When he first saw her, he knew what it must feel like to be stabbed in the chest. The frantic suck of air. The raw and desperate pain where the knife slides in. He saw her and he felt it all.
Jane was lying there in the infirmary, unconscious, as calm and silent as the grave, her head bandaged in white linen. Her body looked fairly uninjured, but her head…her face was a mask of bruises, and her bottom lip was cut badly.
Her bottom lip…one of his favorite parts of her. He had nibbled and chewed it countless times as they made love, kissed and sucked it as his mouth moved against hers.
Snape walked towards her slowly, unaware that he was even moving, and loomed over her as she lay there. He was not a heavy man, but as he lowered himself into the chair next to her, anyone looking at him would have thought a force more inexorable than gravity itself was pulling him down.
Reflexively, almost out of habit, he withdrew his wand slowly from his robes. Then, he merely held it in his hand, knowing that for the most part, this time, it was completely useless.
For injuries to simple skin and muscle and bone were easy to repair. That was mechanics. But injuries to the brain…the seat of all magic, of all consciousness, of all humanity…well no doctor, no healer, Muggle or Wizard, could splice that delicate chain once it fractured. Healing a cursed hand was child’s play next to healing an injured brain.
At once Snape saw her in his mind, saw her nerveless form lying forever unconscious in St. Mungo’s, down the hall from where Neville Longbottom’s senseless parents still lay.
Snape sat there, his expression of hopeless anguish almost tangible as his eyes never moved from Jane’s face. He sat that way, staring at her, for a very long time.
But then, after awhile, that expression seemed to mutate somehow, seemed to harden into something cold and determined, and his hand began to tighten on his wand. One would not want that look of cold determination fixed upon them, ever. That look had death in it. Death and destruction.
For at that moment, Severus Snape made a vow. He vowed then that he would kill Bellatrix, vowed he would kill her for what she had done to the Longbottoms. In fact, he vowed he would kill them all, all the Death Eaters, every last one, who had escaped justice. He would hunt them all down, and they would die. Bellatrix would die first. Then Malfoy. Then the rest. And then, maybe at last death would even come for Severus Snape. Why not? He found himself glad of the prospect.
Because he realized he could not live in a world where Bellatrix Black Lestrange walked and talked and plotted and smugly believed that she had gotten away with it, gotten away with it all, and all the while Jane lay immobile, unknowing, unthinking.
The only thing to be done was murder every last Death Eater in existence, murder every single witch or wizard who had devoted their sorry lives to degrading and killing people like Jane. Snape steeled himself for the oncoming storm, a bloody torrent of annihilation he would unleash the very moment he left her side.
But first he would take her hand, just one more time.
So Severus Snape took her hand. Soft and warm in his, as always. But limp and without movement.
He put it to his mouth, then, and kissed it, not realizing he had begun to cry, not realizing that he was taking both her hands in his, now, needing to touch her just once more, even if her mind, such as it was, was far far away.
He murmured something, over and over as he wept, beginning to rock back and forth a bit now, as he continued to kiss her lifeless hands and press them to his face. But only Jane would have heard what he was murmuring. Even Snape himself did not know.
Severus Snape knew not how long he sat there, mourning both for her and for himself. He was beside himself, beyond himself and beyond salvation. It was without a doubt the worst moment in a life that had been filled with worst moments. A moment from which Snape knew he would not, could not ever recover.
But then, oddly enough, a very strange thing happened.
Jane’s hands moved, almost imperceptibly at first, but then they pulled themselves from his. And then, after a few moments of sleepy murmuring, Jane Flintrammel herself opened her eyes, and looked at Severus Snape, looked quite curiously at the anguished, shocked visage of her erstwhile lover, torn from his brutal regret to find himself face to face with the very woman he was mourning, suddenly (and quite perplexingly) alive and whole.
The woman cocked her head a bit to the side, baffled. And then, she spoke.
“Severus,” she began, her voice thick with drowsiness, “what on earth are you on about?"
Well, you might be surprised to know that the shock was almost too much for him. Snape sat back, then, slowly, tears still streaming down his face, and simply stared at her, his mouth agape. He made a sharp choking noise, a noise of utter shock and disbelief, and after that there was a long silence. During this silence Severus Snape stared rather stupidly, pondering the possibility that he was dreaming, that some fervent hope had somehow been made manifest. Then he thought perhaps some miracle had occurred, though of course he didn’t really believe in such things.
And all the while the woman was looking at him, confused, heavy-eyed, waiting for him to explain himself.
One would have thought that Snape would have embraced her then, and thanked whatever lucky stars he had that Jane was returned to him. And any other man in the world would have. But Severus Snape was not any other man. He was never one to count his blessings. (And perhaps he should not be blamed for that, as having so few of them he had not had much practice at it.)
When he spoke at last, believe it or not he was absolutely furious with her.
“You have ruined my life, do you know that?” he said, his voice barely a whisper, as the shock on his face transformed into anger.
“Utterly ruined it!” he repeated, but louder this time.
Jane, of course, was completely flummoxed. She pulled herself up, furrowing her brow, apparently quite mystified.
“Oh!” she said. “I’m quite sorry about that. I certainly didn’t intend to.”
Snape’s hands balled themselves into fists on his lap, and his voice now grew louder.
“What right do you have, when all I wanted was to be left alone?”
Jane blinked at him again, looking at him in wonder. “You’re crying!” she said, with no little astonishment.
At this Snape stood, savagely wiping the tears from his face with his palms. Then he pointed at her accusingly.
“Who in the bloody hell do you think you are?” he roared.
These last words were a cry of rage and torment, of some injured animal that had only wanted to retreat to its den to die, but was instead dragged unceremoniously back into the light of day to be healed, all unwilling.
“Do you know what you have done, Jane?” he yelled. “Do you know?”
Jane innocently shook her head.
“I didn’t sign the bloody contract for months because of you! And now it’s too late!”
At this, Jane crossed her arms primly over her chest. “Well I don’t see how you can blame me for that. I certainly didn’t ask you not to sign it, most especially since I didn’t even know about it, if you recall,” she said.
Then her nose rose in the air. “And if Princilla’s so important to you, maybe you two lovebirds can patch things up,” she added, “or go find some other rich Slytherin to marry. I’m sure your dance card will be quite full.”
Snape’s next noise was an inarticulate cry of frustration, followed by a stream of curses.
“Though I suggest you stop bellowing like a wounded walrus,” Jane told him. “It’s not every woman that can endure your peculiar brand of charm.”
This was the last straw. Snape moved swiftly to hang over her, furiously grabbing the metal arms of the hospital bed.
Despite herself, Jane flinched, and turned her head.
“How on earth am I supposed to marry her, or anyone else for that matter, when you’ve put me in a position where I have no choice but to marry you!” he shouted.
Then, he continued to loom, breathing heavily, fixing her with a piercing, furious stare.
And Jane did look at him then, as her mouth fell open.
“Princilla Gash is indescribably rich, do you know that?” he yelled, right into her face.
But Jane did not flinch. Would never flinch again at anything Severus Snape said or did. And when she spoke, her eyes were shining.
“Yes,” she breathed, “yes, I do.”
Snape collapsed again into the chair by her bed, then, and put his hands to his face.
“My position as Head of House…my place in Slytherin…” he said, his words a whisper of utter defeat. “Damn you, Jane…God damn you…”
But Jane Flintrammel leaned forward now, and looking at Severus Snape with tender pity, gently took his hands in hers, kissing each one slowly and in turn.
“Darling,” she said softly, her voice breaking, “oh, my darling…”
And Severus Snape, who had never been anyone’s darling, even his mother’s, looked into her eyes, and at last saw the truth of it there, that she was his, his always. He would have seen it before, if only he had tried.
His Jane. His forever. His beloved, beloved Jane.
And at that moment he thought that his love for her would crack him in two, that every cell in his body, and every thought in his mind and every hope and every dream he had ever abandoned would burst with love for her, and kill him right then and there. Because what he felt was stronger than anything he had ever experienced. Stronger than hate. Stronger than sadness. Stronger than life itself.
And that scared him to death.
But over and around the terror of that love (a terror that never did leave him, to be honest), suddenly washed an unutterable joy, as hard and sharp and beautiful as stars, swallowing them both together until all he heard was darling, darling, and all he felt was the haven of her arms.