To have loved, and lost (was Missed Chances)

BY : professorflo
Category: Harry Potter > Het - Male/Female > Snape/Hermione
Dragon prints: 2840
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of the characters within. I make no money from this story.

A casual observer may well believe the house was empty. Of course, to any passing muggle it would seem derelict, even if they were perceptive enough to give it a slightest bit of notice. A witch or wizard, or any other magical being, however, would see an old mill worker's house, small and narrow, but up until very recently, well-kept and neat.

The flowers in the few pots that stood either side of the front door and under the windows were dry and in need of a little care otherwise they would be dead before long. If anyone had cared to make their way around the back to peer into the garden they would have seen meticulously set out rows of herbs and ingredients, now beginning to be threatened with being overrun and choked by faster growing weeds. It was as though the house had been inhabited, cared for until a few weeks previous, whereupon the owners had suddenly vanished, leaving the house and garden to their own devices.

To further the impression of emptiness, there were no lights on, no fire, despite the freezing, dark winter's evening. The house was cold, the only illumination coming from the flickering bulb in the lamppost across the road. A fine layer of dust covered the comfortable, though simple furnishings. The air was still and musky with the scent of disuse. Yet, for all that the house seemed abandoned, there was still life inside.

One of the armchairs that sat in front of the fire was inhabited. Around it lay the evidence of long occupation, empty bottles, dirty dishes, a few scattered tomes, none of them volumes you might find on the shelves of Flourish and Blotts. There was the remains of at least one shattered glass, thrown in anger, or perhaps grief. It was hard for the figure that sat there to tell the two apart, they'd gone hand in hand for him for so many years.

He'd barely left the chair for days, even sleeping there, only leaving the room to use the bathroom; not the shower, although he desperately needed one. He'd sat and brooded for hours in silence, occasionally jumping up to pace round the room in a fury, only to slump back down when he burned out once more. He refused to cry. It had been a long time since he'd done so, and had made no difference then. That had been over a woman too, although a different one than was the root of the problem this time.

The air of neglect that hung around the house was not the same that it had been 10 years previous. Then the furniture had been shabby and worn, the carpets threadbare. The house had been rarely cleaned since he'd spent most of his time at Hogwarts. The gloomy oppression had been alleviated somewhat with the refurbishment, although it had never fully left. There were far too many bad memories in the house for that, not all of them decades old.

The redecoration had been all her idea, of course. He couldn't have cared less whether the furniture and manky carpets stayed or went, as long as he didn't have to fork out for it, and he'd told her so when she asked for permission. The only things he'd told her to leave alone were his books and bookshelves, and his lab under the stairs. She'd never been allowed down there anyway, and the only thing she would have ever considered doing with the bookshelves would have been to add more.

So she'd thrown away anything she'd not been able to transfigure, and bought the rest, in what he'd recognised as a vain attempt to make herself feel less miserable in this house. That most, if not all, of her unhappiness had been his fault was not a fact that was lost on him. He'd driven her away, she'd only stayed as long as she had because of that damn Ministry law, although she'd been all too eager to marry him in the first place.

The seat opposite his, where she'd usually sat alone in the evenings, had born the worst of his anger. He'd slashed the material, broken the wooden frame so many times over the past few days, but always, once his anger at her desertion had abated, he would repair it once more. Why, he did not know. His hope that she would return to him was yet another futile wish that this house had watched wither and die. It seemed to collect such things; unhappy memories and destroyed hopes and dreams.

He had dreamed once, of a girl so beautiful and bright, so utterly different from the darkness that had always lurked in his childhood home. He had hoped for so many years to win her love, only to have his worst enemy steal her from him. His wish then, had been to protect her, and when he had failed at that, to protect her son. At least in this he had succeeded, although the victory would always be bittersweet for him. He'd cared nothing for the boy, only for her. He had survived his own death through foresight and skill in the craft he had always been so talented at, and later been found innocent of his crimes, this second time with the help of the boy.

And then the Ministry, in its wisdom, had decided that the population had been so affected by the second wizarding war, that they quickly and quietly introduced and passed a marriage law. Due to his longstanding friendship with someone in the know, he had learned a few months beforehand about the new law. When he realised that he himself would be required to find a bride, he had known at once who it would be. Not because he felt anything for her, but because he was enough of a bastard not to care whether she was happy or not. He'd been completely selfish in his choice, assuming that someone as young and as inexperienced at life as she would be easier to manipulate, especially as it was not all that long since he had held authority over her as her teacher.

The fact that their marriage would horrify Potter and his redhead sidekick had filled him with glee. If only they had known the dirty little fantasies she had concocted about her potions professor during lessons. It had been far too easy to slip into her mind in idle moments to watch her imaginings, and despite the fact that she was clearly inexperienced, he had often had to hide behind the desk until the students left and jerk off quickly between lessons. It had been one of the highlights of his week, as between the Dark Lord and Dumbledore, the rest of his life had been pretty miserable. Of course he hadn't been a complete hermit, occasionally sweet talking some of the Dark Lord's followers, or wives into bed when he was in the mood. He'd only bothered to satisfy them if he thought them worth a repeat visit.

Of course, they were nothing like her, young, sweet and pure, despite all the horrors she'd been though. After his role as a spy had been made public he'd been a hero, collecting his Order of Merlin even as he planned how to use it best for his own advantage. He'd enjoyed a few of the women that had thrown themselves at him then, usually the married ones as they were less likely to want more or to go spreading tales. As soon as the marriage law had come into effect he'd not touched anyone besides her, he was too focused on getting her, and didn't want her hearing rumours about his flings with other women.

Up until then he'd kept her at arm's length, not wanting to actually take her to bed as he knew she would be one of those women who wanted more, but at the same time he hadn't wanted anyone else to have her. So he'd struck up a sort of friendship with her, occasionally flirting and carefully keeping her interested. He'd purposefully begun courting her before the news of the law came out so that she would believe him sincere. It hadn't taken much for her to believe herself in love with him, and he'd shamelessly encouraged her with no regard for her feelings.

She'd been his only choice, far better than the worn out hags that pursued him, and judging by her so he'd wooed her furiously. Her innocence only meant that she would have few expectations of him, and he hadn't cared less about taking it from her in such a selfish act. The world had treated him badly for years, and now he was only getting what he deserved. He would have the darling of the wizarding world, one of the golden trio and a hero in her own right as his wife, and he would laugh in the faces of all those who, over the years, had called him names, treated him like dirt, and only thought the worst of him.

In hindsight, he now realised that even then he had already started to feel something for her, although he had dismissed it as just wanting to deny anyone else the pleasure of plucking her. As soon as they'd married he'd changed, no longer the solicitous and caring friend – then fiancée. He'd been so careful not to show her who he truly was until then, that his 'performance' during his time as potions master was actually nothing of the sort. He was a bastard, mean and selfish, and didn't really care, as long as he got what he wanted.

And then it had all gone wrong. When exactly he had missed his chance for happiness he wasn't quite sure, although he was fairly certain he wouldn't be getting another. Perhaps it had been the day they had married. His cruel response to her declaration of love that evening hadn't been the first and certainly not the last foul thing he had done or said to her, although it was the first since he had decided to court and win her.

It had soured every moment of their marriage afterwards. She had never said anything outright, yet she'd never been a pushover. In all other aspects of her life she excelled, in her job, at keeping his home and everything else. She'd argued with him when she felt it was needed, over money, over work around the house that needed doing, but she'd never again mentioned feelings, or expected anything from him on that score, not even when she did her duty in his bed. But in every look or word she gave him he could see her anguish and hopelessness at her situation. She was skilled enough at hiding it, but he'd long been an expert at reading between the lines.

The Ministry, under pressure from a large number of witches and wizards who were unhappy in their marriages, had eventually repealed the Act a few years later, and agreed to dissolve any union upon application. It was only then, when she had brought the form to him to sign, that he had realised his mistake. He had taken her for granted. What he had believed to be familiarity and habit he now realised were actually some stronger emotion, something that he dare not look too closely at, in case he didn't like it.

So he'd not taken the chance to ask her to stay, and had said nothing to keep her from going. She had taken the completed papers with her, giving him one last sad look and opening her mouth for a moment as if she wanted to say something, but hadn't. He'd realised later that afternoon that she'd already emptied her room, taking nothing else from their shared life together. She'd made their home comfortable, but other than that he'd not let her leave her mark anywhere in the house. The books, the old pictures on the walls, the few items that stood on the mantelpiece were all his. He'd sat on the bed to take a moment to look around the room he had barely stepped foot in since they'd married and heard a crack beneath him.

Pulling the item out from beneath the blankets he'd found the one personal item she'd left behind, though whether by accident or design he didn't know. It was a framed photo, the glass now creaked clear across. Their wedding day. She'd looked up at him with a smile as he bent down to kiss her. The couple then had turned to the camera, his bride grinning with happiness, while he'd smirked nastily when she couldn't see.

Why she'd kept and framed such a photo he didn't know, although he could understand why she wouldn't have wanted to take such a reminder with her when she left. It now stood on the mantelpiece where he could see it in his own misery. Perhaps they were the same in that it had reminded her of what she couldn't have, as much as it presently did for him.

He'd realised then, as he'd looked down at that photo for the first time since their wedding, that the strange emotion he'd not wanted to examine was love. He, Severus Snape, was in love with the wife that he'd ignored and mistreated for years. But she had already had him fill out the papers, and could be filing them at the Ministry at any time. Once their marriage had dissolved she would probably never want to see him again. In a flash he decided to go after her, beg her for one last chance before she completed the divorce.

He would prove to her that he could be the husband she had longed for. He would prove how much he loved her. He should have realised how he felt earlier, and taken the chance to treat her better. It surely wouldn't have taken much to have won her over. The occasional bunch of flowers and some chocolates, all women loved those sorts of romantic gestures. She was probably so starved of affection that it wouldn't take more than that. Maybe he could be a little less selfish in bed as well. He'd try anything, as long as it got her back where he wanted her.

But he'd just been leaving the house when he had felt his wedding ring burn and slip off his finger. She must had gone straight to the Ministry from his house for it to have gone through so quickly. He'd picked up the platinum band before retreating back inside, and not left the house since. The only reason he'd eaten anything was that for some reason Minerva had started sending a house elf with food. How she knew to do so, he didn't know, as she hadn't been in to see him. There had been one or two bangs on the door at some point, he remembered, but he'd not even got up to look to see who it was, and they'd just gone away each time. The wards he'd set on the house were fairly impenetrable, unless you were as skilled as he in the Dark Arts.

He knew, on some level at least, that he would have to stop wallowing and get on with it at some point. His potions business, while profitable, would not run itself, and there were at least a few contracts that he'd already missed the deadlines for. It was far from the professional standards he was usually strict to maintain.

But for now, he wasn't ready to stop moping and sober up. The entirety of the past few years seemed to be paying over and over in his mind, like a pensieve stuck on repeat with no way out. He'd tried and failed to think of a way to win her back, but nothing seemed to him to be enough. He'd tried apologising once before, to his first love, but she'd refused to speak to him again, all over a single word. How much more would he have to do for a couple of years of neglect and abuse? Perhaps it wasn't possible.

He reached for the last bottle that lay by his feet and opened it. Taking a long swig he grimaced as it burned his throat going down. Maybe once he had nothing left to drink it he would decide what to do next. But for now, the best he could hope for was to find oblivion at the bottom of his bottle and try for just a short time, to forget her.

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