Chapter 25 : Starving For Truth
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Out of the corner of her eye she saw black robes billow quietly around the corner of the closest set of shelves. Glancing up she saw Severus flipping through a book that they both knew he wasn't really reading. She began to chew her cheek and went back to her outlining. Severus kept up his reading charade for a few moments more before finally closing the book with an annoyed snap.
"You missed your lesson last night." He said flatly, leaning against the shelves. Valora kept her eyes on her notes and took a steadying breath of air.
"I was tired. I'm sorry, I should have let you know." Valora lied reaching her hand up to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear.
"What are those?" Severus asked, his voice dangerously quiet. Valora furrowed her brow.
"What are what?" She asked, confused. Severus grabbed her forearm and showed her her own wrist and the bruises that Sirius's fingertips had made yesterday.
"These. Who did that to you?" He asked, sounding livid. Valora ripped her wrist away from him and wrapped it back in the folds of her own teaching robes, her eyes back on her books.
"It's nothing for you to concern yourself with." She told him blandly.
"Black did this to you." Severus said, the pieces fitting together easily in his calculating mind. Valora rolled her eyes and banged her own book shut.
"I don't want to discuss this with you if you haven't noticed by the fact that I've gone out of my way to avoid you. Why don't you give me some time to deal with my problems before you start harassing me, alright?" She told him, her eyes aflame.
"I didn't know being concerned with your well-being was harassment." He said, his voice rising a bit.
"Just go away, Severus." Valora whispered half-heartedly. She didn't want to admit what had happened yesterday. Why did he have to push her? He kept secrets from her and she was a fairly good sport about it but if she has a secret, oh no, he needs to know what it is immediatley.
Severus stared at her for a few more moments before storming out of the library, and it's lucky he left when he did because a moment later Valora's chest tightened and she felt her hands clawing at her chest, trying to force it to expand and let air back in. Tears stung at her eyes and she began to read, trying to focus on something else, to get her mind of the guilt and pressure that were crushing her. This felt too much like the old days.
Valora was sitiing at the tiny breakfast table in the house she and Severus now shared. It was late at night, or possibly very early in the morning, she wasn't sure. A half empty bottle of firewhiskey sat in fron of her as she stared lifelssly out the window. The moon was a thin crescent and did almost nothing to illuminate the ground below. Valora looked down at pile of pictures and letters she had in front of her. All of them of her schooldays with the marauders. As she picked up one in particular tears began to well up in her eyes and fall onto her cheeks. It was of Sirius and herself, they were passed out after James and Lily's halloween party, curled around eachother as they slept on the floor of the kitchen. They had been far to drunk to move and woken up with stiff necks and almost no recollection of the night before.
Severus stood in the doorway and couldn't help but feel jealous as he watched Valora cry over Sirius Black. He unfastened his black traveling cloak from his shoulders and hung it on a hook near the door before walking over and palcing his hands on Valora's shoulders and kissing the top of her head dutifully. She shrugged him off and took another long drink from the bottle in front of her. Severus rolled his eyes at her attitude.
"Missing your lover?" He sneered. Valora didn't turn around and just ran a hand through her unwashed hair.
"Not tonight, Severus." She croaked hoarsely. The sound of her so broken only fueled his anger.
"Why do you even keep up the charade of loving me if you want to be with him so badly? Break him out why don't you? We both know if you sobered up you'd be more than capable. Oh, but that would require you to be sober, my apologies, I forgot that's too much to ask of you." He said turning to leave. Valora stood angrily from the table, moving so fast her chair fell to the floor beneath her. She teetered slightly but held her ground.
"Where have you been Sev? Talking with the Malfoys? The Lestranges? Searching for him? Plotting his return? Merlin, you've always been on about Sirius, maybe you're the one who helped frame him!" Valora accused.
"You think-" Severus attempted to challenege but Valora cut him off, her alcohol-addled mind making this a more realistic option than it really was.
"Yes! Your so worried I'll abandon you for him that you managed to convince someone to betray James and Lily and made it seem like him! How could you do that you great idiot!" She said shoving him, tears still running down her face. Severus tried to stop her but she crumpled to the floor as she lost her footing.
"I would never have done that to you." He tried to say, watching her rock her body quietly as she sobbed. She looked up at him, her drunken gaze unfocused but eyes brimming with tears.
"I loved you." She told him earnestly. Severus struggled to keep the lump in his throat.
"And now?" He asked. Valora yawned and wiped her eyes then looked around, slightly confused. Severus was struggling to retain his composure at her easy dismissal of the question. She leaned her head to one side.
"Hand me that bottle won't you?" She slurred, nodding towards the firewhiskey bottle she had left on the table a few feet away. Severus numbly grabbed the bottle and delivered into her waiting hands before grabbing his cloak and walking back outt he door.
Valora glanced up as she heard the door slam. Where was Severus going? All she had said was that she loved him and then asked him to hand her the bottle. When did he get angry about that? She wandered upstairs to the bedroom and crawled into bed, the bottle of firewhiskey still in her hand. She smiled at her favorite picture. The one of her and Severus which laid beneath her pillow, so even when he couldn't be home he was still with her. She snuggled beneath the thick quilt and placed the bottle on the beside table.
"Goodnight Severus. I love you." She whispered into the darkness.
All those nights alone, the years without him, she wouldn't- couldn't do it again. Valora gathered her book and dropped them on Madame Pince's desk, asking her to have them sent to her rooms. The librarian obliged, pausing only to raise an eyebrow at Valora's hurried attitude. Valora threw the woman a brief smile and then began to rush through the halls, trying her best not to break into a full out run towards the dungeons. She wouldn't let them go back to those terrible, dark times. Severus loved her and she loved him, and she wasn't willing to jepoardize that ever again.Rounding a corner she almost collided with Harry.
"Professor Nox!" She said reaching out a hand to steady her. She smirked at him.
"Hello dear." She said, her cheeks tinged pink with slight embarassment. "What are you up to? I rarely see you without Ron or Hermione." she said with a gentle smile. Harry scratched his head and shrugged.
"I have to go see Dumbledore." He told her. Valora raised an eyebrow at the strange tone.
"Is anything wrong? You can tell me, I promise." She told him, putting a cool hand to his cheek and raising his face so they locked eyes. Harry smiled at her concern. She was acting just like a mother. Then it struck Harry. Next to Mrs. Weasley, Valora was the closest thing to a mother he would ever have.
"I'm fine, Valora. Promise." He said with a smile. Valora smiled too but hers was dim, a shadow of her usual smiles. Her mind was clearly elswhere. Valora abruptly pulled him into a tight hug, which he returned. She kissed the top of his head and then rested her cheek on it.
"You be safe. I love you." She said finally releasing him. Harry grinned up at her.
"Love you too." He said before walking off down the hall. Valora watched him for a moment, but with Severus still on her mind she was unable to fully enjoy the fact that her godson loved her and that she had gained Harry's trust finally. She shook her head and set back off down the halls until she finally reached the dungeons.
Valora snuck down the corridor until she came to Severus's rooms. With no one in the halls she slipped inside only to find that they were empty. Valora chewed the inside of her cheek and walked out and down the hall a little ways to his office, which was also empty. Worry and confusion began to plague her thoughts as she walked towards his classrooms. Empty. Walking out Valora felt tears pricking at her eyes again. Where the hell was he? Didn't he know that she needed him? A quiet sound of shifting glass made her walk down the hall until she came to a small door. It looked like a broom closet. Pressing her ear to the door she hear the sound again of someone shuffling around in there. Throwing open the door she saw Severus standing there, arranging various potions ingredients.
He glanced over his shoulder as the door opened and frowned at her. She smiled wide, willing to brave his bad mood. She hurriedly slipped in and shut the door behind her and casting a silencing charm on the tiny, cramped space. It was almost impossible to move, the room was so tiny, but she didn't care, space from him was the last thing she wanted at the moment. Before he could even process her curious expression Severus found himself holding Valora up as she threw her arms around his neck and began to kiss him him fiercely. He finally managed to pull away and look down at her, his arms still securely fastened about her waist.
"You certaintly seem to be in a better mood." He noted without a smile. Valora let out a small laugh, her eyes brimming with elated tears.
"I love you, so much." she told him. Severus tightened his grip.
"What's wrong?" He asked, rubbing her back as she buried her head onto his shoulder, biting her lips to keep the tears back. No crying now. This wasn't a sad thing. she loved him, so much she could barely stand it. She loved everything about him. His bad temper, his biting sarcasm, his big nose, his ever-so-slightly greasy hair. Everything, because it's what made him...him, and she would never love anyone else.
"There's nothing wrong. Nothing can ever be wrong again because I have you again." She told him, pulling back to look him in the eyes. He gave a small smirk.
"And I you. I love you Valora." He told her, pushing a strand of hair back from her face and out of her eyes. She held his hand against her face and took a deep breath.
"I'll do anything you want me to do. I don't care anymore about who knows. I don't care if Sirius finds out, or Harry, or anyone else. I love you and I want everyone to know that I belong to you. Only you. Let's just tell everyone. If they don't like it that's too bad. We haven't done anything wrong by loving eachother." She said, biting her lip as she stared up at him. Severus groaned and frowned.
"The Dark Lord would kill me." He said quietly. Valora instinctively placed a hand over his forearm where his darkmark was, as though she were trying to hide it. Biting her cheek she thought for a moment.
"We'll run away. Get a little cottage, just like we always planned." she said with a small smile. Severus raised an eyebrow at her scheming mind.
"And your godson?" He asked. Valora shrugged.
"We'll take Harry with us. I'm sure he'd get used to it, he got used to me." She said smiling up at him, encouraging him to look past reason and go with it.
"You, me and Potter. One big, happy family. That's how you want it?" Severus asked, looking skeptical. Valora paused and rested her hands on his chest so that she could feel his heartbeat thrumming steadily beneath her fingers, then she looked back up into his grey eyes.
"Yes." She said finally. That is exactly what she wanted. Everyone she loved around her, safe from harm. Severus sighed as he looked down at her eager face. He wished that he could give her what she wanted. She deserved that and she wasn't asking for much. A little home, a family, a chance to live without being hunted, but there was only one way he would ever be able to give that to her, and that path was a rocky one that he had been following since he had become the Order's double-agent. He cradled her head, his hands resting against the white column of her throat.
"One day. I swear, we'll have that, but right now, it's impossible." He told her carefully. Valora nodded sadly, knowing she wouldn't have gotten him to agree to that in a million years. She leaned up and kissed him again, letting him know that she didn't hold it agaisnt him. He smiled and held her close to him inhaling the scent of vanilla and mint.
Opening the door Severus poked his head out first and made sure that the hallway was empty before allowing Valora to walk out. As he locked the door to his storeroom the bells tolled five in the evening. Valora was leaning against the cold stone wall and watching him with a faint smile on her lips. He pocketed the key and looked at her.
"We have just enough time to make up for that lesson you missed last night, if you're feeling up to it." he said delicately. Valora smiled wide.
"I think this is the last one. I almost have it back completely." She said, practically skipping beside him. For the first time he noted her attire beneath her robes.
"What are those?" He asked, pulling aside her robes to see her legs clad in black leather pants. Valora smirked fiendishly.
"Pants." She said innocently. Severus rolled his eyes before glancing at her again. He was now unsure if he'd be able to sit through an entire Occlumency lesson with her wearing those. Valora seemed to know what he was thinking because they both quickened their pace to his rooms and quickly dissapeared behind the heavy door. They both hoped Valora was as good as she thought she was and that this would be a very short lesson.
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