A/N: I have no idea where this one-shot came from, but it's been nagging my brain for the past several days and wouldn't allow me to work on anything else until I wrote it all down.
If you're looking for something light and fluffy, I'm afraid this isn't it. Ye be warned.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is copyrighted to and belongs to JK Rowling. I'm just playing in her sandbox. No money, just fun.
Here Comes the Sun
"Little darling, it's been a long, cold, lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here"
- The Beatles
Soft, pale yellow rays crept in through the half-drawn, moth-eaten curtains. Odd, considering it had been a rainy, overcast day up until roughly five minutes prior, when he had finally laid himself down to put an end to it all. How terribly ironic that the sun should finally choose to peek through the grey clouds, and at such a moment as this.
He had long detested the sun, much preferring the comforting thrumming of rain against his bedroom window. Even as a child, he had welcomed the rain. Sometimes it felt as though those persistent showers came purposely, if not exclusively, to match his mood, his circumstances, his life; but that, he would quickly conclude, was bloody nonsense. No one can make it rain, not even bloody wizards and witches.
Rain would have set the tone much better, however. To him, it was music to die to; a calming washing away of everything—all the secrets no one knew, the thoughts he could never convey, the knowledge he would ultimately take with him to the grave...
Yet the rain hadn't kept her away. To his discomfort, yet inner relief, she had still managed to find him spread out on his back in the middle of an unmade bed, staring up at the cracks in the ceiling, at those peculiar streams of sunlight; or was he even aware that the sun had come out?
"You bastard," were the first words she uttered upon her entrance, shocked and panic-stricken by what she saw. "You selfish, selfish bastard..."
"To the very end," he returned with a disturbing, almost satanic smile that made her blood run cold.
Something about that smile unsettled her. Maybe it was the strained, false laughter that accompanied it. Maybe it was the rarity of that smile altogether. He rarely ever did smile. Rather, his surly self usually smirked in mockery at everyone and everything that crossed his path. She had never been an exception to his general displeasure, but, a handful of times, he had astonished her with a genuine smile.
And only for her to ever glimpse.
There was no mistaking that sour, almost painful chuckle of his, or the ironic way his lips twisted at the edges of his mouth. This was mockery. The act itself wasn't, but the response that followed was laden with bitterness.
The curly-haired witch hovered over the dark man's limp form, her only relief that he was still, for the moment, conscious and breathing. She couldn't tell from the off the extent of his afflictions or the pains he had taken to ensure that a reversing spell wouldn't be viable, but she was about to find out. She whipped her wand out of her pocket to assess the damage.
"A waste of your smarts, Granger."
She halted, breathing fast. His lips were starting to turn blue, and his voice was hoarser than its normally deep, silk-like purr. It made her angry, perturbed enough to narrow her eyes at him.
"Whatever." Exercising a trouble-sounding cough, he kept his eyes focused on the ceiling, not looking at her, either out of spite or from no longer being entirely himself.
"What have you done this time?" she asked, exasperated.
"You do know that..."
"I'm choosing not to think about that right now."
Hermione ignored yet another dispassionate remark and circled Severus's with her wand. A diagnostic check revealed the grim prognosis: Poison. Morticaine. Three ounces. Organs shutting down, losing oxygen, heart failing...
Hermione startled. "Severus!" she suddenly cried out, her voice rattling at the back of her throat. Hermione was too astute for this, too collected to panic now, and yet, she succumbed with surprising ease. "Sev - Severus... What have you done?"
Peering into obsidian eyes that were slowly growing desolate and cold, they wouldn't so much as meet hers.
"You can't help me, Granger..."
"Her - Hermione, Sev—"
"You can't reverse this."
"You can't rid me of what's inside me."
"How could you—"
"It stopped raining."
Hermione's chest tightened. Of course she understood—deep down—how the man could come to such despair. He was fiercely intelligent, yes, but even he had surrendered to darkness, giving into his demons long ago—well before she had ever come around. Somewhere, somehow, he had lost control of who he was and submitted to the dull ache that had plagued his heart for so many years.
Oh, yes, did Hermione understand and feel for him...
But that doesn't make this justified! she wanted to scream at the top of her lungs.
Surveying the wave of calm sweeping over his weary, pale face, however, Hermione couldn't shout. She could barely breathe. Instead, she extended a trembling hand up to his face to capture a handful of Severus's black tresses. The fine strands wove delicately in between her fingers and brushed along his brow as well, against smooth, porcelain skin.
"Y - Yes... It did stop," she whispered, choking back the sorrow gnawing at her insides.
Severus's fixation finally drew itself to her, and it was perhaps the gentlest, most unabashed look he had ever bestowed upon her. Upon anyone. It wasn't cross, contemptible, or seething; it was soft, yet soulless, abstruse, yet unobstructed. He showed no evidence of fear or trepidation in these final moments, but Hermione could read the gratefulness his eyes expressed at leaving their world; relief to be letting go at last.
Yet there was something else. They were sad, too, and not for himself...
"Severus," Hermione tried to speak, but he interrupted her.
"You want to know why." His breaths were coming in quicker spurts now; tight, audible gasps for air. "You always want to know why. You've never asked the questions you were supposed to ask me." As an afterthought, or in an attempt to scorn her one last time, Severus shot her a severe frown. "Silly girl."
Hermione broke on those two words. She wept and she laughed, grief-stricken and encumbered with sorrow. A pain like no other clawed its way to the surface, sinking her weight into the bed and bringing her head to Severus's heaving chest.
"And wha - what is that, Severus?" she asked between retching sobs, unable to look away.
"It isn't a question of why. It's a matter of what made me hold on for so fucking long..."
"And wh - why did you hold on for so long?"
At last, Severus's eyes locked on hers. Then he whispered a resounding, "You, of course," to which Hermione brought her head back to his chest. Her fingers tore at a handful of buttons along the front of his frock coat, her entire body desperate to hang onto him.
"Then why? Why are you leaving me, Severus? WHY?"
"I can't..." he struggled to explain.
"Can't what? Can't deal with life? With me?"
"No, not you..."
"Then why, Severus?" She could no longer control the violent shakes taking over her body. "Why would you do this?"
Cradling his neck with one hand, Hermione scurried to snatch up his hand with the other.
Severus stared at her, his eyes glazing over, though never truer or more open than she had ever seen them now. "I wasn't meant for the living..."
Hermione rattled. "What?"
"After what I've been through, after what I've experienced, after what I've seen... I can't live with myself."
"And I couldn't do that to you."
"Yes, you could!"
"No, Hermione," he paused, his chest shaking with the uncontrollable desperation for more air. "You're decent, wholesome, a symbol of everything that's good in this world. I'm not."
"That isn't true!" she cried despairingly.
"I should've died that night, Hermione. You weren't supposed to interfere."
"Wha... What are you saying?"
"You did a disservice to yourself by bringing me back. Look what I've brought you to. Heartache..."
"Sadness... Frustration... Anger..."
"What? No, Sev—"
"Bitterness..." Hermione's mouth clamped shut, but the tears continued to streak down her flushed cheeks. "Ahhh, yes... You know..."
"You haven't, you stubborn, foolish arse!" Disheartened and afraid, Hermione clenched his hand as hard as she could. "You were the best thing that ever happened to me!"
It was a moment or two before Severus could get the words out, his struggle to breathe now reaching a dire level. "What an...utterly horrid thing...to believe..."
"It's true!" Hermione snivelled, her lower lip quivering against her will. "I... I love you..."
The words were practically torn from the back of her throat, from somewhere buried deep inside herself, locked away in her heart. She had meant to say the words a number of times before but was too fearful of losing him that she held back. Instead of conveying her affections, she bit back her tongue and swallowed the declaration that had, for months, been on the verge of coming out. She suppressed her feelings of want, of need, and of tenderness and shut them away, taking the bitter, uncompromising road.
Just as he did... Just like Severus... No...
He was right: she had become bitter and prone to anger, but not because of him. Rather, she wanted him. She had fallen in love with a man the world despised and rejected.
And he loathed himself too much to return her affections.
But with time, he could have... He would have... He might have...
Severus stared at Hermione without blinking, mesmerized by the divine glow of her face; or perhaps he was simply comfortable now and could no longer see her anymore. Exhaling laboriously, Severus's mouth hung slightly ajar, and when he spoke again, she understood that it was in awe of her compassion and love, not from his body slipping away.
"That's the most senseless...most beautiful thing...I've ever heard..."
Then it happened. An eerie silence fell upon the room, bringing Hermione to the grave realization that Severus was no longer breathing. Those raven eyes, dulled by the expiring of life, gazed up at her with a final, heart-wrenching expression: longing.
A few rays of light flickered gracefully across his face. The sun had come out at last.
A/N #2: Thank you for reading. Reviews are always greatly appreciated.