Songs for this chapter: Fee Again by One Republic and Wake Me Up by Avicii
I had been in Azkaban that was much was quite clear. Then I buried myself so deep that it seemed even my subconscious was miles above me and things became very… unclear. At first it was more than just confusing landscape, there was just nothing. Blackness. But then there was what I could only describe as an invasion. A foreign touch entered my mind and it lit up a terrifying landscape. For what I could only really describe is one far too bright moment I was aware of everything. I could see every good and bad choice I had ever made. I was aware of who I was and where I was, and I was very much aware that Albus Dumbledore had turned an investigative light on the inside of my mind.
But then I was thrust into darkness once more. I lost myself in the lack of light after such brilliance and because something had been awoken in me I was able to feel the sense of loss in the darkness. Where ever it was that I had buried myself within my mind ceased to feel like a safe heaven and began to feel like a prison instead. It chaffed to lack all of my senses. I wanted to see where I was, as I knew it couldn't be Azkaban, not if Dumbledore had been in my mind right?
I wanted to hear, to smell, to taste. Anything would be better than the darkness that was only temporarily broken. Those breaks were something to look forward too, to cherish. There were moments when I could swear on I heard Severus. A whisper of my name, a hint of his deep timbre. It wasn't nearly enough but it was something to hold onto when I felt so lost. On multiple occasions I encountered memories of him, but it wasn't the same as when a memory just flits in.
The sensation of remembering something is natural, and seamless in most cases, like you mind was watching your everyday life and then you changed the channel in order to watch something that you've already experienced. But these memories, were like walking onto a stage prior to a performance of a show. Perhaps during a lighting run through, and inadvertently seeing clips of things that would be displayed on the cyclorama for the audience to watch during a particularly dramatic part in the show. These memories, and I was sure that they were my memories, were somewhat fractured and they lacked depth. There was no color, and their edges were faded and skewed. It felt like a mockery, perhaps because of how desperate I was for the things I was seeing in those memories. I wanted to open my eyes and see Severus.
I could not continue to exist with pieces. The scent of him here, the flash of his smile looking particularly haunting on a white gauzy material that I knew couldn't really exist within my mind, the whisper of his voice. They were not enough; would never be enough. I wanted more, and that desire began to fester within me. It made me angry.
The hints of what I could have grew closer together driving the war between my desire and my anger to higher levels until I felt as if something within me might actually catch fire. It began almost like an itching sensation and gradually progressed to what I could only describe as a war within the very molecules of my skin. I hovered in one last, far too long, moment of darkness, and then everything shifted in a terrifying way. The world went from dark to bright light. The sensation in my skin translated into a sensation that I was slowly able to translate as something I remembered. Like loose pieces suddenly tumbling into order I realized that I was seeing sunlight and what I was feeling was water on my skin. I gasped when I realized I was standing in the ocean. How did I get here?
"Hermione?" a deep voice said from my side, and I quickly snapped my head to the side. "Are you awake?"
"Severus," I said, realizing belatedly I must not have spoken in quite some time as I had almost no voice to speak of, it was a gravelly unused sound.
"Hermione," Severus said again, his voice filled with joy and the sensation I felt on my skin changed to one of compression.
It took a moment for my mind to process that he was hugging me, tightly. I hoped he did not interpret the delay as hesitation and I immediately threw my arms around him and hugged him back. I process that my shoulder was growing wet, and realized that Severus must be crying, but I wasn't sure if I could do anything to help with that. I didn't know how long he had been trying to wake me, but it had obviously had an effect on him.
"I told you it would work," another mail voice and this time I found my head jerking in the other direction.
"Ouch," I groaned when I crashed my head directly into Severus's.
"Are you okay," he asked, pulling back so he could look into my eyes and gently holding onto either side of my head.
"Who is here?" I asked rather than answering his question. "Where is here?"
"Hey there," Sirius said, as he stepped forward into my eye line. "Didn't mean to startle you at all. I was just weedling Severus here is all, because he didn't believe me that putting you in the ocean would wake you up."
"Why in the world should something like that work?" I asked.
"That is uncanny," he laughed, slapping his own knee like someone out of a movie. "That is exactly what Severus here said."
"Still… why should it work," I pushed.
"Well, Severus here has been taking trips into your mind, trying to figure out how to get you to wake up," Sirius explained as Severus focused his attention on my hands seemingly fascinated by the way my fingers were wrapped around his. "Essentially all memories or thoughts, or whatever he was encountering in there had to do with him, but for the last few days they haven't been memories. They have to have been dreams of the trip you two were planning. I thought if we put you in the environment you were dreaming about it would give you the jolt you needed. "
"I told him I didn't think that made any sense," Severus told me softly as he pulled me into his arms again. "I am fine with being wrong in this situation. Merlin I've missed you. Don't… just don't ever do that again. Please."
"Never," I promised him as I cuddled further into his embrace. "It might be hard to believe with how far buried I was, but I missed you too. I could feel these little hints of you. I'm guess that was your legilimency; congratulations there by the way. The sensation of you being near made me want you more. I think it drew me to the surface. I was unaware of the fact that I was dreaming however. Perhaps it was a byproduct of my need to get to you."
"I don't care," Severus rumbled with a soft laugh. "Whatever it was, I'm just glad to have you back. Who cares if I owe Sirius a bottle of Ogdens."
"I'll waive my winnings," Sirius said with a laugh. "I've got to get going anyway before Lily freaks out. She's never happy when I'm late for weekly dinner, and I'm sure everyone will want to hear the good news."
"Tell them no visits please," Severus said curtly. "I've only just gotten her back, I'm not ready to share."
"No problem," Sirius said with a laugh. "Try not to break the house."
With a laugh and a crack we were alone on the beach. It was probably a nice beach, but I had no interested in looking at it. All I wanted was to continue holding on to my husband and continue pulling his perfect scent into my nose. Luckily he seemed content to do the same thing.
It was after returning home, to the cottage that Severus had purchased while I was incarcerated, that I discovered the change in our bond. I could only guess as to why I hadn't noticed it on the beach, which was apparently near our home, but it became glaringly apparent when in a quite house. Severus was showing me around, giving quite instructions about where things were when clear as day I heard: I hope she likes it.
"I do," I told him, not initially realizing he hadn't spoken aloud.
"You heard that?" he said, whirling around on his heel to look at me.
"Of course I did," I told him. "And yes I like the house. You chose very well."
"Well it's more of a cottage," he said before he shook his head. "Look, you just read my thoughts and answered me out loud. Does it work the other way? Think something at me."
Do you hear me? I thought while looking at him.
It's faint, like a whisper. He replied in my mind.
"So the connection still exists, but it has been altered," I said out loud. "I can't think of why that should have happened."
"I think it has something to do with your failed necromantic ritual in Azkaban." Severus said as he stepped forward and took my hand in his.
"A what?" I asked, looking down at the hand he was showing me which was scarred across the palm. "I did what in Azkaban?"
"I'm not sure what exactly," he said with a frown. "But I think it involved a flesh sacrifice. It didn't work properly."
"I don't remember that," I said, my brow furrowing. "I don't remember anything to do with that really. Why was I in Azkaban again? I did something bad right?"
"It depends on how you look at it," Severus said with a quirked brow of his own. "You really don't remember anything?"
"I remember you, and that we were working toward ending a war. We were successful," I said with a succinct nod. "That's all though. Wait, and we were planning a trip. We were going to start in Australia right?"
"That's it?" He asked me looking seriously concerned. "You don't remember how we met, what we did during the war, anything?"
"No I don't," I admitted quietly. "I remember that I was injured when I first met you, but nothing else. I assume I met you because of the war? I get the impression that there is a reason I don't remember the rest. I remember, somewhat vaguely I admit, feeling the presence of someone else in my mind. Perhaps a mind healer?"
"No it was Dumbledore," he said quietly, running his hand gently through my hair. "And we had spoken about the removel of certain memories pertaining to how you ended up in Azkaban, but it appears he has been far more thorough than what we agreed upon. I'm not sure if I should see it as a blessing or be angry."
"I think it should be seen as a blessing," I said as I rubbed my finger over the wrinkle in his brow trying to relax it. "This right here, tells me that whatever I don't remember is upsetting. I'd almost rather you forgot it as well."
"I'd rather not," he said, though his brow did relax. "It's a part of our history, and I want to remember it even if it is less than pleasant. Perhaps you are right though. This could be a blessing for us. "
"We can start over," I said with a smile. "We can go on our trip around the world, and we can gather all sorts of potions ingredients that are indigenous to the areas we go to. Wouldn't that be great? You could use them to brew, or we could open an apothecary whenever we decide to return to the cottage."
"You've got this all planned out don't you?" he said with a laugh before wrapping me up in his arms one more.
I was content to stay in just his arms for the rest of my life, but I still felt an almost overwhelming urge to get started on our trip. There was a tug in the back of my mind that perhaps made Australia more important to me than it should be, but suddenly there was nowhere else I would rather be.
"We can go right away," he told me, and then I remembered he could hear me. "I think it will be great."
"I'll have to learn to keep my thoughts to myself or I might drive you insane," I told him.
"I can teach you to rebuild your occlumency walls," he said as he released me from his hug and lead me back to our bedroom. "It was your notes on it that helped me build my own, and my own research on legilimency of course."
"We can practice on the plane ride to Australia," I said with a smile.
"I suppose we can travel as muggles," he laughed. "At least to Australia, transcontinental apparition is a little overwhelming after all."
"If you say so Severus," I laughed as I kicked the bedroom door closed behind us.
Alright folks that is the end… for now perhaps. I've been toying with the idea of writing a sequel. What do you think? Do you want them to end with this illusion to their HEA, would you prefer a romantic story that explores what they do in their HEA, would you prefer a story that explores what all Dumbledore removed from her mind and why he did it (with him as the new villain), or perhaps a different option. Feel free to submit votes to me:)