The Second Time Around
by cocoachristy
M (R)

Disclaimer: All things Harry Potter belong to JKR. I'm making no money from this.

A/N: Many thanks go to my awesome beta, SouthernWitch69. This fic is for the exchange for the prompt:

3. Hermione left England after the war. She is called back for the reading of Minerva's will and finds out she now shares a house with Snape. Slight angst, humor, ust, romance and a good ending.

Recipient: IsisandNeit

I hope this fits all of the requirements! Enjoy!

OOOOOO

The Second Time Around

Severus Snape was in a very good mood. Not so rare for him these days. If anyone had bothered to look, they would have seen just a slight bounce in his step as he made his way to the staff room.

School was starting in two weeks, and Headmistress McGonagall wanted to have a brief staff meeting, mainly to introduce the new staff. Severus smiled to himself. Hermione Granger would be a part of the new staff.

They had been together since Christmas, and things couldn't be more perfect for him. He'd never believed in the saying 'perfect for each other' until she came into his life. The Potions master could honestly say that there was not anyone else more suited for him than her.

Things had looked bad for him after the fall of the Dark Lord, mainly due to the death of Albus Dumbledore and his part in that. After a very lengthy trial, both he and Draco Malfoy had been exonerated. However, victory for him had been bitter sweet.

He'd spent a week at his home at Spinner's End succumbing to self-pity laced with bourbon until Minerva McGonagall came and gave him what for, telling him to stuff his self-pity and sober his drunken arse up because she needed a Potions professor and he had one week to return to Hogwarts so that they could ready the school for the next year. Severus chuckled at that memory.

Once he'd returned, he discovered that Hermione Granger would be taking Flitwick's place as Charms professor after studying under him for a year. It didn't matter to him one way or the other, except for even more guilt he'd felt where she was concerned.

Her parents had gone missing when the last days of the battle had heated up, and Severus had no idea what had happened to them. After everything was said and done, they had all searched high and low, every place Severus or Draco could think of, but still nothing.

Severus had no doubt that they were dead, but his Hermione still held out hope that one day they would be discovered. He knew that the hope was much crueler than the truth.

He remembered the night his life had truly begun—when he'd discovered that Hermione was no longer a bothersome student, but a lovely young woman. It had been a few days before school would begin for the first time after the war…

He had been outside walking around the lake, enjoying the slight breeze when Hermione stumbled to the edge of the lake and fell hard to the ground on her bottom. At that time, she'd still been apprenticing under Flitwick.

"Miss Granger? Have you hurt yourself?"

"No, okay here—nothing to see," she told him before she fell into a fit of giggles.

With a stern expression on his face, Severus demanded, "You're drunk! Absolutely pissed!"

"Right in one," Hermione agreed as she lifted her red wine to toast him and then drank straight from the bottle. "Gonna get drunker. Do ya want ta join me then?"

After a long, hard stare, Severus shrugged and sat beside her, accepting the offered bottle and taking a drink. "What's the occasion?"

"Life."

He didn't comment for a while. Life was occasion enough for him to get pissed many times, so who was he to judge? When the guilt of her parents once again consumed him, he simply said, "I'm sorry. This world hasn't been kind to you, has it?"

For some reason, Hermione found that utterly hilarious and fell to her back in gut clenching laughter. "I should say not!" Then she suddenly fell silent.

"It's the not knowing. It drives me insane at times such as these when all is quiet and I've nothing to do."

When she looked up at him, the moonlight made the tears in her eyes that much brighter. He had to turn away. "I should go. I thank you for the drink."

When he started to rise, she grabbed his arm as if panicked. "Please, don't go yet! I… get tired of being alone." She released his hand and sat up, pulling up her knees, placing her forehead on them. "Harry, spends most of his time with Ginny, as he should, and Ron, well, he'd meet me I suppose, but really, he just doesn't understand. Not the most sensitive bloke, Ron."

Severus sat back down. "I don't know what to say to you."

"You don't have to say anything. Just sit with me."

"I suppose even my company is better than being alone?"

Hermione looked up at him then. "What do you mean?" She took another long drink as she looked into his eyes. "I've enjoyed your conversations this past week… when you've deemed me worthy of them."

He snorted. "Sure. Even after all I've done to you. I can see why you would want to spend time with me."

Hermione poured the rest of the liquor on the ground beside her as if it was suddenly making her ill. "What have you done to me specifically?"

He looked at her as though she had lost her senses. "You mean besides my cruelty during your school years? I couldn't find your parents," he whispered softly.

"Did you have a part in taking them?" she silently asked.

"No, of course not!" He'd wondered why she'd never asked him that before, especially after he had been cleared of murdering Albus. She began to rub her temples, and Severus wondered if she was getting a headache.

Looking back towards the lake, she simply said, "Then you've done nothing to me." She shrugged. "I've learned to leave the past in the past; life is too short to do otherwise. I would like for us to be friends, if you'd be agreeable."

And thus began their relationship. He smiled, remembering her shouting as he left their rooms for the staff meeting. "Severus! Tell Minerva I'll be there directly, but for Merlin's sake, don't tell her why I'm late, you cad!"

Just as he approached the door, he heard the middle of an ongoing conversation. The smile immediately left his face.

"…If it weren't for him. I wonder if she feels sorry for the man." This came from Sprout.

"It's likely," Vector agreed. "You know how Granger always had a thing for the underdog and lost causes. Remember the house-elves? That kneazle she rescued? She's a bleeding heart, she is, but this time it's going to personally cost her."

"I know!" Sprout said. "Why, I could hardly believe she turned down that Ministry job as an Unspeakable! Something of that sort would be right up her alley, I say. But she stays here, accepting this job, because she won't leave Snape. And that man, he just selfishly lets her! She's much too brilliant for this place, but he refuses to see it—to let her grow."

"Don't you two have enough to worry on without discussing things that are none of your business?" Minerva demanded, hands on hips. "You know nothing of Hermione or her feelings!"

"We know she's wasting her life," Vector insisted. "If it weren't for Snape, she'd go out and get herself a life!"

"She has a life with Severus!"

Both Sprout and Vector snorted. "What kind though?" Sprout asked. "He'll ruin her. Nobody will think she's so great now that she's with him. He only holds her back."

"Severus!" Hermione laughed. "What are you doing standing out here?"

"Nothing," he said shortly. "Let's enter."

By the expression on his face when he'd walked in, Minerva knew that Severus had heard. She knew that those careless, thoughtless, and highly untrue words about Hermione and her feelings would cause Severus to do something he would later regret. A feeling of dread curled itself in the pit of her stomach, but now was not the time to address it. She'd have to speak with him in private after the meeting.

"Severus, I'd like a word with you after the meeting."

"Of course," he answered blandly, taking his seat and looking straight ahead.

Hermione was confused with his sudden change of mood. "What's the matter, love?"

"We will discuss it later."

She looked at him for a few more moments, wondering why he wouldn't look her in the eye. Shrugging it off for the moment, she turned her full attention to Minerva. They'd most definitely talk later.

OOOOOO

Severus waited until the last lingering person had gone before he turned towards his boss. "What can I do for you, Minerva?"

"You can pay no attention to what those two biddies were saying. They know nothing of your relationship with Hermione."

"Did you know the Ministry had offered her a job?" When she said nothing, his voice rose, but he wasn't quite yelling. "Well? Did you?"

"Yes, I did. What of it? She doesn't want to work for the Ministry."

Severus laughed bitterly. "Right. She'd rather work here—teaching dunderheads all day long and being cooped up with me."

Even though she noted the sarcasm, Minerva beamed as if he'd just completed the most difficult Transfiguration assignment she'd ever assigned. "Exactly!"

"Come off it! She never even mentioned it to me. Not a word."

"Really, Severus, there was no need to. You'd only react badly to something that was a moot point. She'd never even considered it."

"When did she get the offer?"

Minerva looked down and then back up. Defeated, she told him. "The first of the year."

"You mean to tell me that she's known for seven months and has never uttered one word to me?"

Minerva was beginning to panic. He was becoming angrier, not calming as she'd intended. "As I've told you, there was no need for her to say anything. She didn't want the job, Severus."

"An ambitious woman like her? Full of intelligence and ideas? I should have been told!" he yelled, slamming his fist on the table.

"Severus, please listen to reason. She—"

"Enough, Minerva."

"What are you going to do?"

"Make the decision easy for her by taking one of the reasons away. We've run our course at any rate, and you'd better not whisper a word of this to her."

"Severus, please…" Her pleas sounded on deaf ears as he turned and walked out the door, slamming it in his wake.

OOOOOO

Hermione was sitting on the couch reading his latest Potions journal when Severus walked in. "Severus! Did you read this article by—"

"We need to talk, Hermione."

Her stomach dropped as her brow furrowed. "All right," she said calmly as she placed the journal on the table and turned to face him. "What is it?"

"This isn't working for me any longer. It's time to move on," he said.

"This?"

He moved his hand back and forth between them. "You and me. I think our time together has run its course, Hermione. I want you to gather your things and go back to your own rooms."

"No, I'll not. Not without a tangible reason." She stood, placing her hands on her hips. "You seemed just fine with the course our relationship was on this morning."

"The reason is that I'm finished with you." Severus knew in order to get her to go, he'd have to be cruel. His heart bled as he looked at her coldly. All he had to do was keep reminding himself this was for her—he couldn't think of his own feelings.

"Finished with me? Just like that," she asked as she snapped her fingers. "No."

"I've never really been a one woman man, Hermione. You're crowding me. I need space."

"What are you on about? What's changed since you left this morning?"

"Nothing, really. I've been feeling this way for some time now." Severus turned from her, and her bright brown eyes filled with tears.

"There's someone else," she stated blandly.

"Not yet," he told her as her words caused inspiration. "But I do have my eye on someone. We've talked, and she's interested. I have not cheated on you," he said as he faced her. He'd not have her thinking that. "So, I'm letting you know now."

Her chin trembled, but she stuck it out. "You would throw what we have away for some one-night stand?"

It was time for the final twist of the knife that he'd stabbed through her heart; the one he knew would push her away. Grinning cockily, he told her, "Well, hopefully we'll have more than one night together."

"You bastard," she whispered under her breath.

"I've never said otherwise. I'll go so that you can gather your belongings."

"You love me, Severus. I know it. You can say what you will, but I see it when I look in your eyes. When you hold me—love me."

"Like every other woman, you see what you wish to."

She looked down as if she couldn't look at him any longer. "So, this is it?" Hermione raised her hands in the air and dropped them back to her sides. "You've decided you're finished with me, and I have no say in the matter?"

"There's nothing for you to say. It's over."

"Fine! I won't beg you! I'll go, but know this. You've just thrown away someone who loves you unconditionally. Warm yourself with that during the night after you've tossed your other woman aside—or she tosses you."

"It wouldn't matter to me, Hermione. I'd only find another to replace her."

"You can be alone the rest of your life if that's what you want, Severus, but I don't intend to be! I want a family, marriage, and children."

"Oh," he drawled, "I don't plan on being alone, per se."

"I don't consider moving from one woman to the next sharing your life with someone. Make no mistake, I love you, and it's you that I want, but I can't make you want me back. Someone else will…"

He turned and walked out without a backward glance, unable to listen to any more.

OOOOOO

The next week, Hermione left London for the Charms position at the Salem Institute in America, unable to face seeing Severus Snape everyday. It had been three years since then, and Hermione was content if not happy.

Hermione walked into her flat—no, apartment; it's apartment here—and dropped her mail on the small table by the door. She'd had a trying day.

She was very glad that today had ended this school year, more than ready for the summer to begin. It seemed that the closer to the end of term, the rowdier the students became. Lord, I hope we were never that bad, she thought, though she knew that Harry, Ron and she were probably much worse.

Sighing with fatigue, she walked into her small kitchen to study the contents of her pantry. Not much to eat in here. She immediately brightened when she found a can of soup.
Hermione poured the soup into a bowl and used her wand to heat it. She placed it on her kitchen table and then went to get her mail. She'd go through it while she ate, Hermione decided, so that she could soak in the tub when she finished.

She started to pick up the copy of the Daily Prophet she continued to get, but the formal envelope on Hogwarts-like stationary caught her eye. What in the world?

Her hands began to tremble. She'd kept in touch with Ron, Harry, and Ginny. Occasionally, Minerva would drop her a line. But nobody had ever sent her anything so… formal.

She immediately thought of her parents. No, if they'd been found, I would be getting a letter from the Ministry—not Hogwarts. Is Minerva trying to offer me the Charms position again? No, she'd never used this sort of stationary before, except when sending Hogwarts acceptance letters for first years.

She started to open it when a knock sounded on her door. Hermione laid the letter back on the table and tried to run her fingers through her tangled mass of curls.

When she got to the door, she flung it open in an irritated manner, already knowing who was on the other side. "Yes, Daniel, what can I do for you?"

"What do you mean?" he asked. "We have a date tonight!"

"No," she said angrily, "we do not. You asked, and I turned you down. Again."

"Why do you keep avoiding the inevitable? I want you."

Hermione rolled her eyes. She looked at Daniel. He was an extremely good-looking wizard with dark, curly hair, big baby-blue eyes, and a wonderful body. She had no doubt that most times all he had to do was crook his finger to have women running to him. Likely that was why he was still after her for the past year; she didn't come running.

Hermione had only dated a few men since moving to Salem, and only one had been a serious relationship. At first, it was because she wasn't over… him. And now, well, she just didn't have the inclination. Right now, her mind was on her teaching. He was just a memory she kept in the deepest part of her heart.

"Daniel, I'm not going to go on a date with you. You're wasting your time sniffing around me."

Fire lit his eyes as he narrowed them. "Why don't you just admit that you're a lesbian? Otherwise, someone like you would never turn down someone like me."

Oh. My. God. "Excuse me? Someone like me? I think you'd better explain that, Daniel."

"Well," he said, looking her up and down, "you're not exactly the Playwizard type, are you?"

Hermione folded her arms over her chest and raised an eyebrow. "No, I'm not indeed. So why don't you BUGGER OFF?" She slammed the door in his face and started back to the kitchen.

She ranted to herself all the way back to the kitchen. "Sodding imbecile! Just who does he think he is? Bloody wanker! Like he's doing me a favor! I should've hexed his arse into next week!"
Hermione stopped her ranting and took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. Once she'd sat back down at her kitchen table, she discovered she'd lost her appetite. Once again, the Hogwarts letter caught her attention. Not knowing why the ball of dread had landed in her stomach, Hermione picked up the letter and opened it. She'd been mistaken; it wasn't from Hogwarts, but some barrister.

She let out a cry of distress and placed her hand over her mouth, reading aloud the one sentence that jumped out at her.

"Regret to inform you that Minerva McGonagall, Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has died of Dragon Pox…

"NO!" She dropped the letter. Hermione couldn't stop the flood of tears—didn't try to. "But I thought that there's a cure for dragon pox?" She picked the letter up once more, continuing to read as she wiped her tears.

…New variation of this disease with no known cure. Your presence is requested for the reading of her will…

She placed the letter back down, leaned back in her chair, and closed her eyes. She'd not been back to London in three years, except for the birth of her god-daughter, Lillian Molly Potter, and even then, she'd only been there for two days.

Minerva… Hermione thought, as she continued to silently cry. Minerva had been like a second mum to her after her own had gone missing. She really had no choice. Hermione Granger was going to have to go back to London… and Hogwarts.

OOOOOO

Severus sat at the desk in his office, thinking of all the details he needed to see to. He couldn't move. After seeing the children off safely, he hurried back to his office to make a list.

Both the quill and parchment lay on the table untouched. Severus simply couldn't believe that Minerva was gone. "Bloody sodding dragon pox! A new variation!" Sighing, Severus rose to pace, unable to sit still.

When he'd discovered that St. Mungo's did not have a potion to help his long-time friend, the Potions master had begun working tirelessly to create an antidote himself. His efforts proved fruitless, however, as she'd died. She was the third to die in the past month of this mysterious variation.

He sat back down and put his head in his hands. Minerva had been his last true friend. Oh, he had acquaintances, but nothing solid. Hermione… The name popped into his mind unsolicited and unwanted. Will she be here? Will she come to say goodbye to an old friend? Part of him hoped that she would, and part of him hoped that she wouldn't.

He'd thought for a long time that Hermione had married Viktor Krum and was working in some Ministry job. He'd picked up the Daily Prophet one morning, and the headline had been Bulgarian Quidditch Star Viktor Krum Marries. He'd immediately set the paper down and left it.

Knowing that his Hermione—no, not his—had left the country, he could only surmise that it had been her who Viktor had married. She'd warned him; he had to give her that. She'd made it no secret she wanted marriage and children.

He'd always known that the Bulgarian had never stopped wanting her because Severus had read the letters that Krum had written her right after the war had ended, begging her back.

Severus would never allow anyone to speak of her. Whenever Minerva brought her up, he simply told her to change the subject or he was leaving. He had to survive, damn it! Then one morning when Minerva had had enough, she'd simply told him that Hermione was not married to Viktor and that she would be much obliged if he would stop moping about the castle and scaring the children to tears.

Yes, Hermione will be here. It's not her nature to do otherwise. I will just have to deal with it… It will only be for a day. How hard can that be?

OOOOOO

Severus sat in his chair, facing forward, back straight. The crowd was starting to gather, and he didn't wish to see or speak with anyone. The sooner this was over, the better.

He heard Potter and his wife speaking to Weasley, reminiscing about Minerva and her classes. Severus almost smiled remembering her lessons himself. Damn it, Minerva! I am going to miss you, you old tabby!

Severus was thrown from his thoughts when he heard, "Hermione!" from Mrs. Potter's mouth. He couldn't control himself; he had to look. Just a glimpse.

No, his heart didn't stop when his Hermione walked into the room. It started. He hadn't realized until that moment how hollow his chest had been.

Hermione stopped mid-stride and looked directly into his eyes. He felt the sting like a curse to his solar plexus. It seemed like hours had passed, but it had only been seconds. Severus cocked an eyebrow, willing her to speak to him. Of course, she refused. She walked straight to where her friends were sitting and took her seat, but she kept glancing at him as if she still cared.She couldn't possibly. Could she? Curious…

"If I can have everyone's attention please?" the barrister said from the front of the room.

Hermione immediately turned her attention to the front of the room without sparing Severus another look once the barrister started speaking. On the inside, he was dying a slow death. On the outside, he was calm, cool, and collected.

Severus had been so busy watching and contemplating Hermione the last thirty minutes that he just heard the ending of what the barrister was saying. "…Severus Snape and Hermione Granger for the duration of three months. If they fail to meet these regulations, the house will be donated to the Ministry of Magic."

Hermione jumped to her feet, face full of fury. "What? That's utterly ridiculous! I can't stay here three months! I don't even live in this country any longer!"

"Be that as it may, Miss Granger, the specifications of this will are quite clear. Either you do as instructed or the house is turned over to the Ministry," the barrister informed her.

"So what? I don't live here any longer, as I've said, so the house is of no use to me." She shut her eyes tightly, like she'd hurt herself by saying that. "No, I didn't mean that as it sounded."

"Let me be sure I understand you, Stanly," Severus interrupted, looking at the barrister and making sure to not look at… her. "Minerva has left her home to Ms… Granger and me, but we have to live there together for three months to claim it?"

"Yes, that's it exactly, Severus. Many years ago, an old relation of some sort of Minerva's wanted his daughter to wed someone not of her choosing. To ensure she stayed put, as this one had a habit of running away, he'd made a contract with the Ministry. The young girl loved the house, you see, as this was her heritage, and this kept her there."

"Well then," Hermione asked, confused, "who did Minerva live there with?"

Both Stanly and Severus gave her a pitying look. "Why, Albus of course!" Stanly told her. "Who else?"

"But… they weren't married for heaven's sake!" Hermione protested.

Chuckling, Severus finally spoke to her. "I don't recall the contract saying anything of marriage. Stanly?"

"No, it doesn't. Back when the contract was originally written, folks never even considered living together without marriage. So at that time, it was a moot point."

Hermione sat, and Severus watched her wilt. This angered him for no obvious reason. He had no right to expect her to suddenly feel as he did, but he expected it nonetheless. "I suppose you wouldn't care that a home that has been in Minerva's family for at least two centuries is turned over to those bureaucratic wankers?" Of course not—she is one of those bureaucratic wankers!

"I never said that," Hermione snapped back. "How dare you assume my feelings? But I can't just pack up and move back here. I have duties, obligations!"

"Duties," Severus said as if it was a dirty word. "Things more important than this, I suppose."

"That's not entirely fair, Snape! It's not as if you would have to change much! When the new school year starts, you can just Floo or even Apparate to work. It would be a bit much for me to do so. And I do have a life and other obligations—in another country, no less."

"So you're saying that because Minerva's wishes inconvenience you, there will be no compromising, no bending. Tsk. Tsk. I expected more from you."

"Now just a minute, Snape!" Ron stood as he yelled. Hermione held up a hand to stop his outburst.

"Perhaps it would be wise for you not to expect anything from me. I do so hate to… disappoint you," she told him sarcastically.

"Hmm. How very trite of you, my dear. What of the house-elves? She had twenty at my last count."

Hermione went white. She hadn't even thought of that. "We'll send them here!"

"Sorry, Miss Granger, that won't be possible," Stanly told her. "Unless you live in the house with Severus for three months, they won't be your property to send here. They will belong to the Ministry, where they'll be given out to the workers there."

"Oh, my God." Hermione sat back down, rubbing her eyes with the thumb and forefinger of her left hand, remembering the way that Lucius Malfoy had treated Dobby. She sighed heavily. "All right. I'll need to make some arrangements. When do I have to move in?"

"You have one week from the time of death," Stanly said in his matter of fact voice. "That leaves you four days, Miss Granger."

She growled, deep and low, a sign that those close to her, including Severus, knew that she was becoming increasingly angrier. "Why did you not inform me before now? Do you not understand my predicament, sir? I cannot just up and… leave my life with only four days notice!" She flung her hands up and then dropped them ceremoniously.

"Well, pardon me! I certainly couldn't go against the law and just let you know everything, young woman! I had procedures to follow! I had to read this will in front of all present. There was absolutely no legal way I could have informed you before now!"

"All right, all right," she said wearily. "Don't get your panties in a twist!"

Harry snapped his head in her direction. "Huh? What was that?"

Hermione waved him away. "Nothing… Some saying I picked up in America."

America? Severus thought. He was happy to have won the argument at first, but now that the situation was becoming real, he realized that he was going to have to live in the same house with her for three months. He shuddered.

Because Severus had worked himself to a state, his voice was very sharp when he asked, "I suppose you won't be living there alone?" He had no illusions. Someone like Hermione would certainly have a lover. She'd made it clear she didn't intend to be alone, and he did recall those two busy bodies—Sprout and Vector—talking about some bloke she'd seemed to be serious about.

Hermione narrowed her eyes. "Of course not! You'll be there, won't you?"

"Who else besides me?" he asked her through gritted teeth.

She looked genuinely confused. He had to hand it to her; she must be brilliant as an unspeakable. "Um… I'm not bringing anyone else, Snape. I just need to go and take care of some business, gather some personal things, stuff like that. What's it to you then?" she asked him, irritated.

"Not a damn thing." He rose, turning to Stanly. "If that will be all, I need to make a few arrangements myself."

"Certainly, I will speak with you later, Severus."

He left, slamming the door in his wake. Bloody little twit! What kind of a woman calls her man 'business to take care of?' Apparently, I am well rid of her! 'I'm not bringing anyone else, Snape—what's it to you then?' Humph!

He slammed into his room and slumped into a chair. Laying his head back, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. And why the hell would I still want her so badly that I physically ache?