I've had the first part of this story written up for over half a year and have finally managed to finish it :) I've just moved from London to Berlin and life is feeling new and exciting but very busy! I'm glad I found the time to finish this. Enjoy and please tell me what you think.
Hermione leaned against the wall at the base of the Gryffindor Tower and dragged in a deep pull from her cigarette. She held it in for a second before releasing a cloud of smoke into the frosty, wintry air. The exhaled smoke swirled around wildly for a second before calming and dispersing. She leaned her head back against the wall, looking up at the clear sky. The stars twinkled coldly; the dull beams of the moon were reflected in the lake. Uselessly, because there was no one there to appreciate the beauty. Hermione pulled on her cigarette again, enjoying the slight light-headed feeling it gave her. She felt calm settle in her stomach as she exhaled again. This time she closed her eyes as she did so. The twirling tendrils of smoke went unobserved.
The first day back at school to finish her interrupted education. She had spent a year in Australia after the war. She was alone- everyone she knew had moved on, in more ways than one. She was three years older than any of the other students. She didn't mind. She didn't want to have to talk to anyone. She needed silence. Another quiet pull, another mute exhale.
Almost the end of her first week. Hermione had perfected her routine almost immediately. Eat. Classes. Eat. Classes. Homework. Eat. Homework. Smoke. Sleep. As she pulled on her cigarette she realised she had barely said a word in two days. Perfect. After the second day people had given up trying to engage her in conversation. In class, she only spoke when directly asked by the teacher. Mainly they just let her be.
It started drizzling. She used to love the rain, but now it just disturbed her perfect silence. She leant her head back as she exhaled, feeling the drops on her skin, reminding her of the tears she had never shed.
She thought about potions. It had quickly become her favourite class. The silence in the dungeons was perfect. Snape hardly spoke anymore; he simply wrote the instructions on the board and let them get on with it. No one dared disrupt his silence. When he did speak, to criticise those who needed to be criticised, to help those who needed to be helped, his smooth, low voice soothed her senses and merged with the silence, becoming part of it. Her brittle nerves after a lesson of Flitwick's screechy voice grating against her were calmed by the potion master's subtle tones. Calm.
Hermione stubbed out her cigarette and went back into the castle.
Hermione had left the castle by a different route, trying to avoid Peeves. That was why she noticed another smoker, leaning against the base of the astronomy tower. A still, dark figure, motionless until he lifted his arm to take another drag.
Noiselessly, Hermione approached the figure, somehow already knowing who it was. He must have noticed her presence by now, but merely continued staring out over the lake, sparkling pathetically under the stars. Hermione leaned against the wall, about two metres from the potions master. She lit up. After the first pull her insides settled again. She sighed, silently.
Snape finished before her, but he did not move. He waited for Hermione to finish. When she did, they stood there for a few more minutes looking out, but seeing nothing. Silently understanding the other. Words were unnecessary, superfluous, superficial.
Hermione left first, leaving her Professor leaning against the tower in quiet contemplation. It was only when she had arrived at her chambers that she realised that they had been standing on the spot where Dumbledore had fallen.
Only a few days had passed and a tradition had already been established. Every evening at precisely 10 PM, Snape and Hermione leant against the astronomy tower and smoked in silence.
Every evening the tight knot in Hermione's stomach seemed to unfurl just a fraction more than the previous night.
By their third meeting, there was only a metre separating them.
The day before, they had stood there for a whole hour, just being. Wordlessly Snape had offered her a second cigarette which they'd smoked before parting ways.
It was snowing. Hermione went outside anyway. She stood there, waiting for Snape before lighting up. He didn't arrive.
Hermione stayed there for twenty minutes, the knot in her stomach tightening. He never arrived. She went back to her room without having smoked her cigarette. She didn't get any sleep for hours.
For the second night in a row, Hermione was back leaning against the base of the Gryffindor tower. She continued smoking because it was part of her routine. But it didn't satisfy her as it did before. Now there was something missing.
She was half way through her cigarette when Snape arrived.
"I was ill".
It was the first time words had been spoken, but it was Snape's voice. It fit in with her silence.
Hermione offered him one of her cigarettes. He stood closer to her than ever before, still without touching. She watched their streams of smoke mingle and twine around each other as they both exhaled simultaneously. It was the first time she had found something beautiful in almost three years.
The anniversary of her parents' deaths. She'd felt empty all day. She arrived at the smoking spot early, dragging in the smoke in an attempt to fill the hole inside her. But it left her and disappeared into the darkness each time she exhaled.
He arrived at the usual time and stopped when he saw that she had almost finished her first cigarette already. She lifted her eyes to meet his, and he saw the emptiness inside them. She didn't need to explain. He was the one who had found them. He approached her slowly and took her into his arms, touching her for the first time.
With his arms circling her frame and her head buried into his chest, tears escaped her eyes for the first time in as long as she could remember. They trickled onto his warm winter coat as he gently stroked her back. And as the tears left her eyes, the hole inside her seemed to close a tiny bit, no longer gaping open so wide it threatened to consume her.
He seemed to sense the moment her tears dried up. He lowered them to the ground and they sat against the wall, leaning into each other as they smoked their cigarettes in silence.
This time Snape had arrived before Hermione. When she arrived, he spoke for the second time of their ritual smoking sessions.
"It's my birthday" he said, before lighting up.
Hermione watched him for a moment before lighting her cigarette, still standing opposite him. She looked at him speculatively as she smoked. Their exhaled smoke met between them and mingled before disappearing into the night air.
When they had finished, she slowly stepped towards him, stopping just before they touched. She raised herself onto her toes and pressed her lips gently against his, only for a moment, before whispering "happy birthday Severus" into his ear and walking back to her dorm, leaving him standing there, alone.
As she lay in bed that night, she realised that that was the first time she had spoken all week.
He was already there when she arrived, waiting. He walked to meet her as she approached him. When they met, he cupped his face in his hands, briefly pressing his lips against hers in greeting. She met his eyes, dark and sincere, and smiled. The movement felt unnatural. She couldn't remember the last time she had tried it.
Hermione waited, anticipating his arrival with a quiet eagerness. When was the last time she had felt eager about anything?
That day in double potions had filled her with an unnameable tension. She had worked in silence on her potion. He had worked in silence at his desk. Every so often he would look up and would meet her eyes with his. Each time she noticed the tension in his face lessening slightly. For Severus, that was almost a smile.
She felt her heart thudding slightly when she heard his footsteps approach. What a strange feeling.
They reached for each other at the same time, pressing their lips together. This time was different. Hermione felt heat rising within her and parted her lips, allowing his tongue to softly probe into her mouth, meeting hers. She held onto him more tightly and stroked her tongue along his and he tightened his grip on her arms.
Eventually they broke apart. She leant her back against his chest as they smoked together. One of his arms was snaked around her stomach. She let a small smile curve her lips and sighed, not knowing that Severus had closed his eyes in bliss as he silently held her to him.
Their mingled smoke went unnoticed as it spiralled upwards.
When Severus arrived, Hermione didn't kiss him as she had done every other night that week. Instead she met his eyes and pulled out her cigarette, not releasing his gaze the entire time.
When they finished, she took his hand and led him down into the dungeons, not releasing his hand until they had reached the door to his private quarters.
He looked into her eyes before he opened the door, silently understanding her intention.
He led her into his bedroom and they undressed in silence, watching each other without breaking eye contact.
When he entered her for the first time, Hermione felt like she had found her peace at last. And if she sighed his name or if he moaned in gentle joy, the sounds merged to complete the perfect silence she had so longed for.