Why love if losing hurts so much? We love to know that we are not alone.
They didn't end up snorkeling. They barely made it back to shore without Snape and Harry drawing their wands on each other. As soon as they landed, Snape hopped out of the boat and offered Hermione his hand.
"I—I thought I might spend some time with Harry. You know, catch up on the last few years," she said. She told herself she shouldn't feel guilty, but the harrowing look he gave her didn't help things.
"I'll see you back at the hotel," he said tersely. Without another word he stormed off down the pier. Hermione turned back to Harry.
"I never dreamed I would live to see the day Snape wore Hawaiian print," he said with a mischievous smile, watching Snape in the distance.
Hermione turned, trying to be angry, but the look on Harry's face broke her resolve. She started laughing. "Me either," she agreed, "Me either."
Harry took Hermione back to a small apartment that overlooked the water. The view was breathtaking. A cool breeze wafted in the window bringing with it the smell of salt and sand.
"What do you think?" Harry asked her. He rummaged through the refrigerator, finally pulling out two bottles of beer. He handed her one. Hermione looked around. It was a small and cramped apartment, but with a distinctive woman's touch. There were flowers on the coffee table and the prints on the wall coordinated with the sofa.
"It looks like you have a girlfriend," she remarked.
Harry smiled. "Still don't miss a thing do you? Her name's Catalina." He motioned for her to sit down. "So how about you? Are you and Ron married yet?"
"We…" Hermione paused. She tamped down the flood of anger at Harry leaving without telling anyone. "We didn't stay together. We wanted different things in life."
"Oh." He sounded perplexed. There was a long pause. The silence hung in the air. "How is he?" Harry asked.
"He's in Egypt, breaking curses with his brother Bill. Molly and Arthur assure me he's doing fine when I run into them." It was strange, she thought, this awkwardness between them. It had never been like this before.
"And how are you?"
"I'm…" She thought about how to answer that question. She worked too hard and had few friends and little contact with her family. She had almost died in the last month from a Dark curse. She had lost her job and no one would listen when she tried to warn them about the imminent return of Lord Voldemort. And she had taken up with Snape, although that would be construed as a bad thing by Harry, she wasn't so sure it wasn't the best thing that had happened to her. It certainly outweighed some of the other bad things. "I'm okay." She took a swallow of her beer and tried to make herself believe it was true.
Harry didn't look like he believed her. "And you and Snape are—"
"Sleeping together? Yes," she answered.
His look of shock said it all. "Hermione!"
"Don't start with me, Harry Potter! He's been the only one willing to believe in me these last crazy weeks. He's the only one I've had to lean on. You weren't there. And neither was Ron!"
He had the decency to look chagrined. Hermione looked away, pointing her gaze at the fantastic view out the back window. Harry gulped down the last of his beer and put his bottle down on the table with a loud thud. "We should talk about...what needs to be done."
"There is one Horcrux left," Hermione said. Just saying it gave her a chill. "It's the only explanation."
Harry nodded. "I have an idea about where it might be," he said.
Hermione perked up. "Really? Why didn't you say something before?"
"I wasn't sure. And then we had seven and he died."
"We thought he did anyway," Hermione said, but he continued on as if she had said nothing.
"I thought I deserved a rest. I thought I deserved some happiness. I didn't want to think about—" he drifted off into thought, his eyebrows furrowed. Hermione nodded. Suddenly the door opened and a stunning, leggy, woman waltzed in. She laid down the bags of groceries on the table and swooped over to Harry and kissed him brazenly on the lips. This was his Catalina, Hermione realized.
Catalina hadn't noticed Hermione until Harry pulled away from her and introduced his school friend, red-faced and stammering. Hermione tried not to laugh. She had been irritated with Harry for leaving abruptly, but seeing him here, happy and content with this woman, she realized why he had done it.
"You will stay for dinner, no?" Catalina asked Hermione. "I want to know all about my Harry as a boy."
Harry blushed some more. Hermione looked at him questioningly, wondering just how much this woman knew about Harry's past. He shook his head, so nothing then.
Catalina made them dinner while Hermione and Harry regaled her with imaginary stories about their childhood at the private boarding school of Hartwick.
"Remember the time we snuck into Slytherin House?" Harry asked with a laugh.
"No, actually I don't. I was in the infirmary at the time if you recall," Hermione said.
"What happened?" Catalina asked. She tossed a salad and looked from Hermione to Harry with a smile.
"She turned into a –"
"I turned my ankle," Hermione said before Harry could finish his sentence. "So Harry and Ron had to go in and steal the Slytherin banner without me."
Harry smiled sheepishly at them both, quickly moving the subject from their school days to how he could help. Catalina soon had him setting the table, while Hermione quizzed her about her own childhood growing up in Brazil.
After a long and delicious meal, Catalina finally excused herself. "I see you two have many things to talk about. Things I wouldn't understand." She kissed Harry on the cheek and whispered something in his ear that made him turn red. Hermione couldn't help but smile.
"It was nice to meet you," she said when Catalina offered Hermione her hand.
"A pleasure. I am glad that you came to visit. Harry does not make friends easily I know, so each one is that more precious."
Hermione nodded. Wondering if that was true then why did he leave them without a word. Harry must have seen her emotions written across her face because as soon as Catalina left he turned to her with a serious look.
"Hermione, there's something I should tell you. Two things really. First, I'm sorry I left without a word. I desperately wanted to let you and Ron know but I couldn't take the chance that it would get out where I was and then I would be back in the same boat as before. I thought that you had each other to lean on…"
Hermione reached out and touched his arm. "I won't say it wasn't hard. It has been, but only because I care about you Harry. You were my best friend."
"I'm sorry," he said softly.
"What's the other thing?" Hermione asked. It was too late to dwell on the topic of his abandonment.
"I don't know how to tell you this…"
Severus lay in bed, his hand resting on the pillow where Hermione should have been. He wondered if she would come back tonight. If she would come back ever. After their revelation on the boat, she had followed Potter back to his apartment and Severus had come back to his, their, hotel room.
When he arrived he hadn't been alone. A tropical bird carrying a note from Lucius had somehow found its way to their hotel. He had perused the note with a distracted interest and then had tried watching the telly. Most of the programs were in Spanish, and though he spoke enough of the language to get them a hotel room and ask directions, he couldn't follow the crazy plots of the telenovelas even if he had been interested, so instead he raided the mini-bar instead until it was a decent hour to go to bed. Sleep came only after hours of tossing and turning and then only with haunting dreams.
He stood, dressed in his Death Eater garb, in a circle around the Dark Lord. A weeping woman lay curled in a ball at their feet. Severus couldn't drag his eyes from her, her tattered robes splattered in blood or the way her curly hair stood on end. The Dark Lord spoke but he didn't hear the words. He kept his gaze on the girl, watching as she raised her head in defiance, even as tears streamed down her face. A flash of green light—
He felt Hermione finally crawl into bed next to him. On instinct, he reached out for her, frowning when his fingers touched scratchy linen rather than soft skin. She had left most of her clothes on—not exactly conducive to his immediate plans. He wanted assurance that she was still his even after her visit with Potter. He didn't come all this way and work this hard only to lose the girl again to a Potter.
He tugged at the bottom of her tank top and when it was properly relegated to the floor he leaned in for a kiss. Her cheeks felt wet and he pulled back. Not all of it had been a dream then.
"You've been crying," he said. "What's wrong now?"
"Nothing, nothing," she said, "I mean everything is wrong, right?" Her joke fell flat. Severus narrowed his eyes, trying to see her better in the dark.
"What happened at Potter's?"
"Nothing happened. Please will you just hold me?"
Severus nodded, knowing he would get no more out of her tonight. "Take off the rest of your clothes," he told her. When she did, he pulled her into his arms.
"You will tell me everything in the morning," he said with all the authority he could muster. She nodded sleepily, her chin bumping against his chest. With a sigh, he smoothed her hair, hugged her tight and fell back asleep.
She didn't normally like being crowded when she slept but tonight Hermione clung to Severus with every ounce of her being. She could feel his heart beat beneath her cheek and it slowly calmed her fears. They had found Harry. And soon this nightmare would be over.
Her fingers played over his bare chest as she contemplated the past weeks with him and what Harry had told her tonight. In his sleep, his hand came up and covered hers. Hermione smiled. Despite this whole horrible experience, despite what was to come, she had at least gained one good thing out of it all. She had Severus.
"I think I might love you, Severus Snape," she whispered. And then she closed her eyes and slept.
She woke up the next morning to kisses on her shoulder and collarbone.
"Good morning," Severus breathed in her ear. She didn't answer, but wound her arms around his neck and pulled him closer. He kissed her long and languorously. He moved over top of her and Hermione felt a welcome heat building between her legs. His hands moved down, first over her breasts and then lower, stroking and teasing her until she thought she might burst into flames.
Her hands played restlessly up and down his back until she could stand it no more. "Now," she whispered urgently. "I want you now."
"Now?" he looked down at her with questioning eyes.
She smiled and laughed, crashing her lips against his in a passionate kiss. "Now!"
He didn't argue, but quickly set about obliging her. He paused a moment and with one hand stroked her cheek. "You are so beautiful," he told her. Hermione smiled. She pulled him down for another kiss and moved her hips. He let out a deep groan and buried his face in her neck, moving in time with the rhythm she had set.
"And you are wonderful," she whispered into his ear.
With that encouragement he picked up the pace and soon Hermione was left gasping for breath, his name on the edge of her lips.
"You really are wonderful," she told him later as he rolled off of her. She turned and rested her head on his chest, pressing her lips to his skin. He tangled his hands in her hair.
"We're supposed to meet Harry at noon. He can arrange a portkey for us through some contacts at the Aruba ministry office," she told him. She nestled closer to him, letting her eyes drift shut. She could almost forget about Harry and the Dark Lord and everything and everyone else in the outside world while she was with Severus, but there were important things to discuss.
"I'm not coming with you," he said.
Her eyes sprung open. He stood looking down at her with a serious look in his dark eyes. Hermione shook her head. "I know that you and Harry don't get along but really—"
He put a hand on her shoulder and a finger over her mouth. "I don't want a lecture on 'why can't we all get along'," he said sharply.
"I have something in South America to take care of first."
Hermione furrowed her brow and looked at him suspiciously. "What kind of business?"
"I'll meet back up with you in London."
"What business?" she repeated.
"Something, or someone rather, who might be of help to us. Or they might not, but I need to go alone," he explained.
"Yes. I don't know if he'll come, but he was close to the Dark Lord at one point. He might have some additional insight."
"You were close to the Dark Lord, weren't you?" she asked.
"He was different for every person. Exactly what they needed him to be to win them to his cause, Hermione," he said with a tinge of regret.
Hermione balled her fists and tried to breathe. He couldn't leave her, not now, not after all they had been through together, not after what he had come to mean to her. Tears leapt to her eyes.
"I don't want to be apart from you," she said. She knew she sounded like a petulant child, whining after its favorite toy but she couldn't help it. It was the truth.
Instead of the cutting remark she expected from him, he pulled into his arms, resting his chin on the top of her head.
"I don't want it either but I'll be back sooner rather than later."
His words, so out of character for him, helped to ease the sting of disappointment. She leaned up and kissed him softly. "Will you hurry back?" she asked.
"Do you really think I would rather spend time with Lucius over you?" he said. He kissed her back.
"I don't know anything about your relationship with Malfoy," she said with a wicked smile.
Severus frowned at her. "Well, his hair is prettier than yours," he said.
Hermione narrowed her eyes, determined to make him pay for that remark. "But can he do this?" She wiggled her way towards the end of the bed. She noticed with satisfaction that Severus' breath hitched as her mouth neared his cock.
"I'm sure he can, it's just more a matter of whether he'd be willing," he said, gasping between syllables. And then Hermione made sure he couldn't speak anymore.
"You would return to me empty-handed?" he hissed. He wished for the strength to hex her for continued failure but only a handful of small sparks leapt from the end of his wand. All of his energy had been spent on the curse against the Auror. Now, weeks later, he still hadn't recovered. It made finding the Potions master that much more important.
"They will return to England, my lord. I am sure of it."
"Yes, bringing Harry Potter with them. That is the last thing I want right now!"
"I'm sorry, my lord," she said, her head bowed with shame.
"You should be," he said with a sharp kick to her shoulder. She rightly understood it as a dismissal and scurried away. "You will be," he said softly when she had gone.
"Will you teach me Spanish?" Hermione asked Severus later in between long languorous kisses. She hadn't slept in for years and it had been decades since a lie in had also included a man in her bed. She wanted to wring every last bit of happiness and contentment out these last precious moments with Severus in Aruba.
"What do you want to say?" He ran his hand up and down her arm and along the curve of her waist and hip.
"I like men who wear Hawaiian print shirts," she said, smiling.
"I don't know how to say that."
Hermione chucked him on the arm. "You do too! You just don't want to tell me."
He grabbed her hand and held it tight. His voice turned suddenly serious. "Te amo."
"What does it mean?" she asked.
"I love you." His fingers played nervously with hers, but he looked her straight in the eye as he said it. She smiled, leaning up to kiss him again.
"Te amo," she whispered against his lips. And then she kissed him, kissed him until all the world fell away and there was nothing left but her and Severus and two little words. And then it stopped.
Severus sat up quickly, throwing the covers off the bed, leaving Hermione cold and exposed.
"What are you doing?" she shrieked, reaching down for the sheet and pulling it back up over her. But he reached over and tugged it back down again. Hermione groaned in protest.
"We have things to do. Dark Lords to overthrow," he said. It almost sounded cheerful except for the sneer that he said it with. "Time to get out of bed."
"I'm not ready to get out of bed yet," she whined. "I'm not ready for you to get out of bed yet." She tried to look seductive but he ignored her, turning around and searching through his discarded clothes.
"Did you take your potion?" he asked, throwing his bag to her. The potions bottles inside clinked. "It's been a few days. The Darkness will have started building up in your system again."
"My legs are a little achy this morning," she said.
"And you've been increasingly cranky the last couple of days."
Hermione glared at him.
"My point exactly," he said with a vicious smile. "Take it, take care of the side effects, brush your teeth, and then get dressed. Potter shouldn't see you like this."
"And you call me bossy," she muttered under her breath. She looked up to see him giving her a questioning look. So he had heard her. Well, she didn't care. She stared right back at him.
"I would much rather spend all day in bed with you, but the Wizarding World needs saved and some overbearing, irritating, though terribly sexy Auror dragged me out of seclusion to save it. So let's get moving!" he finally said, one eyebrow raised.
Hermione lay back on the bed and heaved a large sigh. He was right. The time for romance and seduction were over. They had work to do. This was no time to stay in bed no matter how much she really wanted to.
A/N: Sorry for the delay. In the last year or so I quit my job, moved across the world, started learning a new language and traveled quite a lot. Hopefully the next chapter won't be so long in coming and will most assuredly be more action-packed than this transition chapter was.