Part V – Here and Now
The next day, Hermione attended classes and lectures in the morning at Camp Donne, and she also went back through the waterfall as soon as she had a free period. Arriving in the clearing, there was no sign of a young Severus Snape. Hermione had no clue if he would ever reappear, and she knew she couldn't leave the confines of this magical area near the waterfall, the hillside and the small woods, so she couldn't find him. Still, she was curious and intrigued about him…about the magic of waterfall…about the potion she took, and how it might influence her.
Oh how she wished he would appear! She needed to know why this was happening. Although the young Severus didn't seem to know why it was happening any better than she did. He didn't even seem to believe her. He didn't even seem to like her any better than the older Snape liked her. That thought gave her a heavy feeling in the middle of her chest.
She had an hour before lunch, so she decided to collect some specimens for Snape. She knew that some of the flowers and plants that he collected yesterday were ruined by her (and him) so perhaps if she found some more for him and placed them near the rocky area where she first found him working, he would appear later and at least know she had been here.
For thirty minutes she collected wildflowers and rare plants, putting them in the billow of her dress as she pulled up the hem to make a makeshift carrier. She had worn the same white dress because it was the only dress she had brought, and because for some odd reason she wanted to look pretty for him.
With the tall elm, oak and fir trees casting shadows all around her, and the only sounds coming from the waterfall and the hum of insects buzzing around her, she worked in otherwise steady silence, taking the plants for his potions to the flat rocky area where he had his cauldron the other day, then walking back toward the woods.
Reaching the wooded area for the fourth time, hands empty but dirty, sweat upon her brow, breath slightly laboured, she stopped when she thought she spied someone by one of the tall trees. Shaking her head and closing her eyes for a moment, she stepped closer and looked again, but the person she thought she saw was gone. It must have been a shadow.
She bent down, reached out a hand to pick out an especially rare plant needed in potion making when she saw the light that was on the plant flicker away, replaced by shadow. She raised her head, gasped, and fell back on her backside, holding in the cry of terror that almost rose up in her throat.
It was he. It was the young Severus Snape. He had returned.
She sat up, realizing she was staring at him, but then again, he was staring at her as well. Then to her surprise, he leaned down and snatched up the rare plant that she was about to pick a moment before. "I've been looking for this for days," he said softly.
As he spoke her fear ebbed away, and it was replaced with something else, although she wasn't sure what that was. He asked, "Why did you come back?"
"I wanted to collect the specimens that I ruined for you," she said, although that wasn't the only reason. "I didn't think I'd see you. I really should get back to camp. It's time for lunch."
"Will they miss you?" His words were quiet, but well spoken, yet he looked at the ground instead of at her face. "Because if not, I brought enough lunch that you can share mine," he looked up, "if you want."
Then without warning he reached down and took her hand and pulled her up. Keeping her hand in his, they walked toward the clearing, toward the river and waterfall.
That first day they ate lunch together but didn't talk about the potion, the waterfall's magic, why she was here, why she knew so much about him, or anything like that. Instead they ate and talked about his interest in potion making, and her interest in Muggle literature and poetry. He asked her a little about her friends and family, and she did the same.
By the time lunch was over she felt full but happy. She also felt tied up in knots, her emotions knotted and tied tightly around her, and despite the fact that it had been a good afternoon, she felt weary and slightly sad for some reason. Why wasn't the potion working the way it was supposed to work? What envious thing, or regret, was supposed to be lifted from her? She would truly like to know, and she would like to ask this young man, but she dare not ruin the tentative friendship that they had started this afternoon.
For she noticed how he studied her when she talked, his gaze spanning her face, her body, then back again. They sat so close their shoulders and arms sometimes touched, and when he would talk, she was taken aback by the deep timbre of his voice. When he talked of his passion for potion making, and then about his unhappy home life, she found her heart going out for him, and several times she wanted to reach out and touch him, but she dare not.
Severus spied her while he was hiding in the woods. She was prettier than he first thought yesterday, and he thought she was very pretty yesterday. She seemed to be collecting plants and flowers and other specimens that he had collected (and she had ruined) yesterday. That was unnecessary. Yet – that was rather nice of her. He wasn't used to people being nice to him.
From his space behind the tree he continued to watch the girl and he realized that she had to be telling the truth about the potion and how she knew him. However, that didn't mean that he was going to ask her any questions about the future. He knew how dangerous things like that could be. No, it would be better if they merely dealt with the here and now.
Nevertheless, why was she here? Was it truly to make him forget his biggest regret, or to stop feeling the deep-seated feeling of envy that he felt every day in of his life? Not just regarding the fact that Lily Evans didn't love him, but also because his home life wasn't what he wanted, he didn't have as much money as most of the other Slytherins, or the fact that even though he was smart and did well in school, most of the students made fun of him or teased him.
How could one little slip of a girl from the future do all of that?
Finally he decided to show himself to her. He asked her to stay and share his lunch. He figured she would say no, but to his surprise she said yes. He pulled her to her feet and kept her hand in his until they made their way to the area near the riverbed. Neither of them remarked on the action, although he felt odd, yet empowered by it.
They ate in silence at first, but then she started talking about her parents and her friends and her passion for Muggle literature and how much fun she was going to have at camp during the next two weeks.
Severus felt calmer and more relaxed, so he began to talk about his passion for potion making. He told her a little bit about his family… not much, just the basics, pureblood mother, no siblings, etc, etc.
He realized that she seemed to be staring at him a lot during lunch. He felt guarded and uneasy, hot and bothered. He stared at her too, but it was because he wasn't used to being this close to such a pretty girl, especially a pretty girl who seemed so intelligent. There was always Lily, but they weren't really friends any longer. Funny, that was first time he thought of Lily all day.
When they finished lunch, he rose from the ground first and found that a bit clumsily he reached down his hand just as he had earlier in the woods, and took hers to help her from the ground. It was as if he didn't give her a choice. She smiled at him as he helped her to stand. That smile was disarming. It turned his insides to jam.
He asked her if she wanted to see the top of the waterfall and she nodded. Keeping her hand in his, they started the climb up the hill toward the top of the cliff. He stayed in the front of the trail, holding her hand, her in the rear. She nearly slipped once on the wet rocks. He quickly turned and wrapped both arms around her and said, "Are you alright?"
"Yes," she said, breathlessly.
Merlin, but he wanted to kiss her right there and then, but he didn't. Turning, her hand in his once more, they continued their trek up to the top of the cliffs, and not once did he think of the fact that she was supposedly from the future. The whole world faded away from him - colourless, meaningless - because he had her near. Right now was all that mattered. Holding her hand was all that mattered. The present was all that mattered. The rest of it was empty and gone… the present was here and it was almost more than he could bear.
Finally they reached the top, and the sky was crystal blue, the sun bright, the water falling over the limestone and flat earth, falling away to nothingness. Severus took his free hand and held it up to his eyes and looked out at world before them. Was this his world or hers? Perhaps it was theirs.
She gasped, not in fear, but in awe, and she pulled her hand from his grasp to look out at the scenery before her. She said, "It's so beautiful up here. It's as if we're at the top of the world. It's as if there's nothing else but this. Nothing else matters."
He stared at her, shocked that she was thinking the same thing as him. He thought SHE was beautiful. She stepped closer to the edge of the large cliff where they stood and he automatically reached out his arm and snaked it around her waist. Standing behind her, with his warm breath upon her cheek, he said, "I was just wondering if this part of the forest, the valley, the other mountain over there, the cliff, the sky, is part of my world or yours."
She didn't answer. Looking upon her face he saw that she had closed her eyes. He wanted to kiss her, so he turned her in his arms, kept one arm around her waist, and brought his other hand up to her face to cup her cheek. With that she opened her eyes and stared at him.
"I don't know what's happening," she said softly.
"I don't either," he confessed, his fingers drifting down her cheek to her neck, only to come back up to frame her face once more.
With her arms around his neck, she admitted, "In my time I don't like you at all."
He laughed and said, "I can see that. I'm not that likeable."
"Also, I really want to know why this is happening, and how it's happening, but right now, I don't care, and that's unusual for me, too," she explained, placing her head in the crook between his throat and his chest.
He embraced her tightly, then one of his hands moved up and down her spine while they other one tangled in her hair. He felt as if he was anchoring her not only to the cliff, but also to him. The sun faded away and a steady rain started to fall. He knew they should start back down the cliff, because it would be trickier in the rain, but he didn't want to lose this moment.
"This isn't like me either," he told her, whispering right in her ear, "but I'm not sure any of that matters. Maybe that's the reason for the potion. Perhaps we aren't to question it. Perhaps we should just enjoy the time we have together."
She looked up at him, blinking away raindrops as they splattered on her eyes, cheeks and nose. He could wait no longer, so he bent his head, placed his lips on her. He thought she held her breath, and he knew she shivered just as a giant raindrop landed on his nose and dropped down to hers.
His lips met hers. There was a sweet awe when their lips first met. He brushed his lips against hers softly, then more demanding, and his hands moved, her hands moved, and he pulled her closer. Their tongues, pulses, heartbeats, and bodies met in a calamitous rhythm that was foreign to Severus, yet reverent and right.
He made a hoarse noise in the back of his throat, then moaned, trying to pull her closer, even though she was as close as a person could be without being a part of another person. Pleasure burned in every cell and ion in his body. He clutched her face, pulled away, looked at her swollen lips, her surprised eyes, and then placed his mouth back upon hers to kiss her again.
Neither noticed that the short rain shower had stopped when they finally pulled away from each other. However, they stopped kissing, smiled at the same time, and then walked in silence down the same path, now muddy and slick, back to the woods and then to the clearing near the lake and the waterfall. The entire time he held her hand and thought of nothing but that kiss.
When they reached the glade he dropped her hand. She looked up at the sky and said, "It must be almost dinner time now. I really have to go. I missed all of the afternoon lectures and activities."
"Will you come back tonight?" he asked.
She shook her head no.
He felt a terrible pang of regret deep in his chest, but then she said, "But I'll be back tomorrow, around lunch time. I'll bring the lunch this time. See you then!" Then she reached up, gave him a short and chaste kiss on his lips and she ran back toward the portal through the waterfall.
And he still felt the terrible feeling of regret and envy of her leaving. Surely this wasn't the reason she came… so he could feel terrible every time she left? Tonight he would look into the potion that both supposedly took and he would find out the purported cause and effect of the potion. He would also see if there was an antidote to the potion - just incase they needed to take it - not that he thought that they would.