Disclaimer: Not my characters—just toying with them!
Thanks go to CocoaChristy for beta reading this.
“I love walking along this path,” Hermione said softly as she gazed out towards the horizon.
“Don’t get too near the edge, my dear,” Severus said, tugging on their entwined hands and pulling her closer to him.
“This might sound ridiculous, but sometimes it feels as if I’ve come here and just jumped off this cliff.”
“Well, you did dream that you jumped off once,” he said quietly. “Don’t you remember?”
“Did I?” she asked curiously. “No, I don’t remember. Oh, well, maybe vaguely now that you mention it.” She giggled and brought her free hand up to cover her lips. “Perhaps I should finish my Animagus training, eh? I’ll bet that I’m some sort of bird—something lovely with long colorful feathers.”
“Yes, likely one of those talking types,” Severus quipped, giving her a small grin. “You never cease your chatter.”
Hermione enjoyed their walks and the times they spent together when he seemed so carefree. Sometimes, though, she’d find him in his private study, which he didn’t allow her to enter alone, scribbling away madly in an old worn book. He told her that it was best she didn’t ever look at it, as she wasn’t good with Occlumency, and if they were ever found, she might be forced to reveal what she knew.
And she hated being kept in the dark about things—especially important things!
He and a few others were working privately to form a resistance against the Dark Lord’s forces, which were diminishing a little at a time, but she was certain that he kept things from her. Hopefully, he didn’t think her too weak.
No, Hermione, he doesn’t, or else he wouldn’t allow you to work with him on those potions the Order needs.
He’d told her a few weeks before when she began to get restless that there had been small signs that Harry was still alive! She only wished there would be positive confirmation of that, and oh, how she longed to see him. The last thing she remembered about Ron came to mind, and she could hear his screaming, causing her to sway.
“All right?” Severus asked, voice etched with concern.
“I was thinking about Ron… what they did to him,” she said quietly.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“No,” she admitted, shaking her head. “I feel so guilty, so helpless. He’d never forgive me for just leaving.”
“For all of Weasley’s faults, I’m certain he would have preferred you to escape than to be subjected to anything else.”
“I should have taken my potion this morning,” she blurted, wanting to kick herself for slipping up and telling him.
He turned her to face him roughly. “You’ve missed your dose?”
“Yes, I wanted to hurry and fix your breakfast to serve you in bed. I forgot to take it after,” she lied.
“Well, that’s not so bad then,” he said softly, lifting a hand to cup her face. “I’ll just give you a little more this evening to make up for it.”
She smiled and allowed him to kiss her, enjoying the security he provided. Normally, she felt comfortable in his arms, but for some reason, lately, she would get an odd sensation, as if something was off. Crazy thoughts would come to mind on those occasions. Was he seeing another woman? Why was he really hiding things from her? Why shouldn’t she be able to learn Occlumency so that she could be kept informed of everything? She’d never heard of any potion that interfered with Occlumency training before. Hell, an Occlumens could even slide by Veritaserum being administered to them.
As they walked back to their cottage, she remembered a session of the previous week’s lovemaking, one that kept flashing through her mind.
Hermione slowly slid down Severus’ stiff erection, enjoying the feel of him filling her, the intense pressure of becoming one, and coupled with the sensations of his hands at her breasts, she was certain she’d never felt such pleasure before.
“Oh, Ha…” She gasped slightly.
His eyes snapped open, and he gazed at her intently. “Sorry, didn’t catch that.”
“Oh, have you ever felt something so good in your life?” she said immediately, smiling down at him wantonly.
“Only with you, my Hermione,” he replied, still gazing at her suspiciously.
She hadn’t been able to orgasm that night, but she’d been able to fake it without him being the wiser. It wasn’t that their shared strokes and thrusts and fondling hadn’t aroused her. It was the lie she’d told him. She’d nearly called him Harry.
Why? Where had that come from? She’d never made love to Harry. Nor had she ever fantasized about doing so. Well, maybe she’d wondered what it would be like, but who hadn’t wondered about what it would be like to shag the Boy Who Lived? However, she’d been satisfied with Ron.
Since then, she’d not been taking her potions as directed. What did it matter if she missed one or both, pretending to have taken them? It wasn’t that she enjoyed lying to Severus, but her damn medicine kept her feeling a little foggy sometimes. Yes, she enjoyed not being brought down by depression or stressful memories, but it seemed like her mind was much clearer without them. Perhaps it was her body’s way of showing her that she should face her past. Besides, if she could get better on her own, Severus could teach her Occlumency and not have to keep important information from her without worrying her skills would be affected by the potions.
“Come. Let’s go back. The weather looks to be getting bad.”
A few hours later, Severus was sitting near the fire, reading from a large tome, and he suddenly yelped, dropping the book down soundly, causing Hermione to startle. “Damn it!”
“What’s wrong?” she asked, alarmed.
“I’m being… called to an emergency meeting,” he said quickly.
“My timepiece… There’s a Protean Charm on it and heats it up so much, so quickly.” He smiled apologetically. “I may be gone a while. Don’t wait up for me.”
He gave her a small kiss on the head and fled hurriedly. She crossed her arms in annoyance and frowned. Why could they never have meetings here? She’d love to see a few of the old crowd. Sulking, she made her way to their bedroom, only to stop when she realized that he’d left without warding his study. Biting her lip in indecision, she wondered what she should do: go in or respect his request. It was too tempting, and as she backtracked to the doorway, she could see his book—the one he kept the war information in—on his desk where he’d left it earlier once she’d called him to dinner.
Tiptoeing into the room and taking a seat in his chair, she lifted the book and opened it to a random page, smiling when she wasn’t hexed. “How foolish of you not to ward this, Severus,” she said in amusement, eagerly wanting to devour the new knowledge.
I suppose I could always resort to a complete Obliviate if I have to. What a pity it would be to lose such a brilliant mind, though, and never be able to unlock or use everything it holds dear. I am prepared to try most anything else—potions, partial Obliviates, new memory implants. Whatever it takes. Interestingly enough…
“Good Lord.” Who was he talking about? Why were there no dates in this book? Were they using someone to spy for them and having to coerce or force them into it? Perhaps she should turn back and find out exactly what was going on. Turning a few pages back, she began reading again.
Using the bloody Polyjuice for so long resulted in having annoying side effects. I am quite pleased that the others have helped me to devise a glamour that works well enough to keep it in place. One needs only to maintain a small amount of concentration and take a single dose of the enhanced Polyjuice for it to work at will. So much easier indeed. With these modifications and new charm, I could likely put this on the black market and make a great deal of money. The Ministry would never approve of something so devious, would they?
“The Ministry? I thought Voldemort controlled that now.” She shrugged. “Oh, right. Well, he would realize that it was Severus perhaps, so I could see the need to black market it.” Poor Severus. Was money tight for them? She’d never even questioned how they were able to afford food and necessities. A part her always assumed he’d just took what he needed from the land or even from others, not that she approved of thievery, but when on the run from the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters, one couldn’t openly hold a job or make too many public appearances—even with a new identity. She flipped a few more pages.
The potion Hermione helped me make isn’t exactly working out the way I’d planned. I did test it, but the results left much to be desired. When I utter the password to trigger the consumed potion, it takes a long while for my request to be acquiesced without further coercing on my part. However, perhaps I am too impatient and should wait longer before making any demands.
Trying to remember the potion he was talking about, Hermione leaned against the back of the chair, brow furrowed. He asked for her help many times and usually explained what they were making, but this didn’t sound familiar at all. “Hang on,” she said. “Maybe it does.” Yes, something about a potion that worked like the Imperius. It was a bit hazy though. She wished she could ask him, but then he’d know she’d been in his personal journal.
Deciding to read more recent entries, knowing she could at least discern some of those dates, she flipped forward many pages.
I find it interesting that a leap from the cliff has been the climax of each breaking point. It’s as though life’s termination via a fall into oblivion is the best choice.
“Oh, God… oh, no…” Leaping from a cliff? The feeling of spiraling downward swiftly passed through her body so violently that chills crawled over her flesh. She knew what it was like to fall firsthand. She’d done it. The memory came back to her then… more than one in fact. How many times had she leapt from the cliff she loved so much? Why? If she’d done so, surely she would have died. Dreams. Severus had said she’d dreamed about it already. He’d told her more than once that her nighttime medicine included something that would help her sleep without nightmares.
“He’s been drugging me, mucking with my memories!”
Things began to make sense to her then. The different entries she’d read hadn’t been about just anyone…. No, they’d been about her—all of them, as if she were a fucking test subject!
Panic and confusion welled up inside of her so violently that she could swear her throat constricted and was only allowing a minute amount of air safe passage to her lungs. Feeling her chest tighten, she tried to tell herself to remain calm. So many things passed through her mind.
You shouldn’t have stopped taking your potion! Don’t you remember? You hallucinate!
“No! I’m being drugged! It’s not me!”
Severus loves you, takes care of you, makes you feel safe… you should never have betrayed him by reading his private journal.
“But it was supposed to be information about the war, stuff that was too dangerous for anyone to know in case of capture—even me.”
That’s just what he told you, Hermione. Don’t be daft. You’re so much smarter than that! YOU are the information he needs about the war. You’re an experimental subject only—nothing more. His words of love, his passion, his information… all lies!
Sobbing freely now as her mind continued to yell things silently, she felt as though a dam had broken within in and a river of emotions began pouring out. She loved Severus so much. How could she handle living and knowing he’d been using her, deceiving her, or that he didn’t truly love her? Was there even a small reformed Order with a few members who’d survived? Had there truly been signs that Harry might still be out there? Good God. Was Severus still a Death Eater?
“Sweet Lord, no… There was no Protean Charm on his timepiece! He was being summoned by Voldemort—his mark was burning his arm!”
She jumped up and slammed everything off of his desk in anger, yelling obscenities and words of woe as she did so, not noticing the book had turned to a page that read: I can honestly say that I’ve never cared about anyone the way I care about Hermione.
“Ron was right: Dead is better.”
Suddenly, everything became very clear for her. Staying with Severus was not an option. However, she hadn’t a wand, was disallowed to use Apparition, and the premises were warded so that nobody could enter or leave without Severus. Only someone with a ward and expertise of dark magic could dismantle them.
“I must escape. I have to go. Dead is better.”
Hermione quickly left the cottage and made her way through the slick grass and wet slope towards the place that had been her haven on some days and evenings. It beckoned to her always—even now. She’d only ascended halfway when she heard a shout not far behind her.
“What are you doing? Hermione!”
Severus. She looked back over her shoulder to see her frantic lover racing after her. No! She’d not be swayed. He would not be allowed to catch her. She had to be free, wanted to fly away from him, wanted to leave this place—didn’t want to know what she now knew. Oh, why, oh, why did she have to read his journal? Ignorance is bliss!
“I read what you wrote about me! You won’t use me ever again!”
“No, you are mistaking what you read. I can explain everything. Stop!”
“I swear, Hermione, that I only used Narcissa to get information.”
She didn’t stop, didn’t want to hear his lies, and moved faster than ever. Finally reaching the ledge of the place she’d always loved, she spun around to see how far away he was, heart racing, blood pumping so quickly she could hear it pounding in her ears, nearly making her dizzy. Severus was gone. Had she imagined him chasing her? Why were things clear one second and addled the next? Was she mad? What was wrong?
She gazed up at the sky, wishing that more of the moon would be showing. There was only a small sliver out, and the clouds in the sky, which were leftover from the storm they’d had earlier, covered part of it. “What should I do?” she asked, almost wishing it would answer her.
Something snapping from behind surprised her and caused her to fall forward and slide through the wet, muddy ground towards the edge. There was nothing solid with which she could seek purchase, so she couldn’t stop her inevitable slipping over the edge of the cliff. Just as she went over, a pair of hands grabbed hers, keeping her from falling. She looked up, expecting to see Severus, and instead saw Harry.
“Hold on, Hermione!”
“Harry! Is it really you? Where’s Severus?”
“Don’t worry about that right now. Come on. Come back to me. Things will be all right.”
Was this Harry? No! Remember what you read! Polyjuice! Glamours! “I wish I could believe you. I really do, but you’re not Harry. You’re him… trying to trick me. Well, I won’t be your test subject! Dead is better!”
“Don’t! Please… Why would you say that?” he asked, obviously heartbroken.
“It’s what Ron said before he…”
“That idiot. Pay no attention to anything he says.”
She sniffed and felt her fingers losing their grip on his wrists. “He was right, Harry.”
“No, he wasn’t! Don’t let go, Hermione! Come back to me,” he pleaded. “Please… try harder.”
Knowing what she had to do, she released her hold on him completely and watched silently as he struggled to pull her up. The moment his hold slipped, she began her descent down to the bottom, the sensation of freefalling washing over her. She could see his contorted face shrinking away above her in the distance the more she fell. Falling… falling away… It would soon be over.
Southern’s Notes: So, what do you believe? Still confused? This was only supposed to be three chapters, but something happened while I was writing, and there will now be a fourth, as I feel inclined to add an epilogue. I sort of like it this way because it allows us to believe what we’d like, but then, that’s because I know what’s going on, I guess. LOL I would truly love to hear any interpretations that you might have! Some have nearly hit the nail on the head already… almost.