And presenting the final chapter. I hope you all like it. Check the bottom for sequel details. Should be started by next week (am very busy this week).
When dawn broke the following day, Snape finally rose from his bed, having long given up on trying to find the sleep that wouldn't come. He had spent the night tossing and turning, or alternatively pacing his suddenly too small chambers like a caged wolf. He did not dare to attempt brewing a potion, his usual method of calming down, as he'd surely destroy his lab given his current distraction. He didn't even bother trying a potion, knowing it'd be pointless.
Like most like the entire graduating class and all past and present staff members, he was in shock over what had occurred the evening before at the Ball. He wondered what had gotten into him, driving him to simply attend the Ball, let alone spend the entire evening on the dance floor with one witch or another. It was with a smirk that he realised just what had indeed gotten into him.
He knew he had impressed every female staff member and possibly some of the males as well. However, he still couldn't believe that he had even lowered himself to dancing with Dolores Umbridge.
But the one dance that lingered in his mind was the final dance of the evening. He recalled it as he strode through the Entrance Hall and out into the cool early morning grounds, where the sun was just peeking over the mountains in the distance. The way Hermione Granger had felt in his arms as they danced around the deserted Hall. He felt as though they had been in a world of their own, a world that had grown smaller when she had bent her head to rest against his shoulder. His hand touched his should gently, remembering the feel of her resting against him. What he wouldn't have given to been able to dance with her and her only all night, and then some.
Not a soul was on the grounds to see Snape stumbled as he realised just what he wanted. Recovering quickly, he set off in a somewhat lazy stride towards the Quidditch Pitch, knowing exactly where he was going.
He had watched Miss Granger out of the corner of his eye all evening, watched her dance with a variety of partner and just waiting for the right time to over her a dance. He had watched her dance with the likes of the Potter, Weasley and most disgusting of all, Remus Lupin. Though it had been the bloody werewolf who had saved his life from Lestrange, he still did not find pleasure in the man's company, and to watch him dance with the young woman he wanted so badly had sent pangs of anger through Snape. It was all his practice of self-control that had prevented him from storming across the Hall and cutting in. His petty jealousy was also what stopped him while he contemplated just why he would be feeling jealous.
Climbing towards his chosen destination, Snape remembered following Miss Granger from the Great Hall near the end of the evening, stopping her in the Entrance Hall before she ascended the stairs in her dusty rose coloured gown. Standing before him in such a way had shaken his resolve to dance with her – would she accept?
He had intended to take her back into the Great Hall to share the dance, where no one could find them and see them as suspicious. It was true what he told her at the end of the dance – the only reason he had bothered with the other women in the Hall was so that it would not look so odd for him to be dancing with her – being Head Girl, she was practically one of the staff.
But when her hand had slipped into his, he found he could not bear to take her back into that Hall and risk having to share her if the werewolf dared to try to cut in. Plus, they could hear the music out here, so why not use it?
So he had held her close, had begun to move, trying not to show his delight in the way she moved with him so easily, following all his guiding as smoothly as she did in the classroom. She had been a sight, biting her lip and looking up at him as he guided them around the large, empty Hall in precise movements. In all honesty, he was pleased that he had not entirely lost the grace he had learnt he possessed in his seventh year. But he needn't think about that, not now that he held this witch so near by.
It had been a conscious effort that he had not allowed her to press too closely to him; he did not want to shame himself any further with her knowledge of just what kind of effect she was having on him. But Merlin, the way she had looked at him, so shyly, as she reminded him that she was not his student, not anymore, had been enough to make him want to push his mouth against hers. And the way her eyes are searched his, the same way he was searching hers… the temptation to look beyond her eyes and check if what he was seeing with her brown depths was sincere.
Standing upon the platform he had stood with her before, he kept reflecting on the dance, the way they had slowed together, and the feel of her gentle skin beneath his lips just as he left her. He didn't trust himself to say anything as he left, out of fear that he would turn back to her and beg for another touch, a dance, and most of all, a taste.
Snape suddenly realised where he was. He had known he was coming here, known where he was headed and that he wanted to, but now that he was here, he wondered why. Looking to the edge of the tiny platform, he remembered the last time he had been there, only the second time ever, and the conversation he had held with Miss Granger. He remembered telling her things he'd never told anyone else and he growled with frustration. What was it about the witch that made him do such things, that allowed her to get under his skin?
And why did he give such a damn about what she thought of him? It was not for anyone else that he had ditched his usual robes for the Ball last night, left his hair to dry unaided and danced last night. It was not to show them all that he was not the Greasy Git the world saw him as – it was for her. He wanted to show her.
But what was he thinking? It wasn't possible that she could possible feel anything towards him, unlike he was forced to admit, albeit to himself and himself only, he felt towards her. It had been a few weeks since he had admitted he harboured an emotion far beyond friendship for her, something he had been determined to prove wrong. But after the dream, that dinner, that dance, he knew he was foolish.
Sighing, he pushed his mind from such ideas, pulling his wand out of his pocket to twirl it around aimlessly, gazing out on the grounds. As he fiddled with his wand, he felt a small pull of magic that had been cast in the area recently. A Professor at Hogwarts, he was apt at detecting spells cast in places they shouldn't be cast, aiding him often in catching students who chose to play around in the Halls after curfew.
But what would magic be doing, getting cast down here? His brown knitting, he looked around him, trying to pinpoint where the small tug was coming from. He realised that it was behind him, and he turned. There was nothing there. The tinge of magic that lingered had been cast not particularly recently, but he knew that even this was odd. Why would magic be cast on the Quidditch Pitch anyway?
Stepping the two steps before he hit the other edge of the tiny platform, he gazed around, wondering what it was. It was then that he noticed that there was a mark on one of the support beams of the stand. He stepped closer, and realised it was small handwriting, which a variation of the sticking spell cast over them to make them last.
He moved forward, attempting to make out what the writing say, when the realisation hit him that they were written in the tiny, neat writing that he had come to know as Miss Granger's. Well of course¸ he thought sarcastically, who else would be writing on this particular part of the stands recently?
He slowly read over what the writing said, before shaking his head in shock and re-reading it, making sure he took in every word.
"To a Potions Professor so unlike others, unspoken words are as bad a potion unbrewed, or a fear unconquered. Thank you for your cure, your flight, and your help; though you've helped me in more ways then I'll ever dare to tell. HG."
Before he could stop, his hands reached out to trace the words gently where they were ground into the wooden stand, making sure they truly where there, and not some figment of his imagination. His mind scrambled to comprehend the words that were in front of him. What was the girl trying to say? …more ways then I'll ever dare to tell? What couldn't she tell?
For what was about half an hour, Snape stood in the Quidditch stands, mesmerised by the words that were carved into the wood before him, words that were written for him by Miss Granger…
The image of dancing with her last night flashed back through his mind, and he recalled the expression in her eyes as she'd searched his the previous evening, as though looking for information. Again he wished that he had have gathered the courage to delve into her mind and see if the expression was sincere – it was the only way he could know for sure. Not matter how it looked; he only trusted what was in someone's head, not their eyes. He had learnt…
With the words firmly burnt into his mind, Snape turned and left the stands, hardly registering his movements. The sun had now fully risen and surely the occupants of the castle would be awakening. Hermione would be awakening. And soon enough, she would be coming to his chambers to fetch her book and maybe say goodbye.
Say goodbye, forever.
In his mind, he knew that he had to ask her what she meant by the words – if he let this opportunity pass, when would he ever have the chance to ask her again? Would he see her again? Though he had been waiting for this day for weeks now, the day where she would leave and no longer be a student in his castle, no longer to be seen every single day lingering about the halls, no longer visiting his chambers, he felt sorry and somewhat scared that the day had finally arrive. What if he indeed never did see her again? Could he possibly forget…?
Something in him snapped and told him that there was no way he would be forgetting, no way he would be letting go. Unless she told him to. Which is why he had to ask. Was there another meaning behind those words, or was she simply just trying to say thanks and nothing more? He knew he'd go crazy until he asked her.
Making his way down to his private chambers, his mind and stomach turning over and over, he prepared himself for the wait.
Hermione woke with a smile, and wondered why. But then all the events of the previous evening came flooding back into her mind, and her smile grew, before fading.
Today was her last day at Hogwarts.
That had been her last night in this room.
Last night had been her evening meal in the Great Hall.
Blinking back tears and trying to push down the lump that had formed in her throat, she sat up in her bed, and looked around her room. It proved to do nothing but make things worse, looking at the empty walls that surrounded her, walls that a few days had held little pictures, photos, saying, poems, little sentiments. Tears slid down her cheeks as she pushed herself out of bed for the last time, and headed for her private bathroom.
It too was empty, apart from the few bits and pieces she had left out in order to help her prepare for the day. More tears welled, and mixed with water as she picked up her shampoo, dropped her clothes, turned on the shower and stepped inside.
Standing inside the shower, she allowed her tears to run freely, leaning against the walls and letting the sobs come, thanking the fact that hot water never ran out. She recalled all the days she had spent in the Halls of Hogwarts, all the classes she'd attended, the friends she'd made, the battles she'd fought. Her dismay that it was her last day rose hard and she made no attempt to fight it off, letting it wash over her along with the water.
She didn't know how long it was until she came to her senses and shut off the shower and stepped out wrapping herself in a towel and pressing her face hard into it, trying to stop herself from crying even more. Finally, she managed to pull herself together and tug on her clothing, a pair of jeans and a black blouse. She laughed quietly at her choice in blouse. Well, she did feel like she was in mourning over leaving the school.
Seeing her dress robes hanging on the back of the bathroom door, Hermione's mind was flooded with memories of the previous evening, of the Ball. She had been thrilled to see Remus, he was such a lovely bloke. And dancing around the Hall… and the Entrance Hall…
Hermione sucked in a breath as she remembered being in Professor Snape's arms. A smile broke out on her face again as her stomach did a little twist. It had been such a wonderful evening. Pulling her hair back and tying it in a haphazard knot behind her head, she remembered that he had requested that she go down to his chambers and fetch her book. Perhaps she could do so before breakfast?
Quickly, she packed all the few remaining things into her trunk, knowing that the House Elves would be up to fetch her things before the train left. However, she picked up her little back pack before leaving the room. At the door, she turned and looked around the little room one last time, her eyes lingering over the window where once Professor Snape had delivered her after an evening flight. She smiled at the window, before shutting her bedroom door one last time.
Entering the Common Room, she was surprised to see that she was clearly the last of the Gryffindor Seventh-Years to get rise, as all where perched in the Common Room, a solemn air around them all. They all looked quite tired given the late night they had had the evening before, a night they had all thoroughly enjoyed. Hermione caught the gazes of Ron and Harry and knew that she wasn't going to get to the Professor's before breakfast.
However, the Potions Master did not appear at breakfast. Once again, for the meal the Great Hall had been rearranged, but this time, it was one large round table, a seat for every student and teacher left in the school right now. Only one seat remained empty at the table, a seat Hermione desperately wished had someone occupying it.
During the meal, which was filled with chatter and exchanging of memories, the Headmistresses stood and reminded them that the Hogwarts Express would be departing the Hogsmeade station at 11am, and unless they had prior arrangements, students needed to meet in the Entrance Hall at 10.45am, giving them all a last hour and forty five minutes of time at the school. And Hermione knew how she was going to spend that time.
But as she stood to leave the table, so did Harry and Ron. They walked into the Entrance Hall with her, where she stopped and turned around, facing the pair of them. "Um, guys, there's kind of something I need to do before we leave," she said quickly.
"Say goodbye to the library?" Harry quipped, smirking at her.
"Well… no." Hermione didn't really want to tell the boys that she had to collect a book about sharing dreams from the Potions Professor and that she did want to say goodbye to the man. But she told them anyway.
Ron just wrinkled his nose. "You are a very strange girl, Hermione."
Harry, however, looked suspicious. "Why would you want to say goodbye to the greasy bat?" he asked, looked stricken.
Sighing, Hermione closed her eyes. "I'll explain it all later, on the train," she offered. "I'll see you guys back here later." Not waiting for an answer, she turned to talk down towards the Potion Master's office.
Sitting in his desk chair was a silent and still Snape. He was waiting for some noise, any kind of hint that a witch was making her way towards him. For the past two hours he had thought of nothing but the words that had been inscribed on the Quidditch stand, and what kind of double meaning had been hidden within them. He'd even written the words down from his memory onto a slip of parchment and placing it in his desk drawer. Her book was waiting for her, however, he'd purposefully left it in his sitting room.
Impatiently, he checked the time. Surely breakfast was close to finished by now! Maybe she didn't want to come down and get her book, maybe he's scared her off the previous evening when he'd raised her hand to kiss her knuckles. Or maybe she was going to wait until right before she had to leave, in order to avoid having to talk to him. Surely she wouldn't leave her book here!
As much as he thought he was prepared for her to knock on his door, when a knock finally sounded on his office door, he jumped like a scared rabbit, immediately feeling foolish, as though she could see him. Stepping up to the door, he wondered if he really was ready for this, to ask her and to tell her what was going on in his mind. Using a hand to smooth down the front his robes, he decided that he had no choice; he had to do it, and opened the door.
There stood Hermione Granger. While she was not dressed in the breathtaking dress robes he had last seen her in, she was quite attractive none the less in her black shirt. He almost smiled at the colour choice of her shirt. Did that signal something? Mentally he slapped himself; he was getting as paranoid as the deceased Mad-Eye Moody.
"Good morning, Professor," she smiled up at him, and he was forced to remember the way her eyes had darkened when he had informed that that he was no long her professor.
"Morning, Miss Granger," he said quite stiffly, letting her into his rooms. "I take it you have come to fetch your book?"
"And perhaps explore what you thought about it, sir," she said, looking hopeful. "And… I suppose… to say goodbye." He watched as her face fell as she said that. Could she possibly not want to say goodbye to him?
Not trusting himself to speak, he led her into his sitting room, where her book was resting on the coffee table. She bent down and picked it up, holding it to herself as she stood by the bookshelves. Snape tried not to think about those arms around him as they had been. He did not sit either, choosing to stand near her, his arms crossed over her chest. How to start this? His mind raced.
"I quite agree with what the book suggested about the dreams occurring only between two people who have some sort of connection," he began, pointing one long finger towards the book she held.
"You believe we have a connection, sir?" She asked quietly, her eyes searching yes.
"Yes," he said quite simply. "We have spent a fair amount of time in close quarters these past few months, and have learnt to… tolerate each other. Perhaps that was all that was really needed, when you were searching so strongly for something."
She looked everyone around the room except at him. "Yes, I do quite agree with that. However, William Hope seems to suggest that a stronger connection than two people who can 'tolerate' each other would be needed for such an unconscious connection to take place."
"Well, what type of connection do you believe we have, Hermione?" He asked in a soft voice and watched as she turned red under his gaze. He dared to take a step towards her.
Flushing a little more, she seemed to battle to find the words she needed. "I'm not entirely sure sir. Perhaps you are right though, maybe my desire to know you is strong enough to gain such a connection." Her eyes flew wide as she realised what she'd said.
He couldn't help but smirk at her. "Or perhaps we have a connection that has been… unsaid." His choice of words flew her to look him directly in the eyes and he watched impassively as she tried to find out if he knew what she had written on the Quidditch stands. He didn't let anything show in his eyes, only proceeded to say, "Perhaps we were afraid to say something. But fears unconquered are as bad as words unsaid, are they not?"
She blanched, dropping the book. "P-professor, I di… How did you… I'm so…" she stuttered, and he held up his hand.
"It's quite alright, Miss Granger, it is quite nice to be acknowledged occasionally, even if it is in such a… unorthodox fashion." He smirked at her again. "Tell me though; have you made it a habit of defacing school property?"
Miss Granger blushed bright red, her mouth hanging open in horror. "N-no, sir."
"When did you write it?" He asked carefully.
"Monday, after I left your chambers," she whispered. "I wanted to leave you something of a thanks… but I never thought you'd actually find it."
He smirked was threatening to be permanent by now. "Then why would you write such a thing?"
Though it seemed impossible, she managed to blush even brighter then she already was. "I suppose..." she gulped, looking at the rug beneath her feet. "Some things are easier to write then say. I just needed to… thank you."
"And leave words unsaid?" He asked, his voice unfortunately showing his hint of amusement.
She gave him a shy look. "I thought it would easier to write… some things… instead of just coming out with them and saying them to your face." Her shyness turned to curiosity. "Pray tell, sir, just how did you find it?"
"I've become good at finding magic at points where it shouldn't be performed," he said with a wry smile. "I happened to be… on an early morning patrol, and stopped by that platform and found it." He didn't think that he should tell her that the reason he was up so early was because he could not sleep thanks to experiencing haunting thoughts of her. "I happened to notice that a piece of magic had been cast recently, and searched it out."
"I didn't know that was possible," she said, her eyes still full of curiosity.
"I didn't know what I was going to find, and it was certainly a surprise." He offered her a gentle smile – she seemed to be trembling. "A surprise I don't fully understand."
Her eyes fell back to the rug below their feet. "I was just trying to thank you, sir," she whispered. "You've been so good to me lately, and you've helped me with so much. You gave up an entire week for me and then gave me access to your private book collection, brought me meals while studying and took me flying. I… I had to say something."
"Yet you couldn't say something to me, only leaving me a note engraved in a place where the chances of my finding it were incredibly slim?" he raised an eyebrow at her. When she blushed furiously once more, he shocked himself by stepping forward and taking her hands in his, her book still lying forgotten on the floor at their feet. "You thanked me more then enough last night, though, whether you realise it or not."
Her head snapped up to look him in the eye. "How?" she asked bluntly.
"You Gryffindors have no tact, have you?" he asked, rolling his eyes. "You made me attend that dance and actually dance, you taught me that I didn't have to hide all the time." He smiled down at her. "And better yet, you even graced me with a dance." He paused, his eyes searching hers. "I did not lie, Hermione. I did only danced with any of them for the chance to dance with you."
Her voice was soft and unsure as she looked into his eyes and asked "Why?"
He was incredibly unsure why he was saying anything that he was saying now – these were not the type of words that he enjoyed even thinking about, let alone actually saying to someone. "Because, like William Hope suggested, I do feel a connection to you." Once of his hands moved on its own accord, releasing one of her hands and coming up to brush her cheek. He couldn't have stopped it, even if he wanted to. "I've become to really enjoy the time you've spent in these chambers. You are an exceptional witch, and it's terrible that it took me until your education here was over to realise that."
"I've come to really enjoy spending time with you," she said, staring up at him, seemingly unsure about him. He could not blame her, he sounded like such a fool saying what he was saying. Didn't he once upon a time have more self control then this?
"I'm sorry we couldn't have been spent more time together," he said softly, meaning it. In the last few weeks, he had found himself sitting in his empty rooms, wishing that she was there.
But her next words took him by surprise. "Perhaps, we still can." She smiled shyly at him.
Snape wasn't sure who moved first, but before he could really consider what she had just said, he was kissing her. Or she was kissing him. He didn't know anything, except that the feeling of her lips beneath his was incredible, something he'd wanted to feel again for the past three days since she'd given him a chaste kiss in Hogsmeade.
But this was no chaste kiss, not by far. The witch beneath him was pressing up towards him, and he felt her mouth open below his, sending him an invitation which he gratefully accepted, hesitantly moving his tongue to meet hers. Somewhere in his mind, he was screaming that he shouldn't be doing this, that this was wrong, that this witch was likely going to walk out of his life forever in less then an hour. But the rest of him didn't seem to be listening as he felt her hands move up his chest to slide over his shoulders.
He felt his body getting warmer as the seconds passed – how long had they been kissing? – but he didn't care. But when the young witch moved to press her body against his, he quickly broke the kiss, not wanting her to feel the arousal that had been building in his lower regions.
They stared at each other, wide eyed for a moment before he spoke, his voice catching for a moment. "Miss Granger, I apologise!" He said quickly, feeling heat rise to his cheeks. "I should not have done that, I'm very sorry." He turned away, trying to catch his breath as he realised that this was the first time he had apologised to her.
"And why shouldn't you have done that?" she asked quietly from behind him.
After a silent moment, he turned back to find her looking at him, her cheeks slightly red and her lip slightly swollen. One glance at her lips, and he suddenly stepped back towards her, his hand sliding behind her head to the base as he pulled her back up to him.
He didn't mean to do it, and shock ran through his body when he found the witch pressing her lips back to his with eagerness that almost outstripped his. Her hands came up to wrap around his neck.
After another moment, he broke the kiss again, but her arms did not move from his neck. "Why shouldn't you have done that?" she asked again. "If you had not, then I would have." Without another word, she reached up to kiss him again, and he met her lips with a forcefulness that shocked him.
Finally, finally, he managed to step back from her, feeling distinctively ruffled. "I should not have done that, Miss Granger," he said in what he hoped sounded like an even voice, "because I have been waiting a very long time to do that, and because you will be leaving Hogwarts very soon. This is… unwise." He turned from her. "I'm sorry."
At the sound of her uttering his given name, he spun around the face her, his face alight, but not with anger.
"Please don't be sorry," she whispered, her eyes searching his. "I've been waiting a while to do that too, you know." Shock ran through his body, and before he could do anything, he found the young witch in his arms, pressing against him and kissing him again. What could he do but kiss her back?
Three hours later, Hermione sat with Harry and Ron on the Hogwarts Express as it sped them further and further away from their lives as students. She hadn't told them about what had really happened when she'd gone to say goodbye to Professor Snape, she was still somewhere unsure of it herself.
The feeling of his lips, his body pressed against hers… Hermione knew that it was what she'd been dreaming of from months now, whether she knew it or not. The way he had made her body feel so alight, so hungry.
But there had been no declarations of love, no matter what she felt inside her. It wasn't the right time, and she knew it, as did it. She was leaving to travel to Africa in three days, to study Healing there for four months. Beyond there, she planned on going to America, Australia, Greece, wanting to study all she could before she chose to settle down in her yet to be decided career. Who knows, maybe she'd even settle on teaching, and she could return to Hogwarts once she was done.
Watching the boys play Exploding Snap, she remembered the words she'd said as she'd left his chambers earlier, words that she hoped he would take to heart.
"I promise I'll return."
And return she would, to claim what her heart wanted so. Her heart needed.
Okay, I wrote that ending about five times, and still feel that it's an incredible let down. I hope you enjoy it nonetheless, it leads directly into the sequel
I feel I do need to explain something though… the reason I couldn't have them get together properly in this story was that after drawing it out for so long, my choices were to either drag the story out for another fifty or so chapters, rush their coupling, or write a sequel, which will be based solely around their relationship after she returns (we all know she will). My plot bunny demanded a sequel, so I can only hope that I've got your interest enough to read it.
Thank you to everyone who stayed with me through this, it was an incredible experience to write this, thank you everyone for your support!
Oh, and title of the sequel will be "Waiting". Well, I think anyway. Does that sound too poxy?
Note: The sequel has in fact been taken down from simply because I felt as though it wasn't right, and I was never going to finish it. Sorry!!
Thanks again everyone :-)