Lavender, Lemon, and Firewhiskey

Chapter 3

Song: Mumford & Sons "The Cave"

watch?v=sJcvLyoAAnk&ob=av3n

It's empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you've left behind

Tonks sighed as she waited for her tea to brew; she just didn't have the concentration for cooking spells this morning, even the most simple. It had been almost three weeks since she and Severus had made love, since he had sworn to her that he loved her and she had started to let herself believe him and love him back. Almost three weeks, and she hadn't seen or heard from him since. No owl, no note slipped to her during the two Order meetings over that time, nothing. She jumped as the kettle whistled for her attention, then slammed down her mug and poured the steaming tea into it, splashing everywhere and not giving a damn. She couldn't believe she had been so weak and stupid as to trust him. He had obviously gotten what he wanted, and she was being cast aside once again. Same story, different bloke.. Suddenly the distinctive clunk of Mad-Eye's leg announced his arrival.

"Morning, Mad-Eye" she muttered, without turning "Fancy a cuppa?"

She finally turned when it became apparent that he wasn't answering. He just stood in the doorway, fixing her with such a look that she actually recoiled.

"Mad-Eye?" she whispered "What is it, what's wrong? Is it..is it Remus?"

Her legs faltered and she fell into the nearest chair.

"No" Mad-Eye grunted "Lupin's still fine, as far as I know"

"Well, what is it then?" she muttered, in no mood for his games.

"I thought I knew you, Tonks" he muttered almost sadly, clumping to the table but not sitting down "After all this time, all we've been though, I really thought I knew you"

Tonks slammed down her mug once again, gaping at the man she considered to be her best mate "What the bloody hell are you talking about?" she cried

"Snape" Severus' name rolled off his tongue like the foulest curse word. He finally sat across from her, gripping the edge of the table "Why Tonks? I know Lupin hurt you terribly, but why Snape?"

Tonks buried her face in her hands. She knew there was no point in denying things. "How?" she whispered

Mad-Eye cleared his throat, sounding almost uncomfortable. Tonks peered at him through her fingers.

"It was a few weeks ago.. I was coming down to the kitchen, and I saw him though the door. First I didn't think much of it, he's always coming and going as he bloody well pleases, and I almost went in. Then I noticed what he was cooking: Molly's French Toast? Strawberries? On a serving tray? It would take a much less observant man than myself to know what he was up to lass.."

Tonks blushed, finally removing her hands from her face and meeting his gaze. He no longer looked angry, and was regarding her with an almost sympathetic expression.

"Do you want to, erm, talk about it?"

"Are you hoping I'll say no?" she challenged, quirking an eyebrow.

"Don't be cheeky, girl. Lupin left you in my care.." He held up a hand to silence her as she started to protest. "Yes yes, I know. You think you don't need protecting. But this is war, Tonks. Everyone needs protecting. And you know I would be doing it anyway. Now, tell me what's going on. We can't have you being distracted"

Tonks started into her tea for a few long moments, not even knowing where to start or if she even wanted to. She felt Mad-Eye's hard stare on her, and knew he wasn't going to give up until she talked.

"The morning you saw him..that night was the first time" she started slowly.

Bit by bit the story came out: from that first night and how she felt when he told her he loved her and when she realized that she had feelings for him too, to the two times she'd seen him since at the meetings, when he'd barely met her eyes. She had to admit she did feel better, getting it all out like this.

"I don't know what to think, Mad-Eye" she finished softy "Does he really love me? Or did he just take what he wanted and now he's done?"

Never in a million years did she think she would be asking Mad-Eye Moody for advice on her pathetic love-life; it was laughable, really. Mad-Eye regarded her silently for a good while, until she started squirming, feeling like a moth pinned to the wall. When he finally spoke, his voice was uncharacteristically gentle.

"Do you love him, Tonks?"

She didn't even have to think before answering.

"Yes" she whispered "I don't know when or how it happened, and so much of me still loves Remus. But yes, I am in love with Severus"

Again, it felt awfully good to admit that to someone other than herself, or the occasional inanimate object.

"Well then, what are you doing to do about it?" He was once again the surly Mad-Eye she knew and loved.

"I..I don't know" she stammered truthfully.

"What do you mean you don't know?" he growled "The Nymphadora Tonks I know wouldn't be sitting here crying into her tea to an old man. She'd be facing this head-on, like the Auror she is! Have I not taught you anything, child?"

She shook her head, laughing. This was why she loved Mad-Eye: he had a way of stripping things down to the very basics, making you look past emotion and strait to logic. It was what made him such a brilliant Auror and mentor. And friend.

"You're right.. You're right! I'll talk to him, settle this whole mess once and for all"

"That's my girl" he thumped his cane loudly on the floor for emphasis "Now, what's your schedule for today, eh?"

"Well, I'll be at work until four, then I'm guarding Hogsmead from six till midnight"

She checked Remus' antique pocketwatch that he'd given her to guard. She needed to go..

Mad-Eye rose with her, Summoning her cup to the sink as she shrugged into her Auror robes and grabbed her cloak and scarf. Turning, she looked back at Mad-Eye with a smirk. Knowing what she wanted, he gave a resigned sigh and stood still as she hugged him, quickly patting her back then readjusting her scarf so that it covered her ears before rewrapping it around her neck.

"It's cold out this morning.. Stay safe" he muttered sharply, then turned her around and gave her a light shove towards the door.

She giggled and smiled at him over her shoulder, feeling better already.

"Bye Mad-Eye" she waved, as she pulled on her gloves and Apparated to work.

Tonks sat at her desk a short while later, alternating between twirling her hair around her fingers and sipping from the coffee Kingsley had just placed on the desk. She stared disbelievingly at the pile of paperwork in front of her. It was full of errors: a jumble of simple mistakes, misspelled words, and wrong dates. She knew she had been out of it for a while, but she was shocked that something like this had escaped Scrimgeour's attention. Tying her hair back into a messy knot, she got to work. She was so engrossed that when Kingsley' appeared over the half-wall in front of her desk, she thought he was merely there for their customary mid-morning coffee chat.

"Hey Kiddo" he greeted her, an amused lilt to his deep voice.

"Wotcher" she returned, not even looking up "I hope that coffee's stronger than the last one, Shacklebolt. I'm knackered already" She finally looked up when she heard his rumbling chuckle "What's funny?"

"You. It's four in the afternoon, Tonks. Have you eaten anything all day? Have you even left this desk?"

She actually had to think about that one for a minute.. "No" she admitted sheepishly "I didn't realize what a mess I've been making of things lately. How could Scrimgeour not have noticed any of this?"

She made a sweeping gesture to the parchments strewn haphazardly across her desk, of course knocking over a stack in the process.

"I've, uh, I've been sort of covering for you, Tonks"

"What?" Tonks cried, sitting up too quickly from retrieving her papers and bumping her head on the desk "Ow" she muttered "Well, I suppose I needed that"

Kingsley chuckled with her, then pulled a chair up to her desk and sat down. "I've just been looking over your work before handing it over to Scrimgeour, is all. Part of my job as a Senior Auror anyway, but..You've been though Hell lately Tonks. Just trying to help in any way I can"

Tonks reached across her desk and squeezed Kingsley's hand with her free one.

"Thanks Kingsley" she said warmly "I really appreciate it. I'm going to try to do better, I promise. This..this isn't me"

"No, it's not" he agreed frankly "So I expect to see improvement, Auror Tonks" he winked at her, then leaned forward and lowered his voice "Now, don't you have somewhere to be at six?"

"Yes, I believe you are correct, Auror Shacklebolt" she matched his teasing tone as she shuffled her papers back in to some sort of order and tossed them in to a box covered in moving Weird Sisters stickers "I have somewhere to, um, go first, an errand. So I should run"

She stood and quickly gathered her things, throwing on her cloak and tossing her scarf haphazardly around her neck.

"Wait" Kingsley held her back with a large hand on her shoulder, waving his wand with the other hand and Summoning a sandwich from the deli downstairs "Here" he handed it to her with a small smile.

"Thanks. See you" She stood on her tip-toes to peck Kingsley on the cheek then hurried off, a plan forming in her mind.

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

Tonks walked quickly from the Ministry to the Apparation point for Hogsmead, cramming her sandwich down in the process. She had just under an hour, and a lot to say.. Finally reaching Hogsmead, she scurried into an alleyway and tried to calm her nerves enough to morph. Looking around, she was glad to see there were still a few student left straggling around, reluctant to end their outing. If she hurried, she should be able to blend in fine. Squeezing her eyes shut, she felt the familiar shiver go through her body. It had been so long since she'd tried even the simplest morph; she hoped she could hold a full-body one long enough to sneak into the castle and back out again.. After a few seconds, she pulled back her cloak to look over her new form. For some reason, the first student that came to her mind was Fred Weasley's girlfriend Angelina Johnson. Smoothing her hair, she stepped out of the alleyway and made her way to Hogawarts as the tall, striking black girl. She slipped inside the castle with a small group of students, then managed to make her way down to the dungeons while everyone one else hurried to the Great Hall for dinner. Reaching Severus' office, she paused once more to gather herself, then rapped loudly on the door.

"Yes?" the familiar bored drawl he reserved for students and faculty floated through the heavy wood.

"It..it's Angelina Johnson, Sir. I was wondering if I could ask you a question about today's assignment..Sir"

"I suppose" he sighed loudly "Just make it quick"

She entered the room, closing the door behind her and casting a silent Muffliato charm. Severus didn't even look up as she entered, so she snapped her fingers to get his attention as she morphed back into herself. His head flew up, and he just gaped at her for a moment.

"Nymphadora!" he finally cried, dropping his quill with an inky splat "This..this is a surprise!"

"I'll bet" she muttered.

She was glad she kept her post by the door, as it was the only thing holding her up right now. The sight of him, sitting at his strangely ornate desk cluttered with potion ingredients and books, completely unnerved her. It also brought her feelings into stunning clarity: even after being brushed off and ignored for three weeks by this man, she was still inexplicably in love with him. She gave herself a hard mental shake; maybe it was time she talked to Kingsley about finding her a Mind Healer. Or better yet, just ask Dumbledore to Obliviatethe last seven months..

The two continue to just stare at each other for a few long moments, then Severus finally rose and came around the other side of his desk, stopping a few feet from her. She pressed her back against the door, fighting the urge to throw herself into his arms and beg him to love her. But wasn't why she was here.. Lifting her chin, she tried her best to regard him imperiously.

"It's good to see you" he said at last, his voice back to the same gentle tone he reserved just for her "You look well. I mean, you look lovely, as always"

He looked down and actually shuffled his feet, looking like a nervous third year on his first Hogsmead date. Tonks took a deep breath and figured she'd better get out what she wanted to say while she could.

"Thank you. And you could have seen me at any time, you know"

He had the grace to blush "Nymphadora.."

"No" she held up her hand "It took a great deal of nerve for me to come here, so please let me finish"

He nodded and backed up until he was leaning against his desk, his arms crossed over his chest.

Sighing, she lifted her sorry arse away from the door and started pacing his office, picking up and putting down books and such as she talked.

"I'm here because it was becoming very apparent that you weren't going to come to me. Why, I don't know. I never gave you any indication that I didn't want to see you again. If anything, just the opposite. I don't know what you think you're doing Severus, but I'm not the kind of girl that just has one-night stands and.."

"Nymphadora, I never.."

"I said to let me finish!" she shouted, slamming down a book as the tears she struggled to hide started blinding her "You told me you loved me! I trusted you, I believed you.. I let myself love you too! Was it all just a load of crap, some line to get me into bed? Not very creative really, considering you had already done that.."

She swiped at her tears impatiently, unable to look at him, and not even noticing that she'd made a round of the room and now stood a few feet away from him.

"Why did you do it, Severus?" she whispered, facing the door she longed to run out of "You knew how vulnerable I was. If you don't love me, why did you say it? I want you to tell me the truth. Now. If you don't love me, then tell me so I can move on"

She felt his hands, warm and strong, fall on her shoulders. She whirled around to face him at last. His eyes were red and full of tears, his face drawn with misery.

"Nymphadora" he moaned "This is just what I feared, that I was going to hurt you. I told you, I have no idea what I'm doing!"

Tonks gave a dry laugh, but made no move to shake off his hands "I'd say if you were just trying to play me for a fool, you knew exactly what you were doing. And you did it very well"

"No, Merlin no" he whispered, sliding his hands up to cup her face, gently wiping away her tears "I do love you, I love you so much.. Please believe me"

She lifted a trembling hand, placing it over his. "I want to believe you.. But why did you just brush me off like that?"

"I was trying to give you your space, Nymphadora. You said you were confused. I wanted to give you time to sort things out. I figured you were having a hard time trusting me, and I was right. But I see now that I went about it the wrong way, and I'm so very sorry. Please believe me.." He whispered the words as he leaned his forehead against hers.

"I want to, I really do.."

Severus lifted her face, taking a moment to stare into her eyes. He hated the doubt that clouded them, and wanted to throttle Lupin anew for putting it there. Trailing his fingers down her cheek, he took a cautious step closer to her.

"Can I hold you, please?" his voice was barely above a whisper.

She nodded almost franticly, and he pulled her tight against him with a shuddering sigh. It had been torture these last few weeks, not being able to hold her or touch her, and he vowed at that moment to never be so foolish again. She was precious, and deserved to be treated that way. He took her hair out of its loose knot, burying his face in its softness and inhaling the lavender scent that he had dreamt about. He felt her relax against him and trail her fingers lightly up and down his back. Shivering, he pulled back just enough to trace her jaw with his lips before kissing her slowly. She sighed softly, deepening the kiss and lightly licking the corners of his mouth before twining her tongue with his. Moaning, he tangled his fingers in her hair, keeping her mouth pressed against his until they were forced to come up for air a few minutes later.

"Can you stay for a bit?" he whispered huskily against her neck "I need to finish a few things, then we can go"

"Go.." she muttered, slowly coming out of her haze "What time is it?"

"Nearly six" he answered, after looking over his shoulder at his desk clock.

"Dammit!" Tonks cried, breaking free of his arms.

"What's wrong?" he reached for her again.

"I'm sorry Severus, I have to go. I'm guarding Hogsmead until midnight" She had to laugh at the hang-dog expression on his face as he drew her into his arms again.

"Midnight?" he groaned against shoulder "Please tell me you're joking"

"I'm afraid not" she peppered the side of his face with light kisses before capturing his mouth briefly "But tomorrow is Saturday.. So, meet me back at Headquarters at midnight?"

"I'll be there.."

Tonks ran quickly up the steps of Grimmauld Place, feeling lighter and happier than she had in months. She was even wearing her hair back in her favorite pink spikes. She shivered and hugged herself as she tapped her wand on the door, loosening the wards. She couldn't wait to be in Severus' arms again, and hoped he had no objection to not leaving the bed for the entire weekend.. Slipping inside, she relished the sudden warmth as she started to unwind her scarf, listening to the sounds of some sort of spirited debate between Arthur and Mundungus. Grinning, she yanked off her scarf and unbuttoned her robes, eager to find Severus and join her friends for a bit. She was just about to slip out of her cloak when the man in question came hurrying down the stairs.

"Put your cloak back on, quickly! Before they know you're here" He rushed to her side, buttoning her cloak back up as he dropped a quick kiss on her lips.

"What the devil is wrong with you?" she laughed, trying to snake her arms around his neck and draw him in for a proper kiss.

"They've been driving me bloody insane up there, Author and his constant Muggle questions and Molly cramming food down my throat at every turn..I don't know how you stand it!"

Tonks pulled back and glared up at him, hands on her hips.

"I stand 'it' because they're my friends, Severus, and lovely people to boot. They're just trying to make you feel more welcome. You could make an effort you know, especially now that we're.."

Her words were cut off by his mouth on hers as he kissed her breathless, at the same time managing to wind her scarf back around her neck.

"You're right, of course" he murmured against her neck "But for the time being, if it's all the same to them, I'm taking you away. I need to be alone with you.. Don't worry, I've already cleared it with your warden."

"Well, if Mad-Eye says it's ok.." she nuzzled his cheek, reaching behind her to pull his robes off of their hook and draping them around his shoulders "Then I'm all yours"

He groaned softly against her neck as he maneuvered them both awkwardly to the door, just as Arthur voice was heard calling.

"Snape? Tonks, is that you?"

"Hurry" he muttered, as she dissolved into a fit of giggles and stumbled after him.

"So, Mr. Mysterious" she murmured against his shoulder as they hurried towards the Apparation point "Where are we going?"

"You'll see" he breathed against her hair as he pulled her close and spun them both into the night.

Severus carefully landed them on the doorstep of very run-down looking brownstone, in a neighborhood of equally run-down looking brownstones, separated by alleyways that Mad-Eye would have warned her about. Tonks gripped her wand tightly and looked around as Severus tapped his own against the rotting front door and muttered a few words. Tonks was glad when they were finally inside..

"Where are we?" she whispered, taking in her surroundings as Severus slipped off both of their cloaks and scarves, hanging them by the door.

"Spinner's End.. My home" Severus answered quietly.

Tonks whirled around to face him.

"Your home?" she smiled softly.

"Yes" he approached her, tugging at her pink spikes with a pleading look until she changed them back to normal.

"Thank you" he whispered "You don't know how much I love your hair like this.." He kissed her gently then continued.

"Yes, this is my home. I want you to know something, Nymphadora: no one else knows this place exists except for Dumbledore, he's the Secret Keeper. And yet even he has never been inside"

He smiled and cupped her face in his hands, watching as the realization dawned in her eyes.

"But..but why are you bringing me here?"

"This is something, a part of my private life, which I want to share with you Nymphadora. There will always be secrets that I cannot tell you, out of fear for both of our safeties. And I know you understand that.. But I want to share every part of my life with you that I can, because you are my life.. I love you"

"I love you too.. You have no idea how much this means to me, that you trust me enough.."

She grabbed his hair and pulled him down, kissing him hard then releasing him before he could respond. Shaking his head, he stepped back to let her explore. He watched as she slowly strolled around the living room, running a light finger along the worn velvet upholstery of his furniture and stopping to peer out of a dim window. For the first time, he actually felt almost embarrassed about the dark, colorless world in which he lived. It needed her light; he needed her light. She turned then and gave him one of her heart-stopping impish grins.

"What..?" he asked warily.

"Nothing" she giggled "This is just all so very..you, Severus"

He almost asked what she meant by that, but then thought the better of it. Instead he simply enjoyed the view before him. As Nymphadora reached up to touch one of the many books in his collection, her grey jumper rose up a bit, giving him an enticing view of the creamy skin of her back. Unable to stand the distance between them anymore, he crossed the space in two quick strides and wrapped his arms around her tightly from behind. She hummed happily and squeezed his hand, leaning her head back on his shoulder as she continued to examine his books.

"Lots of Muggle subjects here, Severus. Russian literature, Greek philosophy.. What are you reading now?"

"'How to Seduce Beautiful Witches'.." he deadpanned.

She burst out laughing, then quickly stopped as he smoothed her hair back and started brushing light kisses up and down her neck. Her breath quickened and she reached up to caress his face, then tangled her fingers in his hair.

"Well, I have to say its working" she laughed breathlessly, turning in his arms and kissing him deeply. "Take me to bed" she breathed in his ear as they parted, brushing her lips across his jaw.

Wordlessly he tightened his arms around her, then spun them both upstairs. Tonks gasped as he set her down lightly and she got her first look at his bedroom. It was large and sparsely furnished, the space dominated by a black marble fireplace and a massive antique bed. But what took her breath away were the dozen floating candles that lit up the room, illuminating the bottle of wine, two crystal goblets, and a bowl of strawberries that sat on scattered rose petals in front of the fireplace.

"Oh!" she whispered, touched by this sweet attempt at romance. "So was this in your book, then?" she teased lightly, turning and wrapping her arms back around him.

"No" he murmured seriously, brushing her hair back and softly kissing her forehead. "I know I've been an idiot, and I wanted to make it up to you. Do you like it?"

"I love it.. But I do have one question"

"What's that, love?"

She stood on tiptoe so she could whisper seductively in his ear: "Can you recast the Cooling Charm?"

She grinned as she heard him draw a sharp breath and felt his body respond to her words.

"I think that can be arranged"

Severus flicked his wand quickly towards the fireplace and muttered the charm, then tossed it onto the nightstand and picked Nymphadora up, carrying her to the bed. He set her on down lightly on it, then knelt in front of her and pulled off her heavy Auror boots, pausing to shake his head at her pink and lime-green stripped socks, then pulled those off as well.

"You have a problem with my choice of footwear, Professor?" she asked lightly above him, tickling his sides with her toes.

"Not at all. They're very..sexy"

For some reason, the sound of that word coming out of Severus' mouth, in his refined voice, struck her as extremely funny. Before she could stop, she collapsed back onto the bed in a fit of giggles. She heard Severus sigh and sit back heavily on the floor, but that only made her laugh harder.

"It's a very good thing that I love you.." he muttered dryly, taking off his own shoes and socks and joining her on the bed.

"That it is" she whispered, pulling him on top of her and into a long, slow kiss.

He moaned slowly, brushing her tongue with his own as his hands drifted over her breasts and to her waist. He unbuckled her jeans and slid them off of her as she started unbuttoning his shirt. He was sliding his hands and lips over her legs, moving towards the hem of her jumper, when he felt her shiver and her skin erupt in goosebumps.

"Are you cold, darling?" he whispered against her flat stomach.

"A little" she admitted, shivering again.

"I'm sorry!" he pulled away at once, adjusting them both so that they were lying under the shelter of the thick covers. "Better?"

She nodded and wordlessly pulled him back to her, kissing him hungrily. They made quick work of the rest of their clothing, and then he was finally free to show her just how much he had missed her.

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

"You're so beautiful in the firelight" Severus whispered, reaching over to stroke Nymphadora's cheek.

She smiled lovingly at him and leaned over to give him a strawberry-and-wine flavored kiss in response. They were curled up in front of the fireplace, enjoying the remnants of his romance picnic.

"Well" murmured, feeding him another strawberry half "If you weren't forgiven before, you most certainly are now. This has all been so lovely. I..I still can't believe you trust me enough already to bring me here. It means the world to me, truly, Severus"

He set aside their glasses and the strawberry bowl, then pulled her in his arms and shifted them so they were lying down facing each other. Brushing her hair back, he gave her a lingering kiss before answering.

"Of course I trust you, Nymphadora. All these years, you've never given me any reason not to. And you've already given me so much, just by loving me and letting me love you and be with you like this. I feel like this is such an insubstantial repayment.."

She cut him off with a small finger over his lips, which he promptly kissed.

"Love isn't about 'repayment', Severus. Yes, there is give and take in any relationship, but not like that. You've shown me a beautiful gesture, but it was nothing I was waiting in expectation of. I hope you didn't do this just because you thought I was expecting something?"

"No, of course not" he shook his head "I brought you here because this was something I wanted to share with you because I love you, nothing else. Alright?"

"Ok" she smiled ruefully "We have to work on this trust thing.."

"It'll come in time, I'm sure" he murmured, rolling onto his back and easing her head against his chest "We've both been hurt very badly by someone we loved and trusted"

He stroked her hair as she slipped her hand under his shirt, wrapping her arms around his waist shifting until she was lying on top of him, her head tucked under his chin. They laid that way in silence for some time, just watching the flames dance in the fireplace and listening to the peaceful sounds of each other's breathing.

"What did Lily do?" Tonks finally whispered.

She felt Severus stiffen instantly under her, but she felt like this was something she needed to know, something that would begin to give her a clue about the bitterness he still held inside. Rolling back onto her side, she propped herself up on one elbow, running her fingers though his hair as she waited for his answer. He finally spoke slowly, not meeting her eyes, as if he were embarrassed about something.

"It wasn't her fault, really. I never should have said what I did.."

Tonks nuzzled his cheek, silently urging him to continue.

"The events that lead up to it.. Your cousin, Lupin, Potter's father.. It was no excuse though. She was trying to defend me, and I called her..a Mudblood. I begged for her forgiveness, but she would never give in. It was the last time we ever spoke. She started seeing Potter not long after, then a few years later, they were both dead"

Not knowing what to say, Tonks simply lay back down, pulling him to her and smoothing a hand over his back as he buried his face in her neck. She understood now, could fully imagine the guilt over the rash words, and the regret of never making amends. She could only hope that her love could somehow begin to heal some of his scars. And that she would never be forced to add any new ones..

"I'm so sorry" she whispered, kissing the top of his head "That must have been very painful"

"It is something I will always regret" He lifted his head suddenly, his black eyes boring into hers "Do you understand now, why I was so afraid of hurting you? If I lost you as well, the same way.."

"You won't" she protested.

Her voice was as strong and sure as ever, but the slight uncertainty in her eyes did not go undetected. He sighed, leaning his head down until their foreheads touched and kissing the tip of her nose.

"I know what you're going to say" she whispered, lifting her head till their lips met and kissing him gently "And I wish I could make that promise.."

"But..?"

"But" she sighed "How can I predict how I'm going to feel when he comes back? Please try to understand, Severus. I spent the last three years of my life loving only him and thinking that somehow we were going to find a way to be happy together. And then he left.. And as much as I love you, those are feelings I can't just turn off in an instant"

He was silent for a few long moments, just staring into her eyes and running his hands softly up and down her body. She leaned into his touch, praying she hadn't just made a bloody mess of things..

"I understand" he said finally.

"You do?" her voice quivered with relief.

"Of course I do, Nymphadora. I know it's not fair of me to ask so much of you right now, that's why I haven't. But I do thank you for being honest with me. I want this to work, I want this to work so badly.. So I'm willing to take things as they come. I would rather have you for as long as possible than not at all"

"Thank you" she whispered, squeezing the breath out of him "And I'm so sorry.."

"Shh.." he breathed, kissing her long and slow as he hands resumed their light stroking of her skin.

And there were no more confessions that night.

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck