DISCLAIMER: I, sadly, cannot admit to owning anything remotely related to Harry Potter….

The Price of Love

Beta: Raspberri13

Chapter 1

It all happened so quickly; in a split second my whole life had changed.

Darkness…the eerie sound of water dripping…a flash of white…then red.

There was so much red; my blood and hers.

It had to happen, I keep repeating to myself as I remember that fateful night. It was a sacrifice that had to be made, but even now I cry when I remember what I lost.

That was it, the last Horcrux.

That was two years ago. The war is over now; it was over soon after that incident actually. Harry defeated Voldemort easily, although I was not there to see it.

St. Mungo's was pondering over my case, they still are actually. My blood is no longer pure, not that it ever was in some eyes.

I left Hogwarts soon after, even though technically I wasn't done. McGonagall, the new Headmistress, allowed me to take my NEWT's early. As expected, I passed them all rather easily.

Unfortunately Ron had been killed during the final battle. I was heartbroken at first. I had always maintained that illusion that once it was all over, we would get married; it was expected of us after all.

But as time wore on, I realized that even if he would have lived, I wouldn't have married him. I could not give him the one thing he wanted.

I assume Harry is now with Ginny, although I'm not positive. I purposely lost touch with him. I knew that he felt guilty over what had happened to me. I didn't know how to explain to him that I knew what I was doing. I knew what I was sacrificing.

My love for him enabled me to do that.

So many more had died during the war, so many had lost those that they loved. Whole families were shattered as the death toll continued to rise at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, my family was not one of the ones that escaped unscathed.

I saw my sacrifice as a small one compared to other much larger ones. After all, I was still alive even if not fully 'whole'. That was something to be thankful for.

I found solace in a very unlikely place, actually. With the need to escape for a while, I had turned to the one person who I thought would never help me, much less listen to my desperate pleas.

But never did he question me on my decision.

Sometimes I find myself escaping into the deepest corner of my mind, remembering a distant time when everything had been perfect. Well, better than it is now. In those few moments I ponder the choice that we each made.

Would the outcome had been the same if we had acted differently?

My choices, each and every one of them, were made for a reason. I didn't doubt the sacrifices I made, nor do I regret them.

In the name of everyone I love, I made my choice…and now I have to live with it.

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Later…

"The duty of an anthropologist is not to see or judge a culture by looking at it from the outside. The anthropologist should incorporate themselves into the culture that they are studying and learn about all aspects of that particular culture, thereby drawing an accurate picture, not a biased one. Can anyone tell me what this is called?"

The young woman, about twenty years in age, stood before a class of about twenty. Each student wore the look of a zombie as they stared back at her, their eyes glossy as if in a trance. She sighed. She really didn't know why they were even taking the course, or why they were wasting her time for that matter.

"Anyone?" she tried again without any luck. These students, ranging from the age of 15 to 19, couldn't care less about what she was saying. Most were just taking the course to fill up a time slot they had open.

Defeated, she lightly scratched at her forehead and sighed. "Please read pages 132-164 by Friday in your Conformity and Conflict book. We will be discussing it and I expect everyone to offer an opinion."

No one stirred, nor did they give any indication that they had even heard her. She waved her hand, "Class dismissed."

As the class hurriedly packed up their belongings and made a mad dash for the door, the young teacher allowed herself to fall unceremoniously back into her seat. When they had informed her of the difficulty of the task she was taking on, they hadn't been joking.

She refused to give up, though. Besides, she didn't want to give him a reason to gloat.

Securing her unruly mass of russet curls back into a bun, she shoved her papers into her briefcase and prepared to leave the small London community school that was merely meant to get kids off the streets. But, as it was, the program had a huge flaw- you can get the students in, but you can't make them learn.

"Packing up already?" a deep baritone voice drawled silkily from the doorway…his voice.

Sparing him a short glance as she finished tidying up, she replied, "Don't you have a class to teach or students to scare?"

The slight tilt of his mouth was the only indication of his amusement at her cheeky reply. "Actually, if you would have bothered to check the schedule I gave you, you would know that I just finished up with third year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs. My next class doesn't start for another hour."

"Hmm," was her only reply until she realized that he was in London when he was supposed to be in Scotland. "Did you apparate here even after I specifically asked you not to?"

Up until that point, he had been leaning leisurely against the door frame, his arms crossed over his chest. At her words, though, he pushed himself upright easily and strode towards her, his shoulders lifting in a slight shrug.

"Personally I think it's much better than flooing," he paused, "much harder to trace as well."

She sent him an icy glare, one she had perfected since staying with him, and pulled the strap of the black leather briefcase onto her shoulder. "They both can be traced, you know that very well."

"Would you feel better if I told you I apparated to various points before finally arriving here?" His black eyes surveyed her as she refused to turn away from his intense gaze.

"Actually, no." She closed the distance between them. "What are you doing here? I thought it was a general rule of ours to not see each other until the weekend, and even that is limited."

There was an odd gaze in his eyes, a soft and almost tender look, but she quickly dismissed that notion. She had never during the entire course of their acquaintance known him to be either soft or tender. It just wasn't in his character.

"He stopped by Hogwarts today," he finally said, and she had no trouble figuring out who 'he' was. "I just happened to be passing when he was inquiring about you to Minerva."

She looked at him suspiciously. "You didn't say anything to him, did you?"

One black brow quirked. "And if I did?"

She glared at him and gave him a sharp jab in the chest with her forefinger. "You promised me a long time ago that you wouldn't tell a soul of my location. You know my reasons and I thought you honoured them."

"Relax," he said in that ever sardonic voice of his, "I did not divulge your little secret." He gazed at her for a moment before adding softly, "But you should remember that money can buy a lot of things."

She raised a brown and slowly crossed her arms over her chest as she gazed at him appraisingly. "What exactly do you mean by that?"

He just shrugged dispassionately and picked up one of the small paperweights of her desk, turning it over in his hand. "Exactly that- money can buy a lot of things."

The silence stretched across the small classroom as the two engaged in a staring contest, neither wanting to break the contact first. Finally, though, she had enough and looked away.

"Look, I don't feel like getting into a word slinging contest with you at the moment. I just got out of a very testing class and I don't feel like doing much of anything. I just want to go home…"

"My home."

"Our home and take a nice, long bubble bath."

She knew that he was amused by her. After all, hadn't he often claimed that her and her friends were very testing in school, and had often tried his patience.

He slowly sat the paperweight back into its position on the desk. "I'm sure you're planning on staying there all afternoon as well."

She huffed and straightened her shoulders. "So what if I am?"

He didn't reply. Instead, he drawled thoughtfully, "I wonder what he would say if he knew that you've been living with me these past two and a half years."

Her eyes narrowed on him, so much so that if he hadn't seen her in her worst moods, he probably would have backed off in fear. "You wouldn't dare."

He shrugged. "Money can buy a lot of things as you should know by now. Information can be bought rather easily in this day and age. Just remember that."

With that, he turned and began to walk away. Just as he reached the door, she called, "Thanks for the warning, Severus."

He tossed up a hand and said, "Any time, Hermione."

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Hermione Granger, now twenty years old, shut the door to the modest house she shared with Severus Snape and leaned back against the door with a small groan. Muggle transportation was a pain in the…

"Would Missus like Wispy to draw a bath?"

Hermione opened one chocolate eye to gaze down at the small house elf with large yellow eyes. Despite her protests, Severus had refused to get rid of the elf. She had to admit though, the small creature seemed quite happy to be serving them.

Not that she would ever admit that to him, of course.

"Yes, please," she said with a small smile of gratitude as the elf bounded off in the direction of Hermione's private bathroom connected to her room.

That was one of the first changes Severus had made when she first came here; he refused to allow his private bathroom to be overran by a woman.

Hermione deposited her briefcase on the coffee table and her jacket on the chair in the sitting room before stretching her aching limbs. Then, she went to her bedroom and began to remove her clothes, letting them fall to the floor in a heap.

By the time she was completely narkers, Wispy had the bath all ready for her. The sweet aroma of the bath salts wafted towards her; she wanted to kiss the elf.

The warm water cascaded over her skin as she slowly lowered into the bath. Her muscles finally started to relax as she sank lower into the liquid. She closed her eyes and was lost to the world in the span of two minutes.

She was startled awake by Wispy's frantic mumbling. She looked over to the door where the house elf was wringing her hands nervously, her eyes occasionally darting towards the front of the house.

"Wispy?"

The house elf jumped slightly and turned quickly towards Hermione. "Oh, Missus is awake!" she cried with jubilation. "Missus will tell Wispy what to do."

Hermione rubbed her eyes as she rose from the bath, wrapping a fluffy towel tightly around her. "What is it, Wispy? Having trouble deciding what to fix for dinner?"

She was in the process of walking back into her bedroom when Wispy's next words stopped her cold. "Oh no, Missus, there is someone trying to break the wards to get in."

Hermione whirled around to stare at the elf. "What?" She still couldn't quite believe it when the elf repeated the story. "Who is it, Wispy? Can you tell?"

Just then, both human and elf felt the ward fall from around the house. Whoever it was, it had to be a powerful wizard to get past Severus' wards, Hermione reasoned.

She was already reaching for her own wand from its hiding place- she had once put it away and refused to use it again unless in a dire emergency- when the door opened and an angry male voice drifted through.

"Damn you Snape! I lost you at Peru but I know you're here now! I set a little alarm and you tripped it. Get your greasy ass out here right now!"

Hermione closed her eyes and savored the sound of the voice. She knew it well and yet she had thought never to hear it again. Reality caught up with her, though, when she heard him begin to throw things around.

"Wispy, go out there and tell him that Severus is not here. Whatever you do, don't say one word about me being here. He cannot know…"

But, as luck would have it, the door opened once more and Hermione heard the angry voice of her former Potions Master demanding, "What are you doing here, Black?"