Chapter 11 : I Alone
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Valora stumbled into the bedroom, giggling loudly to herself at nothing in particular. She placed the almost empty bottle of rum on the bedside table and staggered to the bathroom.
It had been yet another night spent at a pub. A muggle pub actually. It was safer than wizarding pubs. Muggles didn't know her and didn't care if she got piss drunk. She had to drink. It helped her thoughts cloud over and then she didn't have to feel the pain, the guilt and the hurt that threatened to destroy her every moment of every day.
Severus had tried to help, even going so far as to let her move in with him after Lily and James' death, and Sirius's incarceration. Still, she had to keep her existence a secret, because there was still lingering deatheater activity. Valora never felt safe anymore. She felt like a ghost - a shell of the woman she had once been. Severus disapproved of her drinking and they fought more often than they ever had before. It wasn't the light-hearted, silly fights from their schooldays - these fights left her shaken and usually ended with one of the two walking out. They moved around each other cautiously, knowing that the slightest thing would offset the other's temper. Severus usually now kept his distance. In rare moments though, things felt the way they used to. He would come home late at night and she would already be in bed. He would slide, silently in beside her and wrap his arms around her, his lips kissing the nape of her neck softly. She would smile and pull him closer. In the morning however, the illusion was always broken.
Valora was too drunk to think of these things. She flushed the toilet and washed her hands before splashing a bit of cool water on her face. She looked at the woman in the mirror. She was still pretty but the vision seemed distorted in her blurred vision. She decided it was best just to sleep a bit more and pulled her shirt over her head and threw it into the hamper. Walking out of the bathroom in only a pair of jeans and her dark green bra she felt oddly comfortable, at a kind of peace. If only things could always be so quiet. No arguing. No screaming memories or burning guilt. Angry tears bit at her eyes and she reached instinctively for the cure: the bottle beside the bed. She was so absorbed in tuning everything out that she didn't notice Severus had come home.
He stood in the doorway to their bedroom frowning. The floor was littered with laundry and old photographs of Valora during her school days. He looked at her now, his beautiful girl, drinking herself into oblivion just for a few hours of forgetting the role they played in this terrible tragedy. He was furious with her. Why couldn't she handle this? Why wouldn't she let him help her? Why was she more upset about losing Black than Lily and James? It didn't make sense unless- Valora had been writing Sirius faithfully since his imprisonment. Even in Hogwarts it had been obvious that Black was in love with her, even if she was blind to his attentions. Maybe now, after all these years she had realized Sirius' infatuation with her and responded in kind. Rage boiled up inside of him. He stormed over to where she sat in a chair by the window and ripped the bottle away from her.
Valora's eyes widened as she gazed up at him. His dark hair hung in his eyes as he glared at her, then she raised a playful eyebrow.
"Darling, if looks could kill..." she muttered before reaching for the bottle, but Severus held it out of reach.
"I want you to stop drinking." He said stonily. Valora scoffed at the idea and stepped closer to him wrapping her arms around his waist and eyeing him lustily.
"Sev, just let me finish the bottle and then we can go to bed, mmm?" She asked, kissing him tenderly just under his jaw. Severus wrinkled his nose at her. She smelled like alcohol, sweat and smoke. He pushed her away roughly.
"What are you doing?" She asked angrily as she staggered backward, almost losing her balance in the process.
"You've become a bloody drunk and I'm sick of it. Honestly Valora you're behaving like a prostitute. If I wanted to buy a woman with a bottle of rum I would go to Knockturn Alley. I hope you're not shagging people for drinks now." The words came out angrily, he hadn't even meant to say them really, but they were said all the same. Valora's jaw dropped and then her eyes blazed. She couldn't believe he had just said that to her. She shoved him angrily and Severus held the bottle above his head.
“Give me the bottle Severus!” Valora yelled, clawing for it while he held it just out of her reach. He shoved her roughly away from him again and she landed onto her bed. Frowning she reached into her bedside table and lit a cigarette. Situations like this happened often now. Valora knew that in a few moments he would simply give up and leave the bottle, walking out in a huff. She didn’t move as Severus set the bottle on the table, not realizing what he was doing until he pointed his wand at it.
“Obliterate!” he yelled sending tiny pieces of glass and drops of rum scattering every which way. Valora sat there fuming and took another drag as Severus said another spell to clean up the mess before turning to face her.
“You might want to ash that.” He said pointing to the ridiculously long ash of her cigarette. She flicked it angrily into the ashtray. Severus just sighed and sat beside her, attempting to put an arm around her but she pushed him away.
“Don’t touch me.” She said icily, grinding the stub of her now finished cigarette into the ashtray and moving farther away from him. Severus stood and leaned his head against the cool stone of the walls, then after a moment punched them angrily.
“Why?” He demanded angrily, standing over her. Valora felt a thrill of fear. He never did this. Even at his most angry she had never been as truly afraid of him as she was now. This only further infuriated her. How dare he make her feel tiny and scared- on top of everything else!
“It’s none of your business.”
“It’s because of him isn’t it?”
“Black. You’re in love with him, don’t deny it.” He said bitterly. Valora’s face turned to steel.
“Who’s denying it?” She asked simply, hoping the words would wound him. However the look on Severus's face was not just wounded pride. It was anger, hurt but worst of all, he looked as though he had EXPECTED that answer. He nodded curtly and walked out of the bedroom, his footsteps hurrying down the stairs. Valora instantly regretted her actions.
“Wait, Severus, don’t leave.” She said, stumbling after him. He stood in front of the door, pulling his cloak on. She stood on the stairs, her arms crossed in front of her, shielding her half naked form from the cold air that was blowing through the open door.
“Don’t leave Sev. Come on, let’s talk. I didn’t mean it. Please.” tears were in her eyes. This time was different from the other fights they had - she could feel it.
“I’m not coming back for a while, but when I do come back. I expect you to be gone. I don’t care where you go; I don’t care what happens to you. Just get out.” The door slammed shut and the last thing she saw of Severus was his retreating figure as he walked down the street.
Valora felt like her chest had caved in she took deep heavy breaths as she tried to process what had happened. It was like some bizarre nightmare. She had only meant to win an argument, to have another sip or two from the bottle and just like that, she had lost the love of her life.
"Come in." he said from the other side of the door. Valora took another steadying breath before she walked in.
Severus was sitting in a plush armchair gazing at the fire, a goblet of wine in his hand and the half empty bottle beside him. She recognized it as one of the bottles from his emergency stock. How she envied him at that moment. Just a sip was all she needed, or even now she could turn and go down to Hogsmeade and order a bottle of firewhiskey -NO! She was going to do this, she HAD to do this. She was strong enough to do this.
"Hello, Severus." she said quietly. Severus turned and caught her eye for a brief moment before waving his wand and vanishing both the glass and bottle away, a gesture Valora was grateful for. She noted the book lying next to him, taking the only other available seat. Clearly he wasn't going to move it and so she stood while he reclined. Typical move on his part. He always became moody when he didn't know what to expect. Especially when it came to Valora.
"What did you need, Valora?" Severus asked. Valora repositioned her shoulders a little straighter and licked her lips in preparation for what she was going to say.
"I'm here to apologize." She told him simply. Severus gave a dry laugh and picked up his book and began to read again.
"Was that all you came here for? To assuage your guilt? I can assure you it was unnecessary."
"It's not. Severus, what I did to you-"
"It was fourteen years ago, Valora." Snape said quickly, cutting her off. She took a defiant step closer to him.
"And it's been tearing me apart every day since." she told him truthfully. Severus kept his eyes on his book and thumbed through the pages even though they both knew he was no longer reading.
"Even now?' He asked softly. Valora took a deep breath.
"Even now, Severus. What I did was inexcusable. All those things I said that night, they weren't true. Not in the least. I regret that night more than anything. I can't forget it, I can't forget you...us." she paused and watched as Snape stayed silent and kept his eyes on his book.
"I thought for a while I could just drink it all away and for the most part it worked, except for you. My heart just refused to forget you. I can't stop feeling what I feel for you. I may hate you sometimes, and you drive me absolutely insane, but I can't stop myself from being wildly, amazingly, and irrevocably in love with you.
"I'm not here to be forgiven, Severus. I don't expect you to forget what has happened between us." She paused and laughed lightly. "You don't forget anything. I just hope that you can go against your better judgment and come back to me."
The silence hung in the air and the tension was palpable but Valora felt a peaceful ease. Even if he hated her she loved him, and always would. And now he knew. Severus threw the book aside and began to pace throughout the room. Valora let out a quiet breath and took his vacated seat.
She had vaguely expected this reaction. Valora knew it was alright if she stayed. If he had wanted her to leave he would have thrown her out. She watched patiently as he crossed in front of the fire, bracing himself against the mantle, with his back to her as he stared into the flames. She knew what was happening. He had gathered his thoughts and now it was only a matter of time before he-
"What were you thinking?!" he demanded angrily.
Valora hung her head and bit her lip. Snape crossed the tiny space and seized her by the shoulders slightly, shaking her slightly.
"What did you think would come from telling me this?" he asked, his face a strange mixture of fury, pain and desire. Valora tilted her head to the side, a sick part of her enjoying how close she was to him.
"I honestly don't know what will happen now. I just couldn't stand feeling this way without telling you. I didn't want to lie to you anymore, or to myself." she admitted. Telling him the absolute truth felt so magnificent, like a huge breath of air. Severus released her and crossed back to the fire.
"Why did you have to do this?" He asked quietly, more to himself than to her. Valora stayed silent as tears pricked her eyes. She wouldn't cry in front of him though.
"I don't know about this, Valora." he admitted finally. "I'm not sure things can be how they were. The secrets, the lies, the sneaking around. Things are much more dangerous now, and far more complicated."
"Story of our lives." she noted with a sad smile. Severus turned and caught her eye and Valora felt her heart give a tiny jump. Snape ran a hand through his hair as he looked at Valora. The love of his life. He was vaguely reminded of a Christian parable of an apple and a snake. In the story, the man and the woman were kicked out of paradise for tasting the forbidden fruit, and in the back of his mind Severus wondered whether they believed it had been worth it.
Valora watched as Severus warred with himself. This was it, though. This was them. There was no other man Valora could ever love, and she was quite certain Severus never had any other woman. The idea of him being a 'ladies man' was ever so slightly comical. It was always the two of them. She was the only one who could love him, tempt him, and complete him. She alone was right for him, and he for her.
"I'm going to need to think about this." he finally said quietly, with a tiny note of defeat in his voice. Valora let out a long breath. She wasn't so naive as to think that once she told Severus how she felt he would sweep her into his arms and proclaim his devotion to her but she had rather hoped for a proper answer. Still, a maybe was better than a no. She gave a small smile and stood to walk towards the door. As her hand reached the doorknob she felt his hand on her shoulder. Turning ever so slightly his lips met hers briefly.
Her eyes searched his. That was just a cruel thing to do. Bittersweet emotions rushed down on her head as Severus ran his fingers along her jaw and across her lips.
"I promise I won't keep you waiting. There's just a lot to consider." he told her. Valora gave him a warm smile.
"I know, I just hope you come to the same conclusion as me."
"And what exactly was that conclusion." he asked quietly, his fingers still resting upon her face. She wrapped her hand around them and locked her eyes with his.
"That I absolutely can't live without you." she laughed quietly. "I know, I tried."
Severus's eyes filled with a sudden pain and he pressed his lips to her forehead. Valora closed her eyes, breathing him in, a complicated emotion of pain and pleasure filling her entirely.
"I'll give you my answer soon. I promise." he said softly. Valora raised an eyebrow at him.
"You're taking this much better than I thought you would."
"I put a sedative in the wine earlier."
"Ah, that explains it." She said with a smile before opening the door. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight." Severus said, watching her disappear from view down the dark hall.
Sinking back into his armchair Severus conjured another glass of his sedative-filled wine. Could they really go back? After all this time? She still loved him, she had always loved him, just as he had always loved her. That night had been so fast. One moment she there, sitting on their bed, the next she was standing, shivering on the staircase, begging him to stay.
When he had come home a few hours later he had expected to find a very angry Valora sitting and waiting for him, instead he came home to an empty house. All her things were gone. She hadn't even left a note behind. The lack of a proper goodbye had only made him angrier. He didn't bother to look for her, figuring if she truly still wanted him she'd come back, and every day she was gone only further proved to Severus that she loved Black.
But she had never gone to Black, even when he had returned and escaped Azkanban. She had stayed in Italy. He had been surprised and slightly frightened when she didn't come running back into Sirius's arms. He thought the only reason she wouldn't would be that she was dead. The thought had torn him up, and ultimately when he had caught Black in the Shrieking Shack he had been eaten-up with anger, thinking it was unfair that Sirius should live while Valora was dead. Then had looked at Harry, the little boy Valora had loved so much and couldn't take away his only family in this world.
From the moment Harry had entered Hogwarts, Severus had watched over him. In first year when Quirrell had tried to reach him, Severus had made sure no harm came to him. All the time thinking that Valora would never forgive him if he didn't watch over the boy. Not that Potter had been very grateful. Just like his father and Sirius. Arrogant, smug, and blind to what was around him.
After the Triwizard Tournament and Voldemort's return, Severus realized he needed to make sure whether or not Valora was still alive. If she was alive she was in more danger than ever, therefore putting the entire order and the people she loved most in this world in danger as well. That was always Valora's problem. She knew too much. She had too many secrets.
It had taken him the entire summer to track her down. Over 13 years she had traveled down, living for a while in Knockturn Alley, then down into Paris, drifted through France then all the way down into Italy. It was amazing she had survived. When he found her he almost broke down. She was lying on a dirty cot in a small and dingy one room flat that smelled like liquor, smoke and cat urine. Jasper was in a cage on the tiny desk that sat near an open window. Bottles littered the floor, some full, some empty, some leaking without a care. She was completely unconscious and looked as though she had recently been punched quite a few times. Rage boiled up inside him. At whoever at hurt her, at her for allowing it to happen, but mostly at himself for not protecting her. He wrapped the sheet around her half-naked and unhealthily skinny form and apparated her to the Italian magical hospital in Rome. She didn't wake up and he made sure to tell the healers that she wasn't to know who brought her here, and if she asked to tell her that it was a simply a stranger. He paid for all of her treatments which would be extensive and take about six months. He also owled Dumbledore, asking him to come down.
When Dumbledore had arrived he had made it clear that he wished to remain anonymous. Valora would never know it was him who found and saved her. She was to think it was entirely Dumbledore and the Italian Ministry's doing. Albus had set up the particulars. Both he and Severus knew that Valora would have to come to Hogwarts, seeing as she needed not only to be watched over, but protected from the Deatheaters, because once word got out that she was, in fact, alive and not dead like everyone assumed, they would come in swarms to get to her. So she spent six months in Italy, receiving her treatment and another six months in a rehab and retraining facility, since she hadn't used magic in god knows how long.
Now here she was, the vibrant, headstrong, beautiful woman he knew and loved and yet he didn't know if he could handle this all again. What if this was a vicious cycle that was simply going to repeat itself? He couldn't bear to see her hurt again. It would a million times more dangerous than before and so much more complicated what with Harry already asking questions and Sirius back in the picture. One thing however seemed to outweigh all of these negatives.
He still loved her.
A/N: I know a bunch of Severus/Valora fans are groaning right now, but c'mon, has Snape ever been the needlessly romantic guy? Don't think so.
Thanks to everyone who has stuck with the story so far. There's alot more to come so I hope you check for updates. I also made a website for those of you who are becoming as obsessed as I am. I have no life. :) Anyway, enjoy the story. I'll be steadily posting after each validation.
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