Why Don't You Stay?
By Winter Solstice
Lifting a hand to wave at him, and curving her mouth into a smile, Hermione tried and spectacularly failed to catch his eye as he glanced at her for a fraction of a second before turning his attention back to the pretty redheaded woman who was sitting very close to him, her hand curled protectively around his forearm where it rested upon the table.
The smile slid away from Hermione's face as she watched Ginny Weasley lean across her friend, bright red hair spilling across his chest as she whispered something in his ear. She was painfully aware that she was staring as she saw Harry's eyebrows lift in surprise and then he laughed at whatever it was Ginny had said to him. Ginny laughed too, but when their laughter died away both were left wearing slightly suggestive looks on their faces. Hermione felt her heart dip to somewhere in the region of her shoes, and she tried to look away as they shared what was an undoubtedly gentle kiss before standing from the table and leaving the Great Hall hand in hand without looking back.
Hermione was only aware of her intention to follow them when she realised that her feet had carried her into the entrance hall. A frown had wrinkled her smooth brow and her chocolate eyes had been darkened by disappointment when she turned away from the sight of Harry and Ginny, arms around each other, making their way out of the front doors and into the balmy summer evening.
Returning to her seat at the table in the Great Hall, she did not hesitate in picking up the glass she had shuddered at only minutes before and downing the contents in a single swallow that made her cough until her eyes watered.
Sitting back a little, Hermione scanned the room for familiar faces to whom she could speak to, and although the hall was full of people that she considered friends she had no wish to converse with any of them. One glance at the smiles on their faces, at their animation and happiness, and Hermione knew that she did not have the strength to pretend to share it with them.
She should have been as happy as them, she knew. The war was over, after all. Voldemort was gone, this time for good. Harry was a hero, more than just the boy who lived, but now the boy who continued to live, the boy who had probably saved them all. All of these things came as a great relief to Hermione, but she could not share in other people's joy, not when...
She flinched, closing her eyes against the memory of Harry's announcement of his intention to marry his girlfriend Ginny. He had stood up, in front of everyone gathered in the Hall to celebrate the end of the war, and said that they were going to get married as soon as possible, that he, Harry, had wasted enough time already. Everyone currently there would, of course, be invited. Hermione had felt herself go cold with shock and dismay, all of her previous good spirits disappearing like early morning mist being burned away by the sun.
It was bad enough, she had thought, to be overlooked in favour of Ginny, but this...How could she ever reconcile herself with this? They were both her very dear friends, but Hermione had no idea how she could conceal her despair and loss from them. She had offered her congratulations along with everyone else, of course, feigning delight, giving Harry no clue that she still carried a torch for him, a torch that he probably thought long extinguished.
Their relationship had been brief, barely six months, but Hermione had fallen for Harry unexpectedly hard, continuing to love him from afar long after Harry had decided that they were better suited as friends. The events of the evening had extinguished all hope that she had for them ever being more than friends again.
Tears glittered in her eyes then, and Hermione brushed them impatiently away, biting her lip. She was determined not to show weakness, not to waste her tears on a futile dream that would never now come true.
Glancing self-consciously around her, Hermione realised that no one had noticed either her or her tears. Her gaze fell upon the nearly full bottle of firewhiskey and her eyes narrowed. Snatching it up from the table and cradling it protectively in her arms, she stumbled from the table and the hall, completely unaware of the one who followed her as she did so.
She had almost reached the front doors, and was about to step outside, when the voice made her stop.
"Miss Granger...what are you doing?"
Severus Snape emerged from the shadows at the far end of the entrance hall and strode determinedly towards her. In the half-light provided only by the moon only his face was visible, the rest of him concealed by robes darker than the shadows in which he had chosen to conceal himself. He was wearing an expression that upon anybody else Hermione might have called concern. She hesitated, looking out over the grounds and wondering whether to make her escape or not, and was then prevented from leaving completely when a hand came to rest firmly upon her shoulder.
Snape was staring down at her quizzically, and Hermione looked from his face to his hand in silence, forgetting the question he had asked her only moments ago.
"Miss Granger," he sighed. "I will ask you again. What are you doing?" He was eyeing the firewhiskey now, a look of disdain on his sharp features.
"I...I was just about to leave, Professor." Hermione managed a nervous laugh. "It's late and I..." she trailed off as he reached out and snatched the bottle from her unsuspecting grasp. "Hey! That's mine!"
"Actually, Miss Granger, it remains the property of Hogwarts. You may not remove it from the premises." He smirked, no doubt amused by his own astuteness.
"Is it school property if it's empty?" Hermione heard herself say mock- innocently.
"You do not wish to drink a whole bottle of...this, surely?" Snape frowned at her.
Hermione managed a shrug, revealing a nonchalance that she did not quite feel.
"Yes, why not? Give it back and I'll see to it."
She stared at him, and swiped at the bottle. He was far too quick for her, lifting it high above her head and waggling it there.
"No?" Resisting the temptation to jump for it, she stared at Snape in annoyance.
"No," he confirmed, black eyes revealing nothing of what he was feeling. Then he sighed. "If you wish to drink whiskey, there are better ways of doing it than with...this." The bottle was waggled again, and then in what Hermione considered a completely out of character display, he launched it out of the doors where it landed with a soft 'thud' in a patch of grass some ten metres distant. They both stared after it for a second.
"Follow me, Miss Granger," Snape's voice seemed to be coming to her from far away, and Hermione turned to see his departing back on its' way to the spiral staircase which led to the dungeons. He turned and stared at her for a long time whilst she hesitated, and then his face softened suddenly. "Come. I wish you no harm."
Hermione made up her mind and hurried after him, keeping her eyes fixed upon the swirling of his robes as they descended the stairs beneath the school proper and swept along the corridor into the dungeons. With her own schooldays not too far behind her, Hermione followed him into his office and then through another door into what she assumed were his personal rooms.
They were surprisingly comfortable, she realised, taking in the pair of armchairs next to a low-burning fire, the bookshelves crammed with books and the small desk in the corner piled high with parchment she presumed to be his marking. There was an archway next to the desk, which presumably led to another room, but was so shadowed she could not see what kind of room it was.
"Sit down," Snape pointed at one of the chairs and Hermione obeyed him, slightly irritated with the residual respect that she had left for him from when he was her Professor. She watched him as he turned to small wooden cabinet and opened it, extracting a bottle and two cut crystal tumblers. The bottle was filled with a honey-coloured liquid, which he decanted in equal measures into the glasses before sitting down and handing her one.
Hermione sniffed it as he watched her with dark amusement in his eyes. Realising that it was whiskey of some sort, she chanced a sip and was pleasantly surprised when other than burning a trail down her throat, it produced no other adverse effects.
"Nice," she said meekly. Snape snorted at her.
"Try not to be so insipid, Miss Granger," he murmured, holding up his glass up so that the contents caught the light. "'Nice' is not a term you should use to describe one of the finer single malt whiskeys in the world," he sipped it almost reverently, and half closed his eyes.
"I presume that firewhiskey does not fall into that category then Professor?" Hermione took another sip and felt it begin to warm her very pleasantly all the way from her lips to her stomach. She sighed.
"Firewhiskey is tremendously overrated," Snape said thoughtfully. "To consume a whole bottle..." he shuddered visibly. "What were you thinking, Miss Granger?"
Hermione stared into the dying embers of the fire, her eyes distant.
"Have you ever drunk to forget something, Professor Snape?" She said softly.
"Of course," he surprised her by answering. "What is it that you wish to forget?"
"That would be telling."
"Indeed." Snape raised his eyebrows and they drank in silence for a moment, both staring into the fire. The silence that settled upon the room was strangely companionable, and Hermione marvelled that this could be so. The end of the war, it seemed, had changed many things within the wizarding world, Severus Snape being one of them.
"I want to forget Harry," she found herself saying suddenly. Snape looked at her slightly incredulously.
"Easily done, I should imagine," he muttered, and then softened when he saw the look of distress that flitted across Hermione's face. "Announcing his impending nuptials this evening revealed that he has something of the prima donna in him."
"I...I can't believe he's getting married..." Hermione stumbled over the words and curled miserably in her chair.
"And not to you?" Snape was staring at her keenly. She nodded mutely. "I have seen the way you look at him, Hermione."
When he spoke her name, Hermione experienced a little tremble, as though icy cold water had just been trickled down her spine.
"He means a lot to me," she whispered.
"Then you must let him go," Snape whispered back to her.
"I don't understand what you mean," she said in some confusion.
"I am offering you the benefit of my experience, Miss Granger, so pay attention!" He drained his glass and refilled it, offering her the bottle. Hermione took it from him and refilled her own glass. "What I am saying is this: We are not all of us lucky enough to love someone that is able to love us in return."
"I know that," Hermione managed in a small voice.
"Then let him go, hmm? It does not do to dwell upon the past."
"What else can I do?" She said helplessly. "I cannot change the way I feel!"
"Maybe not," Snape breathed. "But what use is there in unrequited love?"
The conversation, it seemed to Hermione, was taking a surreal turn. She had never dared to imagine talking with the fearful Potions Professor in such candid terms about such a sensitive subject.
"Have you considered that if it is not returned, maybe it is not real love at all?"
Hermione bit her lip, and nodded miserably. She was fooling herself, she knew, but what was wrong with that? It seemed preferable to her than a life without any love at all.
"If you were to ask me my opinion, I would say that love is as overrated as firewhiskey."
Hermione looked at him; he was wearing a most peculiar expression.
"You can't possibly mean that," she frowned at him.
"You are young, Miss Granger. You have time yet to become disillusioned with such futile exercises. There is no point in living either in the past or the future. Take tonight, for instance," Snape swirled the amber liquid around in his glass before drinking it.
"Tonight? What about tonight?"
Snape eyed her, considering.
"Live for the moment, Hermione. You are unhappy, I know, but take solace in what you still have, or what you can have if you only ask for it."
Hermione was not sure what he was suggesting, and furthermore, she was not sure that she liked it. Placing her glass carefully on the floor, she got to her feet.
"I think I'll just be..." she gestured towards the door. "If you don't mind..."
Snape also stood, and closed the already small gap between them with two short strides. He took her gently by the shoulders, forcing her to look up at him.
"What are you so frightened of?" He said silkily. "Hermione," he spoke her name almost reverently. "You are in no danger. Stay."
"But it's getting late..." Hermione's eyes were huge in her face as she looked up at him.
"Let me shelter you, then. The world beyond that door is not the paradise you imagined it to be, is it?"
She thought of her desk job at the Ministry and felt an accompanying surge of frustration. She had been described as one of the most talented witches of her generation, and what had she done with it?
Slowly, Hermione raised her hands and placed them flat against the black material Snape's chest. She could feel his heartbeat, steady and reassuring, beneath her palms. Sliding her palms up his chest to his shoulders, she let him embrace her gently, arms holding her close. Dropping her head into the curve of his throat, she closed her eyes.
"I am so tired," she whispered.
"And lonely," his voice drifted down to her. "As am I."
"Yes." She raised her head to look at him. Close up, she discovered that his eyes were so dark she could not discern between his irises and his pupils. The warmth from the whiskey seemed to radiate outwards then, making her head tingle curiously.
"So here we are," he leaned down in order to smooth her unruly curls away from her ear so he could whisper there. "We've got tonight, Hermione. Do you really need tomorrow?"
"I...I suppose not."
It was so tempting; the idea of staying with this masterful man, that Hermione simply gave in to it. She knew that she did not love him, but then, she was no longer sure that she loved Harry, either, so what was the harm?
"No one will care," he soothed her concerns gently.
"No." Hermione thought briefly of her friends, of Harry, Ron, and Ginny. Her heart hardened a little. "No, they won't."
"We are not yet friends, are we?" He chuckled into her ear. Hermione sighed as he pushed aside her dress robes and placed a line of kisses from her collarbone to the outside her shoulder. It was a surprisingly tender gesture.
"We don't have to be friends to be..." the motion was repeated, this time on the other side.
"Lovers?" Snape supplied, lifting his head to take in her dilated pupils and half-opened mouth.
"Yes," Hermione breathed, lifting herself onto tiptoes to kiss him. His lips, warm and slightly dry, returned her kiss, leaving her flushed and breathless.
"So," he murmured against her mouth. "Will you stay?"
"Yes." They kissed again, and the temperature in the room seemed to be rising as she unbuttoned his robes with nervous fingers.
"And in the morning?" Clever hands found their way beneath her robes, making Hermione shiver.
"We'll see, shall we?" She asked as he led her towards the archway and into his bedroom. "Maybe..." she gasped as her robes were removed completely and was rewarded with a passionate kiss.
"We'll find a way," he assured her heatedly. "If there's a way of making this last, we'll find it."
He lay her down on the bed, amongst the pillows, smiling slightly. Hermione arched her back slightly and pulled him down to join her.
"Good." She said.
A/N: These characters belong to JKR, not me. Please don't sue. Anything that you recognise except the plot is not mine.
Should I continue this? Another chapter maybe? I've never written a lemon before!
Loosely based upon the song 'We've Got Tonight' by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet band. Not very realistic, I know.
Thanks for reading, let me know what you think by reviewing!