A HG*SS story by RedValkyrie
He rubs the damp flannel along the mottled rim of the cauldron, watching as the water slides down into the bowl of the pot, pooling in the bottom, the rainbow sheen of the day's potions glimmering as the light from the sputtering candles falls upon it. They have to be cleaned by hand, every night, to rid them of any residual magics. A simple vanishing spell and a Scourgify will get you by in a pinch, but without a true round of scrubbing, your potions will begin to suffer.
It is a thankless task this, cleaning cauldrons. Usually, the chore falls to one of his more hapless or cheeky students, having it forced upon them in the course of a detention. Yet today, today his classes, even his Gryffindors had preformed admirably and he had thusly, failed to issue a single one. As it is, the sorry job falls to him…and his apprentice.
He loves her.
To the point that it hurts.
He has to clench his teeth to keep from blurting it out sometimes.
That he loves her.
And that, that causes his throat to tense and the scars, well, they ache, and he aches, sometimes for days and days on end…
And his scars aren't the only reason.
It isn't right, he thinks, muttering a curse under his breath as he catches himself staring at her hands as they clean. She is humming, some Muggle tune he feels he might have heard before, something soft and lilting and beautiful. He turns his attention back to the errand at hand and tries, tries ever so hard not to hear the melody issuing from her throat.
And he muses.
And he longs for her.
He feels a fool, of course. That he should love her, but she made it so easy to do so, slipping into his bruised and weary heart and forcing him, forcing him to feel these things again. It was a poor joke on fate's behalf that he should have come to need her as he has over the past two years. And, he does need her. He simply, cannot do it alone anymore, any of it.
Brewing potions, scrubbing cauldrons, minding classes, living.
He rubs his throat and swallows. He tires so quickly and often feels weak, and he hates this most of all, the weakness.
So yes, he needs her, and he needs her.
It's funny though, because her term with him, her apprenticeship, ended twelve weeks ago and yet…
She stays, and Minerva hasn't said anything and he certainly hasn't said anything, and she simply carries on as if it doesn't matter that she shouldn't still be here. So, he wonders…
He cannot bring himself to ask her why.
Though, sometimes, because he is weak, he lets himself fancy that she might…care…for him and that's why. Because, she stays and because when she speaks to him, it is with honest kindness, and because of the way she touches him now and then...
No one ever does that, anymore. They are either too ashamed to approach him or still too wary of him. He thinks of Minerva. Minerva'd used to, in that motherly way she has...had. Until…well, then. Even now, knowing that it was… that it was what it had to be. That it had been asked of him…begged of him!
She couldn't, couldn't bring herself to…not even a pat on the arm. Not even that.
But she would.
Sometimes, her hand would come to rest, so softly, so tenderly, over his, or her arm would be resting next to his and they'd brush and she'd not recoil. Once, she even set her head on his shoulder. But that, that'd he'd had to put a stop to…because…
It isn't right.
If only she were older, or if he were younger, he thinks…but really, that's not it. No. It's, if only he weren't…who he is.
The humming stops.
He continues to clean, watching as the stains disappear into the rough weave of his rag. Though he won't admit it, he doesn't mind cleaning, not at all. He can't stand filth and yet, it's always there. With his rag and the soap and the water, at least he can absolve something of its stains.
He can make something clean.
She starts humming again, something different, something sombre. Its sober melody fits his mood and yet, he feels his heart might burst, the way her lovely tones make it swell. It is as if she knows…as if she can read the music of his soul and sing out his sorrow.
He loves her. Oh, how much he does.
And is that really so wrong...to love someone so strongly?
To love...her...so strongly?
He sighs and thinks. Yes, for him, for him it is, it is wrong because love...his love, only brings pain and regret and death.
And they'd both seen enough of that.
So, he cleans.
His rooms, are spotless, not that anyone would know. He can't recall the last time he's had a visitor. His robes as well are completely free of any stain...an admirable feat for a Potions Master, let alone one who deals daily with legions of clumsy children.
He himself is no exception. Each shower becomes a ritual penance of washing, scrubbing, and rinsing, to become clean.
His hair, yes, his hair...he knows the cruel jokes are still whispered, is never neglected...and his skin often aches after he rubs it raw with the loofa. Yet, for all of his spent soap and water, he wonders if he ever will be.
He sets his rag on the lip of a rather large cauldron to his right as he inspects the smaller one in his hands. This cauldron, pewter, standard size 2...is clean.
He allows himself the smallest of smiles.
She is still scrubbing. He loves the sound...not so much because it is pleasing, but because she makes it. The sputtering candles, that, and their quiet breathing are the only sounds.
He misses the humming though, and for a moment, thinks to try it, but he does not hum...and honestly, cannot...not now. His vocal chords simply won't.
He loses himself again in the rote motions of moving the rag, of watching the little pools of rainbow water, and listening to the softly echoing sound of her scrub brush inside the cavernous metal pot.
He shifts slightly, casting his eyes at her. Her attention, though focused on her task, seems far away as her hands move. Though they're deep within the dungeons, the charmed windows allow a reflection of the true night to seep in, and her face, her face is radiant as luminous fingers of moonlight and the warm flicker of the candles caress it.
Gods, but how she shines!
He can't stop looking at her, doesn't want to stop. Suddenly, she glances at him, and he is unable to avert his eyes before hers catch them.
She tells him she's not quite done, when he blurts out a question, inquiring of her progress. He only nods and takes up his cloth again.
He hears the rustle of her skirts and the soft click of her shoes on the flagstones as she moves, jostling though the maze of cauldrons, shelves, and bottles. He can feel her presence as she stops, behind him.
And then, her hands are on his shoulders, just resting there. He pauses in his work and closes his eyes, wishing to block out any distraction but for the soft pressure of her fingers.
On his shoulders.
On his shoulders?
"Severus?" she says, running her hands across the woolen fabric of his coat.
He blinks and opens his mouth to answer, but it is horribly dry and his tongue feels thick, like a bolt of cotton. So, he turns his head slightly and looks up, and she leans towards him so that her face is right there in front of his, and he feels it as her hand slips up into his hair.
And he wants her.
He wants her so badly that he can hardly stand to look at her, but he does, because it would be worse to look away.
But, it isn't right, he shouldn't-
"Severus?" she says again, and it rings through his head, clattering against the inside of his skull. His name, pouring over her lips, and her voice saying it…
"Yes?" he manages to say, and he's sure that he will choke on his own heart because it is in his throat and he can't seem to swallow it back.
"Let the students clean the cauldrons," she says. One hand is still tangled in his hair, and her other comes and slides along his chest and up to his cheek and he can feel her fingers move as they scratch along his rough growth of stubble.
"Hermione-," he says and she presses her forehead to his and he thinks the fragrant heat of her skin might consume him. Her hands, her face and, oh! as she leans, he feels her breasts as they push into his arm.
His hands move and he clutches at her wrist so that he can move her hand away, the one tracing down his face, but she doesn't respond to his pull.
"Hermione, you can't-," he says, still touching her, still holding her, still feeling her.
She breathes and he realises that her mouth is so close to his that he can almost taste her words as she speaks, warm and full of spice.
"We've both cleaned enough," she whispers and each word seems to kiss him as it floats from her mouth…
which is so close…
"But still, there's so much that's just so…unclean…" he says, as he drops his eyes from hers, unable to look at her, to look at how she shines, at how she almost glimmers in the light.
And then, suddenly, her mouth is on his and he doesn't know what to do. He can taste her, and oh, she's sweet, and warm, and she murmurs against his lips that they're clean, that he needs to believe that they're clean, and he knows she's not talking about the cauldrons.
She straddles his lap and both of her hands are now tangled in his hair and his hands, he doesn't know how, are pressed to her back and pulling her towards him. He feels her tongue sweep the seam of his mouth and it surprises him and he gasps just a little, but enough that she takes advantage and gingerly pries him open. He feels a tingling rush shoot through his body as she slips her tongue against his.
His hands move across the silk of her bodice, her skirts, her breasts, her legs, as hers trace along his coat, his trousers, his chest, his thighs, until there is only skin and heat and motion. And before he knows it, he's inside of her as she moves over him, and she moans, and it's his name.
And it echoes what he thinks must be a thousand times, catching in each of the cauldrons and spinning back out to him, covering him like water, washing over him, washing him.
His name in her lovely voice, and the way she says it, the way she sings it out...
Oh, Hermione! He thinks, as he clutches her and licks the salt sheen of her sweat, which is bathing him as she presses into him.
And he is awash in her, in her scent and in her sweat and in the soft caresses of her arms as she leans her lips into his and kisses him so tenderly, so lovingly that he thinks he might be spent for this life. Because, oh gods! He's never felt so clean in his life as he does with her whispering against his mouth and into his ears that he is!
'You're clean Severus, you're clean.
We both are, together. Believe it, believe me.'
And he does.
AN: Please review for me. This is somewhat different than I usually write, at least the voice is and it's somewhat more physical as well. I would really, really appreciate the feedback as to if it's alright.
MistressBlackwater on Deviant Art: http:/ / . com/ messages/#/ d2uwdpt (remove the spaces!)
In other news: things are a bit rough right now, I'm trying to buy my first house and I'm not having an easy time of it. I'm trying to stay positive, but it's becoming hard. On a lighter note, earlier this month, I want you all to know; I went to Hogwarts. Yes, actually did...the U.S. campus, in Orlando! ;) I could live in Honeydukes.