One Red Shoe read Fly Like A Bird and wondered if I had ever considered sequel. I honestly hadn't thought about it, but when I asked her what she'd like to see she gave me such inspiration, I decided to write another little vignette.
All for you, One Red Shoe!
As The Nightingale Sings
Severus and Hermione worked their way slowly up the steep hillside as the evening sun made its way to the horizon. Night birds sang and owls began to waken and forage for food. As they worked their way through the gorse that grew in thick tangles, they chatted about school life, the ingredients they collected, and even some gossip.
"There, just there," Severus said, slightly out of breath, pointing to an outcropping on the hillside. "That's the spot I was telling you about. The view will be amazing. We'll lay out the picnic there."
"Goodness, Severus, you certainly picked a remote spot. I'm fair knackered now!"
"If I had known that climbing such a low graded hillside would reduce you to speaking like an ickle firstie, I'd have never brought you out," Severus chided. He loved to rile Hermione and as expected, she growled and threw him a 'you'll pay for that' glare. "And the spot picked me in my second year of teaching," he explained. "I was out collecting ingredients one day and quite literally fell upon it. I stumbled from the ledge up there." He pointed to the edge of a small cliff above the outcropping. "Since then, I've been back many times when I needed some time away from the castle and my other duties."
They fiddled with the blanket Hermione had pulled out of her rucksack and sat down together. Hermione withdrew bottles of water and handed one to Severus, moving to sit close to him.
"It's been a fantastic day, Sev. Thank you for showing me all your favourite spots for ingredients. Learning about the alternate uses for those plants was amazing." She leant up and kissed Severus' chin, which was rough from the stubble of beard growing. "Your chin is scratchy," she complained.
"Can't help it; I did shave this morning," he said, rubbing his chin against her head.
"Stop that! Hermione giggled. "I am starved! Are you ready to eat?"
Returning the kiss, he answered, "I am. I hope the elves packed another feast."
Hermione pulled out a wicker basket from her rucksack and enlarged it. Opening it, she exclaimed, "If you thought our lunch basket was a feast, then this is a veritable banquet!" She began pulling out packets of food; large pieces of roast chicken, roasted vegetables, bread, fresh fruit, a tart, several flasks of drinks and a bottle of wine with glasses, all held to temperature with the appropriate stasis charm.
"Merlin, the house elves are trying to kill us with food," Severus smirked.
Hermione's laugh filled the air and startled a few ground birds that had roosted for the night. The couple watched as the birds hovered a moment, scolding the pair soundly, and then settling back down. "Come on, let's eat and watch the sunset!" she said happily.
Each of them grabbed a plate and heaped it up. Severus opened the wine and poured them each a glass. Turning on the blanket, they faced the horizon, plates in their laps, sitting closely and watching the sun setting in a blaze of colour.
"Hermione, look behind you," Severus said gently into the witch's ear.
Hermione turned and smiled in amazement. To the east, the sky was black, and stars twinkled into view. Turning her head back to the west, she watched the last rays of sunshine streak the sky red.
"I never get over the stark contrast between night and day," she sighed. "I remember once when my parents and I were returning from vacation in the States one summer. My father motioned for me to look out the window so that I could see the darkness behind us, but the light on the horizon in front. I thought it was a fantastic feat of magic, but then I learned in science class about the earth's rotation and such."
'You know the Greek legend of Helios, surely?"
"Oh, yes, my mother and father told me all about the Greek and Roman legends. When I learned the scientific reasoning versus the mythological explanations, I couldn't help but like the mythological explanations better."
"Perhaps," Severus said in agreement.
"You said you came here often?" Hermione asked, pulling a piece of bread into manageable pieces.
"When my duties as a spy overwhelmed me, I would come, but not nearly as much as when I first began teaching. I would come often and spend the entire night," said Severus. "I would lay here and just watch as the constellations moved and the moon ran its course through the sky. It helped me put some of my anxieties into perspective and give me some strength to carry on."
"Mmmm," Hermione replied as she bit into her bread. The couple were quiet as they ate, watching the remaining arc of the sun finally slip beneath the horizon and the darkness deepen. When they were finished, Hermione stowed the plates back into the baskets and refilled their wine glasses, she asked, "What do you want from life, Sev?"
"Oh, lots of things I suppose. Nothing; I don't know," he chuckled, stroking Hermione's hair as he answered.
"Tell me something about you I don't know," she asked, taking a sip from her glass.
She put her glass down and cast a cushioning charm on the blanket, and then shifted so that her head was in his lap. "How old were you when you first performed magic?"
He leant over and kissed her forehead. "I was probably two. I only have the vaguest of memory about it, but I remember it made my mother quite happy. I remember I was walking across the floor, toward a small ball I had, and I fell, scraping my knee. I remember sitting there feeling quite sorry for myself and wishing that the ball would just come to me."
"It did. My mother, who was sitting in a chair doing some mending, saw it happen. She flew out of her chair, and picked me up and hugged me quite hard. After that, I began to regularly do things, uncontrolled of course, but it happened from then on more and more. You know what happened after that."
"Sadly, I do." Hermione hugged his leg.
"What about you? When did you show magic?"
"I suppose I had been showing magic all throughout my young life, but didn't know what it was, of course, until I got my letter when I was eleven. I think the earliest thing I can remember is similar to yours; wanting a toy. However, I was at a cousin's house. My cousin and I did not get along at all and she, being a year older, would always take my toys. One day she took a doll, and I apparently got fed up. Before either of us knew it, the doll was back in my arms."
As the evening birds continued their lullabies, the couple just sat, watching the stars, Severus stroking Hermione's hair as she rubbed his thigh.
Seven months had passed since that magical flight together last Fall. Since then, they had become very close, but had yet to take the ultimate final step to intimacy. Oh, they snogged, and there were nights when some awkward shifting needed to be done to avoid embarrassing brushes with body parts, but beyond that, they were both horribly shy about sex and could barely bring up the subject regardless of everything else they had talked about.
"Hmm?" he drawled lazily.
"What else don't I know about you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I know what the papers have said. I know what Harry has said. I read Skeeter's book, but most of that was garbage fit only for lining the owlry. I know what Hogwarts: A History says. I know what knowledge you have. What I don't know about is you."
"I don't know what you want to hear."
"Oh, not the reasons you became a spy or anything like that. That's been done to death."
"Thank you. I'd rather not reiterate that."
"When I asked you earlier what do you want from life, you said you didn't know. Why?"
Severus heaved a long sigh and then finished off the last of his wine. "Budge up, my leg's gone numb," he said. He stood for a moment and paced while Hermione occupied herself with rearranging the basket and blanket and conjuring a small cushioned bench for them to sit.
"Come and sit, Sev," she said.
Severus sat down and Hermione scooted into his side. He wrapped his arm around her, and she pulled the blanket over her legs, offering to cover his as well. When he scoffed in response, she firmly tucked the blanket around her and nestled closer. "Now," she said, "your answer?"
"You are rather persistent, do you know that?" He remarked, smiling and flicking her nose.
"You've said so at least two hundred times."
"The answer is, Hermione that I am not sure. At one time, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted from life. I wanted power, money, love, a feeling that I fit in somewhere. I certainly didn't want to teach. I wound up getting none of it."
"No?" Hermione looked at him sadly.
"No. But, now I want different things. I don't need power. I would like money, and I don't mind teaching as much as I used to. I'd like to think that I have friends and a purpose."
An owl hooted nearby slightly startling the couple, and they laughed at their reaction.
"What do you want from life, Hermione?"
"Much the same, I suppose. I enjoy teaching, always have. Friendship... money is nice, but not nearly as important to have as if I lived as a Muggle. I would like love."
"Love? I thought a lot of people loved you; Potter and Weasley, for example."
"Oh, yes, that brotherly-sisterly kind of love, yes. But, I want the kind of love that is between a man and a woman who have a commitment to each other. That is at once passionate and companionable. That makes you feel content. That makes you want to see the person not because you lust after them and need them in that way, but because being around them makes you complete."
"And you have not found that sort of love?"
"Maybe," she said enigmatically. "What about you? What sort of love are you looking for?"
Severus began slowly, "I loved deeply once; you know that. When enough time had passed, and I realized that sort of love was obsession and not love, I vowed never to become so emotionally involved again. Since the war, I've slowly allowed myself to let go some of the hate and some of the pain that kept me from fully establishing friendships that were based on fondness and not what they could do for me.
"I believe I told you several months ago that I am ready to find someone who could make me happy. Someone I can love in much the same way you described; passionately, companionably, contentedly. With no jealousy."
"And are you finding that with anyone?"
Severus turned to look the witch in the eyes, his own bright with love and laughter. "And they call you the brightest witch of the age. I love you, Hermione." She gasped. "I want all those things with you." He pulled her close and pressed a kiss to her lips.
Hermione's hands flew up to his cheeks as they kissed, their warmth burning into his cheeks. He savored the feel. Pulling away, he said, "Will you commit yourself to me?"
"Are you asking me to marry you?"
"No, not yet. But I would like to know that we are committed to something that would lead to that in the future."
"Yes, Severus, I will commit myself to you." She laughed and kissed him exuberantly. Pulling away again, she asked, "Is there some sort of Wizard ceremony that commits us to each other?"
"No. However, it is said that once a couple commits to each other, their signatures change, and others can sense it. Sort of a silent alarm, if you will, to warn others that the particular witch or wizard is spoken for."
"Goodness! Sybil won't like that," Hermione giggled.
"I couldn't care less," Severus said. "It's getting chilly; would you like to head back to the castle now?"
"Only if you really want to. It's not supposed to be very cold tonight, couldn't we stay here like you did when you were younger?"
"I don't know," Severus said hesitantly
"We could transfigure the bench into something wider and more comfortable, and the blanket into two blankets, cast a warming charm or even have a small campfire."
"We've never spent the night together, Hermione. What are you asking of me?"
Hermione looked gobsmacked for a moment. "Oh, Severus! I am not asking that of you tonight." She bent her head in shyness. "I'm not ready for that with you, yet…I don't think."
Severus pulled her chin up to face him. "I would not ask it of you if you are not ready."
"There are times where you seem like you are."
"That is true, but I would rather our first time together be because we are both ready and certainly not on an outcropping of rocks."
"I agree. "
"As you wish then. However, I would like only one blanket. Although we will not take that step yet, I would like to be close to you so that I may ascertain whether or not you snore."
Hermione squeaked and smacked her wizard on the arm. With a gentle laugh, the couple set about widening the bench and making the blanket thicker and more accommodating. Severus conjured a small, well-contained campfire to keep them warm.
They settled down quite comfortably and watched the sky. Severus would point out the various constellations, and they were lucky enough to see a falling star or two. They chatted about everything and nothing for a while before becoming silent, just listening to the conversation of the night around them. When Severus felt Hermione's weight become a bit heavier against him, he looked at her face to find she was asleep. He kissed her temple and whispered I love you before settling down into the mattress a bit more. He fell asleep not much longer after that.
Overhead, a pair of nightingales sang a love song to each other, unknowingly serenading the sleeping couple below. In the years to come, Severus or Hermione would hum the tune, but neither could recall every consciously having learned it. But wherever they were, it always made them think of that long ago summer night when they committed themselves to each other and began their long life together.