WARNING! THIS STORY CONTAINS A SUBSTANCE ABUSE PLOT LINE. MATURE READERS ONLY!
New Life, New Meanings
Hermione spent the next week in the Hospital Wing. Every day Severus sat by her bed and held her hand as the withdrawal pains came and went. Some days the effects were mild and hardly noticeable; and then there were days when it seemed as if the potion would finally kill her. During all of this, Sirius Black was nowhere to be found. The day after he walked in on Severus and Hermione, Remus came to see them. Sirius was missing and Remus wanted to know if they had seen him since yesterday.
“Being Black’s friend, I’d expect you to already know that Black does whatever Black wants,” Severus said snootily.
“He wouldn’t take off without telling me first, Severus,” Remus retorted.
“How sad that you truly believe he could care about anyone other than himself.”
“Severus, please,” Hermione pleaded weakly.
Severus returned to her bedside and softly said, “Forgive me.”
“Remus, Black walked in on Severus consoling me last night.”
“Oh, I see,” Remus replied in understanding.
“He was very…upset.” Severus snorted at Hermione’s statement. Hermione ignored him and continued, “He probably needed some time to himself.”
“You’re probably right. If he returns here, let him know I was looking for him.” Severus and Hermione nodded and Remus left the Hospital Wing.
He spent the next three hours combing first the large castle and then the nearby village for his friend. Just as he was about to give up and return to the castle, he noticed a light coming from the Shrieking Shack - a light that hadn’t been there when he’d first arrived in Hogsmeade. Curious, Remus returned to the castle and immediately went to the Whomping Willow. Using a stick he found nearby, he prodded the root at the base of the tree to make it docile, so he could pass into the secret tunnel that lay beneath.
He walked in silence. Thirty minutes later, he came out of the tunnel inside the rundown shack he’d spent three days of every month in during his tenure at Hogwarts. Remus took a moment to look around his one-time sanctuary and reflected on how even more dust had settled over everything since the last time he was here. It seemed like a lifetime ago. He remembered how he’d seen on the Marauder’s Map that Harry, Ron, Hermione, Sirius, and much to his shock Peter were going into the tunnel beneath the Whomping Willow, and how he’d run from the castle to this very shack to confront the man responsible for James and Lily’s deaths.
A sudden noise from upstairs pulled Remus from his recollections. He pulled out his wand and cautiously walked up the rotting stairway. The higher he went, the brighter his surroundings got. At the top of the stairs he came to the very same room in which he, Sirius, and Harry had confronted Wormtail. A bright reddish-orange light was shining through the cracks in the door. In one swift movement, Remus kicked the door open and rushed in, wand at the ready.
Sirius jumped to his feet. Caught by surprise, he lost his footing and crashed to the ground at Remus’ feet. Sirius stared up at his friend, who hovered over him with an equally shocked face.
“Sirius?” Remus asked.
“Well, who the hell did you think it was? Voldemort?” Sirius yelled. “Do you mind?”
Remus lowered his wand and said, “Sorry. Habit.” He turned and stared at the source of the reddish-orange light. Hovering above the ground was a small ball of fire. Sirius collected himself and returned to the same spot in front of the glowing orb. Remus, following suit, sat down next to him. After a moment of thoughtful silence Remus said, “I’ve been looking everywhere for you, you know. How long have you been here?”
“Not long. I didn’t want to stay in one spot for too long. You know…habit.”
“What did you do last night?”
“I made such an ass of myself. I’m so embarrassed. I don’t think Hermione’s going to forgive me.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. What happened?”
“I thought I’d take your advice and let her know how I felt about her. Only when I arrived at the Hospital Wing I found her in Snivellus’ arms. I…lost my temper.”
“I swung at him. Afterward, I saw the look she was giving me. I’ve been such a fool. I’ve been behaving like a teenager. For the past two months I’ve been telling myself Hermione’s the one, that I’m deeply and madly in love with her. I realized this morning that I was fooling myself. The truth scares me, Remus.”
“What is the truth?”
“The truth is that my feelings for Hermione will never go further than those of friendship. She is the last of Harry’s friends. She’s the last connection I have to my godson. I desperately wanted to keep her close to me, even if it meant lying to myself and even lying to Hermione. I always took for granted how much I miss James. I see now that I miss him far more than I realized.”
“It’s okay to miss someone, Sirius. That makes you human. However, you seem to be forgetting that Hermione is not the last link you have to Harry.”
Sirius quickly got to his feet and said, “What are you talking about, Moony?” He began to pace agitatedly around the room.
“I’m talking about Ginny Weasley.”
Sirius stopped in his tracks and looked down at Remus. “Arthur’s daughter? I remember Harry dating a Ginny, but I thought he broke up with her after Dumbledore was murdered.”
“It wasn’t murder, Sirius. Dumbledore asked Severus to finish what the Horcrux had already begun.”
“Anyway, Harry sneaked away from the Order to catch a glimpse of Ginny. As I’m sure you are aware, he was very much in love with her. But when he arrived at the Burrow, he found Ginny waiting for him. Apparently someone had told her he was coming. She confronted him, and it led to a moment of blind passion between them.”
“Wait a minute. Isn’t Arthur’s daughter pregnant?”
“Yes. She is.”
“Hold it. Are you telling me that Ginny’s pregnant with Harry’s child?”
“Do Arthur and Molly know who the father is?”
“Yes, they know.”
Sirius, lost for words, sat back down next to Remus. He stared into the fiery orb for a spell. Finally he said, “Doesn’t matter, anyway.”
“Doesn’t matter? DOESN’T MATTER! Have I been talking to myself? Have you heard a word I’ve said?” Remus exploded.
“What’s got you so upset?”
“I have had it, Sirius. Ever since Harry died, I’ve heard nothing but whining and excuses from you. No more!” Remus quickly stood up and headed for the door.
Sirius called after him, “Hey, are you leaving?”
Remus turned back to Sirius and said, “If you want to stay up here feeling sorry for yourself, I suppose that’s your right. But I won’t listen to it any more.” He stormed through the doorway and down the rickety steps of the shack. Sirius stayed rooted to the spot and listened as his friend left the Shrieking Shack.
Hermione was finally able to leave the Hospital Wing. She grabbed up all of the get-well cards and gifts she’d received during her stay and headed toward the doors. Just as she was exiting the Hospital Wing, she heard screams and shouting. She looked down the corridor and saw Arthur and Molly Weasley leading Ginny down the hall. Even from the distance she was from them, she could tell that something was wrong with Ginny. The three of them quickly walked past Hermione into the infirmary. Overly concerned with their daughter, neither of the elder Weasleys noticed Hermione as they passed. Molly and Arthur helped Ginny to the nearest bed just as Madam Pomfrey came out of her office, shouting.
“This is not a public hospital for just anyone to use! This Hospital Wing is for the care of Hogwarts students and personnel! Why on earth would you bring her here?” Madam Pomfrey cried.
“I…asked…him to…Madam…Pomfrey,” Ginny said through gasps of air. “I…want to have…my baby…here. IT’S WHAT HE WOULD HAVE WANTED!” A large contraction came just then, causing Ginny to instinctively push.
“Oh, dear. Very well. One of you can stay with her, but I must insist that the other leave now,” Pomfrey commanded, determinedly taking charge of the situation. Molly and Arthur whispered to each other and then Mr. Weasley joined Hermione outside the Hospital Wing as Madam Pomfrey abruptly closed the doors on them.
As the hours passed, Hermione and Arthur were joined by Minerva, Severus, and Remus. At regular intervals they could hear Ginny screaming in pain through the thick doors. Every time she screamed, Hermione’s mind insisted on showing her the effects of the Cruciatus Curse, and she closed her eyes and forced the image out of her mind. Severus, eventually picking up on this, moved closer to Hermione.
Suddenly Ginny let out a scream that was unlike the previous ones. The image entered her mind with the force of a freight train: right there at her feet, she saw the remains of her best friends. Hermione quickly turned to run, but instead she crashed into Severus. He wrapped his arms around her and she clung to him, sobbing.
After several minutes of tears Severus asked quietly, “Are you okay?”
She took a step away from him as he released her. She dried her eyes and asked, “Will the nightmares ever go away?”
“In time…you will learn to push them to the back of your mind. But no, they never truly go away.”
Hermione looked up into his eyes and saw something in them that she’d never noticed before. She realized how handsome he was. “How do you deal with your nightmares?”
Severus thought about this for a moment before answering, “I remember something that helps me a little.”
“Something Dumbledore said to me after the Potters were killed. He told me that nothing is beyond forgiveness. When my nightmares come I remember his words, and I tell myself that someday I will be forgiven for my sins.”
Hermione smiled at Severus. At that moment, Sirius appeared from around a corner. He walked up to Remus, being careful not to look Hermione or Severus in the eye. “I just heard. How long has it been?” Sirius asked Remus in a low voice.
“Three hours so far,” Remus replied.
At that moment the doors to the Hospital Wing opened and Madam Pomfrey emerged. She looked at the crowd that had formed outside her infirmary and, her face wreathed in smiles, said, “It’s a boy.” Arthur roared with excitement, and the others spoke animatedly with each other. “She’s still a little groggy, but you can come in and see her. Just for a few minutes! She needs to rest,” Madam Pomfrey warned. She strode past the group as they filed in to see the new mother.
Hermione grabbed Severus’ hand and motioned for him to follow her and the others. Several thoughts entered Severus’ head. The first was that he should remove his hand quickly. The second was how nice and soft her hand felt in his. Hermione lightly pulled him into the infirmary and up to Ginny’s bed. Cradled in her arms was a small baby that had his mother’s looks. Except for the eyes – he had his father’s eyes.
Ginny looked up at everyone around her and with a tired voice said, “Everyone, this is Albus – Albus Severus Potter.”
An odd expression suddenly came over Severus’ face and he said hesitantly, “Severus?”
Ginny smiled and replied, “Yes. It was Harry’s idea. He had a lot more respect for you than you know. I’d be honored if you would be Albus’ godfather, and I know Harry would be honored too.”
Speechless, Severus stood gaping at Ginny. It wasn’t until Hermione elbowed him in the side that he finally said, “Thank you. I will be honored to be…Albus’ godfather.”
The crowd of well-wishers erupted in cheers of congratulations. The only one who wasn’t happy was Sirius, who stood off to one side, sneering at Severus and Ginny. Remus saw the animosity in his face and asked quietly, “What’s wrong with you? Can’t you see that we’re celebrating the birth of Harry’s son?”
Sirius looked into Remus’ eyes and said, “Go to hell, Remus!” In the next instant he turned into his Animagus of a large black dog and raced out of the Hospital Wing.
Sirius’ outbreak caused the room to become eerily quiet. After a spell Remus said, “I apologize, everyone. I don’t know what’s gotten into him.”
“When will you realize, Lupin, that you do not need to make excuses for Black?” Severus asked, sounding more snooty than he intended. Remus understood that he didn’t mean any offense.
“You’re right, Severus. You’re right.” Remus bent down and squeezed Ginny’s hand and added, “Congratulations, Ginny.” Then he turned towards the doors and swiftly left the infirmary.
At that point Madam Pomfrey returned and corralled everyone, shooing them out of the room. Once the doors closed and it was quiet again, Ginny couldn’t stay awake any longer and closed her eyes. Very quietly and gently, Madam Pomfrey summoned a crib to her bedside and carefully placed the baby in it.
Severus escorted Hermione back to her dorm, her hand still in his. When they arrived at the entrance to her room, Severus turned to face her. The energy that was flowing between them was powerful. Not quite sure what he was doing, Severus leaned down and kissed Hermione.
When his lips touched hers, her heart began to race. He lifted his head and said, “Goodnight, Miss Granger.” He bowed slightly and quickly returned to his quarters in the dungeons. When he was sufficiently far away to be out of hearing range, Hermione gasped, desperate for air. Shocked as she was that Professor Snape had just kissed her, she had forgotten to breathe.
She steadied herself against the wall and closed her eyes as the room began to spin. When the spinning stopped, she walked unsteadily into her room and immediately collapsed on her bed. As she lay there on the soft bed, she realized two things: one, that earlier tonight she’d thought about needing another dose of her potion; and two, that she was falling head over heels in love with Severus Snape.
A/N: I would like to thank my fiance for helping me get this chapter written. She has been and always will be my muse. I love you sweetie.
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