Continuing Tales

Chasing the Sun

A Harry Potter Story
by Loten

Part 39 of 60

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Untitled Document

Hermione woke up in daylight; neither of them had remembered to close the curtains yesterday. It looked to be about mid-morning from the light, but she still felt very tired. Severus was a warm weight pressed against her back, since apparently she had managed to roll over in the night without falling out of bed, spooned up against her with his face buried in her hair and his arm wrapped around her. He was also snoring, she realised with a smile – very quietly and rhythmically, far less obnoxiously than her father, the boys, or Lavender, who were the only other people she knew who she had witnessed snoring; this was no more intrusive than Crookshanks' purring, although slightly less soft.

Stifling a yawn, she took stock. Aside from being tired, she felt pretty wonderful, all things considered; she had expected to be at least a bit sore, but all she felt was a faint pleasant sort of ache. She also felt rather sticky and in desperate need of the loo, a shower and some toothpaste, but since all of those things would involve getting up, she decided they could wait. She didn't want to wake Severus, and in any case she would be very happy to never move from this spot ever again.

As though he had sensed her thinking about him, he shifted slightly, snuggling closer against her and sighing before his snoring resumed, and she smiled again. That's just cute. I wonder if he knows he's this adorable when he's asleep? A moment later her smile widened; when he had pressed closer against her she had become aware of his body properly, and he was evidently in a very good mood this morning. She knew vaguely that young men tended to wake up with erections, but she wasn't sure when they were supposed to grow out of that – not that 'supposed to' was likely to apply to Severus anyway.

Lovely though this was, she really did need the loo, and settled to carefully easing her way out of his arms while trying not to disturb him. It didn't work; almost the instant she moved he stopped snoring and the arm around her waist tightened as his body tensed slightly. After a moment he relaxed and mumbled something that might have been her name in a faintly questioning tone, and she grinned, pleased that he couldn't see her face at the moment – he really was cute when he was half asleep, she'd known that since fifth year. "Nature calls," she explained softly. "Let me up?"

He made a sleepy sound of complaint, but withdrew his arm so she could slide out of bed, and she glanced back in time to see him burrowing deeper under the blankets. Smiling fondly, she debated about clothes and decided not to bother just yet, rather self-consciously padding naked across the landing into the bathroom.

Part of her had half-expected something to have changed, as she analysed her reflection; it seemed as if there should be some visible sign of what had happened, which was actually a bit daft. Shaking her head at her own folly, she relieved herself and set about quickly cleaning up. There was a little smear of dried blood on the inside of her thigh, she noted with some surprise; it hadn't hurt enough for her to expect any bleeding. She had expected the rest of the mess, though, and took a few minutes to clean up properly and to brush her teeth before concluding there was absolutely nothing to be done with her hair and going back to the bedroom.

Severus had returned to the world of the living, it seemed, since although he didn't appear to have moved the window had been opened to air the room out a bit and the state of the bed had been improved by a cleaning charm or two. When she came back in he pushed the bedding away from his face and cracked open one eye. "Don't shut the door," he mumbled sleepily, yawning. "I need to get up too." Despite this, he made no attempt to actually move, except to lift his head a bit, watching her with lazily glittering eyes; his expression made her smile and stopped her feeling quite so awkward about standing around naked.

Once he had finally hauled himself out of bed, she burrowed into the warm spot he had left, idly watching his arse as he left the room; there might be nail marks on his shoulders, but it was hard to tell with all the scars. She hoped not. Inhaling his scent mingled with musk, she wondered with a faint shiver of unease what was going to happen now; she really didn't want any morning-after awkwardness to spoil her memories of last night, but it was impossible to predict how things were going to progress...

Her worrying was interrupted by the return of Severus himself, clean shaven and looking marginally more awake. If he felt at all self-conscious – which he almost certainly did, actually – it didn't show, although there was a hint of something a little less sure behind the lazy glitter in his gaze, and she let herself stare openly as he closed the door and turned back towards the bed, enjoying watching him. His body was all wiry strength, lean sharp angles and clean hard lines with no hint of softness anywhere, drawing her eyes down the length of his torso to his impressive erection before she made herself look back up towards his face.

He was leaning against the doorframe with his arms folded across his chest, openly smirking at her, and as she watched he raised an eyebrow. "Enjoying the view?" he asked. She remembered him saying the same thing during that long-ago Healing lesson in a tone of badly-suppressed shame-fuelled anger, but now he was relaxed and smiling, some of the lines of his face softened, drawing attention to the fact that the unhealthy sallow cast to his pale skin had vanished almost completely, and his voice was almost a purr.

"Yes, actually," she told him boldly, pleased with the flash of heat in his black eyes in response. Smiling daringly at him, she scooted back and tugged the blankets aside, and grinned when he lazily sauntered across the room, unmistakeably showing off. "Get in here already."

So much for morning-after awkwardness, she reflected as he slid back into bed and snaked an arm around her waist to pull her closer; it seemed that Severus was perfectly happy to have her in his bed and didn't have any regrets about last night, and in fact seemed quite keen to repeat the experience. Nestling closer against him, she lifted her face for his kiss, discovering that he had cleaned his teeth as well; it took a few pleasant minutes of kissing to get past the toothpaste and let them taste one another once more.

This time felt much less awkward; she felt under far less pressure, more confident now that she knew what to expect, able to be a little more daring as she twined her arms around his neck and lifted her leg to wrap around his waist. That drew a pleased sound from him as he occupied himself with nibbling at the cords of her neck, his hands wandering across her skin as he sought the sensitive places he had discovered yesterday.

Stroking the curve of her hip and thigh, he nuzzled at her throat. "How are you feeling, this morning?"

She tangled her fingers in his hair. "Happy. But if you mean am I sore, no, not really. So if you stop what you're doing, I might stop being happy."

He made another pleased sound and started moving lower, kissing her breasts as his fingers began trailing up the inside of her thigh. "Duly noted," he murmured, before taking one of her nipples into his mouth and making her almost purr in pleasure as his fingers circled and stroked and teased. By the time he slid first one finger and then another inside her she was almost whimpering, part of her amazed at the strength of her need; she had never realised it would be like this.

Finally Severus drew away and shifted to hold himself just above her, and she reached up to push his now wildly tangled hair back from his face, arching her back. He wasn't smiling, but his dark eyes were soft, warm and unguarded and almost wondering as he lowered his body on top of hers and kissed her gently; closing her eyes, she sighed into his mouth and lifted her hips to meet him as he entered her at last, feeling her body adjusting to him more easily this time.

As they moved together, Hermione looked up at him with a certain sense of wonder; this still didn't seem entirely real. For so long this man had just been Professor Snape, the nasty teacher she had never been able to impress, the one nobody had ever been completely sure about, the one even the other teachers were a little wary of, the one all the students were terrified of even though he had never actually done anything to harm any of them. And yet, now, here she was beneath him in his bed as he made love to her the morning after taking her virginity; for a moment the sheer surreal absurdity almost made her want to laugh, even as she moaned softly in pleasure.

Yet perhaps it wasn't so strange, she reflected, sliding her hands down his scarred back to his buttocks and trying to pull him into her more deeply. She had started to realise the truth about him at the end of the first year, when Harry told her that actually Severus had been trying to save him at the Quidditch match – it was obvious that Severus utterly despised Harry, but when it counted he hadn't let those personal feelings stop him from trying to do what was right.

It was at the end of the third year that she had started to understand the truth of that. She still remembered that night, when the three of them had found themselves suddenly face to face with a werewolf, a monster straight out of nightmares. Severus hadn't hesitated for even a fraction of a second before moving to place himself between them and the threat, and outwardly he had seemed confident and powerful and still filled with wild anger and hate. But she had been closer than either Harry or Ron – who had probably cowered back to avoid touching him, in hindsight – and she had been pressed against his back; she hadn't noticed at the time, but afterwards she remembered feeling him shaking. On reading his records in fifth year she had finally understood just how terrified he must have been, but it hadn't stopped him.

And she had seen the real truth of what the war cost him, of the price he paid personally to keep them all alive and relatively safe, and now she knew why he had done it. This was the real Severus, behind the bitter, brittle shell he had built up around himself; he was a man, no worse than any other, burdened by more pain than most, fuelled by his sense of honour and loyalty as much as by anger and darkness. And on a less important level, he also happened to be very intelligent, had a wonderful sense of humour, and was surprisingly caring in an understated way. As well as having the sexiest voice she had ever heard, nice eyes and clever fingers, and being very good in bed.

All in all, Hermione decided, biting gently at his shoulder as she drew close to the edge of orgasm, perhaps it wasn't a surprise at all that she had fallen in love with him. Gasping and shivering in pleasure, she let her head fall back to the pillows, arching her back and digging her fingers into his shoulders before crying out as blissful ecstasy rolled through her once more; right now, the world seemed a very lovely place, as Severus thrust into her one more time and moaned his completion against her neck, shuddering and climaxing with her.

Regaining her breath in the aftermath as she snuggled against him, she smiled against his chest and relaxed, her nerves still humming with the last happy little aftershocks. She was pretty sure that sex wasn't usually always quite this incredible, but she certainly wasn't about to question her good fortune. "I don't suppose you could tell me that we could just stay right here for the next, oh, hundred years or so?"

"I thought you didn't want me to lie to you," he replied lazily, twining his fingers through her hair. "We do have a few small, trifling little details to take care of. Saving the world, that sort of thing." She laughed softly, and he continued, "Besides, one of my first acts once the war is done for good will be to burn this house to the ground. Whatever lies in my future – or our future – this house isn't going to be part of it."


"If I hadn't thought – correctly, as it turns out – that I would need the blood wards in the next war, I would have destroyed it long ago. I'd settle for just selling it, but nobody would want it."

"Mm," she replied noncommittally. "I've never really cared about houses anyway. And I suppose no house is going to measure up to Hogwarts, is it?"

"True." He stretched lazily, pulling his body into one long line, and held it for a moment before relaxing bonelessly with a contented sigh. "I suppose it is quite tempting to stay put, though. Those blood wards are rather extensive. We could just tell Dumbledore to get on with it and leave them to kill each other."

Smiling, she nestled closer into the circle of his arms. "I think he's probably cross enough with you already."

"Also true," he conceded. "I can't even begin to express my pain at that thought."

Hermione stifled a giggle. "Sorry, Severus, but you can't do sarcasm properly when you're in a good mood. It sounds wrong."

"It's just as well that it doesn't happen often, then, isn't it," he replied dryly, shifting slightly more onto his side and resting his cheek against her hair. "Although it might be a slightly more frequent occurrence from now on."

Closing her eyes, she listened to the faint steady rhythm of his heartbeat under her ear, every slow breath thick with the heavy musky scent of sex. She was physically tired enough that she could have gone back to sleep quite happily, but her brain was still working, even as she stifled a yawn. "Severus?"

"Yes?" he responded lazily. Despite the slow decadent sleepiness of his voice, he had tensed slightly, and was probably anticipating something dreadful; ignoring that, Hermione concentrated on not blushing, a little embarrassed by what she was about to ask.

"Is it... always like that?" she asked finally, keeping her face half-hidden against his chest and feeling stupid for asking, trying not to blush.

After a moment she felt him relax, and he exhaled. "Not... in my experience," he replied slowly, before a hint of wry humour entered his voice. "Which is not particularly extensive, I admit, and usually involved a fair amount of alcohol. On both sides." He shifted and said more seriously, "I haven't known anything like this before."

That was certainly nice to hear, although she was sure he would never have said it if she'd been able to see his face. Smiling a little despite feeling awkward, she nestled closer, nuzzling at his skin. "Then how... I mean, I know I can't have been... well, much good..."

"What?" Severus sounded honestly confused, shifting a little to try and see her face, gently brushing some of her now hopelessly tangled hair out of the way. "Hermione, are you seriously asking me if I enjoyed myself?"

"I suppose so," she muttered, burying her face against his chest as her blush intensified. All things considered, she felt she was entitled to be a bit insecure. Whatever Severus said about his past experience, he was still two decades older than she was and had clearly had sex a hell of a lot more often than she had. He probably had higher standards than the average hormonal teenage boy.

He made an odd noise, starting to shake; it took her a moment to realise he was trying not to laugh. Angrily, she tried to roll away from him – not that the bed was big enough – and his arm tightened, holding her in place. "I'm sorry. It's just that... you have no idea what a bloody stupid question that is." He kissed the top of her head. "Believe me, I have absolutely no complaints. Why on earth were you even asking?"

She hesitated for a moment, but finally decided to let him reassure her; after all, he certainly hadn't been reluctant to repeat it this morning. Besides, she felt too good at the moment to want to ruin it. "Well..."

"Tell me."

Closing her eyes again, she told him softly, "Well, I didn't really know what to expect, but... it felt like it's described in all the romance novels. I always assumed that was – well, fiction. I didn't realise it could really be like that. I suppose I was just wondering how. It's not as if I knew what I was doing."

Severus made a pleased, vaguely thoughtful sound in his throat. "For a start, stop worrying. If either of us should be fretting, it should be me; I was terrified of hurting you."

She heard the unasked question in his voice and assured him hastily, "You didn't."

"Well, then." He stifled a yawn and nuzzled closer. "I don't know, Hermione. I'm really not an expert, you know. And right now, I am not inclined to question it. Last night was... unlike anything I have ever known, and this morning was equally incredible. I have no idea if it was anything physical or not, and at the moment I really don't care. Good enough?"

Trying not to laugh despite herself, she nodded gratefully against his chest. "Good enough." She wasn't entirely sure she believed him, but he was definitely more likely to know than she was, and besides, nothing seemed to matter very much right now, as she listened to his breathing and let her mind wander back to the previous night. Thinking back, he certainly hadn't been quite as sure of himself as he'd seemed at the time, but still...

Something occurred to her and she frowned slightly, absently biting her lower lip for a moment as she thought about it. There was one thing she did know about his sexual history, after all... "Severus?"

She felt the vibration of his laughter in his chest. "Do you ever stop asking questions?" he asked with a kind of affectionate exasperation in his voice.

"Sometimes," she muttered, trying for either dignity or irritation and completely unable to reach either. Bastard, she thought, with no sincerity whatsoeverShe ran a finger along one of the scars on his chest. "This is important, though."


Exhaling slowly, Hermione watched her fingers tracing the line of scar tissue. "Last night..."

"Yes?" he asked more softly, gently laying his hand over hers on his chest. "Hermione, what is it?"

"I don't really know how to ask," she admitted with a sigh, watching his fingers now, seeing all the tiny nicks and scars and calluses. "I didn't even think of it before now, but... what happened to you..."

She trailed off, having absolutely no idea how to finish the sentence, and he made a soft noise of understanding, as always seeming to guess what she was thinking. "Ah. You don't have to worry about... that." His fingers curled around hers, squeezing gently. "It's not easy to explain, but it's not an issue, not for me."

"But... you've been – abused, before."

"Yes," he agreed quietly, squeezing her hand again. He didn't sound bothered. "It doesn't affect this. I appreciate that you're worried about me, but I've never reacted the way I understand most victims do. What happened to me had nothing to do with sex. It was just another type of pain. It never meant much. I know Poppy doesn't understand it, and she and Dilys have been fretting for decades about how much I must be repressing the trauma, but I'm not, at least as far as I know." He stretched, slowly, and relaxed with a sigh, smoothing her hair back from her face; lifting her head, Hermione searched his gaze uncertainly.

"Does it bother you?" he asked quietly.

"No, of course not. I just – wasn't sure if you were all right..."

"You'd know if I wasn't; when something happens that I can't deal with, believe me, you'd know about it. But this doesn't touch any of my triggers. I know it's not normal, Hermione, don't look at me like that," Severus told her, brushing the back of his fingers down her cheek lightly. "I have no explanation. All I know is that it's never really bothered me. The first time did, somewhat, but it was a very long time ago." He exhaled, half closing his eyes.

"I'm sorry I said anything, now."

"Don't be." He offered her a small smile. "It's not the most cheerful subject in the world, but it is something we would have had to address eventually. At least you did already know – I have no idea how I would have told you otherwise." He looked thoughtful for a moment, before shrugging slightly. "I highly doubt Poppy ever discussed that aspect of my health – at least, I hope not – but I'm clean, too," he added gruffly.

"You'd have said something before if you weren't," she retorted; the possibility of catching anything from him hadn't even entered her mind. His attitude was certainly unexpected, but she was relieved that it didn't seem to be an issue. Propping herself up on her elbow, she reached out and touched his face gently, tracing the sharp angles of his cheekbone and his jaw, brushing his tangled hair back. He'd only washed it yesterday evening, but it already looked greasy again, she noted absently – given that her own hair probably rivalled Medusa's at this point, she wasn't going to worry too much. Noticing that his gaze had wandered somewhat, she smiled and slid her fingers under his chin. "My eyes are up here, you know."

Entirely unapologetic, he smirked at her, his eyes beginning to glitter again as his hand slipped beneath the tangled bedding and started to wander; evidently he had decided they'd had enough serious discussion for the moment. "I can hardly be blamed for being a little distracted," he drawled, his hand sliding lower as he leaned closer.

Failing to either bat his hand away or avoid his kiss – possibly because she had no incentive to do either – Hermione finally pulled back with a breathless laugh, shaking her head at him. "Already?" She didn't know how long the average recovery time was, of course, but...

Severus arched an eyebrow with a throaty, barely-audible chuckle. "You really do have a lot to learn," he purred, sliding an arm around her waist to pull her closer once more.

The rest of the morning passed comfortably in a drowsy post-coital haze of cuddling, dozing, touching and talking about nothing much, as their private world of the last few hours slowly and reluctantly gave way to reality once more. Finally hauling themselves out of bed for a shower and a late lunch, they ventured downstairs and returned to work. When the Floo roared to life a short while later, they were in the kitchen; Severus was absorbed in scowling at the Daily Prophet and occasionally muttering to himself while Hermione listened to the Muggle news on the radio.

Two very dishevelled figures staggered into the kitchen from the sitting room. Harry and Ron were both pale and shaky, messy-haired and rumpled and needing a shave, with dark circles under their eyes, and were both moving rather carefully.

Hermione regarded them in some amusement. "Good night, was it?"

They both flinched simultaneously; Ron closed his eyes and almost whimpered, as Harry whispered thickly, "Not so loud, please."

"How sweet," Severus drawled, glancing up from the newspaper with a mocking smile. "Their first hangovers."

"Oh, be nice," Hermione chided him softly. "It's not as if you've never been drunk before."

"By the time I was their age, I knew my limits," Severus replied dryly, reaching across the table and rather spitefully turning the radio up.

"It was Harry's birthday," Ron mumbled, wincing.

"No it wasn't," Hermione pointed out logically. "His birthday is the day after tomorrow."

"Oh, shut up. You could've come too, 'stead of staying here in this dump."

She exchanged a glance with Severus; his expression was blank, but his eyes were smiling, crinkling at the corners. Amused, she looked back at Ron. "I could have done, yes," she agreed calmly, "and maybe I'd look as bad as you two do right now. But I didn't. I stayed here in this dump, and had a perfectly nice time that hasn't left me looking like I slept in a gutter somewhere."

"With Snape," Harry said indistinctly.

"Be nice, Potter," Severus said dryly, his eyes gleaming with something of his old malice.

"Why?" he asked, shivering. "I'm dying anyway."

Rolling his eyes, Severus sat back and produced two small vials from his pocket. "Because if you aren't extremely nice to me, I won't let you have these."

Two pairs of bloodshot eyes squinted warily at the vials. "Is that..."

"Hangover relief, yes," he agreed calmly. "Go and throw up, and try not to make too much mess. Then drink some water, and then take these. You'll live."

Hermione wasn't quite sure what would happen that night, now the boys were back in the house, and there hadn't been much chance to discuss it, really. As the evening progressed into night she had slowly started to over-think and get more worked up, listening to the creaks and groans of the old house settling once the boys had gone to bed, and she had just managed to convince herself to give up and go to sleep when she heard almost-silent footsteps on the stairs and couldn't keep the smile from her face as the door opened and a shadow slipped in, his familiar voice murmuring a silencing spell as the door closed as quietly as it had opened.

"What kept you?" she asked softly, and heard him laugh barely audibly as he padded across the room to sit on the edge of the bed and started to remove his clothing.

"I was waiting for those two to start snoring. Worried I wouldn't show up?" he asked archly, turning to glance at her before pulling his shirt over his head.

Reaching out to touch his back, she ignored the question as much as possible, relieved that he apparently didn't intend to return to being a gentleman now as she ran a finger down his spine between the scars and watched him shiver, stopping only when she touched the waistband of his jeans. "This is a good look for you. Is it how you normally dress when you're not at school?"

"Sometimes," he replied absently, leaning back slightly to undo his belt before standing to remove his jeans and underwear; by the tone of his voice he wasn't really paying much attention to the conversation now, which she could certainly empathise with since her own thoughts were beginning to wander as well. Trying not to fidget too obviously, she watched the shadows playing over his pale skin, lit only by the street lamp outside, before shifting back to give him space to slide into bed beside her.

Between kisses, she murmured, "I've not been able to concentrate on anything today. And it's entirely your fault, Severus."

"Not entirely," he replied somewhat indistinctly against her skin, before putting a stop to all further attempts at speech with remarkable efficiency.

Given the pleasant exhaustion that had pulled her into sleep earlier, Hermione was quite annoyed to be woken up only an hour or so later, until she registered what had woken her. Severus had been spooned against her back again when she had fallen asleep, moulding himself around her, but now his body felt oddly rigid and he was trembling badly enough for her to feel it, the arm around her waist tensing as his hand closed around a fistful of the sheet underneath them before he made a low sound in his throat.

Still half asleep, it took her a moment to work out he seemed to be having a nightmare, and once she realised she wasn't sure what to do about it. People reacted differently, and the odds were quite high that Severus would be the type to respond to a sudden awakening from a bad dream rather violently. There wasn't enough space for her to roll over and look at him without waking him, and she bit her lip, listening to his unsteady breathing as his shaking grew worse.

He made another soft noise, oddly choked and strangled, and she closed her eyes for a moment at the little suppressed whimper – she was pretty sure that was the equivalent of a yell, from someone so well trained to keep all his emotions to himself that even in his nightmares he never let himself express what he was really feeling. It was a disturbingly childlike sound. Unsure of what else to do, she reached for the hand tangled in the sheets by her stomach, gently working one of her hands under his and breaking his grip before laying her other hand over his, linking her fingers through his and squeezing softly.

The next sound he made, what felt like an eternity later, was enough to make her eyes sting – she'd only heard anything like it once, on a TV advert for Childline. A very, very tightly suppressed sob, so stifled it was almost unrecognisable. How the hell had he learned to force everything down so strongly that he couldn't cry even in his dreams? Swallowing, she tightened her grip on his hand, twisting a little to try and look behind her. "Severus," she whispered, readying a non-verbal Shield Charm just in case he reacted as badly as she feared he might. "Severus, wake up."

He jerked awake with a gasp and a violent shudder, but luckily without lashing out either physically or magically, although he did sharply pull his hand away from hers. After a long moment of listening uneasily to his panting as she twisted further to try and see him, she heard him sigh shakily and felt him lie back down against her back. "Sorry," he mumbled.

"It's not your fault. What were you dreaming about?" she asked gently, almost afraid of his answer – her own nightmares were bad enough, and he had seen and endured things she couldn't even begin to imagine.

She felt him shake his head against her back. "Nothing I'm ready to talk about yet. Bad memories, that's all; it happens, in this house. I'm all right."

"I wish I could help..."

"You are helping," he said somewhat ambiguously and without further explanation, shifting closer and sliding his arm back around her waist, burying his face against the back of her neck.

"Can you actually breathe like that?" she asked despite herself; her hair could nearly suffocate her in her sleep, sometimes, and she wasn't the one burying her face in it.

He chuckled softly, nuzzling at her neck and relaxing once more. "Yes. I like your hair. Now go back to sleep; I'm sorry I woke you."

"Well, it was my turn, I suppose," she murmured, snuggling back against him.

It took the boys until the following morning to notice the change in the house, when Hermione came out of the bathroom and found Harry waiting outside. He nodded sleepily to her and was about to walk past when he paused and took another look; rather than any form of nightwear, Hermione was wearing the shirt Severus had been wearing yesterday, since it had been the closest thing to hand when she had somewhat reluctantly rolled out of bed. "Hang on..."

She raised an eyebrow at him. "What?" she asked innocently, biting her lip for a moment to keep a straight face – surely the boys must have suspected what was likely to have happened once they were both absent.

He stared at her for a long moment, and then very slowly turned to look at the half-open bedroom door – which pointedly slammed shut as he looked at it – before looking back at her with a somewhat confused expression. "Er."

"Yes, Harry. Er. I'll go and put the kettle on, shall I?" Trying very hard not to laugh, she went downstairs to make a start on breakfast. A still very confused-looking Harry joined her a few minutes later, with Ron in tow; true to form, the latter didn't notice anything wrong, or even the fact that she was only half-dressed, which meant he was still mostly asleep.

"Where's Snape this morning?" the redhead asked a few minutes later through a mouthful of cornflakes.

"Still in bed," Hermione replied nonchalantly as she sipped her tea; it took a moment, but Ron choked on his breakfast before turning a brilliant shade of beetroot that clashed horribly with his hair.

"You... he..."

Part of her dissolved into hysterics at the look on his face, but she was quite proud of how calm she outwardly was as she looked up at him. "Yes?"

"Er. Nothing." Ron looked at Harry for help; he shrugged helplessly, flushing almost as red, and both of them looked anywhere but at her.

Severus himself walked in on the awkward silence a moment later, looking a little sleep-rumpled but reasonably awake. Hermione blinked at him, slowly looking him up and down as she took in his changed appearance; he was wearing blue jeans today, better fitting than his black ones and apparently more comfortable, and a Beatles t-shirt. The shirt had been black, but was so faded it was closer to grey, a bit stretched out of shape, and the white print of the logo was cracked and peeling – it was obviously a favourite shirt that had been worn and washed so many times for so long that it was in real danger of disintegration. The scars were visible on both his arms, and his overall demeanour seemed more relaxed; he looked closer to his true age and more at home in his surroundings, less distant somehow.

He raised an eyebrow at the atmosphere in the kitchen and glanced at her. Hermione shrugged and rolled her eyes, making a mental note to have a discussion about the merits of the t-shirt and jeans look later – it definitely suited him, in a strange way – and he looked amused, his lips quirking into a wry half-smile.

"Coffee in the mug, and the kettle's just boiled," she told him.

"Thanks. Oh, grow up, the pair of you," he added scathingly as both boys glanced at him uncertainly and blushed. Ignoring them both with supreme unconcern that was almost certainly a total bluff, he made his coffee and came to sit next to Hermione. "Anything interesting in the paper?"

"The bounty on your head's gone up. You're still not quite as high as Harry though, and Ron and I are still the same. Still nothing on Umbridge. If she was going to break the memory charm she would have done it by now, so I think we're safe."

After breakfast Severus rather pointedly shut himself in the cellar again, and once she had dressed Hermione joined the boys in the living room. "Well?"

"Er. You and Snape."

"What about us? And so help me, Harry, if you start your next sentence with 'er' I'm going to slap you."

"You're... together?"

"Well spotted," she said briskly. "And?"


"Damnit, Harry."

"Sorry, sorry. I just..."

She gave him an exasperated look. "It does happen in relationships, Harry. Besides, it's his bedroom." Sighing, she leaned forward. "What's the problem? You've known how I feel about him for ages; longer than he has, in fact. And I told you when we kissed that first time, once we both knew it was mutual. What do you think we've been doing since?"

"Yeah, I know. It's just..." He hesitated and gave her an apologetic look. "Weird. I'm sorry, but it is. I mean... this is Snape. The first time you ever touched him, you set him on fire."

Despite herself, she grinned. "Yes." Until their weird Occlumency fight in fifth year she hadn't been sure if Severus actually knew who had done that, but not much escaped him and he certainly hadn't seemed surprised or, strangely, particularly angry. Apparently I set him on fire last time I touched him, too, she reflected, trying not to laugh. Just not as literally. "I know, Harry. I know it's weird. It took me a long time to get my head around the idea. You know that, I've talked to you about it before. But I've been sure about him for a long time now. So deal with it." She turned and gave Ron a stern look. "Do you have any further insights to add?"

He held up his hands. "Hey, don't start on me. I've said you were nuts from the start. You can do what you want with who you want – and you will, because nobody would ever dare try and stop you. As long as I don't have to see it, hear it or think about it, ever, I'm cool with it. I think." He paused, and then grinned in sudden mischief. "Does this mean Snape's not going to look for excuses to beat me up any more?"

Hermione snorted. "No. He still finds you immensely annoying. He's just not jealous of you any more." Not that the silly man ever had a reason to be jealous in the first place. She did love Ron still, but she could see it for what it was now; more than friends, perhaps, but not like that. There would never have been a future for them together; he was somewhere between a brother and a friend, nothing more.

"Can we at least tell him that he has to treat you nicely or else?"

"Or else what?" she asked. "What, exactly, did you plan to do to him? He's spent most of the last year proving that he can thrash the pair of you. Besides, if he doesn't treat me nicely, I'll deal with him myself, not that it's very likely. And he'll kill you for your presumption, I should think."

"So is this a forever kind of deal?" Harry asked uncertainly.

"We haven't talked about it in those terms yet. Let's get the war over with first and find out how long 'forever' is actually going to last. But I certainly don't plan on letting him go in a hurry, and I don't think he's going to go anywhere willingly either." Severus hadn't said anything about his feelings – nor had she, not yet – and she knew him well enough to know that he possibly never would, but he didn't have to. His actions had always meant far more than his words.

Harry's real birthday proved to be something of an anticlimax. He had already had gifts from the Order, and since they had had to leave Hogwarts in such a hurry neither Hermione nor Ron had been able to give him their presents. Whatever the nature of the enchantment that had been on him until he turned seventeen, nothing dramatic happened when it broke, although as Severus pointed out, anyone trying to watch this house was going to stand out rather a lot and would also give up in total confusion after deciding there was no way a wizard would be hiding here.

The long weeks of August dragged by. It was hot, humid and muggy, and too dangerous now for anyone except Severus to leave the house, and even then he did so only when it was absolutely necessary. There was little contact with the Order; word came towards the end of the month of a successful raid on Malfoy Manor and the rescue of a number of prisoners, including Griphook the goblin, Ollivander the wand-maker, and – to everyone's horror – Luna Lovegood. Why she had been taken wasn't explained, but Mrs Weasley assured them all that she and the others were going to be fine. They were all recovering at an Order safe house; the rescue had gone incredibly smoothly with no serious casualties, and with Griphook's liberation the negotiations with Gringotts should be easier, although Bill didn't have any updates for them yet.

Then again, Bill was possibly a little distracted. Originally, he and Fleur had been due to marry this month; after what had apparently been a lot of quite painful discussions and arguments, according to the twins' letter to Ron about it, they had reluctantly decided to postpone simply because it wasn't safe to have everyone present that they wanted to be there. The Burrow was no longer safe, according to Severus, and Shell Cottage wasn't large enough, and Grimmauld Place was for Order members only, which didn't include the more distant Weasleys or any of Fleur's relatives.

The days were spent killing time, more or less. Severus had abandoned the cellar for the time being and dragged what non-dangerous books he had in the house into the living room, cursing the fact that most of his library was at Hogwarts still, and he and Hermione were still searching for some means of killing Nagini from a distance in a way that would destroy the Horcrux inside her, but without some sort of major breakthrough it wasn't likely they would find anything. The boys were mock-duelling a lot of the time, burning energy off as much as seriously practicing their combat skills, and Harry was continuing to teach Ron about the Muggle world, but everyone's tempers were fraying as the time dragged past with painful slowness. There was nothing they could do at the moment until Gringotts stopped being stubborn.

Hermione's nights belonged to Severus and to the narrow bed they shared, either curling up in one another's arms despite the sticky heat of the summer nights or spending hours exploring one another's bodies, growing more confident as lovers. She sometimes thought it was the only thing keeping them both sane; if they had still been awkwardly dancing around one another the tension in the house would have killed all four of them by now.

Dumbledore was refusing to speak to any of them when they did contact Headquarters. Severus seemed annoyed but not much surprised by this, and was of the opinion that it was actually more because the Headmaster didn't actually have a plan than because he was really that angry with them, at least in public, especially if his health was deteriorating as seemed likely. Privately he had admitted to Hermione that he was certain that Dumbledore knew a lot more about the situation that he wasn't telling them, and he was a little worried about what that might be – but, again, there was nothing they could do except wait.

Chasing the Sun

A Harry Potter Story
by Loten

Part 39 of 60

<< Previous     Home     Next >>