Chapter 8: The Waiting Is over
Disclaimer: I am not JK Rowling, but you can still have my autograph. Sorry, that was just a Gilderoy moment.
Severus Snape was a puzzle.
No, Hermione decided. He was worse than a puzzle. Puzzles had solutions, answers. Severus was an undecipherable enigma. As often as her mind drifted back to him, she could find no rhyme or reason for his behavior.
While they were students, Professor Snape was the bane of their existence, superseded only by Voldemort. Yet, despite his dislike for them, he risked his life time and time again to save them. He was a loyal member of the Order, yet, he had been a Death Eater. He would take his chances on saving those he could, including Muggles, but he didn't seem concerned with saving his own life. He had been ordered by Voldemort to seduce her for information or his life would be forfeited, yet all he would do was kiss her goodnight.
She couldn't figure him out. Was it because she was a Mudblood? Did he not find her attractive? Did his interests lie in... other areas? Or, was it some other reason beyond her ken?
Not that she was complaining about his kisses, mind you. Severus Snape was thoroughly skilled in the art of kissing. That was a thought she would wager that the students of Hogwarts had never entertained. That man could kiss better than anyone had a right to.
Their nightly exchange had progressed to a set formula. He would walk her to her room and stop her when she gave the password to enter. As the door swung open, she would look up to meet those fathomless, black eyes and he would slowly drop his gaze to her lips, then back to her eyes. His hand would move to the back of her head, controlling her movements and he would brush his lips against hers, almost as if giving her time to protest.
The second kiss deepened; his lips more demanding as they parted and the tip of his tongue swept against her mouth. Her lips would open then and he would taste her, and she him. What would follow were several long moments of pure, unadulterated snogging. The kind of activity about which he would make cutting remarks and deduct a large number of House points, if he had caught it occurring between students. Just when her hands would begin pulling him closer, he would break the kiss and stare at her intently for a moment. Hermione could never read the emotion in his eyes. In a remarkably even (though deep and sexy) voice, he would bid her good evening. Then he would leave, black robes billowing behind him, apparently neither realizing nor concerned that he'd left her in a puddle of desire.
As many times as Hermione turned this puzzle called Severus Snape over in her mind, she was still no closer to a solution.
He was in an excellent mood. It was Christmas hols and having no classes to teach cheered him. Contrary to popular opinion, Severus did not hate teaching or his students, but being a Death Eater and a spy for the Order in addition to teaching were too much of a strain for one man to handle. Not to mention, spending every bit of his "free time" plotting the seduction of his apprentice, cut into his time.
The more time he spent with her, the more he wanted her. In the Potions lab, she was a gifted assistant and seemed to anticipate his needs. In the classroom, she was now teaching first through fourth years and excelling. Not to mention, she took over the tedious essay grading for all but his OWL and NEWT classes. Could he be blamed for constantly wondering how she would be in the bedroom?
However, Severus was discovering something he had not anticipated: he wanted her to want him. It wasn't enough that he could manipulate her into allowing him into her bed. If that were the case, he would've manufactured a need for Virgin's Blood and allowed her Gryffindor sensibilities to step forward. Once in her bed, he was convinced he could show her enough pleasure to be allowed back, however, he wanted her to invite him in. He wanted her to choose him and he wondered why he was developing a conscience this late in life. It was most inconvenient.
Whenever he was summoned, she would be in the lab, waiting for him to return. She kept Medi-cases with her constantly and included special potions to deal with the after-effects of the Cruciatus curse. He had never wanted anyone fussing over him before, but found her ministrations were not as unwelcome as he had expected. On occasions in which he would return unharmed, she would pour him a snifter of brandy and sit in blissful silence, never questioning him.
He had asked her once, "Tell me, Hermione, you constantly ask questions. Yet you never ask me about the Revels. Why?" Severus knew by asking, he was opening a Pandora's box--she might feel free to begin asking.
"Because I don't believe you really want to tell anyone," Hermione answered, giving him a long look. "But if you should, I would be willing to listen."
It must have been the brandy. Or perhaps it was too many nights without sleep. Maybe he was worn down from being a pawn for both sides, constantly provoked by both masters. Or he might have been spoiling for a fight, needing an excuse to rant and rave, a reason to express all the emotion he was forced to bottle inside. But he found himself asking, "Do you really want to know?"
"Do you really want to tell me?" she asked quietly. "Because if you are brave enough to live through it, I can be brave enough to hear it, if it will bring you any sort of ease."
That twisty feeling he occasionally felt around her, happened then. He was seated in his armchair and she was curled up on his divan with her feet tucked underneath her. The only light came from the fireplace and she looked so young, but so desirable, that he wanted to take her then and there on the Oriental carpet. Instead, he escorted her back to her room and kissed her.
She was a weakness and he had excised other weaknesses from his life as neatly as a Muggle surgeon. But he found himself unable to excise her - the only light in his darkness. He no longer wished to manipulate her by making kind gestures, though his motivation was still as selfish. The sight of her smile was addictive to him, and realizing he had the power to make her happy. Too much of his life had been spent on making people miserable, but her… he could make her happy.
As usual, they were in his private laboratory which was much more work-efficient than the school lab. That laboratory was intended as a classroom and this workspace was designed for experimentation and more in-depth study of potions. There was equipment here that his seventh year NEWTs students would be hard-pressed to identify.
"In just a moment, Hermione, I will need you," he informed her in a low tone as he watched the last few grains of sand trickle down into the bottom of the hour glass. By a prearranged signal, she opened the door to his custom-built Dark Cabinet and stood with a timer in hand. The Dark Cabinet was a cupboard that had been bewitched to block out all air and light. The preservation spells were costly to obtain, and as he was a Potions master of a school rather than a research facility, he could only justify owning one.
As the last grain of sand fell, he cut the heat to the cauldron and covered it. Wearing his dragon hide gloves, Severus quickly carried the cauldron to the Cabinet. When he shut the door, Hermione set the timer for 169.5 hours.
"Now we wait." Even as he said it, he knew his words were unnecessary and he mentally sneered at himself for stating the obvious. He was doing that often lately, using empty words to fill up the space. Looking around, he was not surprised to find that Hermione had already cleared the rest of the lab. As an apprentice, she was truly exceptional. She would make a fine Potions mistress one day.
Ah, if only she would make a fine mistress to the Potions master, his inner voice chuckled ruefully. But he didn't want her only for a mistress; he wanted her as his wife.
"I believe we are finished for the night," he continued. "I shall accompany you back to your room now."
After warding the door to his private laboratory, he walked with her through the dungeons. When she was a child, Hermione chattered constantly, asking questions. Now that she was an adult, he wished for her to talk, but did not know how to encourage her to do so. They proceeded in silence to the portrait of Lucretia Borgia. Hermione gave the password and stood looking at Snape expectantly as the portrait opened
He always paused before kissing her, giving her time to refuse or turn away. She hadn't yet, but Severus always made certain he gave her the option. Their first kiss would be one of promise, light and teasing. It was always in the hallway, just in case any of the Dark Lord's spies were hiding. Severus despised public displays of affection but he loathed even more having to use Hermione in this way, though she never complained.
The second kiss would be the one in which he allowed his passion for her to surface. He would taste the sweetness of her innocence and it would soothe his parched soul. One hand would be caressing her head through her thick but silky hair, and the other would be on her shoulder. Severus never allowed himself to go further, or he would forget his resolve that she must freely give herself, and give in to the temptation that constantly tormented him. Hermione had to offer herself willingly in this last, but final step between them.
She never did.
Looking into her eyes and seeing the trust she had for him, Severus would turn away from her and quickly walk away before his resolve shattered. She never called him back or ever spoke of it the next day.
That night was no different. Hermione gave the password and he kissed her twice as the orange, furry, overstuffed pillow she called a familiar raced passed them. And again, looking into her eyes, he could not continue. Severus could not abuse the trust she had placed in him. He had manipulated her to this point, but she would have to take the next step.
Releasing her, he turned on his heel and began walking away when her voice stopped him.
"Would you like to come in for a cup of tea?" Her voice was steady, but he heard the undercurrents of uncertainty.
Severus returned to her. "If I come in, I will expect more than tea," he warned her in a low growl.
Once again, Hermione surprised him by smiling. "I was hoping you would." She took his hand and led him into her room.
They continued in this fashion for several months--associates by day and lovers by night. Technically, Hermione still had a year to complete her apprenticeship, but she was moving rapidly into the area of theory and was beginning to map out her first original project. While his life still had to be lived within the confines of the Order and Voldemort, Hogwarts was an island of stabililty within the midst of chaos. Severus found himself wondering what would happen if they both survived and could continue tandem teaching. He found himself dreaming that once Voldemort was vanquished, Dumbledore would seriously consider him as a candidate for Defense Against the Dark Arts and Hermione would become the new Potions professor.
His hopes and his dreams, his schemes and his manipulations, kept his spirit alive. After each Dark Revel, he would return to find Hermione waiting for him anxiously. Severus discovered he enjoyed holding her while he slept. He also found out that she was a demanding lover at times, but equally giving.
He was as content as he had ever been with his life. And then it was over. The defeat of Voldemort was more anti-climatic than anyone had ever anticipated. Severus himself had thought it would end with a fierce battle on Hogwarts' grounds, and he had dreaded it coming to pass.
With the help of a few locator charms, Harry Potter, Aurors, and the Order of the Phoenix Apparated into a gathering of Death Eaters. Potter had cast a curse he had been learning on Voldemort, killing the Dark wizard while trapping his spirit inside the dying body. Severus tossed off his mask and robes when he heard the multiple crackles of Apparition from behind him. It was simply a matter of stunning the remaining Death Eaters and taking them into custody. There were surprisingly few injuries on either side.
It was the summer hols and Severus returned to the castle alone, leaving Hermione in the arms of Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley. The winners were still congratulating each other and removing the stunned Death Eaters for trial. But Severus was still in shock that there had been no Final Battle. He had never been certain he would live this long. So he lost himself in introspection.
She was young. She was fearless. She was one of the most talented students in all disciplines of magic that he had ever seen. And he knew that he loved her. He had never met anyone else quite like her. Yet he had spent years manipulating her to rely on him and to trust him.
Love, he discovered, was not the emotion he had always thought it was. If you loved someone, it did not make you weak. It was his love for her that made him strong now. He made his way to his office and began writing. Once finished, he blotted the parchment carefully and duplicated it for his records. She had not returned yet, so he tucked the folded missive partially behind the portrait of Lucretia Borgia and returned to his rooms.
Hermione found him there an hour later. He had spent the hour thinking, and hoped his resolve would stay strong. She deserved her freedom.
"What is the meaning of this, Severus?" she asked, holding the parchment up.
Severus eyed her coolly. "Have you lost your ability to read?"
"You're certifying me as a Potions mistress a year ahead of time." She looked at him with hurt in her eyes and he turned away, unable to look at it. "Why?"
"Because you are ready."
Hermione argued with him then, reminding him she still had not finished her independent project. She told him of all that she wanted to learn. Finally, she began to cry. "I don't want to leave you, Severus. I love you."
Eyes blazing, he turned to her. "How can you say that when you never had a choice? Our 'relationship' was based on an order of Voldemort's," he sneered. "Or have you forgotten that?" Severus forced himself to remain expressionless and stand there as tears rolled down her cheeks. Hermione fled.
He sat for the longest time, staring into the fire and wondering why he had to love her. Life was much simpler when he merely desired her. She was young, however, and would recover from this heartbreak. Severus doubted that he would. But there was no doubt in his mind that she deserved better. The stigma of being a Death Eater would stay with him for the rest of his life. People would always whisper and talk about him. She did not deserve to have a husband who was always viewed with mistrust.
Deciding to retire, unsure he could sleep without her close to him, he got up and through force of habit, checked his ward stones only to find that someone was in the classroom lab. He had to investigate; too many rare ingredients were stored there. Wand in hand, he waved the door open and slipped inside.
Hermione was working over a cauldron, adding some dried beetle skins. When she stirred it three times counterclockwise, he realized she was making a Blood Replenishing Potion.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded harshly. "Did you not understand what I said earlier?"
She laid down her stirring stick and stared at him defiantly. "I understood it too well," Hermione told him, placing her hands on her hips. "But if you think you can run me out of your life so easily, then you have another thing coming." She turned her attention back to her workstation, cleaning up after herself as always. When the timer Hermione had transfigured from a mouse squeaked, she reduced the heat to allow the potion to simmer, as it would have to do for the next three days. Marking the time into her Potions Journal, she turned to face him.
"If you want to get rid of me," she explained firmly, "you will have to hex me, drag me from this castle, and Obliviate me on the other side of the gates. And I should warn you, I will fight back and I'm pretty good at that foolish wand waving." She had the nerve to give him a cheeky grin as she flicked her wand and said, "Evanesco," and cleaned the rest of the work table.
Severus could only stare at her and she walked up to him and ran her hands across his chest up to his shoulders. "I love you," she said determinedly. "And I've got a year left on my apprenticeship to make you love me."
If he were noble, he would push her away. He would explain the he was neither a nice man nor an easy man. He would try to talk her out of it. Instead, he drew her into his arms and sighed in contentment.
"Are you certain?" Severus asked her. When she nodded into his chest, he gently demanded that she answer him verbally because he did not wish to hear her head rattle.
"I'm certain, Severus," she answered. "It's you I want. You are the one I love."
"You had best be certain, Hermione," he cautioned, holding her more tightly. "I love you too much to ever let you go. Will you stay with me forever?"
Her arms tightened around him. "If you're asking me if I am willing marry you, the answer is yes. If you're asking me simply to stay with you, the answer is still yes."
So began the life of Severus and Hermione Snape, a love that was rooted in war and bloomed in peace.
Authors Notes: Lucretia Borgia, 1480-1509 AD, is reputed to have murdered by use of poison. I would say she was pretty adept at Potions. Only her status as the illegitimate daughter of a Pope seems to have kept the witchcraft accusations away - that and the fact that people who stood up against the Borgia family tended to die rather messily. I'm sure the Wizarding world would look upon her differently than the Muggle world. In fact, I am certain the Malfoy family is related to the Borgia family in some way.
Once again, my eternal gratitude toKarina for her work as Editor. She is far more than a Beta.
This is the end of "Great Plans" the one-shot that you kept alive with your reviews. I know a lot of people wanted me to take this to a higher rating. After much consideration, I decided to leave it as my only PG story to date. Come on! I have to have something to show the relatives. To all those who left such fantastic reviews, I thank you and the bunnies thank you. As always, please feed the plot bunnies, if not here than somewhere else. Thank you all!
I'm not sure if or when I will find someone who can edit my other work which is NC-17 in nature, so if I do not see you here, I shall still be at Sycophanthex!