Author's Notes:

This story is the sequel to "What is Left When All is Said and Done", which should definitely be read first, or else even the first sentence won't make sense to you.

Chapter 1

The funeral for Ronald Weasley was held a few days after his death, near the site of where Dumbledore's had been. The crowd that had gathered was small; they had decided that too many questions would be raised about Harry's still-weakened condition as well as Hermione's presence, given that according to public knowledge she had run off with the traitorous Snape a scant few days ago. Plus, this way Dumbledore — whose resurrection they were keeping a secret for the time being — and Snape — whose true loyalties were also being kept secret — could attend. Not that the latter particularly wanted to.

"He saved your life!" shouted Hermione from his doorway.

"No, he saved yours. I'm sure he would have stood there and applauded if you hadn't jumped in the way."

"I can't believe you're not going to go." She stamped her foot.

"I believe I have already suffered enough because of the Weasley family."

"It's a funeral, for God's sake!"

"I don't understand why you're insisting I attend."

"Because, I'd want you at mine!" And with that, she slammed the door and stormed away for the third time in as many days. Severus sighed. These past few days had been…confusing, at best for him. He was back in Hogwarts for the time being because of the dangers that awaited him outside the walls. He had thought that it would be peaceful, what with all the students and most of the faculty gone as well. What he had not counted on, was Hermione's mission to make sure he did not isolate himself in his dungeons. Even Albus had told her that he was a solitary man and protected his privacy jealously. This did not deter the Gryffindor, however, from intruding on him at least once a day.

"Shouldn't you be spending time with your friends, Miss Granger?" he had inquired when she had come to his door for the second time the morning after Harry have been revived. The first time, he had ignored her knocking and sent a house-elf to tell her he was still sleeping. Which wasn't true, of course. He knew he couldn't use the same excuse again now and so was trying a different tactic.

This time she ignored him and marched right on in with a most peeved expression on her face. Without asking, she sat down in the armchair facing the one he had just been occupying.

"Did I —"

"They won't stop snogging!" she erupted. "I know what Dumbledore said, but I don't think he meant that they should be running around snogging each other endlessly. I swear, it's like Ron and Lavender all over again!"

Caught off guard and speechless for perhaps the first time in his life, Severus returned to his chair and sat down. He picked up his tea and stirred it once before speaking.

"He's under a lot of pressure," he started.

"You!" she exclaimed incredulously. "You're taking Harry's side? Of all the people, I had expected you to sympathize."

"And as much as I do, Hermione, I think you have to give him a bit more leniency. After Ron's funeral, he'll be leaving the safety of Hogwarts all over again to find the other Horcruxes. Don't you think he deserves a little sympathy?" A hmph was his only answer, but he accepted it.

While he took a sip of his tea, she asked, "And what about me? I'll be going off with him too! Don't I get to snog anyone?" Severus couldn't help choking and sprayed the tea all over himself.

"Excuse me, Miss Granger?" he asked as he dried himself off with his wand.

"You heard me. And it's Hermione." She left it at that. Severus carefully set his teacup and saucer down, making sure his hands did not shake as he did it. Then he looked Hermione straight in the eyes.

"Fine, Hermione. And do you have a suggestion as to whom you might fancy a snog with? I hear Argus Filch is especially free these days since the students have been gone. Or perhaps Hagrid?" He knew he was only stalling, but he had to do it anyways.

"Or perhaps you?" she proposed, as seductively as a petulant teenager could.

Careful, Severus, she's just lost one of her best friends. Best not scare her away too harshly.

"Hermione, even if I were not your professor and twice your age and forgetting the fact that both Albus and Minerva would kill me if they found out, I hardly think kissing you to get back at Harry and Ginny is a good idea." He steeled himself not to run for it when she got up and started approaching him.

"You're not my professor any longer," she said, ticking off each counterpoint with a swish of her hips, "I don't care about age — swishnobody ever has to know — swish — and who said anything about getting back at Harry and Ginny?" She was standing dangerously close in front of him now. He gulped as she leaned down over him and placed her hands on the armrests on both sides of him to support herself. She positioned her face inches from his and waited.

"No, Hermione." She didn't move.

"Why not?"

"Because," — he grabbed one of her wrists and twisted it so that she was forced to kneel down on the floor beside him — "I know you're not thinking with a clear head at the moment, and I won't let you do something you'll regret later." She whimpered in pain, but he held on to her to make his point. "You've just lost Ron and gone through more than a fair share of dangerous experiences with me in the last forty-eight hours. You're confused and hurt and you think it will all stop if we kiss. But let me tell you, Hermione, as a friend: it won't, and you'll regret it." He let go of her then, and she took off crying.

Way to bungle it, old man. You forgot the part about her being beautiful and intelligent and respecting her too much to grant her with a pity kiss from a lecherous old fool.

But it was exactly those things that had made what she had proposed so very tempting to him, and consequently, the reason he had driven her away in tears. Sure, he could have taken advantage of her then, relieved some of the tension that had existed over them (and, although his mind would not admit it, between them) for the last two days. Hell, she had been begging for it! But even he also knew that that would have been followed by an awkwardness that would have been far harder to endure. Plus, he was sure there had been something going on between Ronald Weasley and her. He would never, never stoop to being a replacement for a Weasley. And with that, he turned his thoughts away from the girl and returned to the book he had been reading.

The next morning, he had been surprised to hear her call at his door again. Even more surprising, though, was that instead of ignoring her as he had meant to do, he found himself answering it. She entered silently, keeping her eyes to the ground. Curious as to what had caused her drastic change in demeanor, he inquired, "What may I do for you, Miss Granger?"

"I wanted to apologize for my behavior yesterday." Ah, so that was it.

"Apology accepted," he said gruffly, expecting her to leave. When she didn't move, he prodded, "Is there anything else you need?"

"Might I…might I stay with you a while? I — I won't try to snog you again, I promise," she rushed. "You won't even know I'm here. It's just…I don't have anywhere else to be right now." And no one else to be with, were the silent words that followed her sentence. Severus chose not to embarrass her needlessly by pointing out that there was the whole of Hogwarts, excluding his rooms, where she could be occupying her time and took pity on her.

"Fine," he said, "but I reserve the right to kick you out at any time." Severus wished he could have bottled the look on her face then. She was true to her word, for the most part. It turned out that she had brought a book — several books, in fact — with her, and she plopped herself down in the chair she had sat in for such a short time the day before. An hour or so later, when Severus looked back up from his book, it was to find that she had moved down onto the fur rug and was lying on her stomach with her head propped in her hands and one knee bent. What had caused him to look up, though, was the fact that she was humming. Humming. He cleared his throat, which caught her attention. A quick draw of breath followed the stopping of the tune.

"I'm sorry, sir," she said with big, brown eyes. "I didn't mean to —"

"Please make sure you don't repeat it," was his curt reply. And he settled back into his book, only glancing up one more time to watch her swinging her legs back and forth. A grunt was all it took for her to freeze and slowly lower them down. Afterwards, there were no more disturbances until lunchtime.

A house-elf had appeared inquiring if his guest would be joining him for lunch. She had immediately replied, "Yes," while he had declined. Confused, the elf stood there looking at the two of them bicker back and forth.

"Why can't I eat here with you?"

"I prefer to dine alone."

"I've eaten dinner with you before."

"Those were different circumstances."

"Argh…why do I even try?" She picked up her books and made for the doorway. "I'll never understand you, Severus Snape," she said before slamming the door and leaving. And I hope you never will.

As platonic as the interchange between them had been that morning, it still scared the hell out of him. Somehow, the girl had worked her way into his life, and even more frightening, he had let her. He wanted to blame it on the synergetic confluence of events — her disrupting his suicidal plans, his confiding in her of his past, her believing in him, and lastly the hope she had brought him regarding Dumbledore's survival. But the truth was, had it been any other person, he would have blasted them to bits and pieces upon learning that they had been posing as Lily, or upon finding them intruding on his private residence, or even upon attempting to hug him.

No, there was something different about this one, and he wasn't quite sure he was ready to reason out why to himself yet. Easier to concentrate on all the reasons why any type of relationship with the girl wouldn't work out. She was about to leave with the Boy-Who-Lived-to-be-a-Prat, for one thing. He knew how dangerous their mission would be, and there was no point in endangering it further by producing anything that could be used as a wedge between the two of them. Plus, despite Albus' return, he was still pretty sure he wasn't going to survive the year. It had been something he had accepted long ago, and he didn't need some bossy little chit ruining everything for him by convincing him that his life was too important to sacrifice. The last person that had thought that of him had died by Voldemort's own hand. And he would never admit this to anyone else, but he also didn't want the guilt of knowing that she would grieve for him on his shoulders. The girl was making him soft, and that was something he could not let happen, not while he still had to spy on Voldemort. Just one crack in his occlumentic shield, and the Dark Lord would have his entire mind at his disposal. It was too much to even bear imagining. Thus, he had driven her away, yet again. This had to stop.

This morning, as much as he had tried to ignore the pounding on his door, after ten minutes he had had enough and threw it open. She had been standing there, arms akimbo, demanding why he wasn't going to the funeral. Which brought him to the present, where he was left staring at a door that had been unceremoniously slammed in his face. He made his decision then, although the voices in his head wouldn't stop arguing.

This is for her, not for me!

Right, if it really was for her, you'd stay as far away as possible from her!

She needs someone right now.

And who says it's you?

If not me, than who?

That argument seemed to shut the other voice up and he proceeded to get dressed for the outdoors. There was no need for him to wear anything special for the funeral; all his clothes were already color-appropriate. But even though it was the middle of summer, the day was unseasonably chilly. Clouds hid the sun from appearing properly and a brisk breeze blew in from over the lake.

When he approached the grave, they had already started. The Headmaster was giving the eulogy while the Weasley clan was gathered in front of him. Hagrid and McGonagall were also there representing the rest of the Hogwarts staff. Harry was hugging a crying Ginny while Hermione…while Hermione was standing all by herself in the back, far away from the others. She was still punishing herself, he knew. Still blaming part of his death on her. He walked up to her from behind and offered a handkerchief. She accepted it blindly and blew her nose in it. He remained standing awkwardly behind her, trying to decide whether or not he would accept it back from her should she choose to return it to him. The choice was made for him, however, when she pocketed it and turned around.

"Oh, Severus," she cried as she reached around his neck with both hands and clung to him. Knowing what she needed, he put his arms around her and gave her as much comfort as he could. They stayed like that for a while, even after the service had finished. It was much colder now, but he continued to hold her until she was done grieving.

"Thank you, Severus," she said, placing a hand on her chest and arching back to look into his eyes.

"I'm sorry…about before," he offered. She blew her nose again.

"It's all right. And I'm sorry, for barging in on you like that."

"You're forgiven," he answered back. "I wanted you to know, Hermione —" He was going to say, "— that I wouldn't have gone to your funeral because I would have done everything I could have to prevent it," but just then the tattoo on his left forearm flared to life.

"Arrrgh…" he cried as fell to the ground, clutching his arm in pain.

"Severus!" She knelt down beside him. "Is it the Dark Mark? Is he calling you?"

He could only nod in response. Finally, he regained enough control to tell her, "Run! Go tell the Headmaster what's happened!"

"Promise me you'll come back!"

He would do no such thing. Instead, he only repeated, "Go!" Crying, she got up and left him alone on the lawn. He slowly made his way to the gates, beyond which he knew he could Disapparate. If the pain with which the Mark was inflicting on him was any indication of the Dark Lord's mood, he feared this would be the last time he saw these gates. And with that thought, he vanished.