TITLE: Visiting Severus
WARNINGS: fluffy as a small kitten, AU (post DH: Severus alive)
SUMMARY: Harry just wants to talk to Snape once. Oh, and maybe once more. And maybe again...
DISCLAIMER: The world of HP and its characters belongs to Rowling. The author of this fic has borrowed them for the purposes of storytelling. No profit was or will be made.
AUTHOR NOTES: Apologies for non-explicitness and extreme (seriously extreme) fluffiness. I tried my best.
Harry doesn’t know what he wants to say, and if he did, he wouldn’t know how to say it. He is standing on the doorstep wondering whether to turn around and go away. But it is not in his nature to run away. He raps on the door.
“Yes?” snaps the familiar voice.
Harry watches as the expression in his former teacher’s eyes changes from general to specific irritation, when he realises that he has not merely been interrupted, but interrupted by Harry Potter.
“Did you want anything in particular, Potter, or is this merely a social visit?”
There are many things that Harry wants to talk about. His new, strange, understanding that Snape and he are not so different, after all. What it is like to come back from the brink of death. His mother, Lily – suddenly, through Snape's memories, a real, vibrant person, not just a shadow from the past. That other, quickly repressed memory that Harry had seen at the moment he thought Snape was dead – those two male figures, entwined around each other. Even in that way, Snape is (or was once) the same as Harry. And beyond even those things, the feeling – the feeling of connection that is simultaneously fervent and indescribable.
“May I come in?” he asks.
Harry is still not sure how it turned from a one off meeting into a weekly arrangement. But he looks at the clock on the windowsill in his flat on a Tuesday afternoon, and finds himself thinking “time to go.” Snape never seems precisely welcoming, but he has never refused him entry, either. Last time, the man even provided biscuits, albeit grudgingly. Harry even has his own chair – the one he always sits in when he comes round.
This time, when Snape lets him in, Harry and he notice at the same moment that ‘Harry’s chair’ has parchments on it. Snape walks over to the chair, picks up the parchments and dumps them unceremoniously on the table. Harry finds himself strangely touched by this emotionless gesture. It occurs to him that Snape must be lonely. Harry’s life is filled with people: his problem is getting away from friends and well-wishers. Snape, however...
“Why don’t you get a cat?” Harry blurts out.
Snape pauses in the middle of pouring a cup of tea, and raises an eyebrow.
“Why should I?”
“It might be...” Harry loses his nerve slightly. “Company?” he mutters.
“Is that why you come?” Snape asks. “Because you are under the impression I need companionship?”
He makes it sound like the very thought is an insult. Harry is silent for a moment.
“I come because I want to,” he says finally.
“Would you rather I didn’t?” Harry asks. The question has been bothering him all week.
“Come. Would you rather I didn’t come?”
“You’re here now. The tea’s ready.”
It is the nearest he gets to encouragement.
“What is that?” Harry asks, staring at the patch of black fur on ‘his’ seat.
“I would have thought that it would be self-evident even to you,” says Snape irritably. “It is a kitten.”
“You have a...?”
“Yes.” Snape cuts him off.
“What’s it called?” Harry asks, wandering over to stare down at the tiny animal.
Snape gives him a look, as if daring him to laugh.
“Severus, your damned cat is licking me to death,” Harry complains.
“It’s Company manners,” says Snape drily.
It is only when Harry gets home that he realises that 'Snape' has become 'Severus', almost without him noticing the change.
It is a subject which has been exercising Harry's mind since the first of the excessive amount of Christmas cards he has already received was owled to him.
“What are you doing for Christmas?” he asks at last.
Snape looks disinterested.
“I've got Company.”
“People, or...” Harry chokes on Just the cat. He was, after all, the person who suggested Severus got an animal.
“A better companion than most people are,” Severus retorts sharply.
Harry thinks of the many invitations he's had. To stay with Ron and Hermione (as if they're going to want a third for their first married Christmas); to join the rest of the Weasley family at the Burrow; a terrifying invitation from Neville's Gran, Augusta Longbottom, for a quiet, 'adult' Christmas; to go Gerbrownie hunting in Wales with Luna.
“Could I come here?” he asks awkwardly.
He reddens under the direct gaze that Severus gives him.
“Still concerned for my well-being, Harry?”
“No, mine,” Harry responds. He gains heart from the slight quirk at the corner of Severus's mouth; the beginning of a smile. “Please, Severus, save me from kind people?” he begs.
And the quirk is a definite, actual smile with not even a trace of sneer.
“A plea I can sympathise with. All right, Potter; you may come.”
“And stay?” asks Harry, pushing his luck. “From next Tuesday, perhaps?”
Snape rolls his eyes.
“You are still a brat, I see. Very well. For one week only,” he adds firmly.
“What is that?” asks Severus suspiciously.
Harry looks abnormally innocent.
“I don't know what you mean.”
Severus pokes the large bundle which Harry has slung down inside the door.
Harry inserts himself between Snape and the bundle.
“Severus, it's Christmas. There are supposed to be secrets.”
“Not,” says Snape, “in my house.”
Harry sighs, gets out his wand and waves it. The bundle vanishes.
“I seem to remember,” says Severus reminiscently, “saying to a class of students once that there would be no foolish wand waving in my lessons. The same goes for my house.”
Harry shakes his head innocently.
“I don't remember that.”
“I always realised you never listened to my lessons, Potter,” he grumbles.
The strangest thing is how normal, how right it feels to wake up in Severus's house. Harry had thought the bedroom a bit sparse when he had first seen it – a bed, a wardrobe, and a window that looked as if it hadn't been opened in living memory. But with his things strewn around it, it looks much better. It looks like home.
It feels like home, too. Harry has won the battle with the window: he didn't actually want it open, but he wanted to prove to his own satisfaction that he could open it, if necessary. He knows that Severus drinks black coffee at breakfast and red wine in the evening. That – much to his surprise – Severus is an impressive cook, even whilst the rest of his household magic is rather limited. Harry has even persuaded Severus to have a Christmas tree, albeit by agreeing that there will be nothing else in the way of decorations. By the end of the first day, there is nothing much of the tree, either, thanks to Company being convinced that it is there for him to climb. Severus watches from a comfortable chair as Harry and Company fight it out over the tree; and Harry has a deep suspicion that his support is for the cat, rather than the man.
He had never anticipated being jealous of a cat.
Harry looks at Company, curled up and purring on Severus's lap, and has to fight an urge to push the animal away and take its place. Although, unlike the cat, Harry suspects he would not be content with a mere stroke now and again. He wonders how long he's been in love with Severus, and whether Severus could ever love him.
In bed, maudlin after too much wine, he berates himself as an idiot.
Harry looks at the bed, where he has dumped the mountain of things he has bought over the past months with Severus in mind, and frowns. The sheer number of gifts, or possible gifts, he had collected should perhaps have given him a hint about his feelings for Severus. And yet, looking at them now, none of them seem right. He flicks a dismissive finger at an old book of Potion Lore; pushes to one side the bottle of blackcurrant juice (what was he thinking of when he bought that?); and scowls at the cat collar. The way he's feeling towards Company at the moment, he doesn't want to give the damn animal a gift so much as throw him out of the house. There's so much there, and yet at the same time nothing special enough for Severus.
Harry slams out of the bedroom, warding the door, and goes downstairs.
“I'm going out,” he says grumpily as he passes Severus in the hall.
The present he has found is far more suitable, from Harry's point of view, than anything else. But he's still not sure whether he dares give it to Severus. And it's Christmas Day tomorrow.
Harry opens the window once more to remind himself of a previous victory... and shuts it hurriedly as he's greeted with a freezing winter breeze.
“Go to bed, idiot,” he tells himself.
The owls have flooded in with presents for Harry to an embarrassing extent. He looks at his plenty, and at the meagre few things Severus has received, and feels guilty. Severus, on the other hand, does not seem to be bothered in the slightest.
“All your admirers?” he asks.
The only person Harry wants to admire him is sitting right in front of him.
And Harry still hasn't made his mind up about the present. Severus is in the kitchen, apparently bending to the festive season enough to make a traditional lunch, complete with turkey, brussels sprouts and roast potatoes. Harry still can't get over the fact that Severus cooks so well, possibly because his own idea of haute cuisine is a pot noodle with a chunk of cheese melted into it. His own offering towards the nutrition of the day was a couple of bottles of middle range champagne. Harry sips from his glass and glares at Company.
Replete after lunch, the thing Harry had wanted most to do was curl up next to Severus, his head on his shoulder. Instead, he'd washed up. It wasn't the same.
And by the way, he still hasn't given Severus the present – nor, indeed received anything from him, although he hadn't expected to. Severus has given him the biggest gift of all by allowing him to stay.
Severus throws Harry a parcel.
“It seems to be expected of the day,” he says.
“Thanks,” says Harry, touched; and opens the gift. He knows he ought to reciprocate. Instead, he says, “I got something for Company;” and Accios the collar downstairs.
Harry has just opened the second bottle of champagne, and tells himself it's now or never. Severus is reading a book which he was given earlier in the day. Harry glances at the cover and wonders how he's getting on with War and Peace.
“Severus, I...” He stops as Severus looks up. “Nothing,” he says lamely.
He takes a swig of champagne and tries again.
“Are you intending to finish a sentence this time?” Severus enquires.
“Intending to, yes,” Harry says ruefully. “Whether I will or not...”
“Are riddles an integral part of your festive celebrations?”
“Do you want some more champagne?” Harry asks.
Harry picks Company off Severus's lap and places him unceremoniously outside the door. He plucks War and Peace from Severus's hands and drops it firmly on the floor.
“You asked me once why I came,” he says abruptly. “I come because I love you.” He kneels at Severus's feet, produces a ring. “Will you marry me?” he asks, and lays his future in the hands of the man he once loathed.