...I see at last that all the knowledge
I wrung from the darkness——that the darkness flung me——
Is worthless as ignorance: nothing comes from nothing,
The darkness from the darkness. Pain comes from the darkness
And we call it wisdom. It is pain.
-Randall Jarrell, '90 North'
Harry closed his book, his index finger hooked over the cover and between the pages to mark his place. For a moment he looked at the fire before shifting his gaze to Snape, apparently immersed in his own reading.
'I love you.' Harry's voice was soft but Snape could hear him easily in the absolute silence of their rooms.
Snape mumbled something. It could have been, 'I know,' or, 'So you've said,' or just a grunt of acknowledgment that Harry had spoken.
'Is something wrong?'
'I'm reading.' Snape didn't look up from his book.
'Excuse me for disturbing you.'
Harry's lapse into silence only lasted a moment.
'Do you know I love you?'
Snape sighed, rested his hand on his still open book, and looked at Harry. 'You tell me regularly.'
'I know I do, but do you know I love you?'
'You're here, aren't you?' Snape returned to his reading.
The Muggle clock on the mantlepiece chimed twice as Snape entered the house in a swirl of black robes and freezing air.
'Where have you been?'
Snape cursed softly. When exactly, had Potter begun to wait up for him?
'Yes, I know you've been out. You've been out for five hours and twenty-seven minutes. Where did you go?' The question was asked in a petulant tone that reminded Snape sharply of the eleven-year-old Harry who had mistrusted every move the surly Potions master made.
'My business is my business, Potter, and none of yours. I spent twenty-two years giving details of my every action to Dumbledore or the Dark Lord. I will not tolerate the same treatment from you!' Snape's face was twisted with fury.
'It's not the same thing!' Harry matched Snape's bellow with his own.
'It is precisely the same thing! I am no one's lackey anymore, Potter! Least of all yours!' Snape shook his head angrily. 'I'm tired and I'm going to bed,' he said in a cold voice.
'Severus . . .'
'Stop it. I'm going to bed.'
Halfway up the stairs Snape hesitated as Harry's voice carried up to him. 'Severus, please.'
'I'm tired, Harry.' He continued climbing the stairs, ignoring the half-sob that followed him up.
Snape stood in the kitchen, watching the rain sheeting down the window, waiting for the water to boil, tension evident in the hard line of his body. He closed his eyes, pinched the bridge of his nose, and worked his jaw up and down, trying to relieve the ache caused by grinding his teeth. Loud voices and laughter from the next room echoed through the tiled kitchen, adding to his annoyance.
'Severus,' he heard Potter call, followed closely by Weasley's shouted, 'Snape!'
'Shut up, shut up, shut up,' Snape muttered. 'If you must crowd the house with idiots, can't you at least keep the decibel level to a bearable minimum?'
'This is incredible! Severus! Oy, Snape! You've got to try this. Snape! Come here and bring a spoon!'
'Mitto cocleare!' * Snape smiled in satisfaction imagining Harry and Ron's shocked expressions as the huge spoon magically sped through the open doorway.
'Fuck! What in the nine hell's was that about?' Weasley gasped.
Angry footsteps thudded across the wooden floors. Snape looked up from his coffee brewing to see Potter standing there, an angry red welt on his cheek just below the ridiculous glasses.
'What the fuck are you doing?' Potter screamed. 'You fucking hit me in the face, you bastard! That hurt!'
'You asked for a spoon. I gave you a spoon. It's hardly my fault if your reflexes are slow.' Snape turned away.
'I did not ask you to fucking hurl the thing at me!'
'Watch your mouth, Potter. Your vocabulary is tiresome.'
Harry rubbed gingerly at the purpling welt on his face. 'That hurt, Severus.' He had stopped screaming and his voice sounded sad and hoarse. 'I don't know what you're so angry about, but I didn't deserve that.'
Snape picked up his coffee cup. 'I'll be in my study should you need anything else.'
He could feel Harry's eyes on his back as he walked away.
'You alright, Harry? What's his problem?'
'I don't know, Ron. He's been a bear lately.'
Snape resisted the urge to slam the door and closed it quietly behind him.
Breakfast had become a silent meal. Snape drank coffee and read the newspaper, while Harry picked aimlessly at his food.
'I'm going out tonight.'
'My, don't you suddenly have the busy social calendar.'
'It's just Neville.'
'Is that the fourth, or fifth time this month?'
'Of Longbottom? Should I be?' Snape sounded disinterested.
'I've never given you reason to worry about me.'
Snape huffed his disbelief.
'Git. I meant there's never been anyone else.'
'Perhaps there should have been. Perhaps there should be.' The words were garbled as he took a sip of coffee. Harry made no response and Snape wondered if he'd heard. He wondered if it mattered.
'You're welcome to come with me.'
'I don't think so, Potter. I can hardly imagine a less pleasant evening. Longbottom practically dribbles every time he sees me.'
Harry laughed. 'It's true, you still scare him. Severus, would you rather I stay in?'
'You can do whatever you like.'
'Yes, but if you'd like me to stay, I will. Neville won't mind.'
'Just go, Harry. Take your key. I might go out myself, later.'
'Where do you go when you leave?'
'Usually I just walk.'
'Until two in the morning?'
'I'm not having an affair, Potter.'
'I didn't say you were. I just asked where you go.'
'Out. I go out, Harry. I take a walk. I go to the pub.'
'Why can't I come with you?'
'Why would you want to?'
Harry paused at the door. 'I don't know. Why would I?' He didn't look back as he walked out.
Harry groaned and came in Snape's hand. Snape gave a few more thrusts before pulling out abruptly and falling over onto his back, still hard.
'What's the matter, Severus?'
'Nothing. What time is it?'
Harry twisted on the bed, and grabbed Snape's cock, preparing to take it into his mouth.
'I don't mind. I want to.'
'I mind. It's filthy.'
'There's nothing I wouldn't do for you, Severus.'
'Well, you won't be doing that.'
Harry stretched for his wand on the bedside table. 'A cleaning spell then.'
'No, don't. I have to get up anyway.'
'But you didn't...'
'It doesn't matter.'
'It matters to me.'
Snape sighed and looked at Harry. 'It's nothing. I'm just tired. The experiment is proving difficult.'
'I love you, Severus.'
'Damn it, Severus! Talk to me!'
'What would you have me say, Potter?'
'I don't know. We don't talk. We barely have sex. You disappear until all hours of the night. Tell me what's wrong!'
'I've told you. There's nothing wrong.'
'Damn you! Damn you! Don't lie to me!'
'I'm not in the habit of lying, Potter.'
'No? You don't think so? What's a spy but a liar, Snape?'
'I'm not a spy any longer.'
'No, but you might as well be! I never see you. You're either asleep, out, or in your study. You won't tell me what's wrong. You won't tell me where you go. You won't talk to me! You won't fuck me, or when you do, it's as if you're not interested.'
'Calm down, Harry. You're starting to repeat yourself.'
'Don't tell me to fucking calm down! You stop being so fucking calm! Talk to me! I can't stand this anymore!'
'Then leave, Potter.'
Harry's eyes teared and he took several gulping breaths of air. 'You want me to leave?'
'That's not what I said.'
'No, but that's what you meant, isn't it? Isn't it, Snape?'
Snape rubbed a hand across his eyes and sighed. 'You're hysterical, Harry.'
'Of course I'm fucking hysterical! I'm sick of this! I'm sick of how you're treating me!'
'How I'm treating you? HOW I'M TREATING YOU?' Snape's temper snapped completely. He could feel a vein pulsing at his temple. 'YOU ARROGANT, WHINGING, SELF-CENTRED LITTLE SHIT!' Snape inhaled sharply and moderated his voice, but that didn't mitigate his fury. 'It's always about you, isn't it Harry? I don't pay enough attention to you. I'm not nice enough to you. I don't love you as much as you love me. What do you want from me, Potter? What do you want that I haven't given you?'
'Do you love me?'
'Yes, damn it! I love you! Is that enough? No, it isn't enough, is it Harry? It will never be enough. There isn't enough for you, ever.'
'That's not fair.'
'Life isn't fair, Potter. I would have thought you'd have known that by now. Being targeted by the Dark Lord wasn't fair. Being Albus' puppet wasn't fair. Being tortured for hours on end wasn't fair! Nothing in either of our lives has been fair, you pathetic little idiot!'
Snape sank into a chair, closed his eyes and tipped his head back in exhaustion. 'I'm sorry, Harry. I do the best I can. I'm sorry it's not enough for you.'
'Don't play the fucking martyr with me, Snape!'
Snape sighed and sat up. He rested his elbows on his knees and gazed at Harry with an expressionless face. 'I'm not being a martyr, Harry. I am sorry. I'm a damaged man. I have given you every part of myself that I am capable of giving.' Snape dropped his eyes to his hands twisting around each other in the space between his knees. 'There is no more to me, Harry. There is nothing else.'
'You used to love me.' Snape was once again struck by Harry's ability to sound like a small child.
'And I still love you, Harry.'
'But it isn't enough for you. You need something I can't give, something I've never been able to give.'
'I need you.'
'You have me.'
'Then why doesn't it feel like it?'
'Because it isn't enough.' Snape sighed and shook his head. 'There's a hole in you. A big hole. There's not enough of me to fill it.'
Harry pitched himself onto the ground and rubbed his head against Snape's knee. Snape gently wound his hand into the black hair that had never been tamed. Something cold formed inside his chest as he petted Harry and listened to him weep.
'I'm sorry, Harry,' he whispered. 'I'm so sorry.'
The front door slammed open and Snape listened to Harry trip across the entry hall. The sound of stumbling feet, falling furniture, and mumbled curses echoed throughout the house.
'You're drunk, Potter.'
Harry wrapped his arms tightly around Snape's neck.
''M not drunk.'
'You're drunk, and you reek of sex.'
''M not drunk.' Harry repeated.
'But you don't deny you reek of sex.' Snape unwrapped Harry's hands from his neck and pushed him toward the stairs. 'Go to bed, Potter. I'll talk to you in the morning.'
Snape turned and walked into the parlour thinking that getting drunk was not such a bad idea. He splashed whisky into a glass and stood in front of the cold fireplace, listening to Harry stagger up the stairs.
'I suppose it was to be expected,' he said to the empty room.
'Little shit!' Snape snarled and hurled his half-full glass against the stone hearth.
He sank heavily into a chair, surprised to realize what he felt was grief, not anger.
Snape didn't say anything and didn't look at Harry.
'I can't do this anymore.
'I love you.
'Are you even listening to me?'
Snape didn't answer.
The mid-winter sun had long since set when Snape heard the arrhythmic pattern of footsteps and dragged trunk coming down the stairs. He shook his head in sad amusement. Sixteen years as a wizard — and the most powerful wizard of his age, at that — and Potter still didn't think to use magic for the most basic things.
Snape looked up and smiled wanly as Harry entered the room. 'It's a wonder you managed to kill the Dark Lord.'
Potter looked at him quizzically.
'You could have chosen to shrink that or levitate it, Potter.'
'I didn't think,' Harry said, blushing.
'You rarely do.'
'Why are you sitting in the dark?'
'I hadn't noticed.'
'Looks as if I'm not the only one who doesn't think.'
'Hmm. Point taken. So, you're off?'
'Do you need anything? Money?'
Harry smiled. 'Don't be absurd, Severus. I've still got a vault full.'
'So you do.'
Both men lapsed into silence, unsure of what was left to be said.
'I love you, Severus.'
'I have to go.'
'Well, that's it then.'
Harry stood in the centre of the room looking small and lost.
'Well, I won't then. I should go. Ron's waiting for me.'
'Take care of yourself.'
'I will, Potter. See you do the same.'
Harry didn't move.
'Go, Potter — Harry. Just go.'
Snape's eyes were dry as he listened to the soft snick of the door closing behind Harry.
'Don't go,' he whispered into the emptiness.