What I Am
A few months into the occupation of Hogwarts, Snape had begun to have a sneaking suspicion that he was being followed.
A cautious man by nature, he began watching his steps even more than usual.
On the seventh day of his vigilance, he saw a most peculiar thing as he prepared himself to head down for supper – a great black spider that had concealed itself on his wall for the better part of the day disappeared, and a slinky black cat appeared in the hallway as he walked. There was only one person he knew who had the skills to follow him like that.
He knocked, hoping beyond hope he would not receive an answer, and yet wishing that he would.
'Elizabeth?' The portrait eyed him warily as he stood awaiting no answer. 'Elizabeth, it is I, Severus Snape, who found you all those years ago in the library. Are you there?'
The portrait cocked her ringlet'ed head. 'The other portraits've said some 'orrible things about you, Master Snape. I only 'ope for 'er sake they're none of them true.'
And with that, the portrait swung open to reveal a pale, thinner, older-looking Elizabeth.
'Severus?' she asked quietly, not moving from her place on the worn rug. 'Is that… is that really you?'
Rushing forwards, he held her tight to his chest. 'Elizabeth, I thought… everyone thought that… after you disappeared from the Weasleys'...'
'I've been right here,' she laughed, and broke down into a torrent of tears.
They stood like that for innumerable minutes, and Severus had to fight the urge to not release tears of his own. Once her tears had slowed and she had stopped to breathe, he asked, 'How long have you been in here? At Hogwarts?'
'About six months,' she sniffed, shaking.
'Alone? And what about the Weasleys? I thought you were to stay with them? And your betrothed?'
'The portraits keep me company.' She smiled through her tears. 'How are you? Did… How did you know I was here?'
He smirked. 'I've been followed by a rather persistent spider the last little while, and I thought it unnatural that that would occur. Especially when spiders do not tend to live very long here, with Mrs Norris slinking around everywhere.'
She laughed again, and clung tight to his robes once more.
'Severus, I missed you so.'
'Why are you here, Elizabeth?' he asked, trying, and failing, to be impassive. 'Do you not know how dangerous your position is? If the Dark Lord had found you… one of the Carrows, or even a Slytherin student, had stumbled upon your room… do you know what - ?'
'Well, he didn't, did he? Nor have any of his little henchmen been down here. I do believe out of all the staff, only you and Albus ever really knew where my private quarters were. They're quite well hidden. Not even the Ministers for Magic over the years have ever known, in the event that they compromised my safety. He trusted you so explicitly, Sev.' His breath caught in his throat and the silence grew thick before she continued softly, 'I'm here because if I had stayed with the Weasleys, or anyone else for that matter, they wouldn't've been safe. I wouldn't've felt safe. And besides, I like to stay close to…' Her voice trailed off, and she looked up into his black eyes. For a moment, he feared he saw something more than a daughter's love, more than a child's devotion. '… to you.' Her words were spoken in a whisper, but in the empty room they echoed off the walls and resonated straight to his heart. 'Severus, I…'
'Elizabeth, please,' he muttered, so unlike him. 'You're… you are…' She did not let him continue, however, for she planted a kiss directly on his still moving lips. She was not aggressive, but he could not break the embrace. '…betrothed.'
They stood nose to nose as she explained sadly, 'I broke it off. The last time I saw him. I realized I couldn't marry him, I...' She swallowed. 'I'm in love with another man.' Eyes still glittering, she murmured, 'I'm in love with you, Severus.' He stood stock still, wondering how; why. 'It's ok,' she continued hastily. 'It's ok if you don't… you know… but I just… I had to tell you, Severus.'
'Elizabeth,' he replied softly. 'You realize I am more than ten years your senior. I… and what I am.'
'You are the man who risks everything for the good of others, and who is never appreciated for the things that he does. You're the man who saved my life so many times over the last two decades I can barely recall all of them. The man I love, the man I would die for. That's what you are, Severus. That is what you are, and never, ever forget it.'
They stood in silence for a long moment, black eyes boring into indigo.
'Severus,' she whispered, tilting her head back.And he kissed her.