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Bore Our Suffering

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1998

How can this messy, pathetic dumb of shit be my life, Severus asks himself on the eve of being stranded at Azkaban for two years.

 

Potter’s sitting next to him, quiet and uneasy. He doesn’t fidget but that blasted, cursed bond is jittering with anxiety; Severus has yet to find out how to fully block it.

 

Punished for crimes he committed in the name of something good; on a philosophical level his case is interesting. He pondered it during the trials, while trying to keep at bay Potter’s anger and heartbreak and rage battering his mental shields. He’s an example of course, but he cannot mind much; he has done abhorrent, dark things and if this rock in the middle of the sea can give him some form of absolution for all the wrong turns he took, he’ll take it.

 

Potter’s having a vastly different opinion, but Potter would continue to think in black and white even though the grey must be hitting him in the face by now.

 

A true bond, Severus thinks and wants to scream or maybe cry or maybe just collapse in the pain this bond brings him; he had such hopes to finally, finally be free of masters and alphas, finally owning his body and mind. He always knew that being an omega was a life sentence and here he is, after years of supplementary bonds, after rape and abortions and the bitter self-loathing and disgust with himself that’s been a companion to him since his first heat at sixteen; here he is with a boy for an alpha, a boy that the stories make out to be Severus’s true soulmate, a boy that is the other half of a bond so rare the Wizarding World forgot about Voldemort the second the Prophet wrote about it.

 

He’s so tired.

 

Contrary to Potter he knows how to block his emotions from reaching Potter. Potter is not particularly gifted with powers of the mind and Severus has blocked him ever since the touch of Potter’s hands on his face after Nagini bit him brought on a heat so intense he remembers not a single thing of it, burning through his suppressants as if Severus had not spent year after year perfecting them. The true bond saved his life and then in turn saved Potter during the duel with Voldemort; the sharing of their magic proved to be too much for Voldemort to handle.

 

Severus cannot be happy about it. He wished for death or freedom, no in-between; certainly not for slavery and being tied to a child he has hated and ridiculed and done wrong ever since seeing Potter’s eyes for the first time eight years ago.

 

“I’ll get you out,” Potter promised two days ago but still, here they are, on their way to Severus’s confinement. He’s bitter, so bitter, so angrily bitter about the promise and that Potter cannot keep it; a part of him that’s still omega even after he tried to beat it out of himself with all arsenal at his disposal keens at the fact that his alpha is not protecting him. Outwardly he told Potter to rest his case; told Potter that he would only be able to return to Wizarding Society if he did his penance. In a way it’s even a relief to not have to deal with Potter and the alpha expectations that are surely buried somewhere in that thick skull. If he thinks of Potter ordering him around, asking him to wait on him, using him for sexual gratification something hard and horrible blossoms in his chest; the idea of this child being his master makes him want to curl up into a ball and cry.

 

His musings are interrupted by a soft touch to his elbow. Potter’s already standing; Severus didn’t even realize that the carriage stopped. He’s unstable on his feet; he’s scared. He wants to be here without Potter, but legally Potter has every single right to him and so Potter is here to sign in Severus’s wand, to sign in Severus himself.

 

Potter’s angry, Severus can tell. He has a hard time making out at what. Potter surely is angry at Severus himself, angry at having no idea that true bonds still existed rare as they are. He’s been – furious when he found out about Severus’s previous keepers, all color draining from his face. The things he feels about Severus’s confinement are too complex to put into words but he’s raging at Severus being put in Azkaban. Severus knows he’s been calling in favors, using his influence to reduce the sentence. On good behavior, Severus might be out of Azkaban in a year. Potter’s been horribly, achingly gently with Severus after the heat, awkward and unsure and hovering and nervous and excited while Severus was harsh and short and desperate to keep some kind of composure. They have not talked about the furious sex they had in the Shrieking Shack, those six hours that decided the course of their lives before Potter went and killed the Dark Lord.

 

Potter’s longing, Potter’s will to do right by him have followed him since Potter bit him and he’s lashing out at Potter, at his hopes and dreams any chance he can get. Better for Potter to give up the idea quickly; better for Potter to try and break the true bond as soon as possible. Severus can’t; he’s three times the wizard Potter is but in this he’s powerless, fighting against the ingrained sense of wanting to please his alpha, unable to break the bond himself. Potter has not yet figured it out, not like Lucius or Voldemort or Albus, does not yet know that he can get Severus to do anything for him, everything, just by using his voice, just by overruling Severus’s rational thought and by appealing to Severus’s natural instincts to obey, to please his alpha.

 

The others couldn’t fully do it, but they didn’t have a true bond at their disposal and even with their limited power over Severus, there were enough horrible things done to him.

 

“You okay?” Potter asks him quietly when they make their way up to Severus’s cell. The dementors have not returned, but Severus has an inkling that the humans guarding him might in many ways be the worse captors. He’s shivering in the cool air and Potter takes off his own coat, places it next to the meagre belongings on Severus’s bed. “Ten minutes,” the guard says and leaves them.

 

In the dark of Azkaban, Potter looks ghostly, horribly tired. He’s reaching out a hand to touch Severus’s face but must see something in his eyes, drops it before touching Severus’s skin.

 

“I’ll be here every week,” Potter whispers, “Seve – Prof. Snape, anything you need, I’ll get you. I secured you rights to write to me; please do.”

 

“Potter,” Severus spats after a moment, watches Potter’s eyes go hurt and distant. “That’s my name now. Potter. Isn’t it nice to not even need a civil ceremony to force me to take your name?”

 

“I didn’t know,” Potter says, very quietly. It’s what he said to all of it; all the archaic laws singing Severus over as Potter’s property. He’s not been happy, far from it; he’s been horribly vocal of what he thought of them. Severus on the other hand has no illusions; society will soon enough make a true alpha out of Potter, someone willing to take and take and take from him against his will until Severus is just a hue of flesh with no natural or legal defenses against Potter.

 

“I can see if I can change it back,” Potter says, still in that horrible quiet voice and something about his obvious unhappiness rings a deep cord in Severus’s chest; it’s only his experiences with other alphas that keeps him standing upright.

 

“You won’t,” Severus says, through a thick throat. The scars are hurting him even if the heat burned out all of Nagini’s poison before it could do much damage. “Be allowed to change it,” he continues and then can’t go on; it’s all catching up with him rapidly, where he is, whom he is with, what he is now after their true bond formed.

 

Potter steadies him when he sways.

 

“Severus,” he whispers and leans in as if to kiss Severus, as if to hug him, as if to comfort him, but Severus tries to shrug him off, knows that the care is a trap, that after the caring the possessing will come. He’s scared; he’s so scared. He doesn’t want it, not with Potter, not with the child of the alpha who has tormented him, not with –

 

“Time’s up,” the guard says. Potter’s face is a mask when he steps away from Severus.

 

“I’ll write to you,” he says, “I’ll see you next week. Stay safe, please.”

 

Potter’s distress stays with Severus for a long time that night.

 

--

 

2001

“Hey,” Potter says quietly when Severus lets him into the small flat he rented two years ago. He’s running late as usual but he sent an owl letting Severus know. Severus knows he has no right to be so furious with him, knows that Potter is trying his very best to do right by him but Potter’s earnestness, his gently caring whenever they see each other brings out the very worst in Severus.

 

“Should not let you in after daring to be so late,” Severus says and steps aside, notices with dismay that Potter is still in his uniform. He doesn’t like the reminder that one of them has a life even if Potter’s career choice is distasteful to Severus.

 

“Sorry,” Potter says easily. This, too, is routine for them; Potter ignoring Severus’s mood.

 

They see each other once a year for the one heat Severus’s healers insist he has. They see each other randomly apart from that; Potter doesn’t exactly check up on Severus, but he appears to be aware where Severus is. He sometimes shows up in a café or bookstore, quietly sitting down to share a cup of coffee. At times, they don’t even talk when he does it; Severus will simply move aside some of his books and Potter will sit down, order something for himself and then continue to steal glances at Severus.

 

Potter’s paying for it all, Severus’s flat, Severus’s food, Severus’s health even though Severus is not the perfect slave he’s supposed to be. Potter has not once complained, not even once mentioned it, just allowed Severus to find a place for himself after Azkaban, just accepted that Severus is not working.

 

Severus can admit that he’s disgusted with himself; working was one of the few things that brought him confidence. But after Azkaban, after the bond, everything seems hard and hollow. He hasn’t finished a potion journal in years; all he can read nowadays are Muggle books. He’s still doing magic, but he’s lost the drive to create more of it; most days he barely makes it out of bed.

 

After almost three years of being bonded, Severus has long succeeded in blocking out Potter; their bond is, in the strictest sense not working at all, unless one of them is in danger, or injured or under the influence of potions and it’s just Severus’s luck that Potter has a job that finds him regularly in one of these situations.

 

“You don’t smell very strongly yet,” Potter remarks, casually. Severus’s heats are slightly unpredictable due to the suppressants he takes but normally Potter being close triggers them quickly. “Hm,” he responds, not willing to do any small talk, turns away to go back to his sofa while Potter starts strengthening the wards.

 

Inside Severus everything is quivering. It’s rape, that’s what it is for him. It’s very careful, very gently, very mindful rape with Potter being attentive and slow and – loving no matter that Severus tells himself that that cannot be true, that not even Potter can love the degraded vile lonely creature he is. But it’s still done against his will. He will fight with Potter over it once more, will beg Potter once more to allow him to take the suppressants year-round. Potter will have made a visit to Severus’s healers in advance, will remind Severus that they claim that not having a heat at least once a year will kill Severus. He’ll beg and usually he’ll cry, and Severus will scream at him that it’s not a life worth living if your body is used against your will and Potter will look heartbroken and stricken and sick and still, he’ll come back next year to do his duty, to fuck Severus against his will to keep him alive.  

 

“I brought some food,” Potter says and puts the bags on Severus’s coffee table. He doesn’t react and after a moment Potter takes the bags back and brings them to the kitchen, stuffing the food away. He doesn’t come back out and Severus knows that he has retired to the bedroom, will wait there until Severus burns and finds him.

 

Severus puts the book away, slugs down on the couch, covers his face and cries.

 

He hates this, hates it, hates it more than anything. He can feel the first signs of slick, knows how eager his body, these horrible omega hormones are to please Potter. He feels betrayed, every single time, by his genes, by god, by the wild magic that made him into an omega and he’s shaking, whimpering

 

- when Potter puts a hand on his head, very lightly. He just rests it there, waits until Severus’s sobbing dies down, before carefully petting his hair, eventually petting Severus’s back.

 

This, too, is routine.

 

“I am so sorry,” Potter will whisper just before taking him, but Severus won’t care, too gone in his heat.

 

--

 

2003

“You’re good,” Potter says, hands splayed out, crouching low in front of Severus. He’s blocking most of the background bustle with his body, but not caging Severus in too much, not triggering his fight or flight response.

 

“You’re okay, it’s just a panic attack,” Potter says quietly, squares his shoulders when someone wants to lean down to them. He hasn’t grown up to be as tall as Severus but he’s pretty impressive in his own right, well-trained and mature looking with the beard he has grown in the last year.

 

It tickles Severus’s face when he kissed him three weeks ago during Severus’s heat and Severus wonders abstractedly if the feel of it will allow him to finally get his breath back, will allow him to get out of St. Mungo’s.

 

He’s pregnant, despite doing everything to prevent it.

 

He reaches out a hand, grasps Potter’s beard hard. Potter reaches up a hand and gently takes a hold of Severus’s fingers, not detangling them from his hair. Severus must hurt him, but he’s always hurting Potter and Potter has yet to mind.

 

“You’re fine,” Potter says again, and Severus is furious with him for a second before it drains away, leaves only emptiness. He’s felt empty for the two weeks he has kept this a secret, so, so empty. A part of him was jubilant, happy, over the moon but the bigger part was frightened to hell.

 

He doesn’t want this, any of this. Potter, he must admit, has done everything possible to allow Severus to live an independent life; Potter has not once honored tradition in dealing with their bond when tradition meant putting Severus beneath him. He’s clearly read up in the last years, clearly did a lot of puppet mastering in the background, but Severus cannot mind, not when Potter has built a wall between Severus and anyone willing to hurt him, not when Potter has given him independence and anonymity and no obligation to spread his legs when he’s not in the throes of his heat once a year.

 

“I don’t want it,” scrapes out of Severus’s mouth. Potter’s face is open, unguarded, worried. He’s always so worried for Severus, always so very careful with him.

 

“Make it go away, please,” Severus begs. For a moment, Potter looks unhappy, deeply unhappy, but then it smooths away, but Severus has seen it, can’t help it when he begs, heartbroken; “Alpha,” he says but Potter leans forward, leans their foreheads together.

 

“Shh,” he says, “don’t beg me. Let me take you back upstairs to I can listen to what they say, and you can get a calming potion. Please, Severus. Just this once.”

 

Severus nods and Potter gets him up, keeps a hand at the small of Severus’s back, gently guides and steers him until they are back at the maternity ward.

 

Two weeks later, they are back in, ready to have an abortion. Severus could do it himself, has in fact done this before and a simple remark by his healer about St. Mungo’s being the safer option had Potter in a snitch, calming demanding that Severus went in instead of brewing a potion. He hasn’t wavered on it and Severus didn’t fight him on it. Severus knows that Potter doesn’t want it, not really, that Potter wants the kid. He proposed a trade-off: the baby for the breaking of the bond. Potter’s face was a mask when Severus said it and then he apparated away without saying a word, didn’t show back up, wrote owls instead.

 

When he came in a few minutes earlier, he didn’t make eye contact, but Severus felt guilty nonetheless; he’s never seen Potter looking worse.

 

The procedure is straight forward enough. Potter watches Severus drink the potion calmly, sits down at his head when they remove the fetus. It’s not painful, just a tad uncomfortable and after a moment, Potter places a hand in Severus’s hair, gently rubbing over his temples.

 

“Shall I take you home?” Potter asks later in the lobby. Severus shakes his head. He’s tired, so tired but he doesn’t want Potter to stay, doesn’t want the pity or the sorrow. “Okay,” Potter says, “take care. I’ll see you.”

 

He watches Potter make his way out, follows him on auto-pilot after a moment. He’s very much an omega right now, a weepy, grieving omega who can barely keep standing upright with having taken a child from his alpha. He didn’t expect this to be so hard.

 

Outside, Potter has not apparated away, only crossed the street. Charlie Weasley is waiting for him, slinks an arm over his shoulder, before leaning in and kissing Potter, clearly familiar and intimate with Potter.

 

Something inside Severus shatters. He walks away from the hospital, sits down on the curb once he reaches a Muggle area.

 

Then, he falls apart.

 

He cannot remember ever weeping like this, not even after the Dark Lord loaned him out to Greyback and his gang during a heat. Not even when Albus wasn’t able to look him in the eye during their shared heats, when Albus told him to get a grip when Severus begged. Not even when Lucius married Narcissa, leaving Severus unprotected and floundering.

 

Not even after he called Lily mudblood; not even after she died.

 

He’s ripping his hair; he’s hitting his head with his fists. Every last instinct, every last nerve is straining for his alpha, his alpha, he needs his alpha. He’s gasping with it; he’s all alone, all unprotected and usually he craves it, but not now, not today, not when his alpha is unfaithful to him, not when he has killed their child, not when –

 

“God, stop,” Potter says. He’s gripping Severus’s wrists in his hand, eyes wild and scared. Bond, Severus mind provides as explanation for Potter suddenly appearing before him, but then he’s tipping forward into Potter’s embrace, not able to keep himself from doing it.

 

For once, he clings; for once he craves Potter closer not further away. His omega side needs it, more than anything, to be protected, to be cherished, to be held close and he gives in, too exhausted to keep fighting.

 

As usual, Potter gives him what he needs.

 

He’s grown up, he’s filled out, he’s not been a boy for many years. He’s strong enough to provide a shoulder to cry on, loving enough to cradle Severus close, to kiss his face, to rub his back, to wait until Severus calms down, before he apparates them, this time not asking if he can take Severus home.

 

In Severus flat, he goes to run Severus a bath, before putting on the kettle, before undressing Severus. He doesn’t use magic for any of it and that’s something Severus has seen before, how Potter never tries to use any magic at all in his daily life. He lets it happen to him, too tired to care.

 

A short while later, Potter sits outside of the tub, arms leaning on the rim, chin on top them, studying Severus. The tea sits cooling next to him; inside the tub, Severus feels more unsure of himself than he has in many years.

 

“I can’t keep doing this,” Potter says very quietly. “It hurts me so much to see you like this. I’m not – Severus, I don’t believe in any of the crap about true bonds or in anything that’s called traditional knowledge about omegas, but I can’t help what I feel. And what I feel for you, the things I want to for you, the life I want to have with you – it has nothing to do with what we are living.”

 

“Yes,” Severus says after a long moment, hoarse and tired. Potter reaches out a hand, dips it into the water, slowly stirring it. It’s soothing. Severus closes his eyes.

 

“I did some research,” Potter says. His voice is quiet and calm, and it feels almost like a blanket. “I’ve found someone I think can help us. Can I call that person and we’ll meet him?”

 

No, Severus thinks. He doesn’t want to face himself; he’s been running from this very thing ever since he took the mark. He wants to continue being a cruel bastard, a man without emotions, petty and vicious.

 

Potter’s fingers touch his belly, just so, just resting there for a moment.

 

Severus doesn’t need the bond or legilimency to know what he’s thinking of.

 

“Yes,” he says.

 

--

 

2004

“I want you to break it off with Weasley,” Severus says. Potter blinks at him, spoon with the yoghurt he’s addicted to stopping in front of his mouth.

 

“Weasley?” he says, confused.

 

“Yes, Weasley, Charles Weasley,” Severus hisses, already raging again. There’s only Potter who can make him lose his cool so quickly, so completely. He doesn’t want to make a fool out of himself, promised himself he would remain in control, would not let on how much the thought of Potter fucking on the side has hurt him.

 

He knows that Potter wants more; due to therapy he’s coming around to the fact that for Potter, their life together is also a clusterfuck. Sure, Potter doesn’t sell his body and soul every time they have to have sex; Potter is very much allowed to live his life however he wants to live it.

 

“And I want Severus in it,” he had said in therapy three months ago, “I know he doesn’t understand why, and I can’t explain it. It’s instinctive. If there was something I could do to make him happy, I would do it. I would do it all.”

 

Potter’s face is blank. Then every little thing inside Severus’s kitchen starts shaking.

 

He wants to back off. Accidental magic for someone with Potter’s powers and abilities is strikingly uncommon, very clearly dangerous. Potter heaves in a breath; Severus is at the door when the shaking stops.

 

Potter gets up and throws the yoghurt in the bin. Then he sits back down at the table. Then he starts to cry.

 

He doesn’t make a sound; looks down on the ground. His shoulders shake.

 

Something keeps Severus from making a sound.

 

“I’ve not been seeing him in months,” Potter says, voice hoarse and then doesn’t go on.

 

“Why – why are you reacting like this, Potter?” Severus says after it gets crystal clear that Potter will not say anything else.

 

“The whole time we – had something going on,” Potter says after half an eternity, “it felt so wrong. I couldn’t go a second without thinking of you, without feeling – sick. About what I did.”

 

“Why?” Severus asks, not really sure if he truly wants to know.

 

“You’re my omega,” Potter says, helpless, shoulders up in a shrug, “I know you don’t – understand what that means to me. But. You are my – Severus, I love you more than anyone else. And you hate me and I – I don’t know.”

 

He says it so lightly, talks so easily about love. For a moment Severus wants to throw it at his feet, wants to hurt him; but then the instinct leaves, leaving him drained and sad.

 

Severus could not talk about love if it was the last thing standing between him and death.

 

They stay unmoving for a long, long time, until Potter heaves in a breath. “He fucked me,” he says, looking up at Severus at the words, resolve clear in his gaze. “He fucked me, and he flogged me and sometimes he bound me or pinched me or slapped me and I needed it to not go crazy.”

 

Severus has no idea what to say; that’s unusual for him. But people do not come and bare their hearts in front of him and he has no clue how to comfort, how to ask questions, gets stiff and awkward in the face of it.

 

“I need it,” Potter goes on but drops his gaze, wrings his hands. His fingers are shaking. Severus realizes with a start that he has not once seen Potter nervous up to this moment.

 

“To get out of my head,” Potter continues, “it makes me feel cherished and loved and I needed to feel that, to not be responsible for everything all by myself. Without it - I would have killed myself.”

 

“Why did you stop?” Severus says, files the other things away for later. He never thought about it but isn’t surprised that Potter has an unusual outlet for all the responsibility he has had for years. It’s not uncommon, though the connection to being loved is ringing a chord in Severus.

 

Maybe, he thinks, if nature and society and history and his own body chemistry had not conspired to make him hopelessly fucked up about anything sexual and bond-related he would have been the kind of man to enjoy giving to Potter what Potter’s been searching elsewhere.

 

“You’re my omega,” Potter says, looks up at him. He looks helpless. He’s about to cry and something swoops low in Severus’s chest.

 

“And I was betraying you,” Potter continues, has trouble now getting the words out, “I didn’t want to, but I needed to stay sane. But I – you’re my omega.”

 

--

2005

“You want me to fuck you?” Severus repeats. He knows he sounds like an idiot, repeating it for the third time, but he’s sure he’s somehow misheard.

 

On the couch, Potter smiles briefly and then nods again. “Yes,” he says in the same unwavering voice he’s used to propose getting fucked ten minutes ago.

 

Severus stares at him. He can already feel his heat coming on, knows it’s probably not more than an hour. He cried and hyperventilated before Potter come in; he scratched himself bloody, took a knife to his arms, healed the wounds. As always, he considered killing himself.

 

And now, here’s Potter, proposing to – switch around.

 

The omega inside him rears his ugly head. “Don’t like my performance, do you,” Severus hears himself sneer, “am I so bad at taking dick that you –“

“Stop,” Potter says, calmly and Severus does and then –

 

Panic floods him. Potter’s never used his alpha voice on him; Potter has figured out his alpha voice. It was tolerable with him, in retrospect. Almost more than that at times and now Potter’s going to change, going to hurt Severus, going to –

 

“Oh Severus,” Potter says, and he sounds so sad; so very very sad. Severus closes his eyes.

 

“I’m sorry for not discussing it earlier,” Potter says, “I didn’t want you to freak out. That was obviously a mistake and I – apologize for it. It has nothing to do with how – much I enjoy your performance, Jesus. You hate getting fucked. I don’t need to fuck you to get you out of heat, you just need an orgasm with me. So why not try it the other way around?”

 

Something pitterpatters in Severus’s chest. He’s somehow scared to death, touched beyond belief, incredulous that Potter brings it up when Severus can already almost taste his heat.

 

He’s inexplicably turned on and it’s not the heat. Severus hasn’t felt true, genuine sexual attraction for so long it takes him a moment to realize but once the knowledge settles, he feels another panic attack coming on.

 

Potter watches him, unhappy slant to his mouth. He looks tired; he said he came in from Bath just 30 minutes earlier and that he hadn’t slept in a week. He looks it too and yet he’s still here, ready to spend an entirely unpleasant day with Severus, ready to allow Severus to fuck him.

 

For the first time since their bond formed, Severus thinks, I don’t deserve you.

 

“Okay,” he says, feels crazy for saying okay but the word’s is out there, out of his mouth, floats towards Potter whose smiling at him. The word is taking a chance and Severus is not sure he can follow.

 

It’s – Severus has no words for what it is.

 

It’s overwhelming, at first. He doesn’t tell Potter, but he’s never done it before. Nobody ever allowed him to. An omega is made to be fucked, he was told, and he hasn’t even questioned it, is convinced it won’t work even as he’s already pushing into Potter.

 

Then, for a while, it’s brilliant. It feels so good. There’s no pain, no panic. He’s on top; Potter doesn’t need to hold him down (and god, that thought isn’t even fair; he hasn’t held Severus down since that horrible heat at Azkaban, has always urged Severus on top). Severus has all the control and it feels intoxicating, freeing. It feels as if he’s rewriting the rules to his own body. He’s coming and fucking, keeps pushing at Potter, growls at him to put him in another position, keeps fucking, keeps coming. His heat lasts almost four hours, the longest it’s been since their bond formed and Severus can’t tell if it’s because it’s so good or if it’s because it takes more than one orgasm if he does the fucking.

 

Then, afterwards, it’s horrible.

 

Contrary to Severus’s, Potter’s ass is not made to be fucked for four hours straight. He moves stiffly, carefully, takes a very long shower. Severus realizes that he has no idea if Potter got off, then realizes that he cares about Potter getting off, which makes him into a raving, spiting mad asshole. He wants to keep hating Potter, no matter how irrational or unjust; but Potter keeps doing these things for him that nobody else ever bothered with and it’s getting harder and harder to hold on to his hate.

 

He’s fuming by the time Potter comes out of the shower and then his anger evaporates like mist.

 

Potter looks awful, moves even slower. He clearly cried; he can’t look Severus in the eye.

 

“Harry,” Severus says. Time stops for a moment and then keeps clicking, indifferent as it is to all things with names and hopes and dreams.

 

“I am not crying because you hurt me,” Harry says, and Severus doesn’t comment on him using the bond; if he’s gotten good enough at it for Severus not to notice then it’s Severus own damn fault for underestimating him.

 

“Then why?” Severus asks, keeps himself from saying Harry again.

 

“You were happy today,” Harry says, “you were happy and if I had figured it out earlier, you could have been happy for seven years and then maybe you would love me by now and we wouldn’t – I wouldn’t still be a kid in a cupboard and you –“ and then his whole face crumbles up and he turns away from Severus and starts sobbing.

 

It’s the kindness Severus has been shown by him in the last seven years that gets him to go over and tug Harry against his own body.

 

They end up on the carpet in Severus’s living room, cuddling close. The bond is not quite open but more so than ever before. Severus draws in a breath and presses a kiss against Harry’s lip, tentative, questioning, careful. Harry kisses back.

 

The world doesn’t come crashing down.