Thanks to AnnieTalbot, Potions Mistress, and Ariadne for encouragement, guidance and wicked beta reading. This story was written for the Winter SS/HG Exchange.
She dreamed of him again. The early morning light, filtered by the last fog of midwinter's dawn, lay like a shroud on her bed. Hermione shook her head as if trying to dislodge the mist from her thoughts and tried to catch hold of the last tendrils of her dream.
A flash of white skin and dark eyes. And a voice, there was something that the voice was saying that she should remember. Why couldn't she remember? Above all, it was the sense that there was something important that she had forgotten when she woke that she found most disturbing. And with that, it occurred to her that she woke each morning with the tendrils of this dream, no, not this dream, but one like it, surely, haunting her thoughts and leaving her gasping for breath.
She shook her head again and rolled her eyes. What was she thinking, imagining that she was having dreams that meant something, dreams of a man telling her something that she should remember? She was letting her imagination run away with her. Again. Or at least that's what her friends would say, were she to tell them that she thought that her nighttime wanderings meant anything at all. She could hardly help it, really, this longing to follow that voice, and her dreams, against all reason. Her friends wouldn't really understand. They would remind her that she was supposed to be logical, sensible – the one they could turn to for clear vision. She sighed sadly, shaking her head again. So why, then, was the image of dark eyes still imprinted on her mind's eye, despite her efforts to banish it?
The voice was yelling at her. She felt herself turning towards the sound, flinching, but moving forward without hesitation. I've always been a glutton for punishment. The mists were icy cold on her skin, and she moved quickly, scanning her surroundings as she walked towards the anger.
"Get away." Deep and resonant, the voice had teeth.
She stopped, confused by her inability to find the sharp voice. At his rejection, finding him - the man whose voice called to her even as he sent her away - felt imperative, but impossible.
"Where are you?" she called out. "I can't find you!"
"Have you no sense, girl? I said, go away. Get away from me. As I've been telling you every night for… far too long. Just. Go. Away."
That voice, she knew that voice. And with one last turn past a tree whose bare branches reached low enough to brush the dusty ground, she saw him. Her body flooded with heat – how could she have not realised who she had been dreaming of for years? Flushed, wondering why – why him? What could possibly have possessed her to Conjure the image of Severus Snape each night to haunt her dreams?
He looked much as she remembered him. A study of shadow and light, dark hair falling around his face, skin so white that it was almost translucent. Piercing black eyes captured hers and held them fast.
She held her breath.
"Why are you here? Why, why do you keep coming back?"
As if I have some choice in the matter. Where are we, anyway? She stared at him, frozen.
"Leave me," he said, his voice rough from disuse and, perhaps, some emotion that she could not identify.
"You're in my dream, why must I leave you?" Hermione retorted, flustered.
"Stupid girl. This is no dream," Snape sneered, then turned away.
No dream? Then…. "What is this place? Why are you here?" Her voice was small, a shrill note seeping in around the edges.
He was silent, back stiff, looking as if he was barely alive.
Then, in barely a whisper, "I don't know for certain."
"I don't know." He glared at her. "I should, by all rights, be dead and in hell somewhere. And instead, I find myself waking time and time again… and each time I open my eyes, I am in this… this place. And you are here…. Every time. If you just stopped coming… left me… then maybe I would…."
"Would what?" she retorted, shocked. "Go to hell? If you're not dead, and this isn't a dream, what is this place and how did you…?" She stopped short and breathed deeply, "Sir… Professor Snape, sir. I have no explanation for why I am here, but I am most certainly not here to bother you… or to cause you pain."
Though she could hardly believe that a form that still could be animate, she saw him take a slow breath.
"Please… just leave me. Leave me alone…. I am finished…. I was to die, was prepared to die…. This is unbearable…." And with that, he faded from sight.
Hermione woke abruptly.
And this time, she remembered.