Chapter 31 "Someday We'll Know"

"Someday you'll know why I wasn't meant for you." -- New Radicals

Normally, Hermione was very happy in her life as a Weasley. Ron still loved her every bit as much as he had on the day he'd proposed. A love she felt she couldn't always return as she should. He was still good for a passionate snog and tumble under the covers; they were more than just friends raising children together. She did love him. She loved Hugo and Rose and their life as a family. She loved her in-laws who were really the brothers and sister her parents hadn't given her. She loved her job too. Life was really quite lovely.

However every year as winter approached, Hermione began to feel agitated. She told herself it was only winter depression or cabin fever. The caged-in feeling had nothing to do with her dreams becoming haunted once again by hooded eyes and dark hair. It was just a coincidence that it always happened at the same time every year, at the anniversary of the time that they had been together nineteen years ago.

Oh, perhaps she should have waited for that telling letter. All his letters were still in her warded chest at the foot of her bed. She had cried over that particular one. She hadn't known how to reply. But how on earth could I have expected it? she asked herself for the thousandth time. He gave me no hints. Just dropped the bomb in my lap too late for me to duck.

Severus had only told her he was leaving at that damned reception of his that Minerva had thrown. He hadn't consulted her or told her why he was leaving. She had been confused and hurt. She still remembered vividly her reaction to his first insipid letter that arrived so long after he had left so abruptly. She had realized then how silly she had been to think there could have been something real between them. Yes, she had been attracted to him. She had reasoned that there were lots of people who were attracted to several people at once. That was the plotline of so many tabloids and movies and novels. It wasn't a question of liking him. It was a question of being able to rely on Severus. That clearly wasn't possible. He hadn't felt he could talk to her about what had happened with Skeeter and that news article, much less what had happened between the two of them that afternoon. He had been so cruel to her at that damned reception that she still couldn't believe she had written back when he finally sent her that letter almost a year later. In fact, she probably wouldn't have, if Ron hadn't got her to see reason. It was all so ironic!

It had been the next New Year's that Ron had proposed. A year of dating was normally too quick to Hermione's thinking, but Ron was different. They had been together through so much. She knew she could depend on him. She loved him. He would be a caring father and a good husband. He made her laugh and didn't let her get too serious. He helped her relax and always made her smile. Severus had been a passing fling and was now a good friend. They were corresponding again quite regularly, and she looked forward to his letters. She had been working on a letter to tell him of her good news when that letter had arrived.

Severus's letter had arrived the day after she and Ron had announced their engagement to their friends and family. This time, Severus wrote of how much he missed her opinions and witty banter, how he hoped to see her soon after returning in another month or two, and how he loved her—though not in so many words. Hermione had cried several nights in a row. It was too late to back down now. She had said yes. She was a witch of her word; she wouldn't take back her promise to Ron. She just couldn't believe Severus had still cared after all this time. How could two such intelligent people have messed something up so badly?

Of course, his friendly letter from Italy had confused her again. It was nothing like his love letter from Moscow. She decided he must have been drunk and feeling particularly lonely. That was the only way to account for it. Her self-assurances made her once again confident of her decision to marry Ron. Then, their awful fight. She preferred not to remember it. She had never been so surprised in her life except maybe the first time Severus had kissed her.

Looking back, she could grudgingly admit that he had been right that day at St. Mungo's. She hadn't been ready to tackle their relationship. She had been too young, too unsure of what she wanted. It was how the cloth unfolded. That year and a half of being independent had done wonders for her. At least, she had told Ron what had happened between Severus and herself while he had been unconscious. His response was more than she deserved or had hoped for. He had looked at her, and said, "But you chose me, Hermione. How can I be upset? I'm just grateful."

And now, so many years later, Ron was giving her a smile full of love and trust as he caught her eye in the mirror. Hermione tried to smile back with equal enthusiasm as she adjusted her hair to stay in place—hopefully for the duration of the evening. The Weasley/Granger Christmas party would begin any moment now. As Ron turned to leave the room, she fingered the necklace Severus had given her on her wedding day. She didn't know why she always wore it; it wasn't as if he ever came.

They were just old friends who wrote letters and met for cream tea and long discussions that sometimes became heated debates. Perhaps she should have waited for Severus's return from Italy before giving Ron an answer, but that would have meant making him wait for at least two months. And she had had no reason to think Severus had still been interested in her. Men usually at least kissed a woman they loved good-bye before embarking on a world tour that takes years to complete. Sighing in frustration that she was even allowing herself to think of him at all, Hermione stepped away from the mirror.

Soon the guests would arrive; she should check in on Hugo and Rose. They were with all their cousins in the living room, scrabbling around and wreaking havoc in general. Hermione smiled sadly. How could she ask for her life to have been different? How could she make any other choice if she were allowed to go back? How could she pick any future where Hugo and Rose didn't exist? They meant the world to her.

At that moment, Teddy came through the doors, followed by his grandparents. The Grangers were already helping Molly and Arthur in the kitchen. Minerva knocked on the door next. Then Bill, Fleur, and their brood. Hagrid burst through the door like an overgrown Santa Claus, laden with gifts of dubious safety. Soon the Burrow was squeezed to overflowing as all the members of the Weasley clan by blood, love, or friendship talked and laughed. The children had forced the adults into a hysterical game of charades. The teenagers used the opportunity to steal kisses under the mistletoe.

Only the fact that Hermione was squashed against the door allowed her to hear a light knock as Hagrid boomed his guess of, "Yule Log!" She opened the door to see Severus Snape. His hair had grayed slightly since she had seen him that summer, but he looked quite dashing in his black robes.

He had never come before. What had changed his mind? She wasn't sure she even cared. It was so good to see him. It had been six months since she'd seen him last. "You came." She knew she must sound stupid, but she couldn't hide her surprise.

"Obviously," he said with a sneer indicating she must have lost all intelligence. Hermione laughed, stepped onto the front porch, shut the door behind her, and gave him a hug. "What's this?" He fingered the necklace with a hooded expression on his face.

Hermione shrugged. "If you don't know, I'm not telling."

He stopped stroking the necklace as his hands moved to cup her face. "You're beautiful," he whispered in awe.

"You cut quite a dashing figure yourself," she murmured back, trying to keep her voice light despite the hammering of her heart. He shouldn't be here. They shouldn't be outside alone like this. She couldn't do this, but oh, she wanted to! She wanted to stroke his face and kiss those lips and do oh so much more than she had known about when just nineteen.

"I was a fool to let you escape," he muttered into her hair. "I should have locked you up at Spinner's End and never let you leave."

She laughed softly even as she wondered why he was telling her all this now. It seemed so strange. So surreal. As if all the years had happened and yet as if they hadn't. But at both nineteen or thirty-eight, getting imprisoned did not sound appealing. "I wouldn't have appreciated that."

"No, probably not. But I should have at least stayed in England. I shouldn't have expected a nineteen-year-old Gryffindor to make the right decision," he scoffed as his hands ran through her hair.

Hermione wondered why. They had met so many times before. Why was he suddenly declaring his feelings? Why was she suddenly responding? All those teas and discussions over the years. All those letters. She had always been able to suppress the urges before, but now she simply couldn't. Feeling reckless, she ran her hands through his hair.

He fingered the necklace and asked, "Why are you wearing it tonight?"

"I always wear it to the party. I…" Hermione couldn't finish as he leaned down and took her mouth in his. The kiss was long and passionate and everything both had been dreaming of for nineteen years. He pulled away first, and she buried her face in his chest. They stood silently that way for some minutes as he stroked her hair. She breathed in the scent of him, knowing the moment would have to end and wanting to remember exactly how she felt in his arms. Finally, he whispered into her ear, "They'll be missing you."

She nodded. His tone changed into harsh condemnation. "I should have come to that first damn holiday party in spite of the bloody flu. I should have got completely drunk and declared my feelings before all your little friends."

"I think all that alcohol would have killed you."

He gently traced the contours of her face with his fingers, lost in thought. Finally, he asked, "Hermione, when you wear the necklace, are you happy that you chose Ron?"

She bristled. "I don't see how—"

He cut her off. "I ask because I've long debated on whether I should have given it to you as a wedding gift."

"It wasn't charmed to make me want you, was it?" Hermione raised an eyebrow, looking at Snape as if he were five and had his hand in the biscuit jar.

"No. It was charmed to help you see your feelings clearly. I thought that after you were so certain about being with Ron it would perhaps help you in moments later on when you questioned your decision. I also thought that you might never look at it again. But I never expected—Hermione, what do you feel?" His voice was like velvet and more seductive than he could imagine as he whispered to her.

Hermione stared for a long time into his dark eyes, loosing herself in their depths. She took a shaky breath. "I want you. I…" She paused as her feelings suddenly became clear. "I love you, Severus." He cut her off to kiss her again. Several minutes passed before she could finish her thought. "But, we can't do this. I can't hurt Ron. Hugo and Rose are just…"

"Say it again," he urged.

"I love you, Severus." He kissed her lightly on the lips. "But—"

"Shh." He pressed a finger against her lips to quiet her. "I know. I know. Hermione, I never told Lily… but I owed it to her… and to you… so you'd know. Because you deserve to know. I love you, Hermione. I have since… I can't begin to tell you how I've missed having you in my life. But, I don't expect—" His voice broke off. He stared off into the distance as his thumb traced patterns along her jaw line. When he resumed, it was in his old teaching voice. "If your husband ever gets in another 'car accident,' I'm not saving him."

Hermione leaned against him, savoring his smell and warmth. "Okay. I won't ask you to—as long as you don't cause the accident."

Severus grinned wickedly. "You'd trust the word of a Slytherin?"

"Only yours, but I do wish you'd have grown up faster. And I'm glad I married him. Imagine. It took you nineteen years to tell me you loved me. It would have taken another nineteen to have got a proposal out of you."

Severus chuckled. "You only would have had to wait until I returned."

"Then you should have stayed in contact." Suddenly, she was serious. "Why did you act so coldly to me before you left? Why didn't you just ask me if I was still interested? I had convinced myself I'd imagined the intensity of that afternoon at the Three Broomsticks."

"Me too," he whispered. "Why would you want an old, washed up professor who has a nasty temper?"

"I don't know either, but I did and I do. Why would you have wanted some Know-It-All half your age who didn't know what she wanted out of life?"

"Then she wasn't much of a Know-It-All. Hermione, I know I shouldn't have shut you out. I have regretted it for years. Did I…did I ruin your life when I disappeared?"

Hermione shook her head. "I married a man who loved me, and I have had wonderful children."

Severus captured her gaze. "And do you love him?"

Hermione took a moment to sort out what she was feeling. "I feel more than friendship for him. I do love him. We have had a good time together. There has been passion…" Her cheeks became red. She wasn't sure what exactly to say. "But it's different with you, a bit more passion, a bit less comfort. I've never been completely convinced that we could have made it work in the long term. I knew it could with Ron, and it has."

"Yes, I had the same doubts, but they shouldn't have kept me away. What did you say earlier, that I should have grown up sooner? If I truly had, I would have never have hurt Lily. I would be Harry's father."

She laughed merrily. "That makes the mind reel, doesn't it?" He nodded with a conspiratorial smile. "I know we made mistakes, too many in fact. But Severus, you will always have a part of my heart."

"Only a part?"

"Doesn't Lily still have part of yours?" His silence was enough of an answer. "It's not our fault our timing is so bad." He raised his eyebrow at her. "Okay, yes, it is. But Severus, I love you. I love you enough to want to stay friends with you. I could never bear to loose you completely."

He pulled her close and whispered in her ear. "Nor I you. I just had to tell you. We won't speak of it again." He held her for a long moment as they both committed minor details to memory forever. She outlined his face with her fingers one last time before linking her arm in his. "Come on inside. Minerva will be so pleased to see you." They entered the Burrow together.

"Someday you'll know that I was the one for you."

Author's Notes: I will not say for certain that an accident to Ron conveniently paves the way for Hermione and Severus to finally be together. That can be left up to you. I will say they won't begin some elicit affair that allows Skeeter to make Hermione out as a heartless bitch who is also a home-wrecker.

I decided to write a story about Severus and Hermione that didn't have the perfect ending after listening to "Someday We'll Know." I felt that it would be all too easy (given his lack of relationship experience and her youth) for them to be attracted to each other and just kept missing what the other person meant by actions and words (which happens all too often in real life). I really hope you didn't find this story too depressing. I know they missed out on years of marriage, but they managed to remain good friends who cared about each other in spite of everything, and they finally both admitted their feelings. I wanted to write a story about friendship and hurt/comfort. Lots of things in this story just came out on their own, including some of the romance.

And yes, I feel quite guilty that they don't end up happily in this story.

As always, copious thanks to LC and Shuldham. They are the reason Ch 25-29 exist and that I've been dropping subtle (and not so subtle) hints about the ending in my review responses. Thank you for reading my story. Please leave reviews; it's okay if you want to rant.