Author's note: This is really a one-shot story. Snape's POV of what he feels for Hermione. It just came to me right out of the sky and hit me hard on the head. Hope it's not completely OOC and heavy-handed. Cheers!

All There Is Left

I watch you from the shadows, wondering how such a creature such as you exists. A creature of the light, shaped from what is good, wholesome, and pure. A creature whose loveliness puts the angels to shame. A creature such as you whose intellect takes my breath away.

Love.

I did not know that I could ever feel this way about anyone. I did not know I possessed in me the ability that allowed Evans to save Potter, that let Arthur to sacrifice for Molly, that brought the Dark Lord's downfall. I have never encountered someone who could impress me except Albus and the Dark Lord, all those years ago, youth wasted and burnt into ashes.

I used to laugh at wizards who talked of people capable of bewitching the mind and ensnaring the senses. It is why I adopted the memorial phrase for the first years as a mocking salutation.

Then, I met one who made me stop sneering at what those wise men said.

You.

I celebrated to find a student who finally matched my expectations of an ideal pupil. One who was full of wit, knowledgeable, and strove to achieve even more. I was grim to find you too eager, too anxious, too helpful, too Gryffindor. You will not succeed in the outside world, harsh and cold that it can threaten to crush you. Then I realise I was wrong, that you were in Gryffindor for a reason. Years have passed since you stepped into Hogwarts. You have proven time and time again that you are a fighter. You can survive after all. Your maturity marks you. You need no protection. If you require it, I swear solemnly that I will give it to you, along with my life if it is necessary. My admiration for you grows everyday, even as I fear for the dangers that surround you. Yes, I approve of you. You show me that there is someone who deserves my attention to teach, that my drawn-out career as a professor has not been useless.

Yet, oh gods help me now, why do you exist?

I had fallen too deeply when I realised to my horror that I loved you. I want to be with you, to explore that intellect of yours, to have you as a partner and companion, to delve into your sweetness, to seek shelter in your arms, to forget the cares of the world as you comfort me. I want to be able to love you in return. But I must not burden you.

Sometimes, in the heart of the night, I despair for my future. The war is over, I have nothing important to live for now. For the first time in my entire life, I reel from the prospect of solitude, the one friend I always have, because there stands the doorway of might-have-been. It is so much warmer in that golden field compared to the bleakness of what is present. It persuades me that I simply have to reach my hand out, to reveal my intentions, for it to become real. I must not let it happen. You will be terrified at the extent of my obsession for you. You will run away, and I will lose you more than I have now.

So I act ruthlessly, crushing what temptation there is, dispelling any suspicion of the feelings I may have for you. I ridicule you for your softhearted ways and scowl at every opportunity. It is the only behaviour I learnt to polish and present to the society. Oh, I remember my remark in the fourth year as well. I take childish pride in that. I was master of myself then, not a weakling whose emotions are controlled by your every whim ever since I loved you. Forgive me for blaming you, you who are innocent to a man's hidden wishes. If it is any comfort, it hurts me to be cruel to you though I continue to seek to hurt you.

Yet in secret I observe you and imprint in my memory every detail I know of you. Your idiosyncratic gestures, your facial expressions, your charms, your deep concentration as you study in the library. You are beautiful when you are at your most unguarded. It can be quite intoxicating. Each time I see you, I am struck by how much I love you.

They say it isn't love if one acts selfishly, claiming she who has captivated him without her consent. But isn't love a euphemism for selfishness? How can a person say he is happy to see whom he desires in the arms of another, so long as she is happy?

Whoever says that is a blatant liar or a saint, and even saints ask for followers. Or maybe, he has never truly loved before.

Perhaps I am a petty man. I think selfishly. Perhaps there are men who can stand the sight of his love kissing another. I do not know. I do not believe.

Given the choice, will the man not rather she be with him, no matter how poor or old or ugly he is? Unworthy man. Foolish to yearn for the one thing he cannot want, let alone have. I can only thank the heavens that I do not face the test of seeing you in a relationship with another while you are in school. I do not think I could bear it. I am already a jealous man when I see Potter and Weasley with you, accompanying when it is I who wants you. Just once, if I can have a decent conversation with you, I will be amazed at my fortune. As it is, you have tried your best to communicate with me. I alone am the barrier you do not break. You do not hear my distant cry. Again, I should not blame you.

Seven years, you are graduating soon. I have imparted all my skills to you. You are grateful. You respect me and I in turn am touched. But then, you will leave me. I have faith and confidence in you. You will succeed in whatever path you walk down. We shall not meet each other again. This is how it should be. This is how it will end.

Still I remain in the shadows, waiting, understanding the hopelessness, as everything about me shrivels into dust.