Chapter 12 : New beginnings
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Chapter 12: New beginnings
Corrine felt as though her entire body were made of lead as she lay down. Her limbs were so weary she could hardly move. Sleep had not been a possibility for many nights, and she felt weaker now than at any time in her memory. There had been no time for recovery, no chance for rest or sleep. She could not even attempt to regain her strength after her great use of magic, Severus’ need for her was too great. Improving he was, but for Corrine she was still needed at his side almost every minute.
He had regained some use of his voice in the days since Harry’s departure but he still seemed not to be conscious or aware of his surroundings. He moaned in pain, and called out many incoherent things. Only one thing she could make out, and never before had she imagined how she would dislike hearing it.
Corrine had but closed her eyes when a knock came at the door. She slept now in Albus’ old room, as Severus was in her bed, but now she could have slept on the cold rocks outside if but given the chance. She tried to ignore the sound of her elf opening the door, but Minty knew better.
“Miss, Corrine,” Minty called to her. “Mr. Snape is calling for you.”
Corrine sighed in frustration. Her chest heaved in exhaustion, her breath hardly coming, or so it seamed to her. She shielded her eyes with her hands before opening them, but it still could not prevent the pain that the light sent piercing through her head.
“Corrine, miss?” Minty tried again.
“I head you, Minty,” she replied, still not lowering her hand.
“Minty is sorry miss, but Minty did not know what to do. He is calling and calling for you.”
“Of course he is,” Corrine said. “What on Earth else would he be doing?”
Minty did not answer, nor did Corrine ever intend her to. For the one thing that Severus said was nothing more than Corrine’s name, over and over again until the very sound of it made her sick.
Corrine walked, stumbling through the halls to her room. She could hear Severus’ moaning before she got to the door.
“Corrine,” he called over and over, tossing in the bed in delirium.
“I am here, Severus,” she said to him, though he gave no sign of hearing her.
She sat down beside him, taking his hand in her own. It appeared to calm him somewhat. Corrine rested her head in her on the edge of the bed, not able to sit up any longer. Vaguely she felt Minty wrap her shoulders in a warm woolen shawl.
“Can Minty do anything, miss?” she asked.
Corrine shook her head. “No, Minty. There is nothing you can do.”
The elf patted her on the back once more and left the room.
Corrine remained still for some time, listening to Snape moan. She had tried speaking to him, calling out that she was there and say soothing things to him, but he never showed any hint of hearing her. She just held his hand, trying to stay awake and ignore the pain coursing through her entire body. In and out of sleep she dozed, her back bent painfully over, hearing his voice thread in and out of her dreams. Sometimes when she woke she tried to hum or sing softly. He seamed to respond to this more than anything else, even though she didn’t have Severus’ stunning voice, but she couldn’t really muster the energy.
His moaning increased. Finally she could take it no longer. Unable to think of anything else, Corrine lay down beside him, wrapping her arms around her husband. His body stilled and grew quiet. Corrine closed her eyes and knew nothing more for some time.
For the better part of three days Corrine lay in bed beside him. Most of it she spent asleep and poor Minty was left with two people to care for. Whenever she left for a moment, Severus degenerated again into moaning and calling incoherently for her. He grew silent and still only if Corrine lay next to him so he could feel her. Corrine was too exhausted to notice his steady improvement. Minty had been able to get some broth and water into him, sometimes when his eyes were open, they saw, others not. It was not until Corrine felt that his arms were now around her, instead of hers around him that she realized he was truly awake.
She turned in his arms and looked into his face. Severus’ deep obsidian eyes stared back into hers and she knew he would be all right. She had done the right thing. Her sacrifice was worth it.
“How long have you been awake?” she asked him.
Severus smiled. It looked odd on his worn, thinned out face. “I have no idea,” he whispered. “It seems like I’ve been asleep for years and now I am truly waking up.”
His voice sounded thin. Months of hardly using it had left it, along with the rest of him, weak.
Corrine couldn’t help but smile at him. “How do you feel?” she asked him.
“Better than I should,” he said softly. “What did you do?” he asked.
Corrine looked hard into those deep black eyes. There would be time enough for explanations later. “Don’t worry about it, Severus. When you’re well, we can discuss it.”
“Potter?” he asked.
“Is gone. He left,” she answered. “He has things to do and our part in his story is over.”
Snape looked relieved that Harry was indeed gone, though Corrine didn’t fully understand why just then. His hand stroked her hair. He relished every touch of her soft brown curls in his fingers that weeks ago he hadn’t the strength to lift. He was looking at it, rather than her face when he spoke his next question.
“You let me come back. Part of me didn’t think you would,” he confessed.
Corrine reached for his hand, taking it in hers. “You are my husband, and you needed me,” she whispered.
He looked back into her face. There he found all the love he’d thought he lost long ago, stupidly throwing it away for duties he perceived as being necessary. Severus reached for her chin, for a moment he looked as though he were finally going to kiss her as he never had, but then his strength failed. His arm dropped, and he closed his eyes in fatigue.
Corrine tightened her arms around him and both slept for some time more.
The weeks that followed were not all filled with touching scenes of love returned. Corrine was forced to push her husband daily to work to regain his strength and he was not always a welcoming recipient of her ministrations. He constantly criticized the potions she spent hours brewing for him and did not take kindly to being poked and prodded and forced to work his screaming muscles. It was not long before both of them were irritated with the other and tempers were barely being kept in check.
It didn’t help that neither had spoken of the many things weighing heavily on both their minds. It was as though they were pretending that none of the way in which they had tormented each other had ever happened. There was too much to do to allow them to be drawn into their shared dark past. The endless night of winter was coming on, and Corrine had left a great deal of her work on the farmstead out while tending to Severus. No matter what she did now, it would be a hard winter, but a little extra work could prevent it from being terrible. But the many hours she spent with Snape while she was needed elsewhere were not helpful to her moral. The work and grind were wearing her thin and the painful memories were on the verge or breaking, along with both of their tempers.
Severus complained heavily as he leaned on Corrine. She tried to ignore him as she helped him back into the house. She had forced him to take a walk with her before all daylight was lost for weeks on end, though he spent half of it finding fault with everything she did to care for him, and the other half nearly being held up and dragged by Corrine. Her back was aching from his weight, which was steadily increasing, and her head pounded with hours of lost sleep listening to Snape’s endless complaining drone.
She deposited him in a chair by the fire before taking off her heavy cloak and starting to work on dinner. She hadn’t gotten more than a few feet away from him when Severus called for her.
“Are you going to help me out of this wet coat or shall I catch pneumonia on top of everything?” he demanded.
Corrine slammed a loaf of stale bread on the table. She had been planning to make it into a rich pudding, but was presently thinking of throwing it at Snape and letting him eat that for dinner instead.
She walked over to her husband with folded arms, not in a particularly good mood, and glared at him.
“So, take it off yourself,” she said.
His expression darkened, but he said nothing.
“You’re never going to get stronger if you don’t start doing more for yourself. If you don’t want your cloak, take it off,” she persisted.
“Perhaps I’d be more fit if you wouldn’t force me out in the rain in this state?” he snapped.
“You need to be out in the sun while it lasts. By week’s end there will be no more sunlight for two months.
“If you call that pathetic light filtering in between the constant overcast, sun, than I think I shall greet full winter gratefully,” he responded and looked sullenly at the floor.
Corrine reached her hand out to Severus. “If you want out of that cloak you have to stand up first,” she said.
Snape looked up at her and took her hand. She helped pull him out of his chair, slackening her grip and forcing him to use his own strength. Snape groaned as he slowly stood up. Corrine took a step back and held out her hand for the cloak. Severus knew she wouldn’t help him but would wait for him to do it himself. Very slowly, cursing his own weakness, Severus removed the cloak with far more effort than he ever thought such a simple task would take. When finished he handed it to her and flopped into the chair determinedly by himself.
Corrine hung his cloak to dry next to hers and went back to dinner. Despite her mood, she did make him a hearty meal rather than the dried bread and water she was tempted to serve him. He needed too much to add back on some pounds that the thick milky chowder, fresh cheese pudding and smoked cod could provide. At least Snape now had the strength to feed himself. She was getting rather disgusted with that.
Once dinner was finished, she cleaned away its remnants and put her cloak back on.
Snape looked up at her in alarm. “Where are you going?” he demanded.
Corrine smirked at him while bundling herself up to keep out the cold. “The sheep don’t milk themselves, you know,” she said. “If you want cheese to eat, I need milk and the animals need feed, and to have their stalls swept, their coats combed and checked. This place takes a lot of work. I want to set out some more fish to salt and smoke. Herbs need to be dried, too. There’s a ton to be done and I need to do it.”
Snape looked guiltily at his hands. “I should be helping,” he whispered.
Corrine stood still a moment longer before responding. She walked over to Severus, patted his shoulder and stroked his hair.
“When you’re well,” she said softly and went out to work.
It was many hours before she returned, wet, exhausted and sore from head to toe. Clearly, not in the mood for a grumpy invalid who wanted to be waited on hand and foot.
“Did you pamper every retched sheep in the world?” he demanded as Corrine collapsed into a chair nearby and closed her eyes. “I think you must have combed them with a needle, hair by hair.”
Corrine did not open her eyes before answering. “Would you prefer not to have any clothes to wear? Every thread covering your emaciated body I have made. So go starkers if you want to complain about it.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Snape said defensively. “I only missed you.”
“Being a servant for hours without end,” she retorted.
“I do not relish the state I am in. I find it as loathsome and detestable as you do. Perhaps you should have let me die,” he said.
Corrine huffed and opened her eyes only to glare at him. “I would just like a little appreciation, Severus. This is not party and while I am working to make you well, the rest of the island is being neglected.”
“Well, it it’s adoration you want, perhaps you should have kept your pubescent popinjay around!”
“What on earth are you talking about, Severus?” she demanded.
“Don’t pretend that Potter is not in love with you! I saw you two together!”
Corrine could not suppress the laughter from bursting from her mouth. It was just so perfectly absurd and yet true at the same time.
“What gave you that ridiculous idea?” she said when finally able to stop giggling like a school girl.
“I saw you embrace and I know he felt more than he confessed. I know you let him kiss you!” he snapped.
Corrine looked a bit embarrassed at his knowing this. “Well, it’s not as though you ever would.”
“You know why. You above all should understand,” he said.
“All I understand was that the man who loved me as his wife would not kiss me, but the young man who loved me as a friend would. I think one kiss is a small thing to be so jealous of. He only did so because you wouldn’t.”
Snape looked down again, rather than looking at Corrine. “I couldn’t.”
Neither said anything for some time. Corrine could not outright deny that Harry had feelings for her, but she also could not deny her genuine fondness for him, too. She did not love him in the way Severus feared, but she still regretted her sending out a dear friend into grave danger alone. Far too many half understood emotions came in and out of the forefront of her mind to consider just then.
“I am tired, Severus,” she told him. “I need sleep.”
Snape looked hopefully up at her, but she dashed his wishes of reconciliation with her next crushing words.
“I have prepared your old room for you, Severus,” she said. “I need more sleep and would like my bed to myself again.”
“But–?” he stammered, “I thought?” he could not finish his statement.
“That you could return to my life and bed without as much as an apology? That I should wait on you hand and foot till the end of our days? I did not fight through the horrors of war for that!”
“I went through as many horrors as you, if not more!” he snapped. “How else do you think I got this way?”
“You went through them of your own choosing! I didn’t have that luxury,” she yelled.
“Oh, is that so? You were forced to go running around hunting death eaters?” he demanded.
“I was avenging Albus and if it wouldn’t kill me too I should finish that duty now!” she shrieked.
Snape stared at her in horrified silence. “What do you mean?”
Corrine looked away from him. She was fuming with fury and could not guarantee control of what would come out of her mouth.
“It is nothing,” she whispered.
“No it isn’t. Why do you say that killing me would kill you too?”
She massaged her throbbing temples while she responded. “There was only one thing I could try to save you. So, I took a piece of your dying soul into mine, Severus. And in its place I gave you a portion of my own soul. That was the only cure I could provide. I could not watch you die. Now we are truly joined, impossible to separate lest we both die.”
For a long time the only sound from inside the room was the heated breath of the couple. The wind howled outside and the sea crashed with its constant rhythm, but still Severus could not think, could not fathom the entirety of what she had done. He didn’t deserve it.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” he said finally, the weighty silence becoming too much for him. “I would never have asked you to make that kind of sacrifice.”
“You couldn’t. It must be given freely for the magic to work,” she said.
“But, why? How could you do that for me?” he gasped.
“Once you saved my life, Severus. That debt is hard to repay, but through it all, I still love you,” she whispered. “As great and stupid a fool as that makes me.”
Abruptly she stood up, and started walked towards the hall. “I am going to bed. Minty can help you to your room. Please don’t bother me in mine!”
Corrine marched to her room and slammed the door, leaving Snape feeling confused and guilty in the empty room.
A/N: I hope everyone forgives me for taking so long to post. I can easily tell you that I have been having some really hard times lately and have had no time for anything. The loss of my favorite outlet has been as hard as the overwhelming workload and family stress the past weeks. I pray that things will remain calm for the moment, and that I’ll be able to get more writing done, for nothing else but my own sanity.
There are so many things I want to write, and I’ve even started thinking through a third story in this series. I just don’t know how to manage my time better. As soon as I figure out how to cram several more hours into the day, I’ll be posting like I used to. I’m going to try hard to add small snippets or very short chapters as I can, rather than wait on longer ones until they’re finished. That way I can feel like I’m getting something done, and you all can have updates to read. Let me know if you think that sounds like a good idea. I’m off for some much needed sleep!