“Little love, little love -“
His mate wasn’t fond of the morning, preferring to sleep for as long as she could, while cuddled against his side.
Severus chuckled as he kissed her cheek, and she squirmed, making a low chirring noise. She dove deeper beneath the covers, only a handful of her curls visible still.
His mother had always warned him of the fairies that lived in the woods as if they were hideous and cruel, the kind of creature that would snatch him away in the night. As a newborn, he slept in an iron crib, and the blanket where his grandmother had embroidered his name was hidden in the cupboard, until he was a toddler, and wouldn’t be replaced by a changeling.
“Never let them know your name,” Eileen had told him, holding his tiny hands in hers. “Fairies can do a great many things with your name, sweetheart, and none of them good.” she’d weighed her words carefully, knowing how many burdens her son carried on his thin frame already. “Nor should you ever play with them, Severus. Fae play by rules that are never truly understood.”
“Even by our kind?” he asked, raising his brow.
Eileen shook her head. “Even Merlin himself was tricked by the Fae.”
She’d tickled him after, asking if he thought he was better than Merlin. Every witch and wizard knew their powers were little in comparison to the founder of their line, even Salazar and Rowena respecting the man. Severus respected Merlin too, cherishing a small statue of him that he hid in his room. It was one his father never knew about, nor his annotated potions journal, he hid with it.
When it came to his father, Severus tried to listen to his mother. The forest that lay outside the northern windows was never as appealing as when his father was in his cups, and his raging screams filled the hallways. Severus buried himself inside his rooms, knowing nothing would change their circumstances.
When he was fourteen, his father passed, and he spent three blissful years with his mother. They were pitied by the village, and as poor as church mice, yet they were happier than they’d ever been before. He heard the call of the forest still, yet ignored it until -
His mother had taken chill and passed in the same bed where his father had. At seventeen, Severus was able to inherit Spinner's End and found the grim manor had been paid off completely. He owned it and the surrounding forest and could be as poor or as prosperous as he wished. Donning his onyx robes, Severus threw himself into making potions for the village, the apothecary paying him well for his creations.
And it was in the forest - his forest - he found his love.
Severus had been hunting for gloomysnap mushrooms, ones that were key to several of his potions, yet made for a volatile ingredient. They bloomed only in the thickest of underbrush, emitting a faint blue glow at night when they were ripe. To his delight, he found the mushrooms grew well in the forest, and he had a basket full of them when he heard a pitiful sound.
He scowled, wondering if someone had abandoned kneazle kittens on his land again. Weeks before he had found several, and spent hours attempting to coax the feral kittens to him, even crawling on his stomach beneath rotted roots to find them all. The church had been grateful to have all eight of them, as the nuns were troubled with rats in the cellar, and a plethora of gnomes stealing from their vegetable garden.
As he’d followed the sound, he’d found more than a handful of kneazles -
He found her.
She’d been curled on the ground, shivering as she clutched her knees close to her. She emitted a sound like he’d never heard before, a sorrowful warble that made him spread his furred cloak over her nude form, before gathering her close to him. Her curls spilled around her face as if they were a glorious mane. She was prettier than any girl he'd seen before, with her wide eyes and parted lips, though he wanted to cry at the sounds she made.
“Shush, lioness,” he’d murmured, feeling as her curls tickled his skin.
Without asking himself why, he’d taken her home, leaving the mushrooms behind.
Had anyone trusted him before?
As a child, he’d been denied the opportunity to have an animal, any spare pocket money they had going to his father’s habit. Severus had caught a tawny owl once after it'd fallen from a tree and cried pitifully. He’d healed its wing and wanted to keep it, yet knew he had nothing to feed it. And so, he’d decided to let it go, though he swore he heard its bold call still, at night when he slept in his bed.
Friends had been impossible for him to make, as he stayed at home, keeping his mother company and learned magic from her. They practiced out of sight from his father, often times practicing wandless spells in the overrun garden, where his father never thought to look for them. Severus's wand was one he had crafted himself; a crude piece of wood that he treasured still, as it felt right in his hand.
As the girl wrapped her arms around his neck and held herself close to him, he felt something stutter in his chest.
He found himself soothing her as he lowered her into the bath, having run tepid water in it. Gently he washed the dirt from her, running his hands across her legs before he called for a washcloth and rubbed the mud from her face. He was careful to explain what he was doing, as he felt her tremble beneath his touch.
And as he turned to wash her back, it was then that he discovered who she was -
What she was -
“Fae,” he whispered, seeing the crimson, oozing wounds from where her wings had been ripped from her. He swallowed tautly at the sight and heard as she chirred at his silence as if she could sense his fear. Perhaps she could, he thought, as he knew some creatures were able to scent changing pheromones.
He forced himself to relax, as he carefully washed her back.
He had never heard of a Fae being cast away from their court before, though he knew, perhaps more than another how cruel living beings could be. He promised her that he would return before he left for his room, where he grabbed healing salves and ointments that would soothe her tender skin.
He hadn’t considered, not even for a moment, to take his wand with him.
And when he returned, he found that she hadn’t moved, as if she’d understood his intentions to return. She trilled when she saw him, a curious sound, that was far better than the melancholy wailing she’d made before.
“What am I to do with you?” Severus murmured, his lips upturning as she blew bubbles towards him.
Strangely, he found her more human than Fae.
After the first night, when he allowed her to sleep in his bed, and he laid on top of the covers beside her, he’d woken in the morning to find her gone. He’d called his wand to him and cast a tracking spell, wisps of green pointing him to the kitchen.
He scurried quickly to the kitchen and found her there; dressed in only his white shirt, and her brunette curls hung down around her face. She was -
His brow quirked, as he watched her busy through the room as if she’d always been there. She squeaked when she turned and saw him there, clutching a dish towel to her.
“I won’t hurt you,” Severus assured her, holding his hands up to her. “Eggs and bacon?” he asked, seeing past her shoulder to where she had a pan on the stove. Tentatively the Fae nodded, and he saw a hesitant smile on her lips.
He found the breakfast was the best he’d ever had.
“Oh, no -“ Severus protested, the first time she’d tried to follow him into the bath. “No, little lioness -“
His cheeks had flushed brightly, and he'd shooed her away with his hand. She’d chirred in protest, and when he shut the bathroom door between them, he heard her knocking on the other side.
‘Who taught her that?’ he wondered, and wished, not for the first time since finding her, that he knew more about the Fae. He’d combed through the manor’s pitiful library, and found only a book of fairytales, one of the stories about Thumbelina.
It had helped him little, and he’d written Luna Lovegood, a respected caretaker of creatures. Her work was said to be extraordinary, her knowledge of fantastic creatures unmatched by any other, aside from her husband, Rolf, who shared her passion. His owl to her had resulted only in a letter delivered by a friendly, pudgy owl that said the Lovegood’s were currently searching for the Chupacabra, and their return date was unknown.
Severus had hesitated at leaving the girl - well, Fae creature - as he knew there was another caretaker, a supposed half-giant who lived several towns away. He doubted he could travel with the creature, at least not without countless questions being asked, and decided against it. He would have to do his own research, the same as he had when developing a cure for Dragon’s Pox (the cure leaving its patients with a permanent penchant for sneezing when around dust or freshly made cheese, but restored their lifespan to a normal expectation for magic users).
“I’ll have to help you myself then," Severus had decided while stroking his fingers against her curls, and the nape of her neck. He found that she liked to curl in his lap, the same as if she were a cat (at least, from what he'd read about the felines). She often rested her head against his shoulder, while curling her thin frame in his lap, and he found himself able to read comfortably, even with her there.
She read his books in turn, carefully turning the pages, and her eyes examining the facts and figures as if she understood. Severus knew she was an intelligent creature, perhaps as intelligent as he was - certainly she was inquisitive, and knew how to keep herself occupied, without getting hurt. He watched her with his dark eyes and found that she watched him in turn, her caramel-colored eyes the warmest he'd ever known.
Her favorite place quickly became a chair in the library, where she curled near the fire, with her feet tucked beneath her and her nose buried in a book. He'd quickly found that her mind was ever going, as she scribbled notes on several subjects. He wasn't able to understand her notes, though he understood the pictures that accompanied them; her drawings of herbs and symbols exact.
At first, he’d dissuaded her from accompanying him to the cellar while he brewed, preferring his own company, until he found her asleep in his storeroom, with all of his ingredient vials labeled in her gorgeous, fluent script with pictures accompanying them. He traced the written words, as if he knew Fae, before smirking at the thought that she had bested him.
He’d slowly begun to teach her afterward, allowing her to prepare ingredients while he brewed, and found that she was eager to follow his instructions. She’d begun to communicate through a series of chirps and trills, though they primarily relied on hand symbols. They were quickly becoming attuned to each other, his little mate handing him the exact ingredients he needed.
When had he begun to think of her that way?
Perhaps it was the day when she’d scrawled her name in the dirt, using the end of a stick. He’d thought she would like the sunshine, not wanting to keep her inside like a bird inside a cage. He’d gathered herbs from the garden’s edge before coming back to her side, where he’d been astonished at the sight.
He blinked, his head swiveling from her to the letters in the dirt.
“Is this your name? Hermione?” he asked, his voice low.
He knew to have a Fae’s name was to own them - one was able to do anything if they knew a Fae's name, the same as a Fae was if they knew a mortal’s name. He interlaced his shaking fingers, his heart hurting inside his chest at the thought of owning her.
In the weeks she’d spent at the manor, he felt little inclination to see her leave. She still shook when they came close to the forest, though she insisted on accompanying him when he went foraging (amazingly, he’d found the basket of mushrooms he’d collected before, the night he’d found her). He had told her once, that she was free to leave if she wished, and she’d ignored him for half the day as if insulted that he'd brought it up.
At night, she shared his bed still, somehow having never left.
He had made up his childhood room for her but hadn’t asked her to sleep in it. Severus slept on top of his covers still, while Hermione slept beneath, but often found her arm slung over him, or their hands interlaced, in the morning. It was comforting to have another near him, though he was hesitant to ask himself if it would have felt the same, had she been anyone else.
“Severus,” he told her, his name light on his lips. “My name is Severus.”
She’d rubbed her freckled cheek against his, and he’d -
He’d never felt happier, than at that moment.
They were never far from the other’s company.
It seemed they couldn’t be close enough, as Severus soon slipped beneath the covers, and held her small body against his. They both shared a love for reading, tomes piled high on their nightstands, while she’d begun helping him fulfill his potion orders.
It was nothing like his mother’s relationship with his father, Severus found, as joy reigned between them. There were few spats between them, the worst occurring when she borrowed his wand and changed their rooms to a wealth of forest green and deep reds with accents of golden tapestries and a crackling fire in the hearth. Severus had burst into tears at the sight, and she'd fled from the room, leaving his wand behind.
He’d found her later, hidden away in the attic, and had apologized to her. “You made everything seem so real," he told her, and she'd studied him as if she didn't quite understand what he meant. "As if…as if this truly is a home,” he confessed. “For us.”
There was a quiet warmth, one that flickered between them like the newly rising sun. Severus ordered clothing for her to wear, hanging her dark robes beside his. They were trimmed in ermine, and he charmed them as he charmed his own clothes; making sure to ward them from ill intentions, as well as adding warming and cooling charms.
She seemed to prefer his shirts still, frequently wearing them instead of her robes as if she wanted to share everything with him.
When he kissed her for the first time, with his hand curled beneath her chin and his head lowered to hers, she'd squeaked in surprise. It'd made him fumble his kiss - he'd kissed her cheek and brushed the bridge of her nose with his lips before he'd turned his head away.
“I-I’m sorry, Hermione,” he apologized, his cheeks flaming bright.
Why had he done that?
She’d trilled in response, standing on the tips of her toes and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. He went still at the motion, unsure of her intentions, and she’d -
She'd kissed him sweetly and chastely on the lips before she’d nuzzled her nose against his. The movement made him chuckle, and he held her against him; sweeping her around in a circle, while he snogged her soundly. She tasted like honey and roses in bloom to him, a taste that he never wanted to forget.
She was more than a fairy to own, more than a creature to be studied -
She was Hermione, just Hermione, to him.
“Sweet one,” he’d said, and she’d chirred brightly.
He showed her the village where he sent his potions, ones that filled the apothecary, and he made a commission from. He cared little for galleons but was glad he'd thought to tuck some away in his pocket, as he bought her a green and silver scarf, and a buttered roll she nibbled on. He delighted in her wonder, as they strolled through the village; his little one trilling at window displays, and clapped her hands in wonder at a faux, metal dragon; one that roared and blew furious, sparking flames.
She made friends with a boy whose hair was colored the same as fire embers, and another, who wore thick, eye spectacles. She laughed when he let her try them, her eyes magnified behind them. And when the sun began to set, and the shops shut their doors, Severus took her by the hand and guided her home.
The dense underbrush of the forest was the thickest around the wards, any passing villager dissuaded from trailing through the brambles and wild bushes. The underbrush faded as they approached, the wards easily parting for them, and the manor came into view. He’d never been glad to see the manor before, with its stone front and sharp, gothic peaks. He knew every view from its obscured windows, and the path he’d worn between them. It’d been his prison, his punishment, for many years then.
And yet -
He saw it Spinner’s End as it had once been, as it’d greeted the warm sunrise and beloved sunset. It'd been home to his mother's love, as she'd delighted to raise him there before the shadow of his father fell upon them. Every room had been filled with the pealing sound of laughter, and he’d taken his first, wobbly steps in the carpeted halls. He had no dreams of leaving then, he’d never thought he’d be begging, as a man, to escape.
He loved his home, his prison, Spinner’s End.
He wanted to show Hermione how birds roosted near her bedroom and were tame enough to stroke their downy breasts, and the curve of their sharp beaks. They were the same as when he'd been a boy, providing him company that he'd reveled in, at the time; saving meager bits from his dinners to feed them.
He wanted to show her, too, how the gardens always had hidden blooms, and how the eldest weeping willow had a curve in its base, one meant to sit against and read a favored book. He wanted to show her everything -
Everything and more, if she wanted to stay.
He knew that he’d asked her if she wanted to leave, once before, and she’d been angered by the question. Yet he knew too, that she could have changed her mind, and swallowed the bile that rose in his throat.
He wasn’t her keeper, her owner.
The very thought made him sneer, and Hermione cocked her head, her gaze sharpening as she studied him. “Nothing is wrong," he assured her, though the words weighed on his tongue. She bristled as if she knew he was lying -
“I just…” he hesitated, before trying again.
“Are you happy here?”
He grazed his knuckles against her cheek and watched as her color heightened. She fluttered her eyelashes, looking at him from beneath them, and slowly signed to him.
‘This is my home, here…with you.’
She stretched up on the tips of her toes, just reaching his shoulder, as he tipped his head down to her. She made a chirping noise, and he smiled at the musical notes that she made. And then -
She kissed his cheek, chastely, but lighting a fire in him all the same.
She would stay.
He was brought from his thoughts, by a small hand on his forearm, and a curious trill.
“I’m here,” Severus murmured, pressing a chaste kiss to her temple.
He felt her smile and chuckled as she licked his smooth jawline. “I know, I know,” he found that she fretted when his attention turned from her, often nipping at his lips, or tugging at his hair when he lost himself in thought.
She’d told him, through tentative signs and crude drawings, of being outcast from the Fae court, after the throne had been usurped by a rival Fae. He was sick, Hermione told him, sick in the mind yet others had supported him and chased his opposers from the court.
She hadn't been fast enough, and they'd ripped her wings from her, ones that would never regrow. She would have died if Severus hadn’t found her, the ointments that he applied daily still, allowing her body to heal. She wouldn’t be able to fly again, no, but she would be well, and able to move as she should.
He was the only one she had, just as she was the only one, he’d allowed in.
“I won’t leave you,” he told her, his voice serious then as if he knew what she feared. “I promise, Hermione.”
His eyes fluttered closed as he felt her fingers trace his cheek before she drew him closer to her. She was everything he wanted, the cloying scent of roses and parchment paper a comfort to him.
‘I’m here for you too,’ she signed, tracing the words against his skin. ‘Always.’