The rain continued to pour down as Hermione sat in the window seat, her hands cupped around a steaming mug of chocolate. She watched the workers and shoppers, their raincoats pulled tight rushing around in the street below. Huddled under umbrellas as they went about their business.
Catching her reflection in the glass it seemed strange to see her normal face staring back. She had gotten used to seeing the disguise that she had worn constantly for the last few months. Glancing around the flat that she had called home, she realised how small she had made her life.
She would not miss anything from her time here, she had made sure that she had not gotten close to anyone, often going days without speaking to anyone other than her landlady. Spending most of her days reading, occasionally she would venture out for new books and supplies.
The streets of York reminded her of Diagon Alley, with its small shops and narrow, cobbled roads. Its alleys and snickleways easily confused the tourists who accidentally found that they had wandered off the main roads. It was nice for her to disappear among crowds, no one knowing who she was or what she had been through. Thanks to her disguise she could even venture into the magical district of the city safely. It was not easy to find but if you knew where to look you would find a mini version of the alley with its own apothecary and magic establishments. It was handy for her, so she could pick up any ingredients she needed quite easily.
As she finished her drink she wondered to herself how her life had taken this unexpected turn. How she had ended up not knowing what her life would be from now on?
It had all been planned out for her, she would sit her exams then carry on studying until she qualified as a teacher. Harry and Ron had decided not to continue with their education, both of them snapping up the opportunity to enter the auror training that the Ministry had offered them.
With Ginny and Harry engaged it had been taken for granted that she and Ron would do the same. Hermione had insisted that they both finished their training and got settled in their respective careers before she would even think of settling down.
Everything had been trundling along fine until she had been placed at Hogwarts for her final training. Because of who she was she had been given the choice of where she could train. She could have chosen to go away where there was less chance of her being recognised but for some reason she had chosen Hogwarts.
Not knowing which subject she eventually wanted to teach Minerva had come up with a solution. Hermione would serve a six week trial under each Professor of the subjects she was interested in, deciding on her final subject when she finished the last placement. Minerva had suggested that she begin under the tutelage of Professor Snape, joking that the other professors would be easy after him.
She had been very apprehensive to be in the professors' company again, hoping that he might have mellowed after his near death experience. To begin with he had been offhand and downright cold towards her but as she proved herself to him time after time she found that he began to be more amenable. She had no idea when it happened but slowly and surely they had developed a good working relationship. So much so that at the end of her six weeks she had gone to Minerva and cancelled the other trials. Working with Severus and the challenges that potions put before her had made her realise that was the subject she wanted to teach.
The following two years of training had moved along quickly and to her surprise she had become firm friends with Severus. They worked well together whether they were brewing potions or working out the curriculum for the students. They had found a mutual respect for each other, enjoying the time that they spent together.
During term time they would often spend evenings in the staff room, talking and debating new theories that were being developed in the potion world. In the holidays they would decamp back to Grimmauld Place but they still found time to catch up with each other at the end of the day, much to Ronald's dismay. It had taken time but she finally could work out his moods and how to react to them. She knew when he was being grumpy because of the pain from his scar and when he was just being downright rude just for the sake of it
She sighed as she rose from the window, she had put it off long enough. It was time for her to go back and try to explain to Ron where she had been and what the future held for them. She was not looking forward to it and hoped that he would let her explain everything. She had been a coward to run away but it had helped her work out her feelings and that she could not live her life away from the people she loved.
As she packed her things and cancelled the extension charms she had placed on the cupboards and drawers, she thought back to that morning in the store cupboard. The moment that everything had turned upside down, when she knew her life could never be what she planned.
Hermione recalled how unable to sleep she had decided to go to the laboratory earlier than usual and try to get a start on the next phase of the potion she was working on. She entered the room and made her way past Severus station to her own. She glanced through her papers, taking a mental note of the ingredients she would need next.
As she opened the heavy oak door to the stock cupboard the aromas from the various bottles and packets greeted her like an old friend. This room had to be one of her favourite places in Hogwarts, with its shelves lined meticulously with any ingredient that you may need. She had been enchanted when Severus had first shown her it and explained the spell that he had placed there. As soon as any ingredient became low in stock or near to the end of its shelf life and order would automatically be sent and new stock would be delivered the very next day.
She perused the bottles and packets when the familiar sound of the creak from the door that led to Severus private quarters. He had probably had the same idea as her to get an early start she thought. She turned to the stockroom door ready to greet him but the words stuck in her throat at the sight she saw before her.
She watched silently through the gap, her fingers grasped the edge of the door tightly as Severus made his way across the laboratory to his desk.
He was barefoot, wearing only black joggers, low slung across his hips, his hair damp and brushed back from his face. She noticed the dark hairs scattered across the pale skin of his chest, her eyes following the line down as it disappeared beneath the waistband of his trousers. She stood transfixed as he picked up a spoon and carefully stirred the cauldron on the desk, turned back and made his way back to his quarters.
As he closed the door between them Hermione released the breath that she had no idea she had been holding. The sound of her heart pounding in her ears as she struggled to come to terms with the emotions that had engulfed her body as she watched Severus.
How could she not have seen what was so clear to her now? It was as if someone had just slotted the last piece of a jigsaw into place and she could see what she had not seen before. Everything she had felt had suddenly shifted making sense of things in her life. Why she had chosen to train at Hogwarts? Why she had been dragging her feet with Ron? Why they had never even got close to sleeping together?
The answer to all these questions came down to one thing, Severus. She was in love with Severus Snape!
The enormity of her situation hit her hard, how would she cope seeing him every day knowing how she felt? Would she ever tell him, knowing he would never even consider her as a partner? How was she going deal with her relationship with Ron? If she stayed with him he would eventually be hurt and if she broke it off he would be hurt too.
Confused she had done the only thing she could think of and that was to run, as far and as fast as she could. After gathering her belongings from her room she had left Hogwarts. Hermione had not meant to stay away long she just needed space to try to sort out how she was going to deal with everything. Unfortunately the days turned into a week, the weeks turned into a month and soon it had gotten too hard to go back.
Stories about her disappearance had dominated the front covers of the Daily Prophet to begin with. As time went by she watched as they gradually moved down the page until she was rarely mentioned at all now. A few days earlier she had seen a headline saying Granger Found. Reading the article apparently she had gone to live among the house elves to try to persuade them they need not carry on in servitude. Admittedly it had been in The Quibbler and at first she was amused by it but then she thought of what the people she had left behind must be thinking.
Realising that she at least owed it to Ron to return home and finish their relationship properly. He deserved that from her and she hoped that it would give him the opportunity to move on. As for Severus she had decided that nothing would ever come from her feelings for him and the best thing she could do was to move away. That way she could stay in touch with the others without having to endure seeing him every day.
Hermione picked her bag up from the bed and without another glance she apparated back to face the music.