"You sit there in your heartache
Waiting on some beautiful boy to
To save you from your old ways
You play forgiveness
Watch him now, here he come
He doesn't look a thing like Jesus
But he talks like a gentleman
Like you imagined when you were young
(Talks like a gentleman)
(Like you imagined when)
When you were young
I said he doesn't look a thing like Jesus
He doesn't look a thing like Jesus
But more than you'll ever know."
"When You Were Young," by The Killers
Yawning, Hermione pried her eyes open as the strident beeping of an alarm clock woke her up. Reaching out her hand to smack the snooze button, Hermione's eye caught a note stuck to the top of the alarm clock. She sat up, plucked the note free, and read it:
You've taken quite a catnap – five hours, if you woke up by the alarm clock!
Fear not – I have not abandoned you. I made sure the room was secure before I left. If you need to contact me, I will be within a mile radius.
Since today is our last day together, I've planned out quite a day for us. This morning, feel free to explore the area – relax, tour a few boutiques. I've left you a credit card with no spending limit.
Please return to the hotel by 5PM. I shall have a surprise waiting for you.
"Maybe I should take his advice," Hermione told herself. Stretching her arms wide, she arched her back like a cat and stepped out of bed, padding into the shower for a quick shower. There she let the hot water run down her back like hot little needles, hissing like snakes. There was something strange she felt when he was gone, like a hole always besides her, sucking in air.
After drying herself and brushing her hair, she tucked his note into her pocket, taking his advice and exiting the hotel room, wand tucked into the back of her jeans within easy reach for risk of vampire attacks. Breathing in the air and trying to make it feel like Sev was there with her, Hermione walked down the cobblestoned street, her lovely lion mane glowing gold as she browsed the shops. Behind her, two shades lurked at a good distance, unnoticed by anyone, bearing marks of the Ministry, silent protectors of this lovestruck young girl.
Snape arrived in the tiny Muggle tavern in the town, forcing his lanky frame through the door and into the darkness. As light fell dimly across the tables, he noticed the form of Kingsley Shacklebolt sitting tall in the booth. Gulping at the Minister's imposing stature, Snape suddenly knew how students felt when they walked into his class – frightened, hearts racing, instantly humbled. A thought passed of how Hermione must've been very courageous to walk into his class and challenge him daily. She must be bravest witch of all to say she loved him.
Severus's heart twisted with agonizing pleasure at the thought of her resiliency. Oh, Hermione, he told himself. I do this for you.
"Severus – good of you to come," Kingsley clipped, motioning for him to sit at the booth. "I was relieved you contacted me. You were wise to do so."
"I want Miss Granger to be safe." Softness edged his words.
"Tell me, Severus…why do you really want her back to us? Some boon you wish to make? Some position you wish to regain?" Shacklebolt's eyes gleamed agonizingly with the memory of Dumbledore's assassination. "You are not one to give without expectancy of recompense."
Snape's soul flinched and shivered at the memories of his wretched past. "I only wish to return her to you. Then I will go where you wish me to."
Kingsley leaned forward, lacing his fingers together. "You know this means prison for you. At least a year for the unauthorized use of a portkey, more for taking her with you and endangering her life."
"I am aware of this. I will go through with it."
Kingsley cocked an eyebrow, shocked. "You have changed, Severus. The old you would connive some way out of this. But…there is a change in you."
Severus finally met Kingsley's gaze. "She has brought upon the change. Hermione is the change in me."
So much intensity pulsed in Severus's deep, black eyes that nerves crawled and prickled in an icy wave across Shacklebolt's skin. "You speak the truth."
"I do, sir. And I will ask only one favor of you."
Kingsley knew it was coming. Hesitantly, he said, "Go on."
Snape looked so naked and bare, and it took all of his power to say the words. "Give me one more night with Hermione. To tell her goodbye."
An arrow of sympathy struck the soft part of Kingsley's heart and drunk itself with his blood. Severus Snape was not some power-hungry villain. He felt. He loved. It appeared to Shacklebolt that Snape had at least a shred of a soul left. "You may have this," Kingsley answered quietly. "One more night."
"Thank you, sir."
"Now go. I've sent two Ministry men to watch over you two. They will not pry, only make sure you are safely escorted from location to location. You won't ever notice them – they are watching Hermione now."
"Many thanks," Severus replied, standing and looking down at the man. "I will protect her until she is safe, and I promise she will return to you unscathed."
Kingsley nodded slowly and exchanged a glance before Snape left the small bar. What change had come over that once-dark man? In an instant of realization, Shacklebolt knew it was the hand of love, the only thing that could spin shadows into shimmering silver. Perhaps Hermione had touched him with her love, and if she had, then Merlin bless her for it.
Snape stepped along the sidewalk, back to their hotel, his heart a tangle of conflicting emotions. What would he tell her? He didn't know. But he knew he had one night to clean his soul of his secrets, and this would be it.
Returning to the hotel under a stack of shopping bags from numerous boutiques and shops, Hermione flopped on the hotel bed. She'd found the hotel room empty, but to her this was a relief – she was a wreck from all that retail therapy and she really didn't want Sev seeing her sweating like a pig. Besides the plethora of dresses she'd bought, Hermione went into a beauty salon and ordered the full treatment on the money-filled card Sev gave her – a full-body massage, a refreshing trimming of the hair, a pedicure, and a lovely manicure. The day had been healing, making her feel more like the young woman she was again, but at the same time, she'd missed being beside Snape.
Looking at the clock to see it was 4:45, Hermione noticed a gilt envelope sitting there with her name written on the outside in Sev's familiar spidery script. Cracking open the seal on it with her freshly-done French manicured nails, she pulled out the note inside:
I trust you have made it back to the hotel by now. I also trust you have noticed I am not there by now.
That is part of my gift to you. It is a surprise. It is our last night together, and I intend to make it special.
Look in your closet. There awaits your outfit for this evening. I picked it out for you, and I do hope you like it.
At 6 o'clock sharp, a chauffeur will come meet you in front of the hotel and bring you to me.
I will see you then. Farewell, sweet Hermione.
Rereading the note several times – and especially the part that said "sweet Hermione," Hermione pondered as to where Sev was, and her heart thumped for anticipation of the night to come. She folded up the note and went to their closet. Opening the doors, she gasped in wonder.
There was a strapless, red crushed-velvet evening dress that ran mid-thigh in length complete with a pair of red heels and a beautiful pearl necklace. With a sliding of fabrics, Hermione had tried on the dress to find it was just right – not too revealing, yet not too conservative, and it fit just right. Snape had picked out just the perfect outfit for her, and she just adored it. With a smile, she noticed a full black cloak hung on another hanger, one for her to wear when she went out to meet Sev. Now she really felt like a princess.
After straightening her long, lovely hair and putting on a crimson lipstick that made her lips look like rose petals, Hermione cinched the cloak around her scarlet outfit and made her way downstairs in the heels. As she got in the car and watched the French countryside roll by as they drove, she thought. Her heart beat at a thousand miles per hour, yet she knew something was happening. Maybe it was the stars aligning. Maybe it was the winds turning in her favor, for once.
Suddenly, Hermione knew it all at once.
Severus was her home, and that was where she was returning to as the car crunched the gravel pulling up in the roundabout of the isolated country chateau lit with torches up the driveway.
She feared the unknown. What if he was taken from her? What if he didn't feel the same way? What if this love she felt, so raw and powerful, flowed out like a torrent and he wanted to dam it up?
With a last inhale, Hermione summoned all her courage and stepped out of the car into the black velvet night…