Waking Up To Your Face - 1998
His first thought was that his neck hurt. A lot. Like having a load of small, hot needles jammed into his skin. For a while he simply lay, slipping in and out of consciousness as the pain ebbed and flowed like the changing tide. Then, as it slowly faded, he began to think. The last he could remember was loud noises. Screams. Wails. Blood. He winced. Why did it all have to come back?
But why does my neck hurt?
Of course. The bloody snake. He hadn't even been given a chance to fight the Dark Lord. That was what frustrated him the most. The least he could have done was given him an injury. Then he could die knowing that he had accomplished something.
But he wasn't dead. That he was sure of. He was alive. The question was where was he. And where was Eowyn? The last he had seen of her head been back at Hogwarts, screaming at a group of foolish students to retreat as she took on one Death Eater while twisting another's arm. He hoped she was alive, wherever she was now. He hoped she wasn't worrying about him.
Slowly he forced his eyes to open and take in the world around them. It was dark, that much he could make out. Somewhere a way away he could make out the faint glow of a lamp. He was lying in a warm bed with a thick woollen blanket on over him. He sensed he wasn't wearing his usual black ensemble. Looking down, he realised that he was wearing his striped pyjamas. Looking about he realised that he was lying in the Hospital Wing. Around him he could hear the rhythmic breathing of other bodies. So they'd had time to bring all the people into the Hospital Wing? And put them in their pyjamas? That meant they must have won! For the first time since his wakening he allowed hope to glimmer within him. Maybe Potter had done it. Maybe he had killed the Dark Lord.
Severus' rejoicing abruptly faded as he realised that if he was in his pyjamas, someone had undressed him. That meant someone had seen him naked. And he was not comfortable about that, no sir.
Unless it was Eowyn.
Eowyn was the one and only exception.
Eowyn. Where was she?
Just as he thought that, he heard a soft sigh next to him and turned over, ignoring the pain that stabbed through his neck. She was sitting in a chair next to his bed. If sitting was the right word. 'Curled' came to mind. She was fast asleep. Her hair was tangled about her head like a rustic halo, a few pins still stuck in it. She was no longer dressed in her teaching robes (they were probably ruined forever by all the blood and stains) but in her Slytherin green dressing gown. He could see scratches on her faced and hands. Her feet were blistered and bruised. New additions to her collection of scars. He guessed he would have a few himself. More than a few. He wondered what would happen to the Dark Mark now that Voldemort was truly gone. Would it fade away? He hoped so.
A stirring next to him told him that Eowyn was waking. She opened her eyes and blinked at him owlishly, wiping the sleep away with sleep-clumsy fingers. Then, seeing him staring back at her, his strange, almost sarcastic smile on his face, her eyes lit up and she scrambled out of her chair, only to collapse onto the ground when her legs (which had fallen asleep) betrayed her. Cursing in fluent Gaelic she sat up next to the bed and reached forward to grasp one of his hands in hers, tears of joy trickling from her eyes.
"You're awake!" she whispered. Her voice was hoarse from yelling and smoke inhalation. But he guessed his was no better.
"Obviously," he said, in his traditional manner. Merlin's receding hairline, his voice was worse than hers!
She smile, gripping his hand more firmly. "There was a time when it wasn't so obvious," she whispered, not wanting to wake any of the wounded students. "For a few hours we were sure you weren't going to make it. It took Madame Pomfrey, Madame Hooch and Dumbledore all together to make sure you didn't die. Then Albus went and collapsed. We thought Minerva was going to kill someone when that happened."
"So Albus made it through, did he?"
"And what about you? What were you doing while I was being attacked by an uppity grass snake?"
"Trying not to die," she said simply. "I tell you, children set out to get themselves killed." Then suddenly she seemed to lose all sense of lightness. When she spoke her voice was so quiet he had to strain to catch it, even in the silence. "I was so afraid you'd die. I ... I was sitting outside the door ... waiting. And ... I suddenly realised ... I didn't know what I would do if you ... went. I felt like ... lost. I ... I'm just so glad you're alive!"
She suddenly burst into tears and collapsed against the bed, gripping his hand as if it was a lifeline. Severus was generally very uncomfortable around crying people. He tended to turn around and walk in the other direction. But Eowyn was a special case. She almost never cried. And when she did you knew it was something big.
So, using all the strength he had in his blood-drained body he reached forward and ran his hand through her hair, pushing it out of her eyes and away from her face, tilting it up so he could see her. His neck was screaming in agony and he had a feeling he would regret even that small movement when morning came, but in that moment he could not have cared less.
Running his thumb along her cheek he wiped the tears away in silence, trying to convey in that small movement everything he felt, and had ever felt for her. Her skin was soft. It had always been soft. It had been soft from the first time he had shaken her hand. Merlin, that was years ago. That decided what he was going to say. "When this is all cleared up," he rasped, "we should get married."
She blinked at him. Of all the things she had thought he would say, this had not been it. She had been prepared for sarcastic remarks about Harry Potter's magical prowess to try to cheer her up. She had been prepared for a small lecture in how he could survive Mount Everest falling on top of him. She had even been prepared for loving comfort. Yes, he was getting better as that sort of thing. But this ...
"No is an option by the way," he said, with a small sinking of the heart. He guessed he couldn't blame her if she said no. After all, they had just gone through a whole year of hell.
She suddenly realised that her stunned silence was only serving to make him unsure. "You think I'd say no?" she asked.
"Well your face looked as though you'd swallowed Veritaserum with extra vinegar," he pointed out.
"My face is misleading," she said with a smile.
"Do I take that as a yes?"
"Of course. But 'when this is all over' as you put it, you've got to do it properly."
"With the kneeling?"
"And the ring?"
"Well, I guess it'll be one of the many loopholes we'll have to go through. Your sister will want to be in charge of everything. But we can't let that happen. And Albus and Minerva will probably want us to move into a cottage so that we don't poison the minds of innocent young students. But -"
She was trying not to laugh. He could see it. "Severus, you're lying in a bed recovering from a poisonous snake bit to the neck. Two hours ago your chances of life were zero point zero two. And you're already planning out our future."
Severus frowned. "Well you're obviously not one to do it!"
She laughed softly at that. "Severus. The war is over. Voldemort is dead. The Death Eaters are disbanded. You can stop worrying about the future. Things will happen that we aren't prepared for. There will be problems and hitches and people trying to land you in Azkaban for life. But whatever happens, one thing is certain. I'll be there. Whether we get married in a tool shed or St Paul's Cathedral or if we don't get married at all (though my sister won't like that) I'll be there. So stop worrying and get some sleep."
"Why should I want sleep?" The truth was that he was exhausted. Mind and body cried out for sleep in unity. But, much as he wanted to slip into sweet, blissful oblivion, despite the fact that pain coursed through his body at his every move, this moment was special. She was here in this moment with him. And to him she had never looked more beautiful.
"Because at the end of the story the hero always sleeps after his final battle," said Eowyn with a smile.
"Do the stories say anything about the hero getting a kiss from his girlfriend?" Severus asked.
Eowyn blinked at him, before a smirk played across her features. It was a habit that she had picked up from him and perfected over the years. "Girlfriend?"
"Does fiancee sound better?" he asked sarcastically.
"I thought we agreed on 'inamorata'," she teased, recalling the conversation they had back in 1992, when it had been his mission to find something, anything that he could call her beside a 'girlfriend'. The handy thing about using an Italian word was that the students all thought you were talking about some peculiar new spell. Even the smart ones would never think of Snape as being 'enamoured' with anything.
"The terminology is hardly the point," Severus pointed out.
"If you promise you'll sleep," said Eowyn presently.
"If you promise you'll stay," he countered.
"Why? Can't sleep without me?" she teased, teeth shining in the light of the distant candle as she smiled.
"No. I can't. Do you think I've taken a shine to black eyeliner over the course of this cursed year or something?"
"That thought did cross my mind," said Eowyn, leaning forward.
He hadn't been able to kiss her since the start of this blasted year. They had managed a brief peck in dark corners every now and again but it seemed as if the Carrows had nothing better to do than stalk the Headmaster. Quite a few times they had nearly been caught and in the end they had given up. It had just been too dangerous. And Eowyn and her friends were too busy making sure that Minerva or Auriga or some headstrong pupil didn't do something stupid.
But now that was all over. Now the Carrows were gone. And as her lips touched his he could not help but remember their first kiss, more than six years ago. It was warm, it was long and he could feel her close to him. He could feel the tangles of her hair. He could feel the softness of her skin. She was here, he thought, as they finally broke apart and leaned their foreheads together. And as long as she stayed, all would be well.
"I love you."
"I love you too, you greasy old bat."
"Hey! No one told me we were trading insults!"
"Just shut up and go to sleep."
"What happened to you staying?"
"I told you, I'll always stay."
So it was that, three hours later, just as the first rays of sun were beginning to trickle through closed curtains, Poppy Pomfrey found the two of them lying together in the patient's bed. Instinct born of many long years working as a disciplined nurse told her to drag Eowyn out by her hair and give her the scolding of her life. But then she realised that the same would probably be true for Minerva and Albus and that she would never dare do that to her best friend so for the sake of equal treatment of patients she instead stood to one side and watched.
It was rather sweet actually (not a word you used to describe Snape every day). Both had their arms wrapped around each other. Severus' one hand caressed her shoulder while the other held her close by the small of her back. Eowyn's hands were both snarled in his tangled black hair and one of her bare feet gently brushed against his. Both held they other so close they were touching. Poppy guessed you needed to share warmth when the blanket was only meant for one person.
"Bloody hell!" exclaimed Harry from behind her.
"You just be glad that they're fully clothed Mr Potter!" snapped Poppy. "And shush."
"Bloody hell!" exclaimed Ron Weasley from another end of the Hospital Wing.
Poppy rolled her eyes as Albus voice said, "Wake up dear. Happy Embarrassing Relationship Revelations Day!"
As one, Severus, Eowyn and Minerva all groaned loudly.
I was going to kill Dumbledore ... but then I just couldn't. Yes, yes, yes I'm an old softy! First, I'd like to apologise for my long silence. I just got a job upgrade (YAY!) which incorporates enough work to break a mamoth's back (bleeping bleep!). So I decided I needed to wrap up this fic nicely. Yes, I know I skipped a load of years. But still, happy ending! I want to thank all the people who have favourited, followed and reviewed. Love you guys! :)