Coming Back to You
by michmak
K+ (PG)


A/N: Thank you for all your kind words on the previous chapters. I am trying to maintain a certain pace here, and I appreciate very much that so many of you happen to like that pace. I like to take things slowly, as I'm sure you've noticed, but I also don't want things to be glacial in their proceeding. Hopefully, I can maintain that balance. Another song that belongs to the soundtrack for this story is posted at the bottom.

She returns to his class 4 days later. He tries to pretend that things haven't changed between them, but the tentative way she smiles at him and the wistful glances she sneaks in his direction make it difficult.

Barnaby Bibbins, the student who had caused the explosion, has been punished although not expelled. Snape had been furious with this, but Minerva had determined the little dunderhead hadn't known what would happen and was extremely remorseful.

Hermione had even forgiven the little blighter, if her gentle words and easy acceptance of his apologies are any indications. She'd even hugged the child.

Potter visits on the weekend, which is a surprise. Snape invites him in and offers him tea and doesn't bother trying to pretend the entire situation is anything but awkward.

After a few moments of idle chit-chat, Potter gets to the point. "I just wanted to let you know I support Hermione in her decision. Ron's just upset that she's left him for you." Snape gapes at him, but Potter ignores his confusion. "She knows what's best for her and if she thinks you're it, that's her decision isn't it?"

"You're mistaken, Potter," Snape interrupts. "She would never choose me."

Potter wisely drops the subject, but doesn't leave in search of more pleasant companionship. Instead, he spends the afternoon. Initially, Snape is uncomfortable having him there, but as time goes by he finds he doesn't mind it all that much. After two cups of tea, he pulls out the Ogden's and offers a snifter to Potter. The two men drink in silence for a few moments.

"Why have you never asked me about your mother?" Snape suddenly asks.

"I didn't want to make you uncomfortable," Potter responds. "But if you want to talk about her, I'd love to hear it."

Snape finds the words come much easier then he'd ever imagined they would. It doesn't hurt as much to remember Lily anymore. "You must understand, she was my only friend," Snape emphasises. "I held her in great esteem. I regret…I'm so sorry…"

Potter leans forwards, eyes bright with emotion. "Sirius and my father treated you terribly, and my mother should have forgiven you. I love my parents, but I understand now they weren't perfect, not like I'd always thought they were. They made mistakes too."

Snape blinks. "It still doesn't excuse…"

"No, but that doesn't mean I can't forgive you."

Hermione joins them in the Great Hall at dinner.

"Harry, I'm so glad to see you! I was afraid…"

Harry shakes his head. "Ron is just being Ron. You could have been perhaps a bit more tactful when you broke it off with him, but…"

"I know," Hermione inserts. "Only I was in pain, and he was being so dense and horrid, and…"

"You wanted to stick up for Snape, I understand totally. Just give him a bit of time to get used to the idea. He'll come around."

"Nothing to come around to," she murmurs, glancing furtively at Snape.

Snape is quiet throughout dinner, barely listening to the discussion flowing around him. He realizes that he and Hermione haven't shared this easy camaraderie since the hospital, where Weasley's ignorant words and her horrified reaction had so effortlessly shattered his brief illusions. He wonders if they can somehow reclaim the friendship they'd been building, because he finds he misses it. He doesn't want to make the same mistakes with her as he had with Lily. After dinner, he suggests a stroll around the lake. Harry begs off, but Hermione accepts his invitation. She blushes when he offers her his arm.
Her hand folds easily into the crook of his elbow and he shortens his strides to match her own. The gibbous moon is barely visible in the early twilight as they stroll toward the lake. "It was a surprise to see Harry," she offers. "Normally when there's a fight he takes Ron side."

"Perhaps Mr. Potter is growing up," Snape replies. "It seems he has more of his mother in him then previously expected."

"Sir…I just wanted you to know, I never meant to embarrass you that night. It's just…I…" She flounders for words. "I esteem you greatly, Sir."

"It is I who should be apologizing to you," Snape replies. "You are an intelligent and beautiful young witch, and I have come to rely on our friendship. I don't want you to ever think that I require anything from you than that. I am sorry if I have given you any cause to feel uncomfortable around me, Hermione. If I've made you feel like I expect something more…"

"What if I want something more?" Her question is whispered, but it stops him in his tracks. He turns to look at her, black eyes locking with brown. "What then, Sir?"

Later, when he thinks on this moment, he will remember the sound of small waves lapping gently against the lakeshore, working in rhythmic counterpoint to the beating of his own heart. He'll recall the way her hair clung to the hand he lifted tentatively to her face, and the feel of her cheek when she leaned into his palm, nuzzling it shyly.

All these memories will pale in comparison, however, to the memory of her arms wrapping him in a warm embrace and the way his eyes fluttered closed at the first feel of her warm lips against his own.


Songbird (Eva Cassidy version)

For you, there'll be no more crying,
For you, the sun will be shining,
And I feel that when I'm with you,
Its alright, I know its right

To you, Ill give the world
To you, Ill never be cold
cause I feel that when I'm with you,
Its alright, I know its right.

And the songbirds are singing,
Like they know the score,
And I love you, I love you, I love you,
Like never before.

And I wish you all the love in the world,
But most of all, I wish it from myself.

And the songbirds keep singing,
Like they know the score,
And I love you, I love you, I love you,
Like never before, like never before.