From the Diary of Albus Dumbledore:
Everything is going wrong. I don't understand it. What is happening?
My plan was so carefully laid out; I had thought of everything, down to the smallest detail. There are five remaining horcruxes. Harry has already destroyed the diary, as I knew he would, and I was able to destroy the ring, albeit at the cost of my hand. Harry is supposed to destroy Slytherin's locket, and the items belonging to Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. He is a courageous child, and he has the loyal Ron and the fiercely intelligent Hermione by his side, so of course he will be able to destroy these horcruxes. I can feel my life ebbing away due to the ring's curse, but Severus is going to kill me, and thus earn the death eaters' trust, spare Draco from becoming a murderer, and end my pain all at the same time. Ingenious, if I may say so myself. And then Harry and his friends will kill Nagini. By that time, Harry will have realized that he is himself the last horcrux, and he will choose to sacrifice himself to destroy Voldemort. It will be a difficult moment for him, no doubt, when he realizes that he will have to die, but I know Harry. He will do it; he will sacrifice himself to save others. And then Voldemort's reign will come to an end.
At least, that is how I had planned it. But everything is beginning to fall apart. Severus has betrayed me, Harry found out the truth much too soon, a strange change has come over Ron, and Hermione… Well, she is a lot less rational than I was counting on. And then there is Harry. My brave child, the chosen one, the one who was destined to redeem the world… The chosen one is making his own choices these days, strange, terrible, choices I cannot comprehend.
My plan was flawless. But the people in it were strangely flawed, and their hearts too unpredictable. I have amassed vast learning over the years. I know more of magic and science, of arts and books, than almost any man alive. But I have begun to realize lately, that I know very little, very little at all, about the human heart and its irrational longings…
They say that Merlin was the greatest wizard of all time, that his power, his intellect and his erudition were unsurpassed. He was the master of all magic, or so he thought. But towards the end of his life, he encountered a magic so powerful that his own crumbled before it. He was the counselor of kings; he could command armies. He could assume any form he pleased. He flew through the sky as an eagle and swam in the ocean in the shape of a fish. Demons and spirits did his bidding; he knew more magic than any man who had ever lived, or any who will live hereafter. But even so, he ended up kneeling in the dust, a broken beggar, pleading for mercy from the one who possessed a magic far stronger than any he could ever dream of.
He met a girl.
They call her Nimue or Vivienne, the Lady of the Lake. Some say she was a fairy or a witch, but perhaps she was simply a girl. She was young, and he was old, and no one holds such terrifying power over an old man's heart as a young girl who says she loves him. They say that Merlin lost his mind, that he followed her around like a madman. His magic was gone, for what magic was left in the world for him now, besides the enchantment of her alabaster skin and the light of her eyes -?
They say she imprisoned him within a tree, and that the great wizard lives there still, in his leafy prison. But sometimes she takes pity on him and grants him a kiss, before returning him to his eternal confinement.
I used to wonder at this tale, at the folly of the great wizard, who was so taken in by a young woman. But today, for the first time, I understood how such a thing could happen. For I am bewitched, like Merlin, and I wish with all my heart never to be free of this enchantment...
Ever since I was a boy, I thought I knew what love was. I used to love a girl with emerald eyes who never loved me back. My love for her was pure and sweet and filled with pain and longing. But today, for the first time in my life, I have realized that my love for Lily was unreal, a dream... It was a love made up of fantasy and shadows, a melancholy longing for something that never was. I dreamed of Lily all my life, but I never held her in my arms; I never felt her lips against mine or the warmth of her body.
I wanted to die when Lily died. But today, I want to live...
There was a knock on my door this afternoon. I did not expect anyone to knock; nobody ever comes. I have lived my life alone, my heart heavy with memories. But today, she knocked on my door. She entered shyly, lingered by the door. At first, I did not understand what she wanted from me. I asked her to come in, invited her to sit, and I wondered at the flush on her cheeks. She sat in silence for a moment, and I saw that her hands were trembling in her lap. I understood then that she had not come merely to discuss her work, as I had first assumed. Did I realize, at that moment, what she was about to say? I cannot tell, but my heart began to beat strangely in my chest as I looked at the girl before me, whose eyes refused to meet mine.
Why wasn't she looking at me? Her glance had always met mine when others' had shied away. I had liked her for that. They are all afraid of me; the students' eyes all turn away when I look around the room for an answer. But not Hermione. She always looked me right in the eye, and answered whatever question I asked. I admired her for that. Not that I ever thought of telling her that... She was the only one ever worth teaching. And even when my words came out sarcastic and cruel, as they so often do, she still never looked away. Even when what I said was heartless, she still looked at me with her beautiful brown eyes as if she knew that my words were a wall, built to keep others out...
I looked at her, sitting there in my office chair, and I wondered what had finally made her look down, what made her lovely face blush...
She looked up, startled. Too late, I realized that I had used her first name. I had not meant to do that.
I corrected myself. "What can I do for you, Miss Granger?"
"I... I want..." It seemed to be very difficult for her to speak. She looked down again. "There is something I want to tell you, Professor Snape. Something I have been thinking for some time..."
"What's that?" I was so taken aback by how vulnerable she looked that my voice came out softer than I intended. I thought of repeating my question in a sterner voice, but realized that this would seem ridiculous.
Her dark eyes met mine for a second, before turning away. "I... don't know how to tell you this..." Her voice was trembling.
Why was my heart beating so fiercely all of a sudden, as if in some absurd anticipation? No, she could not mean... Could she?
"I... Oh, God."
She was not able to speak. But the flush on her cheeks spoke for her. Oh, what miracle was this? I found myself reaching for her hand. She drew her breath sharply. She still did not look up, but her hand rested in mine, as if it had always belonged there. How small it was, how delicate against the roughness of my skin! Then her hand moved. I thought she was going to pull it away, but she didn't. Instead, her fingers began to caress my rough, calloused hand. I seemed to have forgotten how to breathe.
"Severus-" Her voice, speaking my name, sent a delicious shock through my body. And then she said the impossible:
"Severus, I love you."
And then she looked up, and her eyes met mine. She looked at me like Lily did, in my desperate imagination. Except that Lily's love was never real. This... This was real, and infinitely sweeter than my dreams.
She stood up and flung her arms around me, and I felt her heart beating wildly against my chest. I held her gently, still half unbelieving, and buried my lips in her soft hair. "Hermione," I whispered. "If this is a dream, please don't wake me."
She looked up at me then, her eyes radiant. Still unwilling to fully trust my senses, I held her tighter, worried that she might be an illusion after all. But she was there, warm and real in my arms. I stroked her upturned face, wonderingly. How lovely she was! How could anything like this happen-?
A sudden, terrible thought crossed my mind. "Hermione, have you drunk any kind of potion?"
She laughed and shook her head. "No, Severus. It's not a love potion. Just you. I have been in love with you for a long time."
"But - " My rational mind could still not comprehend this. "But why? You are so beautiful, so sweet, so terribly young... "
She looked at me gravely. "I'm seventeen." As if that was not young, in her mind!
".. and I am old, ugly, unpleasant..."
She cut me short with a fiery kiss. Oh, the softness of her lips against mine! My body believed her love, even if my mind could not quite fathom it.
"You are beautiful, Severus..." Her hand stroked my face gently.
"You delusional girl..." My voice came out hoarse. I kissed her back, more roughly than I had intended, with a passion built up through a long and miserable life. And, God, how she responded! She moaned against my lips, her hands tearing at my shirt. Was this really happening to me?
"The door... Lock the door, Severus."
I stood still for a moment as I realized the full meaning of what she asked me to do. She wants me to-? Me? I looked in wonder at her lovely face, flushed with desire, for me-?
I obeyed her command with a whispered spell and let her tear my shirt off before I pulled her down to the rug, my arms trembling. I felt clumsy; my experience of love was limited to the kind money can buy. But her frantic kisses soon made me lose my awkward self-awareness. How smooth her skin was under her clothes! I traced the curve of her breasts and her hips with a hand that shook a little. I half expected her to shy away from my touch, but she did not. Instead, I found myself in a soft embrace.
At first I did not like to look at her delicate flesh against my scarred, imperfect body; it made me feel like a monster about to ravish an angel. But my angel kissed my scars with frenzy, and she whispered that I was beautiful, until I felt myself become so. It was she who unbuckled my pants and freed my bulging erection. Her soft lips touched my swollen cock, and a playful tongue told me that she was not quite as innocent as I had feared.
I pulled her close to me, and put a gentle hand between her legs. How moist she felt - I was ready to bury myself in her at that moment, but something held me back. "Hermione, have you ever-"
She nodded, and I felt a sudden unreasonable jealousy against whoever had possessed her. "Ron? Or Harry?"
"No, Viktor. Viktor Krum. But it's all over between us."
"Good..." I was glad it turned out to be someone far away, in another country.
I positioned myself over her and rubbed myself gently against her. Oh, God, I needed her! I had never wanted anyone like this... "Severus!" Her need was as urgent as mine. Her body rose to meet me, and her hands pushed my hips impatiently into place. I tried to enter her gently, but she pushed against me so frantically that I finally lost all restraint and abandoned myself to the desire that threatened to tear my very being apart. I made love to her madly, feeling her respond to my rapid thrusts, trying desperately to delay the moment of climax. But at the moment her body arched under me, I could no longer hold back. I came deep inside her, trying to stifle my scream against her shoulder. It was the middle of the afternoon, after all, and people walk by my office. But later I thought that perhaps I wouldn't really mind all that much if someone found out that a lovely and brilliant girl had inexplicably fallen in love with me.
Afterwards, I buried my head in her wild brown hair, afraid to look at her. Perhaps, now that she had sated her curiosity, she would no longer want me? But she kissed me, and her kisses were sweeter than ever.
I held her so tight she moaned a little. "Please, Hermione - please don't go away."
She smiled at me. How impossibly beautiful her blushing face was! "I'm not going anywhere, Severus. I'm yours now."
And I whispered in her ear the words I had never before uttered. They felt odd and unfamiliar, and yet miraculously right in my mouth: "I love you."
How strangely everything had changed! How can a man change his soul in one afternoon? I would never again be the same man as I was before she knocked on my door. I had lived in the shadows of the past, with the memory of the dead... But now I had entered the land of the living.
The memory of Lily... I was free. I was no longer held captive by the memory of her emerald eyes. Everything was different now... Even my feeling towards Harry.
I have long understood, but never really cared, that Dumbledore was using my love for Lily for his own ends. He wished me to protect Harry from danger, until the moment will come when Harry must choose to die. And Dumbledore knew me well enough to know that my love for Lily and my wild grief over her death would make me protect her son's life, for now, while the hatred I always felt for James would make me willing to sacrifice Harry in the end. Especially after I learned that the soul of Lily's murderer dwells within her son... I never knew whether to hate or love Harry, the strange child who lived, the beautiful boy with Lily's eyes, her lover's face, and a piece of her murderer's soul embedded within. Dumbledore knew that my love and hate for him were in perfect equilibrium, but that, perhaps, I would have consented in the end, to letting the boy sacrifice himself in order to eradicate the last remnant of Voldemort's soul.
But now... How odd, I realize now that I never looked at Harry as himself. I never saw a boy, just a reminder of Lily, and of her death. But Hermione's unexpected love has exorcised the green-eyed ghost from my soul. And now, when I no longer see the world through the haunting memory of Lily, I understand with a sudden dread what I should have seen all along: That Harry is neither James nor Voldemort; he is just a boy, and Dumbledore intends to sacrifice him for the greater good. No, even worse: He intends to manipulate the boy into sacrificing himself. Harry does not know that he is a horcrux. Dumbledore feels that he must discover the truth for himself, after he has destroyed the other horcruxes, in order to be ready to make the final sacrifice. What a magnificent and ruthless plan, headmaster! I was reluctantly playing along, but now...
Now everything is different. I suddenly realize that I feel something for Harry that is neither hate nor love: I feel pity. The headmaster intends to sacrifice an innocent boy. Perhaps Harry needs to know what his beloved Dumbledore has in store for him... Perhaps he should be able to have a say in the matter before it is too late. I am no longer a blind pawn in Dumbledore's great game; maybe Harry shouldn't be either.
You always thought you could trust me, headmaster. You never wavered in your faith in me. But perhaps it will turn out that you were wrong about me, after all...