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Chapter 1 : Freelove
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Whole wizarding families were erased, deeply rooted, noble family trees died and sunk into oblivion, complete races of magic creatures ceased to exist…”
Autumn Frost by purewings
Severus Snape was sitting in a dimly lit room, leaning on a heavy oak table with a bottle of firewhisky and a single weary candle in front of him.
He didn’t bother getting himself a glass, the bottle suited him well. It could have been unimaginable just some years ago, knowing how reactive he used to be to any kind of disorder, but now those days were gone.
He was satisfied by the simple presence of the bottle.
He pulled a small silver vial out of the pocket of his dark robe, his long, delicate fingers adeptly uncorked it and he dripped a little of the thick black liquid into the bottle.
The golden light of the candle shone through the bottle, lighting the blending fluids; the two substances mingled forming dark shapes, which reminded him of dragons, whirls of bodies and long haired blurred faces.
With a firm movement he shook the bottle, making the shadows of the black potion and the softly glowing whisky dissolve in each other and took a deep sip.
Warmth filled his insides, as the “Black Widow”, as he called his potion, slowly travelled through his bloodstream, reaching his heart, his brain, his mind.
In Hogwarts he rarely had to use it.
It was since Dumbledore died… since he murdered him… since he was made to murder him…
This potion was the only mean of loosening the tight grip of the demons that haunted him; his body became numb while his mind was overflowed by a sparkling whirl of stimulus, transmitted by his senses: colours, sounds and more.
He leaned back on his chair, closed his eyes and sighed.
Time seemed to stop and reality slipped into some far corner of his mind.
The darkness of the room became soft velvet in his visions, the warmth of the candlelight felt like warm breath on his face, which tingled his skin.
He felt free for a while.
He forgot that he was a captive, a captive of the Order, the captive of Harry Potter.
A loud knock broke the silence.
Snape kept his eyes closed hoping that he had only hallucinated or dreamed. If he had not… well, anyway he won’t take the effort to answer it. He hated visitors.
He wasn’t a captive in the usual meaning of the word; he was expected to help the Order against the Dark Lord. He had hardly had any other choice left – it was impossible to balance between the two sides forever without falling down one day.
And he had fallen.
The war was still storming. The losses of either side were disastrous.
The Dark Lord finally realised how grave danger Snape meant; he found out that Harry Potter was more than keen to catch Snape, because rumours held that he was the key to the defeat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Snape was the only one left after Dumbledore died, who could help Harry destroy the Dark Master.
So, this was his only choice.
He remembered the days spent in that dark forest, where he almost died.
He remembered those, who saved him.
And he remembered how he ended up in his voluntary exile.
The knock repeated itself.
Snape grimaced with his eyes closed still.
Obtrusive little prat. .
“Leave me alone.” he barked in a hoarse voice.
He will come in anyway, he concluded to himself.
He was right, the lock gave a click. He should have secured the door better – Snape thought – even a fourth year could have opened it, but he didn’t really care. There was some kind of hazardous recklessness in him – he knew it – as if life didn’t matter that much to him as it did earlier. And it didn’t.
The door softly opened and someone in a long black cloak stepped in.
Snape lazily turned his head. He was still under the effect of his potion. He watched the scene with some distant interest.
The visitor threw back the hood of the cloak. It was all wet.
Black stains of water appeared on the wooden floor.
“Hermione Granger” Snape said with slight sarcastic amusement in his voice.
“What an unexpected surprise. What do I owe your honorific visit to at half past one in the morning?” his mouth curved with gracious scorn.
He hadn’t seen her since that night in the forest, when she and Harry Potter rescued him; rescued or rather condemned him to further torments.
Hermione smiled airily. She took off her cloak, shook the water from it and calmly took the time to hang it out neatly on a creaky door of a formidable cupboard.
“Just thought it was high time to pay you a visit.” she answered after a short while.
Snape raised his brows.
“Rather peculiar time you have chosen, Miss Granger.” he said.
“Peculiar? The world around us – that’s what I would call peculiar. Our lives have become peculiar, or rather bizarre.“ she didn’t wait for invitation, just loudly drew up a chair and sat down next to him.
Snape looked at her with his usual dark gaze; now it served to hide his reluctant wonder.
What has become of this young woman, his former student?
He thought he knew her more than well, but now she was completely unfamiliar.
She looked at him in the face and grinned.
“Must have been pretty good stuff to knock you out to this extent.”
She reached for the bottle and before Snape could rive it off her, she drank.
Snape realising that he was part of some unknown game recoiled and leaned back again. He observed Hermione with growing interest.
“What do you mean: to this extent?” He asked. In fact he was still feeling relaxed. Cold little butterflies tingled his skin.
“Being your usual you, you’d have thrown me out the moment I unlocked your door.” She took another sip and leaned back, as well. She felt gravity softly push her down. She felt hot, while her skin was cold, as if she had taken a cold shower. That’s not bad – she thought.
“True.” Snape’s lips curved.
“So, what are you doing here at this… well, quite acceptable time by the terms of our quite upturned world?” He smirked.
“I needed you” she said simply “at this peculiar time.”
Snape forgot to blink for a moment. His feelings at the moment were closest to shock.
“You needed me.” He stated. His brows still raised high on his forehead. “What for?”
“What for?” she smiled tentatively. “Stupid question. I thought you were the one of brains. Then use them. Guess.” she laid back her head and stared up at the ceiling still being thoroughly amused by the awkward situation, she’d put Snape into.
Snape didn’t dare to guess. He stayed silent for a while.
“Well, I guess, it’s time for you to go home to your bed Ms. Granger.” he leaned forward, taking the bottle out of her hand.
“I’d show you the way out, but I believe you will find it. Good night.” his hand accidentally touched hers and it felt like a small electric shock.
Damn potion – he thought, he didn’t expect this kind of effect. Or maybe it wasn’t the potion.
He didn’t want to think further.
Hermione sat still, looking utterly amused as if having the time of her life. She smiled at him with a devilish twinkle in her eyes.
Few years ago she would have been shocked by seeing herself behave like that, but those were different times. Sometimes she had a vague feeling that those years never existed; they were simply the remnants of some long forgotten dreams, fragments of childish daydreams.
The present was the only reality, and it told of corruption, chaos and death. Her former ideas of life now seemed ridiculous and immature; it was a pity that she no longer felt like laughing. She dismissed her thoughts with an indifferent pout.
“It’s not that simple, Professor.” she murmured.
“I don’t want to leave….” she stood up and her face suddenly turned unfathomable.
“…and you don’t want me to go either.” she said and stepped next to him.
Snape roughly pushed back his chair and rose abruptly to his feet.
Hermione Granger must have gone mad, at which fact he would not be surprised in the least. She had lost everybody around her, her love, Ron, her parents and most of her friends. She would not be the first outstanding mind to collapse under the burden of the war.
It was high time to get rid of her – Snape thought.
Snape felt a touch on his face, cool fingers slid along his jaw up to his ear, into his hair. Heat struck him.
He sharply grabbed her wrist and started pulling her back towards the entrance door
“Stop that. You’re acting silly.” she said. Her face distorted by the pain of his clasp.
He released her immediately.
“You’ve got to go.” he was breathing faster than normally, Hermione noticed.
“Maybe I’ve got to, but I won’t. You still don’t understand me. I want to spend the night with you.” Hermione was looking up at him; her gaze was so intense, that her eyes were almost a mere dark pupil.
“What are you afraid of?”
“I’m afraid that you’ve lost your mind.” Snape answered darkly.
“I wouldn’t have come if I hadn’t known you needed me too.” she was calmly waiting for his reply, as if she was waiting for the results of her latest homework essay on the effects Unicorn blood essence.
“What makes you think this nonsense?” his voice was cold as he backed from her, just to sit down at his usual place.
“I can see it in people. What they need. What they are longing for.”
“What made you so wise?” he asked not without sarcasm.
“I'm not wise. I'm simpy not lying to myself anymore, like most people still do.
Disillusionment reveals truth."
Hermione paused for a moment.
"I have lost everything I loved.
All my plans, my expectations, my dreams were ruined.
But not physical devastation was the worst to suffer. The worst was to find that nothing really belonged to me.
Anything I had could be taken away any minute. Not even my life is mine.
I have nothing and I can have nothing. It's just a rule of life.
I was stripped of all I have ever had or ever wished to have - of all that was good in my life. My soul was stripped naked to its raw core, no love or trust was left to warm me, just pain and sore misery.
Then why should I keep the bad things if I have lost the good ones?
I shook off my fears, my anger, pain and hatred. Everything. With it I took off the flesh of my earlier self.
My life could end any minute. Should I sit in the dark and wait for it? I decided to take what life has to offer, without ever keeping it.
This is it, the final secret: never keep anything."
She gave a weird laugh, which died abruptly.
"I live like a bird – I don’t belong anywhere.
That’s why I see what other people don’t.”
There was no sorrow in her voice; she smiled her usual friendly smile.
Snape looked at her, not saying a word.
She wasn’t mad.
She was something else.
The cold tranquillity of fatalism within her was magnetising. The war – together with her attachments and relationships – had amputated her ability to fear. Her crippled soul had lost its burdens of emotions; it was light, free, and – Snape was amazed to realize – in its dark dispassion it was almost innocent. She had a high price to pay for this unrestricted freedom, but it was none of her choice.
She stepped closer to him again and sat down on his knees, like children do.
Snape didn’t know what to say or do. She offered him her love for free. For tonight.
And she was right, he wanted it.
She wasn’t a child, he realised that a long ago. Her total lack of angst and apprehension made her demonic, he thought. The softness of her moves, as she enjoyed them, the passion radiating from her even when she was still and motionless… She was living her life like it was her last day on Earth. Maybe she was right.
She leaned closer to him and when her warm breath touched him, he closed his eyes. Hermione smiled. She could feel the tension in Snape, as well as his longing. He was simply unable to remove his self-control. It was so much a part of him. That’s why he didn’t move; he didn’t want to break the fragile balance of his inner forces – passion and mistrust, longing and hatred. Unlike her, he was bound.
Then she would help him, Hermione thought.
She softly started kissing his jawbone, starting from his chin going up to his ear. When she reached his ear, he jerked and took her head in his hands pulling her away from the forbidden area. His eyes sparkled; Hermione could not decide whether it was seething fury or daring passion. Snape could not decide either.
Hermione put her hand on his, softly pulling them backwards into her hair. Snape never would have thought that touching her hair would make such a drastic effect; he pulled her to his lips and forcefully kissed her, his hands digging deeper and deeper into the silky waves of her hair.
She gently responded to his thirsty call, her slim body brushed to him like a snake. Her hands smoothly slid along his chest, her fingers playfully clawed the skin of his neck; she pressed herself to him and Snape could not estimate for how long the remains of his self-control would be able to work.
He laid her gently on his bed.
Hermione reached out and pulled him down. When his body weighted on her she gave a faint moan.
She found him exciting in his dark passion. She was less surprised to find that much fire burning within him than Snape himself.
His relationships with women were usually cold, they were a mere necessity.
Hermione was different. He could not deny that he was intrigued by her intellect; mostly she irritated him, but then, there were times when pure respect woke in him. He would never show an apprehensible sign of it, of course.
Now Hermione was a flame licking his skin, both torment and delight.
She was not feeling the passion, she became it. That was what he found fascinating. She was not playing a role, or simply enjoying herself, she was hot fire and cool water at the same time. She was no longer Hermione Granger. How could she possibly be? Hermione Granger died years ago, when Ron, her parents and her friends passed away. But she didn’t yield herself quickly, her death was a long, tantalizing agony, during which everything she was had burned from her: her ambitions, beliefs and complexes. She burned like a phoenix. Now, she was reborn free, she had thrown off her ashes.
He had never experienced something like her before.
For a second he felt envy for the carelessness of her soul, but his mind soon dissolved in the smooth whirl of their bodies.
They have lost their perception of time or space. The darkness that fell on them was filled with moans, sighs, thrilled cries and whispered words that meant nothing.
The morning greeted them with white sunlight and cold breeze. It was November already.
Snape was the first to open his eyes. He looked at the tranquillity of Hermione’s face. The corners of her lips held the touch of an unearthly smile.
That was the word he was searching for for so long. She was unearthly.
He felt guilty; after all, she used to be his student.
But what was worse, he betrayed someone else, as well.
He stood up, put on his clothes and turned to the window; he was unable to stand the longing he felt for her cope with his feeling of guilt. He hated his body conquer his mind.
He used to love, maybe he still loved, but it only caused him pain, more pain than he could bear. He became the embodied memory of his own tragedy.
Yet, until this frantic night he didn’t realize how much he needed the warmth of a living, breathing love.
He didn’t want a lasting relationship. His need for Hermione felt like a betrayal. A sin.
Even the thought of it made his limbs cold.
He shouldn’t have done that…
… yet, he couldn’t help images and feelings of the last night breaking to the surface of his mind, like empty barrels after a shipwreck.
It came as a shock – he felt loved after such a long time. He was given love unconditionally, just for free, for simply being himself.
He wasn’t prepared for that.
He deprived his soul of any living touch, entombed it into his own memories and penance. He tried to smother it until it became numb and senseless. The only emotion his mind approved of was pain and guilt, which greedily guarded the growing walls of his inner Azkaban.
So, how could this crazed girl demolish his unyielding defence?
How could she make him feel good against his own will?
Was it really against his own will, or had his imprisoned, starving soul revolted after all these years?
He got poisoned by these long forgotten emotions.
He had been staring out of the window for some time, when he realised she was watching him.
Her face was smooth, free of the cruel emotions that tormented Snape.
“You’re silly.” she said as she lazily stretched.
He raised his brows.
“And what makes you think so?” he asked.
“You feel bad about me. And feel even worse about yourself. I knew you would.”
She slipped out of the bed. She reached for the pocket of her cloak and pulled out two wands a black one and a dark cherry coloured one. He recognized the black wand at once; it used to belong to Bellatrix. Snape remembered that Hermione killed Bellatrix during the siege of Hogwarts, after Bella tortured Ron to death.
Hermione must have caught his glance, because she answered to his unexpressed question.
“Yes, it’s hers. It used to be.” she looked up at Snape indifferently; with a graceful flick of her wand she made her clothes softly slip on her body. Meanwhile her other wand tied her hair in a loose pony tail, some tresses hanging playfully in her face.
“Am I any better than her?” Snape knew she referred to Bellatrix. She didn’t expect any reply.
“Is any of us any better than our enemies? Who can tell, where the good ends and where bad starts? Please, don’t answer. I don’t really care.” she turned to the window, which opened wide, letting in the cold November air. She inhaled deeply and turned back to Snape.
“Don’t feel bad about me. I don’t mind who we used to be. I neither mind what we did to each other, what we did to others and most of all to ourselves. Who am I to judge?” she stepped to the window and leaned to the frame. She was staring at the clouds against the bright, cold sky.
Snape stepped closer and followed her gaze. It was good just to stand near each other.
“You are a human being, and that fact binds you to judge your and other people’s deeds.” he said.
Hermione turned her head to him with curiosity.
“Do you really believe it?” she asked.
Snape looked taken aback, perhaps slightly affronted. “Yes, I do.”
“That’s why there will always be wars.” she turned back to the sight outside the window.
“You’re talking nonsense.” Snape said, but he couldn’t maintain the coolness of his voice, he felt comfortable and warm despite the cold breeze. For a moment he forgot where he was and who he was.
“Maybe.” she replied dreamily, gazing mesmerized at the slowly drifting clouds.
“It’s time for me to go.” Hermione turned to Snape.
She smiled at him and there was something elemental about that smile, it was like sunshine, warm and gentle, but also strong and fearless.
Snape felt that asking her to stay would ruin everything.
That would create the first bond, which first would seem a blessing then it would turn into a curse.
She must stay free and independent.
Like the clouds, she envied so much.
Then, he was sure, she would come back, just to leave again.
Snape felt strange. Though he had no one, he was no longer alone.
“You know” Hermione said, stirring his thoughts “I’ve always found you extraordinary, though, I didn’t dare to admit it. I guess I’ve always wanted this to happen. Call it curiosity, perversion, whatever you like. We might die today or tomorrow. What could force us to stick to stupid rules and complexes? Shame? Dignity? Our good name?"
She pouted and slowly shook her head..
"Those things have long lost their meaning here. I’m no longer able to feel regret for what I do. How could I? I’m killing people. That’s my work. I have to live with that. I used to hate it, but then, I realized that someone has to take this burden. It wasn't a choice, actually. Regret has nothing to do with this war. And it no longer has anything to do with us, as well."
She turned away, as if with this she had explained everything and started for the door.
Snape stood still, watching her. He didn’t reply.
She turned, stepped back to him and kissed his lips.
“I love you.”
She smiled at him. She waited for no reply, opened the door and disappeared, leaving Snape petrified.
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