Disclaimer: Thank you JKR for letting me play with your characters! Thanks also to Lux, Sbrande and Odd Doll for all the help in making this story readable, you are all incredibly awesome!!!

The One I'm Waiting For - Chapter 4

Hermione barged into her flat, oblivious to her surroundings. Kicking off her heels, she headed directly to her bedroom. After tossing her wand on the dresser, she striped down to her knickers and threw on an over sized t-shirt. The flat was scorching hot, even worse than when she had left that morning.

She felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders; the divorce was final and it had definitely been the right decision. The signing of the papers had gone well enough, and somehow when she and Ron had left the office, the tension between them had dissipated and what remained resembled the friendship they had once had. Their marriage was over and she felt relieved. Yet at the same time she was anxious – it would be difficult to be alone after all these years.

After the meeting Hermione had been intent on confronting Molly about her accusations; however, she had been disappointed to find her gone. She wondered if she would ever be able to convince the Weasleys that she hadn't been having a torrid affair with Severus Snape. Molly had a tendency to gossip and Hermione sincerely hoped that she hadn't been spreading rumours to anyone who would listen. It was a shame really. If she were going to be thought of as a scarlet woman it would have been nice to have actually done the things she was accused of.

Hermione shuffled into the living room. She hadn't eaten since breakfast and her stomach was keen to remind her. She would make herself a quick bite to eat and spend the rest of the evening relaxing with a good book. Now that the divorce was final and her mind was free from that stress, she needed something to keep her from thinking about her former professor. The last week he had invaded her dreams and made it impossible for her to sleep. The fact that he hadn't approached her yet was driving her mad. He had to know that she knew by now. Maybe all the subtle hints and flirting really had been just her imagination.

Walking over to the bookshelf, she searched amongst the tomes for the perfect book. Perhaps a steamy romance novel? No, that would just make matters worse. With a laugh, she pulled out Hogwarts: A History, a tried and true friend, full of all the intrigue and drama she could ask for.

Flipping through the pages, she turned to place the book aside for later. Instead of resting on the table though, it fell to the floor with a thump. A pocket watch sat on the wooden table next to the sofa, its silver chain falling gracefully over the edge, the fierce dragon engraving staring intently up at Hermione with its emerald eyes.

Her hand flew to her mouth as she watched the dragon's fiery breath slither across the worn silver. How many times had she seen this watch? How many times had she watched it slip into the pocket of so many different-sized trousers and cloaks — an elderly man, a youthful rogue, a helpful deliveryman — the twinkle in its owners eyes daring her to comment.

Hermione snatched up the watch, and held it to her chest. She didn't know whether to be excited or afraid. He had to be in the flat, but where? There were only so many places to hide. She looked down in horror at her old Quidditch t-shirt and bunny slippers – had he been in her bedroom!?

She turned, still clutching the watch, and began retracing her steps. She was halfway to her bedroom when the kitchen door creaked open.

Severus Snape emerged, wiping his hands on a dishtowel, the sweet scent of rosemary following him. His eyes widened and he tilted his head in greeting.

Before she could react, a soft Petrificus Totalus was cast, rendering her immobile.

"Ms. Granger, I see I've surprised you. Have you become so lax that you do not even recognise when your wards have been breached?" He looked her up and down as he spoke, lingering longer than necessary on her bare legs. His eyebrows rose at the sight of her bunny slippers but when he lifted his eyes to meet hers a genuine smile graced his face.

Hermione's heart beat a little faster.

"I apologise for the intrusion; I imagine that you must be quite confused by my actions of late, or rather the lack thereof. I was truly not being inattentive, my dear. I only wished to spare you being the brunt of nasty rumours so close to your divorce. You have just come from the solicitor's office, have you not? George said the divorce would be finalised today." He finished with a slight smirk, knowing full well that she couldn't answer his questions.

Seeing Severus Snape standing so relaxed in her living room was unnerving. He wasn't attired in the black robes of her youth; instead he wore a starched white linen shirt, with sleeves rolled up to reveal a faded Dark Mark on his left forearm, and an unbuttoned collar. He was no longer the dour Potions Master of Hogwarts but he was oddly still the same man of her youth – longish black hair, hawkish nose, thin, pale. But small changes made him infinitely different. His hair was streaked with silver, his face was no longer sallow, and his body was lean and athletic, not painfully thin as it had been in her last years at school.

Hermione was strangely grateful that she was in a full, if unasked for, body bind. The sight of him astounded her, and made her knees go weak. His true form was far better than every fantasy or dream she could have ever imagined. She couldn't help but think he looked incredibly sexy standing there. Perhaps she was crazy, but it was true.

"I shall release you before the shock subsides and turns to anger. I have no reason to want you irate, Hermione." He traced her jaw with a long graceful finger. "I hadn't wanted to take the chance you would hex first and ask questions later. Though I need not have worried, since it appears you have misplaced your wand," he said with a grin.

"I've prepared tea. I hope you find it acceptable, but before we eat I am sure you have a few questions for me." He tilted his head to the side, as though scrutinising her, before lifting his wand and flicking it in her direction.

The tingling started in Hermione's toes and worked its way upwards as the spell released her from its grip.

She continued to stand stiffly in place; now that she had Severus in front of her she didn't know where to begin. Being in his company without the disguises to hide behind made her far more nervous than she had ever imagined. Remembering her attire, she blushed and started for her room, not saying a word to the man now sitting on her couch.

The bedroom door slammed in front of her. Turning she stared at him in disbelief. "I…I need to change," she stammered.

"I happen to like the way you are dressed. Hermione, sit. I promise I will not bite." He patted the couch next to him.

Her blush crept down her chest, but she sat as far from him as the settee would allow, yanking her shirt down over her knees.

Attempting to compose herself, she gulped and began to question him. "You…you survived the bite." She hesitated. "How?" She knew she sounded unintelligent. They had spoken so many times before, but now it was somehow different. She felt bashful and uncertain of herself.

"Lucius and antivenin. I knew the secret of the wand, Hermione. Lucius and I had made a pact shortly after he learned what I had done for Draco; we agreed to look out for each other, as it were. He was close by when I was set upon by Nagini. However, the three of you appeared, and he had to wait until you had left to come to me. It was almost too late." He spoke quietly, his dark eyes never leaving her face.

It had never occurred to her that the Malfoys had something to do with the disappearance of his body. It made sense now; Draco had never seemed to mourn him and even at the memorial he hadn't shown any emotion.

He continued, "They had two house-elves take me to the Malfoy château in France and look after me while I recuperated. It took me months to fully recover. When I was healthy enough to return, my memorial had already taken place and Potter had lauded me a hero. I felt it was wiser not to return — not at that point." He sighed, then smiled at Hermione. "I'm glad I waited," he finished cryptically.

Curiosity mad her turn her body more fully to face him. "That makes sense, but what have you been doing for the last twenty years?" she asked.

"I travelled, visited all the places that I never had the chance to before. I studied with the most renowned masters the world over," he said matter-of-factly.

"I cannot believe word never got back to England. Why wouldn't anyone speak of you?"

"No, no one knew that it was me. I had perfected an advanced Polyjuice formula in that last year at Hogwarts. It was designed with the war efforts in mind. That way Voldemort had no idea of the spies in his camp. The potion allows you to stay in the same form for up to eleven days and there are none of the nasty side effects of the original version. I used it exclusively, remaining completely incognito until I returned to England three years ago. Not many people have seen me in this form." He swept his hand down his body.

"But what about Charlie and George? They knew! Why didn't you show yourself to me? I would never have given away your secret. Never!" Hermione stood up then and started pacing. "How did they know? I can't believe that neither of them told us you were alive."

"They knew because I have been aiding them in a few business ventures. Just as I had helped you. They discerned who I was on their own and confronted me as a united front a year ago. I admitted the truth but refused to continue helping them unless they kept my secret. Especially from you," he added in a whisper. "But you figured it out yourself, didn't you, Hermione."

She spun around to face him, her hands on her hips, but still clutching the watch.

She opened her mouth to speak. "What? Why? Why would you have them keep it from me?" she asked, incredulity written all over her face.

"Do you remember the first time we met? Do you remember the circumstances?"

"Of course I do, Platform 9 and ¾. You were disguised as an older gentleman, Tomas Pointer. An anagram of potion master, very clever, and it was the first time I saw this," she said swinging the watch in front of her. "I'd just seen the children off to Hogwarts."

He chuckled, his laugh sending chills down her spine. "And?"

"And we talked about the vaccines I was working on…"

"No. Not that," he stopped her mid sentence, his voice soothing yet firm. Standing up, he walked towards her. "You and your husband were arguing. You told me you were unhappy and then we had an interesting conversation." He stopped mere inches away from her, placing his hands on her shoulders. "I knew then," he added quietly.

"Knew what?"

"That you were worth waiting for," he breathed, inching closer toward her mouth.

"Waiting for? What are you talking about?" She studied his face, her brows drawn together in confusion.

Severus paused in his downward pursuit as he reached out his hand and caressed her face, smiling. "It was worth waiting for you. For this," he said before leaning down and kissing her chastely on the lips.

Hermione's eyes drifted shut as he pulled back and she let out her breath slowly. "I..." She was lost as she opened her eyes to look at him. "You mean to say you waited until I was divorced to kiss me?"

He rolled his eyes and nodded. "As hard as it is to imagine, Hermione, I do, in fact, believe in the sanctity of marriage."

Hermione took a step back, her legs coming to the edge of the couch, and she sat down with an inelegant thump.

It made sense in a way, she supposed.

"But...what if Ron and I had never divorced?" she asked, looking up at him.

He knelt at her feet, placing his hand on her knee and brushed his thumb over the smooth skin, causing her to shiver. "Then I would never have revealed myself to you."

"But..." Hermione began, but he put a finger to her lips.

"Let us not talk about the 'ifs' and the 'buts.' You are divorced and I am here. That is all that matters. I learned a long time ago that it is the present that counts. Much more than all possible pasts and futures." He took his finger from her lips and brought it up to tuck a loose curl behind her ear.

"I'm glad," she said, looking into his eyes as he turned to focus on hers.

"For?" he prompted.

"That you waited."

He smiled, leaning forward, bringing his lips to hers once more, but not before whispering, "So am I, Hermione, so am I."

oOOo

AN: This was a fun story to write and I do apologise for so little Severus but he was waiting patiently for her to be free of Ron and the Weasleys. This is the end of the story that I gifted to DeeMichelle over at the ss/hg gift exchange at LiveJournal, but there is a short epilogue that is being written so I will be leaving this as a WIP for now. I hope that everyone enjoyed reading this and I thank everyone that commented and/or favorited, it was very much appreciated.

hugs

Gem