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Into the light (A Severus Snape love story)

Chapter Text

"Ten points from Gryffindor!"

Travers Whisp grumbled audibly when Snape deducted ten of their hard-earned points.

"But that's not fair Professor Snape." Another voice interjected.

Severus Snape turned his head slowly towards the girl who had dared to speak and the students became deadly quiet. Only the professor's menacing voice was heard.
"Ten points from Hufflepuff!"

Discontent began to spread among the students. The girl which had raised her voice sighed inaudible and lowered her head. Professor Snape was once again in his famous bad temper. He was always in a bad mood but today was one of those days where one better remained quiet. A shadow fell over Elisabeth's book and she prepared herself for the worst. She slowly raised her head and looked into Snape's black eyes. A cold shiver ran down her spine as he spoke.

"Miss Pine, I had not asked for your opinion. Should you disturb my class again.... you will have detention. For a week! And that will include Saturday and Sunday."

He never yelled at someone but Snape's unsettling quiet voice was usually deeply troubling and underlined with a threatening undertone. Professor Snape raised an annoyed eyebrow and his dark eyes roamed the classroom. There was absolute silence. The only thing he heard was the writing of students. He turned and went to his desk. Before he sat down he darted Whisp one last glance. This rascal! Proud and arrogant! Exactly that what Snape disliked. Luckily for the boy that he was not in Slytherin. Whisp was an unpleasant person from the outset. Yes, he was very talented. Snape could not deny. He was always angry when he saw Whisp. No one had detention with Professor Snape as often as Whisp had had over the past years. Many a time it had been unfair but Snape did not care. He did not like him. The boy had something Snape had not. He was confident and strong. Despite his dark and mostly frightening outer appearance, internally Snape felt vulnerable. He wore a mask through which none of his students had been able to see through.

The first students brought their workbooks to his desk and Snape began to make a stack of them while he eyed each and every student who stepped forward with displeasure. The bell rang and heralded the end of the lesson and also almost the end of the day. Snape reached for the workbooks and tucked them under his arm as he left the empty classroom. It seemed as if the students would flee daily from his class. Snape knew that they were doing exactly that and it did not bother him in the least.
The hinges creaked as he opened the door of his office. He put the workbooks on his desk next to further stacks of workbooks and tests and sank into his chair. The ticking of the clock was the only thing he heard. He should check and correct the works of the students, but his hand did not move. He sat there and stared at the stack of workbooks. It was always the same. One mistake after another. Some students seemed not to understand the simplest things and Snape wondered how they would manage to finish school successfully. The last school year had just begun. A almost imperceptible smirk played on his lips for a few moments. After this year Whisp would leave school and he would never see him again. Snape could not wait.

The dinner was just like always. Snape ate and listened uninterested as the other professors were talking. His gaze wandered sometimes through the great hall before he went back to staring at his plate. The great hall began to empty as the students went to their dormitories.

Snape walked briskly toward his office. It was late and he had a lot to do. To his displeasure he met Professor Trelawney on the way. She walked directly up to him and when he saw her expression Snape knew that he could not escape her.

"Oh .... ohh ... Severus, let me see!"

She grabbed his hand with great urgency and he rolled his eyes annoyed. That's all he needed! He could only tolerate Trelawney's presence when she was silent, leaving him alone with her predictions of the future. Trelawney looked at the lines in his palm.

"Ohh... Severus, I see major changes. The fate blows with great force color into your gray life. The dark and cold chambers in the depths of your heart will soon be filled with the fire of desire. Oh, I see it very clear. The light of love will dance around you... "

Snape rolled his eyes annoyed. He looked up abruptly when he heard giggling. He recognized the girls: third years students from Gryffindor. He made a mental note to give them detention when he taught them next time. Trelawney's excited voice still told him of his fate.

"...a life-changing moment which will bring ...."

"That should be enough for today!" Snape's voice was irritated when he pulled his hand from Trelawney's grip. She stared at him with wide eyes through her glasses while he turned away from her and quickly walked away. His door slammed shut with a loud bang, and he walked up to his desk.

"The cold and dark chambers of your heart ....... filled with the fire of desire ..... the light of love wants to dance ..."
He spat the words out as if they were poison. Trelawney had clearly lost her mind. Snape sank again into his chair and began to correct the works of the students. It was well after midnight and Snape finally lay in his bed, listening to the rain which drummed furiously against the window. He stared into the darkness, waiting for the end of the night. His nights were always the same. Insomnia plagued him since he had come for the first time to Hogwarts. Many years had passed since, and much had changed. Nevertheless, some things remained always the same. Trelawney's words still echoed through his mind.

'The cold and dark chambers of your heart ....... filled with the fire of desire ..... the Light of love wants to dance ...'

"What nonsense!" He growled as he turned on his side and closed his eyes.

 

"She will arrive today. I have given my consent already months ago." Said Dumbledore.

"Which house is she in?" Professor McGonagall was delighted by the news.

"Slytherin". Replied Dumbledore.

Snape entered the professors room and raised his eyebrows when he heard Slytherin. Minerva smiled broadly when she saw him.

"Severus, starting from today you have a new student in your house." Her voice was excited.

"I'm thrilled." He replied coldly.

Dumbledore smiled and walked slowly toward Severus
"Her family moved to England last weekend. They had registered their daughter several months ago. She is already in her seventh year."

Severus looked annoyed out of the window
"Why did they have to move to England now? They could have waited another year until their daughter had finished her education."

He was not thrilled to have a new student and he did not hesitate to show this. Snape left the room and went to the classroom where he would try all day to teach the students about defense against the dark arts. It had always been his desire to teach this subject. However, some of his students were too stupid and too untalented to learn the art of this subject successfully.
.
The lessons were over and Snape was back behind his desk in his office where he corrected the homework of his students. There was a knock at his door and Albus proudly marched into the room. Severus looked up and his eyes fell on the young woman who reluctantly entered the room after Albus. His eyes froze as he looked at her. Dumbledore stopped in front of the desk and handed Severus a few files.

"This is Professor Snape. He's your defense against the dark arts teacher and the head of Slytherin House."

Snape noticed that she swallowed hard as Dumbledore introduced him.

"Severus, this is Miss Abbott. She's just arrived. Since my presence is no longer needed, I will devote my time to my duties."

Dumbledore looked at the young woman and said
"Once again, welcome to Hogwarts."

Snape's eyes followed Albus when he left the office. He got up slowly and stepped closer to Miss Abbott. His posture was stiff and he held his hands clasped behind his back. He noticed that she was nervous. Her fingers fumbled with her jacket and her eyes wandered restlessly through the office. Snape walked slowly around her, eyeing her attentively. Finally he stopped in front of her

"Welcome......... to....... Hogwarts."

Julie winced when she heard his voice for the first time. The tone of his voice was deeply disturbing but at the same time strangely pleasant, almost hypnotizing. Snape studied her reaction extensively before he spoke again.

"I'll take you to Slytherin's common room. The prefects will show you all what you need to know. From tomorrow you will attend the classes with all the other students."

He eyed her from head to toe with a disapproving expression.

"They will also give you suitable clothes."

Julie's heart pounded strongly in her chest as Snape walked over to the door. She hesitated for a moment before she turned and followed the professor in his billowing robes. They were black as was his heart. She had no doubt.

Chapter Text

The way to Slytherin common room was shorter than Julie had expected. Snape stopped abruptly in front of a stone wall and spoke the password.

"Pure-blood."

A door opened and Snape walked down the passage which lead to Slytherin's common room. Julie followed him wordlessly. They entered the common room and she looked around and her eyes fell on the professor who stood silently in front of her. His gaze was piercing and cold. With Snape's unexpected visit the students immediately became dead silent.

"Nott! Come here!" Said Snape.

His eyes did not leave Julie a single time while he was waiting for the prefect. Julie was absolutely certain that no more than a few seconds had passed before a student walked up to the Professor.

"Professor Snape."

Snape's gaze shifted to the student before he turned slowly toward her.

"Miss Nott..."

Jean swallowed hard as Snape glared at her

"Don't you dare to let me wait a g a i n!"

Julie watched with concern the interaction between the Professor and the student. Snape turned slowly back toward Julie while he spoke to the prefect.

"This is Miss Abbott. She will complete her education at Hogwarts. Miss Nott, you are from now on responsible for her."

Jean nodded and Snape glanced at Julie before he left the common room. Julie's gaze followed his flowing robes until the door at the end of the passage had closed. She winced as Jean patted her on the shoulder.

"That's Professor Snape. He is, well, quite grumpy."

"The bad news is that he is always so bad-tempered." Said a dark haired boy.

"Hi, I'm Amycus. Amycus Finnigan."

He reached out to shake Julie's hand and another student joined them.

"Yes, but he can be even worse. I am Kevin Pettigrew."

Julie shook many hands until Jean finally grabbed her by the arm. She brought her into a small room in which three beds stood.

"Here's where you'll sleep." Said Jean.

She looked at Julie attentive and smiled understandingly.

"Don't worry. Professor Snape has not the best reputation. But you have an advantage over many other students."

Julie looked at her hopefully.

"You are a Slytherin." Jean grinned but Julie rolled her eyes and sighed heavily.

As Julie said nothing, Jean continued.

"This is the last year for you. Am I right?"

Julie nodded and Jean sat down on one of the beds.

"For me too. Come here and tell me about yourself. After that I will explain you everything you need to know."

 

Snape sat at his desk and flipped through the files which Dumbledore had given him. Miss Abbott had achieved excellent results. In practically every subject. Her results in potions from the sixth year towered above even his own from this period. Snape was almost impressed. Contrary to his expectations, she seemed to be intelligent. However, there was a subject which was conspicuous. Defense against the dark arts. In theory, she had received the best grades. However, it was quite different in practice. And in this subject the practice was the most important part.
Snape's forehead was set in deep wrinkles as he scanned the results of the practical tests. She had absolutely failed each of them. How was it possible that she had been admitted to the seventh year? He wondered. Her grades had been perfect since the first school year. But halfway through the fifth school year, there was a change. She had often skipped classes and her absences were numerous - in defense against the dark arts.
If she believed that she could skip his classes, she was wrong. He would ensure that she would take part in each of his classes. She would not just take notes. Miss Abbott would practice just like any other student did. Snape closed the files and pushed them to the side in order to correct his students homework. Before he began he looked over to the window. Clouds moved across the dark sky and the new moon was visible.

 

Julie sighs and she looked up to the moon. She could not sleep and she sat down on the window sill and pulled her knees up against her chest. Her chin rested on her knees and she looked out into the dark night. Maybe she should not have come here. The professor was not to be trifled with. Her first impression was very contrary. On one side was Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall who were very friendly and accommodating. On the other side was Professor Snape. He was .... Julie frowned. She could not say exactly what was wrong with him but she was sure that the way he dressed reflected his inner feelings and the state of his mind. His eyes were so dark. You could see no emotion in them. Only darkness. She shivered and pulled her knees even closer to her body. A long sigh escaped her pale lips. Professor Snape was not only the head of Slytherin house, he was also her teacher for defense against the dark arts. She saw difficult times ahead and cursed herself that she had agreed to finish her education.

 

"Is everything ok?"

Jean found Julie the next morning lying curled up on the window sill. Julie yawned and suddenly sat up abruptly. Her eyes crossed the room frantically before she looked at Jean.

"Well, you're a little confused about your whereabouts, are you?"

Julie nodded and sighed.

"Hurry up or we'll be late for breakfast."

Jean turned around and walked away and Julie jumped off the window sill and headed for the bathroom.

 

Their last lesson on this day was defense against the dark arts. Julie was a little exhausted. Her classmates from the other houses had asked her many questions and she longed for peace. She was startled when the door banged loudly against the wall. Professor Snape had come. He stopped when he stood before his desk and turned around.

"Take out your w a n d s."

His eyes scanned the classroom to see whether all students were present.

"We will go into the small courtyard to practice."

None of the students looked pleased. But Snape ignored them all. He had Julie in his sights. He noticed how she paled significantly. Julie picked up her wand and stood up to follow the other students. She was the last in the classroom. At least that's what she thought.

"Faster. Miss Abbott."

Snape's voice had a threatening undertone.
Julie winced when she heard him speak and quickened her pace to catch up the other students and in order to gain distance to Professor Snape. But she was not fast enough and he followed like her own shadow. When they reached the small courtyard Julie wiped away the sweat from her forehead. Her heartbeat quickened and her hands were sweaty. She clutched her wand and stood in the background.

"Finnigan!"

Snape's commanding voice made the boy jump. The student stepped forward and waited. Snape looked straight at Julie.

"Miss A b b o t t."

Julie's heart stuttered. She watched as Snape said her name and it seemed to her as if he did it in slow motion. She did not move from the spot.

"Are you crazy?" Whispered Jean and grabbed her by the arm and pushed her forward.

Julie went to the other end of the small courtyard and turned around. They stood face to face and waited.

"Today we are practicing nonverbal spells."

Snape's words surprised all and some students began to grumble

"But Professor Snape, that is a subject from last year."

"S i l e n c e"!

Snape gave the student who had spoken a warning glance.

"We begin now. Abbott and Finnigan, concentrate and discipline your minds."

Amycus took position as Snape's gaze wandered to Julie. The sweat on her forehead was visible to Snape even on the distance. Her chest heaved quickly and Snape turned and gaped at her. The hand which held her wand shook uncontrollably. Her body seemed very tense. Snape frowned and he opened his mouth to stop Amycus but it was already too late. Amycus waved his wand. Snape could do nothing but watch. With the movement of Amycus wand Julie's eyes widened in fear and less than a second later she was flung with full force against the wall. The sight was terrible and the students rushed to her side.

"Get out of my way!"

Snape shoved the students aside and knelt down to examine her injuries. His gaze was doubtful and he looked up at the wall which was smeared with her blood.

"Returns to your houses!"

Without hesitation he picked Julie up and carried her to the hospital wing. That had gone terribly wrong. Snape cursed the girl for her stupidity. It was a long time ago that a student of his house had been seriously injured. He growled angrily as he approached the large doors of the hospital wing.

Madam Pomfrey was shocked when Snape burst inside the room.

"Over here." She pointed her finger to one of the beds and Snape approached it with haste.

"Oh, this looks very bad. How did that happen?" Pomfrey's voice was filled with concern.

"They should practice nonverbal spells. She was flung against the wall." Said Snape.

Madam Pomfrey got down to work and Snape stood on the other side of the bed and watched her. When she was finished, she turned to Snape.

"Severus, the last time when a student had been injured during your lesson was many years ago."

Snape nodded silently and looked at Madam Pomfrey seriously.

"I've never had a student who has not defended himself. She has not even tried to do so."

"Are you sure?" Pomfrey looked at him questioningly.

"Of course! I've seen it with my own eyes." Snape grumbled angrily.

Pomfrey looked at him surprised and worried at the same time.

"And why did not you stop it?"

"What?" Snape seemed confused.

"The spell!" Pomfrey's voice sounded a bit outraged.

"How?" Snape paused and looked doubtfully at Madam Pomfrey.

"Severus, this is serious. Why didn't you stop the spell? From all of us you have the most experience with them. That's why you're a teacher. And these are children. They are your students."

The wrinkle above his nose deepened and Snape looked questioningly at Julie.

"I don't know."

Snape sat down on a chair which stood beside the bed and his thoughts circled around Pomfrey's question. WHY had he not stopped the spell? Abbott had been lazy. She had skipped lessons. She had.... Snape shook his head to stop his train of thoughts. Was it really her fault?
He had first not noticed her fear. He had seen how the sweat beaded on her forehead. He had seen how her chest heaved with every breath.
When he had noticed her trembling hand and the paleness of her skin, it had already been too late. Her physical reaction had been that of fear. A deep and powerful fear which had gained control over her body. He could have still stopped the spell but he hadn't. He had been unable to do so because..... Snape's nostrils flared and his eyes widened. Because in that moment he had been far too shocked by how deeply he was fascinated by that girl. Snape's shocked gaze wandered to Julie, who lay unconscious on the bed. Pomfrey grabbed the blanket and covered her. He watched as Madam Pomfrey began to clear away various vials.
When she had finished, she looked at him.

"Severus, you should wash yourself."

Madam Pomfrey pointed at Snape's hands. He looked down at his hands and frowned. The blood that had run over his hands, had already dried. His right sleeve was wet. It was soaked in her blood. Her wound had bled heavily while he had brought her to Pomfrey. Snape stood up and looked at Julie again before he left the hospital wing.

The door of his office slammed shut. Snape walked through another door into his private rooms. His cloak fell to the floor and Snape started to unbutton the many buttons on his clothes while he disgustedly looked at himself in the mirror. His deep dark eyes looked quizzically back at him. He began to undress. When his last shirt ended on the bathroom floor, he began to wash the blood from his body. His expression was serious and dark. His mind still refused to accept what had just happened. He had wanted to force her to practice. Instead, there had been an accident. An truly unusual accident. Why had Miss Abbott not done what everyone else would have done? Snape closed his eyes and tried to end the turmoil in his mind. But he did not succeed. It was not her fault. He was responsible for his students. He had been distracted. She had distracted him. Why was he suddenly so attracted to her? Snape opened his eyes and looked at his reflection. Attracted to her? Snape shook his head, trying to deny it. He growled as he hit the sink with his fist. What was wrong with him? Had he unknowingly drank a magic potion? Or had he been bewitched? Snape looked into the mirror and did not like what he saw. He saw a man whose spirit was broken. He saw a man who had depreciated his life before it had ever begun. Snape turned away in disgust.

Chapter Text

Snape drew the curtain, turned on the water and stepped inside his shower. He closed his eyes and leant his forehead slowly against the cold stone wall. Snape tried to feel anything anymore. Nothing but the cold water which was incessantly drizzling down on him. But no matter how hard he tried, he failed. The memory of Miss Abbott governed his mind and controlled his senses. There was nothing he could do about it. Finally, he turned off the water and left the shower. He grabbed a towel and began to dry himself. Snape's cold gaze fell once again at his reflection and he despised himself for his weakness.
He had overcome many dangers and survived great suffering. Sometimes he wondered why he was still in his right mind. His students had certainly a different opinion about him because they saw his inner demons every day. But Snape knew that he was in his right mind. Deep within him lived the insanity and yet he was able to live a relatively normal life. Fate had shown him the merciless reality of life before he was an adult. Boundless curiosity and his interest in the dark arts of magic had brought him on one side immense wealth in the form of knowledge and power. On the other hand, it had broken his spirit. He was a split personality, which seemed outwardly cold and aloof, but was inwardly fragile and desperate. Knowledge and power had early taken their toll. The memories of torture and pain still burned brightly in him. Whether he had experienced it at the hands of the Dark Lord or in Azkaban, made no difference. The pain and suffering had been the same. Snape did not know how he could extinguish the fire of remembrance. Dark memories haunted his dreams. They tortured him. Snape knew that there was no cure for him. However, although the times had changed and Snape was a free man today, he lived daily with the insanity that would accompany him for as long as he lived.
But as if his life was not painful enough, fate had struck again. This time in the form of a student - Julie Abbott. Curiosity burned again in him. But this time it was different. The urge which had deeply lain in him concealed, required attention. It forced him to his knees and Snape did not feel able to put up a fight against it. It was a force of his masculine nature. He longed for something he had never experienced before. He felt weak and vulnerable and he hated that feeling abysmally. His mood darkened and he left his bathroom to dress. The day was far from over.

Snape walked toward Slytherin's common room. His ebony robe trailed behind him and his footsteps echoed through the gloomy corridor. His expression was serious and cold but those few who knew him could see the doubts which lay hidden behind his facade of indifference and coldness. Doubts which he had buried deep within himself. Today they had forcibly resurfaced. Even a cold shower, which had often helped him to a clear head, had brought no satisfactory result. Snape snarled audibly and quickened his pace. His face darkened as he entered Slytherin's common room.

It was already evening and Slytherin's students sat together and waited for news. By now, everyone knew what had happened during Snape's lesson. Snape entered the room authoritatively and Jean jumped up immediately.

"How is she doing?"

Snape stared at her reproachfully.

"It could be worse." He replied coldly.

Amycus turned to Snape, blame was written all over his face.

"And what says Madam Pomfrey?" He asked in a voice that was full of concern.

Snape looked at him darkly.

"Madam Pomfrey hopes that Miss Abbott can resume her studies after spending a full week in the hospital wing. Until further notice, however, all visits are p r o h i b i t e d!"

Jean was outraged "Why?"

"Silence," Snape gave Jean a look as if he if he wanted to strangle her, "This is the decision of Madam Pomfrey. She has plenty of experience and is a master in the art of healing."

He glanced through the common room which was filled with students.

"The lessons will continue as usual for everyone else," he said in his usual insufferable way, "Miss Nott!"

Jean winced when she heard her name.

"Come along."

Jean stood there motionless, looking at him worriedly.

"Instantly!" Snape's voice was suddenly filled with anger.

He turned quickly to exit the common room. Jean followed Professor Snape nervously. They went into Snape's office where Jean stopped before his desk. She looked at Snape who was sitting in his chair. His hands were resting on the desk and his pale fingers were intertwined. Snape studied her carefully for a moment before he spoke.

"I'm assuming that you have spent a lot of time with Miss Abbott last night."

Jean nodded silently, wondering where this conversation would lead.

"Good. Then tell me about it." The tone of his voice was demanding.

Jean stared at the Professor through wide eyes and remained silent.

"Have you lost your ability to speak?" His voice sounded menacingly and Jean shifted her feet nervously.

"What do you want to know?" She asked, puzzled about his unexpected question.

"Everything!" Snape's voice was cold and indifferent and her surprised expression irritated him greatly.

"As you already know, Miss Abbott was seriously injured. Her behavior was alarming.
Q u e s t i o n a b l e is a more appropriate word, am I right?"

Jean thought briefly about his words before she nodded in agreement.

"Good. This explains why I want to know e v e r y t h i n g." Snape leaned back in his chair and looked at her demanding.

Jean nodded and took a deep breath before she spoke.

"I did a bit questioned last night. At least I've tried."

Snape arched a brow at her

"A n d?"

"Julie, I mean, Miss Abbott told me a lot. But nothing revealing. In retrospect, I noticed that she told me almost nothing private. The only thing I know in this regard is that her father received a job offer in the Ministry of Magic. That's why she's here, in Hogwarts to finish her education."

"That's all?" Snape asked.

Jean let out a long sigh.

"Well, she told me about the school she came from and who her parents are. But most of all she talked very extensively about the lessons."

"And what did she say about the lessons?" Snape asked.

Jean shrugged.

"Nothing special. Their lessons seemed indistinguishable from ours."

Snape eyed her silently for some time.

"If that's all, then you can go now." He said, and with a movement of his head he pointed to the door.

Jean turned and left the office quickly. She closed the door and stopped. Her glance wandered to and fro between two corridors and Jean chose the brighter hallway, hoping that she would not get caught by Snape. She looked around one last time before she slowly sneaked off towards the hospital wing. Soon the massive doors came into sight and Jean opened one door cautiously and peeked inside. Madam Pomfrey stood at Julie's bedside. Jean looked around the room and noticed that nobody else was present. She entered the hospital wing and Madam Pomfrey looked up in surprise. She frowned when Jean walked in.

"I told Professor Snape, that visits are not allowed." Pomfrey's voice was stern and Jean nodded disappointed, yet she tried to persuade Madam Pomfrey.

"I am responsible for Julie. Please, can I stay here? Only for a short time?" Her voice was pleading and Poppy sighed before she smiled gently.

"Well, but only for a short time. And do not talk. Your friend needs rest."

"Thank you!" Jean nodded eagerly and approached the bed. She looked at Julie with a worried expression. The girl was terribly pale. Jean sat down on a chair beside the bed.

"Will she sleep through the whole night," whispered Jean.

Madam Pomfrey frowned and sighed heavily. She stroked gently over Julie's brow and looked at Jean.

"She is not sleeping. Your friend is still unconscious. That's not a good sign. I have done my best and hope that she will soon regain consciousness." Said Madam Pomfrey in a low voice.

Jean touched Julie's hand softly and clutched it gently with her own. Pomfrey watched the gesture and smiled.

"I must go to Professor Dumbledore. But I'll be back soon. You should return to your dormitory before Professor Snape will notice your absence. It's late."

She winked at Jean and left the hospital wing.

 

Madame Pomfrey closed the door and went down the hall and turned the corner where she collided with Snape. He looked at her darkly, but his voice was surprisingly quiet.

"Poppy, our conversation this afternoon should remain between us, and us alone." He said in a low voice.

Pomfrey's eyes widened and she nodded.

"Of course, Severus."

He nodded slowly and studied her expression thoughtfully.

"Is there something you wish to tell me?" He asked with a raised eyebrow.

Poppy shook her head.

"No, Severus, there's nothing."

"Are you sure?" Snape looked at her searchingly.

"Everything's fine. Albus was recently in the hospital wing and inquired about her well-being. He said that he expects a detailed report of how this accident could happen."

Snape rolled his eyes annoyed, but nodded nonetheless. He walked around Pomfrey and disappeared around the corner. She knew where he was going. He would find Jean in the hospital wing. Poppy sighed and headed towards Dumbledor's office. There was nothing what she could do to help the poor girl.

 

Jean heard the door open and thought that Pomfrey had come back again. Her thumb stroked Julie's hand which she still held in her own. Then she felt an imminent threat and a cold shiver ran down her spine.

"Miss Nott."

She nearly froze when she heard Snape's grim voice behind her. Why was he here? Jean let go of Julie's hand and got up to turn around. Snape was seriously annoyed.

"Have I not expressed myself clearly," he snapped, "Visits were expressly forbidden!"

And why was HE here, thought Jean as she gulped. He was their teacher for defense against the dark arts and head of Slytherin house and that explained everything.

"Yes Professor Snape. But you have also said that I am responsible for her. I could not help but to visit Julie... Miss Abbott." She corrected herself.

Jean looked at him pleadingly and Snape answered with a strict and gloomy glance. His gaze wandered to Julie and he stared at her for a moment before his angered glance fell on Jean once more.

"All right then. But visits are permitted o n l y in the late afternoon. Assuming that Madam Pomfrey allows them," Snape narrowed his eyes and looked at Jean, "It seems to me that Madam Pomfrey has already granted you permission. Nonetheless, if I should meet you here at a different time of the day, it will have serious consequences. Do you understand that?"

Jean nodded eagerly.

"Yes sir."

She stood motionless in front of him and Snape's expression darkened dangerously.

"Get out!" He hissed.

Jean left the hospital wing quickly. Her accidental meeting with Professor Snape had taken a unexpected end. No points were deducted from Slytherin and she had not received detention. Jean walked quickly back to Slyterin's common room.

 

Snape stared for a moment at the door after it had closed before he grabbed the chair and pushed it closer to the bed. He sat down and stared at Julie. His gaze wandered over her pale face and he studied her features slowly. Why had she not defend herself? A question which he could not get out of his head. Snape could not understand it. Had she done it deliberately to avoid having to attend classes? It would be a plausible explanation but Snape knew that this was not the case. There was another reason for her strange behavior. Something that was not known to him. Snape thought once again back to the moment in which the accident happened. Everything seemed to be normal, but then she reacted differently than he had expected. She had been afraid. Her skin had glistened in the sun and he was mesmerized when his eyes fell on her chest that raised with every breath.
His eyes were transfixed on her chest once again, as it rose steadily with each calm breath she took. Snape sighed and tried desperately to get a grip on himself. Why had these memories such an impact on him? He remembered Sybille's prophecy. Snape frowned and looked stubbornly at Julie. Was she the one who.... Snape shook his head excitedly. What a nonsense! Just because Trelawney had made him a mindless prediction, this did not mean that it would also prove to be true. Abbott was his student. For a year. Then he would no longer be her teacher. Snape clenched his hands into fists. Why did these thoughts not stop?

Poppy opened the door quietly and stopped when she saw Snape, who was sitting on Julie's bedside. Madam Pomfrey walked over to Julie's bed. From her site Poppy could see that the bandage around Julie's head was soaked with blood at the back. She frowned and began to remove the bandage carefully. Snape seemed to be struggling with himself until he suddenly stood up. He reached out and placed one of his hands under Julie's shoulder while with the other he supported her neck. He lifted her up slightly to help Poppy with the changing of the bandage. Snape looked down at Julie and could not help but notice that his heart began to beat faster. Poppy worked quickly. After she had changed the bandage, she pushed another pillow under Julie's head. Snape rested her head gently on it and stepped back hesitantly.

Poppy looked at Snape thoughtfully and sighed inaudibly.

"Severus, I've known you since your first year at Hogwarts."

That was all she said. Every other word would have been unnecessary and Poppy knew it. She did not want to offend him. But she wanted to let him know that she knew what he was going through. Snape stood on the other side of the bed and glanced at her but said nothing. His eyes were very dark but his expression was questioning. Poppy noticed it. She sighed when he turned around and left the hospital wing without a word.

 

The workbooks of his students piled up on his desk and Snape sat motionless, thinking. He knew he had to work. A glance at the clock discourage him. It was nearly midnight. He had spent the last two hours with sitting and doing nothing. Nothing except thinking. His memories plagued him and he tried to banish the impressions of the day from his head. But he did not succeed. After his visit to the hospital wing in the evening it had become even worse. Snape still felt the warmth of her body on his hands. It plagued him. He furrowed his brows and sighed heavily. He was totally confused. A state of mind which he did not know. Miss Abbott's appearance in Hogwarts had thrown him completely off balance. He felt strongly attracted to her and he knew no means or spell to stop this once and for all. Snape could weaken the influence that Miss Abbott had on him. But it would not last. He knew that even if she would leave the school next year, he would continue to suffer. What if he would relent? He was not blind, he knew exactly where this would lead - at least for himself. But did he want this? Or rather, was there anything he could do about it? He was now sure that this situation was not created by magic. No one had played a trick on him. It was a natural occurrence and Snape could do nothing but wait until was over. But what to do until then? Snape grumbled angrily to himself. His head ached and he rubbed his temples with his fingers. His face darkened and he reached out for the first stack of workbooks. First he would finish his work. Then he would have time to think.

Chapter Text

"She is a failure and a total waste of time!"

Snape's angry voice echoed through Dumbledore's office. Albus did not share his opinion and that made Snape angry.

"SHE - is a waste of time?"

Dumbledore raised an eyebrow and looked at the visible disgruntled Professor in surprise.
Snape rolled his eyes annoyed.

"No," he said in a voice which sounded a little less angry. To give more emphasis to his words, Snape pointed his index finger at himself and poked it almost painfully against his chest, "But I'm wasting MY time when I teach Miss Abbott!"

Albus leaned back in his chair and looked at him intently while Snape continued.

"How can she pass the practical exam at the end of this school year? Have you seen Miss Abbott's exam results from the last two years?" Snape sounded totally irritated.

Dumbledore looked at him unimpressed.

"Yes, I have seen them," he said quietly, "Severus, Miss Abbott has sufficient theoretical knowledge. She has unambiguously a problem with the practical part of the subject. I stress again, with the practical part, Severus."

Snape approached him slowly, shaking his head.

"This is well known to me," Snape said in a venomous tone, "That's why I said that Miss Abbott should not be in the seventh grade. If Miss Abbott, as you have just acknowledged, has problems with the practical part of the subject, then it would be best if she repeated the sixth school year."

McGonagall had listened to the conversation so far in silence and was deeply shocked by Snape's words.

"You cannot let the poor girl repeat an whole school year, just because she lacks practical experience in defense against the dark arts!" Said Minerva indignantly.

Dumbledore nodded in agreement but Snape shook his head stubbornly.

"Miss Abbott should not have been admitted to the seventh school year. Therefore, I say that she should repeat at least the sixth school year. And because her problems began during the fifth year, I dare to say, it makes sense, if she also repeated the fifth school year," Snape raised an eyebrow and looked at Minerva with determination, "Otherwise, I refuse to teach her!"

Severus finished his little speech and Albus sighed, while Minerva approached Snape.

"Who gave you the right to..."

Snape interrupted her, "I need no one's permission to make this decision!"

His eyes widened dangerously as he turned toward Minerva

"I am the head of Slytherin House. Who besides me....."

"ENOUGH!" Dumbledore's voice boomed suddenly through his office.

Snape and Minerva looked at him in surprise.

"Miss Abbott will neither repeat the fifth, nor the sixth school year. She will, like any other student in her year, be admitted to the exams at the end of this school year."

Snape looked at Albus with a mixture of disgust and disbelief.

"This will prove to be a waste of time!" He said coldly.

Dumbledore smiled softly.

"My decision requires of you, Severus, let's say, more effort?"

Snape frowned and looked at Albus totally confused.

"More effort?"

Minerva smiled triumphantly and Dumbledore nodded.

"Yes. That's right! Severus, if you are so concerned that Miss Abbott might not pass her practical exam, then you will
give her tutoring sessions."

Snape's eyes narrowed and he stared at Albus blankly.

"Tutoring sessions?" His voice sounded incredulous.

Albus smiled determined.

"Yes, Severus. Tutoring sessions."

Now Snape was dumbfounded. Minerva smiled internally and watched how Snape left the office with long strides and billowing robes. Dumbledore chuckled softly and his gaze fell on Minerva.

"That was not as hard, as I suspected," he said cheerfully.

 

Snape walked swiftly toward his office. The students who encountered him on the way, ran away when they saw his furious expression.
Tutoring sessions! Now he had to give Miss Abbott tutoring sessions. This was ridiculous!

"This will be certainly a waste of time," he mumbled as he rushed down the stairs to the dungeons. It could not get any worse. Snape reached his office, slammed the door shut and walked over to his desk where he sank into his chair. He scowled.

"Tutoring sessions!"

As if he had nothing better to do. Snape shook his head. Why had he gone to Dumbledore? What had he been thinking? Snape sighed angry and asked himself whether he was really concerned about the success or failure of Miss Abbott. He frowned and tried to answer the question. Was he really worried that Miss Abbott could not pass her exam successfully? What had been his motivation when he had gone to speak with Dumbledore? His expression was doubtful as he tried to identify the real reason. Snape shuddered and closed his eyes. He did not want to admit it, but he probably wanted Miss Abbott to stay at Hogwarts for longer. He knew that he had no real chance, but he was apparently trying to gain time. Snape slapped both hands over his face and growled. He had made a fool of himself. What he had said to Dumbledore, did not make sense. Angered by his carelessness and stupidity, he stood up and threw a glass against the wall where it shattered into countless shards.
"Idiot!" he said aloud to himself.
Had her presence rendered his mind inoperable? What had gotten into him? He sighed as he thought of Miss Abbott and sat back in his chair in frustration. So far no student had to repeat a year. His idea had been ridiculous. Snape wondered what Albus thought about him. On one side he did not care. On the other hand, he owed Albus a lot. He would like to know his opinion but Snape would not ask him. He felt embarrassed. Snape was always controlled and focused. The fact that he could hide his thoughts and feelings in front of others, had ultimately saved his life. But that changed suddenly. Snape had a feeling as if he was an open book. His laboriously constructed defensive wall collapsed rapidly...because of a woman. Snape shook his head in disbelief. This simply could not be true. He leaned his head against the back of his chair and stared blankly against the wall. Tutoring lessons. Dumbledore's instruction echoed in his head again. Snape sighed. Tutoring lessons were, if required, given by elder students from the seventh year. That was quite common in Hogwarts. Why had Dumbledore entrusted him with it? Snape furrowed his brows and tapped his foot nervously on the floor. Was it possible that Albus knew about his problem? Snape shook his head. He doubted that. Dumbledore rather saw the need for an experienced member of staff, to help the girl, who had some kind of problem, which Snape did not understand. The circumstances were unusual and probably Dumbledore treated them as such. Most likely, Snape thought. But what would he do? How would he deal with the situation?

*****

More than two weeks had passed without further incidents. Julie was allowed to leave the hospital wing today and Madam Pomfrey examined her one last time.

"Your recovery took a little longer than I thought. You may go now, but I beg you to be careful. Follow my advice and if you should feel unwell, then come to me at once."

Julie smiled at Madam Pomfrey

"Thank you for your care and attention. I'll be careful," she said to Poppy before she left the hospital wing.

She still had a dull pain in her head and frequently complained of dizziness. Otherwise, Julie felt healthy. She walked slowly toward the dungeons. The winding stairs proved a challenge and Julie felt dizzy.

"Pure-blood," she said softly as she reached her goal.

The door opened and Julie entered the common room of Slytherin. When Jean saw Julie, she ran enthusiastically towards her.

"Welcome back," she shouted as she hugged Julie.

Julie felt dizzy again and she clung with both hands to Jean.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Madam Pomfrey has already told me that we should look after yourself," said Jean before she hugged her friend again, this time with more caution.

The last two weeks Jean had spent many hours at Julie's bedside. Of course, only in the late afternoon. The two young women were now close friends. Nevertheless, Jean still did not know very much about Julie.
Amycus entered the common room and was relieved when he saw Julie.

"Ah, there you are again," he said and strode toward them, "I'm still very sorry for what happened," Amycus said with remorse.

"Do not worry," said Julie smiling as she patted him encouragingly on his shoulder.

"Before I forget, Professor Snape wants to see you in his office." Said Amycus as he looked compassionately at her.

"Now"? she asked surprised.

"Immediately". Amycus imitated Snape's tone and everyone laughed. Julie's expression quickly became serious and she nodded.

"Then I have to go now."

Julie sighed and walked with a heavy heart to the office of the Professor. Snape had occasionally visited her in the hospital wing and inquired about their well-being. Julie's impression of him had not changed. He was cold and unapproachable. She reached the office and knocked softly, before she opened the door slowly. Snape sat at his desk and was busy. Julie came in and stood in front of his desk. After a few moments Snape looked up at her.

"Miss Abbott," he said. His voice was dark and he looked at her with a strange expression, which she could not identify.

"Professor Snape, you have called for me?"

Snape heard insecurity and fear in her voice. He stood up and walked around his desk. Julie turned around, so that she stood now between Snape and the desk. The last button of his shirt that was buttoned up to his neck was at her eye level and Julie raised her head to look at him. She stared at him through her green eyes and Snape was speechless for a few moments. He swallowed hard and tried to concentrate.

"I hope that your health is well enough, to attend the lessons."

Julie nodded.

"Thank you, Professor. Yes, Madam Pomfrey said that I should avoid sudden movements and...."

"I know that," Snape interrupted her quite rude, "I am the head of Slytherin House and I was the first to be informed by Madam Pomfrey about your health status."

His voice was just as rude as his facial expression and Julie's lips were drawn into a straight line.

"Nevertheless, you will participate in my lessons. In theory, A N D in practice!"

He looked at her intently and saw the fear which shone in her eyes. Julie nodded wordlessly and Snape continued.

"Good. Now tell me what happened two weeks ago. Why did not you defend yourself?"

This sounded rather like a command and not like a question and Julie turned her gaze abruptly away from him. She stared at his black shoes and wondered if he wore other colors except black. Julie felt him staring at her. What should she say? Definitely not the truth! She looked at him shyly.

"Mm, I was not prepared."

Snape raised an angry eyebrow.

"You were ..... n o t ...... p r e p a r e d?"

Julie nodded in the hope that he would believe her words.

"Nonsense!" He hissed at her.

Julie was so terrified that she flinched and bumped against the desk as she backed away from him.

"Do not lie to me. Why did not you defend yourself?"

Julie remained silent and Snape was boiling with rage now.

"You can't fool me. I've seen your exam results. They were very good in Defense Against the Dark Arts. Until the fifth year. Why has it changed? Tell me, what happened. I won't accept your silence."

Snape's voice was demanding. His kind of interrogation was not the friendliest and failed miserably. Julie remained silent and Snape's voice was suddenly cold.

"Miss Abbott, I'm assuming that detention is appropriate in your case," he paused before he continued, "Until you have answered my questions HONESTLY and to MY satisfaction, you will come EVERY DAY after school to my office."

Julie swallowed hard and nodded without saying anything. Snape stepped away from her and walked around his desk where he sat down again. Julie was about to turn to leave the office when Snape spoke with a threatening voice.

"Miss Abbott, where are you going?"

Julie looked at him in surprise.

"I'm going back to the common room."

Snape shook his head slowly.

"No, you won't. Your detention will begin NOW."

He gestured with his finger to a chair at the other end of the room.

"Bring that chair and sit down in front of my desk."

Julie took the chair and sat down as prompted. Snape pushed a large pile workbooks to her side of the desk and handed her a pencil. Julie looked at him quizzically.

"These are the homework's the first and second years. I expect that you correct them. When you're done, I'm going to check the result of your work."

Julie took the pencil from his hand as she looked into his dark eyes. When she took the pencil, her fingers brushed unintentionally against his and Snape's hand trembled. But Julie had not noticed this. She had already begun to read.

 

Tick tock, tick tock, the silence in the office was so deep that the ticking of the clock seemed almost disturbing. Julie looked at the clock and yawned exhausted. It was nearly nine clock in the evening. For the first time since she had begun her detention, she dared to risk a glance at Snape. Several hours had passed since then and Julie's hands were now cold. Snape had observed her for a long time. His expression was ... different. Julie frowned when she noticed his gaze.

"You can go now." Said Snape with an unusually calm voice.

Julie nodded and put the pencil on the desk before she stood up and walked over to the door. Snape sat up abruptly. When she stood up, her hands had trembled. He guessed what might happen next, and he was right in his assumption. Snape followed her immediately. Halfway to the door, she felt suddenly dizzy and her knees buckled. Snape wrapped his arm around her waist and held her upright as he pulled her tightly against his body.

"You must sit down," he said softly and brought her back to the chair. Julie sat down with his help and her trembling hands gripped his arm. A few strands of her blond hair had fallen into her face and without thinking about it, he took them and tugged them behind her ear. His fingers lingered there, while his gaze fell on her chest.
The serpentine pendant which she wore on a fine silver chain around her neck moved back and forth with her breathing. Snape caught himself, as his gaze fell once again on something he should not see. He pulled himself together and noticed that she had become even paler. Snape was forced to bring her back to the hospital wing.

He pushed the door open and his eyes fell on Madam Pomfrey.

"What happened?" Poppy asked, as she approached them quickly.

Julie was silent and Snape explained the predicament. Poppy looked at him angrily while they laid Julie on a bed. Madam Pomfrey took care of her while Snape could not turn his eyes away from his student.

Remorse rose up in him and Snape grimaced as if he was in pain. Why had he done that? He had known that it was wrong. Snape frowned. He regretted deeply what he had done. But why had he done it? Why? That's the way you are, said his inner voice and Snape agreed immediately. He tolerated no disobedience, no lies. He hated know-all students and he hated weakness. He sighed audibly. He himself had weaknesses. He looked thoughtfully at Julie. She brought things in him to light, which he refused to acknowledge. And one of them was, that he had a weakness for her. But this still did not explain, why he had behaved so wrong. Was his desire to be close to her so strong, that he was willing to let her suffer? Or was it just the way how he treated his students? Had it been his habit? He did not know if she was disobedient, or a nerd. He knew nothing about her. Not even, whether Miss Abbott was weak. Perhaps he had seen her strength? Everything what Snape knew about her, he had read in her files. Written by someone, whom Snape had never met. There must be more to Miss Abbott than meets the eye, he thought, or else why would he be interested in her? But what exactly that was, he did not know. Snape caught himself as he stared at Julie. He forced himself to withdraw his glance from her and left the hospital wing with a feeling of regret.

In the early morning Snape was still sitting in his chair, thinking. Snape waited for the sunrise. He had found no sleep. The carousel of thought in his head had not stopped and that's why he had not gone to bed. Countless questions and at least as many possible answers had bothered him. They had occupied his mind all night. Questions which he ultimately could not answer, no matter how hard he had tried. Snape had his eyebrows pulled together and the steep wrinkle between his eyes showed more clearly than ever.

What had gotten into him yesterday? He had wavered back and forth between desire and disgust and Snape was now too tired and too exhausted to fight against it. It was a roller coaster ride of emotions. Meanwhile, he had understood that the disgust which he felt had nothing to do with Miss Abbott. He was disgusted by himself. He was disgusted by his weakness and the strong desire which he felt for her.
Snape compared the current situation with the former, when he still served the Dark Lord. At that time he had reached his limits often. But it had always been a foreseeable period of time. The situation in which he was now, was different. Miss Abbott would stay for another nine months in Hogwarts. The last two weeks had exhausted him. Snape mused about the possibilities which he had, and came to the conclusion that he would accept his fate. What else could he do? He had already tried to escape his fate once and then it had almost ended in disaster. But how would he handle it?

Snape remembered how Miss Abbott's fingers had brushed carefully over the pages of the workbooks. He liked how she had tapped her fingers on the pages, when she had found a mistake. The manner, how she moved her lips as she silently read essays was irresistible. There was little resemblance between her and Lily, thought Snape.

Lily ... Snape's face was twisted with pain. Lily had married the fool Potter. Yet Snape had never ceased to love her. After everything they had been through together, Lily had opted for another man. Lily had chosen deliberately not to see his suffering. There has never been a more plausible explanation than this. They had known each other since childhood. Lily had known his fears and deepest feelings. And she had known what he felt for her. During their school days at Hogwarts, Snape had been bullied by Potter and his friends. Potter always found a way to treat Snape unfairly. Even when Lily was around. She knew everything. Not only because Lily had partially witnessed Potter's meanness. Snape had told her about it. In addition, the idiot Potter told others about his exploits. Snape was the laughingstock of the entire school.

Lily had known how much it had hurt Snape, but she had ultimately chosen Potter. Snape knew then that Lily did not feel the same for him. Of course, it hurt him. But the greatest pain Snape ever felt, was the pain he went through, when Lily sided with Potter. She had sided with a man, who had bullied him always. Potter had made Snape's life miserable and Lily had known better than anyone, how much Snape had suffered. Lily knew him better than she knew herself. She knew what he felt and thought. Nevertheless, she had decided to betray him. Despite his love for her, Snape had never forgiven her for that. That was one reason why he had taken a liking to humiliate Harry Potter. It gave him the feeling of obtaining justice. Despite his inclination to let Harry Potter suffer, Snape knew that he would protect him, no matter what it cost. Although Lily had hurt him intentionally, Snape would not make the same mistake. Harry Potter was alive and Snape had played a significant role in it. When it was all over, Snape had noticed that he had made peace with Lily. Dumbledore had told him then, that he had obtained redemption. Sometimes Snape was not sure whether that was true. But he tried to believe it.

He had lost his interest in women. After Lily, Snape had vowed that he would remain alone. What type of woman would love him? Who he was? Snape frowned. His interest in women had abruptly returned when he had seen Miss Abbott. Would it be possible that she could find a liking in him? Snape did not dare to hope so. He shook his head and promised himself not to think about it. But it was difficult.
Old, dark feelings came up in him. For the first time in over twenty years, Snape did nothing to stop this. All his anger and his pain, his sorrow, shame, desperation and his aggression came together and turned his mind to a great pitch. A long time he sat silent and motionless, staring over to the window. Then he sighed deeply and closed his eyes. The negative feelings had come and gone, and Snape felt free. He pushed up his sleeve and eyed the spot on his forearm where the Dark Mark had been. The fine scar tissue which had remained there after Voldemort's death was almost gone. Fate had freed him from heavy loads.

He had made many mistakes in his life and had ultimately paid for it. Maybe fate gave him a second chance? Snape secretly hoped that would be the case. When the sun rose, he left his office. Snape knew that he would find Miss Abbott either in the hospital wing, or in Slytherin's common room.

Chapter Text

"Where have you been," Jean's cheerful voice echoed through the gloomy dungeons.

Julie smiled wearily, "I was with Madam Pomfrey in the hospital wing," she said softly.

"In the hospital wing," Jean was horrified, "But why? You have been released only yesterday."

Snape, who was about to leave his office, took a step back to avoid being seen. His expression tensed as he waited for Miss Abbott's response. He watched Julie from a safe distance. She lowered her gaze to the floor and sighed heavily.

"When I was with Professor Snape, I suddenly felt unwell and he immediately brought me back to Madam Pomfrey," said Julie quietly.

"Oh, are you feeling better now," Jean's voice was filled with concern.

"Yes," nodded Julie. She smiled faintly, "I will briefly go to our room. I'll see you at breakfast," Julie said as she gently patted Jean's shoulder.

Jean followed other students to the great hall while Julie walked into Slytherin's common room.

She went into the room she shared with Jean, where she fell exhausted on her bed. Julie wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of the day in her bed. But her wish would be not granted. She had to attend classes like everyone else. Julie grabbed the small pillow which she had brought and smelled it. The scent was foreign. It seemed a lifetime ago, that her pillow bore the scent of her home. The ten months that she lived on the wizard school every year, had been the best time of her live. Despite initial difficulties, the school had become her home. Every time she went to visit her parents during her summer holidays, she lay awake at night in her bed and smelled at her pillow. The scent of it, reminded her of the school. She missed her parents when she was at school. But when she was with her parents, she longed for her home, the wizard School.
All was well until winter had begun in the fifth year. From one moment to the other the scent of her pillow and her clothes brought her no joy. Julie began to fear it. Everything was suddenly different. Heaven on earth had become a blazing hell in just a moment. An agonizing hell from which she had escaped eventually, though only physically. A cold shiver ran down her spine and Julie shuddered at the mere memory of that time. Where is your home now, she asked herself. She had just moved to England. Julie had slept three nights in the house, which her parents had bought, before she had come to Hogwarts. She sighed into her pillow. Julie missed her parents. Had she spoken with them earlier, much could have been different. Hot tears sprang from her eyes where they were immediately absorbed by her pillow.
It would not be easy for her - at Hogwarts. Professor Snape seemed to be unpredictable. She had suspected that there would be difficulties. But that Professor Snape would punish her, after she had just been released from the hospital wing, had shocked her deeply. That had been inhuman. There was something about the Professor, what Julie could not put into words. Unnamable, she whispered to herself. He was kind of mysterious. Scary, was also an appropriate word to describe him. Another deep sigh escaped her pale lips. She was hungry and did not want to miss breakfast. Thanks to Professor Snape, her last meal had been lunch the previous day.

She walked down the small hallway to the common room and stopped abruptly when she saw Professor Snape, who was standing in the middle of the room. He was, as always dressed in black and the cape which hung over his shoulders, did not move at all. How long had he been standing there, Julie wondered. Snape looked at her with a strange expression. It was absolutely silent. All Julie heard was the fire which crackled merrily in the fireplace. She held her breath and waited.

Snape looked at her attentively. He thought that he saw in her eyes traces of tears. Her eyelashes seemed to be damp. Had she been crying? And if so, why? Was it because of him? Guilt crawled its way into his consciousness and Snape sighed inwardly before he spoke.

"I have to apologize to you for last night," he said quietly.

Snape had long thought about how he should tell her that. The mere thought of apologizing, had caused him nausea. But when he uttered these words, it was not so bad. On the contrary, it relieved his heart. Snape's heart began to beat faster when he saw the shy smile on her lips.

"That's not necessary. Nothing has happened," Julie said softly as she tried hard, not to avoid his intense gaze.

Snape walked slowly toward her.

"Oh yes, something has happened. Because of my mistake, you had to spent the night in the hospital wing. I'm sorry about that."

Julie shook her head.

"I feel much better," she looked at him doubtfully before she asked him, "Do I have to continue detention?"

Snape stopped abruptly. He had not expected that question. Nevertheless, he did not have to think about the answer.

"No, you don't. In addition, you need not answer my question," Snape saw the relief in her expression, "There are more important things, Miss Abbott."

Julie sighed with relief and Snape went on.

"More important things, such as your exam at the end of this school year. Do you have any idea, how you want to pass your practical exam in Defense Against the Dark Arts successfully?"

He saw the smile on her lips vanish and Snape continued.

"What do you think of tutoring lessons?"

Julie raised her eyebrows surprised.

"Tutoring lessons," she asked in disbelief.

Julie was not sure, but she thought she saw how his lips curved up for a moment into a smile. But then it was already over.

"I will give you tutoring lessons. And do not be afraid, we'll take it slow."

Snape tried to read in her reaction what she was thinking. But it was not possible. She seemed confused.

Julie was not sure whether it was a good idea, but it was better than detention. Nevertheless, she was scared. She did not want to annoy Professor Snape, by refusing his offer. Hesitantly, Julie nodded in agreement.

"Well, then go now for breakfast. I'll see you this afternoon, shortly after four, in my office."

Snape tried to maintain a neutral expression.

Julie nodded silently and left the common room to go to breakfast. Snape watched her go and took a deep breath. A smile played on his lips. No matter how reluctantly he had accepted Albus instruction at the beginning, now he found it fantastic. To give Miss Abbott tutoring lessons would mean, that he would be regularly alone with her. That was a good basis for.... Snape shook his head. First he had to see if it would work. Miss Abbott still had a problem. She is afraid. He had often seen the same fear in her eyes. Where was the origin of this fear? Snape hoped that the tutoring lessons would bring answers. Snape also left the common room to go to breakfast. His gaze wandered through the corridors when he went to the great hall. He had made a wise decision. Snape had accepted the situation, and now he felt free. Although he was controlled by his desire and quite often distracted by it, it had become bearable. His decision had brought him relief. Snape did not understand why, but he was confident, that the situation would not get out of control.

*****

Julie looked annoyed at the clock. They sat in transformations and a few of her classmates did not manage to turn a branch into a swan. Originally it was meant to be a simple exercise, which was intended to improve the skills of the students. But more than half an hour had elapsed and most students were bored. It was ridiculous but three students had major problems with the task. It amused Julie that all of them were students from Gryffindor.

"Miss Abbott, would you make yourself useful and help Mister Whisp," asked Professor McGonagall, when she noticed Julie's amused expression.

Julie looked up in surprise. Jean pointed her finger at a boy who was desperately trying to transform the branch.

"That's Travers Whisp. He is one of those..."

McGonagall interrupted Jean.

"Miss Nott, I would like to continue teaching," she said, annoyed, "Go to Morgana Johnson and help her with the transformation.

Jean nodded and went quickly and without protest to Morgana. Professor McGonagall could deduct points, as Professor Snape did. And she took no consideration, not even if the students were from her own house.

Julie sat down beside Travers "I'm Julie Abbott," she said soberly.

Travers took her hand and shook it vigorously, "And I'm Travers. Nice to meet you. I am otherwise a good student, but I fail at transformations. I am glad that..."

"Mister Wisp, I have not sent Miss Abbott to you, so you can gossip. This is the last school year and you should make a serious effort, to get a good degree," McGonagall turned to the other students, "To illustrate this point, I will deduct five points from Gryffindor, for gossiping during class."

Scowling, the students got to work. Travers looked expectantly at Julie and she began to explain him something about transformations. Minerva sat behind her desk and watched them interested.

*****

The lessons were over and the students left the classroom.

"How did you manage to explain Whisp, how to perform a proper transformation," Jean asked enthusiastically,
"Whisp has never understood much of transformations," she added, giggling.

Julie shrugged "I explained it to him again from the beginning," she said soberly, "as if he was in the first grade. It is not so difficult. I can not believe that he has never learned it until now. We are, after all, in our last year at school."

Julie shook her head in amusement.

Jean nodded.

"Nevertheless Julie, you have done it very well. Morgana still can't make the transformation. I am sure that you will sit next to Morgana Johnson in the next transformation lesson . McGonagall will certainly ask you to help her."

"Miss Abbott!" Julie and Jean looked around in surprise when they heard Professor McGonagall's voice behind them.

"Miss Abbott, would you please follow me?"

Without waiting for her answer, McGonagall walked away. Julie nodded and looked surprised at Jean.

"I'll see you at lunch," said Julie before she followed Professor McGonagall.

"Watch out that McGonagall does not oblige you to give tutoring lessons," exclaimed Jean, "for the hopeless Gryffindor students," she added, grinning broadly.

When Minerva had closed the door of the empty classroom, she turned to Julie.

"I am deeply impressed Miss Abbott. Today Mister Whisp has learnt something, what he has never understood during all his years on this school. And the way how you did it, was absolutely fantastic."

McGonagall clapped her hands together and looked at Julie excited.

Julie shook her head. "I beg to differ. I have only used the knowledge which you had taught him."

Minerva put her hand on Julie's shoulder.

"Do not be so modest. I have listened to what you told him. It was in fact very intelligent. Do you want to be a teacher? Your future would look fantastic. I could talk to Professor Dumbledore and you could work as teacher at Hogwarts."

McGonagall looked Julie questioningly.

Julie was nervous, "No. I do not want to be a teacher."

McGonagall nodded slightly.

"You have the necessary intelligence and the courage," she said encouragingly, "You still have time to think about it.
And now go, or you'll miss lunch."

Julie thought about McGonagall's words. You have the courage. What did that mean? Julie guessed that McGonagall knew about her past. She entered the Great Hall and sank down beside Jean on the bench.

"Well, do you have to give tutoring lessons for the Gryffindor's," asked Jean amused.

Julie shook her head.

"No, but she has heard, as I have explained Whisp, how to make a transformation. Professor McGonagall thought I might want to become a teacher later," said Julie.

"Thank goodness that we have now Defense Against the Dark Arts," said Kevin, who was sitting across from Julie.

"Why," Jean asked annoyed, "Are you sick? No one wants to go to Professor Snape's lesson!"

Kevin chuckled and indicated with a movement of his head towards Snape. The Slytherin's looked over to Snape, who made a very balanced impression.

"What's going on with Snape," Jean asked in amazement, "He looks strange when he smiles."

"Whatever it is, I hope it continues until our lesson is over," said Amycus hopeful.

The Slytherins agreed unanimously. Snape treated the students of Slytherin far better than students of other houses. Nevertheless, he was hard on them, if he wanted to. And that happened more often than the Slytherin's would have liked.

*****

Julie walked into the classroom and sat down at an empty desk. Jean was still talking with Kevin and Julie had no interest, to be late for class. She did not want to annoy Professor Snape. This lesson they had together with the Gryffindor's. Julie was startled when someone patted her enthusiastically on the shoulder.

"Once again, thank you for your help this morning," said Travers, who promptly sat down beside her and began to unpack his books, "I just sent an owl to my parents and told them that I have carried out a flawless transformation. I have also written that you have helped me."

Julie looked in despair at her fellow classmates from Slytherin. The Slytherin's looked at Travers contemptuously. Suddenly it was deathly quiet. Julie did not even bother to get up and to change her seat with anyone. Professor Snape had come. Snape stood at the front of the classroom, his arms folded across his chest and his cold gaze wandered searchingly through the classroom.

"Well, well," he said, when he saw that Julie and Travers shared a desk, "Have Gryffindor and Slytherin FORMED an alliance with each other," he asked in a cold voice.

Suddenly Snape's cynical smirk was gone and his eyes fell on Travers. He looked at him very angry.

Because Snape's tone Julie could not interpret whether this had been a serious question or whether he made fun of them - if the second was possible. Professor Snape was clearly in a bad mood. She glanced at Snape nervously, whose gloomy glance wandered back and forth between Julie and Travers. She sighed with relief when Snape abruptly turned around to begin the lesson.

"Probably you have already noticed, that with Professor Snape is not to be trifled with," whispered Travers in Julie's ear.

"I know," she whispered back without looking at Travers.

Julie began to read the page in her book, which Snape had written on the blackboard.

"But it can also be quite funny with him," Travers said, looking at her with sparkling eyes.

Julie looked at him quizzically, wondering what could be funny with Professor Snape. Travers was forced to give her an explanation.

"Yeah, you know, in the last school year, there was ..."

 

Snape, who was sitting behind his desk, looked up, frowning. He heard Travers whisper so clearly, that he wondered if the boy wanted to provoke him. A tiny smile graced Miss Abbott's lips as she listened spellbound. The annoying boy sat too close to Miss Abbott and Snape stared at him with a fatal look. Snape's face muscles twitched and his fingers curled convulsively around his wand. With a flick of Snape's wand, Travers was pushed to the outermost side of the desk behind which he sat.

Julie jerked her head up and looked at the Professor in horror. Snape immediately noticed how her hands began to tremble.

"Twenty points from Gryffindor, for disturbing a student during lessons."

Snape's voice trembled with rage as he looked at Travers mercilessly.

The remaining Gryffindor's rolled their eyes and looked angry at Travers. They had already lost that day twenty-five points. And that only because of Whisp.

It was quiet again in the classroom and Snape's gaze lingered on Julie. She read in her book, and he noticed that her hands were still trembling slightly. This afternoon was their first tutoring session and Snape wondered where to begin. He looked at Travers and wondered why Miss Abbott was sitting next to such a moron. He could not understand how someone could voluntarily sit beside Whisp. Lily had also liked to sit next to Potter, Snape thought casually and shook his head.
Suddenly his facial expression was even gloomier. Snape looked at Travers, while he had a nasty premonition. His gaze wandered back to Julie and Snape shook his head. No, that was just a ridiculous idea of his mind. Nothing more than that. But .... But what if, what would be, if his destiny would recur? Memories awakened and for a moment Snape felt helpless. He swallowed hard. No. Snape never wanted to have to live through something like this again. He looked at Travers hateful and wondered if Whisp was another Potter. The new Potter in Snape's life...
What if Whisp would be interested in Miss Abbott? What if Miss Abbott would not be averse? Whisp was very popular among the girls, even amongst those from the other houses. Snape's mood darkened dramatically. There were more point deductions for each house, and Snape was most unmercifully with the Gryffindor's. Kevin was shocked and promised himself to never again interpret the mood of Professor Snape. Julie was incredibly nervous when she thought that she would spend the rest of the afternoon with the bad-tempered Professor. She could not understand how his mood could deteriorate so drastically and hoped, that he would calm down until their tutoring lesson began.

Chapter Text

The last afternoon lessons were over quickly. It was just after four and Julie stood nervously before Professor Snape's office. She was about to knock when the door opened. Snape stood before her, tall, lean and dressed all in black. He looks extremely intimidating when one stands so close to him, thought Julie.

She looked at him cautiously and handed him the parchment with the text. Snape accepted it and with a wave of his wand, it flew over to his desk.

With a raised eyebrow, he said, "Did you bring your wand?"

Julie nodded slowly.

"Yes," she said almost inaudibly.

"Then follow me," Snape said quietly but firmly.

He closed the door and locked it with a number of spells before he turned and walked away. Julie followed him through the gloomy dungeon, the spiral staircase to the top and some of the many passages of the castle along which Julie did not know. They went into a courtyard which Julie had not yet seen. It was unusually small for Hogwarts conditions. A few shrubs had been planted along the low walls which surrounded the courtyard. The autumn sun was shining down on her, and Julie looked up at the blue sky. Snape cleared his throat and Julie looked at him apologetically.

Snape had chosen this location deliberately. It was one of the few places to which only Hogwarts Professors had access to, far from the prying eyes of the students. Nobody would distract them and Snape could teach Miss Abbott undisturbed.

"Are you ready," Snape said quietly, after he had gone to the other end of the courtyard.

Julie nodded slowly, but judging her expression, she was not ready.

"Then we will ....." Snape trailed off.

He had drawn out his wand as he had spoken and Miss Abbott was terrified. She became pale, her eyes widened and her gaze was fixed on his hand, which held the wand. Her heart raced wildly in her chest, while her body was tense. Cold sweat appeared on her forehead and her mouth dried up. Her body was flooded with fear, which was raw and untamed, cruel and merciless.

Snape stared at Julie. There it was again - the fear which Snape had seen on the day, when Miss Abbott had been injured. Her body responded in exactly the same manner. Her chest heaved heavily, her breath was suddenly fast and raspy. Snape would dare say, that Miss Abbott looked utterly attractive, if it was not for her fearful expression. Snape frowned. Had she been injured in an exercise? He suspected it. He pushed his thoughts and speculations aside.

"Miss Abbott," he said softly.

She did not seem to hear him. Julie stared incessantly and scared at his hand, in which he held his wand and stepped back frightened as he approached her.

Snape stopped immediately.

"Miss Abbott," Snape's voice was loud and his tone stern. He put his wand away and walked towards her.

"Miss Abbott!"

She did not react.

Julie winced when he touched her shoulders and shook her slightly "Miss Abbott!"

Julie suddenly looked up at him, "Yes," she said, as if he had woken her.

Snape nodded briefly before he went back a few steps to get into position.

"Nothing will happen to you," he said quietly, and pulled out his wand again.

A frown appeared on his face as Julie responded in the same way. This time he kept his wand in his hand as he approached her. Julie went backward and stumbled. She crawled on all fours backward until she bumped against the wall. Snape stopped in front of her and was absolutely confused. He put away his wand and crouched down beside her on the grass. Miss Abbott did not look at him. Her eyes seemed to stare at something that Snape could not see. He noticed how her lower lip trembled, while her jaw seemed very tense.

Under these circumstances it was impossible to give her tutoring, he thought. Snape smiled bitterly. The task that Dumbledore had given him, would prove to be more difficult than Snape had imagined. But that would not stop him from doing what he thought was right. She had a problem and Snape would get to the bottom of it. Miss Abbott still sat absentmindedly in the grass. Snape sighed and shook her again by the shoulders. "Miss Abbott"! His voice was calm but demanding. When Julie looked up at him, she seemed to be very exhausted. Snape decided to take her to Madam Pomfrey. He wanted to play it safe.

*****

The moon shone brightly through the large windows and Julie sat awake in bed. Madam Pomfrey had brought her a cup of tea before she had gone to bed. Despite their fatigue, Julie could not sleep. She looked surprised over to the large door, which opened quietly. Professor Snape entered. He had brought Julie to Madam Pomfrey and had then retired to his office to do the rest of his work.

Snape walked over to her and grabbed a chair, which he placed beside her bed. He sat on it and looked thoughtfully at Julie, who looked at him slightly confused.

"You should drink your tea before it gets cold," he said after a while, pointing his finger at the teacup, which Julie held in her hands.

Julie winced slightly and nodded. She sipped her tea and looked now and then at Snape. After she had drunk half, Snape cleared his throat.

"You know, I could sit in my office and read or go to bed."

Julie looked at him worried.

"What is stopping you?" she asked cautiously.

Snape was silent for a long time and looked at Miss Abbott thoughtfully before he spoke again.

"You can not fight your fear with silence."

Julie was confused and was not sure whether she understood what he meant.

"I think I do not understand, Professor Snape."

Snape nodded. He had expected that Julie would say that.

"The fear that you carry within, can not be suppressed forever. Sooner or later, this fear will destroy you. It's just a matter of time until that happens. No one can help you if you cloak yourself in silence. So, "he looked at her searchingly "you're going to tell me what's going on, or do you prefer that I speak with your parents?"

Julie's eyes widened and she looked at him in disbelief. Snape noticed that her hands began to tremble slightly.

"Tell you what," she stammered with discomfort.

Snape did nothing more than to raise an eyebrow and to return her gaze with a calm expression.

Julie sighed, her gaze wandered back and forth between her teacup and Snape until she finally decided to meet his gaze. The professor seemed to see that she was desperately trying to bury something deep within herself. Julie sighed heavily and remained silent.

"I want to know what is the reason for your fear. You are unable to practice during my lessons," Snape said quietly.

Julie frowned and wondered why the Professor wanted to know that. She guessed that McGonagall knew. Dumbledore knew it anyway. Dumbledore, Julie thought suspiciously. How could she know that she could trust Professor Snape? Perhaps the Professor wanted to help her? No, she doubted it. She had long to wait for help from Hogwarts. Her parents had tried everything but much time had passed until Dumbledore had agreed. Why was Snape here? Julie gazed at him. His eyes were so dark and Julie was afraid to get lost in them. His eyes reminded her of something what Julie had in herself. An agonizing shadow, dark and unapproachable, which followed her at daytime and night. Maybe Snape had good intentions. Julie doubted and hesitated.

Snape looked at the spectacle on her face. Fear, uncertainty, doubt, pain, anger. Hope? Yes, there was also hope. The various emotions which were reflected in her expression were so clear that Snape was almost fascinated by them. But only almost, because there was something that triggered these emotions in her. And Snape was now absolutely certain that whatever was responsible, was by far was worse than a simple incident.

"Miss Abbott?" Snape's voice sounds incredibly gentle and calm, making even him very surprised.

Julie winced and looked at him, while she sighed loudly.

"It is the way how you hold your wand and your posture, while you're doing that."

"What about it," he asked a little surprised.

"It scares me," she said in a trembling voice.

"Why? I've never done anything to you," replied Snape.

Julie shook her head.

"No."

"Did somebody hurt you," Snape asked hesitantly.

Julie had closed her eyes and swallowed hard. An eternity seemed to pass before she nodded almost imperceptibly.

"And who was that?" His voice was calm and very deep.

Julie was nervous and Snape watched as fear and uncertainty danced across her face.

Snape knew he was very close to his goal. He studied the different facets of fear on her face, while the wrinkle between his eyebrows deepened further with each passing second. Just this morning, he had told her that she did not have to answer his question. And now, twelve hours later, he was again in the hospital wing at her bedside and tried to interrogate her. Maybe it was a mistake, thought Snape. BUT, he saw no other way to help her. He needed to know more about Miss Abbott. He had only two options. Either Miss Abbott herself would talk to him or he would talk to her parents.

Julie remained silent. Snape just sat there and waited. The time seemed endless and he was not sure whether she was asleep. Finally he stood up and leaned over to take the teacup from her hands. Julie was startled by the sudden contact and sat up, only to stop an inch in front of him. He felt her excited breath on his face and swallowed hard.

"I was worried that they would spill the rest of your tea," he said quietly, although it is very difficult for him.

He placed the teacup on the bedside table and Julie leaned back and closed her eyes again. The silence of the night was broken by her words.

"He was a boy from school," she said with a weak voice.

I could imagine, Snape thought but he said, "And what did he do?"

When she did not reply, he said "You can speak freely."

She sighed and suddenly looked him straight in the eye.

"Forbidden things". Her voice trembled, and Snape pitied her, when he saw how she turned pale.

One could not see Snape's impatience but he found it difficult to wait. He wanted to know what had happened. He wanted to help her. Maybe, if she would trust him, he would be able to help her? He knew he should not push, but he could not suppress these questions. Though so much was at stake.

"What happened," Snape asked quietly.

Julie was silent and he continued.

"You can trust me," his voice almost a whisper.

She opened her eyes and they welled up with tears.

"He hurt me," was all she said.

Snape's expression intensified when she spoke those words. His jaw tensed and he leaned a little further over to her.

"So he has hurt you," he said, and cursed himself at once that he had said something so stupid.

Julie nodded and her tears streamed over her flushed cheeks, while she tried to hold back her sobs.

"How did he hurt you," asked Snape

She could not look at him. She felt ashamed about her mistakes and tormented by her memories. Julie remained silent.

Snape was no fool, he already had his own suspicions. He summed what she had told him so far, and what he himself had seen. Anger passed over his pale face. Snape suddenly had an idea how he could make it easier for her to say it.

"What did he say?"

The silence lasted longer than he could bear. But he knew that his patience would pay off. Certainly, he hoped.

After a long silence, Julie swallowed hard.

"Crucio," she said with an almost inaudible voice.

All over the wizarding world terrible things happened now and then. But the Cruciatus Curse? At a school? Snape could not believe what he had just heard. But the pain which was in her face, testified great agony and torture. More than he ever thought possible. Snape sat in his chair and watched as Julie wept. There were tears of pain and sorrow. Tears of disappointment and anger. And it seemed to him as if they were tears of relief. Snape sat motionless and watched her. Outwardly he seemed unaffected, but his heart ached for her. Anger awoke in his heart. He would not ask more. His earlier questions had been answered, but new questions had come to light. More profound questions, but tonight was not the moment for interrogation.

He felt very uncomfortable and wondered if he should call Poppy. His gaze wandered to the door which led to Poppy's private rooms. He hesitated. Snape watched surprised as his hand slid to Miss Abbott. She was curled up in bed and was still crying. Snape watched stunned as he took her hand in his. He put his hand around hers, as if hers was very fragile. His touch was almost tender and Snape's heart what pounding like mad.
He stared at her, afraid that she did not want this. But he quickly came to the knowledge that she was unaware of the nature of his touch. She accepted that he held her hand. And that was all that mattered at this moment.

*****

The golden rays of sunlight fell through the windows and danced on Julie's face. Snape had not averted his eyes from her during the night. He was still sitting at her side, holding her hand. His gaze wandered to the door through which Poppy came in. She was taken aback when she saw Snape.

"When did you get here," she asked, surprised.

"She had not finished her tea when I came," he said, almost in a whisper.

Poppy came over to the bed.

"And," she asked cautiously.

Snape shrugged his shoulders and looked at her blankly.

"She was tortured with the Cruciatus Curse," Snape said bitterly.

Poppy looked at him sadly. Snape knew better than anyone else at Hogwarts what this meant. She glanced at Snape compassionate. Who would torture a girl she wondered. Only now Poppy noticed that Snape held Miss Abbott's hand.

"Severus, you should be more careful. This is not allowed," said Poppy, while she pointed to his hand, "You need some sleep. You look terrible."

Snape sighed and looked at Poppy. He knew what was allowed and what was not allowed. But he knew Julie's pain all too well and knew that being alone was the worst during such times. Reluctantly, he removed his hand from hers and stood up.

"It's better if Miss Abbott knows nothing about it," Snape said in a monotone voice as he looked at Poppy.

She nodded eagerly.

"Off course, Severus. You can rely on me," she said softly.

"I know," said Snape, "and thank you," he said softly before he turned and left the hospital wing.

Poppy watched him and sighed when he had closed the door. Who would torture a girl? Why was anyone ever tortured? Poppy could not understand the cruelty of the world. She looked at Julie, who was still asleep, and sat down on the chair, on which Severus had spent the night. She clasped Julie's hand in hers. Poppy knew why Severus had been sitting here. She herself had spent sleepless nights at his bedside, after he had been tortured. It was not just the pain, which had tormented him in his sleep, but also nightmares. Poppy knew that Julie also suffered from nightmares and felt guilty, that she had not realized that Miss Abbott's nightmares had the same origin as those of Severus. There were too many parallels between Miss Abbott and Severus and Poppy felt ashamed that she had not noticed it earlier.

She smiled at Julie and waited that she would wake up. Her thoughts went back to the time when she had treated Severus regularly, after he had been tortured with the Cruciatus Curse. Either by the followers of Voldemort, or by the Dark Lord himself. Severus had fought twice to survive because his internal injuries had been too severe. There had been times when Poppy had cursed Albus inwardly for what he did to Severus. He had been Dumbledore's spy. Severus was not like Harry, a known threat to the Dark Lord. Severus had been Albus secret weapon. Poppy's expression turned sour. The suffering which she had seen in the past few years had been difficult for Poppy to cope with. She wondered if Albus knew of Miss Abbott's suffering. Poppy looked up and held her breath.

Severus would be already in Albus' office. Poppy knew him too well. Severus would confront Albus with the facts. She sighed deeply and hoped that Albus knew nothing of Miss Abbott's past. Otherwise Severus anger would have no bounds. It would be difficult to calm him. Albus efforts had eventually led to the end of the Dark Lord. But at what price? Some wizards and witches would suffer for the rest of their lives. Severus was one of them. Poppy sighed and wondered how long it would take until Severus would return to her.

Chapter Text

Snape was very upset when he burst into Dumbledore's office.

"She was tortured with the Cruciatus Curse." Snape's voice was desperate.

Albus could clearly see the suffering which Severus felt. He nodded slowly and leaned back in his chair.

"I know," he said quietly.

Snape's eyes widened dramatically.

"You've .... known about it," His voice was now filled with horror.

Dumbledore nodded and looked at Severus calmly.

Snape slapped his hands flat on Dumbledore's desk and leaned toward him. His face was twisted with rage.

"Since when? Since when did you know it," Snape's voice was filled with fury.

"Ever since the day when her parents had written me. They asked me to allow their daughter to study at Hogwarts. They wrote that Julie had been tortured and that they were looking for a new school for their daughter as soon as possible. After this incident, Miss Abbott was not going to complete her education," Dumbledore said factually.

"That was months before she came here," Snape yelled, "the sixth school year was far from over!"

Dumbledore nodded silently.

"Why did she come only now," Snape asked, trying hard to control his raging anger.

"Because I have not allowed it before," replied Dumbledore.

Snape's shocked face was quickly distorted with rage.

"Because you ... Because you have not allowed it before," Snape shouted at him in disbelief, "She has suffered there!"

Dumbledore nodded, "The boy had already been arrested. He was no longer in school and was thus no threat to Miss Abbott. There was no need for rash actions."

"Rash actions," Snape's face turned dark red with anger, "But the place was the same," Snape shouted contemptuously, "The people there were the same! Her memories were there! The memory of the pain and the suffering. You know as well as I do what it means! And she's still so young! Some wizards and witches have gone crazy by such circumstances! How could you? Who do you think you are?" Severus' eyes flashed angrily, while his voice was dripping with despair and anger.

Albus looked at him quietly.

"Severus, I know this. But believe me, I had my reasons," he said calmly.

Snape looked at him absolutely disgusted.

"Reasons? You had your reasons," he spat.

Snape wanted to tie Albus on a torture rack in the dungeon. His face muscles twitched dangerously as he frantically tried to control himself.

"Has Miss Abbott knowledge about this" Snape asked coldly, but his voice was trembling "Does she know, what you've done?"

Albus nodded "Yes, she knows about it. I think she's out of sorts with me," he said.

"Then it's no wonder that she does not trust anyone," Snape said reproachfully, "And you're partially responsible for that!"

"Does she trust you," Albus asked curiously.

Snape looked at him disapprovingly and backed away, "I do not know. Miss Abbott has told me what happened. But I do not know any details. Perhaps she trusts me a bit," Snape said thoughtfully.

Albus smiled at him.

"That's wonderful," said the Headmaster, "Be careful that you do not lose her trust."

Snape was deeply angry with Albus and he stared at him with wicked glittering eyes.

"I have no plans," he hissed, "And anyone who gets in the way will-pay-for-it!"

Dumbledore watched, when Severus stormed out of the office, smoldering with rage. Minerva, who had been sitting as if paralyzed, looked at Albus unhappy.

"You could have informed Severus about this in the beginning" she said sternly, "he had a right to know it. After all, he is the head of Slytherin house."

Albus raised an eyebrow and mused over her words.

"As I said to Severus, I had my reasons. He will take care of Miss Abbott. I just hope, as Severus said, that no one comes in his way."

He looked amused at Minerva.

"And what do we do, if that should happen," Minerva asked worriedly.

Albus pondered over her question.

"We should keep our eyes open, so that it does not happen," he said thoughtfully.

Minerva shook her head, standing up.

"Why did you not tell Severus, that you have ultimately aided Miss Abbott and her family in many ways?"

Albus shook his head; "No, I should not have done that. Severus protectiveness for the girl is now even greater. That would not be so, if I had informed him in the beginning."

Albus smirked, "Severus figured it out faster than I expected."

He looked at Minerva fascinated.

"Minerva, Severus yelled at me," he shook his head, "Severus-yelled-at-me."

Minerva looked at Albus disappointed.

"And you're proud of it," she asked, slightly outraged.

Albus shook his head

"No, not at all. But you see that whole thing wrong, Minerva. Severus yelled at me. The matter is much more serious than I had thought."

*****

Snape's hands were convulsively clenched into fists while he strode down the hall. His blood still boiling. His visit to Albus had affected him like poison. If he had known it, if he had known it. Severus had no idea that Albus still played his little game. He felt the urge to retch, his stomach churning. Severus stopped short and leaned exhausted against a window frame. His head was reeling and his heart ached in his chest and the bitter aftertaste of his past burned perpetually on his tongue. Would it never stop, he wondered, as he felt despair arise in him. Severus gritted his teeth. His jaw clenched and he was desperate for something that would calm him down. But nothing came to his mind. He opened his eyes and looked through the window to the outside. Rain fell in sheets. His face was twisted in pain and Snape wondered how he should teach in this condition. Poppy. She would certainly help him. Snape took a deep breath and walked away toward the hospital wing.

The door opened abruptly and Poppy immediately knew that Severus was back. He looked worse than she had expected. Apparently Albus had been informed about the situation. Poppy sighed. She smiled at Severus, putting her finger on her lips as a gesture to be quiet. With her other hand she gestured toward Julie, who was still asleep. Severus paused and looked at Miss Abbott. A long sigh escaped his lips and Poppy pushed him slowly towards her bed.

"Sit down," Poppy whispered, and Snape sat down on the chair.

"I should calm down first," Snape whispered back, sounding miserable.

Poppy smiled at him.

This here, "she said softly, and gestured towards Miss Abbott, "is the best medicine. Trust me."

Severus frowned but Poppy ignored it.

Madam Pomfrey was looking in a small closet for a flask while she watched Severus reflection in a mirror. He sat tense and stiff in the chair and stared at Miss Abbott. His agitated breathing became slower and Poppy smiled when she saw that Severus leaned back in his chair and relaxed. I knew it would work, she thought with satisfaction.

*****

Filch placed the large mirror in Snape's living area and grinned at Severus.

"Have you become conceited," commented Filch on Snape's request for an oversized mirror while he looked at him with amusement from head to toe.

Snape gave the old man a weary smile before he kicked him out of his private rooms. He positioned himself at some distance in front of the mirror and eyed his reflection thoughtfully. The only mirror in his private rooms was small and hung in his bathroom. Snape hated to look in the mirror. Filch had been surprised, when Snape asked for a mirror in such a size. The memory of Filch's expression amused Snape. He caught himself as he grinned. As fast as the grin appeared on his face, it was gone again. Snape looked at himself irritated. Such kind of grin on his face looked strange. He looked at his reflection disapprovingly.

He was proud of the way he moved in combat. His posture, speed, the suppleness of his movements, as he became one with the magic. He placed himself in position and stared at his reflection. After a moment of consideration he changed his posture. Snape scoffed. No, it looked pretty stupid. Snape frowned and tried again. "No, this looked utterly ridiculous," he grumbled. Snape felt a fool. But if his posture made Miss Abbott afraid, then he had to change it. Snape paused and wondered why Miss Abbott had feared Amycus. Snape sighed deeply. The boy copied him almost perfect. Amycus had learned a lot over the last years from him. That explained Miss Abbott's anxiety. Snape continued until he finally found a posture, which looked acceptable. Then he started to practice again and again to take the same posture. He wanted to internalize it. Only in this way he would avoid that he would fall back into his old habits, and frighten Miss Abbott.

He had canceled today's tutoring lessons to give Miss Abbott time to calm down. Miss Abbott had been in Snape's lesson this morning. Everything had been normal. But Snape had caught himself as he had apparently found a new target. Her hands. The memory as he had held her hand last night, was deeply burned into his consciousness. Her hand was so soft and warm. Snape's thoughts swam with ideas what he could do with her hands. And her eyes.... Miss Abbott had almond-shaped eyes. This meant gentleness and sensitivity. Snape knew this.
He could have said this about her, without having ever seen her eyes. She was such a gentle being. His thoughts were interrupted when he looked at his reflection in the mirror. He did not look very gentle. What to speak of sensitive. Lily had chosen to marry a man who looked gentle. Snape immediately pushed the thoughts aside. Miss Abbott was not Lily! His mind accepted the rebuke and he continued to practice.

*****

Two days later....

Julie's frightened eyes fell on Snape, who positioned himself across from her in a little distance. She tried to tell herself that this was just an exercise. But it was hard. She held her breath and waited nervously.

"Concentrate, Miss Abbott," Snape said calmly.

She nodded and held her wand firmly clenched, as she waited for further instructions.

"Miss Abbott, try to relax."

Julie nodded again, but was just as tense as before.

Snape got into position and watched her reaction closely. She looked for a moment confused. Snape was sure that she noticed the difference. He wondered, to what extent his endeavor to take a different posture would help her.

Julie immediately noticed it. That was very unusual. She knew how hard it was, even for herself, after only a few years to change one's posture. It was a deep habit of wizards and witches. And Professor Snape certainly carried thirty years of magical experience on his shoulders, she thought.

Julie took a deep breath. She would give it a try. She sighed heavily and tried to relax.

*****

"And how was it," Jean asked curiously.

Julie sat on the bench beside her and tried to enjoy the dinner.

"It was exhausting," she replied wearily.

Jean eyed Julie with interest.

"What has Snape done to you," Kevin asked, "You look terrible. I'm surprised that he has not brought you to Madam Pomfrey."

Julie looked at Kevin distraught.

Jean laughed at Kevin's words, "Yes, Snape brought you to your limits and beyond," she said careless, ignoring Julie's reaction.

Amycus sat down next to Kevin and looked at Julie surprised, "Oh dear, you look as if Snape has tortured you with the Cruciatus Curse," he said jokingly.

Julie winced and stood up abruptly. She stumbled through the aisle and left the great hall as fast as she could. Her classmates looked surprised after her.

"What's going on with Julie," asked Amycus surprised, "What's got into her?"

Jean shrugged, "She has just spent two hours with Snape - tutoring."

"Oh," replied Amycus thoughtfully.

"That explains everything," added Kevin.

"No wonder she looks so bad. Let's leave her alone for a moment. She's probably just tired. After dinner, I'll talk to her," said Jean, while she put some bread for Julie aside.

Snape had watched Julie. He could not hear what the Slytherin's were saying, but the way in which Miss Abbott had left the hall, let him conclude that something was wrong.

*****

Tears blurred her vision as she stumbled through the corridors. Julie wanted out, out into the fresh air. She believed to suffocate. Her throat felt tight and she was gasping for air. She walked through the huge front door, breathing frantically and dropped to the ground. Julie sobbed into her arms which she had wrapped around her knees. Her hot tears fell on her arms and she seemed to lose herself in her pain. The cold autumn wind blew around her petite figure, but she did not feel it. Too intense was the pain in her soul.

Snape was standing behind Miss Abbott, watching her in silence for some time. He wondered what he should do. It was clearly too cold to sit outside wearing light clothing. Snape approached her slowly. He sat down beside her and placed his large hand gently on her back.

"Miss Abbott," he said softly.

Her breath trembled when she heard his voice. She had expected Jean, not Professor Snape. Julie leaned her head to the side and looked up at the Professor. Her eyes were red from crying, just like her cheeks which were deeply flushed.

"I'll take you to Madam Pomfrey. She will help you," said Snape quietly.

He stood up and offered her his hand. Julie nodded and placed her hand in his. Snape pulled her up and brought her to the hospital wing.
To Snape's surprise Poppy was already present. She stood by the bed that Julie regularly used and smiled sympathetically. In her right hand she held a glass with a potion. Julie sat on the bed and took the potion with trembling hands. With three sips she had emptied the glass and handed it back to Poppy. On the advice of Madam Pomfrey Julie laid down. After a few minutes her breathing was even. She slept. Snape stood at the foot of the bed and looked at Poppy questioningly.

"I must confess that I was surprised to see you here at this hour. Normally you leave the dinner always late," he said factually.

Poppy smiled at him.

"Normally, that's true. But is this situation normal," she asked Snape, who looked at her thoughtfully.

He inhaled sharply and shook his head. No, this situation was anything but normal.

"Severus," Poppy glanced over to Julie before she looked back to him, "Thanks to our new patient and her problem I'll need more of this potion."

She smiled at him and held up the empty glass. Snape looked puzzled for a moment. His lips parted and he looked at the glass, which Poppy still held in hand.

"Do you think you could brew me more of this," Poppy asked before her glance fell upon Julie. Then she corrected herself, "I should say, can you brew more of this potion for Miss Abbott?"

Poppy knew not a word to describe Severus expression. Probably there were no words for it. But Poppy's feelings understood this kind of expression. When Severus shortly thereafter left the hospital wing, Poppy had the impression that he felt useful. And not only that, she saw his strong and sincere desire to help Miss Abbott. Poppy hoped that Miss Abbott would overcome her problem and she also hoped, that Miss Abbott would eventually understand that Severus endeavors were mainly motivated by love.

Chapter Text

Snape extinguished the flame under the cauldron and looked at the potion, which he had brewed. Yes, it was perfect. A glance at the clock showed three clock in the morning. Snape wanted to fill the potion into small flasks, but that had to wait until morning. The past two nights he had not slept at all and Snape did not want to look like a ghost. Hogwarts had enough of them he thought and smiled wearily. He walked into his bedroom and lay down in his bed without bothering to undress. Within minutes he was asleep.

*****

The noisy students were quiet as a mouse when Snape entered the classroom. The lesson began as usual. Snape was irritable and the students seriously endeavoring not to annoy him. Nobody wanted to lose points from their house, or worse, get detention with Professor Snape. While the students were busy to copy a text from the book, Snape's piercing gaze wandered through the classroom.
He looked at Miss Abbott who was sitting next to Miss Nott. She looked pale, but seemed very focused. Snape sighed inwardly and could not help but watch her for a moment. Her quill scratched incessantly over the parchment as she chewed on her lower lip. With the middle finger of her left hand she seemed to draw small patterns on the parchment. Snape swallowed hard as he tried to control his thoughts. He wondered how her touch would feel on his skin. Snape was suddenly very hot. Reflexively he opened the top buttons of his shirt, which was, as always, buttoned up to his neck as he leaned against his desk.
No, he should not think in such a way about Miss Abbott. Otherwise, he would fall into a vicious circle from which there was no escape. Miss Abbott was his student, and she began to trust him. He wanted to help her and protect her. He looked at her affectionate, before he checked the other students with his typical indifferent glance.
Snape's gaze suddenly stopped when he spotted Mister Whisp. His expression went cold and menacing. Travers stared at Julie knowing with certainty that he was falling in love with her. He looked like a lovesick puppy. Snape's blood boiled and he clenched his hands to fists. A moment of silence elapsed, then Snape growled lowly. Travers winced and noticed that the professor was glaring in his direction. But it was already too late.

"Mister Wisp," Snape said with a scornful tone, "Do you lack intelligence? Or are your hormones to blame that you prefer to con-cen-trate on your female classmates, instead on today's top-ic?"

The Slytherin's were giggling amused, while the Gryffindor's were afraid, that they would loose points.

Travers swallowed hard "Um, I am afraid that my hormones are to blame for my absentmindedness. My apologies Professor Snape."

That was exactly that what Snape had feared. This cheeky brat. He did not even try to hide his interest in Miss Abbott! Snape walked towards him in a intimidating, almost dangerous manner. He slapped his hands on Travers desk and leaned dangerously close to him. Travers could almost feel the Professor's breath on his face when he spoke.

"If so, then LEAVE the classroom," Snape said angrily.

As Travers made no move to get up, Snape began fuming with rage.

"Leave the classroom - IMMEDIATELY," Snape hissed at him.

Travers sat motionless and wondered if he had heard correctly. Snape had never thrown someone during lesson out of the classroom.

"Get out," Snape said dangerously low.

The tone and the murderous gaze of the professor set Travers finally into motion. He grabbed frantically for his book and bag and left the classroom in a hurry, before the situation could escalate.

Snape went back to his desk and sat down.

"Gryffindor's, note that ten points will be taken from your house for IN-AP-PRO-PRI-ATE behavior in the classroom," he said coldly.

The Gryffindor's rolled their eyes annoyed and were shocked when Snape continued.

"For disobeying the instruction of a teacher, another ten points will be taken - for EACH time. That makes a total of forty points so far. And for the outrageous response from Mister Whisp, another twenty points will be taken."

Snape took his quill and scribbled something on a parchment before his gloomy gaze wandered through the classroom. Many Gryffindor's looked at Snape shocked.

"Gryffindor's, if you do NOT want to end your last glorious school year at Hogwarts with minus points, then you should keep your classmate under control," Snape said coldly.

Nobody dared to contradict Snape. Even the Slytherin's were shocked at first. Sixty points were taken from Gryffindor house! So many points had never before been taken from a single student in one lesson. That was a record.
Julie felt a little uncomfortable. She risked a quick look at Jean, who looked back at her silently. Julie knew the points system. However, she had never experienced anything like today. She looked worried at Professor Snape. He seemed to be very ill-tempered, she thought. The bell rang and Snape dismissed the students with a flick of his hand.

"Professor Snape," said Kevin cautiously, "We did not get our homework back."

Snape arched an eyebrow at him "AND?"

Kevin bit his lip nervously.

"Yeah, well, I thought ... actually ... um, nothing."

Kevin left the classroom quickly with everyone else. Snape watched the students thoughtfully. He had not graded the homework because he had brewed the potion for Miss Abbott at night. His eyes fell on Julie. She put her book in her bag. A few strands of her blond hair fell into her face and she tugged them behind her ear. She looked up and their eyes met unexpectedly. Snape's heart did a somersault and he nodded curtly. Julie bit her lower lip and left the classroom.

The rage, which he had just felt was replaced by another feeling. Snape sighed and leaned back in his chair. He yearned for ... he sighed and buried his face in his hands. It did not matter what he craved. Miss Abbott's needs had priority. He stood up with a sigh to prepare for the next lesson.

*****

Snape sat behind his desk and graded essays. The quiet ticking of the clock got company, as a soft knock sounded on his door. He looked up and it warmed his heart when he saw Miss Abbott.

"Come in," said Snape, as Julie hesitantly opened the door.

She came and sat down opposite him in front of his desk. Her cheeks were blushed and he suspected that she had spent her free lessons outdoors. Minerva had canceled their double lesson of transfiguration today. Miss Abbott looked at him through her almond-shaped eyes and he leaned back in his chair. It was so easy to relax in her presence, Snape mused.

"Miss Abbott, I think that we are doing something fundamentally wrong," Snape said and paused.

Julie's eyes widened and she was not sure what he was talking about.

He cleared his throat, "We should take into account your past. We will not make any progress if we will continue to treat the situation as we do."

Snape looked at Julie for a moment in silence before he spoke again.

"That's why I want to reduce your tutoring hours. It is causing you too much stress. In addition, you certainly want to sleep sometimes in your room and not always in the hospital wing," he added, raising an eyebrow as he looked at her with sparkling eyes.

Julie looked at him unsure, but when she understood what he was talking about, she smiled gently.

"What do you think, when we meet twice a week for tutoring," asked Snape quietly.

Julie looked at him in surprise.

"Only twice a week," she asked in astonishment.

Snape nodded determined.

"Exactly. I think for the moment, twice a week is barely tolerable for you. Am I right?"

Julie nodded.

"Alright," she said, relieved.

"When shall we meet," asked Snape.

Julie was taken aback, "I can choose the days?"

"Try it," he replied, smiling.

"Maybe on Wednesday afternoon and on Sunday morning," she said unsure.

Snape nodded in agreement.

"Good, then we will meet on Sunday after breakfast in my office," said Snape, "You can go now."

Julie stood up and walked over to the door.

"Professor Snape," she said hesitantly, and turned back to face him, "Thank you."

Snape nodded silently and watched as she walked out of his office. He sighed heavily. He wanted to see her every day. But he wanted to help her and to do that, he had to take it slow. The tutoring lessons exhausted Miss Abbott too much and Snape did not like to see her suffering. He wanted to pay more attention to her needs, even if that would mean that he would give her only twice a week tutoring.

Julie walked through the dark corridors of the dungeons, and smiled dreamily. No matter how impossible the professor behaved during class, in his office, he was a different person. He looked so different when he smiled. It fascinated her deeply. Her first impression of him had not been very positive. She had come to know him by his dark side. The contrast between the first few weeks and now was absolutely pleasant. Julie stopped and leaned wearily against the cold wall and sighed deeply. Maybe her stay at Hogwarts would be easier than she had expected.

*****

Jean grabbed Julie's wrist and pulled her aside. It was Saturday and the Gryffindor's were on their way to Hogsmeade.

"And how are you doing here," Jean asked cautiously.

Julie looked at her surprised.

"Good. I really like Hogwarts," Julie answered truthfully.

"Who does not like Hogwarts," Jean replied, smiling, "But I meant something else. We're worried because you
constantly stay in the hospital wing. That is, um, very unusual."

Julie's expression was sad and she sighed heavily.

"Yes, that is true enough," said Julie, and fell silent.

Jean waited a moment, and as Julie made no move to speak, she asked.

"Is everything ok, I mean with your health?"

Julie freed her arm from Jean's grip and nodded quickly.

"Yes, I have a problem but you can not help me," she said visibly distraught, "Madam Pomfrey tries to help me." It was not quite the truth, but Jean seemed to accept the answer.

This conversation would lead nowhere, Jean thought.

"Never mind, I just wanted you to know that I'm here for you if you need me. I'm not only the prefect, but also your friend."

Julie suddenly stopped and looked at her strangely. Jean was a happy and honest girl, but Julie had lost her sense of whom she could trust, and whom she could not trust.

"I know," she said finally, to avoid offending her.

Jean smiled and gently stroked Julie's arm. She looked back toward Hogwarts and frowned.

"Is that Professor Snape," she asked in disbelief.

Julie looked around and nodded.

"Yes, that's clearly Professor Snape."

"What's he doing in Hogsmeade," said Jean surprised.

Before Julie could say anything, Jean grabbed her by the arm and ran.

"Come on, let's catch up with the others," Jean laughed merrily, "Otherwise we will be the last to arrive in Hogsmeade."

They overtook their classmates. Julie listened to the conversations half-hearted and trotted slowly along beside Jean. After some time, she looked around. Professor Snape was gone. Julie frowned and wondered where he had gone, if not to Hogsmeade.

*****

The tutoring session on Sunday turned out to be a disaster. Julie sat exhausted on one of the low walls and Snape slowly approached her. She had confessed to him that she suffered from nightmares. It was nothing new for Snape. He had known about it since he had spent a night at her bedside. In addition, Poppy had already told him in detail about it.

"Miss Abbott, if you would give me access to your memories, then I could help a lot more," Snape said cautiously.

She looked at him skeptical and leaned back slightly, before she shook her head vigorously.

"Are you really sure that you do not want my help," Snape asked almost pleadingly.

"Why is this necessary," she asked doubtfully, "You have no benefit if you know my memories," said Julie slightly annoyed as she jumped off the wall.

Snape sighed with relief. He had not expected that Miss Abbott would talk about it. He had expected that she would turn down this issue.

"Madam Pomfrey has already given you sleeping potions. In fact, anyone can give you this potion. But the feeling and the anxiety under which you are suffering, remains, just as nightmares. In addition," he paused for a moment, "When one has once been tortured with the Cruciatus Curse, there is a difference. One has then, shall we say, other memories." He raised an eyebrow and looked at her intently, "Which are closely associated with the excruciating pain and suffering that one has felt. A simple potion helps in these cases, not much. If I would know your memories, then I could prepare the potion in a way that you can actually sleep peacefully."

Snape looked at her hopefully and waited for her response.

"And why are you of all people interested," asked Julie suspicious, "Why can not someone else do it? Without having to see my memories? A potions master, perhaps?"

Snape raised his eyebrows and looked at her strangely. Julie was surprised at the look on his face, which she had never seen before.

"I've already brewed such special potions and succeeded," said Snape quietly, "I offer you my help."

Julie looked at him doubtfully.

"If you've already brewed such potions, then you can brew the same for me," said Julie triumphantly.
Snape shook his head.

"Unfortunately this is not possible," he replied flatly.

She frowned, "And why not," Julie asked doubtfully.

"In order to get the desired effect, you have to share with me your memories. Without the art of Legilimency it does not work, unfortunately," he said factually.

Snape looked at her expectantly and Julie was taken aback.

Should she share her memories with him, Julie wondered. Legilimency? What kind of offer was that? What the hell.. She shook her head defiantly and stepped away from him.

"No, I do not agree with that," she said with an expression that could not have been more definitive.

Snape tilted his head to the side and shrugged.

"Then we'll give you the usual potion. You will spend the first few nights in the hospital wing," he said as if that was a punishment.

"Why," Julie asked surprised.

"We have to find the right dosage for you," Snape said, "This may take a couple of nights."

He looked at her thoughtfully and turned around to go.

The tutoring lesson is apparently finished, Julie thought.

Julie leaned against the wall and slowly slid down until she sat in the grass. She threw her wand defeated into the grass and sighed. She was confused and scared. As always, mocked her hateful inner voice. Julie sighed and looked up. Snape was gone. Good, she thought. But a part of her was desperate because he was gone. Julie could twist and turn it as she wanted, Professor Snape was one of the few people who tried earnestly to help her. Although he was a bully, Snape had also another side, and Julie had acquired a liking for it. She felt remorse and wondered if she had made a mistake in rejecting Professor Snape's unusual offer.

Chapter Text

Snape stood in his private potion room and stirred a potion lost in thought. A deep growl escaped his lips as he looked through the window at the Forbidden Forest. Why had she declined his offer? It frustrated him deeply. Did Miss Abbott doubt his motivation? What was his motivation? Snape's lips were set in a straight line. His inability to help her, leaving a bitter aftertaste. He furrowed his brows. The sour smell what unmistakable. Only now he noticed the blackish smoke which rose from his cauldron. Snape growled angrily as he glanced at the potion. He had stirred it wrong. He had messed up two weeks of work and effort. Snape made a small noise of disgust before he grabbed his wand.

"Evanesco", he murmured. The potion disappeared completely and Snape put out the fire under the cauldron. He leaned against the table and looked sullenly at his stores. Snape wondered if he should begin to brew the potion once more. He lowered his head and growled softly. He was convinced that tonight was not a good time to do so.
"There's a first time for everything," he muttered. Snape had never before ruined a potion. He walked over to the shelf where he kept his most precious potions before he took a cloth and began to dust off the bottles. His movements were slow and careless, while he thought of Miss Abbott. What would have happened if he had not gone? She might have changed her mind. But his disappointment was too great to stay with her. Perhaps he should have insisted that she accepted his help?

"Maybe, maybe," said Snape grumpy as he knocked over a empty bottle, which fell to the ground and broke. He rolled his eyes angrily and shoved some of the broken glass with his shoe to the side before he went to the table to fetch his wand.
"Reparo," Snape said angrily. When the bottle was intact on the shelf again, Snape threw the cloth angrily in the corner. "Idiot," he growled, before he went to the window and opened it. The sour smell of the potion was still in the air. Snape wrinkled his nose and looked around the room. He walked slowly over to the table and sat down in his chair. Snape leaned his head back and closed his eyes. Why was everything so difficult? Why could it not be easy? If Miss Abbott would come for tutoring on Wednesday he would again talk to her about his offer. Why did she chose to suffer more than necessary? He could make her live much more pleasant, but she did not give him the opportunity to do so. Was it possible that she was afraid? If so, what was the reason for her fear?

Snape opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling. Of course, why he had not thought of it before? Even if Miss Abbott was tempted to let him help her, she would decide against it. She was afraid to show him her memories because it would bring her vast amounts of suffering and pain. A part of him was glad that she did not want it. First, he was emotionally involved with her. Second, he would have to open himself in order to understand her feelings. He would make himself vulnerable. A feeling that Snape loathed. Furthermore, he would share her pain. Without doing all of this, it would not be possible for him to brew the sleeping potion for her. He shuddered at the thought. Was there another way how he could help her without having to do this? No, Snape knew none. He growled in frustration and rubbed his temples with his index fingers. Snape paused and looked to the door which led to his office. Had someone just knocked? He glanced at the clock. It was almost eleven o'clock at night. Snape's expression darkened dramatically as he got up to see who dared to disturb him at night.

 

Julie winced when she heard the knocking. Was she completely stupid? What had she expected when she came knocking on Professor Snape's door ? Probably it was not the sound of her knocking that had frightened her but rather the fact that it was nearly eleven o'clock at night, and she was supposed to be asleep. Students were not allowed to leave their dormitories after ten o'clock at night, what to speak of their common rooms. And now she stood lightly dressed in front of Professor Snape's office. Her heart was beating rapidly and she bit her bottom lip nervously. Nothing moved in the professor's office and Julie wondered if she should knock again, or rather return to her dormitory. She took a step back to do the latter. But then the door opened. Snape's expression was very angry, but when he saw who was standing at his door, he was curious and looked at Julie questioningly.
Julie saw his angry expression and dropped her gaze to the ground.

"Um, I, um... ," she stammered.

"Come in," said Snape.

Julie entered the office and Snape closed the door, while his gaze followed Miss Abbott. She turned to face him.

"You should be asleep," said Snape strictly.

"Yes, of course," stammered Julie. She tapped her right foot nervously on the floor and felt very uncomfortable.

Snape looked at the foot, which she tapped on the floor. Interesting, he said inwardly to himself. He had a habit of doing this when he was angry, nervous, desperate, impatient... his list was long and he wondered why she did it.

"I have already spoken with Madam Pomfrey. From tomorrow you'll sleep in the hospital wing," Snape said quietly, "We will find the right dosage and you will have quieter nights."

Julie nodded sadly and sighed. As she made no attempt to speak, Snape raised his voice again.

"Is there a reason why you are here, at this time," he asked softly, "it is eleven o'clock at night. You should not leave the dormitory after ten o'clock at night. It is strictly forbidden."

Julie looked up at him. Professor Snape looked no longer angry. He looked at her questioningly and his expression encouraged her to speak.

"I can not sleep .... because I'm scared," she admitted ashamed.

Snape's heart ached in his chest when he heard her words. She could not sleep because she was afraid .... Snape rubbed his temples, wondering what he could do. He would like to offer Miss Abbott, to spend the night with him. He would hold her in his arms and watch over her sleep. Snape forced himself with difficulty to interrupt his train of thought and noticed her strange expression.

"You are afraid of the dreams which haunt you at night," said Snape, knowing that he was right in his assumption.

Julie nodded.

"May I ask you something?" Julie asked shyly.

She looked at him in a way that made Snape nervous. His heart quickened and he tried to suppress a smile as he nervously clenched his hands over and over again.

"Yes," he said with a voice that was foreign even to him.

Julie bit her lower lip and took a deep breath before speaking.
"What's the difference," she asked softly while her glance wandered nervously back and forth through his office. "You said that you've already brewed those potions," she looked him straight in the eye, "Why can't I drink the same potion and that have same result," she asked hesitantly.

She looked at him quizzically and Snape sighed inwardly. He was at first not sure if Miss Abbott had come to discuss with him or if it was an honest question. But then Snape saw the sincerity in her eyes. There was also hope and as always - fear.

"No, unfortunately not. I am a man and the sleeping potion that helps me will not help you much. The reason is that I am a man and you're a woman. Your psyche works differently. You think not only different, but also feel different. You have a different perception of the world, as I do. Even if we have experienced the same, it nevertheless had a different effect on us."

Snape paused and Julie looked at him in dismay, before a compassionate expression crossed her face.

"You were tortured," she said quietly and thoughtlessly after analyzing his words.

Snape opened his mouth to contradict her, but closed it without having said anything. He wanted to deny it, but then he understood what he had just told her. It was already too late. His body tensed as he felt her hand on his cheek. Julie stood in front of him. The warmth of her hand felt so good on his cold skin. He fought the reflex to lean into her touch, while his face was twisted with pain. Julie interpreted his reaction wrong and thought he reminisced. Memories of the suffering, which he had once experienced. Her other hand rested suddenly against his chest and Snape could not control the desire which her touch caused him. Out of concern to do something wrong, he suddenly and unexpectedly stepped away from her.

Julie's expression was unreadable. Her hands which had just touched him, suddenly felt cold.

"I'm sorry. I did not want to offend you," she said softly.

His fingertips brushed along his cheek where she had just touched him and stayed there while he looked at her bewildered.

"You've done nothing wrong," he said almost in a whisper, "We have something in common, and I know that I could help you, if you would allow me."

She looked away and her eyes fell on the fire that was burning in the fireplace. Julie sighed and struggled inwardly with herself. To reveal her memories would make her even more vulnerable than she already was. But if he could help her... Julie looked at Snape searchingly before her gaze wandered once again to the fireplace. The fire which burned there, reminded Julie of the fire of fear which burned inside her, its smoke blackened her soul. She struggled for a decision. Doubt gnawed at her and Julie closed her eyes. She had come to accept his offer. But now she doubted. Why?

She stood motionless and Snape waited for her response. She seemed to struggle with herself. Had he said too much? He was no longer sure. This young woman was different. Snape knew no one, with whom he could compare her. Miss Abbott was an exceptional young woman.

Julie's thoughts revolved in her head like a carousel. What had she to lose? Not much, she thought. The professor had also gone through a lot of suffering. That was the reason why Professor Snape wanted to help her. He understood her difficulties. Suddenly everything made sense. When she finally looked at him again, her expression was on the one hand determined, on the other hand deeply concerned and frightened.

"I am willing to share my memories with you," she said softly.

Snape immediately felt lighter at heart. A small smile appeared on his lips.

"I'll be right back," Snape said, before he walked away.

He left his office through the door that led to his private rooms and Julie waited that he would come back. She stepped closer to the fire, watching as the flames devoured the wood slowly. The force of the fire reminded Julie again of the fear that lived deep inside her. Fear and memories seemed to devour her. It was a slow process, which was sometimes excruciating. Before her thoughts took her back to the time when she had been tortured, Julie quickly thought of something else. Professor Snape came to her mind. Her eyes widened dramatically as she thought about what she had just done. She had touched him. Julie looked at her hand, which had been lying on the cheek of her professor and wondered what had gotten into her. She bit her lips and shook her head. She had done something what brought her comfort. But she was not sure if her professor understood that. If her past caught up with her, she was always looking for physical contact. It had a soothing effect on her. Julie wondered what Professor Snape did when he suffered. She wondered where he had gone. Julie looked around his office. She had often been here, but at night everything looked different. Shadows danced along the walls, while the silence in the office seemed almost unbearable.

After a few minutes Snape came back and handed her a small flask.

"For tonight, this should help a little," he said, and opened the bottle, "At first it will taste obnoxious, then it is slightly sweet."

Julie took the vial and her fingers brushed slightly against his. While Julie drank the potion, Snape's heart was pounding like mad. Her touch... Snape tried to stay calm and watched contentedly as she drank the potion.
Julie handed him the empty flask and sighed heavily.

"Professor Snape, may I ask you something else," she asked cautiously.

He nodded and raised his eyebrows as he wondered what would come next. Julie stared at the ground and hesitated before she looked at him.

"Will it hurt," she asked with a trembling voice.

Snape looked at her pityingly. He saw once again a spark of hope in her eyes and he hated himself because he knew, that his answer would extinguish it. Snape tried to swallow the lump in his throat, but did not succeed.

"Your memories," he said softly, "They torture you? Do they cause you suffering?"

Julie lowered her head in disappointment.

Snape felt how the inner chaos in him began to take shape. Her expression had become dull and dark while he had answering her question.

"Then you know the answer to your question," he said softly.

Julie nodded.

"You'll have to go through suffering in order to be freed from it. I can not tell you how you'll feel later. But I assure you that it will be easier."

"What will be easier," she asked, as she looked up at him.

Snape took a strand of hair that had fallen in the face and tucked it behind her ear before his fingertips brushed against her cheek.

"To live your life. To get up in the morning and instead of cursing the sunrise, you will notice that each new day is a blessing. Every moment is precious."

He looked at her thoughtfully.

Julie frowned.

"Do you feel that each new day is a blessing," she asked cautiously.

Snape's lips were set into a straight line.

"It would be a lie if I would say no. But that has nothing to do with potions. This is something much more powerful. My life did not make sense for a long time," he said honestly, "But sometimes we get a second chance."

Julie looked at him curiously.

"A second chance to live," Julie asked softly.

Snape looked at her sadly.

"Each to their own," he said, "Your second chance may be different than mine," said Snape, secretly hoping that they were destined for each other. Snape realized that he was staring at Miss Abbott and quickly glanced over at the clock.

"You should go to sleep. Do you feel the effect of the potion already?"

Julie nodded.

Snape escorted her back to Slytherin's common room. He stopped outside the door, which led to the girl's dormitory.

"Tomorrow we will discuss the details," said Snape.

Julie nodded "Good night, Professor Snape," she said softly, and disappeared into the darkness of her room.

"Good night .... Julie," Snape muttered almost inaudibly and left Slytherin's common room. He walked the dark hallway to his office while he could not banish from his mind the memory of her touch. He wanted more, but he knew that was not right. He was her professor. Still, he could not just ignore the desire which he felt for her. But he had the ability to control it, what he had done tonight. Even if it had been difficult. Snape closed the door of his office and went to his private rooms. His fingertips brushed against his cheek again. How would he be able to sleep tonight?

He had hope again, but his hope was overshadowed by a dark power which ruled the life of Miss Abbott. He would go into the darkness of the shadow to help her. And it would not be just for a moment, he would then share the burden with her, whether he wanted it or not.

"A price must always be paid", he muttered to himself as he began to unbutton his coat.

Chapter Text

Once again, Julie was sitting in the office of Professor Snape. She was very tense and Snape's gaze was fixed on her hands, which convulsively clutched the armrests of the chair on which she sat.

"How did you sleep," he asked, although he knew the answer already.

Julie seemed to be exhausted.

"You were right. The potion, which you gave me last night, made me fall asleep quickly. However, my sleep was restless and my dreams besieged by dark shadows. I stood on the threshold which
leads to my deepest fear, but I did not cross it."

Snape nodded silently. He understood only too well what she meant. He too had been hunted for a long time by such shadows. They were frightening and cruel.

"With your permission, we will meet next Friday after dinner in my office. If all goes well, one evening will be sufficient," said Snape, watching her reaction carefully.

Julie nodded in agreement as she bit her lower lip.

"Madam Pomfrey will be present during the whole time in order to take care of your well-being," Snape added, to reassure her.

"Why only on Friday," Julie asked hesitantly.

Now that she had decided to go ahead with Professor Snape's offer, she wanted to get it over with. Julie looked at him quizzically.

Snape was surprised. Part of him had anticipated that Julie would back down. Now he sat in front of her and looked into her eyes, which were filled with concern and he couldn't help but to admire her courage.

"Believe me when I say that you will need to rest for a few days, after we are done," Snape replied.

Julie nodded and since everything had been discussed, she stood up to leave the office.

"Miss Abbott, this week I will not give you tutoring lessons. Try to relax," said Snape.

Julie was a little surprised. She did not expect that.

"But come every night to me to pick up the sleeping potion," he said, before he let her go.

Julie smiled in relief and left his office.

Snape watched her thoughtfully. She was not weak. This young woman was bolder than some death eaters that he had known. A deep respect for Julie began to grow in him. Snape reached for his quill and began to grade essays.

*****

It was Friday night and Julie was on her way to Professor Snape. She had lain down after dinner for a while and had tried to relax. Professor Snape had spoken briefly after class with her and asked her to rest a little before she came to him. It had been difficult to relax. In her hands, Julie held her small pillow, which she pressed to her chest.
When she entered the office, Madam Pomfrey was already waiting for her. Julie looked at Professor Snape, who walked towards her. He was wearing black pants and to her surprise, a white shirt whose sleeves were rolled up to his elbows. She was so surprised that she did not notice that Snape was now standing directly in front of her. Julie winced as Poppy touched her arm. Snape gave her a glass with a white liquid and Julie looked at him quizzically.

"What's that," she asked softly.

"This is for your emotions," he replied.

Snape had recently drunk the same potion. He stared at her as she emptied the glass and his eyes fell on the pillow that Julie was still holding against her chest while she drank. She handed him the glass and was surprised that the potion had tasted so good.
Poppy took Julie's hand and led her to an armchair, which stood near the fireplace. Julie sat on it and Poppy engaged her in a conversation. Snape sat behind his desk, waiting for the effect of the potion. When he felt that the potion had deployed its full effect, he gave Julie a further twenty minutes. Then Snape stood up and took his wand.

Julie paled visibly when Snape's shadow fell on her. She swallowed hard and opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came from her lips. Snape knelt down and looked at her searchingly.

"When you are ready, we start now," he said, waiting for her approval.

Julie would never be ready for this, but she was dying to get it over with. She nodded silently, leaning back in the armchair while Snape stood up. Beads of sweat appeared on her forehead as Snape positioned himself. He saw how a wave of fear rolled over her. Her fingers dug into the little pillow which she had previously kneaded nervously with her hands. Snape pointed his wand at her. Poppy noticed how his hand trembled slightly and she pitied both of them. Julie had closed her eyes and trembled already all over.

"Legilimens".

A single word, with a strong effect. Julie squirmed in his armchair, as Snape tried to find his way through her memories. Disturbing images, great agony and fierce cries tormented Snape. He thought his head would burst apart at any given moment.

Julie's body was afflicted by unbridled pain which relentlessly crawled through every vein, pore and cell of her body. She felt overwhelming fear and despair, helplessness and panic. Then came the anger, which rolled like a tsunami wave over her. Her mind was in a daze, but the pain and suffering did not end. It became more intense with every moment which passed.

It was a branched network of memories, which represented a challenge, even for Snape. The short breaks, which they made, became longer. He had been right, women felt differently. Snape could not tolerate the pain, which Julie had felt. The pain and agony took him far beyond his limits of endurance. It seemed to tear him up inside. Finally, he dropped his arm and sank exhausted on his knees. Poppy was instantly at his side and support him. He pushed her aside and looked over to Julie, who looked terrible.

"Go to her and help her," Snape said in a weak voice.

Poppy gently stroked Julie's cheek and spoke soothing words to her.

Snape's head was throbbing wildly. He gasped for air, while he fought quietly against the tortures which he had just gone through. Slowly Snape's senses calmed down and he stood up. His gaze fell on Julie. She sat in his armchair, leaning her head against her small pillow and her legs were stretched out on a stool, on which Poppy had placed a blanket. She slept. Her respiration was quiet and steady. Snape walked slowly toward her.

Poppy heard Snape and turned to him. She put her hand on his shoulder and walked him over to the second armchair. Snape sat down and took a deep breath. When he opened his eyes he saw Poppy as she smiled down at him. She handed him his sleeping potion. Snape looked at Julie.

"Did she drank the potion," he asked Poppy.

Julie would be haunted by terrible nightmares. Even his sleeping potion would not help her tonight. She would cross the threshold which led to the dark abysses in the depths of her being without doubt.

Poppy nodded.

"Yes, it was indeed difficult to encaurage Julie, but she has drunk it all. Do you have a blanket, so that I can cover her," Poppy asked.

Snape nodded wordlessly.

"Where can I find it?"

"In my closet in the bedroom," said Snape exhausted.

When Poppy came back with the blanket, Severus was already asleep.

*****

Snape wondered again how much a man could endure. He was pushed to his limits - again. Snape had often thought that he would lose his mind. Year by year, day by day he had lived a life of which he had once dreamed, but which destroyed him now. It had been a slow procedure, agonizing and lengthy, which had step by step taken away everything what he had had. Step by step, he had become someone he did not know, often even feared. The fear of death had become ubiquitous in his life and Snape had started to live only from one day to another. Then only from hour to hour. Snape lived for something what Albus wanted to achieve at any cost. And Snape was one of Dumbledore's chess pieces. It was no ordinary game of chess. The world would never see its kind again.

Albus had been willing to give everything, ultimately, his own life if it were necessary. And with the same mentality he had used other people. On the day when Albus had revealed to him that Harry Potter would someday die anyway, Snape had been deeply shaken. Not only because Harry was Lily's son. Snape had understood in this moment that Albus played a game. A small mistake or a wrong move would kill someone.

Snape understood that he also was one of Albus' chess pieces, which he used cleverly and strategically. But Snape played on both sides, on the side of darkness and on the side of light. Snape was mired ever deeper into Albus' game and realized at some point that there was no escape. It became clear to him that he had to fulfill a function which he had not expected. At first he had been shocked. Then Snape hoped, that Albus was a good chess player.

He had never thought about his future. Why should he? He lived door to door with death. Wherever he went, whatever he did, death followed him. The only plan was the game itself, and it was all that mattered. At the beginning Snape had occasionally thought about the future. At that time he still had hope. What would happen if Albus' plan would succeed? What if...? But the deeper Snape was caught up in the game, the more he saw, what he would become. If Albus would win or not, made no difference. Whether he would live as a death eater, or as a free wizard, Snape would never be the same. He would never be freed from the burden which he had foolishly imposed upon himself. A burden, which threatened to suffocate him agonizingly. This knowledge had broken Snape. This was the moment when he no longer wanted to live. An error, a single error in his naive youth had brought this disaster upon him.

He had tortured and killed other people. Each time he ended a life, Snape felt that it was a bit darker in him. And the more he killed, the darker it became, until darkness prevailed. Was there something he could do to change this? It was too late to ask for forgiveness. Those that he had killed, were dead and therefore forever out of reach. How could he find forgiveness for such horrible acts? Snape saw no way. Of course he was now known for his feats, but no one knew what it had meant to be a spy for Dumbledore. No one knew this except Albus, who was a friend of Snape today.

Sometimes he had profoundly hated Albus for his ruthlessness in dealing with the lives of others. Dumbledore was now always there when Snape needed him. He listened to him. It helped a little, to express the pain, but it did not destroy the darkness in him. Snape's gaze fell on Julie and he looked at her in silence for a long time. It was not easy to put into words what he felt. This young woman had in fact done nothing exceptional. But she had changed his world. Nothing was as it once was. Snape's heart was beating hard in his chest as he realized what was happening. He had not understood the change at first, but now he knew that she brought him slowly into the light. Was it pain he felt? Or joy? He could not say. The feeling was entirely unknown to him. But he knew now that he would never let her go.

Julie flinched in her sleep and Snape's thoughts changed. He had seen her memories. Perhaps he had looked around a little too long. Snape had the apprehension that he might have become a bit more screwy. She had been so innocent. Nevertheless, she had to endure a lot of suffering and torture. The boy had never pushed too far, which is why no one had noticed his evil deeds. Julie had finally confided the headmaster and he had wished to catch the boy in the act. He had not said this to Julie and she had run into a trap. The plan of the Headmaster almost ended fatally. Julie could have died that day, because the boy had been afflicted by a kind of greed, which Snape had seen before. The greed to see others suffer - and die. Just as Voldemort, thought Snape.
He tried to push the thoughts away. What could he do? He could not forgive himself for that, what he had done. His facial expression changed. Snape stared at Julie and wondered if there was anything in life, what he could do, to feel better. It was a selfish desire. But Snape had changed a little bit. And he was ready to change even more. He had experienced much torture himself. Punishments that Voldemort had imposed on him, often carried out by the dark lord himself. Snape shuddered as he thought about it.

He felt the all too familiar hopelessness creeping into his heart. Snape tried to fight against it. Why now, he wondered angrily. This evening had stirred up much dirt. And not only in Miss Abbot, but also in Snape himself. His burden was now twice as large as before. He now carried his own burden and that of Miss Abbott. But he had been willing to make this sacrifice for her. She had suffered unimaginable. At least he could help her now. In his mind he began a list of ingredients which he needed to brew her sleeping potion. It would take him three days. Until then, she would continue to drink his sleeping potion. At least this was more effective than an ordinary potion. Snape felt better after he started to plan.

Snape leaned his head against the backrest of his armchair and Poppy stroked over his chest, before she continued to massage his tense shoulders. Julie sat suddenly upright. She looked around anxiously. Snape knew that she was not really conscious. Julie was caught somewhere between her dreams and the reality, a place from which it was difficult to escape.
Poppy ran to her side and comforted her. Snape smiled as Julie sank back in the armchair and fell into a restless sleep. Since midnight Julie woke up on a regular basis. It was always the same. Until then Snape had slept and since then he sat in his armchair, watching her.

Poppy came back and massaged Snape's shoulders.

"At first I hated Trelawney's prediction," he said quietly.

Poppy smiled, without commenting.

"I did not want to admit it. But deep inside me, I had the secret wish that it would come true," said Snape.

Poppy smiled wider. "Sybill's not as bad as they say," said Poppy, "Of course, her permanent death predictions can be annoying. But that does not mean that they are not true."

Snape nodded silently. It was thanks to Sybill that he lived today. She had foreseen his death. Poppy had made her way to the old boathouse with a antidote against snake venom to save him. They both smiled when they thought of the same thing in the same moment.

"I hope that Sybill's prediction is correct," said Snape. "And I hope that the said lady is now sleeping in front of me on my favorite armchair," he added quietly.

Poppy was deeply touched by his words.

"Does that sound like romantic nonsense," asked Snape and looked over his shoulder at Poppy.

"No," she said reassuringly, "No Severus, that sounds exactly like what I've always wanted for you," she said.

"And what would that be," he asked, a little curious.

Poppy smiled suggestively.

"You are in love, Severus, you're in love."

Chapter Text

Julie groaned as she stirred. Her entire body ached terribly. She swallowed hard, her mouth was parched and her throat sore. Julie knew that feeling all too well. A stormy wave of misery raced through her body and she groaned again. She opened her eyes and had an instant headache. It was Saturday morning and Julie blinked sleepily. She got up and staggered. Snape caught hold of her and gently pushed her back on the armchair.

"You have to be careful," he said quietly, as he looked at her intently.

She looked bad. He was glad that he had chosen the weekend. In this state, she could not possibly attend classes. Julie had time to recover until Monday morning. Snape himself had already taken a few potions this morning and felt much better now. Julie looked at him in silence and Snape noticed that she was blushing. She turned her gaze quickly from him and sighed heavily. Snape was surprised by her rather strange behavior.

"What's going on," he asked, his voice filled with mild curiosity.

"I am ashamed," she said hoarsely.

Snape frowned, "What are you ashamed of?"

His gaze was fixed on Julie while he waited for her response.

"I am ashamed of my weakness," she replied almost inaudibly.

Poppy went up to her and shook her head firmly as she knelt in front of Julie.

"You're not weak. Whoever says so is a fool," Poppy said.

Julie did not seem convinced.

"Poppy's right. You're brave and strong, no one can claim otherwise," said Snape, who now also knelt before her.

"This is for you," he said, while he gave her a glass.

Julie looked at Snape questioningly.

"What is it," she asked, eyeing the potion thoughtfully.

"It will help to heal your wounds from last night. Your bodily pain will subside and your emotional wounds will be more bearable."

Julie drank everything and was sure that her face had turned green.

"That tastes disgusting", she said and looked at Snape. "You seem to have a collection of potions in your office. Is that what you do in your spare time? You're brewing potions," Julie asked with honest curiosity.

Poppy chuckled, that was too funny. If Miss Abbott knew...

"Don't you know, that Severus was for many years Hogwarts potion master?"

Julie looked at Snape incredulously.

"Is that true," she asked in surprise and cleared her throat, which ached with every word she spoke.

Poppy nodded.

"Yes, he is one of the best potion masters of the present time."

Julie was ashamed of her ignorance.

"Oh, I did not know that," she said ashamed.

Snape stood up and walked over to his desk and Julie leaned back and began to feel the effect of the potion. She closed her eyes and soon fell into an exceptionally quiet sleep.

*****

Julie awoke in the early afternoon. A rather strange smell was in the air and she wrinkled her nose.

"Do you feel better now," asked Poppy, who sat on a chair beside her.

Julie nodded

"Yes thanks, apparently here was in fact one of the best potion masters at work," she said with a smile on her lips.

Snape entered his office and looked at them.

"Severus," said Poppy and stood up, "I have to return to the hospital wing. If you should need me, call me and I'll come at once."

Snape nodded and approached Julie. He sat down on the armchair, which stood opposite her and looked at her in silence. She was very pale, but her cheeks were slightly rosy.

"I think that this is the most horrible and disgusting stench I have ever smelled," said Julie hesitantly.

Snape smirked, "That's your sleeping potion," he said.

Julie's expression was horrified.

"I do not think I can drink that stuff," she said gravely concerned.

Snape looked at her for some time without saying anything. Then he took a deep breath and leaned slightly forward.

"Do not worry, your potion will cook for three days. At the end it will not only smell different, but also taste different."

Julie looked at him in astonishment, "Three days," she asked.

Snape nodded and observed her expression.

Julie was speechless.

"Um, I do not know how to thank you, Professor Snape," she finally said.

Snape shook his head. He felt guilty because he would not care for another person like that. How could he accept her thanks? He was sure that Miss Abbott did not know what his motivation was.
Of course he liked her very much. But even if he could never be with her, he would still want to help her.

Julie looked at him thoughtfully. She understood now why he wanted to help her. He had experienced the same as she had done. Julie startled when her stomach suddenly rumbled.

"Are you hungry," Snape asked.

Julie nodded ashamed.

"I'll take care of it," he said, "What you like to eat?"

Julie shrugged her shoulders, "I do not know," she said softly.

Snape frowned, "You do not know what you like to eat," he asked in surprise.

Julie looked slightly perturbed to the floor.

Snape looked at her thoughtfully. The wrinkle between his eyebrows deepened as he realized the position in which Julie was. He had been there also. No, he was still there. But Miss Abbott helped him to escape this suffering. But how bad things were with Julie?

"Are there things that you enjoy doing," he asked tentatively.

Julie sighed and looked at him silently.

"Are you telling me that you do not know what you like? You do not know what you love to do?"

Her expression was sorrowful and he saw that her eyes welled up with tears.

"That's no problem. That's okay," he said reassuringly.

Julie looked at him doubtfully.

"Is that really okay," she asked hesitantly.

He nodded, "Yes, that's perfectly fine. I feel the same."

They looked at each other for some time in silence before Snape stood up.

"I will call a house elf. You need to eat something," said Snape.

 

Half an hour later Julie and Snape sat at his desk and ate. She sat in his favorite armchair, and he on his chair. Although she was very hungry, Julie ate relatively little. Snape was not worried because he had gone through the same.

"I'm full," said Julie and leaned back in the armchair.

"You can later eat more if you like," he said before he drank a little water.

When Snape looked back at Julie, she was already asleep. Her hand still clutching the fork with which she had eaten. Snape looked at her for a moment before he stood up. He walked around his desk and took the fork from her hand and placed it on his desk. With a flick of his wand, the armchair floated over to the fireplace. Snape went to Julie and looked at her thoughtfully. He pitied her because he knew what she was going through. Miss Abbott had a problem that was very complex and he wondered how he could help her best. A sleeping potion was certainly a good start, but it would not solve her problem. She needed someone who cared intensely about her but he could not do that because he was her teacher. Snape hoped that she would hold out until the end of the school year.

*****

Julie felt like a lost soul. She was lost in a world which once meant everything to her and which suddenly appeared strange and cold. She rolled onto her side and pulled her legs tightly to her body. A tear escaped her eye and rolled down her cheek. She smelled on her pillow and felt worse. Julie sighed heavily while more tears began to run down her cheek. A deep loneliness crept into her soul while she wept in the dark. The pain had returned. Not the physical pain, but the emotional pain was the one that threatened to tear her apart. She was not sure whether she had heard correctly and opened her eyes. Professor Snape closed the door and came over to her. She lay motionless in her bed, alone her eyes followed him as he came closer. Snape sat down next to her bed and looked at her in silence. Julie sighed heavily and he took the corner of her blanket and wiped the tears from her face. Then Snape reached into his pocket and pulled out a small vial. He opened the cork and implied her to drink.

Julie sat up and took the flask from his hand. She drank the potion and pulled a disgusted face.

"It will help you," said Snape.

Her shirt had slipped over her shoulder, which was now exposed. Snape swallowed hard and turned his glance reluctantly away from her. Julie lay down again and Snape waited until she was asleep. Then he turned off the light and sat in the dark. Julie's sleep was restless and she seemed to have nightmares.
It was midnight, then it was 1am, then 2am.... when it was 3am, Snape stood up and knocked on Poppy's door. He had brought Julie in the evening to the hospital wing. It was better if she slept here. Snape did not want that there would be rumors among students. The door creaked open and Poppy stood before him, deeply concerned, with a lighted candle in her hand.

"Severus? Is everything ok," she asked anxiously, trying to make out Miss Abbott in the dark.

"I've been here for five hours. She was crying when I came," whispered Snape.

"Oh dear," Poppy said softly as she went to Julie's bed.

"Julie seemed to be fine when I left," said Poppy. "You came five hours ago? She should have been sleeping," said Poppy surprised. "Did she not drink her sleeping potion?"

Snape looked at Poppy confused.

"You have not given her the sleeping potion," he asked, slightly reproachfully.

Poppy gave him an apologetic look and shook her head, "She said she wanted to drink it later."

Snape pulled out his wand, "Lumos".

He lifted her blanket cautiously, looking for the flask. Nothing. His hand slid gently under her pillow. Snape pulled out the small flask with the sleeping potion and held it out to Poppy.

"Don't do that again," he said gravely.

"But why didn't she drink the potion," Poppy asked thoughtfully.

Snape looked at Julie and sighed.

"Because she did not want it. She felt lonely, that's why she wept. She wanted to feel lonely," Snape said bitterly.

"Severus," Poppy said softly, "Why do you think that Miss Abbott wants to feel lonely? That makes no sense to me."

Snape looked at Poppy with a pained expression.

"It makes sense to me. I know whereof I speak. Loneliness is cruel and I think Julie thus punishes herself", he said worriedly. "I must go and get some sleep. I woke you up to ask if you can stay with her."

Poppy looked at Severus in surprise.

"Will you not wake her and give her the sleeping potion now?"

"No. Then I would have to ask her why she did not drink it. I do not want to confront her now."

Poppy nodded, "Alright, I'll stay with her."

Severus nodded and turned away from her.

"Nox," Snape said softly, before leaving the hospital wing.

It was cold in the corridors of Hogwarts, but Snape did not notice it. He walked quickly back to his office and locked the door. The silence of the night was exactly what he needed. He sank into his favorite armchair and stared into the darkness. He felt overwhelmed by the situation. Dumbledore inquired regularly about Miss Abbott's progress, but there was none. The situation was the same, maybe even worse. And the longer Snape watched and cared about Julie, the more he saw that it would be a difficult venture, to get her through the practical exam.
Snape growled and buried his face in his hands. It could not go on like this. His own situation and that of Miss Abbott were very similar. But he had found a way out of his misery. He had, even if it was only temporary, her. But Miss Abbott had no way out. Snape leaned back and clasped the armrests with his hands. He did not care whether she would pass the exam. His concern was what would she do after that? Had Albus not persuaded him to continue to teach at Hogwarts, Snape would be somewhere else today, or more likely nowhere. There was something in his life, with which he could carry on, something that at least had a meaning. But Miss Abbott was so young. What did she have? No matter how he looked at the situation, it became clear to him that it would take a lot of time for Miss Abbott to go back to normal.

He had seen many of her memories. Not only the bad, but also joyful memories. Nevertheless, he did not know much about her. There was so much what he would like to ask her, but he could not do it. To be her teacher, had its limitations. He could not show too much interest in her private life. But as head of Slytherin, he could justify that he cared for her, since she was his student and he was responsible for her. As her teacher it was in his interest that she successfully completed this school year. Therefore he had to make sure, that she would pass her exam successfully. But his personal interest was her well-being. Snape decided to do the opposite of what he thought he had to do. In the next few weeks he would not give her tutoring lessons.

Snape fiddled with his wand and thought about Poppy's words. They had caused much turmoil in him. He could not deny that her words had been true. The initially threatening feeling which had enveloped his heart at that moment was gone. He had already known it, but to hear it from someone else, had a liberating effect. It made it easier to accept the fact. Snape stood up and went to his bedroom. It was not worth to go to sleep, but nevertheless he dropped to his bed. He wanted to try for a moment not to think about Miss Abbott. The oppressive feeling in his chest made him doubt if she would ever reciprocate his feelings. Before his hateful inner voice could begin to mock him, Snape fell asleep. But even his dreams were not what they once were. Soon Snape began to stir in his sleep. However, it were no nightmares that plagued him.

Chapter Text

It was Monday morning and Julie was sitting with a severe headache in the hospital wing. She had tried to endure, but her headache had become so unbearable that she had vomited. In class with Professor McGonagall, in front of all students. Professor McGonagall had brought her immediately to Poppy, who now stood behind Julie and stroked her back soothingly.

"We have agreed that you would come to me if you feel bad," she said sternly. Poppy had grown very fond of Julie and did not understand why she had not immediately come to her. "I'm here to help you. How can I do that if you do not let me," Poppy asked.

"I thought that I can hold out. I did not want to leave the classroom."

Poppy patted her gently on the shoulder and smiled.

"You're not here to prove something to others."

Julie's body tensed noticeably. What did the old Lady know? Julie looked at Poppy briefly before staring at the floor again. The potion which Poppy had given her, began to help and Julie felt a little better.

"I'm tired, that they're constantly talking about me," she said softly.

"Who is talking about you," Poppy asked surprised.

Julie bit her lip and said nothing.

Poppy sat down beside her on the bed and put her arm around Julie's slender shoulders.

"You can trust me. Will you not tell me at least what they say about you," Poppy asked.

"They gossip about me because I am constantly in the hospital wing. They say that I would be lazy and feign illness to truant," said Julie visibly distraught.

Poppy looked outraged.

"We both know that's not true. You should not listen to this foolish talk. And who says that," Poppy asked now slightly demanding.

Julie rolled her eyes.

"Many say this. I do not really care what others think about me. But in this case it really bothers me. I've been through a lot," sobbed Julie, who was close to tears, "I am not to blame that I feel bad. I'm trying to do my best."

"Of course you are not to blame," said Poppy horrified, "You fought bravely till now and you strive to get your problem under control. Many others here should follow your example. They are whining because of every little ailment."

Julie was silent and buried her face in her hands, while Poppy stroked her back soothingly.

Poppy frowned. She had heard something like this before. Severus had once said the same when he was still young. He had been different than the other children. Severus was very intelligent and initially very helpful. Nevertheless, he found little acceptance among his classmates. Poppy was sure that this fact was one reason why Severus had found interest at the dark magic. But the young woman at her side would certainly do nothing as such. But who knew what would happen to her?

"It takes time, to heal the wounds which you carry in you. Severus feels the same way. Take the time you need and do not let the chatter of others disturb you. Last Friday was a very difficult day for you. I think you need more time to recover. Do you think that you'll attend classes this afternoon, or do you want to stay here," Poppy asked and looked expectantly at Julie.

Julie shook her head and stood up abruptly, "I'll definitely go," she said firmly.

"If you need anything, even if it is just someone to talk to, I'm always there for you," said Poppy.

Julie looked at her and smiled slightly.

"Thank you," she said softly, before she left the hospital wing.

*****

Travers had been waiting in the corridor for Julie. When she left the hospital wing, he was immediately at her side.

"Are you feeling better," he asked anxiously.

Julie nodded and stared at the floor. The Gryffindor's had witnessed the spectacle in the morning. She wished she could disappear into thin air. Why was he here, Julie wondered.

"I understand that this was an unpleasant experience," he said softly. "That's already happened to me. I was in the second grade." Travers looked at Julie enthusiastically, "Should I tell you about it? Of course, it happened during lessons with Professor Snape. There is nothing worse than that. When I first ... "

"I do not want to hear it," said Julie furiously, while she abruptly turned to him and stopped. "I do not want to hear it! Just leave me alone! I don't want to talk to anyone!"

Her voice trembled with anger, but her eyes were filled with pure desperation.

Travers looked at Julie surprised. She was very pale and he understood that she had had a bad morning. He stepped back from her and looked at her sympathetically.

"Sorry," he said, "I was worried about you and wanted to know how you're doing. I did not intend to disturb you."

"Leave me alone," hissed Julie.

Travers wanted to turn around when he heard an all too familiar voice behind him.

"Mister Whisp."

The hair on the back of his neck began to stand on end and Travers rolled his eyes before he turned to Professor Snape.

"You should spend your free time in the library and write your imposition," sneered Snape.

Travers nodded and was about to leave quickly, but Snape was not finished with him.

"Not so fast," Snape said dangerously quiet. "That makes ten points from Gryffindor. And tonight you will have detention. At seven o'clock, in my office," Snape growled.

Travers turned and walked away. This insufferable guy! He turned the corner and kicked the stone wall out of sheer anger. Travers limped on, but paid little attention to the pain in his foot. Why was Professor Snape always at the wrong time at the wrong place?

 

Julie stood there motionless, gazing after Travers, who had just turned the corner. She felt bad that she had been so rude with him and suspected that Travers had waited for her. Could this be possible? Julie bit her lower lip and wondered if Travers liked her.

"Miss Abbott?"

Julie winced and looked at Snape.

"Yes," she replied slightly dreamy.

"Is everything all right," Snape asked as he looked at her.

Julie nodded and tried to smile.

"I feel a little better," she said.

"Minerva, I mean, Professor McGonagall told me what happened today in class," Snape said and took a step toward her.

Julie blushed clearly, trying to find a reason to avert her gaze from him. She found none and decided to stare at the floor conspicuously nervous.

"Is that related to Friday, or has it other reasons," he asked with concern.

"Madam Pomfrey says it is related to Friday. She gave me a potion and I feel better now," replied Julie.

Snape looked at her in silence before he let her go. Julie went towards Slytherin's common room. She wanted to be alone and get some rest before the afternoon lessons began.

*****

"Oh Severus, I have expected you earlier," said Poppy, as Snape entered the hospital wing, "You are too late. Miss Abbott has gone a few minutes ago."

"He's been here," Snape asked irritably.

"Whom are you talking about," Poppy asked in surprise.

"Travers Whisp. The insufferable Gryffindor. Was he here to see her," Snape said and grimaced, as if he had a toothache.

"No, he was not here," Poppy said, shaking her head. "Why do you ask?"

Snape went to the window and looked outside. It rained outside and his eyes fell on the gray clouds which hung oppressively low.

"I saw them together. If Whisp was not here, he has apparently been waiting in the hall for her," Snape said angrily, while repeatedly banged his clenched fist against the window frame.

Poppy had followed him and put her hand on his shoulder.

"Do not worry. He's just one of her classmates."

"That's why I'm worried," Snape said bitterly. "Do you know how old I am?"

"Of course I do. And I know how old Miss Abbott is. But you have a distinctive advantage over that boy."

Snape glanced over his shoulder at Poppy, his eyes were filled with doubt.

"Which advantage do I have," he said grimly.

"You are the one that helps her to cope with life," replied Poppy convinced.

Snape scoffed and shook his head.

"I can't cope with my own life. How much can I really help her? I'm incomplete."

"Just like Miss Abbott," replied Poppy, while rubbing his back. "You are both incomplete and I believe that that is the reason why you have met Miss Abbott. You will complete one another."

Snape stood silently in front of the window and stared out into the autumn weather.

"Severus, you'll see that the day will come when she will understand how much you are doing for her and why."

"And what happens when that day will not come," Snape asked doubtfully, as he looked over his shoulder at Poppy.

"I'm sure, that this day will come Severus, I am absolutely convinced."

Snape was silent, watching the rain for a long time which fell vertically from the sky. He did not share Poppy's views. For him, the time ran out. It became increasingly clear to him that Whisp liked Miss Abbott. It made him angry and Snape could do nothing but watch.

*****

"I'm sorry that I bothered you. I must have caught you at bad time. Do you feel better now," Travers asked puffing, when he finally catches up with Julie, who was on her way to her next lesson.

Julie looked at Travers and nodded.

"Yes, thank you. I'm fine," she said.

Julie had slept before afternoon lessons and felt a lot better now. Travers raised an eyebrow and looked at her thoughtfully as they walked side by side down the long hallway.

"You're still pale," he said slightly worried.

Julie smiled and looked ahead.

"I have not slept much last night," she said, biting her lower lip.

"My grandmother told me a trick, how you can always fall asleep," said Travers, while looking at Julie with sparkling eyes.

"What's that," she asked, slightly amused. This guy apparently had a solution for everything. Somehow this fact amused Julie. Travers took a deep breath to answer, but Jean pushed her way between the two and shoved Travers away.

"Hey Whisp, are there not enough girls in Gryffindor? Or are they not good enough for you," Jean hissed at him.

Travers quickened his pace and Jean watched him annoyed. Then she looked at Julie with concern.

"Is everything all right," she asked.

"Yes, everything is fine. Travers wanted to explain a trick," said Julie.

Jean laughed.

"Ha! Travers wanted to explain a trick?"

"Yes," replied Julie.

Jean chuckled amused. How naive was her friend?

"Be careful that Whisp does not bewitch you," said Jean.

Julie giggled amused, but Jean looked at her suggestively.

"Some say, that Travers has a crush on you."

"Who says so," asked Julie stunned.

"Almost everyone. I mean, it's clear, as often as he speaks to you," said Jean, winking at Julie.

They walked on in silence. Travers was not so bad as Julie had thought. He had initially annoyed her, but his concern was genuine. At least he had inquired about their well-being, mused Julie. Her gaze wandered over to Jean. After the unpleasant situation in McGonagall's lesson, none of her classmates from Slytherin had done this.

"What does that mean," asked Kevin surprised.

Julie looked up and saw Professor Snape, who was standing in front of the classroom. He welcomed the students in his usual cold way by ignoring them completely. Everyone scurried quickly past the Professor, in order not to provoke him.

"It looks as if we have lessons with Professor Snape," Jean said softly.

"Is Professor Mandros sick," said Amycus, as they walked toward Snape.

"No idea," replied Jean.

Julie was the only one in the group of students who did not care. She looked at Snape directly and their eyes met briefly as Julie walked past him. Before she reached her table she heard the door close. She quickly sat beside Jean and looked expectantly at the desk ahead of her.

Snape walked quickly toward the teacher's desk and turned to the students. His arms were folded across his chest and his expression was tense.

"Before you begin to h a r a s s me with annoying q u e s t i o n s," Snape paused and his eyes wandered slowly through the classroom, "I'll explain to you why I'm here."
Snape looked at the students annoyed. "I was asked to take over the last lesson of the day."

Elisabeth Pine put the book on the table, which she had held in her hand when Snape had entered the classroom. Snape's eyes flashed before he slowly walked toward her.

"Miss Pine," Snape said, raising an eyebrow.

Elizabeth stared at him and swallowed hard.

"Please tell me, why should I teach this subject," he asked coldly.

"Because it is the subject of this lesson," she replied almost inaudibly.

"Is that so," Snape said dangerously low. "When you have lessons with me, you will learn what I teach. And which subject is that, Miss Pine," Snape asked impatiently.

"Defense against the dark arts," replied Elizabeth.

Snape looked at her sullen and narrowed his eyes.

"Ten points from Hufflepuff for acting hasty," said Snape maliciously.

Amycus rolled his eyes annoyed. It seemed as if Snape was in his usual foul mood.

"Mister Finnigan," Snape growled and turned with a swift movement to him.

Amycus looked at Snape innocently, who slowly approached him.

"Detention, tonight! At seven in my office," snapped Snape angry.

Amycus looked at Kevin distraught, who shrugged.

"How could he see that," Amycus asked incredulously.

Kevin shook his head carefully and looked nervously at Snape, who stood in front of the teacher's desk.

"Since you have an extra hour with ME, you will write an essay on the topic of yesterday's lesson. Remove all unnecessary things from your desks. Only quill and ink are allowed."

Snape paused before he turned abruptly and sat down behind his desk. A short rustling sound spread through the room before it was dead quiet. With a flick of his wand, parchments flew across the room. Every student got one. Julie dipped her quill into the ink and began to write. Time passed slowly and Julie gazed at the parchment, which she had filled only half with her thoughts. She looked nervously at Professor Snape who was reading. Ultimately, she put down her quill and leaned back in her chair. Julie was hit in the face with a piece of paper and she looked surprised in the direction from where it came. Travers grinned at her and motioned her to open it and to read.
Julie bent down and picked it up. She sat up straight and opened it quietly under her desk. A shadow fell over her and Julie looked up in surprise. Her eyes widened when she saw Snape standing before her. With a swift movement, he held out his hand and demanded the paper. Her hands began to tremble and Julie looked uncertain at Travers, who had already buried his face in his hands.

"Miss Abbott," Snape growled through gritted teeth.

Julie gave him reluctantly the piece of paper and looked at Snape worriedly while he read it. Snape felt anger rising in him. This insufferable boy, he cursed inwardly. Then his gaze fell on Julie and he saw fear in her eyes.

"At seven o'clock in my office," Snape growled before he turned away from her.

Julie sighed inwardly.

The students continued to work quietly and Snape sat behind his desk. He glanced at Travers, who was staring at him.

"Mister Whisp, don't think, that you will get away with it. As you already know, tonight, at seven o'clock, in my office," said Snape and threw a glance at Travers as he if he wanted to strangle him.

"Are you done," Snape suddenly asked.

Travers nodded silently.

"Then give me your essay and leave the classroom," he snapped.

Travers sighed annoyed and stood up to bring Snape his essay. He put it on the desk and turned to collect his things.

Julie sat absolutely still and was relieved when she was finally allowed to leave the class room.

Snape's gaze followed her, his facial expression blank. He did not want to punish her, but he had to come up with something. He knew how he would punish the boys, but what he would do with Miss Abbott?

*****

Amycus and Julie approached the door of Snape's office. As they stood in front of it, they heard steps which approached them from behind. It was Travers.

"Julie, I'm sorry," he said when he catches up with them. "I did not want to cause you any trouble."

"Oh no," growled Amycus visibly upset. "You know that Snape is not to be trifled with. You knew exactly, that these things have never escaped his attention. Even if this guy is standing with his back to you, he knows if you roll your eyes or not."

Travers looked at Julie who thought about what she had just heard. Amycus was right. Snape had noticed his gesture, even though he had been standing with his back to him. She looked at Travers a bit grumpy and wondered how Snape could have known that. All three jumped, when Snape cleared his throat.

"I said at seven o'clock in my office," he said coldly, while he looked at each of them angry. "You are late. Ten points from each of you," snapped Snape irritated.

He opened the door entirely and the students entered his office. To their displeasure Filch stood in the office, grinning at them, while he fondled his purring cat behind the ears.

"Whisp and Finnigan, you will spend your detention with Filch," Snape said with a wicked smirk.

The two boys looked at each other unhappy and Travers muttered something inaudible. Filch walked past Julie, looking at her with a wide grin, while the boys followed him reluctantly. As Amycus locked the door behind him, Julie turned to Snape, who was standing with his arms crossed in front of her.

"And what should I do," she asked cautiously.

Snape looked at her in silence for a few minutes before he pulled himself together and went to his desk where he sat down. Julie's eyes followed his deep black robe which trailed behind him and she wondered what would happen next. Snape began to read while Julie stood silently in the office, trying not to draw attention. A sour smell was in the air and Julie suspected that it was her sleeping potion. She looked at Snape as if she tried to read his mind. What kind of man was Professor Snape, she wondered. He was very focused when it came to his work. He tolerated no mistakes. He was hard on his students, prompted discipline and obedience and tolerated no disrespect. The respect, which he got from his students was paid out of fear. He had not earned it. As knowledgeable as Professor Snape was, he was not praised for it, but feared. He was a mysterious man who hid his true face behind a mask. Whether he did so out of fear of rejection, or vulnerability, Julie could not tell. Clear, however, was that he was lost. Lost in this world, just as Julie herself.

After half an hour, which felt like an eternity, Snape finally looked up at Julie. He wanted to be with her longer, but her gaze which was upon him, began to make him nervous.

"You can go now," he said softly.

Julie took a deep breath as she closed the door behind her. What was that, she wondered, as she went back to Slytherin's common room. The professor was behaving strangely. She had heard a lot about detention with Professor Snape. But this was really weird.

 

It was nearly ten o'clock at night, when Filch brought the two students back to Snape. He sat behind his desk and graded the essays which the seventh-graders had written today. Snape looked up and nodded before Filch left the office. Travers and Amycus looked at each other in surprise when Snape simply ignored them and continued his work. Exhausted by his work with Filch and tired after a long day, Travers sat down on a chair, which was standing beside him.

"Nobody gave you permission to sit down," Snape growled dangerously low, without looking up.

Travers stood up abruptly and looked at Amycus unnerved.

Finally Snape laid down his quill and looked at the two students. He stood up and approached them slowly.

"If you will behave disrespectful toward myself again, I will not tolerate it. Whether it's in the classroom, or in your spare time, which you spend here," he said as he looked at Amycus.

Then he turned to his gaze toward Travers, who had the impression that Snape's expression was menacing.

"Idiocy like this," Snape showed Travers the love letter which he had written for Julie, "Have no place in my classes. Do this in your spare time, or better, at home, so I do not have to read something like that again," snapped Snape disgusted.

He stared at Travers with rigid countenance, before he let both students go. As the door closed, Snape went to his private rooms and slumped into his chair.

 

When he had read Travers sincere words, Snape had great difficulty to control his rage. Had all this happened a few years ago, when Snape was still under the influence of Voldemort, Snape would have not hesitated to crush Travers to death, like a puny insect. The dark clouds which had enveloped his mind at that time like a mist, which was thick and cold and offered great resistance, overshadowed his life nowadays rarely. It happened now and then and the moments when Snape was under the influence of darkness were terrible. But once again it had been Miss Abbott, which had helped him out of the predicament. Before the rage could gain the upper hand in him, he had looked at her. Snape saw her fear which was reflected in her eyes. It had extinguished his anger and Snape had then felt dull and worthless.

The written words of the young man, echoed in Snape's memory and he recognized himself in them. Would he be able to express himself as a young man, he would probably have chosen similar words to tell her what he felt for her. But he was not a young man and Snape realized that he had found in Travers a strong rival.

"Whisp," Snape growled and the name left a bitter aftertaste on his tongue.

Miss Abbott had not read the letter from Whisp. But Snape knew it was only a matter of time before he would reveal his thoughts and feelings to Julie. Snape forced his mind to obey him and to banish these depressive thoughts. The times in which he had been a low servant were over. He would no longer be controlled by them. He was.... oh, no.... Snape growled, rubbing his face with his hands. Who was he? Nobody, really.

He stopped any movement and sat perfectly still, while he tried to fight his way through the darkness which tried to invade his mind. It loomed over him, wanting to suppress every good feeling in him. It stretched its cold and bony fingers out to him, ready to wrap them around his warm heart, which pounded in his chest, to hold it once more in its merciless grip. Snape tried to hold on to every happy memory, which he had. There weren't many, but he fought and finally won the battle. The darkness retreated slowly and the light returned. He let out a soft groan and leaned against the backrest of his chair. This time it had been easy, but Snape knew that the darkness would return, for as long as he lived.

He felt exhausted, lifeless and empty. Snape knew these feelings all too well. They were his companions for many years. He no longer wanted to fight and wondered if his life would remain an eternal battlefield. The battle between light and darkness never seemed to end and he was tired of constantly fighting for his sanity. Snape closed his eyes and tried to think clearly. The ticking of the clock disturbed him, because it made him aware that the time passed irrevocably. Not a single moment, which had passed could be retrieved. It was lost forever. Snape wondered if Poppy was right. Would Miss Abbott finally see and understand? He had grave doubts about it. But there was something that had never died in him and that was hope. Snape hoped. Was it a foolish hope? Or was his hope based on fate? A fate, which he and Miss Abbott might share?

He opened his eyes and looked at the table, where Miss Abbott's sleeping potion cooked and his eyes widened when he saw the small vial, which lay on the table. The sleeping potion! He had forgotten to give it to Miss Abbott. Snape groaned loudly and walked over to the table, took the vial and left his private rooms. It was cold in the dark corridor, his steps were inaudible, but the faint sound that his cloak made as it trailed behind him, broke the silence of the night. Snape did not know why, but he was sure that he would find Miss Abbott elsewhere than in her dormitory.

Chapter Text

It was after late at night when Julie awoke as someone gently touched her shoulder. She looked up, startled, and saw Professor Snape, who was standing behind the settee on which she lay. He looked at her seriously.

"Miss Abbott, is everything fine," Snape asked with audible concern.

She sat up slowly. The confusion of the first moment vanished and Julie looked around sleepily. After she had returned to the common room, Julie had spoken with her classmates until it was late and she was finally alone. She had begun to doze and had then apparently fallen asleep. Julie rubbed her face with her hands and nodded.

"Yes, all is well. I wanted to be alone and apparently I fell asleep," she murmured softly.

Snape sat down in the chair which stood beside the sofa and looked at her anxiously. He did not like that she began to isolate herself. He knew this state, which seemed to bring relief at first, but in truth it was a trap. It would only worsen her condition. Snape had once gone through the same.

"Something happened today," he asked with caution, while he secretly hoped that she was not happy with Travers behavior. To his disappointment, he would soon find that it had nothing to do with the boy.

She shook her head and looked at the small vial, which he held in his left hand.

"Nothing worth mentioning," she replied, before she averted her gaze from him.

Snape knew that she was not honest. But he could not force her to talk to him about something, about which she did not want to talk to him. What could he do? They sat in silence in the common room while the fire in the fireplace slowly extinguished. When it suddenly became dark, Julie looked up surprised.

"I should go to sleep," she said, standing up.

Snape rose and admired her fine facial features in the moonlight that fell through the window.

"If you want to talk about it at some point, you can come to me at any time," Snape said and hoped, that she would not reject his offer.

Julie recalled, that Madam Pomfrey had said something similar today. Touched by his words, Julie decided to speak to him.

"I'm worried," she said almost inaudibly.

"Is this a private conversation," asked Sanpe.

Julie thought about his question while nervously playing with the zipper of her jacket. Then she nodded reluctantly.

"Then let's go to my office. No one can overhear our conversation there."

Julie nodded wordlessly and followed Snape to his office. The hallway was almost completely dark and her own footsteps seemed to echo loud in the hallway, while she noticed that Snape seemed to glide silently over the ground. She sighed with relief when they entered his office. It was dimly lit, but the light was very pleasant compared to the darkness of the hallway. Julie sat down in the armchair in which she had spent the weekend and Snape sat down opposite her.

After the first few minutes had passed in silence, Snape leaned forward slightly and gestured her with a movement of his head to speak. Julie sighed, wondering how she could express her thoughts in words.

"I'm trying to come to terms with my past. I, um,... Friday night ..," Julie sighed and struggled for words. "The emotions that I felt were known to me. I was expecting to experience, um... , this kind of desperation and the pain once again."

Julie paused and Snape nodded slowly. It had been clear to him that this day would emotionally strain Miss Abbott. He had taken precautions. Poppy had been present and the potions, which he had given her, had helped. But something else seemed to burden Miss Abbott.
She gazed nervously through his office, while Snape waited patiently for Julie to continue.

"What I want to say is, I had expected to feel these emotions. But then I was suddenly so angry," Julie paused and bit nervously on her lower lip. "I have never been so angry. I mean, not even, when all this happened. In the situation in which... I was.. ," stammered Julie and Snape leaned back slowly, while he listened very attentively. "I have felt such intense anger for the first time in my life. I can not understand why. It scared me. That was not me," she said, looking distraught at Snape.

Snape looked back at her in silence. As the silence between them persisted, Julie leaned back in her armchair. He looked at her thoughtfully, while he tried to calm his thoughts and emotions. He had expected many things, but not this. When Julie began to look at him worried, Snape took a deep breath and nodded.

"You have emotionally and physically gone through incredible suffering. You should never underestimate that. Your emotions were very strong and probably your fear and despair were more pronounced than your anger."

Julie nodded slowly as she considered his words. Snape wondered if he should tell her everything. What would be wrong with that, he wondered. Nothing, except that she might understand one day, that there was apparently more between them, as they both thought. Snape looked down at his hands which lay in his lap and went on.

"On the other hand, I became vulnerable when I looked into your memories. You've probably felt a bit of my emotions. This can not be completely avoided when practicing Legilimency."

Snape paused and looked at her in silence. He had no doubt that Julie had felt his rage. There were only two explanations for why she could feel his emotions.
Either she was herself a highly talented Legilimens, but this was out of question. Snape had been able to hide his deepest thoughts and his secrets even from Voldemort. He knew, that Miss Abbott did not have this talent.
Or, there was a connection between them. Snape began to think more deeply about it while he stared continuously on the floor.

Julie looked at him in surprise.

"You are very angry," she said without thinking.

Snape was torn from his thoughts and sucked air through his teeth. Julie's eyes widened dramatically, as she feared that she had angered him with their ill-considered statement.

"Yes," he replied hesitantly. He did not want to hide anything from her. "I have been through a lot in my life. To see how you suffered, has not only hurt me. It also made me extremely angry."

Julie looked at him in silence and he returned her gaze without words. She tried to understand what he had said.

"Does that mean that it was your anger that I felt," she asked.

Snape nodded wordlessly and Julie began to bite her lower lip.

"Is it normal that I can perceive your emotions," she said thoughtfully.

"No," he answered hesitantly. "No, that's not normal."

Julie frowned, "Why is this so? Is that bad," she asked quietly, fearing that she might not want to know the answer.

Snape looked at her in silence. He would not tell Miss Abbott that in the magical world at times connections between wizards and witches existed, that were predetermined. Whether it was a mental, emotional or physical connection, wizards or witches who shared one of these connections were usually found not far from each other. Snape had hope, because he seemed to share such a connection with Miss Abbott. And their connection judging her words would be an emotional, which was often found among those, who were married. Snape's forehead was placed in deep creases as he followed his thoughts. Ultimately, he looked back at her.

"No, that's not bad. You need not worry," Snape said as he looked into her anxious face. "At a later date, perhaps we can talk about this topic. For now, I advise you, to focus on your recovery. This will cost you a lot of strength."

Julie looked at him in surprised, but then he was probably right. She had to sort the disorder which prevailed in her. Probably new findings would only confuse her more. If Professor Snape saw fit not to discuss this issue at this time, it was better that way. He had to know, because he struggled privately with similar problems.

Snape opened the flask and leaned forward before she handed it to Julie. After she had been drinking the sleeping potion, Julie rolled her small flask between her fingers and looked at him thoughtfully. They sat opposite each other in silence. Snape stood up finally, as Miss Abbott had trouble keeping her eyes open.

"You have to go to bed," he said, "Come, I'll take you to your dormitory."

Julie got up from the chair and Professor Snape accompanied her to the common room.

When Snape returned to his office, crowds of thoughts were circling in his head. Luckily, she had not inquired further. At the moment he did not want to discuss this issue with her. Apparently Miss Abbott had never read about this topic. Of course, it was not in the textbooks of the students. Lost in thought, he stood in front of a small window that offered a view of the Forbidden Forest.
His finger ran over the brittle wood of the window frame, while he could not stop thinking about his conversation with Miss Abbott. Julie had not said it, but Snape knew that Julie was afraid what might become of her. The anger which she had felt had been his. The origin of it was in Snape himself. It was a fear that Snape could very well understand. He had lived for many years with it. Julie had good reason to be afraid. But he would not let her perish in the dark, as he almost did once.

*****

Snape's office was dimly lit with a few candles. Shadows danced across the walls and Julie stood with her back to him in front of the fireplace. The light of the fire danced on her hair and let it appear golden as she stared silently into the flames. It was something she always did when she was with him. Snape approached her slowly. His heart pounded firmly in his chest and his hands were slightly moist. She had heard him approach and turned around. A smile played on her lips and her eyes shone with happiness.

"Severus," Julie said softly. Oh, how much he loved it when she said his name. His eyes fell on her lips, which were rosy. Soft and silky, he thought as he brushed his finger over them.
He took one last step and stood directly in front of her. His fingers traced along her jaw before he cupped her cheek with his large hand. Julie's breath trembled as she tilted her head up to look into his dark eyes. Snape's breath quickened and he stroked her cheek gently with his thumb. She leaned into his touch and placed her hand on his chest as she looked at him expectantly. Snape leaned down and slowly closed the distance between them.

Julie opened her mouth to say something, but he silenced her with his finger which brushed over her lips. No word should spoil this moment. Snape leaned in and kissed her. With the first light touch of their lips, he felt her body tremble beneath his hands. When his lips brushed gently over hers, he noticed how soft they were, warm and inviting. He had often imagined what it would be like to kiss her. But this kiss surpassed all his expectations. He gently pulled her closer to him, so that their bodies touched. His trembling hand stroked Julie's back, before resting on her waist.
A soft groan escaped his lips when he felt her hands which ran over his back. Her fingers dug gently into his flesh as she pulled him closer with gentle longing. Julie gasped softly as she heard him. It was an exhilarating feeling to be so close to her. Their bodies pressed together and his senses were on fire. His lips claimed hers with more passion and she answered his kiss with just as much devotion. He shuddered as she brushed her fingers through his hair as she clung to him. Julie wanted this, just as much as he did.

Snape woke up and looked around in confusion. A groan escaped his lips and he fell back into his pillow. Another one of those dreams. Why did they have to be so real? He rubbed his temples with his index fingers and stared at the ceiling. His heart was racing and his senses were put into a frenzy. Snape sat up abruptly and left his bedroom. A glance out the window told him that it was not yet dawn, and he walked slowly in his bathroom. He knew that he would find no sleep. In the bathroom, he lit two candles and turned on the water. The cold water on his heated skin felt good, but it did not diminish the heat of his longing.

A critical look in the mirror reminded him once again, who he was. Disgusted, he leaned against the wall and sank slowly down until he was crouching on the ground. Snape buried his face in his hands and sat motionless. Apart from the already chaotic state in which he was, it became increasingly difficult to control himself. He hated Travers now even more. The boy followed Miss Abbott at every step and apparently she did not mind. Not long after the conversation with Miss Abbott, Snape had seen them together at the lake. Julie and Travers had chatted extensively. It was a friendly conversation and Snape had seen Julie laugh. Not just once, but over and over again. Oh how it had frustrated him. She had been happy and had forgotten her worries and fears in this moment. But all Snape felt was anger and disappointment. He should rejoice that she forgot her grief sometimes. But as much as he tried, he could not.
He would not admit it openly, but Snape knew he was jealous. And this feeling was ablaze in him and he had no answer to decrease the fire of jealousy. Once set on fire, there was no way to extinguish it.

After talking to her in October when Julie had told him of the anger which she had felt, they had no further private conversations. Despite his efforts, she avoided them. The result was, that Snape did not know what was going on inside her. It was a symptom that her condition worsened. Poppy had advised Snape to be patient and to give Julie time to understand that she needed more help than she currently accepted. Much precious time passed and every day that passed, was lost.
Snape saw her often with Travers, who was apparently very close to his goal. But Snape had also noticed that Julie changed. She often sat lost in thought in the library and read for hours in books, which usually did not fit on the subject, which the students studied. Was she seriously interested, or did Miss Abbott try to run away from her past? He feared that the latter was the reason.
Miss Abbott seemed happy when she was with Travers and Snape cursed himself that he had hoped that he might be the one who could make her happy. Maybe it was all just a dream. Just as his nightly dreams of Miss Abbott. He growled angrily as he remembered the dream of that night. Why these dreams were so real? She had touched him in his office when she came to him to accept his offer of Legilimency. Although this moment was very brief, he drew enough memories from it, to nourish his dreams.
Snape stood up growling and turned on the water in the shower. Because he would find no sleep anyway, he would start his work to be distracted.

*****

It was mid-December and Julie sat lost in thought in front of the fireplace. The flames danced joyfully and their light reflected in her eyes. She waited eagerly for the holiday, which would begin soon. Her sleep was quiet and thanks to the sleeping potion which Professor Snape had brewed for her, she had no more nightmares. It helped her to be normal. Nevertheless, she felt a strong need in recent weeks to withdraw herself. She did not know if this was good, but she followed her inner feeling.

"Hey Julie," Kevin exclaimed suddenly.

Julie winced and turned. She looked at him expectantly.

"Are you daydreaming," Amycus asked giggling.

She smiled and nodded.

"Are you going home for Christmas, or will you stay at Hogwarts," asked Kevin.

Julie looked at him in surprise.

"Of course I'm going home. Why do you ask?"

"You never speak about your home. Do you have siblings," Kevin asked curiously.

Julie shook her head.

"No, I have no siblings. My parents have always said that one child is sufficient."

"You're coming from America, why have you moved to England? Why did your parents not wait until you finished school," said Amycus with genuine interest.

Julie hardly ever spoke about her private life and many questions had so far gone unanswered. She cringed and looked into the flames. The silence in the room made it clear, that her classmates were waiting for an answer.

"It was because of my father's work. I had no problem to move," said Julie, hoping she sounded convincing. "But I do not feel comfortable here. Somehow I have the feeling that I do not really have a home."

Jean knelt beside her and put her hand gently on Julie's shoulder.

"Soon we have Christmas holidays. Certainly you feel better after you've spent some time with your parents."

Julie sighed and nodded while she looked into the flames which blazed in the fireplace.
Later that evening Julie lay curled up on the settee in the common room, staring absently into the flames. She enjoyed the time that she spent with her classmates. Mostly she felt better afterwards, because she had been distracted for some time. But when she was alone, the memories and doubts returned. The emptiness, which had arisen in her was incredibly large and weighed heavily. Fortunately, she was going home for Christmas. Julie hoped, that Jean was right and that she would feel better afterwards.

-Two weeks later-

Snape had just sat down at his desk when he heard a knock. He looked up in surprise and groaned inwardly as Albus stepped into his office.

"Severus, are you busy," he asked quietly.

Snape grumbled to himself, and looked at the papers which lay before him.

"I have to make the lesson plans for the rest of the year, apart from that, I have nothing to do," he said sarcastically.

Albus stood before his desk and sat down uninvited. Then he looked at Snape seriously.

"I have just received a letter and thought that you should know first."

Annoyed by Albus secrecy Snape rolled his eyes and looked at him bored.

"What is it? Does it have something to do with me," he asked annoyed, before his expression suddenly turned serious.

"Did they come up with new accusations against me," he asked, and turned pale at once.

"No, no," Albus replied quickly, "This chapter of your life is over."

Snape sighed in relief and leaned back in his chair.

"Severus, you told me not long ago that Miss Abbott has withdrawn herself slowly. At least that was the impression which you had from the situation."

Snape looked at Albus moody and nodded slowly, "Yes, she does not accept my help. At least not to the extent that would be needed to help her."

Albus nodded slowly and looked at Snape through his glasses thoughtfully.

"I said that I have received a letter. It's about Miss Abbott," said Albus and felt a pain in his heart. Severus would not like this news.

Snape sat upright in his chair.

"What about her? Did something happen to her," he asked worried.

Albus shook his head, "No, do not worry. She's arrived safely with her parents." Albus paused and looked Snape gravely. "Her father wrote me to tell me that Julie will not return to Hogwarts. She has decided to not complete her education."

Albus' words echoed in Snape's head and he forgot for a moment to breathe. For a moment his heart stopped before it aches with every beat in his chest.

"That can not be," said Snape shocked.

Albus' pitying glance answered his question.

Snape leaned back in his chair and stared at Albus shocked, without saying anything. Albus waited and waited and nothing happened.

"Severus," he said softly, "Severus?"

Finally Snape blinked. He swallowed hard and suddenly stood up abruptly, before he left his office. He needed to talk to Poppy. Snape gritted his teeth in despair. The way to the hospital wing seemed incredibly long and he cursed his fate. He burst into the hospital wing and Poppy, who was busy sorting herbs, looked up startled. The expression in Severus' face was frightening and she gestured him to come to her. He collapsed into a chair which stood nearby.

"She's not coming back," he said in despair, as he buried his face in his hands. "She's not coming back."

Chapter Text

The gate creaked loudly as Snape opened it. With a heavy heart, he entered the front yard and looked at the house before him. The large front windows provided a lovely view of the snow-covered lawn where Snape stood. He looked at the gray sky, and took a deep breath before he walked towards the front door. Snape looked amused at the doorbell panel, in which the house crest of Gryffindor was engraved and wondered, why Julie's parents had an engraving of Gyffindor's house crest.
Hesitantly he pressed the bell and waited. Alistair, Julie's father was very surprised when he saw Professor Snape standing on his doorstep. He asked Snape to come in and introduced him to his wife, Colleen. Together they went into the living room, where they sat down.

"You have come because of our daughter," Alistair started the conversation.

Snape nodded, and looked at her parents.

"Yes, your daughter is a exceptional young witch with immense talent. She surpasses most of her classmates in most subjects, although she has often missed the lessons in this school year."

Colleen dropped her gaze and Alistair nodded visibly concerned.

"We know about this. Professor Dumbledore has kept us up to date. We had a lot of hope when Julie agreed to go to Hogwarts. We saw it as her last chance. She has been through a lot and in our opinion, has problems to cope with it. You have to understand that Julie..."

Snape interrupted Alistair by raising his hand.

"You owe me no explanation. I did not come to complain about your daughter," said Snape.

"No," said Alistair surprised.

Snape shook his head.

"No. If you do not mind, would you tell me about Julie?"

Colleen and Alistair looked at each other in silence for a moment before Julie's father took a deep breath.

"Julie has always been different," said Alistair, as he held his wife's hand. "In her childhood, Julie preferred to play with the old cauldron of my wife, than with dolls. She rather walked alone in the park, than to go with other children on the playground. Even for a witch, she was different from others. Very talented and clever, with a good heart. Although Julie was sorted into Slytherin, we knew that she would never be interested in the dark arts of magic. Julie is far too compassionate and sensitive. My wife and I were in Gryffindor, just as our parents and grandparents. It was for all of us an unexpected surprise when Julie came to Slytherin. She is the first in our family, who was not sorted into Gryffindor. We take great pride in our daughter," said Alistair.

Snape looked at Alistair puzzled. Julie's entire family were Gryffindor's? He knew nothing about it.

"This is unusual, in fact," Snape said, "But there are such exceptions in the wizarding world, though they are rare," he stressed.

Colleen smiled sadly "We have always been worried about Julie."

"What do you mean," asked Snape with audible concern.

"She never found her place in this world. That changed when she was accepted to the school of magic. Her life there was carefree and we have rarely seen her so happy. Julie never belonged in the world of muggles. This was not her world. When she went to the school of magic, she blossomed in all her beauty. She was a completely different person," recalled Colleen.

Snape nodded silently.

"When the disaster happened, her smile suddenly vanished and we did not know, what was going on. It is very scary when someone who is dear to you, suddenly changes dramatically. We did not recognize our daughter. We tried to talk to her, but she had already isolated herself," said Colleen with a sorrowful expression. Alistair stroked her back and sighed softly.

Julie began to fall," he added. "It seems to us, as if she fell into a gloomy world of shadows. We did not know what we should do, were often close to despair. But then came the day when the headmaster contacted us. It broke our hearts. We did not know what was more shocking, the fact that our daughter had been tortured, or, that she had not told us."

Alistair sighed and Snape looked at him sympathetically.

"There may be various reasons why Julie has done this. And I'm sure that her reason was honorable," Snape said with compassion.

"Since we did not know what to do, we wrote Professor Dumbledore and asked him to accept Julie at Hogwarts. We believed that distance would help our daughter to cope with the situation. At first he rejected our request. But in the end, Julie was accepted at Hogwarts. The letters which she wrote us from there, encouraged us. We thought that she felt better. But her unexpected decision not to return, shows us that she is still falling. We are afraid of the moment when Julie will hit the ground," said Alistair.

Snape sucked air through his teeth.

"The headmaster in his all encompassing wisdom has decided to reject your request, even though he knew what had happened," Snape said bitterly.

Alistair made a sour face.

"At first, yes, but then he gave in. Although I have never understood why he did not accept our daughter before. Julie knows that Professor Dumbledore only accepted her at Hogwarts after we had repeatedly requested him. Julie feels distrust towards him, what we can understand perfectly. But her sudden decision not to return? We do not know the reason. She wants to stay at home. We do not know how to deal with it. And we will not force her to go back."

Snape nodded thoughtfully.

"Much of what you have told me, I already knew," he said soberly.

"Professor Dumbledore must have told you about it," said Alistair.

"A few things, yes," Snape said softly, "Julie talked to me about it."

Her parents were visibly surprised.

"Julie told you about it," Colleen asked incredulously.

Snape nodded, "I tried to help Julie," Snape's voice was warm, but his expression sad. "As you have mentioned, Julie is very isolated. On her first day at Hogwarts, she was injured during my lesson. I had informed you at that time."

Alistair and Colleen nodded silently.

"It was my fault," Snape said in frustration, "Then I tried to find out why it had happened. I started to give her tutoring lessons, what was difficult. Julie eventually confided to me what happened. I tried to help her. But then she distanced herself suddenly."

"How have you tried to help our daughter," Alistair asked curiously. "It was very difficult to talk to Julie about this topic. I am surprised that she has spoken to you about it."

"Your daughter has shared her memories with me. We had a Legiliments session. Of course, we then talked about her experiences. I brewed her a sleeping potion, with which she can at least sleep in peace."

Julie's parents looked at Snape in disbelief and were speechless. Colleen wiped her tears away. "Maybe you can talk to her? It seems to me as if Julie has confidence in you," said Colleen hopefully.

Snape shook his head. "No, I did not come here to convince her to return. I have come to bring her something."

Of course Snape had planned to do just that. But Poppy had strongly advised him against it. He had something else in mind. Snape's gaze wandered through the living room and he saw pictures of Julie and her parents which hung on one of the walls. He stood up and walked over to them to take a closer look. His thumb brushed against the smooth wood of a deep brown picture frame which stood on the mantelpiece. A smile appeared on his lips as he looked at Julie's photograph.

"Where is Julie now," ask Snape absently.

"Upstairs in her room," replied Alistair, who was now standing next to Snape.

"May I go to her," asked Snape and turned to face him, "I'd like to talk to her if you do not mind."

Colleen looked at Alistair and both nodded in agreement.

"Come, I will show you where her room is," said Alistair.

Snape went with Julie's father down the hall and up the stairs. The house was very comfortably furnished. Snape was surprised and had to admit that he liked it.

"That's her room," said Alistair, pointing to the door down the hall.

Snape nodded and walked slowly toward the door. He hesitated a moment before he knocked. His heart pounded in his chest when he heard her voice.

"Come in."

He opened the door and entered her room. Julie was sitting with her back to him on her bed and seemed to write something. Snape closed the door and walked slowly toward her. Julie looked over her shoulder and was surprised to see him. She closed the book and looked at him questioningly.

"May I sit down," said Snape, pointing to the chair which stood near her desk.

Julie nodded and watched as he took the chair and sat down.

"What are you doing here," she asked surprised.

"I wanted to see how you're doing," Snape replied truthfully.

Julie looked at Snape thoughtfully. He looked different. Without his billowing robe he looked quite slim and almost gaunt.

"Thank you, I'm fine," she said. Julie seemed nervous, "I'm not going to return to Hogwarts," she added softly, without looking at him.

Snape nodded, "I know this already. Dumbledore has informed me. That's why I'm here."

Before Julie could say anything, Snape spoke.

"This is a small stock of your sleeping potion," he said and placed a small box on her desk. Then he handed her a small package. "I wanted to give you this," he said.

Julie looked at him in surprised, before she accepted it.

"What's this," she asked curiously.

"Open it, and you will see," replied Snape, as he watched her. Julie's brow furrowed as she unwrapped the package. It were books.

"Potions - Ancient wisdom through the ages," read Julie, before eyeing the next book. "Unwanted results during potions lessons - A guide to prevent disaster." She looked Snape in surprise, "Are those for me," Julie asked incredulously.

"Yes, Snape said," I think that I will not need them anymore. Thanks to Dumbledore, I was Hogwarts potion master for longer than I wanted."

Julie looked at the third book and found that it was a manuscript.

'Potions - Timeless Knowledge' read the title, below that stood 'S.S.'

"S.S. who's that," she asked curiously, looking at Snape.

He smiled slightly ashamed, "That's me," Snape said with some reluctance.

Her eyes widened in surprise.

"You have written a potions book," she asked baffled, as she leafed through the manuscript.

Snape did not answer. He watched Julie as she read through the text and eyed the sketches.

"That's fantastic," she exclaimed, "But why is it a manuscript," she asked. "That's your handwriting. Don't you have a printed copy left?"

"It was never printed," he replied. "It is and will remain a manuscript."

She looked at him in disbelief, "But why? That is a treasure of knowledge," she said as she flipped excited through the pages.

"My life has been different from what I had imagined. When I had finished the manuscript, there was nothing left in my life except my role as a spy," he said quietly, as he gazed at the floor.

Julie looked at him sadly. Professor Snape had never spoken to her about his life. She knew very little about him. There have been many rumors and Julie knew he was today hailed as a hero. But she was sure that his actions had in turn demanded sacrifices. She wondered what Snape had sacrificed.

She looked at the manuscript, "Your words here are so clear and understandable, much better than any other potions book I have ever read. You should print it."

Snape smiled wearily and shook his head.

"Use it," he said.

"Is that your only copy," Julie asked as she held the manuscript respectfully in hands.

"Yes," he replied, "I do not need it anymore."

"Why don't you print it," Julie asked.

Snape looked at her a long time before he answered her question.

"Maybe I lack the courage to do it," he said softly, as he stared at her hands which held his manuscript.

She looked at him in disbelief, but said nothing. Julie put the books and the manuscript on her bedside table and looked at him again.

"Thank you," she said softly.

Snape smiled briefly and suddenly stood up.

"I have to go now," he said unexpectedly.

Julie was totally perplexed. She had expected that Professor Snape would try to persuade her to return to Hogwarts. Before she knew what was happening, Snape had reached her door. She accompanied him downstairs where Snape said goodbye to her parents. He put on his coat, and stepped out the front door. It had begun to snow and Snape turned to her.

"I wish you all the best," he said with a smile, but inside he was frustrated.

Julie smiled, "Thank you, Professor Snape," she said softly. "Um, Professor?"

Snape looked at her quizzically.

"I want to thank you. Especially that you were lenient with me. I know that it is not your nature. The tutoring lessons with you, were always very hard for me to bear. But I am grateful that you have tried to help me. I hope that my decision has not frustrated you. You have not failed. I'm the one who has failed."

He raised an eyebrow, "We have more in common than we think. I would help you any time."

Julie smiled, "In my case it would be a waste of time," she said softly.

Snape shook his head "No, it would not."

Julie looked at him surprised and wanted to contradict him when Snape spoke up.

"Miss Abbott, you're a witch. Sorcery not only runs in your blood. It's in your nature. No matter how you look at it, it's in your nature and nothing and no one can change that. It is an important part of you. Even if you do not return to Hogwarts, you can not change your nature. You can not hide from yourself and from what you are. In the course of your life you will understand this, and you will continue from this very point where you stop now."

Snape held out his hand and Julie sighed inaudibly and shook it.

"I was once happy," she said softly.

Snape squeezed her hand gently, "I know," he replied. "Happiness did not abandon you. It's you, who has lost sight of the happiness which is present in your life. Your past does not define your future, you do, Miss Abbott."

He reluctantly let go of her hand and turned around to leave. Snape's heart revolted against each step he took. He did not want to leave. But what he could do? He had tried everything he could, more was not possible. The snow crunched under his shoes and he closed the gate before he looked up one last time. She was still standing in the door and shivered visibly. Snape turned and walked away.

Julie watched him go and he soon disappeared from her view. Her gaze fell to the ground, where Snape's footsteps slowly disappeared under the snow which fell silently.

 

Snape walked a long time through the snow before he found a place where he could apparate unseen. He stood there for several minutes, trying to cope with the situation. When he realized that it would not help, Snape apparated home.
He stood in his living room and sat down defeated in his armchair. He would have stayed longer with her. But he could not take it anymore. She slipped from his hands like water, which irrevocably trickled through his fingers to escape to freedom. Every drop that had escaped him, was gone forever. Snape realized he had slowly lost Miss Abbott. Why hadn't he noticed? How could this happen?
He thought back to the conversation with Julie. It made him thoughtful. Everything, what he had told her, did apply to him. He had preached to himself. He wanted to run away, but the life which he lived, was his nature, as much as it was hers. Snape closed his eyes and wanted to know nothing of the world. At least for the next few days. Then he had to return to Hogwarts, because the end of the holidays approached.
What should he do now? Snape growled in frustration and decided to do something he had not done since childhood. He got up and turned on the stupid muggle machine, which had once been the pride of his father. Lo and behold, it actually worked. A ridiculously dressed woman reported events, about which Snape did not care in the least. Nevertheless, he sat quietly, staring at the flickering image in front of him, while he listened only half heartedly. His thoughts were with Miss Abbott and he wondered what she was doing.

 

Julie lay curled up on her bed and thought about Snape's words. Do not let your past define your future? How was that possible, she wondered, while she snuggled against her small pillow. As much as she thought about it, Julie had no answer to this question. Julie wondered if Snape knew the answer. How did he do it? How could Professor Snape live with his memories? It was clear that he also suffered. Julie had to admit that she admired Snape. In spite of all that he had gone through in his life, he had achieved much. Her gaze fell on his manuscript, which was still lying on her bedside table. Was it possible that he really lacked the courage? Julie frowned. Why was Professor Snape suddenly giving up? Julie grumbled softly to herself as she thought about possible answers.

Chapter Text

The gloomy light in the corridors of the dungeons, matched Snape's mood. He had spent the last three days sitting in front of the muggle machine, watching nonsense. Now he was desperate to get rid of the unpleasant feeling in his head. News about idiotic politicians who imagined they could rule the world, to the stupidest idea ever, to be able to predict the weather. Everything was now present in his head. Snape had returned to Hogwarts yesterday, planning to enjoy the quiet before the noisy students would arrive. Unfortunately, it had been far from quiet. Dumbledore had given him a long speech, as Snape had not yet made the timetables and Minerva had been shocked when Snape sat impassively in the meeting and fiddled with his wand. He showed no interest. What for? Snape did not care. After Minerva's bugging lecture, Snape had retreated to his office to be alone, which had not exactly been pleasant. He had thought incessantly about Miss Abbot.

Now, a day later, Snape was on his way to the great hall. The noise of the students echoed through the wide passage through which he strode grimly. Snape was extremely annoyed. The foolish talk of the students disgusted him. But as if that were not enough, he had to sit in the hall and let his appetite be spoiled by the dimwitted ramblings of the students.
Snape growled annoyed as he strode through the small door, which was reserved only for the professors. His mood could hardly be worse. He entered the hall and sat down on his chair at the long table. It was uncomfortably loud and Snape's piercing cold stare wandered through the great hall. His gaze lingered at the table of the Slytherin's, which happily ate the feast and chatted cheerfully.

He frowned. Julie's place was empty and Snape grumbled something inaudible. In fact, someone else was sitting in her seat. Snape boiled with rage and made a mental note to punish the student at the first opportunity. As much as he had hoped that this year would never end, now he hoped that it would be finally over. He no longer wanted to carry on. Snape wanted to run away. And then? There was no other place for him. What could he do, than to be a professor? Nothing. Snape grumbled. He had thought about this issue a few days ago. Why did he now began to think about it again? Probably because Miss Abbott had not come, he admitted to himself. Up to last Snape had hoped. Hoped that she would return. He grumbled and began to pick at his food.
His life was bleak. Snape swallowed hard. Why these thoughts returned now? Of course, the reason for this was the absence of Miss Abbott. He had not been able to concentrate on anything else, besides her. Tomorrow morning the lessons would start and Snape remembered again that he had still not made the timetables. After Dumbledore's unexpected visit to his office during the holiday nothing was like it was before.

He growled angrily and looked at Poppy's place. Her chair was empty. She had advised him to visit Julie at home. Poppy had given him so much hope, but in the end it was all for naught. To date, Poppy's council had always proved correct, why not this time? His mood worsened even more and Snape began to make scratches with his fork in the tabletop. Snape's anger had got company. Suddenly he felt lonely. It was a cruel emotion and Snape did not even have the desire to fight against it.

Snape looked up and stared at Julie's seat at the Slytherin's table which was now empty. At least he had a few more memories of Miss Abbott. He kept them like a treasure in a small wooden box, in small vials. There was not a day that passed where he did not stand at the pensive and revived his memories of Miss Abbott. Especially those of his visit. How Julie had sat on her bed. How her long hair cascaded over her shoulders. He loved the memory as her fingers had wandered respectfully about his manuscript. How she had smiled at him. Even the sadness which had mirrored in her eyes when he had told her that the happiness had never left her, every memory was precious to him.

When Albus had learned that Snape had given away his manuscript, he had wondered if Snape had lost his mind. Severus had replied that his manuscript had no value for him. He would not find happiness if he would print and publish it. Snape knew that Albus did not understand this. What joy would Snape find if he would publish a book? Snape took a little pleasure in the fact, that Miss Abbott read his manuscript now and he hoped, that she would make use of it.

He winced as Poppy dropped into her chair beside him.

"You're late," he said casually as he put his fork down.

Poppy turned to him and smiled. "No sooner are the students back, I'm busy again," she said.

Snape rolled his eyes annoyed.

"What have the dunderhead done," Snape asked annoyed. "Apparently someone was injured."

"An open fracture and a shattered bone," replied Poppy.

Snape shook his head, "Can't they be more careful," he snarled contemptuously. "From my lessons this fool will not be freed. You bet," he said irritably. "Which house?" Snape asked coldly.

Poppy smiled at him, "Slytherin," she said, amused at the sight of Snape's disgusted expression.

"Fool," snarled Snape.

"It was not her fault. It seems that Mister Whisp was very effusively, as he met her," replied Poppy slightly amused while she threw a satisfied glance at Snape.

Snape's expression darkened, "Has the dumbass found a new victim," Snape asked disgusted.

Poppy shook her head "No, he's still interested in Miss Abbott," she said casually, while she watched Snape's reaction closely.

Snape nearly choked on his water. He began to cough and looked at Poppy aghast.

"Miss Abbott," he said incredulously.

"Yes," Poppy nodded, "She is currently alone in hospital wing."

Poppy blinked innocently while Snape left the great hall in a hurry.

That would mean ... but ... what would be if ... could it be ....? The thoughts which raced through Snape's head were unstoppable. As much as he tried, he could not bring order into them, not to mention to stop them. Snape took a deep breath as the door of the hospital wing finally came into view.

 

Julie just ate the last piece of bread, when the door opened. She looked up in surprise and saw Snape, who entered the large room.

"You seem to have a fondness for the hospital wing," Snape said, as he came in and tried to hide his joy from her. He had long not experienced such roller coaster ride of emotions. Snape walked slowly toward her.

Julie looked up at him and smiled wearily. Her cheeks were blushed and on the right side she had a long bloody scratch. Snape approached her bed and inspected the scratch closely.

"This will leave a fine scar, if it is not treated quickly," he said gravely.

Snape went to Poppy's first aid cabinet and removed a small bottle with a greenish tincture and some cotton pads. He unscrewed the bottle as he walked back to the bed and put it down on the bedside table, where he pushed aside the flowers, which stood there. He could already imagine who had brought the flowers for Miss Abbott, but that was an issue for later. First he wanted to aid Miss Abbott. Snape grabbed Julie gently under her chin and tilted her head slightly to the side. Then he poured a little of the tincture on a cotton pad and began to dab it gently on Julie's cheek. She drew air through her teeth and leaned back as her wound began to burn.

"Shhh," said Snape, while he cupped her other cheek with his free hand to hold Julie's head still. Julie closed her eyes and tolerated the burning pain as best she could, while Snape carefully treated her wound. A shiver ran down his spine as he felt her hot breath on his wrist. When Snape had finished, he closed the bottle thoughtfully, while he looked at Julie. Her eyes were closed, but her expression began to relax. The pain seemed to subside. Snape sat back down on the chair and waited for her to say something.

Julie opened her eyes and their eyes met. She smiled at him shyly.

"Thank you, Professor Snape," she said as she blushed slightly.

He nodded. Both were silent again, while they were gazing at each other. Then Snape's gaze wandered to her nightstand and he looked at the flowers, which stood there.

"It looks as if you had a visitor," he said, nodding at the flowers.

Julie followed his gaze and smiled.

"Yes," she said with a sigh, "Travers was here a few times to apologize."

Snape immediately became furious when he heard the name, but tried to hide his anger.

"He is responsible for your injury," Snape said now clearly upset.

She shook her head, "Um, well, actually, .."

"You can not fool me," Snape interrupted her excitedly. "Poppy has already informed me," he said.

Julie sighed.

"Professor Snape, it was an accident, for which I am responsible. It is snowing and the platform is covered with ice. Well, it's true, Travers has greeted me somewhat effusively."

Julie looked up at him and Snape looked at her disapprovingly. Why did she protect Whisp, he wondered. Such a idiot! Why did Miss Abbott protect this moron? No matter what Julie would tell him, Snape would find a way to punish Whisp.

"What kind of a welcome was that," Snape asked, while he already pictured in his mind various scenarios.

Julie looked away from him. It was visible that she was ashamed.

"Um, he hugged me," she confessed softly as she blushed visibly.

She was clearly uncomfortable to talk with Professor Snape about it, but he was too angry to notice this.

"He hugged you," Snape asked incredulously. "Poppy says that you have a open fracture and a shattered bone. And all because of a hug?"

"I fell from the platform onto the tracks. As I wore no proper shoes, I have suffered this injury," she murmured softly.

"You're lucky that you were not run over by the train," Snape commented with a sarcastic tone. "I strongly advise you to refrain from further embraces with Mister Whisp," Snape said seriously. "Let me see your ankle," he said demanding.

Julie nodded and Snape stood up and walked to the foot of the bed. He lifted the blanket and winced when he saw her injury. The wound was still open and looked terrible.

"Why has Poppy not treated the wound yet," Snape asked in horror, while he stared at her in disbelief.

Julie sighed, "Madam Pomfrey said that a part of the bone was shattered. She gave me something to reduce the pain and said that she would make the treatment only after I've had my sleeping potion because it will be very painful. She wants to take care of the wound while I sleep."

Snape shook his head disapprovingly.

"Why have you not drunk your sleeping potion," he asked, slightly annoyed. "What are you waiting for?"

"I was hungry," she replied, looking at him innocently.

Snape what dumbfounded. She had been hungry? He shook his head slightly and covered her feet carefully with the blanket. Snape looked Julie thoughtfully. This fool should not get close to her again. What an idiot, Snape thought. But before he was taken completely by his anger, Snape had a very different idea.

"Has Mister Whisp not helped you, when you fell onto the tracks? He didn't try to catch you," Snape asked almost casually. He knew very well that Julie would think about his question deeply. And that would be good.

Julie frowned and thought, as Snape had expected, deeply about his question. Then she shook her head in silence. No, Travers had not even tried to help her.

Her mute response brought Snape great satisfaction. Snape could not suppress the smile, which appeared on his lips. This idiot had saved himself and had let her fall onto the tracks. Of course, Snape was not amused that Julie was injured, but then Whisp had done something very cowardly, which could prove useful for Snape. Satisfied, Snape sat down on the chair beside her bed.

Julie sighed and settled in bed comfortably before she looked at him.

"Professor Snape, you said, your past does not define your future."

Snape nodded wordlessly.

"In the days that followed your visit, I've been thinking a lot about it. This sentence has brought me back here," said Julie seriously.

Snape was relieved. Apparently his plan had worked. "And now you strive for this goal," Snape asked.

"Well, maybe," replied Julie to Snape's surprise.

He looked at her aghast. Maybe? Why, he thought.

"I have a few questions," said Julie, looking at Snape.

He nodded slowly, wondering what she wanted to ask.

"You seem to know what you're talking about. You've experienced something similar as me and I would like to know how did you get to the point in your life, where you are now," said Julie, while she looked questioningly at him.

When Snape looked at her in silence, Julie continued.

"You moved on. You stood your ground. Why? I mean, uh, what gives you the strength, or should I say, inspiration to do this?"

Snape looked at Julie horrified. He had not expected this question. How could he answer this? His reason lay before him in the hospital bed. An honest answer was out of the question. Having collected his thoughts, Snape cleared his throat.

"One should find its own way without pursuing the path of another," he replied in his typical teacher tone.

Julie was visibly disappointed by his response.

"I thought if I did know, then maybe it would be easier for me to find my own way," she said as she frowned.

"No," said Snape. "Believe me, my answer would only confuse you." Snape paused and looked at her strangely. "But I'll tell you one thing, often, the solution is closer than we think. Often, it is simple and usually it's something we least expect."

"Is that the case with you," she asked with interest.

Snape nodded silently.

"When did you find your way," Julie asked.

"That's not so long ago," Snape replied truthfully.

"Recently," asked Julie visibly surprised.

"Yes, only a few weeks ago."

"And what did you do until then? Was it not difficult? I mean, there are still years in between, uh, between now and uh, then when you were working as a spy." Julie looked at him apologetically. She did not know how Professor Snape would react if she would mention his activity as a spy.

Snape nodded slowly and was silent for a moment. "Yes, almost three years," he said finally. "I have gone ahead and tried to forget everything."

"You were not successful," said Julie softly.

"No, I have only suppressed my memories and suffocated my nightmares with a sleeping potion. No matter what I tried, the memories still live on in me," he said with audible bitterness.

Julie looked at him sympathetically, "But now you have found a way that helps you to live with your past," she asked.

"Yes, I feel that the darkness in me slowly withdraws, because the light becomes brighter."

"But if so, why you act like a person who gives up? Why did you give away your manuscript? I do not understand," said Julie obviously confused.

Snape looked at Julie stubborn. He could not talk about it with her. Of course, he understood her desire to know the answer, but now was not the time to do so.

"This topic is private," he said as kindly as he could. Still, he sounded quite surly and almost rude.

Julie nodded thoughtfully and sighed. It was not easy to get answers from this man, especially when it concerned his private life.

Snape saw the disappointment in her expression and decided to give her at least some response.

"I once had other plans for my life, when I was... younger. When I was working on the manuscript, I had another goal in my life, as I have now."

Julie looked at him silently. What had Professor Snape's plans been? And what was his goal in life?

"It's never too late to be what you might have been." She said finally.

Snape looked at her aghast and tried to swallow the lump in his throat. Had somebody else told him this, he would have been very angry. But to hear it from Miss Abbott hurt him. It pained him to such a degree that he felt sick.

Julie witnessed the pain which washed over his face and she turned carefully on her side. Snape had closed his eyes and she wondered what was happening to him. She had not meant to hurt him and it seemed as if exactly this happened.

The stormy sea his emotions did not calm down and Snape wondered if he should get up and walk away. He could feel her gaze, which was upon him, but was unable to get up and just go away. Snape was startled when he felt a familiar warmth on his cheek. He opened his eyes slowly and looked at Julie, who had cupped his cheek with her hand. Unconsciously he leaned his head slightly into her touch. Julie's thumb brushed once gently over his cheek as she witnessed the pain, which could be seen in his eyes. What had she done? She had never seen Professor Snape so vulnerable. It was fascinating and simultaneously led to great concern.

Her eyes widened when she saw that Professor Snape raised his hand. Slowly his hand inched forward toward hers. Julie expected that he would at once rid his face of her hand. But to her surprise, Snape laid his hand on her hand, before he clasped hers. Her heartbeat quickened and Julie had no idea what to do. She looked at him, while both were silent.

Julie startled when the door of the hospital wing opened and she fell back into her pillow. She tried to pull her hand away, but Snape held her hand firmly in his grasp.
Poppy came in and approached them. She ignored their intertwined hands, which now rested on the blanket and looked at Julie's foot one last time.

"It is time to treat your wound," she said sympathetically.

Julie swallowed hard and nodded hesitantly. Her heart was still racing in her chest and she looked carefully at Snape, who had not averted his gaze from her. The pain in his eyes was gone and now Julie saw something else in them, what she could not interpret.

When Poppy came to her bedside with the sleeping potion, Julie looked up at the old lady, who handed her a small flask. Julie drank slowly and fell back into her pillow. Soon she would fall asleep and find relief for a little time. Until the next morning, Julie thought. Then she would be confronted with the reality again. Luckily she had Professor Snape and Madam Pomfrey, thought Julie.
Suddenly she frowned. What was she thinking? Julie winced as Poppy gently stroked her cheek.

"Is everything all right, Miss Abbott"?

Julie nodded and looked at Professor Snape carefully. Before the school year ended, Julie had to get her problems under control. As long as she was still at Hogwarts, she would get all the help that she needed. This realization made Julie very thoughtful. She looked at Snape and smiled wearily as she felt that he gently stroked the back of her hand with his thumb while she fell asleep.

When her breathing had become calm, Snape released her hand reluctantly and stood up. He walked slowly backwards, while his gaze lingered on her face.

"Will you not help me," Poppy asked him surprised.

Snape shook his head determined. "No, definitely not." He looked Poppy doubtfully, "I will retire now," he said and left the hospital wing without another word.

 

The way back to his office was a long. Snape stopped at the large windows which overlooked the black lake. The snowflakes were dancing in the wind wildly. Just as his emotions had done on that day, thought Snape. From deep frustration and anger he had gone to irrepressible happiness and sadness until he now felt lonely again. Snape touched one of the ice crystals which had formed at the edge of the glass, which slowly melted away by the warmth of his finger. The hole which his fingerprint left reminded Snape of the void, which Miss Abbott had left in him when she had gone to visit her parents.

Julie had shown him the light which he had believed to be lost. He knew now that it still existed in him. It had never been away. He had lost sight of it. Just like Miss Abbott had lost track of the happiness in her life, he had not seen the light which was everlastingly present in him. But how could he keep it in sight? Snape knew that his advice to Miss Abbott had indeed been correct. But she might need help to see the presence of the happiness, just as he needed her help to perceive the light in him.

He leaned his forehead against the cold glass and closed his eyes. For him there was no other way, no other solution than Miss Abbott. If she would leave at the end of the school year, his last chance to be happy would be gone and Snape could not let that happen. He took a deep breath and wondered if there was another way for Miss Abbot to be happy and to live normally. Perhaps it was his ego, his desire for his own salvation, which made him believe that Miss Abbott needed him as much as he needed her. Probably there was another man who was more suitable for Julie.

Plagued by doubts Snape went in his office. Once there, he locked the door and went to his favorite armchair. Snape sat down and stared into the fireplace. The fire was almost extinguished. Miss Abbott and he shared an emotional connection. Should he rely on that? Should he rely on fate? Should he stand idly by as perhaps another man stole his happiness? Snape's face darkened as he thought of Travers. No, he would not allow that to happen. But what could he do to prevent this?

Chapter Text

"Unnamable, .. uh, mysterious. Solitary. He is focused, ready to risk, has a unknown source of strength. But I feel he's lost, if that does not sound silly. He appears to be unimaginably vulnerable. Um, there is a hint of innocence about him. Although I do not mean that in a childish manner. He is somehow .. different," concluded Julie.

Poppy nodded and smiled at the clearly confused girl.

"You're right, Severus is different," she confirmed.

Julie looked at the old Lady thoughtfully, "Why is he so secretive? I mean, what is he afraid of?"

Poppy sighed and sat down on the bed.

"Someone who has lost as much as Severus, what do you think is his greatest fear? He does not want to lose any more. That is why he protects what remains from him, with so much willpower. And believe me, it is not easy to find someone who you can really trust. Think of those rotten creatures like Rita Skeeter. They would pay oodles of money to gossip viciously about someone like our Severus. Such a book would be a bestseller. 'Severus Snape - Living on the edge', or, 'To hell and back again', or, 'Voldemort's true enemy'. Who knows with how much rubbish they would come up, just to make headlines and money," she said sadly, while she shook her head.

Julie bit her lower lip and looked sadly to the large windows.

"Someone who he can trust completely, that's what Severus needs to be healed," said Poppy. "He needs someone who proves to him that this world is not just black and white. He needs someone who shows him the world from a different perspective."

Julie pondered about Poppy's words. What did she need to be healed? She felt guilty that she thought at that moment about herself. Julie looked at the flowers, which Travers had brought her last night. Maybe she needed the same as Professor Snape? She had cut herself off from all the people which had actually made her happy. One reason for this was her private life, which she wanted to protect at any cost. Perhaps the time had come to make friends? But who could Julie really trust? Who would not stab her in the back? Julie had awakened that morning with a head full of thoughts. Between all her thoughts had been one, which she could not let go again. Why did Professor Snape made such a vulnerable impression? She could not forget the memory of his expression, the abysmal sadness in his eyes. This was not like the professor who was always so aloof and cold. But then, it was his past, which had broken him inside.

Julie looked up at Poppy.

"Um, maybe Professor Snape should not know that we were talking about him," said Julie and looked at Poppy hopeful. Since Professor Snape is very secretive about his private life, Julie feared, that he might be upset if he would gain knowledge about her conversation with Madam Pomfrey. She had not planned to speak to Poppy about the professor. Rather, their conversation had occurred spontaneously.

Poppy nodded in agreement, "I also think that it is better if our conversation stays between us," she said. "So, how are you feeling this morning," Poppy asked as she stood up from the bed.

"Better, much better," replied Julie, wincing in pain as she tried to move her foot. "Ouch! It still hurts," she complained with a pained voice.

"Of course, it does," Poppy said. "You will stay here for the next three days," she added sternly.

Julie sighed and Poppy turned to go to her small desk.

Meanwhile, Julie snuggled in her pillow and her eyes wandered back to the large windows. Perhaps it was not so bad to stay a couple of days in the hospital wing, she thought, while watching the snowfall. Julie thought back to the day when Professor Snape had visited her at home. She had spent days musing upon Snape's words and decided at the last minute to return to Hogwarts. A grin crossed her face as she thought of the fine, which her father must had received in the meantime. He had raced like a madman through the streets of London to bring her in time to the train station.

Her parents had accepted her decision, as Julie had told them that she would not return to Hogwarts. But when Julie suddenly stood in the kitchen and announced that she would certainly miss her train if she wouldn't leave immediately, she realized that her parents were overjoyed that she had not given up. It was good to have someone around who accepted her as she was. Julie sighed softly as she thought about it. She felt somewhat safer in the knowledge that her parents would support her no matter what decision she would make. But now her parents were far away and Julie felt somewhat oppressed at the thought, to be without them. She glanced at Poppy and furrowed her brow. At least she was not alone here at Hogwarts. Julie had Madam Pomfrey's and Professor Snape's support. It was a good experience to have someone around who was not a member of her family and supported her.

Now she was back at Hogwarts and Julie was not sure what to do next. Her conversation with Professor Snape had gone differently than she had imagined. Her decision to return to Hogwarts was mainly influenced by the fact that Julie wanted to know, what helped Professor Snape, to live his life as he did. His answers - if you could call them that - had not been satisfactory. She could not understand why he had given her his manuscript. But now Julie understood at least why he was so reluctant when it came to his personal life. A book about Professor Snape would surely be a bestseller. Madam Pomfrey was right. Julie knew too well how terrible reporters could be. She had unfortunately made her own experiences in this regard.

Julie decided not to ask Professor Snape again, even though she was very disappointed with her own decision. She had no idea what could inspire her. How would she find strength? One should not pursue the path of another, Professor Snape had said. But how could one find his own path? Julie frowned and her fingers fumbled with her blanket while she thought about it. She sighed audibly and closed her eyes.

Poppy's POV

Poppy sat at her small desk and looked at Julie as she sighed. The various emotions that cross the face of the young women were numerous and Poppy wondered what Miss Abbott was thinking. For a moment, Poppy wondered if she had told Julie too much about Severus. It was dangerous to talk with someone about him. Poppy knew this very well. But she was sure that Miss Abbott was sensitive enough to properly deal with this knowledge. Miss Abbott was an intelligent young woman and Poppy was absolutely certain that Julie would sooner or later understand what Severus felt for her. Poppy's act was motivated by the desire that Julie would understand Severus better. The two had much in common, but it would still be a long way, until they would find each other. Poppy had no idea what would happen if this would not come to pass. That would be an absolute disaster.

"Unthinkable," she muttered to herself. She sighed and tried to refocus on her work. Severus, oh, Severus, Poppy thought and hoped that he would be more careful. It was one thing to hold Miss Abbott's hand while she slept. But what Poppy had seen last night when she entered the hospital wing, concerned her deeply. If one of the students would see this, Severus would be in big trouble. Even Albus would have problems to help Severus out of this mess.

She looked up as the door of the hospital wing opened. Severus entered the large room and their eyes met. Poppy waved him over and stood up. She went into her private rooms, while Snape followed her immediately.

"Is something wrong," Snape asked anxiously, as he closed the door.

Poppy sighed and straightened his cloak before she looked at him.

"Severus, you should definitely be more careful. I can understand you, yes, but you can not hold her hand in broad daylight," she said somewhat sternly. "Moreover, while Miss Abbott is awake."

"It was evening and therefore dark," replied Snape, irritated and clearly defiant.

"Oh, Severus, let's not argue about it. You know exactly what I'm talking about."

Her heart sank in her chest when she saw how Snape turned his eyes away from her. Of course, he would hear nothing about it. For a man who had been forced to live for many years emotionless, Poppy could understand Severus' behavior well. But was he aware what he thereby risked?

"Severus," Poppy said in a piercing voice. "Before you form an opinion about what I've just said, please listen to me. When a man, whether he was forty years old or eighteen, likes a woman, he would do anything to win her affection. Do you share my opinion?"

Snape looked at Poppy annoyed.

"Do you share my opinion, Severus," Poppy asked insistently.

"Yes," grumbled Snape.

"If Mister Whisp should see that you hold the hand of Miss Abbott, or show her affection, then he will crush you. He will see his chance for revenge. He will ensure that you never again be allowed to set foot in this castle, let alone to teach anywhere else. He would take away from you everything you have, including Miss Abbott," concluded Poppy in an excited whisper.

Snape looked at her with an expressionless face.

"Severus, do you want that this happens," Poppy said softly.

Snape growled and his gaze wandered through Poppy's room. Inwardly, he was seething with anger. No, he would not allow that to happen.

"She touched me first," he said almost in a whisper.

Poppy raised her eyebrows.

"Did she," she asked in surprise.

"Yes."

"Oh, Severus," sighed Poppy. "Do not mess up this chance. It's your last."

This time Snape nodded silently, his gaze still wandered around her room. Of course, once again Poppy was right.

"Let us go to her before someone else gives Miss Abbott company," said Poppy.

 

Snape's face fell as Poppy swung her door open. Travers was already sitting at Julie's bed and looked up, startled.

Apparently the fool had thought that Julie was alone, Snape thought. He entered the room with long strides, which seemed oddly stiff.

"Mister Whisp," Snape said icily. "It's come to my attention that you have caused a serious injury to Miss Abbott."

Travers looked Julie apologetically before his now nervous gaze wandered to Professor Snape.

"You are surely aware that we have informed your parents," Snape said, looking at Travers grimly. "If you again do such a thing, you will, when it comes to me, be expelled from Hogwarts," he said with a dangerously low voice.

Travers nodded and stood up abruptly when Snape indicated him with a nod, to leave the hospital wing.

When he had gone, Snape walked slowly toward Julie's bed.

"You've found a really great companion," Snape said coldly as he stood beside her bed.

Julie looked silently at him. Professor Snape seemed to be in a bad mood. She was not surprised, as she had often witnessed his mood swings. Today, however, he seemed even to be angry with her, what was more than just unfair.

"How long should Miss Abbott stay here," he asked Poppy soberly.

Poppy approached Julie's bed, "At least three days," she replied, as she looked at Julie sympathetically.

She had averted her gaze from them, staring at the other side of the room. Poppy gave Severus a nudge and motioned him to talk to her. Snape grimaced strangely and walked over to the other side of the bed. There he sat down on the chair and looked at Julie, who seemed to ignore him deliberately.

"As Head of Slytherin, I am responsible for you while you're here. I'm obviously not amused to have found Mister Whisp here. You will miss important lessons and yesterday I once again had to write your parents, to inform them about the situation and your injury," he said.

Julie looked at Snape and nodded before sighing softly.

"I understand," she said soberly and averted her gaze immediately from him.

Oh, how it ached to be ignored by her. Your own fault, said his evil inner voice. Snape would not hear of it and looked at Poppy, which hinted him to say anything. His gaze fell back to Julie, which appeared to be very depressed. Snape felt pressured and was careless for a moment.

"I do not like to see you in pain," he said honestly.

Snape paused, his expression blank. Julie seemed surprised and he quickly pulled himself together again.

"You have gone through a lot. Enough for more than just one life," he added quickly when he became aware that Miss Abbott could misunderstand his words. "People like us understand that each unnecessary pain, whether physically or mental, represents an extra burden."

Her vulnerable gaze found his. Snape's expression was firm, but his inner wall began to crumble again. His foundation was rocked. Snape knew that Miss Abbott could not read his mind, but he still felt like an open book, in which she could read. It was not surprising, since they shared a connection which would become stronger with time. Snape knew that he could hide his thoughts from Miss Abbott, but he would not be able to hide his feelings from her forever.

Julie sighed and nodded.

"I understand your concern. I'm worried about you too," she said almost casually.

Snape looked at her in disbelief, before he put on his typical expression again. But he was inwardly suddenly very upset. She had said that she was worried about him. He had definitely a good chance to share his future with her, but how fragile was this chance? Snape suddenly felt insecure. He slowly stood up and looked at Julie.

"I will now begin my duties. Take rest for as long as necessary. Later we will talk about how we proceed further."

Julie looked at him questioningly.

"Do you mean the tutoring lessons," she asked.

Snape weighed his head thoughtfully back and forth.

"If these are necessary, these are included."

With these words Snape turned around and left the hospital wing.

Julie frowned and stared holes in the door that Professor Snape had just closed.

If these are necessary? What should that mean, Julie wondered. If these are necessary? Did Professor Snape know something what Julie did not know? Why else would he say that? What could that be? Julie gaped at the door. He could only mean one thing and that was, that Julie had found her path or that she was at least very close to find it. Was her goal so close? But what was it, she wondered thoughtfully. How could Professor Snape see it, but she did not?

She looked at Poppy, which seemed to watch her.

"Professor Snape said, uh, what does he mean when he speaks of the tutoring lessons," she asked, hoping to get an answer.

Poppy took a deep breath.

"You have to find out for yourself," she said.

Julie leaned back in her pillow and stared at the ceiling.

Of course, the professor was right, she had to find her own path. But why he did not help her if he knew which path was intended for her? And he did know, right? Why he gave her no hints? Julie sighed and rubbed her forehead. Why was it so difficult? Now that she had decided not to give up, she did not get the desired assistance from the professor. One thing, however, she had understood today and that was that Professor Snape was different. He was different, but very similar to her. They had much more in common than Julie had thought. She made herself comfortable and started thinking what might be her path.

Chapter Text

The Slytherin's left the castle and the students talked excitedly. Julie's wound had healed well and this was her first trip to Hogsmeade since the Christmas holidays. She had spent the entire last month thinking about what Professor Snape could have meant. Nevertheless, she had found no answer. Even Madam Pomfrey hadn't spoken with her about him since then. Julie smiled as she thought of him.
She was startled when she was hit by a snowball. Julie looked slightly upset in the direction from whence it came and saw Travers, who was standing under an ancient fir and winked at her. Julie's smile widened and she left the Slytherin's to go to him.

"I thought you would not come," said Travers, as he walked with Julie towards Hogsmeade.

"How could I pass up a visit to Hogsmeade," she asked, smiling at him. "Only a few more months and I'll leave Hogwarts, this time for good."

"That sounds almost wistful," said Travers and gave her a little push.

"Be careful that I do not fall," she exclaimed. "If I get injured, Professor Snape will surely have you expelled from school," said Julie in a warning tone.

Travers rolled his eyes annoyed.

"Professor Snape," he said with disgust, "I'm happy when I no longer have to see him."

Julie heard his words but said nothing. Many students thought the same thing about Professor Snape. But Julie thought differently.

"Julie, why don't you hate Snape," Travers asked curiously. "You often spend time with him, a lot of time," he corrected himself.

She looked at him and shrugged her shoulders.

"No idea. I do not condemn people if I do not know them, "she said thoughtfully.

"But you should have seen enough of Snape to know that he is sick," said Travers, his voice was dripping with disgust.

Julie frowned, "As I said, I do not judge as quickly as others do."

"But you condemned Professor Dumbledore immediately," said Travers matter of factly.

"How?" Julie asked, puzzled.

"It is said that you do not like Dumbledore and that since your first day at Hogwarts."

Julie pushed her hat up and scratched her head. "That is another issue. An exception."

"Oh," said Travers and gazed at her quizzically. "Why? Why is he an exception? What has he done to you," asked Travers.

Julie was getting angry.

"That does not concern you! This is private."

She glanced at Travers, who silently walked beside her, his eyes directed on the snowy path.

"Sorry," he said softly.

"No problem," replied Julie.

Both were silent for a long time before Travers spoke again.

"What are your future plans?"

Julie looked at him aghast. Plans for the future? Her mood dropped rapidly and she swallowed hard.

"I do not have any," she replied almost inaudibly.

Travers eyes widened in surprise.

"What? You do not have plans for your future? Will you not study, or .."

She interrupted him annoyed, "No. As I said, I have no plans for the future. If you do not understand that, fuck off," she said irritably.

Julie quickened her pace, leaving the puzzled Travers behind.

Travers remained speechless and looked after her. What had he done wrong? He shook his head and began to walk. Why were women always so complicated? Julie blocked almost all questions which concerned her private live. And most other questions also. Travers was disappointed and turned to go back to Hogwarts but stopped in his tracks when he saw Professor Snape in the distance. He groaned annoyed. Travers looked unnerved in both directions and then decided to nevertheless go to Hogsmeade. It would be better to run into Julie when she was moody, than being confronted with Snape, he thought.

*****

Julie walked thoughtfully through the snow. Today's trip to Hogsmeade had so far been her shortest. She had gone to Honeydukes before she had made her way back. Travers had once again spoiled her mood. She liked him, but Julie did not like the fact that he always asked so many questions. Julie had told him countless times that she did not want to talk about herself. Still, Travers tried to find answers. Why she was constantly faced with unpleasant questions? Since her return to Hogwarts Julie had tried to make friends. It was not an easy task for her. Most of her so called friends accepted that she did not like talking about herself and did not ask further. With the exception of Travers. Julie sighed and stopped abruptly when she realized that she was not alone. Surprised, she looks up to see Professor Snape, who was standing by the roadside eyeing her bag of sweets closely. Julie looked at him expectantly.

"I see, you could not avoid a visit to Honeydukes," Snape said, mildly amused.

Julie blushed slightly, "When you were a student at Hogwarts, didn't you visit that shop," she asked curiously.

A personal question, thought Julie, admiring the look on Snape's face. The professor grinned broadly. That was a rare sight and Julie liked it more than she wanted to admit.

"Of course," he said, motioning to her with his hand, to walk towards Hogwarts.

Julie nodded, a brief glance seemed to answer her question. She saw tracks in the snow, which led to a small forest, which was not far from the path. Julie noticed the tracks of several people and wondered why Snape had been in the forest and who else had gone there.

"Why are you alone," Snape asked after a moment of silence.

Julie sighed and looked at him.

"I do not know."

Snape raised an eyebrow and Julie bit her lower lip.

"I know the reason. But I do not like to talk about it," she admitted.

"If so, then that's fine," replied Snape.

Julie looked at him and sighed. Why did it work almost always? Almost every time Professor Snape said this or something similar to her, she suddenly felt that she wanted to confide in him.
Was it because he was the one who helped her? Or the fact that he really accepted that she did not want to talk about something? Or because he had experienced the same and Julie felt understood by him? Julie suspected the latter. Professor Snape himself did not talk much about his past or private life and Julie wondered in whom he confided in.

"Travers always asks me too much and that makes me angry," she admitted.

A smile appeared on Snape's lips as he heard her words. How nice to hear this, he thought, but said, "Men of his age are curious if they like a girl."

Julie looked at him incredulously. She blushed heavily and wondered what to say to that. Since her accident after the Christmas holidays, everyone in Hogwarts knew that Travers liked her. But did she like him enough to...

"I do not know if I .. uh," Julie sighed heavily, "I do not know if I feel the same for him," she stammered.

Snape turned his head to the side and looked at Julie thoughtfully.

"Such things should be decided in peace. Do not be persuaded to do something you do not really want," he said earnestly. "The repentance which follows our thoughtless and naive actions often does not leave us for a lifetime."

Julie avoided his gaze and nodded.

Together they went through the large gate and entered Hogwarts. The way to the dungeons they walked in silence until they approached Snape's office.

"I think.. ," he said suddenly, breaking the awkward silence between them as he turned to her, "That some chocolate after a long walk would do no harm. What do you think," asked Snape, looking at her questioningly.

Julie looked at him in surprise and nodded before she followed him into his office. They got rid of their coats and sat down on the armchairs, which stood in front of the fireplace. Julie opened her bag and handed it to Snape. He helped himself generously to her chocolate before he leaned back in his chair. Julie watched him thoughtfully. Somehow Professor Snape made a strangely relaxed impression on her.

Julie watched him as he unwrapped a chocolate frog and then looked at it extensively. She wondered when Professor Snape last had eaten chocolate frogs. Based on appearances, it must already been a long time ago. His expression was deeply melancholic and she suddenly felt very sorry for him.
She sighed and reached into her bag. Together they sat and ate chocolate without talking to each other. Both were lost in their own thoughts. Ultimately Julie looked up at Snape, who had already observed her over a longer period.

"Sometimes I wondered, what I'll do when I get old, just like you," said Julie. She noticed Snape's strange expression and cleared her throat. "Um, I do not mean that you're old, um, I mean, when I'm older, like you are now," she tried to improve her word choice.

Snape's mouth twitched and he tried to smile. It was good that she was thinking about the future, but to be called old, hurt him quite a bit, even if she had actually meant otherwise.

Julie felt uneasy, "It has never been my strength to express myself clever," she said a little ashamed.

"What are your strengths," Snape asked, surprising her with his question.

Julie looked at him and rubbed her forehead while she thought about it.

"My strengths" she asked, feeling already uneasy inside. If Professor Snape would not be sitting in front of her, Julie would have rolled her eyes. Why did they always asked her questions, which she did not want to answer, or, could not answer?

"Um, Potions. That is also something I like. In the other subjects I am good as well, but I would not call them my strengths."

Snape nodded thoughtfully, "Well, Potions. But do you also have strengths, in addition to Potions? Maybe something else besides a school subject?"

"Um," she said confused, "I uh, no idea. My parents have always said that I am pigheaded. This can perhaps also be seen as a strength, if you know how to use this quality right."

Julie paused and Snape looked at her thoughtfully. Miss Abbott was young and did not know her strengths. Snape had already witnessed some of them and was sure that more were hidden inside her. He furrowed his brow as her expression became sad.

"What's going on in your head," he asked quietly.

Julie looked at him hesitantly before she sighed softly.

"When I was with Travers en route to Hogsmeade, he asked me about my future plans. Well, I have none," said Julie, while a solitary tear ran down her reddened cheek. "The more I think about it, the clearer it is, that what I'm doing now does not make sense. My whole life does currently make no sense," she said and paused.

Julie looked at him and Snape felt compassion for her when he saw the despair in her eyes.

"Miss Abbott," he said gently. "It is normal and understandable that you feel that way now. It will pass."

"When," asked Julie and noticed that more tears rolled down her cheeks.

Snape did not immediately knew what to say and looked thoughtfully into the fire.

"That depends on you," he said finally. "If you give up now, what you're apparently still thinking about, then you will not be exempt from this suffering. Besides you will have no prospects in life. The only thing you could do would be to work for the muggles and we both know, that this would only increase your dissatisfaction. It would be a joyless life in which you would be imprisoned until you would finally rid yourself of it. In one way or another way," he added seriously.

Snape looked at Julie expectantly. Her eyes were fixed on him, but he knew that her thoughts were elsewhere. Slowly her gaze drifted towards the floor and she seemed to be plagued by strong doubts.

"When you will find your path, you will see that your life will be worth living."

Julie sighed heavily and then looked at him appraisingly before she asked the next question.

"Isn't there a potion, which you can give me, which helps me to feel better," she asked cautiously.

Snape knew what Miss Abbott meant, and he knew, that she knew the answer to her question already.

"Yes," he said hesitantly, "But you know that it is not permitted to me to administer this potion to you."

Julie stared at him silently and Snape suddenly felt uncomfortable because he could not judge what was going on in her mind.

"If you want that, then you have to be hospitalized in St Mungo's. They will assess whether there is a need to treat you as you wish," he said in a low voice.

"You would not give me the potion," she asked softly.

Snape shook his head, "No. This is forbidden. I've seen what these potions can trigger. In many cases, the symptoms got worse. I would not even let you go in the said hospital."

Julie turned her gaze abruptly away from him.

"Even if I would be allowed, I would never administer this potion to you," said Snape, watching her reaction closely. "For your sake. I know that you carry all the strength within yourself what you need, Miss Abbott."

"Why are you so sure of it," she asked doubtfully, looking at him again.

"I can not explain that currently," he answered evasively. "Trust me," he said.

Julie looked at him for a long time in silence, thinking profoundly about his words. Trust, this was a difficult issue for Julie. But she had already learned that she could trust Professor Snape. Even if she would not have made this experience, Julie could not change the fact that she trusted him. Why this was so, she did not question at this time.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I thought that it would make my situation easier." Julie looked at him quizzically, "Have you ever considered this possibility, for yourself," she asked cautiously.

"Yes. But luckily I have finally decided against it. It would not make the situation easier, but much more complicated. As I have already explained to you in connection with the sleeping potion, potions help to decrease the external symptoms but they do not solve the problem, which is behind it. You go into a vicious cycle from which it is not easy to escape, because the fear of facing reality, continues to grow and can not be overcome."

Snape stood up slowly from his chair.

"It's almost time for dinner," he said. "It is time for you to go."

Julie stood up and walked to the door, which Professor Snape had already opened. She went out into the dark corridor and turned to him.

"Professor, thank you for the conversation," she said softly.

Snape looked at her curiously and then nodded slowly.

"It's good to talk openly about such issues. It helps, even if you do not perceive it immediately as such."

"Can I come back when doubts plague me," Julie asked cautiously.

"Anytime," Snape replied.

Julie walked away and Snape was just about to close the door, when he opened it again.

"Miss Abbott," he called after her.

Julie turned to him.

"Thanks for the chocolate."

She smiled and waved at him briefly before she walked away.

Snape went to his bedroom and collapsed on his bed. He was exhausted and rubbed his temples with his index fingers. Miss Abbott had no plans for her future. This could pose a problem, Snape thought as he crossed his arms behind his head and stared at the ceiling.
She had a problem that could be solved if Miss Abbott would be patient enough. Her question about the potion worried Snape greatly. Even the fact that Miss Abbott had asked him about it, was a sign that she urgently needed aid. She was desperate. Of course, she looked for a way that would be easy. But there was nothing that could really help her. She had to face her problems. Snape would lock his storage room in the hallway even more carefully, to make sure that no one could gain access. He feared that Miss Abbott could brew her desired potion somewhere in secret. Who knows whether she knew how to brew it. She was gifted when it came to potions and Snape would not underestimate her. He slowly sat up and found that he was not hungry. Too much chocolate, he thought as he rose from his bed with a smile. Miss Abbott had brought a change in his miserable life and Snape hoped that this would only be the beginning.
Definitely he would continue to observe Miss Abbott. Who knows what kind of strange ideas would emerge in her mind. Snape entered his office and went to his desk. It was time to begin the tutoring lessons. Miss Abbott's injury was long healed and she was quite able to spend a few hours a week with him. Still Snape hesitated. He began to roll his quill between his fingers and observed how the ink dripped on his desk. He did not care. He kept thinking of Miss Abbott and of the everlasting question of how his future would look like. Lost in thought, he reached for a stack of parchments to finish his work for the day.

Chapter Text

"No," Julie replied stubbornly.

Snape pressed his lips tightly together into a thin line and nodded slowly.

"Well, then I'll inform the Headmaster."

Julie frowned and looked away from Snape.

"Why's that," she said clearly displeased.

Snape looked at Julie and was almost amused by her childish defiance. "Professor Dumbledore has imposed me to give you tutoring lessons. If you do not want this, that's your decision as to which I have to inform him," said Snape. "I am sure that Professor Dumbledore will accept your decision," he added.

Julie looked at Snape questioningly.

"It's no problem, if I do not want to do it," she asked doubtfully.

Snape shook his head and felt empty inside. Of course, no one could force Miss Abbott to come to the tutoring lessons. But he had hoped that she would agree. He wanted to spend this time with her, in which they were alone. But if she did not want it, he could not force her. Snape looked at her thoughtfully. Julie changed. Not very much, but she seemed to strive to change something in her live. She had begun to make contacts among the students. It did her good, but Snape knew that it would not help her to pass the exam.

"The exam," Snape asked cautiously.

Julie winced and looked at him uncertainly.

"What if I should not pass the practical exam in defense against the dark arts? If this were the case, would all have been in vain," her questioning gaze lingered on him and Snape thought about what might happen.

"Well, in some cases, you can repeat the exam under certain conditions."

Julie looked at him hopefully.

"In your case, with your past, you will definitely get a second chance."

She smiled in relief, but her smile quickly died on her lips.

"But you will not pass the second exam successfully," Snape said soberly.

Julie gazed at Snape incredulously. Had he really just said that? She was frustrated and was not able to hide it from him. Julie turned her disappointed gaze slowly away from him, staring silently at her hands which were resting on her lap.

"Miss Abbott," said Snape, as he leaned slightly forward. "As long as you carry this fear in you and don't try to do something about it, you'll never overcome it. You will experience your exam as you're experiencing each of the defense against the dark arts lessons. Full of fear and numbness. Nothing will change if you do not earnestly strive for it," Snape said insistently.

"But if I, uh," Julie struggled for the words, "During the tutoring lessons I made little progress. It's all still the same, well, a little has changed. But it never helped me to overcome my fears. Do the tutoring lessons really make sense," she asked doubtfully.

"Yes, tutoring makes sense. It gives you the opportunity to face your fears, without having to be exposed to real danger," replied Snape as he eyed her intently.

Julie shook her head excitedly, "That's easier said than done. When I am in the situation, everything always follows the same pattern. First comes the memory, followed by the fear that paralyzes me," she said in frustration.

Snape nodded in agreement. He knew what she was talking about. Nevertheless, Miss Abbott would have to work on herself to change something.

"I can not force you to come to the tutoring lessons," he said after a long silence. "And I do not intend to. I was simply trying to help you. Professor Dumbledore will most likely want to talk to you about your decision," he said in a last attempt to persuade her.

Her expression was frustrated and Julie tapped her foot nervously against the floor.

Snape looked at her silently for a few minutes. Was this the end of the tutoring lessons, he wondered. Apparently it was not possible to persuade Miss Abbott. Snape was looking for a solution and found one. Suddenly he had an idea.

"Maybe it's possible for me to help you."

Julie looked at him suspiciously. "How," she asked.

"I could apply for an exception and then, file a request to be allowed as your opponent in the exam. That would mean, the emissary from the ministry would be present but you would take the exam with me. Taking into account your past, it is quite possible that this might be permitted," Snape said, looking at her expectantly.

Julie seemed to doubt. Her eyes darted restlessly across his desk while she was playing with the zipper of her jacket. Finally she looked at him and nodded.

"Yes, I'd like to try that," she said.

"Alright," said Snape satisfied, "But only on one condition."

"And that would be," Julie asked cautiously.

"The exam will take place at the beginning of June. This means that we will start in April to practice," he said, looking at her expectantly.

Julie swallowed hard.

"That's next month," she said excitedly.

Snape nodded and waited silently for her decision.

A long sigh escaped her lips and she nodded, "All right. I agree with your condition."

Snape was extremely satisfied with the result of their conversation and allowed Julie to go. A grin appeared on his face and he leaned back contentedly in his chair. Miss Abbott had not noticed but he had tricked her. The tutoring lessons had simply got another name, namely practice. His small success pleased him very much, but, beneath the apparent happiness Snape felt bad. He had achieved his goal by having tricked her. For Snape, Julie's well-being was always in the foreground and the hope that she could overcome her fears someday. Although her success in the exam was also important, for him it was only incidental.

*****

Julie was startled as Travers grabbed her suddenly by the arm and spun her around.

"What is this," she asked in surprise as Travers pushed her in an empty classroom.

"We're going tonight in the Forbidden Forest," Travers said with a glow in his eyes. "Soon our school days at Hogwarts are over and this is one of our last chances to experience something exciting."

Julie's eyes widened and she was speechless for a moment.

"Um, it is forbidden to go into the Forbidden Forest," she said softly.

Travers chuckled "Nonsense, all just rumors," he said amused and dismissed her concerns with a flick of his hand.

Julie was nervous, "Is it not reckless to go at night in the forest," she said almost casually.

"No," said Travers convinced. "Julie, it's a night walk."

A night walk, thought Julie and doubted Travers words.

"The Forbidden Forest is not so dangerous as the teacher are claiming. Julie, do you think Dumbledore would leave the forest unwatched if it would be indeed dangerous," he said.

"Hagrit monitors the forest," replied Julie convinced.

Travers sighed.

"Hagrit has his hut down there, but that's about it."

Julie stared at him in disbelief.

"Are you coming," he asked curiously.

"Where," she asked in surprise as she took a step back.

"In the forest, where else," Travers, replied. "Or are you scared," he added, looking at her mischievously.

Scared? Julie's heart was racing and she tried not to look scared. "I'm not afraid of a forest," she said, trying to sound brave.

"Will you come with us," asked Travers.

Julie hesitated long.

"Who's going there," she asked hesitantly.

"A few classmates from Gryffindor, no one else."

"This is a bad idea," said Julie, shaking her head.

"It is only once," replied Travers.

Julie sighed. Travers looked at her expectantly and her reason gave way to the desire not to disappoint him. Julie nodded and sighed.

"Okay, but only one time," she said with a sigh.

A few hours later Julie regretted to have given her consent. She closed her jacket and left the castle as quietly as possible. The snow had melted and the night seemed darker without the white backdrop of winter.

"Finally, that was about time. We thought you would not come," said Travers when he saw Julie. Together they made their way towards the Forbidden Forest. As they walked past the large fir, Julie saw an owl, which sat in the branches of the tree. It had pitch-black feathers and it's yellow eyes gleamed dangerously in the dark. Travers pulled Julie past the fir and the owl flew away into the night.

Julie's heart beat faster, as they entered the forest. It immediately became much darker. The forest floor was covered with soft moss and the signs of last autumn were still visible as countless withered leaves lay on the ground. Julie was startled when she heard branches crack in the distance. Her gaze darted frantically through the forest and she sighed with relief when she realized that the sounds came from Travers and his friends. Only now she noticed that they went far in front of her and she was alone. Julie quickened her pace to catch up with the others.

Even the cold night air could not cool the excitement which kept hold of her mind. Suddenly everything around her appeared abnormal. The air seemed to be heavy and every breath she took was troublesome. Julie was well aware of every little sound that came to her ears. Then came the paralyzing fear, which she hated so much. Julie paused and blinked a couple of times before she took a deep breath.

"Do not panic," she told herself, as she tried to think rationally.

The branches of the fir trees allowed a brief glimpse of the night sky and Julie looked at the full moon, which was shining brightly in the sky. A shock rocked her body and mind when she heard a loud howl in the distance. She was terrified and it took a moment until she was able to think again. Julie could not see the boys and cursed herself that she had agreed to come along. Unsure she looked around, wondering from which direction she had come. Julie thought she saw lights of Hogwarts in the distance through the thick branches of the trees. Her mind began to deceive her, as it was now occupied entirely by fear. Her senses were numb and she pulled out her wand, which she then held in her trembling hand.

"Lumos," she said softly, as the darkness of the forest began to frighten her. Julie opened her mouth to call Travers, but no sound came from her lips. She decided to return to Hogwarts, but from whence she came? Julie was disoriented and began to look around. Suddenly, she was grabbed from behind and a hand covered her mouth, muffling her frightened scream. Fear raced wildly through her body and she trembled incessantly as she tried to understand what was happening.

Chapter Text

From the corner of her eye Julie saw Professor McGonagall and Filch, which threw her a stern look. On the one hand, it soothed her a little, on the other hand, she was afraid of her punishment. Why had she come along? McGonagall and Filch walked on into the forest and Julie spotted Dumbledore who followed them. She cursed herself inwardly. It was not her way to do such things. But she did not want to appear a coward before Travers. Although she certainly was one. Julie leaned her head back and began to breathe quietly. The Professors had long disappeared from her sight when the hand pulled away from her mouth. Julie winced when she heard a familiar voice.

"Miss Abbott," Snape growled, "Back to Hogwarts! Immediately!"

Snape's voice was very angry and Julie's heart sank when she realized that she would receive her punishment from him. Snape pointed his wand toward Hogwarts and Julie walked slowly past him. A loud crack beside her in the bushes startled her deeply and Julie walked quickly over to Snape and hid behind him. His heart was pounding like mad. Not because of the sudden noise, but because of Miss Abbott's hand. It was lying on his chest, pressed firmly against his clothes as she stood behind him. He stared silently into the darkness and even forgot to focus on his surroundings. His senses were intoxicated by her touch and the closeness between them. Suddenly Snape chuckled darkly.

"That was just a deer," he said, amused, but his voice was still intimidating.

Julie looked out from behind him and saw the glow of the deer's eyes. She let go of him and Snape felt a shiver down his spine as her hand slowly slid over his chest down to his stomach before she removed it. He walked away in silence and she followed him quickly. Julie looked around frightened when she heard more noises of the night.

"Hurry up, Miss Abbott," Snape said irritably as he walked briskly through the forest.

An unmistakable growl sounded from the bushes and Snape grabbed Julie roughly by her arm and pulled her behind him. His wand directed at his target, he listened intently in the darkness. Julie heard noises from immediate vicinity, and risked a look. She gasped when she saw a werewolf, which slowly distanced itself from them. When it was gone, the tension in Snape's body waned and he turned to Julie. The chastisement had to wait a bit. She looked terrible. Snape put his arm around her shoulders. I should not do that, he thought grimly. Then he felt how Julie leaned her head against his shoulder and he pulled her even closer to him. He suffered from their proximity, but then he did not want to be without it. They walked on, while Snape listened carefully to the sounds of the night. They stepped out of the forest and Snape slowed his step. He wanted to enjoy the moment with her a little longer. Julie was relieved when they finally left the forest. The lights of the castle came closer and finally they entered the hall. Snape led them down to the dungeons and into his office. There he took his arm from her shoulders and motioned Julie to sit on a chair. She sat down and looked at Snape unsettled. His expression was intimidating. He was furious.

"Have you any idea, how serious this is," he growled at her. "Have you any idea, what is out there," he said angrily, pointing his finger at a window. Disgust crossed his face before it contorted with rage.

He stepped closer to her and put his hands on hers which clasped the armrests of the chair. Snape leaned down to her, so that his breath brushed her face as he spoke.

"It is forbidden for students to enter the Forbidden Forest," he said, his voice shaking with anger, "What do you think why the Forest bears that name," he asked.

"I'm sorry," she stammered softly as tears rolled down her pale cheeks.

"You'll have detention as long as I feel it is necessary. And trips of any kind are prohibited for you!"

Julie nodded, trying not to sob. Snape straightened his spine and looked down at her.

"You will sit here until I allow you to go. And I will not hear a single peep from you," he told her in a voice that brooked no contradiction. Snape stepped away from her and sat down behind his desk. "You can be glad that the forest is guarded," he growled, before he grabbed his quill and began to write.

Julie sat motionless in the chair in front of him, afraid to even wipe her tears of her face. She let them run freely, until finally, the last tear had been shed. Her eyes wandered to the clock which hung in Snape's office. It was half past three in the morning. Certainly Travers was already asleep, she thought, as she tried to suppress her fatigue. Julie thought about Travers and was angry again. Why had he put her into such danger? Why she had agreed to come along? It was her own fault. Just because someone instigated her, to do something forbidden, she did not have to do it. She carefully looked at Professor Snape, who still wrote. He noticed her gaze and looked at her for a moment with bitterness before he continued.

Snape was still very angry. How could she do this? Was she suicidal? Had she no respect for the people who worried about her, which loved her? What reason could she have otherwise, except that she was tired of life? It was pure madness to go into the Forbidden Forest in a full moon night. What had been her motivation to do so? Snape had been about to retire to his private rooms, when Minerva informed him, that students had entered the Forbidden Forest. That was not the first time in Hogwarts history, that students broke this school rules. However, it had surprised him greatly that Miss Abbott was one of them. Snape looked over at her and noticed that Julie had difficulties to keep her eyes open.

"Miss Abbott," Snape said sullenly.

Julie winced and looked at him sleepily. She had begun to doze but now her heart raced with worry.

"Why did you go into the forest," he asked, while his eyes flashed angrily.

Julie swallowed hard and bit nervously on her lower lip.

"Um, I, I wanted ... I did not want to appear a coward," she said, her voice filled with worry.

Snape raised both eyebrows and stared at her blankly.

"Coward," he asked in surprise, "Why would anyone call you a coward," Snape asked.

"Travers asked me if I would go with him and I did not want him to believe that I'm afraid," she said softly.

Snape leaned back and looked at her searchingly.

"Miss Abbott, do you think that Mister Whisp could protect you? Werewolves are no good-natured creatures. They are dark creatures and are subject to their urge and their instinct and that is to kill," said Snape, looking at her reproachfully.

Julie swallowed hard when she became aware of the extent of her error.

"If you believe, that you have to prove anything to Mister Whisp, if you believe, that he would call you a coward, if you had not come, then I must tell you that he is not a good companion for you. He is a waste of time. My advice is to keep your distance from him. For your own good and for the sake of your family, which certainly makes a point to see you alive and not mauled to dead."

Julie lowered her eyes in shame.

"I'm sorry," she said softly.

"Would you say that to your parents, if we'd found you dead in the forest? That you are sorry? Do you think it would relieve their pain," Snape asked angrily.

Julie was crying again, burying her face in her hands.

"No, it would bring them suffering for the rest of their life. You are young and you do not know what does it mean to love," he said angrily. "That's why you can not understand how much pain it would cause the people who love you, if you had been killed tonight," Snape said with apparent bitterness.

Snape fell silent and gazed at Julie incessantly, which was still crying. When Miss Abbott finally stopped crying, he looked at the clock. It was almost four o'clock in the morning. He stood up and walked around his desk and held out his hand. Julie put her hand in his and rose slowly.

"Now go to sleep. Go directly to your dormitory. No detours. After the afternoon lessons we will talk," said Snape.

Julie nodded and opened the door to leave when Snape spoke again.

"Miss Abbott, love means you don't have to prove anything to the other, because you will be accepted as you are. With all your faults and short comings. Love can turn weaknesses into strengths. If you really love, then you're ready to sacrifice everything for this person. You're ready to jump over your own shadow. If you love someone, then you don't expose this person knowingly to danger. You worry about the other's well-being."

There was silence and Snape eyed her closely.

"Do you think that it's love, what you feel for Mister Whisp," Snape asked softly.

Julie looked at him through her eyes swollen from crying. The silence around them was intense and broken only by her deep breaths. Her gaze was fixed on the floor and her brow furrowed. Slowly she lifted her head to look at him. She looked beautiful. The light of the candles, that burned in his office, danced over the pale skin of her face. Their eyes met and Julie shook her head slowly.

"No," she said softly, and thus answered his question.

Snape breathed inwardly with relief.

"Then don't do something, what you'll regret later."

Julie let his words sink in and nodded slowly.

"Yes," she replied almost inaudibly and turned to go.

Snape watched her for a moment and was within a few seconds at her side to accompany her through the darkness.

*****

"There you are," cried Travers when he saw Julie. "I thought Snape might have eaten you alive," he said with a smile.

Julie ignored him and walked on in silence.

"McGonagall found us in the forest and said, that Snape is with you and will make sure, you return safely to the castle. Our little trip into the forest was apparently noticed. We got detention. What kind of punishment you got from Snape," he asked with interest.

Julie was silent and continued to ignore him.

"Hey," said Travers gently, reaching for her arm to stop her.

"Don't touch me," Julie exclaimed angrily and freed her arm from his grasp.

Travers looked at her startled.

"Do you realize what might have happened last night," she said furiously.

Travers chuckled, "What could have happened? There was at no time a risk for you," he replied with conviction.

Julie snorted and looked at him with disgust.

"I could have died. If Professor Snape had not been with me, a werewolf would have torn me to pieces. I would be dead you idiot!"

Travers looked at Julie wide-eyed and speechless.

"I did not know th.. ."

"You know nothing," spat Julie. "I have sat until four o'clock in the morning with Professor Snape in the office. Two times I had to listen to his lecture. I do not know which of the two times was worse. I have, until further notice detention and any trips are now prohibited. And why? Just because I did not want to disappoint you. Just because I did not want to appear a coward in front of you, "she exclaimed angrily. Tears rolled down her flushed face while she looked at him confused. "I thought that you liked me. I thought you care about me. But no, I know now that I was wrong."

Julie turned and walked away. Travers wanted to follow her, but Professor McGonagall stopped him.

"Mister Whisp," she said sternly. "I urge you today for the first and for the last time to stay away from Miss Abbott. Otherwise, I feel obliged to send you home."

Travers sighed and walked toward the great hall.

Minerva looked after him and was glad that she finally had a reason, to tell Mister Whisp to stay away from Miss Abbott. She turned to find Severus.

*****

Julie ran up the stairs to the Astronomy Tower and was out of breath when she came to the top. The tower offered a wonderful view over the countryside, but Julie could not care. She went to the railing and dropped to her knees. Her soft sobs were barely audible, as the wind was loud and cold. She crouched on the floor and Professor Snape's words echoed in her head. Julie was ashamed of what she had done. Tears ran over her flushed cheeks as she thought of her parents. She felt miserable. Julie pulled her legs against her body and rested her forehead on her knees. Long she sat there and fought with her feelings, which gave her no rest. Julie did not know what she resented most. Was it her own stupidity? Or the disappointment about Travers?
Julie trembled and wiped a few tears from her face as something was placed over her shoulders. It was a cloak. She reached for the hem and pulled it tighter around her shivering body. Julie sniffed and immediately recognized Professor Snape's scent, which was trapped inside its black fabric.
The shame, which she felt was replaced by gratitude, which she felt for him. The professor cared about her and Julie felt something in her heart, a feeling, she could not classify. Long she sat silently, until she finally looked up at him. Snape stood beside her and looked at the landscape below them. Wordlessly, he held out his hand. Julie hesitated before she put her hand in his. Snape pulled her up and Julie looked at him guiltily.

He said nothing and turned his gaze back to the countryside. Julie did the same. The early morning mist appeared orange in the light of the rising sun. A small river wound its way through the hilly landscape. She sighed loudly and looked at Snape, who was looking at her now. Her eyes were red, slightly swollen and so beautiful.

"I have made a mistake," she said almost in a whisper.

Snape looked at her a long time before he spoke.

"To err is human," he said. "The main thing is that we learn from our mistakes." Snape looked at Julie thoughtfully, before turning his gaze away from her.

Julie nodded. It had been foolish to go with Travers in the forest. Since when she made such stupid decisions, wondered Julie while her fingers ran over the cold steel of the railing. The iron bars reminded Julie of a prison. A prison like the one in which she lived. Julie sighed and tried to hold back the tears, which stung in her eyes. All she wanted at that moment was, to be normal again. As she had been before.

"I'm sorry. I will never do that again," she said softly.

Snape grabbed the cold railing with his hands and leaned forward, glancing down into the abyss.

"I made mistakes when I was young," he said. "Unfortunately, my mistakes were more severe than yours were." Snape turned his head and looked at her. "There was a day when I wanted to jump into this abyss here," he said, nodding toward the abyss that opened up at her feet.

Julie looked at him anxiously, waiting that he would speak on, what he did shortly afterwards.

"If I had done that, then much would have been different. I'm tired of fighting day by day - for my sanity," Snape said and surprised Julie with the openness with which he talked about himself. He turned to her and looked at her searchingly. "Tell me, Miss Abbott what would you do, if your happiness would be within reach, would you try to reach for it? Would you do it, even if you knew that you could possibly lose everything what makes your life worth living?"

Julie blinked and tried to understand what he had just asked. She scratched her forehead and thought about his question carefully. Finally she looked at him.

"Are you in this situation," she asked cautiously, knowing, that this was a very personal question.

Snape looked at her with an unreadable expression and hesitated for a moment before nodding.

"Yes," he replied, and narrowed his eyes at the attempt to read her expression.

Julie looked at him strangely. Her face tensed as she lowered her eyes. Snape knew that she was thinking. But what was going on in her head, remained hidden from him. Her eyes reflected doubt and fear before she looked at him.

"I think that there is currently nothing in my life, what makes it worth living. But I would fear the fact too much, that the happiness might run through my fingers and escape my grasp. That I would loose it. I'm sure that in my present condition I would not be able to cope with that. Therefore, my answer is no."

"You'd let your happiness pass you by, without ever taking your chance to experience it," he asked searchingly.

Julie nodded, ashamed of her cowardice.

Snape took a deep breath and nodded. "Then we have something in common," he said, before looking to the horizon.

Julie stared at him for a moment confused, before she understood what he meant. Snape looked at her surprised when he felt her hand on his shoulder.

"You should give it a try," she said, nodding at him encouragingly. "You should try to reach for your happiness when you have the chance to do so. Do not miss the chance to be happy."

Snape put his hand on hers and removed it from his shoulder.

"Maybe," he said, looking at her thoughtfully. "Maybe I'll do that. And if I should do it, you'll be the first one to know," he said, while his face wore an expression, which Julie had never seen before.

Julie smiled at him and Snape gestured her to to leave the Astronomy Tower. Together they approached the winding stairs while Julie wondered, why she would be the one, who would know it first.

Chapter Text

Julie stood in Honeydukes and filled a bag generously with chocolate. Professor Snape had allowed her to accompany her classmates to Hogsmeade. It was a welcome change. The past three weeks she had spent her detention in Professor Snape's office. Three whole weeks! And instead of giving her a imposition, Snape let her sit in a corner of his office, ignoring her. At first she had wondered constantly why he did this. But after the first week had passed, Julie began to understand his reasons. At least she thought so. It would be easier to write impositions, than to face up to one's problems. And that's what Julie did daily. She had begun to think seriously about her life, what had often been very tiring. Countless times she had sat in the corner and cried softly as she thought about the unfairness of life. Sometimes anger had raced through her body, while at other times, she had sat silently for hours, while staring blankly at the wall.

She sighed and looked around thoughtfully. Her classmates seemed to be having a wonderful time. Another sigh escaped her lips and she went toward checkout to pay for the chocolate. Julie was planning to share it with Professor Snape. Since the day when she met the professor on the way back to Hogwarts, she had secretly planned to bring him from time to time some chocolate. However, this had not been possible until now, as all trips outside of the castle were still prohibited for her. This trip to Hogsmeade was an exception. Julie saw Travers through a window, who stood outside with his friends and chatted. She had not spoken to him since the day after she had been in the Forbidden Forest. Travers had tried a few times to start a conversation with her, but Jean always stayed close to Julie. Jean gave Travers no opportunity to get close to her and Julie was grateful for that.

"Is everything all right," asked Jean, who now stood beside her. Slytherin's prefect followed Julie's gaze and she saw Travers through the misted window panes. She furrowed her brows and looked at Julie with a worried expression. "Have I missed something," she asked anxiously.

Julie shook her head quickly and looked away from Travers. "No, nothing has happened," she replied. "I'm just very grateful that I no longer have to deal with Travers. Thanks," she said, smiling at Jean.

"Let us pay and go out. I have a fabulous idea what we can do next," said Jean.

Julie appeared worried, "We have to return to Hogwarts in time. I do not want to annoy Professor Snape," said Julie with audible concern.

Jean nodded and pulled Julie toward the checkout. "Do not worry, we will be back on time."

Snape had allowed Julie to go with her classmates from Slytherin to Hogsmeade, but he had set strict rules which Julie wanted to follow under any circumstances. She paid the chocolate and stuffed the big bag in her backpack as she left Honeydukes. Julie took a deep breath as she left the store and cried out when someone grabbed her roughly by the upper arm.

"What is this," cried Jean surprised, before her voice was lost in the tumult.

There was a scramble and Julie suddenly found herself surrounded by reporters.

"Miss Abbott, how do you cope with your life," said an elderly woman which held her camera in Julie's face, before she squeezed the trigger.

Julie winced and squeezed her eyes shut as she tried in vain to hide her face with her hands.

"Do you suffer from anxiety?"

"Is it true that you were hospitalized for months at St. Mungo's?"

"Is it true that your parents have contact with the family of Amos Fletcher?"

They had found her, Julie thought while she desperately tried to escape the reporters. She was pushed, touched, flashes of cameras, more touches, someone stepped on her foot and she turned around, more flashes. She was pushed against a wall, photographed, touched again. Julie's senses fell into panic and she began to tremble uncontrollably. Desperately, she tried to cover her face with her hands, but they grabbed her hands and pulled them down forcefully until they hung limply beside her body. Someone grabbed her arm and she felt scramble from all sides, until she was suddenly free. Without hesitation, Julie fought her way through the witches and wizards, who had followed the spectacle with interested. She passed familiar and unfamiliar faces of her fellow students, until the crowd was behind her. Julie ran as fast as her feet could carry her. The questions from reporters still echoed in her head. She was terrified. Julie heard many steps which followed her. She could still feel the greedy hands on her body, which had touched her, which had harassed her.

She ran into Amycus and together they fell to the ground. Julie immediately jumped up, ignored him and ran on. Through narrow streets, passing grumbling witches and cursing wizards. Julie tried to create distance. Distance between her and the reporters, who like vampires, aimed to feed on her past. Her heart felt, as if it would explode as she ran faster, trying to escape her past, her fears, her pain. A branch whipped her cheek, causing it to sting and bleed. Julie's lungs were on fire as she heaved, struggling for breath. She could still hear them, or so she thought, the sound of many footsteps, which followed her mercilessly.
Only now Julie noticed the tears, which rolled down her cheeks. Her throat felt constricted and she believed to suffocate. Blinded by tears, she ran head-on into a lamp post. She felt a sharp pain on her forehead, then everything went black. The light came back quickly and with it dizziness and aggressive nausea. Julie swayed back and forth before she tumbled backward. There were steps which approached her quickly. Julie's eyes widened in panic. She reached for her wand, but it's gone. She feared the worst. Then someone grabbed her shoulder and turned her around. Her sobs were muffled by the clothes, against which her face is pressed. She felt a hand which gently stroked her head, while another hand held her in place. These hands were not greedy and abusive. They were gentle.

"Shh, do not be afraid," Snape's voice is low and he looked around carefully. They were alone. Now or never.

Julie heard a noise and then - silence. A silence which is broken only by the sounds of her weeping. She felt that Snape wrapped his arms around her and pressed her firmly to him. Julie did not care and cried. She let not only her tears run free, but also her feelings. The fear, which still has her heart under control. The pain, which she feels in her body. The feeling of impurity, caused by the greedy touches of the reporters. The panic of being unprepared confronted with her past.

Julie's heart is racing in her chest and her throat still feels constricted. Her hands are firmly buried in Snape's robes, holding it convulsively, without awareness, without knowing. She turns her head to the side, trying to breathe. Julie's ear presses firmly against his chest. His heartbeat, lub-dub-lub-dub-lub-dub, has a calming effect on her frenzied senses. Her own heart rate slows down, its tempo becomes more bearable. The oppressive tightness in her chest fades slowly but steadily.
She still clings to him like a drowning man who clings with his last strength to a rock, for fear to be entrained by the strong current. The flow is there, untamed and fearsome. But Julie's refuge withstands its power. Her breathing slows and she becomes conscious of the scent, which surrounds her, masculine, pine, herbs and smoke, Professor Snape. Julie sobs loudly when she finally realized that Professor Snape is with her.

Snape feels how her chest rears, which presses firmly against him. He understands that Julie slowly comes to her senses. Yet he does not end their embrace. How could he? No, he thinks, shakes his head, as if it was something unthinkable to let go of her at this moment. Julie's hands are still clenching the fabric of his cloak tightly, which she had grabbed in her fear and despair. She remains standing in his arms, without moving. Snape feels, how her tense body relaxes slowly and how she sinks into his embrace. Perfection, he thinks, as he is so close to her, like never before. He lowers his head slowly and gazes at her tousled hair. She smells of the wind and tears, blood, sweat and Snape is sure that he can smell the fear which still clings to her. He bites his lower lip in an attempt to resist the desire to kiss the top of her head.

When Snape had allowed Julie to go to Hogsmeade, he had expected that Mister Whisp would try to talk to her. Therefore, he had gone there to catch him in the act. He wanted to punish him. He needed to punish him. Something that Snape long had in mind. Snape had not forgotten the injury which Julie had suffered after the Christmas holidays. He would not forget it. Snape had harbored the desire of revenge against Whisp - a student. He knew that this was wrong, but he had not been able to fight it. Snape did not want to fight it.

He had lived an isolated existence for many years, far away from the feeling of being a valuable person. Snape had been used on one side by Voldemort, on the other by Dumbledore. He had never really experienced the feeling of appreciation. After Voldemort's death, the headmaster had indeed thanked him, but to more than that, Dumbledore was not capable. With the appearing of Miss Abbott in his life, Snape had learned many new things, one of which was to be valued. It brought him relief. He was valued as a person, and not only for his deeds.
Miss Abbott was for him one of the most important people in his life and he could not tolerate that Whisp was responsible for her injury. He therefore looked for an opportunity of revenge. Snape knew that while he harbored such desire, he was still on the side of darkness. He could not deny that there were days when his spirit lingered in the darkness. Sometimes he did nothing to change this. But the longer he remained there, the greater the desire became, to be freed from it. At this moment Snape was glad to have harbored such a desire. Otherwise he would not have been in Hogsmeade.

Suddenly Snape froze. The reason why Miss Abbott had gone to Hogsmeade, was him. Snape became painfully aware of what he had done. What HE had done to Miss Abbott. If he had not been so vindictive, this would never have happened. He had allowed Miss Abbott to go to Hogsmeade, because he wanted to take revenge on Mister Whisp. Snape had hoped the Whisp would approach Miss Abbott, a deed that would give him a reason to punish the boy. Through his insane desire for revenge, he had harmed the person, which he wanted to protect. Snape tried to swallow the lump in his throat, but failed miserably. It was all his fault.

Beaten by his error, Snape looked dismayed to ground and held Julie more tightly in his arms. This had to stop, he thought, shaking his head. He was neither a death eater, nor was he Dumbledore's spy. But who was he? He had been the son of his father, whom he had tried in vain to please. He had been a student, whose knowledge and talent had always been ridiculed. A dead eater, whose skills had been very useful, but who then betrayed his master, what had led to Voldemort's demise. A spy, who had succeeded in his mission and thereby helped to save the world from a dark wizard, but at what cost?

Snape knew he did not want to be anyone anymore, but only himself. But there was again the question of who he really was? Could Miss Abbott help him to find the answer? Or would it be better if he knew the answer before he ... oh, there were those thoughts again. They were forbidden. But why? Life was unfair. He shoved those thoughts into the back of his mind.
His vindictiveness was the cause of her misery. He had told her, that for people like them, each unnecessary pain, weather physical or mental, represents an extra burden. Now, he himself had inflicted upon Julie those pains, unnecessarily, born from his sick need for revenge on a student. Snape was utterly disgusted with himself. The vertical crease between his eyebrows was deeper than ever before, as he tried to cope with his guilt. Of course, the reporters would have found Julie sooner or later. They apparently knew that she now studied at Hogwarts. It was only a matter of time until they would have met her somewhere. Yet Snape was to blame for today's incident, because he had been the reason, why she had gone to Hogsmeade.

Julie's breathing was now calm and deep. Every now and then Snape felt her silent sobs. Then her body shook for a moment before she relaxed again. She had stopped crying and Julie leaned against him. She seemed exhausted, as if she had fought a battle. Maybe she really had been through a fight, thought Snape. He knew the influence of such questions too well. He avoided to go out in public. The sensationalism of the reporters and the wizarding world in general disgusted him. They had even harassed him at home after Voldemort had died. When his role as a spy became known to the public, Dumbledore had given countless interviews, attempting to shield Snape from the madness. Albus had told them a lot, but the reporters were not satisfied. They wanted to know everything. They wanted Severus Snape. It took almost two years until they had left him alone. But he was an adult and a man. Miss Abbott was young and an easy target for the sensation-seeking reporters. He tightened his embrace.

"Miss Abbott," said Snape. His voice was soft and low as he looked down at her. She did not react. Snape frowned and looked at her anxiously.

"Yes," she replied sleepily.

Reluctantly Snape ended their embrace. Julie sighed audibly and blinked a few times, while Snape looked at her more closely. She was pale and had a bump in the middle of her forehead. A bruise spread slowly. He took hold of her upper arms, as Julie threatened to fall.

"Are you dizzy," Snape asked searchingly, as he realized that she had difficulties to stand alone.

Again no answer. Then she nodded slowly.

"Yes," was all she said.

Snape helped her to go to his armchair where she sat down. He took off her backpack and Julie leaned back exhausted.

"How are you," Snape said with a worried tone.

The silence that followed his question, was worrying. Then Julie looked up at him.

"I have severe headaches. I feel nauseated and dizzy."

Her speech was slurred and Snape nodded.

"You have a concussion. Even your response to my question is delayed. This is typical. You urgently need bed rest. I will inform Professor Dumbledore that you are here. Otherwise you will be reported as missing. I'll be right back."

Snape left his living room in order to contact Albus.

Julie rested her aching head against the armchair and closed her eyes. She felt strange. Somehow different, she thought. Was she too calm? No, she was not. Perhaps she was just exhausted? Tired? Her body felt numb. No, definitely not. She felt .. secure. Yes, that was it, she thought, before she drifted into sleep. She felt secure around him.

A little later, Snape returned. He stopped in surprise as he saw her sleep in his armchair. An warm and unfamiliar feeling spread through him when he saw her.

"I was wrong," he said softly to himself. "She is the MOST important person in my life."

The truth of his own words hurt him. But it was a sweet pain, which he appreciated. Snape took a chair and sat next to her in order to observe her. It was not appropriate, but she had a concussion and Poppy said, that Julie had to be supervised. He leaned back in his chair and was afraid to get used to the sight that greeted him. She looked peaceful, but Snape knew that problems were hidden below Julie's peaceful facade, which would show up as soon as she awoke. He hoped she would sleep late. Snape furrowed his brow. No, he hoped that she would soon awake so he could help her cope with her problems. It was no use to run away from them. He had tried to do that and had failed. Perhaps he could encourage her to face them. Maybe she'd dare, if she knew that he would stand by her, now and in the future. What if she misunderstood him? What if she understood exactly what he meant? Before Snape could start thinking about the pros and cons, he pushed his thoughts aside. Poppy was right, she was his student. She still had detention. This had to stop soon. But then they would start practicing for her practical exam. Then he would spend more time with her. And then the school year would end. And thus their teacher-student relationship. And Julie would go home. And then he would visit her and tell her what he felt for her.

Snape sat motionless, staring at her. She still looked peaceful. His gaze wandered from her disheveled hair to the bump on her forehead. Then down to her mouth. Her lips were slightly parted and Snape licked his lips and leaned slightly forward. Immediately, he pulled himself together and closed his eyes, while shaking his head. Yes, he would tell her, though he did not know how. But he would not spend the rest of his life with the uncertainty of what would have been if... He leaned back and stared at the ceiling. At least he had a plan. And more importantly, he knew that his decision was the right one because he felt it. After all, what he had been through, Snape knew at least that he could always rely on the feeling in his gut. Much would have been different if he had relied on it before. Snape tried to banish the memories of his past from his mind. He wanted to leave them behind and look to the future. He gazed at Julie and could not shake off the feeling, that he looked at his future, when he looked at her.

Chapter Text

The silence persisted several minutes and Snape was getting nervous. He knocked gently on his bathroom door and waited for a reaction. Nothing. His fingers ran tentatively over the doorknob.

"Is everything all right," he asked gently, his eyes fixed on the door. There was no answer. Snape shook his head and mocked himself. What a stupid question. Of course, she was not fine. Miss Abbott had slept half an hour. Then she woke up, with a strong urge to vomit. Now she was still in his bathroom. Snape did not care that she had vomited several times. No, but the peace worried him, which followed Julie's suffering. His hand approached the doorknob again before he lowered it once more. He could not just go to the bathroom when she was in there. Snape leaned his forehead against the door, closed his eyes and waited.

"Miss Abbott, are you okay?" He asked in a new attempt to get a response from her.

A frustrated sigh escaped his thin lips and his fingers ran again over the doorknob. Perhaps she needed this moment of peace? Maybe he should not have brought her home? Did she feel uncomfortable in his house? Or maybe she wanted to just be alone for a moment? Snape wondered what he would do if he were in her situation. He would seek solitude - what Miss Abbott apparently did. She would tell him if she needed help, right? Snape pressed his lips into a thin line. Would she ask him for help when she needed it? Again he played with the idea to go into the bathroom. His fingers traced small circles on the doorknob until he lowered his hand again.
His body tensed and he opened his eyes abruptly. She cried. Now he heard it clearly. He knocked again softly at the door before opening it slowly. Carefully, he poked his head into the bathroom. When he saw her cowering on the floor before his bathtub, he came in and went to her. Julie had pulled her knees up against her body, her arms rested on her knees and her face was buried in them. Snape knelt down and put his hands gently on her shoulders. She did not respond and continued to cry. He pulled her close to him and hugged her. What could he do otherwise? Every word that came to his mind seemed to be stupid and inappropriate. After a moment of uncertainty had elapsed, Julie moved her arms, which had clutched her legs and wrapped them around Snape's torso.

He could not say how long they sat there, but at some point she stopped crying. Since Julie apparently did not intend to end their embrace, Snape remained seated in the same position. His posture tensed briefly when Julie nuzzled her head against his chest. Oh, it felt so good. What was he doing here, Snape wondered. The right thing, answered his heart, while his hateful inner voice screamed that he made a fool of himself. Julie would never reciprocate his feelings. Snape growled, upset about these thoughts, startling thus even himself. Miss Abbott flinched and loosened her grip immediately. Fool, Snape thought as he slowly let go of her.

"I'm sorry," she murmured softly, looking down in shame.

Her cheeks were heavily blushed and still wet from the tears which she had shed.

Snape immediately shook his head.

"You do not have to apologize," he said, looking at her searchingly. "I'm not angry with you," he said to reassure her.

"Oh, I thought I'm disturbing you," she said almost inaudibly, glancing up at him.

Disturb him, Snape thought incredulously. If Miss Abbott knew ...

"You do not disturb me," he said. "Shall we go back into the living room," Snape asked to change the subject.

It worked and Julie nodded. He stood up and offered her his hands. She put her hands in his and Snape stilled for a moment and looked at them. Her hands were petite, with long slender fingers, where he discovered two small white scars. Probably she had burned them on a cauldron, suspected Snape. He slowly pulled her up, which was relatively easy for her petite figure. Snape pushed away all doubts and wrapped his arm around Julie's waist to steady her. Together they went back to his living room, where she made herself comfortable in his armchair. Then he moved a chair closer to her and sat down.

Julie sighed loudly and leaned her head back exhausted, while she looked at him.

"Thank you," she said, blushing slightly. "I'm sorry, that I bring problems along."

Her speech was slurred and Snape eyed her closely, to detect any changes.

"You don't make me problems, on the contrary, you solve my problems," he said.

Julie frowned and looked at him confused. She made no reply and Snape was sure that she had not understood his hint. How could she? Miss Abbott certainly could not imagine in her wildest dreams that Snape .. oh, this word was intimidating. Four letters, one syllable, yet a word with such a deep significance, so powerful and yet so beautiful. A meaning which Snape got to know only now, with countless facets, colors, intensities ... love. His shoulders slumped and he released the breath which he had unconsciously held. That was it and it had been easier than he had imagined. She did not know that he loved her.

"I feel numb," Julie said hoarsely and pulled him thus out of his thoughts.

"I know," he replied softly.

To his surprise, Julie put her hand on his, which was resting on the armrest. She opened her mouth to say something, but closed it again. Then her gaze wandered through the living room.

As if he could read her mind, Snape said, "This is my home."

Julie looked at him in surprise and Snape quickly added, "I thought after what happened today, you need a healthy distance."

She looked at their hands and squeezed his gently. Julie had never felt so understood, as at this moment.

"You always know what I need," she said thoughtfully, while her melancholic gaze rested on their hands.

Snape's heart was pounding in his chest as she squeezed his hand gently. He desperately searched for the right words, but he did not find them. Instead of saying anything, he turned his hand and cupped her hand. His thumb gently stroked the back of her hand, while both gazed at her clasped hands and remained silent. Julie did not withdrew her hand. Instead, she leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Snape continued to stroke her hand until her breathing became quiet and he understood that she had fallen asleep.

He let go of her hand and buried his face in his hands. What had he done? Of course she had touched him first. But her touch was innocent. She wanted to express her gratitude and probably could not find the right words. Just as he. Snape looked up at her and sighed with relief. Yes, she would not misunderstand his gesture.

His thoughts returned to Hogsmeade. He had never imagined that this could happen to her. Why not, he wondered. Of course, Julie was not as famous as he, but Snape knew that reporters were always sensation-seeking. And Julie's story would earn money. A lot of money. Why had he previously not considered this possibility? Probably because Julie's story was not known to the public, such as his. Today every wizard and witch in the world knew the name Severus Snape. But hardly anyone had heard of Julie Abbott. Snape wondered why this was the case. Serious violations of the rules were always made known worldwide. And this violation had repeatedly taken place at a prestigious magic school. So why, he had never heard of her before? He looked questioningly at Julie, as he considered different reasons. Of course, he thought, Julie was underage. The identity of minors was protected, if by doing so, others would not be harmed.

Snape's expression darkened when he thought of Albus. He knew Julie's case. Had Dumbledore known about this danger? Snape's jaw tightened dangerously and he glared into the empty fireplace. Had Dumbledore known? He tapped his foot angrily on the floor while he was sure that he already knew the answer. After he had brooded for some time over his dark thoughts, he took a deep breath and tried to think positively. All this negativity bugged him. Previously, he had not cared. But the delicate creature which slept beside him in his armchair reminded him forcibly that she was here because of him. Because he had been so vengeful. Snape disliked the word. He would like to erase it from his vocabulary. He leaned back and closed his eyes. Snape listened to her quiet breathing and it was not long until he fell asleep.

*****

Startled, he sat up in his chair and looked around. Snape sank back relieved when he saw Poppy, which gazed at him seriously.

"Severus, I said that you should keep an eye on Julie," she said sternly. "A concussion isn't something you should take lightly. She has to be monitored," Poppy stressed the severity of the situation.

Snape looked at Julie, who was still asleep and nodded guiltily.

"I do not know what came over me," he said softly. "I was suddenly very relaxed and must have fallen asleep."

Poppy nodded and looked at Julie.

"We have to bring her back to Hogwarts. Albus says .."

"Yes, yes," interrupted Snape, sounding annoyed. "Albus always knows everything better," he growled.

Poppy gazed at Severus amused. There was again the spite-headed boy, who sometimes came to light in Snape.

"Shall we wake Julie, or do we take her as she is," Poppy asked almost casually.

Snape looked at her surprised.

"Of course we will wake her," he said, as if it were self-evident.

Poppy smiled and nodded in agreement. She had expected that Severus would carry Miss Abbott, bridal-style, she thought, grinning dreamily. But no, Severus would wake her. Pity, mused Poppy. Well, maybe another time.

*****

Julie moaned when she woke up. Slowly, she moved her body and stretched her limbs. Soft and warm ... she lay in bed. She opened her eyes surprised and looked around. Madam Pomfrey was standing next to her bed and smiled friendly.

"Good morning," she said joyfully.

Slowly Julie sat up and ran her fingers through her tousled hair.

"Good morning. I thought I was in Professor Snape's house," she said confused, when she realized that she was in the hospital wing.

"That's right. But in the late afternoon, Severus woke you up and brought you back to Hogwarts," replied Poppy.

Julie looked at her incredulously.

"He woke me up? I have no memories of it," she said, puzzled.

Poppy handed her a glass with a magic potion and motioned her to to take it and drink.

"That's understandable. You were very confused and not really responsive. It was high time that you came to me," said Poppy, looking satisfied as Julie drank the potion.

Julie grimaced. "That's disgusting," she commented on the taste of the potion.

Poppy chuckled and took the glass back.

"It will help you," she said and turned to go.

Julie fell exhausted in the pillow and closed her eyes. She felt her heartbeat slow down. She had not noticed that it had been racing. A warm feeling spread in her limbs and Julie sighed softly when her headache eased. Whatever Madam Pomfrey had given her, was good. A smile appeared on her lips as she relaxed completely.

 

Snape strode down the hall, towards the large doors of the hospital wing. Poppy had convinced him last night to get some sleep. He had not intended to leave Julie alone. But the few hours of sleep which he had found, had been very relaxing. Snape thought back to his thoughts of the previous day. It was not good to look to deeply into the past. It would only bring more difficulties and exacerbate the problems that already existed. Julie had to leave her past behind. But how could he explain that? He stopped and opened the door. Poppy wasn't there and he walked slowly toward Julie's bed. Surprised, he stopped and admired the blissful smile on her lips. She looked so beautiful when her hair was disheveled. Snape fought the urge to lean forward, kiss her brow and bury his fingers in her hair to ruffle it. Instead, he cleared his throat. Snape knew that she was awake.

Julie opened her eyes slowly and smiled at him.

"Good morning," said Snape, while his face bore a neutral expression.

"Good morning, Professor Snape," replied Julie.

Snape frowned inwardly. Did she have to remind him with her first words of the fact, that he was her teacher? He tried to hide his displeasure and turned to pick up a chair. He placed it next to her bed, where he sat down.

"Do you feel better," he asked in a voice as stiff as his posture.

Julie nodded slowly and gently touched the bump on her forehead.

"Yes, Madam Pomfrey was here and has given me a potion. I have to say that I feel much better now."

Snape nodded. That had been his emergency potion, which he had brought Poppy at night, in the event that Julie would wake up in his absence. So she had slept through the whole night, he thought with satisfaction.

"I'm glad to hear that," replied Snape. "As you've learned from yesterday's experience, our past will catch up with us again and again - often when we least expect it."

Julie's expression darkened, while she looked at him through her doubting eyes.

"Since we have no control over such events, it is better if we are well prepared for them," Snape continued, eyeing her closely.

Julie frowned and she looked at him quizzically.

"How can I prepare myself for something like that," she said.

"Um," Snape struggled for words and rubbed his forehead nervously. Why was it so hard to talk about this? Because he himself had not yet managed it, answered his nasty inner voice. Snape suppressed this thought, swallowing hard. Now he would not only preach to Julie, but also to himself.

"In order to be prepared for a situation like yesterday's, you have to complete with your past. You can not change your past. But you can decide what to do with your life, with your future. First you have to learn to accept that that what happened in your past is irrevocable. You can not change it. Do not dwell in the past, it will bring you all the more suffering and pain. Accept your past. And more importantly, leave it behind. It's over. It's a part of your life, which will not be repeated again."

"Then, you have to understand that you decide about your future and no one else. You decide whether you are suffering, or whether you're happy. You alone can decide on the course of your future. Because you are responsible for your life. You make the decisions. You're the one who either turns to happiness, or suffering. It's your decision alone. And you're strong. Do you remember when I have asked you, what your strengths are? At that time, you could not see your real strengths. Let me tell you that you are strong. Strength means, among other things, that one confronts his problems."

Snape raised his hand to silence Julie, when she wanted to object. "Your decision to continue your education, is a sign that you face your problems. You are declaring war on them. That is courageous of you, especially, because you're still young. I know wizards, which have never dared to do this. They spend their lives running away from something, what someday, will catch up with them anyway. I am one of them," Snape admitted, suddenly looking vulnerable.

"You have courage. To do so requires a lot of mental strength, which you, despite all what you have lived through, still have. Despite the events which have happened, you're still kind. You are kind to others and, in spite of the pain, which you carry in you, you often smile at other. You are a strong person. I have not achieved, what you have achieved. I'm the grumpy professor who is disappointed with his life. I am the grumpy professor, who vent his anger on his students. I have caused them suffering. And I have enjoyed it. But despite the apparent satisfaction which I felt when I did this, it has never changed the fact that I suffered. Every moment of my life was a torment. I allowed the darkness to grow in my soul. I have allowed it to control me. I was never happy with myself and I had given up hope that ever anything in my life would really change for the better."

"You strive to be friendly. You try to spare other people suffering. Despite the darkness, which had invaded you, you accepted every opportunity I offered you to escape it. Sometimes you have hesitated, but what matters is your final decision. You tried to oppose its power. You've consciously decided to share your memories with me and thus to experience sorrow, misery and pain. You decided to go back to be relieved of your suffering."

"I have not done that. I've always run away from it. Your path to freedom has brought you back to your past, while my path to freedom, leads me into my future. I am grateful to you that you came, because I learned so much through you. And I'm still learning. Every day is bringing me new insights. Every day makes the darkness in me slowly disappear, so that the light has the opportunity to become brighter. And it does. The burden, which has been lying for many years on me, gave way to the joy which you have brought me."

"If you don't want to end up like me, then you have to look forward now. Leave your past behind and strive for what may come. Whatever it may be, it will be better than anything you've ever experienced. You are young and have an incredible talent for potions. Your future could be bright, if you allow it. And therefore, you have to let go of your past. You have to want it. Currently you stick with both hands tightly to your past. Why? It brings nothing good. Let it go. For you will need empty hands when you start something new. Let your past go and thus create opportunities to learn something new and to grow internally. That's what you deserve."

Snape paused and looked at Julie, hoping that she would understand.

Julie stared at him wide eyed and swallowed before nodding slowly.

"I know that you're right. But it is easier said than done. If you are with me, then everything seems to be much easier," she said honestly, trying to suppress the tears that welled up in her eyes. "But when I'm alone, my courage fades and with it the desire to fight." Julie sighed and looked at him doubtfully.

Snape was speechless and wondered if he had heard correctly.

"Professor Snape, if I do what you suggest, if I let go of my past, would you then promise me something in return," Julie asked, expecting his answer nervously. She hoped that he would agree, but a part of her was afraid that he would do exactly that.

Snape looked at her in surprise and nodded quickly. That was what he wanted. He wanted her to move on with her life. How would she otherwise be happy? And he would do anything that Julie made this move. No matter how much it would cost.

"Yes, of course," he said with determination.

Julie sat up slowly and turned to him. A lone tear rolled down her cheek as she looked at him seriously. After all, what he had done for her, she wanted that he would be happy, too. Any other agreement than this was out of the question for Julie.

"You agree, you promise" she said emphatically.

Snape nodded again and looked at her expectantly.

"Well, then we have a deal," said Julie and grinned at him.

Snape raised his eyebrow. "You will strive to look to the future and not to look back," he asked incredulously. He had not expected that it would be so easy to convince her.

Julie swallowed and nodded. "Yes, I promise," she replied. "But you have to keep your promise," she reminded him.

Snape shifted nervously in his chair. What had she actually demanded, he wondered. Had she ever told him? He could not say.

"What is my part of the bargain," he asked, slightly hesitant.

Julie looked at him and seemed to study his expression before she spoke. Could she see his uncertainty? Did she know how quickly his heart raced at this moment? His hands were sweaty and he suddenly felt unwell. What he had gotten himself into?

"You said recently that you too, would let your happiness pass you by, without ever taking your chance to experience it. I will not see that happen," she said firmly. "You have to reach for your happiness and once you hold it, you must never let go of it. That's all I ask."

She paused, her jaw was tense as she eyed him closely. Julie noticed the panic, which appeared in his features.

Snape looked at Julie in horror and seemed to be paler than he already was. With great effort he swallowed the lump in his throat, what seemed almost painful, before he spoke.

"I can't do that without you."

Chapter Text

"I can't do that without you."

Julie looked at Professor Snape stunned and amazed by his honest words. The nervousness and panic which had been clearly visible in his features, were quickly covered by his expressionless mask. A mask which he used often to protect himself. Julie had seen many faces of Professor Snape, many people were unaware that some of those existence. For example, his vulnerability, which he showed in this moment. Well, he tried to hide it. Why did he do that? Why was he trying to hide his true feelings from her?

He was very reluctant when it came to grant others a glimpse into his soul. A behavior which Julie could understand. She was also inclined to distrust others. After all what had happened in her life, she believed it was normal to distrust others. She protected herself thus. However, if she thought about it, she realized that she had never distrusted Professor Snape. With him it was different. She trusted him. Even Professor Snape had begun to trust her. But why he reacted this way? Was there something that was even worse than the things of which Julie already knew? Or it had been the words he had spoken?

His words confused her. But why? Her heart began to stumble and she noticed that she was blushing. What happened to her? Julie knew that she was dependent on Professor Snape. But the fact that he was somehow dependent on her was entirely new. He needed her. Julie felt a warm fuzzy feeling stirring that gave her a comfortable tingling sensation inside. She wondered what it meant and what she should say to him. She bit her lower lip as she felt an unfamiliar feeling awaken in her. It was completely unknown and Julie did not like the unknown. She feared it. Professor Snape returned her gaze and Julie realized that he was still waiting for her reply.

"I'll be there for you," she said softly. "You have helped me and now I will help you. If I can do that," she added quickly. It sounded kind of silly, but she didn't know what else to say.

Julie did not know how she could help him. But if he needed her, she would be there for him. Professor Snape had said that he was grateful that she had come to Hogwarts. The burden, which he had carried had given way to the joy that she had brought him. The joy that she had brought him... Julie's heart stumbled again and she smiled nervously. What was wrong with her? She suddenly felt very vulnerable. But why? Because of his words? Or because of his expectations? Or because of something completely different? She could not say.

She sat on the bed, her legs dangling freely over its edge. Professor Snape was sitting before her on a chair and looked at her through his dark eyes. Of course there were similarities in their lives. That explained probably why they had grown close to each other and why they trusted each other. It made sense and brought Julie some relief. Nevertheless, she did not understand the feeling which had begun to slowly spread within her.

"If there is something I can do for you, just tell me," said Julie and hoped, that he would break his silence.

Snape nodded slowly and tapped his foot on the floor while he averted his eyes from her.

"I do not think I'm such a great help to you as you present it," he said, sounding depressed.

Julie frowned and studied Snape's expression for a moment in silence. Then she shook her head. Why he thought so lowly about himself? Julie could not understand. Didn't Professor Snape know his own strengths?

"Professor Snape," said Julie softly.

Snape looked at her and their eyes met.

"Can I tell you something personal," she said, waiting to see if he would respond anything. "Not about me, but about yourself?"

When the Professor remained silent, Julie took it as a sign, that he didn't mind.

"I do not understand why you think so badly about yourself. You do not run away from your problems. Maybe you did that once. But in my eyes, you are no longer acting like someone who is trying to run away. You have changed. You face up to your problems in your own way. You said that strength means, amongst other things, that one confronts his problems. You are doing exactly that. By helping me, you are dealing not only with my problems, but also with your own. You can not tell me that your past has rested while you have looked into my past. You decided to help me even though you knew that I would be an additional burden to you. Now you also bear my burden on your shoulders. If that is not strength, then what is it? Okay, you were disappointed about your life and you vent your anger on your students. You've caused them suffering and you enjoyed it. But did ever someone explain you, how you should deal with your burden?"

Snape stared at her in silence and Julie continued.

"No? Every moment of your life was a torment. You've been fighting alone against your suffering and you have given up. You say that you know wizards who spend their lives running away from their problems. But you're not one of them. You used to be one of them. But now you are no longer of them. You have understood that it is useless to run away. No matter what your motivation was, you have taken the step. If you were one of them, then you would not have helped me."

"Another strength of you is that you admit that you have inflicted your students suffering. You describe it as if it were a weakness of yours. But it is not. You are not only strong enough to admit it to yourself, but to me, too. Admitting that we make mistakes means that we make ourselves vulnerable, we show weakness, which in turn shows our inner strength. You carry your own kind of strength in you. Maybe you really can not see it. But everything you did for me and what you said to me, testifies that you're strong. Why? Because you know deep inside that you can only really help me if you yourself are strong. You chose to be strong for me."

Julie paused and looked at Snape wide eyed, surprised by her own words.

"It is you who had decided to see my memories and thus to experience my sorrow, misery and pain. You did that, although you knew that it would be an additional burden for you. You've done that to help me. Do you think that you will not find your own happiness, after you helped me so much? Do you think that you do not deserve to be happy, because the things that you once did? Do you think your happiness will run through your fingers, trying to escape you, because you do not deserve it?"

Julie leaned forward and grabbed his hand. She placed his hand between hers. His skin felt cool against hers, which was warm and soft. Her thumbs stroked his hand and she looked at him. Professor Snape had directed his gaze to their hands and seemed to be a little tense. His expression was almost expressionless, but Julie sensed that he liked her gesture. She felt it. Julie squeezed his hand gently and followed his gaze. He slowly raised his other hand and placed it against hers. Julie stilled every movement and noticed how her heart started racing when he suddenly held her hands between his. It felt so right, so ... perfect.

"Your path to freedom is in the here and now," she said softly. "Do not wait for the future. The one who is waiting for the future, will wait forever. You alone can decide on the course of YOUR future. You should not let your happiness dependent on others, not even on our deal. Create your own happiness. You too, have to leave your past behind. You deserve to be free. And what does it mean when you say, 'If you do not want to end up like me'? I would like to be like you. You have a lot of strength and courage in you. More than I ever have. Despite your own history and your own worries and problems you were strong for both of us. And you still are. I would not have the strength to do for someone else, what you have done for me. I don't know what is your driving force, but what you do for me is admirable."

Snape sat there motionless and felt her hands between his. Her words sank deep, almost too deep and he was absolutely speechless. He could not remember that ever someone had said something like that to him. No. He would definitely remember that. But he doubted her words. Why? Why he doubted her words? Why he doubted her? It would be too perfect to be true. That was it. Snape's gaze wandered over her face until he looked her straight in the eye. There was the truth. Miss Abbott meant every word which she had spoken. Could this be the reality? Could he capture this moment for the rest of his life? Could he hold her for the rest of his life? No, he could not. But why not? Why he doubted again? It wasn't easy. Why was everything so difficult, he wondered. Why did it seem that this damn school year would never end?

Snape had once believed that he had already learned to be patient. Now he had to admit that he was very impatient. He had so much to tell her, but he had no words to describe the feeling, which he carried within him. His eyes fell on her rosy lips, which looked so inviting, appealing and attractive. How would it feel if he would kiss her? Just as in his dreams? Or would it be even better? He wanted to find out. He wanted to know. Snape leaned forward slowly and leaned back abruptly. No, that should not happen under any circumstances. Not in this way. He needed her consent to kiss her. And he would ask Julie this very question. And he would do it now. To his chagrin, he did not get the possibility to ask her.

 

"What's wrong with you," Poppy asked loudly, startling both by her sudden presence.

Snape looked at Poppy angrily and squeezed Julie's hands tighter, which were shaking slightly.

"Severus, I need to urgently talk to you," Poppy said and headed for the door, which led to her private rooms.

Reluctantly Snape let go of Julie's hands and stood up. "You should lie down," he said and looked at her with an indefinable expression before he turned to follow Poppy.

Julie looked after him and she was suddenly cold. She rubbed her hands together and leaned into her pillow. She stared at the door, which Professor Snape had closed behind him and wondered what Madam Pomfrey had to discuss with him. Was it something important? Julie grew impatient as Professor Snape did not return. Why had Madam Pomfrey disturbed them at this moment? Professor Snape had wanted to say something, but before he could do it, Pomfrey had come. Her thoughts were on Professor Snape and Julie cuddled up in her blanket and stared at the ceiling. The longer she was in the hospital wing alone, the more she became aware of the new feeling inside of her. Whatever it was, she hoped it would be a good thing. Should she talk with Professor Snape about it? Maybe he knew what was wrong with her? She had never liked the unknown. Since she had been tortured, she had a hard time to adapt to changes in her live. And this was no ordinary change. Something happened inside her and Julie had no idea what it was. She could not stop it and this fact worried her deeply. Julie turned to the side and kept her eyes on Madam Pomfrey's door. It did not take too long until her eyelids grew heavy and she drifted off to sleep.

*****

"Severus, you're mad! You wanted to kiss her," Poppy said, looking at Snape in disbelief. "Don't deny it. I have seen it myself."

Snape stood motionless in front of her, his face tense.

"You eavesdropped on our conversation," Snape said, his voice trembling with anger.

"I eavesdropped on your conversation? Severus, you are in the hospital wing and not in your office. This is my area of the castle. I work here. You should be more careful! Such conversations between you two should be held in your private rooms and not in public areas," Poppy said excitedly.

Snape growled angrily and looked at Poppy sullenly, but said nothing.

"You said that you want to wait until she has finished school. How can you tell her something that is so ambiguous? Is it really worth it? Can you not wait," Poppy asked insistently. "Miss Abbott is a smart girl. She will understand sooner or later what you meant."

"I prefer sooner rather than later," said Snape defiantly.

Poppy shook her head. "Julie is currently still your student. She knows the rules and knows that such a relationship is absolutely forbidden. It is a taboo! Earn her respect by strictly following the rules. It is a sign of great strength, if you can do it. Understand that it makes no sense if you reveal your hearts longing now. We already talked about it. Why did you suddenly change your mind?"

"I do not want to wait any longer. This uncertainty makes me sick," Snape said angrily, tapping his index finger to his temple.

"Well, that I can understand. Nevertheless, you should wait. Severus, if you have the certainty that she will be yours, then you're going to want to treat her accordingly. It will not be as easy as you imagine," admonished Poppy. "Think of your dreams. Imagine, that you know that they will become reality one day. Will you be able to hold back?"

Snape stood motionless in front of her, his face rigid.

"Severus, please do not speak with her about this until the school year is over," said Poppy.

Snape rolled his eyes annoyed. "If I must," he said with a bitter expression.

Poppy nodded, "Believe me, it's better this way. You will someday be glad that you've waited for the opportune moment."

"I doubt it," said Snape grimly. "What should I do if she understands what's going on anyway, while she is still my student? What should I do if she asks me about it," he asked.

"If she reciprocates your feelings, then it is your duty to protect the both of you, by treating her as your student, as long as she remains your student," Poppy said.

Snape nodded frustrated and turned to go. He did not get far when Poppy spoke again.

"Severus," Poppy said thoughtfully, "She cares about you. More than I could hope for. After what has been said between you, it is only a matter of time until she understands that you feel more for her than you are permitted. The only question is, when Julie will understand that she feels the same for you."

Snape stopped and turned to face her.

"Why are you so sure of this," he asked irritably.

"It is obvious. In addition, there is still Sybill's prediction," Poppy reminded him.

Snape scoffed, "Sybill's prediction? It referred alone to me. It is not clear whether Miss Abbott will feel the same," he said with audible bitterness, his expressionless mask back in place.

Poppy smiled at him and walked slowly toward him. As she stood before him, she put her hands on his shoulders and massaged them gently.

"Didn't you hear what she just told you? She does not know what's going on, but I know it," Poppy said with a knowing smile.

"And what would that be," Snape asked, slightly irritated.

"I think that the spark has kindled a fire. Give Julie a few days to get used to it."

Snape looked at her blankly. "What are you talking about," he asked with audible confusion.

"She has started falling in love with you," said Poppy with a grin.

"How do you know that," Snape asked, as he obviously had trouble to keep his mask on.

"I may be old, but I have ears and eyes. Even if I were blind, I would have noticed it. Let's go back to the hospital wing," said Poppy. "You'll soon see that I was right."

 

Julie slept when Snape and Poppy approached her bed.

"You know Severus, someday we will look back on this time and laugh about it," Poppy said as she paused beside the bed.

"I do not know what is supposed to be funny about this situation," Snape said, as he eyed Julie with doubtful look on his face.

"You know the saying, all good things take time," Poppy asked.

Snape raised an eyebrow and looked at Poppy doubtfully. "All good things take time? Of course I've heard that before," he said. "What's your point?"

"Love is like a delicate rose which grows slowly. In order that the rose may bloom in all its beauty, it takes time," Poppy said with a smile. "And patience."

"Patience," Snape repeated angrily.

"For the present moment, yes," replied Poppy. "Later, it requires a lot of love, affection and care, so it doesn't fade."

Snape grumbled something inaudible under his breath and looked at Julie one last time before he left the hospital wing.

"All good things take time.. love is like a delicate rose," Snape murmured mockingly, shaking his head as he closed the door of the hospital wing.

Despite Poppy's terrible choice of words Snape wondered, if Poppy was right in her assumption. Did Miss Abbott began to fall for him? If this were the case, how would he handle the situation? And more importantly, what would he do to find out, if Poppy's assumption was right?

Chapter Text

- Four days later-

"Cursed be the wizard," Snape murmured contemptuously when he walked down the hall with a lugubrious air.

There it was again, the all too familiar anger that had been his constant companion for a long time. Snape had tried to suppress his anger, but today he had failed miserably. It concerned Miss Abbott, he said to himself, in order to justify his failure. He had intended to restrain his anger, but he had eventually failed. Being driven almost mad by Albus' apparent carelessness.

The words which Miss Abbott's had said a few days ago to him, lingered constantly in his thoughts. They had touched him deeply, but had also put him under pressure. Snape was worried that that what he would offer her, could not meet her expectations. He might disappoint her. Miss Abbott's words had been spoken with honesty. But was he really as strong as she claimed? Self-doubt returned regularly and Snape tried not to be influenced by it. And that was easier when Julie was near him. But in the last few days he had been seldom in the hospital wing. A conscious decision on his part, which Snape had not liked. It felt wrong not to be with Miss Abbott. Yesterday they had a long conversation, after which Snape had felt unusually peaceful. Yesterday's calm was now replaced by anger which had seized him. He was angry at Albus.

He reached for the doorknob before he stormed into his office. With an angry movement Snape threw the door shut and walked over to his desk, his dark cloak trailed behind him. This impossible wizard! What he thought who he was? Why had Dumbledore not informed him? Snape clenched his hands into fists, as he thought of Albus. He had already suspected it, but when Albus had then confirmed it with a smile on his lips, Snape had exploded with rage. His shoulders slumped as he was reminded again of his failure.

Snape grabbed his chair when he suddenly stopped. His distorted face was now filled with doubt. He felt a tingling sensation on his skin, which he already knew too well. She was here. He felt her presence. He slowly turned around and saw Julie, who sat in the corner on a chair. She looked deeply worried, her forehead was placed in deep wrinkles and he could see the uncertainty in her eyes. Snape was worried that his angry appearance had probably not left the best impression on her. He wanted to say something, but did not know what. Without knowing what he was doing, he walked slowly toward her.

"I did not know you were coming today," Snape said softly, trying sounding friendly, so she would not hear the anger, which slowly decreased in him. In fact, Snape had not expected to find Julie in his office. While Poppy had told him that she was planning to dismiss Julie today, Snape had not expected that she would appear on the same day for detention. He was surprised.

Julie stood up and kneaded her fingers nervously. "Um, Madam Pomfrey has dismissed me today," she said shyly and turned her gaze nervously from him before she continued. "You were not there when I arrived. I have checked if the door was locked. When the door was unlocked, I came in. I know that that was wrong. I'm sorry. I should have waited, "she apologized at once in the hope that Professor Snape would forgive their intrusion.

He looked at her and nodded slowly. Snape hated it when someone came into his office without permission, but Miss Abbott's presence was always welcome.

"That's okay," he said finally. "You can come here anytime, even if I'm not here."

His words surprised her, "Are you sure," Julie asked, looking at him wide-eyed.

Snape noticed the sparkle in her eyes, which expressed her joy. His heart somersaulted and he nodded in agreement.

"My office is often open, even if I'm not here. However, my private rooms are closed. Of course you can come here. You can feel at home" he said, gesturing with his hand through his office as he spoke.

Julie was puzzled. Her gaze followed his hand and eventually returned to him. "Feel at home," she said, to make sure she had heard correctly.

Snape heard the surprise in her voice, but also a large proportion of joy, which was hard to miss. It brought him immeasurable satisfaction, as he was now certain that he had been right in his assumption. Miss Abbott liked his office.

"Is there a place in Hogwarts, where you feel more comfortable than in my office," Snape asked tentative, while he was doing a step toward her.

While Julie thought about his question, Snape waited impatiently for her answer. She was still pale, the bump on her forehead was no longer visible and the bruise slowly faded away. His eyes wandered to her lips, which were rosy, pressed to a thin line, while she looked around nervously. Snape's lips parted and he leaned slightly back to inconspicuously create more distance between them. He was definitely too close to her, which made him nervous, his body wanted to be even closer to her, while his mind advised him to keep a distance.

"No," Julie replied finally. It was true, she felt nowhere better than when she was with him. Um, in his office, Julie corrected her spontaneous thoughts immediately.
This happened to her since days. Constantly her thoughts traveled strange paths. And the worst was that she could not stop it. She also had to admit that these thoughts were often very pleasant, while she sometimes felt ashamed for them. Julie had been missing Professor Snape on those days, when he had not visited her in the hospital wing. Julie felt his gaze and a tingle went through her body. This was something new, unknown. But despite their Initial dislike for this feeling, she had to admit that she liked it now. It was more than just pleasant and became stronger when she was near him.

"Should I continue to sit in the corner," she asked, trying desperately to control her thoughts.

"Your detention has ended," said Snape with a smile. Surely she would be pleased with this news.

Julie was profoundly disappointed, what could be seen for a fraction of a moment in her expression. Disappointment flooded her features. Her detention has ended? How so? Julie closed her mouth without having said anything and looked at Snape in horror. The first clear thought which she could grasp, was the desire not to reveal to him her deep disappointment. What would he think about her? Julie shook her head. Was she sick in the head? Since when did she want to serve detention voluntarily? She rubbed her forehead in confusion and thought hard what to say to that.

"Very good," she said softly, desperately searching for other words, which she did not find. Damn, she thought, and decided to exchange the topic, in order to divert the attention from her and her visible uneasiness.

"Why were you so angry when you came," said Julie, looking at him questioningly.

Immediately, she was aware that it was a sensitive issue, which she had mentioned. Perhaps she should not have asked him this. But Julie understood immediately the real reason behind her question. Of course, she wanted to change the subject, and she really wondered what had upset Professor Snape to such degree. But in truth, she was looking for a reason to stay. The fact that she no longer had to serve detention, came absolutely unexpected. She might begin a conversation with him and stay a little longer. All this was totally crazy. But she wanted nothing more than to stay a little longer with him.

It was absolutely silent and everything Professor Snape did, was looking at her. His face was rigid and serious, but Julie realized that he was not angry. Then Snape indicated her to sit. Snape took another chair and sat down opposite her. Then he raised his eyebrows, took a deep breath and looked at her.

"I was with Albus, um, Professor Dumbledore. We talked about what happened in Hogsmeade. I had suspected that Albus knew of the potential danger that could await you," Snape said grimly. "My suspicions were confirmed. If I had known that they are looking for you, I would never have allowed you to go alone to Hogsmeade," Snape said clearly angry.

Julie sighed deeply. She definitely had asked the wrong question. Why did she do that? What should she say?

"I knew about it," she admitted quietly. Julie intertwined her fingers convulsively as she quickly dropped her gaze. Snape looked at her incredulously and Julie felt the lump in her throat grow steadily as she felt his intense gaze.

"Well, I knew it could possibly happen," she added to soothe his anger. "I knew that they might find me some day. However, I was hoping that this would never happen," she said, sighing deeply afterwards.

"You hoped" Snape asked clearly upset, "You have hoped that they would not find you?" His voice sounded angry and desperate at the same time. Miss Abbott did not know much of the world and Snape shook his head in frustration. He tried to put on his expressionless mask, but could not. Why was it suddenly difficult to do this? Snape ran his fingers through his hair and admitted to himself that he did not want it. He did no longer want to wear his mask. At least not in front of her. It was a risk, but he sensed that it would anyway not change anything about their relationship. What was meant to be, would certainly happen, no matter what he did. And what wasn't meant to happen... he shoved the thought rudely aside.

"You can never underestimate them, otherwise they will destroy you," he said. "They are greedy creatures who do not value the lives of others. They are concerned only about fame and money," he said urgently. "You've just experienced that yourself. I know what I'm talking about. I have made my own experiences in this regard. And my experiences were horrible. Why did you not tell me," he asked in dismay and looked at it quizzically.

Snape could not understand why Miss Abbott had not spoken to him about this. Had she really believed that she would be lucky and would not be found? Or did she feel so safe at Hogwarts that she had not consciously thought about it?

Julie was deeply touched by his visible concern and felt infinitely guilty. Her eyes met his and she swallowed hard.

"I did not mean to burden you even more. You're already doing so much for me," replied Julie and glanced nervously at her hands.

Snape clenched his fists unconsciously, as renewed anger surged through his body.

"How can I protect you if I do not know what could happen to you," Snape asked and paused for a moment, in an attempt to calm down.
"You can trust me. Can you not understand how much worry it causes me that you withheld this fact from me? I have taken so much trouble to help you. Why have you been so careless? Your life is precious. Why do you deal with it so thoughtlessly?"

Snape was silent for a moment before he leaned slightly forward, his gaze intently, his eyes filled with doubt.

"Can you promise me that you will withhold nothing important from me in the future," he asked cautiously, while he looked at her expectantly.

Julie returned his gaze for a long time in silence. How could she not promise him this, she thought, and nodded slowly.

"Yes, I promise," she said finally.

Snape was immensely relieved. He was sure, that she would keep her word. But was there more?

"Is there something you want to tell me now," he asked searchingly.

Julie swallowed hard and looked down at her hands. She had been thinking about whether she should talk to him about the changes, which were happening inside her. She wanted to, but now that she sat before him, she was too nervous to reveal her feelings. Why was she nervous? Julie sighed and shook her head.

"No," she replied slowly, looking at him again.

Snape nodded and looked at it for a moment thoughtfully.

"All right," said Snape, as he leaned back in his chair, "I want you to participate in all school lessons. If you have a problem, you can come to me any time. If you do not have a problem, you can still come to me at any time. Try to relax and feel like you're at home. In one week we will begin to practice for your examination. Until then, do whatever you like and as I said before, try to relax."

Julie nodded and was disappointed when Snape stood. The conversation was apparently over and she left his office disappointed. Why did she feel like this, Julie wondered as she walked slowly back to Slytherin's common room. She should be happy that she no longer had to serve detention. Instead, she felt rejected by him.

*****

It was not easy to relax, Julie had to admit. The days after her conversation with Professor Snape passed slowly. There were only a few days left until they would begin to practice for her examination and Julie was more than relieved. Why, she wondered as she lay awake in her bed one evening. No matter how many times she had tried to convince herself otherwise, she could not deny that she was glad to soon spend more time with Professor Snape.
Julie cuddled down into her cushions and grabbed her small cushion which she pressed firmly in her face. She inhaled the smell consciously. It brought her an uneasy feeling that she tried to ignore. She removed her cushion from her face and stared at the ceiling. After a few minutes Julie rolled over onto her stomach and reached for a small notebook, then for her wand.

"Lumos," she whispered in the dark, which immediately gave way to the light that radiated from the tip of her wand. Slowly she began to leaf through the notebook. She grabbed a pencil and started added more notes.

The next night Julie was again awake in her bed. She quietly got up and left the dormitory. A little later she stood in front of Professor Snape's office and knocked again, louder than before - in vain. Nothing seemed to stir in his office. Julie opened the door cautiously and entered the dark office. Apparently the professor was not there. She had so often been in his office, that her feet easily found their way through the darkness. Julie lit the candles, which had gone out a long time ago, then the fire in the fireplace and sat down in one of his armchairs. She sank back, looking furtively into the flames, which danced brightly in the fireplace. Finally. At last she felt better. She sighed softly and reached for a blanket which was on the second armchair and cuddled up in the seat as best she could.

Julie smiled in sleep and snuggled deeper into the armchair when she was touched again. Slowly she opened her eyes. Professor Snape knelt before her and looked at her quizzically. He was pale and seemed tired, but she also noticed that he seemed satisfied. Was it because of her? Was he pleased that she had come? Julie's eyes widened and she sat up slowly, trying to banish the absurd idea from her head.

"Is everything all right," he asked her.

His voice was low and deep and Julie got goose bumps. What the hell was wrong with her? She knew his voice, she had heard it countless times, but suddenly it made her skin crawl? Julie shook her head agitated.

"What happened," Snape asked anxiously as he extensively studied her expression.

"Nothing," replied Julie.

"But you've shaken your head when I asked you if everything was okay," Snape said and sat down on the other armchair.

"Um, I just thought of something," she said quickly, not wanting to betray the true reason. How could she? Should she tell him that she got goose bumps when he spoke? How ridiculous!

Snape looked at her searchingly. "Why are you here," he asked as he tried to maintain a neutral expression.

Julie looked at him for a moment furtively, "You said I should feel at home and relax. I can't do that nowhere better than here," she said shyly. "As you already know, I feels like at home when I'm here. I hope my presence does not bother you," she asked, looking at him expectantly. "I can leave immediately if you want."

Snape looked at her with a strange expression.

"No, no, you can be here," he replied quickly. Too fast, he thought to himself, but then he did not care when she would understand what he felt for her. Eventually, she would know anyway. "I told you that you can come here whenever you want. During lessons you appear very tired and exhausted in the last few days. Are you afraid, because we will begin to practice soon," he asked quietly.

Julie shook her head. "Well, I am not afraid, not yet, but I'm nervous," she admitted sheepishly, but did not tell him that her nervousness had its origin in him.

"You do not need to be nervous," he said, "I am going to be the one with whom you practice. I will not hurt you," Snape assured her. "Is that the only thing that disturbs you," he inquired.

"Um, I have to confess that I have not slept at all the past two nights," said Julie.

Snape leaned forward, eyeing her closely.

"Have you drunk your potion," he asked searchingly. What else could be the reason that she had not slept?

Julie nodded quickly, "Yes, yes, I've been drinking my potion. Every night. But I could not sleep anyway."

This was not possible. How could that be, he wondered. "Do you know the reason for your sleepless nights," Snape asked thoughtfully.

Julie swallowed hard and stared at him wide-eyed. She could impossibly answer this question honestly. So she shook her head.

"What do you do at night," he asked searchingly.

"Well, I'm thinking... and writing," replied Julie, clearly hesitant.

"And what are you thinking about," Snape asked in an attempt to understand why she could not sleep despite the sleeping potion.

"About many things," Julie replied evasively.

It was correct. She thought about countless things. But the fact that all her thoughts were associated with Professor Snape, she did not tell him. Her thoughts were as if they had been infected by him. And as a result, her body reacted accordingly.

Snape leaned back and eyed Julie thoughtfully.

"And what you write at night," he asked cautiously, as he understood that she had purposely avoided answering his first question.

"Um, notes. Things which I heard during the day, "she replied, blushing slightly.

It was true, however, cupped her small notebook merely a collection of quotes, and things that Professor Snape had told her. It was a small treasure of immeasurable value. Julie felt her cheeks grow hot and she lowered her gaze to her hands, which were resting on her lap.

"It must be something important, that it prevents you from sleeping," he said, looking at her searchingly. "Or something deeply troubling," he added. "If you do not tell me everything, I can not really help you," he said gently, in an attempt to make Julie speak.

Julie sighed, crossing her arms over her chest and said nothing.

Snape frowned as he realized that she did not want to talk about it with him. What stopped her from sleeping? And above all, why did she not wish to talk to him about it? She trusted him, didn't she? Yes, she did, he knew it. But still she refused to talk to him about it. No, she would definitely not tell him, what troubled her mind. What could he do but to accept that she did not want to discuss this with him? Many questions plagued him that night. Especially if her reluctance to reveal her troubled mind had something personal to do with him. Had he done something, that had disappointed her? Snape pondered deeply, but found no evidence to support this thought. He had the impression that their conversation had been relatively normal. Nevertheless, one question never left his mind: what did Miss Abbott hide from him? They had spent another hour in silence in front of the fireplace until he had given her another potion, that would relax her. He was sure that she was asleep now.

He stood in front of an open window and looked out into the night. Snape loved the cool night air, which had always had a calming effect on him. It was not as unpleasant as the air of the day, which was filled with too many disturing energies and vibrations, which fortunately rested at night. He took a deep breath and leaned against the window frame, his gaze was directed toward the Forbidden Forest. The uncertainty, which had accompanied him for months, burdened his heart and mind. Often it was hard for him to concentrate. It was ridiculous and he saw it still as a weakness. Yet he knew that it was a part of life, as Poppy had repeatedly told him. Only had he not known this side of life so far. He lowered his gaze to his interlaced fingers. Should it be their destiny, then they would certainly find each other. But Snape did not like the unknown. He had no idea when this event would happen and if it would happen at all. It was not in his control. Or was it?

Why felt Julie in his office at home? Was it because of him? Or was it the space itself? Of course, he would not ask, but he suspected that it was related to his person. She trusted him and he was almost certain that it was this fact which gave her a sense of protection, and not his office. It gave him a little confidence that he would reach his goal someday. But when would Julie understand this?

He glanced again into the night the first gray of the morning already clearly visible in the sky. Another night had passed, which he had spend thinking of Miss Abbott. This could not go on much longer. Just as Miss Abbott, Snape could not sleep despite his potion. His reason was Julie, which robbed him of his sleep. Once again he wondered, why she could not sleep. Certainly she had another reason, than him. Snape hoped, that Miss Abbott would be able to sleep again, when they started practicing. It was probably just the concern about the upcoming events, which kept her awake. Snape stepped back and closed the window, completely unaware that it was he, who robbed Julie of her well needed sleep and how far she had come on her way, to understand, that her place would be by his side.

Chapter Text

Julie took a deep breath and opened the door. The rays of sunlight fell through the windows and bathed the spacious room in golden light. She walked in and closed the door behind her. Professor Snape was not present, so she began to look around. Thick layers of dust covered the few pieces of furniture, which stood along the walls. She ran her finger over the surface of a table and examined her fingertip, which was now thickly covered by dust.

A frown appeared on her forehead and she began to wipe off the dust from her index finger with her thumb. Slowly her fingertip was freed of the dust, until only a thin gray layer of dirt remained. Julie sighed deeply as she tried to wipe off the dirt on her T-shirt. Meanwhile, she remembered the conversation which she had had with the professor. When Professor Snape had visited her in the hospital wing the last time, he had spoken to her again about the importance to leave her past behind. She had to discard her burden to finally be free. The first step would be to accept her past and to leave it behind. Scars would remain, like the memories, but they would affect her less than they did now. The filth which now insistently clung to her fingertip, symbolized the scars of which Professor Snape had spoken. She sighed.

Julie's eyes fell back on her index finger, which still had a shade of gray at his fingertip. Her thumb circled slowly over it and she was absolutely certain for the first time that she wanted to be free. Free of all the pain, which she still felt inside her. Free of the thoughts which disturbed and oppressed her. She wanted to replace her old experiences with new ones. She really wanted it. And she was sure that she could achieve it, with Professor Snape at her side. Julie was overwhelmed by the desire for freedom which stirred within her. A huge contrast, to the feeling which she had had not too long ago. That was just before she had come to Hogwarts. She had felt at that time, as if she sat in a small boat which had strayed into the vastness of the ocean. She had veered off course, lost in the seeming infinity of the deep, dark waters of the ocean, which represented the suffering that she had learned. She had felt so lonely that she had sometimes had had the desire, to capsize the boat in which she sat.

In her desperation, Julie had rowed disoriented on the open sea, until she eventually had no strength left. She remembered that day clearly, which could not have been worse. She had never seen so much concern and even fear in the faces of her parents. It was the day when Julie had given up. The day when she had decided to end everything, only she didn't. Unable to find a direction in which it was able to continue, she had cast the anchor in her desperation, which disappeared in the seemingly endless depths of the sea. She had done so in the hope of finding support. Something she thought she could never find. Despite the depth and vastness of the sea, she noticed at some point that her boat had stopped to sail disoriented on the sea.

No matter how strong the storms were since, her anchor had never failed to give her support. It had withstood the severest storms. Against all expectations her anchor had neither anchored in the seabed, nor in a reef. It lay deeply embedded in the place, which she now called her home. A place of shelter, which she had found, despite of the depth and vastness of the sea. The home, which she had desperately searched for, had no walls and no roof, neither doors nor windows, which she could close if she was afraid, or, if she wanted to withdraw from the world. No, her home was not a place on a map. Her home, had no house number, but a name. Surprisingly it was a man who could not have been more different than her, And yet, he was so similar to her. Her anchor had solidly anchored in Professor Snape and Julie knew that she would never hoist her anchor, whatever would come, Julie would not risk losing him.

Her gaze wandered from her finger to the window before she closed her eyes in an attempt to accept her past. She knew that she could do it, because she was no longer alone. Her breathing accelerated sharply as she focused on the feeling in her stomach. It felt awful. She immediately felt very miserable. Her breath trembled and Julie flinched as she steered with full speed toward this feeling. She did not notice the tears that began to roll down her cheeks as the first images and memories appeared in her mind.

She saw her classmates that had often teased her because of her knowledge. She saw the boy who had hurt her countless times, the boy, who took pleasure in her agonizing screams, who stood grinning over her while she almost went mad with pain. Then there was the Headmaster, who seemed to smile at first, when she began to reveal to him her suffering. The two classmates that had later startled her nearly to death with their cries of 'crucio', while they enjoyed the fact that she burst into tears. The boy, who cornered her like an animal, who relished to watch her body tremble with fear as he raised his wand menacingly, to torture her again.

Julie's hands flew up and she covered her ears with them in an attempt to stop the different noises which she heard, while her mind was plagued by ever more memories. And then it came, overwhelming anger, which rolled over her like a wild fire. The fire was ablaze, greedy flames licked at her soul and slowly ate their way through her. Julie was overcome by a vile feeling. She squirmed back and forth, her ears still covered by her hands, her eyes squeezed shut. An eternity seemed to have passed, when she suddenly grabbed a chair and threw it with full force into the closest window. With a loud clank the glass shattered into countless pieces while Julie staggered backwards.

Snape saw her fall and was immediately at her side. He held her firmly before he slowly pulled her against his body. Julie leaned against him and allowed him to hold her. Silently they stood there until her breathing had slowed considerably and the tension in her body eased. Then, Julie turned to him and leaned her forehead against his shoulder. It was like a balm for her soul, as Professor Snape put his arms around her. When Julie had finally calmed down, he let her go. She looked at him and sighed deeply when she had difficulties to find suitable words.

"That was your anger," Snape said quietly to explain to her what had just happened. He looked into her eyes, which were red and slightly swollen.

Julie blinked a few times before she frowned, "My anger," she asked, her voice weak and soft.

"Yes, it is not possible that someone does you great wrong and you remain indifferent. The anger is there. You have not perceived your anger before, because your pain was too great. Since your inner wounds have begun to slowly heal, it was finally possible for you to recognize your anger," Snape explained.

Julie nodded in a daze and then sighed again. "I feel better, freer, if that is the right word."

"This means that you are on the right track," said Snape.

Julie furrowed her brow and looked at him for a moment thoughtfully before her lips parted.

"During our Legilimency session," she said, hesitating, "Um .. I could feel your anger," she said. "You have never explained why. Did that happen, because your inner wounds are healing?"

"Yes and no," he replied. "The anger that I felt, had its origin mainly in the fact that I have seen and understood the extent of your suffering. It made me very angry," said Snape.

Julie looked at him silently.

"Furthermore," Snape paused for a moment, his gaze wandered to the damaged window. Finally, he nodded thoughtfully and looked her straight in the eye again. "My wounds do heal. I want to thank you for this conversation, I now understand why I have problems to curb my anger at the moment. I was afraid, thinking, that I was drifting over to the dark side again. But now I know, that I was wrong in my assumption. It seems to me as if we both are at the same point in our development, when it comes to leaving our past behind. Your words have helped me to understand why I was inclined these days to get angry."

Snape paused and Julie put her hand flat on his chest, in an attempt to express her gratitude. As if by reflex, Snape put his right hand on hers and enjoyed the warmth that emanated from her hand. Unlike him, Miss Abbott had mostly warm hands while his often felt cold and clammy. Silently they stood facing each other, while the silence was occasionally interrupted by Julie's sighs.

"I do not know what I would have done without you. I do not know what would have become of me, if you had not been there," said Julie, her gaze fixed on his hand, which still rested on hers.

"You would certainly have perished in your distress," he said softly.

Julie looked at him, her gaze filled with frustration, while she sighed loudly.

"Just like me," he added, "Exactly the same would have happened to me if I had not met you. It would have taken probably longer in my case than in yours, but my downfall was foreseeable, just as yours."

Tears gathered in her eyes and did not even try to hold them back. Slowly, large hot tears began to roll over her flushed cheeks and she leaned forward slightly. As Professor Snape did not seem to object, she leaned her forehead against his chest. The cool skin of his hand, which was placed there, touched her cheek, and she caught herself, as she nestled her cheek against his hand. Snape shuddered as he felt her hot breath, which slowly seeped through the many layers of his clothes. It was clear that she was looking for closeness and security as he felt Julie nestle her cheek against his hand. He fought successfully against the desire to wrap his arms around her and pull her closer. It would appear as if he would reciprocated her gesture, even if he would do it in a different way than her. Instead, he stroked her back soothingly, steady, slow movements, which calmed her considerably. He would be strong, for both of them. He knew his goal and he would protect them both, just like Poppy had said.

 

"Oculus Reparo."

Julie watched as Professor Snape repaired the window and sighed. They had spent the last hour talking to each other. Now it was time to begin practicing and Julie suddenly felt the all too familiar nervousness arise in her again. Slowly she rose from the chair on which she had sat, still watching the professor. Why was she nervous, she wondered, when Snape abruptly turned to face her.

Snape immediately noticed that she was nervous, but was convinced that the upcoming practices were responsible for her nervousness. To cheer her mood a little, he decided to make a joke, which referred to the spell, which he had just used.

"At least we have a spell in the event that you should loose limbs during our practice session," said Snape with a grin, while he waved his wand around.

Julie looked at him stunned before she giggled. Professor Snape had actually cracked a joke. The grin on his face was evident when he realized, that Miss Abbott had understood his joke. It was not his strength to make others laugh, but when he saw the relief in her face, he made a mental note, to do something like that more often, only to make her happy. Julie's cheerful mood sank quickly when Snape indicated her with a flick of his wand to get into position. With a heavy heart, she went to the other end of the room as she chewed nervously on her bottom lip. She took a few deep breaths, in an attempt to calm down and concentrate.

Snape positioned himself and lifted his eyebrows expectantly when suddenly there was a knock at the door. Minerva entered the room, her eyes wandered searchingly from Snape to Julie and then back to Snape.

"Severus, I'm sorry to bother you, but Albus is looking for you," she said, looking at him apologetically.

The surprise at her unexpected appearance in Snape's face disappeared immediately and he looked distinctly annoyed when he took a step toward Minerva.

"Why now," he asked, annoyance evident in his voice. "It is not enough, when I come later," Snape asked.

Minerva sighed and shook her head. "Unfortunately not, it is of utmost importance. Albus expects you in his office - now. I will accompany Miss Abbott back to her common room."

Snape's face darkened as he watched Minerva's gestures. This would be more than just a normal meeting with Albus. His instinct told him that he would not like what Albus had to say. Snape nodded and threw Julie a brief apologetic look before he left the room.

*****

"You can't be serious," said Snape visibly shocked.

Albus nodded slowly, "Unfortunately, it is so, Severus. I'm very sorry."

"Why now? Can not this wait until the exams are over," Snape asked excitedly, clenching his fists. "Why now? I promised her that I would help her. I can not just walk away now and leave her alone." Snape looked at Albus desperately. "I gave her my word," he said pleadingly. "Can't you do something?"

Albus leaned forward and looked at Snape long before he spoke.

"The order comes from the Ministry of Magic. It's not a request, but an obligation, which you have to perform," Albus reminded him. "Poppy will keep an eye on Miss Abbott and ensure that she is well. Maybe," Albus looked at Severus searchingly, "Maybe she needs to go through this alone," he mused.

"No, I'm not convinced," replied Snape frustrated.

"Severus, I understand your situation, but please understand that I can not help you. Not this time," said Albus.

Snape sank into the chair, which stood before Albus' desk and rubbed his forehead, which was placed in deep wrinkles. Minerva walked into the office and Snape looked at her quizzically, "Does she know," he asked, sounding absolutely miserable.

Minerva nodded, "Yes, I told her that you will be absent for a long time. However, I have concealed the reasons from Miss Abbott."

Snape nodded slowly and stood up to leave the office. As the door closed unusually quiet, Minerva looked at Albus worriedly.

"That was bad timing, it could not be worse," she said, shaking her head. "You should have seen her expression when I told her about the change."

Albus nodded slowly, "Please take care, that Mister Whisp will not come too close to her while Severus is absent. In the same regard, keep an eye on the new teacher. I've heard things about him."

"What kind of things did you hear," Minerva asked, frowning.

*****

Snape stomped through the hallway of Hogwarts, and was glad that everyone kept a distance. On his way to Albus' office, he had wondered what the headmaster wanted, what was so important that it could not wait. Snape had expected a lot, but not that he was called to the Ministry of Magic to embark on a secret mission. That was the very last thing that would have come to his mind. Snape clenched his hands to fists as he rounded the corner.

Was is not irresponsible to replace a teacher mere weeks before the final exams? Who knew which teacher would replace him? Albus would certainly explain him something about Miss Abbott's situation. Certainly, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher would have understanding for her case. Snape's frown deepened. Would another take his place? Would Julie practice with him for her practical exam? Jealousy welled up in his chest and Snape did not even try to suppress the feeling. He trusted Julie, but he did not trust any other man, except perhaps Dumbledore. He pushed open the door of his office and slammed it shut with a loud bang.

Chapter Text

Snape sat absentmindedly before his fireplace and stared into the dancing flames. He had planned to visit Miss Abbott after dinner, but to Severus' chagrin, Albus had spontaneously called him for another meeting. After the meeting was over, Snape had then come to Slytherin's common room, but he had not found Miss Abbott there. Julie had been clearly depressed when she had sat at the dinner table that night, poking at her food, without eating anything. He too had lost his appetite and had paid no attention to his food. Snape had wanted to go to her, he had wanted to talk to her. He wanted to tell her so much, but then he found no words to express what he felt.

Now it was late in the evening and his clothes were already packed, standing beside his door. He had to leave the next morning. But he was not ready to leave Hogwarts, he was not ready to leave her. The stress, which he had felt in the afternoon, had now turned into a blank feeling. He could not even get angry about what happened that day. Even fatigue seemed to have distanced itself from him. A strange state, Snape thought.

A sudden knocking interrupted his thoughts. Snape rolled his eyes annoyed and only stood up when the knock repeated. Only Albus had the nerve to disturb him that late at night, he thought, as he headed for the door. When Snape opened his door, he was surprised to see Miss Abbott. Dressed in a simple Slytherin sweater and sweatpants, she stood before him 'armed' with her little pillow and looked at him quizzically.

Without saying a word, Snape gestured her to come in. Julie headed immediately for the armchair on which she preferably sat. She sighed as she sat down. Julie angled her legs to her body and her chin rested on her small pillow that lay on her knees. After a few minutes she began to draw small patterns on the armrest. She noticed, that the armchairs fabric and patterns were both rather dated. Nevertheless, she liked them. It fit into his office and to Professor Snape.

Snape watched silently as her slender fingers drew circles and other shapes on the armrest. He was glad that she had come and leaned his head slowly back without averting his gaze from her. He looked at her hair, which was slightly disheveled. A proof that she had been lying in bed before she had come. His thumb ran slowly down his fingertips while he imagined, to wake up next to her.

Julie looked up and their eyes met. He had watched her while she had been thinking with nagging frustration about the turn of events. Professor Snape's expression was blank, but in his eyes she seemed to see the same feelings which she felt, namely anger and a lot of frustration. Were this his feelings, or did Julie project her feelings onto him? She sighed softly.

"I'm so sorry," said Snape suddenly.

"Is this your fault," she said gently, while she was searching in his eyes for the answer.

Snape took a deep breath, "Not really," he said softly. "But," he looked at her doubtfully, "You could say that I am myself to blame. After all, I'm the one who has made the decisions in my life. And
some of my decisions were wrong, as you already know."

"Are you having problems," she said clearly worried, "Because of what you've done before?"

Snape immediately shook his head, "No, it's something else."

Julie nodded and a few minutes passed, until she spoke again.

"This came as a shock to me," she admitted softly, as she looked at the floor and nervously tapped her foot.

Snape nodded slowly, "I felt the same," he replied.

Their eyes met again.

"Where are you going," she said gently, and added at once, "If you are allowed to share this information with me."

He shook his head silently and Julie sighed in frustration.

"I've been thinking a lot while I was in bed," she said slowly. "I think you have told me much in recent months what will help me to pass through this unexpected situation. With this knowledge, I hope to survive your absence," she said softly.

Survive his absence? Snape frowned as he heard her words.

"Do you remember much of what I told you," he asked searchingly while he looked at her intently.

Julie nodded, "Yes, I remember a lot. The most important things I have never forgotten."

Snape raised his eyebrows surprised, "Then you must have a very good memory," he said, "We talked a lot."

Julie smiled, but did not comment on his words. She would not tell him that many of his words had found their way into her small notebook. That would certainly sound strange.

They sat in silence before the fireplace until Snape suddenly stood up. Julie's gaze followed him and she wondered what was behind the door through which he disappeared. Probably his private rooms, thought Julie, his bedroom.. She blushed at the thought and was glad that she was not super nervous tonight. Probably it was because her feelings were currently largely of a worried nature. Julie sighed deeply. She had not been able to sleep and had hoped, to spend a little time with him before he would leave in the morning. She startled when she heard footsteps behind her.
Snape sat down in his armchair, opened a bag and offered her to help herself to some chocolate. The bag was almost brimful filled with chocolate.

"One would think that you had planned a celebration, with this amount of chocolate," commented Julie, while she helped herself generously.

Snape looked at her, frowning, clearly surprised by her words. "Celebration," he repeated with a tired smile, "I must confess that my motive was less festive. Since you will avoid trips to Hogsmeade in the future, I thought, with our forthcoming practices, that a supply of chocolate would not hurt," he said, as he opened a chocolate frog. "With the unexpected change ... we will not practice," he fell silent and stared at the chocolate frog sullenly. "I need chocolate," he said, then looked at her, "And you too, right?"

She nodded silently and Snape turned his attention back to the chocolate frog, which had begun to melt under his touch.

Julie sat motionless and looked at him. Not a word came to her mind with which she could express the gratitude which she felt for him. He had gone for her to Hogsmeade to buy chocolate. He was neither a member of her family, nor a close relative, but he took care of her, as if he were very close to her. Julie wondered what position she held in his life. She knew that he needed her and that he depended on her, but did he accept her as part of his family, which did not exist? Her gaze was filled with sadness as she thought about how lonely he was. Julie realized that the next two months would be difficult not only for her but also for him. She felt guilty because she had spent the entire evening lamenting because he would leave Hogwarts. She would be lonely. But Professor Snape would be just as lonely as she would be.

"May I write to you," she asked suddenly and interrupted his thoughts.

Snape looked at her and Julie was certain, that sadness was lingering in his eyes.

"No," he replied tersely.

His unexpected answer surprised her very much and Snape immediately noticed the disappointment that was written all over her face.

"You can not have knowledge of my whereabouts. If you should have a problem, you can talk about it with Miss Nott, or, Professor Dumbledore," Snape explained.

Julie frowned when he mentioned the headmaster. She had no interest in meeting him, let alone to speak with him. Snape had noticed her displeasure immediately and leaned slightly over to her,

"I know you do not like him much, but if you should have a serious problem, he will be the one with whom you will speak," he said earnestly.

"Why Professor Dumbledore," she asked, slightly upset. "Why not Professor McGonagall? Or Madam Pomfrey," said Julie excited. "I want to talk to Madam Pomfrey, if I have a serious problem," she declared.

"It's Dumbledore," he said, frustrated by his sudden harsh tone.

Julie looked at him distraught and leaned back disappointed.

"Albus is the only person in Hogwarts who will know my whereabouts. That's why you'll go to him, if you should have serious difficulties," Snape explained. "In an emergency, he can contact me."

His words were convincing, but nevertheless Julie's heart sank.

After they had eaten nearly half of the chocolate, they sat for a long time in silence in front of the fireplace, both deep in thought. Finally Snape rose hesitantly. He could spend all night like this, silently sitting with Julie in front of the fireplace, staring into the flames. It would deeply satisfy him. But Miss Abbott had to attend classes in the morning. It was time for her to go back to the dormitory. With a heavy heart he hinted her to follow him.

Julie followed him to the door and sighed as he turned to her.

"Poppy has your sleeping potion and a few more specific potions, which you hopefully will not need during my absence," he said, almost toneless.

Julie nodded and looked desperate when he reached for the door handle.

"Professor Snape," she said suddenly.

He paused and looked at her quizzically.

"Um," Julie knew exactly what she wanted to ask, but was suddenly afraid. After much back and forth, she looked directly at him and blushed before she began to speak.

"Um, if you do not mind ..," she paused and looked down, embarrassed.

Snape waited patiently, that she would continue talking and wondered, what was so hard for her to say. Ultimately, she looked up and their eyes met again.

"It may sound strange, but can you embrace me one last time?" She had blushed deeply and bit her bottom lip embarrassed, hoping, that he would not reject her request.

For a moment Snape forgot to breathe. Then he nodded slowly and made a step toward her. Julie returned his embrace and buried her face in his chest. Snape had decided to end their embrace only when she was ready, but when Miss Abbott made no move to do so, he did. He stroked her back gently before he deliberately made a step backwards. Julie appeared oddly relaxed, but in her eyes he saw worry and anxiety.

"Thank you," she murmured softly, almost as if to herself.

When she tried to leave the office, Snape grabbed her arm.

"You can do this. No matter what comes, I'll try your return for your practical exam, even if it would be only for a few hours," he said to reassure her.

Julie nodded silently and Professor Snape brought her back to the door, which led to Slytherin's common room. When she closed the door behind her and stood alone in dark common room, a huge lump formed in her throat. With slumped shoulders she made her way to the dormitory.

*****

Julie frowned when she saw Professor Dumbledore, who was standing in Slytherin's common room. He had already announced during yesterday's dinner, that he would act as Slytherin's head of house, during Professor Snape's absence, which had led to great displeasure amongst the students. His early morning visit, however, was surprising.

"Come on, go to him before he prompts you to do so," said Jean and gave Julie a little push in his direction.

Julie sighed and walked slowly toward the headmaster, her head filled with countless questions, especially, what did he want from her? Why he wanted to see her now, on the very morning on which Professor Snape had left Hogwarts? Distrust was evident in her features as she approached him. She stopped near him and looked at him silently.

A smile appeared on Albus' lips when he saw her expression, which was a mixture of distrust, worry and doubt.

"Miss Abbott, please come with me," he said, before he left the common room.

Julie followed him hesitantly and together they walked down the hall. To her surprise, they went to the office of Professor Snape. Dumbledore opened the door with an unusual looking key and she followed him inside, where he turned to her.

"Severus has left this morning, as you already know. He asked me to give you this," Dumbledore said, as he gave her the key of Snape's office. "You can come here at any time, but Severus wants you to sleep at night in Slytherin's dormitory."

Julie hesitated for a moment before she took the key. She took a closer look. Besides its unusual shape, the key was unusually heavy and lay cold and hard in her hand.

"You are surely aware that nobody but you should enter his office," Albus said, looking searchingly at Julie.

Of course she knew that. Julie nodded silently, her eyes transfixed on the key, as if she held a treasure in her hand.

"The key is enchanted. Not only that it is the only one with such shape, it can only be used by three people," added Dumbledore with a smile.

Julie looked at him curiously.

"By Severus, me, and of course you," answered Albus her unspoken question. "I hope I'll see you at breakfast," said Dumbledore.

Julie nodded and watched as the headmaster left the office. After Professor Dumbledore had gone, Julie looked longingly through Snape's office. She missed him already, she admitted to herself with a sigh. Her eyes fell on the key, which she held in her hand. Why had he not given her the key himself? Perhaps Professor Snape had had no time to do this? Perhaps he had forgotten?Julie shook her head, no, that did not sound like the Professor. Maybe, maybe he had done it on purpose? But why? Julie's gaze wandered to his desk, which was empty. Maybe he did this to make her understand that she could trust Professor Dumbledore? Julie frowned. Only three people could use the key and Dumbledore was one of them. She knew that Professor Snape had often been angry with Dumbledore. Regardless, he allowed him access to his office. Maybe Snape trusted him as he trusted her?

She bit her lower lip and and decided to skip breakfast this morning, instead she would stay in his office. Julie sat down in her favorite armchair and stared into the empty fireplace, while she hoped that Professor Snape would be back soon. However, his words brought her doubts. It sounded as if Julie would not see him again until the day of her practical examination, which would mean that she would only see him in two months. A strange emptiness spread through her as she listened to the silence which prevailed in the office. She feared that the time would pass slowly until Professor Snape would come back and a strange feeling in her gut told her that until then much would happen.

Julie was glad that her classmates had shown understanding for her situation. After the incident in Hogsmeade, everyone at Hogwarts knew of Julie's past. But no one had commented on it. Everything had remained the same, for which she was very grateful. She sighed and snuggled into the armchair, unwilling leave the office. Unfortunately, she had no choice, because she had to attend classes. But for another hour she would be able to remain here.

*****

-Two days later-

"Miss Abbott, please sit down," said Professor Salvage with a smile.

Julie sank into the chair, which stood in front of his desk.

The desk was exaggeratedly packed with countless parchments and workbooks, almost as if he wanted to use them in order to express the importance of his person.

Julie looked at her new teacher sullenly.

"I am Professor Salvage," he introduced himself with a more than friendly smile.

Julie looked at him perplexed. "Salvage? Is that your really her name, or some kind of stage name," she asked, her brow furrowed.

"Do you like it," he said, chuckling. Salvage straightened his spine in order to appear taller. "I chose the name himself," he said proudly.

"You picked the the name yourself," Julie asked incredulously.

"Yes of course, because that's exactly what I'm doing. I save others," he said with a smirk and began to read in a file.

Such an idiot, she thought to herself, he calls himself Salvage. Julie looked at him, frowning, suspecting already, why he had called for her. Her suspicion was confirmed almost instantly.

"Albus has already informed me of your exceptional situation," he said, with a hideous smile as he flipped through the file. He looked at Julie, which sat impassively in the chair before him, hoping, to return as soon as possible to Slytherin's common room.

"To my knowledge, Professor ... um ...," his eyes began searching until his gaze fell on a small note, which almost disappeared beneath the mountains of parchments. "Snape, Professor Snape had planned to prepare you for the practical exam by practicing with you," he said, looking at her expectantly.

This does not concern you, Julie thought angrily. She wondered how it could be possible that Professor Salvage did not know that Severus, um, Professor Snape worked at Hogwarts and that he would replace him. Everyone had heard of Professor Snape and knew that he worked as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. Well, everyone except Professor Salvage? Either Salvage was unspeakably stupid or extremely conceited. Julie estimated that the latter was the reason responsible for his apparent ignorance. Which halfway reasonable person would call himself Salvage? To do that, spoke of pride and vanity and in his case, of pathological overconfidence. Julie wondered if Professor Snape had known, what kind of fool would replace him as teacher. He would probably not have left Hogwarts, if he had known. She questioned if Professor Salvage was capable of teaching the subject. Her gaze wandered away from him and she wondered what he was getting at.

"Well, it's no concern of yours," she said flatly.

Professor Salvage smirked at her, "Oh, this is my concern. As you already know, I'm your new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Since this is your last year of school and professor, um .."

"Snape," Julie added, her voice laced with annoyance.

"Exactly. Since this is your last year of school and Professor Snape will not return before the school year is over, I will help you," he said, looking at her willingly.

Julie frowned. Professor Snape had promised to try to come to her practical exam, to be her partner. He had applied for an exception to the Ministry of Magic, and it had already been approved by the Ministry. Salvage spoke with deep conviction when he said that Professor Snape would not be back before the school year was over. Her heart sank in her chest and she felt desperate.

"I do not need your help. I will not practice with you," she said stubbornly, while she noticed that the file, which he still held in his hands, bore her name. She frowned and looked at him directly.

"The way I see it," said Salvage and grabbed another file, "You will have trouble to pass your practical exam." His eyes scanned a few pages of the file and he glanced up at her. "Your grades are indeed excellent in all subjects, yet you have a problem with the practice in Defense Against The Dark Arts," he analyzed, "This is an extremely important school subject," he added. "You know yourself how important it is that you can protect yourself against the Dark Arts of magic." Salvage studied her carefully before he continued reading. Then he put the file aside and picked up a stack of papers, through which he leafed hastily until a strange grin appeared on his face, which was immediately replaced with a worried expression as he looked at her again.

"Your stays in the hospital wing are numerous indeed," he said, then his gaze flew over several pages. "An accident at the beginning of the school year, in the practical part of Defense Against the Dark Arts," he said, looking at her pitying. "What a coincidence." He looked back at the papers which he held in his hands, "State of exhaustion, an open fracture, minor injuries, yet another state of exhaustion, insomnia, tsk,tsk, Miss Abbott, I see a great need for you to finally turn to professional help. What is easily understood, considering what you have recently experienced, in such tender age. As you probably know, I have a lot of experience in this field. I could help you, to dispel the darkness which festers in your soul," he said confidently. "I have unfortunately not yet read your files, which had been sent by your previous school. But I will soon do so, in order get an idea of the severity of your condition," he concluded enthusiastically.

Julie almost burst with anger. Her hands were already clenched and she tried desperately to pull herself together.

"When I have an idea of the severity of your condition, I will decide how I can help you most effectively," added Salvage. After he had said this, he nodded enthusiastically. "You can go now. I'll let you know soon how we will proceed best."

She stood up abruptly to leave his office as soon as possible, which she did without saying another word to him.

*****

Julie was very angry about Professor Salvage's behavior. She didn't realize, that her feet automatically led her towards Professor Dumbledore's office. Professor McGonagall was just about to close the door when she saw Miss Abbott approaching. Her hands were still clenched, her knuckles white, while her face was twisted with rage. A rather unsettling sight, as Miss Abbott was mostly striving to be friendly. Minerva allowed Julie to enter the office without having exchanged a word with her.

"Ah, Miss Abbott, please come here and sit down," Albus said, pointing at an empty chair.

Julie had no intention to sit down, she was seething with anger. She decided to stand and gave him a desperate and angry look.

"He is impossible," she exclaimed. "I can not and I will not let him teach me! I do not want his help! He talks as if I were a hopeless case, mentally crippled or worse," she sobbed. "What gives him the right to read my files? Why can he inspect the papers which document my stays in the hospital wing? Those information's are private! That does not concern him! He is working only as a replacement for Professor Snape. Why did he have access to my files? And why have you spoken to him about me and my past," Julie asked accusingly.

Albus had to admit that her sudden appearance had surprised him. To listen to her words had frustrated him. He had expected that Professor Salvage might be curious about Miss Abbott. But the fact that he had gained access to her files, disturbed him. Why had he done that? Albus suspected, that Salvage had another motive, as he had originally thought. Albus had believed that Salvage had been so eager for the job, because he could later boast with the fact that he had replaced Severus during his absence. But now he was afraid that Professor Salvage had another motive. It seemed to him that Salvage was here for Miss Abbott. Salvage was often arrogant, when it came to prove himself. However, he should, in Miss Abbott's case, rather refrain from doing so. Albus knew too well, how Severus would react when he would hear about this. Severus was gone not even three days and already something had happened, what he would never tolerate. Severus would raze Edwig to the ground. Albus pushed his thoughts aside and looked at Miss Abbott, which still stood before him.

"First, we want to prevent accidents such as the one, which occurred at the beginning of the school year," Albus said quietly. "Secondly, when I revealed him a few details about you, I had hoped, that Professor Salvage's curiosity would lessen. Apparently I was wrong," Albus admitted. "It is known that he wants to prove himself and you, with your extraordinary situation, are a godsend for him. That was just what he was waiting for. I fear now, that he would like to prove his abilities on your person," said Albus quietly.

"I am not a guinea pig," said Julie indignantly, still excited by her meeting with the new professor. "Why did you employ him, if you knew what kind of person he is?"

Her question was justified, Albus thought.

"Unfortunately, it's not been easy to find a replacement for Severus," replied Albus. "Professor Salvage will remain in Hogwarts, until Severus returns, whenever that may be. The fact that Severus is absent, is very disadvantageous for the students in the seventh grade. I don't want to disturb the students with another change of teacher. Therefore Professor Salvage will remain." Albus paused and looked at her strangely. "Although the students may not particularly like Severus, he is a highly qualified teacher, whose absence certainly is detrimental in many ways."

"He was probably the only one who could come spontaneously, because no one else will have him," said Julie clearly upset and looked at him desperately, "He wants to read my files, which were sent to you when I came here," Julie said, her voice frustrated and excited, while her expression was now less angry, but clearly desperate.

Albus opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by a demanding knock on his door. To Julie's dismay Professor Salvage strolled into the office. He casually walked passed Julie and grinned outrageously when he noticed her presence, "Oh, you are here," he exclaimed and seemed to not even notice her distress.

"Albus, I need access to the files of Miss Abbott, which were sent over by her previous school," he explained his sudden and unexpected appearance.

Julie's hands balled up into fists again when she heard his words. Minerva stroked Julie's back soothingly and awaited Albus' reaction. She knew that Albus would never allow him a glimpse into those files.

"Edwig, Severus has those files and he is known to be absent," Albus explained objectively.

Salvage was clearly dissatisfied with this reply, "Why are the files not in the archives, where they belong," he asked with mock surprise.

"Why should they be there? The files are in Severus' office, where they belong," replied Albus.

"Files, such as hers, belong in the archives," said Salvage, while he talked about Miss Abbott, as if she was not present.

Julie heard Professor McGonagall scoff and she looked at Dumbledore, hoping that he would not be swayed by Salvage.

Albus shook his head firmly, "No, those files belong to the head of house, which in this case is Severus. Nobody except Severus and me has to right to access Miss Abbott's files."

Salvage objected immediately, "I am now the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher," he argued, "As Miss Abbott will not participate in the practical parts of my class, I would like to be informed about the background which led to this rather unusual.. exception."

Dumbledore shook his head, "Like I said, only the headmaster of the school and the head of Slytherin House have a right to access these files. Currently I hold both positions and nothing will change that until Professor Snape returns," said Dumbledore, his tone unusually strict.

Professor Salvage was silent for a moment before he nodded and left the office. When he had closed the door, Julie exhaled in relief.

"Miss Abbott," Albus said quietly, "No one has the right to access your files. I will deal with this matter," he assured her. "Severus has your files and you can be sure that they remain out of reach of Professor Salvage."

Julie's body was still shaking from excitement and Minerva tried to calm her.

"The fact that Severus is not here does not mean that nobody cares about you," she said. "Do not worry too much. If Professor Salvage should become too intrusive, you should tell us about it," said Minerva, glancing at Albus, who nodded in agreement. "In this case we will immediately intervene."

Julie sighed and nodded slowly. "Thank you," she said, and hesitated for a moment. "Um, Professor Salvage is convinced that Professor Snape will not come back to Hogwarts before the school year is over." She looked questioningly Albus and bit her bottom lip. "Is it true what he says?"

She looked at him with so much hope that Albus felt guilty.

"I do not know," he replied. "No one can say how long he will be absent."

Albus had no idea when Severus would come back. But he was sure, that Severus' absence and Salvage's presence could have a positive effect on Miss Abbott's feelings for Severus. Maybe Severus' absence would indeed make her heart grow fonder.

When Julie had left the office, Minerva sat down and shook her head.

"This guy is worse than Gilderoy," she said seriously concerned, "And he does not even try to hide his intentions."

Albus nodded thoughtfully, "This is to our advantage. Minerva, please find out how Edwig could get the papers from the hospital wing. I'm sure Poppy will be furious when she finds out." A smile appeared on his lips, "It will be important for Edwig to know, that his actions will have consequences and Poppy will surely show him his place."

Minerva nodded in agreement, but looked extremely worried, "Albus, I have a bad feeling about this. Especially when I think of Miss Abbott's well-being."

Albus nodded, "That may be, but as I have already explained to Miss Abbott, I do not want to disturb the students with another change of teacher. We have to monitor the situation closely." After thinking a moment, he said, "I believe that this situation will be beneficial in the end."

"What makes you think that," Minerva asked, looking at him questioningly. "I can see nothing good in this situation," she said shaking her head.

"Well, I'm sure that Miss Abbott will be very pleased when Severus will finally return. However, we must be mindful that Miss Abbott will not come to harm. Edwig has no personal interest in Miss Abbott. He looks at her as no more than another step on the ladder, from which he hopes to get closer his desired success and fame."

"Are you sure, "Minerva asked doubtfully.

Albus nodded. "Yes. If I was not sure I would fire him immediately and teach Defense Against the Dark Arts myself. Edwig is much too self-centered to love someone other than himself. Severus hates people like him. I think, that we should let the situation unfold, without jumping to conclusions, which we might regret later. Enough of this topic. Edwig will someday leave Hogwarts. Let's talk about something more interesting," Albus said as he looked at Minerva mysteriously.

"What would that be," she inquired with a raised eyebrow.

"Let's assume that Miss Abbott will pass her practical examination in Defense Against the Dark Arts successfully," said Albus and leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk.

"That sounds quite interesting," replied Minerva positively. "What do we do then? Have you got a plan already, or are we to devise a plan?"

"Well, I've already got an idea. However, I know that initially Severus won't be thrilled."

"He will not be thrilled," Minerva asked a little surprised.

Albus shook his head, "No, definitely not. He will be absolutely mad when we will present him with a fait accompli."

"Mad?" Minerva thought for a moment, then her eyes glistened. "Oh Albus, you're a genius," she said, as she understood what Albus' plan was. "That requires planning," she cautioned.

"And time, of which we have plenty," added Albus and winked at her amused.

Chapter Text

Julie hurried down the hall. The last lesson had just ended and she hope to reach the stairs which led down to the dungeons unnoticed. Each of her steps was purposeful, while she pressed the bag with her books tightly against her chest. The last few days she had been lucky and had arrived without incident in the common room. Julie hoped that her luck would last. She turned the corner and her steps slowed abruptly. With difficulty she put one foot before the other, while her expression turned sour.

Professor Salvage stood in the hall, wearing his annoying grin, "Ah, Miss Abbott, I finally meet you," he exclaimed enthusiastically, motioning her with a swift gesture of his hand, to come to his office.

Julie sighed inaudibly and her expression was blank. One can not always have luck on one's side, she thought in frustration as she hesitantly walked into his office. She did not like this room. Her gaze fell on his desk, which was as always exaggeratedly packed with workbooks and parchments. Julie wondered how Salvage could do his work there. She winced when she heard how he closed the door behind them. Salvage walked past her and sat down behind his desk.

"Sit down," he urged her, pointing with a nod to the chair, which stood in front of his desk.
Julie walked slowly toward it. She did not like this kind of meetings. When she encountered him elsewhere in the castle, she could avoid long conversations with him, but in here it would be different. In the corridors of Hogwarts, Salvage chose his words well and with caution, but not so in his office. Ultimately Salvage had always tried to question her. But to his obvious annoyance, Julie was not willing to share information with him about her time at the Ilvermorny School.

"Surely you wonder why you're here," he said, looking at her expectantly.

She tried to hide her anger and nodded slowly, without saying a word.

Salvage grinned broadly, "I had been expecting that," he said, amused. "I have observed you long enough in order to know, what kind of a person you are. You live only from one day to the next and do not care about what comes after that. Of course I understand the reasoning behind your immature behavior. People who have experienced a deep trauma, just like you, often tend to lose touch with reality. Your case is a good example of this. In addition, victims like you, can not admit to themselves that they are urgently in need of professional help," he said and smiled his nasty grin at her. "This behavior is often caused by excessive pride. Apart of that, as a victim you can enjoy certain advantages, it is not so, Miss Abbott," Salvage remarked, grinning, while he gazed at her with his sly and dark eyes. "It is a fact that you get more attention if you claim the role of the victim for yourself. I know that these are no news for you. You know exactly what you're doing, because you are clever, like me," he added.

Julie knew his little game all too well. Salvage tried to provoke her with his stupid analysis. Not only that he mostly talked total bullshit, no, his assumptions did not apply to her in the least. It made her very angry. Julie's fingers dug deeper into the fabric of her bag, which she still clutched firmly to her chest. She knew that he was just trying to get a rise out of her. But she would not grant him this satisfaction.

"But too much attention can also be dangerous," continued Salvage, "Because you can become depend on it." He looked at Julie and grinned as he leaned slightly forward. "Be honest with yourself, Miss Abbott. You get plenty of attention from Professor Snape. A fact that you certainly enjoy to the fullest. Is he the reason why you still wallow in your trauma? Is that the reason why you refuse to accept any help? Of course I can understand that. Professor Snape is famous and might thus open to you the doors to fame and success." Salvage fell silent and looked at her with a raised eyebrow.

She tried hard to stay calm. It was more than clear that Professor Salvage, by his stupid chatter, merely revealed his own intentions. And she was convinced that he did so without knowing it. He was far too anxious to provoke her with his words. Julie would never use Professor Snape to attain success. Such a thought had never occurred to her. But it was already known that Salvage tried to do just that. And he believed that Julie was his way to success. However, he apparently had not expected that she would not play this game, which gradually led to difficulties. His words showed once more that Salvage knew nothing about her. Julie did not wallow in her past. On the contrary, Julie tried with Professor Snape's help to be free of it and had, according to her own judgment, made a large step towards her goal.

She had never enjoyed the attention which she received from Snape, in the way, as Salvage presented it. Furthermore, Snape had never been a famous wizard in her eyes. To her, he had initially only been a teacher, until he had eventually become her companion. A change that had happened without any premonition or planning. It just happened. Julie could not even remember when it had happened. It had been a slow development, which was still going on today and in the course of which, perhaps other things would come to light. One can't always predict which relationships will be important to one later, she thought, when she reflected on her relationship with Professor Snape, which had changed a lot over the last few months. The teacher, whom she had feared, had become her closest confidant.

"Well," grumbled Salvage, as he understood that she would not respond. "The Ministry of Magic has announced the dates for the practical exams. Certainly, it is of interest to you, when your exam for Defense Against the Dark Arts will be," he said clearly amused when he saw her expression. Julie's heart began to race and her nervousness amused him profoundly. With a nasty grin on his face, he leaned back in his chair and looked at her in silence, while he was playing with a small piece of paper, which he held in his hand.

Julie also leaned back while anger began to surge through her body. No, he would not win this game, she thought to herself. No way. Julie thought of Professor Snape and immediately felt a little relief. Once again, she hoped he would come back for her practical exam. A frown appeared on her forehead as Salvage cleared his throat.

He sighed dramatically and shook his head, certainly in a show to express his disapproval over her silence. "Your exam is on Tuesday, the sixth of June," he said finally. "At three o'clock in the afternoon. That gives you four weeks to practice with me," he added.

Julie immediately shook her head. "I will not practice with you. And I do not want to discuss it."

"Well, if that is so, then tell me your story," he demanded.

Julie thought she had misheard. This guy was so brazen that it was morbid. She silently shook her head and pressed her lips into a thin line. He would not hear a single word about that from her.

After several minutes of silence Salvage nodded and looked clearly annoyed. "If you think .." he paused and seemed to have a silent argument with himself, "You should not underestimate me. That would be a big mistake on your part," he said in an alarming tone.

Julie swallowed and understood, that this had been neither an advice nor comment, this had been a warning. But if he believed that he would intimidate her so, he was wrong.

As his last words provoked no reaction in her, he indicated her to leave his office. Julie stood up and felt his eyes on her back until she had closed the door. She took a few steps and then leaned sighing against the stone wall. Why was she punished with such a teacher, Julie wondered. On the one hand, she wanted to hide, while on the other hand, his presence awakened in her the desire to defend herself.

*****

It was late evening and Julie sat curled up in Professor Snape's office, staring at the empty armchair beside her. She missed Professor Snape more than she would admit. The feeling of insecurity, which had initially oppressed her, had now become less. To her surprise, she did cope relatively well with the situation. Julie spent much time in Snape's office. It was not just a place where she learned for the N.E.W.T.s, but also a place where she often hid from Professor Salvage.

With a long sigh, she broke her gaze from the empty armchair and stared at the wall. A large part of the time which she spent in the office, she spent thinking. Mostly, her thoughts turned to Professor Snape. She missed the conversations, which they had had. She missed his classes, which could not be compared with the ones of Professor Salvage. It was like the difference between day and night and this was not just Julie's opinion. Most of the students shared her view. Salvage was apparently of the opinion that he could help anyone. A knight in shining armor. A few first-graders were excited, but the students who already had more brains, were trying to avoid him at all costs.

Julie pushed her thoughts of Salvage and his annoying attention aside and she thought of Professor Snape. She was so confused. On the one hand, she waited almost wistfully that he would come back, on the other hand, a part of her feared his return. It did not make any sense. She could not explain why, but it was a fact that surprised her. Since some time she could not understand herself and in the last few weeks this feeling had become significantly stronger. Julie missed Snape's presence that she had come to appreciate.

Before the daily sadness could begin, which overcame her every night, Julie stood up and walked up to the desk on which some books lay, which she used to study. Since it had not been possible for her to study in the library due to Salvage's constant pestering presence, she had retreated to the office of Professor Snape, where she spend hours every night, reading and learning. The N.E.W.T.s would be very difficult and Julie had set herself the goal that she wanted to achieve the best possible grades.

Julie sat down in Professor Snape's chair and opened a book. A gentle sigh escaped her lips as she tried to concentrate. After a few minutes had passed, Julie looked up suddenly and frowned. There it was again, she glanced over to the door and stood up slowly as she was sure that someone was at the door. Her hand moved slowly to her wand and she realized that she had left it in Slytherin's common room. Another sound made her jump. She grabbed Snape's key and cursed herself that she had forgotten to lock the door.

Slowly the door handle moved downwards. Julie looked frantically around, searching for a hiding place. There was none. In her desperation, she went to the door, which was behind the desk and was surprised to find it unlocked. She quickly entered the small hall and closed the door in a hurry. She fiddled with the key and wondered if she could use it to lock the door. As quietly as possible she put the key in the lock and was surprised and relieved at the same time when it turned in the lock. Julie locked the door and took a few steps until she felt the cold wall at her back. Her chest heaved as she looked around the dimly lit hallway. What should she do now?

Julie's eyes fell on the door and she wondered who was so bold to break into Professor Snape's office. She listened carefully and heard unmistakable sounds, which hinted that someone searched the office. Julie felt unspeakably guilty that she had left the door unlocked. Because of her, someone was now in the professor's office. Guilt spread through her and Julie buried her face in her hands, while tears began to run down her cheeks. She winced when she heard noises at the door, which led to the small corridor, where she stood now. Quietly she stepped further into the corridor. The first door, which she tried to open was locked. To her surprise, she could not open it with the key that Professor Snape had left her. Julie tried to open another door, which was to her relief unlocked. She walked into the small room and sat down on a chair, ready to wait.

Whoever was in Professor Snape's office, tried persistently to open the door. It appeared that the person had not found that what he had sought. Julie paused and her eyes widened before she frowned. Her files. It was Salvage, this miserable guy tried to get into Professor Snape's private rooms. Julie was absolutely certain that she was right in her assumption. Who else would dare to come here? Professor Dumledore had told her that the key was enchanted. That would mean that even the lock of the door was no ordinary lock. Julie sighed with relief as she understood that she was safe. Salvage would not succeed in his attempt. The only reason he had got inside the office, was because she had forgotten to lock the door. Again Julie felt infinitely guilty. A huge lump formed in her throat and she stood up to distract himself. She opened the door to the next room, which was his bedroom.

Julie shut the door hastily and leaned against it with her back. The silence of the night was disturbed by noise, which Salvage still caused. Julie wished that Snape would be here. A smile played on her lips as she imagined how Salvage would respond if Professor Snape would catch him in the act. But unfortunately, this would not happen, she thought with a frown. Why couldn't Salvage just give up and leave, Julie wondered. She sighed as she realized where she would spend her night. Even if it would become quiet in the office, Julie would still not come out. She was too afraid. And she did not have her wand. It was not a good thought to encounter Professor Salvage in the dark alone.

Time passed slowly and Julie was tired. She wondered whether Snape would mind if she would sleep in his bedroom. She scratched her head while she thought about it. Would he demand, that she would return to the dormitory? No, Julie decided reluctantly. She was sure that he did not want that she would expose herself to a potentially dangerous situation. Professor Dumbledore had said that Professor Snape wanted her to sleep in the dormitory. But this here was certainly not a normal situation.

Her fingers curled slowly around the door handle and she opened the door hesitantly. Slowly, Julie walked into the room, while her eyes adjusted to the fading light. She tried to lock the door with the key and was relieved when it worked. It was almost completely dark and she was exhausted. Undecided, she stood in front of the large bed and looked at it tiredly. Then her gaze wandered through the bedroom and she noticed Snape's cloak, which hung neatly on the other side of the room. She walked over and buried her face in the fabric which was unusually soft. It smelled of Snape. A smile appeared on her lips and Julie inhaled his scent deeply. Before she knew it, she had taken the cloak off the hook and sat with it on his bed. Slowly she lay down, while she covered herself with his cloak.

*** *** ***

Julie gazed up through the canopy of trees, at the clear blue sky. The leaves rustled in the trees, as the warm summer breeze made them dance to his whim. The canopy of the forest in which she stood, glowed in the colors of summer, while the sun rays filtered through the leaves and bathed the forest in a golden light. Julie inhaled deeply the forest air and turned around in surprise when she suddenly heard a twig snap. A smile appeared on her lips when she spotted Professor Snape, who approached her slowly. His sight was a bit unusual. He was wearing black pants and surprisingly a simple white shirt. The absence of his dark jacket surprised Julie and she raised her eyebrows in an unspoken question.

"I see you found your way," Snape said with a smile on the lips.

Julie smiled back, but looked at him quizzically. Had he expected her?

"Do you like it here," he asked, as he approached.

Julie hesitated for a moment before she looked around again, "Yes, I like it very much," she said and took a step back when she noticed that Snape stood now directly before her.

"You can stay here, if you wish," he said, looking at her expectantly.

"Here," said Julie confused and wondered what exactly he meant. This was but a dream, right?

Snape nodded. "Yes. Where else? Is there a place, where you feel more comfortable," he asked, as he raised an eyebrow inquiringly.

"No," she said hesitantly and realized, that he had once said something similar when she had been in his office.

For a moment Julie wondered, if she was dreaming or whether she was with Professor Snape in a forest. Absurd, she thought, but this dream was so real. Julie looked around one more time before
she looked him straight in the eyes.

Snape took a step toward her and Julie shuddered when his fingers brushed gently over her forearms.

"No," he repeated quizzically, as he gazed into her eyes.

Julie shook her head as in trance, "No," she said almost in a whisper, as she became entranced by his gaze.

"Then stay," he said in a whisper.

Julie nodded silently while she chewed slowly on her bottom lip. She shuddered when his hands roamed over her waist, then over her back, where his fingers began to draw small circles. She looked into his eyes, which seemed slightly hooded, filled with something that Julie had never before seen in them. His scent enveloped her and Julie did not stop him as he slowly began to push her backwards. Snape pushed her against a nearby tree and a gasp escaped her lips, when he gently pressed his body against hers. Before she was aware of what she was doing, her hands wandered tentatively over his back, what encouraged him to push himself firmer against her.

"You can still leave," he said hoarsely.

Julie looked into his eyes and surprised herself when she shook her head.

He slowly leaned down to her and Julie tilted her head up, full of expectation for that what would happen next. Their breaths came in short gasps and then she felt his lips on hers. Surprisingly soft and warm, they were. A wave of affection and excitement rolled through her body, which was soon marred by another feeling, which spread through her loins. Whatever it was, it felt good and she wanted more. Julie moaned as he moved his lips on hers and she buried her hands in his hair to hold him closer. She trembled as one of his hands slipped under her shirt. The feeling of his hand on her skin, caused her body to tremble. He gently stroked her skin, while his hand wandered ever upward, until he..

*** *** ***

Julie was startled and sat up in bed immediately. What the hell was that, she wondered confused, as she stumbled out of bed. With her back pressed against the wall, Julie stared wide-eyed at the bed and its sheets, which were messy. Professor Snape's cloak lay in the middle of the bed and was wrinkled. Julie moved away from the wall, as its presence at her back reminded her of the tree against which Professor Snape had just pushed her. Julie blushed heavily, trying to calm down. What had she just dreamed? Julie's breath trembled as she realized that she had kissed Professor Snape - in a dream. She had wanted to kiss him. It had been so real. Her fingers ran over her lips and she shook her head, still shocked by the unexpected dream. Then her hand slid under her shirt and she touched the skin, that Snape had just touched. It had felt so.. amazing, so right, when he had touched her. Julie pulled her hand away and rubbed her forehead in despair. Then she reached for the key which Professor Dumbledore had given her. She stumbled practically into the office and locked the door before she hurried out of Snape's office and into the dark corridor.

*****

"Miss Abbott, can you at least try to pay attention in my class," Professor McGonagall asked Julie, who had failed to follow the lesson.

Startled by McGonagall's words, Julie nodded absentmindedly, but knew that her thoughts would wander off again anyway. Never before had she dreamed something so real. Even the nightmares which had haunted her at night, had been far less real. Was magic responsible for this dream? Julie scoffed. Of course not. Why would Professor Snape hex his bed? And with such a result? That was absurd. But then, where did these images come from? The very real sensation of his hand on her skin? Julie shivered at the memory of his touch. Professor Snape had touched her before, but never in this way. This was different.

Julie rested her forehead on the table and closed her eyes. The feelings inside her were in turmoil and it was not possible for her to control them. Her body had been on fire. Julie was ashamed because a part of this yearning was still present in her. She blushed. Would she ever be able to look into Professor Snape's eyes without being reminded of this dream and especially of this feeling? She hoped, but doubted that this would be the case. Something had awakened in her, what she didn't need at the moment. Life was confusing enough. Julie tried to calm down and attempted to think of something else, than Professor Snape, but failed.

*** *** ***

Professor Snape stood in the doorway which led to his bedroom, leaning casually against the door frame and motioned her with a wave of his hand to come closer. Julie went to him without hesitation. Once she was in his reach, Snape cupped her cheek with one hand and looked at her searching.

"We were not finished," he said in this hoarse voice, which was so attractive and exciting. "Shall we continue," he asked, looking deep into her eyes.

Julie's heart was beating wildly in her chest and she was unable to answer him. Instead she nodded. A smile appeared on his lips as he too took a step toward her. He put his hands on his arms and ran them up to her shoulders, than down to her hands. Snape clasped her hands and yanked her arms above her head as he pushed her against the wall she had been standing near. His hot breath brushed her flushed face and Julie felt his lips caress hers, as he kissed her again.

*** *** ***

Julie sat up, startled and looked around in confusion. Professor McGonagall stood before her, looking at her somewhat disapprovingly.

"Miss Abbott, although I understand your difficult situation, you should not fall asleep during my class," she said sternly.

Julie rubbed her face with both hands and was silent. Her face felt hot and she was convinced that she had blushed.

"Is everything all right," said Minerva, who stood now next to her and put her hand on Julie's shoulder.

Julie nodded and then shook her head before she looked around to make sure they were alone in the classroom. "Um, I was in Professor Snape's office last night. As you know, I'm using his office to learn for my exams," she explained. "This time someone came in while I was there, "she said almost in a whisper.

"Who has come in," Minerva asked, frowning.

"I have not seen him," said Julie. "I ... hid in Professor Snape's, um, other room," she admitted, blushing even more.

"You were in Severus' private rooms," said Minerva visibly surprised.

Julie nodded. "What should I do otherwise," she asked. "I was afraid and I didn't have my wand with me," she added.

Minerva nodded slowly, "Did you see who it was," she asked.

Julie shook her head, "No, unfortunately not. But there is only one person in Hogwarts, who could be stupid enough to try to break into Professor Snape's office," she said soberly.

Minerva raised an eyebrow, "And who is that, in your opinion," she asked curiously.

"Professor Salvage," replied Julie convinced.

"Miss Abbott," admonished McGonagall, "Professor Salvage may be a bit strange, but he is still a teacher and you must not talk disrespectfully about him. But I take your guess seriously. I'll have to talk to Albus about that. And you should go to bed early tonight, so you do not fall asleep again during my class," she said sternly, but with a little smile. "Don't study tonight, but do something, what brings you joy," she added.

Julie nodded and Minerva allowed her to go. She gathered her things and left the classroom.

Julie shook her head in an attempt to free it from the impressions of her dreams. Unfortunately it did not work. She dropped to her bed and sighed. Her own smell which lingered in the bedding irritated her. Julie sighed loudly and closed her eyes. It came as no surprise that she had had such a vivid dream of Professor Snape, if she had slept with his cloak. A stupid idea, judged Julie and rolled onto her back. Remorse plagued her because she felt guilty that Salvage had been in Snape's office. He had recently said that he did not like it when people came to his office. Now her careless behavior had led to the situation, that Salvage had had access to Professor Snape's office. Julie was absolutely convinced that it was he, who had come to the office at night. Certainly he still wanted to read her files. Perhaps Salvage's attempt to break into Snape's office, was directly related to the conversation which they had had yesterday. Professor Salvage had seemed genuinely upset for the first time.

Julie sighed again, her thoughts began to revolve around the dreams, which she had had. Two dreams within a few hours. It was clear that the second dream had been a continuation of the first. But how was that possible if they had been ordinary dreams? Professor Snape had been so real, Julie almost believe that she had met him in real life. Even in her dream she had doubted the authenticity of the dream.

"Nonsense," she muttered as she folded her arms under her head and stared at the ceiling. A new thought came to her mind. Had someone jinxed her? Julie furrowed her brows. Was that possible? Maybe someone played a trick on her? Julie thought long about this issue until she finally came to the conclusion that this was very unlikely. Who would benefit from hexing her? No one, she thought. Had her dreams a deeper meaning? And if that were so, what they meant? After a few minutes had passed, Julie sighed loudly and lounged on her bed. Probably she had thought about him too much. This seems to be a good explanation.

Julie sat up slowly, wondering what she should do tonight, if she would not learn for her exam. She would definitely follow Professor McGonagall's advice, but what to do? The idea of not going to Professor Snape's office, was strange. Julie immediately felt lonely. Reluctantly she got up to go to the common room. The time until dinner she would spend with her classmates. And then? Julie sighed, thinking of Professor Snape as she left the small room. Professor McGonagall had said she should do something that she enjoyed. Julie had to admit that without Professor Snape nothing brought her joy.

Chapter Text

"Where are you going, Miss Abbott," inquired Professor Salvage.

Julie stopped abruptly and replied, without turning to him. "To the lake," she said, trying to sound calm.

Salvage approached her with a wide grin. "With a stack of books," he asked, amused. "Don't you think that it would be much more pleasant if you were to go swimming instead of learning?"

"I can swim any time after I have passed the exams," said Julie, her tone slightly annoyed.

Professor Salvage chuckled and positioned himself in front of her. "You are very positive," he said, studying her with an amused expression. "Surely you are thinking about the N.E.W.T.s. I am sure that they will not prove to be a problem for you. But what about your practical exam in Defense Against the Dark Arts," he asked and arched an eyebrow.

"What about it," Julie asked back, her tone now sharp and somber, but her heart filled with fear.

"Julie, surely .."

"Miss Abbott," Julie corrected him.

"Miss Abbott," said Salvage hesitantly, sounding surprised.

"Yes, for you I am Miss Abbott," she said firmly.

Professor Salvage looked at her from head to toe and then grinned again. "Don't you think that we know each other long enough to use our names," he asked, smirking.

Julie shook her head firmly.

"Very well. Miss Abbott, back to the topic. Your practical exam. Don't you worry because you will not pass your exam with great probability," he asked searchingly, while he looked at her rather amused.

"That's none of your business," she replied.

"I am your teacher, I naturally worry about your success."

Julie scoffed, but did not comment on his words. He cared about her success? If Salvage cared about success, then about his own. Sweat began to bead on her forehead, as the books in her arms were getting heavier.

Satisfaction flared in Salvage as he interpreted her physical reaction wrongly. "You're afraid," he said matter of factly.

Julie furrowed her brows, "You don't have to remind me, I know that already. Of course I'm scared," she admitted, biting nervously at her lower lip. "Everyone knows that I'm afraid of the exam. And I know what you're getting at," she said as she looked at him gloomily. "As I have told you many times before, I do not need your help. I will not become a trophy with which you can boast later. There are plenty of other students who could take this place. Find someone else. I will not be a tool in your hands, which will help you to realize your plans. You don't have any interest in persons. It's about their fate and their story, with which you want to enriching yourself. And the more dramatic and exciting this is, the more interest you have. I'm not going to share my story with you. Throughout the past month you were trying to persuade me to accept your help. Let me tell you, I do not need your help and I do not want your help. Just leave me alone." Julie looked at him darkly, "If you'll excuse me now," she said, trying to walk past him.

With a quick step he prevented her from leaving and smirked, but Julie looked into his eyes and noticed that he was angry.

"Miss Abbott, you underestimate me and my abilities," he said softly, with a slightly threatening undertone.

Julie stepped ostentatiously around him and walked away.

Salvage looked after her. She was one of the most difficult cases, with whom he had ever worked. She's a tough nut to crack, he thought. Miss Abbott had judged him well. She was actually very intelligent, but she underestimated him in many ways. He always got what he wanted. And so it would be this time, whether she liked it or not.

Julie left the castle and walked slowly towards the lake. The last few weeks she had been sitting every night under a tree near the lake shore, where she learned. After the night which she had spent in Professor Snape's bed, Julie had returned only once to his office to fetch her books. She missed his office. Julie frowned and sighed. No, she missed him. Julie looked over her shoulder toward the castle and was relieved that Professor Salvage had not followed her. She sat down and leaned her back against the tree trunk. Her troubled gaze wandered over the still water and she sighed as she thought of Professor Snape. She had initially often wondered where he was. Now she suspected that he had been entrusted with a mission. No one had confirmed her suspicions, but Julie was not stupid. She hoped that he would return as soon as possible. Not only because she would be spared from further attentions from Professor Salvage, no, Julie missed him a lot. Her eyes fell on the books, which lay in her lap and she opened one of them and began to read.

-Two weeks later-

The students had been sitting their N.E.W.T.s last week and Julie was relieved that she carried one burden less. Now she waited for her results. Julie had seen the list of the practical exams and had found that her examination would be the final practical examination in Defense Against the Dark Arts this year. She suspected that her examination was scheduled as the last, due to Professor Snape's application. Julie sighed audibly and walked into the practice room. As usual, she leaned against the wall to watch. Professor Salvage supervised the students who were preparing for their practical examination. It was a spectacle as Salvage criticized almost everything, from the posture of the students, to their pronunciation. It was ridiculous because even Professor Snape had complained relatively little. While most students were simply annoyed by his behavior, others felt unsettled by it.

"Salvage only makes them nervous," commented Julie the behavior of her teacher, as she was leaning casually against the wall.

Jean nodded in agreement. "A few of them are afraid of the exam," she said, looking at Salvage upset.

"If Professor Snape were here, he would not approve of Salvage's behavior," said Julie, looking at Jean. "Salvage mood today is definitely not the best," she remarked.

"Apparently, the professor has not found his standard smirk this morning," commented Jean the gloomy face of Professor Salvage. "I never thought it possible that I would think such a thing," said Jean hesitantly, "But I wish that Professor Snape would be here. With his presence, a successful passing of the exam would be almost guaranteed."

Julie nodded in agreement and said nothing.

Jean looked at her friend sympathetically and put her hand on Julie's shoulder. "You still worry that you will not pass the exam," she said softly.

Julie sighed loudly.

"Do not worry too much. I am sure that Professor Snape will be back by then. Snape has promised you that he will come at least for a few hours to Hogwarts to be your opponent in the examination. He will come, and you'll pass the exam," said Jean to encourage Julie.

Julie sighed loudly and looked at Jean in despair, "Professor Dumbledore has said that he will not come."

Jean frowned, "Who? Professor Snape," she asked incredulously.

"Yes," said Julie with an anxious voice. "Professor Dumbledore informed me last night. I do not know what to do. I'm always so scared when someone is facing me with a wand in hand. Even with Professor Snape, I'm nervous. No matter what I do, I always respond in the same manner. Therefore .. "

"Have you two already passed the exam," said Salvage, startling the two young women with his sudden intrusive presence.

"Of course not," Jean replied audibly annoyed.

"Then why do you stand around? Go and practice," he said unkindly.

Jean rolled her eyes annoyed and walked past Salvage when he spoke again, "The same goes for you. Move! Go and practice," said Salvage with a nasty undertone.

She turned around in surprise and looked at Julie, which paled at once. Julie shook her head and did not move from the spot.

Salvage nodded, and took a intimidating step toward her. "You'll practice like any other student here. I do not see why this should be any different."

Julie swallowed hard when he stood so close that she could feel his breath on her face. Her heart was pounding like mad, while her body was flooded by a wave of fear. She shook her head gently as Salvage hinted her with a demanding gesture of his hand to join the other students.

"No," he asked gloomily, while he demandingly tapped his wand against her forehead.

Julie's body trembled as he touched her with his wand. Plagued by nausea and paralyzed by fear, she was unable to act. Her blood was rushing in her ears and she looked at Salvage wide eyed. He was absolutely serious about this. Was this his revenge on her? Julie's anxiety got a companion. She felt the anger which had simmered slowly over the last few weeks within herself. This wretched wizard!

"She will not practice," said Jean seriously, and seized Julie's hand to pull her away.

"You do not have the right to decide this. I'm the teacher and I make the decisions," said Salvage clearly upset and turned his attention again to Julie. "Go and practice," he ordered.

Pulled out of her thoughts, Julie swallowed hard and went into the room, her heart beating wildly.

It was at once unusually quiet and the students looked at each other puzzled, when they understood what was happening. Salvage paired Julie with Kevin, who refused immediately take part in the exercise.

"I'm not doing it," he said firmly, looking at Julie, which appeared strangely absent.

"If that is so, then you are from now on excluded from my classes," countered Salvage angrily.

Kevin put his wand away and shrugged, "I have not learned anything new in your lessons so far," he replied indifferently, what made Salvage even angrier.

Amycus, who was standing next to Jean shook his head disapprovingly. "If Snape were here, he would tear off Salvage's head without hesitation," he said confidently.

Jean nodded and watched the situation with growing concern. "I'd love to see that. But unfortunately, he's not here," Jean answered, "He tried hard to help her," she added.

Amycus grumbled something unintelligible to himself before he spoke louder, "And everything will be ruined in just a moment. I won't tolerate that any longer," he said angrily. "I'll go and inform Professor Dumbledore."

"You," Salvage exclaimed loudly, "Finnigan, come over here," called Salvage and waved Amycus over to him.

Amycus approached Salvage defiantly, looking at him angrily.

"Get in position. Mister Pettigrew over here, refuses to participate in the exercise." said Salvage.

Amycus shrugged and stepped back slowly. "I'll join him," he said, looking at the professor challenging. "No one here will participate in the exercise," said Amycus.

"And why is that," asked Salvage, his tone very agitated.

"Because Professor Snape.." Amycus could not complete his sentence, because he was immediately interrupted by Salvage.

"Ha! Professor Snape! Professor Snape is not here! And I do not care what he said. In my classes you will do what I say. And I order all of you, to practice, everyone, including Miss Abbott," said Salvage and pointed his wand at Julie again, knowing, that his gesture would frighten her even more.

"Professor Snape said that Julie does not participate in practical exercises and therefore no one here will do, what you're asking," said Amycus determined.

Salvage's eyes widened and he shook his head. "Snape is not here, or do you see him somewhere," said Salvage heatedly, as he gestured around the room. "I am your teacher and you do as I say," he said seriously and held his wand convulsively in his hand.

Amycus scoffed, "You are merely his replacement. You have no right to make such changes. Professor Snape is our teacher for Defense Against the Dark Arts, and when he says that Julie does not participate in these exercises, she will not not participate."

Salvage looked for a moment as if he had given up. Then a mischievous grin appeared on his face and he looked at Amycus amused. "Is that so," he asked, raising an eyebrow.

Amycus nodded and looked over Salvage's shoulder. Julie looked terribly pale and he saw that tears were running down her cheeks. He doubted that she was paying attention to what was going on.

"If that is so, then I see no other way than to participate myself in the exercise," said Salvage unexpectedly. He grinned triumphantly and went to the other end of the room to get in position.

Julie's body trembled. Fear caused her severe nausea and she had difficulty keeping her wand in her hand, which like her body, trembled incessantly. So many memories were in her mind that she found it difficult, to follow the conversation between Kevin and Salvage. But it seemed to her as if Kevin refused to participate in the exercise. Again and again images flashed before her eyes, memories of the torment which she had lived through.

She tried desperately to push them aside so as not to completely drown in them. She did not want this. Julie stepped back and saw that Salvage now spoke with Amycus. She heard little of what was said, because the waves of her past rolled steadily over her, in an attempt to harass her and to gain control over her. This wretched wizard! The anger inside her was growing steadily stronger and bubbled uncontrollably. Why wasn't Professor Snape here? He would never tolerate this. Everything Julie had achieved with his help would be destroyed in a single moment. Only because of this egocentric wizard, whose career was more important to him, than anything else.

Fear swept violently through her body and Julie imagined to hear the roaring sound of fear in her ears. Her heart was pounding frantically in her chest and Julie's mouth was parched. She felt sweat bead on her forehead. Again and again she refused to see the memories of her past and she tried desperately to push them aside. It was impossible. The more she endeavored, the more violently they returned. It was a futile attempt, which only cost her strength and would soon find a foreseeable end.

Julie gasped as the boy reappeared before her inner eye, in his hand he held the wand which she could never banish from her memory. The grin on his face was awful and Julie pushed the memory with all the strength from her mind. It did not help and the boy walked into the dark room on the highest floor of the tower. She backed into the corner, the wall hard and cold in her back, her hands pressed flat against the wall, breathing heavily.

She suddenly saw herself, her likeness, which was backed into a corner like a wild animal, destined to die by the hands of the hunter, which enjoyed, to cause his victims suffering, before he would finally redeem them with death. Fear, anger, pain, sadness, despair... Julie felt miserable when she saw herself crouched on the floor, caught in the moment, caught in the suffering, caught in the pain, which she had learned. It was a prison of steel and she sat in it, lonely, desperate and hurting. Her eyes ran over the iron bars that held her likeness imprisoned, her fingers glided over the cold metal, which felt hard and cruel.

Julie's eyes fell on the door, which was her only way out, and she saw the padlock which kept the door locked, which was her way to freedom. It was locked. Julie frowned and stared long at that padlock, as she slowly began to realize that the lock hung from the inside of the door. Julie blinked. A cry startled her, it had been her own. She looked at her likeness in horror and was shocked when she realized what her likeness held in her hand. It was a key. Was it the key that matched the padlock on the door?

Realization was shaking Julie to her foundations and she could not stop but stare at herself imprisoned in the cage. That was her, trapped in a cage in which she had locked herself into. Her glance wandered once again to the key, which her likeness still held firmly in the hands. Suddenly the clouds in her mind began to clear and the images disappeared from her mind. Julie winced. She blinked and looked up, tears were running down her cheeks and she was for a moment very confused of her whereabouts. Then she understood that she was in the practice room. Slowly, the memories came back and Julie looked at Amycus, who spoke with Salvage.

Her eyes widened in horror when she saw that Professor Salvage went to the other end of the room. It took a few seconds until Julie fully understood what was happening. Salvage had prompted them to practice. She stared at him, unable to move as she realized that he would be her opponent. She had to act, if it did not act now.. then she would remain trapped in the cage. She would not be able to leave her past behind. The lock would once more be strengthened today and make her escape thus even more impossible. But was it impossible? Julie hesitated. She held the key to her freedom in her hands, no one else. She looked at her hand, there was no key, but her wand. The only question was, what would she do with it?

Salvage positioned himself and Julie saw that disgusting grin on his face, which she would now see for the last time.

"Stupefy."

It was absolutely quiet in the room before a murmur went through the students. Professor Salvage lay unconscious on the ground. All eyes were on Julie, who stood motionless, staring wide eyed at Professor Salvage. She was still terribly pale, but her expression was unusually clear.

Every breath was difficult and cost Julie strength until an incredibly large wave of relief rolled over her. She had done it. Julie walked slowly toward Salvage, her gaze fixed on him. She stopped beside him and bent down to pick up his wand. For a moment she rolled it back and forth between her fingers before she looked at Professor Salvage again, who was still lying on the ground unconscious.

"You were the one who underestimated me," she said softly, while a solitary tear rolled down her cheek.

Julie looked his wand again before she handed it to Jean, which embraced her.

"I am so proud of you," said Jean, as she squeezed Julie tightly.

Someone started clapping and Julie looked around in surprise as she broke away from Jean's embrace. It was Professor Dumbledore, who was standing with Kevin in the door. The Headmaster approached Salvage and examined him for a moment before he looked at Julie.

"I think congratulations are in order, Miss Abbott," he said with a friendly smile. "Despite my initial reluctance it seems, that I will be working as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher until the start of the holidays," he added with a wink.

Julie swallowed hard as she slowly began to realize the scope of what had just happened. She had freed herself, she thought, as her heart seemed to tremble in her chest. A significant step in her endeavor to overcome her past, had just been done, and she had done it herself. Hope welled up in her, as she thought of the upcoming exam. Maybe, maybe she could do it, even if Professor Snape did not come.

-June 6th-

Julie stood on the Astronomy Tower and surveyed the landscape, a dense veil of melancholy lay on her expression. Her emotions were still on a roller coaster ride, while sadness and happiness struggled for a place on her face.

"I'm sure your parents are very proud of you," Dumbledore said as he stepped up to her. He stopped beside her and his gaze wandered over the landscape far below them.

Julie looked at Dumbledore, who was standing beside her. She nodded silently and smiled softly as tears rolled down her cheeks. When she left the Ilvermorny School, she had believed that this was the end. Now she stood here and had accomplished the most of what she could achieve. And that was not the fact that she had, against all odds successfully completed her education. No, she had faced the darkness within her and had defeated it. There were still shadows lingering in her soul, but the door to her future, stood now open. Julie felt as if she had grown wings.

"When I told you that Severus would not be able to come, had you thought that you would succeed without him," Albus asked after a moment of silence had passed.

Julie's heart ached a little when she thought of Professor Snape. Whatever he was doing, wherever he was, he had found no possibility to come.

"No," she admitted and looked at him. "But I was hoping that I could perhaps manage. Then, after the incident with Salvage, I knew I could theoretically pass the exam."

"Was that the turning point in your life," Albus asked with audible curiosity.

Julie nodded, "Yes, it was."

"And Severus," he inquired.

"He was the one who had prepared me for all of this," she said with a grateful smile on her lips. "He laid everything into my hands. But I had to decide for myself, what to do with what he has given me."

"What exactly happened," Albus asked cautiously.

Julie smiled and looked at him. "I have freed myself," she said clearly emotional. "I have decided to move on."

Albus smiled and nodded. "Severus is unspeakably proud of you," he informed her.

Julie's smile widened, "He knows it already," she asked, surprised.

Albus chuckled, "Of course, he already knew before the ceremony. You know Severus, he would have held it against me, if it had been otherwise," Albus said, looking at her suggestively.

She nodded and sighed, "When will he come back," Julie asked, her voice filled with hope.

"Nobody knows, even he himself does not know," replied Albus. Then he turned to her, "What are your plans," he said.

Julie looked at him doubtfully, "I'll go home to my parents. The last few months have cost me a lot of strength. I need distance and rest."

"That sounds reasonable," replied Albus. "What do you think of a cup of tea to celebrate this day? Minerva and I thought it would be nice if we would have a little chat before the feast."

"A little chat," Julie asked, looking at him questioningly. "Will I get into trouble, because I attacked Salvage," Julie asked nervously.

"No, no. You did not attack him. Whatever Edwig claims, no one believes him. Please do not worry. The Ministry of Magic has already closed this case. You have to know that Minerva and I like to devise plans. Our latest plan is.. interesting. I think you will be interested. Moreover, it never hurts to have prospects beyond the ordinary, don't you think so," Albus asked and winked, before he turned and walked away. He stopped and looked back over his shoulder at Julie, "Oh, and Poppy will also be there," he said, before he left.

Julie stood for a moment motionless, looking after him. What kind of plan was that, she wondered. Prospects? Beyond the ordinary? Julie frowned and decided to follow him.

Chapter Text

Snape stood motionless in the teachers' room and looked thoughtfully out of the window. The vertical crease between his eyes was deep and his eyes full of anger. 'You've been tricked once again', said his hateful inner voice loudly. "Shut up," growled Snape while his frown deepened. Albus and Minerva had visited him at home on the day on which his mission had surprisingly ended. For a moment Snape had been glad to see them. He wanted to return to Hogwarts, back to his actual profession. He had had enough of his mission. Therefore, he was actually glad to see Albus and Minerva. But then he quickly understood the true reason for the visit. He realized, what had happened during his absence and became angry. Albus had once again made plans without informing him beforehand, let alone to ask him. Severus did not like Albus' plans. He had never liked them. But this time even Minerva had a finger in the pie. And the result? Besides the fact that Severus had initially almost exploded with rage, he had to admit now that the plan as acceptable, even though he had lost his position as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.

"Ah, Severus!"

Snape heard an unfamiliar voice behind him, which tore him abruptly from his thoughts. He turned around stiffly and looked gloomily at the wizard, who walked towards him.

"Let me introduce myself, I am Michael, Michael Bagnold," said the wizard, who what dressed in dark blue and white. He sported and modern short hair cut and his pale blue eyes were almost hypnotic.

Snape reluctantly gave him his hand. 'Why do new teachers always have to be so personal and intrusive' wondered Snape, gritting his teeth. He was reluctant to touch strangers and became upset, when Michael continued to shake his hand enthusiastically.

"I will henceforth teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. Certainly you were already informed of the change," said Michael, while he looked at Snape happily.

Severus nodded and tried to control the anger in his stomach, as Michael didn't release his hand as quickly as he wanted.

"Albus mentioned only yesterday how much you've helped Miss Abbott," said Bagnold, and was all smiles.

Despite his gloomy mood, Snape suddenly started to listen attentively. The way in which this wizard spoke of Miss Abbott, suggested, that Bagnold knew Julie. Was this possible? Snape frowned and stared at the new professor judgingly, as he lowered his arm after Michael had finally released his hand.

"I have tried," Snape replied tersely, unwilling to grant Bagnold an insight into his private life.

Michael nodded pleasantly, "We have heard of your exploits and I'm a admirer of yours. I have taught Defense Against the Dark Arts at Ilvermorny School and Julie was until the day when she left the school, my student. I must say that it pleased me a lot that she has, despite her unpleasant experience, completed her education. None of us had expected this, after what had happened to her. And moreover, she now works at Hogwarts. That is very impressive. As far as I'm concerned.."

"Michael," said Albus, who had entered the teachers' room unnoticed, "Please come with me, we still need to discuss something," he said, and looked at Severus with an raised eyebrow before he left the room.

Snape wiped the hand which Michael had shaken on his pants. "Unpleasant experience", growled Snape, who bristled with rage.

So, this was the loser, which was responsible for Julie's suffering, he thought. As a teacher for Defense Against the Dark Arts, one did not only learn the basic knowledge that was taught to the students at school. One was also trained to detect when someone applied the Dark Arts of magic. Apart from that, one learned to recognize, if someone was suffering due to the Dark Arts, just as Julie had done. Bagnold had absolutely failed in the last two points. A shadow of anger fell over Snape's expression. What idiots had Albus employed? First, this suicidal Salvage, who Snape would have razed to the ground, if he had had the opportunity. Now, the wannabe teacher who did not even seem to have mastered the basics of Defense Against the Dark Arts.

His eyes fell on one of the windows and he walked slowly toward it. He glanced over the empty school yard and a rare sigh escaped his lips. The last few months had been physically and mentally difficult and he was glad to be back at Hogwarts. He felt exhausted. Snape was pale, his complexion was sallow and his cheeks slightly sunken. In short, he looked terrible.
The only glimmer of hope that he had was the fact that he would work with Miss Abbott together. It did not make sense, that Albus had employed her, and Snape understood, that Albus wanted to do him a favor. This change contributed a large part to the fact that he could accept his new, or should he say old position as Hogwarts Potions Master. Albus and Minerva had concocted a plan during his absence, with the result that there was a new teacher at Hogwarts. Snape's old position as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, had been given to Bagnold without his knowledge. It still annoyed him, but then he felt no longer that strong necessity to teach others how they could defend themselves against the Dark Arts. Voldemort was defeated and Snape hoped that there would be no successor.

Despite his natural inclination to the Dark Arts, his interest had somewhat lessened while he had been working for Voldemort. He had seen too much suffering and misery, too much death. Snape swallowed hard and shook his head, feeling desperate. He did not want to remember this part of his life. Snape tried to push the memories aside and thought about something else. He rubbed his temples with his index fingers and his face was contorted in pain. Potions, exactly, he would teach Potions. Thanks to Albus' and Minerva's efforts, Miss Abbott would work as his assistant.

Snape turned away from the window and his frown deepened. He had big plans when he had left Hogwarts in order to work for the Ministry of Magic. Unfortunately he lacked the time, and ultimately, the strength to realize his plans. He was afraid that Miss Abbott had progressed further on her path, than he had done on his own path. How would she react if she knew that Bagnold would teach at Hogwarts? 'The new professor, looked pretty decent', thought Snape. 'Nonsense, she would not be interested in him', he thought at once. Why these thoughts had to catch up with him, wondered Snape growling.

His thoughts on Miss Abbott reminded him that they had made a deal. It appeared that Miss Abbott had very successfully fulfilled her end of the bargain. Snape was so proud of her, he immediately felt a little bit better. Now he had to fulfill his end of the bargain. This thought worsened his mood again. What should he say? That he loved her? He shuddered when he thought of these words. Secretly he hoped, that Miss Abbott would be too busy to remember their deal. Julie would bear some responsibility and be busy, but she would almost always be at his side, which would lead definitively to private conversations. Regardless of when it would happen, one day, he would have to tell her what inspired him, what gave him an incentive to carry on. Snape knew that Julie also worried about him. His welfare was important to her, like hers was important to him. But would she be able do develop feelings for him? He was painfully aware of the fact, that he was a few years older than her. 'Many years older', he thought darkly. 'Would this be an obstacle? Why he doubted again? Was it because of the presence of the new teacher? Was he really so special'? Snape turned consciously away from the window in order not to see his reflection, which was visible in the glass. It was certainly more pleasant to look at Bagnold than him. He growled as he thought of the new teacher.

There were signs that said that Snape would get eventually what he wanted ardently. He shared a bond with Julie and wondered how this would evolve now, when she was no longer his student. Snape rolled his shoulders and decided to leave the teacher's room. He wanted to get some distance from those thoughts that oppressed him, but was aware of the fact that they would follow him to his office. Wherever he would go, they would be a part of him.

Snape walked towards the door and wondered when Julie would arrive. He estimated that he had one or two days before she would come to Hogwarts. He was in conflict with himself, if this should please him, or not. Snape felt that his not really attractive appearance, was currently even more repulsive than usual. He looked unhealthy, almost sickly. Lack of sleep and stress had taken quite a toll on him. His head ached all the more, when he remembered, that he still had to draw up the timetable for the coming year. His whole thinking needed to be changed, because he would now work as potions master. Despite his initial anger, he felt now that this was an opportunity to go on and direct his life in another direction. When he thought of a possible future with Miss Abbott by his side, Snape would have to change a lot on himself anyway.

The hallway was fortunately deserted, which was very pleasant. The silence of the castle was something Snape liked. When he had not yet had his sleeping draft, Snape had walked through the empty corridors of the castle at night in an attempt, to escape the thoughts that chased him. Today, he no longer felt so much pressure from them because he had made peace with his past. Partially. He still had much work to do, but he hoped to overcome this part as well. Snape's head ached terribly, and he quickened his pace.

His face was distorted pain when he opened the door to his office. With great strides Snape went to his desk, pulled open the drawer and looked through the vials of potions, which were stored in a small box. 'The damn potion had to be somewhere in here', he thought angrily, as he did not find the vial as quick as he wanted. Ultimately he found it and downed the potion at once. Snape locked his office and went to his bedroom, where he immediately flopped on the bed. Groaning, he rubbed his temples and waited impatiently that the potion would release him from his pain. He knew this pain already. It had begun after he had become a Death Eater. Today the pain occurred less frequent, but regularly in times in which was exposed to a lot of stress. Snape rubbed his temples with his index fingers and closed his eyes. After half an hour, his facial features relaxed and he fell asleep.

*****

Julie frowned when she approached Professor Snape's office. She had been here last night, but then his door had been locked. Julie knew that Snape was already in Hogwarts. The dreams which she had had of Professor Snape came immediately back to her memory and Julie blushed slightly and stopped abruptly. She took a deep breath and tried to calm down. This was different. Julie was not Snape's student anymore, but his colleague. Actually, it was nothing extraordinary. Yet she felt inside her this strange feeling that she could classify nowhere.

"Don't be pathetic. Just go in," she murmured softly to herself. 'It's just his office', she thought, staring at the door, without moving. 'You were so many times in there, nothing has changed,' she thought. Had nothing really changed? Julie bit her lower lip, trying to find an answer. Everything was as before. She sighed and shook her head as she let go of her lower lip. No, everything was different, but she did not understand what that meant. Nothing was like before. Julie felt insecure and angry once again about the fact that she had accepted Dumbledore's offer. Why hadn't she thought about it a bit longer before she had given her consent? Snape, Julie thought of Snape and took another deep breath before she went to his door. 'I'm here because of him,' she thought. Slowly she approached the door and knocked. After a few minutes had passed, she knocked again, louder this time. She stepped back as the door suddenly swung open. Snape stood before her, and Julie's heart began to race involuntarily.

"Come on in, what are you waiting for," he said, motioning her to come to his office when she did not move from the spot.

Julie went into his office and looked around. It looked almost exactly the same, only now a few of his personal belongings were laying around. She turned and looked at Snape, who was leaning against the door, which he had just closed. His expression was different than usual and Julie's eyes moved slowly over his body. Their eyes met.

"You look terrible," she said softly.

He raised an eyebrow and pushed away from the door and walked slowly toward her.

"I was not on vacation," he commented on her words. When he stood before her, his eyes wandered over her face.

"I'm happy to be back," he said softly, as he tried to resist the urge to reach up and brush off the strand of hair, that hung in her face.

Julie smiled and looked at him concerned. "You were not at dinner yesterday. I was worried," she said.

"I was too exhausted to attend the spectacle," said Snape.

"Spectacle," repeated Julie surprised.

"Yes, every time a new teacher comes to Hogwarts, dinner ends with a long story. The new teacher talks about his life in full detail, sometimes more and sometimes less dramatic," said Snape, his tone filled with ridicule. He looked at Julie searchingly, "Am I right," he asked, arching an eyebrow.

Julie liked the smile that had appeared on his lips for a brief moment.

"It was indeed a very, very long story," she confirmed Snape's guess.

Snape took another step toward her. "And? Did you involve yourself? Even if you are not a teacher, you're a new colleague."

Julie's eyes widened. "No, I did not take part. I only listened," she explained. "I was partially bored, because I already knew some incidents from Michael's life."

"Partially bored," Snape asked searchingly. "This means that he also talked about something you found interesting?"

"No, not really," replied Julie. "He has lived the typical life of a wizard," she said and shrugged.

"You know him, this Michael, right," Snape asked, trying to sound disinterested. Whether he succeeded in doing so, he did not know.

Julie looked at him for a moment in silence before she shrugged her shoulders again.

"He was my teacher in the Ilvermorny School. That's about it," she explained.

Snape knew she was telling the truth and hoped that she would continue to be disinterested in him. He narrowed his eyes and watched Julie attentively when her eyes wandered through his office. Something had disturbed her.

"Um, I have to apologize to you," she said softly, glancing at the floor.

At first, Snape did not understand what she was talking about. "Why," he asked her.

"Um, I, um .. I'm sorry that I .." she trailed off, blushing.

"You can tell me," he said, his voice calm and unfamiliar gentle.

"I .. because of my negligence someone was in your office," she explained.

"Salvage," Snape said soberly.

Julie's eyes widened and she looked at him in surprise. "You know that it was him," she asked.

Snape nodded and Julie's heart almost stopped, when she remembered that she had not made his bed! His cloak had still lain on his bed when he had returned. She swallowed hard. Her cheeks grew hotter as she blushed even more.

"Of course I do," said Snape.

"It does not seem to bother you," said Julie.

Snape shrugged, "At least he was not the one who used my bed," he said and smiled at this.

Julie's heart almost melted and she did not know what to say to that.

"I, uh, well, uh, I had .. I was afraid when he came to the office. I .. um ..," she trailed off when she noticed that he stood closer to her.

Snape brushed the strand off her face and tucked it behind her ear. Julie shuddered when his fingers gently brushed the outer edge of her ear. Her discomfort did not escape him. He was not angry with her because she had used his bed, but it had surprised him to find his cloak on the bed. She had apparently taken it to bed.

"You missed me," he said softly.

Julie hesitated a moment and then nodded shyly.

"I missed you too," he said, as he gently stroked her shoulders.

She released the breath, which she had unconsciously held, as Snape turned and went to his desk. She was glad that he had commented nothing further on this topic.

"I am very proud of you," he said as he sat down.

Julie followed him as he motioned her to come over to him. She sat down opposite him on the other side of his desk and looked at the papers, which lay there.

"Why are you ignoring my words," he asked searchingly.

She swallowed hard and slowly looked up at him. "Um, I'm just sometimes very clumsy with my words," she said, sighing. "I would not have done this without you," she admitted.

"Do you want to tell me about it," he asked.

Julie nodded slowly.

"As you know already, Salvage brought me in this impossible situation. Well, I, uh .." Julie sighed loudly and leaned back in the chair while she returned his gaze. "I have fought against the memories of my past. That's when I understood that the more I tried to push them away, the more violently they returned. I saw him when he came for me," she said, paused, and shuddered.

Snape appeared to want to embrace Julie with his glance. He realized that she consciously remembered this moment and the person, which had caused her suffering. Snape had been aware that she had a lot of inner strength, but the fact that she thought deliberately at her tormentor impressed him deeply. She was so strong.

"He came to me and I suddenly saw myself, as if I would stand by and watch. I have looked at my likeness, which was trapped in an iron cage. Then I noticed, that the lock hung from the inside of the door and that my likeness held the key in her hand. At that moment I suddenly realized that I was the one who had locked herself into that cage. I had kept myself prisoner. With this realization, the clouds in my mind began to clear. When I understood what Salvage was going to do, I decided that this would not happen. I wanted to be free. In this moment, when the clouds in my mind began to clear, the images disappeared from my mind. Since then, more that two months have passed and I want to say, that the images do return, but rarely. When they are suddenly there, it disturbs me a lot, but I can handle it. Perhaps they no longer have as much power over me, as they had before," she said, looking at him questioningly.

She paused and Snape stared at her without commenting her words. He just sat there and admired the young woman before him. For a moment Snape wondered if he might be a burden to Julie. Perhaps it would be better for her if she would find someone else who deserved it more, to have someone like Julie by his side. Snape suppressed his hateful inner voice, which immediately began to scream loudly, claiming how right he was. But he would never allow this to happen. Julie would be his, and his alone. He would henceforth endeavor to win her for himself. There were no more obstacles. She was finally within his reach and he would not leave their relationship to chance.

Julie needed now more support than ever before, because she had ventured out of her shell, or, as she put it, from the iron cage from which she had assumed that it had protected her. In fact, this cage had been her greatest enemy. Now she strode bravely and positively into the world and he would stay by her side to ensure that she would not escape back into the cage. She deserved to be free and he would ensure that she would remain free.

"Severus," said Julie softly.

A shiver ran down his spine when she said his name. It sounded like perfection. He brought his attention back to the moment and looked at her.

"Excuse me, my thoughts had drifted off," Snape explained his absentmindedness. "Yes you are right. I think that the worst lies behind you." He paused and looked at her for a moment in silence before he cleared his throat and continued. "You've inspired me and I must admit that I envy you," he said with a thin smile on his lips. "I fear that you have achieved something that lies still before me," he said, while a lump formed in his throat. His apprehension had been confirmed. She had made a big step forward in his absence. The fact that he had fallen behind, was unexpected and he was not quite sure how to handle it. He startled when she touched his hand.

Julie put her hand gently on his and squeezed it lightly. "What I've done, you will do with ease," she said.

Snape's body tensed slightly and he felt almost harassed by the faith which she apparently had in him. He had the strong desire to get up and leave. But at that very moment she squeezed his hand tighter and pulled it closer to her. Julie turned their hands and put her other hand on his, so that their palms pressed against each other.

"You've helped me so much. I owe you a lot," she said with a smile, glancing at their entwined hands. "I do not know your path, but I can promise you one thing," Julie said and looked him straight in the eye, "I will not leave until you have achieved the same."

Snape was speechless, looking at her appraisingly. Was she serious? Would she really stay with him until he had managed this step? Julie still had no idea that she was his path.

"Does that soothe you a little," Julie asked quietly.

Snape's heart beat faster. Could she feel his excitement and his unease, he wondered. Why not? It was possible. They shared a bond with each other. He nodded silently, deeply in thought.

"Very good," said Julie, smiling.

Snape winced as she let his hand go.

"Albus said that maybe you need some help," she said as she leaned back.

"The schedules for the potion lessons are yet to be made," Snape said, as he straightened his back.

Julie smiled at him.

"Is that all," she asked, surprised. "That means that we do not have to do too much," she said cheerfully.

Snape looked at her and slowly raised his eyebrows. Julie had no idea what to expect. Then a smile appeared on his face. "I am curious if you'll think the same when you're done," he said. "The topics are determined by the Ministry of Magic, but I follow my own system which has proved its worth," he said, and thus he pushed the old lesson plans, which lay on his desk on the side. "We have taken a respectful look at the potion schedules, which Albus has kindly given us, now, however, we make our own," Snape said, reaching for his quill, which he handed to Julie.

She looked at him in surprise and took the quill. "Shall I write," she said, audibly surprised.

Snape leaned back and looked at her fascinated. "We start with the first years," he said quietly.

Julie waited and waited and looked at him quizzically, as he did not speak. Snape sat in his chair and gazed at her happily. Her heart beat faster as she enjoyed this rare expression on his face. It was totally fascinating.

"Julie," he said with relish.

She flinched and blinked at him while she blushed.

"Yes," she replied.

"Begin," he urged her.

"What shall I do," asked Julie surprised.

"The timetable for the first year," replied Snape.

"I should do that," she asked incredulously.

"Of course you. You're here to learn," he said, enjoying the slight veil of pink on her cheeks.

This would take a long time and Snape was enthusiastic about the idea to spend the whole day with her. He sat with Julie in his office and had for the first time the right to enjoy this moment as much as he wanted. A little crease formed on her forehead, as Julie frowned and Snape found it utterly attractive. He leaned back and made himself comfortable while Julie began to reveal to him her ideas.

Chapter Text

"Julie, wait a minute," said Michael, who approached her.

Julie stopped and turned to face him, while not far behind them, Snape poked his head around his door.

"Albus wants to see you in his office," Michael said with a broad smile.

"Me, well, I'll be right there," said Julie clearly surprised.

Michael went back upstairs and Julie turned to Snape, who was standing with his arms crossed in the middle of the hallway, his gaze murderous. Julie frowned and walked slowly toward him. His bad mood surprised her. Julie had spent the past two days to write the potions schedule for the coming school year. At first she had been totally desperate because it was difficult for her, to understand Severus' system. Then she had worried that it might anger him that she worked so slow. But to her surprise, Severus had not bothered in the least that they spent a total of two days in his office. Last night Julie had long lain awake in bed while she thought of Severus. When she had finally taken her sleeping potion, she still did not know why it had not bothered him that she hat wasted their time. On the contrary, it seemed to please him. It confused her still.

"Have I done something wrong," Julie asked carefully as she watched Snape's expression. "Why are you so angry," she said softly.

Snape's jaw was tense, he was livid. "He calls you by your name," Snape growled and stared over her shoulder toward the stairs.

Julie's eyebrows rose, "We are colleagues," she said bewildered. "Professor Dumbledore, um, I mean, Albus told me that this was normal among employees at Hogwarts," she declared.

"I disagree. I do not like when he calls you by your first name," replied Snape clearly irritated.

Julie was totally surprised by his rather strange behavior and stood for a moment motionless, unsure what to say to that. She could not understand Snape's reaction. Why was he suddenly angry because Michael called her by her first name?

"You look terrible," she commented softly, looking at him. He was pale and seemed to be exhausted.

Their eyes met and Snape suddenly seemed to be extremely frustrated.

"I have a headache," he said, and was glad that she did not questioned him further about his bad mood. On the other hand, he had nothing to hide, he just did not know how to tell her that he needed her more than she could imagine. He could feel her gaze, but could not help but get excited about Bagnold. The rascal called Julie by her first name, what displeased Snape a lot. The overwhelming feeling of jealousy raced through his veins and he felt powerless at that moment. Frustrated, he rubbed his temples with his index fingers and closed his eyes.

"Then I'll leave you alone now. I have to go to Albus' office," said Julie quietly and took a step back.

Snape grabbed reflexively for her hand and held it. Surprised by his own reaction, he looked for a moment in silence at their joined hands without any idea how he should explain his strange behavior. The anger in him slowly waned as she put her other hand over their joined hands and squeezed them gently. For a moment they stood in silence until Julie spoke.

"I must go to Albus," she said. "Will I see you at dinner? "

Snape shook his head. "I was also called to Albus. We can go there together," he said.

Julie looked at him in surprise. "You were also called to him," she asked, and raised her eyebrows.

Snape nodded and he freed her hand before they walked towards the stairs. Julie was deeply puzzled by his behavior and gave him a quick sidelong glance. What had gotten into him? What gave him reason to be upset when Michael called her Julie? Many questions crowded her head until Snape interrupted her train of thought.

"Tomorrow the students will arrive. That means that you have to move out of Slytherin's dormitory today," Snape explained. "This will be the reason why Albus wants to see you."

Julie nodded and wondered what Severus had to do with it. She had slept the last few nights in Slytherin's dormitory and had not worried about where she would live later. She had had no time to worry about that, since she had been busy with the potions schedules. Now she wondered where Albus would accommodate her. When they tried to enter Albus' office, Poppy just came out and smiled at them both mischievously. Julie looked after her questioningly while Snape held the door open to them.

"Come on," he said quietly, and together they walked into the office of the headmaster.

Albus looked at her satisfied and pushed some papers that lay on his desk aside before he cleared his throat.

"Since Michael and Julie are now here, we changed the seating arrangement at the large table," he said. "We thought that it is good when Poppy and Julie will sit with Minerva, and you Severus, along with Michael and Hagrit on the other side," said Albus satisfied and looked at Minerva, which sat nearby, listening attentively.

Julie was about to nod when Snape spoke.

Snape's facial muscles twitched and he felt anger welling inside him. "I do not like this at all," he said excitedly. "I want to continue to sit next to Poppy and do not see why this should suddenly change just because Bagnold is here. Let Michael sit beside Minerva," said Snape agitated, pointing to Minerva." Let him annoy her with tales of his exploits. I am not willing to listen to this for a whole school year. As for Julie, she has certainly no interest in his tales," he added, looking at her briefly.

When Snape was silent, Julie stared at him surprised, unable to voice her own opinion. Did she have an opinion? She blinked while she was busy trying to digest Severus' flood of words.

"Well, then we do it as you wish, Severus," Albus relented and then looked at Julie, who still looked a little surprised and confused. "Julie, I guess I will reserve your place with Severus and Poppy," he said.

Julie nodded hesitantly.

"Well, if that is clarified, then we come to the next and final point, your accommodation," Albus said and smiled at Julie. "We have two empty rooms on the second floor in the third tower."

Julie wanted to nod, but Severus was once again faster.

"On the second floor, of the third tower," he spat. "Bagnold has his room up there," Snape said angrily. "I do not like this. He can not possibly be her neighbor. In addition, the third tower is far away from the dungeon. That makes no sense at all," said Snape and looked at Albus angrily.

Julie looked at Snape and closed her mouth, which had been open.

"I don't understand why that should be bad," said Albus quietly.

"I do not like this idea of yours," said Snape. "Why does she not remain in the dungeon? We work there together and we are all the time down there. Why do you want to send her to the tower? That makes no sense," concluded Snape, and continued to look at Albus angrily.

Julie did not even hear what Albus replied. She was too deep in her thoughts. Severus seemed to be extremely sensitive, when it comes to changes. Julie could understand this because she did not like changes. But not every point affect him. It shouldn't matter to him, where she would be accommodated. But he was against Albus' idea to give her a room in the tower. Why? Was Michael the reason? Why had Severus a problem with him? Snape seemed to know exactly what he wanted. Why nobody asked her what she wanted? Julie frowned and bit her lower lip. What did she want? Suddenly she was pulled away from her thoughts when Severus gently touched her arm. Both Snape and Albus looked at her expectantly.

"I was not listening," she admitted as soon as she understood that they expected something from her.

Albus smiled at her, "Severus suggested to accommodate you in the dungeon. Opposite his office is a room which is currently used as a storage room. It can be prepared for you if you like."

Julie looked at Severus, which seemed to wait impatiently for her response. After she had been thinking for a moment, she asked, "Can I see the room first?"

"Of course," Snape said, standing up, "I'll show it to you right now."

Albus cleared his throat, "Wait a minute, Severus. Julie, since you will be working from now at Hogwarts, I think that it would be better if you were to wear appropriate clothing," he said, glancing at the old Slytherin sweater, which she wore. "You will work as an assistant and it will certainly raise questions if you dress like a student," Albus explained.

Julie, who had dropped back in her chair, looked at her clothes and nodded, unsure how she should organize that.

"Severus," Albus said, looking at him invitingly. "Maybe you can go with Julie to Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade, to help her buy clothes suitable and convenient for work."

Snape stared at Albus, while his mind was still trying to understand what Albus demanded of him. Anger welled up in him and he fisted his hands. His reaction made no sense and he tried to understand why he became so angry. He could spend his time with Julie. Why was he so upset? He looked at Julie, who looked at him, her gaze filled with concern and an yet unspoken question.

"After what happened last time when I went to Hogsmeade, I dare not go alone in the public," she said softly and then looked at him hopefully.

The anger in Snape faded quickly and he pitied her. "Of course I'll come with you," he said, as if it were self-evident.

A grateful smile appeared on her lips and they said goodbye to Albus and Minerva, who smiled satisfied at Julie.

When Snape closed the door, Albus leaned back contentedly in the chair.

"I now understand why you wanted to have Severus around, when you talk to her," said Minerva. "His reactions made Julie very thoughtful," she added.

Albus nodded amused. "We have to help them a little," he said, smiling. "That does not cause any harm."

"Of course it doesn't cause any harm," agreed Minerva. "Oh, she's already so close, I wonder how long it will take her to realize what is going on," she said with audible impatience.

Albus chuckled, "When I listen to you I feel eighty years younger," he said amused. "Go on."

"Oh," said Minerva, standing up. "Eighty years," she huffed, "You always exaggerate. Do not act as if you would not wait for the two to finally become a couple," she said, raising an eyebrow. "For my part, I prefer to say what I think," she said and walked out of the office.

Albus smiled contentedly. So far their plan seemed to work fine.

*****

Julie looked around the small room, which was across from Snape's office. It was really small, but adequate for her purposes. She needed no office, not even a desk, because Severus would provide in his office whatever she needed. The room was bright enough and a small bathroom was connected with it. She nodded and looked at Snape, who was watching her.

"It's fine," she said.

Snape looked very pleased, "Then the room will be ready when we get back," he said.

"Where are we going," Julie asked with a worried expression.

"Where would you like to go," he asked.

Julie sighed, "I want to stay here," she admitted. "What do you advise me?"

"In Diagon Alley you will be quickly recognized. In addition, many reporters lurk there. It would be better if we go to Hogsmeade and try to find something suitable for you there," said Snape.

Julie nodded slowly, "When do we leave?"

"In five minutes," Snape asked, looking at her questioningly.

"I'll come to your office," said Julie.

She leaned against the wall, when he had left. Her eyes wandered around the room and she tried to imagine to spend the next year here. It was a strange idea. She had known that she would not stay in Slytherin's dormitory, but to have her own room, felt strange. In addition, she would work with Severus together and had to teach students. That was a significant change. The last two days had been already exhausting. And she had only made the potions schedules. Julie doubted whether she was really qualified to help Snape. Albus had offered her the opportunity to provide her time to decide what she wanted to do with her life. She was very grateful to him, but now she feared that she would be unable to cope with it. But she had Severus, who would help her.

Julie wondered once again, why he suddenly reacted so strangely. Severus had experienced terrible things in his life, and apparently had a weak point, which she knew well. Sometimes he could not control himself. Maybe she would be able to help him, wondered Julie. Maybe they could help each other? What could be so bad about teaching students how to cook potions? She had talent. Perhaps she would be criticized because she had not studied? Julie was startled and looked at Snape, who had touched her arm.

"Five minutes are over. Is everything OK," he asked anxiously. "You seemed absent-minded."

"I, I've been thinking about something, that's all," she said.

Snape looked at her searchingly, "Well then let's go," he said and offered her his arm, "We will apparate to Hogsmeade. If we want, we can later walk back," he said, holding out his arm.

Julie put her hand on his arm, and at once they were in Hogsmeade.

She looked at the shop from the outside with curiosity and Snape put his hand on her back and pushed her through the door.

"We should not dwell too long on the road," he explained his haste.

Julie looked around the store and felt lost. It was crammed with vast quantities of clothes, many of which were piled into giant towers. She got a headache when she thought that she should find something suitable in this mess.

"Julie," Snape said and touched her arm gently. "Look, I think it suits you," he said, handing her a sweater. It was light blue with a form-fitting cut.

She looked at the sweater critically and shook her head.

Snape ignored her reaction and conjured the sweater unceremoniously on the body. Julie looked at herself in the mirror. The sweater looked surprisingly good on her, but the color did not suit her.

"The cut looks good on you, but the color does not," Snape commented, pulling his wand again. In a heartbeat he conjured different shades of colors until he eventually stopped and looked satisfied.

Julie nodded. Her sweater was now dark green.

"Good," Snape said, and the next moment Julie was wearing her Slytherin sweater.

"You need a cloak," Snape said, and walked to the cashier. A short time later he returned. "This will look good on you," he said, handing her a cloak.

Julie took the cloak and looked at it more closely, "It looks almost like yours," she said thoughtfully, "Not exactly like yours, but very similar," she added.

"It's actually the same cloak, however, this one has a female cut. Try it," Snape suggested.

She put the cloak around her shoulders and Snape fastened it.

"It looks good," said Snape, while Julie eyed herself in the mirror and nodded.

She looked at Snape in the mirror, who now stood behind her. He put his arms around her to take off the cloak again. Julie shivered when she felt his breath on her cheek. For a moment she felt the urge to lean back, but then she didn't and tried to concentrate. The cloak was taken from her shoulders and thus Snape's touch ended. Julie sighed and turned to face him.

"I hate shopping," she commented.

"Me too," said Snape. It was correct. The thought of having to go shopping made him angry. But in the short time in which they were in the store, he had already noticed, that shopping with Julie brought him joy.

About an hour later, Julie stood in front of a mountain of clothing and rolled her eyes annoyed.

"How shall we bring that back to Hogwarts," she asked when Snape came up to her.

"That is not our concern, they will take care of that. When we get to Hogwarts, you will find all of this in your room," said Snape, looking at her satisfied.

"It was exhausting, but not as bad as I had imagined," said Julie. "Thank you."

A smile crept across his face, "Do you think that's enough to start with," Snape asked, pointing to the clothes in front of them.

Julie nodded. "Yes, that is more than enough," she replied. "Well, then I will pay so we can go," she said, and wanted to walk away from Snape, but he caught her arm.

"I've already paid for everything," he said softly, pushing her gently toward the door.

Julie looked at him puzzled and Snape motioned her to be silent.

"Let us leave," he said, leading Julie out of the store.

Snape was very attentive, almost nervous as they walked through Hogsmeade. At every corner he looked around, to make sure that no one followed them. As they left the small town, he visibly relaxed. Leisurely they walked through the fields, whose flowers and grasses blossomed in different colors. Together they strolled slowly back towards Hogwarts. The sun was already low in the sky and would soon disappear behind the trees. For a long time they walked in silence side by side until Julie spoke.

"Why did you pay my clothes," she asked softly.

Snape gave her a sidelong glance. "Why not," he asked, looking at her in a way that made Julie nervous.

She opened her mouth to say something, but found no words. Why did his presence confuse her? Why couldn't she think clearly when she was with him? Snape grinned but said nothing as she remained silent. He looked at Julie. Albus had been right. Something had changed in her. Whether it was the fact that she had grown up, or something else, Snape could not say at this time. But he could see it in her eyes when she looked at him. In them he saw something that had not been there before. It made him thoughtful. Snape secretly hoped that it had something to do with him.

"You were absentminded before we left Hogwarts. Do you like to talk about it," he asked cautiously.

Julie looked at him hesitantly. If she did not share her concerns with him, with whom else? She sighed audibly and turned her gaze back to the road, they went along.

"I'm worried," she said.

Snape nodded and waited patiently that she would speak further.

"It is a great responsibility, which I have accepted," she said finally, and then looked at him doubtfully. "I'm worried that I will be unable to cope with it."

"It is true, you will indeed carry a certain responsibility, but I will bear the greatest responsibility. You'll only help me and thus learn much new. The first few weeks will certainly be a big change for you, but then you'll see that it will give you joy," he said, sounding confident.

"Why are you so sure," she asked, her voice filled with doubt.

"You have a big heart and also talent for explaining things. Minerva hopes that you could help her, with the students, which can not understand Transfiguration. I understand, there are some students, whose incapability to learn this subject, cause her headaches."

"Really," asked Julie surprised.

Snape looked at her, frowning, "You're not going to forget that you're here to help me," he asked directly, studying it intently.

Julie laughed, "No, no, certainly not, but a little change might not hurt from time to time."

They both smiled and walked on.

"Why does it upset you when Michael calls me by my first name," she asked cautiously, looking at Snape. For a moment she thought he would not answer her question, but then he returned her gaze.

"What do you think, what is the reason," he said.

Julie blinked a few times and turned her gaze to the path, they went along. What was that about? Why he asked? Julie frowned and wondered what was Snape intended with his question. Did he want her to answer the question herself? At the meeting in Albus' office she had noticed that Severus was very sensitive when it came to Michael. But why?

"Should I know the answer," said Julie, looking at Snape, who was watching her still.

Severus nodded and tilted his head to the side, "Yes, in any case, you should know one of the answers," he said.

"Does that mean, that there are several reasons why you do not like it when he calls me Julie," she asked, surprised.

"Yes."

"How Many?"

"Two."

Julie hesitated, frowned and shrugged her shoulders innocently, "Can you give me a hint," she asked hopefully.

"He was your teacher," was all Snape replied, his gaze was at once grim.

'He was my teacher', thought Julie, 'But that does not explain why it makes Severus angry when Michael addresses me by my first name. Why does it upset him?'

"I see no connection," she said finally, looking at him expectantly.

Snape looked at her and flattened his lips into a straight line, "What has he taught you," he asked.

"Defense Against the Dark Arts," replied Julie. "Just as you, but that does not explain, why you're angry, when he calls me Julie," she said.

Snape did not answer. He raised an eyebrow, and continued to look at her.

Julie sighed. "That means that the fact that he taught me Defense Against the Dark Arts, has something to do with it," she said thoughtfully. "I still do not understand the context. He has done his work, just like everyone else. In the States they follow the same curricula as you here at Hogwarts. The curriculum is thus the same. Where's the connection?"

She looked at Snape and frowned when he remained silent. From him she would not receive a response. Why did he want, that she found the answer herself? She sighed and looked frustrated to the ground. Her thought had apparently gone in the wrong direction. But what was the reason why Severus got upset? Both taught the same subject. Julie's eyes widened, had the incident in the Ilvermorny School something to do with it? It was a possibility. Julie looked at Snape. Severus had helped her, Michael hadn't. Was that the reason for his sudden anger?

"You don't like him, because he has not helped me," she asked.

Snape looked at her and smiled, "To be honest," he said, "On the contrary, I am somehow grateful that he has not helped you. Otherwise I would not had the chance to do so. I know that it sounds selfish, but we would not have come to know each other, if it would have been different."

Julie blushed and looked down. "Despite your gratitude, you have a problem with him. Has he done something wrong," she asked, looking at him again.

"Yes."

"And it has something to do with the subject that he teaches. Did he ...," Julie trailed off and she looked at him doubtfully. "Should Michael have acted differently?"

Snape stopped and turned to her, his expression a mixture of anger and despair. "He should have realized that you were tortured. He learns those things during his training. He should have realized that one of his students applied the cruciatus curse. That is part of his profession. As a teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts, you can't allow yourself to make mistakes, you must not fail. And he has absolutely failed in these two points. You had to suffer because of his negligence. His inattention could have almost destroyed a life and was he held accountable for that? No, he is allowed to continue to teach, and even the same subject! He knows that he has made a mistake, which would have been fatal by a whisker. But he behaves, as if nothing had happened. He walks with is head held high through Hogwarts and calls you Julie. Did he apologize to you," Snape asked, stepping closer to her. "Has he confessed to you that he has made a mistake and asked your pardon? No, he has not," Snape answered the question himself.

Snape appeared, as if he had aged by several years. Julie lowered her eyes and looked at the many black buttons on to his jacket. Doubts were written on her face and she sighed. Severus had reason to be angry. He cared about her and Michael's behavior made him angry. Julie wondered what the other reason was why Snape was angry, but she decided, better not to ask. He was already very upset and Julie did not want to irritate him more. She looked up at Snape, who suddenly looked frustrated.

"I'm sorry," he said, "I..," He rubbed his palms over his face before he growled. "I wish that you would never have to experience this suffering. But then, I'm glad that you had to go through it, because this is the reason why ...," he paused for a moment before he continued to speak. "Why we are here now," he said. "I know it sounds selfish, but that's how I am."

A small smile appeared on Julie's lips what confused Snape. "Let's go back," was all that Julie said before she touched his arm gently, and pulled him towards Hogwarts.

*****

Julie's eyes widened as she entered her small room. Now that it was empty, and the clutter had been removed, the room looked a bit larger than before. Her new clothes lay on her bed, which had been made. Everything was there, even her suitcase, which had been in Slytherin's dormitory. She turned and watched as Snape removed the key from her door.

"What are you doing," she asked, surprised.

"I'll jinx in, as I have done with mine," he explained. "Do you want to unpack now or do you wish to be on time for dinner," said Snape, while he slid her key into his pocket.

"To be honest, I'm very hungry," she admitted, stroking her stomach. Snape followed the movement of her hand with his eyes and nodded. "Then come, let's go."

Together they walked toward the great hall, where they would for the last time, eat without pupils. Julie considered it awkward, that she would sit on the morrow up there and would look down at the students. It was a thought, that made her uncomfortable. But then she would sit next to Severus and he would certainly help her to come to terms with this new situation. Julie was startled by a sudden touch. Puzzled, she withdrew her hand and wondered slightly shocked why she had reached for Severus' hand. She had touched him without any reason. Julie furrowed her brow, wondering what was happening to her.

Snape gave Julie a sidelong glance. His gaze wandered to her hands, which she kneaded now nervously. Even if it had been only briefly, he had clearly felt her touch. His heart began to pound with excitement, or was it joy, that made his heart beat faster? Why had she touched him? Had she done so intentionally or unintentionally? Either way, it had been a touch of a different kind. It had been perfect. The mere memory of it brought to silence his hateful inner voice, which wanted to intervene immediately. His gaze returned to her face, which bore a slightly reddish veil. Snape smiled and turned his attention to the stairs, which they went up. If he was not mistaken, there was a change happening within Julie. A change, for which he had been waiting for far too long.

Chapter Text

Snape sat behind his desk and rolled his wand back and forth between his thumb and forefinger. As much as he had tried, he could not forget Julie's words. She had told him that on the day when Salvage had attempted to involve her in the practical exercises, the memories of her past had returned. Julie had stated that the more she had tried to push them aside, the more violently they had returned.

He did exactly the same thing as Julie had once done. He could not afford the weakness to allow his memories to overpower him. Julie had understood that she would not be able to push her memories away. She had finally looked at her memories, which had surprisingly led her to an important realization. A realization which had made it possible for her to grow, so that she could now cope with the events, which had happened in her live.

Snape, however, was quite able to master his memories and to banish them in the depths of his being. During the day, he was often the master of his thoughts. And at night he had managed after much effort, to imprison the dark and agonizing impressions of his life with a sleeping potion. His dreams had become empty and emotionless, but at least his conscience no longer tormented him with pictures from his past. But then Julie had come into his life and her presence had awakened a side of him, which he had not known before. She had brought emotions into his life. Unknown emotions, which he had begun to appreciate slowly. His dreams were suddenly vibrant and full of color.

Snape suppressed these feelings during the day as well as he could. First he thought that he did this because he wanted to follow Poppy's advise. But then he understood that he did it for his own interest. He hesitated to allow those feelings to guide him, as he was afraid of losing control of the darker memories, which were still locked inside him.
He had always believed the ability to control his emotions and thoughts to be a strength. It had secured his survival for many years. Without this ability, he would have become another victim who died painfully by Voldemort's vile torture. This ability had become his closest companion. Highly reliable and indispensable. He knew that at some point he had to consciously give up this kind of control, but he was not willing to do so. Not now. It was not easy to part with it.

But his so-called strength, was eventually something else. Something that he hadn't expected. He had believed to be strong until the day came when Julie had spoken to him about her experience. Now he understood that it showed his weakness. He was not strong by repressing his memories, he was too weak to face them. Snape tried to swallow the lump in his throat, but failed miserably. The unpleasant feeling of being suffocated caused in him a fear that crept slowly and icily through his body and seemed to paralyze him more and more. Snape's hand went to his drawer and he opened it slowly. His eyes fell on a small vial and he took it, opened it, and drank the potion. Snape ignored the bitter taste and focused on the pleasant feeling that began to spread through him shortly afterwards. It calmed him, turned the cold in his body in a warm feeling and that was exactly that what he needed now. He knew that someday he had to make the same step that Julie had already done, but he was not yet ready for it. How could he? Should he show her his weakness? No! Snape shook his head emphatically, leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes.

He heard a knock and that soon afterwards the door opened. His reaction was slow. Snape tried to open his eyes and saw Julie, who approached him with a frown.

"Has something happened," she asked, eyeing him worriedly.

Snape opened his mouth to say something, but he could find no words. His expressionless gaze fell on the empty vial, which was still lying on his desk. Before he could pick it up, Julie had already taken it. She looked at it critically before she smelled it.

"What is that," she asked curiously, her eyes fixed on Snape.

"This is a vial," he said, unwilling to tell her more about its former contents. It would be impossible for Julie to find out more about it, because the potion was one of his own creations, which he had brewed for himself.

Julie's expression was worried and she put the vial back on his desk, as she understood that he would not tell her more about it.

"I thought you might still have a little time for me," she said quietly, to explain to her late visit.

Snape smiled wearily. "No, I'll go to sleep now," he said as he stood up with difficulty.

Julie took a few steps back, sighed and looked at him clearly confused.

"I'll see you tomorrow," she said with audible sadness and turned to leave his office as quick possible. She opened the door and turned to face him again, "Good night," she said softly, and closed the door quickly, as he made no reply.

Snape slammed his fist against the wall before he leaned his forehead against the cool stone, pressing his lips together in annoyance. His ankles hurt terribly and he gritted his teeth. Why had she come? What did she want? Snape growled in frustration. Why shouldn't she come? He did not want her to see him in this state. He did not want that she was confronted with his bad moods, that she witnessed his weakness. Since they would now be working together, this could not be avoided. Snape remembered the confused expression on her face when he had not replied.

He pushed himself away from the wall and reached for the door handle to go to his private rooms, then stopped. His feet carried him instead to the door of his office and to Julie's, which was locked. Snape knocked softly and waited. He did not want Julie to feel rejected due to his behavior. He was convinced that his behavior had hurt her. He knocked again and waited. When nothing stirred in her room, he went with an even worse mood back to his office.

*****

Meanwhile, Julie opened the door to the hospital wing and looked inside. It was late, but she wanted to talk to Poppy. She saw the old lady who was standing in front of a cabinet. Julie walked into the hospital wing and closed the door. Poppy had heard her and turned to face her. Her expression was immediately worried when she saw Julie at this late hour.

"Is something wrong," she asked, with audible concern.

Julie paused and sighed audibly. "I've just been with Severus. He was..," she sighed again and then shrugged. "He was so.. different. I'm worried."

Poppy nodded silently, and gazed at Julie for long a moment. The young woman seemed genuinely worried, and a little pale as she stood with slumped shoulders before her. Poppy suddenly felt a strong urge to give Julie a nudge in the right direction.

"Come with me. We need to talk," she said finally, and shut the closet.

Julie followed Poppy in her private rooms. Once there, Poppy offered her, to sit on a chair, which stood at her small table. She took two small cups and poured them of the tea, which she had cooked not long ago for herself and Severus. Then she sat down opposite Julie, and looked at her kindly.

"First you tell me what happened," she said, and nodded encouragingly.

Julie took a deep breath and thought with a heavy heart back to her meeting with Severus. "I have come to him because I wanted to see him. Usually he does not mind, but today, it was different. On the one hand he seemed different, almost as if his reactions were slowed. I've found at his desk a vial. It was empty, and the smell was unknown to me. When I asked him what it was, he replied that it was a vial." Julie sighed and chewed on her bottom lip. "I understood that he doesn't want to tell me more and I dropped the subject. Tonight I had the impression that he wanted to avoid me," said Julie, looking questioningly at Poppy.

Poppy nodded and smiled sympathetically. "First, you should not take it personally. Try to understand that he has a problem and he has difficulty dealing with it. The reason that he, as you said, avoided you tonight, is that he did not want to hurt you," said Poppy. "You know, Severus had a hard life. This includes not only the time in which he was active as a death eater, it began much earlier in his life, more specifically, in his childhood. On one side Severus is a complicated man who is inwardly very uptight. A man who stubbornly clings to that what he already knows. But on the other hand, he wants to break free of it and start something new."

"There is a part of him, which Severus has always suppressed, and which he would now like to share with you. But if he would reveal to you this side of himself, then you would also be faced with the part of him, which Severus tries to hide. Can you understand that," Poppy asked.

Julie nodded silently as she sipped her tea.

"Severus knows that he is obnoxious. Although he has carelessly shown this side of him for years, he is now trying to change himself, which is not easy for him. He wants to avoid, to show you his weakness. But he also knows that if he wants to show you the part of himself that lies hidden, everything else will become visible for you."

"He was with me tonight and we talked about this issue. His frustration and his anger at himself were still relatively raw, when you came to him. You've only come in an unfortunate moment what frustrated him. I know Severus since he came as a student at Hogwarts. He is now definitely more angry with himself than previously, because he knows that he has hurt you by his behavior."

"I can assure you that he does not want to hurt you, which is also one of the reasons why he has not yet fully opened his heart for you. He was unable to act differently at this moment. And that is why exactly that happened, what he did not want," explained Poppy, looking at Julie appraisingly, while she wondered if Julie would understand the truth which was hidden between her words.

So far Poppy's explanation made sense and Julie nodded. "What was in the vial," she asked.

Poppy sighed softly, "During the period when he was working for Voldemort, Severus has been experimenting with potions. Especially with the aim to find something that helped him endure the pressure he was under. He has created some potions which he, to my knowledge, takes even today. Since you are well versed with potions, and the smell was unknown to you, I am convinced that it was one of Severus' own creations, which he drank."

"Why he takes them? What do they do," Julie asked, frowning.

"They reduce conditions such as pain, anxiety, fatigue, anger, stress, there are so many that I do not know all of them. But the potions, which he drinks most often, I know," Poppy said.

Julie leaned forward slowly, "He takes these potions regularly? Even today," she said with an audible alarm.

"Yes, but not as often as before," said Poppy.

"And he has brewed them himself? Were they approved by the Ministry," asked Julie.

Poppy shook her head, "No, they are not approved."

Julie's eyes widened in shock, "What? Not one of them?"

"Not one of them," confirmed Poppy.

"But why not?"

"Severus has never brought them to the Ministry, which is why he has still received no approval for them," explained Poppy.

"But he had to test them. How did Severus do that, when he has not sent them to ..," Julie's eyes widened as she guessed what Severus had done. "Has he tested them on himself," she asked incredulously.

"Yes, Severus has tested them on himself, but always in my presence," confirmed Poppy.

Julie rubbed her face with her hands before she looked at Poppy in disbelief.

"That's frivolity, no, more like madness," she murmured. "That could have killed him."

Poppy shook her head as she took a long breath, "In the years in which Severus made these experiments, much worse could have happened to him, than a death by a botched potion." She looked at Julie, who sat silently in front of her, her expression still deeply concerned. "I should not have told you that," Poppy said softly. "Severus will not be pleased, that you know about it."

Julie shook her head, "I want to help him and I will not let him know that I know of this. I must confess that it is very worrying to hear what it is, what he drinks," she added.

"It was even worse. Since you're here, it has become much better," Poppy said.

"Really," asked Julie surprised.

"You have steered his life in an unexpected direction. However, he has to deal with his past, just as you have done," said Poppy. "He needs time and support."

"Our support," asked Julie.

"Support can be given in many ways," Poppy told me a mysterious smile. "Your presence helps a lot."

Julie blushed and did not even know why. "He's one of the reasons why I'm here," confessed Julie, while her blush deepened.

Poppy's perked up her ears, while a grin appeared on her lips. Julie's words were like music in her ears.

"You should now go to sleep, tomorrow is the first day of class and you need your strength," said Poppy, as she stood up and put down her cup on the table.

Julie nodded and Poppy accompanied her to the door. She walked into the hospital wing and turned to Poppy, who stood in the doorway, "I suspect that Severus will be in a bad mood tomorrow," warned Poppy.

"What shall I do," said Julie, looking questioningly at Poppy.

Poppy looked meaningfully at her, "Become a pillar of support for him," she said with a mischievous smile.

"A pillar of support," Julie asked surprised "And how do I do that?"

"This answer you already know."

"No," said Julie, shaking her head,

"Severus has already told you that many times before," said Poppy mysterious and closed the door.

Julie stood there dumbfounded, staring at the door. What did that mean? How could she become a pillar of support for him? She already knew the answer? How? What had Severus told her many times? Why did Poppy suddenly speak in riddles? Frowning Julie left the hospital wing to go to her room. Once there, she threw herself on her bed and grabbed her little notebook, which lay on her bedside table. What had Severus told her many times already? Had something escapes her attention? Poppy was wrong. She had correctly understood his every word, written many of them even in her notebook. She had not misunderstood him. Julie rolled onto her back, tucked her small pillow under her head and began leafing through her notebook. She began to read.

*****

'Do you feel did each new day is a blessing?'

Professor Snape - 'It would be a lie if I would say no. But this has nothing to do with potions. This is something much more powerful. My life did not make sense for a long time. But sometimes we get a second chance. '

'A second chance to live?'

Professor Snape - 'Each to their own. Your second chance may be different than mine.

"A second chance," mumbled Julie and wondered once again what he had meant. What was his second chance? Severus' secretiveness fueled once again her curiosity.

**

Professor Snape - 'I have been through a lot in my life. To see how you suffered, has not only hurt me. It also made me extremely angry.'

'Is it normal that I can perceive your emotions?'

Professor Snape - 'No, that's not normal.'

'Why is this so? Is that bad?'

Professor Snape - 'No, that's not bad. You need not worry. At a later date, perhaps we can talk about this topic.'

Julie made a mental note to ask him again. Maybe he'd be more talkative this time. Questions crowded in her head. Why did he not want to talk to her about this matter? What was so special about it, that it had been possible for her on that day to perceive his emotions? Severus had not answered many of her questions and Julie did not understand why. She grabbed her blanket and covered herself before she read on.

**

'Why don't you print your script?'

Professor Snape - 'Maybe I lack the courage to do it.'

Her heart sank in her chest as she read these line. Severus had been brave to help her. Especially because he had experienced himself terrible things in his life. In order to help her, he had taken upon himself the burden of her memories. Nevertheless, he said that he did not have the courage to do something for himself? Julie sighed. So far, she could not find anything new in Severus' words, what would help her to become a pillar of support for him. Perhaps Poppy was wrong? If she knew what his path was, maybe she could help him.

**

Professor Snape - 'Happiness did not abandon you. It's you, who has lost sight of the happiness which is present in your life. Your past does not define your future, you do.'

A smile played on Julie's lips. He had been right, and Julie felt again deep gratitude for him. Due to Severus' help, it had been possible for Julie to confront her past.

**

Professor Snape - 'You're lucky that you were not run over by the train.'

Julie grinned, remembering Severus' expression of disgust, combined with his sarcastic tone when he had thought of Travers.

**

Professor Snape - 'One should find its own way without pursuing the path of another.'

'I thought if I did know, then maybe it would be easier for me to find my own way.'

Professor Snape - 'No. Believe me, my answer would only confuse you.'

She frowned and wondered, why it would confuse her, if she knew his path. Was it something very unusual?

**

'When did you find your way.'

Professor Snape - 'That's not so long ago. Only a few weeks ago.'

'But now you have found a way that helps you to live with your past.'

Professor Snape - 'Yes, I feel that the darkness in me slowly withdraws, because the light becomes brighter.'

A serious frown appeared on her forehead. Julie closed her eyes, shook her head and read the lines a second time .. the darkness slowly withdraws, because the light becomes brighter ...
Severus had recently said something similar. But in this case it had been said in direct connection with her. Julie shook her head again. She must have definetiv misunderstood something. Slightly confused she read on.

**

Professor Snape - 'I do not like to see you in pain. You have gone through a lot. Enough for more than just one life. People like us understand that each unnecessary pain, whether physically or mental, represents an extra burden.'

"People like us," read Julie aloud and smiled. She and Snape had a lot in common.

**

Professor Snape - 'I would never administer this potion to you. For your sake. I know that you carry all the strength within yourself what you need.'

'Why are you so sure of it.'

Professor Snape - 'I can not explain that currently. Trust me.'

I DO TRUST YOU was scribbled messily beneath the last line. Julie smiled about the truth of her comment. The world might end, but she would never cease to trust Severus.

**

Professor Snape - 'Would you say that to your parents, if we'd found you dead in the forest? That you are sorry? Do you think it would relieve their pain.'

Tears gathered in her eyes and Julie felt guilty once again.

Professor Snape - 'No, it would bring them suffering for the rest of their life. You are young and you do not know what does it mean to love.'

Julie wondered, if Severus knew what it meant to love.

Professor Snape - 'That's why you can not understand how much pain it would cause the people who love you, if you had been killed tonight.'

Severus had been so angry and bitter that night, Julie still remembered it vividly.

**

Professor Snape - 'If you love someone, then you don't expose this person knowingly to danger. You worry about the other's well-being.'

Severus worried about her well-being like no other had ever done, she mused. He had been so angry with her. Probably he had been angrier than her father would have been, if he had been there with them. And her father loved her to pieces, thought Julie, before she read on.

**

Professor Snape - 'There was a day when I wanted to jump into this abyss.'

Julie swallowed hard and wondered what she would have done if she had not met Severus. An unpleasant emptiness spread through her, which was accompanied by a deep sadness. She quickly pushed these thoughts aside. Luckily, she had met Severus and she would henceforth stay with him.

**

Professor Snape - 'What would you do, if your happiness would be within reach, would you try to reach for it? Would you do it, even if you knew that you could possibly lose everything what makes your life worth living.'

She sighed and wondered what was his happiness. Within reach? It made his life worth living. Apparently it surrounded him when he was at Hogwarts. Why did Severus believe that he could lose his happiness when he reached for it? That made no sense.

**

'Are you in this situation'

Professor Snape - 'Yes.'

Professor Snape - 'You'd let your happiness pass you by, without ever taking your chance to experience it.'

'Of course I would.'

Professor Snape - 'Then we have something in common.'

'You should give it a try. Try to reach for your happiness when you have the chance to do so. Do not miss the chance to be happy.'

Professor Snape - 'Maybe. Maybe I'll do that. And if I should do it, you'll be the first one to know.'

Why would she be the first, which would know about it? Julie's eyes wandered slowly over the lines and she realized how much he trusted her. Therefore, she would be the first, because he trusted her. It made sense. Julie believed to have found the reason. She skipped a few pages.

**

Professor Snape - 'My path to freedom, leads me into my future. I am grateful to you that you came, because I learned so much through you. And I'm still learning. Every day is bringing me new insights. Every day makes the darkness in me slowly disappear, so that the light has the opportunity to become brighter. And it does. The burden, which has been lying for many years on me, gave way to the joy which you have brought me.'

Julie's hands were shaking and her heart pounded suddenly so hard in her chest that she felt dizzy. There it was again. She had not been mistaken. Severus had said to her that...
IMPOSSIBLE, her mind cried out and she took a deep breath, while her eyes wandered to the next page.

**

Professor Snape - 'You don't make me problems, on the contrary, you solve my problems.'

Nervousness spread through her and she had great difficulty to read, as her hands trembled incessantly.

**

'I do not know what I would have done without you.'

Professor Snape - 'You would certainly have perished in your distress. Just like me. Exactly the same would have happened to me if I had not met you.'

Julie put the notebook on her chest and stared with a permanent frown at the ceiling. Her thoughts circled frantically around Severus' words, and her emotions were in a chaotic state. His words had always been so clear. Why had they suddenly a completely different meaning? Why meant his words suddenly something COMPLETELY different? Julie's eyes widened and her breath caught in her throat, as his words continued to echo in her head.

**

'When did you find your way?'

' Only a few weeks ago.'

'But now you have found a way that helps you to live with your past.'

'Yes, I feel that the darkness in me slowly withdraws, because the light becomes brighter.'

'My path to freedom, leads me into my future. I am grateful to you that you came, because I learned so much through you. Every day is bringing me new insights. Every day makes the darkness in me slowly disappear, so that the light has the opportunity to become brighter. And it does. The burden, which has been lying for many years on me, gave way to the joy which you have brought me.'

'You are young and you do not know what does it mean to love.'

'You can not understand how much pain it would cause the people who love you, if you had been killed tonight.'

'And if I should do it, you'll be the first one to know.' ... 'You'll be the first one to know' ... 'You'll be the first one to know'....

Julie's heart was beating so fast that it made her uncomfortable. She rubbed her face with her hands and tried to calm down. That could not be.. she had to be wrong in assuming.. that.. no, that was impossible! Julie took a deep breath as much suddenly made sense. That could not be true! Could she have been so blind? No! No! No! It was not possible!

Was it impossible?

When Poppy told her that she should become a pillar of support for Severus, and Julie had wondered how she could do that .... Poppy said that Severus had told her many times before..
There was only one thing ....and she had found the answer in her notebook!

She had read those notes many times before and had misunderstood them every time? That simply could not be true. Her mind argued and told her she was crazy. But her heart seemed strangely pleased. Although it was pounding hard in her chest, it appeared to be calm. It confused her even more.

Julie was run over by a storm of emotions. Her breathing quickened as she began to realize what it was that Severus had so often told her. Everything suddenly made sense. The puzzle, which she had been trying to solve for months, was suddenly and unexpectedly complete. Many of her questions were answered.

His concern for her, his constant attempts to help her.. then Severus' behavior towards Travers, now Michael.., the fact that he wanted to have her close to him, no way near Michael.. Severus was jealous.. because he..

"Oh my God," exclaimed Julie, rubbing her hands frantically over her flushed face.

Shaken by sudden realization she rolled on her side, pulled her small pillow over her face and hid from the reality. Her emotions were in turmoil as she felt overwhelmed by this realization.

For nearly an hour she lay motionless on her bed, her pillow rested now under her chin, which she had pressed deep into the soft fabric.

Julie sighed and rolled onto her back, and stared into the darkness of her room. It was pitch dark and she was not sure if she liked that. In the oppressive darkness she could feel the intensity of her thoughts and feelings more clearly. Julie thought about Severus and her heart seemed to tremble in her chest. Severus' deeds had been motivated by love.

His path.. was her..

Why had she been so blind, Julie wondered over and over again.

She was deeply scared and at the same time so relieved when she finally understood why she felt so different, when she was near him.

The first few lines in her notebook came into her mind. These were the words of her mother, which she had told Julie, when she refused to return to Hogwarts last winter.

'If you have no faith in the place where you are, then you have not found your home yet.'

Julie had found her home.. with Severus.. and as if this realization was not enough, there was another, which was much more important: she did reciprocate his feelings.

Chapter Text

Julie sat down on her bed, staring absentmindedly at the door. She still hesitated to leave her room. It was ridiculous. Breakfast had already begun, but she had found countless reasons, not to leave her room. Her doubts troubled her still. Julie was nervous, excited, and unsure how to behave now. She had not seen Severus this morning. How could she, when she hid in her room? Didn't he wonder where she was? Hadn't he noticed that she had not appeared at breakfast? Or had Severus not gone for breakfast, because he was too moody? Julie pondered over the different possibilities, while she fiddled nervously with her wand. She had not slept all night. Julie had lain awake in her bed, had stared into the darkness of her room, while her thoughts had circled incessantly around Severus. Nevertheless, she had come to no conclusion. Julie still did not know what was right.

Why she hadn't noticed earlier that Severus harbored feelings for her? Julie chewed on her bottom lip and tapped her wand on her thigh. These were the same notes that she had read countless times, but suddenly every word had a different meaning. He loved her. Julie's heart started racing and she felt that her cheeks grew hotter. On one hand, Julie was very surprised by this situation, which definitely was very unusual. On the other hand, it was understandable. She and Severus had much in common. And similarities had already led to relations between the most unlikely people.

"Severus," muttered Julie while she leaned back until she lay on her bed. She stared at the ceiling and sighed. Despite this new insight, countless questions crowded her head. A few old questions as well as many new questions that needed answering. However, Severus was the only one that could do this, and she would not ask him. Not yet. She had not yet decided what she should do next.

Julie's emotions were in turmoil. She was excited because her future had been revealed unexpectedly. She felt very insecure because her personal situation had changed a lot through her work in Hogwarts, and would continue to change. Her relationship with Severus would change eventually, and she did not know when this would happen. Severus apparently did not know that she returned his feelings. This would mean that she probably had some time to prepare for the upcoming changes.

She had been surprised by her findings of the previous evening. Now that she knew what significance was hiding behind his words, she was not sure what to do. How long had he harbored such sentiments for her? Certainly Severus waited for the day on which she would understand, and he certainly hoped, that she would reciprocate his feelings. Should she let him know how she felt? Or should she conceal it? Was that fair? Julie shook her head slowly. Should she let him know? If she wanted to help him, this might be a way to do it effectively. His apparent dependence to potions came to her mind and worried her deeply. Julie wondered how far it was really an addiction. Would he also take these potions if he would feel better? If she were at his side?

Her frown deepened and she rubbed her face with her hands, which were unusually cold. Besides the fact that she felt very insecure and excited, she was in love, what confused her all the more. It was a feeling that she now perceived as pleasant after she had accepted it through the course of the long night. She would not have dreamed that the nervousness which she had felt for some time when she was near Severus, was caused by such a deep sentiment. When had she fallen in love with him? She couldn't tell. No matter what she thought she kept coming back to the same question. What should she do?

She stood up and took her cloak hesitantly, which hung over the back of a chair and looked at it before she put it back. Her eyes fell on the long mirror, and she walked slowly toward it. Doubting eyes looked back at her and Julie raised her hand and touched the cheek of her reflection. Her fingers wandered over the gentle contours of her face, until they slid slowly down until her arm hung limp at her side. The expression in her eyes was still filled with doubts, but also questioning. What should she do? Julie sighed inaudibly and stared at her reflection, as if waiting for an answer.

She would not be standing here today if Severus had not helped her. No matter what they felt for each other, first Severus had to cope with his life. Julie would help him to face his inner demons. But how? Poppy had said last night that Severus wanted to share something with her. Julie now knew what this was. However, he hesitated, because he would then also show her the side of him, which he did not like. As long as he was not ready to do so, he would not talk to her about his feelings. It was on one hand reassuring, as Julie understood that she had some more time to gain insight and to prepare for this moment. On the other hand, it did not help him.

Julie did not know, what he had done as a Death Eater, but she suspected that the day would come, when she would be confronted with it. Eventually the day would come, when Severus would speak about it. But Julie was not sure if she would want to hear that. Guilt welled up in her when she became painfully aware of how selfish she was. Severus had seen her memories and thereby knowingly taken a further burden on him. And she was not ready to do something similar for him? And she thought not of Legilimency, but of simple conversations, without images, screams and torment. For a moment she turned away in disgust, then she slowly looked into the eyes of her reflection. There were tears in her eyes and she knew it was not over yet. Although she had found a way to cope with her own past, now it was time to help Severus, to achieve the same. And this would be a lot harder than in her case.

"Severus," she murmured, as she looked at herself in the mirror. How difficult it must have been for him at times, because he had to conceal his feelings. Nevertheless, he had never denied her a request, even if she had asked if she could embrace him. A gentle smile appeared on her face as she remembered how caring he had treated her. Of course, he had good reason to do so. But there was always the possibility that she would not reciprocate his feelings, yet he had cared for her, like no other.

Had anyone else noticed? Who knew about it? She shrugged. Julie hadn't noticed anything. It was somewhat understandable. She had been so busy with her own problems that she had been blind toward his feelings. Had she hurt Severus? Julie could not tell. She had to admit that she was still shocked by her discovery. Had Severus had such feelings for her from the outset? Julie shook her head. She doubted it. Severus had been through a lot in his life and had to learn to trust someone and.. to love. She suspected that it had happened step by step, perhaps just as he had begun to trust her. Now she understood why he hadn't answered many of her questions.

He could not, or did not want to tell her that he loved her. She had been a student. It would have been highly inappropriate, if he had done something in this direction. Julie felt deep gratitude for him. She appreciated Severus now even more, as he had always acted right despite his feelings for her. It proved her once again how strong he really was. Julie was sure that he could use that same strength, to live a normal life. He was such an extraordinary man, she thought. Their agreement came into her mind and Julie knew that she already knew his answer. She was the one who inspired him to continue. But what should she do in this situation?

Julie remembered her conversation with Poppy, when the old lady had spoken to her about Severus. She went to her small bedside table and took her notebook out of the drawer, while she sat down on the bed. Impatiently she flipped through the notebook to find the page. When she had found it, she began to read.

'Someone who has lost as much as Severus, what do you think is his greatest fear? He does not want to lose any more. That is why he protects what remains from him, with so much willpower. And believe me, it is not easy to find someone who you can really trust.'

'Someone who he can trust completely, that's what Severus needs to be healed. He needs someone who proves to him that this world is not just black and white. He needs someone who shows him the world from a different perspective.'

A large, solitary tear rolled over her blushed cheek and Julie leaned back until she lay on her bed again. She was sure that the words that Poppy had spoken last night, had been told with the aim to let her finally understand what was going on. Poppy's attempt was a complete success. She had said that Severus would be in a bad mood today. Could she help him? Today? In the future? And if so, then how? How exactly should she become a pillar of support for him? Julie suddenly felt a heavy burden on her shoulders. Yes, she returned his feelings. But what to do now? How could she help him best? Although that she is his way to happiness, this didn't mean that everything would be fine if they were to confess their feelings for each other. In her eyes, this would only make things more complicated. Julie frowned and chewed nervously on her bottom lip as she stared at the ceiling thoughtfully.

For a long time she lay undecided on her bed, fighting with the many questions and thoughts that crowded her mind. In the turmoil of her emotions, his words echoed in her mind:
'Love means you don't have to prove anything to the other, because you will be accepted as you are. With all your faults and short comings. Love can turn weaknesses into strengths. If you really love, then you're ready to sacrifice everything for this person. You're ready to jump over your own shadow. If you love someone, then you don't expose this person knowingly to danger. You worry about the other's well-being.'

Julie sighed and reflected on his words. 'You don't have to prove anything to the other, because you will be accepted as you are. Severus was looking for acceptance for who he was. He had jumped over his own shadow, to help her. He had been ready, to sacrifice his own well-being for hers. And he had always aimed to protect her, because he loved her.

She felt a tug on her heartstrings. "Love can turn weaknesses into strengths," muttered Julie and knew for sure what she would do for him. She stood up and straightened her clothes. Julie had come to a decision. She would initially say anything on this subject. Whenever Severus would be willing to talk about it, she would accept it. She would have to be ready, when he would be. He should do this step. Now she had to find out whether Severus was really in such a bad mood, as Poppy had suspected. And the only way to do this was to go to him.

*****

Snape looked in the mirror after he had closed the last button of his jacket. An angry Snape looked back at him. He looked himself in the eye and wondered who it was who was looking back at him. While he thought of Julie, he was painfully aware of his mistake. Last night had ended differently than he had planned. He had wanted to be alone with his misery. But then Julie had come. She had come to see him and what he had given her, except for grief? Maybe she would not even look at him this morning, Snape thought. He would sit at breakfast beside her, and would have to force himself to eat. He had no appetite, wanted to go home and only return if he felt like it. He was a failure. Disgusted he turned away and left his bathroom.

He entered his office and was taken aback when he saw Julie, who was already waiting for him.

"Good morning," said Julie with a smile and walked up to him, "I thought I'd drop by to check whether you are now feeling better. I was worried about you," she added.

The vertical crease between Snape's brows deepened as he analyzed her words. She had worried about him. Julie had come to his office, to check on him. A warm feeling welled up in him, when he saw her. This morning Julie seemed different than usual and he wondered, why.

When Snape did not answer, Julie ran her index finger over the many buttons of his jacket. "I would like it better if you do not wear this jacket," she said softly, then looked him straight in the eye.

Snape's heartbeat quickened as she touched him and he tried to organize his thoughts which flew confused and uncontrolled through his head. Why didn't Julie like his jacket? What had changed?

"Why," he asked, his voice deep and low, his tone puzzled.

"It has too many buttons," said Julie, while rotating one of them between her fingers back and forth.

"That's a part of me," Snape said reluctantly as he studied her expression.

"Do all of these buttons need to be closed," asked Julie cautiously. "Maybe you could leave a few of them open," she added.

Snape's previous feelings which had made him suffer, quickly faded and he felt his heart, which pumped excited in his chest.

"Which buttons do you mean," he asked in a hoarse voice.

Julie's hand moved higher, until she had reached the top button, "Those here," she said, letting her fingers trail over a few buttons. "Should I open them," she asked, looking at him questioningly.

Snape nodded slowly, and Julie began to open the top three buttons. He swallowed hard as the back of her hand grazed against his chin repeatedly. Unable to speak, he stood motionless and enjoyed her presence, her touch, and the fact that she was taking care of him.

"That looks a lot better," said Julie, brushing her fingers over his jacket before she straightened the collar of his shirt, which he wore underneath.

Before she could withdraw her hands, Snape put his hands over hers and pressed them gently against his chest. Silently they looked at each other and Julie tried her best to hide her nervousness.

"Let's go," she said softly. "I'm hungry."

Snape nodded and hesitantly let go off her hands.

*****

Julie was nervous as they entered the great hall. She and Severus were the last, which took their seats at the high table. She leaned back in her chair and her eyes wandered through the great hall. She never would have dreamed to sit up here. Now it was a reality, her reality.

"Is everything all right," Serverus asked in a low voice.

Julie looked at him, nodded and tried not to blush. The fact that she now knew why she felt so strange in his presence, did not help to get rid of this tingling sensation in her stomach. When she was close to him, it had become even stronger. Her deed in Severus' office had been frivolous, but was nevertheless become a huge success. Severus had to lighten up a bit and Julie saw no other way to achieve this than to unbutton him slowly. First externally, and thus hopefully also inside. The beginning was done and Julie hoped that her plan would work. She picked up her glass and took a sip of orange juice.

Poppy nudged Julie and she turned to her in surprise.

"What have you done with Severus," Poppy whispered, as she made gestures with her hand on the part of her dress, where Julie had opened Severus' buttons.

"I don't know what you're talking about," replied Julie, before her gaze wandered again through the great hall. Poppy would have to find out herself.

Poppy had said that Severus needs someone who proves to him that this world is not just black and white, that he needs someone who shows him the world from a different perspective. Exactly that Julie would do now, hoping, that he would eventually face his past. He had to do this in order to be truly happy.

*****

It was shortly after class that day, when the door of the hospital wing burst open and Snape stormed in.

Poppy was startled and turned when she heard the banging of the door.

"Severus," she said accusingly, "You scared me to death!"

Snape strode toward her and glanced through the hospital wing to make sure, nobody except of them was present. "I need to talk to you.. about Julie," he said emphatically.

"Very well. Let's go to my..," said Poppy and was immediately interrupted.

"No. This must happen immediately, here and now," he said, pointing at the spot on which they stood.

Something had happened, thought Poppy, as her gaze fell on the top buttons of Severus' jacket, which were still open. Curiosity kindled in her and she nodded in agreement. "Well. What is it," she asked.

Severus took a deep breath and then gazed at her with a look that expressed both, doubt and determination. "I'm not sure anymore, whether my decision is a good one," he said, audibly frustrated.

"That decision of yours was pure nonsense. But you wouldn't even listen to me," Poppy said. "I told you last night that you shall not wait for the opportune moment. Do it, Severus! Now!"

"Maybe you're right, but doesn't she deserve more, than I can offer," asked Severus doubtful.

"Do you have to start with this nonsense again," Poppy asked clearly surprised. "I thought we were done with this topic."

Snape growled softly and turned his eyes from her.

Poppy put her hand on his shoulder, "You are who you are. And that's why she likes you," she said softly. "She's got to know you last year, when you were grumpy and obnoxious. In the beginning you have even treated Julie wrongly. Despite all that, she's grown very fond of you. Despite all that, you are one of the reasons why she is here."

Snape looked at Poppy doubtfully, "How do you know that? You do not know what's going on in her.."

"She told me so herself," Poppy interrupted.

"When?"

"Julie was here last night, after visiting you," explained Poppy.

Snape growled in frustration and ran a hand through his hair. "This has certainly left a bad impression on her," he said and frowned. "Nevertheless, she came this morning to my office."

"See, that's what I mean. You worry so much, that she won't like this side of you, once she sees it. But Julie knows this side of you already and it does not change the fact that she likes you. She likes you with all your rough edges."

Severus didn't seem convinced.

"You'll see that Julie will be a great help. She will support you, when it comes to your problems. Like I said, she knows what you still carry in yourself. And she does not care. If she cares about it, it is because she wants to help you and seeks a way to do so."

Snape was silent and looked at her doubtfully.

"You said that she earns more than you can offer her. Why don't you change this sentence and say instead: she deserves everything that I have to offer," Poppy asked to encourage him.

Snape frowned, "No."

"Why, what is the problem with this? It's your perspective that causes you problems."

"I'm not free of errors," he replied. "I want to offer her perfection."

"None of us is free of errors," said Poppy seriously. "Accept this fact and go to her and tell her that you love her and that you can not beat your inner demons. Tell her that you are not perfect, that you have errors and you will see that you will encounter acceptance and understanding from her side."

Severus looked at her in silence.

"I understand your doubts, but it's time that you leave them behind. You're standing in you own way, Severus. Step aside and let the things happen, that you deserve," said Poppy. She put both hands on his shoulders and looked deep into his doubt filled eyes.

"Even you deserve to be happy, no matter what was once. You deserve to be able to lead a normal life. You deserve to wake up and to be welcomed by a loving smile, instead of your dreary everyday life, which is gleefully grinning at you, because you decide every day to spend time with it, rather than with Julie. And if anyone deserves to spend his life with Julie, then it is you, because her life has become worth living through YOUR help and YOUR efforts."

The silence in the hospital wing persisted and Poppy began to gently massage his shoulders.

"It is time that you're honest. Be honest with yourself. And be honest with Julie. Or doesn't she deserve honesty," Poppy asked. "Exchange the uncertainty against happiness. There is no better business for you. It is time, Severus. Decide now to be happy. Do it now, before someone else comes in between, and snatches your happiness, before you could have ever known and experienced it. You were once so resolute and perceived it as almost impossible to wait a few months. What has changed suddenly?"

Poppy turned her head surprised when the door opened. Minerva walked into the hospital wing with a student, which was apparently injured. Poppy looked at Severus one last time and gave his shoulders a squeeze before she turned to help.

*****

Snape sat lost in thought behind his desk. His conversation with Poppy had taken a different course than he had expected. Poppy was right. Nevertheless, doubts plagued him. Julie had not yet appeared in his office. Since he had come back to his office, he had not even taken a look at the workbooks, that lay before him. Severus had no interest to work. He just sat in his chair and stared at the wall. Julie's absence bothered him. But what had he expected? Surely she was exhausted from her first day of class. He looked at the clock, which was ticking quietly. It was almost ten o'clock in the evening and a slight knock on his door made him look up. Julie stuck her head around the door and smiled at him.

"I thought I'd drop by," she said cheerfully and walked into his office. She stopped before his desk and her eyes wandered over the workbooks. "Haven't you corrected the work of the students," she asked. "If you like, I can help you."

Severus sat for a moment absolutely still, staring at her, unable to move or to say something. Then he shook his head and stood up.

"This needs to wait. There are more important things to be done," he said, as he walked around the desk. He stopped before Julie and look in her almond-shaped eyes. "I want to talk to you," he said softly.

A shiver ran down her spine when he took her hand gently and lead her to the two arm chairs, which stood before the empty fireplace. His manner was highly suspicious. Julie tried to banish these thoughts from her mind to calm down, but she could not. This could mean a lot, she told herself as she sat down. This could mean anything. She was not sure if she was ready for what Severus might wish to tell her. She had not expected that it could happen so soon. Her heart was pounding like crazy and pressed against her ribcage as she tried to breathe as quietly as possible. Julie hoped it would be something else than what she suspected. This was too early. She was not prepared for it.

For a moment they were both silent. Then Severus spoke, and thus destroyed her hopes.

"You remember probably that we had made a deal," he said quietly as he looked at her.

Julie swallowed hard and felt herself blushing. At first she was totally shocked, but then she was glad that she had already figured out what was going on. In response she nodded and tried to look at him, what proved difficult due to her nervousness. She knew what was coming, but not what would happen afterwards. This moment would change everything.

"I believe that you have fulfilled your part of our bargain. Now it is time that I'm doing my part," he said slowly.

Julie noticed that he seemed to be searching in her eyes for something, and she suspected that she knew what it was. He sought for a hint, a confirmation, that she felt something similar for him. She felt suddenly sorry for him, when she noticed that he struggled for words. Julie wondered if she should help him. Would he mind if she did?

Snape was silent for a long time, almost too long and he still seemed to struggle with the words, which he wanted to say. Eventually he began to speak.

"I've already told you everything, but I never said it directly, so that you have never understood what I meant," he explained. "Sometimes things happen in our lives which we least expect. Things we never thought possible. When this happens, it brings many doubts with it. I also have doubts. I am afraid of some things," he said, then paused. "I'm afraid to lose someone I like." 'You,' he thought, but could not say it.

When the silence persisted too long, Julie decided to speak up.

"Do you know why I remember the things that you told me over the last year so well," she said and went on, without waiting for his reply. "I have written your words in a notebook," she said and smiled gently.

Snape raised his eyebrows and looked at her in surprise. "You've written them down," he said clearly surprised.

"Yes, and do you know why I did that," she asked.

He shook his head.

"Because I understood very early that your advice was very valuable. I have accumulated a treasure of immense value, which you have given me freely."

Severus sat motionless in his chair and looked at her.

"If I had trouble, or I felt lonely, I read those notes. It has always helped me. Each of your words was extraordinary, just like you are."

Julie fell silent. More than this, she would not say. She would not tell him that she knew exactly what he had meant. It suddenly felt wrong. Julie had planned to help him, but as she had spoken, she had understood how important it would be for Severus that he would tell her himself.

Snape looked at her still, his expression swung between different moods back and forth. Julie watched him for a long time, until her heart suddenly began to stumble. Severus appeared resolute and leaned toward her.

"Have you ever wondered why I wanted to help you," he asked.

Julie nodded slowly.

"I helped you, for various reasons," he said, and faltered.

Then he reached out and took her hands, which lay in her lap, to hold them between his. "I .. I once said, that if I should ever reach out for my happiness, you'd be the first one to know. Have you ever wondered why this would be so," he asked, looking directly into her eyes.

Julie nodded, and worried that she might faint due to heart palpitations.

"You'd be the first to know .. because you're.. my happiness. You're the one who makes me happy." He had finally said it. It took a load off his mind. Severus took a deep breath and continued, "Luck was by my side since the day, when you stepped into my life. I did not understand it at the beginning. When I finally understood what had happened, I had hope again. Only I couldn't reach for you, because you were then out of bounds for me. But not anymore."

He swallowed, "Actually, I had planned to tell you at this moment that you're the one that made me whole again. But that's not true. I have healed myself, or, at least, I am still working on this. But you're the one who showed me, that everything I need, lies within myself. I already carry everything in me what I need, but I have only realized it through you. However, I need you by my side to take this step. And I must confess that I am not ready to make this step because it will confront me with the side of me, that I do not want to show you and which I myself do not want to see. I have to admit the mistakes, which I have made, and to accept what I have done, but I am not ready for this."

He fell silent and looked at Julie's slender hands, which he still cradled between his.

"I know I'm complicated. At times I can be obnoxious and exhausting. I do not know if that could ever change, and if it should change, to what extent this would happen. I also do not know if you can imagine to spend your life with me. But I want to tell you that I am absolutely sure about what I feel for you. I know what I want. All I want is you. It does not matter, in which way you are willing to give yourself to me, I will accept any. I don't want to spend a single day without you. Because you make me feel alive. Every moment of my life is suddenly valuable and makes sense again. It is a gift that you have given me unknowingly. And I accepted it hesitantly and can not live without it anymore."

Severus lifted his gaze to her face.

"I do not know what is your plan for your future," he said, looking her straight in the eye, "But whether you should reciprocate my feelings, or not, I hope to be a part of it."

Julie was in tears and swallowed hard. She was absolutely speechless. She had never been thinking how he would talk to her about this, but this was just so touching, honest and incredibly extraordinary.

He squeezed her hands, which had begun to tremble between his.

Julie blinked at him through the veil of her tears, unable to find the right words. Then, when she had swallowed the lump in her throat, she smiled at him.

"You ARE my future," she said in a trembling voice.

For a very long moment they sat in silence in front of each other and looked each other in the eye. Then, when Severus was finally going to speak, he was interrupted by an urgent knock on his door. Clearly frustrated he looked over to the door and then back to Julie, which shrugged her shoulders when the knock repeated.

Severus stood up and walked over to the door. As outrageous, as this interruption was, Julie was secretly glad, because it granted her a moment to breathe. She sank back in her arm chair and took a few deep, trembling breaths. What would happen now? Julie listened as Severus talked to Minerva. Slowly, she stood up and looked around his office. She already knew every corner of the room, but she could not stand, to just sit and do nothing. The extreme nervousness slowly left her body while she partially listened to the conversation of the two professors. Julie turned as Severus closed the door. Their eyes met, and he walked slowly toward her, while Julie remained rooted to the spot. When he stood before her, a small smile appeared on his lips.

"Although it has first annoyed me, I think that the interruption came in handy for both of us," he said.

"I agree," said Julie, who smiled in relief.

The silence that followed her words was strange.

"Shall we take a walk after class tomorrow," Severus asked, while he looked at her expectantly.

Julie nodded, "Yes, that would be nice."

When he didn't reply, Julie took a step back.

"I will go to sleep. Will I see you tomorrow, before breakfast," she asked.

Snape nodded and looked after her. When she had closed the door, he stared at it constantly. What had just happened? Was she now really his?

Julie left his office deliberately slowly before she practically stormed into her room and closed the door. She leaned against the door and sank slowly to the ground. After taking a few deep breaths, she felt much better. It had actually been not so bad, she thought. Severus did not act rashly and a walk was something very neutral, which would make it easier to have a conversation when you were nervous. And Julie was still nervous. Although not as bad as before.

She stood up and looked briefly in the mirror. Her cheeks were still flushed and she smiled at herself. Although she had been afraid at first, she was now relieved that it had finally been said. It was very liberating for her and Julie wondered how Severus felt now.

Judging by his words, he really had no idea that she had feelings for him. Nevertheless, he had taken the step to talk honestly and openly with her about it. Julie sighed and went into her small bathroom. When she came out, she changed her clothing and lay down with a satisfied smile. Yes, it felt definitely good. Oh, she was so excited. Julie wondered what the next morning would bring. Her heart had been infected by her excitement, and pounded wildly in her chest. She raised her hand to extinguish the candles when someone knocked on her door. Julie knew immediately that it was Severus. There was no doubt. Within the few days, when they lived as neighbors, Julie could distinguish his knock from that of the others.

She stood up and pulled her pajama pants up, and her shirt down before she opened the door. Without saying anything, she let him come in. Severus turned to look at her when she had closed the door and gave her a quizzical look.

"Are you serious," he asked cautiously.

"What are you talking about," Julie asked.

"You said that I am your future," Severus explained. "Are you serious? Would you stay with me, marry me, and.. so on?" A cloud of doubt overshadowed his face for a moment before Julie spoke.

"I would not be standing here today, if you did not matter to me," she replied.

She blushed as his gaze traveled over the attractive features of her face, lingering at her almond-shaped eyes. Their eyes locked.

"Don't you want to study? Don't you want to do an apprenticeship? Or explore the world?"

"I can explore the world together with you," she replied. "And I do not have the intention to study."

Severus took a step toward her. "I want to avoid that you will later have the feeling of having missed out on something because of me," he said, slightly worried. "You're still young and have your whole life ahead of you."

Julie looked at him in silence, thinking about his words before answering him. "I think I would rather have the feeling of having missed out on something if I would not be with you." She blushed even more and chewed nervously on her bottom lip.

A smile appeared on Severus' face. She was serious. After she had left, he had had doubts about whether she was really conscious about how he had understood her words. "Perhaps your parents will be against ..us," he said softly. "After all, I was once your teacher and am also a few years older than you."

Julie shook her head with conviction, "I don't think so. My parents want that I am happy. And I'm happy when I'm with you. They would not be against our relationship. In addition, they like you. Your visit last winter has left a good impression on them," she explained.

"May I kiss you," Severus asked.

"Huh?" Julie starred at him in surprise. She thought she had misheard, but then he repeated his question.

"May I kiss you?"

Her answer came as a silent nod.

Severus slowly walked up to Julie and her legs turned to jelly. She could feel the warmth of his hands on her skin, as it slowly leaked through the thin layer of her pajama. His hands slowly glided over her arms, then he cupped her hips and pulled her closer to him, exploring her body with his hands. Julie got goose bumps. It felt so different, as in her dream. So much more real, so much better. His thumb stroked the fabric, trying to feel the skin, which was hidden beneath it. Then he cupped her cheek and tilted her head up.

Their eyes met and she found it reassuring that he seemed to be at least as nervous as she was. Slowly he bent down to her, his breath touched her face, before he paused for a moment. Then his lips brushed over hers and Julie's eyes fluttered closed. Slowly his lips moved on hers as he kissed her again and again. He was affectionate and considerate, but his fingers, which dug firmly into her hips, told a different story. They spoke of desire and yearning.

He trailed kisses along her jawline before he held her closer, caressing the sensitive skin of her neck. She shuddered as he licked over the pulsating vein on her neck, before he trailed kisses to her ear. Her trembling hands, which had grabbed his jacket, began to wander. They brushed tentatively over his chest before Severus also closed this distance. He laid his arms around her and held her close. She felt his hot breath on her ear before she closed her eyes, enjoying his touch. Severus smelled her hair and placed a tender kiss on it.

Julie stood on her tiptoes, buried her face in the crook of his neck and inhaled his scent deeply, while he held her trembling body. The heat which emanated from him, felt so incredibly good that she wished to linger in his embrace. It felt so good that she did not want to let go of him. To her satisfaction, they remained like this, in silence, as he slowly rocked her in his arms.

Then, he began to stroke her back gently, slow and loving touches, which made her sigh. Severus loosened their embrace as he watched her expression.

"Thank you," she said softly, her flushed face was now unmistakably visible. "Now I'll be able to sleep."

"I won't," said Severus as he gently stroked her cheek. He played with a strand of her hair, which had fallen in her face, and wrapped it around his index finger before he tucked it behind Julie's ear.

"Why not," she said audibly surprised.

A smile played on Severus' lips. "How can I sleep, when the reality is so much better than my dreams?" Severus placed one last kiss on her forehead before he took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Good night."

Thus he turned to go. Julie's glance clung to him and she followed him. Even before he reached her door, he turned to face her, grabbed her waist and pulled her to him in another kiss, which this time was clearly filled with passion. The longing that has long simmered in him wanted to be freed and Julie was willing. This time her lips were searching for his and he was more than willing to fulfill her desire. His hands roamed her waist, hips, the small of her back, stroked her gently, caressed every inch he could access. Her two hands cupped his face as he lifted her easily and carried her toward the bed. There he sat her down and broke their kiss.

"I should go now," he said hoarsely, as he caressed her cheek with his thumb.

Julie nodded. Before he could withdraw his hand from her face, she grabbed it and placed a kiss on it.

"I'll see you before breakfast," she said with a smile.

He nodded silently and left her room.

After he left, Julie lay awake in her bed. Her fingers trailed over her skin, which he had kissed. The memory of their first kiss, caused her to shiver. No matter how abrupt this change had occurred, regardless of whether she had planned it differently, Julie felt comfortable with what had happened. She rolled to the side, grabbed her small pillow and with a satisfied smile, snuggled her face into its soft fabric.

Meanwhile Severus sat at his desk and stared into the darkness. He understood now what Poppy had meant when she had said that if he knew that Julie was his, he would want to treat her accordingly. The gratitude which he felt for Poppy's advise, was overshadowed by unbridled desire that swept through his veins. His whole body was on fire. The taste of her lips lingered still on his, over which his fingers now traced. He could not shake off the memory of her needy lips, sweet and soft against his. He wanted to go back to her, and just hold her in his arms, and he knew that his presence would be welcome. This was too perfect to be true.

With a flick of his hand, he lit the candles on his desk. He glanced through his office and he mused about the many hours that he spent with Julie here. In the early days of their relationship, Severus could not imagine that it would be so easy. He wondered since when Julie returned his feelings. Severus remembered that she had looked different this morning. Maybe the reason was that she had become aware of her feelings to him? Julie had behaved very differently towards him, he thought as his fingers brushed over the buttons which Julie had opened in the morning. He suspected that he was right in his assumption and was immediately glad that he had not told her earlier. Perhaps he would have overwhelmed Julie at the time, perhaps he would have thus ruined his chances of ever being a part of her live, as it would be now. Severus took a deep breath and reached for the workbooks of the students. He would correct their work now, so that he would have time tomorrow to walk with Julie. The burning desire of his body would not grant him sleep. Not tonight. A smile appeared on his face as he opened the first workbook. For the first time in a long time, he looked forward to the next morning.

Chapter Text

Her hands brushed gently over his shoulders before Julie began to massage them. Snape let his quill drop onto the desk and slowly leaned back in his chair. A long breath escaped his lips as he closed his eyes. Julie felt Severus' tension and tried to relax him by a light massage, combined with occasional gentle touches. It did not take too long before she felt that the tension in his muscles lessened. His head leaned against the backrest and his breath was now calm and steady. Julie's hands ran over his upper arms, gently brushed against his neck before they came to rest on his chest. A smile appeared on her lips as he moved. Snape placed his hands on hers. Julie's heart fluttered when he took her right hand and placed a gentle kiss on the back of her hand.

"I'm glad you're here," he muttered against her skin.

"Me too," replied Julie, while Severus pressed her hand against his chest again.

Contrary to both expectations, they had seen each other that day for the first time, shortly before classes began. The new school year began with a row between three Slytherin's and two Gryffindor's, that led to a brawl, in which also one or another spell had been used illegally. After Severus had missed breakfast, he had missed also lunch because he had been busy to reprimand two of his students, which had behaved unruly in Minerva's Transfiguration lesson. Julie had observed Severus during class and she had noticed how he had tried to pull himself together. The more things had taken place, the more angry Severus got. Apart from the exhausting behavior of some students, a student from Hufflepuff had let his cauldron explode in the last afternoon lesson, which had been the final straw for Severus. With clenched fists he had been the first to leave the classroom. Most students had watched Snape with concern, while others began to vacate their seats, being visibly amused by their professors uncharacteristic behavior.

Julie had found Severus in his office, as she had expected, where he sat at his desk hunched over the students work books. His face was still as grim as when he left the classroom.
Under the touch of his hands, Julie began her drew with her fingers small patterns on his chest. He took a deep breath, before he stopped her movements by pressing her hands flat against his chest.

"Thanks," he mumbled and placed another kiss on her hand.

"Severus, perhaps it would be good if we go outside," suggested Julie and felt Severus' body tense once again. "You said yesterday that we would go for a walk after class."

"I prefer to stay here before I'll be provoked further," he said, his voice suddenly irritated.

Julie grabbed his hand and pulled him up, "Come on, you'll see that it will help you."

Severus took a deep breath, then held his breath and looked up at her. He stood up and Julie took his cloak and put it around his shoulders before she fastened it. She gently stroked his shoulders and cupped his neck with her hands. Her smile encouraged him and they left his office. To Snape's relief, they met no one in the corridors of the dungeon. They crossed the entrance hall in haste, and slowed their steps only when they walked through the large gates of Hogwarts.

"I want to apologize for my absence this morning," Severus said in a low voice, as they left the grounds of Hogwarts. They left the gray stone walls behind and strolled along the broad gravel path towards Hogsmeade. "Surely you imagined this day a little different."

Julie shot him a sidelong glance and smiled, "You need not apologize for that. I understand that the external circumstances have not permitted it."

A silence fell over the two while they got lost in their thoughts.

The first day of classes had been very tiring. While Severus had been busy in the morning with his students, Julie had looked at today's schedule and mentally prepared for the different potions and topics. It was a strange feeling, to follow the lessons as an outsider. Exactly that Severus had told her. In the first week she should watch and learn. She had done that most of the time, until the double lesson in which Severus had taught the third graders. These two hours had dragged on forever. There were three students which had problems with brewing the potion.

Julie had spent most of the lesson with those students and had explained to them one and the same thing over and over again, until they had finally understood. Now she hoped, that the students would be able to remember in the next lesson on the newly acquired knowledge. Occasionally Severus had come to her to keep track of what she was doing. But most of the time he had been busy trying to cope with his foul mood and the other students. Many errors were caused by carelessness. Julie could understand his anger. While some students were clumsy, Julie had the assumption that others deliberately made mistakes to provoke Severus. Severus' mood had been so bad in the last hour that the situation had almost escalated by a whisker.

Julie looked up at Severus, who had touched her arm slightly.

"What are you thinking," he said.

"About today's class," she explained.

"Minerva was right, you have a knack for passing on knowledge. Let us hope that the dunderheads will remember next Friday what you have explained to them today."

"The same, I was thinking," said Julie, smiling with amusement.

"Really," Severus asked, looking at her with raised eyebrows.

"Yes, why," she asked curiously.

Severus tilted his head slightly to one side and returned her smile. "Well, it's.. interesting," he said mysteriously and turned his gaze forward.

The smile on his face disappeared at the same moment. Julie followed his gaze and saw four students from Gryffindor who approached them.

"Is it not prohibited that students leave Hogwarts during the week," said Julie, looking questioningly at Severus.

He nodded slowly, without averting his piercing glance from the students. "That's justice," he said with a growl. "Minerva has given me a long speech today, because my students began to use spells during their dispute with the Gryffindor's. Here come Minerva's innocent lambs."

Julie swallowed hard as she thought of the conversation between Minerva and Severus. The words of the witch had made his already bad mood even worse. It was a miracle that Severus had managed then to pull himself together and to remain relatively calm in the classroom.

When the students had almost reached them, Severus stopped, "Erland, Gibbs, Gleaves and Winston, you will return to Hogwarts instantly and report your absence to Professor McGonagall straight away," he said in a cold voice, in which Julie noticed a slight tremor. Severus was very angry. "Twenty points from each of you, for breaking the school rules," continued Severus.

Jason Erland stepped forward and looked at Snape defiantly, "None of us will report to McGonagall."

Julie what taken aback by the brazenness of the student.

"Professor McGonagall," Snape corrected him through gritted teeth.

Erland huffed and waved his hand dismissively. "Whatever".

"Twenty more points deduction, Erland, for disrespectful behavior and disobedience towards a professor," growled Snape, whose hands slowly clenched into fists.

Jason snorted, "I do not know who or what I should respect here," he said, eyeing Severus from head to toe disapprovingly before he wordlessly walked past them.

Severus shook with anger. He turned to follow the students, but Julie grabbed his arm and held him back. Severus gazed after the Gryffindor's murderously. His jaw was tightly shut, and Julie could see the muscles twitch under his pale skin. Severus was fuming with rage. Julie stared at the students in disbelief. She had never before witnessed something like that. She knew, that nobody liked Severus, but this kind of behavior needed to be punished.

Julie looked at Severus, who seemed to explode any given moment. She had never seen him so angry. For a moment she cursed herself because she had encouraged him to go for a walk and exactly that what Severus wanted to avoid, had happened. Who could have known that they would encounter those fools outside the school grounds? Julie sighed, stood in front of him and looked Severus in the eye.

"This is my fault. I'm sorry."

Severus looked at her, the anger in his eyes slowly waned and gave way to this gaze, which caused Julie a tingle in her stomach. He turned without a word and walked away slowly, knowing that she would follow him. Julie looked after Severus and caught up with him. They walked silently beside each other. She could feel the tension in him and gave him from time to time a cautious side glance, unsure what to say.

After a while they turned right and walked along a narrow path, which led to a small forest. Julie looked around and remembered that she had once encountered Severus here last winter. It had been on the day on which she had returned to Hogwarts earlier than others. Severus had been standing by the roadside and they had walked together back to the castle. A smile appeared on her lips. Much had happened since then. The tingling in her belly distracted her from her thoughts and she looked at Severus, who still silently walked beside her. He noticed her glance and furrowed his brow.

"You're not responsible. I should not have agreed, but I did not wish to refuse your request. After all, I was the one suggesting it last night."

Julie grabbed his hand and squeezed it gently. "Let's not think about it while we are here."

Severus nodded and smiled before he looked at Julie. They entered the forest and Julie enjoyed the late summer, which the fall would follow soon. The treetops shone in the evening sun in myriad colors. After several minutes, Snape suddenly stopped and looked at her expectantly.

"Do you like it here," Severus asked, as he watched her reaction carefully.

Julie looked up and gasped, "Oh my god," she exclaimed. "I've been here once," she said breathlessly and looked Severus straight in the eye.

"Are you sure," Severus asked and tilted his head. "When," he asked, surprised.

Julie instantly blushed and looked away from him.

"Um, well ..."

Snape frowned as he tried to read her reaction. Despite the fact, that Julie was standing with her back to him, he could see that even her ears were dark red and he wondered why she reacted that way. He took a deep breath and smiled. Julie's presence made it easier not to think about the events of the day. She distracted him. He walked slowly toward her until he stood behind her and gently stroked her upper arms before he wrapped his arms around her waist.

"Is it a secret that you do not like to share with me," he whispered into her ear.

Julie's heart was beating wildly in her chest when he touched her. What should she answer him? Surely she could not tell him the truth, right? A shiver after another chased down her spine when she felt him so close. The warmth of his body radiated through her cloak, and gave her this pleasant feeling which was so tempting. Slowly she leaned back until her back touched his chest. Severus held her against him and nuzzled his nose into her hair, before he kissed the back of her head.

"I have dreamed of this place," she said so quietly that it was almost inaudible.

Severus raised an eyebrow in astonishment, "Have you ever been here?"

"No."

"When did you have this dream," he said audibly surprised before kissing her ear.

"Some time ago," said Julie, blushing even more.

"This is truly interesting. And why do you blush," asked Snape.

"Well, it was no ordinary dream," she explained.

"Do you want to tell me about it," he asked curiously, holding her closer to his body.

"No, I do not want to," she replied. "But .. I think.. why not? Would you let go of me," she asked.

"No, he breathed into her ear, while he tightened his grip yet again.

Julie giggled and nuzzled herself against his chest. "Well, I had this dream when I was sleeping in your bed."

Severus suddenly stood still, and it seemed to Julie, as if he had forgotten to breathe. Then he took a deep breath and asked, "Tell me about it."

"In my dream, I stood here in the forest, almost at the same spot and.. you suddenly.. appeared."

"A n d? Is that.. every-thing?"

"No," Julie said with a trembling voice, "Um, so we .. ... um, you kissed me."

Julie could feel Severus' chest press against her back when he took his next breath. "I kissed you," he asked searchingly.

"Yes, and ... I returned your kiss."

"Were you confused by all of this," he asked quietly.

Julie shivered as his hot breath brushed her ear again. "Of course it has confused me. I fled in panic from your bedroom," she admitted.

Severus chuckled, "That explains why you have not made my bed and why my cloak was still lying on the bed, when I returned to Hogwarts weeks later."

Julie nodded.

"How did you interpret this dream," asked Severus.

"It confused me deeply. Um, I had yet another dream of you.. um, us, on that day," she said. "I fell asleep during Minerva's lesson."

"Did she punish you," Snape asked, sounding slightly upset.

"No, no, she was very understanding."

"And what kind of dream was that?"

"You were standing in your bedroom door and said, that we were not finished. Then, you wanted to kiss me again. Before that could happen, Minerva woke me up," said Julie.

"Have you ever wondered, why did you have such dreams? Do you wonder now why you've been dreaming of this forest, even though you've never been here yourself?"

"Of course, do you know the answers," Julie asked, trying to look over her shoulder at him. Severus took the opportunity to kiss her cheek.

"Yes, and I'll gladly answer your questions. Shall we sit down," he asked, pointing to a fallen tree, which lay not far from them in the forest.

Julie nodded. While his hand rested on the small of her back, he led her to the tree, where they sat down.

"Sometimes between wizards and witches a connection exists, which is predetermined. If two persons share such a connection, whether it is mental, physical or emotional, they are usually found not far from each other. I had since some time the assumption that we share a connection. Especially because you could perceive my feelings during our Legilimency session. That's not normal. At that time I couldn't explain you what it meant. But now I am free to do so. I have also noticed that we often have the same thoughts at the same time." "This is my favorite spot in this forest," he said, gesturing through the forest. "I spend a lot of time here. I often sat near that tree over there and thought of you, and fantasized about kissing you. This energy existed already in the atmosphere. Because we share a connection with each other, you're susceptible to those kind of energies from my side. When you slept in my bed, this energy created your dream which was a summary of my desire."

Julie looked at him with wide eyes. She had had many suspicions, but this was far beyond any idea that she had had. "What kind of connection do we share," Julie inquired.

Severus smiled when he saw the curiosity, which was reflected in her eyes. "It's an emotional connection."

"And what does that mean?"

"That we'll stay together, get.. married.."

Julie's gaze was fixed on his lips. She nodded slowly.

"Shall I kiss you," he asked, when he noticed that she had shifted her gaze to his mouth.

Julie nodded and her breath hitched in her throat as he cupped her cheek. She leaned into his touch and a gasp escaped her rosy lips as he put his arm around her and pulled her closer to him. His lips pressed against hers, cautiously at first, then with much less restraint. One of his hands rested in the nape of her neck, while the other slowly explored the curves of her body. Julie's hands trembled as his hand ran along the outer side of her thigh, wandered over her knee and traced upward her inner thigh. She shuddered.

Severus broke their kiss and looked deep into her eyes. Julie was intrigued by his dark eyes, which no longer resembled the dark tunnels, through which he had been staring today into the classroom, but which were now gentle and kind. She saw in them a desire that she also believed to feel for him. Her slender fingers brushed some strands of hair out of his face before she stroked his lips, which were now wet and slightly reddened. Her hands dug into his jacket and she pulled him closer.

She winced as Severus' tongue ran over her lips, which she then parted. Julie was trembling all over, and returned his kiss that was deeper than yesterday. His tongue explored the warm cave of her mouth, before it began to dance with her tongue. First with caution, then, when she seemed to be more comfortable, with yearning, which he tried to curb as much as he could.
His touch was equally filled with yearning. His hands caressed her soft body, before he pulled her closer to him. Severus pulled her into his lap and seemed to want to devour her lips. As his hands slid under her sweater, Julie put her hands on his chest and pushed him back a little. He claimed her lips even more passionately before he sucked her bottom lip between his lips, nibbling at it gently. A moan escaped her mouth as he released her lip, which was now slightly swollen.

Suddenly Severus stood up abruptly and pushed her back on the tree trunk. He ran his hand through his black hair and looked at her while breathing heavily. His pupils were dilated and he still seemed to struggle with himself when he spoke eventually.

"Let's go back."

Julie nodded and he took her hand and helped her get up. Severus held her hand firmly gripped, when he walked with her through the darkening forest. As they neared the path, he let go of her hand and stopped.

"Let us apparate to Hogwarts."

Julie smiled at him, with reddened cheeks and swollen lips, she looked very attractive. Severus enjoyed the sight for a moment before he told her the reason for his haste.

"I am famished. I've not eaten all day, and I do not want to miss the last meal," he explained.

She took his hand and Severus apparated them back to Hogwarts.

*****

Later that night, Severus stood at his bedroom window and looked out into the darkness. He was in conflict with himself. He could have strangled Erland on the spot. Many torturous methods to end the boy's life had occurred to him. Memories began to stir deep within him. Memories of deeds, which he had to perform under the watchful eye of the Dark Lord. A lump formed in his throat and Severus grabbed the windowsill to find hold. His gaze was fixed on his hands, which seemed to tremble despite his solid grip.

His plan, to pull himself together, turned out to be harder than he thought. He did not want that Julie testified how he dealt with the students when he was angry. He had endeavored all day to rein the seething anger in him. He had endeavored to prevent that volcano from erupting. But Erland had almost foiled his plan.

Snape would have followed him, and the way which Severus would have chosen for Erland to return to Hogwarts would have been painful. But Julie's simple touch, her presence, of which he had quickly become aware of, had smoothed the waves of fury in him. On one hand, he had felt like a loser, on the other hand, he had felt gratitude because she was with him, she was here because of him.

Maybe he should involve her immediately in the lessons. Maybe it could help him to remain peaceful. He looked up as rain began to drum against the window. He was stupid. Severus knew that Julie had often witnessed his anger while she herself was still his student. She knew how he was, and was still willing to be with him. Nevertheless, he wanted to prove to her that he could act differently. He would force himself to remain calm, in the hope that it would one day be a part of him, that it would become a normality.

Julie had gone only half an hour ago, but he missed her already. Severus wondered how long it would be until she would be with him, until she would share his room with him, his bed.. everything.. Severus forced his thoughts to slow. He was aware that it was just a day ago that they had first kissed. He had to learn to be patient. He caught himself, as his fingers brushed over his lips, while his body reveled in remembrance, to feel her so close.

Severus turned abruptly, left his bedroom, crossed his office and knocked at her door. It took a moment until Julie opened it. He grabbed her, pushed her against the wall and kissed her passionately. He claimed her mouth in a not so gentle, demanding kiss, leaving no room for her to breathe. Julie arched her back, causing him to shiver, as her semi-hard nipples brushed his chest through the thin shirt he wore. When his mouth broke free of hers, she gasped for air, feeling slightly dizzy. Severus kept her there, pressed against the wall, while his eyes savored her flushed face. Then he kissed her forehead and took a step back.

"Thank you," he said quietly and left her room.

Julie's gaze followed him, and she leaned breathlessly against the door frame, while the cool night air rushed into her lungs and slowly reduced the blazing heat in her body. She was again confused, excited, and felt a strong urge to follow him and carry on where he had just stopped. Sighing, she closed her door to go back to bed.

Severus was lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling. A broad grin graced his otherwise stern facial features. She had been flustered by his rather unexpected appearance. What else had he expected? His mood was pensive. Their walk had brought to both of them new revelations. He was surprised that Julie had had a dream of him several months ago. But the longer he thought about it the more understandable it was. He had long dreamed of her. Today he no longer thought back with so much longing to these dreams. That, what he was allowed to experience in reality today, was much more better than that what he had dreamed. Deep inside Severus could still not believe what was happening in his life. He had not believed such a turn in his life possible. In his eyes the impossible had become possible. The question of what others would think about their relationship reappeared in his mind, and he had to admit that he was worried about it.

Julie was convinced that her parents would have no objection. Severus rubbed his index finger along the deep crease between his eyebrows and was undecided whether he should accept her positive outlook. Alistair and Colleen Abbott had been very openhearted when he had visited Julie last winter. Maybe they really had nothing against his relationship with their daughter. The day would come when he would find out. Surely her parents would have certain expectations. Would he live up to them? Surely others would watch his every step as soon as his relationship to Julie would be known. Severus thought of the press and groaned.

The sensation-seeking reporters, driven by their boundless, sickening, sensationalism, who spared no-one. Nothing was sacred to them, except for the black letters, which were printed on white paper which in reality only revealed their abysmal insanity. Their disrespect towards life, headlined on countless front pages of the Daily Prophet. It filled myriad pages, and there were too many wizards and witches, which not only read this idiocy, but also accepted it as the truth.

Julie would not end up in the headlines because of him. Severus slowly shook his head. He knew that it was impossible to achieve this. At least he would endeavor, to protect Julie as best as he could. Severus frowned while he thought about her protection and stood up. He left his bedroom. With a wave of his hand, he kindled the candles on his desk and opened a drawer. He took out Julie's key and eyed it closely, before he put it upon his desk. Then he grabbed his wand and began to jinx it. As long as she still lived in her room, he would ensure, that her safety was guaranteed, while he was not with her.

Chapter Text

Snape was sitting at his desk and graded the essays of the fifth-graders, while the sixth-graders were busy trying to brew a complicated potion. Julie supervised the students, which gave him the opportunity to do as much work as possible during this hour. Severus wanted to have some free time tonight and spend it with Julie. Whether this would work, he did not know. Someone always caused disturbances. Every evening there was some interference. Whether there were students who were involved in a fight, Minerva, who constantly pestered him with trivial things, or something very unusual, as a destroyed bathroom, for which his students were responsible. Every time he sat down with Julie, something happened that robbed them time, which they then still spent together, but differently than they had imagined.

He quirked at eyebrow and looked up when he heard a loud clatter in the classroom. He stared angrily in the direction from which the noise had come, which intimidated the responsible students immediately. The boy turned his attention to his cauldron in which a potion simmered and it became once again quiet in the classroom. At least there were still students who feared him, Severus thought in his impotent fury. A little over a week ago, he had thought differently. At that time he had decided to try to remain calm. For Julie. He wanted to prove her that he could be different, calmer and more likable. However, he realized that this was much more difficult than he had imagined. Meanwhile, rage had accumulated in him to a degree, that he could be quite obnoxious, because he was about to lose his composure. His calm facade had already begun to crumble and all he could do was watch. Severus was now extremely exhausted by his attempt to control his temper. It had cost him vast amounts of strength.

His glance strayed to Julie, who watched the students. She had spent the last two days observing the students who were troublemakers, in an endeavor to avoid disturbances during lessons. This had not been the meaning of her presence in his lessons. But without Julie's constant attention, it had not been possible for Severus to teach. And this happened only because of his idiotic plan. He had never faced so many unbridled students. He had to change his tactics. But how? Should he treat the students as he had always done? His gaze lingered a moment on Julie before he looked back at the essay which he graded, but his thoughts wandered off again.

It was not so easy to change one's habits, especially when it comes to habits, which had been practiced for many years. Severus had spent the whole week trying to restrain his anger. He had given the students stupid warnings, which had proved to be ridiculous, because a few students no longer took him seriously. They provoked him. Severus longed back to the time when he had punished disruptive students ruthlessly. His actions had intimated everyone in the class, and had made teaching somewhat pleasant. But now... Severus growled softly when he compared the present situation with the previous one. Currently, he was still trying to avoid showing his temper. However, the results were provocative acts and comments on the part of the students, which drove him almost to incandescence. It were, of course, the students with whom he had previously dealt harshly, which now provoked him most. Every day Severus wondered why he was doing that, but then he just had to look at Julie and knew the answer. But did this make sense? It brought him enormous pressure, anger and frustration. Where did it lead him?

Severus had admitted last night that his extremely stupid strategy lead him more to the dark side in him. Always further away from the light. It triggered in him exactly the opposite of what he was trying to achieve. And this was not the intention. He wanted to give Julie the impression that he was a more pleasant person. But instead, Julie was confronted with his stress. Not that he vented his stress and anger on her. No, he held back. He was striving to be accommodating toward her. And Julie? She supported him. His gaze wandered again to Julie, which stood now not far from his desk, where she monitored Mister Erland. Julie's presence could not keep away the darkness that hovered these days over Severus' soul. Although her presence helped him to control himself, the anger never left him completely. Julie did not question his behavior and the anger that welled up in him every day. She accepted him as he was.

Julie stood in the corner and watched Jason Erland at work. She had observed the situation during the past week with concern. Julie had often seen Severus angry when she had still been his student. It was nothing new for her. But now he was furious. It got every day harder to soothe him. Severus' visible effort to restrain himself, had apparently had the effect that he now had to deal with even more nonsense than before. Mister Erland had last Friday intentionally messed up his potion, which had the consequence that the whole classroom, including all those present, had been blackened with soot. As much as Erland had protested his innocence, Severus had not believed him. On the following Tuesday, he had then caused the kettle to melt. A deed, that had driven Severus almost to incandescence. The table and even the floor had begun to melt away when the botched potion got out of control. Severus had to evacuate the classroom and had to cancel the classes for the rest of the day. Such errors didn't happen to sixth-graders. Everyone knew that Mister Erland's errors were caused deliberately.

Now it was Friday afternoon and Julie stood near Erland to monitor him. She threw Severus a quick side glance, and noticed that he looked at her. A gentle smile appeared on her lips as she returned his gaze before her attention returned to Erland. Her eyes widened and she reached reflexively for her wand. Before she touched it, Severus had already cast a shield charm on the cauldron, which began to make strange noises and began to tremble under the pressure of the botched potion.

Severus had already jumped up and approached him. "Mister Erland," hissed Snape through gritted teeth. "WHAT needs to HAPPEN for your STUPID DEEDS to come to an END," he asked while he pushed Julie aside in order to get her out of the danger zone. "Must someone get hurt?"

Jason shrugged his shoulders and decided not to answer.

"From the sixth year Potions is an ELECTIVE COURSE. Why don't you LEAVE my classes for good and thus do us both a F A V O R?"

"You wish," said Erland almost inaudibly.

Severus, however, had heard him. He seemed to boil over with anger.

"If so, the IN-STRUC-TIONS are in your BOOK! Have you forgotten how to read, or are you too engrossed in your MISERABLE SELF to follow those INSTRUCTIONS? I said that you SHOULD do E V E R Y T H I N G - E X A C T L Y as P R E S C R I B E D in your BOOK, following the S P E C I F I E D - Q U A N T I T I E S - A N D stated O R D E R! That you've already learned as a first-grader. Are you T O O - S T U P I D to follow plain instructions, or does your intelligence gives way to I L L I T E R A C Y? When I give instructions, then YOU listen to ME, and FIRST and FOREMOST, follow them A C C U R A T E L Y," growled Snape, who leaned over the desk at which Erland sat.

Jason looked unimpressed. "I have better things to do, than to listen as your babbling," he replied, and looked at Snape pejoratively.

Snape's facial muscles twitched, while it cost him great effort not to lose his temper. "Do you think that you can talk to me like THAT just because your parents are wealthy? That might be beneficial in the world OUT THERE," Snape growled and pointed with a brief gesture toward a window, "But not HERE! In Hogwarts you will NOT benefit from it! You can NOT buy your education! NO ONE will give it to you for FREE," snarled Snape, whose body was shaking with anger.

"For what do I need this education," Erland retorted, while he dropped the wooden spoon on the table, with which he had previously stirred the potion. "Some people here might want to do something more meaningful in their lives, than teaching potions."

"E N O U G H," growled Snape and slammed his hands on the boys desk. "YOU-WILL-serve-detention for AS-LONG-AS-I-SEE-FIT. MY office! 4.30 p.m. Leave-my-class. N O W," growled Snape dangerously low as his self-control slipped away.

Julie sighed. Eventually the young man has succeeded in getting a rise out of Severus. She had watched the development of this situation with concern and was sure that many of the students took advantage of Severus' uncharacteristic behavior. It was believed that Severus held back because of Julie, which of course was true. Now he had to listen to this nonsense just because of her. Julie's gaze wandered again to Severus, who sat behind his desk, scowling, as he watched Erland leave the classroom deliberately slow. She saw irrepressible anger in his expression, frustration and something, that made Julie believe that Severus thought he had failed. It made her angry.

When the lessons were over, Snape reached for the stack papers that lay on his desk and left the classroom with long strides. Julie followed him hastily. Severus opened his office and slammed the door shut, which Julie stopped with her foot. She followed him into his office and locked the door. Severus threw the essays on his desk and then sank into his chair before he buried his face in his hands. Julie stayed for some time by the door and watched him with concern. This was partly her fault. She sighed inaudibly and walked slowly toward him. Julie stopped as she stood behind him and began to massage his shoulders, cautiously at first, then, when he didn't protest, a little firmer. After twenty minutes of dense silence, there was a knock on the door and Snape's body tensed once again.

"Let me handle that," said Julie and stepped around the desk to open the door.

Erland grinned outrageously when he saw Julie.

Her eyes fell on the bag, which he carried in his arms. "You don't need that, give it to me," said Julie.

Erland watched in surprise as Julie put his bag in Snape's office and stepped into the corridor.

"Follow me," she said sternly, and walked toward the stairs.

"I'm here to serve detention," said Jason cocky.

"I know that already. After all, I was present in the lesson," she reminded him, looking over her shoulder at James, who was following her now. "This is MY field of work," Julie added.

Jason grinned triumphantly and followed her cheerfully. If he didn't have to serve detention with Snape, it was all the better.

Julie was aware of Jason's obvious joy. That confident grin would leave his lips very soon.

 

Snape sat behind his desk and graded essays when Julie came back. He looked up and threw her a questioning look. Julie's expression was stern, what surprised him. She grabbed a chair and sat down on opposite him. Julie picked up the essays, which Severus had already graded and began to read.

"Where is he," Snape asked, his voice still laced with anger.

"He is serving detention. You'll be satisfied," was all Julie replied. Her eyes flew over the text, before she studied Severus' corrections.

If Severus tried to control his temper, she would help him, even if that would mean that she had to deal strictly with the students. Severus was clearly reluctant to deal with them as he had done before, and they were now trying to utilize this to their advantage. But they had made their plan without Julie. If Severus had chosen this path, she would support him.

Shortly before Severus had finished his work, an irritating knocking was heard at the door.

Severus looked at her clearly dissatisfied, "That was much too short," he commented, his gaze fixed on her.

Julie stood up and smiled at him, "I think it was enough for today. We don't want to overwhelm him on the very first day."

"It wouldn't bother me in the slightest," Severus said grimly, as his gaze followed Julie.

She opened the door and motioned Jason to come in.

Snape got hit by a wave of satisfaction when he saw the anger that was visible on Erland's facial features. The corners of his mouth twitched slightly upward as he tried to suppress a grin.

"You may return to your dormitory and clean yourself," said Julie, as she handed him his bag. "Then you may go for dinner. Tomorrow you'll return at the same time. Do you understand," she said.

"You can not decide that. You're nobody! You're not a professor. You can not tell me what to do," exclaimed Jason excitedly, his eyes sparkled with anger and frustration.

Julie looked at him with a bored expression, "As far as I remember, it was Professor Snape, which imposed the detention. I for one, decide what you are doing in the time of detention. In order to do that, I need not be a professor. Get out," she said, while pointing with a swift movement of her hand towards the open door.

Erland turned and strode toward the door.

"Be on time. Even the smallest negligence on your part could extend your stay with Filch for an unlimited period," she said as Erland stepped into the corridor and closed the door loudly.

Snape leaned back in his chair and watched Julie as she approached him. Her expression was now filled with doubts. "Have I done well," she asked audibly concerned. "Have I told the truth?"

Severus rose from his chair and walked around his desk to get to her. His hands brushed gently over her upper arms and he looked deeply into her eyes. A small smile graced his lips, "You've done everything right, were serious but not angry, and your words were truthful," he confirmed, to reassure her.

Julie sighed and leaned her forehead against his chest before she nuzzled her cheek against the soft fabric of his jacket. "That's not my nature," she said softly.

"Sometimes it's good to do something that is against our nature. It helps us to grow internally if we do it with the right attitude. Did you do it to get back at Erland? Was that some kind of revenge," Severus asked.

Julie looked up at him and shook her head. "No, I have decided to do this, because I see that they exploit the situation."

Severus looked at her quizzically, while he rubbed her shoulders gently with his thumbs.

"Everyone sees how much you are striving to pull yourself together. They think that I'm the reason for your rather unusual behavior."

Hearing this, Snape arched an eyebrow and Julie continued to explain her findings.

"Two days ago I overheard a conversation between students from Hufflepuff, who said that. I want to support you in your effort," she said, while her fingers brushed over the buttons of Severus' jacket - there were already four buttons open - "I have decided that I have to act, to show them where their limits are. Together we are stronger," she murmured, looking through her long lashes at him.

Severus took her chin between his thumb and forefinger and tilted her head up. Then he cupped her cheek with his other hand and leaned in to kiss her. It was a gentle, tender kiss, right on her lips, which lasted only briefly. Then he straightened up again. "Thank you," he whispered as his thumb stroked her slightly reddened cheek.

Julie buried her face in his jacket and inhaled his scent deeply. Then she stepped back and looked at him. "Severus," she said softly.

Their eyes met and Severus motioned her with a small nod, that he was listening.

"I know that certain emotions can not just disappear. They do not vanish into thin air, even if this would be the easiest. We must find a way to learn to deal with them properly and to be free of their influence. To suppress these emotions, is not a solution. And this is exactly, what you are doing."

Julie paused, looked at the open buttons of his jacket, before she returned his gaze. Severus looked dejected.

"I understand that you carry much in you what is still affecting you. You carry a lot more in you than I've ever carried in me. I understand that it is difficult for you," she continued. "I do not condemn you because you are having these problems, or because of the way, those.. um.. darker emotions sometimes manifest in your behavior. Everyone has those moments and no one would want to be condemned for them."

Severus now looked deeply frustrated, "Such moments? For me there are not such moments. It's a permanent condition," he said with audible bitterness.

Julie raised his hand, which was holding hers and gently stroked the back of his hand with her thumb.

"Darkness can not drive out darkness only light can do that. Let the light dispel the darkness. You're trying to forcibly change something. You try to suppress something in you, that had long been a normality for you.. a part of you. I know you are doing this for me. But know that I accept you as you are. You need not overexert yourself for me. Have faith that everything will happen when the right time comes. The day will come, when you will be free of your past. You just need a little more time. Be patient with yourself and most importantly, have faith that whatever comes, I'll be by your side."

Severus cupped her hands and squeezed them tightly. "You are my light," he said softly, his gaze fixed on their clasped hands.

"It takes time until the sunbeams dispel the last shadows of the night. Your night has persisted long, Severus, and the sun takes time to rise. We can't hurry dawn. But it will surely come."

With that, she raised their hands and placed a kiss on his hand. "Good night, Severus."

Julie loosened her grip on his hands and Severus his on hers. She walked past him and gave him one last look before she left his office with a gentle smile upon her lips. She closed the door and Severus shuddered. Like every night when she left him, the darkness descended on him. But tonight it seemed as if its shadows were longer and darker than before.

Chapter Text

Julie walked past the many paintings hanging on the high walls and opened the door at the end of the corridor with caution. A brief look into the room confirmed her guess that Severus was not there. Frustrated, she sighed, closed the door, and turned to go back to Severus' office. After their conversation last night, she had not seen him. He had not been in his office in the morning, and had not appeared for breakfast. Julie was worried because she could not find him anywhere. On this gloomy morning, Julie became aware of Hogwarts enormous size for the first time. Her legs had grown tired of walking. But she could not just sit in her room and wait. She was too restless. Julie walked around the corner and began to chew on her bottom lip as she pulled her cloak closer around her body.

Why couldn't she find Severus? With every step she did, her inner discomfort became noticeably stronger. When Julie had awakened early in the morning, she had already felt a profound inner unrest and an unpleasant pain, which she could not comprehend. That was why she had come to Severus' office, but she had found it empty. He had not been in his private rooms either. Julie felt unsettled by this terrible inner feeling and just wanted to talk to Severus about it. Perhaps he could explain what was wrong with her. Unfortunately, he was still untraceable. She sighed again and looked up. Doubts appeared on her pale face as the hallway before her split into two hallways. What direction should she take?

Julie decided to take the right hallway. She knew who she could ask. After several staircases and two long corridors, Julie approached the large double doors leading to the hospital wing. Carefully she opened the door and threw a cautious look inside. Two beds were occupied, but Poppy was not present. Julie entered the large room quietly and approached the door leading to Poppy's private rooms. She knocked gently and entered the narrow hallway before she closed the door behind her. To her relief, Poppy stood in the small room, at which table Julie had once sat with her. A smile appeared on Julie's lips as she remembered the day.

"Poppy," she said softly.

Surprised, Poppy looked up and waved Julie over. "Oh, Julie, are you all right? You look a bit pale today," she asked, looking at Julie as she entered the room. "What's wrong with Severus, was he too busy to attend breakfast?"

Julie was surprised by her question and at the same time disappointed. "Um, I've actually come to ask you where he is," explained Julie. "I was hoping you'd know."

"Severus is not in the dungeon," Poppy asked, astonished.

"No, he's not there, I've been looking for him in all sorts of places, and I could not find him anywhere," said Julie, audibly frustrated.

Poppy's eyes glittered. That sounded very good. "Did you," she asked, as she eyed Julie with a mischievous grin. "Well, I can not help you unfortunately. Either you continue your search for Severus, or you just wait in his office until he returns," was her advice.

Julie was not enthusiastic about the idea of waiting for Severus, "Well, anyway, thanks, I'll probably continue to look for him," she said softly, turning to go.

"You have not answered my first question, you look pale," said Poppy.

Julie turned to her, "I feel terrible," she said as she rubbed her hand over her belly.

Poppy watched her gesture, "Did something happen," she asked.

"No, not that I know. I woke up with that feeling today," Julie said, "I was hoping Severus might help me."

Again Poppy's eyes glittered, "Just look for Severus, I'm sure he can help you," she said, looking over Julie's shoulder. Their conversation was interrupted by a student, who burst excitedly into Poppy's corridor. The old witch quickly passed Julie, who followed her slowly. Julie cringed as she entered the hospital wing. Apparently a student had been injured during Quidditch practice. She turned her eyes away and left the room as fast as she could. In the hall, it was much cooler and Julie wandered aimlessly through the hallways of Hogwarts for some time.

Where was Severus? She'd like to talk to him. Julie could not lessen this unpleasant feeling in her. Somehow she felt as though she was still at Ilvermorny School. This feeling reminded her of the time when she had had to endure immense torments. As she ran across the hallways of Hogwarts this morning, she'd felt as if HE were lurking behind the next corner. That was totally crazy and absolutely impossible. But why did she feel like that? Julie chewed nervously on her bottom lip. Something was wrong. Only she could not tell what it was. Where was Severus?

A little later, she left Severus' office with a very frustrated expression. He had not returned during her absence. Where else should she look? Julie looked around questioningly and let herself be carried by her tired feet. A little out of breath, Julie arrived a little later on the astronomy tower. She immediately saw Severus' figure as he sat on a bench, looking out over the landscape. At last, she thought, as she lingered for a moment on the railing of the stairs to recover from the ascent. She was out of breath. Then, as her breath had calmed down, she slowly walked towards him.

Severus winced as her fingertips brushed over his shoulders. He glanced up at her briefly before he reached for her hand and pulled her to the bench. Julie stepped around the bench and sat next to him. Her anxious glance was fixed to his face, which, despite his slightly reddened cheeks, seemed gray. Severus looked very tired. Julie pushed her own worries to the side. She grabbed his hands, which felt cold and clammy, and Julie wondered how long he'd been sitting here. Her eyes fell on his jacket. Judging by its appearance, Severus had played with the buttons, which he now left open. When Severus did not speak, Julie took the floor.

I missed you, "Julie said softly.

Severus took a deep breath and turned his gaze from her to stare into the distance. "I've been looking for solitude," he said slowly.

"But why? Apparently it did not help. You look awful," Julie spoke openly.

Severus whipped his head around, a frown plastered over his features. After a moment of silence, his gaze wandered back toward the horizon.

"Why do you seek solitude," Julie wanted to know.

"I did not want to burden you with my dark thoughts," Severus explained.

A corner of her mouth rose slightly as she smiled weakly. "Even if it were a burden for me, I would like to take it upon me, if doing so would ease your burden."

"Despite your past, there are many things beyond your darkest imagination," replied Severus as he watched as Julie's thumbs gently stroked his hands. "You should be glad you know little about it, and that's how it should be," he added, looking into her eyes.

"Severus," Julie said softly, "I can understand what.. "

"No, you do not understand," Snape interrupted her, his voice was loud, but rather doubtful than annoyed, "You have no idea what you're talking about."

Julie looked at him in surprise as he stared at the railing near them, "I'm here because of you and that includes all these things. You would not be who you are if you had walked a different path."

Her words aroused another problem in Severus' mind, which he immediately voiced without thinking. His dark eyes met hers and his body tensed. "Who am I? Who am I, Julie? Do you know who sits before you," he asked bitterly.

Julie stared at him in silence, thinking about his words. She knew he had been a Death Eater. Everyone knew this. Why was he talking about it as if it were something new for her?

"I've been trying to be someone for a week, and it did not work," Severus said with deep bitterness.

"Severus, you tried to control your rage," said Julie.

"It's much more complicated than that. You do not understand," he said, his eyes hardening.

"Then explain it to me, Severus."

"I've tried to be.. a person, somebody.. no matter who." For a moment, Severus looked at her strangely, then his hard expression softened. "You can not understand this because you could always be yourself. You did not have to hide your true self from others. This is how you lived your life. I could not do that. I could never be myself. I assume that I've lost myself on the way. I do not really know who I am," he said almost inaudibly, as he slowly turned his gaze away from her and looked toward the horizon.

Julie was visibly surprised by his words. This was not what she had expected. This was something quite different. Poppy had once said that Severus' problems had originated not only in Voldemort's time but also in his childhood. She wondered what had happened then, but knew that she could not ask him now. It would only make his wound deeper.

Severus' body tensed. "I ... I'm not sure who I really am," he said slowly. "I'm not sure if I really belong here, whether that's what I'm doing is right."

"You do not doubt us, do you," Julie asked, in a worried voice.

The fear which he heard in her voice made him shake his head, "No, this is the only thing I am absolutely certain of," he said, clutching her hands to give them a firm squeeze.

"Severus, whoever you'll be, I'll be a part of you. And whatever you'll do, we'll do it together." Julie was suddenly afraid to be excluded from his life. She moved closer to him and squeezed his hands, which were resting on his lap. "We've gone through so much together. And what's left.. well, we'll sail through it.. together.. you and I," she said with a smile with which she wanted to cheer him up.

"I'm glad you're here, but ... You do not know how much pressure I have now. You've achieved so much in the past year, what I have yet to do. You do not know how frustrating it is for me. I feel like a failure. And you have no idea how much I want to be different. But I can not. Every time I see you, or think of you, I am painfully reminded of what I have not yet accomplished," he said, sounding depressed.

"Severus, you're not a failure. You can take all the time you need to find your path. Perhaps this path is quite different from what we think. Maybe easier, or more difficult. Who can say that? The time will tell. I do not condemn you for the side of you, which you try to hide. I've already told you this before. On the contrary, I am proud that you stand by the fact that there are qualities in you that you do not like. It requires enormous strength to do so. And if my presence reminds you of what you yet have to achieve, why can not you see that positively? You're faced every day with a person which reminds you where you want to go. Look at it as a help."

Severus became serious, "I do not want to be obnoxious, but I like it. It has become a part of me. Perhaps it has always been a part of me. I like to be rude to others. It is satisfying and even gives me joy. Take Mister Erland, for example. His disgusted expression when he came to my office last night made me so happy. It brought me a lot of satisfaction. Where did you sent him?"

"To Filch," said Julie. "I had overheard a conversation in the morning between him and Albus, in which Argus said he needed help to clean the sewers."

An evil grin appeared on Severus' lips, before he immediately became serious again, "Do you see? This is a balm for my heart, it makes me happy. Don't you think that's sick?"

Julie shook her head, "If someone else would tell me, maybe, but hearing it from you triggers understanding, Severus. You're who you are, your journey has molded you. You are, like other people, lovable."

Severus turned his gaze from her abruptly and stared with an iron face into the distance, his jaw clenched. Julie fell silent and looked at him for a moment. Then she took a deep breath and squeezed his hands gently.

"You've become who you are, because you've decided to do so. These were your choices. Instead of lamenting who you could be, or who you want to be, why don't you accept yourself for the man you are today? Accept yourself for the things you do, and accept that you have made mistakes."

Severus began to shake his head and Julie felt the muscles in his hands tense.

"You can now choose to be happy. But it is essential that you accept the life you have lived so far. Perhaps this will help you to draw a conclusion and continue, or to start something new. Otherwise you will continue to dwell in these dark thoughts."

Severus sat motionless for almost half an hour, and stared into the distance. Then he took a deep breath and his body relaxed. "I would like to leave everything behind and move on," he finally said.

Julie smiled. "In my opinion, that is only possible if you accept what happened. It was a part of your life, which is now complete. But it is up to you to draw this conclusion. You gotta want it, and do it. No one else can do that for you."

Severus sat silent beside her and stared at their intertwined hands.

"You chose the dark magic, you decided to become a follower of Voldemort. No matter what you did at that time, you decided to work for Albus as spy. That was your own decision."

"He has blackmailed me," said Severuis gloomily.

"Even if Albus blackmailed you, you were the one who allowed him to do so. Severus, what I'd like to say is you put yourself on the side of evil. Nevertheless, you have remained on the side of the good. You have made decisions that show this clearly. There is no black or white, Severus. We carry both in us. And we decide which side prevails. As I said yesterday, it takes time until the shadows of the night pass. When this is going to happen, your life will become colorful. And you do not have to do this by yourself. I'm here, we can do it together. You and I."

He nodded silently and cupped her hands, which had held his.

"Take a step at a time, and start where it feels best for you," said Julie.

"With you," he said almost inaudibly.

Julie blushed, "Since when are you up here," she asked.

"Since last night," Severus replied.

She looked at him horrified, "Since last night?"

Severus nodded, "Yes, but let's talk about you. You look pale today," he said, his gaze wandering over the gentle contours of her face.

"I've woken up with a feeling which is just terrible. It's a deep inner unrest. It's.., as if HE were lurking behind every corner. It reminds me of the time .. the time when I .. "

Severus turned to her.

"That's why I came to you just after getting up, but you were not there," Julie continued.

Severus felt guilty. "I'm sorry, for not being there when you needed me. And.. that's not your feeling, Julie, it's mine," he said softly.

She looked at him perplexed.

Severus looked at her hands, which he held before he looked Julie in the eyes. "Do you remember when I said we were sharing a connection?"

Julie nodded.

"You perceive my feelings. I did not want to burden you and thought it would be good if I stayed alone. I felt so terrible. Cabin fever set in and I had to go outside. That's why I came here. This feeling is so unpleasant and unbearable that I'm not able to bear it in closed rooms. It's.. as if death lurks. As you said, behind every corner, behind every door.. but this is MY feeling. An unpleasant feeling. In spite of Voldemort's death, it persecutes me from time to time. Believe me, I can not help it. When it starts, I can not stop it. And I'm sorry that you feel it because of me."

"And the pain," Julie asked.

Severus frowned, "You feel it, too," he said in horror.

She nodded, "It hurts, but not too bad."

He ran his hand through his hair before placing it over their clasped hands. "I'm sorry that you have to go through this because of me."

"But why are you in pain?"

What should he answer her? His memories were so deep and real that they caused him pain. "I was tortured by someone who was not a student, but one of the most evil wizards the world has ever seen. He did it to test me, to see if I am loyal, honest, really his own. Do not let us talk about it, it will only intensify this feeling."

Julie reflected his words for some time. Then she smiled at him. "Let's do something to make us feel better," she suggested.

"And what do you think that would be," Severus asked, looking at her expectantly.

"Um, I'll kiss you, and then we'll see," Julie said, leaning over to him.

With incredible speed Severus placed his index finger on her lips and stopped her, "Not here, not in.. public," he said softly as if he were afraid that someone could hear them. He looked around, and was relieved that they were still alone. A smile tugged on his lips as Julie kissed his finger, which he still pressed against her lips.

"Does anyone know of us," she asked, her eyes shining.

"No," he said.

"And how shall we behave," said Julie.

Severus straightened his posture, and suddenly looked very formal. "No matter whether others know it or not, affections are only exchanged behind closed doors," Severus said sternly.

Julie sulked and then nodded, "Done, if that's all, then .."

"The same applies to private conversations, which affect us and our relationship, which are intended only for our ears, no ambiguous gestures or words in public as to all Hogwarts' premises, except your room and my private rooms," Snape continued.

"Your office as well," Julie asked surprised.

"These gestures are now taboo in my office. Holding hands, embracing or the like are strictly forbidden outside our private areas."

Severus stopped and watched Julie questioningly. "What are you doing," he asked as Julie pulled her wand and muttered something. A small notebook and a pencil appeared on her lap.

Julie opened the notebook and flipped through it, "With so many rules, there is the risk of rule breaking caused by the large number of rules." She took the pencil and began to write.

Severus looked at her puzzled, and moved closer to her to read what she was noting down.

"The corridors of Hogwarts are included as they are also public spaces," Severus explained, as a grin appeared on Julie's lips.

"Anything else," she asked, as she had included the corridors of Hogwarts in her list.

"I think we agree that this is our private life, which doesn't concern others," Severus explained decisively.

"I think we both agree that we are practically living in a school, with teachers, students, house elves, and so on, making it difficult to live a private life, which makes it practically impossible to keep our relationship a secret," said Julie.

Severus had immediately perceived the worried tone in her voice, thinking about her words, he nodded thoughtfully. "It's difficult, you're right."

"Severus, our relationship will not remain a secret for long," remarked Julie.

Her words upset him. He looked at the list, which Julie had written. "I want to keep it secret, but you're right. I'm worried about you. When I think of the reporters I get greatly concerned. They'll dig up our stories and draw comparisons. People will talk. Certainly this blithering idiot Salvage will spill the beans. They will tell of their observations just to be able to stand in the limelight for a moment and.. it will hurt."

Their eyes met. "But nothing will change us. If at all, it will make us stronger," Julie assured him.

Severus smiled. Julie still did not know what she was talking about. He nodded to encourage her.

"Nevertheless, we will obey these rules," said Severus, pointing to the notebook in Julie's hands.

She followed his gaze and nodded in agreement. "You know what's this," she asked, raising the book.

"A notebook," he said soberly.

Julie flipped open a page and handed the book to Severus, who took it, read, and raised an eyebrow. Then he looked at her. "Is this the notebook you mentioned," he asked in surprise.

Julie nodded. "You can read it, if you like."

She watched Severus from the side as he read with full concentration. Now and then he raised his eyebrows surprised. His gaze wandered to Julie's hands, and he reached for the pencil. Severus looked at it thoughtfully as he rolled it back and forth between his thumb and forefinger. "Why does he look so.. strange," he murmured.

Julie grinned, "I've chewed on it."

Severus looked at her incredulously before shaking his head slightly and turning his attention to her notes. Julie frowned when she saw that he was making some corrections.

"I wrote that at night, when others slept," she explained the meanwhile numerous mistakes, which Severus corrected. "Do you really have to do this," Julie asked, looking at him. She was so close to him that she could kiss his cheek with ease, but she did not, because she would break a rule by doing so.

Severus grinned and nodded as he continued to read page by page.

Punctually for lunch, Julie and Severus left the astronomy tower. After Severus had completed his correction and had extended the list of their rules by many points, they had talked for a while. Severus followed Julie as they descended the spiral staircase. He felt like a fool because he had not gone to her when he felt so miserable last night. Nevertheless, he was glad that he had stayed the night alone with these feelings. It did not take a miracle to shake off these emotions. Julie's fellowship was enough to get over the bad feelings. Often help was so close, but Severus was mostly too stubborn to admit this. His life and everything in it had always been so complicated. It still surprised him that it could also be different. Julie showed him again and again that it was the simple things in life that made the difference.

Still in the hallway, before they could enter the Great Hall, Severus encountered two of his students, which approached him nervously.

"Is anyone dying," Severus asked, sounding bored.

The students shook their heads synchronously.

"Is it an emergency in any way?"

"No. It's, uh, no," stammered one of the students.

"Is it so urgent that it needs immediate attention?"

Synchronous head shaking.

"Then it can certainly wait until I had lunch," rumbled Snape.

The students nodded at once.

"I'll be in my office after lunch," Severus added coldly.

The students nodded mutely and quickly moved away from their house teacher.

Julie grinned amused as the two fifth-graders left in a hurry.

"What amuses you so much," Severus asked as he held the door open so Julie could enter the Great Hall.

"I can't say that," said Julie in a low voice as she passed him.

"Why not?" Severus asked, looking genuinely surprised, as he followed her.

"It will be against the rules," Julie explained, and sat down in her chair, grinning.

Severus sat next to her and could not suppress the grin that appeared on his lips, while he looked at her expectantly.

"It's your rules," she whispered to him.

"It's OUR rules," Snape corrected her in a whisper. "We both will benefit from them."

"You have set the rules, which means that they are yours," Julie retorted.

"No, I don't agree. You accepted them, so it's OUR rules," Severus replied.

"What are you two whispering about," asked Albus aloud.

Severus' body tensed, his grin was replaced by a blank expression, his gaze dark and cold, "We talked about rules, headmaster," Severus said dryly without looking at Albus.

"Rules, hm," Albus raised an eyebrow and looked amused at Julie, who was grinnig.

Dumbledore's unexpected interruption, annoyed Severus. Julie was right when she said that their external circumstances made it practically impossible to keep their relationship secret. Still, it did not change the fact that Severus felt that their private life was no one's business. Albus included. Severus' annoyed gaze wandered to his plate and he grabbed the fork and eyed the food. There were hard times ahead, because certainly not everything would be as he imagined.

He looked at Julie, who was already eating. She felt his gaze and a smile appeared on her lips as she continued to look through the large hall. Shortly after, Severus felt her foot brush his leg, and he realized that he was staring at her. With a deep breath, Severus turned his gaze back to his plate as he leaned over to her slightly.

"You just broke a rule," he remarked, his eyes now fixed on her.

Julie's eyes widened and she returned his gaze. "Will I have to serve detention," she asked half joking, half serious.

Severus leaned back and could not take his eyes off her.

"If you look at me like that, it will not be long before everyone knows," Julie said.

Severus grinned broadly and said nothing.

Julie blushed hard, "What? Have you suddenly changed your mind?"

"No, I did not, did you?"

Julie looked at Severus, confused.

"Admit it. It's OUR rules. You said it earlier today, after all, it's you AND I," Severus said, as a small smile tugged on his lips.

Julie, who felt Poppy staring at her, nodded slowly, "Alright," she whispered, "These are OUR rules."

A peaceful smile appeared on Severus' lips as he turned to his food.

Julie leaned back with a satisfied smile.

"What was that about," Poppy asked curiously.

"What do you mean," Julie asked, looking at her questioningly.

Poppy leaned forward and looked at Severus, who was now eating.

"Oh, that.." said Julie, grinning, as she thought of the new addition in her notebook. "It was about rules."

Chapter Text

Snape approached the classroom quickly. The noise which the students made was already getting on his nerves. It would not take too long for them to understand that from now on, everything would be as usual again. No exceptions, no ridiculous warnings. Instead, there would be detention and he wouldn't hesitate to make somebody do lines.

He entered the classroom and slammed the door shut. The loud bang echoed in the dungeon, and the students turned around, frightened, and ducked their heads as Snape passed them with a dark expression. With a flick of his wand, the flying paper dragons turned into black ash, which slowly rained down on the students. Arriving at his desk, Severus turned around jerkily, his stern gaze wandering through the classroom as he studied one student at a time.

Not too many students were present. From the sixth year onwards, Potions was an elective subject, and many students decided not to be taught by Snape longer than necessary. Severus did not mind. On the contrary, the less idiots he had to teach, the better it was for him.

"My preference for AB-SO-LUTE... silence.. during my classes, should already be K N O W N," he said slowly, "You have been annoying me for FIVE-LONG-YEARS with your lack of understanding for this subject. If any one of you disrupts the lessons, I will do THE SAME as I have always done, and the detention can have very unpleasant C O N S E Q U E N C E S," said Snape, looking at Erland with satisfaction. The boy's gloomy gaze met Severus' and after a short staring contest, which Snape won, he continued visibly pleased.

"Jerk," Jason mumbled almost inaudibly, a comment that Severus did not miss.

"Mister Erland, do you want a detention," Snape asked dangerously quiet, as he turned his full attention to Erland, who looked at him perplexed as he wondered how Snape could possibly have heard that.

"I was assuming that two days of cleaning the sewers would suffice to put a little sense into your head. Apparently, I have overrated your ability to use your intellect. Ten points from Gryffindor for insulting a teacher," barked Snape.

"Just two days ago," Jason began, but Snape immediately interrupted him.

"Twenty points," Snape snapped, "Twenty points from Gryffindor for speaking out of turn. Let's make it thirty points, for disturbing my lesson."

Incredulous looks were exchanged on the part of the students, while Jason got up angrily, knocking over the chair on which he had sat. "Professor McGonagall will hear of this," exclaimed Jason excited.

Snape looked at Erland with a ruthless expression, "Was that a threat," growled Snape, raising a questioning eyebrow. "I am unimpressed," he added boredly, before turning away from the student and heading for his desk.

"Go to Azkaban where you belong," Jason said angrily before reaching for his chair and putting it back. Before the chair stood on its legs, Severus stood at his desk and leaned over to him.

"Strong words from a student which had shaken with fear as soon as he heard of the Dementors. If you have absolutely no idea of something, what is the case, you'd better keep your mouth shut, at least to your own interest. Your utterly stupid remark has once again pointed to your restricted mind, that, since you have been a first-grader, has not developed remarkably for the better. A further remark like this will earn you a well deserved detention for the rest of the year, which you will not forget for the rest of your life. I will personally see to this. Another one hundred points from Gryffindor," Snape snapped, straightening up.

"Who are you to decide where I belong? As long as you have not achieved anything in life, you should not be too boastful. Leave my lesson! Immediately!"

Erland reached for his book and bag and kicked over his chair before he stormed out of the classroom.

"Another one hundred points deduction, because of your rampage in the classroom," growled Snape loudly, so Jason heard him before he slammed the door.

"Why didn't you start your work," snapped Snape, looking annoyed through the classroom. The students immediately began to sort their ingredients. "If you want an entertainment program, I can offer you a varied program while you are all serving detention in the dungeon. Even in your darkest dreams, you can not imagine what kind of activities I can conjure up for each one of you. Forget past detentions, and be afraid of what may come," growled Snape angrily.

 

Not long after the lessons had ended, Julie left her room to go to Severus. The events this morning in the classroom had already spread like a wildfire among the students. Severus was completely indifferent to that. However, Julie suspected that he would probably remain in his office. She knew the reason for it too well. Before she could touch the door knob, steps approached her. A brief glance at her right, confirmed Julie's guess. Minerva had come to speak with Severus. Or rather, to chastise him. Her angry expression confirmed Julie's assumption that it was about the Gryffindor points, which Severus had deducted.

"Is Severus in his office," Minerva asked clearly incited.

Julie turned to her. "Of course, what do you need?" Julie knew that Severus and Minerva were often at loggerheads because of their students and she also knew that Severus was expecting her
visit, even that it was unwanted.

Her question made Minerva's eyebrows shoot up to the hairline. Minerva, of course, knew that Julie had been present at the spectacle this morning. But her unaffected reaction surprised the old witch. "What I need," she asked indignantly. "You know exactly why I'm here," she said, pointing her forefinger at Julie, "Severus has taken two hundred and thirty points off my house this morning. Besides, Mister Erland had to clean the sewers! I can not and will not tolerate this." Minerva crossed her arms over her chest, "Even if he has problems with some students, he does not have the right to do this!"

Julie also folded her arms over her chest, blocking Minerva the access to Severus' office. "Severus does not have any problems with the students, but some students have a problems with him. I have sat in your lessons and testified for what you have punished students. Whether it was the deduction of points, or detention, you have never been squeamish with these things. Why does it bother you so much when Severus does this too? Mister Erland has caused many disruptions in class, and often offends Severus. I have witnessed the situation this morning. I know what I'm talking about, but doubt you've been informed about the small but significant details," Julie said objectively.

Minerva was so angry that she could not speak. So Julie continued.

"Mister Erland has insulted Severus by calling him a jerk in the classroom. Then he told Severus, that he should go to Azkaban, where he belonged. Now tell me, I do remember that you have deducted one hundred and fifty points from a Slytherin student last year because he called you annoying old witch. And that did not even take place before the entire class. To call someone a jerk, is, in my opinion, more insulting. And by the way, Severus has only deducted ten points for this insult, which is very little in comparison to your one hundred and fifty points. If Severus would tolerate such behavior, then everything would get out of control."

"It seems to me that two hundred and thirty points are ridiculous. If you ask me, it should have been at least twice that much. Severus was apparently very kind with Mister Erland, who is already well known for his lack of good manners. I think this has nothing to do with the point deduction, but the fundamental problem is the competition between the two of you. Regarding the time Mister Erland spent with Argus, Severus gives the students the detention, but I am the one who chooses how the students are engaged during this time. If you have any questions or complaints, please feel free to speak with me at any time. It would surely support Severus if you were to get a overall picture, and then deduct further points from the Gryffindor's for Mister Erland's disrespectful behavior toward a professor."

"Do you think it's alright that the boy had to clean the sewers," Minerva asked accusingly.

Julie walks up to her and speaks softly, "It's the same with Mister Erland's behavior toward Severus, and if James treats Severus like dirt, it's only fair when he has to deal with it, don't you think so?"

Minerva looked seriously at Julie. The former rage had long departed and changed into a more inquisitive mood. "I want to talk to Severus about this," she demanded, waiting anxiously for Julie's reaction.

"Why? Do you think he'll tell you something else? What is there to discuss?"

Minerva was surprised by Julie's unfamiliar manner. The soft voice in the back of her head grew louder and louder as Julie continued to defend Severus. If all she had said was true, what Minerva would soon find out, Julie would have good reason to defend Severus' deeds. Or .. or was Julie's unusual manner motivated by personal reasons?

There was not much left of the timid student who Minerva got to know last year. Julie was bold and courageous. Minerva had perceived it in the first moment as disrespect, but then she had understood that Julie was defending Severus. People might say, you defend the truth, or you defend what you believe in. You defend what you love, or, you defend who you love. Minerva looked at Julie, and couldn't get rid of the feeling that Julie tried protecting the man she loved. Did Albus' plan bear fruit more quickly than they had hoped? Minerva looked at Julie from head to toe and then nodded. She was amused as Julie continued to defend Severus.

"Minerva, with all due respect, Severus has the right to exclude a student from his lessons. Insults are not mentioned in this paragraph because this was considered so unacceptable that it was not thought possible at that time. The times have changed, but such rules should still be applied."

"Severus has already advised MIster Erland to leave potions class, which is now an elective course, and thus do both of them a favor. Since potions is an elective course for Jason, you should have a serious conversation with him. Either he leaves, or if he needs it for future his profession, then he has to behave accordingly. I would exclude Erland from the lesson, but I know that I have no right to have a say."

Minerva tried to look at Julie angrily, to hide her amusement.

"Well, I'll review your accusations, and if your words prove true, I'll punish Mister Erland myself, and if they don't, I'll come back to talk to Severus tonight," Minerva said and turned to go.

Julie could not help the grin, which appeared on her face, "Until tomorrow," she said.

Minerva stared at Julie over her shoulder, sternly, "You seem convinced," she said.

"I was there," Julie explained, turning to Severus' office as Minerva walked away.

 

Severus looked up from the work he graded. His expression was surprised. "I thought I heard Minerva's voice." A smile appeared on his face as Julie closed the door. "It's all the more pleasing to see you."

"How long do you need," Julie asked.

Severus glanced at the small pile of papers on his right, "Maybe half an hour, then I'm done."

"Can I help you with something?" Julie asked, stopping in front of his desk.

"No. But ..." he paused and eyed her closely, "You can get the large potion lexicon from my private office."

Julie nodded and left his office while Severus stared after her. In his office, she found the lexicon on his desk. Julie's fingers gently stroked the rough leather, tracing the big letters on the cover. She heard steps behind her, and looked around in surprise. "Do you need anything else?" She asked as Severus entered the room.

He closed the door, shook his head, and took the heavy book from her hand. Severus put the lexicon back on his desk and turned to face her. He grabbed Julie's waist before he pulled her against him. Their eyes met and Severus leaned down to kiss her.

Julie grinned, visibly surprised by his behavior. Her eyes fluttered closed as their lips touched and her hands ran through his raven-black hair before she fisted it and held him close while Severus deepened their kiss. Julie pressed her body firmer against his, as he pressed her carefully against the desk. A chill ran over her back, as his hands began to wander over her body. Slowly he pushed up her sweater and his breath trembled as his fingertips began to brush over her naked skin.

Eventually his lips left hers, which were now reddened. Severus' lips trailed along her jaw line placing kisses on her flushed skin. With his chin he tilted her head to the side and began to explore her throat. They were tender kisses, which were a strong contrast to the touch of his hands, which were continually exploring her bare back with longing. Julie wrapped her arms around his neck and her shivering breath brushed his skin as she buried her face in the crook of his neck. Severus picked her up and sat her on his desk so that he was now standing between her knees. His hands hesitantly moved away from her back, and his fingers now ran over her thighs, between which he now stood. Severus followed the movements of his hands for a moment before he looked at her.

The intensity of his gaze made her tremble. Julie's heart began to beat wildly as she once again noticed the longing that was twinkling in his eyes. "You make me nervous when you look at me like that," Julie murmured softly.

Severus grinned but did not speak as his hands continued to wander over her thighs. He moved closer to her, his eyes fixed on his hands, which now ran over Julie's waist, and then stopped abruptly. His breath stopped and he closed his eyes briefly.

"It's time to go to supper," he said, somewhat hoarse, as he opened them again.

Julie looked at him through her almond-shaped eyes and nodded.

"Unless we eat here today," he said tentative.

The longing in his eyes was still as intense as before, and Julie wondered for a moment if this was a good idea. She nodded. The smile on Julie's lips spoke more than a thousand words. Severus left the room and returned a little later, followed by two trays, which carried their supper and hovered behind him. With a flick of his wand, Severus conjured up a small round table and two comfortable chairs, before indicating Julie to come to him.

She grinned as Severus helped her sit down. Strangely, they were not disturbed by anyone this evening. During their meal, Julie noticed that Severus often looked over to the door.

"Are you waiting for someone," she finally asked when she had almost finished her dessert.

Severus gave her a look, and the corners of his mouth twitched angrily. "Minerva will burst in at any time and come down on me like a ton of bricks," he explained. "I have no interest in letting her mess up the evening, but I can not avoid her coming, since Erland has certainly already had a good cry on her shoulder."

"Maybe she will not come," Julie said, scraping the spoon in her desert bowl to get the last remnants of the chocolate pudding.

Severus scoffed, "You've already seen enough to know that Minerva does not miss an opportunity to pay me unwanted visits."

Julie smiled gently, "Maybe it was so, but it can change," she replied.

"You're very optimistic," Severus said bitterly.

Julie could understand Severus' negative expectation. After all, she had witnessed enough conversations between Minerva and Severus. On the other hand, it would do him good, if there was an exception. Maybe it would help Severus to get out of his habit. Julie hoped that Minerva would not try to talk to Severus. Her words to Minerva had been dared, but true. No one could deny this. Maybe Minerva would realize that Julie was right.

She emptied the bowl completely, and, when the spoon failed, used her index finger to reach the last remnants of pudding, which still stuck to the bowl. Julie noticed Severus grinning at her, "Do you like more," he asked, visibly amused.

Julie shook her head, "No, thank you, better not," she replied. Julie placed the bowl back on the tray, and licked her finger clean, "Are you going to work now," she asked as Severus rose, his expression heated.

"Perhaps," he said, with a husky voice, which caused the butterflies to flutter wildly in Julie's belly. Severus stopped abruptly and paused. "I'll better finish my work," he said, looking intensely at her for an instant, before turning around and quickly leaving his office.

Julie looked after him and tried to arrange her thoughts. Yes, she knew what was going on with Severus. She had seen it again in his eyes. Now she nervously wondered how long his self-control would withstand his obvious longing.

Chapter Text

-December-

Julie entered the office, shivering. Severus was immediately at her side and shoved her into the armchair in front of his fireplace. The pleasant warmth of the fire, which Julie felt in her face, made her at once somewhat tired. Severus, kneeling before her on the floor, had already found her hands under her cloak, which he now held firmly to warm them up.

"I remember that you were not freezing so much last year," he said, and then placed a kiss on the back of her hand.

"Last year it wasn't as cold as this year," she said softly.

Severus stood up and pulled his armchair closer to hers. He pulled his wand and with a little flick, the flames in the fireplace blazed up. Then he reached for her hands again, which had already become warmer.

Julie looked at Severus mischievously. "You are breaking the rules," she said with a twinkle in her eyes.

Severus grinned, and to her surprise, blushed slightly. He glanced up at the door and cleared his throat before he looked into her eyes, "Thanks to our rules, no one has noticed it yet," he said, clearly satisfied.

Julie smiled quietly to herself. It was already December and until now, no one knew about their relationship. There were guesses among the teachers, who practically never left Severus and Julie out of sight. She was glad about this fact as it had given them the opportunity to spent a lot of time together and get to know each other better. Nobody expected anything from them, as neither Severus nor Julie had done anything to confirm their assumption. Even if they were alone, Severus was very reserved. Julie wondered often, why this was the case, and she guessed he was doing it to keep their secret. And perhaps for another reason, which Julie had long suspected.

Severus watched Julie, whose eyes were fixed on their hands. To his delight, they had spent much time with each other during the last two months. No one knew what had happened between them, but Severus knew the guesses that Albus and Minerva had. Poppy had been indignant every time she had asked him if he and Julie were getting closer and Severus hadn't replied. Of course, he would let her know.. some day. But when the time had come, he would tell her first. Severus enjoyed this time when he was alone with Julie to the fullest. One side in him did not want this to change, while the other side in him longed for more. But there would not be more, as long as he wanted to enjoy their togetherness in the way he had done so far.

He could not have both. Too often he was visited by someone at night, mostly Minerva. And Albus, well, Albus appeared in Severus' private rooms whenever he liked. Severus' gaze wandered to their hands, which were still intertwined. If he asked Julie if she wanted to be with him, if she wanted to share his bed with him, that would mean the end of their secret relationship. He would have to make it official, to give them more privacy. No one would suddenly burst in his private rooms. Every day Severus felt torn between his desires, and every day he decided to wait.

But slowly the pressure in him became too strong. It was a natural need, which he still suppressed, which became more difficult every day. He could control his thoughts and his body perfectly. An ability which he had learned in Voldemort's time, which had been vital. He did not have to force himself to do this. He had the choice, or should he say, he had the freedom to let go of control? But it was not easy for him to do this consciously, since he was still anchored in this habit. A part of him still believed that this control was necessary to survive. And this part of him was very stubborn. Severus would need distance, distance to Hogwarts, in order to let go.

"Severus," Julie said softly, tearing him from his thoughts. "Soon the Christmas holidays will begin. I thought it would be nice if we were going to my parents."

Severus looked disappointed in the first moment, before clear doubts appeared on his face. "Do your parents already know about our relationship," he wanted to know.

"No, of course not, but I'd 'warn' them," said Julie, grinning.

Severus hesitated a moment before saying, "I'd rather go to Spinner's End for certain reasons. I know that your parents house is.. well, more modern and more comfortable. But I wanted to be alone with you. And that is not the only reason I would prefer to go to Spinner's End."

Julie thought for a moment, then she sighed, "I want to see my parents. It's important to me, and I want you to come with me. I think it's important that we go there together."

Severus nostrils flared as he inhaled deeply, "Alright," he replied, sounding defeated. "But tell your parents that in Hogwarts, our relationship is still a secret. I would like to decide when we will make it public."

Julie nodded, "How long will it remain a secret?"

"Excuse me," Severus asked, surprised.

"How long do we want to hide our relationship from others? Poppy asks me all the time question, and I'm so sorry for not telling her. She became a part of my family."

He looked at her silently for a long time. "I feel the same way, sometimes I feel guilty, but I like the fact that nobody knows about our relationship. No one asks questions, or expects something from us. But I can not invite you to stay with me."

"What do you mean," Julie asked, frowning.

"Overnight," he explained, sounding somewhat hoarse.

Julie blushed, "Why not," she asked with a little bashfulness. Julie knew what kind of desire was burning in Severus, but they had never talked about it.

"I do not want you to be embarrassed because someone suddenly stands in the middle of the night in my bedroom. And believe me, this happens more often than I like. If I would invite you, I would tell everyone that we are a couple, so that something like that can not happen. They will respect our privacy more than they do now. Basically," Severus said, glancing at Julie thoughtfully, "Basically, no one respects our privacy at the moment. No one except Poppy."

Severus fell silent and looked thoughtfully at their hands.

Julie, who was blushing, nodded, "Minerva is knocking now, before she storms into your office. But I can understand you, Severus. Then I'll write to my parents, and tell them we're coming," she said, deviating from the topic at hand.

Severus nodded hesitantly, "How long do we have to stay there?"

"We'll stay with them for Christmas and the we'll go to your place," Julie suggested.

"To our place," corrected Severus.

Julie nodded and leaned forward to kiss him.

 

-Two weeks later-

 

"Um, Severus," said Julie, looking around his office.

Severus looked up, raised his eyebrows questioningly, and closed the drawer, in which he had been looking for something. He put a small box in his pocket and immediately gave Julie his full attention.

"I may be nervous, but I can not find my suitcase," Julie said, looking at Severus desperately.

He grinned and walked toward her quickly, "It's already in my jacket pocket, along with your backpack," he explained, grabbed Julie's arms, and placed a kiss on her lips.

Severus jerked back from her as someone knocked at his door.

Minerva entered the office and her eyes fell instantly to Severus, who was now standing with his arms crossed of his chest near Julie, wondering why Minerva was knocking before she entered his office.

"You're still here, Severus," Minerva said, giving Julie a strange look.

Severus frowned and watched the witch suspiciously, "It would have certainly ruined your Christmas celebration, if you would have missed out this opportunity to chastise me," Severus said cynically.

Minerva stood still, staring silently at Severus, while she waved a scroll that she held in her hand. Then she smiled, "Not this year, Severus, not this year. Albus sent me to give you this before you leave." She gave him the scroll, and turned to Julie with a wink, before she left the office.

"What is that," Julie asked curiously as Minerva had closed the door.

Severus opened the scroll. His eyes wandered swiftly over that yellowed parchment. One time, then a second time, then an honest smile appeared on his face. He reached for Julie, pulled her against him and kissed her passionately. Totally out of breath, he broke their kiss a little later, the smile still present on his pale face.

"This is my official pardon from the Ministry of Magic," he said excitedly, "Do you know what that means?"

Julie shook her head in wonder, and enjoyed the sight of a completely new Severus. "I did not know it was necessary, you did not tell me about it," she said, somewhat surprised.

The smile on Severus' face died with her words. He looked down at her, and gently stroked her cheek with his fingers, "I did not want to burden you with this. I had hoped for the best."

"What is the difference? Whether or not you are pardoned," Julie asked.

A rare sigh escaped Severus' lips, "It is now officially on the paper, which means that I am really free. Well, I can now officially do what I want. Until now I was under Albus' supervision. For example, I could not work anywhere else than here in Hogwarts. It was only possible to go to Spinner's End during holidays, and only by prior arrangement with Albus.

"Do you want to do something else," Julie asked, surprised. So far, in their conversations, it had not seemed as if Severus had specific plans. He had always said that he was not making any plans except the one, which included her. Now it sounded different.

"Well, as you know, I have not had a specific plan. But this piece of paper," he said, waving the scroll in the air, "This letter is a permission to do what I really want. But I do not know yet what that will be." His once cheerful mood quickly disappeared, and he suddenly looked not too happy. "In the course of my life, I have forgotten how to plan for the future. I have never thought far in advance, at least nothing concerning my personal desires and ideas. At some point I understood what kind of future would expect me, and I saw no point in making plans."

Julie reached for his hand, "We can make plans together, later," she said softly, looking happy. "We are together now, and we will go to my parents."

Severus nodded and his expression was determined, "Well then, let's go," he said, and, with numerous spells, locked the door of his office. "Are you ready," he asked as he took Julie's hand. She nodded, smiling, and with a loud crack they apparated away from Hogwarts.

Seconds later, large snowflakes fell around them, and Julie and Severus walked toward her parents house.

"A year ago, I was here," Severus remarked thoughtfully.

Julie blinked away the snowflakes that clung to her eyelashes and looked at him, "Isn't it incredible what happened in this one year," she asked softly.

Severus nodded and put his arm around her to pull her closer to him. "A year ago I could not imagine that one day we would ever be together."

"But today it is a reality, our reality," said Julie.

"Who knows what will happen next year," Severus said, sounding very positive.

Julie immediately felt guilty, nodded, and bit nervously on her bottom lip. The house of her parents came in sight. Severus opened the small gate and together they approached the front door. Everything looked exactly the same as a year ago, Severus mused as he followed her. When Julie stood on the doormat, she turned to him. Severus, who was standing one step below her, was now on eye level with her. Slowly Julie leaned forward and kissed him softly on the lips, "Severus, I.. Um.."

"Are you nervous?" Severus asked with a smile.

Julie frowned and nodded, "You know, I.. you.. Yes, I'm nervous, but for other reasons than you suppose." She sighed deeply, looking doubtful.

Severus frowned, when he discovered fear in her eyes beside the clear doubts she had.

"You've got so many insecurities, even though you're such a wonderful person," Julie said, brushing her hand over his coat. "As I told you before, you deserve to be loved, and you are loved and accepted, not only by me, and by people who you know, but also by others from whom you may not expect it."

"I'm not afraid to meet your parents," Severus explained, kissing her cheek, which was already deeply reddened from the cold. It was not true, and Severus guessed that Julie knew it. He felt great discomfort, knowing, that he would meet Julie's parents again. This time it would be different. Completely different.

Julie rubbed her forehead nervously, and Severus worried that she might be hurting her bottom lip, on which chewed.

"Severus, I have.. ," Julie sighed loudly, "I'm so sorry. I wrote to my parents and said that I would come together with my boyfriend, but did not tell them who it is."

She saw Severus' shocked expression only briefly, as she turned quickly, and pressed the doorbell three times. Since she had decided to do so, Julie had felt very guilty. But now that the time had come, she had had to warn him, even if it had happened at the very last moment. It only took a few seconds for the door to open and her father to stand before them.

Julie sank into her father's embrace and her heart ached for a moment when she thought of Severus. It had not been fair, but .. it had to happen. She wanted to tear Severus' walls down. There were many witches and wizards, who were differently minded than Severus thought. Not everyone hated him. And how could she have shown him better?

Severus' heart tightened in his chest as Julie turned abruptly and pressed the doorbell frantically. Had she really done that? Why? What had been her motive? What was she thinking? Why did she tell him now? In the last second? Why had she told him at all? The many questions caused Severus a slight headache.

He was torn from his thoughts when Alistair opened the door and embraced Julie. Severus stared at Julie's father and waited and waited, but the smile on Alistair's face did not die. On the contrary, Severus thought that with every second that passed, Alistair was looking at him even more kindly.

Colleen appeared behind her husband, who let go of Julie, who immediately embraced her mother. Alistair reached for Severus' arm, who was now standing on the doormat, and hugged him briefly before pulling him into the house and closing the door.

Severus was taken by surprise by the unexpected situation, the sudden warmth that surrounded him, and the dazzled bright light in the house. He did not notice that Alistair already stood next to his wife, who also smiled at him kindly.

"Well, will we stay in the hall forever, or shall we go to the living room," asked Alistair, when none of them said anything.

Severus opened his coat in muggle manner and took Julie's coat, which he hanged on a hook before he followed them into the living room. Here, too, it looked the same as last year and Severus felt a bit better. He did not like changes very much, and the fact that the house looked like it had a year ago was reassuring. Severus sat down with Julie on the sofa.

"Tea, would you like tea," Colleen asked.

Both nodded silently and Alistair followed his wife to the kitchen.

The silence in the living room lasted only a few seconds.

"Surely they are talking about us," said Severus, his gaze still fixed on the corridor, which was now empty.

Julie looked at him, surprised, "Nonsense, they'll discuss which tea we like, and my father will be right back to ask us," Julie assured him with firm conviction.

Severus wanted to object, but he closed his mouth as Alistair returned to the living room, "What tea can we make for you," he asked, looking at them expectantly.

"Something spicy that warms for me," said Julie.

"The same for me," Severus said, looking at Alistair, who nodded and went back to the kitchen.

"Are you to feeling cold," Julie asked.

"No," replied Severus. "I do not need anything to warm me, but something to digest the shock you've just caused," he explained, giving Julie a look that sent butterflies through her belly.

Julie smiled and looked at him slightly ashamed. "I um.. I wanted.. are you angry with me?"

Severus reached for her hand and stroked it with his thumb, "No. But let's talk about it later, when we're alone," he said, glancing at the door where Colleen had already appeared with a tea pot, followed by her husband, who was carrying a tray of cups and a large bowl of biscuits.

"Julie told us that you were leaving on the second Christmas day, where will you go," Alistair asked, while Colleen poured the tea into the green porcelain cups.

"We're going to Severus' place," said Julie.

"We're going to our place," he corrected her immediately.

Colleen smiled and handed Severus his tea, which he accepted with gratitude.

"Where do you live, Severus," she asked, "I remember reading about it in the articles published in the Daily Prophet, what was the name?"

"Cokeworth," Alistair answered his wife's question. "He grew up in Cokeworth, didn't you, Severus?"

Severus took a sip of tea and nodded, "Yes."

"What kind if place is that," Colleen asked curiously.

"It's an extremely dirty city. I grew up near the river, in the poor industrial district, near the now abandoned mill. As a child, I was always afraid that the huge chimney, which day and night hauled dirt into the air would one day fall on our house and kill me in my sleep," explained Severus soberly.

Why did he tell them about it, Severus wondered. Was he more nervous then he admitted? They had read about him in the Daily Prophet! Could it be worse?

Julie looked surprised. This was the first time Severus had spoken in her presence about his childhood. "Really," she asked, still undecided whether he was serious, or not.

"Yes, as a child, I slept in the cellar whenever I could, under a rusted table. That was my bunker, my.. protection zone."

The silence in the living room lasted longer than Severus liked. Julie stared at him, while her parents watched their daughter's reaction.

"This testifies again that it does not matter where we come from, all that matters is what we make of it," said Alistair, looking at Julie, who was still staring at Severus.

Severus frowned and reached for a biscuit, which he examined first, before he took a bite.

"And that's where you'll go. That's the place," Colleen wanted to know, while she added a spoon of sugar to her tea.

"Yes," was Severus' answer.

"The chimney is still there," she said searchingly.

"Yes."

"You will not sleep in the cellar under the table, will you?"

Alistair and Julie broke out in loud laughter and even Severus laughed at Colleen's question.

"What," she asked, audibly amused, "It's a just question. After all, the old thing is still standing there."

Severus leaned back, grinning. "No. No one is sleeping in the cellar. The roof is now sealed with countless spells. You could throw a bomb on it and nothing would happen," he explained matter of factly.

"Hopefully, the roof will not collapse under the weight of your spells," joked Julie, giving Severus a big smile.

"If you leave on the second Christmas day, that gives us three days to spent together," said Alistair thoughtfully. "We hope to see you more often in the future."

Julie shrugged and looked at Severus questioningly.

He seemed to be a little thoughtful, "Maybe," he said hesitantly, "A lot of things are changing at the moment and I do not know what will come next. I'm not used to making future plans."

"In any case, our door is always open to you," Alistair confirmed, who could understand Severus' reaction. He turned his attention to the women who now drank their tea, "If it's up to me, we can have dinner soon."

Colleen looked at her daughter, who set her cup on the table and stood up, grinning. When both had left the living room, Alistair turned to Severus, who had been staring after Julie.

"My daughter is happy," he remarked.

Severus looked at him doubtfully, "I hope so."

Alistair's eyes sparkled mischievously, "This is my daughter, Severus, I know when she is happy. And I tell you that she is happy. A lot has changed in Julie's life, not just the external circumstances, but also her inner soul-life. She has definitely become more mature. In the last months of her schooling, a lot has changed for Julie for the better. She has let go of her past and finished her school. We know to whom we owe this," he said, looking at Severus.

Severus did not look at Alistair. He stared at the half-empty tea cup, which he held in his hands, and Alistair continued.

"However, we were surprised about what happened next. After the start of the new school year, when Julie returned to Hogwarts to work, she slowly began to blossom again. This was something we had hoped for, but doubted whether it would ever happen. But she flourished differently than we had expected. It was magical, Julie was enchanted. Colleen was totally blinded by her joy, but I soon began to have certain suspicions. I wondered very quickly who was the man behind this magic. Julie had talked a lot, and many potential candidates came to my mind. Even Michael, her old teacher from the Ilvermorny school. To be honest, the more I thought about it, the more I hoped that you might be the one who was responsible for the changes."

Severus looked at Alistair in disbelief, "You can't be serious," he said, audibly surprised.

"Of course I am. I've read Julie's letters over and over again and soon realized that your influence on her was a good one. Between us," he said softly, glancing over to the hallway to make sure no one else would hear him, before leaning forward, toward Severus, "Last year when you were here, I thought that you might be a good partner for her. I know this sounds strange, but this is the truth. Julie has her particular nature which we know all too well. And from everything I've heard about you, I thought you two could make a fine couple."

Severus frowned, "They've written and told a lot about myself," he said sceptically.

"I'm one of those guys, who reads between the lines," explained Alistair, "Someone whose brain does not switch off just because something is printed in black on white. I've never accepted anything as truth just because I read it in a newspaper."

Alister leaned back and looked at his wife, who, followed by Julie, entered the living room. "It looks as if dinner is ready," he said, and invited Severus to join them.

 

After a long dinner, and a much longer conversation, Julie and Severus went up the stairs.

Severus had very vivid memories of the day he had visited Julie a year ago. To be back again was somehow surreal.

When Julie closed the door and turned to him, he kissed her even more passionately than she had done in the morning. Then he wrapped his arms around her and held Julie firmly. "Thank you," Severus said softly, smelling her hair, which still smelled of the wintry air.

"For what," Julie asked.

Severus pulled her over to the bed on which they sat down. He took her hand and massaged it gently. "When I received the letter from the Ministry of Magic today, I was so relieved. I knew that
nothing could surpass this feeling easily. But you showed me again that things can be different than I expect. You do this often. This fact," he said, looking into her eyes, "This fact not only brings more brightness into my life, but also makes it more lively, if you understand what I mean."

Severus looked at Julie questioningly. She cupped his cheek briefly, before she leaned against his chest, where she inhaled his scent deeply.

"I do not know how it feels to be at home, but I have to say that I feel comfortable with your parents, and you have contributed a lot to it."

Julie buried her face in his chest, what muffled her voice, "I know what it feels like to be at home, because my home is by your side," she said and looked up at him, "One day, you'll experience this too. I'm sure of it. And whenever that will be doesn't matter, because you'll have me by your side at all times."

Severus kissed the top of her head and looked around the room. "Will we share the bed, um.. I mean the room."

Julie grinned, "Yes, unless you're afraid of me," she said, looking at him mischievously.

Severus chuckled, "Afraid? Of you? No, definitely not," he said as his gaze wandered over her body. "But it would be justified to say that you should be afraid of me."

Julie grinned and laughed aloud as Severus pushed her onto the bed and kissed her deeply.

Chapter Text

"What are they doing in the kitchen for so long," Severus wondered as he looked in the direction of the hallway.

Alistair glanced over his shoulder and grinned before looking at Severus, "That's my wife. Her habit has undoubtedly rubbed off on our daughter."

"What kind of habit," Severus wanted to know, looking questioningly at Alistair as he reached for his coffee mug.

"Colleen insists on cooking everything herself," he explained. "At first I found it annoying because she wasted a lot of time with cooking. Over the years, however, I have found pleasure in it."

Severus threw a nervous glance toward the hallway, "You say Colleen's habit has rubbed off on your daughter. Does this mean that Julie can cook?"

Alistair nodded cheerfully and seemed to be amused by Severus' question.

"To be honest, I did not know that," Severus said softly. His voice had a nervous undertone, which expressed his mood.

Alistair chuckled, "Julie is as stubborn as my wife, but Julie fits in when she has to. Colleen does not."

Severus knit his brows, "What do you mean?"

"When we went to school together, Colleen complained about the fact that we had to eat the food which was prepared by the house-elves. And Severus, the food was always very good. Nevertheless, I had to endure her complaints every single day. Julie is different. She knows that she has no choice and accepts it," explained Alistair. "Surely she will cook for you when you go home."

Severus swallowed nervously and his gaze wandered to the hallway when a loud rattling was heard from the kitchen. "My kitchen is.. um.. not like yours," he said slowly, thinking of the old, tiny kitchen, which he himself almost never used. Poppy had used his kitchen more often than he had.

"I'm sure it will not bother Julie. She'll arrange everything as she wants it. My daughter is very practical in such matters, like my wife."

Severus frowned as he began to think about Alistair's words. Doubts found their way into his mind and it was not just about his kitchen. Would Julie be satisfied if she were to live in Hogwarts? After all there was only food from the school kitchen. Would Julie like this in the long run? Severus doubted it.

"Why is this troubling you," asked Alistair, who had noticed Severus' doubts.

Severus glanced at him without saying anything. Why could Alistair read him so well? Were his doubts so obvious? Or was he letting down his guard?

"As I said, I have quickly found pleasure in it. My wife is one of the few witches who puts a lot of emphasis on cooking without using magic. Only a few wizards are lucky enough to have such a wife and believe me, I am envied by many. It's a fact that nowadays only few witches learn to cook."

Severus nodded, "My problem is that we live in Hogwarts and therefore eat what is cooked in the school kitchen," he explained.

Alistair could understand Severus' concern and nodded thoughtfully. He knew that this might not be easy in the long run. In general, he and his wife found that it was not easy to live in a wizarding school, no matter if as a couple, or family. Severus und Julie would have to master some difficulties in the future. But he was also convinced that they would manage. He watched Severus attentively, who was sitting opposite him, brooding over his thoughts.

A part of Severus had changed since last winter. Alistair knew that his daughter was responsible for that. The cold and egocentric Professor Snape, who was known for his obnoxiousness in the world of sorcery, was still tough on the outside, but had become a little softer on the inside, which became apparent when Julie was with him.

"Have you asked her already," Alistair asked softly to make sure no one else would hear him except Severus.

Severus looked up at him, "What are you talking about," he asked absentmindedly.

"Whether she wants to marry you," explained Alistair, "What else?"

This question put Severus off his stride. Embarrassed, he scratched his neck, "No, I haven't," he replied hesitantly.

"You'll surely have some good opportunities to do so in the next few days," said Alistair casually, as he stood up, "I'll check on what our women are doing in the kitchen."

Severus' glance followed Alistair while his hand brushed over his trousers, in whose pocket he carried the small box with the ring he had chosen for Julie. He traced the corners of the box with the tips of his fingers and lost himself in his thoughts. What was he waiting for? For the right time? Or the right opportunity? Surely he would not ask her while they were in Hogwarts. He feared that Minerva would thwart his plan, by barging in untimely, disturbing the special moment. Would the moment be special? What should he tell her? Should he do it now? Was it not too early to ask her?

Severus growled frustrated and ran his hands through his hair before rubbing his temples. His head ached, as always, when too many questions plagued him. He had brought the ring for a single reason. But why didn't he do it? This damned hesitation and doubting. Why was he acting out of character? Where had his cold and hard side gone? Julie's presence in his life brought many changes. One of them was that he was getting softer - in her presence. Severus had not yet decided whether this was good or bad. His thoughts returned to the same question, while his hand lingered over the small box. Severus glanced toward the hallway as he heard Julie's laughter. He just wanted one thing, and that was her.

*****

Julie stood at the living room window and stared into the snowy garden. In the last few days, Severus had said things which had given her insights into his inner soul-life, which worried her. The fact that he had slept in the cellar as a child had deeply touched her. She knew that Severus still carried the same fears in him today. Why else would he have hexed the roof of the house?
Step by step, Julie got a larger picture of Severus, which by far was not yet complete. Sometimes she thought that they were only at the beginning and she was a little worried, what would come to light with time. She felt a bit overwhelmed, but she did not want to tell Severus this. Rather, she hoped that she would be gradually confronted with Severus' problems, which would hopefully give her the opportunity to adapt and grow with time.

It was no longer surprising for her that Severus could not easily cope with his past as she had originally imagined. In his past, too much happened, that could not be easily forgotten or forgiven. Julie had grown up being well guarded by her parents. She had never really had to worry about something because her parents had always been a tower of strength. They had supported her at every step of her life. But Severus had been deeply afraid in his childhood. She doubted that the large chimney was the only thing that Severus had feared at the time. Julie guessed that Severus' parents had contributed a great deal to his suffering. But this was just a guess - until now.

Later, he had lived in uncertainty for years, when he had been a death eater. Julie could not imagine leading such a life, and for the first time, she really understood why Severus had trouble looking far into the future and making plans. She no longer wondered that he had acquired the character traits for which he was hated by the students. Severus protected what was left of him.
Julie took a deep breath and watched the snowflakes which were dancing wildly in the wind as they fell steadily to the ground.

 

Severus was standing by a window in Julie's room and stared out into the same garden, but from the upper floor. The few days they had spent together with Julie's parents had unexpectedly turned out to be quite relaxing. Although Severus' visit had come to them surprisingly, they had received him in a very open-hearted manner. A small smile appeared on his lips as he thought of Julie's plan. As much as he had been shocked at first, he was not angry with her. Still, he would have preferred if she had told him before. In Hogwarts, not at the very last second, when they had already stood at the door of her parents' house. At least she had told him then. Her act had been motivated by love and compassion, and how could Severus be angry with her?

He still could not believe that all of this really happened. Today, they would go to Spinner's End, a fact which caused him a slight headache. Probably it would be better if he would go there alone.. to clean.. the house was a mess. Julie had been there once, but her physical condition had been very bad at that time, and Severus wondered what she was remembering. He decided to go home alone and return later to pick up Julie. Determinately, he turned away from the window and left the room to see her. Severus found Julie in the living room, where she stood motionless in front of the large window.

Julie started when he hugged her, "Severus, you scared me," she chuckled.

"I'm sorry," he breathed into her ear, which he then kissed. "I have to leave now, but I'll return soon to pick you up, and then we go home together," he informed her.

Julie turned to him and smiled, "Severus, I thought we'd do this together," she said as her fingers ran over his chest.

Severus looked at Julie in confusion.

"Let's take our suitcases and go home together, I don't know why this should happen differently," said Julie, while gently stroking his chest.

"I just want to go alone and clean before you come," he explained honestly.

"Those things are my responsibility. If you don't agree with my opinion, we can do it together," said Julie.

Severus looked at her somewhat disappointed and nodded beaten. He could not win this argument, and he did not want to win it. Despite the disappointment it gave him some kind of pleasure to leave her this victory.

"Well, then I'll get our suitcases and you'll inform your parents," he said, leaving the living room, secretly glad to finally go to Spinner's End.

When Severus came down the stairs, Alistair and Julie were already waiting in the hallway. Colleen joined them and gave Severus a small bag, smiling, "For the small and large appetite," she said softly as Julie took leave of her father.

When they had said their goodbyes, they left Julie's parental home. Julie and Severus walked silently through the snow for a long time until he stopped and turned to her. He gave her hand a squeeze, "Let us go home," he said with a small smile.

A few seconds later, they were standing in his living room and Julie looked around curiously. She did not have much memories of her visit to Severus' house. Julie ran her finger through the dust on a table next to her. Suddenly she felt a magical breeze and the dust disappeared without a trace. She looked up at Severus, who slid his wand back up his sleeve and looked at her critically.
"Would you like to look around," he asked hesitantly.

Julie nodded and left his living room a few minutes later. Severus went to his kitchen and looked for a place where he could put the bag Colleen had given him. He found none. As he stepped back into the corridor, Julie was already standing in front of him, "I have memories of your bath," she said softly, "I do not really remember the rest."

Severus blinked at her and a frown appeared on his face.

"Is this the kitchen," Julie asked, trying to look past him.

Severus hesitantly stood aside and allowed Julie to enter the kitchen.

"Have you ever cooked in here," Julie asked after looking around.

"Very rarely. Poppy cooked here more often than I did," Severus said honestly.

"Poppy was here," Julie asked surprised.

"Yes, she often took care of me.. when I was injured," Severus explained.

Julie looked at him for a moment, then stepped up to him, gently brushing her hands over his shoulders. She did not want to ask him how many times Poppy had been here. Probably she would not be able to easily digest his answer. "Where shall we begin," she asked with a smile.

Severus gently grabbed her waist and pulled her against his body. Julie stood on her toes as he leaned in and claimed her lips in a brief kiss. Julie quickly broke their kiss and Severus groaned, "What was that," he grumbled frustrated.

"Business before pleasure," Julie said, smiling, turning around to inspect the kitchen again. "Severus, what do you think of it if I care about the kitchen, and you'll deal with another part of the house?"

Severus agreed without hesitation. "Business before pleasure," he murmured as he headed toward the living room. Once there, he stopped and looked around questioningly. Should he start here? Slowly he pulled his wand and removed with a spell and flick of his wand the dust that had accumulated there over the last few months.

Some time later his stomach growled and Severus left the bathroom annoyed and joined Julie, who was still in the kitchen. "I'm hungry," he said, and remained stunned in the kitchen doorway. Severus raised an eyebrow questioningly as he saw the state of the kitchen. For the first moment he was speechless, but then a grin appeared on his face.

"What," Julie asked as she looked at Severus, who seemed to be very amused.

"I have taken care of the living room, my study, the guest room and the bathroom.. and you.." His grin grew wider, "And you did not even finish the kitchen." Severus began to chuckle and crossed his arms over his chest as he leaned against the door frame.

Julie watched him, amazed how casual he seemed at that moment. That was not the Severus she knew. This was a very different Severus, which was still unknown to her. But she did not mind. Julie was inspired by his sight. "I like to be practical," she explained.

Severus nodded, "Yeah, your dad already informed me, but I did not know you'd prefer to clean by yourself, than with sorcery."

Julie put the cleaning rag on the work table and took a step toward him. "What else did he tell you about me," she asked curiously, looking at him slightly worried.

Severus' reply was a grin that made Julie blush. He walked slowly toward her and pushed her backwards against the work table. "I am finished with my work, where is the pleasure, if you don't finish here," he asked, somewhat hoarse, while he cradled her face in his hands.

Julie chuckled and clung to him as he grabbed hold of her hips and lifted her up and placed her on the desk work table. Severus moved between her thighs and began to kiss her. Slowly his lips conquered hers, and he pulled her closer to him. Julie was trembling when his hands reached for her with desire, what caused her heart to race. Then his lips moved to the crook of her neck, where he planted a kiss next to another.

"I'm not finished yet," breathed Julie heavily, as her hands buried in the fabric of his sweater.

"Neither am I," replied Severus, a little breathless.

Severus kissed her passionately and Julie missed his second hand, which abruptly left her. She had never been disturbed by it before, but today the absence of one of his hands caused in her a certain longing. Her hand began to look for his, and she sighed angrily as Severus muttered something between their kisses and Julie suddenly heard noises around them. She pulled his wand from his hand, which at once continued to explore her body passionately.

Severus continued to claim her lips with yearning, and all that Julie could do was to return his kiss. His tongue ran over her lips and entered her mouth to explore it again. He had done this many times before, but it was each time different, as Julie reacted differently every time. Today there was a fire between them, which burned for the first time on both sides with the same intensity. Severus groaned into her mouth and suddenly pulled away from her.

Breathing heavily, he took a step back, then a second and even a third step, before he stopped and eyed Julie. Severus' gaze was fixed on her chest, which rose and fell as she sat breathless in front of him. This sight had always aroused in him a certain feeling, a longing, which had now become a part of him. Severus stroked his left arm and regretted the absence of his wand. He could have undressed Julie now, with a mere flick of his wand. But Julie had 'disarmed' him. His eyes fell on his wand, which lay beside Julie on the work table. Then his eyes wandered to her face, which was heavily blushed. Her hair was disheveled. Why was it disheveled, Severus wondered. Had he done this? What part of him turned him off the subject, Severus wondered and frowned. Julie looked incredibly attractive and he would not use magic to undress her. He would do it with his own hands. Very soon.

"That was not fair," said Julie, after she had looked around the kitchen.

"I'm hungry, if I had waited for you to be finished, I'd probably have starved," Severus explained with a husky voice.

Julie glanced at him, "I guess it's more about your pleasure than your hunger," she said, looking closely at Severus.

Severus could not resist the grin that appeared on his face, "You may be right, but the reason I came to you was originally hunger, but you've.. distracted me."

"I distracted you," Julie asked, surprised.

"Shall we eat something now, or should we do something else," asked Severus, as he eyed her with a heated gaze.

Julie blushed even more and hopped off the work table before they left the kitchen together. Severus took the bag which Colleen had given him, and in the living room, sitting on Severus' old sofa they enjoyed their late lunch.

*****

In the evening, when they returned home after a long walk, Severus admired the house which he had never before seen so neat. Then his eyes fell on Julie, who was already sitting on the sofa, eating the remains of their lunch.

"If you're still hungry, you'd rather hurry, otherwise nothing will be left for you," said Julie chewing, pointing to the plate on which were still a few calzone lying.

Severus sat next to her and took a calzone, which he eyed closely, "Fortunately, your mother has given us good food. Otherwise you would certainly want to cook," said Severus, who had other plans for the evening than to watch Julie cooking.

"Can you cook," Julie asked curiously.

Severus chuckled nervously, "No, What gives you that idea?"

"Such a gifted Potions Master as you can not cook? Are you serious," Julie asked incredulously.

"Well, let's say that what I would brew, you would not call cooking, and secondly, you would certainly not consider it as edible," Severus said, sounding amused and serious.

"We'll see," Julie said, and put the last piece of calzone in her mouth.

"What does that mean," Severus asked between bites, "You do not want to let me cook, do you?"

"Who knows," replied Julie, and stood up, "I've eaten enough for now," she said, stroking her belly with both of her hands.

"You've eaten enough for NOW," Severus repeated as he looked at Julie, who was heading toward the hallway. "That means you want to eat something later," he asked, sounding surprised.

Julie looked back over her shoulder and winked at him, "Maybe. But the next meal you can conjure for me." With these words she left the living room and Severus heard that she closed the bathroom door shortly afterwards.

Severus sat motionless for a moment on the sofa, staring in the direction of the corridor, while his thoughts were spinning in his head. Then he got up, went to the kitchen to get his wand and went upstairs.

When Julie entered the room, Severus was already waiting for her. He sat on the edge of the bed and looked at her.

"This room looks quite different now," Julie said, looking around in surprise.

Severus followed her gaze and nodded slowly, "This was actually the guest room. I do not want to enter my room and my parents' bedroom is taboo," he explained. "That is why I decided to make this room our bedroom."

Julie did not question his words, but studied the painful expression on his face. "It is beautiful," she said, and went toward him, "The guest-room, our bedroom," explained Julie, "Much better than before."

When Julie stopped in front of him, Severus grabbed her hips and leaned forward. Julie looked at him questioningly when Severus buried his face in the soft fabric of her sweater. Her body swayed between uncertainty and desire as she felt Severus' hot breath, which, with each of his breaths, penetrated her sweater and touched her sensitive skin. She began to run her fingers through his raven-black hair and let them wander further down until she began massaging his shoulders.

He was very tense, and Julie was sure that the environment made him feel uneasy. Her gaze wandered through the room one last time before she looked down at him, found his chin, took it, and tilted his face upwards. Severus' look was unreadable and she smiled at him as she straddled his lap. Taken by surprise, Severus' breath stopped and he swallowed hard.

"I think what I hated the most about my life was the solitude," he said after a long silence.

"It's over," Julie replied softly, watching the different emotions in his eyes, which were both negative and positive.

Severus pulled her closer and his expression became serious. "Is it over," he asked searchingly.

Julie held her breath for a moment and nodded, "Yes, all you have to do is let go."

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Severus rolled them on the bed, and his lips sought hers, to unite in a hungry kiss. Without a word, she let him in and his tongue ran over her teeth before it met her tongue, which welcomed him. Julie trembled as Severus' hands slid under her sweater, where they explored her body. Suddenly he broke their kiss and sat up, his eyes heated and questioning.

The smile that appeared on her lips answered his unspoken question. Julie's heart began to race as he reached for her. Severus' hands wandered under her sweater and stroked her skin. It were cautious touches, which were on the one hand appeared demanding, on the other hand hesitant.

Their eyes met and Julie sat up and reached for the hem of his sweater before she pulled it over his head. A smile appeared on her lips when she smoothed down his hair, which had become dishevled by her deed. When her eyes lowered to his, her heart jumped up into her throat as she noticed Severus' longing gaze. Julie reached for the buttons of his shirt, which she began to unbutton with trembling hands, while her gaze returned again and again to his eyes, observing him.

Severus watched her silently and his body tensed when Julie slid the shirt over his shoulders and bared his chest. Her finger tips brushed over his skin which she had bared, and he hissed when her hot and trembling breath touched his chest, just below his collarbone. Julie's lips brushed over his skin before she placed an innocent kiss on his collarbone. His fingers combed through her hair which she wore loose, and brushed strands of it out of her face, tucking them behind her ears. He noticed that beside her deeply blushed cheeks, even her ears were reddned. Whether of excitement or shame, he could not say.

She sat back on her heels and looked at him full of expectation. Severus realizes that she had half undressed him and that she herself was still fully clothed. His fingers trailed along the hem of her sweater, before they slid below the warm and soft fabric. He could feel her body shiver under his touch, and the goosebumbs, which suddenly raced over her skin which was warm and incredibly soft.

Severus tugged her sweater carefully over her head, brushing her skin with his fingers in the process, causing her to shiver. His fingertips trailed from her shoulders down to her cleavage before they traveled to her back, where they unclasped her bra. He slit the straps over her shoulders and hummed softly, baring more of her female curves. Severus' eyes darkened visibly when he beheld her. He noticed that his racing heart dictated his breath which had quickened and had become somewhat laboured.

Slowly but surely the self control which he had tried to maintain over the last few months slipped, und Severus leaned forward. Julie gasped as he began to explore her skin with desire, while her body shook from anticipation. He could hear her breath which trembled, he could see how the skin on her cleavage flushed. Lifting his eyes, he beheld the desire and uncertainity that showed in her eyes. Her cheeks reddened more when she became aware of his gaze.

His fingertips circled her nipples, sending torrents of shivers down her spine, making her arch her body closer to him. Seeing her reaction to his touch brought a smile upon Severus' lips, which he licked before he leaned forward, kissing one of her nipples tenderly. Julie wrapped her arms around his shoulders. She felt slightly dizzy and a little confused by her bodies reaction to his touch. She longed for him. She had known it before, but the reaction that he drew from her body was stronger than she had expected.

Severus pushed her onto the mattress and undid her zipper. He rid her and then himself of their remaining clothes, before he closed the distance between them. His large hands placed on either side of her face, he claimed her lips in a demanding kiss, heated but yet cautious, knowing, that that what would follow, would be new to her.

Julie trembled incessantly when she felt his heated skin on hers, being suddenly haunted by a longing that seemed to take her breath away. A tremor welled through her body and she was more than ready for this, but Severus was not finished yet. His large hands roamed her body, exploring every inch with curiosity and yearning. His fingers stroking, feeling, and exploring her body again and again. Her breath had become heavy, her full chest heaving and sinking rapidly from excitement and desire.

Severus looked at her, surprised that she had grabbed his shoulders in an attempt to pull him down on her. He felt obliged by her obvious desire and filled by his own pulsing need, he leaned over her, placing a kiss on her forehead, before he sat up, spread her thighs and nestled himself between them, his eyes never leaving hers. As he embraced her, and his body weighted heavily on hers, she buried her face in the crook of his neck and shivered heavily when he united their bodies.

Chapter Text

A smile appeared on Julie's face, and she inhaled the air that carried Severus' scent. She cuddled deeper under the blanket and a shiver ran down her spine which pressed against his hot body. Her eyes fluttered open and Julie stared sleepily at the cream-colored wall as she began to wallow in memories of the past night.

Severus was used to controlling himself and mastering all his emotions and thoughts perfectly. This also included his body, which compulsively reacted by years of self-imposed control. Although Severus yearned for her, it had been difficult for him to let go. For his body was still subject to his mind, his fears, and his habits, which were still deeply rooted in him. This self-control had guaranteed his survival when he had been death eater. Last night, it had been hard for him to lose control over his body. Severus had not told her about it, but Julie knew of the inner struggle, which he had carried out. Having no absolute control made him feel vulnerable, and Severus seemed to think he could not be vulnerable. It had been hard for him to give up this control, for which he had worked hard for.

His mind did not want to give in, but when Severus finally gained the upper hand, and finally gave in, and allowed himself something he had otherwise refused, it seemed to be liberating in some way. Afterwards he had been different, and Julie wondered if Severus had come to terms with the fact that it was time to give up the absolute control of his life, and allow things to happen that were good for him. Severus had to learn to trust himself, her and others and the events of the last evening might have been a good beginning, Julie thought. She hoped that Severus felt the same way.

Another shiver ran down her spine as Severus ran his hand up her naked thigh, over the soft curve of her hip and slid his hand over her tummy, before pulling her even closer against him.
"Good morning, Julie," he whispered into her ear, causing goosebumps all over her body. Severus nuzzled his nose into her hair before he placed a kiss on the side of her head, inhaling her scent deeply. "Have you slept well," he asked sleepily.

Julie could hear the smile on his lips and turned her head to look at him. Severus was as pale as usual and his hair was disheveled. His eyes bore an expression which was rather unusual for him. He looked relaxed and contented. Julie shifted and turned to him and pulled the blanket under her chin as the cool air brushed her warm skin. "Yes, and what about you?"

Severus gave her a smile, and explored the many soft curves of her body with his hand, which wandered incessantly. After a moment of silence, he said, "I can not remember to have ever slept so peacefully." He smiled, but Julie recognized the deep melancholy in his eyes.

Severus cupped her face with one hand, his thumb stroking her slightly reddened cheek. He leaned forward and rolled her onto her back. His elbows rested next to her slender arms, while his fingers ran through her hair, fingertips massaging her scalp. Julie's hands ran up and down his spine, caressing him.

"We should get up," he whispered, his eyes glued to hers.

"Yes we should", she replied.

Neither of them moved.

Eventually, Severus kissed the tip of her nose and lifted himself from her, making her feel lonely. When Severus left the room, Julie cuddled up in bed and enjoyed his scent, which was practically everywhere. With closed eyes and a never ending smile on her lips, she began to doze.

"Does it still hurt?"

Julie startled because she had not heard Severus come back. She looked up at him. Severus sat on the edge of the bed and grabbed her hand. His thumb ran slowly over her knuckles as his eyes wandered to hers, which looked at him dreamily.

"A little," she said softly, and lowered her eyes to her hand, which Severus caressed.

Severus raised her hand and placed a kiss on her knuckles before releasing it. "I'll prepare something. When you're ready, you'll find me in the living room." With these words, he got up and left their room for the second time that morning.

Julie sighed and sat hesitantly on the edge of the bed. A part of her was unwilling to get up, unwilling to leave the memories of last night behind. But she missed Severus already and wanted to follow him as soon as possible.

When Julie finally came downstairs and entered the living room, Severus sat in his armchair reading a large book. The peace which she had seen before in his eyes had disappeared. He was stiff and tense again. The place seemed to burden him, thought Julie. He looked up at her and stood up at once, placing the book on a small table next to him.

Julie smiled as she smelled fresh rolls and coffee. Severus had already taken care of their breakfast.

He walked toward her, took her hand, and led her to the small dining table, which stood in the corner. Severus took a bottle which was standing there, opened it, and poured a generous portion of the potion into a glass, which he immediately handed over to Julie.

"It does not taste good," he said.

She drank it all, and Severus could not keep his eyes off her. Julie wrinkled her nose while she drank and he knew that she didn't like the taste.

"Well, the stuff has spoiled my appetite," she said as she put the glass on the table. "Couldn't I have taken it after breakfast?"

Severus chuckled, "No, it must be drunk on an empty stomach," he explained and eyed Julie. "That way it helps faster," he added.

 

After breakfast, they sat together on the sofa. Severus caressed Julie's hand which he held between his, and the silence between them became more strange from minute to minute. Severus shifted on the sofa, "I was glad to leave your parents' house and come here, but.. here I feel.. With your parents, I felt so normal, it was like living a normal life. But I was still the same disturbed person.. in my heart. I'm not sure if I like that," he added.

"If you like what," Julie asked, frowning.

"This feeling of a normal life. My life has never been normal. When I suddenly found myself in this situation where life seemed normal, it was in some way very unpleasant."

"Does it make you feel vulnerable," Julie asked cautiously.

"No," Severus shook his head. "Rather, it was the fact that it was something new, I think. Changes of any kind are not really welcome."

"But I'm also a change in your life," said Julie.

Severus turned his head toward her and a faint smile played on his lips, "This is the only change I perceive as pleasant."

"Maybe you should connect this feeling of a normal life with me. Maybe it would be easier for you to cope with it."

Severus' lips were drawn into a thin line and he leaned back.

"When we were with my parents, I did not have the impression that you were a disturbed person. I found you were calm and happy."

"Because I was with you, because you were there," Severus explained as his fingers fumbled nervously with a button of his jacket. "Your presence calms me."

"Not always," said Julie.

Severus glanced at her, "How can you say that?"

"Severus, all this here," said Julie, pointing with her free hand through the living room, "Despite my presence, all this is disturbing you. I see that when I look at you. I feel it when I am close to you."

"You do not know how I am when I am here without you," replied Severus.

He was right and Julie took a deep breath. Of course, she did not know how he behaved when he was alone. Why did he return to Spinner's End when this place burdened him? Why didn't he live elsewhere?

"Some things are worse than having the impression of having a normal life, some things weigh heavier on me, things that happened in my past, many things I can not change."

"You do not have to," Julie assured him, squeezing his hand. "You can not change the life you've lived so far, but as I said before, you can accept it. The moment we accept something, it's getting easier."

His sad glance wandered through the living room, filled with memories, "My father," Severus paused. "My father wanted me to never forget all that was happening here for the rest of my life. He was very successful. No matter where I go, I'm haunted by these memories."

Julie's eyes wandered to his face, which looked deeply sad.

"The memories are there, always present, oppressive pictures and memories of sounds and odors..," His gaze was directed towards the window. Severus was silent for a moment, then he continued, "What can I do about it? I have asked myself this question many times before. I wanted to destroy this house, to put these rooms in ruins, but it would not do anything to change the memories which reside here," Severus pointed with his free hand to his chest above his heart, "and here," he pointed to his head. "Even if one destroys the origin of such memories, one can not erase the memories. They are preserved, somewhere deep inside."

Julie's heart contracted uncomfortably as Severus' voice sounded infinitely sad.

"Now that I know you, I think differently about it." Severus looked straight into Julie's eyes, "I'm starting to see things differently. Not everything, but a lot. Much of what once seemed hopeless seems suddenly to be realizable. Do you understand what I mean?"

He looked at Julie questioningly and she nodded slowly.

"Maybe I want to create new memories, here, in this house, here, in this room, in the kitchen, maybe in the bathroom."

Julie smiled suddenly and when Severus returned her smile, she asked, "Maybe in the bathroom?"

Severus' face fell and his smile was gone. Julie cursed herself inwardly when she saw the painful expression on his pale face. Why had she not kept her mouth shut?

"Maybe. I said maybe," Severus said, sounding disturbed. "I.. it would be.. good to do this, but at this point I'm not ready to do it. I just said what would be good. I did not say I'd do it, nor that I can."

Julie freed her hand from his grip and slipped it in the nape of his neck, which she began to massage. Severus was very tense and she rubbed his neck until he leaned into her touch. After a short pause, Severus began to speak again.

"My room is taboo, just like my parents' bedroom."

"Agreed," said Julie. She could feel Severus beginning to relax.

"Hmm, you can do it more often. I like it," said Severus, who had now closed his eyes.

"Because of the rules we follow, I usually do not have the opportunity to do so because we are mainly in public places," explained Julie, who was glad that the topic was changed.

"Hm, we have to change that," replied Severus.

"The rules," Julie asked hopefully.

Severus opened his eyes and shot her a sideways glance, "No, our rules are irrefutable. But," he said enthusiastically and sat upright, "Due to the circumstances, we should add additional rules."

Julie looked absolutely unenthusiastic, "More rules," she asked as unenthusiastically as possible.

Severus grinned and nodded, while he reached for his sleeve to take out his wand. Julie stopped him by placing her hand over his, "Why don't we forget about new rules and.. uh, optimize the ones we already have," she offered.

Severus blinked and then nodded to her surprise.

Surprised by his unexpected approval, Julie felt encouraged to go a step further, "Why do we have to optimize them at all? Don't you think the rules we already have are enough?"

"Things have changed," Severus said hoarsely, his gaze, once fixed on her eyes, wandering downward, "This requires certain changes, or are we to call them adjustments?"

Julie sighed and growled softly, "I am of the opinion that the rules we have are sufficient."

Severus shook his head firmly, "How do we behave in public? How.."

Julie leaned over to him and silenced him with a kiss, "Severus, I already know what you're getting at. I say our rules are perfect. This is our private life. It's no one's business. People will stare and talk. But, they will only see, what we show them, what we allow them to see. I'm not planning to kiss you in front of the whole class," Julie stated, "The rules we have are enough."

"Maybe I will kiss you in front of the whole class," Severus said, pulling Julie closer. He claimed her lips not very tenderly and Julie moaned against his lips, which plundered hers.

"Will you tell them," Julie asked when they broke the kiss. "Albus and the others?"

Severus nodded slowly. He frowned, the vertical crease between his eyebrows deepening. Of course he would tell them, but.. he had to do something else first.

Severus grabbed her hands, whose skin was so delicate. He grinned as he thought of Alistair's words. Julie could cook. And she would surely cook for him with these hands.. and.. for the children, which they might have one day.

He swallowed hard and suddenly became uncharacteristically sentimental. Severus panicked, and his eyes narrowed as he tried to get his racing feelings under control. Was that really still the same life he had lived the last forty years? That could not be true. Still, he was sitting here, in his, no, in their living room, cradling her slender hands in his hands.

Severus opened his eyes and looked at Julie, who looked at him patiently. "Julie, I..," he fell silent for a moment before taking a deep breath and giving her a small smile. "I love it when you are standing in front of my door early in the morning and greet me with a smile which is relaxed and honest, which gives me the certainty that you are really happy with me. I love how you support me silently. Even if you do not say something what might express this, I know that I can count on your support at any time and in any situation. I love it when I embrace you after a long day and you smell of smoke and herbs. I love it when you bury your face in the crook of my neck and allow me to simply hold you close. I love the look you give me, with which you always assure me without a word, that I am someone who is worth it to be cared for. I love the days when you are the first person I see in the morning and the last person before I go to bed in the evening."

Severus paused for a moment, then frowned, "And by the way, I hate the days when Minerva thwarts my plan, and comes to see me late in the evening, because of irrelevant things."

Julie giggled and Severus continued talking.

"It's been a long time since I had someone in my life, who made me happy over a long period of time. I do not just want to be happy. I don't want to be let down by that person."

The smile on Julie's lips slowly disappeared, and she wondered for the first time whom Severus had loved before her. His words revealed more than he wanted to express. Was he afraid to lose her, because he had once lost someone he had loved? Someone, who had let him down? Julie began to frown.

Severus glanced at her hands, which he held in his. He stroked her hands gently with his thumbs, "For me there is nothing better than you. But you could surely have made a better choice. Still we are together. I now know enough about you to be sure that this, our relationship, is something you have consciously decided to be part of. It's something you really want." He looked into Julie's eyes, "That's why I see no reason to wait longer. Unfortunately, I am neither a poet nor a man of romantic words," he said, frowning, "So I hope that you'll be content with simple words."

Julie looked at Severus expectantly and wondered what he wanted to tell her.

Severus squeezed her hands firmly, not to assure her, but rather to gain some courage. "Will you marry me," he asked softly. "Rather sooner than later?" Severus suddenly had a lump in his throat. Of course he was sentimental again, "I would also like to start a family with you."

Julie smiled widely. She leaned forward and placed a kiss on his hand, which still held hers. Then she freed her hands from his tender grip and wrapped her arms around his neck to pull him closer to her. Their lips met in a sensual kiss.

When Julie and Severus finally broke their kiss, he asked hopefully, "Was this a yes?"

She nodded, "Yes, of course." Julie looked deeply into his eyes and bit her bottom lip. "And what happens now," she asked expectantly.

"I suspect that I am going to enjoy some of the delicacies which you will cook for lunch."

"No, I mean.. with us," Julie explained her question, blushing slightly.

Severus reached into his pocket and pulled out the small box, "I've bought this for you," he said, opening the box before showing it to Julie.

A gentle smile appeared on her lips as she looked at the ring, which lay on a small velvet cloth. It was a solid metal band made of yellow gold.

"Um, I..," Julie wrung her hands and Severus took the ring and reached for her hand, where he slid the ring on her ring finger.

The ring was a bit too large, but to Julie's surprise, it adapted to the size of her finger on contact with her skin.

"I did not know that such rings existed," she said with admiration.

"There are no such rings, but you can make them yourself by bewitching them," Severus explained as he looked contentedly at the ring on her finger.

I do not have a ring for you," Julie said sadly, looking at the ring. "I did not expect this."

"I do not need a ring, the main thing is that you're wearing one. Everyone who sees you immediately knows that you are mine," Severus explained as he watched Julie. "Besides, with me and my appearance, gestures like this," he said, pointing at the ring. "are not necessary. Nobody else wants me."

Julie shook her head and reached for his hands. "Appearance is not the most important," she said, frowning as Severus looked at her sadly. Her thumbs stroked his hands, which were strangely cold.

"Everyone will grow old and the good looks will fade away. When we feel attracted to someone just because he or she is pretty, the relationship will not last long because our appearance is subject to constant change. With the good looks, love will fade, too. What counts is what is here," said Julie, touching Severus' chest in the place above his heart. "Everything else is unimportant."

The atmosphere was heavy and Julie decided to change the subject to give Severus time and space to think about her words. She knew he did not easily digest such words. "You have prepared yourself well," she said, pointing to the ring she was wearing.

"I know what I want," replied Severus, who now bore a neutral expression. "You asked what will happen now. We'll get married first, then we'll see. Are you ready," he asked, looking at her challengingly.

Julie nodded confidently, "Yes, I've never been so sure."

Chapter Text

Severus sat in his arm-chair with the Daily Prophet in his hands, but he could not read. His mind was elsewhere. He wrinkled his nose and wondered what Julie was cooking. It smelled so.. different. He stole a glance at Julie, who occasionally came to the living room. This has been going on for over an hour now. She cooked, and in the meantime tidied up the house. The vertical crease between Severus' eyebrows became more prominent the deeper he thought about her motivation. Why didn't Julie use magic? It would be much easier and would also save a lot of time. What was the motivation behind her rather unusual.. well, should he call it behavior? Did it give her a deeper satisfaction?

He had never met a witch who enjoyed cleaning as much as Julie did. Well, Julie's mother was at least as enthusiastic as her daughter. But apart from these two, no. Severus did not know anyone else. But then, with how many witches had Severus become acquainted with? Very few. His thoughts wandered to his mother. In the end of her life, she had been an epitome of laziness. Impassive and slow. She had not always been like that, Severus thought, looking at the imprint in the doorframe from afar. Why did he have to think about his mother now? Severus frowned.

Severus' mind was carried away by his thoughts. At first his mother had tried to keep order in the house. But at some point she had apparently seen no meaning in it. Severus was not sure if he should be angry with her, or whether he should have any understanding for the decision she had made. Nor had he really thought about why she had done what she had done. However, because of her, he had grown up in circumstances, that had been.. Severus' head began to ache and he rubbed his temples with the index fingers, hoping to find relief. He could not find a suitable word to describe the way he grew up. Maybe.. maybe he did not want to find a word for it. Perhaps it would be better if this chapter of his life were to remain unnamed.

There had been a huge disorder. There were many different types of disorder and thanks to his mother, Severus knew some of them. Of course it had always been messy in the house. At first less, later more. From a certain point onwards the words of his mother had been in disarray. After that, it was not long before even her deeds had appeared more senseless with every passing day.

It had been difficult to grow up like that. Severus thought of his father and his expression became emotionless. After a while, the imprint in the doorframe became meaningless, and Severus took a deep breath, straightened his back, and leaned his head back as he closed his eyes.

No, he did not know any other witch who was so enthusiastic about doing something practical. After a few seconds, a small smile appeared on his lips. It was good that Julie was the way she was. After all, he loved her for it. Her need to clean up constantly also had a great advantage. He kept hearing her. The constant noises when she cut vegetables, stirred in pots, swept the floor, or simply that soft humming which left her lips when she felt pleasure in her deeds, every little sound was perfect.

The seemingly everlasting silence in the house, which had sometimes driven Severus almost mad, had been interrupted by Julie. In the beginning the fact that the usual silence was suddenly filled with innumerable noises had been irritating. Some of the sounds had been known to Severus and had aroused in him anger and despair. But after he had told his mind over and over again that the causer of these noises was someone else than his mother, the sounds had begun to cause in him exactly the opposite. Instead of disturbing him, Severus calmed when he heard Julie. He had been lying awake for a whole night beside Julie, wondering why it calmed him. At dawn, Severus had successfully fought his way through the confusion of the labyrinth of thoughts, and he knew the answer. Listening to Julie gave him certainty not to be alone anymore. He would never be alone again, for Julie would stay with him. Always. Always?

Severus opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling, which had numerous water stains in different shades. "Of course, always," he grumbled softly, turning his attention to the Daily Prophet. Deeply bored and, frankly, absolutely disinterested to know what was happening in the world of wizardry, he folded the newspaper and placed it on the low table beside his arm-chair. Julie was in the kitchen. He smelled the rusty smell of the stove in which Julie baked and something else that was still strange to him.

The rusty smell reminded him that he had to buy a new stove. And a water cooker. The bathroom was in urgent need of repair, the guest bed in which they slept was too narrow.. this was Julie's opinion! For Severus, it was absolutely perfect, as they had just enough space to lie side by side. More space was not necessary in Severus' opinion. But Julie insisted that she needed more room to sleep. What could he say? Of course, he would fulfill her wish, even if only reluctantly.

All in all, much had to be replaced or repaired in the house. Severus already knew what he was going to do until the next Christmas holidays. Surely he would have to take care about these things and probably many others things, too. Although he would do it for Julie, he did not like this idea. He was not a practical man in this regard and where should he buy a stove? In Diagon Alley? Severus scoffed. He'd never seen anything like that in Diagon Alley before. He wrinkled his nose again, and decided to go to the kitchen. The smell was new to him and he would get to the bottom of it. Severus rose with a quick movement and headed for the kitchen.

Julie crouched in front of the stove and tried to look through the dirty glass into the oven. Apparently even the most stubborn dirt could sometimes not be removed by magic. Severus had tried his best and had failed miserably. At least the oven now worked. The smile on her lips widened as she noticed his presence. She turned her head and saw him standing in the doorway.

"I wondered for a long time what smells so.. odd," he asked, as he crossed his arms over his chest.

Julie noticed his gesture immediately. Severus seemed to have a tendency to cross his arms over his chest when something was unknown to him. A gesture that said a lot about him. Her gaze wandered from his crossed arms upwards, and she noticed the sparkle in his eyes, "Odd," she asked, looking doubtful at him. She was not sure if she should accept his question as a compliment, or as criticism. "I'm making lasagna," Julie explained with a smile.

"La.. sagne," Severus asked, frowning, "That stuff I've bought this morning, that's for Lasagne?"

"That stuff..," repeated Julie amused, "Is called ingredients, and yes, it is for lasagna."

Severus eyed Julie critically. He had no idea what lasagna was. "Well, then I'll have to wait and see. I'm curious to see the result."

Julie laughed and shook her head as she got up and dried her hands with a kitchen towel. "That sounds a bit as if I am in one of your potions lessons."

Severus enjoyed the sight, when Julie laughed. This was another thing that soothed him every time. "By the way, I've invited Poppy," he announced.

"Poppy?" Julie frowned and looked at Severus in surprise, who was still standing in the kitchen doorway, leaning casually against the door frame.

"Yes. I had a guilty conscience before, but now that we are, um.. I thought she should know about us first," Severus said seriously. "We should have told her much earlier, but I had not been ready before."

Julie nodded her approval, "I've often felt guilty because we hid our relationship from her, surely she'll be happy. Does Poppy know I'm here as well," Julie asked.

"No, I did not tell her about you. That will be a surprise. I just told her that I'm here. Usually.. well, she knows what that means," Severus explained.

"And what does it mean," Julie asked curiously.

Severus lowered his gaze to the ground, "Normally it means I'm not feeling well."

Julie looked at Severus incredulously, "You want to surprise her by inviting her here? Doing it the way you did, will make Poppy believe, that you are not feeling well. She's going to come here, expecting you to feel unwell."

Severus uncrossed his arms and stepped into the small kitchen, "I honestly did not think about it," he murmured, reaching for her to pull her closer to him.

"Severus, if you do this, Poppy will certainly become upset," Julie said slightly reproachfully.

Severus smiled at her and shook his head, while Julie ran her fingers over his chest before she began to play with the buttons of his jacket.

"If that's the case, we'll have to cook more," Julie said, looking around.

"Cook? We," Severus asked in the hope that he had misheard, "You already have this lasagna thing in the oven," said Severus, pointing to the stove. "Isn't that enough?"

Julie looked at him resolutely, "No, it will not be enough, and if you invite Poppy, there must be enough food."

Severus looked very unconvinced. He shook his head slowly.

Julie eyed Severus mischievously, "Why? What do you normally do when Poppy comes? Do You invite her and she cooks for you?"

Severus grinned, "Well, if you ask, yes," Severus said, amused when he saw Julie's disbelieving expression. "Although she usually brings something to eat. My kitchen was, as you know, not necessarily usable. Poppy shared my opinion on this matter."

"This time it will be different, you can rely on it. What can be better, than offering Poppy something to eat, what we have cooked together? When will she be here?"

Severus shrugged, frowning. What could be better? In his opinion many things! But Julie didn't ask his opinion. He swallowed and thought anxiously of Poppy, who was anything but enthusiastic about his cooking. He watched Julie take potatoes from a bowl. Well, fortunately he had Julie. Surely she would make sure that Poppy would not be poisoned today.

"Are you daydreaming," Julie asked, standing suddenly right in front of him.

Severus blinked at her, "No. I was worried about Poppy's well-being," he admitted.

"Why, what's wrong with her," Julie asked audibly worried.

"My cooking style.. we have already spoken of this before," said Severus, absolutely unenthusiastically.

"I'll cook and you can cut the vegetables," Julie suggested, pulling Severus to her side.

He joined Julie at the countertop and was glad for the first time that the kitchen was so small. They stood so close together that they were constantly touching each other. Julie took an apron and reached around him and tied it, while he leaned down and kissed her.

Then Julie began to peel the potatoes. She handed the first potato to Severus, who eyed the knife in his hand thoughtfully.

"What, can't the famous potions master cut vegetables," Julie asked amused. "If we do not start cooking soon, it may happen that Poppy is here before the food is ready."

"It would not be that bad," said Severus, who halved the potato.

Julie looked at him and shook her head firmly, "That's not going to happen. If that happens, we would have to use magic to get the food ready."

"I could do that now," Severus said hopefully, raising his eyebrows in expectation.

Julie laughed and leaned her head on Severus' shoulder, before she continued to peel the potatoes.

"What are you cooking, uh, what are we cooking?" Severus asked.

"Soup," said Julie, and opened the stove to take out the lasagna. Severus stood behind her and looked over her shoulder, which was easy, since Julie was smaller than him, "That looks.. interesting," he commented.

Julie giggled and pushed Severus back to the countertop, where they continued to peel and cut the rest of the vegetables.

 

Poppy apparated to Spinner's End and stood as if rooted in the living room. Irritated, she looked around. The dusty, gloomy living room seemed to be brighter, cleaner and tidy. A rattling was heard from the kitchen and Poppy turned around slowly. She furrowed her brows when she noticed the smell. Did Severus cook? To judge the smell, he did not cook, but someone else did. The many thoughts running through Poppy's head were abruptly stopped when a laugh came from the kitchen. A smile appeared on her face, which widened when she heard Severus laugh as well. Severus laughed.... and before that... that had been Julie.

Poppy went into the small hallway and to the kitchen, in whose door she stopped, a satisfied smile on her lips.

Julie pushed Severus with her shoulder aside and reached for a spoon, which she put into the pot, that stood on the stove. Then she held it out to Severus, who tasted the food.

"It does not taste too bad," he commented, looking at Julie mischievously.

"Not too bad," Julie repeated with playful indignation. She grabbed Severus by the arm to push him out of the kitchen and stopped abruptly when she saw Poppy standing in the doorway.

"I felt so guilty that I hadn't been able to bring anything to eat from Hogwarts," Poppy said, smiling, "I only managed to bring this here," she said, raising her hand in which she held a bag. She was obviously satisfied by what she had just witnessed.

"What did you bring," Julie asked curiously, noting that the bag was from Honeydukes.

Julie pushed Severus to the side and walked towards Poppy. With two steps she had reached the old witch, who opened the bag for Julie's inspection. "Chocolate," cried Julie, her eyes shining with joy. Something THAT good, I can not offer." Julie hugged Poppy, who pulled her closer and laughed softly.

"This is a pleasant surprise," Poppy said softly, while stroking Julie's back. They loosened their embrace and Poppy eyed Julie. Her gaze fell upon her hand, and she noticed the ring which Julie was wearing. Poppy took Julie's wrist and looked at the ring closely, before giving Severus a stern look. "You rascal," she said, grinning, giving Julie's hand a squeeze. "I'm glad to see you, Julie, and you, too," she added, looking at Severus, who smiled obviously satisfied.

Then she turned her attention to the stove, "Do I understand correctly that the food is ready?"

"Yeah, we've just finished cooking," Julie said.

Poppy took a step into the kitchen and looked around, "You two were diligent," she said, and stopped next to Severus, who leaned against the countertop. "That smells very delicious," Poppy commented.

Julie grinned, "We thought it would be nice if we would eat together," she explained.

Severus and Poppy left the kitchen, and Julie watched from the corner of her eye, as the plates and cutlery began to hover, before they flew in to the living room. "Severus," she muttered amused. When the pot of soup began to hover above the stove, Julie reached for it and carried it into the living room. Poppy and Severus were already sitting at the dining table, and Julie placed the soup onto the table, as the bowl of salad and the lasagna floated past her.

Julie sat down and reached under the table, where she took Severus wand from his hand, which she put to the other end of the table. Severus leaned back in the chair and looked at Julie with an expression that Poppy would call peaceful. Poppy didn't comment the exchange between them, but watched the situation with a smile on her lips and a happy heart. This was something, that needed to be enjoyed silently. The old witch watched Julie while she served the food and they began to eat.

"What is it? That green, uh.. something," Poppy asked, looking doubtfully at the food on her fork.

"That's basil," explained Severus.

"Basil," Poppy asked, looking up at Julie, who grinned. "It looks like parsley."

Severus' eyes darted to Julie, who took a sip of water.

"Well, Severus bought parsley instead of basil, and lasagna with parsley does not taste good," Julie explained.

"And," Poppy asked, raising her eyebrows.

"Well, since there was not enough time to go shopping again, Severus has bewitched the parsley to taste like basil."

Poppy glanced at Severus amused before looking at the lasagna on her plate, "Is the parsley the only thing that was bewitched?"

"Yes," Julie and Severus replied simultaneously.

Poppy laughed and shook her head. Severus had bewitched the parsley. She knew Severus was doing some things that were rather strange. But to bewitch parsley? That was new. She sighed and wondered what else she would experience with Severus in the future. Apparently Severus changed more than she had hoped.

*****

Poppy leaned back on the sofa and gazed at Julie, who had sat down in Severus' arm-chair. "It's just unbelievable," commented Poppy.

Julie raised her eyebrows questioningly, "What is unbelievable?"

"Severus. He's changing slowly. He does not like changes."

"I am quite aware of that," said Julie. "He does not like anything unknown to him," she added.

"And yet he has eaten the food which you have cooked," said Poppy admiringly. "That was unknown to him, this.. Lasagna. It deeply impressed me. It's yet another aspect that shows the deep trust he has in you."

Julie returned Poppy's glance. From this angle she had not yet looked at this fact. "I will not let him down".

"Did he talk to you about her?" Poppy asked softly.

Julie frowned, shaking her head, "No. But I know there was once someone who did let him down."

Poppy nodded thoughtfully before she looked at her seriously, "It will be better, if you do not ask him about her. You should wait until he is ready to talk about it."

Julie nodded and her gaze wandered instantly to the hallway, when she heard Severus, who was apparently upstairs.

"Some of the rooms here are taboo. Do you know anything about it," Julie asked cautiously.

Poppy nodded and took a deep breath, "I understand that you have a lot of questions. I understand that it is important for you to know the answers because you believe you can help him better by doing so."

Julie nodded and looked at Poppy expectantly.

"Please believe me when I say that the best help and support you can offer him at this point is that you accept and love Severus unconditionally. I know that you are already doing that. Give him the opportunity to find his place in this new and unfamiliar situation. He needs time and space to adjust. It will not be very easy for you two in the coming months, which will make it harder for Severus to come to terms with it. But trust me when I tell you that he will find his way."

Poppy stopped and watched Julie, who was now staring at her intertwined fingers. Apparently, the young witch had expected another, probably more revealing response.

"You will not tell him that I've questioned you about it, will you," Julie asked, looking pleadingly at Poppy.

"No, your questions are reasonable and natural. It is not bad that you are looking for answers. You will get them when the right time has come."

Julie sighed deeply and nodded.

Poppy smiled and decided to change the subject. "And how do you deal with all of this? With this new situation? With the changes, which are certainly already numerous?"

"Well, the situation is not as new as you might think," said Julie, slightly embarrassed, immediately forgetting about her earlier thoughts.

"Since when you two together," Poppy wanted to know.

Julie's fingers were running slowly over her ring as she glanced at Poppy for a moment. Then she bit her bottom lip, "Well, I.. do you remember the day when you asked me at breakfast what was going on with Severus?"

Poppy nodded. Of course, she remembered. She knew at once that she already knew the answer.

Julie grinned, "It started at that time. Are you angry with us," Julie asked guiltily.

"No, I've known Severus for a long time, and I understand his motives all too well. I am happy for the both of you. Poppy gave Julie a knowing look, "Severus wants to do it, before returning to Hogwarts. Are you ready," Poppy asked, watching Julie's reaction.

Julie shook her head, "What does he want to do," she asked, sounding confused. "I do not understand what you're talking about."

"He'll want to marry you as soon as possible," Poppy explained, grinning broadly. "Before the Christmas holiday ends."

Julie's eyes widened in surprise, "Did he tell you that," she asked, puzzled, got up, and joined Poppy. She sat down next to the old witch on the sofa.

"No, we have not talked about it," Poppy smiled as Julie frowned, "But as I said, I have known Severus for a very long time. He will want to marry you before the holidays are over. He wants to return to Hogwarts as a married man."

"Why? Is there a special reason for this?"

Poppy nodded, "He does not want anyone to interfere."

"No one would do that," said Julie, sounding convinced. "I know that the other teachers are curious, Albus and Minerva are by far the worst, but they will not interfere with his private life. Our private life," she corrected.

Poppy sighed, "You have no idea. Severus has always been a special case. The fact that he suddenly begins to live a normal life will produce different reactions. There will not only be congratulations from us at Hogwarts, but also humiliation and mockery from others. You should be careful with whom you speak about your private life. Protect it as you would protect a treasure. People will try to befriend you for the wrong reasons. Once this news hits the mainstream, chaos will erupt."

"In the beginning," said Severus, who had entered the living room unnoticed. He had noticed Julie's slightly worried expression. "In the beginning, they will scream loudly and their unimportant opinions and harsh judgments will be announced aloud at every corner. If we do not pay attention to them and their messages, then they will at some time calm down."

"At some time," Julie asked softly, sounding worried.

Severus sat down in his arm-chair and nodded, "Whenever they're done, to badmouth us."

Julie sighed and looked slightly depressed. After a long moment of silence, she stood up abruptly and went over to the dining table. "I need chocolate," she murmured as she went back to the sofa, carrying the bag Poppy had brought in one hand, while unwrapping a chocolate frog in another.

"Do I also get some chocolate? Perhaps I am also in need of something sweet," said Severus so convincingly that Julie at once went over to him.

Poppy smiled as Julie sat down on the armrest and began to eat chocolate together with Severus.

Julie took a deep breath, "I know about that. Severus used to talk about it before, but I've never felt so close to it.. as I feel now," Julie murmured, nervously twisting the ring on her finger with her thumb, while taking another bite of chocolate. "It was, though we were already together, only theory. Something that seemed so far away."

Severus stroked her back and Julie leaned into his touch.

"You'll be fine, and in a few years you'll look back and laugh about it," Poppy said confidently. "It's not easy to stand alone, especially when one knows what kind of storm is approaching. But you're not alone. You have each other. And you're going to make it through the storm unharmed. And no matter what you think about the other professors, if it's going to be too difficult, you'll always receive support in Hogwarts. We might annoy each other and be a bit nosy at times, but if aid is needed, it becomes our business. We may not look like it, but we are a family, and you and Severus are a part of it."

Julie nodded and Severus stared at her lost in thought. The strong young woman, who had lately given him so much courage and seemed so much stronger than he was, suddenly seemed weak and anxious. For a good reason. Severus had often warned Julie of what would happen if their relationship became public. She had always said that together they would endure whatever would come. Severus was of the same opinion. Together they would endure everything. Together they would overcome many obstacles. However, Severus had to take care and make sure that they would always be together, especially if they were outside of Hogwarts. He thought of his failure when Julie had run into the arms of the reporters. The old pain, almost forgotten in the joy of the prospect of marrying the woman he loved, returned to his chest and he knew that Julie remembered the same. Her fingertips brushed over her forehead, lingering at the spot where she had hurt herself months ago.

Severus reached for her hand and led it to his lips. He kissed her knuckles before he reached into the bag and handed Julie more chocolate.

Severus' eyes wandered to Poppy, who had watched them. Their eyes met, and they nodded in silence. Some things did not need words or great gestures, some things were too clear and self-evident to be put into words.

Julie was still lost in thought and had not noticed the exchange between them. "I'm sorry that I've become so mental," Julie said softly.

"You have the right to be," said Severus.

"After all, you're going to marry soon," Poppy added.

Julie took a deep breath and then smiled, "You better hide the rest of the chocolate." With those words, she pushed the bag into Severus' hands. "It's time I contacted my parents so we could discuss the details with them."

Severus nodded and Julie stood up to leave the living room. He glanced after her. When she was gone, he looked at Poppy questioningly.

"This is totally normal," Poppy confirmed, "And everyone has such moments. I'm sure Julie will think about it quite differently tomorrow. If not tomorrow, then the day after."

Severus began to unwrap a chocolate frog, "It has not worried her before."

"Of course not, you were on the safe side with your secrecy," said Poppy, giving him a meaningful look.

"I'm sorry about that," said Severus, offering Poppy the chocolate frog.

She declined. "You need that more than I do," she said, laughing. "Now you are heading for the deep waters," she added, sounding a little more serious.

"Deep waters," repeated Severus audibly surprised. "What is our means of transport," he asked, looking at her questioningly.

Poppy smiled, "Your love, and your trust for each other."

Severus' expression changed from disbelieve to deadly serious.

"This is not about strength, or willpower, Severus. It's about the trust that has builded up between you two over the last year. It's about the feeling that has become the basis for your relationship," Poppy explained.

"It's been only ONE year! Only.One.Year," Severus pointed out.

"You will see that this one year has given you something much more powerful than your forced self-control, and everything else you have achieved in your time as a Death Eater."

Severus stared her down, but remained silent.

"Even if in the course of your life you have experienced nothing comparable, this foundation on which you and Julie now stand together will withstand the strongest storms. It will overshadow everything else you've experienced. There's nothing safer than that."

Severus expression softened and he leaned back in his arm-chair. "I hope you're right."

"I'm always right," said Poppy.

Severus glared at her.

"In terms of things involving Julie, I've always been right," Poppy said matter of factly.

Severus made a strange sound but nodded eventually.

"You have to trust in the feelings you have for each other. I know you have a hard time doing so, because you have done this once before and have experienced a bitter disappointment."

Severus head fell back and he stared at the ceiling.

"But if you compare Julie with Lily," Severus' body tensed visibly. Poppy noticed, but went on, "You'll know why you will not experience the same ever again."

Poppy fell silent and watched Severus, who was sitting motionless in the arm-chair. The rapid raising and falling of his chest betrayed his inner excitement. Poppy knew she should not compare Julie with Lily in Severus' presence, but in this case it had been necessary.

After several long minutes, which made Poppy doubt whether Severus was in his right mind, his facial features began to soften, and his body relaxed.

"We share an emotional connection," he said, as if talking to the ceiling.

"Do you understand now why I'm so convinced," Poppy inquired.

"Yes," Severus replied, looking at her, "Sometimes I forget that fact."

Poppy laughed and got up, "It would be good for you to remember such important facts from time to time. It would spare you a lot of stress. Enough of this," she said and approached him, "Let's go and find Julie. We have a wedding to plan," Poppy said, reaching for Severus' hand to pull him up.

Chapter Text

Julie looked out of the window, at the opposite house. The barren house wall, which had been marked by the weather, rose up into the gray sky. Time had not failed to leave its mark on it. Cracks in the masonry were clearly visible from the opposite side of the road. It looked as desolate as all the houses in this area, but not all houses had been as neglected as this.

A frown appeared on Julie's face as she wondered how the house had looked when Severus had been a child. What had become of the family which had once lived there? Certainly it had once been the pride of a man who had bought it for his family. The present owner no longer seemed to care about its condition. Was it the same owner? The windows were mostly dark, rarely showing signs that it was inhabited, except for the dull light, which shone through the grayed curtains from evening till the early morning hours. Why was someone living in a house like this, Julie wondered.

Her gaze fell upon the window-sill in front of her whose cream-colored paint had begun to peel off. The house in which Severus lived when he was not in Hogwarts, did not look as dirty and in disrepair as the house on the opposite side of the street, but time had not failed to leave its mark on it as well. Why did Severus live here? Why did Severus want to live in the house where he grew up? The environment was dreary and gray, depressing, cold and desolate. Julie had tried, but she could not find any positive words to describe it.

Memories, that were clearly of a bad nature, still haunted this house and thus Severus' mind. Memories that hurt Severus, depressed him and burdened him considerably. But why did he decide to stay here anyway? Why did not he leave this place behind to make a new beginning? Why did Severus consciously choose to stay here, live here, and continue to be under the influence of this house and thus its past - his past.

Julie sighed softly, trying to banish these thoughts from her head. She would not get answers to her many questions anyway. Maybe later, but not now. Severus was not yet ready to deal with his past. Or did he do so without her knowing it? Secretly, in the depths of his being? Julie frowned, biting her lower lip thoughtfully. Perhaps Severus was much more concerned with his past than she suspected. Could she have been wrong? Yes, it was possible.

Although she already knew a lot about him, Severus hesitated to reveal his inner self, especially when it concerned his past. Severus was very reserved in this regard and she suspected that one of the reasons why he was not talking much about his life was herself. Maybe he did not want to burden her too much.

Julie took a deep breath and, with her fingernails, scraped off the the windowsill's paint. This was a topic which was currently not the focus of attention. She would marry Severus very soon. A smile appeared on her rosy lips as she thought about how emotional she had become yesterday. It had suddenly come upon her, without any warning. But she should have known. She was about to take a very important step, which would bind her to Severus. But this was not the cause of her concern. The certainty that she could spend the rest of her life with him made her happy.

However, she had begun to realize what this step would entail, what would change in her life. Suddenly she had not been as confident as she had been before. She had talked to Severus a few times about what would happen if their relationship became public. The moment this would happen, they would already be married.

Julie sighed and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, which had fallen into her face as she had studied the windowsill indifferently. However, it had an advantage: The wave of curiosity and how Severus called it - sensation mongering of the reporters and the world of sorcery - would only hit them once. After that, it would be over - hopefully.

She was startled when Severus gently touched her shoulders. His hands lingered on them for a moment, then he slowly trailed his fingers down her arms until he wrapped his arms around her body to pull her against him. Julie leaned back contentedly and let herself be held by Severus. His chest rose and fell slowly, and Julie closed her eyes as she let herself be soothed by the gentle movement of his body.

"We're ready to leave," he said, placing a kiss on her hair.

Severus let go of her and Julie pouted briefly before she turned to him, smiling. Her smile widened as she saw that Severus was wearing a white shirt. The absence of his black jacket did not bother Julie in the least. It was a beautiful sight, friendlier, and more open than she was used to.

"Then let's not waste any time," Julie said, reaching for Severus' hand.

About twenty minutes later they approached the front door of Julie's parental home, this time with Poppy in the tow. The embrace of her father made Julie somewhat sentimental, but the embrace of her mother lured a few tears from her eyes. Colleen was very aware of her daughter's feelings and pulled her into the kitchen, where she gently wiped the tears from Julie's face.

"You can do that," Colleen said to encourage her. "It's normal that you are excited and concerned, that's part of it," she assured her daughter, who hesitantly nodded.

Colleen spotted the ring, which graced Julie's finger, took her daughter's hands between hers and squeezed them gently.

"I'm afraid of the outside world," Julie admitted, shuffling nervously. It is not just Severus' story, it is also my own. I do not want to read about this part of my life in newspapers. Severus says, that this is going to happen."

Colleen nodded and caressed Julie's arms. "He is right and you know that this is likely to happen. But you've come to terms with your past, haven't you?"

Julie nodded, "Yes, but Severus has not. It will put him on a lot of strain."

"He's been through much worse, don't you think," Colleen asked.

"Yes, but.. sometimes there are moments when I feel a bit overwhelmed," explained Julie.

Colleen smiled and removed Julie's coat with a flick of her wand before she hugged her. "This is normal, too," said Colleen, reaching for Julie's shoulders, and giving them a gentle squeeze. "Your father and I will always be there for you, and if things should be really bad, I will come to you at any time."

Julie sighed softly and Colleen gave her a gentle nudge. "Let's go into the living room, I've heard someone wants to marry," she said, grinning, taking Julie's hand and pulling her along.

*****

"And what are your ideas," asked Alistair, after he had settled on the sofa next to his wife.

"I'd like to keep it as private as possible without a lot of fuss," Severus began. "Do you agree," he asked, giving Julie a questioning side glance.

Julie nodded, "Of course, I don't especially like being the focus of attention. For me this sounds great."

"No unnecessary guests, so no one from Hogwarts," Severus said, and underlined his words with a determined nod.

"No one from Hogwarts, except me," Poppy interjected, looking at Severus sternly.

"Of course," Severus said, "I have not forgotten you. You belong to the family." Severus took his teacup and leaned back.

He did not notice Poppy's expression, but Julie did see how deeply the old witch had been touched by Severus' words. A sentimental smile remained on Poppy's lips long after his words had been spoken.

"Where will we make the ceremony," Colleen wanted to know, "Here, or at your place?"

"In none of these places," Severus said firmly, looking at Julie, who seemed surprised by his answer. "I want to marry you where we first kissed."

Julie blushed, "In Hogwarts," she asked incredulously.

"No," replied Severus, shaking his head, and looked at Julie meaningfully. "This has not happened in Hogwarts," he said softly.

After a moment of reflection, her eyes suddenly widened, "Are you serious?"

"Yes, I am. What do you think about it?"

Julie nodded, "It'll be cold," she said as she imagined the scenery before her mind's eye.

"Of course," Severus agreed, "But it is only for the ceremony, which does not last so long. When it's over, we can come here at once."

"May I know of which place you're talking about," Colleen asked curiously.

"It's a small forest near Hogwarts," Severus explained with a smile.

Poppy's eyes wandered from Severus to Julie and she wondered how it had come to that kiss. "There is a place where Severus goes, whenever his tight, challenging schedule allows it," Poppy explained. "I guess that's the place," she asked, looking at Severus questioningly.

"Exactly," confirmed Severus.

Alistair cleared his throat, "That sounds perfect. If you are satisfied with that, we are also. But if the marriage is to take place among us, who will then perform the ceremony? Who will be the Bonder?"

The discussion that followed Alistair's question was a long one. Since Severus rejected the presence of other people, they finally agreed that Alistair would perform the ceremony and that Colleen and Poppy would be the witnesses.

** Four days later **

Severus paced in Julie's room, his hands clasped behind his back. He was amused somewhat about his confidence to hold the ceremony in the morning. He should have known that Julie and her mother would cook a small feast for this special occasion. This meant, that Severus had been hearing sounds from the kitchen for hours, where Julie and her mother were tirelessly busy preparing various preparations. Alistair was sitting in the living room, reading, while Severus had retreated to Julie's room. Oh, and Poppy was still at Hogwarts. He would get her as soon as everything was ready, whenever that would be.

Severus sat down on Julie's bed and buried his face in his hands. The cool, pale skin beneath his fingers felt slightly moist, and he wiped his hands on his black trousers. He would only be able to feel calm if he were actually married to Julie. Impatience had been bothering him the last couple of hours, along with the feeling of insecurity, which gnawed on his heart. Severus had tried again and again to get rid of this very annoying feeling, but had failed each time.

He had to distract himself. But how? A smile appeared on his lips as he remembered how Julie's parents had thanked Poppy for being so caring about her daughter and taking care of her injuries. Poppy had perceived their thanks as exuberant, and had dismissed it immediately, but Severus was glad that Poppy had finally received the thanks and appreciation she actually deserved. It had rarely happened that the parents of the students had thanked her for her tireless efforts. Often Poppy's services were seen as self-evident, as if the parents had bought it together with the education for their children. All the more so, Severus had rejoiced that any attempt by Poppy to refuse their thanks had failed.

Hogwarts.. Severus' expression was weary when he thought of the wizarding school. Though he'd always been happy to return to Hogwarts and leave Spinner's end, he felt quite different now. Despite Julie's presence, he was still uncomfortable to stay in his parents' house. But this was the only place where he could really be undisturbed with Julie. In Hogwarts it would be different. Severus frowned. It was no longer the house of his parents, but their house. And just as his parents had passed it on to him, Severus and Julie would one day pass it on to someone. And this house would then be a place of light and joy, no gloomy building, behind whose every corner; a shadow in the form of pain and fear lurked.

Severus swallowed hard when he realized that he would be responsible for changing this house. No, he did not have to change the house. He had to fill it with memories, memories that he would have to create. He would give his children, if he would get them, light, and joy. But how did you give something when you had never experienced it yourself? How could he give something that he had never received to this extent and in this way? It was certainly possible for Julie to do so, but what about him? One can not give anything that one has never experienced. Was this really the truth? Was this really a fact? Would he be like his father?

He was annoyed and his gaze wandered irritably through Julie's room. In the first moment, he was shocked when he noticed that he was not in Spinner's end, but in the house of Julie's parents, in Julie's room. How powerful memories were, Severus mused bitterly as he ran his fingers through his black hair. He shook his head and clasped his knees convulsively with his hands. Today he was sitting in the house of Julie's parents, tomorrow he would be sitting in their house in Spinner's End, and he had no children yet, which allowed him to part with these thoughts - for now. Nevertheless, these thoughts would reappear and continue to accompany him.

Fortunately, they had a whole week before they had to return to Hogwarts. Time to be together, time to get closer, time to let go and to leave one's cares behind. Severus repeated this thought once, twice, then paused and raised his eyebrows surprised when he understood, that for the first time in his life he had the feeling that he was really on holiday. So far he had never felt so. Every moment of his desolate life had been an overwhelming burden. But no more. Now...he looked up in surprise as Julie reached for his hands. Now he was no longer alone, now, much made sense, thought Severus, while Julie knelt down before him.

"I spoke to you several times, but you did not react," she said as she stroked his knuckles with her thumbs and looked up at him through her long eyelashes.

"I was deeply in thought," Severus explained his mental absence. "I've been thinking about.. something."

Julie raised his right hand and placed a kiss on its back, "We're done, you can get Poppy now," she said, looking expectantly at him.

Severus made no attempt to get Poppy. He pulled Julie up into his lap and claimed her lips in a kiss. Julie smiled against his lips, visibly surprised at his unexpected behavior. His tongue brushed along her bottom lip before it slid into her mouth. His kiss was demanding, while his hands hungrily roamed over her arms and back. Then his tongue stroked hers, which tasted better each time they kissed. The excitement he felt when he kissed her was still as intense as on the day he'd kissed her for the first time. This was reflected in his kiss, which drew a soft moan from Julie's lips. Severus pulled her closer and their tongues fought for dominance. When they finally broke their kiss, they were both breathless.

"That was intense," Julie said as she grinned. Her index finger ran over her lips which were now slightly swollen and reddened. She stood up from his lap and tried to stand. Her knees were trembling slightly. Once again he had made her weak, she thought half amused.

Severus smirked at her, "Well, look at it as our wedding kiss. Later, in front of Poppy and your parents, I will definitely not kiss you like that," Severus explained with a grin and kissed the back of her hand. "I'll be right back." With these words he rose from his bed and left the room.

*****

To Severus' annoyance it took almost two hours before Poppy was finally able to come. A few stupid students were responsible for the delay. Severus had inquired about their names as inconspicuously as possible, but Poppy's gaze and her tone betrayed that she knew why he was asking. Still, she willingly gave him the information he wanted. The darker side in Severus' mind, had memorized their names, and he had made a mental note to avenge the responsible students. Why hadn't these fools gone home for Christmas? His gloomy thoughts were quickly forgotten when they left Julie's parental home.

Now he stood in the middle of the small forest, more than ready to marry. Severus clasped Julie's hands with his. Although they had only been outside for a few minutes, her skin was already cool. Julie's cheeks were reddened, and her eyes shone happily. The smile on her lips was of a shy nature, which Severus found absolutely attractive. Countless snowflakes fell through the bare trees, which complimented the silence that prevailed in the forest.

He was torn from his thoughts when he heard the snow crunch under someone's boots. Alistair appeared next to them, his wand ready in his hand. Glances were exchanged, and Alistair placed the tip of his wand onto their intertwined hands.

The words of Julie's father were lost in the sensation which Severus immediately felt. Slowly, the thin tongue of brilliant silver flame wound itself around their hands, arms, until it encircled their bodies. Severus took a deep breath, and closed his eyes, which at once strengthened the pleasant feeling, which was slowly spreading within him. It was the same magic that was used for all vows, but the feeling he experienced today, was so different, so much more pleasant - it made him feel alive.

When Severus had sworn the unbreakable vow, it had been so unpleasant. It had felt like a snake that had wrapped around him. Each word that had been uttered by Narcissa, had been an additional coil, squeezing him ever tighter. Each 'yes' that he had vowed, had added another coil, that had constricted him to the point, when he had been close to suffocation. Yet, his vows had been uttered clearly, with no sign of neither constriction nor suffocation. It had bound his soul and had squeezed the life out of his body. But he had played his part well, as he had always. It had been a force that had dragged his innermost self, his soul, with every breath he had taken closer toward death. It had tried to stifle him, only to devour him greedily before he would have taken his last breath. Vows in the magic world were sometimes similar to each other, but could have various meanings, which made the significant difference.

Severus did not feel bound this time, not imprisoned in this vow, which he could not break. On the contrary, this vow, even if it should not be broken, seemed to liberate him in a strange way. He felt so light and carefree like never before. Through it, he felt connected to Julie, as that was the nature of this particular vow. This oath would bind them to each other. And Severus wanted nothing more than to be bound to this woman. There was no going back - not that he wanted to - and this final thought did not disturb Severus in the least. It gave him the feeling of freedom. A freedom that he had always dreamed of as a child. A freedom that had become an unattainable dream to him, a childhood dream, that had slowly died in him. But now, all of a sudden, this freedom was within his reach. It was going to become a reality. A reality, which would be his. His reality, that no one would ever take away from him.

Severus opened his eyes abruptly as Julie squeezed his hands gently. He looked at Julie who smiled at him with expectation. Severus wondered if he had missed his moment, and his gaze wandered to Alistair, whose expression confirmed his guess. Severus cursed himself briefly before he smiled at Julie apologetically.

"Should I repeat everything again, or do you say, I do," asked Alistair amused.

"I do," Severus said firmly, while looking into Julie's eyes. But to his anger his words sounded unusually soft and sentimental. He felt his cheeks grow slightly warmer and was annoyed with himself for a fraction of a second, that he had not been attentive, and that he was now blushing. But in the next moment he did not care.

With these words, the rough ocean of feelings in Severus suddenly became calmer and tolerable, almost pleasant. He could not turn his eyes away from Julie, who also blushed, while, she too, did not pay any attention to the words of her father. Captured in the moment, they seemed to forget everything around them.

"Sweetheart, it's getting cold," Colleen commented, sounding greatly amused.

Julie blushed deeply and took a deep breath. Then she cleared her throat, and glanced at her father, "Have I missed the moment, too," she asked incredulously, furrowing her brow as her father nodded in silence.

"Well, then," she turned her full attention to Severus, who waited silently, "I do," she said without hesitation as her fingers wrapped even more tightly around his.

For a few moments Severus stood there as if frozen, staring at Julie in disbelief, then, he admired her, until finally, he smiled. The inner calm, which had settled within him a few moments before, seemed to strike roots. He frowned as the rough sea of his life, in which storms still raged, seemed suddenly to be less obtrusive and oppressive. It was still there, but it seemed to him as if the peaceful sensation was suddenly rooted, deeply anchored to his heart, in the deepest part of his self. The place in him, that no one had ever been able to reach, which was now occupied by his wife. His wife, Severus thought, swallowing hard.

The thin tongues of brilliant silver flame now sank slowly into them until they were no longer visible. The world around him seemed to stand still, as if it had become oblivious to them, or was it he, who had become oblivious to the world? Severus could not tell, but he did not care. His wife stood before him. The frown on his face gave way to a small smile, which Julie returned at once. She turned her head slowly towards her mother, but Severus quickly reached for her chin, and held it tenderly between his fingers as he tilted her face up.

Warm skin met cold, smooth skin, which he was only too happy to touch. Their eyes met and his gaze wandered down to her lips, her chin, which he still held between his fingers. Then his gaze reached her almond-shaped eyes, which were slightly widened, and looked at him hopefully, lovingly, and confidently.

Julie smiled at him, and Severus carefully grabbed her waist to pull her closer. Instead of doing so, he took a step toward her and kissed her with passion. He could feel the heat of her skin on his face as she blushed as he kissed her deeply in front of her parents and Poppy, but it did not matter to him at this moment what they thought. He was married. And after a moment of hesitation, or was it surprise? Julie returned his kiss with the same longing and desire.

*****

The ceremony in the forest was followed by a small but fine feast, which they relished in the house of Julie's parents. Afterwards, they set off for the Ministry of Magic to register their marriage. Toward evening, as they returned to Julie's parents' house, Poppy said good-bye to them, and Severus and Julie spent a good part of the evening with her parents, before they finally set off for home.

At home, Julie placed their marriage certificate on the dining table in the living room, and stood motionless, while her gaze lingered on the certificate.

Severus stood in the door to the living room and leaned against the door frame. His arms were crossed in front of his chest and his gaze was directed at Julie, who was still standing motionless in front of the dining table. Was she looking at the certificate, or was she not sure what to do now? Or was it both? Whatever it was, she was happy - he could feel it - and that was all that mattered. Severus' expression was filled with affection as he walked toward her. He touched her shoulders and turned her around. Their eyes met, and his fingertips brushed gently over her cheeks, which were still slightly reddened. Then he cupped her cheeks with his large hands and leaned his forehead against hers by bending down to her and tilting her head upwards. Both began to smile and for a moment neither of them felt the desire to move or say anything.

Then Julie wrapped her arms around Severus and her finger dug into the fabric of his sweater and held him tight. His hand wandered lower, his fingertips brushed softly over her jaw, eliciting a tremor from her body, which he clearly perceived. The vein on her neck began to pulsate more intensely when his fingers lingered on it for a short time before they moved on and brushed over her collar bone.
Severus kissed her forehead.

"This was the best day ever in my life, and the best Christmas holiday I have ever had," he said softly, placing a kiss on her temple, before he nuzzled his nose into her hair, inhaling her scent deeply.

Julie rested her hands on his chest and was visibly surprised as she felt his heart beat pulsating beneath her fingertips. She looked at him questioningly and Severus smiled, "That's not the only thing that has become more noticeable to you," he explained with a mysterious smile.

Julie raised a questioning eyebrow, "Not the only one," she asked, both surprised and curious.

He nodded and his hands began to wander over her body until they came to rest at the small of her back, "No, there are other advantages that we can enjoy from now on," he explained with a knowing smirk.

"Other advantages," Julie repeated curiously.

Severus grabbed her hand and dragged her behind him toward the hallway. She grinned as he took her to the upper floor where he pinned her against the door and kissed her passionately. She gasped for the air as he pulled away. Severus opened the door of their room. "May I," he asked, breathless. Julie nodded and Severus kissed her deeply as his hands brushed gently over her arms, before he clasped her upper arms with his hands.

"Let me show you," he breathed into her ear, his eyes dark and his pupils dilated as his gaze burned on her skin. It caused torrents of shivers down her spine and Julie trembled in anticipation.

"Finally mine," Severus growled before he picked her up and carried her into their room.

Chapter Text

"Why are you so excited," Severus asked, who entered the living room and approached her slowly.

Julie sighed and looked at him, "I'm not sure I've packed everything," she explained, then looked around again.

Severus reached for her hands and caressed them with his thumbs before he raised them to his mouth, "And if you should have forgotten something," he said, kissing her knuckles, "That's no problem. In this case I'll come back and retrieve it for you."

"Would you do that," Julie asked, looking relieved. "You'll probably be very busy once we get back to Hogwarts," she added, sounding slightly concerned.

"Of course I would," he confirmed with another kiss on her knuckles. "This and much more," Severus nodded, pressing her hands against his chest. "Besides, this is our house and if we forget something, it will not disappear. And even if I am busy, where you are certainly right, I will take the time to come back here, if you should have forgotten something."

Julie returned his smile and brushed her hands over his chest, which he still held beneath his hands. Severus followed her movements and gave her hands a light squeeze before he stopped their movements.

Severus wondered how Julie felt about the fact that they had to return to Hogwarts. He'd like to stay in Spinner's End for a bit longer, but they had planned to make themselves comfortable at Hogwarts before the students returned. That meant, that Julie would move to Severus.

The last two days had been very quiet, and Severus and Julie had spent most of their time at home, where they had read, cooked, or often simply sat together on the sofa and cuddled. It was unusually quiet, almost peaceful. It was an aspect of this new situation that Severus had yet to get used to. The pace of his life changed in a way that was still new to him. Once he'd been alert at every second. He had always had to be attentive, each of his deeds, his words and thoughts had always had to be subject to his absolute control. A mistake could have been fatal. It had been a life of renunciation. A life where he had claimed nothing for himself. For fear of losing it again. For fear of becoming vulnerable.

This unnatural compulsion to constant control had crushed him inside. It had darkened his world, in fact it had made his life a torture. The dark shadows of.. Severus breathed deeply and looked at Julie, who eyed at him closely. She knew he'd gone back to his past. As he had often done in the last few days. But she never asked him about it. Although he knew how much she wanted to help him, she gave him the freedom he wanted. The freedom he needed. He had not asked her to do so. Julie did this because she understood him. He could simply be himself without feeling distressed by her presence. It was inconceivably pleasant to be near her. It was a freedom he enjoyed. She gave him the time he needed. He had always kept his distance. Although he had been dealing with other wizards frequently, nobody really knew him. Except Albus, though he did not know everything about him.

And Julie, she got to know him more and more. She had already seen facets of him, which he himself felt to be unpleasant. But Julie.. it seemed to him, that whatever part of him came to light, no matter how unpleasant and obnoxious it might be, Julie nevertheless liked it. And now she was still looking at him, her gaze never wavering from his. Severus took a deep breath, and his fingertips brushed gently over her cheek, which, after their morning walk, was still slightly flushed.

"Let's go," he suggested, looking into her eyes questioningly.

She hesitated for a moment and cast a last look through the living room before she nodded her approval. Severus went to the dining table and reached for her cloak, which hung over a chair, and helped Julie get dressed. Her fingers gently stroked his arms as he closed the buttons of her cloak.

"That is not necessary," said Julie with a smile. "We will not go outside, why do you dress me so warm?"

"Shh," Severus silenced her with a brief kiss. "Can't you grant me this joy," he muttered, as he closed the last button and adjusted her scarf.

Julie smiled wistfully and nodded as he stepped back from her. Then he held out his hand and she put her hand in his. Within seconds, they stood in Severus' office in Hogwarts.

Julie let go of his hand and turned slowly. She let the smell, the atmosphere, and the gloomy light that was ubiquitous in Severus' office slowly sink in. Her eyes fell on Severus' desk, and memories of past times were stirring in her, that were causing a smile to spread across her face. She sighed inaudibly as her eyes fell on the two armchairs, which stood vacant in front of the cold fireplace. The memories of the moments that she had spent there with Severus warmed her heart. Now it would always be like that.

Her gaze was so different, thought Severus, who watched her silently. To him it seemed as if she was suddenly lost. Was this possible? Or was she deep in thought? If so, what was she thinking about? Severus approached Julie and put his arms around her, his large hands rested on her stomach. He nuzzled her hair before he inhaled her scent deeply.

"It's.. so.." she hesitantly said and paused.

"Different," Severus finished her incomplete sentence. He followed her gaze before he tightened his hold on her. "That is what you wanted to say, didn't you?" He asked gently.

Julie took a deep breath and then nodded as she turned to him. "It's so different and so strange, it feels as if an eternity has passed since we've been here last time," she said.

"A lot has happened since then," Severus explained, giving her a kiss. He cupped her face with his hands, and his thumbs stroked her cheeks. "If a lot happens over a short period of time, and most of it is new, one feels like that."

"Do you feel like that too," Julie asked, looking questioningly as she tilted her head and pressed her cheek against his hand.

Severus paused and looked at her strangely, "Well, uh, I do not know."

"Why don't you know that?" Julie asked, as she ran her hand along his forearm.

Severus frowned and grew serious. "I do not know, I..," He let go of her and placed his hand on his chest. His fingers ran over the buttons of his jacket, which were buttoned up to his neck, and then lingered at the top button. His eyes darkened.

Before Julie could ask, Severus said, "I'm getting ready." He eyed the buttons of his jacket with a determined expression.

"Getting ready for what," Julie asked audibly concerned.

"I'm getting ready for all that is coming now, and that will be a lot. A lot of unwanted things, unwanted attention, unwanted..," he paused and met her gaze. "This is my way of dealing with it."

Julie looked at him thoughtfully for a moment as she tried to understand what he meant. Then she frowned. "You're blocking your feelings," Julie said anxiously, when she thought she understood what he was talking about.

Severus inhaled sharply, and Julie reached for his arms, which he immediately crossed over his chest. Julie uncrossed his arms and placed them around herself, as if he was embracing her. She buried her face in his chest and breathed deeply.

He held her close and buried his nose in her hair, which smelled of roses. He would never have thought that he'd like that smell, but in combination with Julie, he liked a lot of things that had seemed strange to him before. He tensed when she spoke.

"Severus, that's all right, but," she sighed deeply, looking up at him, "Please don't do that to me. Not when I'm with you."

His frown deepened and he looked at her in silence.

"I will not allow you to do this," Julie said firmly, but Severus could hear the uncertainty that resonated in her voice. "This idea makes me afraid," she admitted before leaning her forehead against his shoulder.

"I'll try to consider your request," Severus began slowly. "You have to understand that I've always done this. It's my habit, and it's not easy to change habits."

Julie inhaled deeply and his scent calmed her a little. She looked up at him again, "I can understand why you are doing this, but please remember that from now on you need to protect not only yourself, but me too. You can not protect me if you exclude me."

"I know," he murmured, his voice was rough with emotions, which Julie could not classify. "I know it's not just about me. If I should fail, if you should feel unprotected or.. excluded, please tell me." The expression in his eyes was serious, like the tone of his voice.

Julie nodded, "I will," she said softly, smiling slightly as her fingers dug deeper into the fabric of his jacket.

Severus nodded silently and for a moment was frustrated about his reaction, which had been normal for him before. But Julie was right, he could not exclude her. His emotions belonged to her, all of them. It was about both of them. He had to act consciously, and could not simply follow his usual reflexes, as he had always done before.

"You must be hot," he said, and at once reached for the buttons of her cloak.

Julie looked around his office, "To be honest, it's very cold in here," she said and their eyes met.

Severus paused for a moment and eyed her thoughtfully. Then he continued to open her cloak. "Let's unpack and bring your things here, that will certainly warm you up. I'll make a fire, and when we're done, we can sit together in front of the fireplace and relax," Severus suggested. "Just like before," he added, looking at her strangely.

He took off her coat and threw it on the armchair, and when he turned around, Julie at once reached for the buttons of his jacket, "You do not need that when you are with me," she explained, as she began to unbutton his jacket.

*****

Severus emptied half of his wardrobe, in which he had mainly stored potion ingredients and small kettles, and helped Julie place her clothes in it. Suddenly he paused and his body tensed visibly. Severus handed Julie a pile of clothes, which he had wanted to stow in the upper shelf, and left the bedroom quickly, his face set in grim determination, paired with anger.

Julie looked puzzled after him and put down the clothes on the bed. She approached the small hall to follow him, but stopped abruptly when she heard Minerva's voice. A few minutes later Severus came back and closed the door to the office. Their eyes met, and he seemed angry.

"As you've probably heard," Severus grumbled, "The teachers conference is going to be held now, because Albus has an appointment at the Ministry of Magic this afternoon."

"That's very good," Julie said happily, and Severus glanced at her gloomily.

"Why do you like this," he asked sullenly. "They're always making spontaneous changes. I hate that. You can not adjust to anything," he muttered. "We wanted to finish that here," Severus said, gesturing with his hand at Julie's clothes, which were still lying on the bed, "And we wanted to relax afterwards, I already lit a fire in the fireplace."

"You can not change it, Severus, but try to see it positively. If we go to the conference now, we can go for a walk this afternoon. We could go to our place in the forest," suggested Julie, hoping to cheer up his mood. "We can buy some chocolate on the way back and relax later."

Severus contemplated her words and actually seemed to like her proposal. "Would you like to go there," he asked, as the corners of his mouth turned upward in a smile.

"Of course, this place is very special to us," replied Julie. It's not only about the kiss, which we shared there. It's the place where we got married."

"Minerva looked at me so strangely," said Severus, with a thoughtful expression. "I wonder if she suspects something."

"Are you surprised," Julie asked amused. "You only wear a shirt which is not even white, but green," she explained, brushing her fingers over his sleeve.

His gaze followed her movement and Severus scoffed and went to the closet to get a white shirt. Julie watched him and sighed inwardly as he put on his black jacket. The very jacket that she had just undressed him less than an hour ago. To her relief, he closed only a few of the numerous buttons.

"I'm ready," he said when he finished. "Shall we go?"

Julie followed him out of the office and her gaze wandered to his hands, as he began to close more buttons. When they had arrived at the large door leading to the teacher's room, his jacket was buttoned up to his neck. Julie was frustrated as they entered the room.

As Severus went over to Albus, Julie joined Poppy, who had noticed her frustration at once, "Has something happened," she said softly, so no one else could hear her.

Julie stood next to her and glanced at Severus, who was already talking to Albus and Minerva. He looked just as always, pale, dark, and reserved.

"He's got his jacket all buttoned up," Julie sighed, sounding deeply frustrated. "I was trying.. hoping he'd.." Julie paused and looked at Poppy equally frustrated and doubtful as the old witch placed her hand on her arm, giving it a gentle squeeze.

"I know what you're trying to do. It's a good thing, but Severus," she gave him a quick glance, then looked into Julie's eyes, that were clearly filled with doubt, "He's back in Hogwarts, and his life situation has changed. His personal life has changed. Severus is very protective over that what's left of him. I've told you that before. He has returned to his usual defensive position. This is normal for Severus, he has always done so. Give him a few days to arrive and to get used to being back at Hogwarts. You'll see it's going to get better soon," whispered Poppy.

Julie nodded thoughtfully as she pondered on Poppy's words. The old witch had known Severus for a long time and Julie hoped she'd be right. It was a little frightening to see Severus so dark, distant and cold. She had tried to unbutton Severus over the past few weeks, but now it seemed as if her effort had been in vain. Actually, she should have expected it to happen. Why did it touch her so deep, Julie wondered, and watched Severus while biting her lower lip. Because she was afraid. She was afraid that he could exclude her, which she had already told him. But with all that she had seen of Severus since they were together, she actually knew that this would never happen. He needed her too much. And she needed him.

Julie was torn from her thoughts when Sybill entered the teacher's room noisily.

"Oh, there you are," she cried, approaching Julie with purposeful strides.

Poppy's eyes widened and she took a step closer to Julie. Severus would not like that.

"It is wonderful to finally have the opportunity to speak to you," began Sybill. "Show me your hands, dear," she asked.

Before Julie could react, Sybill had already seized both of her hands and eyed them closely.

"Not now," growled Severus, who freed Julie's hands from Sybill's grip, before he pushed her away, and positioned himself between the two woman.

"If not now, then when," Sybill asked.

"Never," replied Severus, his tone cold as the first frost in winter.

Minerva and Albus watched the situation unfold and glanced at each other and smiled.

"I've already told you that you are not allowed to do that," Severus growled angrily.

Sybill took another step back and looked past Severus to Julie, who seemed confused. She tilted her head and her eyes seemed to want to pierce the young woman behind Severus. Then she turned and went over to the table to sit down.

"What did that mean," Julie asked as Sybill retreated.

Severus stared after Sybill, and when she was at a safe distance, he turned to her, "I forbade her to disturb you," he explained, his voice still shaking from suppressed anger.

"But she does not bother me. She.. took me by surprise," said Julie, as she watched the different stages of rage, that moved across Severus' face.

"That's what I mean, that's her way," Severus said angrily. "It's always like that. She has taken me by surprise once."

"Really," Julie asked in astonishment. She could not imagine that Severus would like that and immediately wondered how the meeting with Sybill and Severus had ended.

"Yes," Severus growled.

"And what was the result," Julie wanted to know. Her almond-shaped eyes looked at him again with that curiosity that Severus found inexpressibly attractive.

"She told me..," he paused and cleared his throat before he continued to speak in a hushed voice. "She has foreseen.. you," whispered Severus, whose gaze was suddenly gentle and at the same time protective and strict.

"Me? Are you serious," Julie whispered back.

He nodded, "Yes, and I did not believe her words at that time."

Julie looked over to Sybill and noticed that Sybill was watching them closely. Then her gaze wandered through the teacher's room and Julie realized that everyone present was staring at them. "We've drawn the attention of everyone," she whispered, biting her lower lip nervously.

Severus looked very annoyed, but his expression changed instantly as the awkward silence was broken by a sound, when someone appeared in the oversized fireplace. Severus stiffened immediately and his expression darkened. The man exchanged a few words with Albus, who waved Severus over to them.

Severus looked apologetically at Julie, "I have to go to the Ministry of Magic - now." When he saw the anxious expression in her face, he added, "Poppy is here, do not worry." With these words he turned away from her, and approached Albus and the wizard, who, together with Severus, disappeared in the same way as he had come.

"All right, then we have to start without Severus," Albus said, pointing to the table. Poppy pushed Julie toward the large round table, where they sat down side by side.

Within a few minutes, Julie was terribly bored. She tried to listen, but her mind drifted off no matter how hard she tried to stay focused. Julie was worried that Severus would have to leave for a long time, just like he had done last year. She feared that she would stay behind. She would miss him terribly. The thought caused her to feel sickish. Poppy, who had been watching her, noticed her worried expression.

"He'll be coming back soon," she whispered in an attempt to comfort Julie.

Julie nodded almost imperceptibly. Poppy's attempt to calm her was very kind, but unfortunately her words could not soothe her. The more time elapsed, the more often Julie's gaze wandered from the large clock toward the fireplace and she wondered, when Severus would return.

Albus cleared his throat, a deed, that escaped Julie's attention entirely. Poppy gave her a soft nudge and Julie looked at Poppy, who nodded in Albus' direction.

The headmaster was visibly amused. "We have to perform some urgent restoration work in the dungeon," he explained. "Unfortunately, Severus is not present, so we can not discuss it in detail. But it concerns you personally, Julie."

"Why," she asked, puzzled and sat up.

"Your room has to be cleared, so that the work can be done. You are temporarily staying in the tower in a room next to Michael."

Minerva looked at Julie, trying to read her reaction. In their last attempt to house Julie there, Severus had become very angry - for good reason. But this time, he was absent, which was a good way to test Julie. How would she react? To Minerva's surprise, Julie blushed slightly.

Slowly, Albus' words sank in, and Julie nodded, "You can clear the room. That's no problem," she said, looking directly at Albus. Julie noticed that she blushed and tried to avoid it by pressing her fingernails deep into her palms, concentrating on the pain. But it did not work. Her face radiated heat. Why did she have to blush, Julie asked herself frustrated.

"Are you serious," asked Albus, searchingly. Her words had surprised him, and he wondered, how Severus would react if he were to be faced with the fact, that Julie had agreed to live in the tower until the restoration work had been completed.

She shrugged her shoulders indifferently, and her heart suddenly began to race. Actually they had agreed that Severus should be the one who would let the cat out of the bag. She took a slow, deep breath to gain time to prepare herself for the next words. Faced with the unexpected situation, Julie decided to do it herself. Then she blinked and let out a breath she did not know she had been holding.

"This change does not affect me because I'm living with Severus."

Chapter Text

"You live with Severus," Minerva asked, audibly surprised after an incredibly long moment of oppressive silence. "You mean down in the dungeon .. or .." Minerva raised an elegant eyebrow and left it up to Julie to complete the sentence.

Julie hated to be in the center of attention. Her heart pounded wildly in her chest, and she stared at Minerva, before she swallowed hard. The faster she got this over and done with, the better, she decided, hoping it was all right for Severus. Julie leaned back and turned her attention to Albus, who watched her with great interest.

"I live with Severus together in his rooms, so I will not use my old room any longer." The expression on Albus' face was priceless and Julie began to speak again, when a question began to form on his lips.

Albus and Minerva knew about Severus' feelings for Julie, but neither of them knew if Julie did return his feelings. They were surprised by her sudden revelation.

Poppy tried to suppress her laughter as she beheld the surprised faces that were now directed at Julie. Even Albus seemed speechless at first. The silence, which had spread in the teacher's room, was ended by Julie the moment Albus wanted to speak.

"Is this topic done," Julie asked, trying to sound as neutral as possible. "If my presence is no longer required, I'd like to go back to the office."

Julie was sure her face had become scarlet, and she longed to flee to Severus' office. The silence that prevailed there, and even the gloomy atmosphere seemed to her more appealing than the light-filled teacher's room, and the glances of the present wizards and witches that were directed at her.

Albus raised his eyebrows and nodded slowly, before he adjusted his glasses and looked at her, smiling contentedly. "No, that was all, you may go now if you wish."

He did not need to say this twice, Julie rose immediately, but stopped, as Albus spoke again.

"The restoration work will begin tomorrow," he informed her. "If you still have your belongings in the room, it would make sense if you removed them today."

"I'll do it right away," Julie said enthusiastically as she could not wait to leave the room as quickly as possible. She glanced at Poppy briefly before trying to go to the door as slowly as possible.

Julie left the teacher's room and closed the door behind her. Stressed, she leaned against the door and sighed loudly before she breathed deeply a few times. Her heart still raced wildly and she buried her face in her hands and enjoyed the moment of silence and solitude. Who could tell how long this moment would last ...

Where was Severus, when you needed him, she wondered as she ran her fingers through her hair. This thought immediately reminded her of the fact that Severus was not there. Julie sighed deeply and frowned. Her gaze wandered from her feet to the long, wide corridor before her, which looked bright and friendly despite the dark season. "Magic," she murmured softly.

At first she was frustrated when she asked herself why she had been the one who had to tell the others. Although Severus had wanted to do so, she had suddenly found herself in the situation where a quick decision had to be made. Julie had known at that moment that this was a step that had been hers from the beginning. And so she had decided to reveal the facts. Her relationship with Severus had been private until now, as only their closest confidants knew. And although she was very nervous at first, she was now very satisfied. She felt freer and happier, Julie felt as if she had grown inside. The reaction to their relationship would not always be so positive. Julie knew there would be another site that she would get to know in a very short time.

Julie sighed and listened to the silence. She could hear voices coming through the door of the teacher's room, but did not try to understand what was said. She was sure that the conversation revolved around her and Severus. What would Severus say? Her heart was drumming wildly at the thought and she wondered how he would react if he would learn of the situation. Would her decision please him, or upset him? Although she had just been so sure that she had done the right thing, she was now in doubt when she thought of Severus and his possible reaction. Had she done the right thing? Had she behaved properly? What would Severus say if she told him that everyone already knew about their relationship? What did they actually know? Definitely, Severus would be glad that she had not revealed any details. But when would she be able to tell him? When would he return?

Lost in thought, she walked down the hall and went down to the dungeon to get the key to her room from Severus' office. A little later she stood in her room and went to her closet to clear it. And so she began to carry her clothes, which Severus had bought for her, to his bedroom - their bedroom - she corrected herself. Julie placed everything on the bed to finish her task quickly. If possible, she wanted to avoid further encounters with the professors of Hogwarts. Julie hoped that Severus would be back before anyone would ask questions.

In the corridor of the dungeon she met Poppy, who smiled at her kindly as she approached her with open arms. "You did well," said the old witch and hugged Julie warmly. "I'm sure Severus will be more than satisfied."

"You think so," Julie asked doubtfully as she stepped out of Poppy's embrace. "I'm concerned that Severus won't be pleased when he finds out that the others are already informed." She said with a worried expression. "Actually, he wanted to do it himself, and if possible, at a later date."

"That sounds like Severus," Poppy laughed, becoming serious. "But seriously, how long could you keep your relationship secret if you live together? That is not realistic. You will see in the course of time that there are great differences between Severus' ideas and the actual reality. Severus wants to achieve many things, but not everything goes as Severus wants. His goals are always high. No matter what it is. And in relation to you, he's even more extreme."

Julie nodded and looked at her doubtfully, while biting her bottom lip.

When she saw Julie's expression, Poppy smiled. "You've relieved him of a heavy burden today," she assured her. "Severus did not want to do this, but on the other hand he did not want to burden you with this task, which is why he has decided to do it himself. Besides, you did not even tell them what is going on. After you left they bombarded me with questions, which of course, I did not answer. Severus will be glad that it is done," said Poppy. "Though .." she said, looking at Julie with slight concern. "It will certainly upset him that this subject was addressed during his absence. He will be furious when he returns and hears of it."

Julie sighed and glanced into her room, which still contained many of her belongings.

"Do you need my help," Poppy asked, following her to the door, as Julie went back into her room, took another pile of clothes, and stepped back into the hall.

"Thank you. But no, I'll manage," Julie replied.

The pile of clothes in her hands suddenly began to float. Julie and Poppy looked around in surprise and saw Severus, who approached them. His expression was serious and with an almost imperceptible movement of his hand, Julie's clothes floated into his office.

Julie smiled as Severus, who reached for her hand and pulled her into his office. Poppy shook her head amused as Severus closed the door and she turned to return to the hospital wing.

Julie followed Severus, who only stopped when they had arrived in the corridor of their private rooms. He let go of her hand, only to grab her arms. Severus pinned her against her wall and kissed her greedily, which took her breath away. He let go of her arms and reached for the soft flesh of her hips, that he kneaded with an urgent tenderness.

Her hands ran through his black hair, which felt cool against her skin. She pulled at it and tilted her head up to deepen their kiss.

Severus growled. "I've missed you," he said breathlessly between their kisses.

Julie wrapped a leg around his waist and held him close. Then she loosened her grasp on his hair and reached for his arms, which she squeezed gently.

Severus, familiar with her gestures, broke their kiss hesitantly.

"I was worried," Julie said, looking at him with questioning eyes. "Is everything all right? Do you have to go somewhere, as was the case last year," she asked.

"No, you do not need to worry," he said, and ran his finger gently over her cheek. "I was only asked to assess a situation. That was all. I'll stay with you," he confirmed, leaning his forehead against hers.

Her breathing slowed down, and Julie bit her bottom lip. "What sort if situation did you have to assess," she asked softly.

Severus inhaled sharply and shook his head lightly, rubbing his forehead against hers. "The less you know about some things, the better," he replied, and gave her a peck on the lips.

"Why," Julie asked as she cupped his face in her hands.

"I want to protect you," explained Severus, his expression serious and at the same time concerned. "Therefore there will be some things which I will not tell you. Neither now, nor in the future."

Julie looked into his eyes as her thumbs stroked his pale cheeks.

"This does not mean that I exclude you from my life. Do not misunderstand," he added, kissing her forehead. "It is for your protection."

Julie nodded and took a deep breath. "I understand that."

"Do you," Severus asked, as he pulled her closer.

"Yes absolutely."

"Why are you nervous?" Asked Severus, who could sense her emotions clearly. "I have not been in danger, and I'm not planning to put myself in danger any time soon," he assured her and brushed his nose against hers.

Julie sighed deeply and looked him in the eye. "It's about something else," she began, thinking of Poppy's words. Would Severus be angry, she wondered. Julie bit her bottom lip and look at him long before she spoke. "I attended the meeting, and, um .. well, I told the professors that I live with you," she said so softly that he almost could not hear her.

Severus took a step back and looked at her questioningly, "Why? We had planned this differently," he reminded her, his tone more questioning than annoyed.

"Albus has spoken of restoration work in the dungeon, which must be done urgently. He said that I should temporarily vacate my room. The restoration work will start tomorrow and .. "

"And where did he want to accommodate you," growled Severus, his dark eyes flared angrily. "In the tower in the room next to Michael," he answered the question at once with absolute conviction.

Julie sighed deeply, and reached out to touch him, "Severus, before you get too excited.."

Severus hit the wall with his fist and stared angrily at her, "I can not leave you alone for a moment," he growled. "As soon as I am gone, they try to pry into your affairs." He took a large step back and continued. "Why can't they understand that it's none of their business? This is my life, your life, and everything related to it is private."

Julie made another attempt and stepped up to him and reached for his arm, but caught only hold of his cloak. "I understand you," she assured him, as she dug her fingers deep into the soft fabric.

Severus breathed deeply and looked at her, his mouth drawn to a straight line, the vertical crease between his eyebrows seemed to be deeper than ever. His dark eyes were hard to read, and Julie took a confident step toward him. Severus should not be so upset, but would she succeed in calming him?

"I really understand you, but be honest, how long could we keep it secret under these circumstances? Please try to see this positively. We have already passed this part of the way."

Severus jaw was very tense and he eyed her intensively before he turned his gaze away and stared at the wall behind her. "I'm not used to thinking positively," he grumbled.

"You have me for that," Julie replied, gently stroking his forearm before she reached for his hand, that she gently squeezed.

Their eyes met and a small smile appeared momentarily on Severus' lips. "I can not just change my old ways of thinking, at least not immediately," he muttered, looking defiant for a moment.

"You do not have to," Julie assured him. "I'll remind you if it's necessary."

Severus did not seem really enthusiastic, but he did not contradict her either. His gaze fell upon her hand that was holding his. He caressed her hand with his thumb and she knew that he was still angry. Julie was sure that the next meeting between Albus and Severus wouldn't be very pleasant, and hoped, not to witness it.

"What do the others know," Severus suddenly asked as he lifted her hand and placed a kiss on her knuckles.

"Not much. I told them that I live with you, but that's all," replied Julie. "Poppy was questioned after I had left, but she did not tell them anything," she added quickly.

Severus looked at her in silence before he nodded. His gaze was still gloomy, but his posture was less tense than before. He glanced at their bedroom and saw that Julie's clothes were still lying on the bed. With a nod in the direction of the bed, he said, "Let's bring all your things here and go for a walk. I need some fresh air and a lot of distance before I meet the others at dinner."

Julie agreed, and let Severus fetch the rest of her clothes. As she had expected, when Severus finally entered the bedroom, all of her belongings floated behind him.

"You've got a lot of stuff," Severus remarked as he entered their bedroom.

Julie put her hands on her hips and shook her head amused, "Yes, thanks to you," she replied. "I want to remind you that you were the one who bought me most of these garments."

Severus grinned and opened a chest of drawers at the other end of the room, into which he placed some of her belongings. "You're right," he admitted, then turned to her as he finished. "Was that a complaint," he asked, looking at her challengingly.

"No, not at all," replied Julie, "You can buy me more things, if you like."

"Are you serious," Severus asked, taking a step toward her.

"Sure. You can buy for me whatever you want," Julie allowed.

Severus looked at her with that expression, which Julie had dubbed the 'bedroom look', and eyed her from head to toe. "There is something I really want to buy today," he said slowly, looking at her hands, which she had intertwined in front of her stomach.

"And what would that be?" Julie asked curiously.

Severus stood for a moment lost in thought and then nodded decisively before he looked into her eyes. "You need a wedding ring," he decided. "If the others know that we're living together," he paused briefly, then continued with determination. "Then they can also know that we are married."

"Can anyone know," asked Julie, "Also the students?"

"Does it make a difference," Severus asked back, raising a questioning eyebrow.

Julie shook her head and wondered what was going on with Severus. "What about our rules?" She asked almost casually, pointing to her small notebook lying on the bed between her clothes.

"The rules," he began, walking toward the bed, "The rules will remain, of course, but we should look at them again under the circumstances and, possibly," his gaze wandered to her, "Maybe we should reform them." With these words, a smile appeared on his lips, which made Julie's heart beat faster.

"We should reform them," Julie repeated, wondering what the result would be.

"Maybe, I said maybe," Severus reminded her. "We'll do that later," he said. "First I want to buy the ring and then we can go for a walk."

"I want to buy you a ring, too," Julie said softly, looking a little frustrated. "But I have no money to do so."

"I do not need a ring," explained Severus, who was already standing in front of her and wrapped his arms around her waist.

"But I want you to wear one, too," said Julie.

"You do not need to worry, because there is no other woman than you that wants me. I only belong to you," he said, leaned forward to nuzzle his nose against her temple, before he placed a kiss there.

"That's your opinion," she reminded him as her fingers brushed over his back, drawing invisible patterns. "As you know, I have a very different opinion."

Severus scoffed, but then nodded, "Well, if this is so important to you, I will gladly fulfill your wish," he replied. "Let us buy our rings. And you do not need to worry, I'll pay both rings."

"Where are we going," asked Julie, audibly excited.

"I've looked at some shops when I was on the way back from the Ministry of Magic. There was one shop that I liked, it's .." he paused and looked uncertain for a moment. "It's a muggle shop," he confessed, and then looked quite discontented.

"At least nobody will disturb us there," Julie said enthusiastically, and stood on the toes to kiss him. "After all, we do not want to be seen together in public, so we can not go to Diagon Alley."

"Not yet," added Severus.

"Then I'll get my coat," Julie said, trying to turn away from him, but Severus reached for her arm and stopped her.

"As you already know, I do not like spontaneous changes," he reminded her hesitantly, holding her close to him. "I apologize for being so angry this morning. I've lived like that all my life, always ready to be called upon. No matter if Albus or Voldemort, it was always the same. I always had to obey, and leave my own interests behind."

"But you are changing now, Severus," Julie tried to encourage him, "Your life is changing. You are .."

"No," he interrupted, looking at once apologetically at her. "I'm sorry," Severus said with a serious expression. "It is still as before," he went on, "I will continue as before, nothing has changed, everything will be as it has always been."

Julie shook her head, "No, I do not agree with you on this point. You have changed. You've started to do things differently."

Now Severus was the one who shook his head, but Julie just continued talking.

"You married me. That's what you wanted, that's something you did for yourself, isn't it?"

Severus inhaled sharply and looked sternly at her, "Yes, but that was all. That's the only thing I've ever done for myself."

Julie smiled sympathetically at him, "But that's all," she asked, letting her hands graze gently over his arms. "That sounds like .." she paused and frowned. "Severus, this is for the rest of our lives, this is something big, something what will continue to get better, something that will develop into .." Julie turning her gaze from him as she blushed.

Severus eyed her for a long time before speaking, "I also hope that something new will develop out of it," he said softly, kissing her cheek, which was flushed and felt hot against his lips. "I have not finished with my apology," he said suddenly, "I get so annoyed when plans change. I am no longer as flexible as I once was," he added bitterly.

"That's partly due to your age," said Julie, "A lot will change as we get older. Besides, you've experienced a lot of terrible things in your life. You are longing for your well deserved peace, it is understandable."

Severus seemed to be a little offended, and Julie reached for his face, which he had turned away when she had mentioned his age. Her hand touched his cheek, which felt cold against her skin, and she turned his face toward her, giving him no choice but to look into her eyes.

"Our age difference does not bother me, no matter what others will say, I find it .." she breathed deeply and bit her lower lip. "I've also been through a lot, I can't .. There is no one who fits better to me than you. One aspect is certainly your age. I also long for peace, something you usually find easier when you get older. Life is changing and our interests are changing. The older you get, the more stable you get. One is no longer constantly on the lookout for new, exciting things. You are more satisfied with what you have because you have learned to value things that really count. I did not look for the adventure, or for exciting things in life. Today I know that I never really knew what I wanted. Until I met you, I have understood at a certain point that all I want and need is you."

Severus tilted his head and her fingers trailed along his jaw line.

"You have the right to say no," Julie said. "Whenever you want."

"That's where you are wrong," Severus said with conviction, as he caught her hands and clasped them.

"No, you're wrong," she said gently, as she freed one of her hands and cupped his cheek.

Severus scoffed, "You do not know how much I owe Albus. I owe him more than you can imagine."

Julie pressed her fingers to his lips in an attempt to silence him. Then she stood on her tiptoes and kissed him. Severus stood stiff and still, without any intend to return her kiss.

"Severus, your view is a bit outdated. You should see it from a different perspective," said Julie and looked up at him through long eyelashes, smiling tenderly. "What do others owe you? What does Albus owe you? What does the world owe you? It is time that you allow yourself to live your life the way you want. That is your right. It's time, that you allow yourself to live a normal life without constantly thinking about what others expect from you, or, what you think you owe them. You have the right to say no, whenever you want. Especially now that you're no longer alone," she said softly. "We'll say no together, and nothing and no one will be able to change our minds."

"What do we owe you, for all that you've done? For everything that you have sacrificed?" Her gaze saddened and she looked at the many buttons of his jacket, that were still bottomed up to his neck. "It's time to stop sacrificing, it's about time that you start living." Her fingers trailed over the many buttons, that felt cold and hard beneath her soft skin. "You must stop to punish yourself. You are hurting yourself and by doing so, you are going to hurt me too if you continue."

Severus heaved a heavy sigh and looked directly into her eyes. "I appreciate your words, but.. I.. it's not as easy as you think."

"That may be so," she agreed. "But you have a choice, Severus. You have a choice to make. You must decide to be happy. You've decided to marry me, what was a large step toward your happiness, but you must give up this wrong conception, that still thrives within you. The conception that you don't deserve to be happy."

"You are my happiness," he said, his voice filled with emotions.

"I know, Severus. And you are mine."

Their gazes remained locked for several minutes as they stood in silence. Then Severus placed his hands on her shoulders and squeezed them gently. "I owe you so much," he began.

"I owe you more," she interrupted him and gave him a knowing smile. "Don't even try to start that. You will loose. We will not keep track of what we owe to each other. This relationship is not about that. It's about .."

"Love," he completed her sentence and lifted her hand to kiss her knuckles. "It's about love."

Julie smiled and rested her forehead against his shoulder to hide her face as inconspicuously as possible from him. She was deeply touched by hearing these words from Severus, and Julie knew that her eyes would reveal her innermost feelings.

*****

Two hours later, Julie was sitting in front of the fireplace in her arm chair, playing with the solid gold ring on her ring finger. Their trip to the Muggle World had been immensely amusing. After buying their rings, Severus had taken her back to Hogwarts, where she was still waiting for him. Julie smiled as she looked at the ring on her finger. It was a simple golden ring.

She leaned back and stared into the flames that licked the wood, and flickered merrily as they danced to the cracking sound. Julie slid deeper into the arm chair and enjoyed the warmth radiating from the fire. In Spinner's End they also had a fireplace in the living room, which they had used daily, but it had been different. It was special to sit in Severus' office before the fire. It was probably the memories that touched Julie. Here in the office, memories were already present, while they were about to create new memories in Spinner's End.

She glanced over her shoulder as she heard a rustle behind her. Severus had come. He handed her a large bag and a smile played on her lips as she realized that he had gone to buy chocolate. "With these amounts of chocolate, they surely wondered what you're up to," she said, as Severus bent down to kiss her.

"Hm," he grinned, and sat down in his arm chair, from where he looked at her in silence.

"Perhaps we should have dinner first," she suggested gingerly as she looked at the chocolate.

"If you ask me, we could stay here and eat chocolate," replied Severus. "I'm tired, but .." he glanced around the office briefly before giving her his full attention. "I want to get it over with," he said, sounding determined, but looking tired. "Perhaps we should appear in public as soon as possible, so that this news will spread fast."

Julie looked at him incredulously. "Why are you suddenly in such a hurry," she asked in astonishment.

"I've been thinking about our conversation when I was in Hogsmeade. You're right, I'm longing for peace. The only way I can really achieve inner peace is when this drama is finally over. By this I mean all the attention which we are now going to attract. I wait for the day when we can walk together through this hall without being stared at. I long for the day when I can go outside with you, without having to be attentive to our surroundings. The day when I can be myself and give you the attention that you deserve."

Severus stared into the flames, and Julie stood up and knelt down before him.

"I am of the opinion that I get enough attention from you. I'm satisfied," she said softly, reaching for his hand. "But I must confess that I too am longing for this day, and I must say that I do not know if it will ever come." Her thumbs stroked his hands and she looked up at him.

Severus glanced at their hands and then into her eyes, "That's what I fear too," he said, almost whispering. "I'm glad you're satisfied." He stroked her cheek and leaned forward to kiss her forehead.

"I thought we could go to Hogsmeade, and .." Severus frowned, enveloping her hands with his. "Whatever we do there, the main thing is that we are seen together."

"I agree, but I want to inform my parents in time, I fear they will not escape the storm of curiosity that will come."

"Of course," Severus agreed. "Let's talk about it later and go to dinner now, I think I need some chocolate."

"I'm ready," she said, handing him the bag of chocolate, which she had placed on the ground beside her when she had kneeled before him.

He took it and placed it on the small table next to his arm chair. "I'm sure we'll need that later," he murmured.

Julie reached for his hands and pulled him up. "Maybe," she agreed.

Severus' hand slid around her neck and came to rest in the nape of her neck. His thumb rubbed the soft skin there and he rested his forehead against hers. "Maybe," he repeated. "I am apparently still immune to your optimism," Severus said and chuckled. "Your optimism is not yet contagious, but may be some day," he paused and brushed his nose against hers," It's one of the feature's that I love the most about you."

Julie stood on the toes and kissed him before they left the office together.

*****

The large hall was almost empty as Severus held the door open to allow Julie to enter. No one had seen them yet, but that would soon change. Severus pulled Julie's chair out for her and at once sat down beside her, ignoring the professors present.

"I guess you've already moved," said Albus, who had leaned forward to look at Julie.

Julie returned his gaze briefly and nodded, without saying anything.

Minerva tried to catch a glimpse of Severus, who sat rigidly beside Julie, staring straight ahead into the great hall, where a few groups of students sat at the tables and ate.

"Is there anything you need, or do you have everything," Albus asked innocently, in an attempt to start a conversation.

Julie nodded enthusiastically, "Oh, yes, there's something we urgently need," she said, turning to Albus, who raised his eyebrows expectantly. "Privacy, we definitely need some privacy."

Severus whipped his head around and eyed Julie with a mixture of amusement and surprise. Poppy giggled beside him.

"Though, I'm not sure if it's possible to find privacy here," Julie continued as she grabbed a piece of bread, while she gesticulated with her other hand through the large hall, a gesture that clearly included the professors' table. "What do you think, it is possible," she asked, looking at Albus questioningly.

He winked at her and nodded as he lifted his glass. "Under certain circumstances I could imagine that this would be possible," he explained, taking a sip of wine.

"And what circumstances would that be," Julie asked.

"Let's say, there are situations that certainly require more privacy than others," said Albus amused and wriggled his eyebrows at her.

Julie turned to him, and noticed Minerva, who eyed her hands with great interest. "We're married," she said, raising her hands to allow Minerva to take a closer look at the rings she was wearing. And to Albus, she said, "Is this a situation that will allow us privacy?"

Unexpectedly, Albus became very serious. The surprised expression on his face had given way to a serious frown. "Severus, we should talk," Albus noted, adding, "As soon as possible."

"You have not answered my question yet," Julie interjected without waiting for Severus' reaction.

"Of course," Albus nodded.

Julie turned to her plate and then looked at Severus, who looked at her somewhat disgruntled. "What," she whispered.

"You do not have to do all of it yourself," he said, with audible apprehension.

Julie smiled as he brushed his leg against hers, "I gladly leave you the part that concerns the reporters and the general public," she whispered.

Severus looked less enthusiastic, but immediately nodded his approval.

Julie sighed as she reached for a glass of water. "I need chocolate," she muttered before her lips touched the thin glass.

"Me too," said Severus. "And then I need you," he whispered.

Julie almost choked on her water, "You broke a rule," she coughed.

Severus hummed, "As I said, the rules need to be reformed."

"Everyone is staring at us," Julie informed him.

"Yeah, I know they are," grumbled Severus audibly angered. "Did you expect anything else," asked Severus, sounding slightly surprised.

"No, not really," Julie replied, looking at Albus sternly.

The headmaster chuckled amused and turned to Minerva

Let's get this over and go," Severus encouraged and began to eat.

Julie nodded silently, glancing at Albus, who was quietly talking to Minerva.

Although somewhat annoyed by the situation, Julie hoped that at least Hogwarts professors were willing to allow them privacy. She wondered, why Albus wanted to talk to Severus and looked at her husband, who had almost finished his meal.

Julie sighed inwardly, turning her attention unenthusiastically to her plate. She already missed her kitchen.

Chapter Text

Severus sat in his small study and stared stubbornly at the Dark Forest through the window.

"Why are you so repulsive," asked Poppy sternly, who stood with her arms crossed over her chest in front of his desk. "Can't you pull yourself together?"

Severus glanced at Poppy briefly before he turned his attention back to the window.

"Where is Julie?" Poppy asked, before her searching gaze wandered through the study. "She was neither at lunch nor at dinner."

Severus inhaled sharply as he began to fumble with his wand that lay on his desk, "She's in Minerva's office," he replied, audibly annoyed. "Minerva has two students who can't understand transfiguration."

Poppy laughed, "And Julie gives them tuition?"

"Yes," Severus growled. "I'd rather have her here with me than to see her waste her time with these dunderheads."

Poppy could understand Severus, but was of the opinion that a little distance could not hurt. "Julie will be fine if she does something without you, Severus. After all, you spend the lessons together and your spare time, which is practically the whole day. Apart from that, Julie will surely be better off elsewhere at this moment. Your presence is, uh, let me say, less pleasant."

"You do not really have any spare time here," replied Severus, annoyed, as his eyes turned back to the window, while he chose to ignore Poppy's comment on his mood.

Poppy sighed, "Severus is it really only the students .. or are you upset about something else?" The absence of his answer confirmed Poppy's assumption. "I know that you'd like to control everything. But unfortunately this is not possible. You should try to accept it and you will soon realize that it will make you happier and more balanced. "

Severus glanced at her gloomily. He did not like the fact that he did not have full control. Although a few things had turned out to be positive in his life, the certainty that he could not control everything was driving him insane. He hated it. Severus growled and twisted his hands into fists. For days he had tried to suppress it. He had not wanted to name this feeling, but today he had done so, at least in his mind. Hate. He hated it. And how deeply this hatred reached. It seemed to shake his foundations. Severus leaned his head against the backrest and stared at the window. The muscles of his jaw were painfully tense. He was frustrated, deeply frustrated with himself, since he was once again rather unpleasant, as he had always been. Or as Poppy called it, repulsive. And the bad thing about it was that Poppy was absolutely right.

'As always,' shouted his hateful inner voice. Severus frowned, and his gaze darkened. How long had this voice already dictated his life? When had it started? What had been the trigger at the time? His gaze wandered along the window-sill, across the wall, and to the shelf, that accommodated innumerable bottles filled with potions. The brown bottle in the third shelf on the far right was nearly empty. He had to brew Julie's sleeping potion again. Julie ... Severus took a deep breath and closed his eyes. For a moment he sat perfectly still and he pondered over his present situation. It did not matter since when this voice had commanded and controlled him, he told himself. All that really mattered was how long he would allow that voice to continue to do so. Severus did not want to hear this voice anymore. He could not hear it anymore. It made him sick. He wanted to have his peace at last. But this voice was constantly present, it was loud and intrusive, and it always had an opinion - which Severus no longer always shared. Nevertheless, his life was still dictated by his inner voice...

Severus inhaled sharply and tried to relax his tense posture. But luckily there was the voice of his wife, he thought, which often brought him back to his senses. These two days had been incredibly hard for him. On the first day he had been somehow able to pull himself together - with difficulty. On the second day, it had become almost impossible to do so. He had struggled and then, when his inner voice had suddenly become so loud that he could not hear anything else, he had finally lost control. That happened this morning shortly after the beginning of the first lesson. His rage had become so out of control that he had even ignored his wife, who had tried to strengthen him and support him. Now it was evening and he could neither apologize nor thank her, since he had not seen her since the end of the morning lessons. Cursed were the students and their lack of understanding for transfiguration...

Severus' gaze still lingered on the sturdy shelf, which contained innumerable bottles. As much as the current circumstances angered him, he was also worried. He worried about the moment his wife would come to him. Would Julie be annoyed? Would she forgive him? What could he tell her? Should he try to explain the circumstances to her, or should he immediately apologize? Severus did not know and felt worse than before. A strained expression appeared on his face and he shook his head. Where he once had had to worry about someone like Voldemort, it was now the situation with his wife that caused him concern. What a difference, he thought, as the hint of a smile appeared on his lips. Severus shifted in his chair until he sat more comfortable. What a pleasant difference.

They had decided last night after a long conversation to go to Hogsmeade next Saturday and do some shopping so that they would be seen together in public. This fact had eased the burden that weighted heavily on Severus' heart. But it had made him very angry as well. Why couldn't his life be normal? What was normal? He tilted his head and stared at his wand, which was still lying on the desk in front of him. What was normal? Would he ever know? Was it important to know it? Did he really want to know? Anyway.. Severus inhaled deeply and held his breath. His mood had caused Poppy's visit as she hadn't been able to stand his foul mood anymore.

Severus looked up at her with a somber expression, releasing his breath. "I can not accept this and I do not know whether I want to accept it at all." He paused for a moment and asked, "You said this morning that the situation will not be as bad as I expect it to be. Why do you think so? "

Poppy nodded slowly, looking slightly relieved. "Severus, you can not influence the opinion of outsiders. But you can certainly influence Julie's opinion. And I must say that I am absolutely sure that this isn't even necessary. She understands you better than anyone else. But if it will make you feel better, then you can definitively change something. And you can do so before all the fuss about your marriage begins."

"I can not change anything," he exclaimed in a voice filled with frustration.

Poppy stepped up to him and sat down on the chair next to Severus. "I know you're not ready to talk to Julie about certain things. This is perfectly fine. However, you should consider that a lot will be written about you. And at least twice as much will be talked about you, even here at Hogwarts."

Severus glanced at Poppy, "Why do you tell me something I already know?" he asked, clearly angered.

"Well, there's a decision you can make," Poppy suggested.

"And what kind of decision is that," he growled, looking rather unimpressed.

"What should Julie hear from you?" asked Poppy and raised an eyebrow at him.

Severus frowned and stared at Poppy gloomily.

"Is there anything Julie should know before your relationship becomes public, something you want to share with her, something she should not hear from others or read in a newspaper?"

Severus turned his gaze from her and thought deeply while Poppy was waiting. After the silence in the room had lasted for a long time, Poppy continued, "With what will Julie be first confronted with?"

Severus took a deep breath as he stared frustrated at the opposite wall. "Lily," he said almost inaudibly. "Do you think she doesn't know yet?"

She shook her head, "I talked to her parents, who told me that Julie does not know much about your personal life because she was too deeply involved in her own problems at the time." Poppy explained and tried to read Severus' expression, what was not possible at that moment. "I'm pretty sure they'll start with that part of your life."

Severus growled annoyed and silently cursed the stupid Weasely boy, because of whom everyone knew that he had once loved Lily. "Why couldn't this dunderhead keep his mouth shut," Severus said sounding desperate.

"You can not change anything, Severus. If Sybill did not have the vision, you would not have survived the war. Be grateful that you've got a second chance."

"I'm grateful," Severus said, looking at Poppy. "But all these details about me that others now know, make everything so much more complicated. Why can't my life be simple? Nothing in my life is simple."

Poppy looked at Severus sternly, "Severus, whatever happened between Julie and you, was simple. Admit it. It.Was.Easy. Besides, if things are in fact difficult we will have more appreciation for that what we will ultimately achieve."

Severus turned his gaze away from her and frowned.

"Admit it, Severus!"

"It could have been more difficult," Severus grumbled as he fumbled with his wand again.

"Goodness, Severus, you've just received something that's incredibly valuable, enjoy it and do it right away," exclaimed Poppy.

"I could lose her," he said clearly agitated. "With all this rubbish that will come upon us, with all the things that will be written and said about me - that are not true.. you have experienced it last time." Severus paused, and dropped his head against the backrest of the chair and an annoyed sigh escaped his lips. "I have to stop doubting," he said, a bit quieter.

"Severus, you have to stop doubting in Julie," Poppy corrected him pointedly. "Never doubt the feelings which she has for you. She deserves this."

He looked at her in surprise.

"This is exactly what you're doing here, Severus. You still doubt her and her feelings for you. You're a fool."

"I'm a fool," Severus agreed, and the shadow of a smile appeared on his lips again.

"A big fool," added Poppy. "You should talk to Julie about Lily, and you will see that you'll feel better. Your mood will be more bearable, and when the subject is rolled up by the press, it will not be so hard for you. Julie will be confronted with a lot. By talking to her now, you'll help her."

"How can I tell her that? How and where shall I begin?" Severus asked doubtfully.

"Do not worry too much about it," Poppy replied, standing up, "The right situation will surely come. It's high time to start to open up to her, Severus. Do it and you will see that this will make everything easier."

But after Poppy had left, Severus couldn't stop worrying about it. He sat thoughtfully behind his desk and frowned at the opposite wall until he had a unbearable headache. Despite his earnest effort to find a way to talk to his wife about Lily, he came up with no ideas. He was finally torn from his thoughts when the door opened and Julie entered the room.

"What's wrong with the Gryffindor's," she asked as she approached him.

For a few seconds Severus' expression was unreadable, then he leaned back in the chair, breathing deeply. "Why do you ask," he replied as he wondered why she had started this subject. Nevertheless, he was grateful to her, as she had opened the path for him to finally talk about Lily.

Julie smiled amused, "Well, seven detentions and eleven extra essays - and that only during the morning lessons and only for the Gryffindor's. I think this is your new record, am I right," she asked and settled beside him in her chair.

Severus took a deep breath, then shook his head. "No, I must disappoint you. This time you are unfortunately wrong," he informed her, grinning.

Julie smiled and shook her head. "Won't you tell me what is all this about?" she asked and raised her eyebrows expectantly.

Severus stared into her eyes and then at the opposite wall. "All the bullies were from Gryffindor," he confessed.

"I had feared this," Julie murmured as she thoughtfully eyed the worksheets and papers that lay on the desk in front of them. "Do you want to talk about it?" she asked cautiously, as she turned to look at him.

"Hmm," he replied with a slight nod of his head. "The culprits were Potter, Black, Lupin, and Pettigrew. I don't want to talk in detail about the humiliations I had to endure because of them," he added and paused as his expression darkened considerably.

"You do not have to," Julie assured him, sliding her hand into the nape of his neck where she caressed his skin, which felt strangely cold.

"The ... things that I've experienced at the time made me become who I am today. I've never really liked Potter, but ... there was something that has aggravated the problems between us, and that was Lily. Between me and Potter was a rivalry because of her. In the end, she chose him. "

Julie's hand was now resting in the nape of his neck and she looked at him with growing concern. "Who was she to you," she asked softly.

"She was the only friend I ever had, or, at least, I had always believed that until then," he replied.

The silence stretched and they both sat there for a few minutes, lost in thought. Then Severus continued. "Once, after Potter and his friends had humiliated me again, Lily came to see me, and I, in my madness called her a mudblood. She never forgave me."

Severus played with his wand, and Julie looked at him in silence.

"Soon after, I became a death eater, Lily married Potter, and they had a son... Then she was killed by Voldemort... I could not save her."

"Have you tried to safe her?" Julie whispered.

"Yes." His voice was thick with emotion and trembled slightly.

"For a mother, no love that is more pure and deep than the love she has for her child. At least that's what people say," began Julie softly, "You saved her child," she added.

After Severus had sat motionless for a moment, he nodded.

"Lily was also a Gryffindor," Julie asked.

"Yes."

"And Harry Potter, too," Julie added.

"Yes."

Julie nodded and began to massage his neck. Her gentle and conscious touches were exactly what Severus needed right now. He began to relax slowly and leaned back into her touch. Julie placed her other hand on his forearm that was now resting on the desk. Her fingers brushed over the soft material of his sweater and she noticed that his skin was cold.

She got up, went to the office where she pushed their armchairs closer to the fireplace before she returned to the small study and offered Severus her hands. "Come, let's sit by the fire," she suggested.

Severus accepted her help, got up, and followed her to the office. They made themselves comfortable and Severus sighed deeply as he stared into the flames.

"I was very angry with her because she had chosen Potter, but then ..." he paused while Julie opened a chocolate frog and handed it to him.

Severus looked at the chocolate frog, before he took it with a slight nod. Then their eyes met and a honest smile appeared on his lips. "I had loved Lily. She'd always been nice and obliging, she accepted me the way I was. Later she did not like my growing interest in the dark arts of magic, but in the beginning we were friends. Lily liked me, no one else did that. She supported me and encouraged me just as you do now."

Severus reached for her hand and enveloped her hand with his, before giving it a gentle squeeze. "I had always been frightened that something could happen, that might separated Lily and me. The idea of living without her was unbearable, unimaginable. I feared to be alone again. I knew that it would make my life very difficult."

Severus looked at the chocolate frog that had begun to melt in his hand.

"This is the difference between you and Lily." He lifted his gaze from their intertwined hands and looked into her eyes. "I've heard women do not like such comparisons at all, but I'm sure you'll like my comparison."

When Julie raised her eyebrows in expectation he smiled. "If I were to live without you, that would not only make my life difficult. It would be impossible for me to live like that. The vacant space you'd leave behind would be impossible to fill ever again. I would not see any reason to live on. My life only makes sense because you are by my side. It only makes sense because you're a part of it."

He suddenly paused and Julie waited, knowing that he was searching for the right words to say.

"I know that I've been rather difficult today. I know that I must have hurt you by being this insufferable, obnoxious person that I am deep down inside. I.. um, please know that I ignored you, because I was afraid to hurt you. I really wanted to have your help and support, I needed it, but I decided to ignore you because the darkness in me was so gloomy at that moment that I was afraid of hurting you. I do believe that I've hurt you anyway."

Julie stroked his thumb with hers and wanted to say something, but he interrupted her.

"Sometimes it is very intimidating to see what still lies ahead of me. But I have confidence that I will overcome it, especially because you are by my side. Even if it will take a long time... I know that you'll help me to find myself."

He smiled when he saw how emotional his wife was. Severus wanted to touch her, he wanted to catch the tears that ran down her cheeks, but the chocolate frog he still held in his free hand prevented him from doing so. Severus looked at the melting frog before he offered it to Julie.

She smiled tearfully and took a bite. Severus watched as her tongue ran over her lips in an attempt to remove the melted chocolate. He grabbed her and pulled her closer into a kiss. It was a passionate and sweet kiss, which he only broke when they both were in urgent need to breathe.

The tears that had decorated her flushed cheeks, had now dried. Only her wet eyelashes and reddened eyes indicated that she had been crying. Severus rested his forehead against hers and inhaled deeply her chocolatey scent. Then he kissed the tip of her nose and leaned back in his armchair, feeling utterly satisfied.

"Before, when I thought of Lily, I was angry. Not just angry, sometimes I was revengeful, but this sentiment was mainly directed toward Potter. It was not easy to separate these emotions."

"And what do you feel now when you think of Lily," Julie asked.

"Now it's different..." he searched for the right words and stared into the flames that danced in the fireplace. "It was such an unpleasant feeling that I preferred not to think of Lily - just to avoid this feeling. In spite of my efforts to suppress these memories, they came back regularly." He turned to Julie, who listened attentively as she unwrapped a bar of chocolate.

"It got really bad when her son came to Hogwarts, I've probably never before being so repugnant." Severus mused about his words and then smiled. "I do not know when and how it happened, but when I remember Lily today, I don't have that unpleasant feeling anymore. It's gone."

He looked at her expectantly and Julie smiled gently. "That means that you have forgiven Lily."

Severus frowned, and he looked at her thoughtfully. "Do you think," he asked, doubting and yet hopeful.

"You can answer that question yourself."

Severus leaned back again and continued to stare into the flames while Julie enjoyed the chocolate.

"How did it happen," he asked himself after a while.

Julie smiled and held out a piece of chocolate, "Here try this, it is a new trend."

Severus glanced at the piece of chocolate as if it were poisoned before he looked at Julie and shook his head.

"Severus, I know that you do not like things that are new and unknown to you. You do not like changes, not even an unknown kind of chocolate," she said, smiling, and put the piece of chocolate in her mouth where she let it melt. "It's something new in your life, which has ultimately led you to forgiving Lily. You've let a change happen, and it touches you not only on one side, but on so many different levels. Or let us say, it touches different aspects of you, of which existence you might not even be aware of. But the result is good, and it has happened without you noticing it. And you are satisfied that you don't feel these negative emotions in regard to Lily anymore. It brings a little more peace to your life."

Severus looked at her, clearly thoughtful. Julie gave him another piece of chocolate. This time, he hesitantly accepted it and bit off a small piece. His expression was serious and tense as he let the chocolate melt in his mouth. Julie leaned back and eyed him with satisfaction.

"And, do you like the chocolate," she asked after a moment of silence had elapsed.

Severus took a few deep breaths and then nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, it tastes delicious," he confessed.

"There's a lot in life, Severus, that you might find likeable. You just have to dare."

"I know," Severus replied, reaching for her hand to caress it with his thumb.

Julie sighed and handed Severus the bag of chocolate, "Here, if I continue eating, I'll soon look like a barrel."

Severus chuckled and reached for the bag.

"Let go of your old habits and the dark feelings. That will create space for new ones, for better ones," encouraged Julie.

Severus nodded, but looked less confident.

"What do you feel now when you think of Lily," Julie asked.

"I am grateful," Severus surprised himself. He looked at Julie strangely before he suddenly looked extremely satisfied.

"If she had chosen me, it would have robbed me of the opportunity to choose you."

Chapter Text

Julie and Severus sat in front of fireplace and were silent for a long time. Severus had had a difficult day today, his temper had been extremely irritated before lunch, something the students had experienced during the afternoon lessons. Extra essay's and detention had been the result, and not only for the Gryffindor's. This time every house had been affected equally - even the students from Slytherin. But unlike other times, today Severus had sent the students, who had received a detention, to Filch. A deed that Julie could not quite understand.

"Why did you send them to Filch?" Julie asked, and shattered Severus' thoughts. "The students who received detention today," she explained as he glanced at her questioningly. "Why did you send them to him?"

Severus raised an eyebrow and looked at her with a tired expression, then he nodded slowly as if he were lost in thought, "Have you ever had to serve detention with Filch?" he asked.

"No," replied Julie. "I was allowed to serve my detention in your presence," she reminded him.

Severus looked at her and his smile turned into a grin, "You were lucky. It's worse than detention with me," he explained.

"Really?," she asked.

"Yes, I speak from experience, and my detention with Filch was far more than twenty years ago. He has perfected all his practices, which were already disgusting at that time."

While this fact seemed to amuse Severus, Julie wondered what Filch's practices were. A shiver ran down her spine and Julie suddenly had the strong desire to change the subject.

"Have you always wanted to be a teacher," she inquired.

Severus looked up, surprised by her question. His thoughtful gaze lingered on her for a moment before he reached for his cup and leaned back in the arm-chair. His eyes found hers.

"Well, I've always been very inquisitive," he began, "That's why I've been studying all the time. At the end of a day, I was never satisfied with what I had learned. I often spent most of my nights reading secretly in the common room. In books, which I had removed from the library with and without permission." A smile appeared on his face when he saw Julie's incredulous expression.

"So you did not always follow the rules," she formulated her thoughts as positively as possible while she wriggled her eyebrows at him.

Severus chuckled and then shook his head, thoughtful, as he reveled in reminiscences. Slowly, the smile disappeared from his face.

"My mother had no work and my father .. ," Severus paused, his expression was serious and depressed." My father had work that was badly paid. We saw little of the money he earned. He spent it mainly on alcohol."

His gaze was now fixed on his hands, which had previously held his cup. Now they were clasped tightly around his knees, which he had pulled against his body. Severus frowned and put his feet back on the ground. His gaze was filled with uncertainty as he looked at Julie, who watched him.

She did not reply his words, neither did she comment on his body language, which he had not been aware of. Her eyes were filled with understanding, her expression kind. Severus breathed heavily and swallowed hard before he continued.

"The problems were inevitable, not only at home, but also at school, on the street, wherever I went, everywhere I was laughed at and mocked." His voice was filled with bitterness and he was silent for a moment, seemingly absorbed in memories. Then he looked at her again. "It is difficult, if there is no place where one feels protected, where one can retreat and find rest. Deprived of this possibility, I had no choice but to withdraw myself, to hide. It did not take away the pain, but it made it duller, more bearable." He inhaled deeply and stared at her, his brows furrowed.

"At that time in my life, this was in my eyes the best thing I could do. The only thing that ensured my survival, not only physically, but also mentally, emotionally... It is easier to seal yourself off than to be strong enough to withstand the enormous pressure. I have done this successfully, and I am today of the opinion that I should have done it much earlier. Those wounds ..." he said almost inaudibly, "..are very deep and still hurt. It's a burning ache, unpleasant and dark. I know that I have to accept those wounds in order to deal with them, but I do not know how I would react if I did."

Severus stared at the fire and the silence between them felt heavy.

"Well, the lack of money meant that I could not buy the books that I wanted to read, so I found other ways to get them. One of them was the library here in Hogwarts. I, of course, also removed literature, which the students aren't allowed to read," he said, and suddenly grinned.

"Were you in the forbidden part of the library," Julie asked, knowing that she already knew the answer to her question.

"Constantly," Severus confessed, and it almost seemed as if a faint blush appeared on his cheeks if her eyes did not deceive her.

"At first secretly, without the knowledge of others, but from a certain point no more."

"What happened?" Julie asked excitedly, shifting closer to him.

"As incredible as it sounds, Filch caught me in the act," Severus looked annoyed when he thought of Argus. "He took me to Albus and grinned like an idiot because he knew I would be punished. To his displeasure, however, Albus sent him away. Albus allowed me to read certain literature. With every year that I grew older, I was allowed to read more books that were not permitted for students. He even gave me these books himself."

"That was very nice of him," Julie remarked. "After all, Albus could have gotten into trouble for doing so."

Severus shook his head, "You're so naive," he said. "Albus does not do anything for free and without reason. He is very cunning. Albus always has deeper motives, no matter what he does. He said at that time that if he would gain any benefit from me having this knowledge, I would have to help him if he'd need my help. I was very naive and thought, what could he want? How could I help him? So I agreed." Severus chuckled darkly, "He made use of this deal very quickly, of course."

"And that would be," Julie asked curiously.

"When I became a death eater," he paused and tried to read her reaction, "I became not only a follower of Voldemort, but I became the informant of Albus as well."

"This was terribly dangerous," commented Julie.

"Of course, this was my death sentence. To be a death eater seemed to me at the time something special. I had thought that by my decision I would find myself on the safe side. I was highly gifted, intelligent, qualities which made me very useful. But never before had I thought that Voldemort would see a danger in precisely these qualities. I was young and just like you, naive. I did not think very far in advance, and could not yet understand the plans of the dark Lord."

"Instead of finding myself on the safe side, I suddenly stood between the two sides, on a knife's edge, balancing every moment of my life between heaven and hell, between happiness and suffering, life and death, and it didn't take long before I realized that the safe side for me would have been in reality the other side. I had already cursed my agreement with Albus at this time countless times. I was disappointed when I understood that he had used me back then. He is very sly, our Albus. Just like Voldemort, he, too, always used me. With him, too, I quickly understood that I was merely a doll, who danced to his instructions. Instructions that were constantly changing, depending on the mood in which he was."

"I found myself in a situation from which there was no going back. It was a dilemma I could not escape from. I was forced to be perfect from one moment to another, in every respect. I could not make mistakes. Only a single misstep would have meant my death."

Severus had noticed her questioning glance, and nodded, "Yes, I've provoked it, not just once. There were moments when I did not want to live like this anymore; there were moments when the thought of death seemed so redeeming, that I wanted to seize the chance at once. But every time I decided to put a end to my life, it did not work out."

Severus chuckled and leaned his head against the backrest and stared at the ceiling. "Voldemort, this cruel fellow, he himself was suddenly forgiving, and considered my failures and misdemeanors as not worth mentioning, and I did not understand why, until a certain day." Severus glanced at Julie "After he sent away all the other followers, he took me aside and told me that he hated my suicidal intentions and that I was a miserable coward."

"He knew your intentions," Julie asked.

"Julie, I'm perfect in my field, I'm not making any mistakes. I could deceive the others, but not Voldemort. He immediately understood my intentions and tolerated my idiotic deeds for a short time, but he needed me," Severus answered the question which burned in Julie's mind. "He had huge plans for which he absolutely needed me, and he knew this. When I understood this, I felt momentarily safe, but knew, that if he had realized his plans, he would not be dependent on me anymore. He would immediately eliminate me."

Julie swallowed hard and Severus took a deep breath.

"I'm sorry, I'm straying from the subject, back to your question. After I had acquired all this knowledge, I had the desire to pass it on, not only because knowledge was valuable, but also because I knew that Voldemort was planning things that were really bad. I always hoped to find a successor for myself, not in Voldemort's circles, but here, in Hogwarts."

"One does not always get the impression that you like what you do."

Severus nodded, "I know, but I was not always so extreme," he said, pausing, "I like to be a teacher. But I can not handle the stupidity of many students. "

"Some students are really having trouble with certain topics. Severus, each student is different, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, would you deal with your children the same way if they do not understand something immediately?"

Their eyes met and they stared at each other.

"I was not always the same as I am now," he assured her and sighed in defeat. "Well, if I'm honest, I've always been like that. I was mocked during my school days, they were making fun of me, starting from my clothes, my hair, teeth, second handbooks ... At some point, I became who I am today." He sighed deeply and ran his finger through his black hair. His gaze was pointed to the ground. "I use this as an excuse. I've become what I am today because I've decided to be like that," he confessed. "No, I..., I would not deal with my children like that."

"I've always had a great interest to the dark arts of magic. I've got it to this day, and somehow I got to the point in my life where I could not go any further, and I wanted to take revenge. I wanted to take revenge on those who had made my life hell. It was my spur to be stronger than others to pay them back. At the time, however, I was already entangled. I was well on my way to become a dark wizard."

"I wanted this. No one had to persuade me. There was no going back anyway. Bullying was not the only driving force. Rather, it was an original interest which I ultimately followed. It is the rage that I have on myself, bundled with rage, from my youth. I revenge myself on life, which has done me nothing. For it was I who shaped this life, my life, by my decisions, by the errors which I have committed. Everyone I've met has done the same, everyone has made their own personal choices, but I've always blamed life for my choices."

"Like others, I also consciously made my decisions, often unaware of the consequences. But I was the one who made the decisions, and I have always suffered from the choices I've made. I carry a lot of self-hatred in me, which is why I do not care much about myself, neither about my soul's needs, nor about those of my body."

"I was bullied a lot, but you also have to know that I was never squeamish when it came to paying someone back. I was neither a victim, nor was I innocent. I was on the receiving end, but I can really dish it out. And that's what I did, that's what I still do. Often to students, who had nothing to do with my choices, with my past."

Severus fell silent and watched her closely before he spoke again. "Do you have something to say?" he asked cautiously.

Julie looked at him in surprise and turned her eyes to the flames, which danced wildly in the fireplace. Severus sudden willingness to share even more details of his past with her, had surprised her greatly. After a day like this, she would have expected a lot, but not that Severus would open up. What could she tell him? She turned her full attention to Severus, who looked expectantly at her. But the uncertainty, which was visible in his dark eyes did not escape her attention.

"Well, I think your point of view is very good. It is good that you are honest with yourself. I also think that it's not just about dealing with your past. You have to accept it, just like you have to accept the wounds you are carrying. Allow them to be there and continue to live your life."

"If an injustice happens to us, then there are several ways to deal with it. Either we will do the same as those, who have inflicted the injustice to us. Then we think, oh, this has happened to me and because of this I can not act differently and will give back what I've received. I have not experienced love, so I can not give love. That means that we choose this as the reality of our life, and ultimately it will bring us suffering."

"Or we say, I've had to experience this, and I know how bad it is to be in such a situation. So I will do everything I can to avoid to do the same. Then we strive to jump over our shadows. In your case, I think that your shadow, the shadow over which you have to jump, is very, very long, Severus. You have not yet overcome it, yet you have chosen the second, the more difficult path. You have begun to give something, that you - judging your words - have never received yourself. You never really received love. Still, you give me love. That you have never experienced this yourself does not mean that you are incapable of loving. And I've practically been a stranger to you. If this is possible, you can share this feeling with others too. You can trust others."

"No," he said, sounding very tense, "I can not. I do not want .."

".. to be hurt," Julie finished his sentence with a gentle voice. "I understand that. I feel the same way as you do in this aspect. But we have Poppy and my parents. We do not need to worry about them, you can practice with them. You can trust them. One does not need many friends and real friends are not only hard to come by, they are often few in number. But they are there. And some day we shall have children, whom you will love and trust."

Severus looked panicked and his hands clenched to fists as he leaned back in his arm-chair, his posture tense.

"I have suspected for a long time, that this thought worries you. But it is something that will happen naturally. I can not say much about it because I do not know much and I certainly lack experience, but I can tell you that you will not be like your father."

An oppressive silence fell over them, and Julie watched Severus, who sat rigidly in the arm-chair and stared into the flames. "How can you be so sure," he finally asked, looking at her.

"Do you treat me the way your father treated your mother?" she asked. Severus had not talked about this aspect of his past yet, but Julie could guess a lot.

He shook his head, his answer almost drowned in the crackle of the fire, "No."

"Why not?" she asked cautiously.

Severus swallowed hard, "Because I love you."

"You see, just as you love me, you will also love our children. They will not be strangers, but something that was created by us," Julie pointed at Severus and then at herself, "Created by our love."

Severus stared at her, his expression unreadable, his body motionless. After an incredibly long moment of silence, he leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling again.

Julie watched him and wondered what was going on in his head. There was so much more she wanted to tell him, but she couldn't. She knew that a huge turmoil had erupted in him, and decided to be silent and wait what would happen next. Severus needed this moment for reflection.

Her eyes fell on the clock, which hung on the wall behind Severus. He had been sitting motionless for over an hour now, and she wondered if he had fallen asleep, since he had closed his eyes long ago. She leaned over the armrest and reached for the bag of chocolate. Julie placed it on her lap and took two chocolate frogs. When she'd unwrapped the first one, she suddenly noticed Severus' hand that reached for the chocolate frog. He took it, moved his arm-chair closer to hers and began to eat.

"Your point was good," he said quietly, and reached for the bag of chocolate. Lost in thoughts, he unwrapped another chocolate frog and handed it to Julie, who watched him.

"I wondered if it really will be like you say. The best way to find out is to experience this kind of situation."

"You can do it," Julie encouraged him. "You have made so many experiences in your life."

"Have I," he asked, looking at her with raised eyebrows.

"Yes. And you are intelligent."

"Hmm," he hummed amused.

"Yes, of course, and you are strong. And I do not mean your physical strength," she explained.

"I thought so," he replied, grinning.

"You are ..."

" ... Severus," he suddenly finished her sentence. "I am Severus. And before you ask, I'm anxious to find out what that means."

Chapter Text

Julie cuddled into her blanket and blinked tiredly at the flames in the fireplace. This weekend had been very exhausting. On the previous morning she and Severus had taken a long walk, which finally led them to Hogsmeade. Despite their relatively short stay, their visit had had a great effect. She had found Severus this morning in his study, where he was sitting behind his desk, reading with a serious expression in the Daily Prophet. The pictures that had been taken the previous day, had caused a stir and a part of Julie was amused how many rumors there were. Between the many questionable speculations there were a few insiders who were sure that Severus Snape had married.

Julie swallowed hard and her expression became melancholic. Severus had worried so much about what would be written about him. The reality, however, looked quite different from what he had feared. The main interest lay in the young woman by his side. Julie wondered if Severus had expected this. Probably not, she thought. She pulled the blanket up and looked over its hem into the fire, which burned cheerfully.

She had worried relatively little about what might happen after their relationship would become publicly know, had most of her time being busy with keeping Severus in the best possible mood. Now the situation which she never wanted was there; she was in the center of attention. It was only a matter of time before her own story would be known to all. Her collision with the reporters last year had already caused an uproar. But now it would be tougher. And what would she do? Had she really overcome her past? Julie inhaled deeply, held her breath, then sighed softly. Yes, she had found her peace, her past was behind her. But being in the focus of attention was simply not her cup of tea. At least it took the enormous pressure off of Severus, Julie thought as her eyes fluttered closed. And for that she was ready to bear this burden.

Severus entered the office noisily and locked the door. His gaze was fixed on her arm-chair. He knew she was sitting there, but he could not see her. He got rid of the books he was carrying and approached her. The surprised expression on his face quickly gave way to a smile when he saw her sleep. Julie had cuddled with her blanket and had seemingly fallen asleep while waiting for him. It reminded him of the time in Spinner's end when he woke up in the morning to find her snuggled up against his body. She always looked so comfortable and peaceful. He missed the moments when her body slowly began to awaken. Her gentle movements, the feeling of her soft skin rubbing against his. The quiet sounds she made, apparently in protest, because the morning had come earlier than she wanted. It had been only a few days, but the memories of those days brought him so much joy and peace. Now their awakening was different. Everything happened so quickly. And it was already a regularity that they were disturbed by someone before breakfast. Severus swallowed and blinked a few times as he returned to the present.

Now she was sitting rather uncomfortably in the arm-chair, and had clasped the blanket with one hand. Her muscles were tense, her fingers flexed now and then and dug deeper into the soft fabric of the blanket. Even in her sleep she was aware of the situation. He sank into his arm-chair and could not turn his eyes away from her. It had been a long weekend. Despite her continuous positive way of thinking, it was clear that Julie was burdened by the sudden attention to her person. Although she did not talk about it, Severus could see it when he looked at her. In fact, he had sensed it when he had entered the office.

A frown spread over his features. This was not what he had expected. Poppy had always said that everything could be different than he anticipated, but he could not believe it. But now it was clear that Poppy had once again been right. The reporters were not idle. On the contrary, countless fingers typed frantically lines that were filled with speculations about his wife. Words which did not do justice to the woman before him. Words that made Severus angry. The deep resentment that Severus harbored against the reporters grumbled darkly in him. Like the thunder, which warns of a coming storm, this feeling caused his inner self to tremble. He clenched his hands into fists and then opened them again in an attempt to relax. It was not easy for him to do so without the support of his wife.

Severus eyed her attentively and noticed her body twitching in sleep. He liked it so much when she was lying next to him in bed, pressed against his body where she twitched or spoke. At times this was quite amusing. The memory of it made him calmer. A relaxed smile appeared on his lips and he did not push the feeling of resentment back into the dark depths of his self, but allowed it to be present. It was an unpleasant feeling, but he would try to tolerate it. As he watched his sleeping wife, his thoughts slowly began to drift off.

After their trip to Hogsmeade, both of them could not fall asleep despite their sleeping-draught's. They spent their time lying in the dark, talking about the things that were on their minds. At least half the night passed that way. Somehow they fell asleep and Severus could not remember the exact moment when this happened. All he could remember was the feeling he had felt. It was ... pleasant and he did not know any words that could describe it. And when Severus woke up early in the morning, he was alone in bed. It was not long before Julie had returned, carrying a tray with their breakfast. She had gone to the main kitchen and had prepared breakfast for them, and together they had eaten in their bed and ignored the world around them. What a beautiful start for a birthday, Severus thought, and caught himself as he reached for her hand, which rested on the armrest. His fingers ran over her soft skin and he gently clasped her hand. Julie had not given him a gift, but he was deeply content as he had already received the greatest gift of life; his wife. What could be better than that?

Severus leaned back and thought about his conversation with Albus, which they had had after the staff had learned that Julie and Severus had married. Despite Severus' usual negative expectations, the conversation had turned out differently than he had expected. Albus had listed many good points and together they had set up a plan how they would deal with the onslaught of reporters which would surely come. Whether it would work, Severus did not know yet. For now, he still had to get used to the fact that the students didn't avoid him in the hallways of the castle anymore. Either the students were very curious, or they saw him no more as the cold, obnoxious professor. Severus' eyes wandered slowly away from Julie and to the fire where he stared into the flames while he wondered what he would rather like.

He stirred and woke as Julie crawled onto his lap. She straddled his lap and buried her slender fingers in his black hair. Her fingertips began to massage his scalp, and she leaned forward to kiss him. He hummed contentedly while his hands slowly stroked her back.

"What have I done to deserve this," he asked audibly satisfied.

"It's still your birthday," she replied with a smile before she kissed him again.

"We break the rules," Julie said between kisses.

Severus cupped her cheeks with his hands and broke their kiss.

"Who cares," he replied, then frowned. His gaze fell on the door which he had locked, and then on his wife, who smiled at him. "We'll have to talk about this soon."

"About the upcoming reformation of our rules?" she asked amused.

"Yes," he replied.

"Since when do you think so, what has changed," she inquired curiously.

Doubts were written all over his face, and his thumbs stroked her cheeks as he thought about her question.

"What has changed? I ... I've changed, but ..." his gaze was dark for a moment before his eyes cleared and the light of the fire began to dance in them again.

"No, this has nothing to do with change ... I think. I want to have the right to behave as I wish. I want to have the right to be myself," he said slowly.

Julie looked at him questioningly, "Who says you do not have that right," she asked surprised.

Their eyes met, "My inner voice," he confessed, sounding frustrated and uncertain at the same time.

"And," Julie paused, raising an elegant eyebrow, "Who allowed it to interfere?"

"... I ..." Severus replied hesitantly. "Do you know how to turn it off? Do you know how to silence it?"

He sounded hopeful and Julie's words inflicted pain on her own heart as she spoke them. "You can't."

Severus was visibly taken aback by her unexpected reply. He leaned back slowly and looked at her with an unreadable expression. Their hands were now intertwined, and were resting between them on his lap.

"It's words have no value," she told him.

"I'm not completely convinced."

Julie smiled, "I thought so. Severus, has it ever made you happy? Your inner voice, has it ever said anything that made you happy?"

"No," was his immediate reply. He shook his head and clasped her hands more tightly.

"Well, then tell me, why do you pay attention to this voice?"

Severus shrugged his shoulders and looked at her thoughtfully. "This voice was ... my only companion for a long time. I guess that's the reason why I listen to it."

"This voice makes you live in a cage."

His gaze was dark and serious, but she saw recognition in his eyes. He knew she was right.

Julie looked at him silently and Severus' expression grew brighter, "Now I hear a second voice."

"What?" Julie was visibly disturbed.

"Yours," he joked, and laughed. Then he suddenly became very serious, "It is your voice which I hear."

A bright smile appeared on her lips and she leaned forward and kissed him.

"You are very wise, my dear wife" he complimented her.

"Nonsense, I am, like everyone else, a person who makes mistakes and has weaknesses."

He shook his head with conviction and Julie directed the conversation back to the subject.

"Stop listening to this voice and start listening to your heart," she said, tapping a finger on his chest, above his heart.

He took a deep breath and reached for a bar of chocolate, which lay on the low table next to them.

"That's the difference," continued Julie, watching him closely.

"Do you have it, too?" he asked, while he was busy opening the chocolate bar.

"That nagging voice? Yes," she replied truthfully, her voice small.

"What does it say to you?" he wanted to know.

"That I'm not worthy of being loved ... That I do not deserve to have you by my side. That everything was my fault and ... I deserved to suffer ..." she trailed off, visibly saddened.

Severus stared at her, shocked. This was definitely not the answer he had expected. Her gaze had dropped with each of her words, and was now fixed on their hands. She looked embarrassed and he dropped the chocolate bar onto his lap and placed his index finger under her chin to raise her head until their eyes met.

"If someone deserves to be loved, then it is you. For you love others selflessly. I do not value myself much, and often feel undeserving of your love and care. But if I really make you happy, you deserve to have me by your side. If anyone is not to blame for what happened, then this is you, for you would never harm anyone. And if you say that you have deserved to experience suffering, then only, so that you and I could meet one day, and you may experience the happiness and love that you truely deserve."

"This is what I truely think. If I had not gone through all this suffering in my life, I probably would never have known you. I might never have had the opportunity to choose you. And to do this, I would be ready, to experience all this suffering once again, just to find you one more time."

Julie sniffed, deeply touched by his words, and gave him a smile.

Severus looked at her questioningly. "Are you listening to this voice?"

"Do I listen to this voice," Julie repeated. "No," she whispered, almost inaudibly. "If I listened to it, it would not be possible for me to be strong, neither for me, nor for the two of us."

His finger was still resting under her chin and Julie felt the slight shaking of his hand. Then he took a deep breath and straightened his posture. The trembling had stopped. His fingers ran along her jaw-line and he cupped her cheek. The roundness of her cheek fit perfectly into his palm as if they had been created for each other.

"I've never looked at it this way. It's good to hear a different side, it allows us to see things from a different, new perspective."

He slid his hand into her hair and let the silky strands glide through his pale fingers. His gaze fixed on her hair, he said, "I too wish to be strong for you."

His eyes met hers and he nodded to underline his intention.

"You are," replied Julie.

"Hm, no, certainly not," he replied.

Her smile made him frown. Julie ran her index finger over the deep vertical crease between his eyebrows.

"There are different types of strengths, some of which you might not recognize as such."

Her finger ran down his nose to his lips where it lingered.

"As I said before, you my dear, are very wise," he said, kissing her finger.

Julie did not answer and leaned forward. Her lips brushed gently over his and she claimed his lips in a sensual kiss. Severus put the chocolate bar back on the table and reached for her waist to pull her closer to him.

---- Sometime in February ----

'Be quiet, be quiet at last ...' Severus growled inwardly. The tension in his body had almost become intolerable and he tried desperately to calm himself. 'Shut your damn mouth ..' he cursed his spiteful inner voice, which today tormented him mercilessly. He shifted on his chair, then leaned back against the backrest, his eyes falling on the students in the front row. Severus' eyes widened dramatically. He stood up abruptly and had quickly moved around his desk. His fast steps echoed aggressively through the classroom.

"What do you think you're doing," he snapped angrily.

The student shook visibly and looked lost at the potions ingredients that were lying on the table in front of him.

"Look at me," demanded Snape, his voice hard and gloomy. "You should read the text first ...," he barked before he trailed off and took a deep breath.

'It's words have no value.' His wife's words echoed in his head, and Severus swallowed hard as he stared at the student in front of him.

'Who allowed it to interfere?'

'... I .'

'Severus, has it ever made you happy? Your inner voice, has it ever said anything that made you happy?'

'No.' Severus shook his head, and his expression changed and turned from angrily to unreadable.

'Why do you pay attention to this voice?'

He was still staring at the student who cowered before him in his chair, but Severus could see nothing but his wife, the way she had been sitting before him a few weeks ago when they had had this conversation.

'This voice was my only companion for a long time..... my only companion.... my only companion ... for a long time..... a long time... '

'For a long, long time,' he thought with bitterness.

'This voice makes you live in a cage.'

'Far too long! But no more!'

Something in Severus' snapped and he took an exceptionally deep breath before he realized that everyone was staring at him, waiting for his next words. Slowly, almost hesitantly, he exhaled and spoke.

"First of all you have to read what's written in your textbook, then you should prepare the ingredients..." he trailed of again and took another deep breath.

"I'm so tired of this." His gaze wandered through the classroom and lingered on the students on the back tables, who, despite the tense atmosphere, were still busy doing nonsense. "Sometimes I do not want to do this anymore," he admitted. "Day by day, I have to deal with your nonsense. Day by day, I try to teach you, and what do I get in return?"

He looked at the students expectantly, but no one dared to answer him.

"I do not want to do this anymore, not under these circumstances."

Slowly, his gaze wandered from one student to the next until he had looked at everyone. "You will not find a better teacher for potions than me. This is the truth, and you know it. Therefore, if you wish to be taught by me, you should behave accordingly. Leave the classroom immediately. You've been dismissed from my class. All of you."

The students were not sure what was more shocking to them, his words, or the way he spoke them. Their professor was calm, almost peaceful.

Severus clasped his hands behind his back and straightened. "Unless... if you are willing to cooperate and learn, then, under these circumstances you may stay."

Nobody moved, and while Severus wondered what had happened, the students began to work quietly.

Julie stepped up to the table and leaned down to help the student, but Severus cautiously reached for her arm, "No, let me do this," he said softly, pushing her gently to the side.

Julie stepped back and made her usual round through the classroom while she listened to Severus' words.

"Didn't you understand the task, or didn't you read the text," he inquired.

Her heart beat faster, and she caught a quick glance of her husband, who stood now bend over the table, while his large hands rested on it.

"I do not know," replied the boy shakily.

A smile appeared on Julie's lips as Severus grabbed an empty chair and sat down beside the student at the table. She ignored the fact that all the students from the back rows watched, disbelievingly, what happened.

After the lessons had ended and only Julie and Severus had remained behind in the classroom, she approached him. Severus collected the parchments scattered on his desk as her hand gently brushed over his forearm. He looked up at her.

"What has led to that?" she asked with a smile.

He returned her gaze for a few seconds before turning his attention back to his task.

"I hate to be alone," he confessed, while he collected the last parchments.

"Alone? You have me," she reminded him. "As well as Poppy, and ..."

"Yes, but ..." he looked at her again, "Maybe I want more than just that."

He frowned as he realized what he had just said. She could misunderstand his words. Severus walked around the desk and wanted to reach for her arms, but Julie suddenly smiled and clasped his hands. Her thumbs stroked his slowly and tenderly, but he could clearly feel her excitement.

"I'm really glad. I'm really glad to hear that," she assured him.

Severus noticed the lonely tear that formed in her left eye and caught it before it could fall off her eyelashes.

"No more tears, do you agree?" he demanded, as he looked at her tear, which now rested on her fingertip.

Julie smiled, "I cry because I'm happy," she declared.

He looked at her skeptically. "And what makes you so happy?"

"You are well on your way to finally become happy and content. Nothing else could make me happier than that. The day will surely come when you will look back, and will ask yourself, why you haven't done all this much earlier. You'll ask yourself what you've been waiting for all these years."

"I shall never ask myself this question," he replied with deep conviction.

"Why not," Julie inquired.

"Because it is a question whose answer I already know." Severus raised her hand and kissed her knuckles. "It was you. I was waiting for you."

"Severus, you're a charmer," she said, laughing, and nudged his arm.

"Do you want to tell me you don't like that," he asked knowingly.

The smile on his lips was the most irresistible she'd ever seen and Julie laughed and cupped his cheeks with her small hands.

"No, not at all. I find this new character trait of you extremely pleasant and attractive."

Julie stood on her tiptoes to kiss him and Severus returned her kiss eagerly. He pulled out his wand from his sleeve and closed the door with a flick of his hand to avoid unwanted surprises.

Chapter Text

-End of March-

"Does it still hurts," Severus asked cautiously, his voice sounded troubled and was underlined with concern.

"Hmm," she hummed softly as her eyes fluttered closed. "It's almost forgotten," she murmured sleepily.

Severus curled his fingers around her slender wrist and raised her hand before placing a tender kiss on its back. Her breath grew calmer, assuring him that she was asleep and Severus leaned back with a deep sigh in the chair. After studying her pale face for a long time, his tired gaze began to wander through the hospital wing. Severus did not like to be here. He combined too many dark memories with this place. Still, he was here again, sitting in an old, uncomfortable chair, which he had placed beside his wife's bed.

Severus frowned. Things that still hurt could not be forgotten, he thought gloomily as he mused about his wife's words. With a dark expression, he looked at her hand, which now rested on the blanket, above her stomach. During an incident that occurred during the lessons in the afternoon, Julie had been injured. Poppy had assured him that it was not as bad as it looked and that the wounds would soon heal.

He had never seriously considered that his wife could be hurt during a lesson. But when the incident occurred unexpectedly, Severus felt guilty. And he still did. Guilt gnawed at his heart and there was nothing he could do about it. He looked at his wife, who was twitching in her sleep. His thumbs stroked the soft skin of her uninjured hand, and his mood darkened as he thought about the scars the wounds would leave behind.

"What has happened has happened," Albus suddenly announced, who had entered the hospital wing, and stood now on the opposite side of the bed.

Severus' eyes fell on the headmaster, who was studying Julie's appearance. "Why doesn't your heartlessness surprise me," Severus hissed through gritted teeth.

Albus chuckled softly and sat down. "Severus, you should have learned by now that sometimes things happen in our lives, which we do not like, but which later can turn out to be rather useful."

"You call this useful," Severus asked agitated, pointing a hand to the injured arm of his wife. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you lost your mind."

Albus smiled and leaned back in the chair. "Was she in the same mood as you," Albus asked, looking at Severus visibly amused.

"Who?" Severus asked back.

"Your wife. Was she as angry and vindictive as you are?" he asked, raising his eyebrows expectantly.

Severus took a deep breath and his eyes fell on Julie, who slept peacefully. Vindictive? That was not his wife, he thought. Julie had not even been angry with the culprit. Although the student had acted grossly negligently and had thus threatened the safety of others, Julie had already accepted his apology. Severus shifted on his chair and his dark gaze then met with Albus' who was - to his anger - still amused.

"No," he growled. "No, she is neither vindictive nor angry."

"Then why are you?" With these words, Albus rose and turned to leave the hospital wing.

Severus glanced at him, until the door finally closed and silence returned to the large room.

"If looks could kill," said Poppy, who was now approaching the bed. "Albus would not have survived," she explained as Severus looked at her questioningly.

He scoffed and shook his head agitated.

"Here, take this." Poppy handed him a cup of coffee, which caused Severus to wrinkle his nose.

"I hate coffee," he grumbled.

"You'll stay for the night," she said. "Drink it."

Severus glanced at Poppy, who retired to her private rooms, then looked into the cup that held the deep black liquid. Frowning, he set the cup on the table next to the bed, then looked at his hands, which were slightly trembling. Slowly he began to rub his palms against each other, while his gaze was fixed on his wife, who slept soundly.

From where did she suddenly took this inner peace, he wondered. Was she pretending? Did she try to play the situation down? Or was this really what Julie felt? Was she really unaffected by the happenings of the day? Was it really, as she had said, not so bad? She had already experienced worse ... Severus folded his hands on his lap and leaned back until he sat comfortably, wondering repeatedly why his wife was suddenly so peaceful. Julie had been different in the past weeks.

They had set themselves the goal of regularly going out together in order to lessen the general curiosity. Despite some slight inconveniences, nothing dramatically had happened so far. Severus noticed that the more they were seen together in public, the less obtrusive the reporters were. Julie did not share his opinion. She was still tense and at times somewhat distraught. Nevertheless, they were going out every weekend. Twice they had been on a Saturday at Diagon Alley, and every Sunday they went to the Three Broomsticks and sat together at a table in a corner, drinking butterbeer, talking with lowered voices.

This had been, in spite of her present restraint, initially Julie's idea. She had hoped that the interest in her person and their relationship would lessen if they were to be seen more often. Clever, thought Severus, who was now holding his wife's hand between his own. Originally, Severus had not been very enthusiastic about her idea. Had even sought secretly for excuses, which he had ultimately, for his love for his wife, not used. Hesitantly he had gone with her to Hogsmeade on a cool afternoon in early March. Very quickly, however, he began to find pleasure in it, and now it was he who inspired his wife to go out. But Julie hesitated more and more often and behaved often somewhat withdrawn.

It was all the more surprising to him that Julie dismissed the accident of the day as nothing, and again he wondered whether she really thought so, or whether she only did so to calm him. His tense expression softened and Severus' tired gaze wandered from her pale face to her wounded arm, whose wounds he could still smell. He wrinkled his nose and moved closer to her bed. There he leaned his head against her pillow and closed his eyes.

He could feel it, her inner peace, which he had very much missed in the past weeks. Why was it suddenly there? Severus nuzzled her hair that lay spilled out over the pillow and inhaled her scent deeply. Then, he shifted once before he decided to ignore the coffee and sleep. There was nothing he had to watch over. Surely his wife would sleep better tonight than she had done in the previous weeks. Why? Hopefully, he would find out at a later date.

*****

-April-

"Are you comfortable?"

"Yes," she hummed softly. "Why do you ask?" Julie inquired, looking up briefly. "Is it not obvious?"

Severus smirked, "Yes, but ..." he grinned and eyed her for a few moments silently. Then he sank into his armchair, which stood not far from the fireplace, whose fire had long since been extinguished. "It's my favorite armchair."

Julie looked up in surprise from the book she was reading. "What armchair are you talking about?"

"The armchair you're sitting in," Severus explained.

"Aren't they the same," Julie asked, looking briefly at the two armchairs before she eyed her husband questioningly.

Severus nodded. "Why do you prefer to sit in this one?" he asked, pointing to the armchair where Julie was sitting. "Why don't you sit in the other one?"

"No idea," she replied, and shrugged. "I feel much more comfortable in this armchair," Julie explained.

"Do you know that these two armchairs are absolutely identical? There is no difference between them, but we both have a very special preference for this one armchair."

Julie looked at the armrest and shifted before she smiled at Severus. "Why didn't you tell me before? I just walked into your life and took away your favorite seat."

"Maybe I liked it."

"What exactly did you like," Julie asked, leaning towards him.

"The thought that you're comfortable. After all, I can not offer you much." Severus reached for Julie's tea cup, which stood on the low table next to the armchair.

"What I want to say is, the places ... um, where I live, it is not very comfortable." His doubtful gaze wandered through the office briefly before he looked straight into Julie's eyes. "Neither here nor in Spinner's End."

Julie took the cup which he handed her. She drank a few sips, than sank back. "It's quite gloomy here ... but there is no place where I would rather be than here ... as long as you're here too."

Her words brought a smile to Severus' lips and he drank his tea while his attention wandered to her hand, which had now healed, but the scars still shone in an angry red.

"He said that sometimes things happen in our lives which we do not like, but which later can turn out to be rather useful."

"Who said that," Julie inquired.

"Albus," explained Severus. "He came to the hospital wing on the evening after the incident, spurred on by the unnecessary desire to share his wisdom," he said with a sarcastic undertone.

Julie chuckled, "And you've certainly appreciated his wisdom," Julie grinned.

"Oh well... I.... "

"Severus ..."

"All right," Severus grinned too, and confessed, "I had struggled to overcome the strong urge to strangle him."

Both laughed, but suddenly Severus became serious again.

"You've been nervous and restless for weeks, and then, when the accident happened, you were like the personification of peace. Why? What happened?"

Severus looked at her questioningly, and Julie sighed softly and set her cup on the table.

"I was very skeptical at the time, asking myself if I had made the right decision. Every time we left the protection of these walls, I was deeply troubled." She paused for a moment, her eyes falling on her scarred hand. "Then this happened," she said while her fingertips brushed over the still sensitive scars, "I could not change it, it had already happened."

Severus listened intently to her words and watched each of her movements with concern. He too knew, how sensitive her skin was still.

"But today you are peaceful," he began when she didn't continue. "Even if we go out, you no longer suffer from nervousness and anxiety."

"Why should I be nervous?" she asked, looking at him warmly.

Severus paused and looked at her questioningly. "Why should you be nervous?"

"Why should I be nervous? When I was hurt, I thought in the midst of the pain that there is nothing more painful than what I have already experienced... back then when I... let's not revive the past." Her gaze grew melancholic before she suddenly smiled at him. "That's good to know, Severus. I do not think it can get any worse. What could the reporters do to me? What could they write about me that would hurt me more than that what lies behind me?"

"They can spread lies about you, they can.."

"Severus, I do not care. I really do not care what the people out there think about me. It wasn't like that in the beginning. This was the nervousness and anxiety that you noticed. I was very worried. But then when I got injured I wondered, why am I so troubled? Why am I living such kind of life? Why this constant concerns? This is not what I had imagined when I had thought about our future. And then I understood that I had been the one who had decided to live like that - in anxiety. It had been my decision."

"It does not matter what others think about us, Severus, as long as we have people around us, who love us and whom we can trust. And we are fortunate to be able to say that we have both. I was so tired of this awful feeling that had haunted me wherever we went. Today I feel freer than ever before. Maybe Albus was right. This incident helped me personally to deal with the circumstances. "

Severus took a deep breath and looked doubtfully at her.

"Maybe you are right."

Julie smiled at him, "Let's not talk about it. Let's instead plan our holiday."

"What is there to plan? We're going home," Severus replied, clearly surprised.

"And what will we do there?"

"Our weekly trips to Hogsmeade will definitely not take place," Severus began, glancing at her questioningly. "Unless that is important to you."

Julie shook her head and Severus nodded relieved.

"We could ... just ..." Severus took a nervous breath and finally fixed his wandering gaze at his wife. "Let us be spontaneous and plan nothing."

Julie shifted excitedly, "Are you serious?"

"Well ... um ... yes."

"That does not sound like you. Usually you are the one who wants to have everything planned down to the last detail," Julie said and smiled.

"I know," Severus replied somewhat embarrassed. "But then I've noticed in recent months that the result is more satisfying if one does not plan too much in advance."

"That will be the best holiday ever," said Julie enthusiastically.

"I hope so," he added, sounding doubtful.

"There is, however, something I wanted to do urgently, during the holiday," Julie explained with a little less enthusiasm.

Severus got up and sat down next to her on the low table and grasped her hands, "What do you want to do?" he asked, placing a kiss on her knuckles.

"I want to stop taking my sleeping-potion." Julie said, looking doubtfully at Severus.

A deep frown graced his features and Severus clasped her hands firmer. "Why?"

"I think the right time has come," she explained, beginning to bite nervously on her bottom lip.

"Are you sure? Why now?"

Julie shrugged. "I do not know. I have the feeling that the time is right. That's all."

"What if you get nightmares, what if...?"

"If that would be the case, then you're with me. I'm not going to be alone. Apart from that, I don't think that I will have nightmares. I've been thinking about it for a long time now and I believe I've come to a point, where I do not need the sleeping-potion any more. Please let me give it a try."

Severus stared at Julie for a few minutes, then nodded slowly. "We'll take your sleeping potion to Spinner End." Julie nodded in agreement. "And as soon as you have nightmares, or become restless in your sleep, you will take it immediately."

"Of course," agreed Julie. "Is that okay for you?"

Severus replied with a questioning expression.

"Don't you mind that I've chosen our spare time for this attempt?"

"No. This is no problem for me," he assured her. "But I want you to enjoy this holiday."

"Oh, I'm sure that I'm going to do so," grinned Julie and wriggled her eyebrows.

Severus chuckled and pulled her onto his lap before he claimed her lips in a kiss.

*****

-Two weeks later-

"It can be a side effect," Severus said again, staring at the bathroom door. "Julie," he repeated, knocking carefully before he tried to turn the door knob - the door was locked. "You know I own a wand ..." - no reaction. Severus took a deep breath and leaned his forehead against the door ... "for which a locked door is not a hindrance ... if you do not open it yourself, I'll do it ... Julie .... please open the door."

At least it was quiet in the bathroom, he thought as he straightened his back. If she did not open the door herself, he would. Severus turned to get his wand when he thought he heard footsteps in the bathroom. The door squeaked slightly as Julie finally opened it. She was pale and leaned exhaustedly against the door frame. Severus found no words and cupped her cheek with his hand before he began to caress it with his thumb. A gesture that elicited a weak sigh from her lips.

"I'll get you a potion to stop the vomiting," he decided, and Julie nodded as he led her into their bedroom. There she crawled on the bed while Severus left to get the potion.

After he returned, Severus lingered in the doorway when he saw her sleep. She slept often and too much for the fact that she did not take her sleeping potion anymore. Too often and way too much, Severus thought. As soon as she sat down, she fell asleep. As soon as she lay down, she fell asleep ... The crease between his eyebrows deepened and he covered his wife with a second blanket before he stepped out into the hallway to go to the living room.

It was late night when Julie entered the living room sleepily. There she found Severus, surrounded by numerous books that were piled around him on the sofa. He looked surprised when he noticed her presence, and Julie stopped approaching him as she noticed his expression.

"Something has happened," she asked anxiously, then slowly began to walk toward him.

"Yes," he replied hesitantly, eyeing her from head to toe.

"What is it," she asked. "Is it something bad?"

Severus shook his head and closed the book, which he still held in his hands. "You ... um, I ... we ..." Severus cleared his throat and stood up. He ran his hands up and down her arms and looked at her with an unreadable expression. "I guess.. maybe we'll become parents."

Julie looked at him incredulously, "What? What makes you think that? I am well ... I'm just a little ..."

... "tired," he completed her sentence. "You are constantly throwing up, you have no appetite, and not the slightest interest in cooking. And if you do, you can not eat what you've cooked."

"That does not mean I'm pregnant."

"And if so?"

His question seemed neutral, but his voice betrayed his mood. Severus himself was not sure what to think of it.

"How can I find out?" she asked, sounding excited. "How can we .."

"Poppy," he interrupted her. "This is the safest way to guarantee a certain privacy."

Julie nodded and swallowed hard. "Tomorrow, just after getting up."

"Now, before going to sleep." Severus replied, looking at her clothes. "I'll get you something to wear and we'll go to Hogwarts." He turned and stopped abruptly. Slowly Severus turned to her. "If this should be the case, if you're pregnant, you should apparate as little as possible ... best not at all."

Julie glanced at him expectantly, and Severus pushed her carefully onto the sofa before covering her with a blanket. "I'll be right back," he assured, kissing her forehead and a few seconds later he was gone.

Julie glanced at the spot where Severus had stood just a moment ago, before her gaze wandered slowly over the numerous books that lay around her. She knew that her symptoms might have been triggered by her decision to stop taking her sleeping-potion. Severus had informed her about these symptoms before the holidays in detail. But could it be that she was pregnant? She frowned and took the book Severus had read when she had entered the living room.

*****

Severus sat stiffly on the sofa and waited. He had always hated to have to wait. But this wait was different. It was much worse. A sigh escaped his lips, and he frowned as he saw Poppy entering the living room, not his wife.

"Patience, Severus, patience."

"This is easier said than done," he said audibly frustrated. "How long must I wait?"

"Just a few minutes," Poppy explained. "If we had done it according to the rules of sorcery, then you have to wait until tomorrow afternoon. The muggle method is significantly faster and also reliable.

Severus merely growled and ran his fingers through his hair before leaning back. It seemed to Severus as if hours had gone by, when Julie finally returned to the living room. She was still pale, but she didn't look as miserable as before.

"You were right," she said in a small voice, as she approached him, thus confirming Severus' guess.

Poppy happily clapped her hands, while Severus had already reached his wife. He was gentle as he possessively held her in his embrace. Unable to say anything, he stroked her hair and placed a kiss on the crown of her head, while countless thoughts and the most diverse emotions and moods whirled through his being. When he finally loosened his hold on her, Julie sighed heavily.

"And what are we doing to do now?" she asked.

Chapter Text

"Have you forgotten what happened? You were injured - during a lesson!" Severus said desperately.

Julie dropped her gaze and beheld her scarred hand. "This, um, I could ..."

"Stay away from the lessons," Severus finished her sentence, clearly agitated. "That's what you should do. Stay away and stay safe."

Julie sighed.

Severus looked at her with a deep frown. "You can do something else," he suggested, gently.

"And what should I do? Shall I just sit around and get bored?" she asked frustrated, knowing that was exactly what Severus wanted. Julie sighed loudly as she lowered her eyes to her hand again.

Severus followed her gaze and he let his shoulders slump a little. Julie knew him well. She knew what was on his mind. In his opinion it would be best if she did not do anything. But could he demand this from her?

"Please understand that I want to keep you safe," he began, "Although the students show better behavior most of the time, occasional accidents occur. After this incident happened ..." his gaze lingered on her scarred hand and he drew a deep breath. "I did not want you to take part in the lessons," he admitted, shaking his head slowly, "But I also knew that I could not take that away from you, even if I wanted to. But now ..."

Severus looked into her green eyes, which bore a sad expression. "Now it's different. Everything will be different." He looked at her pleadingly. "The thought that something might happen to you again, almost drove me mad. And now ... " He paused as his gaze wandered lower and he beheld the soft curves that were concealed by the green sweater that clung to them. "I doubt that I'll be able to cope with the situation if you would take part in the lessons. It would drive me mad. There is too much to lose. I can not understand how you can think so irrational."

The way he looked at her when he spoke those words made Julie's chest tightened uncomfortably, as numerous emotions welled inside her. She had seen the flicker of pain in his eyes that had immediately become replaced with fear. The fear for something that was well-known to him. The fear of loosing something ... of loosing someone. Reflexively Julie placed one hand over her stomach, fingers brushing tenderly, as if she feared to hurt the fragile life within her.

'Someone who has lost as much as Severus, what do you think is his greatest fear?' Poppy's words echoed in her head while a faint pain kindled in her heart and grew quickly into an unpleasant feeling. Julie swallowed hard. 'He does not want to lose any more.' Her bottom lip quivered and Julie reached out and brushed her fingers over the many buttons of his jacket which were all buttoned up to his neck, except for the three top ones. She rolled one of the buttons between her fingers as she pondered with a hurting heart over the conversation she had had with Poppy.

Solitary, she had called him on that day. Lost, and ready to risk. Amidst the absolute chaos, Severus could remain impossibly focused, as he was sustained by a yet unknown source of strength. Julie wondered again, what had kept him going all these years. The aspect of Severus, which had been impossible for her to name in the beginning, had finally revealed itself to her - surprisingly within herself. It was something they had in common. Julie had carried it in herself as well, but now it was gone. She shook her head almost imperceptibly as she did not agree with her thoughts. No, it was still there, but it did not bother her anymore. Because now she was finally whole again. And all thanks to her husband, who had just recently been no more than a stranger to her, and, who was now anxiously standing before her, fearing that he might lose something he had just found. But he wouldn't lose a thing, no matter what.

Julie took a step toward him, then sank into his embrace. She buried her face in his shoulder as he held her. She needed him. And he needed her just as much, if not more. This thought eased the pain that still gnawed on her heart and Julie breathed in his scent before she sighed deeply.

Severus tightened his hold on his wife and a relieved smile appeared on his lips as he felt her nod.

Poppy, who had witnessed the discussion, nodded to Severus before she quietly left the office.

Severus stared at the door after Poppy had left and wondered what he would have done if Julie had not agreed. It had surprised him greatly when she had announced unexpectedly that she would attend tomorrow's lessons as usual. Completely shocked, he had immediately begun to discuss her irrational idea. Severus swayed slowly from side to side while his head was already bustling with thoughts as he was thinking of ways to keep Julie busy. Apart from that ... Severus groaned annoyed. Apart from that, Albus hat to be informed about the unexpected change of their circumstances. But that could certainly wait until tomorrow, he thought.

"Are you angry with me?" he asked softly as he noticed that his chest was now slightly wet at the height of her face.

Julie shook her head almost