"Sir?" her voice was melodic, even in that single word.
Severus looked up, his dark eyes meeting hers. She was the only person who had seen his scars, since that terrible night in the Shrieking Shack. He had laid there, life seeping out of him, and sudden two green orbs caught his attention.
'Lily!' had been his first incoherent thought, before understanding hit. This was Potter, not his beloved, and he needed to pass on the important memories before it was too late. He had grabbed the boy's robes and gurgled;
"Look at me!" before passing out from the pain.
Severus shook his head. It did him no good to remember the pain of that night, and his long recovery. By the time Harry had returned, the poison had left his body paralyzed and still as the dead. Still, a note in his left pocket alerted Potter to the antidote, and after weeks of recovery he was as able as ever. Except for the disfiguring scars that graced his neck, with red and purple veins surrounding them.
"Sir?" she said again, gently touching his arm.
Luna's young face swam into view, a mere few inches from his own. Involuntarily he flinched; physical touch was something that was almost alien to him.
She was eighteen now, but still a Hogwarts student. McGonagal had arranged it so that any student adversely affected by the war could re do any course necessary. Luna had caught up, and graduated most of her classes already. She even assisted Professor McGonagal when her Headmistress duties clashed with her classes.
"What are you doing here, Lovegood?" he asked wearily.
The Potions room was empty, classes had long since left.
"I came to ask you on a date," she said the words as if they were the simplest things in the world, but they shocked him to the core.
"And how do you propose we do this, being student and teacher? There are rules against such things," he said bemusedly.
"Oh, I already asked Headmistress McGonagal. She told me I was an adult and could make my own decisions, and technically since I'm here by my own choice now, I can date whomever I want," Luna said airily. War had made her see that life was all too precious, and that time was not something to easily waste. Many young witches and wizards had come together after the war, and acted on impulses they might not have if the situation had been different. One of her best friends, Neville Longbottom, had already asked out Hanna Abbott, and the pair was looking at houses in Hogsmeade.
"If you can date anyone you wish, then why would you choose me?" Severus wasn't sure whether this was an elaborate prank or not, but if it was, it was not funny.
"I like you, sir. I always have, ever since that first potions class. I know you're lonely, and I know you don't talk to many people, but you speak to me, so I thought…?" She was as blunt as always with her feelings, but to Severus it was oddly reassuring. She did not judge his scars, his life, his choices.
"Fine," he replied gruffly. "Tomorrow is a Hogsmeade weekend, you may accompany me,"
He chooses to ignore the soft smile that lit up his face, and the odd feeling of hope it gave him. It would be a disappointment, like everything else in his life.
To his surprise, her company was not disappointing. She did not complain when he spent fifteen minutes browsing the Apothecary, but merely stood to one side looking on with interest. She had been an adept pupil, and did not ask why he was buying different ingredients. Instead she commented that the Fever reducing potions would be strong this year, when he picked up a large amount of Feverwort. At the Three Broomsticks, she smiled charmingly when he ordered two Butterbeers.
"My favorite," she said, smacking her lips with relish.
The other students laughed to see the comical pair, but feel silent when Luna reached over the lay her hand on his.
Her blonde hair seemed alive under the flickering firelight, and for once there was no talk of mysterious and usually invisible animals.
"It's getting late," she said suddenly, glancing at her watch.
"As a teacher, I am allowed to stay out as long as I need, and any student with me is allowed the same discretion," Severus said absently.
To his surprise the young witch frowned slightly.
"Does it worry you?" she asked.
"What?" Severus replied confused.
"The difference in our ages. I confess, these past hours I would not trade for anything in the world," there she was, the Luna who never hid how she felt.
The simple words seemed at that moment the most precious in the world, but as he looked at her, he was afraid he would see Lily. But there was no shadow of his former unrequited love, just a young, honest woman who had told him how she felt.
"Would you care to take a walk? We could stop at the Shrieking Shack before we return to Hogwarts," he said impulsively.
She smiled again and took his arm. They walked outside as snowflakes fell gently from above. It was not yet dark, and they easily found their way to the ramshackle house in companionable silence. After staring at the empty windows for a few minutes, Luna turned to him. At first he thought she would kiss him, although she would need to be on tiptoe to do so. Instead she placed her hand on his neck.
"They are not scars, they are a badge of honor. You gave your life to the war, let me give your life back," she whispered.
A tear joined the frozen snow on his cheeks, and he leaned down to pull her closer.
"I think I am beginning to see just why your friends value you so much. You always say exactly what is needed, when the people around you need to hear it most,"
And he pressed his lips to hers, and started to get his life back.
A/N- Second in a series of 'Fragments' for the Fragment challenge on HPFC forum. Should be more to come! As always, read and review, and check out my other stories -hinthint- ;D