Author's note: the characters belong to the great J.K Rowling. I just like writing about them :)
This story has been translated into French by MissMplease. Link: s/11959146/1/Par-une-pluie-torrentielle
UNDER THE DOWNPOUR
Hermione turned her head, immediately recognizing the deep voice. She saw her former Potions Professor striding towards her, carrying a black umbrella to protect himself from the downpour.
'How do you dare to spend hours outside in this rainfall, soaking wet and without letting no one know where have you gone?' He roared as he stopped beside her, not even attempting to cover her with the umbrella.
'I thought that as a trainee, I didn't have to inform the staff of my whereabouts, professor,' she answered coldly, glaring at him.
Severus Snape snorted. 'Of course, I had forgotten. You have always been an almost professional rule-breaker. Consequences of being Potter's friend, I suppose.'
The young Gryffindor shook her head. 'I don't see the need of being so rude.'
Shortly after the rainfall started, she had gone outside, and had enjoyed for the first time in months some hours of solitude and peace. She was decided not to allow her professor's interruption spoil the evening. After everything she had gone through the war, after having helped in the restoration of the castle, after being accepted as McGonagall's trainee (which obviously involved a lot of research and work)…surely even she deserved some hours of peace.
'Furthermore,' she added 'I see no reason why I should return inside.'
'You're impossible, Miss Granger. If you're as intelligent as you boast to be, I'm sure that even you can see that sitting on the wet grass and getting soaked is not very healthy. As little as I may care, return now!'
'I survived to a Devil's snare on my first year, the basilisk on my second, a werewolf and dementors on my third, being unconscious for hours inside the lake in fourth, Dolohov's curse and the Death Eaters in fifth, another Death Eater's attack on my sixth and a whole year hiding in the forests, tracking and destroying Horcruxes. I hardly think a cold is going to kill me. Sorry if you wished otherwise,' she spat. She had survived and fought in a war and still, adults treated her as a child. She no longer cared he was the dreaded potions master: she just wanted to be alone, to enjoy the rain and the wind.
A muscle in Snape's jaw twitched and he clutched the umbrella so hard his knuckles went white. He opened his mouth to retort, but Hermione spoke first.
'I'm sorry Professor, but I'm an adult and I pretend to stay here as much as I like, so you can either leave me here and tell the rest of the teachers that I'm fine or, if you want to be sure that I return to the castle, sit down and wait here until I decide to do so.' She looked at him, challenging him to punish or hex her. Overwhelmed by a sudden feeling of sadness, she closed her eyes and turned her head, staring at the cold, grey lake. 'It's the first time I've found peace since the war finished,' she confessed in an undertone, so low that he almost didn't hear it.
The possibility of hexing her did actually pass through his mind (Impudent chit!), but her last sentence left him dumbstruck. It suddenly struck him that she must be also finding difficult readjusting to her new, post-war life. He had spent months at St. Mungo, slowly and painfully recovering from Nagini's bite, and his return to Hogwarts hadn't been well accepted by the majority of wizards. Society mistrusted him, his workmates pitied him, his students feared and hated him and he still had horrible nightmares every night. What had changed? Almost nothing. True, now he didn't have to work for a megalomaniac dark wizard but, apart from that, his life now was the same than before. He hadn't expected to survive but, since he was alive, life could treat him better than before, couldn't it? He was tired of being always the snarky, bastard, hateful dungeon bat. Now that the war was over, he didn't have to keep the façade he had built during all those hard years. But, hell, old habits die hard.
Not fully aware of what he was going, he folded the umbrella and sat beside her, supressing a shiver as the cold rain dampened his robes and the mud covered his polished black shoes. The rain rippled the lake's surface.
'How can you find peace in a storm? It's one of the least peaceful forces of nature,' he asked in a surprisingly gentle tone.
Hermione jumped, for she had almost forgotten his presence. She was surprised that he had stayed, but realized that she was actually glad that Snape was sitting beside her. He, of all people, might understand her. She gave him a shy smile.
'The noise of the rain and the wind prevents me of thinking too much. It masks my troubled thoughts, and makes me feel very much alive'.
Snape nodded and no one spoke for some time. The silence was heavy, full of unspoken thoughts, yet somehow comforting.
'I didn't really expect to survive,' she blurted suddenly. 'We never talked about the possibility of dying, but I am a muggleborn and Harry Potter's friend, so I knew my chances of surviving where quite slim. Miraculously, I survived. But I had been so sure about my death that I still don't know what to do with my life. Everything has changed so much that I sometimes feel I am no longer myself: I've felt completely lost since then. Until today, though. Today I saw the rain. I smelled the damp grass and heard the wind, and for the first time in months, I've felt alive. Feeling raindrops rolling down my face and shivering of pure cold has made me realised that the war is over and I'm free again. Sorry sir. I shouldn't be troubling you with my personal problems'. She wiped a tear with her sleeve and looked embarrassed at her Professor.
'No, you shouldn't.'
Hermione sighted. What had she expected? Comfort? Who had said that people changed?
'But I know that you need to vent, and that you're quite alone here. I have realised that you are spending most of your time in the library, no spending any spare time at all with your peers. Consequences of being ripped from your youth and having survived a war, I suppose'.
She stared at him surprised and managed to close her mouth in case he remarked her similarities to a fish. It seemed that, in fact, people did change. She hadn't been expecting his comment, but it was welcomed nonetheless.
A thunder broke in the mountains. The daylight was already dim and the temperature had dropped a few degrees. She suddenly shivered and brought her knees to her chest and embraced them, trying to keep some warmth. A clasp sounded beside her and she turned her head, only to see Snape unfastening his cloak and placing it over her shoulders. Hermione immediately grabbed it and wrapped herself with it.
'Thank you, Professor, although maybe you should better keep it, in case you get ill'.
Snape snorted and stretched his legs. Closing his eyes and feeling the raindrops down his face he realized that the witch at his side had been right: the storm made one feel very much alive.
'I spent two decades among Death Eaters while being a spy for Albus Dumbledore and a damned snake bit my neck, injected me poison and destroyed my carotid artery, which almost made me bleed to death. As someone told me before, I hardly think a cold is going to kill me.'
She smiled and was surprised to find him returning her smile. 'Touché.'
Hermione Granger wrapped herself tighter and inhaled deeply. It smelled of various herbs, rain and a scent that was only his, and she found it oddly comforting. She eyed the complex and mysterious man beside her. He had his eyes closed and was breathing slowly. He was in peace. It was odd, she thought, to see Severus Snape so unguarded, so relaxed, so calmed. Without his almost permanent scowl, he looked much younger, and she realized that, like her, he couldn't have had many peaceful moments in his life. Maybe he was also enjoying the rain. A raindrop fell in his forehead and tracked his aquiline nose before dropping to his lips. He licked it. Hermione felt a shiver run through her, although she suspected it had nothing to do with the rapidly falling temperature. She gulped hard, trying not to think about her physical reaction.
'You didn't expect to survive, did you?'
He slowly opened his eyes and sat up straight. When she was sure he wasn't going to answer, his voice reverberated in the rain.
'No.' He took a deep breath and dried his face with his sleeve. 'I never expected you three to come back to the Shrieking Sack.' He looked at her for a moment, and then averted his gaze away. 'Thanks, I suppose, for not letting me die. Although I sometimes thing I would be better off dead.'
He didn't know why he was telling this to his former student, but it felt good to say the things he often thought out loud. He suspected she wouldn't tell anyone his confession.
'Don't say that.'
He quirked an eyebrow. 'As soon as I left school I joined the Death Eaters and almost since then I have been living a double life. I had a purpose: I had to help Potter to survive through his school years and spy for the Order to contribute to Voldemort's downfall. Now ' he felt silent and pulled up some grass, angrily.
'Now you feel lost because you feel there is no purpose in your life, no reason for living.'
He turned his head abruptly and their eyes locked. His black eyes, which she had always considered bottomless pits of cold indifference were full of raw emotion. Fear, doubts, anguish, sadness and a slight trace of hope. She would have never imagined those eyes could transmit so much feelings.
'I understand you. I have also felt like that.'
He gulped and nodded, still surprised that she could understand his troubles so well. A solitary raindrop traced her neck and lost between her breasts. She has matured, he realized. And it struck him how alone he had always been and how much did he need some to be by his side: a trustworthy colleague, a friend, a lover... whatever. Just someone. Something imperceptible switched, and they somehow knew that despite their years of mutual dislike, that cold, rainy evening had changed their relationship forever. They both had lived through too many horrible things, and they instinctively knew that could rely on each other to recover from the war and its consequences.
They stared at each other's eyes for what seemed ages, silently sharing their thoughts and emotions, until another thunder broke the silence. The downpour intensified. They were aware of how much time they had spent outside when they realized it was already dark. Murmuring a silent Lumos, Snape stood up and offered her his hand.
'Come, Hermione, let's go back.'
Surprised by the tenderness of his voice, and by the use of her first name, Hermione grabbed his hand and didn't let it go. He didn't seem to mind, though, and hand in hand they walked towards the castle, feeling no longer lost.
When, some hours later a house elf appeared on the dungeons, he was surprised to see the usually sour Potions' Master smiling in his sleep and wrapping with his arm the brushy-haired Miss Granger, who was cuddled up with him, with her head buried in the crook of his neck. The elf shook his head, smiling, and proceeded to take away the heap of soaked clothes which laid next to the bed.