Saving Grace

I own next to nothing.

The room was nearly pitch black, long dark curtains covering almost the entire expanse of windows in her apartment. On one side the curtain ring had broken, allowing a thin sliver of streetlight to filter down into the room. She would have to fix that in the morning. For now, she just wanted to sleep, which lately required a potion or a prescription-worthy drug. Sometimes she used them in combination.

Hermione wandered across the apartment weaving around furniture and chairs in positions she had long since memorized. She made her way to the cabinet, removing the third vial from the left on the first shelf. As an afterthought, she also took a glass from the drying rack and moved to the refrigerator. There was a brief hesitation while she pondered the pros and cons of breaking the darkness with the beam of light from the open door. Finally she reached out and gripped the handle of the door, bracing herself subtly to pull the magnetized door open. The brief sucking sound almost covered the tiny click that came from somewhere behind her.

She did not think, years of auror training and instincts honed by the war served her well. Her hand dove into her pocket for her wand and she turned to face the intruder. A gloved hand caught her wrist, pulling her arm behind her with a painful wrench. She did not cry out or drop her wand, but instead started to fire a spell that would push her attacker away from her. Again she was anticipated, as her wand was pried from her grasp and a thin, hard point was pressed into her jugular. She sighed in despair and resignation as her hands were both restrained.

"Hello, Severus." She heard him inhale sharply and his wand pressed more deeply into her throat. She did not react, and slowly the pressure lessened.

"If you know who I am, then you know why I am here." His voice floated out of the darkness behind her, as velvety as ever.

"I suspect you want to kill me," she replied.

"Very astute," Severus whispered, but she could tell he was slightly off balance.

"What was he expecting, tears and pleading?" she thought bitterly. "Well, why not, he already thinks I'm a coward."

"Do you know what I suffered? There were weeks of cruciatus, constant torture by every means possible. I was burned, cut, skinned, branded, eviscerated more than once, and for what? Because you couldn't take a few crucios from the Dark Lord?" His voice sneered at her, "Do you know, Dumbledore thinks you had some reason for what you did… But you know what I think? I think you left me behind to die while you saved your own skin." He paused for a long moment. "One month of torture, six months of recovery time under Madame Pomfrey, followed by another month of magical therapy so I could relearn to walk. That's eight months, almost a year of my life that you stole…"

"And you want to know why," she ventured.

"What possible explanation could there be?" he growled, the hand that held her arm twisted upward with terrible strength. Hermione bit her lip and said nothing. Again, the pressure relaxed slowly.

"I knew you would survive," she said.

"And you couldn't have survived an hour of cruciatus? Instead you betrayed my spying to Voldemort and used it as a diversion to disappear?" His voice was furious and incredulous at the same time. "Did you think when it was over I wouldn't find you?"

"I knew you would find us," she said, freeing one her hands and pulling his arm down before he could react. His hand came into contact with her stomach, swollen out with the burden of their child. He froze for a long second before spreading his fingers out across the bulge. His grip became suddenly powerless. Hermione slipped out of his arms and made her way back into her bedroom, once again dodging the furniture that she could not see. She climbed into bed, pulling the covers up to her chin. Suddenly the apartment seemed cold.

Hermione couldn't tell how long she lay there before Severus joined her. He slipped into the bed so quietly that she barely felt the depression. That alone betrayed how much weight he had lost since she had last seen him. His arms came around her, pulling her tightly against him, and his hands rested on her protruding abdomen.

"I would have taken the cruciatus if I could have," Hermione whispered.

"I know," he replied, his voice as soft as hers.