Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to the goddess, JKR.

The Ties That Bind Can Hurt As Well

It is not as if I am completely unhappy.

Well, perhaps that is not entirely true. I have felt, at times, that my life has become full of sorrow because he was never able to exorcise the demons that had plagued him since that fateful Halloween night so many years ago.

I tried everything. At first, I thought my love would be enough for him to see how wonderful things are. I try to be the wife who listens patiently, loves unconditionally and gives without question.

In short, I tried to be everything he needed.

I failed miserably.

Most nights, I have sat by the window overlooking the path to our home, waiting for him to return. Even our two sons wonder why Daddy has to work all the time. It wasn't work. It was his need to get out and be wild. After all these years of doing what everyone expected, being a role model to young wizards everywhere and defeating the Dark Lord, he needed time for himself…to do what he wanted.

Without us.

Without me.

I felt humiliated, angry and sad in turns. I could not abandon him and took him in each time he came home, disheveled and disgusted with what he had done. And each time I felt that I lost a piece of myself just so he could feel better.

I think you knew what was happening but you did not say anything. You simply remained your usual self, silently supporting me when I needed it.

The fact that you became my closest friend still astonishes me. But, then again, it shouldn't. You were the only one to take notice of me as a person and not simply as his wife. Is it any wonder that you became my confidante? No one else would have understood me. They would have looked at me in shock.

You never did…despite the miseries I poured out to you. Playing father when he could not. Playing mother when I could not.

Now, we are sitting in my parlour and we are waiting for him to come home. It is late and I am so worried. I am always so worried lately…nervous…panicky. Worried that he may not return this time…

I don't even realize that I am crying…has it become so much a part of my normal life? A hand touches my shoulder and you offer me your handkerchief.

You always had the ability to move so silently and swiftly. When I was younger, I wondered how you managed to do it in those billowing black robes. Now, I know that it is simply the art of not drawing attention to yourself.

I accept the handkerchief gratefully and you sit down beside me, placing an arm around my shoulders.

"It will be all right, Hermione," you whisper in my ear. I begin shaking slightly. I don't share your optimism.

Your embrace becomes stronger…protective. I am suddenly aware of your scent…spices and smoke…herbs used in various potions…the bitter tang of chemicals.

I rest my head against your chest and I listen to the thudding of your heart, strong and steady…reassuring.

"Severus?" I want to ask you something but, as I look up and you look down, I forget what it is I was going to say.

You smile sadly and caress my cheek softly. I am not certain which of us moved first…but somehow, our lips meet.

Soft. Warm. A kiss full of love which washes over me like a warm wave, bathing me in something glorious, something I have never felt before.

Ah, this is bliss.

But we cannot.

We pull away and look at one another.

"Severus…"

You put a finger to my lips, preventing me from saying anything else.

"I know, Hermione," you reply quietly as we both take our original positions once again and resume our waiting.

Yes, we both know.

The ties that bind us…can hurt us so badly.

And neither one of us is strong enough to sever them.

I begin to cry again…only this time it is not for him…it is for you…and for me as well.

A/N: I got the idea for this story from a real life example and also from Emmy's story "A Night To Remember" (which, if you like Severus/Hermione, is a must-read). Mine is somewhat darker in the sense that Hermione feels bound to remain in a marriage which is rapidly deteriorating and which is destroying her own sense of self-worth. Marriage is a wonderful thing (I've been married for almost 11 years) but it should be a constructive union…not a destructive one.