Summary: Hermione Granger has made a decision that will drastically affect her year's long love affair with Severus Snape. Short and Complete!
Disclaimer: The characters in this story are the glorious creation of JKR
Author's Notes: This is our first SS/HG story, so please let us know what you think!
— Do Not Walk Away –
Hermione Granger looked upon the grand old house sitting before her. She never seemed to grow tired of studying it and no matter how many times she visited she was always deeply impressed with the intricate details in the architecture.
The building was three stories tall and the outside was covered with a deep red brick. A large front porch with stately columns rose in front and surrounded a massive front door that was inset with leaded glass. Vines curled up the columns and enclosed the nearby windows with heavenly scented white flowers.
The surrounding countryside captivated her imagination and brought back remembered scenes from the fairy tales her mother used to read her. The manor sat upon a rocky cliff which stood watch over the choppy blue water below. It reminded her of a sentry that had guarded its keep long before she arrived and would be there long after she left. Hermione took several minutes to take it all in, for possibly the last time.
Crookshanks started to struggle in her arms and she gently placed him on the soft grass at her feet. He ran across the grounds, chasing birds into the air. He was still sprightly for his old age and she hoped the move would not prove detrimental to his health. With a sigh and a strengthening of her resolve, she started down the path to conclude the hardest decision she had ever made.
Upon reaching the grand entrance, she cast a spell and muttered a secret code that unlocked the door. She stepped onto the marble foyer, her heels clicking on the tiles as she made her way past the grand staircase and to the kitchen located at the back. She knew exactly where to find him. As she opened the door leading to the basement, the smell of various potions and ingredients assaulted her senses causing a small smile to appear, if only for a moment.
She headed down the stairs, being careful to make as little noise as possible even though he would most certainly sense her presence. It seemed to be a gift he had been born with and had developed to the point of perfection over the years. He had a tendency to strive and reach for perfection, at least in certain areas of his life, and to her knowledge had yet to fail in any of his endeavors.
She reached the partially open door to the lab and eased it open. There he stood with his back to her and she could tell he was deep in thought. Hermione stepped into the room and moved until his profile was in view. His fingers moved in the meticulous motion of slicing and shaping ingredients into the perfect size for the cauldron that was sitting on his right. She could tell it was a slowly simmering dreamless sleep potion that was nearly complete. A frown lit her features as she contemplated why he would need to have a supply. It had been a couple of years since he had last required it to find some peace during the night.
"You are early."
His voice was soft and low and made her nerves tingle. She brought her gaze to his and his eyes were the same obsidian color, no emotion visible beneath the black exterior. "I know."
She was very well versed at playing his games after so many years. She no longer took offense to the content of his words, as she had long ago started reading the underlying message. It had always been so subtle and very few even realized it was there.
"Did it not occur to you that coming early would be inconvenient for me? I am a very busy man and do not have time to waste on troublesome Gryffindors."
A small smile curled her lips and she laughed softly, causing the man before her to lift a single eyebrow. "Why do you think I showed up early? It gives me great pleasure to make you ill-at-ease."
Hermione walked over till she was standing only inches from his face. His eyes narrowed dangerously at the intrusion of his personal space. "I would like to point out, Ms. Granger, that I never stated any such thing. And you, of all people, should know that it would take a great deal more than a bothersome female to elicit such a response from me. Now, if you would kindly move, I have a potion to complete, if your intrusion has not ruined it already."
Completely unfazed, Hermione stepped back and allowed her fingers to come up and run through his soft silky hair. "You know where to find me when you are done."
A sharp intake of breath was her only answer as she crossed back to the door through which she had entered only minutes earlier. "And Severus, try to not keep me waiting too long this time."
Hermione had taken a warm bath and was applying a lavender scented lotion to her skin when she heard Severus enter the bedroom. A sadness speared her heart as she considered their upcoming conversation. Her thoughts drifted back to the first night she had met Severus after graduating from school. It seemed so long ago.
The war had ended years earlier with the defeat of Voldemort and every anniversary was celebrated with a grand affair held on the grounds of Hogwarts, where the final battle had taken place. Hermione had attended the first few but after that she had been so consumed with work that she had declined any further invitations.
On the tenth anniversary however, Harry and Ron had insisted she attend. Hermione had sat through a few speeches and when the dancing started had hurried toward the edge of the forest in an attempt to get away from all the people that had swarmed their table. She needed a few moments of peace and quiet to collect herself for the rest of the evening.
Stepping lightly among the trees, she relived some of her more adventurous times during her days as a student. She had not really been paying attention to where she was going and had knocked right into Severus. It was dark and she hadn't been able to make out whom she had stumbled over but by the feel of the muscles under her hands she had known it was a man. "I am so sorry sir. I wasn't paying attention to where I was headed."
His soft entrancing voice had answered with its usual sarcastic remark but she could feel a different vibe radiating from him. "That was completely obvious. You should watch where you are going as the woods are not entirely safe."
Hermione recognized his voice immediately but he had not recognized hers. For a reason she could not explain to this day, she had kept her identity a secret for as long as possible. He offered to escort her back to the party in an unusual show of gallantry and she had accepted, much to his displeasure. Their conversation had turned to work during the stroll and he became nearly sociable when she mentioned she worked for the ministry developing new potions.
The conversation ended as they neared the light and he was able to make out more of her features. He had granted Ms. Granger good day and had left abruptly. Hermione had been somewhat disappointed but soon the dancing and chatter of friends had raised her spirits and made her forget about the unexpected meeting.
Mere weeks later, Hermione was assigned a new job with the potions professor at Hogwarts. She had smiled thinking of the reaction she would receive. Severus had done a good job of avoiding her for a bit but as his respect for her grew so did their friendship. It might have been unconventional to most but Hermione found herself looking forward to their time spent together.
Severus had changed in her eyes, not just physically but on a social level as well. She was able to take his words and see the real meaning behind them. She allowed herself the luxury of sparing with him on a regular basis. It was rare for her to win these encounters but she loved to ruffle his feathers. As time passed, romance followed in the footsteps of their friendship. Well, she supposed you could call it romance, Snape style. It was odd to find herself in love with someone she considered an old nemesis. But she had fallen and fallen hard.
Coming back to the present, she once again debated her situation and came to the same conclusion, even though it caused so much pain. She didn't see how things would ever change between them. Determined to spend her last night with him on a positive note, she moved to the door and slipped on a delicious burgundy silk robe that complimented her fair skin. Severus enjoyed when she wore such frivolities and she loved this one best for its smooth feel and beautiful cut, not to mention the benefit of making Severus want to remove it from her if for no other reason than the color. A twinkle danced in her eyes as she stepped into the bedroom.
Hermione listened to Severus as his breathing evened out signaling he had finally fallen asleep. She carefully slid out of bed and pulled on an oversized shirt from his armoire. Making her way through the house, she stopped a moment in the kitchen to prepare a cup of hot tea. Adding a splash of firewhiskey, she continued out onto the back veranda.
She sat on one of the cushioned wrought iron chairs and looked out into the night sky. Tomorrow would be a new day and she wasn't looking forward to the task before her. A pressure on her shoulders caused her to startle. As the pressure turned into a light massage she relaxed. "You were asleep."
"You were mistaken."
Hermione closed her eyes and sighed. "How do you do that?"
Severus chuckled, a sound that was rare indeed and caused her heart to flutter. "How do I do what Hermione?"
The sound of her name on his lips caused a shiver to run up her spine. "How do you know when I am near or when I have left?"
"Call it a gift. One I am mostly happy to have, unlike some of my others." A silence descended around them and soon Severus had joined her in the seat using a charm to make room for more than one occupant. "Do you plan on sharing what is troubling you or need I wait until I am upon my deathbed?"
Hermione was trying to decide if fate was telling her that now was the time. Instead of feeling nervous, as she had assumed she would in broaching the subject, she found she only felt empty. Turning slightly so she could look into his eyes, she retrieved one of his hands from his lap. He stiffened and she knew he sensed the change in her and the air around them. "I am going to be leaving tomorrow, not only from Snape Manor but from England as well. My things are on their way to my new home. It is time that I moved on."
Seeing his defenses raise, she quickly went on with what she needed to say. "Our time together has been precious to me but I need more in my life than what you can give. I want a husband and a family. I know that is not something you have ever looked for in your life and I wouldn't want to make you choose. This decision was not made lightly and I hope that you can understand."
A cold look entered his eyes and a sneer formed on his lips. "You never were one for mincing words. Feel free to leave as soon as you are ready."
Severus went to stand but her hand was grasping his firmly as he stepped away. "There is no need to do this. I would like to stay in touch. Your friendship means a lot to me."
"Since when Ms. Granger have you cared for my feelings? It seems to me based on your decision that my opinion does not count. Perhaps it is best if you leave now." In her surprise at his words, she dropped his hand. He turned his back towards her and walked away.
Hermione sat stunned for several minutes. Her mind was whirling with the things he had said. What did he mean by it seems to me that based on your decision my opinion does not count. Had she judged wrongly, jumped to the wrong conclusions as she had at Hogwarts from time to time? By his past actions, she inferred that he would not want to take their relationship to the next level. Neither one of them had brought up the subject before, and by his silence, she had decided he liked things the way they were and was not ready or willing to change them.
Her eyes began to focus on the door he had slammed through just moments before. As her mind cleared of the confusion, one thought jumped out at her. He had walked away. Severus had barely heard her words and then not only had he insulted her but he had left her to throw a tantrum on his own. The reality of it infuriated her. How dare Severus treat her in such a manner after all the years they had spent together. She had detected the sadness in his voice when he had lashed out but he had meant what he had said. There had been no underlying meaning when he had told her so bluntly to leave.
Hermione Granger did not lose her temper very often but when she did it was a sight to behold. With her blood boiling in her veins, she stormed into the house after him. She knew where he would go and was not afraid to meet him on his own territory.
When she flung open the door to his lab, Severus was just starting to prepare ingredients for yet another potion. She did not take the time, as she usually did, to calculate what he was about to brew. She instead headed straight for the head-strong, stubborn man. His words, which seemed to be carved from ice, hit her with nearly enough force to knock the wind out of her.
"I believe I asked you to leave. Would you like a formal notice or would you be content if I showed you the door?" He never turned to look at her as he continued measuring the liquid in the vile.
Before she thought her actions through, Hermione had her wand out and pointed at his back. "Petrificus Totalus."
Severus froze where he stood and fell backwards, barely missing a table with his skull. Hermione cushioned his blow just before he hit the wood floor although she had been tempted not to intervene. Her voice had a deadly ring to it when she continued to speak.
"I believe Neville Longbottom fell to the same curse from my wand during his first year." She made her way to where Severus lay unable to move. "I do apologize for the inconvenience this may cause. And I wouldn't try to struggle against the charm, you may end up injuring yourself."
She could feel the anger radiating from him but chanced a look at his eyes all the same. Gone was the blank, uncaring look that was his usual trademark. Instead his eyes were filled with displeasure and she had to laugh. "Dear Severus, only displeasure in my direction. I was hoping for a bit more of a showing."
Moving to within inches of his face, she traced his chin with one of her slender fingers. "Now I want you to listen and listen well. I know you have a tendency to become stubborn but I think this little discussion, as one-sided as it may seem, will be very important in reaching an understanding."
With a wave of her wand, Hermione moved Severus to an upright position, supported by pillows. "Since you announced that I do not mince my words, I will speak without care for how it will affect you. I have a few things to say and now it looks as if you have no choice but to listen."
Hermione took a deep breath and ordered her thoughts before continuing. "First, I am not some strumpet to be insulted and thrown out just because you can not handle the truth. How dare you insult me and then walk away. I thought I meant more than that…however, that is of no concern now. We have been together for coming up on four years and as of yet there has been no discussion of furthering our relationship. I know you Severus and you are not one for sentimentality. In all the time we have been seeing each other, never have you even whispered of love. Unfortunately for me, I am deeply in love with you."
She saw the shock in his eyes and it saddened her to think that he had never known or even guessed. "Yes, I know you are shocked and probably disgusted by my lack of control. My point is that I can no longer stay in this relationship knowing the way I feel. I intend to have a family of my own someday and I need to distance myself from you for that to happen. I must give my heart time to heal. That does not mean that I will not want you in my life because I will always care for you. More probably than I should or want to. Please consider what I am saying and if you decide to allow me to stay in your life your owl will know where to find me."
She gave a wry grin at her last words. She knew it would be months before he would even consider the subject. He was such a stubborn twit sometimes. She leaned over and placed a light kiss on his cheek. Then she moved to the door and through the house to his bedroom. She began to pack quickly, knowing that the spell would wear off soon.
She didn't expect him to make an appearance one way or the other but she didn't want to chance his wrath at being downed by such a simple spell.
"Aren't you leaving a little early my dear?"
Looking around, Hermione saw the old woman from downstairs was staring out of the portrait over the bed. "Hi Maggie, I promise I was going to come by and say farewell. I am moving on so you won't have to bother with me anymore."
Hermione smiled at the scowl on the older woman's face. Maggie had adopted her ever since she had first started coming to Snape Manor. She seemed to think Hermione would benefit from a little grandmotherly love. Maggie had called her 'too serious for such a young girl' and Hermione had reminded her that next to Severus she was like a child at Christmas.
Maggie brought her out of her musings with a sharp tone. "Well, I think you are making a mistake leaving Severus so abruptly. How did you expect the man to react when you thrust your decision upon him like you did?"
Hermione looked suspiciously at the portrait and Maggie had the grace to cast her eyes anywhere but where Hermione was standing. "All I am saying is you shouldn't have judged so harshly. Perhaps looking behind this picture would settle some things for you."
Without another word Maggie disappeared and Hermione was left staring at the blank canvas left in its place. Maggie's word rang in her head and she approached the picture. Taking her wand out she muttered a spell and the portrait swung open revealing a hidden compartment. Inside was a small black box. She summoned it to her and opened it.
"Didn't you ever hear the phrase curiosity killed the lion?"
His velvety voice reached her ears from the doorway but it took her several moments to respond. She was still in a state of disbelief. When she responded her eyes never left the item in her hands. "I believe the phrase you are referring to is Curiosity killed the cat."
In the beautiful box stood a magnificent ring made of platinum. A ruby and emerald were charmed so that they magically intertwined. It was completely stunning and took her breath away.
"What is this?" Her voice sounded distant even to her own ears.
"I believe muggles call it an engagement ring. Rather useless really since it has no special powers, other than to make females an emotional mess."
"But why and when?"
"Obviously I was mistaken, it must render females incapable of thought and speech as well." Severus' voice held its usual sneer but it also held a hint of fondness.
Hermione finally looked up from the ring and saw a look in his eyes she had never seen before. Throwing up his arms in frustration, a very uncommon move for a man who was all about control, Severus began to pace back and forth. "I swear that you will be the end of me Hermione. You come into my life like a whirlwind, upsetting the delicate balance I had wrought. You demand changes and expect me to open up as if the previous years and trials of my life had never existed. You have no idea what you were asking of me."
Hermione saw the truth in what he said and felt the sting as it dug into her heart. She went to say something but he continued on unaware of her attempt. His eyes were not focused on the present.
"I fought against it and against you for a long time. Maybe too long but your wit, intelligence and beauty won in the end. I no longer had the control of my life that once was so dear to me. And the ironic twist is that it no longer mattered. You were, and are, what is important in my life. You, who understand me like no one else, my moods and mentality. You can see in me what no one else does and you accept me for it."
Severus stopped pacing and stood facing her. Hermione took a step forward but dared come no closer. Never had she seen his emotions so plain in his eyes. It was as if a whole new world had opened up to her and she was somewhat frightened. He started to speak again, his voice barely above a whisper.
"As you so kindly pointed out in my lab, I have never shared my feelings with you. It was a conscious decision, one made for self-preservation as most of my actions have always been. I believed, forced myself to believe, that you did not truly care for me. I considered myself as a trophy to you. Someone you were able to seduce that no one else could get near. I now know that was unreasonable of me. I was positive that if I told you what was in my heart you would walk away. The ring was a gift for you. These past few months I have been building up my courage to ask you to stay with me, to become my wife. I love you Hermione."
She could see that he could speak no further. He had revealed more of himself in a few minutes than he had in the last four years and it had taken its toll. He was weary and yet he stood still, not quite meeting her eyes, his emotions carefully hidden behind a blank mask once more. She finally broke out of her trance and did what came naturally to her. Flinging herself into his arms they both went flying off balance and fell crashing to the floor. Severus' eyes became cold again and he couldn't keep the sneer out of his voice.
"Have you lost your mind completely? Please remove yourself so we can get up off the floor."
Hermione was nearly giddy with happiness and did not move one muscle. "Yes."
Confusion entered his eyes for a moment before the mask fell again. "Have you been hit with the confundus charm? I did not ask you a question but I did tell you to get off of me."
"You did ask me a question, in a round about way." Hermione was beaming at him as her eyes sparkled with mischief.
"And what pray tell was that? I would love to be enlightened on how your obviously befuddled mind is working." Severus was clearly irritated and was close to his breaking point.
"You asked me to marry you. And I was giving my answer. Yes." Hermione watched as a cascade of emotions flickered across his face. As he settled on just one she bent down, her breath caressing his lips. With her eyes never leaving his, she spoke softly.
"Severus Snape, it would be my greatest honor to marry you."