Chapter 3 - Downpour
They walked back to the castle in silence; the night they'd spent together had just served to increase their discomfort. Anneliese, much less comfortable in silences than Severus, was growing nervous as they reached the steps of the school. No doubt she deserved it, but she really, really did not want to go to Azkaban.
"Is the Headmaster expecting me now?" Anneliese asked, more to ease the tension than anything else.
"No, but he will talk to you." Severus assured her.
"Good," Anneliese murmured, before following through the castle up to the Headmaster's office.
She found it strange, it had been almost fifteen years since she had been in this school and yet so much was familiar, she could almost see herself walking to the Slytherin common room alongside Narcissa.
When they reached the griffin that guarded the Headmaster's office, Snape uttered the password 'candy cane,' and it sprang to life, revealing a spiral staircase. As they descended the moving steps Anneliese's stomach twisted uncomfortably, but she doubted it had anything to do with the motion of the stairs. At the top of the staircase there was another door, which Severus proceeded to knock on. After waiting for several moments and receiving no reply, Anneliese frowned at Severus.
"Perhaps the Headmaster is away on business." Severus offered as way of explanation.
"Yes," Anneliese said, seeming to grow uncomfortable once more. "I really should return home, please ask Professor Dumbledore to owl me when he is able to talk to me."
"He doesn't like to stay away for long. Perhaps if we go for a walk in the grounds, he will be back when we return" Severus stated, as though reluctant to ask for any more of her time.
"I suppose I could wait," Anneliese admitted, her tone as light as she could make it as her stomach twisted unpleasantly.
Placing a hand lightly on her elbow, as he had many times before, Severus led her back through the castle and to the grounds.
The weather outside was not pleasant, the sky was overcast with grey clouds and there was already a slight mist in the air that promised rain. But the only other option was for Anneliese to go home, or for them to go back in the castle, neither of which they found acceptable.
"I doubt there will be much rain," Severus said looking at the sky, "but it's probably best not to wander too far from the castle."
"We could go to the lake," Anneliese suggested, "I used to spend so much time sitting there."
Again, they walked in silence, the question that Severus really wanted to ask resting on his lips as he did not dare speak it, not yet.
It took them just ten minutes to reach the lake, but by the time they arrived Anneliese was already shivering from the cold.
"Let's just sit here," she suggested, "and try to warm up."
They sat beside each other, their thighs pressed together and as Anneliese continued to shiver, Severus wrapped an arm around her shoulders and she rested her head on his shoulder.
Now that they were sitting so intimately, the question that Severus had been wanting to ask slipped out. "Why now?"
Anneliese was quiet for so long that Severus thought she had not heard and was about to ask again when she said, "last night was the first night in a long time that I haven't woken up screaming. I can't bear to see so many hurt people in my dreams and know that I was the one that hurt them." Her tone was soft, and Severus could hear more than just a little self-pity in there. He wasn't sure why, but that angered him.
"So," he sneered, "the only reason you want to stop now, after all these years, is so you can get a decent night's sleep."
He moved away from her and as he did so he caught sight of her hurt expression.
"What's the matter Anneliese?" he asked, his tone scornful, "hurt I'm not touched by declaration of a conscience?"
Suddenly, there was a flash of lightening, followed shortly by a roll of thunder before the heavens seemed to open in a downpour of heavy rain.
Anneliese did not hear him speak but she saw Severus mouth 'run,' before he turned and ran back towards the castle. Following him, she put her arms over her head in an attempt not to get too wet, but this, however, compromised her balance and it wasn't long before she found herself flying through the air and landing on her arm with a sickening 'crunch'.
Crying out, she saw Severus stop and turn, looking around for a few moments until he saw her lying crumpled on the floor. He jogged back over to her and as he got near, he yelled to be heard over the rain "can you walk?"
"I don't know," she replied, "I think my arms broken."
Crouching beside her he helped her to her feet, only to have to catch her as she toppled on her injured legs.
"Don't worry," Severus murmured, "I'll carry you back to the castle."
Trying to ignore how much her whole body hurt after the fall, and just how good it was to be in Severus' arms, Anneliese lay still and tried not to breath in the intoxicating scent of Severus. It was obvious to them both that the previous night had been a mistake, and it would not do to dwell on thoughts of it.
"Madam Pomfrey," Severus called out, and Anneliese realised that whilst she had been trying not to think about the man holding her, they had reached the Infirmary.
"What happened?" Madam Pomfrey asked, rushing over and helping Severus lay her on a bed. She did not ask who she was and Anneliese was grateful, he could not deal with the suspicious looks right now.
"We were running back inside because of the rain and I tripped," Anneliese said, slightly embarrassed that she needed to be cared for as a result of her clumsiness.
"What did you fall over, dear?" Madam Pomfrey asked kindly.
"Her own feet," Severus snorted and Madam Pomfrey glared at him. Anneliese felt a sudden rush of affection for this bustling woman and was very glad she was the matron who was caring for her.
"Well, it looks as though you've just got a broken arm and a twisted ankle, so it won't take long for you to be back on your feet. You'll just need to drink this potion and have a few hours bed rest and you'll be good to go."
"Thank you," Anneliese said as she accepted the potion, draining the vile liquid in one before handing the glass back to the matron and watching her hurry away.
She looked at Severus expecting him to go too, but to her surprise he sank into the chair beside her bed and, with a sudden feeling of tenderness towards him realised that he was concerned.
She smiled at him slightly, which he did not return, he just continued to look at her, his chin resting on his steepled fingers.
"Is that the only reason?" He asked suddenly, but Anneliese did not need to ask what he meant.
"No," she replied and did not speak again for a while, but Severus waited patiently. "A little while ago, I realised that I'm fast approaching forty and….I'm not a mother." She said the last part softly, causing Severus' eyes to soften. "I always thought I would be, but I guess I left it too late." She sat silently for a while, studying her fingers and trying not to blush under Severus' scrutiny. "You know, I always thought that….you would be the father."
At Severus' sharp intake of breath she looked up, trying to work out the look in his eyes. Finally he said, "I always wanted to father your children. But…. we left it too late." He admitted softly.
Anneliese's eyes teared, thinking not only of the children she had never had but also of the children whose lives she had taken away. She did not deserve children, not when she had murdered children.
"You do," Severus whispered, and Anneliese realising she had spoken out loud, blushed.
Severus stood and Anneliese presumed that he was about to leave, but instead he settled beside her on the bed and, for the third time that day, took her into his arms.