Beloved

by Lady Memory

Severus finds a photo torn in half, and memories begin to flow...

Disclaimer: This is a non-profit tribute to the works of JK Rowling, who created and, together with her publishers and licensees, owns the characters and settings elaborated herein.

This story is a sort of gift for all the friends I met in Fanfiction in the past years. The strange, sad, surreal moments we have just lived or are still living, with the Covid going around and the people in lockdown everywhere in the world, have made my friends even more precious to me. So, I thought that this story - that is a translation of the Italian version posted a year ago - could be a nice way to say hello to you all and let you know that remember each one of you. And of course, I would be happy to hear from you, if you want to send me a message :)

All my gratitude to my patient beta and (obviously) dearest friend Duj.

... ... ...

Beloved

Severus Snape bent over and picked up the photo. It was old and faded, with an irregular and frayed right edge, where it had been torn vertically in half.

The wizard sat down on the bed and looked at it, holding it almost reverently between his long, thin fingers. He felt the tears rise inexorably, with the familiar knot in his throat that had threatened crying since he was a child.

Yes, not much had changed since then. The emotions had always had a good game with him. They had exposed him to the mocking of his companions and to the laughter of bullies. The only way to survive had been to maintain a contemptuous attitude, though the feelings in his soul boiled like the potions he concocted in his cauldron.

Severus remained motionless, staring at that half photo: now his emotions were calming down, turning into something very sweet. The girl who was enclosed in that faded rectangle smiled at him, waving her hair with that cheeky air he remembered so well. The photo was no longer faithful to a reality that had now changed, yet he could still recognize every little detail, every little feature ...

How much time had passed since those days? How many memories, how many years had spread their wings over his life, filling that image with such a deep meaning? And how many years would still pass, drawing dusty fingers on that smile?

But no, time would never pass for him. The picture was still alive under his eyes, shining with tears that blurred the details, thus making the young woman even more desirable ...

"Always!" He murmured to himself like an oath, and then bent down to kiss the adored image.

"Beloved!" he murmured, inhaling the harsh scent that came from the old rectangle of paper in his hands, and losing himself once again in the memories it could evoke so powerfully ...

... ... ... ...

The door opened, and Severus straightened up with a guilty air, blinking and grasping the half photo with more energy than was necessary.

His wife smiled fondly at that attempt to recompose himself. Amused, she lifted another half photo and showed it to him in a playful way.

"So, Severus, have you managed to find your other half this year?"

The wizard looked at the woman, shaking his head with a theatrically indignant air.

"That's not fair, Hermione! Every year you complicate things! Wouldn't it be easier to exchange a gift as everybody does for anniversaries? Why do we have to do this treasure hunt on every Valentine's Day? "

Hermione went to sit on the bed next to him and tenderly ran a hand over his hair, freeing his eyes from the fringe that always persisted in veiling his gaze.

"Because it's nice to remember," she confessed. "It's nice to relive those moments. Don't you enjoy it too?"

Severus looked at the photo again. The woman who was portrayed there was young and radiant; she had soft, brown wavy hair, and two wonderful eyes that peered at him, flashing mischievously.

Then the wizard turned to look at the woman who was sitting next to him. Her hair and eyebrows had whitened like his own, and on the face that now smiled at him, time had spread an inexorable web of wrinkles, tracing the map of the years on the once so fresh skin. But the smile had remained the same, warm, bright and incredibly bewitching.

Severus lost himself in looking at his wife, and Hermione, realizing the depth of that look, blushed.

"You remember, don't you?" she said, trying to control the emotion she felt growing inside her.

"I remember," Severus seriously confirmed. "His name was Everard Gilbert..."

"And he was a substitute for Astronomy," continued his wife, as her eyes took an amused twinkle.

"You had broken off the engagement with Ronald Weasley ..." he murmured, staring at her as if he were seeing her for the first time.

"Luckily!" Hermione exclaimed, bursting into an amused laughter.

"And you had come to Hogwarts to take the emeritus potioneer's diploma in order to go and work at St. Mungo's," Severus continued stubbornly, pulling back and frowning as if those memories were particularly unpleasant.

"Come on, get down to business," Hermione urged him with an even wider smile. "It was Valentine's Day, and Everard had invited me to an astronomical evening on the tower."

Severus clenched his fists. "There is nothing funny!" he hissed.

"Really?" Hermione smiled and hugged him. "Let me disagree. I have never been so happy to see your silhouette appear on the steps and to hear you growl in your most acid tone, "Are we enjoying the evening, Mr. Gilbert?"

Severus tried to free himself from his wife's embrace, but to be honest, it was not a too determined attempt. Hermione leaned her head against his shoulder.

"I didn't know what to do to make you understand that I was interested in you," she justified herself, hiding her face against him and whispering as if she were revealing a secret. "Every time I came near you, you ran away as if I were a Hungarian Horntail."

"Okay, okay," he muttered, holding her tight. "Show me my half photo."

Hermione brightened and held out the photo she still had in her hand. With great care, the wizard reunited the two half photos, and at that point, a singular phenomenon occurred: the image became definite again and showed a young woman laughing and leaning herself on a man with a serious yet clumsy air. They held hands, and every now and then she raised her face to look at him, and then their eyes became so intent and so absorbed in each other that the photo still seemed to vibrate with emotion.

"It was St Valentine's, Severus," she murmured, taking his hand and kissing it tenderly. "And I'll be forever grateful to Everard for inviting me to that boring astronomical evening."

Severus took a deep breath and turned to hug his wife again. There was a moment of silence in which Severus thought he heard the beat of their hearts melt together. Then Hermione suddenly seemed to remember.

"Merlin, Severus, we must hurry! The kids are waiting for us, and if we don't go down immediately, they'll come looking for us! "

"I had hoped for a little more intimacy this year," he grumbled, without even trying to loosen his embrace.

"Oh, don't worry," Hermione smiled cheerfully. "The kids will leave immediately after lunch… But you know, it has become a tradition for them now. And then our grandchildren will want to hear from us the story of how grandfather and grandmother met forty-five years ago on Valentine's Day. "

Here Hermione paused and added in a startled tone. "My goodness!" exclaimed. "I had forgotten that we have now become great-grandparents!"

"Yes," Severus said bleakly, although a proud light in his gaze belied that dark tone. "Your granddaughter Jane has always been in a rush..."

"Oh, Severus!" she pretended to be indignant. "But you've always said that Jane is a chip of you!"

"I was lying," he said placidly, reluctantly loosening his embrace to get up with some effort. His eighty-nine years could not be carried with the same elegant ease with which his wife exhibited her splendid sixty-eight.

"I have never allowed my emotions to control my life!" he added shamelessly. Hermione smiled again and said nothing.

The wizard carefully put the two half photos in a wooden box on the bedside table.

"Let's go, then." He pretended to sigh, shaking his head emphatically.

Hermione got up and took him by the hand.

"I'm sure it's going to be a nice party," she said almost shyly. Then, running a hand over her eyes, she murmured, suddenly moved, "And it always will be, as long as you are with me."

Then Severus could no longer resist, and turning with a quick motion, he wrapped her in a passionate embrace.

"Always…" he whispered while Hermione rested her head on his chest, and vibrating under the strength of those emotions. "Forever yours, forever mine."

Then, losing himself in the adoring eyes of his wife and once again joyously surrendering to the immensity of their love, Severus murmured, "Happy Valentine's Day, beloved…"