Chapter 10 : Do I Love you?
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Severus had not slept, and the dawning light began to crack on the horizon, making the curtains glow slightly. He had sat next to Hermione on the bed and stroked her hair and face while she slept. Somehow she had curled up to him so her head lay in his lap and her hands lay on his legs.
He could see that her eyes were still swollen from the night before, but otherwise she looked quite radiant, as if every strain had somehow lifted, the worry lines that had creased her brow were smooth and supple.
All those little pieces that had shattered away, all those tiny fragments that scattered away from me when he died, all came back to me in a second… and fitted even better than they did before.
Her words echoed around in his head. What had they really meant, did she love him, was this love? Was it rebound?
She shuffled slightly and her head turned towards him, her lips were parted a little.
‘Can you hear me?’ he whispered. She sighed gently in her sleep but did not wake.
Severus bit his lip slightly, he had to tell her about his past, and when better to tell her than now. While she was asleep and could dream his words.
‘A long time ago, I knew a woman. We had known each other since we were children, and we became friends at once. She was very intelligent, and funny. And above all she was exceedingly beautiful. The magic in her eyes alone would make the flowers uncurl and awaken in her gaze.
‘We were best friends for so long, I adored her; I was so foolish and jealous of anyone else who stole her from me. And one day I made the gravest mistake of my life, and indeed I would give my very life to take it back. I called her a ‘Mudblood’ when I was stupid with rage. That day I wounded our friendship forever.
‘I… I loved her, very much. There were times after that, when I was sure I was going to die, living without her. Without those eyes looking into mine.
‘As time passed she fell in love with another, a man that I hated with a deadly passion and I had sworn one day to wreak revenge on him for he caused me so many years of suffering when we were at school.
‘The only thing left for me was the Dark Lord, so I joined the death eaters and caused havoc and pain. One evening he made a plan, he wanted to destroy a family, a couple who were apart of the Order of the Phoenix and who had long got in the way of his plans for the New World and to my horror I found he was referring to the woman that I had loved for so long, along with her husband and baby.
‘I begged him to reconsider, but I could not stop him as he set off and destroyed them, all of them but the baby, the woman I loved sacrificed herself for her son.
‘I turned to stone, enclosing everything I had ever loved and barring everything else, for years. And then you arrive on my doorstep, seeking out my company alone to get away from the grief of someone you’ve lost. I see so much of myself in you.
‘You cracked that stone, chipped at it until there was not a shard left. Maybe, if I can help you, if I can show you some reason to be happy, I can be happy too. I don’t want to be cold anymore’
He looked over her sleeping form for a few moments, he furrowed his brow, searching for something, some answer. How ironic it was that such an intelligent man could not fathom his own feelings. It had been so long since he had felt hope, happiness… love. He wasn’t sure anymore what it felt like. He had no memory of these feelings, not even with Lily.
‘Do I love you?’ he whispered, Hermione shuffled again and her eyelids had begun to flicker as she dreamed.
‘Severus…’ she whispered ‘Severus… don’t let me go…’
He wrapped his arms around her as she slept on, I won’t he thought, I’ll never.
Half an hour passed and Hermione opened her eyes, it seemed she had slept for a lifetime, the lids were very swollen but he could still see her brown iris’s shining past them.
‘Good morning’ he whispered and she smiled.
‘I’m sorry’ she said.
‘What an earth for?’
‘For getting into such a state last night, it was silly of me, and the last thing you needed’
‘Its ridiculous for you to apologize, all that anger and hurt building up, I’m surprised you hadn’t cracked before then’
She sat up and rolled her shoulders, breaking out of the stiffness, she lay her head on his chest.
‘What did I miss at the meeting yesterday, its fair to say I missed rather a large chunk of it’ she whispered.
‘We made a plan, a rather big plan actually’ he said, saying softly as not to arouse her into a state of grief ‘We are planning on a battle, a final battle as a matter of fact’
She lifted her head and looked at him, her eyes full of sudden determination, her swollen lids only made her expression even more fierce.
‘When the time comes, we still need to do more planning, and discuss the bait more…thoroughly’
‘Yes, young dear Mr. Potter as offered to stick himself on the hook to lure the Dark Lord out of Malfoy Manor… very chivalrous of him’ Severus added.
Hermione gave an exasperated sigh.
‘Why must he forever be the hero!’ she said sternly as she ripped the covers from her and headed to the en-suit.
Severus smiled as her back turned, her scorning of Harry brought him a momentary moment of pleasure.
‘The initial plan is to go to Hogwarts and take out the Carrow’s and Dolohov so that Harry has leverage to make a confrontation with the Dark Lord, he of course, would never leave the safety of the Manor for the time being but will instead send every death eater in his charge to surge the castle, while the Order fight the death eaters Harry, Kingsley and I will apparate to the Manor and fight the Dark Lord there, there is every high hope that soon this war will be over… if we succeed’ Severus added.
Hermione emerged from the bathroom with one eyebrow raised, looking grave, Severus could not suppress a sudden shiver down his spine.
‘That is the weakest and most non-strategic plan I have ever heard’ she said, her face slightly paler.
‘Your right, it is. But it the most unlikely path that the Dark Lord will expect us to take, I will have an advantage too, I can still play the spy and take him by surprise’ Severus defended.
‘So…we are just supposed to wait until either of you emerges, keep fighting the death eaters at Hogwarts until one of you kills the other, what about the students, the staff that won’t fight?’ she returned to the bed and sat next to him with her knee’s tucked beneath her.
‘The younger students will be sent to safety, and the others… if they want to be free from tyranny they will fight, otherwise they have no right to complain’ he said.
Silence held them for a few moments, but then Hermione placed her hand gently on Severus’s cheek. Holding his attention as she looked into those black eyes.
‘Am I to loose everyone?’ she whispered.
He swept a curl out of her eyes and tucked it behind her ear, her eyes sparkled suddenly.
There was a short silence where Hermione smiled and Severus looked away from her, he swung his legs off of the bed and faced away from her.
‘What are we?’ he whispered.
She looked towards the window to see the fully dawned sun glow a brilliant orange over the filthy river below.
‘I would tell you, but I would hate to admit to being such an awful person’ she answered biting her lip ‘if I admit my feelings, I am no better than a mythological Gorgon, with serpents in my hair and a glance that could turn you to stone’
Severus turned and looked over her, she had tears in her eyes, but not enough to spill from them. She held her face in her hands and rocked slightly making the springs of the mattress squeak.
‘How awful is it that I had loved someone so deeply and for so long, and upon loosing him fell even deeper in love with another before his body lay cold?... I must be some kind of demon like you said’ she whispered, she turned away from him, her cheeks suddenly burning.
Severus crawled on the bed behind her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders and rested his head in the crook of her neck.
‘I didn’t mean to say it, I was being thoughtless and angry, you could never be anything less than an angel’ he whispered in her ear, and he felt the heat that flooded her face warm his own cheeks.
She turned her face to his so their lips were less than an inch apart.
‘I shall go to hell for loving you’ she whispered, her sweet breath hazing his train of thoughts, he cupped her chin in his hands.
‘Then you shall meet me there, and I will love you a second more before I throw you back towards the heavens, where you once descended, right into my arms’ he leaned in and kissed her gently, but she urged him on with a fiery passion, twisting his hair around her fingers, clawing at his chest.
Grief and guilt forgotten, if only for a while.
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