LL Chapter 3

A/N: Special thanks to my beta Yiggersentia. My creative mind would be a chaotic mess without you! And thank you to all who’ve reviewed and encouraged! Again, I own nothing, only play ;)


Remus looked up, then gave her a sideways hug and rubbed her arm. “One of us should stay with him.”

She nodded, sniffled, then looked over to where her two-year obsession lay on the grass in the cold October daylight, soaking it all in as if it were the middle of June. “I’ll do it. You go inside and rest.” She looked up at where her friend’s gaze had settled and smiled, realizing why his wolfish characteristics had been forthcoming this past day. “It’s late in the month.”

He looked down from the waxing moon, visible in the sky just over the city’s horizon as a pale, ghostly orb hidden behind the clouds every now and again. “All right. Call if you need anything. The boys should be back later today if all goes well.”

“I will.” She hugged him around the neck, like the uncle or father figure he’d come to be for her since she’d moved into Grimmauld Place two years ago. Of course, that reminded her of why she needed a father figure at all: the fact that hers didn’t know she existed. God, that wound never seemed to heal. “Thank you for helping me today, Remus.”

“Anytime, popkin. It’s what we’re in this for, right? We’ve got one more home.”

He pulled back and smiled at her with all the trusting innocence of the unknowing and she felt slightly guilty for harboring feelings for their recovered Potions master, the man that was one time a sort of nemesis of his. She plastered on a proper smile and nodded, hating that it felt like lying. All this time and no one had noticed…no one had seen…what did that say about her? About her relationships with them?

She’d known the boys for ten years now, Remus for a little over seven…did she hide her feelings that well, or did they not know her? Which was the better alternative?

She watched him slip through the iron gate of the small corner garden of the park and pictured his movements across the sidewalk, the cobblestone street, up the granite steps and through the dark vestibule of their home.

A small rustling noise to her left brought her attention back to her immediate surroundings. It wasn’t the man lying still on the lawn, he’d not moved an inch. Her eyes searched the undergrowth for the disturbance when a squirrel shifted beneath the hedgerow, digging for something along the ground. At her sigh of relief, it sat up, saw her and scampered off to a nearby tree trunk, scolding her for interrupting its foraging.

She smiled and walked over to one of the wood and iron benches facing each other across the small grassy center of the private little garden conveniently concealed by boxwood hedges, a yew break, and a wildly overgrown rosebush. It was a lovely area, really. They couldn’t have picked a better place to Apparate Severus into, now that she thought about it.

Her eyes wandered over the area and she idly cast a ward so they wouldn’t be disturbed by a wayward park walker. She looked down at her wand and her mind went blank.

What now?

Oh, bloody hell, what now?

This was so awkward. She had no idea what to do with him, with herself…

For the first time in a decade, Hermione did not have a plan. She’d been focused solely on getting Severus home, out of that horrible farce of a mental hospital and now that he was here…

What was she to do with him?

Was it her responsibility to do anything at all with him?

Wouldn’t it be better for her to send him to St. Mungo’s?

He wouldn’t want that, would he?

Somehow sending him off felt like a betrayal, especially after the apparent maltreatment he’d been through for the past two years. She looked over him again, taking in his carelessly shorn hair, silvery stubble, waxen complexion and sunken body. Dear God, she could clearly make out his hip bones through the thin cotton pants as he lay back and his ribs stood out prominently from his stomach.

Once strong and capable hands lay nearly withered in the grass flung out at each side, making her wonder if he still had full use of them. Did he require physical therapy as well as mental? What could she possibly do to help him?

These were skills she just could not obtain in a book or a quick read. She could research for weeks and not be able to address all of his issues properly, they were simply too numerous! He obviously needed professional help…

Her breathing increased as she started to feel overwhelmed. This was too much. She wanted to be the one to help him, but she couldn’t possibly! What could she honestly do to help him beyond what she’d already done?

She tore her gaze away from the man on the ground and racked her brain for her options. What was he missing in his life that she could help him with? There were so many things, it was hard to just focus on a list, but her mind, practiced as it was, ruthlessly stripped her thoughts down to a few concepts.

Dignity.

She could definitely help with that. Clean clothes, a good haircut, a decent bath…God! She scoffed, shoes! Food! Hermione inwardly groaned at the list of simple things he’d been denied in his life.

Next, she could help him with his memories. She’d worked so hard on her parents Oblivation…it would be a personal triumph to be able to restore all three of their memories, wouldn’t it? That, surely, she could find in a book.

And no one begrudge her trying to help with either of these things on her list. The next one would be tricky, however.

Basic human contact.

Oh, she definitely wanted to help with that. Her gaze considered the oubliette eyes that ate up the sky greedily. Would that he looked at her with such hunger…she sighed in resignation. That was another problem. She was resolving herself to accept that this man was not the one she’d built in her mind, but the growing enigma before her was increasingly fascinating as well. What would he become, when the man he’d grown to be reconciled with the man he’d once been? Oh, what a fascinating question.

Her brow furrowed as she answered the unasked part of that question: One he might not care for her to be around to find out the answer to. What if he rejected her help?

She caught a disjointed sob in her throat before it made sound. Dammit, she was Hermione Granger. She would make him accept her help. There really was no one better connected, better placed, better concerned…

But she couldn’t force him, that would be just as bad as Hestry…

Nevermind, think about that when the time comes.

On with the list.

The other things he needed: use of his magic, physical therapy, psychological therapy to handle the mental repercussions of the past two years of abuse, well, those things needed someone else. She leaned back against the bench back in a huff in a quasi-defeat and watched him silently as he splayed on the ground.

The day bled from noon to afternoon to evening colors as they both lost themselves in their reveries. Hermione watched him from her bench and occasionally looked up whenever his breath caught at something. It was usually a moment before she saw what he was looking at, but sometimes it was an unusual cloud formation, or a sundog, or even the rays of the sun gilding the clouds and then altering the very color of the sky.

She thought of this garden and the sunset they watched and the Greek myth of the Hesperides, the goddesses of the sunset that tended a beautiful garden. As she looked around, the garden took on so many different colors from its daylight splendor that the mystery enfolding in the petals and leaves left room in the imagination for nymphs and dryads to peek out and play.

He breathed, shivered. She called out to him, the first time she’d talked to him since they arrived so many hours ago, “Are you cold?” She’d long since cast a warming spell over herself, it was late October, after all, and the past few days had been a bit nippy. When he didn’t respond, she lifted her head from bracing it on her fist, which had been angled up from the elbow on the bench back and shifted her feet flat onto the ground to face him fully. “Severus? Can you hear me?”

He rigidly nodded without turning to face her.

She knotted her brows in confusion. “Are you cold, then?”

His jaw clenched. Even in the dimming light of the gloaming, she could make out the muscles working along his mandible, writhing up into his hairline. What about that question could possibly get that kind of reaction? “What’s wrong?”

“I refuse to go inside.” His voice practically shook with emotion.

She was vaguely offended, but she was able to keep that out of her tone. “I’m not asking you to.”

“You asked me if I was cold.” She blinked at his tone. Amazing. He couldn’t remember his name, but he could remember that he was supposed to be a snarky bastard.

She would have smiled if the situation wasn’t so serious. Instead, she rolled her eyes. “Yes, and I can cast a Warming Charm on you or bring you a blanket. It would be obvious to a gnat how much you need to be outside right now.”

He rolled his head to her with deep, hollow eyes, haunted and shuttered. She quietly gasped and regarded him as steadily as she could but all she could think about was how much she wanted to hunt Hestry down again and rip his brains out through his nose. Nice and neatly Egyptian style – knitting needles and all. It took every ounce of Gryffindor strength inside of her to hold onto Severus’ gaze and not let him see pity or anger. Unfortunately, that didn’t leave much to open to him so she wasn’t sure how to act around him.

She decided on levity. “So are you cold, or not?”

He maintained her gaze, obviously fighting something within himself to answer her question.

She suddenly remembered how freezing it had been in his room…it wasn’t much different now, was it? Her face bunched up in a struggle to realize just how much suffering he’d been through. “You’re used to this, aren’t you?”

He dropped his eyelids, removing his penetrating gaze and looked down to the sleeves of the coat they’d put on him earlier. “I’m not used to the coat.”

She bit her lip and swallowed, thinking furiously about the proper way to handle this. What was the best way to handle an unanswerable question? A light went off in her head. The best way to answer an unanswerable question is to ask a different question.

“Would you like to be warmer? Where you are?”

His eyes flew up to hers and after a moment, he actually sat up, leaning his arms on his bent knees. It was still so strange to see him with short, unkempt hair. She still had the view in her mind of his hair swinging in place to hide his expressions and his eyes were hooded at that very moment as if they knew something he himself didn’t, as if his body had the memory if his brain didn’t of the veil he used to have, used to use so well.

He apparently thought to respond, for he glanced back to her, opened his mouth as if to talk, but stopped, looked past her to the rosebush behind her and only then did he speak in a low, hesitant tone. “I don’t remember what it’s like…to be warm.” After staring into the distance for a few more seconds, he shifted his eyes over to hers, looking for judgment.

Dammit. Everything inside of her screamed for Hestry’s blood. She’d never expected to hate someone human, not after Voldemort. That maniac kind of set the bar rather high, but this was personal. This was Severus. He didn’t deserve any of this! Again, she had to fight her expression to keep her grief and anger from welling out and pouring over him, giving him nothing but a blank face. It was so very difficult for her. Her! The most expressive of Gryffindors!

But she had to do it for him. And she would.

She would do anything for him, to help him. Slowly, quietly, she stood up and stepped one foot in front of the other, closer to him, keeping his gaze and tilting her head at a slight angle so he knew she wasn’t trying to intimidate him. As soon as she was within touching distance, she knelt into the crisp grass beside him with her hands on her thighs and took a small breath.

Tentatively, indicating with slow gestures and looks, she reached for one of his hands with both of hers and carefully sandwiched it, willing her warmth into him. His large nostrils flared as he inhaled and watched her, watched their hands.

She looked up at his face and knew that if she could, she would attempt to bring down the very sun itself to warm him if he wished it.

She exhaled slowly and hoped he’d never wish for something so very unobtainable from her.

A light went off in her head as she remembered something…something she could do. Perhaps not the sun, but the sky might not be so unobtainable…

/

Severus.

That was his name.

With that knowledge, came a niggling sense of self, things that fell into place little by little, disjointed, unwhole, out of place, but he celebrated them nonetheless. They were bits of HIM he’d not had before…or rather, not had for a while.

It was confusing to know that this was inside of him but inaccessible.

His thoughts were interrupted by the conversation about him going on to his right.

“One of us should stay with him.” He knew this man. This man was from his past, but where? There were feelings of…resentment…anger…

“I’ll do it. You go inside and rest.” The woman…the eyes. With his name came odd connotations with her memory— “It’s late in the month.” With her name—Hermione—it seemed odd in his mind, like it wasn’t what he was used to calling her. And yet it fit. Hermione. Brown Eyes. He’d finally put a name to one of the four. Would she know the others? He thought perhaps she would. He closed his eyes against the blinding sky for a moment and recalled the other three. It seemed that they were elemental to him, that knowing them would unlock what he could not remember.

“All right. Call if you need anything. The boys should be back later today if all goes well.” The boys? This was turning out to be some group, then. Interesting. And something about the comment ‘it’s late in the month’ struck a chord with the man’s identity—

“I will.” Severus glanced over in his peripheral vision to see Hermione hug the man and somehow, he felt as if he were intruding on a private moment. It was embarrassing. “Thank you for helping me today, Remus.”

That garnered his interest again. That made this sound like this was her machination, not a group effort. What was he to her that she would do such a thing? He remembered her words to him this morning: I’m so sorry we couldn’t find you sooner.

“Anytime, popkin. It’s what we’re in this for, right?”

Severus blinked. Odd choice of words, but he was in no mood to question them. Instead, he shifted his attention back to the open beauty of the English sky. Hermione moved off to his side and sat down on the bench…he pretended to ignore her and kept his sight trained on the eddies of clouds hypnotically and constantly altering course as they skid across the helmet of the earth. The sun’s rays played with these wisps and bits of humidity as the afternoon progressed and he lost himself in the simplistic splendor of each difference.

It reminded him of something…

Potions…

Yes. The swirls and turns of ingredients and color in a solution, curled in on themselves with a ladle or a stir inside a cauldron.

Gods, what a thing to remember! He felt as if something he’d been trying to grasp for so long finally came to his hands firmly bound. It gave him something to hold, something to press inside and build upon the walls of his heart, his anima, his mind.

He was Severus, Brown Eyes was Hermione, and he loved creating Potions.

Truths.

He took a deep, shuddering breath and exhaled into the darkening garden, realizing for the first time just how much time had passed. His face hurt, his eyes hurt…tight and tired…the sun. Knowledge of what potion to use came forth and he was comforted.

“Are you cold?”

Her question froze his comfort and he suddenly felt panic. That question had many underlying requests, and he could not, would not go inside!

“Severus? Can you hear me?”

He rigidly nodded without turning to face her, knowing she needed some form of response, but terrified to give it to her.

“Are you cold, then?” Her tone was confused. Of course, he knew he owed her some reason, some explanation, but how? How could he define that he’d not seen anything but four walls for so long that he’d forgotten the color of the sky? The texture of grass? The height of a tree or the smell of any green thing that grew? He worked his jaw, trying to conceive of some way to answer her query without letting her take him inside-

“What’s wrong?”

Perhaps a direct question deserved a direct answer, then. He hated that it was such a simple thing and yet so complicated. “I refuse to go inside.”

“I’m not asking you to.”

She was talking down to him, as if he were particularly dense. He bristled at the tone. “You asked me if I was cold.”

“Yes, and I can cast a Warming Charm on you or bring you a blanket. It would be obvious to an idiot how much you need to be outside right now.”

She knew. With a heave of emotion, he turned his face to her, finally, and looked at her. How could she know? He could see her mind working, there were many hidden emotions there and he thought for a moment he could see a prodigious amount of anger—at him? Why?-but her face kept calm and eventually, she spoke with a quirk to her tone that belied a need for lighter emotion than they were both feeling. “So are you cold, or not?”

He watched her, waited to see if she would be able to answer that question for herself when he had not been showing signs of being cold. Or had he? What brought about this line of questioning? Did she see something in his actions he had not known he’d betrayed?

Then, with a horrified expression, she asked, “You’re used to this, aren’t you?”

There. The moment was open. She realized his dilemma, that he was perfectly capable of handling the chilled temperatures of the autumn evening and somehow knew that was not normal. That reminded him that he wasn’t so very cold as usual. He looked to his torso, to the garment hanging off of him. “I’m not used to the coat.”

“Would you like to be warmer? Where you are?”

His eyes flew up to hers and after a moment, he actually sat up, leaning his arms on his bent knees. Would he like to be warmer? What would that feel like? He looked at his hands, hanging limp and nearly numb at the ends of his arms. They’d been cold for so long…

It was a kind offer, but to accept was…embarrassing. It admitted so many things. He glanced back to her, tried to say it, but failed. He just couldn’t look into those Brown Eyes…the ones that had helped to keep him safe and sane all this time…and say something so needy. And yet, he found he did want it. He wanted to know it again, so perhaps just focusing off her eyes, into the rosebush behind her…yes. Now he could say it. “I don’t remember what it’s like…to be warm.” After staring into the distance for a few more seconds, he shifted his eyes over to hers, looking for judgment.

Her face held still, fighting some battle for emotion and he held himself entirely closed, hoping that she wouldn’t abandon her offer now. It was such a simple thing, between humans. It was one of the first things they’d offered each other, wasn’t it? Heat. Warmth. Friendship.

Finally, her expression was won. Determination and open helpfulness glowed from her dark eyes as she stood and came to him as if he were a wounded animal. He watched her, fascinated, as she knelt beside him, slowly reached for him—his hand—and pulled it between hers.

He inhaled sharply, feeling her energy coursing up the nerves from his hands and up his arm. It was…this was…

Fire. Heat. Energy. Life. LIFE. Gods, she pushed LIFE into him with her touch! How could she hold such power? It wasn’t so much the pleasant warmth that shifted in the molecular heat transfer from her palms into his permanently chilled skin…

No.

This was Lightning.

Tangential energy danced up his nerves and made him feel so very alive, as he’d not done for so very, very long.

She was the Sun, radiant and powerful and all he wanted to do was soak up this energy pouring forth from her.

Gods, it felt good.

It trembled down his nervous system like a spider plucking its web, calling to its prey with the beautiful dew strewn on the morning strands. Down his spine, into his gut, into his-

He blinked, nearly choked.

Snatched his hand away from her.

They stared at each other, breathing heavily in confusion and assuredly for different reasons. There had been no magic, simply human touch and that was the most disturbing part of the connection.

A mercury-halide glow sputtered to life above them, bathing her in a salmon colored light. He blinked up at the source, scowling at the interruption and thankful at the same time. It was a street light. Nothing more.

The dark of night had finally fallen.

“Are you all right?”

Her question seemed out of place. All right? No, he didn’t think he’d ever be all right. He took a steadying breath and buried his riotous emotions. “I’m fine.”

He looked up at the darkened sky, disappointed that he couldn’t see anything beyond that infernal street light, feeling his lip curl as he searched for the tiny points of light he knew should be there.

They sat in silence for a few moments until suddenly the light softly “popped” as if a large fist had somehow found its way inside the plastic enclosure and gently crushed the bulb inside. He watched in fascination as the light faded in a few seconds and they were engulfed in darkness.

His black eyes, he knew, somehow, would adjust quickly to the night. Night time had always been his favorite because of that. He remembered now.

Looking to her, she was still blinking with a wide-eyed, blank expression of one who could not yet see in the dark. It was so tempting to reach out and touch her warmth again, but he held himself still, not daring beyond simply looking at her with the moonlight glinting on the moisture of her eyes, trailing across the planes of her face.

Breathlessly, he watched her reach out for him, though. “Is that better?” What? She did that? She broke the light for him? “Can you see the stars now?”

He wanted to look, he wanted to tear his sight away from her searching hand in the darkness to see the sea of twinkling lights that would remind him of something else…but he could no more look away than he could deny the shock of heat rendered down his spine when her small, hot hand found his shoulder.

Such an innocent touch. And yet not so, because he’d not been touched in so long. Did she have any idea?

Her hand swept across to the other shoulder, across his back, and he held his breath as her head came to rest against the shoulder closest to her. She scooted closer to his back, on the grass, behind him, and heat radiated from her body into his back in so many different ways he could do nothing but close his eyes and bask in it, releasing the pent up breath in a silent shudder.

The hardest part to decipher in the maelstrom of heat churning through him was whether his reaction was to her contact or any contact at all…He wanted so dearly to lean back into her and receive whatever warmth and…else…she offered, but knew it was somehow wrong to do so.

He needed time. He needed to ground himself and find out so much more. He finally swept his lids open and drank in the heavenly sight before him.

The diamond necklace of the night was draped in all its splendor across the ribbon of darkness above this tiny little garden. He pulled in a great amount of air as if he could taste the night and eat the loveliness above him. This image would forever be burned into his mind as his return to the world. Truly night was his preference for the constellations poured from his memory like ingredients, like teaching, like…home.

Bits and blips of other nights, some so very dark and hard to think of that he brushed them aside for the moment, slipped across his conscience like a dream. That was part of his life? He…he was—he shuddered and the woman curled behind him rubbed his shoulder with the palm of her hand, bringing him back to the present.

A sound invaded their space, a metal hinge in need of oiling. “Hermione?”

Severus tensed. She left him, stood up and walked towards the newcomer and he immediately felt her loss. His back was cold again and for the first time, he remembered the difference.

“Harry! You’re back!”

He turned just enough to see her embrace this new person and felt oddly confused. Was she so friendly to everyone?

“What happened to the light?”

“Oh, I broke it so Severus could see the stars.”

“Er…okay.”

“Don’t worry about it. He needed it, and I’ll fix it later.”

“All right, then. Want to go inside and eat? I’ll hang out here. Remus gave me a run down of what happened.”

Severus didn’t know how to take this conversation. An apparent stranger was willing to sit out here with him to keep him company—did he need it? Why did they insist on staying with him instead of leaving him to his own devices? Did he want their help?

He thought about that. Something told him he was perfectly capable of walking away from this situation and finding his own way…but did he want to? Hermione was key. She was one of the four sets of eyes and it might follow that she knew who the others were. That alone was enough to keep him here.

Her hand on his arm brought his attention back to her. “I’m going inside to eat. Do you want me to come back out after or will you be okay with Harry for a while?”

He looked to this ‘Harry’ in question and was lambasted with Green Eyes. He struggled to conceal his shock. Green eyes with black hair. This was second of the four! He was right! Hermione was key!

Who was this person that he haunted the garden of his mind for two years?

He fought to find some appropriate answer without revealing too much. “I’m not some child to watch. Do as you wish.”

He immediately regretted his tone as she straightened and walked over to Green Eyes. “Just…let him be. He’s still adjusting.”

“He doesn’t seem any different.”

“Harry-”

“I know. Go on. We’ll be fine.”

“Thank you.”

She left. That part of him that felt somehow connected to her closed his eyes and felt her pull away from him as she closed the iron gate and heard her shoes tap across the pavement to her destination. A heavy door closed and all was quiet.

Green Eyes took Hermione’s vacated seat on the bench and pulled out a rolled up bit of something, illuminating the wand in his hand and started reading, completely ignoring Severus.

He quietly breathed the damp night air and tried to think of a way to find out who this person was, realizing he’d not taken the chance with Hermione. Somehow, it didn’t seem as important to his past, oddly enough. But this person was.

Summoning up courage he couldn’t remember he had, and banishing the doubts framing the necessity of such a question, he cleared his throat and simply asked, “Who are you?”

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