CHAPTER 7: Measure of a Man
Hermione jumped when she heard the deep baritone of Severus Snape rumbling in her ear. She thought it was a figment of a drunken haze brought on by a few too many glasses of mulled wine. She smiled lazily, a becoming, beautiful blush spreading over her features. “More than sorrows, Sir. I’m trying to drown you,” she mumbled as if she were speaking to herself.
Snape narrowed his black eyes at her for a moment, watching her slip out of the winter jacket she was still wearing. There was a glow coming off her as she smiled at him again, obviously still thinking he wasn’t really there. “I see, and why are you trying to drown me, Professor Granger?” His voice was rough and thick as he spoke to her. Every fantasy he’d ever had about her came flooding to his brain as he watched her.
Hermione reached her hand out, and took his large hand in her own. She rubbed the pad of her thumb over his palm and laughed quietly. “Please, at least while you’re here in my mind, don’t be formal. Call me Hermione, or whatever you feel the urge to say as long as it isn’t ‘Professor.’ As long as I’ve had you in my head you’ve been this way. I want you to be Severus, just this once.”
A warm hand clasped over hers as she continued to ramble on. He began stroking the sensitive skin of her wrist with his fingers. He brought her hand to his mouth and lightly kissed were his fingers caressed, letting his hot breath drift over her skin. The small, barely visible hairs on her arm started to prickle. “I am whatever you want me to be, Hermione,” he purred against her skin.
She drew a sharp breath and chewed on her bottom lip for a moment. Heat pooled at her core as her Figment Severus continued to lovingly caress and kiss her hands. “If only that were true. I would give anything to have the real you, the real Severus to touch me the way you always have. You are a comfort to me, but I feel so empty when you are gone. I will never be whole as long as you are the only part of Severus I possess.”
Hot, stinging tears were rolling down her cheeks as she spoke. She sniffled and grasped at the hand locked over her own. “Hermione, you could have more, if only you were to ask. I would give you the moon, the earth, the skies, if you would have me,” he murmured softly. He swept the pad of his thumb under each eye, collecting the tears that had spilled from their honeyed depths. He touched her nose gently before reverently sliding his fingertips over her lips. “I have dreamt of this, of you, for so long. Say you’ll have me, my Hermione.”
“You know I couldn’t want anything more, but nothing I say to you here will matter. Only I will know, and it will do nothing but tear my heart to pieces each time I think of it,” she said, her voice cracking. Her eyes were beginning to turn red and swollen from her tears. “I wasted all those years chasing after Ron and running all over the continent. I went back to Viktor for a while, but all I could see was your face. How I’ve loved you since I realized how much I hurt you. What it must have cost you, Severus! The real you could never forgive me for all that I’ve done. You will never love me.”
Hermione’s breath caught in her chest as she felt a pair of strong arms wrap around her to pull her close. She had just enough time to take in the thick, masculine smell of him before she felt two soft, warm lips descend upon her own. The kiss was tentative and shy as Severus tried desperately to show her that he was real. Her words were branded on his soul the second his lips touched hers, his fingers twisting gently around her chestnut curls.
Kissing Hermione Granger was more than Severus had ever imagined it to be. He longed to coax her to open her lips to him, to let him explore the warmth of her with his tongue, but he refused to push her. More than anything, he was desperate for her to realize that she was not imagining this. He held her tightly in his arms, and nearly groaned when she relaxed into him. Her hands, which were trapped between them, splayed against his chest. He held her back from him, letting his gaze take in the flush that colored her cheeks, the way her eyes had drifted serenely closed, the slight plump in her lips as she turned her face up to him. Merlin help me, but she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen! He placed another chaste kiss on her lips before he released her.
None of the other times have been like this, she thought as she felt those soft lips pouring emotion into her. It’s almost as if this isn’t a dream. If only it were real! Oh, Severus, how I wish it were real! If there is any mercy in the heavens, when I open my eyes, please don’t let this have been a dream. But it can’t be, it just can’t…
Honey eyes met black as Hermione’s lids fluttered open to find the flesh and blood version of her dreams gazing back at her. Her hand flew to her mouth as she sucked in a startled breath. It can’t… oh, hell, what have I said! Her mind began to race against the lethargy induced by too much alcohol. She could remember everything she had uttered when she thought she was speaking to her own conjured Snape. Moreover, she could remember everything he had said in return.
“Professor Snape, I…” she mumbled, her eyes casting around for anything but those eyes. They were pulling her in, threatening to drag her under the tidal waves of emotion raging in their black depths. For the first time since he had known her, Hermione Granger was speechless.
Severus smiled, a genuinely happy smile that reached his eyes. “Please, at least while you are here in my arms,” he murmured, pulling her close again, “don’t be formal. Call me Severus, or anything you have the notion to say as long as it isn’t ‘Professor.’” Her own words echoed in her ears as she turned her face up to him, taken aback somewhat by the smile on his face and the force of emotion churning in his eyes.
He pressed a chaste kiss to her forehead, relishing the feel of her warm body pressed against his. From somewhere nearby, he heard Rosmerta mumbling something that sounded remarkably like, “It’s about damn time, daft bastard.” Hermione sighed contentedly against his chest, and rested her arms around his ribs.
“I meant every word of it, Hermione,” he whispered against her hair. It smelled of jasmine and lavender. He would remember it until the day he died, and it would always be a comfort to him. “If you will have me, I will give you anything you would ask of me.”
“How could you want me after everything I’ve done to you? I was so hateful and cold. Severus, I must’ve torn your heart to shreds!” She felt like sobbing against the warm strength of his chest. His wool jacket was a bit scratchy against her cheek, but she would never feel the coarse fabric again without remembering the feel of his soothing arms around her.
“That’s nothing for you to worry about anymore, little one. All that matters is that it is there and whole now, and it is yours if you desire it.” He kissed her hair as he twined it gently around his fingers. It felt softer than silk against his skin.
The tears came, fresh and hot. How could she deserve this man? For months she longed for him, longed to sit with him in the library or the staff room and talk about Potions and books. Now here she was, drunker than she would have liked, more than a little brokenhearted over feeling lonely at Harry’s wedding, and being held gently in the arms of the only man she had ever loved. More surprisingly, he had told her that he had forgiven her for the things she had said, the way she had left him, and the years she had stayed away.
“It feels as if I don’t have a heart left to give you, Severus. It’s been torn out and stomped on by so many, I’ve agonized over what I’ve done to you for so long. How could you ever love someone like me? I don’t deserve you.” She shuddered in his arms and buried her face in his jacket.
Severus stroked her curls gently, and spoke soothing words into her ear. “You will be whole again, Hermione, I promise. I have waited for you four years now, even after you left me. I can wait longer if that was what you needed. I will always love you, little one, no matter whether you have a whole heart to give me, or just a few pieces.”
He pulled her back from him, and wiped the tears from her face with the pad of his thumb. “You have done what others have wanted for too long now. It is time you got what you wanted, Hermione. I will not push you. Take your time, and think of what you really want out of your life, out of the man who loves you. If you find that I measure up to that man, I will be waiting for you. There will be no other for me.”
He smiled slightly again, and placed a last chaste kiss on her lips. She sank unceremoniously onto her stool and stared into her half-empty glass of mulled wine as he pulled away from her. A thousand thoughts swept through her mind like a whirlwind. She could still feel his arms around her, his lips murmuring into her hair, the scratch of his wool jacket against her cheek. His words echoed through her thoughts, making her desperate to believe that they were true. From what seemed like a great distance, Hermione heard his voice again.
“Would you see that she gets back to her chambers safely, Rosmerta? I would be most grateful, as I think she might be better off without my presence for a while.” Snape conversed with the barmaid for a few moments before handing over several coins to cover Hermione’s drinks. Before he swept out the door and into the night, Severus took Hermione’s hand in his own and kissed her knuckles gently. “I will see you at Hogwarts, little one. Please, be careful.”
Not exactly the Christmas Eve I had in mind, Snape thought as he shut the door to his chambers quietly. He poured himself a shot of Firewhiskey and settled in his favorite armchair in front of the fire. At least I had her there in my arms, if only for a little while. And I meant everything I said. I will wait for her as long as she asks me to, it is the least I can do for her now. I would go to the moon to prove how much I love her.
“I wonder if this had anything to do with Weasley,” he wondered aloud. “Hasn’t the little bastard hurt her enough? If I had known what she was walking into with the wanker I would have hexed him silly at the victory celebration.”
Severus sat staring into the fire for a long while, thinking of how sweet it had felt to have her in his arms. He drifted off to sleep sometime around midnight, dropping his untouched Firewhiskey to the floor, and slept uneasily until a house-elf woke him up.
“Master Snape, Professor, Sir,” the elf squeaked, tapping Severus’s knee gently. The wizard jolted awake, his wand at the ready. He softened a bit when he caught sight of the elf, and wondered sleepily where she had come from.
“Yes, what do you want at this time of night?” he grumbled, swiping his hand over his face.
The elf backed up from Snape a bit, and bowed so low that her pencil thin nose touched the floor. “Totty has come to tell Master Snape, Professor, Sir, that the lady has done his request. Says to tell that his request is safe and sleeping.”
For a moment, Snape was unsure of what the elf meant. Then, his conversation with Rosmerta came back to him. Hermione was back at Hogwarts, sleeping off her night of mulled wine in her room. “Thank you, Totty. You may go now.”
As soon as the elf disappeared, Snape stood up and stretched. He repaired the broken glass on the floor and cast a quick Scourgify on the puddle of Firewhiskey. As he began to undress for bed, Severus noticed the faint smell of jasmine and lavender on the front of his wool coat. He smiled and thought of her as he draped the jacket across the extra pillows on his bed. Yes, he could wait for her.
A/N: I know this chapter is short compared to the others, but there was so much packed into Hermione’s display at the beginning that I didn’t think anything else was needed. Things are getting better, now we’re just waiting on Hermione. I promise it won’t take long. ;) This chapter was actually inspired by the Clay Aiken song “Measure of a Man.” You can find the lyrics here: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/clayaiken/measureofaman.html
You Are Not Alone by ladysnarky