Every Time You Leave
I thought that I was like an island
I was wrong, guess I was wrong
I see your face and then it hits me
I will miss you (oh)
When you're gone.
* * * * *
"I'm going away for a little while."
The boy had come, as Snape somehow knew he would. He waited all night in apprehension, and when the soft knock finally sounded against the door of his office, it had merely felt like a small stutter in his heartbeat. Now he stood in his doorway, trying to stare down a disturbingly unaffected Harry Potter.
"I am well aware."
"Um. Can I come in?"
Snape did not move, and Harry did not break their gaze. After a moment, a long hateful moment in which Snape could feel his resolve breaking into pieces, he stepped aside. He sat down at his desk and returned to the pile of essays he had been marking.
"I am very busy at present. If you are going to come in, then come in." He did not lift his eyes from the parchment.
Harry sat down in the armchair across from Snape's desk. He was comfortable in that chair, having occupied it on several occasions while Snape raged, and spat, and generally insulted him. Now, however, Snape made sure to keep his eyes focused on the papers in front of him, as if no one else was even in the room. He found himself reading the same sentence over and over again.
"Um. I'm sorry to bother you."
"Your apology would be better spent in getting to the point, so that I may return to my work." Still, Snape did not raise his eyes.
"Right. Right. I'm leaving tomorrow. And I don't know if I'll come back –"
"Mr. Potter, in case it has escaped your notice, I am in the bloody Order. I know where you are going. Was this merely an informative visit, or is there something else?"
"No. I mean, yes, I – I just wanted to say –"
Snape rubbed the bridge of his nose, irritably.
"To say – thank you."
Oh. He had not expected that.
"Thank you?" Snape looked up, finally.
"And – goodbye."
Instantly, Snape's gaze flicked back to the essay on his desk. He swallowed, and dug his nails into the palm of his hand.
"I know – I know you hate me. And I wasn't all that keen on you, to begin with. I know you don't want to hear this, and I know you think I'm an idiot, but if I do survive the next few days, I – it will be because of you. You taught me – everything, really – in a reluctant, hateful sort of way." Snape snorted, but Harry continued steadily. "And it's Christmas."
"Is it? I was under the impression that the delightful holiday was still six days away."
"I know," Harry rolled his eyes, "I know that. I just didn't want to –" he had to pause, "to die without thanking you. Without telling you that I understand what you've done for me. And I'm grateful." He paused again. "For what little it's worth."
Snape circled random words in red ink, to give Potter the impression that his mind was elsewhere, that he was unmoved by this particular confession. Because that was what Snape did – he remained unmoved.
Potter sighed softly, and rose from his chair.
"I'll leave you then."
Snape kept his eyes on the paper, while Harry walked slowly from his office. When the boy reached the door, Snape felt the name rise to his lips unbidden. No. The name hovered there, on his tongue, while Snape silently cursed himself no no no. Let him go. Let him go. Goddamn you.
Harry turned slowly, and met Snape's shuttered gaze.
"I –" Snape pressed his lips together, "I hope that your next Potions essay is less of a disaster than this last one. I understand that you have had other commitments, but that is no excuse for your abysmal academic work. I will expect improvement next term." He did not say 'when you are still alive.' When you come back.
Harry frowned, and nodded slowly. "Yes, sir." He turned to go but Snape stopped him yet again.
Snape opened his mouth, and hesitated briefly. He wondered how much of himself was given away in that fraction of a second, how much was reflected in his dark and shallow eyes. He took a sharp breath in, and Harry sodding Potter refused to look away. Snape spoke again.
The side of Harry's mouth curled in that shy, ironic smile that his professor had witnessed only rarely in their acquaintance.
"Thank you, sir." It really was a lovely smile, now that Snape saw it clearly. He would have quite liked to see it more often. "Goodbye."
Harry shut the door softly behind him, and Snape sat unmoving in his desk. He allowed himself a few shaking breaths. There. There.
This evening had come as no surprise. Indeed, everyone knew that this was Potter's fate, everyone knew that one day he would have to stand against the Dark Lord. It made sense, then, that out of every person in England, out of every person in the entire bloody world, Snape would have become completely, unnervingly fixated on a boy whose future was uncertain, a boy whose age was half Snape's own. A boy who would never even consider – no. Never. Perhaps he should have stayed with Voldemort, Snape pondered idly. Certainly, the Death Eaters could not have destroyed him as utterly as – this. Whatever this was. (He preferred to think of it as lust, as some sort of crippling, misguided desire. Because the alternative was – too alarming to even contemplate. )
Snape studied his palm, which he had successfully ravaged with jagged fingernails. Not attractive hands by anyone's standards, with the yellowed nails and long, pale fingers. They suited him. Ugliness suited him. Potter – did not.
"Goodbye Mr. Potter," Snape said softly, weighing the phrase in his mouth.
He did not say "Goodbye Harry."
He did not say "I do not hate you."
He did not say "Goddammit, what is wrong with me, you are a boy, you are a child, you are my student, I've been careless and indifferent my entire bloody life, why this, why now, goddamn you –"
No. There were a great many things Snape did not say.
He clenched his hands, then uncurled them once again. He opened his mouth, and then closed it quickly. And then opened it. How much could it hurt him, really? There was no one around to hear him. How much could it possibly hurt?
Snape licked his lips, hesitantly, and two small words fluttered off of his tongue.
Despite the sudden wash of terror, Snape felt a slight satisfaction at saying the words out loud. It was as if now he had someone to bear witness to his life, to his final conversation with the boy, to all the small words that Snape had not said. Maybe no one living, breathing, but the walls and blankets and books of his rooms would know the truth. They would remember. Long after he had finally been cut down by Lucius Malfoy, or some other pauncing Death Eater. Long after his body had grown cold and rotten in the ground. They would know. It would be like a fairy–tale. A long long time ago, there was a foolish old man named Severus Snape...
The man in question rested his face in his hands, tangling long fingers into greasy black hair. He would be alright. Soon the boy would be just another absence. It was no good to pretend that this sudden slice of longing changed anything.
Snape did not say "please". Oh no.
There were a great many things he did not say.
* * * * *
Snape dreams of being left, sees his life set out as a series of departures, flat and frozen like Muggle pictures in a photo album, his fragile mother first, sinking down into shadow and damp earth, then Lucius Malfoy, pale and perfect, mouth twisting into a grin: "Did you honestly expect me to say yes?" his silhouette growing smaller against the skyline, and now the doorway of Snape's office, where gentler lips curl into a rare lovely smile, large green eyes flicker and turn away, soft shutting of the door behind him, "goodbye" and it is just another loss in a series of losses, but this but this but this Snape feels in his teeth at night, feels underneath his fingernails, feels tugging on the roots of his hair oh god, and all Snape wants is for the boy to go, to leave so he can numb himself, can grow accustomed to the new departure, all Snape wants is for his body to stop aching, more painful than the Mark, more painful than steel or flame or wire, all Snape wants is for Harry Potter to go away, to run, to vanish, to leave goddamn him to leave.
Or to stay.