Not to confuse readers, but this was originally listed as Chapter 8 in "We Shall Have Snow." I received a few requests to list this separately, so I've moved it here.
Rest in Peace, Alan. Thanks for everything.
Severus Snape stepped over the sea of wadded up tissues in the foyer of his home.
Strange, that. His wife was a meticulous woman, straightening up after herself—and everyone else—wherever she went.
As he hung up his coat on the rack and kicked off his dragonhide boots, he heard a faint sniffling coming from their living room down the hall.
Concerned, he headed there straight away.
He found his beautiful wife in her pyjamas, a pot of tea on the coffee table and a remote control in her hand. He stood back for a moment, observing her as she watched a scene from one of her favorite film adaptations of a book he knew she enjoyed. The actor onscreen offered up a declaration of love, and Hermione burst into tears again.
His chest tightened at the sound of her sorrow.
Some people, he realized, looked elegant in their grief.
His wife was not one of them. Her hair was piled on top of her head, a few loose strands sticking out at odd angles. The jumper she was wearing had a dark stain that he assumed came from a spill of her teacup, and her socks didn't match.
As she pushed the buttons, skipping back to rewatch the scene, Severus coughed loudly, making his presence known.
Hermione looked up at the noise, startled and a little embarrassed as she paused the film, freezing the lead actor on the telly. She began picking up the tissues she'd strewn all over the couch and set them on the table in a neat pile.
"Dearest?" he asked, his voice rather gentler than usual. He joined her on their couch in the spot she'd just tidied up and reached out to take her small hand in his. "Is everything all right?"
"I'm just being silly," she said, flustered. Her cheeks were flushed pink. "I don't suppose you heard, but an actor who I simply adored"—here she gestured at the man on the screen—"died today."
"They say it was cancer," his wife continued. Her lower lip trembled as she spoke, but she was making an effort to keep her voice steady. "I hate cancer. It just seems so unfair."
He nodded, letting her speak her peace.
"I know I don't really know him," Hermione continued, tugging on a lock of her hair like she used to do when she was younger, "but I feel like I did. I've watched him since I was a little girl, when I caught reruns of some of his movies on television. He makes me feel and think. From everything I've ever seen or read about him as a person, I feel like we could be friends. That, and I love all the stories he brings to life. Does that make any sense at all?"
Severus pulled her into his side. With a steady hand, he tucked her under his arm, just next to his heart. "Stories are important," he said. "They lift us up when we're broken hearted, they make us laugh when we most need it, they help us understand ourselves with clarity, and they pull us out of our wretched, miserable lives."
Hermione swatted his chest. "You're miserable, are you?" she asked with a smile. She pulled out another tissue and blew her nose. "Am I so very terrible?"
"You could never make me anything but the happiest of men," he murmured, stroking her arm as she relaxed beside him. "But even you can't completely eradicate sorrows from my life, Hermione. That's impossible. Life is wonderful and thrilling and painful all at once. The difference between my life alone and my life with you is that when something miserable happens, I have you now to walk beside me."
"Yes," she agreed.
"When Minerva passed, you were with me," he said, "and that made it bearable."
She lifted his hand to her mouth, pressing a kiss on his knuckles. "You helped me bury Crookshanks. I can't imagine doing that alone."
Severus smiled his crooked smile at her. "It's hard to be truly miserable when you have someone else at your side."
"Even if you never really knew them?" Hermione asked. Her chin jutted out defiantly and her eyes flickered to the actor on the screen.
"Even then," he said.
Her fingers found their way to his chest, and she toyed with his buttons. "You know, I think he looks a little like you."
Severus glanced at the actor on the screen. The nose was distinguished, but the man was handsome in ways Severus knew he himself would never be. "I believe your mourning has rendered you delusional."
"But his eyes!" his wife protested. "You both have such soulful eyes. And I love your voices."
He shook his head in amused disbelief. Only Hermione would ever say that he resembled a film star. She was a marvel, seeing the best in him when nobody else did. "Whatever you say, wife."
"I took the liberty of ordering Chinese. An extra side of egg rolls, just like you like. It'll be here in twenty minutes, and then we can watch Sense and Sensibility together tonight," she said. She looked up at him then, her eyes still rimmed with red and her heart still open and vulnerable. "You will stay with me, won't you?"
"Even if it means watching hours of poncy costumes parading around National Trust properties," he declared, "I will stay by your side."
She pressed a kiss to his cheek. When she pulled back, she searched his eyes and smiled. "I am unspeakably glad that you, Severus, are with me."
His fingers traced her jaw as he returned her gaze. After a moment, he kissed her lips gently. "Always."
Since hearing the news of Alan Rickman's passing, I've been thinking about grief and wondering why we mourn people we never knew personally. I've also been mulling over how much Rickman believed in storytelling. Two of my favorite quotes from him are below.
"And it's a human need to be told stories. The more we're governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from, and what might be possible."
"Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world."
Alan certainly changed the worlds of those who saw what he created and listened to the stories he told!