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The Conference by Melvacaea [Reviews - 3]

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Another one of those annoying transition chapters, rather like a summary of one of the tribulations that Severus and Mara have to face. Sorry.

But you'll love the next ones, I promise. Believe me, they're long. They used to be one looooooong chapter.
****
Chapter Thirty-Two: Hell on Earth

Mara was cooking in his kitchen someone Flooed in and startled the woman from her spot. Her wand was in her hand before she collected her thoughts and gazed at Poppy.

"Poppy! What is it?"

She looked solemn and sad. A pain reached Mara's heart and her stomach lurched at the thought of someone being hurt. Severus or Remus or Hermione or perhaps one of the couples that was here, taking comfort in the Gryffindor tower.

"It's Albus."

She didn't need another word as she Flooed to the Infirmary, an icy chill settling over her heart. Albus lay on one of the beds, looking his years, the twinkle fading from his eyes. Harry was sitting alone next to him, hands in his head.

"Mara," he wheezed.

"Albus," she choked out and Harry looked up at her, tears in his green eyes. "What happened?"

"Old age happened," he said softly, with less tribulation than before.

"No." The refusal was firm and a spark of determination entered her eyes.

"I do believe that I've gained yet another nurse."

****

It was hell on earth. Albus would float in and out of consciousness, his heartbeat would weaken and speed up irregularly, and no one knew what would happen if he died. Minerva would become Headmistress, naturally, and if Trelawney declined the post, Severus would become Deputy Headmaster. But without Albus' spark of life, it would appear as if nothing had any meaning. Severus watched his fiancee slave over him, lose her life, become tired and snappish, and the Hellcat (as her ferociously angry side had been humorously dubbed) was showing itself more and more often. Her food intake decreased and her joy of life decreased with it. He tried to talk, yell, and whisper sense into her, but she was more stubborn that he ever was. His attempts at seduction fell flat. Poppy was doing almost the same thing, if it was possible. It seemed as if the wedding would be called off.

When both Healer and helper collapsed in the middle of the infirmary from exhaustion, Severus took over, cancelling his classes (to the secret joy of the students) excepting his N.E.W.T class. He watched over both of them tenderly, as well as Albus. But Albus was again strong, stubborn like Mara. He helped Severus in every manner. It was Poppy who came back to them first and received a gentle reprimand from both her friends. She helped them with Mara, who appeared to be on the brink of death.

Her hair hung in limp strands around a pale face and there were bags underneath her eyes. The beautiful, wise eyes that were now closed to the world. Severus didn't work himself to death like Mara had done, nor couldn't with Poppy watching his every move, but he came close. His heart ached for Mara and he lost his usual sarcastic edge. The students, contrary to what people might think, were worried. They may not like him (the more naive ones didn't care, though) but they didn't want him to die on them.

"Please don't leave me..." he whispered to her the night of the 13th. "Please don't tell me that the hottest love has the coldest end... please."

It was December 14th, the next day, that it happened. Severus was standing outside the closed off section that held his fiancee, tears in his eyes and desperation in his heart, when he heard it. Raspy, insistent, wheezy...

"If somebody doesn't wash my hair this instant, there'll be hell to pay."

And for the first time in days, Severus laughed.

****

"Look, damn it, I'm fine! I promise I will not work myself like that again -- you have to do the same thing, Poppy -- stop looking at me like that, stop poking me with those damned needles, I'm perfectly fine!" she snapped at them on the 21st. "I'd like to go to my wedding with a semblance of beauty and not full of holes and pinpricks!"

Severus' spirits lifted and he looked down at the vastly annoyed woman. He asked Poppy and the Lupins to leave and he caressed her hair, once again voluminous and vibrant, like her eyes.

"It's like Sartre said," she told him dryly as she stood up. "Hell is other people."

He chuckled at her, swept her up into his arms, and took her to his dungeons.
****
Author's Note:
"The hottest love has the coldest end" is a quote from Socrates.

The "hell is other people" line is from existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre's "No Exit".

Hope you enjoyed! Read, review, you know the drill!
-Mel

The Conference by Melvacaea [Reviews - 3]

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