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Stumble and Fall

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Severus had only taken a few steps outside the factory when he noticed Harry leaning against the wall. The young man's eyes brightened when he saw him and he immediately stood and walked toward Severus.

"I heard they cut your hours." Severus knew things were slow this time of year and as one of the younger and less experienced employees he wasn't surprised Harry had been one of the ones to suffer. Clearly the management were fools though because he was also a far better worker than most of his elders. "Are you looking for other work?"

Harry shrugged and not for the first time, Severus watched the line of his body, noticed the width of his shoulders.

"Not much work to be had, is there?" Harry finally said as they turned the corner, heading toward Severus's.

"Will you be able to keep your flat?" Severus asked but a thought crossed his mind. He stopped suddenly and turned toward Harry. "You've already lost it, haven't you?"

"Last week." Harry started walking again but Severus didn't follow. Finally Harry turned toward him. "What?"

"Where have you been sleeping?" Severus couldn't name the emotion he was feeling at the moment but there was something niggling at him. Why hadn't Harry said anything before now?

"It's been rather warm."

Severus reached out and grabbed his arm. "You've been sleeping outside?"

Harry's face was pale. He let go of Harry's arm, tempted to apologise for manhandling him but couldn't seem to find the words. "Just a couple of times."

"Foolish boy," Severus murmured. He started walking again and listened for the sound of Harry's footsteps behind him, pleased when Harry caught up to him. They walked the rest of the way to Severus's without speaking.

Severus immediately went to put on the kettle once they were inside. It's what his mum did in any sort of emergency, real or imagined. A nice cup of tea to calm the nerves.

Carrying two cups, each with a healthy splash of whisky, Severus paused in the door. Harry was standing looking out the window, body in silhouette. Something in his chest tightened and before it took control of him, made him do something he'd surely regret, Severus shook his head and cleared his throat.

Harry turned and smiled again. "Thanks."

Severus settled down in the chair nearest the fire, though the grate was currently cold, and sipped his tea in the comfortable silence that descended around them in the small sitting room.

"Where are the rest of your valuables?" he asked finally when he'd nearly drained his cup.

Harry lifted his head, meeting Severus's eye for only a moment, and then turned away toward the window. "Don't have much actually."

"What about the furniture? You had a bed, table and chairs…"

"Landlord kept it as payment for last month's rent."

Severus sighed. He shouldn't have been surprised Harry had got behind in his rent. "And your clothing?"

"I have a bag stowed behind the factory, in the alleyway on the way to the carpark."

"For Christ's sake," Severus said under his breath. "Go retrieve your belongings and bring them back here."

Harry looked at him, mouth hanging open for a moment before he closed his mouth and swallowed. "I couldn't impose—"

"You'd rather sleep in the public park or some alleyway than accept my hospitality?"

"Of course not." Harry at least had the courtesy to look chagrined. "Are you certain? I'm sure I can find—"

"Go," Severus said. Harry set down his teacup and left. Finishing the very last swig of his tea, Severus stood and picked up Harry's teacup and carried them both to the kitchen.

It was going to be a horrible temptation having Harry here he knew but what else could be done? He wasn't the kindest man in the world but he couldn't turn Harry away. They already ate together on occasion and Harry was extremely helpful, especially like the time Severus needed someone to go up on the roof and secure a loose shingle. The cost out of pocket had been a sandwich and a bottle of beer.

Of more concern were the feelings he had for Harry which had been evolving for some time though try as he might to deny it, he'd known right away that Harry was not the average bloke. They had something that appeared to be a friendship now—not that either had much experience with the term.

Now in a case of jumping from the frying pan into the fire, Severus not only was inviting him to stay but he had finally admitted to himself there was more to his attachment to Harry than was proper. He had no reason to believe Harry sought more than companionship and Severus would be hard pressed to want to return to the life he'd had previously, with no one to ask how his day had been let alone concerned about his whereabouts on a cold winter night or after a storm.

Lost in his thoughts, he washed the two cups and set them in the drainer, then sat down heavily at his kitchen table, burying his head in his hands.

It was a testament to how completely Harry had wormed his way into Severus's life that he didn't even take notice of the front door opening and closing. Didn't concern himself with the footsteps as they led into the kitchen.

He instinctively knew it was just Harry and he didn't even lift his head.

"Hey," Harry said softly, his hand resting on Severus's shoulder. "Have a headache?"

"Yes," Severus replied, head still bent over the table. "You."

Harry laughed quietly, obviously not at all hurt, and then, taking his hand away, walked to the sink and filled the kettle with water again.

A tiny spark of hope bloomed. He watched Harry reach into the cupboard for the tea, already comfortable with his surroundings and not at all seeming out of place in Severus's kitchen.

In his life.

Scrubbing his hands over his face, Severus thought to himself that this arrangement was undoubtedly a recipe for disaster in every possible way.