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Chapter 12 : The Concept of Love
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“Well, well, well,” murmured a cold voice, “Isn’t this cozy?”
Camilla started and jumped away from Remus. “Severus, this… I can explain,” she said, trembling with the shock of seeing him there and the raw emotion of her conversation with Remus.
“Don’t bother as I am neither blind nor unintelligent. Clearly I have interrupted something.” His arms were crossed over his chest and his facial features were set into a cool mask of indifference.
“We… we were…” She shook her head, unable to articulate the exact reason why Remus would kiss her. “We were ending it, I promise,” she blurted.
He raised an eyebrow. “I can see that.”
His response was sarcastic. He couldn’t see. Camilla knew that he couldn’t possibly understand her when she didn’t even understand herself.
“Severus… I’m sorry.” She cursed the fresh tears that began streaming down her cheeks. She cursed the fact that she had become so childish seemingly overnight. Before meeting Severus, she cried only when no one could see.
“Yeah, I’ll bet.”
She sighed and opened her mouth to say more.
“No, it’s fine,” he interrupted. “You two… carry on. Forget about it.” He turned around, stuffing his hands in his pockets. He began to walk away but, at the last moment, Remus made a grab for Severus’ arm.
Severus recoiled as if disgusted. “Don’t touch me,” he hissed.
“Can’t you see that she cares about you?” Remus said, equally as angry as Severus. “Do you know how lucky you are to have her? Merlin knows you certainly don’t deserve her.”
“Whether I deserve her or not is irrelevant, Lupin. The fact is, she is my fiancée. That means she’s mine and you shouldn’t be touching her.” Severus glared at Remus, daring him to challenge the idea that Camilla belonged to him.
“She’s not property, Snape. She’s a person with feelings. I know it may be difficult for you to understand the concept of love, but surely you realize it can’t just be turned on and off at will. Camilla and I… we love each other.”
Severus gave a barely visible cringe. “I don’t need this,” he snapped.
“And she’s had a hell of a time trying to figure out whether pursuing a relationship with me was worth it considering this ridiculous sham of a marriage you and her parents have trapped her in,” Remus continued. He glanced at her and sighed. Then, he turned back to Severus. “You ought to be thankful that it’s not going to be just you and your hand for the rest of your life.”
Camilla laughed, despite her tears and despite the murderous expression on Severus’ face.
His eyes shifted to her. “I’m glad you find Lupin’s witty remarks so amusing.” He gave them both a furious scowl and left the library.
After Severus disappeared from view Remus turned to look at her. “Will you be okay?” he asked softly.
“Yeah, I think so… Severus is going to be in a mood though.” She smiled. “I can’t believe you said that to him.”
“I only told him the truth,” he replied with a shrug. “Someone had to do it.”
Camilla stared into the fire, her eyes glazing over as she thought. After much deliberation, she had decided not to attend the graduation dinner. She didn’t have anyone to go with. Everyone would stare at her. She preferred to wallow in her self-pity alone, in the silence of the common room.
Severus had left six hours before, at seven. He purposely ignored her on his way out, not taking the time to ask her if she was going or if she would be meeting Remus. For someone who supposedly disliked parties, he was staying out quite late.
Although Camilla did not want to admit it to herself, she was waiting for him. Waiting to find out if she was still welcome to sleep in his bed. Waiting to see if he was still angry or if he had forgiven her. Waiting to confess, in her own words, that she cared about him.
“What are you doing up so late?”
His voice shook her from her reverie.
“I… I was waiting for you.”
“Why?” His voice was hollow and weary. He sounded exhausted.
Camilla stood, squinting to get a better look at him in the dim light of the slowly dying fire. “Are you alright?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” he asked, running a hand through his hair.
She moved closer to him. “Because your lip is bleeding.” And that wasn’t all. He was disheveled and even in the failing light of the fire he was deathly pale. The hand that wasn’t holding his wand was trembling slightly at his side.
“Why weren’t you at the dinner? You had Lupin, Black, Potter, and Pettigrew thinking I had done you in.”
“Did they do this to you?” she asked, alarmed.
He sighed. “Goodnight, Camilla,” he said softly and turned to climb the stairs to his room.
“Wait, Severus!” she said, reaching out and grabbing his shoulder. “What’s wrong? What happened?”
He shook her off. “I’m fine.”
“Leave me alone.”
“Severus,” she said, knocking on his door the next morning, “I know you’re in there. Can I come in?”
It had been a sleepless night. She couldn’t sleep knowing someone, possibly her own friends, had hurt Severus and she hadn’t been there to stop it.
She had summoned all of her determination and decided she would find out exactly what happened to him.
She heard nothing. She pressed her ear to the door. Then, she knocked again.
With a sigh of frustration, she abandoned etiquette and pushed open the door.
She looked about the room and saw that nothing seemed out of place.
A moment later she heard him retch violently from within the adjoining bathroom. Her eyes drifted to his bedside table where three empty bottles of Ogden’s Firewhiskey lay.
She sighed again and pushed open the door to the bathroom.
He was kneeling on the floor in front of the toilet, holding his head in his hands. The vomit had already disappeared from the porcelain basin.
“Hey,” Camilla mumbled hesitantly, unsure if he was still angry with her. “How are you feeling?”
He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Better than I did last night. Let me tell you, yesterday was the epitome of a perfect day. First, you rage at me for telling a friend something that I didn’t even know was a secret. Then, you spend an hour in the library snogging Lupin and somehow I’m still the one who is in the wrong. And let’s not forget the amusing time I spent trying to convince, not just your miserable friends, but McGonagall and Dumbledore that I had nothing to do with your absence at the dinner party.”
“I know and I’m sorry. You have every right to be furious with me, but it doesn’t help to drown your problems in firewhiskey.”
“How would you know?” he said with a roll of his eyes. “You don’t drink. In fact, you’re perfect aren’t you?” He stood and staggered past her to collapse on his bed.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked, turning towards him with her hands on her hips.
He mumbled something into his pillow, and then looked at her with an appraising gaze. “Perfect blood. Perfect body. Perfect friends. Perfect relationship with perfect Lupin. I would be upset too if I were in your position; forced to marry someone who would destroy all of that.”
She sighed. “No one is perfect Severus. Not Remus. Not you. And certainly not me, okay? I could list a million things wrong with myself.”
He finally looked away from her with a shrug, letting his head fall back onto the pillow.
“But part of what you said is true,” she admitted, trying to choose her words carefully, “I didn’t want to give up my relationship with Remus… I thought we were meant for each other. I didn’t think that I could ever have such a strong connection with anyone else.”
Severus’ face remained buried in his pillow.
Camilla scowled. “I don’t admit this very often, so you’d better pay attention,” she snapped.
He lifted his head and gazed at her.
“I was wrong.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Wrong about what?”
“I have a connection with you,” she said, moving to sit on the bed next to him. “I should’ve been with you trying to build on that instead of clinging to Remus like I did, but-.”
“Let’s just forget about it,” he said, interrupting her.
She bit her bottom lip. “Then we can start over?”
He shrugged. “I suppose.”
“You don’t sound very sure,” she mumbled, somewhat petulantly.
“I’m tired and I don’t feel good. Will you just leave me alone?”
She folded her arms across her chest. “No. We’re a team from now on and there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team.’ I’ll let you sleep for two hours and then we’re going to the library to study for our NEWTs.”
“You want me to study with you? Why? Lupin not working out?”
Camilla gave a frustrated sigh and threw her hands in the air. “You’re impossible!”
“Well forgive me for not suddenly wanting to be your best friend after you have continuously attempted disobey me.”
“Disobey’? Seriously? You’re not my father, Severus.”
He sneered at her and turned away from her. “Just get out…”
Camilla emerged from the Great Hall feeling extremely relieved. She had just completed her final NEWT exam and now all she had to worry about was the fact that she would be married in less than two weeks. Just the thought of it made her ill.
Severus still refused to speak to her, responding to anything she said with only grunts, sighs, scowls. He had even banished her back to her own room.
Part of her wished she didn’t care, but she’d already admitted to herself that she had feelings for Severus, which made every cruel thing he did sting all that much more.
“Hey, how do you think you did?” Lily asked falling in step with her. “I just know I missed the question about the breeding habits of dementors.”
“I don’t even want to think about it,” Camilla replied, “I’m just glad I never have to take Defense Against the Dark Arts ever again.”
“Not like you’ll ever use it,” Sirius said, coming up behind them. “I’m sure Snivellus will just-.”
Camilla spun around angrily. “Stop calling him that! Instead reinforcing the idea that I’m going to be completely miserable for the rest of my life, it would be nice if you could try saying something positive, even if you don’t mean it, just to make me feel better.”
“Everyone will always credit your kids’ good attributes to you,” Peter volunteered as he approached with James and Remus.
She rolled her eyes, but couldn’t help smiling at the tiny truth in the statement.
“Speaking of Severus, how are you two doing now?” Remus whispered to her as the group began to walk toward the Hogwarts’ grounds. “Now that I’m out of the picture, that is.”
Camilla shrugged. “Worse, I suppose. He’s… he’s just stressed, I guess.” She hated to tell him his sacrifice hadn’t helped matters.
“Don’t worry, I’m sure…” he trailed off as something to their right caught his eye. “We’ll talk later.” He moved away and immediately engaged himself in James and Lily’s discussion of the exam.
She didn’t have to turn and look to know what, or rather who, had unnerved Remus. With a scowl on her face, she broke from her friends and strode purposefully toward Severus. “What are you doing?” she snapped, stopping in front of him. “I know you don’t trust me, but stalking me is going a bit far.”
“I haven’t done anything,” he said calmly, leaning against the castle wall. “I was waiting for someone and you and your idiot friends just happened to stroll into my field of vision. While I wasn’t stalking you, perhaps it’s a good thing Lupin saw me. He obviously needed a reminder that you happen to be engaged.”
“What are you talking about?” she asked with a roll of her eyes.
His eyes drifted towards Remus and the others who were lingering at the door, waiting for her. “He was standing too close.”
“He’s still my friend…”
“Friends,” he said as he pushed himself off the wall and approached her, “don’t stand this close.” He was so close to her now that their bodies were touching.
Camilla felt her heart rate begin to speed up.
But a rough, demanding kiss, silenced her protest. Despite her surprise she was quick to respond to him, pressing herself closer to his chest and wrapping her arms around his neck. The small part of her that could still think was amazed at how well he knew what her response to every small touch would be. For a moment, she was completely distracted.
She was sure that, to the outsider, it appeared to be a passionate, lustful, public display of affection. Unfortunately, Camilla knew Severus better than any outsider and she was the only one who saw the coldness in his eyes as he pulled away from her and watched Lily usher an outraged group of boys out the door with a satisfied smirk.
When they had disappeared, he leaned down and murmured something about going back to his room into her ear. He led her back to their common room talking the entire way about the expression on James Potter’s face.
She followed him numbly as strange feelings of confusion and despair found their way into her heart. All she could think about was the way he had kissed her; the way he had touched her. In that moment, she had forgotten everything.
She realized she was crying. Again.
They were only one corridor away from their common room, but he stopped anyway.
“Are you okay?”
She nodded and rubbed her eyes, trying to make the tears stop. “I’m fine. I’m tired and stressed, that’s all.”
“Oh… well, we don’t… you can go back to Evans then… if that’s what you want.”
Camilla gave him a scathing glare. “You’d like that wouldn’t you?”
“That way you wouldn’t have to deal with me right? You only want me around when I’m useful to you?”
For a moment, he didn’t seem to know whether or not to take her seriously. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“You! You are what’s wrong with me!” Suddenly, she found herself shouting at him. “You don’t care about me at all!”
“You know that’s not true.”
“When was the last time you showed any sort of feelings for me?” she demanded.
“I just kissed you. Surely that counts?”
She shook her head. “No, it doesn’t, because that wasn’t for me. That was for James, and Sirius, and Remus and Peter. It was a show, Severus.”
“What about that night we had sex?” he said, lowering his voice slightly, “I kissed you a million times and no one was watching.”
“Maybe not, but they might as well have, you told everyone about it. Yet again, I got used.”
“I’ve told you over and over again that I didn’t-.”
“Even if you didn’t,” she snapped, “it benefited you in more ways than one. Not only did you get to satisfy your carnal desires but you also got significantly more respect from the rest of the male population. Congratulations.”
Finally, it seemed that he was fed up with her. “Just shut-up, Camilla,” he muttered with a roll of his eyes.
“I’ve given you everything now and you still-.”
“You’ve given me everything except the one thing I ever asked of you!” he yelled, startling her slightly. “I asked you for obedience and I still haven’t gotten it. You’re an embarrassment to me. I hate myself every time I find myself hurting you, but it’s the only way I can ever get you to respect me. It’s about time you realized that in the pureblood community appearances mean everything and…” He lowered his voice down to a whisper as a small group of second year Hufflepuffs turned into the corridor, “and if I have to beat you to make you behave in public, I will. You can keep the sex because I can get it elsewhere and you can keep the love and caring because I’ve gone my whole life without it and I don’t need it from you.”
His words stung her more than anything else he had ever said; they hurt more than the times he had grabbed her or slapped her.
She waited until the Hufflepuffs had left the corridor before she spoke again. “Good. I’m glad you don’t need love or caring.” She gathered the little courage she had and looked defiantly into his eyes. “I hate you.”
“Camilla! Camilla, come out and let me see.”
She ignored her mother and continued to analyze her reflection in the mirror. The young woman staring back at her was a completely different person than the girl she remembered. She still looked, overall, the same as she had five months before, however there was an unexplainable difference in the expression behind her eyes.
“Camilla!” her mother screeched again.
With an irritated sigh she emerged from the dressing room and modeled the wedding gown for her mother.
“That one is not right,” she said immediately, “It makes you look heavy. Why do they all make you look heavy?” Her mother turned to the elderly seamstress. “Do you have any corset tops? It seems as if my daughter has put on a bit of weight.”
Camilla felt her face grow hot with anger and embarrassment. She swept back into the fitting room to remove the dress before her mother could come up with any thing more to say about it’s fit.
“I don’t understand how this could happen. Those are the same sizes that were used for your graduation dinner dress,” her mother continued on the other side of the dressing room door. “And that fit perfectly didn’t it?”
Camilla hadn’t bothered to mention that she had skipped the graduation dinner.
“Here,” her mother said as she slipped the new dress to her, “Hurry up and get it on so I can tie up the back.”
She rolled her eyes. There was no way she would be wearing a gown with a corset top. It was archaic. Camilla pulled the dress on and stepped out of the fitting room determined to hate it.
Her mother immediately forced her to spin around so that she could lace up the back, using her wand to ensure a tight fit.
This time when Camilla modeled the dress, her mother gazed at her with a critical eye. After a long moment appraising every inch of her, she smiled. “This is one. It looks beautiful on you.”
“Unfortunately, this is the one I don’t want,” Camilla replied matter-of-factly.
Her mother raised her eyebrows. “What are you talking about? You look perfect in it. It even gives you a nice boost in the chest area,” she commented, flashing the seamstress a elegant smile. “I’m sure Severus would appreciate it.”
“I don’t care whether Severus appreciates it or not,” Camilla snapped bitterly, stomping back into the fitting room. She used her wand to loosen the dress and gave a sigh of relief when she was able to breath freely.
“Speaking of Severus,” her mother was saying as Camilla exited the fitting room for the final time in her own clothes. “How are things between you two?” Her mother took out her bag and deposited a great deal of coins into the seamtress’ wrinkled hand.
The seamstress took the dress from Camilla and began to fit it into a pink dress box.
“Fine… and I said I don’t want that dress.”
“Fine?’ What sort of answer is that? And it’s the only one that fits properly. Perhaps if you were like normal women who lost weight before their wedding then you may have had more choices. You’re just lucky we were able to get something nice on such short notice. Needless to say, you haven’t been very helpful during the planning process, Camilla. Now, have you and Severus been, ah… intimate?”
For a moment, Camilla was sure her heart had stopped. Then she remembered that in her mother’s time being ‘intimate’ with a boy was holding hands and kissing. Camilla shrugged. “A bit.”
Her mother gave a long-suffering sigh. “Why must you be so vague? Have you-?”
“Mum, I don’t want to talk about this with you!”
“Why not? I’m your mother. You can tell me these things.”
“I don’t want to. Thanks though.”
Rolling her eyes, her mother hurried her out of the shop and down the cobbled streets.
“So much to do and so little time,” her mother mumbled to herself. “The florist says he’ll be at the venue by nine in the morning and the cake should arrive no later than ten.”
“What time does the wedding actually start?” Camilla asked.
The expression on her mother’s face made her wish she hadn’t asked.
“If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you. Brides should know these things!” her mother snapped. “Instead of behaving so childishly and ignoring my owls you should’ve been more involved in the planning stages of the most important day of your life.”
Her mother continued to complain about her lack of cooperation all the way to the Malfoy Manor where they had been invited for “a lovely meal to celebrate the joining of their two families.”
“Don’t forget to smile. Be polite and pleasant, but don’t overdo it. Make sure to-.”
“At this rate we’ll never make it into the house,” Camilla’s father intoned calmly. “Just knock, Leila. Camilla knows how to handle herself appropriately.”
With an exasperated glance at her husband, Camilla’s mother gave three quick raps on the wood of the ornately carved door. She couldn’t help but give her daughter one last bit of counsel: “And please remember to be respectful of Severus. He’s doing this family a large favor by marrying you.”
Camilla was fuming with anger by the time a small house elf led them into the Malfoy’s sitting room. Everyone made it seem as if marrying her were some sort of death sentence. It seemed that Remus was still the only man out there that might actually enjoy being around her. She forced herself to push the thoughts of Remus from her mind. It’s over. You’re getting married in two days. It’s over. She repeated this mantra in her head as Tatiana Malfoy sailed into the room and greeted them.
When she had finished shaking hands and making small talk with her parents, Mrs. Malfoy turned her attention to Camilla. The woman flashed her a sparkling smile. “And you must be Camilla. Severus has told Abraxas and I so much about you.”
Camilla smiled politely in response and shook Tatiana Malfoy’s hand.
“He should be around here somewhere,” she continued, “I’m sure you two are eager to see each other again. I remember when Abraxas and I got engaged. Even a week apart seemed like an eternity.” She gave a reminiscent laugh.
“Ava can show you up to his room,” she said, indicating the small house elf that had ushered them into manor.
Reluctantly, Camilla left her parents to talk with Mrs. Malfoy. She was hesitant to see him again after what had happened during that last few days of school. After she had announced her hatred of him they had said nothing to each other, not even bothering to say goodbye once at the train station.
The house elf guided her into a large room with dark hardwood floors and two grand staircases that curved upwards towards a balcony.
Camilla followed Ava the house elf up the right hand staircase and, when they reached the balcony, to the right into a long hallway.
Then, the house elf stopped and looked up at her. “Master’s room is the fifth door to Miss’ right. The Masters is not liking Ava near their private quarters.”
Camilla nodded. “Thank you, Ava.”
The house elf disappeared without another word and Camilla slowly approached Severus’ door. Without thinking she simply turned the doorknob and walked in.
The first thing she noticed was his bed which was about as large as both their beds at Hogwarts put together. The room was, however, was large enough to accommodate it and then some.
Then she noticed Severus sitting at a desk placed against the opposite wall, books and parchment spread out in front of him.
“What have I told you about bothering me when I’m studying, Dru? And if I have to go over the concept of knocking with you one more time, I swear, I’ll-.”
“Why are you studying?” Camilla interjected, “We’ve graduated, Severus.”
He spun around in his chair and for a short moment a smile graced his features. “I thought you were Drusilla… one of Lucius’ sisters,” he clarified.
She nodded and remained silent.
“So… how’s your week been? It’s strange to think we’ll never go back to Hogwarts isn’t it?”
She stared at him. Had he simply forgotten their earlier argument? Had the words they’d exchanged not been replayed constantly in his head like they had hers?
“Well, first I was dragged to a healer to make sure I had the blessed ability to have children. Then, I was stuffed into a too-tight wedding dress and my mother accused me of being fat. Now, I’m here. With you. I’d say my week has been pretty terrible thus far.”
Each word she uttered was said with scorn and his apparent happiness to see her diminished slightly.
He sighed. “Listen…” he began, “That day… I said some things I shouldn’t have said-.”
“No, it’s fine. I needed to hear them. Everything you said was true.”
“I was completely delusional to think that maybe I could be happy with you-,” she began, her arms folded across her chest.
“Give me another chance.”
She shrugged. “Sure. Whatever. Take as many chances as you need. You’ve got a hundred years or more of them.”
“I’ve missed you this past week,” he said with another sigh.
“I wish I could say the same of you.”
He took her hand gently. “I… I’m not going to lie to you. A lot of what I said was true. I’ll do what’s necessary to ensure I don’t end up as a joke, but… being away from you has made me realize that maybe I do like having you around and maybe it’s nice having someone to wake up next to. I care about you Camilla, okay?”
“That’s fine with me,” she muttered with a nonchalant shrug, “Doesn’t mean I have to return the feelings.”
“No, you don’t have to… but it might make the next few days easier.”
“I tried caring about you, Severus! You threw back it in my face!” she shouted, taking her hand away from him.
“Lower your voice.” he hissed, “They can hear you downstairs. I’m sorry, alright? But it’s the truth. I’ve never had the sort of relationship you want; I’ve never even thought about having such a relationship.”
“Liar. You’ve obviously had sex before; surely you entertained the idea of committing to her,” Camilla said. Part of her was uncomfortable mentioning Severus’ past relationships, however she was fairly certain he’d at least had them.
“The first her was a Slytherin girl in our year and we’d both done it on a dare. It was a diaster. The second her was Darcy Rodman and unless I’m mistaken she’s already set to marry someone else. Not to mention, I never imagined I’d be settling down at age eighteen. Also, in case you haven’t noticed Camilla, I’m very much a realist and I have no reservations in mentioning that no woman would want to spend the rest of their life with someone like me.”
She stared at him. Darcy Rodman? As in his best friend’s girlfriend?
“They just don’t know you,” Camilla found herself saying, “You have a lot of good things going for you, Severus.”
He rolled his eyes. “Save your inspirational speech for someone who needs it. I’m just saying Lupin was right. I don’t really understand…”
Camilla frowned. “Don’t understand what? Love?”
He shrugged. “You don’t miss what you’ve never had.”
In that moment, Camilla felt her perspective change. Yes, Severus could be cruel and cold and heartless, but he could also be considerate and gentle as well. And they were going to be married. There was no reason she couldn’t be the one to show him what love was and how it felt. It would take time, but, again, they were going to be married and she had plenty of it.
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