Seven Hours After
It had been seven hours since the death of the greatest wizard of all time. Seven hours and two minutes. Seven hours and three minutes…
"Oh god," he whimpered shuddering uncontrollably.
Severus, the dark lord had hissed, you have honoured me above all my servants, you will be rewarded.
He had come here straight from the Dark Lord's circle. His body had lasted the last seven hours in automation; his face filled with fake glee, his chest about to burst and mind screaming for release from the walls he built around it. They were celebrating for hours every muscle of his being forced against it's wishes.
Now, his guard had finally dropped. For the first time that night he was safe, safe to cry, safe to shout.
But, he could do neither.
The tile floor was freezing cold, and he was still sweating. He had come into the bathroom to compose himself before facing her. No words had been spoken yet. He had been prepared for a fight when she had opened the door, but she had stood aside. She needed to understand what had happened as much as he had wanted to tell her.
He didn't know where to start. There was anger there, her eyes were blazing. First he had wanted to wash his face, to catch his breath, to organize his thoughts- but he, who prided himself on his ability to remain focused at all times, had completely lost control. He was shaking on the tiled floor of her bathroom and could feel the minutes ticking over in his head, each telling him exactly how long it had been since he had made the hardest decision of his life.
Framed in the doorway she assessed him. She still had her wand in her hand, prepared for anything. Severus began to convulse.
"It's okay," she murmured, and she tucked the wand into her robes, moving over to him. She placed a cold cloth on his forehead and whispered, "Hush now."
The trembling didn't stop as she gathered him into her arms but it slowed. The woman ran her hands through his messy black hair until he stopped moving all together.
"Come Severus," she whispered and she helped him off the floor. He made it to the bedroom before collapsing on her bed. She helped him with his shoes, with his cloak, and then pulled the blankets up around him.
His eyes were closed tightly, and he looked like a child in pain. It took all her effort to turn and prepare to move into the other room. A pale arm snaked out and grabbed her.
"Don't leave me; please I have to explain…"
"It has been a long night Severus, you can explain tomorrow."
"You don't understand," he hissed, "you must listen to me! There were no tricks, no agreements, no planning. It was him or me. I'd made a vow and when the time came I killed him. I drew my wand and I killed him."
She looked down at the bed spread her fingers tracing the pattern, tears welling in her eyes. She had loved Albus Dumbledore.
"He would have wanted you to make that choice. It's okay Severus, I understand."
"You're not listening to me! You can't trust me, you can't. I killed him. I killed him. Oh god! Oh god, what have I done?"
There was not a trickle of sad tears. He cried gut wrenching sobs, his body shaking with the effort.
Severus couldn't stop shaking and repeating his guilty mantra over and over again.
"Please," she begged desperate for him to listen. "Please stop doing this to yourself Severus. I trust you. I trust you, or you would have never made it through the door. Albus trusted you and I trust you."
He could not stop sobbing, "Oh god, I'm a monster."
"You are not a monster."
"I'm not?" he snapped. "Look at this, look at this and tell me I am not a monster."
He drew his sleeve and showed her the black dark mark which marred his ivory skin. Their bodies became stiff and argument heated.
"I have seen that before," she snapped, taking his outstretched arm in her hand and turning it over. "You are not a monster. Albus forgave you for those sins long ago. And, he would have forgiven you for this too. He loved you Severus and don't you deny him that, don't you try to take that away from him. He opened his heart and arms to you and the least you can do is respect that."
There was silence for a moment. The heat of the moment had passed.
"The fact he loved me only makes it harder." Severus' black eyes dropped down. What he didn't say was the fact he loved the old man back made it virtually unbearable.
She could see his pale face was still flushed with his earlier emotion and his long black eyelashes held tears that hadn't yet fallen.
"It is what he would have wanted," she repeated. "He was not afraid of dying Severus."
When he looked back up at her he blinked and the tears made their way down his face.
"Shh now," she murmured as she kissed his face gently. Severus closed his eyes and rested his head back on the pillow.
It was only then she realized she had been crying too. The woman stood up and moved back out of the room, her mouth still tasted of salty tears, yet whether they were hers or Severus', Minerva would never know.