Continuing Tales

Thirty-One Days

A Harry Potter Story
by keelhaulrose

Part 27 of 29

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Thirty-One Days

"There's another visitor today, Miss Granger," the older Healer smiled as she pulled back the curtain.

Hermione sighed. 'Another visitor' was code for a new one, and she was starting to wonder who else could come to call. The nearly two weeks since the Battle had been a whirlwind of giving statements, attending hearings, mourning both in private and with her friends, and spending time at Severus' bedside. Her friends came to sit with her when they had time. George, who was getting near daily counseling, usually came to sit with her after. She would hold his hand or wrap him in a friendly hug, and few words passed between them. Even Neville and Luna had stopped by twice each, as had McGonagall and Hagrid, and most of her Hogwarts teachers had at least caught her in the Tea Room for a quick chat. She was staying with the Weasleys, and most nights she wandered into the room with Ron and Harry because she wasn't ready to wean herself from their constant comfort and friendship. They didn't see each other much during the day, so their presence around each other was mostly limited to nighttime, where they slept crammed into Ron's room. Severus had been making progress in his healing, his wounds no longer bled when his bandages were changed, occasionally a limb would move, and twice she heard him murmur something. She had gotten anxious for when they were going to take him off some of the potions, but didn't want to push anything, and followed the Healers recommendations, becoming friendly with most of them, especially Hippocrates, who kept her apprised of Battle survivors who were recovering and leaving the hospital.
"Send them in," she said, straightening her hair and flattening her shirt.

To her shock Narcissa Malfoy glided through the curtain, eyes narrowing as she saw Hermione sitting close to Severus, her hand on his shoulder. She gracefully tossed her hair over her shoulder and drew the other chair close to the bed, and reached out to touch Severus' hand. They sat in uncomfortable silence for several minutes.

"I remember you," Narcissa said softly. Hermione opened her mouth to respond, but Narcissa continued. "From back then. I more remember how happy Severus was than your face, though the name was unique enough to stand out. I thought, perhaps, her daughter... but it was Severus' attitude that made me realize what was going on. He was never a happy man, well, apart from the time he spent with you and the other mu... girl. But he was quite angry after Draco started at Hogwarts. Draco complained about how much more surly he acted. He thought it was Potter, but when I heard your name again I knew. I debated telling anyone. I questioned Lucius, but he wouldn't have thought you important enough to remember. I had made a plan to go public with my suspicions, I let my prejudice towards your kind tarnish my vision. It was only after I made the appointment to have tea with Miss Skeeter that I realized what I was about to do. You were young, a third year at the time. I am not going to try to make myself seem better and tell you I gave a damn about your reputation. You were one of them and, to tell the truth, it will be some time before I fully accept that, don't look at me like that, attitudes held since birth don't change overnight. It was Severus I wanted to protect. You are not the only one who cares about him."

She stroked Severus' fingers, and Hermione didn't know what to say, so she stayed quiet. "He's Draco's godfather. I thought, perhaps, that encouraging him to be around children might make him thinking about having his own some day. That maybe it would inspire him to find a woman, one who would be good to him, to stop him pining for the two he had lost during our school years. It backfired horribly," she let off a soft chuckle. "The first dirty nappy and I think it cemented his desire to never have a child. But that doesn't mean he shouldn't be happy. He needs a good woman. One who will put up with his attitude and darker nature. You know what it takes, you've done it before. He really cared for you, he just never was good at taking time to let his anger over a situation ebb before acting. The day you left was the day he asked Lucius about joining the Death Eaters."

"I kind of figured I had a hand in that," Hermione replied in a whisper.

"He was on that path already, your departure merely gave him a reason to immediately join. I'm not sad he joined. He kept Draco alive. My family is all I have in this world. I could lose my money, I've lost my magic, but I have my family, and that's what I need."

"You lost your magic?" she whispered in surprise. She had testified at the Malfoy's trial two days prior.

"We found out just this morning, and the binding was performed just after noon," she nodded. "You and Potter were noble to put your reputations on the line for us. We will be grateful you have kept us out of Azkaban. But we were too close to the Dark Lord, and our assistance came too late, to avoid punishment altogether. Half the money is gone, I suspect you will be seeing some of it, though I am surprised it's only half. We will still never have to worry about money. But we've all lost our magic for five years. We only have enough to fly a broom or use the Floo. And, after six months adjusting to this new life, we will have to live two years with no help from the house elves. That gives them time to teach us how to use things like the oven, though they use magic in the kitchens, so this will be a process for all of us."

"I can help, if you want. I learned to cook without using magic, so it won't be hard for me to not use my wand."

"I'll consider it," she replied. "You have done a lot for us already, when you had no reason to..."

"You kept my best friend alive. Of course I had a reason."

"You had a reason to help me. Draco and Lucius..."

"I may not like either of them, but that's no reason to condemn them to Azkaban."

Narcissa swallowed, like she had a lump in her throat. "It was very kind of you, and we cannot thank you enough. I do not think Lucius would survive any more time in that prison."

They sat quietly a few more moments. Hermione studied the older witch, and realized how different she had looked even from their encounter at Malfoy Manor. There was little pride left in the woman sitting with her. No hope of a return to glory like she had with Harry held prisoner in her home. She wanted to say something to comfort Narcissa, but nothing came to her.

"You must care greatly for him. The Healer told me you have been here every day."

"Yes. I've left to go to hearings, and funerals, and of course I don't sleep here, but I make it a point to stop by at least a few hours a day."

"Do they expect him to wake soon?"

"They're starting to talk about taking him off the sleeping potion. I expect it will happen very soon."

"All that time here for a man who is asleep," she pondered. "You know how much he must care about you."

"I hoped, but I wasn't sure. He's been so unkind to me during my school years..."

"He was extremely angry with you. I'm sure it was just his way of trying to make you change your mind about your trip."

"If that's what he was trying to do, he didn't know me very well. It's exactly why I went back."

"I'm not surprised," she said with a ghost of a smile. "But he had to care for you. Severus didn't have much in this world. What he thought was worth something was even less. Those books are his pride. He was very careful about his selection. Lucius cares about price. To him, the more something costs, the more it must be worth. But Severus, who never had the means Lucius had, had to be more selective. He didn't just get the book because he was interested in the subject matter, he would research the book before purchasing. Look for the historical significance. To him it wasn't about first-run editions, or annotated by famous authors, or even in mint condition. It was about those that advanced knowledge. I would wager that he aspired to join their ranks at some point. He started serving so many different masters so early I don't think he allowed himself many aspirations. Those books... he wouldn't have left them to just anyone. He'd leave them to someone who he trusted to take care of them and cherish as much as he did. You would."

"That doesn't prove he cares about me. That just proves he knows my reverence for books. And he left them to the school if I didn't make it. If he cared about them why would he leave them where a bunch of idiotic first-years could get their hands on them?"

"First, most of his collection would only be fit for the Restricted Section, so that would limit the number of people who could get them. Second, they are rare and many are out of date. There are thousands of books in the Hogwarts library that don't get read on a regular basis, if at all. Lucius suggested they cull their collection once, but Dumbledore stood firm that even if a book is only read once a century that one time is worth keeping it around. Finally, the only other person I could name who has a reverence for books that would rival yours is Madam Pince. They would be in good hands with her."

"It still proves nothing more than he wants his books with someone who would respect them."

"Then wouldn't the very fact that you are in charge of his medical care be proof enough for you?"

"Maybe he thinks I'm compassionate to a fault, and I wouldn't let him suffer."

"I wouldn't. Draco wouldn't. I don't think any of his colleagues would. Instead he chose you. He wrote that will how long ago? It was certainly before you made your journey. Imagine what would have happened if he died before you returned? If you were approached by a goblin and told he left you everything and you had no idea why. Think what would have happened if he had passed when you still thought him a murderer. He trusted you even when you had every right to not care about what happened to him. Above all his friends, above his godson, he put everything, including his life, in your hands. He wasn't doing that because of your compassion, or your reverence for old books. He did it because he cares for you, and of everyone who has his best interests at heart you cared for him more than anyone even if it was only for a month. Part of him realized that, and he trusted you. He may not have admitted it out loud to anyone, let alone himself, but the will is the proof."

"I want him to care about me. But he's had so many troubles I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't run and hide as soon as he's well enough to leave."

"He'll stay if you ask him to. Severus is not a man who is used to having his options open. He'll be looking for some sort of direction, at least until he's fully healed."

"I don't want to be his master. I don't want him to only be with me because I told him to."

"He'll be with you because he wants to. But he won't be ready to be totally free. You'll have to wean him into the idea."

Hermione sighed.

"You will know. You are strong."

"Some days I wish I didn't have to be."

"Everyone feels that way at times. But we do what we must, though a little wine or strong tea can help immensely when things feel overwhelming."

Hermione looked at her, suppressing a smile. Narcissa Malfoy just offered her motherly advice. Her decision to go back hadn't just changed her life, it had turned it on-end. Narcissa stayed for about an hour, occasionally telling an anecdote about Severus, and inquiring about Andromeda. When it was about time for the Healers to come in to check Severus she bid Hermione good-bye with the offer of getting together for tea with Molly and Andromeda. Seconds after she left the healer-in-charge, Hippocrates Smethwick, came in and started doing the routine check. Hermione was on-edge, knowing that if it was Hippocrates rather than an assistant there was bound to be some news.

"This is going to be the last dose of the potion we're using to keep him asleep," he smiled at her as he scribbled a few notes. "We're going to try to see if he wakes up on his own in the morning, if he's not up by tomorrow afternoon we'll try a revival potion."

"What are the chances he'll need it?" Hermione asked, sounding concerned.

"Honestly? I think he'll wake up. You did an excellent job before he got here, the damage wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. I'm confident he'll get up on his own."

"It wouldn't be like him to need help," she murmured.

"Have you ever thought about becoming a Healer?"

"Not really. I don't like blood."

He laughed. "Luckily for Severus you didn't seem to mind it that night."

"You do what you have to," she replied. So far her official comment as to why she was authorized to make Severus' medical decisions had been 'no comment', though she told the Healers it was something to do with the Order. They accepted her answer, though she was sure most of them suspected the truth.

"Would you like to stay here tonight?"

"Could I?" she asked.

"We're down to three on the ward. I think we could push the next bed over a bit," he winked with a fatherly smile. "It would probably be best for him to have someone he knows here when he wakes up, I have a feeling he's not going to be exactly pleasant when he's back with us."

"I don't doubt he's going to be a handful. I'll try to keep him in check," she smiled.

He opened the curtain and moved the next bed over, then closed the curtains around them, then gave her one more smile before leaving. Hermione touched her wand to her button-up shirt, changing it to a t-shirt, and took off her shoes and belt, laying them on a table before climbing into the bed next to Severus'. She smiled as she looked over at him, and let sleep take over.


He felt someone's hand on his wrist, two fingers checking his pulse, and fought the urge to snatch his hand away. Instead he slowly opened his eyes, blinking several times until the room came into focus, and saw a young Healer jotting something on a chart by his bedside.

"Welcome back,"she whispered with a smile. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I got attacked by a giant bloody snake," he shot back in a hoarse whisper, which was all he could manage.

"Not surprising," she replied nonchalantly as she raised the bed so he was sitting up. "I've got your potions here, Professor..."

"Please don't call me that."

"Okay. Mr. Snape. I have your potions. Do you need help taking them?"

"No," he shook his head and winced from the pain that shot up his neck from the motion.

"Go ahead, then," she said, sliding a table over to him that contained a number of phials. He immediately reached for one he recognized as a pain potion. It nearly hurt too bad to swallow, so he waited a couple moments for it to take effect before reaching for the second, a potion he knew was to prevent infections in seriously injured patients. There was another for nutrients, a fourth to stave off dehydration, and the final a mild calming draught to keep his blood pressure down.

"Very good, Mr. Snape. She'll be so pleased you didn't put up a fight?"

"She?" he asked, though he was sure he knew who the Healer was talking about.

"Miss Granger," she whispered, nodding to the bed next to him. He slowly turned to see her still sleeping in the bed next to his, turned toward him, one hand extended towards his bed as though she were reaching for him in the night.

"Is she here often?" he asked, trying to sound unconcerned.

"Every day," she replied with a knowing smile.

The Healer finished with him, and he looked down at Hermione, fighting the urge to reach out for her hand. He had failed to drive her away from her mission, and while he wasn't sure what feelings she had for him the day she left him at Hogwarts, he was now sure that she hadn't been lying. And he couldn't fathom how she had allowed herself those feelings knowing what he was like in her time, after he had been so cruel to her for so many years.

The fact that she was lying next to him could only mean that they had won. And they would only have won when Voldemort was dead. He was free. No more spying, no more masters, no more feeling he must live his life protecting those who would happily see him dead. No one to answer to but himself. And, due to some unknown feeling he wished would go away, the girl lying next to him.

She hadn't changed from the girl in 1976, though that should have been expected. The Hermione he knew in the past finally caught up with the Hermione he watched grow. It was only now, realizing what she had been through in the past year, that he realized how she had changed from the young, insufferable know-it-all to the charming, world-wise young woman he had developed feelings for so many years prior. She had been forced to skip being a fresh, independent face released after school to start to make her own destiny. To save her own life she had to become the mature warrior he knew. Weasley didn't take the sudden responsibility as well as she had, and it nearly cost him his freedom when he Apparated into the group of Snatchers. Potter had even less of a choice than Hermione. He didn't need to wonder if Hermione knew her friend was a Horcrux, he'd be shocked if it caught her by surprise, and he'd be willing to bet his last galleon that she was ready to sacrifice herself with Potter. But something changed. Something about him disturbed her enough to go to the past to help him. Had she done so before he killed Dumbledore he would easily say it was a challenge, and she wouldn't turn down a chance to prove she could perform the mission without problem. But this Hermione was different. He longed to know why she decided to save him when her best friend was in such obvious peril. But there was no time left to ponder her, as she started to stir.

She awoke without opening her eyes, stretching, first arms, then legs, then arching her back so he got an inadvertent but not uninviting glimpse down her shirt. She pushed herself slowly up, rolling her head to work out a kink in her neck from sleeping on the uncomfortable bed. When she had finally negotiated herself into a fully sitting position she opened her eyes, which immediately fell upon him, and her face lit up as she saw he was awake and staring at her.

"Good morning," she whispered, moving to the very edge of the bed to be as close as possible to him.

"It's afternoon," he replied blandly, and he wasn't surprised to hear it sounding hoarse, and for a quick second he wondered if it would be a permanent change due to the damage in his neck. "Or has your Hogwarts education left you so deficient that you are even unable to read a clock?"

"I didn't look at the clock," she shrugged, seemingly unfazed by his thinly veiled insult. "I planned on looking at that after I checked to see if you were awake."

"Have you slept at my bedside often?"

"No. Last night was the first. They thought it would help you to have a familiar face nearby when you finally woke up. Has someone been in to check you yet?"

"A Healer was in."

"Good. Did they explain everything to you?"


"I'll talk to them. I know pretty much everything, if you'd like me to fill you in."

"Not now. I know what happened to me, and it obviously didn't kill me. You must have found what was in the cabinet."

"Yes. All of it."

He swallowed, winced from the pain, and looked out the small window. "Did Potter show mercy?" he asked, knowing she would know he was talking about Voldemort.

"It was quick, if that's what you mean. His curse rebounded off Harry's and killed him."

"And afterwards?"

"His body and the bodies of several Death Eaters were cremated magically at a site that only three people know, and they all have the secret-keeper charm placed upon them. They may be a lot of bastards, but no one thought their final resting site should become a destination of desecration. Best to let them just disappear forever."

"Better than he, and most of them, deserved."

"I know more than a few people who would love to desecrate his grave, and none deserved to do it more than you, but I think this is better solution."

"I have neither the time, nor desire to desecrate graves. Since it seems he will not be rotting, let his remains stay where they are and let him be forgotten. Nothing would upset him more than if no one remembered him in a few years' time."

"Hear, hear. Are you thirsty? Hungry?"

"No. The potions will suffice for now."

"Is there something I could do..?"

"No. I daresay you've done enough for me, considering the very fact that I'm sitting here."

She frowned. "If you're worried about a life debt, Severus, I don't hold them. I absolve you from it or whatever I have to say to get rid of it."

"Noble. I was more talking about the fact that I should have died in that shack."

"If you didn't want to live, you should have destroyed your antivenin. I never would have been able to save you without it."

He scowled. "And you're a bloody hero Gryffindor who couldn't leave well enough alone and let me die."

"You promised me you would try to live."

"I thought that by asking me to repeat that promise you were warning me of my imminent death. I didn't know you were so damn stubborn."

"Yes, you did. You told me on several occasions."

"I also thought you were merciful. Not the type to make a man spend days in agony on the way to recovery."

"You were still alive when I started working on you," she whispered. "Only just, but still alive. Had you died there would have been nothing I could do. And I wanted you to live. I'm sorry I held you to your word, Severus."

He sucked in a breath when she said his name in the same low whisper he remembered from his bed so many years ago.

"How are you feeling?" she asked, wanting to change the subject away from the shack.

"Like hell," he shot back.

"Should I go find someone to give you a potion?"

"No. Their watered-down potions are damn useless."

"Should I go fetch something from your lab? It's probably one of the few places that survived the battle."

"Hogwarts has been destroyed?" he asked, a flash of shock crossing his face. He knew the castle was in bad shape, but he hadn't gotten close enough to get a good look.

"It's been severely damaged. They're not sure if they can do sufficient repairs to re-open it in time for the school year, despite Minister Shacklebolt pouring as many ministry personnel and resources into it as they are able to spare at the moment."

"They promoted Shacklebolt to Minister?"

"Couldn't very well leave a Death Eater in the position, now, could they?"

He shrugged, and winced from the pain it caused. "Frankly with the caliber of people who have recently held the position I saw little difference."

She chuckled. "You didn't answer my question. Do you want me to get something from your private store?"

"No. I'm sure they'd frown upon that."

"Since when do you care what someone frowns upon?"

He scowled. "I would think that you might realize that it is unwise to mix certain potions, and thus I probably shouldn't take an illicit potion until I know exactly which ones I am on."

"I'm surprised you didn't know them all by sight, smell, and taste," she said, stretching again. "I can name most of them right now, but there are two that weren't in Advanced Potion Making. I didn't quite get the opportunity to study them. I was a bit preoccupied."

"You and Potter were a bit insane," he shot back. "What the hell were you thinking, going to Godric's Hallow?"

"Did it make you nervous when you heard about our encounter there?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.

"More like I wanted to hit both of you over the head with the entire tome of An Extended Version of History of Magic. It was idiotic."

"We thought Dumbledore…"

"I apparently learned much quicker than you to never put my stock in what Dumbledore had brewing. The man was playing several different hands and never showed them all to the same people. He had less trust than Potter, and was quite good at manipulating us all to his end."

"You don't need to tell me twice, Severus," her voice had dropped again, and he was internally cursing that soft whisper that threatened to remind him of the feeling of himself buried inside her. "I put my trust in him as much as Harry did. If I had known..."

It was his turn to raise an eyebrow. "Would you have done something differently?"

She looked at him for a moment, and he could practically see her brain working behind her eyes. "No," she said slowly, but confidently. "I went back there to save a life, and I accomplished that goal. I never thought that what happened would happen, but I have a feeling Dumbledore knew it might or else he wouldn't have asked me to do it."

"I see."

She reached out his hand for his, and his traitorous fingers closed around hers, and it was a fight to keep the relief from showing on his face. "I don't regret it, Severus," she said firmly. "If I knew when Dumbledore asked exactly what was going to happen, I still would have gone and not tried to change a thing."

He closed his eyes and tried to process her words, somewhat in shock that she would knowingly go along with Dumbledore's plan even if she knew she would wind up giving herself, and at least part of her heart, to him. Or did she mean that she knew the pain she caused him for years?

"If I were to guess, it was Potter who said the Tabooed word?" he asked, trying to change the subject.

"You know how easy he is to rile, especially when you talk about his parents."

"And you were tortured because of his stupidity."

Her face fell and some of her muscles tightened involuntarily as she remembered the pain. "If it hadn't happened, we never would have guessed there was a Horcrux in Bellatrix's vault. I'm not happy it happened, but it happened for a reason."

"And you're marked because of it."

She let go of his hand to slide the sleeve of her shirt up, revealing 'mudblood' to him. "How did you know it wasn't what you saw?"

"How did I…?" he repeated, shaking his head. "They were bragging about it, you daft girl. Had they the time they would have started doing it to all the muggle-borns they captured or had rotting in Azkaban. They thought Bellatrix was a damn genius, though they thought it in private because the Dark Lord was not happy with her in the slightest."

"Think of the party they would have had had we died," she said bitterly.

"There's a good chance that if you were stubborn enough to still not give up the information they would have given you to Greyback to defile and destroy. Or even held a revel. I was usually excused from those, but since you were one of my least favorite students the Dark Lord would have assured I would have my chance with you. I would have been Summoned to find you under Yaxley or some other brute and been instructed to wait my turn. Greyback hated being last, but girls tended to not survive once he was through with them."

"Stop," she said, looking disgusted and hugging herself tightly with the hand not holding his.

"Why? Because you don't want to hear of what I did as a Death Eater?"

"I know it was horrible…"

"Of course it was!"

"But what I had to go through was no walk in the park, either, and I don't want to speak of either side of things right now," she finished in a raised voice.

"When, Hermione? It's bound to come up eventually. How long do you think you'd be able to hide this?"

"I don't care what they think any more than you do."

"Do you think that's going to stop them from saying it? From printing it? From giving you disgusted looks as you walk down the street? Tell me, Hermione," he said, snatching her arm, and twisting his body, ignoring the searing pain it caused, to press his left forearm against hers. The image was vivid, her soft skin with 'mudblood' carved on it against his pale, sallow skin with the Dark Mark still burned into it. "Does this look right to you? Does this look like something they'll accept?"

"I don't need them to accept it," she snatched her arm back, covering the scars again and crossing her arms. "You forget, Severus, that I am not Harry. I have never been popular because my team won at Qudditch, but I have been hated because I am his friend and I stayed with him no matter what. I know what it's like to have people call me names and insinuate that I'm something that I'm not in the press. If it bothered me I wouldn't be here. I would have let you die in that bloody shack and said good riddance to it all. But I didn't. I'm here. And I don't give a damn about that mark on your arm, or the one on my arm, because I am not defined by it."

She took a slow breath. "When I first went back, before I went anywhere in the castle proper, when I was still covered in burns and blood and dust and my clothes were torn up Dumbledore offered to get rid of it for me. I refused. It's not my label, any more than that mark on you is yours."

"And yet I will be judged on it," he shot back. "I'll be lucky to stay out of Azkaban because of it, let alone keep a wand."

She reached into her beaded bag, and came up with the dark carved wand. "You've already been judged. Harry, Ron, and I saw to that. We didn't want to wait until you woke up because by then the papers would have written every half-truth about you they could find. Kingsley convened an emergency meeting of the Wizengamot five days after the battle, when things were still crazy and the press was still focusing on Harry, Ron, and I, and hadn't gotten around to smearing you yet. We produced evidence in the form of memories, got Dumbledore's portrait to testify, and you were convicted of being a Death Eater, but given a suspended sentence due to your work as a spy. As long as you don't participate in Dark Arts activities or try to become a new Dark Lord in the next twenty years you're in the clear."

"Well, there goes my plans for the future," he muttered dryly.

"Funny, Severus."

"Why do you think that was a joke?"

"I would hope you're not daft enough to be planning to attempt to take over the wizarding world just now."

"According to the Ministry I have to wait twenty years. You would think they'd be smart enough to tell a former Death Eater that he can never stray down that path again, but that makes it sound like I have carte blanche in twenty years."

"Nineteen years, fifty weeks," she replied dryly.

"I should get planning then. Care for a job in my organization? I think my mission will to be getting rid of dunderheads in the Ministry. If you get in early I can assure you a spot in my inner circle. No brand required, though black cloaks are mandatory."

"Severus," she sighed, shaking her head. "What are your plans?" she asked, looking pleadingly at him.

"Probably return to Spinners End. Become a recluse. Well, become more of a recluse."

She rolled her eyes. "I guess you're lucky I didn't follow your will and burn it to the ground, then. You admit the place is unfit to live in."

"I don't have anywhere else right now, and I don't think people will be falling over themselves to help me find a new place. Not to mention I'm not going to be able to afford anything else for quite some time."

"You have no plans for a job or anything?"

"Are you so thick to think that I'm going to find employment anywhere?" he snapped.

"I'm starting to think you mean those insults."

"Do you think I'd say them without meaning them?"

She looked hurt for a second, then skeptical. "You're trying to push me away, aren't you?" she accused.

"Am I?" he grunted.

"You're back to your old bastard of a self. Either this is how you really are and none of it was just a front, or you're trying to drive me off."

"I have been a bastard to everyone I've met for the past twenty-five years. Why would you think you're deserving of special treatment?"

"You are," she said, eyes narrowing. "You're trying to push me away. You're trying to tell me you don't want me without saying the words."

"If you say so."

"Or is it?" she murmured, suspicion written clearly across her face. "Do you want me, Severus?"

"Why would you think…"

"It called for a simple yes or no. You're trying your hardest to tell me no, but you won't say it. Is it because the answer is yes but you don't want to admit it? What do you want, Severus?"

"What do I want?" he growled, setting his jaw. "What I want is to take you far away from this damnable place and all the people in it…"

"Sounds good so far."

"And never darken their doorstep again," he finished.

"A little less so. But you don't think I'll say yes."

"I know you won't," he scoffed. "You have too much of a connection to Potter and Weasley and this place in general."

"I'm sure a happy medium can be found."

"How Gryffindor," he sneered. "Always trying to make hopeless causes work."

"How Slytherin of you to try to push me far enough I walk out of my own accord. Then it's not your fault. Then rejected you. Then you can go and be a recluse in Spinners End and you can blame me forever. Why are you afraid of me?"

"I'm not afraid of you," he growled.

"Then why are you trying so hard to show me this won't work?"

He stared at her with a deep, penetrating stare, and she felt a memory start to come to the front of her mind. She watched as she ran from Severus, when he suddenly tripped. By the time he got to the headmaster's office she was gone, and there was a rush of emotions, confusion, anger… but pain was the most prevalent. She was watching the day she left from his point of view. "I have no desire for a repeat performance," he added, his voice barely audible.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I didn't want to hurt you. I didn't want to leave, but I had to. There was no way to stop Dumbledore's spell, and even if there was I wouldn't have done it because I had to get back and finish what we started. And I couldn't tell you everything. Things had to happen the way they did. If I told you exactly what was going to happen you might not have followed the path you did. I could never understand why you were so mean to me before. I thought it was because I was a Gryffindor and Harry's friend, but you were mean to me before I was Harry's friend. Now I know. How could you not hate me after what I did to you? I can't make you choose me, Severus, but I can make you choose."

"How am I to know if you're going to do it again? Dumbledore's spell was out of your control. So is the day you'll meet a younger wizard. Or the day you realize you want children that I cannot provide you. Or the day Potter tells you you're making a mistake."

"I guess that's the nature of relationships. I can't make you trust me. That's something that builds, something that has to be earned through hard work and demonstration. But if you feel you can't trust me, that you will never be able to trust me, from the start perhaps it is best we don't start something," she finished softly, fighting the obvious disappointment from coming through in her voice.

He studied her, carefully assessing her body language. She seemed deflated, her eyes wet, but she wouldn't cry in front of him. She wasn't the type for emotional manipulation. She held herself as still as she could, looking towards him but not at him, seemingly preparing herself for the rejection he had been trying to push her into.

"If you promise not to cry, I'll promise that I'll give you a clean slate and a chance. We'll work on the trust," he said in a low voice.

"A chance is all I wanted," she smiled, and she leaned forward to kiss him. This time he kissed back without reservation.

Thirty-One Days

A Harry Potter Story
by keelhaulrose

Part 27 of 29

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