"We are going to do this."
Harry turned his back and walked towards the door that led out of the kitchen. Severus might want to do this, but he didn't. And that meant he was going to leave. He'd had enough of Severus's bloody temper for one day, and Severus's sneers, and being told that he wasn't adult enough to understand jokes that any of Severus's colleagues would have got.
As he reached for the door, it slammed shut in front of him. Harry felt the unmistakable prickle of Severus's magic along his skin, and closed his eyes, reaching for his wand. He didn't really want to blast their kitchen door off its hinges, but he would, rather than stay here and act tolerant towards the man who was keeping him prisoner.
"I want to talk about this."
Harry paused. That's new. Usually, Severus never put those words together in the same sentence unless he was discussing Potions. Harry pivoted lightly around, crossing his arms over his chest and cocking an eyebrow. "You want to try the suggestions of a Mind-Healer who doesn't, as you put it, know either one of us from our newspaper photographs?"
"A neutral observer--"
"You also said that there was no way any Mind-Healer would be neutral on either one of us," Harry pointed out, and let his voice drop into the one that he used when he wanted to mimic Severus's inflections. "'As there is no way that he would refrain from forming an opinion on the Hero-Who-Lived-to-Have-His-Head-Up-His-Arse--'"
"I have never called you that."
Harry snorted and let himself slide back into the chair at the kitchen table he'd arisen from. Trust Severus to focus on something like that. "I know you never did. But I know what you would sound like if you chose to." He leaned forwards and rapped one finger in the middle of the table, the nearest he could come to Severus when he was sitting here. "See, I know you."
Severus tightened his lips in return and didn't speak for a moment. Harry waited, a little surprised that some condemnation of his childish behavior didn't immediately show up. Severus wouldn't let most snips like that go by without adding a jibe of his own.
That he was silent made an uneasily dancing worm of conscience wake up in Harry's stomach. Maybe he does mean it. Maybe he really does want to try what the Mind-Healer suggested.
"I have many adult skills."
Severus's voice startled Harry out of his contemplation. He looked up at him. "Yes, I know," he said. "Like buying a house and managing money and brewing potions and spying."
"Not arguing--is not one of them." Severus spoke slowly, his face sallow. He was now looking at his own hands, white-knuckled and stiff. Whatever potion he had used to resist Nagini's poison had left them twisted and craggy. Harry had once offered to massage and warm them, and Severus had given him a look so venomous that he had never repeated the suggestion.
"I trust you to help me learn," Severus said, and stood up, coming around the table. Harry coiled up, but remained in the chair instead of standing right away. This was another suggestion the Mind-Healer had offered, that one of them sit while the other was standing, and see whether they could have a civil conversation.
Trust Severus to take the part of the standing partner, too.
Severus reached out, as if he assumed that Harry would have to rise any second, that the pressure of his rage and intimidation would be too much. With effort, Harry did maintain his sitting posture, and Severus nodded slowly and pressed down with one hand on his right shoulder.
"Good," Severus said quietly. "Now, can you tell me what you were disagreeing with me about today?"
Harry controlled the impulse to shut his eyes and bury his head in his hands. That was the kind of thing he used to do, and then Severus, who for some reason was really distressed by that, had started in with the sneers and the jibes, and Harry would respond more with words. And then their arguments had started to escalate.
Now, Harry made every effort to take a deep breath and answer, while still looking up at Severus's face. "I wanted to wait a few days before we tried to put the Mind-Healer's suggestions to work. I think that we argue all the time, sure, but it's our choice if we go our separate ways." And yes, that choice would hurt him, but he wasn't going to show Severus how much.
For a moment, Severus's hand tightened. "And you think that I've won again, now," he observed in a flat voice. "By trapping you here and making you follow the Mind-Healer's suggestions."
Harry looked up at him, waiting for some other guide as to how to proceed, but Severus just looked pinched all over. Harry finally shrugged, hoping to resettle Severus's hand on his shoulder, but it didn't work. "You were the one who used the word 'trapped,' and not me," he said at last, folding his arms and looking away.
"We should try to tame our body language, is another thing the Mind-Healer suggested," Severus murmured. He reached out with his free hand and pushed down on Harry's arms until Harry reluctantly dropped them back to his sides. "When you cross your arms like that, it shuts me out."
Harry turned and stared at him. "That's what I'm trying to do," he said, enunciating the words carefully, when Severus, unusually for him, didn't pick up on the silent waves of rejection Harry was sending out.
"Why?" Severus remained standing, but shifted a step closer, as though he wanted to protect Harry against a hidden enemy.
Harry controlled his hysterical urge to laugh, and shook his head instead. "Because if I don't, you'll make fun of everything that I'm feeling," he said. Really, was Severus going to make him speak all these unspoken things between them aloud? He left them unsaid because Severus would make fun of them, and Severus left them unsaid because he thought they were stupid and sentimental.
On the other hand, maybe saying them aloud would have some advantages. It might push Severus into saying something so scathingly unforgivable that Harry could finally break up with the bastard and refuse the promptings of his heart.
From the arrested look on Severus's face, though, Harry had to wonder what he was feeling instead of immediately knowing, from Severus's sneer or his words. "What?" he said back, his hands folding in his lap before he could stop them. "You know it's true."
Severus shook his head slowly. Harry hissed. "You do make fun of everything I'm feeling," he snapped. "Don't lie. Last night you couldn't even wait for me to get into bed before you were making fun of my eagerness."
Severus reached out and slid his hand that wasn't on Harry's shoulder down Harry's cheek. Harry stared at him in silent shock. This was the kind of thing that Harry could make fun of later, if he was seeking to make their relationship into a weapon to hurt Severus, the way Severus so often did with him.
There was a reason that Severus avoided intimate situations most of the time, letting Harry initiate or ask for--or beg for--them, and Harry didn't think it had much to do with fear. It was always wanting Harry to expose himself, so that he could snap, and not be snapped at in return. Maybe it was a legacy of being a spy, when Severus didn't want to make memories that Voldemort could read the wrong way.
Just because Harry understood where it came from didn't mean it wasn't bloody annoying, though.
"I didn't know that what I said hurt you," Severus whispered.
That was another lie. Harry sat up and tried again to shrug off his touch. "There's no way that you don't," he retorted. "You're the one who keeps telling me that it's easy to read my face and see into my heart and its foolish--"
"I thought that you were skilled in shrugging off pain," Severus continued, speaking so sedately that Harry calmed down and listened because he'd never thought that he would hear Severus speak that way when he was angry. Maybe he was right, and there was always a time when one could learn to argue without yelling. "I thought you were sarcastic yourself, and beyond the reach of my wit."
Harry looked him straight in the eye. "Yeah, that's one thing to call it," he drawled.
"Harry." Severus looked as if he wanted to reach for him, then realized that he already stood close. He touched Harry's face instead. "Will you please believe me?" Harry might have rejected that appeal, but it wasn't based on the kind of strident insistence that Severus usually used when he wanted to be believed. "I did not know. I honestly did not. Why didn't you tell me?"
"I've already told you," Harry said, and managed not to snap because of his truly awesome self-control. "Because you would have made fun of me for it."
Severus struggled for a second, and then bowed his head. "Perhaps I would have, before I was determined to straighten things out between the two of us," he said quietly.
Harry blinked. He had never thought he would get an admission like that that wasn't sarcastic or clearly part of the ploy to win the argument. That Severus could speak like this and mean it...
He raised his head and looked Harry in the eye, and Harry was sure that, yes, he meant it.
"Sometimes--sometimes maybe I did keep things to myself when I thought you would understand," Harry could admit in turn. He ran his hands up Severus's shoulders, no longer compelled to separate himself from his lover. "I just didn't want to take the chance that I was wrong, and you would turn on me."
Severus swallowed. "That is how you have seen it? Turning on you?"
Harry struggled, this time, to keep down the temper that wanted him to shout Severus had known that perfectly well. Maybe not. Harry had always thought Severus knew and didn't care because he was both a genius and a cold-hearted bastard. But if there was someone who could miss clues shoved under his nose, it was Harry.
And he was apparently more skilled at lying that he knew, to Severus if not to himself.
"Yes, I have," Harry said. "I thought--I thought that I didn't matter much to you, that you could take or leave me, and I resented that I loved you so much more that I couldn't leave even when I felt the worst."
Severus opened his eyes. He bent down and kissed Harry, hard enough to leave the imprints of Harry's teeth in his lip.
Harry drew back, eyeing Severus a little warily. The kiss had been nice, but he had to admit that Severus had sometimes used it before to end arguments early, and Harry didn't want that to happen this time.
Severus held his shoulders and spoke softly, the way he would if he was making an Unbreakable Vow. Harry recognized the voice from memories, not his own, and a little jolt of warmth traveled through him, that Severus would have trusted him enough to share those with him.
"I cannot promise to be perfect. But I will promise to try and ask more often, and not shut you out while resenting being shut out. That was--when you could resist my insults or walk away from an argument, there was part of me that thought you were less committed, less vulnerable. I resented that, too."
Harry laughed and leaned his head on Severus's chest. "Then I suppose that we're more alike than we supposed, including in our faults."
Severus laughed, but low in his throat, and murmured, "Will you not promise me something in return?"
There's that vulnerability that he hates. But he had made himself more vulnerable through asking the question, so Harry reached up and caught Severus's hand.
"I promise that I won't automatically shut down when you say something I think is insulting," he said. "We'll have more discussions, perhaps?"
Severus bent down and kissed the corner of his mouth. "How could I refuse that invitation," he murmured, "when it would win me something I value, more time spent in your company?"
And if there was one thing that Harry had never doubted about Severus, it was his passion for the things--and people--he valued. He leaned up and kissed back, heart not entirely at rest but no longer beating so wildly that he felt as if he had to get away from the kitchen or not be responsible for what his magic would do.
There are times for everything. Maybe even finding out we were both wrong.