|The Last Unicorn
Author: Atiannala PM
Severus looks among the bloody remains of the final battle and sees one shining thing in the mist of the destruction. Can he save that light before its extinguished forever? HGSS!Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Severus S. & Hermione G. - Chapters: 5 - Words: 20,028 - Reviews: 28 - Favs: 11 - Follows: 30 - Updated: 06-17-06 - Published: 06-02-06 - id: 2970355
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Memories and Consequences
When Saturday morning rolled around and Ginny arrived at the their small cottage, Hermione was upstairs allowing Dipsy to braid her hair. An intense expression graced Severus's features as he awaited the young redhead on the front porch.
"Miss Weasley," he drawled.
"G-good morning Professor!" she said and trying to be as forward as possible added, "I wanted to ask you why it is you asked me to stay the night?"
"The time for that explanation will come this evening, and do wipe that look off you face you will be perfectly safe I assure you. In the meantime, I ask that you do not tell Miss Granger that you are staying here for any other reason than to enjoy her company."
Clearing her throat the girl piped up, "Whys that, sir?"
Snape rolled his eyes and moved closer to the infuriating girl, "Because, stupid girl, she is still very fragile in both body and mind, and such information as you will receive later could hinder the very reason she is here! And being that we don't even know how far she will be set back by your presumptuous visit, we should not cause her undo rest should we?"
Ginny visibly shrank under the heat of her former professor's glare. "No, sir," she whispered.
"Very well, we will go in and I will bring Miss Granger down to meet you."
He turned to enter the house but was stopped by the young girl's voice, "How….. how is she, sir?"
His nostrils flared as he spun round, "You will find that she is up and about walking now, but still refrains from speech, rather you would if you would come inside and stop pestering me with unneeded questions!"
Turning over his left shoulder he flung wide the door and stalked inside. With a sigh, Ginny followed him in and took a proffered seat upon the couch. It was a strange site, she decided when she saw Snape guiding Hermione down the stairs allowing the girl to lean forward upon his arm for support. The same man that had stood before her just moments before seemed to be replaced by someone of a softer nature. The effect was short lived however ending when Hermione's feet were firmly upon the floor and she made her way over to sit on the sofa with her friend.
"I will leave you hens to your clucking!" he declared as he walked briskly out of the sitting room and into the kitchen. They would be eating well tonight.
There was an awkward pause between the two girls on the sofa before Ginny took initiative and pulled Hermione into a tight hug. "Oh I've missed you Mione!"
Hermione's own arms went around the other girl, but they were more tentative, and did not hold the other quite so tightly. As they pulled apart, the younger girl sighed, deciding to waste no time.
"you seem to be feeling better," Hermione nodded slightly and focused on the hem of her skirt. She had been feeling better, but perhaps not as much as she had assumed at first.
Ginny placed her small hand on Hermione's bare shoulder and paused for a moment, before she continued. "The reason I came her, Mione, ….. well, it's because I need your advice…. Well support. You see something happened," tears were welling up in her eyes, and becoming apparent in her voice, and Hermione forced herself to look her friend square in the eyes, despite the pain. As the tears began to fall she continued in a shaky voice, "I've been so alone there without….. oh, Hermione……" Her head dropped into her hand and she curled over allowing herself to cry into her knees for a moment before she righted herself taking a couple deep breaths so she could continue in a steady voice thought it barely reached above a whisper, "I'm pregnant."
Hermione's eyes widened in surprise, but she placed a supporting hand on her friends back. A few sobs escaped the younger girl before she leaned into the arm that Hermione had extended crying into her shoulder. When she was composed once more she spoke, but remained curled in her best friend's arm.
"Before it got really bad, I….. I approached Harry. I knew he was trying to protect me, but I couldn't take it. I had to tell him how I felt, I couldn't let him face…… couldn't let him fight without knowing that I loved him. When I told him," tears were now streaming steadily down her face, "he told me that he loved me too, and he couldn't risk my safety. So I told him I understood. That I wasn't asking for anything more than he could give me right then, but that when he was ready for me, I'd…… I'd be here waiting. It was too much though, and the worse things got, the harder it was, so we began to….. steal little moments, here and there….. When he came home from the mission. We had out moments, and they were the best moments of my life." A small smile tugged at her lips between the tears. "We were reckless though. Our stolen time was hurried, we weren't too careful, and now……" her hand went instinctively down to her stomach,
Hermione pulled her friend into a tighter hug and Ginny snuggled up into her shoulder.
"I know that I'm young, but I can't…… Well it's a little piece of me and a little piece of Harry, the last….." her voice became very small and barely audible, "the last piece of Harry living." After a few more sobs she continued looking up at her friend, "I can't get rid of it Hermione, I just can't." She sobbed harder now, and Hermione buried her face in Ginny's hair as tears fell from her own eyes.
They sat there crying for so long, that Severus even peeked out from the kitchen noticing the absence of sound. When the girls finally stopped crying, they pulled away from each other and wiped their eyes with their hands. Somehow the tears had done them good and Ginny began to chuckle incredulously, and murmured, "I'm having a baby," and then louder wit a semblance of a smile, "a baby."
Hermione reached up a hand and cupped her friend's cheek, and gave her a smile. Ginny began to laugh and seem happy as Hermione continued to smile for her. As their sadness grew into mirth, they found themselves sitting facing one looking down at the sofa with their foreheads pressed together, both lost in thought—Ginny thinking about becoming a new mother and Hermione, how much she truly had missed Ginny while out of the country.
After a few moments, Ginny spoke again, "You know I haven't told Mum yet, you know how she is about propriety. She'll be fuming when she finds out that Harry and I were involved without being married. I don't care thought, not really. A baby!" Ginny let out a laugh, "'Sides, Mum can't be mad for long, it's her first grandchild! Thought I doubt she expected it to come from her youngest child." She paused a bit more before taking up another train of thought.
"You know I guess it was just to big to wrap my mind around at first, but telling you made it easier. Oh Mione! I'm so happy! And I know it's sad still, that Harry is gone, because if he were here well, he'd give his life to this child, I know he would. But I am happy, because after losing Harry, I was….. it was all so terrible, but now. Well, now there is this little person growing inside me, just when I thought that I'd never love anyone again."
Ginny was now being attacked by smiles and found the need to burry her face in Hermione's lap. She talked on for the rest of the time they had informing Hermione of the little things that had happened since her departure, but it was too much for Hermione she listened, but allowed it all to pass into a storage area of her brain, to be processed at a later time.
Hermione signed to Severus after they finished eating dinner to take her up to bed and apologize to Ginny for being so tired. It was when Severus returned that Ginny impatiently asked if she could now know why she was spending the night. His reply was a gruff no, and he settled down into some reading. Half an hour later, Severus opened the door to reveal Professor McGonagall who wore a somber expression.
"Now can I know why I am here so late?" Ginny asked in exasperation.
"This, Miss Weasley, is why you are still here," Severus said throwing the threatening note he received a few days before into her lap.
She read it quickly, asking what it meant.
"It means," cut in Professor McGonagall, "That we are going to make the house undetectable, that is if you agree to being a secret-keeper. We should take no chances as this is the second letter they have received of this nature."
Ginny swallowed a lump in her throat as she nodded, "of course."
"Let's waste no time then," Snape said hurriedly before shutting all the curtains in the cottage.
It was hours later that Ginny was allowed to crawl into bed, she was sharing Hermione's, but before she could sleep, she leaned over and whispered the location into her friend's ear. Hermione would never know about the spell they had just preformed, at least not yet.
Ginny left the following afternoon, having slept late and blaming it on the pregnancy, startling the Potions master who she figured had been listening anyways. The girls hugged before Ginny left, and Hermione remained unusually quiet—or still in her case—for the rest of the evening.
Severus slept particularly well that night knowing that they were safer at the moment than they had been in a while. He awoke the next morning feeling as if something were wrong, it took him a while to place it, but he finally pinned it down—his bed was empty but for him.
He found Hermione in her own bed, looking as if she had not slept particularly well. Though she acknowledged Severus, she did not move. Sighing he went to help her up only to be met with a quick shake of her head.
"Well aren't you getting up today."
"Well, should I bring a book up and read to you."
Getting frustrated, he asked, "Will you at least eat something?"
She was going to say no, but the look in Severus's eyes told her to nod. He was not pleased and she could tell as he called for Dipsy to send up breakfast.
She remained there the entire day, barely moving, lost somewhere in the depths of her mind. Guilt and shame were consuming her as thoughts of Ginny's news plagued her mind. Cursing herself silently, she wondered why she couldn't be like Ginny, having dealt and moved on. Hermione had tried to push it aside, as if it never existed. But the reality had come to her today, life had gone on past the war and if she ever wanted to get better, she would have to accept that.
Ever since moving into this cottage, she had lived as if in a dream. Yes the past still haunted her, but the more time went on, the more she could distance herself from it, imagine she had a different life, and fancy that those tales of Death Eaters and killing curses were all something she had read in a story once. But she had always known they were real, and the guilt of having tried to forget them was crushing her. She had to learn to live with it, and so far, she had failed.
Tears fell from her eyes silently as she lay in bed, but her outbursts had yet to trouble her. They fell harder as she thought of Ron—how could she have tried to forget him like that? She couldn't do that to him, it wasn't right! A bit more than a month ago they were intending to get married, and now here she was living in a remote corner of Italy and allowing herself to get comfortable with another man.
Another stab of pain wrenched through her as her thought wandered to their hasty engagement. She had never intended to wed so early, but in the midst of the fighting—of knowing that the next breath you took could be your last—well they had wanted the comfort of knowing they would be there for each other always. Hadn't the same thing happened to Harry and Ginny? But, now Ginny would take care of their love-child forever. Hermione wondered at her own rash actions and wondered if they could have taken her somewhere she was not ready for.
But when she caught herself she was ashamed of these thoughts. She had agreed to marry Ron—war or not—and had thought it a good idea at the time, and she would treasure it forever. Whether or not they should have gotten engaged was not even part of the question. Similarly for Ginny, whether or not the young couple should have slept together was no longer consequential, what mattered was that they had and now she would raise the child that their love had created.
A small smile finally found it's way to her features as she thought that if the child were to have anything it was love. It may grow up without a father, but the babe would have more family, extended family, and family by association than any other child ever. Maybe, she mused, as sleep began to take her this child was a sign that though the past would leave its mark on everyone, life would continue and flourish, even for those most affected. As her dreams began to mix with her thoughts, she decided that she would have to go home soon, well before the baby was born. Somehow, this visit had made her feel more…..ready. Even if she was not quite ready to go yet, she now knew what she had to do.
Severus Snape could be the most patient man in the world when it suited him, but he found that being stuck in a small cabin far from home while his ward refused to even move did not suit him. On the fourth morning since Hermione's initial refusal to get up, Severus marched into her room, picked her up like a small child—despite her squirms of protest—and walked her down the hall dropping her, not too gently, into the bathtub.
She turned and gave him a mutinous glare as he stormed out of the bathroom practically shouting, "You will be up and about this morning today, Miss Granger!" before slamming the door leaving Dipsy to scramble in as his footsteps receded down the hall.
A few moments later, Hermione was in a tub full of pink bubbles, and the small elf was leaning over the side of the tub, scrubbing the matted mess of curls atop Hermione's head, standing tip-toe on a stool to reach. Hermione for her part was scowling indignantly with her arms crossed in front of her wondering where he had gotten the audacity to unceremoniously remover her half-conscious from bed and dump her in an empty bathtub, she would probably have a bruise on her hip as a souvenir.
"Missy should try not to be too cross with the Mister Snape, he were only trying to help. He look so worried these past days."
Hermione sighed at the house elf's small voice thinking that they might partly be true, she had been difficult for three days forcing Severus to feed her and barely even eating it. No matter, she had come to a resolution last night: she needed to be well enough so she could return home before the baby was born. Hopefully she would be able to make it for a bit of the pregnancy as well, she already regretted not being able to be there when her friend was going to tell Molly about the baby. Hermione sighed thinking of what she would need to do.
The stairs were proving to be more difficult than they had been previously after having spent three days in bed. She was holding on to the railing with all her might, but it did very little to stop her foot from slipping on the step as she prepared for the inevitable collide and slide with the staircase. Arms wrapped around her middle stopping the dreaded impact. She looked up into the face of her old Professor still bearing some of that morning's resentment.
"I'll take that look as a 'thank you,' for catching you," he said smirking, and added in a deeper voice, "And for dragging you out of bed this morning."
Though their interactions were strained at first, they soon found that fell easily back into routine. Severus had made them a delicious breakfast that Hermione had enjoyed greatly even though she tended to eat lightly at breakfast. Midmorning saw them walking outside, which tired Hermione out more than usual having been a few days for her. When she just didn't feel like walking anymore, they stopped and sat down by the water.
The warm lighting made the atmosphere cozy, and they sat in for a while silence before Severus had the gumption to ask what had been bothering him. "What was it that upset you so much after Miss Weasley's visit?"
Hermione, who had been picking at a blade of grass lost in thought, paused and looked up at him for a moment. It really wasn't her secret to tell, but something inside her made her think it would be easier to put her thoughts out there. Things always made more sense in the open. She smiled a bit and pointed to her stomach to which Severus raised and inquisitive brow. Sighing, she laid her palm flat on her belly and rubbed it, after which, she cradled her arms in front of her making a rocking motion.
"No!" Severus said with what he hoped didn't sound like too much interest, but Hermione nodded fervently pulling her legs up underneath her and sitting on them facing him so she could talk more animatedly. "Whose?"
She thought for a second before reaching a hand up to her hair and shaking it up.
A nod. Then she picked up a red leaf and pointed to her hair.
"Ginny?" no. "Molly?" yes.
Hermione stuck up a finger wagging it back and forth shaking her head before pointing to her temple.
"Molly doesn't know?"
Hermione nodded. Somewhere inside, Severus was amused that they could communicate so easily this way, and was also amazed that he seemed to have the patience for it. But Hermione was flinging her arms about wildly as if to show Molly was going to "explode" when she found out. They continued on and Severus found out that Ginny was planning on keeping the baby despite whether or no Molly agreed with the situation. He had seen the red head's wrath on numerous occasions, and would not have been willing to suffer such attentions. Hermione however fully supported the decision.
"But why did that make you stay abed for three days?"
Hermione sobered up and faced away from him again letting her feet out from underneath her. She pointed to herself and to her head. "You were thinking?"
She told him that the baby was a good thing, and that it showed her life goes on and that she had to get better. Tentatively, he reached a hand out and placed it on her shoulders, as she brought her knees up and rested her head upon them. Having had a filling breakfast, they had planned on skipping lunch and having an early dinner. They sat side by side as the sun moved across the sky lost in thought.
Finally, Hermione turned to her companion and placed a small hand on his arm. She began signing to him. I want to get better, faster.
Severus agreed and told her that tomorrow they would begin working on more exercises that should held. After another moment, Hermione began making a box with her finger and wiggling one of them. She was asking for something, but Severus was at a loss for what.
"Sit ups?" no. "Dancing?" no. "Jumping?" no. "Swimming? Twitching? Worms?" He was swatted on the arm. After about ten minutes of the same sign and no correct guesses, Hermione sighed exasperatedly and got up to go in the house leaving Severus to wonder if she was mad at him, but when she realized that he had not followed her, she came back and took his hand.
He found that he was being led to a dictionary which he set on a table and opened for her. Hermione flipped the paged until finding the one she wanted and pointed to a word.
The movements she made must have been to mimic a muggle camera. Well they had plenty of pictures, what could she possibly want one of? Before he got the chance to voice the question, she was flipping pages again finding the word to express her needs.
Severus swallowed the lump in his throat as he asked, "Are you sure?"
Her head nodded determinedly making her curls bob back and forth distracting attention from the less than certain look in her eyes. He took one of her hands into his and told her he would write to Minerva asking the favor. One of the changes that had to be made since making the cottage undetectable was their postal service. Everything reached them now care of McGonagall via Floo.
That night, as he tried to drift off to sleep, he found himself overrun by different….. concerns. Hermione now seemed determined to get well again, whereas before she just seemed to be a mess of emotions. There was no doubt that this resolve would increase her progress greatly. However, Severus was also a bit disappointed thought he knew it was still selfish of him. He liked to feel needed and he wanted her to need him forever. A rogue thought crossed somewhere deep in his brain that asked if maybe he had come to need her to need him, but it was gone before it had the chance to be processed. He drifted off to sleep feeling odd and a trite sad.
He awoke somewhere in the wee hours of the morning and found himself subconsciously snuggling up to something that wasn't there. Annoyed, because he thought with a return to schedule they would return completely to their routine, he rolled over and harrumphed. For all the trying he did though, he found that he could not return to sleep. Deciding that as long as he was up, he might as well do what he was here for, he went to check on Hermione.
Her legs were sticking entirely out from under the covers which had entangled themselves around her waist. She was turning from one side to the other and squirming about on the bed. Suddenly, she kicked the covers off of herself entirely and shot straight up in bed, her eyes flying open. It wasn't until after she caught he breath that she realized Severus was leaning in her door way. He smirked at her.
"Couldn't sleep either?" After she sighed, Severus motioned to her. "Come on." But Hermione did not come, instead she looked away from him, clutching at something he could not see under he white night gown as she slowly shook her head.
She heard him indignantly leaving her room, and she laid back down, she couldn't go could she? It would be wrong. But perhaps it was alright if she went merely because it helped her sleep. Well, in any case, she must be getting better if she could contemplate such things and not get overly upset. Perhaps, perhaps she was getting better. And getting better meant getting over and accepting the past at the same time, right? Maybe she couldn't understand how it was done right now, but she could take the first step toward doing it couldn't she?
A shaking hand reached under her nightdress and pulled out the chord that held Ron's ring. And she did something odd that she could never admit to, but it made her feel better. She talked to Ron in her head.
I'm sorry, and you know I love you. If you were here we'd be married soon, but you aren't. I am here and I'm alone. You wouldn't want that would you? You would want someone to take care of me? Even if it was someone you didn't particularly enjoy. You would want me safe and healthy, I know it. You are always here inside me, but I can't continue living tied to a past that I can't return to. I love you, but I have to move past this. I know you understand.
She smiled to herself thinking that if Ron were looking down on here from somewhere, he would understand, even if she didn't. Perhaps, wherever he was, he now possessed the clairvoyance on those that was not present among the living, and he would know how much Hermione needed sleep—and a little bit of compassion. With a last long look at the necklace she was holding, she put it away in the drawer next to her bed before she got up and headed down the hall.
Severus did not question it when he heard light footsteps padding down the hall and over his bedroom floor. He did not look when he felt his bed decline under the weight of another body. And he did not stir when he felt the small and familiar hand come to rest on his upper arm as a warm body slid under the comforters next to his. But when he heard the content little sigh from the body next to him, he smiled ever so faintly, and he lifted his arm encircling her body and allowing her to snuggle up to his chest.
The rest of the night passed easily for them, and both were secretly of the opinion that morning had come too soon.
When the morning came, both of the bed's occupants woke and went about their morning routine getting ready for the day. Neither spoke about their sleeping arrangements; it was the same as every morning they woke up together.
After eating the breakfast Dipsy prepared, Severus waved a hand clearing the small table of dishes and brought out some paper and a large black crayon. Hermione looked at him inquisitively.
"Drawing," he remarked, "we need to work on your fine motor skills."
She was getting a bad feeling about this. In the past few weeks, she had been able to feed herself, but her hands were shaky and she often found it easier to get her mouth to her hand than her hand to her mouth. Severus fixed the crayon into her hand and asked her to draw a circle.
It was almost a circle, or rather it had the right concept but had gotten confused somewhere along its course. It began and ended at roughly the same point, but it was full of little loops and squiggly lines and was much larger to the left than it was to the right. The result frustrated the poor witch who was used to succeeding at everything she tried, not even being able to draw a circle made her feel beyond helpless, like a small child who was remedial in school.
Before Severus could even speak, she pressed down the crayon to try again, and again, and again. Each time the result was the same, and every failed attempt brought the tears to her eyes. When her paper was covered in almost-but-not-circles and wet splotched, Severus took the crayon from her. Her head fell to the table as she let frustration overcome her.
Imagining what this must have felt like for her, Severus found himself rendered speechless. Had they been in a class somewhere in Hogwarts and the circles been some potion or spell, Severus would have increases her tears with his words, cutting her down for her incapability. As it were, the simplicity of the task and her inability was too overwhelming to mock. Neither could he find words adequate enough to ease her sorrow should he be so inclined to do so. These tears he knew were different from the ones he had become accustom to. These tears were not from the experience of battle, or the loss of her friends. These tears were the realization of how compromised she had become.
Of the whole time they had been in this house, Hermione had never felt more helpless than she was in this one moment, and Severus had never felt more insufficient as a caretaker. Yet at the same time, he had never felt more compassion for another being.
He moved slowly at first, unsure of himself, but he pulled a chair up beside her and pulled back gently on her shoulders to expose the writing paper once more. Turning over paper, he placed the crayon in her hand, but then clasped her hand in his own. Together, they pressed the crayon to the paper and began to arc the crayon counter clockwise over the paper. It wasn't perfect, they rarely ever are, but there was no doubt that it was a circle. When Severus spoke, it was just above a whisper.
"You see, you can do it. You just need a little help. Don't give up on yourself Hermione. Don't give up on yourself, and I won't give up on you."
Hermione turned and looked up at Severus, her eyes still glassy and wet from the tears. They had only been drawing circles, but somehow it meant so much more and they both knew it. With a thumb he brushed away her tears and they sat looking at each other, a silent agreement passing between them.
After a moment, Hermione began to lean forward causing a discomfort to possess Severus that he had not been privy to before that moment. When her head came to rest on his chest he let out a breath he had not realized he had been holding and he patted the girl awkwardly on the back. His heart was thrusting itself rapidly against his rib cage while he prayed that Hermione couldn't hear it. Considering her position, she probably could but at least she didn't acknowledge it. As his body began to regain composure, cursed it silently for having betrayed him like that and wondered what this girl was possibly doing to him.
The bond that was growing between them was both strange and foreign. Severus, who was rather good at taking care of himself was learning to care for not just take care of someone else, something he never thought he would do in his adult life. He had found himself questioning his purpose, why he was left after the war, and as the days had passed the answer had changed from "I have no idea," to "helping the girl regain her health," to simply "this." The thought had crossed his mind before, and he was certain of it now: he needed Hermione in a strange way. She in turn found that not only did she need Severus, for she was quite helpless on her own, but that she was grateful to him as he had no obligation to her really.
That thought seemed to her the most troubling thought of all. The man she had known at Hogwarts would never have just agreed to take on a charge, let alone one who had been as insufferable as she had been in her youth. Once again she was confronted by the fact that she was not the only person who had been changed by this war.
Their moment ended as both pulled away from their thoughts wondering at the comfort they continually felt in their embrace. As an awkward moment threatened the atmosphere, Severus began to speak.
"Poppy, has sent over some other exercises that might suit you better than the last one if you care to step outside."
Hermione nodded eagerly, wanting to get away from her earlier failure.
The first of the tasks was crawling on the ground on all fours. Both thought this was odd, but it was under the orders of the Mediwitch. The exercise was silly and Severus found himself laughing at Hermione as she crawled over the ground getting her dress dirty. He cleaned the skirt with a wave as he informed her that now she was to skip.
After a series of completely strange activities, they went inside. She was anxious to get back to use magic again, but it could prove disastrous if the movement of her hands in drawing spoke for her aim.
Once dinner had come and went, they retreated to the living room where Severus produced a box. Minerva had sent three that morning: one of pictures of friends who were alive and well, one of friends who had been lost in the war, and one of Harry and Ron. He had only produced the first box and trepidation hung in the air as he uncovered the lid.
When he asked, she let him know she wanted to look through the pictures alone at first.
The first picture had been taken very recently of Ginny, who was lifting up her shirt to show her pregnant but flat belly, she was laughing prettily and rubbing her abdomen. The next few pictures were of the Weasleys doing various things, she particularly enjoyed one of Arthur playing with a muggle remote control car—he had been almost certain the remote actually worked by magic, but found the toy quite amusing. There was one of Remus and Tonks with a note attached to it hinting that the girl might have to find a new nickname soon as this one might no longer be applicable, though that was just a rumor. There were some of Minerva herself, Hermione most enjoyed one of her transforming into a cat and back. There were some of friends from Hogwarts, Neville, Dean, Lavender, and some others. She found a picture that at first was so still it seemed to be muggle. A boy was sitting on the ledge of large window looking at the night sky, his dark hair almost blending in with the dark castle and sky around him. A shooting star shot through the picture and he sighed. As his shoulders went up and down she wondered if he was making a wish and if so what it was for. When the star was gone and the sky dark once more, the boy turned, and Hermione realized that he was Severus at about age fourteen. He was a sad looking boy, lonely really, and she found herself wondering about his time in school.
"I was fourteen there," he said looking over her shoulder, "It was the Christmas holidays. Dumbledore took the picture, he was always nice to me when no one else was." He turned and walked away and Hermione continued to look at the sad boy in the picture.
The pictures confused Hermione greatly. There had been small sad smiles, tears, amusement, sorrow. She felt so much in the hour that she sat looking at pictures, that she could hardly handle it. Perhaps she had shut others out for this reason, for the chaos of emotions stirring within her, and maybe sorting it out was all it would take to move on. But how long could that take. The memories were too much, memories of a life she had never had, one that was ripped from her in her childhood. Yet, the memories were nothing compared to the lost hopes for the future. She thought of Ginny who had wanted to become an Aruor, Ron who was going to play for the Cannons, Harry who would just 'be' for a while. The pain of their loss was too great even without seeing their smiling faces. Something caught in her chest making it hard to breathe.
But she refused to give into the grief that threatened to consume her, if she kept going through pictures, it would stop. About an hour later, Hermione had fallen asleep amongst the pictures and Severus decided to carry her up stairs. The activity had been emotionally exhausting for Hermione and though he understood why she wanted to be alone, he felt a bit sad that she did not need his help. He lingered in the hallway for a moment wondering which direction he should go in. The girl in his arms squirmed waking up.
"It's alright. You fell asleep, so I was carrying you up to bed."
She gave him a sleepy smile and glanced at his door answering his question for him. As he laid her upon the bed, she managed to open her eyes half way, a smile on her face. No matter what she felt earlier she knew one thing: the wizard holding her brought comfort far greater than any she had known before. She had snuggled up to him before he could even properly lay down, clinging fiercely to the warmth of his body. It was much more real than memories or hopes. He was here, tangible.
Perhaps life up to this point had all been a dream. Maybe there had never been a Voldemort. Maybe tomorrow morning she would wake up in those arms and begin to tell the strange tale of the years she had dreamt in one night to the one who held her close. She knew it wasn't true and would never be, but in those arms was where she found her peace. Those arms held the balance in her life, so long as they were there she knew she could go on. She had come to depend on those arms.
As the inhabitants of the summer cottage passed into a comfortable sleep, its owner was furiously pacing back and forth in her own room. A letter had arrived that was meant to go to the cabin. No doubt, its author was livid that the house could no longer be found. The letter was short and to the point:
Enjoy the time you've bough, you won't have much more. You will never escape me.
It was untraceable and the handwriting had been magically altered so that it did not even provide a remnant of its writer. She tried using every spell she could to find the origins of the letter, but all in vain. There would be little sleep for her that evening. Even though they were hidden, she was terrified of what could befall Hermione or Severus so far away with no one to help them. Instead of sleeping she prayed to whoever was listening that neither of them would for some reason leave the house. A bad feeling settled in her stomach as she thought that the next time they set foot outside their safe house could be their last.
I meant to get this out sooner, but life had other plans. Sorry about that!
Thank you to everyone who reviewed, you give me brightness in this abysmal summer season. Thank you! I hope you enjoyed it!