Matthew slid another drink over to Harry.
“Is it cancer?"
Harry looked up, startled by the question. “Er, yeah. Yeah.”
“And now he says he’s always been in love with you. But he knows he’s dying and doesn’t want to subject you to all that he’s going through.”
“You’re after the wrong type of love, mate.”
“So, this Remus – odd name, by the way- was one of your parents’ best mates. Your dead parents that you never really knew. As a child he was always coming ‘round your house because he’s a friend of your godfather’s. He was your teacher when you were a teenager. He’s twice your age. Do I have all that right?”
Harry nodded and took a long swallow of his drink.
“Mate, you’re not looking for a boyfriend, you’re looking for someone to give you the love and validation you never got from your parents.”
“You’re looking for a father figure and mistaking it for romance.”
“My wank fantasies disagree.”
Matthew snorted and jostled Harry with his elbow.
“Okay, hear me out. With me, I like a bloke- I think he’s cute or whatever- so I decide I want to attract him. I go about it by making him laugh, make him think I’m clever. I dress nice and do my hair up and all so that I can make him think I’m cute, too. But, let me guess, with Remus none of that even occurred to you. You tried to attract him by making him proud of you- high marks, doing well in sports, going into his same profession…”
Harry set his drink down and stared at Matthew. He felt his lips part as his jaw dropped just slightly. “Fuck.” Harry’s jaw twitched. “But, Remus does like me. He told me he loves me. We kissed… that’s… that’s not parental.”
“Do you look like your dad?”
“Everyone says so.”
Matthew shrugged. “You make him miss his dead friend.”
Harry winced. “Harsh.”
“I hate how simple you make everything seem. Anyways, I have to get going.”
“Rushing back to Brian already?”
Harry laughed. Rushing away from having a drink with a friend so that he can sit in silence with the surly Severus Snape? That was absurd.
Except that it was true. But they had work to do and, oddly enough, he missed him.
Harry bid Matthew a good night, tucked himself behind a garbage bin, and apparated to the edge of Hogwarts.
The night before, Severus had nearly frightened Harry. In the small office off to the side of his classroom he began to push over glass vials, letting them fall to the ground and shatter with no worry that the potions were splattering and mixing on the ground. He kicked two cauldrons off of their suspensions causing them to clang heavily against the stone floor, even cracking one of the tiles. He cursed and swore and screamed. He didn’t have enough room to work! How was he expected to get anything done? And all for what? A werewolf? He didn’t have time for this!
Harry quietly waved his wand around, cleaning the messes as they were made. The room was finally put back together and Severus was out of breath after his tantrum. Harry watched him quietly. Severus leaned against his desk, heaving. He finally looked up at Harry. Something behind those black eyes was different. Those eyes offered Harry a silent and sorrowful apology.
“It’s okay,” Harry whispered. “I’ll set up a work space in the room of requirement.”
Severus nodded. “Thank you.”
And so tonight, Harry didn’t descend into the dungeons, but found his way to the room of requirement instead. Severus hovered over a cauldron. It glowed an eerie green colour across Severus’s pale face, making him look like a witch from a muggle children’s story. Sweat gathered over his brow as he stirred forcefully.
“I could have used some help. Where the hell have you been?”
“You told me nine. I’m half an hour early.”
“Isn’t this the love of your life that we are trying to save? I would have thought you’d take it a bit more seriously.”
“Severus, I do take it seriously. You told me nine. I am early. Tell me how I can help you.”
“It doesn’t matter. Go back to whatever you were doing. Obviously, it was more important.”
“I was just at the pub. No importance. I’m here now, tell me how I can help you.”
Severus stopped stirring and looked up, the green bubbling potion reflecting in his black eyes. “The fucking pub?”
“You told me nine. I had time. I had a drink with Matthew.”
Severus stalked towards Harry. He was intimidated, but he refused to move away. Severus was now so close Harry could feel his warm breath on his face.
He stared down into Harry’s eyes and sneered. “Saving Remus isn’t as important anymore now that you’ve got Matthew-the-Muggle on your arm?”
“I’m not dating him. We are friends.” Harry bit his lip and looked away. It was always better to be honest, right? “Actually, I think… I don’t know. Things have changed with Remus. We, er… he told me he loved me and we kissed. So, if I'm dating anyone it'd be-"
“-This is how you cope with stress and pain? Coop me up in a laboratory to do your work while you’re out having your arse fucked by muggles and werewolves alike.”
Harry took a step back. The words hit him like a physical blow. “I’ve not fucked anyone. Matthew is my friend. And if you were my friend, you’d be happy for me that Remus has told me he loves me. You know the feelings I have for him.”
Severus growled and walked away, his arms crossed over his chest.
Harry followed him. “You don’t get to speak to me that way and then walk away. What the fuck has gotten into you?” Severus turned on one heel to face him, sending the hem of his robes into a spin that brushed against Harry’s trousers. Severus reached out to grab Harry’s hand suddenly, causing him to gasp. His skin ignited where he touched him.
“I want to be pleased for you. I want to be that type of man, the selfless type. But, I am not. I am self-serving and always will be. If you have deceived yourself into thinking I am someone I am not, then you are the culpable party in this. I have never misled you into thinking I am a changed man.”
“I don’t need you to change for me. I believe I see you more clearly than you see yourself.”
Severus sighed and released Harry’s hand. “Get out.”
“Are you done?”
“Working on the cure, I mean. Are you done trying?”
“Please leave.” Severus sounded so tired. Harry wanted to embrace him and reassure him, tell him that he believed in him and his abilities. But, Harry was tired, too.
“Good night, Severus.”
“You’re leaving so easily?”
“You told me nine. I was here early and it wasn’t good enough for you. You tell me to leave, but then become angry when I opt to obey you. Tell me, Severus, please: what the fuck can I do to make you happy?”
Severus remained silently glaring at him.
Harry laughed bitterly, “Hell, I can’t even take you to dinner without you starting an argument. Do you just want to be miserable?”
Severus sighed and his expression softened. “I don’t want you to leave just yet.”
Harry knew an apology when he heard one. He brushed his fingers against the man’s forearm. “Then I’ll stay.”