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And They Didn't Live Happily Ever After

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Chapter Eight
“Tea and Comfort, Confessions and Absolutions”

 

Disclaimer:
JK Rowling, we salute you
You own the Potterverse
We just want to honor you
Though our stories are perverse
I don’t make any money
From my twisted little fic
I just want to write about licking honey
Off of Severus'… (Is that the bad poetry police knocking at my door?)

 

============

 

Hermione looked about her surroundings, licking her lips nervously. It was a room similar to Malfoy's, except this one had a chess table with twin chairs flanking it, a settee with an accompanying low table, and the bed curtains were a dark charcoal gray instead of red.

 

Passing through the doorway, she startled a little when she heard the lock click behind her. A quick look of panic filled her eyes.

 

"You are not a prisoner here," Severus cooed. "Just merely insuring that no one will bother us. You may leave anytime you wish."

 

She pondered the idea of bolting for the door that minute.

 

'The idea of talking with a strange man… and for money! What were you thinking?' she internally chided herself.

 

Sensing she might leave and be faced with Lavender knowing he did not at least make an effort, he said, "Please have a seat. I'm here at your command to do as you wish."

 

His arm extended out to the settee, gently coaxing her to sit down. She gave a jerky nod of gratitude, and with uncertainty, walked over to the seating arrangement by the fireplace.

 

He let her lead the way, surveying his latest customer. She had on a simple white blouse that looked a little tired and almost unnoticeably frayed at the collar. The blouse looked like it had been worn and washed so many times that it took on a subtle dingy color. Her skirt was simple and dark blue, falling just below the knees. Her maroon robes were slightly out of fashion, probably purchased three years ago. The scuff marks on her shoes were hidden from a recent polishing. From afar, she appeared modestly dressed, but upon closer inspection, her dress matched her demeanor; worn, tired, dull and a little gray.

 

Had Severus seen her this way shortly after Victory Day those four years ago, he would have laughed to himself and savored the idea of this young woman put in her place. All her exuberance, confidence and self-righteousness taken down several notches. But after some years apart from the Golden Trio, he could find nothing humorous or satisfying in seeing this sad example of a woman in front of him.

 

Watching her, he noticed how she sat rigidly on the settee, her hands grasping at her knees with white-knuckled tension. Her eyes darted about the room some more, noting where the windows and doors were. She was sitting on the side closest to the door, her nearest escape route.

 

Before he sat down himself, Severus asked, "Would you like a drink? You look like you could use one."

 

Hermione shook her head. "No, I already had a few glasses with Lavender before I came here. I don’t think I would have come if I hadn’t drunk something first." She gave him a meek smile before her face returned to its worried and tired look.

 

"Tea perhaps? Something soothing?" he offered.

 

Her weak smile returned briefly. "Yes, that sounds lovely. I could use a cup of tea.”

 

No sooner has she spoken than a tray filled with cups and saucers, milk, sugar, honey, lemon and a large pot of fragrant tea appeared on the low table in front of her.

 

Severus walked over and sat on the other end of the settee, leaving a comfortable gap between them. She looked like such a frightened cornered animal; it would not do to scare her by invading her personal space.

 

He sat forward and poured the tea.

 

"Lemon?"

 

"No, nothing." The nervous witch swallowed hard. "Please."

 

She took the perfumed brew with a slightly shaky hand, noting the delicate hand painted geometric motif along the rim of the cup and saucer. Inhaling, she let the scent wash through her senses feeling their effects immediately.

 

She inhaled deeply and paused. "Chamomile… lavender… mint… raspberry leaves… feverfew…and…" Hermione inhaled once more. "… Uva-ursi?"

 

Had he not been wearing a mask, she would have seen the quirk in his smile. The uva-ursi was used in such minuscule quantities, he could barely perceive its presence, but its flavor was a wonderful sub-note in the tea.

 

"Your guess is correct." He kept his voice neutral, but reassuring.

 

She took a long slow sip, allowing the aroma to envelop her mind. Once she felt the hot liquid sliding down her esophagus, she opened her eyes and regarded the man sitting next to her more closely.

 

He wore a dark plum shirt with an elegant cut. Nothing fancy, no flourishes, but simple and well made. His trousers were black and showed off his lean, muscular legs. What intrigued her most was the mask. It was white with a few gold embellishments hiding his whole face with a large protrusion that allowed him to sip his tea while still concealing the lower half of his face. The shadow of the mask made his eyes appear black. She noticed his hair was hidden under a black scarf he had wrapped around his head, further intriguing her.

 

She wondered if he was less than handsome or was this his way of remaining anonymous. The brief idea that she could one day stand next to him in Flourish and Blotts and never know he was the same man popped into her mind.

 

He sat with ease and calm, the antithesis of her current state. Watching him, she saw the graceful movement of his hand as he set the cup and saucer back on the low table in front of them, and then recline against the back of the settee like a cat lounging in the sun.

 

Severus continued to watch her in silence. She squirmed under his gaze.

 

"So," she began shakily, "what do we do... erm… I mean, what happens now?"

 

He was usually not a generous man, nor forgiving in nature, but he knew she was a line about to snap if not treated delicately and encouraged kindly.

 

"I was under the impression that you needed someone to talk to."

 

He could see the tears already forming. It was a new world record for him. Usually they needed to talk a bit before the crying started. The strong and proud girl he remembered from Hogwarts was gone.

 

“Hermione’s Tears” by AquiliaSevera

"I don’t know what to do. I'm lost (sob). I have no one to talk to about this. It's all so confusing and complicated," she quietly cried. She bent over and put her hands in her face, crying without concern of what the gigolo might think of her blubbering.

 

He pulled out a crisply pressed handkerchief and offered it to her.

 

Peering out from between her fingers, she saw the white square of fine Irish linen and took it, dabbing at the tears before blowing her nose loudly.

 

"Why don’t you tell me your problem. Start at the beginning, that's usually the best place," he assured her genially.

 

She sniffed once and wiped at some more tears before she began. "You see, I have a friend, a good friend. Well, he suspected his wife was cheating on him and he asked me to spy on her and see if she was. So he loaned me his Invisibility Cloak."

 

Severus felt his heart begin to thump loudly in his chest. He only knew of one person who owned such a cloak.

 

"Anyway, I followed her today and found out he was right."

 

Severus reached for his tea, as his mouth had unexpectedly gone dry.

 

"I saw her with… this bloke, who we all hated while we were at school together. And the worst part is, she’s my best friend, too."

 

He set his tea down and watched as her hands continued to grip her knees, her legs locked tightly together.

 

"And so I confronted her and she tells me that she's been seeing this other person on the side for a while. And the worst part is, she's not in love with her husband. Well, she loves him, but not in love. Oh, I don’t know. So, I can only assume she's in love with this other man. And now my friend, the male friend, is going to ask me if his wife has been deceiving him. See, he found out she wasn’t doing what she claimed to have been doing some afternoons, and he started putting the pieces together. If he finds out, she says he'll probably kill the other man, which he could do since he's an Auror, I guess, which I don't think he would… I hope. But she says if her… lover dies, then she'll leave her husband."

 

She drew a long breath, reaching for her tea and taking another long sip, hoping it would calm her nerves.

 

"If I tell him what his wife is doing, then someone might die or get a Dementor's Kiss and she’ll leave her husband. If I don’t tell him and lie, then that's letting her continue this… affair. He's my best friend, but she is too. And the worst part is, after talking to her, I've realized that my marriage is just as miserable, in its own pathetic way."

 

Severus' mind whirred. Though she left out the names, he knew exactly whom the actors in this sordid little tragedy were. He fought to keep his concentration on the conversation. If he played his part well, he might be able to convince her to not tell Potter about Ginny's infidelity with Draco.

 

"Dementor's Kiss?" he asked softly. "Surely a man wouldn’t get such a harsh punishment for adultery with another man's wife," he said in placid, innocent tones.

 

"Well, it's a long story. One I don’t want to go into at the moment." Since Malfoy was one of Lavender's employees, if she named him, then this man might feel some need to protect one of his own. She did not feel like having an Obliviate – or worse – cast upon her.

 

Severus nodded his head, allowing her to go on.

 

Hermione continued the tale of her conundrum, and how she felt she was between the proverbial Scylla and Charybdis. She went on about her own marriage, how it scared her that she might wind up a bitter old woman if she stayed in her marriage, her shock regarding the undisclosed magical bond wrought from bearing children, and dread over a life stuck with her husband.

 

Periodically, she stopped to cry a bit before continuing. Severus kept pouring her tea, refreshing her cup every so often. Hermione's bleak marriage was nothing he hadn’t heard before, but news of Potter's suspicion was a twist he was not expecting.

 

When she finished, he asked, "So, will you tell your male friend about your female friend's activities? Or help them save their marriage?"

 

It was a very Slytherin way of phrasing the question. From what she’d told him, it sounded like she had already made up her mind, but needed to talk it out with someone before finally deciding.

 

"I don’t know. I won’t know until I see him. I don’t know if I can lie to him; he's not the sort of friend you can just lie to."

 

He nodded in his most convincing sympathetic manner, conveying the part of the non-judgmental listener.

 

"I’m sure you'll do the right thing," he said, knowing the girl would never care for the idea of a dead man on her conscience. Her Gryffindor nature would not allow it, even if she did despise Draco.

 

Hermione looked about sheepishly. "It there a toilet?" She had drunk most of the tea and no doubt needed to relieve herself.

 

"Through that door," he replied with a gesture towards the door on the opposite side of the room.

 

He rose when she did and bowed his head. Once the door clicked shut, he silently swore to himself. 'That boy is going to get us both killed.'

 

The sound of rushing water brought him back to the present. She would be leaving soon and Draco's fate would be in her hands. If Potter knew what had been going on between his wife and Draco, the Auror would no doubt snap. He always had doubts about the boy's mental stability. And despite Potter and Draco working in the Order together, their animosity towards each other surpassed the hatred that he and Sirius Black had for one another.

 

Hermione was rinsing her face, hoping the cool water could reduce some of the puffy redness. Looking about the well-appointed bathroom, she saw an assortment of sample-sized bottles in a basket with a note that read, “For your convenience.”

 

Inside the basket was a small tube of Lovely Lavender's Puffy Poof Eye Crème, a small bottle of Luxurious Lathering Lotion, Redness Reducing Salve and other products from the Lovely Lavender product line. She dabbed the Puffy Poof Crème on around her eyes and worked some of the salve into her cheeks noting how they quickly returned to their non-splotch even color.

 

Once satisfied that her appearance was no long frightful, after a quick pass through her hair with a hairbrush and a botched braiding job, she looked in the mirror.

 

It was good to finally talk to someone about a few of the things about her marriage she couldn’t tell Ginny or Harry. Ginny, as Ron's sister, had her own bias and Harry was equally friends with Ron as with her. There was no one she was close enough to, especially since she had become estranged from her parents. As much as she hated to admit it, it was the best seven galleons she spent in a long time. Hermione’s heart felt a little lighter, though the weight of the responsibility to Harry still sat heavy on her shoulders. Since the wizarding world did not have anything even remotely like a priest or psychiatrist, she supposed this was as close as she could come on short notice. There was the Muggle Alliance Network, but she needed someone that night.

 

'We only talked,' she reminded herself. 'It's not like I did anything wrong.' But she still couldn’t help but feel that she had somehow been unfaithful to Ron. Pushing the guilt down deep inside of her so it would not resurface anytime in the near future, she squared her shoulders.

 

'This is just one time. I'm never doing this ever again.'

 

For a split second, she averted her eyes from the reflection in the mirror. Somehow, she didn’t want to face herself and the idea that she might want to see this strange man again. He had been attentive and considerate. Ron used to listen to her like that years ago, when he wasn't jumping to conclusions or shooting his mouth off with hasty remarks. And she and Harry hadn’t talked like that in years either. Somehow, now that that they were grown, the dynamics of their friendship had changed. In the world of boys and girls, they were just friends, but as adults it had slowly evolved and she could no longer completely confide in them like she once could.

 

This man, this gigolo, had given her comfort. He provided release and relief from her burdened heart. Perhaps now that she had done what she needed to do, she'd never see him again.

 

She wasn't sure if it was the mask, his scent of patchouli, sandalwood and musk, or the peculiarity of the situation, but she enjoyed the evening more than she had thought she would. The atmosphere was serene, with no reminders of the housework that needed to be done, the tiny size of her flat reminding her of how cramped her life had been feeling, and no Ron to grate on her nerves.

 

Hermione closed her eyes and solemnly swore to herself, 'Never again. Thank him for being a patient listener, then bid him good-bye.'

 

Opening the door, she saw him sitting on the settee patiently waiting for her. He rose with a languid grace and she swallowed hard once more. He had a body unlike Ron’s. Though shorter than her husband, he was still taller than her by about five inches. He had a man's body, similar to Draco’s in the way it had filled out, but different. Not quite so broad in the shoulders, but proportionally wider than Ron's. She could see his leg muscles flex under the drape of the fabric as he shifted to his other leg, inviting her to sit back down.

 

“Languid Pose” by AquiliaSevera

Quickly, she wondered if he had well defined abdominal muscles. Ooh, she had a weakness for those. She quickly snapped her mind back to the present and out of her insane daydream of what this man would look like without his shirt on.

 

With purpose, she strode over to him and offered to shake his hand. "It's been lovely. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have had someone to talk to."

 

He took her hand. Instead of shaking it as he would another man's, he bowed slightly and brought her hand up to his face, guiding her knuckles just under the protruding mouth area of his mask. His lips gingerly brushed her knuckles while keeping eye contact with her.

 

"I'm so glad to have been of service to you this evening," Severus answered in his most seductive voice.

 

She was paralyzed. The touch of his mouth on her hand sent a shock from that small patch of skin straight up her arm to her brain. Hypnotized by the eyes that never left hers as he kissed her hand, she felt her pulse quicken and her heart hammer against her rib cage. Somehow, it had become quite difficult for her to breathe at the moment and Hermione wondered if she was still riding out her buzz from the brandy, as the room seemed to tilt a little.

 

His mouth lingered on her hand a little before he rose from his bow and released her hand.

 

Coming to her senses, she snapped her mouth shut. Flustered at her momentary lapse of sanity, or was it control, she gave him one more nervous lopsided smile.

 

In her haste to exit her environment, and regain control of her hormones which had suddenly begin to rattle the bars of their cage, she walked over to a door that led to the kitchen area. Opening it, she realized her mistake and scanned the room desperate to find an escape route. Spotting the door in which she entered into this den of dawning temptation, she bolted, slamming the door with nervous energy.

 

Once out in the dim hallway, she ran for the stairs and flew down them as if she were on a broom.

 

Severus was amused beyond all measure at her startled response to his charms. He quietly chuckled to himself at how he discombobulated the young witch. His enjoyment was short-lived as Minerva's voice began lecturing him in his mind.

 

'That poor girl!' he could imagine the old biddy exclaiming. 'Severus, how could you do that to her, and in her state!'

 

If his old colleague and friend could see her most prized student today, she's be rolling over in her funeral pyre. Thoughts of gagging the mental image of Minerva with her own tartan scarf drifted through his mind.

 

Severus did have a conscience. It usually came in the voice of Albus or Minerva in the back of his mind while his own personality played the devil to their angels on his shoulders. Two against one was not exactly a fair fight.

 

The image of Albus looking at him over his half moon spectacles still haunted him. 'My dear boy, you did an admirable thing giving her comfort. I'm proud of you.' He could hear the phantom voice of his old Headmaster, knowing the wizened man would be simultaneously praising him and giving him a reproachful soul-penetrating stare that said he should not have teased the distraught woman.

 

Severus pulled off his mask and pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. The relished feeling over Hermione's discomfort had fled, replaced by a sense of disappointment and reluctant shame.

 

Glancing at the bed curtains charmed to reflect the mood of his clients, he noted the subtle swirl of purple in the gray folds of the fabric. He supposed it wasn't nice to arouse a sexually frustrated woman, but he tamped down the surge of guilt.

 

"It's not like I'll be seeing her again," he said to the imaginary Albus and Minerva he envisioned sitting at his chess table.

 

He could imagine the silent glare they would both be giving him over their spectacles, were they both still alive.

 

"Hell, if you both hadn't died I wouldn’t be in this cursed situation."

 

Rubbing his eyes, he knew that if they were both alive, they would ask him to help her in anyway that he could.

 

He still didn’t know what she did for a living, as she’d spent the whole time fixated on her most pressing problem. It would be something he would have to inquire about at a future date, if she ever came back. No doubt the imaginary Headmaster and Deputy Headmistress in his head would not stop pestering him until he found out.

 

Severus knew they didn’t really exist and his flat was not haunted. He just preferred to think of them there, so he wouldn't have to deal with the uncomfortable notion that he really did care about what happened to one of the most promising students Hogwarts had produced in several generations.

 

Certain that he would not be able to enjoy reading his magazine for the rest of the evening, he drew a bath in which to soak and think some more.

 

Sitting in the scalding water, he remembered how Mrs. Weasley looked. She was thin, too thin for his liking. Women were supposed to have curves, not bony angles. The quality of her hair reminded him of his own when he spent hours in the dungeons sticking his head over simmering cauldrons in which to judge if potions were coming along nicely or if he would have to prevent another caustic disaster. Whereas his hair was greasy, hers has lost the luster associated with youth and health.

 

Wondering if she had pursued a position involving potions, he thought of her hands. They were slightly stained a distinctive faint purple, indicative of working with shrinking violets. Her hands were nimble and slightly callused similarly to the way his used to be. Severus rubbed at his hands, remarking at how time had erased the rough calluses where the handle of his favorite knife and spoon used to cradle against his fingers and palm.

 

She was so repressed; it was pitiful. The tension in her voice regarding her marriage to Ronald Weasley told him pages alone. Her edginess, the way her body vibrated with potential energy, her dissatisfaction with her husband on so many levels. He had not spent the past years as a shoulder to cry on without picking up on the typical signals of a woman unfulfilled and desperate for release.

 

An image of Hermione under him naked and crying out in pleasure filled his mind. He immediately evicted the thought from his mind.

 

Severus had had sex with women Hermione's age and younger. Some of them had come fresh from the halls of Hogwarts seeking experience that their boyfriends lacked. So why the thought of carnal relations with this particular woman bothered him was a concept he would have to ponder another time.

 

Sighing, he considered the other pressing issue at hand. Hermione's knowledge of Draco and Ginny's affair was a tangle in the little world they currently lived in. He had warned the young wizard about the danger involved with sleeping with an Auror's wife, but Draco disregarded it and took his relations with Mrs. Potter to a sexual level anyway. He claimed it would have happened sooner or later, which was the unfortunate truth.

 

Love was something he found to be a burden at times. It could be used against you in the most dangerous way, if you weren't careful.

 

He would see Draco in the morning and tell him of his possible impending doom then. It would do no good to tell him now, as it would only deprive him of a good night's sleep. The boy was so picky about getting his beauty sleep. Besides, there would be no where to run to if Mrs. Weasley decided to tell Potter everything, and he would need his rest if confronted with an enraged husband.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Hermione practically ran the whole way home, located on the far end of Diagon Alley. Once she was standing at her front door, she paused to collect herself.

 

"Get a grip on yourself," she scolded herself.

 

Thoughts of the gigolo filled her mind. His lips on her mouth, sending those same tingling currents through her body, his hands on her breasts, holding her tight around the waist to his body, suffocating her in drowning kisses. Her legs wrapped about his waist, her nails in his back, her head arched back, his scented skin on her skin.

"Stop it," she quietly hissed to herself. Hermione shook her head back and forth, hoping the physical act would somehow purge the enticing visions in her mind.

 

Opening the door, she was surprised to find Ron sitting on the couch, waiting for her.

 

"Ron!"

 

To say she was surprised to see him there was an understatement. Usually when he threatened to be out all night after one of their fights, she wouldn’t see him till the following evening when their tempers had returned to normal and they could fight in rational volumes.

 

"I thought… you said…" Hermione had been hoping he would hold good on his promise to stay out the night so she could have some privacy to mull over the day she’d had.

 

Ron quickly rose to his feet. He looked like he wanted to sweep Hermione up in his arms, but stood a few paces a way from her and fidgeted.

 

"I was wondering where you were. I'm glad you're okay," he said anxiously.

 

"I… I…" Her mind drew a blank.

 

What could she tell her husband? 'I've just come back from a brothel where I paid a man to listen to me, since I can’t talk to you.' Instead she came up with a half-truth.

 

"I needed some time to think. I had a few drinks."

 

Ron gave a small sigh of relief. "Hermione, you were right. I've been a complete prat. I've been a terrible husband. I haven’t been keeping up my end of the housework and I've been taking you for granted. You do everything and I'm just a complete berk for not helping out as much as I should."

 

A leaden lump of guilt began burning in Hermione's gut.

 

Ron went on with his speech. "And you're right. I should have taken the offers as Keeper for other teams. It was selfish not to consider how it would affect you. We could have had a larger flat by now… or a house even. Just like the ones in the wizarding quarter of Oxford. You would have nice new robes and you could tell the boss to shove off and go look for another job. One that makes you happy."

 

Hermione wanted the ground to open up and swallow her whole. Here she was, having spent seven galleons they could barely spare to have some strange man listen to her bawl about her insignificant life, while Ron was waiting at home to apologize to her after she behaved like a complete harpy toward him.

 

Her cheeks burned with shame and she could feel her heart crumple up upon itself in her chest.

 

"I'm the one who should apologize," she confessed. "I've been a complete and utter shrew, nagging you like a fishwife. You have two jobs; it's only fair I should do more. I've just been really stressed lately and I'm just really, really tired today. I snapped, and it wasn't very nice of me to do it out in public and embarrass you, and…"

 

Ron grabbed her and kissed her deeply. This was the part where they made up. Granted, she would have welcomed the affection most times after they had been fighting, but now that she had been with the man in the mask, she felt soiled.

 

More than anything, she wanted to shower and scrub the scent and the memory of him from her mind and body.

 

"Ron, I–"

 

He kissed her soundly to silence her reservations and mouth.

 

"Shhh. We're both sorry. We just need to work a little harder together, that's all. We'll talk about this later."

 

He kissed her again and Hermione's mind drifted. She recalled how the gigolo's kiss on her hand sent sparks up her arm… 'Just like Ginny described earlier with Malfoy.' Panicked, Hermione kissed Ron back harder, attempting to expunge the terrible idea forming in her mind.

 

She would not entertain thoughts of this mystery man making love to her, bringing her to orgasm after orgasm. Hermione loved Ron, and even if he didn’t turn her on to the point of insanity where she would beg him to slide his cock into her, she would not let herself fantasize about being with another man while she was kissing her husband. It felt like she was cheating on Ron in her heart. It made her feel… dirty.

 

Instead, she concentrated on the good things Ron made her feel. He was an adequate kisser, and granted they didn’t kiss fervently like they did before they’d started having sex, she could find the act pleasant, though a bit boring after a while.

 

In their haste to consummate the make-up-and-kiss portion of the evening, they didn’t even make it to the bedroom.

 

During their coupling, Hermione forced her mind to concentrate on her husband and the way his body felt when joined with hers. She tried to enjoy the feel of his skin on hers and the friction of him entering and withdrawing from her as he ground his body against her.

 

The more she pushed herself to enjoy the moment, the less satisfaction she got. Images of her gigolo flashed briefly in her mind before she banished them once more. She could tell Ron would orgasm soon, and to make him feel that he had brought her some pleasure out of this bout of make-up sex, she faked an orgasm.

 

Since she had never really experienced an orgasm with Ron inside of her, she had learned a fairly convincing repertoire of faces and noises to make. Even his fumbling with his hands at attempts to bring her off before, during or after intercourse did not result in the tingling glow she desperately wanted to experience.

 

Ron collapsed on top of her, panting and sweating. For the fact she did not receive that much pleasure from it at all, she considered it her penance for her actions and thoughts.

 

He pressed light kisses at her temple. His hot sticky breath was too much for her to bear.

 

"That was fantastic, 'Mione," he panted into her hair. "Have I told you what an amazing lover you are?"

 

Hermione shut her eyes, hoping Ron wouldn’t lift his head off her shoulder, and squeezed back the tears.

 

'I'm an awful woman.'

 

Ron could get pleasure from the sex they had, why couldn’t she?

 

'Maybe I'm frigid. I'm too controlling to let myself just enjoy what Ron and I have. So what if he's not the best. He's my husband and I love him. What's wrong with me?'

 

They went to the bedroom quietly, hand-in-hand. Slipping under the covers, Ron spooned behind her, his heavy arm pinning her down around her waist.

 

Once she was sure he had slipped into a deep slumber, Hermione began to cry silently.