(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
(Highlight to View) Prompt: "Like the Eucharist reflected in sacred wine, his soul was a study in the beauty of opacity and sacrifice." Such was Hermione's thoughts as she headed out for their weekly conjugal visit at Azkaban (SS/HG).
Note: I didn't mean for this to have zero dialog, but it felt right to leave all that out once I got to the bottom of the story. Thus, it becomes a bit of a character study. I hope that's okay.
Summary: "Like the Eucharist reflected in sacred wine, his soul was a study in the beauty of opacity and sacrifice."
It was always with meticulous precision that Hermione Granger-Snape packed her beaded handbag for her monthly visit to Azkaban. She made a list of all the essentials, which included a camping tent and a whole slew of books; made a second list of the non-essentials, such as a phonosphere for playing music, a gobstones set, and several puzzle games; and made a third list of to-do actions. One of those was to scratch off each item as she carefully placed them in her handbag, stowing them in exact order for quick and easy retrieval.
The morning of was always a flurry of activity, doing and then marking off those things on her list for the day, including moisturizing her skin with the special sandalwood and orange blossom lotion that he had created just for her and which she still made to his exacting standards every three weeks and picking some of her husband's favourite flowers from the garden. None of them were what most witches would call pretty, but their potions properties gave them an inner beauty all the same, just like him.
At precisely ten of the clock, beaded bag in hand, she walked out the front door, past the wards, and apparated away to the Ministry. She walked through the Atrium over to the visitors' entrance, presented her wand for registration, was told where to go to get to the DMLE even though she had been coming here once a month for six years now. The members of the Auror corps barely glanced in her direction as she stepped off the lift of their floor and through their main doors, bypassing the receptionist with just a nod of her head, and walked straight to the Azkaban portkey station. She signed the register with slow, even strokes, her name quite legible in the ledger, before accepting the dirty tin can--an old, rusting thing with its paper label torn off in strips and dented on three sides--as her portkey. She found it fitting that old, useless junk was always used in the making of portkeys, as if the magic needed something substantial and down-to-earth, something with a past, a history, held by people and infused with time and place, in order to work. It made her think of the Holy Grail, a simple clay or wooden chalice that had been owned by God himself, if the Christians were to be believed; its significance was imbued with magic and mystery but in the end was still just a cup to hold water or wine. Or blood.
Or a horcrux. She shuddered at that bit, remembering Helga Hufflepuff's cup that she had destroyed, its evil oozing without and within, screaming at her that a Mudblood wasn't worthy to hold such a Wizarding object such as itself, much less that she could have the strength to kill such a priceless, magical artifact.
But as her body was pulled through a pinhole, her mind offered up another option.
As she walked over to the registrar on this end of the trip, she thought about that horrible night of the final battle, how Severus had poured out his memories and Harry had taken them up in the bottle she'd transfigured. A cup would have worked, too, she thought, but it would have been harder to stopper. Stoppering death, he had said in their first class. Very apt, that. She smiled, thinking of all the potions he'd had on his person, many of which had saved his worthless--or so she had thought at the time--hide: anti venin, blood coagulate, blood replenisher, poison remover, dittany. She was glad she had found them, glad he hadn't hidden them under a locking charm. She shivered at the memory, of how close he had come to dying, of how much they had all hated him at that moment and wouldn't have minded much if he had died, though she had wanted him to suffer, to face trial, and to spend the rest of his miserable life in prison. The truthful irony was revealed but scant hours later and Harry had hailed him a hero. It was a horrible tragedy that he'd ended up here in Azkaban after all.
As the guards walked her down to the conjugal suites, she reflected on Severus' life to date. It had never been glamorous or pretty. He had been laughed at by his peers as a child and teenager, had wallowed in solitude for his young adulthood, and had been scorned by literally thousands of children whom he had served in his tenure as professor. But that could have been said about anyone, and much of it he had brought upon himself--after all, he could have been nicer to his students and revered for being a good teacher instead of a bad one. No, what made Severus stand out from the crowd was the sacrifices he'd made for the good of the public, little that they had known it at the time: years of spying and risking his life, years of scraping by at a job he hated, not having the time for his true joy of potions research, years of taking curses both verbal and magical, years being denied of love.
She couldn't help it. She had come to admire him in the months after the war, working with Harry and the lawyers on his defence as they peered through pensieve memories and journal entries in order to build his case. They had all been ecstatic at his acquittal and the celebration party had lasted all night. She had also sat with him through his recovery, and once he was free from the Ministry, she had helped him to set up a new life, with a quaint little cottage in Avebury and a full research facility down the street. They had worked well together, and she had come to admire him more and more each day.
It was no surprise that they had a textbook romance. Gratitude for each other's service, close proximity, and equal footing and intelligence laid the foundations for friendship and witty banter, and every day they talked more about their lives, both the difficulties of the past and the hopes for the future, sharing experiences, healing wounds, building intimacy. It was an average day in research--they had paused to consider the latest test results, analysing interactions and revising hypotheses--when Severus simply leant in and kissed her. She had been surprised, but not overly so, and smiled at him as she recovered and went back to recording their findings. After that they held hands and kissed, went on dates, sat before the fire for hours reclining with a decent glass of elf-made wine. Ron was baffled; Harry was happy. They announced their engagement three months later and married a year and a day after that first kiss. Not bad for a start. But then life had tested their resolve and happiness, tempering theirs souls in further fire.
She stepped into the second suite on the left and thanked the guards. They would return in a moment with Severus, she knew, so she immediately starting removing items from her beaded bag. The tent was spelled to set up on its own, since she had relinquished her wand at the guard station, and this was easier than performing wandless magic. She shook her head at the enclosure within an enclosure and thought how fitting it was, so much like Severus himself. The cell, although equipped and decorated for conjugal visits with some semblance of comfort, was made with cold and unyielding stone. That was like his outer personality, the temperamental teacher, the hard taskmaster. The tent was like his protective layer, seemingly ugly and uninteresting, yet strong, durable, firm. And then, once you gained entrance, the inside was warm and comfortable, private, beautiful in a rugged sort of way. Home.
She unloaded the other contents of the bag--books, food, clothes, etc--and then opened a bottle of wine and poured them each a glass. She picked the glasses up and examined their contents, thinking again about the idea of cups and what they could hold. In Tarot readings, the Cups dealt with family and money and wealth, gaining and losing it, pouring in and pouring out. Much of his life had been spent with empty cups, and she was determined, even here and now, over the last six years of his incarceration, and all the long years to come, to fill his goblets as much as possible with love, compassion, and forgiveness.
The guards soon came back, escorting Severus. She was waiting outside the tent for him, holding their glasses of wine, smiling at seeing him again. It pained her heart to have to meet him like this every month, that theirs was not to be a marriage of continuous together moments, sharing each and every small event, but instead would be a series of weekend getaways. The weeks away from him served to intensify their time together here, and their couplings in these visitation rooms were like mini-vacations for both of them, and she was determined to enjoy and be happy for their time together, as Muggle Britain did not allow conjugal visits. But deep down she was still saddened by how everything had turned out.
It had been necessary, of course, to take down those horrible criminals who had dared to hurt children. Severus had been forced to use Dark magic to track them down since even the Aurors could not find them and everyone was running out of options. Many had objected to his methods, but he hadn't cared. Muggleborn children all over Great Britain were thrashing in pain and having hallucinations from the drug those fiends had developed, and the only way to track the poison to its creators was to perform a bloodletting ritual.
Unfortunately, the bloodletting had to be performed on the children and, although Severus had obtained permission from their parents, the press had gotten wind of his activities and had run a smear campaign against him. Even after the criminals had been caught and convicted and the children healed, the media was still shouting for his arrest. New laws against Dark magic put into place after the war were more harsh than previously seen and any infraction was punishable with a life-time sentence in Azkaban. It was a zero-tolerance policy, strictly enforced. They both knew that going in, but it was still the right thing to do. Once again, he was called upon to sacrifice everything, including their marriage, for the good of the world; to be broken and poured out like the Christian Eucharist for everyone else to partake of the feast of freedom, and these monthly visits were his only reward.
As they embraced, she vowed once again to show him what the world would not: love, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. For the next forty-eight hours all would be joyful between them, down to the tiniest detail that she could control. A perfect moment in time in which to worship him.