Title: A Break in the Clouds
Word Count: ~1415
Content: Non-magic AU, pre-slash
Disclaimer: Not mine. They belong to JKR.
A/N: Unbeta'd. Sequel to Two of a Kind, Falling Gently, Stumble and Fall, and One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.
Severus stopped by the market on his way home from work, picking up some fresh vegetables for supper. He had spent the last several hours feeling guilty about snapping at Harry, who really couldn't have been a better housemate if he tried.
There is one way, a little voice inside Severus said and while he agreed, he pushed the thought away.
After a shorter than usual nap when he got home, Severus would go by the butcher's and buy a small roast. It wasn't cheap but hopefully it would help smooth what was sure to be a rather awkward apology.
As soon as he stepped into the house, Severus knew Harry wasn't there. He almost always waited for Severus on the sofa, a book in his hand pressed to his chest or fallen to the floor, his limp arm dangling down as he slept.
Severus's heart sank and he exhaled slowly before pulling himself together and taking the shopping into the kitchen. Sitting on the table were several items Harry must have picked up at Tesco… as he said he would.
Opening the package of digestives, Severus took two bites but realised he didn't feel all that hungry. He put everything away, hopefully in the right place, because he was both exhausted and a bit distracted.
He slipped off his shoes and padded to the bedroom, slipping under the covers without bothering to undress. He closed his eyes and then opened them again before reaching for his clock and setting it to wake him at noon. Less sleep than he would have liked but he wanted to have supper ready at a decent hour. Thankfully he was only working one shift later. Maybe he'd manage to close his eyes again in the afternoon.
The roast was in the oven, the scent of it making Severus's stomach rumble. He couldn't even remember the last time he'd had a proper roast. It wasn't exactly the season for some of the vegetables but he'd found carrots, onions, celery, and turnips.
After he'd woken from his nap earlier, it was with relief he noticed that all of Harry's things were still there. He didn't have much and could survive without it, but it did give Severus hope that Harry would return and at least hear him out if not stay. He didn't think Harry had anywhere to go which was even more problematic.
Severus tried to read but the later it got the more nervous he became and couldn't concentrate at all, reading the same paragraph over and over.
When supper was ready and still Harry hadn't returned, Severus's thoughts turned dark. What if he really wasn't coming back? What if something had happened to him?
Severus stood and went to his practically bare liquor cabinet. He poured himself a shot of whisky and tipped it back, the liquid burning his throat and stomach as it went down. He poured another measure and finished it in one swallow as well. He was tempted to pour a third but he needed to go to work in a few hours and more importantly, there was very little left in the bottle. He needed to save it for an emergency.
Which might be as soon as tomorrow.
Deciding he could wait no longer, Severus went to the kitchen and cut himself a piece of the roast, spooning the vegetables out onto his plate and drizzling a bit of the juice on top.
He sat down at the table, perfect dinner on his plate. The first few bites had been utter perfection, the meat nearly melting on his tongue and his hunger pushing him to continue. When he was only halfway through, he was practically forcing the food down, his appetite gone and his worry returned.
There was a turn of the handle, the sound of the door and Severus's heart skipped a beat. He wiped his mouth on his serviette and stood slowly, walking toward the sound, then nearly ran into Harry as Harry walked into the kitchen.
"Oh, sorry," Harry said before quickly averting his eyes. "I thought you might have left for work by now."
"No, I am not going in until tonight."
They both stood in the kitchen at a loss for words for a minute or two.
"I prepared supper, a roast. If you'd like some." Severus didn't wait for his reply and instead reached for a plate, filling it with a much larger portion than he'd eaten himself.
When he turned back around, Harry was watching him.
"You didn't need to do that."
"I had to make supper," Severus replied not quite in response to Harry's comment and set the plate in what was now considered Harry's spot, at least in his mind if not Harry's. "Sit."
Harry pulled back the chair and sat, his eyes on the plate. Severus could practically hear his mouth watering. Handing him a fork, Severus then sat back down, the knot in his stomach loosening. While his own food was lukewarm, he ate it, sneaking glances at Harry who seemed as if he hadn't eaten in a week.
Once Severus was finished and Harry nearly so, he finally asked Harry, "Where were you?"
Harry looked up at him, his green eyes so bright but always touched with sadness. They were the most beautiful pair of eyes Severus had ever seen.
"I have a friend in East Keswick." Harry took the last bite of his roast and chewed it slowly.
"A friend?" Severus asked. "I've never heard you mention anyone before."
"Just a mate from school. We have a pint once and a while. Guess I had a few too many, woke up in his bed this morning." Harry must have seen the look on Severus's face, though he could have no idea the stab of pain Severus felt in his chest. "Oh, it's not like that. He's just normal, you know."
"Ah." Severus's head was spinning. Maybe it was worth finishing his stash of whisky just to calm him down. He couldn't remember the last time he'd got so worked up about anyone.
A physical reaction was one thing, but the emotional turmoil he was going through was driving him mad. He'd always prided himself on being in control of his emotions but there was something about Harry that brought everything to the surface. The only saving grace was that apparently Harry hadn't figured Severus out yet.
When he did, that's when he would leave.
"I didn't mean to stay away so long," Harry said as he picked up his plate. He reached for Severus's but Severus stood and took his own plate to the sink.
"I regret what I said to you yesterday, Harry."
"It's not a problem, really." Harry walked to the sink, set his plate down, and began running water. "I've forgotten all about it."
Severus didn't believe that for a minute but Harry seemed himself otherwise so he let it go for now.
"I'll get the dishes tonight," he said.
"You cooked. The cook doesn't clean up."
Severus reached over and turned off the faucet when the sink was full of sudsy water. They were standing side by side and Severus had to resist the urge to lean in and inhale the scent of Harry. As it was, Harry wasn't fresh from the shower—in fact he was in yesterday's clothes—but Severus was no better himself and there was something about the scent of a man that needed no colognes or perfumes.
Harry was washing a plate silently, his pulse visible at his neck and never had Severus been more tempted to lick a patch of skin.
He tore his eyes away from Harry's neck though he only got as far as the small smile on Harry's soft looking, pink lips. Finally he managed to tear his eyes away and met Harry's, which seemed to be smiling as well.
"Were you drying?" Harry was holding the plate out to him. Severus reached into a drawer and pulled out a clean dishtowel and took the plate.
"I was… lost in thought." It wasn't a lie anyway. Severus took the plate and dried it, then placed it in the cupboard.
"I understand," Harry replied softly. Though Harry was looking down at the dishes, Severus thought he saw a faint blush creep across Harry's cheeks.
They finished the dishes in silence but it was comfortable, like a warm blanket on a cold night in winter.