When the Dark Lord won and her friends all fell, he saved her, fled with her, even as she begged him to kill her. He ignored her pleas and made all the decisions for her. Resentment of his high- handedness came too easily and sustained her against her will. His smirks when she'd rail at him, infuriated her even more, as she knew that he knew his harsh, cold attitude was keeping her alive.
Months passed like this, sniping icily at each other as they fled just ahead of the Death Eaters, until they found some momentary peace in a village in Italy. Pretending to be husband and wife, they took a cottage, and settled down, ever wary, but able finally to rest.
Hermione sat at the kitchen table drinking tea and glancing through the first of a pile of weekly newspapers, looking for any news that Voldemort had moved on the Muggle world. They knew it was inevitable, but they were almost to the point of wanting some action. At least then they wouldn't have the stomach-clenching fear.
"Anything?" She looked up and frowned. He still towered over her, his presence intimidating her as it had since childhood, but the ever-present black clothes had been replaced by faded jeans and a nondescript denim shirt. It made him look more human to the outside world, but in her minds- eye she always saw him sweeping down on her, a ghost-faced crow.
"I've only begun."
He settled next to her and reached for one of the newspapers, the permanent frown on his face deepening at the still paper. They sat in silence for several minutes, the rustle of paper and clink of china the only sounds, until Hermione threw down the last newspaper in disgust.
"I wish something would just happen. It's driving me crazy." Rising to her feet, she took her cup to the sink, then began to pace. "Why is he waiting? You know his motives, what's going on in that creepy mind. Why the delay? He decimated our forces with ease, so it's not that he needs time to rebuild his army, and you know one wizard can take down a hundred Muggles."
"You give me too much credit," he replied, scowling at her. "No one knows His mind."
She frowned at the emphasis he automatically placed on the pronoun. To her mind, it was too near reverence, and it bothered her deeply. She always referred to him by name, taking a tiny bit of glee in the fact that it made her companion squirm. It was a rare occurrence when she could get under his skin.
"All we can do is wait," he continued, meticulously folding his newspaper.
"I wanted to be able to rest so badly, but now that we've found some safety, I'm going stir-crazy."
"Nothing's keeping you here," he said softly, not looking at her.
That stopped her pacing and she gaped at him. "Do you want me to leave?"
He shrugged and rose to his feet. "We needed each other at the first, but now?"
"Cold bastard," she muttered under her breath as he turned and left the kitchen for the tiny parlor.
Severus stood on the stoop looking out at the village green and the occasional automobile that passed. Hands clasped behind his back, he remained deep in thought for several minutes, and, inevitably, the direction of those thoughts turned to his companion.
He didn't regret rescuing her, and was not surprised that of all the Order, she'd survived. There was a cunning, shrewd side to her that instinctively fought for survival. It was a Slytherin trait, although he refrained from pointing that out to her. He also knew that she'd prefer anyone else for a companion, so he was willing to let her go. He didn't think she'd survive long on her own, but he could see the distaste and anger in her cold eyes when she looked at him, and knew she wanted him gone.
Unwilling to abandon her, he'd let her make the first move.
Sighing softly, Severus turned to reenter the cottage. Hermione was banging pots and pans in the kitchen, cooking the Muggle way, as it was too risky to use magic for anything but the most urgent needs. Silently he made his way to the door frame and peered in. Her back was to him, and he watched her for several minutes.
She was so angry all the time, and so very cold. He knew she believed he was the frozen angry one, but he was only a faded reflection compared to her. He'd hoped that old resentments, old distrusts, would dissipate as they worked to keep each other alive, but all that had happened was her pulling away from him, showing just how much she despised him.
He returned her feelings with self-protective sneers and snide remarks, and their relationship continued as it had since her childhood.
Severus wanted that to change, needed to have some human contact other than angry words and cold silences, but had lived so long like that, he didn't know how to be any other way. He'd expected her to be the first to reach out.
Now he wondered if she ever would. They relied on each other because they had to, but she made no move for comfort.
Never in his wildest dreams had he expected Hermione to be the frozen serpent. That was his life, not hers.
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