“Harry! Harry, come on now! It’s time for your birthday cake!”
Harry turned from the gardens of the Weasleys and stared back at the sunset.
Another birthday. Another dinner with the family and friends he had. Another year without Hermione.
Harry turned his back and slowly walked back to the Burrow with a big frown over his face.
He entered the household and looked around at the decorations, the food and the people around him.
As usual, Mrs. Weasley took a lot of time and effort to celebrate his birthday.
Mr. Weasley and Bill arranged the visitors and ensured that the most important people in his life were there.
From professor McGonagall, to Kingsley, to Oliver Wood, Neville and some other of his closest Gryffindor and Hogwarts friends came.
Fleur and Ginny had arranged for all the food laid out over the large wooden table at the middle of the room and had put an amount of effort to decorate the house.
The birthday routine had been the very same for about seven years now since the ambush.
Everyone made sure that everyone was there and that it was celebrated it the best way possible.
Everyone wanted Harry happy despite of the obvious reasons for him to be unhappy on his special day.
He did not have his bestfriend anymore and the love of his life was mostly believed to be dead.
Despite that the Dark Lord has already been defeated, Harry was nowhere happy.
He had saved the Wizarding World.
And fate paid him back by taking the love of his life.
Lupin smiled at Harry as he gestured him at the middle of the room.
Bill had lit up the cake and Lupin had handed Harry a glass to toast with the rest of the family members and the visitors around them.
“To Harry!” Lupin cheered and everyone followed.
Harry gave a small smile as he raised his glass together with the crowd.
“Birthday wishes Harry?” Ginny asked as she helped Bill pull the cake across the table nearer him.
The crowd’s cheer slowly died down as Harry stared down at the birthday cake before him.
It was the same cake he always requested – chocolate with cheese and blueberry.
Hermione’s favourite cake.
Harry smiled down at the cake before him with a seriousness appearing before his eyes.
“I guess everyone knows what I’m about to wish again this year.” Harry said.
Nobody said a word and they all just stared and listened quietly at him.
Ginny looked away and stared at his mother who was now teary-eyed.
“I mean, it’s the same birthday every year.. so it’s basically the same wish every year.”
Harry’s voice seemed to falter as he suppressed the tears threatening to come down from his face.
He swallowed hard and cleared his face of any deep emotion he had in him.
He forced a smile and silently wished what he had been asking for years now.
Harry closed his eyes and whispered the words before he blew the lit candle on top of the cake and then he straightened up and raised his glass to everyone with a big smile over his face.
“To Hermione!” he said with a smile.
As routine every year, they all slowly raised their glasses with a forced smile over their faces muttering the same cheer and words he had spoken.
Mrs. Weasley crossed the room and embraced him while Mr. Weasley patted him on the back.
Charlie and Ginny quickly began singing to diminish the awkward silence and everyone soon followed the cheers and the singing of his birthday song.
“You alright?” Lupin asked as he sat next to Harry over the couch half an hour later.
Harry only nodded and gestured over his plate with the slice of cake and a few cut of fruits from the buffet over the wooden table.
“Good.” Harry simply said with a smile at him. He raised the nth goblet of wine in his hand. “There’s more if you want.”
Lupin stared at him and nodded with a smile. He took a mental note of ensuring to Mr. Weasley and Mrs. Weasley to keep all alcohol from the house in the morning.
Harry was only allowed to drink in his birthday, on Christmas and other big celebrations. Other than, he had been advising not only the Weasleys but anyone close to him to ensure that he stays away from the drink.
Harry had been sent a memo several times by certain establishment for small fiascos he creates after staying in for hours at night bars and leaving completely out of his wits.
The habit had been going on for a few years now and Lupin had to admit that he was beginning to be worried.
“Harry, I think three glasses would do for tonight.”
“I think professor, it’s my birthday. I can drink for as much and as many glasses as I want tonight. What do you think?” Harry asked back raising his glass and taking another sip with an intention of refilling it once it was empty.
Lupin only nodded at him. He did not want to mess with Harry and have him cause a havoc for a party he knew Mrs. Weasley had worked so hard to have tonight.
Lupin only nodded at him being mindful and having no intention of leaving the place until he was settled on his bed even at the early hours later.
He wanted to ensure Harry’s and others’ safety at all times.
“Seven years, right?” Harry asked back and Lupin could tell that he had perhaps more than three glasses tonight.
The alcohol was talking already.
“So seven glasses it is tonight.” Harry drained the glass in his hand and slowly stood up.
Lupin grabbed his hand and made him sit again.
“Empty your pocket.” Lupin quietly said making sure no one else heard him.
“What?” Harry asked back with a smile. “What are you saying?”
“Empty your pocket, Harry.” Lupin repeated nodding at him.
Harry only stared back at him.
“Professor, I don’t understand-“
“You very well know. I don’t want to cause a scene. It’s your birthday. So please empty out your pocket on me.”
Harry stared down as Lupin had opened his palm for him.
Harry stared at his hand then back at his face with a defiant look over his face.
“I’m not keeping anything from you-“
“Harry, trust me. You would prefer I take it from you now than have one of the Weasleys take it from you.”
Harry scowled at him.
“You told me I can drink on my birthday.”
“I told you that you can have a glass or two. I didn’t tell you to steal that object back from my office and use it again tonight.”
Harry didn’t move from his position.
Lupin sighed and patiently offered his hand to him again.
“I said that I can control my drinking.”
“If you can control it then give me that back now. Trust me Harry, we don’t want another memo because of that again and you losing your head all over the place again. Not another Ministry incident, Harry.”
Harry had given him another scowl. But he shook his head at him with an annoyed expression and gently pulled something out of his pocket and secretly handed it to him.
“Thank you, Harry.” Lupin said as he closed his hand over the object Harry had placed there.
“Yeah, whatever.” Harry said waving is hand as he turned away from him. “ I can drink as much of the red wine anyway.”
Lupin only nodded as without another word, he stood up and walked or rather swayed away from Lupin and headed for the table where the large bowl of red wine and punch for a drink had been mixed up.
Lupin closed his eyes and heavily breathed as he opened his palm and stared at the object in his hand.
It was a small steel flask that resembled the one Mad-Eye Moody used to have before only it looked modern.
He turned it over and emptied it over the carpeted floor only to find it quite drained already. Harry probably had drained all its strong vodka contents over the Merlin-knows-how-many glasses he had taken since the party had begun.
He looked up concernedly at the boy who lived who was standing at a corner with another glass of alcohol in his hand with wonder in his face.
Lupin shook his head and wasn’t sure if he wanted to pity Harry, be angry at him or simply adjust and take good care of the boy that his bestfriend had died for and who has saved their world.
Lupin thought at how he can still be called that term when he knew somewhere deep down, something had died in the boy who lived many years ago.
“Harry?” Hermione asked knocking at the door of his small office in the house.
“Come in.” Harry answered.
Hermione slowly pushed the door and found him closing a sketchbook by his table and looking up at her.
“Yeah?” he asked with a smile.
Hermione stared at him and at the room.
The room looked as if he hasn’t cleaned it for about two weeks.
“Why are you still up? We have to wake up early for the trial.”
“Kingsley has moved it by three in the afternoon again.” Harry said going back to his desk and searching for something all over its messy state.
“Moved it?” Hermione asked entering the room. “Can he do that?”
“Yeap.” Harry simply said as he grabbed a quill and had began drawing something up on a page of the sketchpad he had closed when Hermione entered. “I asked him to.”
Hermione’s eyes narrowed at the statement. Power-tripping on the side once more.
“You asked him to?” Hermione repeated. “You can ask him that?”
Harry looked up at her with a peculiar smile over her face as if she had asked a nonsense question.
He only nodded at her and turned away again.
Hermione felt slightly annoyed.
“Harry, I’m still talking to you.”
“What?” Harry asked with a smile.
“I asked you if you asked him to move it? You can do that?”
“I can do anything, Hermione.” Harry simply answered and there was that glimmer in his eyes again.
Hermione didn’t say anything. She didn’t really want to provoke anything at the moment.
“Well I guess if you’re the Chosen One you can pretty much do anything.” Hermione said spitting the word out.
Harry didn’t say anything but she could tell that he was being smug about it.
“Well are you going to have dinner because I’m done cooking.”
“I’ll pass up.” Harry simply answered. “I need to finish something for tomorrow.”
“What do you have for tomorrow?” Hermione asked him.
“You’ll see.” Harry answered as he returned to his work and was seemingly very absorbed in it.
Hermione stared at him and knew something wasn’t right.
He didn’t go to work at the Ministry today and after breakfast, he had kept himself inside the room whole day long and only left when two large boxes had been delivered at their doorstep.
She had asked him what they were but he only said that it was for some project he was finishing.
She had asked if he needed help but he said that he didn’t need her for it and he wasn’t going to use them until the following day so there was no need to hurry opening the boxes.
Harry then grabbed a platter of sandwich and had taken only that for the rest of the day.
Hermione knew something was up but she didn’t really want to provoke him. As long as he was quiet in his own space in their household, she could deal with it that way.
Besides, she was too preoccupied with the books he had ordered to be delivered for her.
She wasn’t sure if it was mere coincidence or he had been planning to buy her all those books that was a copy of every book she has ever had at the cottage with Snape. And if he has planned to do so, what was he thinking and how did he find out about that exactly?
“Hermione.” Harry’s voice suddenly came.
“Yeah?” she said turning back from the door.
“I’ll just maybe have a good sandwich later. I’m not that hungry. I need to finish this by tomorrow morning.
“I’ll make you one and bring it here later.” Hermione said and without another word, she had left him alone to his work.
“Narcissa, you must stop coming here anymore. You are not well.”
“You underestimate me still, Severus.”
Snape closed the door of the room they rented at the inn and stared at the woman sitting on the long couch before him.
Snape stared down at his dearest friend and could almost not believe his eyes.
He had only seen her two weeks ago and now she was thinner than ever.
The circles beneath her eyes told him that her sleeping pattern due to pain might have gone from bad to worse already.
The strands of her hair had seemingly thinned more than usual. Her cheekbones had become more prominent as her weight loss had become more alarming as the days had passed.
“I still have time, Severus.” Narcissa said in a firm tone. “I believe we still have time to what is to be done.”
“No, Narcissa. We can’t just do this just like that. It’s more complicated than that.”
“Have you told her?” Narcissa asked him.
Snape quietly nodded but remorse was all over his face. “I’ve already told her before.”
“And what did she say?”
“I haven’t told her the part of our plan. She’s already dealt with the fact that she cannot do anything about it but to wait for the curse to wane its effect.”
“It’s time we do our part, Severus.”
“I can’t give you up, Cissy.”
“You’re not giving me up. I am not to be taken nor given up by anyone, Severus.”
Snape did not say anything.
He walked forward her and sat at the edge of the bed and stared instead at the large bag next to it.
“Your supplies.” Narcissa nodded towards the bag. “I supposed it will last you for roughly two months.”
“Narcissa, you’ve already given more than enough.”
“My Draco has learned to strengthen his mind through things that Bella teaches him. I need you to ensure in the future that he does not lose sight of how to use these abilities in the better way, Severus.”
“Cissy, if you’re giving me all these because you want me to take care of Draco in the future you don’t have to. I’m his godfather, it’s my job. I need you to rest and take good care of yourself.”
Narcissa nodded at him and slowly stood up and walked the few steps from the couch to the bed.
Snape was alert as she slightly swayed but had not lost her balance.
She slowly sat next to him on the bed and had reached for his hand.
“I am still alive and well, Severus.”
“You can’t die.” Snape whispered. “I will not allow it.”
Narcissa didn’t say anything as they both continued to stare at the hearth in the fireplace that was glimmering with fire.
They both knew that her condition was nothing that could be helped and that she was only waiting for the day when fate would take away the life it had given her.
He wanted to take care of her but he knew that there was nothing that could be done.
Narcissa had played her part well at the war and had played her cards well especially when they found out she was dying.
For her, the most important thing of all was for Draco’s safety no matter the consequence.
Snape was the man she entrusted with Draco’s fate and the man was the only one perfect for the job.
“I will take care of Draco, Cissy.” Snape whispered. He slowly reached out and took her hand in his.
Narcissa nodded as she quietly continued to stare at the fire reminiscing memories with the friend next to her.
“I have done well, did I not?” Narcissa asked him slowly turning to face him. “I have done well, Severus?”
Snape stared back at her and knew her genuine fear in her voice.
He quietly nodded at her.
“You have done more than what is enough, what is good and what can be done to make life better for others.”
They both reminisced at that moment the things she had done for the people involved in the war.
A tear fell from her eyes.
“I will embrace death, Severus.” Narcissa whispered with a forced smile. “I will embrace it with enough grace knowing I’ve done everything I could to save those that needed to be.”
“You have done well, Narcissa Malfoy.” Snape whispered at her with a teary eye and a proud smile.
“Black.” Narcissa corrected him as tears streamed down her cheeks but she was smiling. “Narcissa Black. We might not have done well, but I still stand by the idea that we are an inch better than the name I now bear. I am still more of my own family than anything and I hope that Draco becomes more of a Black than a Malfoy.”
“Ready for tomorrow’s trial?” Draco asked as he entered the same room he visits to see his godfather.
He was eating an apple as he sat down before Snape where a good amount of dinner has been served before him.
“Don’t you like it?” Draco asked staring at the meals before them. “Should I ask them to change them?”
“You know how I despite it when you use your name, Draco.”
“Ah well, sorry. Can’t help it. I’m a Malfoy.” Draco said with a smug look over his face.
Snape sat back and folded his arms staring quietly at his godson.
“You haven’t been sleeping well. You do remember how to make the Sleeping Draught I taught you before?”
“I can take good care of myself, thanks. You rest early tonight for tomorrow’s trial. It will be in the afternoon but we have to be there a few hours ahead so we can settle properly.”
Snape didn’t say anything.
Another day and another trial. He was getting tired of all of it. But he wanted to end all suffering from both sides.
“Hermione will take the stand?”
“Yes.” Draco answered as he took another large bite from the apple.
“Have you talked to her?” Snape slowly asked him.
Draco shook his head.
Snape sighed heavily.
“I’m working on it.” Draco said with an assuring tone. “There might be a way but it’s a long-shot.”
“If it will only jeopardize things Draco, forget about it.”
“No, it won’t.” Draco said although he did not sound sure nor confident. “I’m still working on it so let’s not be against it this early.”
Snape only could only nod on that.
What can he do?
Draco was the one outside playing the cards right and straight so all he could do is advise him and stir him in the correct direction. But still, he was the one stirring things through.
Hermione groaned, stirred and slowly stretched out across the soft sheets and slowly opened her eyes.
The room around her was dimly lit by the dying fire in the hearth of the fireplace.
Hermione moved her head around to see her surroundings as she slowly realized that she wasn’t in her room.
She rubbed her eyes to clear her sight and stretched out again with a large yawn.
Hermione was halfway into turning herself onto the other side to further sleep when realization dawned on her.
She was lying on a bed made of sheets and pillows on the carpeted floor by the fireplace in their living room.
She was covered under thick sheets of atleast three blankets and she was wearing only her pair of undergarments.
The memories of the previous night suddenly came flashing into her mind.
“Shit.” Hermione cursed quickly sitting on the bed and grabbing every sheet around her body.
She wildly looked around her, slightly breathless and with panic in her system.
The living room was empty except for her.
Her surroundings were dark and as she stayed still, she could tell that she was alone in the house.
“Damn. Stupid, stupid.” Hermione whispered to herself as she sat on the bed and gathered all the sheets all over and kept it tight around her body.
She wondered where Snape was and her horrendous thoughts came crashing down on her and how stupid her decision had been a few hours ago.
He had surely – SURELY – seen her in THAT state and had probably wondered why she had removed all her clothes and had herself tightly wrapped around him like some tentacle being scared to lose contact of its prey.
Her face turned bright red at the thought and she buried her face beneath the thick sheets while cursing herself over and over again about what she has done.
Hermione wanted nothing more than for the earth to open up and swallow her alive right then and there.
But the question really was, where was Snape?
Did he leave her alone because of what she has done?
What was she going to say if he does come back and ask her about what she has done?
Well, she was just going to have to tell him the truth and the real reason. But what if he does not believe her?
Well, to hell if he does not. That was her intention anyway and it’s not such a shame because her intention was good.
But right now, she needed to find her clothes before she dies of shame as she played in her head over and over again what Snape might have thought the moment he saw her or rather them or rather her body with a half-naked nature clung tightly around him.
Hermione found her clothes neatly folded next to her on the bed she created on the floor and she closed her eyes realizing that Snape might have folded those himself.
She grabbed them and she hurriedly wore them back all around herself still berating herself and her stupid decisions.
Once dressed, Hermione grabbed her fallen hair tie and quickly pulled it up in a messy bun.
Hermione hurriedly cleaned up the bed she created as she created conversations in her head on how she was going to explain herself to Snape the moment they see one another.
She was just halfway into making a decision on which words to subtly use once he asks about what she has done when she heard their entrance door open and closed and heard Snape chanting the wards.
“Bullocks.” Hermione whispered to herself biting her lower lip and quickly gathering the last pillow from the floor and her own blanket and was prepared to take flight upstairs in her bedroom when Snape suddenly entered the living room.
“Holy shit.” Hermione whispered dropping the materials on the floor.
“Language, Miss Granger.” Snape said as he entered the room.
She silently watched him walked into the room and ignite the grate with new fire.
Hermione was slightly shaking and was thinking, formatting words and excuses in her head incase he suddenly ask her.
Hermione may well be preoccupied with her panic-stricken head but she was still quite observant.
She noticed that Snape had dressed himself in his usual black robes and was walking as if there was no pain all over his body unlike the previous night.
But Hermione could tell that he was only suppressing the pain in his body.
“Miss Granger?” Snape had called her. “Miss Granger? Miss Granger!” Snape’s voice came and alerted her back to reality.
Hermione blinked and bent down to pick up the fallen blanket and pillow.
“Sorry.” Hermione whispered avoiding his eyes as much as possible.
Snape only gave her a curious stare but he didn’t say anything.
“I’ve bought breakfast from downtown. You may come back down to the kitchens after you finish clearing the living room.”
“Yes, I will.. uh…professor Snape.” Hermione answered nervously.
She sighed heavily and decided there was no wait out of it anyway.
“Professor Snape, about lastnight-“
“Be in the kitchens and clean up after breakfast. I have things to do after.”
And with that, Snape had walked and passed her as he headed for the kitchens without another word.
The following three days were the most awkward of all the days that they have stayed together at the cottage in Hermione’s opinion.
They had not talked about what had happened. Or rather, Snape did not seem to want to talk about what had happened either.
He had kept himself at all times in his laboratory and would only come out at meal times or when he needed something from the small living room where some of his books were.
Hermione was half-relieved about the situation because it seemed that as much as she was avoiding the subject, Snape seemed to be doing the same thing. But half of her also wanted to explain herself to him and what her actions were for.
Hermione on the other hand was also worried about his health. She knew that he was not yet completely healed.
She could tell through her keen observations that he was only suppressing the pain he was feeling and forcing himself to move.
He walked in a slower pace and he made certain facial expressions under certain movements that gave Hermione proof that he has not yet fully recovered from the physical damage he suffered.
But despite Hermione’s curiosity and her decreasing self-restraint on asking Snape about what has happened to him, she was able to manage herself and managed not to ask anything in fear that he would ask her questions she did not want to be asked about.
But fate wanted to intervene on that fact.
On the third night since he arrived dying by their doorstep and where Hermione’s freedom had been there for her taking, things had moved very differently towards a certain direction.
Hermione had been reading several books from the selections they had at the cottage and had just finished drinking a glass of milk to help her sleep when she heard him in their living room groaning in pain.
Curious, she walked to the living room and found him by the couch and a couple of bandages, cloths and a large basin lay around him.
He was carefully and painfully tending to his wounds.
“Professor Snape?” Hermione slowly asked as she walked into the living room and stared at his very slow progress.
There was no answer in regards to his awareness of her presence but she did hear him curse.
He had been tending to a large wound around his ribcage.
Hermione gasped at the sight of him and had quickly grabbed a roll of bandages from the pack next to him.
“Miss Granger, you don’t need to-“
“Let me help you.” Hermione said grabbing a cloth and damping it over the basin.
She handed it to him but Snape only stared away from her and had even faced away.
“Professor Snape, let me help you.” Hermione insisted seeing the scowl of pain over his face.
“I don’t need your help. Go to sleep.” Snape snapped at her as he cringed in pain as he turned to resume cleaning his wound.
“I just want to help you. Let me help you so you can rest earlier.”
“I said, I don’t need your help.” Snape spat grabbing the damp cloth from her.
Hermione narrowed her eyes and frowned at him.
She watched as he forced to wipe the blood off his ribcage area despite the difficulty of it.
He moved around and looked for a small case that had some sort of ointment and paste in it.
Hermione folded her arms as she watched him whirl around the couch not seeing that what he was looking for was just in front of him.
When Hermione got tired watching him make a fool of himself, so she bent forward and grabbed the small case he had missed just next to him and handed it over.
Snape stopped moving and stared at her offered hand with the object he had been looking for.
He looked up and snatched it from her hand without another word.
He avoided her gaze but he had seen the secretly amused look over her face and the suppressed smile she was trying to deeply restrain.
“Nothing is funny with the situation.”
“I’m not laughing.” Hermione said clearing her throat. “Who’s laughing?”
Snape looked up at her and eyed her spitefully. Hermione tried not to laugh again.
“Professor Snape, let me help you.”
Her words were gentle and kinder than earlier and it made Snape realize that he needed her help.
“Just hand me that bottle.”
“This one?” Hermione asked grabbing the one bottle on the small table and opening its stopper.
Hermione watched as he opened the stopper and quickly gulped all the contents of the small bottle.
Snape set aside the empty bottle and stared at her.
“Why won’t you let me help you?” she asked irritably. “It’s not like I don’t know first aid or so. I know how to heal wounds. It’s not like I’ll do further damage.”
“Miss Granger!” Snape angrily spat at her. “I do not need your help! Not everything is goddamn about you-“ he yelled and as he did so, he cringed and groaned loudly and he began to bled again around the waist area.
Hermione’s eyes widened in alarm as blood slowly but began to drip nonstop around the area he just finished covering with bandaged.
“Fuck.” Snape spat quickly moving for bandages and for his wand.
“Here.” Hermione said picking up his wand and handing it to him.
Snape snatched his wand and pointed it around the area muttering some charms to stop the bleeding while Hermione hurriedly grabbed more bandages and a few of the ointment to help him to back around the area.
It took a few minutes, but with Hermione’s aid and guidance, they managed to secure the wound properly this time and had managed to place sufficient amount to bandage and ensure that it was kept into place and would not be spilling blood any time soon.
Hermione was kneeling by his side as she picked up the fallen used bandages and started cleaning the floor from his mess.
Snape stared down at her and was biting the words back in his mouth. When he couldn’t take it any longer, he had to say it in a vague manner.
“I’ll clean everything it. You may go. Thanks for the help.”
The word had slipped out of his mouth faster than Hermione could really catch it. But she did catch it.
She understood that it was so goddamn hard for him to ask help, let alone thank someone when he was actually helped out.
“You’re welcome.” Hermione muttered turning away to hide the grin from her face. “Don’t move. I’ll help you up to your bedroom.”
“I’m staying here in the living room tonight.” Snape had said. “I can’t really move around. This area will help me get to the kitchens and to the other parts of the house should I need something.”
“That’s what I’m here for.” Hermione said as she returned to the room after clearing away all the cleaning and first-aid materials Snape had used.
Snape stared at her and found himself unable to really stand still or stand back on his feet from his position.
Hermione stared by the door arms crossed, itching to cross the room but she waited.
She wanted it to come from him.
She watched several more minutes at his futile attempt to get up to his feet before falling back several times, cursing over and over and finally, he was breathless and helpless enough to admit his situation and seek help once more.
“Miss Granger.” Snape’s voice sounded venom. “If you would please…”
“Ofcourse I would.” Hermione said smiling as she walked to the room. “I thought you’d never ask.”
Hermione bent forward and moved her arms around his and let him level himself up and then brought up half his weight.
He wasn’t that heavy but he was tall and muscular enough for her to feel the weigh from him.
He stood up, slightly shaking with half his body was leaning against Hermione’s and was dependent upon her help.
“One step at a time, professor. No need to hurry. We’ll get to your room.” Hermione said as she placed his arm around her shoulder and had his other hand around her for support.
She held him steady and had to focus to ensure that they do not fall off or that she does not get out of balance so that he wouldn’t topple over as well.
The journey from the living room which were only a few strides really to his bedroom took about fifteen minutes or so because he felt nauseated to the point that Hermione almost left him by the wall at the foot of the stairs to grab a basin for him to vomit over.
It wasn’t until he shrieked her name over did she calm herself down and resumed focus onto bringing him back to his room.
Upon arrival in his bedroom, Hermione took his wand to flick a light to the small fireplace in his small bedroom.
His bedroom was smaller than hers and only contained a bed, a small table and a chair, the fireplace, a carpet and two tall bookshelves and a door that led to a bathroom slightly smaller than hers.
She always wondered if this was supposedly to be her bedroom for which he only shifted at last minute decision.
She had never really been to his room. Once or twice perhaps but not on every occasion.
But seeing his condition at the moment, she might as well sleep there incase he needs something at the midst of the night.
Snape groaned painfully but also in relief as Hermione laid him down on his bed and rearranged the pillows behind his back so he was in a half-sitting position as he had requested.
Hermione warmed the room up and fixed up his blanket before handing him back his wand.
She was staring longingly at it so Snape took is and quickly kept it out of her sight.
“I’ll make soup in the morning or is there anything you want for breakfast?”
Solace. That’s what he wanted.
“Nothing.” Snape said closing his eyes in discomfort of the pain still around his rib area.
“Is there anything you need then?” Hermione asked seeing shift from another position to another, finding a comfortable place and spot for him to lay himself. Apparently with his injuries, nothing was comfortable.
“Nothing. Go to your room. Go to sleep.”
Hermione stared at him and wasn’t sure if she wanted to jab her finger at the spot where it would hurt him the most.
She only wanted to help.
“I could stay and if you-“
“Go away. I don’t need your help.”
Hermione’s eyes widened and Snape felt the change in her mood on that He wanted to hit himself.
“Well fine. Scream if you feel like you’re dying. Maybe I’ll come over.”
And with that, she stormed out of the room and banged the door behind her.
But everything wasn’t fine. Not according to her instincts anyway.
It was somewhere two in the morning and she still couldn’t sleep.
His room was just across the hall and the full four hours that she’d left him, still hasn’t fallen asleep.
She has doodled over her small well-hidden notebook, has read three chapters of one of the latest selections he’s bought her and has tossed and turned around the bed to try to grab some sleep but she still couldn’t.
She couldn’t help but wonder if he was alright at the other room or if he needed anything.
But he practically screamed at her that he did not need her. He did not want her anywhere near him.
Was he still mad of their previous tirade before he left and returned injured? Was he still mad about that?
He almost died. And she had carried him back to health and safety over the past few days and he was still sulking about their fight?
How miserable could he still be?
But Hermione still felt guilty deep inside. He wouldn’t have left after their fight if it was nothing for him.
He cared for her and she goes throwing it out the window.
He returns scarred by the Dark Lord most likely but still, he risks his life and returns to the cottage to ensure that she was safe and that the cottage was protected by him.
He was still thinking about her.
Hermione was fighting the battle whether she was going to the other room or not when she heard it.
A loud thump and groan coming from his room
Within a flash, she was out of her bedroom and had ran in her night gown back to his bedroom door.
“Professor?” she asked knocking insistently upon the door. “Professor? Are you alright? Do you need anything?”
There was no answer but she could hear small movements and the sound of him breathing hard.
“Professor Snape? Are you in there? Can you hear me?” she called out knocking several more times.
Panic was rising inside her. She heard a movement and the sound of him in pain and now he wasn’t answering.
The door was locked.
Hermione knocked several more times now at the verge of crying in her panic-stricken state.
“Professor Snape – are you – please open the door! Answer me please! Professor, please open this-“
Then the door suddenly opened and she was let in.
Hermione dashed inside the room and found him lowering his arm with the wand after pointing at the door.
He was on the floor, the blanket on the floor next to him and he was clutching his ribcage.
“What’s wrong?” Hermione asked quickly getting down on her knees and looking all over him for possible damage or where the pain was coming from.
“Him..” Snape was able to mutter in his pale state. “Torture.. Others..”
Hermione stared as he nodded his head towards the Dark Mark that was seemingly darker than is used to be.
“What?” Hermione asked in panic. “What do you mean-“
“He is..” he breathed out painfully as the pain from the mark slowly ebbed away.
He closed his eyes and dropped his head onto the side.
“Professor?” Hermione called out, eyes wide. He shook him but he didn’t really move. “Professor Snape?” she called out louder.
Hermione grabbed his arm and had check his pulse. It was pumping but he looked weak and pale.
“Professor Snape, what are you- what should I-“
“Water..” he gasped.. “W-wat…er..”
“Water?” Hermione said nodding vigorously. “Alright. Water, water.”
Hermione scrambled up to her barefoot and moved around the room where she had stashed a pitcher of cold water earlier on the small table by his bed.
She quickly filled up the glass and nearly skidded down the floor next to him.
She grabbed his hand and helped him hold the glass and assisted him fully into drinking the water.
Hermione watched as he weakly gulped down the glass of water but had finished it.
She stared silent by his side, eyes already gleaming with tears as she stared down at his state.
He was being tortured up to this moment?
It took Snape another moment before he seemed to have recovered and had stared up at her with a weak smile.
“You may go.” Snape said. “Kindly assist me back to my bed.”
Hermione stared at him with full pity but she only nodded.
She slowly stood up and held her hands out as she carried him slowly up to the bed and slowly helped him at the edge of it.
The bed was quite large and she needed to pull him all the way back up the bed to ensure he does not fall off again.
After a while of successfully pulling him back in his earlier half-seated position on the bed, Hermione stared at him and knew that he wasn’t sleepy but he was in too much pain and exhaustion to have his body reel him into a good sleep.
“Professor, you might have an excess Sleeping Draught in your laboratory. I can assist and get you a bottle if you-“
“I won’t need it.” Snape simply said. “I’m going to get some sleep now. I’m too tired.”
And he did look it.
Hermione thought how well he seemed to have slightly aged since they have arrived in this cottage.
The stress that the Dark Lord gives him, the ones that the Order has placed upon him and the stress she gives him on a daily basis.
Guilt was creeping like a Devil’s Snare all over her body.
“Professor, what happened?” she asked in a small voice unable to control herself.
Snape sighed heavily.
“The Dark Lord is torturing one of our kind. He is ensuring we all feel the same wrath should we try to do what the mindless twat has done.”
“And what would that be?”
“I wouldn’t know now. In a few days, I would. But the punishment is so severe that it might have been a matter of life and death mistake for the Dark Lord.”
Hermione didn’t say anything. That would have meant a plan against the Order has gone wrong.
She wanted to celebrate but she couldn’t bring herself to do so. Not when she was seeing one of the results of it.
“Professor, can I stay the night?” Hermione asked giving him a worried expression.
Snape’s brow creased but he did not say anything.
“Just to watch over you. Incase you need something. I promise I won’t do.. anything.. unnecessary.”
Snape did not say anything. He could tell what he was referring to. She was still guilty about it.
He wanted to protest but he was too tired.
He gave her a curt nod.
Hermione’s eyes widened at the blessing he had given.
Suddenly, her small hand had snatched his and Snape’s eyes momentarily opened at the sight of her.
She was somewhat crying.
“I just wish to take good care of you.”
“I’ve been stupid. Careless. Mindless. Selfish.” Hermione said biting back her tears. “But I don’t want to cause you further stress. I just want to.. I want to help you..”
Snape did not say anything. Suddenly, all feeling of wanting to go to sleep had vanished.
She was caressing and holding his hand as if he was a dying man.
He looked to her and saw the worry, the stress and the genuine sincerity in those eyes.
He breathed heavily knowing that this was one of those times he did not want to happen.
He did not want any connection with her – nothing too deep or emotional per se.
“Miss Granger, please don’t cry. I’m fine. I’m not exactly dying-“
“You almost did.” Hermione said pressing her fingers deeper around his. “You almost did and the last time I saw you before then – we argued, we fought, I was so restless and reckless and-“
“Miss Granger, please don’t put stress onto yourself. We are both in a situation we do not want.”
Hermione swallowed hard and nodded. There was truth in that.
As much as she wanted to go back, she knew he wanted to return her but couldn’t.
She looked up at him and it her lower lip uncertain if she should continue with her rants.
“I’m sorry about what I did the other night. I did not have permission but you were having a really high fever and it was-“
“I’m familiar with such methods.” Snape simply said knowing she did not want to talk about it with the humiliation the memory brought her.
Hermione quietly nodded but she looked relieved to have that one out.
“You do not need to be ashamed of it. You did what you had to do as a human. It was your instinct.”
“Still, I’m sorry about it.”
“I’m also sorry for yelling at you the other day before you left..” Hermione said almost biting her tongue for each word. “I’m very inconsiderate.”
Snape stared at her and wondered where all these honestly and sudden guilt were coming from.
Then he realized the impact of how he might have looked like the other night by the doorway – helpless, bleeding and certainly in the most ‘dying’ state she had ever seen him.
“I wish I could be more considerate at times.” Snape simply said after a while.
He drew in a deep breath and slowly, his other hand reached out for hers and covered the one holding his other hand.
Hermione looked up at him in her tearful state and saw him looking at her with a forced smile over his face.
He did look like he was in a very bad shape tonight but he also looked like he was slowly recovering from it.
Hermione nodded quietly. “I know this is hard for the both of us. I promise to be better.”
Snape did not say anything. He knew what she must be feeling but there was no choice to it.
He only hope he could make things better for her if not for the both of them.
Suddenly, his thoughts were shaken away as Hermione had gently placed herself next to him, resting her face over his chest and crying silently.
“I thought you were going to die.” Hermione cried at his chest. “I thought you were dying. You were bleeding and you were..you barely moved and spoke..”
Hermione’s tears echoed across the silent room. He couldn’t help but feel the emotion she was feeling.
He could barely remember the night but the facts were there – he was dying, helpless and she had the opportunity to leave him and yet she did not.
He had woken the following day with his own wand resting next to him.
She did not even take the slightest attempt to do anything against him or do anything to help her escape.
She had stayed there and had assisted him until he was able to recover in such a state that he could comprehend what was happening around him.
“Miss Granger, I’m better now. No need to cry about that past.. it has happened already. And I’m already healing and that is thanks to you.”
“You’re the only one I’ve got.” Hermione said slowly looking up at him and holding his hand for dear life. “You’re the only one I’ve got.”
Hermione’s brown eyes held his and in that moment, Snape suddenly felt something inside of him.
Something was different, something was terribly wrong.
There was something different in the way she spoke of the truth, the way she was telling him how she was feeling.
“I couldn’t lose you. You’re all I’ve got.” Hermione whispered tears falling upon her cheeks as she closed her eyes and rested her head against his chest.
Snape breathed heavily and closed his eyes knowing the weight of those words.
She was accepting their reality at the moment and at the same time entrusting her life to him.
Hermione trusted him completely with no bars left to hold her back.
“I’m here.” Snape softly whispered back at her as he held her hand closer. “I’m here, I won’t ever abandon you.”
Snape did not know what made him do it, but he gently moved closer and pressed his lips softly against her head and placed a soft kiss over her soft and vanilla-scented tresses.
There was a moment for which he could just inhale her scent and suddenly out of nowhere, her tresses was nowhere from his lips.
Hermione had suddenly looked up at him and had replaced her skin against his lips with her own.
The sudden movement and action kept Snape still and completely taken aback.
What was happening exactly?
He was unable to clearly comprehend what was happening but he was sure that it was her small, sweet and soft lips that was now grazing against his own lips as an invitation to a kiss.
She kissed him once, she kissed him twice and a little longer this time.
The third time was different. He closed his eyes as he slowly welcomed that third momentary kiss from her lips with a bit more of a reaction from him this time.
She seemed to have shifted and had split-moment decision to draw her mouth back just in time when he captured it back fully and had returned the kiss.
Snape could hear Hermione moan in his mouth and she felt her fingertips fading from his hold and she had shifted to place them gently over his abdominal area and he found himself moving his hands from her arms down her shoulders and around her waist.
It took them rather a moment and a deep kiss, lost in their deep thoughts when Hermione seemed to have finally come to her senses and had broken the kiss.
Snape opened his eyes in complete shock and stared back at her tearful, confused and shocked facial features.
She was breathing hard and was looking at him as if she knew that she was the one who lost control.
As reflexes would have dictated her body, she quickly shifted and removed her hands from him.
“Professor, I’m – I’m sorry-“ she quickly said moving away from him.
But before she could completely move, his hand had quickly attached itself around her wrist.
“Professor-“ she tugged with fear completely obvious in her eyes.
Snape let her wrist go, unable to find the right words to bring about.
“Miss Granger-“ he was breathless as he forced himself to speak and to think on what to say.
She looked like she was ready to retreat until he gently reached out for her again.
“Hermione.. “ his voice was soft and it made her still on the bed. His hand closed around hers.
“I’m sorry..” Hermione quickly said. “I did not.. I’m..”
“Hermione, look at me.” Snape softly said as he continued to shake his head. He made sure she was staring at him.
“Hermione, it’s me...It’s me.. I wasn’t.. I wasn’t thinking.. it wasn’t like.. please forgive me.” Snape quickly said seeing that guilt was coming all over her. “It was me, please, please forgive me..”
Hermione did not say anything. She seemed to have lost the ability to think.
“I must go.. to my room.” Hermione said quickly standing up and pulling herself together. “I’m sorry.. I should not have.. I’ll.. please get some rest, professor.”
And with that, she scrambled and went out of the room as fast as her thin legs could carry her.