen to put on the kettle. A cuppa would relax his body and his mind.
Sitting at the table, lost in his crossword puzzle, radio playing softly in the background, Severus didn't hear Harry's approach, yet he wasn't startled when Harry spoke.
"How much snow do you think fell since this morning?" Harry pulled the cozy off the teapot and poured himself a cup, yawning widely as he sat down in the chair across from Severus.
"Looked like about four inches last I looked." Severus stood and turned off the radio.
"You can leave it on," Harry said, cradling his teacup in his hands. "The music's nice."
Severus nodded and turned it back on, then got out ingredients for soup. It wouldn't be elaborate but it would fill them up and it would last for more than one meal.
"Make yourself useful and peel these potatoes." There was the scrape of the chair against the floor as Harry stood.
Harry hummed along with the radio as he washed and peeled the potatoes and carrots.
Severus reached for a knife then paused and looked out the small window over the kitchen sink, watching the snow falling gently.
Harry nudged him with his shoulder. "Those onions aren't chopping themselves."
He tried to resist it but against his will, the corner of his mouth turned up into a smile.