Chapter Four – Homeward Bound
The sun filtered into the room, and the birds were twittering away just beyond the glass of the window, on a tree that happened to be situated nearby. Severus groaned and rolled over, trying to block the noises out, but unsuccessfully to his dismay. He was planning on going back to sleep so that he didn't have to remember how miserable he was that he could do nothing for Hermione, when a frantic pounding sounded on the door. He shot up, and scrambled out of bed.
Summoning a bathrobe, he pulled it on and fastened it shut, before running a hand through his hair, untangling the snarls, and going to the door. He opened it cautiously, and when he saw it was a teary-eyed Hermione, he opened it wider and allowed her inside; closing the door behind her after making sure no one had seen her enter. He followed her through, and took her coat from her, hanging it before he had an armful of crying Hermione. He held onto her as she clung to him like a limpet.
After a while, she calmed down and he made her a cup of tea and gave her a handkerchief, before going to his room, casting a charm on his possessions to pack on their own as he had a shower and came out dressed in fresh black trousers, a black shirt and a waistcoat. He pulled on his long black coat and shrunk his bag, putting it and his wand into his pocket as he did.
'Severus, is there something wrong?' Hermione asked in a trembling voice as he reentered the room with a frown creasing his brow.
'Go home and pack what you need. We're leaving,' he said firmly.
'You're joking?' she exclaimed. 'It's hopeless. Even if I do make it away from here, he'll come for me, and there will be no hiding. He'll take me back and he'll kill you if you get in his way. He might even kill me.'
'There is no safer place in the world than Hogwarts. You would be safe there. I would take care of you, and so would Minerva and Albus,' he insisted, glancing out the window as the clouds that had cleared, were coming back into town.
'Yes, but… even if I do come – I'll be a prisoner there too,' she said softly. 'I would much rather you were safe – out of Victor's way than to loose everyone I love when he searches for me.'
Severus stared out at the sky as the rain began to pour again, as if the sky were crying and coating the earth in its tears once more. The sky too, seemed to be weeping for her. He turned and glanced at Hermione from the corner of his eyes, contemplating what he was about to say. 'When I met you by the bridge that day Hermione…you were planning to kill yourself, weren't you?' he asked solemnly.
She gasped and he turned to look at her with dark eyes that seemed sad and full of troubles. 'I was,' she murmured softly. 'If you hadn't of come by when you did… I know that right now I would be…'
Her voice caught when she tried to utter the last word, but she just couldn't. He didn't try to make her – he simply sat there and waited for her to say what she wanted to say. She looked at the floor, and stared at it… going over her memories of the past couple of weeks day by day, beginning when he had stopped her from killing herself to the evening before when they had made love, to that very moment, and what words had been exchanged between them.
She looked up at him, making her own mind up for the first time in years. 'Let's leave this place together…' she said with a small smile.
Severus nodded. 'Get whatever you need. I will be waiting for you downstairs,' he said, cupping her cheek in his strong hand and leaning down to kiss her forehead.
Hermione nodded, feeling her stomach churn a little, and grabbed her coat. She turned to him and smiled just before she walked out, and he nodded and tilted his chin to the door, gesturing for her to go. She left without another word, and Severus gathered the last of his things, shrinking them to fit in his coat pocket, before looking over the room one last time, and descending to the pub below.
He paid for his room for the last few nights, and stopped in the dinning room next door and got a coffee and the newspaper as he waited for Hermione to return to him. As he sat and drank, he puzzled over why this meant so much to him. He knew that perhaps in the last week or so, he might have come to fancy himself in love with the young woman, but he didn't know why it was so. Maybe it was his penchant to help those who were in distress, but then he thought not.
He had helped Potter without having any romantic inclinations towards the boy at all. But Hermione… well, he respected her and cared for her deeply, and he just assumed that those feelings where that of the beginnings of love – as he had never felt that particular emotion before meeting her that day on the bridge.
'Severus…' said a soft voice from the archway into the dinning room.
He looked up and saw Hermione, standing there in fresh clothes, with her long black coat on – the same one she had worn on the night that she had nearly killed herself, with the red umbrella in her hand, and the rest of her things, presumably in her pockets. He stood and abandoned his coffee and paper, paying for them on the way out of the building, with Hermione walking alongside him.
'Are you sure about this?' he asked as they walked along, both with their umbrellas out to keep the rain off of them.
She nodded and took his hand in her own, urging them both forwards. 'Yes, I m sure,' she replied. 'I've never been more certain in my entire life.'
Severus nodded and clasped her hand tightly in his, leading her along as they hastened to the nearest Apparation point where there was no way that they could be spotted. As they approached, Hermione could see a figure standing there, with no umbrella to provide shelter from the rain. When they got closer, she saw that it was not just anyone – it was Victor, and he did not look at all pleased.
'Hermione how is it that he is here?' Severus hissed.
'I don't know, he said he was going to be away for a few days…that he had work this morning – I thought he had left when I got home,' she said with tears clouding her vision as he stared at them as they Approached.
'So is this how it is going to be, witch?' shouted the Bulgarian at her. 'You are going with this man from where you once lived? Is this what you want?'
Hermione clung to Severus, walking behind him as they came to stand before Victor in the alley way. He didn't look like he was going to let her go with Snape one bit. He had never looked so furious in their time together. He had his fists balled, and was holding his bulky frame in a way that suggested he would hurt either one or the two of them if they made any wrong moves. The rain had drenched him, and was dripping off his great ugly nose that had been broken many times, and healed incorrectly.
'How do you think to explain your betrayal? I am your husband, and you would choose this man – a man you were supposed to hate, over me? Answer me wife!' Victor demanded.
Hermione straightened at his tone and the way he addressed her, feeling her anger over take her feelings of fear as she stepped from behind her lover and hero, and stood before the man she had married. She pulled out some American Muggle coins from her pocket and weighed them in her hand as she prepared to answer him.
'I won't spend another moment of my life, living the way you want to,' she said softly, looking at the ground, before looking him in the eye. 'I am taking my life back, right here and now,' she added, throwing the coins towards his head. 'That is what it costs to free the woman that used to be your wife!'
'You little bitch,' he roared, bringing his hand up and slapping her across the face, making her fall backwards a little.
But she didn't back down and cower as he had expected. She stood proud and tall again and looked him in the eye. She was about to speak, but Severus had moved forward then, and had pushed the shorter, stockier Victor against the wall, and held him there by his throat, with his wand jammed hard into his ribs.
'Don't you dare, ever harm Hermione again,' he hissed dangerously, roughly shoving him harder against the bricks.
Severus may have been taller and slender, but there was no mistaking the strength and power than he had. He was strong, and he could have easily taken Victor on any time. This was his chance, and he was going to take advantage of it. Hermione moved forward and laid a gentle hand on Severus' arm, making him lock eyes with her. She nodded, and he relaxed his hold somewhat, taking his wand away from the man and releasing him.
By then, all three of them were drenched in the rain. 'I am leaving you Victor, and I will never come back to you,' Hermione said calmly, her cheek still stinging and red from where he had struck her. 'Expect to be hearing from the Ministry about our divorce.'
She looked at him steadily one last time, before looking at Severus, her hero and her future, and taking his proffered hand. She went into his strong arms, still soaked through and shivering, and together Apparated away from her present life, back to her future and her past combined. She was finally doing what was best for her, and living her life as she should be – except this time, she intended to do it for herself, with Severus there to provide her with the support she had always needed.
They reappeared at the gates to the Hogwarts grounds, and entered it hand in hand, walking towards the castle and her safety until Victor's name was no longer part of her own. She was taking back her identity and forming it without him dominating over her everything. She could not take her old job at the Ministry back, for it would not have felt right. Victor had made her take that job. No – she would study and master a different field, doing what she had always wanted to do.
'Hermione…what are you going to do, now that you are free?' Severus asked when they had finally reached the stairs to go up into the castle.
'I – I had always wanted to be a Healer before Victor made me take that Job as head of the Ministry Department for International Relations,' she said, allowing him to gather her into his arms. 'I think that I could study that once this Victor thing has been all cleared up once and for all…'
'You would make a fine Healer,' he agreed, stroking her hair and suddenly tightening his hold. 'I – Hermione…what do you want to do about us?'
She looked up at his face and smiled, leaning up to kiss his lips tenderly. 'I want you in my life from now on, Severus…' she whispered against his lips. 'Don't ever let me go…'
Even later that night, with them both lying together sated amongst his sheets, she whispered to him 'my hero…' as she drifted off to sleep. Severus had never felt more complete in his entire life, and it was all because he had decided to save a woman he cared for, from a fate worse than death itself. With this knowledge, he fell asleep, totally at ease…
A/N – Well there you go – now complete in four chapters. Just to clarify, this story is not new, and was once posted on another account with a different name during a time when I was having trouble accessing this account. I am now slowly removing all stories from the other account and re-posting them under my original writer name. Please let me know what you thought of this story and review!