The Colour of Dying
She never really thinks about them during the days. There is so much else to be done, so many people to meet and duties to accomplish that they fade in her memory.
Then the nights come and Ron and his family reappear.
More and more now, she recalls things. Words, laughs, the photography in the Daily Prophet, the funerals. Sometimes she can see them, sometimes she can't. It's been so many days and she forgets.
Everything she forgets.
There was another life she used to live once, but it feels impossibly far away. In the nights, though, it's always there, a part of her, sleeping in the back of her mind, without seeming real. That life died, she thinks, it died back then, and what she exists in now is nothing but a death-like vacuum. How else could she explain to herself the things she allows?
How could she explain him?
She knows this: he somehow keeps her grounded. Since that morning, the one in St Mungos when she lost it, he's been hers. Infallibly hers even if that's nothing either of them speaks of. She can't remember they've ever discussed what they do. It just happens. Simple and wordless.
He understands, without explanation, what it means to be broken.
Ron would disown her if he saw them, if he still was alive to see anything. At times she can feel his presence. It's so gentle, not like the other ghosts, not there to frighten, but to comfort her. But it's not consoling. It's upsetting.
The nights are by far the hardest. That's when she presses her hands to her head, curls up in the bed and weeps softly, uncertain if tomorrow will be bearable. That's also when he is most useful.
She presses the back of her head against the hollow of his chest, silently saying "put your arms around me, hold me." He does. He always does. Those lean arms surrounding her pain, making her tears run faster until he stops them with a small gesture, or a kiss. She can't think of any reason why he should be so tender with her, but he is. He hasn't accused her for what happened yet, although she thinks he must hold it suspicious an Auror missed such crucial details. Perhaps he doesn't care. Everyone else does. They've put her through interrogations and tribulations, pressured her with words and supposed information until her head was on the verge of bursting. They've asked and asked and asked.
She hasn't been of much help. She still doesn't know why she failed.
He talks of few things with her, and the destiny of the Weasleys are not one of them. He knows when she's upset. When to stop. That's why she chooses his company.
When she sighs, he caresses her, fondles the soft bulge of her stomach and lets her go back to a state of almost-sleep. Cool fingers travelling down, spreading her open like some sort of obscure book. She draws a sharp breath. He's learned now what she likes, how she wants him to touch her. Hard, fast, circling quicker and quicker.
She comes against his fingers, quietly, still not shifting position in bed. With firm moves, he carries her through it, not pulling away until she's been satiated and drowsy. He holds up his hand. She licks it clean, thinking she at least tastes of life.
They've fucked each other on the floor of the laboratory, knowing that there is no difference between being rescued and being captured. They've fucked each other easily, hungrily, absurdly, realising with each thrust that this is beyond hope. He wants to claim her. He wants for her to stay in his bed, in his life, but he also knows he could never say it.
He hates the little witch. Manipulative softness, fooling him to take care when he really should despise, and her begging eyes, her bloody bedroom eyes.
There is something familiar about her introvert exhaustion, something he can't escape the memory of seeing in the mirror. They all blame her for that attack. He assumes it's the easiest thing to do. An inexperienced Auror and a woman at that. Of course she's to blame. He wonders what Albus would say if he knew in which way Severus tries to save her. If he knew it is the only way he is capable of.
Ironic, isn't it, that a callous bastard without a heart should attempt emotional rescuing?
He sneers when he thinks of it.
She's working when he arrives. She mostly is. Except today he notices it for the first time with another eye. As if he notices her for the first time since he figured out he really wants her to stay. Her hands fascinate him. Tiny and deft, chopping roots faster than he does himself, holding on to so many things at the same time without confusing them. As he enters, she barely looks up.
What is this between them? Honey, I'm home?
That's a downright ridiculous thought. There's nothing between them. Nothing but frustration and a pessimism running so deep they believe every day is their last, every sky the final sky. One day, he knows, they will be right.
There is no hope left. Voldemort will win. Albus is dead. Minerva is dead, too. And Vector, brilliant, war-strategic Vector was killed by Death Eaters last week. Everyone that means anything to their side has left them, and what remains is merely a shattered collection of warriors that is barren of means.
And her. And him. The two of them and their hopeless work.
Perhaps she can read his mind –he's unsure of how great her qualities are and afraid to ask – because she abandons her work and walks up to him. Her eyes are shaded. Everything's over soon, they can rest, safe in the thought that nothing they do matters. He throws his cape over the desk, not lifting his gaze from her, spotting the wonder in her expression. Then she does the same. Her working robes destroy months of meticulously prepared potions, his pair of gloves crashes a box of vials and there's a relief in doing it. A great escape.
Only freedom now.
There's nothing left except the two of them.