Disclaimer:- I neither own nor earn anything from this story. Harry Potter and his world are the intellectual property of JK Rowling and associates.
A/N:- This will not be a long story, and it is pretty much all written. Please bear with me in the first chapter as I set the scene. As stated in the summary, Snape is alive contrary to what you read in this first chapter. I will also only be dealing with the relationship between Hermione and Severus, even though there are mentions of other relationships, this if wholly a Severus and Hermione fic. Having said all that, I hope you enjoy…
Chapter one – Near enough is not good enough
Standing at the great gates of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the austere witch in the black robes paused. Her wild curly mane was pulled back into a messy bun which sported two eagle feather quills she'd forgotten about. It all suddenly coalesced in her mind where she was about to go, she hadn't been back into that office since the day of the final battle almost twenty years ago.
Britain's Premier Potions mistress was here because Minerva McGonagall had sent her a mysterious and urgent sounding summons for afternoon tea, and even though Hermione had no idea what the headmistress of Hogwarts could want, she had left work early to attend because the missive had sounded so pressing. She sighed; there were definite perks to being the boss of the department, even if she did hate the job.
However, now she was looking at the huge stone facade of Hogwarts though, it all seemed a little daunting. She steeled her nerve; Hermione Granger was certain she could do this… after all she had been attending parent teacher interviews here for four years. Nothing had happened those times, right? Really, nothing had happened since that awful last year of school, so it must have been her imagination? The fact that she'd always asked Minerva to come to her, for afternoon teas and what not, was not noticeable, was it? Could it be that the astute old witch noticed, and this was why she had issued this invitation? Did someone finally know? How could they?
You see, there was something that she had guarded closely all these years. Hermione lived with a secret, an enigma even, from the period of the three months before the end of the war, and including her last year at Hogwarts. It had been a tumultuous time, and she had never allowed herself to share with anyone her feelings about that time.
She shivered for a number of different reasons as she stood, still gazing up at the castle. There were many things she recollected, but mostly she remembered the whispers in the night, an unmistakable voice, or stirring from sleep with his name falling from her lips in sheer soul twisting need. She had known she'd been dreaming; she had to be, it was just not possible. So many times, waking after dreaming he was just beyond her around the next corner, yet when she got there finding just another corner.
She'd never told anyone… How could you tell someone you had fallen in love with a ghost? Well that was not strictly true, she had fallen in love with him well and truly before that, but that year stuck in her mind, as she had spent much time pondering what had been going on. Could it have merely been an echo, or a memory of the wizard perhaps?
Many strange things happened after that final battle, and she had never once caught sight of him. Finally, when she couldn't fathom it, Sir Nicholas was the only one she'd confided in, one lonely winter's night during her wanderings when she couldn't sleep, and he had been sympathetic, but had told her that the person she was seeking wasn't there, well not as a ghost anyway.
The worst thing that year had been Potions class. Hermione knew she needed to take it if she wanted to be a Potions mistress, but to say the least, the classes were soul destroyingly boring, mediocre and mundane. She'd hated that it wasn't him, hated that no one censured her, questioned, or fought with her. She'd detested every minute of it.
The then young Gryffindor witch had loathed the constant stream of vacuous praise Potions professor, Horace Slughorn had heaped on her. She had longed to hear his, acidic tongue bringing her back to reality. In fact, she would have happily listened to his longed for voice, berate and belittle her efforts all day just to have him back. Then she reflected on the fact that for the last three months before the war, even that had changed as well. It was so unfair, he should still be here.
Delving further into her thoughts and biting her lip, with her hand on the huge iron gates, Hermione felt herself being sucked back into the pain again. During the last stages of the war against Voldemort, she had been captured and taken to Malfoy Manor. In the absence of Voldemort, her kidnappers had left at the mercy of Bellatrix Lestrange.
Hermione hadn't realised Harry had been caught as well, and she leant later that Snape had gone after him first, delivering him to The Burrow once rescued. Harry had told her afterwards, what their professor had done.
"He stunned four full grown Death Eaters, before any of them had time to reach for their wands. Then he used Legilimency to get the information he needed to find you," Harry had said in awe. "He was like a man possessed, and then he did something to each of their minds before we left." Her friend had shrugged to indicate that he didn't know what the professor had done before telling her, "I don't know what," and he'd gone silent watching Hermione fighting not to cry.
Present day Hermione shivered, recalling the acute agony of being a guest of Bellatrix Lestrange. She had only just been partly conscious when Snape had stormed into the Manor, but she could still picture the scowl that had been affixed to his face and his voluminous robes snapping as he strode into the room.
Even in her half unconscious state, Hermione had seen the look of surprise on the twisted witch's face as he'd thundered in and started throwing hexes at her. He'd spoken to her in his most acidic tones. "I always said if this particular witch was captured she would be mine, and yet I find you playing with my prize." Bellatrix was so surprised she just sat where she'd landed, her dagger hanging in her hand, still dripping its gore.
The insane Death Eater had already done significant damage, but Hermione still remembered that brutal rescue to this day, it played out in her mind yet again as if in a dream-like state. He'd grabbed her roughly by the arm. "I get to finish you Mudblood," he had asserted, and then turned stone-cold eyes to Bellatrix. She was already waiting for the show. "In private," he hissed, and had dragged Hermione mercilessly to the Apparition barrier. Being the current Hogwarts headmaster, he had then apparated them both into his office.
Even if she was partly unconscious, the next part Hermione Granger will remember until the day she dies. Initially, she had been so confused and hurt by what he'd said and done. He'd always been a cold and callous man but she'd never doubted him—not for a moment—well until this moment, and the way he was acting devastated her. Now, she was expecting to be violated in even more vile and sadistic ways, and by a wizard she'd trusted.
What she hadn't been prepared for however, were his silent tears splashing down on her as he gently swept her into his arms and carried her to his quarters to start healing her. "Shhh, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," he'd murmured when she'd finally been unable to hold back her tears at the pain and humiliation. "You're safe now, go to sleep, little one," he encouraged softly.
Realising in that instant that it had been an act to save her and she was indeed safe, Hermione had lost consciousness.
Snape kept her secreted in the headmaster's chambers while she convalesced, and Hermione had understood why. News would have travelled fast among the Death Eater's inner-circle of his exploits to possess her; he couldn't let her go until they'd won.
Over the next three month Hermione Granger had found out that almost everything about the taciturn man was an act. She was surprised by his gentleness, and the care he took tending her injuries in the weeks that followed her rescue. He dressed the wounds that still required care, washed her and fed her when she was too weak to do it herself, and on occasion his resonant voice had even read to her.
In amongst everything that was going on she became his newest project, and she suspected, the one positive thing that kept him sane while the rest of the wizarding world went to hell in a hand-basket. She was his little secret, his unknown leverage over the rest of them.
Once she was strong enough, they started conversing, really talking. He appeared just as starved of decent conversation with sane people as she was. They discussed Potions, Arithmancy, Literature, Art, Music, literally anything and everything. Hermione discovered that he played the violin, and like everything he did, he did it well. She had the great joy of accompanying him on the piano. The Gryffindor witch hoped she'd made a difference to his unpleasant and stressful existence.
He never let his guard slip again like the night he'd rescued her. In fact, she reasoned he most likely thought she hadn't been conscious enough to even take it in. She was happy however, when some of the worry lines around his eyes would soften after they had conversed for a while, or played one of the pieces they loved, especially the Paganini Cantabile (1) that was their favourite.
However, more often than not he had be so exhausted that he would fall asleep in the chair that he had collapsed in after only a short time. In those instances, Hermione had always levitated him to his bed, and covered him with a warm blanket. They never spoke of it in the morning, but there was something in his expression that somehow conveyed his thanks.
Finally on the last day, when she was to be reunited with Harry and Ron, she'd thanked him sincerely for what he'd done for her, and asked him to be careful. Consoling herself with the fact that maybe when today was finished they could be friends. He promised that he would be on his guard, but he had been struck down by that hideous snake anyway. The day of the final battle she had lost the only mind she'd ever met that communicated with hers perfectly.
They had never even touched more than the platonic acts of helping one another, or the brush of finger tips over a book, but she had longed to hug him before he left that day, and wished he had have let his guard down just once more.
Once Hermione found out what had happened during the course of the battle, she snuck into the Shrieking Shack against Harry's advice, but she had to see, and if nothing else, say her goodbye to him. What she found startled her; there had been copious amounts of blood to be certain, but there had been no body, and no drag marks or footprints out of the gore.
It still made her cry. Not the gut clenching howling sobs she'd allowed herself on the floor of the shack, post battle. No, she managed to contain that sort of emotion now, but there wasn't a day that passed when her soul did not weep quietly for him, internally where no one could see it.
Coming back from her thoughts, Hermione scolded herself and made her feet start walking up the drive. Recollections of Severus Snape always turned into thoughts even more maudlin. Her failed marriage, she still cringed on the inside when she thought of her ex-husband.
It had only taken a short time for Hermione to realise what a monumental mistake she'd made taking that step. Among many small spats, their first big argument had been about children. "I want children as soon as we get married," Ron had announced to her the day after she'd graduated from Hogwarts. "Now you've finished wasting your time at Hogwarts, we can settle down." He'd kept talking, oblivious to the growing anger on her face.
"Wasting my time," she'd finally shrieked. "Ron," she had countered in sheer exasperation when he'd looked shocked at her outburst. "It's important to me to finish my education and I will not become pregnant and ruin that," she had returned.
"But you have finished," Ron said snarkily. "I don't know why you bothered anyway; Kingsley gave us all the jobs we wanted."
"I don't think that was right, and no, I haven't finished my education. My parents always planned that I would go to University," she was right in his face now. "And I'm going to as well."
Unfortunately this is where Molly had waded into their private, but loud discussion and had quickly quashed Hermione's argument. "Oh no dear, you can't do that, think about poor Ron, he's waited patiently for you for over a year now."
That was it, she realised, it was always 'poor Ron', she'd never really thought about it before she'd agreed to marry him, but this coupled with Molly's 'good basic Wizarding values' conspired to make her life a nightmare. Molly Weasley's preoccupation with her son's well being was a constant thorn in Hermione's already pickled side, and she had very quickly realised she was never going to win.
Hermione knew Ron had never really been content with her going back to finish her seventh year when Hogwarts had reopened, but it was the right thing to do, and she had won that round. Now however, Hermione knew if she wanted to marry him and go to University, she'd have to give some ground.
After all she did love him, didn't she? There was always that niggle of doubt there, but what other option did she have? She had to stop pining for a dead man—who would very likely have been horrified to know how she felt anyway—and join the land of the living… right?
So, with her stomach rolling mutinously, and still sceptical about the impending union, but determined not to be left behind, even when her father was still trying to talk her out of the marriage as he was escorting her up the aisle. Hermione Granger had buckled under and married Ronald Weasley.
Hermione's parents had set up a University fund for her when she was born and she'd started attending the Wizarding branch of Cambridge just before her marriage. She didn't see Ron much during this time. She started her years at Uni writing to him every day, he rarely wrote back, and visited even less.
However, one evening, during the fourth year of her course, Ron had turned up unexpectedly with Harry and Ginny in tow. Hermione was in the midst of researching her major project, they were in the initial test stages, and she hadn't welcomed them turning up unannounced. Unfortunately she soon found herself felling into old practices, Ron had pouted and she'd given in, abandoning her lab for drinks at the local pub, and in the process ruining a month's work.
That's when it had happened. She had been so busy she hadn't been taking her Contraceptive Potion. After all, what was the point of taking a potion when you weren't having sex?
Another thing she'd done, she realised, was conveniently forgotten she was married, and it came as a nasty shock now to see who she was encumbered to. Alarm bells rang in her head, and she instantly wanted to forget it again. During the time she had been away from Ron they had grown further apart, and she had finished growing up.
All of these realisations hit her in the space of an hour. Looking at Harry and Ginny and seeing how happy they were, noting all the little touches and caresses they shared and the evident care and respect they had for one another. They already had two children, and Molly was beside herself with happiness. James had been born about six months after Hermione and Ron's wedding, and Albus just last year.
Hermione watched how Harry saw to Ginny's needs, held her chair out for her, made sure she had a drink etc, the list went on. She compared this with the time she was spending with her husband. After ruining her project without a word of understanding or apology, he had proceeded to spend spent the rest of the evening pouting because she wouldn't go to the loos with him and have sex. "Ron, I'm twenty three, and I'm not a trollop," she'd snapped irritatedly. That was all he seemed to think marriage was for.
Finally in desperation to get some peace and quiet—and maybe get back to her lab—she had decided to take him back to her room. However, the now drunken Ron had had other ideas and as soon as they were outside, he roughly manhandled her into the alley beside the pub. Without thinking she gave in and let him have her up against the wall in the hope that afterwards he would just go away and leave her alone.
It lasted all of three minutes. Her loving husband rutted with her like a prize buck, and once he'd come, he had promptly thrown up on her. Hermione was disgusted, she cleaned herself off, told him she wanted a divorce, and apparated away feeling violated and dirty. She'd had to eat her words six weeks later, when she discovered she was pregnant.
Hearing shouting, Hermione looked at the auburn-headed teenager and then to the brown head of curls of her younger brother as they ran towards her down the drive, and then she recalled her utter despair at her daughter Rose's conception.
Her little girl had been one, when it was then finally discovered that poor Ron hadn't been able to keep his fly shut either, and somehow this had been Hermione's fault well. She'd sat there incredulous that particular Sunday just before dinner at The Burrow, when Molly had instantly pronounced after Ron's infidelity had been splashed across the front page of the Daily Prophet. "All your problems will magically disappear if you just stop sulking over that silly university, and treated your husband and master with the respect he deserves."
It had taken both Ginny and Harry to restrain her so she wouldn't leap over the table and throttle the self-righteous grin off Ron's cheating face. Hermione managed to wandlessly show the smug bastard and his mother what kind of respect he deserved though, and she hexed the wayward son-of-a-bitch, six ways into next year, and told her meddling mother-in-law, exactly where she could stick her idea of the perfect wizarding marriage.
Hermione had then taken her clapping and laughing daughter from her high-chair and apparated them straight to her parents. The Gryffindor witch had refused to eat her words again exactly one week after this when she'd found out Hugo was on the way. She'd been caught like before, and it would be her luck that she'd given in to his harassing just to get it over with.
She wasn't in the habit of having sex with him anymore, and he hadn't pestered her for months. Again she'd been researching something, because even if she couldn't finish her degree she could keep working on her private research and she'd wanted to get back to it.
Hermione had realised after Rose's conception that she was no more to him than a convenient port in a storm. Now the picture had formed completely, she was no more to him than a convenience when his current girlfriend was not available. It left her wondering if that was what had happened that night in Cambridge as well.
There was no way she was going back to put up with more from him. Anyway Ron had signed a new contract with the Chudley Canons and was gone, apparently just as happy to be given his freedom.
That was fourteen years ago. Her parents had supported her through everything, and once Hugo had arrived, they encouraged her to finish her degree so she could support her family. Her mother took an extended leave of absence from their Practice, and looked after Rose and Hugo.
The Granger's lived quite close to Cambridge so Hermione had been able to come home each night.
Her decree absolute came through the day before she graduated University. It was a traumatic, but also exhilarating time.
Pulling herself from the recollections, Hermione was engulfed in two hugs. She sighed, it was close to the end of term and she'd missed both her children. "How did you two know I was coming?"
"James, told us, he's been sent to meet you and escort you up," Hugo stated excitedly, and started to explain in great detail the timeline of events since lunch, ending with, "Are you here because of the Potions explosion, Mum?" he asked, blinking at her.
Hermione tousled his hair and straightened his red striped tie. "Auntie Minnie didn't say why she wanted to see me, so I'm in the dark as much as anyone." She hugged them both tightly again, and patted down the blue lapels of Rose's robes when she released them. Ron had never understood why Rose had not been sorted into Gryffindor, and worse, he'd always given his daughter the impression that she'd done something wrong because she hadn't been.
Hermione cupped Rose's cheek. She was almost grown up; she'd be fifteen this year. Just by the sparkle in her brown eyes and the roses in her cheeks, Hermione could tell Rose had something to tell her. The acerbic Potions mistress looked past her daughter, to the head of windswept blond hair. The young man had the unmistakable lanky and muscular body of a teenage Malfoy. He was waiting in the shadows with Roberto Parkinson-Zabini, and Rose's best friends Lily Potter and Alice Longbottom. Their other cousins James and Albus joined them, and they all started down the steps to greet Hermione. Seeing where she was looking, Rose hugged her mother again, and whispered excitedly, "He finally kissed me, Mum. It's official, we're a couple."
Hermione swallowed hard. "That's perfect, love." Hermione found herself fighting tears. She'd never felt as happy as her daughter obviously was at this moment.
They were halfway down the stairs, when Hugo broke the silence with a mischievous grin. "I wrote to Dad last night," he told them slyly, his meaning all too clear.
"You little twerp," Rose rounded on her grinning brother and her wand was out before Hermione could open her mouth, and then they were gone. "Hey guys, help me catch this little dweeb," she shouted, as Hugo went to shoot past the group and in through the great doors.
Something else Ron didn't understand was why Harry and Ginny had become friends with Draco and Astoria. It had just developed, and the four of them had simply included Hermione and her kids as part of their group. If Rose was going to reveal her relationship with Scorpius to her father, Hermione was going to have to make certain that happened under the right circumstances.
Hermione shook her head, at the playfulness of the group as she watched James Potter approaching her. "The Headmistress sent me to escort you up, Aunt Hermione." It was like looking at a teenage Harry all over again, but at the moment with just a touch of Percy Weasley's pompousness thrown in. James Potter was in his last year, and like his pompous uncle, he was head boy.
"Thank you James," Hermione said, snickering to herself. Auntie 'Mione was obviously not grown up enough now, and they walked in very reverent silence. I wonder what kind of accident happened? I hope no-one was hurt. Hermione pondered.
The closer they came to the Headmistress' office the more eager Hermione became not to show exactly how nervous she was. It had already occurred to her that she would be coming face to face with Professor Snape's portrait. A little part of her was happy about that, even if the greater part was terrified.
Notes:- (1) Paganini Cantabile for violin and piano (or guitar)