Author's Note:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd like to apologize for my extended absence from this story. Many of you have written words of encouragement (and even demands), and for that I thank you. With this chapter, I bring you another continuation of We Who Were Made to Love. I must apologize, for such a time lapse has left me much farther from the heart of the plot than I previously was. Thus, if there are some contradictions within the story, please bring them nicely to my attention while recognizing that I am not attempting to be careless-I simply just haven't been involved with the story for a long while.

As well, if my lovely beta-reader (to whom I give much apologizes and dedicate this chapter to) would like to continue to edit further chapters, please contact me at . She has been the best critique of my writing thus far. However, if she would wish not to, and I would certainly understand if she did, I would ask that any applicants that wish to beta-read please contact me at that e-mail address, as well.

Once again, I apologize for my absence, and I hope that this chapter is up to previous standards. Thank you!

Warnings: Obviously, this is only HBP compliant. I do not own these characters; but, if I did, I'd be a lot richer.

Hermione Granger was studying feverishly for her N.E.W.T.s. She sat in an armchair in her bedroom, papers strewn across the floor-a pencil stuck haphazardly in her dilapidated bun. She had been excused from classes the past three days, allowing her time to study for the examination that had been rescheduled for Friday, the last day of classes, and only two days away. She alone would be sitting for the exam with the Headmaster presiding over the procedures. If she did satisfactorily enough (and, oh, she could not stand the thought of it otherwise), she would be allowed to graduate, then and there, freeing Severus Snape from any charges of wrong-doing in the business of their marriage. Which, by the way, would be taking place exactly ten days from that very day of her studying escapade-Christmas Day.

However, she could not allow herself to think of that now. Now, she was studying, textbooks piling across her lap. Every subject was rattling in her brain (except Potions, which she could not yet bear to study). She felt her eyelids close into a half-moon, and then shook herself awake. "Can't sleep yet," she muttered, pouring strong, hot tea from her little porcelain kettle into the cup. It made her think bitterly of Remus. Tears began to slip down her tired cheeks, spilling onto the pages of her text book. Her lip trembled as she forced herself to mouth the spells she would have to write from memory; words washed ink down the page from the rain of her tears.


A voice came timidly from the doorway, bathing Harry Potter in a semi-glow of candles about their joint common room. He appeared to her hesitant, something seething darkly behind his eyes.

"Come in," she said, attempting a half smile.

He moved cautiously through the room, as if not to disturb the sanctity of her studies. As he sat on her bed, his crooked smile flashed briefly, one obnoxious strand of hair moving between his eyes. This is the messy boy that I love, Hermione thought, bringing some happiness to her otherwise listless mood.

"H-how is the studying going?" he asked, penetrating the silence with his haphazard thought. He brushed some imaginary dust off his arm, reluctant to catch her eye. He was embarrassed, Hermione could see that. Doubtlessly, his nights had been spent dreaming up ways to muck with Professor Snape (much, Hermione wagered, to Draco's dismay). Though Dumbledore, as Harry had confided to her the previous night, had confronted the boy outright about his plans for revenge. Harry, ever the disobedient child, could not bare, however, to defy the man he considered most parental of all and who had just arisen from the dead, so to speak. He would think about it, though. Hermione did not think she could bare to have those sorts of images in her head, even though she might have been inclined to look the other way, for once.

"It's fine." She spoke as levelly as she could, hoping that her voice would not betray her. Old habits die hard, she thought, almost sourly. Harry, most often, had been the one to whom she felt protective-motherly even. As mothers do, she did not want him to see her in despair; just the thought made her uncomfortable. They had shared fights, victories, homework, crushes, lewd jokes, and even the occasional defeat, but letting Harry see her spirits down was another matter entirely.

Harry seemed to grapple with something. His outwardly quite demeanor spoke volumes of the battle inside. To speak or not to speak? The ultimate question.

"Hermione," he began.

She moved to dismiss his words, but he protested, holding her outstretched hand in his. "Hermione, I know you don't want to talk about this. Ever since I learned about it two days ago, I can't shut it out of my head. I know that it's uncomfortable for you to talk about, but I'm your friend and I-"

He could not continue. A certain bushy-headed girl had finally collapsed in his lap with sobs, spilling her books and papers to the floor and collapsing her knees along with them. Harry held her head in his lap, stroking her cheek and giving her comfort as he could. He reacted with such maturity that Hermione could only wail with more intensity. Seeing that he had not shied away from her episode only gave her the courage to continue.

"I don't want to do this..." she wailed in the eerie tones of one completely bested by their grief. Her hands clenched and unclenched into fists, releasing rage and submission both.

"Then don't," Harry said, bending over to shield her with his body as she cried, her head in his lap and her legs on the floor. "We'll take you somewhere else. You and me and Draco will just leave-we'll go to America or Russia. It doesn't matter. Anywhere that that stupid law doesn't affect us."

Hermione shook her head, her tears ebbing. "No, Harry. We can't do that." She wiped her nose against her sleeve with gusto. "I hate this idea-I hate it so much, but I can't leave. My parents are here. My life is here. I love Hogwarts-I want to teachhere someday." Thinking about Remus' promise made her face suddenly contort with violent hurt, but she contained her tears. "You want to be an Auror-I know you don't, please don't lie. It's something that you and Ron both have dreamed about ever since you were boys. And Ron! You know that we would both miss Ron desperately. No, Harry, I have to do this. I have to-"

She stopped, the very words of her action giving her pause.

"-marry Snape."

Severus Snape detested shopping. Or rather, Severus Snape detested any activity which involved both the interaction of the outside world and the transaction of money. He frowned (consistently) as he passed by the windows of shops, his abnormally large nose leaving a trail of white breath against the glass-which, of course, irritated him further. Delving his hands into the pocket of his overcoat, he paused before a particular window, trying to the ignore the reflection his shadowy figure left upon the wares inside.

Interesting enough, he thought, stepping inside the door with a pleasant ring of some overhead bell, setting his nerves on edge.

"May I help you this evening?" came the voice of the shopkeeper-a rather unimposing figure with a spare tire and bottle-rimmed glasses.

Snape dismissed him with a shake of his head, making it a point to peer importantly into the glass case before it.

At this moment, Hermione Granger should be completing her NEWTs with flying colors, he mused. The thought of her hunched little form over parchment, sweat beading on her brow as she berated herself again and again over something terribly innocuous-he could not help but ride the wave of pleasure her image brought him. Keeping evidence of this affair tucked completely within robes and overcoat, he busied himself with his shopping.

Pointing to something particularly sufficient, he waved to the shopkeeper.

"The gentleman has fine taste," remarked the owner, removing the object from its display case and setting it gently on a velvet cushion before the professor.

He scrutinized it, plucking it up from the fabric and shifting it around his long, delicate fingers. He was well-versed in the handling of precious objects, considering the number of them he had added to cauldrons over the years. Yes, he decided, that would suit her well.

As the shopkeeper calculated his purchase, placing it in a black satin case, Snape was inwardly pleased at the decision. He had been to several shops that morning, all efforts so far fruitless. But this, he decided, was a respectable piece that would suit his purpose well.

He thought quickly of other tasks that needed to be complete before tomorrow, though he was well on his way to being ready. Snape was never a man that liked to do things without a sufficient amount of planning, but the situation yielded itself to haste.

Soon, he though, his eyes hazing. Soon he would have what had been brewing in his mind for years. His thoughts turned momentarily devious-her body flashing, skin against his skin, sweat between them, pleasant screams. He would need more robes before he could allow himself to go any further in public.

"Here you are, Sir." Severus Snape was given his trinket as he wished the gentleman a good day with a slight nod of his head. Leaving the shop, he tucked it within his robes, feeling a slight chill permeate him through the cloth.

It will look so beautiful on her finger, he thought. The image of her delicate, white hand sent another chill through him. This obsession was running him ragged. No rest for the old man.

Remus Lupin lay on the couch in a daze. The full moon would be on him tomorrow.

He looked at his glass of bourbon. It seemed to look back at him, warm and inviting. He took a drink, feeling it trickle down his stubble. A pain ripped through his heart, but he did not react. All he could manage to do this week was lounge and drink, dismissed from classes by the headmaster and rendered totally confined to quarters until Hermione Granger's marriage the following day.

Slowly, it began to lull him to the place of half sleeping and half awareness. While there, the only thought that plagued him was this: why did this broken creature, too week and too cowardly to defend the love of his life, deserve to live any longer?

Author's Note: Hope that lives up to previous chapters. Please feel free to R&R.